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Perfect peace did not prevail in other areas either. One has only to read the vivid account of the poet Bedil, who was held up at Mathura for nearly two year, about the disturbed conditions around Delhi and Agra, and the way ”the lightning of helplessness had struck the countries of Hindustan,” when Aurangzeb was ”Preoccupied with the idea of conquest of the Deccan.”44
The Basic Difficulty. The basic cause of Aurangzeb’s incomplete success did not lie in any weakness of his own. It lay in the quality of men at his disposal. An artisan is as good as his tools and a ruler is as effective as his officers. Aurangzeb’s misfortune was that he came to the helm of affairs when two generations of unparalleled prosperity, ease and high living had sapped the moral fibre of the Mughal aristocracy. The Mughals were no longer the hardy soldiers or resourceful improvisers of the days of Babur and Akbar. Aurangzeb constantly bemoaned the scarcity of good officers. In one of his letters, he says:
”My great grandfather (Akbar) had many faithful servants. He entrusted them with the work of gaining victories and of performing many affairs, and in the time of my father (Shah Jahan) there came forward many brave and faithful servants, well-behaved officers and able secretaries. Now I want one competent person, adorned with the ornament of honesty, for the Diwani of Bengal, but I find none. Alas! alas ! for the rarity of useful men.”
A growing weakness of the Mughal officials was that they shirked arduous and difficult assignments. For them the continuous stay in the Deccan, away from the attractions of Shahjahanabad, was such a calamity that they would probably have preferred Maratha victory to such an exile,. One of Aurangzeb’s leading nobles used to say that he would distribute lakh of rupees in charity if he could see the capital once again. Such ease-loving generals fared badly against the hardy Marathas. They took years to conquer small hjll-forts, and many of these forts conquered after long sieges would be
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quickly lost owing to the sloth and negligence of the officers in charge of the Mughal garrisons.
Treachery was rampant in the Mughal army, and from this even the royal princes were not immune. During the seven year long siege of Ginji, Prince Kam Bakhsh, who was in charge of the operations along with Dhulfiqar Khan, had to be placed under arrest as he was about to join the Marathas with his troops. During the siege of Satara fort, the Marathas bribed Prince A’zam to ensure that the provisioning of their garrison would not be interfered with, and the fort which, at the commencement of the siege, had provisions to last only for two months could not be conquered for six months!
With such instruments at his disposal there is no wonder that Aurangzeb’s policy did not succeed, Iqbal, in a penetrating analysis of the Mughal Emperor, says:
”The political genius of Aurangzeb was extremely comprehensive. His one aim of life was, as it were, to subsume the various communities of this country under the notion of one universal empire. But in securing this imperial unity he erroneously listened to the dictates of his indomitable courage which had no sufficient of time in the political experience behind it.Ignoring the factor of time in the political evolution of his contemplated empire, he started an endless struggle in the hope that he would be able to unify the discordant political units of India in his own life-time.”45
Perhaps Aurangzeb’s real mistake (or misfortune) was that in listening to ”the dictates of his indomitable courage, ”he ignored the quality of the men at his disposal.
Legalistic Attitude. Some of Aurangzeb’s difficulties were due to causes beyond his control. Others, especially the financial and the administrative, arose out of his basic policy and his personal character. In dealing with Aurangzeb’s attitude towards the non-Muslim we have stated that the central core of the policy, which he put into practice as soon as he felt strong enough to do so, was to run his government according
to the Islamic Law. In this, he is stated to have reversed Akbar’s religious policy. Actually, the departure he made was much bigger. He gave up the age-old policy, followed since the inception of the Muslim rule in India, and openly proclaimed by Balban, ’Ala’-ud-din Khalji and Sher Shah, of subordinating legal and ecclesiastical considerations to the practical requirements of administration.
