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

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Chapter 15
Sher Shah (946-952/1539-1545). Sher Khan Suri, who proclaimed himself emperor under the title of Sher Shah Adil after his victory at Chausa (946/1539), was the son of a petty Afghan jagirdar in Bihar. He was ill-treated by his stepmother, and left at an early age for Jaunpur, where he applied himself to serious study. He soon acquired a good command of Arabic and Persian, and knew the Persian classics, Gulistan, Boston and Sikandar Namah by heart. He was especially interested in history, and was fond of reading the accounts of great rulers ofthe past, Barani’s Tarikh-i Firuz Shahi was one of his favourites. He displayed such ability at Jaunpur that his father had to show greater interest in his neglected son, and entrusted him with the administration of h\s jagir. Sher Khan, who was originally known as Farid, managed the jagir very well, but the enmity of his step-mother once again drove him away. Now he took service with the governor of Bihar, and impressed his master by his talents. He later joined Babur and was rewarded for this by die grant of his father’sy’ag/r, but he was not impressed by Mughal valour and military organisation, and took advantage of the disturbed conditions to gain supremacy in Bihar. This, however, did not satisfy him and, by the end of February 1536, he appeared at the gates of Gaur, the capital of Bengal, and returned after receiving a large payment from die local ruler. Next year he again marched eastwards and entered Gaur in triumph, but on the return of Humayun from Gujarat, wididrew towards Bihar, an fought against the Mughals in the areas he knew best. The manner in which he

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chased Humayun out of the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent has been outlined earlier.
Sher Shah was on the throne of Delhi for not more than five years, but his brief reign is a landmark in the history of the subcontinent. After driving Humayun into exile, Sher Shah quickly conquered Malwa, Sind, Marwar, and Mewar. He subjected the country of the turbulent Gakkhars in the northwest Punjab and built a strong line of fortifications to guard against an attack by the Mughals, Sher Shah was killed by a explosion of gunpowder in 952/1545, while laying siege to the stone fort of Kalinjar.
Sher Shah’s Administrative Reforms. Sher Shah’s reign is like a bridge between the Sultanate and the Mughal rule. His deep knowledge of earlier history and practical experience of the working of the system evolved by the Delhi Sultans enabled him to pick out what was good in the system, to improve upon it and, by making many brilliant new additions, to pave the way for the final phase of Muslim administration under Akbar and the later Mughals. Professor Qanungo, in his study of Sher Shah, has referred to a number of administrative reforms which were originally introduced by Ala’-ud-din Khalji (like the creation of a powerful standing army officered by the nobles of the Sultan’s choice, use of jarib of survey and assessment, and introduction of Dak Chauki). Sher Shah improved on these and left them to his successors in a more organised and efficient form. Even the basis for his revenue system was provided by earlier experience, and in the Tughluq regime we came across titles of many officials and administrative divisions, popularly associated with Sher Shah. He however, introduced improvements, and was lucky to have a record of his reorganisation better preserved than was the case with the administrative arrangements of Balban, Ala’-ud-din Khalji and Ghiyath-ud-din Tughluq.
Sher Shah preserved what was sound in the earlier system, but he made major additions and improvements to the earlier arrangements. For example, the Khokhars in the northern
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Punjab, had been a constant menace during the Sultanate, and had never, for any length of time, been under the control of Delhi. The proximity of the area of Kabul, now under Mughal sway, increased its dangers for Sher Shah, but within his brief reign, he found time to deal effectively with the problem. The keystone of the defences in this area was a magnificent fort which Sher Shah built to the west of the Jhelum river, and named it Rohtas-i Nau (the new Rohtas) after his favourite fort in Bihar. The construction of the fort was entrusted to a competent Hindu officer, Todar Mai, and when the Khokhars made a vow amongst themselves not to provide labour for the construction of the fort, Sher Shah asked Todar Mai to push through the project, regardless of expenses. Todar Mai was able to recruit labour by offering phenomenal wages and, when the original boycott broke down, he reduced the scale of payment. Sher Shah’s ablest general, Haibat Khan Niyazi, was placed in charge of the area.
Sher Shah also applied his vigorous mind to administrative problem in Bengal, which had been in a state of chronic revolt under the Sultanate. ’Ala’-ud-din Khalji had shown the way by dividing the unweildy province, which during the unwieldy province, which during his reign included Bihar and parts of Orissa and was extensive enough to be a kingdom, into three provinces, but Sher Shah went much further. He reduced the unwieldy bulk of Bengal, and, instead of placing the whole province under one military governor, created several smaller governorships. To preserve the administrative unity of the whole area, he appointed Qadi Fadilat as the head of the province, but he had very little executive authority and bore the title of Amin-i Bangalah (Trustee for Bengal) and not Hakim-i Bangalah (the Viceroy of Bengal).
The principal reforms for which Sher Shah is remembered are those connected with land revenue administration. The agency which he built up, and which, with further improvements under Akbar and the British, continues to the present day, fulfils many functions. It is entrusted with the

