In the preliminary pages, the list of books "by the same author" shows that during the past fifty years I have written a dozen books on medieval Indian history beginning from 1950 onwards. As usual these have been reviewed in journals in India and abroad, bestowing both praise and blame as per the custom of the reviewers. However, during the last fifteen years or so, some of my books have received special attention of a certain brand of scholars for adverse criticism. Although this gives me publicity and raises demand for my books because such reviews arouse curiosity of readers, it also provides me with an opportunity to defend myself from my detractors determined to denigrate my work. It is not customary to answer the reviewers - they have their right of judgement - but when a systematic smear campaign is launched criticising everything that I say, without a single word of appreciation for anything, a rebuttal is called for, more so when a connection and not mere coincidence is discernible between the uncharitable review of one of my books in a British journal and some other harsh reviews by a group of Aligarh historians in Indian historical journals. In some Western universities, Aligarh is known to be the only centre of research on medieval Indian history.
7.1. The Legacy of Muslim Rule in India
Peter Jackson has reviewed my book The Legacy of Muslim Rule in India (Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi) 1992, in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain, Third Series, Vol. 4, Part 3, November 1994, pp. 421-23. He writes: "Those who have read Professor Lal's History of the Khaljis and Twilight of the Sultanate, both still standard works, may well approach this book with pleasurable anticipation. They will be disappointed." And then follows a list of harsh observations on selective basis. These may be taken up one after another.
1. In the words of the reviewer "what disturbs me is the way in which a markedly selective and one-sided account of India's Muslim past is pressed into service in support of his (author's) position".
2. According to the author, "Appeasement of Indian Muslims by the Congress might have been understandable prior to Partition, as a means of maximising support against the Raj; as a policy deliberately espoused by successive governments of India since 1947, it is pitifully inappropriate - and dangerous. In particular Lal deplores the government sponsored attempts to rewrite Indian history in the interests of 'minorityism' by suppressing unpalatable truths about the character of Muslim rule."
3. According to the author, "a strict watch was kept on their (the Hindus) thought and expression" and that "they could not worship their gods in public." "Some limited degree of repression may have been possible in Delhi, or in the sultan's itinerant court," writes Jackson, "it was surely impractical in provincial centres, still more so in the countryside."
4. "If Muslim rule was so iconoclastic and oppressive, how are we to account for the fierce loyalty shown to successive Delhi Sultans by their Hindu Paik guards... And what of the thousands of Hindu troops who are found serving in the armies of Hindu potentates from Mahmud of Ghazna... onwards?"
5. "The implication is that toleration of Hindu practices was always opposed by the 'Ulama'... It is clear that the 'ulama' are going to be damned whatever they did or did not do... A similar fate awaits the Sufi mashaikh (pp. 193ff)."
6. "One final example of the methods employed in this book deserves mention, namely, the failure to distinguish the conduct of Muslim rulers within India from that of their coreligionists who appeared in the subcontinent only temporarily. Of the Muslim armies in peacetime... we still await the evidence of his statement on rowdyism."
7. "Use of archaic and misleading term 'Muhammadan' is of a piece with Lal's reliance on dated secondary authorities like Sir Elliot's introduction to The History of India as told by its own Historians."
8. According to the author of the book, "Muslims still live, as they have always lived, in the Middle Ages. Islam is inherently a religion of violence; its followers... are not concerned about equality with the devotees of other faiths."
9. "One thinks of the works of Peter Hardy, of Yohannan Friedmann, and of the Aligarh school now headed by Irfan Habib. It might be inferred that these scholars are to be numbered among the 'Marxists, pseudo-secularists, progressives etc.' whom Lal denounces (p. 348). But their writings were irrelevant to his purpose. His is not a work of scholarship but an exercise in propaganda, and rather crude propaganda at that."
1. With all humility I would like to say that most history is selective. Selective study is common everywhere, in Aligarh, in Jackson's review itself. Jackson himself gives a rare instance mentioned in Epigraphia Indica 1957-8 of Hindus benefiting "from the Muslim governor's active assistance in the construction of their temple which had been destroyed in a (Muslim) insurrection against Muhammad bin Tughluq". How selective! Would it mean that it was common with Muslim governors to help build temples? Just the contrary was the tradition. The fact is that such exceptions only prove the rule. A markedly selective and one-sided claim is that Aurangzeb donated so many bighas of land to so and so temple without mentioning the case of hundreds of others he desecrated and razed. Am I more selective than the historians who indulge in such selectivity day in and day out? In all fairness the reviewer should concede to me also the freedom of "selective choices" he allows to himself and others, particularly in Aligarh.
2. The reviewer has put words in my book which are not there at all, like "maximising support against the Raj" or "a policy espoused by successive governments". What I said in the Legacy (p. 336) is this:
This paragraph needs neither reiteration nor elaboration. "Religious harmony is a desirable thing. But it takes two to play the game. Unfortunately such a sentiment holds a low position in Islamic theology," rightly writes Ram Swarup. Muslim attitude before 1947 was that the 'Muslim nation' could not live with the Hindus; they must have a separate state. Efforts at unity and 'living together' was a one-sided endeavour of the Congress. It failed before 1947 because Muslim theology does not believe in living together with non-Muslims on equal terms. That is also why the Congress effort seems to be failing after 1947. Threat of secession is heard every day (as in Kashmir) or of further division of the country (if a uniform civil law is enacted for all Indians).
Should it be a matter of criticism if I deplore "government-sponsored attempts to rewrite Indian history in the interest of minorityism by suppressing unpalatable truths about the character of Muslim rule"? I have quoted from government circulars addressed to authors of school and college textbooks. Here some instructions/suggestions are reproduced. These appear on p. 70 of the Legacy. "Muslim rule should not attract any criticism... Destruction of temples by Muslim invaders and rulers should not be mentioned... Ignore and delete mention of forcible conversions to Islam" etc., etc. Curiously enough the instructions themselves admit of destruction of temples and forcible conversions. Why are there no instructions about writing the history of the ancient (Hindu) period or the British period? Does it mean that the record of Muslim rule in India alone is unmentionable? Or, does it mean that only the destruction of temples by Muslim rulers and invaders should not be mentioned (for the appeasement of one minority), while destruction by Portuguese invaders and rulers should be freely mentioned? Evils of Hindu society may be discussed but the evils of Muslim society should not. Warren Hastings, Wellesley and Dalhousie may be impeached relentlessly but no Muslim governor or ruler. These are double angles of approach, double standards of judgement recommended for writing Indian history. But this is actually being done by historians engaged by the establishment for writing school and college textbooks. Koenraad Elst has written a book on this subject entitled Negationism in India: Concealing the Record of Islam (New Delhi, 1992).
Negationism is practised in many countries, but their laws in this regard are different. As an example, let me quote from a report carried by The Times of India, datelined New Delhi, 7 May 1992. "HISTORIAN FINED FOR A 'HOAX'. Munich: A district court here fined a British historian 10,000 marks ($ 6,000) on Tuesday for publicly insisting that the Nazi gas chambers at Auschwitz were a hoax, AP reports. judge Thomas Stelzne ruled that David Irving, a right-wing historian was guilty of slandering and disparaging the memory of the dead, a crime in Germany. Irving, 54, has claimed that gas chambers in Auschwitz death camp were a post-war hoax to draw tourists to the area in Poland. Irving once insisted that Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler knew nothing about the Holocaust, which claimed the lives of 6 million Jews." On the other hand, in India, when a 'historian' spreads the canard that the temple at Banaras was razed by Aurangzeb because a Rani was molested in its premises (of course, without producing any historical evidence), he is rewarded with cash and high offices and hailed as a great Gandhian and a champion of secularism and national integration.1
In these circumstances, it is no wonder that the Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal, "a National Voluntary Oraganisation working in the field of Education with the active involvement of Intellectuals, Educationists, Thinkers, Policy makers and teachers at all levels, has undertaken... to request the Central and State Governments to put an end to the distortion in the textbooks of History and other subjects at all levels (and) to insist upon the teaching of complete and impartial History of Indian Freedom Struggle against foreign invaders covering the last 2500 years."
3. It is re-asserted that a strict watch was kept on Hindu thought and expression. Hindu learning in general was suppressed since Hindu and Buddhist schools were attached to temples and monasteries. These were regularly destroyed from the very beginning and with them schools of learning. Qutbuddin Aibak razed the Sanskrit College of Vishaldeva at Ajmer and in its place built a mosque called Arhai din ka Jhonpra. In the east Ikhtiyauddin Bakhtiyar Khalji sacked the Buddhist university centres in Bihar like Odantapuri, Nalanda and Vikramshila between 1197-1202. There, according to the contemporary chronicler Minhaj Siraj, "the greater number of the inhabitants of the place were Brahmans, and the whole of those Brahmans had their heads shaven (probably Buddhist monks mistaken for Brahmans) and they were all slain. There were a great number of books there; and the Musalmans... summoned a number of Hindus that they might give them information respecting the import of these books; but the whole of the Hindus had been killed." All that the invader could learn was that "the whole of the fortress was a college and in the Hindi tongue, they call a college (madrasa) Bihar."2 During this period there were large numbers of centres of learning spread all over India. B. P. Mazumdar has listed some of these centres in the eleventh and twelfth centuries as existing in Northern India. In Bihar they were Nalanda, Vikramshila, Odantapuri and Phullahari near Monghyr. In North and Eastern Bengal they were Jagaddala, Somapura and Devikota in North Bengal, Vikrampuri in Dacca, Pattikeraka in Comilla, and Panditavihara in Chittagong. Minor viharas were in existence at Gaya and Valabhi and Bundelkhand.
