Sunday, January 18, 2009




The most important of the reformers of 18th century India was Shah Wali Ullah. His real name was Qutbuddin Ahmad and he was born in Delhi in 1703. His father, Shah Abdur Rahim, was a renowned scholar and a theologian of his times. Shah Abdur Rahim was one of those notable scholars who had compiled “Fatawa-e-Alamgiri” (a compilation of religious decrees issued from time to time) under Aurangzeb. Shah Abdur Rahim had also set up a madrassa at his hometown Delhi by the name of “Madrassa-e-Rahimiya”. Shah Wali Ullah was sent to the same madrassa when he reached school going age. He studied Tafseer, Hadith, Logic, and Quran at the same institution under his father. He also memorized the Holy Quran at a very early age. Shah Wali Ullah took a keen interest in the study of Hadith. Another area of his interest was Islamic jurisprudence. Shah Wali Ullah replaced his father on his death as the head of that institution. He had taught there for twelve years or so when he finally decided to perform pilgrimage. He then proceeded to Arabia where he studied under renowned Islamic scholars in Mecca and Medina such as Sheikh Abu Tahir Bin Ibrahim.

The political situation in India, at that time, was worsening day by day. The Mughal emperor had become ineffective. The royal army was helpless before the non-Muslims. Masses were overburdened with taxation. Above all this, there was no hope of regeneration. Muslims had lost the true spirit of Islam as their belief had gone weak. They had started imitating other religions and had become superstitious. Shah Wali Ullah decided to come back and revive the true spirit of Islam against the advice of his relatives and close ones.

On his return he launched a reform movement, which was the first of its kind and proved to be most effective of all the preceding movements in India. It was mainly due to the following reasons that he had decided to launch his reform movement:

· Sectarian conflicts among various sects of Islam;

· Poor understanding of the Holy Quran;

· Low moral tone of the Islamic society.

The objectives that he set before him were:

· To educate the Muslims in order to help them understand the true spirit of Islam;

· To organize them into a nation by helping them get rid of sectarian conflicts;

· To infuse in them the spirit of Jihad so that they could regain political control over India.

He started training his pupils and entrusted them with the task of spreading the true message of Islam. At the same time he devoted himself to writing and produced the most valuable of his works by translating the Holy Quran into Persian enabling even an average literate Indian Muslim to seek guidance from the original source at his own. His translation of the Holy Quran was bitterly criticized by the fanatics in the beginning. However, it was accepted later on by his critics as a meritorious service that he had rendered. Along with the translation of the Holy Quran, he produced great pieces of writing in both Persian and Arabic. The most notable of his works were “Hujjat Ullah Al-Baligha” and “Izalat AL-Akhfa”. He attacked the weak institution of kingship, pointed out problems with the nobility and shortcomings in the law of the land.

He believed that everyone deserved justice based on the Islamic principles. To him a proper understanding of Islam was vital if Muslims were to be enabled to regain their lost political status in India. He created consciousness among Muslims about sectarian conflicts referring them to Quran and Hadith. His first lesson to his followers was a few books on “Sarf” and ‘Nahve”. He asked his followers to act upon the Sunnah and Ahadith of the Holy Prophet and to keep themselves aloof from mysticism. Tassawaf in his opinion, as advocated by wrong mystics in India, had violated Shariat.

He strongly advocated Ijtehad (reasoned reconstruction) as a solution to many of the problems being faced by the Muslims. He said it was a religious duty with the authentic religious scholars to have a consensus of opinion with regard to the changing needs of the hour using the flexibility of Islamic law. He wrote in Hujjat Ullah Al-Baligha:

“The time has come to bring out the religious law of Islam into the open, fully dressed in reason and argument.”

He believed that the nature of the human society in general and Muslim society in particular was dynamic and congregational. He attacked syncretism and pagan practices which had entered Islam as ‘Shirk”. He aimed at the restoration of pure religion. One of his cherished ideals, being a believer of Pan-Islamism, was the creation of an international brotherhood among all Muslim nations.

