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Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the Apostle of Peace
Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the Apostle of Peace

Sikh Missionary Society: Publications: Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the Apostle of Peace:

Politico-religious conditions of the times

Politico-religious conditions of the times

Guru Arjan Dev was a contemporary of King Akbar (who became king in 1556). Within seven months of Akbar's death, the Guru was tortured to death. The Guru's martyrdom has a positive link with Akbar and his times and can be understood only if we aquaint ourselves briefly with Akbar's (and his son Jahangir's) religious policies.

Akbar was very tolerant and encouraged free expression and convivial and social intermixing. He did not object to Muslims associating with Guru Arjan Dev. It is on record that Nawab Hasan Khan, a muslim devotee of the Guru worked hard day and night to build a well for the Guru in Dabbi Bazaar Lahore. Mian Mir (a Muslim scholar-saint of Qadrya group) took the Guru's* composition Sukhmani to Ajmer where the High Priest so liked it that he sent a turban and some money for the Guru. Akbar's son Salim (who later ascended the throne as Jahangir and ordered the Guru's execution) liked the Guru so much that he offered 8864 Ghumaon 7 Kanal and 15 Marla land to the Guru* Akbar himself held the Guru in high esteem and visited him on 24th November 1598. About this meeting Abul Fazal writes in Akbar Nama.**
* See Mahan Kosh page 962
** Akbar Nama page 514

''On 13 Azar His Majesty travelled towards Goindwal on elephant back. Crossing the river Beas he camped with his armies in Guru Arjan's place, Guru Arjan Dev is a well-known Hindu preacher and His Majesty was extremely glad to have met the Guru''.

''During this meeting'' Says A.C. Bannerjee ''Akbar kept singing the Guru's hymns and sought the Guru's advice on many political problem.''

Macauliff writes that the king nearly accepted the Guru's religion On this occasion. According to him-*
* The Sikh religion Volume 3 page 83

''He (Akbar) called himself the Guru's slave and asked for instructions to render him happy and secure a place for his soul.'' Various histories of the period record that Akbar sought the Guru's help in controlling the communal riots in Batala where the conversion of a Hindu temple into a mosque had resulted in bloodshed, arson, loot and plunder. It was at the Guru's suggestion that the king agreed to reduce the taxes on Punjab farmers by 12 %* The king also heard the case of the Guru's brother Prithi Chand who had laid claim to Guruship and rejected it.** Wazir Khan, a noble in the court of Akbar, offered help for the Guru's kitchen and the king persuaded the Ranghars of village Khahre to sell all their land to the Guru for Rs 57000 to enable the Guru build the temple of Tarn Taran on a grand scale.
* See Khulasat-ul-Tawarikh page 452
** See Tahkikat-e-Chisti age 441-442
Thus Akbar was trying to create a society in which no one suffered because of his/her religious beliefs or social status. He also founded a new religion based on toleration and mutual respect. He called it Din e-Illahi. His usual prayer was* ''The Lord God helped me attain political ascendancy, intellectual clarity, power and above all the gift of dispensing justice. He has wiped my mind clean of all ideas of intolerance and injustice. I am a sacrifice unto God, the omnipotent, the omscient and the omnipresent.''
* Muntkhib-ul-Tawarikh by Abdul Qadir Badaooni page 268

Akbar popularized inter-religious marriages through personal example.* He also allowed freedom of worship and since one of his queens was a parsi, he allowed sacrificial fire to be kept burning in his own home. Once when the fire went out Akbar became mad in angering ordered the responsible officer to be thrown down from the roof (Akbar had never in his life ordered a man to be killed).
* Akbar's son Jahangir was the son of a Hindu woman (sister of Raja Bhagwan Dass)

In 1575 he established a common place of worship for all religions.* Once Sikh Scholars Bhai Budha & Bhai Gurdas are reported to have visited this place. About this occasion Cole & Sambhi write: '' express his satisfaction he (Akbar) made a gift of Gold to the Book and of clothing to Bhai Bhuda and Gurdas who had brought it and to the Guru''. (The Sikhs page 26)
* About this Sayed Nazir Ahmad (see Kalam Shah Hussain) writes ''Akbar's shrine was open to all religions, Sunis, Shayas, Sufis, Hindus, and christians all attended it and debates were held on religion in which Akbar personaly participated.''