Hieun Tsang, in the seventh century, had noted that monasteries existed in all parts of the country. Many of these continued to flourish in the eleventh-twelfth centuries. Hiuen Tsang's list included "Nagarkot, Udyana, Jalandhar, Sthanesvara, Srughna Matipura, Brahmapura, Govisana, Ahichchatra, Samkasya, Kanauj, Navadevakula, Ayodhya, Hayamuka, Prayag, Visoka, Kapilvastu, Banaras, Ramagrama, Ghazipur, Tilosika, Gunamati, Silabhadra near Gaya, Kajangala, Pundravardhana, Kamarupa, Samatata, Orissa, Berar, Malwa, Valabhi, Anandapura, Surat, Ujjayini and Chitor." The adventurer Ikhtiayaruddin Bakhtiyar Khalji sacked Bihar during sultan Aibak's reign, and centres of learning were specially sacked. So thorough was the massacre by the Khalji warrior in Bihar and later on by others in other places that those who could read ancient inscriptions became rare if not extinct. So that when Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq (fourteenth century) shifted two Ashokan pillars from Khizrabad and Meerut to Delhi and installed them there, he called some learned Brahmans to read the inscriptions engraved in Ashokan Brahmi script on the pillars; they failed to read the script. Some of them tried to please the Sultan with funny stories by saying that it was recorded in the inscriptions that no one would be able to remove the monoliths till the advent of Firoz.3
Demolition of schools and temples was continued by most Muslim rulers right up to the time of Aurangzeb, both at the centre and in the provinces. Aurangzeb was one of the enthusiastic sort in this respect, although he was no exception.
The Maasir-i-Alamgiri records that in April 1669, "It reached the ears of his Majesty, the protector of the faith, that in the province of Thatta, Multan, and Banaras, but especially in the latter, foolish Brahmans were in the habit of expounding frivolous books in their schools, and that students and learners, Muslims as well as Hindus went there, even from long distances, led by the desire to become acquainted with the wicked sciences they taught. The Director of the Faith, consequently issued orders to all governors of provinces to destroy with a willing band the schools and temples of the infidels. In obedience of this order the temple of Bishnath at Banaras was destroyed."4 With such evidences on hand, Jackson is forced to concede that "some limited degree of repression may have been feasible in Delhi or in the vicinity of the sultan's itinerant court; it was surely impractical in the provincial centres, still more so in the countryside". I have resided in Delhi, Bhopal and Hyderabad (Deccan) for many years. In all these places I could hardly locate any temples left of the medieval period. Hindu learning was dependent on schools and Brahman teachers, and both were attached to temples mostly in urban areas. And all the three - schools, teachers and temples - were systematically destroyed. Muslim rulers in general and Firoz Tuglaq and Sikandar Lodi in particular considered the Brahmans as 'the very keys of chambers of idolatry" and treated them with great severity.5 The level of education in the countryside is not known. But the credit for whatever could be- saved of Hindu education goes to the freedom fighters of medieval India and not to the indulgence of the Muslim government.
4. Fierce loyalty of "Hindu Paik guards" may not be a correct description. Paik is a Hindi word, but all paiks were not Hindu. They can be called urban infantry comprising of both Hindus and Muslims. Once captured or enrolled in the sultan's service, most Hindu troops were converted to Islam. That is why the paiks who saved Alauddin Khalji on his expedition to Ranthambhor have been called retainers because Barani calls them "foot-soldiers", "foot-slaves".6 One of them was Manik. The name is Hindu and probably he was a Hindu. During mass conversions sometimes old names were not given up and Manik may as well have been Musalman with Hindu name. The paiks who killed Malik Kafur, to save Alauddin's son Qutbuddin Mubarak Khalji, were all Muslims - Mubshir, Bashir, Saleh and Munir as noted by Isami and Farishtah.7 Of the thousands of Hindu troops serving under Muslim rulers from Mahmud Ghazni onwards, some were enrolled troops, others were loyal soldiers under loyal Rajas.
Once a man gave up the plough and adopted the profession of arms, he became a professional soldier available for service with any employer, Hindu or Muslim. it is not only defeated Hindu Rajas or professional Hindu soldiers who served under Muslim rulers, vice versa was also the case. Mahmud Ghaznavi and Hindu Shahiya kings both had Afghan troops under them. Vijayanagar employed thousands of Muslims in both civil and military establishments. An entire contingent of Rana Sanga was Muslim. In Shivaji's army a substantial section was adherent of Islam. Churaman jat enrolled Meos and Afghans against Mughal government. Ibrahim Khan Gardi with 9,000 sepoys fought under Marathas against Ahmad Shah Abdali in the Third Battle of Panipat.
Loyalty to salt was a special feature of the medieval period. It did not, as it could not, hinder the Muslim rule from being iconoclastic and oppressive to non-Muslims as its character was determined by the dictates of the Shariat.
5. I have said nothing objectionable about the life of the ulema and mashaikh in medieval India and their role in the contemporary politics (pp. 189-207). This is what I have said about the ulema, "Their presence was indispensable to a ruler who was generally uneducated (in the Law). They kept the rulers and the ruling class on the path of Islam and virtue by informing them correctly about their duty towards the non-Muslims. Some modem secularist historians blame the Ulama for making Muslim rulers intolerant through their orthodox advice... I have not come across any instance where the Ulama deliberately gave a distorted version of their scriptures in this context... They were as much interested in seeing the Muslim state being run according to the Shariat as the Sultan." No sober scholar would say that I have damned the ulema and also insinuate that "The 'Ulama' are going to be damned (by me) whatever they did or did not do".
Similar is the case about the sufi saints. In nine pages (193201) I have written about the various orders and their contribution to Muslim rule. In three pages (204-206) I have given a brief resume of their life and political activities. So I have been attacked for what is not there in the book. The insinuation and comments of Jackson on my statements on the ulema and the mashaikh suggest that he is determined to condemn my book without proper reading.
6. There is criticism of "the methods employed ... namely, the (author's) failure to distinguish the conduct of Muslim rulers within India from that of their co-religionists who appeared in the subcontinent only temporarily".
There is no failure on my part to distinguish between the conduct of the two; there is hardly any difference, because both followed the same ideology, the same Quranic laws and rules in dealing with the Hindus. Let us compare the achievements and activities of Sultan Firoz Tuglaq, a ruler within India, with those of a foreign invader Timur. Firoz Shah used to shed tears when he was forced to fight against Muslims; for "Muslim men would be killed and their women widowed". But he felt satisfied when called upon to fight non-Muslims. After his sack of Orissa, Firoz Shah attacked an island on the sea-coast where "nearly 100,000 men of Jajnagar had taken refuge with their women, children, kinsmen and relations". His soldiers turned "the island into a basin of blood by the massacre of the unbelievers". When the pious Sultan attacked Nagarkot (Kangra) and sacked the shrine of Jwalamukhi, Farihstah records that "the Sultan broke idols of the temple, mixed their fragments with the flesh of cows and hung them in nosebags round the necks of Brahmans. He sent the principal idol as trophy to Medina." Firoz Tuglaq was resident Sultan of Hindustan and was known for his piety among contemporary Muslims. Ten years after his death appeared the foreign invader Timur in the subcontinent, temporarily. But the ideas and actions of the two were similar. Timur starts by quoting from the Quran in his Tuzuk-i-Timuri: "O Prophet, make war upon the infidels and unbelievers, and treat them severely." He continues: "My great object in invading Hindustan has been to wage a religious war against the infidel Hindus." Similar was the object of Firoz Tughlaq and other sultans "within India". Timur laid siege of Bhatnir and even after the garrison had surrendered, "in a short space of time all the people in the fort were put to the sword, and in the course of one hour the heads of 10,000 infidels were cut off. The sword of Islam was washed in the blood of the infidels and all the goods and effects... became the spoil of my soldiers." At Sarsuti "all the infidel Hindus were slain, their wives and children were made prisoners and their property and goods became the spoil of victors". In Haryana, Timur directed his soldiers to "plunder and destroy and kill every one whom they met". Killing of men and capturing of women and children went on wherever he went.
Firoz Tughlaq was one of the distinguished rulers within India. He had reigned for more than thirty-five years after Muslim rule had been established for 150 years. His dynasty itself ruled for seventy-five years. Timur was his coreligionist who appeared in India only temporarily. But there is nothing to distinguish between the actions and ideas of the Muslim sultan within India and a temporary foreign Muslim invader. Both are praised by contemporary chroniclers for their pious acts against the infidels. Is it enough to settle down in India in order to become an Indian even if the settler continues to despise everything Indian and admire everything Arabic and Persian and Turkish, even if the settler continues to massacre in cold blood thousands of Indians and convert many more by force, sell women and children as slaves in Muslim lands, destroy great creations of art and science and literature? From Mahmud of Ghazni, the invader, to Aurangzeb, 'the Great Mughal' within India, the story is the same. In truth, Aurangzeb spent his long life towards one end - in fulfilling the task initiated by Mahmud. If those who appeared temporarily were hated, the sultans within India too are no heroes of Indians.
