Monday, October 31, 2005

Muslim Intellectual Perception of Hinduism

The establishment of Turkic rule in India opened up many opportunities for contact between Hinduism and Islam. A number of Muslim scholars had made some significant attempts to understand Hinduism. Al-Biruni, Amir Khusrau, Nakhshabi, Mir Gesudaraz, Abul Fazl and Dara Shukoh were among the Muslim intellectuals, who had given considerable contribution to Muslim understanding of Hinduism. Not only Muslim scholars, some Muslim rulers too took part in this attempt by encouraging the Muslim scholars of their time to translate Hindu books.

Al-Biruni (d. after 1050) translated Sanskrit classics into Arabic. He then wrote his “Kitab fi Tahqiq ma li al-Hind” in order to acquaint his Ghaznawid rulers with Hinduism. He admitted that there were many barriers separating Hindus from Muslims but claimed that they were based either on political reasons or on language barriers. He found the contemporary Hindus were full of religious prejudices, insularity, exclusiveness, national pride, and conceit. Al-Biruni admits that previous generations of Hindus were more liberal but stresses that prejudices against foreigners were universal. He also acknowledges the fact that, although the Hindus he met refused to enter into religious arguments, many Muslims forbade any discussion at all on religious matters.

Al-Biruni’s main thesis in the “Kitab fi Tahqiq ma li al-Hind” is that the beliefs of educated and uneducated people are different. The educated tries to conceive abstract ideas and to define general principles while the uneducated submit to derived rules and regulations. In the concept of God al-Biruni says that Hindu believe that the God is eternal, without beginning and end, acting by free will, almighty, all wise, living, giving life, ruling, preserving, unique, beyond all likeness and unlikeness. To substantiate this assertion, he quotes from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, the Bhagavad Gita and the Sankhya-Karika.

Being a mathematician and scientist, al-Biruni was hostile to mystical ideas. He refused sufi irrationalism and compared Muslim alchemy and Hindu rasayana (chemistry) with witchcraft. In his “Kitab fi Tahqiq” he explains Hindu caste, class and family organization, their cultural attitudes, folk customs, mores and prejudices in a historical context. He defines the Hindu color divisions as tabaqat (classes) and the caste (jati) as birth divisions (nasab). The Brahmans were created from the head of Brahma, the Kshatriya from his shoulder and hands, the Vaishiya from his thigh, while the Sudra from his feet. Below the Sudra were the Antyaja or casteless. Hadi, Doma and Chandala were outcast.

Amir Khusrau was deeply impressed by India, but his studies of Hinduism were not based on Sanskrit sources. He was impressed by by the depth of learning among Indians and their ability to speak any language. He greatly admired Brahmans, who could teach all subjects without having studied to overseas and who had devised the numerical system, invented zero, invented chess and written “Kalila wa Dimna”, on the art of government. He found Indian music has peculiar charm not only for human but to animals also. He admitted that the Hindus believed in the unity and eternity of God and were superior to materialists, star worshippers, and Christian. Although the Hindus worshipped stones, animals, plants and the sun, they believed that these things were god’s creations and they only imitated their ancestors. In his masnavis called “Nuh Siphr” (Nine Skies), he admired the devotion and enthusiasm of the Hindus for their religion and urged the Muslims to be as devoted to their faith as they were.

Nakhshabi, who has better better understanding of Sanskrit had translated two Sanskrit works, one of them Chintamani Batha’s “Suka-saptati”. Mir Gesudaraz also studied Sanskrit to defeat the Brahman’s arguments and convert them to Islam. On the basis of the translation of works on physics and astronomy, Izzuddin Khalid Khani compiled the “Dala’il Firoz Shahi”. Varahamihira, a celebrated Indian astronomer, translated “Brhatsamhita” from Sanskrit to Persian.

Abul Fazl gave a detailed description of Hinduism in the third volume oh his “’Ain –e-Akbari”. He urged his Muslim readers to study his account of Hindu learning with open minds. He was convinced that the Hindus followed their faith uncritically and were prey to superstition.

Dara Shukoh translated the Upanishads in order to discover any wahdatul wujud doctrines hidden in them. He accused the Hindu pandits oh hiding the upanishadic truth from both Muslims and Hindus in order to keep their teachings on the wahdatul wujud secret. Dara Shukoh believed that his translation would help mystics of both faiths, although he stressed the primacy of the Quran, the translation proved to be of universal interest.

Several Muslim rulers also ordered the translation of various Sanskrit works into Persian in order to satisfy their own intellectual curiosity and to increase Muslim understanding of Hinduism. Firoz Shah Tughlug commissioned Sanskrit scholars to translate some 1,300 books from “Jwalamukhi” temple into Persian. Sultan Zaynul ‘Abidin of Kashmir and Sultan Sikandar Lodi also ordered the translation of Sanskrit books into Persian. In order to heal the religious differences amongst his subject, King Akbar opened translation bureau (the maktab khana), which considerably change the Muslim perception of Hinduism. The most remarkable productions were the translations of the “Mahabharata”, “Ramayana” and “Yoga Vashishta”.

Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi, a sufi of Naqshabandi order, considered that prophets had come to India, although the Indians generally ignored their teachings. He did not believe that Rama and Krishna were prophets nor they were divine names. Mirza Mazhar Jan-I-Janan, in contrary, accepted both Rama and Krishna as prophets.
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Saturday, October 22, 2005

Sufi Movement in Medieval India

The philosopher’s objective was to rationalize the nature of Necessary Being, while the ‘Kalam’ scholars were principally concerned to defend divine transcendence. On the other hand, Sufism strove to achieve the inner realization of divine unity by arousing intuitive and spiritual faculties. The Sufis reject rational argument and plunge into contemplation and meditation. Some of them were overpowered by ecstasy and frenzy, but sobriety was generally considered essential to Sufism.

Shah Wali Ullah divides Sufism into four epochs, though the four historical epochs were not mutually exclusive. There was considerable overlap. The first epoch began with the prophet and his companions and extended until the time of Junaid of Baghdad. According to Yusuf Husain, the Sufis of the first two centuries of Hijrah were ascetics, who laid great stress on the principles of Tauba and Tawakkul. Their contemplation remained confined within the limits of the Quran and the practice of the prophet.

The second epoch started during Junaid’s time. The Sufis of this period lived in a state of continued meditation and contemplation. This resulted in intuitive insights and intense spiritual experiences that could be expressed only symbolically or in unusual phrases. They were so emotionally affected by “sama’” that they swooned or tore their clothes in ecstasy. In this period the Sufis were better organized and were divided into sects. Sufi masters now began to send their disciples to distant lands. Many eminent Sufis also moved to India.

The third epoch started from the advent of Shaikh Abu Said Ibn Abdul Khair and Shaikh Abul Hasan Kharaqani. The Sufis of the period live in a state of ecstasy, which led to “Tawajjuh” (spiritual telepathy). In contemplating the union of temporal and eternal their individuality dissolved, and they even ignored their regular religious practices.

The fourth began with the birth of Shaikh Akbar Muhiyuddin Ibn al-‘Arabi (1165-1240 AD), when the Sufis discovered the theory of the five stages of the descent from “Wajibul Wujud” (Necessary Being), i.e. Ahadiyya (Essence of Primal One), Wahdaniyya (Unity of God), sphere of Arwah (sphere of Infinite Forms), sphere of Misal (Similitude or Angelic Forms), sphere of Ajsam (Bodies of Physical World).

Before reaching India, the movement of Tasawwuf had reached the highest point of its development in the twelfth century. After the conquest of northern India by the Muslims, various Sufi orders were established, in particular, the Chisti and Suhrawardiyya orders. The orders of Qadiri, Naqshabandi, Shuttari, Madari ect, also represented and functioned on more or less the same lines. The Sufi who left an indelible mark both on India and on the history of Sufism was Abul Hasan Ali Ibn Usman al-Hujwiri, known as Data Ganj Bakhsh, who reached Lahore in 1035 AD. He wrote Kashful Mahjub in Persian, contains biographies, thought and practices of Sufis from the prophet Muhammad’s day to his own time.

The order of the Chistis, founded by Khawaja Abdal Chisti (d. 966 AD), was introduced into India by Khawaja Muinuddin Chisti. He was born in Sistan in 1143 AD. He traveled widely in Islamic countries and came to Harun, a town in Nishapur, and became the disciple of Khawaja Usman Haruni, a famous saint of the Chisti order, who directed him to settle in India. Khawaja Muinuddin arrived in India in 1190 AD. , And first proceeded to Lahore, where he spent some times in meditation at the tomb of Ali Hujwiri. The surviving sayings of the Khawaja show that his life’s mission was to inculcate piety, humility, and devotion to God.

