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Shivaji and Islam

Shivaji and Islam

Claim 1: Muslim saint Baba Yakut of Kelsi was considered a Guru of Shivaji

Fact: There is no contemporary source that says that Shivaji Maharaj was a devotee of Baba Yakut. A reference to Baba Yakut is found only in much later-day non-contemporary records. Shivaji Maharaj was associated with Hindu Holy men like Samarth Ramdas, Mauni Bava and Deo of Chinchvad in his lifetime. And we have contemporary sources to back this up.

Claim 2: When Muslims were 8-9% of Shivaji’s Kingdom, they constituted around 40% of his army.

Fact: Shivaji had 200 officers in civil administration. Not one was a Muslim. Out of 10 bodyguards, 1 was Muslim. Out of 29 cavalry commanders, 1 was Muslim. Out of 36 infantry commanders, none was Muslim. A few in navy. The total number of Muslims was less than 2%. There is no historical source that attests to the existence of a Muslim general named “Madari Mehtar”. As such, the claim that Shivaji Maharaj had a Muslim general named “Madari Mehtar” who helped him escape Aurangzeb’s surveillance in Agra is entirely false and fraudulent. The only mention of “Madari Mehtar” from any historical source is a single undated and unattested letter. Even in this letter, Madari Mehtar was not a “Muslim general”. He was a servant who arranges carpets. Even this letter is false and full of inaccuracies.

  • Daraya Sarang, a Muslim, was a Naval Chief of Shivaji Maharaj. He was later arrested by Shivaji Maharaj for treachery.
  • Another Kazi Haider, claimed to be commander was actually a scribe who later turned traitor and joined Aurangzeb. He was given a robe, 10000 rupees, and 2 Hazari rank as per “Maasir I Alamgiri by Saqi Mustad Khan”
  • Another officer, Sidi Ambar wasn’t Shivaji Maharaj’s officer. He was in fact Shahji’s officer. He was dismissed by Shivaji after 1654 when he set aside his father’s Adil Shahi Authority.
  • When Shivaji Maharaj’s half-brother Ekoji wrote recruited Muslims in his army. Shivaji wrote a letter castigating his half-brother and comparing him to Duryodhan. “How could you hope to win against me with the help of these Turks?”. He further wrote, “Gods and goddesses have favored me and through their favor, I was able to beat down the Turks”. In his own letter to his half-brother Ekoji, Shivaji Maharaj describes himself as “the killer of wicked Turks (Muslims)”. And that those Muslims could not hope to escape with their lives.
  • Noor Khan Beg was Chief of Shivaji Maharaj’s infantry. Shivaji Maharaj dismissed Noor Khan and replaced him with Yesaji Kank as Noor Khan was suspected of collaboration with Aurangzeb!
  • Maulana Haider Ali is claimed to be Shivaji’s secretary of Intelligence but his name shows up in no primary records.
  • There are claims that Shivaji Maharaj had a bodyguard named Rustam-E-Zaman. Shivabharat mentions the names of Shivaji’s 10 bodyguards during the encounter with Afzal Khan. There is no Rustam-E-Zaman in the list. Infact, Rustam-E-Zaman was an Adilshahi commander and Shivaji’s enemy all his life.

Claim 3: Shivaji built a mosque opposite his palace at Raigarh for the use of his Muslim subjects.

Fact: There is no mosque in Raigarh. There is a Jagadishwar temple built by Shivaji Maharaj in Indo Persianate style. In those days, it was common in Deccan to find such temples.

Why is the Jagadishwar temple Indo-Persianate in style? Because with Muslim conquests, temples were desecrated and destroyed. So complete was the devastation that when temples were rebuilt again by Shivaji Maharaj, there was no living tradition of temple building to draw on. This is why the immediate solution was to borrow from the existing practice of building Mosques and Palaces. This is the reason why the earliest temples of the 17th century are Indo Persianate in style.

Claim 4: Brahmans performed a Yajna praying for defeat of Shivaji Maharaj

Fact: No single primary source supports this.

Claim 5: Shivaji was a secular king

Fact: Author James Laine describes an incident. A young shivaji gets incensed at cow slaughter and executes a butcher at Bijapur. There is also a letter of Shivaji Maharaj written to his half brother rebel Vyankoji wherein he castigates Vyankoji for keeping Muslims in army. Shivaji describes himself as ‘kiIIer of Turks(Muslims)’. Shivaji says “You should have thought [to yourself]: ‘He [Shivaji] is blessed by Shiva and Bhavani. He kiIIs the wicked Turks [Muslims].How could I win when my army also has Turks? How would the Turks hope to escape with their lives?’”. One needs to understand that the very concept of Secularism had not existed in India in those times.

Claim 6: Shivaji never demolished any Mosques

Fact: Shivaji Maharaj was a devout practicing Hindu and he possessed innate Hindu tolerance towards those professing other forms of worship. He was not a hater or bigot. As such, he would in theory not attack worship sites of Non-Hindus. However, Mosque in Muslim India was much more than that. It was a very instrument of Islamic colonialism. Many mosques were built on top of Hindu temples. This ‘conversion’ involved lots of bloodshed and enslavement of Hindus. Therefore, as a liberator of Hindus, it could expected that Shivaji Maharaj would demolish Mosques and restore temples. He did exactly that in some instances.

Shonachalapati temple and Samottir Perumal temple were destroyed by Muslims and converted into Mosques. Shivaji Maharaj demolished both these Mosques and reestablished Shiva temple. This evidence is borne out by Raja-Vyavahara-Kosha which was officially sponsored by Shivaji Maharaj himself.

That Shivaji Maharaj demolished mosques (which were built on top of Hindu temples) is borne out by all contemporary sources.

  1. Hindu sources
  2. Muslim Sources
  3. Jesuit sources
  4. Foreign sources

Hindu sources: According to contemporary source Shivabharat (which can be regarded as his official biography), Shivaji Maharaj ‘has been insulting yavanas(Muslims) since his childhood’. Shivabharat Quotes Afzal Khan saying ‘You conqured Kalyan and demolished Mosques there’.

Jesuit sources: A reference appearing in a contemporaneous Jesuit letter about Shivaji Maharaj’s Karnatak expedition says,“Shivaji desecrated their mosques.”

Foreign sources: Dr. John Fryer traveled to Kalyan in 1675 which was then part of Shivaji Maharaj’s kingdom. The Maratha havaldar there allotted a large mosque for Fryer’s overnight stay. Fryer notes that there were several mosques in Kalyan but Shivaji Maharaj “converted them into granaries”.

There is a slight possibility that Muslim sources are false accusations. There is also a slight possibility that Hindu sources are exaggerations. But the sources of foreigners and their personal experiences, which have been written by contemporary foreigners in their own language for their own people, can hardly be lies. Especially when they corroborate with all other sources. Thus, it is certain that Shivaji Maharaj demolished Mosques and converted some of them to temples.

Contemporary Portuguese traveler Cosme De Guarda gives more background. After Afzal Khan want only demolished temples such as Tulja Bhavani and Pandharpur, Shivaji Maharaj asked him “what share had these idols in the offences you say I committed? A brave exploit was it indeed to destroy stone buildings and to break mute images that could not offer you any resistance. Do you know that if you had not committed these barbarities, I would never resolve to seek you?”

After this incident, Gauda says ‘Shivaji swore that henceforth he would do the same thing in the mosques he found’.