History of Muslim Civilisation in India & Pakistan x the press, for which I lacked the necessary leisure. I have, therefore, taken advantage of the presence in Lahore of Professor S.A. Rashid, Director of Historical Research, Punjab University, Lahore, and former Professor and Head of the Department of History, Muslim University, Aligarh. He very kindly undertook to examine and revise the text, check dates, references and transliteration of names and Oriental terms, compile an index, get the maps prepared, and see the book through the press. My deep gratitude is due to him as well as the Dr. P. Hardy of London School of Oriental and African Studies, who saw the draft at one stage and made valuable suggestions. I also acknowledge, with thanks, as grant made by the Rockefeller Foundation to the Columbia University, which enabled me to visit libraries in England and India and obtain copies of the material needed by me...
2 Club Road Lahore
10 September 1961
S. M. IKRAM
A NOTE ON HISTORIOGRAPHY OF MUSLIM INDIA Modern historical literature partaining to Muslim India makes melancholy reading The story is so full of stirring incidents and picturesque personalities, and has attracted such talented writers as Elphinstone, Lane Poole, and Laurence Binyon, to name only a few, that it is interesting to read, but if the ’object of the study of history is to know and understand a people, to learn about their ideas, institutions and movements, or even to have a true understanding of leading characters, the historical literature produced during the last one hundred years affords little real help The relevant volumes of the Cambridge History of India represent the high watermark of Anglo-Indian scholarship during this period, but not without justification does Wilfred Cantwell Smith bemoan their narrow approach ”It is nothing short of ridiculous that the large Cambridge History of India’s volume, The Mughal period,’ should not so much as mention either Tulsi Das (surely one of the most influential poets in the history of mankind .) or Virji Vora (at the time reputed to be the richest merchant in the world1), or Imam Rabbani the Mujaddid Alf-i Thani”’
The modern study of Muslim India, really, began with Sir Henry Elliot, who undertook to make available in English selected portions of the native historical works written during Muslim rule. It was an ambitious undertaking, and one cannot but admire the grand project, to the implementation of which Elliot brought extraordinary industry, resourcefulness and perseverance. He utilised all the influence he possessed as Secretary to the Government of India to trace and procure rare and, in many cases, little known manuscripts of various historical works. His strenuous labours-coupled possibly with some basic physical deficiency- sent him to an early grave, but
History of Muslim Civilisation in India & Pakistan xii
with the accumulation of the basic material and the preliminary work which he had already completed and, above all, with the assumption by the Government of India of the responsibility for financing the ambitious scheme, its implementation was assured. The work was carried on, after Elliot’s death, by Professor Dowson, and between 1867 and 1877, eight bulky volumes of The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians2 were published.
The publication of this work ushered a new era in IndoMuslim historiography. It brought within the reach of Englishmen and other English-knowing scholars material which was hitherto available only in Persian and Arabic, and laid the basis of modern Indo-Muslim historical studies. The importance of Elliot’s work and the influence it has exercised on generations of historians during the last century is too obvious to need any emphasis, but, unluckily, the project was conceived in a spirit and completed in a manner which has seriously detracted from its worth, and has impaired the value of all works depending wholly or largely on this source material. The editor leaves no doubt that the main object of his undertaking was to show the deficiencies of Muslim rule, and thereby bring into relief the benefits of the British administration. In the ”Original Preface,” Sir Henry Elliot says about his selections:
”... They will make our native subjects more sensible of the immense advantages accruing to them under the mildness and equity of rule .... We should no longer hear bombastic Babus, enjoying under our Government the highest degree of personal liberty, and many more political privileges than were conceded to a conquered nation, rant about patriotism, and the degradation of their present position.”3
Sir Henry Elliot’s work in opening up the source material of Indo-Muslim history to Western scholarship is of such an epochmaking character, and he accomplished it with so much zeal and self-sacrificing devotion, that one would like to think well of him and believe that the cynical and utilitarian considerations mentioned by him were to soften the resistance
Xlll A Note on Historiography of Muslim India of a ”tight-purse” Finance Department to the approval of his scheme, but unluckily this is not so. Elliot leaves no doubt about his personal bias and motivation. Apart from the Preface, in which he has spelt out, in great detail, the considerations underlying his historical method, even in the notes and appendices to the first volume of the series, which alone he was able to complete, he points out how ”expedient” it is that the darker side of the Muslim rule ”should be often brought back to remembrance” to silence ”the inhabitants of modern India as well as our clamorous demagogues at home.”
Equally revealing of Sir Henry Elliot’s attitude (and of the balanced, non-communal writing of Indo-Muslim history, prior to his day)4 are his remarks criticising the Hindu historians of the Mughal period for adopting the same style and conventions as the Muslims. ”He (i.e. the Hindu historian) usually opens with ’Bismillah,’ and the ordinary profession of faith in the unity of Godhead, followed by laudations of the Holy Prophet, his disciples and descendants, and indulges in all the most devout and orthodox attestations of Muhammadans”. He was even more angry with the Hindu historians of the British period for not reviling the Muslims and dropped more than a general hint as to what they should do. ”Even at a later period, when no longer Tiberii ac Neronis res ob metum falsae, there is not one of this slavish crew who treats the history of his native country subjectively, or presents us with the thoughts, emotions, and raptures which a long oppressed race might be supposed to give vent to, when freed from the tyranny of its former masters, and allowed to express itself in the natural language of the hearts, without restraint and without adulation.”
The inevitable result of Sir Henry Elliot’s basic approach is not hard to see. The manner in which portion from various historical works were selected and translated further affected the worth of the compilation. So numerous mistakes were committed through insufficient knowledge of the original language and the defective reading of the manuscripts, that
History of Muslim Civilisation in India & Pakistan xiv Professor Hodivala had to bring out a bulky volume to correct these errors.5 These, however, were bona fide mistakes, inevitable in such an ambitious undertaking. Equally serious defects arose on account of the method adopted in translation. These translations were purposely made too literal. ”The versions are inelegant, as in order to show the nature of the original, they keep as close to it as possible.” The metaphors, the hyperboles and figurative expressions of the original language, which nobody acquainted with Persian would think of taking literally, were transferred into a foreign language, with a completely different genius and idiom. The result was that what was straightforward narrative in Persian became quaint in a foreign garb, and what was only a silly mannerism in the original appeared now to involve moral turpitude.
What was even more serious was that only excerpts dealing with political events and endless wars were selected for publication. Works which had a bearing on the cultural, literary, religious, and administrative history were ignored. This seems to have been done deliberately and as a matter of policy. Dr. K. M. Ashraf, who has examined the Elliot papers in the British Museum Library, says that Sayyid Ahmad Khan and Nawab Diya-ud-din had collected historical material of every type including extracts dealing with ”arts and sciences, tales and romances, poetry, tabletalk of the saints, travel, ethics, biography, politics-, but Elliot selected only that material for inclusion in his book which was useful from the imperial point of view.” The result was that not only the original compilation, but the work of those writers who, through ignorance of Persian, had to depend on Elliot and Dowson’s work contained little beyond a catalogue of war and endless slaughter.
The result of the new influences and considerations introduced by Sir Henry Elliot into the study of the past becomes clear, if we compare earlier works like Elphinstone’s History of India with Vincent Smith’s Oxford History of India, which may be regarded as the culmination of the new historical
XV A Note on Historiography of Muslim India school. Smith combined a prodigious industry with a blatant lack of scholarly detachment and objectivity. He went farther than Elliot and Dowson, and utilised the accounts of European travellers and the Jesuit missionaries to lend colour and paint to his story, but the treatments followed lines advocated by Elliot, and was calculated to attain the same objectives. Smith’s work, with all its faults, has some redeeming features. The same could not be said about others- the Lethbridges and the Marsdens - who wrote for Indian schools. Indeed such was the trend of the writings of those who had drawn upon Elliot and Dowson for their material and had followed their approach, that Dr. Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi, who was for long the Head of the History Department of the Dehli University, said about the results of their efforts, ”... Schoolboys were taught textbooks which from every point of view were libels on the noble art of history.
