Religious Policy of Akbar

Religious policy has always been a subject of great significance in the governance of any state. The Mughal Empire, which flourished in the Indian subcontinent during the 16th and 17th centuries, witnessed a remarkable ruler who championed a policy of religious harmony and tolerance.

In this article, we will completely describe the Religious policy of Akbar. The religious policy of a state is guided by its history and the personal beliefs of the ruler. In a democracy, the ruler has to take more care of the religious sentiments of the people, but in a monarchy, the ruler can do whatever he wants.

PolicyReligious Policy of Akbar
Implemented by Akbar
Promote Din-i Ilahi from1582 to 1602
Religious Policy of Akbar

What is the Religious Policy of Akbar?

The Religious Policy of Akbar, also known as the Din-i-Ilahi, was a political and religious framework established by the Mughal Emperor Akbar during his reign in the 16th century. This policy aimed to create a universal religion that would bring together the diverse religious communities of India, including Hinduism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, and Christianity, under one umbrella.

Akbar’s vision was to create a pluralistic society that would promote tolerance, unity, and understanding among the different religious groups. The Din-i-Ilahi was not intended to replace any of the existing religions but rather to serve as a common platform for religious discourse and harmonious coexistence.

Akbar’s Religious Policy was considered a significant development in Indian history as it marked a departure from the traditional Mughal policy of religious intolerance and marked a shift towards a more inclusive and pluralistic society.

Overview of the Religious Policy of Akbar

  • Before the Mughals, India was ruled by Sultans, who did not treat Hindus liberally and deprived them of government posts, but despite this, Hindus were serious about their religion. Now, the Mughals understood this and changed the religious policy towards Hindus.
  • The history of the Mughal Empire is always measured by the scales of modern eyes, but it would be more logical to study it from the contemporary world society.
  • In order to compare the Mughal policy with that of its contemporary European counterparts, we must throw some light on the conditions in medieval Europe.
  • The series of wars fought in Europe in the sixteenth century was based on religion.
  • When we see at this context, we will find that the Mughals were more liberal and secular, although the early Mughal rulers were not ready to adopt a secular policy.

Babur’s behavior toward religion:

  • Babur used to offer Namaz and also used to keep fast.
  • To fulfill his ambitions, he became a follower of Shiaism.
  • Before the battle of Khanwa, he spilled the liquor in the Chambal valley. Giving the slogan of Jihad, he expressed his devotion to Islam.
  • Further, he used religion to motivate his soldiers.
  • He converted a temple into a mosque in Samba, destroyed a temple in Chanderi, and built Babri Masjid by destroying a temple in Ayodhya.

Humayun’s behavior toward religion:

  • There is no example of the destruction of any temple or any interference in worship during his reign.
  • During his period, there is neither any better policy regarding religion nor any such special evil.
  • The appearance of the main religious policy begins in the period of Akbar.

Religious Policy of Akbar

External factors that influenced Akbar

  • Akbar’s mother Hamida Banu Begum was from a Sufi family.
  • Akbar was born in Amarkot under the patronage of a Rajput.
  • Mir Abdul Latif taught Akbar about reconciliation.
  • He started his state work in Punjab where Guru Nanak had preached religious tolerance among Hindus and Muslims.
  • Akbar was curious to discover the truth, so according to the Sunni religion of his family, he tried to know the truth from the Sunni religious teacher and then repeatedly moved towards Shia, Persian, Christian, Jain, and Hindu religions.

Objectives of the Religious Policy of Akbar

  • K.A. Nizami and Vincent Smith – Akbar were trying to attain the status of “Prophet”.
  • Athar Ali – His objective was to establish a secular state.
  • Iqtidar Alam Khan – He wants to create a balance between the elite administrative class of different castes.
  • In the principle of sovereignty propounded by Akbar, both political and religious elements were present, which cannot be understood separately.

The first phase (1562 – 1574)

  • Under the influence of Sheikh Mubarak, the practice of enslavement of the families of those who were killed or captured in the war was abolished.
  • The pilgrimage tax was abolished in 1563, while his courtiers explained that it would result in a huge loss of revenue.
  • According to Abul Fazl, Akbar abolished the Jizya tax in 1564, while according to Badauni, it was abolished in 1579.
  • The purpose of abolishing Jizya was more political than religious. Akbar wanted to counter-balance the growing power of his Uzbeks.
  • In the early years of his reign, Akbar did not want to change the traditional Islamic form of the state.

Second Phase (1575 – 1579)

  • This phase begins with the establishment of Ibadat Khana in Fatehpur Sikri in 1575, in which 300 people could sit and debate on religious subjects.
  • This discussion used to happen every Thursday in Ibadat Khana, in which initially only Sunni followers were called but they did not behave well towards each other.
  • After that, they were divided into three groups, some in Abdun Nabi’s group, the others in Makhdum-ul-Mulk, and in the third group, there were persons like Abul Fazal and Haji Ibrahim who were in the form of Akbar representation.
  • Later, Akbar invited Shia scholars, yet Sunnis did not unite.
  • Moreover, there was not only a difference of opinion regarding the interpretation of the Hadith but also, there was no similarity of views regarding the interpretation of the verses of the Quran.
  • The ignorance of the Ulemas was exposed during debates, as a result of which Akbar invited scholars of religions other than Islam for religious discussions.
  • Akbar also invited Brahmins, in which the names of Purushottam and Devi Pandit are notable, from whom Akbar was impressed and his respect for Hindus increased. 
  • Under the influence of King Birbal, Akbar also started Surya Puja.
  • Jain scholars greatly influenced Akbar, due to which Akbar reduced the killing of animals.
  • In addition, Jain scholar Harvijay Suri was given the title of Jagat Guru and Jinchandra Suri as Yugpradhan, Vijaysen Suri and Bhanuchandra were also other Jain scholars of the same time.
  • Further, many Persian scholars also came, of which Dasturji Meherji Rana was the chief.
  • Father Monserrat and Akuyaviva came from Goa as part of the Christian missionary.
  • Due to the debates in the Ibadatkhana, Akbar became convinced that wise men are found in all religions and the truth is not the property of any one religion, especially Islam.
  • The effect of this was that Akbar gave freedom to all people to propagate their religion and the doors of high government posts were also opened for Hindus.

What is Mazhar?

A formal attempt by Akbar to concentrate the religious power in his hands was made in 1579 by a document called Mazhar. It was a manifesto written by Sheikh Mubarak, signed and accepted by Makhdum-ul-Mulk, Abdunnabi, Qazi Jalaluddin Multani, Ghazi Khan Badakhshi, and Sheikh Mubarak.

Mazhar gave this right to Akbar that he could recognize any idea, keeping in mind the need of the empire, in case of differences in any religious subject.

Also Read: Rajput Policy of Akbar

Reasons for the announcement of Mazhar:

  • Akbar now wanted to reduce the powers of the Ulemas.
  • During the debate in the Ibadatkhana, it was mentioned that the first four caliphs used to read the Khutbah themselves during the Friday prayer.
  • Inspired by this, on June 26, 1579, in the Jama Masjid of Fatehpur Sikri, Akbar himself read the Khutbah, which was written by Sheikh Mubarak’s son Faizi.
  • This was indicative of the fact that Akbar derived his power directly from God and tried to subdue the power of the Ulema between the emperor and God.
  • Akbar wanted to establish universalism even in the matter of religion.

Review of Akbar’s Mazhar:

  • This Mazhar gave Akbar universal authority in religious matters, but he did not have the right to order against the Quran or against the public interest.
  • According to Vincent Smith, Akbar issued Mazhar, inspired by the position of the Pope in Western Europe.
  • According to FW Buckler, Akbar wanted freedom from Iranian religious influence and allegiance to the Ottoman Caliphate. Further, this Mazhar made Akbar the Caliph of Muslims in India and was a challenge to the Ottoman Sultan who called himself the Caliph of Muslims all over the world.
  • According to S.A. Rizvi, Akbar had to bring all the subjects related to the Hindu-Muslim subjects under his control. 
  • According to S. M. Ikram, this was an important dimension in the development of Indian Muslim law.

