Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb 1

Bad Ruler Or Bad His­to­ry?: Mughal Emper­or Aurangzeb

Of all the Mus­lim rulers who ruled vast ter­ri­to­ries of India from 712 to 1857 CE, prob­a­bly no one has received as much con­dem­na­tion from West­ern and Hin­du writ­ers as Aurangzeb. He has been cas­ti­gat­ed as a reli­gious Mus­lim who was anti-Hin­du, who taxed them, who tried to con­vert them, who dis­crim­i­nat­ed against them in award­ing high admin­is­tra­tive posi­tions, and who inter­fered in their reli­gious mat­ters. This view has been heav­i­ly pro­mot­ed in the gov­ern­ment approved text­books in schools and col­leges across post-par­ti­tion India (i.e., after 1947). These are fab­ri­ca­tions against one of the best rulers of India who was pious, schol­ar­ly, saint­ly, unbi­ased, lib­er­al, mag­nan­i­mous, tol­er­ant, com­pe­tent, and far-sighted.

For­tu­nate­ly, in recent years quite a few Hin­du his­to­ri­ans have come out in the open dis­put­ing those alle­ga­tions. For exam­ple, his­to­ri­an Babu Nagen­dranath Baner­jee reject­ed the accu­sa­tion of forced con­ver­sion of Hin­dus by Mus­lim rulers by stat­ing that if that was their inten­tion then in India today there would not be near­ly four times as many Hin­dus com­pared to Mus­lims, despite the fact that Mus­lims had ruled for near­ly a thou­sand years. Baner­jee chal­lenged the Hin­du hypoth­e­sis that Aurangzeb was anti-Hin­du by rea­son­ing that if the lat­ter were tru­ly guilty of such big­otry, how could he appoint a Hin­du as his mil­i­tary com­man­der-in-chief ? Sure­ly, he could have afford­ed to appoint a com­pe­tent Mus­lim gen­er­al in that position.

Baner­jee fur­ther stated :

No one should accuse Aurangzeb of being com­mu­nal mind­ed. In his admin­is­tra­tion, the state pol­i­cy was for­mu­lat­ed by Hin­dus. Two Hin­dus held the high­est posi­tion in the State Trea­sury. Some prej­u­diced Mus­lims even ques­tioned the mer­it of his deci­sion to appoint non-Mus­lims to such high offices. The Emper­or refut­ed that by stat­ing that he had been fol­low­ing the dic­tates of the Shari­ah (Islam­ic Law) which demands appoint­ing right per­sons in right positions.” 

Dur­ing Aurangze­b’s long reign of fifty years, many Hin­dus, notably Jaswant Singh, Raja Rajrup, Kabir Singh, Arghanath Singh, Prem Dev Singh, Dilip Roy, and Rasik Lal Cro­ry, held very high admin­is­tra­tive posi­tions. Two of the high­est ranked gen­er­als in Aurangze­b’s admin­is­tra­tion, Jaswant Singh and Jaya Singh, were Hin­dus. Oth­er notable Hin­du gen­er­als who com­mand­ed a gar­ri­son of two to five thou­sand sol­diers were Raja Vim Singh of Uday­pur, Indra Singh, Acha­la­ji and Arju­ji. One won­ders if Aurangzeb was hos­tile to Hin­dus, why would he posi­tion all these Hin­dus to high posi­tions of author­i­ty, espe­cial­ly in the mil­i­tary, who could have mutinied against him and removed him from his throne ?

Most Hin­dus like Akbar over Aurangzeb for his mul­ti-eth­nic court where Hin­dus were favored. His­to­ri­an Shri Shar­ma states that while Emper­or Akbar had four­teen Hin­du Mans­ab­dars (high offi­cials) in his court, Aurangzeb actu­al­ly had 148 Hin­du high offi­cials in his court.Mughal Gov­ern­ment But this fact is some­what less known.

Some of the Hin­du his­to­ri­ans have accused Aurangzeb of demol­ish­ing Hin­du tem­ples. How fac­tu­al is this accu­sa­tion against a man, who has been known to be a saint­ly man, a strict adher­ent of Islam ? The Qur’an pro­hibits any Mus­lim to impose his will on a non-Mus­lim by stat­ing that

There is no com­pul­sion in reli­gion.“Surah al-Baqarah (2):256

Surah al-Kafirun clear­ly states : To you is your reli­gion and to me is mine.” It would be total­ly unbe­com­ing of a learned schol­ar of Islam of his cal­iber, as Aurangzeb was known to be, to do things that are con­trary to the dic­tates of the Qur’an.

