Hello, I am Brijendra Singh; I have done my PGDM course from I.I.S.E Business School Lucknow. I am not a student of history but I like to read history due to my interest. In this article I have tried to provide some facts related to Emperor Aurangzeb. His image as a person and as a ruler is negative among the Indian citizens, but I am sure when you will go through this article your attitude will change towards this ruler.
Aurangzeb Alamgir was the sixth & the last great mughal emperor of India. He ruled India from 1658 to 1707 AD. He was one of the greatest mughal emperors & lived a very simple life. He lived on a small quantity of food, he used to write the quran with his own hand & sell them to earn extra wage. If he wanted, he could have lived a life of extra-ordinary luxury as the, emperors, kings, nawabs, rajas, maharajas did in those days.
He was a well-read man; he kept up his love of books till the end. He wrote beautiful Persian prose. A selection of his letters (Ruq’at-i-Alamgiri) has long been a standard model of simple but elegant prose. He understood music well but he gave up this amusement in accordance with Islamic injunctions.
Emperor Aurangzeb is considered as the greatest of all the mughal kings. The mughal state reached its height under his leadership. The state has 29.2% of the world population under its flag (175 million out of 600 million in 1700 AD) & was one of the richest states the world had ever seen, with a world GDP of 24.5% ($ 90.8 billion out of $ 371 billion in 1700).
Of all the Muslim rulers who ruled vast territories of India from 712 to 1857AD, probably no one has received as much condemnation from western & Hindu writers as Aurangzeb. He has been castigated as a religious Muslim who was anti-Hindu, who taxed them, who tried to convert them, who discriminated them in awarding high administrative positions, & who interfered in their religious matters. This view has been heavily promoted in the government approved text books in schools & colleges across post partition India (i.e., after 1947). These are fabrications against one of the best rulers of India who was pious, scholarly, saintly, un-biased, liberal, magnanimous, tolerant, competent & far sighted.
Fortunately, in recent years quite a few Hindu historians have come out in the open disputing those allegations. For e.g., historian Babu Nagendranath Banerjee rejected the accusation of forced conversion of Hindus by Muslim rulers by stating that if that was their intention then in India today there would not be nearly four times as many Hindus compared to Muslims, despite the fact that Muslims had ruled for nearly a thousand years. Banerjee challenged the Hindu hypothesis that Aurangzeb was anti-Hindu by reasoning that if the latter was truly guilty of such bigotry, how could he appoint a Hindu as his military commander -in –chief? Surely, he could have afforded to appoint a competent Muslim general in that position. Banerjee further stated: “No one should accuse Aurangzeb of being communal minded. In his administration the state policy was formulated by Hindus. A number of non-Muslims including Hindus, Sikhs, Marathas & Jats, were employed by him in his court. He did not compromise on the fundamentals of Islam, which are infact the moving spirit of every faith. Historical facts must be interpreted in their true & objective spirit & not subjectively as expressed by the Hindu writers.
Dr. BISHAMBHAR NATH PANDE’S VIEW
The late scholar & historian, Dr.Bishambhar Nath Pande’s research efforts exploded myths on Aurangzeb’s rule. They also offer an excellent example of what history has to teach us if only we study it dispassionately. Mr. Pande was ranked among the very few Indians & very fewer still Hindu historians who tried to be a little careful when dealing with such history. He knew that this history was ‘originally compiled by European writers’ whose main objective was to produce a history that would serve their policy of divide & rule.
In his famous Khuda Bakhsh Annual Lecture (1985) Dr. Pande said: “Thus under a definite policy the Indian history text books were so falsified & distorted as to give an impression that the medieval (i.e., Muslim) period of Indian history was full of atrocities committed by Muslim rulers on their Hindu subjects & the Hindus had to suffer terrible indignities under Muslim rule and there were no common factors (between Hindus & Muslims) in social, political & economic life.”
Therefore, Dr.Pande was extra careful. Whenever he came across a ‘fact’ that looked odd to him, he would try to check & verify rather than adopt it uncritically. He came across a history text book taught in the Anglo-Bengali College, Allahabad, which claimed that “three thousand Brahmins had committed suicide as Tipu wanted to convert them forcibly into the fold of Islam.” The author was a very famous scholar, Dr.Har Prasad Shastri, head of the department of Sanskrit at Kolkata University. (Tipu Sultan (1750-99), who ruled over the South Indian state of Mysore (1782-99), is one of the most heroic figures in Indian history. He died on the battle field, fighting the British.)
Was it true? Dr. Pande wrote immediately to the author & asked him for the source on which he had based this episode in his text-book. After several reminders, Dr. Shastri replied that he had taken this information from the Mysore gazetteer. So Dr. Pande requested the Mysore university vice- chancellor, Sir Brijendra Nath Seal, to verify for him Dr. Shastri’s statement from the gazetteer. Sir Brijendra referred his letter to Prof. Srikantia who was then working on a new edition of the gazetteer. Srikantia wrote to say that the gazetteer mentioned no such incident and, as a historian himself, he was certain that nothing like this had taken place. Prof. Srikantia added that both the prime minister & commander-in-chief of Tipu Sultan were themselves Brahmins. He also enclosed a list of 136 Hindu temples which used to receive annual grants from the sultan’s treasury.
