A glimpse into glorious history of Muslim rulers’ pluralism in India

By Dr. Mohammad Ghitreef

‘Muslims were invaders, looters and ruthless foreigner iconoclast who abhorrently misbehaved with Mother India, robbed its glory and shine, killed in cold blood thousands of natives,(read Hindus) and demolished Hindu temples and shrines’. This is how Muslims are being  stereotyped day out and day in by Indian national media, entertainment  industry, TV  and films not to be mentioned here of the constant antagonist propaganda of RSS and VHP parcharaks and cohorts like Pushpendra Kalshreshta. Hindutva ideologues’ writings and speeches are full of venom and hatred towards Muslims. New history concocted by the English and the historians subscribing to  Hindutva ideology is tarnishing Muslim image.

We should shortly examine here how Muslims ruled India is really contrasting with what the ruling dispensation is doing with Muslim minority now.

Tracing back the relationships between Arabia and India even before the advent of Islam Syed Sulaiman Nadwi wrote  a well researched book ( Relations between  Arab and Hind) عرب وہند کے تعلقات, published by Shibli Academy Azamgarh. In another work with deep delving into linguistic influence of Indian languages on Arabic he inferred that there are so many  Arabic words owe for their origin   to Indian language as : قرنفل (Ray flower)derived from کرن پھول  (Sandalwood) صندل derived from  چندن  likewise  کافور(camphor)  is derived from کپور  andالامبج،  ( amla, or mango) is derived from آم، etc. (seeلغات جدیدہ by Sulaiman Nadwi

In the Abbasid period the caliph Harun Al-rashid called several “Vaid” (doctor) to Baghdad among them was Manak  (منكه) who attended the ailing Caliph. Likewise the famous classic in Astronomy- mathematics by Barhum Gupta named as Sidhanta was rendered into Arabic (زیج السندھند). By the way, the Zero(0) a marvellous Indian invention first carried by Arabs into Arabic, then it travelled to Europe via Arabs, that is why they still call the current numeric as Arabic Numeric. In the midst of turbulent Ghaznawi era Albiruni came to India, visited many Aashrams, and became a disciple to several gurus, and seers, then he compiled his magnum opus کتاب ما للہند and stated amazingly things about India, its geography, its rich cultures, its religious and philosophical approaches, its different creeds and sects. It eventually became a major source on India for students and scholars alike.(see : عربی ادب میں ہندوستان کا حصہ ،شمس تبریزخاں)

What was the juristic position of non-Muslims in India after it had been conquered by Muslim army? In this regard Mohammad Bin Qasim, the conqueror of Sindh when consulted his uncle and mentor, the mighty and formidable governor of Iraq; Hajjaj bin Yusuf, who was the chief instrument behind Arab intrusion in Sindh, was given a reply to treat them as shibhe Ahle kitab( اہل کتاب شبہ ) people like the people of book as Shish Ismael Azmmi put it in his short book.

(عہد سلطنت میں ہندوکی حیثیت شیث محمداسماعیل اعظمی) Again the same question arose in the Saltanat period( عہد سلطنت،) the same legal answer was given to the counselling  Sultan.(ibid ) With this especial status granted to them in long Muslim era, from which some short periods can hardly be exempted, as the time of Aurangzeb Alamgeer for instance, so Hindus in Muslim India enjoyed all kinds of freedoms; freedom of religion, creed and cast, freedom to sustain their social norms and costumes without any interference except some inhuman, cruel and abhorrent practices such as the practice of Sati, which  was banned. Not only that, but they would get important positions in courts, in general and in particular the position of Diwan, patwari, arrangement of land, accounts of army and of courtier expenditures.

Even in Mahmood Ghaznawi court there were several Hindu commanders, army generals and other officials. In the times of Ghurids, and Lodhis many Barahmins became well versed  in Persian and thereby became efficient tools to run the state affairs, so they were given important positions in land management and revenue department etc.

Kayistha pandits were more privileged to get these significant posts as they were more at home in Persian language, revenue collection, accounting and land arrangement etc. Rajputs are a martial race so Muslim rulers used to take their services in the army and to give them promotion, so they had been, military commanders and army generals who fought many wars for them and won, for example Mansingh was the chief army general in Akbar’s time. In his court there was Beerbal the legendary storyteller, the noble was Raja Todermal who was a minister. Not only that, but there were some Hindu princesses married to Mughal princes. Mughal era even witnessed the mandirs and temples being built for these princesses in their special rooms or palaces. Baber had given a testament to his son Humaun that being the native people Hindus and being them the worshippers of cow, he should shun cow slaughter in order to avoid their heartrending and distressing.

