I came across an interesting article by Zainab Sikander in these columns wherein she argued that Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s anti-Mughal stand is merely an expression to reinforce anti-Muslim sentiments, and has nothing to do with history. However, my experience suggests that most of the Muslim intellectuals try to vilify the truth of history. This act embeds the belief among the masses that discussing issues like the ‘tyranny of Mughals’ is an attack on the minority community. It must be understood that history owes to none, but truth and time.
In Zainab Sikander’s opinion, renaming cities such as Prayagraj is an attempt to wipe out the Mughal identity that she considers to be an imperative part of India’s civilisation. I agree that the Mughals are part of our civilisational discourse, but not like the way she thinks they are — her argument is shallow because Prayagraj existed with its name since several millennia before its name was changed and primogenital evidence of this comes from the Rig Veda. The Mughals ruled only for three centuries, but the history and identity of ‘Prayagraj’ is older than 24,000 years ago. The antiquity of Prayagraj and its importance to the Indian civilisation is immense. However, we must investigate the events and circumstances around the period when the most powerful Mughal ruler in India, Akbar — who in 1578 ensured that he was addressed as Ghazi — chose to construct the fort Illahabas that later came to be called Allahabad.
“Emperor of Islam, Emir of the Faithful, Shadow of God on earth, Abul Fath Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar Badshah Ghazi, is a most just, most wise, and a most God-fearing ruler.” — Abd al-Qadir Badauni, Muntakhab al-Tavarikh-II, 279–80.
From Prayagraj to Illahabas to Allahabad
In 1574, Akbar decided to build a fort and name the place ‘Illahabas’. According to most accounts, the fort was complete by 1584. Portuguese Jesuit, Father Monserrate, Italian Jesuit missionary and priest Rodolfo Aquaviva and Francisco Henriques arrived at Akbar’s court in early 1580s. Monserrate writes in his travelogue: “religious zeal of the Musalmans has destroyed all the idol temples.” According to him, “in place of the Hindu temples, countless tombs and little shrines of Musalmans (had) been erected.” Just two years after deciding to build Illahabas, Akbar had rewarded Badauni, the Mughal historian, with gold coins for his gesture of declaration to soak his beard with infidel Hindu blood.
Those who live with the belief that Illahabas was founded by Akbar for some secular cause and Illah does not come from illahi of kalima, perhaps, are not aware of Akbar’s acts, which strongly identify him as a Jihadi. A Ghazi, in his own words, is not a secular soul. It is tough to deny that a king who was so excited about someone soaking his beard in Hindu blood won’t have changed the name from Prayagraj to Illahabas as an attack on Hindu faith.
Zainab Sikander, in her article, says renaming cities are also about removing “Muslim sounding names”. But Yogi Adityanath has just brought back the name that existed for millennia till it was changed in the Mughal period. Name changing is not at all about Hindu or Muslim, nor is it about politics. It is all about the truth of the land. Irrespective of where the Kaaba sits, the sun rays would always enter from the east.
Older identities are important too
Zainab Sikander also objects to the scrapping of an under-construction Mughal museum and the UP government’s plan to turn it into a museum dedicated to Chhatrapati Shivaji. She considers the great escape that Shivaji made from the captivity of mighty Aurangzeb in 1666 from Agra as a non-significant occurrence. Even Aurangzeb considered it to be one of the biggest failures of his life. Agra being the Mughal capital for 90 years is a very short time period when you consider that the state houses one of the oldest Republics of the world — Kashi — standing tall, holding the flag of an oldest living civilization of the world.
No one is trying to blame the Muslims. But keeping 90 years of Agra as the Mughal capital above the millennium-old identity of the place and the heroics of Shivaji, suggests having a myopic vision of India’s history. The truth of Mughal tyranny is horrendous and potent enough to scare any democratic and civilised person of the day. Akbar, considered the most secular of all Mughals, had shown the religious bigotry — the emperor allowed the slaying of ten scores of cows and showered their blood onto the walls of temples (Sir Henry Miers Elliot, The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians: The Muhammadan Period, Volume 5, page 464).