Shah Wali Ullah’s message was clear and simple. His famous will was “Iman” (faith) and “Amal” (action). His religious services were a blend of political and social teachings. He asked not to perform such rituals, which, in his opinion, had no existence in Islam. He encouraged widow marriage and pure Islamic ceremonies like Waleema and Aqeeqa. He wanted Indian Muslims to avoid extravagance and extra Islamic luxurious life style so that they could reduce the intolerable economic burden on them. He also elaborated the importance of mental workers, labourers and farmers in the society and spoke for their economic rights.

Last but not the least of his services was his invitation to Ahmad Shah Abdali. Shah Wali Ullah, highly disappointed by the loss of spirit of Jihad among Indian Muslims, requested him to rescue them. Ahmad Shah Abdali in coalition with Najib-ud-daulah defeated the Marathas in the 3rd Battle of Panipat in 1761. It surely gave Muslims a timely relief before their future was doomed forever. Shah Wali Ullah died witnessing the downfall of Muslim rule in India in 1762.


Syed Ahmad Shaheed Barelvi was born in 1786 in Ri-Bareli, U.P. He had to leave his native town looking for livelihood at an early age when his father died. He reached Delhi and instead of doing a job, he got himself enrolled at Madrassa-e-Rahimiya. Shah Abdul Aziz, the eldest son of Shah Wali Ullah, was the head of the institution at that time. Syed Ahmad Shaheed Barelvi, along with acquiring knowledge of Quran and Hadith, mastered Persian under Shah Abdul Aziz who persuaded him for Jihad as well. He was highly influenced by the teachings of Shah Wali Ullah and learnt a great deal about how Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi (Hazrat Mujjadid Alf-e-Sani) had done his best to revive true Islamic spirit in the times of Akbar and Jahangir, the Mughal emperors.

He joined a military force in Tonk district of N.W.F.P. after leaving Madrassa-e-Rahimiya. There he learnt a lot about European military techniques and weapons. At the same time he came to know the sufferings and miseries of the Muslims under Sikh rule in the Punjab and N.W.F.P. His devotion towards his religion and quest for knowledge took him to Arabia. Along with performing pilgrimage, he studied under renowned scholars of those times. On his return to India he started persuading Muslims for the elimination of un-Islamic practices such as:

  • Visiting the tombs of the saints;
  • Preparation and distribution of sweets on religious occasions;
  • Extravagance.

He is credited for being the founder of Wahabism in the Indian sub-continent on account of such teachings. Unlike his contemporaries, he did not belong to any of the established Sufi orders namely Qadiriyah, Chishtiya, Naqshbandiya or Mujjadidiya. Simultaneously his followers came from all of these orders. His religious teachings soon took the shape of a movement.

His religious movement turned into a religio-political movement when he decided to take up arms against Sikh rule in the Punjab. The Sikhs after establishing their rule in the Punjab and N.W.F.P. had started committing atrocities on the Muslims. They even hindered the religious obligations of the Muslims. He resented the Sikh interference in prayer saying and the call to prayer (Azan). He decided to challenge the might of Ranjit Singh. He waged a holy war against the Sikhs on the insistence of Shah Abdul Aziz.

Syed Ahmad Shaheed Barelvi’s reform movement is known as “Jihad Movement” (Tehrik-e-Mujahideen). The aims and objectives that he set before him were:

  • Renaissance of Islam in India;
  • Freeing Muslims of the oppression of Sikh rule;
  • Establishment of Muslim rule in India;

He had to travel far and wide to muster support for the cause. He managed gathering a sizeable army of devoted Muslims who were ready to sacrifice their lives in the name of Islam. The first encounter between his forces and those of the Sikhs took place at Akora in 1826. Ranjit Singh had sent a large army under his cousin, Budh Singh. The Sikh commander along with a large number of his troops was killed in the battle. Syed Ahmad Shaheed Barelvi met successes over successes and had captured Peshawar by the end of 1830.

