THE GROWTH OF A SHICI CLERICAL HIERARCHY IN AWADH
The Beginnings of Formal Shi‘i Institutions in Awadh
Imami Shi‘ism in eighteenth-century Awadh originally possessed features that Western sociologists would define as "sectarian." But the distinction between sect and "church" deriving from Max Weber and Ernst Troeltsch, fruitful in the sociological study of religious groupings in Protestant countries, clearly must be employed cautiously in a labyrinthine religious milieu like Mughal India. Moreover. one must carefully note that in this context the term "sect" bears no pejorative connotation. Although many definitions of sect and church have been proposed, most suffer from lack of precision and our inability to plot their primary attribute on a continuum, as a scientific definition would demand. Benton Johnson offered a widely accepted solution to this difficulty by restating the sect-church distinction "in terms of a single-variable property, namely the extent to which a religious body accepts the culture of the social environment in which it exists." I will
amend this definition slightly to include antagonism or indifference to the state. Sects, then, are religious groups in some tension with the prevailing culture and the state. In what I will term formal religious establishments, called "churches" in Western sociology, this tension lessens, though it seldom disappears altogether.
Accepting this single variable as the central one, we may look at other attributes of sects delineated by researchers like B. R. Wilson as frequent although not universal correlates. Many attributes of sectarianism appear in Awadh Shi‘ism, and the primary variable certainly does, since its ethos opposed the prevailing values of Sunni-dominated Mughal society. Shi‘is conceived of themselves as the "saved sect" (firqah-'i najiyah ), the elect of believers who supported the wronged family of the Prophet. Rather than a formal hierarchy of trained jurisprudents, north Indian Imamis possessed merely private experts in the oral reports of the Imams—experts differentiated from the lay community only in their slightly higher level of education. The Akhbari ulama resembled Pentecostalist ministers, who rejected priesthood and whose training emphasized scriptural knowledge, eschewing rationalist theology.
Akhbari north Indians, denouncing the strong division between the lay and the clerical that marked Usulism, had an egalitarian religious structure within the congregation. The crucial distinctions divided, not laymen and clerics, but notables and commoners. As was noted above, believers segregated their mourning sessions along class lines. Since few north Indian Imami clerics attained a high degree of jurisprudential learning, the typical Usuli jurisprudent immigrated from Iran, and ethnic tensions may also have been involved in the Akhbari attacks on mujtahids.
Awadh's Akhbaris forbade the formal worship of Friday congregational prayers on the grounds that the perfect leader who alone could lead them had departed into supernatural Occultation. The central ritual of sectarian Shi‘ism was the mourning session (majlis ) held for the martyred Imams, particularly Imam Husayn, in which personal piety could be expressed by open demonstrations of grief. In laboring-class processions believers spontaneously showed their faith through violently beating their breasts. Upper-class ceremonies tended to be more restrained, although they still involved weeping
and a touching of the heart. Both the rejection of Friday prayers and the emphasis on mourning sessions underlined the feeling of tension with the outside world that most north Indian Imamis felt.
Shi‘is saw India as the land of unbelief (kafiristan ), chafing under the rule of the Sunni Mughals. Some Muslim caste leaders forbade Sunni-Shi‘i marriage, another sign of sectarian tension. Shi‘is from the propertied classes often departed from a sectarian attitude enough to achieve high rank in the Mughal government, although even here they remained conscious of a distinction between their private inclinations and their duties to the Sunni Mughal sovereign, which strongly emerged during Awrangzib's conquest of the Shi‘i-ruled Deccan. The widely scattered Imamis in North India existed on the periphery of the Shi‘i centers in Iraq and Iran. Their loose religious organization and sectarian outlook approximated that of tenth-century Shi‘is in the wake of the Imam's Occultation. But just as the rise of the Safavid state in Iran helped transform Shi‘ism into a formal religious establishment, so the nawabs in Awadh had a similar impact in North India.
Although a Johnson-Wilson description of the sect as an ideal type corresponds to what we know of Imami Shi‘ism under the Mughals, the cultural complexity of India makes it necessary to define our terms more precisely. First, the "prevailing" culture in India, with which a sect would be expected to conflict, was dual. In a sense, two notable class orthodoxies coexisted, Mughal-supported Sunnism and the Hinduism of the twice-born castes. Even though Hinduism suffered some disabilities under Muslim rule and so sometimes also exhibited sectarian tensions with it, Hindus were the great majority of the population, and enough Brahmins and Hindu martial groups were integrated into the Mughal system of prebends and benefices to constitute them as junior partners in the Mughal enterprise. C. A. Bayly has suggested that the Jains and some Hindu ascetic orders constituted sects in eighteenth-century Awadh, and that they avoided entanglement with the government and possessed some degree of corporate organization. The definition of sect I am using would agree with the tendency to antagonism toward or indifference to the state, although it would not absolutely require any particular form of organization, which I have not taken as a primary variable. In Mughal India, then, Shi‘is could be considered sectarian in the same way as Jains could, since they opposed and subsisted outside the orthodoxy of the Sunni Muslim establishment, with its ulama, qazis , muftis, and seminaries, much as the Jains subsisted outside Brahminical Hinduism.
Another issue in the definition of sects and religious establishments has been raised implicitly by a group of sociologists considering the dominant
ideology, thesis. Abercrombie, Hill, and Turner showed that although Marx and subsequent sociologists considered the church to have ideologically dominated medieval Europe, in fact the authority of the ecclesiastical institutions sat rather lightly on the majority of the peasant population. European peasants continued to practice an autochthonous religion far removed from the theology and ritual of the literate priests who presided over the churches of the aristocracy, though only intermittently did peasant groups come so strongly into conflict with the church as to develop an alternative religious collectivity in the form of a sect. The formal religious establishment provided an ideology and an ecclesiastical structure primarily useful in uniting the ruling class and in socializing members of that class to values appropriate to their social position. It only lightly encompassed the peasant majority, and the underprivileged strata (the great majority in preindustrial societies) threw up most of the sectarian challenges to the religious establishment.
The rise of a Shi‘i ruling class in Awadh, composed of members of the Nishapuri ruling family, high administrators, and tax-farmers, and powerful eunuchs raised as Shi‘is at court, created the need for a formal Shi‘i establishment that could minister to the often literate notables. One of the functions of this religious establishment would be to justify Shi‘i rule. No Shi‘i formal religious establishment had existed in North India under the Sunni Mughals, so that an entire range of institutions needed to be newly created by Shi‘i elites.
The foundation of a formal Shi‘i establishment required specialized clerics. The Shi‘i ulama sought through professional closure practices to assert control over the monetary resources that notables poured into religious institutions, no easy task in the traditional, ecumenical setting of India. Among Shi‘i clerics, Usulis attempted to exclude all Shi‘i holy and learned men who did not possess a diploma (ijazah ) that allowed them to derive legal judgments and preside over ritual activity. To monopolize religious authority and the patronage of the Shi‘i state would require the exclusion of popular Sufi leaders and institutions, who mediated between Muslim and Hindu disciples. It also implied the displacement of Sunni ulama already occupying official religious offices.
The growth of sectarian folk practices among Shi‘is in Awadh, discussed in the preceding chapter, paralleled the growth of a formal, literate religious establishment among the notables. The two processes dovetailed only a century and more later, as literacy increased, the printing press spread formal religious ideas and practices, and urbanization brought the need for a clearer
communal (as opposed to village kinship or caste) identity. The process of Shi‘i Islamization (parallel to "Sanskritization" among modernizing Hindus) occurred first of all among the Awadh notables and clerics involved in constructing their dominant ideology.
The Establishment of Friday Prayers
The institution of Friday congregational prayers, the first major religious innovation undertaken by the notables and clerics of Awadh in creating a formal religious establishment, seems in retrospect a natural step. But this move aroused bitter controversy at the time, since it broke with all north Indian Shi‘i tradition. North Indian Akhbarism saw the holding of such prayers as a usurpation of the absent Twelfth Imam's authority, and Shi‘is associated mosque ritual with the arrogance of the Sunni majority. Moreover, the Awadh nawab's authorization of such prayers constituted a slap in the face to the Sunni Mughal emperor and a further declaration of regional independence, not to be undertaken lightly. Only a powerful congruence of secular and religious motives could have brought about this change.
The growth in numbers and authority of Usuli ulama helps account for the change. As the promise of patronage attracted Shi‘i clerics from Kashmir and from Iraq and Iran to Awadh, the number of scholars belonging to the Usuli school, dominant in those areas, increased. Greater political stability in the Middle East and North India in the last quarter of the century and more secure trade routes increased Awadh's contacts with the Shi‘i centers of West Asia. The Imami newly rich could afford pilgrimages to the shrine cities of Karbala and Najaf, and could in addition afford to subvent such travel for scholars such as Mirza Muhammad Khalil and Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali Nasirabadi.
On his return to Lucknow, Nasirabadi rejoined Chief Minister Hasan Riza Khan's inner circle, his penetration into the corridors of power and influence a tribute to his brilliance and ambition. But he was still the junior-most religious thinker patronized by the chief minister. The Sufi pirs Shah Khayru'llah and Shah ‘Ali Akbar Mawdudi wielded more influence. Even the Shi‘i notables of Awadh maintained the Mughal noble tradition of showing respect for Sufi leaders. The chief minister's first cousin Aqa Mirza was a devoted Sufi. Hasan Riza Khan saw no contradiction between Sufism and Shi‘ism, and whereas the growing clerical class in Faizabad had primarily to contend with the power of the physicians, in Lucknow their rivals for patronage and influence were Sufi leaders.
In the early 1780s, after Nasirabadi had returned from his sojourn in Iraq and Iran, a new controversy began to polarize the Imami community. The
foreign Usuli ulama wished to see Shi‘i Friday congregational prayers established in North India, whereas Indian Imamis of the Akhbari school resisted this initiative. One early source attributes the dominance of Akhbarism in North India to the school's pro-laity (camm-pasand ) tendencies. The same source states that Akhbaris in Awadh avoided the few mujtahids there completely, some even ritually cursing them. They criticized the Usulis for believing in independent legal reasoning (ijlihad ), allowing considered opinion (zann ) as a basis for legal rulings, employing analogy just as did the Hanafi Sunnis, and recognizing scholarly consensus as a source of law. Akhbaris perceived the Usulis to have compromised with Shi‘i principles, adopting the Sunni tenets of their Mughal oppressors. Moreover, Akhbaris may have projected their hostility to the Establishment Sunni clergy onto the professional Usuli ulama. Although the issue of Friday prayers was not one strictly between Usuli and Akhbari, since members of both schools took varying stances on it, north Indian Akhbaris on the whole tended to feel that they were impermissible in the absence of the Imam.
Many Indian Akhbaris opposed Friday congregational prayers on doctrinal grounds; others feared chat such separate rituals would provoke a Sunni backlash. In the previous decade, Muhammad ‘Askari Jaunpuri (d. 1777), a local Akhbari scholar appointed to the post of court mufti, advised against such prayers. Awadh's Shi‘is did not believe that congregational prayers were held even in the majority Shi‘i areas of Iraq and Iran, and they were not customary anywhere in North India.
Mulla Muhammad ‘Ali "Padshah" Kashmiri, arriving in Awadh in the carly 1770s, lacked this caution and timidity. He settled and taught in Faizabad and in about 1785 wrote a treatise on the virtue of congregational Friday prayers for Shi‘is. The author dedicated the book, five chapters long, to Nawab Asafu'd-Dawlah, calling upon him to establish Friday prayers. In the fourth chapter he mentioned three individuals qualified to lead the prayers. Two of these, Mirza Muhammad Khalil and Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali Nasirabadi, were local scholars who had adopted Usulism in Iraq. Kashmiri argued that instituting this measure would aid the nawab in his quest to spread the Islamic revelation (i.e., in its Imami form) more widely in his dominions. When Chief Minister Hasan Riza Khan went to Faizabad on a visit, Mulla Muhammad ‘Ali Padshah presented him with a copy of the treatise. Hasan Riza Khan made the proposal public on his return to Lucknow. But when he sounded out Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali about the idea, he rejected it. Nasirabadi
feared that such a public display would arouse the hostility of the majority Sunnis, and he asked the chief minister to dismiss the proposal. To avoid further pressure, he retired with his family and attendants to Nasirabad.
With Nasirabadi gone, Hasan Riza Khan spent more time with other companions, especially with Shah ‘Ali Akbar Mawdudi. A leader of the Chishti order orginally from Delhi, he settled in Faizabad in the 1770s. Under the influence of Awadh's court culture, and perhaps in order to gain easier access to court patronage, he accepted Imami Shi‘ism. He did so, however, without giving up his Sufi ideas and rituals and while retaining his followers among the largely Sunni Chishtis.
One Friday afternoon Hasan Riza Khan was shocked to discover that the Sufi leader said congregational prayers with his followers, but Shah ‘Ali Akbar was quick to enumerate the virtues of the ritual in Shi‘ism. The pir's strong support for Friday prayers, coming on the heels of Mulla Padshah's similar proposal, determined Hasan Riza Khan to institute them. Ironically, foreign-born Usulis and local former Sunnis pushed the Awadh court into beginning this ritual, a move doctrinally opposed by local Akhbaris. Even an Usuli like Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali felt uncomfortable with the idea, which demonstrates how strongly Indian Shi‘is felt the need to maintain a low profile and to avoid conflict with the much stronger Sunni community. Other Shi‘is also attempted to dissuade the chief minister from this plan, warning that it might provoke the Sunni Afghan chief ‘Abdu'r-Rahman Qandahari to revolt.
When Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali returned to Lucknow, Hasan Riza Khan once again pressed him to lead the Friday prayers. The young cleric consulted with some trusted advisers and came to the conclusion that it would be ungrateful not to help with such worthy work. (Moreover, such a slap in the face to his patrons might have signaled the decline of his so far promising career as a court religious scholar.) Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali, however, clearly retained some ambivalence about the prayers. When he first led them, in May 1786 (13 Rajab 1200), some believers from the notable class gathered at the palace, where they prayed the noon and afternoon prayers in congregation. But they followed the same ritual form as if they were praying congregationally on any other day of the week, rather than the special Friday form. This may have been an attempt at compromise, though it lasted only a short
time. The controversies behind this incident can no longer be traced.
Two weeks later the same group prayed the Friday congregational prayers (jumcah ) according to the prescribed forms. Some sources indicate that before he agreed to preside over this ceremony, Nasirabadi wrote a treatise on the congregational Friday prayer, showing it to be an "obligation of preference" (vujub-itakhyiri ) rather than an individual, absolute duty (vujub-icayni ). He firmly disputed the most conservative (and earliest) post-Occultation view that Friday congregational prayers are forbidden in the absence of the Imam. In taking the "obligation of preference" position he cautiously required the prayers. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali said that since some scholars forbade them and others considered them obligatory, caution dictated that believers pray both the Friday prayer in congregation and the individual noon prayer (zuhr ).
The beginning of Friday prayers in Lucknow, a victory for the rationalist Usuli ulama, came about because of a coalition of forces. Sufi leaders, intermediaries between Sunni and Shi‘i disciples, may have hoped to unite their followers in a single congregation by having formal ceremonies to which the Sunnis were accustomed. High Awadh secular officials probably wanted the prayers as symbols of regional autonomy. Foreign Usuli ulama promoted them because they believed them religiously necessary, and as part of their clericalist ideology. Local Usuli ulama, more cautious, finally acquiesced in holding the prayers, more because of outside pressure than inner conviction. Sufi leaders appear not to have recognized the possibility that leadership of the prayers might be taken over by the Usulis, displacing them and bringing a new religious elite to the fore.
Ideological Justification for Friday Prayers and Clerical Authority
The holding of Shi‘i Friday prayers provoked opposition from several quarters. Sunnis disliked it, though the feared violent reaction from them never materialized. Even with the Shi‘i community, many felt misgivings and refused to participate. Shi‘i artisans and laborers apparently rejected the prayers as an upper-class whimsy. The largely Akhbari notables opposed them as a heretical innovation. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali's response to the criticisms emerged in his Friday afternoon sermons, some of which he collected into a manuscript volume.
Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali wished to justify the need for a professional clergy of the Usuli sort. On that afternoon in May 1786 he told his audience in the chief minister's palace that a man either is a religious scholar or is not. If not,
he must emulate an expert on Islamic law in subsidiary matters. Emulation, necessary in practical matters of complicated law, is forbidden in matters of essential creed (masa'il-i usuliyyah ). Even in areas of belief, however, Shi‘is have the duty of reaching the orthodox conclusions through their own effort. Nasirabadi saw his sermons as one way of sharing his knowledge as a scholar with his lay audience. Since his eighteen months in Iraq hardly made him a mujtahid, his attitude was somewhat presumptuous. But in a north Indian context, with few Usulis, someone with even a short experience of studying with mujtahids in Iraq could project an aura of authority.
The prayer leader argued that if Shi‘is did not produce ulama, then they would have to depend on Sunni scholars to teach them, and might be misled by the latter, who would not instruct them in the oral reports from the Imams. Although he drew on an oral report from Imam Jacfar as-Sadiq for this point, Nasirabadi was describing the actual situation in India; he himself had studied extensively with Sunnis. Without ulama, he insisted, people would soon not know to which religion they belonged, and ulama were necessary to guard the moral order. In a pluralistic society like India, he believed, only a cadre of professional clerics could maintain a strong sense of communal identity.
That summer in the fasting month of Ramadan, the prayer leader warned his aristocratic audience against deliberately neglecting Friday prayers, fasting, or religious charity (zakat ). He said that whoever refused to say Friday prayers in congregation would receive no benefit from his individual daily prayers; he complained that he needed to voice such warnings because most Shi‘is did not observe the religious laws, owing to their worldly concerns. He urged that religious donations be given to an experienced, upright (‘adil ) mujtahid, and that he be allowed to distribute them to the poor. He attacked the Awadh custom of putting religious charities in the hands of court physicians, claiming jurisdiction over this institution for the professional clergy. The handful of Usuli ulama not only would have a platform for the propagation of their views in the official congregational prayers, but also would gain control over vast sums of money.
Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali's first sermon contained a second theme: the need for works and not only faith. It did not suffice, he insisted, to swear allegiance to the Imams and to mourn their martyrdom, but one must also obey, be pious, say one's daily prayers, and help the poor. He condemned those who argued against the prayers because they would tempt some believers to perform this good work in order to be seen of men, pointing out that the believers are commanded, not only to inner purity (safa-yibatin ) but also to outer purity (safa-yi
zahir ), suggesting that Friday prayers were an outward sign of internal piety.
The first sermon dcalt also with religion and state relations. The young Usuli cleric argued that Shi‘is had not held Friday prayers in India in the medieval period, because of the dominance of tyrannical Sunni emperors, just as they had avoided them in pre-Safavid Iran. The Safavids, he said, established the institution, and he urged the nawab of Awadh to emulate them in continuing to sanction the prayers. He denied that in agreeing to lead them he had sold himself (Shi‘is unhappy with the government obviously had accused him of doing so).
Nasirabadi felt some tension between his values as a religious scholar and those of even a Shi‘i aristocracy. Sensitive to the charges some hurled at him of moral turpitude in becoming involved with the state and helping move Shi‘ism toward a formal religious establishment, he noted that Sunni and Shi‘i ulama differed over the referent of the qur'anic verse "Obey God and obey the Prophet and those in authority among you" (4:59). Sunnis, he said, made it refer to rulers and nobles, whereas Shi‘is restricted it to the Imams. Shi‘is held that God would not order us to obey someone who might command something not in accord with the religious law. The Sunnis, he continued, branded Shi‘ism worldly and said that Shi‘is had no other aim than to draw close to the notables.
He responded that the opposite was true, and that Sunnis interpreted Qur'an 4:59 in this way precisely in order to please the powers that be. He also pointed out that Shi‘i ulama forbade the wearing of silk, using gold or silver vessels, listening to music, gazing at unrelated women, and homosexuality. Therefore, Shi‘i norms conflicted most strongly with the lifestyle of the Muslim ruling classes. He ended by staking out his own moral independence, saying, "It should not be thought that I have in the course of this talk, when giving thanks to the nawab, embellished my words for the sake of being seen of men or pleasing him, hut only because the holy law demanded it. Giving thanks where due is incumbent." Nasirabadi needed to make this disclaimer because he had so highly praised the bibulous, arbitrary Nawab Asafu'd-Dawlah as the establisher of the holy Law, the promulgator of the religion of the Imams, and the center of the sky of justice, and had prayed God to render his rule eternal.
In his Ramadan sermon for 1786, the prayer leader painted the holding of prayers as the most cautious course, attempting to steal the high ground from critics who felt that they should not be performed in the Occultation on grounds of caution. Such critics objected that uprightness (‘adalat ) in the prayer leader was a prerequisite, but without the direct appointee of an
Imam it would be an attribute difficult to establish. (That is, the appointee of an ordinary mortal might secretly have some vices.) Nasirabadi replied that the same difficulty attended the appointment of Shi‘i qazis and muftis, who must also be upright, yet no one raised similar objections in this regard.
Even after the passage of a year, the Friday congregational prayers remained controversial. In August 1787 Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali discussed openly the nature of the opposition. He reported that some of the deniers, wealthy men, privately maintained that the Friday prayers actually were not the nawab's idea and that he remained ambivalent about them. Quite possibly, he did have mixed feelings. Hasan Riza Khan most strongly sponsored the ceremonies. Nawab Asafu'd-Dawlah, still the titular first minister of the Mughal Empire, may have felt apprehension about the political repercussions of sanctioning the ritual of a branch of Islam different from that of his nominal sovereign. He remained reluctant to cut his last symbolic ties with the empire, even though he refused to respond positively to calls of the emperor that he come to Delhi or provide troops to the center.
Of course, the political value of ties to the emperor plummeted even further in the late 1780s, which may help explain why the nawab-vizier approved the holding of Shi‘i Friday prayers at all. In the period 1786-87, when they commenced in Lucknow and Faizabad, the Mughal emperor, Shah ‘Alam II, had been reduced to a figurehead over whom the Hindu Marathas and the Sunni Muslim Ruhilah Afghans fought because of his remaining authority as a symbol. On the other hand, the visiting Mughal prince, Javan-Bakht Mirza, was allowed to attend the Lucknow prayers, and his presence probably indicates that Delhi did not perceive them as rebellious. The nawabs of Awadh became firmly committed to holding Shi‘i ceremonies and supporting the Usuili ulama. As they resorted less and less to the Mughals for the legitimation of their rule, they cast about for other sources of legitimacy. The creation of a supportive Shi‘i clerisy was, in Awadh as in Qajar Iran, one means to this goal.
Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali attacked the upper-class opponents of Friday prayer for their pride reminiscent of the pre-Islamic Age of Ignorance (hamiyyat-ijahiliyyah ). They did not want to bow behind a prayer leader, because it
would detract from their social status. These notables, among the wealthiest and most powerful men in North India, may well have balked at allowing the son of a small landholding qasabah family to lead them in prayer. Nasirabadi depicted his opponents as licentious aristocrats who spent their time listening to music, wearing silk, drinking from gold vessels, hanging paintings on their walls, and patronizing unveiled singing girls.
He denounced their pretensions to religious learning as arrogant, ridiculing them for saying that since Shi‘is at the shrine cities of Karbala and Najaf in Iraq did not openly hold Friday congregational prayers, believers should not hold them in Lucknow either. Since his opponents, as Akhbaris, objected to emulating anyone but the Imams, he pointed out the inconsistency of their imitating the practice in the shrine cities. Moreover, he denied that believers never held Friday congregational prayers in the holy centers of Iraq.
He said the ritual had not previously been performed in North India because the Sunni emperors forced Shi‘i notables to practice dissimulation. The situation, he continued, had now changed and Islam forbade the aping of one's ancestors. He argued that some scholars, such as Aqa Muhammad Baqir Bihbahani in Karbala, considered the Friday group prayers to be preferentially incumbent (vujub-itakhyiri ), holding them privately. Nasirabadi said that he wished to make Bihbahani's stance clear, even though he recognized that most of his opponents, as Akhbaris, either emulated the dead or emulated no one. He emphasized that he himself, as a mujtahid, had come to his own conclusions and was not emulating Bihbahani. He neglected to mention that other scholars he studied with in Iraq, such as Aqa Sayyid ‘Ali Tabataba'i, took a more cautious position on this matter. Neither group in Lucknow referred to the practice in Iran, which indicates that they only considered that of the shrine cities in any sense normative.