Inter­est­ing­ly, the 1946 edi­tion of the his­to­ry text­book Eti­hash Parichaya (Intro­duc­tion to His­to­ry) used in Ben­gal for the 5th and 6th graders states :

If Aurangzeb had the inten­tion of demol­ish­ing tem­ples to make way for mosques, there would not have been a sin­gle tem­ple stand­ing erect in India. On the con­trary, Aurangzeb donat­ed huge estates for use as tem­ple sites and sup­port there­of in Benares, Kash­mir and else­where. The offi­cial doc­u­men­ta­tions for these land grants are still extant.”

A stone inscrip­tion in the his­toric Bal­a­ji or Vish­nu Tem­ple, locat­ed north of Chi­trakut Bal­aghat, still shows that it was com­mis­sioned by the Emper­or him­self. The proof of Aurangze­b’s land grant for famous Hin­du reli­gious sites in Kasi, Varanasi can eas­i­ly be ver­i­fied from the deed records extant at those sites. The same text­book reads :

Dur­ing the fifty year reign of Aurangzeb, not a sin­gle Hin­du was forced to embrace Islam. He did not inter­fere with any Hin­du reli­gious activ­i­ties.“op. cit., p. 138

Alexan­der Hamil­ton, a British his­to­ri­an, toured India towards the end of Aurangze­b’s fifty year reign and observed that every one was free to serve and wor­ship God in his own way.

Now let us deal with Aurangze­b’s impo­si­tion of the jizya tax which had drawn severe crit­i­cism from many Hin­du his­to­ri­ans. It is true that jizya was lift­ed dur­ing the reign of Akbar and Jahangir and that Aurangzeb lat­er rein­stat­ed this. Before I delve into the sub­ject of Aurangze­b’s jizya tax, or tax­ing the non-Mus­lims, it is worth­while to point out that jizya is noth­ing more than a war tax which was col­lect­ed only from able-bod­ied young non-Mus­lim male cit­i­zens liv­ing in a Mus­lim coun­try who did not want to vol­un­teer for the defense of the coun­try. That is, no such tax was col­lect­ed from non-Mus­lims who vol­un­teered to defend the coun­try. This tax was not col­lect­ed from women, and nei­ther from imma­ture males nor from dis­abled or old male cit­i­zens. For pay­ment of such tax­es, it became incum­bent upon the Mus­lim gov­ern­ment to pro­tect the life, prop­er­ty and wealth of its non-Mus­lim cit­i­zens. If for any rea­son the gov­ern­ment failed to pro­tect its cit­i­zens, espe­cial­ly dur­ing a war, the tax­able amount was returned.

It should be point­ed out here that the zakaat (2.5% of sav­ings) and ushr (10% of agri­cul­tur­al prod­ucts) were col­lect­ed from all Mus­lims, who owned some wealth (beyond a cer­tain min­i­mum, called nisab). They also paid sadaqah, fitrah and khums. None of these were col­lect­ed from any non-Mus­lim. As a mat­ter of fact, the per capi­ta col­lec­tion from Mus­lims was sev­er­al fold that of non-Mus­lims. Fur­ther to Auranze­b’s cred­it is his abo­li­tion of a lot of tax­es, although this fact is not usu­al­ly men­tioned. In his book Mughal Admin­is­tra­tion, Sir Jadunath Sarkar, fore­most his­to­ri­an on the Mughal dynasty, men­tions that dur­ing Aurangze­b’s reign in pow­er, near­ly six­ty-five types of tax­es were abol­ished, which result­ed in a year­ly rev­enue loss of fifty mil­lion rupees from the state trea­sury. Oth­er his­to­ri­ans stat­ed that when Aurangzeb abol­ished eighty types of tax­es, no one thanked him for his gen­eros­i­ty. But when he imposed only one, and not heavy at all, peo­ple began to show their dis­plea­sure.Vin­di­ca­tion of Aurangzeb

While some Hin­du his­to­ri­ans are retract­ing the lies, the text­books and his­toric accounts in West­ern coun­tries have yet to admit their error and set the record straight. Such intel­lec­tu­al dis­hon­esty by his­to­ri­ans is dan­ger­ous — more explo­sive and more dam­ag­ing than nuclear bombs. We have already seen its hideous effect with the destruc­tion of Mus­lim his­toric sites (includ­ing the Babri Mosque) and recent riots in India that killed thou­sands of Muslims.

