Prophet Muhammad, by giving divine legitimacy to polygamy and unbounded concubinage, not only degraded the status of women, but his prohibition of remarriage of his harem-inmates--likely fearing that it would divulge his sexual impotency to other men--also set on a legacy of many tragedies for Muslim women..

Bijapur, the famous capital of the medieval Adil Shah dynasty (1489 to 1686), is a small city in Souther Indian state of Karnataka, whose charm lies largely in the remarkable architectural legacy of those days. Amongst its numerous architectural monuments of the Islamic past is Satth Kabar (Sixty Graves) that bears the memory of a very tragic incident in history of Muslim women.

Afzal Slew his 63 Wives

Satth-Kabar sixty graves of Afzal khan's wivesAfzal Khan was the most powerful General or Sardar (Lord) in the court of the Bijapur Sultanate. He was responsible for many victories for Adil Shah Dynasty. In 1658, Sultan Ali Adil Shah II of Bijapur was preparing to launch a military campaign against Shivaji, the indefatigable Maratha ruler. Being constantly under pressure from Auranzeb on one side and Shivaji from the other, Adil Shah depended on his generals to stall the enemies, and counted General Afzal Khan among his most trusted warriors.

Though Afzal Khan was a brave man, he had but one weakness: auguries and omens. Prior to the campaign, Khan contacted astrologers who predicted doom—his death at the hands of Maratha soldiers. At that time, Afzal Khan had 63 wives in his harem. Fearing that his wives would remarry after his death, the anxious general chose to kill all of them. Some say they were pushed into a deep well, while others say that all the 63 unfortunate wives were slain by Afzal. The astrologers proved correct; for, Khan indeed die at the hands of Shivaji at Pratapgarh.

However, his wives lie buried just 5 km from Bijapur at a place now bears titular testimony to the uxoricide: Satth Kabar. Ironically, the tomb built by the general for himself, who wanted to be close to his wives in life and in death, stands adjacent to the one-acre burial ground surrounded by jowar fields. The site has now been declared to be of national importance under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958, and is under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Today, the tombstones are scarred by graffiti; people often come to the shady spot for rest.

“People need to hear the heartrending stories that cry out from these graves”, says the 65 year-old man who lives in a nearby house.

How Afzal Khan died?

Afzal Khan was aware that Shivaji was on Pratapgarh, and planned to lure him out into the open plateau of Deccan, where he could destroy his forces. Khan's strength was his giant force. At that time he took with him a force of 12,000 soldiers, many cannons, and troops mounted on elephants, horses, and camels etc. Which was more than enough to crush the force of Shivaji's newly established 'Swarajya' (Self-rule). Shivaji's men were very few in numbers and Afzal Khan was aware of this fact too. That's why he tried to bring Shivaji out in the open plains, where they could be destroyed quickly in an open battle.

In contrast, Shivaji's men were masters of what is known as 'guerilla war', where one surprises the enemy with a sudden attack causing heavy casualties and retreat quickly. So Shivaji tried his best to avoid a direct confrontation in an open field.

To compell Shivaji to come down to the plains, Afzal Khan started demolishing the temples, the prestigious temple of Bhavani Mata. His idea was that Shivaji, a pious Hindu, would not tolerate such insult of his gods and goddesses; and immediately, he would come down to fight in an open battle. But Shivaji did not bite the bait.

Failing to lure Shivaji out into the plains, Afzal agreed to meet him at Pratapgarh, a fort near the town of Satara, a location which was strategically advantageous for Shivaji's infantry. For the meeting, a large tent was set up at the foothills of Pratapgarh. It was agreed that the meeting would be unarmed: each side was to bring ten personal bodyguards, who would stand one arrow-shot distance away.

Both parties were, however, prepared for treachery: Afzal hid a kataar, a small and sharp dagger, in his coat. Shivaji wore armour under his clothes, and carried a weapon called bagh nakh ("tiger claws"), consisting of an iron finger-grip with four razor claws, which he concealed within his clenched fist.

As the two men entered the tent for meeting, Khan pretended to greet Shivaji with a hug, and stabbed Shivaji in the back with his hidden kataar. However Shivaji, due to the armour under his coat, was saved and opened his fist and disemboweled Khan with his bagh nakh. Afzal managed to hold his gushing entrails and hurtled outside, faint and bleeding, and threw himself into his palanquin. But Khan was decapitated by one of Shivaji's bodyguards shortly down the slope.

Sambhaji Kawaji and Jiva Mahala, two of Shivaji's bodyguards, were instrumental in protecting their king from Afzal's bodyguards.

According to another version, on reaching the tent, Shivaji requested Afzal Khan to send his bodyguard Sayyad out of the place. As per the agreement, no one was to be present when Shivaji and Afzal Khan met. When Shivaji penetrated the tiger claws into Afzal Khan's abdomen, injuring him fatally, Sayyad Khan entered the tent, running to his mater's rescue. Just when Sayyad Khan was about to kill Shivaji, Jiva Mahal, a body guard of Shivaji, slashed Sayyad Khan, saving the life of his master.

Shivaji sped towards the fortress as his lieutenants ordered a bugle to be sounded. It was a pre-determined signal to his infantry, which had been strategically placed in the densely covered valley. All of Shivaji's generals, including his Army Chief, Netaji Palkar, launched a surprise attack and routed Afzal Khan's army. Afzal Khan's son managed to escape with help from Maratha generals including Khandaji Khopade, another of many blunders committed by the Hindus against their struggle against Muslim invaders.

The severed head of Khan was sent to Rajgarh to be shown to Jijabai, Shivaji's mother. She wanted vengeance for the murder of Shahaji, Shivaji's father, in the captivity of Afzal Khan, and also for the death of her elder son, Sambhaji, also killed by Afzal Khan.

Ottoman Sultan Ibrahim Drowned his 280 Wives

Ibrahim I was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1640 to 1648. He was the son of Sultan Ahmed I, and was unofficially called “Ibrahim the Mad” (Turkish: Deli İbrahim), due to his unstable mental condition. However, Ibrahim was one of the most famous Ottoman Sultans, succeeded his brother Murad IV in 1640. Murad had ordered his three other brothers executed. Ibrahim I was allowed to live because he was too mad to be a threat.

Ibrahim is known to have had an obsession with obese women, urging his agents to find the fattest woman possible. A candidate, weighing around 330 pounds (137.4 Kg), was tracked down in Georgia or Armenia. She was given the pet-name Sheker Pare ("Sugar Cube"). Ibrahim was so pleased with her that he gave her a government pension and (allegedly) a governorship. At that time, Ibrahim had 280 wives and concubines in his harem. But when he heard a rumor that his concubines were compromised by another man, he decided to kill them en masse. Ultimately, all the 280 members of his harem were drowned in the Bosporus Sea.

Eventually, Ibrahim was deposed in a coup led by the Grand Mufti. There is an apocryphal story to the effect that the Grand Mufti acted in response to Ibrahim's drowning all 280 members of his harem. But there is other evidence to suggest that at least two of Ibrahim's concubines survived the mass murder. Ibrahim was ultimately strangled to death in Istanbul.

Idi Amin of Uganda

Idi Amin Dada Oumee, commonly known as Idi Amin, was a Ugandan military dictator and the president of Uganda from 1971 to 1979. Amin took power in a military coup in January 1971, deposing Milton Obote. His rule was characterized by human rights abuses, political repression, ethnic persecution, extrajudicial killings and the expulsion of Asians from Uganda. The number of people killed by him is unknown, but an estimate from international observers and human rights groups says that it ranged from 100,000 to 500,000. After the fall of his regime in 1979, Amin fled to Libya, and finally took political asylum in Saudi Arabia in 1981, where he died in 2003.

Idi Amin officially had 5 wives (many believe the actual number was much higher), one of which he had killed and dismembered to show her children what happens to someone, who disobeys him. He is also said to have over 34 concubines and many mistresses in his harem. Many believe that he was suffering from STDs, syphilis being one of them. He also had over 20 some children.

More importantly, Idi Amin used to refresh his harem regularly by executing the old and condemned wives for inducting new and younger ones. Many of us might have seen the heartrending reports in news papers in 1970s, how the security guards led the wailing victims to the place of execution through thousands of onlookers. But the government of Saudi Arabia, by providing asylum to such a cruel killer, has made the world understand that, Idi Amin had not committed any serious crime or insulted Islam by killing his wives. At that time, some journalists reported that Idi Amin was even a cannibal, who used to taste the flesh of his executed wives.


From the above discussions it becomes evident that the status of women in Muslim world is worse than domestic animals. In Arabia, during the Prophet’s times, an Arab could confine his wife in a room and kill her slowly by refusing food and water to her. Even the authors of the Arab Human Development Report 2002, have categorically mentioned that women are not considered as full citizens in the Islamic world, and that this oppression of the women is one of the major reasons for the Muslim world’s backwardness.

There is another point to be mentioned in this context. It has been said above that, Afzal Khan killed his 63 wives as he was afraid that, after his death, other people would marry his wives. There is no doubt that Prophet Muhammad was in the grip of a similar fear, because of which he forbade the remarriage of his harem-inmates after his death.

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