Artisan and laborer Shi‘is also tended to react with hostility to the Friday prayers. Since the court began them in a notable's mansion, the prayers obviously were not meant to encompass the popular classes at this point. Later the nawab had a cathedral mosque (jamicmasjid ) constructed in Lucknow so that the public could attend. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali betrayed impatience at opposition from this quarter, dismissing the common people as animals and beasts that needed a shepherd who could use his staff to force them to the attainment of happiness. A week later, Nasirabadi stressed that all Shi‘is were not saved, and that some were worse than Sunnis. He said that some
put Ali on the same level as Muhammad, while others made him God. Such Shi‘is, for all their love of the Imams, were unbelievers. He thundered that most of the ignorant Shi‘is in his own time deserved to enter hellfire on these grounds. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali rejected as effeminate the view of some that one should not speak badly of anyone who believes in the Imams
From his newfound pulpit Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali promoted the Usuli school of Shi‘ism as orthodoxy. He claimed extensive prerogatives for ulama of that school and attempted to displace other competitors for the patronage of the Shi‘i high notables, such as Sufis and Akhbari scholars. He strove against Akhbarism as the ideology of wealthy Shi‘i gentlemen scholars, and against the extremist theological views of the little people. The rituals, law, and religious donations of the Shi‘i community, he argued, should be controlled by the Usuli ulama.
The Spread of Friday Congregational Prayers
The practice of holding Shi‘i Friday prayers and building Shi‘i mosques spread to other cities, and then to smaller towns and villages. Through this institution, Shi‘i medium landholders in the lineage centers enhanced their local prestige and authority. Further, service positions as prayer leaders opened up for them in the cosmopolitan cities where rich and powerful Shi‘i patrons lived. Like the imambarahs , the new mosques united Shi‘i communities, though fewer attended the formal services, which probably catered more to the landed, literate strata.
The same year that Friday prayers began in Lucknow they commenced in Awadh's other major urban, center, Faizabad. As in the case of the riot seven years earlier, Javahir ‘Ali Khan (d. 1799) took the lead in supporting the program of the Usuli ulama. Sayyid ‘Abdu'l-‘Ali Deoghatavi (1749-1827), from a village near Ghazipur, was appointed to lead the prayers in Faizabad. He came there in 1770 to study, pursuing his education with Mulla Muhammad ‘Ali "Padshah" Kashmiri and becoming a mujtahid. He received a land grant (mucafi ) worth Rs. 1,000 per month from Asafu'd-Dawlah to support him in the office of prayer leader.
Not many Shi‘is attended the prayers at first, being unused to them. Especially in the rainy season and in winter, attendance dropped off sharply. Javahir ‘Ali Khan, who zealously supported the institution, hired twenty men as servants to bring companies of people to the mosque, not only for Friday prayers but for the five daily prayers as well. As in Lucknow, the posi-
tion of Friday prayer leader in Faizabad became hereditary. It was next held by Sayyid Muhammad Deoghatavi (d. 1849), Sayyid ‘Abdu'l-‘Ali's son, who studied with Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali Nasirabadi, becoming a mujtahid. His son, Sayyid ‘Ali (d. 1897), failed to reach the rank of ijtihad , even though he became Friday prayer leader. By that time personal charisma and specialized training for the post, originally an important consideration, had grown irrelevant in favor of traditional family claims and the charisma of office.
As was noted, the prayers began to be held in the lineage centers as well. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali constructed a Friday prayers mosque in his home town of Nasirabad in 1812. In 1807 Sayyid ‘Abdu'l-‘Ali built an impressive mosque in Deoghata. After 1803 the British took over many areas of northern India formerly under Sunni Mughal rule, providing a safe atmosphere for Shi‘is to build mosques and hold Friday prayers.
Mawlavi Sayyid Muhammad ‘Ibadat, having studied with Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali in Lucknow, began leading Friday congregational prayers in Amroha at an old imambarah . In 1808 Hajji Ashraf ‘Ali of Patna settled in Amroha and built a Friday prayers mosque. The position of Friday prayer leader passed to the incumbent's son, who likewise trained with Lucknow's mujtahids. Later in the century Mawlavi Sayyid ‘Ali Husayn, a zamindar and mucafidar who had studied in Lucknow with Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali's son Sayyid Husayn, also served as prayer leader in Amroha. Prominent families and middle landholders in the towns of the area began to enhance their local prestige and authority by having some members study in Lucknow and return to perform such religious leadership functions as leading prayers in the public mosques that these same families had built.
In Awadh the ruling elite appointed mostly Indians to religious posts, despite the large number of qualified Iranian immigrants. The Indian ulama, better acquainted with local protocol, excluded their Iranian competitors. After failing to procure patronage in Awadh, Aqa Ahmad Bihbahani, the grandson of Aqa Muhammad Baqir, became prayer leader of British-ruled Patna in 1809, supported by local Shi‘i notables. He said the sermon in the name of the "king of Islam" (padshah-iIslam ), probably referring to the Qajar monarch. In British-ruled territory Bihbahani felt no compulsion to recognize the weak Mughals in Delhi.
Shi‘i Religious Education
The handful of Usuli ulama trained more scholars in their school on an informal basis. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali in addition to bringing up his own five sons as ulama, taught a number of other religious students, though not all became clergymen. Of thirty-one long- and short-term pupils listed in Nasirabadi's biography, eight were clearly gentlemen scholars of the notable class. One sees a contrast between Mirza Kazim ‘Ali, a high notable who taught law and the prmciples of jurisprudence as an avocation, and Mirza Javad ‘Ali (1760-1842), a poverty-stricken student who never composed much because he had difficulty in finding patronage. Another four "students" were Nasirabadi's colleagues, who traded knowledge with him.
Of the remaining nineteen, mostly young men of a religious turn of mind, some came of middle landholding families in the qasabahs . These, like Sayyid Muhammad Quli Kinturi (later principal Sadr Amin at the British court in Mccrut) and Sayyid Muhammad Deoghatavi (later Faizabad's chief prayer leader), went on to careers in the religious or judicial fields. Some of his students, from families specializing in medicine, went on to become physicians themselves. Many of the younger scholars became committed Usulis, writing polemics against Akhbarism, Sufism, and Sunnism. Some of the younger notables trained by Nasirabadi also produced such works. Not everyone who studied with Nasirabadi came to support him; most of his students derived from an Akhbari background and some remained Akhbaris. Moreover, two young men very close to him, his cousin Sayyid Yad ‘Ali Nasirabadi and his old traveling companion Sayyid Panah ‘Ali, turned against him after studying with him, and remained his bitter critics. Very firm bonds of loyalty and shared ideology emerged from the social networks centered on informal teaching and study, but sometimes those same networks accommodated strong enmities.
Many other scholars, including Iranian and Kashmiri immigrants, taught in Awadh. In addition to class sessions, notables held salons centered on religious discussion. The prayer leader in Faizabad, Sayyid ‘Abdu'l-‘Ali Deoghatavi, trained numbers of Usuli clerics. Through these informal tutoring systems Usuli ideas spread among Shi‘i literati and notables, not only in Awadh but beyond it to Banaras and Allahabad divisions, the upper Doab, and Bihar. In the next generation Nasirabadi's sons and major students taught hundreds of scholars, and in the 1840s the Awadh rulers finally founded a Shi‘i seminary (madrasah ).
The networks of learning extended even beyond India to Iraq and Iran, as in the case of Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali. Ironically, the Indian connection proved highly lucrative for the Usuli cleries in the shrine cities. In the late 1780s Chief Minister Hasan Riza Khan remitted Rs. 500,000 to Najaf through the
Iranian firm of Hajji Karbala'i Muhammad Tihrani for the construction of a canal in the middle Euphrates, which would bring water to perpetually dry Najaf. The project, aimed at sparing inhabitants and pilgrims inconvenience, was completed in 1793. Later Asafu'd-Dawlah sent another Rs. 200,000 to the mujtahids in Iraq. The nawab's channeling of such large sums to the chief Usuli ulama in the shrine cities, on the advice of Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali, strengthened them and further contributed to Usuli dominance. Tafazul Husayn Khan Kashmiri, as chief minister in 1795-98, remitted a great deal of money to Aqa Sayyid ‘Ali Tabataba'i for the poor and the ulama in Karbala.
The Judiciary and Ulama-State Tensions
Shujacu'd-Dawlah probably appointed a chief qazi , as well as qazis in the provinces, since the Mughal system assumed these. Civil administrators performed many judicial functions. In rural areas large landholders often tried civil and criminal cases according to customary law (‘urf ). Elliot gave evidence that religious-law qazis , appointed to each parganah, continued to exist in Awadh right up to the 1856 British annexation. These Sunni provincial qazis often held the post on a hereditary basis, having been given service grants by the Mughal government for undertaking judicial duties. They decided disputes, appeased enmities, performed marriage ceremonies, decided inheritance cases, wrote decrees, led ritual prayers, and instructed the people in religious law. Typical of the evidence available for the continued appointment of qazis in the parganahs is the petition to the nawab from Hafiz Muhammad Basir, who wished to be made judge in Sandila on the death of his father, the former holder of the post. In Kakori as well, the post of qazi was held in the late eighteenth and the early nineteenth century on a hereditary basis.
In the eighteenth century the rudimentary judiciary of the central government lacked any great authority. Shujacu'd-Dawlah appointed as mufti the Farangi-Mahalli Ghulam Hazrat who held a similar post early in Asafu'd-Dawlah's
Dawlah's reign. Isfahani painted a black picture of the judiciary under Nawab Asafu'd-Dawlah as altogether ineffective. He said that in 1783, as a result of pressure exerted by the British resident, Bristow, the deputy chief minister, Haydar Beg, appointed Mawlavi Mubin Farangi-Mahalli as civil judge. After a while the government replaced him with a Shi‘i Iranian, Muhammad Nasir Khan (a cousin of the assassinated chief minister, Mukhtaru'd-Dawlah), a notable rather than a religious scholar. In 1792 the Sunni Mufti Ghulam Hazrat became Lucknow's chief qazi , but the payroll for his court employees was, owing to treasury department problems, always in arrears.
Nawab Sacadat ‘Ali Khan (r. 1798-1814) likewise depended largely on the Sunni ulama of the Farangi Mahall for his court judges. These Sunni judges sometimes came into conflict with the nawab; Sacadat ‘Ali removed Mawlavi Zuhuru'llah (d. 1840) from office after a dispute. Such disputes with the court could be ruinous both to careers and to finances, but Zuhuru'llah sought and received the patronage of a Shi‘i tax-farmer, becoming mufti once again after Sacadat ‘Ali's death.
The judiciary remained weak, and the British, worried about the impact of insecurity on property, constantly urged Nawab Sacadat ‘Ali to establish courts of justice and police throughout his dominions. He astutely turned this demand around and used it as a bargaining chip, saying that such a court system could be established only when the rebels in the countryside were extirpated, an indirect way of asking for more British troops to help his tax collectors.
The Sunni background of the government qazis made many Shi‘is uncomfortable about resorting to them. A believer asked Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali Nasirabadi if, where two Shi‘is had an unsettled legal dispute, they were permitted to take it to an upright Imami religious scholar. He replied that it was not only permissible, it was the preferred course. The Shi‘i ulama enhanced their moral authority and circumvented the Farangi-Mahall judges through giving informal rulings on disputes between Shi‘is.
Only in the 1840s did the government institute a Shi‘i judiciary in Awadh. The major reason for the long delay in this development was that the Shi‘i ulama simply did not trust the nawabs to let them make rulings according to Islamic law and their own consciences. Partially, they may not have wished to put themselves in a position where they would have been sure to come into conflict occasionally with their benefactors, for long remaining content to let Farangi-Mahallis like Mufti Zuhuru'llah undertake this often dangerous and morally compromising work.
An incident in the continuing rivalry between the Indian and Iranian Shi‘i ulama demonstrates the difficulties they faced in this regard. Aqa Ahmad Bihbahani came to India late in the eighteenth century and stayed in Hyderabad, Murshidabad, and Patna. He then came to Awadh in search of patronage, settling at first in Faizabad. In fact, he ought to have gotten the ulama in Lucknow to have the nawab extend an invitation to him, but perhaps because of his Iranian pride he did not abide by-that etiquette. He then committed the even more serious breach of coming to Lucknow without the nawab's permission.
At the end of Ramadan in 1222 (1807), some believers came to Bihbahani in Lucknow and stated that they had seen the moon, a sign that the month of fasting was over. Aqa Ahmad gave a ruling that the next day was the first of Shawwal and the Holy Day (‘Idal-Fitr ) marking the breaking of the fast. He sent the ruling to Nawab Sacadat ‘Ali Khan, who, he said, at first accepted it. Later the nawab changed his mind and issued orders that the Holy Day would be celebrated a day later. Some friends advised Bihbhani to go along with the nawab's judgment, but he replied that in such matters the mujtahid must be obeyed, not obedient. He asserted that given the Shi‘i faith of the nawab, practicing dissimulation with him could have no meaning, and the Imams forbade the sort of worldly greed that would impel a cleric to obey him on this issue.
The next day Sacadat ‘Ali Khan went to the mosque for the Holy Day prayers, which Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali led. Aqa Ahmad insisted that the Law forbade holding the prayers a day late, but the Lucknow ulama justified it on grounds of pious dissimulation (taqiyyah ) Bihbahani sent a letter to the ulama, protesting that such actions gave an excuse to the Sunnis to criticize them. In reply, they quoted oral reports from the Imams living under the Sunni Abbasids about pious dissimulation, which he felt inappropriate. He complained that many in Lucknow thought that simply receiving a diploma (ijazah ) permitting one to transmit the oral reports of the Imams made a scholar a mujtahid, cattily remarking that in all of North India he never found any true ulama. These barbs, directed at Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali, aimed
at disputing his status as a mujtahid.
Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali angrily riposted that he had on many occasions opposed the nawabs, but insisted on the legitimacy of practicing pious dissimulation with them. He gave as an example the time that Nawab Asafu'd-Dawlah fell ill and British friends suggested that he have some liquor for its medicinal effects. The nawab had given up drinking some time before, repenting before Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali. He asked Nasirabadi about this medical advice through a notable. The prayer leader replied without hesitation that many oral reports said that forbidden things have no curative effect. He could not permit the drinking of wine for medicinal purposes, on grounds of Islamic law.
Nasirabadi explained that he had not practiced pious dissimulation in that case because the nawah asked him a direct question. In the incident of the late Holy Day prayers, Sacadat ‘Ali Khan never bothered to inquire as to his opinion, but simply issued orders postponing the ceremonies. Had he asked, Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali would have informed him that he was wrong to do so. But for the prayer leader to have volunteered such information would have been, he insisted, so serious an infraction against court protocol that it might well have put his life in danger. Temporary visitors such as Bihbahani might have been able to defy the nawab, he allowed, but local religious officials were in a much more precarious position.
This sort of awkward situation made Shi‘i ulama unwilling to accept positions as government-appointed judges. At one point the government of Sacadat ‘Ali Khan attempted to appoint Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali to a judgeship. Nasirabadi explained that his acceptance would have been conditional on the nawab's assurance that the Islamic Law would be implemented. Since this would have meant that Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali would be judging the nawab, he declined to accept.
The late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries witnessed two religious processes at work among notable-class Shi‘is in Awadh. As the Shi‘i-ruled state became more autonomous from the Mughals in Delhi, notable Shi‘is felt less tension with their own government, moving away from a sectarian sort of religion to a more formal establishment. As a corollary of this lessening tension with the state, Shi‘is brought into being formal Shi‘i religious institutions, some of them for the first time in North India. These institutions, in turn, required specialized staff, setting in motion the second religious process, the creation of a professional clergy.
The major cause for the transition to a formal religious establishment was clearly the rise of a Shi‘i regional ruling group in post-Mughai Awadh. Just as it produced a new, local patrimonial bureaucracy, it encouraged a more rational and bureaucratic approach in its own branch of Islam. Moreover, the cathedral mosque and Sunni Friday prayers had been powerful symbols of empire in Mughal Delhi. Some said that Asafu'd-Dawlah intended the Shi‘i cathedral mosque he built in the 1790s to rival the one in Delhi. The ruling elite, desirous of celebrating its increasing autonomy in Awadh with a new capital, new bazaars, and extensive architectural works, appreciated the symbolic political value of Shi‘i Friday prayers. Thus, the move to a more formal religious establishment paralleled a further stage of state making in Awadh, in which the regional court openly threw off even the emperor's favored form of religion.
A more autonomous Shi‘i state reduced the tension with the Shi‘i community by providing security to it for its religious practices. A little over a century after Awrangzib forbade all Shi‘i rituals in India, Awadh's Shi‘is freely and openly practiced their faith. One of the classic prerequisites recognized by Shi‘i ulama for the holding of Friday prayers was that it be safe to do so. In authorizing the prayers, the nawab and the chief minister made a declaration of security for Shi‘is in their realm. Nasirabadi had to accept the sincerity of that declaration before he could agree to lead the prayers, and even then he adopted a rhetoric of independence, urging Shi‘is to obey the Imams before any secular authority. Behind this idiom of independence, however, lay the inescapable fact that Shi‘i clerics like Nasirabadi were being co-opted by the state as adjuncts to its moral authority. In return, the highly trained Usuli ulama, who demanded absolute obedience from laymen on religious matters, were given financial support by the state, beginning their transformation into a professional clergy. This emergence of a body of paid religious experts is one correlate of a formal religious establishment, as opposed to a sect.
Obstacles to the achievement of a religious establishment among Shi‘is remained. The Akhbari gentlemen scholars of the notable class at first refused to bow behind the petty landholding ulama. The ulama themselves still distrusted the state, refusing formal judicial duties. Moreover, since the Friday prayers began among a small circle of the chief minister's intimates in Lucknow, artisans and laborers of the bazaar were excluded. Like the office of mulla-bashi in late Safavid Iran, the office of prayer leader in Awadh resembled in its initial stages the chaplaincy of the ruling household. But just as the nawab's arbitrary, patrimonial power had to extend throughout Awadh,
so too did the official school of Shi‘ism he adopted make universal claims to authority. Only some Awadh notables at first recognized these claims, as Usuli Shi‘ism became their dominant ideology, and most Shi‘i artisans and laborers retained a more sectarian form of Shi‘ism.
Much of this chapter deals with professional closure by the Usuli ulama. The beginning processes of clerical professionalization described here ended in widespread exclusionary practices, which will be dealt with in the next chapter. In this first stage in their appropriation of social and economic opportunities, the Usuli ulama specified a set of religious offices—prayer leader, jurisconsult, endowment and religious charities supervisor, and teacher—which they sought to fill. These often highly remunerative offices, required by the conventions of Muslim states and institutions, attracted pre-bends, benefices, and stipends for their support. The Usulis, having defined the services offered, strongly made the argument that untrained laypersons lacked the professional expertise to provide them. In this first stage of professionalization, the Shi‘i jurisprudents attempted to exclude literate gentleman scholars from what they saw as properly clerical posts. They excluded from their demands for a monopoly on such offices only the Muslim court judgeships. (Here the tendency to professional closure and the demands of their status group's style of life, of fidelity to scriptural principles, came into conflict.) To some extent. this attempt at clerical closure represented the demand by sons of small and middle Shi‘i landholders that service opportunities with the Shi‘i state be expanded for them and wealth shared beyond the narrow circle of notables and administrators.
The professional closure attempted by the handful of Usuli clerics was incomplete in the late eighteenth century. Unwilling to assume the risks and accept the moral compromises involved in the formal judiciary, they left that traditionally ulama-dominated institution to the Sunni Farangi-Mahallis. The Usulis' reluctance indicates both their incomplete transition from sectarian to establishmentarian views and their conviction that the ulama had not yet successfully socialized the Shi‘i ruling class to scriptural values. Competitors for state patronage abounded, in the form of Sufi Shi‘i leaders, conservative Akhbari ulama, and even Sunni and Hindu learned and holy men, so that the Usuli ulama had anything but a monopoly on religious patronage. Yet with the foundation of Friday congregational prayers, and with Nasirabadi's teachings on the authority of mujtahids over laymen and over religious donations, the foundations were laid for the emergence in Awadh of a full-blown hierocracy, a clerical hierarchy that asserted sole authority over the formal religious establishment.
The New Jurisprudents and the Struggle for Religious Leadership
Weber isolated two kinds of ruling organization, the political and the hierocratic, or religious. Both, he thought, seek to attain power and to exercise domination (the probability that a command with a given specific content will be obeyed by a given group of persons). The Weberian categories shed light on religious developments in Awadh. The Shi‘i-dominated Awadh state depended on the grant of prebends and tax-farming rights for its civil and military administration. The new religious establishment was likewise supported by service land grants, providing an income to scholars, who thus became differentiated as professional clergy from the laity. This gradual emergence of a Shi‘i religious establishment in Awadh alongside the Shi‘i state brought to the fore questions of authority and the sort of domination this "hierocracy" would wield. In the late eighteenth century official Shi‘i clergymen, mostly small and middle landholders from the qasabahs , began performing the functions of prayer leader, informal jurisconsult (mufti), and supervisor of religious charities. The institutions these individuals helped create contained the seeds of an increasingly complex religious establishment with its own bureaucracy and control over wealth.
Usuli ideology, adopted by this new group, had been used in Iran and southern India to justify a clerical monopoly over religious authority, often coupled with aggression toward competitors. Usulism was developed by
clerics seeking greater accommodation to the ruling establishment, growing most powerful in Safavid Iran. In accepting that the central institutions of the Islamic state can exist in the absence of the Imam, the Usulis adjusted themselves to the power realities of Shi‘i ruled governments, endeavoring to found a monopolistic religious establishment that encompassed the entire Shi‘i community. The search for monopoly brought the Usulis into conflict with other Shi‘i religious leaders, most notably Sufis and Akhbaris, whom they sought to exclude from authority.
How should the struggle between these religious groups be interpreted? A Marxian analysis might lead us to search for conflicts between economic classes as the base of these ideological struggles. On the other hand, a Weberian approach might see the dispute as one between status groups. Certainly, Weberian categories seem at first sight very useful in interpreting the struggle for religious leadership in Awadh. But only a full examination of the conflicts can help decide the applicability of these explanatory models to the material.
Weber distinguished three types of legitimate domination—the charismatic, the traditional, and the rational—recognizing that none of these might occur in its pure form and would more often be found mixed together. The types of Awadh religious leadership fall generally under the Weberian headings. Sufi leaders based their right to legitimate domination mainly on charismatic grounds, citing mystical knowledge and the ability to perform miracles. Akhbari ulama stressed the traditional grounds for their authority, in the Imami oral reports. Usuli ulama grounded their claims in their mastery of a premodern sort of rational-legal technique, asserting that the expertise of the mujtahid in deriving legal judgments from the revealed text through reasoning lent him his authority. (Both Sufis and Usulis also made some claims to authority on traditional grounds.) The clash among the mystics, the experts in oral reports, and the rationalist jurisprudents appears to have derived at least partially from the differing types of legitimation to which they appealed in the exercise of their religious domination. The question remains whether conflict between social classes entered into this dispute.
The Battle with Sufism
Within the Shi‘i community the new Usuli school faced no more formidable contenders for control over religious institutions and notable patronage than
Sufi leaders. The notables in Awadh did not originally hold the ulama and mujtahids in high esteem, rather honoring Sufi pirs. Sufis believed in the metaphysical doctrine of existential monism (wahdatal-wujud ), which in its extreme forms approximated pantheism. Sufi leaders, or pirs, claimed to enjoy divine graces (karamat ), to perform miracles, and to be privy to inspiration (kashf ) from God. Indian Muslims practiced Sufism widely, including those in Lucknow, where people attended meditation and chanting sessions, seeking to teach mystical states (vajd va hal ). The legalist ulama objected that music and revelry often accompanied these gatherings, lamenting that many high notables attended them and believed Sufism to be a path to spiritual well-being. Several of the powerful court physicians in Faizabad left sons who continued a tradition of Sufism and Akhbarism.