Let us not fall into the trap set by those who want to neat­ly divide our world.” Let truth van­quish falsehood.Endmark

Cite this arti­cle as : Habib Sid­diqui, Bad Ruler Or Bad His­to­ry?: Mughal Emper­or Aurangzeb,” in Bis­mi­ka Allahu­ma, Jan­u­ary 4, 2007, last accessed April 17, 2024, https://​bis​mikaal​lahu​ma​.org/​h​i​s​t​o​r​y​/​m​u​g​h​a​l​-​e​m​p​e​r​o​r​-​a​u​r​a​n​g​z​eb/


12 responses to “Bad Ruler Or Bad His­to­ry?: Mughal Emper­or Aurangzeb”

  1. ibnu mohamed Avatar
    ibnu mohamed

    assala­mu alaikum. A nice article

  2. MALIMEE Avatar


    It is very con­ve­nient to claim a high moral posi­tion for Hin­dus to assert them­selves as the indege­nous’ peo­ple of India. How­ev­er, his­to­ry tells an alto­geth­er a dif­fer­ent story.

    His­to­ry nar­rates that Aryans migrat­ed from Cen­tral Asia to Indus val­ley. Indus val­ley civ­i­liza­tion was not an Aryan civ­i­liza­tion. Aryan con­quered the land and imposed their cul­tur­al and reli­gious prac­tices over the dra­vid­i­ans dwelling in the indus val­ley and inturn adopt­ed some from the cul­tur­al reli­gious prac­tices of dra­vid­i­ans as well. The major­i­ty of drave­di­ans were pushed to the south­ern side and aryan estab­lished their rule in the north.

    What is known today as Hin­du’ actu­al­ly should be read as Sind­hu’ not Hin­du and present Hin­duism is an imposed ism on the dwellers of this land from the aryan conquerers.

    Just because the Aryans hap­pened to con­qure this land mil­len­ni­ums ahead of oth­ers, like Mughal rulers and British, they can­not pass for as indegeneous.

    Now it looks like that the pan claim­ing to pot as if it has more rights to the home which both of them have been acci­dent­ly brought on dif­fer­nt dates.

    Is it tenable ?

  3. rameshnaidoo Avatar

    Have a look at Aurangzeb, as he was accord­ing to Mughal Records’, it con­tains paint­ings and sketch­es about his rule as well as farhans, orig­i­nal edicts by Aurangzeb, pre­served at the Bikan­er Muse­um, Rajasthan, India.

    Click to view the com­plete exhi­bi­tion online :



  4. Sayed Mohammad Durrez Avatar
    Sayed Mohammad Durrez

    King Auren­zeb was the most intel­li­gent, Admin­stra­tive, Law­ful king of all Mugal Dien­esty. He was very reli­gious and far sight­ed king. He strik­ly obey rules and want every body in his wast empire to obey them. He respect all exist­ing reli­gin in india and serve them with his best. He nevr forced or pres­sureised eney com­mu­ni­ty to con­vrt. King Auren­zeb was The Best King” of all mus­lim rulers in india who rules in india more then One Thou­sand years.…

  5. Muhammed Ali Avatar
    Muhammed Ali


  6. shadowofears Avatar

    What about great Bri­tan who have cut the heads of sev­en sons of Bahader­shahzafer and put before him in a dish.

  7. Parmeshwar Coomar Avatar
    Parmeshwar Coomar

    It is hard to deci­pher what is the truth, espe­cial­ly in view of all this hap­pen­ing many many years ago. If Aurangazeb was so cru­el and big­ot­ed why did not all of India become force­ably mus­lim dur­ing his time ? What was the num­ber of mus­lims in India then vis-a-vis Hin­dus ? There is some truth to the fact that Shah Jehan, favored Dara Shikoh over oth­ers. What dis­po­si­tion had he made of his oth­er able bod­ied sons he used for his own gain in the whole of India while he was king and while Dara would be king if he had his way ? Dec­can cam­paign was dif­fi­cult to man­age and he had sent his most capa­ble son Aurangazeb to man­age the con­flict. Why not make him king too ? While Aurangazeb was not entire­ly a saint’ as he is made out to be in above he is both clever and ruth­less, qual­i­ties essen­tial to being a king — Hin­du or Mus­lim alike.

  8. Ali Avatar

    To RBO

    You seem hell bent on hat­ing Islam and you even go as far as quoting

    wat right do the Mughals have to pro­tect the Indi­ans and from wat ?

    Well if they were rul­ing the nation then they don’t have a right but an OBLIGATION to pro­tect all cit­i­zens from harm. You again whin­ing like the anti Islam­ics. If they did­n’t pro­tect you would be whin­ing on how bad they were for not pro­tect­ing and since they did pro­tect you start whin­ing on Who they are to pro­tect.… You make no men­tion of the fact that despite cen­turies of Mus­lim rule India remained pre­dom­i­nant­ly Hin­du… hmmm I guess that would put a damper on your spread by the sword alle­ga­tion against Islam.

