Suffering of an Emperor

From Emperor to a prisoner, even though he was the most kind-hearted man who never attacked nor hurt anyone.  He simply believed in 'live and let live' in peace.  That was Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Muslim Emperor of the south Asian sub-continent.

Muslim rule in the Asian subcontinent (now Pakistan and India)  began with the arrival of Muhammed bin Qasim in the year 711 CE in Baluchistan and Sindh (now the two southern provinces of Pakistan).  Mohammed Bin Qasim was sent by the Ommayad Caliph in Damascus but he didn't stay in the sub-continent for long.  Two centuries later, the Turks, Persians and Afghans entered the region at different times through the traditional north-west route.  The various Muslim dynasties that ruled this part of south Asia since then, were:

Mamluks (or Slave dynasty of Turkey led by Qutbudin Aybak),
and lastly, the Mughals. 

The Mughals were the last Muslim dynasty that ruled the sub-continent for over 300 years, from 1526 to 1857.

Zahiruddin Babar was the founder of the Mughal dynasty who ruled from 1526-30.    Babar was originally from Central Asia from where he settled in Kabul, Afghanistan and then conquered Delhi to establish the Muslim line of emperors known as the Mughals.  Babar was also partly of Persian descent.

Bahadur Shah Zafar (born 1775 / died 1862), the last Mughal Emperor, was toppled by the British in 1857.  He was both an Emperor and a remarkable poet.

If you read the brief biography of this last Emperor, you might understand and appreciate his best known poem a lot better.

He was a unambitious ruler, deeply immersed in literature.  He is considered a genius poet of Urdu literature and his poems are enthusiastically read by the lovers of Urdu literature to date.    Most of his writings are a mix of Urdu and Persian.  He wrote several poems, before and after the downfall of his Empire.  Many were lost during the war of independence fought in May 1857.  But many were also saved and compiled later as Kulliyat-e-Zafar.   Zafar's reign was filled with chaos and unrest.  It was a time when the British were greatly involved in the affairs of the subcontinent  and had big designs to occupy this region.  Zafar was defeated and taken into custody in the war of independence.  He was humiliated and treated very harshly.  Many male members of Zafar's family were also killed.  Plenty of valuables were stolen from his palace including the Emperor's crown studded with precious gems.  The Emperor was handcuffed and sent away in exile to Rangoon (Burma) with his wife, Zeenat Mahal in 1858.   In Rangoon, Zafar was permanently imprisoned.  His life in prison in an unknown, foreign land, was a picture of misery.  He was constantly homesick and emotionally shattered .. a far cry from the excellence of his palace with his family and courtiers.  He died in his prison cell in 1862.  The tomb of the exiled Emperor exists in that land where he felt far away from home.   Immersed in heart-wrenching emotions, he wrote several of his poems from prison.  One of his most poignant poems he wrote as a prisoner that later became an inseparable part of Urdu literature and a symbol of his suffering during the last four years of his life is the one given below.

A quick and non-rhythmic English translation of this very charming and touching poem, though the beauty of the original is hardly portrayed in the translation.  The purpose is only to convey the theme of each verse.

Lagtaa nahi hai dil mera ujray dayar mein
Kis ki banii hai aalam-e-naapaaidaar mein

My heart isn't happy in this despoiled land,
Who has ever been fulfilled in this transient world?

Umr-e-daraaz maang ke laaye thay char din
Do aarzu mein kaat gaye, do intezaar mein

I requested a long life, a life of four days,
Two of those days passed by in pining, and two waiting in vain

Keh do en hasraton sey kaheen aur jaa basein
Itni jagah kahaan hai dil-e-daaghdaar mein

Tell these desires and emotions to dwell elsewhere,
How can my besmirched heart be spacious enough to accommodate them?

Bulbul ko baghban say na sayyaad say gila
Qismat mein qaid thee likhee fasl-e-bahaar mein

The nightingale bears no grudge towards the gardener nor the trapper,
Imprisonment was written in its fate in the season of spring.

Kitna hai baad naseeb Zafar dafn ke liye
Do gaz zameen bhi na mili koo-e-yaar mein

How unfortunate you are, Zafar!   Even for your burial
you could not get a sliver of land in your own beloved country.

The photograph above shows Bahadur Shah Zafar in exile, imprisoned in Rangoon, where he died. This is the only photograph available of a Mughal Emperor taken sometime between 1858 and 1862.  It's a photograph, not a painting.

A small portion of the sub-continent became known as Pakistan in 1947 which is predominantly Muslim, while a much larger portion remained as India with a Hindu majority.  Muslims ruled the south-Asian subcontinent for one thousand years starting from the year 711 until 1857.  It's one of those many examples that indicate Islam was NEVER spread by the sword as falsely claimed by some orientalists.  If there was a shred of truth in this absurd allegation, one thousand years was a long enough period to convert every Hindu into Islam.  If Christians or Hindus had ruled over a land for that long, they would surely have converted everyone to their faith .. just the way it happened in the Philippines.  Residents of the Philippines were formerly Muslims.  When the Spanish and Portuguese expeditions arrived in the Philippines in the 1500s, there were mass campaigns to convert all locals into Roman Catholics without a choice.  Not more than 5% of Filipinos remain Muslims today.  Not to mention, India has been independent of British rule only since 1947 and it's already chasing and killing the Christian minority who refuse to convert to Hinduism.