Even formally, Sunni pirs often benefited from the largesse of Awadh's Imami rulers. Asafu'd-Dawlah granted twelve rent-free villages, yielding Rs. 30,000, to the pirs of Salon in perpetuity. The pirs spent most of the proceeds in supporting itinerant faqirs and Hindu Vairagis, without distinction of religion, who made short stops in Salon. At any one time a hundred such visitors congregated in this largely Muslim town of four thousand. Other Sunni Sufi endowments existed at Bhardasa near Faizabad, endowed by Asafu'd-Dawlah with lands yielding Rs. 15,000 per year, and at Manikpur in Partabghar, with Rs. 4,000 per year.
Some pirs had Shi‘i sympathies. Mir Taqi Mir related how his father, a Shi‘i, discussed the Umayyads (enemies of ‘Ali) with a Sufi leader who replied that he had, thank God, never mentioned their names. The Usuli clergy said Sufis adopted Shi‘ism only pro forma, and that Sufis followed their pirs only because they expected worldly benefits. Aside from Sufi brotherhoods (tariqah Sufism), many notables in Awadh cultivated the mystical philosophy of such Shi‘i thinkers as Mulla Sadra Shirazi, whom the Usuli jurists dismissed as a heretic.
Although Sufi adoption of Shi‘ism in Awadh may often have aimed at gaining court patronage, some Shi‘i Sufis developed their own subculture and literary traditions. They were influenced by the Shi‘i Nicmatu'llahi order, which had spread to Hyderabad and based itself there after Usuli persecution in Safavid Iran. Indian missionaries of this order promoted a re-
vival in Iran in the late eighteenth century, meeting violent repression from Usuli clergy, who saw the pirs as rivals to their own authority and access to court patronage.
Sufis in Awadh told a story that the early Shi‘i figure ash-Sharif ar-Radi was praying behind his brother, the great scholar Murtada ‘Alamu'l-Huda, when he suddenly left the mosque. When rebuked, he replied that he had seen the prayer leader covered with blood and could not continue, because of ritual pollution. When asked about this, ‘Alamu'l-Huda confessed that he had been considering an issue in the ritual law of menstruation, admitting that ar-Radi was right to have acted as he did. In this story, ‘Alamu'l-Huda stands for those concerned with outer appearances, while ar-Radi represents mystics devoted to inner reality (abl-i batin ). The tale demeaned the official ulama as overly concerned with ritual law, and exalted the Sufis, for whom prayer had no significance unless the heart was also engaged. True to form, the Usuli ulama complained of the story's legal inaccuracy, since such a thought would not invalidate the prayers. The appearance of classical Shi‘i authors in the story indicates that the Sufis were working in an Imami tradition.
Sufis and the Friday Prayers
The establishment of Friday prayers in 1786 helped provoke a crisis. As long as Shi‘is simply held informal mourning sessions for the Imams, the community could remain diffuse and diverse. The holding of formal prayers in congregation at Hasan Riza Khan's palace required that criteria for community membership be set up. Moreover, Hasan Riza Khan and-other notables created tensions by bestowing patronage both on Sufis and on their Usuli rivals. The appointment of an Usuli prayer leader proved divisive, since to pray behind him implied acceptance of his spiritual leadership. The Sufis held meditation sessions, with dancing and singing, on Fridays in the same hall where Shi‘is said Friday prayers in congregation. The Sufis did not join the prayers, some suggesting that praying in public was prideful. They said that anyone with inner purity did not need such rituals, which only bestowed outer purity.
In the 1780s at the Awadh court the struggle between jurists and mystics grew fierce. Once the Sufi Shah Khayru'llah told his patron Hasan Riza Khan that he did not go to Karbala, for fear of Aqa Muhammad Baqir Bihbahani, whom he accused of extorting money from Indian pilgrims to the shrine of Imam Husayn. Nasirabadi, having studied in the shrine cities, protested that such fears were wholly unfounded.
In 1786, about four months after the congregational prayers began, Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali launched a stinging attack on the Sufis in his afternoon sermon. He condemned those who claimed to meet every day with God, or even to be God Himself, and who said they knew the condition of the seven heavens. Nasirabadi sneered that if one asked them a question about Islamic law, they would be unable to answer. He accused them of innovating heretical rituals and laws. Since Sunnis in India often attacked Shi‘is as innovators, Nasirabadi made this charge cautiously. He defined a heretical innovation (bidcah ) as a practice contrary to the path of the Prophet. For instance, he said, there is an oral report from Muhammad that whoever weeps for Husayn will enter heaven. Therefore, the mourning sessions held by Shi‘is for the Imam are not heretical innovations, though they grew up after the time of the Prophet. (Sunni critics, of course, did see such mourning sessions. as heretical.)
Nasirabadi also criticized Sufis for the practice of spiritual retreat and seclusion, saying that meeting with the believers and associating with one another is much praised in the oral reports from the Imams. In later sermons, as well, he returned to these themes, criticizing Sufi ascetic ideas and what he saw as pantheism. He rejected the analogy that God flows in his creation as water in milk, or that God is as the ocean and beings are as the waves. Such a view, he said, would reduce us to saying that dogs and pigs are God Himself.
The Chishti leader Shah ‘Ali Akbar Mawdudi (d. 1795), Nasirabadi's keenest competitor for the support of Hasan Riza Khan, led the Friday morning meditation sessions, but he and his following refused to attend the congregational prayers. They prayed Friday prayers elsewhere, with Mawdudi as the prayer leader. Shah ‘Ali Akbar, stung by Nasirabadi's anathemas against the Sufis from his newly won pulpit, sent Hasan Riza Khan a letter saying "Praise be to God! Is it right that someone should now mount the minbar and pronounce curses on the person who founded the congregational prayers?" When Hasan Riza Khan brought the matter up with Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali, he replied that he did not wish Mawdudi to be among those whom
he cursed. If he categorized himself as a pir, Nasirabadi bore no blame. But Mawdudi considered himself a law-abiding mystic, insisting that the prerequisite for mystical initiation was to follow the holy Law. He felt that the principles of esoteric knowledge, like those of jurisprudence, were based on the Qur'an, the Sunnah, consensus, and analog. He therefore strongly objected to being branded a heretic.
The chief minister perceived no contradiction between the legalism of the Usulis and the mystical approach of his favorite Sufis, still hoping to find a way for the two to coexist. He broached the idea that Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali meet Shah ‘Ali Akbar personally and iron out their differences. Nasirabadi dismissed the man as a fraud, saying that Mawdudi refused to participate in the Shi‘i prayers only because of his many Sunni followers. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali said he feared that he might confuse the Shi‘i congregation if he now, after having mounted the pulpit and cursed Sufis every Friday, expressed a wish to meet a pir.
In the early 1790s a final break came. One evening Hasan Riza Khan brought Shah ‘Ali Akbar to the Great Imambarah just before sunset. The new Friday prayers mosque stood next to the Imambarah, and the believers were preparing to say the sunset (maghrib ) prayers. At sunset Nasirabadi normally ordered candles to be lit at that Great Imambarah, out of respect to the cenotaphs stored there. That evening, however, he waited, in hopes that the Sufis would leave. Hasan Riza Khan defused this tense situation, arranging a pro forma (zahiri ) meeting between Usuli and Sufi.
The chief minister wanted Shah ‘Ali Akbar to pray behind the mujtahid. The negotiations broke down, however, and Mawdudi led his Sufis in the sunset prayer at the Imambarah. Hasan Riza Khan went over to the Friday prayers mosque to say the prayers behind Nasirabadi with the Usulis. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali ardently requested of the chief minister that he be excused from meeting the Sufi. Shah ‘Ali Akbar at that point fell ill and had to leave. Nasirabadi was happy at this development, which allowed him to avoid meeting the man.
The incident proved decisive for the development of the Shi‘i community in Awadh. The Sufi Shi‘is, excluded from the official congregation, lost opportunities to exercise influence with, and receive patronage from, high notables. Shi‘i Sufism might have acted as an ecumenical force, since pits often had Sunni or even Hindu followers. The Shi‘ism of the Usuli ulama emphasized strident communalism, such militancy ultimately provoking a Sunni backlash.
The analysis of texts generated by the Usuli-Sufi conflict helps us understand the mentalities involved and is useful for several reasons. The intellectual disputes between Usulis and Sufi Shi‘is in Awadh well illustrate religious developments. But attitudes toward ritual, as was just demonstrated, could in themselves have an impact on the shape of the community, and so on society. The question arises whether these texts can be read so as to shed some light on the social conflicts that also underlay the enmity between mujtahids and pirs.
Nasirabadi followed his efforts to exclude Sufis from his congregation with an ideological assault on them. He dedicated it to Hasan Riza Khan, whom he called the founder of Friday prayers, but wrote it in Arabic, directing it primarily at the ulama. The book attacked both the metaphysical Sufism of classical upper-class thinkers and the Sufism of the orders, with their rituals. He quoted Imami oral reports, and presented what he said was an original refutation of existential monism (wahdat al-wujud ). He refuted the medieval Shi‘i thinker and admirer of the Andalusian mystic Ibn ‘Arabi, Sayyid Haydar Amuli, whose work defended the conception of existential monism in a Shi‘i context. This focus suggests Amuli's influence among India's Sufi Shi‘is.
Beyond the metaphysical controversy Nasirabadi concentrated on showing the illegitimacy for Twelver Shi‘is of Sufi beliefs and practices. He began with the doctrine of inspiration (kashf ) which literally means "uncovering." He explained that it consisted of seeing spiritual lights and hearing voices. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali objected that instances of mystical inspiration cannot be verified, and that the persons who related tales about it or said they experienced it cannot be trusted, since they also told miracle stories about the enemies of ‘Ali, or fell into other doctrinal errors. He said it cannot be told whether such inspiration comes from God or from Satan, since most Sufis engaged in ascetic practices, such as rigorous fasting, that impaired their judgment. This section reveals the close connection the prayer leader saw between Sufism and Sunnism, much of his attack on Sufism being originally elaborated against the Sunni Naqshbandis of Delhi.
Nasirabadi criticized the Sufi practice of inducing a trance state to achieve mystical ecstasy (wajd ), excoriating the mystics for falling on the ground and
asking God for healing, then singing, beating drums, and dancing. He charged that Sunni kings, such as the Umayyad Mucawiyah, promoted these pro-Islamic practices to distract Shi‘is from their political opposition to him. He quoted Sufi works to prove that Sufis from every social class engaged in ecstatic exercises accompanied by music, an art form Shi‘i jurisprudents unanimously condemned. The mystics, he said, invented ritual practices such as vegetarianism, the giving up of fine clothes, and retreats into seclusion for meditation, which he stigmatized as monkery (rahbaniyyah ), recalling the oral report from the Prophet that there is no monkery in Islam. He also objected to Sufi criticisms of the wealthy, quoting from oral reports attributed to the Imams on the permissibility of seeking to become rich as a means of avoiding the sorts of sins to which poverty might drive one.
Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali not only defended the wealthy but accused Sufis of uncontrolled passions, implying that they actually addressed their mystical love poetry, ostensibly for God, to real women or slave-boys. He cited Imami oral reports condemning Sufis. Nasirabadi further disparaged the loud or silent group repetition (dhikr ) of the creed "There is no God but god," marshaling oral reports that forbade the raising of the voice during worship. Usulis forbade the oath of allegiance and obedience (baycat ) that adepts gave to the Sufi master, and the cloak (khirqah ) of initiation they received from him in turn. In conclusion, Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali branded Sufis innovators (ahl al-bidcah ), saying the Prophet Muhammad forbade association with heretics. He advocated the shunning of Shi‘i Sufis, urging that whenever an Usuli saw them in the street he should publicly curse them as apostates. Indeed, he saw all sects save the Imamis as unbelievers on grounds of incorrect dogma. At the end of the book he included the formula of repentance after apostasy in an effort to convince Sufi Shi‘is to come over to Usulism.
Sufis replied vigorously to Nasirabadi, writing in Persian. An anonymous manuscript survives by a Sufi in rebuttal of Lucknow's prayer leader. The treatise contended that the spread of Sufism among Shi‘is was of old standing. Great Imami thinkers had in their biographical dictionaries accepted the division of Shi‘is into legalists (zahiri ) and mystics (batini ). Indeed, the tract's author wrote, all Sufis have a Shi‘i tinge because of their respect for the mystical knowledge of ‘Ali, only the Naqshbandis being truly Sunnis. The mystical knowledge referred to in the Imami oral reports, he argued, is the Sufi path (tariqat ), and many eminent Shi‘i ulama forbade the laity to criticize Sufi leaders. He maintained that mystics (curafa ') are more noble than the ulama because God gives them perfection and their way has transcended a
dependence on books and the intellectual doubts it engenders.
The nameless Sufi emphasized that many great Imamis were Sufis, including important Safavid-era thinkers. He attacked the practice of publicly insulting Sufis as pure fanaticism, and defended Bayazid Bistami, whose pantheistic-sounding savings included "Praise to me, how great is my glory!" He explained that Bistami did not assert his own divinity, but rather claimed to have become as nothing, so that only God was left. Moreover, he added, some oral reports front the Imams supported the doctrine of existential monism.
The treatise contended that Usulis erred in trying to distinguish between those Safavid thinkers who actually adhered to Sufism and those who only thought well of it, the figures in question having all been practicing Sufis. The Usulis wished to claim the great thinkers of the Imami heritage as their own, perhaps partially because they believed in consensus as a source of law. But Sufi Shi‘is rightly presented themselves as the true heirs of a major Safavid tradition. The Sufi's rebuttal ended by defending the listening to music and the bestowal of cloaks of initiation. He insisted that Shi‘i law permitted music that inspired a desire for the hereafter. He said that music was originally forbidden among Shi‘is because of the need for pious dissimulation (taqiyyah ) in times when Shi‘i songs put believers in danger. In Shi‘i-ruled Awadh, he implied, Shi‘is could sing freely.
Another revealing encounter between the official prayer leader and a mystic occurred in the next decade. In 1803 an Iranian Sufi named Mawlavi Samic came into conflict with Lucknow's Usulis. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali, fifty years old, had been the capital's prayer leader for seventeen years and had grown firmly attached to the Awadh establishment. Mawlavi Samic attacked him on precisely this point, sending him a list of questions. From the first, he endeavored to put the prayer leader on the defensive. Mawlavi Samic wrote that the truly pious among the learned avoided rulers, thus remaining obscure, while scholars seeking wealth and high position gravitated to the court, becoming prominent. What, then, should laymen do? The Sufi suggested that the mujtahids' position in society derived from compromises they made with the impious rulers, and implied that laymen should emulate less opportunistic jurisprudents.
Nasirabadi attempted to neutralize the issue of social class. He said that if an upright mujtahid and qualified exemplar (marjac ) avoided rulers, he should be consulted. On the other hand, if a jurisprudent sought riches licitly, a layman could not refuse to follow him simply because of Ins wealth. After all, he said, many prophets and great Shi‘i thinkers were wealthy, and the
high class standing of Muhammad Baqir Majlisi and his association with the Safavid court was occasioned by proper motives and resulted in obvious benefits for the faith.
Mawlavi Samic next quoted scripture condemning tyranny and forbidding Muslims to aid despots. He said that both jurisprudents and mystics knew very well that none among the ruling classes in India observed the limits set by the holy Law. Was it right, he pointedly inquired, to call such rulers tyrants, or not? Nasirabadi agreed that the literal sense of Imami oral reports indicated such a step. But he said the Qur'an denied that it ordained any discomfort for the believers in their religion. Perhaps the Imam meant to forbid anyone to approve in his heart of tyranny, or the word "tyranny" meant only wrongdoing to the House of the Prophet. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali casuistically justified cooperation with the despotic government of Sacadat ‘Ali Khan, which because of its Shi‘ism at least supported the family of the Prophet.
The Sufi asked the prayer leader whether it was right to associate with the notables and to accept grants from them, of cash, goods, or land and villages. Nasirabadi said that one might accept gifts from tyrants as long as one had no sure knowledge that they were usurped property. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali himself took grants of cash and villages, where Hindu peasants labored to support his Shi‘i religious office. Mawlavi Samic then chastised Usulis for cursing Sufis and said that many Safavid thinkers had spoken well of Sufism. Nasirabadi rejected this precedent, since in dogma emulation was forbidden. He allowed that pious continence (zuhd ) like that of ‘Ali's companion Abu Dharr could never be deprecated But Sufis, he said, bore enmity for the Imams, and Safavid thinker Majlisi II's condemnation of them was well known. Nasirabadi dismissed Safavid thinkers who admired Sufism as heretical followers of Ibn ‘Arabi.
Mawlavi Samic rephrased his question, complaining that in those days cursing Sufis had become as common among Shi‘is as cursing the Sunni caliphs. He recalled north Indian Shi‘is, such as Shaykh ‘Ali Hazin and Husayn Khan ‘Azimabadi, who thought well of Sufism, and pointed to the writings of Shah Nicmatu'llah Vali Kirmani (d. 1437), founder of the Ni'matu'llahi order, as examples of Sufi Shi‘ism. Nasirabadi reiterated his objections to Sufi rituals as innovations, attacking Sunni Sufis as opponents of Shi‘ism.
The Usuli attack on Sufism focused on beliefs and rituals that the jurisprudents branded unscriptural innovations influenced by Sunnism. The
Sufis made the case that they represented an important spiritual tradition within Shi‘ism, including many Safavid exponents, and so were not simply innovating heretics originating in Sunni-dominated northern India. The mujtahids and the pits argued, not just about purely religious issues in dogma and ritual, but about social issues as well. The Usulis extolled the virtues of associating with the ruling classes for the sake of the Shi‘i faith, while some Sufi Shi‘is accused them of moral turpitude in so compromising themselves. In defending the goodness of wealth to Mawlavi Samic, Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali upheld the values of the qasabah- based service elite of which he formed a part, as well as those of his patrons, the high notables.
The Social Context
The struggle of Usulis to displace Sufi leaders from positions of influence took place in society as well as in doctrinal tracts. To look at the conflict on a more concrete level requires a focus on the social-control mechanisms invoked by the Usulis, and on the social interests that underlay the dispute. Mujtahids in Awadh had no Sufi pirs put to death, as happened in Iran. But Usulis verbally abused Sufis in public and shunned them. Nasirabadi declared Shi‘i believers in existential monism ritually unclean (najis ), so that no one should eat with them.
Usulis should curse even Sayyids and true believers in the Shi‘i creed who held heretical Sufi doctrines and gave allegiance to a Sufi pir, holding that through mystical exercises one could draw near God. Still, Nasirabadi did not put Sufis completely outside the pale. One might accept food from one, and should help out even a Sufi relative in need. An Usuli should not curse a Shi‘i simply for wearing the patched robes of a Sufi, but should ascertain his beliefs first, though wearing such clothing indicated moral corruption at the very least.
Nasirabadi's control over charitable contributions allowed him to attract students with stipends and to train a new generation of anti-Sufi scholars. Sayyid Aczam ‘Ali Bankori. for instance, wrote against Sufis and in favor of marriage, and Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Musavi the preacher (vaciz ) attacked Sufis and Sunnis in his sermons. The campaign against the Sufis created an atmosphere of witch-hunting among Awadh's Shi‘is. A man could be publicly disgraced and cursed on mere suspicion of Sufi tendencies. While these practices benefited the ulama in helping to cut off patronage to their Sufi competitors, they made life unpleasant even for respectable persons of slightly unorthodox views.
Sayyid Najaf ‘Ali Kashmiri, arriving in Faizabad in the late 1700s, inclined to the upper-class mysticism of the Isfahan school but had no links to a Sufi order. A self-effacing man, once when someone mistook him for an attendant at a public bath, he obligingly helped the fellow bathe. His commentaries on mystical works by Safavid thinkers, coupled with his ascetic bent, led his enemies to accuse him of being a Sufi. To save his reputation he publicly had to abuse the Sufis as heretical innovators guilty of antinomianism and esoteric interpretation of the scriptures. More lay behind such controversies than a high-minded concern with correct doctrine. Aqa Ahmad Bihbahani observed that when any of the ambitious ulama in Faizabad saw that a scholar had gained renown and might become a source for emulation for the laity, they smeared him as a Sufi or an Akhbari.
In 1816 Nasirabadi's biographer said that Sufi meetings had declined among Awadh's Shi‘is to such an extent that both the high and the low opposed Sufism. Though an exaggeration, the statement probably reflects social trends. In Jaunpur an important family of religious dignitaries traditionally maintained in their neighborhood a Sufi center (khanqah ) that had been built by Mufti Sayyid Mubarak Jaunpuri (d. 1687). In the late 1790s the building fell to ruin. The family had by that time become Shi‘is, and they made an architectural statement of their new faith by building an imambarah on the site. In the Sufi center of Salon, one Sadiq ‘Ali Shah raised an imambarah in 1796.
Nasirabadi's sons carried on the campaign against Sufism in the 1820s and 1830s, and it clearly remained an issue within the Shi‘i community. The mujtahids ruled that while the Imams and great Shi‘is may have performed miracles, all such acts attributed to Sufis were lies. They forbade marriage between a Shi‘i women and a Sufi Shi‘i, even one of sound doctrine, as long as he attended chanting sessions. (Although Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali had earlier felt reluctant to anathematize someone solely on grounds of practice, his sons took a harder line.) Conversions to Shi‘ism from Sunnism also raised questions. Some Sunnis claiming descent from the medieval mystic ‘Abdu'l-Qadir Gilani became Shi‘is in the 1820s, but refused to curse their ancestor. They said cursing him would advertise their Shi‘ism and prevent them from dissimulating with Sunnis. The mujtahid coolly replied that if someone deserved to be cursed, being related to him was no excuse for not doing so. The Usulis' hatred of Sufism extended even to matters of literary usage, and they
forbade the use of the Sufi term cishq , overwhelming love, in describing one's relationship with God, on the grounds that it was unscriptural and implied a reprehensible excess and anthropomorphism.
The issues of asceticism and Sufism to some extent involved matters of social class. Akhund Mulla Muhammad Riza Kashmiri, a celebrated ascetic and Akhbari contempotary of the wealthy prayer leader Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali Nasirabadi, owned a small mill. He himself sometimes ground the wheat that people brought him, and sometimes he had his male or female servant do the job. He lived on the proceeds, supported his dependents, and gave away excess profit to the poor.
The story goes that once a high notable from the court of Asafu'd-Dawlah attempted to visit him on an elephant. The pious mulla waved him away from his gate, protesting that, as a poor man, he could only be met by other poor men. Mulla Muhammad Riza's asceticism and God-fearing ways lent him a great deal off popularity. The Akhbaris Taju'd-Din Husayn Khan and Subhan ‘Ali Khan, tax-farmers hired and then dismissed by Nawab Sacadat ‘Ali Khan, pleaded with Mulla Muhammad Riza to pray for them, and at length he acceded to their importuning. Attributing their later reinstatement to his intercession with God, they offered him a ten-thousand-rupee reward, but he refused it.
Whereas small landed proprietors, such as the Nasirabadis, or tax-farmers such as Subhan ‘Ali Khan, depended on the goodwill of the government for their continuing prosperity, a small-time miller like Kashmiri could afford to be more independent. He had sympathy for the peasants who brought him their grain to be ground, and he certainly preferred the company and welfare of the poor to that of the rich. His asceticism made a virtue of the relative poverty of his social class, and he refused to become involved in the unstable life of intrigues that acceptance of ruling-class patronage would have entailed. Though he was not a member of a Sufi order, his lifestyle came closer to the ideal preached by Sufis like Mawlavi Samic than did that of most Usuli ulama. His steadfast Akhbarism marked his independence from the mujtahids, exemplifylng the kind of sectarian Shi‘ism that artisans practiced even after the Usulis created a formal religious establishment and wielded great power at court.
Awadh's notables also continued to give patronage to Sufis. In the early 1830s Roberts reported that a few years earlier a mendicant mystic called Shahji had come into high favor with the ruler of Awadh, and was given permission to levy small contributions for his support from shopkeepers throughout the capital. Although he collected only five cowries a day from each one, a very small sum, the total from all the bazaars amounted to a considerable revenue.