In organising his government on the basis of Islamic Law, Aurangzeb was inspired by high motives, but the policy created many problems. His financial difficulties were, partly, due to the wholesale remission of some eighty taxes and his refusal to levy any tax, not specifically authorised by the Shari’ah. He failed to see, as even Firuz Tughluq had seen, that such a policy was inconsistent with military expansion and largescale warfare. In the administrative field, also, Aurangzeb was opposed to taking any action or imposing any penalty, except strictly in accordance with the Islamic Law. This resulted in precedence being given to the qadis, which was not liked by many of Aurangzeb’s Muslim executive officers, ”when the news of Sha’ista Khan’s discomfiture at the hands of Shivaji reached the court, someone suggested that a theologian be deputed against Shivaji.” Some of Aurangzeb’s ablest generals found irksome the attentions given by the Emperor to rigid legal procedure. Firuz Jang, the grandfather of Nizam al-Mulk and one of the chief nobles (whom the Emperor held so dear that once when he fell ill and was forbidden melons, Aurangzeb himself gave up this fruit), put to death one Muhammad Aqil on a charge of highway robbery, without formal trial by a qadi. Aurangzeb sternly rebuked him, and even asked his wazir to write to the over-enthusiastic noble that if the heirs of the sal in refused to accept the blood-money permitted by law, he would have to pass an order of retaliation (execution) against him!46
There is something truly noble and touching in a ruler reminding his dearest and ablest general that he would have to face the penalty of death for unlawful action, and there can be
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nothing but admiration for Aurangzeb’s endeavours to uphold the law and proper judicial procedure, even in such cases, but in the eleventh/seventeenth century, the administrators found this meticulous emphasis on legal procedure and the prominent position of the qadis something of a hindrance. The contemporary historian Khafi Khan has attributed the imperfect success of Aurangzeb in spite of his great ability and superhuman industry, to his reluctance to impose penalties. After praising Aurangzeb’s unrivaled devotion, austerityjustice, courage, forbearance, and sound judgment, he says: ”But from reverence for the injunctions of the Law, he did not make use of punishment and without punishment the administration of a country cannot be maintain. Dissensions rose among his nobles through rivalry. So every plan and project that he formed came to little good; and every enterprise which he undertook was long in execution and failed in his objective.”47 A more modern Muslim writer confirms Khafi Khan’s criticism. Writing of Aurangzeb’s policy, M.B. Ahmed
says: ”While such attitude would give credit to a judicial
temperament, I doubt if it has much to commend itself, when the chief judicial officer was also the de facto supreme executive head of the Government.”48
Moreland writes about Aurangzeb: Himself a rigid Muslim, his guiding principle was to organise the empire in strict accordance with the public law of Islam, and he pursued this course, without any recognition of the factors which it is a statesman’s business to take into account.”49 This sentence sums up the basic dilemma of Aurangzeb’s character. These factors must have been obvious to a man of his clear vision and realism. But he felt it was his duty, as a Muslim king, to apply the only law which he recognised, to all branches of government. The fact that his lawyers and legal advisers were not equal to their responsibilities did not deter him. From an early age he had resolved to do his duty, irrespective of the odds in the way, and this he continued to do until the end of his days.
( Ch. 21
Aurangzeb’s Wazir. Normally Aurangzeb was a good judge of men, and pondered long before selecting officers for key posts. He, however, made some major mistakes which proved disastrous to the Empire. In particular his trust in Asad Khan, who was his Wazir or Bakhshi for thirty-seven long years, and whose son Dhulfiqar Khan became the seniormost general, was not justified by subsequent events. As we shall see later, the first disastrous blow at Mughal monarchy was struck when, after the death of Aurangzeb’s successor, Dhulfiqar eliminated the most competent of the candidates(’Azim al-Shan by making the other three princes combine against him on condition that the Empire would be partitioned between the three, but he would be the minister for all of them!50 The prince he ultimately selected and zealously supported was Jahandar Shah, the most dissolute and incompetent of all the three, who (with his revelries with Lai Kunwar) soon reduced kingship to a joke.
This happened when Asad Khan was alive and, as later events proved, when he was still influential with his son. The extent to which Asad Khan and his son shared Aurangzeb’s outlook may be judged from the fact that within nine days of Jahandar Shah’s accession, Aurangzeb’s wazir and lifelong favourite”51 and his son jointly petitioned the new king to abolish jizyah--and it was immediately abolished.
