Compare the writings of Abul Fazl and Badauni on Akbar’s reign

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Abul Fazl:

The contribution of Abul Fazl on Akbar’s reign is considered an important contribution to Indo-Persian historiography. Abul Fazl did not believe that Indian history should concern itself only with the achievements of the Muslim rulers in India, nor did he try to establish any relation with the past of Islam.

In his treatment of Akbar’s military expeditions against the Rajputs, he emphasizes on the point that there was no justification for any chief, Hindu or Muslim not to join the imperial confederation in view of the reconciliatory policy of Akbar. He feels that Akbar’s state policy was calculated to bring unity, stability and economic prosperity to the country. In fact, Abul Fazl’s secular interpretation of history gained ground during the subsequent century. However, Abul Fazl fails) to mention or raise any issue which cast any aspersion on Akbar.

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It is true that the Ain-i Akbari abounds in economic details, but these details do not tell us anything about the life and conditions of the mass of peasantry or working class. The Ain-i Akbari contains statistical details which are valuable source for the study of economic history with no parallel with any historical accounts prior to it or till the 18th century. But artisans or peasants are completely absent. The Ain-i Akbari, the third part of the Akbarnama is a unique compilation of the system of administration and control through the departments of government. It also contains an account of the religious and philosophical systems of the Hindus.

However, Abul Fazal’s identification with Akbar’s views and religious beliefs prevented him from presenting a picture in different hues, reflecting the currents and cross currents in society. Abul Fazl does not mention Shah Mansur or his successor Todarmal’s contribution while dealing with revenue reforms and portrays Akbar as the genius who evolved key reforms including Ain-i Dahsala (ten years settlement) and revenue dasturs. The reader does not find the spirit of Akbar’s age in Akbarnama that was successfully depicted by Abdul Qadir Badauni or even Nizamuddin Ahmad.

Abdul Qadir Badauni:

Abdul Qadir Badauni was also a keen student of history and literature. He learnt Sanskrit and classical Indian music along with Islamic theology. Akbar employed him to translate Mahabharat from Sanskrit into Persian. The first volume of his history entitled

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Muntakhab Ut Tawarikh is related to the history of the Sultanate of Delhi. The second covers Akbar’s reign while in the third volume the biographical notes on the scholars, poets and Sufi saints of Akbar’s reign. His account is very readable bringing out the important facts of the period. Brevity is the beauty of Badauni’s style. The first volume contains information culled from miscellaneous sources, many of which are not extant today.

Moreover, Badauni possessed an analytical independent mind with different views than the official line. In fact Badauni’s objective was to present a frank account of his times. It is Badauni’s second volume that needs to be studied along with Abul Fazl’s Akbarnama to have a proper understanding of Akbar’s reign. Badauni does not gloss over any uncomfortable question on Akbar’s ability as an administrator.

For example, Badauni records the failure of the karori experience and the disaster it caused. Badauni is corroborated in essentials by Nizamuddin Ahmad also. Unlike Abul Fazl and even Nizamuddin Ahmad, Badauni’s account of the religious discussions held in Akbar’s Ibadat Khana, the origin of Akbar’s differences with the Muslim orthodoxy that led to religious controversies is vivid depicting the currents and cross currents of thought.

It certainly has precedence on Akbarnama, in a number of areas especially the controversial issues. It gives an impression to the readers that it is free from the official constraints, catches the realities of the time and reflects the magnitude and intensity of conflicts of the period.

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