Clericalist Monarchy and Shi‘i Institution Building
The 1840s saw the high point of ulama influence and wealth in Awadh as new governments abandoned the anticlerical policies of the 1830s. This Shi‘i influence grew strongest in Lucknow and Faizabad and in the Shi‘i-dominated small towns, such as Sitapur, Nasirabad, and Kintur. The authority of the Awadh mujtahids often extended also to other Shi‘i communities in British-ruled northern and eastern India, who sought legal rulings and spiritual guidance from them. Yet most of rural Awadh remained relatively untouched by developments at the Shi‘i court in Lucknow. Most peasant laborers in the small villages dwelt in a rustic religious world centered on Hindu figures like Ram and Krishna; Sunni Islam and Sufism influenced the culture of the towns. Rural Awadh suffered through difficult times in the late 1830s and early 1840s, with grain shortages. The contrast between the indigence of the exploited peasants and the magnificence of the court's expenditures on Shi‘i institutions may have helped provoke Hindu resentments, which would explode in the 1850s in a dispute over ownership of a religious edifice.
Still, Shi‘i policies and agendas did greatly affect the Awadh government in the 1840s, making a significant impact, especially on urban society. Religious welfare policies made it easier for the Shi‘i poor to receive government help, encouraging adoption of Shi‘ism among the indigent and increasing the authority of the mujtahids among commoners, since the ulama distributed the alms. For the first time an Awadh government took steps toward implementing aspects of Shi‘i law as policy, in the realms of narcotics, the poor-tax, and the judiciary. The government established a powerful instrument for the self-replication and systematic training of the ulama corps in the form of
a Shi‘i seminary. Twenty years after Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar became an independent Shi‘i monarch, Awadh rulers began to take seriously their autonomy from the Mughals and Sunni Mughal traditions. The import of these policy changes for relations among Awadh's diverse religious communities will be discussed in the next chapter. Here, the question is what significance vastly greater government patronage had for the structure of Shi‘i institutions in Awadh.
Remission of Monies to Iraq through the Ulama
Muhammad ‘Ali Shah (1837-42), placed on the throne by British military action after Nasiru'd-Din Haydar's sudden death, took a keen interest in public works of a religious nature. He began the building of a new edifice for mourning the Imams, and a new cathedral mosque, restating his dynasty's devotion to Shi‘ism and multiplying posts available to ulama. The treasury of Awadh also provided substantial funds to the mujtahids in Najaf and Karbala. In a letter dated 1839 (1255) the north Indian clerics informed the ulama in Iraq that the new Awadh monarch, having a great love for the holy shrines and all who dwelt in their vicinity, had heard that the Asafiyyah canal was dry and wished to have it repaired. He ordered that Rs. 150,000 be sent to each of the two cities through the British resident by means of the political agent in Turkish Arabia. The letter instructed the ulama to let Lucknow know that the money arrived and to ensure that it was spent for the purpose stipulated. British records show that in June 1839 the Awadh government remitted Rs. 30,000 to Iraq for the repairs to the canal, and the following summer sent another Rs. 250,000 to complete the work. In November 1841 the king of Awadh sent Rs. 26,000 to Karbala for religious purposes, the total coming to just over Rs. 300,000 split two ways. Since the Awadh monarch gave the ulama charge of the transmission of these monies and of overseeing the progress of the Iraq projects, he greatly enhanced their influence in Awadh and the Shi‘i world.
Growing Ulama Political Authority
Of all Awadh's rulers, Amjad ‘Ali Shah (1842-47), who came to the throne on his father's death, took legalist, Usuli Shi‘ism most seriously. His pious admiration for the mujtahids led him to bestow on them increasing responsi-
bilities of a governmental nature, integrating them as never before into the Awadh state. In contrast to the common image of the Shi‘i mujtahids as hostile to secular government, the Awadh ulama accepted offers of government posts and government monies with alacrity. Indeed, few if any major Shi‘i ulama remained outside the structure of government patronage and religious institution building in the 1840s. They appear to have seen the very willingness of a secular government to act in a proclerical manner as evidence of its justness and the rightness of cooperating with it.
The young monarch tempered his own pattern of life, that of an Indo-Muslim king, with Shi‘i piety. He maintained a harem of four hundred concubines and four wives, but avoided the scandals and adultery that echoed in his predecessors' palaces. So scrupulous about the use of state funds that he did not say his daily prayers in clothes bought by the government treasury, he took instead a stipend from his mother with which to purchase his own vestments. The tall, corpulent ruler with "a nose of extraordinary size" claimed on his coins to be the Shadow of God on earth. Even he, however, did not altogether eschew the life of an Awadh notable, indulging in such forbidden pastimes as listening to songs and music, and spending a great deal of his time in the harem. He entirely lacked the horror the clergy felt at representational art, ordering all the buildings in Lucknow painted white or in colors and covered with scenes of Indian life.
Amjad ‘Ali Shah demonstrated a legendary deference to the Usuli mujtahids, illustrating the way in which the clergy had been able to influence members of the ruling class. He suggested a seal for Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi, whom he called the "sultan of the ulama," which referred to him as the "object of the faith of Amjad ‘Ali Shah." Sayyid Muhammad, feeling that the king had gone too far, demurred and asked that the phrase be altered to "object of the bounties." The monarch used to visit the chief mujtahid's mansion with humility.
At the powerful cleric's instance, the king ordered that the many taverns and hashish shops in Lucknow be closed down and that the narcotics crops be destroyed. He ordained that houses of male prostitution, which had proliferated in the capital, be put out of business. The male prostitutes, most of them transvestites, were arrested and banished from the city, except those who gave up their saris and agreed to have their locks shorn. Some notable patrons of the notorious Pomegranate Seed brothel wrote Sayyid Muhammad asking that he drop by, in a brash attempt to save the establishment. He
stiffly responded that if they read the formula for repentance, gave up taking the place of women, and grew beards, he would be glad to accept the invitation.
Amjad ‘Ali Shah appointed Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi as the head of the excise department, an announcement that the government would no longer seek to profit from the sale of forbidden liquors and would attempt instead to abolish the substances subject to the tax. The all-out assault on the rip-roaring style of life of Lucknow's boisterous denizens met strong resistance and ultimately failed. The wits of the city found endless material for their satirical doggerel, taking revenge for the Usuli establishment's attempt to interfere in their amusements. One wag wrote:
Whoever drinks no wine, believers, he will burn in hell;
The excise to the Heavenly bartender's lover fell.
