We can obtain an elaborate idea of the good work done by Muslim rulers in India along the lines of public welfare from historical records like Tuzuk-i-Jehangiri and Ain- i-Akbari. They built numerous hospitals, poor-houses, public parks, and gardens, tanks and canals. Maulana Syed Abdul Hai has furnished, in his unique work, Jannat-ul-Mashriq1, a long list of hospitals and other benevolent and public welfare institutions set up and development projects undertaken in India during the so-called Muslim Period.
All the huge highways that connect the western parts of the sub-continent with its eastern parts were given to it by Muslim kings and emperors. The most important of them is the one built by Sher Shah. It is 3,000 miles (or 4,832 Kilometers) long, and runs from Nilab in Sind to Sonargaon2 in what is now Bangladesh. At every second mile of the road there was a caravanserai (resting place for travelers) with separate charitable grub houses for Hindu and Muslim travelers and a mosque. The Muezzin3, Imam4 and Hafiz5 for the mosque were appointed by the State. A pair of speedy horses were stationed at each caravansarai to carry the mail so that letters and messages could be sent regularly from Nilab to the distant borders of Bengal. Fruit bearing trees were planted on either side of the road whose fruit and shade were a great boon to the travelers. In addition to this, Muslim rulers also achieved great success in the training of animals and the improvement of livestock.
Cleaner and Better Mode of Living
Over and above all this, the Muslims acquainted the original inhabitants of India with a cleaner and better mode of living. They taught them the refinements and luxuries of taste and of food and drink. They taught them the principles of hygiene and sanitation, the advantage of building airy houses and the use of cups and other vessels of food. Till then the Indians used to take their meals, even at large feasts, from leaves of trees, a custom which is still prevalent at some places. The Muslims, in brief, brought about a big change in Indian social customs, living habits, domestic comforts and home- decoration. They ushered in a new style in architecture which, in the delicacy of its design, grace, symmetry and dignity, was distinguished from what traditionally obtained here. The Taj Mahal offers a classical instance of the new Mohammedan architecture. In the words of Pandit Nehru:
“The coming of Islam and of a considerable number of people from outside with different ways of living and thought affected these beliefs and structure. A foreign conquest, with all its evils, has one advantage: it widens the mental horizon of the people and compels them to look out of their shells. They realize that the world is a much bigger and a more variegated place than they had imagined. So the Afghan conquest had affected India and many changes had taken place. Even more so the Mughals, who were far more cultured and advanced in the ways of living than the Afghans, brought changes to India. In particular, they introduced the refinements for which Iran was famous.”6
The same view was expressed by Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya in his Presidential Address to the Fifty-fifth Session of the Congress held at Jaipur in 1948. He said that the Muslims had
“Enriched our culture, strengthened our administration, and brought near distant parts of the country………..It (the Muslim Period) touched deeply the social life and the literature of the land.”
- This book is still unpublished.
- Sonargaon was the capital of East Bengal during the Muslim rule. Now it is known as Painam and forms part of the District of Dhaka.
- Public caller to Prayers.
- Official priest in mosque.
- One who has memorized the whole Quran by heart.
- Jawaharlal Nehru : The Discovery of India, p. 219
P.S. The article has been created from the works of great Islamic scholar Maulana Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (Ali Miyan). The detailed descriptions of public welfare works would be presented in future posts.