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

Bk. II ] History of Muslim Civilisation in India & Pakistan 598

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Bk. II ] History of Muslim Civilisation in India & Pakistan 598
It has also been stated by Edwardes and Garrett that Aurangzeb’s ”jealous orthodoxy” estranged the Shi’ah Muslim population and paved the way for political disintegration.41 The learned historians of Mughal rule do not seem to be aware that, as Hollister points out, the majority of Aurangzeb’s nobles were Shi’ah. In his early youth-especially when referring to the Shi’ah and Iranians who supported the kingdoms of Deccan-he occasionally spoke as a bigoted Sunni, but he relaxed after ascending the throne and many of his principal nobles, like Mir Jumlah, Amir Khan, Murshid Quli Khan, were known to be Shi’ahs. The view that Shi’ah-Sunni differences amongst the nobles led to the downfall of the Empire is not borne out by close study. Of course, these differences became intensified in the eighteenth century and were occasionally exploited by ambitious adventurers-like Safdar Jang and ’Imad al-Mulk-to promote their personal interests, but by and large they remained within manageable limits, and rarely assumed a shape where Muslim interests were seriously jeopardised. As Scrafton says: ”The Mohammadans in other parts of the world are enthusiasts to their religion; but here the sects of Osman and Ali never disagree about who was the lawful successor to the Caliphate, if they agree about succession to the Government they live under.”42 Mir Jumlah was a Shi’ah, but he commanded Aurangzeb’s army against his Shi’ah brother, Shah Shuja’. Similarly,’ the Sayyid brothers were Shi’ahs, but in the supreme crisis of the day, the leading Shi’ah noble, Burhan al-Mulk (and many other Shi’ahs) sided not with them, but with the Sunni Turani nobles. Another crucial moment was, when before the third battle of Panipat in 1761, the Marathas tried, by offering every possible bribe and argument, to obtain Shuja al-Daulah’s support against his hereditary enemy, Ahmad Shah Abdali, a Sunni Afghan, but failed. It is unnecessary to go into detailed reasons for the situation, but a careful study of the history reveals that, although Shi’ah-Sunni differences had ugly possibilities, and at time led to strained relations, they did not alter the course of events.
Cultural Life
[Ch. 25
1. S. R. Sharma, Mughal Government and Administration, p. 40.
2. P. Spear, Twilight of the Mughals, p. 150.
3. Thus a Panj-hazan, who received Rs. 30,000 a month, had to pay Rs. 10796 for the maintenance of elephants, hones camels, mules and carts. See S.R.Sharma, Mughal Administration, p. 108.
4. Ibid., pp. 108-09.
5. See Moreland, ”Revenue System of the Mughal Empire,” The Cambridge History of India, IV, 468.
6. Edwardes & Garrett, Mughal Rule in India, pp. 198-99.
7. Ibid., pp. 204-05.
8. Ibid., p. 113.
9. The Cambridge History of India, n, 463.
10. Edwardes and Garrett, op. cit., p. 205.
11. Ibid., p. 176.
12. Moreland and some other British writers consider this a great deficiency. The share of an efficient bar in building up a sound judicial system is obvious, but if the number of the new statutes, from which, for good reasons, lawyers are now being excluded, is taken into consideration, the omission would not appear to have been necessarily harmful. Modern judicial system is one of the great gifts of Britain to this subcontinent, but it has its darker side. At least, in its initial stages it proved ruinous to the simple peasantry. Maurice Zinkin, formerly a member of the Indian Civil Service, writes: ”It was not without reason that the peasants of Allahabad, who had faced with equanimity the Marathas and the Mughals and the Englishmen, fled in panic when they heard that the High Court was coming” (Asia and the West, p. 81).
13. The local usage or ”the custom” ruled in rural areas. When the Punjab Customary Law was under discussion in the British Parliament in 1872, it was said about the pre-British period: ”Not one out of ten-perhaps not one of a hundred-persons in the Punjab was -governed by the strict provisions of the Hindu orMuhammadans law” (quoted in Rankin’s Background to Indian Law, p. 16).
14. Ewardes & Garrett, op. cit, p. 191.
15. Ibid.,p. 192.
16. P. Saran, Provincial Government of the Mughals, p. 338.
17. Bailie, Digest of Mohammadan Law, p. 174.
18. Baillie’s version of the relevant entry in Fatawa-i ’Alamgiri is somewhat misleading. This comprehensive book is a compendium of all authoritative rulings-including those which are not in perfect or apparent harmony with one another. The chapter relating to the Dhimmis (which has been given a wrong





