Q.1 Discuss the contribution of Muslim Rulers to the development of society and state in India? Critically examine Tara Chand’s Analysis.
Ans Upon taking the reins of power in the South Asian Sub-continent, the East
India Company officials, being aware of how sensitive Indians were of their
socio-cultural traditions, adopted a policy of “non-interference” and kept aloof from all matters related to the socio-cultural and religious affairs of the
local inhabitants. Instead, they busied themselves with the economic
exploitation of the country, the objective for which they had come to the
Nevertheless, following a vociferous clamour and pressure from the
Christian missionaries who regarded the Indian people as “primitive” and
“benighted”, and who felt duty bound to “civilize” them, the British Government in London forced the East India Company in 1813 to forsake its,
hitherto privileged, “no-interference policy” and give the evangelical
movement unrestricted access to the country as an essential precondition for
the renewal of the charter. Thus, upon setting foot in the Sub-continent, the missionaries, and even some British reform-minded officials, embarked on the process of reforming,
as well as westernizing, the Indian society. Although some of the reforms being introduced were, when looked at objectively, positive, they were always despised by the native Indians. Indeed, this brought about a widespread malaise among the natives who interpreted the Company’s
actions as part of a scheme to forcefully convert them to Christianity. Thus, the task of this paper is to set out this socio-cultural malaise.
The presence of the first Muslims on the Indian Subcontinent can be traced back to the early Arab merchants from the Arabian Peninsula, who conducted
trade with Indians on the south-western coast of the Subcontinent, particularly
on the Malabar Coast. That occurred during the seventh century, namely, almost
a century after the death of the Prophet Mohammed back in 632 A.D.19 As a
result of this contact, some Muslim trading communities were established, and
these communities were to play a significant role in peacefully converting many
native people, who were overwhelmingly of Hindu faith, to Islam later on.20
The first Muslim military action aimed at conquering the Indian
Subcontinent took place around the eighth century, when Muhammed Bin
Qasim (695-715), a young Arab general, entered the Subcontinent through the
sands of Sind for the sake of proselytization and expansion of the Damascusbased
Ommayid Empire.21Although his incursion was short-lived, Bin Qasim
paved the way for successive Muslim incursions to occur later on.22 Probably the most significant raids on the Indian Subcontinent were those conducted by the Turkish Dynasty, which took place between the eleventh and twelfth centuries (Spear 1990:221). However, despite their being successful in military terms, these irruptions did not last long as their primary aim was plunder rather than conquest (Calkins & Alam 2001). Nevertheless, the first Muslim empire in
the Indian Subcontinent, called the Slave Dynasty, was established only till the end of the twelfth century, and that was by Qutb-ud-Din Aybak.23 Thenceforward, several Muslim dynasties successively ruled the Subcontinent (Aziz 1967:17). The last to come was the Mughal Empire.
The Mughals were a Muslim dynasty that lasted for more than two hundred
years. They were originally nomad warriors from central Asia, descendants of
the Turks and Mongols.24 Many historians agree on the fact that the Mughal
Empire was one of the greatest and the most brilliant empires that history has
ever recorded (Aziz 1967:17).
The Indian Subcontinent proved to be a very difficult land to rule because
of the overwhelming Hindu culture of the local population, which contrasted sharply with the faith of the Mughals, namely Islam.
different from that spoken in another village that was only a couple of miles
away. Traditions also differed from one village to another. Be that as it may, the
Mughal emperors managed to rule with fairness and with as little
misunderstanding as possible.
Hence, since the founding of the Mughal Empire in the sixteenth century,
Muslims and Hindus have lived, though not in harmony due to their sociocultural
and religious divergences, peacefully and an atmosphere of tolerance
and mutual understanding reigned. Few instances were known of conflicts
between the Muslim rulers and their Hindu subjects. According to B. Prasad,this Muslim-Hindu peaceful co-existence had at its origin the military strength
of the Mughal army as well as the religious toleration of the Mughal emperors.25
Illustrating the latter statement, the same historian, speaking about Akbar,26
stated that “religious toleration was the keynote of the Akbar’s policy, and so
long as his successors gave the appearance of impartiality in the matter of faith, the willing submission to the Mughal Emperor was a recognised fact”
I. THE FALL OF MUSLIM HEGEMONY AND THE COMING OF THE
With the death of Aurangzeb27 Alagmir (meaning World Conqueror) in
1707, the process of the disintegration of the Mughal Empire was set in
motion.28 This was an inevitable outcome resulting from Aurangzeb’s policies.
