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Chapter 2 - Historiography of Medieval India

Chapter 2
Historiography of Medieval India

�History to be above evasion or dispute, must stand on documents, not opinions.�

Lord Acton

There is no dearth of Muslim historical works on medieval India. Muslims have been prolific writers of history. Pre-Islamic traditions of writings were in the form of Qasidas or odes and geneologies. When Islam appeared on the scene, historical consciousness became inherent in the faith. The interpretation of the Quran rendered historical knowledge indispensable. The military achievements of the new creed needed to be maintained in chronological order. The retaining of records of treaties between early Islamic states and conquered people implied composition of historical works. Thus, instructive and glorious events and facts beneficial to the community were collected and history writing became a passionate pursuit with the Muslims. The historical literature produced under Arabic inspiration or Persian tradition was replete with religious fervour, and Islamic historiography has remained clerical in nature. The life and teachings of Muhammad, the expansion of Islam under the Caliphs and later achievements of Islam remained the principal contents of Sirah (biographies), Ansab (geneologies), Tabaqat (sketches), Malfuzat (memoirs), Maktubats (letters) and Maghazi (narratives of war and conquest). A secular turn was tried to be given to Islamic history by Ibn Khaldun. But books written by Muslims on world history, Islamic history, general history, dynastic history, or histories of countries and regions, aimed only at delineating the achievements of Islam. History of Islamic conquests is an unfoldment of the divine plan according to Muslim historian Barani.

Contemporary Chronicles

No wonder, a continuous chronological record of the major events of Islamic history in India is available in a series of works ranging from the seventh to the nineteenth century, and covering both dynasties and regions. There are a number of authentic historical works on the conquest of Sind by Muhammad bin Qasim and on the invasions of Mahmud of Ghazni and Muhammad Ghauri. With the establishment of Muslim rule in India official and non-official chroniclers produced works covering all the dynasties of the Central Sultanate of Delhi (C. 1200-1526) as well as the dynasties of the various Muslim kingdoms that arose on the ashes of the Sultanate. Some of the writers, though religious bigots like Ziyauddin Barani and Abdul Qadir Badaoni, were geniuses in their own way. Barani�s contemporary Amir Khusrau too wrote historical works doing credit to his versatility. Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur, the founder of the Mughal empire in India (1526), wrote his own memoirs. His daughter Gulbadan Begum followed in his footsteps and produced an autobiographical sketch entitled Humayun Nama. Before them Amir Timur wrote his Mulfuzat-i-Timuri and after them emperor Jahangir (1605-1627) wrote his memoirs under the title of Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri. Nowhere else in the history of the world can a ruling dynasty boast of having four royal autobiographers as the Mughals of India. Of regular historical works, of course, there is no dearth. Scholars like Abul Fazl, Abdul Hamid Lahori and Khafi Khan wrote in a style and with the comprehension of Edward Gibbon, Thomas Babington Macaulay, Theodore Mommsen and Thomas Carlyle. Abdul Hamid Lahori�s Badshah Nama and Khafi Khan�s Muntakhab-ul-Lubab were followed by works of Sujan Rai Bhandari, Ishwar Das Nagar, Bhim Sen, Ghulam Husain Salim and Ghulam Husain Tabatabai. These later writers, instead of merely chronicling events also sometimes showed concern for their causation. These are just a few names. There are scores and scores of contemporary Muslim chroniclers of medieval Muslim history. The information provided by them is supplemented by inscriptions carved on the Muslim monuments, both original or converted from Hindu shrines.

This historical material has certain peculiarities. Firstly, medieval Muslim chroniclers wrote with a strong religious bias. To some belief in the superiority of the Islamic faith was an obsession, to others it appeared as a patent fact. Therefore, whenever they referred to non-Muslims, they did not fail to use the most uncomplimentary epithets against them. It is sometimes argued that their�s was just a style of writing and no serious notice should be taken of their choice of words. But the manner of their writing surely reflects their psyche.

Secondly, Persian chroniclers, by and large, wrote at the command of kings and nobles. As panegyrists, they naturally extolled their patrons and the burden of their theme was that medieval monarchs left no stone unturned to destroy infidelity and establish the power of the people of the Islamic faith. Thus, almost all Persian writers have exaggerated the achievements of their contemporary rulers, especially in the spheres of conquest and crushing of infidelity. Even their acts of cruelty and atrocity have been painted as virtuous deeds.

Thirdly, even those who wrote independently suffered from racial pride and prejudice. While they write little about the life of the common people, their economic problems and social behaviour, they do not tire of portraying their rulers as champions of Islam and destroyers of disbelief Their words of hate have left a trail of bitter memories which it is difficult to erase. As an example, the language of some contemporary chroniclers may be quoted as samples. Nawasa Shah was a scion of the Hindu Shahiya dynasty and was converted to Islam by Mahmud of Ghazni. Such conversions were common. But return to one�s original religion was considered apostasy punishable with death. Al Utbi, the author of Tarikh-i-Yamini, writes how Sultan Mahmud punished Nawasa Shah:

�Satan had got the better of Nawasa Shah, for he was again apostatizing towards the pit of plural worship, and had thrown off the slough of Islam, and held conversation with the chiefs of idolatry respecting the casting off the firm rope of religion from his neck. So the Sultan went swifter than the wind in that direction, and made the sword reek with the blood of his enemies. He turned Nawasa Shah out of his government, took possession of all the treasures which he had accumulated, re-assumed the government, and then cut down the harvest of idolatry with the sickle of his sword and spear. After God had granted him this and the previous victory, which were tried witnesses as to his exalted state and proselytism, he returned without difficulty to Ghazna.�

Hasan Nizami, author of Taj-ul-Maasir, thus wrote about the conquest of Ajmer by Muhammad Ghauri in 1192:

