Tuesday, July 7, 2009

1526-1857 The Mughal Empire


Babur - The First Mughal Emperor [1526-30]




Babur's empire
Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur founded the Mughal Empire in India after defeating Ibrahim Lodhi in the Battle of Panipat in 1526.

At the age of 14, Babur ascended the throne of the Central Asian kingdom of Farghana. His greatest ambition was to rule Samarkand. He fought many battles in the pursuit of this goal, winning and losing his kingdom many times in the process. In 1504, he ventured into what is now Afghanistan and conquered Kabul.

His position in Central Asia was precarious at best. In order to consolidate his rule, he invaded India five times, crossing the River Indus each time. The fifth expedition resulted in his encounter with Ibrahim Lodhi in the first battle of Panipat in April 1526. Babur's army was better equipped than Lodhi's; he had guns while the sultan relied on elephants. The most successful of Babur's innovations was the introduction of gunpowder, which had never been used before in the Sub-continent. This combined with Babur's newer tactics gave him a greater advantage. Babur's strategy won the war and Ibrahim Lodhi died fighting.

Panipat was merely the beginning of the Mughal rule. Akbar laid its real foundation in 1556. At the time of the battle of Panipat, the political power in India was shared by the Afghans and the Rajputs. After Panipat, the Hindu princes united under Rana Sanga, the Raja of Mewar, resulting in a sizable force. Babur's army showed signs of panic at the size of the huge opposing army. To prevent his forces retreat, Babur tried to instill confidence in his soldiers by breaking all his drinking cups and vessels, and vowed never to drink again if he won. His soldiers took heart, and when the armies met in the battle at Kanwaha, near Agra on March 16, 1527, Babur was able to win decisively. Kanwaha confirmed and completed Babur's victory at Panipat. Babur thus became the king of Central India.

Coins from the Mughal era
Babur, founder of the Mughal Empire
In 1528, he captured Chanderi from the Rajput chief Medini Rao, and a year later he defeated the Afghan chiefs under Mahmud Lodhi in the battle of Ghagra at Bihar. These conquests made Babur the "Master of Hindustan". He was not destined to enjoy the fruits of his conquests as he died shortly afterwards in Agra on December 26, 1530. He was buried at Kabul in accordance with his wish.


The Mughal age is famous for its many-faceted cultural developments. The Timurids had a great cultural tradition behind them. Their ancestral kingdom at Samarkand was the meeting ground of the cultural traditions of Central and West Asia. The Mughals brought with them Muslim cultural traditions from Turko-Iranian areas, which inspired the growth of the Indo-Muslim culture.


Humayun’s Rule [1530-40, 1555-6]

The foundations of Mughal art were laid by Humayun
Emperor Humayun
Babur was succeeded by his eldest son Humayun. Humayun failed in asserting a strong monarchical authority. He inherited a freshly won empire with a host of troubles; the Afghan nobles, the Rajputs and worst of all, his three treacherous brothers. They caused numerous problems for him. Following his father's advice, Humayun treated his brothers kindly and appointed them to high positions. Kamran was appointed as the Governor of Kabul, Kandhar and later even Punjab. Askari was the Governor of Sambhal, and Hindal the Governor of Alwar. In return, his brothers hindered him at every step and betrayed him in his hour of need. All of them coveted the throne. This was a curse that each successful Mughal king had to deal with. Humayun almost lost the empire his father had fought so hard to bequeath him. In the first ten years of his rule, he faced so many challenges not only from his younger brothers but also from the Afghan General Sher Shah Suri who had served under Babur. Sher Shah Suri defeated Humayun in the battles of Chausa and Kanauj in 1540. This defeat was the first setback to the infant Mughal Empire. He lived the next 15 years of his life, from 1540 to 1555, self-exiled in Persia. Later on, with the help of the King of Persia, he captured Kabul and Kandhar. He was finally able to re-ascend the throne at Delhi and Agra after defeating Sikandar Suri. After recovering his throne, Humayun devoted himself to the affairs of the kingdom and towards improving the system of government. He laid the foundation of the Mughal style of painting. Later on, during the reign of Akbar, a fusion of Persian and Indian style of painting took place.

Unfortunately, after recovering his empire, Humayun was not destined to rule for long. In January 1556, he met his tragic end by slipping from the famous building known as Din Panah. After him his eldest son Akbar took over the rule of the empire.