The attack on hashish or bhang stores and taverns also had an economic motive, since Sayyid Muhammad resented Hindu dominance of Awadh's commerce. He wished to initiate a state-sponsored Muslim boycott of Hindu shops. Some Muslims founded stores with much effort, but the king's plans in this regard fell short of realization.
The Government Payment of Alms
Awadh Shi‘is had for long privately paid Islamic poor-taxes. Even in Shujacu'd-Dawlah's Faizabad the Akhbari physician Hakim Mucalij Khan distributed donations by his rich patrons for the poor (paying himself handsomely to do so). In the 1890s Mrs. Ali noted that wealthy Muslims often gave one-fortieth of their annual income to the poor as zakat and one tenth to indigent Sayyids as khums . She reported that Sayyids could not accept other kinds of charitable donations (sadaqah ), as for instance when someone. distributed gifts on escaping from a deadly illness.
In the 1830s the mujtahids in Awadh began making a major effort to increase official donations of a charitable nature. Since according to Usuli doctrine the mujtahids should be placed in charge of this money as the general representatives of the hidden Imam, any large increase in donations would
also augment their own power and financial resources. Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi wrote a work on the subject for Muhammad ‘Ali Khan Nasiru'd-Dawlah, soon to be Muhammad ‘Ali Shah. It is even possible that when he wrote the book Sayyid Muhammad already knew that the British intended to depose Nasiru'd-Din Haydar and replace him with Muhammad ‘Ali. This secret decision leaked from the residency in Lucknow, becoming common knowledge among political operators like Subhan ‘Ali Khan. (Nasiru'd-Din Haydar's sudden death in 1837 removed the necessity for such a move.)
Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi instructed the prince in the intricacies of the Islamic law of philanthropy. The recipients of the poor-tax (zakat ), he said, included the poor, the indigent, those appointed to distribute the alms, converts to Shi‘ism, slaves, debtors, and public welfare projects (from holy war to building mosques and bridges). In the time of the Occultation, he stressed, the poor-tax must be given to the upright mujtahid. He noted that under the Safavids the mujtahids administered the tax. All recipients, Sayyid Muhammad wrote, had to be Shi‘is, and the contributions of Sayyids had to go to other Sayyids.
The other major philanthropy, called the "fifth" (al-khums ), originally formed the early Muslim state's portion of war booty. It benefited both the Prophet and his immediate family as well as various categories of the indigent. In Sunni Hanafi law, prevalent in India, it could be given, but would benefit only the poor and not the Sayyids, who said they were heirs of the Prophet. In the absence of the Imam early Akhbaris tended to see the obligation of Shi‘is to render this tax as having lapsed. Later Usulis believed that it should be divided in two basic parts, one for the mujtahids (the share of the Imam [sahm-i Imam ]), and the other for needy Sayyids. Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi said that consensus had settled on the donation of the fifth as a duty. Believers owed this charitable tax on plunder; on precious metals after costs; on found hidden treasure; on profits from commerce, agriculture, and artisanry; on precious stones from the sea; on lawful money any time it was mixed with ill-gotten wealth of unknown origin; and on land sold by a Shi‘i to a Jew, Christian, or Zoroastrian. The whole amount had to be delivered to the upright jurisprudent, who divided it into six parts in accordance with a literal reading of Qur'an 8:41. The mujtahid himself accepted three portions on behalf of God, the Prophet, and the Imam. He distributed the other three
portions to the poor, orphans, and wayfarers among the Sayyids, excluding other Shi‘is.
The Lucknow mujtahids upheld this exclusivity to the point that they forbade the use of the sum allotted to the Imam for the funding of Muharram mourning sessions, since non-Sayyids participated in them. The rules for the fifth also encouraged centralization, since few recognized mujtahids dwelt in qasabahs and the charity, when donated, would have to be sent to Lucknow. Moreover, the terms of donation favored the educated Sayyids in the cities, who were more likely to receive the philanthropy. Poor, ignorant Shi‘i Sayyids who did not know the rules for daily prayer were ineligible.
Whatever poor-tax Muhammad ‘Ali Shah paid was a personal affair, though the largesse of a king could be considerable. But Amjad ‘Ali Shah went considerably beyond any recorded past practice in making charitable funds available to the mujtahids. He took the unprecedented step of having the government of Awadh pay the Shi‘i poor-tax (zakat ) on its annual revenues. At 2.5 percent, the charitable contribution annually came to more than Rs. 300,000 per year, totaling Rs. 1.7 million over the five years Amjad ‘Ali Shah ruled. The fifth was not, apparently, paid on this scale, although large sums were realized from this religious tax as well. The king gave both the poor-tax and the fifth into the care of Sayyids Muhammad and Husayn Nasirabadi.
The first year the mujtahids distributed the funds they were literally mobbed. The poor, and sudden converts from Sunnism and Hinduism to Shi‘ism, besieged the houses of Sayyids Muhammad and Husayn. A later writer sniffed that "many of the undeserving" received funds. Thereafter the mujtahids established a register with the names of those they considered genuinely deserving Shi‘is, to each of whom they appointed a monthly stipend. Then they set up a department to handle the paper work, with Sayyid Husayn's son Sayyid ‘Ali Naqi Zubdatu'l-‘Ulama' (d. 1893) at its head. During this period hundreds of Sunnis and thousands of Hindus embraced Imami Shi‘ism, many of them in order to gain access to alms. Officials gave Hindu converts to Shi‘ism special preference in acquiring government jobs and, if they were tax-farmers, forgave them revenue shortfalls. Mosques and imambarahs proliferated.
In the 1840s many Shi‘i clerics grew genuinely wealthy through their control of Islamic charities. Sayyid ‘Ali Naqi, who administered the money, paid himself so well that he could build four spacious, lavishly furnished man-
sions, with courtyards anti pools around which he set chairs that could not be matched for elegance in London itself. Each mansion had a name and was kept up by a horde of servants and provided with a stable for elephants. In the afternoon friends and seekers of knowledge would gather for salons around the pool, sitting on the European-style chairs. He also built a magnificent imambarah renowned for its mourning sessions. He was so respected that once when he went to Rampur to pray congregational prayers with the Shi‘is, the Sunni nawab joined in behind him.
