Religion, State, and the Second Usuli Generation
In the first phase of the formation of a clerical elite, the Usuli ulama forged a successful alliance with the increasingly autonomous Shi‘i notable class in Awadh, founding their influence on the Friday congregational prayers. These prayers at once symbolized the regional semiautonomy of the Awadh court from Mughal Delhi and the leading religious role of the Usuli prayer leaders. The Usuli ulama subsequently made successful claims for control over religious resources, such as private Shi‘i religious donations, thus increasing their wealth. They also strove to exclude competitors for religious authority, such as Sufi and Akhbari Shi‘i leaders.
The second phase of clerical elite formation, to which we now turn, coincided with the rise of the second generation of Usuli ulama to positions of influence. They sought to consolidate their position at the Awadh court and to regularize the sort of patronage offered them by the high notables. Challenged by the emergence of a completely independent Shi‘i monarchy, they had to decide whether to participate in ifs legitimation. As the authority of the Shi‘i ulama began to be accepted by commoners, they sought to present their authority as supernatural, as well as rational-juridical. Their clerical competitors for patronage and religious authority in this period included immigrant Iranian ulama and the new Shi‘i school of Shaykhism, promulgated from the Iraqi shrine citics. But a more serious threat came from the development of caesaropapism: the second Awadh king claimed religious as well as secular authority, coming into heated conflict with the Usuli elite.
The Coronation of Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar
Awadh entered a further stage in the continuing process of state making almost two decades into the nineteenth century. The elevation of Nawab Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar in 1819 from first minister of the Mughal Empire to autonomous .monarch in his own right posed questions about the role of the Shi‘i ulama in the independent Awadh state. This brief account of the incident, which has already been subjected to a free searching analysis by Michael H. Fisher, seeks to bring out its specifically religious implications. Awadh in 1819, militarily weak and surrounded on three sides by the British, nevertheless experienced stability and prosperity. Its rainfall-based cultivation of grains and foodstuffs rendered it the "garden of India." Governor-General Hastings wished to weaken the vestigial structures of the old Mughal Empire, as a means of dividing and ruling India, but his encouragement of princely states, such as the Nizamate of Hyderabad, to declare themselves independent monarchies met with rebuff everywhere except in Awadh. Perhaps because of the Nishapuri family's Shi‘ism, Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar followed up hints by Lord Hastings that the British would look favorably on an independent Awadh.
Just a few months after his assumption of the rank of the Mughal Empire's first minister, in the summer of 1814, he began showing a willingness to break away. The resident wrote to Calcutta later that year that in view of recent statements of the governor-general, the nawab-vizier wondered about the propriety of his sending gifts marking submission to the king of Delhi on Muslim holy days. He said he had suspended transmission of ceremonial offerings to the king until further notice. Lord Hastings wrote back that the vizier might transmit offerings to Delhi if he wished, but that he was certainly under no obligation to do so. He directed that the resident in Lucknow refrain from sending gifts to the Mughal monarch (whom the British had reduced, in any case, to a powerless figurehead subsisting under British rule).
Five years later Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar declared himself an independent Shi‘i king in a coronation ceremony that, as Fisher has shown, drew on many cultural traditions for its symbolism, including Shi‘i, Mughal, Hindu, and British elements. The ninth of October 1819, the day of the coronation, coincided with the Shi‘i festival commemorating the Prophet's alleged verbal
appointment of ‘Ali as his successor at Ghadir Khumm. In the morning Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar, his heir apparent, Nasiru'd-Din Haydar, and Chief Minister Agha Mir Mutamadu'd-Dawlah, seated on elephants with rich canopies of gold embroidery, led a huge procession of notables from all over Awadh, similarly mounted, to the Shrine of ‘Abbas, where they offered prayers of thanksgiving in private. The humble shrine to a crest founded by a faqir ended by being incorporated into the coronation festivities of a Shi‘i monarch.
The party proceeded to a nearby ceremonial building, the barahdari , where the coronation occurred. Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar, the chief minister, the British resident, and Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi (1785-1867), all played important parts in the ceremony. Sayyid Muhammad's old and weak father, Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali, would pass away only a few months later. Sayyid Muhammad, age thirty-four, actually filled the offices of the capital's prayer leader and chief Shi‘i religious authority. Just before the ceremony the Awadh ruler retired to a private room for prayers with his close companions, emerging with Muctamadu'd-Dawlah, Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi, and an officer of the household bearing the sword of state.
After Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar ascended the throne, the chief minister passed the crown to the younger Nasirabadi, who placed it on the ruler's head. The new king embraced the British resident, guns were sounded, and Nasirabadi read out the monarch's throne names. The select audience was showered with jewels and money, and inferiors made offerings in hopes that the monarch would return them even more generously. The role of the chief mujtahid in the coronation harked back to the Safavid state in Iran. Originally the chief of the Sufis girded the monarch with the sword of state. Both Shah Safi (Sulayman) (1667-94) and Shah Sultan Husayn (1694-1722), however, had the Shaykhu'l-Islam perform this act instead. The Shaykhu'l-Islam girded Sulayman with sword and dagger and placed a crown on his head. In 1694 the renowned Shaykhu'l-Islam Muhammad Baqir Majlisi girded up the last effective Safavid monarch. Just as Awadh kings saw themselves as heirs to Safavid glory and traditions, Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi revived Majlisi's role.