It inspired that Shastri had lifted this story from Colonel Miles, History of Mysore, which Miles claimed he had taken from a Persian manuscript in the personal library of Queen Victoria. When Dr. Pande checked further, he found that no such manuscript existed in Queen Victoria’s library.
FALSE HISTORY PROVIDED BY BRITISHERS
British historian Sir Henry Elliot remarked that Hindus “had not left any account which could unable us to gauge the traumatic impact the Muslim conquest and rule had on them?” Since there was none, Elliot went on to produce his own eight-volume history of India with contributions from British historians (1867). His history claimed Hindus were slain for disputing with ‘Mohammedans’, generally prohibited from worshipping and taking out religious processions , their idols were mutilated , their temples were destroyed , they were forced into conversion & marriages , & were killed & massacred by drunk Muslim tyrants. Thus Sir Henry, & scores of other empire scholars, went on to produce a synthetic Hindu verses Muslim history of India, & their lies became a history.
Lord Curzon(Governor General of India 1895-99 & Viceroy 1899-1904(d.1925) was told by the secretary of state for India, George Francis Hamilton , that they should “ so plan the educational textbooks that the differences between community & community are further strengthened.” Another Viceroy, Lord Dufferin (1884-88), was advised by the secretary of state in London that the “division of religious feelings is greatly to our advantage ’’, & that he expected “some good as a result of your committee of inquiry on Indian education & on teaching material ’’. “ We have maintained our power in India by playing – off one part against the other’’, the secretary of state for India reminded yet another viceroy, Lord Elgin (1862-63), “& we must continue to do so. Do all you can, therefore to prevent all having a common feeling?”
MYTH RELATED TO DESTRUCTION OF TEMPLES
Some of the Hindu historians have accused Aurangzeb of demolishing Hindu temples. How factual is this accusation against a man, who has been known to be a saintly man, a strict adherent of Islam? The Qur’an prohibits any Muslim to impose his will on a non-Muslim by stating that “There is no compulsion in religion.”(Surah al-Baqarah 2.256). The Surah al-Kafirun clearly states: “To you is your religion & to me is mine.” It would be totally unbecoming of a learned scholar of Islam of his caliber, as Aurangzeb was known to be, to do things that are contrary to the dictates of the Qur’an.
Interestingly, the 1946 edition of the history textbook Etihash Parichaya (introduction to history) used in Bengal for the 5th & 6th graders states: “If Aurangzeb had the intention of demolishing temples to make way for mosques, there would not have been a single temple standing erect in India. On the contrary, Aurangzeb donated huge estates for use as temple sites & support thereof in Benaras, Kashmir & elsewhere. The official documentations for these land grants are still extant.”
A stone inscription in the historic Balaji or Vishnu temple, located north of Chitrakut Balaghat, still shows that it was commissioned by the emperor himself. His administration made handsome donation to temple of Pandharpur – seat of deity Vitthal. Historian the late D.G Godse has claimed that trustees of Vitthal temple were more worried about marauding Maratha armies than the mughal one.
The proof of Aurangzeb’s land grant for famous Hindu religious sites in Varanasi can easily be verified from the deed records extant at those sites. The same textbook (Etihash Parichaya) reads: “During the fifty year reign of Aurangzeb, not a single Hindu was forced to embrace Islam. He did not interfere with any Hindu religious activities”. Alexander Hamilton, a British historian, toured India towards the end of Aurangzeb’s fifty year’s reign & observed that everyone was free to serve & worship god in his own way.
The Mughal emperor Aurangzeb is the most reviled of all the Muslim rulers in India. He was supposed to be a great destroyer of temples & oppressor of Hindus, & a ‘fundamentalist’ too. As chairman of the Allahabad municipality (1948-53), Dr. Bishambhar Nath Pande had to deal with a land dispute between two temple priests. One of them had filed in evidence some firmans (royal orders) to prove that Aurangzeb had, besides cash, gifted the land in question for the maintenance of his temple. Might they not be fake, Dr. Pande thought in view of Aurangzeb’s fanatically anti-Hindu image? He showed them to his friend, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, a distinguished lawyer as well a great scholar of Arabic & Persian. He was also a Brahmin. Sapru examined the documents & declared they were genuine firmans issued by Aurangzeb. For Dr.Pande this was a ‘new image of Aurangzeb’, so he wrote to the chief priests of the various important temples, all over the country, requesting photocopies of any firman issued by aurangzeb that they may have in their possession. The response was overwhelming; he received copies of firmans of Aurangzeb from the great temples of Mahakaleshwara, Ujjain, Balaji temple, Chitrakut, Umanand temple Gauhati, & the Jain temple of Shatrunjai & other temples & gurudwaras scattered over northern India. These firmans were issued from 1659 to 1685AD. Though these are only few instances of Aurangzeb generous attitude towards Hindus & their temples, they are enough to show that what the historians have written about him was biased & is only one side of the picture. India is a vast land with thousands of temples scattered all over. If proper research is made, I am confident; many more instances would come to light which will show Aurangzeb’s benevolent treatment of non-Muslims.