In each neighborhood Sayyid ‘Ali Naqi appointed persons he trusted to distribute the charity. The ulama sometimes employed this privilege as a way of bestowing favors. Mawlavi Sayyid Kamalu'd-Din Mohani, a zamindar who preferred to live in Lucknow, fell into financial difficulties because of his large family. To help him out, Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi put him in charge of distributing charily. In 1845 he left to become the supervisor of a pious endowment in Calcutta, founded by a relative.
In a pluralistic society like Awadh where the Shi‘is formed a small minority, the provision of such huge sums to this group struck many as invidious. Even Shi‘is like the historian Kamalu'd-Din Haydar criticized the system, observing that the mujtahids were obliged to put large sums of money in the hands of high state officials—ostensibly for redistribution to the needy—as bribes to ensure the continuing payment of the Rs. 300,000 per year. The government payment of the poor-tax emerged as an important issue under Vajid ‘Ali Shah (1847-56) during the residency of Colonel Sleeman. Sleeman faulted the system on several counts, pointing out that no Sunni could partake of the charity. Moreover, he said, since Sayyids could receive poor-tax monies only if they fell in the category of the indebted, the Awadh mujtahids
get over the difficulty by borrowing large sums before the money is given out, and appropriate the greater pait of the money to the liquidation of these debts, though they all hold large sums in our Government securities. To his friends at court he [the chief mujtahid] sends a large share, with a request that they will do him the favour to undertake the distribution among the poor of the neighborhood To prevent popular clamour, a small portion of the money given out is actually distributed among the poor of the Sheea sect at Lucknow, but that portion always remains small.
Sleeman noted that government stipends were in arrears to the amount of five million rupees, and that the government was bound to pay the poor-tax only when free of debt. But, he said, the chief mujtahid, the chief minister, and the court favorites had too great a stake in it to allow it to be discontinued. Vajid ‘Ali Shah acquiesced in its payment, though the treasury was depleted, and the amount paid into the poor-tax had actually increased. At some point Vajid ‘Ali Shah, either bowing to British pressure or for his own reasons, stopped giving the poor-tax and even defaced coins lest he be obliged to give it. This interruption in their income, which became even more serious when the British annexed Awadh in 1856, caught the mujtahids and their families off guard, leaving them heavily indebted and forcing them to sell off their British stocks. This and other royal actions soured relations between the court and the mosque. Sayyid Muhammad ‘Abbas Shushtari mentioned as one of the sorrows in Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi's life the "opposition of the notables [umara ']," admitting that Amjad ‘Ali Shah showed him much respect but lamenting that he had hastened to the next world. Vajid ‘Ali Shah demonstrated not nearly so much veneration of the ulama.
The substantial poor-tax funds quite aside, Amjad ‘Ali Shah showered the clergy with perquisites. He gave Sayyids Muhammad and Husayn Nasirabadi each an extra Rs. 200 per month as the capital's official prayer-leaders and provided extra allowances to other members of the Nasirabadi clan as well. In addition, the king established a special fund for Sayyids totaling, at one point, Rs. 2,000 each month. The senior members of the Nasirabadi family received Rs. 100 per month each, with altogether Rs. 380 per month out of these monies going to the Nasirabadis. They shared the rest of the allowance (probably deriving from khums ) with other Sayyids of their choosing, the total number of recipients reaching forty-seven at one point. Vajid ‘Ali Shah, immediately upon coming to power, cut the Sayyid fund in half. Still, in 1849 his treasury sent Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi Rs. 2,180 per month in various perquisites to be shared out.
The poor-tax and the fifth contributions over which the high ulama exercised control for nearly a decade increased their wealth and power immeasurably. They had, from their point of view, a legal right to half of the khums donations, and the power to decide to whom the other half would go. They employed various devices to gain access, as well, to the poor-tax (zakat ) revenues. Even mere control over the latter, amounting to hundreds of
thousands of rupees per year, would have rendered them important sources of patronage. This money tied them closely to the ruling establishment, drawing them into tight association with the secular state. Most important, by accepting regularized payments of huge amounts of money from government revenues, their position within the ruling class changed from that of small land- and benefice-holders and stipendiaries. They became direct recipients of state-expropriated peasant surpluses. In many ways the prominent ulama joined the class of high notables. Like the Awadh notables, they also became rentiers by investing in East India Company stock.
The Funding of a Shi‘i Seminary
The Usuli Shi‘i ulama already had informal means of passing their status on to their children, of teaching them the technical expertise demanded by many ulama posts, and of controlling entry into the ulama corps. Their teaching sessions in homes produced enough Usuli clerics to meet the notable-class demand for their services in the earlier part of the nineteenth century. But with the accession of great wealth and numbers of government posts for Shi‘i clerics in the 1840s, the ulama could only take advantage of the opportunities to influence society and move upward socially by expanding and more rationally ordering their educational activities. In short, they needed formal seminaries.
After Amjad ‘Ali Shah and his chief minister, Aminu'd-Dawlah, had been in office for nearly a year, the leading mujtahids Sayyids Muhammad and Husayn Nasirabadi decided that they finally had a government with which they could work closely. They suggested that the new government formally subvent an official, expanded Shi‘i seminary (madrasah ). The ruling circles responded with enthusiasm and generosity. In May 1843 a proposed schedule was drawn up wherein the king appointed Rs. 31,200 per year for the school, with fourteen primary teachers, seven intermediate teachers, and five advanced instructors, with three principals. For Shi‘i scholars with land around their qasabahs the salaries were more of a perquisite than an income, although for Sayyids that had fallen on hard times even Rs. 240 per year could help to make ends meet.
Amjad ‘Ali Shah neglected to endow the seminary or to appoint lands permanently to generate its income, paying for it instead from the royal treasury every year by personal fiat. The king often visited the premises, at the tomb
of Nawab Sacadat ‘Ali Khan, and distributed sumptuous meals. He also funded a smaller seminary at Faizabad, at least for a time. Many of the families that staffed and attended the royal seminary had already taught Shi‘i sciences on an informal basis for some time. Amjad ‘Ali Shah simply gave permanent form and monetary support to such teaching, allowing numerous salons to coalesce into one institution.
