I shall run away, if I can,
But I have the fetters of honour on my feet,
And the burden of the Emperor’s love on my
Saying this, the Shaikh drew his sword, and fell upon his numerous and well-armed foes, to die bravely.
Abu al-Fadl’s elder brother Faidi, who was also one of the Nau Ratan-nine jewels-of Akbar’s court, was a scholar and the poet laureate. His writings give some indication of the intensity of the conflict which tore the hearts and minds of the intellectuals of the age. Faidi was introduced at the court of Akbar in September 1567, when he was a young man of twenty. In his love poems, he covers the common ground of Oriental poetry with great vigour and freshness, but his favourite themes were two. One is his spiritual conflicts, and the other is exaltation and joy and the desire to create a brave new world-mirroring the hopes and ambitions of Akbar’s day. In one of his ghazals he writes:
”Glad tidings for the world, that a new day has
dawned! And one who rises earlier than the sun has been
born. The luckless ones of the night of separation woke
As an auspicious dawn beautified the world, You who want a glimpse of the sun of good
Open your eyes and see, a new sun has arisen. The wanderers of the p th of taqlid were
perplexed. Thank God, that a guide has appeard for this
caravan! Faidi! how long can there be the dismal gloom of
the night of separation?”
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Some of Faidi’s contemporaries accused him of heresy. It is, however, common to grant considerable license to poets, and not to take their imaginative poetry literally. Faidi was a restless intellectual. In his verses, he expressed dissatisfaction with orthodox Islam, but in his voluminous prose commentary on the Qur’an, written without a single dotted word, he has completely adhered to the orthodox point of view, and his Nal Daman contains an exquisite poem in praise of the founder of Islam.
Abu al-Fadl and Faidi had fundamental difference with the conservative ulema, and have been accused of heresy by Bada’uni and others. There is, however, much solid evidence to the contrary. Abu al-Fadl’s writings are extant and indeed formed a staple part of the curriculum of the Muslim educational institutions for centuries. They do not strike one as the work of a heretic. Faidi wrote a long commentary on the Holy Qur’an, in writing of which such a champion of orthodoxy as Hadrat Mujaddid Alf-i Thani collaborated. The Tafsir is completely free from any taint of heterodoxy, and contains a long passage on the importance of Prophethood and the praise of the Holy Prophet.
The accusations against the religious views of Abu al-Fadl and Faidi may be exaggerated or even untrue, but there is no doubt that they and their father were consummate flatterers and were, at last, partly answerable for the difficulties of Islam during Akbar’s reign. We have elsewhere commented on the ugly results of Akbar’s ambition to set himself up as the Jagat Guru. There is evidence to show that this idea was originally planted in his mind by Shaikh Mubarak, the father of Faidi and Abu al-Fadl. When on 3 June 1573, Akbar returned from his conquest of Gujarat to Fathpur Sikri, Shaikh Mubarak offered his congratulations in a speech of welcome. Therein he said, according to the Akbar Namah, ”that God hath bestowed upon us such a great boon and sublime blessing (i.e. Akbar) ... in order that by his (Akbar’s) wide capacity and good administration of the outer world, he may become the Primate
(Peshwd) of the spiritual kingdom, and it is for this purpose that such glorious victories have been unveild” Akbar evidently took the idea to heart as Abu al-Fadl records that the Emperor ”often called the weightly announcement to mind and referred to it with his holy lips”. According to Bada’uni, Shaikh Mubarak drafted the Declaration of 1579, which conferred certain powers on Akbar as Imam-i ’Adil and signed it with greatest satisfaction, but while giving the names of the signatories, Abu al-Fadl omits that of his father. Was this due to the fact that Abu al-Fadl did not approve of the use which was made of this documents? Shaikh Mubarak himself wrote Mamba’ al- ’Uyun, a Tafsir of the Holy Qur’an in four volumes, of which copies were sent to Iran and Turkistan. A copy of this Tafsir is preserved in Kitabkhanah-i Majlis at Tehran and, according to a scholar (Dr.Ja’fri) who has seen it, does not contain any objectionable material. Abu al-Fadl’s own real views may be judged by the fact that, according to the contemporary author of Iqbal Namah-i Jahangiri, Abu al Fadl’s enemies created a rift between him and the Emperor by conveying to the latter-through Prince Salim-the information that while Abu’al-Fadl claimed to be his disciple, at home he had engaged a number of Katibs to transcribe the Holy Qur’an. Other evidence, coming from even hostile sources (e.g.Bada’uni), shows that Abu al-Fadl and Faidi were largehearted patrons of all scholars. In spite of these factors, the forces which were let loose by their family became a great threat to Islam. They proved harmful, not only to the Muslim community, but to Akbar’s own interests, and have greatly impaired his reputation.