Aurangzeb did not indiscriminately destroy Hindu temples, as he is commonly believed to have done so, & that he directed the destruction of temples only when faced with insurgency. This was almost certainly the case with the Keshava Rai temple in the Mathura region, where the Jats rose in rebellion & yet even this policy of reprisal may have been modified, as Hindu temples in the Deccan were seldom destroyed. The image of Aurangzeb as an idol – breaker may not with stand scrutiny, since there is evidence to show that, like his predecessors, he continued to confer land grants or jagirs (large parcel of agricultural lands) upon Hindu temples, such as the Someshwar Nath Mahadev temple Allahabad, Jangum Badi Shiva temple in Varanasi, Umanand temple in Gauhati & numerous others. He did not harm to the famous Alura temples (a huge complex of Ancient temples) in his conquest of Deccan.
DEMOLITION OF KASHI VISHWANATH TEMPLE
Dr. Pande’s research showed that Aurangzeb was as solicitous of the rights & welfare of his non-Muslim subjects as he was of his Muslim subjects. Hindu plaintiffs received full justice against their Muslims respondents &, if guilty, Muslims were given punishment as necessary.
One of the greatest charges against Aurangzeb is of the demolition of Vishwanath temple in Varanasi. That was a fact, but Dr. Pande unraveled the reason for it. “While Aurangzeb was passing near Varanasi on his way to Bengal, the Hindu Rajas in his retinue requested that if the halt was made for a day, their Ranis may go to Varanasi, have a dip in the Ganges & pay their homage to Lord Vishwanath. Aurangzeb readily agreed. “Army pickets were posted on the five mile route to Varanasi. The Ranis made journey to the palkis. They took their dip in the Ganges & went to the Vishwanath temple to pay their homage. After offering puja (worship) all the Ranis returned except one, the Maharani of Kutch. A thorough search was made of the temple precincts but the Rani was to be found nowhere.
“When Aurangzeb came to know about this, he was very much enraged. He sent his senior officers to search for the Rani. Ultimately they found that statue of Ganesh (the elephant – headed god) which was fixed in the wall was a moveable one. When the statue was moved, they saw a flight of stairs that led to the basement. To their horror they found the missing Rani dishonored & crying deprived of all her ornaments. The basement was just beneath Lord Vishwanath’s seat.”
The Raja demanded salutary action, & “Aurangzeb ordered that as the sacred precincts have been despoiled, Lord Vishwanath may be moved to some other place, the temple be razed to the ground & the Mahant (head priest) be arrested & punished.”
EMPLOYMENT FOR NON-MUSLIMS
Aurangzeb has often been accused of closing the doors of official employment on the Hindus, but a study of the list of his officers shows this is not so. Actually there were more Hindu officers under him than under any other Mughal emperor. Though this was primarily due to a general increase in the number of officers, it shows that there was no ban on the employment of Hindus.
In his administration the state policy was formulated by Hindus. Two Hindus held the highest position in the state treasury. Some prejudiced Muslims even questioned the merit of his decision to appoint non-Muslims to such high offices. The emperor refuted them by stating that he had been following the dictates of the Shariah (Islamic law) which demands appointing right persons in right positions. During Aurangzeb’s long reign of fifty years, many Hindus, notably Jaswant Singh, Jay Singh, Raja Rajrup, Kabir Singh, Arghanath Singh, Prem Dev Singh, Dilip Roy & Rasik Lal Crory, held very high administrative positions. Two of the highest ranked generals in Aurangzeb’s administration, Jaswant Singh & Jay Singh, were Hindus. Other notable Hindu generals who commanded a garrison of two to five thousand soldiers were Raja Vim Singh of Udaypur, Indra Singh, & Achalaji & Arjuji. One wonders if Aurangzeb was hostile to Hindus, why would he position all these Hindus to high positions of authority, especially in the military, who could have mutinied against him & removed him from his throne?
Most Hindus like Akbar over Aurangzeb for his multi-ethnic court where Hindus were favored. Historian Shri Sharma states that while Emperor Akbar had 14 Hindu Mansabdars (high officials) in his court, Aurangzeb actually had 148 Hindu high officials in his court (Ref : Mughal Govn.). But this fact is somewhat less known.
If Aurangzeb was so ferocious a communalist, why is it, some historians have asked, that the number of Hindu employed in positions of eminence under Aurangzeb’s reign rose from 24.5% in the time of his father Shah Jahan to 33% in the fourth decade of his own rule?
JIZYA AND OTHER TAXES
Now let us deal with Aurangzeb’s imposition of the Jizya tax which had drawn severe criticism from many Hindu historians. It is true that Jizya was lifted during the reign of Akbar & Jahangir & that Aurangzeb later reinstated this. Before I delve into the subject of Aurangzeb’s Jizya tax, or taxing the non-Muslims, it is worthwhile to point out that Jizya is nothing more than a war tax which was collected only from able-bodied young non-Muslim male citizens living in a Muslim country who did not want to volunteer for the defence of the country. That is, no such tax was collected from non-Muslims who volunteered to defend the country. This tax was not collected from women & neither from immature males nor from disabled or old male citizens. For payment of such taxes, it became incumbent upon the Muslim Government to protect the life, property & wealth of its non-Muslim citizens. If for any reason the Government failed to protect its citizens, especially during a war, the taxable amount was returned.