The Usuli campaign for social closure by excluding Sufi practices from the Shi‘i community derived partially from a desire to monopolize religious authority and resources. By making an argument that the Usuli style of life was more scriptural, and by painting the Sufi Shi‘is as heretics and crypto-Sunnis, the Usulis succeeded in weakening Sufi legitimacy within the Awadh ruling class: Their weapons included social ostracism, public humiliation, and the denial of marriage and inheritance rights. This campaign had the latent usefulness of providing a way of smearing newly immigrant competitors for patronage or authority.
The Usuli-Akhbari Contest
The Akhbari school of jurisprudence offered another ideological alternative to Usulism within the Shi‘i community, though the influence of the originally stronger Akhbaris declined in the first decades of the nineteenth century. The Akhbaris, basing their approach to law on a strict construction of the Imami oral reports and disallowing rationalist interpretations, challenged Usulism in its fundamentals. As with the Usuli-Sufi struggle, the ideological debate reflected social conflicts. Yet no one social group or class among Shi'is could be wholly identified with Akhbarism or Usulism; rather, groups in conflict often adopted one ideology or the other as a weapon, sometimes depending on which system of thought a rival had already chosen. Beyond these factors, it might be asked whether there was an "elective affinity," in Weberian terms, between a religious ideology and the interests of a social group.
Akhbari ulama began by being the great majority among Awadh's Shi‘i clerics. The Akhbari Mulla Muhammad ‘Askari had been brought to Faizabad by Shujacu'd-Dawlah, and his students remained influential. Chief Minister Hasan Riza Khan patronized Akhbari ulama, one of whom, Sayyid Murtaza, in 1788 wrote a book for him on "prayer of the heart." This scholar argued, as an Akhbari, that the Qur'an could not be understood without reference to the oral reports from the Imams. While many immigrant ulama from Kashmir who fled Sunni Afghan and then Sikh rule adhered to the Usuli school, some supported Akhbarism. Mulla Muhammad Muqim Kashmiri arrived in Lucknow in 1786 as a refugee, attaining a reputation as an Akhbari and a miracle-worker. In outlying cities like Banaras, Akhbaris such as Sharafu'd-Din Banarasi wrote, though he directed his polemics more at Sunnis than Usulis.
Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali had to accept Akhbari students at first, in hopes of persuading them to adopt Usulism. Some of his students, however, remained
committed Akhbaris, employing the knowledge of Usuli principles of jurisprudence gained with him to refute their teacher. Thus, Mawlana Sayyid Murtaza Lakhnavi studied with Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali and then wrote against the use of legal analogy (qiyas ), an Usuli principle. He later emigrated to Hyderabad, Deccan, perhaps because of the declining popularity of Akhbari scholars in nineteenth-century Awadh.
On returning from the Iraqi shrine cities in 1781, Nasirabadi set out to refute the Akhbari school, to which he had himself adhered only two years earlier. The resulting work. entitled Asasal-usul (Foundation for the Principles of Jurisprudence), stated the Usuli position and briefly refuted Astarabadi's seventeenth-century Akhbari manifesto, Al-fawa'idal-madaniyyah . The treatise, rapidly copied out and spread about, produced fierce controversy. Nasirabadi's prestige as Lucknow's prayer leader after 1786 enabled him to teach the work as a textbook to many students, having one of them translate it from Arabic to the easier Persian. He discussed the main issues in jurisprudential method between the two major schools, giving both rational and traditional proofs for the stances he took. Here we will treat points dealing with the role of the ulama in interpreting the Law.
Nasirabadi wrote that the most noble of sciences after the study of God's unity (tawhid ) are the principles of jurisprudence, and to forsake them is a sin. Beyond the Qur'an and the Imami oral reports, Usulis accepted two other sources of law, consensus and ijtihad . The authority of the ulama to interpret the law lay in these two principles. Opposers of consensus as a proof in law insisted that all the jurists whose opinions made up the consensus would have to be known to be truthful, something impossible to ascertain. Nasirabadi, however, argued that consensus is often an indispensable way of knowing the judgment of the Imam indirectly. Akhbaris rejected this principle as arrogant, insisting that if a hundred jurists disagreed with the Imam, his word would still be true, whereas if a hundred jurists agreed with him, their views would be superfluous.
Usulis gave the fourth source of law as reason (caql ). Nasirabadi argued that the goodness and badness of voluntary actions can be perceived rationally, a stance that he said Muctazilis, Imamis, and Hindus agreed on, but that Sunni Ashcaris rejected. Usulis counted syllogism (qiyas ) an important rational device for determining the law, but accepted only two kinds as valid. In the first, the scriptural text, by the nature of the prohibition or com-
mand, implied the common term between two cases. Thus, if the Qur'an ordered believers not to abuse someone verbally, they could not go beyond that and beat him up. In the second, legitimate sort of analogy, the scripture actually mentions the common term (cillah ). Where date wine is forbidden explicitly because it causes people to lose their senses, grape wine could be prohibited oh the same grounds. But Usuli mujtahids were forbidden to speculate as to the reason for a law and to create an analogy on the basis of their own judgments.
Nasirabadi defined ijtihad as the expenditure of effort in seeking a considered opinion concerning the provisions of the holy Law so as to remove any possibility of guilt deriving from a failure to be thorough. Drawing on ‘Allamah al-Hilli, he said that ijtihad is a legal ruling in a case that lies beyond things that can be conclusively proven, such as the need to pray five times a day, and where no certain proof (dalilqalci ) exists. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali affirmed that before the mujtahid exerted himself, God already had a ruling on any issue, which he merely sought to find. Nasirabadi said that God has always indicated the correct judgment, but that since He does not impose duties on his servants beyond their ability to perform them, the mujtahid is excused if he errs. The Akhbari school insisted that anyone giving a fatwa that went beyond citing scripture was responsible before God should he err.
Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali described the two sorts of mujtahid, absolute and partial. An absolute mujtahid can derive every theoretical subsidiary legal ruling from the holy text, whereas a partial one can derive some rulings but not all. Some denied the right to practice ijtihad to the partial mujtahid. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali held that the partial mujtahid could practice ijtihad where he was competent, since he would otherwise have to emulate another jurisprudent, which was forbidden to mujtahids. One might note that since India in the early 1780s had hardly any absolute mujtahids, the Usuli school could spread only by allowing partial mujtahids to derive judgments. He quoted oral reports from the Imams, taking them as a traditional charter for the prerogatives of the mujtahids. He explained that the mujtahid had to practice according to his conclusions, and should he find two possible rulings equally persuasive, he had a duty to choose between them. Nasirabadi saw the interpretation of the law as dynamic and as inhering in the person of the jurist, not in his rulings. If a mujtahid gave a ruling without mentioning his reasoning, then forgot how he derived it, he had to exert himself on it all over again.
If his conclusions the second time differed From the first, the second ruling had to be followed.
Lay believers were to emulate a jurist on subsidiary religious matters. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali defined emulation (taqlid ) as practicing according to the word of someone else without proof. Reference to the sayings of the Prophet and the Imams, he said, was not emulation, because they performed miracles to prove their authority and because Qur'an verses uphold the need to Follow their sayings. Quoting ‘Allamah al-Hilli, he affirmed that laymen could lawfully emulate mujtahids in subsidiary matters of the law. Even educated persons must do so if they are not trained in jurisprudence. Nasirabadi gave several reasons for this emulation. First, not everyone in the community was commanded to learn Islamic law and the principles of jurisprudence. If every member of the community spent years training to become a mujtahid, the social order would disintegrate. Nor could a layman take up studies only when an occasion called for him to know something. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali argued for the existence of a specialized class of clerical professionals to whom all laymen, even the literate notables, owed absolute obedience. Only in matters of dogma could believers investigate for themselves, so long as they arrived at the correct answers.
Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali then discussed the characteristics of the Shi‘i jurisconsuit (mufti ), perhaps in hopes of promoting the office. He said that a mufti must have two characteristics, the ability to perform independent legal reasoning (ijtihad ) and piety (warac ). He should be chosen by the general acclamation of the believers. He said that people could know who was learned enough to fill the post without being themselves experts in the law, just as they were capable of recognizing a great merchant without knowing anything about commerce.
Nasirabadi wrote that once a layman began emulating a mujtahid in a matter, he should not go to another one for a ruling on the same issue. On other questions, however, he was free to seek rulings from another jurist· A layman should not emulate a dead mujtahid, as Imamis sought to attain an ever stronger considered opinion, which only a living mujtahid could do. In conclusion, Nasirabadi quoted oral reports from the Imams in an effort to show that ijtihad did not originate with ‘Allamah al-Hilli (d. 1326), as Akhbaris charged, but went back to companions of the Imams. (In fact, ijtihad in the technical sense was not accepted by Imami jurisprudents before the thirteenth century A.D., and the Akhbaris have the stronger case on this point historically.)
Nasirabadi's Usuli stance met opposition from many Shi‘i notables in
Awadh, and from the Akhbari ulama. The strong support given to him and other prayer leaders by the chief officials of the government, however, protected them from their foes and gave them a platform to spread their own ideas. Since Akhbaris in North India opposed the very holding of Friday congregational prayers, which the nawabi government supported, they could not compete with Usulis for such official posts. State-sponsored Friday prayers acted as an engine to drive the Usuli advance.
Nasirabadi's most colorful enemy from the ranks of the Akhbari ulama, Mirza Muhammad Nishapuri Akbarabadi (1764-1817) of Agra, became involved in politics everywhere he went, in North India, Iraq, and Iran. One of the more brilliant minds India produced in the late eighteenth century, and one of the last great Akhbari scholars, he wrote in numerous fields. His father, Mirza ‘Abdu'n-Nabi of Khurasan, conducted long-distance trade with North India, having had, according to his detractors, a rather limited capital in Iran of only five or six thousand rupees. Doing well in Agra, he married the daughter of Macsum ‘Ali Khan, a revenue official under the Mughal first minister, Najaf ‘Ali Khan. Mirza. ‘Abdu'n-Nabi did some trading in Allahabad, where his son Muhammad spent part of his youth.
At about the age of twenty, in 1784 or so, Mirza Muhammad Akbarabadi, an Akhbari, went to the Iraqi shrine cities, where he studied with the leading Usulis, finding the same atmosphere there as had Nasirabadi only a few years earlier. He did not reveal that he was an Akhbari while in Iraq. A few years later he returned to Awadh, where his fame reached the ears of Asafu'd-Dawlah and Hasan Riza Khan. Meeting with the nawab, he slowly began cursing all dialectical theologians (mutakallimun ) and mujtahids as the hosts of Satan, creating a suspicion of the Usuli ulama in the minds of Asafu'd-Dawlah and his chief minister.
Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali already had tense relations with Hasan Riza Khan over his attacks on the chief minister's Sufi favorites, and was not in a strong position to reply to Akbarabadi. His biographer claimed that Nasirabadi refrained from responding to the Akhbari's polemics because he was a guest and a traveler. He did, however, send some of Akbarabadi's treatises back to the shrine cities to inform Sayyid ‘Ali Tabataba'i of his Akhbari views. It is difficult to believe that Nasirabadi did not move behind the scenes to undermine Akbarabadi's position at court, considering the threat he posed. His biographer simply wrote that Mirza Muhammad's extreme positions repelled most of the believers. At length the Akhbari left the Awadh court,
where he had failed to dislodge Usulis like Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali, and returned to Karbala.
Known in Iraq as an Akhbari, he came into strong conflict with the dominating Usuli elite and emerged as a formidable debater. He constantly moved his opponent into different fields until he found one on which he was more knowledgeable. Only Sayyid ‘Ali Tabataba'i could best him in open debate. He was at length forced, apparently on threat of violence, to flee the shrine cities with his family, for Iran, where he spent time in Fars, Khurasan, and Gilan provinces. In 1792 he wrote a biographical dictionary in Luristan, stressing Akhbaris. In largely Usuli Iran, Mirza Muhammad provoked the ire of powerful local mujtahids, which obliged him to move about constantly.
In the late 1790s Akbarabadi settled in Tehran, gradually acquiring a reputation for learning and Indian-style divination. From 1797 Fath-‘Ali Shah Qajar ruled, and Akbarabadi increasingly ingratiated himself with the court, just as he had earlier sought to influence Asafu'd-Dawlah in Awadh. His correct prediction of the imminent demise of the Russian military leader Tsitsianov at Baku greatly enhanced his prestige. But his increasing influence over the shah aroused the jealousy of many notables at court, and the apprehension of powerful Usuli ulama Shaykh Jacfar an-Najafi in this period wrote a refutation of Mirza Muhammad's Akhbari ideas, in which he declared him an unbeliever and pronounced his blood and property lawful to whoever wished to take them. With notables and Usuli ulama working against him, Fath-‘Ali Shah came to perceive him as a danger to the state and expelled him.
He lived subsequently in Baghdad and Kazimayn, where a mob killed him in February 1817. Shirvani, who knew Akbarabadi personally, said that fanatical Usuli ulama instigated the riot against him. Mirza Muhammad perhaps thought of returning to Awadh shortly before his death. In early 1814 he dedicated to Nawab Sacadat ‘Ali Khan his refutation of Nasirabadi's work on the principles of jurisprudence, probably in hopes that he would find favor with the ruler and be called to Lucknow.
Akbarabadi originally wrote his attack on Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali's work in 1792 in Iran, when he was smarting from his successive failures in Lucknow and Karbala. He objected that Nasirabadi said the principles of jurisprudence were the greatest science after that of the unity of God, asserting that Qur'an commentary and jurisprudence (fiqh ) itself surely took precedence. As an Akhbari basing himself as closely as possible on the oral reports from the Prophet and the Imams and the Qur'an, Akbarabadi felt scripture commentary to be infinitely more important than other sciences. Usulis magnified the importance of the principles of jurisprudence, the ideological basis of the authority of the mujtahids.
Akbarabadi denounced such Usuli principles as appeal to consensus, analogical reasoning, and the ranking of oral reports as sound or weak. Akhbaris, as conservatives, uncritically thought sound all oral reports attributed to the Imams in the four standard collections. He also rejected dependence on considered opinion (zann ) in deriving legal judgments, maintaining that certain knowledge (cilm ) could be gained from the text of the Imami oral reports. Surprisingly, he took Nasirabadi to task for his criticisms of India. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali complained about the ignorance and unbelief in that country, whereas Akbarabadi insisted that among the Hindus were brilliant scholars and ascetics working in a great non-Islamic intellectual tradition, and that Indian Sunnis and Isma'ilis counted among them men of great erudition. Even the tiny Imami community had extremely learned men. Akbarabadi's intense pride in his Indian heritage provides a clue to why he clung so fiercely to Akhbarism, whereas Nasirabadi deferred to Iraq and Iran.
In Awadh, as in Iran, Usulism gradually won out as the ideology favored by the high ulama and the state. Many of Nasirabadi's students attempted to rebut Akbarabadi. But into the nineteenth century some ulama favored Akhbarism, and important notable families, such as the Kanbuh Barelavis, including administrators Subhan ‘Ali Khan and Taju'd-Din Husayn Khan, continued to adhere to Akhbarism. Such notables employed Akhbarism as a means of stressing their intellectual independence from the Usuli ulama, whom they saw as sons of petty landholders greedy for power over laymen. These Akbharis held high office in the Awadh state and received political support even from notables who attended Friday prayers. In 1823 Chief Minister Agha Mir Muctamadu'd-Dawlah granted patronage to Husayn ‘Ali Khan Barelavi to write a theological work in support of Shi‘ism, wherein he attacked Usulism and blamed the Caliph ‘Umar for introducing the ille-
gal practice of ijithad . He may have gotten patronage from so eminent a source because his cousin Subhan ‘Ali Khan was deputy chief minister.
In 1818 Husayn ‘Ali Khan had issued a wide-ranging criticism of Usulism, in which he admitted that Usuli ideas had become widely accepted. He disparaged the division of the Imami community into expert mujtahids and a laity reduced to emulating them blindly, complaining of the rationalist thrust of Usulism, which led scholars to waste their lives studying dialectical theology, logic, and metaphysics and to import this misleading approach into their legal reasoning. He ridiculed Usuli doctrines, saying that since a mujtahid had to be the most perfect and knowledgeable of his contemporaries, there should logically be only one mujtahid in each age. In any case, be remarked drily, such a breadth of knowledge among Usulis was rare indeed in 1818. He rejected Usuli claims that the ulama represented the hidden Twelfth Imam, accusing mujtahids of love of high position and a desire to rule over others, even though only the Imams were worthy of obedience and emulation. Some Usulis, he said, went so far as to declare that even fasting and prayers were invalid except with the permission of the mujtahid of the age. He condemned the practice of putting religious donations (zakal , khums, sadaqal ) under the control of the mujtahids, citing it as another evidence of their greed. Elsewhere, he said that Usulis were seeking leadership through attacking Akhbaris and classing them with Sunnis and Sufis.
In 1825 Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi, Awadh's chief mujtahid, wrote a spirited defense of Usulism against Akhbarism, painting the controversy as one over whether the believer should emulate living or dead authorities. Usulis, he wrote, cmulate the living, while Akhbaris follow the dead Their insistence on deriving legal judgments only from the oral reports left Akhbaris with extremely narrow choices in their rulings Not even the greatest of the ulama could arrive at a decisive judgment on every matter on the basis of a clear scriptural text (nass ).
Sayyid Muhammad pointed out that if trained scholars found such a feat difficult, women and children could not perform it at all. How, he asked, could women and children themselves consult books of oral reports from the Imams such as al-Kulayni's Al-Kafi ? Obviously, he concluded, they would have to consult an Akhbari scholar—and what else was this but emulation (taqlid )? Since both Usulis and Akhbaris held that the laity had to consult religious experts, the dispute between them was purely verbal (lafzi ). Nasirabadi further argued that if Akhbaris truly gave rulings according to sure knowledge and decisive evidence (qalci ), they would not differ with one
another in their legal judgments. But in fact they often did so. lie said he knew an Akhbari who claimed that his judgments were based on positive proof (dalilqalci ), and who heaped abuse on mujtahids when they demurred. Since all judgments given by Shi‘i scholars of both schools were ultimately based on the (Qur'an and oral reports from the Prophet and the Imams, he said, it was not important if some (the Akhbaris) called that basis sure knowledge (cilm ) while others (the Usulis) called it considered opinion (zann ).
Sayyid Muhammad's opponents rejected his condescending dismissal of the Akhbari position as not all that different from the Usuli one. Husayn ‘Ali Khan Barelavi was asked why, since adherents of the two schools often gave the same judgments, there should be any conflict. In reply he denied the premise that the two schools gave the same rulings. He maintained that the judgments often greatly differed. After all, many of the same rules existed in Shi‘ism as in Sunnism. He thought the method of deriving judgments the crucial issue.
Another Akhbari thinker from the notable class, Mirza Muhammad Zaki Khan, pointed out that if a layman arrived at certainty about an Islamic legal judgment through an oral report from one of the Imams, Akhbaris allowed him to practice according to it even though he had not attained the level of a mujtahid. Usulis, he scoffed, disallowed this, making it incumbent on him to forsake his own certainty and to emulate the mere considered opinion of a mujtahid.
Akhbaris and Usulis not only conceived the law differently, they even differed on the idea of property. Shi‘is of both groups held that since Muslims conquered India, its land belonged to the Imam. Usulis thought that believers could nevertheless legally possess the land by buying it. Usulis charged that Indian Akhbaris disallowed human ownership of conquered land, saying it belonged only to God. Sayyid Muhammad sarcastically remarked that if Akhbaris proscribed land ownership, then anyone could legitimately usurp the property of the Akhbaris, warning that this doctrine would subject everyone's household to destruction. Most Akhbaris may have denied that their belief had the communistic implications Sayyid Muhammad suggested, though some artisans may have actually rejected the legitimacy of private property in land.
While the last years of independent Awadh saw an even closer relationship between the stale and the religious hierarchy, tensions remained between the mujtahids anti believers from a laboring-class background. Little evidence about popular-class Shi‘i sectarian movements survives, but an important manuscript letter draws back the curtain briefly. In 1841 a Shi‘i cleric named Muhammad an-Najafi wrote to Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi from the old Bengal center of Murshidabad. He complained that he originally came to India to travel, entering the lands of the infidels unwittingly, and being forced to spend most of his time with the ignorant.
After thus ungratefully describing the patrons he found in Murshidabad, an-Najafi reported two challenges to the authority of the Usuli ulama in the city. Mir Asad ‘Ali, the leader of the morticians and gravediggers, himself a washer of bodies, claimed leadership and ordained laws for the people, "forbidding the permissible and allowing the forbidden." An-Najafi said that most of the common people followed his commands, having gone astray. Some friends finally suggested that he appeal to the chief mujtahid in Lucknow to condemn the man, who had clashed with an-Najafi. He therefore sent a description of the body-washer's heresies to the merchant Aqa Ismacil Zand so that he might take it to the Awadh capital.
The other challenge came from an Azerbaijani Turk named Mulla Baqir, who had arrived in Murshidabad a few years earlier. Mulla Baqir adhered to the Akhbari school, vehemently denouncing whoever believed in ijtihad and emulation and endeavoring to attract the weak and common people to his religion. An-Najafi dismissed the Akhbari as a man devoid of erudition, a mulla fit to teach primary school. The Usuli from Iraq answered the Turk's polemics in Arabic, but said that the Akhbari seemed to know little of that tongue. An-Najafi therefore appealed to Sayyid Muhammad to respond to these two movements, for, he wrote, "the judgment of your Excellency is obeyed everywhere. It is incumbent upon you to strengthen religion, as you are the chief of Islam and the Muslims."
These last examples suggest a pattern of popular-class sectarianism that demonstrated opposition to the middle- and upper-class mujtahids and their patrons. The case of Mulla Baqir shows again that Akhbarism as an ideology could be put to various uses, having an appeal both to high notables who refused to accept the leadership of the middle landholding mujtahids and to laborers and artisans who resented the establishment of the nawab and his Usuli intimates. Such resentment can be seen in Awadh in an anecdote from the biography of Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi. Once he fell ill on a Friday, and in the evening some laboring-class Shi‘is of rough appearance arrived and
asked him to say funeral prayers for their dead friend. He replied that he was ill. They muttered that if their friend had been one of the notables, he would have complied. Sayyid Husayn, stung, agreed to perform the prayers. The story inadvertently reveals that Shi‘i commoners often saw the mujtahids as lackeys of the rich.
The Usuli scholars, an ambitious and upwardly mobile group, advocated rationalism and a dynamic approach to law and social norms which allowed for new and independent judgments. They rejected the emulation of past authorities, insisting that even their notable-class patrons defer to them in matters of legal interpretation. Admittedly, these were the tenets of a centuries-old school of jurisprudence. But they also constituted a flexible ideology with great appeal to a rising status group that wished to influence the shape of society and saw increasing opportunities for doing so. The Usulis justified the need of believers to obey the professional jurisprudents by arguing that the structure of society would be destroyed if authorities allowed children, the bazaar classes, and common people to take legal judgments directly from the scriptural sources. Akhbari gentlemen scholars resisted longest the claim by Usuli ulama from the small and middle landholding classes to a monopoly on specialized knowledge of Shi‘i law.
Conclusion: Social Class, Hierarchy, and Authority
The dispute between status groups (mystics, traditional authorities, rationalist jurisprudents) set the intellectual terms of the struggle for control of Awadh's growing religious establishment. But the social dimension of the conflict is obvious from the frequency with which opponents argued over the goodness, badness, and nature of wealth and property. The dispute among Sufis, Akhbaris, and Usulis took place at three social levels. First, some religious figures competed among themselves for spiritual leadership of Awadh's towns and middle landholding families. Second, some struggled to monopolize the patronage of the high notables and to control their religious culture as well. The fusion of the religious idioms promoted by learned men from the intermediate strata with those of the high notables created a dominant ideology (dominant among the Shi‘i propertied classes). Third, religious officials from the landed classes battled with charismatic personalities or traditional authorities from the bazaar classes. The Usuli establishment strove to dominate
Shi‘is at all levels of society; but in preindustrial societies like Awadh the majority of tradespeople maintained their own religious ideologies.
Some conflicts between Sufis and Usulis involved competition among learned men of similar social and economic backgrounds. For men from the small landed classes in the Islamic lineage centers, either Usulism or Sufism could provide bases for religious domination and avenues of influence with the large landholding and ruling classes. They chose their path according to family background, local tradition, and personal inclination or ambition. Where learned men of similar social background competed for notable-class patronage, their disputes seldom centered on whether wealth was good or bad. They took its goodness for granted.
