Did Muslim Rulers bar Hindus from Administration ?
By Maqbool Ahmed Siraj
Mahmood Ghaznvi had many Hindu generals in his army, most prominent being Tilak,
Sondi Rai, Jairaj and Souvana Rai, while Aurangzeb’s trust of Hindu officers was
so great that he is known to rely on none, but the Hindus to guard his palace.
The 650 years of Muslim rule in India could not have enjoyed that longevity
without evoking considerable goodwill among the Hindu subjects. Be it the
Sultanate era (1191 – 1527 AD) or Mughal dynasty (1528 – 1857 AD), emperors
relied upon Hindu ministers, officers, warriors, accountants, chroniclers and
the whole hierarchy of other functionaries to consolidate, run, administer and
manage the empire. Even Hindu Rajas appointed Muslims ministers and envoys.
For instance, the defence portfolio in the Mughal durbar was invariably held by
the rajas of Jaipur with whom the Mughals enjoyed rare camaraderie. If it was
Raja Mansingh in Akbar’s cabinet of ministers, it was Raja Jaswant Singh in
Aurangzeb’s court who held the defence portfolio. It would be difficult to
imagine Hindus in such a key portfolio, if indeed, Muslim rulers distrusted them
or suspected their loyalty. Looked from this angle, all these account of Hindus
versus Muslims in medieval era appear to be fabricated accretions at the hands
of British historiographers. Axis of social relationships in the era revolved
round power rather than faith of the rulers. Even Maratha warrior Shivaji
employed umpteen number of Muslims in his court and army. His private secretary
was one Sheikh. Siddi Hambal and Siddi Bilal were leading commanders and a
Muslim headed his navy 1.
Historians often selectively allude to cruelties during the battles and amplify
its ambit to governance in order to lampoon the Muslim kings for their
communally intolerant attitude. But it must be understood that the Muslim rulers
were here primarily as rulers and not champions of Islam. They were sagacious
enough and were not willing to let the circumstances of conquest interfere with
the expediencies of rule. This made it impossible for them to adopt a policy of
distrusting Hindus. In this, they often disregarded the advice of the Muslim
theologians and clerics and were solely guided by the dictates of political
expediency. For instance, Ghiyasuddin Balban (ruled between 1296 to 1287) kept
theorists like Ziauddin Barani at a distance by dismissing them as mere seekers
of narrow mundane gains (ulema e duniya).
Alauddin Khilji (1296 to 1316) did have a discussion with his Qazi but in
practice, he followed the rule that, in his calculation, best served the
interests of his power and people. Muhammad bin Tughlaq (1324-51 AD) far from
degrading Hindus, accorded them high positions while his successor Firuz Tughlaq
(1351-88) showed interest in Hindu traditions and monuments. Sikandar Lodi (1489
to 1517) even if sometimes remembered as a bigot, encouraged the Hindus to learn
Persian for their fuller participation in state management 2.
Even the first Muslim ruler of Sind, Muhammad bin Qasim recruited Jats and
Meidis in his army who were so disgusted with the rule of Dahir that they joined
the forces of a stranger. They were being ill treated and humiliated under the
rule of Dahir. They were prohibited from riding horses, wearing headgears and
putting on decent robes. They had been reduced to woodcutters and water drawers
Despite having levied jizya on non-Muslims, Muhammad was loved by the subjects.
When he was sent as a prisoner with Muawiya ibne Muhallab to Damascus on the
orders of Caliph Sulaiman Ibne Marwan, the people of Sind wept for Muhammad and
preserved his likeness (made an idol of him) at Kiraj 4.
Mahmood Ghaznvi though looted and desecrated Hindu temples for wealth, had a lot
of Hindu generals in his army. Some of the most prominent among them are Tilak,
Sondi Rai, Jairaj, Souvana Rai, Jai Sen and Viraj Rai. Their loyalty to Mahmood
was exemplary. They continued to serve his successor and son, Masood. General
Nath was his most trusted confidant. He was sent to suppress the revolt by
Niyalitgin with the help of his Hindu soldiers in Afghanistan. On his death in
the war, Masood was so grief stricken that he did not eat for three days 5.
Mohammad Bin Tughlaq reposed full confidence in the Hindus and appointed them to
the highest post. He appointed a Hindu, Ratan as the governor of Sind. Bhivan
Rai was made the commander of the fort of Gulbarga. Nakka, Lodha, Pira, Kishan
are mentioned as high mansabdars in the court of Tughlaq.
Raja Ramdev of Devagiri rendered assistance to Alauddin Khilji in his
expeditions to South India. The Raja is mentioned as ‘Sarfaraz e Hanood” and
‘Banda e Khas Dargah e Shah’.
