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Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Numerous paintings depicting Muslims showering atrocities over Sikhs, are exhibited in Sikh museums. One is driven to the conclusion that the Sikhs and the Muslims had never been at peace with each other and early Sikh history is nothing but a bloody tale of the Muslim tyranny vis-à-vis the Sikhs. Nothing can be further from truth than this misconception.

Before the advent of Guru Nanak, Punjab was ruled by Afghan Muslims. Afghans had remained in power for a long time before Humayun, who in his second attack on Sirhind, avenged his earlier defeat by killing Sikandar Sur, the Afghan ruler of Punjab.

With the death of Sikandar Sur, the Afghan populace of Punjab lost their Muslim ruler and their political godfather. The victorious armies of Humayun arrested hundreds of Afghan men. They were chained and dragged to Delhi for execution

At this point in history, the women folk of the arrested Afghan Muslims rushed for helpto their spiritual leader Shah Qumais, the Sufi saint of Sadhaura. Moved at the plight of the poor Afghan women, the saint immediately marched to Shahbad to see the victorious Humayaun. The latter reluctantly granted an audience to him. At this meeting the famous Bairam Khan was also present.

Shah Qumais’s way of appealing was not to beg or plead. He reminded Humayuan of the vow which he had taken on the banks of the river Attock before launching an attack on Punjab This unnerved Humayun. He had vowed not to arrest any Muslim if the merciful Almighty showered victory on him during this attack..Flabbergasted at the saint’s sweetly-worded admonition, Humayun ordered an immediate release of all the arrested Afghans.

Saved from the gallows, the Afghan Muslims became more devoted to the Sufi saint and thus Sadhaura became the forebearer of their socio-poltical activity. In the absence of a political leader, the Afghan masses, too, rallied around the Sufi saint and looked to him not only for safety but for resurrection as well.

After Shah Qumais, their centre of devotion shifted from Sadhaura to Sirhind, where Mujaddid Alif Saani Sheikh Ahmed Farooqi was vehemently attacking the doctrine of “Din-e-Ilahi” founded by Akbar. The might of the emperor Jahangir was challenged by the Sheikh.

The Muslims of Punjab, fighting their battle for survival under the leadership of spiritual leaders, were happy to find Hargobind, the sixth Sikh Guru, crossing swords with the Mughals. They wholeheartedly sympathized with the Guru as they thought that he was fighting their enemy.

They created unrest in Punjab when the two religious leaders, Sheikh Ahmed Farooqi and Guru Hargobind, were arrested by the Mughals and locked up in Gwalior Fort. As a consequence, Jahangir had to order their release. This made the Punjabi Muslims as well as the Sikhs jubilant.

In their effort to acquire their lost power back, the Punjabi Muslims once again rallied around a Sufi saint. This time it was Adam Banuri, the valiant crusader and a faithful disciple of Sheikh Farooqi. In a bid to clinch the issue in favour of the Afghan Muslims, Sheikh Adam Banuri, in 1642 AD, decided to parade his man-power before Shah Jahan and ordered his followers to reach Lahore, where the Emperor was camping.

Noticing the thousands of sudden visitors in Lahore, Shah Jahan asked for the real motive of such a concentration of Afghan Muslims. On being told that it had happened at the behest of Adam, the Emperor deputed his Prime Minister Saadullah to go the Shiekh and sort out the problem whatsoever.

What transpired between the Sheikh and the Prime Minister can be guessed from the note Saadullah presented to the Emperor making it clear that it was not possible for the two_The Emperor and the Sufi saint_ to live together in India. Either of the two would have to submit. Enraged by the findings of the Prime Minister, Shah Jahan ordered the Sheikh to be exiled immediately.

The departure of Adam Banuri to Mecca was a deadly blow to the morale and aspirations of the Punjabi Muslims. They had already lost their political leader and now with Adam’s exit from the scene they lost their religious leader as well.

Frustrated and demoralized Afghan Muslims, felt blood course their their veins, when Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru, vowed to dethrone the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb. Once again, they wholeheartedly rallied behind a religious leader and put their heart in his politico-military adventures. They hopefully believed that the tenth Guru would ultimately finish their bitter enemy, the Mughals.

It was for this reason that Ghani Khan and Nabi Khan, the two dyers of Machhiwara to risk their lives to save the life of the tenth Guru. They also deceived (in the name of Islam) their Muslim enemies to provide a safe passage to the Guru out of the besieged Machhiwara.

When the decision of burying alive in the wall the two sons of Guru Gobind Singh was taken at the Mughal court of Sirhind, the chieftain of Malerkotla, the only surviving Afghan principality in Punjab, dissented. Not contented with his walk-out from the court, the Afghan chieftain also sent a nasty letter to the Emperor declaring his act of killing the innocent as unIslamic.

Had the Muslims of Punjab not backed the Sikhs fighting the Mughals, and had there been animosity between the Sikhs and the Muslims, Banda Bahadur would not have spared Muslims. In his attack on Sirhind to avenge the killing of the Guru’s sons Banda Bahadur would have lashed at the shrine of Sheikh Farooqi, a magnificent Muslim monument, just a few yards away from the place of the killing. Banda left the Muslim shrine undamaged and carefully directed his fury towards the Mughal population. Only the Punjabi Muslims who sided with or were in the pay of the Mughals attracted his wrath.

I understand that there was never a war between the Sikhs and the Muslims as such, though the Sikhs were always at war with the Mughals. Interestingly, the Afghan Muslims rarely admitted the Mughals to be Muslims because they came from a Turk father and a Mongol mother. Mughal rulers from Jahangir onwards were half Hindus from their maternal side.

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