The Chisti mystics believed in the spiritual value of music and patronized professional singers, whatever their caste or religion might be. Khawaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, the successor of Muinuddin died in a state of ecstasy while listening to music.

Another Khawaja Muinuddin’s disciple, Shaikh Hamiduddin made Nagaur (Rajasthan) the chief Chistiyya order. He was then succeeded by his grandson Fariduddin Mahmud. One of Shaikh Farid’s disciples, Khawaja Ziyauddin Nakhshabi was a famous scholar who translated Chintamani Bhatta’s Suka-Saptati into Persian from Sanskrit and gave the title Tuti Nama.

Of the Khawaja Muinuddin’s disciples, Shaikh Fariduddin Ganjshakar or Baba Farid was very celebrated. He settled in Ajodhan and built his Jamaat Khana. Baba’s successor was Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya (1238-1325 AD), who came from Badaun but had settled in Delhi. Under Khawaja Nizamuddin, Chistiyya order became the dominant Sufi silsila in India. The collection of his conversation known as “Fawaid al-Fuad” compiled by his disciple, Amir Hasan. From him began the Chistiyya Nizamiyya, while Alauddin Sabir of Kalyar, another disciple of Baba Farid, led Chistiyya Sabiriyya.

Nizamuddin, known also as Mehboob Ilahi, stressed on the motive of love, which leads to the realization of God. He extended his love of God to the love of humanity without which the former would be incomplete. After Nizamuddin, some Chisti saints became the successors one after the other. They are Nasiruddin Chiragh Dahlavi, his malfuzat known as “Khairul Majalis”, Sayyid Muhammad Gesudaraz, who wrote “Khatairu al-Quds”, “Asma al-Asrar”, “Sharh Risala-e-Qushairi”, ect. Gesudaraz earlier works are based on Wahdatu al-Wujud, but was later converted to Wahdat al-Shuhud doctrines.

Beside Chistiyya, Suhrawardiyya sisila also have played significant role in the spread of sufi doctrines in India. The founder, Shaikh Shahabuddin Suhrawardi, the author of “Awarif al-Ma’arif”, directed his disciple Shaikh Bahauddin Zakariya of Multan (1182-1262 AD) to make Multan the center of his activity. Iltutmish appointed him as Shaikhul Islam after the invasion of Multan and topple its ruler, Qabacha. During the Mongol invasion he became the peace negotiotor between invaders and muslim army.

Bahauddin’s successor was his son Shaikh Sadruddin ‘Arif. His disciple, Amir Husayn, the author of “Zad- al-Musafirin”, wrote several works on the doctrine Wahdat al-Wujud. Shaikh Arif’s son and caliph, Shaikh Ruknuddin was highly respected by the Delhi Sultans from ‘Alauddin Khalji to Muhammad Ibn Tughlug.

After the death of Shaikh Ruknuddin the Suhrawardiyya silsila declined in Multan but became popular in other provinces like Uch, Gujarat, Punjab, Kashmir and even Delhi. It was revitalized by Sayyid Jalaluddin Bukhari known as Makhdum Jahaniyan, the world traveler. He was puritan and strongly objected the Hindu influences to Muslim social and religious practices.

Another contemporary mystic who is worthy of mention was Shaikh Sharfuddin Yahya Manairi (d. 1380 AD). He belonged to the Firdausia order, a branch of Suhrawardiyya. He compiled several books, i.e. “Fawaid al-Muridin”, “Irshadat al-Talibin”,”Rahat al-Qulub”, ect.

Qadiri order was founded by Shaikh Abdul Qadir Gilani of Baghdad (d. 1166 AD). The first who introduced it to India was Sayyid Muhammad Gilani Qodiri of Aleppo, who later settled in Uch where he died in 1517 AD. Other famous mystics of Qadiri order were and Shaikh Abdul Ma’ali of Lahore. Shaikh Abdul Haq Muahddis Dahlawi wrote many important books one of them was “Akhbar al-Akhyar”. Dara Shukoh, the son of Shah Jahan was a devotee of Qadiri order. He wrote “Safinat al-Awliya” and “Sakinat al-Awliya” on the mystics biographies.

Naqshabandi order seems to be destined to accept the challenge flung against orthodox Islam in India by the upholders of the doctrine of the “Unity of Being”, and the electicism of Akbar. Naqshabandi order is the offshoot of Khwajagan order. Khwajagan order was founded in Turkistan by Khwaja Ahmad Ata’ Yaswi. The order was popularized by Khwaja Bahauddin Naqshabandi (d. 1388 AD). After him the order was known as Naqshabandi. He emphasized to follow the sunnah. The order was introduced to India by Khwaja Baqi’ Billah (1563-1603 AD) and popularized in India by Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi (d. 1624 AD), known as Mujaddid Alf Thani. After him the order named Naqshabandiyya Mujaddidiyya.

