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The term Sayyid brothers refers to Syed Hassan Ali Khan Barha (1666 – 12 October 1722 CE) and Syed Hussain Ali Khan Barha (1668 – 9 October 1720 CE), who were powerful Mughal Army generals of the Mughal Empire during the early 18th century.
They claimed to belong to the family of Sayyids or the descendants of the Prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatima and son-in-law and cousin Ali who belonged to the Banu Hashim Clan of the Quraish Tribe.
The Sayyid Brothers became highly influential in the Mughal Court after Aurangzeb's death and became kingmakers during the anarchy following the death of emperor Aurangzeb in 1707. They created and dethroned Mughal Emperors at their will during the 1710s. Aurangzeb's son Bahadur Shah I defeated his brothers to capture the throne with the help of Sayyid Brothers and Chin Quilich Khan (Nizam-ul-Mulk), another influential administrator in the Mughal court. Bahadur Shah I died in 1712, and his successor Jahandar Shah was assassinated on the orders of the Sayyid Brothers.
In 1713, Jahandar's nephew Farrukhsiyar (r. 1713–1719) became the emperor with the brothers' help. His reign marked the ascendancy of the brothers, who monopolised state power and reduced the Emperor to a figurehead. The brothers conspired to send Nizam-ul-Mulk to Deccan, away from the Mughal Court, to reduce his influence. In 1719, the Brothers blinded, deposed and murdered Farrukhsiyar. They then arranged for his first cousin, Rafi ud-Darajat, to be the next ruler in February 1719. When Rafi ud-Darajat died of lung disease in June, they made his elder brother, Rafi ud-Daulah (Shah Jahan II), ruler. After Rafi ud-Daulah also died of lung disease in September 1719, Muhammad Shah (r. 1719–1748) ascended the throne at the age of seventeen with the Sayyid Brothers as his regents until 1720.
Muhammad Shah, to take back control of his rule, arranged for the brothers to be killed with the help of Nizam-ul-Mulk Asaf Jah. Syed Hussain Ali Khan was murdered at Fatehpur Sikri in 1720, and Syed Hassan Ali Khan Barha was fatally poisoned in 1722.
Early appointments of the Syed Brothers in the Mughal Empire
During the reign of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1697, Syed Hassan Ali Khan was Faujdar of Sultanpur, Nazarbar in Baglana, and was appointed Subahdar of Khandesh in 1698 with an objective of halting Maratha expansion in the region. Later he was appointed ruler of Hoshangabad, Khandesh, and Nazarbar coupled with Thalner in the Sarkar of the same province. Subsequently he was responsible for Aurangabad during the final campaign of the Mughal Emperor against the Maratha in 1705 and attended the funeral of Aurangzeb in 1707.
Hassan's younger brother, Hussain Ali Khan, who is admitted by every one to have been a man of much greater energy and resolution than his elder brother, had in the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb reign held charge first of Ranthambore, in Ajmer, and then of Hindaun-Bayana, in Agra.
The two Syed brothers, who now come into such prominence, were not mere upstarts, but came from the old military aristocracy. Besides the prestige of Syed lineage and the personal renown acquired by their own valor, they were the sons of Syed Mian who was chosen by Aurangzeb as the first Subedar of Bijapur in the Deccan and then Subedar of Ajmer. Their father, Syed Abdullah Khan titled Syed Miyan, had risen in the service of Ruhullah Khan, Aurangzeb's Mir Bakhshi, and finally, on receiving the rank of an imperial Mansabdar, attached himself to the eldest Prince Muazzam.