He appointed non-Muslims to High offices and curbed all attempts at religious discrimination. So much so that he discontinued the use of Muslim Calendar and reduced the financial assistance to schools teaching Arabic. The money thus saved was spent on teaching Indian languages. He disallowed the staunch beard-bearing Muslim priests from coming into his presence.* On page 220 of his book 'Akbar the Great' Vincent Smith writes that he disallowed the construction of new mosques and withdrew the sums allocated for repairs of the old mosques. Instead funds were offered to Christians, Hindus and the Sikhs to construct their places of worship.
* History of the world (1908) page 22

Akbar encouraged fine arts. He was an excellent Hindi poet and avoided using Arabic and Persian words. His example was followed by many Muslim poets (i.e. Taj Bibi, Shah Hussain and Karay Sahib etc.) who not only wrote in Hindi but preached religious toleration and universal brotherhood of man.

The staunch Muslims did not like Akbar's policies of toleration. They joined together under Sheikh Ahmed* of Sirhind and set up a strong opposition based on three aims.
* A follower of Khavaja Baqi Billa of Kabul who had settled in Delhi where he died on 30th November 1603.

a) To condemn the official policies and to whip up religious fanaticism against the King and his henchmen.
b) To denigrate the Hindu belgian, customs and practices and to convert Hindus to Islam.
c) To mobilize all Muslims under the flag of Sheikh Ahmad  (Mujaddid) of Sirhind.
Sheikh Ahmed wrote letters to the King and his officials. These letters have been published by Madina Publishing Co. Karachi (Pakistan) under the title of ''Maktubat-e-lmam Rabani'', we are quoting some excerpts from these letters to show how the Sheikh reacted to Akbar's secular policy of mutual understanding and toleration.
a) ''Shariyat spreads through the use of sword and this in turn depends on the Government policy. For some time Shariyat has been completely ignored.''
Letter No. 92 to Pir Naamaan.
b) ''To respect Hindu festivals or to follow their custom is Kufar (blasphemy, reprobacy). For example some foolish Muslims, specially women celebrate Diwali like eid and send gifts to their daughters. They have their utensils painted during Diwali days. This is irreligious and hence an affront to Islam''
Letter No. 41 part 3 chapter 1
c) ''If you add Shariyat to your official duties then you will be doing an excellent service to the prophet of Islam and will earn the gratitude of the Muslims equal in measure to that earned by the previous High Priests of Islam. People like me cannot do as much as an iota in years whereas men of authority like you can work wonders in a day''.
Letter No. 54 part 3 page 154
d) ''Muslims were ordained to be inimical to non-muslims and to subdue them by force.''
Letter No. 23 Part 1 page 179 written to Abdul Rahim Khankhana
e) ''A King is to muslims as head is to body. If the heart is healthy then the body is healthy. When the heart sinks, the body must suffer. So if the King is reformed, the whole country will be reformed''
Letter No. 47 Part 1 page 179 addressed to Akbar's confidant Sheikh Farid
Writing about the Sheikh's letters Maulana Muhammed sayeed writes, ''The gist of every letter is to introduce islam in every walk of life.''*
* See 'muqadma Maktubaat' page 21

Akbar was growing old. He loved his grandson Khusrau (Jahangir's son) and intended to abdicate in his favour. The idea had full support of Raja Maan Singh (Khusrau's maternal uncle) and Aziz Koka (Khusrau's father-in-law). The news leaked to Sheikh Ahmed. He immediately contacted Jahangir through Sheikh Farid, a trusted and influential official in Akbar's court, and promised help on condition that Jahangir would run the Government on islamic law. A special messenger brought the written agreement to Jahangir for his signatures.

''Accordingly the leading noble, having been sent by others as their representative, came to the prince and promised in their names to place the Kingdom in his hands provided he would swear to defend the law of Mohomet''* Akbar and the Jesuits (London 1926) page 204.
* On page 301 of Vincent Smiths' Book 'Akbar the Great'. on page 52-62 of Beni Parsad's book ''History of Jahangir'' and on page 28 of 'Hayat-e-Mujadid Firman' the following three conditions of help are recorded to have been agreed.

