Shiites of Jammu and Kashmir, from the past to the present

Monday, 06 March 2023

Although there are no official statistics on the Shiite population of Jammu and Kashmir, according to a conservative estimate, around 1.5 million Shiites live in entire this state (under the control of India and Pakistan). Also, according to an approximate estimate, the Shiite population in the state of Jammu and Kashmir under the control of India is 1 million people, which constitutes 10% of the total population of the state.

ABWA Official Website – Although there are no official statistics on the Shiite population of Jammu and Kashmir, according to a conservative estimate, around 1.5 million Shiites live in entire this state (under the control of India and Pakistan). Also, according to an approximate estimate, the Shiite population in the state of Jammu and Kashmir under the control of India is 1 million people, which constitutes 10% of the total population of the state.

According to this estimate, Shiites are mostly present in the northern areas of Gilgit-Baltistan, which is under the control of Pakistan. About 89% of the population in Baltistan and 60% in Gilgit are Shiites. Meanwhile, these areas, which are under the control of Pakistan, have always faced the policy of population dispersion, which is followed by Islamabad.


The different governments of Pakistan, by changing the composition of the population, have actually tried to prevent the formation of Shiite political parties and groups with the same interests.

In Indian-controlled Kashmir, the Shiite community is particularly concentrated in Srinagar, the summer capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Shiites also live in Baramulla, Budgam, and parts of the Bandipur and Ladakh regions.

According to the evidence, the Shiite population is not seen in the southern region of Kashmir, and objectively, they are not present in the Chenab valley, which was attacked by the Mongols and Afghans during the 16th to 18th centuries.

Historical view

According to historical evidence, Mirza Muhammad Haidar Dughlat Kashgari, the Mughal governor from 1540 to 1551, to crush the resistance of the people of Kashmir and to make his rule permanent, made regional divisions and suppressed Kashmiri Shiites. Although the time of the last Mughal governors ended in Kashmir in 1587, the disgust and hatred towards the foreign rulers remained among the people of the region.

In the middle of the 16th century, when the Mughal Empire created a golden age in India, a number of Kashmiri nobles and nobles invited the Mughal Empire in India to send its army to this land and take the rule from the Chak dynasty. But in the middle of the 18th century, when the decline of the Mughal Empire came, the Sunni nobles of Kashmir once again invited Ahmad Shah Abd Ali, the tyrannical ruler of Afghanistan, to fight and free their country from the Mughal rule. In this way, Afghans dominated Kashmir. But they ruled the people of Kashmir in a strict way. Double tax increases and persecution of Shiites were among the policies that Abd Ali adopted due to the fear of Shiite unity. This policy continued for 50 years during the Afghan rule.

The seeds of opposition to the Shiite political denomination, planted by Kashgari among the Kashmiri governments, led to the pursuit of the elimination of Kashmiri Shiites for many years. Looting, plunder, and pillage of the Shiite people of Kashmir in 1548, 1585, 1635, 1686, 1719, 1741, 1762, 1801, 1830, 1875, were among these cases. During these years, Shiites in Kashmir were looted, and their freedom was also taken away from them.

In this situation, to protect their society, the Shiites of Jammu and Kashmir chose the Taqiyah (ostensible denial of religious belief) to save their lives and honor. The Shiite community was dispersed gradually in the villages. Some also migrated to the north. Invasion and looting in this century caused the improvement and emergence of the Shiite society still need time.


In the 1980s, anti-Shia activities escalated in Pakistan and intensified with the policies of the then governments. This anti-Shiite wave spread in Kashmir in such a way that the Shiites were surrounded. In Srinagar, supporters of anti-Shia and pro-Pakistan policies put Shiites under pressure.

Shiite areas in Indian-controlled Kashmir such as Zadibal, Bhagwanpur, Shalimar, and Bamina witnessed the invasion of anti-Shia forces.

To counter this situation, many low-income Shiites were mixed with the Sunni majority in areas of Srinagar, such as Kamangarpura, Shamswari, Fateh Kedal, Chinkra Mahalla, etc. In this way, there is no separate Shiite neighborhood to be attacked by anti-Shia forces.

It can be said that the pressures on the Shiites have a historical record, and similar situations have caused the migration of some Shiite families and leaders to Kashmir.

Relations with Iran

During the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphate, torture and persecution of Shiites intensified, and this caused Shiites to migrate to save their lives.