After Prince Mu'izz ud-Din Jahandar Shah, the eldest of Emperor Bahadur Shah's sons, had been appointed in 1106 H. (1694–5) to the charge of the Multan province, Syed Hassan Ali Khan and his brother followed him there. In an expedition against a refractory Baloch zamindar, the Sayyids were of opinion that the honours of the day were theirs. Prince Mu'izz ud-Din Jahandar Shah thought otherwise, and assigned them to his then favourite administrator Isa Khan Mian. The Sayyids quit the service in dudgeon and repaired to Lahore, where they lived in comparative poverty, waiting for employment from Munim Khan, the Nazim of that place. When Emperor Aurangzeb died and Prince Muhammad Mu'azzam Shah Alam, reached Lahore on his march to Agra to contest the throne, the Sayyids presented themselves, and their services were gladly accepted. In the battle of Jajau or Jajowan on the 18th Rabi I, 1119 H. (18 June 1707), they served in the vanguard and fought valiantly on foot, as was the Sayyid habit in an emergency. A third brother, Syed Nur ud-Din Ali Khan, was left dead on the field, and Syed Hussain Ali Khan was severely wounded. Though their rank was raised and the elder brother received his father's title of Syed Mian, they were not treated with such favour as their exceptional services seemed to deserve, either by the new Emperor or his vizier.
The two Sayyids managed to quarrel with Khanazad Khan, the vizier Munim Khan's second son, and though the breach was healed by a visit to them from the vizier in person, there is little doubt that this difference helped to keep them out of employment. Syed Hussain Ali Khan is also said to have offended Prince Mu'izz ud-Din Jahandar Shah. The morning after the battle of Jajau, the Prince visited their quarters to condole with them on the death of their brother, Syed Nur ud-Din Ali Khan, and in so doing launched out into praises of their valour. Syed Hussain Ali Khan met these overtures in an aggressive manner, saying that what they had done was nothing, many had done as much, their valour would be known when their lord was deserted and alone, and the strength of their right arm had seated him on the throne. Prince Mu'izz ud-Din Jahandar Shah was vexed by this speech, and refrained from making any recommendation to his father in their favour. Nay, he did his best to prevent their obtaining lucrative employment, and we read of their being obliged to rely upon the Emperor's bounty for their travelling expenses, which were necessarily great, as they were kept in attendance on the Court while it was constantly on the march.
In Shaban 1120 H. (Oct. 1708) Syed Hassan Ali Khan had been named to the subah of Ajmer, then in a disturbed state owing to the Rajput rising, a condition of things with which Syed Shuja'at Ali Khan seemed hardly capable of dealing. Syed Hassan Ali Khan had barely more than reached Delhi, to raise new troops and make other preparations, when the Emperor, Bahadur Shah, changed his mind and Shuja'at Ali Khan was received again into favour and maintained in his Government. At length, by the favour of Prince Azim-ush-shan, Syed Hassan Ali Khan on the 21st Dhu al-Qida 1122 H. (10 January 1711) became that Prince's deputy in the province of Allahabad. About two years earlier (11th Muharram 1120 H., 1 April 1708), the same patron had nominated the younger brother Syed Hussain Ali Khan, to represent him in another of his Governments, that of Bihar, of which the capital was at Azimabad Patna.
Succession crises of 1712
When Prince Farrukhsiyar first arrived at Azimabad, Syed Hussain Ali Khan was away on an expedition, apparently the recapture of Rohtas fort of Bihar, which about this time had been seized by one Muhammad Raza ''Rayat Khan''. The Sayyids had felt annoyed on hearing that Farrukhsiyar had issued coin and caused the khutba to be read in his father, Prince Azim-ush-shan's, name, without waiting to learn the result of the impending struggle at Lahore. Thus on his return to his headquarters his first impulse was to decline altogether that Prince's overtures. In truth, no attempt could well look more hopeless than that upon which Prince Farrukhsiyar wished to enter. The Prince's mother now hazarded a private visit to the Sayyids mother, taking with her little granddaughter. Her arguments rested on the fact that the Sayyids position was due to the kindness of the Prince's father. That father, two brothers, and two uncles had been killed, and the Prince's own means were insufficient for any enterprise. Let Syed Hussain Ali Khan then choose his own course, either let him aid Prince Farrukhsiyar to recover his rights and revenge his father's death, or else let him place the Prince in chains and send him a prisoner to Emperor Jahandar Shah. Here the Prince's mother and daughter bared their heads and wept aloud. Overcome by their tears, the Sayyida called her son within the harem. The little girl fell bareheaded at his feet and implored his aid. His mother told him that "whatever was the result he would be a gainer: if defeated, his name would stand recorded as a hero till Judgment Day; if successful, the whole of Hindustan would be at their feet and above them none but the Emperor”. Finally she exclaimed, “If you adhere to Emperor Jahandar Shah, you will have to answer before the Great Judge for disavowing your mother's claim upon you.”