Fisher has shown that the East India Company officials took issue with the mujtahid's prominent part in the coronation, which the court ceremonially reenacted every year, feeling that they, rather than the Shi‘i ulama, provided legitimation to the rule of the Nishapuri dynasty. In 1822 the acting resident reported that the king put on his own crown (also the practice in
Qajar Iran). The next year Mordaunt Ricketts, the new resident, placed the crown and the robe of state on Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar at the commemorative coronation, and the resident played this role thereafter. The chief mujtahid was not altogether displaced from the ceremony, however. It became the custom for the monarch to perform a ritual prayer of thanks with Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi before receiving the crown from the hands of the resident. The transformation of the nawabs of Awadh into monarchs involved more form than substance. As Sharar drily remarked, when the Awadh rulers had real power they lacked the status of monarchs, but when they were enfeebled they suddenly became royalty. The other ruling houses in India, particularly the Delhi Mughals, reacted angrily at the new pretensions of the Nishapuris, whose own officials and subjects in the countryside continued to refer to them as nawab-vizier.
The change, of symbolic and cultural import for the ruling Shi‘i elite, posed problems of reinterpretation for the Imami ulama in their relations to the state. Along with other paraphernalia of independent rule, such as striking coins, the Awadh monarchs began having the Friday congregational prayers read in their own names. Classical Shi‘i thinkers, such as Ibn al-Mutahhar al-Hilli, forbade the reading of the Friday sermon (khutbah ) in the name of the secular ruler as a heretical innovation of the Sunnis. During over two centuries of Safavid rule in Iran, however, the Shi‘i ulama always read the Friday sermon in the name of Shi‘i kings, whom they referred to as the Shadow of God. Awadh's prayer leaders stepped into the role of even more strongly legitimating Nishapuri rule, at least in their outward actions. The establishment of Shi‘i Friday prayers in 1786 had symbolized the growing autonomy of Awadh, and in 1819 the insertion of the name of the Nishapuri ruler in its closing sermon formally announced the independence of the country.
The original symbols of nawabi legitimacy deriving from Mughal
appointment had emphasized both the power and the authority of the Mughal emperor. Both had long since waned, and these elements of rule became symbolically divided in the new ceremony. The British resident, who insisted on placing the crown on the monarch's head, represented the only real power in North India, and the prayers with the mujtahid bestowed the only sort of authority a Shi‘i ruling class could ultimately recognize, the cachet of the Hidden Imam.
Immanence and Leadership
Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi, upon his father's death in 1820 the leader of Awadh's Shi‘is, strove to resolve the tension between the original, sectarian symbols in Imami Shi‘ism and the new trappings of Shi‘ism as an establishment. He also wished, in the Indian context, to reify supernaturally his position of leadership. To this end he related a widely accepted dream he said his father had seen when Sayyid Muhammad was only a small child. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali saw that a multitude of Shi‘is had gathered on a high hill with great joy. Amazed, he asked what was happening. One replied that the Twelfth Imam had appeared on the hill. The Imam then embraced Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali, taking him further up the hill. After inquiring as to which of the collections of the Imam's oral reports were most reliable, the mujtahid implored him to take care of and train up the child in his arms, Sayyid Muhammad. The Imam agreed, calling his maidservant and ordering her to suckle Sayyid Muhammad, thus entering him into his household. Sayyid Muhammad later boasted that from that day he was one of the people of the Imam's household (ahl baytih ).
Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali, given leave to depart, had second thoughts about giving up his eldest son. The Imam reassured him that he would be able to see Sayyid Mahammad in that vast land. In recounting the dream years later Sayyid Muhammad pointed out that an adopted son is nevertheless considered a son, and a foster father is yet a father. He asserted that since the Imam agreed to raise him and teach him, the learning he received from his father actually derived from the Imam himself. His father was already, as a mujtahid, a general representative of the Imam Mahdi. But he was the Imam's special representative in teaching his son.
Sunni figures, of course, often employed dreams to legitimate their religious authority and increase the charisma with which their followers invested them. Bahru'l-‘Ulum of Farangi Mahall and Sayyid Ahmad Rai-Barelavi (discussed in chapter 9) both founded new Sufi orders on the basis of dreams of mystical initiation from the Prophet or his caliphs. Nevertheless, the claims
Sayyid Muhammad put forth to being the adopted son of the Twelfth Imam, to having been reared and taught by the Mahdi, and to membership in the holy household, startle by their enormity. Had such assertions been made in a work of doctrine or law they would have seemed obviously heretical, but their appearance in the context of a dream made them less immediately objectionable.
The Shi‘i expectation of the coming of the Imam and a dissatisfaction with human institutions in the absence of this eschatological figure constituted the sectarian pole within the religion's spiritual symbology. Such beliefs implied a tension between the religious group and the structures and values of the larger, secular society. For Akhbaris this tension tended to remain strong. But for Usulis the alleged designation of the mujtahids as general deputies of the Imam helped remove some of the tension. The mujtahids could, by proxy, bestow a certain legitimation upon the central institutions of Muslim society, as their role in the coronation of Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar demonstrated. Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi's own extravagant claims to a special relationship with the hidden Imam aimed at rendering religious authority immanent and present, no longer in Occultation.
Patronage and the Ulama
The growing authority and social position of the Usuli clergy derived from the patronage and support the Shi‘i ruling class offered them. The ulama built, not only new instituions, but a new economic base for their activities. Patronage as employed here does not indicate a political system, but is used to describe economic support given by Awadh's court and great notables to Muslim learned and holy men. In the eighteenth century this patronage differed little from that of the Mughal period in legal description, being offered within the system of prebendal feudalism. Later, however, the economic form of patronage offered the ulama changed, as capitalism began to make an impact on Awadh. The significant shift in the form of notable support for the religious classes over the period treated here made it necessary to use a general word, like "patronage," rather than a specific one, like "feudalism."
