Two modern events, the 1947 creation of Pakistan out of India and the 1978-79 Iranian revolution, underline the importance of religion as an element of state formation in West and South Asia. One could almost speak of "Muslim nationalism," but it has recently been suggested that it might be better to substitute an uncontaminated phrase such as "political identity" for the vaguer "nationalism." Whatever we wish to label it, Muslim separatism and Muslim state-building on a religious basis have profoundly influenced the modern history of Asia, in sharp contrast to the rise of secular government in modern Europe.
How far back to look for the roots of Muslim separatism and religious state building has become a central debate in the study of Asian Islam. The two major approaches to the problem have been called the "instrumental" and the "primordial." The extreme instrumentalist might say, for instance, that ethnicity is "the pursuit of interest and advantage for members of groups whose cultures are infinitely malleable and manipulable by elites." He would argue that pre-1947 Muslims and Hindus in the subcontinent differed little from one another, but that different rates of mobilization and the claims of elites to advantage created a split. The primordialist would counter that Islamic religious conceptions so profoundly shape community identity that "the formation of separatist movements on the basis of religious confession, the assertion of a political identity on the basis of religion... does seem to be an especial characteristic of Muslims."
Neither of these approaches is often held in its pure form. Instrumentalists can point to many places where religion has not played a major role in separatist movements. Clearly, communities can "imagine" themselves variously
in national terms. Yet the imagination must work with symbols drawn from a collective past, and historical experience and cultural tradition can at least help explain why religious separatism has been more important in North India than in the south, and more important in the Middle East than in East Asia. In North India, even an instrumentalist found that local nationalisms, whether Sikh, Muslim, or Maithili, succeeded best when religious rather than only linguistic bases were used for political identity.
In some ways, of course, the debate between instrumentalists and primor-dialists centers on the relative weight of short-term causes for political identity formation versus long-term ones. I believe that although the short-term causes arc more important in, say, the creation of Pakistan, we must not lose sight of the long and medium durée. An approach taking the primordial seriously will require a study of cultural tradition and lead one further into the past. Since Muslim separatism as a political movement developed earliest on the Gangetic plain (now the province of Uttar Pradesh), the cultural history of Muslims there becomes especially important to an understanding of their attitudes to communal conflict. A large portion of this area was ruled from 1722 to 1856 by a Shi‘i Muslim ruling house, and one of the questions raised here is what Shi‘i rule and religious ideas meant for communalist traditions in the area.
In studying this Shi‘i Muslim-ruled region of North India, I aim at illuminating both some roots of Muslim communalism in the Gangetic plain and some of the historical con text for the rise of clerical dominance in Shi‘i Iran. I ask whether one form of preindustrial religious organization is more likely to produce modern communalism than another, arguing that in North India a process of community formation, promoted by Shi‘i learned men (‘ulama') and notables, formed an essential background to later politicization. By looking at the formation of ulama ideology, I make a contribution to our understanding of the conceptual bases for their contemporary activism.
This study of Shi‘i Islam and its clerics and organization in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries treats several themes beyond the important one of the roots of religious communalism. It asks about the role of religion in expressing indigenous Asian cultural values at a time of widening European influence, and about the impact of social and economic change on religious institutions and values. It looks at the power relationship between religious experts and officers of the state in a patrimonial bureaucracy. It illuminates the processes whereby a small, powerless sect can become a "church," or formal religious establishment. The approach seeks to combine social history and the historical sociology of religion. Important for the background of religious communalism, the study raises the question of what impact the transi-
tion to a religious establishment had on relations with other religious communities.
In the course of my research I became convinced that my data could be better elucidated with reference to the sociology of religion, deriving ultimately from seminal ideas of Max Weber. This conviction was confirmed, not only in the course of my own writing, but by the appearance, while I was revising this book, of Arjomand's excellent Weberian treatment of Shi‘ism in Iran, 1501-1890. Still, questions of approach remained. Weber has been interpreted variously, and the very terms he made famous, such as "sect" and "church," have been given different content by a host of authors; moreover, their application to a non-Christian milieu raises further questions. I was helped most by the work of Bryan Wilson and Benton Johnson, who have clarified key conceptions in the sociology of religion. An unresolved question, it seems to me, is the role of the state in defining groups as sects and churches, an issue upon which this book dwells.