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heading-fifl* al-Jizyah in the Urdu translation, vide (Fatawa-i Hindiyah, in,

435-47) is a’ very comprehensive one, but the large majority of the authorities hold that in non-religious matters the laws and practices of the Dhimmis will not prevail in the cities where the Muslims predominate. A distinction is, however, drawn in all cases where the Dhimmis had surrendered on certain agreed terms, which have to be respected at all costs. Incidentally, according to the Fatawa’-i ’Alamgiri, the Dhimmis are free to construct or repair their places of worship in the non-Arab towns and villages in which they are in a preponderating majority, and can restore them to their original condition even in Muslim cities. Apparently, orders regarding to wholesale destruction of new temples, and banning of repairs which appear in some of the contemporary histories and even in some farmans, were issued by Aurangzeb before the compilation of the Fatawa’-i ’Alamgiri and were the work of enthusiasts. While considering these orders, it has to be borne in mind that at one time Aurangzeb’s qadi issued an order prohibiting the reading of Maktubat of Mujaddid Alf-i Thani, although there is ample historical evidence of the Emperor’s regard for the saints of this silsil.ih

Baillie, op. cit., p. 174, footnote 3.
P. Saran, op cil., p. 353.
Ibn Hasan. The Central Structure of the Mughal Empire, p. 342.
Quoted in Saran, op. cit . p 435.
L. Scrafton, Reflections on the Government oflndostan., p. 25.
For a detailed analysis of Smith’s criticism of Mughal administration and of
Shah Jahan’s failure to deal with the famine of 1631-32, see P. Saran, op. cit.,
pp. 425-31. He considers Smith’s estimate and criticism ”not only quite wrong,
but also most unfair and unbecoming”. Sri Ram has also devoted several pages
to deal with Vincent Smith’s ”undue severity of biased criticism” and the
”skillful use of suggestive disparagement’ adopted by Messrs Edwards and
Garrett” (see Sri Ram, op. cit., pp. 472-76).
W. H. Moreland, From Akbar to Aurangzeb, pp. 304-05.
We have strongly urged on extensive but cautious use of the accounts of these
travellers, but their weaknesses need not be overlooked. According to Tara
Chand, these accounts are ”interesting but not altogether reliable” (A Short
History of the Indian People, p. 376. Sir Jadunalh Sarkar has also dealt at length
with the deficiencies of these accounts (History of Aurangzeb, I, xxi-xxii).
Faruki, Aurangzeb and His Times, p. 470.
Quoted in Mujumdar and Others, An Advanced History of India, p, 574.
Saran, op. cit., p. 206.
Sir Ram Sharma, Mughal Empire in India, II, 472.
Mussulman Culture, p. 144.
Sydney Owen, The Fall of the Mogul Empire,pp. 2-3.
Ibid., p. 4.
Ibid., p. 1.
Travels, p. 55.
The Cambridge History of India IV, 374.
Vide Surgeon Gray’s appraisal of a later Oriental court In I neighbouring
country, ”where, indeed, each man strives to harm hit neighbour, where truth i»
Cultural Life
[ Ch. 25












not, honour; where Vice and Villainy walk at noonday unveiled” (At the Conn of the Amir, p. 523).

