SHICIS AND OTHERS
Shi‘i, Sunni, Hindu: Communal Relations in Awadh
Religious communalism and separatism have dogged the history of modern South Asia. Various schools of thought have sought to explain this phenomenon differently, but three elements appear generally important. The first—the increasing organization of religious communities for political action and competition for resources—began toward the end of the nineteenth century, helped by growing literacy and mass communications. Second, local community leaders mobilized their religious communities as a means of gaining power. The third is the role of the British, sometimes simplistically depicted as manipulating communal divisions so as to rule more easily. A more sophisticated approach sees post-1858 British attempts at an "even-handed" policy toward religious communities as exacerbating tensions by questioning the dominance of the Muslims and initiating shifts in the communities' relative power.
This book looks at the period before the politicization of religious communities under the British. Yet some preindustrial processes occurred in Shi‘i Awadh which laid the groundwork for greater religious communalism. The Usuli rationalization of government judicial policy emphasized religious affiliation as grounds for discrimination, and the Awadh government often pursued policies inimical to the interests of Hindus and Sunnis. Incipient Shi‘i communalism benefited the Usuli ulama, who promoted it. The British residents in Awadh often intervened in Awadh's communal conflicts, sometimes out of less than altruistic motives, and it is important to discover their effect on communal relations.
The large Hindu and Sunni communities in Awadh posed problems for the Shi‘i ulama and, to a lesser extent, for the Shi‘i state. Both secular and religious ruling institutions have an interest in speading their favored religion. Yet despite that interest, Awadh's nawabs and mujtahids failed in promulgating Shi‘ism as a mass religion. Moreover, the coexistence of vastly different mythologies in one culture, the surreal juxtaposition of Krishna's plain of battle, Kurukshetra, with Husayn's Karbala, demanded either a loose syncretism or a powerful delineation of community boundaries in order to avoid cognitive dissonance. The syncretic solution, often adopted in medieval India, clashed with the rationalizing tendencies of the growing Usuli hierocracy.
Imamis and Hindus
Shi‘i clerics exhibited intolerance of Hinduism, although the Awadh government co-opted rural Hindu elites and employed Hindus in the bureaucracy. Indeed, Shujacu'd-Dawlah's powerful eighteenth-century state owed as much to Hindu ascetic warriors as to the Shi‘i Qizilbash cavalry, as Barnett has shown. Awadh's rulers never resolved the contradiction between ulama hostility to Hindus and relative state tolerance of them. As the Shi‘i ulama began to influence state policy in the 1840s, however, their attitudes toward Hindus became important. Hindus constituted 87 percent of Awadh's population (which probably stood around ten million in the 1850s), and the mujtahids strove to keep Shi‘i practices pure and scriptural in this infidel environment. They also wished to bring Hindus into the Shi‘i fold, to offer them conversion or death.
The Shi‘i concern with Hinduism began at home, since Imami clerics had to define the limits of their community so as to exclude Hindus and their practices. In 1803 MawlavÏ Samic posed this sort of problem for Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali Nasirabadi, pointing out that most Muslims in India disregarded the laws of Islam. Some Shi‘i laymen mourned the Imam Husayn in the Indian manner. He noted that many Hindus, including courtesans, spent great amounts of money and energy to observe the rites of Muharram. He wanted to know whether such groups were ritually pure, allowing association with
them. Nasirabadi replied that a born Muslim who could not be proved to reject any essential doctrines had to be judged a Muslim. But until one knew for sure that someone born an unbeliever had accepted all necessary beliefs, he had to be judged an infidel even though he mourned Imam Husayn.
Mawlavi Samic criticized the behavior of Shi‘i women, saying that most women and even some men, including some from the noble castes, associated with Hindus and followed their ways, believing in astrology and idol worship. Muslim women worshiped the goddess Kali Durga in secret when their children fell ill. Nasirabadi replied that a Muslim woman could only be considered an apostate after investigation had demonstrated her heresy conclusively. He further ruled that a Muslim with right views did not depart from Islam in merely adopting some Sufi or Hindu behavior, short of idol worship. On the other hand, a Hindu of illegitimate birth who converted to Shi‘ism would be saved and considered legitimate because of his love for the Imams. Nasirabadi drew the lines so as to make it hard to exclude a Shi‘i from the community, but possible though difficult to include a Hindu of even doubtful origins. His criteria for membership fell closer to the universality of a formal religious establishment than to the exclusivity of a sect.
The court eunuchs served as another interface between Hinduism and Shi‘ism. The nawabs and their begams enslaved these boys, most often sons of Hindu Rajput warriors captured in battles with the central government, castrating them and bringing them up in their own households. Owing to the patrimonial nature of the Awadh state, the notables often entrusted their eunuchs with official duties, such as managing their owners' estates or even tax-farming entire provinces, transforming them into a mamluk (slave-ruler) substratum of the government. The slave eunuch officials accumulated vast properties that legally belonged to their masters, although they often could influence the disposition of their property, maintaining close ties to their Hindu relatives. When, for instance, a British subject pressed claims against the great tax-farmer Almas ‘Ali Khan, whom Nawab Sacadat ‘Ali Khan owned, the ruler refused to intervene, on the grounds that if he put too much pressure on him the eunuch might transfer his property to Bahu Begam (the nawab's mother) in Faizabad, resulting in a serious loss to the nawab.
The Hindu origin of some important Shi‘i notables led to anomalous inheritance situations. Babu Bacchu Singh, Hindu grand-nephew of Darab ‘Ali Khan, owned the mosque and imambarah of Javahir ‘Ali Khan in Faiza-
bad, where Shi‘is held holy day prayers. The case of Tahsin ‘Ali's estate further attests the continuing ties between the eunuchs and their Hindu relatives: The supervisor of Asafu'd-Dawlab's old harem in Faizabad, he held a land grant (jagir ) in addition to large amounts of movable property. In 1813 he fell seriously ill and informed the British resident that he wished to dispose of his property in a will and without the interference of the nawab. The resident recognized that the nawab had the right to resume his land grant, but at first supported Tahsin ‘Ali's attempt to pass on his movable property to Hindu nephews. He only later realized that according to Islamic law non-Muslims could not inherit from a Muslim. The nawab repossessed his slave's estate, though, under British pressure, he did give the Hindu nephews a stipend.
A second issue was the attitude of Shi‘i clerics, government officials, and laypersons toward Hindus. The clerical attitude can be easily summarized. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali Nasirabadi harbored an almost violent animosity toward Hindus, arguing that the Awadh government should take stern measures against them. He divided unbelievers into three kinds, those (harbi ) against whom Muslims must make war, those (dhimmi ) who have accepted Muslim rule and pay a poll-tax, and those (musta'min ) whom their Muslim rulers have temporarily granted security of life. He insisted that Imami Shi‘ism accepted only Jews and Christians as protected minorities (dhimmis ), and even they could only achieve this status if they observed the ordinances governing it. He differed with Sunni schools that considered Hindus a protected minority.
He wrote that Muslims could only grant infidels personal security (aman ) in a country they ruled for one year, lamenting that the government had long treated as grantees of personal security the Hindus of northern India, who openly followed their idolatrous religion, drinking wine, and sometimes even mating with Sayyid women. He complained that the irreligious Sunni Mughal rulers of India neither made war against the Hindus nor forced them to accept Islam. Legally, nonetheless, the lives and property of Hindus could be licitly taken by Muslims. Nasirabadi shared this rather bloodthirsty attitude with other Muslim clerics, of course. The Sunni Naqshbandi thinker Shah Valiyu'llah (1703-62) wanted the Mughals to ban Hinduism.
The dependence of Muslim rule upon an alliance with Hindu landholders
rendered any such persecution of the majority community wholly impracticable. Short of that, the jurisprudents of the growing Usuli school attempted to throw up communalist barriers between Shi‘is and Hindus. Sayyid Muhammad Quli Kinturi, who worked in the British court at Meerut, wrote a treatise aimed at convincing Shi‘is to treat Hindus as ritually impure. Imami ritual law differed from the Sunni in stressing the pollution of many objects and persons, including non-Muslims. Kinturi explained that Shi‘is, many of them immigrants ignorant of their law, had fallen under the influence of more lax Sunni attitudes. Given that the most abased of Hindu guests would refuse to touch food or utensils in a Muslim home until they were ritually purified, he lamented, it ill beseemed Muslims with their millennium of wealth and rule to neglect to reciprocate this humiliating treatment.
In the 1830s one of Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali's sons ruled that a believer should avoid praying while wearing a ring fashioned by a Hindu, for washing it with water could only expunge its outward impurity. Such ideas percolated through the community, the Hindu origins of many Muslims leading them to practice ritual pollution in any case. Parkes's Muslim servant who married a Hindu widow around 1830 insisted that she convert to Islam because otherwise eating with her would defile him.
The ulama did allow Shi‘is to give food to Hindus. A Shi‘i, citing the qur'anic sentiment that a full believer should help a hungry neighbor, inquired of Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali whether only Muslim neighbors were meant. Lucknow's chief mujtahid replied that apparently the verse meant only Muslims, although he ruled it permissible to share food with an infidel on the verge of starving to death. One of his sons allowed Shi‘is to offer Hindu guests something to drink when they came for a visit during Muharram. Moreover, contact beneficial to Shi‘i ulama was permitted. Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi (1796-1856), Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali youngest son and a major mujtahid, allowed Shi‘is to take money for teaching infidel children Arabic and Persian.
Sunni schools did not share the Imami conception of the ritual impurity of non-Muslims, developed originally in eighth-century Iraq. Ironically, the promulgation of a stronger sense of purity among Awadh's Shi‘is by the Usuli ulama helped integrate them more fully into one of the central ideologies of
the Indian social system. For Hindus, ritual purity and the elaborate rules for social relations it implied helped underpin the caste system. Awadh's Shi‘is became a sort of caste. Like Brahmins, they would give food to, although not accept food from, outgroups. Ritual purity was only one area in which the Imamis exhibited growing tendencies toward exclusivism and communalism under the impact of nawabi rule and the growth of a Shi‘i hierocracy.
On the other hand, Shi‘is and the Shi‘i government, although they often exploited Hindus, seldom violently persecuted them. Violence most often broke out between the two communities during the Shi‘i mourning month of Muharram, as in Jaunpur in 1776 or Lucknow in 1807. Some Awadh governments showed less tolerance of Hindus than others, those of Nasiru'd-Din Haydar (1827-37) and Amjad ‘Ali Shah (1842-47) being the most anti-Hindu. In 1829 the king forced a Brahmin boy to go through with circumcision even after his family changed their minds about having him convert to Shi‘ism. He told the outraged resident that he had a divine right to dispose of his subjects as he wished. Ricketts angrily retorted that the British Government recognized no such right. When, three months later, Hindus provoked violence by defiling a mosque in Rikabganj, the king vindictively sent troops into the area, who plundered, ripped nose-rings off the faces of Hindu women, and destroyed all forty-seven Hindu temples in that quarter, putting to flight its entire population of three thousand. When rioting threatened to spread to other quarters, the British resident intervened with the king, who reluctantly sent criers through the city warning that he would punish anyone found molesting a Hindu or insulting his temples.
Most Awadh governments considered order more important than keeping Hindus in their places. When, in November 1840, some Hindus defiled a zamindar's mosque with pig's blood, his sons rounded up a crowd of angry Muslims to exact revenge. On 3; December, at the order of the heir apparent, Amjad ‘Ali Mirza, the chief of police took the ringleaders to Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi, who ruled that the blasphemer should be apprehended and punished after conviction, but forbade vigilante action. The mob refused to listen to the mujtahid or the police chief. On 4 December two hundred Muslims killed cows, profaned temples, and damaged shops in Yahyaganj and ‘Ayshbagh. British administrator Colonel Sleeman saw such perils of com-
munal violence as an argument for the Indian need of British government, but he exaggerated their frequency and severity.
The last three Awadh rulers initiated programs that enhanced the prestige and the power of the Usuli ulama in north Indian society. Proclerical Shi‘is remembered the twenty years before British annexation as a golden age. Sunni and Hindu writers, on the other hand, deplored the "sectarian narrow-mindedness and crooked religious policy" of such clericalist rulers as Amjad ‘Ali Shah (1842-47). As was seen in chapter 8, Amjad ‘Ali Shah enacted anti-Hindu policies, founding Shi‘i shops to drive Hindu merchants out of business, and rewarding Hindu officials who adopted Imami Shi‘ism. The provision of government welfare monies to only the Shi‘i poor encouraged thousands of Hindus to convert to Shi‘ism in the 1840s, according to clerical sources. Awadh's fiercely Usuli governments showed little understanding of their Hindu subjects, allowing communal resentments to fester, a policy that culminated in a major battle over a religious edifice in Faizabad, discussed later.
Although the Shi‘i ulama may have preached government violence against Hindus, they disapproved of mob action. The growth of a formal Shi‘i establishment and its intermeshing with state institutions like the judiciary · made it possible at times for the mujtahids to enact highly discriminatory policies toward Hindus, whom they viewed as idolaters. The ulama practiced exclusionary closure by urging Shi‘is to treat Hindus as ritually impure (reciprocating Hindu treatment of Muslims), making Shi‘is almost a caste. They used jobs and welfare money to convert Hindu civil servants and urban poor. Since the Usulis had campaigned so hard against Sufism, few Shi‘i pits existed to mediate among Hindu and Shi‘i disciples, and the ulama strove mightily to stop Shi‘is from patronizing Hindu holy men. The Usuli destruction of mediating groups between Muslims and Hindus aided the growth of communalism, of religion-based group identities hostile to one another.
Shi‘i-Sunni Relations in Awadh
The attitude of both the state and the mujtahids to Sunnis differed starkly from their views of Hindus. The Awadh government depended on Sunni troops ever more heavily in the nineteenth century, and Sunnis dominated the middle and lower echelons of many government departments. The Usuli ulama advocated a Shi‘i-Sunni alliance against Hindus and recognized the ritual purity of those Sunnis who loved the family of the Prophet (the major-
ity in Awadh). Still, some Sunni leaders resented Shi‘i dominance, refusing the profferred alliance. Tensions between social classes, and the differential impact of Nishapuri rule. in various parts of Awadh, as well as that of the British in neighboring areas, also helped encourage resentments among some Sunni groups. The triumphalist Usuli insistence on cursing the first caliphs angered many Sunnis and engendered recurring communal riots.
