Two major issues have informed this book, both raised by the material itself. One, the growth of a hierocracy, has occasioned a concentration on the lives and works of the Shi‘i clerics. The other, communalism, or social closure on a religious basis, led us to examine relations between Shi‘is and other communities. It is time to discuss the relevance of the two issues to one another and to the wider question of Muslim separatism.
First, some questions about Shi‘ism and about the ulama raised in the introduction can now be answered. Nineteenth-century Imami Shi‘ism, it turns out, was hardly intrinsically hostile to states ruled by kings, notables, or other nonclerics. To the contrary, preindustrial Shi‘is longed for a realm ruled by a Shi‘i potentate, and their clerics adopted different rules of conduct for believers living under a Shi‘i ruler than for those laboring under Sunni or unbelieving governments. The mujtahids in Awadh demanded the public execration of the Sunni caliphs precisely on the grounds that they lived in a Shi‘i-ruled realm (Dar ash-Shi‘ah), where pious dissimulation was impermissible. The ulama may have seen the Nishapuri state as ultimately unjust, but they did not think it illegitimate, though its legitimacy for them derived from customary rather than religious law. They often called the ruler the "just king," and since they themselves proclaimed it wrong to practice pious dissimulation in a Realm of the Shi‘ah, their application to him of this epithet has some meaning.
The question of the Shi‘i state's legal status according to the Imami jurisprudents is secondary, however, to their actual behavior toward it. Here we have abundant evidence that most Shi‘i ulama in North India actively cooperated with the Nishapuri state, taking gifts, stipends, land grants, and posts from it. They served as its prayer leaders, its seminary teachers, its charity administrators, and ultimately its judiciary. In the 1840s the mujtahids administered Rs. 300,000 per year in charitable taxes paid by the state treasury, and received large salaries and perquisites from the shah. No major Usuli mujtahids played an oppositional role toward the Awadh state, though they did sometimes differ with it over policy. Indeed, the most trenchant criticisms of the Nishapuris I found came from the Sufi Shi‘i Mawlavi Samic; the Usuli Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali argued that Shi‘is should support the state, on the grounds that it favored the Imams and their partisans.
The financial dependence of the ulama on the state in Awadh may have
been greater than in Iran. With a Sunni and Hindu-dominated bazaar, Lucknow and Faizabad supported relatively few Shi‘i merchants and artisans who could, through their religious donations, in turn subvent the mujtahids. Moreover, Shi‘i endowments were much more numerous in Iran, so that the ulama there had greater employment opportunities as supervisors. But it should also be remembered that many Shi‘i ulama in Awadh were zamindars , small landholders who could have lived independently in the qasabahs managing their estates. Rather, most of them enjoyed the life of ulama in Lucknow and Faizabad, including their contacts or employment with the Shi‘i court.
The important point here is not that Shi‘i ulama were always adjuncts of the Shi‘i-ruled state, but that ulama ideology exhibited flexibility over time. Ulama in the 1840s were willing to associate themselves with the state in ways their fathers or grandfathers in the eighteenth century had not been. Shi‘ism began as a sectarian movement, and under the Mughals it continued to have sectarian characteristics. Those who argue that the Shi‘i clergy were in great tension even with the Qajar state place them at the sectarian pole, partly on the grounds that Shi‘i theology and abstract political theory have strong sectarian overtones left over from when the primitive movement was one of protest by the dispossessed. But the theoretical framework employed in this work would allow for movement along a continuum. The Shi‘i clergy could become more or less reconciled to the state over time, depending on the type of regime and society that prevailed. Where there has been a Shi‘i, as opposed to a Sunni or non-Muslim, government, the Shi‘i religious establishment has tended to be less sectarian in nature and more integrated into the state. My findings for Nishapuri Awadh give support to Willem Floor's contention that the revolutionary character of the Shi‘i ulama has been exaggerated, and that their view of the social structure differed little from that of the secular elites.
Shi‘i religious organization remained relatively amorphous, though the authority of the chief mujtahid in Lucknow was recognized all over North India. Yet the community's organization increased greatly from the eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth century. On a popular level, mourning sessions, poetry readings, and public processions created extensive social networks among believers. More formally, the prayer leaders, jurisconsults, teachers, and judges formed a body of religious specialists differentiated from the laity by their training and their reception of monetary rewards for religious work. Shi‘i literati from the intermediate strata adopted the Usuli school of jurisprudence, originally imported from Iraq and Iran, as their ideology.
Shi‘is moved from a group in which lay-clerical differences were slight to one in which a vast chasm separated the chief mujtahid from a humble Shi‘i artisan. In short, Shi‘ism underwent the classic transition from sect to formal establishment. I have emphasized the key role of the state in defining the sta-
tus of religious groups and in aiding the transition from sectarian organization to a formal establishment and the reverse. Under the Mughals, Shi‘is were sectarian; under the Nishapuris, mostly because of the wealth and position the state bestowed. on the ulama, they came to have a formal religious establishment.
I found horizontal stratification a useful tool for analyzing even a preindustrial Muslim society and its institutions. Some Shi‘i artisans and laborers saw the mujtahids as lackeys of the rich. They opposed or ignored Friday prayers, and some held to a folk theology that attributed divinity to Imam ‘Ali or joined antinomian movements, such as that led by the head of the body washers in Murshidabad. The Shi‘i poor sometimes gave allegiance to the Akhbari school once the Usulis became strongly associated with the ruling class; some Akhbaris denied the legitimacy of private property in land. A conviction existed that the Twelfth Imam would return in A.H. 1260 (A.D. 1844) to fill the world with justice and unite all men in one faith, though the date appears to have passed without further comment in Awadh. Shi‘i tradespeople set up pictures of the Imams for supplication and indulged in other practices abhorrent to the professional ulama.
Other groups of Shi‘is from different social and economic classes also developed their own religious cultures. Some high notables became literate enough in Shi‘i sciences to be gentlemen ulama, and some of these clung to Akhbarism for a few generations rather than recognize the authority of Usuli clerics from a petty landholding background. Other notables patronized Sufis or studied mystical metaphysics in preference to the books of ritual law and the principles of jurisprudence beloved by the mujtahids. High notables, through their salons and imambarahs , created a religious culture centered on the recitation of martial religious poetry about Imam Husayn at Karbala. Of course, many notables devoted little of their energy to religion of any sort.
The biographical dictionaries seldom mention details like the social background of the ulama. Yet the data I have been able to assemble give a strong and consistent impression that most ulama came from qasabahs where their families owned just a few villages. Others derived from the service classes in cosmopolitan cities, such as Faizabad and Lucknow. Some became genuinely wealthy, especially in the 1840s, but most appear to have come from the intermediate strata of Muslim society. The distinction they often made between the notables (umara ') and the learned (‘ulama ') generally overlapped, with a distinction between the rich and the moderately well-off.
What impact did the growth of a hierocracy have on communal relations in North India? It seems clear that in the preindustrial west and south of Asia two major sorts of religious organization and policy could be adopted. One, the unrationalized, was exemplified by the Sufis and the Akhbaris, who for the most part sought communal coexistence. Sufi pirs even served as in-
termediaries among religious communities, often accepting Hindus or Muslims of other sects as their disciples and producing literature of a syncretic nature.
The major alternative was a rational approach to religious law, such as that of strict Hanafi jurisprudents among the Sunnis, and the Usuli mujtahids among the Shi‘is. Awrangzib and Amjad ‘Ali Shah opted for the rational juridical policy, which was more compatible with state building than were traditional or charismatic forms of religion. Yet the drawback to adopting such a rationalized religious jurisprudence as the basis for state policy lay in its provocation of religious tensions. As cultural intermediators such as Sufi pits were displaced in Usuli Awadh, as cultural syncretism became suspect in the eyes of believers influenced by the scripturalist mujtahids, communalism grew. Religious disputes and riots had long existed, as Bayly has shown. But rational religious jurisprudence helped transform diffuse antagonisms into a more organized form of social closure. The rise of Usuli rationalism predated the impact of modern capitalism, but proved largely compatible with it—differing in this respect from the declining Sufi orders.
The growth of hierocracy, then, promoted social closure on a religious basis. Where Akhbaris or Sufi Shi‘is made compromises with Sunnis, especially in regard to cursing their caliphs, Usulis actively encouraged their public execration, even at the risk of violence. Although Usulis sought a politcal partnership with Sunnis, they insisted on a stronger delineation of religious boundaries. Usulis also advocated that the Shi‘i state destroy Hinduism and strip Hindus of all personal status rights, giving them a choice of conversion or death. The mujtahids urged Shi‘is to avoid the ritual pollution that would come from association with Hindus or some kinds of Sunni. By advocating a religious closure so strong that the community came to resemble a caste, the mujtahids laid the foundation for the emergence of Shi‘ism as a political identity.
The Nishapuri period in North India sheds light in two ways on the tradition of Muslim separatism and political activism that distinguished the United Provinces from southern India. Not only did the Usuli ulama and mourning practices promote social closure among Shi‘is, but a series of Sunni movements arose that sought the restoration of Sunni rule. The Nishapuris' break with Mughal traditions weakened their legitimacy among some Sunni zamindars in the qasabahs , and some regions suffered economically from tax-farming and the auction of offices. Moreover, as Nishapuri rule became weaker in the nineteenth century because of British restrictions, Hindu tacalluqdars , mystical corporations, and merchants grew more powerful. In neighboring British-ruled areas the hand of Hindu moneylenders was strengthened by British requirements that revenue assignments be backed by bank credit. Bayly has demonstrated a pattern in nineteenth-century North India wherein Hindu-dominated commercial cities prospered, whereas Muslim
qasabahs declined. Sunni families with a tradition of landholding and religious learning keenly felt the loss of Sunni grandeur and wealth.
Ostensibly, the movements of Sayyid Ahmad Rai-Barelavi in the 1820s, of Amir ‘Ali Amethavi in 1855, and of Ahmadu'llah Shah in 1857-58 were directed against groups other than the Shi‘i rulers in Lucknow. But Sayyid Ahmad dreamed of overthrowing the Nishapuris after he had defeated the Sikhs in the Punjab. Amir ‘Ali's holy war against the Hindus of Ayodhya brought him into a military encounter with Vajid ‘Ali Shah's troops. And Ahmadu'llah Shah ultimately bore as much enmity toward Birjis Qadar as toward the British. All three of these movements, drawing their followers from the Sunni intermediate strata, practiced what Parkin calls dual closure. Just as white unions in South Africa fought both the capitalists above and the black laborers below, so these Sunni revivalists fought both non-Muslims and the Shi‘i ruling class.
This tradition of dual closure among the Sunni intermediate strata of nineteenth-century North India seems unlikely to be irrelevant to twentieth-century developments. Even the strategic terrain bears resemblances. The minority Muslims of Awadh and surrounding territories who wanted to establish a Sunni state immediately thought of Peshawar, western Punjab, and Bengal as natural demographic bases. The growth of a Shi‘i state and its hierocracy, along with economic dislocations, presented Sunnis of what became the United Provinces with a psychological shock that those living in southern India were largely spared. The shock was increased by the British annexation of Awadh, which, although Shi‘i-ruled, had at least been in Muslim hands. In contrast, committed Sunnis living in southern India had the option of living in the Nizamate of Hyderabad, which maintained Sunni Mughal traditions, right up until 1947. Awadh Sunnis faced both an alien, Shi‘i ruling class of tax-farmers in the metropole and Hindu rajas in the provinces. The longing for a Sunni state among some radicals in the small towns of North India goes back rather further than the early twentieth century.
Bayly has argued that roots of communalism lay in social formations created by religious communities in the eighteenth century, the Hindu merchant class, and the Muslim service gentry based in the qasabahs or in Muslim city quarters. Economic, administrative, and political developments were kinder to the Hindu merchants than to the Muslim service gentry. "While strong, indigenous states retained power, these parallel developments did not necessarily presage conflict. But from the 1830s the disintegration of the old magistracies and notabilities left broader spaces for contention." Bayly makes a case for the relative decline of the qasabahs , economically and culturally, which lent urgency to Muslim protestations of increasing "backward-
ness" at the end of the nineteenth century. These were not, as Brass suggested, merely self-serving lies. Under the British from 1859 Muslims probably did not do as badly in the new middle class as their leaders argued. But the deterioration of their qasabahs filled them with alarm. Even where Muslim towns did not decline absolutely, they often witnessed a Hindu influx, as the Muslims lost their edge in the rate of urbanization.
In the British period Sunni activists continued the process of dual closure, the formation of a community identity by conflict with both Hindus and Shi‘is. Freitag has drawn attention to the importance of religious rites and riots to the formation of community identity late in the nineteenth century. For Hindus, cow protection formed a rallying cry for societies and riots, which increased community identity. Among Muslims, Muharram and other rites played a similar role. Social closure was aided in this period by the spread of Islamic education and the founding of Urdu printing presses that published works of the ulama and Muslim scholars. Increasing literacy among Muslims made the ideas of ulama and activists advocating a stronger Muslim (Sunni or Shi‘i) identity more accessible to large numbers of people.
Shi‘i activists also sought to impose their more austere mourning practices on all Muslims at Muharram processions. Shi‘i preachers insisted on cursing the caliphs and proclaiming that ‘Ali should have succeeded the Prophet without any delay. The compromise position adopted by many Muslims, of giving special honor to ‘Ali among the caliphs, was rejected both by Sunni hard-liners such as the Ahl-i Hadith and by Shi‘i mainstream Usulis. Sunni-Shi‘i conflict broke out in Lucknow in 1906, and Shi‘is and Sunnis as a result stopped taking their cenotaphs to the same Karbala burial grounds outside Lucknow on the tenth of Muharram. This renegotiation of sacred geography emphasized the increasing closure of the Sunni and Shi‘i communities. Thereafter, Sunni-Shi‘i violence broke out frequently, drawing the Hindus in as allies of one side or another.
Shi‘i ulama and landholders gradually rebuilt some institutions in North
India, founding seminaries and training-institutes for preachers. In the late nineteenth century graduates of the defunct Asafu'd-Dawlah seminary spread over North India and the subcontinent, introducing Shi‘i Friday prayers and Usuli teaching curricula in Lahore and Peshawar in the north and in Hyderabad in the south. Legal rulings for the laity were published in Urdu by Usuli exponents of Shi‘i Islamization.
Shi‘is and Sunnis never threw up complete barriers between their two communities. Many Shi‘i notables supported the Khilafat movement in the 1920s, fueled by the Sunni demand that the Ottoman ruler, which Indian Sunnis began accepting as their caliph late in the nineteenth century, be protected after the Ottoman defeat in World War I. That movement became allied with Mahatma Gandhi's early noncooperation drive, and so was involved in the growth of nationalism in the modern subcontinent. Strict Usuli ulama m Lucknow at first refused to cooperate in a movement for a Sunni caliph, whom they saw as a usurper of rights belonging solely to the family of the Prophet. But rumors of British bombardment of the shrine cities in Iraq led some of them to join in noncooperation against the British.
Brass wrote, against the primordialist position, that Muslim ulama did not play a leading role in the Muslim League and the movement for Pakistan. Robinson insisted in reply that many more ulama were active in that movement than has been generally realized. But the important point is not that ulama were state builders; Muslim politicians were more important. Rather, the religious culture promoted by some schools of ulama laid the groundwork for the emergence of a Muslim political identity once the masses became politicized. The question of north Indian Shi‘i participation in the movement for Pakistan cannot be addressed here, since no quantitative study has been done. Many Shi‘i families emigrated to Karachi, and one can think of important Shi‘i supporters of the Muslim League, such as the Raja of Mahmudabad. Their participation was probably proportionate to that of Sunnis, but their numbers were far less (most Sunnis did not emigrate, either). The large Shi‘i community of nearby eastern Punjab went to Pakistan in its entirety.
Both in promoting Shi‘i closure and in provoking Sunnis to dual closure, the mujtahids of Awadh created structures conducive to Muslim separatism. The compatibility of Usulism with modern Muslim state building is further demonstrated in revolutionary Iran after 1978, where some radical Usuli ulama took their doctrine that they were the representatives of the Twelfth Imam to its logical (though not necessary) conclusion, demanding for the
first time the right to rule. I pointed to the usefulness in understanding these events of Parkin's neo-Weberian conception of social closure, which he elaborated largely in the context of apartheid in South Africa. After all, some of the same social consequences are apparent in religious closure as in racial, and modern states have been built on the basis of both. Both appear so alien from the perspective of the ideals of 1789, which demand equal civil rights for all citizens, that those in that tradition must make a special effort of imagination to understand societies where race or religion define de jure second-class citizens. Fear of reduction to such a status, to which they know they would reduce others, explains much about religious communalists.