Suri Dynasty [1540-55]

Sher Shah Suri
Sher Shah Suri built the Rohtas Fort near Jehlum
Sher Khan, known as Sher Shah Suri, was an Afghan leader who took over the Mughal Empire after defeating Humayun in 1540. Sher Shah occupied the throne of Delhi for not more than five years, but his reign proved to be a landmark in the Sub-continent. He formulated a sound imperial administration that was inspired by the Safavid regime in Iran. Sher Shah employed a powerful army, which is said to have comprised of 150,000 horses, 250,000 foot-soldiers and 5,000 elephants. He personally inspected, appointed and paid the soldiers, thus making him the focus of loyalty and subduing the jealousies between clans and tribes. To prevent fraud, he revived the tradition of branding horses, introduced first by Alauddin Khalji.

The principal reforms for which Sher Shah is remembered are those connected with revenue administration. He set up a revenue collection system based on the measurement of land. Justice was provided to the common man. Numerous civil works were carried out during his short reign; planting of trees, wells and building of Sarai (inns) for travelers was done. Roads were laid; it was under his rule that the Grand Trunk road from Delhi to Kabul was built. The currency was also changed to finely minted silver coins called Dam.


Tomb of Esa Khan, an influence nobleman at the court of Sher Shah Suri
During his lifetime, Sher Shah commissioned the construction of tombs for his father, Hasan Khan Suri and for himself. A third one was begun for his son Islam, but remained unfinished due to the dynasty's fall. Sher Shah died in 1545 by a gunpowder explosion and left his kingdom to his two sons and grandsons. Unfortunately, his successors were incompetent and succumbed to old Afghan rivalries. This resulted in the downfall of the Suri Dynasty.






Akbar’s Reign [1556-1605]


Akbar
Humayun's heir, Akbar, was born in exile and was only 13 years old when his father died. Thanks to his exceptionally capable guardian, Bahram Khan, he survived to demonstrate his worth. Akbar's reign holds a certain prominence in history; he was the ruler who actually fortified the foundations of the Mughal Empire. After a series of conquests he managed to subdue most of India. Areas not under the empire were designated as tributaries. He also adopted a conciliatory policy towards the Rajputs, hence reducing any threat from them. Akbar was not only a great conqueror, but a capable organizer and a great administrator as well. He set up a host of institutions that proved to be the foundation of an administrative system that operated even in British India. Akbar's rule also stands out due to his liberal policies towards the non-Muslims, his religious innovations, the land revenue system and his famous Mansabdari system. Akbar's Mansabdari system became the basis of Mughal military organization and civil administration.



Tansen was an accomplished Jodabai,
musician at Akbar's court Akbar's Wife

Miniature Mughal Era painting depicting Akbar
An example of Mughal art commissioned by Humayun
The reign of Akbar was a period of renaissance of Persian literature. The Ain-i-Akbari gives the names of 59 great Persian poets of Akbar's court. History was the most important branch of Persian prose literature. Abul Fazl's Akbarnama and Ain-i-Akbari were complementary works. Akbar and his successors, Jehangir and Shah Jehan greatly contributed to the development of Indian music. Tansen was the most accomplished musician of the age. Ain-i-Akbari gives the names of 36 first-rate musicians of Akbar's court where Hindu and Muslim style of music mingled freely.




Close-up view of Diwan-i-Khas at Fatehpur Sikri, a town built by Akbar near Agra, India
The Mughal architectural style began as a definite movement under his rule. Akbar's most ambitious and magnificent architectural undertaking was the new capital city that he built on the ridge at Sikri near Agra. The city was named as Fatehpur to commemorate Akbar's conquest of Gujrat in 1572. The most impressive creation of this new capital is the grand Jamia Masjid. The southern entrance to the Jamia Masjid is an impressive gateway known as Buland Darwaza. Like most other buildings at Fatehpur Sikri, the fabric of this impressive gateway is of red sandstone that is decorated by carvings and discreet inlaying of white marble. Of all the Mughals, Akbar's reign was the most peaceful and powerful. With his death in 1605, ended a glorious epoch in Indian history.


