Shah Jahan

17th century Mughal Emperor

Shahab-ud-din Muhammad Khurram (5 January 1592  – 22 January 1666), better known by his regnal name, Shah Jahan (Persian: شاه جهان, lit. King of the World), was the fifth Mughal emperor of India, and reigned from 1628 to 1658. Under his reign, the Mughal Empire reached the peak of its cultural glory. Although an able military commander, Shah Jahan is best remembered for his architectural achievements. His reign ushered in the golden age of Mughal architecture. Shah Jahan commissioned many monuments, the best known of which is the Taj Mahal in Agra, in which is entombed his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.

Quotes about Shah JahanEdit

  • Toward the end of his reign Jehangir took more and more to his cups, and neglected the tasks of government. Inevitably conspiracies arose to replace him; already in 1622 his son Jehan had tried to seize the throne. When Jehangir died Jehan hurried up from the Deccan where he had been hiding, proclaimed himself emperor, and murdered all his brothers to ensure his peace of mind. His father passed on to him his habits of extravagance, intemperance and cruelty. The expenses of Jehan’s court, and the high salaries of his innumerable officials, absorbed more and more of the revenue produced by the thriving industry and commerce of the people. The religious tolerance of Akbar and the indifference of Jehangir were replaced by a return to the Moslem faith, the persecution of Christians, and the ruthless and wholesale destruction of Hindu shrines.
    • Will Durant Our Oriental Heritage. Ch. XVI : From Alexander to Aurangzeb, § VIII. THE DECLINE OF THE MOGULS
  • Shah Jehan redeemed himself in some measure by his generosity to his friends and the poor, his artistic taste and passion in adorning India with the fairest architecture that it had ever seen, and his devotion to his wife Mumtaz Mahal—“Ornament of the Palace.” He had married her in his twenty-first year, when he had already had two children by an earlier consort. Mumtaz gave her tireless husband fourteen children in eighteen years, and died, at the age of thirty-nine, in bringing forth the last. Shah Jehan built the immaculate Taj Mahal as a monument to her memory and her fertility, and relapsed into a scandalous licentiousness.113 The most beautiful of all the world’s tombs was but one of a hundred masterpieces that Jehan erected, chiefly at Agra and in that new Delhi which grew up under his planning. The costliness of these palaces, the luxuriousness of the court, the extravagant jewelry of the Peacock Throne,XVII would suggest a rate of taxation ruinous to India. Nevertheless, though one of the worst famines in India’s history occurred in Shah Jehan’s reign, his thirty years of government marked the zenith of India’s prosperity and prestige. The lordly Shah was a capable ruler, and though he wasted many lives in foreign war he gave his own land a full generation of peace.
    • Will Durant Our Oriental Heritage. Ch. XVI : From Alexander to Aurangzeb, § VIII. THE DECLINE OF THE MOGULS
  • When the environs of Orchha became the site of the royal standards, an ordinance was issued authorising the demolition of the idol temple, which Bir Singh Deo had erected at a great expense by the side of his private palace, and also the idols contained in it…
    • Orchha (Madhya Pradesh) Shahjahan-Nama The Shahjahan Nama of ‘Inayat Khan, translated by A.R. Fuller and edited and compiled by W.E. Beyley and Z.A. Desai, OUP, Delhi, 1090, p. 161.
  • It had been brought to the notice of His Majesty that during the late reign many idol temples had been begun, but remained unfinished at Benares, the great stronghold of infidelity. The infidels were now desirous of completing them. His Majesty, the defender of the faith, gave orders that at Benares, and throughout all his dominions in every place, all temples that had been begun should be cast down. It was now reported from the province of Allahabad that seventy-six temples had been destroyed in the district of Benares.
  • At the Bundela capital the Islam-cherishing Emperor demolished the lofty and massive temple of Bir Singh Dev near his palace, and erected a mosque on its site.
    • Orchha (Madhya Pradesh) , Badshah-Nama, by Abdul Hamid Lahori, quoted in Jadunath Sarkar, History of Aurangzeb, Vol. I, p. 15.
  • Some temples in Kashmir were also sacrificed to the religious fury of the emperor. The Hindu temple at Ichchhabal was destroyed and converted into a mosque.
    • Badshah-Nama, by Abdul Hamid Lahori, quoted in Sri Ram Sharma, Sharma, Sri Ram, Religious Policy of the Mughal Emperors, Bombay, 1962. p. 86.
  • After describing the destruction of temples in Benares and Gujarat, this author stated that “The materials of some of the Hindu temples were used for building mosques.”
    • Muntikhabu’l-Lubab by Khafi Khan, cited in Sharma, Sri Ram, Religious Policy of the Mughal Emperors, Bombay, 1962. quoted from S.R. Goel, Hindu Temples What Happened to them
  • “In AD 1630-31 (AH 1040) when Abdal, the Hindu chief of Hargaon in the province of Allahabad, rebelled, most of the temples in the state were either demolished or converted into mosques. Idols were burnt.”
    • Hargaon (Uttar Pradesh) Muntikhabu’l-Lubab by Khafi Khan, cited in Sharma, Sri Ram, Religious Policy of the Mughal Emperors, Bombay, 1962. quoted from S.R. Goel, Hindu Temples What Happened to them