Rowdyism of Muslim armies is well-known. There are dozens of examples available of loot and extortion by Muslim soldiers in peacetime. The reforms of Sher Shah and his strict orders about troops not to damage peasants' fields while on move bear testimony to it. Both Shams Siraj Afif and Ziyauddin Barani refer to such behaviour.8 But a paragraph from Emperor Jahangir's own pen depicts the scenario clearly. "After carrying out these matters I left the city for the purpose of hunting... As the Rabi Fasl (Spring season) had arrived, for fear any damage should happen to the cultivation of the ryots from the passage of the army, and not withstanding that I had appointed qurisawul (provost marshal) with the band of ahadis for the purpose of guarding the fields, I ordered certain men to see what damage had been done to the crops from stage to stage and pay compensation to the ryots."9 A little later he again writes that "In order that the grain and cultivation should not be trodden down by men I ordered that all should remain in the city but the men who were actually wanted and my personal servants" only should accompany him on his hunting expedition.10 In the countryside only grain or crops could be looted or destroyed. In the villages, there was hardly any gold or silver with the peasants on which the soldiers could lay hands on. There are references of such loot in the cities. Rowdyism, extortion and abduction by soldiers in peace time was not uncommon.
7. No, it is neither old fashioned nor archaic to use the term Muhammadanism. Islam is understood more correctly when it is called Muhammadanism. Muhammad is the central figure in Islam. He controls the hearts and minds of all Muslims everywhere. Had their been no Muhammad there would have been no Islam. The word Muhammadanism is therefore not misleading. Its use is very apt and correct.
Elliot's History of India as told by its own Historians is no secondary authority. It contains English translation of passages of contemporary Persian chronicles. Sir Henry Elliot's introduction just as Professor Mohammad Habib's 102-page Introduction to the second volume of Elliot's work published from Aligarh, contains the views of the two. As per Jackson, should both be termed as "dated secondary authorities?"
8. According to the author of the book (a) "Muslims still live, as they have always lived, in the Middle Ages; (b) Islam is inherently a religion of violence; and (c) its followers are not concerned about equality with the devotees of other faiths."
(a) It is true that most Muslims still live in the Middle Ages. The few who dare to be 'modern', face unsurmountable difficulties. The reason is that as a religion and social system, Islam is changeless. it is based on the Quran and the Sunnah which are changeless. This has not been said by me but by most Muslims including the historian Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi whose assertion has been quoted by me on pp. 116 and 320 of my book under review. I.H. Qureshi says: "The Quran is believed by every Muslim to be the word of God revealed to his Prophet Muhammad." This word of God cannot be amended, cannot be changed because "not even the Prophet could change the revelation". Equally important is the Sunnah. Muslim Law is built on the Quran and the Hadis. "There are no local variations of the Muslim Law." Muhammad himself did not want any change in the religion he had initiated. In the closing year of his life, 632 CE, he performed what is known as the Valedictory Pilgrimage. At Mina he preached and urged the pilgrims "not to depart from the exact observances of the religion which he had appointed".11
Muslim Shariat law was enacted in the Middle Ages. Muslim pattern of life was set in the Middle Ages. Any pleas for change are dubbed as "innovations" and are denounced with fatwas. Muslims in India can only indulge in unlimited praise of Islam, or, discreetly keep quiet. There is no third choice. Those who raise even a faint voice of criticism have ultimately to seek refuge in foreign lands (Taslima Nasreen, Anwar Shaikh). Polygamy is still practised and amputation of limbs and flogging, especially of women, practised (Bangladesh). The medieval Muhtasib is still at work. What Shaikh Ghaznavi recommended to Iltutmish about jihad and treatment of Kafirs in the thirteenth century or Qazi Mughisuddin told Alauddin Khalji in the fourteenth or Shah Waliullah in the eighteenth is still the norm of thought. Two years ago a meeting of the Personal Law Board was held at Jaipur. It recommended censorship on any progressive views. Such views are considered "innovations" in Islam. Besides other resolutions, there was one on setting up media-watch committees throughout the country to monitor media reports about "attack on Islam" (that is, anything analytical or critical regarding Islam), and establishment of Shariat courts (as reported in The Times of India, New Delhi, Oct. 17, 1993). Muslims live, as they have always lived, in the Middle Ages. Else, there was no need for Salamat Masih to seek asylum outside Pakistan and Taslima Nasreen to flee from Bangladesh. No poet, scholar or writer even in modem times is impregnable from the argus eye of the Muhtasib. A few instances will suffice to drive home the point.
An Urdu poet Mohammad Alvi based in Ahmedabad recited a ghazal at a mushaira. The ghazal was repeated from Alvi's famous collection, Chautha Aasman, which won the Sahitya Akademi award. But on April 4, 1995, Mufti Shabbir Siddiqui of the Dar-ul-Uloom Shah-i-Alam, a small religious school in Ahmedabad, issued a fatwa terming Mohammed Alvi, a Kafir and apostate, ordered him to tender a public apology, renew his faith in Islam and remarry his wife, failing which the Mufti called upon the Muslims to excommunicate Alvi and break all social contact with him.
The couplets, which led to the issuance of the fatwa 17 years after they were written, reflected the poet's concern at the happenings around him. Considering that evil, violence and injustice have made this world God-forsaken and suggesting that God has become indifferent, in sheer pain and agony he prays to Allah:
"Agar tujhko fursat nahin, to na aa
(O Allah, if you do not have time, do not come, but at least send a good guide; there are numerous pious people in this world, bestow a divine message upon someone. This is the right time, lest we miss the doomsday.) What provoked the Mufti to issue the fatwa was a letter written to him by the Nazim-i-Ala of Dar-ul-Uloom Shah-i-Alam, Usman Khatri. When asked whether Alvi was invited to appear before him and defend his case, the principal of Dar-ul-Uloom, Maulana Moinuddin Razvi, said there was no need to call Alvi. If a thing was wrong in the Shariat, prima facie the Mufti had the right to issue the fatwa.
Asked whether the Mufti was authorised to issue such a fatwa, the principal said: "We do not have to seek anybody's authority."
Mohammed Alvi, however, said he did not have the slightest inclination to disbelieve in the finality of the Prophet, which is an Islamic injunction, nor had he tried to malign Allah. It was a simple poetic imagination where he called upon Allah to send a messenger or a guide (and not Prophet) with a divine message. There was nothing blasphemous in the three couplets, he maintained. On receiving an unconditional apology from Alvi, Mufti Shabbir Siddiqi pardoned the Kafir! "Now he is back in our fraternity", said he in Urdu on telephone.12
The fatwa against the lawyer in Beed in South India is another example of the gag on the freedom of expression by Muslims. "The maulvis ' of Beed town today (July 23, 95) excommunicated a lawyer, Shaikh Altaf Ahmed, from the community for writing an article expressing his opinion on the uniform civil code. Mr. Ahmed is reported to have opposed polygamy and talaq in an article in the district newspaper Zunjar Neta on July 11. This infuriated some religious leaders who expressed their displeasure over the article. Fundamentalists, too, started threatening Mr. Ahmed with dire consequences and some of them pelted stones on his residence on July 19. It is alleged that they even made an attempt on his life. The fatwa to expel the advocate was issued during the Friday namaz in his absence. He was asked to leave Beed at once. Mr. Ahmed apologised publicly clarifying that his intention was not to hurt religious sentiments but only to point out certain misconceptions. However, the Muslim clerics were not satisfied and declared that the decision to expel him would stand. The apology was not expressed as per Islamic rules, they added."13
Islam superintends every action of Muslims, and there are fatwas directing them to do this and do not do that. According to newspaper reports, the Milli Parliament recently issued a fatwa directing Muslims to refrain from exercising their franchise in the on-going elections (India's 1996 General Elections). "It is completely unlawful for Muslims," the Milli Parliament is reported to have pronounced, "to give authority to any non-Muslim political party or group to rule over Muslims, for in the Quran we are told that Allah does not allow disbelievers to have any authority over the believers." Professor Imtiaz Ahmad protested against this fatwa on the ground that "One of the explicit requirements of Islam is that a fatwa can be issued only by someone who is learned in the scripture, the traditions and Islamic jurisprudence. The Milli Parliament's credentials on this count are seriously questionable. Even otherwise, the Milli Parliament's pronouncement is wholly misguided. For one thing, even though Muslims constitute a minority, they are co-sharers of political power within the framework of the Constitution. Wilfred Cantwell Smith had drawn pointed attention to the uniqueness of this situation in the Muslim world in Islam in History. Under the circumstances, for the Milli Parliament to invoke the distinction between believers and disbelievers amounts to sticking to outmoded ways of thinking and repudiating the emerging realities of Islam."14 The fact is that invoking the distinction between believers and disbelievers, does not amount to outmoded ways of thinking; it forms the very basic principle of Islamic ideology. Whether it is competent or not, the Milli Parliament has issued a fatwa. And it stands. Imtiaz Ahmad talks about India's democratic set up. There is no democracy in Islam. There is even no word for democracy in Islam. The "progressive" Imtiaz Ahmad can hardly make a dent in the think-tank of the Milli Parliament.
