Assalaamu alai kumm wa rahmatullaahi wa barakath,
Few months ago when when after finishing reading a chapter from the book The Decisive Moments in the History of Islam, I closed the book only to see various book titles from the same publisher on the back cover, among them one book caught my eye, Humayun Nama and it was mainly because of the curious name of its author, Gulbadan Begam (Also spelled as Gulbadan Begum).
I was like…who keeps such very south Asian desi type names nowadays? I then got researching the book and the author, err. Googling it, (isn’t Google the other name for research in this digital age?)
To cut a long story short, what I found truly amazed and humbled me, it turned out, as you’ll see, that the author Gulbadan Begum was no ordinary woman, she was none other than:
1. The daughter of the founder of the Mughal Empire in South Asia, Emperor Ba’bar, which means..
2. She was the sister and biographer of Emperor Humayun – the son of Ba’bar which means..
3. She was the aunt of Emperor Jalaluddin Akbar – the son of Humayun.
Not only was she an imperial princess but a woman of great piety and wisdom…about whom it comes in history:
The Mughal Court even up to the early years of Shahjahans Reign was never a confined thing but a traveling grand encampment and there is no doubt that Gulbadan Banu Begum like most Mughal Ladies hated the confines living in buildings and no doubt wholeheartedly agreed with the verses of Jahanara Begum the daughter of Shahjahan that the rot of the empire would set in when the Mughals confine themselves to closed houses.
Without a doubt, we can say if she had been alive today, she would have wholeheartedly agreed with the work of Dawah.
HRH Gulbadan Begum
The Imperial Princess Gulbadan Begum (c. 1523 – 1603) was a Perso-Turkic Princess, the daughter of Emperor Zāhir ud-Dīn Mohammad Babur of India, she is most known as the author of Humayun Nama, the account of the life of her brother, Humayun. Later, her nephew, Prince Jalal-ud-Dīn ascended the imperial throne as Emperor Akbar the Great.
Her name means literally “with a body like a rose flower” in Persian.
She was a descendant of the lines of highest Central Asian aristocracy: Timur through his son Miran Shah, and Genghis Khan through his son Chagatai Khan.
Her mother was Dildar Begum and she was sister to Humayun, the second Mughal emperor. She also finds reference throughout, Akbarnama, the Book of Akbar, written by Abul Fazal, and much of her biographical details are accessible through the work.
She was born in Kabul.
Pilgrimage to Mecca – The Hajj
Gulbadan Begum described in her memoir a pilgrimage she along with Hamida Banu Begum undertook to Mecca, a distance of 3,000 miles, crossing treacherous mountains and hostile deserts. Though they were of royal birth, the women of the harem were hardy and prepared to face hardships, especially since their lives were so intimately intertwined with the men and their fortunes.
Gulbadan Begum stayed in Mecca for nearly four years and during her return a shipwreck in Aden kept her from returning to Agra for several months. She finally returned in 1582, seven years after she had set forth on her journey.
Akbar had provided for safe passage of his aunt on her Hajj and sent a noble as escort with several ladies in attendance. Lavish gifts were packed with her entourage that could be used as alms.
Her arrival in Mecca caused quite a stir and people from as far as Syria and Asia Minor swarmed to Mecca to get a share of the bounty.
If Gulbadan Begum had written about the death of Humayun, when he tumbled down the steps in Purana Qila in Delhi, it has been lost. The manuscript seems to end abruptly in the year 1552, four years before the death of Humayun. It ends in mid-sentence, describing the blinding of Prince Kamran. As we know that Gulbadan Begum had received the directive to write the story of Humayun’s rule by Jalaluddin Akbar, long after the death of Humayun, it is reasonable to believe that the only available manuscript is an incomplete version of her writing. It is also believed that Akbar asked his aunt to write down from her memory so that Abul Fazl could use the information in his own writings about the emperor Akbar.
Old age and death
When she was 70, her name is mentioned with that of Muhammad-yar, a son of her daughter, who left the court; again, she and Salima join in intercession to Akbar for Prince Salim; again, with Hamida, she receives royal gifts of money and jewels.
Her charities were large, and it is said of her that she added day unto day in the endeavor to please God, and this by succoring the poor and needy.
When she was 80, in February, 1603, her departure was heralded by a few days of fever.
Hamida was with her to the end, and it may be that Ruqaiya, Hindal’s daughter, also watched her last hours. As she lay with closed eyes, the Empress Hamida Banu Begum spoke to her by the long-used name of affection, “Jiu!” (live or May you Live). There was no response. Then, “Gul-badan!” – The dying woman opened her eyes, quoted the verse, “I die—may you live!” and died.
Akbar helped to carry her bier some distance, and for her soul’s repose made lavish gifts and did good works. He will have joined in the silent prayer for her soul before committal of her body to the earth, and if no son were there, he, as a near kinsman, may have answered the Imam’s injunction to resignation: “It is the will of God.”
It is said that for the two years after her death, Akbar lamented constantly that he missed his favorite aunt, until his own death in 1605.
Gulbadan was also said to have been a poet, fluent in both Persian and Turkish. None of her poems have survived. However there are references to two verses and a qaseeda written by her by the Emperor Bhadur Shah Zafar in his collection of verses as well as some references by Mir Taqi Mir . It is unfortunate that a large collection of imperial Mughal archival material which had found its way to Lucknow was destroyed by the Firangis [Britishers] in order to impose and lend substase to tho myth of centuries of foreign rule over Hindustan instead of the ninety years which was actually endured.
For much of history the manuscript of Gulbadan Begum remained in obscurity. There is little mention of it in contemporary literature of other Mughal writers, especially the authors who chronicled Akbar’s rule. Yet, the little known account of Gulbadan Begum is an important document for historians, with its window into a woman’s perspective from inside the Mughal harem.
Pilgrimage to Hajj is a big deal because from what we have heard is that none of the Mughal emperors, yes, not even Aurangzeb Alamgir [rh] has been to Hajj. – The.Ijtema®.
Read more about the pious princess: Here
R. I. P. my dear lady, may the true Almighty, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala grant you Jannat ul Firdaus and complete and lasting ease in the hereafter. Ameen.
Wa alai kum as salaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakath.