Discuss The Religious Trends Among The Muslim Elite Society Of The Mughal Empire

1784 words - 8 pages

The Timurid Empire that began being shaped on a grand scale far from a plundering martial conquest of Hindustan into a grandiose empire spanning centuries began to take shape during the reign of Jalaluddin Akbar (1556-1605). Over the reign of the king Akbar much of the elite structure of society changed and crystallized into a structured landholding (jagir) and military (mansab) system. The Timurid Empire was agrarian in its base and every subject of the empire was absorbed into these systems to keep the wheels of the empire turning and fuel aims of expansion and consolidation of empire.
In understanding religion within the Mughal court, and in the larger framework of Mughal affairs it is ...view middle of the document...

Be it his personal spiritual understanding which he attempted to push forth as Imperial policy or pre-Akbari orthodox Muslim control of religion in the court, the effect of religious policy affected the peasant in an indirect way unlike the manner in which it influenced the courtly elite. The
Among sources that exist for the study of the Mughal and pre-Mughal period are Ziyauddin Barini’s Fatawa-i-Jahandari and Tirikh-I-Firozshahi. Present in the Mughal court and writing history as it happened were Akbar’s official historian and advisor Abul Fazl who wrote the Ain-i-Akbari and Akbarnama. The purpose of incorporating the available historiography of the court is to understand that court historians were among the elite of Mughal society. Abul Fazl enjoyed a high rank among the courtly elite and his writings treat Akbar as the focal point of history. Emperor Akbar is placed in his writing as being central to the historical process. This process as Abul Fazl understands is one which has a deep connection to the Kings character having a close connection with the wellbeing of India. Barani as a pre-Mughal historian is more critical of older elites as he fell out of favour with the court and critiqued the Muslim elite for not being Muslim enough. In understanding the representations of Akbar in history, as instructed by the King himself to write Abul Fazl argues that Akbar stands in a peculiarly intimate relationship with God. According to Abul Fazl as explained by Shireen Moosvi every sovereign has a connection with God but there are select sovereigns who deserve and are blessed by such a connection. Akbar is portrayed as one such sovereign as he is flawless. The portrayal of Akbar by Abul Fazl to a modern historiographer shows certain pertinent characteristics which play into both religious identities and imperial politics. On the very onset, Akbar is portrayed as a deeply spiritual monarch. His deep connection with God according to Abul Fazl has a direct relation with the wellbeing of India. This deep connection is not to a specific God identified in the Muslim monotheistic or non-Muslim ‘Hindu’ pantheistic tradition. Thus, Akbar is portrayed in his official historiography transcend religious boundaries in his role as the King. This picture is not just confined to the texts intended in writing but acted upon by Akbar in his ideas of Sul-i-Kul within his empire. However, as a King and patron to writers and chroniclers of history Akbar met with more success in creating an image of a spiritual leader of all the subjects of his empire than he did in the practicality of achieving Sul-i-Kul. The counter of such elaborate creation of Akbar in written texts lies in Abdul Qadir Badauni’s Muntakhabu’t Tawarikh (1595-6) that is initially skeptical and later critical in its appraisal of Akbar’s measures. The usage of texts to create an image of the king serves multiple purposes. In actuality, literacy was confined to literate elites: thus the intended...

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