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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:

Martyrdom


Martyrdom

Some Muslim writers complain that the Sikhs deliberately avoid telling the circumstances leading to the execution of Guru Arjan Dev and that the circumstances not only justify the execution but also exonerate the Emperor from being an accomplice in the gruesome act of butchery committed by Chandu Lal who had a personal grudge against the Guru. I give below a quotation from the book ''Sikh Shrines in West Pakistan,'' written by Khan Walliullah Khan and published (in 1962) by The Ministry of Education and Information, Government of Pakistan.
''Guru Arjan Dev started reforms in Sikh polity and religion, and selected Amritsar as the centre of the Sikh community. Here he completed the digging of the sacred pool (Amritsar) and finalized the construction of the sacred temple Darbar Sahib started by his father. Up till now the Sikhs used to offer nazrana (offerings) in cash and kind to the Guru. Guru Arjan Dev regulated these offerings into a systematic tax which was collected through men especially appointed for the purpose to twenty two Manjas. The amount collected was paid to the Guru in a great Darbar held annually on the occasion of Baisakhi at Amritsar. Guru Arjan Dev compiled and arranged the writings of his predecessors under the title Adi Granth (the first book). With the gradual increase in his power and authority, he is alleged to have started interfering with the affairs of the state. In 1605 A.D. when prince Khasrau revolted against his father, Emperor Jahangir, the Guru is said to have helped the rebellious prince not only with his blessings but also with money. Khasrau was, however, defeated and captured. Prithi Chand, the elder brother of Arjan Dev, who had earlier unsuccessfully contested the Guruship and Chandu Lal, the Diwan of Lahore, to whose daughter the Guru had refused to betroth his son, exploited the situation and exaggerated the pad played by the Guru in inciting Khasrau's revolt. The Emperor ordered that the Guru's case be decided in accordance with the Yasa, the law of Changez Khan. The Guru was fined two lakhs rupees which he was unable to pay and as such was given in the custody of Diwan Chandu Lal and at last died in June 1606 A.D.''
(Page 30)
''That the Guru died from tortures inflamed by Chandu Lal is first referred by Mohsin Fani, author of Dabistan-e-Mazahib... This is one Of the earliest and most authentic references throwing light on the Guru's Martyrdom and clears up the misunderstanding that the Emperor Jahangir was responsible for Guru's death, by clearly mentioning that Chandu Lal seizing the opportunity of non-payment of the fine by the Guru and further instigated by Prithi Chand, the unscrupulous brother, tortured the Guru to death. It may be said that as head of the state Jahangir was responsible for the action of his officers, but the fact, that the Sikh records testify, that on hearing about the inhuman treatment meted out to Guru Arjan Dev, Chandu Lal was handed over to Guru Har Gobind, the son and successor of the Guru, ''to be treated by him as he liked. It shows that Jahangir was extremely sorry and annoyed at this tragic event and as an act of exemplary punishment, he handed over the offender to the aggrieved.''
(Page 31)
The following points need comments:
  1. Guru Arjan Dev regulated offerings into a tax.
  2. He interfered with the affairs of the state, helped Khusrau and according to Tuzak-e-Jahangiri applied a tilak on khusrau's forehead.
  3. Prithi Chand and Chandu were the real culprits and Jahangir is not to blame.
  4. Jahangir was extremely sorry and annoyed at the tragic event and handed over Chandu to Guru Har Gobind.
The most reliable authority. on the execution of the Guru is Emperor Jahangir himself. Before we discuss the above points we give below the original writing of the emperor and its translation. This is from the Emperor's autobiography Tuzak-e-Jahangiri.

