Conclusion: Social Class, Hierarchy, and Authority
The dispute between status groups (mystics, traditional authorities, rationalist jurisprudents) set the intellectual terms of the struggle for control of Awadh's growing religious establishment. But the social dimension of the conflict is obvious from the frequency with which opponents argued over the goodness, badness, and nature of wealth and property. The dispute among Sufis, Akhbaris, and Usulis took place at three social levels. First, some religious figures competed among themselves for spiritual leadership of Awadh's towns and middle landholding families. Second, some struggled to monopolize the patronage of the high notables and to control their religious culture as well. The fusion of the religious idioms promoted by learned men from the intermediate strata with those of the high notables created a dominant ideology (dominant among the Shi‘i propertied classes). Third, religious officials from the landed classes battled with charismatic personalities or traditional authorities from the bazaar classes. The Usuli establishment strove to dominate
Shi‘is at all levels of society; but in preindustrial societies like Awadh the majority of tradespeople maintained their own religious ideologies.
Some conflicts between Sufis and Usulis involved competition among learned men of similar social and economic backgrounds. For men from the small landed classes in the Islamic lineage centers, either Usulism or Sufism could provide bases for religious domination and avenues of influence with the large landholding and ruling classes. They chose their path according to family background, local tradition, and personal inclination or ambition. Where learned men of similar social background competed for notable-class patronage, their disputes seldom centered on whether wealth was good or bad. They took its goodness for granted.
Examples abound of status-group rivalry lacking any dimension of class conflict. The Shi‘i ulama of Nasirabad and the pirs of Salon competed with one another for the benefices and other patronage that the high notables could bestow. The decline of Mughal Delhi and the rise of Shi‘i-ruled Lucknow posed a challenge to Sunni Sufis of middle landholding background used to Mughal patronage. Chishtis like Shah ‘Ali Akbar Mawdudi, himself from Delhi, parlayed their pro-‘Alid sentiments into an asset in attracting the patronage of rising Shi‘i notables. The jurisprudents staffing the emergent religious establishment showed intense hostility to the charismatic Sufis. The Imami ulama bested the Sufis by their strong commitment to communalist Shi‘ism and their specialized knowledge of Jacfari law. They could not, however, altogether stop Awadh notables from patronizing the mystics.
The issues of whether wealth was good or not and of the propriety of cooperating with the government more often arose when the competing status groups also derived from different economic classes. Here, a Marxian model, or at least a Weberian model of social closure informed by the Marxian idea of conflict between economic classes, has greater explanatory power. Mystics who stood outside the benefice (madad-i macash ) system of the prebendal state could criticize the government as tyrannical and denounce the official ulama for compromising themselves by cooperating with it. It is possible that critical outsiders like Mawlavi Samic had ties to Iranian long-distance traders or other social classes with minimal dependency on the agrarian bureaucracy in Lucknow.
The artisan and laboring classes practiced yet another kind of mysticism. Even where they were Shi‘i, they often wished to remain aloof from the state and to maintain their independence from the official ulama. Both Akhbarism and Sufism offered alternative sources of legitimation for their leaders. The tensions between Mulla Muhammad Riza Kashmiri and the Usulis derived, not from competition for patronage from the rich, but from the Usuli establishment's desire to dominate the entire body of the faithful. The indepen-
dence of popular-class sectarian movements, such as those in Murshidabad, stood in the way of such hierocratic domination. One basis for elective affinity between Sufism and Akhbarism and popular-class leaders lay in the ease with which these ideologies allowed religious leaders from the bazaar, who had no leisure to pursue complicated rationalist studies, to make charismatic or traditional claims to authority. Moreover, as Usulism became the dominant ideology, groups seeking to maintain their independence of the ulama or of the state often clung even more tightly to alternative ideologies.
The cultural dominance of the Usuli ulama among Shi‘i notables led to less status at court for traditional Muslim spiritual leaders like Sufis and Akhbaris. The ousting of the pirs proved important, since they often had Shi‘i, Sunni, and Hindu disciples. Their more tolerant, often syncretic Islam had developed in traditional Mughal society, itself a compromise, or collaboration, between Muslims and Hindus. Some Awadh notables continued an open approach to intercommunal relations, but Usuli exclusiveness began markedly to affect government policy from the 1820s.
Three reasons can be adduced for Usulism's victory. The first is the attractions for a new generation of Shi‘i ulama of this ideology, which legitimated lay-clerical differentiation and gave the mujtahids the sole prerogative of interpreting the Law, demanding the obedience of laymen to their rulings. Given the increased opportunities for clerical patronage and posts in the growing Shi‘i state, Usulism made more sense to young north Indian ulama than it had to their fathers. The second reason is the largely successful use of exclusionary closure by Usuli ulama to assert claims to religious posts and resources and to deprive rivals of that patronage. Their strategies included a form of credentialism, in which they recognized only diplomas from Usulis as a proper qualification to fill clerical posts. They also resorted to more violent means of exclusion, such as verbal abuse and public humiliation of rivals, branding them heretics and non-Muslims. This professional closure succeeded better among propertied Shi‘is than among the popular classes, who often retained their own, untrained, religious leadership.
The third reason is the preference for Usuli ideology by the emergent Awadh state. As a government bureaucracy grew up, with the prayer leaders and muftis as its religious wing, state officials favored more rational-legal bases for authority. Usulism was much more suited, at that place and time, to integration into the Awadh state than either Akhbarism or Shi‘i Sufism. It sanctioned formal religious ceremonies, such as Friday congregational
prayer, which became important to the state as an expression of regional identity and semiautonomy, whereas Akhbaris opposed the institution, and Sufis refused to bow behind the official prayer leader. Moreover, the tension between the Shi‘i state and the clergy was less in Usulism than in Indian-style conservative Akhbarism, which disallowed many state functions during the Occultation. The state's increasing support for Usulis was crucial to their power, since "a class, race, sex, or ethnic group only accomplishes domination to the extent that its exclusionary prerogatives are backed up by the persuasive instruments of the state."