Sociologist Michael Gilsenan acutely raised the general question of the relationship of the ulama to local notables in considering the issue of patrons and clients. His informants in modern northern Lebanon told him that the lord's power was based on force, oppression, and domination, whereas the ulama derived their authority from scriptural learning and (often) descent from the Prophet. They regaled him with stories of how saintly ulama opposed arrogant notables and mediated for the common people with the bey and with God. Gilsenan at first accepted the stories, but then became suspi-
cious, as we shall see below. A similar image of the ulama's righteous independence of the notables also emerges in the accounts of some historians of the Shi‘i ulama, who have often taken such stories (told by descendants of the ulama) at face value. But just as Gilsenan continued to question, so must we.
The key to interactions between the notables and the ulama lies in their economic relationship. In Awadh, as was noted, the form of economic patronage changed over time. Asafu'd-Dawlah, ruling a strong state with the prospect of expansion, freely bestowed tax-free grants of land on notables and court favorites. The prayer leaders in both Lucknow and Faizabad received land grants. After the British annexed half of Awadh in 1801, however, Nawab Sacadat ‘Ali Khan grew unwilling to alienate state land, and the service elite increasingly depended on stipends and salaries. Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar sometimes broke his father's rule by granting crown lands to large landholders (tacalluqdars ) and notables, but he also began turning some of his courtiers into rentiers subsisting on the interest from Awadh loans to the East India Company.
These changes in the way the patrimonial bureaucratic state rewarded its dependents and staff, brought about by the impact of Western capitalism, immediately affected the ulama, who formed a part of the same patronage system. Most Shi‘i ulama, not themselves independently wealthy, subsisted after 1801 on stipends and occasional gifts granted by the notables, as well as on voluntary religious taxes. Ironically, these ulama often accepted money from the government, earned. through charging interest on loans to the British.
Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali Nasirabadi, as the prayer leader in the capital, received both a service grant of nine tax-free (mucafi ) villages and a yearly salary of Rs. 5,000 from the treasury. In a will that he wrote just before his death, Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali appointed his eldest son, Sayyid Muhammad, his successor, the land grant and the yearly stipend devolving upon him. The details of these grants survive in British documents drawn up after annexation. The revenue-free villages were undoubtedly the older benefice, most having probably been granted by Asafu'd-Dawlah. Sayyid Muhammad later reported
the villages and the annual yields to him (see table 3). It should be noted that Sayyid Muhammad submitted these estimates of his income to the British government at a time when they were considering levying taxes on it, and the British insisted that he consistently underestimated the yields, putting the total closer to Rs. 5,000) per year.
1. Maulvi Khera
Another set of records shows that upon his accession to the governorship of Awadh, Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar ordered that Rs. 5,000 be paid annually as a stipend to Mawlavi Dildar ‘Ali and his heirs, without requiring a renewed grant or documentation (sanad ). He may have been confirming a stipend bestowed earlier. Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi's income exceeded that extracted from the Hindu peasants in his villages and the stipend provided by the Awadh government. Notables gave him grants of money and gifts, especially when they sought his informal legal rulings or commissioned him to write something.
Mrs. Ali gave an example of how the Nasirabadis amassed a fortune in this manner. She noted that in the 1820s the widow of the Shi‘i nawab of
Farrukhabad, Vilayati Begam, made a will in which she left Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi a handsome sum of money for his own use. At first surprised that such a bequest should have come to him from outside Awadh, he instituted strict inquiries to make sure that the begam did not simply mean for him to distribute the sum to the poor on her behalf. Satisfied on that score, he made sure that she had fulfilled all her religious obligations in life, such as paying the poor tax, and finally accepted the wealth she had left him. Still, no matter how wealthy he became in this way, he had only nine revenue-free villages and a stipend, and by the standards of Awadh's Shi‘i magnates he remained merely a small landholder. Unlike some wealthy ulama from Iranian or local zamindar background, the Nasirabadis did not intermarry with the notable class, preferring to wed their rustic cousins in Nasirabad rather than make alliances with the worldly upper classes of Lucknow.
The structures of patronage in the 1820s and 1830s became more fluid. Rather than making hereditary grants of villages, the Shi‘i court and notables most often simply appointed stipends and occasional gifts for the ulama they supported. The patrimonial, family-centered nature of many grants is illustrated by the case of Sayyid Hasan Riza Zangipuri (1779-1862), from a small town in Ghazipur, who studied in Faizabad. On becoming a mujtahid, he traveled for five years in Iran, receiving a robe of honor and cash gift from the Qajar ruler Fath-‘Ali Shah. Back in Lucknow, his wife established connections with one of Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar's wives, Mubarak Mahall, who gave her a substatial stipend and appointed Rs. 160 per month for her learned husband as well.
Not all ulama felt comfortable in accepting gifts from the rich. Sayyid ‘Ali of Bhikpur, Bihar, insisted on living on his salary, refusing the gifts (nazranah ) of notables. Needless to say, most ulama lived rather less ascetic lives and eagerly accepted gifts from magnates. Sayyid ‘Ali, originally a Sufi, embraced Usuli Shi‘ism and studied in Lucknow with Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi, receiving Rs. 5 per month as a student stipend. In the absence of notable gifts, Sayyid ‘Ali's income remained small. He found work at Rs. 10 per month as a tutor to the children of a notable, then received a raise to Rs. 30 per month. Mihdi Qummi Kashmiri, arriving in Lucknow in the late 1820s or the 1830s, refused to accept patronage from notables in the form of land grants, which he apparently felt would limit his independence. But he did take gifts of cash (nazranah ).
