Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Two historians of Akbar's era -- Abul Fazl and Mullah Abdul Qadir Badayuni, one a so-called liberal and other a conservative and a possible heretic

When it comes to reading about Mughal emperor Akbar's time, the dominant fashion is to rely on Abul Fazl's Akbar Namah. Abul Fazl, his brother Faizi and their father Mullah Mubarak Nagori were the liberal lights at the court, who exemplified Akbar's openness and policy of pluralism and tolerance. Modern historians writing about Akbar would generally cite Abul Fazl, and Mullah Abdul Qadir Badayuni is quoted just to provide a critical comment.
There is an Urdu translation of Badayuni's Muntakhab al-Tawarikh, done by Dr Aleem Ashraf Khan, and published in 2008 by the Qaumi Council Bara-e-Farogh Urdu Zabaan, New Delhi in two volumes. They are available in a bookshop of the Council in Urdu Bazar at Jama Masjid.
Khan observes in his translator's note that Abul Fazl was the successful court historian and Badayuni despite his efforts to be recognised as one could not attain that position.
Badayuni was recognised for his Persian literary writings and his education was wide and deep. He learned Arabic and the Quran, Farsee as well as astronomy and mathematics, logic and had knowledge of Indian raagas and raaginis. But he also made his name as a historian.

Khan comparing Abul Fazl's history with that of Badayuni, says:

"mutarjuma koi morakh nahin hai jo muntakhab al-tawarikh  ki tarikhi ahmiyat aur khususiyaat par raay-e-zani kare. albatta farsee zabaan-o-adab ek adani taalib  ki haisiyat se ye keh sakta hai ke jahaan tak akbar naameh ka taluq hai toh humain maloom hai ke abul fazl ki tarikh ko sarkaari aur darbaari ka darja mila hua thaa. is liye akbar bazaat khud abul fazl ke andaraajaat ko padhwaa kar sunta tha aur hasb marzi is mein radd-o-badal bhi kiya jaata thaa. is liye kisi had tak akbar namah ko hum ek aisi tarikh keh sakte hai jis mein badshah waqt ki raaye aur marzee-o-mizaaj ka asar dikhaee deta hai. jab ke mullah abdul qair badayuni ki tarikh ghair sarkari aur shaqsi-o-zaati nau ee'at ki tarikh hai jis mein sataaish ki tamanna aur sile ki parwaah ko dakhal nahin hai. isee liye is mein agar badayuni ko kisee baat ikhtalaaf hai toh shadeed tanqeed dekhne ko miltee hai jab ke abul fazl ki tarikh mein is nauee'at ke andaraajaat nahin hai aur shaayad ho bhi nahin sakte thhe."

(The translator is no historian who would be able to comment on the historical importance of Muntakhab al-Tawarikh. But as a student of Persian language and literature he can say that as far as Akbar Namah is concerned we know that it has the status of an official and court chronicle. That is why, we know that Akbar would have Abul Fazl's text read to him and as and when he pleased he would make changes. That is why, we can say that to an extent Akbar Namah is that history in which we can see the influence and opinion of the king of the time. While in the case of Mullah Abdul Qadir Badayuni's history is unofficial, personal and private in which the expectation of a reward and concern for praise has no place. That is why, if Badayuni disagrees with something it can be seen in the strong criticism he expresses something that cannot be seen in bul Fazl's history. Perhaps it is not even to be found there.)

It is not really the case that Badayuni was a rival and opponent of Abul Fazl. As a matter of fact, he got a place in the court because of Sheikh Mubarak Nagori, and Abul Fazl put him in the translation branch. Badayuni was involved in the translation of Mahabharata, known in the translation as "Razm Namah" along with Naqeeb Khan. He was also involved in the translation of Atharvana Veda but he could not succeed. The task was then given to Abul Fazl and his brother Faizi. Badayuni second book was "Ala Haadees" which was on archery and jihad (war) based on 60 "hadith" or sayings of the Prophet. Then in a period six years he translated the Ramayana on his own, after which he also completed the translation of history of Kashmir begun by Sultan Zain Al Abedeen.

Abdul Qadir Badayuni was devoted to Sheikh Abu Fateh Gujarati, son-in-law of Mir Syed Mahdi Jaunpuri, and it was for this reason he was suspected to be a Mahdawi. 

After the invocation and dedication to the Quran and the Prophet, he speaks of the discipline of history and defends it. In the chapter headed, "Ilm Tarikh"(Knowledge of History), he says:

 "...ilm tarikh ek ilm shareef aur fan lateef hai. is liye yeh ahl-e-khair ka sarmaaya ibrat aur ahl-e-aql ka aaina tajrubaat hai."

(The knowledge of history is the knowledge of the good and it is a delicate art. That is why, it is the treasure of the wise and the mirror of experience of the intelligent people.)

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad in his Tazkira has some interesting things to say about Abul Fazl, Sheikh Mubarak and cites Badayuni while writing critically about the religious policy of Akbar in his early days. He argues that Abul Fazl and other court theologians had issued a directive that the king should also be the religious leader capable of settling matters of faith and wanted other theologians to endorse it. There were a few, including the spiritual mentors of Azad's ancestors who refused to toe the official line on this religious issue.

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