Book I the Sultanate Period Chapters /. The Arabs and the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent 1



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RELIGION AT THE COURT OF AKBAR
The First Phase of Akbar’s Religious History In his tumultuous religious history, Akbar passed through three distinct phases He started as a devout, orthodox Muslim and a God-fearing, religious-minded individual In his early childhood he had experienced great suffering and vicissitudes. He was born when his father was a fugitive. Later he was left with an unkind uncle and early experienced the weakness and the helplessness of mere mortals against mightier, invisible powers The influence of a religious mother and a pious grandmother deepened Akbar’s religious outlook, and during the early years of his reign he behaved like a pious and orthodox Muslim He said all the five prayers in congregation, would 6ften recite the call for prayers and occasionally swept the palace mosque with his own hands.1 He showed great respect for the two principal religious leaders at the court. Makhdum al-Mulk, who was already a power under the Surs, became more powerful in the early days of Akbar, and the Emperor conferred an authority on Shaikh Abd al-Nabi, who was appointed the Sadr al-Sudur in 973/1565, which no predecessor successor of his ever enjoyed. Occasionally he would go to his house to hear him explain the sayings of the Prophet and placed Prince Salim under his tutorship. According to Bada’uni: ”For some time the Emperor had so great faith in him as a religious leader that he would bring him his shoes and place them before his feet.”2
In his twenties, Akbar became devoted to Khwajah Mu’inud-din, the great Chishti Saint of Ajmer. In January 1565, he
I

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made his first pilgrimage to the tomb of the saint. It became an almost annual affair, and if there was a perplexing problem or a particularly difficult expedition to undertake, Akbar would specially go to Ajmer and pray at the dargah. He would get down on foot some distance before reaching Ajmer, and in furtherance of some vows-e.g. in 976/1568 and 978/1570travelled all the distance from Agra to Ajmer on foot.
Discussions at the ’Ibadat Khanah. Devotion to the great Chishti saint was probably responsible for Akbar’s interest in Shaikh Salim Chishti, a contemporary saint who lived at Fathpur Sikri. All Akbar’s children early died in infancy, and he approached Sheikh Salim to pray for a male child with a long life. Early in 969/1561, he sent his expectant wife to the hospice of Shaikh Salim and it was here that his successor to the throne was born, and was originally named Salim after the saint. Akbar was so happy at the birth of a sori,and so grateful to the saint that in 979/1571, he started building a new capital at Fathpur Sikri, where, in 983/1575, he built a grand edifice called ’Ibadat Khanah, near the tomb of Shaikh Salim who had died in the meanwhile. Akbar set apart this building for religious discussions, and every Friday, after the congregational prayers, scholars, dervishes, theologians andcourtiers specially interested in religious affairs would assemble in the ’Ibadat Khanah’ and discussions on religious subjects took place in the royal presence.
Akbar had arranged for the assemblies of the Ibadat Khanah, out of sincere religious zeal, but ultimately they drove him away from orthodox Islam. This was partly the fault of those who attended these gatherings. At the very first session there were disputes on the question of precedence, and when they were resolved, a battle of wits started amongst the participants to display their importance and scholarship, and expose the ignorance of the others. All sorts of silly questions were asked to belittle rivals, and soon the gatherings degenerated into religious and intellectual battlefields. The two great theologians of the court were arrayed on opposite sides,
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and so mercilessly attacked each other that Akbar lost faith in both of them, and, in the end, became disgusted with institutions they represented. Of the two, Makhdum al-Mulk was a great jurist and had received the title of Shaikh al-Islam from Sher Shah Suri. His influence had increased under Sher Shah’s Successors and Akbar, and he used this influence for two mains purposes-to persecute the unorthodox and to accumulate unlimited wealth. Bada’uni says that when he died, thirty million rupees were found in cash in his house and there were several boxes containing gold nuggets buried in spurious tomb the other ecclesiastical dignitary, Shaikh ’Abdal-Nabi, who was the Sadr al-Sudur, was not personally accused of graft, but his subordinates were stated to be corrupt. He was a strict puritan, and on the question of lawfulness of music had starp differences with his father, who had disinherited him. In the discussions at the ’Ibadat Khanah, Makhdum al-Mulk spared no opportunity of attacking the Sddr on these and other grounds.
Conflict between the Church and the Sta/e.The differences and mutual recriminations of ulema disgusted the Emperor, but the real cause to the break lay deeper, and was quite comparable to the conflict between the Church and the State, with which students of European history are familiar. The interpretation of Islamic Law, which was the basic law of the State, was the responsibility of the ulema. This conflicted with Akbar’s plan of concentration of all ultimate authority in the State in himself. Besides, with Akbar’s organisation of the Empire on new lines, problems were arising for the solution of which the old theologians were not a help to the Emperor. The issue came to a head in 985/1577. Akbar had introduced a new policy of religious toleration, but he was far ahead of his times and there was an insufficient understanding of his policy even amongst those for whose benefit it had been initiated. As we shall see later, Akbar’s attitude of friendliness towards Hindus did not lead to the growth of general tolerance amongst different religions in his dominions. While his religious

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innovations offended the orthodox Muslims, his general policy encouraged certain sections amongst the Hindus to take up an aggressive attitude. In 985/1577, a complaint was lodged before the Sadr by ’Abd al Rahim, the Qadi of Mathura, that a rich Brahman of his locality had forcibly taken possession of building material collected by him for the construction of a mosque, and utilised it for building an idol temple. When the Qadi attempted to prevent him, he had, ”in presence of witnesses, opened his foul mouth to curse the Prophet (on whom be peace,), and had shown his contempt for Muslims in various other ways.”3 The question of a suitable punishment for the Brahman was discussed before the Emperor, who, tortured by conflicting considerations, gave no decision and the Brahman languished in prison for a long time. Ultimately Akbar left the matter to the Sadr who had the offender executed. This led to an outcry. Many courtiers like Abu alFadl expressed the view that, although an offence had been committed, the extreme penalty of execution was not necessary or appropriate, and based their opinion on a decree of Imam Abu Hanifah, the founder of the Hanafi school of Islamic Law. The Sadr’s action was severely criticised by Hindu courtiers and Akbar’s Rajput wives.4 Akbar was unhappy, not only at this incident, but about the general legal position, which gave so much power to the ulema and placed him at their mercy in such a vital sphere. He explained his difficulties to Shaikh Mubarak, the father of Faidi and Abu al-Fadl, who had come to the court on some business. The Shaikh who had suffered at the hands of Makhdum al-Mulk and was liberal-minded and independent in his views, stated that, according to the Islamic Law, if there was a difference of opinion between the jurists, a Muslim ruler had the authority and the right to choose any one view, and his choice would be decisive.
The Declaration of 987/1579. The Shaikh drew up a brief but important document, supported by quotations from the Holy Quf’an and Traditions of the Prophet. It reads as follows:
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”Whereas Hindustan has now become the centre of security and peace, and the land of justice and beneficence, a large number of people, especially learned men and lawyers, have immigrated and chosen this country for their home. Now we, the principal ’Ulema, who are not only well-versed in the several departments of the law and in the principles of jurisprudence, and well-acquainted with the edicts which rest on reason or testimony, but are also known for our piety and honest intentions, have duly considered the deep meaning, first of the verse of the Quran : ’Obey God and obey the Prophet, and those who have authority among you, and, secondly, of the genuine Tradition: ’Surely the man who is dearest to God on the day of judgment is the Imam-i-adil; whosoever obeys the Amir, obeys Thee; and thirdly, of several other proofs based on reasoning or testimony; and we have agreed that the rank of a Sultan-i-adil is higher in the eyes of God than the rank of Mujtahid.
”Further, we declare that the king of Islam, Amir of the Faithfull, shadow of God in the world, Abul Path Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar, Padshah Ghazi (Whose kingdom God perpetuate), is a most just, most wise, and a most God-fearing king Should, therefore, in future, a religious question come up, regarding which the opinions of the Mujtahids are at variance, and His Majesty, in his penetrating understanding and clear wisdom, be inclined to adopt, for the benefit of the nation, and as a political expedient, any of the conflicting opinions, which exist on that point, and issue a decree to the effect, we do hereby agree that such a decree shall be binding on us and on the whole nation.
”Further, we declare that, should His Majesty think it fit to issue a new order, we and the nation shall likewise be bound by it, provided always that such order be not only in accordance with some verse of the Quran, but also of real benefit to the nation; and further, that any opposition on the part of his subjects to such an order passed by His Majesty,

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shall involve damnation in the world to come, and loss of property and religious privileges in this.
”This document has been written with honest intentions, for the glory of God and the propagation of Islam, and is signed by us, the principal ’Ulema and lawyers, in the month of Rajab of the year nine hundred and eighty-seven.”5
The Declaration of 987/1579 which has been erroneously designated by Vincent A. Smith as ”The Infallibility Decree” did not confer unlimited powers on the king, but confined his authority to the steps ”which were in accordance with some verse of the Quran” and were of ”real benefit to the nation”. About the central thesis enunciated in this important document, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad wrote:
”Basically the view was correct, and, in reality, the KfTalifah of the day and those in charge of affairs, and their advisers have the right of ijtihad at al times and in all ages, and its denial has been responsible for all the misfortunes of Islam.”6
Dr I.H. Qureshi says with regard to the Declaration of

