The Far Reaching Implications of the Medieval Muslim Chronicler's Psyche on the History of the Future
History Vignettes

The Far Reaching Implications of the Medieval Muslim Chronicler's Psyche on the History of the Future

Concluding part of the series examining the psyche of medieval Muslim chroniclers and its implications on the future of writing history

Sandeep Balakrishna

Sandeep Balakrishna

In this series

The near exclusive goal and purpose of Muslim histories was (and remains) to keep a meticulous and detailed record of episodes, treaties, victories, dates and facts that narrated the glories of Islam’s flag planted in non-Islamic lands. This serves a twofold interest: to motivate the community to never remain in peace, to keep them in a psychological state of war-readiness to conquer what remains of the rest of the Darul Harb, and to reinforce the preordained divination of the inevitable victory of Islam over the whole world. One of the gold standard bigots, the 13th-14th century historian, Ziauddin Barani, spells it out explicitly: “the history of Islamic conquests across the world is an unravelling of the divine plan of Allah.”

The contemporary warrior-Rishi, Sri Sita Ram Goel recounts an interesting incident that he witnessed about a decade before the partition of India. He narrates how a Muslim preacher publicly incited a Muslim crowd by narrating the stupendous victory of Islam throughout history in a vast expanse of the world: (pre-Muhammadan) Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Syria, Algeria, Iran, etc, and how the preacher had to admit Islam’s defeat in India, for which he used the invective, “kambhakt mulk” (horrible/accursed country), which was still “crawling with kufr (infidelism) in spite of all those arduous endeavours undertaken by the heroes of Islam.” This preacher could well be a 20th century cousin of Barani, far removed in time but pristine in his feverish bigotry. This preacher also reveals an important theme underscoring Muslim histories which we shall soon examine.

Muslim Historical Traditions and Genres

Broadly speaking, Muslim histories follow two major traditions: the Arabic and the Persian. The latter eventually dominated history writing in the Muslim world, especially in India. But the root inspiration for the Persian tradition remained Arabic for a straightforward reason, again rooted in theology: the selfsame glorification of Islam’s victories.

The earliest of formal Muslim histories were adapted from the pre-Islamic Arabian poetry form, Qasida or ode or genealogy set to metre and rhyme. Eventually, newer genres or formats of history writing evolved:

  • Sirah: biographies

  • Ansab: genealogies

  • Tabaqat: sketches or profiles

  • Tarikh: chronology or annals or history

  • Malfuzat: memoirs

  • Maghazi: war narratives

  • Maktubat: letters, correspondence

Uniformly, all these genres begin with a benediction to the greatness and mercy of Allah, narrate the rise of Muhammad, extoll his glories followed by the upsurge of Islam and its conquests, list out the prowess and grandeur of the first four Caliphs and then the great heroes (Ghazi) of the Only True Faith, and finally arrive at the author’s own time. Every event, person, battle, treaty, victory, premonition, judgement, and law is assiduously justified by some verse(s) in the Islamic scripture.

Common Traits of Medieval Muslim Chroniclers

Every major and minor medieval Muslim chronicler shared several common traits. The first, apart from their inveterate bigotry, is their barbarous hatred for Hindus. The second is an insatiable thirst for all-encompassing destruction, rapine, plunder, slave-taking and humiliation of infidel Hindus. The third is a savage hunger for temple demolitions. The fourth is a depraved propensity and constant itch to humiliate the infidels by inventing ever-new forms of degrading them. The fifth, we shall examine a little later.

All of this was described in language that defies belief and is the surest proof of the degenerate psyche that wrote it. It is inconceivable that a human can even imagine this level of textual demonism. As we noted in the previous part, there is no vice that these chroniclers abhor and no virtue that they don’t shun. The perverse delight that they take in describing extreme, wanton brutalities on Hindus both during and in the aftermath of a military victory and in peacetime cannot be equaled even by a gold-standard sadist.

We can begin with a brilliant characterisation of this psyche.

The [Muslim invader] was a typical specimen of the ferocious Central Asian warriors of the time, merciless and fanatical. His valour and profuse liberality to his comrades endeared him to the bloodthirsty historian of his age, who praises him as having been a ' beneficent and victorious monarch. . . . His gifts we are told, 'were bestowed by hundreds of thousands, and his slaughters likewise were by hundreds of thousands.' All the leaders in the Muslim conquest of Hindostan similarly rejoiced in committing wholesale massacres of Hindu idolaters, armed or unarmed.

Vincent Smith

al-Hajjaj
al-Hajjaj

The more feral the barbarian sultan is, the greater the hero, and the more pious Ghazi he is in the eyes of his contemporary chroniclers. It appears as though there’s a theological straight line that connects barbarism and religious piety in this scheme of things. This then is the other common trait shared by medieval Muslim chroniclers: they were shameless flatters and naked lickspittles of their sultans. One of the original historians of the previous century, Dr. K.S. Lal notes that “Islamic historiography has remained clerical in nature.” That’s putting it mildly because this sort of “history” writing has its unique genre: Panegyrics of Fanatical Bestiality.

