Before the emergence of the Muslim rulers on the political landscape of Kashmir, the province was a famous centre of Shaivism. Maumud of Ghazni made unsuccessful attempts to conquer the vale of Kashmir. With the passage of time, the area began to attract Muslim settles, many of whom entered the service of its Hindu rulers. One such Muslim adventurer was Shah Mir, who after the death of his Hindu ruler seized the throne for himself and became the king in 1339 under the title of Shamsuddin Shah. Thus was founded the Shah Mir dynasty of Kashmir.
After his death in A.D. 1349, Shamsuddin Shah was succeeded by his sons, Jamshid, Alauddin , Shihabuddin, and Qutb-ud-din. Alauddin transferred his capital from Indrakot to Alauddinpur (Srinagar). Qutb-ud-din was succeeded by his son Sikandar who ascended the throne of Kashmir in 1394 after his father’s death. It was during Sikandar’s reign that Mangol leader Timur Lang or Tamerlane invaded India in 1398. He, however, by way of exchanging envoys with the invader, managed to save the people of Kashmir from his bloody massacres which he indulged in after invading different parts of India.
Though generous towards the men of his own faith, Sikandar was a bigot. His prime minister, Suha Bhatta, was a new covert and worked with a missionary zeal for the spread of Islam. This resulted in the dismissal of the Kashmiri Brahmins from the top positions. During his tenure, desecration of a number of temples including the famed Sun-temple of Martand, took place. The Hindus were confronted with the jezia tax for the first time. He earned the title of But-shikan or idol breaker.
Sikandar died in 1416 was succeeded by his eldest son Ali Shah. Ali Shah deposed by his brother, Shahi Khan, who seized the throne for himself in 1420 and assumed the title of Zain-ul-Abidin. Zain-ul-Abidin ruled for fifty long years and during the period Zain-ul-Abidin initites a lot of projects for the benefit his subjects. He is credited with the construction of the engineering marvel of Zaina Lanka, an artificial island in Woolur Lake.
Zain-ul-Abidin is known to be the greatest Kashmiri Muslim ruler. So much so that the Kashmiris gave him the title of Budshah (the Great king).
Unlike his predecessors, he was an enlightened ruler with a liberal attitude. He ordered the rebuilt of some of the temples destroyed by his father Sikandar. He exhorted the Kashmiri Brahmins, who had left the kingdom during his father's reign, to return to their homeland. Well versed in Persian, Hindi, and Tibetan, besides his own language, he was a patron of learning and education. At his instance, the Mahabharata and the Rajatarangini were translated from Sanskrit into Persian. All these qualities have earned him the title of “Akbar of Kashmir’ by historians.
Zain-ul-Abidin died in 1470, and was succeeded by his son Haidar Shah.
The history of the later Sultans of Kashmir does not merit attention. The province was incorporated into the Mughul Empire by Akbar in 1586.