Rejecting the “Wahdat al-Wujud” (Unity of Being) he expounded the doctrine of “Wahdat al-Shuhud” (Apparantism). Shah Wali Ullah, another mystic of Naqshabandi order tried to compromise both the two doctrines. In his treatise “Faislatul Wahdatul Wujud wa al-Shuhud” he stood as an arbiter on the dispute of both doctrines. But in other occasion he observed in his book “Tafhimat Ilahia”, that “Apparantism” is higher than that oh the “Unity of Being”.
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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Arab Conquest of Sind and Multan

Sind and Multan are the two cities of northern India region, which was under the sway of Harsha Vardana of Qannauj, the last great king of Hindu India before the advent of Muslims. When the empire of Harsha fell, the North broke up into small principalities. Rajput clans starting from their original homes establishing the chieftaincies in the Himalayan regions. The Rajputs thus were the masters of India from the Punjab to the Deccan and from the Arabian Sea to Bengal before the Muslims appeared upon the scene.

Not all Rajputs were of the same race. Many of them traced their descent to the ancient Kshatriyas of the Vedic period. But a large number of the Rajput tribes were of non-Aryan. The descendents of the Greeks, the Kushanas, the Huns ECT, who came to India because of their war-like qualities, were absorbed in the Hindu society and given the status of Rajputs.
The Rajput age was one of division and conflict and lack of political unity. Unless literature, art and sciences the condition of society was in eclipse. Doctor Tara Chand wrote, “Society was enfeebled by feudal anarchy and clannish pretensions on the one side and by religious dissensions and priestly selfishness on the other. But although political power suffered an eclipse, literature, art and science still continued to flourish”.
The advent of Muslims in India was marked by the Arab conquest of Sind, though long before that the Arabs already had settlements on the western coast of India. Some historian believed that there were Arabs in Sind before the Arab invasion of Sind, though they were small in number but their presence was significant. According to P. K. Hitti, Muhammad Ibn Qasim, under the order of Hajjaj, advanced in 710 A.D., at the head of a considerable army, of which 6000 were Syrians. He subdued Mukran, pushed on through Baluchistan and in 711-12 reduced Sind, the lower valley and delta of the Indus.
Among the cities captured were the Sea Port Daybul, which had the statue of Buddha, “rising”, said al-Yaqubi, “to a height of forty cubits”, al-Nirun (modern Hyderabad), Siwistan, Brahmanabad and Alor. The conquest was extended (713) as far north as Multan in southern Punjab, but the rest of India was unaffected until the close of the tenth century, when a fresh invasion began under Mahmud of Ghaznah.
The people of the conquered towns welcome Muhammad Ibn Qasim as a liberator and helped him against their petty tyrants. By his conciliatory policy and his attitude of understanding and sympathy, Muhammad Ibn Qasim made himself immensely popular among all classes of people. At the time of his departure, records al-Baladhuri, the Hindus wept and they made an image of him and worshiped it.
The policy of Hajjaj and Muhammad Ibn Qasim was liberal beyond all the expectations of the Sindhis. The Hindus were given the status as enjoyed by the Christian and Jews in the Muslim state, which meant that on payment of Jizyah, their life, honor and property were safe, and they were assured freedom to practice their faith. S. A. A. Rizvi wrote, “An order was received from Hajjaj that, since the people of Sind had accepted the status of protected subjects (zimmi), no interference should be made in their lives and property. They should be permitted to worship freely in their own temples and should also be allowed to build new ones”.
The Jizyah was to be paid only by able-bodied men, who were sufficiently well-to-do, not to find it oppressive. Priests and hermits were exempted, so were women, children, cripples and the poor. If an able-bodied man entered government service, he was exempted from the tax. So long as a man paid Jizyah he could not be forced to join the Muslim army.
The “Chach-nama” details the administrative regulations introduced into Brahmanabad. According to the author, those civilians who had not become Muslims were then divided into three categories for the imposition of Jizyah. The men in the highest income brackets paid 48 dirhams of silver per head, the middle-income groups 24 dirhams and the lowest class 12 dirhams. Tribute was fixed according to their resources.
The treatment to the Brahmins displayed the utmost regard towards them. Titles, favors, costly gifts and robes of honor conferred on them. They were given the post they held under the fallen Brahmin dynasty. They were permitted to collect their customary fees from the merchants, thakuras and common Hindus; the 3% share of government revenue that they had previously received was also reinstated. Some of them were chosen as ministers and advisers. Even certain defense duties were assigned to them.
After the departure of Muhammad Ibn Qasim, the Arabs could not make any material addition to their acquisitions. The strong native powers in Rajputana blocked any extension towards northern India. Muslim power in Sind suffered from two weakness; lack of support from the home government and increasing disunity among the local authorities.
The Muslim rule in the North led to far-reaching effects in the field of culture and learning. Some Sindhi Muslim scholars went and taught at Mecca. The Arab Muslims also came into touch with Indian sciences. They learned from the Hindus some principles of mathematics, astronomy and philosophy. The Arabs introduced some new industries in Sind. They also introduced some new plants. They brought to an end the isolation of the sub-continent.
Muslims lived with the Hindus together. Mutual intercourse led to mutual understanding. Their buildings were erected by the Hindus. Many Hindus had changed their faith and converted to Islam. And many Muslims had changed their faith as well, differed little from those whom they had left. The Hindus and Muslims prepared to find a via media whereby to live as neighbors. The effort to seek a new life led to the development of a new culture, which were neither exclusively Hindu nor purely Muslim. It was indeed a Muslim-Hindu culture.
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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Early Indo-Arab Relations

