Remembering Shah Kabir Uddin Ahmad: A Visionary Leader’s Impact on Bihar’s History

Remembering Shah Kabir Uddin Ahmad: A Visionary Leader's Impact on Bihar's History

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Shah Kabir Uddin Ahmad, born in 1798 in Sasaram, Bihar, was the Sajjada-nashin cum Mutawalli (superintendent) of the Khanqah Estate of Sasaram and Maulabagh Estate of Arrah. In the year 1810, at the age of 12, he ascended to the seat of Khanqah after the death of his uncle, Syed Shah Shams Uddin Ahmad. He gained recognition as a Chieftain of Sasaram as his uncle and was later appointed as the Honorary Magistrate of Shahabad after defeating Babu Kunwar Singh in the battle of Khanqah. Despite his young age, he possessed extensive knowledge of politics and ground combat. Under his leadership, the Khanqah Estate expanded significantly and acquired territory in Shahabad. During his reign, the Khanqah flourished, achieving remarkable heights in architectural prowess, pioneering modern education, championing charity endeavors, fostering a rich culture of poetry and literature, and introducing the printing press to Bihar.

He was both the most beloved and the most criticized superintendent of Khanqah due to his actions. However, it is undeniable that he was one of the most renowned personalities in the region at that time.

Early Life of Shah Kabir

Shah Kabir Uddin Ahmad was born in 1798 in Khanqah Kabiria, Sahasram (now Sasaram) in Bihar. He was the 6th Sajjada-nashin cum Mutawalli (Superintendent) of Khanqah Estate of Sasaram and 1st of Maulabagh Estate of Arrah.

Shah Kabir received his education in Madarsa Khanqah Kabiria in Sasaram. He had command of Urdu, Arabic, Persian, English and Hindi. He got combat, military strategy, and administration knowledge from his uncle. His curriculum also included scholarly areas like Islamic studies, Urdu, and Persian literature.

Since Shah Shams Uddin Ahmad did not have a male descendant, he appointed his 12-year-old nephew ‘Kabir’ as his successor. However, at that age, he was not qualified for the position of Mutawalli, so he was made the Sajjada-nashin instead. Shams-uddin’s wife, Musmat Qadira, was then appointed as the Acting Mutawalli. She became the first and only female Mutawalli in Khanqah Estate’s history to date.

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When he sat on the seat, Khanqah was in debt and didn’t have that much power left. But with his vision and a strong commitment to his goals, he at a young age fought many cases even with her aunt. In 1822, Kabiruddin regained Khanqah’s possession with government assistance and regained all the land and power Khanqah Estate always owned.

Shah Kabir’s efforts impressed Bibi Sahebjan, of Arrah resulting in the endowment of Maulabagh Estate to him which includes Maulabagh, Pakri, and Barahbatra village, in Bihar, and his appointment as the first Mutawalli and made a deed which says his generation after generation, will continue to take command.

He was a great chess player even Miss Eden during Lord Auckland’s visit to North India, played several games with him.

Contributions of Shah Kabir

Shah Kabiruddin Ahmad had a strong passion for history and ancient sites. At that time most of the historic places of the town were under the Khanqah Estate. He played a pivotal role in uncovering the Ashoka Rock Edict in Sasaram, being one of the first to explore its significance. In 1839, he provided E. L. Ravenshaw with a copy of Ashoka’s Minor Rock Edict in Sasaram. Interestingly, Kabir had discovered the rock edict before Ravenshaw.

In 1850, Kabir established a printing press called ‘Matba Kabiri’ in Khanqah Sasaram. It was the first printing press in Bihar, focusing on literature and poetry. Kabir, known for his famous Urdu and Persian poems, set up this printing press to promote literary works. It was the time when Madrasah Khanqah Kabiria was among one of the most significant educational institutions for Arabic and Persian languages in Bihar.

In 1858, Kabir undertook the responsibility of the Sher Shah Suri tomb, adding a modern Ghat with a veranda and four kiosks on the west side of the pond. Near each kiosk, he built stairs leading down to the water, which were reportedly used for cooking at the time. Unfortunately, one of the kiosks has collapsed. And the stairs leading to the veranda terrace is now blocked to prevent accidents. Despite this, the place still retains its architectural and scenic beauty, remaining a cherished gem.

Sher Shah Suri, an ethnic Afghan; founder of The Suri Empire in North India.

In 1836, he petitioned the Governor General of India to introduce modern education in English at Madrasa Khanqah Kabiriyah, where students from all religious backgrounds received their primary education. He advocated for the appointment of a person proficient in the English language to teach at the Madarsa, thus pioneering the introduction of modern education in Shahabad.

Under his reign, the present-day Khanqah Mosque was built. The three-domed mosque of Khanqah is one of the most beautiful mosques in Bihar. It is famous for its architectural value and calligraphy, serving as inspiration for the historic mosques of Bibi Jaan & Barahbatra in Arrah, and Acche Khan in Sasaram. The historic Entrance Gate, Ashurkhana, Imambara, Guest house, etc at the Bibi Jaan ka Hata in Arrah were constructed with his assistance.

Legal Disputes

He assumed the leadership of a crumbling empire as, at that time, Khanqah was burdened with significant debt, and much of its land had either been encroached upon or unlawfully sold. A portion of his land was seized and occupied by Babu Veer Kunwar Singh. He devoted most of his time to reclaiming his territory through legal battles or ground warfare.

In 1816, at 18, he petitioned Commissioner John Deane to assert his rights to the lands of Khanqah. After inquiries, the local agent favored Shah Kabir in a report submitted in 1818. In 1822 Kabiruddin regained Khanquah’s possession with government assistance and regained all the land and power Khanqah Estate always owned.

He fought two major cases in court i.e. Musmat Qadira Vs. Kubeer Oodeen Ahmed in 1824. Where he sued his aunt regarding the illegal selling of Khanqah’s property and Jeewan Das Sahu Vs. Kubeer Oodeen in 1822 when he reclaimed all the encroached land by Jeewan Das Sahu.

Today, these cases play a crucial role in establishing judicial precedent for Mohammedan Law. Even the Supreme Court of India uses these cases as a reference.

Role in Freedom Movements

Before the widespread revolt of 1857, dissenters in Bihar sought various means to challenge British authority, from organizing local movements to supporting rebellions in other provinces. In 1845-46, during the First Anglo-Sikh War, the EIC faced a grave situation due to the stubborn and formidable resistance of the Sikh Army, with all the resources of the Company’s Government being drawn to the North-Western Frontier. Recognizing this opportunity, Shah Kabiruddin, along with Peer Buksh Wazir Ali, Khwaja Hasan Ali, and several influential persons and zamindars of Bihar, initiated a conspiracy against the British.

Referring to this, a Military Officer wrote in 1857 “Even so lately as 1846, it’s (Patna’s) Mahomedan nobility had endeavored to take advantage of our balanced fortunes on the banks of the Sutlej. They had then succeeded in corrupting some of the native officers and sepoys stationed at Dinapur.”

On December 18, 1845, Major Rowcroft of the First Regiment received information from a police officer, Motee Mishra regarding Peer Buksh, being involved in a secret league with influential individuals in Patna. They were distributing money to manipulate Indian officers and sepoys, inciting religious prejudices to sway their allegiance, and offered him too.

Patna Conspiracy of 1846 : Before 1857 a Revolt that could not happen

On December 18, 1845, Major Rowcroft instructed Motee Mishra to accept money from Peer Buksh. Accordingly, an arrangement was made to receive the money near the Golghar in Patna, where the detachment was to encamp. At the appointed hour the money was brought by Syed Ali, and delivered by Peer Buksh to Motee Mishra. Despite the confirmation of suspicions, no immediate action was taken. However, on December 24, Peer Buksh was arrested, leading to the discovery of incriminating evidence, including a private memorandum book detailing his correspondence with Rahut Ali.

The officiating Magistrate, Mr. Lillie, swiftly moved to arrest Rahut Ali. During the search of his house, some letters and books were seized. Various sums of money were also discovered. The letters revealed correspondence between Rahut Ali, Peer Buksh, and Shah Kabir Uddin. Soon steps were taken by them to arrest Shah Kabir Uddin Ahmad.

After the order of his arrest, there is no documentation of Kabiruddin’s actions. However, a year later, discovered writings indicate a shift towards pre-British loyalty, suggesting allegiance with the East India Company.

Battle of Khanqah

In 1857, the center part of India seethed with rebellion during the Sepoy Mutiny, as freedom fighters clashed with British forces in pursuit of independence. Meanwhile, in Arrah, Babu Kunwar Singh’s estate faced seizure by the Revenue Board for unpaid taxes. Forced to abandon his palace after the Battle of Bibiganj, Kunwar Singh rallied his army, traversing various towns to gather support. However, his efforts to forge alliances in Shahabad faltered due to a lack of regional support and public sympathy, attributed to their reputation for plundering.

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Sasaram being loyal to the Company refused to give any support to the rebellions and were afraid of the disturbance due to not having any British troops and the Deputy Magistrate of Sasaram was absent too at that time. Kabiruddin was the only one with a strong army and high influence in the town. Babu Kunwar Singh couldn’t make it to Sasaram but took advantage of this and encroached on some part of Khanqah’s property of countryside viz. Parriya, Mahoori, and Baricha. He took position and drove Kabir’s men from the village. Kunwar Singh along with his army moved to Sasaram where he threatened to attack Kabir Uddin. On 7th August 1857, Kunwar Singh with 2000 men entered Rohtas and burnt the Magistrate’s bungalow, Moousill’s court, Dakbungalow, and Morrilla, and also burnt the papers of the Post Ofice, then they commenced robbing the town, and looted horses and several other things of Shah Kabir Uddin Ahmad and moved to kill him. Kabir with his army and inhabitants of the city took a war with the mutinies killed their 20 men and captured some of their men while Kunwar Singh escaped.

One year later, on April 26th, Babu Kunwar Singh passed away after being shot by Brigadier Douglas’s army. This event led to a decrease in protests against the British in Bihar. On August 2nd, the Parliament passed the Government of India Act, transferring power from the East India Company to the British Crown. During this period, individuals who remained loyal to the Crown were rewarded. Shah Kabir Uddin was honored for his service in Sasaram with 10,000 rupees and a ring, bearing the title of ‘Nasir Ul Hukkam,’ meaning Helper of the Crown to Sasaram. As a result, the city was renamed ‘Sahasram Nasir Ul Hukkam’. A plaque commemorating this title, along with Sasaram Kabiruddin Ahmad’s name and information about the 1857 revolt, was installed at the Sasaram railway station.

(The views & research is personal to the author)

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Syed Altamash Ahmad

Founder Taarikhnama