North Indian Muslims showed widespread interest in Imami Shi‘ism during the eighteenth century. The spread of Shi‘ism coincided with a relative decline in the fortunes of the Sunni central Asian and Indian propertied classes centered in Delhi and tied to the fragmenting Mughal Empire. Although some Shi‘is suffered as well, they could often more freely practice their religion under the Europeans than under the Sunni Mughals. Shi‘i Sayyids, Iranians, and Indian notables on the ascendant in Awadh, allied themselves with the British. In fading Delhi, Sufi leader Shah ‘Abdu'l-‘Aziz, who had Shi‘i in-laws, complained that in most households one or two members had adopted Imam Shi‘ism. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali's Shi‘i Sufi nemesis, Mawlavi Samic, said that during his time in India he had noticed great Sunni families gradually adopting Shi‘i ways, first in their prayers, then in marriage ceremonies, burials, and the division of inheritance (some finding Shi‘i law in the last regard more convenient). Mawlavi Samic suggested that Indian Shi‘i clerics, often influenced by their Sunni background, could not be trusted. Still, Shi‘is obviously remained a small minority.
Since the Naqshbandi Sufi order maintained close ties with the Turkish and Afghan notables on the wane, its leaders fulminated most loudly against changing social configurations in the eighteenth century, including the rise of the Shi‘is. The partisans of ‘Ali in Awadh responded vigorously to the attacks issuing from Delhi. The substance of the polemics, centering on the interpretation of early Islamic history and ritual through a biased and uncritical, traditional scholarly apparatus, holds less significance than the social tensions underlying the debate. In these works the Sunni high culture of faltering Delhi squared off against the Shi‘i ambience of vigorous Lucknow, and the Naqshbandi, central Asian tradition of strict Sunni Sufism grappled with the flourishing Usuli school of Iranian and Iraqi provenance. Sunni notables of Delhi watched the decline of the Mughal Empire, as first the Hindu Marathas and then the British East India Company reduced the Mughal
emperor to a figurehead. Crisis-stricken Sunny ulama asked with anguish if the Deity had visited these calamities upon them as punishment for lapses in the way Sunnis practiced Islam.
Within Awadh itself, disputes over the relative virtues (or vices) of Sunni Caliphs Abu Bakr or ‘Umar may have reflected the competition for wealth and power between Sunni Shaykh landholders, claiming descent from the first three caliphs, and Shi‘i Sayyids who vaunted their ancestry in the line of Imam ‘Ali. The writing of Shi‘i polemics and apologetics became a major industry in Awadh, many scholars receiving patronage from rulers and notables for defending the faith. Both Usulis and Akhbaris united in this enterprise. The Akhbari notable Subhan ‘Ali Khan, a deputy chief minister, wrote against Sunnism, sharing his works with the Usuli mujtahids and warning against Sunni attempts to play on Shi‘i divisions. Subhan ‘Ali Khan and his cousin Husayn ‘Ali held that since Abu Bakr and ‘Umar had not directly fought against Imam ‘Ali, they had not fallen into unbelief (kufr ), although the mujtahid Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi said that even those who did not outwardly battle Imam ‘Ali could in an esoteric sense be unbelievers. The more ecumenical Akhbari stance offended Awadh's own Sunnis less, whereas Sayyid Husayn's position typified Usuli communalism. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali and his student Kinturi both defended the practice of publicly cursing the first caliphs.
Although Sunnis predominated among Awadh Muslims, the anti-Shi‘i Naqshbandi order had little strength there, and many Sunnis living under the nawabs proclaimed their belief in Imam ‘Ali's superiority (tafdil ) over the other claimants to the caliphate while not disputing the legitimacy of the three leaders who preceded ‘Ali in the office. Farangi-Mahallis such as ‘Abdu'l-Acla, son of Bahru'l-‘Ulum, excoriated ‘Ali's enemy, Mucawiyah. Mawlavi Mubin Farangi-Mahalli (d. 1810), who served Asafu'd-Dawlah briefly as judge of the criminal court in the capital, wrote an elegy (Shahadatnamah ) for the Imam Husayn, and also supported ‘Ali's superiority.
Shi‘is often extended more tolerance to Sunnis than to Hindus. The Nasirabadis lived near the Sunni seminary, the Farangi Mahall, where most Shi‘i scholars studied to master the rational sciences. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali
argued that in Awadh Sunnis should be legally treated as Muslims and as equals of the Shi‘is, even though non-Shi‘is would burn in hell in the next world. Although he stigmatized Mughal emperors as despotic pharaohs, he called for an acceptance of all Muslims in Awadh as equals under the law. He proposed an analogy for this situation, citing the early Muslim community in Medina, where the Prophet made no distinction between sincere believers and the hypocrites in their legal treatment. Later in his book on land property laws he made a distinction between Sunnis (mukhalifun ) who recognized other caliphs besides ‘Ali but did not oppose the rights of the Prophet's family, and Sunni enemies (nawasib ) of the Imams. He extended legal status as Muslims during the Occultation to the first category, but held that both kinds of Sunni erred spiritually.
Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali held as ritually pure those Sunnis who bore no enmity toward the Prophet's family, although he urged Shi‘is where possible to patronize Shi‘i artisans. The clerics forbade Shi‘i men to marry Sunni women who expressed enmity toward the Imams, and they had reservations about intermarriage with even ritually pure Sunnis. The Lucknow mujtahids held that although a Shi‘i man could marry a Jewish, Christian, or Sunni' bride, no Shi‘i woman could marry outside her faith. Only if a mujtahid allowed such a marriage could it have any legal status. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali ruled, however, that a Sunni bride who later adopted Shi‘ism did not have to divorce her husband. The Usulis were not as adamant as fierce Sunnis like Shah ‘Abdu'l-‘Aziz, who, ruled that since by Hanafi law Shi‘is were apostates, a Hanafi man should never marry a Shi‘i woman. He held that such alliances would introduce bad religious ideas into the family. Despite strict communalist attitudes among the ulama, Sunni-Shi‘i marriages remained common.
Many Sunnis served in the Awadh bureaucracy, and sometimes scored real victories there. In 1815 Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar dismissed his chief minister, Agha Mir Muctamadu'd-Dawlah, giving charge of public affairs to the proclerical Mirza Hajji, the eunuch Afarin ‘Ali Khan and the latter's agent Mir Khudabakhsh. Ardistani wrote that Mir Khudabakhsh went to
excess in cursing the Sunni caliphs, ordering their names carved into rocks at the foot of urinals. He promoted Shi‘is in the military, and forced many Sunnis to adopt Shi‘ism. In the meantime Agha Mir used his contacts near the nawab, Sunni secretaries upset at Mir Khudabakhsh's hard line on cursing the caliphs, who constantly maligned Mir Khudabakhsh and praised Agha Mir. Sunnis within the Awadh bureaucracy who had access to the nawab formed an alliance with the out-of-power former chief minister to ease out a group inimical to Sunni interests.
Perhaps one of the means employed by Sunni civil servants to combat Mir Khudabakhsh and his masters was to publicize their embezzlement of state funds. A little less than two years after he had been fired, Agha Mir came back to court as chief minister. The nawab dismissed the clique formerly in power, holding them responsible for considerable defalcations in revenue. This incident proves, not the especial corruption of the troika in power in 1815-17, but that it alienated an important and powerful group within the Awadh bureaucracy, the Sunnis.
The traditional Akhbari willingness to compromise with Sunnis gave way before Usuli militancy. An important contradiction underlay Usuli policy toward Sunnis, in that the mujtahids condemned Sunni doctrines but aimed for harmonious relations with Sunnis. In one breath they consigned Sunnis to hell and denied them permission to marry their daughters, and yet proposed a practical alliance of Shi‘i and Sunni elites. The political requirements of running a Mughal-derived successor state made acceptance of Sunnis within the polity a necessity. Yet Shi‘i insistence on cursing the Sunni caliphs and disparaging Sunni beliefs guaranteed that the alliance would be riven with conflict.
Sayyid Ahmad Rai-Barelavi and Growing Sunni Militancy
The practice of exclusionary closure by the Usuli elite in Awadh put in Shi‘i hands a great amount of the country's wealth and power. Along with the
prebendal-feudal class structure wherein tax-farmers and rajas expropriated the surplus produced by Hindu peasants and Sunni artisans, a religious stratification emerged that favored Shi‘is over other religious communities. The Shi‘i rich were the wealthiest in the land, while the Shi‘i poor gained access to government-supplied alms denied to Sunnis and Hindus. A few Sunnis reacted with counterclaims to power and wealth, in effect practicing a kind of social closure that Parkin has termed "usurpation," which aims at "biting into the resources and benefits accruing to dominant groups in society."
The Naqshbandi revivalist movement headed by Sayyid Ahmad of Rai Bareli from 1817 to 1831 illustrates the greater impact during those years of Delhi-style Sunni communalism on Awadh, and offers a prime example of usurpationary closure. Although the movement had more impact on Peshawar than on Awadh, some comments about it are in order here. Sayyid Ahmad, born in 1786, came of a family in the Awadh town of Rai Bareli with a history of seeking outside military careers and of serving locally as Sufi pits. The family's Sufi disciples often included Afghans from other nearby towns. In the eighteenth century, Afghan soldiers and settlers came into Awadh, bringing with them anti-Shi‘i sentiments from their homeland. In early-nineteenth-century Peshawar the persecuted Shi‘is dared not admit their faith, and the fierce Sunni majority forbade them to take out processions with cenotaphs to honor the Imam Husayn. Afghan military gentry colonizing Awadh integrated themselves into the local culture and formed alliances with settled old Muslim families by joining local Sufi orders.
From the eighteenth century the central Asian Naqshbandi order began to establish itself among some Sayyids in the Rai Bareli district, at the same time as other Sayyids adopted Shi‘ism. Naqshbandi Sufism was at the nexus of relations between declining Sunni elites in the qasabahs and newly arrived Afghans, and the exclusivist Sunnism the latter brought with them from central Asia may have influenced their Naqshbandi pirs in Awadh. In North India, where Shi‘i anti Hindu usages much affected local Muslims, the breezes blowing from beyond the Khyber looked like a kind of reformism.
Although Rai Bareli lay in the fertile, wealthy Baiswara area, the Sunni Muslim service gentry based in certain of the district's small towns demon-
strably suffered financial decline in the opening decades of the nineteenth century. Indeed, many service qasabahs in North India suffered the same fate. In the 1830s Butter found Rai Bareli to be a decayed town of only 8,000 inhabitants, with only 500 to 600 Muslims. He said the population of this formerly booming textile center had declined sharply from 50,000 since the turn of the century. He saw some new Hindu temples, indicating some wealth in that community, but no new mosques. Part of the town's rapid decline derived from the excessive demands made by big tax-farmers (chakladars ) appointed from Lucknow, whose expropriations forced Mahajan capitalists to leave the place. Large landholders in the area also made the waterways accessible to Rai Bareli unusable for commerce because of the high imposts they charged boats for passing through their territories.
Politically, as well, the area's Sunni small landholders had suffered. Opportunities for military and bureaucratic service outside the area declined quickly as the East India Company gobbled up North India. In Baiswara the Hindu raja of Tiloi paid unusually low taxes to Lucknow and maintained a good deal of local autonomy as the central government grew weaker. Shi‘i Sayyids in qasabahs such as Nasirabad, from whose ranks Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali had emerged, profited most. Three-fourths of Nasirabad's Sayyids adopted Shi‘ism in the eighteenth century, being rewarded by special land grants from Nawab Asafu'd-Dawlah.
Sayyid Ahmad, his family in Rai Bareli rendered indigent by the town's decline, left it with some other adolescent companions to seek menial jobs in Lucknow as bearers or hat-seamsters, finally finding work with a notable. Perhaps finding such work demeaning, Sayyid Ahmad left for Delhi, where he employed his family's network of Sufi contacts to become a student of Shah ‘Abdu'i-‘Aziz's, the Naqshbandi leader. In 1812 he enlisted in the mercenary army of Nawab Amir Khan, who fought the British on behalf of the Marathas in central India until 1817, when Sayyid Ahmad found himself once again without gainful employment.
During the period 1817-21 Sayyid Ahmad traveled about North India as a Sufi pir, organizing on a grass-roots level. Like others in the Mujaddidi Naqshbandi line founded by Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi in the seventeenth century, Sayyid Ahmad Rai-Barelavi attacked the doctrine of existential monism (wahdatal-wujud ) and the practice of listening to music, and also attempted to
expunge from his Sunni followers what he saw as Shi‘i and Hindu accretions. He called it an error to prefer ‘Ali to the other caliphs, or to honor Imam Husayn more than the earlier companions of the Prophet. Finally, he attacked the practice of making replicas of the Imam Husayn's standard and tomb, which he placed in the same category as constructing idols. As for Hindu usages, he promoted the remarriage of widows and forbade ancestor worship. His movement came to have a social content, since he considered all traditional illicit cesses and imposts on petty traders, peasants, and artisans as anti-Islamic.
Although he succeeded in attracting as his disciples some younger members of the Shah Valiyu.llah family in Delhi, Sayyid Ahmad never emerged as a mass leader in Awadh, despite his personal popularity among some Sunni groups. The Sunni zamindars around Salon repulsed his missionaries, reaffirming their commitment to Muharram processions with cenotaphs for the Imam Husayn. The Sufi pit of Salon likewise rejected his overtures, and Butter found Awadh's Muslims less attracted to him than those of Rohilkhand to the north or Bengal in the southeast.
Sayyid Ahmad's activities in the upper Doab were traced by one of Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali's students, Musharraf ‘Ali Khan. He said Sayyid Ahmad had the cenotaphs of his Sufi followers in Saharanpur burned. The Shi‘is in the area vigorously protested, and the British therefore expelled him. He went then to Meerut, but the British judge there had already heard about him and also ordered him out. (It may be that Sayyid Muhammad Quli Kinturi, a Shi‘i court official in Meerut, helped to have him expelled.) He next went to the princely state of Rampur, but the Sunni ulama there objected to his teachings, and the nawab, then a Sunni, asked him to leave. He had a similarly brief stay in Bareilly. He then returned to his hometown in Awadh, having failed to find a secure base in British India or to attract the patronage of a Muslim ruler.
In October (Muharram) of 1819 violence very nearly broke out in the district of Rai Bareli between Naqshbandi revivalists and Shi‘is. The dominant Shi‘i Sayyids of Nasirabad informed their Sunni cousins, who held only one of the town's four neighborhoods, that they intended to pronounce imprecations openly on the caliphs in the Sunni quarter. The Sunnis sent to Sayyid Ahmad in Rai Bareli for help, and he replied, promising he would arrive on the evening of the eighth of Muharram when the cursing would take place. He gathered a band of Sunnis from Rai Bareli and Afghans from Jahanabad,
who had been Sufi disciples of his family for generations, and set off for Nasirabad with two hundred men.
