Sunday, September 15, 2013

History of Bengal Sultanate - Arabic and Persian Studies - Part 2

Qazi Rukn al-Din Samarkandi was a profound scholar in Islamic learning. He was of Persian origin and a Qazi of Lakhnawati in the time of ‘Ala al-Din ‘Ali Mardan Khalji. His translation of the Sanskrit book Amritkund on yogic system first in Persian and then into Arabic proves his proficiency in both of the languages, and bears witness to their study at the initial period of the Muslim rule in Bengal. In this chain stands Imamzadah Jalal al-Din son of Jamal al-Din who delivered lectures on Islamic disciplines in the court of Ghiyath al-Din Iwaz Khalji (1212-1227 A.C). Jalal al-Din, a profound scholar in Arabic and Islamics happened to be an inhabitant of Firuz kuh in Persia. These facts lead to substantiate the case for the cultivation of Arabic and Persian learning under the state patronization even at the initial period of Muslim rule in Bengal.

Pertinently it may also be mentioned here that the administration of the country was to be run according to the Shariah. The Diwan al-Qaza or the Department of Justice testifies to the fact that administration of Bengal Sultanate like other Muslim countries was being run broadly on the basis of the Shariah. The sources of Muslim law are four i.e. Al-Quran, Al-Hadith, Ijma and Qiyas. The persons in charge of the department of justice and other important departments of the government were expected to achieve proficiency in Arabic to understand properly the implication and interpretation of laws as embodied in the holy Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet (Sm).

The epigraphic records bear witness to this fact that Arabic language was given importance for a subject of study in this land. The state language being Persian, the persons employed in the various positions of administrative hierarchy must have possessed mastery in Persian language. Hence it is reasonable to believe that all possible steps were taken to train up expertise personnel’s in Arabic and Persian to run the administration of the country smoothly and in a proper way.

A cogent question arises that how the personnel’s could be trained up in Islamics including the language study and what proper arrangement is provided for that purpose. The answer is simple that establishment of madaris and educational seminaries could be considered as proper way for realizing the purpose. Both epigraphic and literary sources recorded a large number of madaris and educational institutions that sprang up in the capital cities and strategic places of Bengal during the Sultanate period.

Of these educational seminaries Taqi al-Din Arabi’s Madrasah at Mahisu identified with Mahisantosh built in about the middle of the 13th century A.C., Zafar Khan’s Madrasah at Triveni built in 1313 A.C., Darasbari Madrasah of the time of Shams al-Din Yusuf Shah (1474-1481 A.C.), Belbari Madrasah of `Ala al-Din Husayn Shah (1493-1519 A.C.) both situated in Gaur area, Bagha Madrasah of the time of Nasir al-Din Nusrat Shah (1519-1531 A.C.) and Mawlana Sharf al-Din Abu Tawarama’s Madrasah at Sonargaon deserve mentioning.

The syllabi pursued in these academies spread over the various branches of secular and religious subjects. These are highly acclaimed by the scholars and persons interested in their study. To these institutions of learning the students of far-off place flocked together to achieve primary and advanced knowledge in the field of their studies. Usually the medium of instruction was Persian though in higher strata of learning and specialization of subject one might have opted for Arabic. There are evidences to show that during the period of Bengal Sultanate Arabic and Persian studies reached the point of excellence. Scholars of different shades came forward to write books in the subjects of their interest either in Arabic or in Persian which substantiates it.

As for the cultivation and study of Arabic few points are stated here for consideration. The epigraphs of Bengal Sultanate were mostly incised in Arabic. Grammatical mistakes are hardly noticed in the text of the epigraphs. Quotations from the verses of the holy Quran and the traditions of the Prophet (Sm) in the epigraphs testify to the fact that learned persons in these religious sciences were available in Bengal. The madaris and the institutions of learning of this land, as referred to above, bear witness to the existence of ulama who had profound knowledge in religious literature and Islamology.

The courses taught in the madaris laid emphasis on Arabic language and literature. The translation of Amritkund by Qazi Rukn al-Din Samarqandi in Arabic at the capital Lakhnawati in the time of ‘Ala al-Din’ Ali Mardan Khalji and the transcription of Sahih al-Bukhari by Muhammad b. Yazdan Bakhsh in three volumes at Ikdalah in the time of ‘Ala al-Din Husayn Shah lead us to presume that Arabic study was encouraged under Bengal Sultanate.