The advice to abolish jizyah may have been sound, but it appears a little odd, coming from Aurangzeb’s wazir. Such information as is available about Asad Khan’s grand and ostentatious style of living leaves no doubt that he had nothing in common with his grim, dutiful, ascetical master. He must have been the most highly paid official in the empire, but he maintained such a high style of living that he could not cope with his expenditure. According to Ma’athir al-Umara’, ”the expenses of his harem and for the purveyors of music and song were so great that his revenues did not meet them.52
There is evidence available from the records of the East India Company that Aurangzeb’s favourite Wazir was receiving
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expensive presents (and even cash) from the foreign Company to promote its interests. When in 1107/1695, Aurangzeb became angry at the capture of a pilgrim ship by the English pirates, and ordered that Bombay should be invaded, Asad Khan came to the rescue of the East India Company. An English historian writes.
”Fortunately for the English interest it had at this period a powerful friend at court in the Prime Minister Asad Khan. This worthy was too well-informed to believe that the English Company had any real part in the piracies....Mingled with his solicitude for the State interests was no doubt a lively sense of the adverse finances. Corruption was the breath of the English would have on his own finances Corruption was the breath of Mughal officials’ life, and whatever the shortcomings of the English, they were handsome bribers. Asad Khan, therefore, found no difficulty, when Aurangzeb’s rage had abated, in representing to him that there might be another side of the question....”53
The author has quoted from a contemporary letter written by Annesley, the President of the Surat Council, suggesting how they should proceed. ”A good vakeel at court, and some rarity to Asad Khan (Who was so lately obliged to be our friend by a present of 30,000 rupees)....would have such an awe on the several governors where the Right Honourable company’s business is concerned,....”54 was the suggestion he made.
Aurangzeb’s judgment of men was often shrewd-his warning about the Sayyids of Barha proved truly prophetic--but it is very doubtful whether Asad Khan and Dhulfiqar deserved the position which they gained under him. He was careful and considerate in handling of men, but his failure in two cases~of Khushhal Khan Khattak and Shivaji-proved very costly. In case of Khushhal Khan, the difficulty arose on account of the general decision to abolish tolls, and in the other case the expectations and demands of the Maratha leader were excessive. In both instances probably Aurangzeb was faced
[ Ch. 21
with an impossible task, but it still remains a question whether Akbar or Shah Jahan, the Qadardan, would not have been more successful.
Conclusion. Perhaps the tirne to make a final assessment Aurangzeb has not yet arrived. Several thousands of his letters are extant, out of which only a few hundred have seen the light of the day Until this rich material is published and scrutinised, a proper appraisal of Aurangzeb’s personality is not possible. At present, evidence about him is fragmentary, and at times contradictory even on basic issues, for example, he is often accused of an anti-Shi’ah bias and Sarfcar has dwelt on this at length On the other hand, it has been estimated by Hollister that majority of his nobles were Shi’afcs55 and once when the Shi’ah Sunni question was raised before him in connection with the claims of the Irani and Turani nobles, he stated: What have the sectarian differences got to do with administrative matters? Evidence on Aurangzeb’s attitude towards Hindus is also far from consistent. He reimposed jizyah, and, according to court chronicles, ordered destruction of newly bu.lt temples, but farmans are extant, showing his solicitude for the protection of Hindu rights, and even making endowments for Hindu temples The position with regard to the fundamental question ot complete adherence to Islamic Law is similar. He tried hard and consistently to run the State according to the Shan ah but he had no hesitation in replacing the Qadi-al-Quddat* when he opined that during the lifetime of Sh*h Jahan Khutbah could not be delivered in the name of Aurangzeb. Similarly, the opinion of the pious Qadi Shaikh al-Islam, who held that it was unlawful for Aurangzeb to invade the territories of Muslim rulers of Golkonda and Bijapur, resulted in his resignation. Aurangzeb’s personality was more complex and flexible that either his admirers or critics are willing to acknowledge. In the context of conflicting evidence the tendency for each group is to emphasise the elements supporting its point of view. These verdicts are liable to be modified in the light of the
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material which remains unutilised and all judgment of Aurangzeb,at this stage, can only be provisional.
