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



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ruler of Delhi to patronize music on a large scale. Soon after his death the Mughal Empire was established and the most important period of cultural life in Muslim India was ushered in.
The pre-Mughal era was not a cultural void, but it cannot be claimed that the Sultanate is a period marked by that solid scholarship and study of sciences which distinguished Baghdad of Cordova, and which produced al-Biruni and Avicenna. The reason is obvious. Learned and gifted men had come to India, but without their libraries. Those who were escaping with their lives could not be expected to carry heavy loads of books over long distances. Already, we find in the fifth/eleventh century Data Ganj Bakhsh missing in Lahore Ghazni’s rich treasures of books. The position of those who were fleeing before the Ghuzz and Mongol marauders was naturally worse. We get a glimpse of this in the case of Fakhr-i Mudabbir, who fled from Ghazni even without his family papers, and had to wait for a suitable opportunity to go back and reclaim them. The result of all this was that only, those cultural activities gained prominence which, like poetry, belles-letters, local history, sufism, architecture and music, were not dependent on accumulated stores of knowledge.
Education. In Muslim society, education is almost a religious duty, particularly for the religious classes. They are expected to undertake teaching, with a view to earning religious merit, and the Muslim State is expected to facilitate this by providing them with ample means of subsistence. This was the procedure generally adopted during Muslim rule in India, and Sadr-i Jahan,2 in charge of the religious endowments, arranged for the grant of tax-free lands to imams, qadis, and other religious groups of who provided education, particularly in Islamic subjects. Usually this education was elementary, but the system also provided for the maintenance of scholars and learned men, who had specialized in different branches of learning and were attracting students interested these particular subjects. We find even nobles and

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distinguished men of affairs teaching subjects in which they had become proficient to interested students. For example, Hadrat Nizam-ud-din Auliya’ studied the Arabic classic, Maqamat-i-Hariri, under Shams al- Mulk, who later became wazir of Balban. The children of nobles were taught in their own houses by picked private tutors, whose guidance was often available for other students also. For advanced students, madrassahs were set up by pious and public-spirited rulers, and this activity received special attention during the early period. We come across two major madrassahs, the Mu’izziyyah and the Nasiriyyah, established during the beginning of Muslim rule at Delhi. One of these was so big that it was mistaken by the Isma’ili raiders, who had come to Delhi to assassinate the reigning Sultan, for the Grand Mosque. The second was important enough to have as its principal the learned Minhaj al-Siraj, the Chief qadi of the realm. Details about these madrassahs are lacking, but probably one of them was the college built by Iltutmish, and repaired a century later by Firuz Tughluq. Similar steps to establish educational institutions were taken by Muslim rulers in the distant provinces, and we read of Muhammad b. Bakhtiyar Khalji setting up madrassahs at Devkot and other places in Bengal after the conquest of the country. Firuz Tughluq was an exception in looking after the institutions established by his predecessors, and, probably, most of these establishments fell into decay when the original founders passed away or the grants made for the madrassahs were diverted to other purposes.
Historians give few details about the teachers, or the curriculum, or the text-books taught at these institutions. The college about which some details are available and which was probably the most elaborate educational institutions established by a Delhi ruler, was the one founded by Firuz Tughluq near Haud-i- ’Ala’i, and known as Firuz Shahi Madrassah. Barani has given a lengthy account of its beautiful building, and the surrounding gardens, which used to attract visitors and
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provided the centre round which people of Delhi set up their residences. The college had extensive courtyards, comfortable seating arrangements and provision was made, not only for the general education, but also for the spiritual welfare of the students. Barani’s account, written during the lifetime of Firuz, is largely rhetorical, but other contemporary accounts also bear witness to the eminence and grandeur of the madrassah. Mutahhar, a contemporary poet of Kara (near modern Allahabad), has written a long poem describing his visit to Delhi were the Firuzi madrassah was one of the important places he visited. Both Barani and Mutahhar praise the comprehensive knowledge of Maulana Jalal-ud-din Rumi, the head of the institution. The main subjects taught seems to have been religious - Tafsir, Hadlth and Fiqh. For the study of Hadith the favourite text book was Mashariq al-Anwar and in Fiqh, Hidayah held the field.
The intellectual and spiritual activity of the early Sultanate owed not a little to scholars and saints who sought refuge from Mongol atrocities in the neighbouring countries. After this rush ceased and Mongols had established their rule in the northwester borderland, communication between Central Asia and Northern India became difficult, if not impossible. This naturally had adverse effects on cultural and educational activities here, and it appears that in the Deccan where contact was maintained with Iran by sea-route, intellectual activity during later centuries encompassed a wider range than in the north. In Northern India, apart from religious subjects mentioned above, literature, history, mysticism and ethics were the principal subjects studied. In the Deccan, scientific subjects were also receiving attention. The great Bahmani king Firuz (799-846/1397-1442) used ”to hear lectures on botany, geometry and logic on Saturdays, Mondays and Thursdays”.3 He was also interested in astronomy and in 810/1407 started work on an was also interested in astronomy and in 810/1407 started work on an observatory near Daulatabad. The untimely death of Hakim Hashim Gilani, the astronomer who was to

