The Coming of Portuguese in India And It’s Impact (15th-16th Century)

Vasco da Gama

With the arrival of Vasco da Gama at Calicut in 1497, the Cape of Good Hope route was discovered by sailing with ‘monsoons’ in summer months and the Portuguese established their trade in Malabar and tried to dislodge the Muslim merchants from the region. With the arrival of Vasco da Gama to Calicut, the Portuguese dominance of the Indian Ocean commenced. It was only with the capture of Goa in 1503 by Alfonso de Albuqurque from Bijapur that the foundation of the future Portuguese maritime empire in the Indies was laid; and with the conquest of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf in 1515, the Portuguese plan was completed. This maritime empire came to be known as ‘Estado da India’. It had a number of consequences. The traditional pattern of East-West trade was suddenly disrupted as a result of (a) the Portuguese policy of regulating the trade passing through the Red Sea; and (b) the policy of regulating the trade passing through the Persian Gulf.


Now it was for the first time that the Indian merchants were experiencing the policy of monopoly. Under the Portuguese developed the cartaze system – every Indian ship sailing from a place not reserved by the Portuguese for their own trade had to buy a pass from the Viceroy of Goa for the safe passage.
The discovery of the Cape of Good Hope and the coming of the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean also resulted in the diversion of the bulk of trade with China, Japan etc through the sea route, which till 1498 was carried partly through sea and partly land route. The land route originated in North China at Nanking and Shanghai and entered West Asia at Samarqand, and was known as the ‘Silk Route’. From Samarqand it headed to Khurasan; passed on to Heart and then to Tabriz. From here it was divided into two routes: one would go to the Black Sea Coast and the other entered Anatolia and then passing through it entered Constantinople. Tabriz was also connected to Alleppo on the Mediterranean Coast.


The sea route of the East-West trade from India was through Calicut and the Gulf of Cambay towards to Persian Gulf and to Hormuz. At Hormuz this route would branch off: (a) some goods would go on land and join the Silk route at Tabriz; and (b) a part of the route continued to Basra by sea and then by land to Alleppo and the Mediterranean Coast. Some times from Basra it would enter Anatolia and ultimately terminate at Constantinople.
Yet another channel was from South West Asia via India towards Red Sea and pass through the river Nile. From Alexandria it was taken over by the Venetian merchants.


All these regions were controlled by the West Asian and Indian communities; and the Arab merchants controlled the Persian Gulf. Another community in this region was that of the Ottoman Turks, known as Rumis. Persian merchants controlled Hormuz. But the trade beyond Alexandria, Alleppo and Constantinople was controlled by western powers like the Venetian Republic.


When the Portuguese arrived in the Indian waters, one of their set aims was to bring an end to the monopoly of the Venetian merchants on the Eastern Trade – particularly on trade in spices. Soon on arrival ar Calicut, they took steps to deploy war-ships in the Arabian Sea to check the flow of trade in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. Naturally in doing so they came in conflict with the Arab merchants who were dominating the trade on the eastern side and Asian waters. Thus the Portuguese Blockade of the Red Sea and the Portuguese policy of regulating the trade through the trade through Persian Gulf hit mainly the interests of two groups in the immediate context: Arab merchants controlling trade in eastern waters and the Venetians who carried this trade to the west from West Asia.


The Portuguese and the Venetian records indicate that for the first seven years, the flow of trade around Red Sea had dried up and stopped as a result of this blockade. On the other hand, the trade coming to Alleppo, although affected for some time, started increasing. This was partly due to the deliberate policy of the Portuguese to allow some of this trade to continue and partly also as a result of the fact that this trade was carried on by the Indian, as well as the Turkish merchants, in small ships which cruised along the coast, easily evading the Portuguese Blockade, and reaching Basra in a substantive quantum. By 1550 even the trade through the Red Sea was restored and the Portuguese attempts to thwart it failed.


The disruption of trade by the Portuguese had effect on the economic and military positions in the regions through which the traditional route passed through. One power that must have been effected directly was the Mamluk Empire of Egypt with its capital at Cairo. It was an oligarchy of Turkish slaves established after the decline of the Fatimids. They controlled the whole of Egypt, Palestine, Syria and the present day Jordan; as well as the Arabian Peninsula. This Mamluk Empire was hit as a result of (a) the displacement of Arab traders from the dominant position in the Eastern Trade; and (b) due to the loss of revenues that used to come through different kinds of levies and customs imposed on trade passing through Alexandria. Thus, Mamliks were one power most anxious to expel the Portuguese from the eastern waters. For this end they prepared to entr into military alliances with all other Asian powers.


The other important power which was affected was the Ottoman Empire with its seat of power at this time at Anatolia – Constantinople had by then been conquered. Part of the South Eastern tip of the Balkan Peninsula constituted the territory of Ottomans who were trying to extend their territory into Balkans, over-run Greece; and towards east, expand along the coast of the Black Sea. The loss of the Silk Route was a loss to the Ottomans. Their long-ranged interests were threatened. Thus they too were anxious to overthrow the Portuguese.
In 1507 and 1510-11 efforts were made by the Mamluks, the Gujarati Kingdom and other Indian powers. The Ottoman rulers went out of their way to furnish material help to them against the Portuguese which was channelized through the Mamluk Empire.


Safavids appeared on the scene in 1503 with Shah Ismail Safavi establishing himself at Tabriz as the ruler and Imam of the entire Islamic world. By 1505-06 his rule was established over the whole of Persia, including Seestan. Soon they got involved in a deadly conflict with the neighbouring Sunni powers – especially with Shaibani Khan Uzbek over Khurasan. A conflict also arose with the Ottomans.


Shah Ismail actually inherited all the problems of the early Persian rulers. One serious problem was related with their route connecting Persian with Europe. It was a result of trade through it that Persia could take the precious metals, which it lacked; it entirely depended upon imports from Europe. Before the coming of the Portuguese, the Ottomans and the Mamluks were the powers which could block the route. Thus the Safavids came to regard the Portuguese as long term allies against the Mamluks and the Ottomans. This relationship was cordial and helped the Safavids in their attempts towards consolidation of their empire.
Lastly, some of the powers on the western coast of India were also affected by the entry of the Portuguese and made attempts and moves for their eviction. One of these was the Kingdom of Gujarat, which depended for its prosperity and strength to a very great degree, on the ports located in the Gulf of Cambay. Bharuch and Khambayat were the two important ports, while Surat was quite minor at this point of time. The blockade considerably reduced the quantum of goods coming into Gujarat – though to an extent coastal trade in small vessels remained. This led to a weakening of the Kingdom of Gujarat for a brief period (to be revived under the leadership of Bahadurshah). Thus the statement of Pearson that for the Sultans of Gujarat the major source of income was through land revenue does not appear to be entirely correct.


Ahmadnagar under the Nizamshahi ruler on the Western Coast at Chaul near Bombay, Bijapur which had its ports at Dabul and Goa; the state of Calicut, whose raja allied with the merchants of Yemen and depended on trade in the Red Sea, were all affected. Calicut was in fact the most affected party due to the blockade. As a result, an alliance came about in 1506 between the Mamlukd, Gujarat, Calicut, Ahmadnagar and Bijapur. In April 1507, under the command of the Mamluk admiral Mir Husain of Jeddah, they attacked the Portuguese. The Gujarati forces were commanded by Malik Ayaz, the Ottoman general. This attack took place near Chaul, and resulted in the defeat of the Portuguese army and a very decisive and convincing victory by the Eastern allies, in spite of the fire-power superiority and superior vessels fitted with sails as against galleys used by the allies.


But soon after the victory, the tide turned in favour of the Portuguese. The Portuguese once again clashed with the allies in 1509, when they tried to enter the Gulf of Cambay against the joint forces of Gujaratis, Mamluks and Calicut. Under their commandant, al-Meida, the Portuguese succeeded. After this victory, their policy was to establish control on a number of strategic points all over the eastern waters, so that they may be able to effectively check and regulate the east-west trade on the high-seas with minimum efforts. The strategy was worked out by Albuqurque in 1510. Those places were chosen from where the Portuguese could guard one stretch of water to another. Thus Sakotra, which regulated entry into the Red Sea was stormed and captured in 1507. Goa was captured in 1510. The nest year, the Malaccan states, which controlled the entire sea traffic of China and Japan and the entire east-west trade, were captured. Hormuz, situated on the mouth of the Persian Gulf was attacked in 1509 and occupied in 1510. The only point that remained was Dieu.


The adverse effect on the different kingdoms on the western coast by the stoppage of trade, including the import of Arabian horses, led to their subservience to the Northern states, which got their horses from Kabul and Qandahar – the areas free from the Portuguese.


By early 16th C the Portuguese had come to settle and control the trade from the Gulf of Cambay in Gujarat. However, unlike the English East India Company or the French East India Company, who came later to India, the Portuguese were not a ‘company’ – they basically derived income from taxing the ships through their cartaze system.


It is also interesting to note that the Portuguese merchants, unlike the other foreign companies, carried out a parallel personal trade. In fact they derived ‘Tribute’ at the cost of trade and thus did not enlarge but restrict the trade from the Gujarati ports: Most of their gains came through indulgence in illegal trade of the private merchants. According to M.N.Pearson, thus, the Portuguese practices did not impact the Gujarat economy in any sizeable fashion.


Another important development and impact was that the Portuguese introduced on the western coast a new kind of artillery not known to India before. It is not wholly correct to think that fire-arms were not known in India at this time: we have evidence that almost all Indian states possessed very primitive guns atleast from the middle of the 15th C onwards. The term ‘kaman-i r’ad’ is used for a canon in use in the 15th C which is depicted in one of the paintings that is included in a manuscript of episodes from Mahabharat prepared during the reign of Sikandar Lodi. From this illustration we can see that it was a small artillery piece made of wrought iron with a very crude finish. But with the coming of the Portuguese we come across a different kind of artillaery piece not known before – the field gun – generally referred in the sources as zarb w zan, made or cast in bronze. They are referred to in the western coastal states. Some of these weapons were brought to Gujarat from the Mamluk Empire particularly, which were specially manufactured in Egypt to be used against the Portuguese. David Ayalon in his article “Fire-arms in Mamluk Kngdom”, quotes contemporary sources as testifying that different kinds of artillery pieces were being produced at this time with the help of material supplied by the Ottomans and sent to Gujarat to be used against the Portuguese. Some of these new fire-arms came through the Portuguese themselves.
A Venetian traveller who came to India in 1506, Varthema, testifies that when he visited Calicut, he saw a number of Portuguese prisoners of war busy manufacturing different kinds of guns for the raja of Calicut. They were also made to instruct local gun-smiths in the art of casting bronze artillery pieces not known to India till this time.


In addition to this, another new fire-arm which was used and introduced was “arquebus”: a hand gun. There is no indication to suggest that in its army the soldiers were equipped not only with bows and arrows, but with arquebus. It was a small piece carried by individuals, who would sit on the back of an elephant and shoot.


However one should be cautioned that although Sher Shah got his artillery from the Portuguese, it came from the Portuguese at Hughly (Bengal), and not from Gujarat.


The introduction of these gave an edge of advantage to the Gujarat rulers in the long run over their adversaries. The Kingdom of Gujarat from the very beginning was having economic and military potential which was itself a very important factor creating an urge in this stte to adopt, if not an expansionist, then a forward policy, with regard to the neighbouring powers. This is borne out by the Gujarat’s relations with Malwa, Ahmadnagar and Mewar.


The Khalji Kingdom of Malwa during the 15th C was invaded by Gujarat on five occasions: first by Muzaffar Shah I in 1407; then by Ahmad Shah in 1438; thrice by Muzaffar Shah II between 1507-11. the frequency of Gujarati invasions increased with the passage of time. This can be explained (a) in terms of military machinery; and (b) on the basis of the economic resources which were a result of trade from the Gulf of Cambay. The percentage of the Gujarati urban population was very high due to the commercial activity as compared to other regions. Foodgrains were brought from the Narbada region, i.e., Malwa. Thus there was an urge in the Gujaratis to secure the Narbada Valley for themselves to ensure a steady supply of food grains. This would also ensure a connection with the Gangetic region.


After the arrival of the Portuguese, a new economic factor was added. This was the enhanced significance of the trade route connecting Gujarat with the Gangetic plains which passed through Rajputana; it originated at Agra, turned towards southeast via Bayana, Ajmer and then passed through the territory of Mewar and Marwar, then turned towards Gujarat near Patan, went on tho Ahmadabad and Kateher and then to Surat. This route was not new, but till the arrival of the Portuguese, the other route connecting the Gangetic plain with Gujarat was through Gwalior, Ujjain and Burhanpur. This was at that time more important, as it was easier to traverse except during the rainy season. It was also shorter. But after the arrival of the Portuguese, the schedule of Portuguese ships leaving for Europe was such that the merchants wanting to catch them had no option but to leave Agra during the rainy season. These ships started from Goa latest by the end of October. Thus if he had to catch the ship, the merchant had no option but to leave Agra sometime in August, otherwise they would be delayed by another year, as the monsoons started in June and they had a schedule in rounding the Cape of Good Hope before Monsoons, otherwise it would be impossible for them to proceed. It took 3-4 or even 5 months to reach the Cope of Good Hope. Thus now the merchants, starting in august from Agra had no option but to use the longer route through Rajputana which was traversable even during the rainy season as there were only a few water-channels to be crossed and as the nature of the soil was such that it would become muddy.
Thus with the coming of the Portuguese the significance of the route through Rajputana, Marwar and Mewar was heightened. Thus the interest of the state of Gujarat in this area also steadily increased during this period. This would explain why under Bahadurshah there was a concerted move to extend precisely over this region.

Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi

A Letter from Father to Son, The Last Will of Ali ibn Abi Talib (a)After returning from the Battle of Siffin, Imam ‘Ali (a) gave certain pieces of advice to one of his sons. Some historians consider him to be Imam Hasan (a) while others are of the opinion that he was Muhammad al-Hanafiyya.He wrote the letter in the form of a will. They deal with almost every aspect of life which goes a long way to make a man successful in life – brave, humane, generous, virtuous and pious.These exhortations are from a father who realizes the morality of life, who is getting old, who has patiently borne reverses and calamities, who hates inordinate desires and has overcome them, and who is shortly going to pass out of this world, to his son who is young, who has the desire of leading the world to sober ways of thinking and better ways of life, a desire which is rather difficult to be achieved.A son, who is mortal and is bound by nature to follow the steps of all mortals, is subject to ailments, is surrounded by misfortunes and calamities, has to face oppressions and tyrannies, has often to confront with and sometimes to tolerate hypocrisy, deceit, guile, duplicity and treason and who is to end his life in death, is to bear sufferings, is the heir to a person who is dead and gone and who finally ended his life as a martyr to the animosity of his enemies. (What a prophecy!)This letter was written nearly 1400 year ago and is applicable and appropriate even nowadays.In the 40th year of Hijri, in the small hours of the morning of 19th Ramadan, Imam ‘Ali (as) was struck with a poisoned sword by the Kharijite Ibn Maljam while offering his prayers in the Masjid of Kufa. He died on the 21st day of Ramadan 40 A.H. and buried in Najaf ul-Ashraf. He was born in the House of Allah, the Kaaba, and martyred in the House of Allah, Masjid al-Kufa. The Lion of Allah, the most brave and gentle Muslim after the Prophet (S) himself, began his glorious life with devotion to Allah and His Messenger, and ended it in the service of Islam.“And do not speak of those who are slain in the Way of Allah as dead; nay, they are alive, but you perceive not.” Quran 2:154My Dear Son,Let it be known to you that decay of health, passing away of time and nearness of death, have made me realize that I should give more thought to my future (next world) and to my people; advise them more and spend more time in equipping them mentally to face this world.I felt that my own sons and my near ones have as much right to utilize my experiences and knowledge, all the ups and downs of life, all the realities and all the truths about life in this world and in the Hereafter, which are as much known to me as others.I decided, therefore, to spend more time over you and to prepare you more for your. This was neither selfishness nor self-esteem nor any mental luxury of giving away pieces of advice, but it was the sincere desire of making you see the world as I found it, look at the realities of lives as I looked at them, and do the right thing at the right time and right place as it should be done which made me write down these exhortations to you. You will not find in them anything but truth and realities.My dear son! You are part of my body and soul and whenever I look at you I feel as if I am looking at myself. If any calamities befalls you, I feel as if it has befallen me. Your death will make me feel as if it was my own death. Your affairs are to me like my own affairs.Therefore, I committed these pieces of advice to paper. I want you to take care of them, to pay attention to them and to guard them well. I may remain longer in your life or I may not, but I want these pieces of advice to remain with you always.My first and foremost advice to you, my son, is to fear Allah. Be His obedient servant. Keep His thought always fresh in your mind. Be attached to and carefully guard the principles (Islam) which connect you with Him. Can any other connection be stronger, more durable and more lasting than this to command greater respect and consideration or to replace it?Accept good exhortations and refresh your mind with them. Adopt piety and kill your inordinate desires with its help. Build your character with the help of true faith in religion and Allah. Subjugate your nature with the vision of death, make it see the mortality of life and of all that it holds dear, force it to realize the actuality of misfortunes and adversities, the changes of circumstances and times and compel it to study the lives of past people.Persuade it to see the ruined cities, the dilapidated palaces, decaying signs and relics of fallen empires of past nations. Then meditate over the activities of those people, what they have all done when they were alive and were in power, what they achieved, from where they started their careers; where, when and how they were brought to an end, where they are now; what have they actually gained out of life and what was their contributions to the human welfare.If you carefully ponder over these problems, you will find that each one of those people has parted company with the others and with all that he cherished and loved and he is now in a solitary abode, alone and unattended; and you also will be like him.Take care to provide well for your future abode. Do not barter away eternal blessing for pleasures of this mortal and fleeting world.Do not talk about things which you do not know. Do not speculate about and pass verdicts on subjects about which you are not in a position to form an opinion and are not called upon to do so. Give up the way where there is a possibility of your going astray.When there is danger on your wandering in the wilderness of ignorance, possibility of losing the sight of the goal which you want to attain and of reaching the end aimed at, then it is better to give up the quest than to advance facing uncertain dangers and unforeseen risks.Advise people to do good and to live virtuously because you are fit to give such advice. Let your words and deeds teach the world lessons of how to abstain from wickedness and vicious deeds. Try your best to keep away from those who indulge in vices and sins.Fight, whenever required, to defend the cause of Allah. When you think of defending the cause of Allah do not be afraid that people will laugh at you, censure your action or slander you. Fearlessly and boldly help truth and justice. Bear patiently the sufferings and face bravely the obstacles which come in your way when you follow truth and when you try to uphold it. Adhere to the cause of truth and justice wherever you find it. Try to be well versed with Islamic Jurisprudence and theology and acquire a thorough knowledge of the canons of this religion.Develop the habit of patience against sufferings, calamities and adversities. This virtue of patience is one of the highest values of morality and nobility of character and it is the best habit which one can develop. Trust in Allah and let your mind seek His protection in every calamity and suffering because you will thus entrust yourself and your affairs to the Best Trustee and to the Mightiest Guardian.Do not seek help or protection from anybody but Allah. Reserve your prayers, your requests, your solicitations, your supplications, and your entreaties to Him and Him alone because to grant, to give, to confer and to bestow, as well as to withhold, to deprive, to refuse, and to debar, lies only in His Power. Ask as much of His Blessings and seek as much of His Guidance as you can.Try to understand my exhortation, ponder over them deeply; do not take them lightly and do not turn away from them because the best knowledge is that which benefits the listener. The knowledge which does not benefit anybody is useless, not valuable and not worth learning and remembering.My dear son! When I realized that I was getting old and when I felt that weakness and feebleness are gradually creeping into me then I hastened to advise you as to the best ways of leading a noble, virtuous and useful life. I hated the idea that death should overtake me before I tell you all that I wanted to tell or before my mental capacities like my bodily strength are weakened.I convey all this to you lest inordinate desires, temptations and inducement should start influencing you, or adverse changes of times and circumstances should drag your name in the mire or I should leave you like an untrained colt because a young and fresh mind is like a virgin soil which allows things sown in it to grow verdantly and to bear luxuriantly.Then, I have made use of early opportunities to educate you and train you before your mind loses its freshness, before it gets hardened or warped, before you start facing life unprepared for the encounter, and before you are forced to use your decisions and discretions without gaining advantages of cumulated traditions, collected knowledge and experiences of others.These words of advice and counsels that I give you, will save you from the worry of acquiring knowledge, gathering experiences and soliciting advice from others. Now you can easily make use of all the knowledge which men have to acquire with great care, trouble and patience. Things which were hidden from them and which only experiments, experiences and sufferings could bring to light are now made easily available to you through these exhortations.My dear son! Though the span of my life is not as that of some other people who have passed away before me yet I took great care to study their lives, assiduously I went through their activities, I contemplated over their deliberations and deeds, I studied their remains, relics and ruins, I pondered over their lives so deeply that I felt as if I have lived and worked with them from early ages of history down to our times and I know what did them good and what brought harm to them.Sifting the good from bad I am concentrating within these pages, and for your good, the knowledge that I so gathered. Through these pieces of advice I have tried to bring home to you the value of honest-living and high-thinking and the dangers of a vicious and sinful life, I have taken care to cover and guard every aspect of your life as it is the duty of a kind, considerate and loving father.From the very beginning, I took care to help you to develop a noble character and to fit you for the life which you will have to lead, to let you grow up to be a young man with a noble character, an open and honest mind and clear and precise knowledge of things around you. Originally my desire was only to teach you the Holy Book thoroughly, to make you understand its intricacies, to impart to you the complete knowledge of His commandments and interdictions and not to leave you at the mercy of the knowledge of other people.But after having succeeded in this task I felt nervous that I may leave you untrained and uneducated in the subjects which themselves are subject to so much confusion and so many contradictions. These are the subjects whose confusions have been made worse confounded by selfish desires, warped minds, wicked ways of life and sinful modes of thinking. Therefore, I have noted down, in these lines, the basic principles of nobility, piety, truth and justice.You may feel them to be over-bearing and harsh but my desire is to equip you with this knowledge instead of leaving you unarmed to face the world where there is every danger of loss and damnation.As you are a noble, virtuous and pious young man, I am sure you will receive Divine Guidance and Succour. I am sure He will help you to achieve your aim in life. I want you to promise to yourself to follow my advice carefully.Remember my son! The best out of these pieces of advice of mine are the those which tell you to fear Allah, to concentrate and to confine yourself to the performance of those duties which have been made incumbent upon you by Him and to follow in the footsteps of your ancestors [The Holy Prophet (S) & Imam ‘Ali (a)] and your pious and virtuous relationship. Verily, they always carefully measured their thoughts and deeds, as you must also try to do and they carefully thought over the subject before saying anything about it or before doing a deed. You should also follow the same.This kind of deliberation made them take from life what was really the best and forsake that which was not made incumbent upon them or which was not the best. If your mind refuses to accept my advice and you persist to try your own experiments like them then you are at liberty to arrive at your conclusions but only after thoroughly studying the subject and after acquiring the knowledge necessary for such decisions.You must not allow uncertainties and doubt poison your mind, scepticism or irrational likes and dislikes should not affect your views. But remember that before you start thinking and deliberating over a problem seek guidance of the Lord and beseech Him to give you a lead in the right direction. Avoid confusion in your ideas, and do not let disbelief take hold of your mind because the first will lead you to agnosticism and the others towards errors and sins.When you are thus prepared to solve any problem and you are sure that you possess a clear mind, a sincere and firm desire to reach the truth, to say the correct thing and to do the correct deed, then carefully go through the advice that I am leaving for you.If your mind is not clear and it is not as free from doubts as you wish it to be, then you will be wandering in the wilderness of uncertainties and errors like a camel suffering from night-blindness. Under these circumstances it is best for you to give up the quest because with such limitations none can ever reach the truth.My dear son! carefully and very carefully remember these sayings of mine. The Lord who is the Master of death is also the Master of life. The Creator is the Annihilator. And the One who annihilates has the power to bring everything back again to existence. The One who sends calamities has also the power to protect you from them.Remember that this world is working under the laws ordained by Him, and it consists of assemblage and aggregation of actions and reactions, causes and effects, calamities and reverses, pains and pleasures and rewards and punishments, but this is not all which the picture depicts, there are things in it which are beyond our ken, things which we do not and cannot know and things which cannot be foreseen and foretold, for example the rewards and punishments on the Day of Judgement.Under these circumstances, if you do not understand a thing, do not reject it. Remember that your lack of understanding is due to insufficiency of your knowledge. Remember that when you came into this world your first appearance was that of an ignorant, uneducated and unlearned being. Then you gradually acquired knowledge, but there were several things which were beyond your knowledge, which perplexed and surprised you, and about which you did not understand. Gradually you acquired knowledge about some of those subjects and in future your knowledge and vision may further expand.Therefore, the best thing for you to do is to seek guidance of One who has created you, Who maintains and nourishes you, Who has given you a balanced mind and a normally working body. Your invocations should be reserved for Him only, your requests and solicitations should be alone to Him and you should only be afraid of Him.Be it known to you, my son, that nobody has given mankind such detailed information about Allah as our Holy Prophet (S). I advise you to have faith in his teachings, to make him your leader and to accept his guidance for your salvation. Thus advising you I have done the best that I can do as a sincere and loving adviser and I assure you that however you may try to find a better way for your good, you will not find any superior to the one advised by me.Remember, my son, had there been any other god, besides the One, he would have also sent his messengers and prophets and they would have pointed out to mankind the domain and glory of this second god, and you would have also seen them. But no such incident ever took place. He is One Allah whom we should all recognize and worship. He has explained Himself. Nobody is a partner to Him in His Domain, Might and Glory. He is Eternal, has always been and shall always be. He existed even before the Universe came into being but there is no beginning to His Existence. He shall remain when every other thing shall vanish, and there shall be no end to His Existence. His Glory and His Existence is so supreme, pre-eminent, transcendent, incomparable and excellent that it is beyond the grasp of intellects. No one can understand or visualize Him.When you have accepted these facts then your behaviour, so far as His commands are concerned, should be that of a person who realizes that his status, power and position is nothing when compared to that of His Lord; who wants to gain His Blessings through prayers and obedience, who fears His Wrath as well as His Punishments and who absolutely in need of His Help and Protection. Remember, my son, Allah has not ordered you to do anything but that which is good and which propagates goodness and He has not prohibited you from anything but that which is bad and will bring about bad effects.My dear son, through this message of mine, I have explained everything about this world, how fickle and fleeting is its attitude, how short-lived and evanescent is everything that it holds or offers about and how fast it changes its moods and favours. I have also explained about the life to come, the pleasures and blessings provided there, and the everlasting peace, comfort and happiness arranged for in Paradise.I have given enough examples of both aspects of life, before and after death so that you may know the reality and lead your life on the basis of that knowledge.As a matter of fact those people who have carefully studied the condition of life and the world, pass their days as if they know that they are travellers, who have to leave a place which is famine-stricken, unhealthy and uncongenial, and they have to proceed towards lands which are fertile, congenial, and where there is abundant provision of all comforts and pleasures.They have eagerly taken up the journey, happy in the hope of future blessings and peace. They have willingly accepted the sufferings, troubles and hazards of the way, parting of friends, scarcity of food and comfort during the pilgrimage so that they may reach the journey’s end – a happy place. They do not refuse to bear any discomfort and do not grudge any expenditure by way of giving out alms and charities, and helping the poor and the needy.Every step which they put forward towards their goal, however tiring and exhausting it may be, is a happy event of their lives. On the contrary the condition of those people who are solely engrossed in this world and are sadly engulfed in its short-lived, quickly fading and vicious pleasures, is like that of travellers who are staying in fertile and happy regions and who have to undertake a journey, knowing fully well that the journey is going to end in a rough, arid and infertile land.Can anything be more loathsome and abhorring to them than this journey? How they would hate to leave the place where they are and to arrive at a place which they so much hate and which is so dismaying, dreadful and horrifying!My dear son, so far as your behaviour with other human beings is concerned, let your ‘self’ act as scales to judge its goodness or wickedness. Do unto others as you wish others to do unto you.Whatever you like for yourself, like for others, and whatever you dislike to happen to you, spare others from such happenings. Do not oppress and tyrannize anybody because you surely do not like to be oppressed and tyrannized. Be kind and sympathetic to others as you certainly desire others to treat you kindly and sympathetically. If you find objectionable and loathsome habits in others, abstain from developing those traits of character in yourself.If you are satisfied or feel happy in receiving a certain kind of behaviour from others, you may behave with others in exactly the same way. Do not speak about them in the same way that you do not like others to speak about you. Do not speak on a subject about which you know little or nothing, and if you at all want to speak on anything or about anyone of whom you are fully aware, then avoid scandal, libel and aspersion as you do not like yourself to be scandalized and scorned in the same manner.Remember, son, that vanity and conceit are forms of folly. These traits will bring to you serious harm and will be a constant source of danger to you. Therefore, lead a well-balanced life (neither be conceited nor suffer from inferiority complex) and