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recovery of government dues and collection of data regarding villages, holdings of cultivators, and their general economic position. In this Sher Shah drew on the past, and his own experience of the detailed administration of a parganah of his father’s jagir was a great help, and he was able to evolve a system of which many features were adopted by Akbar. The main improvement which he effected in the system of land revenue was that, instead of relying on the method of estimation, the method of measurement was introduced. The cultivated land was measured every year, and one-third or onefourth of the average produce of good, middling and bad lands was taken as land revenue.
Closely linked up with the principle of revenue assessment was the question of the units of local administration. The smallest administrative unit was a parganah, i.e. a group of villages. To each parganah Sher Shah appointed an amin responsible for the general administration, a shlqqdar who supervised the assessment and collection of the revenue, a treasurer and two clerks to keep accounts, one in Persian and the other in Hindi. The next unit was a sarkar, or a revenue district, which had a chief shiqqdar and a chief munsif ”whose duty, it was to see that revenue was collected in full, but that the cultivators were not oppressed”.
An important feature of the system was Sher Shah’s emphasis on fair dealing with the peasants, and recognition of the fact that the interests of the ruler and the ruled were basically identical. He tried to secure this, not only by issue of specific orders, but the designations of officers like amin and munsif in revenue administration were significant, and underlined the policy which these officers were to follow in the discharge of their duties. Sher shah is also remembered for his roads. He devoted special attention to the expansion of trade, and to facilitate this as well as for strategic reasons) linked up various parts of his empire by an efficient system of roads. Of his four great roads, one connected Sonargaon (near modern Dacca) in Bengal, through Agra, Delhi and Lahore, with the
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Indus; others connected Agra and Mandu, Agra Jodhpur and Chitor, and Lahore and Multan. Fruit trees were planted on both sides of the roads and at short intervals caravan serais were set up with separate lodgings of Muslims and Hindus, and servants to supply food to the travellers of each religion. The safety of the highways was ensured by penalising the officials of the adjacent villages for incidents on the roads passing through their areas. Internal trade was also facilitated by the abolition of vexatious tolls. Sher Shah made a clean sweep of all internal customs, and allowed the levy of duties only on the frontier or the place of sale within the empire.
Sher Shah was a pious and orthodox Muslim, and he treated all his subjects alike. The Hindus held high positions in his army and Todar Mai, who later rained renown under Akbar, was originally in his service. One of his best known generals was Brahmajit Gaur, whom he sent in pursuit of Humayun, and Raja Singh of Gwalior is also said to have been in his service. His army included a contingent of Rajputs.
Islam Shah Sur (952-961/1545-1554). Islam Shah, who succeeded sher Shah, was on the throne from 952/1545 to

961/1554, and made an effort to preserve the institutions of his father. He kept the fortifications in good repair, increased the number of caravan serais and ordered the compilation of a detailed Book of Government Regulations, extracts from which were read every Friday in meetings of government officials of each sarkar. He was, however, unable to keep rebellious nobles in check and his reign did not see any expansion of territory.

Mahdawiyah Movement: Persecution of Shaikh ’Ala’i and Shaikh Niyazi. Islam Shah’s reign was also marked by religious unrest amongst Muslims which added to confusion and disorder. At this time the millenium of the migration of the Holy Prophet from Mecca was approaching and many people believed that the appearance of a Mahdi who was to convert the whole world to Islam and to fill the earth with equity and justice, was about to take place. Sayyid Muhammad (847-

911/1443-1505), a leading scholar and saint of Jaunpur,

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encouraged this expectation and later in 900/1495, claimed to be the Mahdi. Those who accepted his claims and followed his injunctions were known as Mahdawis. After an active career during which he visited Mecca for Hajj, and in the course of his journeys impressed many rulers and scholars with his sincerity, Sayyid Muhammad Jaunpuri died at Farah (now in Afghanistan) in April 1505, but his doctrines were kept alive. In Sher Shah’s reign Shaikh ’Ala, son of a leading religious teacher of Bengal, made the pilgrimage to Mecca, and on his return established himself at Bayanan, where he came under the influence of Shaikh ’Abdullah Niyazi, an Afghan follower of Sayyid Muhammad Jaunpuri. The two leaders confined their preaching, marked by rigid puritanism and asceticism, to the poor, and, in fact, the Mahdawiyah movement had an economic basis. They kept on pr perty or means of livelihood and encouraged others to do ’ ,e same. They admonished everyone who committed unlawful er irreligious acts. They and their followers kept themselves armeu and permitted no interference with their actions by officials. This defiance of the authorities brought them into conflict with the established government. In particular, Maulana ’Abdullah of Sultanpur, entitled Makdum al-Mulk, who held the office of Sadr al-Sudur, took strong objection to the new cult and used his influence with Islam Shah to punish those who believed in its doctrines. Shaikh ’Ala’i was a pious and sincere person, and his preachings impressed many powerful and important personalities. Amongst those whom he converted at one time or another were the governors of Khwaspur (in Rajputana) and Handiya (on the banks of the river Narbada), and Shaikh Mubarak of Nagaur, the father of Abu al-Fadl and Faidi. Makhdum al-Mulk, however, was tireless in opposing the new doctrines, and the rudeness of Shaikh Ala’i and Shaikh ’Abdullah in the royal court facilitated his task. Shaikh ’Abdullah refused to salute Islam Shah when he appeared at his court and Shaikh ”Ala’i who had appeared at the court earlier with a large band of ragged and shabbily clothed armed followers exhibited similar indifference and want of tact. On this Shaikh Abdullah was so
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severely flogged that he nearly died, but recovered from his injuries and, after wandering for some time settled at Sirhind, where he renounced the Mahdawi creed, became an orthodox teacher and in 1001/1592 died at the advanced age of ninety. The king who was not happy at the course advised by Mukhdum al-Mulk referred the case of Shaikh but whose sons wrote a letter in his name recommending that the advice of Makhdum al-Mulk ”the most distinguished jurist of the day,” should be followed. The Shaikh was given on opportunity to recant but he refused and was handed over to Makhdum alMulk who sentenced him flogging. He was, however, so ill and weak that at the third cut he breathed his last (955/1548).
The Mahdawi movement gradually lost its importance in Northern India, but it flourished longer in the south and the Mahdawi doctrines have been held by some important persons in Hyderabad Deccan (including the late Nawab Bahadur Yar Jang). Even in Northern India, the struggle which it generated and the conflict which ensued between Makhdum al-Mulk and Shaikh Mubarak had their effect on the religious history of Akbar’s day.
Islam Shah’s death took place in 961/1554, and, after a disputed succession, Muhammad ’Adil Shah assumed sovereignty. He was a worthless ruler and the conduct of affairs was left in the hands of his able Hindu minister, Himu. Revolts, however, broke out and two other princes of the Sur family set up themselves as kings in Northern India. ”The authority of ’Adil Shah extended over Agra and Malwa and as far east as Jaunpur; that of Sikandar Shah from the foot of the Himalayas to Gujarat in the Punjab.” This confusion gave Humayun, who had established himself at Kabul, the opportunity of which he was waiting. He invaded India and, after the defeat of Sikandar near Sirhind, entered Delhi on 23 July 1555, thus bringing to an end the short-lived but memorable rule of the Sur Dynasty. Humayun, however, did not long enjoy his triumph, as six months late he fell down the stairs of his library at Delhi and died as a result of his injuries.

