By AIF Staff

Aurangzeb, the fanatic Islamic emperor of India, imposed a “jaziya” tax on the non-Muslim population of India, in the year 1679. Much time has been devoted by scholars to understand the jaziya tax, its legacy, and its far reaching effects on the psyche of Hindus and Sikhs in Mughal India.

Left historians(as usual) led by Thapar et al, are conspicuous in stating that the “jaziya” was a concept which was not implemented in totality, and Aurangzeb had others objectives in mind when enforcing the tax. The usual explanation given be these “secular” historians is that there were political objectives in enforcing the tax on Hindus.

As usual, we see a bias in the explanation given by these historians with vested interests. Somehow, a discriminatory tax related to the religions one practiced is linked with a “political” objective so as to somehow vindicate and save Aurangzeb from the ignominy of careful examination! If the same tax had been enforced by Hindu sovereigns, the same historians would have been dismissive of any attempts to conceal the seal of discrimination – but we find this wholly missing in their scholarly treatment of the fanatic Mughal emperor.

It would be suffice for us to see the effect of the tax, and protest against its implementation – by a contemporary source itself. And what better a source than a letter written by Shivaji, the iconic Maratha King who took on the Mughal forces? Below we produce select extracts from the letter written by Shivaji to the Mughal emperor on the “jaziya” tax. The letter will itself illustrate the conditions under which Jaziya was imposed, the discrimination it introduced on the basis of religion and how it contradicted the philosophy of Islam itself!

Shivaji’s letter is a eye-opener; it indicates the absence of bigotry, which so characterized monarchs of Islamic nations – and even so today. The absence of discrimination based on religion was a major corner of his domestic policy, in sharp contrast to the fanaticism exhibhited by the fanatic Aurangzeb, and his fellow mates, the radical Islamists today.

“It has recently come to my ears that, on the ground of the war with me having exhausted your wealth and emptied your treasury, your Majesty has ordered that money under the name of jaziya should be collected from the Hindus and the imperial needs supplied with it. May it please your Majesty, That architect of the fabric of empire, [Jalaluddin] Akbar Padishah, reigned with full power for 52 [lunar] years. He adopted the admirable policy of universal harmony in relation to all the various sects, such as Christians, Jews, Muslims, Dadu’s followers, sky-worshippers (falakia), malakia, materialists (ansaria), atheists {daharia), Brahmans and Jain priests. The aim of his liberal heart was to cherish and protect all the people. So, he became famous under the title of Jagat-Gura, ‘the World’s Spiritual guide.’

“Next, the Emperor Nusruddin Jahangir for 22 years spread his gracious shade on the head of the world and its dwellers, gave his heart to his friends and his hand to his work, and gained his desires.

The Emperor Shah Jahan for 32 years cast his blessed shade on the head of the world and gathered the fruit of eternal life, which is only a synonym for goodness and fair fame,as the result of his happy time on earth.

(Verses)

He who lives with a good name gains ever-
lasting wealth,

Because after his death, the recital of his good
deeds keeps his name alive.

“Through the auspicious effect of this sublime disposition, wherever he [Akbar] bent the glance of his august wish. Victory and Success advanced to welcome him on the ‘way. In his reign many king- doms and forts were conquered [by him.] The state and power of these Emperors can be easily under- stood from the fact that Alamgir Padishah has failed and become distracted in the attempt to merely follow their political system. They, too, had the power of levying the jaziya ; but they did not give place to bigotry in their hearts, as they considered all men, high and low, created by God to be [living] examples of the nature of diverse creeds and temperaments. Their kindness and benevolence endure on the pages of Time as their memorial, and so prayer and praise for these [three] pure souls will dwell for ever in the hearts and tongues of mankind, among both great and small. Prosperity is the fruit of one’s intentions.

Therefore, their wealth and good fortune continued to increase, as God’s creatures reposed in the cradle of peace and safety [under their rule] , and their undertakings succeeded.

“But in your Majesty’s reign, many of the forts and provinces have gone out of your possession, and the rest will soon do so too, because there will be no slackness on my part in ruining and devastating them. Your peasants are down-trodden ; the yield of every village has declined, in the place of one lakh [of Rupees] only one thousand, and in the place of a thousand only ten are collected, and that too with difficulty. When Poverty and Beggary have made their homes in the palaces of the Emperor and the Princes, the condition of the grandees and officers can be easily imagined. It is a reign in which the army is in a ferment, the merchants complain, the Muslims cry, the Hindus are grilled, most men lack bread at night and in the day inflame their own cheeks by slapping them [in anguish.]

How can the royal spirit permit you to add the hardship of the jaziya to this grievous state of things? The infamy will quickly spread from west to east and become recorded in books of history that the Emperor of Hindustan, coveting the beggars’ bowls, takes jaziya from Brahmans and Jain- monks, yogis, sannyasis, bairagis, paupers, mendicants, ruined wretches, and the famine-stricken, that his valor is shown by attacks on the wallets of beggars, that he dashes down to the ground the name and honour of the Timurids !

‘ ‘May it please your Majesty ! If you believe in the true Divine Book and Word of God {i.e., the Quran), you will find there [that God is styled] Rabb-ul-alamin, the Lord of all men, and not Rabb-ul-musalmin, the Lord of the Muhammadans only.

Verily,Islam and Hinduism are terms of contrast.They are [diverse pigments] used by the true Divine Painter for blending the colors and filling in the outlines [of His picture of the entire human species.]

If it be a mosque, the call to prayer is chanted in remembrance of Him. If it be a temple, the bell is rung in yearning for Him only. To show bigotry for any man’s creed and practices is equivalent to altering the records of the Holy Book. To draw new lines on a picture is equivalent to finding fault with the
painter

In strict justice the jaziya is not at all lawful. From the political point of view it can be allowable only if a beautiful woman wearing gold ornaments can pass from one province to another without fear or molestation. [But] in these days even the cities are being plundered, what shall 1 say of the open country? Apart from its injustice, this imposition of the jaziya is an innovation in India and inexpedient. If you imagine piety to consist in oppressing the people and terrorizing the Hindus, you ought first to levy the jaziya from Rana Raj Singh, who is the head of the Hindus. Then it will not be so very difficult to collect it from me, as I am at your service. But to oppress ants and flies is far from displaying valor and spirit.

“I wonder at the strange fidelity of your officers that they neglect to tell you of the true state of things, but cover a blazing fire with straw !

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