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III. Competition and Co-existence: Indo-Islamic Interaction in Medieval North India*

  • Muzaffar Alam (a1)


The study of Islam and Muslims in relation to local non-Muslim population and their religious beliefs and social practices in medieval India has often tended to be conducted eventually along two lines, seemingly opposed to each other. On the one hand, there are communal historians who have reduced the history of medieval India into the conflict between Hindus and Muslims, which they have projected as having resulted from their divergent religious outlooks. The period was Islamic in their view, and the state a conversion machinery and an organ to bring Hindus under the hegemony of Islam. This was a mission in which the state could not succeed fully, largely because of ‘Hindu’ resistance. On the other hand, there are a large number of ‘liberal’ historians to whom the hallmark of medieval Indian society has been an amity between the two communities, the various tensions and encounters over economic and political matters notwithstanding. The medieval period, in the opinion of such historians, saw the evolution and efflorescence of a composite culture to which medieval rulers, nobles, sufis and Persian and Urdu poets contributed significantly. The later animosity between Hindus and Muslims and clashes over religious matters, they argued, were the handiwork of the British.



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1 Sijizi, Amir Hasan, Fawaid-ul-Fuad (Nawal Kishore) 1314, 68 and 147; Kwurd, Amir, Siyar-ul-Auliya (Delhi 1302 AH/18841885) 3839 and 46.

2 The statement is attributed to Shaikh Sharf-ud-Din Yahya Maneri, an eminent fourteenth-century sufi of Bihar. Compare Nimatullah, Maulana, Ganj-i Layakhfa (Patna MS) 3435.

3 Fawaid-ul-Fuad, 137, 158–159; Nizami, K.A. ed., Khair-ul-Majalis (Aligarh 1959) 65, 66 and 150; cf. alsoNizami, K.A., Some Aspects of Religion and Politics in India during the Thirteenth Century (reprint; Delhi 1974) 178179 in particular for the significance and meanings of circulation of zanbil and chilla-i makus (inverted chilla).

4 Kizvi, S. A. A., History of Sufism in India I (Delhi 1978)335.

5 Rizvi, S.A.A. and Zaidi, Sailesh eds., Alakhbani or Rushd-Nama (Aligarh 1971).

6 Surur-us-Sudur (Habibganj Collection, Aligarh) 69, 74, 302; Baba Farid's compositions are also believed to have been incorporated by the fifth Sikh Guru Arjan in 1604 in the Guru Granth Saheb. For some other dohas cf. Maktubat-i Muzaffar Shams Balkhi (Patna MS) f. 141b, 193a; cf. also Patna University Journal 12 (1958) for their English translations.

7 Badaoni, Abd-ul Qadir, Muntakhab-ut-Tawarikh I, 230; for an analysis of Chandayan cf. Chandra, S., Social Life and Concepts in Medieval Hindi Bhakti Poetry (Delhi 1983) 2132.

8 Gupta, Mataprasad, Prakasham, Pramanik eds., Chandayan (Agra 1967) Nos. 164 and 320; Chandra, , Social Life and Concepts, 3031; cf. also Chandayan, Nos. 7, 9 and 14 where Mulla Daud calls the first four caliphs as ‘Pandits’ who spread (to the Muslims) their Vedas and Puranas, thus equating the brahmanical scriptures with the holy Quran and hadis. Again, he says that after being initiated by his Shaikh into the path of dharma, he washed his sins by bathing in the Ganga.

9 For some comments on these sufi poets of Hindavi cf. Rashid, A., Society and Culture in Medieval India 1206–1556 (Calcutta 1969).

10 Bilgrami, Mir Abd-ul-Wahid, Haqaiq-i Hindi (Aligarh MS); Hindi tr. by S.A.A. Rizvi (Banaras 1957).

11 Sharif, Jafar, Qanun-i-Islam. English tr. by Herklots, G.A. (reprint; London 1972) 195196, 289–292, 295–296; Ahmad, Aziz, An Intellectual History of Islam in India (Edinburgh 1969) 4445.

12 Cf. Rizvi, , History of Sufism I, 322396 for abundance of details in this respect. Rizvi discusses Sankara's advaita, Ramanuja's visishtadvaita, Nimbarkar's dvaitadvaita and Chaitanya's achinta-bhedabheda and shows similarities between these and Wahdat-ul-wujud.

