Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar, also known as Akbar the Great, was the third Mughal emperor who ruled from 1556 to 1605. He succeeded his father, Humayun, at an early age and was then taught by Bairam Khan, a viceroy who supported him in extending and centralising the Mughal empire in India. Akbar, the Mughal Emperor, rose to prominence as the monarch of large swaths of territory. He had exceptional mental and emotional abilities. He was courageous and energetic, and he had outstanding military abilities. Akbar is regarded as one of the most influential Mughal rulers, having extended the empire to include much of the Indian subcontinent. He instituted a centralised administrative structure and pursued a policy of conciliation with defeated rulers by marriage and diplomacy. To keep peace and order in his kingdom, he developed rules and policies that earned him the love of his non-Muslim subjects, resulting in him becoming extremely famous among the people. He was a patron of the arts and literature, and he had a huge library of over 24,000 books written in Urdu, Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Arabic, Kashmiri, and other languages. Emperors before Akbar, such as Babur and Humayun, were much more concerned with military conquests and kingdom expansion than with religious issues. Akbar was someone who was most interested in religious policies, art, and literature, and he introduced numerous reforms in these fields.
Keywords: Empire, Akbar, Mughal, literature, military, religious, reforms, monarch.
WHAT WAS MUGHAL EMPIRE?
After Ibrahim Lodi’s failure at the first battle of Panipat in 1526, the Mughal Empire was formed. Akbar succeeded his father, Humayun, as Emperor of India, with the aid of a viceroy, Bairam Khan, who supported him in centralising and governing the empire while he was still young. Between 1556 to 1605, Akbar governed over much of the Indian sub – continent, steadily expanding his empire. The Mughal empire quadrupled in value and assets during his reign. He is known as one of the Mughal empire’s most influential rulers. Akbar was a patron of the arts and music, as well as a reader. He laid the groundwork for a secular empire, and the empire expanded to its full potential throughout his rule.
Both Babur and Humayun spent their reigns in wars and didn’t devote enough time to administration and religious policies, so it was during Akbar’s reign that Mughal religious policies were formulated. Akbar founded “Din-i-Ilahi,” which supported the doctrine of “divine religion,” which was subsequently crammed downward throughout Aurangzeb’s reign. Both Babur and Humayun spent their reigns in wars and didn’t devote enough time to administration and religious policies, so it was during Akbar’s reign that mughal religious policies were formulated. Akbar founded “Din-i-Ilahi,” which supported the doctrine of “divine religion,” which was subsequently crammed downward throughout Aurangzeb’s reign. In order to do this, in 1582 CE, Akbar established a new religion known as “Din-i-Ilahi,” which incorporated elements from all religions. His plan was to unite Islam and Hinduism, as well as elements of Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and Jainism, into a single religion. In 1575, he also established the Ibadat Khana, or “House of Worship,” an academy where members from all faiths could gather to debate theology. After participating in many such discussions, Akbar came to the realisation that no one religion could encompass the entirety of reality, and he desired to unite all religions.
Thus, Akbar pursued a policy of tolerance and acceptance, as a result of which the empire grew stronger throughout his rule, social changes occurred, and cultural harmony emerged. As a result, Akbar was the first and biggest interrogator in the area of religious freedom in the modern period. His attempts to foster peace among Hindus and Muslims have been highly lauded throughout history. One of the many factors for his status as the strongest and greatest ruler in the Mughal Empire is his rule of religious tolerance.
AKBAR’S RELEGIOUS POLICY
Akbar pursued a policy of religious tolerance and is remembered as the ruler who brought patients from different walks of life together and kept all faiths in high esteem. He wanted to bridge that gap amongst hindus and muslims, so he created “din-i-ilahi,” a completely new religion that combined elements from both religions. Some of the reasons for Akbar’s popularity as a “secular ruler” include:
- His instructor Abdul Latif’s thoughts, and also Sufi economic ideology, inspired Akbar greatly. He became accepting of Hinduism and other cultures and religion as a consequence of his union to Hindu princesses.
- He treated all of his subject’s topics fairly without any prejudice, and he also gave hindus higher-ranking positions.
- He repealed the “jizya,” a levy imposed on non-Muslims.
- Each and every subject in his kingdom was granted the right to choose the religious belief of their own choice during his rule. He also put an end to the tradition of forcing non-Muslims to convert to Islam.
- He created a new religion named “din-i-ilahi,” which combined elements from all religions.
- The Ibadat Khana, built by Akbar in Fatehpur Sikri in 1575, was a meeting place where people of various faiths were invited and welcomed.
- Akbar also founded “Sulh-i-kul” as the emperor’s stated doctrine. This policy advocated fair justice for all subjects and prohibited religious discrimination.