The top administrative post at the Lucknow school fell to Sayyid Muhammad Taqi Nasirabadi (1818-72), the son of Sayyid Husayn. His emergence into prominence at the age of twenty-five marks the rise in the 1840s of the third generation of Usuli ulama. His heading tip of the school also typified the Nasirabadi family's determination to keep key clerical posts in the family; like the young executive taking over his father's business, Sayyid Muhammad Taqi's qualifications for the post lay in his family name rather than in his scholarly attainments or experience (many of the teachers he hired and fired were much senior to him on both counts). He did not even receive from his father and uncle his diplomas qualifying him to relate the oral reports of the Imams until 1845 (1262), two years after he became principal. He also held an honorary diploma from Shaykh Muhammad Hasan an-Najafi in Iraq, into whose hands the Awadh ulama had placed hundreds of thousands of rupees. In addition to his duties as principal and senior teacher at the royal seminary, he helped his father lead prayers at the Tahsin ‘Ali mosque, sometimes also leading them in his father's presence at the royal mosque. He wrote prolifically, often in Arabic, and must have felt a pressing need to provide textbooks for the new generation of two hundred students coming up through his institution.
At the school he wielded absolute administrative powers: "It appears from Wajboolarz [wajibal-card ], dated the same year in which the institution was founded, that full and plenary powers were conferred on the principal, to appoint, remove or alter salaries at his pleasure." In addition to his salary of Rs. 1,800 per year and his share of income from the family villages, he received from 1848 a complimentary stipend of Rs. 100 per month, in addition to Rs. 540 per year from the rent of shops around the Tahsin ‘Ali mosque.
But such formal emoluments were no doubt dwarfed by the gifts of notable-class patrons and students.
The assistant principal when the school first came into existence was Sayyid Ahmad ‘Ali Muhammadabadi (d. 1878), a middle landholder (zamindar ) and leader of a small town in British-ruled Azamgarh just south of Awadh. Trained by the Usuli prayer leaders of Faizabad and Lucknow, and by a Farangi-Mahalli, he secured notable-class patronage when he became the tutor for the sons of the sometime chief minister, Imdad Husayn Khan Aminu'd-Dawlah. Muhammadabadi's wealth and erudition and his penetration of ruling-class networks in Lucknow allowed him to marry his son to the daughter of another man who served as chief minister, Ahmad ‘Ali Khan Munawwaru'd-Dawlah. The third seminary administrator in 1843, Muhammad b. ‘Ali Fayzabadi, a close student of Chief Mujtahid Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi, also served as a preacher (vaciz ), strongly recommending Friday congregational prayers and working sermons from the New Testament and the Imam ‘Ali into his talks.
Of the five advanced teachers at Rs. 840 per year only a few can be identified from the biographical dictionaries. One, Sayyid Muhammad Siyadat Amrohavi (d. 1849), a Friday prayer leader from a zamindar background, had studied with Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi. Another prominent advanced teacher, Sayyid Muhammad ‘Abbas Shushtari (1809-88), served as Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi's secretary in his Arabic correspondence with Iraq. From an Iranian clerical family that settled in Awadh as court physicians and intermarried with the Awadh notable class, Sayyid Muhammad ‘Abbas forsook medicine for a religious career. At age seventeen he began studying Shi‘i sciences with Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi, who encouraged him to become a prayer leader and sermonizer. He tutored the children of the great merchant Mirza Muhammad ‘Ali Dihlavi to earn a living and received his diploma allowing him to relate Shi‘i reports in 1841. For a time without means, he tried his hand at medicine again. He later remarked that although he came of a family renowned for its wealth, he himself at one point fell on hard times.
Finally, in the spring of 1842 Shushtari obtained a post under Muhammad ‘Ali Shah. When in May of the same year the king died and a new administration came in, he lost that position and had trouble maintaining his service-elite style of life. A year later when the Shi‘i seminary for which
Sayyid Muhammad ‘Abbas himself helped lobby was funded, Sayyid Husayn exercised his influence to have Shushtari made a senior instructor at the age of thirty-four, at Rs. 840 per year in salary. The financial difficulties he experienced underline the strong motivation the ulama had to expand job opportunities in the economically depressed 1840s.
The seminary underwent changes over time. In 1846 the government moved it to the larger facilities at Asafu'd-Dawlah's Great Imambarah in the old part of town. The faculty expanded from twenty-nine to thirty-eight, though the number of students stayed around two hundred. The turnover was large: only eleven faculty members appointed in 1843 remained on the rolls in 1856. Often their own sons replaced instructors who died, and in any case their stipends became inherited family property. Even where teachers died leaving no one in the family capable of succeeding them at the seminary, their heirs continued to receive the stipends. They were, like many service grants in this period in Awadh, a curious mixture of salary and pious endowment, a liquid waqf , an alienated portion of the Government treasury.
Although no list survives of the students who passed through the school, and the extant lists of teachers often give only a first name, the information available indicates that the seminary functioned for upper- and middle-class Shi‘is. Further, it actually became involved in 1843-56 in elite formation in Awadh. Many of the teachers who can be identified were small or middle landholders from the Muslim lineage centers, and others derived from high service families clustered around the court in Lucknow. An example of how the seminary could be used for upward mobility is Mirza Muhammad ‘Ali "Qa'imu'd-Din" (d. 1872), who worked himself up from instructor to master and finally became a jurisconsult at Vajid ‘Ali's court and an intimate of the king.
Contemporary observers remarked on the patrimonial nature of the school's administration, and younger members of the old elite ulama families received a disproportionate number of appointments to the staff on their completion of studies at the seminary. In 1848 Sayyid Husayn appointed his son Sayyid ‘Ali Naqi Nasirabadi, then twenty-seven, deputy principal at Rs. 600 per year. Sayyid Bandah Husayn Nasirabadi (d. 1875), son of Chief Mujtahid Sayyid Muhammad, became a master teacher in 1852 at Rs. 480 per annum. The late Mufti Sayyid Muhammad Quli Kinturi's youngest son, Sayyid Hamid Husayn, was hired as a teacher when only twenty-two. In 1855 his cousin, Sayyid Ghulam Husayn Kinturi, became the daroghah at Rs. 300 per year, taking charge of the stipends, which came to over Rs. 30,000 per year at that time.
