Akbar the Great Mughul Emperor
Akbar: The Great Mughal Akbar’s Education and Education Akbar short for Jalal-ud-Din Muhammad Akbar also known as Akbar “The Great” was born on October 11, 1542 to the 2nd Moghul emperor “Humayun” and Hamida Banu Begam. His mother was a Persian Shi’ Muslim and “the daughter of a famous Persian scholar who served his youngest uncle, Hindal, as a civil servant” (Moujloum Khan, 172). His birth came at “an astrologically propitious hour.
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The unique pear l of the vice regency of God came forth in his glory,’ wrote Abu-l-Fazl, ‘and at his birth the first opening of his eyes on the visible world, rejoiced the hearts of the wise with a sweet smile’” (Andre Wink 7). It was a very auspicious time to be brought to this world and his everyone rejoiced, as it is a sign of wisdom to be born with the eyes open on the stars. In addition he was born at time when his father Humayun was struggling with maintaining his power and expanding his empire even prior to his birth.
Humayun’s father Babar, the founder of the Mughal Empire, had left the empire’s administration unstable and unorganized therefore Humayun had to face many problems soon after his father’s death as the successor of the empire. First he had to take action against the aggression of his biggest rival Sher Shah, founder of the Suri dynasty, to regain his power. He was then forced to flee for from time to time to Persian and Sindh and that is where he met Akbar’s mother.
In addition Humayun’s rebellious and treacherous brothers Mirza Kamranm, Askari and Hindul were plotting against him and contributed immensely in his defeat and banishing by the Afghans, therefore he took military action against them and as a result he subdued them and took back Lahore, Punjab, Delhi and Agra, and reclaimed his power. After years of attempting to get his kingdom back, Humayun finally was able to get back his rule but not for too long. When Akbar was only 13 years old, his father died of an unfortunate accident in the palace while rushing to answer the call to prayer.
The sudden turn of events changed Akbar’s life and he was suddenly thrust into an empire in jeopardy. * Akbar was born at an adverse political period, which prevented him from attaining a proper education. When he was just a year and three months he was separated from his parents. The royal couple fled to Hijaz to preform pilgrimage and to solicit support from the emperor of Persia in order to regain control of Hindustan leaving baby Akbar with his uncle Askari. He was then taken to Qandahar where his uncle’s wife, Sultan Begam, took him in and raised him for a short period.
In 1944, about a year after being separated from his parents, Akbar’s father Humayun returned to Qandahar with Persian auxiliary troops and took control while Akbar was taken to Kabul where he was to be handed over to Khazanda Begam, a sister of the late emperor Babur. He was a very fortunate little boy as his caretaker was very fond of him and took him in as her own son. Soon after his father-captured Kabul, Akbar was reunited with his parents after being away from them for more than two years.
This period of time is known to be “the beginning of the beating of the drum of victory and conquest of His majesty” (Wink 9). Since the beginning of his life, Akbar did not have a proper home as his family was on the run from one place to another and he was deprived of formal education. For this reason he remained unlettered and he “failed to gain proficiency in literacy” (Moujloum Khan, 172). At the age of none he was given governance of the village of Carkh and just a year later when his uncle Hindal died he was given charge of his servants and entourage.
As one could see that Akbar was given great responsibility despite his young age, which prepared him for his reign after his fathers demise. It is said that this great responsibility was given to him so “that his greatness might be tested… [and] that all might know his abilities, and also that he might have practice in the art of rule” (Wink, 10). When Akbar was twelve years old, his father succeeded in the re-conquest of Hindustan and ordered that the conquest be inscribed in Akbar’s name “indicating thereby that Akbar was nominally in command of the entire campaign” (Wink, 10).
After the great occurrence of reclaiming Hindustan, Akbar was sent to Sirhind in the Panjab where he was given a tutor to educate about Indian manners and customs and “who brought the Indians after the unique age” (Wink, 10). By surrounding himself with other educated people Akbar did not only learn about the customs and manners of India but he also grasped and mastered an extensive variety of objects including philosophy, art, history, religion and poetry without great efforts.