987/1579: ”It enunciated the well-known Islamic principle that where the injunctions of the Quran and the authentic traditions of the Prophet are not clear in their application to a situation and the doctors of the law are divided in their interpretation, ’a just Sultan’ had the right to accept any of the interpretations offered. The next part of the ruling was not in accordance either with the previous practice or the spirit of the Muslim law. It said that Akbar was such a ruler, therefore had such a right.”7


Besides, the limitations regarding Quranic authority as laid down in the Declaration itself were not observed by Akbar, and in practice it became an excuse for the exercise of unrestrained autocracy. Soon the gatherings of the ’Ibadat Khanah were exposed to new and more anti-Islamic influences. Before long, in addition to the Muslim scholars, Hindu pandits, Parsi mobeds and Jain sadhus began to attend the gatherings.
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They expressed their own points of view and Akbar, ever ready to adopt new things,was attracted by some of their practices. The influence of Birbal seems to have been particularly substantive. A serious complication arose with the association of the Jesuit Fathers, whom the King invited from Goa. They did not confine themselves to the exposition of their own beliefs, but attacked Islam and the Prophet in unrestrained language.
Opposition. When the news of these discussions and the new decrees promulgated by the King became known, there was serious disaffection amongst the Muslims. The first to criticise the new developments was Mulla Muhammad Yazdi, the Shi’ah qadi of Jaunpur, who declared in 988/1580 that the king had ceased to be a Muslim and the people should rise against him. Even some courtiers, like Qutb ud-din Khan Koka and Shahbaz Khan Kamboh criticised the King in the court, but Akbar was able to deal with the dissident elements. He sent for Mulla Muhammad Yazdi and Mu’iz al-Mulk, the chief Qadi of Bengal, and had them put to death by drowning. He took penal action against a few others, but something like an open rebellion started against him in 969/1581 which is considered ”the most critical year in the reign of Akbar”.8 Akbar’s enemies did not confine themselves to sporadic outbursts and regional risings, but made an attempt to dethrone Akbar and place his brother Mirza Muhammad Hakim, who was the ruler of Kabul, on the throne, Akbar’s brilliant diwan, Khwajah Shah Mansur, was executed for alleged complicity with Mirza Hakim, and Ma’sum Khan, the fief-holder of Jaunpur, who was also in correspondence with the ruler of Kabul. Mirza Hakim came up to Lahore but he was no match for Akbar and had to retreat to Kabul, pursued by his victorious brother.
Akbar’s Religious Innovations. Vincent A. Smith, in his voluminous book on Akbar, says that after the Emperor had successfully quelled the opposition to his religious views and had returned victorious from Kabul, he summoned ”a General Council,” and persuaded it to agree to the ”formal

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promulgation” of Din-i-Ilahi, his new religion. Sri Ram Sharma has objected to this and has pointed out that the Portuguese Fathers, who were in India about this time and even a little later (e.g. Monserrate in 1583 and Pinheiro in 1595), had not heard about the proclamation of any new religion. This difference of opinion regarding the alleged proclamation of a new religion by Akbar is general, and extends to other aspects of the subject. Not only Smith, but Blochman, and indeed most English writers are of opinion that Akbar abandoned Islam and attempted to establish a new religion. Sri Ram Sharma in his Religious Policy of the Mughal Emperors, Makhan Lai Roychoudhury in his Din-i-Jlahi, and almost all other Hindu scholars have held that Akbar lived and died a Muslim, though he followed a liberal and tolerant policy. Muslim historians are almost evenly divided.
These differences of historians do not represent only differing judgments inevitable about a personality making fundamental departures from established practices, but extend even to the assessment of relevant facts. This is basically due to the conflicting contemporary accounts of Akbar’s religious ideas (i.e. by Abu al-Fadl, Bada’uni, and the Jesuit Father), but erroneous translations of Persian texts and unscientific handling of the subject by Blochman and Smith have greatly increased the confusion.
The foundation for the misrepresentation of Akbar’s religious views was laid by Blochman (an imperfect Persian scholar) who, in the introduction to this translation of A’in-i Akbari, set the pattern for relying on Bada’uni, and not on Akbar’s own spokesman Abu al-Fadl, for the study of Akbar’s religious ideas. He grossly mistranslated important terms and Phrases, and so interwove the later ”hearsay” of Dabistan-i Madhahib with contemporary accounts that the picture became confused and distorted. The crucial question about Akbar’s religious activity is whether he established a new religion or only a new spiritual order. The expression which both Abu alFadl and Bada’uni normally use in this connection is iradat or
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muridi (discipleship), but Blochman habitually mistranslates these expressions as ”Divine Faith,” and converts a religious order (or even a bond of loyalty) into a ”Faith”. Occasionally his mistranslation borders on fabrication. While translating the relevant chapter in A’in-i-Akbari (p. 77), he translated the expression A’in-i iradat gazinan which correctly means ”Rules for the (royal) disciples” as the ”Principles of Divine Faith,” and gives the sub-section (p. -175) a heading ”The Ordinances of the Divine Faith,’ although there is no such heading in the original text. Similarly, he omitted important qualifying phrases (taqlidi wa majazi) while translating Mirza Jani Beg’s fulsome ”confessions” of faith (p. 203). It is not surprising that those who do not know Persian and have to rely on Blochman’s translation have been misled.9
The sharp difference between the viewpoints of Abu alFadl and Bada’uni is obvious, but our study of the subject has revealed a surprisingly large area of common ground between them, and if the present divergence of opinion about Akbar’s religion is to be resolved, more attention will have to be given to what is common ground between these two principal sources of information. It appears that the modern historians, fascinated by the wit and sarcasm of Bada’uni, have paid scant attention to Abu al-Fadl’s informative sections on Akbar’s religion contained in his Akbar Namah and A’in-i-Akbari. Akbar’s regulations which were not of an ephemeral or tentative character, have been preserved in the voluminous A ’in-i Akbar, and it would be unreasonable to suppose that important royal regulations, which were to be given general currency in the empire, have been omitted from this Book of Regulations. A study of the A’in confirms this view. It contains much that would shock an orthodox Muslim, and to judge by its contents and the nature of the information which is sought, the A’in appears to be the most dependable source of information regarding Akbar’s religious innovations and the practices introduced by him.

