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Territorial peak of Mughal India during Aurangzeb's sharia rule, the world's largest economy (17th century).[1]

Islamic rule in India or sometimes referred as Muslim rule in India mainly began in the course of the gradual Muslim conquest in the Indian subcontinent starting from the end of the 12th century, lasting till the 19th century's dominion of the British Raj, although some of the aspects of the Islamic rule existed until the division of British India in 1947.[2]

The Islamic rule strongly culminated in the Delhi Sultanate, Bengal Sultanate, Deccan Sultanates, Suri Empire, Mughal Empire, the late 18th century's Kingdom of Mysore and several other kingdoms, ruling most of South Asia during the mid-14th to late-18th centuries.[3] The Islamic rulers of Delhi include those of the Mamluk dynasty (1206–90), the Khalji dynasty (1290–1320), the Tughlaq dynasty (1320–1414),[4] the Sayyid dynasty (1414–51), and the Lodi dynasty (1451–1526). Razia Sultana has been the only female Islamic ruler. The wealthy Bengal Sultanate was ruled by the Hussain Shahi dynasty.

The peak of the Islamic rule was marked during the reign of Mughal Emperor Muhammad Aurangzeb Alamgir. As the most powerful Muslim ruler in Indian history, Aurangzeb fully established sharia and Islamic economics across most of the South Asian lands and compiled the Fatwa Alamgiri, which served as the Mughal India's legal system.

The Islamic rule gradually declined after Nader Shah's invasion and the conquests of the British East India Company's, which increased the dominance of the Hindu Maratha Empire and Sikh Empire.

After the defeat of the last independent Nawab of Bengal, Siraj ud-Daulah , South India's Tipu Sultan and their French allies, the eventual end of the period of Islamic rule of India is marked mainly by the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and the beginning of British rule, although Islamic rule persisted in Hyderabad State by the Nizams and other minor princely states until the Partition of India in 1947. Today's modern Pakistan and Bangladesh, despite the absence of a Quranic legal system, remain the only Muslim majority nations in the Indian subcontinent.

Delhi SultanateEdit

According to various narratives, the successors of Kerala's ruler Cheraman Perumal Tajuddin with the support of Malik Dinar established the first Muslim rule in India.[5][6][7]

Military invasions of Muhammad Bin Qasim did not establish direct Islamic rule in India, however Mahmud of Ghazni's conquests through jihad is thought to be the earliest form of sultanate in South Asia. During the last quarter of the 12th century, Muhammad of Ghor invaded the Indo-Gangetic plain, conquering in succession Ghazni, Multan, Sindh, Lahore, and Delhi. Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khalji conquered Bengal and weakened the Buddhist establishments. Qutb-ud-din Aybak, one of his generals proclaimed himself Sultan of Delhi. In the 13th century, Shamsuddīn Iltutmish (1211–1236), a former slave-warrior, established a Turkic kingdom in Delhi, which enabled future sultans to push in every direction; within the next 100 years, the Delhi Sultanate extended its way east to Bengal and south to the Deccan, while the sultanate itself experienced repeated threats from the northwest and internal revolts from displeased, independent-minded nobles. The sultanate was in constant flux as five dynasties, all of either Turkic or Afghan origin,[8] rose and fell: the Slave dynasty (1206–90), Khalji dynasty (1290–1320), Tughlaq dynasty (1320–1413), Sayyid dynasty (1414–51), and Lodi dynasty (1451–1526). The Khalji dynasty, under 'Alā'uddīn (1296–1316), succeeded in bringing most of South India under its control for a time, although conquered areas broke away quickly. Power in Delhi was often gained by violence—nineteen of the thirty-five sultans were assassinated—and was legitimized by reward for tribal loyalty. Factional rivalries and court intrigues were as numerous as they were treacherous; territories controlled by the sultan expanded and shrank depending on his personality and fortunes.

