Siddiq Hasan Khan
Siddiq Hasan Khan (1832–1890) was a both celebrated and controversial leader of India's Muslim community in the 19th-century, often considered to be the most important Muslim scholar of the Bhopal State. He is largely credited with founding the reformist Ahl al-Hadith movement, which became the dominant strain of Sunni Islam throughout the immediate region. Khan's controversial nature has led to contrasting assessments of his personality, having been described by contrasting sources as a radical fundamentalist, an underhanded and scheming politician and one of the first heroes of the Indian independence movement.
Khan's family were said to be descendants of Ali, the fourth leader of Islam and the Rashidun Caliphate. Initially settling in Bukhara, they migrated to Multan and later to the Shi'ite strongholds of Bareilly and Kannauj. Khan himself was born in Bareilly on October 14, 1832. Khan grew up in a family which was impoverished despite its history of Islamic scholarship; his father converted from Shi'a Islam to Sunni Islam in the early 1800s. Religiously, he was initially influenced by the ideas of Syed Ahmad Barelvi. Khan received much of his education in Farukhabad, Kanpur and Delhi under the care of friends of his father, who died when Khan was only five years old.
After pursuing Islamic studies with two Yemeni clerics who had emigrated to Bhopal, Khan came under the influence of the works of prolific Yemeni author Muhammad ash-Shawkani. The reformist influence on Khan's thinking only increased with his performance of the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, whereby he became familiar with the works of Syrian polemicist Ibn Taymiyyah; Khan brought back a large amount of books with him upon returning to Bhopal and began writing commentaries. Khan relocated to Bhopal in 1854 initially selling perfume but later working as a schoolteacher, where his religious views gained him the ire of traditionalist locals. He was expelled to Tonk in 1857, but soon returned to Kannauj to protect his family during the Indian Rebellion of 1857.
Khan took up a job as an archivist and state historian in 1859 under Shah Jahan, who at the time was notable as a woman in a Muslim principality who was heir apparent to the throne. For the first time in his life, Khan was financially well-off and brought his sister and mother to live with him in Bhopal. Khan married for the first time in 1860, to the daughter of the prime minister who was eleven years his senior.Siddiq Hasan Khan eventually married Begum on suggestion of his father-I-law (father of his first wife). Upon Shah Jahan's coronation in 1871, Khan was promoted to the position of chief secretary, began spending longer periods of time alone with Shah Jahan and the two were eventually married; with his second marriage, Khan had become the male consort of the female monarch. According to Lepel Griffin, the marriage was in part to quash the rumor mongering, and officials made it clear that Khan was merely the Sultan's husband and would not function in any executive role. The marriage was controversial due to Indian beliefs regarding the remarriage of widows; ironically, the stated justification for support of the marriage by British officials - themselves predominantly Christians - was that Islam encourages widows to remarry. Despite remaining the spouse of the actual monarch, Khan's wife began to observe purdah and corresponded with male diplomats with Khan as her representative. Khan's mother-in-law held rather negative reviews of her daughter's new husband, and there was friction between the two families.
Khan eventually fell out of favor with British authorities, unhappy with what was viewed as his strong influence on his wife's decisions. Both before and after his removal from the royal court by the British in 1885, Shah Jahan defended her husband to the very end as shown in the meeting minutes of a heated, vehement exchange between herself and Sir Griffin. For her part, Shah Jahan denied that her husband held any executive power and merely advised her on some issues, arguing that the claims of her husband controlling her were based on jealousy on the part of her son-in-law and personal problems between Khan and Lepel. In 1890, Khan fell extremely ill with hepatitis. Resident Francis Henvey, Griffin's replacement, dispatched a medical officer but refused to administer medicine for fear that, given the terminal nature of Khan's illness, the British would be accused of poisoning him. Khan died on May 26, 1890.
With the help of Yemeni Islamic scholars, Khan began criticizing folk Islam as well as the practices of both Sufism and Shi'a Islam. Khan banned celebrations for the Islamic prophet Muhammad's birthday as heretical practices without basis in Islam, something which upset Sufis greatly; additionally, his reformist ideas in regard to Islamic jurisprudence upset the predominant Hanafi school of Islamic law. Khan's humble beginnings and working-class background also caused him to become the object of scorn, condescension yet also jealousy on the part of Bhopal's gentry. Regardless, Khan was still described as a prototypical Indo-Persian gentleman, multilingual, educated and with wide-reaching international ties.
His efforts proved to be his undoing; just as quickly as he rose to become Bhopal's most influential Muslim leader, so did he lose this status. Initially, the British ignored accusations of his Muslim opponents that Khan was a proponent of Wahhabism, a label hated within both the British and Ottoman Empires due to Arabian challenges to the dominance of the two states in the Middle East. After reviewing a book of Khan's which contained passages about jihad and observing several students from Arabia attend lessons under Khan, the British relented and also accused him of puritanism and anti-colonial agitation in 1881. The British press at the time maligned Khan as a negative influence in the region, and pejoratively dubbed him as "the penniless adventurer." Despite being accused of sedition against the state, Governor-General of India Lord Dufferin found no evidence of seditious acts on Khan's part at all after official inquiries. Khan even went so far as to write criticisms of Muhammad ibn Abdul-Wahhab, who followed an entirely different school of Islamic law, in order to exonerate himself from the accusations of Wahhabism. Among other details, Khan accused the Wahhabist of engaging in inter-religious violence and bloodshed and still clinging to the same traditionalist views for which Khan also criticized the Indian Sufis and Shi'ites. Additionally, Khan based his religious views on the internationalism borne by the networks created by colonialists themselves. The Wahhabist movement, on the other hand, was geographically specific to the anti-colonial struggle and cultural environment of the Middle East. Khan elaborated on his position that the Wahhabist movement had no relevance to the situation and experience of reform-minded Muslims in India:
- "Those who worship one God object to being called Wahhabis in the Ibn Abdul-Wahhab kind of way not only due to his belonging to a different nation and all of its politics, but because they consider God as the ruler and the protector of the whole world and this univeralistic stance is blunted if they are said to be followers of a terrotorially rooted Abdul-Wahhab."