I also found most useful the work of two "Left Weberians," Bryan S. Turner and Frank Parkin. Both argue for the continued relevance of some Weber-Jan conceptions, even to neo-Marxist debates. I found Parkin's development of the idea of "social closure" especially helpful as a means of understanding both professionalization among nineteenth-century Shi‘i clerics and the setting up of increasing communal boundaries between Shi‘i Muslims and other religious communities. Turner has criticized students of Muslim societies for stressing vertical stratification (the mosaic model of competing religious groups, tribes, and city quarters) often to the exclusion of analysis based on horizontal stratification (social classes as determined by relationship to the means of production). Social stratification plays an important part in my analysis, including my approach to the vexed question of "sect and church." Although modern social classes obviously did not exist in preindustrial South and West Asia, orders or premodern classes (labaqal ) certainly did. The division of Shi‘is into (1) a ruling stratum of large landholders, tax-farmers, and rich merchants, (2) an intermediate stratum of middle and smaller landholders and skilled artisans in the bazaars, and (3) the masses of poorer tradespeople and laborers, clearly had a great impact on their social networks and religious practices. Still, in studying a religious group and its clerics, this book emphasizes the importance of vertical cleavages. To ignore social closure based on religion in West and South Asia would be
rather like attempting to analyze South African society without taking full account of race.
For all their importance, little has been written about the history of Imami Shi‘i communities in most of West and South Asia. The Imami, or Twelver, Shi‘i branch of Islam, encompassing ten percent of the world's Muslims, has since 1500 often demonstrated a startling dynamism. Shi‘is overwhelmingly predominate in Iran, constitute a majority in Iraq, and form large and important minorities in Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and the subcontinent.
Shi‘ism in early Islamic times has attracted scholarly attention, since the question of the Prophet's successor comes up in any discussion of the early Muslim community. Although Imami Shi‘ism developed over two centuries, its seeds lay in an early contest for leadership between the Prophet's cousin and son-in-law, ‘Ali, and the elders of Quraysh elected by an oligarchic council. Most early Muslims believed that after the Prophet's death his successor was rightfully the Caliph Abu Bakr, followed by ‘Umar and then by ‘Uthman. ‘Ali finally became the fourth caliph, but was soon assassinated, after which his enemies the Umayyads came to power for a century. The partisans (Shi‘ah ) of ‘Ali believed that he and his descendants should have rightfully ruled the Islamic empire. The Shi‘is evolved into an alternative branch of Islam, often challenging the established government of the time.
Several sectarian divisions emerged among the Shi‘is, depending on which of ‘Ali's descendants they accepted as the legitimate successor to the Prophet. Imami Shi‘is believed that eleven of ‘Ali's descendants succeeded him as rightful leaders of the Muslim community, prevented from ruling by the Orthodox caliphs and then the Umayyad and Abbasid monarchies. They particularly mourned the death of the third Imam, Husayn (d. A.D. 680), slain on the battlefield of Karbala in Iraq after his unsuccessful bid to oppose the Umayyad king Yazid. Imami Shi‘is held that the last of the successors to the first Imam, the Twelfth Imam, vanished as a child into a mystical realm from which he secretly ruled the world immortally, and would return at some future time. Imamis before 1500, largely political quietists, awaited the return of the Imam from his Occultation, or supernatural disappearance.
Modern scholars have written much less about the religions; later medieval and early modern development, which witnessed the establishment of Shi‘i-ruled states in Iran and India. Most recently, the spectacle of the clerically dominated parliament and cabinet in Iran exercising a near-monopoly over political power has bewildered the secular West and pro-
voked a flurry of publications. Important questions have been raised about the uniqueness in the Islamic world of Imami Shi‘i clerical institutions and ideology. Is this form of Islam more incompatible with secular government than are others, and does it contain a special impetus toward theocracy? Such a question can be answered only with historical studies of clericalism in Imami Shi‘ism.
Controversy over the role of that originally informal body of religious experts known as the "learned" (‘ulama ') has emerged in every Imami-ruled state in history: the Buyid, the Safavid, and the Qajar in Iran; the Qutb-Shahi in medieval South India; and the Nishapuri in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century North India. Sounder generalizations about the nature of the Shi‘i religious and cultural tradition can only be attained through detailed study of the relationship between the government and the religious establishment in each of these historical Twelver Shi‘i-dominated states. The present study treats Shi‘ism in post-Mughal North India, where a Shi‘i dynasty ruled the state of Awadh (or Oudh, in the older British orthography). This work essays comparisons with contemporary developments in Iraq and Iran and emphasizes the intricate international networks created by ulama immigration, pilgrimage, visitation, and travel for study.