Examples abound of status-group rivalry lacking any dimension of class conflict. The Shi‘i ulama of Nasirabad and the pirs of Salon competed with one another for the benefices and other patronage that the high notables could bestow. The decline of Mughal Delhi and the rise of Shi‘i-ruled Lucknow posed a challenge to Sunni Sufis of middle landholding background used to Mughal patronage. Chishtis like Shah ‘Ali Akbar Mawdudi, himself from Delhi, parlayed their pro-‘Alid sentiments into an asset in attracting the patronage of rising Shi‘i notables. The jurisprudents staffing the emergent religious establishment showed intense hostility to the charismatic Sufis. The Imami ulama bested the Sufis by their strong commitment to communalist Shi‘ism and their specialized knowledge of Jacfari law. They could not, however, altogether stop Awadh notables from patronizing the mystics.
The issues of whether wealth was good or not and of the propriety of cooperating with the government more often arose when the competing status groups also derived from different economic classes. Here, a Marxian model, or at least a Weberian model of social closure informed by the Marxian idea of conflict between economic classes, has greater explanatory power. Mystics who stood outside the benefice (madad-i macash ) system of the prebendal state could criticize the government as tyrannical and denounce the official ulama for compromising themselves by cooperating with it. It is possible that critical outsiders like Mawlavi Samic had ties to Iranian long-distance traders or other social classes with minimal dependency on the agrarian bureaucracy in Lucknow.
The artisan and laboring classes practiced yet another kind of mysticism. Even where they were Shi‘i, they often wished to remain aloof from the state and to maintain their independence from the official ulama. Both Akhbarism and Sufism offered alternative sources of legitimation for their leaders. The tensions between Mulla Muhammad Riza Kashmiri and the Usulis derived, not from competition for patronage from the rich, but from the Usuli establishment's desire to dominate the entire body of the faithful. The indepen-
dence of popular-class sectarian movements, such as those in Murshidabad, stood in the way of such hierocratic domination. One basis for elective affinity between Sufism and Akhbarism and popular-class leaders lay in the ease with which these ideologies allowed religious leaders from the bazaar, who had no leisure to pursue complicated rationalist studies, to make charismatic or traditional claims to authority. Moreover, as Usulism became the dominant ideology, groups seeking to maintain their independence of the ulama or of the state often clung even more tightly to alternative ideologies.
The cultural dominance of the Usuli ulama among Shi‘i notables led to less status at court for traditional Muslim spiritual leaders like Sufis and Akhbaris. The ousting of the pirs proved important, since they often had Shi‘i, Sunni, and Hindu disciples. Their more tolerant, often syncretic Islam had developed in traditional Mughal society, itself a compromise, or collaboration, between Muslims and Hindus. Some Awadh notables continued an open approach to intercommunal relations, but Usuli exclusiveness began markedly to affect government policy from the 1820s.
Three reasons can be adduced for Usulism's victory. The first is the attractions for a new generation of Shi‘i ulama of this ideology, which legitimated lay-clerical differentiation and gave the mujtahids the sole prerogative of interpreting the Law, demanding the obedience of laymen to their rulings. Given the increased opportunities for clerical patronage and posts in the growing Shi‘i state, Usulism made more sense to young north Indian ulama than it had to their fathers. The second reason is the largely successful use of exclusionary closure by Usuli ulama to assert claims to religious posts and resources and to deprive rivals of that patronage. Their strategies included a form of credentialism, in which they recognized only diplomas from Usulis as a proper qualification to fill clerical posts. They also resorted to more violent means of exclusion, such as verbal abuse and public humiliation of rivals, branding them heretics and non-Muslims. This professional closure succeeded better among propertied Shi‘is than among the popular classes, who often retained their own, untrained, religious leadership.
The third reason is the preference for Usuli ideology by the emergent Awadh state. As a government bureaucracy grew up, with the prayer leaders and muftis as its religious wing, state officials favored more rational-legal bases for authority. Usulism was much more suited, at that place and time, to integration into the Awadh state than either Akhbarism or Shi‘i Sufism. It sanctioned formal religious ceremonies, such as Friday congregational
prayer, which became important to the state as an expression of regional identity and semiautonomy, whereas Akhbaris opposed the institution, and Sufis refused to bow behind the official prayer leader. Moreover, the tension between the Shi‘i state and the clergy was less in Usulism than in Indian-style conservative Akhbarism, which disallowed many state functions during the Occultation. The state's increasing support for Usulis was crucial to their power, since "a class, race, sex, or ethnic group only accomplishes domination to the extent that its exclusionary prerogatives are backed up by the persuasive instruments of the state."
Religion, State, and the Second Usuli Generation
In the first phase of the formation of a clerical elite, the Usuli ulama forged a successful alliance with the increasingly autonomous Shi‘i notable class in Awadh, founding their influence on the Friday congregational prayers. These prayers at once symbolized the regional semiautonomy of the Awadh court from Mughal Delhi and the leading religious role of the Usuli prayer leaders. The Usuli ulama subsequently made successful claims for control over religious resources, such as private Shi‘i religious donations, thus increasing their wealth. They also strove to exclude competitors for religious authority, such as Sufi and Akhbari Shi‘i leaders.
The second phase of clerical elite formation, to which we now turn, coincided with the rise of the second generation of Usuli ulama to positions of influence. They sought to consolidate their position at the Awadh court and to regularize the sort of patronage offered them by the high notables. Challenged by the emergence of a completely independent Shi‘i monarchy, they had to decide whether to participate in ifs legitimation. As the authority of the Shi‘i ulama began to be accepted by commoners, they sought to present their authority as supernatural, as well as rational-juridical. Their clerical competitors for patronage and religious authority in this period included immigrant Iranian ulama and the new Shi‘i school of Shaykhism, promulgated from the Iraqi shrine citics. But a more serious threat came from the development of caesaropapism: the second Awadh king claimed religious as well as secular authority, coming into heated conflict with the Usuli elite.
The Coronation of Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar
Awadh entered a further stage in the continuing process of state making almost two decades into the nineteenth century. The elevation of Nawab Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar in 1819 from first minister of the Mughal Empire to autonomous .monarch in his own right posed questions about the role of the Shi‘i ulama in the independent Awadh state. This brief account of the incident, which has already been subjected to a free searching analysis by Michael H. Fisher, seeks to bring out its specifically religious implications. Awadh in 1819, militarily weak and surrounded on three sides by the British, nevertheless experienced stability and prosperity. Its rainfall-based cultivation of grains and foodstuffs rendered it the "garden of India." Governor-General Hastings wished to weaken the vestigial structures of the old Mughal Empire, as a means of dividing and ruling India, but his encouragement of princely states, such as the Nizamate of Hyderabad, to declare themselves independent monarchies met with rebuff everywhere except in Awadh. Perhaps because of the Nishapuri family's Shi‘ism, Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar followed up hints by Lord Hastings that the British would look favorably on an independent Awadh.
Just a few months after his assumption of the rank of the Mughal Empire's first minister, in the summer of 1814, he began showing a willingness to break away. The resident wrote to Calcutta later that year that in view of recent statements of the governor-general, the nawab-vizier wondered about the propriety of his sending gifts marking submission to the king of Delhi on Muslim holy days. He said he had suspended transmission of ceremonial offerings to the king until further notice. Lord Hastings wrote back that the vizier might transmit offerings to Delhi if he wished, but that he was certainly under no obligation to do so. He directed that the resident in Lucknow refrain from sending gifts to the Mughal monarch (whom the British had reduced, in any case, to a powerless figurehead subsisting under British rule).
Five years later Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar declared himself an independent Shi‘i king in a coronation ceremony that, as Fisher has shown, drew on many cultural traditions for its symbolism, including Shi‘i, Mughal, Hindu, and British elements. The ninth of October 1819, the day of the coronation, coincided with the Shi‘i festival commemorating the Prophet's alleged verbal
appointment of ‘Ali as his successor at Ghadir Khumm. In the morning Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar, his heir apparent, Nasiru'd-Din Haydar, and Chief Minister Agha Mir Mutamadu'd-Dawlah, seated on elephants with rich canopies of gold embroidery, led a huge procession of notables from all over Awadh, similarly mounted, to the Shrine of ‘Abbas, where they offered prayers of thanksgiving in private. The humble shrine to a crest founded by a faqir ended by being incorporated into the coronation festivities of a Shi‘i monarch.
The party proceeded to a nearby ceremonial building, the barahdari , where the coronation occurred. Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar, the chief minister, the British resident, and Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi (1785-1867), all played important parts in the ceremony. Sayyid Muhammad's old and weak father, Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali, would pass away only a few months later. Sayyid Muhammad, age thirty-four, actually filled the offices of the capital's prayer leader and chief Shi‘i religious authority. Just before the ceremony the Awadh ruler retired to a private room for prayers with his close companions, emerging with Muctamadu'd-Dawlah, Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi, and an officer of the household bearing the sword of state.
After Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar ascended the throne, the chief minister passed the crown to the younger Nasirabadi, who placed it on the ruler's head. The new king embraced the British resident, guns were sounded, and Nasirabadi read out the monarch's throne names. The select audience was showered with jewels and money, and inferiors made offerings in hopes that the monarch would return them even more generously. The role of the chief mujtahid in the coronation harked back to the Safavid state in Iran. Originally the chief of the Sufis girded the monarch with the sword of state. Both Shah Safi (Sulayman) (1667-94) and Shah Sultan Husayn (1694-1722), however, had the Shaykhu'l-Islam perform this act instead. The Shaykhu'l-Islam girded Sulayman with sword and dagger and placed a crown on his head. In 1694 the renowned Shaykhu'l-Islam Muhammad Baqir Majlisi girded up the last effective Safavid monarch. Just as Awadh kings saw themselves as heirs to Safavid glory and traditions, Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi revived Majlisi's role.
Fisher has shown that the East India Company officials took issue with the mujtahid's prominent part in the coronation, which the court ceremonially reenacted every year, feeling that they, rather than the Shi‘i ulama, provided legitimation to the rule of the Nishapuri dynasty. In 1822 the acting resident reported that the king put on his own crown (also the practice in
Qajar Iran). The next year Mordaunt Ricketts, the new resident, placed the crown and the robe of state on Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar at the commemorative coronation, and the resident played this role thereafter. The chief mujtahid was not altogether displaced from the ceremony, however. It became the custom for the monarch to perform a ritual prayer of thanks with Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi before receiving the crown from the hands of the resident. The transformation of the nawabs of Awadh into monarchs involved more form than substance. As Sharar drily remarked, when the Awadh rulers had real power they lacked the status of monarchs, but when they were enfeebled they suddenly became royalty. The other ruling houses in India, particularly the Delhi Mughals, reacted angrily at the new pretensions of the Nishapuris, whose own officials and subjects in the countryside continued to refer to them as nawab-vizier.
The change, of symbolic and cultural import for the ruling Shi‘i elite, posed problems of reinterpretation for the Imami ulama in their relations to the state. Along with other paraphernalia of independent rule, such as striking coins, the Awadh monarchs began having the Friday congregational prayers read in their own names. Classical Shi‘i thinkers, such as Ibn al-Mutahhar al-Hilli, forbade the reading of the Friday sermon (khutbah ) in the name of the secular ruler as a heretical innovation of the Sunnis. During over two centuries of Safavid rule in Iran, however, the Shi‘i ulama always read the Friday sermon in the name of Shi‘i kings, whom they referred to as the Shadow of God. Awadh's prayer leaders stepped into the role of even more strongly legitimating Nishapuri rule, at least in their outward actions. The establishment of Shi‘i Friday prayers in 1786 had symbolized the growing autonomy of Awadh, and in 1819 the insertion of the name of the Nishapuri ruler in its closing sermon formally announced the independence of the country.
The original symbols of nawabi legitimacy deriving from Mughal
appointment had emphasized both the power and the authority of the Mughal emperor. Both had long since waned, and these elements of rule became symbolically divided in the new ceremony. The British resident, who insisted on placing the crown on the monarch's head, represented the only real power in North India, and the prayers with the mujtahid bestowed the only sort of authority a Shi‘i ruling class could ultimately recognize, the cachet of the Hidden Imam.
Immanence and Leadership
Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi, upon his father's death in 1820 the leader of Awadh's Shi‘is, strove to resolve the tension between the original, sectarian symbols in Imami Shi‘ism and the new trappings of Shi‘ism as an establishment. He also wished, in the Indian context, to reify supernaturally his position of leadership. To this end he related a widely accepted dream he said his father had seen when Sayyid Muhammad was only a small child. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali saw that a multitude of Shi‘is had gathered on a high hill with great joy. Amazed, he asked what was happening. One replied that the Twelfth Imam had appeared on the hill. The Imam then embraced Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali, taking him further up the hill. After inquiring as to which of the collections of the Imam's oral reports were most reliable, the mujtahid implored him to take care of and train up the child in his arms, Sayyid Muhammad. The Imam agreed, calling his maidservant and ordering her to suckle Sayyid Muhammad, thus entering him into his household. Sayyid Muhammad later boasted that from that day he was one of the people of the Imam's household (ahl baytih ).
Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali, given leave to depart, had second thoughts about giving up his eldest son. The Imam reassured him that he would be able to see Sayyid Mahammad in that vast land. In recounting the dream years later Sayyid Muhammad pointed out that an adopted son is nevertheless considered a son, and a foster father is yet a father. He asserted that since the Imam agreed to raise him and teach him, the learning he received from his father actually derived from the Imam himself. His father was already, as a mujtahid, a general representative of the Imam Mahdi. But he was the Imam's special representative in teaching his son.
Sunni figures, of course, often employed dreams to legitimate their religious authority and increase the charisma with which their followers invested them. Bahru'l-‘Ulum of Farangi Mahall and Sayyid Ahmad Rai-Barelavi (discussed in chapter 9) both founded new Sufi orders on the basis of dreams of mystical initiation from the Prophet or his caliphs. Nevertheless, the claims
Sayyid Muhammad put forth to being the adopted son of the Twelfth Imam, to having been reared and taught by the Mahdi, and to membership in the holy household, startle by their enormity. Had such assertions been made in a work of doctrine or law they would have seemed obviously heretical, but their appearance in the context of a dream made them less immediately objectionable.
The Shi‘i expectation of the coming of the Imam and a dissatisfaction with human institutions in the absence of this eschatological figure constituted the sectarian pole within the religion's spiritual symbology. Such beliefs implied a tension between the religious group and the structures and values of the larger, secular society. For Akhbaris this tension tended to remain strong. But for Usulis the alleged designation of the mujtahids as general deputies of the Imam helped remove some of the tension. The mujtahids could, by proxy, bestow a certain legitimation upon the central institutions of Muslim society, as their role in the coronation of Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar demonstrated. Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi's own extravagant claims to a special relationship with the hidden Imam aimed at rendering religious authority immanent and present, no longer in Occultation.
Patronage and the Ulama
The growing authority and social position of the Usuli clergy derived from the patronage and support the Shi‘i ruling class offered them. The ulama built, not only new instituions, but a new economic base for their activities. Patronage as employed here does not indicate a political system, but is used to describe economic support given by Awadh's court and great notables to Muslim learned and holy men. In the eighteenth century this patronage differed little from that of the Mughal period in legal description, being offered within the system of prebendal feudalism. Later, however, the economic form of patronage offered the ulama changed, as capitalism began to make an impact on Awadh. The significant shift in the form of notable support for the religious classes over the period treated here made it necessary to use a general word, like "patronage," rather than a specific one, like "feudalism."
Sociologist Michael Gilsenan acutely raised the general question of the relationship of the ulama to local notables in considering the issue of patrons and clients. His informants in modern northern Lebanon told him that the lord's power was based on force, oppression, and domination, whereas the ulama derived their authority from scriptural learning and (often) descent from the Prophet. They regaled him with stories of how saintly ulama opposed arrogant notables and mediated for the common people with the bey and with God. Gilsenan at first accepted the stories, but then became suspi-
cious, as we shall see below. A similar image of the ulama's righteous independence of the notables also emerges in the accounts of some historians of the Shi‘i ulama, who have often taken such stories (told by descendants of the ulama) at face value. But just as Gilsenan continued to question, so must we.
The key to interactions between the notables and the ulama lies in their economic relationship. In Awadh, as was noted, the form of economic patronage changed over time. Asafu'd-Dawlah, ruling a strong state with the prospect of expansion, freely bestowed tax-free grants of land on notables and court favorites. The prayer leaders in both Lucknow and Faizabad received land grants. After the British annexed half of Awadh in 1801, however, Nawab Sacadat ‘Ali Khan grew unwilling to alienate state land, and the service elite increasingly depended on stipends and salaries. Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar sometimes broke his father's rule by granting crown lands to large landholders (tacalluqdars ) and notables, but he also began turning some of his courtiers into rentiers subsisting on the interest from Awadh loans to the East India Company.
These changes in the way the patrimonial bureaucratic state rewarded its dependents and staff, brought about by the impact of Western capitalism, immediately affected the ulama, who formed a part of the same patronage system. Most Shi‘i ulama, not themselves independently wealthy, subsisted after 1801 on stipends and occasional gifts granted by the notables, as well as on voluntary religious taxes. Ironically, these ulama often accepted money from the government, earned. through charging interest on loans to the British.
Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali Nasirabadi, as the prayer leader in the capital, received both a service grant of nine tax-free (mucafi ) villages and a yearly salary of Rs. 5,000 from the treasury. In a will that he wrote just before his death, Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali appointed his eldest son, Sayyid Muhammad, his successor, the land grant and the yearly stipend devolving upon him. The details of these grants survive in British documents drawn up after annexation. The revenue-free villages were undoubtedly the older benefice, most having probably been granted by Asafu'd-Dawlah. Sayyid Muhammad later reported
the villages and the annual yields to him (see table 3). It should be noted that Sayyid Muhammad submitted these estimates of his income to the British government at a time when they were considering levying taxes on it, and the British insisted that he consistently underestimated the yields, putting the total closer to Rs. 5,000) per year.
1. Maulvi Khera
Another set of records shows that upon his accession to the governorship of Awadh, Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar ordered that Rs. 5,000 be paid annually as a stipend to Mawlavi Dildar ‘Ali and his heirs, without requiring a renewed grant or documentation (sanad ). He may have been confirming a stipend bestowed earlier. Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi's income exceeded that extracted from the Hindu peasants in his villages and the stipend provided by the Awadh government. Notables gave him grants of money and gifts, especially when they sought his informal legal rulings or commissioned him to write something.
Mrs. Ali gave an example of how the Nasirabadis amassed a fortune in this manner. She noted that in the 1820s the widow of the Shi‘i nawab of
Farrukhabad, Vilayati Begam, made a will in which she left Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi a handsome sum of money for his own use. At first surprised that such a bequest should have come to him from outside Awadh, he instituted strict inquiries to make sure that the begam did not simply mean for him to distribute the sum to the poor on her behalf. Satisfied on that score, he made sure that she had fulfilled all her religious obligations in life, such as paying the poor tax, and finally accepted the wealth she had left him. Still, no matter how wealthy he became in this way, he had only nine revenue-free villages and a stipend, and by the standards of Awadh's Shi‘i magnates he remained merely a small landholder. Unlike some wealthy ulama from Iranian or local zamindar background, the Nasirabadis did not intermarry with the notable class, preferring to wed their rustic cousins in Nasirabad rather than make alliances with the worldly upper classes of Lucknow.
The structures of patronage in the 1820s and 1830s became more fluid. Rather than making hereditary grants of villages, the Shi‘i court and notables most often simply appointed stipends and occasional gifts for the ulama they supported. The patrimonial, family-centered nature of many grants is illustrated by the case of Sayyid Hasan Riza Zangipuri (1779-1862), from a small town in Ghazipur, who studied in Faizabad. On becoming a mujtahid, he traveled for five years in Iran, receiving a robe of honor and cash gift from the Qajar ruler Fath-‘Ali Shah. Back in Lucknow, his wife established connections with one of Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar's wives, Mubarak Mahall, who gave her a substatial stipend and appointed Rs. 160 per month for her learned husband as well.
Not all ulama felt comfortable in accepting gifts from the rich. Sayyid ‘Ali of Bhikpur, Bihar, insisted on living on his salary, refusing the gifts (nazranah ) of notables. Needless to say, most ulama lived rather less ascetic lives and eagerly accepted gifts from magnates. Sayyid ‘Ali, originally a Sufi, embraced Usuli Shi‘ism and studied in Lucknow with Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi, receiving Rs. 5 per month as a student stipend. In the absence of notable gifts, Sayyid ‘Ali's income remained small. He found work at Rs. 10 per month as a tutor to the children of a notable, then received a raise to Rs. 30 per month. Mihdi Qummi Kashmiri, arriving in Lucknow in the late 1820s or the 1830s, refused to accept patronage from notables in the form of land grants, which he apparently felt would limit his independence. But he did take gifts of cash (nazranah ).
Nor did all ulama stand in great need of stipends from the high notables.
Many prominent clerics in Lucknow came from a rural landholding background. Sayyid Ahmad ‘Ali Muhammadabadi (d. 1878), from a zamindar family based near Jaunpur, trained in the religious sciences with the Usuli prayer leaders of Faizabad and Lucknow. He received gifts and stipends from the Awadh monarch for his religious writings. Muhammadabadi enjoyed his role in Lucknow as a learned man so much, and proved so successful at it, that, reluctant to return home to direct property affairs, he signed over his zamindari estate to his son and sent the young man out to oversee it.
Training as one of the Usuli ulama could also provide an entree to the court and a means of social mobility. Mawlavi Imdad ‘Ali Keranavi (d. 1873) came to Lucknow in the early 1830s and parlayed his skills as a reciter of prose mourning works for the Imam Husayn into a fortune. From a medical family in a service qasabah in Muzaffarnagar, he studied in Lucknow at the seminary set up by Hakim Mihdi ‘Ali Khan during his brief tenure as chief minister, 1830-32, receiving a stipend for his support and earning a diploma of Friday prayers leadership from Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi. He gradually made contacts at the court, reciting mourning passages at the salons of the king and his wives. Nasiru'd-Din Haydar so enjoyed his performances that he bestowed upon him a five-piece robe of honor and Rs. 500, fixing him as a permanent reciter for royal mourning sessions. The king gave to him in marriage a girl brought up in his own household, paying all the marriage expenses from the state treasury, and bestowed upon him a black mansion. Keranavi moved into administration, becoming the supervisor of the royal kitchen at Rs. 700 per month, with his wife receiving Rs. 200. The informal educational institutions of the Shi‘i ulama in Lucknow became an important element in elite formation, whereby Shi‘is from service families in the lineage centers could make important contacts in the capital and climb Awadh's social ladder.
The story of a Kashmiri immigrant family demonstrates the extent to which persons from notable families might identify themselves as ulama through a style of life, regardless of their social class. Mirza Sadiq ‘Ali Kashmiri (d. 1873), called to Lucknow in the late 1820s by his uncle, found on arrival that the older man had joined in the uproarious life of Lucknow's notables. Shocked to find his uncle hosting wild parties with singing girls, he moved elsewhere out of piety. Later he took service with the prayer leader for the great notable Hakim Mihdi ‘Ali Khan. Some ulama, on the other hand, surrendered to the values of their patrons. Abu'l-Qasim Sasani, settling in Patna, gave rulings that allowed drinking and gambling. The notables, de-
lighted, made him their cynosure. Sayyid Najaf ‘Ali Naunahravi (1793-1845), a student of Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali, enforced Usuli orthodoxy by refuting Sasani.
Sociologist Michael Gilsenan was astonished by something one of his informants told him about notables and ulama. The lord and a celebrated cleric, dead some twenty years, "got on famously." What, the startled social scientist inquired, about all those stories of saintly ulama struggling against the lord's tyranny? Gilsenan, upon reflection, saw that the stories were more ideology than reality. "For the Sheikhs [ulama] are, in fact, the dependents of the Beys, their dependence masked by miracles and the supposed triumph of authority over power."
