In the valley of Kashmir persons, who established through their actions and precepts, captivated the hearts of the people, called them to the true Religion and filled the hearts with the light of monotheism, faith, and devotion, Bulbul Shah stands taller among them. People called him with the epithet of the nightingale of Kashmir.
His name was Syed Sheriff Uddin Abdul Rehman and title Syed Bilal that owing to frequent use changed into Bulbul. Hence he came to be known as Bulbul Shah or the Bulbul-e-Kashmir.
Bulbul Shah sought allegiance to the renowned saint, Shah Nemat-Ullah Farisi Shirazi, of the Suharawardy Order who, in turn, looked to Zia Uddin-Ul-Najeeb Abdul Qahiri.
Arrival in the Kashmir Valley:
Ist Great Muslim Sufi Saint of Kashmir :
Hazrat Sharaf-ud-Din Abdul Rehman Bulbul Shah laid foundation of Sufi and secular culture of Kashmir in the year 1320 A.D. historians, scholars and intellectuals are of the opinion that like other great civilizations of the world. The origin of Sufi civilization of Kashmir worldwide known as Kashmiriyat lies in the philosophy of brotherhood and mutual love respectability as propagated by Bulbul Shah commonly known as Amir-i-Kashmir and Baadashah-i-Kashmir. Wheather he was actually born in Kashmir and later on received religious education in Turkistan and Bhagdad or he was actually born in Turkistan and later on visited Kashmir where he permanently stayed till his death is subject to various scholarly opinions. However, it is clear that like other great Sufi saints of Kashmir his grave and shrine is present in the Valley.
During the time of Bulbul Shah three distinguished religions Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam had impact in Asia. Bulbul Shah propagated synthesis of all three religions and introduced message of peace as enshrined in Islam in such a manner that all luminaries of Hinduism and Buddhism were influenced by him, particularly Prince of Kashgar and Ladakh Rinchen Shah who is known as Renzu Shah as per history written by Khawja Dedmari, G.M.D. Sufi’s “Kashier” page 119 and other chronicles.
Renzu Shah was born Warrior, brave bold and protector of people. He had heared about miseries of Kashmir which was plundered and ravaged by Mangols and Tatar’s under tyrant commander Dulcha. Dulcha had ordered burning of Srinagar, raping of women and killing of entire men folk. King of Kashmir Samha Deva escaped out of fear. It was Renzu Shah Ranchana who saved people from tyranny and was titled as lion among men (Sher-i-Kashmir). The title symbolizing Kashmiriyat was given to other great leaders of Kashmir as a symbol of being protector of people. Impressed by bravery and people friendly approach of Renzu Shah, Hazrat Bulbul Shah blessed the king. He adopted Islam under the influence of Bulbul Shah alongwith his Ministers and majority of the subjects. His wife Kuta Rani inspite of her Hindu faith was daily attending their Peer-i-Murshed Hazrat Bulbul Shah, who spread message of love and peace. The Valley after span of terror let loose by Tartars, witnessed era of tranquility, love and peace during period of Bulbul Shah and Renzu Shah who assumed the name of Sultan Sadar-ud-Din. His son Khawja Hyder instead of Kingship preferred Sufi way of life.
As per research conducted by scholars and historians Bulbul Shah was accompanied with other pious saints particularly Bulbul Kamal-ud-Din, whose grave is between Chakoti and Uri road, Bulbul Jalal-ud-Din whose grave is between Harwan Buddhist Monastery and Nishat Garden and Hazrat Kamal Sahib who was buried just out side the palace of King Renzu Shah. The Palace of King is presently constructed as college and new Women’s College building has been converted at the ancestral site, while as graves of both Bulbul Shah and Renzu Shah (Rinchana) are located at Bulbul Lankar Nawa Kadal, on the other side of the Palace. The Bulbul Shah’s shrine is first Muslim Sufi shrine of Kashmir which has its intellectual influence upto Kashgar.
Bulbul Shah’s native town is a matter of controversy among the writers. Dr. SN Naz thinks, he was from the region of Tamkastan of the ancient Iran, some relates him to Baghdad; still others trace him from Turkistan. He reached Kashmir with his friend Mullah Ahmad. Some hold, he came to Kashmir with one thousand refugees out of the fear of the Mangols. Others believe, he entered the valley in 1324 AD. During the reign of Ranchan Shah. We think his arrival during the reign of Ranchan Shah, a Bodh ruler, is more probable. Rancher Shah was a seeker of Truth. Hinduism could not satisfy him and found the answer with Bulbul Shah. His meeting with Bulbul left a deep mark on him and he learnt the teaching of Islam from his precepts and actions. He embraced Islam under the assumed name Sadar Uddin, and along with him thousands became Muslims.
