Book I the Sultanate Period Chapters /. The Arabs and the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent 1



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Position of the Hindus. During militarMry operations, the Hindus suffered losses in property and life. When these operations were over and the harsh laws of war gave place to the laws of peace, even then the Hindus sufrfered from certain handicaps. The loss of sovereignty itself »«vas a major loss, especially in case of the Brahmans and the !~Bk. I ] History of Muslim Civilisation in India & Pakistan 204


Lahore and Peshawar had not led to the same tensions and conflicts which followed their domination over the heart of Aryavarta. Even the indirect effect of the Mongol invasion of Muslim lands led to a stiffening of attitude. The Muslim refugees, who had suffered so much at the hands of pagan _ Mongols were not likely to be very soft in dealing with pagan Hindus in the Indo-Pak subcontinent.
All these factors make the Sultanate a period of social tensions and conflicts. Even the theory of Turkish racial superiority which held sway during the rule of early slave kings was not favourable to the employment of Hindus--or even indigenous Muslims-to high civil and military appointments, as was the case under the Arabs in Sind or under Ghaznavids. It would, however, be wrong to think that Hindus were completely excluded from service. In rural areas the Hindu landed aristocracy still occupied a position of prestige and power, and the Muqaddams, the Chaudhuris and the Khots were important limbs of administration. As Panikkar says:
”The land system in fact did not change and, therefore, the Hindus in general in the countryside led fairly the same life as they had led before. Nor is it to be understood that commerce and trade changed hands to any considerable extent. The Muslim invaders were military adventurers who looked down upon trade and to whom the elaborate system of Hundi and credit on which Indian business was based was a mystery. The commercial classes were no doubt mulcted heavily both by the imperial government and by its local officials, but the Hindu banya remained, then as now, a necessary element in the structure of society.”9
The Muslim system of government allowed certain basicguards to all minorities and non-Muslims living under Muslim rule, and this enabled the Hindu population to maintain its economic and social structure. Generally speaking, the position of the Hindus even during the Sultanate was not worse than the
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position of the Jews under Christian rule . Summing up the position of the Hindus under early Muslim rulers Sir Wolseley Haig observes:
On the whole it may be assumed flthat the rule of __ the Slave Kings over their Hindu sut bjects, though _ _ disfigured, by some intolerance and by»*> gross cruelty towards the disaffected, was just and Iraumane as that of the Norman Kings in England sand tar more tolerant than that of Philip II in SSpain and the Netherlands.”10
Hindu Upper Classes. This was the greneral position. In addition, the Hindus remained supreme a_nd autonomous in important sectors of social and econmic life-, and were virtually sovereign, at least during the Sultanate, ovea- a great part of the country. It is an established axiom of Islarmic Law that while Muslims are governed by their own law, noan-Muslims dhimmis are subject to their own laws and social organisation. This legal position curtailed the sovereignty of th is Muslim State and led in the Ottoman Empire to the fiknstitution of the Capitulations’ In the Indo-Pak subcontinent, the Muslim rulers accepted, from the days of Arab occupation of Sind, the right of the village and caste panchayats to settle the affairs of their community, and left the autonomous structui re of the rural and caste life intact. This meant that not only ”the Hindu villages remained small autonomous republics, as thMey had been since ancient times, but in commerce and indust ry also the Hindu guilds ruled supreme. This position continuied throughout the Muslim rule, but during the Sultanate, w I-icn the provincial administration had not been properly org snised, the Hindu autonomy outside the principal towns was ve;«ry real.
It is often forgotten-and Muslim court ’”chroniclers are not keen to point it out-that at least at this stages there was a large number of independent Hindu chiefs, and as Moreland says: ”a large portion of the kingdom was obviousl j^y in their hands”. JSome of them were big enough to ”rank asss kings and others merely chieftains claiming authority over a few villages”.

