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A Tribute to Tipu Sultan. Part I

May 12, 2006

kr’s note: This is one week late, I know, but it still has relevance, I hope. This is a tribute, albeit a short one, to the greatest ruler that India ever had.

 

While Muslim history is replete with fascinating stories and tales of great men and women throughout the ages, there are certain personalities who have not been accorded the status that they deserve for their distinguished services to Islam and upholding its legacy through their sacrifices and struggles. Historically, unfair treatment was meted out to them–in the sense that not much work was published about them–and their contributions were virtually known to future generations. Among these unfortunate personalities was the great jewel of history, the Tiger of Mysore, Hadrat Shaheed Tipu Sultan (rahimahullah), as much of his life was compiled not by Islamic historians, but more prominently, by non-Muslims, especially the Orientalists. Thus, while their contributions were brought into the focus of the world in terms of their historical, political, and military accomplishments, their Islamic mission, their saintly attributes, and religious achivements were glossed over.

Thus, Tipu has been unfairly treated in many historical narratives about him. He has been accused of various things, ranging from being a fanatic and a communal zealot to being equalled to Mahmood Ghaznavi. European historians have compared his valor and courage to Napoleon Bonaparte; but even this is a disservice to the Sultan since Napoleon couldn’t even be Tipu’s bucketboy in terms of valor and bravery. Bonaparte, despite his courage and fame, surrendered in the face of his enemies; yet the Tiger of Mysore fought on, despite the treachery around him and the peril that awaited until his last breath.

What follows are a few words about Tipu Sultan: the man, the scholar, the warrior, the ruler, and the legend.

Tipu Sultan was born on November 10th, 1750 in a town called Devanhili (33km from Bangalore, what what), son of Hyder Ali, a general in the service of the Raja of Mysore. It is said that Tipu received his name as such when his parents, due to their being unable to conceive a child, visited the tomb of the great saint Tipu Mastan of Arcot and prayed to God for a son, promising to name him Tipu. From a young age, Tipu was trained and educated to become a ruler. He was given the finest religious and secular education of his day, as well as being conditioned and trained in the art of war. He was considered amongst the finest religious scholars of his day, excelling in his knowledge of fiqh and hadith. He had a great penchant for books on logic, Sufism, philosophy, and history. Tipu was also adept in science, medicine, engineering, music, and calligraphy. He wrote more than 45 books during his lifetime, despite spending most of his rule on the battlefield in the defense of his homeland. He was fluent in many languages, including Arabic, Persian, French, English, Urdu, and Kannada.

The story of his marriage is quite… interesting. When Tipu reached the age of 24, Hyder Ali wished for him to get married. As the wars with the British paused for a few months, it was upon on Hyder ali to bear the cumbersome task of selecting an appopriate bride for his son. Not only was Tipu intelligent and a total stud, but he was the heir-apparent for the sultante of Mysore. Despite everyone in the state wishing Tipu to be his son-in-law (stud), he left the matter in the hands of his parents, giving them the full right to choose the girl. Hyder Ali wished Tipu to marry Sultana Begum, whereas his mother, Fatima Begum, wanted him to marry Fatima Begum. Mother and father could not agree as to whom their son to marry, so Tipu, being such a dutiful son and not wishing any distress on his parents (hehe), agreed to marry both the girls simultaneously. To further avoid displeasing his parents, he married them on the same night, within the same hour. What a dutiful son, Mashallah =).

Anyway, back to the main reason for this post: May 4th marks the 207th anniversary of Tipu’s martyrdom. Unfortunately for Tipu, his reign was one of never-ending battles against the British expansion in India. His military genius, courage, and brilliance led him to many victories over the British, despite being outnumbered in all his battles. Whereas generals and kings of his day remaiend aloof from the battle, Tipu always fought personally amongst the front ranks of the battle. His renown and ferocity were unmatched, and enemies cringed when they caught sign of the Tiger of Mysore bearing down upon them with his elite cadre of cavalry. It is said that he received this title, Sher-e-Mysore, in the aftermath of a hunting trip when he was attacked by a tiger and wrestled it and subdued it with his bare hands. After that, his personal emblem, standard, and uniform for his troops was modelled after the stripes of a tiger.

Despite his capabilities and victories, Tipu was fighting a losing battle with the British who realized they could never defeat the Sultan fairly and thus bribed neighboring Indian rulers, such as the Nizam of Hyderabad (now you can see why I dislike Hydros… hehe), who sold out their own countryman and co-religionist and went to war with him. Even then, the British were unable to win, even though they sent their finest generals (such as Lord General George Cornwallis… yes, the same dude from the Revolutionary War) to face him. Thus, they had to resort to bribing people from Tipu’s own army and government in order to turn the tides of war. In the end, Tipu was surrounded by and defeated by the treachery and treason from his own ranks; as often is the case with Muslim history, he was defeated by his own people before he was defeated by any outside forces. Despite knowing rumors of his own people’s treachery, he never punished them without confirmation. He often reinstated traitor and disloyalists back to their positions on their request. Nonetheless, despite this generosity, these conscience-less scoundrels bore him animosity till the end. Tipu used to say:

Jab tum ne jafa ki hai, tab hum ne wafa ki hai
Woh zarf tumhara hai, ye zarf hamara hai

Whereas you have shown disloyality, we have displayed faithfulness
That path (of treachery) is yours, this path (of loyalty) is ours.