The perplexed Shi‘is sent to Lucknow for help from Chief Mujtahid Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali. Meanwhile, a district reporter got news of the disturbance even more quickly to the Awadh ruler, Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar, who turned it over to his chief minister, Muctamadu'd-Dawlah. The chief minister, aware that Nasirabad lay in the jagir of his political rival Badshah Be-gam, wished to prolong the disturbance so that he could convince the British resident to let him take over the territory and put it in order. He therefore dispatched Awadh troops to the scene of the trouble led by Sunni commanders with sympathies toward Sayyid Ahmad, and ordered Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali not to interfere. The nawab's troops arrived in Nasirabad and forced the Shi‘is to pledge not to curse the caliphs openly, which Sayyid Ahmad's forces interpreted as a victory.
Thereafter, as a peace offering, the chief minister invited Sayyid Ahmad to Lucknow, where he associated with notables and gave sermons for several weeks. Usuli students of Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali's and Sunni Farangi-Mahallis' opposed him. A popular figure, he nevertheless had little success in spreading his teachings among the masses. Pathans in the Awadh army applauded his militancy, forcing the Shi‘i government to deal with him gently. His advisers kept him from attacking Shi‘ism while in Lucknow, fearing violence. He did, however, praise the Sunni caliphs. After further organizing in Bengal, Sayyid Ahmad and seven hundred followers set out on pilgrimage to Mecca in 1821, to stress their orthodoxy. There he may have encountered the strict reformist ideas of the Arabian followers of Ibn ‘Abdu'l-Wahhab, but he had already drawn the main lines of his reformist Sufi doctrine (which owed more, I have argued, to the confluence of Peshawar and Rai Bareli than to Najd).
They returned to Awadh, but in 1826 set out on a holy war against the Sikhs. Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar reported this development to the British resident, who wrote to Calcutta:
His majesty the King of Oude has been in some alarm from an individual by the name of Syyed Ahmed, a Sectary of the Soonnee Persuasion, having seduced a great many soldiers & etc. from his Service;—and his Majesty informing me that he is a very dangerously factious person, and is about to leave Oude with many followers, and may with them join the enemies of the Government.
The Awadh ruler said he did not arrest Sayyid Ahmad, out of fear that his
soldiers might either disobey or convert to his cause. He therefore allowed him to leave Awadh quietly, but informed the British government. Sayyid Ahmad's subsequent career in Peshawar, Punjab, and Kashmir falls beyond our purview. After five years of fighting the Sikhs and attempting to organize the suspicious Pukhtuns to their north, he and four hundred fighters were massacred in May 1831 in Kashmir by an army led by Ranjit Singh's son and aided by Hindu zamindars fearful of Sayyid Ahmad's recruitment of 3,000 Muslim peasants to his revolt in the area.
Sayyid Ahmad Rai-Barelavi's Naqshbandi "Muhammadiyyah" movement represented a religious and social protest against the decline of Sunni political power, the downward mobility of the Sunni intermediate strata, the deterioration of Sunni towns, and the subjugation of Sunni peasants by the British and by Hindu and Sikh rajas. Although an urban man, he threw his lot in with Muslim tribesmen and peasants threatened with Sikh domination, becoming a social bandit and adopting messianic rhetoric. He made the Punjab a staging area for a future move against the British and Shi‘i Awadh. Afghan landholders, settled near Delhi, who chafed under British rule and resented Sikh advances, supported him financially.
Although the movement's protests against un-Islamic taxes on tradespeople and its anti-imperialist fervor or lent it a progressive aura, Sayyid Ahmad's statelet in the Peshawar region simply continued in a novel fashion patrimonial and prebendal-feudal forms of government. His Naqshbandi state would have oppressed the vast Hindu majority in North India. Despite the genuine discontents to which it appealed, Rai-Barelavi's revivalism had too narrow a base to succeed, and he attracted only a small number of fighters. This lower-middle-class Sunni attempt at usurpationary closure against Shi‘i Awadh failed. The limited effect of the movement on North India has been overblown by later writers, who have paid little attention to its social, economic, and cultural context. Still, Naqshbandi communalism emanating both from Delhi and from Rai-Barelavi's scattered initiates constituted a challenge to Awadh Shi‘is.
Sunni-Shi‘i Issues in Awadh, 1827-1847
Outbreaks of violence between Shi‘is and Sunnis in nineteenth-century Awadh depended partially on policy decisions by ruling and religious elites.
The mujtahids became even more insistent on public cursing of the caliphs, one cause of violence, after the 1819 creation of an independent Shi‘i state. Since many Sunnis revered the Prophet's family and marched at Muharram, only cursing the caliphs established a Shi‘i identity decisively. Requiring such imprecations became a means of social closure. A second cause of disputes, government policy, played an even more central role. Where the government actively persecuted Sunnis with military force, violent incidents increased. Where the government planned Muharram procession routes so as to avoid conflict and used troops to prevent it, the violence decreased.
The third factor, increasing Sunni militance on some issues, involved a stronger Sunni reply to perceived Shi‘i insults. Finally, the British resident influenced episodes of communal violence, and British motives will be explored below. Greater Shi‘i and Sunni militancy contributed in the 1820s to escalating violence among Awadh's religious communities. Mrs. Ali wrote that at Muharram every large city in India witnessed serious quarrels, often ending in bloodshed. While many Sunnis joined in Muharram ceremonies, some increasingly denounced the rites, the likely meaning of Mrs. Ali's cryptic remark that "the Soonees are violently opposed to the celebration" of Muharram. This sentiment might have resulted from Naqshbandi propaganda, but may also have simply reflected a natural Sunni reaction to Shi‘i dominance.
The frequent urban disturbances of the late 1820s coincided with an economic downturn in North India, and Awadh's rulers took a hard Shi‘i line, having little interest in mollifying Sunnis and Hindus. Even Farangi-Mahall scholars, who generally maintained proper relations with the government, experienced strains, and one Mawlana Haydar in 1824 had to leave Awadh after a dispute with the king about religion. In the 1820s Chief Minister Agha Mir allowed ritual cursing by Shi‘is in the bazaars during Muharram. Shi‘is often accosted Hindus, and people feared to come and go in the markets. When men came to blows, the Shi‘i chief of police arrested Hindus and Sunnis rather than Shi‘is. In 1827 Nasiru'd-Din Haydar, an even more extremist Shi‘i, acceded to the throne.
In 1828 Muharram fell in torrid July. The monarch issued a warning "ordering those who could not passively hear the execrations against the Califs, always vented at this season, either to quit the City, or strictly confine themselves to their own homes." On the tenth of Muharram a fight broke out at the Karbala of Makarimnagar, where both Sunnis and Shi‘is went to
bury their cenotaphs. A group of Mewatis, low-caste converts to Sunni Islam from a Hindu Meo background, had a grudge with Shi‘is whom they met at the Karbala. A Mewati killed a Shi‘i with a pistol shot, and Shi‘is in turn cut him down. Mewatis, many of them soldiers and so well armed, gathered at the Karbala in great numbers, as did the Shi‘is. The ensuing battle left six killed and nine wounded.
Nasiru'd-Din Haydar, furious, ordered government troops to the quarter of the Mewatis, who, meanwhile, had fled for British territory. The king commanded Daroghah Muzaffar ‘Ali Khan to bring up artillery and plunder and destroy their dwellings. Mir Fazl ‘Ali, his chief minister, vainly opposed this course of action as invidious, but Nasiru'd-Din Haydar listened to Muzaffar ‘Ali Khan's extremist views. The army indulged in an orgy of looting, razing four hundred structures while white clouds of smoke billowed above the city. The resident feared that Sunnis might rise against the minority government and that the displaced Mewatis would turn to banditry in British territory. He intervened with the king, who defended his actions, saying the Mewatis had committed aggression. Gradually the violence ceased. The resident observed that thinking Shi‘is condemned the king's policy, and that "all other sects have a feeling of fear for what may in future be their own fate."
Muharram that year lasted for a full forty days by royal decree, as a result of a vow Nasiru'd-Din Haydar said he once took when ill. The resident pressured the king not to carry through this measure, a hardship to Sunnis and Hindus who had to postpone marriages and suffered business losses. He proved intransigent, and Ricketts determined to dissuade the king from enforcing the longer mourning period the next year. The governor-general agreed that the resident was right to intervene in the Mewati affair, expressing concern about the bloodshed in both Lucknow and Faizabad. In July 1829 Muharram passed without major incident, but Nasiru'd-Din Haydar once again extended the official mourning period to forty days. Muzaffar ‘Ali Khan convinced the king that he had to defy the resident in order to prove himself an independent sovereign. But pressure from the British (worried that religious violence might involve their troops) and from level-headed members of his own government caused Nasiru'd-Din Haydar to moderate his hard line on Muharram cursing.
Although the king often quarreled with Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi, on this issue they agreed. He asked Sayyid Muhammad whether it was permissible to curse the first three caliphs openly during Muharram, in view of
the public disturbances it caused. Nasirabadi replied that Shi‘is could not practice pious dissimulation in a Shi‘i-ruled state (darash-Shi‘ah ). The Shi‘i ruler should address any public disturbances by suppressing them rather than by forsaking the ritual prescribed by the faith. He added that in early Islamic times their enemies cursed the Imams and no one went out of his way to stop them. Sayyid Muhammad's recognition of Awadh as a Realm of the Shi‘ah contrasts starkly with his father's view of it as a province of the Sunni Mughal Empire.
Colonel Sleeman, later British resident in Awadh, said that Sayyid Muhammad held cursing the caliphs to be as necessary a ritual obligation for Shi‘is as sounding the call to prayer or slaughtering the cows of Hindus. He wrote that although Shi‘is in British-ruled territory said their curses privately and in whispers for fear of the civil government, in Awadh they uttered them aloud at the encouragement of the Shi‘i rulers. Still, Nasirabadi disapproved of meetings held by notable Shi‘is who read obscenities and racy satirical verses about the Sunni Caliph ‘Umar, drawing a distinction between ritual curses and obscenities.
Some local Sunnis began to reciprocate the hard line of the Shi‘i secular and religious leaders in the 1830s. In 1833 Mirza Ahmad Faruqi, a Sunni scholar from Delhi settled in Lucknow, retold the Karbala tragedy in his sermon after Friday prayers. The sermon, written down and passed about, reached Naqshbandi leader Rashidu'd-Din Dihlavi in Delhi, who wrote Faruqi a letter asserting that the martyrdom of Husayn was not established for Sunnis. On hearing of this, Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi asked the Sunni scholars in Lucknow for a ruling on the issue, to which Mufti Zuhuru'llah Farangi-Mahalli, daroghah of the religious court, replied with a ruling that Husayn's martyrdom was in doubt.
Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi penned a long response, noting that in Awadh close contact with Shi‘is had caused Sunnis to pay more than their former respect to the family of the Prophet. He criticized Sunnis who ruled it impermissble to call Husayn a martyr, who held the Umayyad Yazid to be a rightful caliph, and who said that relating the events of Karbala in sermons showed disrespect to some of the companions of the Prophet. In this period, some Sunnis also began praising the very figures the Shi‘is cursed. Mawlavi Turab ‘Ali Lakhnavi (1798-1864), who taught rational sciences to a generation of Sunni and Shi‘i scholars, wrote a treatise on the virtues of the third
Sunni caliph, ‘Uthman. On the other hand, some Sunni figures defended mourning the Imam Husayn. ‘Abdu'l-Vajid of Farangi Mahall wrote a book in which he justified Muharram practices for Sunnis. Gharib Shah Shahjahanpuri, a Sufi leader and zamindar with Shi‘i leanings, encouraged his disciples to construct tombs for the Imam even when other Pathans abandoned the practice.
The increasing communal barriers between Sunnis and Shi‘is can be seen in a dispute that broke out when a Sunni government secretary joined congregational prayers at a Shi‘i mosque. A Shi‘i cleric objected, and the Sunni delivered a note to his house, full of abuse. The cleric asked Sayyid Muhammad ‘Abbas Shushtari to reply. Shushtari wrote that Sunni did not accept the absolute caliphate of ‘Ali, which the Shi‘i call to prayer proclaims, and that a Sunni could only pray hypocritically at a Shi‘i mosque. Moreover, he said, a Shi‘i mosque might be defiled if a non-Shi‘i entered it.
Amjad ‘Ali Shah (r. 1842-47), a blatant communalist, cut off the stipends of many Sunnis and Hindus, employing Shi‘is as the heads of every government office. Because he thought Sunnis and Hindus ritually impure, he forbade them to write the names of God, the Prophet, his daughter Fatimah, or the Twelve Imams on official letters, and hired Shi‘i secretaries to write the holy names. The heir apparent, Vajid ‘Ali, at one point forced several reluctant Sunni secretaries (munshis ) to embrace Shi‘ism.
The Awadh government, in the wake of its 1819 declaration of independence, vaunted its Shi‘ism and placed Sunnis under disabilities (such as having to listen to Shi‘i curses on their beloved caliphs). This policy. promoted by the Usuli ulama. provoked several violent incidents in the 1820s and 1830s, alarming the British residents. The British intervened to ensure order, largely out of pragmatic motives. They feared that the minority Shi‘i government might be pulled down and replaced by a more radical Sunni or Hindu state less complaisant toward the British. They also saw the possibility that persecuted Sunnis like the Mewatis would flee to British territories and form bandit gangs.
After 1837 the Awadh government, threatened with annexation by the British, sought to prevent Sunni-Shi‘i violence. In the 1840s Shi‘is expressed their triumphalism through the bestowal of more wealth, jobs, and patronage on Shi‘is than on Sunnis, and the exclusion of Sunnis from lucrative positions (including the office of chief minister). Security measures in the cities pre-
vented such invidious policies from resulting in riots, but they evoked Sunni resentment. visible in the major communal conflict of the 1850s, over a Hindu temple near Faizabad. Awadh's stridently pro-Shi‘i policies also provided the British, ever looking for evidence of Indian rulers' unsuitedness to rule, with an image of the oriental despot arbitrarily oppressing his people.
The Faizabad Temple Dispute and the Shi‘i Ulama
Any exploration of communal relations in Awadh must consider the conflict over a Hindu temple, which some Sunni Muslims claimed as the former site of a mosque, and which nearly exploded into civil war in 1855. The Shi‘i government and the mujtahids had to take a stance on the dispute, so that all three of Awadh's major religious communities became involved. Moreover, the British intervened forcefully, providing insights into their role in Awadh's communal relations in the 1850s. Did they by their intervention unwittingly exacerbate communal tensions? Or did they prevent a major Sunni-Hindu conflagration?
