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Akbar vs. Aurangzeb - Part 5 of 6: Temple Destruction and Taxation

The campaign to Islamisize India by Aurangzeb was, for the most part, a reactionary effort against his eldest brother Dara Shikoh, who was the favorite son of Shah Jahan, and the leading heir for succession. Aurangzeb eventually fought against Dara. He forcefully placed himself on the throne, after jailing his father and killing his brother. Dara’s ideas were very similar to Akbar’s, in that he was predisposed to Hindu ideas and was pro-syncretism. This offended Aurangzeb as a Sharia-abiding Muslim, so he seized the throne and made it his effort to create a Dar-al-Islam state. While Dara’s main base of support were mainly the syncretistic movements and some of his fathers closest allies, Aurangzeb had to rely on the Ulema and the Naqshbandiyya, who were greatly in favor of achieving the same goal as Aurangzeb.

Upon winning the battle against his brother, Aurangzeb took his seat on the Mughal throne in 1658, and immediately began to implement reforms his father was negligent to impose. For example, in 1659, Aurangzeb he prohibited drinking, gambling, prostitution and narcotic use. In 1664, he banned Sati, a tradition that had crept back into society 100 years after Akbar had banned it. In 1668, Aurangzeb made changes that were directed towards the Hindu populations by re-imposing the jizyah on dhimmi’s, after Akbar had removed it a hundred years earlier, even though it was not a significant source of revenue. Other changes brought with his reformations in 1668 were the banning of music at the court and discontinued his daily appearances at his palace balcony for the public. Aurangzeb also ended the tradition of scribing palace events, ending a long-standing tradition that had seen the creation of the Baburnamah and the Akbarnamah; instead, Aurangzeb sponsored the codification of the Fatawa-i Alangiri. Aurangzeb even went as far as to import date and almond cultivation from the Middle East.

Aurangzeb’s most controversial policy, was the destruction of temples. He ordered the destruction of Hindu temples, in cities like Banaras, Mathura, Delhi, Bihar and Udaipur. This policy was mainly enforced in Northern India, since Aurangzeb was on campaigns in the Deccan and did not want to upset the fragile support he was building up for himself. It should also be noted that his temple destruction policy was mainly directed at temples where political aspirations against him were being plotted, as well as temples that breeded anti-social activity and corruption. Other temples were ones that fell victim to military excursions or the religious bigotry of the Ulema.

Aurangzeb, though, did not only destroy temples, he also issued many farman’s for their construction. His destruction of temples has been greatly exaggerated by his critics, both contemporary and not, to prove his religious bigotry. This bigotry can infact, if existent, be attributed to the Ulema, who were pushing for very harsh, uncompromising and violent rulings. One must remember that it was the Ulema that had persuaded Aurangzeb to kill his own brother, Dara Shikoh, upon his capture, instead of Aurangzeb’s personal choice to have him exiled. Aurangzeb, throughout his reign, had practiced tolerance in accordance to Islamic law, and was a great believer in carrying out the law letter by letter. For example, one story recalls an incidence in the city of Allahabad, where a Muslim lady complained she wanted to build a Mosque on her land, but local Hindus opposed its construction. Instead of moving ahead and allowing it to go through as a mark of propagation of Islam, Aurangzeb ordered the issue be taken to court and both sides wait for the judge’s decision in this regard.

Some historians also argue against Aurangzeb as a bigot with the argument of his enforcement of jizyah. His tax policy as a whole can actually be used against this argument since Hindu’s had to pay 5% of their annual salary in jizyah. Muslims had to pay 2.5% for their annual zakat payment. Also, any dhimmi who worked for the administration in any capacity, was exempt from paying taxes. Jizyah, it should also be noted, was a minute percentage of the overall revenue, and was only enforced in Northern India, and that was also only for a brief period of time. Aurangzeb also abolished up to 80 other taxes in India were enforced during the previous regimes, including a tax on bone collection of Hindu pilgrims at the Ganges River. Upon the death of Aurangzeb, his successor, Sultan Muhammad Shah, continued his policy of strict adherence to the Sharia, and governed India in a manner similar to Aurangzeb.

The death of Aurangzeb is seen as the death of the Mughal Dynasty, since the flamboyance and charisma that had been existent since Babur, were no longer there.

All of Aurangzeb’s policies were directed towards the reformation of India to a religiously exclusive society governed under a system dependent on the Sharia. This was the way the Ulema had wanted it all along and had struggled to achieve since Akbar. The syncretistic Sufi orders that had been popular under Akbar, like the Nuqtavi’s, had now faded, and become associated with Islamic eccentricism and religious confusion. No longer were syncretistic movements seen as progression of Islam towards tolerance, and no longer were they seen as idealists with goals of unity for both Muslims and Hindus in a pluralist society. They had been reduced to outcasts of both the mainstream Hindu and Muslim teachings, with little influence and little respect.

The Ulema, after more than 100 years of struggling to regain power, had finally achieved it and were no longer willing to let go. Sufis were now bound by the same laws as the orthodox muslims with only the tariqa of the Sufis separating one from the other.

*Sati, as custom, was believed to be attributed to the fear of widows being the incoming Arab Muslims

Part | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |

1. Gascoigne, Bamber. A Brief History of the Great Mughals: India’s Most Flamboyant Rulers. London. Constable & Robinson Ltd. 2002.
2. Graham, G.M. “Akbar & Aurangzeb – Syncretism and Separatism in Mughal India. A Re-Examination.” Muslim World. Vol. 59 (1989): 106-126
Lapidus, Ira M. A History of Islamic Societies. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press, 1988. 443 – 466
4. Ahmad, Tasneem. “Ishwardas: A Hindu Chronicler of Aurangzeb’s Reign”. Islamic Culture Vol. 49 (1975): 223-231
5. Khan, M. Ifzal-ur Rahman. “Awrangzib and the Hindu’s.” Islamic Culture. Vol. 64 (1990): 103-119

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Anonymous said... February 2, 2010 at 7:21 PM

so what you are saying is aurangazeb was a good then i hate muslim rascals

Anonymous said... February 2, 2010 at 7:29 PM

india should quickly introduce jizya tax on muslims to humiliate them for following such a perverted relegion and shmelessely support the plunderers like aurangazeb.Also they should immediately start demolishing the mosques and madarassas as theya re well known for anti national activities.Also indian constitution should ban polygamy immediately as it is an equal evil like sati of modern era.

i guess then this Blog writer will appreciate the work of indian constitution just the way he is appreciating the plunderer aurangazeb.

Actually muslims like the writer of this article have no place in india.They should be immediatley thrown out of the country to their ancestral lands saudi and middle east countries.

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