39. V.A. Smith, Oxford History of India, p. 441.
40. It is true, a Maratha became the Valdl-i Muiliq but the relation of Shah Alam with Sindhia was no different from that of Raja of Salara with that of Peshwa. It seems very likely that, but for the British intervention, a new political pattern, preserving Mughal monarchy, might have become established. Dr Topa says in Our Cultural Heritage: ”The Indo-Muslim kingship had successfully ruled because of its inherent capacity for adjustability to political conditions” (p. 97). This capacity does not seem to have disappeared even in the days of Shah Alam
41. Edwardes & Garrett, op. cit , p. 338 Dr.Qureshi seems to share this view, when he says: ”that one of the causes of the downfall of the empire was the failure of the emperor (Aurangzeb) to secure better cooperation from the non-Sunni sections of the empire” (The Muslim Community, pp. 164-65).
In the light of a careful appraisal of facts, it is difficult to agree with Dr. Qureshi’s obiter dictum: ”It was natural that a tradition should grow up of cooperation between the Shi’as and the Hindus against the major section of the Muslim community” (vide ibid., p. 169).
42. Scrafton, op. cil., p. 22.


Chapter 26
Trade. The financial and commercial sector of national life was, during the Mughal rule as under the Sultanate, almost exclusively monopolised by Hindus, and was characterised by the same high level of achievement which is noticeable under the Mughals, in other spheres of national activity. Vera Anstey, a recognised authority on the economic history of India, has pointed out that up to the eighteenth century, Indian methods of production and of industrial and commercial organisation could compare with those in any other part of the world.1
The accounts of European travellers bear testimony to the vastwealth which Indian merchants, mostly Hindus, accumulated, their organisation, and their ability to control political life through the power of their purse. On this point it would be worth-while quoting O’Malley at length:
”Manrique estimated that there were as many as six hundred brokers and middlemen at Patna, most of whom were wealthy men. At Agra he met merchants of immense wealth, and, if he can be believed, saw money piled up like heaps of grain in their houses. There were some merchant princes at the head of firms which had branches in all the main commercial centres of the empire, controlled the wholesale trade, and were advanced enough to use bills of exchange or letters of credit and to engage in insurance business, including marine insurance. One of them. Virji Vora of Surat, who was a banker as well as a merchant,, was reputed to be the richest merchant in the world. He was the monopolist of European imports on

Bk. II ] History of Muslim Civilisation in India & Pakistan 604
the west coast, being at the head of the syndicates which
bought up cargoes valued at five hundred thousand rupees. In
the next century there were, as Burke remarked, merchants and
bankers who vied in capital with the Bank of England and
whose credit often supported a tottering state. Prominent
among them were the Seths of Murshidabad, a Marwari firm of
millionaire bankers,, who dominated the Indian financial
world. They financed both the farmers of revenue and the
government of Bengal to which they gave bills of exchange at
sight of a crore of rupees (equivalent to a million sterling), and
have been not inaptly called the Rothschilds of India.”2
In British India, not only were higher posts in civil services and army reserved for the British until towards the end of the British rule, but the British had also a lion’s share of the most lucrative spheres of the country’s commerce, banking and industry. In Muslim India, Hindus were supreme in the field of economic activity. If Muslims had advantages in higher posts of administration (excluding revenue) and in army, Hindus had practically the monopoly of trade and finance. Bernier, writing in the days of Aurangzeb, affirms that Hindus possessed ”almost exclusively the trade and wealth of the country.”3 O’Malley, depending on a contemporary Dutch account, says:
”In the first half of the seventeenth century it was noticed that practically all the industrial workers were Hindu, the Muslims practising scarcely an handicrafts except weaving and dyeing, while the subordinate operations of trade were carried on by the agency of Hindus, who were responsible for all the book keeping, buying, selling and general business of brokerage • on behalf of the Muslim merchants who employed them. Later the Hindus seem to have improved their position, holding the power of the purse as financiers, bankers, merchants and traders.”4
It was the normal policy of the Timurid rulers, inside and outside India, to encourage trade. In India, Sher Shah Suri had, shortly before Akbar, taken far-reaching steps to encourage internal trade by linking up distant parts of the country through
Economic, Social and Religious Conditions
[ Ch. 26
an efficient system of roads and by abolition of inland tolls and duties. The Mughals more than maintained Sher Shah’s policy, but what distinguishes Mughal rule is the importance which foreign trade attained during this period. It was partly the result of the discovery of the sea-route to India, but its progress would have been limited if conditions in the country had not favoured foreign trade. ”The growth of European trade was no merely related to the peace and centralisation which followed in the wake of the Mughal rule, but the Mughal government took active steps to encourage it from the very beginning.” Both Akbar and Jahangir interested themselves in the foreign sea-borne trade, and Akbar himself took part in commercial activities for a time. The extension of foreign trade was primarily due to the fact that, with rare exceptions, the Mughals welcomed the foreign trader, received him with courtesy and consideration, provided ample protection and security for his transaction, and levied very low customs duty (usually no more than 2 j^. % ad valorem). Even then largescale foreign trade would not have been possible except for the expansion of handicrafts and industry, resulting in large surplus of exportable goods. It existed because the country had goods and commodities to offer, and it is interesting to note that Indian exports ”at that time consisted mostly of manufactured articles, and cotton cloth from India was in great demand in Europe and elsewhere. Indian trade in dye stuffs centred around indigo, so much sought after by European traders. Saltpetre, pepper, spices, opium, sugar, woolen and silk cloth of various kinds, yarn, asafoetida (hing), salt, beads, borax, turmeric, lac, sealing wax and drugs of various kinds, figured among the articles of export.” The principal imports were bullion, horses, and a certain quantity of luxury goods for the higher classes, like raw silk, coral, amber, precious stones, superior textiles (silk, velvet, brocade, broadcloth), perfumes, drugs, china goods and European wines. By and large, however, in return for their goods Indian merchants insisted on payment in gold or silver. Naturally this was not popular in England and other countries of Europe. Sir Thomas Roe bitterly

Bk. II1 History of Muslim Civilisation in India & Pakistan 606

complained lamenting that ”Europe bleedeth to enrich Asia,”5 but the demand for articles supplied by India was so great and her requirements of European goods so limited that Europe was obliged to trade with India on her own terms, until the eighteenth century when special measures were taken in England and elsewhere to discourage the demand for Indian goods.
Industry and Handicrafts. The chief export of India during the Mughal rule- consisted of textiles. In particular, the manufacture of cotton goods had assumed such extensive proportions that, in addition to satisfying her own needs, India sent cloth to almost half the world. ”Besides feeding her own markets, India also supplied the east coast of Africa, Arabia, Egypt, Burma, Malacca, the Straits and certain minor Asiatic markets.”6 The textile industry, which was well established in Akbar’s day, continued to flourish under his successors, and soon the operations of Dutch and English traders brought India into direct touch with Western markets. This resulted in great demand for Indian cotton goods from Europe, which naturally increased production at home. Even the silk industry-especially in Bengal-was in flourishing condition. In fact, Bernier wrote:
”There is in Bengal such a quantity of cotton and silks, that the kingdom may be called the common stockhouse for these two kinds of merchandise, not of Hindostan or the Empire of the Great Mogol only, but of all the neighbouring kingdoms, and even of Europe”7
Apart from silk and cotton textiles, other main industries were shawl and carpet weaving, woolen goods, pottery, leather goods and articles made of wood. Chittagong, owing to its proximity to sources of suitable timber, specialised in shipbuilding, and at one time supplied ships to distant Istanbul. The commercial side of the industry was in the hands of middlemen, but the Mughal government, like earlier Sultans, made its own contribution. The Emperor controlled a large number of royal workshops, busily turning out articles for his own use, for his household, for the court and for the imperial army. Akbar took special interest in the development of indigenous industry. He
The Twilight of the Mughals
\ Ch 26
was directly responsible for the expansion of silk weaving at Lahore, Agra, Fathpur Sikri and in Gujarat. He opened a large 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 their 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.8 Akbar took so much interest in the indigenous handicrafts and industry that he would frequently visit the workshops near the palace and 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. Akbar ordered the people of certain ranks to wear particular kinds of locally woven coverings - and order which resulted in the establishment of a large number of shawl manufacturers in Lahore; and inducements were offered to foreign carpet-weavers to settle in Agra, Fathpur Sikri and Lahore, and manufacture carpets to compete with those imported from Persia. ”9
These efforts resulted in great expansion of industry. In the course of time, foreign traders established close contacts with important markets in India and new articles or commodities which were more in demand in Western Europe began to be produced in increasing quantities.
Cities and Towns. All foreign travellers praise the wealth and prosperity of Mughal cities and large towns. The Jesuit missionary, Monserrate, who accompanied Akbar in his journey to Kabul, stated that Lahore in 989/1581 was ”not second to any city in Europe or Asia”. Finch, who travelled in the country in the early days of Jahangir, found both Agra and Lahore to be much larger than London, and this testimony is supported by others. Other cities like Surat, ”a city of good quantity, with many fair merchants and houses therein,” Ahmadabad, Allahabad, Benares and Patna similarly excited