However, after challenging the fatwa, Imtiaz Ahmad, like any discreet Muslim thought it necessary to add the following: "There is a verse in the Quran to the effect that Allah does not change the situation of a people who are unwilling to change their character (ausaf). For over fifty years a particular brand of Muslim religio-political leaders in the country have indulged in ways of thinking and acting which are the source of their community's predicament in contemporary India. It is time that this brand of leaders, of which the Milli Parliament is the latest example, drew guidance from this Quranic verse and corrected its obsolete ways of thinking and action so as to be able to act as real leaders of the community." Appeal to a Quranic verse protects Imtiaz from any adverse reaction of the clerics or the community even if the obsolete thinking is not changed even a whit. The fatwas are not confined to Muslims alone, the issuers have the audacity of admonishing and threatening people of other faiths also. The Express News Service reports from London how a "Fatwa forces editor into hiding":
"In the normal course of things, Mr. Namassiwayam Ramalingam, the editor-in-chief of the weekly L'Independent, would have been back in Port Louis, Mauritius, planning his next issue. But for the past two months or so, Mr. Ramalingam has been holed up in a small hotel in Croydon, on the outskirts of London, waiting for an elusive phone call that will inform him that it is safe to return home and resume publication.
"The wait is likely to be prolonged. The government of Sir Anecrudh Juggnauth is in a serious dilemma about what to do with an editor who is now threatened with a fate similar to that of Salman Rushdie and Tasleema Nasreen.
"The facts are somewhat bizarre. In March this year, on the occasion of the beginning of Ramzan, Mr. Ramalingam reprinted an article on the life and times of the Prophet Muhammad from the well-known French weekly Le Point. Matters would have ended there had not one Maulana Haroon read sinister meaning and blasphemy in the article.
"Within days of the publication, Maulana Haroon convened a public meeting in the Muslim-dominated Plaine Verte locality of Port Louis and, after arousing religious passions, issue a fatwa of death against Mr. Ramalingam.
"Muslims constitute 18 per cent of the population of Mauritius. The Hindu community is in a majority with 52 per cent.
"Two days later, the press of L'Independent was firebombed, and although the March 17 issue of the weekly hit the stands, it was the last. On March 24, Mr. Ramalingam boarded a flight to London, leaving his family in Mauritius, hoping that a small period of absence would allow passions to cool.
"Mr. Ramalingam, on the advice of Prime Minister Juggnauth, also tendered an apology for any unintended offence to the Muslim community."15
When we turn our attention to countries beyond the Indian subcontinent, especially the Islamic countries, we realize how the Muslims still live in the Middle Ages. There are no churches in Saudi Arabia and of course no Hindu temples. It is stated that no Hindu can take any idol into Saudi Arabia. And about this situation Indian Muslims are not only satisfied but also encourage the Arabs not to give equal treatment to non-Muslims. Such an one is Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi, the Rector of the Nadwat-ul-Ulama, popularly known as Ali Mian, whom we have met before. He is opposed to the construction of houses of worship of non-Muslims in the Arabian peninsula. He wrote a letter to this effect to the Emir of Kuwait first in 1963. That letter has been re-published in one of his books. Ali Mian's letter said: "You know that the Prophet of Allah made the Arabian peninsula exclusive to Islam. The Caliph Umar has reported that he heard the Prophet say: 'I shall throw the Christians out of the Arabian peninsula and will not allow anyone but the Muslims to live there.' Near the time of his death the Prophet said: 'There will never be two religions in the Arab land.'" Referring to (newly-built) non-Muslim houses of worship in Kuwait, Ali Mian said they were a threat to that country's integrity. He warned that it was necessary to be vigilant concerning the presence of alien minorities in Kuwait which could lead "to the creation of a nation within a nation". (Here he is conscious of the role of Muslims in India.) Communalism Combat (February, 1995) published the letter under the heading: "is This Ali Mian's Islam?" The letter-writer C.M. Naim, ended by saying: "Ali Mian has been to the United States and Europe several times. One hopes that visiting the numerous mosques there has produced in him some reciprocal sentiment of acceptance of the ways of worship of God by others." Obviously, not.
This is what Muzaffar Hussain has to say about the situation in Iran and other Islamic countries:
"Iran's criminal law is reverting to the mediaeval system of punishment. A woman accused of adultery is condemned to be buried chest-deep and killed by hitting her with rocks and stones... under Section 104 of the Iranian Criminal Code... Today when everywhere there is the din of slogans for protection of human rights and women's liberty groups are going from strength to strength, in the last decade of the 20th century, there is no one to protest against the cruel law that instructs people to kill women suspected of adultery by crushing them under a shower of stones... In Pakistan the Hadud law under the rule of General Zia was meted out to women, and today it is being practised in Iran. Today, progressive governments and enlightened societies do not stomach the outdated practices like purdah... if any government resists purdah, they will kill twenty women who have already discarded it. Retaliate one veiled with 20 veilless! It is reminiscent of the fanatics' slogan of Hum panch, hamare pachis in retaliation of the Indian government's legend for family planning, Hum do, hamare do. This is the description of the state of affairs in the Muslim countries especially in Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Muslim intellectuals do not speak for fear of death (emphasis ours), and when the non-Muslim world comments on such incidents, attempts are made to fool the world opinion by branding these comments as misinformation conspiracy by the Christians and the Israelis...
"The Human Rights Commission contains a news item that women were imprisoned for driving cars or defying the supposedly Islamic tradition of dress. In Saudi Arabia, some educated women gathered together and decided to drive cars simultaneously to defy the reactionary law prohibiting female car-driving. Thus 22 women came on the roads and began driving their cars. The Saudi Government... not only seized their cars but shut up the women drivers in jails.
"In the matter of restriction on women's attires, Iran is followed by Sudan. In Sudan, if a woman defies the rules regarding women's clothes she invites the punishment of 74 lashes of flogging. A girl student of Khartoum was subjected to 35 lashes for daring to flaunt a skirt-and-blouse ensemble. in the town of Oumdarman a woman received 37 lashes for committing the 'immodesty' of wearing a pyjama. The Human Rights Commission report is a collection of such blood-curdling tales. When these dark-age societies will be liberated from the repressive system of the fanatics who perpetrate these crimes in the fair name of Islam, only the savior Allah knows!" (emphasis ours).16
And of course the, fatwa on Rushdie will be implemented. A news item from Tehran says: "Iran's chief judge, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi said on Sunday the fatwa threatening the life of Indian born British author Salman Rushdie will eventually be implemented. The implementation of the decree is upto Muslims of the entire world and not only Iran. So Iran will not make any effort nor will pay money to kill Mr. Rushdie." (DPA)17
The problems faced by Governments in countries like Egypt, Turkey and Algeria against pure Islamists are well known. About their difficulties in dealing with the fundamentalists, the less said the better. The crux of the problem is the fact that "true" Muslims still live, as they have always lived in the Middle Ages when their unchanging and changeless religion was revealed to them - in all countries by force.
(b) Islam is inherently a religion of aggression, violence, and dominance. Jihad is still proclaimed and practised. Allah-o-Akbar is as much a battle cry heard during communal riots, as it is heard during the call for prayer. Islam divides humanity between followers of the faith and infidels. Infidels are proclaimed as the enemies of Allah (think of it, God has enemies in poor humans), and are to be killed if they do not accept Islam. Words like Jihad, Zimmi, Kafir, Munkir, Mushrik hurled at unoffending people belonging to other faiths do not denote non-violence or peaceful coexistence. Jihad is advocated by Shariat and not a single Muslim will dare to say publicly that Shariat is unacceptable. Muslims are so much accustomed to violence that if there are no non-Muslim Kafirs available to fight with, one section of Muslims calls another Kafir and continues with the killing spree. There was a time when Afghanistan was Hindu and Buddhist. There was peace. Now it is torn by unceasing conflict. Let it revert to its ancient faith and, I challenge, who knows peace will automatically return.
In many areas in the world today, wherever there is violence, terrorism and conflict, there is involvement of Islam. Muslims have been practising terrorism in many non-Muslim as well as Muslim countries on trumped up grievances, for Islam is inherently a religion of violence.
(c) India is not a Muslim country. It is a secular state; Parsis, Jews, Christians, Hindus and Muslims live here on terms of equality. There is no problem with Parsis and Christians. But Muslims are not concerned with the problems of adherents of other faiths. They are only concerned about themselves and their 'Separate Identity'. For example, India wants to improve the condition of women. Women suffer from many disabilities. Muslim women in particular are at a disadvantage in matters of divorce, inheritance, polygamy and unequal status in Islamic society. For improving their lot and prohibiting polygamy among all religious groups a common civil code is needed. But Muslims oppose its enactment. Changeless Islam, founded in the Middle Ages, stands in the way of any reform. An Anti-Common Civil Code Convention was held by Muslims at the Talkatora Indoor Stadium in New Delhi on July 4, 1995. The Convention demanded that the Muslims should be exempted from the purview of Article 44 of the Constitution which envisages such a code. Asad Madani, the chief of the Jamiat, called the demand for a common civil code a conspiracy to finish off the Muslims in India. He advised all Muslims to have four wives to increase the Muslim population and to enhance their influence with the Government. Zafaryab Jilani described the move for a common civil code as anti-Islamic and aimed at finishing Islam in India. Mufti Abdul Razzaq of Bhopal wanted Muslims to wage jihad against the Government and to kill those who opposed Muslim Personal Law. Many more separatist statements were made. If the Muslims were concerned about equality with devotees of other faiths, they would not oppose a common civil code meant for and applicable to all Indians. Instead of opposing it they should grab this opportunity to get into the proposed code all the good things in the Shariat concerning the "high status of women in Islam" about which Muslims are so vociferous. But they shun to live on terms of equality with the people of other faiths, they do not like to join the mainstream of Indian social and cultural life. They insist on asserting their separate identity not only in India but wherever they happen to be in a minority, United Kingdom and France included. This aspect has already been discussed in the Legacy (pp. 345-48) and need not be restated here.
