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The Din-I-Ilahi Or The Religion Of Akbar

The Din-I-Ilahi Or The Religion Of Akbar


Item Code: IDD907

by Makhan Lal Roy Choudhury

Hardcover (Edition: 1997)

Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
ISBN 81-215-0777-4

Language: English
Size: 8.8" X 5.8"
Pages: 254 (B & W Illus: 3)
Weight of the Book:424 gms
Price: $31.50
Discounted: $23.62   Shipping Free
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About the Book

Akbar was proclaimed emporer in February 1956. At that time the Mughal authority in India was I a state of Tottering flux. At the time of his death in 1605, he had established a strong empire. This was due not only to his abilities as a military leader but also due to his enlightened religious policy.

Born of a Shia mother and Sunni father under the roof of a Rajput ruller, he inherited a spirit of toleration and harmony. When he grew up to manhood, he learnt that the Sultans of Delhi had fialed because they did not secure the devotion of their Hindu subject. The fact that they even failed to win the loyalty of their Muslim subjects by persecuting the Hindus was an eye-opener. He felt it more prudent to conciliate his Hindu subjects and befriend them. To carry out this idea in practice, he was eager to have an authentic knowledge of all faiths. In 1575, he built the Ibadat Khana at Fatehpur Sikri. There on every Thursday evening an assembly was convened to discuss religious questions. The first result of these discussions was Mahzar (1579), a declaration signed by the leading Muslim theologians in the form of a Batwa which empowered Akbar to issue edicts against the Quran in public interest. This was followed by the promulgation of Din-i-Ilahi in 1581-82

Din-i-Ilahi is not a religion. It can be termed as Sufi-system of Akbar. It advocated ten important virtues. Toleration was their basis. It was far ahead of its time.

The value of this book lies in the way the author has gone fully into the background of Din-i-Ilahi and described its impact on the course of Mughal history in most fascinating manner-so fascinating in fact that everyone from the casual reader to the erudite scholar will find it instructive.


I have great pleasure in commending to students of the Mughal period of the Indian History, Prof. Makhanlal Roy Choudhury's book on the Din-i-Ilahi or the religion of Akbar. While all the biographies of Akbar contain some reference to the subject dealt with in this book, yet there is no work which deals elaborately and specifically with this important theme. Prof. Roy Choudhury has brought to the discussion of Akbar's religion a profound study of the original sources, and has also carried on research on his own account, with the result that his book is a masterly exposition of the Din-I-Llahi of Akbar. The work is planned on an extensive scale, and is not only sound and instructive but also highly interesting. After having surveyed the historical and cultural background of Akbar's period, the author describes at length the various forces that were at work at that time. He then deals with the various of Akbar, contributed their respective shares to the evolution of the Din-i-Ilahi-the Sunnis, the Shias, the Hindus, the Jains, the Sikhs, the Buddhists, the Parsis, the Jews and, last but not the least, the Christians. The author accurately summarises the results of the impact of these various communities at the Court of Akbar and the resultant trend thereof which ultimately culminated in the establishment of the Din-i-Ilahi.

Covering, as the book does, an extensive ground, it is not possible that all the conclusions of the author will find ready acceptance. To take but one of the many controversial points in the book, I may refer to the author's conclusions about the religion of Akbar himself. It is well-known that various historians of Akbar's period, and also his biographers, have come to the conclusion that Akbar practically-and some hold, even formally and openly-renounced Islam. Of these, the late Mr. Vincent Smith, an eminent writer of Indian history, in his Life of Akbar, is definitely of pinion that Akbar renounced Islam. The author does not share that view. He holds, on the contrary, that inspite of his having founded the Din-i-Ilahi, Akbar continued to be a Muslim to the last; and he attributes, what he regards as a wrong conclusion on the part of Vincent Smith, to his having misread the original text on the subject. But the author is, no doubt, aware that almost all contemporary writers hold that he was not at all a believer in Islam. And it cannot be said that there are no reliable materials and data from which we may justly come to that conclusion. At the same time, students of Indian history of Akbar's period will be deeply interested in the study of the facts brought together by the author in support of the view propounded by him-that Akbar remained a Muslim to the last chapter of his life. It is not my duty to take sides in this highly interesting controversy between the author and several of his predecessors. But I have referred to this one particular point, as showing how the materials of Indian history are still undergoing a process of re-interpretation, and to what extent the author has made a contribution towards it. His book is learned and luminous, and should attract wide attention in circles interested in the study of the Mughal period of Indian history.


The history of India is yet to be written. Formerly we read the history of kings, queens, battles, and sieges. To-day we read the history of men and thoughts. The perspective of history has changed-nay, it has been revolutionized. No longer a student is satisfied with the old review of things. History is now a science of man-the man within, and the man in the world and outside. Every age has a philosophy of its own and man interprets that philosophy by the life he lives. History is the study of that philosophy interpreted by examples-the actions of the individual unconsciously form the spokes in the wheel of progress. No event is isolated and no action is complete by itself. If the transformation of energy explains the evolution of the Universe of Matter, the individual thoughts and actions reveal and accelerate the progress of the Universe of Mind. The present comes out of the womb of the past and the future is embedded in the present. There is an unbroken continuity through the past, present and future.

In the onward flow of civilization, we sometimes come across waves and curves which often find explanation in the actions of the individuals. But they must not be taken in isolation. They generally form the parts of vaster current flowing through different channels. But they are nothing if not movements of the Universal current flowing through all ages. When there is a sudden upheaval in one country at a particular period of time, there is a vibration in every direction in the common level. This is particularly true of the great upheaval of the 16th century of Indian history-I mean, the age of Akbar. It was an age of the Renaissance in Europe, of the Mahdi movement in Islam, the Ming revival in China, and of the Sufi forces and Bhakti cult in India. In the 16th century of the Christian era, every civilized country in the world was pulsating with a new life; new orders of things were on the anvil, vigorous dynasties appeared-in England the Tudors, in France the Bourbons, in Spain and Austria the Hapsburgs, in Prussia the Hohenzollerns, in Turkey the Usmanlis, in Egypt the Mamluks, in Persia the Safavis, in Transoxiana the Sahabanids, in China the Mings, in India the Timurids-all in the same period. Greatness of the individual kings rather realized the spirit of the Age-Henry VIII and Elizabeth in England, Henry IV in France, Fredrick William in Prussia, Sigismund in Austria, Philip II in Spain, Suleiman in Turkey, Shah Ismail and Shah Tahmasp in Persia, the Sahabani khan in Transoxiana, Yung Lo in China and Babar and Akbar in India. Indeed the unison was perfect.

European writers on the Timurids in India tried to explain in the life and actions of the great Emperor Akbar as mere accidents. They made an isolated study of Akbar without reference to the Central Asian background neglecting the unity of the Islamic movements of the period. The range of their study was circumscribed by the conception of history current in the 19th century. They interpreted the facts of the Timurid India as mere isolated accidental happenings. Few of them tried to enter into the spirit that inspired the movement of Indian events-their currents and cross-currents. Their life was different and the perspective was exclusive. As such, their interpretations of Indian history were coloured by their predilections. They depended on the contemporary writers on Muslim India who were mere narrators of events. These writers were ecclesiastics, merchants, adventurers and travellers. The scope of their writings was determined by the nature of the professions to which they belonged. Even stray acquaintance with Muslim chronicles did not alter their angle of vision, because almost all the Muslim chroniclers were mere writers of events (waqi'a nawis), and their conception of history may be gathered from the name they gave to history-Tawarikh (date-records). Thus, in the light of stereotyped conception of history, with materials of doubtful value furnished by contemporary European recorders of events and with chronicles maintained by Muslim chronologists at their command, the European historians failed in many cases to offer reliable interpretations of Indo-Muslim thoughts and events. Moreover, most of the early English writers were obsessed with a feeling of superiority when they wrote the history of the conquered people of India-specially of the Muslims from whom they conquered Hindustan. They laid stress on Akbar as a conqueror, as an empire-builder and as an administrator. They showered encomiums on Akbar for his personal qualities, for his versatility. Certainly, Akbar deserves a good deal of what has been said of him as a builder of the Timurid Empire in India and as a founder of some institutions which survive even to-day. But that is only one side of the medal. The explanation of Akbar's life and contemporary events is incomplete unless they are treated in the spirit of the atmosphere he breathed, the ideals for which he stood and the cultural synthesis which he and his great associates brought about. The veil of seclusion that had concealed India from the gaze of the world outside was no longer there, she was no longer dead to the play of forces that were working in the contemporary world. A mere narration of events of the age of the Emperor Akbar is not a satisfactory approach to the history of that important epoch of the Indians. Without a study of the cultural and intellectual activities of the Ibadat Khana-the first parliament of the religions of the world-it is impossible to understand the forces and ideals for which India had been working for centuries. Indian civilization has a wonderful capacity of assimilating extraneous currents and transmitting her own to others. The Din-i-Ilahi of Emperor Akbar clearly demonstrated how the Central Asian forces, winding their course through the Semitism of Arabia and filtering through the Monism of Iran, were ultimately Aryanised by the touch of Hindustan. The contribution of the different cultures, as represented in that great Hall of Worship, to the transformation and Indianisation of Islam was immense, though of course the process had already begun. Maintaining the basis of real Islam, the great savants of the age metamorphosed and crystallized the spirit of the age into Sufi order, called the Din-i-Ilahi. Indeed, without the study of the Din-i-Ilahi, the history of the 16th century India is incomplete. In this book, I have attempted to offer an interpretation of the movement of forces that worked in India throughout this period and to estimate the contribution of Akbar to the new synthesis which characterized this very important epoch of Indian history.

