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Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb’s Reign of Power

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    Untangling Myth From Fiction: Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb s Reign of Power by Dr. Habib Siddiqui - saeva@aol.com In a polarized world that we live in (which is,
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 4, 2006
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      Untangling Myth From Fiction:
      Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb's Reign of Power
      by Dr. Habib Siddiqui - saeva@...


      In a polarized world that we live in (which is, sadly, getting ever
      more polarized now by every minute and hour), we have often assumed
      that what is good for "our" people had to be bad for the "other"
      people. A glaring example is the personality of Mughal emperor
      Aurangzeb, who ruled India for 50 years. Of all the Muslim rulers who
      ruled vast territories of India from 712 to 1857 C.E., probably no one
      generates as much controversy as Aurangzeb. He has been hailed as
      anyone from a "Saintly or Pauper Emperor" to one who "tried hard to
      convert Hindus into Muslims." Depending on one's religious rearing,
      one will favor one view over the other. For example, most Hindus
      castigate Aurangzeb as a religious Muslim, who was anti-Hindu, who
      taxed them, who tried to convert them, who discriminated them away
      from high administrative positions, who interfered in their religious
      matters. On the other hand, Muslims consider him to be one of the best
      rulers who was a pious, scholarly, saintly, un-biased, liberal,
      magnanimous, tolerant, competent and far-sighted ruler. To prove the
      view of the former group, a close scrutiny of the Government-approved
      text books in schools and colleges across post-partition India (i.e.,
      after 1947) is sufficient.[1] The second group depends mostly on
      pre-colonial (and some pre-partition) history, land-grant deeds and
      other available records.

      It is difficult to untangle this historical mess without scrutinizing
      the accusations against Aurangzeb rationally. Fortunately, in recent
      years quite a few Hindu historians have come out in the open disputing
      those allegations. For example, historian Babu Nagendranath
      Banerjee[2] rejected the accusation of forced conversion of Hindus by
      Muslim rulers by stating that if that was their intention then in
      India today there would not be nearly four times as many Hindus
      compared to Muslims, despite the fact that Muslims had ruled for
      nearly a thousand years. Banerjee challenged the Hindu hypothesis that
      Aurangzeb was anti-Hindu by reasoning that if the latter were truly
      guilty of such bigotry, how could he appoint a Hindu as his military
      commander-in-chief? Surely, he could have afforded to appoint a
      competent Muslim general in that position. Banerjee further stated:
      "No one should accuse Aurangzeb of being communal minded. In his
      administration, the state policy was formulated by Hindus. Two Hindus
      held the highest position in the State Treasury. Some prejudiced
      Muslims even questioned the merit of his decision to appoint
      non-Muslims to such high offices. The Emperor refuted that by stating
      that he had been following the dictates of the Shariah (Islamic Law)
      which demands appointing right persons in right positions." During
      Aurangzeb's long reign of 50 years, many Hindus, notably Jaswant
      Singh, Raja Rajrup, Kabir Singh, Arghanath Singh, Prem Dev Singh,
      Dilip Roy, and Rasik Lal Crory, held very high administrative positions.

      Two of the highest ranked generals, Jaswant Singh and Jaya Singh, in
      Aurangzeb's administration were Hindus. Other notable Hindu generals
      who commanded a garrison of two to five thousand soldiers were Raja
      Vim Singh of Udaypur, Indra Singh, Achalaji and Arjuji. One wonders if
      Aurangzeb was hostile to Hindus, why would he position all these
      Hindus to high positions of authority, especially, in the military,
      who could have mutinied against him and removed him from his throne?

      Most Hindus like Akbar over Aurangzeb for his multi-ethnic court where
      Hindus were favored. Historian Shri Sharma states that while Emperor
      Akbar had 14 Hindu Mansabdars (high officials) in his court, Aurangzeb
      actually had 148 Hindu high officials in his court. (Ref: Mughal
      Government) But this fact is somewhat less known. It does not require
      much intelligence to understand the difference between 14 and 148. But
      when truth is hostage to bigotry, facts are substituted for fiction,
      148 may appear to be smaller than 14 to disingenuous historians, and
      that is an unfortunate reality we face.

      Some of the Hindu historians have accused Aurangzeb of demolishing
      Hindu Temples. How factual is this accusation against a man, who has
      been known to be a saintly man, a strict adherent of Islam? The Qur'an
      prohibits any Muslim to impose his will on a non-Muslim by stating
      that "There is no compulsion in religion." (Qur'an: Surah al-Baqarah).
      The Surah al-Kafiroon (The Unbelievers) clearly states: "To you is
      your religion and to me is mine." It would be totally unbecoming of a
      learned scholar of Islam of his caliber, as Aurangzeb was known to be,
      to do things which are contrary to the dictates of the Qur'an.

      Interestingly, the 1946 edition of history text book, Etihash
      Parichaya (Introduction to History), used in Bengal, published by the
      Hindustan Press, 10 Ramesh Dutta Street, Calcutta, for the 5th and 6th
      graders states: "If Aurangzeb had the intention of demolishing temples
      to make way for mosques, there would not have been a single temple
      standing erect in India. On the contrary, Aurangzeb donated huge
      estates for use as Temple sites and support thereof in Benares,
      Kashmir and elsewhere. The official documentations for these land
      grants are still extant."