Mughals: ‘Symbol of slavery mentality’
Adityanath’s assertion that Mughals were “the symbol of slavery mentality” is not wrong either. Even if I pick the most liberal Mughal rulers, only distress would come to the Mughal Fan Club. Akbar killed innocent Hindus and cows, organised Meena Bazar to get concubines for his Harem, and used to send abundant money to Mecca on various occasions. According to James Todd, Akbar had measured the “killed ones” by weighing their janeu. Even if I just count the atrocities at the hands of Akbar, it will be a challenge to keep an account of them all. Those interested in knowing the ugly facts on Akbar the great, must read primary sources such as Akbarnama.
Zainab Sikander goes on to compare the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politicians with the Mughals, stating that while the former breaks mosque today, the latter broke temples in the past. This is one of the weakest assertions in her article. More than 40,000 temples were destroyed during the Islamic rule in India (Hindu Temples – What Happened to Them). Before making such claims, the author must present statistics to show how many mosques have been broken by the BJP politicians. Such unsubstantiated claims only lead to polarisation.
The Jizya truth
The article also tries to justify Jizya by citing the differentiation on its application to different strata, based on Aurangzeb’s Fatawa ‘Alamgiri. But what one must also enquire is the percentage of wealth Aurangzeb was making out of this tax. According to Jagjivan Das (quoted by Irfan Habib in The Agrarian System of Mughal India, 1556-1707), Jizya formed 15 per cent of the Mughal Empire’s total revenue between 1708 and 1709. This seems to suggest a huge economic problem because GDP per capita growth was negative during this period, according to economic historian Angus Maddison (Contours of the World Economy 1-2030 AD).
Thomas Rolt, the president of English factory at Surat, said in 1679 that Jizya was charged by enforcing heavy suppression and was also a tool to convert poor Hindus to Islam (The English Factories in India, New Series, Volume 3). Italian traveller Niccolao Manucci, too, had a similar opinion which he expressed a quarter century after (1679) Rolt. Borrowing references from Fatawa ‘Alamgiri to project Mughal history should be the last thing anyone should do, for the book had nothing more than contempt for the “kafirs”. The book supported slavery and addressed it under following points:
- If two or more Muslims, or persons subject to Muslims, who enter a non-Muslim controlled territory for the purpose of pillage without the permission of the Imam, and thus seize some property of the inhabitants there, and bring it back into the Muslim territory, that property would be legally theirs.
- The right of Muslims to purchase and own slaves
- A Muslim man’s right to have sex with a captive slave girl he owns
- No inheritance rights for slaves
- The testimony of all slaves was inadmissible in a court of law
- Slaves require permission of the master before they can marry
- An unmarried Muslim may marry a slave girl owned by another but a Muslim married to a Muslim woman may not marry a slave girl
- Conditions under which the slaves may be emancipated partially or fully
Aurangzeb had sent presents worth around Rs 6,66,000 to Mecca and Rs 70,00,000 to foreign Muslim countries and its rulers. All this was happening when India’s GDP per capita growth rate was negative. It clearly speaks of the character Aurangzeb was.
Now, to the Taj Mahal. The ‘monument of love’ was built at a cost of 4.18 Silver Rupees at a time when millions starved in great Deccan Famine. The Taj came into existence upon the blood of those who starved to death in the famine, Indian artisans’ efforts and a Hindu ruler Jai Singh’s land. The Cambridge Economic History of India — a book edited by Tapan Raychaudhuri and Irfan Habib — documents the extortionist traits of the Mughals. While India’s GDP share percentage in world economy did not diminish (though it was highest before Islamic Invasions), the GDP per capita growth remained negative throughout the Mughal period (Angus Maddison, Contours of the World Economy 1-2030 AD).
It is tough to understand why the Mughals must be given credit for creating a structure when nothing except the order to commission was run by them. India was always home to fabulous architecture like the Kailasha temple. What must be asked is why the Mughals could never build anything so marvellous, like the Taj, back in their homeland?
History by the ‘hunted’
Yogi Adityanath’s decision to name the museum after Shivaji is a step towards ensuring that the tale of hunt is also written by those who were hunted. No king or warrior had ever given as bloody a blow to the Mughals as Shivaji and the Maratha Empire had. Shivaji was the first leader to speak about “Swaraj” and he must be celebrated in the land where he made a tyrant Aurangzeb to eat a humble pie.
Being “anti-Mughal” is not being “anti-Islam”. It is simply saying the truth out loud. The more one sides with tyrant Mughals holding the edge of faith, the more damage they bring for the Islam.
Aabhas Maldahiyar @aabhas24 is a practicing urban designer, columnist, author and an amateur History Researcher. Views are personal.
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