  9. Sajid Avatar

    RBO — I think you are miss­ing the point of the arti­cle — the point being akbar etc are cel­e­brat­ed but aurungzeb is not. They were both emper­ors — and accord­ing to you for­eign­ers in India — but one is slan­dered and the oth­er celebrated.

    The rea­son is not because of what each did or did­n’t do for their cit­i­zens. Both were gen­er­ous and accept­ed peo­ple of dif­fer­ent reli­gions into their inner courts. Arguably Aurungzeb did more eg through land grants to Hin­du Tem­ples and the lift­ing of tax­es. The rea­son that Aurungzeb is so maligned is only due to his per­son­al reli­giousi­ty. And that has to be wrong.

    His reli­giousi­ty man­i­fest­ed itself in a type of tax thaat some peo­ple may find offen­sive but the actu­al lev­el of tax paid by a non mus­lim fell where­as for a mus­lim it rose rel­a­tive to his non mus­lim countrymen.

  10. RBO Avatar

    Glo­ri­fy­ing Moghul empire in India by a Mus­lim is the same as a British talk­ing big about their clonis­ing activ­i­ties. If Mus­lims talk big about their tol­er­ance” of allow­ing only two HIn­dus decide the mon­e­tary poli­cies of an MUs­lims empire, then British should not be con­demned, because altough they were the colonis­ers they did allow indi­ge­nious ppl of the respec­tive coun­tries occu­py minor posi­tions in their Raj.THey also intro­duced new admin­istrstion practices,new med­i­cines to fight trop­i­cal diseases,founded new schools, colleges,hospitals, intro­duced laws that are used till today with some adjust­ments the list con­tin­ues. THis does not make the Brits benev­o­lent conquerors.We still treat them as vil­lains of our his­to­ry books, treat colo­nial eras as dark ages in our his­to­ry books, why ? Because they were not of the our coun­try. they came they con­quered and plud­ered our wealth. WAT RIGHTS DO PPL FROM OUTSIDE THE COUNTRY TO impose rules on us” we ask when we were fight­ing against the westr­ern colonisers.
    SIMILARLY MUGHALS TOO SHOULD BE SUBJECTED TO SUCH CRTICISMS. India is a Hin­du coun­try the place where it was born,a major­i­ty of HIn­dus. ISlam came from the out­side , MUghal emper­ors are descende d from the great grand­son of Tamer­lane, Babar, who on his moth­er’s side was descend­ed from the famous Genghiz Khan, came to India in 1526 at the request of an Indi­an governor.Wat right does he have to grant a deed for a Tem­ple in a land which is not right­ful­ly his in the first place !
    YOU SAY THAT For pay­ment of such tax­es, it became incum­bent upon the Mus­lim gov­ern­ment to pro­tect the life, prop­er­ty and wealth of its non-Mus­lim cit­i­zens. If for any rea­son the gov­ern­ment failed to pro­tect its cit­i­zens, espe­cial­ly dur­ing a war, the tax­able amount was returned” wat right do the Mughals have to pro­tect the Indi­ans and from wat ? THe pic­ture is you came frome the out­side con­quered the land and its cit­i­zens, lat­er for­bade them to bear arms, since they are for­bid­den to bear arms you say you are going pro­tect them so you cahrge them a tax. This is actu­al­ly wat pro­tec­c­tion rack­ets do.Forcefully extract pay­ments from ppl by brow­beat­ing them and tell them they are going to be pro­tect­ed from threats that are non existant.Sounds like aurangzeb is don or a dada​.By the way who gave him the task to pro­tect the non­Mus­lims ? If he was so con­cerned abt pro­tect­ing the non MUs­lims he could have done it by aid­ing the HIn­du king­doms dur­ing war.He does­n’t have to COn­quer them ! Empires are evil no mat­ter who asts them up. The con­cept tht some one else can con­quer some one else is dis­gust­ing no mat­ter who does it.Let us con­demn colo­nial­ist activ­i­ties no mat­ter who does it but not the reli­gion of the empire builders.

  11. Farouk Avatar

    Excel­lent article !

  12. Saeed Avatar

    All­hum­dulilah : Habib Sid­diqui you have done a good job writ­ting this arti­cle and explained how the indi­an his­to­ri­an tried to change the facts in their text books. I heard there was a case filled in the indain court on the periv­i­ous his­to­ry min­is­ter. They took very impor­tant ele­ment of mughal his­to­ry from the text books.

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