      A stone inscription in the historic Balaji or Vishnu Temple, located
      north of Chitrakut Balaghat, still shows that it was commissioned by
      the Emperor himself. The proof of Aurangzeb's land grant for famous
      Hindu religious sites in Kasi, Varanasi can easily be verified from
      the deed records extant at those sites. The same text book reads:
      "During the 50-year reign of Aurangzeb, not a single Hindu was forced
      to embrace Islam. He did not interfere with any Hindu religious
      activities." (p. 138) Alexander Hamilton, a British historian, toured
      India towards the end of Aurangzeb's 50-year reign and observed that
      every one was free to serve and worship God in his own way.

      These above references clearly show that accusations of forced
      conversion and religious intolerance are false. It is also evident
      that since the independence of India in 1947, there has been an overt
      attempt by revisionist, bigoted Hindu historians in India to malign
      the Muslim history.

      Now let us deal with Aurangzeb's imposition of Jizya tax which had
      drawn severe criticism from many Hindu historians. It is true that
      Jizya was lifted during the reign of Akbar and Jahangir and that
      Aurangzeb later reinstated this. Before I delve into the subject of
      Aurangzeb's Jizya tax, or taxing the non-Muslims, it is worthwhile to
      point out that Jizya is nothing more than a war tax which was
      collected only from able-bodied young non-Muslim male citizens living
      in a Muslim country who did not want to volunteer for the defense of
      the country. That is, no such tax was collected from non-Muslims who
      volunteered to defend the country. This tax was not collected from
      women, and neither from immature males nor from disabled or old male
      citizens. For payment of such taxes, it became incumbent upon the
      Muslim government to protect the life, property and wealth of its
      non-Muslim citizens. If for any reason the government failed to
      protect its citizens, especially during a war, the taxable amount was
      returned.

      It should be pointed out here that while Jizya tax was collected from
      able-bodied non-Muslim adult males who did not volunteer to join war
      efforts in a Muslim-administered country, a similar form of war tax
      was also collected from able-bodied Muslim adult males who refused to
      join war efforts to defend the country. There was, therefore, no
      discrimination between able-bodied Muslim males and able-bodied
      non-Muslim males when it came to the payment of war-tax, as long as
      the person in question would not volunteer in war-efforts for defense
      of the Muslim-administered state. Zakat (2.5% of savings) and `Ushr
      (10% of agricultural products) were collected from all Muslims, who
      owned some wealth (beyond a certain minimum, called Nisab). They also
      had to pay sadaqah, fitrah and Khums. None of these taxes were
      collected from any non-Muslim. As a matter of fact, the per capita tax
      collection from Muslims was several fold that of non-Muslims.

      I would also like to state here that before the advent of Islam in
      India, Rajputs living in western India used to collect a similar form
      of Jizya or war tax which they called "Fix" tax. (Ref: Early History
      of India by Vincent Smith) War tax was not a sole monopoly among the
      Indian or Muslim rulers. Historian Dr. Tripathy mentions a number of
      countries in Europe where war-tax was practiced. (Ref: Some Aspects of
      Muslim Administration by Sri Tripathy)

      Let us now return to Aurangzeb. In his book "Mughal Administration,"
      Sir Jadunath Sarkar[3], foremost historian on the Mughal dynasty,
      mentions that during Aurangzeb's reign in power, nearly 65 types of
      taxes were abolished, which resulted in a yearly revenue loss of 50
      million Rupees from the state treasury. It is also worth mentioning
      here that Aurangzeb did not impose Jizya in the beginning of his reign
      but introduced it after 16 years during which 80 types of taxes were
      abolished. Other historians stated that when Aurangzeb abolished
      eighty taxes no one thanked him for his generosity. But when he
      imposed only one, and not heavy at all, people began to show their
      displeasure. (Ref: Vindication of Aurangzeb)

      I could see how even fair-minded individuals like Nobel Laureate
      Professor Amartya Sen may have been deceived by the deadly venoms of
      dishonest, prejudiced historians whose sole aim has been to smear
      Muslim history. Such intellectual dishonesty by historians is
      dangerous - more explosive and more damaging than nuclear bombs. We
      have already seen its hideous effect with the destruction of Muslim
      historic sites (including the Babri Mosque) and recent riots in India
      that killed thousands of Muslims. Let us not fall into the trap set by
      those who want to "neatly divide our world." Let truth vanquish falsehood.


      [1] For example, see Shri Binoy Ghosh's Bharatjaner Etihash (Bengali
      for: History of Indian People), Kolkata, West Bengal, India.

      [2] Quoted in Chepe Rakha Itihash (The History – Hushed Up) by G. A.
      Murtaza, Barddhaman, India.

      [3] He demonstrated his vast knowledge of Persian-language (the
      official language during the Mughal period) sources. However, he was a
      Euro-centric historian and thus, not flawless in historical accounts.
      He served as the Vice Chancellor of the University of Calcutta (1926-28).



      Dr. Habib Siddiqui (saeva @ aol.com) is an anti-war activist. His
      essays appear in a number of websites and newspapers. He has written
      six books. His book on "Islamic Wisdom" is now available in the United
      States and Cananda.

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