Tarikh-i-Shah Shujai

Tarikh-i-Shah Shujai is a history of Prince Muhammad Shuja and his times. It was written by Muhammad Masum, son of Hasan, son of Salih in 1070 AH/ 1659-60 AD at Maldah. Muhammad Masum was a born companion of shah shuja and served him for twenty-five years. When Shuja, after his final defeat in the hands of mir jumla, evacuated tandah and left for Dhaka en route to Arakan, Masum retired to Maldah and utilised the time in writing the Tarikh-i-Shah Shujai.

The title of the book, Tarikh-i-Shah Shujai is not found in the book itself. Of the three manuscripts available so far, the India office library manuscript is called by Tarikh-i-Shah Shujai by Ethe, the compiler of the catalogue; in the other two manuscripts, one at Eton College, and the other at Oriental Public Library at Bankipore, no title is given. In Henry Elliot's papers, there is an English translation of the preface and the table of contents of a manuscript called Futuhat-i-Alamgiri. The preface and the table of contents of the so-called Futuhat-i-Alamgiri are identical with those of the manuscripts of what is called Tarikh-i-Shah Shujai.

The list of contents shows that the author gives the history of the war of succession in which all four sons of shahjahan took part. Shah Shuja's participation in the war forms only a part of the book, though the author devotes a little more space on this part. The author also gives an account of the expedition of aurangzeb and Murad (youngest son of the emperor) to Balkh that took place in 1647 AD, ie long before the war of succession. The account of the Balkh war was added by the author to show the estrangement of relations between Dara Shikoh (eldest son of Shahjahan) and Aurangzeb. The title Futuhat-i-Alamgiri sounds appropriate as the part played by Aurangzeb in the war of succession and his ultimate success found prominence in the book.

Probably Mir Masum did not give any title to his book and the reason may be conjectured. He was a loyal servant of Shah Shuja whom he served for 24/25 years. So he was expected to dedicate the book to the name of his patron, but as the patron was defeated and fled for life to a foreign country, there was no point to dedicate the book after him. While writing the book, the author was passing his days in the domain of Aurangzeb. As the author did not give any title, modern scholars suggested titles according to subject matter of the book; Ethe suggested Tarikh-i-Shah Shujai, because the author was a servant of Shuja, and Elliot suggested Futuhat-i-Alamgiri, because Alamgir (Aurangzeb) came out successful in the war of succession. He was the sitting emperor.

In one place Muhammad Masum says that he was acquainted with the sons of Shahjahan since his boyhood, and in another place, he says that he was in the service of Shah Shuja for 24/25 years, which means that he had joined the prince, before the latter's appointment as subahdar of Bengal since 1639 AD (the commencement of subahdari of Shuja). But he does not say anything about Bengal prior to the illness of Shahjahan and the commencement of the war of succession.

Initiating his discussion on the war of succession, he first refers to the illness of Shahjahan and Dara Shikoh's attempt to control the administration. Then he refers to the march of the three other princes towards the capital. Shah Shuja being defeated at Bahadurpur, retreated towards Rajmahal. The author then refers to the march of Aurangzeb and Murad towards the capital, the two wars that ensued, the success of Aurangzeb and his enthronement. He also writes about Aurangzeb's treachery against Murad who was poisoned to death. He also writes about the imprisonment of the emperor Shahjahan in the Agra fort, and the death penalty pronounced to Dara by the new emperor Aurangzeb. Then Masum gives a long description of Shuja's fight against Aurangzeb, how Shuja was defeated in the battle of Khajwa and how retreating Shuja fought against the imperialists at every point from Khajwa to Tandah for more than a year. After Shuja left Tandah, Masum parted with him and was living at Maldah where he wrote his book.

A study of Tarikh-i-Shah Shujai gives the impression that Masum wrote impartially, without any bias; though he was a servant of Shah Shuja, he has nowhere shown disrespect in writing about Shuja's rival princes, he wrote the names of princes prefixing the word 'Sultan' or other honorific titles, even the sons of the princes (ie grandsons of Shahjahan) were mentioned in the same respectful manner. Nowhere in the book there is anything written in defence of the cause of his master and patron Shah Shuja. The attitude of the author, Muhammad Masum, speaks favourably about the authenticity of the book. [Abdul Karim]

Bibliography Muhammad Masum; Tarikh-i-Shah Shujai, (ed) by Dr Mrs Adeda Hafiz, unpublished PhD thesis, Dhaka University, 1967; Muhammad Masum's Tarikh-i-Shah Shujai in the Chittagong Univesity Studiees, VIII, June, 1992; Abdul Karim, History of Bengal, Mughal Period, II, Rajshahi, 1995.