The 1855 dispute began when a Sunni zealot named Shah Ghulam Husayn started a campaign against the Hindu temple establishment in Faizabad dedicated to the Ramayana's monkey-god, Hanuman. The Muslim crusaders claimed that the site had originally supported a mosque subsequently supplanted by the Hanumangarhi. Shah Ghulam Husayn's followers clashed in July 1855 with thousands of Hindus, ending in a massacre of the zealots in a mosque at Ayodhya, a suburb of Faizabad. The news of, this military defeat inflicted on Muslims by Hindu holy men and their supporters (among them large landholders and their peasants from the Hindu countryside) inflamed Sunni and Shi‘i passions throughout North India. Sayyid ‘Ali Deoghatavi, Faizabad's Imami prayer leader, visited the mosque during the investigations ordered by the government. The issue split the Shi‘i population between those very religiously committed and the secular officials; Faizabad Shi‘i administrators like Mirza Acla ‘Ali took measures against Sunni mobs to keep the peace.
Vajid ‘Ali Shah enjoyed Hindu festivals and plays about Krishna, but as an Usuli he believed in Shi‘i rule and superiority. Furious about the killing of Muslims by Hindus at the mosque, he nevertheless wanted Sunni ringleaders apprehended as troublemakers. His officials in Faizabad sought to defuse the situation. The governor of Sultanpur and Faizabad, Agha ‘Ali Khan,
attempted to pacify the Muslims under his jurisdiction, while the Hindu Raja Man Singh controlled Hindus.
The governor's conciliatory approach provoked resentment in Lucknow among Muslim militants, including Chief Mujtahid Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi. On 24 August 1855 he conducted Holy Day prayers at the Great Imambarah in the presence of the heir apparent, the chief minister, and multitudes of notables close to the court. At the end of the service he denounced the governor, Agha ‘Ali Khan, and all those he said had taken bribes to side with the Hindus. The officers of state greeted this outburst with embarrassed silence. A Sunni delegation then sought a ruling. from him, asking if he accounted the slain Sunnis martyrs, and whether individual Muslims should avenge their deaths. Sayyid Muhammad cautiously replied that the Muslim state had a duty to put an end to the wickedness of the infidels. He steadfastly refused to encourage mob action, insisting that the Shi‘i state had a duty to intervene on the Muslim side. The implication, that if the king refused to act, nothing could be done, angered Sunni vigilantes eager to set out independently.
On 30 August, Outram, the resident, met with Chief Minister ‘Ali Naqi Khan. The Awadh government endeavored to avoid taking a decision bound to offend Muslims or Hindus or the British by putting the whole matter in the chief mujtahid's lap. It proposed that the commission of inquiry headed by Agha ‘Ali Khan be disbanded and replaced by Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi. The chief minister also insisted that the evidence for the existence of a mosque at the Hanumangarhi was good. The resident took strong exception to both points, blaming Shah Ghulam Husayn and his followers for provoking the violence. He allowed that the chief mujtahid could take part in the investigations, but demanded that the final decision be made by the king. He further objected to Nasirabadi's rulings urging retaliation against the Hindus. ‘Ali Naqi Khan explained that given the way the questioners framed their inquiries, no other answer could have been given.
On the same day, the government investigative commission announced its conclusion that no mosque existed at the Hanumangarhi, at least in the past twenty-five to thirty years, and most probably never had. Western descriptions of the temple thirty years earlier bear out the first part of this conclusion. In Lucknow pandemonium broke loose, with Muslim vigilante groups forming. A certain militant, Mawlavi Amir ‘Ali Amethavi, among the Sunni ulama calling for holy war, had earlier been brought to the capital
from Amethi to meet with Vajid ‘Ali Shah. The king, aware of the appeal for his Sunni military men of the mawlavi's brand of communalist militancy, wished to pacify him, offering him a robe of honor and pledging to send Rs. 15,000 to Mecca on his behalf. He may also have promised him that a mosque would be built at the side of the temple. In a flash of lower-middle-class pride, the mawlavi told, the king that he was not a revenue collector, to accept a robe of honor.
When news of the commission's findings broke, Mawlavi Amir ‘Ali left for his qasabah base again with two hundred men, in protest. Court emissaries failed to convince him to return to the capital, but he did agree to wait one month to see if the mosque was restored at the Hanumangarhi. Outram, meanwhile, worried that Vajid ‘Ali Shah's Muslim troops, approving of the mawlavi's cause, might well refuse to fight him. Vajid ‘Ali's own proposal for compromise involved building a small mosque onto the side of the temple to the monkey-god, with its own door entering from the side, thus preserving the building's sanctity for Hindus while meeting Muslim demands. But the Hindu Vairagis, or holy men, at the temple rejected the proposal out of hand. In the meantime the king began pressuring prominent ulama to support the government in the face of the challenge posed to it by the holy-war movement.
The Sunni warriors thought that the king considered Hindus a protected minority (dhimmi ) in Shi‘i law and that he held holy war (jihad ) forbidden during the Occultation. Vajid ‘Ali may have held the first belief, but the Usuli ulama did not. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali denied protected-minority status to Hindus, as idolaters. Rather, the Mughal, Hanafi tradition sometimes extended protection to Hindus. The Imamis did hold that in the absence of the sinless Imam no one could lead an offensive war. From Buyid times, however, Shi‘is recognized the possibility of defensive holy war, and Usulis in Iraq and Iran emphasized defensive jihad in the nineteenth century in response to the Russian threat to lran. Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi permitted holy war in the time of the Occultation whenever the lands of Islam were attacked. No such grave situation existed in Faizabad, however, so that Shi‘is did not phrase their calls for retaliation against the Hindus in the idiom of holy war.
The Awadh government elicited a more specific ruling from Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi, asking:
Q. What is your guidance concerning those who go to Faizabad to fight the Hindus? For they desire to take revenge on them for their uncivilized behavior with the mosque and the Qur'an. According to the Law is it permissible for them to go there and fight, and will this be rewarded? Or is it forbidden?
A. Without the participation and aid of the customary-law ruler or the Islamic-law ruler, such actions are in no wise permissible. God knows best.
The customary-law (‘urf ) ruler was, clearly, the king, whereas the ruler in Islamic law was the Imam (which in itself provides a clue as to how the Imami clerics really perceived their Shi‘i government).
But in a later ruling Sayyid Muhammad went beyond this terse answer, replying: "Under these circumstances the order for waging the Jehad does not apply; but the sovereign has the right to build the Musjid [mosque]—and the Hindu Ryots ought not to disobey." Nasirabadi sympathized with the grievances of the jihad movement, but he wished to obviate such vigilante tactics by putting pressure on the ruler to intervene against the Hindus himself.
The resident had objected to Sayyid Muhammad's call for the king to make Hindus pay blood money for Muslims killed at the Ayodhya mosque. But he attempted to make use of his later rulings by pressuring ‘Ali Naqi Khan, in view of the chief mujtahid's prohibition on a holy war, to declare the mawlavi and his followers traitors deserving death. The chief minister warned that premature military action would cause needless bloodshed. On the other hand, Outram took strong exception to Sayyid Muhammad's call for the government to build the mosque. Vajid ‘Ali Shah denied any intention of forcibly building a mosque at the temple site, but called ridiculous Hindu claims to whatever ground their monkey-god had trod.
With the arrival of October the resident handed the king a warning that he would be held personally responsible if he attempted to build a mosque next to the temple or if he allowed Muslims to attack Hindus. Dalhousie and Outram were warning him that his kingdom would be annexed unless he crushed the holy-war movement. Vajid ‘Ali Shah received the communication with emotion, pledging to do his duty. Outram speculated that the king had been relying on the British to quell any Hindu uprising. The chief minister had certainly asked for British help in fighting Amir ‘Ali, but was rebuffed. Although the volunteers in the mawlavi's militia tended to be lower
middle class and laborers, he received financial assistance from influential families, so that the movement began to pose a threat to Awadh's stability.
September, coinciding with the mourning month of Muharram, had brought fresh communal violence. To demonstrate their dissatisfaction, Muslims in Lucknow left fifteen replicas of Imam Husayn's tomb unburied. Sunnis and Shi‘is quarreled over greater Sunni willingness to employ Muharram symbols for protest. In Zaydpur the powerful Shi‘i Sayyids insisted on burying their cenotaphs, clashing with followers of Amethavi, who did not want them interred until the mosque was built at Ayodhya. In Sihala, the campaigners' base, the mawlavi's men attacked Hindus, breaking into temples to destroy their idols. Alarmed, Vajid ‘Ali belatedly agreed to order Hindu troops in Faizabad to guard the Hanumangarhi.
Mawlavi Amir ‘Ali moved gradually through small towns on the way to Faizabad. Vajid ‘Ali Shah threatened his governors and revenue officials with severe sanctions should they support the mawlavi , with some success. He knew that his Shi‘i troops at Daryabad could be depended upon to fight the campaigners if it came to that. Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi's commitment to law and order waivered when he saw that the king intended to bow to British pressure in neither punishing the Hindus involved in the massacre at the Ayodhya mosque (which the resident saw as self-defense) nor building a mosque at the temple site. Outram reported that Amir ‘Ali was said to be "urged on by the High Priest, who is reported to have replied insolently to the Minister's remonstrances."
A turning point came on about 20 October, when a group of Sunni ulama supportive of the government went to Daryabad to debate Mawlavi Amir ‘Ali. They included several employees of the Awadh government, such as Mufti Muhammad Yusuf Farangi-Mahalli and Mufti Sacdu.llah Moradabadi. Independent members of the Farangi-Mahall family adamantly backed the holy war, creating a split in the ranks of the Sunni ulama. The pro-government clerics successfully debated the mawlavi , undermining his support both among lay followers and in the king's army.
The lower-middle-class nature of the holy-war movement contributed to the unfolding tragedy. Many of the mawlavi's followers had given up their shops or service to follow him and now threatened to murder him if he did not proceed to Faizabad soon. When negotiations finally broke down on November 7, the holy warriors met the government's Shi‘i regulars, reinforced reluctantly by the private armies of Shi‘i tacalluqdars such as the Mahmudabads, and were mown down.
The Hanumangarhi dispute involved several levels of social closure. Social class and religious identity played a part, since the holy-war movement was spearheaded by lower-middle-class Sunni clerics and their followers, who had sold their shops or given up their service to join it and so had a total commitment to its sectarian goals. The resentments of these Sunnis against the wealthy Hindu rajas and merchants who supported the Hanu-mangarhi was fueled by Sunni loss of power in Shi‘i Awadh and by growing Hindu political influence. Amethavi's sectarian movement, in addition, attracted the support of Sunni ulama and notables not closely connected with the Awadh court, echoing the appeal thirty years earlier of Sayyid Ahmad Rai-Barelavi to some of the same, out of power, groups.
The conflict caused a split within the ruling Shi‘i establishment. The Usuli ulama and their followers supported Amethavi's demands even while deploring his vigilante tactics. The central officers of the state in Lucknow and Faizabad, on the other hand, sought compromise. Barred from that course by British support for the Hindus, they acquiesced in the resident's demand that they destroy Amethavi's movement. The British showed "evenhandedness" in affirming Hindu rights, partially out of a hard-nosed political calculation of the consequences of a major Hindu-Muslim clash in Awadh. Convinced that the majority Hindus might well win or provoke a major conflict that would draw in British forces, they forced the Muslim government to give up its privileges. Hindus sensed British support for their position, which may have made them more assertive and intransigent.
Communal relations in Awadh under eighteenth-century nawabs differed greatly from those under the "shahs" of the mid-nineteenth century. Asafu'd-Dawlah gave privileges to Hindu holy men as well as Muslim ones, to Hindu pilgrims to Allahabad as well as Shi‘i pilgrims to Karbala. Communal relations, hardly idyllic, nevertheless depended on Mughal traditions of personal status, which affirmed Muslim superiority but recognized the right of Hindus to exist. Mediators among religious communities, in the form of Sufi pirs and Hindu holy men, abounded and even won influence at court.
The Usuli ulama sought to rationalize communal relations on a different basis. They claimed a special, exclusive relationship with Shi‘i laymen (including notables), who were bound to emulate them in matters of law and ritual, and countenanced no competition from Sufis or Hindu holy men.
They legally excluded Hindus from a legitimate status under the Awadh state, although they had few means until the 1840s to interfere in the actual workings of communal law. Their demand for the social exclusion of Hindus as ritually impure idolaters received scant response from the Shi‘i-ruled state, which depended on Hindu elites to help it rule. In the process of socially excluding Hindus, ironically, Shi‘is adopted an idiom that made them more like a caste.
The contradictory policy advocated by Shi‘i ulama toward Sunnis involved the exclusion of hard-line Sunnis like the Naqshbandis, leniency toward Sunnis who participated in Muharram rituals, and a political alliance with Sunnis against Hindus. Ironically, the challenges to Shi‘i dominance in Awadh came, not from Hindus, but from Sunni sectarian movements, such as those of Sayyid Ahmad Rai-Barelavi and Amir ‘Ali Amethavi. Usuli insistence on cursing the caliphs, more strident after the inception of the Shi‘i kingdom, alienated many Sunnis and helped provoke a backlash. Violently anti-Sunni policies of the Awadh government in the 1820s and 1830s gave way under both external British and internal pressures to more juridical forms of exclusion in the 1840s and 1850s. Both Usuli communalist policies at the center and increasing decentralization in the countryside, implying greater power for Hindu rajas and merchants, help explain Sunni frustrations in the 1850s.
The Mujtahids and the West: From Accommodation to Annexation and Revolt
The growth of a Shi‘i state and of a Shi‘i religious establishment in Awadh occurred at a time of European colonial expansion, giving events there a unique twist. The Safavids and the medieval Indian Shi‘i states dealt with mercantilist Europeans, but their main foes were Sunni land-based powers. From late in the eighteenth century, Nishapuri Awadh, like Qajar Iran, moved primarily in a diplomatic, military, and economic world dominated by the British. Both Iran and Awadh allied themselves with the British in the face of external threats (the Russians for Iran, the Marathas and Afghans for Awadh), and both saw their British ally become itself a threat to their independence. Awadh, uncomfortably close to Calcutta, felt British influence and pressure more acutely than did Iran. The British residents in Lucknow became far more than ambassadors, gaining influence over Awadh notables, over government monies, and over the Awadh military's hired British troops.
The British encirclement of Awadh raises the question of how the Shi‘i religious establishment responded to the European presence from the late eighteenth century through annexation and the revolt ("Mutiny") of 1857-59. Some important Shi‘i ulama in Iran took a strong anti-Russian line in the 1820s, although the full story of their complex relations with the Western powers in the first half of the nineteenth century has yet to be told. How did
Awadh's Shi‘i ulama view British power, British economic imports, and the impact of mercantile and then industrial capitalism? How did they respond to British interference in Awadh's internal affairs, and how did they react to the 1856 annexation? What role did the Shi‘i ulama play in the Awadh revolt of 1857-59? These crucial questions appear not to have been posed, much less answered.