The Khalji Dynasty under Alauddin Khilji in 1316

Both the Qur'an and sharia (Islamic law) provided the basis for enforcing Islamic administration over the independent Hindu rulers, but the sultanate made only fitful progress in the beginning when many campaigns were undertaken for plunder and temporary reduction of fortresses. The effective rule of a sultan depended largely on his ability to control the strategic places that dominated the military highways and trade routes, extract the annual land tax, and maintain personal authority over military and provincial governors. Sultan 'Ala ud-Din made an attempt to reassess, systematize, and unify land revenues and urban taxes and to institute a highly centralized system of administration over his realm, but his efforts were abortive. Although agriculture in North India improved as a result of new canal construction and irrigation methods, including what came to be known as the Persian wheel, prolonged political instability and parasitic methods of tax collection brutalized the peasantry. Yet trade and a market economy, encouraged by the free-spending habits of the aristocracy, acquired new impetus both in and overseas. Experts in metalwork, stonework, and textile manufacture responded to the new patronage with enthusiasm. In this period Persian language and many Persian cultural aspects became dominant in the centers of power in Meric'a, as the rulers of the Delhi Sultanate (who, though being Turkish or Afghan, had been thoroughly Persianized since the era of the Ghaznavids)[9] patronized aspects of the foreign culture and language from their seat of power in India.

Southern dynastiesEdit

The sultans' failure to hold securely the Deccan and South India resulted in the rise of competing for Southern dynasties: the Muslim Bahmani Sultanate (1347–1527) and the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire (1336–1565). Zafar Khan, a former provincial governor under the Tughluqs, revolted against his Turkic overlord and proclaimed himself sultan, taking the title Ala-ud-Din Bahman Shah in 1347. The Bahmani Sultanate, located in the northern Deccan, lasted for almost two centuries, until it fragmented into five smaller states, known as the Deccan sultanates (Bijapur, Golconda, Ahmednagar, Berar, and Bidar) in 1527. The Bahmani Sultanate adopted the patterns established by the Delhi overlords in tax collection and administration, but its downfall was caused in large measure by the competition and hatred between Deccani (domiciled Muslim immigrants and local converts) and paradesi (foreigners or officials in temporary service). The Bahmani Sultanate initiated a process of cultural synthesis visible in Hyderabad where cultural flowering is still expressed in vigorous schools of Deccani architecture and painting.

Founded in 1336, the Vijayanagara Empire (named for its capital Vijayanagara (Vijayanagar), "City of Victory," in present-day Karnataka) expanded rapidly toward Madurai in the south and Goa in the west and exerted intermittent control over the east coast and the extreme southwest. Vijayanagara rulers closely followed Chola precedents, especially in collecting agricultural and trade revenues, in giving encouragement to commercial guilds, and in honoring temples with lavish endowments. Added revenue needed for waging war against the Bahmani sultans was raised by introducing a set of taxes on commercial enterprises, professions, and industries. Political rivalry between the Bahmani and the Vijayanagara rulers involved control over the Krishna-Tungabhadra river basin, which shifted hands depending on whose military was superior at any given time. The Vijayanagar rulers' capacity for gaining victory over their enemies was contingent on ensuring a constant supply of horses—initially through Arab traders but later through the Portuguese—and maintaining internal roads and communication networks. Merchant guilds enjoyed a wide sphere of operation and were able to offset the power of landlords and Brahmans in court politics. Commerce and shipping eventually passed largely into the hands of foreigners, and special facilities and tax concessions were provided for them by the ruler.

The city of Vijayanagara itself contained numerous temples with rich ornamentation, especially the gateways, and a cluster of shrines for the deities. Most prominent among the temples was the one dedicated to Virupaksha, a manifestation of Shiva, the patron-deity of the Vijayanagar rulers. Temples continued to be the nuclei of diverse cultural and intellectual activities, but these activities were based more on tradition than on contemporary political realities. When the rulers of the five Deccan sultanates combined their forces and attacked Vijayanagara in 1565, the empire crumbled at the Battle of Talikot. Most Muslim rulers of south India were Shia muslims.[10] After the activitied of the British East India Company, Mysore's Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan ruled most of South Asia and fought the Anglo-Mysore Wars.