�The victorious army on the right and on the left departed towards Ajmer� When the crow-faced Hindus began to sound their white shells on the backs of the elephants, you would have said that a river of pitch was flowing impetuously down the face of a mountain of blue� The army of Islam was completely victorious, and a hundred thousand grovelling Hindus swiftly departed to the fire of hell� He destroyed (at Ajmer) the pillars and foundations of the idol temples, and built in their stead mosques and colleges, and the precepts of Islam, and the customs of the law were divulged and established.�

And here is Maulana Ziyauddin Barani. He writes: �What is our defence of the faith,� cried Sultan Jalaluddin Khalji, �that we suffer these Hindus, who are the greatest enemies of God and of the religion of Mustafa, to live in comfort and do not flow streams of their blood.�

And again, Qazi Mughisuddin explained the legal status of the Zimmis (non-Muslims) in an Islamic state to Sultan Alauddin:

�The Hindu should pay the taxes with meekness and humility coupled with the utmost respect and free from all reluctance. Should the collector choose to spit in his mouth, he should open the same without hesitation, so that the official may spit into it� The purport of this extreme meekness and humility on his part� is to show the extreme submissiveness incumbent upon the Zimmis. God Almighty Himself (in the Quran) commands their complete degradation in as much as these Hindus are the deadliest foes of the true prophet: Mustafa has given orders regarding the slaying, plundering and imprisoning of them, ordaining that they must either follow the true faith, or else be slain or imprisoned, and have all their wealth and property confiscated.�

Even after his conversion to Islam, the Hindu remained an object of abhorrence. In his Fatawa-i-Jahandari, Barani writes: �Teachers are to be sternly ordered not to thrust precious stones (scriptures) down the throats of dogs (converts). To shopkeepers and the low born they are to teach nothing more than the rules about prayer, fasting, religious charity and the Hajj pilgrimage along with some chapters of the Quran� They are to be instructed in nothing more� The low born are capable of only vices�� Barani is so maliciously vituperative against Hindus that even many modem Muslim scholars feel embarrassed at his language and find it difficult to defend him. It must, however, be remembered that Barani belonged to the common run of Muslim theologians and chroniclers. He was a personal friend of men like Amir Khusrau and Ala Hasan Sijzi and was a disciple of no less a Sufi than Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya. He possessed charming manners and was known for his wit and humour. But in the case of Hindus, his wit turned into rage. He is copiously quoted by future chroniclers like Nizamuddin Ahmad, Badaoni and Farishtah, who all praise him highly. Most of medieval Muslim chroniclers wrote in the idiom of Barani; only he excelled them all. All medieval chroniclers were scholars of Islamic scriptures and law. They often quote from these to defend or justify the actions of their kings in relation to their non-Muslim subjects.

It is sometimes argued that in the early years of Muslim rule Muslim chroniclers did not know much about the Hindus. Unlike the later historians like Abul Fazl, Badaoni and Khafi Khan, who tried to understand the social and cultural milieu of the country, chroniclers like Hasan Nizami and Ziyauddin Barani do not refer to the vast majority of the Hindus at all. Only rarely do they speak about them but then only in derogatory terms, which also shows their ignorance. But that is not always true.  Even when times had changed in the sixteenth-seventeenth century, the attitude and language of the chroniclers did not change. For instance, Badaoni writes that �His Majesty (Akbar), on hearing� how much the people of the country prized their institutions, commenced to look upon them with affection.� Similarly, he respected Brahmans who �surpass other learned men in their treatises on morals�. Then, �The Hindus are, of course, indispensable; to them belongs half the army and half the land. Neither the Hindustanis (Indian Muslims) nor the Mughals can point to such grand lords as the Hindus have among themselves.� So also said Abul Fazl when he wrote that �the king, in his wisdom, understood the spirit of the age, and shaped his plans accordingly�. And yet this very Badaoni sought an interview with Akbar, when the King�s troops started marching against Rana Pratap, begging �the privilege of joining the campaign to soak his Islamic beard in Hindu, infidel blood�. Akbar was so pleased at this expression of allegiance to his person and to the Islamic idea of Jihad that he bestowed a handful of gold coins on Badaoni as a token of his pleasure. This was in 1576. Akbar became more and more rational and tolerant as years passed by. His so-called infallibility decree was passed in 1579, his Din-i-Ilahi promulgated in 1582.  And yet the language of the chroniclers about the non-Muslims did not change. For, in 1589, Badaoni thus wrote about the two greatest personalities of the Mughal Empire: �In the year 998 (H./1589 C.E.) Raja Todarmal and Raja Bhagwandas who had remained behind at Lahore hastened to the abode of hell and torment (that is, died) and in the lowest pit became food of serpents and scorpions. May Allah scorch them both.�

Abdul Qadir Badaoni is not an exception. This style of writing, born out of the ingrained prejudice against non-Muslims, is found in all medieval chronicles in various shades of intensity. They denounce non-Muslims. They write with jubilation about the destruction of their temples, massacre of men, raising towers of skulls and such other �achievements�. They also write about the enslavement of women and children, and the licentious life of their captors, their polygamy and concubinage. There is a saying that no man is condemned save by his own mouth. By painting their heroes as cruel and atrocious destroyers of infidelity, Muslim chroniclers themselves have brought odium on the kings and conquerors of their own race and religion, all the while thinking that they were bringing a good name to them.

Contribution of Western scholars

Working on the writings of these chroniclers for almost his whole lifetime, Sir Henry Elliot rightly arrived at the conclusion that medieval histories were �recorded by writers who seem to sympathise with no virtues and to abhor no vices�, and that medieval rulers were �sunk in sloth and debauchery� and �parasites and eunuchs� revelled in the spoil of plundered provinces. And with the white man�s burden on his shoulders he even felt encouraged to hope that these chronicles �will make our native subjects more sensible to the immense advantages accruing to them under the mildness and equity of our rule�.