Last Phase (1579-1605)

  • The main basis of Akbar’s thoughts was that in all religious matters reason is more important than imitation.
  • He believed that due to the difference in faith and practice, illusory differences have arisen in all religions, so he criticized the idol worship of Hindus and the methods of worship of Muslims.
  • According to him, worship should be done with the mind and there is no place for physical activity in it.
  • Now Akbar’s idea was to determine a method of cultivation that was different from orthodox Islam and Hinduism.
  • Akbar founded a new religion based on pantheism in 1581, which was called “Din-e-Ilahi“. Moreover, it contained the essence of the tenets of all religions.
  • Abul Fazl explained the rules required to become a member of this new sect.
  • For this, after taking education from Akbar, he had to be considered as a teacher, Sunday was fixed for the education of the disciples.
  • Further, Akbar did not force anyone to adopt this religion.
  • A total of 18 people accepted this religion in Akbar’s court, including Sheikh Mubarak, Abul Fazl, Faizi, Raja Birbal, Aziz Koka, and Mirza Jani. But, Muslims like Badauni criticized it.
  • In 1583, the new calendar Ilahi Samvat was issued, this is also confirmed by the coins of Akbar.
  • A. Smith has called Din-e-Ilahi a reflection of Akbar’s stupidity but all other historians have praised it.
  • He first announced the fundamental principles and then made arrangements to organize his religion. Hence, this was the reason that with the death of Akbar, Deen-e-Ilahi also died.
  • But due to his religious tolerance and generosity, Akbar proved that there is no fundamental difference between Islam and Hinduism, if there is a difference, then it is in the rituals.

Also Read: Mansabdari System of Akbar

Akbar’s Religious Policy – Conclusion

  • The religious policy of Akbar solved the problems in the establishment of the Mughal Empire, but there were also two main problems – the need to gain the support of powerful Rajputs for the imperial hegemony and to protect his position from Chagatai tribal elements and fundamentalism.
  • In such a situation, there was a need for a new ideology, which would render policies without religious bias in the state, as well as create a sense of faith in the general public for the emperor.
  • It would be fair to say that Akbar’s religious policy was inspired by his political position, Akbar was successful to some extent in the political field but not in religion. Moreover, Some Muslims opposed Akbar’s policies, but Hindus, Jains, and Persians became supporters of the Mughal Empire after being satisfied with Akbar’s policy and fighting for it.
  • As long as Akbar’s successors adopted Akbar’s religious policies, the foundation of the Mughal Empire remained strong, and as soon as Akbar’s religious policy was changed, the Mughal Empire went towards disintegration.

In conclusion, Akbar’s Religious Policy was a revolutionary idea that aimed to bring unity and harmony among the diverse religious communities of India. The policy served as a bridge between the different religions, promoting tolerance and understanding. Through the Din-i-Ilahi, Akbar envisioned a society that was inclusive and respectful of all beliefs.

Although the policy faced resistance from some religious groups, it had a lasting impact on Indian history and is remembered as one of Akbar’s most significant contributions. The Religious Policy of Akbar was a bold move towards creating a pluralistic society, where different religions could coexist peacefully, and serves as a model for religious tolerance and unity even today.

Thank You!

What was the Religious Policy of Akbar?

The Religious Policy of Akbar, also known as the Din-i-Ilahi, was a political and religious framework established by the Mughal Emperor Akbar with the aim of creating a universal religion that would bring together the diverse religious communities of India.

What was the objective of the Religious Policy of Akbar?

The objective of the Religious Policy was to create a pluralistic society that would promote tolerance, unity, and understanding among the different religious groups in India.

What is the legacy of the Religious Policy of Akbar?

The legacy of the Religious Policy of Akbar is one of inclusiveness and pluralism, serving as a model for religious tolerance and unity even today.

What is Din-i Ilahi?

Din-i Ilahi was a syncretic religion created by the Mughal Emperor Akbar in the late 16th century. It was an attempt to merge different faiths, including Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and Zoroastrianism, into a single faith.

Related Links:

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