exert yourself to earn an honest living. But do not act like a treasure for somebody (do not be miserly so that you leave what you hoard for others).And whenever you receive guidance of the Lord to achieve a thing you desire, then do not get proud of your achievement but be humble and submissive to Him and realize that your success was due to His Mercy.Remember my son, that before you is a long and arduous journey (life). The journey is not only very long, exhausting and onerous but the route is mostly through dismal, dreary and deserted regions where you will be sadly in need of refreshing, renovating and enlivening aids and helps and you cannot dispense with such provisions as to keep you going and to maintain you till the end of the journey – the Day of Judgement.But remember not to overload yourself (do not entrust yourself with so many obligations and duties that you cannot honourably fulfil them or with such luxurious life as to be wicked and vicious).Because if this load is more than what you can conveniently bear then your journey will be very painful and tiresome to you. If you find around you such poor, needy and destitute people who are willing to carry your load for you as far as the Day of Judgement then consider this to be a boon, engage them and pass your burden on to them. (Distribute your wealth amongst the poor, destitute and the needy, help others to the best of your ability and be kind and sympathetic to human beings).Thus relieve yourself from the heavy responsibility and liability of submitting an account on the Day of Judgement of how you have made use of His Bounties (of health, wealth, power and position) and thus you may arrive at the end of the journey, light and fresh, have enough provision for you there (reward of having done your duty to man and Allah in this world).Have as many weight-carriers as you can (help as many as you can) so that you may not miss them when you very badly need them (when your sins of commission and omission will be balanced against your good deeds you must have enough good deeds to turn the scale in your favour). Remember that all you give out in charities and good deeds are like loans which will be paid back to you.Therefore, when you are wealthy and powerful, make use of your wealth and power in such a way that you get all that back on the Day of Judgement, when you will be poor and helpless. Be it known to you, my son, that your passage lies through an appallingly dreadful valley (death or grave) and extremely trying and arduous journey.Here a man with light weight is far better than an over-burdened person and one who can travel fast will pass through it quickly than the one whose encumbering forces go slowly. You shall have to pass through this valley.The only way out of it is either in Paradise or in Hell. Therefore, it is wise to send your things there beforehand so that they (good deeds) reach there before you, prearrange for the place of your stay before you reach there because after death there is no repentance and no possibility of coming back to this world to undo the wrong done by you.Realize this truth, my son, that the Lord who owns and holds the treasures of Paradise and the earth has given you permission to ask and beg for them and He has promised to grant your prayers. He has told you to pray for His Favours that they may be granted to you and to ask for His Blessings that they may be bestowed upon you. He has not appointed guards to prevent your prayers reaching Him. Nor is there any need for anybody to intercede before Him on your behalf.If you go back upon your promises, if your break your vows, or start doing things that you have repented of, He will not immediately punish you nor does He refuse His Blessings in haste and if you repent once again He neither taunts you nor betrays you though you may fully deserve both, but He accepts your penitence and pardons you. He never grudges His Forgiveness nor refuses His Mercy, on the contrary He has decreed repentance as a virtue and pious deed.The Merciful Lord has ordered that every evil deed of yours will be counted as one and a good deed and pious action will be rewarded tenfold. He has left the door of repentance open. He hears you whenever you call Him. He accepts your prayer whenever you pray to Him. Invoke Him to grant you your heart’s desire, lay before Him the secrets of your heart, tell Him about all the calamities that have befallen you and misfortunes which face you, and beseech His help to overcome them. You may invoke His Help and Support in difficulties and distresses.You may implore Him to grant you long life and sound health, you may pray to Him for prosperity and you may request Him for such favours and grants that none but He can bestow and award.Think over it that by simply granting you the privilege of praying for His Favours and Mercies, He has handed over the keys of His treasures to you. Whenever you are in need you should pray and He will confer His Bounties and Blessings. But sometimes you will find that your requests are not immediately granted, then you need not be disappointed because the grant of prayers often rests with the true purpose and intention of the implorer. Sometimes the prayers are delayed because the Merciful Lord wants you to receive further rewards for patiently bearing calamities and sufferings and still believing sincerely in His Help. Thus you may be awarded better favours than you requested for.Sometimes your prayers are turned down, and this is also in your interest; because you often, unknowingly, ask for things that are really harmful to you. If your requests are granted they will do you more harm than good and many of your requests may be such that if they are granted they will result in your eternal damnation. Thus the refusal to accede to your solicitations is a blessing in disguise to you.But very often your requests, if they are not really harmful to you in this life or in the Hereafter, may be delayed but they are granted in quantities much more than you had asked for, bringing in more blessings in their wake than you could ever imagine. So you should be very careful in asking Allah for His Favour. Only pray for such things as are really beneficial to you, and are lasting and in the long run do not end in harm. Remember, my dear son, that wealth and power (if you pray for them) are such things that they will not always be with you and may bring harm to you in the life in the Hereafter.Be it known to you, my son, that you are created for the next world and not for this. You are born to die and not to live forever. Your stay in this world is transient. You live in a place which is subject to decay and destruction. It is a place where you will have to be busy getting ready for the next world. It is a road (to the next world) on which you are standing.Death is following you. You cannot run away from it. However hard you may try to avoid it, it is going to catch you sooner or later.Therefore take care that it may not catch you unawares or when you are not prepared for it, and no chance is left to you to repent the vices and sins committed and to undo the harm done by you. If death catches you unawares, then you are eternally damned. Therefore, my dear son, always keep three things in mind: death, your deeds and the life in the Hereafter. In this way you will always be ready to face death and it will not catch you unawares.My dear son, do not be carried away and be allured by the infatuations of the worldly people in the vicious life and its pleasures, and do not be impressed by the sight of their acute struggle to possess and own this world. Allah has very mercifully explained to you everything about this world. Not only the Merciful Lord but also the world has also told you everything; it has disclosed to you that it is mortal; it has openly declared its weakness, its shortcomings and its vices.Remember that these worldly-minded people are like barking dogs and hungry and ferocious beasts. Some of them are constantly barking at others. The mighty lords kill and massacre the poor and the weak.Their powerful persons exploit and tyrannize the powerless. Their inordinate desires and their greed has such a complete hold over them that you will find some of them like animals tamed and tied with a rope round their feet and necks. (They have lost the freedom of thought and cannot come out of the enslavement of their desires and habits).While they are others whom wealth and power have turned mad. They behave like unruly beasts, trampling, crushing and killing their fellow beings, and destroying things around them. The history of this world is merely a reward of such incidents, some big and some small, the difference is of might but the intensity is the same.These people have lost the balance of their minds. They do not know what they are doing and where they are going, scan their activities and study their ways of thinking and you will find them confused and irrational, they appear like cattle wandering in a dreary desert where there is no water to drink and no fodder to eat, no shepherd to cater for them and no guardian to look after them. What has actually happened to them is that the vicious world has taken possession of them, it is dragging them wherever it likes, and is treating them as if they are blind because it has in reality blind-folded them against Divine light of True Religion.They are wandering without reasonable aims and sober purposes in the bewitching show that the world has staged for them, they are fully intoxicated with the pleasures amassed around them. They take this world to be their god and nourisher. The world is amusing them and they are amused with it and have forgotten and forsaken everything else.But the nights of enjoyments and pleasures will not last long for anybody, the dawn of realities will break sooner or later. The caravan of life will surely reach its destination one day. One who has nights and days acting as piebald horses for him, carrying him onward and onward towards his journey’s end must remember that though he may feel as if he is stopping at one place yet actually he is moving on, he is proceeding to his destination. Everyday is carrying him a step further in his journey towards death.Be it known to you, my son, that you cannot have every wish of yours granted, you cannot expect to escape death, and you are passing through your days of life as others before you have passed. Therefore, control your expectations, desires and cravings. Be moderate in your demands. Earn your livelihood through scrupulously honest means.Be contented with what you get honestly and honourably. Have patience and do not let your desires drive you madly because there are many desires which will lead you towards disappointments and loss. Remember that every beggar or everyone who prays for a thing will not always get what he begs or prays for and everyone who controls his desire, has self-respect and does not beg or pray for things, will not always remain unlucky or disappointed.So, do not bring down your self-respect, do not be mean and submissive and do not subjugate yourself through these vile and base traits though they may appear to make it possible for you to secure your hearts desires because nothing in this world can compensate for the loss of self-respect, nobility and honour.Take care, my son! Be warned that you do not make yourself a slave of anybody. Allah has created you a freeman. Do not sell away your freedom in return of anything. There is no actual gain and real value in benefits that you derive by selling your honour and self-respect or by subjugating yourself to disgrace and insults as there is no real good in wealth and power that you acquire by foul means.Beware, my son, that avarice and greed may not drive you towards destruction and damnation. If you can succeed in having nobody as your benefactor but Allah, then try your best to achieve this nobility because He will grant you your share whether you try to taunt your donors, patrons and benefactors or not.Remember that the little which is given to you by Allah is going to be more useful and serviceable to you and is more honourable and respectable than what is granted by man in abundance. And what can a man give you but part of that which Allah has granted him?The losses that you suffer on account of your silence can be easily compensated but the losses which arise out of excessive and loose talk are difficult to requite. Do you not see that the best way of guarding water in a water-bay is to close its mouth.To guard what you already possess is better than to beg from others.The bitterness of disappointment and poverty is in reality sweeter than the disgrace of begging.Returns of hard but respectable labour of a craft or profession, though small in quantity, are better than the wealth which you amass through sin and wickedness.Nobody can guard your secrets better than you.Often a man tries his best to acquire a thing which is most harmful to him.One who talks too much makes most mistakes.One who often reflects, develops his foresight.By keeping company with good people, you will develop your character and by avoiding the society of wicked persons, you will abstain from wickedness.Livelihood acquired by foul means is the worst form of livelihood.To oppress a weak and helpless person is the worst form of ferocity.If your kindness or indulgence is going to bring forth cruel results, then severity of strictness is the real kindness.Often medicating results in disease; sometimes diseases prove to be health preservers.Often you obtain warnings and advice from people who are not fit to warn and advise you and often you come across advisers who are not sincere.Do not rely on vain hopes because vain hopes are assets of fools and idiots.Wisdom is the name of the trait of remembering experiences and making use of them. The best experience is the one which gives the best warning and advice.Take advantage of opportunities before they turn their backs on you.Everyone who tries cannot succeed.Everyone who departs this life will not return.The worst form of follies is to waste opportunities of this life as well as to lose salvation.For every action there is a reaction.Shortly you will get what has been destined for you.There is an element of risk and speculation in every trade as well as danger of loss.Often small returns prove as beneficial as big profits.An accessory of an accomplice who insults you and a friend who has not formed a good opinion of you will not be of any help or use to you.Treat those with consideration and kindness over whom you have power and authority.Do not run the risk of endangering yourself through irrational, unreasonable and extravagant hopes.Take care so as not to be fooled by flattery.Do good to your brother when he is bent upon doing harm to you. When he ignores or declines to recognize the kinship, befriend him, go to his help and try to maintain relations. If he is miserly with you and refuses to help you, be generous with him and support him financially. If he is cruel with you, be kind and considerate with him. If he harms you accept his excuses. Behave with him as if he is a master and you are a slave, and he is a benefactor and you are a beneficiary. But be careful that you do not thus behave with undeserving and mean persons.Do not develop friendship with the enemy of your friend otherwise your friend will turn into an enemy.Advise your friend sincerely and to the best of your ability even though he may not like it.Keep a complete control over your temper and anger because I never found anything more beneficial at the end and producing more good results than such a control.Be mild, pleasant and lenient with him who is harsh, gross, and strict with you; gradually he will turn to your behaviour.Grant favour and be considerate to your enemy because you will thus gain either one of the two kinds of victories: (one rising above your enemy, the other of reducing the intensity of his hostility).If you want to cease relations with your friend, then do not break off totally, let your heart retain some consideration for him so that you will still have some regard for him if he comes back to you.Do not disappoint a person who holds a good opinion of you and do not make him change his opinion.Under the impression that you, as a friend, can behave as you like, do not violate the rights of your friend because, when he is deprived of his rights and privileges, he will no more remain your friend.Do not ill-treat members of your family and do not behave with them as if you are the most cruel man alive.Do not run after him who tries to avoid you.The greatest achievement of your character is that the hostility of your brother against you does not overcome the consideration and friendship you feel towards him, and his ill-treatment of you does not overbalance your kind treatment to him.Do not get worried and depressed over the oppressions because whoever oppresses you is in reality doing himself harm and is trying to find ways for your good.Never ill-treat a person who has done good to you.Know it well, son, that there are two kinds of livelihood: one which you are searching for and the other which follows you (which has been destined for you). It will reach you even if you do not try to obtain it.To be submissive, humble, crawling and begging when one is needy, powerless and poor and to be arrogant, oppressing and cruel when in power and opulence are two very ugly traits of the human character.Nothing in this world is really useful to you unless it has some utility and value for you for the next world. If you at all want to lament over things which you have lost in this world then worry about the loss of things which had immortal values for you.The past and almost all that was in your possession during the past is not with you know. You may thus rationally come to the conclusion that the present and all that is in your possession now will also leave you.Do not be like persons on whom advice has no effect; they require punishment to improve them. A sensible man acquires education and culture through advice, while brutes and beasts always improve through punishment.Overcome your sorrows, your worries and your misfortunes with patience and faith in the Merciful Lord and your hard work; one who gives up a straight path, honest and rational ways of thinking and working, will harm himself.A friend is like a relation and a true friend is one who speaks well of you even behind your back.Inordinate desires are related with misfortunes.Often close relations behave more distantly than strangers and often strangers help you more than your nearest relatives.Poor is he who has no friends.Whoever forsakes truth finds that his path of life has become narrow and troublesome.Contentment and honesty are the lasting assets to retain ones prestige and position.The strongest relation is the one which is between man and Allah.One who does not care for you is your enemy.If there is a danger of death or destruction in securing an object then safety lies in avoiding it.Weaknesses and shortcomings are not the things to talk about.Opportunities do not repeat themselves.Sometimes very wise and learned persons fail to achieve the object they were aiming at and foolish and uneducated people attain their purposes.Postpone evil deeds as long as possible because you can commit them whenever you so desire (then why hurry in committing them).To cut connections with ignorant people is itself like forming connections with wise persons.Whoever trusts this world is betrayed by it and whoever gives it importance is disgraced by it.Every arrow of yours will not hit the bull’s eye.When status changes your conditions also change.Before ascertaining the conditions of a route, find out what kinds of persons will accompany you on the journey.Instead of enquiring about the condition of the home in which you are going to stay, first of all try to find out what kind of people your neighbours are.Do not introduce ridiculous topics in your talk even if you have to repeat sayings of others.Do not seek the advice of women, their verdicts are often immature and incorrect and their determinations are not firm.You must guard and defend them and act as a shelter to protect them from impious and injurious surroundings and infamous sights, this kind of shelter will keep them well-protected from every harm. Their contact with a vicious and sinful atmosphere (even with all the shelter that you can provide) is going to prove more harmful than being left with protection. Do not let them interfere with affairs where you cannot personally guide or protect them. Do not let them aspire for things which are beyond their capacities.They are more like decoration to humanity and