At these words Syed Hussain Ali Khan took up the women's veils and replaced them on their heads swearing a binding oath that he would espouse the Prince's cause. The next night Prince Farrukhsiyar presented himself at the Khan's house, saying that he had come either to be seized and sent to Emperor Jahandar Shah or to enter into an agreement for the recovery of the throne. The Sayyid bound himself finally to fight on Prince Farrukhsiyar's behalf. He wrote at once to his elder brother, Syed Hassan Ali Khan Barha, at Allahabad, inviting him to join the same side, and Prince Farrukhsiyar addressed a farman to him making many promises, and authorising him to expend the Bengal treasure, then at Allahabad, on the enlistment of troops. It is quite clear that at this time, or soon afterwards, the two chief places in the Empire, those of Vizier and of Amir ul Umara were formally promised to the two brothers as their reward in case of success. Syed Hassan Ali Khan Barha, on being superseded at Allahabad, gives in his adhesion to Prince Farrukhsiyar.
At first Syed Hassan Ali Khan Barha's intention was to submit to Emperor Jahandar Shah, the de facto Emperor, to whom he sent letters professing his loyalty and offering his services. Three months before the death of Emperor Bahadur Shah, he had gone out towards Jaunpur to restore order. In this he was not successful and the pay of his soldiers fell into arrears. The men raised a disturbance, and Syed Hassan Ali Khan Barha's only anxiety was to escape from them and take shelter within the fort of Allahabad. He promised publicly that as soon as he reached the city, all the collections then in the hands of his agents should be made over to the troops. On the return march, word came of Emperor Bahadur Shah's death.While Syed Hassan Ali Khan Barha was still in expectation of a favourable reply to his letter to Emperor Jahandar Shah, he was surprised to learn that his Government had been taken from him, and that the deputy of the new governor was on his way to take possession. The province had been granted to a Gardezi Sadaat of Manikpur, subah Allahabad, one Raji Muhammad Khan, who had risen to notice in the recent righting at Lahore, and through the reputation thereby acquired, had been appointed Mir Atish or general of artillery. The new governor nominated as his deputy his relation, one Syed Abdul Ghaffar (a descendant of Syed Sadar Jahan, Sadar-us-Sadur, Pihanwi).
Syed Abdul Ghaffar obtained contingents from one or two zamindars and collected altogether 6,000 to 7,000 men. When he drew near to Karra Manikpur, Syed Abul Hasan Khan, a Sayyid of Bijapur, who was Syed Hassan Ali Khan Barha's Bakhshi, advanced at the head of 3,000 men to bar his progress. At the Battle of Sarai Alam Chand on 2 August 1712 with Abul Hasan Khan's victory for Syed Hassan Ali Khan Barha it became clear now that the Sayyids were allied against the Emperor for the new contender Prince Farrukhsiyar.
Prince Farrukhsiyar, meanwhile, had marched out with an army along with Syed Hussain Ali Khan Barha from Patna to Allahabad to join Syed Hassan Ali Khan Barha as soon as possible. Emperor Jahandar Shah learning of the defeat of his General Syed Abdul Ghaffar sent his own son Prince Azzu-ud-Din along with Generals Lutfullah Khan and Khwaja Hussain Khan Dauran to face this army. The Second Battle of Khajwah was fought in Fatehpur District, Uttar Pradesh on 28 November 1712.Prince Farrukhsiyar decisively defeated Prince Azzu-ud-Din forcing Emperor Jahandar Shah and his Vizier the Great Zulfiqar Khan Nusrat Jung to take the field. At the Battle of Agra 1713 fought on 10 January 1713, Prince Farrukhsiyar won decisively and became the Emperor of the Mughal Empire succeeding his uncle Jahandar Shah.
