Kashmir's Heritage Guardian: Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani's Influence

Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani, also known as Shah-i-Hamadan, was a prominent Islamic scholar and Sufi saint who played a significant role in shaping the cultural and religious landscape of Kashmir. He was born in Hamadan, Persia (now Iran) in 1314 CE and traveled extensively throughout Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, spreading the teachings of Islam and Sufism. Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani arrived in Kashmir in the early 14th century and spent several years there, during which he made significant contributions to the region's heritage.


Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani's Contribution to Kashmir's Heritage


He traversed during the 14th century. His extensive travels took him to Central Asia, Kashmir, Afghanistan, China, Syria, and Turkestan, where he preached Islam and Sufi teachings, promoting unity with the Divine. Despite opposition from his teacher, he defended the doctrine of wahdat al-wujud (unity of existence) and spread the philosophical ideas of Ibn Arabi in South Asia.

Beyond religious teachings, Hamadani introduced crafts and industries from Iran to Kashmir, fostering cultural exchange and the growth of the textile industry. His political and ethical writings, such as the book Zakhirat ul-Muluk, offered valuable guidance on good governance and social behavior. His numerous pilgrimages and journeys underscored his commitment to spreading Islam and fostering peace among warring factions. Upon his death, his followers carried his body to Kulab, Tajikistan, where his shrine remains a place of reverence. His literary contributions covered various topics, providing insights into contemplation, physiognomy, Sufic terms, and traditions. Hazrat Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani's legacy endures through his teachings, writings, and the cultural development he inspired in the regions he touched.

Early Life and Education

Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani was born in Hamadan, Iran, in 1314 AD. He was a descendant of Prophet Muhammad and belonged to the Kubrawiya Sufi order. He received his education in various cities across the Islamic world, including Baghdad, Damascus, and Cairo. He studied under some of the most renowned Islamic scholars and Sufi masters of his time, and his teachings were heavily influenced by their ideas and teachings. He was convinced by a dream in which Prophet Muhammad appeared to him and instructed him to go to Kashmir. Hamadani was impressed by the natural beauty and cultural richness of the region, and he decided to stay there permanently.


Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani's Contribution to Kashmir's Heritage
A view of Srinagar, 1872 by Bishan Singh


Arts and Crafts

One of Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani's most significant contributions to the heritage of Kashmir was in the field of arts and crafts. He introduced the art of Islamic calligraphy to Kashmir and established the first Islamic school of calligraphy in the region, located in the Khanqah of Shah-i-Hamadan in Srinagar. The school trained local artists in the art of calligraphy and other forms of Islamic art, such as miniature painting, wood carving, and carpet weaving.

Hamadani was an accomplished calligrapher himself, and he wrote several books on the subject. His calligraphy style was known for its elegance and sophistication, and it influenced the development of the Kashmiri calligraphy style. The Kashmiri calligraphy style was unique in that it blended Arabic and Persian calligraphy with local motifs and designs.

One of the most significant economic contributions of Mir Ali Hamadani was his role as the founder of the Pashmina shawl textile trade. Upon arriving in Kashmir with 700 followers, he brought with him the skills and know-how that gave rise to an entire industry. Under his patronage, Kashmiri artisans produced exquisite shawls, which became famous as Kashmiri Pashmina. Pashmina shawls were made from the wool of Kashmiri goats which were renowned for their softness and warmth. Hamadani encouraged local artisans to develop new techniques and designs to make the shawls more attractive to buyers. The Pashmina industry continues to be a significant part of the region's economy, and Kashmiri shawls are exported to many countries around the world.


Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani's Contribution to Kashmir's Heritage
"Cashmere Shawls: Weaving, 1863" by William Crimea Simpson (1823-99).


Economic Development and Architectural Summits

Hamadani was instrumental in promoting economic development in Kashmir. He introduced several new industries and crafts in the region, which helped to create employment opportunities for the local people. He established the first silk industry in Kashmir and encouraged the production of other luxury goods, such as saffron, almonds, and fruits.

Mir Ali Hamadani's efforts had a profound impact on the economy, fostering trade and commerce, and contributing to the prosperity of several countries. The United Nations' specialized agency, UNESCO, recognized his historical significance in shaping the culture of Kashmir, particularly through the flourishing arts, crafts, and economic activities driven by the Pashmina shawl industry. His legacy endures as a testament to the enduring economic and cultural contributions he made to the regions he touched.

He also played a crucial role in developing the region's infrastructure. His most notable architectural contributions include the initiation of several mosque constructions, with the Khanqah-e-Moula (Khanqah Shah-i-Hamadan) in Srinagar standing out as a significant example. This unique mosque blends Islamic and Kashmiri architectural styles, featuring intricate wooden carvings and calligraphy. Additionally, Syed Mir Ali Hamdani facilitated cultural exchanges between Central Asia and Kashmir, which likely influenced architectural styles and techniques in the region. His emphasis on education led to the establishment of educational centers, madrasas, and libraries, fostering intellectual development. Throughout Kashmir, Khanqah complexes associated with Syed Mir Ali Hamdani were established, serving as spiritual, educational, and communal centers. While specific records might be limited, the enduring presence of these architectural marvels stands as a testament to his significant contributions to the architectural heritage of Kashmir.


Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani's Contribution to Kashmir's Heritage
Sketch of Shah Hamadan mosque dating back to 1906


Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani was a remarkable figure in the history of Kashmir. His contributions to the region's arts and crafts, religion, and economic development have had a significant impact on the heritage of Kashmir and was a visionary leader who promoted interfaith dialogue and peaceful coexistence, and his legacy continues to inspire people in the region and beyond.

The teachings of Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani are as relevant today as they were in his time. His message of peace, tolerance, and respect for diversity continues to be a beacon of hope for people around the world and as we continue to grapple with issues of religious extremism and intolerance, the legacy of Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani reminds us of the importance of promoting interfaith dialogue and understanding.


  1. University of Kashmir. (2023). Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani’s (R.A) Legacy in Kashmir and the Significance of its Revival. Retrieved from http://islamicstudies.uok.edu.in/Files/36892408-1fed-4431-9848-0761b9e02587/Journal/f7466f7a-0946-4033-a9bc-c37e57cdfa67.pdf
  2. Kashmir Reader. (2021, July 17). The Hard Noble Life of Hazrat Mir Syed Ali Hamadani (RA). Kashmir Reader. https://kashmirreader.com/2021/07/17/the-hard-noble-life-of-hazrat-mir-syed-ali-hamadani-ra/
  3. Milli Gazette.  Mir Syed Ali Hamadani and Advent of Islam in Kashmir. Milli Gazette. https://www.milligazette.com/news/islamic-perspectives/16756-mir-syed-ali-hamadani-and-advent-of-islam-in-kashmir/
  4. Aale Qutub. Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani. Aale Qutub. https://aalequtub.com/mir-sayyid-ali-hamadani/
  5. Lawrence, S. W. R. (2005). The Valley of Kashmir. Asian Educational Services.



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