Mujaddid Alf Sani''s Movement [1564-1624]

Emperor Akbar, who propounded Din-i-Ilahi
In the 16th century, during the reign of Akbar, Islam faced overwhelming threats. The Infallibility Decree in 1579 and Din-i-Ilahi in 1581 were considered to be grave threats to the religion. The Din-i-Ilahi, as propounded by Akbar, was a mixture of various religions. The new religion combined mysticism, philosophy and nature worship. It recognized no gods or prophets and the emperor was its chief exponent. To believe in revelation was considered as "taqlid" (following authority blindly) or a low kind of morality, fit only for the uneducated and the illiterate. Akbar's Din-i-Ilahi had literally made the orthodox Muslims outcasts in the affairs of the state. Akbar was actually influenced by the Bhakti Movement that had started during the Sultanate period. This philosophy propounded Hindu-Muslim unity. Many sufis, including Qazi Mulla Muhammad of Jaunpur and Qazi Mir Yaqoob of Bengal, condemned his religious innovations. However, the man who took it upon himself to revive Islam was Sheikh Ahmad of Sarhind, commonly known as Mujaddid Alf Sani, or "the reformer of the second millennium". Sheikh Ahmad was born in Sarhind on June 26, 1564. He joined the Naqshbandiya Silsilah under the discipleship of Khawaja Baqi Billah. He dedicated his sincerity of purpose to purify Islam and to rid it of the accretions of Hindu Pantheism as well as the philosophy of Wahdat-ul Wujud. He gave the philosophy of Wahdat-ush-Shuhud. Mujaddid Alf Sani wrote Ittiba-al-Nubuwwah. In this pamphlet, he quoted Imam Ghazali justifying the need for prophet-hood and explaining the inadequacies of human intellect. Through verbal preaching, discussions and his maktubat (letters) addressed to important nobles and leaders of religious thought, he spread his message amongst the elite in particular. He boldly opposed all plans to bring Islam and Hinduism together on the religious level, knowing that it would loosen the Muslim grip on the sources of imperial strength. Because of these letters, and general atmosphere in the country, he contributed to the swing from Akbar's heterodoxy to Aurangzeb's vigorous orthodoxy instead of a return to Babur and Humayun's policy of laissez faire. Iqbal rightly regarded him as the "Spiritual Guardian of the Muslims" of the Sub-continent and one whom God had alerted to the great perils inherent in the syncretism of Akbar.



British Arrive in India

A representative of the British East India Company negotiating a deal with a local Indian trader
In 1583, Queen Elizabeth I dispatched the ship Tyger to the Sub-continent to exploit opportunities for trade. Sixteen years after the Tyger sailed to India, Queen Elizabeth granted trading rights to a group of London entrepreneurs. In 1614, the British East India Company opened its first office in Bombay. The British continued to seek concessions from the Mughal rulers and enjoyed a unique trading monopoly. By the middle of the 18th century, the British, in guise of the East India Company, had become deeply enmeshed in the politics of India. The British and French had both obtained permission to open factories and forts in India. It was in the guise of defense for their forts that they were able to establish large forces in India. In the middle of the 18th century the war between France and Britain was extended to the Sub-continent in order to establish control over India. The British succeeded in their mission as they took advantage of the constant bickering of the local rulers and the lack of consolidated power.

In violation of a trade agreement with the Nawab of Bengal, the British started reinforcing Fort William in Calcutta. This led to a clash between the British and the son of the Nawab of Bengal, Sirajuddullah, who opposed the British violation and reinforcement of Fort William. Owing to the treachery of his uncle Mir Jaffar, Nawab Sirajuddullah was defeated in the battle of Plassey in 1757. After the battle of Plassey, the British began the systematic conquest of the Sub-continent. It was mainly the Muslims who raised resistance to the British rule. The other organized group, the Marhattas, periodically sided with the British against the Muslims. The people of India were not united against the foreign aggressors, which made it easier for the British to seize power. The Marhattas, threatened by the British challenged them under the leadership of their Peshwas. This resulted in a series of Anglo-Marhatta wars, which finally resulted in bringing the Marhatta confederacy under the British rule. Some Muslim rulers like Haider Ali and his son Tipu Sultan single-handedly tried to free India from the British yoke, but were defeated. After minimizing the major threats, the British systematically expanded their control and by 1823 had become masters of two-thirds of India. They were proudly able to claim: "The sun never sets on the British Empire"