The effect of the admittedly political aims pursued by Elliot and Dowson becomes apparent if the works based on their selections are compared with the studies of those Western scholars who had a different -material to work upon. In recent years, there have been some excellent accounts of the fine arts, mainly paintings and architecture of Muslim India, by scholars like Fergusson. Sir Thomas Arnold, Laurence Binyon, Goetz, and Percy Brown. Their studies are not more catalogues of names or formal descriptions of the objects they deal with. The authors have tried to see in these creative works the vision and skill of the men behind them and the civilisation which they reflect. And how different in understanding and assessment is their picture from what emerges from the pages of the Oxford History of India] On the questions of the narrowing of the scope of historical studies, by leading Anglo-Indian historians, it would be fruitful to quote at length from Mr. Wilfred C. Smith:
”The study of history, during the past fifty or a hundred years, has been undergoing a revolution; one as profound and as far-reaching as the Baconian revolution in the study of the
History of Muslim Civilisation in India & Pakistan xvi natural sciences. The question need not yet be answered whether or not the new history is a science. At least all will admit that it is interested in a great deal more than kings, court annals, and military tactics. Modern historians are socialminded, and dvnamicallly minded They concern themselves \\ith culture, the life of people, and the methods of production They also concern with the basic processes of transformation in a country’s life, and the casual interrelation of specific events with broad developments But in general this revolution in the study of history has not yet hit India, or indeed the study of Oriental development at all In fact by some it has been deliberately resisted Vincent Smith, the Oxford historian of India, after quoting with approval the similar views of Lane-Poole writes ’The history of India in Muhammadan period must necessarily be a chronicle of kings, courts, and conquests, rather than one of national and social evolution’ This attitude is to be deplored, also to be corrected The history of India has been the story of a broad social development It needs careful study which will lavishly repay that study Those who approach Indian history with proper understanding, and with minds alert to and inquisitive about social processes, will find that Mr Smith’s statement is totally wrong, and that instead there awaits uncovering a fascinating, and instructive picture of economic and social evolution ”6
The most serious we’akness of this school of writers is, however, not their bias or even disregard of sectors of vital importance but their superficiality and glaring lack of insight. Perhaps they were not interested in understanding the people and events they dealt with or the inability to read and properly comprehend the original source material was responsible for this. Certainly Elliot and Dowson contributed to this situation. They systematically omitted the material which would illuminate the happenings they recorded. For example, although the editors claim that ”the whole pith and marrow” of Barani’s Tarikh-i Flruz Shahi has been incorporated in their version, yet all the long passages in which rulers like Balban explain their policy, political philosophy and principles of XVll A Note on Historiography of Muslim India government were carefully omitted. Similarly, all works of a general nature, outlining the basis and institutions of the Muslim government, like Fakhr-i Mudabbir’s Adab al Muluk, written for the first Muslim ruler of Dehli, were totally disregarded The result is that, with rare exceptions, the historical works of this school are either a string of disjointed episodes, or present a blurred picture, in which neither the lineaments of the principal actors nor the paths which they sought to tread are visible. Indeed, the unpleasant truth is that if the object of the study of history is to develop an insight into the past of a people, the student of Muslim India has almost to begin at the beginning!
The influence exercised by the Elliot school of historiography was tremendous and far-reaching. Indeed, it would be interesting to speculate on what would have been the subsequent history of the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent, if these dragon’s teeth had not been sown, but the infection was not universal. Even while the different volumes of Elliot and Dowson were in the process of publication, painstaking Raverty criticised them- largely on technical grounds - and scholars like Beveridge, who had direct access to Persian sources, remained immune from their influence. Real progress in the study of Indo-Muslim history was, however, not made until the foundation of the London School of Oriental Studies, which brought together scholars like Sir Thomas Arnold, Sir E. Dension Ross and Sir Wolseley Haig. Perhaps none amongst them had felt the influence of what James Robinson called ”the New History,” but they were all accomplished scholars, and what was equally important, had a thorough command of the language of the source material, and did not have to depend on the versions provided by Elliot and Dowson. Their approach was also different and (in spite of its numerous shortcomings) one has only to compare the Cambridge History of India, especially the oiird volume, which alone was handled by Haig with the corresponding sections of Vincent Smith’s Oxford History of India to appreciate the
History of Muslim Civilisation in India & Pakistan xviii
difference in point of view. After a lapse of more than thirty years, Cambridge History of India is naturally out of datethanks, partly to the work done by the students and scholars trained by Haig and his colleagues - but in its day it fulfilled a great need. Since the days of Elliot the history of Muslim India had become such a controversial subject that to provide a detailed historical framework, acceptable to British, Hindu and Muslim scholars, was no small achievement. The relevant volumes of the Cambridge History supplied this essential need, and made possible elaboration and improvement on a generally acceptable basis.