Foremost amongst these traitor was Mir Sadiq (may God curse him), whose name became synonymous with treachery and disloyalty (like Benedict Arnold in the States) in the Subcontinent. Mir Sadiq was appointed as Tipu’s personal deputy in the entire kingdom in 1787, but even that wasn’t enough for him. He regularly siphoned money from the treasury and engaged in all kinds of corruption. Despite this, he was the second most powerful man in the kingdom and yet sought to rise to the throne of Mysore by any means necessary. He regularly informed the Nizam and the British about the Sultan’s military preparations. The British had promised him the throne of Mysore, and he believed them. When accused by some of Tipu’s supporters, Mir Sadiq never hesitated to take oaths on the Qur’an or by Allah declaring his innocence. As his power grew, he began to withhold information from other officers and ministries from reaching the Sultan. When Tipu finally found out about Mir Sadiq’s treachery in his 11th hour, he was powerless to mete out justice to him. Instead, the Tiger said aloud (as the traitor had fled before the final invasion) “It is not so that I am ignorant of your black deed, yet you will taste the fruits of your treachery very soon. Nature will take revenge on you and your successors. They will starve to death for your acts and fire shall burn their stomachs.” As his last act of treachery, Mir Sadiq had sealed a door of the capital, Seringapatnam, that the Sultan was attempting to use to enter back into the city, and went outside the fort claiming that he would bring reinforcement. It was then that a Tipu loyalist by the name of Ahmad Khan shouted, “Where are you escaping to after pushing the Sultan into the jaws of death?” and slayed him on the spot. In the aftermath of the final battle, his body was found, his face grotesquely contorted and misfigured. No one approached the body due to the foul stench emanating from it. Even the dogs refused to go near him. Finally, a few days later, some British soldiers threw his body into a pit. Neither the funeral rites nor the Janazah prayers were prayed over him. For many generations, when people used to walk by his grave, they would spit on it or urinate on it. Thus was his reward for his treachery.

Here ends the first part. The second part will be a description of the last hours and how the Tiger of Mysore died.

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18 Comments
  1. Anonymous permalink

    Thanks for the history lesson — and you wonder why your xanga puts me to sleep.
    Just kidding. This was interesting and informative. Also well-written. I hate being nice..

  2. supar dupar. i like it. if you can stream the whole tv serial on ur xanga…ill be REALLY impressed.

  3. Thank God I’m known as “Pir Sadiq”, as opposed to “Mir Sadiq”.

  4. tipu sultaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!

  5. Anonymous permalink

    So basically his parents went to a grave and committed shirk? Is that what that whole thing is?
    Regardless the faults of his parents dont take away from Tipu mia. I go to mysore EVERYTIME I go back to bangalore. Its amazing ya3ni mA.

  6. interesting…never heard of him before

  7. Shirk is such a nasty word. How about a helping of the lawful act of Tawassul?:http://www.sunnipath.com/Resources/Questions/QA00002164.aspx

  8. I wish we had more leaders like this in modern times. But of course, they’d probably be sold out by the ones who are closest to them.Subhan’Allah, we suck.

  9. Hmm…
    Ponder what made him great, and I say this like clear water, not caring to say it myself, but only because I believe it needs to be said.
    Emulate his style.
    Asalaam alaikum wa rahmatullah.

  10. Anonymous permalink

    Fabulous post! Makes me want to dig up my Indian history books. Seriously, I enjoyed this. Anticipating part 2.
    -Saima

  11. you should see the power point me and my brother made about tipu sultan……………………………………………………………………….

  12. Subhanullah this is an amazing read, cant wait 4 part 2

  13. Interesting read…

  14. i really enjoyed this…never really knew much about him before..looking forward to part 2 insha’Allah

  15. i love your subtle comments, hah.  nice post indeed, better than i expected :P.  i am also looking forward to part two. 

  16. good post… where did you get this info from tho?

  17. wblessing37@yahoo.com.phhellohow are you today i hope that every things is okwithyou as is my pleassure to contact you after viewingyour profile in love.www.really interest me in having communication with youifyou will have the desire with me so that we canget toknow each other better and see what happened infuture.i will be very happy if you can write me through myemail for easiest communication and to know allabouteach other here is my email (wblessing37@yahoo.com.ph)i will be waiting tohear from you as i wish you all the best for yourday.yours new friend. blessing

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