  • The pendulum started swinging towards the true spirit of Islam at the very start of Shah Jahan’s reign in 1628 AD. Its outer symbol was the reappearance of the beard on the face of the emperor. .... In 1635 AD, Shah Jahan’s soldiers captured some ladies of the royal Bundela family after Jujhar Singh and his sons failed to kill them in the time-honoured Rajput tradition. In the words of Jadunath Sarkar, “Mothers and daughters of kings, they were robbed of their religion and forced to lead the infamous life of the Mughal harem.” Shah Jahan himself made a triumphal entry into Orchha, the capital of the Bundelas, demolished the lofty and massive temple of Bir Singh Dev, and raised a mosque in its place. Two sons and one grandson of Jujhar Singh who were of tender age, were made Musalmans. Another son of Jujhar Singh, Udaybhan, and a minister, Shyam Dawa, had fled to Golconda where they were captured by Qutbul-Mulk and sent to Shah Jahan. According to Badshahnama again, “Udaybhan and Shyam Dawa, who were of full age, were offered the alternative of Islam or death. They chose the latter and were sent to hell.”
    • Jadunath Sarkar; Badshahnama [2], quoted in Goel, Sita Ram (2001). The story of Islamic imperialism in India. Chapter 7 ISBN 9788185990231, also quoted in Balakrishna, S., Lessons from Hindu History in 10 Episodes (2020)
  • Under Shahjahan, Akbar's Sulehkul was almost reversed. During his reign temples were destroyed in Gujarat, Banaras and Allahabad, and at Orchha. Like Jahangir he stopped marriages between Muslim girls and Hindu men. Apostasy from Islam again became a capital crime in accordance with the tenets of the Shariat. During the reign of Shahjahan titles in use among Khalifas and Ghaznavids were revived.
    • Lal, K. S. (1999). Theory and practice of Muslim state in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 2
  • Conditions became intolerable by the time of Shahjahan when, according to Manucci, peasants were compelled to sell their women and children to meet the revenue demand. Manrique writes that the peasants were “carried off… to various markets and fairs, (to be sold) with their poor unhappy wives behind them carrying their small children all crying and lamenting…” Bernier too affirms that the unfortunate peasants who were incapable of discharging the demands of their rapacious lords, were bereft of their children, who were carried away as slaves. Here was also confirmation, if not actually the beginning, of the practice of bonded labour in India.
    • Manucci, II, p. 451.,Manrique II, p. 272., Bernier, p.205., quoted from Lal, K. S. (1992). The legacy of Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 7
  • According to Qazvini, Shahjahan’s orders in this regard were that captives were not to be sold to Hindus as slaves, and under Muslim customers they could only become Musalman.
    • Amin Qazvini, Badshah Nama, Ms. Raza Library, Rampur. p.405. cited by Lal, K. S. (1990). Indian muslims: Who are they.
  • Shahjahan was even otherwise interested in making converts. Professor Sri Ram Sharma has collected facts and figures of Hindus converted to Islam from the works of Qazvini, Lahori, Salih, Mohsin Fani, Khafi Khan, etc. during Shajahan’s reign... The following is the summary of what he says. “Early in his reign Shahjahan had appointed a Superintendent of converts to Islam, thus setting up a department for the special purpose of making converts. The one common practice was to make terms with the criminals… The Hindus of the Punjab, Bhimbar, Bhadauri and Sirhind… were all offered remission of their sentences provided they accepted the ‘true faith’. When the war with the Portuguese started, of the 400 prisoners taken a few became Muslims. The rest were kept in prison with orders that whenever they expressed willingness to embrace Islam, they were to be converted, liberated and given daily allowances. An order was issued in the seventh year of his reign that if a Hindu wanted to be converted to Islam, his family should not place any obstacles in his way… Under Shahjahan, apostasy from Islam had again become a capital crime.”
    • Lal, K. S. (1990). Indian muslims: Who are they, citing Sharma, Sri Ram, The Religious Policy of the Mughal Emperors, Asia Publishing House (Bombay, 1962).
  • Some other practices discontinued by Akbar were revived by Shahjahan. Forcible conversion during war became common in his reign. “When Shuja was appointed governor of Kabul (he carried on) a ruthless war in the Hindu territory beyond the Indus… Sixteen sons and dependants of Hathi were converted by force. The sword of Islam further yielded a crop of Muslim converts… The rebellion of Jujhar Singh yielded a rich crop of Muslim converts, mostly minors. His young son Durga and his grandson Durjan Sal were both converted to become Imam Quli and Ali Quli… Most of the women had burnt themselves… but such as were captured - probably slave girls and maids - were converted and distributed among Muslim Mansabdars… The conquest of Beglana was followed by conversion of Naharji’s son… who now became Daulatmand.”
    • Lal, K. S. (1990). Indian muslims: Who are they., citing Lahori (Abdul Hamid Lahori, Badshahnamah, Bib. Ind., 2 vols. (Calcutta, 1898).) Khafi Khan (Khafi Khan, Muhammad Hashim, Muntakhab-ul-Lubab, ed. Kabiruddin Ahmad, Bib. Ind. (Calcutta 1869,1925). )
  • Shah Jahan, who proved