Any other writer�s denunciation of the medieval chroniclers or Muslim rulers would have gone unnoticed, for similar statements appear in the writings of many British historians on medieval Indian history but are not taken quite seriously. But no research worker on medieval Indian history could help reading and rereading Elliot�s works, so that whether one liked it or not, one could not do without Elliot. Indeed Lanepoole opined: �To realize Medieval India there is no better way than to dive into the eight volumes of the priceless History of India as Told by its Own Historians� a revelation of Indian life as seen through the eyes of the Persian court annalists.� Lanepoole, Pringle Kennedy, and Ishwari Prasad depended primarily on Elliot and Dowson�s eight volumes. Dr. Ishwari Prasad went to the extent of saying: �In preparing this volume (Medieval India)� I am not so presumptuous as to think that I have improved upon Elphinstone and Lanepoole, to whom I must gratefully acknowledge my indebtedness.�

Now, it is a recognised fact that the contribution of European scholars in general and of British historians in particular to the study of Muslim literature and history is invaluable. In the early phase, their main task was to translate medieval historical works from Arabic and Persian into English and other European languages. For example, Majors H.R. Raverty and George S.A. Ranking, two army officers, translated from Persian into English the Tabqat-i-Nasiri of Minhaj Siraj (1881) and Muntakhab-ut-Tawarikh of Abdul Qadir Badaoni (1889), respectively. Their painstaking diligence and honesty compel our admiration. Similarly, Blochmann, Jarret, Lowe and the Beveridge couple are but a few names from among those who have done stupendous work in this sphere. Elliot and Dowson�s great work, in spite of a chorus of disparagement by some modem Indian historians, still holds the field even now for more than a hundred years, against any translations in Urdu or Hindi. Scholars are still learning from and working on Elliot's meritorious volumes. S.H. Hodivala wrote a critical commentary on this work entitled Studies in Indo-Muslim History (Bombay, 1939) and added a supplement to it in 1957. K.A. Nizami has added some fresh information on the first two volumes of Elliot in addition to Hodivala�s commentary in his On History and Historians of Medieval India (Delhi,1983). Elliot�s original work is still going through repeated reprints. This in itself is indicative of its importance.

Assisted by the translations of Muslim chroniclers by the first generation scholars, foreign and Indian historians embarked on writing on medieval Indian history. Some Indian scholars worked under British historians in England. Many others worked in India utilizing research techniques provided by the West. Indian historians owe a lot to the pioneering researches of British historians, whatever may be said about their merits and shortcomings. The first comprehensive history of India entitled History of British India (1818), was attempted by James Mill. He believed in the superiority of the British people over the Indians. But there were other scholars thinking on different lines. The work of Sir William Jones and other European scholars unearthed a volume of evidence on India�s glorious past. However, despite the European discovery of India�s past greatness and well-developed civilization, the British, having become the paramount power in India, remained generally convinced of their own superiority over Indians, and continued to feed themselves on Mill and Macaulay. They held Indians and their literature in low esteem, insisting on accepting the degenerate conditions of the eighteenth century Muslim India as its normal condition. Seeley declared that nothing as great was ever done by Englishmen as the conquest of India, which was �not in the ordinary sense a conquest at all�, and which he put on par �with the Creek conquest of the East�, pointing out that the British who had a �higher and more vigorous civilization than the native races� founded the Indian Empire �partly out of a philanthropic desire to put an end to enormous evils� of the �robber-states of India�. There is no need to get ruffled about such assertions. Most of the conclusions of British historians about Muslim history do find confirmation in the description of cruelties perpetrated by the Muslims in their own chronicles as well as their reiteration in indigenous source materials in Hindi, Sanskrit, Rajasthani and Marathi. Hindu source materials are few. They are also not as informative as the Muslim chronicles. But curiously enough the meagre Hindu and the voluminous Muslim source-materials corroborate and supplement rather than contradict each other about the behaviour of the Muslim regime.

Paucity of Hindu Source-materials

Professor D.P.Singhal asserts that, contrary to the general belief, Indians in ancient times did not neglect the important discipline of historiography. On the contrary, they were good writers of history. He states: �Ancient India did not produce a Thucydides, but there is considerable evidence to suggest that every important Hindu court maintained archives and geneologies of its rulers. And Kalhana�s Rajatarangini, written in twelfth century Kashmir, is a remarkable piece of historical literature. Despite his lapses into myths and legends, Kalhana had an unbiased approach to historical facts and history writing. He held that a true historian, while recounting the events of the past, must discard love (raga) and hatred (dvesha). Indeed, his well-developed concept of history and the technique of historical investigation have given rise to some speculation that there existed at the time a powerful tradition of historiography in which Kalhana must have received his training.�

