Introduction and The Life and Times of Moulvi Sheikh Hasan Ali and Moulvi Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh

Masood Ali Mahvi

Translated by Rumina Kermani

Moulvi Masood Ali Sahib’s Preface

In the year 1919 my quiet and orderly life was turned upside down by an unexpected and totally unforeseeable event which compelled me to immediately  leave the State of Hyderabad, my employment, and my family behind, and after a period of almost twenty to twenty-two years return to my vatan, qasba Fatehpur, district Barabanki, country Awadh,  and take up residence there. In the course of those twenty, twenty-two years, the vicissitudes of time had changed the very landscape of our vatan. It was not just that our elders were longer with us, none of my peers or contemporaries were living there any more either. The houses which once so teemed with people that there was barely space to put your foot down now lay desolate and empty, and where night and day animated conversation echoed now a state of stillness and dereliction reigned. For these eyes that had seen the hustle and bustle of those bygone days and in whose memory that picture was clearly etched, this current scene was heartwrenching. Humans are powerless, what God determines one has to endure. As someone has so appropriately articulated,

“Is duniya ka yeh he sekha,  wo bhe dekha aur yeh bhe dekha”

“In this life what I learned was this

One goes through the good and one goes through the bad”

I continued to lead my life under the circumstances that prevailed with these constant introspections when one day my kinsman Hakim Nasiruddin aka Abu Mian, may God protect him, brought me a book titled “Kasf-ala-Nasab” authored by Janab Munshi Ubaid Ullah Sahib Marhoom, the subject matter of which was the families of Fatehpur. When I had the opportunity to do so I read the book. A few days later, at a gathering where my kin Moulvi Hakim Ali Mohammad Sahib, Munshi Ubaid ul Aleem Sahib, Kibla Kazi Roonakh Ali Sahib Marhoom, and Abu Mian were all present, I was asked if I had perused the book, and if I had, what was my opinion of it. I replied that the articles collected and the path set forth by the author, our honourable elder Munshi Ubaidullah Sahib, was indeed worthy of consideration and of value, but the book’s compilation, disorderly narrative, confused language, and over and above that, a substaintal amount of what had been written about Makhdoom-ala-Reham’s family was inaccurate and untrustworthy. Besides this, the book was replete with errors in transcription. If some individual were to take this very draft and revise it accurately a very interesting book could be prepared. I only had to say this and everyone present at the gathering began to express their resolve that I take on the task and though I pleaded my lack of family knowledge it was to no avail. Compelled by my elders and the added supplication by my juniors this was something that could not be dismissed, and besides, I had enough time to spare. That is how this work came to be assigned to me. During this period I was sometimes resident in Fatehpur and sometimes in Lucknow and it was during my stay in Lucknow that I gained knowledge about a number of books that I was able to procure which could be of great help me in this process. That boosted my confidence immensely and I set to work, and within a few months was able to compile a reasonable length transcript. After living in Lucknow and Fatehpur for two to two and a half years I had to once again return to Hyderabad and I brought the manuscript back with me. My kinsman Haji Mohammad Rafiq Marhoom who was an enthusiast of family narratives and traditions was delighted and thrilled when he saw my work and took the manuscript with him to Aurangabad where within a few days he had a well-copied transcript made which he handed over to me and busied himself with the task of trying to get it printed and published. But official work and mostly negligence on my part curtailed any further development in this direction. And then life, as it does to such an extent, in its natural course, took a turn, and all those familial personages who were so eager to preserve this family memento in print left this world one after the other; Azizi Mohammad Rafiq, Azizi Qutabuddin Ahmed and Azizi Fareeduddin Ahmed’s deaths meant that now there was no one who could lend a helping hand, in the manner they could have, in facilitating the printing and publishing of this book. And the manuscript instead of being sent to the printing press remained locked up in a cabinet. In 1360 H, i.e. 1941 CE, after I retired from my official duties, my son Rashid Ahmed BA, LLB ( may God protect him) who by and large handled and managed the publication of my academic and literary works drew my attention to the manuscript, and he and the son of Haji Mohammad Rafiq Marhoom, following the wishes of his father, expressed their intention of undertaking the task of getting the book printed and published. Thus, after eighteen, nineteen years of lying around, the book was retrieved from the cabinet and I once again I began to take an interest in it. At this point the question arose about the mode of publication; because the subject matter of this book would not be of interest to the public it would be pointless spending a large sum with the hope of recovering it through sales. I was decided that since the book is a historical narrative of all the Makhdoom Zadagan’s of Fatehpur, it would be unfair for any particular individual or family to take on the entire cost and burden of publication.

The book which has been published under the title of “Makhdoom Zadagan-e-Fatehpur” is in three parts, the first part exclusively delineates the life of Hazrat Makhdoom Sheikh Hisamuddin ala-al-Reham who is the ancestor of all of us, the second part is about the family of Hazrat Makhdoom Ubaid ul-Ghani, and the third part is about the family of Hazrat Makhdoom Qutubuddin.

Introduction and background by Rumina Kermani

The death of the Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir, the sixth and last of the Great Mughals in 1707 proved to be a watershed moment in the history of the Indian subcontinent. The ensuing wars of successions, the uprisings by the Marathas and Sikhs and the overall incompetence of the succeeding emperors sent the formerly glorious empire into a steep and rapid decline. The rapacious invasion of the Turco-Persian Nadir Shah dealt a blow from which there was no recovery. It is said that the destruction wrought on Delhi was unprecedented until the brutal sack of that Imperial city by the British in 1857.

Despite the ongoing political and economic turmoil, Delhi continued to be the epicentre of Hindustan and ambitious young men in search of prospects and opportunities continued to make their way to that cosmopolitan heart of north India. Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh was one such individual. Born into a family long established in the predominantly Muslim qasba of Fatehpur in Awadh, Makhdoom Baksh was a descendent of Makhdoom Sheikh Hisamuddin, a Siddiqui Sheikh[1] who came to India in the fourteenth century. Sheikh Hisamuddin’s family were originally from the town of Sohrevard in present-day northwest Iran from where they migrated to Ghazni in Afghanistan before Sheikh Hisamuddin made his way to Delhi. There he became a student and follower of Qazi al-Muqtadir, a disciple of the renown Chishti Sufi Saint Naseeruddin Chirag Dehlvi[2]. When Amir Timur invaded India in 1398, Sheikh Hisamuddin left Delhi for Jaupur from whence he was instructed to move to Fatehpur by his spiritual guide Sheikh Abul Fatah[3], the Khalifa of Naseeruddin Chirag. It is said that Sheikh Abul Fatah had a dream in which he had received these explicit orders for Sheikh Hisamuddin. The Sheikh lived a Sufi’s life and eventually passed away in Fatehpur in 1451 at the age of 96.

Sheikh Hisamuddin’s descendants known as Makhdoomzadas continued to reside at Fatehpur until the early twentieth century.[4]  They persevered with their learning and teaching traditions and produced many well-regarded educators. This scholarship equipped them with the necessary credentials for obtaining employment at the Imperial court at Delhi where they served as administrators and Mansabdars[5], rose to the level of Umrahs[6]  and managed to acquire a comfortable number of Jagirs[7] and Sarkars[8]. However, Mughal Imperial grants were generally non-hereditary and valid only for the lifetime of the grantee. Often the sons were able to extend the jagirs by retaining their father’s post, but this was not always the case, and the jagir reverted to the State at the death of the Jagirdar. Muslim inheritance laws also made no provision for primogenitor benefits, and all landholdings and the inherited property was subject to constant and repeated subdivision as the extended clan grew in numbers. This often compelled the men of the family to seek administrative posts wherever possible, ideally in Delhi, but frequently with minor nobility and local courts in the region, leaving the wives and children at home for extended periods of time.

By the time the youthful Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh made his way to Delhi during the reign of the unfortunate Shah Alam 2 (1759-1806), the Mughal Empire was at its very last stages. It had been several years since the last member of the Fatehpur family had ventured out to the Imperial capital. Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh’s great-great-grandfather Sheikh Ghulam Hasan had a successful career in the administration of Emperor Aurangzeb as had his father Sheikh Ghulam Hussain (Umdat-ul Umara) and uncle Sheikh Muhammad Rafi (Rafiq-ul Qadar) before him. But the family fortunes declined almost immediately after Ghulam Hasan’s demise with the loss of his jagir and its attached remuneration. And although Makhdoom Baksh’s great grandfather Sheikh Ahmed Ali and his (Ahmed Ali’s) older brother Sheikh Moshin Ali had made a prolonged visit to Delhi in hope of getting the jagir restored, their efforts had been unsuccessful. The rapid turnover of Emperors in Delhi rendered their attempts unachievable and the administrative chaos and confusion in the capital city of the Empire made their situation untenable. Since then none had ventured out towards the Imperial city until Moulvi Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh, a young man of extraordinary ability, intellect and perseverance. The stories told of his advanced scholastic abilities are a clear indication of the esteem he was held and the standing he enjoyed in the learned milieu of his time. The suffix Moulvi[9] is an indication of an elevated status as a learned, erudite, scholarly gentleman, a title used in Hindustan, as Masood Ali Mahvi informs us, only for those individuals who were men of learning and scholarship. This was unlike its usage in the Deccan where it had replaced the term sahib as a respectful and polite form of addressing a gentleman. Makhdoom Baksh’s own Chacha, Moulvi Akbar Ali in his book Tareef–al-Arfin, accords his nephew this privilege by referring to him as Moulvi whenever he mentions him in the book, a title he uses rather reluctantly in reference to only four out of dozens of men he wrote about. Even his own father and grandfather, who were considered well educated and learned gentlemen of their times were deprived (by Moulvi Akbar Ali) of this designation. A poet with the takhaluz[10] Bakshish, it is indeed unfortunate that none of his work survives today. Masood Ali Mahvi could recall hearing some of his grandfather’s poetry and verses from the late Sheikh Ahmedullah Laherpuri, a brother-in-law of Makhdoom Baksh, but with the oblivious heedlessness and ignorance of youth (regretfully) never thought of writing them down or memorising them.

Translated from Mazhdoom Zadagan-e-Fathepur

Moulvi Sheikh Hasan Ali

Moulvi Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh’s father Sheikh Hasan Ali lost his father Sheikh Mohammad, known as Roshan Mian when he was about fifteen years of age, and as the eldest of six brothers was expected to provide and care for them. After Roshan Mian’s death, the only source of income left to his sons was from the family property which had already been divided and subdivided amongst Roshan Mian’s brothers and was certainly not enough for his (Mashallah) six young sons.  It appears, however, that conflicts (within the family) and financial constraints proved difficult for the young man to handle. In keeping with the norms and traditions of the time, Sheikh Hasan Ali had married his cousin Bibi Rehmani, the daughter of his Chacha Sheikh-ul-Huda aka Allah-Daay Mian and his wife Bibi Fatima the daughter of Azeem Uddin Ali Khan of Laherpur. Bibi Fatima had returned to her maternal home in Laherpur at the death of her husband and retired to a life of prosperous comfort and ease there. On hearing about the disputes between her son-in-law and her other nephews and the plight and discomfort of her younger daughter she immediately sent for the young couple. While Sheikh Hasan Ali was reluctant to leave Fatehpur at this juncture, he sent his wife to her mother’s house in Laherpur and divided his time between the two towns, but over a period of time staying on for extended periods in Laherpur. It was not long before his brother Sheikh Akbar Ali too left home to pursue further scholarship in Lucknow leaving him alone with his much younger brothers who were still at school. To ease the financial burden on the household Sheikh Hasan Ali decided to take up permanent abode in Laherpur. Since he could not reside at his mother-in-law or his wife’s Mamu’s homes indefinitely, he had a house constructed for himself and his family. That is how Laherpur became the vatan of this branch of the Fatehpur family for the next seventy to seventy-five years. Writing all those years and three generations later it is impossible to ascertain where Sheikh Hasan Ali found employment and how he earned his livelihood now that the older generation that had privy to this information are no longer with us, and nor are those ancestral writings which our fathers and grandfathers preserved so carefully, all, unfortunately, lost to posterity between the disastrous destruction of Delhi and the constant movement from place to place. I remember overhearing passing references and narratives about my grandfather’s administrative prowess from my late Chacha and other relatives, but now, at this juncture of life, fail to recall much of what I heard in my younger days. The thoughtlessness and insensibility of youth were such, that one never considered putting those anecdotes and accounts to pen and paper; they would most certainly have been of great help at this time.

Reminiscing about his grandfather, Chaca Marhoom, Moulvi Sheikh Ali Ahmed would recount Sheikh Hasan Ali’s qualities as a man of meticulous and disciplined habits: he was knowledgeable and keenly interested in agricultural matters but refused to get embroiled in the ongoing property squabbles and disputes. Disillusioned and disheartened by all the family altercations he left the total management of the Fatehpur properties to his younger brothers and made Laherpur his home for the rest of his life and lived off what he earned from his own hard work. Sheikh Hasan Ali’s Nana (maternal grandfather), Sheikh Mohammad Sharif bin Sheikh Imam Uddin had held the rank of a Risaldar and administrator under Wizar-e-Mulk, Naseer Uddin Abul Mansur Ali Khan (1739-1745), Subedar Lucknow, Nawab Wazir of Awadh, as a result of which he had been the fortunate recipient of considerable wealth and property. According to Moulvi Akber Ali, no one from qasba Fatehpur achieved that level of prosperity and fame after him. He was renowned for his courtesy, generosity and assistance to his compatriots and because of him, scores of individuals from Fatehpur were able to secure employment in the Awadh government. Sheikh Hasan Ali’s wife’s Nana Azeem Uddin Ali Khan had also held an important post as a Mansabdar in that Awadh Government, so for Sheikh Hasan Ali obtaining a viable post in Lucknow would not have been a difficult proposition but we do not know whether he took advantage of these connections or not.

As mentioned above Sheikh Hasan Ali was married to Bibi Rehmani and had two sons, Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh and Sheikh Ahmed Baksh.

[1] A descendant of the first Muslim Caliph Abu Bakar Siddiq.

[2] Naseeruddin Mahmud Chirag-Dehlvi (1274-1356) was a 14th-century mystic poet and a Sufi saint of the Chishti Order. He was a murid (disciple) of noted Sufi saint, Nizamuddin Auliya, and later his successor. He was the last important Sufi of the Chishti Order from Delhi.

[3]  Also known as Khawaja Banda Nawaz Gaisu Daraaz (1321-1422)

[4] Perhaps there are some still there.

[5]  Administrators appointed to all civil and military posts except that of the judiciary

[6] Nobility

[7] Assignment of a piece of land to an individual for the purpose of collection of revenue in lieu of cash salary.

[8] Administrative unit

[9] Unfortunately, the use of this privileged title has now been debased by its application and usage by its attachment to uneducated and illiterate preachers and ignorant mosque officials.

[10] Pseudonym

Moulvi Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh

Moulvi Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh was born and grew up in Laherpur where he received his education under the tutelage of his Nana Moulvi Mohammad Azim Al Mujaseeb, Azeem Uddin Khan. The family narratives of his intellect and abilities indicate that his education was of the very highest levels in that era. In due course, a marriage was arranged for him with Bibi Sajjani daughter of Sheikh Farhatullah Matri Laherpuri, Revenue Collector.

In Delhi, in the meantime, intrusive meddling and invasive interference in the running of the government by the aggressive British East India Company was on the rise; however, the governmental Lingua Franca was still Persian, and the age-old Islamic and Imperial Mughal laws and edicts had not yet been totally abrogated. While ruler only in name, the Emperor was still in residence at the Fort and many of the important administrative posts were filled by such Muslim luminaries as Maulana Fazl Azeem Khairabadi. In fact, several people from Khairabad were at that time living in Delhi and were well-established there. There were close familial relationships between the shurafa of Laherpur and Khairabad and consequently plenty of back-and-forth visitations between the two qasbas. Remarkably, that luminous flame of learning and cultural enlightenment that was on the verge of extinction was brilliantly ablaze with extraordinary intensity and brightness in the capital city of Hindustan, and for a young man in pursuit of knowledge and stimulating career, what better place could there be than Delhi? Although no close family member had ventured out in that direction in the previous two generations and Sheikh Hasan Ali himself had stayed close to his vatan, anecdotes and tales of the successes of Sheikh Ghulam Hussain (Umdat-ul Umara) Sheikh Muhammad Rafi (Rafi-ul Qadar), Sheikh Ghulam Hasan and Sheikh Ahmed Raza Khan etc. formed an integral part of the family narrative. Now listening to the favourable accounts of Delhi from his Khairabadi kinsmen, it occurred to Sheikh Hasan Ali that his older son, who had obtained a creditable level of education, could well follow in the footsteps of his illustrious ancestors. When he broached the subject, he found the young man indeed most eager and enthusiastic about the proposal. Several Khairabadi relatives, contemporaries and classmates, for instance, Moulvi Fazal Haq, Moulvi Fazal Azeem, Sheikh Fazal ul Rehman Abnai, Moulvi Fazal Imam, Sheikh Hasan Ahmed, Sheikh Hussain Ahmed, Munshi Karam Ahmed and others were already in Delhi and this was more than enough reason for a young man to undertake the journey. The decision was made; Moulvi Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh set out for Delhi and within a no time was able to secure employment. We do not know the nature of his early appointments, and the trials and tribulations that he might have experienced are impossible to determine, but clearly with his keen intellect, competence, diligence, perseverance and hard work his progress was rapid. Through the retrospective lens, I  remember overhearing passing references and narratives about my grandfather’s administrative prowess from my late uncle and other relatives, but now, at this junction of my life failed to recall much of what I heard in my younger days. The thoughtlessness and insensibility of youth are such, that one never considered putting those anecdotes and accounts to pen and paper; they would most certainly have been of great help at this time.

But one specific incident could not be forgotten. The story goes that a legal hearing was underway at the Commissary-Agency Court in Delhi. In those days, it was common practice for European officials to retain the services of native sheristadars[1] to record the proceedings, but in this case, the broad, rural dialect of the Jat caste peasant in the dock, was largely incomprehensible to the city-bred Hindu sheristadar. To make matters worse he had to then translate and transcribe the testimony into Persian, and, his inordinately slow pace of writing was clearly annoying to the adjudicator who was anxious to wind up the somewhat chaotic proceeding. At this junction, Sheikh Sahib, a junior sheristadar at that time, happened to walk into the courtroom on a separate errand while the Jat was narrating an account of someone escaping, describing it with the use of the following metaphor, “  ………”  the unfortunate sheristadar was totally baffled, and even when it was explained to him he was evidently unable to translate it into Persian. The judge turned to Sheikh Sahib who explained that the phrasing appeared to be a translation of an original Persian verse and further interpreted it. All present were clearly impressed by this clarification, so much so that the judge, suggested that Sheristadar Sahib return to his office work and Sheikh Sahib complete the recording of the hearing. And while the judge remained in office all the hearings in his court were transcribed by Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh.

Chacha Marhoom Sheikh Ali Ahmed would relate that “The Fathenama that was sent out by the administration of the British East India Company to all the States and Kingdoms of Hindustan was written by our father. An earlier Fathenama had been issued from the Company’s Calcutta office but had not been deemed satisfactory. The British Agent/ Resident and Commissioner Delhi[2], Mr William Fraser informed Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh that he had written to the Ladd Sahib[3] and recommended Sheikh Sahib’s writing skills. Subsequently, several drafts were transcribed by both the Delhi and Calcutta offices including three penned by Sheikh Sahib, from which one of his was selected, published and distributed across the country. An exceedingly pleased and satisfied Fraser Sahib had written a lengthy letter of thanks to Sheikh Sahib; this was amongst Bhai Sahib’s paper’s which were unfortunately lost or destroyed during the Ghaddar[4]”.

In short, by virtue of his capability and competence, his proficiency and diligence, he was able to advance to the position of Sheristadar Commissary-Agency Delhi. Although the salary assigned to him was merely adequate for those times, the post carried value in terms of prestige. Due to their unfamiliarity with the native languages, European officials were compelled to rely on their native assistances and repose their trust and confidence in them. Thus, Mr William Fraser, Commissioner and Agent for the Lieutenant Governor was particularly reliant on Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh and the respect he honoured him with cannot be understated, but more on this later; it would suffice here to say that he was in effect the chief administrator of the office of the Commissioner-Agent.

The reign of Emperor Shah Alam was a volatile period in the history of Hindustan. It was a time of uncertainty and vicissitudes; of weakness, vulnerability and disorder. Shah Alam had barely succeeded to the throne when the ceaseless rivalries and political intrigues of his ambitious Umara[5] and the martial advancements of the Marathas drove him to seek out the assistance of Ahmed Shah Abdali. That forceful monarch swept down like a whirlwind from the mountains of Afghanistan and crushed the Marathas Confederacy with such force that they were never again able to rise up to their previous strength and dominance in Hindustan. Having achieved a significant victory, Shah Abdali appointed Shuja ud-Daula, Subedar Awadh as the Emperor’s Grand Vizier[6] and Najib ud-Daula as the Amir al-Umra[7] and returned to Afghanistan. By this time the British were firmly entrenched in Bengal and were steadily expanding their suzerainty and reach in that part of India. Shuja ud-Daula prevailed upon Shah Alam to form an alliance with him and the Nawab of Bengal that resulted in two unsuccessful battles against the Firangi. One of the outcomes of these ignominious failures was the transfer of the Emperor’s custody from Shuja ud-Daula to the British and then to the Maratha Maharaja Scindia. Under the protectorate of the Maharaja, the Emperor’s monthly income was eleven thousand Rupees and a gentleman by the name of Shah Nizam Uddin, the Nazim[8] of Delhi was appointed his caretaker. Shah Sahib was a staunch adherent of (Hazrat) Sheikh Saadi’s famous adage, “Katra, katra darya shud”[9], and in keeping with that philosophy, he took it upon himself to assist the impoverished Emperor. Thus, in addition to the monthly stipend received from the court of Gwalior, he imposed a two and a half cowrie charge on all the shops in Delhi. Heaps of cowries were collected and stored and then added to the Emperor’s monthly allowance; this practice earned Shah Nizam Uddin the sobriquet “Koozah [10] Shah”.