Therefore, many Shiite Sadat, or even religious missionaries, migrated to lands far away from their homeland. Kashmir was one of the lands whose people welcomed Shiite immigrants, and thus, in a short time, Kashmir became one of the most desirable migration destinations and refuges for Shiite immigrants.

One and perhaps the first prominent Shiite Sadat who took refuge in Kashmir was Sayed Sharaf al-Din, known as Syed Sharf-Ud-Din Abdul Rehman Shah, from the city of Ardabil. He migrated to Kashmir along with another Sadat named Sayed Ali, who was from Hamedan.

The people of the regions of Kashmir where these people settled have chosen their surnames after these immigrants. Therefore, the Iranian family names Hamdani, Semnani, Kashani, Kermani, Gilani, Mazandarani, Shirazi, Esfahani, Qazvini, and Araki are common in Kashmir.

The interesting thing is that among the Shiites who took refuge in Kashmir, we can see few names of Arab origin, and in fact, most of the Shiites came to the Kashmir region from Iran.

Currently, there are families with the names Jalili, Ansari, Razavi, Hakimi, and Safavi in Kashmir, which have Iranian roots and origins.

Although the immigrants to Kashmir for religious reasons, even those who were religious missionaries and preachers, engaged in various professions, including craftsmanship or medicine, to earn a living, all of them continued to work for and promote the Shia.

Political Shiite

In the 19th century, at the same time as the awakening of the people of India against colonialism, one of the Shiite leaders named Syed Hussain Shah Jalili founded the Imamiya Association outside the state of Kashmir in 1885. Following the establishment of this association, an educational institution named Imamiya High School was also established by Mir Waez Rasul Shah.

Jalili, who was introduced by Maharaja Hari Singh as the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Kashmir, could hold mourning programs and ceremonies of Muharram in Jammu and Kashmir after 300 years. After Jalili’s death, his son Hussain Shah Jalili became the representative of Kashmiri Muslims in the Indian Parliament.

Among other Shiite leaders, we can mention Munshi Mohammad Ishaq who founded the movement of holding the referendum and plebiscite in Kashmir.

However, the Ansari and Budgam families are among the families whose role has been very effective in the political situation of the Shiites in Kashmir. In fact, despite their activities in the Islamic space of Kashmir, these two families established sects that caused a split among the Shia Muslims under the name of the new and old sects. The Ansari family is follower of the old sect, and the Budgam or Safavi family is follower of the new sect. This difference has reduced the power of Kashmiri Shiites for years and has destroyed their unity in political affairs.

Old Sect

Mawlawi Alem Ansari, the founder of the Ansari family, greatly influence the Shiite society of Kashmir since he entered Kashmir as a Shiite researcher with Mir Syed Rizvi Qomi during the reign of Sultan Zainul Abedin Budshahi.

 The Ansari family was educated in Najaf, Iraq. But in 1962, with the selection of one of the very young members of the family, the late Mawlawi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari as the successor of the father and the head of the family, discord, and divisions arose between this family. In fact, it was expected that Mawlawi Ansari’s nephew, the late Mawlawi Muhammad Abbas Ansari, who had high degrees in theology, would be chosen as his successor.

In this way, the Ansari family was divided into two branches, which was the beginning of the division in the old sect. In this situation, the late Mawlawi Muhammad Abbas Ansari founded the party “Muslim Unity Association” to improve the status of Muslims. But the party remained with the Shiite composition. After that, the party played an important role in educating the youth and establishing educational centers and institutions in Kashmir.

On the other hand, the late Mawlawi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari founded the Shiite Association. Although there were differences between the two branches, both were influential in spreading the Shia in politics.

The party “Muslim Unity Association” used to publish the magazine “Safina”, which its publishing continued until 2002. But after that, it was published in a brief form until 2007, and finally, its publication ceased completely. Maulana Mustafa Ansari was the new head of the Ansari family, who was elected as a member of the Muslim Front in 1987.

On the other hand, the Shiite Association also published Sadaqt magazine, which was closed in the early 1970s. This association then published the magazine Ma’aref al-Uloom. The Shiite Association, headed by the late Maulana Iftikhar, has continued its activities until the present years.

The late Mawlawi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari gradually left the religious situation and seldom wore cleric clothes. But on the other hand, he turned more to political affairs and at the time of his death, he was a representative of the legislative assembly in Kashmir. He played a role in the assembly by the opponents of the government under the name of the “People’s Democratic Party” led by Mufti Muhammad Syed.