9. In his hurried determination to belittle my book, Jackson failed to notice that I am well aware of the work of Peter Hardy and have quoted him at two places in the Legacy on pages 63-64 and 115. I have, however, not seen any book written by Yohannon Friedmann or Peter Jackson. I know that Irfan Habib headed the school of historical studies at Aligarh, but he has retired. There were newspaper reports that his continuance was resented by many members of the History Department who counted him, like me, among the "Marxists, pseudo-secularists, progressives etc." Like them, I am not bound to accept his views. The last-minute refusal of the Aligarh Muslim University authorities to grant permission to the Association for the Study of History and Archaeology (ASHA) to hold its second annual conference in their university stirred a controversy. The timing of the AMU authorities' refusal coincided with the removal of Prof. Habib from the post of coordinator, Centre of Advanced Study of History, AMU.
Fifteen years ago, Irfan Habib reviewed my book Growth of Muslim Population in Medieval India (A.D. 1000-1800), brought out by Research Publications in Social Sciences, Delhi, in 1973. The similarity of spirit of criticism between the reviews of Peter Jackson and Irfan Habib is significant.
7.2. Growth of Muslim Population in Medieval India
At the 39th Annual Session of the Indian History Congress held at Hyderabad in December, 1978, Professor Irfan Habib presented a forty-page cyclostyled paper entitled "Economic History of the Delhi Sultanate - An Essay in Interpretation".
One half of the paper deals with the topic, the other consists of charges against me, Professor K.A. Nizami, and Professor Lallanji Gopal. However, the main thrust of his paper is an adverse criticism of my book. I presented a rejoinder to his paper at the 1979 session of the Indian History Culture Society, New Delhi. It was published in the Proceedings of the Society. The volume was entitled Bias in Indian Historiography and was edited by the late Dr. Devahuti. My rejoinder to Habib's criticism of my book as published in the Proceedings volume is being reproduced here with slight changes here and there.
Professor Irfan Habib starts with: "Professor Lallanji Gopal ... has discovered that poverty in India began with the coming of the Muslims", and "...Professor K.S. Lal has made the equally startling discovery that the sultans reduced the population of the country by over a third". This is followed by a stereotyped attack on Elliot for writing about "the murders and massacres" perpetrated by the "Mohamedans" (pp. 2, 2940 of his cyclostyled paper).
Professor Habib betrays a rather unscholarly strain by encompassing in the one sentence quoted above the entire impact of 130 pages of my study (pp. 26 to 156) Growth of Muslim Population in Medieval India. As I have said in the Preface of the book: "Any study of the population of the precensus times can be based only on estimates, and estimates by their very nature tend to be tentative" (p. vi). I claim no finality about my assessments of demographic quantification nor, I beg to submit, can Professor Habib. But he does not make any assessment at all; he merely challenges and criticises my conclusions - a very easy task! In my computation, however, sufficient historical evidence has been set forth for any demographic behaviour and on that basis I have arrived at the conclusion that the population of India in A.D. 1000 was about 200 million and in the year 1500 it was 170 million. However, Irfan Habib gives a twist to my observation on the decline of population by saying that "the sultans reduced the population of the country by over a third" (p. 2) which would mean that I have stated that the sultans deliberately killed people to reduce the population of India. I have shown in my book under reference that the population of India in the ancient period was large and prosperous, citing the authority of Greek writers, Chinese travellers and Arab geographers together with the conclusions arrived at by many modern writers (pp. 25-32). What happened to this huge population? It was decimated by Muslim invaders and invaders like Muhammad bin Qasim, Mahmud Ghaznavi, Muhammad Ghauri and Qutbuddin Aibak, some of whom took pride in claiming that they had killed people by lakhs (hundreds of thousands). Their chroniclers have also credited them with tremendous achievements in this regard.18
Irfan Habib is all praise for Professor Mohammad Habib who was "so conscious of the negative aspects of the medieval Islamic civilization or so sensitive to the devastation that the wars and campaigns of the sultans wrought on the inhabitants" (page 3) while he attacks Professor Nizami for writing "without that critical view of Islamic society and the destruction accompanying the invasions" (p. 5). On the other hand, when I refer to this devastation and destruction resulting in the decline of Indian population, Irfan Habib finds it unpalatable. I should have thought that a dispute was out of the question as Habib has used the same sources in computing the number of slaves captured in some campaigns of the sultans as I have for the assessment of demographic decline. This is what Irfan Habib has to say about the acquisition of slaves by the sultans: "The evidence for such enslavement is there for all to see. So economically important was it that the success of military campaigns was often judged by the number of captives (burdas) obtained for enslavement. Qutbuddin Aibak's campaign in Gujarat in 1195 netted him 20,000 slaves, seven years later a campaign against Kalinjar yielded 50,000. In 1253 Balban obtained countless 'horses and slaves' from an expedition in Kalinjar. In the instructions that Alauddin Khalji is said to have issued to Malik Kafur before his campaigns in the Deccan it is assumed that 'horses and slaves' would form a large part of the booty. As the Sultanate began to be consolidated, the suppression of mawas or rebellious villages within its limits yielded a continuously rich harvest of slaves. Balban's successful expedition in the Doab made slaves cheap in the capital. How people of the village could be made slaves for nonpayment of revenue is described in the 14th century sources; and women so enslaved are mentioned in different contexts in two others" (pp. 16-17). This statement of Irfan reflects the imperialist style, in total disregard of the feeling of the slaves taken. When I write from the view of the victims, Jackson regards it as "propaganda, and rather crude propaganda at that". But of this a little more later on.
Does not the netting of captives presuppose desperate struggle? Surely people did not come rushing to the invading armies to be made slaves. They were captured and enslaved during invasions only after bitter fighting in which many more were killed. As I have shown in my book, the extent of the loss of population through killings in wars was enormous. The loss of Indian population during Mahmud of Ghaznavi's invasions was about 2 million as studied in some detail in Appendix A of the Growth of Muslim Population in Medieval India (pp. 211-17). Thereafter, with the establishment of Turkish rule, India suffered badly so far as its population was concerned. But Habib not only overlooks this fact, he also challenges it.
Habib gives some figures of slaves made during the time of Qutbuddin Aibak to Alauddin Khalji. Here are some figures of the loss of lives during the same period. Qutbuddin Aibak's conquests (c. 1200-10) included Gwalior, parts of Bundelkhand, Ajmer, Ranthambhor, Anhilwara as well as parts of U.P. and Malwa. In Naharwala alone 50,000 persons were killed during Aibak's campaign. No wonder that besides earning the honorific of lakhbakhsh (giver of Lakhs) he also earned the nickname of killer of lakhs. Bakhtiyar Khalji marched through Bihar into Bengal and massacred people in both the regions. During his expedition to Gwalior, Iltutmish (1210-36) massacred 7000 persons besides those killed in the battle on both sides. His attacks on Malwa (Vidisha and Ujjain) were met with stiff resistance and were accompanied by great loss of life. He is also credited with killing 12,000 Khokhars (Ghakkars) during Aibak's reign. The successors of Iltutmish (Raziyah, Bahram etc.) too fought and killed zealously. During the' reign of Nasiruddin and Balban (1246-86) warfare for consolidation and expansion of Turkish dominions went on apace. Trailokyavarman, who ruled over Southern U.P., Bundelkhand and Baghelkhand, and is called Dalaki va Malaki by Persian chroniclers, was defeated after great slaughter (1248). In 1251, Gwalior, Chanderi, Narwar and Malwa were attacked. The Raja of Malwa had 5,000 cavalry and 200,000 infantry and would have been defeated only after great slaughter. The inhabitants of Kaithal were given such severe punishment (1254) that "they might not forget the lesson for the rest of their lives". In 1256 Ulugh Khan Balban carried on devastating warfare in Saimur, and "so many of the rebellious Hindus were killed that numbers cannot be computed or described". Ranthambhor was attacked in 1259 and many of its valiant fighting men were killed. In the punitive expedition to Mewat (1260) "numberless Hindus perished. In the same year 12,000 men, women and children were put to the sword in Hariyana." When Balban became the sultan "large sections of the male population were massacred in Katehar and, according to Barani, in villages and jungles heaps of human corpses were left rotting". During the expedition to Bengal, "on either side of the principal bazar (of Lakhnauti), in a street two miles in length, a row of stakes was set up and the adherents of Tughril were impaled upon them".
