THE RISE OF A SHI'I STATE IN AWADH
Middle Eastern Roots of Awadh Shi‘ism
To provide a background to an understanding of its place in eighteenth-century North India, Iran, and Iraq, it will be necessary to put Shi‘ism in its historical context. But first, in order better to comprehend the role of Shi‘i Islam in the cultural conflict between Asian societies and the imperial West, some general features of Middle Eastern and South Asian history since 1500 may be recalled. Although most Westerners think of the period after 1492 as a time of untrammeled Christian European expansion, they focus solely upon the New World and the oceanic trade empires, first of the Portuguese and Spanish, then of the Dutch, and finally of the French and British. If one concentrated instead on the Afro-Asian land mass, one would be struck by the startling rise of prosperous, dynamic Muslim empires. True, these empires (with the partial exception of the Ottomans) based their power on land, neglecting the maritime periphery—to their ultimate peril.
From 1500 to 1600 the Ottoman Empire expanded from Anatolia into eastern Europe and conquered Syria (1516), Egypt (1517), and Iraq (1534). The Safavid Empire, based in Azerbaijan, subdued the Iranian plateau. The Mughal Empire reached from Kabul down into the Gangetic plain, uniting most of northern India. These three Muslim states, their power based partially on borrowed Chinese and European technical advances in artillery,
each originated in a tribal alliance, which rulers replaced in time by settled bureaucracies and standing armies. They provided a Pax Islamica to the southern regions of the Old World, which encouraged trade and security, allowing a population increase in sixteenth-century Anatolia and probably elsewhere, certainly in some Arab cities. In the sixteenth century these Muslim empires experienced economic advances, territorial expansion, and religious revival.
Ottoman Istanbul, Safavid Isfahan, and Mughal Agra dazzled travelers with their splendor in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Their wealth, based primarily on agriculture and only secondarily on trade and manufactures, is indisputable. But their rulers and craftsmen borrowed technology from Europe instead of innovating, so that they gave the world few new developments in weaponry or industry. From at least the fifteenth century, Europe produced more made goods, including, for instance, silk textiles, whereas the Middle East and South Asia sent raw materials (raw silk, spices such as pepper) to Europe. But the western European edge in mechanical inventiveness and the ability to accumulate capital only manifested itself with full force after 1760. Until the late eighteenth century, manufacturing and agricultural productivity, and transportation costs and speed, did not improve dramatically in Europe.
The political and economic flowering of the three sixteenth-century Muslim empires in South and Southwest Asia had a religious impact. The Ottomans promoted the Hanafi rite of Sunni Islam as their state religion, developing a highly institutionalized and bureaucratic religious establishment. The Safavids and their Shi‘i Turkoman followers from Anatolia made Twelver Shi‘ism the religion of state and heavy-handedly imposed it on Sunni Iran. They brought in Arab Shi‘i clerics from southern Lebanon and southern Iraq to man the fledgling religious institution and relied also on notable clerical families within Iran who embraced Shi‘ism. The Mughals, originating in largely Turkish-speaking Central Asia, promoted Hanafi Sunnism. Religious ideology and a corps of ulama organized around institutions useful to the state played an important political role in each of the three Muslim empires.
Of these religious ideologies, Twelver Shi‘ism is the least known. Twelver Shi‘is dwelt in each of the empires. Under the Ottomans, they lived in Jabal ‘Amil (now in Lebanon) and in Iraq. In the Ottoman Arab lands the Twelvers maintained a form of their religion that might be called sectarian, in that they experienced a high degree of friction with the state and with the majority Sunni society around them. They also avoided the development of a great degree of religious organization and structure. Twelver Shi‘is, originally a minority community in Iran, came to form a majority of Iranians under the Safavids, where they elaborated a formal religious establishment, which for the most part cooperated with the Shi‘i state. Organized Safavid Shi‘ism, with its professional clerics and its legitimation of the state, differed starkly from the conservative creed held in most Arab Shi‘i communities.
In South Asia, Twelver Shi‘ism spread on two levels. Iranian merchants and immigrants promoted it among Muslim notables in southern India, so that Shi‘i dynasties came to power in Bijapur, Ahmadnagar, and Golconda. Likewise, a Shi‘i dynasty ruled briefly in sixteenth-century Kashmir. Urban tradespeople and some peasants also created their own form of Twelver Shi‘ism, based especially on mourning rites for the Prophet's martyred grandson, Husayn. The rise of Sunni Mughal power circumscribed the south Indian Shi‘i states and deprived Shi‘is in northern India of governmental protection. The Sunni Mughal Empire gradually absorbed the Shi‘i-ruled polities of the south into itself, disestablishing the rival branch of Islam in the subcontinent.
Twelver Shi‘i jurisprudence probably began in the eighth century A.D. , when men close to the Imams began arbitrating disputes within their communities. Gradually a body of men grew up who had memorized the oral reports attributed to Muhammad and to the Imams. These believers likewise studied the legal reasoning employed by the sixth Imam, Jacfar as-Sadiq (d. A.D. 765). Roy Mottahedeh has pointed out that the "learned," or ulama, included not only professional religious officials who taught or gave legal judgments, but also part-time scholars and even hobbyists. Out-of-power Shi‘is were even more likely to have "informal," part-time ulama than the dominant groups who evolved into the Sunnis. Partisans of the Imams endured the hostile rule of the Umayyads until the middle of the eighth century A.D.
when a Shi‘i-tinged revolution brought the Abbasids to power. The Abba-sids, however, also refused to recognize the right of the Imams to rule, and often kept them under house arrest as dangerous rivals.
The events following the death of the eleventh Imam, Hasan al-‘Askari, in Abbasid Iraq in A.D. 873 or 874, are obscure and yet of great importance for the history of Twelver Shi‘ism. Several schisms occurred, with some groups saying that Imam Hasan al-‘Askari had left no heir. Others, especially wealthy Shi‘is close to the Abbasid court, proclaimed that the Imam had had a small son, who supernaturally disappeared and who would one day return to restore the world to justice. A series of agents (wakils ) arose to lead the Twelvers, saying that they transmitted messages from the hidden child-Imam. After the death of the last special agent, Imami Shi‘is found themselves cut off from any direct charismatic authority. Yet during the time of the agents a saying attributed to the hidden Twelfth Imam began to circulate, declaring that men who related oral reports from the Imams had the deputyship (niyabah ) of the Imams. Obviously, the relaters (muhaddithun ) of Imami oral reports were making a claim to leadership of the community in the wake of the Imam's disappearance. They did not assert as close a relationship to the Imams as did the four agents, since their only link to the Imams was through the Imami sayings as this body of believers had memorized and transmitted them.
The end of the line of Imams came as a powerful shock to the Twelver community. Early Shi‘i thinkers living after the Occultation, or disappearance, of the Imam felt leaderless. In the absence of the infallible Imam, they believed that no one could conduct Friday congregational prayers, lead believers in an aggressive holy war (jihad ), or collect certain types of land taxes (kharaj ). In short, they felt a profound alienation from the world and generally adopted a quietist political policy.
Under the Shi‘i Buyid dynasty (A.D. 932-1055) in Iraq and Iran, Twelver scholars freely collected and studied the oral reports from the Imams. They came from the old Shi‘i centers of Kufa and Qumm to the Buyid capital of Baghdad. In Baghdad, some wealthy Shi‘i intellectuals began employing the cosmopolitan tools of Greek rationalism in Imami theology. But most Shi‘i scholars rejected rationalism in favor of simply quoting the sayings of the Imams as their authority. In this period, the rationalist theologians began to be called Usulis, whereas those rejecting human reasoning in favor of a literalist
adherence to the words of the Imams became known as Akhbaris. Akhbaris were almost certainly the great majority. At that time, it is important to note, most Shi‘i scholars agreed on the invalidity of such Greek rationalist tools as syllogism in deriving legal judgments. The dispute centered on their use in theology.
The more cosmopolitan, rationalist theologians often had good relations with the Buyid state. Although they considered secular governments to be ultimately unjust (ja'ir ), Shi‘i scholars sometimes felt that there was no objection to working fox the state so long as one's principles were not compromised. The victory of the Saljuq Sunni Turks over the Shi‘i Buyids in the middle of the eleventh century scattered Shi‘i scholars for a time, denied them patronage, and forced them into a low profile. Gradually, however, Shi‘i communities under the Saljuqs reorganized themselves and placed considerable wealth in the hands of their ulama for religious institutions.
The Mongol conquest of I ran and Iraq two centuries later freed Twelvers in many ways from the restrictions placed upon them by the strongly Sunni Saljuqs. In the second half of the thirteenth century, some wealthy Shi‘i scholars, who enjoyed the patronage of the Mongols and based themselves in the Iraqi trading center of al-Hillah, began applying the tools of Greek rationalism to law, rather than solely to theology. This probably reflected the need of dynamic Twelver communities, such as that of al-Hillah in the Mongol era, for a more flexible law. From this period the rationalist Usulis and the strict-constructionist Akhbaris constituted rival schools of jurisprudence.
The conflict between the Akhbaris and the rationalist Usuli jurisprudents centered on two sets of issues. The first concerned the sources of law, with the Akhbaris restricting them to the Qur'an and oral reports (akhbar ) from the Prophet and the Imams. The rationalists saw the consensus of the jurisprudents as another source of legal judgment, as they did the independent reasoning (ijtihad ) of the jurist. The Usulis divided all Shi‘is into formally trained jurisprudents (mujtakids ) and laymen, stipulating that the ordinary believers must emulate the mujtahids in matters of subsidiary religious laws.
The rationalists asserted that the mujtahids, as general representatives of the Hidden Imam, could substitute for him in performing such tasks as giving legal judgments, implementing rulings, collecting and distributing alms (zakal and khums ), mandating defensive holy war, and leading Friday congregational prayers. Although Akhbaris allowed the relater of oral reports from the Imams to perform judicial functions, they often disallowed some or all of the other functions in the absence of an infallible Imam. Akhbaris further re-
jected any division of believers into laymen and mujtahid-exemplars, holding that all Shi‘is must emulate the Twelve Imams. In practice, of course, Akhbaris also made interpretations.
Safavid Iran: Shi‘ism, State, and Society
During the Safavid period the Usuli school, associated with the ruling establishment, burgeoned. In 1501 Shah Ismacil, chief of the militant Safavi Sufi order, became Shah of Iran with the aid of Turkish-speaking Shi‘i tribesmen from Anatolia. The new rulers imposed Twelver Shi‘ism on Iran, ideologically reinforcing their territorial victory. They required that imprecations be ritually pronounced upon caliphs holy to Sunnis, burned Sunni mosques, and expropriated the land of Sunnis. Shi‘i folk practices spread in Iran, such as the feast of the killing of Umayyad commander ‘Umar b. Sacd, an enemy of Imam Husayn. Meetings (rawzah-khvani ) for the recitation of the sufferings and death of Imam Husayn began to be held. Religious processions began to be taken out during the mourning month of Muharram, commemorating the martyrdom of Husayn on the tenth day (‘Ashura').
From the reign of Shah Tahmasp (1533-76), the second Safavid monarch, a corps of Shi‘i ulama attracted from southern Lebanon and Iraq began making extensive changes in the practice of Twelver Shi‘ism which reflected the change in the religion's status from persecuted minority to reigning orthodoxy. The immigrant Arab Twelver clerics went far beyond the Hilli school, or the simple recognition of independent legal reasoning in jurisprudence. They permitted the central functions of the state to be undertaken by someone other than a divinely appointed Imam, making themselves general proxies for the Imam and legitimizing the Shi‘i Safavid regime. They also moved toward the creation of a Shi‘i religious hierarchy, staffed largely by Arabs and based mostly on the newly created offices of Shi‘i prayer leader and Shaykhu'l-Islam (jurisconsult). Safavid Usulism became the ideology of the Arab immigrant ulama within Iran, who wanted upward mobility and the implementation of a new vision of Imami Shi‘ism in cooperation with the Safavid monarchy—an activist, dominating Twelver Shi‘ism rather than the quietist, sectarian version of the religion that had largely predominated before 1500.
Prominent among these innovators was Shaykh ‘Ali al-Karaki (d. 1534), from Jabal ‘Amil. In the first year of Shah Tahmasp's reign al-Karaki
ordered that a Shi‘i prayer leader be appointed in every town and village. Since many Shi‘i ulama held Friday congregational prayers invalid in the absence of the Twelfth Imam, this move dismayed conservatives, especially Arab Shi‘is who still for the most part labored under Sunni rule. But al-Karaki wished to create a religious institution under his own authority. The Safavids cooperated in the endeavor, since Shi‘i Friday prayer leaders throughout Iran said blessings on the Shi‘i monarchs in the Friday afternoon sermon. Al-Karaki also allowed the collection of land tax (kharaj ) in the Imam's absence, and wrote instructions for Safavid tax collectors. In so doing he opened up a source of revenue for the fledgling Twelver state. He ordered that Shi‘is stop dissimulating (taqiyyah ) their faith out of fear of Sunnis, since they now had government protection, and instituted the public cursing of the first two Sunni caliphs on a country-wide scale.