Ranjit Singh, stunned at the growth of Barelvi’s power and courage, turned to propagandist activities. His scheme of creating disruption among Muslim ranks succeeded and thousands of Pathan troops from Barelvi’s army deserted him. It was a big jolt to the strengthening Muslims but a great encouragement for the rival forces. Ranjit Singh prepared a huge army led by, one of his ablest French commanders, Ventura. The battle fought between the two forces in 1831 is known as the “Battle of Balakot”. Syed Ahmad Shaheed Barelvi laid down his life for the cause of Islam. A large number of his troops were also killed.

The factors that contributed to the defeat of the Muslims included:

  • Lack of co-operation;
  • Insufficient funds and war equipment;
  • Poor military training; and
  • Sectarian propaganda.

Tehrik-e-Mujahideen failed to achieve its immediate objectives. It is rather known in history for its long-range long-term effects. It surely infused a spirit in the Indian Muslims that made them rise against the misdoings of the British rule fairly soon after. It was the movement that enabled the Muslims to take up arms against their oppressors. The movement had an important influence also because it was the first of its kind. It is reckoned to be the first Religio-Political Movement in the history of Muslim India. Another notable and important factor contributing to its success was that the leader led the followers from the front. He just did not preach; he rather practically set examples to be followed.



Early eighteenth century was a miserable period for the Bengali Muslims. They were economically, socially and educationally crippled under the British rule. They were also oppressed and tortured by Hindu landlords. Their religious belief had gone weak as Islam was badly influenced by Hinduism. These Muslims had become superstitious and were far from the true ideal of Islam. At the same time there was no hope of political regeneration.

It was in such conditions that Haji Shariat Ullah was born in Faridpur district of Bengal in 1781. He left for Mecca at an early age and stayed there for a very long period of time. His stay in Hijaz was an opportunity for him to learn the true ideal of Islam. He decided to improve the conditions of poor Muslims by reviving the true spirit of Islam. On his return he called upon Bengali Muslims to follow the basics of Islam (Faraiz).

His first message was to give up un-Islamic practices and to stick to duties towards religion. His followers were called Faraizis by virtue of his emphasis on duties towards religion (Faraiz). He was deadly against relationship between Mystics and their disciples (Pirs and Murids). He asked Muslims to replace this with relationship between Teacher and his Students (Ustaad and Shagird). He banned a number of un-Islamic rituals and urged Muslims to prepare themselves for Jihad. He declared his area “Dar-ul-Harb” where it was impossible for Muslims to perform their religious obligations. His call for Jihad against the oppression of Hindu zamindars made him face further cruelties at the hands of non-Muslims. He was forced to leave Dhaka and he retired to his hometown Faridpur from where he continued with his teachings.

Haji Shariat Ullah’s “Faraizi Movement” was taken over by his son Mohsin-ud-Din Ahmad on his death in 1840. He was born in 1810 and was popularly known as “Dudu Mian”. It was under him that the “Faraizi Movement” was turned into a religio-political movement. He proved that he had a natural talent for leadership by strengthening and popularizing the movement. He divided Bengal into administrative units for an efficient and systematic running of the movement. His deputies known as “Khalifas” were appointed in each of those units. These Khalifas were made responsible for the running of the movement in their respective areas.

Mohsin-ud-Din Ahmad forbade his followers from paying illegitimate taxes to Hindu landlords. They were asked to pay taxes levied only by the government. He persuaded and eventually prepared his followers for an armed struggle to obtain their economic as well as political rights. His ever-increasing popularity and strength was a constant source of anxiety for the British and Hindus alike. They did their utmost to check the progress of Faraizi Movement. Mohsin-ud-Din Ahmad was arrested during the War of Independence of 1857 but was released after the war was over. He died his natural death in 1860.