"Alauddin Khalji and Muhammad bin Tughlaq (c. 1296-1350) were great warriors and killers. Alauddin's conquest of Gujarat (1299) and the massacres by his generals in Anhilwara, Cambay, Asvalli, Vanmanthali etc. earned him, according to the Rasmala, the nickname of khuni. His contemporary chronicler proclaims that Alauddin shed more blood than the Pharaos did. He captured Ranthambhor after very heavy casualties. Chittor's capture was followed by a massacre of 30,000 people, after Jauhar had been performed and the Rajputs had died fighting in large numbers. When Malwa was attacked (1305) its Raja is said to have possessed 40,000 horse and 100,000 foot. After the battle, "so far as human eye could see, the ground was muddy with blood". Many cities of Malwa like Mandu, Ujjain, Dharanagri and Chanderi were captured after great resistance. The capitulation of Sevana and Jalor (1308, 1311) were accompanied by massacres after years of prolonged warfare. In Alauddin's wars in the South, similar killings took place, especially in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. In the latter campaign Malik Kafur went from place to place, and to some places many times over, and in his rage at not finding the fleeing prince Vira Pandya, he killed the people mercilessly. His successor Mubarak Khalji once again sacked Gujarat and Devagiri.
In short, the Turkish rulers were ruthless in war and merciless towards rebels with the result that their killings were heavy. Hence the extirpating campaigns of Balban and the repeated attacks on regions already devastated but not completely subjugated. Bengal was attacked by Bakhtiyar, by Balban, by Alauddin, and by the three Tughlaqs - Ghiyas, Muhammad and Firoz. Malwa and Gujarat were repeatedly attacked and sacked. Almost every Muslim ruler invaded Ranthambhor until it was subjugated by Alauddin Khalji (1301), again temporarily. Gwalior, Katehar and Avadh regions were also repeatedly attacked. Rajputana, Sindh and Punjab knew no peace. In the first decade of the fourteenth century Turkish invaders penetrated into the South, and its population too suffered heavy losses.19 During campaigns and wars, the disorganized flight of the panic-stricken people must have killed large numbers through exposure, starvation and epidemic. Nor should the ravages of famines on populations be ignored. Drought, pestilence, and famines in the medieval times find repeated mention in contemporary chronicles.20 Add to this the demographic decline occasioned by the recurring Mongol invasions for almost a whole century.
And yet Habib states that my "evidence for actual depopulation is nil" (p. 39). Has he passed judgement on pages 26 to 156 of my book without reading them? (Habib p. 2 n. 2). I do not consider him so naive as not to understand the importance of the influence of demographic decline on the economic activity of a country.21 But apparently he wants to shut his eyes to anything disagreeable to his susceptibilities, and seek refuge in all sorts of untenable interpretations and suppositions.
This brings us to the 'revolutionary researches' of Habib about the economic history of the Delhi Sultanate. His first startling discovery is that the spinning wheel (charkha) came to India from Persia and that too in the 13th century. Habib writes that it had "come to Iran in the 12th century". He does not say what it looked like, how it was made, and wherefrom it came to Persia. In India, according to him, "this important mechanical device is referred to first of all, in Isami's Futuh-us-Salatin (1350), as an instrument to which women should apply themselves. It, therefore, seems practically certain that the spinning wheel came to India from Iran probably in the 13th century, so as to spread rapidly enough for the kind of statement made by Isami." Thus, according to Habib, it was a novel device introduced in India. But charkha or spinning wheel was known in India long before Isami. Amir Khusrau advised his daughter to sit with her back to the door while plying the charkha, and Habib himself confesses that "domestic maid-slaves were made to work at spinning" (p. 17), surely not, only after Isami's time. Good quality cloth was manufactured in India from times immemorial. "The skill of the Indian," says Professor Weber, "in the production of delicate woven fabrics ... in all manner of technical arts has from very early times enjoyed worldwide celebrity."22 It is a well known fact that Egyptian mummies dating back to 2000 B.C. have been found wrapped in Indian muslin. Throughout the ancient times, cotton cloth was produced for domestic use. Obviously, its yam was produced on the spinning wheel device. And yet, according to Habib, India was unaware of the spinning wheel in the ancient times.23 Therefore, it is wrong to conclude that a sizable expansion in the production of cotton cloths took place because of the immigration of artisans and the introduction of new technology from abroad in the 13th and 14th century. Irfan Habib also claims "it (introduction of spinning wheel) may well be responsible for that large scale use of cloth by ordinary people which the comparison of depictions in ancient Indian sculptures and painting and Mughal-period miniatures so markedly bring out" (p. 9). One may ask how much clothing Kabir, an ordinary man, and a weaver, himself put on after this "central innovation quickened immeasurably the process of spinning yarn".
It is not surprising that for some communal historians suffering from extra- territorial chauvinism, the Persian wheel,24 the spinning wheel, the dome and the arch all came from lands outside India and the highly developed ancient Indian civilization was unaware of these. It may be pointed out to such writers that the rudiments of the arch and the dome were both known to Ajantan and Buddhist India and one would do well to read E.B. Havell's works in this regard.
The growth of industrial commerce under the sultans was not due to the immigration of a large number of artisans from abroad (for which only the fragile authority of Isami is quoted) and the Indian slave labour, as claimed by Habib. The instances he himself cites are of slaves working as domestic servants (p. 17). Slaves were mainly captured or purchased by rulers for menial services, help in hunting and sport, and service in the army.25 Surely a few thousand out of the 180,000 slaves of Firoz Tughlaq worked in the royal karkhanas, but there is no evidence to show that the 50,000 slaves of Alauddin Khalji were so engaged. There is no evidence whatsoever of "a process of enslavement of very large numbers of people, so as to provide cheap reserves out of which new craftsmen could be created" (Habib, p .15). However, in spite of demographic decline, the spurt in industry and commerce was there because "the loot from temples and treasuries of Hindu kings, in other words, the wealth lying frozen for decades and centuries, was released into the market,"26 for providing items of comfort and luxury for the new rulers while the technical know-how for producing such articles was already known in India.
The coming of some scholars, physicians, hermits, unani doctors and assayers of jewels, artisans (kasiban) and embroiderers cannot be denied. But if good artisans and architects were available in such large numbers in Central Asia so as to migrate to Delhi "like insects around a lamp", it would not have been necessary for Timur to carry away artisans and architects from India to build his mausoleum at Samarkand.
As Habib somehow manages to bring up the issue of the N.C.E.R.T. sponsored textbooks in his discussion of the economic conditions in medieval India we are constrained to express our opinion on this matter after quoting Habib (p. 34): "The time is surely not distant, when writers wishing to avoid the fate of the N.C.E.R.T. books, would busily exhibit these statistics (in my Growth of Muslim Population) to show what terrible straits Indian economy was reduced to by fire and sword under the Muslims rulers."
We assert that the N.C.E.R.T. books are known for their studied bias and fantastic theories and interpretations of writers like Habib and his tribe, and their communal approach in deliberately glossing over the misdeeds of one section of medieval Indian society and repeatedly hammering on the failings of the other.
7.3. The Mughal Harem
There is another review of a special brand by A. Jan Qaiser of the History Department of Aligarh Muslim University published in the Indian Historical Review, New Delhi, 1991. This is a specimen of how a review may not be written. For it contains sentences like "whom do you think you are bluffing Mr. Lal?" or "what a consistency, Mr. Lal.?" (p. 346). Such is not the language of scholars. Therefore, I ignored Qaiser's review except devoting a page of my Legacy of Muslim Rule (p. 171) to take notice of one point. In The Mughal Harem, (Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi, 1988, p. 203). I had said that "The large establishment of wives and servants rendered the nobles immobile. No Indian scholars, engineers or travellers went abroad to learn the skills the Europeans were developing in their countries. While people from Europe were frequently coming to Hindustan, no Indian noble man could go to the West because he could not live without his harem and he could not take with him his cumbersome harem to countries situated so far away. Europe at this time was forging ahead in science and technology through its Industrial Revolution, but the Mughal elites kept themselves insulated from this great stride because of inertia. Consequently, the country was pulled back from marching with progress, a deficiency which has not been able to be made up until now."
Reacting to this statement, A. Jan Qaiser in his harsh review of the book observes; "Is Lal really ignorant of the fact that the Indians were being increasingly exposed to a number of European articles of technology and culture brought by the Europeans during the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth century?" (p. 346). The poor man does not realise that he is only confirming my assertion that the Indian nobles were being only exposed (whatever he may mean by the word) to articles brought by Europeans. On their own they were incapable of doing anything more.
For Qaiser's information I may add that Professor M. Athar Ali, his colleague in Aligarh, agrees with my contention when he says (in his book Mughal Nobility under Aurangzeb, Bombay, 1970, p. 174) that "the ideas of the nobles concerning industry never went beyond Karkhanas or establishments employing artisans at low rates for their needs for luxuries (p. 164)... from the point of view of the Mughal nobility itself chief fault was its failure to change and adapt itself to a new developing situation not only in India, but in the whole world."
Since its publication The Mughal Harem has been reviewed in dozens of journals and magazines both in English and in Hindi. A couple of letters from a scholar in California are indeed touching: "I am quite aware of the years of research that has gone into your work and it is very much appreciated," and "My greatest admiration for your work and thanks for all you have given me in my research for understanding and knowledge."
In comparison, A. J. Qaiser's review is dross.