But Vincent Smith perceptively notices the other side to this when he writes this in a rather moving fashion.

The modern reader of the panegyrics recorded by Muslim authors in praise of 'beneficent' monarchs who slaughtered their hundreds of thousands with delight often longs for an account of their character as it appeared to the friends and countrymen of the victims. But no voice has come from the grave, and the story of the Muhammadan conquest as seen from the Hindu point of view was never written, except to some extent…

It appears that no amount and extent of could satisfy both the bigoted Islamic conqueror and his kindred toady chronicler. R.C. Majumdar notes how all “these atrocities were the normal accompaniments of Muslim conquest.”

But even these fell short of Islamic ideals. For when Muhammad sent a detailed report of the conquest to Hajjaj he mildly rebuked Muhammad [bin Qasim] for having spared the lives of some [Hindus]. The following passage in his letter reveals that the barbarous practices, referred to above, were regarded to be in full agreement with Islamic theory. “ The ways and rules you follow are conformable to the law… God says, give no quarter to infidels, but cut their throats…

But these were the words of the notorious Muslim tyrant, al-Hajjaj, the governor of Baghdad, not a historian or writer, therefore lacking in the requisite literary flourishes to extoll his bigotry. That was supplied by the “real” chroniclers. So, let’s look at a few of the bloodiest and the most bigoted samples.

Samples of the Psyche of the Medieval Muslim Chronicler

The chronicler, Al Utbi writes about sultan Mahmud of Ghazni’s treatment of Jayapaladeva, one of the noblest Sanatana heroes.

…Jayapala’s children, grandchildren, relatives, nephews, generals, and the “chief men of his tribe” were bound with ropes and carried before the Sultan, like as evildoers, on whose faces the fumes of infidelity are evident, who are covered with the vapours of misfortune, will be bound and carried to Hell… The Sultan directed that the polluted infidel Jaipal should be paraded about, so that his sons and chieftains might see him in that condition of shame, bonds, and disgrace and that the fear of Islam might fly abroad through the country of the infidels.

Next, he narrates what Mahmud did to Nawasa Shah, who had done Ghar Wapsi, had reverted to his ancestral Hindu Dharma.

Satan had got the better of Nawasa Shah, for he was again apostatizing towards the pit of plural worship, and had thrown off the slough of Islam, and held conversation with the chiefs of idolatry respecting the casting off the firm rope of religion from his neck. So the Sultan went swifter than the wind in that direction, and made the sword reek with the blood of his enemies…then cut down the harvest of idolatry with the sickle of his sword and spear. After God had granted him this and the previous victory, which were tried witnesses as to his exalted state and proselytism, he returned without difficulty to Ghazna.

We can now turn to Hasan Nizami, a chronicler of Muhammad of Ghori’s period.

Kutub-ud-din [Aibak], on whose fortunate forehead the light of world-conquest shone conspicuous... purged by his sword the land of Hind from the filth of infidelity and vice, and freed the whole of that country from the thorn of God-plurality, and the impurity of idol-worship, and by his royal vigour and intrepidity, left not one temple standing.

Nizami is ecstatic at the invasion of Ajmer by Ghori.

The victorious army...departed towards Ajmer. When the crow-faced Hindus began to sound their white shells on the backs of the elephants, you would have said that a river of pitch was flowing impetuously down the face of a mountain of blue. The army of Islam was completely victorious, and a hundred thousand grovelling Hindus swiftly departed to the fire of hell. He destroyed (at Ajmer) the pillars and foundations of the idol temples, and built in their stead mosques and colleges, and the precepts of Islam, and the customs of the law were divulged and established.

Then we have the fanatical lament of the selfsame Ziauddin Barani who still can't come to terms with the fact that Hindustan is still not fully converted, that the infidels are not properly oppressed.

What is our defence of the faith, cried Sultan Jalaluddin Khalji, that we suffer these Hindus, who are the greatest enemies of God and of the religion of Mustafa, to live in comfort and do not flow streams of their blood?

In the previous part of this series, we’ve seen how Amir Khusrau described the “splendour” of Islam in Hindustan where “our holy warriors, has become like a forest denuded of its thorns by fire. Islam is triumphant, idolatry is subdued.” Both Barani and Khusrau were prized disciples of the Sufi bigot Nizamuddin Auliya. The fact that an important train station in Delhi is after Nizamuddin is just another prime indicator of the ingested dhimmitude on the part of the Hindus.

Aside, like all loyal skull-cap grandees of Hindu secularists, the late Girish Karnad dutifully swallowed Barani’s bigotry and used his “history” to write his play, Tughlaq.