The establishment of the School of Oriental Studies resulted in the publication of some major works, written or edited by the members of its staff. It also provided a centre where senior Indian scholars could complete their researches under expert guidance and with excellent library facilities. The work of these scholars has been generally of a high order, and if we overlook the narrow range of interests, it may be true to say that the golden era of Indo-Muslim historiography was the period beginning with the foundation of the London School of Oriental Studies and ending with the outbreak of the Second World War.
The weaknesses of Indian historiography were aggravated by the method and objectives adopted by Elliot and Dowson, but there is no doubt that the chronicles, which they set out to summarise and translate, greatly contributed to these defects. These chronicles may be, as Dodwell thought, ”better than any thing in contemporary Europe,” but they suffered from very serious handicaps. Many of the authors were in the service of the State and only saw things through the eyes of their royal patrons. They concentrated on items of interest to the court, and tried to justify and praise their patrons in every possible way. They rarely mentioned the defects and reverses suffered by the Muslim kings, and often attributed to religious or public zeal, campaigns undertaken for sheer self-aggrandizement. These defects are common to court chronicles in general and
XIX A Note on Historiography of Muslim India are a marked feature of the Persian chronicles in particular, but in Muslim India, where historians represented a group living in the midst of a large antagonistic non-Muslim population, the tendency was greatly reinforced
The attempts made by court chroniclers to establish the extreme orthodoxy of Muslim monarchs often take ludicrous and even morbid forms. Pamkkar has thus warned us at length about the historians of the Sultanate period ”We shall get a very inaccurate and altogether false view of the situation of the Hindus during the first period of Islamic empire in Hindustan (1210-1370) if we depend on the court chroniclers and analysts of Delhi Historians like Barum were primarily anxious to picture their heroes as the patterns of Islamic orthodoxy and virtue. Haig repeated the same warning about the assessment of the accounts of Sultan Mahmud of Ghaznah, but in this respect the Mughal historians were not very different. Although instances of actual miss-statements would be hard to find in their pages, as in the writings of the Sultanate period, yet they had a distinct point of view, which coloured their interpretation of events, and even the inclusion or omission of information. Aurangzeb, for example, attempted to suppress Sati amongst the Hindus. All European travellers of the period mantion this, and accounts of the royal orders received by the provincial officers confirm their statements. It was an important measure, but the chroniclers, unwilling to attribute to Aurangzeb any solicitude for the Hindus, omit all references to this order. Even more selective is the author of Padshah Namah, the court history of Shah Jahan’s reign. It deals at length with the developments of arts under Shah Jahan and contains long notices of his building activity at Dehli and Agra, but as Mr.Saksena notes, there is ”curiously enough no mention of painting, which also reached the highest perfection during his reign”. Similarly although Shah Jahan patronised a number of Hindu scholars, and in fact had a Hindu poet laureate at his court, ”there is not a single Hindu name included in the list of poets, scholars, etc.,” attached to Padshah Namah. In the same way, although the court historian of Shah Jahan had so much to say about Dara Shukoh, the king’s favourite son and heir apparent, he is ”so silent on the literary and spiritual life” of the prince.The reasons are obvious. The historians, or men like Sa’d Allah
History of Muslim Civilisation in India & Pakistan xx Khan and Fadil Khan, who ”vetted” the text, were so keen to give an impression of the Lmperor’s orthodox} that they omitted these important details. Their account can, therefore, hardlv be considered a complete picture, and shows how much one has to be on one’s guard in making use of the works of the court historians
Muslim chroniclers leave such gaps in the story and adopt such a peculiar approach in their annals that the value of what little is available from the Hindu sources is greatly enhanced. Lately, with the study of Hindu inscriptions, tribal ballads, works in Sanskrit and regional languages and historical accounts of Hindu sects (like the Jams, the Vaishnawas and the Sikhs) much material has been scrapped together, which gives the Hindu side of picture. This material, except for many valuable works in Persian by Hindu writers, is not historical in a formal sense and is often vague and occasionally full of visible inaccuracies, but its sifting and careful analysis is yielding fruitful results. Curiously enough, these sources indicate a much healthier state of Indian society during the Middle Ages than is depicted in the Muslim chronicles. Of course, it would not be reasonable to expect perfect peace and tranquillity in those harsh times, but it is pleasing to turn from the endless wars and slaughters of the Persian chronicles to the inscription on the old baoli at Palam (near Dehli), indicative of the prosperity of the Hindu and of the love for justice of the reigning monarch, Balban, or to read in Jain chronicles as to how well their religious leaders were treated by Muhammad Tughluq or the temple grants made by Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan. Even the Sikh accounts of the relations of gurus with the Mughal Emperors show the Mughals in a more humane light than the ”rhapsodies” of the court chronicles trying to prove that even the easygoing Jahangir was waging an endless holy war for the extirpation of the infidels!