7.4. History of the Khaljis and Other Books
My History of the Khaljis was first published in 1950. It went through a second revised edition in 1967. A review published in the Times Literary Supplement, London, dated December 19, 1968 said, "When this book was published sixteen years ago it took its place at once among the standard authorities... This new edition embodies a good deal of fresh material derived from hitherto unutilised Rajput sources... In its latest form, this book is unlikely to be surperseded." History of the Khaljis was mainly my dissertation for the Doctorate degree and was written at Allahabad between 1942 and 1945. The University of Allahabad was then known as the Oxford of India. During the years 1937 and 1945 when I was a student there, Dr. Sir Shafaat Ahmad Khan, Dr. Tara Chand, Dr. R.P. Tripathi, Dr. Ishwari Prasad and Dr. Beni Prasad were some of the great names in the then known as the History and Politics Department. They were all my teachers. Professor Mohammad Habib of Aligarh, was also as good and kind to me as my Professors at Allahabad. Naturally their ideas and views about medieval history left a deep impression on my young mind. Their ideas in turn were influenced by the contemporary Indian political scene which was then in great ferment. Between 1941 when I took the Master's degree and 1945 when I obtained the D. Phil., the struggle for Indian independence against British rule was at its peak (with Quit India Movement thrown in, in 1942). During those turbulent days it was felt that Hindu-Muslim combined endeavour was most needed to present a united front against the foreign British rule. Allahabad was the home of the Nehrus. Jawaharlal Nehru used to reside in Anand Bhavan when he was not in jail. Mahatma Gandhi also used to come and stay there for days together. Many important meetings of the Congress Working Committee used to be held in Anand Bhavan. The University was at a stone's throw from there. It is no wonder therefore that the Allahabad University became a think-tank for presenting Hindu-Muslim united front. This was one reason why it became a fashion and a tradition in the History and Politics Department not to say a word against Muslim rule in India; everything about it was to be praised. It was an attempt at forging Hindu-Muslim unity with retrospective effect. Naturally, we young scholars of impressionable age learnt about the Muslim rule in India with a definite pro-Muslim bias just as we were taught by our professors. But, I remember, we students used to discuss among ourselves that there was lot of 'white washing' and 'polishing' and suppressio veri in what we were taught in the class room.
The Faculty members of the History Department had brought out a number of excellent monographs on medieval Indian history. Beni Prasad's History of Jahangir, Banarsi Prasad Saksena's History of Shahjahan, R.P. Tripathi's Some Aspects of Muslim Administration and Ishwari Prasad's History of the Qaraunah Turks were widely read. Ishwari Prasad's Medieval India and Muslim Rule in India were our textbooks in B.A. and M.A. Tara Chand's Influence of Islam on Indian Culture and Mohammad Habib's Sultan Mahmud of Ghaznin were highly praised for breaking new grounds. We were recommended lots of books to read. Sir Jadunath Sarkar's Aurangzib was avidly read, and also criticised. But those were the days of a different culture not found now among Marxists and progressives. For instance, when there was criticism of some statement of Jadunath Sarkar, it was also acknowledged in and outside the class room (by R.P. Tripathi, for example) that Sarkar was the doyen of Indian historians and "head and shoulders above all of us".
During the early years of my research on Alauddin Khalji which led to the completion of the History of the Khaljis, the emphasis was on learning the Persian language. Muslim chronicles, which formed our main source material, were available in that language mainly. The study of Quran, Hadis and other Muslim scriptural literature was not recommended. At this stage there never was even a suggestion to read these and acquaint ourselves with the salient features of the religion of Islam. On the other hand it was often emphasised that the actions of omission and commission of Muslim rulers and nobles had nothing to do with the religion of Islam. We thought as we were told in Professors' lectures and published books - that the tirade of the Muslim ulema like Ziyauddin Barani against the Hindus were the fulminations of a sick mind and the actions of invaders and rulers like Mahmud Ghaznavi and Alauddin Khalji had nothing to do with Islam as such.
But the source materials threw a different hint. The Quran was often quoted by the chroniclers during their spate of abuse against the Hindus. Barani was learned in Islamic scriptures. Mahmud of Ghazni was a scholar of the Quran and Amir Timur prostrated himself before God after he had achieved the great objective of massacring the people of Delhi. Connection between the actions of Muslim rulers and Islamic scriptures was unmistakable. In later years, when I had become acquainted with the fundamentals of Islam through the study of the Quran and Hadis I realized that whatever the Maulanas (and most sufis) had said was not the product of a sick or unbalanced mind but was based on Islamic religious scriptures, and that historical truth could become clearer by discovering the links between the actions of Muslim invaders and rulers, the writings of chroniclers, and the teaching of Islamic scriptures instead of clamping the entire blame on the ulema section of the sultan's court.
In 1945 I left Allahabad and joined the Madhya Pradesh (then known as Central Provinces and Berar) Educational Service and for the next eighteen years or so taught at Government Colleges in Nagpur, Jabalpur and Bhopal. My Twilight of the Sultanate was published in 1963 when I was at Bhopal. it deals with the history of the Afghan rulers of the Lodi clan. Sikandar Lodi was an anti-Hindu fanatic, and consequently a true Muslim in the eyes of Muslim chroniclers. I have not failed to write about his bigotry, which was enjoined by his creed, on pp. 192-94 and 287-88 of the Twilight of the Sultanate. Else, but for the speciality of his religion, the son of a Hindu mother could not have become so fanatically anti-Hindu. Similar had been the case with Sultan Firoz Tughlaq.
In July, 1963, I joined the University of Delhi as Reader in (Medieval) Indian history
A seminar on "Ideas motivating Social and Cultural Movements and Economic and Political policies during the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries in India" was organised by the History Department of the Delhi University in November, 1965. I presented a paper on "Ideas leading to the impoverishment of the Indian peasantry in medieval times". It had been dinned into our ears that the extreme poverty of the Indian peasant was due to the administrative policies and exploitation of the British rule. I had often wondered if this execrable poverty was the result of a century or so only of British rule, or whether this poverty was of remote past and its origins could be traced back to the medieval period. I found enough evidence to arrive at the conclusion that there was systematic impoverishment of the agriculturists under Muslim rule; to blame the British alone was not right. But such a conclusion was against the current fashion. To find fault with Muslim rule was not in conformity with secular history. After I had presented the paper many delegates spoke to express their views, as is usual in seminars. But Professor Saiyyad Nurul Hasan indulged in "trenchant criticism" of the paper. He was a Marxist, a secularist, and a progressive historian. Such was the clout of this group of historians that they would not brook any disagreement with their mental fixture of only appreciation and praise for Muslim rule in India. I became convinced that until this "gagging of others" was not challenged, their brand of history would go unchecked. Since then I have challenged them in my books.
Later on Nurul Hasan became the Education Minister in the Government of India. Nurul Hasan possessed great qualities of head and heart. He was also a great administrator. Early in his career as Professor at Aligarh he had organized the History Department on a stable footing. When he became the Education Minister he continued the traditions of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. He had a kind heart and like the great Mughals loved being surrounded by yes-men. Prospective professors thronged round him. Professors of history throughout the country began to be appointed with his consent and approval. He founded the Indian Council of Historical Research. He established the Jawaharlal Nehru University. His proteges took control of the Institute of Advanced Study at Simla and the University Grants Commission at Delhi. The situation is best sketched by Swapan Dasgupta in an excellent article in the Indian Express of July 23, 1995:
"Many of those who read history at Delhi in the mid-1970s and later, still bear the ugly scars inflicted by the thought police of sarkari Marxism. 'There are two interpretations of history', a leading representative of the Red Cretin Brigade used to inform his students casually, 'the bourgeois interpretation and the Marxist interpretation, and the Marxist interpretation is the correct one.' The sense of certitude was terribly contagious and ambitious students readily accepted the prevailing dictum: if you read Marx, you will score more marks... The leftists were neither sartorially wild, sexually adventurous nor fanatically anti-establishment. They were boring time, servers who lived off the patronage provided by a 'progressive' education minister. They dominated the committees, regulated appointments, set the curriculum, issued monotonously predictable 'anti-fascist' proclamations, hobnobbed with visiting academic dignitaries and travelled on the international seminar circuit. With little original research under their belt, they thrived above all on reflected glory.
"Indeed, being a part of an international Marxist fraternity was central to their existence. If Christopher Hill published an incisive study on the English Civil War, if E.P. Thompson completed a monumental work on 18th century deviancy and if the Ruskin College-based History Workshop undertook a seminar on popular culture, some of the glory would rub off on their progressive counterparts in India. The British Marxists set the standards of history in Britain and this enhanced the reputation of their counterparts in India...
"Whereas the British Marxists established their reputation by crafting their radical concerns their Indian counterparts took cheeky short cuts. it may also explain why substantive research on Indian history has increasingly become the prerogative of British, and a few American and Australian universities. The presiding deities of Indian historiography have meanwhile devoted themselves to writing politically correct text books that present history as chapters of received wisdom. They have also drafted resolutions for the Indian History Congress and written articles in the press on the Ayodhya issue."