A Letter from Father to Son, The Last Will of Ali ibn Abi Talib (a)

After returning from the Battle of Siffin, Imam ‘Ali (a) gave certain pieces of advice to one of his sons. Some historians consider him to be Imam Hasan (a) while others are of the opinion that he was Muhammad al-Hanafiyya.

He wrote the letter in the form of a will. They deal with almost every aspect of life which goes a long way to make a man successful in life – brave, humane, generous, virtuous and pious.

These exhortations are from a father who realizes the morality of life, who is getting old, who has patiently borne reverses and calamities, who hates inordinate desires and has overcome them, and who is shortly going to pass out of this world, to his son who is young, who has the desire of leading the world to sober ways of thinking and better ways of life, a desire which is rather difficult to be achieved.

A son, who is mortal and is bound by nature to follow the steps of all mortals, is subject to ailments, is surrounded by misfortunes and calamities, has to face oppressions and tyrannies, has often to confront with and sometimes to tolerate hypocrisy, deceit, guile, duplicity and treason and who is to end his life in death, is to bear sufferings, is the heir to a person who is dead and gone and who finally ended his life as a martyr to the animosity of his enemies. (What a prophecy!)

This letter was written nearly 1400 year ago and is applicable and appropriate even nowadays.

In the 40th year of Hijri, in the small hours of the morning of 19th Ramadan, Imam ‘Ali (as) was struck with a poisoned sword by the Kharijite Ibn Maljam while offering his prayers in the Masjid of Kufa. He died on the 21st day of Ramadan 40 A.H. and buried in Najaf ul-Ashraf. He was born in the House of Allah, the Kaaba, and martyred in the House of Allah, Masjid al-Kufa. The Lion of Allah, the most brave and gentle Muslim after the Prophet (S) himself, began his glorious life with devotion to Allah and His Messenger, and ended it in the service of Islam.

“And do not speak of those who are slain in the Way of Allah as dead; nay, they are alive, but you perceive not.” Quran 2:154


My Dear Son,

Let it be known to you that decay of health, passing away of time and nearness of death, have made me realize that I should give more thought to my future (next world) and to my people; advise them more and spend more time in equipping them mentally to face this world.

I felt that my own sons and my near ones have as much right to utilize my experiences and knowledge, all the ups and downs of life, all the realities and all the truths about life in this world and in the Hereafter, which are as much known to me as others.

I decided, therefore, to spend more time over you and to prepare you more for your. This was neither selfishness nor self-esteem nor any mental luxury of giving away pieces of advice, but it was the sincere desire of making you see the world as I found it, look at the realities of lives as I looked at them, and do the right thing at the right time and right place as it should be done which made me write down these exhortations to you. You will not find in them anything but truth and realities.

My dear son! You are part of my body and soul and whenever I look at you I feel as if I am looking at myself. If any calamities befalls you, I feel as if it has befallen me. Your death will make me feel as if it was my own death. Your affairs are to me like my own affairs.

Therefore, I committed these pieces of advice to paper. I want you to take care of them, to pay attention to them and to guard them well. I may remain longer in your life or I may not, but I want these pieces of advice to remain with you always.

My first and foremost advice to you, my son, is to fear Allah. Be His obedient servant. Keep His thought always fresh in your mind. Be attached to and carefully guard the principles (Islam) which connect you with Him. Can any other connection be stronger, more durable and more lasting than this to command greater respect and consideration or to replace it?

Accept good exhortations and refresh your mind with them. Adopt piety and kill your inordinate desires with its help. Build your character with the help of true faith in religion and Allah. Subjugate your nature with the vision of death, make it see the mortality of life and of all that it holds dear, force it to realize the actuality of misfortunes and adversities, the changes of circumstances and times and compel it to study the lives of past people.

Persuade it to see the ruined cities, the dilapidated palaces, decaying signs and relics of fallen empires of past nations. Then meditate over the activities of those people, what they have all done when they were alive and were in power, what they achieved, from where they started their careers; where, when and how they were brought to an end, where they are now; what have they actually gained out of life and what was their contributions to the human welfare.

If you carefully ponder over these problems, you will find that each one of those people has parted company with the others and with all that he cherished and loved and he is now in a solitary abode, alone and unattended; and you also will be like him.

Take care to provide well for your future abode. Do not barter away eternal blessing for pleasures of this mortal and fleeting world.

Do not talk about things which you do not know. Do not speculate about and pass verdicts on subjects about which you are not in a position to form an opinion and are not called upon to do so. Give up the way where there is a possibility of your going astray.

When there is danger on your wandering in the wilderness of ignorance, possibility of losing the sight of the goal which you want to attain and of reaching the end aimed at, then it is better to give up the quest than to advance facing uncertain dangers and unforeseen risks.

Advise people to do good and to live virtuously because you are fit to give such advice. Let your words and deeds teach the world lessons of how to abstain from wickedness and vicious deeds. Try your best to keep away from those who indulge in vices and sins.

Fight, whenever required, to defend the cause of Allah. When you think of defending the cause of Allah do not be afraid that people will laugh at you, censure your action or slander you. Fearlessly and boldly help truth and justice. Bear patiently the sufferings and face bravely the obstacles which come in your way when you follow truth and when you try to uphold it. Adhere to the cause of truth and justice wherever you find it. Try to be well versed with Islamic Jurisprudence and theology and acquire a thorough knowledge of the canons of this religion.

Develop the habit of patience against sufferings, calamities and adversities. This virtue of patience is one of the highest values of morality and nobility of character and it is the best habit which one can develop. Trust in Allah and let your mind seek His protection in every calamity and suffering because you will thus entrust yourself and your affairs to the Best Trustee and to the Mightiest Guardian.

Do not seek help or protection from anybody but Allah. Reserve your prayers, your requests, your solicitations, your supplications, and your entreaties to Him and Him alone because to grant, to give, to confer and to bestow, as well as to withhold, to deprive, to refuse, and to debar, lies only in His Power. Ask as much of His Blessings and seek as much of His Guidance as you can.

Try to understand my exhortation, ponder over them deeply; do not take them lightly and do not turn away from them because the best knowledge is that which benefits the listener. The knowledge which does not benefit anybody is useless, not valuable and not worth learning and remembering.

My dear son! When I realized that I was getting old and when I felt that weakness and feebleness are gradually creeping into me then I hastened to advise you as to the best ways of leading a noble, virtuous and useful life. I hated the idea that death should overtake me before I tell you all that I wanted to tell or before my mental capacities like my bodily strength are weakened.

I convey all this to you lest inordinate desires, temptations and inducement should start influencing you, or adverse changes of times and circumstances should drag your name in the mire or I should leave you like an untrained colt because a young and fresh mind is like a virgin soil which allows things sown in it to grow verdantly and to bear luxuriantly.

Then, I have made use of early opportunities to educate you and train you before your mind loses its freshness, before it gets hardened or warped, before you start facing life unprepared for the encounter, and before you are forced to use your decisions and discretions without gaining advantages of cumulated traditions, collected knowledge and experiences of others.

These words of advice and counsels that I give you, will save you from the worry of acquiring knowledge, gathering experiences and soliciting advice from others. Now you can easily make use of all the knowledge which men have to acquire with great care, trouble and patience. Things which were hidden from them and which only experiments, experiences and sufferings could bring to light are now made easily available to you through these exhortations.

My dear son! Though the span of my life is not as that of some other people who have passed away before me yet I took great care to study their lives, assiduously I went through their activities, I contemplated over their deliberations and deeds, I studied their remains, relics and ruins, I pondered over their lives so deeply that I felt as if I have lived and worked with them from early ages of history down to our times and I know what did them good and what brought harm to them.

Sifting the good from bad I am concentrating within these pages, and for your good, the knowledge that I so gathered. Through these pieces of advice I have tried to bring home to you the value of honest-living and high-thinking and the dangers of a vicious and sinful life, I have taken care to cover and guard every aspect of your life as it is the duty of a kind, considerate and loving father.

From the very beginning, I took care to help you to develop a noble character and to fit you for the life which you will have to lead, to let you grow up to be a young man with a noble character, an open and honest mind and clear and precise knowledge of things around you. Originally my desire was only to teach you the Holy Book thoroughly, to make you understand its intricacies, to impart to you the complete knowledge of His commandments and interdictions and not to leave you at the mercy of the knowledge of other people.

But after having succeeded in this task I felt nervous that I may leave you untrained and uneducated in the subjects which themselves are subject to so much confusion and so many contradictions. These are the subjects whose confusions have been made worse confounded by selfish desires, warped minds, wicked ways of life and sinful modes of thinking. Therefore, I have noted down, in these lines, the basic principles of nobility, piety, truth and justice.

You may feel them to be over-bearing and harsh but my desire is to equip you with this knowledge instead of leaving you unarmed to face the world where there is every danger of loss and damnation.

As you are a noble, virtuous and pious young man, I am sure you will receive Divine Guidance and Succour. I am sure He will help you to achieve your aim in life. I want you to promise to yourself to follow my advice carefully.

Remember my son! The best out of these pieces of advice of mine are the those which tell you to fear Allah, to concentrate and to confine yourself to the performance of those duties which have been made incumbent upon you by Him and to follow in the footsteps of your ancestors [The Holy Prophet (S) & Imam ‘Ali (a)] and your pious and virtuous relationship. Verily, they always carefully measured their thoughts and deeds, as you must also try to do and they carefully thought over the subject before saying anything about it or before doing a deed. You should also follow the same.

This kind of deliberation made them take from life what was really the best and forsake that which was not made incumbent upon them or which was not the best. If your mind refuses to accept my advice and you persist to try your own experiments like them then you are at liberty to arrive at your conclusions but only after thoroughly studying the subject and after acquiring the knowledge necessary for such decisions.

You must not allow uncertainties and doubt poison your mind, scepticism or irrational likes and dislikes should not affect your views. But remember that before you start thinking and deliberating over a problem seek guidance of the Lord and beseech Him to give you a lead in the right direction. Avoid confusion in your ideas, and do not let disbelief take hold of your mind because the first will lead you to agnosticism and the others towards errors and sins.

When you are thus prepared to solve any problem and you are sure that you possess a clear mind, a sincere and firm desire to reach the truth, to say the correct thing and to do the correct deed, then carefully go through the advice that I am leaving for you.

If your mind is not clear and it is not as free from doubts as you wish it to be, then you will be wandering in the wilderness of uncertainties and errors like a camel suffering from night-blindness. Under these circumstances it is best for you to give up the quest because with such limitations none can ever reach the truth.

My dear son! carefully and very carefully remember these sayings of mine. The Lord who is the Master of death is also the Master of life. The Creator is the Annihilator. And the One who annihilates has the power to bring everything back again to existence. The One who sends calamities has also the power to protect you from them.

Remember that this world is working under the laws ordained by Him, and it consists of assemblage and aggregation of actions and reactions, causes and effects, calamities and reverses, pains and pleasures and rewards and punishments, but this is not all which the picture depicts, there are things in it which are beyond our ken, things which we do not and cannot know and things which cannot be foreseen and foretold, for example the rewards and punishments on the Day of Judgement.

Under these circumstances, if you do not understand a thing, do not reject it. Remember that your lack of understanding is due to insufficiency of your knowledge. Remember that when you came into this world your first appearance was that of an ignorant, uneducated and unlearned being. Then you gradually acquired knowledge, but there were several things which were beyond your knowledge, which perplexed and surprised you, and about which you did not understand. Gradually you acquired knowledge about some of those subjects and in future your knowledge and vision may further expand.

Therefore, the best thing for you to do is to seek guidance of One who has created you, Who maintains and nourishes you, Who has given you a balanced mind and a normally working body. Your invocations should be reserved for Him only, your requests and solicitations should be alone to Him and you should only be afraid of Him.

Be it known to you, my son, that nobody has given mankind such detailed information about Allah as our Holy Prophet (S). I advise you to have faith in his teachings, to make him your leader and to accept his guidance for your salvation. Thus advising you I have done the best that I can do as a sincere and loving adviser and I assure you that however you may try to find a better way for your good, you will not find any superior to the one advised by me.

Remember, my son, had there been any other god, besides the One, he would have also sent his messengers and prophets and they would have pointed out to mankind the domain and glory of this second god, and you would have also seen them. But no such incident ever took place. He is One Allah whom we should all recognize and worship. He has explained Himself. Nobody is a partner to Him in His Domain, Might and Glory. He is Eternal, has always been and shall always be. He existed even before the Universe came into being but there is no beginning to His Existence. He shall remain when every other thing shall vanish, and there shall be no end to His Existence. His Glory and His Existence is so supreme, pre-eminent, transcendent, incomparable and excellent that it is beyond the grasp of intellects. No one can understand or visualize Him.

When you have accepted these facts then your behaviour, so far as His commands are concerned, should be that of a person who realizes that his status, power and position is nothing when compared to that of His Lord; who wants to gain His Blessings through prayers and obedience, who fears His Wrath as well as His Punishments and who absolutely in need of His Help and Protection. Remember, my son, Allah has not ordered you to do anything but that which is good and which propagates goodness and He has not prohibited you from anything but that which is bad and will bring about bad effects.

My dear son, through this message of mine, I have explained everything about this world, how fickle and fleeting is its attitude, how short-lived and evanescent is everything that it holds or offers about and how fast it changes its moods and favours. I have also explained about the life to come, the pleasures and blessings provided there, and the everlasting peace, comfort and happiness arranged for in Paradise.

I have given enough examples of both aspects of life, before and after death so that you may know the reality and lead your life on the basis of that knowledge.

As a matter of fact those people who have carefully studied the condition of life and the world, pass their days as if they know that they are travellers, who have to leave a place which is famine-stricken, unhealthy and uncongenial, and they have to proceed towards lands which are fertile, congenial, and where there is abundant provision of all comforts and pleasures.