Two groups opposed these institutional innovations. Within Iran, Ar-jomand has demonstrated, the old Iranian families in charge of religious institutions such as judgeships and pious endowment supervision, many of whom embraced Shi‘ism, resented the immigrant Arab clerics. Moreover, the Shi‘is of the Arab world found many of al-Karaki's innovations inappropriate to their own situation. Typical of the Arab Shi‘is outside Iran (until the sixteenth century probably the majority of Twelvers) was Shaykh Ibrahim al-Qatifi. A former student turned enemy of al-Karaki, he cautiously accepted the necessity of independent legal reasoning (ijtihad ) and so could be categorized as an Usuli. But al-Qatifi, from the Sunni-dominated Persian Gulf, advocated a conservative Usulism that would not exacerbate Sunni persecution of Shi‘is and clung to the conservative political culture of minority Shi‘ism. He rejected the legitimacy of holding Friday prayers during the absence of the Imam of collecting kharaj land taxes, and of associating with rulers. After 1530 the Sunni Ottomans conquered Iraq, including the Shi‘i shrine cities of Karbala and Najaf where al-Qatifi and many other Arab Twelvers were based. Thereafter the shrine dries remained centers of a more cautious, conservative kind of Shi‘ism similar to that advocated by al-Qatifi.
In Iran, the rationalist, establishmentarian Usulism of al-Karaki largely won out. Isfahan's Imarn-Jumcahs (Friday congregational prayer leaders) from Shaykh ‘Abdu'l-‘Ali al-Karaki on adhered for the most part to Usulism, at least until the late seventeenth century. The mujtahids gained further power through becoming wealthy supervisors of pious endowment properties in the seventeenth century, and through revenue-free grants of land made to them by the Safavid shahs. The Safavid capital, Isfahan, became the cyno-
sure of the Shi‘i clerisy, a center of learning with 48 colleges and 162 mosques, and a place where important career contacts could be made.
The clergy became so powerful that a few openly preached the necessity for the ruler to be not only a Sayyid but also a mujtahid, or senior jurispru-dent trained in Twelver law. This stance disputed the claim of the Safavids, laymen given often to loose morals, though the shahs asserted their descent from the Prophet. The dominant Shi‘i view supported the legitimacy of Safavid rule against clerical pretenders. Not everyone trusted the ulama, as a seventeenth-century folk saying from Isfahan testifies: "Keep a wary eye in front of you for a woman, behind you for a mule, and from every direction for a mulla."
Most of the clergy neither enjoyed great wealth nor refused to associate with the government, since they believed it legitimate to work for the state whenever they would otherwise fear for their lives or whenever they felt they could thereby help the Shi‘i community. Clerical support for the Safavids led the Shi‘i monarchs often to persecute the enemies of the ulama, particularly the leaders of mystical Sufi orders, who competed with them for the spiritual allegiance of the masses. Since most Sufis were also Sunnis, and had a form of mass organization outside both the Safavid state and the Shi‘i religious establishment, Usuli ulama saw them as a threat.
The main opposition to the Usuli school came from Akhbari revivalism. Akhbarism, as was noted above, rejected the legitimacy of independent legal reasoning and denied the need of laypersons to emulate mujtahids. A major intellectual figure in the revival of this strict-constructionist approach to Shi‘ism, Muhammad Amin Astarabadi (d. 1624), attacked the mujtahids from his base in Medina, in the Arab world. Astarabadi's reformulation of conservative Shi‘i jurisprudence found great acclaim in the shrine cities of Iraq and, as Arjomand demonstrated, in Iran among ethnically Iranian religious officials in competition with the ethnically Arab mujtahids.
Although Usulism probably predominated in the Safavid capital of Isfahan, the situation outside Isfahan in the late seventeenth century is harder to gauge. In some provincial centers Akhbaris remained influential. The Imam-Jumcah and Shaykhu'l-Islam of Qumm under Sulayman Shah (1667-94), Muhammad Tahir, a committed Akhbari brought up in Najaf, caused a row with the court by censuring the monarch's morals. Al-Hurr al-‘Amili (d. 1708 or 1709) immigrated to Mashhad from Syria, becoming Shaykhu'l-Islam.
A staunch Akhbari, he disallowed the use of reason and wrote against rationalist theology. The family of the Akhbari Nicmatu'llah Jaza'iri (d. 1701) settled in the small Iranian town of Shushtar, in Khuzistan, as Akhbari prayer leaders. Southwestern Iran was a major center of Akhbarism. As was noted, the Akhbari school had found favor with many ulama in the shrine cities of Iraq as well.
The Safavid conquest of Iran and promulgation of Twelver Shi‘ism represented the most startling cultural revolution in the Islamic world for centuries. Neither the Ottoman Turks nor the Mughal Timurids did nearly as much to change the religious beliefs of the people they ruled. The rise of Twelver Shi‘ism is comparable in scope—though emphatically not in content—to the Protestant Reformation in Europe. In both Protestantism and Safavid Shi‘ism, regional rulers' desire for political autonomy coincided with the wish of a clerically led group, branded heretics, to establish new religious institutions. Bloody religious and political wars ensued, dividing a cultural area (western Europe, southwest Asia) that had previously been religiously more uniform.
The Deccan Shi‘i States
Indian Ocean trade routes linked the Persian Gulf with southern India, encouraging a migration of people and ideas between the two areas. Iranian notables, administrators, military men, and literati flooded into southern India, or the Deccan, during the Mongol invasions of Iran in the thirteenth century, and thereafter. Especially after the Safavid victory, these Iranian elites often adopted Shi‘ism. Diplomatically and in its elite culture southern India became a dependency of Iran in the sixteenth century. Iranian notables carried with them their new conviction in Usuli Shi‘ism, providing patronage for Friday congregational prayer mosques and other Usuli Twelver institutions.
The longest-lasting of the Shi‘i-ruled states in southern India, the Qutb-Shahi (1512-1687), began with the political rise in Golconda of a Turkoman adventurer from Hamadan, Iran, named Sultan-Quli Qutbu'd-Din. The rulers in his line gave extensive patronage to Shi‘i ulama and built mosques, buildings (cashur-khanah ) for the commemoration of Imam Husayn's martyrdom, seminaries, and Shi‘i burial grounds. They had the Friday prayer sermons said in the name of the Twelve Imams and of the Safavids. Iranians
immigrated in large numbers, many as merchants attracted by the diamond trade, and some local adoption of Shi‘ism occurred. Twelver ulama of the Usuli school predominated in Golconda. In 1636 the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, forced the Qutb-Shahis to cease their Shi‘i forms in the Friday congregational prayer sermons, including the mention of the Safavids. In 1687 the capital of Hyderabad fell to the Sunni Mughals, who extinguished Shi‘i Qutb-Shahi rule.
The role of emigrant Shi‘i scholars from Iran in spreading Twelver ideas in sixteenth-century southern India is exemplified by Shah Tahir Ismacili From a prominent Ismacili family in Iran, he became a Twelver and later emigrated for political reasons to the domains of Burhan Nizam Shah (1508-53) in Ahmadnagar, southern India. There he convinced the monarch to become a Twelver Shi‘i and became a minister in his government. Shi‘ism remained influential in elite culture for several generations thereafter. The Ahmadnagar Nizam Shahs lost their independence when Akbar made them pay tribute, and Shah Jahan formally absorbed the area into the Mughal Empire in 1633.
The southwestern Deccani kingdom of Bijapur also experienced Shi‘i rule and Iranian influence in the sixteenth century, 1502-34 and 1558-83, under the ‘Adil Shahi dynasty. Shi‘i Iranian merchants plied the horse trade from the Persian Gulf to Bijapur, and Shi‘i notables achieved high office there. Yusuf ‘Adil Shah (1489-1510), an Ottoman Turkish exile with tics to the Safavid Ismacil, proclaimed Shi‘ism the state religion in Bijapur in 1502, on hearing of the Safavid victory. This proclamation encouraged even more Iranians to immigrate, and the ‘Adil Shahis employed them as administrators or military men. The Shi‘i monarchs hired three hundred Iranians to curse the first three caliphs.
The ‘Adil Shahis recognized the Safavids as their ultimate sovereigns, though given their distance from Iran, this recognition remained a mere formality. Shi‘i ulama and notables often came into violent conflict with Sunnis, including local Sufi leaders, and Sunni-Shi‘i riots became endemic during the month of Muharram when Shi‘is cursed the caliphs. From 1583 local Sunni elites came back into power. The Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, com-
pelled the Bijapuris to pay tribute to him from 1636, and Awrangzib annexed Bijapur into the Mughal Empire in 1686.
Although the sixteenth might be rightly called the Twelver century in the Indo-Iranian cultural sphere, Shi‘is won only limited and temporary victories outside Iran. Only in Iran did Shi‘i rulers succeed in making their creed into a mass religion, by a combination of brutal persecution, the lavishing of wealth on Twelver institutions, and their appeal to a widespread folk cult of the Prophet's family. Southern India's population, however, clung to its Hinduism, and most Sunni notable families stubbornly resisted the call to curse the caliphs. The Deccani Shi‘i ruling classes, with their Persian literary inclinations and their threnodies for the Imams in the new language of Urdu, remained insulated from the Dravidian, Hindu masses. The Mughal Timurid emperors gradually reduced the Shi‘i states of the south to vassals of a Sunni emperor, then finally they absorbed those territories and dethroned the Shi‘i monarchs.
Shi‘ism in Northern India under the Mughals
Twelver Shi‘ism in northern India under the Mughals, sometimes barely tolerated and at others fiercely persecuted. has left far fewer traces in the chronicles than it did in the south. The importance of Iranian immigrants in spreading Safavid-style Twelver Shi‘ism seems indisputable, although hard to trace except at the very top of the social hierarchy. Regions of northern India, particularly Kashmir, had more Shi‘is than others. The popular classes developed creative ways of mourning the wronged Family of the Prophet, although the Mughals sometimes suppressed such displays of proto-Shi‘i piety.
The Mughal, or Timurid, dynasty was begun by Babur (d. 1530), a Chaghatai Turk who originally sought to establish his own state in his native central Asia. Blocked in central Asia by the Uzbeks, he established himself in Kabul and invaded India from this base in Afghanistan. His son Humayun, expelled from India by the Afghan Suri rulers, took refuge in Safavid Iran. There Humayun gained Safavid help in reestablishing his Indian domains, at the price of pretending to embrace Shi‘ism, for which he never showed any actual enthusiasm. Given the great surpluses expropriated by ruling elites in
the agrarian bureaucracies of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, had Humayun actually adopted Shi‘ism he could have done much to spread it in northern India. Humayun's son Akbar (1556-1605) put the Mughal Empire on a sound footing, making coalitions with regional Hindu elites and adopting a syncretic religion of his own invention, which combined elements of Islam, Hinduism, and Zoroastrianism. Akbar tolerated but did not promote Twelver Shi‘ism, appointing the renowned Nuru'llah Shushtari, a Shi‘i cleric from Iran, chief judge (qazi ) of Lahore. Tolerance of Shi‘ism in Mughal India often fluctuated according to relations with Iran. The sixteenth-century Mughal-Safavid alliance gave way in the seventeenth to disputes over Qandahar, leading to restrictions on Shi‘is in India.
The only instance of state adoption of Shi‘ism in northern India occurred in Kashmir, where the Shi‘i Chak ruling house (1561-89) came briefly to power. Shi‘ism came to Kashmir from Iran, and was embraced by some Sayyids and by the Chak clan. Members of the Nurbakhshiyyah Sufi order came to Kashmir from Iran in the years just before the Safavid victory in Azerbaijan. With the rise of Shi‘i power in Iran, the pro-Shi‘i Nurbakhshis formally became Twelvers. Shi‘i Chak rule caused Sunni-Shi‘i clashes in Kashmir, however, which the Mughal Akbar made a pretext to annex the region into his empire. A minority Shi‘i community continued to exist in Kashmir, as did Sunni-Shi‘i violence. Firishtah noted continuing Shi‘i influence in the Kashmiri military.
The European traveler Manucci wrote that Akbar initiated a deliberate policy of receiving even Shi‘i Iranians who fell from political favor under the Safavids and fled to India. He said that Akbar and his successors gave these political refugees official grants (mansabdari ) and sent them to the province of Kashmir, where they led a comfortable life. When one of them died, rather than repatriating his stipend to the central government, the Iranian Shi‘i political refugees divided it up among the survivors. Ultimately Awrangzib put a stop to this "inheritance" of the mansabdari . Since Kashmir had been ruled by the Shi‘i Chak dynasty and had a minority Shi‘i population, it was a logical place for the Mughals to send the Iranian refugees of whom they hoped to make political use. The wealth and standing of this group probably helped Shi‘ism in Kashmir and the neighboring Punjab.