If that was so, why is there hopeless deficiency of Hindu historical writings during the medieval period? In this regard, James Tod, the famous author of the monumental classic Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, has this to say: 1. that ardent Hindus were good historiographers; 2. that medieval times were not propitious for them for writing history; and 3. that much of the Hindu, Jain and Buddhist literature was destroyed by Muslim invaders and rulers. He needs to be quoted at length. �Those who expect,� writes he, �from a people like the Hindus a species of composition of precisely the same character as the historical works of Greece and Rome commit the very gregarious error of overlooking the peculiarities which distinguish the natives of India from all other races, and which strongly discriminate their intellectual productions of every kind from those of the West. Their philosophy, their poetry, their architecture, are marked with traits of originality; and the same may be expected to pervade their history, which, like the arts enumerated, took a character from its intimate association with the religion of the people. It must be recollected, moreover,� that the chronicles of all the polished nations of Europe, were, at a much more recent date, as crude, as wild, and as barren, as those of the early Rajputs.� He adds, �My own animadversions upon the defective condition of the annals of Rajwarra have more than once been checked by a very just remark: �When our princes were in exile, driven from hold to hold, and compelled to dwell in the clefts of the mountains, often doubtful whether they would not be forced to abandon the very meal preparing for them, was that a time to think of historical records?� � �If we consider the political changes and convulsions which have happened in Hindustan since Mahmood�s invasion, and the intolerant bigotry of many of his successors, we shall be able to account for the paucity of its national works on history, without being driven to the improbable conclusion, that the Hindus were ignorant of an art which has been cultivated in other countries from almost the earliest ages. Is it to be imagined that a nation so highly civilized as the Hindus, amongst whom the exact sciences flourished in perfection, by whom the fine arts, architecture, sculpture, poetry, music, were not only cultivated, but taught and defined by the nicest and most elaborate rules, were totally unacquainted with the simple art of recording the events of their history, the character of their princes and the acts of their reigns?� The fact appears to be that �After eight centuries of galling subjection to conquerors totally ignorant of the classical language of the Hindus; after every capital city had been repeatedly stormed and sacked by barbarous, bigoted, and exasperated foes; it is too much to expect that the literature of the country should not have sustained, in common with other interests, irretrievable losses.�

Indians as a whole today exhibit keen interest in history. This interest has not sprung all of a sudden. It has always been there. To the uneducated common man it has come down in legends, stories, mythologies and anecdotes. There is no dearth of professional historians. The works produced by Jadunath Sarkar, G.S. Sardesai, G.H. Ojha, Tara Chand, Mohammad Habib and R.C. Majumdar apart, the sustained assiduity shown by hundreds of other writers of history in modern times is proof enough of the fact that the Indian mind is not devoid but indeed keenly concerned with its history and culture. If it did not produce historical works in medieval times to the extent expected, the reasons are obvious; it is not necessary to repeat what has been said above. But a few words from Jadunath Sarkar may be reproduced. He says that �when a class of men is publicly depressed and harassed (as under Muslim rule)� it merely contents itself with dragging on an animal existence. The Hindus could not be expected to produce the utmost of what they were capable� Amidst such social conditions, the human hand and the human mind cannot achieve their best; the human soul cannot soar to its highest pitch.� The �barrenness of the Hindu intellect� is just one more bestowal of inheritance of Muslim rule in India.

There is no doubt that whatever Hindu historical literature was extant, was systematically destroyed by Muslim invaders and rulers. It is well known that pre-Islamic literature was destroyed by the Arabs in their homeland as they considered it belonging to the Jahiliya. It is not surprising therefore that many Muslim heroes in their hour of victory just set libraries to flames. They razed shrines to the ground, burnt books housed in them and killed Brahman, Jain and Buddhist monks who could read them. The narrative of Ikhtiyaruddin Bakhtiyar Khalji�s campaigns in Bihar is full of such exploits. Only one instance may be cited on the destruction of the works of the �enemy�. Kabiruddin was the court historian of Sultan Alauddin Khalji (1296-1316) and wrote a history of the latter�s reign in several volumes. But his work entitled the Fatehnama is not traceable now and a very important source of Alauddin�s reign has been lost. It is believed that the Fatehnama contained many critical and uncomplimentary comments on the Mongol invaders whom the Sultan repeatedly defeated, so that when the Mughal dynasty was established in India, this work was destroyed. Similarly, only one instance may be given to show how the Indians tried to protect their books from marauding armies. In the Jinabhadra-Sureshwar temple located in the Jaisalmer Fort in Rajasthan, I saw a library of Jain manuscripts called Jain Cyan Bhandar located in a basement, 5 storeys deep down, each storey negotiated with the help of a staircase, and in each floor manuscripts are stacked. The top of the cell is covered with a large stone slab indistinguishable from other slabs of the flooring to delude the invader. Such basement libraries set up for security against vandalism are also found in other places in Rajasthan.

Bards and Charans were the historians of the Rajputs. They indulged in gross exaggeration while praising their patrons. But the beauty of their work lies in the fact that these chroniclers also dared utter truths, sometimes most unpalatable to their masters. Only a few of their works have survived and have been rescued from princely states which were generally friendly to the Mughals and therefore escaped repeated sackings. From Chand Bardai�s Prithviraj Raso to the accounts by the Brahmans of the endowments of the temples, from the disputations of the Jains to Kalpadruma, a diary kept by Raja Jai Singh of Datia �in which he noted every event,� Tod was able to get lot of historical material. Padmanabh�s Kanhadde-Prabandh, Bhandu Vyas� Hammirayan, Nainsi�s Khyat, Vidyapati�s Purush Pariksha and Kirtilata and Kaviraj Shymaldas� Vir Vinod, are regular and not so regular historical works of Hindus through the centuries. When the Marathas mounted national resistance against the Mughal empire there was so much to write about, and they wrote excellent histories. And all these works corroborate Muslim chronicles. Persian writers boast of the achievements of their conquerors secured through brute force. The Indians confirm the facts and denounce their atrocities.

Modern Indian Historiography

On the basis of chronicles available in Persian, Arabic and Hindi, but mainly in Persian, European and Indian writers set about reconstructing the history of medieval India. The study of medieval Indian history in modem times may be said to have begun about a century ago when, in the eighteen-sixties, and under the patronage of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, the Indo-Persian chronicles of the medieval period began to be printed in the Bibliotheca Indica Series, and in 1867-77 appeared Elliot and Dowson�s History of India as Told by its Own Historians. Elliot�s work contained in eight fairly bulky volumes translations of extracts from most of the then known Persian chronicles, and soon became indispensable for the researcher on medieval history. The original Persian works were so eulogistic of the cruelties of Muslim conquerors and rulers that the great painstaking scholar Elliot and his followers were perforce constrained to be critical of medieval Indian rulers, and this school held the ground for quite some time.