Translation: - In Goindwal, on the river Beas, lived a Hindu named Arjan who wore robes of worldly dignity and high spiritual order. Many simple minded Hindus and ignorant Muslims* too, had been fascinated by his ways. He was noised about as a spiritual master and they beat a drum of his prophetship and called him the enlightener. From all directions shoals of people would come to him and express great devotion. This busy traffic had been carried on for three or four generations** For years it was coming to my mind that either I should put an end to this false traffic and imposturous shop or I must bring him into the fold of Islam. At last during the days when Khusrau passed along the road to Goindwal, this insignificant fellow made up his mind to see him. He discussed some preconceived things with him and made on the forehead of the prince a saffron mark which is called 'Tilak' by the Hindus and is considered an auspicious omen. This incident was reported to me. I was already aware of the Guru's false cult. I therefore ordered him to be arrested and made over his household and family to Murtza Khan. Having confiscated his property I issued orders that he should be imprisoned, and tortured to death under some political pretext.
Two other persons named Raju and Amba had under the instigation of Khawaja Sera Daulat Khan committed oppression and tyrannies over the people during Khusrau's march towards Lahore. I ordered that Raju be hanged and Amba, who was a very rich man, be fined a Lakh and fifteen thousand rupees. About this money I ordered that it should be spent on gunpowder and for charitable purposes.
(Tuzk-e-Jahangiri. page 35 Nawalkishore Press, Lucknow)
* People like His Holiness Saint Mian Mir of Lahore who laid the foundation stone of the Holiest Sikh Temple at Amritsar and whom Muslims worship at his grave in Lahore even now. Nawab Hassan Khan of Lahore who, according to Twarikh Guru Khalsa (page 96) himself assisted the Guru physically in digging the baoli (well) at Dabbi Bazar Lahore.
** In his early age Prince Salim (later Emperor Jahangir) had himself visited the Guru. He was an admirer of Guru Arjan Dev and had made a grant of 8846 Ghumaon, 7 Kanals and 15 Marle of land in village Kartarpur to the Guru-- (Mahan-Kosh Bhai Kahan Singh, page 962).

Let us now consider the points one by one. Levying taxes is the most serious crime that can be brought against rebels and if the Guru had levied a regular tax he really deserved punishment. But this offence, although extremely serious, is not even mentioned by the Emperor in the TUZAK. It is hard to understand that the Emperor who was irritated at the Guru and used undignified language for him, did not care to record the most serious crime of the Guru. The fact, however, is that no Guru ever imposed any tax. Guru Amar Das, the third Guru, having realised the growing number of his followers and the difficulties of travel, had appointed 22 Masands (seats) in 1552 who ministered to the spiritual needs of the Sikhs at their different headquarters (Manjas) and whatever was offered or given to them in the name of the Guru was sent to the Guru at regular intervals. this system worked in the time of Guru Amar Das, the third Guru, and guru Ram Das, the fourth Guru. It is difficult to believe that the Government slept over it from 1552 to 1606 and did not consider it a crime and then suddenly realized that the Guru was collecting taxes. The Emperor's own words reveal that the Guru had captivated the hearts of thousands of Hindus and Muslims and yet it is a fact of life that taxes are never welcome.* It must have been a nazrana (offering) from the devoted disciples who according to the Emperor's own testimony, flocked to him from all directions. Another very remarkable fact is that even after the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev, the Masands kept collecting the offering until 1699 when Guru Gobind Singh discontinued the system and publicly punished some of the unscrupulous and dishonest Masands.
* ''To tax and to please, no more than to love and to be wise, is not given to man (Edmund Burke).

2. Interfering in the state affairs is another very serious and intolerable offence but little mention has been made of it by the Emperor or any contemporary writer, the only fact mentioned is that of helping prince Khusrau and applying a Tilak on his forehead. It has been (and still is) a tradition among the Sikhs right from the time of great Guru Nanak that whosoever comes to the Sikh Temple or the place of the Guru is offered free food and shelter. Although there is no written record, the Guru may well have let the prince take food from his kitchen when he was hotly pursued by the Royal Army. What else could the prince expect from the Guru and discuss with him when every second was valuable for him and he was racing against death? What wisdom there is for the Guru in applying tilak on the forehead of a prince who had already been defeated? How could the Tilak, which the Guru himself has strongly denounced in his writings, save the prince from disaster and put him on the throne? If the Guru really wanted to help the prince he could very easily ask the 'shoals Of people' coming to him to fight for the prince and that would have been wiser than merely applying Tilak on the head of so-called friend in distress, who had never met the Guru before.