Shah Wali Ullah’s movement can surely be termed as the most effective of all the reform movements aimed at the revival of Islam in India. All other reformers of the same and of the latter period took lead and inspiration from Shah Wali Ullah’s reform movement. It was the only movement, which was carried forward as emphatically as its founder ran it. His sons continued with their father’s mission and translated the Holy Quran into Urdu. The credit for it mainly goes to his eldest son, Shah Abdul Aziz, who had very ably replaced his father on his death. Shah Wali Ullah’s pupils after his death spread all over India and remained very instrumental in carrying his mission to Indian Muslims. No other reform movements had as many long-term effects as did this movement. Shah Wali Ullah’s literary works differentiate his services from the works of all other reformers. His socio-economic teachings were a source of guidance and inspiration for posterity for years to come.

Syed Ahmad Shaheed Barelvi’s Jihad Movement in comparison with Shah Wali Ullah’s reform movement seems less important as far as revival of Islam in India is concerned. It was not carried forward by any of the followers of Syed Ahmad Shaheed Barelvi. It lost momentum as soon as the founder himself perished whereas Shah Wali Ullah’s sons had continued with the mission of their father after his death.

Barelvi, unlike Shah Wali Ullah, did not leave behind any institution where his teachings were imparted to younger generations. Simultaneously he had no literary works to his credit that could become source of inspiration and guidance after him. His achievements proved to be momentary as the areas captured by him were soon occupied by the non-Muslims. On the other hand, Shah Wali Ullah had rendered ever-living services for the cause of Islam. A special reference can be made to his translation of the Holy Quran into Persian and valuable literary works.

Shah Wali Ullah’s work was more comprehensive than that of Barelvi’s. Shah Wali Ullah’s teachings were not on just religion. He did talk about politics as well as economic activity in a Muslim society. Barelvi appears lagging behind Shah Wali Ullah, as his only area of concern was the re-establishment of Muslim power and that too through Jihad. Unluckily, he could not succeed in achieving his sole aim.

Faraizi Movement in the nineteenth century was another major attempt aimed at the revival of Islam. A great many people were influenced by the teachings of both Haji Shariat Ullah and his son Mohsin-ud-Din Ahmad. They very successfully helped Bengali Muslims set their religious belief right. It was surely through this movement that Islam returned to its original form. It made them conscious of their religious identity and created a spirit in them for the fighting of holy war (Jihad).

However, Haji Shariat Ullah’s Faraizi Movement sounds less important in comparison with other reform movements. It was restricted to just one area of the subcontinent whereas other movements influenced many. It ended with the death of its founders and was not carried forward whereas Shah Wali Ullah’s movement remained a source of inspiration for years to come. Even the armed struggle made by the followers of the Faraizi Movement was not as successful as was by Barailvi. It did not leave behind any institutions and literary works as were left by Shah Wali Ullah.

(Shamsul Arifin)

0300 5555-338

Why did Syed Ahmad Shaheed Barelvi conduct a Jihad against the Sikhs in the early nineteenth century? (7)

(November 2000)

How important was the work of Shah Wali Ullah to the revival of Islam in the sub-continent? Explain your answer. (14)

(November 2000)

Which of the following was the most important in the spread of Islam during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries:

· Shah Wali Ullah;

· Syed Ahmad Shaheed Barelvi;

· Haji Shariat Ullah?

