Academic journal article Pakistan Historical Society. Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society

Sources into Monograph: A Case Study of Sher Shoh

Academic journal article Pakistan Historical Society. Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society

Sources into Monograph: A Case Study of Sher Shoh

Article excerpt

Should we call the Sixteenth Century the era of adventurer? Certainly, the examples are many: Bâbur, Sher Shah, Khawas Khan and Badal. They were warriors whose enterprise gained for them a stature which was much higher at their death than it was at their birth. Babur (1526-1530) had the most illustrious lineage and the most lasting achievement. The last two named were protégés of Sher Shah. (15401545). There is something somber about the last three which sets them apart from Babur. Indeed in Babur himself, we see his personal traits at odds with each other during Humâyün's struggle with Sher Shah. All Babur's prosaic merits which sprang from his having been schooled in adversity, were reflected in Sher Shah. All his poetic merits such as his love for the arts and his conviviality were inherited by Humayün. (15301540 and 1555-1556).

Perhaps, Babur had a dim realization of Sher Shah's attributes when their paths briefly crossed. Sher Shah's career was an intrusion; it interrupted the reign of Humayün; but this was no ephemeral intrusion. It was not akin to the brief reigns of Mui'z-ud-dîn Kayqubad (12871290) or Qutb-ud-dm Mubarak Shah (1316-1320); and, if we take the careers of Khawas Khan and Badal into account, Sher Shah emerges as the most characteristic of these adventurers.

Here the case study shall be the revised version of Qanüngo's work. Kalika Ranjan Qanüngo wrote Sher Shah: A Critical Study based on Original Sources in 1921; he wrote Sher Shah and his Times in 1965. In this second work he has contradicted himself at no less than 15 times. He describes his original version as "as best a tolerably well written biography displaying some bias for the hero and containing the dash and fire of the youthful writer himself."1 This description is uncomfortably close to most research dissertations of today. Qänüngo has been unsparing of himself and we can only speculate how he would have reacted. Iqtidar Husain Siddiqui published his History of Sher Shäh Sür (1971) in between the first and second versions of his book. The only clue is his comment that "mere destructive criticism does not carry positive knowledge far" 2

Iqtidar Husain Siddiqui, is of course not the only author to contend with Qänüngo, but we have singled out Siddiqui for his more pointed criticism; although the first writer to take issue with Qänüngo over the criticism of the sources, was Sir Zulfiqär Ali Khän. Qänüngo was skeptical of the version given by 'Abbäs Khän Sarwäni regarding the manner in which he obtained the fortress of Chunär. Qänüngo wrote:

The whole story is unskillfully got up with the object of convincing us that Sher Khän obtained Chunär by legitimate means from its virtual mistress Läd Malikah.3

What Sir Zulfiqär himself wrote was that in order to disinherit her step-sons, and on the advice of her retainers Läd Malikah offered her hand in marriage to Sher Khän who was clandestinely conveyed to the fortress where the marriage was held, he still has this criticism of Qänüngo's conclusion:

It is a serious matter to throw aspersions on a chronicler without citing any reliable authority to prove the contrary.4

This implies that an authority can only be refuted by an authority of equal stature, and that an interpretative impeachment of a primary source is not valid.5 Sir Zulfiqär seems nevertheless troubled with regard to the legitimacy of the wealth Sher Khän had acquired. He rejoins: "The worthless step-sons of Läd Malika were never expected to succeed their father who was not an independent potentate and held the commission from the Mughal Sovereign whose authority was essential for the sons to step into their father's position."5

On the same basis, it can be argued that personal wealth is to be distributed according to Islamic law, and the Mughul over-lords would not have taken the wealth of Täj Khän from the sons and bestowed it on their step-mother. The same laboured defense of Sher Shah's investment of the Rohtas fort is seen. …

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