He proved himself to be an intelligent person with a sharp intellect and a prodigious memory. He is described “as a man of excellent judgment and good memory who had attained a considerable erudition in many fields by listening to others, …[and] no one who did not know that he was illiterate would suppose him to be anything but very learned and erudite” (Wink, 14). Through constant communication In addition to his intellectual abilities, he was also well trained in all aspects of political military and civil affair.
When his father established himself on the imperial throne in 1555, Akbar just like his forefathers was trained in archery, horse riding, wrestling and swordsmanship, which prepared him for the battlefield. As his grandfather at the age of twelve, the first Mughal emperor, and his father Humayun at the age of eleven, Akbar went to on his first military operation when he was only thirteen. He was instructed by his father to prepare a safe route from Kabul through the Punjab and “keep the remaining Afghans at bay in the northern hills” (Wink, 11).
Also while he was in Punjab, Akbar took the opportunity and acquired skills in artillery by the finest available Ottoman tutor, Rumi Khan. Akbar also attained skills in drawing with prominent Persian artists and in learning the Hindi language as well. When he was about fifteen or sixteen while in his 3rd year of kingship, he was started diving into Sufi mystical writings like that of Hafiz. He was put in an educative program that taught refinement of character, Qur’an, historical knowledge and poetry.
Notwithstanding his illiteracy Akbar was well rounded, intelligent and most certainly a person with a sharp intellect and prodigious memory. He later son Jahangir writes about him in his memoirs saying: “My father always associated with the learned of India, and although he was illiterate, so much became clear to him through constant intercourse with the learned and the wise, and in his conversations with them, that no one knew him to be illiterate, and he was so acquainted with the niceties of prose and verse composition that this deficiency was not thought of” (Tuzuk, I, 33).
Akbar’s Military history * Humayun’s death meant many things to the Mughal empire and especially Akbar; he was to succeed his father and step to the throne as the emperor of a troubled land. Akbar came to power at a fairly young age and it seems that it did not stop him from making military judgments as a result of his extensive military and practical training when he was younger.
At the start of his journey as a ruler, “he instigated military in order to regain the lost territories, and thereby restore political stability, social peace and security across the Mughal dominion” (Moujloum Khan, 173). He was operating under Bairan Khan, his civil servant and regent, who trained him in all aspects of governance to prepare him in succeeding his father as the ruler of the Mughal dynasty. By general agreement he was far too young to rule autonomously so on that account Bairan Kahn who also assisted his father Humayun when he was ruling operated over him.
Under his supervision and stewardship, Akbar “took action against all remaining rebellious governors and sultans, before winning a decisive victory at Panipat in 1556, where he inflicted a c rushing defeat on Hemu, his most powerful Hindu rival, who at the time ruled both Delhi and Agra”(Moujloum Khan, 173). Despite the Hemu’s strength and history in battlefields, Akbar was not intimidated and marched fearlessly into the battlefield with his army and overpowered his adversaries’ forces.
As Bairan khan’s influence grew, he started to take advantage of his role in making decisions without Akbar’s consent and became a liability as opposed to a benefit to the Mughal Empire. He was heavy-handed when it came to military tactics. Six years into his role an emperor under his authoritative guide and mentor, Akbar had enough of him and dismissed him and sent him to Mecca to preform the sacred pilgrimage. Akbar was only eighteen when he became fully-fledged and responsible for the political and military affairs of his empire.
His decision enabled him to think for himself and to make decisive actions in consolidating the empire. He was keen to expand the empire further onto the bordering countries and then battled with them in order to gain new territories. His intent in conquering other lands was not only to expand the empire but only to liberate the oppressed from tyranny. Abul-al-Fazl writes: “In conquering countries and cities his first thought is to inquire into and sympathize with the condition of the oppressed” (Wink, 21).