Considering the party structure of the “Muslim Unity Association of Jammu and Kashmir”, the late Mawlawi Muhammad Abbas Ansari could establish the Hurriyat Conference Party with the participation of other parties (Mir Waez Mohammad Omar Farooq).

Followers of the New Sect

The sect known as “Jadidis” (the followers of the New Sect) refers to the enthusiasts and followers of Budgam or the Agha Family, which is the largest Shiite group resulting from the split of the Old Sect. Unlike the Ansari branch, this group is Sayed and is recognized by wearing a black turban. They are descendants of Mir Shams al-Din Araki who migrated to Kashmir from the Noorbakhshi Sufi branch who lived in Arak, Iran.

The head of the Agha family Agha Sayed Yusof Al-Musawi al-Safavi, also known as Agha Saheb Budgam, was one of the prominent ulama, whom even non-Shiites approved of his justice.

After the death of Sayed Agha, his son Agha Fazlullah stopped wearing the turban and claimed to be the head of the family under the name of Safavi. But this claim was denied by his cousin and sister’s husband, Agha Sayed Mustafa.

Also, the Sharia Society of Shiites, which was established during the time of Agha Sayed Yusof Al-Musawi al-Safavi, was divided by this division. Agha Mustafa’s children are currently engaged in political activities. Their names are Agha Sayed Hassan and Agha Mahdi, who joined the Hurriyat Party and the Congress Party, respectively.

Agha Mahdi was nominated several times for the Lok Sabha elections of India but failed. He was killed in 2000 due to the explosion of a land mine. Ruhollah the son of Agha Mahdi, is currently one of the ministers of the state government of Kashmir under Prime Minister Umar Abdullah.

However, Fazlullah withdrew from politics, while his brother, Mahmoud, assumed the position of minister two times in the National Governmental Association. He then became a member of the People’s Democratic Party but resigned from the party after a while. Now he attends only the National Government Association.

Although the Sharia Society of Shiites has been weakened, it continues its activities.

Shia in Kargil

Kargil is in the north of Kashmir and 205 kilometers from Srinagar, the capital of this state, most of its population is Shiite. Although Kargil is in the region of Ladakh, which is mostly Buddhist, in the Himalayan region, 25% of the people of Ladakh are Muslims, of which 18% are in Kargil.

In this region, Kashmiri Shiites have organized socio-political activities, influenced by the guidelines of Imam Khomeini (r.a.) as the great leader of Shiites in the world.

Also, with the influence of the Islamic Revolution of Iran, the people of this region have developed the socio-economic structure around them and have tried to improve the status of their Shiite society by increasing the level of education and improving the economic situation.

The existence of Islamic entities in this region, such as Islamic organizations in economic dimensions such as the Islamic Bank, are all influenced by the Shiite thought of Imam Khomeini (r.a.).


Kargil Shiites, despite the differences that have arisen among them, such as the difference of opinion about sharia emulation, have also tried to take advantage of the late Imam Khomeini’s orders. Many of the people of this region, who for many years followed the ulama of Najaf, with the victory of the Islamic revolution led by the late Imam Khomeini (r.a.), have changed their source of emulation and accepted the principle of Wali Faqih.

Currently, in this region, Shia has strongly regained its political aspect, and this has led to the participation of Shiite ulama in politics.


In Kashmir, the Shiite minority has repeatedly witnessed discrimination and wrong policies, especially from pro-Indian groups. But to alleviate these sufferings, some progress has been made in all fields, the efforts made to reduce discriminatory policies in various social-political and economic fields.

However, these discriminations are still evident in Shiite areas. In fact, it should be noted that the Shiite areas, whether in Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir or in other cities, require more attention. These areas, which are mostly located in the center of the cities of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, have made progress, but they still struggle with the problem of discrimination.

Eliminating this discrimination against Shiites, which is more visible in rural areas, is a great responsibility that the Shiite leaders of the region should try to solve. /345/

Ahl Al-Bayt World Assembly

The Ahl al-Bayt World Assembly  is an international non-governmental organization (INGO) that was established by a group of Shiite elites under the supervision of the great Islamic authority of the Shiites in 1990 to identify, organize, educate and support the followers of Ahl al-Bayt.

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