Several hotly debated issues have dominated recent writing on the role of the Shi‘i ulama. Some have to do with the role of the clergy according to the Imamis' own scriptural corpus, whereas others focus on the historical actions of the ulama. Joseph Eliash has forcefully argued that the early Shi‘i canonical collections of oral reports from the Prophet and the Imams contain no designation of authority from the Imams to the clergy, and that although relaters (sing. muhaddith ) of the Imams' oral reports were charged with acting as informal judges in disputes between Shi‘is, the community could reverse their decisions if they found them to be based on oral reports not widely accepted as authentic.
Norman Calder has recently traced the development of Imami jurisprudence from the tenth through the fifteenth century. He showed that after the Occultation of the Twelfth Imam most Shi‘is held that state-related functions could not be carried out until his return. Eleventh-century Imamis largely held that only the Imam could collect and distribute religious taxes, lead Friday congregational prayers, and head up holy war (jihad ) campaigns, and that in his absence such functions of the Islamic state had lapsed. But the scholars adhering to the rationalist Usuli school of jurisprudence gradually assumed the right to act for the Imam as proxies in these and other areas.
The Usulis advocated the use of independent reason (ijtihad ) and limited sorts of syllogism in deriving legal judgments and counted the consensus of jurisprudents a source of Islamic law. As rationalists, they trusted in the human intellect and Greek philosophical tools to discover the will of the hidden Imam. Since they insisted that laymen emulate their rulings, they emerged as more than legal scholars, approximating a clergy. They were opposed by Imami scholars of the conservative Akhbari school, who limited legal technique to a literal interpretation of oral reports transmitted from the Imams and forbade the use of rationalist tills both in theology and in jurisprudence.
An issue generating controversy has been the relations of the clergy to the state. Some have argued that the Shi‘i ulama in the modern period played an oppositional role to the government, emerging as popular leaders against a tyrannical Qajar state (1785-1925), which increasingly came under hated foreign domination. A corollary proposition stated that the Shi‘i clergy saw the Qajar monarchy in Iran as illegitimate and shunned association with the state. Willem Floor and others have recently argued that, on the contrary, "the revolutionary character ascribed to the Shi‘i ulama in Iran has been greatly exaggerated, and that the ulama's perception of the socioeconomic and political structure of Iranian society often did not basically differ from that of the secular power elite."
One problem has been the "liberal" approach to Shi‘i intellectual history adopted by scholars like Algar. The issue of the role of the ulama is not simply one in the history of ideas, a struggle of a few great minds abstracted from any social context. The clergy, a status group, came from specific social classes. Their views of certain kinds of law, and of their own roles as defined by their principles of jurisprudence, constituted a kind of "political knowledge," or ideology, which can only be studied fruitfully in its social context. On the other hand, such knowledge cannot be reduced to simple economic interest.
An analysis of the kinds of religious organizations a social group creates can be made by looking at the class background of its members and the de-
gree of tension that exists between the group and the prevailing values of the state and society. This framework, derived from the sociology of religion, would class a religious organization as "sectarian" where it was in great tension with the outside society, and as a formal religious establishment, or "church," where the tension was minimal. In the twentieth century the heavy influence over Iranian governments by Western imperialists and, later, the rise of a secularist state policy led some prominent members of the clerical establishment to distance themselves from the state. But how legitimate is it to project this state of affairs back into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries?
One way to test the thesis that the Shi‘i ulama, because of their scriptural tradition and training, generally shunned the state, which they considered illegitimate, is to look at Shi‘i communities outside Iran. For this and other reasons, this book concentrates on developments in the Shi‘i community of North India, never before studied academically in the formative period 1722-1859. Indeed, Shi‘ism in Awadh has been thrice orphaned in modern historiography. The eighteenth century, a period of seeming political chaos in the Islamic East, has not attracted the same interest as did the integral Mughal Empire in its heyday. As a regional phenomenon, Awadh tended to be passed over (except at Lucknow University) in favor of a concentration on events in Delhi. Its state religion, Imami Shi‘ism, has been little studied in its Indian environment. Yet a survey of the role of its ulama can fill out Indian, as well as Shi‘i, history.
