Humans have an inherent desire to live in clans and factions to protect their interests and well-being. History has seen many groups, segments, and classes formed over time based on religion, economy, and sociology. Sufism also propagated the concept of brotherhood, forming a sector “Taifa” which makes followers of a particular doctrine united but the way Khwaja Ahrar tweaked and strengthened the idea through “Himayat System” is something truly worth mentioning and trendsetting.
Usually, all Sufi orders had a predefined ritual of nominating and approving one religious leader to acquire common loyalty and interests, Naqshbandi order was reformed by Khwaja Ahrar, who took initiative to protect the economic and social interests of his followers. He laid out the foundation of an innovative system under which he saved the people from heavy taxes and oppression by the rulers of those times. The perks that came with “Himayat System” encouraged more people to believe in Naqshbandi silsila(chain).
Moreover, Khwaja Ahrar has the ability to sway opinions because of his rationality, charisma, and wisdom.
For instance, there was a follower of another doctrine who was afraid that he might be haunted and hurt by the dead leader of his previous order but Khwaja Ahrar assured him that he will be safe from all kinds of alien apprehensions and troubles. (Excerpt from Forming a Faction: The Himayat System of Khwaja Ahrar by Jurgen Paul)
Kind of Taxes during Fourteenth and Fifteenth Century
While we are looking into the leverages that Naqshbandi followers received through Himayat system. It is essential to understand that what inspired Khwaja Ahrar to introduce such a system, he was already influential and commended by various segments of the society, so it obviously wasn’t for his vested interests.
Moreover, under Himayat System not only the population of Tashkent but peasants living in suburbs in fact across the country got protection from repression and unjust taxation.
Kharaj (land tax) was quite common these days, in this form particular land produce is taken from the landowners as state tax. Khwaja Ahrar, being the leader of the system paid hefty Kharaj. He had numerous lands, many of them were acquired from landowners who weren’t very financially sound, by paying off a lion’s share of agricultural tax, Khwaja Ahrar saved his people from taxes that would result in getting them deprived of their major land produce.
The second kind of tax that was quite popularly collected by Sultan Ahmed and other rulers of those times was Tamgha. The market tax was collected in cash form, Khwaja Ahrar pushed the rulers for abolishing this tax and had an agreement; he paid it from his own pocket so that the people aren’t burdened by it.
Though many people criticized Khawja Ahrar for getting the tax systems modified because of his agricultural lands and manufacturing business, the fact can’t be denied that it benefited common people widely and he had the means to pay taxes so it was for the betterment of population at large.
Dayazdah was yet another kind of tax under which ten percent in cash was received in addition to the regular taxes by the government. Khwaja Ahrar paid a huge amount to Sultan Ahmed so that this tax isn’t imposed.
Dayazdah is said to be not practiced until Khwaja Ahrar passed away. When Sultan Mehmud came into power he introduced new taxes and trade laws so Khwaja Aharar’s family and followers were quite mistreated by him, he asked them to pay 500,000 dinars. Sultan Mehmud fell fatally ill and died suddenly which many history writers attribute to Khwaja Ahrar’s spiritual command.
More to Himayat System
Himayat system was utilized more than economic organization and prosperity of the Naqshbandi followers.
In another instance, Khwaja Ahrar gave thousands of garments to the loved ones of the abducted population so that they can arrange for their ransom from the pirates.
Khwaja Ahrar redefined what loyalty should be in a sect through Himayat System. The series of incidents quoted above prove that a leader should hold inclusive responsibility of his clan; he used his wealth and power to safeguard the economic rights of his followers, providing them a peaceful and contented life along with helping those in distress.
During wars and difficult times, Khwaja Ahrar extended his support and efforts to ensure that minimal damage happened to the life and property of his people. He made certain that the population wasn’t enslaved during a riot.
It was through Khwaja Ahrar’s astute and persistent efforts that peasants and trade owners enjoyed fiscal privileges. He didn’t limit the fruits of his efforts to his own family rather he empowered his followers and the population across Tashkent and Samarkand.
With the admittance of countless followers in his protection, his influence became unprecedented. He was revered by the rulers of other lands, he could communicate with them and meet them as he pleased, this made Naqshbandi a widely acclaimed doctrine.
Despite all the power and influence he enjoyed, he used it for strengthening Islamic and Shariah laws. He wasn’t happy by the laws and taxes that Mongols and Turks devised and then became a part of the political system of those times.
He stood adamant to bring in better reforms. His enemies always feared him because of his spiritual powers. This was the reason the rulers always wanted him on their side and this successfully established his authority.
Under Himayat system, the followers of Khwaja Ahrar enjoyed equality of rights, protection against sudden and unjust taxation and expanded their economic activities. He was indeed one of his kind, the Sufi leader who focused on bringing economic prosperity in his region as he knew it was the most effective way to uplift Muslims.
Himayat system made Naqshbandi the most significant Sufi doctrine as it addressed the contemporary problems of the people of those times. With the spiritual guidance and leadership of Khwaja Ahrar, many disciples joined the system and were supported and empowered by it.