Nor did all ulama stand in great need of stipends from the high notables.
Many prominent clerics in Lucknow came from a rural landholding background. Sayyid Ahmad ‘Ali Muhammadabadi (d. 1878), from a zamindar family based near Jaunpur, trained in the religious sciences with the Usuli prayer leaders of Faizabad and Lucknow. He received gifts and stipends from the Awadh monarch for his religious writings. Muhammadabadi enjoyed his role in Lucknow as a learned man so much, and proved so successful at it, that, reluctant to return home to direct property affairs, he signed over his zamindari estate to his son and sent the young man out to oversee it.
Training as one of the Usuli ulama could also provide an entree to the court and a means of social mobility. Mawlavi Imdad ‘Ali Keranavi (d. 1873) came to Lucknow in the early 1830s and parlayed his skills as a reciter of prose mourning works for the Imam Husayn into a fortune. From a medical family in a service qasabah in Muzaffarnagar, he studied in Lucknow at the seminary set up by Hakim Mihdi ‘Ali Khan during his brief tenure as chief minister, 1830-32, receiving a stipend for his support and earning a diploma of Friday prayers leadership from Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi. He gradually made contacts at the court, reciting mourning passages at the salons of the king and his wives. Nasiru'd-Din Haydar so enjoyed his performances that he bestowed upon him a five-piece robe of honor and Rs. 500, fixing him as a permanent reciter for royal mourning sessions. The king gave to him in marriage a girl brought up in his own household, paying all the marriage expenses from the state treasury, and bestowed upon him a black mansion. Keranavi moved into administration, becoming the supervisor of the royal kitchen at Rs. 700 per month, with his wife receiving Rs. 200. The informal educational institutions of the Shi‘i ulama in Lucknow became an important element in elite formation, whereby Shi‘is from service families in the lineage centers could make important contacts in the capital and climb Awadh's social ladder.
The story of a Kashmiri immigrant family demonstrates the extent to which persons from notable families might identify themselves as ulama through a style of life, regardless of their social class. Mirza Sadiq ‘Ali Kashmiri (d. 1873), called to Lucknow in the late 1820s by his uncle, found on arrival that the older man had joined in the uproarious life of Lucknow's notables. Shocked to find his uncle hosting wild parties with singing girls, he moved elsewhere out of piety. Later he took service with the prayer leader for the great notable Hakim Mihdi ‘Ali Khan. Some ulama, on the other hand, surrendered to the values of their patrons. Abu'l-Qasim Sasani, settling in Patna, gave rulings that allowed drinking and gambling. The notables, de-
lighted, made him their cynosure. Sayyid Najaf ‘Ali Naunahravi (1793-1845), a student of Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali, enforced Usuli orthodoxy by refuting Sasani.
Sociologist Michael Gilsenan was astonished by something one of his informants told him about notables and ulama. The lord and a celebrated cleric, dead some twenty years, "got on famously." What, the startled social scientist inquired, about all those stories of saintly ulama struggling against the lord's tyranny? Gilsenan, upon reflection, saw that the stories were more ideology than reality. "For the Sheikhs [ulama] are, in fact, the dependents of the Beys, their dependence masked by miracles and the supposed triumph of authority over power."
In the same way, for all their talk of being the general representatives of the Twelfth Imam, and for all the stories crowding the biographical dictionaries of humble mujtahids besting despotic rulers, the Twelver ulama in Awadh depended for their social position largely upon the patronage of the notables. Those who had their own small holdings could be more independent of the court, but their very position as exploiters of the peasantry made it likely that their interests would coincide with those of the big landholding notables. The ulama established their own style of life as an honored status group within the ruling class, and many would not yield on principle even for monetary gain (though some, like Sasani, clearly did). But in Awadh, perhaps even more than in Iran, the ulama formed a subordinate part of the ruling class. In Iran, a few very wealthy merchant-ulama established a relative independence of the government, though too many broad generalizations have been made on the basis of this small group. In Awadh, however, no such merchant-ulama are recorded, and the small-landed or salaried background of most clerics made them dependent on the Shi‘i notables.
Challenges to Indian Usuli Dominance
Three new rivals to the authority of the Indian Usulis arose in the first half of the nineteenth century. These challenges threatened not only their control of religious institutions, but also their income from court and notable patronage. The first threat, ethnic in nature, was competition from Iranian immigrant ulama, who often carried more prestige by virtue of having come from the centers of Shi‘i scholarship and power. Another challenge derived from the gnostic Shaykhi school of Shi‘ism, which achieved prominence in the Iraqi shrine city of Karbala, spreading from there to India. The third menace came from claims to religious authority by the second Awadh king, Nasiru'd-Din Haydar. This caesaropapism threatened to introduce idiosyncratic rituals into Awadh Shi‘ism and to undermine the religious leadership of the Usuli ulama.