Bk. II ] History of Muslim Civilisation in India & Pakistan 608

the admiration of visitors. The new port towns of Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, and Karachi developed under British rule, but they had their predecessors in Satgaon, Surat, Cambay, Lari Bunder and other ports.
The prosperity of the cities was due to peace and order in the country, and to the expansion of industry and commerce in urban areas. The efficient system of city government provided by the Mughals greatly helped. The pivot of urban administration was the kotwal the city governor, who had sweeping executive and judicial powers, but whose responsibilities were even greater. It was his duty to prevent and detect crime, to perform many of the functions now assigned to the Municipal Boards, to regulate prices, and, in general, to be responsible for the peace and prosperity of the city. The efficient discharge of these onerous duties depended on the personality of the individual city governor, but the Mughals tried to ensure high standards by making the kotwal personally responsible for the property and security of the citizens. Akbar had laid down (probably following Sher Shah Suri’s example in fixing the responsibility of the village chiefs for thefts and robberies on roads passing through their territory), that the kotwal was either to recover stolen goods or be responsible for the loss. That this was not only a pious hope is borne out by the testimony of several foreign travellers, who state that the kotwal was personally liable to make good the value of any stolen property which he was unable to recover. Of course, the kotwals often found pretexts to evade the ultimate responsibility, but these regulations kept them on their toes and the foreign travellers have recorded the elaborate measures which they took to prevent thefts. These efforts were generally successful. Thefts in the cities were few and foreign visitors have recorded that their property was well protected. The extent of security which prevailed in large cities made them ”reasonably comfortable places for residence and business” and naturally contributed to the prosperity of these areas.
The Twilight of the Mughals
[ Ch. 26
The well-protected urban life provided amply scope for the display of talent and business skill by local commercial classes. The business acumen of hereditary trading classes of India has been highly praised in the past. According to one traveller, they were ”as subtle as the devil,” and their organisation on the basis of caste guilds increased their powers. Not only were their disputes settled by their panchayats, but the^ would frequently impose pressure on the government by organised action. Foreign visitors record that the all-powerful governors and kotwals were very sensitive to this, and, in spite of hardships inseparable from a despotic system of administration, business communities had their own means of obtaining redress and were in a flourishing condition.
Rural Area. Conditions in rural areas during the Mughal period were very much the same as at present, with one important difference-Muslim rulers had not disturbed the old organisation of villages and State activity in rural areas was almost exclusively connected with the collection of land revenue. As O’Malley says: ”The administrative machinery can scarcely be said to have extended to the villages.” The villages had their own panchayats to settle their disputes, and existed as small, autonomous village republics as they had done in ancient times. So long as the land revenue ”was paid, and so long as there was no disturbance of the peace, endangering the general security or outbreaks of the crime preventing the safety of travellers and merchants, the villagers were left to manage their own affairs, with headmen and councils of elders to try their petty cases, and village watchmen to prevent crime.”10 The State impinged very little on village life, except for the collection of land revenue, but land revenue was also very often recovered on a village basis rather than from individuals, and the age-old arrangements were preserved. The incidence of land revenue (at least theoretically) was substantially higher under the Mughal and in Hindu States (like Vijayanagar) than in British India, but the State undertook concerted measures to improve the condition of the peasantry. Apart from remission

