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Riyaz-us-Salatin


Riyaz-us-Salatin the first complete history of the Muslim rule in Bengal. Written in Persian language by Ghulam Husain Salim Zaidpuri, it covers the whole Muslim rule in Bengal from bakhtiyar's conquest of Nadia in 1204-05 AD to the battle of palashi in 1757, though there are lacunae in various places. 'Salim' was his pseudonym and 'Zaidpur' in Uttar Pradesh his place of birth. He migrated to Malda and became a munshi. He held the office of Dak Munshi (Postmaster) under George Udney, the English Commercial Resident of Malda, at whose request he started writing the book in 1786 AD. The book is entitled Riyaz-us-Salatin, which is a chronogram giving the date 1788 suggesting that in this year the composition of the book was completed.

Ghulam Husain Salim was a keen student of history, he was conversant with the methodology as known in his time. He divided the introductory chapter into four sections: (i) boundaries, geographical and topographical features and population; (ii) characteristics of the country, origin of the people of Bengal and some features of the living condition; (iii) description of some cities; (iv) a brief sketch of the Hindu rule in Bengal. The rest he divided into four chapters; the first three are: (i) the sultans of Delhi and their governors, (ii) independent sultans of Bengal, and (iii) Mughal rule in Bengal. He divided the fourth chapter into two parts - the first part deals with the Christians, the portuguese, the dutch, the french etc (other than the English) and the second part deals with the coming of the English and the establishment of their rule in Bengal.

Ghulam Husain Salim does not specify all the sources of his history. From the internal evidence of his book, it appears that he was able to lay hands upon some standard Persian contemporary histories - the tabaqat-i-nasiri of Minhaj-i-Siraj, tarikh-i-firuzshahis of Ziauddin Barani and of Shams Siraj Afif, tarikh-i-mubarak shahi of Yahya bin Ahmad. With the help of these books he has been able to prepare a framework of the history of Bengal in the Sultanate period. He could also probably consult the Afghan and Mughal histories - Abbas Sarwani's tarikh-i-shahi, Abul Fazl's ain-i-akbari and akbarnamah and the two general histories of the Mughals, Badauni's muntakhab-ut-tawarikh and Nizamuddin Bakhshi's tabaqat-i-akbari and also tarikh-i-firishta written in the Deccan in the court of Bijapur. He could also utilise the tuzuk-i-jahangiri, the padshanamah and the alamgirnamah. For the nawabi period Salim consulted Salimullah's tarikh-i-bangalah, and for the later period, of course, Sayyid Ghulam Husain Tabatabai's siyar-ul-mutakhkherin and other books written by his contemporaries were available to him. He also admits that he had consulted a 'little book' and a book of Haji Muhammad Arif Qandahari; unfortunately both his 'little book' and Arif Qandahari's book are not available now. Ghulam Husain Salim also took considerable pains to decipher inscriptions attached to mosques and other monuments that were nearer to him. He visited gaur and pandua, the two Sultanate capitals of Bengal. Most of the monuments were located in these two cities and so the epigraphic evidence utilised by him added to the importance of his book. He was not only a historian but an antiquarian and archaeologist.

The great credit of Ghulam Husain Salim is that he is pre-eminently a historian of Muslim Bengal. Before him historians dealt with the history of limited periods or particular aspects of the history, but Ghulam Husain's narratives comprise the history from the first Muslim conquest of Bengal down to the beginning of British rule and a little after (down to the completion of the book in 1788 AD). But for this book, modern historians would have found it difficult to reconstruct a correct framework of the history of Muslim rule in Bengal.

In spite of Ghulam Husain's hard labour to collect materials for his history, he could not avoid committing mistakes, particularly in preparing the chronology. He has also failed to give the history of some Mughal subahdars, particular mention may be made of shaista khan whose glorious reign has not received due attention. Modern scholars express surprise that Shaista Khan's great achievement in Bengal, viz the conquest of Chittagong, has been lost sight of by the author of the Riyaz. In spite of such omissions and drawbacks, the Riyaz-us-Salatin should be given credit as being the first indigenous work attempting a complete history of the Muslim rule in Bengal. The first modern historian of Bengal, Captain charles stewart, while writing his book History of Bengal (1813), accepted Riyaz-us-Salatin as a model and based his narratives on the same.

Ghulam Husain Salim died in 1817 AD and lies buried at Malda town in the quarter known as Chak Qurban Ali. [Abdul Karim]

Bibliography Riyaz-us-Salatin, Persian text, Calcutta, 1893; Abdus Salam (tr), Riyaz-us-Salatin, Calcutta, 1903; Abdul Karim, Banglar Itihas, Sultani Amal (in Bangla), 5th ed, Dhaka, 1999.