Despite the dominance of elite Usuli families established in Lucknow and Faizabad, some teachers were drawn from the qasabahs , and some came from beyond Awadh, from nearby places like Bijnor or Farrukha-bad, or even from the Punjab. The school also attracted as students literate Shi‘is from Muslim service towns throughout northern India. The Shi‘is trained at the seminar), took strict Usuli ideas hack to their provincial towns. Sayyid Muharram ‘Ali Nauganavi (d. 1889) of Moradabad left his house as a young mall without telling anyone and went to Lucknow to study at the seminary. The first Shi‘i scholar from Nauganoh to be trained in Lucknow, he taught the others who followed. He established direct contact with the Usuli tradition in Iraq by visiting the shrine cities, settling thereafter in Meerut district and Saharanpur. The Lucknow seminary helped link together widely scattered Shi‘i communitics into a network of personal acquaintance and shared expertise, as well as promoting in the qasabahs the stronger division between the trained cleric and Shi‘i layman which already existed in Usuli Lucknow and Faizabad.
Just as Farangi Mahall, with its special teaching method and rationalist emphases, had helped train bureaucrats as well as ulama, so the Shi‘i seminary performed both functions. Typical textbooks included an early-Safavid-period Usuli work in the principles of jurisprudence; a standard work on metaphysics in Arabic; Mulla Sadra's commentary on an early philosophical and scientific encyclopaedia; a work by Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi in law; and a late-eighteenth-century Usuli commentary on law from Karbala. The syllabus mixed works often used with the Nizami method with the central textbooks favored by or produced by the Usuli revival in Iraq and in Lucknow.
Sons of notables often took classes at the seminary for a while before moving on to administrative positions. Mirza Muhammad Riza "Barq," a student at the seminary, later received an appointment as the court paymaster (bakhshi ). The high notable Mirza Riza Khan ‘Ali-Jah Bahadur pursued religious knowledge at the seminary in Lucknow, then studied in Karbala. He and his brother attained both worldly and religious leadership back in Awadh.
The seminary established in the 1840s allowed the more systematic socialization of Awadh's Shi‘i ulama to Usuli values and the training of a greater number of ulama to fill the posts rapidly being created by the proclerical government. Young ulama came into the system as sons or clients of the older, established mujtahids who controlled stipends and subsequent clerical appointments. The older ulama could thus offer aspiring young clerics incentives to conform to Usuli orthodoxy. Their intellectual formation included years of studying Arabic, the rational sciences, and Usuli principles of jurisprudence and theology. Some Shi‘i notables also had their sons study at the seminary, both for the rational tools they would learn there and for the sober religious education they would receive. Notable and ulama families looked on a few years at the seminary as a way of building character, and even young students from an affluent background were often forced to live on the small stipends provided by the school. Bonds other than learning and patronage linked the middle-landholding or service-class teachers at the seminary with the high notables. Marriages tied the Muhammadabad- and Shushtari families, both represented on the faculty, to two of the wealthiest notable houses, from which chief ministers had been drawn.
The Establishment of Shi‘i Courts in Awadh
The Usuli ulama, for all their privileged position and new wealth, lacked official control over Awadh law. To move into such judicial posts required a degree of integration into the institutions of the secular government which the Indian Usulis had thus far avoided. It would also give the mujtahids a much more powerful tool for shaping Awadh society in accordance with their interpretations of Islamic law in its Imami form. The coincidence of ambitious Usuli ulama at the head of the religious establishment and cooperative Awadh monarchs guaranteed both the willingness of the government to appoint Shi‘i judges and the willingness of the jurisprudents to plunge into the mire of positive law.
Mughal traditions proved tenacious in Awadh, partially because the Nawabs, for all their Iranian and Safavid symbols, had themselves been integrated into the Mughal heritage. Even when the Nishapuri rulers declared themselves kings, Awadh administration proceeded along Mughal lines. Many Mughal land and service grants continued in force, and what was most remarkable, the judicial system remained in the hands of Hanafi Sunnis. As was shown above, even in the first decade of the nineteenth century Sacadat ‘Ali Khan proposed that a Shi‘i judiciary be established. The Usuli ulama, who did not trust him and did not wish to compromise their integrity any further, rebuffed him.
The Farangi-Mahall family filled most judicial posts. Lucknow and Faizabad had urban criminal and civil courts (divani ‘adalat ), and major govern-
ment offices employed jurisconsults. Hereditary village qazis had jurisdiction over their parganah. Large landholders and government-appointed revenue collectors and governors (fawjdars ) also dispensed justice according to customary law; In Faizabad Hafizu'llah Farangi-Mahalli headed the civil and criminal courts, with his relative Nicmatu'llah serving as a mufti. In Lucknow Muhammad Yusuf Farangi-Mahalli (d. 1870) succeeded his father as mufti on the civil and criminal court at Rs. 200 per month, holding the post until Vajid ‘Ali Shah's deposition. Sunnis from outside Lucknow filled some judicial posts. Mufti Sacdu'llah Moradabadi (1804-77) studied in Rampur and Delhi, arriving in Lucknow in 1827 for further schooling at Farangi Mahall. He taught at the royal seminary, then became mufti for the office of the chief municipal authority (kotwal ) in Lucknow.
With the accession of wealth, power, and prestige to the Shi‘i high ulama in the 1840s, they now made a bid to control the Islamic-law judicial system, a traditional outlet for the talents of Muslim learned men. Mufti Sayyid Muhammad Quli Kinturi, who retired to Lucknow from a post in the British court at Meerut in 1841, strongly advocated this step. While in Meerut he wrote a work urging the king to institute a Shi‘i legal system. He published it in 1843, dedicating it to Amjad ‘Ali Shah, to whom he referred as "the exemplar of [the phrase] 'the just king'" (misdaq as-sultanal-‘adil ). He said he wrote the work to refute Sunni taunts that Shi'is were incapable of being qazis and muftis, and to encourage the Awadh government to take up the torch of the Buyid, Safavid, and Qutb-Shahi states in promoting Shi‘ism and honoring the Shi‘i ulama. He insisted that it was forbidden for non-Shi‘is to be court judges, admonishing the king to appoint only Imami jurisprudents to such posts. He explained tile difference between a qazi (who makes specific judgments in disputes between parties) and a mufti (who gives general pronouncements in elucidation of the law), arguing that only qualified mujtahids should be appointed to either post.
Kinturi therefore endeavored to exclude laymen and Akhbaris from judicial posts, as well as Sunnis. He had, however, to answer the charges of those Indian Shi‘is who insisted that only the ulama in Iran and the Arab lands held the status of mujtahid, there being no mujtahids in India. On the
contrary, he asserted, rulings in accordance with Imami Shi‘ism could be implemented in Awadh insofar as the ulama there had met all the classical requirements of independent judicial reasoning (ijtihad ).