    an emperor to be shorter than a lover,
    who turned a grave into a temple
    who gave his beloved a place of God
    and converted love into a prayer.
  • If
    I'd ever grown prosperous like Shah Jahan was,
    I'd not have waited for my beloved's death
    before I erected a Taj Mahal.
  • Begum Sahib, the elder daughter of Shah Jahan was very handsome... Rumour has it that his attachment reached a point which it is difficult to believe, the justification of which he rested on the decision of the Mullas, or doctors of their law. According to them it would have been unjust to deny the king the privilege of gathering fruit from the tree he himself had planted.
  • It would seem as if the only thing Shahjahan cared for was the search for women to serve his pleasure ... for this end he established a fair at his court. No one was allowed to enter except women of all ranks that is to say, great and small, rich and poor, but all handsome.
  • His majesty desired to go by boat up to the Kathbal bridge where the navigation of the stream ceases. He accordingly traversed the distance on board a boat, after which he mounted an open litter and arrived at Anantnag. In this pargana was an ancient idol-temple which the monarch, the bulwark of true religion and the destroyer of paganism, ordered to be demolished. And to the pargana itself, which was held in jagir by Islam Khan, he gave the appellation of Islamabad.
    • The Shah Jahan Nama, On page 137 of the Begley-Desai edition, which covers events of September-October 1634 in Kashmir. also [3]
  • Shah Jahan’s order to demolish temples in Banaras stated,
    “It has been previously represented that there were some of the finest Hindu temples at Banaras. In former reigns, the foundations of many new ones had been laid, some of which had been completed, while others still remained in an imperfect state; and these the opulent among the pagans were desirous of seeing finished. The infidel-consuming monarch, who is the guardian of true religion, had therefore commanded that at Banaras and throughout the entire imperial dominions, wheresoever idol-temples had been recently built, they should be razed to the ground. Accordingly, in these days it was reported from the province of Allahabad that 70 had been demolished at Banaras alone”
    • The Shah Jahan Nama of Inayat Khan 1990: 89-90). quoted from Jain, M. (2019). Flight of deities and rebirth of temples: Espisodes from Indian history.195ff
  • To sum up, Shah Jahan was a more orthodox king than his two predecessors. During the sixth to tenth years of his reign he embarked upon the active career of a persecuting king. Several orders were issued during these years for the purpose of achieving his end. New temples were destroyed, conversions were stopped, several Hindus were persecuted for religious reasons, and probably the pilgrimage tax was reimposed. Soon however his religious zeal seems to have spent itself. Shah Jahan’s ardour as a great proselytizing king cooled down when he discovered in the heir-apparent, and his deputy in many state affairs, a religious toleration equalling that of his grandfather Akbar. Of course the discontinuance of certain court ceremonies which smacked of Hindu practices was permanent....
    It is not wholly true to say that Shah Jahan’s reign was a prelude to what followed under Aurangzeb. Much of what his successor did constituted a vote of censure on Shah Jahan for failing to do, in its entirety, what the Muslim law and tradition demanded of a Muslim king. It is true that the five years from the sixth to the tenth of his reign gave the Hindus a foretaste of what might happen if the Mughal throne happened to be filled by an orthodox king who insisted on following in their entirety the contemporary Muslim practices. Shah Jahan — despite the praises showered on him by his court poets and annalists — was never consistently or for long a persecutor. Towards the end of his reign, we actually find him restraining the religious zeal of Aurangzeb and overriding him in many important matters. It must, however, be admitted that Akbar’s ideal of a comprehensive state’, was gradually being lost sight of, although only partially.
    • Sharma Sri Ram. 1988. The Religious Policy of the Mughal Emperors. 3rd ed. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal. ch 5
  • Shah Jahan was an orthodox Muslim. In 1632, while returning from Kashmir, he found that some Hindus of Rajauri, Bhimbar and Gujarat accepted Mushm girls as wives and converted them to their own faith. The emperor stopped such marriages and Muslim women, already married, were seized from their husbands who were fined and, in certain cases, even executed. They could retain their wives only on their embracing Islam. As many as 4,500 such women were recovered. In 1635, it was reported to the emperor that a Muslim girl, Zinab, had been converted, given the new name of Ganga and was taken as a wife by Dalpat, a Hindu of Sirhind. The woman, along with her seven children—one son and six daughters—was taken away and the man was executed. Kaulan, a daughter of the qazi of Lahore, had also run away from home, embraced Sikhism and taken shelter with Guru Har Govind, who immortalised her by constructing a new tank at Amritsar named after her, Kaulsar. (311ff)
    • RC Majumdar,ed., Volume 7: The Mughul Empire [1526-1707]

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