Mughal eraEdit

Taj Mahal
Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, under whose reign Islamic rule in India reached its economic and military height.

The Mughal Empire was founded by Babur, a Timurid prince and ruler from Central Asia. Babur was a direct descendant of the Timurid Emperor Tamerlane on his father's side, and the Mongol ruler Genghis Khan, on his mother's side.[11] Ousted from his ancestral domains in Turkistan by Sheybani Khan, the 14-year old Prince Babur turned to India to satisfy his ambitions.[citation needed] He established himself in Kabul and then pushed steadily southward into India from Afghanistan through the Khyber Pass.[11] Babur's forces occupied much of northern India after his victory at Panipat in 1526.[11] The preoccupation with wars and military campaigns, however, did not allow the new emperor to consolidate the gains he had made in India.[citation needed] The instability of the empire became evident under his son, Humayun, who was driven into exile in Persia by rebels.[11] Humayun's exile in Persia established diplomatic ties between the Safavid and Mughal Courts, and led to increasing West Asian cultural influence in the Mughal court.[citation needed] The restoration of Mughal rule began after Humayun's triumphant return from Persia in 1555, but he died from an accident shortly afterwards.[11] Humayun's son, Akbar, succeeded to the throne under a regent, Bairam Khan, who helped consolidate the Mughal Empire in India.[citation needed]

Through warfare and diplomacy, Akbar was able to extend the empire in all directions, and controlled almost the entire Indian subcontinent north of the Godavari river.[citation needed] He created a new ruling elite loyal to him, implemented a modern administration, and encouraged cultural developments. He increased trade with European trading companies.[11] The Indian historian Abraham Eraly wrote that foreigners were often impressed by the fabulous wealth of the Mughal court, but the glittering court hid darker realities, namely that about a quarter of the empire's gross national product was owned by 655 families while the bulk of India's 120 million people lived in appalling poverty.[12] After suffering what appears to have been an epileptic seizure in 1578 while hunting tigers, which he regarded as a religious experience, Akbar grew disenchanted with Islam, and came to embrace a syncretistic mixture of Hinduism and Islam.[13] Akbar allowed freedom of religion at his court, and attempted to resolve socio-political and cultural differences in his empire by establishing a new religion, Din-i-Ilahi, with strong characteristics of a ruler cult.[11] He left his son an internally stable state, which was in the midst of its golden age.[11]

Akbar's son, Jahangir, "was addicted to opium, neglected the affairs of the state, and came under the influence of rival court cliques".[11] During the reign of Jahangir's son, Shah Jahan, the splendour of the Mughal court reached its peak, as exemplified by the Taj Mahal. The cost of maintaining the court, however, began to exceed the revenue coming in.[11]

Shah Jahan's eldest son, the liberal Dara Shikoh, became regent in 1658, as a result of his father's illness.[citation needed] Dara championed Akbar's Din-i Ilahi. With the support of the Islamic orthodoxy, however, a younger son of Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb, seized the throne. Aurangzeb defeated Dara in 1659 and had him executed.[11] Although Shah Jahan fully recovered from his illness, Aurangzeb declared him incompetent to rule and had him imprisoned.