The British Impact
The strategic decision Awadh's rulers made from 1766 to ally themselves with the Bengal-based British East. India Company proved fateful. Since their treaty with the EIC limited their armed forces, the nawabs had to rely on the British for their own external security. The East India Company remained a highly ambiguous ally, and the nawabs found themselves riding a tiger. The Nishapuris did draw some benefit from the alliance. In 1774 Shujacu'd-Dawlah drew the British into helping him annex the Ruhilkhand. Twenty years later Asafu'd-Dawlah again mounted a joint venture, the invasion of Rampur. On the negative side of the ledger, however, Barnett has demonstrated that after 1775 the governor-general's demands on the Awadh treasury for tribute grew insatiable. By 1779 the sums demanded quadrupled, amounting to half the gross income of the nawabi government. Awadh notables responded by hiding revenue locally, resisting further British demands.
At the same time that the East India Company attempted to extract revenue from the nawabi government, private British traders sought profits through penetrating the region's markets. Early British residents in Lucknow gained a monopoly over Awadh's most lucrative export, saltpeter for the manufacture of gunpowder. Shujacu'd-Dawlah, conscious of the Bengal precedent, strove to keep EIC and private merchants out of his realm, with only mixed success. The Commercial Treaty of 1788 disengaged the residents from such enterprises, but opened the way for increased European private trade. Private merchants, excluded from the rich Bengal market by the com-
pany, expanded into Awadh. Merchants trading in textiles or indigo built up alliances with local magnates or actually exercised political power in the towns that produced the commodities in which they traded.
Marshall has shown how imports into Awadh from Bengal doubled in the period 1786-1796, and Awadh's exports to Calcutta increased about five times during the same period to five million rupees. Europeans fostered and carried on much of the trade. The value of cheap Awadh piece goods exported from Calcutta grew six times in 1786-1796, to three million rupees. Raw cotton constituted another important export, and indigo cultivation spread into the Doab region of Awadh in this period. High duties and frequent local imposts, in addition to the ever-present fear of arbitrary, expropriation, often made life miserable for the European merchants involved in this rapid trade expansion. They "loudly" complained to the resident of infractions against the Commercial Treaty, and of high duties in Awadh despite their permits from the Commercial Office.
Awadh's incorporation into the world market proceeded unevenly. In 1801 Governor-General Wellesley annexed nearly half of the region from Nawab Sacadat ‘Ali Khan on the pretext that the nawab's government had fallen hopelessly behind on payment of its tribute to Calcutta and only annexation could ensure revenues for the British. The move left the nawab "reserved territories" surrounded on three sides by the British and on one by Nepal and the Himalayas. Wellesley thereby ended the subsidiary alliance, disencumbering the British of many obligations. Thirty-five years earlier, officials of the East India Company felt too weak to absorb Awadh, needing time to consolidate their hold on Bengal. They then found that threats such as the Marathas and the Afghans could be dealt with by British and British-trained arms, and the need for Awadh as a buffer state correspondingly declined. Mukherjee has stressed the futility of attempting to separate economic and imperial motives in the annexation. Wellesley acted to ensure the receipt of huge revenues, as well as for strategic advantages. The British probably took too seriously, for example, the threat of an invasion from Afghanistan.
The 1801 annexation left old Awadh not only divided between two states but also partitioned into two economies. Awadh under its Indian rulers remained a stable agrarian state with successful rainfall-based agriculture producing an abundance of grain for local consumption and regional export.
The Ceded Provinces, however, underwent rapid and radical evolution. Within a year of cession raw-cotton exports to China jumped, and finished textile goods slumped as a proportion of the total exports. The class structure of the annexed area began to change. British officials insisted that large landholders back up their revenue assignments by bank credit, strengthening immeasurably the hand of the bankers and moneylenders who guaranteed the revenues, and often allowing them to foreclose in bad years. This policy transformed some petty tax-farmers into landholders at the expense of village holders.
Peasants began cultivating indigo extensively for export through Calcutta. Cheap British broadcloth began to affect the weavers in North India after 1800, though it hardly wiped them out, and it had a larger impact from 1833. In the first decade of the century, increased imports of manufactured cloth, twist, and yarn from an England undergoing the Industrial Revolution hurt spinners and began to depress the local cotton market. But with the end of the Napoleonic wars, European demand for raw cotton rose, and its cultivation in the Ceded Provinces spread rapidly, The British gradually incorporated the annexed half of old Awadh into the world market as a producer mostly of raw materials. Although from 1815 to 1828 such cash-crop agriculture grew lucrative, it also proved subject to cycles of boom and bust. The depressed cotton and indigo markets after 1828 created a crisis that drought years like 1833 exacerbated.
Although nawabi Awadh did not altogether escape the penetration of European capital and the influx of cheap British manufactures, it remained a far less open market than the Doab. In 1830 the British resident in Lucknow lamented the demise of the 1788 Commercial Treaty. Landholders exacted imposts on goods passing through their estates, and the government taxed British merchandise heavily. Between the British commercial center Kanpur and Lucknow, only fifty miles away, a merchant bearing Manchester's textiles had to pay taxes to twenty different landlords in addition to a duty charged for entering the capital. British goods cost double in Lucknow what they did in Kanpur. Still, the demand for English manufactures remained considerable.
The Response of the Shi‘i Ulama to the West
European domination in North India provoked a severe crisis of identity for the Muslim notable classes who formerly ruled the area. Sunni landholders and administrators in Delhi watched helplessly as the British extended their rule to the former capital in 1803. Religious spokesmen for these classes in decline, such as the Sunni Sufi Shah ‘Abdu'l-‘Aziz Dihlavi, declared in exasperation that India had become a Realm of War (daral-harb ) for Muslims. The commands of the Mughal emperor were ignored, Christians controlled taxes and criminal justice, municipal authorities could level mosques, and Muslims like Vilayati Begam of Farrukhabad could come to the capital only with the permission of the Christian British authorities. In Hyderabad, Awadh, and Rampur Muslim rulers had capitulated to the British. Dihlavi admitted that the British allowed Friday congregational and holy day prayers to be held, but said this alone could not make British India a Realm of Peace (daras-salam ) for Muslims. Shah ‘Abdu'l-‘Aziz, in redefining the political environment, did not call for holy war against the British, something some of his young disciples would later consider. Rather, he seems to have aimed primarily at allowing Sunnis to charge interest on loans, which they could do in a Realm of War.
The Shi‘i ulama in what was left of Awadh perceived the situation differently. First, they continued to see the nawabs of Awadh as Muslim rulers (and, until the 1819 declaration of independence, as first ministers of the Mughal Empire). The Imami jurists rejected the notion that they were under de facto British rule. Lucknow's chief Shi‘i ecclesiastic, Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali Nasirabadi, divided the lands of India into three sorts, those under the dominion of the Sunni Mughal emperor (including Awadh), those ruled by unbelievers against whom Muslims must war (e.g., Punjab under the Sikhs), and those ruled by the Christian British. He commended the British for dealing with Muslims according to Muslim, including Shi‘i, laws. Although this paragraph described the actual situation, it might be noted that the three areas mentioned conformed to the traditional Muslim legal categories of the Realm of Peace, where Muslims ruled, the Realm of War, where defiant infidels held sway, and the Realm of Truce (dar as-sulh ), where People of the Book ruled and were in treaty relations with Muslims. Nasirabadi, however, did not explicitly use this last term.
Since Shi‘is believed contact with non-Shi‘is to be polluting, the Euro-
pean presence in North India presented them with social difficulties. Nasirabadi, asked about the propriety of attending a banquet (sur ) thrown by Christians or Jews, said to avoid it. A believer asked him if one might pray in stockings (muzah ) brought from Europe. He equivocated, saying that the most renowned stance on this issue was that anything received from an unbeliever is ritually impure, but he added that the question was not altogether resolved. But in another case he ruled that one might buy a cloak from foreigners, and might pray in it before washrag it.
Was it permissible, someone queried, to usurp the belongings of Christians, People of the Book, or unbelievers, through ruse and fraud, causing them financial damage? Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali replied that one could not use the wealth of others without strong grounds. He said he had seen no evidence for such behavior with the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) and other sorts of unbeliever in the time of the Imam's Occultation. The Lucknow prayer leader's conservative attitude toward private property even overruled his conviction of Muslim superiority.
When Nasirabadi's upper-class friends pressed him for a ruling on the legality of working for the British as tax collectors, secretaries, police, attorneys, and physicians, he expressed reservations, though he did not absolutely forbid it. A man asked him whether it was permitted to keep the company of and enter into the employ of Christians. He pointed out that the British surrounded and dominated them, and the notables found it difficult if not impossible to get along without their favor. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali responded that the employment must not involve the commission of forbidden acts, such as murder or the purchase of liquor or pork. If the work simply consisted of performing a service for a Christian, such as writing a book for him or tailoring his clothes, it was entirely proper. But he found it difficult to sanction full-time salaried employment with a European, owing to the Qur'an verse "And God will not grant the unbelievers any way over the believers" (4:140). Yet he could not pronounce such employment altogether forbidden (haram ).
This answer, given in the first decade of the nineteenth century, demonstrates the ambivalence Awadh's Shi‘is felt in seeking employment with the East India Company. Economic necessity forced many notables and small landholders into such a career, particularly after the cession of 1801. Some preferred to work for the nawab. The brothers Taju'd-Din Husayn Khan and Subhan ‘Ali Khan collected revenue for the East India Company at Agra in the opening years of the nineteenth century, acquiring a knowledge of British procedures. Nawab Sacadat ‘Ali Khan requested that Taju'd-Din Husayn Khan come to Awadh, where he hired him at Rs. 300 per month.
Subhan ‘Ali Khan, envious, asked some notables at Lucknow to intercede with him for the Nawab, who at length offered him a smaller salary of Rs. 200 per month because he asked for the job.
The Shi‘i families that were clustered in Banaras division and in the upper Doab, living under British rule, had more incentive than the subjects of the nawabs to establish links with the East India Company. Mawlavi Zakir ‘Ali Jaunpuri (d. 1796) tutored one of the residents in Lucknow. Sayyid Gulshan ‘Ali Jaunpuri (1800-74), trained in Lucknow by Usuli students of Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali, served as a judge in British-ruled Jaunpur, then as a revenue collector in the area. He subsequently took a post with the local government of the Maharaja of Banaras. He visited Iraq twice, in 1844 and 1864-71, the second time serving as the deputy resident for the British in Baghdad. His youngest son, Sayyid Muhammad Hashim, went to England to study mathematics in 1872, serving for a time as a revenue collector (tahsildar ) for the British government in Jalaun and Agra.
Even religiously committed Shi‘is from within nawabi Awadh often had dealings with the British or emigrated to find employment with them. Mir Hasan ‘Ali (d. 1858) of Lucknow, whose father led prayers in the household of Awadh administrator Almas ‘Ali Khan, taught British officers Arabic in Calcutta, then taught Urdu in the Military College, Addiscombe, in England in 1810-16, where he married an Englishwoman. They lived in Lucknow for a while, then he served as revenue collector for the British in Kanauj. He later took up employment briefly with Hakim Mihdi ‘Ali Khan, an Awadh notable who had indigo interests in Farrukhabad. Mir Hasan ‘Ali's English wife divorced him when she discovered that he had another wife. A pensioner of the British government, he moved back to Lucknow in 1843, where he accepted a post with the Awadh rulers.
An even more striking example of this phenomenon, S. Muhammad Quli Kinturi (1773-1844), derived from a landed family in the small town of Kintur in Bara Banki. He traveled widely as a youth, in search of knowledge, and trained in Lucknow with Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali as an Usuli mujtahid. In 1806 he hired on with the British government of Delhi in the parganah of Meerut as a court official. Ultimately rising to principal sadramin (able to judge property disputes up to Rs. 5,000), he gave legal .judgments in criminal cases accord-
ing to Shi‘i law—something he could not have done at that time even in Awadh. At his peak he earned Rs. 400 per month at the post, retiring in 1841.
Shi‘i clerics expressed few anti-British sentiments as long as the East India Company respected Shi‘i law and maintained all alliance with the Shi‘i nawab of Awadh. In Bengal, ulama teaching at the Hooghly College, in-eluding Shi‘is, actively sought m attend the government's public audiences (darbars ) and m receive robes of honor from the East India Company. In contrast, Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali forbade ulama in Awadh m accept robes of honor from the nawab's government, claiming that this practice befitted soldiers but demeaned the high station of mujtahids, the general representatives of the hidden Twelfth Imam.
Perhaps because of the increasing number of Shi‘is who worked for the British, one of Lucknow's chief mujtahids gave a ruling in the 1830s that strongly justified taking employment with foreigners. Asked to what extent one might earn one's living through Christians, he replied that as long as one did not become an accomplice m any forbidden act, working on a salaried basis for the British in such fields as revenue collection was permitted. (Note that Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali had not sanctioned taking a salary from Christians.) The mujtahid ruled that although disapproval attaches to performing even permitted acts for unjust rulers (hukkam-ijawr ), the disapproval is lifted if one does so to aid Shi‘is. The attitude of the Shi‘i hierarchy on this issue changed over time. They originally questioned its propriety, but allowed it in the 1830s.
The religious scholars also changed their position on loaning money on in-
terest to Christians. Someone asked Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali if he might take interest on loans to idolaters (Hindus) and to the People of the Book (Jews and Christians). Nasirabadi replied that Shi‘i scholars had reached a consensus that interest could be taken from idolaters. But they differed over whether it could be charged People of the Book. He offered his own ruling that the most cautious path was therefore not to take interest from Jews and Christians. The influx of British capital into North India, first through private traders in 1785-95, and then through the East India Company as well from 1801, created many opportunities for local bankers and moneylenders. British insistence that bank credit secure revenue assignments likewise strengthened these classes.
Shi‘i merchants and moneylenders also wished to profit from these opportunities, the more scrupulous of them with pangs of conscience. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali refused to assuage their guilt. Unlike the Shi‘i high ulama in Iraq and Iran, who had increasingly close ties with the bazaar classes, in Awadh the clerical establishment subsisted on the patronage of large landholders, responding mostly to their concerns.
