Sikhs owed their rise in 18th century to Adina Beg Arain (a Punjabi Muslim)

Sikhs owed their rise in 18th century to Adina Beg Arain, a Punjabi Muslim noble in the service of Mughals. The latter was a saboteur and believed in “chaos is a ladder”. He used Sikh marauders to destroy the law and order of Punjab to pave the way for his rise to power. The cost of his dangerous games was the suffering of his own Punjabi Muslims at the hands of Sikh Khalsa who in those years were extremely anti-Muslim. Mughals even in late 1740s and early 1750 had the means and power to easily exterminated the menace of Sikh marauders but Adina Beg backstabbed his Mughal masters and made sure that Sikh marauders were not eliminated. When Adina Beg finally became the governor of Punjab for Maratha empire, he decided to get rid of the Sikh marauders, but he suddenly died due to a disease and could not finish the monster he had nurtured.

Nurturing of Sikh marauders by Adina Beg

Sometime after the invasion of Nadir Shah Afsar, Zakariya Khan (the Mughal governor of Lahore subah) appointed Adina Beg as Nazim (governor) of Jalandhar Doab and ordered him to crush the Sikh marauders there who were not powerful at that time. Adina Beg did the opposite, he nurtured the Sikh marauders. James Browne, writing in 1787, says : “The force he (Adina Beg) had him was fully equal to the execution of that service, but Adina Beg, considering that if he should entirely put an end to all disturbances in that district, there would remain no necessity for continuing him in so extensive a command, carried on intrigues with the chiefs of the Sicks (Sikhs), and secretly encouraged them to continue their depredations, at the same time pretending to be very desirous of subduing them. From this management the Sicks became daily more powerful and seized upon several places in distant parts of the subah of Lahore”. This short-sighted silliness had repercussions for him. Due to the devastation and lootings by Sikhs (facilitated by Adina beg himself) in Jalandhar Doab, Adina Beg could not realize revenue from the people. He failed in paying his revenue to the Lahore government. He was dismissed from the governorship of Jalandhar Doab and was thrown into prison. After an year of imprisonment, Zakariya Khan released him with a warning and appointed him deputy governor of Jalandhar Doab under Shahnawaz Khan (son of Zakariya Khan). 

Adina Beg had plans to bring ruin upon Mughals. In 1747 he encouraged his master Shahnawaz Khan (then governor of Lahore subah) to open communications with Ahmad Shah Abdali, while at the same time he informed the Delhi Wazir that Shahnawaz was turning rebel against the authority of the Mughal emperor and that he had invited help of Ahmad Shah Abdali. The author of Siyar-ul-Mutakherin (written in 1780) writes: “the advisor of the young viceroy (Shahnawaz Khan) was Adina Beg Khan, who was a devil under the appearance of a man. He was resolved to overset his master’s power and to raise his own on its ruins. 

In 1748 Mir Mannu (the new Mughal governor of Lahore subah) appointed Adina Beg as faujdar of Jalandhar Doab. Mir Mannu ordered Adina Beg to eliminate the Sikh marauders, but the latter undermined the authority of Mughals and “began as formerly to intrigue with the Sicks and took no effectual means to suppress them” (James Browne, 1787 AD). Kaura Mal (a Nanakshahi Sikh in the service of Mughals) advised Mir Mannu that he should reconcile with Sikh marauders. He said: “The Sikhs always cause confusion and disorder. It will be advisable, if you settle something for these people. They will not create disturbances, and I will be responsible for it” (Tarikh-i Ahwal-i Sikhan of Khushwaqt Rai, Witten in 1811 AD). Adina Beg who wanted disorder in Punjab and troubles for Mughals at the hands of Sikhs, disagreed with the advice of Kaur Mal and said to Mir Mannu: “Goodness to evil doers is doing evil to good people”. However, Mir Mannu heeded the advice of Kaura Mal and granted Sikhs one-fourth revenue of Patti. In December 1751 Ahmad Shah Abdali entered Punjab and laid siege to Lahore. After four months, Mir Mannu called a council of war and asked them to come up with best plan of action against the besiegers. Kaura Mal pointed out that Mir Mannu’s troops were no match in open for the hardy Afghans, and that Abdali’s camp was also short of provisions, and that shortly afterwards hot Indian summer would set in, which will be unbearable for Abdali’s troops, and he would either return or attack them at disadvantage. This was a wise plan but Adina Beg was up to no good and he recommended immediate action against the besiegers. Mir Mannu agreed with Adina Beg, issued from the city and attacked Abdali’s camp. According to Farhat-un-Nazirin (written in 1770 AD), Adina Beg instructed one of his men to shoot Kaura Mal from behind. When Kaura Mal was shot dead by his man, Adina Beg (who commanded the entire left wing of the army) treacherously deserted his post and fled to Lahore city along with his entire contingent, heavily contributing to the defeat of Mir Mannu. The latter surrendered to Ahmad Shah Abdali who installed him in the governorship of Lahore on his behalf. 