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supervise the observatory, however, put an end to the project.
When Sayyid Gesu Daraz - who has left a large number of
books on mysticism and was famous for his knowledge of
religious subjects -reached the Deccan, Firuz went to meet
him. The historian Firishtah records that the king missed in the
saint that solid scholarship which he valued and made no secret
of his disappointment. The fact that the king was not solitary in
intellectual pursuits is evident from the account of a son of
Dawud Shah, who used to teach students three days a week and
was very fond of Zahidi, Sharh-i- Tadhakirah and Tahrir-i
Uqlidas (Euclid) in mathematics; Sharh-i Maqasid in theology;
and Mutawwal in rhetoric; and made them the course of study
of his pupils.4 Promotion of learning in the Deccan was largely
the work of Persian statesmen and scholars whom the rulers
had attracted from Iran, and an interesting monument of the
age is the ruined college of the Bahmani minister, Mahmud
Gawan, in Bidar. It was a magnificent building as can be seen
from its beautiful minarets and facade, but during the wars of
the Deccan kings with Aurangzeb, it was badly damaged by an
explosion of gun powder.
When the worst fury of the Mongol holocaust had blown over and overland contacts between Iran and Indo-Pakistan subcontinent were resumed, new subjects were added to the curriculum. The activity was most fruitful during the Mughal period, but a beginning was made somewhat earlier at Talamba, near Multan, which was on the direct route from Iran. An extensive study of logic and ’Jim al-Kalam (scholastic theology) was first undertaken by Shaikh ’Abdullah and Shaikh ’Azizullah, who, after an upheaval in Multan, went to Delhi during the reign of Sikandar Lodi and introduced new textbooks on these subjects. The importance of Multan during this period may be judged by the fact that when Sultan Husain Langah, ruler of Multan (860-908/1456-1502), wanted his capital to vie with Gujarat in architecture and was told that, with all his wealth, he could not erect similar buildings Multan, his wazir tried to console him by saying, though
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Gujarat was noted for its buildings, Multan outshone it in learning and scholars.5
Medicine. The history of Indo-Muslim medicine, popularly called Tibb-i Yunani, had not been properly studied and the material for the early period it scanty, but is would be useful to refer to available accounts, as the history of medicine is linked up with the development of medieval science and provides a good index of Greek and Indian influences.
The foundation of Indo-Muslim medicine was laid during the Abbasid period, when Voids and doctors from India were invited to Baghdad and translation of important Sanskrit works into Arabic was undertaken.6 After that, the first detailed reference to the subject is by Barani who gives details prominent physicians of he reign of Balban. He gives an even more impressive list of the days of ’Ala’-ud-din Khalji (695-

716/1296-1316). Foremost in the latter reign were Maulana Badr-ud-din and Maulana Hamid Mutris, both from Damascus. They were not only successful practising physicians, but were also good teachers and taught standard works on medicine to aspiring students. Maulana Hamid was, in particular, an effective teacher and specialized in the teaching of Avicenna’s Qanun and its abridgment, Qanunchah, and ”other works on medicine”. He was also a practising sufi. Barani mentions a few other names, including the Hindu physicians Man Chandra, Raja Jarrah (surgeon) and ’Ilm-ud-din Kahhal (eye doctor), but it appears that physicians from Syria, which was an important centre of Greek sciences, were dominant.


The earliest work on medicine, of which an imperfect manuscript copy has survived, was written in 730/1329-30 in the reign of Muhammad Tughluq. Its author Diya’ Muhammad was sent to Deccan under orders of the Sultan and after a prolonged illness prepared his book, Majmu’ah-i Diya’i based on a number of earlier medical works. The author drew, not only on Qanun and other books prepared in Central Asia, but received great help from an earlier indigenous work, Majmu’ah-i Shamsi, written by Shams-ud-din Mustaufi in

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Balban’s day. Diya’ Muhammad’s book gives local counterparts of Arab medicines, and several prescriptions based on the work of the Hindu physician Naga Rajan and other Yogis and Voids.
The succeeding ruler Firuz built many hospitals for the public, and amongst the medical works composed in his reign was Tibb-i Firuz Shahi named after him. Rahat al-Insan, a work on popular medicine composed in 778/1376, was also dedicated to him. The death of Firuz was followed by the decay of the Sultanate, but important medical works continued to be compiled in regional kingdoms. Two important books Kifayah-i Mujahidiyyah and Tashrih-i Mansuri - ’were composed in the reign of Zain al-’Abidin, the enlightened ruler of Kashmir (823-875/1420-1470). Of these, the first book, which is more comprehensive, is dedicated to Zain al-’Abidin, while the second is dedicated to a grandson of Timur. Both these works are still in use, and were lithographed during the last century. In the reign of Sultan Mahmud Begada of Gujarat (863-917/1459-1511), Vaghbit, a collection of eight Sanskrit pamphlets, was translated into Persian under the title Shifa’-i Ahmadi.
As Majmu’ah-i Diya’V shows, Muslim writers on medicine were drawing on Hindu sources practically from the beginning, and the translation of Vaghbit was an important link in this chain. The most important medieval work of this type was Ma’dan al-Shifa-i Sikandar Shahi, also known as Tibb-i Sikandari. This was completed in 919/1512-13 during the reign of Sikandar Lodi, by his wazir and court physician, Mian Bhowa. The author states in the Preface” that he once represented to Sikandar Lodi that there were difficulties in the proper application of Yunani medicine to people living in India. The author prepared this book, based on the works of well known Sanskrit writers like Susrat, Charak, Ras Ratnagar and others and used local terminology in order to make the book useful to the residents of the subcontinents. Tibb-l Sika~>dari
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has remained as standard text-book with students of IndoFMuslim medicine and has been lithographed at Lucknow.8
The brief account given above is enough to show that the study and practice of medicine was not neglected during the Sultanate, and, as in other spheres, material available in Hindu as well as classical Islamic works was utilised.
Literature. Works of the poets of Iltutmish’s days have perished and only brief accounts of them and a few of their poems have been preserved in general histories. Their study s-ho\vs that the imperial secretariat was a great repository of

1 iterary talent, and some of the prominent poets of the period were holding secretariat appointments. The general historians haave naturally preserved only those poems which were written f«or special occasions, such as the poems of Dabir al-Mulk Tajuad-din Sangrezah on the arrival of the patent of authority for IJtutmish from the Abbasid Khalifah, and his verses on the auccession of Iltutmish’s son or Ruhani’s poem on Iltutmish’s conquest of Ranthambhor. These poems have the usual ISmitations of ”occasional” poetry, but other verses included in a. nthologies indicate high poetic skill.


The early men of letters naturally represented a transhmdus traditions. Most of them had received their education b- eyond the border, and, although they had settled down in the Iindo-Pakistan subcontinent, indigenous tradition really began \with Amir Khusrau. Of the early tradition, the two most important representatives were Sadid-ud-din Muhammad ’Aufi, axid Muhammad b. Mansur Qureshi, generally as Fakhr-iN-ludabbar. ’Aufi (circa 568-640/1172-1242), who was a native o ~f Bukhara, visited many countries before coming to what is now Pakistan. He first came to Lahore, but soon moved to Uch, where Qabacha was maintaining a brilliant court. ’Aufi completed the first extant collection of biographies of Persian poets (Lubab al-Albab) at Uch, and later move to Cambay where he was appointed as qadi. Here he compiled the voluminous encyclopedia of anecdotes, Jawami’ zl-Hikayat which, apart from its literary interest, ”is an inexhustible mine