Jehangir’s Reign [1605-1628]


Emperor Jehangir
Mughal miniature painting depicting Jehangir
Akbar was succeeded by his son, Salim, who took the title of Jehangir, meaning "Conqueror of the World". He expanded the empire through the addition of Kangra and Kistwar and consolidated the Mughal rule in Bengal. Although many rebellions arose in the empire, especially in Bengal and Mewar, Jehangir was able to suppress them all. Jehangir was renowned for administering impartial justice to his people, irrespective of their religious faith. Around this time, European traders had started coming to India. The English were able to find favor with Jehangir and cultivated him through works of art, of which Jehangir was a connoisseur. The first ambassador to the Mughal court was Sir Thomas Roe. He was able to secure many trading facilities for his countrymen.



Jehangir's tomb at Shahdra, Lahore
The Mughal rule reached its climax during Jehangir's reign. In
the history of Mughal architecture, Jehangir's reign marks the period of transition between its two grand phases, namely the phase of Akbar and that of his grandson, Shah Jehan. The most important feature of this period is the substitution of red sandstone with white marble. Jehangir had a deep love of color. The system of pietra dura, i.e. the inlaid mosaic work of precious stones of various shades, gained popularity towards the end of his reign. He was also fond of laying gardens. One of the most famous gardens laid by him was the Shalimar Bagh in Lahore. The Mughal style of art was greatly developed during his reign. The most important feature of the paintings of this era was the decline of the Persian and enhancement of the Indian cultural influence.

Mughal paintings lost much of their glamour and refinement after Jehangir's death in 1627. During the late 17th and 18th centuries this art migrated to regional centers such as in Rajput and Jaipur, where it prospered under the influence of the local culture.


Shah Jehan’s Rule [1628-58]

The Grand Mosque of Delhi built by Shah Jehan
Jehangir was succeeded by his second son Khurram in 1628. Khurram took the name of Shah Jehan, i.e. the Emperor of the World. He further expanded his Empire to Kandhar in the north and conquered most of Southern India. The Mughal Empire was at its zenith during Shah Jehan's rule. This was due to almost 100 years of unparalleled prosperity and peace. As a result, during this reign, the world witnessed the unique development of arts and culture of the Mughal Empire. During the reign of Shah Jehan, Mughal architecture reached its supreme exuberance. He chose marble as the chief medium for all his architectural undertakings. Elaborate ornamentation, pietra dura, and creation of exclusive landscape settings, are some important features of the buildings of this period.

The spectacular Red Fort
Shah Jehan built marble edifices at Agra such as the Diwan-i-Aam, the Diwan-i-Khas, the Shish Mahal and the Moti Masjid, which have been described as the most elegant buildings of their class to be found anywhere. But all other architectural creations of Shah Jehan are nothing when compared to the exquisite conception of the mausoleum of his wife, Arjumand Bano Begum (Mumtaz Mehal) at Agra. The Taj Mehal is the crowning glory and culmination of Mughal architecture. Its construction commenced in 1631 and was completed sometime around 1653. Gulbadan Begum's "Humayun Namah", Jehangir's autobiography "Tuzk-i-Jehangiri", Abdul Hamid Lahori's "Padshahnama" and Inayat Khan's "Shah Jehannama" are some of the examples of Mughal literature in the latter period of Shah Jehan's reign.


Aurangzeb Alamgir’s Reign [1658-1707]


Praying Aurangzeb
Aurangzeb ascended the throne on July 21, 1658 and ruled supreme till 1707. Thus Aurangzeb ruled for 50 years, matching Akbar's reign in longevity. But unfortunately he kept his five sons away from the royal court with the result that none of them was trained in the art of government. This proved to be very damaging for the Mughals later on. Aurangzeb had three brothers. His father Shah Jehan favored Dara Shikoh to be his successor. Dara Shikoh was eclectic in his beliefs; therefore Aurangzeb challenged his father's rule. Shah Jahan fell seriously ill and all his sons proclaimed succession. Contrary to everyone's expectations, Shah Jehan recovered. On his recovery, he again backed Dara as his successor. A war of succession broke out among all the brothers. In the long run Aurangzeb was victorious. But as Shah Jehan was in absolute favor of Dara, Aurangzeb no longer trusted him, and had Shah Jehan placed under polite restraint in his own palace.