(a) Khasrau's supporters shall not be killed.
(b) Islam., as interpolated by Shaikh Ahmad, will be strictly enforced.
(c) Hindus will be converted to Islam through official pressure and by sword.
Having conspired with Jahangir, the Sheikh's men poisoned Akbar's food; (see vincent Smith's book page 301). Luckily Akbar survived. For fear of being detected Jahangir rebelled in 1601 and had Akbar's most trusted friend Abulfazal killed. Akbar saw the writing on the wall. He persuaded Jahangir through sheikh Farid (1604) to apologise and publicly declared that Jahangir will be the King after his death. After this Akbar and Jahangir did not trust each other. Khusrau was trying to enlist help looking only for an excuse to declare himself as the King but he was careful not to offend Akbar. The ministers and the influential officials were all divided into two opposing groups that of Jahangir and Khusrau. Jahangir once again planned to poison Akbar.* This time he succeeded. Akbar died soon after taking poison on 17th oct 1605. Jahangir declared himself King and immediately despatched Raja Maan Singh to Bengal and Khusrau to Agra.
* See ''Annals of Mevar'' by James Todd and ''Akpar the Great'' by Vincent Smith

On 25th october 1605 he formally ascended the throne after a magnificent coronation ceremony.

At Akbar's death no one was happier than Sheikh Ahmad (Mujaddid) of Sirhind. He wrote a long letter to his cc-conspirator sheikh Farid in which he wrote.

''Now that the King has full faith in you, I am sure you will earn our gratitude by persuading him to enforce Islamic Shariyat.''
Maktubaat Part 1 (2), letter No.69
Here are some excerpts from the letters he wrote to other officials who held high offices.
a) ''The previous king was clearly anti-Islam. This king is obviously different. But I still fear that the enforcement of Islam may be delayed breeding disgust & disatisfaction among true muslim.''
Letter No. 65 addressed to Khan-e-Azam
b) ''Salvation is possible only through Islam all other religions are bunk. People may not understand this today but tomorrow will be too late.''
Letter No. 69 Part 1 (2)
c) Hindu Brahmans and Greek philosophers have spent a lot of time on religion. Since their efforts were not according to the Shariyat of the prophet, they were all fools. They will remain devoid of salvation.''
Letter to Mirza Darab
d) Killing cows is a meritorious act in Islam. The situation now is that the Kafirs (Non-Muslims) may accept to pay Jazia (special tax On Hindus) but never never would they except the butchering of cows. It is better to persuade the king now rather than postpone it until he has fully settled in office. Delay would be bad for Muslims. I will keep praying to Allah. I wonder who succeeds in winning the crown of glory.''
Letter No. 81 part 1 (2)
Jahangir was truly religious in his boyhood days and was a teetotaller. He was very tolerant because his mother was a Hindu and his father was the founder of a tolerant new religion Din-e-Illahi. He had no attraction for Shariyat (Muslim law) but mixed freely with liberal Sufis like Shah Hussain, a friend Of Guru Arjan Dev. Later contrary to Islam's injunctions Jahangir became an alcoholic. In his Own autobiography Tuzak-e-Jahangiri, he writes*
* Tuzak-e-Jahangiri edited by Maulvi Ahmed Ali published in 1977 in Urdu by Sange Meel Publications, Lahore
''In the beginning I could drink upto 20 goblets a day of double strength liquor.''
(page 42)
''Alcohol caused physical disability and I found more and more difficult to hold a goblet. Others held the goblet to my mouth.''
(Tuzak page 179)
Jahangir's son Khuram (who later ascended the throne as Shah Jahan) was 24 years old and had never tasted intoxicants. Jahagir forcibly emptied a goblet of alcohol in his mouth.
(Tuzak page 178)
Jahangir was as superstitious as he was alcoholic. He had appointed Jotak Rai as his royal astrologer and considered Wednesday as an inauspicious day.
(Tuzak page 224)
When his favourite deer Hans Raj died, he had thousands of rupees spent on constructing a mausoleum outside Lahore in memory of the deer.
(Tuzak page 91)
He claimed to be just and had a 30 yards long 300 Lbs heavy chain hung outside his court for the complainants to use for inviting the King's attention but had a standing order to his officials, ''During my walkabouts and journeys keep the. blind, the handicapped and the complainants away from me.'' (Tuzak page 385) He took pity on the bird (Tuzak page 253) but had the toes of a man cut off because he happened to spoil a plant (Tuzak page 253) and when three newsmen were brought before him he had one flayed alive, the other castrated and the third one lynched to death. (Tuzak page 29) He had the eyes of his own son Shahar Yar gouged out and later Khusrau also met the same fate. In a fit of anger he ordered the immediate execution of Subhan Kulli but later repented because Subhan was innocent. (Tuzak 282) Qazi Abdul Aziz Khan was sent to Mecca but when somebody poisoned Jahangir's ears against him he sent Saido post-haste to murder the Qazi. (Tuzek page 389)

