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Political Power, Religious Authority, and the Caliphate in Eighteenth-Century Indian Islamic Thought



This article examines how Shah Wali Allah of Delhi (d. 1762), one of the most prominent scholars of eighteenth-century India whose thought has continued to be influential in many Muslim circles to the present day, conceptualized the interplay of political power and religious authority. Though several of Wali Allah's numerous writings have received considerable scholarly attention, this aspect of his political and religious thought has, oddly, been much neglected. A close reading of Wali Allah's writings reveals him to be keenly interested not just in the immediately relevant issues of the chronic political instability afflicting his age but also in the broader, theoretical, questions of how political power undergirds the moral force of religious norms and institutions. It is his unusually blunt but robust recognition that power is part of what enables a religious tradition to evolve and change that this article explores. That recognition—buried in writings that purport to be about the merits of Islam's first caliphs—has other important implications, too, notably for an understanding of the broad political context in which the sacred law itself undergoes change.



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1 Jalbani, G. N., Teachings of Shah Waliyullah (Lahore, 1967), p. 109.

2 Notable works on Wali Allah's life and thought include: Rizvi, Saiyid Athar Abbas, Shah Wali-Allah and his Times (Lahore, 2004; first published in 1980); Baljon, J. M. S., Religion and Thought of Shah Wali Allah Dihlawi 1703–1762 (Leiden, 1986); Chaghatai, M. Ikram (ed.), Shah Waliullah (1703–1762): His Religious and Political Thought (Lahore, 2005); and Dallal, Ahmad, Islam without Europe: Traditions of Reform in Eighteenth-Century Islamic Thought (Chapel Hill, 2018). Dallal's work is a comparative study of several notable scholars and activists of the eighteenth century, of whom Wali Allah is one; he does not, however, say much specifically about Wali Allah's political thought. Three notable articles relating to various aspects of Wali Allah's political thought are worth mentioning, too: Habib, Irfan, “The Political Role of Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi and Shah Waliullah”, Proceedings of the Indian History Congress xxiii (1960), pp. 209223; Ahmad, Aziz, “An Eighteenth-Century Theory of the Caliphate”, Studia Islamica xxviii (1968), pp. 135144; and Syros, Vasileios, “An Early Modern South Asian Thinker on the Rise and Decline of Empires: Shah Wali Allah of Delhi, the Mughals, and the Byzantines”, Journal of World History xxiii (2013), pp. 793840.

3 On the question of why Nadir Shah had decided not to stay and rule in India, see Abhishek Kaicker, “Unquiet City: Making and Unmaking Politics in Mughal Delhi, 1707–39” (unpublished PhD dissertation, Columbia University, 2014), pp. 475–577.

4 On ijtihad in eighteenth-century thought, see Dallal, Islam without Europe, pp. 56–93.

5 Mann, Michael, The Sources of Social Power, i: A History of Power from the Beginning to AD 1760 (Cambridge, 2012; first published in 1986), p. 6.

6 For the two quotations, see ibid., pp. 26 and xiii.

7 Zaman, Muhammad Qasim, Modern Islamic Thought in a Radical Age: Religious Authority and Internal Criticism (Cambridge, 2012), p. 29.

8 Mann, Michael, The Sources of Social Power, ii: The Rise of Classes and Nation-States, 1760–1915 (Cambridge, 2012; first published in 1993), p. 7.

9 Since its first printing in 1869, this book has been published in its original Arabic in a number of editions. I use Allah, Shah Wali, Hujjat Allah al-baligha, (ed.) Sa`id Ahmad Palanpuri, 2 vols. (Karachi, 2010), hereafter cited as HA. Only the first volume of this work has been translated into English: Hermansen, Marcia K., The Conclusive Argument from God: Shah Wali Allah of Delhi's Hujjat Allah al-baligha (Islamabad, 2003; first published in 1996). Where available, I follow Hermansen's translation, with occasional modifications.

10 When it comes to sociological theories of power and authority, the best-known Muslim theorist of all times is, of course, the North African historian Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406). Ibn Khaldun is famous for the idea that group solidarity (`asabiyya) is a key force underlying political organisation and, specifically, state formation; that this sense of solidarity, at its purest among tribal people, weakens over the course of several generations and so, concomitantly, does the dynasty that had come to power with its aid; and that religious movements, too, need such solidarity if they are to succeed. The last mentioned point has some parallels with Wali Allah's theorisation of the relationship between religious and political power, though he seems not to have been acquainted with Ibn Khaldun.