Fathullah Shirazi and the New Education. Abu al-Fadl and Faidi have achieved a high place in the literary annals of Muslim India, but neither of them could claim to be the greatest scholar or intellectual of the age. He was Amir Fathullah Shirazi about whose pre-eminence contemporaries, as far apart as Abu al-Fadl and Bada’uni, were unanimous. Bada’uni calls him ”the most learned of the learned men of his
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times” while Abu al-Fadl wrote: ”If the books of antiquity should be lost, the Amir will restore them.” Akbar was very fond of him. ”Next to Abu al-Fadl, Faidi, Birbal, the Amir was perhaps most loved by Akbar.”
Shah Fathullah was born in Shiraz which was witnessing a new revival of learning. His teachers included Amir Ghiyathud-din Mansur Shirazi, the well-known philosopher, and Jamal-ud-din Mahmud, a pupil of the celebrated Jalal-ud-din Dawwani.19 Hearing of Fathullah’s reputation as a sage and an intellectual, ’AH ’Adil Shah of Bijapur sent money to Iran and invited him to come and stay at his capital. After ’Ali ’Adil Shah’s death. Akbar invited him to Fathpur Sikrl. Amongst other assignments, he collaborated with Todar Mai in the evolution of Akbar’s revenue administration. After some time he became the chief Sadr of the realm. He was also responsible for some extraordinary mechanical inventions.
According to Bada’uni, he was ”thoroughly versed in all those sciences which demand exercise of the reasoning faculty, such as philosophy, astronomy, geometry, astrology, geomancy, arithmetic, preparation of talismans, incantations, and mechanics, and in this department of learning, he was such an adept that he was able to draw up an astronomical table as soon as Emperor demanded one from him. He was equally learned in Arabic studies, interpretation of the Qur’an and rhetoric and was the author of some excellent works”.20 Teaching was his favourite hobby. ”He became devoted to teaching the children of the Amirs, and every day he would go to the houses of the courtiers, and would act the elementary teacher, first of all the servant of Hakim Abdul Path, and at another time to the son of Shaikh Abul Fazl, and to other children of Amirs of seven or eight years of age, and taught them the alphabet.”21 Bada’uni who hated the Mir of his Shi’ah views criticizes him for his harshness as a teacher which discouraged prospective pupils. They, however, including Mulla ’Abd al-Salam of Lahore who devoted nearly sixty years to teaching and had number of distinguished pupils, included
I Ch 16
Mulla ’Abd al-Salam of Dewa who spread the system of education he had learned in the more congenial soil of Purb (eastern U.P. and Bihar).
Fathullah Shirazi completed Dawwani’s commentary on the important work of logic, Tahdhib d-Mantaq, and also wrote a Tafsir of the Holy Qur’an. His lasting contribution, however, was as an educationist. According to Mir Ghulam ’Ali Azad, ”he brought the works of the later scholars of Iran, like the philosopher Dawwani, Mir Sadr-ud-din, Mir Ghiyathud-din Mansur and Mirza Jan and introduced them in the syllabi. Large numbers benefited from association with him, and from that period the mental sciences (Ma ’qulat) achieved a new popularity.”22
This was the great change in the curricula which is noticeable from the days of Akbar. Some works of the later Iranian philosophers and scholars had been introduced earlier in the days of Sikandar Lodi, but, apparently, they did not gain general currency.