Many Muslim rulers offered vast land areas for  Hindu mandirs and temples as it is well known fact that Alamgeer gave orders (Farmans) to some temples of Benares, a religious visit site for Hindus in Northern India, as Pandit Beshember Nath Pande found a collection of historical documents and records providing information about these farmans in archives. An Urdu rendering of that booklet was also published by Moulana Ataur Rehman Qasmi. These records of Alamgeer are more important because English and Hindu historians alike have caused more damage to Alamger’s repute. They did not leave any stone unturned to tarnish his image and still continue to do that.

Mounalana Shibli cited more than 25 names of Hindu mansadars (officials) in the court of Alamgeer.(Aourangzeb Alamgeer Aik nazar men in Urdu published by Shibly Academy Azamgarh)

While the history of Muslim rule in India talks about sad incidents of demolishing Hindu temples, it also mention the building of temples by Muslim rulers. More interesting is that many temples were destroyed by Hindu rulers too, and they were revived and revamped by Muslim  rulers as Sultan Tipu did in Mysore. What does it mean? It means that it was not a set pattern meted out by every sultan. Rather, it was sporadic events motivated by politics so they must be treated as separate cases. Noted historian Romila Thaper even denies going Mahmood of Ghaznah to Somnath and demolishing the same, which is very infamous incident Ghaznawi is always blamed for that. She reasoned for that the contemporary history books in Persian do not mention such an event ever took place. Though a Pakistani scholar dr. Sajid Ali a scholar of Philosophy and not of history differed with Thaper in this regard.(See https://www.humsub.com.pk)

In the era of Akbar an important text of Hindu religion namely Atharved was translated in Persian. Mullah Abdulqadir Badauni had rendered another Sanskrit text Singhasan Battisi into Persian by the name ،خردافزا

Likewise other Sanskrit classics such as Panjtantra and Nalwman were also interpreted into Arabic. Bhagwat Purana was also rendered into Persian as well. Among the courtier painters there were Khemkiran, Mahesh Lalmukund, Madhw, Prehanceram, Gagan Ram, et al. Dara Shikoh  himself was an scholar of Sanskrit so he translated Upnishad into Persian. Jahangeer himself would celebrate Hindu festivals of Holi, Devali, Rakhi bandhan Shewratri etc. He himself used to fasten rakhi and to invites Hnidu pandits to its court on the occasions. Arya Bhaatta Suraj Shing and Janak Roy were given prize in Mughal court. All this went to the time of Alamgeer who, though, ended all that yet even he did not marginalize Hindus.

Those who are renaming  the names of cities and towns bearing Muslim names should know that  Rampur city was founded by Nawab Faizullah Khan  in 1775 and no ruler chaned the name of a Hindu city. No Mughal emperor considered changing the city’s name to something Muslim or Islamic. The name of Hindu religious cities like Varanasi, Mathura , Ayodhya  remained intact during Muslim rule.

During the last phase  of Mughals there established many states, sub states, principalities, Nawabdoms and tiny kingdoms such as Bengal, Awadh, Maysor, and of course Hyderabad Dakan. Hindus keep doing services in high ministerial positions in all these kingdoms. For example Munshi Naval Roy-Bhakhshi of Nawab Safdarjang, Raja Tiket Roy- Divan of Nawab Naseeruddoula Raja Prem persad, Chief secretory of Nawab Saghiruddaula. Pandit Pornayya was a right hand to sultan Tipu and sir Maharaja Kishan Parsad enjoyed the portfolio of madarul maham (prime minister) in the court of Asafjahi Sultanat of Hayderabad and the list goes on.

This glimpse of history was from times which were pre-modern, when kings have been law unto themselves. No rule of law, no democracy and no secular values and no human rights groups. Contrasting Muslim behaviour then with non-Muslim subjects with the conduct of Hindu majority and also so-called Indian secular democratic state, per say, with Muslims you see bias, discrimination and side-lining, oppression and torture by police especially state sponsored communal pogroms against the minority community. Moreover, a complete marginalization of Muslim community in Parliament, in bureaucracy, in judiciary, army, police, business and higher education. In this prism you can see the reality of the propaganda done by anti-Muslim forces since one century frightening Hindu masses of a looming (imagined) Muslim threat as noted Indian historian Ram Chander Guha once said: “It that 80% Hindu majority is suffering from a minority complex”.

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