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."