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Many of the chiefs belonged to old families, hut new principalities were also growing up. Even after the establishment of Muslim Empire at Delhi, bands of Rajputs would often set out ”to found new kingdoms for themselves in the less accessible and more defensible parts of the country”. Many of the states in Rajputana and in the Himalayas derived their origin from such movements during the Sultanate, as do some of the large landed estates still held by Rajputs in Oudh and in Bihar, ”The position of these new foundations varied from time to time; they might be practically independent states,

3r they might merely be privileged units subject to a Muslim ruler, but their individuality has survived to the present day.”


The position of the Hindu business community was even better. We hear much about the large incomes of the Muslim grandees and the splendour of their household, but Barani leaves us in no doubt that all of them were in the clutches of the Hindu mony-lenders. ”The Maliks and the Khans and the nobles of those days were constantly in debt, owing to their excessive generosity, expenditure and beneficence. Except in their public halls no gold or silver could be found, and they made no savings on account of their excessive liberality. The wealth and riches of the Multani merchants and the old maliks and nobles of Delhi, wo borrowed money from them to the maximum limit, and repaid their debts along with additional gifts from their iqta’s. Whenever a malik or a Khan held a banquet, and invited notables, his agents would rush to the Multanis and Shahs, sign documents, and borrow money with interest.”11 ”Even the powerful ’Ala’-ud-din Khalji, who, seeing the danger to his government from the position and the defiant attitude of the Hindu rural chiefs, made a determined attempt to curb their power and reduce their wealth, found it necessary to make Hindu traders (the Multanis) the main instrument of his price control measures.
Muslim historians tend to omit or ignore features which show the limits or the set-backs to the authority of their patrons, but their is plenty of incidental evidence about the
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prosperity of the Hindus, both in the countryside and the cities. In Tarikh-i Firuz Shahi, Barani quotes Jalal-ud-dm Khalji as saying: ”Every day the Hindus pass below my palace beating cymbals and blowing conch shells to perform idol worship on the bank of the Yamuna, while my name is being, read in the Khutbah as the Defender of Islam, these enemies of God and His Prophet, under my very eyes, are proudly displaying their riches and live ostentatiouly among the Muslims of my capitl. They beat their drums and musical instruments and perpetuate their pagan practices.”12 Barani makes the position clearer in the Fatawa’-i Jahandari. In the words of Mahmud of Ghazni, he criticises the attitude of Muslim rulers towards Hindus, but in this process lays bare not only the wide cleavage between his point of view and the policy adopted by the Muslim government of Delhi, but also gives a vivid account of the position enjoyed by Hindus in the Muslim capital. ”In the capital (Delhi) and in the cities of the Musalmans, the customs of infidelity are openly practised; idols are publicly worshipped and the traditions of infidelity are adhered to with greater insistence than before. Openly and without fear, the infidels continue the teaching of the principles of their false creed; they also adorn their idols and celebrate their rejoicings during their festivals with the beat of drums and dhols and with singing and dancing. By merely paying a few tankas and the poll tax (jizya), they are able to continue the traditions of infidelity by giving lessons in the books of their false faith and enforcing the orders of these books. How (under these conditions) can the traditions of Islam be elevated or the orders for enforcing the good and prohibiting the evil be made effective?
”But the desire for overthrowing infidels and knocking down idolaters and polytheists does not fill the hearts of the Muslim kings (of India). On the other hand, out of consideration for the fact that infidels and polytheists are payers of tribute and protected person (zimmis), the infidels are honoured, distinguished, favoured and made eminent; the kings bestow drums, banners, ornaments, cloaks * i brocade and

T
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caparisoned horses upon them, and appoint them to governorships, high posts and offices. And in their capital (Delhi), owing to the status pf which the status of all other Muslim cities is raised, Muslim kings not only allow but are pleased with the fact that infidels, polytheists, idol-worshippers and cow-dung (w£/n)worshippers build houses like palaces, wear clothes of brocade and ride Arab horses caparisoned with gold and silver ornaments. They are equipped with a hundred thousand sources of strength. They live in delights and comforts. They take Musalmans into their service and make them run before their horses; the poor Musalmans beg of them at their doors; and in the capital of Islam, owing to which the difice of Islam is elevated, they are called rats (great rulers), rans (minor rulers), thakurs (warriors), sahas (bankers), mehtas (clerks) and pandits (priests).”13 The position of the Hindus, if anything, improved under Muhammad Tughluq. When the Jain scholar and saint Jinaprabha Suri visited the royal court, Muhammad Tughluq, according to the jain accounts, ”treated him with respect, seated him by his side, and offered to give him wealth, land, horses, elephants, etc., which the saint declined. The Sultan praised him and issued a farman with royal seal for the construction of a new basadi upsraya, i.e. rest house for the monks. A procession started in his honour to his residence to the accompaniment of varied music and dancing of young women, and the saint was seated on the State elephant surrounded by Maliks.”14’
General Social Conditions. Contemporary historian throw very little light on the condition of the masses. With the establishment of Muslim rule, there was a gradual improvement in the condition of the Shudras and other classes at the bottom of the Hindu caste system. Muslim converts from the Hindu lower classes had, of course, great opportunities before’them, and one of them, Khusrau Khan, even sat on the throne of Delhi. But the Muslim example, the danger of conversion, and, in course of time, the preaching of Hindu ’reformers’,”must have improved the position of these classes
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within Hindu society also. The conquest of the Deccan and the resultant tansfer of riches to the North engendered a wave of prosperity in the reign of ’Ala’-ud-din Khalji, from which the general masses of Northern India also benefited, but it was temporary and local relief.
One feature of the social life of the period was the widespread prevalence of slavery. The number of royal slaves was often large and Firuz Tughluq, from economic motives, increased their number considerably. They were, however, well looked after and were reaily dependable, loyal personal servants. Sultan Muhammad Ghuri had set a noble example in taking paternal care of his slaves, and the fact that, for a long time, the throne of Delhi was occupied by those who were originally slaves or were descended ftom slaves, would show that slavery in the Muslim society meant something quite different from what it was in the Roman Europe or what it become during European colonisation and exploitation of Africa and America in the nineteenth century. Invasions and wars added to the number of slaves, and of course, descendants of slaves inherited inferior status.
”The Muslim tradition with regard to women varied according to the country. The Turks in general gave their women a fair measure of freedom. The Persian woman was improving her position as compared with her Indian sister. In India the Muslims followed the older tradition of the ancient Persians, which put the woman in an inferior position.”15 There was a partial exclusion of women in ancient India and upper-class Hindu women were generally shut off from the gaze of the males They observed what even now goes under the name of ghoonghat, but the elaborated and institutionalised form of pardah dates from the time ot Muslim rule. It gradually established itself amongst Hindu upper classes, especially the Rajputs. Amongst the Hindus sati was not uncommon. Some Muslim kings tried to stop it. According to Ibn Battutah, Muhammad Tughluq tried to ensure that there was no forcible burning of Hindu widows