Now the fruits of the new philosophical era of Iran were introduced by someone who had studied them under the Iranian masters, and was himself the foremost intellectual of the realm and the Chief Sadr. Other factors favoured the new trends in education. In Akbar’s reign, there was a general emphasis on reason, intellect and philosophy, and works on these subjects were generally encouraged.
Fathullah Shirazi was not alone in these efforts to broaden intellectual horizons. Hakim ’Abd al-Fath Gilani who migrated to India with three distinguished brothers also wrote a commentary on Akhlaq-i Nasiri and a summary of Avicenna’s Qanunchah. Certain scholars who had been driven out of Samarqand and Bukhara by Abdullah Khan Uzbeg also encouraged the taste for logic and other mental sciences (Ma’qulaf). The efforts of these scholars, Akbar’s own preference for the mental sciences and the general impetus to the spread of education given in his reign, placed the new
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learning on a firm footing. Ma’qulat became so popular in the Mughal Empire that when a century later educational curriculum was standardised at Dars-i Nizamiyyah, these sciences and not the Islamic subject like Tafsir, Hadith, etc., occupied the pride of place in that syllabus. These sciences were formal in nature, and with the passage of time, old textbooks have naturally become out of date now, but their study in the Mughal period stimulated intellectual interest, facilitated mental discipline and provided the intellectual basis for the splendid Mughal cultural life.
About Fathullah it is worthwhile recording that, although as an intellectual, philosopher and man of sciences, he was far superior to Abu al-Fadl and Faidi, professionally the great intellectuals and rationalists of the age, he remained completely immune from religious heterodoxy generally attributed to these two brothers, and was a strict orthodox Muslim. According to Bada’uni. ”Even in the state hall he said with the greatest composure his Shi’ah prayers, a thing which no one else would have dared to do. His Majesty, therefore, put him among the class of the bigots, but connived at his practices, because he thought it desirable to encourage a man of such attainments and practical knowledge.”
The taste for philosophy spread very rapidly in Mughal India ’In his letter, dated 30 October 1616, Sir Thomas Roe wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury : ”The Mohammadan Mullahs know somewhat in philosophy and the mathematics, are great astrologers and can talk of Aristotle, Euclid, Averroes and other authors.”
Akbar-Confliaing Estimates. Akbar enjoyed a high reputation during the Mughal period. When he was alive, the expression Jqbal-i Akbari (Akbar’s good luck) became proverbial owing to his unbroken series of victories and great achievements. His great-grandson Aurangzeb who differed from him in many things, always spoke of him with respect. His religious policy was unpopular with the Muslims even in his lifetime, but they appreciated his political and
administrative ability. In Hazirat al-Quds, a well-known history of Naqshbandi saints written by a favourite disciple of Hadrat Mujaddid, speaks of Akbar as Qadwat al-Salatin (the Chosen One of the Rulers).Akbar continued to enjoy this reputation during the British period. Will Durant calls him ”one of the wisest, most humane and most cultured of all the kings known to history”.23 Sir Wolseley Haig implies this when he says that some Muslim writers are at pains to prove that Akbar never ceased to be a Muslim, because they are ”loth to deprive Islam of the adherence of so great a man as Akbar” ,24 Admiration for Akbar was not confined to the British or the Hindu authors. Shams al-’Ulama Azad devoted his voluminous masterpiece Darbar-i Akbari to him, his institutions and his courtiers. Iqbal, in early days, wrote verses praising him. Perhaps even today, he is the best known of the Indo-Muslim rulers in the outside world.