Muhammad bin Tughlaq is butt of ridicule by historians for several of his novel
initiatives. But a Sanskrit inscription of 1327 AD describes Mohammed Bin
Tughlaq as the Saka Lord:
Poet Madona Deva writes: “There is this famous king Mohammad Shah, crest jewel
of all the rulers of the earth who by his personal bravery has crushed the
enemies and is the powerful Saka Lord.”
Raja Toder Mal, a Khatri Rajput, became the finance minister of emperor Akbar.
He held the charhazari mansab in Akbar’s army. He was titled as ‘Moatamad ud
Daulah’ and ‘Umdat ud daulah’.
Historian Prof. R.S. Sharma writes that no Indian in British India ever rose to
the high rank which Todermal held as the viceregent and finance minister under
Mughals. It is significant that of the 12 finance ministers appointed in
1594-95, eight were Hindus7.
Shershah, a Turk ruler of Delhi, who established the Suri Dynasty in Delhi,
dislodging the Mughals for around 15 years, had appointed Hindus at high posts.
Almost entire of his Infantry and gunnery was manned by Hindus. Most of the
gunners were from Buxaria community. A special regiment was dedicated for
Rajputs. Premjit Gaur was one among his best commanders. Gwalior Raja Ram Shah
fought several battles for Shershah 8.
Aurangzeb is much reviled in the Indian press for his policy of isolating
Hindus. But even a historian of K. R. Malkani’s repute (a former editor of the
RSS spokesman The Organiser), Aurangzeb’s trust of Hindu officers was so great
that he is known to rely on none but the Hindus to guard his palace 9.
After a conquest against Maratha forces, Aurangzeb was advised by one of his
general, Mahram Khan in his letter to the emperor to remove the Hindu officers
from top posts suspecting their loyalty. Aurangzeb replied that there was no
compulsion in matters of religion and everybody should be free to follow his
faith. He said ‘If your (Mahram Khan’s) advice is followed, it would be
incumbent upon me to dismiss all the Hindu Rajas (subordinates under the
emperor’s rule) which I may not be able to carry out. No sane person will afford
to remove the highly capable officers.” The fact that Aurangzeb rejected the
militantly orthodox advice is in itself a proof that the emperor was liberal
enough to understand the complexities of statecraft 10.
Rather the number of Hindu mansabdars in Mughal army grew to the highest during
Aurangzeb’s reign. They were even greater than those in the tenure of Akbar.
Be it Mughals or the sultans of the six preceding Muslim dynasties of Delhi, the
Muslim emperors did not insist on elimination of the local rulers. They, rather,
found it convenient to depend on them to extent their rule through them and
demanded only their subservience to the emperors in Delhi by regularly paying a
part of the revenue. So we have the instance of Sultan Mohammad Ghori who
established Muslim sultanate over Delhi in 1191 by defeating Prithvi Raj. But
gave away the kingdom of Ajmer to Prithvi’s son. It was snatched back by
Prithvi’s brother by deposing his nephew. Ghori’s successor Qutbuddin Aibak
again conquered Ajmer. He appointed a Muslim governor this time. Ghori did not
bear any enmity against the Hindus, nor did Prithvi Raj against Muslims. Even
Ghori’s successor, Qutubuddin Aibak left the administration of Ajmer and Gwalior
in the hands of Rajput princes. But today we have our political masters in
Pakistan and India naming their missiles ‘Prithvi’ and ‘Ghori’.
Notes and references
1. Syed Sabahuddin Abdur Rahman, Mazhabi Ravadari vol 3, Darul Musannifeen,
Azamgarh, p. 320-21, 1993
2. Muzaffar Alam, Beyond Turk and Hindu (ed. David Gilmartin and Bruce B.
Lawrence), University Press of Florida, 2000, page 227
3. Ref. Prof. Eswari Prasad, History of Medieval India, page 55-56
4. William Jackson A. V., (ed) History of India, vol. 5, The Grolier society,
London, Baroda edition 1907, page 14). It is also quoted by Sheikh Mohammad
Ikram from Futuhus Salateen and Futuhul Buldan.
5. Sheikh Md. Ikram, Aab e Kausar, Adabi Markaz, Matia Mahal, 1981
6. Qasim Farishta’s Tarikh e Firishta. Dr. Tarachand in his Mukhtasar Tarikh Ahl
e Hind says that Tughlaq used to avoid the narrow minded interpreters of sharia.
7. S. R. Sharma, The Religious policy of emperors, . p. 22
8. Kalka Ranjan Kanungo, Sher Shah, p. 369- 370
9. K. R. Malkani, The Statesman, Calcutta, 30-8-1980
10. Om Prakash Prasad, Auranzeb-Ek Nai Drishti, Khuda Baksh Khan Oriental Public
Library, Patna, 1994
11. S. R. Sharma, The Religious Policy of the Mughal Emperors, 3rd edition,
More references could be had from M. K. A. Siddiqui, Hindu Participation in
Muslim Administration in Medieval India, Institute of Objective Studies,
(The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and