Few biographies of the unique Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh have achieved the popularity that Fakir Waheeduddin’s The Real Maharaja Ranjit Singh has done. Since its initial publication in 1965, the book has been reprinted a number of times but never with the authenticity that this present volume offers.
In many ways, it can be regarded as a companion to Khushwant Singh’s biography – with one essential difference: Khushwant Singh’s book was the equivalent of an ‘official’ memoir, whereas Fakir Waheeduddin’s is more in the nature of more intimate collage of family recollections woven into a historical narrative.
Fakir Waheeduddin felt qualified to undertake such a venture because members of his Fakir family had never forgotten the debt they, their ancestors and descendants owed to the largesse of their Sikh patron. He could easily have kept the three Muslim courtiers – Azizuddin, Imamuddin and Nuruddin – at a distance. Yet he chose to entrust them with positions that demanded probity, loyalty and integrity. That they were able to serve the Sikh darbar even after the maharaja’s death in 1839 says volumes to their devotion and to the maharaja’s sagacity in choosing them.
The Real Maharaja Ranjit Singh is offered to the public in a revised edition, embellished by vignettes taken from 19th century engravings, contemporary to the years of the Sikh kingdom of Lahore. It is an invaluable source indispensable to the study of Punjab’s history, seen through the eyes of a later but genuine admirer.
About the Author
Fakir Syed Aijazuddin (b. 1942) is the youngest son of Fakir Waheeduddin. Educated in the United Kingdom, he qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1965. Since then, he has had a distinguished professional career in the private and public sector in Pakistan and abroad. Like his father, he has maintained a parallel pursuit as an author. His reputation as an art-historian received its first impetus with his catalogue raisonné of Pahari paintings and Sikh portraits in the Lahore Museum (1977). This was followed by Sikh Portraits by European Artists (1979), a study of the 19th century paintings in the Princess Bamba collection, Lahore Fort. His most recent work on this period of Punjab history is The Resourceful Fakirs: Three Muslim Brothers at the Sikh Court of Lahore (2014). It has been reprinted recently in India. Aijazuddin has three children and lives in Lahore with his author wife Shahnaz.
Fakir Syed Waheeduddin was a lineal descendant of Fakir Nuruddin, one of the senior courtiers at the durbar of the Sikh maharaja Ranjit Singh. Waheeduddin had a successful career as a business entrepreneur, post which he turned to writing in Urdu and English. His first book in Urdu, Rozgar-e-Faqir, was a memoir of Allama Iqbal, a friend of the family. It contained an introduction by Faiz Ahmed Faiz. It achieved considerable acclaim, as did his subsequent books, Mohsin-e-Azam e Mohsineen (translated as The Benefactor) and the previous volume of The Real Ranjit Singh, published in 1965. Drawing upon historical sources spiced with anecdotes, derived from oral tradition within the Fakir family, Waheeduddin has drawn an intimate, affectionate portrait of a remarkable ruler who gave Punjab nationhood. Over the years, this memoir has not lost its popularity. Fakir Waheeduddin died in July 1968 at the age of sixty-four.