Some use has been made of the material from Hindu sources, especially in so far as it has a bearing on political
A Note on Historiography of Muslim history. It is, however, yet to be recognised that this material and even the vast literature relating to the Hinyu bhagats and the Hindus religious history can occasionally tht-ow usefui light on the cultural and religious history of Mus|jm India. The dangers inherent in the process are obvious. Even Muslim Sufi literature inherent is full of forgeries and pious frauds. The position is worse with the Bhakti literature, th,e product of a society which did not have a well-developed historical tradition. Muslims and Hindus were, however^ not living in completely watertight compartments during the Muslim period, and the Hindu religious literature occasionally yields items of information of considerable value to the historian of Muslim society. This is particularly the case with regard to Muslim Bengal, of which the cultural and even political history is more difficult to reconstruct, and for whic^ very limited contemporary information is available from Muyjm sources. In this situation a student of history has to tap all possible sources and the search in the Hindu biographical literature is not always unrewarding. For example, it is fr0m Vaishnava sources that we learn that in the fifteenth century there were celebrated teachers of Persian and Arabic at; Satgaon (like Sayyid Fakhr-ud-din) and that Vaishnava leaders, Rupa and . Sanatana, were proficient in Persian and origjnai]y occupied important posts at the Muslim court of Gaur. Similarly, the Sikh Adi Granth compiled by Guru Anged in the sixteenth century contains a wealth of material on linguistic and literary history of the period, and contains amongst otlier things some more authentic composition of Shaikh Farid and Kabir.
Some illuminating books have appeared f^om the pen of modern Hindu historians, particularly those who knew Persian and had direct access to the original sources. Tripathi’s Some Aspects of Muslim Administration is a masterly study of the Sultanate. Tara Chand’s Influence of Islam on Indian Culture, although incomplete, is another classic of Indian history. Similarly, Saran’s Provincial Government of the Mughal, Topa’s Society and Kingship in Medieval fndia, Khosla’s
History of Muslim Civilisation in India & Pakistan xxii
Mughal Kingship and Nobility and studies of Jahangir and Shah Jahan by Beni Prasad and Banarsi Prasad Saksena greatly add to our knowledge and understanding. Amongst shorter histories, Tara Chand’s History of the Indian People, and Panikkar’s brilliant Survey of Indian History are eminently objective and fair. It is, however, doubtful whether this high level of objectivity and understanding will be maintained in future. Apart from the bitterness created by recent political controversies, where are the successors of those Kayasths and Kashmiri Brahmans who knew Persian, like a mother tongue, and had a complete mastery of the original source material? Future generations, increasingly ignorant of Persian, will have to depend more and more on Elliot and Dowson, and their studies will be limited and coloured by the material which its editors have selected and arranged for them.
Nor is there much hope at present that the modern Muslim historian, with better access to the Persian originals, will be able to fill the gap. Books based on Elliot and Dowson and written with similar objectives have been so markedly unfair to the Muslim rulers of India and have led to such revulsion of feelings that a defensive reaction has set in and the modern Muslim historians, particularly those writing in Urdu, have often adopted an attitude which would have shocked Khafi Khan and the author of Tabaqat-i Akbari. The current trend is to consider all Muslim monarchs as infallible, particularly in the proportion in which they were maligned by the AngloIndian historian. Shibli, with his brilliant essays on Aurangzeb, led the way in this direction. There is a fair case for redressing the balance unfairly upset. At any rate, there is every need for collecting as much data as possible, and viewing events in their proper perspective and interpreting them with understanding and intelligence. It is also reasonable to hold .that a proper history of Muslim India, or of any people, can be written or even grasped only with that degree of positive understanding, to say nothing of complete elimination of all conscious or
ch. for example, Trevelvan displays