13 Ek Niranjan Alha mera, Hindu Turak duhu nahin nera, Kahai Kabir chetahu re bhaundu, Belan Hara Turakna Hindu.

14 For a different view cf. Aziz Ahmad, Studies in Islamic Culture in the Indian Environment (reprint; Karachi 1970) 144–145.

15 Nizami, K.A., ‘Some Religious and Cultural Trends of the Tughluq Period’ and also ‘A Medieval Indian Madrasah’, in: Nizami, K.A., Studies in Medieval Indian History and Culture (Allahabad 1966) 5464 and 73–79.

16 Mujeeb, M., Indian Muslims (London 1966) 272276, for such an attempt by Shaikh Abd-ul-Wahhab Muttaqi, Ali Muttaqi and Shaikh Husam-ud-Din.

17 While Shaikh Abd-ul-Wahhab and other ulama discouraged the teaching of the ‘heresy’ of Ibn-al-Arabi (d. 1248), the famous Hispanic propounder of the doctrine of wahdat-ul-wujud Shaikh Nizam-ud-Din of Amethi (d. 1517), a Chishti saint, snatched Ibn al-Arabi's well-known book on the theme, Eusus-ul-Hikam from the hand of the son of a sufi and gave him another book. The Shaikh wanted his disciples to limit their readings only to the orthodox sufic treatises, compare Mujeeb, , Indian Muslims, 274275 and 306–307.

18 For an assessment of some of these stories cf. Habib, Muhammad, ‘Chishti Mystic Records of the Sultanate Period’ in: Nizami, K.A. ed., Politics and Society during the Early Medieval Period (Delhi 1974) 385433. It is not unlikely that these legend gained wider currency in the fifteenth-sixteenth centuries in the face of increasingly effective resistance to the authority of the Sultans by the local landed chiefs. The central Muslim authorities may have aimed at reinforcing their positions by popularising these legends. Eaton, Richard M. also notes such legends in his Sufis of Bijapur, 1300–1700 (Princeton 1978) 110113 and 166. Susan Bayly makes some perceptive observations on the political significance of some such similar legends in eighteenth-century South Indian context; cf. Islam and State Power in Pre-Colonial Southlndia’, Itinerario 12, 1 (1988) 143164.

19 Shaikh, Ali Asghar binMaudud, Jawahir-iFaridi (Lahore 1301 AH/18831884) 155160.

20 Khwurd, , Siyar-ul-Auliya, 4547.

21 Dihlawi, Abd-ul-Haq Muhaddis, Akhbar-ul-Akhyar (reprint; Deoband n.d.) 2829.

22 Compare Khan, M. Ishaq, ‘The Impact of Islam on Kashmir in the Sultanate Period (1320–1586)’, Indian Economic and Social History Review 23, 2 (1986).

23 Kashmiri, Baba Nasib, Nur-Nama (Research and Publication Department, Srinagar, ACC, No. 795).

24 Magray, Saiyid Ali, Tarikh-i Kashmir (Research and Publication Department, Srinagar, ACC, No. 739). For this reference and for the one to Nur Nama I am indebted to Mr. A. Hamid Rather of Kashmir University.

25 Sharif, , Qanun-ilslam, 201202.

26 Rashid, , Society and Culture in Medieval India, 233; Reports of the Archaeological Survey of India 16, 90 off.

27 Gwaliari, Muhammad Ghaus, Culzar-i Abarar f. 75; for some Ghazi and Shahid legends from Bengal, cf. Sen, Dineshchandra, The Folk Literature of Bengal (reprint; Delhi 1982) 123152. See alsoEaton, Richard, Sufis of Bijapur, 1944 for a useful account of ‘Sufis as Warriors’.

28 Askari, S.H. and Ahmad, Q. eds., A Comprehensive History of Bihar II (Patna 1984) 407.

29 Rashid, , Society and Culture in Medieval India, 192193.

30 Rizvi, , History ofSufism I, 14. The attempt was like some modern efforts, notably the Egyptian scholar Ali Tantawi's in his Fi Zilal-al-Quran, to explain modern'science in the light of the Quran. For a concise account of medieval Indian Persian translations of Hindu classics, cf. Mujtabai, F., Aspects ofHindu Muslim Cultural Relation (Delhi 1978) 6191.