Chapter 16
Initial Problems. Akbar was born in November 1542 and was a little more than thirteen when, on the sudden death of his father, he ascended the throne on 14 February 1556. The boyking was faced with even bigger difficulties than those confronted by his father or grandfather. After his wanderings beyond the border for fourteen long years, Humayun was in the country for barely eight months when death overtook him, and the Mughal rule was left very insecure. It was confined to the Punjab, Delhi and Agra. ”The Kabul territory, administered in the name of Akbar’s younger brother, was practically independent. Bengal, usually under the rule of Afghan chiefs, had been independent for more than two centuries; the Rajput clans of Rajasthan had recovered from the defeat inflicted by Babur and enjoyed unchallenged possession of their castles; Malwa and Gujarat had thrown off allegiance to Delhi long ago; the wild regions of Gondwana, the modern Central Provinces, obeyed only their local chieftains who recognised no sovereign lord; and Orissa acknowledged no master. Farther south, the Deccan States of Khandesh, Berar,Bidar,Ahmadnagar, Golkonda, and Bijapur were governed by their own Sultans, to whom the name of Padshah of Delhi was a matter of absolute indifference. The far south, that is to say, the peninsula from the Krishna (Kistana) and Tungabhadra rivers to Cape Comorin, was held firmly in the grasp of the sovereigns of Vijayanagar, then at the zenith of their power, who ruled a realm so wide as to deserve fairly the name of an empire. Goa and several other ports on the western

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”In the north, the border states of Kashmir, Sind, and Balochistan, with many others, enjoyed perfect freedom from all superior control.”1
Soon the Surs recovered Delhi and Agra, and young Akbar was left only with the Punjab. But he had a great asset in the person of his regent, Bairam Khan, who was ”one of the best and most faithful soldiers of the time,” and had been Humayun’s friend, philosopher and guide in the days of adversity. He guided Akbar’s footsteps in the early days and was in fact the ruler of the realm during the first four years of the new reign. He was in command of the Mughal army which defeated Himu, the commander-in-chief of the Surs, at Panipat on 5 November 1556, and he led the vigorous pursuit of the enemy which ended in the capture of Delhi and Agra.
The young king spent his time in hunting, elephant fights and other youthful pursuits, while the regent administered and extended the kingdom. He reduced the stone fortress of Gwalior, annexed the rich province of Jaunpur and was planning operations for the conquest of Malwa when, in

968/1560, events brought about his downfall. Bairam Khan had become over-bearing and his appointing a Shi’ah to the key ecclesiastical position of Sadr al-Sudur offended the Sunni nobles and members of the royal family.The young Emperor also, on entering his eighteenth year, felt that the time had come when he could take the reins of government into his own hand. His foster mother, Maham Anaga, and other relations, fanned the flames of the royal ambition and the king decided to dispense with the services of the great minister. Akbar sent a suitably worded message to Bairam and fixed a jagir for him, but Bairam Khan, after a half-hearted show of defiance, left for Mecca, and was murdered on the way by a man who bore him a personal grudge. The king married the regent’s widow and brought up his infant son ’Abd a-Rahim, who rose to be Khan Khanan like his father, under his own protection.

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The next few years have been called the period of ”petticoat government,” when Akbar’s foster mother and other relations were supreme. This also came to an end in 970/1562 when Akbar \vas so enraged at the repeated excesses and cruelty of his foster brother, Adham Khan, that when he and his companions murdered Akbar’s principal minister, Akbar had Adham Khan thrown from the palace terrace. Maham
Anaga did not long survive her son’s death, and henceforth the
Emperor was master of his own affairs.
Conquests. Meanwhile some of the features for which Akbar’s reign was to be famous were becoming manifest. A period of vigorous conquest had started under Bairam Khan, and the process was kept up when in 968/1560 an expedition was sent to Malwa under the command of Adham Khan and Pir Muhammad. The royal generals were successful, but their victory was marred by such savage cruelty that Akbar had to take action against Adham Khan. The first of Akbar’s alliances with the Rajputs took place early in 970/1562 and was a landmark in the development of Akbar’s religious policy. In

