*This post was updated on July 30th, 2019.
Hi guys! And a happy Monday to you all! There is such a chill in the air that I can’t help but reach for the fireplace ignition and a steaming cup of hot tea while listening to a gentle holiday playlist on YouTube. But that is what is beautiful about the winter season in the USA – the bitter cold mixed with the warm goodness of Christmas.
The History Of Mughal Empire And Nawabi Culture
Mughal Empire 1526 – 1857
Muslims have been in the sub-continent for a millennia, but it was the height of Mughal glamour and decorum that sealed their rule in the Indian sub-continent. While Wikipedia does a great job consolidating information sealed in the pages of thousands of history books (see HERE), there need to be some corrections, some tweaks, and some additions to the fairy-tale story of the Mughals.
Mughal King Akbar was probably the most beloved king of all times. He loved Prophet Muhammed PBUH and Islam so much that he made his life’s purpose to spread it. Like Prophet Muhammed PBUH he wanted to spread Islam to every corner of the world. So he planned, planned, and planned, and started his journies. But, as life would play out, what Prophet Muhammed PBUH set out to do with God’s religion, and created words Islam (meaning “from Ismael” and “submission”) and Muslim (Islam’s followers) in the process, Mughal King Akbar finished by creating a unified Muslim culture. That’s why the words “opulent”, “rich”, “natural”, “beautiful”, “pure” are used to describe all Muslim cultures. While the Middle East call their cultures “Arabic” or “Islamic”, the Indian Sub-continent is unique and have their own sets of names.
My Nawabi grandfather also told me that Mughal King Akbar had 3 brothers and he called one of them Ali. That’s right Imam Ali. A lot of his followers were struck by this awesome belief, but in the end, it was his heart that created the purest “culture” of Islam, Sufism. While some Sufi’s say He made us Sufi. Others fight back and say We became Sufi’s for him.
Before modern democracy was established on paper in America, the world knew nothing of governments other than them being in conflict with The Church. While the Mughal Empire aka Muslim Rule was formally established in the Indian Sub-Continent through the work and rule of King Babur and King Humayun, news spread of a King Akbar that possessed the gifts of beauty, words, and heart. When travelers from the West came into the lands during Akbar’s time, they saw the rumors to be true, but they were turned off by one thing – excess. Worried, King Akbar started inviting these foreign travelers to his court (one of them was a close confidant of the Pope of the time) and asked for help. Coming to the same conclusion that the culture is “rich”, King Akbar enlisted the help of his third wife, a seer (someone who sees premonitions occasionally aka not a medium or psychic) who saw two premonitions relating to the number “3”. She advised him that the number “3” is very lucky for him and Muslims from the region. This wife who possessed great beauty, great intelligence, and a beautiful heart advised King Akbar to pick “3” of everything he loves and show “his significance of important consequences” through them. So he picked Sufi music, Sufi dance, and Persian architecture (but not Turkish architecture since it was not part of his lineage). He wanted to add Islam, but she said not to worry since Allah will always guide him if his heart is pure. The second premonition was that if he does this in the name of Allah, his lineage will continue until The Day Of Judgment and will consist of women who are either beautiful, intelligent or carry hearts of pure gold. Never together King Akbar wanted from Allah. and so the Mughal Empire expanded to the political zenith unlike any empire of all time (till the British Raj, of course).
Another misconception is the presence of Pagan Hindus during the Mughal time. This assumption is absolutely wrong. Muslims had been at war with Pagans and Zoroastrians in the Sub-Continent for centuries before the Mughal empire was even formally established. Zoroastrians are derived from different polytheist pagan groups to sun-worshipping groups and came from all over the world because of The Silk Road to China (See HERE). However, they resorted to pillaging. The concept of considering “Hinduism” as a religion was purely made under the British Rule by Queen Victoria and her “consorts” in the Sub-Continent. The labels Marathas, Rajputs, Pashtuns, the “Hindu” Jats, and Sikhs (Jewish converts to Islam) were small Muslim sultanates present before and during the time of the Mughals. The Delhi Sultanate was the most powerful one thus, it was chosen to be the last location for the Mughal’s capital. Other powerful capitals during the Mughal reign were Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, and Lahore. Any issues between Muslim royalties were over “Islamic Principles of Sufism” not Islam, power, greed, or riches. Imagine that. All Mughal rulers in the Indian Sub-Continent have been Muslims. It has been recorded in Ain-i-Akbari (See HERE) and Dabistān-i Mazāhib (See HERE). And all that the Mughals cared about was spreading the beauty of Islam and acceptance of other empires such as the French and English.