History of Bengal Sultanate - Arabic and Persian Study - Part 1

by- Dr A K M Yaqub Ali.

Read other related stories:
European Colonization in Bengal - From 1757 - 1857
Early History of Bengal - Islamization from 1202 to 1757
Early History of Bengal - From 1000 BC to 1202 AD

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

History of Bengal Sultanate - Arabic and Persian - Part 1

Bengal for her enormous natural resources and moderate climatic conditions had been a covetous country of attraction for the foreigners from the ancient time. Many civilizations in this region grew up and declined with the passage of time since its record in the history. From the historical records it is evident that over this fertile soil of Bengal, the Mauryans, the Guptas, the Palas and the Senas before the coming of Muslims had their sway and contributed a lot to the enrichment of her political, administrative and cultural attainments.

A fragmentary Mauryan Brahmi Inscription paleographically dated in the 3rd century B.C. discovered at Mahasthan twelve kilometers north of Bogra city reveals to us Pundanagala equating with pundranagara and conclusively identified with Mahasthan, an emporium of Bengal from very ancient time. Archaeological excavation of this mound of Mahasthan unfolds the various starts as of civilization to speak the glorious past of Bengal history. Even in and around the vicinity of Mahasthan are unearthed the ancient relics in the form of viharas and temples which tell her past heritage.

Likewise the Sumapura Vihara of Paharpur in the district of Naogaon district and Shalbana Vihara of Mainamati in the district of Comilla district bear witness to the rich heritage of the ancient Bengal. In this chain of cultural attainments the advent of the Muslims at the beginning of the 13th century A.C. added a new vista of contribution to the history.

Pertinently it may be mentioned here that the Janapada names existed at the advent of the Muslims sank into oblivion and Bengal emerged as a country uniting three administrative divisions of Lakhnawati, Satgaon and Sonargaon. The credit of this unification goes to Sultan Shams al-Din IIyas Shah (1342-1359 A.C.) who assumed the title of Shah-i-Bangala bringing the above mentioned regions under his suzerainty in 1352 A.C. Hence Bengal of the Sultanate period denotes the territorial expanse of Bangladesh and West Bengal of India extending from Rajmahal hill in the west to hilly region of Chittagong in the east and from the Himalayan mountain in the north to the Bay of Bengal in the south.
The time span of Bengal Sultanate began with the conquest of Lakhnawati Kingdom of the Senas by Ikhtiyaral-Din Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khalji in 1204 A.C. and ended with its annexation to the Mughal Empire of Delhi in 1576 A.C. Arabic as the language of religion and Persian as the language of cultural accomplishment of incoming Muslims got utmost consideration for study during their rule in Bengal.

To see the extent of Arabic and Persian studies during the period of Bengal Sultanate literary and archaeological sources are to be taken into consideration. Arabic, the youngest Semitic language got its recognition among the richest languages of the world as being the language of the holy Quran and the Prophet (Sm) of Islam. With the expansion of Islam over half of the then world just after the demise of the Prophet (Sm), Arabic got momentum as an enriched language to produce voluminous works in all branches of learning for onward transmission to the contemporaneous and to the posterity as well.

In the heydays of Muslim civilization tentatively from the beginning of the seventh century A.C. to the end of the thirteenth century A.C. Arabic became the language of expression and bearer of knowledge in all the Muslim occupied territories of three continents of Asia, Africa and Europe. It did not preclude the cultivation of indigenous language of the countries of their domination. Hence Persian second to Arabic as language got flourishment at the hands of the Muslim rulers since tenth century A.C. and spread all over the Central Asian regions as one of the richest languages of at time.

It is not, therefore, unreasonable to assume that the Central Asian Turks with the rich linguistic heritage of Arabic and Persian entered the Indian subcontinent as the conquerors. In the case of Bengal it is not an exception. The Khalji Turks of Central Asia who entered Bengal as conquerors initiated the cultivation of Arabic and Persian learning by introducing Persian as the court language and establishing madaris where due attention was given for the study of both the languages. This move continued unabated in later times of the rulers and sultans till the end of the Sultanate period.

Click to read the Part -2

by- Dr A K M Yaqub Ali.

read other related stories:
European Colonization in Bengal - From 1757 - 1857
Early History of Bengal - Islamization from 1202 to 1757
Early History of Bengal - From 1000 BC to 1202 AD