"Get thee up into this Mountain Abarim, unto Mount Nebo... and die in the mount whether thou goest up ... yet thou shalt see the land before thee; but thou shalt not go thither unto the land which I give to the Children of Israel" (Deut., 32 : 49-52).
These verses record that in obedience to the Divine Command Moses ascended to the top of Mount Nebo and from there he viewed the Land of Promise and thereafter he died at that spot and God buried him. But according to the Christian belief, God not only buried him but buried his sepulchre also. The words unto this day indicate that the writer of the account lived and wrote at a much later date.
The Jewish legend surrounds the death of Moses with mystery. It is asserted in the Jewish history called the Assumption of Moses that Michael came into conflict with Satan as to the disposal of the body of Moses. This legend is also referred to in the Epistles of Jude (Jude: 5-9). According to eastern Jewish legends when the Israelites murmured and talked of returning to Egypt, Yahweh in his wrath threatened to destroy them, and to make Moses and his clan (Mosa Kheo into a nation mightier and greater than they (Nu., 14 : 12). Yahweh decided that only Moses should with his posterity possess the promised land. Moses should have and did thenceforth disappear and went to that land, but the printed tradition alleged that he was surrounded by a cloud and he disappeared and God had taken him alive into heaven on account of his piety (Jewish Ency., Art. Moses, 9 : 53).
The first correct note was, however, struck by St. John Chrysostom. In a passage from Homily 26 in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Ch. 3), he wrote:
"But tell me, do not the bones of Moses himself lie in a far off land in the East. "
But, ignoring Jewish traditions and Christian beliefs, it is obvious that, if Kashmir was the Land of Promise, Moses must have visited the place and his tomb must be somewhere in Kashmir. There can be no possibility of any doubt if it is established that Moses did die in Kashmir.
The traditions of Kashmir, written and oral, assert that Moses did visit Kashmir and died there. Let me quote a few of the historians of Kashmir. Abdul Qadir bin Qaziul-Quzat Wazil Ali Khan, in his Hashmat-i-Kashmir, writes:
"Moses came to Kashmir and people believed in him. Subsequently they continued to believe in him, others did not. He died and was buried here. The people of Kashmir call his tomb the Shrine of the Prophet of the Book" (Hashmat-i-Kashmir, ETR.A. Society of Bengal. MS. 192).
In Tarikh-i-Azami the following passage occurs:
"And this Sang Bibi was also a renowned hermitess and excelled men in meditation and prayer. Near to her tomb is a place which is known as the sepulchre of Moses, the Prophet of God (may our salutations be on him), and people who know assert that many benefits are derived from that place" (Khwaja Muhammad Azam, Tarikh-i-Azami, 84).
In Guldasta-i-Kashmir it is recorded:
"Muslims call this land a replica of heaven on earth and also named it the Garden of Solomon. There are many shrines in the land. They say that Hazrat Sulaiman came here and that Hazrat Musa passed through and died in the land" (Pandit Har Gopal, Guldasta-i-Kahmir, 17).
Similar references are to be found in Wajeez-ut-Tawarikh (Wajeez-ut-Tawarikh, Vol. 1 : 28) and Tarikh-i-Hasan (Tarikh-i-Hasan, Vol. 3 : 74). Among European travellers and writers, Francis Bernier was the first to note this fact. In his fourth ground for the belief that Kashmiris were descendants of Israel, he said:
"The fourth ground is the belief that Moses died in this city of Kaschmire and that this took place within a league of it" (Bernier, Travels in India, 174).
George Moore, in his The Lost Tribes, says:
"Moses himself came amongst them to teach them the worship of one God" (George Moore, The Lost Tribes, 137).
Lt. -Col. HD Torrens writes:
"There is a belief too, that Moses died in the Capital of Kashmir and that he is buried near it" (Torrens, Lt.-Col., H.D., Travels in Ladakh, Tartary and Kashmir, 268).
Mrs. Harvey, citing Badi-ud-Din as her authority, states:
"According to one eminent authority Kashmir was inundated on account of the relapse of the inhabitants to idolatry, after having been taught the worship of One God by Moses, who died there and whose tomb is by some said to be still pointed out" (Mrs.Harvey, The Adventures of a Lady in Tartary, Thibet, China and Kashmir, Vol. 2: 154).
I personally went to the tomb of Moses. We had to go up on ponies from Aham Sharif, a place about eight miles from Behatpoor (Bandipur). One Ghafar Rishi is the custodian (Mutawalli) of the place, and he conducted us there. The tomb itself is in a quadrangular enclosure and in it there are three other covered tombs. One of them is of Sang Bibi, the hermitess, and the other two are of her disciples. All these three tombs, like Muslim graves, are in the north-south direction. The fourth is the tomb of Moses, which, like Jewish graves, is in the east-west direction.
The tomb of Moses has two trees on either side. They were planted about 400 years ago by Hazrat Makhdoom Shaikh Hamza of Kashmir who prayed there for forty days near the tomb of Prophet Moses. He said, it is recorded, that he could smell the aroma of prophethood from the tomb.
The tomb of Moses is on Nebu baal (Mount Nebu). From this place Behatpoor (Bandipur), Sin Betour (second Mount Sinai) are visible. Hashba, Pisgah and Maqam-i-Musa, the Place of Moses, are within a short distance from it.
Are these all mere coincidences?