It should be pointed out here that zakat (2.5% of savings) & ushr (10% of agricultural products) were collected from all Muslims, who owned some wealth (beyond a certain minimum, called nisab). They also paid sadaqah, fitrah & khums. None of these were collected from any non-Muslim. As a matter of fact, the per capita collection from Muslims was several fold that of non-Muslims. Further to Aurangzeb’s credit is his abolition of a lot of taxes, although this fact is not usually mentioned. In his book Mughal administration, Sir Jadunath Sarkar, foremost historian on the Mughal dynasty, mention’s that during Aurangzeb’s reign in power, nearly 65 types of taxes were abolished, which resulted in a yearly revenue loss of 50 million rupees from the state treasury.
Other historians stated that when Aurangzeb abolished 80 types of taxes, no one thanked him for his generosity. But when he imposed only one (jizya), & not heavy at all, people began to show their displeasure.
While some Hindu historians are retracting the lies, the textbooks & historic accounts in western countries have yet to admit their error & set the record straight.
SOME IMPORTANT POINTS RELATED TO CHARACTER OF AURANGZEB
Just think a man such, character, caliber that cares and concern for public can be unjust, cruel. Just imagine a king such cruel & unjust to the majority could rule a huge country, for about 50 years, where high majority members serving highest position & comprising 80% in the military.
He was so pious best character person noble & just. You cannot find a single one in the present leaders.
His personal piety however is undeniable. He led an exemplary simple pious life. He cares for the royal treasury as public treasury & for public. The present leaders considers public treasury to personal treasury.
Unlike his predecessors, Aurangzeb did consider the royal treasury as a trust of the citizens of his empire & did not use it for personal expenses.
He was Subedar in Deccan & Gujarat. He didn’t destroy any temple. His period was peaceful & prosperous, called golden period.
Despite more than two decades he campaign as subedar in Deccan & Gujarat there is no record of temple destruction in the region. He continued to confer Jagirs to Hindu temples. His period was golden period & relatively peaceful, prosperous in his tenure.
He was maligned that he was against art & music. He was the accomplished musician playing VEENA. The largest numbers of books on classical Indian music in Persian were written during Aurangzeb’s reign. He banned all nude dances.
Aurangzeb cruelty as mere rumors or at best lies invented by Hindu bigotry & British historians who wanted to weaken India by their divide & rule policy. Bankim Chatterjee, who served his whole life to British government, was a tool of this conspiracy and dividing.
He was so concern about duties; he did not miss prayer during the ongoing war.
He spread his prayer rug & prayed in the midst of battle ground, brought him much fame. He stopped all bad things, which today everybody want. Why government banned bar balayien, dances of Rakhi Sawant & Mallaika. Why sattabazi is illegal?
Today we pay more than 66% of our income as taxes. The present government is worse than Aurangzeb’s.
He forbade sati, drinking, gambling, prostitution, devadasies, dancing in brothels, ashrams & mutts. He put jizya to Dhimmis (non-believers) which around 2.5% like Muslim pay their Zakat, 2.5% eligible person should pay. The old, women, children were exempted. Only the young man who didn’t want to serve in the army should pay the jiziya. Indian parliament still hung the bill of Lok Pal, whereas Aurangzeb the only ruler who appointed Lok Pal to control corruption in Judiciary, Finance & other departments.
He appointed Muhattasib (lok pal) censors to control injustice & atrocities. The Brahmans & higher caste Hindus now found themselves facing Islamic law courts for the atrocities on lower castes Hindus.
He was best knowledgeable & brilliant administrator. He never tolerates injustice. He was a brave soldier & best commander in the field. He was the only who control Deccan & Bijapur dynasty. Under his leadership, in particular, he led Mughal forces in the conquest of the Deccan, seizing first the Golkunda & Bijapur Sultanates, & then attacking the Maratha chieftains. He annexed all the Maratha territories. He left Shivaji because he was no threat to his kingdom.
These are the few evidence of his greatness. The Brahmans & higher caste were subject to Aurangzeb justice. They maligned & created, invented, fabricated these & all other baseless stories.
This is all about emperor Aurangzeb. I am confident that when you will go through all these facts & figures your perception towards this Mughal emperor will change. Our medieval history consists of various false stories. Our nation had never seen an emperor like Aurangzeb. I need your feedback about this article. What should I do to change the perception of people? I want to know merits, demerits, area of scope & any suggestion related to this article from your side.
By Dr. Habib Siddiqui
Of all the Muslim rulers who ruled vast territories of India from 712 to 1857 CE, probably no one has received as much condemnation from Western and Hindu writers as Aurangzeb. He has been castigated as a religious Muslim who was anti-Hindu, who taxed them, who tried to convert them, who discriminated against them in awarding high administrative positions, and who interfered in their religious matters. This view has been heavily promoted in the government approved textbooks in schools and colleges across post-partition India (i.e., after 1947). These are fabrications against one of the best rulers of India who was pious, scholarly, saintly, un-biased, liberal, magnanimous, tolerant, competent, and far-sighted.
