Unending story of Prince Mukarram Jah; could he have been the Caliph of Muslim world?

Hyderabad: Like the famous Thousand and One Night (Alf Laila wa Laila) unending episodes, stories from the enigmatic treasure trough of Prince Mukarram Jah keep tumbling out.

One is more intriguing than the previous one.

Alexander Azam Jah, the son of his second wife, Australian Helen, was conspicuous by his absence during his funeral.

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He has not shown up in Hyderabad since.

A ceremony was held in Khilwat Palace (also known as Chowmohalla Palace) where perhaps only one of the oldest loyalists of the Nizam family, Kumari Indira Devi Dharaj Girji was seen honouring the Ninth Nizam Azmat Jah on his coronation.

A few days after the ceremony, the traditional family acrimony came out in public.  One of the late Mukarram Jah’s cousins said the family members would not give up on the cases that had been filed in the courts of law against the Eighth Nizam. “We will continue the fight against the injustice done to us,” he said firmly.

Still, a few days later, one of the members of the House of Asaf Jah, prompted by a section of Sahebzada’s, Raunaq Yar Khan, declared himself the Ninth Nizam. He now claims that he has some documents to back his “rightful” place.

Mukarram Jah married Jameela Boularous of Morocco in 1992 and divorced her within a year or two.  The reasons for this short-lived association are shrouded in stories that cannot be confirmed. However, the couple had a daughter Zairin Unnisa Begum known in short as Zairin. She was born in 1994.

Intriguingly, John Zubrzycki, the Australian who wrote the book The last Nizam, chronicling the life of Prince Mukarram Jah does not acknowledge Jameela as his wife and does not mention Zairin as his daughter.  Zubrzycki on the other hand gives the names of four women as the wives of the Prince. Says he, “Jah leaves behind four children – Azmet his eldest son and a daughter Shekhyar by his first wife Ezra; Azam his son by his second wife, Helen; and Nilofer by his fourth wife Manolya Onur…” He skips the mention of the third one, who over she was.

The story of Zairin becomes more intriguing because she and her mother were not there during the funeral of the Prince who was a little less than 90 years when he passed away in Istanbul, Turkey. His body was brought to Hyderabad and given a gun salute by the government of Telangana State before he was laid to rest at the Asaf Jahi graveyard located within the premises of the historical Makkah Masjid.  

A few days ago Zairin and her mother arrived in Hyderabad and besides attending numerous functions, held an exhibition of paintings and photographs mainly of Sultan Abdul Majid and the Prince. There were two paintings that caught my attention.

One was a letter purportedly written by the Sultan and the other by the last Nizam Osman Ali Khan. 

Syed Ahmad Khan, the editor of Rahnum-e-Deccan an Urdu daily published from Hyderabad, says that he found the letters of Sultan Abdul Majeed and that of Osman Ali Khan in the archives of his newspaper as late as 2021. 

The first letter purportedly written by the Sultan declared Osman Ali Khan as an interim Caliph in his place. The letter was addressed to Osman Ali Khan. It has a date on it. It also has the names of several other people.

The second letter is written by Osman Ali Khan and addressed to one Col. Syed Mohammad Amir Uddin Khan wherein he tells him how the Caliph has handed him over the caliphate.  He also asks him to deliver the letter to the ‘rightful’ successor of Imam Mahdi, whom a section of the Muslims believed would arrive in the last days of this world.  

These intriguing letters have brought the entire visit of Zairin and her mother into the circle of more doubts.   

Syed Ahmad Khan, says that he discovered the letters some two years ago.  He does not explain why he did not disclose their existence to the family of Mukarram Jah or the Hyderabad public. He did not even bring them to the notice of Prince Muffakham Jah, the younger brother of Mukarram Jah who frequently visits Hyderabad. He could have made them public and allowed some experts to scrutinize the documents.

A Hyderabad-based historian who does not wish to be identified said, “The second document has no date. If there was a gap of some years between these letters how is the paper and the ink appear to be the same as if both were written at the same time.”

I have my doubts too.  Why is the existence of these letters not known to anyone of some consequence in Hyderabad or anywhere else? For instance, the immediate family members of Mukarram Jah or those who were close to him for decades had no clue about them. My second doubt is this. When Osman Ali Khan had declared that the son born to Azam Jah and Durrushehvar will be entitled to Caliphate why he did not accept the offer given by Abdul Majeed?

I, as a long-standing journalist who is interested in the history, culture, and politics of Hyderabad, demand that a judicious inquiry be held over the authenticity of these letters and that the public be made aware of the results of any such investigation.

I leave the claims of Zairin and her mother to the family and legitimate heir of the late Prince. Intriguingly, no family member of the late Mukarram Jah worth the name has responded to the sudden appearance of Zairin on the Royal horizon of the former Hyderabad State. 

Mir Ayoob Ali Khan is a seasoned journalist based in Hyderabad

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