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According to the A’in-i Akban,the Emperor discouraged people from becoming his disciples, but the person whom he accepted for initiation approached him with his turban in his hand and put his head on the feet of the King.10 This procedure was intended to express, according to Abu al-Fadl, that the novice had ”cast aside conceit, selfishness-the root of so many evils.” The King then stretched out his hand, raised up the disciple and replaced the turban on his head. The novice was given a shast (token) containing Ism-i A’zam and the king’s symbolic motto Allah-o Akbar. When the disciples met each other, one would say ”Allah-o Akbar” and the other responded ”Jalli Jalalhu”. ”The motive of His Majesty in laying down this mode of salutation is to remind men to think of the origin of their existence, and to keep the Deity in their fresh, lively and grateful remembrance.”11 The disciples were to endeavour to abstain from flesh and not to make use of the same vessels with butchers, fishermen and bird-catcher. Each disciple was to give a party on the anniversary of his birthday and to bestow a alms. Dinners customarily given after a man’s death were to be given by a disciple during his lifetime. The royal disciples were to endeavour to abstain completely from meat, but Akbar tried to regulate its consumption even by others.
For students of history, general orders intended for compliance by all are more important than the regulations framed for the royal disciples. According to Abu al-Fadl, the kotwals were asked to ensure that no ox or buffalo or horse or camel was slaughtered and slaughtering of animals in general was prohibited on many days of the year-including the whole Persian months of Aban-except as a necessity for feeding the animals used in hunting and for feeding the sick. Akbar greatly interested himself in the reform of marriage customs. He abhorred marriages between near relations as ”highly improper”. He disapproved of high dowries, but admitted that they could be a preventive against rash divorces. ”Nor does His Majesty approve of everyone marrying more than one wife; for this ruins the man’s health, and disturbs the peace of
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home.” Akbar ordered his officers to practise religious tolerance. Circumcision before the age of twelve was forbidden. The kotwals were to ”forbid the restriction of personal liberty and the selling of slaves” and not to suffer a woman to be burnt against her inclination. The government officers were not to consider homage paid to the sun and the solar lamp as the worship of fire. A governor was expected to accustom himself to night vigils and partake of sleep and food in moderation. He was to pass the dawn and evening in meditation and pray at noon and midnight when the sun advances from one side. Nauruz was to be celebrated officially and the kotwal was expected to have night vigils on the night of Nauruz and on the nineteenth of Farwardin.
Akbar’s Religion. It may be fairly asked in the light of his religious innovations outlined above, whether in the course of his religious development, Akbar remained a Muslim. Different answers are given to this question depending on the strictness with which the matter is judged. It is true that Akbar adopted and prescribed for his disciples, and even others, many practices which were borrowed from other creeds, but precedents for this may be found in the lives of many sufi saints who continue to be considered Muslims in spite of wide departures from traditional Islam. For all of Akbar’s innovations, some Islamic texts or precedents, genuine or spurious, were cited by his courtiers. Akbar did not claim to be a prophet or establish a new religion. Islam, however, lost its position of privilege, and many of Akbar’s practices and regulations differed widely from the normal Muslim practices. It should, therefore, cause no surprise if, due to these innovations and particularly on account of the coloured and exaggerated versions which gained currency, he was, and is, widely regarded as having gone outside the pale of Islam. Dealing with the Proclamatiop of 987/1579, Abu al-Fadl has very ably summed up the popular misconceptions against Akbar and the reasons on which they were based. According to him, Akbar was accused by the ”ill-informed and the unfair” of