Fortunately, in recent years quite a few Hindu historians have come out in the open disputing those allegations. For example, historian Babu Nagendranath Banerjee rejected the accusation of forced conversion of Hindus by Muslim rulers by stating that if that was their intention then in India today there would not be nearly four times as many Hindus compared to Muslims, despite the fact that Muslims had ruled for nearly a thousand years. Banerjee challenged the Hindu hypothesis that Aurangzeb was anti-Hindu by reasoning that if the latter were truly guilty of such bigotry, how could he appoint a Hindu as his military commander-in-chief? Surely, he could have afforded to appoint a competent Muslim general in that position. Banerjee further stated: "No one should accuse Aurangzeb of being communal minded. In his administration, the state policy was formulated by Hindus. Two Hindus held the highest position in the State Treasury. Some prejudiced Muslims even questioned the merit of his decision to appoint non-Muslims to such high offices. The Emperor refuted that by stating that he had been following the dictates of the Shariah (Islamic Law) which demands appointing right persons in right positions." During Aurangzeb's long reign of fifty years, many Hindus, notably Jaswant Singh, Raja Rajrup, Kabir Singh, Arghanath Singh, Prem Dev Singh, Dilip Roy, and Rasik Lal Crory, held very high administrative positions. Two of the highest ranked generals in Aurangzeb's administration, Jaswant Singh and Jaya Singh, were Hindus. Other notable Hindu generals who commanded a garrison of two to five thousand soldiers were Raja Vim Singh of Udaypur, Indra Singh, Achalaji and Arjuji. One wonders if Aurangzeb was hostile to Hindus, why would he position all these Hindus to high positions of authority, especially in the military, who could have mutinied against him and removed him from his throne?
Most Hindus like Akbar over Aurangzeb for his multi-ethnic court where Hindus were favored. Historian Shri Sharma states that while Emperor Akbar had fourteen Hindu Mansabdars (high officials) in his court, Aurangzeb actually had 148 Hindu high officials in his court. (Ref: Mughal Government) But this fact is somewhat less known.
Some of the Hindu historians have accused Aurangzeb of demolishing Hindu Temples. How factual is this accusation against a man, who has been known to be a saintly man, a strict adherent of Islam? The Qur'an prohibits any Muslim to impose his will on a non-Muslim by stating that "There is no compulsion in religion." (surah al-Baqarah 2:256). The surah al-Kafirun clearly states: "To you is your religion and to me is mine." It would be totally unbecoming of a learned scholar of Islam of his caliber, as Aurangzeb was known to be, to do things that are contrary to the dictates of the Qur'an.
Interestingly, the 1946 edition of the history textbook Etihash Parichaya (Introduction to History) used in Bengal for the 5th and 6th graders states: "If Aurangzeb had the intention of demolishing temples to make way for mosques, there would not have been a single temple standing erect in India. On the contrary, Aurangzeb donated huge estates for use as Temple sites and support thereof in Benares, Kashmir and elsewhere. The official documentations for these land grants are still extant."
A stone inscription in the historic Balaji or Vishnu Temple, located north of Chitrakut Balaghat, still shows that it was commissioned by the Emperor himself. The proof of Aurangzeb's land grant for famous Hindu religious sites in Kasi, Varanasi can easily be verified from the deed records extant at those sites. The same textbook reads: "During the fifty year reign of Aurangzeb, not a single Hindu was forced to embrace Islam. He did not interfere with any Hindu religious activities." (p. 138) Alexander Hamilton, a British historian, toured India towards the end of Aurangzeb's fifty year reign and observed that every one was free to serve and worship God in his own way.
Now let us deal with Aurangzeb's imposition ofthe jizya tax which had drawn severe criticism from many Hindu historians. It is true that jizya was lifted during the reign of Akbar and Jahangir and that Aurangzeb later reinstated this. Before I delve into the subject of Aurangzeb's jizya tax, or taxing the non-Muslims, it is worthwhile to point out that jizya is nothing more than a war tax which was collected only from able-bodied young non-Muslim male citizens living in a Muslim country who did not want to volunteer for the defense of the country. That is, no such tax was collected from non-Muslims who volunteered to defend the country. This tax was not collected from women, and neither from immature males nor from disabled or old male citizens. For payment of such taxes, it became incumbent upon the Muslim government to protect the life, property and wealth of its non-Muslim citizens. If for any reason the government failed to protect its citizens, especially during a war, the taxable amount was returned.
It should be pointed out here that zakat (2.5% of savings) and ‘ushr (10% of agricultural products) were collected from all Muslims, who owned some wealth (beyond a certain minimum, called nisab). They also paid sadaqah, fitrah, and khums. None of these were collected from any non-Muslim. As a matter of fact, the per capita collection from Muslims was several fold that of non-Muslims. Further to Auranzeb's credit is his abolition of a lot of taxes, although this fact is not usually mentioned. In his book Mughal Administration, Sir Jadunath Sarkar, foremost historian on the Mughal dynasty, mentions that during Aurangzeb's reign in power, nearly sixty-five types of taxes were abolished, which resulted in a yearly revenue loss of fifty million rupees from the state treasury.