Several battles were fought between Maharaja Scindia and the British in the early part of the Nineteenth century that in the end produced a further victory for the British, and expansion of their power. The unfortunate Shah Alam found himself once more in the custody of the East India Company which assigned a garrison to the fort and appointed a Resident in Delhi to keep him under vigilance. The first Resident appointed by the Company in Delhi was the famed Sir David Ochterlony (1803-1806). The emperor’s monthly income was still a paltry eleven thousand Rupees and one can well imagine the difficulty with which the court expenses were met, and the dire hardships that the Emperor personally had to bear under the circumstances were undeniable. It is related that one day, in court, the Emperor confessed to his Dewan[11], Hafiz Ubaid ur Rehman Shah Nawaz Khan, “Hafiz Sahib tomorrow is Eid and I don’t even possess a dushala[12] which I can wear and step out in.” The British garrison commander was present at the court and was deeply touched by the miserable plight of the Emperor. Immediately after the durbar’s dismissal he had three costly dushalas arranged in a tray and presented as nazar[13] to the old monarch. When news of the Emperor’s penurious condition reached Mir Nizam Ali Khan Asif Jah 2 in Hyderabad he promptly dispatched seven hundred Ashrafis[14] and from time to time provided substantial financial succour to the Emperor. This practice of assisting the royal Mughal family continues to this day.[15] When the British had resumed charge of Shah Alam, he had expected an increase in his monthly stipend. This, however, did not happen and eventually, the Emperor was forced to submit a request that since an increment was not forthcoming, the British could at least take on the expenditure of the royal workshops. The British found this scheme acceptable and proposed that a capable and trustworthy individual be nominated from the Residency staff for the task of evaluation and appraisal of the expenditures, one who would also be conversant with the Imperial court etiquette, for, despite the decline in Imperial authority and power, court decorum and protocol was still strictly practised. Thus, at the grand durbars, the Resident would present nazars to the Company Governor-General and Provincial Governors in the age-old, customary manner. Without much ado, lengthy deliberations, or aggravation, Moulvi Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh was selected for this task. He promptly presented himself at the court and spend a couple of days observing the workings of the Imperial establishment. With the assistance of the Imperial staff, he compiled a detailed list of the workshop’s expenditures and after adding some more items was able to establish the expenses at Rupees seven thousand a month, in addition to this, he also wrote a thorough report on the privations and hardships suffered by the monarch.

Sheikh Sahib’s report was accepted straight away, and a formal inquiry was initiated on the bases of his information. Within a few days, the Emperor’s stipend was increased to one lakh Rupees per month and several villages in the vicinity of Delhi were allotted to him that yielded a monthly income of forty thousand Rupees. These villages did not remain in the royal family’s ownership after Shah Alam’s demise, but the one lakh Rupee income continued until the end of Bahadur Shah Zafar’s reign. One can clearly gather from various narratives that after 1218 H (1803 CE) Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh was amongst those employees of the Commissary/Agency in whom the British had complete trust and confidence and that he was considered one of the most outstanding and proficient amongst the Hindustani officials.

However, in spite of his successes, ease of circumstances and financial well-being, Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh did not purchase a house in Delhi, neither did he send for his family; in fact, in keeping with the age-old, customary tradition he continued to go back and forth between Delhi and his vatan. Eventually, he brought his eldest son Moulvi Sheikh Ahmed Ali, who was about ten to twelve years old at that time, with him to the city so that he could personally oversee his education. Sadly, Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh did not enjoy a long life or the fruits of retirement, he passed away soon after his son joined him in Delhi at the age of fifty-two or fifty-three. He is buried in the cemetery attached to the blessed Mazar of Hazrat Khawaja Baqi Billah. Located approximately twenty-five to thirty steps from the north door of the shrine, the grave had an old kekar[16] tree growing on it, and while Chacha Marhoom[17] (Moulvi Sheikh Ali Ahmed) was alive, he took care of the maintenance of the grave; now the entire topography has changed, and it is impossible to determine its location. The graves of our Dadi Bibi Sajjani, our sister Bibi Fatima and our family’s faithful retainer Mama Chando are also in the same area. This graveyard along with Delhi’s many magnificent cemeteries was at one time a sight to behold. Beginning at this Dargah it continued all the way to the Dargah Qadam Sharif and gave the impression of a hushed, silent town. When I last visited, after a gap of almost thirty years its condition had totally changed; I found it in a decrepit, miserable state.

Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh left behind two sons Moulvi Sheikh Ahmed Ali and Moulvi Ali Ahmed and a daughter Bibi Marium.

Of his literary offspring’s a Salam and a Sharjah Qadria Razzaqi[18] are all that remain.

Moulvi Sheikh Ahmed Baksh

Sheikh Ahmed Baksh was the younger son of the late Sheikh Hasan Ali and the younger brother of Sheikh Makhdoom Baksh. He too was born and grew up in Laherpur where he also received his education in the traditional, customary manner of that time. He excelled in all that he learnt, so much so that his acumen and intelligence placed him amongst the well-known intellectuals of the day. After completing his education, he left Laherpur for Bareilly in the pursuit of gainful employment. At that time, numerous men of rank and position from Dewa and Fatehpur, such as Nazir Bandagi Baksh Sahib Dewai and others who all held important posts were to be found in Bans Bareilly and it is likely that his decision to go there was influenced by his association and connections with these people. At that time, British rule was in its early stages, and there were no exams that needed to be passed to enter the legal profession. The Judicial authorities considered those who were intelligent, knowledgeable and possessed a good understanding of Fiqh[19] suitably qualified to receive a Sanad vakalat[20]. Sheikh Ahmed Baksh was a well-educated individual and was well acquainted with the fundamentals of Fiqh; his well-wishers advocated he pursue this profession and he readily accepted their advice. The Sanad vakalat was easily obtained and with infinite resolve, Sheikh Sahib took up all the work that came his way. Within a short time, he made a name for himself amongst Bareilly’s well regarded and established lawyers. Bareilly’s location on the Lucknow- Delhi road made it an obligatory stop for all kin and kith travelling between their vatan and Delhi and Sheikh Sahib was unstinting in his hospitality and was a generous and welcoming host to all who passed through.

Sheikh Sahib was married to the Phupi of the late Hakim Mohammad Rashid of Ghazipur, but there were no children from this union. As an outcome of his successful legal practice, Sheikh Sahib acquired considerable wealth but in keeping with the family tradition, he kept nothing for himself. After his death, our father Marhoom (Moulvi Sheikh Ahmed Ali) brought his Chachi to live with him and his family in Delhi. For many years she continued to reside in Delhi with our late mother. Later she returned to Fatehpur to visit her bhatijas (nephews) Moulvi Hakim Mohammad Rashid (Marhoom) and others. They would not permit her to undertake the long and exhausting journey back to Delhi and their love and affection kept her there till the end of her life. Our late father continued to send funds to her from time to time throughout his life, this arrangement ceased only with his death. She lived to a ripe old age and was around when we were children. Bent with age and frail of body, she was unable to move around but whenever we visited, she would shower us with grandmotherly warmth and affection. Seating us close to her she would regale us with stories and attributes of our late father’s life, his compassion and conscientiousness, his caring and generous nature; these memories would bring tears to her eyes. It is a pity that we were unable to take care of her or serve her in any way. She passed away while we were still of school-going age.

[1] Court Recorder or Registrar

[2] In the British Empire a Political Resident or Political Agent was an official diplomatic position that involved both consular duties and liaison function. Basically, the British ambassador.

[3] His Lordship, the Governor-General

[4] Mutiny –

1857 War of Independence

[5] Nobility

[6] Prime Minister

[7] Commander of the troops

[8] Governor

[9] Drop by drop a river forms

[10] Vessel or chest

[11] Finance minister

[12] Men’s shawl

[13] Offering

[14] Gold coins

[15] At the writing of this narrative.

[16]Mesquite tree

[18]Sheikh Sahib was a murid of Hazrat Ramzan Ali Shah, a Sufi Saint from the Sisila of Shah Abdur Razzaq Bansvi.

[19] Islamic Law

[20] Grant or certificate to practice Law

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