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Amongst the contribution of Muslims towards the improvement of towns in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent ”may be noted their beautiful and spacious mosques, their gateways, probably the use of fountains, domes, a new arch, and an improved style of walls around a city with watch-towers and other military equipment of a more efficient pattern. Their buildings, their mausoleums, their roofed tanks and baths and their beautiful gardens, all went to enrich and embellish the Indian cities.16
”Special classes of people had their own distinctive dresses. There was no special uniform for a soldier, whose arms alone distinguished him from other people. The royal slaves were conspicuous by the use of a waistband, and handkerchief in their pocket, red shoes and the common kulah, The Hindus usaully went bare-headed and bare-footed. They also stuck to their intricate arrangements of cooking and eating (chaukd). They generally believed that purity of thought could only be attained by not being seen by others when eating food ”17
Trade and Commerce. The Indo-Pakistan subcontinent has a long history of inland and foreign trade, which continued under the Sultanate. The important trading classes of the period were the Multanis in the north and the banias of Gujarat on the west coast. Foreign Muslim merchants, usually known as Khurasanis, also played an important role. The rulers of the coastal kingdoms in the Deccan accorded to foreign merchants certain extra-territorial rights and special concessions in consideration of the heavy taxes which they paid to the treasury. There was an organised class of brokers which handled large scale transactions on the coast and inside the country. The money-lenders and bankers, called Sahus and Mahajans, formed an importan section of the community and they did not find it difficult to recover their dues, including interest.18 It is not possible to form any exact estimate of the volume of internal or foreign trade, though more information is available about the latter. The imports consisted mainly of
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certain article of luxury for the use of the upper classes and a general supply of all kinds of horses and mules, in which India was deficient. Hindus had never attached any importance to cavalry, but, seeing the success of the Muslim horsemen, they also started to substitute horses for elephants in their armies. The exports of the Indo-Pak subcontinent were numerous and included large quantities of necessaries like foodgrains and cloth. The exports of agricultural produce consisted of wheat, milliet, rice, pulses, oilseeds, scents, . medicinal herbs, and other similar articles. Cotton and sugar were the principal exports of Bengal. Cotton cloth and other textiles were specially important items of export.19 Some of the countries around the Persian Gulf depended on the IndoPakistan subcontinent for their food supply, and islands in the Pacific Ocean, the Malay Islands and the east coast of Africa provided extensive markets for Indian goods. Some of these goods also reached Europe. They were carried by the Arabs to the Red Sea and from there found their way to Damascus and Alexandria, from where they were distributed over the Mediterranean countries and beyond.
Industry. The scale and organisation of industry radically differed in the middle ages from that of the present, but many industries of considerable size and importance had been developed under the Sultanate. More important of these were textiles, various items of metal work, sugar, indigo, and, in certain localities, paper.
The textile industry is very old in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent, but the variety of cloth produced was originally limited. Muslims took advantage of the local talent and introduced a number of fine varieties of textiles, most of which had Persian or Arabic origin. Barbosa mentions a kind of sah called sirband made in Bengal and much esteemed by Europeans as head-dress for ladies and by Persian and Arab merchants as turbans. Another European traveller, Varthema, give the names of various varieties ot fine cloth, which were being produced in Bengal, and, in spite of mutilation in

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transmission, it is not difficult to recognise the Persian origin of these varieties--fia/raw, Namone, Lizatim, Caintar, Donzar, and Smabeff.
The textile industry of Bengal attained to great heights under the Mughals, hut we find indications of a fairly large volume of production in this area during the Sultanate period also. Gujarat was the other big centre of textile production, and, according to Varthema, Cambay ”contributed about half of the total textile exports of India.”
Next in importance were a number of metal-work industries, like sword-making and the manufacture of ”basins, cups, steel guns, knives and scissors”. The manufacture of sugar was also carried on a fairly large scale and in Bengal enough was produced to leave a surplus for export after meeting the local demand.
The Chinese are usually credited with the discovery of paper. They were the first to manufacture paper from ”grasses and plants,” but the ”credit of first dicovering rag-paper goes to the Arabs or rather to the paper makers of Samarqand”. The large number of plain and illuminated manuscripts which have survived ”leave no doubt as to the existence of a paper industry” during the Sultanate and there is even a mention ”of a regular market of book-sellers in Delhi,”20 but the quantity of paper was not sufficient to meet the demand.
Industry was mainly organised on private basis, but the government also equipped and managed large scale karkhanahs or factories, for supplying its requirements. The royal factories at Delhi sometimes employed as many as four thousand weavers for silk alone. The example of the Sultan of Delhi was followed by the rulers of the regional kingdoms and the contribution of the State to the development of the industry was . substantial.
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NOTES & REFERENCES
1. Saran, Studies in Medieval Indian History, pp 253-24.
2. Siyar al-Auliya’, p 53.
3. R.C. Majumdar, History and Culture of the Indian People, VI, 609.
4. Ibid , VI, 611.
5. Ibid., VI, 612.
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid., VI, 608.
8 This paragraph is based on the relevant entry in Hashimi Ftridabidl’i Tarikh-t Musalmanan-i Pakistan wa Bharat, I, 227-30 His information ii, apparently, derived from an analysis of contemporary literature
9. KM Panikkar, A Survey of Indian History, p. 157.
10. The Cambridge History of India, in 90