The Iranian immigrani ulama, largely of the Usuli school, remained prime competitors for patronage from the notables. They and the Indians fought, despite their adherence to the same school of jurisprudence. Unlike the Usuli conflict with Akhbaris and Sufis, the dispute originated neither in alternative forms of religious legitimation nor in tensions between social classes. Rather, it derived from a different sort of social closure, based on ethnicity. The rivalry between Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali Nasirabadi and Aqa Ahmad Bihbahani earlier in the century left a residue of bitterness between the Indians and the Iranians. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali's anonymous official biography often criticized Iranian ulama who came to Lucknow as greedy 'individuals who prostituted themselves for money.
The Iranian ‘Abdu'l.-‘Azim Husayni Isfahani wrote a typical rebuttal of these charges, dedicating it to Nawab Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar. Isfahani took Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali to task for saying he lived in hard times for the truth. He pointed out that the Awadh rulers provided ample patronage to Shi‘i religious figures. Nowadays, he remarked, everyone is a Mawlavi Dildar, and religious students who used to sit on the dirt now receive Rs. 500 or Rs. 1,000. He objected that Nasirabadi seemed to warn people that because being a Shi‘i mawlavi had become so lucrative, many wolves in sheep's clothing were arriving from abroad. Isfahani said that in fact Nasirabadi sought to forbid people from giving hospitality to foreign ulama and pilgrims who came to Lucknow. Indeed, he said, matters had reached the point where no one would help even an indigent visitor. He asked who Nasirabadi was, to impugn, as having set up in business, Iranian expatriate ulama who were from learned families and who gave rulings respected by the believers. He accused the prayer leader of calumniating the people of Lucknow, Aqa Ahmad Bihbahani, and other Iranian ulama arriving in Awadh.
Isfahani took issue with Nasirabadi's statement that people had lost their ability to distinguish between truth and falsehood, branding it ungrateful to those dwelling in the capital, who generally held Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali in the high esteem. The nawab certainly could distinguish between truth and falsehood, as could many others. He questioned Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali's credentials as a mujtahid, saying he had studied only briefly with the mujtahids in the shrine cities of Iraq, and that he never received a diploma of ijtihad . He added bitterly that since that time Nasirabadi had revealed himself to be a mere layman in his mentality and that none of his sons or students had turned out to be distinguished.
Such attacks were in turn rebutted by Nasirabadi's students, the Indian ulama carrying the day. The biographical dictionaries mention very few Iranian ulama who settled in Lucknow and attained high religious rank after
1814. Many came as visitors and left after receiving gifts from the nawabs. More Iranians came successfully as physicians, poets, and architects at court, and some of their sons or grandsons went into the religious field.
One exception, Mulla Mihdi Astarabadi (d. 1843), a student of Sayyid ‘Ali Tabataba'i's in Karbala who lived for some time in Kirmanshah, arrived in Lucknow in 1824. He received patronage for his many compositions from members of the ruling circle, such as Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar's wife, Badshah Begam; from Hakim Mihdi ‘Ali Khan, chief minister in the 1830s; and from Nasiru'd-Din Haydar (r. 1827-37). But even Astarabadi, out of Iranian pride, refused to join in the social circle of the local Indian ulama, living in Lucknow as something of a recluse. Astarabadi died in 1843, leaving an estate worth Rs. 10,000, which the Lucknow mujtahids remitted to Najaf for distribution to his heirs.
The Indian Shi‘i ulama saw the Iranians arriving in Lucknow and Faizabad as carpetbaggers, unscrupulous mullas attempting to cash in on their Iranian prestige at a provincial court and among a gullible Shi‘i population. But the Iranians felt that the Indian Usulis unfairly (and inhospitably) attempted to exclude them from patronage opportunities. Surprisingly, the Indian ulama succeeded, by and large, in reserving the best posts in Awadh for Indians, despite the greater prestige of the Iranians. They succeeded in doing so largely because of their detailed knowledge of local court protocol, which most Iranian ulama not only refused to learn but also disapproved of as demeaning to the station of Islamic scholars. To Awadh's notables, the Iranian ulama often looked, or were made to look, rude and haughty. A limited number of Indian-born Usuli families thus continued to monopolize religious office. That so acrimonious a struggle could take place among Usulis on the arbitrary grounds of ethnicity points to motives of exclusionary closure and competition for religious patronage, and strengthens the contention in chapter 6 that even disputes with an obvious doctrinal basis had a dimension of social rivalry.
A minority of post-Occultation Imami religious leaders primarily based their claims to authority on charisma, and such charismatic leaders promoted either Sufi mysticism organized around brotherhoods (turuq ) or gnostic esotericism (batiniyyah ) often organized in secret cells of believers. Usulis opposed both charisma-based sorts of religious leadership by emphasizing technical, rational approaches to understanding scriptural law. Religious leaders of the Sevener, or Ismacili, branch of Shi‘ism more commonly prac-
ticed esoteric interpretation of scriptural texts and made claims to secret knowledge acquired supernaturally, than did Twelvers. But a major charismatic challenge to Usulism based in esoteric approaches to Twelver Shi‘ism emerged in the late eighteenth century in the form of Shaykhism.
The Shaykhi movement made an impact on Awadh in the 1830s and 1840s, demonstrating a reservoir of dissatisfaction with Usuli dominance. Shaykhism was founded by Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i (1753-1826), a scholar and visionary who in the 1790s trained with Usulis in the shrine cities of Iraq, thereafter establishing himself as a prominent theologian in Fath-‘Ali Shah's Iran. Al-Ahsa'i stirred controversy by saying he had visions of the Imams and that his knowledge was based on inspiration (kashf ), but his dreams were no more unorthodox than those of the Nasirabadis in Lucknow. Toward the end of his life his speculative, philosophical bent aroused the opposition of legalist ulama, some of whom issued rulings saying that he had departed from Islam in believing that only a spiritual, and not the physical, body would arise on resurrection day.
Al-Ahsa'i's chief disciple, Sayyid Kazim Rashti (d. 1844), succeeded him in Karbala upon his death, developing his teacher's doctrines into a new school of Imami Shi‘ism that differed somewhat from Usulism. In 1828 he met twice with a group of Usulis who attempted to clarify Shaykhi doctrine and to force Rashti to renounce some teachings. Shi‘is in Karbala gradually became polarized between the minority Shaykhis and the majority Usulis, led by Sayyid Ibrahim Qazvini. In the 1830s rivals made several attempts on Sayyid Kazim's life, but the school and its leader doggedly survived.
Since many Shi‘i scholars and notables traveled between Awadh and Iraq, Sayyid Kazim, as the Karbala-based leader of Shaykhism, had an influence on North India. A prominent scholar from Lucknow, Sayyid ‘Ali Nasirabadi (1786-1843), the second son of Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali, studied with Sayyid Kazim Rashti. Better known as a preacher and a reciter of the Qur'an than as a mujtahid, he wrote apologetics for Shi‘ism against Sunnis. In 1829 he traveled to Karbala, where the ulama, especially Sayyid Kazim Rashti, treated him with respect despite his Indian background. He studied for a year with the Shaykhi leader and received a complimentary diploma from him
during a period when the schism between Usulism and Shaykhism had intensified. Sayyid ‘Ali could scarcely have been unaware of Rashti's doctrines, and Sayyid Kazim for his part may have been attempting to spread his teachings to India. The year after his arrival in Iraq Sayyid ‘Ali set out once more for Awadh, where he devoted himself to an Urdu Shi‘i commentary on the Qur'an, printed in 1840. He then returned to Karbala for his few remaining years.
The most vigorous advocate of Shaykhism in Awadh, Mirza Hasan ‘Azimabadi (d. 1844), came of a Delhi family settled in Patna. He arrived as a young man in Lucknow where he pursued his study of Shi‘i sciences with Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi, writing in the 1820s a treatise arguing that holding Friday congregational prayers constituted an absolute, individual duty rather than an optional obligation. As the prayers became institutionalized in Awadh the hesitancy about them, visible in their first-generation promoters such as Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali, lessened.
Mirza Hasan went on pilgrimage to Mecca and then on visitation to the shrine cities of Iraq. He elected to reside in Karbala, where he gradually became a close follower of Sayyid Kazim Rashti. In 1836 ‘Azimabadi returned to Lucknow, where he worked as a preacher (vaciz ), promulgating the doctrines of Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i and Sayyid Kazim Rashti. He translated one of al-Ahsa'i's doctrinal works from Arabic into Persian and wrote an original composition on Shaykhi theology. Hostile Usuli sources say that Mirza Hasan spoke of having visions (manamat ) in his sleep, said he received inspiration (kashf ) from the Imams, and promoted himself as a miracle worker. At first Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi attempted to ignore Mirza Hasan's behavior, but when he succeeded in gathering some followers among the common people the Usuli mujtahid felt compelled to refute his former pupil. Mulla Mihdi Astarabadi, who may have encountered Shaykhism in Kirmanshah, joined in with an attack on Rashti's student.
Shaykhi theology postulated that God's attributes were of two kinds, active and essential, and that each of the attributes was represented in both categories. God had two kinds of knowledge, essential (or identical to his essence) and active (whereby he knew contingent things). Traditional Shi‘i theology accepted the division of divine attributes into active and essential,
but insisted that each attribute was one or the other. God's knowledge was an essential attribute, his speech an active one Usulis charged that al-Ahsa'i fell into heresy by saying that God had two sorts of knowledge.
Another difference of opinion centered on nominalism. Classical Shi‘i thinkers like Ibn Babuyah defined the essential attributes, such as God's knowledge, as identical to the divine essence. The word "knowledge" when applied to God had no referent other than the essence, acting as a denial of ignorance in him. Shi‘is borrowed this stance from the early Muctazili school. Later thinkers, such as Muhammad Baqir Majlisi (d. 1699), felt uncomfortable with so thoroughgoing a nominalism, denying that the negation of attributes in God was the highest stage in understanding his absolute unity. Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i took a view closer to that of Ibn Babuyah and the Muctazilis. In his attack on Shaykhism, Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi focused on these two seminal doctrines of Shaykhi theology, aiming to reaffirm the positive essential attributes and to refute the postulation of both essential and active divine knowledge.
‘Azimabadi remained committed to the Shaykhi school, working to build it up even in the face of fierce opposition from his old mentor. In 1844 he once again set out for the shrine cities of Iraq but got only as far as Allahabad, where he fell ill and died. Since Sayyid Kazim died on I January 1844, it seems likely that Mirza Hasan had received word that the old leadership of the movement in Karbala was gone and a struggle for succession had begun. He probably wished to return to Iraq so as to establish direct contact with whatever new leadership might emerge.
Mirza Hasan's death at an early age deprived north Indian Shaykhism of its most active proponent, the increasingly wealthy and powerful Usuli hierarchy in Awadh succeeding in its quest to uproot the new rival. Even so, in 1852 the appearance of the Shaykhi school still pained Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi Later Usuli refutations of Shaykhism originated in the Deccan, where Shaykhi influence remained much stronger. In the early 1870s the Shi‘i notable Mawlavi Ghulam Nabiyu'llah Ahmad Khan Madrasi (d. 1906) came to Lucknow, where Sayyid Bandah Husayn, son and successor of Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi, condemned him as an unbeliever because of his Shaykhi leanings. Madrasi's grandfather had been a notable in the court
of the anti-British south Indian Muslim ruler Tipu Sultan, and Nauganavi noted that Shi‘is in the Deccan were much under "Shaykhi, Babi and Nusayri influence." Although in Iran millenarian expectations of the coming of the Imam Mahdi in 1844/1260 contributed to the rise of the Babi movement from the matrix of Shaykhism, no evidence survives of any Babi activity in Awadh.
In the 1830s the Usuli ulama of Awadh, despite their lukewarm relations with the court, still had enough authority to stamp out what they perceived to be a heresy. The control mechanisms at their disposal are by now familiar: public denunciation and humiliation, and shunning. The second generation of Usuli ulama mobilized their followers for exclusionary closure even more effectively than had the first generation in the eighteenth century. Most important, one hears of no great notable who lent his patronage to Shaykhis, so that the Usulis appear to have effectively starved the new school of funds in Awadh. The Usuli approach to religion and law won out over the esoteric, charismatic approach of the Shaykhis, perhaps because Awadh bureaucrats and tax-farmers, many of them intellectually formed by the rationalist Nizami method of the Farangi Mahall, could better appreciate the rational-legal techniques of the mujtahids.
The Ulama and the State, 1827-1857
Weber's two ruling organizations, the political and the hierocratic, for the most part exercised legitimate domination over different spheres of society. But the potential for conflict between them always existed. Weber suggested a tripartite typology for state-religion relations. In the first type, hierocracy, the religious leaders legitimate the ruler. In the second, theocracy, the ruler is also the high priest. In the third, caesaropapism, a secular ruler also controls the religious hierarchy, having a legitimacy not dependent on the religious officials.
Which of these types best describes Awadh is clear. From the establishment of Friday prayers under Asafa'ud-Dawlah in 1786 through the coronation of Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar in 1819 the Shi‘is of Awadh gradually developed a loose hierocracy, wherein the mujtahids legitimated the Nishapuri ruler. The Nishapuris had little religious charisma of their own, and the Usuli ulama, not themselves holders of political power, developed enough charisma among Shi‘is to bestow legitimacy on the Awadh ruler. As was noted in chapter 5, this legitimation held good within the Shi‘i ruling class, though obviously it had little relevance in the countryside, to the Hindu masses, or to
Sunni rajas and townsmen. Usuli hierocratic legitimation had meaning only in the context of the small, dominant Shi‘i community.
In the 1830s the Awadh king Nasiru'd-Din Haydar experimented with another cultural typology, promoting a system closer to caesaropapism. Weber well recognized the difficulty for a ruler of successfully claiming religious authority, and the danger of the attempt. In Awadh the move toward caesaropapism faced double jeopardy. First, it aroused the hostility of the well-placed Usuli ulama and of many sober members of the Shi‘i ruling class, who had been socialized to Usuli values. Second, for other reasons, some features of the ruler's claim to religious authority also alarmed the British, the real guarantors of political power. The coincidence of some Usuli hierocratic and British utilitarian norms constituted a particularly powerful obstacle in the path of Nasiru'd-Din Haydar's religious policy.
The reign of Nasiru'd-Din Haydar marked a period of very turbulent relations between the monarch and the high ulama. Both his beliefs and his style of life made Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar's son disliked and distrusted both by the Usuli ulama and by the British residents. He was raised by a stepmother, Badshah Begam, a powerful wife of Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar, who held a huge land grant (jagir ). A lady with a fertile religious imagination, she invented numerous Shi‘i ritual piactices centering on devotion to the Twelve Imams.
She held elaborate ceremonies for the births of the Imams, such as would be held by Indian Muslim women for a real birth in the household. She also had pretty Sayyid girls brought from their families and maintained them in her palace as wives of the eleven Imams descended from ‘Ali and Fatimah. The girls were not allowed to marry mortals after having been consecrated to an Imam, though it is said one escaped this restriction by saying that she had seen the Imam in a dream and that he had divorced her. She had mausoleums constructed for each of the Twelve Imams, to which she made offerings and observed mourning ceremonies, not only for Husayn, but for all the Imams. She asserted that she sometimes received inspiration and could foretell the future.
When her stepson Nasiru'd-Din Haydar came to the throne, he continued these innovative practices and even expanded on them. He dressed in women's clothing on the birthdays of the Imams and pretended to give birth to dolls representing them, following all the rituals of bathing that a Muslim woman who had given birth would perform. These practices, eccentric and idiosyncratic, representing solely a preoccupation of the ruler and his intimates, had little effect on the Shi‘i populace. The masses may have welcomed them, however, since the king spent huge sums to feed the poor during the frequent religious holy days.
Precisely because of the expense of the new rituals, they became a political issue with the British resident. John Low wrote to Calcutta in 1836 that the king spent an enormous sum of sixty-six lakhs of rupees a year, close to six million pounds sterling, exhausting his treasury in spite of the resident's remonstrances:
. . even subsequently to the exhaustion of the old Treasury, he, amongst other acts of extravagance squandered in one day, the sum of a lac of Rupees—50,000 upon two head dresses, of which he has already more than an abundance, and 50,000 in making up dresses for the celebration of the birth of some imaginary prophet;—that he has established some absurd ceremonies . . . (the forms of which most mahomedans think idolatrous) which originated entirely with himself, and which entails a tremendously heavy annual expenditure, as they are held on each of the supposed anniversaries of all the twelve Saints—and each procession including the dresses and dinners and gifts to numerous person—costs on an average not less than a lac of Rupees. . . . The above is a general outline of the mode in which the King of Oude passes his life—with the exception of certain periods devoted to the celebration of Mohurrum—and some new and absurd ceremonies called "achootas," during which times he abstains from drinking, and devotes himself to superstitious ceremonies—a few days in every month are set apart for those ceremonies, which invariably end with a grand procession in which His Majesty takes a part dressed in female clothes—sitting in a richly embroidered covered Palankiin with a doll in his lap—which he supposed to represent some newly born Prophet or Imaum;—The sums of money thrown away monthly on this new freak of the King's are enormous.
These proceedings dismayed the Shi‘i ulama as much as they did the resident. Once Nasiru'd-Din Haydar Shah gathered a group of notables and Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi to commemorate the death of an Imam. The king wanted Sayyid Muhammad to read the prayer for the dead so as to reenact the funeral ceremony. When they got to the palace, some notables pleaded with Sayyid Muhammad to humor the ruler. Nasirabadi responded that he could not take part in such a ritual. When the king came out in his black mourning clothes and called for the funeral prayer, Sayyid Muhammad stiffly informed him that only an Imam could read the prayer for a deceased Imam. The incident passed, leaving a residue of bitterness.
Both the British resident and the chief mujtahid also agreed in criticizing the monarch for his use of force to usurp the wives of other men, many of them from poor families. The resident learned that the king "had in the most open and despotic manner forcibly separated a husband of respectable station in life from his wife—turned the unhappy man out of the City, and insisted upon marrying the woman (then pregnant) without even waiting for a divorce." Nasiru'd-Din Haydar asked Sayyid Muhammad to perform his marriage with the lady, but the mujtahid refused because her divorce from her first husband was not proven to have taken place according to Islamic
law. Later the king gave the man a Rs. 500,000 bribe to renounce his wife, and married her legally, arranged an abortion for her, then a short while later abrogated this temporary marriage.
Nasiru'd-Din Haydar felt that he did not need the ulama to legitimate his rule, though he would have been willing to incorporate them into his rituals had they proved more compliant. In a significant step toward caesaropapism he claimed for himself the position the Usuli ulama claimed, of being the representative (na'ib ) of the hidden Twelfth Imam. One of his courtiers, a Hindu convert to Shi‘ism, enunciated this doctrine: "Know that since there is no escape for any era from having a Master of the Age (Sahib-i zaman ), and in relation to the threshold of the Master of the Age, the Caliph of the All-Merciful, the Interceder on the Day of Judgment, the Twelfth Imam, the king upon his throne is worthy of being the representative of that Holy One." Nasiru'd-Din Haydar made this claim only in his third regnal year. In 1830 he began issuing coins inscribed: "The Shadow of God, the representative of the Mahdi, Nasiru'd-Din Haydar the King, struck coins in silver and gold by the Grace of God." Rather than being a dynastic claim on the part of the Awadh rulers, this seems rather to have been one more aberration of Nasiru'd-Din Haydar's decade in power. The contemporancous Qajar rulers in Iran made no similar claim to being the representative of the Imam.
The monarch sought out other holy men to replace the rigid Usulis. The 1830s saw a revival of court-sponsored Sufism, coinciding with a similar phenomenon in Iran. Low wrote, "His majesty has of late frequently invited a number of Fakeers to the Palace of an Evening; when he put on clothes somewhat similar to theirs, and after listening to their legends and pretended prophecies for some hours, he has loaded them with presents." Some of the faqirs may have had links with rural bandits. When the king asked them what he should do to get a son, they replied that he should release twenty to thirty prisoners from his jail. He did so, to the dismay of the British, who had labored long and hard to apprehend the peasant rebels.
Nasiru'd-Din Haydar's bid to subjugate the Usuli hierarchy in Awadh to his complete control as royal representative of the Twelfth Imam failed. This caesaropapist ideology was rejected by most of the king's relatives in the
royal family, so that his successors declined to follow through with it. The Usuli ulama themselves steadfastly denied these royal pretensions, and since many ulama served as tutors to the children of notables, they often succeeded in transmitting Usuli clericalist sympathies to the secular ruling class. The Usuli clerics had developed too strong a network of learned men trained in Shi‘i doctrines, and had attracted too widely the allegiance of Shi‘i notables, to be easily displaced or subjugated by Nasiru'd-Din Haydar.
In the long run the ulama successfully monopolized religious functions in Shi‘i society through their claim of unique professional expertise and their use of mechanisms of social control to exclude ethnic competitors like Iranians and charismatic ones like Shaykhis. They continued to develop their function of legitimating the Awadh state for the Shi‘i community, participating in the coronation ceremonies and delivering their Friday sermons in the Awadh king's name. Although on many issues the ulama disputed the actions of the ruler in the 1830s, they continued to say the Friday prayers in his name, and on some policies they supported the monarch against the British. From 1786 to 1827 the Usuli clerics made successful claims on patronage from Awadh's court and high notables, as well as on the religious donations of Shi‘i tradespeople. The lesser extent of court patronage available in the 1830s had little effect on the patronage system, which remained intact outside the court itself. New political leaders would emerge in the 1840s, who would follow pro-clerical policies, catapulting the ulama into a position of vast wealth and influence in Awadh affairs.