Organized Panel Session
In this paper, I will discuss “religious identity” in the political correspondence of Ṭipū Sultān in order to nuance our understanding of his reign and his kingdom as defined through Islam. Particularly, I will examine his construction of religious fidelity and infidelity as it relates to a variety of political and military allies and enemies. For Ṭipū Sultān, the status of other political entities as “believers” or as “infidels” was not constituted through communal identity (i.e. religious tradition) but in their willingness to ally themselves with him and his kingdom. Using the rhetoric of fidelity and infidelity in a series of letters written to French and Ottoman representatives, I will argue that Ṭipū Sultān and his court saw kingship as an office of divine election that was affirmed through martial success and his sovereignty as a fulfillment of divine injunction. By choosing to ally with him and his kingdom, other political bodies could prove their divine election also. Those that did not where labeled as infidels. By considering this unique construction of politico-religious identity, we can see the flexibility and fuzzy boundaries of religious belonging and not-belonging in early modern South Indian political rhetoric.