They have eagerly taken up the journey, happy in the hope of future blessings and peace. They have willingly accepted the sufferings, troubles and hazards of the way, parting of friends, scarcity of food and comfort during the pilgrimage so that they may reach the journey’s end – a happy place. They do not refuse to bear any discomfort and do not grudge any expenditure by way of giving out alms and charities, and helping the poor and the needy.

Every step which they put forward towards their goal, however tiring and exhausting it may be, is a happy event of their lives. On the contrary the condition of those people who are solely engrossed in this world and are sadly engulfed in its short-lived, quickly fading and vicious pleasures, is like that of travellers who are staying in fertile and happy regions and who have to undertake a journey, knowing fully well that the journey is going to end in a rough, arid and infertile land.

Can anything be more loathsome and abhorring to them than this journey? How they would hate to leave the place where they are and to arrive at a place which they so much hate and which is so dismaying, dreadful and horrifying!

My dear son, so far as your behaviour with other human beings is concerned, let your ‘self’ act as scales to judge its goodness or wickedness. Do unto others as you wish others to do unto you.

Whatever you like for yourself, like for others, and whatever you dislike to happen to you, spare others from such happenings. Do not oppress and tyrannize anybody because you surely do not like to be oppressed and tyrannized. Be kind and sympathetic to others as you certainly desire others to treat you kindly and sympathetically. If you find objectionable and loathsome habits in others, abstain from developing those traits of character in yourself.

If you are satisfied or feel happy in receiving a certain kind of behaviour from others, you may behave with others in exactly the same way. Do not speak about them in the same way that you do not like others to speak about you. Do not speak on a subject about which you know little or nothing, and if you at all want to speak on anything or about anyone of whom you are fully aware, then avoid scandal, libel and aspersion as you do not like yourself to be scandalized and scorned in the same manner.

Remember, son, that vanity and conceit are forms of folly. These traits will bring to you serious harm and will be a constant source of danger to you. Therefore, lead a well-balanced life (neither be conceited nor suffer from inferiority complex) and exert yourself to earn an honest living. But do not act like a treasure for somebody (do not be miserly so that you leave what you hoard for others).

And whenever you receive guidance of the Lord to achieve a thing you desire, then do not get proud of your achievement but be humble and submissive to Him and realize that your success was due to His Mercy.

Remember my son, that before you is a long and arduous journey (life). The journey is not only very long, exhausting and onerous but the route is mostly through dismal, dreary and deserted regions where you will be sadly in need of refreshing, renovating and enlivening aids and helps and you cannot dispense with such provisions as to keep you going and to maintain you till the end of the journey – the Day of Judgement.

But remember not to overload yourself (do not entrust yourself with so many obligations and duties that you cannot honourably fulfil them or with such luxurious life as to be wicked and vicious).

Because if this load is more than what you can conveniently bear then your journey will be very painful and tiresome to you. If you find around you such poor, needy and destitute people who are willing to carry your load for you as far as the Day of Judgement then consider this to be a boon, engage them and pass your burden on to them. (Distribute your wealth amongst the poor, destitute and the needy, help others to the best of your ability and be kind and sympathetic to human beings).

Thus relieve yourself from the heavy responsibility and liability of submitting an account on the Day of Judgement of how you have made use of His Bounties (of health, wealth, power and position) and thus you may arrive at the end of the journey, light and fresh, have enough provision for you there (reward of having done your duty to man and Allah in this world).

Have as many weight-carriers as you can (help as many as you can) so that you may not miss them when you very badly need them (when your sins of commission and omission will be balanced against your good deeds you must have enough good deeds to turn the scale in your favour). Remember that all you give out in charities and good deeds are like loans which will be paid back to you.

Therefore, when you are wealthy and powerful, make use of your wealth and power in such a way that you get all that back on the Day of Judgement, when you will be poor and helpless. Be it known to you, my son, that your passage lies through an appallingly dreadful valley (death or grave) and extremely trying and arduous journey.

Here a man with light weight is far better than an over-burdened person and one who can travel fast will pass through it quickly than the one whose encumbering forces go slowly. You shall have to pass through this valley.

The only way out of it is either in Paradise or in Hell. Therefore, it is wise to send your things there beforehand so that they (good deeds) reach there before you, prearrange for the place of your stay before you reach there because after death there is no repentance and no possibility of coming back to this world to undo the wrong done by you.

Realize this truth, my son, that the Lord who owns and holds the treasures of Paradise and the earth has given you permission to ask and beg for them and He has promised to grant your prayers. He has told you to pray for His Favours that they may be granted to you and to ask for His Blessings that they may be bestowed upon you. He has not appointed guards to prevent your prayers reaching Him. Nor is there any need for anybody to intercede before Him on your behalf.

If you go back upon your promises, if your break your vows, or start doing things that you have repented of, He will not immediately punish you nor does He refuse His Blessings in haste and if you repent once again He neither taunts you nor betrays you though you may fully deserve both, but He accepts your penitence and pardons you. He never grudges His Forgiveness nor refuses His Mercy, on the contrary He has decreed repentance as a virtue and pious deed.

The Merciful Lord has ordered that every evil deed of yours will be counted as one and a good deed and pious action will be rewarded tenfold. He has left the door of repentance open. He hears you whenever you call Him. He accepts your prayer whenever you pray to Him. Invoke Him to grant you your heart’s desire, lay before Him the secrets of your heart, tell Him about all the calamities that have befallen you and misfortunes which face you, and beseech His help to overcome them. You may invoke His Help and Support in difficulties and distresses.

You may implore Him to grant you long life and sound health, you may pray to Him for prosperity and you may request Him for such favours and grants that none but He can bestow and award.

Think over it that by simply granting you the privilege of praying for His Favours and Mercies, He has handed over the keys of His treasures to you. Whenever you are in need you should pray and He will confer His Bounties and Blessings. But sometimes you will find that your requests are not immediately granted, then you need not be disappointed because the grant of prayers often rests with the true purpose and intention of the implorer. Sometimes the prayers are delayed because the Merciful Lord wants you to receive further rewards for patiently bearing calamities and sufferings and still believing sincerely in His Help. Thus you may be awarded better favours than you requested for.

Sometimes your prayers are turned down, and this is also in your interest; because you often, unknowingly, ask for things that are really harmful to you. If your requests are granted they will do you more harm than good and many of your requests may be such that if they are granted they will result in your eternal damnation. Thus the refusal to accede to your solicitations is a blessing in disguise to you.

But very often your requests, if they are not really harmful to you in this life or in the Hereafter, may be delayed but they are granted in quantities much more than you had asked for, bringing in more blessings in their wake than you could ever imagine. So you should be very careful in asking Allah for His Favour. Only pray for such things as are really beneficial to you, and are lasting and in the long run do not end in harm. Remember, my dear son, that wealth and power (if you pray for them) are such things that they will not always be with you and may bring harm to you in the life in the Hereafter.

Be it known to you, my son, that you are created for the next world and not for this. You are born to die and not to live forever. Your stay in this world is transient. You live in a place which is subject to decay and destruction. It is a place where you will have to be busy getting ready for the next world. It is a road (to the next world) on which you are standing.

Death is following you. You cannot run away from it. However hard you may try to avoid it, it is going to catch you sooner or later.

Therefore take care that it may not catch you unawares or when you are not prepared for it, and no chance is left to you to repent the vices and sins committed and to undo the harm done by you. If death catches you unawares, then you are eternally damned. Therefore, my dear son, always keep three things in mind: death, your deeds and the life in the Hereafter. In this way you will always be ready to face death and it will not catch you unawares.

My dear son, do not be carried away and be allured by the infatuations of the worldly people in the vicious life and its pleasures, and do not be impressed by the sight of their acute struggle to possess and own this world. Allah has very mercifully explained to you everything about this world. Not only the Merciful Lord but also the world has also told you everything; it has disclosed to you that it is mortal; it has openly declared its weakness, its shortcomings and its vices.

Remember that these worldly-minded people are like barking dogs and hungry and ferocious beasts. Some of them are constantly barking at others. The mighty lords kill and massacre the poor and the weak.

Their powerful persons exploit and tyrannize the powerless. Their inordinate desires and their greed has such a complete hold over them that you will find some of them like animals tamed and tied with a rope round their feet and necks. (They have lost the freedom of thought and cannot come out of the enslavement of their desires and habits).

While they are others whom wealth and power have turned mad. They behave like unruly beasts, trampling, crushing and killing their fellow beings, and destroying things around them. The history of this world is merely a reward of such incidents, some big and some small, the difference is of might but the intensity is the same.

These people have lost the balance of their minds. They do not know what they are doing and where they are going, scan their activities and study their ways of thinking and you will find them confused and irrational, they appear like cattle wandering in a dreary desert where there is no water to drink and no fodder to eat, no shepherd to cater for them and no guardian to look after them. What has actually happened to them is that the vicious world has taken possession of them, it is dragging them wherever it likes, and is treating them as if they are blind because it has in reality blind-folded them against Divine light of True Religion.

They are wandering without reasonable aims and sober purposes in the bewitching show that the world has staged for them, they are fully intoxicated with the pleasures amassed around them. They take this world to be their god and nourisher. The world is amusing them and they are amused with it and have forgotten and forsaken everything else.

But the nights of enjoyments and pleasures will not last long for anybody, the dawn of realities will break sooner or later. The caravan of life will surely reach its destination one day. One who has nights and days acting as piebald horses for him, carrying him onward and onward towards his journey’s end must remember that though he may feel as if he is stopping at one place yet actually he is moving on, he is proceeding to his destination. Everyday is carrying him a step further in his journey towards death.

Be it known to you, my son, that you cannot have every wish of yours granted, you cannot expect to escape death, and you are passing through your days of life as others before you have passed. Therefore, control your expectations, desires and cravings. Be moderate in your demands. Earn your livelihood through scrupulously honest means.

Be contented with what you get honestly and honourably. Have patience and do not let your desires drive you madly because there are many desires which will lead you towards disappointments and loss. Remember that every beggar or everyone who prays for a thing will not always get what he begs or prays for and everyone who controls his desire, has self-respect and does not beg or pray for things, will not always remain unlucky or disappointed.

So, do not bring down your self-respect, do not be mean and submissive and do not subjugate yourself through these vile and base traits though they may appear to make it possible for you to secure your hearts desires because nothing in this world can compensate for the loss of self-respect, nobility and honour.

Take care, my son! Be warned that you do not make yourself a slave of anybody. Allah has created you a freeman. Do not sell away your freedom in return of anything. There is no actual gain and real value in benefits that you derive by selling your honour and self-respect or by subjugating yourself to disgrace and insults as there is no real good in wealth and power that you acquire by foul means.

Beware, my son, that avarice and greed may not drive you towards destruction and damnation. If you can succeed in having nobody as your benefactor but Allah, then try your best to achieve this nobility because He will grant you your share whether you try to taunt your donors, patrons and benefactors or not.

Remember that the little which is given to you by Allah is going to be more useful and serviceable to you and is more honourable and respectable than what is granted by man in abundance. And what can a man give you but part of that which Allah has granted him?

The losses that you suffer on account of your silence can be easily compensated but the losses which arise out of excessive and loose talk are difficult to requite. Do you not see that the best way of guarding water in a water-bay is to close its mouth.

To guard what you already possess is better than to beg from others.

The bitterness of disappointment and poverty is in reality sweeter than the disgrace of begging.

Returns of hard but respectable labour of a craft or profession, though small in quantity, are better than the wealth which you amass through sin and wickedness.

Nobody can guard your secrets better than you.

Often a man tries his best to acquire a thing which is most harmful to him.

One who talks too much makes most mistakes.

One who often reflects, develops his foresight.

By keeping company with good people, you will develop your character and by avoiding the society of wicked persons, you will abstain from wickedness.

Livelihood acquired by foul means is the worst form of livelihood.

To oppress a weak and helpless person is the worst form of ferocity.

If your kindness or indulgence is going to bring forth cruel results, then severity of strictness is the real kindness.

Often medicating results in disease; sometimes diseases prove to be health preservers.

Often you obtain warnings and advice from people who are not fit to warn and advise you and often you come across advisers who are not sincere.

Do not rely on vain hopes because vain hopes are assets of fools and idiots.

Wisdom is the name of the trait of remembering experiences and making use of them. The best experience is the one which gives the best warning and advice.

Take advantage of opportunities before they turn their backs on you.

Everyone who tries cannot succeed.

Everyone who departs this life will not return.

The worst form of follies is to waste opportunities of this life as well as to lose salvation.

For every action there is a reaction.

Shortly you will get what has been destined for you.

There is an element of risk and speculation in every trade as well as danger of loss.

Often small returns prove as beneficial as big profits.

An accessory of an accomplice who insults you and a friend who has not formed a good opinion of you will not be of any help or use to you.

Treat those with consideration and kindness over whom you have power and authority.

Do not run the risk of endangering yourself through irrational, unreasonable and extravagant hopes.

Take care so as not to be fooled by flattery.

Do good to your brother when he is bent upon doing harm to you. When he ignores or declines to recognize the kinship, befriend him, go to his help and try to maintain relations. If he is miserly with you and refuses to help you, be generous with him and support him financially. If he is cruel with you, be kind and considerate with him. If he harms you accept his excuses. Behave with him as if he is a master and you are a slave, and he is a benefactor and you are a beneficiary. But be careful that you do not thus behave with undeserving and mean persons.

Do not develop friendship with the enemy of your friend otherwise your friend will turn into an enemy.

Advise your friend sincerely and to the best of your ability even though he may not like it.

Keep a complete control over your temper and anger because I never found anything more beneficial at the end and producing more good results than such a control.

Be mild, pleasant and lenient with him who is harsh, gross, and strict with you; gradually he will turn to your behaviour.

Grant favour and be considerate to your enemy because you will thus gain either one of the two kinds of victories: (one rising above your enemy, the other of reducing the intensity of his hostility).

If you want to cease relations with your friend, then do not break off totally, let your heart retain some consideration for him so that you will still have some regard for him if he comes back to you.

Do not disappoint a person who holds a good opinion of you and do not make him change his opinion.

Under the impression that you, as a friend, can behave as you like, do not violate the rights of your friend because, when he is deprived of his rights and privileges, he will no more remain your friend.

Do not ill-treat members of your family and do not behave with them as if you are the most cruel man alive.

Do not run after him who tries to avoid you.

The greatest achievement of your character is that the hostility of your brother against you does not overcome the consideration and friendship you feel towards him, and his ill-treatment of you does not overbalance your kind treatment to him.

Do not get worried and depressed over the oppressions because whoever oppresses you is in reality doing himself harm and is trying to find ways for your good.