Many Shi‘i long-distance merchants regularly lent and borrowed on interest, but the practice could cause them problems if cases went to Muslim religious courts. An example is the case of Mirza Riza, the son of Hajji Karbala'i Muhammad Tihrani, versus the heirs of Hasan Riza Khan, the former chief minister of Awadh. In the late 1780s Hajji Karbala'i lent Hasan Riza Khan Rs. 228, 436 as part of the Rs. 700,000 Awadh government donation for the building of the canal to Najaf. Mirza Riza presented letters in court, appearing to be from the chief minister, promising to repay the loan in November of 1792. Both debtor and creditor died before any further transaction took place. Mirza Riza attempted to recoup the loss from the late chief minister's estate through the government courts of Nawab Sacadat ‘Ali Khan in 1806. He asked the Iranian ruler Fath-‘Ali Shah to intervene with Awadh's nawab on his behalf, and the Qajar monarch wrote to his fellow Shi‘i ruler supporting Mirza Riza's claims
Nawab Sacadat ‘Ali Khan turned the case over to the mufti of the religious court, probably the Farangi-Mahalli Mawlavi Zuhuru'llah (d. 1840). Mirza Riza claimed the principal of Rs. 228,436, in addition to Rs. 150,010 interest. The mufti of the court rejected the claim on several grounds. First, he said, the dates of the copies of the letters and the replies presented as evi-
dence were confused and therefore they were of suspect authenticity. Second, the precise kind of money loaned was not specified. Third, the taking of interest on loans was prohibited according to Islamic law.
Especially in the period 1815-30 developments occurred among the propertied Shi‘is that impelled them to accept interest on loans to Europeans, though no Islamic court would have permitted interest charges among Usuli Shi‘is. The changes in the relationship between the British economy and that of India brought about by the Industrial Revolution, creating a world-dominating textile industry, strengthened the hand of the East India Company. The company, formerly merely a government-backed enterprise of circulating merchant capital, evolved into an instrument in the expansion of industrial imperialism. The terms of the game changed radically. Awadh's landed classes, sensitive to this evolution, began to perceive the insecurity of their traditional landholding forms of wealth in the new environment.
At the same time, the East India Company began its costly war in Nepal in 1814-16. Nawab Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar acquiesced in November of 1814 to the company's request for a loan of Rs. 10 million to help defray the expenses of the war. Ten individuals or families, mostly relations of the nawab, received the Rs. 600,000 in interest payments each year. Four months later Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar agreed to second loan of Rs. 10 million on similar terms. In 1825 the same ruler responded favorably to the governor-general's request for yet another loan of Rs. 10 million at the low rate of 5 percent interest, again payable by the resident to notables and relatives of the court.
These arrangements began the creation of a class of rentiers depending on payments from interest to supplement the income from their less stable landed wealth (which took the form of jagirs that could be expropriated at will by later Awadh rulers). The: British government guaranteed the stipends to the recipients and their descendants. The creditors hardly demonstrated much business sense by the low, fixed interest rates they charged. The recipients, transformed into a strange mixture of Mughal-style nobility and new bourgeoisie, passively subsisted on the periphery of the growing world market.
Although Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar earlier showed no scruples about making the loans, in contravention of Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali's ruling. when Iris treasury got low he suddenly evinced pangs of conscience. In May 1826 Lord Amherst informed the resident in Lucknow that yet another five million rupees would be needed to wind up the Nepal war. Ricketts pledged to open
negotiations, warning that drought and recalcitrant landholders (who for the first time in years did not have to worry about facing British troops in aid of government revenue collectors, owing to a policy change) had impoverished the Awadh treasury. Ricketts's talks proved successful, but Amherst felt he was doing the nawab a favor in any case. Ricketts wrote on 25 July, "Your remark that the money has been drawn from unproductive coffers is strictly correct, and so far His Majesty in point of fact is a gainer by the transaction; but the Sacrifice of his Religious tenets, which forbid interest being received, throws this advantage completely into the Shade in His eyes."
Later Awadh governments continued the practice of making loans to the East India Company, investing the interest received in religious grants to the Shi‘i shrine cities of Iraq or in public works in Awadh. Muhammad ‘Ali Shah, whom the British resident placed on the throne by armed force in 1837, initiated an ambitious building program. Soon after he acceded to the throne he spent Rs. 200,000 to have the Husaynabad Imambarah built not far from the Great Imambarah. Fearing that his good deed might fall into disrepair after his death, he wished to place the Imambarah and mosque complex under the guarantee of the British government so as to ensure the regular payment of the religious functionaries.
Finding the British unwilling to give such guarantees gratis, the king proposed to sweeten the deal by putting Rs. 900,000 in a 4.5 percent loan in perpetuity. The resident, Lt. Col. Caulfield, enthusiastically recommended that the governor-general accept the proposition, the interest demanded being so low that it was unlikely to embarrass a powerful state in the future. Moreover, part of the interest would go to Muhammad ‘Ali Shah's sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, and other dependents and relatives. Caulfield reasoned that to have a large number of notables financially dependent on the British Government would assure their loyalty and help insure more information from the interior of Awadh. Of the interest, Rs. 19,200 would pay servants to attend the Imambarah and keep its road in repair, and Rs. 6,000 per month was set aside to maintain the canals. With the sums devoted to relatives and servants, the total came to Rs. 36,000 per annum.
The deal was finally concluded, with the terms slightly altered in favor of the British. Muhammad ‘Ali Shah invested Rs. 1,200,000 at only 4 percent interest, yielding dividends of Rs. 48,000 per year to be divided between the persons named and the Husaynabad Imambarah, Rs. 24,000 being car-
marked for the edifice. The king did not name Shi‘i ulama as trustees of the Imambarah and its mosque, that honor going to the high notables Sayyid Imam ‘Ali Khan and ‘Azimu'llah Khan, and their descendants after them.
The new forms of wealth available to members or the Awadh ruling class had the slight disadvantage of being forbidden by their religion. But they apparently felt they had little alternative. The British blocked Awadh's prospects of territorial expansion, and social and economic structures within the country tended to inhibit both commercial agriculture and new industrial enterprises. Most of the soil was unsuited to cash crops like cotton, and tacal-luqdar , landholders imposed high duties on the transport of goods. Awadh notables found making loans at 5 percent interest, however religiously illicit, an attractive way of investing the wealth they extracted from Hindu peasants and rural landholders. Other Muslim governments in this period, such as Egypt, invested state funds in military modernization, state-owned industries, and in the expansion of cash-crop cultivation through irrigation works. Awadh rulers demonstrated no such dynamism, perhaps because they had already been too constricted by the British presence.
Some few Awadh notables, dissatisfied with being rentiers, sought to enter the ranks of the new bourgeoisie. Hakim Mihdi ‘Ali Khan Kashmiri, from a family in Kashmir that came to Delhi early in the eighteenth century and married into a clan of Sufi leaders, joined the circle of the new businessmen. Mihdi's father went to Faizabad from Delhi in the time of Asafu'd-Dawlah, and after his death Mihdi emerged as a renowned physician catering to Lucknow's notables. He saved enough money to begin contracting as a revenue collector, taking on the district of Muhammadi under Nawab Sacadat ‘Ali Khan. Growing wealthy in Muhammadi, Hakim Mihdi began taking on other districts, including Khayrabad, Bahraich, and Gonda. In 1819 he fell out with Ghaziyu'd-Din .Haydar's chief minister, Agha Mir, who ordered him from the capital to Khayrabad. He went, fearful of treachery, buying up land in neighboring British Farrukhabad and remitting Rs. 800,000 over the border. At an opportune time he slipped across, escaping the mulcting he would otherwise have faced had Agha Mir deposed and arrested him.
In Farrukhabad, the indigo market beckoned:
The prospect of quick profit attracted fortune-hunters. To mention a few names, there was George Mercer who had one or two indigo factories in Aligarh in 1810. By 1826 Mercer and Co. had extended their general trading activities to the districts of
Meerut, Agra, Moradabad, Farrukhabad, Bareilly, and Etawah; the total value of the assets of this firm was estimated at about a crore [ten million] of rupees. In 1820 Harm Mehdi Ali Khan, Nawab of Fatehgarh, formed a partnership in the indigo business with William Morton.
Morton probably brought Hakim Mihdi in as a means of raising money, an alternative to simply borrowing it. Mihdi ‘Ali Khan also set up a shawl factory employing three hundred workers and brought in wool from Kashmir. The transformation of this Kashmiri family, over three generations, from Sufi leader to physician to tax-farmer to agricultural capitalist and textile magnate was so sudden that it left intact many traditional values. The Hakim maintained great respect for Shi‘i ulama, building a congregational prayers mosque in Farrukhabad and giving patronage from 1824 to Shi‘i ulama from a Kashmiri background.
Both the move of the ruling class into the role of banker for the East India Company and the involvement of some notables in the British-ruled Ceded Provinces in cash-crop agriculture created a new economic atmosphere, presenting difficulties for the Shi‘i ulama who served these classes in transition. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali, writing before most of these developments, had cautioned against taking interest on loans to Europeans. But in the early 1830s his son Sayyid Muhammad, the chief mujtahid in Lucknow, resolved the issue by reversing his father's ruling. Asked if interest might be taken from Jews, Christians, Hindus, and Sufi Muslims, Sayyid Muhammad replied that interest could be taken from polytheists by consensus and that Sufis could be considered polytheists. As to Jews and Christians, he added, jurists differed, but the clearest view in his opinion was that they could be charged interest. Since most Sunnis were Sufis in Awadh, according to this ruling wealthy Shi‘is could loan on interest to almost the entire population of the country, excluding only a small minority of other Shi‘is.
The ideas about society borne by Shi‘i mujtahids were thus neither traditional (Usulism was a new school in Awadh) nor static. Like Christianity in Europe's own age of commercial expansion, Imami Shi‘ism demonstrated an ability to adapt itself to modern capitalism. As the patrons of the jurisprudents became more bourgeois, so too did the social ideology proclaimed by the clerical establishment.
Shi‘i clerics accommodated themselves to many things Western, but the professional clergy rejected modern science. On the other hand, as we have seen, upper-class Shi‘i intellectuals, such as Tafazzul Husayn Khan Kashmiri or Sayyid Muhammad Hashim Jaunpuri, often took an interest in Western learning. Some scientific works were translated into Persian, one Mazhar ‘Ali receiving a prize from the Asiatic Society of Bengal for his Persian treatise on cosmography, which contained a section on Western, Copernican conceptions. But one of Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi's sons, Sayyid ‘Ali Akbar, wrote a tract entitled "The Firm Proof in Refutation of the Motion of the Earth," which typified the attitude of the clerical establishment. Sayyid Muhammad himself felt secular sciences to be secondary, holding the religious sciences the most important of all. The attitude of many in Awadh was summed up by the Moradabad notable who told Colonel Sleeman that telescopes were nonsense if they revealed things contrary to the Qur'an. When in the 1850s rumors of the telegraph swept Awadh, the Shi‘i ulama openly derided the invention as impossible, to their later embarrassment."
Some Muslim reformers in North India, of course, did accept European science. The Sunni reformist thinker Sayyid Ahmad Khan, who began by rejecting the Copernican revolution, later in life firmly adopted modern scientific views, espousing a thoroughgoing rationalism that opponents stigmatized as "naturism." Another of Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi's sons, Sayyid ‘Ali Muhammad "Taju'l-‘Ulama'," vigorously attacked Sayyid Ahmad Khan's rationalist Qur'an commentary.
Ulama engaged in intellectual contest with the West an another front: polemics against Christian missionaries. Most of these polemics, written in Arabic or Persian in a rationalist, Usuli style, have yet to be rediscovered or analyzed. One incident does shed light on the sorts of encounters Shi‘is had with Christians in Awadh. The missionary Joseph Wolff in 1833 told Awadh king Nasiru'd-Din Haydar that Christ would return in only a few years, and that he knew the date (1847). The sovereign arranged a public debate between the missionary and Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi, in which Wolff interpreted the Book of Daniel to show the imminence of Christ's coming. Sayyid Muhammad, who knew the Gospels in Arabic, replied that Christ had said that no man knew the hour or the day of his return. Wolff cleverly retorted that he did not claim to know the hour and the day, only the year. Sayyid Muhammad insisted that the phrase denied all such precise knowledge. This inconclusive encounter prompted the writing of several defenses of Shi‘ism from Christianity from a rationalist Usuli perspective in the late 1830s that influenced the terms of Christian-Muslim debate for the rest of the century.
In contrast to the fiery anti-British polemics produced by some Muslims, the attitude of the Shi‘i high ulama in Awadh to the Europeans was one of gradual accommodation, Some of those trained in Lucknow as mujtahids worked for the British directly as judges or even revenue officers. Even official clerics of the Awadh government slowly allowed more interaction with the foreigners, legitimizing loans to them and ultimately permitting salaried work for them. The families of the high ulama often acquired stock in the East India Company, or depended for patronage upon notables whose stipends derived from interest on loans to it. They appear to have considered the British honorable treaty allies, a view reflecting the policy of state. They rejected some British ways and nineteenth-century European science, even forbade some kinds of imported manufactures. But the xenophobia of a non-European clerisy did not extend to the political sphere before the 1840s.
The Mujtahids and the British Residents, 1842-1856
As the Shi‘i clerics moved into public office in the 1840s, they became increasingly identified with a regime constantly threatened by the expansionist designs of mid-nineteenth-century British imperialism. As government servants in the judiciary, the ulama came into conflict with British administrators who wished either to annex Awadh or to rule it by proxy. Many of the high ulama had investments in British government securities, and so hardly acted in a consistently anti-British fashion. Their disputes with the British focused on structural matters, such as the shape of the alliance with Calcutta and the degree of influence the Europeans would have over Awadh affairs.
Under Amjad ‘Ali Shah the trend was toward decentralization in the countryside, where great landholders often rebelled, loyal tacalluqdars lending their private armies to fight the recalcitrant ones. The British perceived this segmentary political system as anarchy, but the Awadh elites felt their realm to be in good order. Since the British Government of India had set limitations on the Awadh army and in any case would make immediate demands on any revenue realized beyond the normal, no administration had any impetus to attempt to impose more order.
In some ways Amjad ‘Ali Shah surprised the British resident, who had heard of his fierce Shi‘ism. When the resident placed the crown on the new monarch's head, he informed the king that past governors-general had objected when Awadh rulers proposed to entitle themselves ghazi (fighter for the Faith). Low reported that the "King replied, that as he is—and 'he thanked God for it' (that, was the expression he made use of) under the protection of, and entirely dependent upon the British Gov't, he saw the impropriety of his having such a word as Ghazee on his seal." The following year the astonished resident, Shakespear, wrote that Muharram had passed without major incident, though most in Lucknow had expected a clash, given the new monarch's unyielding Shi‘ism. On the contrary, Amjad ‘Ali Shah took measures to prevent communal riots. Whatever his personal sentiments, he had too often seen governors-general warn the Awadh government that they were prepared to take it over to present them with an excuse like public disorder in his own capital.
Amjad ‘Ali Shah, at first compliant with British wishes, eventually came into strong conflict with the resident over policy. At the beginning of his reign he offered to put Rs. 1,000,000 into another 5 percent loan to help out with the Afghan and Sikh operations. Ironically, the gradual conquest of the Punjab caused a diplomatic tiff. The news of the capture of Lahore reached
Lucknow on the tenth of Muharram, and the British wished to celebrate with an artillery salute. The king objected, but finally gave in.
The office of the chief minister became a source of contention, with Amjad ‘Ali and the chief mujtahid favoring Aminu'd-Dawlah for the post, and the resident opposing him. In 1843 the resident backed the dismissal of Aminu'd-Dawlah because of revenue shortfalls. He felt that the chief minister had been retained on the advice of the king's courtiers and of Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi. Only shortly before the monarch reaffirmed Aminu'd-Dawlah in office, "the High Priest's opinion was applied for as to the selection of a new minister, five names being sent to him, two of which (Moonawaroodawlah and Mooeenoodawlah) were given at length and the other three merely denoted by an initial letter." The resident grew so dissatisfied with the faults he perceived in the Awadh administration that he bluntly informed Amjad ‘Ali Shah that he did not intend to be present at the annual coronation ceremony that year. The king reacted with shock and asked for advice. The resident suggested that he reappoint Sharafu'd-Dawlah to the chief ministership, but Amjad ‘Ali Shah declared that this candidate's adherence to the Sunni branch of Islam "was in itself an insuperable bar to his reappointment."
The British resident, appalled at what he perceived as the disorder in the countryside and the shortfall in revenue, dismissed the Awadh government's innovations in the judicial sphere as a waste of money and a means for the deputy chief minister, Sa'idu'd-Dawlah, to mete out summary justice. Ironically, the British would later accuse the government of Awadh of lacking a judicial system. Awadh certainly possessed a functioning judiciary, however colored by communalism, at several levels of its administration. Indeed, the mujtahid judges clashed with the resident on several occasions.
With Sleeman's arrival in Lucknow as resident, conflict with the Awadh government reached a high point, and the mujtahids were drawn into these disputes. One disagreement concerned the trial of Muhammad Husayn Khan, the governor (nazim ) of Bahraich. He became indebted to Ramdut Pandey, a banker and agricultural capitalist in the district, to the amount of Rs. 80,000. What happened thereafter remains murky to this day. The gov-
ernor's detractors charged that he lured the Hindu banker to his camp, pressed him for more money, and when Pandey refused, killed him to escape the previous debt. His defenders said that Pandey himself was in arrears, and when the governor pressed him to settle his accounts he became violent and had to be killed in self-defense. The inescapable fact of the dead banker in the governor's tent, however, forced Muhammad Husayn Khan to surrender himself to Lucknow for trial. Reports reaching Sleeman from eyewitnesses among the banker's retinue stated that the governor's men cut the defenseless Hindu down and that the governor helped finish him off with a sword.
Any issue impugning the fairness of Awadh's administration immediately became grist for the British mill, aiding their quest for more control over the country. Vajid ‘Ali Shah sought to defuse the matter by having Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi, with his reputation among Shi‘is as a paragon of integrity, try the case. Sayyid Muhammad, according to his biographer, "repeatedly refused owing to his farsightedness and his friendship for the English Government." Kashmiri wrote that only when Nasirabadi received informal assurances from the governor-general that the British had no objections to his proceeding did he consent to conduct an investigation. If true, this indicates that Sayyid Muhammad had his own lines of communication to Calcutta, circumventing the resident, and that he felt confident any judgment he made would be upheld.
Sayyid Muhammad, after hearing many depositions, rejected the testimony of three eyewitnesses from Pandey's retinue that Muhammad Husayn Khan and his attendants murdered the capitalist, on the grounds that they contained minor discrepancies. He did, however, order that Pandey's goods, plundered after the killing, be returned to his family. Sayyid Muhammad's biographer noted that it would have been impermissible to make a believer pay blood money for the murder of an infidel.
Sleeman, furious at the decision, fired off a letter to Vajid ‘Ali Shah demanding custody of the three men accused of murder, saying persons of influence had shielded them. He then wrote Governor-General Dalhousie in Calcutta, criticizing the acquittal and charging that it had been engineered by the chief minister. He noted that "the Mujtahid himself, his son and brother hold high & lucrative Offices, and almost all the members of his
family enjoy stipends at the pleasure of the Sovereign & his Minister for the time being, & the present Minister has certainly been an accessory to this murder after the fact." The resident noted (correctly) that even had the chief mujtahid found Muhammad Husayn Khan guilty of killing a Hindu, he would not have punished him.
The governor-general replied that he agreed with Sleeman's assessment, but since the British Government had itself requested the governor's trial in Awadh courts, it could not very well insist on a retrial in the British judicial system. Moreover, it seems that Dalhousie had in mind a better use for the incident. He instructed Sleeman to protest the acquittal to the king and to add "that such acts as these are rapidly filling up the treasure of the King's misgovernment, which His Majesty has been already warned must end in the entire subversion of his kingly power." Sayyid Muhammad's decision assumed a disproportionate importance in that it gave substance to an image, already formed in Calcutta, of corruption in high places and tyrannical government. Vajid ‘Ali Shah defended the integrity of the chief mujtahid, who he said had passed a death sentence on one of the chief minister's servants in a murder case. He neglected to say, however, whether that case involved a Hindu as well, or was an inter-Shi‘i affair (a quite different matter). Sleeman clashed with Sayyid Muhammad on several other issues as well while he was resident.
The Awadh administration in the 1840s and 1850s fought off increasing British demands for control. The Shi‘i ulama, as judges in state employ or clients of notable patrons in government, joined the fray on the side of the Awadh monarchs. They lobbied to have their favorites installed in high posts and attempted to carry out their judicial duties without the resident's interference. The mujtahids' insistence on implementing Shi‘i law, despite its relegation of non-Shi‘is to second-class citizenship, provoked a number of clashes with "even-handed" residents. In the last such major conflict, over the Hanumangarhi, the Shi‘i ulama took the Muslim side against Hindus, but the British overruled their policy recommendations. Yet investment in British bonds and collection of interest on loans to the East India Company gave many Shi‘is, including some of the high ulama, reasons to feel ambivalent toward the British.
British interference in Awadh aimed at securing greater control of the country. Some officials of the British Government of India adopted a forward policy, aimed at absorbing Awadh altogether. Some thought (mistakenly) that a great deal of cotton could be grown in a British-controlled Awadh, and others eyed the revenue the province would provide to the indebted Government of India. In a letter written on 23 September 1855 Governor-General Dalhousie, a forward-policy advocate, showed disdain for East India Company officials in London who feared Parliament's disapproval should he annex Awadh, pointing out that it had acquiesced in other annexations. In the same letter he worried that Hindu-Muslim violence, such as occurred over the Hanumangarhi, could recur and "spread very wide." Dalhousie, knowing he had to retire from his post in favor of Lord Canning late in January 1856, pressured the Council in Calcutta to approve a draft treaty that would finalize the British take-over of Awadh. The resident, Outram, presented the treaty on 30 January to the shocked Awadh government, which later rejected it. Nine days later Dalhousie, having unilaterally annexed the country, wrote, "So our gracious Queen has 5,000,000 more subjects and £l,300,0 more revenue than she had yesterday." Nishapuri Awadh became British "Oudh."
The British take-over signaled a new order and heavy reverses for the old Shi‘i elite. On 7 February Vajid ‘Ali Shah ordered his subjects to obey the British, announcing that he would set out for London to press his claims' to the crown before Queen Victoria. He asked Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi to engage in divination to determine his chances of success. The last official act of the chief mujtahid was not one of learning or moral teaching, but one of soothsaying for a fallen order.
Shi‘is from ulama families reacted differently to the annexation. Sayyid Muhammad ‘Abbas Shushtari resigned abruptly from his judicial post, although the British offered to keep him on. On the other hand, Mawlavi Sayyid Icjaz Husayn Kinturi, head clerk of the chief minister's office, stayed on to help reorganize the bureaucracy under the British Judicial Commissioner.
In many cases, the British offered ulama families no choice of continuing in their jobs. They dismantled the Shi‘i judiciary system, though the new British rulers continued to employ some local muftis. In August 1856, after months of consultation, they abolished the Shi‘i seminary, on the grounds that it benefited only the Shi‘i community and could not serve as a vehicle of liberal instruction ("its exclusiveness and its worthlessness as a place of education"). Worried about permanently alienating the influential mujtahids, however, they offered the teaching staff and administrators reduced stipends for life, though they excluded some members of the Nasirabadi family with other sources of income.
The British stopped payment for one year, however, of these government stipends and those deriving from interest on loans, to investigate and reorganize them, and the abolition of many stipends and pensions hit some Shi‘i ulama hard. The Nasirabadi family, hurt both by the later policies of Vajid ‘Ali Shah and then of the British, desperately applied to the Oudh chief commissioner for the continuation of its government stipends:
The Moojtahid and the other members of his family were constantly setting forth their great pecuniary distress and complaining of the indignities to which they were subjected from the actions filed against them in the Civil Courts owing to their inability from want of means to pay their debts.
The chief commissioner, with the governor-general's approval, forwarded Rs. 5,000 to Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi to hold him and his family over until stipends could be regularized. He also approved British government continuation of stipends to the mujtahids at Rs. 1,977 per month, and to the Sayyids at Rs. 495 per month, noting, "These men are very influential, and have been deprived of their bread in a great measure owing to our acquisition of the country." The British also hurt many Shi‘i families by their settlement policies. They scheduled the Nasirabadis' villages to be resumed within one or two generations, inducing anxiety about how the office of chief mujtahid would continue to be funded.
Continued stipends could not salve the wounds inflicted by British annexation on the Shi‘i ulama. Once the masters of the judicial system, they now faced the threat that creditors would drag them into British courts. Sayyid Muhammad pleaded with a plaintiff to settle out of court through an informal agent, because "now, going to court means going to a Christian ruler, and a lawyer (wakil ) will be ordered to appear in a European court." The loss of prestige, wealth, and power by the Shi‘i ulama at the stroke of Dalhousie's pen could not help but cause great resentments, despite later British attempts at conciliation.
Shi‘is and the Revolt in Awadh, 1857-1859
An attempt to resurrect Nishapuri Awadh, at first within the framework of a resuscitated Mughal Empire, inflamed North India with some of the fiercest battles it has ever known. Because the uprising began among Indian troops of the British army, it has become known in Western historiography as the Sepoy Mutiny—a misnomer, since the revolt drew in the great landholders and peasants of North India, as well as the old Awadh notable class, who reconstituted their kingdom under Shi‘i leadership. The role of Shi‘is and of the Shi‘i ulama in the revolt, although raised, has never been described in detail. The accounts given by Shi‘i historians after the British victory in 1858-59, and followed by some writers in English, say that the Shi‘is participated less vigorously in the revolt because of their conviction that holy war, jihad , was illegitimate in the time of the Imam's Occultation. This assertion will be tested in the following account.
It should be said at the outset that the proposition of Shi‘i quietism, however well founded doctrinally, seems unlikely to be true. Stokes characterized 1857 as "secondary resistance," and a post-pacification revolt, a second stage on the way to modern nationalism between the violent primary resistance to colonialism of traditional elites and the organized political parties of a later time. It engaged the totality of society, throwing up new forms of leadership partially rooted in religious ideology. Mukherjee has recently characterized 1857 as both a war of religion and a war of restoration, which called upon Awadh's Muslims and Hindus to rise against Christian hegemony. Given the importance of religious ideology in the revolt, and the leading role
played by a revived Awadh nawabate, that most Shi‘is showed apathy seems an extraordinary proposition, since the British annexation of Awadh, the abolition of the seminary, and the abortive 1857 invasion of Iran all affected Shi‘is directly and adversely.
Shi‘i participation in the failed revolution can best be understood if we look at the community according to its social divisions into "orders" (tabaqat ), rather than monolithically. Tradespeople and laborers (cavamm ) in the large villages and urban centers, the Shi‘i large landholders (tacalluqdars and zamindars ) in the countryside, court notables (umara' ) based in the cities of Lucknow and Faizabad, and the Shi‘i learned men, or ulama, all reacted differently to events.
The mutiny of the Indian troops began in Meerut on 10 May 1857. These troops made for Delhi, where the garrison likewise rose up and massacred the British population, placing at the head of their revolt Siraju'd-Din Bahadur Shah II (r. 1837-57), the Mughal king the British had reduced to a puppet. On 14 May the restored emperor demanded that revenue collectors submit their taxes to him. Thereafter the troops downriver along the Ganges began revolting, as word spread of the events in Delhi.
Let us consider first of all the participation of Shi‘i commoners in the Awadh revolt. The expected conflagration came in Lucknow on 30 May, as Lucknow sepoys mutinied all night. The next day a force of five or six thousand tradesmen and laborers crossed the Gomti to loot the cantonments in coordination with the revolting troops, but, finding that Lawrence's forces had dispersed them, the crowd returned to the Husaynabad quarter and ran riot. The city crowd, drawn from the poor of the old city, must have included both Shi‘is and Sunnis as well as Hindus. A firsthand Persian account suggests that such mobs typically included some notables and Muslim sermonizers who led bands of butchers, weavers, carders, and other tradesmen, and the same source says that Shi‘i commoners participated widely in the revolt. Later, during the siege of the British residency, Gubbins often heard the cry of "Ya ‘Ali" (O ‘Ali) from the besiegers. Shi‘is, the partisans of ‘Ali, were most likely to use this war cry. Therefore, Shi‘i tradesmen, laborers, and soldiers participated in the revolt without any special reservations, and these probably represented the majority of the Shi‘i community.
Events in June raise the question of the role of Shi‘i rural magnates. The
uprising now began to spread into Awadh's interior, though many waited to see what turn events would take in Lucknow, where the British reasserted control for a few weeks. The troops at Sitapur revolted, and in that and neighboring districts the Shi‘i great landlords of Mahmudabad and Bhatwamau, joined by some Hindu rajas, issued a proclamation including an oath to fight against the British, couched in both the Shi‘i terminology of Karbala and in Hindu symbology.
On 8 and 9 June the regiments at Faizabad mutinied, forcing Europeans to flee. The troops briefly placed at their head Ahmadu'llah Shah, a Sunni Sufi leader of the Qadiri order, who had been preaching holy war against the British to avenge the martyrdom of Amir ‘Ali Amethavi (whose ill-fated holy-war movement, centered on the Hanumangarhi, had led to his massacre and that of his followers seven months earlier). After two days, however, other leadership emerged in the Faizabad area, including Raja Man Singh, a dispossessed Hindu large landholder, and Muhammad Hasan Khan, a governor under the old monarchy.