Ranchan Shah shared a greater responsibility in the propagation of Islam. He ordered for the construction of a monastery for Bulbul Shah, came to be known as the Khanqah-e-Bulbul Shah which formerly stood in the Mohalla Bulbullinko. In addition to it, he raised a mosque and several other buildings which don’t exist now and of which we read in books only.
The nobles who turned to Islam included the commander of the Kashmir forces, Ravan Chandra. He adopted Bibi Lalla, the saint, as his daughter and foretold that she would be a great saint. This proved true.
Hazrat Syed Bulbul Shah was a great scholar, a man of letters, and a theologian. Besides, he had reached the lovely end in intrinsic and spiritual learning. He illuminated the darkness of the hearts with the torch of the faith.
He resigned the worldly matters for meditation, prayers, and travels, which, at last, landed him into Kashmir.
Revelation and Miracles:
Once it grew very cold in Kashmir. The water in the river Jhelum froze hard. People suffered for want of water. Bulbul Shah himself went in search of water but the Jhelum water was so hard that it refused to break. He saw towards the sky and said, “Where is the sun to melt the snow from its heat?” It is said, the sun rose and frozen snow melted.
Bulbul Shah was a wonderful and impressive man. Whatever he said did it built a place of peace and quiet in the form of a monastery from where ran the stream of benedictions and Faith that lit the entire valley.
He died on 7, Rajab 722 Hijri (1326 AD) The following couplet, when computed, gives 722 Hijri as his date of death.
Sayyid Sharfuddin ‘Abdur Rahman, (d. 1327 CE), popularly known as Bulbul Shah, was given the title of Bilal, because his extreme love of the Prophet. He was the disciple of the Suharwardi Sufi, Shah Nimatullah Wali Farsi. Bulbul Shah succeeded in attracting to Islam Rinchen Shah (1324 CE), who was instrumental in popularizing Islam in Kashmir. Parimu Says:
“By sheer accident or manipulation, it so happened that Rinchana’s eyes fell on Bulbul Shah, a Muslim Fakir, so he became a Muslim and adopted the name Sultan Sadruddin”.
It is said that after Rinchen came to the throne, he held discussions with both Hindu and Buddhist priests, in order to ascertain truth but none could satisfy him. Finally, he decided to accept the religion of the first person that he should see the next morning. That person was Bulbul Shah, a Suharwardi Saint, who at that time was offering prayers near the royal palace. Rinchen immediately went to him, and after inquiring about his religion, accepted Islam.
Thus Bulbul Shah, the first Suharwardi Sufi, was able to convert Rinchen to Islam apart from some 10,000 converts, including Rawanchandra, the brother-in-law of Rinchan. Rinchen, in turn, granted the revenues of certain villages to Bulbul Shah for his maintenance and also built a Khanqah for him near his own palace.
Attached to the Khanqah was a large Langer-khanah (kitchen) known as Bulbul Lankar, where the poor were fed free of cost twice a day?
A mosque was also built near the hospice by Rinchen, (Sadruddin, the new name given to him by Bulbul Shah), where he offered congregational prayers at appointed times. Though Prof. Rafiqui attributes Rinchen’s conversion to Islam, to “political reasons”, but the real motive behind the conversion seems to be spiritual yearning of the king rather the “political expediency”
Thus the first Suhrawardi Sufi, of whom we have any record to have entered Kashmir, was Bulbul Shah, who by converting the king, ”increased the prestige of Islam and led to the acceptance of the new faith by some of the nobles and, according to one tradition, by 10,000 inhabitants of the Valley .
Bulbul Shah led a life of complete self-abnegation and preached against superstitious and charlatans widely prevalent amongst the Kashmir’s of his period. He helped the poor, and showed immense love towards the down trodden. During the reign of Sultan Zainul Abidin (1420-70), another Suharwardi saint, Saiyid Muhammad Isfahani, (or Rifai, b. 735 / 840) arrived in Kashmir. He was the disciple of Saiyid Jalâluddin Bukhâri of Uch, popularly called Makhdum Jahaniyan (1308-84). Sayyid Muhammad lived a life of retirement. He first took up his residence in Srinagar and later on entered the village of Khanpur (Baramullah). Since he applied himself to the most austere spiritual exercises, he is known as Janbaz (one who stakes his life).
It is said that he came to Kashmir with about 150 saints and entered into Kashmir, from Shopian in A.H 827 (1421 A.D). He was very fond of providing food to the poor from his Langar; the place where he stayed was called Khanpur, meaning “a place of eating”. He established a preaching centre in Baramullah and constructed a mosque and an Eid-gah as well.
The other Suharwardi Sufis who came to Kashmir are: Saiyid Ahmad Kirmani. He came to Kashmir during the reign of Sultan Nazuk Shah (1529-30, 1540-52). A Khanqah was built for him at Narwara, in Srinagar and an annual grant was assigned to it from the State revenue for the maintenance of his Langar. Among his disciples was Baba Masaud, popularly known as Narwar Sahib”.