Never ill-treat a person who has done good to you.

Know it well, son, that there are two kinds of livelihood: one which you are searching for and the other which follows you (which has been destined for you). It will reach you even if you do not try to obtain it.

To be submissive, humble, crawling and begging when one is needy, powerless and poor and to be arrogant, oppressing and cruel when in power and opulence are two very ugly traits of the human character.

Nothing in this world is really useful to you unless it has some utility and value for you for the next world. If you at all want to lament over things which you have lost in this world then worry about the loss of things which had immortal values for you.

The past and almost all that was in your possession during the past is not with you know. You may thus rationally come to the conclusion that the present and all that is in your possession now will also leave you.

Do not be like persons on whom advice has no effect; they require punishment to improve them. A sensible man acquires education and culture through advice, while brutes and beasts always improve through punishment.

Overcome your sorrows, your worries and your misfortunes with patience and faith in the Merciful Lord and your hard work; one who gives up a straight path, honest and rational ways of thinking and working, will harm himself.

A friend is like a relation and a true friend is one who speaks well of you even behind your back.

Inordinate desires are related with misfortunes.

Often close relations behave more distantly than strangers and often strangers help you more than your nearest relatives.

Poor is he who has no friends.

Whoever forsakes truth finds that his path of life has become narrow and troublesome.

Contentment and honesty are the lasting assets to retain ones prestige and position.

The strongest relation is the one which is between man and Allah.

One who does not care for you is your enemy.

If there is a danger of death or destruction in securing an object then safety lies in avoiding it.

Weaknesses and shortcomings are not the things to talk about.

Opportunities do not repeat themselves.

Sometimes very wise and learned persons fail to achieve the object they were aiming at and foolish and uneducated people attain their purposes.

Postpone evil deeds as long as possible because you can commit them whenever you so desire (then why hurry in committing them).

To cut connections with ignorant people is itself like forming connections with wise persons.

Whoever trusts this world is betrayed by it and whoever gives it importance is disgraced by it.

Every arrow of yours will not hit the bull’s eye.

When status changes your conditions also change.

Before ascertaining the conditions of a route, find out what kinds of persons will accompany you on the journey.

Instead of enquiring about the condition of the home in which you are going to stay, first of all try to find out what kind of people your neighbours are.

Do not introduce ridiculous topics in your talk even if you have to repeat sayings of others.

Do not seek the advice of women, their verdicts are often immature and incorrect and their determinations are not firm.

You must guard and defend them and act as a shelter to protect them from impious and injurious surroundings and infamous sights, this kind of shelter will keep them well-protected from every harm. Their contact with a vicious and sinful atmosphere (even with all the shelter that you can provide) is going to prove more harmful than being left with protection. Do not let them interfere with affairs where you cannot personally guide or protect them. Do not let them aspire for things which are beyond their capacities.

They are more like decoration to humanity and are not made to rule and govern humanity. Exhibit reasonable interest in things which they desire and give importance to them, but do not let them influence your opinions and do not let them impel you to go against your sane views.

Do not force them into marriages which they abhor or which they consider below their dignity because there is danger of thus converting honourable and virtuous women into shameless and dishonourable beings.

Divide and distribute work among your servants so that you can hold each one responsible for the work entrusted to them. This is a better and smoother way of carrying on a work than each one of them throwing the responsibility of every bit of work on somebody else.

Treat the members of your family with love and respect because they act as wings with which you fly and as hands which support you and fight for you. They are people towards whom you turn when you are in trouble and in need.

My dear son! After having given these pieces of advice to you I entrust you to the Lord. He will help, guide and protect you in this world and the Hereafter. I beseech Him to take you under His protection in both the worlds.

Introduction of Gun And Gun Powder in India

The First Battle of Panipat, 1526

It is generally held that the guns and the gunpowder were introduced in India by Babur. Guns and gunpowder are sometimes also held as a primary reason for Babur’s conquest of Hindustan.

Recent researches have however shown that guns and gunpowder were known to Indians even before the coming of Mughals in India.

We have at our disposal sufficient evidence for its use in India prior to 1526. Prof. Iqtidar Alam Khan took up this question in great detail in a number of his articles. We have evidence that fire-arms of a particular kind were known in Hindustan and used by the regional states like Gujarat, Malwa, Mewar, Bahmanis & even by the Lodis for the preceding 50 – 75 years.

This evidence is derived by Iqtidar A. Khan from such sources as the Travels of Duarta Barbosa, who in the early years of the 16th C (1515-18) noticed fire-arms in Gujarat & the Bahmani Kingdom of the Deccan. He also noticed at the time of his visit, the King of Calicut using a number of Portuguese prisoners in producing a new kind of guns, cast in bronze which were not known to Indians before this.

Bronze 225-pounder Espalhafato SBML Gun, also know as “Tigre” (Tiger), cast at Goa, India in 1533. This stone-throwing gun was used in siege operations. This gun has a 244.5-cm calibre, is 331-cm long and has a bore length of 284-cm. It throws a 103.5 kg (225 lb) stone ball. The gunwas in the fortress of Ormuz and of Diu and came to Lisbon in 1897
Wrought iron 200-pounder Espalhafato “Touro” (Bull), SBML Gun, cast at Goa, Portugal in the 16th century. This stone-throwing gun was used in siege operations. This gun has a 43-cm calibre, and is 304 cm long with a bore length of 277 cm and throws a 92 kg (200 lb) stone ball. It is built with iron staves reinforced with metal bands, similar to the bombards of the 15th century, but constructed at the beginning of the 16th century in 1515, supposedly in India by Francisco Anes. This gun armed the fortress of Diu.

Then we have another Portuguese chronicle, Faria de Souza which can be dated around 1506. In this there is a specific mention of the fact that according to the estimates of the Portuguese experts of artillery, the artillery pieces possessed by the Deccani kingdoms of Ahmadnagar & Vijayanagar were much superior to the artillery of the Portuguese! Might be this was an exaggeration, but still the fact remains.

Duarta Barbosa, the Portuguese admiral who visited India between 1515-18 mentions arquebus-wielding infantrymen who charged from the back of the elephants.

There is other information as well to indicate that the fire-arms were present in the land-locked states also. One of the most important source of this nature is an illustrated manuscript of Aranyak Parvan, a section of the Mahabharata, which was written and illustrated sometime during the reign of Sikandar Lodi, i.e., 1498-1516. It is preserved in the Asiatic Society at Bombay. In this ms, one illustration depicting the siege of Dwarka by Krishna are shown two small canons mounted on the ramparts. One of them is being fired by a man trying to hide behind the battlement.

The page from Aranyak Parvan, Asiatic Society, Mumbai
The Illustration “Siege of Dwarka”: mark the canons mounted on the ramparts of the fort

Thus as early as the reign of Sikandar Lodi, some kind of canons were so known that the painter living in the vicinity of Agra shows them in a scene of a siege operation. This means that the canon was being used for at least 20-25 years and was witnessed even by an artist.

Then we should also take note of a few references in a 15th C chronicle, Ma’asir-i Mahmudshahi, compiled by Shahab Hakim sometime around 1566-68 at Malwa. As the title indicates, it is a history of Malwa down to the reign of Sultan Mahmud Khalji whose military campaigns against the Rajput chief of Mandalgarh, Chitor & Raisen are mentioned.

In this account we come across a description of a missile-throwing weapon in which only round pieces of stones (golas) could be used as projectiles. This suggests that this weapon was fitted with a barrel of some kind. It was known as kamān-i ra’d. Ra’d means ‘thunderbolt’. It is also true that during the earlier phase, the term ra’d applied to a particular kind of munjaniq, a mechanical device for throwing missiles. But then in the manner in which the reference is made to this in the text go to suggest that kamān-i ra’d was something different from the mechanical device of munjaniq:

“By the impact of the balls of ra’d [gola-i ra’d] and stones of munjaniq [sang-i munjaniq], the ramparts of the fort was demolished.”

In this passage one point emerges: that is, the distinction between munjaniq, used for throwing pieces of stones of irregular shape [sang], and the other weapon in which only a ball [gola] could be used. One uses ball only when it has to pass through a barrel.

The Mongols Besieging A City In The Middle-East, 13th Century. Edinburgh University Library. Mark the wooden catapult (manjaniq)

The second point, in addition to this is the name of the weapon, ra’d. The impression emerges that this used by Malwa was some kind of a primitive canon which is depicted in the earlier cited illustration where it is shown short & crudely made.

In addition to this, we have repeated references in latter sources like Tarikh-i Firishta [1607], Tabaqat-i Akbari of Nizamuddin Ahmad [1594], and the Mirat-i Sikandari of Sikandar bin Manjhu [1616]. They refer repeatedly to the use of fire-arms by the Indian powers including Malwa and Gujarat of the 15th C. In all these sources, while mentioning the earlier campaigns, there is the use of the term top-wa tufang.

Still we can not deny that the kind of fire-arms used by Babur was something new for the Indians. It also cannot be denied that the way and manner in which he used them was also new. The novelty of fire-arms and the tactics employed for use was something which gave him military and strategic advantage.

One very great advantage was that by the time Babur invaded the Lodi Empire, the rulers & common people had not yet become familiar with the handguns: they were familiar with the canons but Babur’s soldiers were equipped with some kind of handguns, the arquebuses & matchlocks. The arquebus was a gun which fired by putting the burning object in touch with the hole in the barrel held in the hand.

Thus the new innovation brought by Babur was not the gun & gunpowder, but the use of handguns in open battles. This was an innovation which in Hindustan had not yet become common outside Gujarat in 1526. It seems that the arquebus was not fully known outside Gujarat & certainly not in the North-western region. Babur in the siege of Bajaur describes the reaction of the local garrison to his use of handguns in a manner which goes to indicate that most probably the Bajauris were not familiar with this particular kind of firearms:

“As the Bajauris had never before seen tufung, they at first took no care about them; indeed they made fun when they heard the report and answered it by unseemly gestures. On that day Ustad Ali Quli shot at, and brought down five men with tufung; Wali the treasurer, for his part, brought down two; other matchlock men (tufungchis) were also very active in firing and did well shooting through shields, through armour, and brought down one man after another. Perhaps seven, eight or ten had fallen to tufung fire (zarb-i tufung) before night. After that it so became that not a head could be put out because of the fire.”

This account dates back to 1519, around the same time that Barbosa says that handguns were used in Gujarat.

These tufungs were evidently matchlocks whose use had spread rapidly east from the Ottoman-Iranian borderlands. Venetians sent firearms to north-western Iran to the Turkic Aq Quyunlu enemies of the Ottomans in the late 15th Century. They may have spread further east then – and perhaps with even greater speed following the Ottoman use of firearms when they shattered the Safavid army at the Battle of Chaldiran in 1514.

At Bajaur Ustad Ali Quli twice used a weapon which was called “Farangi”. Babur says the weapon used fired farangi tāshi (farangi stones). The Safavids use the term top-i farangi for the weapon they used in a battle in 1528-29.

The second point is that Babur introduced the handgun in the open battle where it was used by infantrymen who would fire their guns while standing on the ground. Other on the coast, were used to firing from the back of the elephants. In the case of Babur, the handgun wielders were made to stand on the ground & fire: this was a great advance in the technique.

Thirdly, it seems, Babur not only brought with him the most advanced guns which he borrowed from the Ottomans, but he also, for the first time utilized them in an open battle. Before this all reference in Hindustan which we have are either for the use of canons as shore battery against ships or their use in siege operations from fixed positions. We don’t come across the use of canons or handguns before 1526 in an open battle.

• Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi

An Imperial Autobiography: Bāburnāma of Zahīruddin Muhammad Bābur Pādshāh Ghāzi

A folio from Walters manuscript W.596, Babur and his warriors are depicted visiting the Hindu temple Gurh Kattri (Kur Katri) in Bigram.

As the list of the sources for the Akbarnama shows, our informants wrote their accounts under the following genres: tarikh, a word referring to annals, history, or chronological narrative; tazkira, written in the form of biographies and memoirs; namah, included biographies and exemplary accounts, aside from histories, epistles, and accounts of exemplary deeds; qanun, written in the mode of normative accounts or legal texts; and waqi‘at meaning a narrative of happenings, events, and occurrences. Interestingly, the genre title that Gulbadan chose was different from all of these: it was Ahwal, a word meaning conditions, state, circumstances, or situations.

Let us begin with the question: what are the records that make up the accepted archive for early Mughal India? For Babur and his period, his autobiography, the Baburnama, and the Tarikh-i Rashidi composed in 1545-46 by his cousin, Mirza Muhammad Haydar Dughlat, remain the most popular texts for scholars. Muhammad Haydar Dughlat spent most of his career in Kabul. He was in close contact with Babur during this period, and his work is valuable as it highlights the political-cultural intricacies of those parts of central Asia and Afghanistan that Babur was dealing with at the time.

Let us first begin with Baburnama. Also known as Waqā’i‘ or Tuzuk-i Baburi, it was initially compiled as a diary by Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur in Chaghtai Turki from where it was translated in Persian by ‘Abdur Rahim Khan-i Khanan during the reign of Akbar.

The Chaghtai Turki text has been edited by A.S Beveridge in 1905and then by Eiji Mano (Kyoto) in 1995. Mano collated four Turki texts, and his edition is one of the most accurate editions. The Persian text (Khan-i Khanan’s tr.) has been edited from Bombay in 1890.

The Chaghtai Turkish was spoken in Central Asia which at that time was dominated by the Chagtai Mongols. It is designated as Chaghtai Turkish to differentiate it from the Turkish spoken in Anatolia which is known as Ottoman Turkish. The Chaghtai Turkish was written down to the middle of the 15th C. in Uighur script while the Ottoman Turkish was written in the Arabic script.

By the time Babur came on the scene, the Chaghtai Turkish also came to be increasingly written in Arabic script. It was in this script that Babur penned his memoirs. A result of the change in script from Uighur to Arabic, an inclusion of Persian and Arabic vocabulary took place in the Chagtai Turki.

Babur’s style in Baburnama is simple and lucid: it is not influenced by the ornate style of the prose writing which was in vogue in the contemporary Persian literature writing. It was more in line with the direct and simple style introduced by the Mongols / Mughals in Central Asia.

Basically divided into two parts – the first section deals with Central Asia, Samarqand, Bukhara, etc.; the second is devoted to India. Babur describes the fauna, flora, cities, topography etc. Babur’s comments are quite candid. He praises the things which attract him and criticises those which are not to his liking.