Gangna-Jamni Tehzeeb 1739 – 1858
The Nawabi Culture or Gangna-Jamni Tehzeeb preserved in Pakistan’s Bahawalpur –based Bollywood (See HERE) covers this era extensively. The Nawabi Culture (See HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE) was very different from the Mughal Culture. The Nawabi Culture promoted fusion of subcultures of Muslims in the humongous Indian-Subcontinent, especially those who were rich landlords (See HERE). The two inspirational zeniths were Hyderabad and Delhi. This culture promoted Urdu poetry only (and food, although they would have disagreed) and borrowed the “rest” from the grandeur of the Mughal Culture of the time.
Also, note the hyphenated Mughal phrase Shahi (descendants of Mughal King Akbar) – Mughal (from King Akbar to describe King Baber) became synonymous for “fusion culture” in Nawabi Culture. Since Urdu poetry was written and spoken (not Farsi or Middle English, Mughal’s cultural and official languages) was loved and honored in Nawabi Culture, the Mughal king Akbar bestowed any Muslim culture the title, Shahi-Mughal signifying the unified love between Muslims during all times. The word Shahi also means “kingly” and refers to the arts and culture of the Gangna-Jamni or Nawabi Tehzeeb. The word Mughal describes anything “royal” and describes perfection in any structures started by Mughal King Akbar to teach and preserve Muslim arts (the tehzeeb – manners or way of life) started from his time and before.
The great Urdu and Farsi poet, Ghalib (See HERE) is an ancestor of mine and a descendant of Mughal kings. So is Umrao Jaan. While the latter is known as a courtesan by critics, she was, in fact, a woman of great beauty, intelligence, and charm. She was so famous that the phrase Umrao Jaan Ada (Umrao Jaan’s wit) was coined to describe extreme wit (I kind of ruined that legacy when I decided to name one of my literary devices, the “pun” as “Ghaliban” (like Ghalib) in Urdu. It was loved by Non-Urdu speakers, but I offended many aunties and uncles). Umrao Jaan’s name was borrowed in the great Muslim novel, Umrao Jaan Ada (See HERE) and the culture she and Ghalib made famous has been documented in the novel, Devdas. She was a great fan of Shakespeare and like him, never was formally educated in school, but was well-versed in Farsi and Khatak dance. Ghalib, a descendant of Mughal kings was enamored by her beauty and wit during a mushaira (a poetry gathering) and they later married. She is said to have green eyes (Green eyes run in my family along with brown eyes. I am the only one in the family who is a brunette with hazel eyes).
All You Need To Know Of Religions Recognized In Pakistan Today
(Sikhs: Converts to Islam’s way of life or Christian way of life from Judaism. They are also referred to as Jains and Punjabis).
- Islam and Sufism (Kalash (see HERE) is the name of an indigenous group living in the northern parts of Pakistan. It is not a religion).
- Judaism: No Jews living in Pakistan today.
- Hinduism (huh?).
How Pakistan Muslims dealt with polytheism? By creating Bollywood in the 1930’s and Lollywood in the 1980s. Please do not associate Bollywood, Lollywood, and Hollywood as promoting “polytheism” OR any religion that does that. These industries were merely created to serve as means of earning for many and spread the beauty of the Indian Sub-Continent. “They are by no means documenting culture, although, they work really hard brainwashing us”.
- Zoroastrians, Parsi, and Alam (sun worshippers): Split at the time of the Prophet of Islam PBUH from Polytheist Paganism.
- Hindu and Buddhist Castes-
- Transgenderism Castes.
Mughal Culture: You will notice that Bollywood emphasized the grandeur of the era and power and force in archetypal legends. Markets item song (See HERE); songs with Mughal court scenes (See HERE); colorful festivals (See HERE) or songs about Mughal princesses (See HERE) were mega-hits. Check out famous blockbusters such as Mughal-E-Azam (See HERE) and Jodha Akbar (See HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE).
Nawabi Tehzeeb: You will notice that Lollywood and Bollywood emphasized literature and pivotal characters and themes of the tehzeeb. Check out folk songs like Dholi Taro Dhol Baaje (See HERE) and village scenes in Lagaan (See HERE and HERE) or movies like Umrao Jaan (See HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE); Devdas (See HERE and HERE); Umrao Jaan Ada (See HERE); Pakeezah (See HERE, and HERE, HERE) or HERE.
Shahi Truck Art Culture: You will notice that Lollywood and Bollywood emphasize themes that are modern and pertinent to today’s youth of Pakistan or India. Beginning Of The Internet Age (See HERE); Fevicol Se item song (See HERE); Dil Mera Muft Ka (See HERE); Halkat Jawani (See HERE); Daiya Daiya Daiya Re (See HERE); Yun Hi Chala Chal (See HERE); Barso Re (See HERE); or Tere Bin (See HERE).
Rajasthani or Gujrati Culture: Look out to learn more for this in the future.