972/1564, he abolished the Jatra-tax, earning the gratitude of the Hindu pilgrims, who visited numerous tiraths (Places of pilgrimage) in the Mughal Empire. Next year he took a more important step, namely, the abolition of the jizyah, which helped him in gaining the loyalty and support of his Hindu subjects. There is no evidence that jizyah was normally levied during the Sultanate and the amount involved was not large, but remission of a tax is always welcome. Its abolition was warmly welcomed by Hindus, and does not seem to have offended the Muslim jurists, who were so far influential at the

The next year was marked by another development, which further freed the Emperor to pursue his policies. Khan Zaman ’Ali Quli Khan, the leader of the Uzbeg nobles, had rendered services to the Emperor second only to those of Bairam Khan, but he and his party were unhappy about Akbar’s administrative policy. The Uzbegs disliked the ”Persianised

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ways” of the Mughal court and were equally opposed to the emperor’s policy of centralisation. They desired the royal authority to be confined to the vicinity of Delhi, leaving the feudatories a free hand in their territories. This was contrary to Akbar’s policy. ”A centralised rule as Akbar desired and the feudal aristocracy such as that of which Khan Zaman was the representative could not co-exist. The matter came to a head in

973/1565, but the Uzbeg nobles were not finally crushed until June 1567, when ’Ali Quli Khan was killed on the battlefield.

All initial hurdles to the young Emperor’s freedom of action had now been passed, and he embarked on a remarkable career of conquest which with a short break, continued almost until his death. Akbar had conquered Gondwana in 972/1564. In 975/1767, he reduced the fortress of Ranthambhor, and this was soon followed by the surrender of Kalinjar. Gujarat was annexed in 981/1573.
Bengal. Akbar now turned his attention to Bengal, which, since the days of Sher Shah, had become ”the happy hunting ground” of the Afghan adventurers driven away by the Mughals from the north-west. In 982/1574, Tanda, the then capital of Bengal, was occupied by Mun’im Khan, but the Mughal conquest of Bengal was not completed for some years. After occupying Ghoraghat (in modern Rangpur district), Satgaon and Burdwan, the Mughal forces faced the Afghans in the fateful battle of Tukaroi (5 March 1575), in which Dawud Khan, the Afghan ruler of Bengal, was defeated. He made his submission before the Mughal commander, sent hostages to Akbar’s court, and was allowed to retain parts of Orissa. Mun’im Khan, shortly thereafter, moved his headquarters to Gaur, the ancient capital of Bengal, but the place was soon visited by such a devastating pestilence that the greater part of the population, many Mughal officers and a large number of troops lost their lives. The ancient capital was now deserted for ever and Mun’im Khan returned to Tanda, but died shortly thereafter (October 1575), Dawud Khan, profiting by this turn of events, reasserted himself, and the remnant of the Mughal army had to withdraw
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to Bihar. Khan Jahan Husain Quli Beg was entrusted with the reconquest of Bengal, and, by July 1576, was able to occupy Tanda and send the head of Dawud, ”the treaty-breaker,’ to Fathpur Sikri. Bengal was now incorporated in the Mughal dominions, but in 988/1580 a large section of Mughal officers and soldiers in Bihar and Bengal revolted, partly on account of the new measures introduced by Akbar for the resumption of unauthorised alienations of land and for controlling false musters by the branding of horses, and partly on account of disaffection caused by reports regarding Akbar’s religious views. Khan A’zam quelled the rebellion in Bengal, but he soon left the province (May 1583). The Afghans took advantage of this confusion, and in Orissa their power revived under Qutb Lohani. In 999/1590, Man Singh was sent as governor, and, though he was able to defeat the Afghans in Orissa, Sulaiman and ’Uthman, the surviving nephews of Qutb Lohani, moved over to East Bengal and joined hands with ’Isa Khan Masnad-i A’la the powerful zamindar of the Dacca district. ”Isa Khan died in September 1599, but Man Singh’s energetic and prolonged efforts for the consolidation of the Mughal rule were not wholly successful, and this task had to be accomplished by Islam Khan in the next reign.
North-West Frontier. For thirteen years (993-1007/1585-

1598), Akbar had to remain in the north, with Lahore as his virtual capital, to deal with a threat from beyond the mountains. The Uzbegs, who had driven Babur out of his home in Central Asia, had reorganised under Abdullah Khan, a capable leader, and were a danger to the north-western frontier of Akbar’s empire. The tribes on the border were also restless, partly on account of the hostility of Yusufza’is of Bajaur and Swat, and partly owing to the activity of the Raushaniyyahs. Mughal forces sent against the Yusufza’is met with disaster in February 1586, in which the inept commander, Raja Birbal, lost his life, and peace did not return to the frontier till

996/1588. The death of ’Abdullah Khan in 1007/1598 enabled Akbar to leave Lahore, and proceed to the Deccan, but his stay

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in the north-west was not unfruitful.Kashmir became a part of the Mughal Empire in 994/1586. Sind followed suit in

1000/1591, when Mirza Jani Beg, the ruler of Thatta, after his defeat at the hands of ’Abd al-Rahim Khan Khanan, the viceroy of Multan, became a Mughal mansabdar and was appointed governor of his old territory. In 1003/1594, Baluchistan, with the coastal region of Makran, was added to the Empire, and in the following year Qandhar was surrendered by its Persian governor.