In fact, being a fanatic Sunnite Muslim, known for his abhorrence and
intolerance of other religions, he ruled with an iron-fist policy and proceeded
with anti-non-Muslim policies that alienated most of his subjects, who were overwhelmingly of Hindu faith (Read & Fisher 1998:15). In this respect, P. Spear stated that Aurangzeb’s fanaticism led him to the extent of removing the Muslim confession of faith from all coins for fear of being defiled by nonbelievers. Also, courtiers were forbidden to salute in the Hindu fashion, and Hindu idols, temples and shrines were often destroyed (Spear 1973:373).
Besides, Aurangzeb is regarded by many historians as being a war-like
emperor. It was under his rule that the Mughal Empire reached its widest extent.
This was carried out by on-going and off-going wars, which culminated in the exhaustion of the imperial treasury, as L. James put it:
Aurangzeb overstepped himself by undertaking a series of campaigns to extend and consolidate his rule … They became a war of attrition which
stretched imperial resources beyond their breaking point, and by 1707, after
nearly twenty years of intermittent fighting, the empire was exhausted.29 As a result, in order to compensate for this financial shortage, Aurangzeb
resorted to the extortion of money by imposing heavy taxes on his subjects, mainly non-Muslims. In fact, according to A. Read and D. Fisher, Hindu
merchants were charged more than double the excise duty paid by their Muslim
counterparts on the same goods (Read & Fisher 1998:15). Furthermore,
Aurangzeb went so far as to reintroduce the Jizya, or poll tax, on non-Muslims, after it had already been abolished by the former Mughal Emperor, Akbar, by
the end of the sixteenth century.
II. THE IMPACT OF BRITISH RULE ON MUSLIMS
The coming of the British and their civilization that was at that time
prevalent in the Western World had different repercussions among the various
communities that made up the Indian Subcontinent, notably, Hindus and
Muslims. In fact, following the Battle of Plassey34 (1757), which marked the
beginning of the process of the British conquest of the Subcontinent, the
imposition of British rule took place piecemeal. The first to come under it were
the coastal areas, where three major port cities were set up, namely Bombay,
Madras and Calcutta.35
The British impact was initially felt in such coastal areas, and it happened
that the people inhabiting those areas were mostly Hindus. The latter proved to
be very receptive to foreign cultures. In fact, for Hindus, it did not matter
whoever ruled them, and the advent of the British did not make any difference. They had already been used to being ruled by foreigners. The coming of the
British was only “one imperialist sitting in the seat of another.”36 Moreover, the
Hindus took advantage of the education and liberal ideas brought by the British. According to S. Hay, the Hindus responded to the British presence on their soil
with an eagerness to learn from them whatever would contribute to their
In a word, under British rule, Hindus fared better than their Muslim
counterparts, and the latter lagged far behind. S. Hay attributes this Muslim
degeneration partly to the fact that the areas where Muslims were present,
namely the northern regions, were the last to come under British rule (Hay
1992:173). On the other hand, many other historians attribute this Muslim backwardness to the fact that Muslims were not pre-disposed to absorb “alien
ideas, methods and language of the new rulers”; thus they failed “to grasp the
opportunities available in the new structure of government” (Masselos
Muslims’ rejection of Western education and culture and their attitude
towards their successors in the seat of power had indeed many reasons. One of
these reasons was imperial pride. In fact, whereas Hindus were, by nature, too
willing to submit to the rulers, Muslims were too proud of their past glory to submit to the British. The takeover of the Indian Subcontinent by the East India Company proved to be a bitter pill for Muslims to swallow (Aziz 1967:76-77).