The Emperor's account makes it. amply clear that even before Khusrau revolted, the Emperor was dead set against the Guru. He calls him an 'insignificant fellow' and yet his own words betray the fact that the Guru was the most popular religious leader and was visited by people of all faiths. His Writing leaves no doubt whatsoever that he was simply looking for an excuse to put a stop to the Guru's activities and the supposed meeting between the prince and the Guru provided this excuse.

The act of putting a mark on the prince's forehead was a sheer concoction or rumour coined and circulated by someone (probably Sheikh Ahmed, the Mujaddid) jealous of the Guru's growing popularity and respect. In the whole Sikh history there has been no occasion when the Gurus appointed any Sikh or non-sikh with such a mark. Emperor Akhbar was a friend of Guru Amar Das and he had also met Guru Arjan Dev and at the latter's request remitted 12 per cent land revenue of the Punjab but none of the Gurus honoured him with a mark. To 'convey preconceived things' to Khusrau, who had never before met the Guru, and also to honour him in the way no Guru had ever done is simply the figment of a conspirator's fertile imagination. Besides Guru Aryan Dev was not a politician and he had no grudge whatsoever against the Emperor who had been on the throne for hardly six months. The fact Is that the Emperor did not like the Guru and his influence and wanted to ''put an end to his activities and bring him into the fold of Islam.'' No other charge could be so incriminatory than to accuse the Guru of indulging in the most heretical Hindu act of putting a teeka (Qashka) on the forehead of a Muslim prince. The sad fact is that the Emperor did not even find it worthwhile to make an enquiry to establish the guilt of his father's trusted friend. He simply handed over the Guru to Murtza Khan* for execution under the law of Yasa.**
* Shaikh Farid Bukhari was a famous general who had defeated Prince Khusarau and suppressed his rebellion against the emperor. He was honoured with the title of Murtaza Khan and the Village of Bharowal, where he had defeated the Prince, was granted to him as a jagir (fife). He was the follower of Shaikh Ahmed Sirhindi Mujaddid-e-Alf-e-Sani (1563-1624), a staunch, fanatical and intolerant Muslim religious leader and a favourite confidant of the Emperor.
** Yasa is a Turkish word. It means ''killing by torture.'' The law of Yasa was passe extensively used by Changez Khan known all the world over as the cruelest person. According to this law a person is to to killed slowly by tortures, showing no pity. This punishment was later given to Bhai Mani Singh who was hacked inch by inch on November 17, 1737. Bhai Taru Singh, Shahbaj Singh, Subeg Singh and many Others suffered the same fate.

That Prithi Chand incited the Emperor is utterly false. Prithi Chand had died before Jahangir became the Emperor. Duncan Greenlees writes on page Lxxvii. ''The Guru moved to Goindwal and Prithi died. Unhappily, at this time Akhbar also died, being replaced by the rather narrow-minded Jahangir.''

As regards the part played by Chandu Lal, it is alleged that the Guru had refused to betroth his son Har Gobind to Chandu's daughter and Chandu therefore poisoned the Emperor's mind against the Guru. This story seems to have been circulated intentionally by those who played an important part in bringing about the Guru's ruin and wanted to shift the blame of the heinous crime to a Hindu and thus set the Guru's Sikhs against the Hindus who were accepting Sikhism in large numbers. According to the Emperor's own testimony the Guru was handed over to Murtza Khan to be ''tortured to death.'' In all likelihood the part that Chandu could have played in this tragic episode was that as an official of the Government, he may have made a report to the central Government in his official capacity and being the local officer of Lahore may have made arrangements for the Guru's internment.

There is no denying the fact that the idea of converting the Guru to Islam had visited the Emperor's mind ''for years.'' Jahangir had therefore planned the Guru's execution even before he became the king. So long as Akbar was alive, Jahangir was helpless but as soon as Akbar died, he had his way. Otherwise why should an Emperor, noised about as ''the most just king''* get easily influenced by the tales of a mere provincial Officer's personal vendetta and order the death of the most popular religious leader, without a trial.
* It is said that Emperor Jahangir had installed a chain at his door. Any complainant could go and pull the chain at any time and ask the king for a personal hearing. This bell of justice, as it was termed. was sometimes even use by the animals not properly fed by their owners.