Lay Shi‘is had for long made the leading mujtahids arbitrators in their disputes. In establishing a Shi‘i court system Amjad ‘Ali Shah formalized, again, an informal arrangement. He appointed Sayyids Muhammad and Husayn Nasirabadi jointly to head a supreme appeals court that would oversee all Islamic-law courts. Sayyid Muhammad made his eldest surviving son, Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Munsifu'd-Dawlah (d. 1859), chief justice (daroghah ) of the Lucknow civil and criminal court (divani‘adalat ), retaining the Farangi-Mahall jurisconsults in a subordinate position (a compromise falling short of Kinturi's all-Shi‘i ideal). Sayyid Muhammad Baqir received Rs 500 per month in formal salary, but a British investigation concluded that "the incumbent receives much more than 500 from many sources."
The government created an entirely new system of Islamic-law courts in the provinces, called the fawjdari‘adalat . It appointed Twelver Shi‘i jurisconsults, one for each district in Awadh, to be attached to the office of the district's governor and revenue collector. Sayyid Muhammad Baqir likewise headed up this new branch of the judiciary. His younger brother Sayyid Murtaza (d. 1859) presided over a subordinate Sadr as-sudur court that handled cases at the local level. The chief mufti, or jurisconsult (sadrifla '), over all the provincial courts was Sayyid Hadi Nasirabadi (1813-58), a nephew of Sayyid Muhammad, the chief mujtahid. As might be expected, Sayyid Muhammad bestowed the less desirable but still powerful jurisconsular posts in the provinces, not on members of the Nasirabadi family, but on their younger disciples, often themselves from outside Lucknow. They included two clerics from a British-ruled province just north of Awadh, as well as muftis from small towns in Awadh proper. A member of the Nasirabadi clan still based in that village became jurisconsult for his area.
The creation of the Shi‘i judicial system, like the seminary, provided employment for the emerging third generation of Usuli ulama, who found job opportunities in traditional fields like prayer leading to be limited. The king considered Sayyid Muhammad ‘Abbas Shushtari for a post as the prayer
leader at the new cathedral mosque built in the 1840s, but protocol required him to retain Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi. As compensation, he made Shushtari, then teaching at the seminary, jurisconsult of the chief minister's office. He received a substantial increase in income, but said he was reluctant to accept the post because of the interference of government officials, the enmity of those he ruled against, the dishonesty of the attorneys, and the greed of court officials. Once when a plaintiff offered him a bribe, Shushtari re-
portedly broke into tears at this affront to the holy Law. Those tears expressed the contradiction between the original sectarian ideology of Imami Shi‘ism on the one hand, hostile to the secular world in the absence of the divinely-guided Imam, and on the other the Usuli ideology of collaboration with any state that was willing, and involvement in positive law and practical administration.
The Usuli clerics advanced in the 1840s on the last major front in their battle for monopoly over important religious posts, that of the Islamic-law judiciary. They vigorously practiced exclusionary closure, hoping to displace the Sunni magistrates completely by arguing that only an Usuli mujtahid could legitimately give legal rulings as magistrate or jurisconsult. They also argued against Iranian competitors that Indian Usulis were perfectly competent to derive legal rulings. A Shi‘i judicial system also allowed the Usuli ulama to impose many of their conceptions of proper behavior, property, and family relations, and relative rights of various social groups and religious communities on sections of Awadh society. The appointment of the provincial jurisconsults even tenuously extended the writ of Usuli law into the interior of Awadh, a new and significant development. Of course, the Shi‘i judges had relatively little influence on Awadh society as a whole, since most persons handled their legal matters informally or, in the countryside, went before tacalluqdar landholders. Still, sometimes Shi‘i judges could play pivotal roles, as will be shown in chapter 10.
Relationship with the Shi‘i Centers of Iraq
The rise of a full-fledged Shi‘i religious establishment in Awadh raises the question of the Indian Usulis' relationship with the great jurisprudents of Najaf and Karbala. Although mujtahids were forbidden to practice emulation (taqlid ) of other jurisprudents. the Usuli emphasis on the greater authority of the most learned (al-aclam ) jurisprudent led to the emergence of a small number of pace-setters whose judicial opinions commanded wide respect and around whom a new consensus often formed. In the 1840s a convention existed that of all the great centers, Najaf was preeminent, so that the head of the religious establishment in that city was considered the leader (ra'is ) of all the Shi‘is. In a biographical notice of Shaykh Muhammad Hasan an-Najafi, one of his students wrote in 1846 (1262), "Upon him devolved the leadership of the Imamis, both Arabs and non-Arabs, in this, our own time."
The relationship of the high ulama in north India to the mujtahids in the shrine cities remained a complex one. They all addressed each other as the "best of the mujtahids," the "exemplar of the people," the "heir of the
prophets," rendering the superlatives no more than pleasantries. A story from Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi's biography illuminates the relationship. Shushtari wrote that Sayyid Husayn allowed the deputation of judicial authority (al-istinabah fi'l-qada ), considered a very minority opinion that seemed to contradict Shi‘i consensus. After Muhammad Hasan an-Najafi took the same stance in his Jawahiral-kalam , others in Awadh changed their views, agreeing that such deputation was permissible. Sayyid Husayn, on the other hand, not once changed his mind on a major position. The story demonstrates that an-Najafi's authority as a mujtahid and source for emulation (marjacat-taqlid ) carried weight with many north Indian ulama in the 1840s, but that the Nasirabadis maintained their independence. Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi, after all, maintained that he was esoterically taught his knowledge by the Twelfth Imam himself.
After an-Najafi's death, Murtaza Ansari, who controlled 200,000 tumans per year in charitable donations, emerged in Najaf as the most widely recognized jurisprudential source for emulation in the Shi‘i world. Later in the nineteenth century Muhammad Mihdi Kashmiri of Lucknow wrote of Ansari, "His cause attained renown throughout all horizons, and he was mentioned in the pulpits in a manner unparalleled before him. He was an exemplar to the Shi‘is in their entirety, in their religion and in their worldly affairs." Again, although such sentiments in favor of Ansari clearly existed in Awadh, it is unlikely that any of the leading members of the Nasirabadi family acknowledged anyone else as more learned than themselves.
