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Ahmad Riza Khan Barelwi pdf

Ahmad Riza Khan Barelwi: in the path of the prophet

  • Book Title:
 Ahmad Riza Khan Barelwi
  • Book Author:
Usha Sanyal
  • Total Pages
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  • Preface x
  • Acknowledgments xii
  • The Mughal Empire 1
  • The North Indian Successor States 4
  • The History of Rohilkhand 5
  • British India under the East India Company 7
  • ShahWali Ullah 22
  • Farangi Mahall:Training Employees for the Muslim States 26
  • Nineteenth-century Reform Movements 28
  • Rampur State 53
  • Ahmad Riza’s Education and Scholarly Training 55
  • Scholarly Imprint of his Father 56
  • Exemplary Stories 57
  • Sufi Discipleship to Shah Al-e Rasul of Marehra 61
  • The Importance of Dreams 61 Sayyids of the Qadiri Order of Sufis 62 Going on Pilgrimage, 1878
  • Ahmad Riza as Mujaddid 64
  • FatwaWriting 66
  • Hidden Cues in a Fatwa, or what a Fatwa may not tell us 68
  • Ahmad Riza’s Fatawa 70
  • Two FatawaWritten during Ahmad Riza’s Second Pilgrimage to Mecca 73
  • Political Issues in the Early Teens and Twenties 77
  • Hijrat Movement 81
  • Ahmad Riza’s Popularity among Core Followers 83
  • Passing on the Leadership 84
  • Ahmad Riza as a Sufi 89
  • The Perfect Pir 90
  • Controversy about Sufi Intercession 91
  • The Three Circles of Discipleship 92
  • Shaikh‘Abd al-Qadir Jilani and the Importance of the Qadiri Order 94
  • Love of the Prophet 96
  • Sufi Rituals 100
  • Relations with other Muslims 102
  • The Accusations of Unbelief 107
  • Relations with Non-Muslims: Hindus and the British 109
  • Seminaries (Madrasas) 111
  • Printing Presses and Publications 113 Voluntary Associations and Oral Debates 115 Generational Fissures in the Movement 118
  • Assessment of the Importance of the Movement in Relation to other Movements 122
  • 6 AHMAD RIZA’S LEGACY 127 Ahmad Riza’s ‘Urs in India and Pakistan 129 Ahl-e Sunnat/Barelwis in the Diaspora 131
  • Glossary 133
  • Major landmarks in South Asian history from
  • the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries 135
  • Bibliography 138
  • Index 143


In India, strong Muslim rule under the Mughal empire gave way in the course of the eighteenth century to weak central control and the establishment of a number of regional kingdoms which were independent of the Mughals in all but name.

They in turn soon became indebted to the East India Company, which had started out as a trading company in 1600 but by the early nineteenth century had assumed a number of important political functions, the most important of which was the collection of land taxes. In 1858, after a failed Indian revolt against the East India Company, the British Crown assumed formal control of India and the East India Company was dissolved.


For three centuries (1526 to 1857), India was ruled by the Mughals, who were Sunni Muslims of Central Asian descent. The founder of the empire was Babur (r. 1526–30), who swept into India from present-day Afghanistan, but whose brief reign left him no time to consolidate his gains in north India. It was his grandson Akbar (r. 1556–1605) who made a lasting impression on India and gave the empire a firm foundation. From their capital in the north (Delhi for the most part, though Akbar chose Agra and other cities as well), the Mughal emper- ors expanded the border in all directions.

Starting from the northwest, including what are today Afghanistan and Pakistan, the empire expanded eastward to the Gangetic plain during Akbar’s reign, going as far as what is today Bangladesh.To the north, the Himalayan mountains constituted a natural border, preventing further conquest in that direction. Central and southern India were ruled by independent kings, some Hindu, some Muslim, until well into Akbar’s reign.

 In fact, the south was not incorporated into the Mughal empire until about a cen- tury later, during Aurangzeb’s long reign (r. 1658–1707), and even then the very southern tip of India remained independent. It was an agrarian empire, centered around the person and authority of the king.

 Land taxes constituted its main source of revenue. Since the majority of the Indian population was Hindu, during his fifty-year rule Akbar set about winning hearts and minds by including Hindu princes in all branches of government and even by marrying Hindu princesses. His eldest son, Salim (later Emperor Jahangir) had a Hindu mother, as did his grandson, Emperor Shah Jahan.At the same time, he showed his respect for popular Muslim religious figures.

 He paid homage to a particular lineage of Muslim mystics, or sufis, whose hospice was in the western Indian city of Ajmer.A story is told of how in 1570 he walked from his capital Fatehpur Sikri (near Agra), in the north, to Ajmer in the west, a distance of about two hundred miles, in a gesture of thanksgiving after the birth of his son Salim.

 Ajmer was the burial place of a thirteenth-century sufi whose intercession with God, the emperor believed, had been instrumental in his son’s birth. In the first half of his reign, he also sponsored pilgrim ships from India’s west coast to Mecca, sending generous gifts to that city. In sum, Akbar’s religious eclecticism and inclusiveness helped


Indianize the foreign Mughals and strengthened and stabilized the empire. (In the second half of his reign,Akbar encouraged a personality cult around himself, inventing a new “religion” with elements of different faiths, alienating a number of Muslims as a result.)

Mughal decline began in the late 1600s during the reign of Akbar’s great-grandson Aurangzeb (r. 1658–1707) and accel- erated throughout the eighteenth century.

Although historians argue about what caused the decline, a number of factors were at work: Aurangzeb’s reversal of Akbar’s religious policy is held by some to have been crucial, for he alienated a number of Hindu princely families by excluding them from positions of power and imposing on them a tax which Akbar had abolished (the jizya).

 In fact, the second half of Aurangzeb’s reign was spent in incessant and, in the end, futile warfare against a minor Hindu chieftain, Shivaji (d. 1680), who eventually carved out a small kingdom along India’s west coast and expanded it by war- fare and diplomatic alliances with other Hindu rulers.

In time, he and his successors (collectively known as the Marathas) were even able to challenge the Mughals in the north, the center of Mughal power.

The financial drain of Aurangzeb’s military campaigns on the empire’s resources contributed to the collapse.

After Aurangzeb’s death in 1707, the eighteenth century saw a succession of weak rulers. This encouraged foreigners to invade or try to take over. In 1739 the military general-turned- emperor Nadir Shah invaded north India from Persia in the west.Taking Lahore (now in Pakistan) in January of that year, he proceeded to march into Delhi a few months later.

 According to Juan Cole,“the savage looting of the capital later perpetrated by his troops constitut[ed] one of the century’s great disasters” (1989: 41).The next major attack was launched by theAfghans, also from the northwest. In 1761, Ahmad Shah Abdali (later styled “Durrani”) fought the Marathas at Panipat, fifty miles

 northwest of Delhi, where two important battles fought in earlier centuries had given the Mughals control over India. This, the Third Battle of Panipat, was won by Ahmad Shah, and could have led to Afghan rule over India had Ahmad Shah’s troops not been weary of war and anxious to return home.The power vacuum in Delhi was soon to be filled by yet another foreign power, the British East India Company.


Apart from the foreign threats to the Mughal empire in the eighteenth century, it was also subject to internal fissures. In north India, one of the most significant new developments was the rise of Shi‘ism as the state religion in two of the largest Muslim successor states, Bengal and Awadh (known as “Oudh” in British sources).

The kingdom of Awadh was founded by Burhan ul-Mulk in 1722 and was centered in Lucknow in the Gangetic plain. It grew in power under the first three gover- nors or nawabs (Burhan ul-Mulk, Safdar Jang, and Shuja ud- Dawla) over the next fifty years.After Nadir Shah’s invasion in 1739, the Mughal emperors were probably less powerful than the nawabs of Awadh.Although Shuja ud-Dawla, the third governor, stopped short of proclaiming Awadh’s total independence from Mughal rule, continuing to mint coins in the emperor’s name and having the Friday sermon read in his name, for all practical purposes the state operated independently.

State affairs (diplomacy, economic policy, the appoint- ment of officials and successors to the governorship) were conducted without reference to the Mughal emperor.

As both Cole and Francis Robinson (2001) explain, the cul- ture of the Bengal and Awadh courts was fed by a constant influx of Shi‘i Muslims from Iran and Iraq. Indeed, the govern- ors of Awadh were themselves of Iranian (Nishapuri) origin….

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