Soon other writers, who would not agree with this criticism, or who were determined to refute it, appeared on the scene, and the situation so created divided the modern Indian writers on medieval history into �objective� and pro-Muslim or �apologist� historians.

In the beginning, medieval historiography remained confined to political history or biography writing. Then, gradually, the non-political features of medieval India like the cultural influence of Muslim rule, Islam as a civilisation, literature and art, social and economic life, began to attract the attention of scholars. That history is not to be merely a narrative of kings and wars, but has to be a story of the people as well, has now become well recognized. But this concept has taken time to grow. There is now the conviction that history is a form of critical inquiry into the past and not merely a repetition of testimony and authority. The modern historiographer of Medieval History tries to probe into the ideas behind human actions performed in the past. These motives they find, unlike the medieval historiographer, not only in religious, but in political, economic, social and other causes and try to discover a relationship between them. And lastly, modern historiography applies the critical apparatus of footnotes, appendices, bibliography, and sometimes maps also.

However, when medieval Indian historiography was making good headway, India was partitioned into two. Partition of the country has been tragic in many ways, but no branch of study has been perhaps so much directly and vitally affected by it as the historiography on medieval India. Many distinguished scholars conversant with classical Persian went over to Pakistan and history has suffered from their migration. This can be easily seen in the number of students offering Medieval History in colleges and universities and in articles published in the historical journals of the country or papers read at various conferences - as compared with the Ardent or the Modem periods of Indian history. At the Trivandrum session of the Indian History Congress (1958) a seminar was held to probe into the causes of this decline and suggest means of checking it, but nothing much seems to have been done to improve the position. On the other hand, once in a while one even comes across the puerile argument: Where is the necessity of continuing with medieval historical studies in India after the creation of Pakistan?

But the worst effect of partition has been that 1947 has tended to produce two historiographies based on territorial differentiation. Comparing the works of Ahmad Ali entitled Culture of Pakistan with Richard Symond�s The Making of Pakistan (London, 1950) on the one hand and Humayun Kabir�s Indian Heritage and Abid Hussain�s National Culture of India on the other, W. Cantwell Smith says that the Pakistani historian �flees from Indian-ness, and would extra-territorialize even Mohenjodaro (linking the Indus-valley civilisation with Sumer and Elam) as well as the Taj (yet though left in India, the monuments and buildings of Agra and Delhi are entirely outside the Indian tradition and are an essential heritage and part of Pakistani culture, - p.205), and omits from consideration altogether quite major matters less easily disposed of (such as Asoka�s reign, and the whole of East Pakistan)�� The Indians �on the other hand seek for the meaning of Muslim culture within the complex of Indian �unity in diversity� as an integral component.� So, after 1947, besides the �objective� and �apologist�, �Secular� and �Communal� versions, there are the Pakistani and Indian versions of medieval Indian history.

Today, besides individual workers in many places, some universities in particular, like the Aligarh Muslim University, are specially devoted to medieval Indian historiography. Aligarh has funds, facilities and professoriate for medieval history, and all these have given her advantage over other universities in devoting itself mainly to medieval Indian historical studies. The Medieval India Quarterly, the various texts and books edited and published under Aligarh Historical Series and the studies on Sufi saints may be recounted with a feeling of satisfaction.

However, the revised edition of the second volume of Elliot and Dowson�s History of India as Told by its Own Historians published from Aligarh contains a long introduction on dialectical materialism and the materialistic interpretation of history by Mohammed Habib. The idea has caught on and there is a clear Marxist influence on the Aligarh school which has prompted Peter Hardy to say that �the significant feature of Professor Habib�s Marxist interpretation of medieval Indian history is not that Marxism has absorbed Islam but that Islam has absorbed Marxism�

Marxist History

Today, Marxist historians and writers are well entrenched in academic and media sectors. Their rise has been encouraged by the Indian government. After Partition, Pakistan declared itself a theocratic state as is natural with Muslim nations. India opted to remain a secular country. This situation was very convenient to the special brand of Indian secularists; they could not become nationalist, so they turned Marxist.

What are the salient features of Marxist history in India? To understand this we have to consult Marx himself. Between 1853 and 1857, Marx wrote twenty-three articles on India, and Engels eight, bearing on British rule in India. Marx took the �Europe-centred� view of India�s past. He shared all his assumptions on India with British rulers. Britain was to lay the foundations of the material progress in India on the annihilation of the traditional Indian society. He wrote in 1853:

�Indian society has no history at all, at least no known history. What we call its history, is but the history of the successive intruders who founded their empires on the passive basis of that unresisting and unchanging society. The question, therefore, is not whether the English had a right to conquer India, but whether we are to prefer India conquered by the Turk, by the Persian, by the Russian, to India conquered by the Briton.� England had to fulfill a double mission in India: One destructive, and the other regenerating - the annihilation of old Asiatic society, and the laying of the material foundations of Western society in Asia.  Arabs, Turks, Tartars, Moguls, who had successively overrun India, soon became Hinduised, the barbarian conquerors being, by an eternal law of history, themselves conquered by the superior civilization of their subjects. According to him the British were the first conquerors who were superior, and therefore inaccessible to Hindu civilization. They destroyed it by breaking up the native communities, by uprooting the native industry, and by levelling all that was great and elevated in the native society. The historic pages of their rule in India, report hardly anything beyond that destruction. �The work of regeneration hardly transpires through a heap of ruins. Nevertheless, it has begun.� Indian Marxists accept this thesis and fully subscribe to it.