Badshahi Mosque, Lahore
Aurangzeb, a staunch Muslim, gave many grants for the restoration of Hindu temples during his reign. He also appointed Hindus to leading and commanding positions in his government. His chief architectural achievement is the Badshahi Mosque at Lahore, the largest mosque in the world at the time it was built. In his 50 year, Aurangzeb tried to fulfill his great ambition of bringing the entire Sub-continent under one rule. It was under his rule that in 1687 Bijapur and Golkonda, the last of the two Shia states surrendered to the Mughal Empire. The Marhattas continued to fight against Aurangzeb for some time. The last 26 years of Aurangzeb were devoted to his relentless Deccan campaign for the purpose of which he had moved his court to Deccan. Under Aurangzeb's rule, the borders of the Mughal Empire spread out farther than ever before. But due to lack of communication and poor infrastructure it was difficult to hold the empire together. If the court was in the north, there was rebellion in the south, and vice versa. Though he ruled longer than any of his predecessors, yet he could not stop the decline of the Mughal Empire, which hastened after his demise as none of his sons was trained to rule. Finally in 1858 India came directly under the control of British government.


Decline of Mughal Rule and the Battle of Plassey

Revolts during the 17th century Mughal Empire
The death of Alamgir in 1707 is generally regarded as the beginning of the gradual decline, and ultimately fall, of the once extensive, prosperous and powerful Mughal Empire. Although it took nearly 150 years before the House of Babur finally disappeared from the scene, the cracks that had appeared at Alamgir's death widened.

His son Muazzam, who ruled from 1707 to 1712, succeeded Aurangzeb Alamgir. He took for himself the title of Bahadur Shah. He ruled for five years and momentarily revived the Mughal Empire. But the Marhatta's power increased and they became the unchallenged rulers of Deccan. In the province of Punjab, the Sikhs under Guru Govind Singh became a force to reckon with. One of the reasons that power centers kept springing up outside Delhi was the frequent change in the succession of Empires. Nearly 17 kings were crowned during the period spanning from 1707 to 1857.


Nadir Shah
The weakened Mughal Empire invited havoc in the form of the Persian king Nadir Shah, in 1738-39. On his orders a general massacre of the citizens of Delhi was carried out, resulting in the death of 30,000 people. Another threat to the Mughal Empire came from the Afghans of Rohilkhand, lying northeast of Delhi. By the middle of 18th century, the Rohillas became independent of the Mughal rule. At the same time the Jats also raised their heads against the central rule.

Taking advantage of this chaotic situation, the East India Company began strengthening its military capabilities. They conspired with Hindu traders and moneylenders against Nawab Sirajuddullah of Bengal to take over his principality. The Battle of Plassey of 1757 is considered a major breakthrough for the British in the Sub-continent. It paved the way for the company's rule in Bengal, and hence the whole of India ultimately came under the company's rule.

In the 19th century, Muslims like Syed Ahmad Brailvi and Shah Ismail carried out Jihad against the Sikhs, as did Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan in Deccan against the British. However, they failed in their efforts to stop the downfall of the Muslim rule. The final crunch came after the war of 1857 when the Mughal rule officially came to an end and India came under the direct rule of the British crown.

Causes of the Fall of Mughal Empire

British Fort - St. George
The Mughal Empire reached its greatest extent in the time of Aurangzeb Alamgir, but it collapsed with dramatic suddenness within a few decades after his death. The Mughal Empire owes its decline and ultimate downfall to a combination of factors; firstly Aurangzeb's religious policy is regarded as a cause for the decline of the Mughal Empire as it led to disunity among the people. Although the policy did lead to weakening of the empire but the major cause of decline was the lack of worthy and competent successors after him. The character of Mughal kings had deteriorated over a period of time. The successive rulers after Aurangzeb were weak and lacked the character, motivation and commitment to rule the empire strongly. They had become ease loving and cowardly. They totally disregarded their state duties and were unable to detain the declining empire from its fall.

The absence of any definite law of accession was another important factor. The war of successions not only led to bitterness, bloodshed, and loss of money and prestige of the empire over a period of time, but to its eventual fall. The degeneration of the rulers had also led to the moral degeneration of the nobility. Under the early Mughals, the nobles performed useful functions and distinguished themselves both in war and peace. But the elite under the later Mughals was more interested in worldly pursuit and self-enhancement. The nobles who had once been talented men with integrity, honesty, and loyalty, turned selfish and deceitful. Growth of hostile and rival clique in the court also undermined the strength of the government. Widespread corruption in the administration started and taking bribes became common.


Tipu Sultan of Mysore
One of the most potent causes of the fall of the Mughal Empire was the deterioration and demoralization of the army. The military had not only become inefficient but also lacked in training, discipline and cohesion. The army was out-dated in regard to equipment. It consisted of contingents maintained by various nobles, which was the main source of Army's weakness. As the weakening of the nobles occurred, so did the army. This was because of the soldiers, instead of identifying and uniting as Mughal Indians, identified themselves with different ethnic groups like Persian, Afghans and Central Asians. The Mughals had no navy and only maintained small ships that were no match for the well-equipped ships of the foreign traders. It was this weakness that the French and the British used to their advantage, and were eventually able to establish their control over India.




Nawab Sirajuddullah of Bengal Bahadur Shah Zafar -
the last of the Mughal Emperors

Extravagance was one of the causes of the Mughal's decline; the Tomb of Safdar Jung in Delhi, a Mughal nobleman and Governor, built by his son Nawab Shuja-ud-Daula in 1754
Another factor contributing to the decline was the financial position of the Mughals, which had become deplorable. The war of successions, rebellions and luxurious style of living had depleted the once enormous treasury and had led to financial bankruptcy. During the time of Aurangzeb, the Mughal Empire had expanded to reach its maximum size. This vast area had become impossible for one ruler to control and govern from one center. It was during the later Mughals that Deccan, Bengal, Bihar and Orrisa declared their independence. The raids by Nadir Shah, and repeated invasions of Ahmad Shah Abdali, resulted in further weakening of the empire. The already weakened empire faced further encroachment by the British and the French, which proved to be the last nail in the already drowning empire's coffin. The British and French, who had initially come as traders, took full advantage of the weakening empire and soon became masters of the whole of India.


Shah Wali Ullah’s Reform Movement [1707-1762]


The grandeur of a Mughal emperor's darbar
In the 18th century, Islam in the Sub-continent was faced with menacing problems. Sectarian conflict, low moral tone of the society, poor understanding of the Holy Quran, and general ignorance of Islam were just some of the issues which gave rise to fear that political collapse would be accompanied by religious disintegration. This did not happen; rather an era of religious regeneration was inaugurated, which was due more than anything else to the activities of one man, Shah Wali Ullah.

Shah Wali Ullah belonged to a religious family. He was educated at Madrasa-i-Rahimiyah by his father Shah Abdul Rahim. After finishing his education, he went for pilgrimage and higher studies to Saudi Arabia. At this time, Muslims in India were divided into Hanfia, Sufi, Shia, Sunni and Mullah sects. While in Hijaz, he decided to launch a campaign to popularize Islamic values amongst the Muslims and to present Islam in a rational manner. On his return to the Sub-continent, he started working towards the achievement of these goals.

Shah Wali Ullah's singular and most important act was his translation of the Holy Quran into simple Persian, the language of the land, so that people of the Sub-continent could understand and follow it. He studied the writings of each school-of-thought to understand their point of view, then wrote comprehensive volumes about what is fair and just in light of the teachings of Islam. He worked out a system of thought, beliefs, and values, on which all but the extremists could agree. He thus provided a spiritual basis for national cohesion.

Shah Wali Ullah trained students in different branches of Islamic knowledge and entrusted them with the teaching of students. He recommended the application of Ijtihad against blind Taqlid. He also interpreted Quran and Hadith according to the context of the times.

Shah Wali Ullah directed his teachings towards reorienting the Muslim society with the concepts of basic social justice, removing social inequalities, and balancing the iniquitous distribution of wealth. He established several branches of his school at Delhi for effective dissemination of his ideas. In his book "Hujjat-ullah-il-Balighah", he pinpointed the causes of chaos and disintegration of Muslim society. These were:

1. Pressure on public treasury, the emoluments given to various people who render no service to the state.

2. Heavy taxation on peasants, merchants, and workers, with the result that tax evasion was rampant. According to Shah Wali Ullah, a state can prosper only if there were light and reasonable taxes.

