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Local Nodes of a Transnational Network: a case study of a Shi‘i family in Awadh, 1900–1950

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 March 2014

MUHAMMAD AMIR AHMAD KHAN*
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge, maak@cam.ac.uk

Abstract

This article studies two generations of the Mahmudabad family, which was one of the largest Muslim landholding families in India: Maharaja Sir Muhammad ‘Ali Muhammad Khan and Raja Muhammad Amir Ahmad Khan. The family were Twelver Shi‘as and hailed from Mahmudabad in Awadh. Specifically, it shows how intra-community links of marriage and kinship facilitated a flow of ideas, information and people and therefore created new networks. The article then explores these connections through the example of the Madrasa’t-ul Wa‘izeen, which was founded by the Maharaja and its two main publications, Al-Wa‘iz, an Urdu magazine and the English language The Muslim Review. The founding of the madrasa also demonstrates the importance of ideology, pilgrimage, preaching and their corresponding networks. These relationships are analysed keeping in mind local, national and transnational institutions and the role these played in creating ties between Mahmudabad, Lucknow and the wider Muslim world. This article thus presents a typology of a particular kind of Muslim transnationalism, showing how family, marriage, ideology and the importance of preaching mutually reinforced each other. The larger goal is to show how this family could be both ‘rooted’ in the local while also being part of the transnational Muslim community.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Royal Asiatic Society 2014 

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References

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8 The shamshir, a curved sword similar to a scimitar, was originally given to the treasury of the shrine of Imam ‘Ali in Najaf by Fateh ‘Ali Shah Qajar and according to its cartouches, or toranj in Farsi, was crafted by a man called ‘Imad Isphahani on the orders of Shah ‘Abbas-i Safavi I (1571–1629 ce) who referred to himself as the Banda-i Shah-i Wilayat, the servant of Imam ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib. Perhaps the sword was ordered when the Shah moved his capital from Qazvin to Isphahan in 1598. It is still worn by the Raja of Mahmudabad during various ceremonies in Muharram or on days when the martyrdom of one of the Imams is commemorated. The sword is symbolic of a direct link between the wearer and the shrine of the Imam but is also a sign of the authority it bestows on the owner because of its belonging to the treasury of the Imam.

9 Original sanad document of the Waqf-i Madrasa-i Ahmadiya in the archives of the office of the Madrasa’t-ul Wa‘izeen.

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23 Registered Waqf Deed in Archives of the Office of the Board of Trustees, Madrasa’t-ul Wa‘izeen.

24 Original statement by the Secretary of the All India Shi‘a Conference, Sayyid Amir Hasan Forogh Lucknawi, Shia College News (Lucknow), 23 January 1920, p. 1.

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31 Records found in the archives of the Madrasa’t-ul Wa‘izeen in the Office of the Board of Trustees.

32 Although five people constitute the Board of Trustees, the registered waqf deed stipulates that the chairman and the managing trustee must be the person who occupies the Mahmudabad masnad, or ‘seat’. The Maharaja made decisions pertaining to the day-to-day running of the madrasa directly or through an authorised deputy and therefore it is assumed that the views expressed in articles in The Muslim Review were also espoused by the Maharaja. See the waqf deed present in the office of the secretary to the Board of Trustees in Madrasa’t-ul Wa‘izeen.

33 Robinson, F., Separatism Among Indian Muslims: The Politics of the United Provinces’ Muslims, 1860–1923 (Cambridge, 1974), p. 56 Google Scholar.

34 The increasing need felt by certain Muslim groups to send missionaries or preachers out to ‘spread the faith’ seems to have been very much characteristic of the time. Just four years later, Muhammad Ilyas founded the Tablighi Jama‘at, which perhaps most openly reflected such efforts at proselytisation. See Masud, K.M. (ed.), Travellers in Faith: Studies of the Tablighi Jama‘at as a transnational Islamic movement for faith renewal (Leiden, 2000)Google Scholar.

35 Report in Al-Wa‘iz (Lucknow), 22, 55, Nov 1942, pp. 2–3.

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37 Report in Al-Wa‘iz (Lucknow), 5, 7, March 1926, p. 6.

38 Report in Al-Wa‘iz (Lucknow), 22, 55, Nov 1942, pp. 2–3.

39 A nineteenth-century sect, whose founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835–1908), claimed to be the awaited Messiah and a prophet of Islam.

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42 In more recent history, the reader will remember the murder of Saiyid ‘Abdul Majid al-Khoe’i on his return to Najaf in 2003. Al-Khoe’i had gone to meet the killidar of the shrine from Saddam's era and the crowd which later lynched both men had initially wanted al-Khoe’i to hand over Haider ar-Rufai‘i, whose family had a long tradition of being the key keepers of the shrine.

43 Dhamima-i Tarikh-i Mahmudabad, p. 181.

44 Ibid ,. p. 186.

Ibid

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46 The Muslim Review (Lucknow), 2, 3, March 1928, p. 61.

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48 For example please refer to the back inside cover of The Muslim Review (Lucknow), 8, 5, May 1931.

49 Indeed, the importance of this was later made clear when the first chapter of The Pirpur Report dealt specifically with this issue. See Mehdi, Raja Sayyid Muhammad of Pirpur, Report of the Inquiry Committee appointed by The Council of the All India Muslim League to Inquire into Muslim Grievances in Congress Provinces (Lucknow, 1938)Google Scholar.

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58 The declaration that is recited when converting to Islam.

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60 Khan, Muhammad Amir Ahmad, ‘Some Memories’, in The Partition of India, (eds.) Phillips, H.C. and Wainwright, M. D. (Aberdeen, 1970), p. 387 Google Scholar. Please also refer to the Pirpur Report for a more detailed discussion of the differences between Congress leaders on the language issue, see Raja Sayyid Mohamad Mehdi of Pirpur, Report of the Inquiry Committee, pp. 28–36.

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62 Naqavi, “An Appeal to Gandhiji”, p. 23.

63 Ibid ., p. 55.

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82 Ibid ., p. 349.

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84 The Raja was an Indian national until 1957 when he became a Pakistani citizen.

85 Fisher, “Political marriage alliances”, p. 593.

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87 Minault and Lelyveld, “The Campaign for a Muslim University, 1898–1920”, p. 145.

88 Jones, Shi‘a Islam in Colonial India, pp. 114–146.

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