In 1568 he marched with his military to the lands of Rajasthan in response to the Rajput’s threatens against the Mughal empire. Despite their resistance they were eventually defeated due to Akbar’s superior military force. After he succeeded in capturing Rajasthan, his next target was the state of Gujarat. It was an important commercial city in a prominent location with prosperous ports and coastal resorts. For this reason, Akbar took the stance in capturing it and sett off with his military forces as soon as he received the news of riots in the capital of Gujarat, Ahmedabad, in just over a week covering six hundred miles en route.
He was effective in his planning and military strategies and captured the province without conflict and hence joined his empire with the Arabian Sea, which opened up a naval route to the rest of the world. To him expanding the empire did not just mean more land but also joining and uniting a people. After he annexed Gujarat, he went to the wealthy northern Indian in Bengal, Kabul, and the beautiful basin of Kashmir, Orissa, Sind and Baluchistan and captured them all in a matter of less than 20 years.
His achievements in conquering lands are astonishing and how he managed to establish his authority in the Mughal Empire throughout Northern India is an astounding accomplishment that many rulers would not be able to triumph as he did. According to his son Jahangir Akbar “passed his days his nights in wakefulness and slept little in the day…He counted his wakefulness at night as so much added to his life. His courage and boldness were such that he could mount raging, rutting elephants, and subdue murderous elephants” (Moujloum Khan, 174).
As a tactical and strategic leader, Akbar was well aware that without employing and developing an effective civil and political governmental system it would not be possible to unite and strengthen the territories. He was resolute to transform his empire especially because he did not want the history to repeat itself from when the Mughal Empire was disintegrated. He had to come up with a long-term plan and increase the growth of the financial treasury. He also knew that he could reform his empire without winning the hearts and minds of his people-Muslims and Hindus alike.
This meant promoting dialogue between the two prominent religions that is Islam and Hinduism in the subjects of religion and culture. * He “hoped to establish lasting political stability, social solidarity and cultural understanding and tolerance throughout Mughal India. In order to achieve this objective, Akbar reformed the existing Mughal political and administrative structure which depended heavily on the goodwill and support of the wealthy, independent feudal chiefs to function effectively”(Moujloum Khan, 174).
To prevent economic corruption, political disarrangement and social dissatisfaction, Akbar assigned regional administrators who were fairly responsible and reliable for overseeing the affairs of their own provinces and frequently reported to him. He subsequently went out of his way and created ties with the influential Hindu groups. The Rajputs, who were one of the most influential Hindu groups shortly, joined the Mughal Empire’s political, military and civil services.
This approach that Akbar took in forging alliances was very affective because it ensured that Muslims and Hindus work together in running the administration of the Mughal Empire. Both the Muslims and the Hindus came together to “consolidate Mughal political power and authority across India. Thus politically speaking, Akbar’s efforts to unite Muslims Hindus proved a success” (Moujloum Khan, 174). Akbar and Religion * In addition to uniting the Hindus and the Muslims together in the civil, political and civic realm, but Akbar was rather ineffective when he tried to harmonize Islam and Hinduism.
Islam and Hinduism are two very different religions; Islam on one hand preaches the absolute oness of God while Hinduism the worship of multiple gods. Islam considers the association of god with other deities’ disbelief. The two religions are more completely opposed to one another than any other major world religion. There is no doubt that Akbar’s intention to bring the two groups together is a praiseworthy and admirable intention but his approach to inter-faith discourse proved both heavy-handed and impulsive. Akbar was reacting to the constant conflicts and disagreements that have been occurring between the two groups.
He and “his advisors began to explore ways in which they * could end these bitter conflicts by emphasizing the common elements between the two faiths, rather than focus on the differences; this eventually inspired them to create a religious synthesis by combining aspects of Islamic mysticism and Hindu philosophy. But, fat from uniting the two rival religious factions, this only served to make matters worse, because both orthodox Muslims and Hindus considered Akbar’s religious eclecticism very offensive” (Moujloum Khan, 175).