Explain your answer with reference to all three of the above. (14)

(May/June 2001)

Why did Syed Ahmad Shaheed Barailvi wish to revive Islam in the sub-continent? (7)

(October/November 2002)

Why did Shah Wali Ullah wish to revive Islam in the Sub-continent? (7)

(May/June 2003)

Why did Syed Ahmad Shaheed Barailvi have such a major influence on the revival of Islam in the sub-continent? (7)

(October/November 2003)

How important was Shah Wali Ullah in the spread of Islam in the Sub-Continent before 1850? Explain your answer. (14)

(October/ November 2004)

Why did Shah Wali Ullah have such an important influence on the revival of Islam in the sub-continent? (7)

(October/ November 2005)

Was the work of Shah Wali Ullah the most important factor in the revival of Islam in the sub-continent during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries? Give reason for your answer. (14)

(October/ November 2006)

Saturday, January 17, 2009




Aurangzeb died in 1707 A.D. leaving behind an empire that was unstable and threatened by various elements that were striving hard to overthrow Mughals. Aurangzeb’s death helped their cause and there was nobody as strong, capable, and determined as Aurangzeb had been. The Mughal downfall set in as soon as Aurangzeb was laid to rest. He was blamed for being strict and harsh with Hindus for demolishing their temples and throwing them out of the government. The re-imposition of Jizya is also said to have turned Hindus and other non-Muslim communities against the Mughal rule.


The Mughal Empire, area wise, had reached its peak under Aurangzeb. There was no proper communication system available to hold such a vast empire together. There was rebellion in the south if the court was in the north and vice versa. Both Bijapur and Golkanda, two big states in the south, had surrendered to the Mughal emperor by 1687. The last 26 years of Aurangzeb’s rule were devoted to his haughty wars in the Deccan. The Deccan campaign, both physically and materially, had cost the Mughal Empire very heavily. It had given the empire nothing but a stalemate situation where victories overlapped defeats. Aurangzeb spent this time in the Deccan together with his court, which he moved there. The Marathas continued to fight against Aurangzeb for some time even after he had realized the futility of such a campaign.


Another blunder that he had committed was by keeping his sons away from the royal court. None of his sons was trained in the art of government; a fact that was to prove death knell for the Mughals. The eldest living son, Muazzam, was 63 when Aurangzeb died. He proclaimed himself emperor but so did his brothers, Azam and Kam Baksh. Thus Muazzam, who had ascended the throne as Bahadur Shah, was to be kept busy for the first three years of his brief five-year rule in fighting off his brothers. He did his best to keep peace with the Hindus but proved unsuccessful. The Sikhs, who had risen as a potent military force during Aurangzeb’s rule, continued to make trouble for the Mughals. Banda Bahadur very successfully detached Punjab from the crumbling Mughal Empire. Bahadur Shah’s death in 1712 ensued bloody and bitter wars of succession in the absence of a proper law of succession.


The royal court had become a hotbed of intrigues by the time of Muhammad Shah Rangila who was known for his devotion to just music and dancing. The condition of the empire went from bad to worse. Usurpers and rebels increased, adventurers rose to gain momentary control and disappeared having made their temporary marks. South India soon emerged independent of Mughal power. The Nawabs ruling far-flung areas of the empire started detaching themselves from the Mughal rule to establish their independent dynasties. They would soon turn rebellious and defy Mughal authority over them. The Mughal emperor sitting at Delhi, thousands of miles away, always found it impossible to keep a check on these Nawabs and to send his army incase of a rebellion.


A powerful Persian general, Nadir Shah, ascended the Persian throne in 1736. He asked Muhammad Shah to join him in crushing Afghanistan. Muhammad Shah had to deal with Marathas who were now attacking the limits of the Mughal capital. They had emerged as the most threatening of the rising non-Muslim communities in India. Nadir Shah after conquering Kabul and Kandhar did not wait long to invade India. He reached Delhi unchecked in 1739. He literally sacked Delhi slaughtering more than 30,000 people. The Mughals were not only defeated but also deprived of all their wealth. Ahmad Shah Abdali who soon set his eyes on the remaining riches of the Mughal Empire succeeded Nadir Shah. In his third attempt, he managed reaching the mainland of India and fought against Marathas at the historic battlefield of Panipat in 1761. With the crushing defeat of Marathas at the hands of Ahmad Shah Abdali, Muslims at last got a timely sigh of relief.