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claiming divinity, or at least prophethood, and of being antiMuslim, a Shi’ah and partial to Hindus. Abu al-Fadi has dealt with the reasons which gave colour to these calumnies and has succinctly answered them. He has, however, been fair enough to admit that, apart from the malevolence or ignorance of certain individuals, Akbar’s policy and some of his regulations facilitated the task of his enemies.12 Possibly Akbar sincerely believed that power conferred on him by ulema in 987/1579 authorised him to initiate those regulations and the court flatterers pandered to this belief by citing precedents in Islamic history, but that they caused serious misgivings and resentment amongst orthodox Sunni Muslims should cause no surprise.
Akbar’s religion has been examined recently by two prominent Pakistani ”scholars-Dr. Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi and Professor Aziz Ahmed. They differ in emphasis, but both have come essentially to the same conclusion-that although some of Akbar’s innovations involved a certain deviation from orthodox Islam, they do not take him outside the pale of Muslim religion. Professor Aziz Ahmed sums up the position with regard to Akbar’s religious innovation by saying:
”Neither in its exaggerated pre-occupation with light, sun and fire nor in its other principles of worship or ritual was there much which could place Akbar’s heretical sect in a different category from other miscellaneous heresies within Islam.”13
Dr. Qureshi has been exceedingly critical of the changes made by Akbar in Mughal polity and even on the religious question -his comments are unfavourable, but he has summed up the position with great care and objectivity. He warns against a superficial reading of Bada’uni, who was ”capable of ’ insinuating more than he actually said” and a number of whose ”passages are capable of dual interpretation” as well as against incorrect translations of some of his statements by Western writers. He adds that ”the statements of the Catholic father” are ”of little value because they can be demonstrated to be wrong or extremely exaggerated,” but continues to say:
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”Even when all this is conceded, the opinion of those who think that Akbar did not deviate from Islam are also not sound. It is true that of conscious abjuring of Islam there was very little. Akbar seems to have believed that his understanding of Islam was more rational than that of the theologians with whom he differed. When he protested in a letter to ’Abd-u’llah Khan Uzbeg, the ruler of Transoxiana, that it was a calumny that he had renegaded from Islam he was probably sincere. His was a complex mind and not disciplined enough to be able to see the contradictions in his own attitudes. He did a number of things and even held beliefs which would normally place a man outside the pale of Islam; for the sun is irreconcilable with the monotheism of Islam. He, however, does not seem to have thought so; in this respect he only represented, perhaps in an extreme form, the confusion in many Muslim minds.”14
We have ventured to differ from Dr. Qureshi on one or two points, but we endorse every word of what he has said about Akbar’s religious views.
Final Phase 1006-1014/1597-1605. In the spring of

1006/1597, when Akbar was still at Lahore, and preparations were being made for Nauruz celebrations, ”fire came down from Heaven, ” and a conflagration started in the royal palace, which could not be controlled for three days. It did great damage, and was attributed to the anger of Heaven at the king’s irreligious presumptions.15 According to Professor Makhan Lai Roychoudhury, it has been suggested by Smith16 that after the fire of Lahore, Akbar ceased to apostatise and returned to Islam.17 Vincent Smith’s views about Akbar’s original apostasy have been contested by Sri Ram Sharma and Roychoudhury, and no conclusive indication about Akbar’s religion after 1003/1595 is available. In any case, Akbar’s religious innovations, which have been outlined above, made little headway, and towards the end of Akbar’s reign, those nobles who gained ascendency were staunch Muslims. Most