By looking at about 250 Shi‘i clerics in North India over three generations, I contribute to our understanding of the social history of the region, still an embryonic field. The little work on the regional history of North India produced earlier in this century focused on the reigns of the nawabs of Awadh. More recently, T. Metcalf has investigated the great landholders, Barnett has written on government administrators, and Bayly has delineated the role of Hindu merchants and Muslim middle strata. The history of Shi‘i Muslim religious structures in the nineteenth century, set in the context of social and economic developments, can illuminate changes in the little-studied Muslim intermediate strata from which the clerical personnel were largely drawn. Like Bayly's urban merchants building new commercial networks in the shadow of the East India Company, or like Metcalf's large landholders
carving out estates in the interior of Awadh, the Shi‘i ulama formed a distinct social group that reacted in novel ways to social change—from the rise of Awadh as an independent post-Mughal state to the rise of European imperialism and industrial capitalism.
The need for study of such minority but regionally important movements as Shi‘ism in Awadh is beginning to be recognized. The standard surveys of Islam in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century India have narrowly focused on leaders of the Naqshbandi order of Sufi mystics based in Delhi: Shah Valiyu'llah, his son Shah ‘Abdu'l-‘Aziz, and the latter's disciple Sayyid Ahmad of Rai Bareli. The Naqshbandi order, with its greater emphasis on strict legalism and on drawing sharp boundaries between Sunni Muslims and others, has struck many scholars, both Western and Muslim, as a precursor of modern Islamic reform and separatism. Yet this approach at the very least ignores a quantitative issue, insofar as Naqshbandis made up a tiny minority of North Indian Muslims throughout the nineteenth and into the twentieth century. Of course, even a tiny movement could be influential. But the very influence of this tradition among most nineteenth-century Muslims has been brought into question by recent research. Moreover, the "orthodox" content of Naqshbandi Sufi practice and thought has probably been exaggerated. Showing a greater recognition of diversity even within the Islamic great tradition in the subcontinent, scholars have been investigating local religious movements and regional institutions beyond Delhi that do not so easily fit the "Naqshbandi paradigm," from Sufi leaders of the Chishti order in the Punjab, to the Qadiri learned and holy men of Lucknow's Farangi Mahall, to the reformists of the Deoband schools.
The sources for the present work on the development of Shi‘ism in Awadh from 1722 to 1859, many never before used by a modern historian, include biographies and biographical dictionaries of the clergy, court chronicles, rulings and legal and theological works by the ulama, Iranian and European travelers' accounts, Awadh government documents that survived the events of 1857-58, and British archival records. The most important single repository of manuscript material open to me was the Nasiriyyah Library, a Shi‘i-endowed institution in Lucknow, which few modern scholars have used at all, and none intensively.
This book concentrates on changes in religious practices, structures and
ideas. But both because the field is so unfamiliar and because some institutions are more fruitfully studied as they develop over time, I have provided a certain amount of narrative. The study is divided into four parts. In Part 1 the background of Imami Shi‘ism in the Middle East and in South Asia is sketched, and the rise of a Shi‘i-ruled state in Awadh examined. Part 2 explores the social origins of the Shi‘i community in North India and the growth of folk religious practices.
Part 3 deals with the rise of Usuli Shi‘ism in Awadh, the struggle of its rationalist jurisprudents to displace literalist Akhbari and mystical Sufi rivals, and the development of formal institutions, beginning with Friday congregational prayers in 1786 and culminating in the founding of a seminary and a judicial system in the 1840s. This process is discussed in terms of church-sect theory and the neo-Weberian theory of social closure. Changes in ulama views on the principles of jurisprudence and on their own place in society are analyzed as ideology. The chapters in Part 3 also treat the patronage system whereby high notables associated with the Awadh state provided funds to the ulama in return for services rendered. Emphasis is laid on the ways in which this patronage system changed, from a prebendal-feudal bestowal of tax-free villages in the eighteenth century to stipends sometimes ultimately deriving from interest on loans or dividends from modern securities. The social origins of the ulama are also explored.
Finally, Part 4 describes and analyzes the relations between the Shi‘is and their clerical leaders and the other major groups in Awadh: the Sunnis, the Hindus, and the British. This section discusses the roots of religious communalism on the Gangetic plain in the nineteenth century. Finally, the Europeans are a constant behind-the-scenes presence in this study, since the way in which industrial capitalism and colonialism influenced the course of Awadh's history and its development as a state made a fascinating and fateful impact also on the clergy and their institutions. British intervention in religious groups' relations also proved crucial for communal identity and violence throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth.