A brief look at ‘The Last Mughal’ Yakub Tucy’s DNA claim

By Misbahuddin Mirza for TwoCircles.net

Yakub Habeebuddin Tucy’s claim to be a descendant of Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, and then subsequently using this self-proclamation to attempt to barge into the highly-sensitive Babri Masjid issue has been met with deep scepticism by the Indian Muslim community; with some even questioning his motives. Tucy is basing his lineage claim on two things. First, that he is a descendant of an offspring of Bahadur Shah Zafar who reportedly managed to escape the British’s cold-blooded mass slaughter. Second, that his DNA report confirms that his haplogroup ( a genetic population group of people who share a common ancestor on the patriline or the matriline) matches that of King Taimur and Mughal’s Haplogroup of “R-M198 (R1A1).”

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There are several people in several cities of India who claim to be descendants of Bahadur Shah Zafar – these claims are usually met with cynicism; this article does not get into this multitude of claims, as these are best left for historians to sort out.

DNA analysis is also a highly-specialised field best left to geneticists. Yet, even for a layperson, the DNA analysis information provided on Tucy’s Facebook page raises more questions than it answers. Tucy’s Facebook page states “Further he has the DNA certificate which was conducted by German and Russian scientist [sic] and sent to Berlin Y-SEQ lab in Germany. It is confirmed that his Haplogroup and King Taimur and Mughals Haplogroup are R-M198 (R1A1) (copy enclosed).” (Sic).

It is true that the Mongols’ Haplogroup is R-M198 (R1A1). The R1A1 haplogroup is now called as the R1A1a haplogroup. However, a quick search on any search engine will show that this haplogroup result shows up with various ethnicities throughout the world. For instance, jewishgenealogyjourney.blogspot.com tells of a Jewish man whose initial DNA results also identified him as an R-M198 (R1A1a).  Does this mean that this Jewish man is also related to King Taimur and Mughals and that he should also now make claims like those being made by Tucy?

The type of DNA test taken by Tucy is called Y-chromosomal-DNA testing, which only men can take to trace his father’s side and so on. However, according to Tucy’s Facebook posting, his father was not a Mughal, and that he is claiming Mughal lineage from his mother’s side (Zartaj Begum), which cannot be done using this DNA test method. For him to test through his maternal (and paternal) side/s, he must do a different type of DNA test called mtDNA, which involves an entire set of complexities involving the whole genome.  If this was not enough to gum up the works, his mother’s dad (i.e. maternal grandfather) was not a Mughal either. Tucy is also making his mother claim her Mughal lineage from her mother (Laila Umahani) as well! Mughal Emperor Jahangir’s coins are marked ‘Jahangir Shah son of Akbar Shah’. If Tucy’s logic of claiming Mughal lineage through maternal lineage was acceptable, these coins would instead have read ‘Jahangir Shah son of Mariam-uz-Zamani.’ Further, Jahangir would then have become the founder of the Kachwahas Dynasty – therefore, will Tucy now claim to be descendent of the Kachwahas dynasty?

According to Shari‘ah, a person should be attributed to his ancestral lineage through his father. Allah Ta‘āla mentions in the Qur’ān:

ادْعُوهُمْ لِآبائِهِمْ هُوَ أَقْسَطُ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ

Call them by [the names of] their fathers; it is more just in the sight of Allah. [Qur’an 33:5]

This verse was revealed when the foster son of Rasūllāh Sallallāhu ‘Alayhi Wa Sallam, Hadhrat Zaid bin Hārithah was being referred to as Zaid bin Muhammad. This practice was common amongst the Arabs as they treated their adopted children as their own; in lineage, inheritance, marriage, etc. However, when the above-mentioned verse was revealed, the Sahābah would call him Zaid bin Hārithah.

Now, this Y-chromosomal Haplogroup R1a1a is quite widespread covering central Europe, Eastern Europe, central Asia, and India. Smaller populations can also be found in Scandinavia, Great Britain and southern Europe. This haplogroup is very controversial with opposing views on its origin(s); this is a subject of scientific debate. There are also subclades of this group, which stand in contrast to many in R1b.

According to Razib Khan’s blog in Discover magazine, “Since the discovery of R1a1-M458, this is the first scientific attempt to divide haplogroup R1a1-M198 into multiple SNP-based sub-haplogroups. We have genotyped 217 R1a1-M198 samples from seven different population groups at M458, as well as the Z280 and Z93 SNPs recently identified from the “1000 Genomes Project”.” And “The two additional binary markers present an effective tool because now more than 98% of the samples analyzed assign to one of the three sub-haplogroups. R1a1-M458 and R1a1-Z280 were typical for the Hungarian population groups, whereas R1a1-Z93 was typical for Malaysian Indians and the Hungarian Roma. Inner and Central Asia is an overlap zone for the R1a1-Z280 and R1a1-Z93 lineages.”

“The Indian origin of paternal haplogroup R1a1* substantiates the autochthonous origin of Brahmins and the caste system,” by Swarkar Sharma, et al., states in Journal of Human Genetics volume 54, pages 47-55 (2009)  “It has been argued in the literature that the Indian higher caste groups show relatively small genetic distances when compared with the West Eurasians, linking this to hypothetical migrations by Indo-Aryan speakers. Further, M17-R1a (presently designated as R1a1) was suggested as a potential marker with decreasing frequencies from Central Asia towards South India.”

The following is a partial table from Wikipedia, ignoring other areas of India and the world; with its source in the rightmost column:





R1a1 = SRY1532.2 positive, M17/M198 not tested (%)

R1a1* = SRY1532.2 positive, M17/M198 negative (%)

R1a1a = SRY1532.2 positive, M17/M198 positive (%)


South Asia


Dravidian Upper Caste





Sengupta et al. (2005)

South Asia


Dravidian Middle Caste





Sengupta et al. (2005)

South Asia


Dravidian Lower Caste





Sengupta et al. (2005)


In summary, the Mongols (called as Mughals in Farsi, and in Urdu) are low in R1a. But, so are the Tamils who constitute most of the Malaysian Indians. The Genographic test that Tucy appears to have taken (based on his Facebook post), only looks at a limited set of SNPs. Given that this particular test evaluates DNA on the father’s side, and given that according to his own admission his father is not a Mughal; with additional SNP testing, a geneticist could clear up whether Tucy’s DNA matches the Mongols’ DNA or the Tamil Indians’ DNA.

The author is a licensed Professional Engineer, registered in the States of New York and the author of the iBook Illustrated Muslim Travel Guide to Jerusalem. He has written for major US and Indian publications.