31 RazaAnsari, M., Tazkira-iHazratSaiyidSahebBansawi (Urdu) (Lucknow 1986) 289292.

32 Maqamat-i Mazhari, 23–24.

33 Rizvi, S.A.A., History of Sufism in India II (Delhi 1983) 305.

34 Kashkul-i Kalimi (Delhi 1308/18901891) 10. In his letters to his disciples, Shah Kalim Allah and following him, his khalifas, Shaikh Nizam-ud-Din and Shaikh Fakhru-ud-Din laid special emphasis on the lives of the Prophet and his companions as models for Muslims and on spreading, preaching and glorifying the ‘word of Allah’. Cf. Nizami, K.A., Tarikh-i Mashaikh-iChist (Urdu) V (Delhi 1984) 105106, 161–162, 215–216.

35 Maqamat-i Mazhari, 99–101; Anjum, Khaliq, Mirza Mazbar fan-i Janan ke Khutut (Urdu translations of Mirza's letters) (Delhi 1962) 94.

36 Basharat-i Mazhariya (Aligarh MS). For this reference I am thankful to my friend Dr. Fozail Ahmad Qadri of Manipur University, Imphal.

37 Maqamat-i Mazhari, 99–100; Anjum, , Mirza Mazhar, 93.

38 MSS of these works are available in Salar Jan Museum, Hyderabad and Raza Library Rampur.

39 Zakhirat-ul-Muluk (Amritsar 1321/19031904) 117118.

40 Askari, S.H., Proceeding ofIndian History Congress (Agra 1956).

41 Maktubal-iQuddusiya (AhmadiMatba', Delhi) letter 169, 336337.

42 For one such demand by an eighteenth-century Qazi, cf. Alam, M., The Crisis of Empire in Mughal North India (Delhi 1986).

43 For a discussion cf. Khan, I.A., ‘Shaikh Abd-ul-Quddus Gangohi's Relations with Political Authorities: a Reappraisal’, Medieval India: A Miscellany IV (Delhi 1977) 7390; cf. also Nizami, K.A., Tarikh-i-Mashaikh-i Chisht (Urdu) (Delhi 1957 219221;Ibidem, Salatin-i Dihli Ke MazhabiRujhanat (Urdu) (Delhi 1958) 449450.

44 Nizami, , Studies in Medieval Indian History and Culture, 23.

45 Yadav, B.N.S., Society and Culture in Northern India in the Twelfth Century (Allahabad 1973) Chapters 1 and 8; Sharma, R.S., Social Change in Early Medieval India (Delhi 1969); Mazumdar, B.P., Socio-Economic History of Northern India, 1030–1194 (Calcutta 1960) Chapters III and XIV; Ibidem, Epigraphic Records on Migrant Brahmans in North India (1030–1225)’, Indian Historical Review 5, 1–2 (19781979) 6486;Chattopadhyaya, B.D., ‘Origins of Rajputs: The Political, Economic and Social Processes in Early Medieval Rajasthan’, Indian Historical Review 3, 1 (1976) 5982;Nandi, R.N., ‘Client, Ritual and Conflict in Early Brahmanical Order’, Indian Historical Review 6, 1–2 (19791980) 64118.

46 Fawaid-ul-Fuad, 65.

47 Ibidem, 195–197.

48 Ibidem, 150.

49 Jamali, , Siyar-ul Afrin (Delhi 1311/18931894) 159160.

50 Rihla. Urdu tr. by Jafari, R.A. (Karachi 1977) 68.

51 Akhbar-ul-Akhyar, 53–54.

52 Dadu 13/48; 16/53, 54and 55; 16/44 and 28; 14/32–34.

53 Akhbar-ul-Akhyar, 306. Kashmir, however, presents a different case. The Rishis there claimed the Shaivite poetess, Lai Ded, as ‘Rabia, the Second’, incorporating her message in their compositions in the local language. Compare Khan, M. Ishaq, Indian Economic and Social History Review 23, 2 (1986).

54 Dabislan-i Maiahib (Kanpur 1903) 179180. The printed text, however, reads ‘wa rah-ijog ai Nabi…fara girazta’.

55 Compare Digby, Simon, ‘Abd-ul-Quddus Gangohi (1456–1537): The Personality and Attitudes of a Medieval Indian Sufi’, Medieval India: A Miscellany III (Bombay 1975) 28.