Before I conclude, I must acknowledge my thanks to Dr. Symaprasad Mookerjee, M.A., LL.B., D.LITT., Barrister-at-Law, M.L.A. ex-Vice-Chancellor of the Calcutta University, for the encouragement I received from him, and to Dr. S. N. Sen, M.A., P.R.S., Ph.D. (Cal.), B.LITT. (Oxon.), Keeper of Imperial Records, New Delhi, for the help he gave me. Prof. N. C. Banerjee, M.A., Ph.D., of Calcutta University, obliged me by ungrudgingly suggesting some interesting interpretation of old facts. Prof. Priyaranjan Sen, M.A., P.R.S., Kavyatirtha, has placed me under a deep debt of gratitude by going through the MSS. Dr. R. P. Tripathi, M.A., D.SC. (Lond.) of Allahabad was kind enough to discuss my interpretations and suggest new lights. My thanks are offered to them. Maulana M. E. Zakaria, formerly editor of the Momin Gazette of Cawnpore, also deserves my gratefulness for interpreting the theological abstractions of Islam from the orthodox standpoint.

Finally, I must thank Mr. D. B. Gangulee, Superintendent, Calcutta University Press, and his staff-and especially Mr. J. Roy – for the valuable help which I received from them in the course of the printing of the book.



In the absence of any original work on the DIN-l-ILAHI, writers of the 19th century interpreted the religion of Akbar according to theories current in the period. Western writers of the History of the East tended to bring everything Eastern into line with Western notions. Western political principles were accepted to be ideals of government. One point of similarity with the West in the life and manners of an Eastern Sovereign was supposed to be a feather in the cap of his greatness. Western political principles like “a state has no connection with religion,” “statecraft is a purely secular affair,” “the conception of a nation presupposes religious unity,” and so forth, had become standards of thought among historians. They too readily concluded influences and borrowings from the West in all such cases of similarity. In the absence of any treaties on Akbar’s religion, historians gave full play to their fancies. Some found Akbar’s religion “to be the outcome of a political necessity, the need of a universal religion in which Hindoos and Muslims could join.” According to them, Akbar, like Elizabeth of England and Henry IV of France, “was actuated by the motive of a compromise.” A few asserted that “Akbar became the supreme head of the Church because he wanted to keep the warring factions at peace.” Others judged Akbar from an entirely secular point, viewing his ordinances as very personal. They said that “Akbar had a fondness for flattery, a weakness for adoration.” One suggested that Akbar “founded a new religion in order that he might pose himself as God or at least the vicegerent of God.” Another remarked, “Akbar allowed prostration before himself because he liked to be treated as God on Earth.” Remarks like these have been made and swallowed by unsuspecting readers as facts of history. They are generally astounding and pleasing and also easy to remember, being clad in familiar Western words. Few people take pains to enter into the sources of these remarks and fewer still have opportunity of seeing things through by examining the originals in a true spirit of inquiry. Even Dr. Smith, the author of Akbar the Great Mogul, did not hesitate to say, “The whole scheme was the outcome of a ridiculous vanity, a monstrous growth of unrestrained autocracy. . . . The new faith was but a testimony to his grasping ambition, his pompous desire to be the Emperor, Pope and Prophet rolled into one. . . . It was the love of power that induced Akbar to deny the authority of the Prophet and start a new religion.”

In Ain No. 77 Abul Fazl promised to write separately on Akbar as “a -Spiritual Guide to the people,” but sudden murder did not permit him to fulfil his pious intentions. The subject has been treated by Badauni in his Muntakhabu-t Tawarikh. He has discussed the regulations of Akbar purely from the point of view of a Mulla. The Dabistan-i-Mazahib, a work written about 60 years after Akbar’s death, has discussed the principles of the religious views of the Emperor. Modern European writers have mostly based their conclusions on the testimonies of a hostile association in the court of the Emperor and of the Jesuits then in India. Badauni’s writing is the basis of Dr. Smith’s conclusions,-and what are Badauni’s credentials?

Abdul Qadir Badauni entered the court along with Abul Fazl in 1572 and was put into office with Abul Fazl. Badauni lamented that the “time-serving” and “flattering” Adul Fazl gradually rose higher and higher in the court, while “his own star” remained in a “static position.” Indeed it was really tormenting for Badauni to see his colleague and class-mate go so high up while he remained an ordinary courtier and “leader of Wednesday prayers,” more than once for his incapacity and for overstaying leave he was driven out of office, only to be reinstated on the recommendations of Faizi. Badauni was so charitable and grateful that he never spared a word in praise of his benefactor, Faizi! Badauni thus describes the death-bed scene of Faizi, “The Emperor went to visit him when he was on his last gasp; Faizi barked like a dog in his face, his face was swollen and his lips had become black. . .” Then he composed a monogram on the death of the famous poet:-

“ A dog has gone from the world in an abominable state.”
And yet another:-
“ Faizi the inauspicious, the enemy of the Prophet,.
Went bearing on him the brand of curses,
He was a miserable and hellish dog, and hence
The words ‘what dog-worshipper had died’ give the date
of his birth.”

Hatred of Badauni for Faizi was so violent that he could not even condescend to praise the poems of Faizi. Badauni remarks, “His (Faizi’s) taste is lewd, raving in boastful verses and infidel scribblings. He was entirely devoid of love of truth, of the knowledge of God.” But Faizi was made the Poet-Laureate by the Emperor and had composed about 20,000 couplets. His corn-mand over rhetoric, we know, has not yet been surpassed: and, as a poet, Faizi is a class by himself. Still, in his hatred for Faizi, Badauni says, “He (Faizi) wrote poetry for a period of 40 years, but it was all imperfect. He could set up the skeleton of verses well but the bones had no marrow in them, and the salt of his poetry was entirely without savour.” Badauni does not find “even one couplet amongst them that is not as much without fire as his withered genius, and they are despised and rejected to such an extent that no one, even in lewdness, studies his verse as they do those of the other base poets.”

Badauni could not tolerate even the slightest difference of opinion.
He seldom alludes to Birbal as other than a “hellish dog.” Muhammad of Basakwan, a learned man of Timur’s time, is called “hyprocrite and filthy” because he had written Titul “science of the expressed and implied language.”




FOREWORD vii - viii
PREFACE ix - xii
INTRODUCTION xiii - xxiv
SYNOPSIS xxv - xxxii


  1. The Indian Background (Cultural fusion)
1 - 15
  1. The Central Asian Background (Heredity)
16 - 26
  1. The Pendulum Oscilates (Political Background)
27 - 42
  1. The Period of Quest (The Ibadat Khana)
    1. Muslim Rulers of Hindustan, Iran & Rum is the 16th century
    59 - 70
    1. Three Paintings of the Ibadat Khana
    70 - 73
43 - 58
  1. The forces at work-


    1. The Sunnis at the Court of
    78 - 82
    1. The Shia
    78 - 82
      The Hindus
    82 - 90
    1. The Zoroastrians
    90 - 95
    1. The Jains
    95 - 98
    1. The Sikhs
    99 - 100
    1. The Buddhists
    100 - 102
    1. The Jews
    103 -
    1. The Christians
    103 - 128
    1. On the Disputes of the People of Different Religions
    129 - 137
    1. List of the Learned Men at The Court of Court etc.
    138 - 139
  1. The Period of Legislation -1575-95
    1. Life of Abdul Qadir Badauni
    172 - 176
140 - 171
  1. The Din-i-Ilahi in Promulgation
177 - 184
  1. The Din-i-Ilahi in Movement
185 - 197
INDEX (General) 205 - 210
INDEX (Geographical) 211 - 213
Sample Page

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