Shihabuddin Muhammad Shah Jahan Badshah Gazi was the fifth Mughal ruler. He ruled from 1628 C.E. to 1658 C.E. The reign of Shah Jahan is considered by the historians as the most glorious period of the Mughal rule in India. Shah jahan was a great admirer of artistic excellence. The world famous monument Taj Mahal was a creation of this emperor. But at the same time he was a devout Muslim. So, he was against any form of idolatry. Thus, in his we see a great amount of artistic work without depicting any living being which was prevalent in the coins issued by his father and predecessor Jahangir.
After his coronation as the Mughal Badshah, Shah Jahan immediately banned the Zodiac coins issued by Jahangir. The Zodiac coin carried figures of humans as well as animals which was considered by Shah Jahan as un-Islamic. He also announced death penalty for those found using these coins. All the Zodiac coins were brought from the market and melted. After this, Shah Jahan issued new coins in his name. In course of time, the Zodiac coins issued by Jahangir became one of the rarest coins of India and a much valued possession of the modern numismatists in India.
The new coins issued by Shah Jahan were no less elegant. Coins were issued in gold, silver and copper as well. They were in various shapes such as round, square, and octagonal. Kalima or Islamic religious messages were introduced in the inscriptions of the coins in accordance with the orthodox Islamic belief of the emperor. The Kalimas were inscribed on the obverse. The name of the issuing mint was also inscribed on the obverse. Some famous places where Mughal mints were situated were Agra, Thatta, Surat, etc. The reverse carried the name and the full title of the emperor. The coins were marked with the Hijri date on the obverse which was prevalent among the Islamic dynasties. Apart from the regular coins of gold, silver and copper; Shah Jahan issued special silver coins called Nisar to present them to his favorites and notables. The Nisar can be regarded more as a medallion than a proper coin but it was designed and regarded as a coin.
As idolatry was prohibited according to the religion, the emperor took the refuge of calligraphy to design his coins. The religious messages, the name and title of the emperor- all were inscribed on the small space of the coin in a very beautiful manner and with great precision. The excellence of Persian calligraphy mesmerized the audiences till date.
However, the end of Shah Jahan’s reign was not a happy one. After Shah Jahan fell ill, his four sons engaged in a fratricidal civil war for the throne. Aurangzeb Alamgir emerged victorious in this struggle. He promptly imprisoned his father and declared himself the new emperor. He also started issuing coins in his name as the mark of a sovereign emperor. Aurangzeb was a more orthodox Muslim than his father. The Islamic orthodoxy of Aurangzeb is a different story need not to be narrated here in detail. What is important for us is the story of his redesigning of the Mughal coins according to a more orthodox Islamic fashion. He removed the Kalima from his coins. He feared that whenever such a coin bearing the kalmia fell in the hand of a non-Muslim or Kafir it became polluted which is not desirable in Islam. Apart from this, his coins were more or less the of his father’s.