The Hindu says, "I am superior";
The Musalman says I.
Two halves of a grain of mung they are;
Which, then, is greater than the other?
Don't quarrel over who is superior;
And who is not;
The one is a devotee of Ram, the other of Rahman.
Deen Darvish says, the two unite in one ocean;
There is only one Lord of all.
The Hindu and the Musalman are one.
These were the words of Deen Darvish, a 19th century Kashmiri Sufi saint, and what he was saying was not all that revolutionary. The same ideas had been expressed long before by Dara Shikoh, the son of Shah Jahan, the Mughal emperor who built the Taj Mahal.
The author William Dalrymple writing about Kashmir in the New York Review of Books traces the long history of religious tolerance in India.
Prince Dara (see portrait) came to believe in the essential unity of Hinduism and Islam. He was led to this conclusion by another Sufi saint, Mullah Shah Badakshani , in Kashmir, writes Dalrymple.
Prince Dara in his treatise on Sufism, The Compass of Truth, proclaimed:
Thou art in the Ka'ba at Mecca,
as well as in the (Hindu) temple of Somnath.
Thou art in the monastery,
as well as the tavern.
Thou art at the same time the light and the moth,
The wine and the cup,
The sage and the fool….
Dara had the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads translated into Persian as The Mysteries of Mysteries, and wrote a comparative study of Hinduism and Islam, The Mingling of Two Oceans, which speculated that the essential nature of Islam was identical to that of Hinduism. He also wrote of the mystical visions he received from Hindu deities.
But his writings proved too radical for the Muslim elite of Mughal Delhi, says Dalrymple:
The court divided in two, with one faction supporting Dara, the other his orthodox and puritanical brother Aurangzeb… When the two met in battle, Dara’s huge army was crushed by Aurangzeb’s small force. Under Aurangzeb, Hindus were persecuted and their temples destroyed, bringing to an end a period of remarkable cultural diversity. By the mid-twentieth century, the last traces of the old pluralism, traditions built up over a period of one thousand years, gave way to savage polarization.
Dalrymple writes about how a once peaceful and tolerant Kashmir became a hotbed of Islamic militancy. He writes about Indian oppression and Pakistani aid to militants.
He does not mention how Islamic militants have virtually wiped out Hindu and Sikh minorities who have been forced to flee from the valley.
Dalrymple is an India lover who is especially fond of the Islamic heritage best exemplified by the Mughals and the Sufis.
But this is a remarkable article which Indians should read.
Dalrymple recalls how Kashmir became Muslim:
The first Muslim ruler of Kashmir was not a conqueror but a Buddhist king from the Kashmiri region of Ladakh named Rinchana (1320–1323), who converted to Islam and began the slow and gradual process of spreading Islam through the valley…
So the distant forebears of many of the Muslims in Kashmir might have been Hindus or Buddhists.