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Prominent amongst these was the Deputy of the Realm and Akbar’s foster brother, Khan-i A’zam, who had once criticised Akbar’s religious innovations in a long letter addressed to the King, and, as a mark of protest, abandoned his viceroyalty of Gujarat and left the country for Hijaz. In Mecca, he became so disgusted with the conduct of the guardians of the holy places that he returned to India, and even joined the group of royal ”disciples”. The real reason for this step cannot be ascertained, but it is known that after joining the royal disciples he remained a staunch, even a militant, Muslim. The Jesuit Fathers have described the obstacles he raised to their getting a favourable royal farman18 and the true nature of his beliefs can be inferred from the joy he expressed over the assassination of Abu al-Fadl.He wrote: ”The sword of the miracle of the Prophet of God smote the head of the rebel.
Another pillar of Muslim orthodoxy was Qulich Khan, the father-in-law of the emperor, and viceroy of Lahore. During his viceroyalty, he regularly visited the mosque for giving lessons in Holy Qur’an, and many people are reported to have shown greater interest in religious education under his influence.19 The Jesuit Fathers were particularly bitter about the difficulties which he placed in their way at Lahore. ’Abd al-Rahim Khan-i Khanan, the commander-in-chief in the Deccan, also belonged to this group. Even Sadr-i Jahan, whom Akbar had stationed at Jahangir’s camp at Allahabad, belonged to the party of the religious-minded nobles, and was sent during Akbar’s lifetime, by Khwajah Baqi Billah to Shaikh Ahmad of Sirhind, the greatest critic of Akbar’s heterodoxy, for learning Naqshbandi mystic practices. It would not be surprising if some of these nobles were amongst those unnamed ”grandees at the court” to whose machinations Abu al-Fadl attributes Akbar’s estrangement with him, and his removal from the capital.20
The men who, besides Khan-i A’zam, gained greatest influence at the court in Akbar’s later years, and in some respects filled Abu al-Fadl’s place as the royal favourite, was
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the Paymaster-General, Shaikh Farid.21 He was the most religious of the Muslim noble, and was the main link between the Muslim nobility on the one hand and the religious leaders, like Khawajah Baqi Billah, on the other. He had undertaken to bear the entire expenditure of Khwajah’s hospice, and was the principal patron of the Naqshbandi order newly introduced in to the subcontinent. Owing to the death of the principal historians of Akbar’s reign, his last days have not been adequately described, but there can be no doubt about Shaikh Farid’s importance at this crucial juncture. It was he who, according to the supplement of Akbar Namah, brought the unwelcome news of Abu al-Fadl’s assassination to the King, when everybody at the court was afraid to do so.22 Later, after Akbar’s death, he gave protection to the court physician Hakim ’Ali, who was accused by Jahangir and Akbar’s widows of having caused the Emperor’s death by neglect and wrong treatment.23 There is no doubt that, in spite of the courtly courtesies between them and magnanimity habitually displayed by Faidi and Abu al-Fadl to their personal enemies, Shaikh Farid and Abu al-Fadl were in diametrically opposite camps. Apart from their obvious ideological differences, in his Ruq’at, Abu al-Fadl expressly complains against Bakhshi al-Mumalik (Shaikh Farid) and says that he leads the emperor to follow a path completely different from that which Abu al-Fadl, with great difficulty and thousands of arguments, persuades him to adopt.24
Shaikh Farid played an important role at the time of Akbar’s death. Akbar was angry with Jahangir on account of his part in Abu al-Fadl’s assassination and other rebellious deeds, and efforts were being made to have him passed over in favour of his son Khusrau. At this critical juncture, when the future king and his religious policy could have great significance for the country, Shaikh Farid asserted himself. He struck out for Jahangir, secured for him the support of the Sayyids of Barah (and the army, which he controlled as its pay Master-General) and offered him the allegiance of the Muslim nobility on his taking ”two oaths, the first that he would

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protect Islam and the second that he would refrain from punishing his son and others who had sought to deprive him of his throne by birthright.”25 According to the Jesuit accounts, ”the leading noble, having been set by others as their representative, came to the Prince and promised, in all their names, to place the kingdom in his hands, provided that he would swear to defend the law of Mahomet, and to do no ill or offence, either to his son... or to those who had sought to secure his son’s succession.”26 Payne, who has summarised in English the contemporary Jesuit accounts, explains in a note that ”the leading noble” referred to in the text ”was Shaikh Farid, more generally known as Mir Murtaza Khan.”27 Jahangir, whose succession was uncertain, and who was in danger of his life from Khusrau’s supporters,gladly gave these assurances and in the company of Shaikh Farid visited Akbar at his death-bed when a reconciliation between the son and the father took place and the question of Succession was decided by Akbar’s making a sign to Jahangir to wear the sword of the Timurids. Akbar shortly thereafter died on 27 October 1605.
According to some accounts, Akbar repeated the profession of Islamic faith and even recited surahs from the Qur’an on his death-bed. This is doubtful, as Akbar had lost the power of speech by this time, but there are good reasons to believe that, long before his death, Akbar’s religious views had ceased to be a source of anxiety to those devout Muslims who were in the best position to judge. Khwajah Baqi Billa, easily the most important religious personality of Akbar’s later days has a most significant remark in a letter addressed to Akbar’s great critic Hadrat Mujaddid-i Alf-i Thani. He wrote: ”Have no fear in mind about the king,”28 This letter is undated, but as the Khwajah died in 1012/1603, it must have been written at least two year before Akbar’s death and is probably one of the early letters written by the Khwajah after the initiation of the Mujaddid in 1008/1599. Evidence about Akbar’s behaviour at the time of his death is somewhat conflicting, but a careful analysis of the material available confirms Sir Thomas Roe’s
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finding recorded less than twelve years after Akbar’s death, in a letter addressed from Jahangir’s camp at Ajmer (on 30 October 1616) to the Archbishop of Canterbury, saying that Akbar died in formal profession of Islam.
Akbar’s Religious Policy and Causes of His Failure. It only remains to adjudge Akbar’s religious policy in general. While making this assessment, it is important to remember that this policy manifested itself in two distinct sets of measures which were separated from each other by an interval of several years, and which differed sharply in their nature and usefulness. On the one hand was Akbar’s adoption of the principle of Sulh-i Kull (Peace with all) and the political and administrative measures which he took to broaden the basis of his government and secure the goodwill of all his subjects. For his policy of religious tolerance and giving adequate share in administration to all classes of people there can be nothing but praise, and it was this part of his policy which stood the test of time, and became a part of the Mughal political code. These measures, however, could have been easily accomplished without offending Muslim opinion. They involved nothing more than what the Arab conqueror of Sind, Muhammad b. Qasim, had adopted, with the full concurrence of the Ulema of Damascus. Zain al-Abidin introduced similar measures in Kashmir without a murmur on the part of Muslims, and Akbar himself had abolished jizhyah, contracted marriages with the Hindus and employed them in high positions without offending the Muslim community.
The second set of measures relates to the regulations laid down for royal disciples29 and other steps taken up by Akbar in his role of the ”spiritual guide” who would end all religious conflicts and controversies. These measures, which later writers (though neither Abu al-Fadl nor Bad’uni) designate as ”Din-i-Ilahi” were set in motion more than fifteen years after the enunciation and implementation of Sulh-i Kull policy and were a product, as Bada’uni’s account shows, of the differences and debates of the ’Ibadat Khanah. They stand on a different