For their part the jurisprudents in the shrine cities did not simply dismiss the Indian mujtahids as rustic bumpkins, at least to their faces. Shaykh Muhammad Hasan an-Najafi continually asked the Lucknow mujtahids to send copies of their compositions to Najaf, where they were read and circulated, early Awadh use of the printing press making Shi‘i authors there accessible to readers in the Middle East. When he read Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi's book in defense of temporary marriage, he called it the "crown of Shi‘ism and referred to the author's father, Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali, as "the seal of the mujtahids." Elsewhere he noted that Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali's long work on the principles of religion entitled "Mirrors for Minds" had arrived, upon which he lavished effusive praise, attributing the brilliance of the fami-
ly's compositions to their descent from the Imams.
The anecdote from the life of Sayyid Husayn about judicial deputation indicates that many Shi‘i ulama in India accepted even controversial rulings as authoritative when issued by the leading mujtahid in the Iraqi shrine cities. The top mujtahids in Awadh, however, never changed their views on another's authority. The lower ranks of mujtahids everywhere may have shown more deference to an-Najafi (and then to Ansari) as the most learned exemplar than did the chief mujtahid in each major city.
Paradoxically, the accepting of posts as government judges and jurisconsults brought the Indian ulama into direct involvement with the day-to-day administration of the Awadh government and yet simultaneously increased possibilities for conflict with secular officials. The ulama, as the judiciary branch of the state, naturally at times struggled with the executive over policy and the impact of legal decisions. Such conflicts had nothing of the sectarian about them, but rather expressed differences between secular imperatives and hierocratic ones in judicial policy. The Usuli ulama maintained a distinct set of values and style of life that set them apart even within the ruling class. Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi refused the titles bestowed upon other notables, such as khan and bahadur . The third generation of Usuli ulama modified this attitude, insofar as they accepted noble court names, such as Munsifu'd-Dawlah (the Just of the State). Still, differences of religious culture separated even the high ulama from other notables.
Letters written by the ulama in the wake of the 1843 Ottoman sack of the holy shrine city of Karbala in Iraq shed light on their conception of the secular notables, whom they called umara ', rulers, as opposed to ‘ulama ', the learned. Rather than blaming the Sunnis for the disaster in the Middle East, which cost perhaps 5,000 Shi‘i lives, Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi lamented that one seldom found notables (umara ') with hearing ears, excoriating both Sunni and Shi‘i high notables as corrupt. One Iranian cleric who barely survived the Ottoman attack, which aimed at subduing the rebellious city, blamed both the Ottoman sultan for ordering the assault and the Iranian shah for failing to defend the holy city, and wrote to Lucknow a radical letter from Iraq in which he said, "Would that there were no king ruling over us, and none over Iran!" Even such a rhetorical expression of premodern re-
publican sentiments by the Shi‘i ulama in Awadh is unrecorded, however, and for all their differences with the Nishapuris, the Usulis in Lucknow knew that without them Shi‘ism in India had little future. Indeed, the Usuli clerics often referred to the Awadh monarch as a just king, implicitly accepting the legitimacy of his state.
A sample of anecdotes told by later ulama in their biographical dictionaries will illustrate the clerics' own interpretation of ulama conflict with the state. Although Muhammad ‘Ali Shah maintained generally good relations with the ulama, his means of acquiring land for a new Shi‘i mourning complex brought him into conflict with the chief mujtahid. When the king called for Holy Day prayers to be held there to commemorate the breaking of the Ramadan fast, Sayyid Muhammad informed the monarch that some of the land on which the building was constructed belonged to Nacim Khan. He refused to lead the prayers at the new site until the monarch paid the original owner a just price for his land according to Islamic law. After an investigation, and with the consent of Nacim Khan, Sayyid Muhammad suggested a fair price. Muhammad ‘Ali Shah paid it, and the ceremony proceeded as planned.
Amjad ‘Ali Shah bought some mosque furnishings from a merchant for Rs. 1,300,000. Although the ruler gave the whole sum, some courtiers in charge kept back Rs. 100,000. Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi intervened to ensure that the merchant received the whole amount. In the same period, when prince Vajid ‘Ali took a fancy to another man's slave-girl, usurping her from him, Sayyid Muhammad made an investigation and concluded that according to Islamic law Vajid ‘Ali Mirza would have to surrender the girl to her rightful owner. The king ordered the judgment carried out. When Vajid ‘Ali ascended the throne he sent a message through a notable to suggest that the chief mujtahid review the slave-girl case. Sayyid Muhammad resolutely refused to bow to the monarch's pressure. Later Mirza Muhammad ‘Ali Qa'imu'd-Din rejected the request of some of the king's wives to have their adopted children inherit, in contradiction of Shi‘i law. Vajid ‘Ali at first got other mujtahids to reverse his decision. But the truth eventually came out, forcing Vajid ‘Ali to apologize.
The message of these anecdotes is that their attention to the imperatives of the law often divided the Muslim learned men from their notable patrons and friends. Yet a close observer can see that the Muslim learned men's fastidiousness constituted an alternative style of life within the Shi‘i upper and middle strata, rather than demarcating a separate class. In matters of property, in attitudes toward non-Shi‘is, in acceptance of the Awadh government
as the best that could be hoped for in the Occultation, the Shi‘i clergy were at one with the high notables.
Still, the division of status groups, as between the notables and the learned, which also tended to involve a class distinction between great tax-farmers or landholders and a less wealthy intermediate stratum, often produced friction and nuances in policy. Vajid ‘Ali Shah, though he resorted to the mujtahids in major legal issues, increasingly grew estranged from them. As was noted, he stopped government payment of the poor-tax, causing a substantial diminution in the wealth passing through their hands. He halved the Sayyid fund. He once again allowed the sale of opium, wine, and bhang, putting Ghulam Riza Khan, a notable, in charge of the excise department. In the 1854-55 and 1855-56 school years he virtually stopped payments for the Shi‘i seminary, threatening the salaries of thirty influential clerics and the stipends of hundreds of students. As the British report noted, it was unclear whether the king withheld payments for financial reasons or whether he intended to abolish the college.