Harold Laski could write in 1927 that �the effort to read the problem of India in the set terms of Marxism is rather an exercise in ingenuity than a serious intellectual contribution to socialist advance.� In the early stages there was no concerted effort by Indian historians to interpret Indian history in Marxist terms. M.N. Roy attempted to give a Marxist interpretation of the Indian National Movement, but it was not until 1940 that a serious Marxist history was produced by R.Palme Dutt entitled India Today. D.D. Kosambi�s An Introduction to the Study of Indian History (1956), is regarded as a substantial Marxist interpretation of Indian history from the earliest times to the rise of British power in India. During the post-independence period, there has been a tremendous proliferation of Marxism in Indian universities. It appeared to be a fashionable creed, as compared with Gandhism which appeared to be traditional and somewhat unmodern.

Where the Marxist, Imperialist, �Secularist� and Muslim communalist historians concur is in their attitude towards Hindu culture. Marxists, as did Marx himself, regard culture as bourgeois and anti-revolutionary. Culture, therefore, had to be denounced, including religion, God and morals, as an obstacle to proletarian change. Culture in the Indian context meant mainly Hindu religion and heritage. Hindu culture had, therefore, to be derided and held as the cause of India�s predicament. The Muslim communalists, who openly believed in religious distinctions and were naturally convinced of their own cultural superiority over that of the others, looked upon Hindu culture with disfavour. While the Marxists denounce in unmistakable terms imperial rule and imperialist historians, they join hands with them to demolish nationalist historians whose nationalism carried with it pride in their cultural past. They also denounce objective historians who, unlike the Marxists, do not seek to employ history as an instrument of change. Marxist attacks on culture also aim at hitting at the roots and source of inspiration of nationalism.

Marxist history also lays claim to be counted as objective history. The phrase �objective history� is very attractive, but sometimes under this appellation, all shadows are removed and medieval times are painted in such bright colours by Marxist historians as to shame even the modern age. At others, modern ideas of class-conflict, labour-exploitation and all that goes with it, and many other modern phenomena and problems are projected backwards to fit in the medieval social structure. The word �religion� is tried to be eschewed because it is thought to be associated with bitter memories. If the medieval chronicler cries out �Jihad�, it is just not heard: but if he cries aloud persistently, it is claimed that he never meant it. The Marxists or leftists read into history what they think history should be. All this makes the content of Marxist history dubious, needing it to be buttressed by brochures, statements and booklets under a number of signatures. Often, Marxist writers work in groups, mutually admiring each other�s discoveries. The need for this also arises from the fact that Muslim rule in India remained Islamic basically, with firm belief in the superiority and propagation of Islam as an article of faith. Atrocities committed by its followers in the name of Islam are often very graphically described by Muslim chroniclers as acts of piety and grace. This aspect has produced an unfortunate character in the Muslim civilization as a whole. It is in the combination of the spiritual and temporal powers, in the confusion of moral and physical authority, that the tyranny which seems inherent in this civilization originated. Its history is soaked in blood of the supposed enemies of Islam. But all this is denied by Marxists who always try to cover up the black spots of Muslim rule with thick coats of whitewash. Sometimes, this tryanny is sought to be condoned by fundamentalists on the plea that the ruler was only performing his duty, or denied by declaring that Muslim polity was not religion-oriented. But condonation or denial has not saved the Muslim regime from the harm its nature has brought to bear upon the reputation of the community and the history of the country.

With regard to medieval Indian history the Marxist historians unwillingly tow the line of British writers of whom they are otherwise critical. The main interest of the British was to write a history which justified their conquest of India. They claimed that their rule in India was nothing new and that they were legitimate successors of former conquerors like Arabs, Turks and Mughals. The Mughals were represented as empire builders, who united India and gave it law and order, peace and stability. Similar was the mission of the British, they said. Facts, sometimes, compelled the British historians to speak of the atrocities and vandalism of Muslim rule but this did not deter them from upholding its authority. Thus British historians, while trying to legitimise their own rule, also gave legitimacy to their Muslim predecessors. But in the larger national consciousness both were considered as foreign impositions and constantly resisted. This resistance the British historians presented as �revolts� and �rebellions� against the �legitimate� Imperial authority. Marxist and communal historians apply these epithets in the case of Muslim rule, as also did the medieval chroniclers. Like the latter, the protestations of Marxist historians about Muslim rule in India are lofty, but their conclusions are grotesque. Such dichotomy is not new. Even a fourteenth century medieval historian Ziyauddin Barani suffered from such contradiction. He becomes lyrical when describing the benefits derived from the study of history, but turns a die-hard fundamentalist when he actually writes it.

On the basis of the study of medieval chronicles, scholars like Ishwari Prasad and A.L. Srivastava arrived at the conclusion that the medieval age was a period of unmitigated suffering for the Hindus; to others like I.H. Qureshi and S.M. Jaffar it was an age of all-round progress and prosperity. Writing about the Sultanate period, Ishwari Prasad says: �There was persecution, partly religious and partly political, and a stubborn resistance was offered by the Hindus� The state imposed great disabilities upon the non-Muslims� Instances are not rare in which the non-Muslims were treated with great severity� The practice of their religious rites even with the slightest publicity was not allowed, and cases are on record of men who lost their lives for doing so.� According to A.L. Srivastava the Sultanate of Delhi �was an Islamic State, pure and simple, and gave no religious toleration to the Hindus� and indulged in stifling persecution.� About the Mughal times his conclusion is that �barring the one short generation under Akbar when the moral and material condition of the people was on the whole good, the vast majority of our population during 1526-1803 led a miserable life.� On the other hand, I.H. Qureshi had the mendacity to declare that �The Hindu population was better off under the Muslims than under the Hindu tributaries or independent rulers. Their financial burden was lighter than it had been for some centuries in pre-Muslim days� Nor was the Hindu despised socially. The Muslims, generally speaking, have always been remarkably free from religious prejudice.�

Manipulated History

�History, to be above evasion or dispute,� says Lord Acton, �must stand on documents, not opinions.� But history written by people like Qureshi and Jaffar suited the Nehruvian establishment for achieving what it described as national integration. Towards that end many pseudo-secularist and Marxist historians joined the cadre of such writers.

