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Murshid Quli Khan, also known as Mohammad Hadi was the first Nawab of Bengal, serving in the post from 1717 to 30 June 1727.

Murshid Quli Khan
Nawab Nazim of Bengal, Bihar and Odisha Zafar Khan (Bengali: জাফর খান Urdu:ظفر خان)
Murshid Quli
Nawab of Murshidabad
Murshid Quli Jafar Khan.jpg
Nawab of Bengal
Reign 1717– 30 June 1727
Predecessor Mughal Empire
Successor Shuja-ud-Din Muhammad Khan
Spouse(s) Nasiri Banu Begum
Full name
Murshid Quli Khan
Born c. 1660
Deccan Plateau
Died 30 June 1727
Murshidabad (present day in West Bengal, India)
Buried Katra Masjid, Murshidabad, India
Religion Shia Islam

Born as a Hindu Brahmin in the Deccan Plateau in c. 1670, Quli Khan was bought by Mughal noble Haji Shafi. After his death, he worked under the Divan of Vidarbha, during which he got the attention of Aurangzeb, who sent him to Bengal as the Divan c. 1700. However he entered into a bloody conflict with the province's subahdar, Azim-us-Shan. After Aurangzeb's death, he was transferred to the Deccan Plateau by Azim-us-Shan's father and the then Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah I in 1707. But he was brought back as deputy subahdar in 1710. In 1717, he was appointed as the Nawab Nazim of Murshidabad by Farrukhsiyar. During his reign, he changed the jagirdari system with the mal jasmani which would later transform into zamindari system. He also continued sending revenues from the state to the Mughal empire. He built the Katra Masjid at Murshidabad where he was buried under the steps of stairs when he died on 30 June 1727. He was succeeded by his grandson Sarfaraz Khan.


Early lifeEdit

According to Sir Jadunath Sarkar, he was originally a Hindu Brahmin who was born in Deccan in c. 1670.[1] The book Ma'asir al-umara echoes the same fact.[2] According to Calcutta University professor Sushil Chowdhury, he was bought by a Persian man named Haji Shafi when he was approximately ten years old, who circumcised him[note 1] and was raised with the name Mohammad Hadi.[2] In c. 1690 Shafi left his position in the Mughal court and returned to Persia, where he was accompanied by Quli Khan. After his death around five years later, he returned to India and worked under Abdullah Khurasani, the Diwan of Vidarbha in the Mughal empire. Due to his expertise in the matter, he was noticed by the then Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.[2]

Unlike other Islamic rulers, Quli Khan married had one wife Nasiri Banu Begum. He also did not have any concubines. He had three children, two daughters and one son, a daughter became the wife of Nawab Shuja-ud-Din Muhammad Khan and mother of Sarfaraz Khan.[3]

First appointment in BengalEdit

Conflict with Azim-us-ShanEdit

Aurangzeb appointed Quli Khan as the Diwan of Bengal in c. 1700. At that time, Azim-us-Shan, a grandson of the Mughal emperor was the subahdar of the province. He was not pleased at his appointment as he intend to use the revenue collected from the state to fund his campaign to occupy the Mughal throne after Aurangzeb's death.[4] Immediately after being appointed in the post, he went to Jahangirnagar (present day Dhaka) and transferred officials from the service of Azim-us-Shan to his own at which the subahdar was enraged.[4]

Assassination attemptEdit

Azim-us-Shan made a plan to assassinate Quli Khan. Taking the advantage of the unpaid soldiers, he brainwashed them that Quli Khan was responsible for the due of their salaries. He planned with them that they would surround Quli Khan on the pretext of quarreling with him for not paying their salaries, and in the meantime he would be stabbed.[4]

In one such morning when Quli Khan was going to meet Azim-us-Shan, the soldiers under the leadership of Abdul Wahid surrounded him and asked him for their salaries. But according to Chowdhury, he understood that us-Shan was responsible for instigating the soldiers.[4] So he took them to him and said:

You have conspired to assassinate me. Remember that the Alamgir (Aurangzeb) will come to know everything. Abstain from doing such things, as it is a way of showing disrespect to the emperor. Be careful! If you kill me then you will face dire consequences".[5]

Azim-us-Shan got tensed about Quli Khan knowing about the plan due to the fear of Aurangzeb. He behaved as if he knew nothing and also assured that they would remain friends in the future. He wrote about the matter to Aurangzeb who in turn sent a letter to us-Shan writing that if Quli Khan was "harmed then he would take revenge on him".[6]