11 Barani, Tankh-i Fintz Shah, p 210


12. ftirf.p. 210
13. R.C Majumdar, History and Culture of the Indian People, VI, 86.
14 KM Mhnf, Life and Conditions of the People of Hmdiistan, pp. 140.
15 Ibid , p 244
16. Sec ihid , pp 266-67, for an analysis of Muslim contribution to town planning and the description of an average city of Hindustan in the middle ages.
17 Ibid ,p 241
18 See ibid pp. 217-18, for references in the legal compendium of Firuz Tughluq’s reign for facilitating the work of brokers and for fixing the rale of interest for tamassuks
19 Ibid ,p 284
20 Ibid ,pp 221-22

Chapter 12
CULTURAL LIFE
The Cultural Importance of the Delhi Sultanate. The face that the historians of Medieval India, dependent in most cases for their information largely on Elliot and Dowson’s work, have generally dealt only with political and military events, has created an impression that the Sultanate had nothing to show in the cultural sphere. The ruthlessness and intemperance occasionally displayed during the conquest of the country, or later, when dealing with rebellions or internecine warfare, have further strengthened this impression, but, as Sir John Marshall has pointed out, ”these were vices common in those ages to most Asiatic nations” and did not preclude the Delhi Sultans ”any more than they had precluded the Ghaznavids from participating in the culture and arts of Islam.”1
Far from being a cultural desert, Delhi was, after the sack of Baghdad in 656/1258, perhaps the most important culture centre in the Muslim East. Lahore had been known as ”smaller Ghazni” at a time when Ghazni was the principal seat of literary and cultural magnificence associated with the House of Mahmud. Delhi was heir to the traditions of Ghazni and Lahore, but what increased its importance was the fact that soon after the foundation of Muslim rule in Northern India, the Mongols destroyed the cultural centres of Central and Western Asia, and the poets, scholars and men of letters from these areas took refuge in the Indo-Pak subcontinent. A large number of works written during this period have been lost, but the contemporary histories leave no doubt about the rich cultural life of the period. Both Minhaj al-Siraj and ’Isami pay eloquent tributes to the attempt made by Iltutmish to make his capital a

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great cultural centre. This process became more active under his successors. In 656/1258 Hulaqu destroyed Baghdad, and now men of letters came to Hind-Pakistan not only from Khwarizm, Turkistan and what is now modern Afghanistan, but also from Persia, Iraq and Western Asia. Balban, who was particular about entrusting high offices of the State to persons of good families only, welcomed these distinguished refugees, and many illustrious families of Muslim India trace their origin to this period. ’Ala’-ud-din Khalji was not a great patron of letters, but the general prosperity engendered by his conquests enabled nobles to replace royalty in the role of literary patrons. Judging from the number of eminent men of letters, his reign seems to have surpassed the rest. Barani devotes more than fourteen pages to an account of cultural activities of the period, and give a long list of scholars, poets, preachers, philosophers, physicians, astronomers and historians who thronged Delhi in the days of ’Ala’-ud-din Khalji. As the works of most of the persons named by Barani have perished, it is impossible to assess their quality, but if the surviving poetry of Khusrau, the historical works of Barani, and the table-talk of Hadrat Nizamud-din Auliya are any indication of the cultural vitality and richness of the age, one can well understand why Amir Khusrau and others felt that Delhi was the metropolis of the Muslim East and were loud and eloquent in its praises.
The cultural life of Delhi received a set-back when Muhammad Tughluq moved the capital of Daulatabad and compelled the Muslim upper classes to migrate there. This resulted in some good in its turn, but we can understand the bitterness of Barani and others at the ”madness” of the Sultan for undoing what his distinguished predecessors had built up during a century and a half. Firuz Tughluq, the next ruler, attempted to pick up the broken threads of cultural life, but his period was the golden age of the jurists and the orthodox ulema. The literary and cultural life of Northern India was not restored till the days of Sikandar Lodi, who patronised not only poetry, theology and medicine, but was the first orthodox
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