11 HA, i, pp. 335–341; Hermansen, Conclusive Argument, pp. 340–345. Abrogation refers, in Islamic theology, to the idea that a scriptural revelation sent down by God upon a prophet is superseded by a subsequent revelation given to another, later prophet. So far as the Qur'an itself is concerned, it also refers to the setting aside, in terms of legal import, of a chronologically earlier passage by one deemed to have been revealed to Muhammad at a later point in his prophetical career. It should also be noted here that translating din as religion is not without difficulties. Doing so ignores certain connotations of the Arabic term and brings in others from a modern, Western, Christian context. (See Ahmed, Shahab, What is Islam? The Importance of Being Islamic [Princeton, 2016], pp. 176245.) Yet, in the absence of a clearly better alternative, it remains a serviceable rendering.

12 HA, i, p. 339; Hermansen, Conclusive Argument, pp. 343–344. Cf. Allah, Shah Wali, al-Budur al-bazigha, (ed.) Ma`sumi, Saghir Hasan (Hyderabad, 1970), p. 266. The passage from Hujjat Allah al-baligha is also quoted in Habib, “Political Role”, p. 217. Connotations of the term “imam”—leader—can range, as they would in this article, from a prophet to those the Shi`a regard as the rightful successors of the Prophet Muhammad to the Sunni caliph or other rulers to the person leading the congregational prayer.

13 HA, i, p. 340; Hermansen, Conclusive Argument, p. 344 (with modification).

14 HA, i, p. 340; Hermansen, Conclusive Argument, p. 344. Habib, “Political Role”, p. 217, quotes this passage, too, but understands it rather differently.

15 HA, i, p. 340; Hermansen, Conclusive Argument, p. 345 (modified, and emphasis added).

16 HA, i, p. 142; cf. Hermansen, Conclusive Argument, p. 133. Given that the idea of maslaha—of people's interest—is central to Wali Allah's understanding of the sacred law, it is remarkable that he shows himself here to have a quite malleable, even opportunistic, understanding of it. Also see Wali Allah, al-Budur, 97–98; ibid., p. 98, on the imam's making it known (izhar) that he is guided by considerations of maslaha in punishing or rewarding the recalcitrant. The context in which Wali Allah makes his point about maslaha in the Hujjat Allah is worth noting, too (HA, i, pp. 141–142; cf. Hermansen, Conclusive Argument, pp. 132–133). Here the ruler is presented in relation to his subjects as the hunter skillfully hunting deer by employing all manner of tricks, including forage and melody, to draw them to himself. Though he does not say so, Wali Allah is apparently evoking the legend of the ancient Persian king Bahram V (r. 420-438), an avid hunter, and his slave girl, Dilaram. Dilaram could put animals to sleep through her melodies. Wali Allah does refer elsewhere to the legend of Bahram and Dilaram: al-Budur, p. 119. For the relevant portion of this legend, see Khusraw, Amir (d. 1325), Khamsa (Tehran, 1983), pp. 598600.

17 HA, i, p. 339; Hermansen, Conclusive Argument, p. 343.

18 Shah Wali Allah, Izalat al-khafa `an khilafat al-khulafa, 4 vols (Karachi, n.d.), i, p. 166. For the full discussion here, ibid., i, pp. 163–172. This book is cited hereafter as IK. Unless otherwise noted, translations from the Qur'an are based, with occasional modification, on Haleem, M.A.S. Abdel, The Qur'an: A New Translation (Oxford, 2004).

19 Quoted in IK, ii, pp. 628, 645, etc. This rendering of the Qur'anic verse is that of Arberry, A. J. in his The Koran Interpreted, 2 vols. (New York, 1996).

20 Quoted in IK, ii, p. 590, among other places.

21 IK, i, p. 170. Also see Allah, Shah Wali, Qurrat al-`aynayn fi tafdil al-shaykhayn (Lahore, 1976), pp. 156, 160161. This work is cited hereafter as QA.