There are a number of gaps in the Baburnama which create serious problems for a person studying the period. Two of these major gaps are for the period from 914 – 25 AH / 1508 – 19; then again from 926 – 32 / 1520 – 25. For these long periods we have no account. Apart from this there are a number of other minor gaps ranging from a few weeks and days to a few months.

In spite of these insufficiencies Baburmama has remained a very important document for the regions which he controlled: Central Asia, Kabul, Qandhar and North India. This is the most sought after chronicle throughout the period from the very beginning. It was translated into Persian during his own lifetime and then later on translated from Persian into Russian, Italian, French and English.

The earliest attempt at preparing a recension (summary) of Baburnama in Persian was made by Babur’s sadr us sudur Shaikh Zain Khawafi, who in fact re-produced in Persian the information which is provided in Babur’s memoirs of the emperor’s battle with Ibrahim Lodi in Panipat down to the battle of Khanwa. This is known as Tabaqat-i Baburi.

The prose style of Shaikh Zain Khwafi in Tabaqat-i Baburi is rather rhetorical. It actually comprises two documents that were composed by Shaikh Zain himself for Babur:

(1) Babur’s farman of 1527, renouncing drinking of any kind of intoxicant and also proclaiming the abolition of some of the taxes. This farman was issued by Babur on the eve of the Battle of Kanwa to win over the sympathy of the people in general as also for creating enthusiasm amongst his officials who were rather diffident in engaging the Rajputs.

(2) The other document which was composed by Shaikh Zain in Persian and included in his Tabaqat was the Fathnama issued after Babur’s victory in the Battle of Kanwa in 1527. The fathnama is a longish account written in an ornate and rhetoric style. It appears that both these documents in their original form were included by Babur in his memoir. In the fathnama the political situation is characterized by Shaikh Zain some what communally vitiated. Basing on these documents the historians tend to paint the battle between Rana Sanga and Babur as one between Islam and Hinduism and Babur as a crusader and Sanga as the hero who wanted to throw out Islam from India: the fight was seen as a Jihad and Babur as Ghazi!

Another two attempts were made during the reign of Akbar to translate the memoirs of Babur. The first translation on Akbar’s orders was the one that was completed by Painda Hasan in 1583. The Ms of this translation entitled Waqi’at-i Baburi is preserved in the Bodleian collection in Oxford University. This translation is actually a summary translation of the Baburnama. Sometimes it tends to give the impression that it is an adaptation in the form of a new chronicle and not a translation. It is rather fragmentary and doesn’t help us to grasp the nature of information given by Babur.

The next attempt was made by ‘Abdur Rahim Khan-i Khanan who again prepared a new translation into Persian in 1589 on the orders of Akbar. This is a literal translation and is very close sentence by sentence. It is very important as in many cases a number of technical terms in Turkish with which we are not familiar are interpreted in Persian on his own knowledge.

This translation by Khan-i Khanan is a very useful translation – more so as it had a very great impact on the study of history of Babur’s period and the socio-economic history of the regions. For a long time it was the only version of Baburnama which was Available: a large number of its mss survive from the beginning of 17th C onwards. The Turkish text became untraceable to a large extent.

The Latin translation of the Baburnama contains a letter written to Mirza Kamran which was present in the Russian translation which based on a Turkish text which is now extinct.

Contents and Structure

Now let us come to the information contained in the Baburnama. As pointed out earlier it is a memoir-cum-diary. If it is accepted as a memoir, then the information contained therein will have one kind of significance. If it is a diary, it will have another kind of significance.

What is the structure of this book?

We find the account covering the period from 1494 – 1526 is by and large in the nature of a memoir which is presented by Babur in the form of a diary. The second part of the Baburnama is an independent Treatise on Hindustan in general. There is no attempt to give it the form of a diary. It is a description of Hindustan as witnessed and understood by Babur after he established his control over Agra. The third part is actually that part which was not written by Babur and not in Chagtai Turki but written in Persian by Shaikh Zain (the two documents mentioned earlier). Lastly is the account covering the period of Babur’s stay in Hindustan from 1526 down to September 1529, i.e 3½ yrs which is certainly in the form of a diary: a day to day account.

Thus Baburnama is a collection of 4 types of work of which 3 are by Babur and one by Shaikh Zain. One part is in the nature of a diary par excellence, the others written in the form of diary but actually a memoir after his victory over Rana Sanga.

This division is borne out by examples and subsequent developments found in the text of Baburnama. For example referring to Mirza Haidar Dughlat in the account of AH 899 / 1493-94, Babur says this man ‘was with me, but later on in 1512 he went to Kashghar…’

Similarly in the account of AH 910 / 1505-04 he mentions:

‘In winter, however, people ford the Sind water at [Hāru] above its junction with Kabul River, and ford this also. In most of my expeditions into Hidustan, I crossed those fords, but the last time [i.e. 1525-26] when I came and defeated Sultan Ibrahim and conquered the country, I crossed by boat at Nilab…’

The significance is that it was in 1505 he is writing of something which happened in 1525-26. Thus this portion which he wrote in the form of diary for 1505 was actually written in 1525-26.

Again in AH 910 he writes about the laying out of gardens in AH 914.

Similalarly in an account of the same year (1505-04) while referring to Sultan Mahmud Ghazni’s tomb, he says: ‘There is hope that it may become of use again by means of the money which was sent in Khwaja Kalan’s hands…’ We know Khwaja Kalan was sent with funds by Babur sometime in March 1527. This portion was thus written after 1527 and not in 1504-5!  Thus this earlier account is in the form of a memoir and not a diary.

Now about the second portion it would suffice to say that Babur simply wrote it in the form of a narrative and treatise. It is the description of Hindustan. He describes the geographical features of the country, the forms of the society, the social conditions, buildings, houses etc. Thus at one place he mentions that the towns and country of Hindustan are greatly wanting in charm and its towns and lands are of one sort.

We come to know from Babur’s account the Persian Wheel was very much in vogue in Rajasthan but not beyond Delhi and Agra where Babur introduced it and was taken as an innovation of his. Describing the use of Persian wheel Babur writes:

‘In Lahore, Dipalpur and those parts, people lift water by means of a wheel. They make two circles of ropes; long enough to suite the depth of the well, fix strips of wood between them and on these fasten pitchers…

As distinct is the third part of the Baburnama. It comprises the two documents of Shaikh Zain which depict Babur as Ghazi. A thorough study of these documents reveals a different kind of information. For example Rushbrooke Williams says that the struggle between Rana Sanga and Babur was a fight against Islam. He suggests this basing on Shaikh Zain’s observation that 10 confederations were made by the Kafir chiefs. But such deduction by Rushbrooke is rather uncritical reading of the sources. The list of these ten chiefs is given by Babur as well and amongst them we find the name of Hasan Khan Mewat and his troops as well as one of the Lodi princes commanding the Afghan troops with Rana Sanga.

The author of Wāqi’āt-i Mushtāqi clearly says that the initiative to oppose Babur was taken by Hasan Khan Mewati and not Rana Sanga. Thus it cannot be said the the engagement between the Mughal and the Rana was a jihad par excellence. The language of the two documents of Shaikh Zain verbatim incorporated in the Baburnama and the term ghazi was merely to glorify Babur in the eyes of his reluctant officers who were feeling homesick.

The fourth part of the Baburnama, i.e. from 1526 to October 1529 is diary par excellence. Here we have passages like: [26th May] ‘I crossed water on early morning’ or for e.g. on 28th the Saturday ‘Today Kohi is joining Baqi’ etc.

The Gaps and Mutilated Portions:

The next problem is of the gaps in the Baburnama. Some of these are gaps of few weeks or days. But two major breaks are encountered in the first part, i.e. the memoirs:

There is a gap for the period 914 – 25 AH / 1508 – 19. This is when Babur after the defeat at the hands of Uzbeks had to seek help from Shah Ismail of Persia. It was a period when Babur had to suffer hardships after being expelled from Samarqand. Some Persian accounts tell us that in order to seek help from Shah Ismail, Babur had promised to be converted to Shi’ism. All this period finds no mention in the Baburnama. The details of this period are found in the Persian sources and in the words of Khwandamir as well as Mirza Haider Dughlat’s Tarikh-i Rashidi.

The second phase when a major gap occurs is from 926 – 39 AH / 1520 – 25. This is the period when Babur was concentrating on establishing his foothold in NW India for over-running the Delhi Empire. Babar has made some references in subsequent parts about the moves he made during this period. For example he makes a reference to his expedition in Punjab in the first half of 1525 as well as the fact that he received Rana Sanga’s envoys at Kabul inviting him to invade Hindustan and the Rana’s assurance of co-operation. He makes these references in the account of July 1526 while complaining against the Rana’s attitude. But we don’t have any account of the actual period to know what Babur felt at that particular time.

Now the question which arises: what is the nature of these breaks? Were they originally there in the original or were they a result of damage later on after the completion of the book?

According to Beveridge the gaps were very much there when Babur completed the book. Erskine and Dawson on the other hand hold that this doesn’t seem to be plausible.

We find not only these two gaps but the account is so manipulated in places that it is difficult to believe that Babur left it as such. In Beveridge’s edition one finds a half finished sentence on p.182. This kind of break is inexplicable.

It also looks odd that the Baburnama begins without any formal introductory remarks. It suddenly begins: ‘In the month of Ramazan in the year 899 [June 1494], in the province of Ferghana, in my twelfth year I became King’.

It ends also in an abrupt manner on 7 Sept. 1529-30 with the information that two nobles were sent to Gwalior.  This gives the impression that it is not a proper end.

Abul Fazl in his Akbarnama says that Babur was engaged in writing his memoir till the time of his death: ‘He also wrote his waqi’at from the beginning of his reign to the time of departure (inteqal) faithfully, in a lucid and elegant style.’

But in the surviving Baburnama we find the end on 7th September 1529 and for the rest of the 14 months of Babur’s life we have no account. What happened to this part? This remains unanswered. But then on the other side there are strong evidences.

Firstly all those mutilations and breaks which are there in the Khan-i Khanan’s Persian translation, according to Beveridge are there in the autographed Turki text. This means that the copy of the Turki text now preserved in the Royal Library as early as 1587 had same kind of mutilation as we have today.

Secondly according to Abdul Hamid Lahori’s Badshahnama, the history of Shahjahan’s period written on official orders, the copy of the Baburnama that he consulted was an autographed copy. The Mss in the Royal Library appears to be the same autographed copy as it contains all the autographs from Babur to Shahjahan. And as pointed out it has all the mutilations.

One might suggest that Babur may have completed but towards the close of his reign it was damaged beyond repair or he had no time to repair it.

In this connection one interesting passage is to be seen which suggests that in the last years there did take place an accident which might be held responsible.

‘This same evening after taravih, it was the fifth ghari of the first watch when the monsoon clouds appeared, and within an instant such a storm brewed and fierce wind arose that few were the tents that did not blow down. I was in my audience tent writing. There was no time to gather my papers and notebooks. The wind brought down the tent and its peshgah (porch) on my head. The smoke vent broke into pieces. God kept me safe, and no harm was done, but my books and papers (juz wa kitab) were drenched. We gathered them together with difficulty, wrapped them up in a woollen bedspread, and put them under the cot and spread kilims on top. After two gharis the wind died down. We had the toshakkhana tent erected, lit a candle, and with great difficulty got a fire going and then got busy drying out the papers and notebooks until dawn with no sleep.’

Babur’s Pavilion besides the Lake of Fathpur Sikri

English Translations:

The history of the English translation is again quite interesting. The first attempt at English translation was made in 1811 at a time when the Turkish text was still untraceable or un-accessible. This translation was by John Leyden, but unfortunately it could not be completed and could never be published. It is preserved in the British Museum.

According to Ansaritdin Ibragimov’s monograph “Baburname – is the Great Work”, he wrote that the translator William Erskine, who lived between 1773 – 1856, started to translate “Baburname” into the English language and finished it in 1810. However, William Erskine did not hurry to publish his own translation and waited for John Leyden’s tranlation version. The reason was that he wanted to compare with his work who began simultaneously Babuname’s translation and he knew that Leyden was interpreting “Baburname” from original Turkic language. John Leyden was unable to complete his translation due to his untimely death.

William Erskine succeeded in finding John Leyden’s translation of “Baburname” and clarified, after that he published in 1826, under the title “Memoirs Of Zheir-Ed-Din Muhammed Baber: Emperor of Hindustan and John Leyden”.

William Erskine undertook the translation of the text of Khan-i Khanan’s Persian translation. Erskine’s translation was undertaken in 1826 and he had to confine himself only to the Persian text: the Turkish text was non-accessible. Thus from 1826 onwards for the English reading public, the standard version was this translation of the Persian text by Erskine.


In 1909 F.G.Talbot also published the English translation of the “Baburname”. There are number of publications have been published based on this translation. In 1845 R.Caldicot published a shortened version of the John Leyden and William Erskine’s translated book. In 1879, the Orientalist, scientist F.Talbot published the second version of this adapted edition.


In 1921, Lucas King published another translation of “Baburname” completed with the important scientific facts. His publication restored the events of “Baburname”, interrupted years in it from other sources.

But in 1899 Mrs. A.S. Beveridge discovered the Turkish Mss in a private collection at Hyderabad and started translating it into English. This translation was completed in 1920 and published by Royal Asiatic Society in 1921.

According to professor N.Otajonov’s point of view the English translators were the keen to preserve the calorie and originality of the work. He also wrote about the language of translations: “In Leyden- Erskine’s interpretaion, the translation method seems to have been deliberately chosen by the English reader. On the contrary S.Beveridge’s translation is written in a very simple way more than scientific style.

“According to Wh.Thackston’s point of view, S.Beveridge’s translation is the equivalent of students’ work, all the words of “Baburname” are closely the same in dictionary, she tried to match Turkish (Uzbek) and English words in it. Professor Wh.Thackston published “Baburname”’s English translation in 1996. It was the third completed variant of the work, however this publication enriched the investigations of life, creativity and times of Babur. Though, his attempts was successful to achieve the adequacy of translation of “Baburname”, but some proverbs contradicted to the original content. Translator lost the meaning of some proverbs, focusing on original style and tone of the proverb in it.

On many points of details as well as the interpretation of text and technical terms, there is a difference between the two translations: the tr. of Beveridge is good but one would fall in fault if we depend on her interpretation of the technical terms which are better in the Erskine translation as it depends on the Persian text of Khan-i Khanan.

The most recent translation of the Baburnama into English is by Wheeler Thackston in 1996. Some find that Wheeler Thackston was able to translate the work both in terms of content and in its artistic aesthetics and national cultural identity. In my considered opinion the translation done by Beveridge is still the best and dependable.

• Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi

Ayodhya And It’s Muslim Connection: Extracts from Irfan Habib

Har ki pairi: mark the domes on temples at Ayodhya
Mazar of Hazrat Shāh Ibrahim at Ayodhya
The grave of Hazrat Shah Ibrahim at Ayodhya visited by both Hindus & Muslims

Muslim settlements in and around the city of Ayodhya would appear to have begun with the Ghorian occupation, c. 1200 A.D. When Minhaj Siraj says ( Tabaqat-i Nasiri , I, p. 45 3) that before Prince Nasiruddin Mahmud defeated and slew “the accursed Batua” in 1226-27, the latter had killed “one hundred and twenty-odd thousand Muslims” in the vicinity of Awadh, he is doubtless indulging in inexcusably gross exaggeration about events that happened only thirty years or so before he was writing (A.D. 1260). Yet the rhetoric does suggest that a large civilian Muslim population had now appeared in the region, and the city of Awadh or Ayodhya, as the headquarters, must naturally have contained a sizeable part of this population.

That the institutions of Muslim religious life, with theologians, mosques, and graveyards, were also simultaneously established at Ayodhya is attested by references in contemporary texts. Qazi Jalaluddin Kashani, “the Qazi (Muslim Judge) of Awadh”, attained such status that he was first sent as the Sultan’s representative to Bengal in A.H. 641/ A.D. 1243 {Tabaqat-i Nasiri, I, p.470), and, then, in A.H. 647/A.D. 1249, was summoned from Awadh to Delhi to occupy there the high office of the Imperial Qazi ( Qazi-i Mamalik) (ibid., I, p. 483).

The significance of Awadh as a Muslim centre is shown by the fact that when Qamruddin Tamar Khan Qairan, the Governor who had usurped power in Bengal, died in Lakhnauti in Bengal in or a little after AH 644 (1246-47), his wife, the daughter of an important noble under Iltutmish, took care to take his body to Awadh. to be buried there ( Tabaqat-i Nasiri, text, II, p. 18). Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya in a conversation on 6 Ramazan 710/27 January 1311 recollected hearing a story from Shaikh Rafi’uddin, whom he calls “the Shaikhu’l Islam of Awadh” (Hasan Sijzi, Fawa ‘idul Fu ‘ ad , ed. M. Latif Malik, Lahore, 1966, p. 99). Shaikhu’l Islam (‘Leader of Islam’) was a very high theological title conferred by the Sultan and borne at any one time only by a single scholar at Delhi or Multan within the Delhi Sultanate. That this title was also borne by a scholar at Ayodhya suggests that in royal eyes Ayodhya or Awadh was now a town at par with even Delhi and Multan with regard to the presence of Muslim populations and scholarly classes. Shaikh Nasiru’ddin, a major disciple of Nizamuddin Auliya, was himself born and brought up at Awadh. In or about 1354 he recalled a story told of Maulana Daud Pahili, a sufi, born in Ridauli but a regular visitor to Awadh; during such visits Shaikh Nasiruddin had himself seen Maulana Daud. Daud was a disciple of Shaikh Farid of Ajodhan (d.1265) and so must have lived no later than the latter part of the thirteenth century ( Khairu’l Majalis , pp. 11 8- 19). By the early fourteenth century, there was also a market among the Muslim devout for mystical works. On 15 Muharram 710/14 June 1310, a person reported in Shaikh Nizamu’ddin’s presence that he had seen in Awadh a book which was represented to be a book written by Shaikh Nizamuddin, though the Shaikh himself affirmed that he had not written any book at all ( Fawa’idu’l Fu’ ad, pp. 75-76).

Shaikh Nasiru’ddin’s recollections recorded by Hamid Qalandar in 1354 in the Khairu’l Majalis indicate how religious and ethical life was led at Ayodhya, with the mosque as the centre. Shaikh Nasiruddin told anecdotes of Khwajagi Khujandi, a merchant of Awadh, who was a contemporary of Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya (d.1324) (Khairu’l Majalis , p. 184). Shaikh Nasiru’ddin recalled that he and Khwajagi Khujandi used to sit in the same enclosure ( halqa ) at the Congregation Mosque of Ayodhya ( Masjid-i Juma’-i Awadh) ( Khairu’l Majalis , pp.183, 184). Whenever Khwajagi Khujandi came out of his house to offer (Friday) prayers, he used to carry a purse in one sleeve and sesame seeds and sugar in the other. Out of the purse he gave money to the beggars, and out of the other sleeve he scattered the seeds and sugar over the anthills ( Khairu’l Majalis , p.l 84).

In or about 1355 Shaikh Naisru’ddin also recalled graves and mango-groves of his youth at Awadh. He and a friend of his, Khwaja Mahmud used to go to the graves to pray for the salvation of the dead buried there and to spend their day amidst the graves reciting the call to prayers at the prescribed time, whereat a dozen people used to assemble to pray with them. At the time Shaikh Nasiru’ddin was recalling those early days in 1354, he thought that the groves with their graves existed no more, having been presumably engulfed by the expanding city ( Khairu’l Majalis , pp. 170-71).

But Muslims continued to die and be buried at Ayodhya. A Fuhrer in his record of monuments and antiquities at Ayodhya has this to say in his Monumental Antiquities and Inscriptions in the North-Western Provinces and Oudh , Allahabad, 1891, p.298:-

“Between Maniparbat and Kuberparbat there is a small Musalman enclosure 64 feet long from east to west and 47 feet broad, containing two brick dargahs which are attributed to Sis [Shis] Paighambar and Ayub Paighambar, or the ‘Prophets Seth and Job’; the first is 17 feet long and the other 12 feet.”

The importance of these tombs lies in the fact that they were represented as those of the two prophets already in the sixteenth century. Emperor Akbar’s minister Abu’l Fazl’s Ain- i Akbari , written in 1595, contains the following passage in its notice of Awadh or Ayodhya:

“Near this city two large graves have been made, six and seven yards (gaz) in length. The common people believe them to be the resting places of the prophets Shis (Seth) and Ayyub (Job) and legendary tales are related (about them).” ( A’in-i Akbari , Nawal Kishor ed., 1893, II, p. 78).

Grave of Prophet Shis at Ayodhya
Grave of Prophet Shis, another view
Grave of Prophet Ayub at Ayodhya

For such legends as this to develop normally takes much time, and these graves must therefore have already existed long before Abu’l Fazl wrote in 1595. Fuhrer, op.cit., p. 298, notes also that the mounds of Maniparbat and Kuberparbat “are surrounded by Musalman tombs”. Many of these could also well have belonged to pre-Mughal times, when the “tombs” of prophets Shis and Ayyub were so identified and laid up with masonry.

Given the information on medieval Ayodhya or Awadh we have set out above it is clear that though a great Hindu pilgrim centre, it had large populations of both religious communities. Until the rise of Jaunpur in late fourteenth century, Awadh was an important provincial capital of the Sultanate and thereafter too it remained the centre of a large district ( sarkar ) to which under Sikandar Lodi the district of Bahraich also got attached. From 1580 it was once again to become the capital of a Mughal suba or province named after itself. This was partly the reason why Awadh retained a significant size as a city, to be counted among “the large cities of India” by Abu’l Fazl in the A’in-i Akbari (Naval Kishor ed., Lucknow, 1893, Vol.11, p.78). Calculating on the basis of taxation, Moosvi sets its size inc. 1595 at nearly half of Lahore and Delhi, though far smaller than Agra or Ahmadabad (Shireen Moosvi, The Economy of the Mughal Empire , c.1595 – A Statistical Study, Delhi, 1987, pp.312-14).

Its size as a city was. perhaps, not exclusively owing to its holy repute and administrative position. We have met the merchant Khwajagi Khujandi before in these pages. We are told that he had a large amount of capital (mal), which he employed in taking pat a variety of coarse cloth from Awadh (and so evidently woven there) to sell at Delhi. He could have taken finer cloth instead, but he said that he bought pat and not any fine cloth at Awadh, because the fine cloth was worn at Delhi by “Turks and soldiers” only, while the pat that he traded in was taken by “the poor and the dervishes.” He used to travel with his goods
by the land route, crossing the Jamuna at Delhi by ferry (Khairu’l Majalis p. 182-83). The cloth market at Ayodhya is not described, but Shaikh Nasiru’ddin speaks of a bazaz, or dealer in cloth, who calculated that a fourth of his commercial effects amounted to 500 to 600 tankas .

This sum indicated a capital of 2000 tankas or more, which was a considerable amount for those days (Khairu’l Majalis , pp.1 18-19)
In another anecdote {ibid., pp. 226- more mundane aspect of the bazaar: seller of cooked-meat, out of whose c customer was picking out hot pieces of lamb by hand to eat.

Passages from: Irfan Habib, “MEDIEVAL AYODHYA (AWADH), DOWN TO THE MUGHAL OCCUPATION“, Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, Vol. 67 (2006-2007), pp. 378-81

• Professor Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi

A Visitation to The Blessed Tomb of Guru Nanak near Banks of Ravi at Kartarpur

Guru Nanak in a 19th century mural painting from Gurdwara Baba Atal

From a versified account of a 17th Century bureaucrat who was a contemporary of Shahjahan, Surat Singh, known variously as Tazkira-i Shaikhul Khadam, or Tazkira i Pīr Hassu Taili, which survives in form of two manuscripts, both at Aligarh, it becomes apparent that Gurū Nānak’s religious status was widely accepted in 17th century Punjab; and he was popular among both Hindus and Muslims. From the Tazkira references to Guru Nanak and the power and popularity of his verses, it is clear that Sūrat Singh held him to be a great teacher and a master of “Hindi verses” (f. 142b). He writes that at a time when his brother was removed from the post of revenue collector (‘āmil) at Jahangirpur, his mother took him to the “village of Bābā Nānak” where they visited him “mari” (marhī, funeral shrine). A translation of this portion, Aligarh MS, ff. 122b-123a, is offered below. From this it becomes clear that at least till 1647 a shrine and a tomb of the Guru was extant on the banks of the River Ravi at Kartarpur. The popular Sikh legend that both these monuments were washed away providentially so as to avoid idolatrous worship of the Guru’s last resting-place, may be correct; but the event would seem to have taken place after 1647, for had the shrine disappeared by the time Sūrat Singh was composing his work, he would probably have referred to the fact.

According to the Sikh traditions, Gurū Nānak did not leave behind two bodies, as related to Sūrat Singh by the shrine’s attendants. Rather, when the time for Guru Nanak’s parting from this world arrived, and the Muslims wanted to bury him and the Hindus to cremate him, Guru Nanak told them: “Let the Hindus place flowers on my right and the Musalmans on my left. They whose flowers are found fresh in the morning (after my death), may have the disposal of my body”. The Guru then drew a sheet over himself and departed from this world. When the sheet was removed the next morning it was found that the Guru’s body had miraculously disappeared and the flowers placed on both sides were in bloom. The blooms were then divided and partly cremated and partly buried. (See Macauliffe, Sikh Religion, I, pp.190-91).

At most of the places in his Tazkira Sūrat Singh generally refers to Gurū Nānak as ‘Baba Nanak’. It is only at one place (f.142b) that he refers to him as “Guru Nanak”.

            Sūrat Singh’s work is an important historical document for understanding how the message of Guru Nanak was looked at by the mystically inclined in the Punjab. It is one of the first statements in Persian on the Sikh message, it belongs to just about the time the author of the famous account in the Dabistān-i Mazāhib was collecting his material on Sikhism. For this reason it should surely be of interest to students of Sikh history.

Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartar Pur in Narowal, Pakistan marks the site where Guru Nanak is said to have died. The original tomb of the Saint has since disappeared

Translation of the account of the author’s visit to Gurū Nānak’s shrine (Tazkira, Aligarh MS, ff. 122b-123a).

My mother took hold of my hand and started the journey; we went to the village (deh) of Baba Nanak.

“The attendants of the Blessed Shrine (harīm) gave the intelligence about him that beneficent one came by one [the true] path and never came by another.

When we bowed our heads for pilgrimage to [the shrine of] the Baba, [we saw that] there was a marī [marhī, funeral shrine], and by the side of the marī, was his tomb (mazār).

Who can come between the pure body (jism-i pāk) and its frame (man) (lit. house) of dust? For the life of those whose hearts have life, an arrow turns into a mere thorn!

They become bodies of air when they are reduced to dust [if they are buried on death] and acquire the form of water, if they are thrown into fire [i.e. are cremated].”

Account of the Death of Baba Nanak

How from the house do you take the warp? [It is] from the shrine of the spiritually-sighted ones, [that] the collyrium for the eyes [comes].

From their presence, the dust becomes collyrium, and they leave in poor state, who draw their skirt through that dust like wind or smoke.

I sought from those serving the marī, the mystery of the shrine of the Baba. A narrator of the tradition gave me an account of it.

“That when he [Gurū Nānak] died, leaving this for another abode, Hindus and Muslims gathered around the Bābā’s head.

The Hindus said that he was a Hindu, and thus he ought to be cremated. The assemblage of Muslims desired to make a grave for him.

“Two bodies of his thereupon came to view: One they took and cremated; and the other was put in front for the [Muslim] funeral prayer.

[But] he left both his bodies and went across to the other side of River Ravi. There an Afghan disciple (murīd) had the privilege of a sight of him.

He [Nānak] laid out before him a floor-cloth containing a variety of eatables. The Afghan ate his fill from that laid-out meal.

As is the convention of old, he [the Afghan] spoke and cried out about the ordeal of his journey. In soldierly talk that night.

When that traveller crossed over to this side of the river, he saw the grave and the flames of cremation.

“He asked, “Why are these people making all this noise”? [Someone] replied: “Nānak has passed away from the world!”.

The amazing thing is,” [he was told,] “that after his death, there came to be two bodies. One is being buried and the other is being cremated”.

“[The Afghan] said that both [Muslims and Hindus] have done wrong: “I have seen him well settled on the other side of the river”.

“I have eaten food and fruits and have talked with him and I have seen him well settled on the other side of the river”.

“I have eaten food and fruits and have talked with him and I have come to side after taking leave from him”.

All became astonished on hearing this and the report of his [Nānak’s] moving himself to another place became well known.

“Having taken the benefit from the dust of his pure tomb, whose name is shukr (thanksgiving), we returned contented to our home.”

• Professor Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi

Extracts based on my notice “A Visit to the Tomb of Guru Nanak From Surat Singh Tazkira-i Pir Hassu Taili”, in Irfan Habib & JS Grewal (ed), Sikh History From Persian Sources: Translations of Major Texts, Tulika, 2001, pp. 85-89