While some Hindu historians are retracting the lies, the textbooks and historic accounts in Western countries have yet to admit their error and set the record straight.
By: Khursheed Alam Dawood Qasmi
Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (Rahmatullah Aleih), popularly known as “Hakeemul Ummah” (Spiritual Physician of Muslim Ummah) in the Indian subcontinent, was a prominent and celebrated Islamic scholar for his all qualities, Allah had bestowed him. He was a distinguished graduate of Islamic University, Darul Uloom, Deoband, India. He was a wise preacher, well-versed teacher, famous Sufi, prolific writer and dynamic orator. In brief, at a time he was preacher, teacher, Sufi, writer and lecturer; all in one. He used the most part of his living without wasting an hour, for reformation, rectification and betterment of the Muslim community. In this write-up, I would make an effort to highlight his life as well as his services rendered to the Muslim community.
Birth & Place of Birth:
Thanwi (RA) was born in a dignified family of a village, “Thana Bhawan” to Abdul Haqq Al-Hanafi on 5th Rabi Al-Thani, 1280 (19th August, 1863). His noble lineage goes back to the second caliph of Islam, Umar Bin Khattab (RaziAllah Anhu). “Thana Bhawan” in North West India, is a small town of district, “Shamli” of “Uttar Pradesh” in India. It is situated at the distance of 180 kms from India’s capital city, New Delhi and 28 kms from Muzaffarnagar district under which “Thana Bhawan” fell previously. Though it’s a small town, but known in India thanks to the knowledge, piety, mysticism, patriotism, martyrdom and freedom struggle of its towering personalities. A famous martyr and scholar, Sheikh Dhamin Al-Shaheed (RA) belonged to the very town.
Learning & Education:
Thanwi (RA) acquired his basic and primary education in his birth place “Thana Bhawan” from Sheikh Fath Muhammad Thanwi (1322 AH), one of the Darul Uloom, Deoband’s graduates and Sheikh Manfat Ali Deobandi (1322 AH). In 1295 AH (1880 AC) when he was 15 years old, got admission in Darul Uloom, Deoband, for the secondary and higher Islamic education. He remained as a learner there in Darul Uloom, Deoband, for five years and was taught all the Islamic subjects of “Darse Nizaami” by the towering figures and outstanding scholars of the time, like Sheikhul Hind Mahmood Hasan Deobandi (1268-1339 (1851-1920), Sheikh Sayyad Ahmad Dehlvi (1322 AH), Sheikh Yaqoob Nanautavi (1249-1302 AH) and Imam Muhammad Qasim Nanautavi (1833-1880). Thus, he completed his graduation in Islamic Studies from the prestigious Islamic University, Darul Uloom, Deoband, India in 1299 (1884).
At the end of the final year of Thanwi (RA) and his calss-fellows, the convocation ceremony was held and Maulana Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi (Rahmatullahi Aleih) (1244-1323=1828-1905), Patron of Darul Uloom, Doeband, was invited to bless the occasion with his presence. He arrived for the ceremony. Sheikhul Hind (RA) informed him about Thanwi’s intelligence and calibre. Gangohi (RA) wanted to test him by asking the most difficult questions that he could think of. Thanwi’s answers utterly amazed and pleased Gangohi (RA), who himself tied the graduation turban (that marks the completion of the course) to Thanwi’s head.
While learning in Darul Uloom, Deoband, he had many relatives in the town. They used to invite him for having lunch or supper with them frequently, but he never accepted their invitations saying, “I have come here just for learning”. So, he spent five years in Deoband, but never visited any of his relatives’ houses.
Following his graduation, when Thanwi (RA) went for Hajj, he received the science of Tajweed and Qiraat from an Indian scholar, Sheikh Muhammd Abdullah, who had migrated to Makkah and was teaching in “Madrasa Sawltiyyah” (Established in 1292 (1875) by an Indian Islamic scholar, Sheikh Rahmatullah Usmani Kairanvi [1818-1891]) in Makkah Mukarramah.
An Admonitory Story:
A story of Thanwi (RA) which Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani (HafizahuAllah) has quoted in his “Foreword of Ilaaus Sunan” will be an admonitory one for the readers, particularly for the students in today’s scenario and for educational standard. When Thanwi (RA) came to know that Darul Uloom is going to hold a convocation for them, he got stunned and along with his some classmates went to the then Head-Teacher, Sheikh Yaqoob Nanautavi (RA) and said, “We hear that Madrasa is going to grant us graduation certificate and turban will be tied to our heads. But the fact is that we don’t deserve this certificate and the turban. We fear that the people may doubt the Madrasa quality that it produces like us students who have no knowledge.” Sheikh Yaqoob Nanautavi (RA) replied, “You think so, because you are amongst your teachers, so you consider your knowledge nothing in front of them. I bear witness that once you are graduated and step out of this institution, you will realize your worth and importance, InshaAllah. You will be superior in the field of knowledge and you will be incomparable.”
First Journey for Hajj:
Following his graduation, Thanwi (RA) left for Makkah Mukarramah accompanying his father in Shawwal 1300 AH to perform Hajj. In the same journey, he took the oath of allegiance to Sheikh Al-Hajj Imdadullah Rahmatullahi Aleih (1233-1317=1818-1899), an Allah-fearing person of Thanwi’s birth place, who had migrated to Makkah Mukarramah. Taking oath of allegiance, he accompanied Sheikh Imdadullah (RA) in Makkah Mukarramah for a short period of time.