Although positive evidence of any relation between India and West Asia or Egypt during the period of antiquity is lacking but India’s commercial and cultural link with the Arab world are known to have existed since the third millennium B.C. According to ancient Egyptian inscriptions, Queen Hatshepsut of the New Kingdom sent an expedition probably in 1495 B.C., is more likely to be India than Somali land. But stories like invasion of India by the Assyrian Queen Semiramis (c. 810 B.C.) are hardly creditable.

A group of Indian military men known as Hittites and Mitannis established their rule in northern Mesopotamia in the second Millennium B.C. Their princes bear Aryan names, they worshipped Indian gods, Mitra, Varuna, Indra, and tught the people of the region horse breeding and breaking.

The rise of Achaeminids in Persia (549 B.C.) brought India into extensive contact with the outside world. The construction of the Nile canal, exploration of the Indian Ocean from the Persian Gulf to the delta of the Indus and then to the apex of the Red sea, all contributed to this.
Dionysus was sent by Ptolemy Philadelpus to the Mauryan court, and left an account of India. The Mauryan kings also sent ambassadors to the Egyptian court. It is said also that the rulers of Syria has a good relation with the rulers of India. Antiochus of Syria (206 B.C.) maintained a direct contact with India.

India’s commercial relations with the Arab world was established between the merchants of the Kulli culture in southern Baluchistan and those of early dynastic Sumer, probably soon after 2800 B.C. The Harppa civilization may have established contact with the West about 2000 B.C. By the later historic times in Mesopotamia Indian cotton was known under the name of Sindhu, and it passed into Greek in the form of Sindon.

From very early times up to about the third century A.D., the Greeks and Romans dominated the commercial activities in the Arabian Sea, and the Arab merchants played an important role in this trade. These Arabs were the main agents of trade between India and Egypt. They supplied to Egypt precious stones, spices and the incense, burnt at the altars of the ancient Egyptian Gods.

During the reign of King Solomon, voyages were made to Ophir once every three years and the merchandise brought from there consisted of gold, silver, jewels, wood, ivory, apes and peacocks. There were Indian merchant settlements on the island of Socotra. King Ptolemy II of Egypt is said to have displayed in his procession, Indian women, oxen and marble.

During the period between the decline of the Greco-Roman trade with India in the third century A.D., and the rise of Islam in the seventh century A.D., a number of important political changes took place. The decline of the Himyarite Kingdom on the one hand and the growing interest of the Sasanians in the navigation of the Arabian Sea on the other, affected Arab trade relation with India, and caused the transfer of the traffic between India and Egypt into the hands of Persia.

Thus in the century before the rise of Islam, the Persians were supreme in the Arabian Sea trade. Their boats frequented the harbours of India. Sea-going ships from India sailed as far as al-Madain up to the Tigris, and al-‘Ubulla has been termed as Farj al_hind, the marches of India. Among the most important ports of India at this time were Sindhu, Orrhota, Calliana, Sibor, ect.
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