He wrote open letters to:

1. Mughal rulers, to give up their corrupt and inefficient practices.

2. Soldiers, to inculcate within them the spirit of Jihad.

3. Artisans, workers, and peasants, to remind them that the economic prosperity of the state depended on their labors.

4. The Emperor, asking him to teach a lesson to the Jats threatening the Mughal Empire. He also wrote and advised him not to give jagirs (land) to mansabdars who were not loyal to the state.

5. Masses, to be conscious of their duties and not to indulge in the accumulation of wealth.

Shah Wali Ullah tried to reconcile the basic differences amongst the different sections of the Muslims and considered the government as an essential means and agency for regeneration of the community. He wrote to Ahmad Shah Abdali; "...give up the life of ease. Draw the sword and do not to sheath it till the distinction is established between true faith and infidelity...".

His efforts resulted in the defeat of the Marhattas at the hands of Ahmad Shah Abdali and Najib-ud-Daula, in the third battle of Panipat in 1761.

Shah Wali Ullah was responsible for awakening in the community the desire to win back its moral fervor and maintain its purity. To rescue a community's conscience, belief and faith from destruction was no small achievement. Even after his death in 1762, his sons and followers carried on his work. Many future Islamic leaders and thinkers were inspired by his example.


Faraizi Movement [1830-57]

Haji Shariatullah launched the Faraizi Movement
The first half of the 19th century witnessed a movement known as Faraizi Movement in East Bengal. The founder of this movement was Haji Shariatullah. At this time the condition of the Bengali Muslims in the Sub-continent was very miserable. The British policy of distrust and oppression towards the Muslims rendered them economically and educationally crippled; and the oppression of the Zamindars made their lives unbearable.

Haji Shariatullah went to Mecca on the Pilgrimage. He returned to his country after 20 years and started his reform movement known as the Faraizi movement. His movement basically targeted the most depressed class of the Muslims. He asked them to give up un-Islamic customs and practices and to act upon the commandments of the religion called Faraiz or duties. Hence his followers came to be known as Faraizi. He forbade Tazia on the occasion of Muharram and singing and dancing at the time of wedding ceremonies. His movement was also directed against the oppression of the Zamindars. He declared the country Dar-ul-Harab, as Eid and Friday prayers could not be offered there.

The movement infused new life into the lives of the Muslims of Bengal. It wrought great agitation among them, especially the peasants who were imbued with his doctrines. Thus, he sowed the seeds of independence in Bengal. He died in 1840.

Mir Nasir Ali, also known as Titu Mir, struggled for the uplift of the Bengali Muslims
His son Muhammad Mohsin, known as Dadhu Mian, succeeded Haji Shariatullah. Dadhu Mian popularized and strengthened the movement by organizing it in a systematic way. He acquired great influence amongst the Muslim peasants and craftsmen of Bakerganj, Dhaka, Faridpur and Pabna districts. He appointed Khalifahs who kept him informed about everything in their jurisdiction. Dadhu Mian vehemently opposed the taxes imposed by the landlords on Muslim peasants for the decoration of the image of Durgah.

He asked his followers to settle in lands managed by the government. During the revolt of 1857, he was put under arrest for organizing the peasants of Faridpur districts against the British government. He died in 1860.

Mir Nasir Ali, known as Titu Mir is another important figure who was moved by the sufferings of the Muslim of Bengal. After returning from Pilgrimage, Titu Mir devoted himself to the cause of his country. He made Narkelbaria, a village near Calcutta, the center of his activities. Many oppressed Muslim peasants gathered round Titu Mir in their resistance against the Hindu landlord, Krishna Deva Raj. Titu Mir was able to defeat Krishna Deva and set up government. The British aiding the Hindu landlords sent an army of 100 English Soldiers and 300 sepoys to Narkelbaria. In 1831, Titu Mir died fighting the British forces.

The death of Titu Mir did not dishearten his followers. His example rather served as a source of inspiration for them in the years to come.


War of Independence

A scene from the War of Independence
By 1845, the British Empire had expanded from Bengal to Sindh, and all that remained free was Punjab. The Sikhs were ruling over Punjab and after the Second Sikh War in 1848, the British gained control over the Indus. The Koh-i-Noor diamond that Ranjit Singh had worn in his headdress now became a part of the crown jewels at Westminster.