Rizvi has quoted a central Asian traveler's account of Muharram in Lahore around 1635, which reported that the first five days of the month were given over to merrymaking to celebrate the happy portions of the Imams' lives, with male and female singers and dancers giving frequent perform-
ances. From the sixth through the tenth of the month believers mourned, and Shi‘is cursed the enemies of the Imams. On the tenth of Muharram itself, Shi‘is and Hindus stayed at home, but rival Sunni groups took out processions with placards, often, clashing violently.
The French traveler Tavernier noted the many Iranian nobles and military men in the service of the Sunni Mughals, comparing their numbers to those in Bijapur, which had been Shi‘i-ruled. He wrote of these Iranian social climbers:
It is true that although they regarded the Sunnis with horror they, nevertheless follow, in outward show, the religion of the monarch, believing that to make or secure their fortune they might conceal their true belief, and that it sufficed for them to cherish it in their hearts . . . . Although [Awrangzib] had, as I have said, numerous Persians in his service, he did not allow them to celebrate the festival of Hosen and Hosein, sons of All.
Other travelers in the late seventeenth century also remark the presence of Muharram processions of mourning for the Imam Husayn in southern India, and their forbidden character in Awrangzib's northern India. In 1668, Awrangzib prohibited such mourning processions, during which urban groups paraded decorated wood or bamboo replicas of the Imam's tomb, on the grounds that the custom had resulted in a major riot in Burhanpur among rival groups of mourners.
Not only military adventurers and political refugees went to India from Iran. At least two members of the preeminent clerical family in seventeenth-century Isfahan, the Majlisis, emigrated to Awrangzib's India. A grandson of Muhammad Taqi Majlisi, Aqa Muhammad Sacid Mazandarani, emerged as a favored court poet in Delhi, with the pen name "Ashraf." His brother, Aqa Hasan ‘Ali, followed in his footsteps. For sons of Shi‘i ulama to succeed socially in the strongly Sunni atmosphere of the Mughal court they had to concentrate on literary or medical pursuits, which they did with some success.
Shi‘ism thereforc had a furtive character in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Mughal India, which makes its culture difficult to recover. Shi‘ism spread to a slight extent among the ordinary folk, probably from Iran and by way of transplanted Iranian notables and Iranian long-distance merchants.
Most Shi‘is in northern India, Akhbaris, opposed the holding of Friday congregational prayers in the absence of the Twelfth Imam. A minority in Mul-tan and Sindh embraced Twelver Shi‘ism after 1500, and the eighteenth-century Sunni Afghan domination of these areas and Kashmir forced many Shi‘is to migrate southward to Delhi or Awadh. Late in the seventeenth century, after Awrangzib's conquest of Shi‘i-ruled Hyderabad, Deccani Shi‘is came north to join Mughal service, spreading their rituals in Delhi.
Eighteenth-Century Political Transitions and Their Effect on Shi‘ism
In the eighteenth century the three great Islamic empires that had straddled southern and western Asia and North Africa suffered political reversals both externally and internally. Local tribal and peasant groups, suffering from high taxation, pursued successful rebellions against the centralized empires and their standing armies, leading to a decline of bureaucracy in favor of tribal power based on mobility, guerrilla tactics, and hand-held firearms Empires gave way to decentralization, to be replaced by provincial powers. As will be discussed later, the Mughal Empire declined at the center and regional successor states emerged. As the century wore on, the political influence of the British East India Company grew enormously as it swallowed up Bengal and other territories.
The Safavids fell to invading Afghan Sunni tribal armies in 1722, and the Persian Gulf gradually became a British lake. Only one of the three empires, the Ottoman, survived, partially because the European powers could not agree among themselves how to divide it up. Still, the Ottomans suffered loss of control over outlying parts of the empire, such as Egypt and Iraq, with slave-soldier (mamluk ) local regimes taking effective power. These political and economic changes strongly influenced the fortunes of Imami Shi‘ism, disestablishing or crippling clerical institutions in Iran for decades, giving greater autonomy to the Shi‘i shrine cities in southern Iraq under the weak Mamluks, and pcoviding an opportunity for Shi‘i governors in Bengal and Awadh to make a bid for regional independence from the Mughals in India. Moreover, Shi‘i ideological developments in Iraq and Iran had a fateful impact on north Indian Shi‘ism later in the eighteenth century.
The political and financial support that the Safavids gave Shi‘ism and its institutions tied the fortunes of the religion to those of the dynasty. Shah Sultan Husayn (1694-1722) presided over the dissolution of the Safavid Empire. The Shah's secular policies led to weakness, and only in the religious sphere did he take forceful action, giving free reign to the bigotry of clerics such as Shaykhu'l-Islam Muhammad Baqir Majlisi (d. 1699). The last Safavid
ordered forced conversions of Jews and Zoroastrians, the expulsion of thousands of Hindu merchants from Isfahan, and the persecution of Sunni tribal groups, such as the Kurds. Changes in provincial administration and neglect of the military made Iran vulnerable to Baluchi tribal raids and incursions by the tribal Ghilzay Afghans, who seized Qandahar in 1709. An Afghan army of twenty thousand took Kirman in 1721 and marched on to Isfahan, which fell, after a long and terrible siege, to the Ghilzays in 1722. Iran also began to feel mililary pressure from the Russia of Peter the Great, and from the Ottomans.
Tahmasp II, a Safavid aspirant to the throne now occupied by the Afghans, found a military strategist to support him in Nadir Afshar. But once Nadir defeated the Afghans, he claimed the throne for himself in 1736. Nadir's military policies barked back to those of Timur ("Tamerlane") or the early Safavids, in that he put together a coalition of tribal Afghan and Qizilbash armies instead of depending on a bureaucratically ordered standing army. The tribal forces. pastoralists, could only be paid in booty and pasturage, which required constant movement and conquest. Nadir invaded Iraq twice, in the early 1730s and the early 1740s, meeting defeat at the hands of the Ottomans both times, and in the late 1730s undertook a long campaign to India, where he conquered Lahore and Delhi and made the Mughal emperor his vassal for a time. But tribal factionalism between the Sunni Afghan and the Shi‘i Qizilbash wings of his army led to Nadir Shah's assassination in 1747.
Regional contests for power divided for a decade and a half the area that had been Safavid Iran, with the Shiraz-based Zands emerging victorious west of Khurasan. Karim Khan Zand's pragmatic rule (1763-79) reunited Iran and aimed at capturing revived Persian Gulf trade by conquering Basra, Ottoman Iraq's port city. Upon Karim Khan Zand's death the Qajar tribe gained political preeminence, creating a new Shi‘i state, which ruled throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth.
Qajar. Iran (1785-1925), unlike Mughal India or the Ottoman Empire, regained central-government control by the end of the eighteenth century over most of the territories held in the seventeenth. The Zands and Qajars benefited from the preoccupation of the Afghans with the Punjab, and of the British with Bengal, so that two centrifugal forces besetting the Mughals were deflected from Iran. But Iran's economy was disrupted for much of the period 1722-97, and growing Russian and British economic and military power chipped away at its territories and the Qajars diplomatic independence throughout the nineteetnth century.
These political trends made a major impact upon the Shi‘i ulama. Under the last Safavid ruler, Shah Sultan Husayn, the high ulama favoring the rationalist Usuli school of jurisprudence, enjoyed great influence, position, and wealth. But the Afghan conquest of Isfahan in 1722 displaced hundreds of scholarly families and delivered a mortal blow to the dynasty that had assured their fortunes. The Sunni Ghilzays and Nadir Shah expropriated the endowments supporting the clergy, leading to a relative impoverishment and a decline in the influence of this group. During the second quarter of the eighteenth century great numbers of Shi‘i clergymen and merchants fled Iran for the shrine cities of Ottoman Iraq, adding a new ethnic component to the Arab quarters of these cities.
Isfahan, although its population may have declined from 250,000 to only 50,000, remained one of Iran's larger cities and a center of rationalism and mysticism throughout this period, exercising a countervailing influence in those directions. Iranian centers of Usulism remained, though we simply do not know much about intellectual currents in Shiraz, Tabriz, and other centers in this period. The frequent description of the eighteenth century as one of Akhbari dominance appears to derive mainly from the experience of Isfahani emigrants to largely Akhbari Iraq, rather than from actual Akhbari hegemony over most major Iranian centers (though Kirman, Qumm, and Khuzistan appear to have favored Akhbarism).
The Shi‘i ulama of Iran adopted varying strategies to deal with the vicissitudes that struck their status group in the eighteenth century. These included emigration to the Iraqi shrine cities, where a constant stream of pilgrims and long-distance merchants provided them with a livelihood as legal advisers and supervisors of charitable contributions and pious endowments. Some managed to retain religious office in a declining Isfahan; others intermarried with rich merchants or well-off artisans when possible. With the decline of court patronage for scholars and the expropriation of endowments, more were probably forced into low-status trades—becoming cotton or silk weavers, smiths, dyers, bleachers, and hat makers—than would normally have been the case. Many settled in Iran's small towns and large villages, where local tribal leaders came into prominence with the decline of central government. The smaller centers were less likely to attract marauding invaders, prospering as local trade depots even as some large cities declined. Members of the Majlisi family colonized high religious office in several provincial cities and small towns. Finally, some sought employment in Bengal (governed
by a Shi‘i family from 1740 to 1757) as literary men, civil servants, and physicians.
In this period one often sees mullas, clerics, tying themselves to the richer classes of the bazaar, seeking new forms of economic security when their links to the court were so disrupted from 1722 to the rise of the Zands. Their bazaar links and the relative pohtical independence this fostered were to prove crucial to the growth of ulama power in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Crucial developments also occurred in Iraq during the eighteenth century. The Ottoman governor, Hasan Pasha, governed Iraq firmly (1702-24), but Iraq suffered disruptive Iranian incursions under Nadir Shah during Ahmad Pasha's governorship. Thereafter Sulayman Abu Laylah Pasha (1750-62) created a new, regionally based Mamluk state, which continued under his slave-ruler successors until the reassertion of direct Ottoman rule in 1831. The Mamluk state gained independence in all but name.
The Iraqi shrine cities laboring under Sunni Ottoman rule, had remained centers of the more conservative Akhbari school. With the collapse of Shi‘i rule in Iran and the anticlericalism of the new rulers, the ulama in any case lost much of their previous opportunity for an active social role. The congregation of hundreds of Iranian clerical families in the Akhbari strongholds brought them under the conservative influence of that school. The decline of the great Shi‘i clerical centers in Iran lent the shrine cities even more glamour in the rest of the Shi‘i world, and Nadir Shah had won from the Ottomans pledges not to tax the pilgrims who frequented them. The pilgrimage trade brought wealth into Iraq from Iran and India, and the Mamluks granted the shrine cities much relative autonomy in view of the dangers of another Iranian invasion should the Shi‘is there feel mistreated. All this gave the Shi‘i ulama based in Najaf, Karbala, Kazimayn, and Samarra great wealth, power, and independence late in the eighteenth century.
Political decentralization and realignments had a differential impact upon Shi‘ism in various regions of the Middle East. In Iran, the fall of the Safavids helped disestablish the Shi‘i ulama, reducing them to comparative powerlessness and poverty. In Iraq, however, the influx of clerical families fleeing Nadir Shah, Iranian attempts to annex the shrine cities, continued pil-
grimage and trade, and the emergence of a regional Mamluk regime all contributed to the greater autonomy and wealth of the Shi‘i ulama.
Neo-Akhbari Dominance, 1722-1763, in Iraq
Against a backdrop of geographical and class dislocation, the ulama of the eighteenth century fought out a decisive battle on the interpretation of Shi‘ism. The old struggle between the Usulis and the Akhbaris revived in a new guise. The Akhbarism of the eighteenth century was less conservative than pre-Safavid Akhbarism had been, most Akhbaris in Iran and Iraq having accepted the validity of, for instance, Friday congregational prayers in the Occultation. But Akhbaris still preferred a more conservative approach to juridical decision-making, excluding the rationalist techniques of the Usulis. The Usuli-Akhbari conflict has too often been seen in liberal terms as a battle of great minds. In fact, the ideological struggle reflected the competition of ulama families and of regions, and social and economic forces affected its outcome.