56 Ibidem, 30; Makhtubat-i Quddusiya, letter to Sikandar Lodi.

57 Ibidem, 33–34; Makhtubat-i Quddusiya, letter to Babur.

58 Allah, Shah Muhibb was, however, an exception. Compare Digby, ‘Abd-ul-Quddus Gangohi’, 1214.

59 Makhtubat-i Imam Rabbani.

62 Alaud-Daula Simnani (1261–1336) was the first to challenge the concept of Wahdat-ul-wujud in Iran. Simnani had a large number of disciples, some of whom visited India and influenced Saiyd Muhammad Gesu Daraz (d. 1422).

63 Compare Rizvi, , History of Sufism 11.

64 Compare Faruqi, Burhan Ahmad, The Mujaddid's Conception of Tauhid (Lahore 1940).

65 Zia-Ud-Din Barani, Sahifa-i Nat-i Muhammadi and Nizami, , Studies in Medieval Indian History and Culture, 23 for Iltutmish, ; Tarikh-i Firoz Shahi, 289292 and Habib, Muhammad and Nizami, K.A. eds., A Comprehensive History of India V (Delhi 1970) 362366 for Ala-ud-Din's conversation with Qazi Mughis.

66 Barani, , Tarikh-i Firoz Shahi, 216.

67 Hasan, Agha Mahdi, Tughlaq Dynasty (reprint; Delhi 1976) and Nigam, S.B.P., Nobility under the Sultans of Delhi (Delhi 1968) 7492 for Hindu officials under the Tughlaqs; Tarikh-i Farishta for Sikandar's introduction of Persian for Hindus.

68 Compare Political Theory of the Delhi Sultanate, an English translation of Barani's Fatawa-i Jahandari by Habib, Muhammad and Begam, Afsar Jahan. See also the text edited by Ms. Khan, A. Salim (Lahore 1972) 217231.

69 Badaoni, , Munlakhab-ul-tawarikh II. English tr. by W.H. Low, 253.

70 Francois Bernier, Travels in the Mogul Empire, 1656–1668. English tr. by A. Constable (reprint; New Delhi 1972) 303.

71 Ibidem, 306.

72 Ibidem, 313–314.

73 Compare Baini Prasad, History of Jahangir (reprint; Allahabad 1962) 202231.

74 Compare Sarkar, J.N., Fall of the Mughul Empire II (reprint; Delhi 1971) 395396; Ibidem III (reprint; Delhi 1975) 20–22, 196–222.Wink, Andre, Land and Sovereignty in India: Agrarian Society and Politics under the Eighteenth-Century Svarajya (Cambridge 1986) 41.

75 Bernier, , Travels in the Mogul Empire, 336.

76 Ibidem, 334.

77 Ibidem, 321.

78 Even though Tahirid established the first Persian dynasty in Khorasan, the SafTarids (867–892), the Samanids (874–999) and the Buyids (934–1055) were the first consciously Persian principalities. The Samanids claimed to be the descendants of the pre-Islamic Sassanid nobleman, Saman, while the Buyids mentioned Yezdger, a Sassanid king, as their ancestor. Rudaki and Daqiqi, the first Persian poets were patronised by the Samanids. Later, the Turks, the Ghaznavidss, the Seljuqs and the Khwarizmshahis became enthusiastic patrons of Persian language and culture. Compare Brown, E.J., A Literary History of Persia II (Cambridge 1964).

79 Compare Shahnama: The Epic of the Kings. English tr. by Levy, Reaben; rev. by Banani, Amin (London 1967) particularly the last sections. The poet's support to the Ajam is illustrated in the letter he mentions to have been written by Rustam to Sa'd bin Wiqas.

80 Compare Sircar, D.C., Selected Inscriptions II (Delhi 1983) 650664;Gupta, P.L., Coins (Delhi 1969) 204205, Nos. 215–218. I owe to my colleague, B.D. Chattopadhyaya for these references.

* I am grateful to Susan Bayly, N. Bhattacharya, D.H.A. Kolff, Satish Saberwal and Romilia I hapar for comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

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III. Competition and Co-existence: Indo-Islamic Interaction in Medieval North India*

  • Muzaffar Alam (a1)


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