Although the pendulum swung back in the 1850s away from increasing ulama influence at the Awadh court, the Usuli clerics held on to many of their posts, perquisites, and means of influencing Awadh society. The alliance of secular state and hierocracy produced in the 1840s a formal religious establishment tightly intertwined with the ruling elite, which came to form the judicial branch of the patrimonial-bureaucratic state. The clerics, owning only a handful of villages each or depending on stipends from notable patrons or government posts, maintained a distinct style of life appropriate to their status group, marking them off from the fabulously wealthy high Shi‘i notables and the royal family. Yet the pious stories of stiff-necked mujtahids besting unscrupulous tyrants only masked the degree to which the ulama increasingly collaborated closely with the state in the 1840s, appropriating the sort of wealth that made some of them notables in their own right. The young Vajid ‘Ali Shah's attempts to undermine some of the mujtahids' power only underscores the extent to which they had come to form part of the ruling establishment, since most Awadh rulers upon coming to power moved against the mainstays of their predecessors' administrations.
The 1840s witnessed the peak of mujtahid power, marked by the creation of a whole range of new institutions and the accession of great wealth and political authority. In a patrimonial bureaucracy such as Awadh, however, this high-powered public role depended heavily on the goodwill of the central
officers of state, and so revealed itself to be volatile rather than stable. The 1850s saw a rapid decline in the public influence of the Shi‘i clergy, though some of their achievements of the previous decade continued a curtailed existence.
The Awadh high ulama recognized the government as having a common law (‘urf ) legitimacy, even though it was imperfect and so ultimately unjust (ja'ir ), but they often had policy differences with the secular branch of the state. For some years, even these lessened. Because the Indian ulama lacked the mass base of those in Iran, they depended more on the Shi‘i notables, seldom playing a real oppositional role. Moreover, even in Iran the clergy never received charitable monies directly from state treasuries. No outright statement by the jurisprudents in Lucknow of the complementarity of the secular and religious branches of government, like that produced by Qajar mujtahids Sayyid Jacfar Kashfi and Mulla ‘Ali Kani, has yet been discovered. But in practice just such a complementarity emerged in northern India.
Under Amjad ‘Ali Shah, Imami Shi‘ism in Awadh came into its own as a formal religious establishment, with a salaried professional clergy, claims to universal dominion, systematic education in dogma and rites, and a compulsory organization. From the old charisma of Shi‘i mystics and Sayyids, the Usuli ulama had evolved into a hierocracy where charisma was attributed to the office of the mujtahid or the Friday prayer leader, rather than being personal. The clergy of this formal religious establishment enjoyed special privileges bestowed by the government, and in the royal seminary had founded a regular hierocratic educational institution that also allowed them systematically to socialize secular officials to their values.
The key element in the transformation was the government provision of wealth for religious specialists, at first in the form of benefices or land grants, then stipends often deriving from interest on loans to the British or dividends of British Government securities. Access to material resources was essential for the growth of a formal religious establishment:
The process of routinization of charisma is in very important respects identical with adaptation to the conditions of the economy, since this is the principal continually operating force in everyday life. Economic conditions in this connection play a leading role and do not constitute merely a dependent variable. To a very large extent the transition to hereditary charisma or the charisma of office serves as a means of legitimizing existing or recently acquired powers of control over economic goods.
The transformation of a sectarian collectivity into a formal religious establishment has been one of the main theoretical concerns of this book. The
modalities of this transformation among Awadh's Shi‘is and some of the economic reasons for it have been discussed in detail. Another consistent question has been the effect of social stratification on religious organization. Social class, one variable in the analysis, cannot itself account for the difference between sect and formal establishment. The Shi‘i notables serving under Awrangzib constituted part of a sectarian group despite their wealth. Only where a religious collectivity's form of religiosity is tolerated or promoted by the state, and where that collectivity itself feels comfortable with the state, can a formal religious establishment emerge.
But given this precondition, sociocconomic class comes in as a secondary variable correlating with membership in a religious establishment. In the modern West, the "middle class and the middle aged arc over-represented in established churches and denominations." In Awadh, the intermediate propertied strata and the wealthy notables allied themselves within the structure of an Usuli dominant ideology. This formal religious establishment began to reach out to urban artisans, laborers, and the poor in the 1840s, as well, through its welfare-distribution activities and its power to determine who was orthodox enough to receive Shi‘i religious charities. Still, sectarian movements such as those at Murshidabad, discussed in chapter 6, probably continued among the poorer Shi‘is.
The secular government and the religious establishment worked together, though the real power lay unquestionably with the monarchy. Nor did the government attempt to usurp religious authority in the creation of a caesaropapism once Nasiru'd-Din Haydar's policies in this regard met failure. The Usuli establishment paid for the privileges that the state bestowed upon it, by helping legitimate the Awadh government and upholding its authority.
The religious institution building and Shi‘i proclerical policies of the Awadh government in the 1840s demonstrated the extent to which the Usuli ulama had convinced the Shi‘i notable class of the urgency of their own agenda. The Imami clerics in Lucknow, with their control over religious education and religious monies, and their publications in Persian and Urdu, had effectively indoctrinated both the Shi‘i clerical families from the rural lineage centers and the administrative and tax-farming families in the cosmopolitan centers, creating an Usuli dominant ideology that bound together the Shi‘i propertied classes. The scripturalization of the Shi‘i urban poor also increased in this period, as ulama distribution of welfare money to the indigent gave them greater social control over the propertyless. They encouraged extensive adoption of Shi‘ism by Hindus and Sunnis, especially among government employees and the urban poor. From the impressionistic accounts we have of this period, they succeeded best among urban Hindus, thousands of
whom forsook Ram and Krishna for Hasan and Husayn. Shi‘i scripturalization and the implementation of aspects of Shi‘i law in Awadh helped to establish a communal identity more clearly among Shi‘is in relation to other religious communities, as will be discussed in chapter 9.
Rulers such as Amjad ‘Ali Shah pursued communalist pro-Shi‘i policies, despite the minority status of the state religion, as a means of symbolically demarcating the line between the ruling class and its subjects. The king's religion enjoyed special privileges because it was the king's religion. The Imami clergy were especially dependent upon the government because the proportion of Awadh's inhabitants subject to their own sanctions of excommunication and public cursing remained small. A minority sectarian movement among North India's Muslims had emerged with claims to being a state religion and a universal church solely because of its association with the Shi‘i high notables that controlled the government. But the narrowness of that power base, and the fragility of that state in the face of growing European economic and political power, left Imami Shi‘ism open to being swiftly reduced once more to the status of a small sect.