In the same way, for all their talk of being the general representatives of the Twelfth Imam, and for all the stories crowding the biographical dictionaries of humble mujtahids besting despotic rulers, the Twelver ulama in Awadh depended for their social position largely upon the patronage of the notables. Those who had their own small holdings could be more independent of the court, but their very position as exploiters of the peasantry made it likely that their interests would coincide with those of the big landholding notables. The ulama established their own style of life as an honored status group within the ruling class, and many would not yield on principle even for monetary gain (though some, like Sasani, clearly did). But in Awadh, perhaps even more than in Iran, the ulama formed a subordinate part of the ruling class. In Iran, a few very wealthy merchant-ulama established a relative independence of the government, though too many broad generalizations have been made on the basis of this small group. In Awadh, however, no such merchant-ulama are recorded, and the small-landed or salaried background of most clerics made them dependent on the Shi‘i notables.
Challenges to Indian Usuli Dominance
Three new rivals to the authority of the Indian Usulis arose in the first half of the nineteenth century. These challenges threatened not only their control of religious institutions, but also their income from court and notable patronage. The first threat, ethnic in nature, was competition from Iranian immigrant ulama, who often carried more prestige by virtue of having come from the centers of Shi‘i scholarship and power. Another challenge derived from the gnostic Shaykhi school of Shi‘ism, which achieved prominence in the Iraqi shrine city of Karbala, spreading from there to India. The third menace came from claims to religious authority by the second Awadh king, Nasiru'd-Din Haydar. This caesaropapism threatened to introduce idiosyncratic rituals into Awadh Shi‘ism and to undermine the religious leadership of the Usuli ulama.
The Iranian immigrani ulama, largely of the Usuli school, remained prime competitors for patronage from the notables. They and the Indians fought, despite their adherence to the same school of jurisprudence. Unlike the Usuli conflict with Akhbaris and Sufis, the dispute originated neither in alternative forms of religious legitimation nor in tensions between social classes. Rather, it derived from a different sort of social closure, based on ethnicity. The rivalry between Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali Nasirabadi and Aqa Ahmad Bihbahani earlier in the century left a residue of bitterness between the Indians and the Iranians. Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali's anonymous official biography often criticized Iranian ulama who came to Lucknow as greedy 'individuals who prostituted themselves for money.
The Iranian ‘Abdu'l.-‘Azim Husayni Isfahani wrote a typical rebuttal of these charges, dedicating it to Nawab Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar. Isfahani took Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali to task for saying he lived in hard times for the truth. He pointed out that the Awadh rulers provided ample patronage to Shi‘i religious figures. Nowadays, he remarked, everyone is a Mawlavi Dildar, and religious students who used to sit on the dirt now receive Rs. 500 or Rs. 1,000. He objected that Nasirabadi seemed to warn people that because being a Shi‘i mawlavi had become so lucrative, many wolves in sheep's clothing were arriving from abroad. Isfahani said that in fact Nasirabadi sought to forbid people from giving hospitality to foreign ulama and pilgrims who came to Lucknow. Indeed, he said, matters had reached the point where no one would help even an indigent visitor. He asked who Nasirabadi was, to impugn, as having set up in business, Iranian expatriate ulama who were from learned families and who gave rulings respected by the believers. He accused the prayer leader of calumniating the people of Lucknow, Aqa Ahmad Bihbahani, and other Iranian ulama arriving in Awadh.
Isfahani took issue with Nasirabadi's statement that people had lost their ability to distinguish between truth and falsehood, branding it ungrateful to those dwelling in the capital, who generally held Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali in the high esteem. The nawab certainly could distinguish between truth and falsehood, as could many others. He questioned Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali's credentials as a mujtahid, saying he had studied only briefly with the mujtahids in the shrine cities of Iraq, and that he never received a diploma of ijtihad . He added bitterly that since that time Nasirabadi had revealed himself to be a mere layman in his mentality and that none of his sons or students had turned out to be distinguished.
Such attacks were in turn rebutted by Nasirabadi's students, the Indian ulama carrying the day. The biographical dictionaries mention very few Iranian ulama who settled in Lucknow and attained high religious rank after
1814. Many came as visitors and left after receiving gifts from the nawabs. More Iranians came successfully as physicians, poets, and architects at court, and some of their sons or grandsons went into the religious field.
One exception, Mulla Mihdi Astarabadi (d. 1843), a student of Sayyid ‘Ali Tabataba'i's in Karbala who lived for some time in Kirmanshah, arrived in Lucknow in 1824. He received patronage for his many compositions from members of the ruling circle, such as Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar's wife, Badshah Begam; from Hakim Mihdi ‘Ali Khan, chief minister in the 1830s; and from Nasiru'd-Din Haydar (r. 1827-37). But even Astarabadi, out of Iranian pride, refused to join in the social circle of the local Indian ulama, living in Lucknow as something of a recluse. Astarabadi died in 1843, leaving an estate worth Rs. 10,000, which the Lucknow mujtahids remitted to Najaf for distribution to his heirs.
The Indian Shi‘i ulama saw the Iranians arriving in Lucknow and Faizabad as carpetbaggers, unscrupulous mullas attempting to cash in on their Iranian prestige at a provincial court and among a gullible Shi‘i population. But the Iranians felt that the Indian Usulis unfairly (and inhospitably) attempted to exclude them from patronage opportunities. Surprisingly, the Indian ulama succeeded, by and large, in reserving the best posts in Awadh for Indians, despite the greater prestige of the Iranians. They succeeded in doing so largely because of their detailed knowledge of local court protocol, which most Iranian ulama not only refused to learn but also disapproved of as demeaning to the station of Islamic scholars. To Awadh's notables, the Iranian ulama often looked, or were made to look, rude and haughty. A limited number of Indian-born Usuli families thus continued to monopolize religious office. That so acrimonious a struggle could take place among Usulis on the arbitrary grounds of ethnicity points to motives of exclusionary closure and competition for religious patronage, and strengthens the contention in chapter 6 that even disputes with an obvious doctrinal basis had a dimension of social rivalry.
A minority of post-Occultation Imami religious leaders primarily based their claims to authority on charisma, and such charismatic leaders promoted either Sufi mysticism organized around brotherhoods (turuq ) or gnostic esotericism (batiniyyah ) often organized in secret cells of believers. Usulis opposed both charisma-based sorts of religious leadership by emphasizing technical, rational approaches to understanding scriptural law. Religious leaders of the Sevener, or Ismacili, branch of Shi‘ism more commonly prac-
ticed esoteric interpretation of scriptural texts and made claims to secret knowledge acquired supernaturally, than did Twelvers. But a major charismatic challenge to Usulism based in esoteric approaches to Twelver Shi‘ism emerged in the late eighteenth century in the form of Shaykhism.
The Shaykhi movement made an impact on Awadh in the 1830s and 1840s, demonstrating a reservoir of dissatisfaction with Usuli dominance. Shaykhism was founded by Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i (1753-1826), a scholar and visionary who in the 1790s trained with Usulis in the shrine cities of Iraq, thereafter establishing himself as a prominent theologian in Fath-‘Ali Shah's Iran. Al-Ahsa'i stirred controversy by saying he had visions of the Imams and that his knowledge was based on inspiration (kashf ), but his dreams were no more unorthodox than those of the Nasirabadis in Lucknow. Toward the end of his life his speculative, philosophical bent aroused the opposition of legalist ulama, some of whom issued rulings saying that he had departed from Islam in believing that only a spiritual, and not the physical, body would arise on resurrection day.
Al-Ahsa'i's chief disciple, Sayyid Kazim Rashti (d. 1844), succeeded him in Karbala upon his death, developing his teacher's doctrines into a new school of Imami Shi‘ism that differed somewhat from Usulism. In 1828 he met twice with a group of Usulis who attempted to clarify Shaykhi doctrine and to force Rashti to renounce some teachings. Shi‘is in Karbala gradually became polarized between the minority Shaykhis and the majority Usulis, led by Sayyid Ibrahim Qazvini. In the 1830s rivals made several attempts on Sayyid Kazim's life, but the school and its leader doggedly survived.
Since many Shi‘i scholars and notables traveled between Awadh and Iraq, Sayyid Kazim, as the Karbala-based leader of Shaykhism, had an influence on North India. A prominent scholar from Lucknow, Sayyid ‘Ali Nasirabadi (1786-1843), the second son of Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali, studied with Sayyid Kazim Rashti. Better known as a preacher and a reciter of the Qur'an than as a mujtahid, he wrote apologetics for Shi‘ism against Sunnis. In 1829 he traveled to Karbala, where the ulama, especially Sayyid Kazim Rashti, treated him with respect despite his Indian background. He studied for a year with the Shaykhi leader and received a complimentary diploma from him
during a period when the schism between Usulism and Shaykhism had intensified. Sayyid ‘Ali could scarcely have been unaware of Rashti's doctrines, and Sayyid Kazim for his part may have been attempting to spread his teachings to India. The year after his arrival in Iraq Sayyid ‘Ali set out once more for Awadh, where he devoted himself to an Urdu Shi‘i commentary on the Qur'an, printed in 1840. He then returned to Karbala for his few remaining years.
The most vigorous advocate of Shaykhism in Awadh, Mirza Hasan ‘Azimabadi (d. 1844), came of a Delhi family settled in Patna. He arrived as a young man in Lucknow where he pursued his study of Shi‘i sciences with Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi, writing in the 1820s a treatise arguing that holding Friday congregational prayers constituted an absolute, individual duty rather than an optional obligation. As the prayers became institutionalized in Awadh the hesitancy about them, visible in their first-generation promoters such as Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali, lessened.
Mirza Hasan went on pilgrimage to Mecca and then on visitation to the shrine cities of Iraq. He elected to reside in Karbala, where he gradually became a close follower of Sayyid Kazim Rashti. In 1836 ‘Azimabadi returned to Lucknow, where he worked as a preacher (vaciz ), promulgating the doctrines of Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i and Sayyid Kazim Rashti. He translated one of al-Ahsa'i's doctrinal works from Arabic into Persian and wrote an original composition on Shaykhi theology. Hostile Usuli sources say that Mirza Hasan spoke of having visions (manamat ) in his sleep, said he received inspiration (kashf ) from the Imams, and promoted himself as a miracle worker. At first Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi attempted to ignore Mirza Hasan's behavior, but when he succeeded in gathering some followers among the common people the Usuli mujtahid felt compelled to refute his former pupil. Mulla Mihdi Astarabadi, who may have encountered Shaykhism in Kirmanshah, joined in with an attack on Rashti's student.
Shaykhi theology postulated that God's attributes were of two kinds, active and essential, and that each of the attributes was represented in both categories. God had two kinds of knowledge, essential (or identical to his essence) and active (whereby he knew contingent things). Traditional Shi‘i theology accepted the division of divine attributes into active and essential,
but insisted that each attribute was one or the other. God's knowledge was an essential attribute, his speech an active one Usulis charged that al-Ahsa'i fell into heresy by saying that God had two sorts of knowledge.
Another difference of opinion centered on nominalism. Classical Shi‘i thinkers like Ibn Babuyah defined the essential attributes, such as God's knowledge, as identical to the divine essence. The word "knowledge" when applied to God had no referent other than the essence, acting as a denial of ignorance in him. Shi‘is borrowed this stance from the early Muctazili school. Later thinkers, such as Muhammad Baqir Majlisi (d. 1699), felt uncomfortable with so thoroughgoing a nominalism, denying that the negation of attributes in God was the highest stage in understanding his absolute unity. Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i took a view closer to that of Ibn Babuyah and the Muctazilis. In his attack on Shaykhism, Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi focused on these two seminal doctrines of Shaykhi theology, aiming to reaffirm the positive essential attributes and to refute the postulation of both essential and active divine knowledge.
‘Azimabadi remained committed to the Shaykhi school, working to build it up even in the face of fierce opposition from his old mentor. In 1844 he once again set out for the shrine cities of Iraq but got only as far as Allahabad, where he fell ill and died. Since Sayyid Kazim died on I January 1844, it seems likely that Mirza Hasan had received word that the old leadership of the movement in Karbala was gone and a struggle for succession had begun. He probably wished to return to Iraq so as to establish direct contact with whatever new leadership might emerge.
Mirza Hasan's death at an early age deprived north Indian Shaykhism of its most active proponent, the increasingly wealthy and powerful Usuli hierarchy in Awadh succeeding in its quest to uproot the new rival. Even so, in 1852 the appearance of the Shaykhi school still pained Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi Later Usuli refutations of Shaykhism originated in the Deccan, where Shaykhi influence remained much stronger. In the early 1870s the Shi‘i notable Mawlavi Ghulam Nabiyu'llah Ahmad Khan Madrasi (d. 1906) came to Lucknow, where Sayyid Bandah Husayn, son and successor of Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi, condemned him as an unbeliever because of his Shaykhi leanings. Madrasi's grandfather had been a notable in the court
of the anti-British south Indian Muslim ruler Tipu Sultan, and Nauganavi noted that Shi‘is in the Deccan were much under "Shaykhi, Babi and Nusayri influence." Although in Iran millenarian expectations of the coming of the Imam Mahdi in 1844/1260 contributed to the rise of the Babi movement from the matrix of Shaykhism, no evidence survives of any Babi activity in Awadh.
In the 1830s the Usuli ulama of Awadh, despite their lukewarm relations with the court, still had enough authority to stamp out what they perceived to be a heresy. The control mechanisms at their disposal are by now familiar: public denunciation and humiliation, and shunning. The second generation of Usuli ulama mobilized their followers for exclusionary closure even more effectively than had the first generation in the eighteenth century. Most important, one hears of no great notable who lent his patronage to Shaykhis, so that the Usulis appear to have effectively starved the new school of funds in Awadh. The Usuli approach to religion and law won out over the esoteric, charismatic approach of the Shaykhis, perhaps because Awadh bureaucrats and tax-farmers, many of them intellectually formed by the rationalist Nizami method of the Farangi Mahall, could better appreciate the rational-legal techniques of the mujtahids.
The Ulama and the State, 1827-1857
Weber's two ruling organizations, the political and the hierocratic, for the most part exercised legitimate domination over different spheres of society. But the potential for conflict between them always existed. Weber suggested a tripartite typology for state-religion relations. In the first type, hierocracy, the religious leaders legitimate the ruler. In the second, theocracy, the ruler is also the high priest. In the third, caesaropapism, a secular ruler also controls the religious hierarchy, having a legitimacy not dependent on the religious officials.
Which of these types best describes Awadh is clear. From the establishment of Friday prayers under Asafa'ud-Dawlah in 1786 through the coronation of Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar in 1819 the Shi‘is of Awadh gradually developed a loose hierocracy, wherein the mujtahids legitimated the Nishapuri ruler. The Nishapuris had little religious charisma of their own, and the Usuli ulama, not themselves holders of political power, developed enough charisma among Shi‘is to bestow legitimacy on the Awadh ruler. As was noted in chapter 5, this legitimation held good within the Shi‘i ruling class, though obviously it had little relevance in the countryside, to the Hindu masses, or to
Sunni rajas and townsmen. Usuli hierocratic legitimation had meaning only in the context of the small, dominant Shi‘i community.
In the 1830s the Awadh king Nasiru'd-Din Haydar experimented with another cultural typology, promoting a system closer to caesaropapism. Weber well recognized the difficulty for a ruler of successfully claiming religious authority, and the danger of the attempt. In Awadh the move toward caesaropapism faced double jeopardy. First, it aroused the hostility of the well-placed Usuli ulama and of many sober members of the Shi‘i ruling class, who had been socialized to Usuli values. Second, for other reasons, some features of the ruler's claim to religious authority also alarmed the British, the real guarantors of political power. The coincidence of some Usuli hierocratic and British utilitarian norms constituted a particularly powerful obstacle in the path of Nasiru'd-Din Haydar's religious policy.
The reign of Nasiru'd-Din Haydar marked a period of very turbulent relations between the monarch and the high ulama. Both his beliefs and his style of life made Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar's son disliked and distrusted both by the Usuli ulama and by the British residents. He was raised by a stepmother, Badshah Begam, a powerful wife of Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar, who held a huge land grant (jagir ). A lady with a fertile religious imagination, she invented numerous Shi‘i ritual piactices centering on devotion to the Twelve Imams.
She held elaborate ceremonies for the births of the Imams, such as would be held by Indian Muslim women for a real birth in the household. She also had pretty Sayyid girls brought from their families and maintained them in her palace as wives of the eleven Imams descended from ‘Ali and Fatimah. The girls were not allowed to marry mortals after having been consecrated to an Imam, though it is said one escaped this restriction by saying that she had seen the Imam in a dream and that he had divorced her. She had mausoleums constructed for each of the Twelve Imams, to which she made offerings and observed mourning ceremonies, not only for Husayn, but for all the Imams. She asserted that she sometimes received inspiration and could foretell the future.
When her stepson Nasiru'd-Din Haydar came to the throne, he continued these innovative practices and even expanded on them. He dressed in women's clothing on the birthdays of the Imams and pretended to give birth to dolls representing them, following all the rituals of bathing that a Muslim woman who had given birth would perform. These practices, eccentric and idiosyncratic, representing solely a preoccupation of the ruler and his intimates, had little effect on the Shi‘i populace. The masses may have welcomed them, however, since the king spent huge sums to feed the poor during the frequent religious holy days.
Precisely because of the expense of the new rituals, they became a political issue with the British resident. John Low wrote to Calcutta in 1836 that the king spent an enormous sum of sixty-six lakhs of rupees a year, close to six million pounds sterling, exhausting his treasury in spite of the resident's remonstrances:
. . even subsequently to the exhaustion of the old Treasury, he, amongst other acts of extravagance squandered in one day, the sum of a lac of Rupees—50,000 upon two head dresses, of which he has already more than an abundance, and 50,000 in making up dresses for the celebration of the birth of some imaginary prophet;—that he has established some absurd ceremonies . . . (the forms of which most mahomedans think idolatrous) which originated entirely with himself, and which entails a tremendously heavy annual expenditure, as they are held on each of the supposed anniversaries of all the twelve Saints—and each procession including the dresses and dinners and gifts to numerous person—costs on an average not less than a lac of Rupees. . . . The above is a general outline of the mode in which the King of Oude passes his life—with the exception of certain periods devoted to the celebration of Mohurrum—and some new and absurd ceremonies called "achootas," during which times he abstains from drinking, and devotes himself to superstitious ceremonies—a few days in every month are set apart for those ceremonies, which invariably end with a grand procession in which His Majesty takes a part dressed in female clothes—sitting in a richly embroidered covered Palankiin with a doll in his lap—which he supposed to represent some newly born Prophet or Imaum;—The sums of money thrown away monthly on this new freak of the King's are enormous.
These proceedings dismayed the Shi‘i ulama as much as they did the resident. Once Nasiru'd-Din Haydar Shah gathered a group of notables and Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi to commemorate the death of an Imam. The king wanted Sayyid Muhammad to read the prayer for the dead so as to reenact the funeral ceremony. When they got to the palace, some notables pleaded with Sayyid Muhammad to humor the ruler. Nasirabadi responded that he could not take part in such a ritual. When the king came out in his black mourning clothes and called for the funeral prayer, Sayyid Muhammad stiffly informed him that only an Imam could read the prayer for a deceased Imam. The incident passed, leaving a residue of bitterness.
Both the British resident and the chief mujtahid also agreed in criticizing the monarch for his use of force to usurp the wives of other men, many of them from poor families. The resident learned that the king "had in the most open and despotic manner forcibly separated a husband of respectable station in life from his wife—turned the unhappy man out of the City, and insisted upon marrying the woman (then pregnant) without even waiting for a divorce." Nasiru'd-Din Haydar asked Sayyid Muhammad to perform his marriage with the lady, but the mujtahid refused because her divorce from her first husband was not proven to have taken place according to Islamic
law. Later the king gave the man a Rs. 500,000 bribe to renounce his wife, and married her legally, arranged an abortion for her, then a short while later abrogated this temporary marriage.
Nasiru'd-Din Haydar felt that he did not need the ulama to legitimate his rule, though he would have been willing to incorporate them into his rituals had they proved more compliant. In a significant step toward caesaropapism he claimed for himself the position the Usuli ulama claimed, of being the representative (na'ib ) of the hidden Twelfth Imam. One of his courtiers, a Hindu convert to Shi‘ism, enunciated this doctrine: "Know that since there is no escape for any era from having a Master of the Age (Sahib-i zaman ), and in relation to the threshold of the Master of the Age, the Caliph of the All-Merciful, the Interceder on the Day of Judgment, the Twelfth Imam, the king upon his throne is worthy of being the representative of that Holy One." Nasiru'd-Din Haydar made this claim only in his third regnal year. In 1830 he began issuing coins inscribed: "The Shadow of God, the representative of the Mahdi, Nasiru'd-Din Haydar the King, struck coins in silver and gold by the Grace of God." Rather than being a dynastic claim on the part of the Awadh rulers, this seems rather to have been one more aberration of Nasiru'd-Din Haydar's decade in power. The contemporancous Qajar rulers in Iran made no similar claim to being the representative of the Imam.
The monarch sought out other holy men to replace the rigid Usulis. The 1830s saw a revival of court-sponsored Sufism, coinciding with a similar phenomenon in Iran. Low wrote, "His majesty has of late frequently invited a number of Fakeers to the Palace of an Evening; when he put on clothes somewhat similar to theirs, and after listening to their legends and pretended prophecies for some hours, he has loaded them with presents." Some of the faqirs may have had links with rural bandits. When the king asked them what he should do to get a son, they replied that he should release twenty to thirty prisoners from his jail. He did so, to the dismay of the British, who had labored long and hard to apprehend the peasant rebels.
Nasiru'd-Din Haydar's bid to subjugate the Usuli hierarchy in Awadh to his complete control as royal representative of the Twelfth Imam failed. This caesaropapist ideology was rejected by most of the king's relatives in the
royal family, so that his successors declined to follow through with it. The Usuli ulama themselves steadfastly denied these royal pretensions, and since many ulama served as tutors to the children of notables, they often succeeded in transmitting Usuli clericalist sympathies to the secular ruling class. The Usuli clerics had developed too strong a network of learned men trained in Shi‘i doctrines, and had attracted too widely the allegiance of Shi‘i notables, to be easily displaced or subjugated by Nasiru'd-Din Haydar.
In the long run the ulama successfully monopolized religious functions in Shi‘i society through their claim of unique professional expertise and their use of mechanisms of social control to exclude ethnic competitors like Iranians and charismatic ones like Shaykhis. They continued to develop their function of legitimating the Awadh state for the Shi‘i community, participating in the coronation ceremonies and delivering their Friday sermons in the Awadh king's name. Although on many issues the ulama disputed the actions of the ruler in the 1830s, they continued to say the Friday prayers in his name, and on some policies they supported the monarch against the British. From 1786 to 1827 the Usuli clerics made successful claims on patronage from Awadh's court and high notables, as well as on the religious donations of Shi‘i tradespeople. The lesser extent of court patronage available in the 1830s had little effect on the patronage system, which remained intact outside the court itself. New political leaders would emerge in the 1840s, who would follow pro-clerical policies, catapulting the ulama into a position of vast wealth and influence in Awadh affairs.
Clericalist Monarchy and Shi‘i Institution Building
The 1840s saw the high point of ulama influence and wealth in Awadh as new governments abandoned the anticlerical policies of the 1830s. This Shi‘i influence grew strongest in Lucknow and Faizabad and in the Shi‘i-dominated small towns, such as Sitapur, Nasirabad, and Kintur. The authority of the Awadh mujtahids often extended also to other Shi‘i communities in British-ruled northern and eastern India, who sought legal rulings and spiritual guidance from them. Yet most of rural Awadh remained relatively untouched by developments at the Shi‘i court in Lucknow. Most peasant laborers in the small villages dwelt in a rustic religious world centered on Hindu figures like Ram and Krishna; Sunni Islam and Sufism influenced the culture of the towns. Rural Awadh suffered through difficult times in the late 1830s and early 1840s, with grain shortages. The contrast between the indigence of the exploited peasants and the magnificence of the court's expenditures on Shi‘i institutions may have helped provoke Hindu resentments, which would explode in the 1850s in a dispute over ownership of a religious edifice.