Following his effective imperial build-up and conclusive wins, Akbar became heavily engaged in scholarly pursuits and wanted to learn about different religions’ religions and beliefs. Mughal Emperor Akbar constructed the Ibadat Khana (House of Worship) at Fatehpur Sikri in 1575 CE. These were allegedly designed as a gathering spot for religious authorities from different faiths to convene. Akbar was quite keen to learn about the beliefs of other ideologies, so he hosted religious leaders from various religions, including Hinduism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, or even atheism, to give him a better understanding of them. These religious leaders argued with Akbar about religion and concluded that all traditions contribute to the same end. As a result, Akbar reached the conclusion that each and every religion shared similar characteristics and that they really led to the same destination. As a result, even by late 1580s, Akbar had established a new ideology known as Din-i-Ilahi, which combined elements of Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, and Zoroastrianism.
Din-i-ilahi, or Spiritual Belief, was a national religion established by Akbar in 1582 with both the aim of combining some of the elements of his empire’s religions and, as a result, reconciling the discrepancies that had caused tension among his people. Islam, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Jainism, and Buddhism were all incorporated into this religion. Din-i-illahi means “God’s Faith” or “Religion of God.” Akbar advocated spiritual equality for people of various religions and facilitated religious and philosophical debates. In 1575, he founded Ibadat Khana at Fatehpur Sikri, inviting writers, philosophers, thinkers, and scholars from all traditions, including Hindus, Christians, Jains, and Zoroastrians. Given his extreme dyslexia, Akbar amassed a collection of over 24,000 books of Hindi, Persian, Greek, Latin, Arabic, and Kashmiri books. Akbar developed insights into different faith traditions as a result of the discussions held at Ibadat Khana, and concluded that no one religion could assert the authority of reality. In 1582, he produced the Din-i-Ilahi as a result of these revelations. Even so, many devout Muslims, such as Bengal’s Qadi Subah and Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi, condemned this interpretation of Din-i-Ilahi as heresy against Islam. Despite the fact that Sufism provided the spirit and core values of Din-i-Ilahi, Akbar developed a belief system based on cultures and customs from other traditions. The following are some of Din-i-most Ilahi’s significant traditions and beliefs:
- God’s Unity • Followers used to greet one another with Allah-u-Akbar
- Everybody was told to practise vegetarianism and abstain from consuming some form of meat.
- As well as every family member was supposed to attend one’s “on-birth-by-anniversary” gathering.
- This religion’s practitioners practised ahimsa (nonviolence), and they were forbidden to eat with butcher shops, hunters, or fishermen.
Birbal and Abul Fazl are two of Din—most Ilahi’s prominent followers. After Akbar, Shah Jahan’s son Ara Shikoh attempted to re-establish Din-i-Ilahi in the early 17th century, but he was assassinated by his brother Aurangzeb, effectively ending any possibility of the language’s revival.
Sulh-i-kul is an Arabic word derived from a Sufi mystical concept that means “harmony with all,” “absolute unity,” or “complete harmony.” It was coined by India’s third Mughal Emperor, Akbar (who ruled from 1556 to 1605), to characterise a prosperous and harmonious coexistence of various religions and tradition. Akbar promoted unity and harmony amongst the human beings – sulh-i kul – as part of his attempts to unite his empire’s larger communities. The definition of sulh-i-kul includes not only acceptance, but also the kinds of balance, decorum, reverence, and consensus that are needed to keep a diverse society in harmony. Sulh-i kul has been used in the Mughal court during Akbar’s reign and occasionally afterward. Scholars, art historians, and academics working in the fields of Mughal history and Indian Sufi movements, as well as other historians and peace activists, use the term today. Sulh-i kul was coined to define peaceful coexistence, especially in terms of interfaith equality and equal treatment for all people, regardless of religious views. Given the persistence of religious tensions in the face of cultural diversity, it seems fitting to revive this historic concept as a contemporary tool. The definition may also be used to discuss specific situations like handling a diverse workplace.
ABOLISHMENT OF JIZYA
Jizya is an annual tax imposed on non-muslim citizens as a charge for security given by Mughal empire to their non-Muslim citizens, immunity from army duty given only to non-Muslims, and authorization to exercise a non-muslim belief in a Muslim state ruled by a Muslim ruler. They were mostly imposed by leaders on citizens who practised religions such as Judaism and Christianity, Hindus. People would be killed or imprisoned if they did not pay their dues. In India, Qutb-ud-din Aibak introduced the jizya levy, that was first levied on his non-muslim citizens and assigned the title kharaj-o-jizya. It was eliminated in the 16th century by Akbar, who had a progressive mentality and claimed that citizens had the freedom to pursue and practice the religion of their choosing. Although the levels of jizya are not specified in the Quran, it is assumed which they differed according to the wealth of the citizens in each area and the capacity to afford taxes. With his progressive outlook, Akbar eliminated the tax, increasing his prominence even further. He claimed that all faiths, religions, customs and traditions had such commonalities and that no one should be forced to practise a particular religious doctrine. During Aurangzeb’s rule, he imposed this tax once more.