The story of their resolutions for the Indian History Congress and their articles on the Ayodhya issue may be briefly recapitulated. A pamphlet entitled "The Political Abuse of History: Babri Masjid - Ram Janmabhumi Dispute" was issued by the Faculty members of the Centre of Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (INU). It was authored by Professors S. Gopal, Romila Thapar and Bipan Chandra, among others. This "group history", if it was meant to decide the issue of Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhumi once for all through sheer weight of numbers, failed miserably. Many articles and books appeared to challenge the contention of JNU professors. These were written not only by Hindus but also by Christians (Koenraad Elst) and Muslims (A.R. Khan). Professor A.R. Khan, Department of History, Himachal Pradesh University, Simla, wrote a long rejoinder to the pamphlet. The eminent historians from JNU had repeatedly asserted that Lord Rama's association with Ayodhya was based not on historical evidence but on belief. Dr. Khan asked: "The belief of the Hindus in Rama as an avtar, or god, is as strong as the belief of the Muslims in the Quran as a revealed work, as word of God. Can the said exponents of reason dare talk on evidence on the latter?"27
Of course, they dare not. But at many sessions of the Indian History Congress they continued to make noise about the Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhumi. I had stopped attending the Annual sessions of the Indian History Congress a long time back because it had become a propaganda forum for Aligarhian and JNU secularist historians. I enjoyed reading in the newspaper about the goings on at the Congress of 1993 session held at Mysore.28 The newspaper on 18th December quoted a Professor from Aligarh as exclaiming that "it is to the credit of the History Congress that not a single 'outstanding' historian joined the ranks of the Vishva Hindu Parishad on the Babri Masjid issue". A noted history scholar, on the other hand "alleged that the forum of the Congress was being used as a political platform" (20th December). This is the level to which the Indian History Congress has been reduced by Marxist historians. They have gone by many fancy names like Marxists, secularists, amnestists, progressives etc. Their secular history only means hiding away Muslim fundamentalism or presenting its sanitized version.
In short, the Marxist historians in India derive strength and reputation from works done by foreigners. On their own they have little academic distinction. Their nearness to the establishment has made them academic snobs. They have made the Indian History Congress sessions their propaganda forum. They feel they possess the monopoly of interpreting medieval Indian history. I had a personal experience of this attitude at a U.G.C. seminar on "Urban Rural Relations in Medieval India" held in the History and Culture Department of Jamia Millia Islamia on 7 to 9 March, 1979. Many scholars were invited to this seminar including K.A. Nizami, Irfan Habib, H.S. Srivastava, Lallanji Gopal, Raghuvir Singh, Mushirul Hasan, Iqtidar Alam Khan, Harbans Mukhia, A.B.M. Habibullah, myself etc. etc. At this seminar the junior cadre were more vocal and intemperate. They thought no end of themselves and looked upon others with deep disdain. Once again I became convinced that this group was incapable of doing any substantial research. Irfan Habib is an exception. It must be said to his credit that he continues to work. It is another matter that he and his admirers think that only his secular and pro-Muslim views are the last word on Medieval Indian history.
My Growth of Muslim Population in Medieval India was published in 1973. It annoyed some secularist historians in Aligarh. According to them some dark spots of Muslim rule had been brought into focus. But a detailed analysis had to be given bearing on the demographic behaviour of the times. But if Irfan Habib rushed with an adverse review of the book, there were many others who praised it for marshalling such a vast array of evidence in support of my conclusions . During the twenty-three years or so, between the publication of my History of the Khaljis (1950) and the Growth of Muslim Population in Medieval India (1973), I had not been vegetating. I had been constantly working and growing through learning and experience. I had published the Twilight of the Sultanate in 1963 and Studies in Medieval Indian History in 1966. I had edited the volume containing papers presented at the First Asian History Congress held at Azad Bhavan, New Delhi, in 1961. It was published by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations as Studies in Asian History (1969). Because of constant pursuit of learning, I had shed many old ideas which had been the product of an impressionable if not very mature mind.
Of this I shall give only one instance. In my Studies in Medieval Indian History, I had discussed about the "Factors underlying the loss of Indian independence in the Twelfth-Thirteenth centuries". In this I had repeatedly said that only Kshatriyas or Rajputs fought against foreign invaders. This is what I had said: "A nation exploited by the priestly class ... with only one caste set aside for the country's defence ... could never be gathered under one banner of a slogan like 'Hindustan in danger'." Again, "... the Rajputs alone fought against the foreign invaders, since the other castes had no obligation to defend the land..." And once again, "Only one caste - the Kshatriyas - was set aside for the purpose of defence against foreign invasions and protection of life and property from internal dissensions."29
Equally funny (as they look now) were my observations on the state of Hindu society. "Inside the cities and towns under Hindu rule lived people only of the higher castes. The lower caste people like servants and untouchables like scavengers had their quarters outside the walled city. They came to serve in the city, but could not reside there. The Brahmin cook and Thakur watchman were the only servants who could stay on the premises of the master or go inside his house. It was a very satisfactory arrangement so long as it worked. But when district after district passed into the hands of the Muslims, and Muslims in large numbers began to reside in cities and towns, the shape and form of the latter were completely changed. Not that they treated the menial classes in any way better than the Hindus, but the stigma of untouchability was gradually lost in a Muslim-ruled city. The untouchables served in the cities as before, but now they also lived there. Although the Hindus continued to treat the menials as untouchables and the menial classes continued to remain Hindu, yet in a city under Muslim control the stigma of untouchability was gradually gone and the lower-class people felt better under Muslim rule. The Hindu system had been distasteful to them."30
These views had been pressed into my mind by long oral discussions with Professor Mohammad Habib and the writings of Mohammad Habib and K.A. Nizami. The caste system has been considered by these scholars as a very major, if not the sole, cause of the defeat of the Hindus at the hands of the Turks. Professor Mohammad Habib writes, "The conquest of northern India (by Muhammadans), when all factors are kept in mind, can be explained only by one fact the caste system ... the division of the people into smaller water-tight sub-caste groups resulting in the total annihilation of any sense of common citizenship or of loyalty to the country as a whole."31 Professor K.A. Nizami arrives at a similar conclusion when he says: "The real cause of the defeat of the Indians lay in their ... invidious caste distinctions which weakened their military organization. That patriotic fervour in which every citizen instinctively lays his hand on the sword-hilt in moments of national crisis was killed by these caste distinctions. The bulk of the Indian population was apathetic towards the fortunes of the ruling dynasties. No appeal from the Rajput governing classes could possibly receive sympathetic response from the vast mass of Indian population..."32 I too began to share this view, but later on, on a re-evaluation of facts thought to be unimportant earlier, critical analysis and deeper reflection which grow with age, it appeared to me that the role of caste in the defeat of the Hindus has been given undue importance and emphasis. So that ten years later in my Early Muslims in India published in 1984, I wrote as follows: "There is no doubt that caste meant varied interests and divided opinions, but caste after all was a social evil, not a military disadvantage. The Kshatriyas never suffered on account of shortage of numbers on the fields of battle." The mention in the Shastras that it was the duty of the Kshatriyas to defend the land, should not lead to the misconception that all others were debarred or disinterested in the defence of their religion and country. Muslim chroniclers do not talk of the Kshatriyas alone participating in battles. They always speak of the 'Hindus', meaning thereby the people as such, fighting in wars. The huge casualties in wars as detailed by the chroniclers also point to the people's resistance to the invaders and conquerors and not only of a small section of the warriors.33 Indeed Jats, Khokhars and Gakkars, who were not high in the Hindu caste hierarchy, enthusiastically fought against Mahmud on many occasions.
And now, another ten years later, as a result of continuous study, I have arrived at the conclusion in my Growth of Scheduled Tribes and Castes in Medieval India (1995) that all castes, all classes of people, resisted foreign invaders and rulers, the lower classes as much as the higher, if not more. How else was this vast country saved from Islamization? How else, among the countries of the East, which experienced the visitation of Islamic armies, India alone could successfully repulse Muslim onslaughts and ultimately do away with Muslim rule slowly but surely? It is because all people, and not only Kshatriyas, put up a perennial resistance to Muslim invaders and rulers to the best of their capabilities.
My studies in the course of years did not remain confined
to Persian chronicles; they were supplemented by indigenous source materials
like the Rajput chronicles, the vast Bhakti or Vaishnav literature, as
well as the plethora of historical works produced by modern scholars on
medieval Indian history But the most effective influence was created on
my mind by the study of the Quran, the Hadis, the Hidayah and other
original works on Islamic law. I saw a clear relationship between Islamic
scriptures and the actions and policies of Muslim invaders and rulers
as faithfully recorded by Medieval Muslim historians. I became convinced
that Muslim rule in India derived its inspiration from the dictates of
Islamic religion. And in my writings in the nineties I began to quote
extensively from these original sources of Islamic law and history instead
of only citing from medieval Muslim chronicles. That is how a difference
is seen between the History of the Khaljis and Twilight of the
Sultanate on the one hand and the Legacy of Muslim Rule in India
and other books written by me in the eighties and nineties, on the other.
One does grow during the course of half a century if one continues with
his studies and I have surely grown. And since I do no believe that "Muslim
rule should not attract any criticism. Destruction of temples by Muslim
invaders and rulers should not be mentioned and forcible conversions to
Islam should be ignored and deleted, etc. etc.", my books are free
from such restrictions. I now also apply the same yardstick to medieval
Indian history as is done with respect to modem Indian history. If British
imperialism was bad for the Indian people so also was Muslim imperialism.
Both these sought sustenance from cooperation of indigenous elements but
neither of them became indigenous in nature. We in India write the history
of British rule not from the point of view of European imperialism but
from that of the victims of colonization. I apply the same methodology
to the history of Muslim rule. I write about it from the people's point
of view rather than from the view of Islamic imperialists. We cannot apply
different standards of approach and methodology to different periods of