Shaykh Yusuf al-Bahrani (1695-1772), a key figure in the intellectual development of Shi‘ism, grew up in Safavid Bahrain in a family of Usuli clerics who also worked as pearl merchants. He fled first to Shiraz from the 1717 Omani invasion of Bahrain, then to Karbala from the Afghan conquest of Iran. Al-Bahrani adopted the Akhbari school, rejecting his early schooling in Bahrain. As a refugee from Iran in Karbala, he would at first have been dependent on the largesse of Akhbari religious dignitaries. Moreover, the same political instability that expelled him from his homeland and deposed the Safavids apparently made an establishment-oriented school of jurisprudence like Usulism less appealing. As time went on, al-Bahrani moved away from a strict Akhbarism to a neo-Akhbari position that had Usuli elements. Nevertheless, he rejected Usuli principles of legal reasoning, the syllogistic logic Usulis allowed in interpreting the law, and the legitimacy of holy war during the Occultation of the Imam. With the influx of Iranians into Karbala from Isfahan and other Iranian cities, the Akhbari teachers in the shrine cities em-
ployed their prestige and patronage to convince them to adopt the Akhbari school.
The trend to Akhbarism after 1722 may be witnessed in another major eighteenth-century figure, Aqa Muhammad Baqir b. Muhammad Akmal (1705-90), born in Isfahan and descended on his mother's side from the prominent Majlisi clerical family. His kin and social networks reached beyond the mosque, since he had half-brothers working in Isfahan and Tehran as money changers (sarraf ) and in Zand Shiraz as money coiners (zarrabi ). The young Aqa Muhammad Baqir, emigrating to Karbala in 1722, came under Akhbari influences there and changed for a while to that. school from his Isfahani Usulism.
Aqa Muhammad Baqir traveled early in the 1730s to Bihbahan on the border of the Iranian provinces of Khuzistan and Fars. Many Isfahani scholarly families scattered to such small towns (qasabahs ) in southern Iran, which, though relatively near to the shrine cities, offered greater security in this period than large cities. Aqa Muhammad Baqir found the religious institutions in Bihbahan dominated by ulama from Bahrain who had newly adopted Akhbarism. Although he may at first have gotten along with them, at some point he reverted to his Isfahani Usulism and engaged in bitter polemics with the Akhbaris. He emerged as a popular prayer leader and teacher and remained for thirty years.
The Usuli elite of Isfahan, dispersed to the Akhbari-dominated shrine cities and to conservative small towns in the 1720s, suffered in the 1730s further disestablishment by Nadir Shah (1736-47), who supplanted both Afghans and Safavids. He made it one of the cornerstones of his policy that Iranians should renounce the Shi‘i. practice of cursing the first two caliphs of Sunni Islam, and tried to have Shi‘ism incorporated into Sunnism as a fifth legal rite. This policy allowed him to keep loyal to himself both his Afghan troops and his Qizilbash cavalry the former fierce Sunnis and the latter staunch Shi‘is. Nadir Shah forced the Shi‘i ulama to agree to this compromise. Wherever they felt it necessary, they went along, but the assent of many surely represented no more than pious dissimulation (taqiyyah ). In addition, Nadir sought to weaken the clergy and defang any potential clerical opposition to his policies by confiscating the rich endowments that had supported the seminaries and mosques of Isfahan.
The Usuli Revival in the Zand Period, 1763-1779
Aqa Muhammad Baqir returned to Iraq sometime in the early 1760s. Bihbahani, as he was now known, found the shrine cities an extremely hostile environment for an Usuli. Shaykh Yusuf al-Bahrani, in his late sixties and ten years senior to the newcomer, presided over the religious establishment in Karbala as the dean of Shi‘i scholarship. Al-Bahrani's neo-Akhbaris considered Usulis to be ritually impure, touching Usuli works only with a handkerchief to shield their fingers from its polluting effects. More serious, anyone walking in the street with Usuli literature beneath his arm risked violent assault. The power structure in the shrine cities consisted of an Arab landholding elite, a number of mafia-type gangs, and the leading clerics. Any important figure among the ulama would have to make alliances with the Sayyid landholders and with the chief gangsters who ran protection rackets in the bazaars. At this point, the Akhbaris had the important gangster, or luti , contacts, and could employ these to intimidate Usuli rivals.
Bihbahani at first faced so many difficulties in Karbala that he seriously considered returning to Iran. But he soon began teaching Usuli texts secretly in his basement to a select and trusted number of students, many of them former pupils of al-Bahrani. These included his own nephews. When the Iranians had originally come to the shrine cities in the 1720s, many of them penniless refugees, they had been integrated into the Akhbari ideology of their Arab hosts and benefactors. Forty years later the founding of an Usuli cell in Karbala led by members of the Majlisi aristocracy signaled the increasing financial and social independence of the ethnically Iranian quarters in the shrine cities. Although the Iranian scholarly families originally depended heavily on government land grants and emoluments in Iran, which many of them lost after 1722, the history of the Majlisi family suggests that they increasingly forged links with merchants and skilled artisans in the bazaars, which gave them a new financial base. Though fallen from their notable status and dispossessed of their lands around Isfahan, many Iranian expatriates could increasingly compete with the wealth of merchant-ulama like al-Bahrani. The partial upturn in ulama fortunes in the Zand period, moreover, coincided with the economic rebound of the artisan and merchant classes, to whom they had become tied.
Wealth underpinned the success of a great teacher, since he attracted students by providing them with stipends to live on. It also ensured that the
gangster bosses took his side. Aqa Muhammad Baqir's wealth probably derived from merchant in-laws, brothers-in-law serving as high administrators in Bengal, and wealthy legal clients. At some point Bihbahani began to feel that he had enough students, monetary support, and security to challenge al-Bahrani openly, an event that led to the polarization of the scholarly community in Karbala during the 1760s. In 1772, when al-Bahrani expired, Bihbahani had attained such a prestigious position that he read the funeral prayers for his late nemesis. Shaykh Yusuf's demise removed the most vigorous Akhbari leader from the field, allowing Aqa Muhammad Baqir, then sixty-seven, to spend his last clear-minded decade in consolidating his position. A number of other formei students of al-Bahrani, including Bihbahani's nephews the young Tabataba'is, and some Arab scholars, now forsook neo-Akhbarism for the Usuli school. These in turn helped their aging mentor to train a whole new generation of youthful mujtahids, who came from Iran to the shrine cities in the last years of Zand dominance and the opening years of Qajar rule.
The Usuli revival was, in Iranian terms, a largely Zand-period phenomenon, .which the Qajars came to support later on. In the shrine cities themselves the Usuli victory coincided with the rise of local Shi‘i power and the decline of central Ottoman control, so that Usuli principles, such as the holding of Shi‘i congregational prayers, could be gradually implemented, something the Ottomans had not tolerated when they had a firmer hand in Iraq. Usulism was promoted in particular by ethnically Iranian immigrant families in the Arab shrine cities, but the school attracted the support of local Arab scholars as well in the 1770s. The Zands provided new patronage and economic security in Iran, encouraging the revival of activist, rationalist Usuli jurisprudence.
The fortunes of Imami Shi‘ism in Iraq and Iran from its inception depended upon two forces. The first, popular-class heterodoxy and love for the family of the Prophet, allowed it to survive among urban artisans in Iraqi and Iranian cities and among the marsh Arabs of Iraq, and to spread among the Turkoman pastoralists of Anatolia. The second, ruling-class support or tolerance, aided the religion in the Buyid period, part of the Mongol period, and under the Safavids and Zands. Popular-class adoption of the religion helped it spread even under hostile governments, such as the Sunni Ottomans and Mughals, though it suffered setbacks in such situations. In seventeenth-
century southern India, ruling-class support for Imami Shi‘ism allowed the development of sophisticated religious and cultural institutions, but failed to secure allegiance to the faith by the masses of Hindus and Sunnis.
The late seventeenth and the early eighteenth century witnessed political setbacks to Imami Shi‘ism of considerable scope. The Sunni Mughals dethroned the remaining Shi‘i monarchs of southern India, the Ottomans ruled the Shi‘i areas of southern Lebanon and southern Iraq, forces from Muscat conquered Shi‘i Bahrain, and Sunni Afghans swept into Iran, dethroning the Safavids. Everywhere Imami Shi‘ism as a religion of the ruling class met defeat, the wealth of its ulama was expropriated, and only the devotion of the common people kept the faith alive. But the second half of the eighteenth century saw a reversal of the Sunni revival. The Mughals grew weak, allowing their Shi‘i governors in Awadh and Bengal to become nearly autonomous. The Zands restored Shi‘i rule to Iran. The declining Ottomans allowed a Sunni Mamluk regime to come to power in Iraq, which granted greater freedom to the Shi‘i shrine cities. The Shi‘i ulama took advantage of the improving political climate in the second half of the eighteenth century to promote their own interests, expressed in the clerical ideology of Usuli Shi‘ism.
Shi‘i State Formation in Awadh and the Ulama
The Emergence of Successor States to the Mughals
The eighteenth century witnessed the disruption of political order in much of the Islamic world and the emergence of regionally based successor states to the three great Islamic empires that had held sway from the sixteenth century. The Ottoman Empire met frequent defeat in military encounters with European states, and the Mamluks in Egypt and Iraq showed independence from the Ottomans in the second half of the eighteenth century. In Iran, Afghan tribal armies invaded and defeated the imperial forces. Out of the chaos emerged Nadir Shah (1736-47), who reunited Iran, assaulted Ottoman Iraq, and invaded India. The Mughal center at Delhi, already weak, never recovered from this blow, thereafter suffering Afghan incursions, attacks from south Indian Maratha armies, and assaults by the British East India Company.
The political decline of the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals cannot be explained monocausally, though it seems likely that economic forces played a major part. But as Owen argued in the case of the Ottomans, political decline does not necessarily imply that an absolute economic decline occurred (as opposed to a relative economic backwardness compared with Europe). In Iran, the silk trade declined in the eighteenth century, but the decline was caused by rather than being the cause of insecure conditions during tribal and elite contests for central power. Halil Inalcik has suggested that, just as
the introduction of cannon early in the sixteenth century had a centralizing effect, so the spread of hand-held firearms among the general populace in subsequent decades contributed to decentralization. For India, Irfan Habib argued that the Mughal nobles progressively overtaxed their peasantry, provoking peasant revolts in the eighteenth century, which proved so costly to put down that they permanently weakened the system. M. Athar All, among others, has suggested that such macroeconomic phenomena as the influx of New World silver and the depreciation of currency could help explain the simultaneous political weakening of the Mughals, the Safavids, and the Ottomans
From the early 1970s some historians began suggesting an alternative to finding causes for the political decline at the center in the three empires. They began to see political decentralization not as a decline of the center but as a rise of the region. Thus, the appearance of independent-minded elites in eighteenth-century Egypt was depicted as a consequence of increased wealth among the Egyptian notable, merchant, and ulama classes, deriving from the coffee trade and other economic activities. In Iran, Thomas Ricks found that eighteenth-century regional elites showed a marked continuity even during instability at the center, and John Perry showed how the Zands, based in southwestern Iran, parlayed their regional power into national dominance. Barnett has discussed how, with the rise of successor states to the Mughals in India, more revenue remained in the provinces, with local benefits. The successor states often provided adequate security to allow long-distance trade and local agriculture to flourish. This approach shows the regional and
limited perspective of the image of unmitigated decline projected upon all of eighteenth-century northern India by Delhi-based Mughal historians as well as by contemporary Europeans.
In India, several successor states to the Mughals emerged. Bengal became increasingly independent, failing to a Shi‘i Muslim elite, until its nawab succumbed to the British in 1757. The Durrani Afghan state swallowed Kabul and much of the Punjab and Kashmir. The old Mughal province of Awadh, southeast of Delhi and northwest of Bengal, with the Himalayas and the Jamuna River as its natural boundaries, became a regional base for the powerful Nishapuri family. In the south, Hyderabad became the autonomous realm of the Nizam, a Mughal-appointed governor and the Hindu Maratha federation ruled much of the Deccan.
The social and urban history of eighteenth-century India supports the argument that the decline of the Delhi-based Mughal Empire and the rise of a regional elite in Awadh, for instance, reflected a shift in resources rather than monolithic decline. H. K. Naqvi described how urban centers west of the Jamuna River, in the regions near the Mughal seat of power, lost population in the course of the eighteenth century, whereas the area (Awadh) east of the river became more urbanized. C. A. Bayly demonstrated that the decline of Delhi, Agra, and Lahore (each with populations of about 400,000 in 1700, down to 100,000 in 1800) was partially offset by the rapid emergence of Awadh's Lucknow and Banaras, both with populations of 200,000 or more in 1800. He found about sixty towns of more than 10,000 in eighteenth-century. North India, the number remaining stable from 1730 to 1800, though some declined and others grew. Again, tile small centers (qasabahs ) of about 3,000 suffered losses in the west, but many new settlements grew up in Awadh during that period. Bayly further showed that climatic changes speeded the shift of resources from Delhi and Agra to Lucknow and Banaras, the area west of the Jamuna suffering dry spells in the late eighteenth century while in Awadh the fertile Baiswara area received ample rainfall.
State formation in many of the successor states to the Mughals involved new local ruling coalitions and the promotion of regional culture. In Awadh, the ethnically Iranian ruling house and many of the notables associated with it favored the Imami Shi‘i branch of Islam. As the province became increasingly autonomous, Shi‘i notables more openly supported the scholars and institutions of their religious community. The declining Sunni elites in Delhi saw both the Awadh nawabate and Shi‘ism as manifestations of decadence, when in reality a shift simply occurred in cultural resources.
The Rise of the Awadh Successor State
In the period 1722-75 three nawabs reigned through several phases of state formation in Awadh. The. state has been described as "a distinct realm of structured political relations that is defined by contention along its boundaries and among politicians and bureaucrats who, in competing for office and influence, rework social and economic conflict into political terms," and emphasis has shifted in the scholarly study of state making from static institutions to the "structured relations between the state and other spheres of society." The question arises of what social forces influenced the rise of the nawabs to regional autonomy in Awadh. As Iranian Shi‘is, the nawabs, originally temporary Mughal appointees, seem at first glance an elite group unlikely to assert strong authority over the Hindu peasants and Sunni townsmen of Awadh. How they made Shi‘i rule at all palatable to Awadh's population must occupy us as a central question. Moreover, it might be asked if there arc any parallels between the rise of Shi‘i rule in Awadh and that of the Safavids earlier in Iran.
The emergence of the province of Awadh as a Shi‘i-ruled state depended in part on developments at the Timurid court, where the Mughal administrative elite allowed Iranian Shi‘i immigrants to rise as provincial governors. On the one hand, pohtical instability in Iran encouraged large numbers of Iranian notables to go to India; on the other, the mood at court after the passing of Awrangzib (d. 1707) grew decidedly more tolerant of Shi‘ism. Awrangzib's successor, Bahadur Shah (d. 1712), leaned heavily toward Shi‘i Islam. The Shi‘i Barhah Sayyids, mere Delhi courtiers, made and unmade Mughal emperors, further demonstrating growing Shi‘i power. Greater tolerance at court allowed more elite recruitment of avowed Shi‘is to high office,
The Iranians made an impact, not only on the Delhi court, but on North India as a whole. Mir Muhammad Amin Nishapuri (d. 1739), the first nawab of Awadh, began a dynasty that ruled for 136 years. Nishapuri. known as Burhanu'l-Mulk, derived from a family of Islamic judges (qazis ) in Khurasan, whom Shah Ismacil Safavi of Iran transplanted there from Najaf as part of his campaign to make Iran Shi‘i. Nishapuri came to India in 1708, where he worked himself up the bureaucratic ladder to emerge as a power broker in Delhi. He helped free the Mughal emperor, Muhammad
Shah, of the political control of the Barhah Sayyids in 1720, receiving as a reward the governorship of Agra.
In 1722, after Burhanu'l-Mulk failed to subdue peasant uprisings, the emperor demoted him to the less remunerative governorship of Awadh. There he overcame and co-opted the Sunni Shaykhzadah landholders based in the strategic town of Lucknow, who then collaborated in the emergent Awadh state. Awadh never achieved a high degree of governmental centralization, making the cooperation of such local elites essential to political stability. Burhanu'l-Mulk then brought within his orbit the Hindu Rajput Mohan Singh of Tiloi, who dominated the southern part of Rai Bareli. The Nishapuri satrap spent the next decade and a half establishing stronger central rule in Awadh, greatly increasing its revenue. In something of a declaration of independence, he resisted the Mughal emperor's one attempt to transfer him to the governorship of another province, Malwa.
In January of 1739 Nadir Shah of Iran took Lahore, invading through Afghanistan. Burhanu'l-Mulk brought his forces into the fray on the side of the Mughal emperor, but was defeated and captured. The nawab, after negotiating an Iranian withdrawal, felt disappointed by the Mughal emperor's subsequent political appointments and treasonably suggested to Nadir Shah that it would be quite Facile and highly rewarding to take Delhi. The Iranian conqueror, delighted to take up the suggestion, victoriously marched into the city, the savage looting of the capital later perpetrated by his troops constituting one of the century's great disasters. Nadir reduced the Mughal emperor to a vassal of Iran, making Burhanu'l-Mulk imperial regent. The nawab of Awadh committed suicide on 19 March 1739, either because of his debilitating leg cancer or because Nadir Shah humiliated him.
Unlike Ismacil the Safavid. Burhanu'l-Mulk did not acquire his country, solely by conquest. His authority derived from a Mughal appointment, and he used Mughal troops to assert his power. He gradually did achieve an autonomy of sorts, and his behavior with Nadir Shah indicates rather weak loyalty to the Mughal court. But his attempts to restructure Awadh society
took place within the framework of Mughal administrative traditions. He co-opted local large landholders instead of strongly dominating or destroying them, which allowed a polyglot cultural system rather than the wholesale conversion to Shi‘ism undertaken by the Safavids. But Burhanu'l-Mulk did make an assault on Sunni ulama and Sufi holders of revenue-free land grants.
Changes in the Status of Sunni Institutions
Secular opposition to the accumulation of religious lands, as Weber noted, often arose in preindustrial societies. The new nawab's determination to carve out a personal power base in Awadh, his Shi‘ism, and the region's exceptionally numerous Sunni revenue-free holdings, all contributed to the conflict. An eighteenth-century observer wrote that in the latter part of the seventeenth century Mughal rulers granted many Muslim scholars in the provinces of Awadh and Allahabad stipends and land revenues (madad-i macash ) for their support. Mosques, seminaries. and Sufi centers proliferated, and great scholars and teachers arose. "Students went in droves from town to town and were everywhere received with helpful sympathy."
The writer, Bilgrami, asserted that when Burhanu'l-Mulk of Nishapur became the governor of Awadh and much of Allahabad under Muhammad Shah, he confiscated the stipends and land grants of both the old established and the parvenu families. The Muslim notables grew anxious about their affairs, financial worries compelling many students to forsake the classroom for full-time employment. The decline in learning and in the state subvention of education continued under Burhanu'l-Mulk's successors, who extended the confiscations to all of Allahabad, ruining many madrasahs, or Muslim institutions of higher learning. Another historian described Burhanu'l-Mulk's 1728 resumption of land grants supporting old Sunni families and institutions in the southern district of Jaunpur. Major exceptions to the Nishapuri family's policy of disendowing Muslim schools included Salon and Lucknow's Farangi Mahall, which received their revenues from Mughal grants throughout this period. Such cities as Allahabad, Lucknow, and Banaras also continued to possess important schools.
The Nishapuris' policy of establishing their regional control by calling in land grants to Sunni educational and mystical institutions that had become hereditary hurt the Muslim notables and medium landholders, who relied on these institutions for the training necessary to manage their estates, practice their religion, and celebrate their culture. Yet, as was noted, some prominent Muslim schools survived, chief among them the Farangi Mahall.
The school earned the sobriquet of the "Europeans' Mansion" among the inhabitants of Lucknow's chowk bazaar area because Dutch merchants first built it. In 1692 a group of landholders from his own village murdered Mulla Qutbu'd-Din Sihalavi, a Sunni religious scholar of Sihala near Lucknow, in a dispute over land and the mulla's influence at the Mughal court. In compensation, the Mughal emperor Awrangzib bestowed the Farangi Mahall on the martyr's orphans. One of the younger sons, Nizamu'd-Din Ahmad, a major Sunni scholar, taught with his relatives at home and received land grants and stipends from Mughal emperors. Partially because the nawabs put pressure on the school to train bureaucrats, many of them not Sunni, the students might be Shi‘is or even Hindus, though the teachers, as descendants and disciples of Mulla Qutbu'd-Din, adhered to Hanafi Sunnism. The method of teaching perfected by Mulla Nizamu'd-Din, emphasizing the rational sciences, wore a nonsectarian aspect. Mathematics and Avicennian metaphysics could, after all, be studied with profit by persons from all backgrounds.
The works most often used in the Nizami method are analyzed in table 1. Most of the works or commentaries and glosses used in the Nizami method were written in Iran between A.D. 1200 and 1600. Also represented were some seventeenth-century north Indian figures. This method, concentrating on thought rather than on rote learning, evoked admiration for the speed with which it allowed a student to complete the course of study and for its ability to train Muslim ulama, judges, and administrators to think clearly and to derive solutions to problems. The highly rationalist emphasis of the study list reflects the seminary's latent function of producing bureaucrats for land-
Number of Works
Principles of Jurisprudence
The Prophet's Oral Traditions
revenue administration. The middle landholders, Shaykh and Sayyid families based in the small towns of North India, wanted some of their sons to go into government service. As nawabi rule grew more regionally centered and more autonomous from Delhi, and as the province's revenues increased, more opportunities arose for government service locally. Farangi Mahall produced a rationalist culture useful to the Muslim and Islamized Hindu notable and service classes who administered their own estates or served in the bureaucratic arm of the prebendal state, and its method spread widely in India.
The first phase of Awadh state formation saw the Mughal appointment of an Iranian Shi‘i governor, who used Mughal troops to assert military power in the region and made the province a personal power base from which he refused to allow the Mughal center to dislodge him. He co-opted local big landed elites by drawing them into revenue administration. He released revenue to his government by resuming on a large scale revenue-free grants of land made by Mughal rulers to Sunni scholarly and mystical families, making a frontal assault on the privileges of the Sunni clerical notables. This policy in some respects recalls that of the Safavids. Burhanu'l-Mulk pursued it, however, not primarily for religious purposes, but for financial and administrative ones. He freed up alienated land for distribution as patronage, and for an enlarged tax base. His Shi‘i faith, however, probably made him less loathe to institute such changes, which were damaging to Sunni institutions. The policy was not a blanket one, as the survival of Farangi Mahall and other Sunni-staffed institutions attests, nor is there evidence of Burhanu'l-Mulk's having promoted Shi‘i schools in the stead of the Sunni ones.
Patrimonial Bureaucracy versus Tribal Conquest
Could the Nishapuris become something other than mere foreign governors appointed over Awadh temporarily from the Mughal center? To do so would require them to establish their legitimacy among regional Sunni and Hindu elites, to build their own bureaucracy and military, and to meet the outside challenge of Maratha Hindu warriors, of pastoral invaders from Afghanistan, and of Bangash and Ruhilah Afghan tribespeople settled in the upper Doab.
Burhanu'l-Mulk paid Nadir Shah Rs. 20 million to assure the succession to Awadh's governorship for his nephew, Safdar Jang. That one family could retain control over a Mughal subah, or province, for two successive generations, rare during the zenith of the Mughals' agrarian bureaucracy, shows the decline of the central government. Earlier, Mughal emperors rotated provincial governors at will, preventing them from building up a regional power base, and although local bureaucracies and elites existed, the center retained control over decisions involving revenues· Hereditary Nishapuri rule in Awadh ultimately allowed the family to become independent of the Mughals altogether.
Safdar Jang established his power base by fighting and co-opting the Rajputs in Awadh from 1739 to 1741. He acquired an armed force loyal to himself by hiring six or seven thousand Shi‘i Qizilbash cavalrymen away from Nadir Shah's army before the latter withdrew from India. In Lucknow, he cultivated the local elite, so trusting the Farangi Mahall that he required even Shi‘is to present a diploma from it before he would hire them in the bureaucracy. He appointed members of the Farangi-Mahalli family to judicial posts. Leaders of the Shaykhzadahs in the capital, such as Muci zzu'd-Din Khan and Qutbu'd-Din Muhammad Khan, became Shi‘is in order to cement their relations with the nawab.
The Mughal emperor called Awadh's nawab to Delhi in 1743, promoting him the following year and adding to his responsibilities the governorship of Kashmir. Many Shi‘is from Kashmir joined his military, affecting Persian language and dress but receiving less pay than the Qizilbash horsemen. In February 1745 Safdar Jang showed his mettle when he and his forces accompanied Muhammad Shah against tile Ruhilah Afghan ‘Ali Muhammad Khan, whose growing power north of Awadh and east of Delhi posed a threat to both. The Ruhilahs, Sunni Puhktun tribespeople, emigrated from the mountain fastnesses around Peshawar down into the lush Gangetic plain
throughout the medieval period. Safdar Jang's impressive show of force intimidated the Ruhilah, who came to terms with the emperor. His legitimacy as the emperor's standard-bearer also helped him: the ulama of North India gave legal rulings in favor of the emperor's cause, influencing some Ruhilahs to desert their leader.
The year 1748 gave India a new Mughal emperor, Ahmad Shah Timuri, and a new chief minister, Safdar Jang. In the first years of his ministry he struggled against the Afghani Bangash clans settled in the Doab, who, in the summer and fall of 1750, occupied Awadh. The martial Bangash, Pukhtuns like the Ruhilahs, had also emigrated into village North India from largely pastoral Afghanistan. Safdar Jang put together a new political confederation against the Bangash tribes, receiving unexpected support in this campaign from Awadh's urban Sunni Shaykhzadahs, who conducted a remarkable citizens' revolution against the invading tribesmen. The Bangash Afghans who occupied the important Awadh town of Bilgram treated its notables roughly and sacked the town when the locals retaliated by wounding some Afghans. In the streets and quarters, people prepared to defend themselves. In Lucknow, fearful Iranians stored their wealth with Shaykhzadah leader Mucizzu'd-Din Khan, and the haughtiness of the new conquerors and the harshness of their exactions provoked sanguinary riots between the Afghans and the Shaykhzadahs. After a night of rioting in one quarter of the city, seven hundred Afghans assembled against four hundred Shaykhzadahs, the citizens of Lucknow routing the Bangash men and suffering a third fewer casualties.
The Shaykhzadah leader Mucizzu'd-Din Khan, a Shi‘i with strong ties to the Iranians and a man particularly close to Safdar Jang, called a conference of notables, raising an army of live to six thousand men and forcing the Afghans to withdraw. Mucizzu'd-Din Khan then wrote his clansmen in other large towns, detailing the incident and warning of possible Bangash reprisals. In Lucknow and Hardoi districts the "republican" influence of the many large towns historically diluted landed power, leading to a scarcity of very large landlords and a proliferation of small holdings. The urban-based Shaykhzadah middle landholders expelled the Afghans and formed an army to fight for Safdar Jang's restoration.
Once again, the ulama rallied to the imperial forces. Maliku'l-‘Ulama' gave a ruling in favor of the emperor at Safdar Jang's behest. In Sandilah the Shi‘i logician Mawlavi Hamdu'llah, although he did not join the militia,
publicly espoused the nawab-vizier's cause, under the banner of which the town's newly militant citizenry gradually rid it of Afghans. The same pattern recurred in Bilgram and Kakori. Safdar Jang completed the task of expelling and overcoming the Bangash forces by forming an alliance with the Hindu Marathas and jointly subduing North India.
The conflict at one level centered on whether Awadh would be incorporated into a patriarchal state presided over by Bangash clansmen or would continue to evolve as a semiautonomous satrapy with a patrimonial-bureaucratic administration inherited from the Mughal Empire. The Sunni middle landholders based in small towns chose the Shi‘i Safdar Jang over the Sunni Bangash tribesmen because his rule offered more continuity of political culture and revenue structure than did that of the coarse new conquerors. However new and alien the development of nawabi Shi‘i rule in Lucknow may appear against the backdrop of Mughal traditions of tight Sunni rule from the center, the nawabs were perceived to participate in Mughal legitimacy as the appointees of the emperor. The first minister, though victorious, squandered his remaining years in office on a fruitless power struggle in Delhi, which he lost to the Turanian forces.
The second phase of Awadh state formation saw the further definition of state boundaries through conflict with outside forces. The Awadh state developed its own, distinctively Shi‘i-tinged military. Further political bonding of local Sunni political elites to the ruling Nishapuri house occurred through an independent social movement of Muslim townsmen to defend Nishapuri Awadh from extraregional military attackers. The struggles with the Ban-gash demonstrated to the Nishapuri family that they could successfully defend a regional, hereditary power base with the aid of their Qizilbash Shi‘i cavalry and Muslim and Hindu troops, and that a dependable coalition against outsiders could be built with local elites, such as the Shaykhzadahs. The destructive struggles in the Mughal capital, along with growing Durrani Afghan and Maratha challenges, cast doubt on the value of devoting so much time to the affairs of the center. Nishapuri. Awadh began to be born.
State Formation and Sunni-Shi‘i Tension
In the third stage of Awadh state formation, the intervention of a new outside power, the British East India Company, proved decisive. Military conflict with the Europeans further demarcated Awadh's borders to the south and east, and military defeat at the hands of the EIC imposed limitations on the Awadh military that led both to internal decentralization and to external dependence on the alliance with the British. The process of subordinating Sunni
religious institutions to Shi‘i priorities continued, witnessed especially in conflict between the regional court and the Farangi Mahall. Finally, nawabi patronage began subventing Shi‘i scholars and institutions.
Shujacu'd-Dawlah, Safdar Jang's eldest son and deputy governor of Awadh in Lucknow, succeeded his father as nawab in 1754. In the first half of his reign he joined with Ahmad Shah Durrani of Afghanistan in defeating the Marathas, became Mughal chief minister in his own right, added the province of Allahabad to his power base, and attempted to expel the British from Bengal. In the last fateful endeavor he failed, and from that defeat in 1764 he showed increasing willingness to make an autonomous Awadh his power base, forsaking any dream of reinvigorating the Mughal Empire in Delhi. The British imposed restrictions on the size of his military that made him increasingly dependent upon them for Awadh's security, and required from him payments of tribute that eventually mortgaged his realm to them.
From 1766 Shujacu'd-Dawlah changed his provincial capital from Lucknow to nearby Faizabad and instituted an ambitious building program, with his engineers and workers completing many of these projects within two years. The establishment of a provincial court of great wealth at Faizabad constituted a major cultural and social event. Artisans and scholars flocked there from all over India, its bazaars attracting numerous long-distance traders from Iran, central Asia, China, and Europe. With the peasant-generated tax monies of Awadh and Allahabad flowing into the city, its tax-farming notables and highly paid administrators helped support masses of skilled workers and retailers, who provided them with luxury goods. The new capital grew with remarkable rapidity during the last nine years of the nawab's life.
The nawab's attack in 1774 in concert with the British on the neighboring Afghan Ruhilah ruler Hafiz Rahmat Khan defanged a potential military threat to the north, filled state coffers with booty, and added to the territory under his control. Shujacu'd-Dawlah's governorship, from 1754 to 1775, marked a watershed in the emergence of a semiautonomous, Shi‘i-ruled state in Awadh and Allahabad. Sunni religious leaders became less secure. Although Shi‘i scholarship and institutions showed no efflorescence in the first half of the reign, in the Faizabad period substantial patronage became available to scholars belonging to the ruler's branch of Islam.
The French traveler Laureston found Bengal and North India remarkably free of sectarian rancor in the 1750s. He wrote:
Muslims are enthusiastic about their religion, but here the sectarian followers of ‘Umar and ‘Ali never dispute among themselves for the purpose of establishing which was the true successor to the caliphate. There are few mosques, even fewer mullas, and the nobles, although they are punctual enough in performing their own devotions, hardly ever go to the mosques.
This idyllic portrait may have been accurate in the 1750s, but Sunni-Shi‘i disputes increased as the Awadh state took on a Shi‘i aspect.
Though Farangi Mahall retained its intellectual leadership, the school's relationship with the government sometimes grew troubled. After Mulla Nizamu'd-Din's passing in 1748, his young son ‘Abdu'l-‘Ali gradually asserted himself as head of the institution. About ten years later, Sunni-Shi‘i tensions in Lucknow put his life in danger. With a Shi‘i potentate ruling the province from Lucknow, ‘Abdu'l-‘Ali felt that he could expect no governmental support against the militant partisans of Imam ‘Ali, and when the Sunni Ruhilah chief of nearby Shahjahanpur, Hafiz Rahmat Khan, offered him patronage, he accepted it.
The challenge of rising Shi‘i militancy in the old Sunni stronghold of Lucknow, coupled with the political dominance of a Shi‘i ruling house, also bedeviled the next head of the school, Mulla Hasan Farangi-Mahalli. At the height of his eminence in Lucknow, Shi‘i-Sunni tensions again rose, two students being killed in rioting sometime after 1766. Mulla Hasan led a delegation of teachers to the new capital, Faizabad, where they protested to Nawab Shujacu'd-Dawlah the government's failure to stop the violence. When the delegation proved unsuccessful, Mulla Hasan decided to join Mulla ‘Abdu'l-‘Ali in Shahjahanpur rather than continue to risk his life in Lucknow.
During Shujacu'd-Dawlah's rule Sunni-Shi‘i clashes ostracized two successive leaders of the major Sunni-staffed institution of learning in his dominions. In both cases the government sided, at least tacitly, with the Shi‘is. Although neither of these major Sunni ulama could be assured of their own lives and property under Shujacu'd-Dawlah, most Farangi-Mahallis remained in Lucknow, future leaders accommodating themselves better to an Imami government.
Barnett has outlined the major criteria of regional autonomy in
eighteenth-century India. Tile governor acquired the ability to appoint his own revenue officials and successors to the governorship; governors seldom remitted revenues to the center and began to conduct independent diplomatic activity. Then regional ruling families established provincial courts with a distinctive architecture. Finally, coins were minted in the name of the local ruler, and the emperor's name was deleted from the sermon (khutbah ) at the Friday congregational prayers. In Awadh, all but the last two criteria for independence had been met by 1775.
Shujacu'd-Dawlah as regional governor in Awadh from 1754 to 1775 remitted very little revenue to the imperial center. A combination of adverse economic conditions and destructive Iranian, Afghan, and Maratha incursions had enervated the power of Delhi. Until his death in 1775 Shujacu'd-Dawlah "still minted coins and had the Khutbah read in the Emperor's name for the sake of protocol, but for all practical purposes he was an independent prince." A further declaration of independence could only come when Friday prayers serrnons were read in the name of the Nishapuris; but that required the emergence of a Shi‘i ulama corps loyal to this regional dynasty.
The Beginnings of Shi‘i Scholarship in Awadh
Shi‘i rule in Awadh necessitated the development of a class of Shi‘i religious experts. Yet, surprisingly, this development took place very slowly. Until the 1780s most Shi‘i scholars in Awadh fell into two categories. They were middle landholding Sayyids in the lineage centers or they served as poets, physicians, or tutors at regional courts. In both cases they resembled gentlemen scholars more than professional clergy. Let us examine the pressures that created a trained, specialized corps of ulama receiving patronage from Awadh's Shi‘i ruling group.
Until 1766, when Nawab Shujacu'd-Dawlah settled down to rule Awadh and Allahabad from Faizabad, he made little patronage available to Shi‘i scholars. Imamis pursued their scholarship on an informal basis, lacking any major institution comparable to Farangi Mahall. Some Shi‘i scholars, such as Mawlavi Sayyid ‘Ata' Husayn Zangipuri, sought and received cash gifts and land grants from Mughal ruler Muhammad Shah, but the increasing confusion at the Mughal center made this form of wealth less and less stable. Scholars functioned as independent agents, taking advantage of political decentralization in North India to find patronage with local magnates in Awadh, in Bengal, or even in Hindu-ruled Banaras.
The Hindu raja of Banaras gave patronage to the greatest Shi‘i scholar in North India in this period, Shaykh Muhammad ‘Ali "Hazin" Gilani (1692-1766). He was given a land grant and cash gifts. For instance, when Jit Singh replaced his father, Balwant Singh, as ruler, he gave Hazin 40,000 ashrafis. Hazin, an Iranian poet and scholar from an elite family in Isfahan, fled Iran for India in 1734 after becoming embroiled in an insurrection against Nadir's governor of Lar province.
Hazin lived in Multan, Lahore, and Delhi. After 1739 he grudgingly reconciled himself to remaining in Delhi as a teacher, but the ridicule he heaped on India and Indians earned him so many enemies in the Mughal capital that he headed southeast toward Bengal in 1748. He arrived in Banaras in 1750, settling there for the last sixteen years of his life and building two mosques and a tomb for himself. Although Hazin accepted the patronage and land grant of a petty ruler, such as Raja Balwant Singh, he earlier refused to pay court to the Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah and even refused the latter's offer of high office. His haughtiness as an upper-class Iranian caused him to live out his life in a predominantly Hindu provincial city. Still, elite Hindus there cultivated Persian, and the surrounding districts boasted a relatively large Shi‘i population, which provided him with some religious students in his last years.
Hazin's thought and his role in society were both important for the north Indian Shi‘i tradition. Unlike most Shi‘is in Awadh and Allahabad, he belonged to the Usuli school, believing that a religious scholar had the right to make independent judgments in law based on his own reasoning (ijtihad ). Some of his rulings on religious issues made while in India formed the basis of questions submitted by the faithful to mujtahids even in the nineteenth century. Deeply interested in science and philosophy, he also wrote commentaries on the works of mystical thinkers. In India he devoted the most of his efforts to writing and teaching Persian poetry, without, however, giving up religious subjects. Hazin transported into one of Shujacu'd-Dawlah's cities the intellectual ambience of late Safavid court culture.
Since Banaras constituted part of the nawab's dominions, Hazin lived ultimately under a Shi‘i ruler, Nawab Safdar Jang, who showed him respect.
When in 1756 Shujacu'd-Dawlah came to Banaras to put down the rebellious Raja Balwant Singh, the nawab conferred with Hazin. The poet-mujtahid urged him to come to terms with the raja, and political events led Shujacu'd-Dawlah to follow this advice. In 1764 Shujacu'd-Dawlah and Shah ‘Alam II visited Hazin in Banaras before their close defeat by the British at the Battle of Baksar. The great Shi‘i thinker reportedly gave them the unwelcome advice that they should not attempt to fight the British, but if they chose to do so, they should depend on their cavalry. On that occasion, Hazin only haft-bowed to Shujacu'd-Dawlah, saying that a full bow is reserved for kings and that escorting is reserved for mujtahids and the ulama. This demonstration of the pride of a Shi‘i mujtahid before temporal authority surprised and incensed the nawab-vizier.
Hazin, though somewhat reclusive in Banaras, did give classes and hold discussions with other Shi‘i scholars. One of his students, Mulla ‘Uyuz, taught for a while in Banaras, eschewing glosses and supercommentaries in favor of a direct encounter with his sources. A mystic and an ascetic, he was part of a generation of Shi‘i scholars in transition from Sufi ideals of the learned man to more scriptural and rational-legal role models.
Whereas some Shi‘i ulama, such as Hazin, sought independence in their private pursuits, others eagerly entered public life. One entered the ranks of the ulama (a status group, not an economic class) by virtue of learning, though a certain amount of property generally served as a prerequisite for such learning. Few ulama from an artisan or laboring-class background are mentioned in the sources for this period. But although most ulama derived from middle landholding families, they could also come from the very upper ranks of the prebendal-feudal notables. Those recognized as ulama from the upper class pursued knowledge as an avocation, in addition to a political career. Sons of middle landholders more often made a living from a purely religious calling.
Tafazzul Husayn Khan Kashmiri (d. 1800) strikingly exemplified the upper class Shi‘i gentleman scholar in eighteenth-century India. His grand-
father, Karamu'llah Khan, served the Mughal Empire, receiving Rs. 300,000 from a huge land grant (jagir ). Tafazzul Husayn, born while his father was stationed in Sialkot, moved with his family at age thirteen or fourteen to Lahore and then to Delhi. He studied rational sciences by the Nizami method in the capital. When his family settled in Lucknow, Kashmiri had an opportunity to study at Farangi Mahall itself, working with Mulla Hasan (later head of the school). He asked Mulla Hasan so many difficult questions that the Farangi-Mahalli finally hurled his book to the ground in exasperation and expelled Kashmiri from his classroom. Tafazzul Husayn then studied on his own, mastering difficult philosophical works by Avicenna in Arabic. He embraced Shi‘ism, rounding out his education by attending the lectures of Shaykh Muhammad ‘Ali Hazin in Banaras, making contact with the learned traditions of late Safavid Isfahan.
He used his family's powerful connections to gain an audience with Nawab Shujacu'd-Dawlah, who appointed him as mentor and tutor (ataliq ) of his second son, Sacadat ‘Ali Khan. Such a position served as a means of political advancement for an upper-class intellectual. Kashmiri accompanied Sacadat ‘Ali to Allahabad in 1769, where the young noble was vice-minister to Shah ‘Alam II. There he engaged in disputes on logic with the Shi‘i Mawlavi Ghulam Husayn Dakani Ilahabadi. The two did not meet, but sent their advanced students with questions and answers. These included Tafazzul Husayn's third cousin, Salamu'llah Khan, and Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali Nasirabadi. The debates by proxy demonstrate the sorts of intellectual networks that bound together Shi‘i ulama-teachers with thinkers holding high government office.
Tafazzul Husayn Khan's links with the nawabi court gave him influence with his larger family. Not only did his own household (including the servants) embrace Shi‘ism, so that he almost ceased to associate with Sunnis at all, but his cousins on his father's side of the family accepted Shi‘ism. Tafazzul Husayn Khan procured offices for Shi‘i relatives, and some of his relatives married into older Shi‘i ulama and notable families. The Kashmiri service family employed Shi‘ism, Islamic learning, and notable status to penetrate the nawabi administrative structure and to acquire patronage from the new ruling class.
Tafazzul Husayn Khan's career was checkered. He led an abortive assassination plot against Asafu'd-Dawlah on behalf of Sacadat ‘Ali, and lived many years in exile, serving later on as Awadh's envoy in Calcutta. In 1797 the British forced him on Asafu'd-Dawlah as first minister, though the public perception of him as the Europeans' candidate impaired his effectiveness.
After the short-lived anti-British revolt of Asafu'd-Dawlah's successor Vazir ‘Ali in 1798, during which Tafazzul took a pro-British stance, the East India Company put Kashmiri's erstwhile pupil Sacadat ‘Ali Khan into power as nawab. The new ruler sent Tafazzul Husayn Khan back to Calcutta as the Awadh envoy, but Kashmiri soon died, in 1800.
During his twenty years in Calcutta, Kashmiri learned fluent English and studied Latin so as to be able to read European scientific works. He translated books on the new European mathematics and physics, writing also on Sunni and Shi‘i hadiths and Islamic philosophy. He taught mathematics in the morning to students in Calcutta, then visited English friends until noon. In the afternoon he taught Imami law, and after supper expounded Hanafi law. In the evenings he read philosophy alone. A pious notable, a man of wealth and taste, he had but one vice, from a strict Shi‘i point of view: his love of music.
Hazin, the displaced poet-mujtahid, and Tafazzul Husayn Khan, the scholar-diplomat, could hardly be considered professional Shi‘i clerics. They lived at a time when Imami Shi‘i institutions in North India barely existed, when a clerical career in itself made little sense for anyone interested in wealth, prestige, or power. Yet the time when court poets and gentlemen scholars could dominate Shi‘i intellectual life was passing. New religious elites were called into being by the rise of the Shi‘i court in Awadh.
The Physicians of Faizabad
The first phases of Shi‘i state formation in Awadh witnessed the establishment of a Shi‘i ruling group at the top of the social hierarchy, the development of a Shi‘i wing in the military, and the subordination of the old Sunni clerical and mystical families through intimidation or resumption of revenue-free land grants. From 1766 a second process began, the gradual formation of a Shi‘i religious class through notable-class patronage. A struggle commenced over the shape of the religious class, and over the control of religious resources. Traditional Shi‘i gentlemen scholars, used to coexisting with Sunnis and Hindus, were ranged against a growing class of professional Shi‘i clerics who emphasized social closure and Shi‘i communal identity.
Within Shujacu'd-Dawlah's new capital, Faizabad, a cabal of physicians trained in Avicennian medicine and the rational sciences at first established a
virtual monopoly over intellectual pursuits within the new capital. Soon after the nawab returned from his defeat at Baksar and took up residence in Faizabad, five religious-minded physicians from Delhi followed him there and were employed by the nawab and his wife, Bahu Begam, at high salaries. Among themselves, they evinced much factionalism and competition, but they closed ranks against outside physicians or scholars.
In the absence of any formal ecclesiastical Structures in the Shi‘i community of North India, literati with a secular training stepped into roles played by ulama in Safavid Iran. They strove to maintain control over both medical and pastoral functions, and over the vast sums of money available to those who claimed to provide both spiritual and physical health. Hakim Muhammad Mucalij Khan. the leader of the physicians, took charge of distributing charity to poor Sayyids, receiving donations for that purpose from the growing number of Shi‘i notables in Faizabad. Some critics charged him with embezzling substantial amounts of this charity. The number and financial resources of the medical doctors at court grew impressive; on his deathbed the nawab was attended by thirty physicians, whose combined salaries equaled Rs. 100,000 per year. A contemporary manuscript source mentions ten important medical doctors at Shujacu'd-Dawlah's court. These ten Shi‘i Sayyids and notables averaged Rs. 5,600 per year in stipends, exclusive of the substantial fees and gratuities they controlled. The pious physicians, some from Iranian or Iraqi ulama backgrounds, were something more than the elders of a nonconformist sect, yet far less than a professional ministry.
Shi‘i ulama of the traditional sort in Faizabad were subordinate to Mucalij Khan's clique of physicians. They had no control over Islamic charitable institutions, nor did Faizabad's Shi‘is have any public mosques or communal prayers, so that preachers lacked the opportunity to address large crowds. In both respects, Faizabad differed radically from Iran and Iraq. The major gatherings for Shi‘is, the meetings held to commemorate the martyrdoms of the Imams, were dominated by eulogizers, who specialized in chanting techniques, rather than by the scholars of Islam, who often frowned on the folk practices involved in such assemblies.
The grants by Shi‘i notables served to attract increasing numbers of Imami ulama to Awadh's major cities. The arrival on the Awadh scene of numbers of trained experts in Shi‘i law with a scripturalist outlook challenged the reign of the physicians and Sufi pirs in the religious realm. As the nawab's court grew more autonomous, the ruling Nishapuri family favored an assertion of specifically Shi‘i law and ritual in order to accent its peculiar local values and authority. The ulama, rather than physicians or Sufis, could best articulate this statement.
The growing friction between these intellectual groups resulted in a confrontation in Faizabad in 1779, which led to a riot. The most important of the Shi‘i ulama in that city at the time, Mawlavi Muhammad Munir, had recently arrived from the Middle East. The eunuch Javahir ‘Ali Khan, the powerful manager of Bahu Begam's estates, gave the mawlavi a stipend for his support. Mulla ‘Abdu'l-Majid, an Iranian scholar who had previously served as the supervisor of a religious endowment in Najaf, backed Munir.
Hakim Mucalij Khan, perceiving these Iranian clerics as a threat to his own position, began to slander Mawlavi Muhammad Munir. The struggle for influence among the physicians and the ulama crystallized around a doctrinal issue. The clique of medical doctors held that the ‘Alid Zayd b. ‘Ali b. Husayn erred in leading Kufa in a revolt against the Umayyad government in A.D. 740. The Bahu Begam's eunuch courtiers, who competed with Mucalij Khan for influence, bearing him great enmity, sought the opinion of Mulla ‘Abdu'l-Majid on this point. He replied that it was wrong to criticize Zayd. Mucalij Khan stood firm, saying that he based his opinion on oral reports from the Imams.
This minor issue most likely became a rallying point more because of its utility in expressing the conflict between these two status groups than because of its substance. The view of the physicians, a more quietist one, suited Shi‘is living in India under strong Sunni Mughal rule and in an overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim community. Just as Zayd should not have rebelled against the superior forces of the Umayyads, the physicians may have been implying, so Indian Shi‘is should quietly accept the rule of the Mughals. The immigrant ulama originally came from Iran, where Shi‘is formed a majority and anti-Sunni feeling ran high. Their support for Zayd the revolutionary came from a conviction that Shi‘is must at all odds assert themselves against Sunnis. The foreign-born ulama were more communalist and militant than the Indian intellectuals. With the rapid decline of Mughal power and the ascendancy of the Shi‘i nawab, such militancy became an increasingly viable option for members of the Awadh ruling class, such as the eunuchs in Faiza-bad.
In addition, the eunuchs may have been especially concerned to adopt a
strong position in order to demonstrate their credentials as Muslims. Eunuchs were the children of defeated Hindu Rajputs, who were mutilated and brought up as Shi‘is to attend upon the family of the nawab. Suspicion of having Hindu sympathies thus attached to them in the upper-class circles in which they moved, and they often attempted to pass some of their wealth on to Hindu relatives. By adopting a militant stance on the Zayd issue they could at once project their orthodoxy and hit out at the physicians, their competitors for the favors of the begam.
The conflict between the physicians and the ulama grew so heated that their partisans at length proposed a public debate. They fixed a day and announced the venue as the house of Bahar ‘Ali Khan, a eunuch in the service of Bahu Begam. The main parties arrived at dawn with slaves and personal troops. Hakim Mucalij Khan attempted to maintain his view by asserting to his opponent, Mulla‘Abdu'l-Majid, that reliable (muctabar ) oral reports (hadiths ) bore him out. The Iranian cleric challenged the elderly doctor on the technical meaning of the term "reliable" in the Shi‘i science of oral reports. When Mucalij Khan, who had studied primarily the rational sciences rather than oral reports, found himself unable to give a quick reply, Mulla ‘Abdu'l-Majid announced the physician's defeat and abruptly left the room. Fighting broke out and raged for hours among the supporters of the two debaters, with Javahir ‘Ali Khan's troops and retainers emerging the victors.
The Faizabad riot of 1779 expressed the competition between Indian lay religious literati and immigrant Iranian professional clergy. It may further have symbolized the tensions brought about by the movement of some in Awadh toward a more scripturalist and communalist interpretation of Shi‘ism. The physicians, most of them formerly Delhi courtiers used to coexistence with Sunni superiors, could not meet the demand for specialists in Shi‘i law generated by the growth of the Awadh state.
Early Religious Policy under Asafu'd-Dawlah
As Shujacu'd-Dawlah's successor, Asafu'd-Dawlah (1775-97), became increasingly a ruler in his own right, and the Mughal Empire no more than a convenient fiction for whoever held Delhi, he reversed the parsimonious policy toward the state subvention of religious scholars and institutions pursued by the first three nawabs of Awadh. Indian traditions of rulership required the nawab to dispense huge amounts of patronage to inferiors and to holy men. Some notables who opposed this new direction were replaced by more amenable Shi‘is. Asafu'd-Dawlah not only reconfirmed long-standing endowments and stipends to Sunni, Shi‘i, and Hindu officials, mendicants, and
religious institutions, but restored some that had been usurped. The nawab's religious munificence denoted no streak of puritanism or fanaticism. At least in the early years of his reign, he drank liquor and associated with common Hindus. Indeed, Sunnis and Hindus profited from the policy more than Shi‘is.