Still, Shi‘i policies and agendas did greatly affect the Awadh government in the 1840s, making a significant impact, especially on urban society. Religious welfare policies made it easier for the Shi‘i poor to receive government help, encouraging adoption of Shi‘ism among the indigent and increasing the authority of the mujtahids among commoners, since the ulama distributed the alms. For the first time an Awadh government took steps toward implementing aspects of Shi‘i law as policy, in the realms of narcotics, the poor-tax, and the judiciary. The government established a powerful instrument for the self-replication and systematic training of the ulama corps in the form of
a Shi‘i seminary. Twenty years after Ghaziyu'd-Din Haydar became an independent Shi‘i monarch, Awadh rulers began to take seriously their autonomy from the Mughals and Sunni Mughal traditions. The import of these policy changes for relations among Awadh's diverse religious communities will be discussed in the next chapter. Here, the question is what significance vastly greater government patronage had for the structure of Shi‘i institutions in Awadh.
Remission of Monies to Iraq through the Ulama
Muhammad ‘Ali Shah (1837-42), placed on the throne by British military action after Nasiru'd-Din Haydar's sudden death, took a keen interest in public works of a religious nature. He began the building of a new edifice for mourning the Imams, and a new cathedral mosque, restating his dynasty's devotion to Shi‘ism and multiplying posts available to ulama. The treasury of Awadh also provided substantial funds to the mujtahids in Najaf and Karbala. In a letter dated 1839 (1255) the north Indian clerics informed the ulama in Iraq that the new Awadh monarch, having a great love for the holy shrines and all who dwelt in their vicinity, had heard that the Asafiyyah canal was dry and wished to have it repaired. He ordered that Rs. 150,000 be sent to each of the two cities through the British resident by means of the political agent in Turkish Arabia. The letter instructed the ulama to let Lucknow know that the money arrived and to ensure that it was spent for the purpose stipulated. British records show that in June 1839 the Awadh government remitted Rs. 30,000 to Iraq for the repairs to the canal, and the following summer sent another Rs. 250,000 to complete the work. In November 1841 the king of Awadh sent Rs. 26,000 to Karbala for religious purposes, the total coming to just over Rs. 300,000 split two ways. Since the Awadh monarch gave the ulama charge of the transmission of these monies and of overseeing the progress of the Iraq projects, he greatly enhanced their influence in Awadh and the Shi‘i world.
Growing Ulama Political Authority
Of all Awadh's rulers, Amjad ‘Ali Shah (1842-47), who came to the throne on his father's death, took legalist, Usuli Shi‘ism most seriously. His pious admiration for the mujtahids led him to bestow on them increasing responsi-
bilities of a governmental nature, integrating them as never before into the Awadh state. In contrast to the common image of the Shi‘i mujtahids as hostile to secular government, the Awadh ulama accepted offers of government posts and government monies with alacrity. Indeed, few if any major Shi‘i ulama remained outside the structure of government patronage and religious institution building in the 1840s. They appear to have seen the very willingness of a secular government to act in a proclerical manner as evidence of its justness and the rightness of cooperating with it.
The young monarch tempered his own pattern of life, that of an Indo-Muslim king, with Shi‘i piety. He maintained a harem of four hundred concubines and four wives, but avoided the scandals and adultery that echoed in his predecessors' palaces. So scrupulous about the use of state funds that he did not say his daily prayers in clothes bought by the government treasury, he took instead a stipend from his mother with which to purchase his own vestments. The tall, corpulent ruler with "a nose of extraordinary size" claimed on his coins to be the Shadow of God on earth. Even he, however, did not altogether eschew the life of an Awadh notable, indulging in such forbidden pastimes as listening to songs and music, and spending a great deal of his time in the harem. He entirely lacked the horror the clergy felt at representational art, ordering all the buildings in Lucknow painted white or in colors and covered with scenes of Indian life.
Amjad ‘Ali Shah demonstrated a legendary deference to the Usuli mujtahids, illustrating the way in which the clergy had been able to influence members of the ruling class. He suggested a seal for Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi, whom he called the "sultan of the ulama," which referred to him as the "object of the faith of Amjad ‘Ali Shah." Sayyid Muhammad, feeling that the king had gone too far, demurred and asked that the phrase be altered to "object of the bounties." The monarch used to visit the chief mujtahid's mansion with humility.
At the powerful cleric's instance, the king ordered that the many taverns and hashish shops in Lucknow be closed down and that the narcotics crops be destroyed. He ordained that houses of male prostitution, which had proliferated in the capital, be put out of business. The male prostitutes, most of them transvestites, were arrested and banished from the city, except those who gave up their saris and agreed to have their locks shorn. Some notable patrons of the notorious Pomegranate Seed brothel wrote Sayyid Muhammad asking that he drop by, in a brash attempt to save the establishment. He
stiffly responded that if they read the formula for repentance, gave up taking the place of women, and grew beards, he would be glad to accept the invitation.
Amjad ‘Ali Shah appointed Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi as the head of the excise department, an announcement that the government would no longer seek to profit from the sale of forbidden liquors and would attempt instead to abolish the substances subject to the tax. The all-out assault on the rip-roaring style of life of Lucknow's boisterous denizens met strong resistance and ultimately failed. The wits of the city found endless material for their satirical doggerel, taking revenge for the Usuli establishment's attempt to interfere in their amusements. One wag wrote:
Whoever drinks no wine, believers, he will burn in hell;
The excise to the Heavenly bartender's lover fell.
The attack on hashish or bhang stores and taverns also had an economic motive, since Sayyid Muhammad resented Hindu dominance of Awadh's commerce. He wished to initiate a state-sponsored Muslim boycott of Hindu shops. Some Muslims founded stores with much effort, but the king's plans in this regard fell short of realization.
The Government Payment of Alms
Awadh Shi‘is had for long privately paid Islamic poor-taxes. Even in Shujacu'd-Dawlah's Faizabad the Akhbari physician Hakim Mucalij Khan distributed donations by his rich patrons for the poor (paying himself handsomely to do so). In the 1890s Mrs. Ali noted that wealthy Muslims often gave one-fortieth of their annual income to the poor as zakat and one tenth to indigent Sayyids as khums . She reported that Sayyids could not accept other kinds of charitable donations (sadaqah ), as for instance when someone. distributed gifts on escaping from a deadly illness.
In the 1830s the mujtahids in Awadh began making a major effort to increase official donations of a charitable nature. Since according to Usuli doctrine the mujtahids should be placed in charge of this money as the general representatives of the hidden Imam, any large increase in donations would
also augment their own power and financial resources. Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi wrote a work on the subject for Muhammad ‘Ali Khan Nasiru'd-Dawlah, soon to be Muhammad ‘Ali Shah. It is even possible that when he wrote the book Sayyid Muhammad already knew that the British intended to depose Nasiru'd-Din Haydar and replace him with Muhammad ‘Ali. This secret decision leaked from the residency in Lucknow, becoming common knowledge among political operators like Subhan ‘Ali Khan. (Nasiru'd-Din Haydar's sudden death in 1837 removed the necessity for such a move.)
Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi instructed the prince in the intricacies of the Islamic law of philanthropy. The recipients of the poor-tax (zakat ), he said, included the poor, the indigent, those appointed to distribute the alms, converts to Shi‘ism, slaves, debtors, and public welfare projects (from holy war to building mosques and bridges). In the time of the Occultation, he stressed, the poor-tax must be given to the upright mujtahid. He noted that under the Safavids the mujtahids administered the tax. All recipients, Sayyid Muhammad wrote, had to be Shi‘is, and the contributions of Sayyids had to go to other Sayyids.
The other major philanthropy, called the "fifth" (al-khums ), originally formed the early Muslim state's portion of war booty. It benefited both the Prophet and his immediate family as well as various categories of the indigent. In Sunni Hanafi law, prevalent in India, it could be given, but would benefit only the poor and not the Sayyids, who said they were heirs of the Prophet. In the absence of the Imam early Akhbaris tended to see the obligation of Shi‘is to render this tax as having lapsed. Later Usulis believed that it should be divided in two basic parts, one for the mujtahids (the share of the Imam [sahm-i Imam ]), and the other for needy Sayyids. Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi said that consensus had settled on the donation of the fifth as a duty. Believers owed this charitable tax on plunder; on precious metals after costs; on found hidden treasure; on profits from commerce, agriculture, and artisanry; on precious stones from the sea; on lawful money any time it was mixed with ill-gotten wealth of unknown origin; and on land sold by a Shi‘i to a Jew, Christian, or Zoroastrian. The whole amount had to be delivered to the upright jurisprudent, who divided it into six parts in accordance with a literal reading of Qur'an 8:41. The mujtahid himself accepted three portions on behalf of God, the Prophet, and the Imam. He distributed the other three
portions to the poor, orphans, and wayfarers among the Sayyids, excluding other Shi‘is.
The Lucknow mujtahids upheld this exclusivity to the point that they forbade the use of the sum allotted to the Imam for the funding of Muharram mourning sessions, since non-Sayyids participated in them. The rules for the fifth also encouraged centralization, since few recognized mujtahids dwelt in qasabahs and the charity, when donated, would have to be sent to Lucknow. Moreover, the terms of donation favored the educated Sayyids in the cities, who were more likely to receive the philanthropy. Poor, ignorant Shi‘i Sayyids who did not know the rules for daily prayer were ineligible.
Whatever poor-tax Muhammad ‘Ali Shah paid was a personal affair, though the largesse of a king could be considerable. But Amjad ‘Ali Shah went considerably beyond any recorded past practice in making charitable funds available to the mujtahids. He took the unprecedented step of having the government of Awadh pay the Shi‘i poor-tax (zakat ) on its annual revenues. At 2.5 percent, the charitable contribution annually came to more than Rs. 300,000 per year, totaling Rs. 1.7 million over the five years Amjad ‘Ali Shah ruled. The fifth was not, apparently, paid on this scale, although large sums were realized from this religious tax as well. The king gave both the poor-tax and the fifth into the care of Sayyids Muhammad and Husayn Nasirabadi.
The first year the mujtahids distributed the funds they were literally mobbed. The poor, and sudden converts from Sunnism and Hinduism to Shi‘ism, besieged the houses of Sayyids Muhammad and Husayn. A later writer sniffed that "many of the undeserving" received funds. Thereafter the mujtahids established a register with the names of those they considered genuinely deserving Shi‘is, to each of whom they appointed a monthly stipend. Then they set up a department to handle the paper work, with Sayyid Husayn's son Sayyid ‘Ali Naqi Zubdatu'l-‘Ulama' (d. 1893) at its head. During this period hundreds of Sunnis and thousands of Hindus embraced Imami Shi‘ism, many of them in order to gain access to alms. Officials gave Hindu converts to Shi‘ism special preference in acquiring government jobs and, if they were tax-farmers, forgave them revenue shortfalls. Mosques and imambarahs proliferated.
In the 1840s many Shi‘i clerics grew genuinely wealthy through their control of Islamic charities. Sayyid ‘Ali Naqi, who administered the money, paid himself so well that he could build four spacious, lavishly furnished man-
sions, with courtyards anti pools around which he set chairs that could not be matched for elegance in London itself. Each mansion had a name and was kept up by a horde of servants and provided with a stable for elephants. In the afternoon friends and seekers of knowledge would gather for salons around the pool, sitting on the European-style chairs. He also built a magnificent imambarah renowned for its mourning sessions. He was so respected that once when he went to Rampur to pray congregational prayers with the Shi‘is, the Sunni nawab joined in behind him.
In each neighborhood Sayyid ‘Ali Naqi appointed persons he trusted to distribute the charity. The ulama sometimes employed this privilege as a way of bestowing favors. Mawlavi Sayyid Kamalu'd-Din Mohani, a zamindar who preferred to live in Lucknow, fell into financial difficulties because of his large family. To help him out, Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi put him in charge of distributing charily. In 1845 he left to become the supervisor of a pious endowment in Calcutta, founded by a relative.
In a pluralistic society like Awadh where the Shi‘is formed a small minority, the provision of such huge sums to this group struck many as invidious. Even Shi‘is like the historian Kamalu'd-Din Haydar criticized the system, observing that the mujtahids were obliged to put large sums of money in the hands of high state officials—ostensibly for redistribution to the needy—as bribes to ensure the continuing payment of the Rs. 300,000 per year. The government payment of the poor-tax emerged as an important issue under Vajid ‘Ali Shah (1847-56) during the residency of Colonel Sleeman. Sleeman faulted the system on several counts, pointing out that no Sunni could partake of the charity. Moreover, he said, since Sayyids could receive poor-tax monies only if they fell in the category of the indebted, the Awadh mujtahids
get over the difficulty by borrowing large sums before the money is given out, and appropriate the greater pait of the money to the liquidation of these debts, though they all hold large sums in our Government securities. To his friends at court he [the chief mujtahid] sends a large share, with a request that they will do him the favour to undertake the distribution among the poor of the neighborhood To prevent popular clamour, a small portion of the money given out is actually distributed among the poor of the Sheea sect at Lucknow, but that portion always remains small.
Sleeman noted that government stipends were in arrears to the amount of five million rupees, and that the government was bound to pay the poor-tax only when free of debt. But, he said, the chief mujtahid, the chief minister, and the court favorites had too great a stake in it to allow it to be discontinued. Vajid ‘Ali Shah acquiesced in its payment, though the treasury was depleted, and the amount paid into the poor-tax had actually increased. At some point Vajid ‘Ali Shah, either bowing to British pressure or for his own reasons, stopped giving the poor-tax and even defaced coins lest he be obliged to give it. This interruption in their income, which became even more serious when the British annexed Awadh in 1856, caught the mujtahids and their families off guard, leaving them heavily indebted and forcing them to sell off their British stocks. This and other royal actions soured relations between the court and the mosque. Sayyid Muhammad ‘Abbas Shushtari mentioned as one of the sorrows in Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi's life the "opposition of the notables [umara ']," admitting that Amjad ‘Ali Shah showed him much respect but lamenting that he had hastened to the next world. Vajid ‘Ali Shah demonstrated not nearly so much veneration of the ulama.
The substantial poor-tax funds quite aside, Amjad ‘Ali Shah showered the clergy with perquisites. He gave Sayyids Muhammad and Husayn Nasirabadi each an extra Rs. 200 per month as the capital's official prayer-leaders and provided extra allowances to other members of the Nasirabadi clan as well. In addition, the king established a special fund for Sayyids totaling, at one point, Rs. 2,000 each month. The senior members of the Nasirabadi family received Rs. 100 per month each, with altogether Rs. 380 per month out of these monies going to the Nasirabadis. They shared the rest of the allowance (probably deriving from khums ) with other Sayyids of their choosing, the total number of recipients reaching forty-seven at one point. Vajid ‘Ali Shah, immediately upon coming to power, cut the Sayyid fund in half. Still, in 1849 his treasury sent Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi Rs. 2,180 per month in various perquisites to be shared out.
The poor-tax and the fifth contributions over which the high ulama exercised control for nearly a decade increased their wealth and power immeasurably. They had, from their point of view, a legal right to half of the khums donations, and the power to decide to whom the other half would go. They employed various devices to gain access, as well, to the poor-tax (zakat ) revenues. Even mere control over the latter, amounting to hundreds of
thousands of rupees per year, would have rendered them important sources of patronage. This money tied them closely to the ruling establishment, drawing them into tight association with the secular state. Most important, by accepting regularized payments of huge amounts of money from government revenues, their position within the ruling class changed from that of small land- and benefice-holders and stipendiaries. They became direct recipients of state-expropriated peasant surpluses. In many ways the prominent ulama joined the class of high notables. Like the Awadh notables, they also became rentiers by investing in East India Company stock.
The Funding of a Shi‘i Seminary
The Usuli Shi‘i ulama already had informal means of passing their status on to their children, of teaching them the technical expertise demanded by many ulama posts, and of controlling entry into the ulama corps. Their teaching sessions in homes produced enough Usuli clerics to meet the notable-class demand for their services in the earlier part of the nineteenth century. But with the accession of great wealth and numbers of government posts for Shi‘i clerics in the 1840s, the ulama could only take advantage of the opportunities to influence society and move upward socially by expanding and more rationally ordering their educational activities. In short, they needed formal seminaries.
After Amjad ‘Ali Shah and his chief minister, Aminu'd-Dawlah, had been in office for nearly a year, the leading mujtahids Sayyids Muhammad and Husayn Nasirabadi decided that they finally had a government with which they could work closely. They suggested that the new government formally subvent an official, expanded Shi‘i seminary (madrasah ). The ruling circles responded with enthusiasm and generosity. In May 1843 a proposed schedule was drawn up wherein the king appointed Rs. 31,200 per year for the school, with fourteen primary teachers, seven intermediate teachers, and five advanced instructors, with three principals. For Shi‘i scholars with land around their qasabahs the salaries were more of a perquisite than an income, although for Sayyids that had fallen on hard times even Rs. 240 per year could help to make ends meet.
Amjad ‘Ali Shah neglected to endow the seminary or to appoint lands permanently to generate its income, paying for it instead from the royal treasury every year by personal fiat. The king often visited the premises, at the tomb
of Nawab Sacadat ‘Ali Khan, and distributed sumptuous meals. He also funded a smaller seminary at Faizabad, at least for a time. Many of the families that staffed and attended the royal seminary had already taught Shi‘i sciences on an informal basis for some time. Amjad ‘Ali Shah simply gave permanent form and monetary support to such teaching, allowing numerous salons to coalesce into one institution.
The top administrative post at the Lucknow school fell to Sayyid Muhammad Taqi Nasirabadi (1818-72), the son of Sayyid Husayn. His emergence into prominence at the age of twenty-five marks the rise in the 1840s of the third generation of Usuli ulama. His heading tip of the school also typified the Nasirabadi family's determination to keep key clerical posts in the family; like the young executive taking over his father's business, Sayyid Muhammad Taqi's qualifications for the post lay in his family name rather than in his scholarly attainments or experience (many of the teachers he hired and fired were much senior to him on both counts). He did not even receive from his father and uncle his diplomas qualifying him to relate the oral reports of the Imams until 1845 (1262), two years after he became principal. He also held an honorary diploma from Shaykh Muhammad Hasan an-Najafi in Iraq, into whose hands the Awadh ulama had placed hundreds of thousands of rupees. In addition to his duties as principal and senior teacher at the royal seminary, he helped his father lead prayers at the Tahsin ‘Ali mosque, sometimes also leading them in his father's presence at the royal mosque. He wrote prolifically, often in Arabic, and must have felt a pressing need to provide textbooks for the new generation of two hundred students coming up through his institution.
At the school he wielded absolute administrative powers: "It appears from Wajboolarz [wajibal-card ], dated the same year in which the institution was founded, that full and plenary powers were conferred on the principal, to appoint, remove or alter salaries at his pleasure." In addition to his salary of Rs. 1,800 per year and his share of income from the family villages, he received from 1848 a complimentary stipend of Rs. 100 per month, in addition to Rs. 540 per year from the rent of shops around the Tahsin ‘Ali mosque.
But such formal emoluments were no doubt dwarfed by the gifts of notable-class patrons and students.
The assistant principal when the school first came into existence was Sayyid Ahmad ‘Ali Muhammadabadi (d. 1878), a middle landholder (zamindar ) and leader of a small town in British-ruled Azamgarh just south of Awadh. Trained by the Usuli prayer leaders of Faizabad and Lucknow, and by a Farangi-Mahalli, he secured notable-class patronage when he became the tutor for the sons of the sometime chief minister, Imdad Husayn Khan Aminu'd-Dawlah. Muhammadabadi's wealth and erudition and his penetration of ruling-class networks in Lucknow allowed him to marry his son to the daughter of another man who served as chief minister, Ahmad ‘Ali Khan Munawwaru'd-Dawlah. The third seminary administrator in 1843, Muhammad b. ‘Ali Fayzabadi, a close student of Chief Mujtahid Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi, also served as a preacher (vaciz ), strongly recommending Friday congregational prayers and working sermons from the New Testament and the Imam ‘Ali into his talks.
Of the five advanced teachers at Rs. 840 per year only a few can be identified from the biographical dictionaries. One, Sayyid Muhammad Siyadat Amrohavi (d. 1849), a Friday prayer leader from a zamindar background, had studied with Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi. Another prominent advanced teacher, Sayyid Muhammad ‘Abbas Shushtari (1809-88), served as Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi's secretary in his Arabic correspondence with Iraq. From an Iranian clerical family that settled in Awadh as court physicians and intermarried with the Awadh notable class, Sayyid Muhammad ‘Abbas forsook medicine for a religious career. At age seventeen he began studying Shi‘i sciences with Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi, who encouraged him to become a prayer leader and sermonizer. He tutored the children of the great merchant Mirza Muhammad ‘Ali Dihlavi to earn a living and received his diploma allowing him to relate Shi‘i reports in 1841. For a time without means, he tried his hand at medicine again. He later remarked that although he came of a family renowned for its wealth, he himself at one point fell on hard times.
Finally, in the spring of 1842 Shushtari obtained a post under Muhammad ‘Ali Shah. When in May of the same year the king died and a new administration came in, he lost that position and had trouble maintaining his service-elite style of life. A year later when the Shi‘i seminary for which
Sayyid Muhammad ‘Abbas himself helped lobby was funded, Sayyid Husayn exercised his influence to have Shushtari made a senior instructor at the age of thirty-four, at Rs. 840 per year in salary. The financial difficulties he experienced underline the strong motivation the ulama had to expand job opportunities in the economically depressed 1840s.
The seminary underwent changes over time. In 1846 the government moved it to the larger facilities at Asafu'd-Dawlah's Great Imambarah in the old part of town. The faculty expanded from twenty-nine to thirty-eight, though the number of students stayed around two hundred. The turnover was large: only eleven faculty members appointed in 1843 remained on the rolls in 1856. Often their own sons replaced instructors who died, and in any case their stipends became inherited family property. Even where teachers died leaving no one in the family capable of succeeding them at the seminary, their heirs continued to receive the stipends. They were, like many service grants in this period in Awadh, a curious mixture of salary and pious endowment, a liquid waqf , an alienated portion of the Government treasury.
Although no list survives of the students who passed through the school, and the extant lists of teachers often give only a first name, the information available indicates that the seminary functioned for upper- and middle-class Shi‘is. Further, it actually became involved in 1843-56 in elite formation in Awadh. Many of the teachers who can be identified were small or middle landholders from the Muslim lineage centers, and others derived from high service families clustered around the court in Lucknow. An example of how the seminary could be used for upward mobility is Mirza Muhammad ‘Ali "Qa'imu'd-Din" (d. 1872), who worked himself up from instructor to master and finally became a jurisconsult at Vajid ‘Ali's court and an intimate of the king.
Contemporary observers remarked on the patrimonial nature of the school's administration, and younger members of the old elite ulama families received a disproportionate number of appointments to the staff on their completion of studies at the seminary. In 1848 Sayyid Husayn appointed his son Sayyid ‘Ali Naqi Nasirabadi, then twenty-seven, deputy principal at Rs. 600 per year. Sayyid Bandah Husayn Nasirabadi (d. 1875), son of Chief Mujtahid Sayyid Muhammad, became a master teacher in 1852 at Rs. 480 per annum. The late Mufti Sayyid Muhammad Quli Kinturi's youngest son, Sayyid Hamid Husayn, was hired as a teacher when only twenty-two. In 1855 his cousin, Sayyid Ghulam Husayn Kinturi, became the daroghah at Rs. 300 per year, taking charge of the stipends, which came to over Rs. 30,000 per year at that time.
Despite the dominance of elite Usuli families established in Lucknow and Faizabad, some teachers were drawn from the qasabahs , and some came from beyond Awadh, from nearby places like Bijnor or Farrukha-bad, or even from the Punjab. The school also attracted as students literate Shi‘is from Muslim service towns throughout northern India. The Shi‘is trained at the seminar), took strict Usuli ideas hack to their provincial towns. Sayyid Muharram ‘Ali Nauganavi (d. 1889) of Moradabad left his house as a young mall without telling anyone and went to Lucknow to study at the seminary. The first Shi‘i scholar from Nauganoh to be trained in Lucknow, he taught the others who followed. He established direct contact with the Usuli tradition in Iraq by visiting the shrine cities, settling thereafter in Meerut district and Saharanpur. The Lucknow seminary helped link together widely scattered Shi‘i communitics into a network of personal acquaintance and shared expertise, as well as promoting in the qasabahs the stronger division between the trained cleric and Shi‘i layman which already existed in Usuli Lucknow and Faizabad.