During Aurangzeb's reign, the empire gained political strength once again, and it surpassed China and became the world's largest economy, over a quarter of the world GDP, as well as the richest empire in the world, but his establishment of full Sharia and re introduction of jizya through the Fatwa Alamgiri caused controversies. Aurangzeb expanded the empire to include almost the whole of South Asia,[citation needed] but a few years after his death in 1707, "many parts of the empire were in open revolt".[11] Aurangzeb's didn't attempt to reconquer his family's ancestral lands in Central Asia while his successful conquest of the Deccan region expanded the empire to its greatest extent of almost 4,400,000sq kms.[14] A further problem for Aurangzeb was the army had always been based upon the land-owning aristocracy of northern India who provided the cavalry for the campaigns, and the empire had nothing equivalent to the Janissary corps of the Ottoman Empire.[15] The long and costly conquest of the Deccan had badly dented the "aura of success" that surrounded Aurangzeb, and from the late 17th century onwards, the aristocracy become increasing unwilling to provide forces for the empire's wars as the prospect of being rewarded with land as a result of a successful war was seen as less and less likely.[16] Furthermore, the fact that at the conclusion of the conquest of the Deccan, Aurangzeb had very selectively rewarded some of the noble families with confiscated land in the Deccan had left those aristocrats who received no confiscated land as reward and for whom the conquest of the Deccan had cost dearly, feeling strongly disgruntled and unwilling to participate in further campaigns.[17] Aurangzeb's son, Shah Alam, repealed the religious policies of his father, and attempted to reform the administration. However, after his death in 1712, the Mughal dynasty sank into chaos and violent feuds. "In the year 1719 alone, four emperors successively ascended the throne".[11]

During the reign of Muhammad Shah, the empire began to break up, and vast tracts of central India passed from Mughal to Maratha hands. Mughal warfare had always been based upon heavy artillery for sieges, heavy cavalry for offensive operations and light cavalry for skirmishing and raids.[14] To control a region, the Mughals had always sought to occupy a strategic fortress in some region, which would serve as a nodal point from which the Mughal army would emerge to take on any enemy that challenged the empire.[14] This system was not only expensive, but also made the army somewhat inflexible as the assumption was always the enemy would retreat into a fortress to be besieged or would engage in a set-piece decisive battle of annihilation on open ground.[14] The Hindu Marathas were expert horsemen who refused to engage in set-piece battles, but rather engaged in campaigns of guerrilla warfare, a war of raids, ambushes and attacks upon the Mughal supply lines.[14] The Marathas were unable to take the Mughal fortresses via storm or formal siege as they lacked the artillery, but by constantly intercepting supply columns, they were able to starve Mughal fortresses into submission.[14] Successive Mughal commanders refused to adjust their tactics and develop an appropriate counter-insurgency strategy, which led to the Mughals losing more and more ground to the Maratha.[14] The Indian campaign of Nader Shah of Persia culminated with the Sack of Delhi and shattered the remnants of Mughal power and prestige, as well as drastically accelerating its decline and alarming other far-off invaders, including the later British. Many of the empire's elites now sought to control their own affairs, and broke away to form independent kingdoms.[citation needed] The Mughal Emperor, however, continued to be the highest manifestation of sovereignty. Not only the Muslim gentry, but the Maratha, Hindu, and Sikh leaders took part in ceremonial acknowledgements of the emperor as the sovereign of India.[18] Kingdom of Mysore's rulers Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, who sought allegiance with French Napoleon and fought the Anglo-Mysore wars, have compiled the Fathul Mujahidin and pioneered various powerful weapons. Both are considered to be India's first freedom fighters and the last effective Islamic rulers in India.

In the next decades, the Afghans, Sikhs, and Marathas battled against each other and the Mughals, only to prove the fragmented state of the empire. The Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II made futile attempts to reverse the Mughal decline, and ultimately had to seek the protection of outside powers. In 1784, the Marathas under Mahadji Scindia won acknowledgement as the protectors of the emperor in Delhi, a state of affairs that continued until after the Second Anglo-Maratha War. Thereafter, the British East India Company became the protectors of the Mughal dynasty in Delhi.[18] After a crushed rebellion which he nominally led in 1857–58, the last Mughal, Bahadur Shah Zafar, was deposed by the British government, who then assumed formal control of a large part of the former empire,[11] marking the start of the British Raj.

Mughal Empire in early 18th century

Nizams of HyderabadEdit

Nizam, a shortened version for Nizam-ul-Mulk, meaning Administrator of the Realm, was the title of the native sovereigns of Hyderabad state, India, since 1719, belonging to the Asaf Jah dynasty. The dynasty was founded by Mir Qamar-ud-Din Siddiqi, a viceroy of the year Deccan under the Mughal emperors from 1713 to 1721 who intermittently ruled under the title Asaf Jah in 1924. After Bahadur Shah's death in 1712, the Mughal Empire crumbled, and the viceroy in Hyderabad, Asaf Jah, declared himself independent in 1719. Mir Osman Ali Khan was the last Nizam of the Kingdom of Hyderabad who also served as the Rajpramukh of newly formed state of Andhra Pradesh.

Independent kingdom of Hyderabad in 1909

Mysore and other Islamic rulersEdit

Portrait of Tipu Sultan, India's first freedom fighter against the British.

The Nawabs of Awadh ruled major area covering the current day Uttar Pradesh. Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan briefly held power in Mysore kingdom. Many other princely states other that of Hyderabad had Islamic rulers.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Maddison 2007, Table A.7
  2. ^ Some Aspects of Muslim Administration, Dr. R.P.Tripathi, 1956, p.24
  3. ^ Stanley Lane-Poole (1 January 1991). Aurangzeb And The Decay Of The Mughal Empire. Atlantic Publishers & Distributors (P) Limited. ISBN 978-81-7156-017-2.
  4. ^ Sen, Sailendra (2013). A Textbook of Medieval Indian History. Primus Books. pp. 68–102. ISBN 978-9-38060-734-4.
  5. ^ Ampotti, A. K. (2004). Glimpses of Islam in Kerala. Kerala Historical Society.
  6. ^ Varghese, Theresa (2006). Stark World Kerala. Stark World Pub. ISBN 9788190250511.
  7. ^ Kumar, Satish (27 February 2012). "India's National Security: Annual Review 2009". Routledge. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  8. ^ Gat, Azar (2013). Nations: The Long History and Deep Roots of Political Ethnicity and Nationalism. Cambridge University Press. p. 126. ISBN 9781107007857.
  9. ^ "South Asian Sufis: Devotion, Deviation, and Destiny". Retrieved 2 January 2015.
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Berndl, Klaus (2005). National Geographic Visual History of the World. National Geographic Society. pp. 318–320. ISBN 978-0-7922-3695-5.
  12. ^ Eraly, Abraham The Mughal Throne The Sage of India's Great Emperors, London: Phonenix, 2004 page 520.
  13. ^ Eraly, Abraham The Mughal Throne The Sage of India's Great Emperors, London: Phonenix, 2004 page 191.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g D'souza, Rohan "Crisis before the Fall: Some Speculations on the Decline of the Ottomans, Safavids and Mughals" pages 3–30 from Social Scientist, Volume 30, Issue # 9/10, September–October 2002 page 21.
  15. ^ D'souza, Rohan "Crisis before the Fall: Some Speculations on the Decline of the Ottomans, Safavids and Mughals" pages 3–30 from Social Scientist, Volume 30, Issue # 9/10, September–October 2002 page 22.
  16. ^ D'souza, Rohan "Crisis before the Fall: Some Speculations on the Decline of the Ottomans, Safavids and Mughals" pages 3–30 from Social Scientist, Volume 30, Issue # 9/10, September–October 2002 pages 22–23.
  17. ^ D'souza, Rohan "Crisis before the Fall: Some Speculations on the Decline of the Ottomans, Safavids and Mughals" pages 3–30 from Social Scientist, Volume 30, Issue # 9/10, September–October 2002 pages 21–22.
  18. ^ a b Bose, Sugata; Jalal, Ayesha (2004). Modern South Asia: History, Culture, Political Economy (2nd ed.). Routledge. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-203-71253-5.

Further readingEdit