In the preceding pages, we have tried to bring out those features which explain Aurangzeb’s failure fully to achieve his objectives. These should not, however, obscure the solid and abiding achievements of Aurangzeb. He greatly enlarged the Mughal Empire and much of what he accomplished has endured. A large part of what is Bangladesh today was either annexed or consolidated during his reign. In the Deccan, he conquered vast areas which were to remain centres of Mughal culture and administration for more than two centuries. He selected and promoted administrators whose work constitutes a landmark in the history of the regions entrusted to them, like Shuja’at Khan in Gujarat, Sha’istah Khan and Murshid Quli Khan in Bengal, Mu’tabir Khan in Konkan and Nizam al-Mulk in the Deccan. He tried to reduce the Irani preponderance in administration, attracted some gifted Turani families to the service of the Mughals and trained a body of men who, although crippled and demoralised by the repeated Wars of Succession, were able to sustain the Mughal Empire through the ravages of the Sayyid Brothers and Bandah, and gave it a new lease of life.
Aurangzeb is entitled to a very high place as a ruler of India, but against the background of the creation of Pakistan, his importance increases still further. Iqbal has called him the first exponent of Muslim nationalism in the Indian subcontinent, and there is no doubt that fifty year of his reign, during which the Muslim point of view was consistently and successfully maintained, diffusion of Islamic education received a great impetus and a feeling of resolute self-confidence was generated in the Muslim community, greatly strengthened the forces which not only enabled the Muslims to deal with the crisis in their national life during the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries but ultimately led to the foundation of the independent State of Pakistan.
451 Aurangzeb (1069-1119/1658-1707) [ Ch 21
The memory of Aurangzeb is dearly cherished in this country, but is not only due to his historical role.The purity of his personal life, the vigour of his character, his stern selfdiscipline and his efforts to uphold law have endeared him to Muslim hearts. Iqbal has, at one place referred to three types of character of which he gives Timur, Jahangir and ’Alamgir as typical representatives. Timur represented the brute military force while Jahangir represented what Iqbal calls ”the convivial type, which combines in itself the virtues of liberality, genero-sity and good fellowship.”
Babur was the combination of the two. Iqbal adds: ”But these two types have a tendency to become reckless, and by way reaction against them appears the third great type which holds up the ideal of self-control, and is dominated by a more serious view of life.” This was represented by ’Alamgir and as Muslims highly value these qualities, his personality makes a powerful appeal to them and, even in his lifetime, he was known as Al ’amgir Zindah Pir.
Lt has also to be recalled that Aurangzeb was the greatest Indo-Muslim ruler in mere extent of his dominion. He held sway over a bigger area than any of his predecessors -than even ’Ala’-ud-din Khalji, whose empire did not extend to Kabu.1 and Kashmir. It is true that Aurangzeb’s conquests in the southi had not been consolidated, but the position there was not different from the situation in Bengal at the end of Akbar’s reign. Akbar’s conquests were, however, consolidated under Jahangir, while Aurangzeb’s successors proved unequal to the task.
Shibli, in his brilliant defence of ’Alamgir, was not inclined to give him a higher place amongst the Mughal rulers than_ what he got in the chronological order, but in the light of wha-t has been stated it is not a matter for surprise that in Pakistan he is given a place at the very top of the list.
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NOTES & REFERENCES
As a candidate for the throne, Aurangzeb tried to gain support from all quarters. His collaborator Murad borrowed heavily from Jain bankers of Gujarat, and these commitments were honoured by Aurangzeb. He attempted to come to terms with the Shi’ah rulers of the Deccan, and even tried to get the support of Rana Raj Singh of Mewar by offering him the restoration of some Parganahs which Shah Jahan had detached from the state, and by expressing general sentiments of good will. There is, however.plenty of evidence to show that Aurangzeb felt strongly about the position of Islam in the subcontinent and had already come to consider himself as the ”instrument of the Divine will in a mission of much needed religious reform”. J.N.Sarkar, History of Aurangzeb, in, 216. History of Bengal, II, 378. Bernier, Travels, pp. 174-75.
History of Bengal, II, 387
Ibid., II, 225. ”
Ibid, II, 227.
Beveridge, The District ofBakarganj, p. 253.
D.C. Sen, Glimpses of Bengal life, pp. 216-19.
History of Bengal, p. 228.