And funny though it may sound it was decided to falsify history to please the Muslims and draw them into the national mainstream. Guidelines for rewriting history were prepared by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), and a summary of the same appeared in Indian Express datelined New Delhi, 17 January 1982. The idea was �to weed out undesirable textbooks (in History and languages) and remove matter which is prejudicial to national integration and unity and which does not promote social cohesion� Twenty states and three Union Territories have started the work of evaluation according to guidelines, prepared by NCERT.�

The West Bengal Board of Secondary Education issued a notification dated 28 April 1989 addressed to schools and publishers suggesting some �corrections� in the teaching and writing of �Muslim rule in India� - like the real objective of Mahmud Ghaznavi�s attack on Somnath, Aurangzeb�s policy towards the Hindus, and so on. These guidelines specifically say: �Muslim rule should not attract any criticism. Destruction of temples by Muslim invaders and rulers should not be mentioned.� One instruction in the West Bengal circular is that �schools and publishers have been asked to ignore and delete mention of forcible conversions to Islam.� The notification, says the Statesman of 21 May 1989, was objected to in many quarters. �A row has been kicked up by some academicians who feel that the �corrections� are unjustified and politically motivated�� Another group feels that the corrections are �justified�.

This experiment with untruth was being attempted since the 30�s-40�s by Muslim and Communist historians. After Independence, they gradually gained strength in university departments. By its policy the Nehruvian state just permitted itself to be hijacked by the so-called progressive, secular and Marxist historians. Communism never struck roots in India, a land of great and deep philosophy. But some Communists, always suspect in the eyes of the majority of the Indian people, did help in the division of the country. After partition they were joined by those communal elements which could never be nationalist, but they also did not want to be dubbed as communalist, and so became communist. The impressive slogan of secularism came handy to them and in place of educating the divisionists, they read repeated lectures to Hindus on secularism. Armed with money and instructions from the Ministry of Education, the National Council of Educational Research, University Grants Commission, Indian Council of Historical Research, secular and Stalinist historians began to produce manipulated and often manifestly false school and college text-books of history and social studies in the Union Territories and States of India. This has gone on for years.

But the exercise has proved counter-productive. In place of encouraging national integration, distorted history has only helped increase communalism. For one thing, it has provided a welcome opportunity to the vested interests to assert that no temples were broken, no mosques raised on their sites and no forcible conversions to Islam were made. If people are truthfully educated about the circumstances of their conversion, they would not behave as they are prone to at present. On the one hand, the government through the Department of Archaeology preserves monuments the originals of which were destroyed by Islamic vandalism, and on the other, history text-books are directed to say that no shrines were destroyed. Students are taught one thing in the class rooms through their text-books, while they see something else when they go on excursions to historical monuments. At places like Qutb Minar and Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque they see that �the construction is all Hindu and destruction all Muslim�. History books are not written only in India; these are written in neighbouring countries also, and what is tried to be concealed here for the sake of national integration, is mentioned with pride in the neighbouring Muslim countries. Scholars in Europe are also working on Indian history and untruths uttered by India�s secular and progressive historians are easily countered.

One thing that arouses unnecessary controversy is about the destruction and desecration of temples and construction of mosques in their stead. Muslim chroniclers repeatedly make mention of success of conquerors and rulers in this sphere. The chroniclers with first hand knowledge wrote that their patrons did so with the avowed object of spreading Islam and degrading infidelity in Hindustan. So Hajjaj instructed Muhammad bin Qasim. So Mahmud of Ghazni promised the Khalifa. Amir Timur (Tamerlane) also proclaimed the same intention. Still it is asserted by some writers that temples were attacked for obtaining their wealth and not because of religious fervour. The declaration of Mahmud of Ghazni in this regard is conclusive. It is related that when Mahmud was breaking the idol of Somnath, the Brahmans offered him immense wealth if he spared the idol which was revered by millions; but the champion of Islam replied with disdain that he did not want his name to go down to posterity as Mahmud the idol-seller (but farosh) instead of Mahmud the breaker-of-idols (but shikan). All appeals for pity, all offers of wealth, fell on deaf ears. He smashed the sacred lingam into pieces and as an act of piety sent two of its pieces to be thrown at the steps of the Jama Masjid at Ghazni and two others to Mecca and Medina to be trampled upon on their main streets. Alberuni, the contemporary witness writes: �The image was destroyed by Prince Mahmud in 416 H. (1026 C.E.). He ordered the upper part to be broken and the remainder to be transported to his residence, Ghaznin, with all its coverings and trappings of gold, jewels and embroidered garments. Part of it has been thrown into the hippodrome of the town, together with the Cakraswamin, an idol of bronze that had been brought from Thaneshar. Another part of the idol from Somnath lies before the door of the mosque of Ghaznin, on which people rub their feet to clean them from dirt and wet.�

So, the consideration was desecration, primarily. Mahmud had come to spread Islam and for this undertaking was bestowed the title of Yamin-ud-daula (Right hand of the Caliph) and Amir-ul-Millat (Chief of the Muslim Community) by the Khalifa al Qadir Billah. No wonder, in the estimation of his Muslim contemporaries - historians, poets, and writers - the exploits of Mahmud as a hero of Islam in India were simply marvellous and their encomiums endless. Of course, invaders like Mahmud also collected lot of loot from wherever they could get, including the precious metals of which idols were made or the jewellery with which they were adorned. The Rasmala narrates that after the destruction of Somnath, Mahmud acquired possession of diamonds, rubies and pearls of incalculable value. But spoliation of temple was not the sole or principal aim. If acquisition of wealth was the motive for attacking a temple, where was the need to raze it to the ground, dig its very foundations, desecrate and break the idols, carry the idols hundreds of miles on carts or camels, and to throw them at the stairs of the mosques for the faithful to trample upon, or to distribute their pieces to butchers as meat-weights. For this is exactly what was done not only by invaders but even by rulers, not only during wars but also in times of peace, throughout the medieval period from Mahmud of Ghazni to Aurangzeb. We have seen what Mahmud of Ghazni did to the idols of Chakraswamin and Somnath. Let us see what Aurangzeb did to the temple of Keshav Rai at Mathura built at a cost of rupees thirty-three lakhs by Raja Bir Singh Bundela. The author of Maasir-i-Alamgiri writes : �In this month of Ramzan (January 1670), the religious-minded Emperor ordered the demolition of the temple at Mathura. In a short time by the great exertions of his officers the destruction of this great centre of infidelity was accomplished� A grand mosque was built on its site at a vast expenditure� The idols, large and small, set with costly jewels which had been set up in the temple were brought to Agra and buried under the steps of the mosque of Begum Sahib (Jahanara�s mosque) in order to be continually trodden upon. The name of Mathura was changed to Islamabad��

In brief, temples were destroyed not for their �hoarded wealth� as some historians propagate, but for humiliating and persecuting the non-Muslims. Destruction of religious shrines of the vanquished formed part of a larger policy of persecution practised in lands under Muslim occupation in and outside India. This policy of oppression was meant to keep down the people, disarm them culturally and spiritually, destroy their self-respect and remind them that they were Zimmis, an inferior breed. Thousands of pilgrims who visit Mathura or walk past the site of Vishvanath temple and Gyanvapi Masjid in Varanasi everyday, are reminded of Mughal vandalism and disregard for Hindu sensitivities by Muslim rulers.

And yet some writers delude themselves with the mistaken belief that they can change their country�s history by distorting it, or brain-wash generations of young students, or humour fundamentalist politicians through such unethical exercise. To judge what happened in the past in the context of today's cultural milieu and consciously hide the truth, is playing politics with history. Let history be accepted as a matter of fact without putting it to any subjective interpretations. Yesterday�s villains cannot be made today�s heroes, or, inversely, yesterday�s Islamic heroes cannot be made into robbers ransacking temples just for treasures. Nor can the medieval monuments be declared as national monuments as suggested in some naive �secularist� quarters. They represent vandalism. No true Indian can be proud of such desecrated and indecorous evidence of �composite culture�. �History,� says Froude, �does teach that right and wrong are real distinctions. Opinions alter, manners change, creeds rise and fall, but the moral law is written on the tablets of humanity.� It is nobody�s business to change this moral law and prove the wrongs of the medieval period to be right today by having recourse to misrepresentation of history. Manipulation in the writing of medieval Indian history by some modern writers is the worst legacy of Muslim rule in India.

Islamic Scriptures as Source-materials

The best way to understand the content and spirit of Muslim rule in India and to assess the hollowness of manipulated history is by going through Muslim scriptures besides of course faithfully perusing Muslim historical literature in Arabic and Persian. All medieval chroniclers and historians were scholars of Islamic literature and law. Many of these Ulama were even advisers of kings in matters religious and political. In their writings they often quote from the Quran and Hadis to vindicate the actions of their conquerors and kings. Very often they quote from or use the very idiom of Islamic religious texts in their chronicles. Muslim invaders, conquerors and rulers also repeatedly assert that they worked according to the dictates of the Shara and Sunna to suberve the interests of Islam. Therefore to understand the true nature of Muslim rule and history it is necessary to have at least an elementary knowledge of the religion and scriptures of Islam.

The religion and theology of Islam are based on four great works - (1) The Quran, (2) the Hadis, (3) the Siratun-Nabi or the Biography of Muhammad, and (4) the Shariat or Islamic law as elaborated in the Hidaya. The word �Quran� literally means recitation, lecture or discourse. Muslims consider it to be the word of God conveyed to his prophet Muhammad through the angel Gabriel. �The first, final and only canonized version of the Koran was collected nineteen years after the death of Muhammad (�from ribs of palm-leaves and tablets of white stone and from the breasts of men�) when it was seen that the memorizers of the Koran were becoming extinct through the battles that were decimating the ranks of the believers�� The religion of Quran comes nearer to Judaism of the Old Testament as well as the Christianity of the New Testament. The Quran, the Book of Allah, is treated with unbound reverence by the Muslims. �Its 6,239 verses, its 77,934 words, even its 323,621 letters have since been painstakingly counted.� The book is not only heart of a religion, but it is still �considered by one-eighth of mankind as the embodiment of all science, wisdom and theology�. Because of the dearth of efficacious writing material, written copies of Quran would have taken time to make, but it does seem to have been available by the middle of the eighth century.

Every Muslim chronicler of medieval India had mastered the Quran. For an Alim and a Maulana it was the first must among the works he studied. It is not surprising therefore that its surahs (chapters) and ayats (verses) are sometimes quoted in historical works and its phraseology freely used. A study of the Quran by a scholar of medieval Indian history will be helpful to him in appraising the achievements and spirit of Muslim rule in India. There are many good translations of the Quran in English; a summary translation is also available in T.P. Hughes�s Dictonary of Islam.