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of curious and interesting information: relating to this and earlier periods. On the fall of Qabacha, ’Aufi moved to Delhi, where Nizam al-Mulk Junaidi, the wazir of Iltutmish, patronised him and persuaded him to finish his incomplete works. ’Aufi also wrote or translated a sequence of short stories entitled al-Faraj Ba ’d al-Shiddat.
The work of Fakhr-i- Mudabbir, the author of Abad alMuluk, has already been discussed. The short-statures Secretary-General (Dabir al-Mulk) of Iltutmish called Rezah (the Atom) or Sangrezah (the Pebble) was the first Persian poet of the period who was born and bred in India. The most distinguished writer of the period, however, is Amir Khusrau. He was born in 651/1253 in Patiali (near Badaun) and died in

725/1325. His father was a junior Turkish officer under Iltutmish and had married a daughter of Rawat ’Ard, the famous war minister of Balban. Khusrau showed literary promise at an early age and, after spending some time at the provincial court of Oudh, become attached at first to Prince Bughra Khan, the governor of Samana and later of Bengal, and subsequently to Prince Muhammad, the heir designate of Balban, who maintained a magnificent court at Multan. In



684/1285, the prince lost his life in a skirmish with the Mongols, and the poet had to move to Delhi. Balban’s youthful successor, Kaiqubad, was Khusrau’s first royal patron, but his gay reign soon came to an inglorious end. Besides Balban, Khusrau saw seven different rulers on the throne of Delhi, but his position at the court remained unaffected. His own loyalty was to his muse, and it is doubtful whether he felt greatly hurt by the kaleidoscopic changes of royalty. Apart from lyrics, qasidahs, five books written in reply to Nizami’s Khamsah and completed in three years (698-701/1298-1301), he wrote poems relating to contemporary events. Qiran al-Sa’dian, completed in 688/1289, gives an account of the historic meeting of Bughra Khan and Kaiqubad on the bank of the river Sarju, and contains an interesting description of Delhi of those days. Miftah al-Futuh (690/1291) is a versified account of the
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exploits of Jalal-ud-din Firuz Khalji. In ’Ashiqah (715/1315) Khusrau gave an account of the romance of the Gujarati princess, Dewal Devi and Prince Khidr Khan, son of ’Ala’-uddin Khalji. The latter’s conquests are the subject matter of Khaza’in al-Futuh (711/1311) in ornate prose, while Nuh Sipihr, completed in 718/1318, celebrates the reign of Qutb-uddin Mubarak Shah. In this book, Amir Khusrau challanged the poets of Iran, and sang of his native land, its hoary past, its love of learning, its flowers and its fair and intelligent people. The Tughluq Nama describes the successful expedition of Ghiyath-ud-din Tughtulq against the usurper Khusrau Khan. Khusrau was also among the earliest writers of Hindi poetry and, through the origin of Hindi poems which are being now attributed to him is doubtful, he himself has referred to his Hindi verses in the introduction to one of his Persian diwans. He played a major role in the development of Indian music, and it is not without justification that professor D.P. Mukerji has called him the ”Leonardo da Vinci of India.”
Hasan, a friend and companion of Khusrau, is the other important poet of the age, whose work has attracted attention outside India. Jami praised him in his Baharistan. He also wrote beautiful prose and his Faw’aid al-Fu’ad, a record of the table talk of his spiritual guide, Nizam-ud-din Auliya, is literary classic of the period. Equally interesting, though not so well known, was Diya’ Nakhshabi (d. 751/1350). He wrote on a number of subjects and was a master of simple and eloquent prose. His romantic mathnavi Gulrez, has been published by the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, and his Silk al-Suluk is well known in sufi circles. Even more famous is his Tuti Namah based on the persian translation of a Sanskrit book. Nakhshabi’s version or its summaries have been translated in Turkish, German, English and many Indian languages. He seems to have taken special interest in translation rom Hindu sources, and his works include a translation of Kok Shastra, an old Indian book on sexology.