There is considerable material in support of the tradition that Moses came to Kashmir and died there. Musa is a very popular name among the inhabitants of Kashmir and many places are also named after him. Thus there is Gund-i-Khalil or Gund-i-Musa in Awantipur. Sir Aurel Stein mentions Kohna-i-Musa near Shadipur (Stein, Sir Aurel, Rajatarangini, Vol. 1 : 70) and Rampur (Stein, Sir Aurel, The Ancient Geography of Kashmir, 166). There are four Maqam-i-Musa, the place of (rest) of Moses in Kashmir known to me and there may be many others. One is near Auth Wattu in Handwara Tehsil. This place is also known as Ayat Maula, the Sign of God. Moses came to the valley from this direction and prayed at this spot for forty days. The second is at the junction of the two rivers Jhelum and Sindh near Shadipur. It is sometimes known as Kohna-i-Musa and Stein mentions it by this name. The third is at Pisgah and the fourth is near Bandipur.
There is Sang-i-Musa - the stone of Moses - at Bijbehara. It is locally known as Ka Ka Pal - the stone of Ka Ka. The Ladakhis call Moses Ka Ka. The Pathans call an elderly or saintly person Ka Ka.
This stone of Moses is also mentioned in Rajatarangini. It weighs about 110 pounds. There is a tradition about this stone which I tested myself. We were told that if eleven people sat round it and put one finger each beneath this stone and called out Ka Ka, Ka Ka, the stone would lift itself from the ground. I was accompanied by four other friends (Dr. Wazir Ahmad Quraishi, Health Officer, Srinagar, Mr. Amar Nath Mehta of Mohatta & Co., Srinagar, Mr. Abdul Aziz Shora, Editor of the Weekly Roushni, Srinagar and Mr. Muhammad Tufail of the High Court, Lahore) and we collected six local people and tried the experiment in the manner indicated. The stone rose to a height of about four feet from the ground and we did not feel its weight at all. We tried it with ten and then with twelve persons. The stone did not move. We tried again with eleven and it kept on rising so long as we all were shouting Ka Ka, Ka Ka. This time we carried it shoulder high when one of us began to laugh and the stone fell to the ground. On questioning the significance of eleven persons we were told that out of twelve tribes of Israel one (Levi) had been disinherited. (It is very significant that even illiterate Kashmiris can name the disinherited tribe, which they call Lavi.) The remaining eleven tribes must be symbolically represented before the stone of Moses would move itself.
Truth is stranger than fiction. Anyone doubting this statement can test it for himself.
If we turn to the Holy Quran we can find material for maintaining that Moses did come to Kashmir. To begin with, Israelites are assured that they will live in the Land of Promise after they had been persecuted (The Holy Quran 7 : 137). Consequently, the Israelites had to enter the Land of Promise after their captivity and subsequent release.
The meeting of Moses with Khwaja Khizr is an incident which lends support to the fact that Moses did come to Kashmir. We are told that Moses with his servant reached the junction of the two rivers (Ibid., 18 : 60). The phrase, Majma-ul-Bahrain, does not indicate merely a junction of two rivers, but it really signifies the fact that the two rivers must lose their identity as if they had fallen into the sea. The junction of the rivers Jhelum and Sindh (it must not be confused with the Indus) is at Shadipur and after a few miles they fall into Wullar Lake. At this junction, and in midstream, is a rock on which a platform has been made. It is known as Magam-i-Musa, the resting place of Moses, and sometimes it is called Kohna-i-Musa, the corner-stone of Moses. Thus Moses with his companion came upon this junction and "they took refuge on the rock'' (Ibid., 18 : 63). And it is from this place that they retraced their steps (Ibid., 18 : 64).
On this return journey Moses meets a person, not named in the Book, upon whom God had bestowed mercy and taught him of His knowledge (Ibid., 18 : 65). Commentators agree that this person was Khwaja Khizr. Moses asked permission to follow him:
"So they went (their way) until when they embarked in the boat, he made a hole in it. (Moses) said: Have you made a hole in it to drown its inmates? Certainly you have done a grievous thing" (Ibid., 18 : 71).
The Holy Quran then mentions the reason for this extraordinary conduct of Khwaja Khizr:
"As for the boat, it belonged to (some) poor men who worked on the river and I wished that I should damage it, and there was behind them a king who seized every boat by force" (Ibid., 18 : 79).
Nalsain (Wilson, H.H., Hiscout, Ancient History of Kashmir, 81), King of Kashmir, according to the calculations of Wilson, was a contemporary of Moses. He was a wicked and cruel king. During his reign Kashmir was invaded and there was also a rebellion in the land. Nalsain took forcible possession of all the good boats so that he might cut off the means of communication of his enemies. This is a fact of history and Khwaja Khizr was made aware of the evil intention of Nalsain.
It only remains for me to point out that Khizr, like Moses, is a very popular name among Kashmiris and Khwaja, meaning Master, is prefixed to the names of respectable Kashmiris.
It would not be without interest to mention that the circumstances alleged to have happened at the supposed ascension of Jesus were also said to have taken place when Moses is supposed to have died. Josephus records that Moses took leave of his people and went to Mount Nebu, "when a cloud suddenly stood over him and he disappeared'' (Josephus, Antiquities, 4 : 8, 48). Later on a belief was set up that Moses did not die but had in fact been taken up to heaven like Elijah (Jewish Ency., Art. Moses). But here again, as in the case of Jesus, the Holy Prophet disclosed the real truth. He said: "When Moses' death approached he prayed to God to be permitted to see the Promised land." This prayer was granted. Hazrat Abu Hurairah goes on to report that the Holy Prophet added: "He (Moses) died there. If I were there I could have pointed out to you his tomb on the path of a rugged hill'' (Bukhari, Vol. 2, 16).