THE VARIOUS VERSES KNOWN OF EMPRESS NUR JAHAN
AND THE DIWAN BRINGS NEW LIGHT ON HISTORICAL INCIDENTS
THE MENTION OF SHER AFGHAN IS THERE IN THE DIWAN
The strangest part is that Mughal history is tainted with stories made by various petty writers with twisted minds through the ages. If we go through contemporary records, the events turn out to be totally different. In this way legends and romantic tales woven around Jahangeer and Nur Jahan are numerous in all ways. After one writer has done his venom, another picks up, and twists the facts to newer levels of degradation. The story of Sher Afghan and Nur Jahan is all romantic imagination of twisted minds. Professor Shuja uddin was the very first to separate stories away from factual history.
Ali Quli was a Turk who worked with Iranian Shah Ismael. After the death of the Shah, he came to Hindustan and found patrons here. In 1594 he came to Lahore and was rewarded for his valour by being allowed to marry the 17 year old Mehr un nisa (the future Nur Jahan). Emperor Akbar deputed Ali Quli to be with Prince Saleem against the launched Mewar campaign. Both were hand in hand in struggle and Al Quli fought a tiger singlehandedly and was given the title of Sher Afghan (by Jahangeer himself). When Prince Saleem rebelled against his father, Emperor Akbar, Sher Afghan first sided with the Prince, and then deserted him thinking it wiser to do so. When Jahangeer ascended the throne, he not only forgave Sher Afghan but also handed over a lucrative territory as his jageer, in Burdwan Bengal. There was no rivalry or dispute between the two. Mehr un nisa stood nowhere between them.
Reports were coming in that Sher Afghan was planning some rebellion. Jahangeer appointed Qutb uddin as Governor of Bengal, and asked him to check the rumours and send Sher Afghan back to court if they turn out to be true. Qutb uddin was foster brother of Jahangeer and he invited Sher Afghan to join him but Sher Afghan was aghast at that and rebelled against the Governor. Such rebellions were not taken lightly. When the Governor went to see Sher Afghan, an open fight developed within the two. Sher Afghan assaulted Qutb uddin without cause and killed his eunuch Amber Khan, before he himself was cut to pieces by the soldiers of Qutb uddin. This happened in 1607 and his wife and daughter were sent to the Mughal Court as it was proper to do so, where they served Saleema Sultan Begum, wife of late Emperor Akbar. So from 1607 to 1611, that is a four years sojourn of the lady. Again Meh un nisa stood nowhere.
It was fashionable to create stories about the Emperor and the visiting Englishman William Finch maligned Jahangeer with Anarkalli, who he proclaimed to be the wife of Emperor Akbar and accused Jahangeer of having an affair with his step mother. How cheap were the minds of these visiting missionaries of evil? Like the Nur Jahan’s tale, the twisted tale of Anarkalli also gained credence through the writings of twisted minds. But there are too many versions. No version match another. That itself is proof that there is no veracity in it all.
In fact the family of Mehr un nisa, that is her father Ittemad ud daula, brother Muhammed Shareef and cousin, all were planning an open rebellion against Jahangeer in connivance with Prince Khusrau. When caught Ittemad ud daula was forgiven but the brother and cousin were executed at orders of the Emperor. And Mehr un nisa could do nothing about it. She had no hold over the Emperor.
In 1611 Jahangeer saw Mehr un nisa in a Meena Bazaar and was very impressed with her personality, and asked her to join his harem. The very same year he married her. What could be the lust between a 42 year old Emperor (who had seen the best of women) for a 34 years old widow with a daughter of her own. Elegance was the key to the impression. Mehr unnisa was a woman of many talents and Jahangeer recognized that immediately on seeing her.
Sujan Rai hated Nur Jahan and would not even mention her mausoleum in Lahore (when he mentions that of Jahangeer and Asif Khan). From there many twisted tales started including that of the murder of Sher Afghan at the instigation of Jahangeer. Other writers wrote one drama after another about that. But we now have the Diwan of Nur Jahan herself. In it she laments not only Jahangeer but also finds room to recall her late husband Sher Afghan. She talks of Sher Afghan at least five times. She writes about DANGEROUS DECISIONS, BLOOD, and DAGGERS. Proper research will take more time.
Both her husbands were two extremes. Sher Afghan was brave, bold and reckless. Strong but without any reserve or sensitivity. He was merely fit to be a petty officer and all that he was. His clash with Qutb uddin could have been avoided but he was too reckless to see reason. Jahangeer on the other hand was a sensitive soul, poetic and fascinated with the delicacies of life. In fact Nur Jahan experimented the two extremes. One she confronted as a 17 year old virgin, the other she confronted as a 34 years old widow. It was a combination of vinegar and sugar. Only she could have tackled both. Left as Sher Afghan’s wife, she would be part of no history. But as Jahangeer’s wife she became an icon of Lahore.