Just as Farangi Mahall, with its special teaching method and rationalist emphases, had helped train bureaucrats as well as ulama, so the Shi‘i seminary performed both functions. Typical textbooks included an early-Safavid-period Usuli work in the principles of jurisprudence; a standard work on metaphysics in Arabic; Mulla Sadra's commentary on an early philosophical and scientific encyclopaedia; a work by Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi in law; and a late-eighteenth-century Usuli commentary on law from Karbala. The syllabus mixed works often used with the Nizami method with the central textbooks favored by or produced by the Usuli revival in Iraq and in Lucknow.
Sons of notables often took classes at the seminary for a while before moving on to administrative positions. Mirza Muhammad Riza "Barq," a student at the seminary, later received an appointment as the court paymaster (bakhshi ). The high notable Mirza Riza Khan ‘Ali-Jah Bahadur pursued religious knowledge at the seminary in Lucknow, then studied in Karbala. He and his brother attained both worldly and religious leadership back in Awadh.
The seminary established in the 1840s allowed the more systematic socialization of Awadh's Shi‘i ulama to Usuli values and the training of a greater number of ulama to fill the posts rapidly being created by the proclerical government. Young ulama came into the system as sons or clients of the older, established mujtahids who controlled stipends and subsequent clerical appointments. The older ulama could thus offer aspiring young clerics incentives to conform to Usuli orthodoxy. Their intellectual formation included years of studying Arabic, the rational sciences, and Usuli principles of jurisprudence and theology. Some Shi‘i notables also had their sons study at the seminary, both for the rational tools they would learn there and for the sober religious education they would receive. Notable and ulama families looked on a few years at the seminary as a way of building character, and even young students from an affluent background were often forced to live on the small stipends provided by the school. Bonds other than learning and patronage linked the middle-landholding or service-class teachers at the seminary with the high notables. Marriages tied the Muhammadabad- and Shushtari families, both represented on the faculty, to two of the wealthiest notable houses, from which chief ministers had been drawn.
The Establishment of Shi‘i Courts in Awadh
The Usuli ulama, for all their privileged position and new wealth, lacked official control over Awadh law. To move into such judicial posts required a degree of integration into the institutions of the secular government which the Indian Usulis had thus far avoided. It would also give the mujtahids a much more powerful tool for shaping Awadh society in accordance with their interpretations of Islamic law in its Imami form. The coincidence of ambitious Usuli ulama at the head of the religious establishment and cooperative Awadh monarchs guaranteed both the willingness of the government to appoint Shi‘i judges and the willingness of the jurisprudents to plunge into the mire of positive law.
Mughal traditions proved tenacious in Awadh, partially because the Nawabs, for all their Iranian and Safavid symbols, had themselves been integrated into the Mughal heritage. Even when the Nishapuri rulers declared themselves kings, Awadh administration proceeded along Mughal lines. Many Mughal land and service grants continued in force, and what was most remarkable, the judicial system remained in the hands of Hanafi Sunnis. As was shown above, even in the first decade of the nineteenth century Sacadat ‘Ali Khan proposed that a Shi‘i judiciary be established. The Usuli ulama, who did not trust him and did not wish to compromise their integrity any further, rebuffed him.
The Farangi-Mahall family filled most judicial posts. Lucknow and Faizabad had urban criminal and civil courts (divani ‘adalat ), and major govern-
ment offices employed jurisconsults. Hereditary village qazis had jurisdiction over their parganah. Large landholders and government-appointed revenue collectors and governors (fawjdars ) also dispensed justice according to customary law; In Faizabad Hafizu'llah Farangi-Mahalli headed the civil and criminal courts, with his relative Nicmatu'llah serving as a mufti. In Lucknow Muhammad Yusuf Farangi-Mahalli (d. 1870) succeeded his father as mufti on the civil and criminal court at Rs. 200 per month, holding the post until Vajid ‘Ali Shah's deposition. Sunnis from outside Lucknow filled some judicial posts. Mufti Sacdu'llah Moradabadi (1804-77) studied in Rampur and Delhi, arriving in Lucknow in 1827 for further schooling at Farangi Mahall. He taught at the royal seminary, then became mufti for the office of the chief municipal authority (kotwal ) in Lucknow.
With the accession of wealth, power, and prestige to the Shi‘i high ulama in the 1840s, they now made a bid to control the Islamic-law judicial system, a traditional outlet for the talents of Muslim learned men. Mufti Sayyid Muhammad Quli Kinturi, who retired to Lucknow from a post in the British court at Meerut in 1841, strongly advocated this step. While in Meerut he wrote a work urging the king to institute a Shi‘i legal system. He published it in 1843, dedicating it to Amjad ‘Ali Shah, to whom he referred as "the exemplar of [the phrase] 'the just king'" (misdaq as-sultanal-‘adil ). He said he wrote the work to refute Sunni taunts that Shi'is were incapable of being qazis and muftis, and to encourage the Awadh government to take up the torch of the Buyid, Safavid, and Qutb-Shahi states in promoting Shi‘ism and honoring the Shi‘i ulama. He insisted that it was forbidden for non-Shi‘is to be court judges, admonishing the king to appoint only Imami jurisprudents to such posts. He explained tile difference between a qazi (who makes specific judgments in disputes between parties) and a mufti (who gives general pronouncements in elucidation of the law), arguing that only qualified mujtahids should be appointed to either post.
Kinturi therefore endeavored to exclude laymen and Akhbaris from judicial posts, as well as Sunnis. He had, however, to answer the charges of those Indian Shi‘is who insisted that only the ulama in Iran and the Arab lands held the status of mujtahid, there being no mujtahids in India. On the
contrary, he asserted, rulings in accordance with Imami Shi‘ism could be implemented in Awadh insofar as the ulama there had met all the classical requirements of independent judicial reasoning (ijtihad ).
Lay Shi‘is had for long made the leading mujtahids arbitrators in their disputes. In establishing a Shi‘i court system Amjad ‘Ali Shah formalized, again, an informal arrangement. He appointed Sayyids Muhammad and Husayn Nasirabadi jointly to head a supreme appeals court that would oversee all Islamic-law courts. Sayyid Muhammad made his eldest surviving son, Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Munsifu'd-Dawlah (d. 1859), chief justice (daroghah ) of the Lucknow civil and criminal court (divani‘adalat ), retaining the Farangi-Mahall jurisconsults in a subordinate position (a compromise falling short of Kinturi's all-Shi‘i ideal). Sayyid Muhammad Baqir received Rs 500 per month in formal salary, but a British investigation concluded that "the incumbent receives much more than 500 from many sources."
The government created an entirely new system of Islamic-law courts in the provinces, called the fawjdari‘adalat . It appointed Twelver Shi‘i jurisconsults, one for each district in Awadh, to be attached to the office of the district's governor and revenue collector. Sayyid Muhammad Baqir likewise headed up this new branch of the judiciary. His younger brother Sayyid Murtaza (d. 1859) presided over a subordinate Sadr as-sudur court that handled cases at the local level. The chief mufti, or jurisconsult (sadrifla '), over all the provincial courts was Sayyid Hadi Nasirabadi (1813-58), a nephew of Sayyid Muhammad, the chief mujtahid. As might be expected, Sayyid Muhammad bestowed the less desirable but still powerful jurisconsular posts in the provinces, not on members of the Nasirabadi family, but on their younger disciples, often themselves from outside Lucknow. They included two clerics from a British-ruled province just north of Awadh, as well as muftis from small towns in Awadh proper. A member of the Nasirabadi clan still based in that village became jurisconsult for his area.
The creation of the Shi‘i judicial system, like the seminary, provided employment for the emerging third generation of Usuli ulama, who found job opportunities in traditional fields like prayer leading to be limited. The king considered Sayyid Muhammad ‘Abbas Shushtari for a post as the prayer
leader at the new cathedral mosque built in the 1840s, but protocol required him to retain Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi. As compensation, he made Shushtari, then teaching at the seminary, jurisconsult of the chief minister's office. He received a substantial increase in income, but said he was reluctant to accept the post because of the interference of government officials, the enmity of those he ruled against, the dishonesty of the attorneys, and the greed of court officials. Once when a plaintiff offered him a bribe, Shushtari re-
portedly broke into tears at this affront to the holy Law. Those tears expressed the contradiction between the original sectarian ideology of Imami Shi‘ism on the one hand, hostile to the secular world in the absence of the divinely-guided Imam, and on the other the Usuli ideology of collaboration with any state that was willing, and involvement in positive law and practical administration.
The Usuli clerics advanced in the 1840s on the last major front in their battle for monopoly over important religious posts, that of the Islamic-law judiciary. They vigorously practiced exclusionary closure, hoping to displace the Sunni magistrates completely by arguing that only an Usuli mujtahid could legitimately give legal rulings as magistrate or jurisconsult. They also argued against Iranian competitors that Indian Usulis were perfectly competent to derive legal rulings. A Shi‘i judicial system also allowed the Usuli ulama to impose many of their conceptions of proper behavior, property, and family relations, and relative rights of various social groups and religious communities on sections of Awadh society. The appointment of the provincial jurisconsults even tenuously extended the writ of Usuli law into the interior of Awadh, a new and significant development. Of course, the Shi‘i judges had relatively little influence on Awadh society as a whole, since most persons handled their legal matters informally or, in the countryside, went before tacalluqdar landholders. Still, sometimes Shi‘i judges could play pivotal roles, as will be shown in chapter 10.
Relationship with the Shi‘i Centers of Iraq
The rise of a full-fledged Shi‘i religious establishment in Awadh raises the question of the Indian Usulis' relationship with the great jurisprudents of Najaf and Karbala. Although mujtahids were forbidden to practice emulation (taqlid ) of other jurisprudents. the Usuli emphasis on the greater authority of the most learned (al-aclam ) jurisprudent led to the emergence of a small number of pace-setters whose judicial opinions commanded wide respect and around whom a new consensus often formed. In the 1840s a convention existed that of all the great centers, Najaf was preeminent, so that the head of the religious establishment in that city was considered the leader (ra'is ) of all the Shi‘is. In a biographical notice of Shaykh Muhammad Hasan an-Najafi, one of his students wrote in 1846 (1262), "Upon him devolved the leadership of the Imamis, both Arabs and non-Arabs, in this, our own time."
The relationship of the high ulama in north India to the mujtahids in the shrine cities remained a complex one. They all addressed each other as the "best of the mujtahids," the "exemplar of the people," the "heir of the
prophets," rendering the superlatives no more than pleasantries. A story from Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi's biography illuminates the relationship. Shushtari wrote that Sayyid Husayn allowed the deputation of judicial authority (al-istinabah fi'l-qada ), considered a very minority opinion that seemed to contradict Shi‘i consensus. After Muhammad Hasan an-Najafi took the same stance in his Jawahiral-kalam , others in Awadh changed their views, agreeing that such deputation was permissible. Sayyid Husayn, on the other hand, not once changed his mind on a major position. The story demonstrates that an-Najafi's authority as a mujtahid and source for emulation (marjacat-taqlid ) carried weight with many north Indian ulama in the 1840s, but that the Nasirabadis maintained their independence. Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi, after all, maintained that he was esoterically taught his knowledge by the Twelfth Imam himself.
After an-Najafi's death, Murtaza Ansari, who controlled 200,000 tumans per year in charitable donations, emerged in Najaf as the most widely recognized jurisprudential source for emulation in the Shi‘i world. Later in the nineteenth century Muhammad Mihdi Kashmiri of Lucknow wrote of Ansari, "His cause attained renown throughout all horizons, and he was mentioned in the pulpits in a manner unparalleled before him. He was an exemplar to the Shi‘is in their entirety, in their religion and in their worldly affairs." Again, although such sentiments in favor of Ansari clearly existed in Awadh, it is unlikely that any of the leading members of the Nasirabadi family acknowledged anyone else as more learned than themselves.
For their part the jurisprudents in the shrine cities did not simply dismiss the Indian mujtahids as rustic bumpkins, at least to their faces. Shaykh Muhammad Hasan an-Najafi continually asked the Lucknow mujtahids to send copies of their compositions to Najaf, where they were read and circulated, early Awadh use of the printing press making Shi‘i authors there accessible to readers in the Middle East. When he read Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi's book in defense of temporary marriage, he called it the "crown of Shi‘ism and referred to the author's father, Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali, as "the seal of the mujtahids." Elsewhere he noted that Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali's long work on the principles of religion entitled "Mirrors for Minds" had arrived, upon which he lavished effusive praise, attributing the brilliance of the fami-
ly's compositions to their descent from the Imams.
The anecdote from the life of Sayyid Husayn about judicial deputation indicates that many Shi‘i ulama in India accepted even controversial rulings as authoritative when issued by the leading mujtahid in the Iraqi shrine cities. The top mujtahids in Awadh, however, never changed their views on another's authority. The lower ranks of mujtahids everywhere may have shown more deference to an-Najafi (and then to Ansari) as the most learned exemplar than did the chief mujtahid in each major city.
Paradoxically, the accepting of posts as government judges and jurisconsults brought the Indian ulama into direct involvement with the day-to-day administration of the Awadh government and yet simultaneously increased possibilities for conflict with secular officials. The ulama, as the judiciary branch of the state, naturally at times struggled with the executive over policy and the impact of legal decisions. Such conflicts had nothing of the sectarian about them, but rather expressed differences between secular imperatives and hierocratic ones in judicial policy. The Usuli ulama maintained a distinct set of values and style of life that set them apart even within the ruling class. Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi refused the titles bestowed upon other notables, such as khan and bahadur . The third generation of Usuli ulama modified this attitude, insofar as they accepted noble court names, such as Munsifu'd-Dawlah (the Just of the State). Still, differences of religious culture separated even the high ulama from other notables.
Letters written by the ulama in the wake of the 1843 Ottoman sack of the holy shrine city of Karbala in Iraq shed light on their conception of the secular notables, whom they called umara ', rulers, as opposed to ‘ulama ', the learned. Rather than blaming the Sunnis for the disaster in the Middle East, which cost perhaps 5,000 Shi‘i lives, Sayyid Husayn Nasirabadi lamented that one seldom found notables (umara ') with hearing ears, excoriating both Sunni and Shi‘i high notables as corrupt. One Iranian cleric who barely survived the Ottoman attack, which aimed at subduing the rebellious city, blamed both the Ottoman sultan for ordering the assault and the Iranian shah for failing to defend the holy city, and wrote to Lucknow a radical letter from Iraq in which he said, "Would that there were no king ruling over us, and none over Iran!" Even such a rhetorical expression of premodern re-
publican sentiments by the Shi‘i ulama in Awadh is unrecorded, however, and for all their differences with the Nishapuris, the Usulis in Lucknow knew that without them Shi‘ism in India had little future. Indeed, the Usuli clerics often referred to the Awadh monarch as a just king, implicitly accepting the legitimacy of his state.
A sample of anecdotes told by later ulama in their biographical dictionaries will illustrate the clerics' own interpretation of ulama conflict with the state. Although Muhammad ‘Ali Shah maintained generally good relations with the ulama, his means of acquiring land for a new Shi‘i mourning complex brought him into conflict with the chief mujtahid. When the king called for Holy Day prayers to be held there to commemorate the breaking of the Ramadan fast, Sayyid Muhammad informed the monarch that some of the land on which the building was constructed belonged to Nacim Khan. He refused to lead the prayers at the new site until the monarch paid the original owner a just price for his land according to Islamic law. After an investigation, and with the consent of Nacim Khan, Sayyid Muhammad suggested a fair price. Muhammad ‘Ali Shah paid it, and the ceremony proceeded as planned.
Amjad ‘Ali Shah bought some mosque furnishings from a merchant for Rs. 1,300,000. Although the ruler gave the whole sum, some courtiers in charge kept back Rs. 100,000. Sayyid Muhammad Nasirabadi intervened to ensure that the merchant received the whole amount. In the same period, when prince Vajid ‘Ali took a fancy to another man's slave-girl, usurping her from him, Sayyid Muhammad made an investigation and concluded that according to Islamic law Vajid ‘Ali Mirza would have to surrender the girl to her rightful owner. The king ordered the judgment carried out. When Vajid ‘Ali ascended the throne he sent a message through a notable to suggest that the chief mujtahid review the slave-girl case. Sayyid Muhammad resolutely refused to bow to the monarch's pressure. Later Mirza Muhammad ‘Ali Qa'imu'd-Din rejected the request of some of the king's wives to have their adopted children inherit, in contradiction of Shi‘i law. Vajid ‘Ali at first got other mujtahids to reverse his decision. But the truth eventually came out, forcing Vajid ‘Ali to apologize.
The message of these anecdotes is that their attention to the imperatives of the law often divided the Muslim learned men from their notable patrons and friends. Yet a close observer can see that the Muslim learned men's fastidiousness constituted an alternative style of life within the Shi‘i upper and middle strata, rather than demarcating a separate class. In matters of property, in attitudes toward non-Shi‘is, in acceptance of the Awadh government
as the best that could be hoped for in the Occultation, the Shi‘i clergy were at one with the high notables.
Still, the division of status groups, as between the notables and the learned, which also tended to involve a class distinction between great tax-farmers or landholders and a less wealthy intermediate stratum, often produced friction and nuances in policy. Vajid ‘Ali Shah, though he resorted to the mujtahids in major legal issues, increasingly grew estranged from them. As was noted, he stopped government payment of the poor-tax, causing a substantial diminution in the wealth passing through their hands. He halved the Sayyid fund. He once again allowed the sale of opium, wine, and bhang, putting Ghulam Riza Khan, a notable, in charge of the excise department. In the 1854-55 and 1855-56 school years he virtually stopped payments for the Shi‘i seminary, threatening the salaries of thirty influential clerics and the stipends of hundreds of students. As the British report noted, it was unclear whether the king withheld payments for financial reasons or whether he intended to abolish the college.
Although the pendulum swung back in the 1850s away from increasing ulama influence at the Awadh court, the Usuli clerics held on to many of their posts, perquisites, and means of influencing Awadh society. The alliance of secular state and hierocracy produced in the 1840s a formal religious establishment tightly intertwined with the ruling elite, which came to form the judicial branch of the patrimonial-bureaucratic state. The clerics, owning only a handful of villages each or depending on stipends from notable patrons or government posts, maintained a distinct style of life appropriate to their status group, marking them off from the fabulously wealthy high Shi‘i notables and the royal family. Yet the pious stories of stiff-necked mujtahids besting unscrupulous tyrants only masked the degree to which the ulama increasingly collaborated closely with the state in the 1840s, appropriating the sort of wealth that made some of them notables in their own right. The young Vajid ‘Ali Shah's attempts to undermine some of the mujtahids' power only underscores the extent to which they had come to form part of the ruling establishment, since most Awadh rulers upon coming to power moved against the mainstays of their predecessors' administrations.
The 1840s witnessed the peak of mujtahid power, marked by the creation of a whole range of new institutions and the accession of great wealth and political authority. In a patrimonial bureaucracy such as Awadh, however, this high-powered public role depended heavily on the goodwill of the central
officers of state, and so revealed itself to be volatile rather than stable. The 1850s saw a rapid decline in the public influence of the Shi‘i clergy, though some of their achievements of the previous decade continued a curtailed existence.
The Awadh high ulama recognized the government as having a common law (‘urf ) legitimacy, even though it was imperfect and so ultimately unjust (ja'ir ), but they often had policy differences with the secular branch of the state. For some years, even these lessened. Because the Indian ulama lacked the mass base of those in Iran, they depended more on the Shi‘i notables, seldom playing a real oppositional role. Moreover, even in Iran the clergy never received charitable monies directly from state treasuries. No outright statement by the jurisprudents in Lucknow of the complementarity of the secular and religious branches of government, like that produced by Qajar mujtahids Sayyid Jacfar Kashfi and Mulla ‘Ali Kani, has yet been discovered. But in practice just such a complementarity emerged in northern India.
Under Amjad ‘Ali Shah, Imami Shi‘ism in Awadh came into its own as a formal religious establishment, with a salaried professional clergy, claims to universal dominion, systematic education in dogma and rites, and a compulsory organization. From the old charisma of Shi‘i mystics and Sayyids, the Usuli ulama had evolved into a hierocracy where charisma was attributed to the office of the mujtahid or the Friday prayer leader, rather than being personal. The clergy of this formal religious establishment enjoyed special privileges bestowed by the government, and in the royal seminary had founded a regular hierocratic educational institution that also allowed them systematically to socialize secular officials to their values.
The key element in the transformation was the government provision of wealth for religious specialists, at first in the form of benefices or land grants, then stipends often deriving from interest on loans to the British or dividends of British Government securities. Access to material resources was essential for the growth of a formal religious establishment:
The process of routinization of charisma is in very important respects identical with adaptation to the conditions of the economy, since this is the principal continually operating force in everyday life. Economic conditions in this connection play a leading role and do not constitute merely a dependent variable. To a very large extent the transition to hereditary charisma or the charisma of office serves as a means of legitimizing existing or recently acquired powers of control over economic goods.
The transformation of a sectarian collectivity into a formal religious establishment has been one of the main theoretical concerns of this book. The
modalities of this transformation among Awadh's Shi‘is and some of the economic reasons for it have been discussed in detail. Another consistent question has been the effect of social stratification on religious organization. Social class, one variable in the analysis, cannot itself account for the difference between sect and formal establishment. The Shi‘i notables serving under Awrangzib constituted part of a sectarian group despite their wealth. Only where a religious collectivity's form of religiosity is tolerated or promoted by the state, and where that collectivity itself feels comfortable with the state, can a formal religious establishment emerge.
But given this precondition, sociocconomic class comes in as a secondary variable correlating with membership in a religious establishment. In the modern West, the "middle class and the middle aged arc over-represented in established churches and denominations." In Awadh, the intermediate propertied strata and the wealthy notables allied themselves within the structure of an Usuli dominant ideology. This formal religious establishment began to reach out to urban artisans, laborers, and the poor in the 1840s, as well, through its welfare-distribution activities and its power to determine who was orthodox enough to receive Shi‘i religious charities. Still, sectarian movements such as those at Murshidabad, discussed in chapter 6, probably continued among the poorer Shi‘is.
The secular government and the religious establishment worked together, though the real power lay unquestionably with the monarchy. Nor did the government attempt to usurp religious authority in the creation of a caesaropapism once Nasiru'd-Din Haydar's policies in this regard met failure. The Usuli establishment paid for the privileges that the state bestowed upon it, by helping legitimate the Awadh government and upholding its authority.
The religious institution building and Shi‘i proclerical policies of the Awadh government in the 1840s demonstrated the extent to which the Usuli ulama had convinced the Shi‘i notable class of the urgency of their own agenda. The Imami clerics in Lucknow, with their control over religious education and religious monies, and their publications in Persian and Urdu, had effectively indoctrinated both the Shi‘i clerical families from the rural lineage centers and the administrative and tax-farming families in the cosmopolitan centers, creating an Usuli dominant ideology that bound together the Shi‘i propertied classes. The scripturalization of the Shi‘i urban poor also increased in this period, as ulama distribution of welfare money to the indigent gave them greater social control over the propertyless. They encouraged extensive adoption of Shi‘ism by Hindus and Sunnis, especially among government employees and the urban poor. From the impressionistic accounts we have of this period, they succeeded best among urban Hindus, thousands of
whom forsook Ram and Krishna for Hasan and Husayn. Shi‘i scripturalization and the implementation of aspects of Shi‘i law in Awadh helped to establish a communal identity more clearly among Shi‘is in relation to other religious communities, as will be discussed in chapter 9.
Rulers such as Amjad ‘Ali Shah pursued communalist pro-Shi‘i policies, despite the minority status of the state religion, as a means of symbolically demarcating the line between the ruling class and its subjects. The king's religion enjoyed special privileges because it was the king's religion. The Imami clergy were especially dependent upon the government because the proportion of Awadh's inhabitants subject to their own sanctions of excommunication and public cursing remained small. A minority sectarian movement among North India's Muslims had emerged with claims to being a state religion and a universal church solely because of its association with the Shi‘i high notables that controlled the government. But the narrowness of that power base, and the fragility of that state in the face of growing European economic and political power, left Imami Shi‘ism open to being swiftly reduced once more to the status of a small sect.