When brothers learn to hate: Dara Shikoh

It might merely be wishful thinking at this stage in time, but I wonder how different the course of Indian history might have been if Dara Shikoh had been allowed to succeed Shah Jehan instead of being brutally put to death by Aurangzeb, his younger brother. Dara was staunchly secular and associated regularly with non-Muslim men of learning. He wrote various books on the religious beliefs of Islam as well as on the similarities between Muslim and Hindu mystics, including the Mukalama-i Baba Lal Das wa Dara Shikoh and the Sirr-ul- Akbar. He studied Sanskrit and the Vedantas and translated the Gita. He was continually searching for proofs of the unity of God. He believed that the Quran referred to the Upanishads as Kitab al-Maknun or The Hidden Book.

Dara Shikoh’s translation of the Upanishads into Persian was instrumental in awakening the west to the knowledge contained within them. In 1671, Francis Bernier, a French traveler, took the translation to France, fourteen years after Dara had completed it.

Unfortunately Dara’s understanding of Islam was very different from that of the orthodox Sunni clergymen who favoured ritualism. These ulema provided the support that Aurangzeb needed when he called for a council of emirs and clergy to decide the fate of Dara Shikoh. This council declared Dara Shikoh a threat to public peace and a traitor. Dara was put to death on the night of August 30, 1659.

Aurangzeb’s return to the rigidly theocratic regime that characterized Muslim rulers prior to Akbar in addition to his expansion drives caused the empire to be weakened by revolts in Bengal, Rajputana, Afghanistan and the Sikh kingdoms. This may in turn have paved the way to the British conquest of India.

“May the world be free from the noise of the mulla

And none should pay any heed to their fatwas.”

Dara Shikoh,
Hasanat ul-‘Arifin

Dara

(A Mughal Prince, possibly Dara Shikoh: http://sanatana-dharma.livejournal.com/109815.html)

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