Asafu'd-Dawlah grew renowned for bestowing hundreds of thousands of rupees on dervishes. Sayyids, and Shi‘i visitors from the Middle East. The policy served to attract increasing numbers of Shi‘i ulama to the new capital of Lucknow, to which he moved in order to escape the influence of the Faizabad establishment dominated by his father's courtiers and his mother, Bahu Begam. The administrators and civil servants closely related to the nawabate moved with him, but substantial numbers among the service elite remained in Faizabad in the employ of tax-farming and jagir -holding notables.
The Shi‘i ulama in North India still enjoyed few of the advantages that accrued to the Sunni ulama under Mughal rule. Shi‘i scholars, to be sure, did participate in the development of the rational sciences, writing commentaries on the works used in the Nizami method. But just as that syllabus paid relatively little attention to the study of law and oral traditions within the Sunni context, so Shi‘i scholars were seldom well trained in the oral traditions of the Imams, Imami law, and the principles of jurisprudence. As a small minority in a Sunni intellectual world, Shi‘is most often studied with Sunni teachers. Lacking their own mosques and seminaries, they believed that the holding of Friday congregational prayers was illegitimate until the return of the hidden Twelfth Imam, who alone could rightfully lead them. This lack of integrating institutions and physical sites for communal study and worship inhibited the growth of a formal tradition of Shi‘i scholarship in northern India.
Still, a small ulama corps began to form, beginning with scholars who gathered in Faizabad after 1766, attracted by the patronage of the growing Shi‘i notable class there. Shujacu'd-Dawlah summoned the Akhbari Muhammad ‘Askari Jaunpuri to teach Shi‘i sciences in Faizabad. The nawab's wife, Bahu Begam, employed the great and popular teacher Mawlavi Majid Rudauli. Also of note were the legal specialist ‘Ata'u'llah Kashmiri and Sayyid Saricu'd-Din b. Ashraf Mahmud. As was mentioned, these ulama were in many ways subordinate to the court physicians.
The Early Career of Sayyid Dildar Ali Nasirabadi
The opportunities for education and patronage available to Shi‘i ulama from 1766 are demonstrated by the career of Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali Nasirabadi (1753-1820). Born and raised in the large, Sayyid-dominated village of Nasirabad in Rai Bareli not far from Lucknow, as a youth Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali learned Arabic and studied some basic texts in Nasirabad itself. He set out for other towns in order to pursue the rational sciences with individual scholars in the Muslim small towns. Nasirabadi's search for knowledge took him to the provincial capital of Allahabad, which had a relatively large Shi‘i population. He joined the classes of the Imami philosopher Ghulam Husayn Dakani Ilahabadi, with whom he studied most of the basic textbooks for the rational sciences. As was noted above, in 1769-72 Nasirabadi explored cosmography (hay'at ) with Tafazzul Husayn Khan, conveying questions and answers on the abstrusities of logic between his two mentors. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali's student days were hard ones before he found a patron, and at one point he reportedly made a deal with a Hindu shopkeeper to serve as a night watchman for his shop if he could sleep on its doorstep.
Young Nasirabadi's peregrinations also took him north to Shahjahanpur, which served until 1774 as the capital of Hafiz Rahmat Khan's Ruhilah domain. Until that date Shahjahanpur was an important, if small, intellectual center with the Farangi Mahall tradition strongly represented by two former heads of that institution, Mulla ‘Abdu'l-‘Ali and Mulla Hasan. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali furthered his exploration of the rational sciences at the hands of Mulla ‘Abdu'l-‘Ali, one of the foremost contemporary minds in this field. The Shi‘i student at one point engaged in a heated debate with his distinguished tutor. Mulla Hasan Farangi-Mahalli, who had once angrily ejected Tafazzul Husayn Khan from his class, also debated Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali on matters of metaphysics.
The encounter of Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali with these former heads of Farangi Mahall in Shahjahanpur is rich in irony. Both were forced to leave Lucknow
by Shi‘i communalists who enjoyed the backing of the nawab. Yet in their exile they taught and engaged in discussions with the future leader of Awadh's Shi‘is. Admittedly, they may not hate known he was a Shi‘i. But even in the face of the most powerful Forces for communal strife and separation, education in Awadh remained strangely ecumenical.
Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali left Shahjahanpur for Nasirabad, then journeyed to nearby Faizabad, where a number of Shi‘i ulama were gathering under the patronage of Shujacu'd-Dawlah and his notables. |He fell ill,| and was chided by the old nawab for studying too hard. When he recovered he followed the new court of Asafu'd-Dawlah to Lucknow, where he taught and also completed his studies. The difficulties facing a student without a wealthy patron are illustrated by an incident from Nasirabadi's youth. Unable to afford a servant to bring food from the city market, considered an unclean place where no gentleman would be seen, students had to do their own shopping. One of Nasirabadi's colleagues, Sayyid ‘Abdu'l-‘Ali Deoghatavi, volunteered to go to the bazaar, and was returning when he saw someone he knew coming down the road. He quickly hid himself. Then he considered that to hide a fault indicates a prideful desire to be honored by others. He caught up with his acquaintance, going out of his way to show himself and his bazaar-derived provisions.
Finally, Nasirabadi's diligence was rewarded. His reputation for piety and ability, as well as some of his early compositions, reached the notice of Awadh's chief minister from 1777, Hasan Riza Khan. The illiterate official, having these works read to him, was favorably impressed and began financially supporting Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali, giving him a stipend of Rs. 30 per month and including him among his companions. Still, the young scholar was overshadowed by other, more important recipients of the chief minister's patronage, such as Sufi leaders. The Shi‘i notables in India did not at this point hold the ulama in such high esteem, preferring unlettered mystics to learned scholars.
As the Shi‘i-ruled state of Awadh began developing a more extensive local bureaucracy, and as its notables increasingly felt a need to promote their branch of Islam, the ulama became more important. The patron-client relationship expanded and changed in character. Younger scholars, such as Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali, pioneered a new phase in ulama-state relations in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. Yet the need felt by the notables for a Shi‘i
clerical class was frustrated by the lack of local scholars trained in specifically Shi‘i sciences. In the absence of a Shi‘i seminary in North India, one solution was to have some teachers trained in the Shi‘i intellectual centers of Iran and Iraq.
Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali took his place among an increasing flow of Awadh Shi‘i scholars to the Shi‘i shrine cities of Mamluk Iraq, who went to study Shi‘i law and help spread the religion in India upon their return. An important predecessor, Mirza Khalil, went from Lucknow to Iraq, where he studied with the young Sayyid ‘Ali Tabataba'i, the nephew and son-in-law of Usuli leader Aqa Muhammad Baqir Bihbahani. Mirza Khalil, impressed with his teacher, endeavored to convince him to journey with him to India "in order to eradicate unbelief and ignorance." Sayyid ‘Ali, taken aback, fervently expressed his desire that God would never show him India or part him from the shrine cities. He reacted to the pious entreaty as if someone had prayed that evil might befall him. Most high ulama in Iran and Iraq showed reluctance to give up all the benefits they derived from living at the Shi‘i center in order to undertake a missionary career in an alien environment like North India.
Mirza Khalil on his return had his patron, Almas ‘Ali Khan, offer another scholarship of Rs. 2,000 for study in Iraq, to Akhbari notable scholars, but they refused it as too small. Finally Mirza Khalil went to another Akhbari, Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali Nasirabadi, who at first begged off on the grounds that he had just married and lacked means to support his wife while traveling. The moral imperative of such a journey, however, outweighed these considerations, and he set out in 1779 with one young companion, Sayyid Panah ‘Ali. They proceeded arduously overland through Rajasthan to Hyderabad in Sindh, and thence to the coast, where they boarded a ship for the sea journey to Basra.
Nasirabadi brought with him a copy of Muhammad Amin Astarabadi's Al-fawa'idal-madaniyyah , a work hugely popular among Shi‘i thinkers in North India. Written nearly two centuries earlier, this major statement of the Akhbari creed attacked such classical Usuli writers as Hasan ibn al-Mutahhar al-Hilli. During the long boat journey up the Euphrates Nasirabadi made friends with an Arab Shi‘i also en route to Najaf, where he had just begun his studies. Their discussions came around to the principles of jurisprudence. Nasirabadi supported the Akhbari position, whereas his Arab friend took the side of the Usulis. In this discussion Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali first
encountered the now largely Usuli atmosphere of the shrine cities and found it disturbing.
After performing visitation to the shrine of Imam ‘Ali, Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali met with prominent Shi‘i scholars in Najaf, committed Usulis. After several debates with them, Nasirabadi decided that if he insisted on arguing with his teachers, he would learn nothing. He then shifted north to Karbala, studying the oral reports from the Imams with Aqa Muhammad Baqir Bihbahani then seventy-five, and law with Bihbahani's younger disciples. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali determined to throw himself into a study of Usuli works, given their rarity in India. He read widely on the issue of the validity of those oral reports that were related by only a single transmitter in each early generation (khabar al-ahad ). After study of the classical writers, Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali began to doubt the validity of Astarabadi's position. In the space of a few months from his arrival in Iraq he adopted the Usuli school, one reason surely being the predominance of this ideology at the centers of Shi‘i scholarship. He later perceived this change of views to be one of the graces he received by virtue of his proximity to the holy tombs of the Imams.
Nasirabadi then sought out another of Bihbahani's students, Sayyid Muhammad Mihdi Tabataba'i, and studied with him briefly. He pointed out to his teacher that in the Usuli system either a believer must be himself a mujtahid, or he must emulate a living mujtahid. But, he continued, the Shi‘is of India were deprived of any opportunity for either, so that they might land in perdition. Tabataba'i replied that Indian Shi‘is must practice caution (ihtiyat ), following the most strict of the major positions on any matter of law. Nasirabadi riposted that Majlisi I once said that the most cautious position was not always the correct one. Sayyid Muhammad Mihdi answered that such instances were rare. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali's dissatisfaction with the practice of caution as a solution to the dilemma of Indian Usulis suggests that even then he saw the need for religious leadership which the spread of Usulism in Awadh would create.
Because of his Indian background Nasirabadi had great difficulty in being taken seriously as a scholar, some Iranian students insisting that there simply were no ulama in India. They found the very thought of an Indian mujtahid absurd, given that only three scholars at the shrine cities were recognized exemplars.
After about a year and a half, Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali returned to India overland via Kazimayn, Tehran, and Mashhad, wintering in Khurasan and
studying there briefly. On arriving in Lucknow he met with Hasan Riza Khan and had an interview with Nawab Asafu'd-Dawlah. In 1781 he began teaching and writing in Lucknow, producing a wide-ranging attack on Akhbari ideas and beginning the task of training a new generation of Shi‘i scholars in Usuli sciences.
The religion of the ruling house in preindustrial West and South Asia generally became an clement in state formation. The cultural traditions of Islam dictated that a Muslim stale have its sovereignty proclaimed in the Friday afternoon sermons, and in the grandeur of its cathedral mosques. In a patrimonial bureaucracy, religion became an important bond, the adoption of which allowed eunuchs and courtiers to receive appointments to high office. In Awadh, even Sunni elites outside the ruling circle sometimes adopted Shi‘ism or expressed greater love of ‘Ali and his family within a Sunni framework, in order to bond themselves with the ruling house. As will be seen, Hindu notables and government officials also accommodated themselves to Awadh's newly Shi‘i atmosphere.
Awadh's external borders were demarcated by wars with the Bangash and Ruhilah Afghan clans and with the British. In the Bangash battles, not only professional soldiers but Shaykhzadah clansmen defended their region arid championed Nishapuri rule. This gives a clue to internal processes at work in Awadh, whereby local Sunni elites expressed a preference for even Shi‘i nawabi rule over other alternatives. The nawabs derived their legitimacy from Mughal appointment, and their power from Shi‘i and Hindu troops. Although they expropriated many Sunni revenue-free holdings subventing religious institutions, they were seen by most Sunnis as the lesser of evils when compared with the Afghans.
Awadh's move toward greater autonomy from the Mughals, and the desire of Shi‘i notables for experts in Imami law and theology to service their households, created an increasing need for a professional Shi‘i clergy. At first this exigency was partially met by the court physicians, then by an influx of Iranian and Iraqi Shi‘i ulama seeking patronage. The clash of physicians with foreign ulama pointed to the need for an indigenous, trained ulama corps, who Could help to articulate symbolically the growing autonomy of Nishapuri Awadh and spread Shi‘i sciences. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali's two-year sojourn in Iraq and Iran was a first step toward the formation of such a corps.