Deccan. These conquests brought the whole of the northwest under Akbar’s control and greatly reduced the danger from Central Asia. Akbar was, therefore, free to extend the Empire in the south. In 1000/1591 , he had sent envoys to the Sultans of the Deccan asking them to recognise his suzerainty, but they refused and imperial troops were ordered to march upon Ahmadnagar, for some time the heroic defence of Chand Bibi saved the city, but in 1008/1599, Akbar appeared in the Deccan in person and Ahmadnagar was captured. In January

1601, the stone fortress of Asirgarh capitulated and the conquered territories of Ahmadnagar and Khandesh were organised as a province of the Mughal Empire.

Death. In May 1601, Akbar returned to Agra, but his career of conquest was now over. His last years were troubled by unhappy relations with his son, Prince Salim, who had the royal favourite, Abu al-Fadl, assassinated by the robber chief, Bir Singh Bundhela. In August 1605, Akbar fell ill and the physicians were not able to diagnose the disease properly which was even suspected to be due to a secret irritant poison, probably diamond dust. He died on Thursday, 27 October

Administrative Reorganisation. Akbar was not only a great conqueror, but also a capable organiser and a great administrator. He was the real builder of the Mughal Empire and laid down principles and formulated policies which, except for occasional modifications and minor adjustments, remained, not only the basis of the Mughal polity, but, after elaboration,

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modernisation and improvement, became the basis for the British administration. Vincent Smith’s study of Akbar is hardly sympathetic or even impartial, but he has to admit that, in several matters, Akbar’s institutions provided the foundation for the system of the administration which operated in British India. After tracing the subsequent history of the working of the machine which Akbar had ”constructed and set in motion,” he continues:
”But from the time of Warren Hastings in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, the newly constituted Anglo-Indian authorities began to grope their way back to the institutions of Akbar. They gradually adopted the Principal features of his system in the important department concerned with the assessment of the land revenue, or crown share of agricultural produce known in Indian official language as the Settlement Department. In several provinces of the exisl i „• Indian empire the principles and practice of the settlement department are essentially the same as those worked out by Akbar and his ministers. The structure of the bureaucratic framework of government also still shows many traces of his handiwork. His institutions, therefore, are not merely of historical and antiquarian interest, but are in some degree the foundation of the system of administration now in operation.”2
The fact that Akbar’s institutions formed the basis of the British district administration has been generally recognised. Stanley Lane Poole, writing in 1903, stated in the introduction to his Medieval India: ”English collector-Magistrates follow much the same system, in essential outline, as that which Akbar adopted....”
Main features of the Mughal administration will be dealt with in a separate chapter, but a few principles of policy, which are particularly associated with Akbar, may be mentioned here.
Akbar is often considered the first Muslim ruler to have employed Hindus in positions of responsibility. This is not

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correct. Even Mahmud of Ghazni, about whose iconoclastic activities so much has been written, had a strong contingent of Indian troops under Indian officers and some of them were amongst the seniormost generals of the Ghaznavid army. Earlier, Muhammad b. Qasim, the Arab governor of Sind, had entrusted the administration of the territory to local officers. It is true that the Turkish Sultans of Delhi, with a highly developed class-consciousness, were generally opposed to entrusting high offices to anybody except a Turk, and the bitterness resulting from the Muslim conquest of the heart of Hindustan created an atmosphere different from that prevailing under the Arabs in Sind and early Ghaznavids in the Punjab. Muslims were universally referred to as Mlechhs (unclean) by Hindus and, to judge from a quotation in Firishtah, for a long time Brahmans were reluctant to accept service under Muslim rulers. Writing about Gangu, the prime minister of the first Bahmani ruler of Deccan, he says:
”It is generally held that before him the Brahmins would not accept jobs under Muslim rulers, and by engaging themselves in acquisition of knowledge, particularly astrology, lived simple lives in villages, in out of way places and on the bank of rivers. Considering the service of the worldly people, particularly Muslims, as degrading, they did not accept posts and jobs, and if, by chance, anybody associated with the people of position, on account of knowledge of medicine, astrology, or preaching or story-telling, he would accept rewards or farmans, but would not put the yoke of service round his neck. The first person, from the sect of Brahmins to accept the service of Muslim kings, was Pande Gangu.”3
The Khaljis had broadend the basis of administration by breaking the Turkish monopoly, and under them converted or half-converted Hindus obtained the highest offices of the State. Muhammad Tughluq appointed a Hindu as governor of Sind and gave important posts to other, but the main change came with Sher Shah and his descendants. Sher Shah had a number of Rajput soldiers, and at least one of his most trusted generals
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was a Hindu. The position changed still further under his grandson whose prime minister and commander-in-chief, Himu was a Hindu. In fact, referring ”to the ascendancy of Himu and his lieutenants like Ramya and Bhagwan Das foreshadowing the future eminence of Raja Man Singh and Todar Mai,” a modern Hindu historian says that ”it would be no exaggeration to say that but for the reign of Sur Kings there would have been no age of Akbar.”4 Thus before Akbar came to the throne, the tradition of employing Hindus in the highest positions was already established.
One practical difficulty in the large scale employment of Hindus was the language. The court language of the Muslim government was Persian, which Hindu administrative classes were at first reluctant to learn. The Brahman opposition to the cultivation of regional languages (like Bengali) is well known and their attitude towards the language of the Mlechhs can be easily imagined. But by the time Akbar came to the throne, this difficulty had also been overcome. Under the Lodis, when the strength of central government was re-established after the chaos which overtook it following the death of Firuz Shah and it became evident that Muslim rule had come to stay, the Hindus and even Brahmans started learning Persian.5
Thus by Akbar’s time all the traditional and practical obstacles to the large scale employment of Hindus had been removed. Akbar took full advantage of this situation, boldly enunciated the principle of $ulh-i Kull universal tolerance, or rather peace with all-and made it a pivot of his state policy. He broadend the basis of administration and entrusted highest positions to Rajputs and Hindu revenue officers like Todar Mai The detailed measures which Akbar took to build up an efficient system of administration are no less indicative of a great constructive genius. He adopted what was vital in Sher Shah’s administrative system and greatly increased its effectiveness. He insisted on maintaining a high level of administration, and, to ensure this, drew on talent from all available sources-the Mughals, the Uzbegs, the Rajputs and

