- Sheikh Noor-ud-din Wali
Sheikh Noor-ud-din, also known as Nund Rishi, was a famous Kashmiri saint who belonged to the Rishi order. He belonged to a Rajput lineage of Kisthwar. He was born in 1377 CE, corresponding to 779 Hijri and he died at the age of 63 years in the year of 1440 CE or 842 Hijri. In various circles, is also called Alamdar-e-Kashmir and Sheikh-ul-Alam and is the patron saint of Kashmiris, highly revered by both Muslims and Hindus.
Shaikh Nur-ud-din (RA) was born in a village called Kaimuh (old name Katimusha), 7 km to the west of Bijbihara which is 60 km South east of Srinagar, in 779 A.H. = 1377 A.C, on the day of the Eid al-Adha. His father's name was Shaikh Salar-ud-din his mother Sadra, was called Sadra Moji or Sadra Deddi. In Kashmir, Moji means 'mother' and Deddi denotes 'elderly.' Both the parents were well-known for their piety. It was a period when Kashmir was ruled by the sultans Qutub-ud-Din, Sikandar, Ali Shah, and Zain-ul-Abidin.
When Nur-ud-din (RA) grew up, his stepbrothers began to trouble him. They were rogues, while he was saintly. Once or twice he accompanied them to find work but felt that he could not be happy with them. He was then apprenticed to a couple of traders, one after the other. There, too, he felt disgusted with the ways of the world, and, deciding upon renunciation, retired to caves for meditation at the age of thirty. It is said that he lived for twelve years in the wilderness. Hence, perhaps, kaimuh is given the derivation of kai-wan (or ban, a forest) in rustic belief. The actual cave of contemplation is shown in kaimuh and is about 10 feet deep. In his last days, the saint sustained life on one cup of milk daily. Finally, he reduced himself to water alone, and died at the age of 63, in the reign of sultan Zain-ul-Abidin, in 842 A. H. = 1438 A.C. Shams-ul-Arifin or 'the sun of the pious' is the chronogram which gives the date of his death. The Sultan accompanied his bier to the grave. The burial prayers were led by a great divine or 'Alim of the age, Makhdum Baba Usman Uchchap Ganai. The tomb of Shaikh Nur-ud-din at Charari Sharief, a small town perched on a dry bare hill, 20 miles south west of Srinagar, is visited by thousands of people to the present day.
During his lifetime, he witnessed a gradual cultural and religious transformation of the people of the valley, from Hinduism to Islam. Various historical events helped to shape his mind in such a manner that he produced some works of philosophy, in his own manner of verses and poetry.
Sheikh ul-Alam was deeply affected by such events and this is apparent in a majority of his verses.
The biggest event that occurred in the Sheikh's childhood was the coming of another Muslim preacher, Amir Kabir Mir Syed Hamadani, to Kashmir. Shah Hamadan, as he was popularly called, came to Kashmir in September 1372 CE, 1379 CE and the third time in the year 1383 CE.
Shaikh Nur-ud-din- appears to have married Zai Ded from Dadasara, Tral, Pulwama( her father Akber-u-Din(RA) and two brothers "Kamal-u-din"(RA) and "Jamal-u-din"RA) are buried at Dadasara Tral, people of the area visited their shrine for "Dua" to fulfil their needs ) and had two sons and one daughter. On the death of the children, Zai Ded also renounced the world, and became a hermit. She was buried at Kaimuh on her death. The simplicity and purity of Shaikh Nur-ud-din's life have deeply impressed the Kashmiri who entertains the highest veneration for the saint. In fact, the Afghan governor, Ata Muhammad Khan, gave, as it were, expression to public sentiment when coins were struck by him in the name of Shaikh Nur-ud-din in 1223-25 A.H. (1808-10 CE). No other saint perhaps in human history has ever had coins struck in his honour.
Sheikh-ul-Alam is supposed to have loved Kashmir and its people very intensely and was a revolutionary himself.
Sheikh Nur al-Din Wali is one of the most prominent scholars and Du'ah of Kashmir. He used his poetry as tool to spread the true knowledge of Islam. His poetry is commonly known as Shrukhs. Tawhid, Risala, Ma'ad, human lust etc are main subjects of his poetry. He vehemently criticizes the so called Mullas and other pseudo-scholars of Islam.
He was a man of innate foresight and intuitive knowledge. One of his most famous and oft quoted couplets is (Kashmiri:"Ann poshi teli yeli wann poshi") meaning 'Food will last as long as forests last' Lal Ded the famous Shaivite poetess of Kashmir was his contemporary. She had a great impact on his spiritual growth. He has in one of his poems prayed to God to grant him the same level of spiritual achievement as God had bestowed on Lal Ded.
His teachings were not to the liking of the Sayyids who had recently come from central Asia and wanted the sultan to implement a radical version of Islam. For this the sultans had him arrested and imprisoned for two years. Later the popular sultan Budshah (son of Sultan Sikandar Butshikan) who was of a secularist bent of mind had him rehabilitated.
His sayings are preserved in the Nur-nama, commonly available in Kashmir. The Nur-nama also gives the life of the saint. It was written by Baba Nasib-ud-din Ghazi in Persian about two centuries after the death of Shaikh Nur-ud-din.
Anecdotes of the life of this 'chief of the Rishis' are on the lips of the people throughout the valley.
University of Kashmir is having a great honour to have Shaikh-ul-Alam Chair in his name.
The saint's attack on hypocrisy is interesting says he:
"By bowing down, thou shalt not become a Rishi; the pounder in the rice- mill did not ever raise up its head."
"By entering a cave, God cannot be attained: the mongoose and the rat seldom come out of their holes".
"By bathing, the mind will not be cleansed: The fish and the otter never ascend the bank."
"If God was just pleased by fasting, the indigent rarely cook food in pots."
Once, on his way to a garden, accompanied by a disciple, he stopped and would not move. On his disciple requesting him to proceed, he made the following reply: "Every minute that I spend there, will be deducted from my stay in heaven". On another occasion, when invited to a feast, Nur-ud-din went in ragged dress, earlier than the appointed time. The servants, not recognizing him, would not permit him to enter, and he had to go back to take his food at home. When all had sat for the sumptuous dinner, the Shaikh was specially sent for. He came, this time in a flowing chugha (cloak) and was given the seat of honour. But the Shaikh instead of partaking of the food stretched forth his sleeves and put them on to the plates. The people were astonished at the sight and asked him the reason. He replied: "The feast was not really for Nur-ud-Din but for the long sleeves!"
The shrine of Sheikh-ul-Alam, in addition to the structure itself, contained its attached Khanqahs, inns for the pilgrims and other physical features, the vendors of various prayer merchandise, food stalls etc. All combined to make it a place of pilgrimage for Kashmiris of all communities. The shrine contained 600 years old handmade Persian and Kashmir carpets, ancient objects and scrolls, some antique copies of the Quran, extremely precious cut-glass chandeliers etc., all which were reduced to smoke and ashes during a firefight between the Indian army and militants. Both sides blame the other for the fire. Now the shrine has been rebuilt although the adjoining Khanqah is still under construction. It is unfortunate that militants seek refuge in ancient monuments, refuse to surrender and the ancient monument & pilgrims suffer in the ensuing gun battle.
The Shrine was burnt on April 11 1995.
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