After some time, Mir Mannu dispatched Adina Beg against Sikhs who were ravaging Jalandhar Doab again. Adina Beg was viewed with some suspicion because of his treacherous conduct in the latest battle with Ahmad Shah Abdali. So, to dispel the suspicions, he used to send 40 or 50 Sikh captives from Jalandhar Doab to Mir Mannu from time to time. John Malcolm in 1810 writes: “That able but artful chief (Adina Beg) considered this turbulent tribe (Sikhs) in no other light than as the means of his personal advancement. He was careful not to reduce them altogether, but, after defeating them in an action which was fought near Makhowal, he entered into a secret understanding with them, by which though their excursions were limited, they enjoyed security to which they had been unaccustomed, and from which they gathered strength and resources for future efforts.

In 1757 Afghans began to directly rule Punjab and restored peace and order for few months. Jahan Khan (the regent of Timur Shah Durrani) made the mistake of appointing Adina Beg as faujdar of Jalandhar Doab, conceding to him the privilege that he would not be required to attend the court at Lahore. Adina Beg began to undermine the Afghan government through Sikhs just like he had undermined the previous Mughal government. When the disturbances caused by Sikh marauders increased, Jahan Khan summoned Adina Beg to devise means for subduing Sikhs. But Adina Beg flatly refused to come. He had also defaulted in paying the tribute of Jalandhar Doab. Jahan Khan realized that Adina Beg was mal-intentioned, so he sent a detachment to seize him. Adina Beg had no choice but to openly join his Sikh allies and resist Afghans. He and his Sikh allies succeeded in driving out Saadat Khan Afridi from Jalandhar city and plundered all the Jalandhar Doab. Panth Prakash by Rattan Singh (written in 1840) is very unauthentic and poor source of history. But if Sikh traditions in that source are to be believed, then Adina Beg was complicit in the genocide of the Punjabi Muslims of the Jalandhar city. According to Panth Prakash, Adina Beg made a deal with Sikhs according to which Sikhs got the license from him to massacre the Muslims of Jalandhar city, and in return he would get their military help against the Afghans. Adina Beg took an oath on Quran in front of Sikhs for assurance. According to Panth Prakash of Rattan Singh and that of Gyan Singh, Sikhs spared Hindus but massacred all the Muslims of Jalandhar city (except young Muslim women who were forcibly converted to Sikhism). They put to sword even Muslim infants and children. They defiled the mosques in the city with pig’s blood. 

Adina Beg realized that he cannot entirely depend on Sikhs to oust Afghans from Punjab, so he invited Marathas to invade and annex Punjab, promising them to pay them one lakh of rupees for every day of marching and Rs.50,000 for each day of halt. In March 1758 the combined forces of Marathas and Adina Beg (which largely comprised of Sikhs) totalled two lakh fighters and they easily captured the Sirhind city. The author of Tarikh-i-Alamgir-Sani (written in c1759) writes: “As the Marathas and the Sikhs thought of nothing but plunder, they so thoroughly looted the inhabitant of Sirhind, high and low, that none, either male or female, had a cloth on his or her person. They pulled down the houses and carried off the timber. They dug up floors for buried treasures and seized everything they could lay their hands on”. 

Marathas occupied Punjab and expelled Afghans. They entrusted Adina beg with the governorship of the Punjab on promising on annual tribute of 75 lakh rupees. Adina Beg had to collect 75 lakh of rupees, which he had to pay to the Marathas; and this huge sum could not be collected if Sikh marauders were allowed to loot peasants and merchants. Sikhs had not ceased their marauding activities. They were no longer of any use to Adina Beg who now had the backing of vast empire of the Marathas. As governor of entire Punjab, Adina Beg called upon the leading Muslim and Hindu zamindars and chiefs in every part of the province in eradicating Sikh marauders. Ahmad Shah of Batala in his Tarikh-i-Hind (written in 1830) writes: “Adina Beg ordered that in no district or parganah should Sikhs be allowed to live, they should either be killed or captured. Mirza Aziz Bakhsh was one of his most trust nobles. Adina Beg appointed him to this duty at the head of several thousand horse. He also entrusted him with one thousand carpenters with steel hatchets and axes for the purpose of cutting down and clearing away the jungles and forests where Sikhs used to seek shelter, so that no hiding place might exist for the people of this exist. ” 

Sikh marauders had grown exponentially in the last 17 years, thanks to the Adina Beg. Adina Beg was not succeeding in rooting them out by conventional means out so he resorted to desperate measures due to which Punjabis of all castes and religions suffered. A severe famine had broken out in Punjab in July-August 1758. Adina Beg tried to eliminate Sikhs by starving them and for that purpose he starved the entire Mahja region of Punjab. Ali-ud-Din Si in his Ibrat-namah (written in 1850) writes: “In the country of Manjha wheat was not available even at the rate of two seers to the rupee. Adina Beg Khan prevented the import of corn from Malwa, in order to starve out the Sikhs. This made grain still dearer. This measure hit the poor people hard and they left their homes, migrating in all directions and with the will of God the Sikhs grew daily”. 

On 15th September 1758, Adina Beg died anticlimactically after succumbing to an attack of colic. He governed Punjab only for five months which were consumed in his attempt of eradicating Sikh marauders. 

Did Adina Beg have hatred for Afghans and Indo-Afghans? Response to Pervez Mehmood

Parvez Mahmood, a Punjabi-Muslim writer for Friday Times, asserts that Adina Beg never collaborated with Afghans of Punjab because they were inherently deceitful and because they were plunderers 1. But Adina Beg did collaborate with Indo-Afghans of Punjab once he became the governor of Punjab. According to Ibrat-nama of Ali-ud-Din (written in 1850), Adina Beg persuaded the Afghans of Kasur, Daulpur, Jalandhar and Alwalpur to join him in eradicating Sikh marauders in 1758. 2 

There is not a single primary account which suggests that Adina Beg was hostile to Afghans and Indo-Afghans because of their supposed deceitful nature or because they plundered Punjab. Indo-Afghans of Punjab were not forces of disruption so Adina Beg could not collaborate with them for his schemes of disrupting peace of Punjab (to undermine Mughal and Afghan authority). For disrupting law and order of Punjab, he used Sikhs. Once Adina became governor of Punjab, he no longer had any need for disruptive and marauding forces like Sikhs and called upon the Indo-Afghans of Punjab as well as other Muslim and Hindu zamindars of Punjab to restore peace. Deceit and plunder did not bother Adina Beg. He himself employed deceit on number of occasions and collaborated with jathas of Sikhs, who were the greatest plunderers of all. He also summoned Marathas to Punjab and gave them and Sikhs a free hand to plunder Sirhind. 3

Adina Beg refused the summon from the court of Timur Khan Durrani’s court at Lahore because (1) earlier he had agreed to govern Jalandhar Doab on behalf of Afghans on the condition that he would not be required to attend the court (2) because he was up to no good and feared that Jahan Khan (the regent of Prince Timur) had figured him out. Adina Beg had ambition to become governor of Punjab himself so he undermined Afghan rule of Punjab simply for that reason, just like previously he had undermined Mughal rule over Punjab. It had nothing to do with the supposed deceitful nature of Afghans. 

Was Adina Beg a ‘Qaid-i-Azam’ of Punjabi-Muslims?

The idea among Punjabi nationalists of Pakistan that Adina Beg was some kind of a Qaid-i-Azam of Punjabi-Muslims in 18th century, is misplaced. The chieftains of Punjab (some of whom were Indo-Afghans), who called to his banners when he became governor of Punjab for Maratha empire in 1758, were the same elites who had previously served the Mughal empire and had also responded to the calls of Mir Mannu and other Mughal governors of Punjab when they were summoned for wars against Sikh marauders. Adina Beg was only able to gain their support when he became governor of Punjab. Before that, he chiefly relied on Sikhs and his own contingent. None of those Punjabi-Muslim nobles opposed Durrani governor of Punjab when the latter was fighting against Adina Beg and his Sikh allies.

There is also no evidence that Adina Beg had supremacy of Punjabi Muslims in his mind when he fought against Sikhs, or that he considered himself a champion/hero of Punjabi-Muslims. He sprang into action against Sikhs only because the latter were destroying peace and economy of Punjab and as a governor of Punjab, he was duty-bound to restore law and order, so that 75 lakh rupees worth tribute could be collected for his Maratha overlords.

Adina Beg Khan Arain
Portrait of Adina Beg
History of Adina Beg Khan
Adina Beg Khan and Deendar Khoja. Source



3 thoughts on “Sikhs owed their rise in 18th century to Adina Beg Arain (a Punjabi Muslim)”

  1. Manjha region was the heartland of the Sikh warriors. The Sikh warriors belonged to Manjha Region. Sikhs of Manjha or Majha have been lawless independent minded and dacoitry was common among Jatt Sikhs of Manjha who formed the majority among Sikh population. Even British in their gazetteers mention the Manjha being turbulent and lawless. Jat Sikhs of Manjha refering to Amritsar and Tarn Taran tehsils, were tall, strong, muscular with erect carriage fine limbs and handsome features as described by British in year 1893. Another British writer said they would be deemed finest specimens of the human race. Stronghold of the Sikh Jats is that part of the district which is known as the Manjha. Manjha Sikhs were Singh’s true Sikhs

    • Stroking egos aside, we know that the Sikhs were only really competent in guerilla warfare, and even they had the common sense to not attack the real hierarchy of Punjab (such that they would actively avoid the borders of grand chiefs, like that of the Kharals).

      The British were happy that the Sikhs allowed them to go through their lands and deal with the Afghans, so I’m sure there’s an element of propaganda in there. And let’s not forget that once the Sikhs had outlived their usefulness, they conquered Punjab and sent the last Maharaja to London where he would live almost like a pet, mostly ignored but occasionally thrown a bone.

  2. Brother, I appreciate the time and effort you put into this, but I think you’re missing a few crucial points in your analysis. Probably the most important points is that you’ve literally skipped everything that led up to the lack of Mughal control in Punjab, Adina Beg and the marauding Sikhs.

    Nobody can deny that the Afsharid invasion of Mughal India was devastating. I’m sure you’ve heard that the loot carried back to Iran was so plentiful, that Nadir didn’t have to levy taxes on his own population for a set number of years. All that wealth came from the Mughal treasury, and that’s not even accounting for all the destruction and death caused by the invading Afsharid army as they made their way up to Delhi in the first place. It is obvious that the invasion put the Mughals far behind.

    Next comes the Durrani raids. I am not here to try and read into the heart of Abdali, because that is knowledge that only Allāh the Almighty has. But I do know that Abdali didn’t just come to India for the sole purpose of helping out his Mughal (and co) allies deal with the Marathas. Rather, it was a norm for the Afghans to invade Mughal lands, and it was not unusual to see Mughal princesses in the harem of Durrani rulers and noblemen. Those princesses didn’t just come from nowhere, did they?

    So it’s disingenuous to skip the devastation caused by Nadir Shah and his protege Abdali, and all the damage that they caused in Punjab (and what the Durrani successors continued to cause in Punjab after the fact). This all contributed to the decline of the Mughal presence in Punjab. If the Mughals maintained their authority, they might have been able to suppress the Sikhs themselves, although even while the Mughal state was ascending in India, they were losing battles against this team of farmers turned guerilla warriors… well before Adina Beg ever came to the scene.

    It’s also worth noting that the Afghans were by no means benevolent saviors of Punjabi Muslims. There are many records of Durrani forces openly demanding Jizya and stealing from Punjabi Muslims, if not outright killing and enslaving them, even after they are informed of their religion. In this matter, they are not completely unlike the Sikhs who were just as treacherous and harmful to us. Truly, in that time, the only allies we had were ourselves. Al-Ḥamdu lillāh, those terrible days are behind us, and we now have nukes to ensure we never have to rely on anybody else for our protection again.

    Anyways, I appreciate the time you put into this. I’m glad the conversation is starting where we begin to analyze our own history, separate from what the colonizers or Kuffar have to say about us.


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