Foundation of MurshidabadEdit

Quli Khan felt that he was unsafe in Dhaka. So he took the diwani office to Mukshusabad[note 2] in 1702. He said that he shifted the office as Mukshusabad was located in the central part of Bengal, making it easy to communicate throughout. As the city was located on the banks of river Ganga, European trading companies also had set up their bases there. Quli Khan thought that it would be easy for him to keep a vigil on their actions. He also took the bankers to the new city. Azim-us-Shan felt betrayed as the work was done without his permission. Historian Chowdhury says that Quli Khan was able to do so because he had the "support" of Aurangzeb.[8] A year later, in 1703 Aurangzeb transferred us-Shan from Bengal to Bihar and Farrukhsiyar was made the titular subahdar of the province. Hence the subah office was shifted to Mukshusabad. The city became a centre of all the activities of the region.[8]

Quli Khan went to Bijapur to meet Aurangzeb and give him the revenue which was generated from the province. The emperor was happy with his works and gifted him clothes, flags, nagra and sword. He also gave him the title of Murshid Quli and gave him the permission of renaming the city as Murshidabad (the city of Murshid Quli Khan). He renamed the city after he went back to it.[5]

When the city was renamed so, is disputed by historians. Sir Jadunath Sarkar says that on 23 December 1702 he got the title and to return to the city would take at least three months. So Mukshusabad was renamed in 1703, according to Sarkar.[9] But according to newspapaper Tarikh-i-Bangla and Persian historian Riwaz-us-Salatin, the city was renamed in c. 1704. Chowdhury opines that this "might be the correct date" as the representative of the British East Indian Company of the Orissa province met Quli Khan in early 1704. The fact that the first coins issued in Murshidabad dates 1704 is another strong evidence of the year.[10]


Death of AurangzebEdit

Till the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, all the powers of the subahdar was vested in the hands of Quli Khan. He was succeeded by Azim-us-Shan's father Bahadur Shah I. He reppointed his son as the subahdar of the province and made Quli Khan his deputy. Azim-us-Shan influenced his father to throw him out of the province. As a result of which Quli Khan was appointed as the Diwan of Deccan in 1708 and served in the post till 1709.[11]

But in 1710, Quli Khan was brought back as the diwan of the province on the advise of us-Shan. According to Sarkar, he did so to form an allegiance with him as he thought that it would be impossible to occupy the Delhi throne without the support of local nobility. Though he was brought back, his relationship with the Mughal prince remained stained.[12]

Shah was succeeded by Jahandar Shah in 1712 (27 February 1712 – 11 February 1713) and he was followed by Farrukhsiyar in 1713. In 1717[note 3], he gave Quli Khan the title of Zafar Khan and made him the subahdar of Bengal, thus holding both the post of subahdar and diwan at the same time. He declared himself as the Nawab of Bengal and became the first independent nawab of the province.[13] The capital was shifted from Dhaka to Murshidabad.[14]


Quli Khan replaced the Mughal jagirdari system with the mal jasmani system which was similar to France's fermiers generals. He took security bonds from the contractors or ijardaars who later collected the land revenue. Though there remained many jagirdars, they were "crushed" by the contractors, who later came to be known as zamindars.[15]

Quli Khan continued his policy of sending a part of the revenue collected to the Mughal empire. He did so even when the empire was in decline with the emperor vesting no power, as the power got concentrated in the hands of kingmakers. He justified his action by saying that it would not be possible for the running of the Mughal empire without the revenue sent. Historian Chowdhury says that his real reason was to show his loyalty to the Mughal emperor so that he could run the state according to his own wish.[14]

Records show that every year 1 crore 30 lakh rupees was sent as the revenue to the Mughal emperor. Beside revenue was also paid in kind. Quli Khan himself used to carry the money and other forms of revenue with infantry and cavalry till Bihar where they were given to the Mughal collecter.[16]

Structures builtEdit

With Murshidabad evolving as the capital of Bengal, it became necessary for Quli Khan to build buildings and offices for work to be carried out from that city only. In the Dugharia region of the city he built a palace, a diwankhana ("office of revenue collection", a court of exchequer). Besides he also built an inn and a mosque for foreign travellers. He also constructed a mint in the city in 1720.[16] In the eastern end of the city he built the Katra Masjid in 1724 where he was buried after his death.[17]