Beveridge, op. cit., p. 375.
Ibid. p. 250. Ibid., p. 254. O. Caroe, The Pathans, p 233.
See Dost Muhammad Kamil’s comprehensive and Kholarly (Urdu) book, Khitshhal Khan Khatlak.
Khushwant Singh, A History of the Sikhs, I, 54. Ibid., I, 56.
For the Sikh account of Guru Arjan’s life, see Macauliffe’s The Sikh Religion, II, 253-58, and HI, pp. 1-101. Bcni Prasad gives a good survey in his History of Jahangir (pp. 129-30). It would be interesting to speculate to what extent the later Sikh Gurus were motivated, consciously or unconsciously, by a desire to establish a principality (like the Safavids in Iran, Kalhoras in Sind, and numerous principalities and zamindaris established by religious families in the subcontinent in the eighteenth century). How the Sikhs Became A Militant People, p. 5. History of Aurangzeb, in, 310. Ibid., Ill, 311, footnote,
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25. Cunningham’s account is based on Sikh sources, and he is very definite that Guru Tegh Bahadur was ”put to death as a rebel” (History of the Sikhs, pp. 64-
65). Muslim historians, however, anxious to show Aurangzeb as a champion of Islam and perhaps unwilling to admit disturbed conditions existing in East Punjab, make it a case of religious conflict.
26. C.Macauliffe, op. cit., p. 7.
27. Op. cit., I, 94.
28 Ma’alhir-i Alamgiri, p. 174.
29. S.R. Sharma, Religions Policy of the Mughal Emperors, pp. 148-49.
30. For an impassioned account of the hardships of the soldiers at the hands of the Hindu revenue officals in Bengal, see Sarkar, Studies in Aurang/eb’s Reign, pp.
173, 174, 175.
31. Tara Chand, A Short History of the Indian People, p.271.
32. Sharma, op. cit., p. 169.
33. F.W. Foster, The English Factories in India, 1661-1664, p, 401.
34. V. A. Smith, Oxford History of India, p. 427.
35. Ilben, government of India, p. 24.
36. The historian Khafi Khan who visited Bombay about this time states that the island produced so little, and the parismonious English provided so poorly for their local officers, that they had to engage themselves systematically in piracy to keep themselves going.
37. Smith op. cit., p. 450.
38. See Dr Abdullah Chughtai, Fanun-i Latifah bi-ahd-i Aurangzeb, p. 42.
39. This date is based on Maulvi ’Abd al-Haqq’s researches.
40. H.T. Sorley, Shah Abdul Latif, p 6. Elsewhere Sorley refer to him as the ”sad, grim and lonely doctrinaire” and pays a tributs to ”the unbending vigilance of the tyrannical and ascetic Aurangzeb’ (pp. 8-9).
41. Majumdar and Other, An Advanced History of India, p. 509.
42. Vide S.R. Sharma, Mughal Empire in India, p. 619.
43. Will Durant. The History of Civilization-Our Oriental Heritage, pp. 474-75.
44. Kulliyat-i Bedil, pp. 560-71.
45. Javid Iqbal, Ed., Stray Reflections, Note-book of ’Allamah Iqbal, pp.44-45.
46. Sarkar, Ahkam-i Alamgiri, p. 48.
47. Elliot and Dowson, History of India As Told by Its Own Historians in, 386-87.
48. Administrator of Justice in Medieval India, pp. 269-70.
49. Morcland and Chattergee, A Short History of India, p, 249.
51. See Satish Chentra’s paper on ”Jazya in the Post -Aurangzeb Period,” Proceedings of Indian History Congress, p. 323.
52. Ma’athir al-Umara’ (Tr.), I, 279.
53. Arnold Wright, Annesley ofSural and His Times, p. 175.
55. Vide J.N. Hollister, The Shi’a of India, p. 139.
56. See Commissariat, History of Gujarat, H, 158-59, for events leading to the appointment of Qadi ’Abd al-Wahab as Qadi al-Quddat (based on Mir’at-i Ahmadi, I, 248). Also see J.N. Sarkar, History of Aurangzeb, in, 73-74.
57. See. J.N. Sarkar, op. cit., Ill, 76.