Useful notes on the Akbar’s Religious Policy

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Akbar had been brought up in an atmosphere surcharged with conflicting religious influences. His father was a Central Asian Sunni given to belief in super­stitious mysticism. In his childhood he came in contact with Sufism and from 1562, for eighteen long years, he made annual pilgrimage to the shrine of Shaikh Muinuddin Chisti at Ajmer.

His Rajput wives, his Hindu officials like Todarmal, Birbal and Man Singh, scholars like Faizi and Abul Fazl and the Bhakti movement of the sixteenth century helped in moulding his religioous views. He developed a passionate love for philosophical discussions and spiritual quest, which led to the foundation of the Ibadatkhana (Hall of Worship) at Fatehpur Sikri.

His religious discussions were held every Thursday evening. At first these were confined to Muslims only; but he was soon disillusioned as these discussions often brought to the fore the violent intolerance of the Sunnis and the Shia-Sunni differences.

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In 1578, he converted the Ibadatkhana into a ‘Parliament of Religions’, because he realized that religious discussions could not be fruitful without a broad base. He threw the Ibadatkhana open to Hindus, Jains, Zoroastrians and Christians.

The purpose of these discussions with the scholars and spiritual leaders of different religions was that “principles of faiths and creeds be examined, religions investigated, the proofs and evidence for each be considered, and the gold and alloy be separated”. From these discussions he concluded that no single religion could claim the monopoly of truth.

In 1579 Akbar decided that it was necessary for him to take into his own hands all religious matters affecting his Muslim subjects, which led to drafting of a ‘Declaration’ or mahzar by Shaikh Mubarak. It was signed by five ulema or theologians, which made Akbar the supreme or final arbiter in religious matters and replaced the power of the ulema by the power of the emperor.

Having developed an aversion for narrow sectarianism, Akbar’s searching mind set out to dissect the dogmas and tenets of various religions to discover the real truth. He finally had an electicism drawn from various faiths. The comparative study of different religions of the age led Akbar to formulate an order known as Din-i-ilahi or Jauhind-i-ilahi (Divine Monotheism) in 1582.

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It had no well-defined theology or philosophy,but required belief in one supreme God. There was a code of conduct enjoining the practice of ten virtues with some principles of social reform. Apart from belief in the unity of God, it had no other characteristic feature of an established religion.

So far as Akbar was concerned, it was an “earnest and intense endeavour in search of a formula which would satisfy all but hurt none and contain all that was good and true and beautiful in the great faiths of the world.”

The basic purpose of the formulation of Din-i-Ilahi was Sul-i-Kul or universal harmony which governed all public policies of Akbar. As Monserrate, a contem­porary of Akbar, said: “His (Akbar’s) God was not the God of the Muslims alone.

He worshipped the God of all men.” Akbar extricated India from the clamps of theocracy and endeavoured to fuse together the different classes of his subjects by bonds of common citizenship and to establish a secular state.

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