And here’s Qazi Mughisuddin, who doubled up as a legal advisor to Ala-ud-din Khalji. This is his prescription on how the sultan should treat the Dhimmi infidel Hindus:

The Hindu should pay the taxes with meekness and humility coupled with the utmost respect and free from all reluctance. Should the collector choose to spit in his mouth, he should open the same without hesitation, so that the official may spit into it… God Almighty Himself (in the Quran) commands their complete degradation in as much as these Hindus are the deadliest foes of the true prophet.

Indeed, a glowing model of Islamic religious tolerance and composite culture.

These examples are less than a fraction of the Himalayan volumes of such histories written firsthand by these medieval Muslim chroniclers. All available in public domain for the interested reader.

We shall look at one last example that perfectly illustrates another facet of the psyche of these chroniclers. This is Minhaj-us-Siraj, a sycophant par excellence, writing about the barbarian, Balban.

The Almighty desired to grant support to the power of Islam and to the strength of the Muhammadan faith, to extend his glorious shadow over it, and to preserve Hindustan within the range of his favour... He therefore removed… [Balban] in his youth from Turkistan, and separated him from his race...and conveyed him to the country (of Hindustan)... His success was so great that other nobles began to look upon it with jealousy, and the thorn of envy began to rankle in their hearts. But it was the will of God that he should excel them all, so that the more the fire of their envy burnt, the stronger did the incense of his fortune rise from the censer of the times.

This is the exalted art of culling sycophancy from divine sources. Minhaj-us-Siraj’s work must be made a prescribed textbook for the courtiers and concubines of the Congress party.

Divine Hypocrisy

The fifth trait of these medieval Muslim chroniclers is their behaviour in three important circumstances: one, when their favourite sultan or marauder is defeated; two, when he attacks other Muslim rulers and invaders; and three, when he violates the tenets of Islam in his quest for political power. The hypocrisy comes a full circle on all three counts. Thus, Mahmud of Ghazni’s unfruitful siege at Kalinjara (modern day Bundelkhand) is glossed over and even whitewashed as his “benevolence” instead of a retreat. Iltutmish’s defeat and killing of his arch foe Taj-ud-din Yildiz is described in polite terms by Hasan Nizami. Then our familiar culprit Minhaj-us-Siraj is conspicuously silent about Balban’s unscrupulous usurpation of power from his own son-in-law.

Balban
Balban

The sixth and final trait of these chroniclers is an almost yawning absence of any description of the life of the common people of Hindustan. For two important reasons. Given the exalted position they enjoyed in the ruling class, they spent most of their time finding ways to fawn over their patrons and were busy in alcohol and debauchery. The second reason directly relates to the basic nature of an Islamic despotism especially in India. The majority were Hindus meant to be oppressed and exploited and not governed. Thus, the chroniclers who followed their tyrannical masters were similarly busy devising more innovative ways of oppressing the Kaffirs and Dhimmis. This is the picture of a typical Muslim rule as late as the nineteenth century.

If.. we turn our eyes to the present Muhammadan kingdoms of India, and examine the character of the princes, and the condition of the people subject to their sway, we may…draw a parallel between ancient and modem times…we behold kings… sunk in sloth and debauchery, and emulating the vices of a Caligula… we can gather, that the common people must have been plunged into the lowest depths of wretchedness and despondency.… Should any…functionary entertain the desire of emulating the ‘‘exceedingly magnifical structures of his Moghal predecessors, it will check his aspirations to learn, that beyond palaces and porticos, temples, and tombs, there is little worthy of emulation…in the long line of Dehli Emperors, the comfort and happiness of the people were never contemplated by them ; and with the exception of a few serais and bridges…he will see nothing in which purely selfish considerations did not prevail… there is not one which subserves any purpose of general utility.

These words were written by the outstanding duo that over a decade, painstakingly recovered, collated, and indexed the primary source histories of medieval Muslim chronicles: Elliot and Dowson, compilers of the majestic History of India as told by its own Historians in eight volumes. Still the standard volumes. Still the unremovable thorn in the flesh of the Aligarh school charlatans and Marxist distorians.

Whitewashing and Erasing the Present 

The psyche has remained the same. Only, the tactics and methods have changed in vastly altered political landscapes and world order. It is precisely because of this change that whitewashing of these firsthand chroniclers became an urgent imperative. Utbi, Siraj, Nizami, Barani, and Ferishta were at least candid about their perverse bigotry. But that’s part of remote history.

However, what is the manner in which the present is being chronicled across the world? Censorship. Shadow bans. Downgrading or disappearing Google search results. Prohibition on the usage of certain terminology. The mythical Islamophobia. And who are actually implementing all these? Non-Muslims. In the case of India, the current generation of the secularist brood, most of who are Hindus.

And what will be the exact nature of the history of 21st century Islam that two generations from now will read?

See the far-reaching consequences of examining just one minuscule aspect called the psyche of the medieval Muslim chroniclers?

|| Om Tat Sat ||

Concluded

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