The following factors contributed to Akbar’s tolerance of Hindus and other non-Muslim subjects:
- Hindu mother and tutors have a liberal impact:
The progressive beliefs of Akbar’s mother Hamlda Banu, his viceroy Bairam Khan, and his teacher Abdul Latif inspired him greatly. Their ideas and thought affected him profoundly, and he became more open-minded as a result.
- Normal open-mindedness:
Akbar was a naturally open-minded person. He trusted in the dignity of all religions, traditions, beliefs and abolished the practise of forcing people to convert to Islam.
- A pragmatic perspective:
Akbar took an expansionist stance. He claimed that he might not construct a comprehensive evaluation without the support and contribution of the Hindus, who constituted the large bulk of his empire, and he assumed that their help was needed to build a strong empire.
- Akbar’s willingness to act on his own:
Akbar desired to be free of his Muslim ritual purity class’s doctrine. He was very interested in learning about these other religious beliefs, which is why he established the Ibadat Khana, where he assembled religious figures of various faiths to further his understanding.
- His interaction with Rajputs and the power of Hindu wives:
Akbar’s Hindu wives have affected his worldview, making him more secular and progressive and tolerant. The same can be said of his experiences with Rajputs, which inspired him to become more liberal.
- Desire to learn the facts and try new things:
According to some accounts, Akbar would often sit idle on a large flat stone and contemplate the complexities of God and faith. He was enthralled by learning about different religious values and traditions. Akbar dabbled in a variety of subjects, from religion to materials science.
- Scholarly influence:
Three major thinkers and liberal leaning Sufis affected Akbar once more: Shaikh Mubarak and his sons Faizl and Abdul Faizl, all three of whom had a major effect on Akbar’s mentality and religious perspective.
- The bhakti movement’s influence:
There had been a strong sense of awakening in that period known as the Bhakti movement, which had a significant effect on Akbar’s attitude during Akbar’s rule. Religious tolerance and recognition of good points from other faiths were strongly stressed by these Bhakti saints and Sufi peers. These current ideals and ideas had a big impact on Akbar.
Even during 16th century, the Mughals dominated sections of the Indian sub – continent, whereas the Ottoman Empire governed much of South-eastern Europe, Western Asia, and Africa. These were established in north-western Anatolia by the military commander Osman only at 13th century. The Ottoman Emperor’s main religion was Islam, and the Sultan was granted the top point in Islam, the caliphate. Minority groups, mostly Christians and Jews, were ordered to contribute jizya, a taxes levied by a Muslim king on his non-Muslim subjects in exchange for immunity and exclusion from army duty. Nevertheless, it’s been mentioned that perhaps the Ottomans were tolerant of non-Muslims and welcomed them into their kingdom. As stipulated in the Shariah, the ruler ensured that their non-Muslim citizens were covered, granted freedom of religion, and were also exempt from indictment. Since the Ottomans were Muslims, they won’t force their non-Muslim people, especially Christians and Jews, to change their religion.
Just like Ottomans, Akbar of the Mughal empire later ruled as per conservative Islamic law, and as his ambitions grew, he gained a better understanding of other religions, their customs, and values, and eventually emerged as religiously tolerant. He did not compel his citizens to convert and encouraged them to follow whatever religion they wanted. He combined ideas from various faiths and religion to form Din-i-ilahi, a new religion that incorporated elements from all of them and urged his adherents to adhere to it. Akbar understood that in order to build a powerful empire, he needed to unite all of the world’s religions. He kept the sulh-i-kul ideology and practise in high regard.
Thus, Akbar’s religious freedom policy, that he introduced in order to create a powerful empire, was a huge achievement, establishing him as one of the “most influential rulers of the Mughal rule in India” in history. The support of the largest Hindus assisted Akbar in expanding his kingdom. In addition, it was recorded that Hindus and Muslims were stronger spiritually as a result of his liberal and progressive policies, which promoted a wider religious outlook. As a result of his spiritual policies and care of Hindus, he was able to cure bitterness and create an atmosphere of unity in which citizens of various religious traditions coexisted in harmony and gratitude. No one objected to Muslims and contributors being handled individually.
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