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other Hindus like Raja Todar Mai, and, of course, the Turanis and the Persians. He organised superior services on the Mansabdarl basis and, by a judicious selection of personnel, their training in different fields, and by providing suitable opportunities to them, was able to build up an efficient officers’ cadre. Satisfactory arrangements for the assessment and recovery of land revenue, and their integration in the general administrative system set the pattern for revenue administration which has been followed ever since. Akbar also prefered payment of cash salaries to the grant ofjagirs. These measures, coupled with the general improvement in education and a brilliant spurt of expansion and conquest, enabled Akbar to build up an efficient administrative machinery, centralise administration and unify the country to an extent which had not been hitherto possible for any length of time.
Akbar’s role in building up an enduring system of administration had been generally recognised. What is not equally well known is that he brought the same constructive approach to other important fields of national activity. The step which, for example, he took to build up new industries in the Empire, are noteworthy. Akbar took special interest in the development of indigenous industry. He was directly responsible for expansion of silk-weaving at Lahore, Agra, Fathpur Sikri and in Gujarat. He opened a number of karkhanahs at important centres and imported master weavers from Persia, Kashmir and Turkistan to train local artisans. He also sent envoys to foreign countries to bring products for copying. Haji Habibullah was sent to Goa and a number of craftsmen were sent along with him to acquire the arts of the Europeans. Akbar took so much interest in indigenous handicrafts and industry that he would frequently visit the workshop near the palace, sit and relax while watching the artisans at work. This naturally encouraged the craftsmen and their status was raised in the eyes of others. Akbar went further in his efforts to build up various industries, like shawl-and carpet-weaving. ”In order to foster a demand for such goods,
[Ch 16
Akbar ordered the people df certain ranks to wear particular kinds of locally woven coverings-an order which resulted in the establishment of a large number of shawl manufacturers in Lahore; and inducements were offered to foreign carpetweavers to settle in Agra, Fathpur Sikri and Lahore, and manufacture carpets to compete with those imported from Persia.” On a very ing scale the personal interest and encouragement of the Emperor was available to the workers in other fields also-like painters and translators. Akbar even enjoyed giving a helping hand to masons building Fathpur Sikri and, at times, would carry stones with them. An eye-witness remarked on-his amazing diversity of interests. ”At one time he would be deeply immersed in state affairs, or giving audience to his subjects and the next moment he would be seen shearing camels, hewing stones, cutting wood, or hammering iron, and doing all with as much diligence as though engaged in his own particular vocation.” The natural result of all this was that a healthy respect for honest work of all types was created, and there was a general raising of standards.
Another characteristic of Akbar which the foreign visitors had noted was his parsimony-Monserrate calls him ”rather penurious and retentive of money” . He presided over a big Empire, and was a man of grand vision. His activities, inevitably, involved large expenditure, but Akbar also knew the value of money. He made one major mistake-in building up Fathpur Sikri which had to be later abandoned-but normally he avoided unnecessary expenditure and concentrated on useful items. The result was that, not only was he able to leave a full treasury to his successor, but there was not the same pressure of State demand on the public as became the case later.
Mughal Kingship.MusYim rule produced a large number of able administrators and some of them, like ’Ala’-ud-Din Khalji and Sher Shah Suri, introduced administrative measures which survived them and became a part of the country s administrative heritage. The basic pattern of government and