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Historians. There were many distinguished names in the realms of poetry and belles-letters, but, perhaps, the most important Muslim contribution of the period was in the field of History. The Hindus practically produced no historical literature, and Muslims introduced the art of historiography in the Indo-Pak subcontinent. Professor Dodwell writes about these writings:
”The advent of Islam begins a great series of Indian chronicles... the Muslim chronicles are far superior to our own (English) medieval chronicles. They were written for the most part not by monks but by men of affairs, often by contemporaries who had seen and taken part in the events they recount... the Muslim period is one of the living men whereas the Hindu period is one of shadows.”9
Historical literature is valuable part of the heritage of Muslim India, but it is marred by serious deficiencies. The most serious defect of these chronicles is that they tried to paint a picture of Muslim conquest which is impossible to accept on closer study. All modern historians of the period, like Haig, Tripathi, Panikkar, Qureshi and Habibullah have had to warn against taking the accounts of these historians literally. Sir Wolseley Haig says:
”The rhapsodies of Muslim historians . . . might delude us into the belief that the early Muslim occupation of Northern India was one prolonged holy War waged for the extirpation of idolatry and die propagation of Islam, had we not proof that this cannot have been the case.”10
Of course, many of the chronicles were written specially for certain kings or nobles, and the historians tried to show that their patrons were actuated by unselfish and religious motives in extending their dominion. Even apart from this, these historians often wrote for the Muslim reader- in Muslim lands. Dr. Qureshi says about the histories of the Sultanate period:
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”jAt this particular period the Persian-speaking part of the Muslim world happened to be winder the grinding tyranny of infide-I , uncivilised Mongols; hence the chroniclers saw an excellent opportunity for display by telling the downtrodden Muslims in other lands how powerful the faithful were in India. This propagandist tendency in the average Muslim chron i -cler of our period should be constantly kept in view in spite of the fact that it overshoots the mark and loses its effect. ””
TThe historian with the most obvious bias is Diya’-ud-din Baraai (684-758/1285-1357). Otherwise the most gifted of the early historians, he wrote at a time when Muslim reaction against the excesses committed by the companions of the halfconverted Khusrau Khan was in full swing. The Tughluqs come to the throne with the battle-cry of ”Islam in danger,” and thueir era is naturally marked by religious enthusiasm, and Barani wrote for Firuz, the greatest champion of Islamic orthodoxy before Aurangzeb. Barani’s Tarikh-i Firuz Shahi, in fact, represents a triple reaction - the reaction of the Tughluq period against the latitudinarian Khalji regime, of the legalist Firuz against the ”experimentalist” Muhammad Tughluq, and even of Barani trying ”to ”compensate,” in a theologiandominated age, for his own pleasure-loving and irreligious past. Barani had been, for seveateen years, a boon companion of Mulhammad Tughluq, who prosecuted sufis and the ulema and in the new reign, dominate-d by these classes, he had to adjust ”himself. He was out of favour with the new Sultan, who banished him from the court, and even imprisoned him for a time. During his exile, Barani wrote his book on government and history, hoping thereby to win the favour of the orthodox and religious-minded Firuz. This has inevitably given a peculiar point of view to Tarikh-i Firuz Shahi and Fatawa-i Jahantdari which we do not find in earlier histories or books like A*dab al-Muluk. Apart from the atmosphere in which Barani composed his work, his attitude is coloured by the fact that h« was a champion of Turkish supremacy. To him,

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indigenous or what he calls the low-born Muslims were as much of an anathema as Hindus, and the fact that his fulminations against Hinds intended really for the preservation of Turkish supermacy, can get a religious justification, has als’ coloured his writings.
These peculiarities, however, should not obscure th historical and literary worth of these chronicles. They hav’ their deficiencies, but very few western chronicles cf corresponding period are free from such shortcomings. No charge of suppression of truth has been brought against them and the peculiarities of method and language can easily be accounted for. The number of historical works of the Sultanate period, which have reached us, in not large, but even then they possess a rich variety. The historians of the period include Fakhr-i Mudabbir, Hasan Nizami, Minhaj al-Siraj, ’Afif, Khusrau, Yahya and ’Isami. Most of them occupied high official positions, and even wrote from personal knowledge, generally in a distinguished style. Barani is the most interesting amongst them. He is not very particular about dates (normally the strong point of Muslim historians), and this naturally detracts from the value of his book. He also had definite political philosophy, which he tried to propagate. But he wrote history as an artist, selecting, and carefully arranging his material so that his book, instead of becoming a monotonous chronicle of events, emphasized the characteristics of variou rulers and different reigns. He does not confine himself to th kings, but gives details about political philosophies of differed monarchs and leading men of the times, the literary and the religious history, the prices in the market and other matters of concern to the ordinary people. Even more interesting is the gallery of portraits which he has brought to life, not only by a skilfull analysis of the personalities with whom he has dealt, but by providing those significant small details which most Oriental historians omit and which could have delighted Lytton Strachey; for example, the picture of the disciplinarian Balban,
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