Recently, however, not only his religious innovations but his political policy also have been subjected to severe criticism. The most thoroughgoing censure is from the pen of Dr. Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi, who has held Akbar’s policy to be the prime cause of the fall of the Muslim Empire. Both in view of Dr. Qureshi’s eminence as a scholar and the fact that this opinion is extensively held in Pakistan, it would be desirable to quote from him at length. Dealing with the causes of the decline of the Muslim political power,2S Dr.Qureshi says:
”The most obvious reason was that Akbar had changed the nature of the policy profoundly. The Muslims were still the dominant group in the state, but it had ceased to be a Muslim Empire. It was no longer enshrined in their affections as their main responsibility. The identity of views and interests between the community and the monarch was gone; he was no more as dependent upon their support as other sultans had been. Now the Muslims were only one of the communities in the empire which controlled the councils and the armed might of the state. In the beginning they saw with satisfaction and even pride that the Hindu had started ’wielding the sword of
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Islam’; they soon learnt that the sword would not always be wielded in the interests of Islam. Akbar had so weakened Islam through his policies that it could not be restored to its dominant position in the affairs of the state.”26
Apart from the position which the Hindus got under Akbar Dr. Qureshi refers to what he considers the unfortunate influence of the arrival of the Shi’ahs from Iran. He says: ”The community also lost its sense of solidarity by the importation of the Shi’as from Iran, because sectarian and group jealousies began to undermine the unity of the Muslims.”27 He elaborates this point and goes on to say: ”In seeking support from dissident elements Akbar only weakened the foundations of his
The force of Dr.Qureshi’s gravamen is partially lost by his acknowledging that Akbar only accentuated the process which was already in existence. Admitting the need for securing ”the neutrality of large masses of people by looking after their interests, ” he remarks: ”this is what the sultanate had achieved through its agrarian policies, its encouragement of trade, its employment of Hindu soldiers and officers, its creation of a class of Hindu bureaucrats and liberal treatment of Hindu vasals.”29 He also acknowledges that the liberal policy followed during the Mughal period has been its main glory. ”It may be argued with great justice that Akbar set standards of liberalism unheard of in those days. This is true that the main glory of the Mughal Empire in the perspective of history is its tolerance and liberalism, if we forget that Akbar was unfair to the faith of his forefathers,”30 but regrets that ”this liberalism was not tempered with sufficient realism.”
Dr. Qureshi complains of the tensions resulting from ”the thoughtless policies pushed by Akbar” but has the fairness to add:
”Even if these tensions had not been created or had not of themselves arisen in course of time, the empire could not have endured very much longer. The rise of the West because of its
spirit of inquiry and adventure and its progress in technology with its consequent accession to power would have sooner or later overwhelmed the Mughal Empire, which would have succumbed to European imperialism.”31
Intensive quotations have been given from Dr. Qureshi’s book to bring out his point of view. The difficulties in its acceptance may also be pointed out. For one thing, the mere fact that the Mughal Empire continued to flourish, not only during Akbar’s long reign of forty-nine years, but for another one hundred years after his death makes it difficult to hold him responsible for what happened so many generations later. Besides, although theoretically it is correct that the sword which the Hindus had started to wield need not always have been ”wielded in the interests of Islam,” it is relevant to see what actually happened in practice. Akbar enlisted the cooperation of the Rajputs, who incidentally were already wielding the sword. Did they start wielding this sword against Islam and were they responsible for the fall of the Muslim Empire? The historical truth is that-, although in Aurangzeb’s reign the loyalty of the Rajputs was severely strained, they never turned against the Muslims and continued to play a constructive role even during the decline of the empire, when they joined hands with Muslim forces to put down Bandah. Even with regard to the Shiahs, Dr Qureshi’s views will raise many questions. It is true that before Shah Wali Ullah and later, the Aligarh leaders had prepared the basis for Shi’ah Sunni harmony, the sectarian differences posed problems on some occasions, particularly during the eighteenth century. But was there any planned ”importation of the Shi’ahs from Iran”? They arrived in large numbers during the Mughal period, but the process was in full swing before Akbar. When he came to the throne, Bairam Khan was the Regent and Shaikh Gada! a Shi’ah theologian, was the Sadr of the empire. The arrival of the Shi’ahs in large numbers really took place with the return of Humayun from Persia; but can we complain against the presence of a group which has given to Muslim India men like
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Ghalib, Syed Ameer All and Qa’id-i Azam Muhammad’Ali Jinnah?