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the fundamental constitutional position, however, underwent very few changes. In earlier parts of this books, we have outlined the basis of Indo-Muslim policy as laid down by Iltutmish, and its transformation at the hands of Balban, who introduced something similar to the ancient Iranian concept of monarchy and centralised system of government. The pattern adopted by Balban became the norm for Muslim India, and was adopted by subsequent rulers, with only minor changes of policy.
The Mughal theory of kingship, as it emerged under Akbar, is rooted in the basic pattern laid down by Balban, but has important features of its own. In the Mughal system the king remained supreme and all-powerful, but he was not an autocrat of the type symbolised by Balban. Akbar who embodied the new concept and Abu al-Fadl who expounded it introduced new spiritual elements in the basis provided by Balban. The best exposition of the Mughal theory of rulership is provided by Abu al-Fadl in his introduction to A ’in-i Akbari. The first two paragraphs dealing with the need for a king--to maintain order and suppress crime and injustice-echo Balban’s views on the subject, as narrated by Barani. Then Abu al-Fadl goes on to deal with the Divine elements in kingship. ”Royalty is a light emanating from God, and a ray from the sun, the illuminator of the universe, the argument of the book of perfection, and the receptacle of all virtues. Modern language calls \ifarr-i izidi (the Divine light), and the tongue of antiquity called it kiyan-ikhwarah (the sublime halo). It is communicated by God to kings without the intermediate assistance of anyone, and men, in the presence of it, bend the forehead of praise towards the ground of submission.”6
Further, Abu al_Fadl gives the requisite elements of Mughal kingship:
”(1) A paternal love towards the subjects. Thousands find rest in the love of the king and sectarian differences do not raise the dust of strife. In his wisdom, the king will understand the spirit of the age and shape his plans accordingly.
[Ch 16
”(2) A large heart. The sight of anything disagreeable does not unsettle him nor is want of discrimination for him a source of disappointment. His courage steps in. His Divine firmness gives him the power of requital, not does the high position of an offender interfere with it....
”(3) A daily increasing trust in God ... ”(4) Prayer and devotion....”7
There is much that is purely rhetorical in the statement of the court historian, but the course of the Mughal history and the pronouncements of various rulers show that during Mughal rule an attempt was made to approximate to this ideal. The paternal concept of government was constantly emphasized by Akbar and his successors. Foreign travellers and observer have also pointed out that Mughal kings ’reigned rather than ruled,” and were like a father to their subjects. Similarly, magnanimity of spirit, which was the second requisite of a king according to Abu al-Fadl, was valued highly be the Mughal rulers, and was expected from them by the public. The same applied to the other two requisites.
The important difference between Balban’s concept of kingship, as recorded by Barani, and Akbar’s viewpoint, as outlined by Abu al-Fadl, lies in the latter’s emphasis on spiritual qualities and elements. All the four requisites of the ideal king as laid down by Abu al-Fadl a spiritual basis.
Akbar’s and Abu al-Fadl’s views on government have been attributed to various sources. It has been stated that his view of government ”was influenced by Shi’ah teachings and by ideas mediated from classical Greece by Muslim philosophers.’8 Essentially these ideas were an expression of Akbar’s own personal viewpoint, and a solution of the political problem posed by the composition of religious groups in the subcontinent. The old Islamic references to the ruler being the shadow of God (Till Allah) and the writings of Muslim philosophers (like Jalal-ud-Din Dawwani) and mystics strengthened it. Abu al- Fadl repeatedly refers to this, and says

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that just as God Almighty bestows His mercy on all His creatures, irrespective of their creed, colour or race, similarly the king, ”who is God’s shadow on earth,” should confer his favours without any distinction. This, in fact, became a central point of Akbar’s policy and was kept up by his successors, in a greater or smaller degree.
To some extent, the paternal concept of kingship was also based on the old indigenous notion of the ruler being the Ma’i Bap (Mother and Father) of the people, and it is not impossible that Akbar and Abu al-Fadl may have been influenced by Hindu political theory. According to Manu, ”kings are vastly superior to other created beings, because they are made of the essence of gods.”9 Elsewhere he says about the kings: ”They are gods in human form, and, therefore, they who wish to be prosperous must worship the gods as they would Indra.”10 Whatever may be the sources of their inspiration, Akbar and Abu aLFadl, by introducing spiritual elements, transformed the very nature of kingship. Akbar’s religious experiments were productive of little good, but the acceptance of the spiritual point of view by the ruler had certain necessary practical concomitant in the administrative field. They softened the autocracy of the absolute monarch and, in fact, transformed its very nature. This resulted, not only in a kindly and humane system of government, but also made it possible for the ruler to regard all his subjects as deserving of his personal solicitude. The Mughal Badshah was not primarily, or even mainly, an autocratic Sultan or an Amir al- Mu’minin, but a father to all his people and a trustee for their welfare. This idea was not always achieved, and Aurangzeb’s reign was marked by deviation in some matters, but by and large the Ma’i Bap concept was accepted by the rulers and the ruled, and became part of the Mughal pattern of government.
Dealing with the impact of the Mughal rule on Indian society, Percival Spear has stated: ”Previous dynasties had been over-thrown as soon as their strength decayed and had been forgotten in a generation. Respect for the Mughals
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lingered on after all reasons for it had vanished and reverence for the office (continued) after all power had been lost. It still existed at the time of the Mutiny of 1857, though the effective empire had been dead nearly a hundred years. In some quarters it had not quite died by 1947.”u Spear attributes this to the influence of the Din-i Ilahi and the veneration shown therein to the Emperor.This, however, seems to be a misreading of the situation, and is a result of the usual confusion of the political policy of Sulh-i Kull with the religious innovations of the Din-i Ilahi, although they were two distinct aspects of Akbaf’s activities. The impact of the Mughal rule was due to its ethical ideas and the policy of Sulh-i Kull rather than due to the halfbaked theories and fantastic ceremonies connected with the Din-i Ilahi, which never gained general currency and were unpopular with both Hindus and Muslims. The Mughal rule left deep and happy memories because, as pointed out by Dr. Ishwara Topa, ”The new Mughal State as the creation of Akbar was above race, caste and creed. It functioned for the protection and -well-being of the people. It was an active lever for their social, religious, and cultural uplift.”12
Abu al-Fadl, Faidi and Shaikh Mubarak. Akbar’s success was not only due to his exceptional gifts of leadership and his ability to bring out the best in men. It was also due to the very high quality of the men who surrounded him. To some extent this was a part of his good fortune and Aurangzeb frequently regretted that persons of the kind which were available to Akbar were not to be found in his days, but mainly it was due to the efforts specially made by him to attract good people, and to train up others. Akbar had, at his court, administrators like Khan-i A’zam, Khan Khanan, Mir Fathullah Shirazi, Man Singh, Todar Mai, Khwajah Mansur and scholars like Faidi, Nizamud-dm Bakhshi and the historian Bada’uni. but the person who represents Akbar s age and policies most vividly was Abu al-Fadl. He did not have a high mansab, and was only in charge of the Correspondence Office--Dq/rar al-Insha’ -but owing to his loyalty, courtly tact, scholarship and industry, he