22 IK, i, p. 170.

23 Cf. IK, ii, p. 198. There is some ambiguity in Wali Allah's work on just how much the reigns of `Uthman and `Ali count towards the unique qualities of the Rashidun caliphate as a whole. On the one hand, the Sunnis have long set aside all four of the Rashidun as exceptional in their virtues; and though his Caliphal Rule speaks relatively briefly of the special merit of `Uthman and `Ali, it does talk about all four caliphs and it celebrates the uniqueness of their era. On the other hand, it is really only Abu Bakr and `Umar who are the Prophet's “limbs”. `Uthman's reign is seen as marred by dissension in the community and by what proved to be an enduring schism in the history of Islam; and `Ali's failings clearly disqualify him from being an extension of the prophetical age. In keeping with that view, Wali Allah's Coolness of the Eyes is, indeed, limited to the virtues only of the first two Rashidun. Even so, Wali Allah does include `Uthman with his two predecessors in contrasting their successes—e.g., in the matter of the early conquests—with `Ali's failures. See QA, p. 222.

24 QA, pp. 112–13. Cf. HA, ii, 93.

25 IK, ii, p. 628; QA, pp. 162–163.

26 IK, ii, p. 428.

27 IK, ii, pp. 428–429. The “completed” way is an allusion to Qur'an 5.3.

28 IK, ii, pp. 553–554, 572.

29 Tusi, Nasir al-din, Akhlaq-i Nasiri (eds.), Mujtaba Minavi and `Ali-Riza Haydari (Tehran, 1982), p. 254; translation as in Wickens, G.M., The Nasirean Ethics (London, 1964), p. 192.

30 For a succinct overview of his life and work, see The Encyclopedia of Islam, 2nd edition. (Leiden, 1960–2002), s.v. “al-Tusi, Nasir al-din” (by H. Daiber and F. J. Ragep).

31 IK, i, pp. 93–94.

32 For some illustrations from the city of Lahore in contemporary Pakistan, see Khan, Naveeda, Muslim Becoming: Aspiration and Skepticism in Pakistan (Durham, 2012), pp. 2154.

33 Khan, Khafi, Muntakhab al-lubab, (ed.) Ahmad, Kabir al-din, 2 vols. (Calcutta, 1869–74), ii, pp. 664665. For a discussion of this episode, and of other unrest caused by this decree, see Kaicker, “Unquiet City”, pp. 389–416.

34 Elsewhere, Wali Allah endorses a more peaceable practice, quoting a prophetical statement to the effect that the person who delivers the call to prayer (azan) should also be the one who utters the second call (iqama) immediately prior to the ritual prayer. The reasoning behind this, Wali Allah says, is that “his brethren should not contest with him in what he has sought of legitimate benefits [of piety]”. This is analogous, Wali Allah says, to the Prophet's teaching to not court someone who is already engaged. HA, i, p. 191. This is not necessarily irreconcilable with his view about the dislodged preacher, however. For while the Prophet may be taken to have disliked the idea of forcibly dislodging a preacher, once the action had taken place, the person occupying the position would be the one deemed worthy of God's reward. Likewise, as reprehensible as it might be for someone to court an already engaged woman, he would be the lawful husband if he were able to marry the woman despite her previous engagement.

35 Bilgrami, Rafat, “Shaykh `Abd al-Wahhab and His Family under `Alamgir”, Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society xxxi (1983), pp. 100114, at pp. 101–102.

36 Quoted in Sarkar, Jadunath, History of Aurangzeb, 5 vols. (Calcutta, 1912–30), iii, p. 154.

37 IK, i, 96–98. On the making of the `Uthmanic codex and the controversies surrounding it, see Encyclopedia of the Qur'an, (ed.) J.D. McAuliffe (Leiden, 2001–7), s.v. “Collection of the Qur'an” (by J. Burton).

38 For an overview of political thought in early and medieval Islam, see Crone, Patricia, God's Rule: Six Centuries of Medieval Islamic Political Thought (New York, 2004); on Mawardi, see esp. pp. 232–233.

39 For an insightful discussion of Ibn Taymiyya's political thought in relation to earlier juristic and theological traditions, see Anjum, Ovamir, Politics, Law, and Community in Islamic Thought: The Taymiyyan Moment (Cambridge, 2012).

40 See Wali Allah's letter to Mu`in al-din Thattawi regarding Ibn Taymiyya in Allah, Shah Wali, Maktubat-i Farsi (Delhi, n.d.), pp. 6168.