Though, Thanwi (RA) had taken the oath of allegiance to Sheikh Imdadullah (RA), but he was attached to Sheikh Rashid Ahmad Gangohi (RA) spiritually. Once he said, “Among my teachers, I was spiritually attached to Maulana Gangohi more than anyone else, with the exception of Sheikh Imdadullah Muhajir Makki. I have never witnessed such a unique personage, one in whom external and internal goodness merged so cohesively, like Hazrat Gangohi (RA).”
Career & Teaching:
After his return from Hajj, Thanwi (RA) was sent by his teachers to Madrasah, “Faize Aam”, in Kanpur on the request from the Madrasa’s management committee as a teacher in Safar, 1300 AH. He worked in the Madrasa as a teacher and head for few years. Later, he established another Madrasa in the same city of Kanpur namely “Jamiul Uloom” and started heading and teaching in that Madrasa. His teaching attracted many students. He got sound position as a teacher and mentor among the learners and the students became fond of his teaching.
Second Journey for Hajj:
When Thanwi (RA) was in Kanpur in 1310 AH, he planned for the second Hajj and went to Makkah Mukarramah. Having performed Hajj, he stayed there in Makkah Mukarramah for six months in the company of his Sheikh, Al-Haajj Imdadullah (RA) for spiritual guidance and soul rectification. Reflection of being in the Sheikh’s company was apparent in Thanwi’s life and developed in piety, righteousness and morality very soon.
Coming back to India, he continued in Kanpur’s Madrasa about 4 years. In Safar 1315, he retired from the Madrasa and made one of his students, Sheikh Muhammad Ishaq Bardawani its Principal. Within 14-year of his teaching, he produced some such students who became the world’s renowned scholars for their works. Some of his noteworthy students include: Sheikh Muhammad Ishaaq Bardawani (1283-1357 AH), who had memorised the whole Bukhari Shareef, his nephew Sheikh Zafar Ahmad Usmani Thanwi (1310-1394 AH), who compiled the famous book of Hanafi school of thought: إعلاء السنن, in 22 volumes published by “Idartul Quran Wal Uloomil Islamia”, Karachi, Pakistan, Sheikh Abdul Hai Al-Hasani (1286-1341=1869-1923), father of Sayyad Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi (RA) and author of الإعلام بمن في تاريخ الهند من الأعلام المسمى بـ (نزهة الخواطر وبهجة المسامع والنواظر) in 8 volumes published by “Daar Ibne Hazm”, Beirut, Lebanon and rector of Nadwatul Ulama, Lucknow, India and Sheikh Hakeem Muhammad Mustafa Bijnori (Deceased 1941 AC).
Back in Thana Bhawan:
Having retired from teaching, finally, he came back to his birth place, Thana Bhawan. In Thana Bhawan, he devoted himself to re-establish the “Khanqaah Imdadiyah” (spiritual centre) of his Sheikh Al-Hajj Imdadullah Muhajir Makki (RA) on his Sheikh’s behest. Re-establishing the Khanqaah over a short period of time, he acquired a reputable position as a Sheikh of mysticism. The people, with the intention of manners’ reformation and soul rectification, from the different parts of India (India-Pakistan-Bangladesh), started visiting the Khanqaah. Not to speak of Ulamaa, even the secular educated people took the oath of allegiance to him. This continued, until he breathed his last in Thana Bhawan.
Disciples of Thanwi (RA), who took the oath of allegiance to him, settled in different parts of India and engaged themselves in rectification of the Muslim community like Thanwi (RA) did. Some of his well-known disciples are: Sheikh Muhammad Abdul Ghani Phulpuri (1876-1963), Mufti Muhammad Hasan Amritsari (1880-1961), Allamah Sayyad Sulaiman Nadvi (1884-1953), Khwaja Azizul Hasan Majdhub (1884-1944), Sheikh Muhammad Ilyas Kandhlawi (1885/86-1944), Sheikh Abdul Bari Nadvi (1886-1976), Sheikh Wasiullah Fatehpuri (Deceased 1976), Sheikh Zafar Ahmad Uthmani (1310-1394 AH), Qari Muhammad Tayyib Qasmi (1897-1983), Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani (1897-1976), Dr. Abdul Hai Arifi (1898-1986), Sheikh Muhammad Idris Kandhlawi (1899-1974), Sheikh Muhammad Yusuf Binnori (1908-1977), Sheikh Maseehullah Khan (1911/12-1992) and Sheikh Abrarul Haq Haqqi Hardoi (1920-2005) (Rahmatullahi Aleihim Ajmaeen).
Speeches & Public Talks:
Thanks to his sincere practice for speech and elocution while learning in Deoband, Thanwi (RA) became one of the most famous speakers and orators of his time. He had command over oratory and public talks. He had an eloquent and fluent language to present his inner feelings. The desire to reform the masses intensified in him during his stay in Kanpur. So, being in Madrasa, he didn’t restrict himself to only teaching books, but he engaged in delivering public talks, uprooting the spread innovations, strengthening the true beliefs, compiling the precious books and reforming and rectifying the worst conditions of the masses. During these years, he travelled to various cities and villages delivering public talks in the hope of reforming the Muslim community.