Unfortunately both Hindus and Muslims alike labeled him as a heretic and a freethinker because of his views on religious tolerance. Despite these accusations, Akbar was a devout Muslim who prayed his five daily prayers and was very much afraid of displeasing god with the choices he made. His idea to join the religions was highly questionable hence it was contradictory to the Shariah. In the beginning of his reign, Akbar reformed many laws that were highly problematic from an Islamic point of view although it was done in respect of other religions.
For example, the abolishment of non-shariah trade and market taxes and the taxes that were “imposed on certain Hindu pilgrimage, normally associated with fairs; …but he also forbade the questionable jizyah tax on dhimmi non-Muslims throughout his reign” ”(Marshall G. S. Hodgson, 71). Because of the reforms he has made, it appears that it did not matter to Akbar whether the reforms he made were contradicting the shariah as long as they were acknowledging people from other faiths especially the Hindus.
He also banned the slaughtering of animals on certain days of the year and in areas that are deemed sacred to the Hindus. He disallowed child marriages, which was a common practice among the Hindus and the Muslims and the Hindu forced practice of widows that burnt themselves alongside their husbands’ corpses unless it was voluntary by the widows. It was not an easy task for him to do because some people would not submit and let go of their traditions but he was very patient very patient with them.
To support other faiths he contributed financially” to the building of temples of other faiths. In this way he put practice into a universalist orientation in religion itself, which formed an important component of the interconfessional cultural climate of the court”(Hodgson, 72). To further take the idea of having a universalist orientation Akbar organized, Akbar was very interested in religion, especially Islam therefore he organized “a house of worship” where Muslim scholars various points of view could gather to dispute and discuss their respective faiths and claims.
In order to consolidate his power, Akbar introduced a series of reforms of religious beliefs. Besides his strong belief in the holy Qur’an, he also believed all the other faiths were true and that there is a way to bring unity of all the faiths. This became the basis of his new “religious synthesis, namely din-i-ilahi (or the Devine Religion”), which as expected, was vigorously opposed by both orthodox Muslims and Hindus”(Moujloum Khan, 175). It was a dedicated to a universalist outlook, moral purity and personal devotion.
This was indeed a questionable and controversial religious matter because it was a deviation from Islamic dogma. Akbar was told by one of his devotees, Abul al-Fazl, that he was a spiritual leader and he was responsible of his people’s lives and the source of sorting out the common truth by uniting the world religions. This was a continuation of his past project when he established the “house of god” where people from different faiths could debate at his court, as it did not work out because the intolerant Jesuits who wanted to convert.
Akbar was a devout Muslim and he always cared about pleasing god, it is said that he “would spend whole * Nights in religious discussion. ‘ And from a feeling of thankfulness for his past successes he would sit many a morning alone in prayer and meditation on a large flat stone of an old building which lay near the palace in a lonely spot, with his head over his chest, gathering the bliss of the early hours of dawn’”(Wink, 97). Although his new religion was meant to synthesize and consolidate the world’s religions into one it was predominately based on Islam.
The main dogma of din-i-illahi is that the world is a creation of God and is a unified and single place, which manifests the unity and ones of God. In addition to the fundamental beliefs of the “Divine Religion”, Akbar derived from Zoroastrianism sun worship and the idea of kingship and from Jainism the care and respect of all living things. This is obviously contradictory to Islam and the Ulama were very disturbed and considered it as “outright heresy” (Unity of Religions). * Conclusion As a leader, Akbar was determined, tolerant, ruthless and dedicated to his empire. He not only expanded his empire but also established political stability, promoted economic prosperity and reformed the civic administration that his forefathers worked for but also built one of the most beautiful and breathtaking monuments ever built in the Islamic civilization. Although he was illiterate, he managed to hold stimulating political and religious intellectual discussions.
He was also very fond of poetry especially Persian poetry. The Mughal Empire became one “ of the most influential political and military powers of the time. And having once fallen out with his only surviving so, Salim (Emperor Jahangir), Akbar became reconciled with him just before his death; he died at the age of sixty-three”(Moujloum Khan, 175). He was buried in Sirkandra in a mausoleum that he had prepared for himself before his demise west of Agra, India. ?? * * * Works Cited
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