41 See El-Rouayheb, Khaled, Islamic Intellectual History in the Seventeenth Century: Scholarly Currents in the Ottoman Empire and the Maghreb (Cambridge, 2015), pp. 272311, esp. pp. 307–311.

42 Taymiyya, Ibn, Minhaj al-sunna al-nabawiyya fi naqd al-kalam al-Shi`a wa'l-qadariyya, 4 vols. (Bulaq, 1903–4), i, pp. 141–2. For another translation of the fuller passage, see Anjum, Politics, pp. 263–4. “This attention to power”, Anjum observes, “is what makes Ibn Taymiyya's thought essentially political” (ibid., p. 264, emphasis in the original), in contrast with theorists like Mawardi, who had “ritualized” the office of the caliph at a time when he had lost all effective power. Ibid., pp. 93–136.

43 Ibn Taymiyya, Minhaj, ii, p. 135.

44 IK, i, pp. 88–89.

45 IK, i, p. 23: anyone who meets the qualifications for being a caliph and is elevated to that office through a contract (`aqd) with his electors is a rightly-guided caliph (khalifa-i rashid). On the qualifications in question—that the caliph be sane; adult; male; free; not handicapped in terms of sight, speech, and hearing; courageous; just; not guilty of grave sins; skilled in matters of the law to the extent of being a mujtahid (one capable of undertaking ijtihad) and that he belongs to, that is, is descended from the tribe of the Quraysh—see IK, i, pp. 17–23. Also see HA, ii, p. 149.

46 IK, ii, p. 330. Cf. Ahmad, “An Eighteenth-Century Theory”, p. 144.

47 IK, ii, p. 332.

48 QA, p. 9.

49 IK, ii, pp. 332–334.

50 QA, p. 329.

51 QA, pp. 330–331.

52 A key difference between a prophet and other exalted instruments of God's design is that the prophet, unlike the others, requires no prior training at the hands of other people. QA, p. 329.

53 Cf. QA, p. 329. Also see ibid., p. 325.

54 QA, pp. 324–325.

55 Isma`il, Muhammad, Mansib-i imamat (Delhi, 1899), pp. 7778. Also see ibid., pp. 80–81, on never giving up hope about the reemergence of the rightly-guided caliphate. For a discussion of Isma`il's Mansib-i imamat, see Tareen, SherAli, Contesting Muhammad in Modernity (Notre Dame, 2019), pp. 104121. Tareen, too, quotes part of this passage from Isma`il; see ibid., pp. 109–110.

56 On the figure of the Mahdi—the righteous guide the Sunnis believe would make his appearance towards the end of time—see Isma`il, Mansib-i imamat, pp. 71, 78–79. The Twelver Shi`a identify the Mahdi with the twelfth of their twelve imams, who had gone into hiding in the late ninth century and whose advent would help undo the wrongs that the Shi`a have endured throughout their history. On Sayyid Ahmad of Rae Bareli, see Gaborieau, Marc, Le Mahdi incompris: Sayyid Ahmad Barelwi (1786–1831) et le millénarisme en Inde (Paris, 2010).

57 IK, iv, pp. 276–277. Others he mentions include: among Sufi masters, Baha al-Din Naqshband (d. 1390), a founding figure of the Naqshbandi Sufi order; among hadith narrators, the Prophet's companion Abu Hurayra (d. 677 or 678); and among early reciters of the Qur'an, `Asim (d. 745) and Nafi` (d. 785 or 786). IK, iv, p. 277. In his acclaimed biography of `Umar, the modernist scholar Shibli Nu`mani (d. 1914) ends his book with this passage from Wali Allah: Nu`mani, Shibli, al-Faruq, 2 vols. (Azamgarh, 1956; first published in 1898): ii, pp. 290–91. I will return to this work later in this article.

58 IK, iii, p. 308. On `Umar's jurisprudence, see ibid., iii, pp. 308–528.

59 Wali Allah, IK, iii, p. 526. Also quoted in Nu`mani, al-Faruq, ii, p. 126. In the case of the Prophet Muhammad, too, Wali Allah considered a variety of roles—wielder of political power (“caliph”), scholar and teacher, spiritual guide—combined in his person, unlike the other prophets who embodied one or another of those personas. IK, ii, pp. 338–339. On another combination of qualities in the person of a prophet, see ibid., ii, pp. 586–587. Here the qualities mentioned are four—those of a king; of practical rationality (hikmat-i `amali); of a Sufi guide; and of the angel Gabriel (whereby he serves as an instrument of God, the means through which divine knowledge is transmitted to others).

60 IK, iii, pp. 527–528. The unified authority that Wali Allah speaks of with reference to the first two Rashidun does not, however, preclude a separation of powers. As he observes with reference to `Umar, the caliph had appointed separate officials in his garrison towns to the positions of governor, judge, treasurer, etc. to ensure that they would keep a watchful eye over one another's missteps. Ibid., iii, p. 237. Nor does it preclude a difference of opinion, which had existed under the first Rashidun, too. But there is a distinction to be made, Wali Allah notes, between a disagreement that is eventually resolved in the form of a consensus and a disagreement that takes the form of an enduring polarisation. Ibid., i, p. 509 (criticising the medieval heresiographer Shahrastani [d. 1153] for the view that the latter kind of disagreement had appeared in the community already at the death of the Prophet).

61 See Kahn, Paul W., Political Theology: Four New Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty (New York, 2011), p. 48.

62 Schmitt, Carl, Political Theology, (trans.) Schwab, George (Chicago, 1985), p. 5.

63 On `Umar's prohibition of mut`a, see IK, iii, p. 430; QA, pp. 265–266. On this practice and the debates on it, see Encyclopedia of Islam, 2nd edition., s.v. “Mut`a” (by W. Heffening).

64 QA, p. 265.

65 QA, p. 265.

66 See IK, iii, pp. 480–487. For a sampling of traditions relating to `Umar's decision, see Yusuf, Abu, Kitab al-kharaj, (ed.) `Abbas, Ihsan (Beirut, 1985), pp. 116–35.

67 QA, pp. 59–60. Cf. ibid., p. 134, for a similar point with reference to both Abu Bakr and `Umar.

68 QA, pp. 165–166.

69 Kahn, Political Theology, p. 52.

70 Tusi, Akhlaq, pp. 283–284; (trans.) Wickens, Nasirean Ethics, p. 214.

71 IK, iii, p. 527. For this hadith, see al-Khatib al-Tabrizi, Mishkat al-masabih, (ed.) Muhammad Nasir al-din al-Albani, 3 vols. (Damascus, 1961), iii, p. 219 (# 6009).

72 IK, i, pp. 564, 567, 570; quotation at p. 567.

73 IK, i, p. 570. On the “subtle roots”, which relate to mystical exercises in the Naqshbandi Sufi tradition, see Schimmel, Annemarie, Mystical Dimensions of Islam (Chapel Hill, 1975), p. 174.

74 See al-`Arabi, Ibn, al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya, ed. Yahya, `Uthman, 13 vols. (Cairo, 1972–88), xi, p. 275 (#271). Quoted in QA, p. 322. Ibn al-`Arabi (d. 1240) is an important influence on Wali Allah's Sufi thought.

75 Shah Wali Allah, Fuyud al-Haramayn, Arabic text with parallel Urdu translation (Delhi, n.d.), p. 67.

76 Wali Allah, Fuyud, pp. 67–68. Also see Allah, Wali, al-Tafhimat al-Ilahiyya, (ed.) al-Qasimi, Ghulam Mustafa, 2 vols. (Hyderabad, 1967–70), i, pp. 89 (#1).

77 Wali Allah, Fuyud, p. 68. For another, somewhat different, articulation of the difference between the zahiri and the batini caliphates, see IK, ii, pp. 339–341. Here Wali Allah notes that the caliphate has an outer and an inner dimension. The outer dimension consists in political power (saltanat wa farmanrawa'i) and the inner dimension is that which is modelled on the Prophet's ways. Ibid., ii, p. 339. To combine the outer and the inner dimensions of the caliphate, he says, is to turn it into the exclusive caliphate (khilafat-i khassa), which is how he refers to the Rashidun elsewhere. Ibid., ii, p. 341; cf. ii, p. 198. The exclusive caliphate, he says, is a form of sainthood (wilaya), indeed, the closest form of wilaya to prophethood itself. Ibid., ii, p. 341.

78 Wali Allah, Fuyud al-haramayn, pp. 65–66.

79 Yilmaz, Hüseyin, Caliphate Redefined: The Mystical Turn in Ottoman Political Thought (Princeton, 2018). On the distinction between zahiri and batini power, as found in fifteenth century (and later) Ottoman political thought, see ibid., pp. 133–134, 140.

80 Cf. Wali Allah, Altaf al-quds, p. 16.

81 QA, pp. 327–328.

82 QA, p. 328.

83 Wali Allah, Fuyud, p. 88.

84 Nizami, Khaliq Ahmad (ed.), Shah Wali Allah ke siyasi maktubat (Delhi, 1969), p. 24 (letter #8, addressed to Najib al-Dawla). On Najib al-Dawla and the Rohillas, see Husain, Iqbal, The Ruhela Chieftaincies: The Rise and Fall of Ruhela Power in India in the Eighteenth Century (Delhi, 1994); on Najib al-Dawla's patronage of Muslim religious scholars and his relationship with Wali Allah, ibid., pp. 94–95, 208–209. Cf. Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions, 270.

85 Isma`il, Mansib-i imamat, pp. 66–67.

86 IK, i, p. 610.

87 IK, i, p. 610. Takhrij is a well-established mechanism for the derivation of rulings. On it, see Hallaq, Wael, Authority, Continuity and Change in Islamic Law (Cambridge, 2001), pp. 4356. That Wali Allah refers to it in this way is clearly meant to underscore his poor view of the inherited juridical tradition. It also represents an attack on the authority of his contemporary jurists. The same is true of tafri`, which refers to the jurists’ systematic working out of substantive law (furu`).

88 QA, p. 222.

89 QA, p. 331.

90 Allah, Shah Wali, `Iqd al-jid fi ahkam al-ijtihad wal-taqlid, (ed.) al-Khatib, Muhibb al-din (Cairo, 1965), pp. 3, 34; (trans.) Hermansen, Marcia, Shah Wali Allah's Treatises on Islamic Law (Louisville, 2010), pp. 78, 131.

91 Wali Allah, `Iqd, pp. 23–7; Hermansen, Shah Wali Allah's Treatises, pp. 113–120.

92 Isma`il, Mansib-i imamat, p. 84.

93 Ibid., pp. 94–97. On this “just” sultan not touching the sunna and not attempting a change in the community's already settled religious laws (taghayyur-i ahkam-i millat), see ibid., p. 97. On his concerning himself with things on which a specific shari`a ruling does not exist, see ibid., p. 94.

94 Ibid., p. 95.

95 Ibid., p. 96.

96 Cf. ibid., pp. 95–96.

97 Ibid., pp. 96–97.

98 Ibid., p. 98.

99 The other types that he mentions are the despotic (jabira) sultanate, the deviant (dalla) sultanate, and the sultanate of unbelief (kufr). A ruler belonging to the first of these types often steps outside the sphere of the shari`a in pursuit of his ends and shows no remorse at so doing; the second of these types goes to great excess in contravening shari`a norms; and the third enacts laws that rival and displace the shari`a. For a summary characterisation of these types, see ibid., p. 93; for a detailed treatment, ibid., pp. 104–126; and for a discussion, Tareen, Defending Muhammad, pp. 112–19.

100 Ibid., p. 94.

101 Crone, Patricia, Slaves on Horses: The Evolution of the Islamic Polity (Cambridge, 1980), p. 63.

102 Also see Anjum, Politics, pp. 188–189 and n. 56, on Ibn Taymiyya's “political optimism”.

103 Nu`mani was unimpressed by the Izalat al-khafa as a reliable historical source: al-Faruq, i, 14, 19. For a sampling of Nu`mani's references to this work, see ibid., ii, pp. 116, 126, 163, 209, 211, 213–214, 216–219, 226, 259–260, 272, 289–291.

104 For instance, see ibid., ii, pp. 109–129. It is also worth noting that Nu`mani highlights `Umar's practice of consulting the companions of the Prophet on particular matters much more than does Wali Allah. Wali Allah, too, speaks of it (e.g., IK, iii, 358–359), but he adds a crucial qualification: “When the time arrived for the exclusive (khassa) caliphate, the two elders [shaykhayn, i.e., Abu Bakr and `Umar] clarified in numerous sittings the difference between prophethood and the caliphate, widening, in sum, the path of consultation in matters susceptible of ijtihad [that is, matters not already determined by the Qur'an and the Prophet] and of following the hadith reports in light of their presumed meaning (mazann). Nonetheless, once the caliph had resolved upon a matter, there was no room for opposition to it. In all such matters, people did not cast about here and there; without informing themselves of the caliph's view, they did not settle upon anything. Consequently, in that age, disagreement among the paths [or schools: madhahib] of law and the scattering of views did not occur. Everyone was agreed on a single way and gathered together on a single path (rah), which was the way and the view of the caliph”. IK, iii, p. 526. Nu`mani, al-Faruq, ii, p. 126, quotes part of this passage, but does not comment on the question of the power dynamics that is central to Wali Allah's analysis. On Nu`mani's exaggerating `Umar's consultative practices, see Ikram, Shaykh Muhammad, Yadgar-i Shibli (Lahore, 1971), p. 210.

105 Nu`mani, al-Faruq, ii, p. 245. For the full passage, see al-Tabari, Ta'rikh al-rusul wa'l-muluk, (ed.) M. J. De Goeje (Leiden, 1879–1901), i, pp. 2760–2762; (trans.) Smith, G. Rex, The History of al-Tabari, xiv, The Conquest of Iran (Albany, 1994), pp. 126128. The passage is quoted in full in Wali Allah, IK, iv, pp. 222–225.

106 Nu`mani and Sayyid Ahmad Khan were not necessarily in agreement, however, in how they viewed the history of Islam. For instance, as Nu`mani's biographer, Sayyid Sulayman Nadwi (d. 1953) notes, Khan tended to see `Umar essentially as a political successor of the Prophet whereas Nu`mani sought to highlight a fuller spectrum of `Umar's personality and career. Nadwi, Sayyid Sulayman, Hayat-i Shibli (Azamgarh, 1943), pp. 289290. Nadwi does not comment on Nu`mani's inattention to the interplay of power and authority in `Umar's career.

107 Nizami (ed.), Siyasi maktubat, pp. 19–28 (letters #4-9, to Najib al-Dawla); ibid., pp. 55–61 (#28-32, to Nizam al-Mulk Asaf Jah). On Nizam al-Mulk, see Faruqui, Munis D., “At Empire's End: The Nizam, Hyderabad and Eighteenth-Century India”, in Expanding Frontiers in South Asian and World History: Essays in Honour of John F. Richards, (eds.) Eaton, Richard M., Faruqui, Munis D., Gilmartin, David, and Kumar, Sunil (Delhi, 2013), pp. 138.

108 For the text of this letter, which is addressed to “a Muslim sultan” but seems likely to have been intended for Ahmad Shah Abdali, see Nizami (ed.), Siyasi maktubat, pp. 6–17 (letter #2). On Abdali as the addressee of this letter, see Nizami's introduction in ibid., pp. 51–54 (independent pagination).

109 See Nizami (ed.), Siyasi maktubat, pp. 42–44, 51–54 (editor's introduction).

110 See Jalal, Ayesha, Partisans of Allah: Jihad in South Asia (Cambridge, 2008), pp. 5357.

111 Cf. Habib, “Political Role”, p. 219.

112 Nizami's edition, Siyasi maktubat, limits itself to Wali Allah's “political letters”. Two fuller collections (though omitting those that Nizami had already published), are: Faridi, Nasim Ahmad (ed.), Makatib-i Hazrat Shah Wali Allah Muhaddith Dihlawi, compiled by Phulati, `Abd al-Rahman and Phulati, Muhammad `Ashiq, 2 vols. (Rampur, 2004); and al-Salam, Shah `Abd (ed.), Maktubat al-Shaykh al-Shah Wali Allah al-Dihlawi wa awladihi wa mu`asirihi (Rampur, 2010).

113 Following Wali Allah's distinction between two kinds of prophetical knowledge—that relating specifically to religious norms and that concerning worldly matters, with no bearing on the faith itself (HA, i, pp. 360–363)―Nu`mani credits `Umar with being the first to make this distinction. In turn, this distinction would allow certain areas of the law to remain receptive to change. al-Faruq, ii, pp. 217–20. Once again, Nu`mani's concern here is to note the existence of a quasi-secular arena of continuing legislation rather than to relate such legislation, let alone any other kind, to political power.

114 I thank the outside readers for their helpful comments on this article.

Political Power, Religious Authority, and the Caliphate in Eighteenth-Century Indian Islamic Thought



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