Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on Dawn.com.

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience

.

Past present: When the empire crumbled

August 25, 2013

When the Mughal empire disintegrated, the provincial governors took advantage of the weakening central authority, became independent. Others also adopted royal titles.

With the collapse of authority, robbers, bandits and thugs became encouraged to plunder caravan processions passing through unprotected cities, towns and villages. Amid chaos, the common people hoped that a leader would emerge, come forward and protect them from marauders wandering freely from one place to another.

After the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, the Mughal empire was involved in continuous wars of succession, which divided the nobility and erased the political structure.

Anarchy led to rebellions by the disgruntled nobility who wished to access high offices in order to loot and plunder state resources. The result was a decline of moral values which plunged the whole society into disarray and turmoil.

Under these circumstances, Shah Waliullah raised his voice against the course of decline and suggested measures for revival of Muslim power in the subcontinent. His main concern was to improve the political, social and economic condition of the Muslims, while disregarding other communities who also confronted the same situation and needed support and guidance to survive. Failing to produce capable rulers to control state affairs and to ably administer the political and economic system, the Mughal Empire finally lost its energy and vitality. The decline reached a point where reformation seemed impossible.

In his narrow-minded approach, Waliullah believed that he was sent by God to save and lead the Muslims of India. He claimed to have dreamt that he was appointed by the divine authority to guide the Muslims. As a self-proclaimed leader of the Muslims, his major concern was to unite the Muslim community which was in a state of chaos and disorder. In order to achieve his goals, he decided to win over the nobility and implement reforms with their help. He firmly believed that only the Muslims were capable of ruling India and that if the Hindus were desirous of power, they would have to convert to Islam.

According to Waliullah, this was what had happened with the Turks who had accepted Islam after becoming rulers. He believed that Islam was a universal religion and therefore, all other religions should be eliminated and Islam imposed on everyone as the true faith. Waliullah exhorted the followers of Judaism and Christianity to adopt Islam and any refusal was regarded as an unpardonable denial of God.

To revive Muslim power in India, Waliullah decided to take a strong step against the Marathas, Sikhs, and the Jats. However, he failed to understand that it was not possible to recruit an army which purely consisted of Muslims, since the society consisted of many religions, communities, sects and ethnicities intermingled and inseparable from each other.

He wrote letters to Najib-ud-Daulah and Ahmad Shah Abdali, advising that Muslim property should not be looted by the army. In one letter he warned Ahmad Shah Abdali to watch out for some Hindus in his service whoappeared loyal to him but were actually insincere to Abdali’s cause. In his letters, he advised that Muslim soldiers could not fight against Muslim rulers as God would check their movement and prevent any action which could be harmful to Islam.

Waliullah believed that the main reason for the decline of the Muslims was that they shared their business, social and political affairs with non-Muslims.

Shah Waliullah did not realise the fact that the Hindus served in the army, the revenue and other government departments and the Muslim rulers relied on their services for running the state administration which the Muslim community alone could not have managed. His suggestion to exclude the Hindus and their welfare antagonised the two communities.

When the Muslim nobles did not respond to his appeal, he called upon Ahmad Shah Abdali to help materialise his scheme. He urged Abdali that it was his religious duty to help and save the Muslims when the Marathas attacked them. Consequently, the Marathas were defeated in the third battle of Panipat in 1762. It failed to revive the Mughal power in the subcontinent but helped the East India Company to gain power as Shah Waliullah had overlooked the growing influence of the British in the subcontinent.

According to Shah Waliullah, the subcontinent was not the real homeland for the Muslims and that they were mere strangers. He introduced the idea among the Muslims of India that they should embrace Arab culture and language and that God would help them to get out of the subcontinent.

Sadly, the ulema of the subcontinent led the Muslim community towards separation rather then integration with other communities.