Rise of the Sayyid brothers
After his victory at the Battle of Agra 1713 Emperor Farrukhsiyar on the way from Agra to Delhi, and after arrival at Delhi, conferred many new appointments and new titles on his generals and noblemen. Syed Hassan Ali Khan Barha was awarded titles Nawab Qutb-ul-mulk, Yamin-ud-daulah, Syed Mian Saani, Bahadur Zafar Jung, Sipah-salar, Yar-i-wafadar and became Vizier or Prime Minister. Syed Hussain Ali Khan was appointed first Bakhshi with the titles of Umdat-ul-mulk, Amir-ul-Umara, Bahadur, Feroze Jung, Sipah Sardar.
Rajputana Campaign 1714
The Rajput States had been in veiled revolt from the imperial authority for 50 years. Emperor Bahadur Shah had been unable, owing to more pressing affairs, to reduce the Raja's effectually. During the confusion which arose on that monarch's death, Ajit Singh, after forbidding slaughtering cows by Muslims for food and the call for prayer from the Alamgiri Mosque, besides ejecting the imperial officers from Jodhpur and destroying their houses, had entered the imperial territory and taken possession of Ajmer. Early in Emperor Farrukhsiyar's reign it was determined that this encroachment must be put an end to; and as the Raja's replies to the imperial orders were not satisfactory, it was necessary to march against him.
Syed Hussain Ali Khan left Delhi on 6 January 1714. After a brief campaign Raghunath, a munshi in the service of Maharaja Ajit Singh of Jodhpur came to negotiate peace.Syed Hussain Ali Khan thus advanced to Mairtha, where he halted until the terms of peace had been arranged. The terms were that the Raja should give one of his daughters in marriage to the Emperor, in the mode which they styled Dola that the Raja's son, Abhay Singh, should accompany Hussain Ali Khan to Court, and that the Raja in person should attend when summoned. Zafar Khan Roshan ud-Daulah arrived at Court on the 5th Jamadi I, 1126 H. (18 May 1714), with the news.
The Mughal invaders never really Indianised themselves and one of the reasons for the decline and fall of the Mughal Empire was because amongst the nobility, there were two distinct classes viz the Hindustani faction and the Mughal faction. The Mughal faction comprised those whose ancestry was either Irani and Turkish and they detested and suspected the Hindustani Muslims and considered themselves superior racially and considered Indian Muslims to be inferior to them and there was a continual struggle for control of power and authority. The Hindustani Muslims were internally allied with the Sayyids of Barha, the Afghan nobles, and Khan-i-Dauran, whose ancestors came from Badakhshan in the far north of the India and other indigenous Indian Muslims whose ancestors had been Hindus. The foreign Muslims were arbitrarily called Mughals, but were really either Turkish or Irani. The foreign nobles of diverse origin, were opposed as a class to the members of the Hindustani party and as colonizers had a vested interest to ensure that the Indian Muslims did not identify themselves with their brethren fellow Indians professing the Hindu faith lest the same would expose and isolate the Mughal faction.
Clash of the nobles
During Syed Hussain Ali Khan's absence, Ubaidullah Khan better known as Mir Jumla III became more and more powerful. Emperor Farrukhsiyar had made over his seal to this favourite, and was often heard to say openly:
- "The word and seal of Mir Jumla are the word and seal of Farrukhsiyar."
On his side, Syed Hassan Ali Khan Barha was immersed in pleasure and found little or no leisure to devote to State affairs. Nor, being a soldier who had come into office without much preparation for civil affairs, was he very competent to deal with the details of administration, for which, moreover, he had no natural taste.
Everything was left to his man of business, Ratan Chand, a Hindu of the Baniya caste, and a native of a village near the Sayyids home at Jansath. He had been recently created a Raja with the rank of 2,000 zat. The chief dispute centred upon the question of appointments to office, the fees paid by those receiving appointments being a recognised and most substantial source of emolument. Ratan Chand, in addition to these customary fees, exacted large sums, which were practically bribes or payments for the grant of the appointment.
By Mir Jumla's independent action in bringing forward candidates and affixing the seal to their warrants of appointment, without following the usual routine of passing them through the Vizier's office, the emoluments of both Syed Hassan Ali Khan Barha and of his head officer were considerably curtailed. It is a matter of little wonder, therefore, that Syed Hassan Ali Khan Barha felt aggrieved at the unusual powers placed in the hands of a rival such as Mir Jumla. This noble was much more accessible than the Vizier, and was not given to the extortionate practices of Ratan Chand. Naturally, men in search of employment or promotion sought his audience-hall rather than that of Syed Hassan Ali Khan Barha.
The Vizier suffered, in this way, both in influence and in income. Moreover, Mir Jumla allowed no opportunity to pass without depreciating the Sayyid brothers, and brought forward arguments of every sort to prove that they were unfitted for the offices that they held.
The Sayyid brothers could never be certain from day to day that some new plot was not being hatched for their destruction. The Rajputana campaign was the means of unmasking one of these schemes. Secret letters had been, dispatched to Maharaja Ajit Singh, urging him towards strenuous resistance, and inviting him, if he could, to make away with Syed Hussain Ali Khan Barha. These letters came into Hussain Ali Khan's possession and through them he acquired proof of Emperor Farrukhsiyar's double-faced dealings. In the interval of Hussain Ali Khan's absence, Syed Hassan Ali Khan Barha had found the greatest difficulty in maintaining his position at Court. All the power was in the hands of Mir Jumla. Every day messages came from Emperor Farrukhsiyar, couched in various forms, but all urging him to resign the office of Vizier. Syed Hassan Ali Khan Barha now wrote letters to his brother enjoining him to return to Delhi with all possible speed. In response to these calls, Syed Hussain Ali Khan, as we have seen, reached the capital again on the 5th Rajab 1126 H. (16 July 1714).
For the next two or three months the breach between the Emperor and the minister, although far from closed, was not sensibly widened. The Sayyids, as was natural, looked on Farrukhsiyar's accession to the throne as the work of their hands, and resented the grant of any share of power to other persons. On the other hand, the small group of Farrukhsiyar's intimates, men who had known him from his childhood and stood on the most familiar terms with him, were aggrieved at their exclusion from a share in the spoil. The two men selected to confront the Sayyids were Khwaja Asim Khan Dauran and Mir Jumla III. They were both promoted to the rank of 7,000 horse: they were placed, the former at the head of 5,000 Wala-shahi, and the latter of 5,000 Mughal troopers. Many of their relations were pushed forward into high rank, and counting these men's troops, each of the two nobles had at his command over ten thousand men. Among the signs of this favouritism was the order passed on the 12th Shaban 2 September 1713, permitting Mir Jumla to entertain 6,000 horsemen, who were to be specially paid from the imperial treasury. These were raised by Amanat Khan, his adopted son, from those Mughals who were born in India, and some seventy lakhs of Rupees for their pay were disbursed from the treasury, the rules as to descriptive rolls of the men and branding of the horses being set aside. No order was issued by Farrukhsiyar without the advice and approval of the above two men.
In this exercise of authority Mir Jumla assumed the lead, till at length Syed Hassan Ali Khan Barha was only the nominal, while he was the real vizier. The two Sayyids bowed for the time to the Emperor's will, and made no opposition to these usurpations.