Thanwi (RA) wasn’t famous only in giving public talks among masses, but he was also the most welcomed speaker in colleges and Universities. His book, Al-Intibaahaa Al-Mufeedah Anil- Ishtibaahaat Al-Jadeedah was actually written following his speech delivered in Aligarh Muslim University (Established 1875) at the invitation of the management in November 1909.
His public talks were full with positive aspects and comprehensive messages. The sole purpose of his talks was to benefit the audience, and non else. He wasn’t in the habit of touching a disputed topic in his talks. If it was required, he used to bring it up in details and in the best of manners with wisdom, insight and good counsel, so that none gets hurt. He never targeted his opponents. He never tried to humiliate his rival in public talk. He was a reputed orator, but never cashed his reputation for personal gain. He never accepted a penny for his public talks.
Generally the printed versions of his lectures and discourses would usually become available shortly after the tours. Until then, just few Islamic scholars had had their lectures printed and widely circulated in their own lifetimes. Al-Hamdulillah, today, his published discourses are a lamp for the young generation.
Works & Compilations:
The Almighty Allah blessed Thanwi (RA) with writing skill along with expertise in the arts of oratory and teaching; therefore, he compiled about eight hundred books touching to the crying needs of Muslim community of the Indian subcontinent. Wherever he felt a call for a book or booklet for the reformation of the Muslim community, he compiled and produced one, be it small or big, but he didn’t leave the people go unguided. His works and compilations are well known in Islamic institutions and well-received by Islamic scholars. None from his contemporary could surpass him in this field. His prestigious work is in form of Bayaanul Quraan, in Urdu Language, a commentary of the Glorious Quraan in 4 volumes. Some of his books are:
Bayaanul Quraan, 4 volumes, At-Taqseer Fit-Tafseer, Jamiul Aathaar, Imdadul Fataawaa, 6 volumes, Bahisthti Zewar, Tahdheerul Ikhwaan Anir Ribaa Fil-Hindustaan, Raafiu Al-Dhank An Manaaf Al-Bank, Al-Iqtisaad Fit-Taqleed Wal-Ijtihaad, Al-Heelah Al-Naajizah Lil-Heelah Al-Aajizah, Al-Intibaahaa Al-Mufeedah Ani- Ishtibaahaat Al-Jadeedah, Al-Masaalih Al-Aqliyyah Lil-Ahkaam Al-Naqliyyah, Shahadatul Aqwaam Al’a Sidqil Islam, Masaailis Sulook Min Kalaami Malikil Mulook, At-Tasharruf Bi Marifati Ahaadeeth Al-Tasawwuf, Hayaatul Muslimeen, Taleemud Deen, Huququl Islam, Huququl Waalidain, Huququl Ilm, Islaahun Nisaa, Islaahur Rusoom, Aghlaatul Awaam, Nashrut Teeb Fi Zikri Al-Nabi Al-Habeeb, Jazaaul Aamaal, Anwaarul Wujud Fee Atwaar Al-Shuhud, Tahzeer Al-Ikhwaan An Tazweer Al-Shaytaan and Al-Qaul Al-Faasil Bein Al-Haq Al-Baatil.
Thanwi (RA) knew that “The time is more precious than the gold”. He was very much punctual of his timetable. He never wasted the time. He used to follow the time according to the schedule. No excuse could disturb his daily schedule, except in some emergency cases. Even this exception was rarest of the rare. After performing Fajr, he used to take a pew separating from the people. In this time, he used to get busy with his activities, like reading and compiling books. Then he used to have lunch. Following lunch, he had siesta, thereafter he used to go for Zuhr Salaah. No one was allowed to bother him from Fajr until he offers Zuhr Salaah. After Zuhr Salaah, his Majlis (Gathering/Assembly) with his disciples was held. In this Majlis, he used to sit with them. One person used to read a certain book and he used to explain some scholarly points of the read text, which weren’t boring and tedious, rather a food for thought for them. This Majlis used to continue up to Asr. Between Zuhr and Asr, he also used to reply the received letters. After Asr, he used to get busy with his day-to-day family affairs until he offers Ishaa Salaah. No one could disturb him in this time as well.
Benefiting the people with his knowledge, lectures and spiritual guidance in the “Khanqaah Imdadiyah” for 48 years, Thanwi (RA) breathed his last in Thana Bhawan on July 4, 1943 AC = Safar, 1362 AH; while he was 82-year old. His funeral prayer was led by his nephew, Sheikh Zafar Ahmad Usmani Thanwi (RA). He was buried in the graveyard of Ishq-e-Bazan that is actually his garden. Thanwi (RA) is no more now, but he will be remembered for his inspiring, lucid, rational writings, balanced approach and reformative teachings for a long period of time. May Allah accept his services and shower His blessing and mercy at his grave! Aameen!
(The author is a Darul Uloom, Deoband alumnus and presently teacher of Moon Rays Trust School, Zambia, Africa. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)