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secured a great hold over Akbar and became his ”friend, philosopher and guide.”
Abu al-Fadl, who was born on 14 January 1551, came form a distinguished family of scholars who hailed originally from Sehwan in Sind. His father Shaikh Mubarak was a great scholar and a mystic, and after studying under a pupil of Jalalud-din Dawwani, a prominent later-day philosopher and writer of Iran, settled down as a teacher at Agra. He was attracted, at the time, by the Mahdawiyah movement, and was persecuted by the court theologian, Makhdum al-Mulk, for his non conformist views. His two distinguished sons, Faidi the poet laureate and Abu al-Fadl, inherited his free thinking, and were held in great esteem by Akbar for their intellectual gifts, loyalty to the ruler, and community of views. In 982/1574, Abu al-Fadl was presented at the court and soon won the Emperor’s favour. He was placed in charge of the royal Dar al-Insha’ (Correspondence Office). Akbar’s celebrated letters to ’Abdullah Khan Uzbeg and other rulers and to the Portuguese authorities at Goa were drafted by him.
For many years, Abu al-Fadl basked in the sunshine of royal favour. He was the court chronicler, drafted the Emperor’s letters, acted as his deputy (Khalifah) for training the royal disciples and was unofficial royal adviser and confidant. The other courtiers naturally became envious and the fact that Abu al-Fadl often became the mouthpiece of Akbar’s unorthodox views gave a religious basis to this jealousy they joined hands and tried to find means of render him ineffective. All the moves and counter moves in this game have not been recorded-Bada’uni was dead by this time-but they can be pretty clearly traced in the pages of the Akbar Namah and Abu al-Fadl’s letters. The first recorded estrangement between Akbar and his favourite occurred in the middle of 1007/1598, When Prince Salim was the instrument of the hostile group. Abu al-Fadl was so thoroughly absorbed in serving the Emperor that he neglected showing due courtesy to others, including Prince Salim. To quote him: ”He was unable to
[Ch 16
perform fully the outward service of attending upon the Prince Royal, awkward explanations were not successful.”13 Salim became angry, and complaints were taken to Akbar, who ”gave some heed (to these speeches)”. On 21 May 1598, Abu al-Fadl was so vexed at the prevailing situation that he stopped attending the court and shut his ”door in the face of both stranger and acquaintance”. Akbar summons to him to attend the court brought sulky replies, and the offer ”to enter the furnace” along with his ”accuser”. Abu al-Fadl was so upset that he says: ”Sometimes I meditated my own destruction , and sometimes I thought of becoming a vagabond.”14
After a time Abu al-Fadl relented and started attending the court again, but soon his opponents found a way of removing him from the royal presence. He records in the Akbar Namah:
”Inasmuch as the writer of the noble volume always held to his own opinion without respect of persons and represented in an eloquent manner what was good for the State, those who sought an opportunity and were crooked in their ways represented their own interested views. In consequence of their intrigues I was sent off on 5th January, 1599, to bring Prince Salim and Murad (from the Deccan).”15
After his departure from the royal court, Abu al-Fadl had an audience with the king when he visited the Deccan (20 March

1600) and received occasional royal gifts, but he was never to be allowed by his enemies to set foot in the capital again.

In the spring of 1011/1602, relations between Prince Salim and his father deteriorated, and Abu al-Fadl’s enemies used this opportunity further to poison the prince’s mind against him. ”Evil-minded persons represented that the aversion of his father was due to the efforts of the Shaikh, and that the latter was endeavouring to have him disgraced and distrusted. This had such an effect on the prince. . . that he set himself to take the life of the unique one.”16 Akbar had at this time summoned Abu al-Fadl from the Deccan. This gave

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Prince Salim his opportunity and he asked Bir Singh Bundhela, whose territory was on the way, to put an end to Abu al-Fadl.
Abu al-Fadl had only an academic knowledge of warfare, but the manner in which he met his death shows that he was a bold and courageous soldier. In fact, it was his boldness and desire to play a heroic role which cost him his life. When Bir Singh’s troops were sighted and had captured Shaikh’s banner from his vanguard, his Pathan attendant17 held up the reins of his horse, and advised him to escape; but how could a man conscious of the grandeur of the Empire which he represented give way to fear? According to the contemporary Hindi poem, Bir Deo Chainta, recording the glory of the local hero Bir Singh, the Shaikh replied:
”How can I run away? A warrior must die where he is molested. Bir has taken away my horse-tail banner, It will be a shame to run away.
The Pathan well-wisher replied: ”It is also the duty of the warriors to kill their enemy before dying. You have lost the banner. If you escape unhurt, many such banners will be made for you.” To this the Shaikh said:
”The Emperor has full confidence in me. How can I run away home? If I follow your advice after losing the banner, What explanations shall I give to the Emperor? If my battle-drums are taken away from me, What shall I beat, when I reach home? When the Pathan persisted in his remonstrances, the Shaikh gave his final reply:
”You say, run away.
The enemy is thundering on all sides.
If I am killed running away,
What will people say of me?
Both in running and fighting death is certain.

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