Mir Jumla and Khan Dauran talked well, but evaded dealing with the kernel of the matter. Mir Jumla, having no real strength of character, knew that he was not fitted to enter the lists as a champion to fight the Sayyids. He therefore made excuses and drew to one side. Khan Dauran was in reality a mere braggadocio, a big talker; and he was frightened that if he should ever be called on to take the lead, he may lose his life in the attempt to destroy the Sayyids.
As for the Emperor, his own troops and those of his relations were unequal to an attack on the Sayyids. The imperial and Wala-shahi troops comprised many low-caste men and mere artisans held commands. The Emperor had no proof of their fighting quality.So it was decided once more to resume friendly relations with the Sayyid brothers. Eventually Islam Khan V would negotiate a settlement whereby Mir Jumla was forced out of office in Delhi and sent to Bihar.
As Syed Hussain Ali Khan would not come to Court until Mir Jumla had left, the latter received his audience of dismissal on 16 December 1714. Four days afterwards,20 December 1714, Hussain Ali Khan entered the palace with his men, observing the same precautions as in the case of Syed Hassan Ali Khan Barha. The Emperor and the Mir Bakhshi exchanged compliments, under which their real sentiments were easily perceived. Some months before this time Hussain Ali Khan had obtained in his own favour a grant of the Deccan provinces, in super session of Nizam-ul-Mulk Chin Kilich Khan (Mir Qamar ud-Din). He had then no intention of proceeding there in person, but meant to exercise the government through a deputy, Daud Khan Panni.
End of the Sayyid brothers
The Sayyid brothers becoming the sole authority of Mughal politics reduced the status of the Turkic and the Irani noblemen in the Mughal court. This excited the jealousy of these nobles, who used to enjoy high status under Emperor Farukhshiyar. As a result, they formed a force of counter-revolution against the Sayyid brothers.
The leader of the Counter Revolution was Nizam-ul-Mulk. To subdue the counter-revolution, the Sayyid brothers shifted Nizam-ul-mulk from Delhi. Nizam was appointed as the Subahdar of Malwa. In due course Nizam captured the forts of Asirgarh and Burhanpur in Deccan. Moreover, Nizam also killed Mir Alam Ali Khan, the adopted son of Syed Hussain Ali Khan, who was the Deputy Subahdar of the Deccan.
Meanwhile, in Delhi a plot was devised against the Sayyid brothers. Nizam-ul-mulk ultimately killed Syed Hussain Ali Khan on 9 October 1720. Syed Hassan Ali Khan Barha with a big army set out to avenge his brother`s murder. But Syed Hassan Ali Khan Barha was defeated at Hasanpur near Palwal (Haryana) in 15–16 November in the same year and later he was poisoned to death on 12 October 1722. Thus the protracted career of the Sayyid brothers came to an end.
Also known as
There are several different spellings and terms for the Sayyid Brothers:
- Syed brothers
- Saiyads of Barha
- Saiyid Brothers
- Saadat e Bara
- Sayyids of Barha
- Saiyids of Baraha
- Syeds of Bara
- Sayeeds of Barha
- Sayeed brothers
- Saadat-e-Bara/Saadat-e-Barha The estates of great sayyid generals and governors since Akbar's time.
- Saadat Khan He played a major role in the overthrow of the Saiyid Brothers.
- Sayyid dynasty This pre-Mughal dynasty may have been connected to the Sayyid brothers. See also Khizr Khan, the founder of this dynasty.
- Sen, Sailendra (2013). A Textbook of Medieval Indian History. Primus Books. p. 193. ISBN 978-9-38060-734-4.
- Khan, Shaharyar M. (2000). The Begums of Bhopal (illustrated ed.). I.B.Tauris. p. 18. ISBN 978-1-86064-528-0.
- Later Mughals by William Irvine
- History of Modern India: 1707 A.D. to Up to 2000 A.D. by Radhey Shyam Chaurasia, Atlantic Publishers & Dist, ISBN 81-269-0085-7
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