According to University of Erfurt professor Jamal Malik, the British overthrow of Khan was due to a number of political concerns rather than wrongdoing on Khan's own part. The start of the Mahdist War in Sudan in 1881 (which Khan ironically openly opposed), diplomatic ties between Khan's wife and the Sharif of Mecca and Khan's letter exchanges with Ottoman sultan Abdul Hamid II all caused the British authorities to fear a pan-Islamist uprising; to withdraw the accusations against Khan, however baseless they were, would have weakened the British Empire's position in the wider Muslim world. Eventually, British officials admitted that they had overreacted based on rumors and intrigues among Bhopal's political elite and that Khan had been falsely accused; regardless, the Indian nationalist movement still regarded him as a hero in the anti-colonialist struggle. Upon Khan's death, his widow Shah Jahan negotiated with British authorities to have all of his official titles restored posthumously; Shah Jahan saw this as vindication of her belief that her husband had been falsely slandered, and filled her new court with Khan's relatives and associates.
Outside of politics, Khan's efforts to preserve and revive Hadith studies, focusing on the statements and actions of Muhammad, were well received. Due to his large amount of edited and original published works, he has been dubbed "the Indian Al-Suyuti."
Khan's theological views were very much a product of Shah Waliullah's reformist school in India. Coupled with the reformist ideas of Shaukani and Ibn Taymiyyah, Khan and his Ahl al-Hadith movement established similar iconoclastic ideas to the mainstream at the time. Not surprisingly given the fate of his ideological predecessors, much of Khan's philosophy was based as a reaction against the prevailing religious climate; Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Deobandi and Barelvi movements and the Shi'ites from which Khan himself was descended were all targets of Khan's reformist criticism. Khan's religious views have been described as centering around a desire to return to the pristine values with which Islam originally came, and to rid the Muslim world of the ills of charlatans, frauds and Hindu influence on Muslim practice.
After his marriage to the Sultan, Khan began publishing his own original works in Arabic, Persian and Urdu; the number of his works eventually topped 200, and many of them were distributed by the state press for free in Bhopal's schools. His polemical and theological works are generally underlain by the principles of self-judgment, reason and rationality.
Khan has been noted as one of the first scholars to research the topic of lexicography of the Arabic language, a field of study which the Arabs themselves had ignored until recently. Khan also performed a comprehensive review of Arabic philology and lexicons produced up to his time.
- Al-Bulgha fi Usul al-Lugha. Istanbul, 1879. Arabic.
- Hell-fire: Its Torments and Denizens. Trns. Saleh Dalleh. International Islamic Publishing House, 2005. English. ISBN 9789960850542
- Tarjuman-i Wahhabiya. Bhopal, 1884. Urdu.
- Saeedullah. The Life and Works of Muhammad Siddiq Hasan Khan, Nawab of Bophal, 1248–1307. Lahore: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf.
- Jamal Malik, Perspectives of mutual encounters in South Asian history, 1760–1860, pg. 71. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2000. ISBN 9004118020
- Malik, pg. 72.
- M. Naeem Qureshi, Pan-Islam in British Indian Politics, pg. 458. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 1999. ISBN 9004113711
- Claudia Preckel, Wahhabi or National Hero? Siddiq Hasan Khan. International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World, vol. 11, #1, pg. 31.
- Annmarie Schimmel, Islam in the Indian Subcontinent, pg. 207. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 1980. ISBN 9004061177
- Shaharyar Khan, The Begums of Bhopal: A History of the Princely State of Bhopal, pg. 120. London: I.B. Tauris, 2000. ISBN 1860645283
- Seema Alavi, Siddiq Hasan Khan (1832–90) and the Creation of a Muslim Cosmopolitanism in the 19th century. Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, vol. 54, #1, pg. 4. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2011.
- Khan, pg. 121.
- Alavi, pg. 5.
- M. Khan, pg. 122.
- Alavi, pg. 6.
- M. Khan, pg. 125.
- M. Khan, pg. 141.
- Khan, pg. 148.
- Malik, pg. 76.
- Khan, pg. 127.
- Alavi, pg. 8.
- Alavi, pg. 9.
- Alavi, pg. 7.
- Malik, pg. 77.
- Khan, pg. 142.
- Muḥammad Isḥāq, India's contribution to the study of Hadith literature, pg. 175. University of Dhaka, 1955.
- Schimmel, pg. 208.
- Malik, pg. 75.
- John A. Haywood, Arabic Lexicography, pg. 1. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 1965.
- John A. Haywood, "An Indian Contribution to the Study of Arabic Lexicography." Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, October 1956, pgs. 165-180.
- Haywood, Lexicography, pg. 61.
- Sufism and the 'Modern' in Islam, pg. 337. Eds. Martin Van Bruinessen and Julia Day Howell. London: I.B. Tauris, 2007. ISBN 9781850438540