Moral laxity was the hallmark of Jahangir's character. His mother committed suicide because of his moral turpitude (Tuzak page 28). He loved Noor Jahan so much that she had virtually become the ruler of India. He himself admits it and writes-

''She ran the Government except for sermons in the mosque. Everybody bowed to her and had to carry her orders. Her picture appeared on the currency''
(Tuzak page 38)
He used to Say
''I have entrusted the empire to the care of Noor Jahan. All I want for Myself are a pound of meat and a bottle of alcohol.
(Tuzak page 38)
It was not difficult for Mujaddid's follower Sheikh Farid to work on the King and make him follow the Mujaddid's instruction. Sheikh Farid conferred on Jahangir the title of 'The protector of Islam'' and the King rewarded Sheikh Farid by appointing him commander of 6000 army men. The Sheikh now started his campaign of Illumination and forcible conversion. According to Muhammad Yasin,* ''occasional outbursts of bigotry on the part of Jahangir and his anti-Hindu sentiments may be traced to the influence of Mujaddid on the fickleminded emperor.''
* A social History of india page 171

It was under the influence of Sheikh Farid that the king turned antiHindu. So much so that he had a high official Kokab Khan whipped in public because, ''he visited a Hindu Saint.'' (Tuzak page 118) At Ajmer he ordered a Hindu Temple to be demolished and its idols to be thrown into the river (Tuzak page 145). He ordered all jaini's to be banished from his kingdom. (Tuzak page 257) Although himself the son of a Hindu woman and the husband of four Hindu wives he had the tongue of a Hindu Kalyan Dass cut off because Kalyan Dass expressed the desire to marry a Muslim girl Bholi (Tuzak page 95). When a Hindu accepted Islam, he made him pass through Delhi on the royal elephant in procession.* Two boys aged 10-14 were forcibly circumcised publicly before his very eyes under his orders.** He sanctioned large sums of money for the repairs and construction of mosques and ordered all officials to pray daily, although he himself did not abide by this order.
* Jahangir and the Jesuits page 15
** Jahangir and the Jesuits page 16-23

It was under such vicious circumstances that the Majaddid freely whipped up fanaticism and accelerated the pace of Illumination. In his letter no. 163 (part 1) he writes

''God has ordered Muslims to fight religious wars and to treat nonMuslims freely. The glory of Islam depends on the destruction of nonMuslims. They should be treated as dogs. God has labelled them as enemies of Islam. We should be ever ready to cut them to size. The idea of levying Jazia* is to so insult and denigrate them that they may not be able to wear proper clothes. No king should be allowed to exempt them from paying Jazia. God devised Jazia to ridicule and demean the non-Muslims. The murder of non-Muslims adds to the glory of Islam.''
* A special tax levied on Hindus by Muslim Kings of India
When Sadar Jahan tortured many Hindus and desecrated their temples, Mujaddid wrote to him, ''The Muslims are gladdened and inspired on hearing about tortures. God be praised for His choicest blessing on you.'' Letter no. 194 addressed to Sadar Jahan.

The Mujaddid also wrote letters to the Hindus. In his letter to Hirday Ram (Letter no. 167 part 1 - 3) he ridicules the Hindu religious preceptors as follows

''Rama, Krishna and other Hindu philosophers are the meanest humanbeings. If Rama could not foil Ravan's attempt at abducting his wife how can he save others? Use your brains and common sense. It is a shame to call God as Rama or Krishna. To name Rama as Rahim (merciful) is an unforgiveable sin, Hindu preachers were demented and they misled the masses.''
As for the Sikhs Mohsin Fani writes in Dabistan-e-Mazahib
''Unfortunately the number of Sikhs kept on increasing everywhere. In Guru Aryan's time they became numerous. There was no town, city or state where there were no Sikhs.''
page 233
The intolerant Mujaddid could not let the Sikhs go unpunished because to all intents & purposes he considered the Sikhs as dangerous Hindus and complained that they had constructed ''a big Gurdwara'' in Thanezar. (Letter no. 92) There is ample evidence to prove that through Sheikh Farid Bukhari he manipulated the execution of Guru Arjan Dev.

''Jahangir indeed was the pioneer of religious persecution of the Moghul History. Apart from killing the Sikh Guru he desecrated the temples in Kangra and Pushkar.'' A.C. Bannerlee page 127.

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