On 29 July a vanguard of revolutionaries from Faizabad and Sitapur arrived at Chinhat near Lucknow, on their way to liberate the capital; they were led by Khan ‘Ali Khan, the deputy of the Shi‘i Raja of Mahmudabad. Lawrence rode out with troops to counterattack, but returned in defeat, and was killed a few days later. Victorious rebel troops entered Lucknow, looting and plundering, and jockeying for leadership began as Ahmadu'llah Shah tried and failed to establish his own police network in Lucknow. The British retreated to the residency, facing an attack on 2 July, which they drove off with heavy fire. Especially after the fall of Lucknow, rural magnates joined the revolution in great numbers. Although Hindu rajas dominated much of the countryside, some Shi‘is played a crucial role. Mihdi Husayn, the governor of Sultanpur, emerged as the "key figure, at least in southern Awadh, for the organizing of rebel forces in the districts." Shi‘i rural leaders gave no evidence of holding back because holy war was illegitimate during the Occultation; rather, Shi‘i tacalluqdars , such as Mahmudabad and Bhatwamau, moved in the vanguard of the rural revolt.
Two groups, Shi‘i urban-based notables and the learned men, reacted in a
more complex manner to the revolt, and their behavior gave rise to the characterization of Shi‘is as quietists. Even they, however, can be shown to have supported the war, by and large. Many Shi‘i notables at first had reservations about a popular revolt, for two reasons: first, they feared for their own (considerable) property should order break down, and second, they still bore allegiance to the ancien régime of Vajid ‘Ali Shah, on his way to appeal to the queen in England.
The Shi‘i notables did not long enjoy the luxury of equivocation. The liberation of Lucknow faced them with a moment of truth, for the revolutionaries, rural landholders and their peasants and rebel Indian troops, felt a need to establish their legitimacy. They wanted a member of the Nishapuri family installed as king, but the main candidate, Ruknu'd-Dawlah, was imprisoned in the residency, and others refused. Several of Vajid ‘Ali Shah's harem officials, including ‘Ali Muhammad "Mamun" Khan, then put forth Birjis Qadar Mirza, only ten years old. The son of Vajid ‘Ali Shah by a former courtesan who belonged to the second rank of the king's wives, Birjis Qadar had the advantage of being young and malleable. His mother, Hazrat Mahall, appears to have actively sought the position of king for her son, although other wives of the: king opposed the move as disrespectful or endangering to Vajid ‘Ali Shah, interred in British-held Calcutta.
The revolutionaries wished to restore an Awadh government under Birjis Qadar in a manner consonant with the ideology of the Delhi revolt, which proclaimed a resurrected Mughal Empire. They therefore reverted to the pre-1819 formulas for Awadh rule, proclaiming Birjis Qadar a nawab rather than a shah. Shi‘is found this move easier because of their widespread conviction that Bahadur Shah II had adopted Shi‘ism around 1853. In that year the powerless king of Delhi had sent a letter to Chief Mujtahid Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi expressing his love for the family of the Prophet and declaring as non-Muslims all those who did not love them. He had an offering made on his behalf to the shrine of ‘Abbas's standard, Lucknow's holiest Shi‘i shrine. A year later he sent an envoy to Tehran, who informed Iran's Nasiru'd-Din Shah of the Mughal's adoption of Shi‘ism and his request for political support. Shi‘is probably took Bahadur Shah's subsequent denials of his Shi‘ism as pious dissimulation (taqiyyah ), whereas Sunnis believed them, making the last Mughal emperor an ideal rallying point for India's Muslims.
The child Birjis Qadar was installed as Awadh's ruler on 5 July 1857, with the understanding that he would obey the orders of the Mughal emperor in Delhi and would give the revolutionary military a say in choosing the cabinet and army commanders. The "Zafarnamah" explicitly says that Birjis Qadar was made "nawab," rather than shah, and all sources agree that one of the revolutionary leaders, Shihabu'd-Din Khan, placed a turban on his head (rather than a crown, which had also been brought as a contingency). The new government rapidly appointed its chief officers, mostly former Awadh dignitaries, threatening recalcitrant candidates with execution for British sympathies if they refused to serve. They pressed Sharafu'd-Dawlah into service as chief minister, although some Shi‘i notables objected to his being a Sunni. The Hindu Maharaja Balkishen reluctantly took over the treasury department once again. Mamun Khan became overseer of the royal household, a powerful post in a patrimonial government with a child ruler. The new government rehired displaced bureaucrats and secretaries, and issued orders to revolutionary troops to cease looting, regularizing military salaries, though plundering continued and the troops retained great power. During the next several months, many of the Shi‘i notables in Lucknow recognized the new government and supported it in one manner or another.
The revolutionary government made major assaults against the British residency on 20 July and 10 August, but never succeeded in reducing the British stronghold, though by August it held most of Awadh. Outside Awadh, the tide began to turn in favor of the British. The help that the Indians expected from Shi‘i Iran never arrived. Mamun Khan sent an emissary to Bahadur Shah, requesting his approval of Birjis Qadar's installation, but he arrived after Delhi fell to the British on 20 September, and returned to Lucknow. Mamun Khan sought to suppress news of the Mughal emperor's arrest, and proclaimed that Bahadur Shah had recognized Birjis Qadar as king, having salutes fired accordingly. His regents later minted a coin with the couplet:
The emperor [badshah ] of every body, every eye, Birjis Qadar
Struck coins in gold and silver, like the sun and the moon.
This verse indicates that after the fall of Delhi the revolutionary government reverted to claims of independent monarchy in Awadh.
The Birjis Qadar government failed to prevent the "relief" of the residency led by Havelock and Outram in late September, which opened a new front at Alambagh, and the assault of Campbell in the winter of 1857-58, which in March drove the revolutionaries out of the capital. From the autumn of 1857 the Lucknow revolutionaries had split into two camps, with the Shi‘i and Hindu notables supporting Hazrat Mahall and Mamun Khan, the child ruler's regents, whereas the Sunni intermediate strata and laboring classes went over to Ahmadu'llah Shah, who in Sufi style made grandiose claims to divinity. The two camps continued to cooperate in assaulting the British position at Alambagh. From Maich of 1858 when the British reconquered Lucknow, the competing leadership cliques established themselves in different areas of the countryside, still aided by revolting tacalluqdars and their peasants, which the British did not subdue for almost another year.
What was the relationship of the Shi‘i ulama, who once wielded such power under the Nishapuris, to the new regime? The younger Nasirabadis, although they did not regain their control over the judiciary, joined the government in various capacities. Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Nasirabadi Munsifu'd-Dawlah, in constant attendence on revolutionary leader Mamun Khan, sought to regain the post of chief justice for himself; it went instead to Mir Mihdi, the Shi‘i tutor of Birjis Qadar. Mir Mihdi, however, did employ Sayyid Muhammad Baqir as an intelligence analyst obtaining information on the movement of British troops. The revolutionaries also offered him the command of a regiment, the ‘Ali Platoon, which he delegated to his half-brother ‘Ali Muhammad Nasirabadi. Sayyid ‘Abdu'l-Husayn, another son of Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi, was listed by the British as a "mutineer." Sayyid Muhammad Taqi, son of the late Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi (d. 1856), at age forty one of the more prominent Shi‘i ulama in Awadh, constantly attended at the restored court, praying for Birjis Qadar. At the revolutionaries' request he used his knowledge of divination to name the fortunate days for attacking the Lucknow residency.
What of ulama outside the Nasirabadi family? Of twenty-three major Shi‘i ulama in Lucknow (mostly former teachers, and some students, at the abolished seminary) whom the British later investigated, twelve took salaries
from or actively served with the revolutionary government, two applied unsuccessfully for jobs (one for a command), and nine attended at court and prayed for the government's success. Mirza Muhammad ‘Ali used his influence to get for his brother command of the Fath Jang Platoon under Husamu'd-Dawlah. Sayyid Asghar Husayn and Mir Khadim Husayn were employed in the Najib battalion, and Mawlavi Hakim Hamzah ‘Ali by the assistant to Mamun Khan, as well as by the revenue office. Mawlavi Mihdi Shah served in the News/Intelligence Department. Little evidence is available about the activities of Shi‘i ulama outside Lucknow, but we do know that Jacfar ‘Ali Jarchavi (d. 1896), a renowned Qur'an reciter trained as a Shi‘i scholar in Lucknow under the Nasirabadis, was arrested with the Sayyids of his town in Bulandshahr in 1857 for participating in the revolution.
Some exceptions to Shi‘i ulama support for the revolution can be noted. Sayyid Icjaz Husayn Kinturi, an employee of the British bureaucracy, helped the British despite their tearing down his house near the residency. Sayyid ‘Ali Deoghatavi, Shi‘i prayer leader in Faizabad, denied involvement in the revolt.
The most celebrated instance of a major Shi‘i scholar keeping his distance from the revolutionary government, that of Chief Mujtahid Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi, deserves a closer look. As was noted, one of his sons had a command, another was a "mutineer," and a third served as intelligence analyst. Sayyid Muhammad himself "made constant private visits to the Begam and Brijees Kudr," bringing along his close students to pray for the success of the revolution. The government stationed guards at his house to protect him and his great wealth. Yet he refused to call for a holy war, and during the British siege in the winter of 1857-58 he expressed disapproval of the war. This seemingly contradictory behavior puzzled British intelligence agents.
A chronological approach might help. Sayyid Muhammad often attended at court in the summer and autumn of 1857, when his sons took government service. With the British siege of Lucknow that winter, however, and the increasing power of the Sunni zealot Ahmadu'llah Shah, he may have seen the handwriting on the wall. Hindu informers spying on him from November 1857 to March 1858 reported that he
refused to give his sanction to the Rebellion raging around him. He urged when called upon to grant his Futwas that this could not be sanctioned by any passage or warrant of the Koran, that war against the infidels could only be justifiable when waged by an Emam and not otherwise. It was also reported that in his own circle the Moojtahid condemned the war as quite unjustifiable and against the spirit of the Law as contained in the Koran.
The British report noted, however, that the chief mujtahid "permitted his disciples" to preach jihad , and to enter the revolutionary government's service.
Within the Nasirabadi family, therefore, a generation gap is apparent. Younger members of the family preached holy war and took jobs with Birjis Qadar's administration. Sayyid Muhammad, not given the sort of power and recognition he had in the 1840s, gave less-devoted support to the revolutionaries. Since he had given a ruling in the 1830s allowing defensive holy war when the lands of Islam were attacked, and since many Iranian mujtahids sanctioned Iran's wars against Russia earlier in the century, Sayyid Muhammad took an extremely cautious doctrinal position in 1858. Perhaps he thereby hedged his bets on whether the British would win, or the revolutionaries. Or maybe the "large sums" he held in British Government securities divided his loyalties. Finally, in refusing to recognize the struggle as a holy war, Sayyid Muhammad may have attempted to distinguish his style of religious leadership from that of Ahmadu'llah Shah. A similar conflict took place in Allahabad, where Shi‘i ulama refused to call for jihad , although the Sunni radical Mawlavi Liyaqat Husayn did so. The important point is that Shi‘is did not need the banner of holy war in order to fight against the British, which they almost universally did.
Given the prominence of Shi‘i commoners, tacalluqdars , and troops of the restored Shi‘i government in Lucknow, and of the Shi‘i ulama in the Awadh revolt of 1857-59, one can only wonder how the story of this community's ambivalence began. The answer lies in the witch-hunting atmosphere of the victorious British raj after March 1858. The British (inaccurately) put primary blame for the revolt on Muslims, and Shi‘is who wished to keep their lives and property had a strong motivation to convince the British of their innocence. British troops vindictively defiled the Great Imambarah and the Shi‘i Friday prayers mosque, turning the complex into a barracks. But the refusal of some older Shi‘i high ulama to call for a holy war served suddenly to differentiate their community from the Sunnis. The British, seeking to rebuild their ties with local elites, swallowed the lie about Shi‘i quietism with alacrity. Although British officials in Lucknow made a rather damaging circumstantial case against Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi, the governor-
general awarded the chief mujtahid his full stipend from the British government:
That which seems best supported by evidence is that he opposed the preaching of a religious war: and this, for the High Priest of Lucknow, is a great deal.
I think it not only just to give him the benefit of this, but politic; and I would seize this opportunity of finding a Mahomedan Priest who has practised moderation, and dissuaded from bloodshed & fanaticism to mark our approval of such conduct.
Sayyid Muhammad also used pro-British Shi‘i friends like Sayyid Icjaz Husayn Kinturi to pull strings for him with them. The myth of Shi‘i quietism thus cynically suited both Shi‘i ulama and notables fearful of British punishment and British officials seeking a "politic" rapprochement with local elites.
Younger members of prominent ulama families took advantage of British willingness to make up. Sayyid Ghulam Husayn Kinturi, former treasury official at the Shi‘i seminary, became deputy registrar under the deputy commissioner in Lucknow, in the chowk bazaar area. His brother-in-law and cousin, Sayyid Icjaz Husayn Kinturi, continued to work as a bureaucrat (munsarim ) for the British government of Oudh. One of Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi's sons, Sayyid ‘Ali Akbar, became the deputy commissioner for the British in Bahraich. In some ways this move into administration under the colonial masters continued earlier trends of Shi‘i ulama's becoming government judges and officials.
The Shi‘i ulama seldom showed enmity to the British in the period 1775 to 1842, gradually accommodating themselves to the presence of this European ally of their Shi‘i government. At first ambivalent about the ritual purity of British commodities, the propriety of Shi‘is working for Christians, and the legality of lending them money, they slowly came to terms with such manifestations of growing European power in the subcontinent, even investing in British securities.
In the 1840s and 1850s they came into conflict with the British government for two reasons. First, they became more intimately associated with Awadh government policy as they grew more influential and wealthy and as they gained control over the judiciary. British attempts to control or absorb Awadh became of concern to the ulama in a more direct fashion. Second, they opposed British attempts to impose an "even-handed" policy toward
Hindus on the Nishapuri rulers, as in the trial of Bahraich's governor or in the Ayodhya temple conflict.
After annexation the ulama at first sought the patronage of the British and the continuation from Awadh's new masters of the stipends and perquisites granted them by the old. The British attempted to co-opt the ulama by granting them the stipends. But they promised to do so only for a generation, and their settlement policy of taxing or resuming revenue-free grants hurt many Shi‘i learned families. The British abolished the Shi‘i judiciary and the seminary. Worst of all, they consigned the Shi‘i state, the source of the mujtahids' wealth and power, to oblivion, throwing them into heavy debt. A few rupees a month in stipends from the chief commissioner's office could never make up lost glory. Thus, the Shi‘i ulama, along with most other Shi‘is of various social stations, by and large joined in the revolt of 1857-58, though they later attempted to obscure their participation. Without the Nishapuri state the Shi‘is formed just a small minority in northern India, with their traditional privileges and forms of wealth open to being whittled away by the British and by ascendant Sunnis and Hindus.