Bk. II ] History of Muslim Civilisation in India & Pakistan 346


footing from the earlier measures. Basically, the royal patronage of particular order or cult runs counter to the principle of equality and impartiality of treatment implicit in the idea of Sulh-i-Kull which was Akbar’s gift to Mughal polity and Indian society. Even otherwise, Akbar’s attempt to set himself as a Jagat Guru, the spiritual guide of his people, was nothing but a mistake and a misfortune. Vincent Smith is not usually a reliable guide in Indo-Muslim history, but he is fully justified in describing what has been called the Divine Faith as ”the outcome of ridiculous vanity, a monstrous growth of unrestrained autocracy,” and in considering it ”a monument of Akbar’s folly, not of his wisdom”. Akbar’s Hindu well-wishers like Raja Bahagwan Das30 and Raja Man Singh31 left him in no doubt about their dislike of his religious innovations. The only prominent Hindu who became his disciple was Birbal, regarded by succeeding generations as Akbar’s court jester. Muslims were, however, greatly offended and a reaction started against Akbar’s policy which was to have results quite different from those which he wished to achieve. A modern Hindu historian has rightly said:
”If Akbar had stopped with the remission of jizya, the prohibition of cow-slaughter, the partial Hinduisation of administration and patronage to Sanskrit literature without coquetting with Hindu philosophy and religion, history would have exacted him to the rank of the greatest statesman and nation-builder of the world. His fancy to be the Prophet of a new religion, and become the religious as well as the temporal head of the subjects proved the ruin of his noble scheme. He created no united nation, but a few Muhammadan hypocrites and a class of slavish Hindu enthusiasts-who could write Allah-Upanishad (Upanishad of Allah) to please their royal guru and whose descendants would not drink water without having the darshan of the occupant of the throne of Delhi, even if he were Aurangzeb. He did injustice to Islam and unnecessary humiliated her, for which history cannot forgive him, because this was done not in the interest of the state, but
347
Religion at the Court of Akbar
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>”>, vV
in pursuit of a personal hobby, however pious it might be. The imperial throne could not longer be the symbol of unity and centre of equal attraction to both peoples. While it attracted the Hindus, it repelled the Muslims.”32
Akbar’s failure was also due to bigger forces operating outside the court. At this time a great Hindu religious revival was sweeping the country. It commenced in Bengal, but under Chaitanya’s successors, Mathura in Northern India became the great centre of resurgent Hinduism. We have narrated that the great crisis of the judicial history of Muslim India arose over the action of a wealthy Brahman of Mathura who forcibly took away the building material collected by the qadi of the place for the construction of a mosque, used it for building a Hindu temple, and, when the qadi remonstrated, reviled the Holy Prophet. Muslim historians do not record the name of the Brahman, but it would not be surprising if this particular incident occurred in connection with the largescale Vaishnava temple-building operation which were going on at Mathura at this time, with the full support of Raja Man Singh. Who himself put up a large costly temple. The defiant and intolerant spirit which had been inculcated by the new movement can be seen in the attitude of the Brahman, who forcibly took over the material collected by a government official for a mosque. Other incidents of this nature can be found in Mujaddid’s letters.
Another indication of the new spirit was that now, for the first time, the Sanyasis were organised on a political and military basis. The order of Sanyasis was organised by Shankra in the nineth century, and till Akbar’s time seems to have taken no interest in politics. Panikkar says: ”During the early years of Akbar’s reign, armed Muslim Faqirs attacked and killed a number of Hindu Sanyasis and though the matter was represented to the Emperor by Madhu Sudhun Saraswati, the authorities afforded them no redress. Madhu Sudhun Saraswati then initiated a large number of Kshattriyas in seven out of the ten orders (the three excluded ones being Tirtha, Asrama and Saraswan; and placed on them the duty of defending religion (dharma).