The War of Independence broke out in January and March 1857. The British army had recruited local Indians in their forces. These soldiers were issued cartridges greased with fat from tabooed animals. The soldiers refused to use these cartridges. In 1857, starting with an uprising in Meerut, soldiers in the British Army in Bengal launched a full-scale mutiny against the British. This mutiny spread swiftly across the Sub-continent. Initially, the Indian soldiers were able to push back the British forces. The British army was driven out of Delhi and the Indian soldiers took control of the city. Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal King, was compelled to lead the freedom fighters. In Bahadur Shah Zafar, the rebels found a symbol of freedom, but a mere symbol was all he was. Wanting to spend his days writing poetry, the man was in no way even a remnant of the glory of his forefathers. He proclaimed himself the Emperor of the whole of India. The civilians, citizens and other dignitaries took oath of allegiance to the Emperor. The Emperor issued his own coin and appointed his sons to key posts.

Ranjit Singh
The initial success of the freedom fighters gave a boost to the War of Independence. The Indian army captured the important towns of Haryana, Bihar and Mahdya Pardesh. However, the British forces at Meerut and Ambala put up a resolute resistance to the royal army and held them back for several months. The British proved to be a formidable foe with their superior weapons and better strategy. The freedom fighters badly lacked in adequate resources and their planning proved to be extremely brittle. The royal forces were finally defeated. The British army entered Delhi and the Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar went into hiding.

The British quickly regained control of Delhi. They ransacked and destroyed the city. They took revenge in the most gruesome manner by killing innocent people indiscriminately. A wide scale massacre of the inhabitants of Delhi was carried out to avenge the killings of the British soldiers. The Mughal emperor was captured from his sanctuary, the tomb of Emperor Humayun. The emperor's sons were slaughtered in cold blood. Their bodies were beheaded and their heads were presented to the aging emperor in prison. Bahadur Shah was imprisoned in Rangoon, Myanmar, where he breathed his last.

After the War of Independence in 1857, the British government assumed sovereignty over the lands of the British East India Company. The British control over the Sub-continent grew in the next 50 years and culminated in the British Raj. Queen Victoria's Indian realm continued to expand, until Hunza, the remote kingdom bordering China, fell into British hands in 1891, bringing the expansion to its zenith.

The British delineated the frontier separating British India from Afghanistan in 1893. The resulting Durand Line cut straight through the tribal area of the Pathans. The British left the tribal areas to govern themselves under the supervision of British political agents.

The British thus became masters of India, where for nearly 800 years Muslims had ruled. However, their attitude towards the Muslims was that of antipathy. According to Hunter, a prominent historian, "The Muslims of India are, and have been for many years, a source of chronic danger to the British power in India". The British attributed the war of 1857 to the Muslims alone. As a result, property belonging to Muslims was confiscated and they were denied employment opportunities everywhere in the army, revenue department, and judiciary.

An artist's rendition of the War of Independence
The British administrators deliberately followed a discriminatory policy against the Muslims, even in filling minor jobs. Advertisements inviting applications for government jobs specifically mentioned that Muslims would not be appointed. Hunter admits that the exclusion of the Muslims was so complete that in the government offices of Calcutta they could not accept a post higher than that of a porter, messenger, filler of inkpots and mender of pens.

By a series of revenue and financial measures, the British smashed the political and social position of the Muslims. In the province of Bombay, the government appointed "Inam Commission" to inquire into the land grants of the Muslim times. The Commission took away 20,000 estates from the Muslims and thus ruined many families and institutions of the community.

The Company's commercial policy eliminated the Muslims from internal and foreign trade. When the Europeans came to the Sub-continent, the Muslim merchants lost much of their commerce with foreign countries. But they maintained their hold on internal trade and their commercial activities extended to the Persian Gulf and the coastal territories of the Arabian Sea. During the Company's rule, the Muslim traders were pushed out of this area as well by the competition of the Company's traders who enjoyed many special concessions.

The newly introduced English system of education had many drawbacks for the Muslims, mainly because it made no provisions for religious education. As a result, they stayed away from it. Thus, within a few years of loss of political power, the Muslims lost all avenues of employment, were dispossessed of their estates and deprived of the benefits of education. A highly cultured community turned into a backward and poor people. In their place British-educated Hindus began to occupy positions in governments offices formerly held by the Muslims.