Another strange fact is that Chandu Shah (or Chandu Lal) was not even known outside the Punjab and his name is ''not to be found in the Tuzak or any other contemporary or semi-contemporary works on the reign of Jahangir.*
* Guru Arjan's martyrdom, page 31. (Ganda Singh)

If for argument's sake we accept that Chandu tortured the Guru, the question arises what could a petty provincial officer do against the orders of an autocrat who had ordered the execution personally. Chandu did (if at all he did it) what he was ordered to do. Disobeying the orders could have cost him his life. The whole responsibility lies with the Emperor. The tales of enmity between Chandu and the Guru appear to be a cooked up camouflage to cover up the atrocities of the so-called ''justice-loving king.''

''Whether Chandu was able to do any harm to Guru Arjan or not, the Guru's fate was sealed when Jahangir ascended the throne. The tortures inflicted on him and his death as the result of those tortures were directly due to the bigotry of Jahangir. This is fully borne out by the Emperor's own autobiography.''*
* (Transformation of Sikhism page 47)

That Jahangir was sorry at the tragic event of the Guru's torture and handed over the culprit (Chandu Lal) to Guru Har Gobind is not warranted by any contemporary writer and is not recorded by the Emperor in the Tuzak. If true, it would be an act of great injustice for the Emperor to punish a Government official who had very faithfully carried out the Emperor's own orders and performed his duties risking his life at the hands of ''shoals of'' Guru's followers.

Besides it contradicts the historical facts recorded by all historians that Guru Har Gobind (Guru Arjan's son) and Emperor Jahangir remained deadly enemies of each other. The Guru fought four battles against the crown and was even arrested and imprisoned at Gwalior under orders from Jahangir. How could Jahangir hand over faithful Chandu to a so-called rebel Guru?

The facts leading to the Guru's execution cannot be falsified. Prince Salim (later Jahangir) was not suitable for the throne of Delhi and Akbar's inclination of crowning his grandson prince Khusrau and depriving Salim of kingship, somehow leaked out. Jahangir was extremely perturbed and requested Shaikh Farid Bukhari (later Murtza Khan) to prevail upon the Emperor and change his mind. The latter wasted too much time in thinking whether to help Salim or Khusrau. Salim was restless and therefore tried to poison* Akbar but failed. In 1601 he revolted against Akbar but escaped execution through Akbar's magnanimity and the intercession of his friends. Akbar realised the seriousness of the situation and publicly declared that Salim would be his successor to the throne. This reconciliation was largely brought about by the intercession of Shaikh Farid Bukhari (Nawab Murtza Khan).
* (Akbar, the great Mughal, page 301, Vincent Smith)

Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi and Shaikh Farid Bukhari were fanatic puritan Muslims. They disliked Akbar's religious policy of toleration and liberality towards non-Muslims. Akbar's Din-e-Illahi was an eyesore to them. They, therefore, helped Salim on condition that he would change the imperial policy towards the non-Muslims and uphold the Islamic laws rigidly and stoutly. Salim took three oaths.

(1) To defend and propagate Islam, and
(2) Not to take revenge from Khan-e-Azam Aziz Kola, Raja Man Singh and others who openly espoused the claims of prince Khusrau.*
* Muhammad Firman. Hyat-e-Mujaddid page 28. Beni Parsad, History of Jahangir page 61-62. Vincent Smith, Akbar the Great Mughal page 321.
(3) Hindus will be forcibly converted to Islam or killed.
Akbar died on October 17, 1605 and the staunch fanatical Muslims immediately declared Salim as the king and condoning his past unIslamic conduct conferred on him the titles of 'Badshah-e-lslam' and 'Defender of faith.' It is interesting to read a letter written on this occasion by Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi to Shaikh Farid Bukhari.
 
 

Translation: ''On hearing the news of the death of the denier of the authority of Islam and of the happy accession of the Badshah-e-lslam, the followers of Islam consider it most important to pledge their support to the king and to work for the propagation of Islam and the  reinforcement of religion.''
(Maktubat-e-tmam Rabbani Vol. 1 Page 22 letter No. 47)

Salim's coronation took place on the 25th October, 1605 and this was the saddest day for the ambitious prince Khusrau who was left licking his wounds. Salim tried to mollify him by offering him a grant of Rs 100,000 and by appointing him as the commander of the forces in the fort of Agra. Khusrau was outwardly pacified but kept on strengthening his support. He had grossly over-estimated his support when at last he revolted on April 6, 1606. Finding himself unable to hold ground he ran away towards the Punjab in the hope of raising an army with the help of his friends Hussain Beg Badakshi and Abdur Rahim who not only had army contingents of their own but also wielded great influence in the Punjab. The Emperor immediately despatched a large army under Shaikh Farid Bukhari and himself followed him accompanied by his choicest generals. Shaikh Farid overtook Prince Khusrau near Bharowal and inflicted a crushing defeat on the combined armies of Khusrau, and Khawaja Sera. The young prince ran for his life and headed towards Kabul. Luck did not favour him and he was captured on April 27 while crossing the river Chenab and was brought in chains to Lahore.

Meanwhile according to Tuzak-e-Jahangiri the Emporer reached Serai Qazi Wala on April 10 and on April 11, he reached Goindwal through Sultanpur. If the Guru had really helped Khusrau, the Emperor would surely have dealt with the Guru there and then along with other culprits who were mercilessly massacred there in public. From Goindwal, the Emperor marched on to Jhabbal, a small village about seven miles from Lahore. Here he stayed for a week searching and punishing Khusrau's associates. The next camp was in the garden of Kamran outside the town of Lahore. It was here that Khusrau and 700 of his companions were impaled alive on spikes. Some were sewn up in wet cow-hides and ass-hides.

According to some Sikh Historians Guru Arjan was not in Goindwal throughout the period of Khusrau's revolt. He was at Tarn Taran and therefore could not have met Khusrau. The story of his meeting with Khusrau seems to have been fabricated.

On or about the 23rd of May, one and half months after his visit to Goindwal, the Emperor seems to have decided to deal with the Guru. Whether he actually received any report against the Guru is not clear. He charged the Guru of conspiring to help Khusrau and to have applied a Tilak on his forehead. These charges could have been easily verified and vouchsafed by eye witnesses while the Emperor was at Goindwal. Why the action was delayed is a puzzle which points to the conclusion that there was no charge against the Guru and that the story was maliciously fabricated merely to implicate the Guru in the rebellion. Having passed the orders of the Guru's execution the Emperor left for Kashmir even before the Guru could be brought to Lahore. This hardly leaves any doubt about the Emperor's intentions of putting a stop to the Guru's so called ''heresies'' and ''false traffic.'' The Emperor knew that the charges would be hard to substantiate and that his orders should be final allowing no intercession or reconciliation. The Guru was ordered to be treated under the law of Yasa, quite differently from the treatment meted out to the people who actually commanded the rebel prince's armies. This was because the Emperor was not punishing a rebel but wished to create an awe in the minds of ''shoals of people'' who came daily to the Guru showing devotion and respect.

The order of Tortuous death was carried out by the Emperor's favourite general Shaikh Farid Bukhari. The Guru was imprisoned at Lahore from May 24 to May 30. Food and water were not provided to him. He was also fined Rs. 200,000 for his so called anti-social activities. His whereabouts were kept secret. According to jesuit records, ''certain gentiles (heathens or Hindus) interceded on behalf of their holy man and in the end he was allowed to purchase his freedom for a hundred thousand crusados (about two Lakhs of rupees) for which a wealthy* gentile became his surety..... But neither the Guru nor those about him could meet the demands of his tormentor.''**
*According to Dr. Ganda Singh this wealthy gentile was probably no other than the much maligned Chandu Shah of Sikh tradition. History does not help us find the name of this devotee.
**Jahangir and the jesuits, page 12.

Guru Arjan Dev being Tortured on baker's plateThe Guru was made to sit on a hot iron plate in his cell. According to Sikh historian Kesar Singh Chibber, the Guru was then made to sit on hot sand and publicly stoned near the river. A stone hit his eye after which he was tied and thrown into the river Ravi. As to who instigated the Emperor against the Guru there is hardly any doubt. Dr. Ganda Singh in his book ''Guru Arjan's Martyrdom,'' states on page 34-36 as follows: ''While a world was plunged into sorrow and grief over the death of Guru Arjan, who was not only the leader of Sikh religion, holding a position 'equivalent to that of Pope amongst the Christians,' to use the words of the Rev. Fr. Fernao Guerreiro, but was also a saint and a scholar who had given to the world a scripture of the highest order, Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi Mujaddid-e-Alfe-Sani, the leader of the Muslim Naqshbandi revivalists in the Punjab, felt jubilant over it. According to him it was a matter of great satisfaction that an acknowledged leader of the non Muslim infidels, in an area of his own influence, had been finally removed from the scene of his activities. And he expressed his exultancy to no less a person than Nawab Murtza Khan Shaikh Farid Bukhari, the favourite confidant and chief advisor of Emperor Jahangir in winning over the leading nobles to take his side in the contest for the throne by exacting from him (the Emperor) the promise on oath that in case of his success he would act as defender of the Islamic faith which, according to Jahangir himself, was in danger at the hands of Guru Arjan. Murtza Khan, as we have already mentioned, was a devoted disciple of the great Mujaddid and it was through him that the revivalists worked upon the mind of emperor Jahangir to reverse the policy of religious tolerance towards the non-Muslims followed by his father Akbar, the Great. The actual words of Shaikh Ahmad written with reference to Guru Arjan in the course of his letter No. 193 in part III of Vol. 1 of the Maktubat-e-Imam Rabbani Hazarat Majad-did-e-Alfe-Sani are:
 
 
 

Translation: 'The execution of the accursed Kafir of Goindwal at this time is a very good achievement indeed and has become the cause of a great defeat of the hateful Hindus. With whatever intention they are killed and with whatever objective they are destroyed, it is a meritorious act for the Muslims. Before this Kafir was killed, I had seen in a dream that the Emperor of the day had destroyed the crown of the head of Shirk or infidelity. It is true that this infidel was the chief of the infidels and a leader of the Kafirs... The object of levying Jeziya on them is to humiliate and insult the Kafirs and Jehad against them and hostility towards them are the necessities of the Mohammadan faith. (Maktubat I-iii, Letter No. 193, page 95-96) The Majaddid uses still stronger language against the non-Muslims in his letter No. 163, Maktubat I-iii, PP.50-53 wherein he urges upon Shaikh Farid Murtza Khan to humiliate and insult the Kafirs in every possible way, to keep them at a distance like dogs, and to destroy them whole-sale if possible.''

Guru Arjan Dev's martyrdom was thus a test case to prove that the Emperor kept his solemn promise of acting as the defender of Islam. Political expediency also dictated that the Emperor played the tune desired by his supporters. Evidently either the Mujaddid or his follower Shaikh Farid Bukhari had overtly or covertly trumped up false charges and planned the Guru's execution, and faithfully carried it out with deliberation.

In the light of the contemporary historical evidence, from direct and original sources mentioned above there is only one irresistible conclusion we can draw that Guru Arjan Dev was arrested and executed for his religious preaching under the orders of Emperor Jahangir issued during the first year of his reign. Of political necessity, he had to humour the revivalist Muhammadans, to act as defender of the Islamic faith.''*
* Dr. Ganda Singh, Guru Arjan's Martyrdom; page 46

That Guru Arjan's martyrdom is only one of numberless cruelties perpetrated by Jahangir is evident from the ''story of how two young Armenian Christian Children, aged 14 and 10 years, were ordered by Jahangir to be flogged in his own presence with a whip, used for scourging criminals, to coerce them to repeat the Kalima as a confession of the acceptance of the faith of Islam, how cruelly Jahangir 'ordered them to be. tied hand and foot and despite their protestations and cries had them circumcised then and there, in his own presence,' and how mercilessly the bleeding children were whipped again and again, under his orders and in his very presence, to make them repeat the words of the Kalima after their forcible circumcision, is too painful and heart-rending to be narrated here. The inquisitive reader is referred to pages 16-23 of ''Jahangir and the Jesuits,'' The Broadway Travellers Series, London 1930.''*
* Dr. Ganda Singh, Guru Arjan's Martyrdom; page 46
 
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