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or reduction of land revenue when crops failed, there was reduction in government demand even when, on account of bumper crops, prices fell. For example, between 993/1585 and

999/1590 very large sums had to be written off because a series of exceptionally good harvests had resulted in a surplus and peasants could not sell their crops. The State also advanced loans to the cultivators and occasionally provided seeds and implements for digging wells.

The collectors were required to follow and active policy of agricultural development-to bring waste-lands under plough and to increase the area of more valuable crops. For these purposes they could reduce the rates ordinarily charged and they could also advance the capital required.11 Loans advanced to cultivators for seeds implements, bullocks, or digging of wells were called Taqavi -an expression which has continued , in modern land revenue administration.
As Moreland and Chatterjee say: ”The absence of agrarian trouble suggests that the peasants, as a whole, were contented,” but their lot, as that of the present-day cultivator, depended on the vagaries of the monsoon, must have been a hard one. There is some basis for believing that the Mughals concentrated more on the welfare and embellishment of the towns and cities than on villages where age-old institutions were allowed to hold their sway.
General Health and Medical Services. One remarkable feature of the times noticed by many foreign travellers was the good health of the local inhabitants. Fryer, writing of mortality among the English at Bombay and adjacent parts says:’....the country people lived to a good old age, supposed to be the reward of their temperance”. Bernier also speaks of ”general habits of sobriety among the people,” though this did not apply to a few amongst the upper classes or the royal family. The European travellers found ”less vigour among the people than in the colder climates, but greater enjoyment of health”. From their accounts, even the climate would appear to have been healthy ”Gout, Stone complaints in the kidneys, catarrh,...are
611 Economic, Social and Religious Conditions [ Ch. 26
nearly unknown1 and persons who arrive in the country affected with any of these disorders soon experience a complete cure”. The Mughal emphasis on physical fitness and encouragement of out-of-door games also raised the general standard of health. Everyone was trained to be a soldier, and was expected to be a good rider, a keen shikari and able to distinguish himself in indigenous games. Ovington found that the English at Surat were ’much less vigorous and athletic in their bodies than Indians”. Of course, in the eleventh/seventeenth century there was excessive drinking amongst Europeans which made them an easy prey to ill-health in the tropics.
Public hospitals had been provided in Muslim India, at least since the days of Firuz Tughluq, and, though it would be ridiculous to compare them with the arrangements introduced during the British period, the system seems to have extend during the Mughal period. Jahangir states in his Tuzuk that on his accession to the throne, he ordered the establishment, at government expense, of hospitals in large cities. ”That this was not merely a vainglorious and hypocritical order not intended to be translated into practice is fully borne out by the evidence of the Mi’rat-i-Ahmadi. We are told that hospitals were established by the imperial Government for the treatment of the sick and those who could not maintain themselves or bear the expenses of treatment.There was a physician-in-chief, and several others under him,of both the Ayurvedic and the Yunani systems. They were paid by the government and 2,000 rupees annually was granted for the distribution of medicines. It is unfortunate that the contemporary Muslim chroniclers never thought of including such matters of social importance in their records.”12
Social Conditions. A comparison of social conditions under Mughals with those of modern times would show that there had been a slow but visible change, particularly among upper and educated classes. In the Mughal period early marriage was very much in vogue amongst Hindus. For girls, seven was considered to be the ideal age for marriage and the age-limit of twelve could be crossed only at the cost of grave

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