It is difficult to endorse Dr. Qureshi’s main thesis, but there is every justification for holding the balance even and bringing out Akbar’s limitations and weaknesses also. His greatest blundef,-indeed his crime-was in the religious field with which we shall deal in the next chapter. Even as a ruler he had his blind spots. The Mughal Empire had to pay a very heavy price for his failure to develop a powerful navy after the Mughal conquest of the ports on the West Coast and his supine acceptance of Portuguese supremacy in the Arabian Sea. This was one of the major causes of the inability of the Mughals to withstand the foreigners from across the seas. Akbar was progressive and forward looking but even this was subject to many qualifications. He was greatly interested in the promotion of learning, but, curiously enough, failed to grasp the importance of the printing press, which revolutionised the spread of knowledge in the West. It was introduced by the Portuguese during his lifetime, and in 1577. i.e. twenty eight years before his death, the first book was printed in India. Some printed books were even brought to his notice,31 butpossibly repelled by the crude printing of those days-he showed no interest and a great opportunity for the rapid spread of knowledge vas missed.
Besides, as Hodiwala points out:
”Akbar prided himself on being a rationalist but he had his own superstitions and seemed to have belief not only in astrology, dreams, means from birds and beasts, and presages from the shoulder-blades of sheep but magic and incantations.33
Dr. Qurshi’s views, although open to certain criticism, will find many supporters in Pakistan. Conditions in Pakistan, where Muslim are in such an overwhelming majority and which is being developed as a Muslim homeland, are totally different from Xkbar’s India, in which Muslims formed a small minority. It is, therefore, somewhat natural that Akbar’s policy
may be seen here in a different light from what it appeared in Mughal India. Even then it would appear that many ingredients of Akbar’s policy of Sidh-i Kull, i.e. universal tolerance and protection under the law for all inhabitants, are enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan. No jizyah is imposed here and a non-Muslim holds the highest judicial office in the state. This is due partly to the general liberalisation of political institution in the modern world, but the truth is that there can be no other policy in a multi-group society, if peace and orderly progress are to be secured.
Akbar will remain a controversial figure, but perhaps it is easy to exaggerate a ruler’s importance. Akbar’s age is often referred to as an age of heterodoxy; but is this correct? At one stage Akbar introduced innovations which will be considered heterodox by many, but he was not the only influential figure of his age. His was also the age of Khwajah Baqi Billah, of Mujaddid and of Shaikh ’Abd al-Haqq Muhaddith. If Abu alFadl and Faidi represented one point of view in literature, there were Bada’uni and Naziri to represent the other. There was no dearth of staunch and stout-hearted Muslims in key positions. If Akbar’s orthodoxy was open to doubt, his foster brother who was also the Deputy of the Realm was a staunch Muslim. So were Qulich Khan, Shaikh Farid and many others. Akbar himself remained a devout, orthodox Muslim for several years and again, towards the end, his religious vagaries seemed to have withered away. At any rate, Muslim nobles were able to keep them in check and Khwajah Baqi Billah could write to the Mujaddid: ”Do not bother about the king.” It is these divines and nobles who were really effective and dominated the age. Akbar’s religious vagaries,however, offended the Muslims and this has, naturally, influenced their estimates of Akbar-even in the political field.
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NOTES & REFERENCES
1. V.A. Smith, Akbar the Gnat Mogul, p. 32.
2. Ibid., p. 355.
3. TflriWi-i Ftrahtah (Nawalkiahero), I, 278.
4. N.B.Roy, The Successors ofSher Shah, p. ii.
5. Ibid., p. 11.
6. Abu al-Fdle, A’in-i Akbari (Tr.), I, 3.
8. P. Hardy, Sources of Indian Tradition, p. 505.
9. Dealing with Muslim theory of kingihip (as distinct from Wii7a/o/),Ajhr»f has suggested ”that perhaps ancient Persia was the common source of both Hindu and Muslim political ideas from which both of them borrowed at different intervals”(K.M.Ash«f, Life and conditions of the People of Hindustan, p. 132, Footnote 2).