Condition of MurshidabadEdit

During Quli Khan's reign the people of the Murshidabad used to perform many festivals. One of them was the Punyah which occurred at the last week of Bengali month of Chaitra. The zamindars or their representatives used to take part in the festival. But the festivals which were celebrated with the greatest pomp and grandeur was mawlid the birth festival of the Islamic prophet Muhammad as well as the death of him. During mawlid people from neighbouring province came to the city to celebrate it. On Quli Khan's order chirag or lamps were lit in all religious places - mosques, imambararas etc.[18]

Quli Khan also imitated the Mughal tradition of holding a durbar in the city which would be attended by the city's bankers, foreign tourists, European companies' representatives. Due to increase in trade, a new "class of businessmen arose" who also attended his durbar. Due to his pious nature, he used to follow Islam strictly and according to the Islamic rules, the visitors were fed two times a day.[18]

Prior to Quli Khan being the nawab of Murshidabad, the city was a major exporter of rice all across India. But after he became the nawab, in around c. 1720, he passed a law prohibiting the export of rice. Due to that reason, the cost of rice in the region rose.[19] According to his minister Gulam Hussain the cost became Rs 1 per 5 mon.[18]

Historian Chowdhury says that the condition of Hindus were "also good" during his reign as "they became more rich". Though Quli Khan was a Muslim, Hindus were employed in the tax department primarily because of the reason that he thought they were expert in that field, besides they could also speak fluent Persian. If they were found guilty of cheating Quli Khan however imposed "harsh punishments compared to Muslims".[20]

Death and successionEdit

Katra Masjid in Murshidabad. Murshid Quli Khan lies buried under the entrance stairs of this Mosque

Quli Khan died on 30 June 1727.[21] He was initially succeeded by his grandson Sarfaraz Khan. But his son-in-law Shuja-ud-Din Muhammad Khan did not accept it and planned to fight a war against him. Khan gave up without fighting a war and Shuja-ud-Din became the nawab in 1727.[22] Sarfaraz ascended the throne after his father's death in 1739 only to be defeated by Alivardi Khan in 1740 to become the nawab.[23] Siraj ud-Daulah would come next in 1756 to be defeated by British East Indian Company in 1757 in the Battle of Plassey to establish company rule.[24]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Shafi worked in various posts in Mughal empire which included Diwan-i-Tan, Dewan of Bengal[2]
  2. ^ According to Ain-i-Akbari, Mukshusabad was founded by a trader called Mukshus Khan in the sixteenth century who also built a sarai here. In Dutch traveller Valentijn's map, the city was shown as an island in the Ganges river. According to historian Nikhilnath Roy, during the reign of Sultan Hussain Shah, he was recovered from fever by a sage, and after this sage the city was named so.[7]
  3. ^ Historian Abdul Karim disputes the date and claims it to be 1716, but all other sources use 1717.[11]


  1. ^ Sarkar, p.400
  2. ^ a b c d Chowdhury, p.16
  3. ^ Chowdhury, p.87
  4. ^ a b c d Chowdhury, p.17
  5. ^ a b Sarkar, p.404
  6. ^ Chowdhury, p.18
  7. ^ Chowdhury, p.20
  8. ^ a b Choudhury, p.19
  9. ^ Sarkar, p.399
  10. ^ Chowdhury, p.21
  11. ^ a b Chowdhury, p.24
  12. ^ Sarkar, p.405
  13. ^ Sarkar, p.407
  14. ^ a b Chowdhury, p.25
  15. ^ U. A. B. Razia Akter Banu. Islam in Bangladesh. BRILL. p. 21. ISBN 9789004094970. 
  16. ^ a b Chowdhury, p.26
  17. ^ Sirajul Islam. Banglapedia: national encyclopedia of Bangladesh, Volume 6. University of Michigan. p. 36. 
  18. ^ a b c Chowdhury, p.27
  19. ^ Murshidabader Itihash by Nikhilnath Roy, p.471
  20. ^ Chowdhury, p.28
  21. ^ Mohammed Yamin. Impact of Islam on Orissan Culture. Readworthy. p. 46. ISBN 9789350181027. 
  22. ^ Chowdhury, p.29
  23. ^ Chowdhury, p.30
  24. ^ Chowdhury, p.58
Murshid Quli Khan
Born: 1665 Died: June 30, 1727
Preceded by
Mughal Empire
Nawab of Bengal
1717 - 30 June 1727
Succeeded by
Shuja-ud-Din Muhammad Khan