They had been dethroned and could not reconcile themselves with the current
status quo, as K. K. Aziz put it: “When Muslim hegemony was gone and real
power lay with the British, the Muslims would not, could not, forget that they
had once ruled over the land. Their reaction was bitter and truculent” (Aziz
As a result, they developed a hostile attitude towards the British
whom they accused of expropriating their prestige. This made the Muslim community shy away from everything associated with the British, including their culture, language, and education.50 Furthermore, this state of affairs of the Muslims led them to insularity, that is, only interested in their own culture,
ideas and so on (Aziz 1967:77). Naturally, to avoid coming under the influence
of the new culture, they clung tenaciously to the fundamental teachings of Islam
and most of them prevented their children from attending British-patronized
educational institutions throughout the different Indian provinces
III. THE IMPACT OF THE INDIAN GREAT REVOLT ON MUSLIM
Anti-British and anti-western feelings that had long been building up amongst the Muslim community culminated in the Great Revolt of 1857.54 This Revolt, which initially took the form of a mutiny amongst the Muslim as well as
Hindu Sepoys55 in the barracks and then later spread to the civilian population,
is usually considered as a restorative revolt (Ghosh 1989:7-16). This is because the aim of the insurgents, Muslims as well as Hindus, was to restore the pre-British conditions in the Subcontinent. Muslim rebels, for instance, aimed at restoring their past imperial glory. Indeed, in an attempt to restore the Mughal Empire, the Muslim Sepoys, shortly after the outbreak of the mutiny in the barracks, headed to Delhi, where they pledged allegiance to Bahadur Shah II,56
the then titular Mughal Emperor. The Great Revolt was doomed to failure, and many historians attribute this failure to, among other things, the lack of unity among the insurgents. In spite
of the fact that Muslims and Hindus joined hands in their effort to throw the
yoke of foreign rule, differences related to religion as well as the diversity of
interests served as a hamper for the cultivation of any feeling of national
sentiment among them
After independence four important bodies examined the problems of secondary education. Tara Chand Committee, 1948, suggested the multipurpose type of secondary schools without discouraging the uni-purpose schools. The University Education Commission 1948-49, which was appointed under the chairmanship of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, recommended that ‘the standard of admission to university courses should correspond to that of the present intermediate examination, i.e. after twelve years of study at school and intermediate college’ and remarked “our secondary education remains the weakest link in our educational machinery and needs urgent reform”.
Many sound views and opinions were expressed to bring about reforms in the pattern of education, but they did not result in any substantial gains.
The independence raised the hopes of educational reconstruction. The administration also became alive to the new tasks which the education had to fulfil. Every citizen who had some thinking power felt worried about the defects in the prevalent system of secondary education and wanted reorientation and reorganization of education keeping in view the needs of independent India. Accordingly, measures were taken in the five year plans for the reorganization and expansion of secondary education.
Due to constitutional provision of imparting free and compulsory education to all the children within the age group 6 to 14, during second five year plan period, the number of elementary schools and the enrolment therein increased considerably. So necessity arose for the expansion of secondary education. Private bodies, voluntary organisations, as well as government took the initiative and as a result of which large number of secondary schools were established in different parts of the country.
At the beginning of the first five-year plan there were 202, 884 secondary schools with 52,32,009 students in India. The government of India realized the magnitude of the problem of secondary education and according to the suggestion of the Central Advisory board of Education appointed a full fledged Commission to examine the prevailing system of secondary education and to suggest measures for its reorganization and improvement.
As a matter of fact, large number of students completes their academic career at this stage. They either enter into the public life, or undertake teaching work in primary schools or go to universities for higher education. Thus, secondary education exercised considerable influence on the standard of education both at the primary and university level. Keeping all these considerations in view the Government of India appointed the Secondary Education Commission on September 23, 1952, under the chairmanship of Dr. A. Lakshmanswami Mudaliar, Vice-Chancellor of Madras University.
Recommendations of Mudaliar Commission (1952-53):
The landmark in the reconstruction of India’s secondary education is the Secondary Education Commission report 1952- 53. The recommendations made in the report have set the pace for reform of education in this field. Secondary education forms the basis for higher education as well as for large number of vocations which the students undertake in their future life.
If the system of secondary education will be properly organised it will not be difficult to deal effectively with different problems confronting the country. The role of secondary education in the plans of national reconstruction in general and in the programmes of educational reorientation in particular is of utmost importance.
Defects in the Exiting System:
(i) Lack of definite aim;
(ii) Over-crowded syllabus;
(iii) Education imparted in the school is isolated from life;
(iv) Traditional method of teaching fails to develop in students the power of independent thinking;
(v) System of education is narrow, one sided and fails to train the whole personality of the students;
(vi) No scope for vocational education;
(vii) Non-existence of multipurpose schools;
(viii) No scope for the teachers for self-expression;
(ix) Over crowded class and no personal contact between teacher and taught;
(x) No opportunity for supplementing the education given in the school;
(xi) Education is too bookish, mechanical stereotyped, rigidly uniformed to cater to the different aptitudes of the pupils or to the pupils of different aptitudes;
(xii) Does not develop those basic qualities of discipline, cooperation and leadership;
(xiii) English is the medium of instruction and compulsory subject of study, which considerably impedes the progress of pupils;
(xiv) The dead weight of examinations has tended to curb the teachers’ initiative and discourage all spirits of experimentation;
Taking into consideration the existing defects, the Commission gave certain valuable recommendations regarding aims and objectives, organisational pattern, teaching personnel, curriculum and various other aspects of secondary education.