10. F.G. Morehead, A History of Malaya and Her Neighbour!,p. 32.
11. P. Spear, India-A Modern History, pp. 135-36.
12. I. Topa, Our Cultural Heritage, p. 117.
13. Beveridge, Tt.^kbar Namah, m, 1104.
14. Ibtd., m, 1106. *
15. Md., m, 1119.
16. Md., m, 1217.
17. In the supplement to Akbar Namah, his name is given as Cada’i Khan Afghan.
18. See Lala Sita Ram, ”Bir Singh Deo and the Death of Abul Fazl at Described in Contemporary Hindi Literature,’ Calcutta Review, May 1924.
19. Dawwani’s book Akhlaq-i JalaU continue* a standard text-book on ethica in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent, and his pupils and other beneficiaries played an important role in the intellectual history of the area. He was born in 831/1427 in the village Dawwan and became a teacher at the Orphans’ College at the nearby Shiraz where he passed most of his life. He died in 907/1501. During his lifetime his fame spread beyond Iran and amongst those who patronised him were Sultan Mahmud Began of Gujarat, to whom he dedicated two books and Suhan Ghiyalh-ud-din of Malwa to whom he dedicated another pamphlet. Hia pupils included Abu al-Fadl Gazruni, under whom Shaikh Mubarak, the father of Abu al-Fadl and Faidi studied at Ahmadabad, and a teacher of Fathulkh Shirazi.
Many of his religious works, like Shar’ ’ Aqa’id, became text-books and subject of commentaries during the Mughal period, but his most famous work is AthUufH Jalali which is even at present prescribed at a text-book for Munihi Fadil examination at Lahore and has been translated into English by W.F. Thomson under the rather misleading title The Practical Philotopky of ifce
Mohammadan People. The book is divided into three main parts dealing with
the ethica of the individuals, the domestic State and the political State. It
contains considerable elements of Greek thought and ethics, being based on
Tusi’s Akhlaq-i Natiri, which was practically a translation of TakdUb al-Akhlaq
of Ibn Miskawaih (which followed very ciotely Tahdhid al-Akhlaq written by
Syrian Christian, and an epitome of Greek ethical thought) and included two
appendices giving the testaments of Plato and Aristotle. Dawwani, though a
theorist and a philosopher, was highly practical in his outlook. In one of his
verses, he says:
* At last I came to know in the light of experience.
A man is respected for knowledge, and knowledge is respected for wealth.
20. W. Haig, Tr. (Bada’uni’s) Muntakhab al-Tawarikh, m, 216.
21. W.H. Lowe, Tr. (Badi’uni’s) Muntakhab al-Tawarikh, D, 325-26
22. Azad Bilgrami, Ma’athir al-Kram, p. 238.
23. Will Durant, The story of Civilization, Part I, P. 401.
24. The Cambridge History of India, IV, 131.
25. It is usual to date the decline of Muslim Empire and the revival of Hindu military power from the beginning of the eighteenth century A careful study will place Hindu revival much earlier. The year 1336 when Muslims were” excluded from the South and Vijayanagar empire was established is a very significant date; ”thenceforward on the whole Islam steadily lost ground in India till 1526, as much by the break-up and mediocrity of the Delhi Empire and the rise of the Hindu States, as by Hindu religious and cultural revival.” During this period Hindu power revived in Rajputana almost as much s> in the extreme South. In Bengal Raja Ganeah captured power. Hindu generals and officers were becoming dominant even in Muslim kingdoms. Under ’Adil Shah Sur whom Akbar replaced at Delhi and Agra, Himu occupied a position which no Hindu ever got under Akbar.
26. Dr. Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi, The Muslim Community, p. 167.
27. Ibid., p. 168.
28. Ibid., p. 169.
29. Ibid., p. 168.
30. Ibid., p. 170.
31. Ibid., p. 172.
32. Will Durrani says about Akbar: ”He despised print as a mechanical and impersonal thing, and soon disposed of the choice specimens of European typography presented to him by his Jesuit friend;” ’op cit., p. 468),
3V S.H. HodiwaU, Studies in Indo-Muslim History, D, 266.