Bk. II ] History of Muslim Civilisation in India & Pakistan 348


Mughal times we have numerous instances of conflicts in which these Hindu templars fought the Muslim Faqirs.”33
With such developments proceeding in the country, possibly with the support of Akbar’s Hindu officer,34 his efforts at religious syncretism were doomed to failure. Of course, the roots of this failure went even deeper-to the fundamental differences between Islam and Hinduism and the basic reluctance of the two communities to merge. By now Hindus and Muslims had co-existed for centuries-occasionally in conflict, generally in peace-but they had never coalesced. The over-ambitious attempt at a merger went against the genius of the two people, and could find acceptance only in the circle of court sycophants. It failed,as it was bound to, but the aggressive attitude of the Hindu revivalists and the offence which some of Akbar’s ill-advised measures gave to the Muslims, compounded the failure. They led to a reaction which was to impair even the existing basis of harmony.
Bayazid Ansari (932-989/1526-1581) and the Raushaniyyah Movement. A contemporary religious movement, with which Akbar had only a brief, incidental contact, but which was as heterodox as Akbar’s own religious views, may perhaps be suitably dealt with here. It was the Raushaniyyah movement of the north-west frontier, which created serious political problems for Akbar and his successors. The founder of the Raushaniyyah sect. Miyan Bayazid Ansari (called Pir-i Raushan or Pir-i Rawkhan by his admirers and Pir-i Tarik by the critics) was born at Jullundur in 932/1526, just a year prior to the replacement of the Afghan rule by the Mughals. Soon, the family moved to Kaniguram in south Waziristan, where Bayazid had a very unhappy childhood, marked by hostility towards his father, who had divorced his mother. The boy’s religious bent, however showed early, and during his trips to the Indian subcontinent, he freely mixed with Hindu Yogis and sufis of all types. He is said to have been specially influenced by Sulaiman of Kalinjar, an Isma’ili whose doctrine of Imamah is said to have formed the basis of his conception of Pir-i
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Kamil. Bayazid was a man of mystical bent of mind, and ultimately expounded doctrines which have raised serious controversy. His principal work, Khair al-Bayan, has not been published, and his autobiography, Hal Namah, is also in manuscript. An authoritative and really reliable appraisal of his teachings is, therefore, not possible at present. According to Dhakhirat al-Khwanin, written in the reign of Shah Jahan by Shaikh Farid of Bhakkar, Miyan Bayazid was a person of great psychical powers. ”Whoever saw him became his follower.” About Khair al-Bayan, Shaikh Farid says that it contains arguments proving the truth of Wahdat al-Wajud, ”from the nass, the Hadith and statements of the great men of the earlier times. In reality it is a wonderful book and if one examines it in an impartial spirit, one is bound to be benefited by it.”35 The account of Bayazid’s teachings, as given in the Dabistan-i Madhahib, however, shows that his views were exceedingly heterodox. According to this account, he argued that anyone who did not possess knowledge of his own sJf and of God was not a man. ”If he is harmful, he deserves the same treatment as the wolf, the tiger, the serpent or the scorpion; and such animals according to the teachings of the Arabian Prophet should be destroyed before they inflict injury. If such a man is virtuous and prays regularly, he is only like a cow or a sheep, for does not the Qur’an say that ”they are like beasts even more misguided than the beasts’? The killing of cow and sheep is lawful.”36 Bayazid also said that ”the people who had not acquired the abiding and etenral life of spiritual existence were in reality dead; their heirs who were ignorant of a higher life like their fathers were similarly dead; the property of the dead whose heirs are dead should pass to the living; hence he ordered that the ignorant should be killed, and their property seized.”37 Maulvi Muhammad Shafi is of opinion : ”What Dabistan gives as his doctrines are probably his war regulations relating to the period in which he was at war with the Mughals and other Afghan tribes hostile to him.”38 The account of Bayazid’s first encounter with the Mughals, as recorded in his
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