Babur and Scurry Essay

This essay has a total of 728 words and 4 pages.


Babur and Scurry




While some of the enormous discrepancies between Babur’s Islam and James Scurry’s Islam
can be ascribed to differences in age and role, the strongest cause of such
dissimilarities is a very similar political instability. Admittedly, Babur’s position as
conqueror and Scurry’s status as prisoner are the obvious differences that inform their
vastly different experiences. Although centuries lay between Babur’s victories and
Scurry’s capture, both times were dominated by insecurity and warfare. Local rulers in
both eras turned to Islam as a justifying cornerstone of their regimes, and as a tool and
rallying cry against their enemies. It is this particular guise of Islam, as political
instrument, that ultimately gives us Babur’s privileged piety and Scurry’s painful
conversion.

Babur acknowledges his penchant for the secular pleasures of alcohol and profane poetry.
Nevertheless, in the course of his memoirs, Babur turns to Islam increasingly to sanction
his rule. If not as devout as his great-grandson Aurangzeb would be, he was well-read and
even wrote an explanation of Islamic law in verse for his son.(26) A consummate warrior,
Babur was also well educated and not unaware of the moral power of a righteous ruler. He
writes of his conclusion that his lust for drink must be thrown off, and vows temperance.
(73-74) This act is as much a conqueror’s claim for moral legitimacy, as the memoirs
themselves, which are heavily salted with quotations from the Koran.

The Islam of Babur is also molded by his use of it as goad and inspira-tion for his
soldiers. Babur never fails to remind his troops that God is on their side and that they
should be fearless even in this strange country. (38) Babur’s army is not another
invading army, similar to the Uzbekis who drove Babur from Samarkand, and his enemies are
not honorable defenders of their homeland. Instead, according to Babur, the soldiers are
an "Army of Islam" and the natives are labeled as "the unbelievers, the wicked", with
epithets like accursed and hapless tossed in for good measure.(85) Babur conquers not for
India’s riches, but "For the sake of Islam"(87) Babur’s experience of Islam is one of a
master ruler manipulating a religion to provide political justifica-tion for his ruler and
moral ammunition for the soldiers and for war.

250 years later, after the Battle of Plassey and after the dwindling of the Mughal empire,
we see a young Indian-English boy experience a similarly violence-sanctioning Islam, this
time on the receiving end. His captors are Haider Ali (Hyder) and Tipu Sultan (Tippoo),
who were aware of the danger of the East India Company and the need to secure a
independent army and in-come in order to combat British power.(Stein, 210) Thus Islam in
the 1780s is again manipulated politically to bolster Muslim rulers’ strength in the face
of British presence and continuous harassment provided by the Marathas. Scurry and his
companions are pieces in a larger geo-political game when they are told by a European in
Continues for 2 more pages >>




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