The Europeans, who had come to India in the guise of traders, were a strong military force. They kept increasing their areas of influence by engaging themselves in warfare. They were apparently trying to secure trading rights for themselves but in reality their commercial ventures had assumed a political character. They very successfully won the battles at Plassey and at Buxar. These successes were key to British conquest of India. They took not just political control of India but economic as well. Military efficiency, which had always been a remarkable feature of the Mughals, became a remote memory. There was degeneration in discipline, want of cohesion, luxurious habits, inactivity, poor training and outdated equipment. There was no patriotism in the army, the soldiers and officers identifying with different ethnic regions, Persian, Central Asian, Afghan, rather than Indian. The financial position of the Mughal Empire was poor; the repeated wars of succession, rebellions and luxurious style of living had depleted the once overflowing treasury. Revenue collection was forced, taxes were raised to such an extent that the farmers had to give up their lands to escape taxation.


Page 2

The empire had reached such vastness that it had become impossible for one emperor to control the whole area. It extended from Assam to Afghanistan and from Kashmir to Mysore. Rebellions could only be tackled with by the personal campaigns of the emperor and would breakout whenever the emperor was busy quelling another. Many important provinces of the empire such as the Deccan, Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa declared independence.


The Mughals had no navy worth mentioning. The small ships that patrolled the coasts were not part of a regular naval force and were no match to the well-equipped ships of the foreign invaders. The Dutch, the Portuguese, the British, and the French took advantage of this deficiency of the Mughals and established themselves through their naval presence. The Dutch and the Portuguese did not really pose a threat to the Mughal Empire, being satisfied with their smallholdings. On the other hand, the French and the British who had come to trade in India realized the possibilities and used their naval power to great advantage. Much had already been lost by the time Mughals realized the need to maintain a navy.


No one can deny the development of art, music, culture and architecture under the Mughals. But the intellectual stagnation that marred the empire is a reality in its own. Indians failed to keep pace with the changing times as far as development of sciences and technology is concerned. There was no interaction with other nations of the world and as a result Indians were found wanting as far as science and technology are concerned. No industrialization took place. India continued with its agricultural outlook sticking to centuries old methods and techniques even in this field.


Absence of a law of succession appears to be the most lethal of the causes for the decline of Mughal rule in India when one closely examines all the causes. There was never a law of succession and the throne would pass to the strongest claimant. It caused bitterness, bloodshed, heavy burden on royal treasury and loss of prestige. It gave rise to rivalries and disunity among the courtiers and nobility.


Another very important reason was the rise of non-Muslim communities in different parts of India. This development went ahead unchecked as the nobility and the Mughal officers had gone lazy and extravagant. They were often found seeking pleasure with the ladies of their palaces in the gardens instead of taking care of their official duties. They had started losing interest in sitting on horseback for hours and showing their mettle in the battlefields. The death of one of their pets or betrayal by any of their beloveds was more dejecting to them than a defeat on a frontier.




                                                                                                                                    (Shamsul Arifin)

                                                                                                                                      0300 5555-338


Was the in fighting between Aurangzeb’s successors the most important reason for the collapse of the Mughal Empire? Explain your answer.                                                                                                                                                                            (14)

                                                                                                                                                                                 (October/November 2001)


Briefly explain THREE reasons for the decline of the Mughal Empire.                                                                               (7)

                                                                                                                                                                                                  (May/June 2002)


“Aurangzeb’s successors failed to live up to his courageous and determined personality.” Was this the most important reason for the decline of the Mughal Empire? Give reasons for your answer.                                                            (14)

                                                                                                                                                                                 (October/November 2003)


Were the weak and greedy characteristics of Aurangzeb’s successors the most important reason for the collapse of the Mughal Empire? Explain your answer.                                                                                                                                                    (14)

                                                                                                                                                                              (October/ November 2005)


Explain why the Mughal Empire declined following the reign of Aurangzeb.                                                                                     (7)

                                                                                                                                                                                                 (May/ June 2006)