Finished reading The Din-e-Ilahi or The Religion of Akbar

Finished reading (February 23), Makhanlal Roychoudhury, M.A., B.L, SASTRI’s The Din-e-Ilahi or The Religion of Akbar. The 396-page book was published in 1941 by the University of Calcutta. The book dispels many a misunderstanding about the Din-e-Ilahi and Akbar.

First the contents:
Chapter I – The Indian Background
Chapter II – The Central Asian Background
Chapter III – The Pendulum Oscillates
Chapter IV – The Period of Quest (The IbadatKhana)
Appendix A. The Muslim Rulers of the 16th century (The Mahzar)
Appendix B. Three Paintings of the Ibadat Khana
Chapter V – The Forces at Work
Section 1. The Sunnis at the Court of Akbar
Section 2. The Shias at the Court of Akbar
Section 3. The Hindus at the Court of Akbar
Section 4. The Zoroastrians at the Court of Akbar
Section 5. The Jains at the Court of Akbar
Section 6. The Sikhs at the Court of Akbar
Section 7. The Buddhists at the Court of Akbar
Section 8. The Jews at the Court of Akbar
Section 9. The Christians at the Court of Akbar
Chapter VI – The Period of Legislations (the Ains)
Appendix. Badauni and his Muntakhabu-t Twarikh (Mulla point of view criticised)
Chapter VII – The Din-i-Ilahi in Promulgation
Chapter VIII – The Din-i-Ilahi in Movement
Index of Proper Names
Index of Geographical Names
And now some of the representative excerpts:
“ . . . the Ibadat Khana (as) the first parliament of the religions of the world . . .” [P. xxii-xxiii]
“The foundation of the Ibadat Khana was a testimony to his (Akbar’s) reverence and faith in God and Islam and it was not the fruit of his scepticism and apostasy.” [P. xli]
“The Ibadat Khana became a real parliament of religions.” [P. xlii]
“The mind of young Abul Fazl was not satisfied with the learning he had in India. He intended to move to Laban, Tibet, Bagdad “in quest of goods” for his ever-expanding intellect. Badauni (Mulla Abdul Qadir Badayuni) compares him to “a man who, having a light in his hand and not knowing what to do, came out into the street in the day-time.” Indeed the scholastics, by the light of their intellect,” made a day of a night and a night of a day.” Akbar appearing in that age in the midst of the scholastic environments during the process of cultural fusion, was but the natural product of the spirit of the time and not a mere accident.” [P. 25]
“Liberality, justice and paternalism became the spirit of the age. This liberalism in politics expanded the mind of the Emperor which in future became congenial to the growth and expression of liberalism in religion.” [P. 52]
Makhanlal criticizes Dr. Vincent A. Smith’s theory (See his Akbar the Great Mogul) regarding Akbar’s Din-e-Ilahi thus:
“The entire theory of Smith regarding Akbar’s religious views rests on the assumption that from the very beginning Akbar had a mind to combine ‘the roles of the Caesar and the Pope into one’ and that the speech of the much persecuted Mubarak only put the idea into a definite form.” [P. 64]
“This ultimately led to the issue of what has been called “the Infallibility Decree” (Mahzar) of 1579, which Smith makes so much of and which, according to him, ended in a “complete renunciation of Islam.” But in reality the “Infallibility Decree” was dictated by political reasons more than anything else. Religion had indeed very little to do with its origination. Akbar never had any intention of giving up his religion or of posing as a prophet.” [P. 65]
“Now the ever-expanding mind of Akbar was no longer satisfied within the limits of only a sectarian creed. In that age of scholasticism, the scholars raised the sleeping doubts the why and wherefore of everything in the minds of that Representative of the age of Renaissance.” [P.82]
“The Ibadat Khana which began as a Sunni assembly and, which after the discussion of the marriage questions, became a pan-Muslim assembly, now passed on to the third stage, when it was opened to the Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Jews and Christians. In fact, Fatehpur, for about four years, remained, for all practical purposes, the seat of the first great parliament of religions of the world. In this, Akbar only imitated what was done by his great ancestor, Qubli Khan, in China ten three hundred and years (it may be three hundred years! Khalil) before.” [P. 82]
“But how should the rebels be punished? In his inimitable way, of course unlike Balban and Alauddin who punished a whole family for the fault of one, to make an example. Akbar sent for Mulla Qazi of Jaunpur and his accomplice, the Qazi of Bengal and they were thrown into the river. Many other Shias and Maulanas were sent to different places in India and many to Qandahar ‘where they were exchanged for horses and colts.” But Akbar did not punish the rank and file who joined the rebellion, for he knew that the mass, narrow and bigoted in their outlook as they had been, were mere dupes of those still more narrow and more bigoted Mullas. So with a view to reforming and remodelling the Mullas and to bringing about silent and steady reforms at the root, he introduced the following measures in the administration of the Muslim Church in Hindustan:
(a) Mosques were not to be started in any and every place according to the sweet will of a Mulla
(b) Madrasas could not be established at any and every place
(c) A Maulana, not duly qualified, would not be allowed to serve as an Imam nor would an unqualified 
Mulla be permitted to teach in Maktabs and Mosques
(d) Exclusive devotion to theology and Arabic language was discouraged and subjects like Astronomy, Physics, Arithmetic, Poetry, and History (Chronology) were introduced in the curricula
(e) The post of the Sadr-us-Sudur was abolished altogether in November, 1581, for the power of the Sadr was immeasurably great and unrestricted and almost parallel to that of the Emperor as it was based on religious sanction. So he substituted the Imperial Sadr by six Provincial Sadrs in (l) the Punjab, (2) Delhi, Malwa and Guzrat, (3) Agra, Kalpi and Kalanjar, (4) Hajipur near the Sarju river, (5) Behar, and (6) Bengal.” [PP. 93-94]
“To Akbar, an enemy, be he a Hindu or a Muslim, was an enemy of the state and he dealt with him as such.” [P. 51]
“Akbar came back to the capital on December 1, 1581, and again resumed the debates of the Ibadat Khana. So long he had searched for the light but had only found it through the eyes of others. He now started an assembly called “the Forty,” whose principle was to “decide by reason.” [P. 95]
“It was clear from the discussions in the Ibadat Khana that no absolute reliance could be placed on the authorities, for they were so many and so varied. So this body of intellectuals was inaugurated who decided questions, as Badauni tells us, “according to reason and not by tradition.” In that age of Renaissance, a child of culture as Akbar was, it was in fitness of things that he should form the famous Forty.” [P. 257]
“Peculiarly enough, the historians of the Muslim Empire have interpreted the Indian monarchs in the light of the Indian events and currents only. That these monarchs had trans- Indian relations, was lost sight of by the Muslim historians.” [P. 103]
“With Akbar the dicta were, “recognise merit wherever ye find it,” “right man in the right place,” “intellect is not the monopoly of the believers.” He unhesitatingly chose Rajput princes as his generals and raised Tansen (originally a Hindu) to be the first musician of the court. Daswa Nath, son of a Kahar (palanquin bearer), was appointed the first painter of his court; Mahadev became the first physician and Chandrasen the first surgeon.” [P. 136]
“In his restrictions, which he put on the unrestricted burning of Hindu widows, is reflected the human side of his character, . . . He encouraged the marriage of the Hindu widows, especially of those whose marriage had not been consummated.” [P. 147]
“As has been pointed out, the Ibadat Khana was built in 1575, and soon after discussions followed. It was an age of Scholasticism and Renaissance. The spirit of the age was the quest of the why and wherefore of everything, not always in a spirit of protest, but most often in a spirit of enquiry.” [P. 226]
“Being infused with a spirit of Renaissance, Akbar desired to substitute a curricula with introduction of philosophy, astronomy, medicine, mathematics, poetry, novels and other cultural subjects in the place of pure literary Arabic. It was the fitting culmination of the Ibadat Khana.” [P. 254]
Makhanlal tells that: “Prof. Brendry (See, Tarikh-i-Ilahi by Mr. Brendy; Poona, 1933) has exposed the myth of apostasy behind the Ilahi Era in his book on the “Ilahi Era.”” [P. 258]
Makhanlal dubs Akbar “as the child of Reason.” [P. 262]
Regarding the regulation of “Registration of Marriages” (1592-93 A.D.):
“This was a corollary to a previous regulation regarding marriage.”One man, one wife” being the law, a record and registration was inevitable if it was meant to be effective.” [P. 264]
Regarding the “Toleration Granted to All Religions” (1593-94 A.D.):
“The root of troubles lay in his policy of universal toleration.” [P. 264]
“It is therefore, not proper to brand Akbar as an apostate because he promulgated those “Ains.” Of course, Badauni did brand Akbar as an apostate and there was personal bias for his doing so . . .” [P. 267]
“In the beginning, Akbar thought that Badauni was a Sufi but in the end he regretted to find that Badauni was only a sun-dried Mulla.” [P. 269]
For example, as to the Ain or Regulation of stopping of the killing of cow, Makhanlal says:
“But the entire regulation taken as a whole reads otherwise, “Nor flesh of cows, buffaloes, sheep and camels be taken, for they are domestic animals.” But honest Badauni only mentioned cows, for the mention of the buffaloes, sheep and camels would defeat his purpose.” [P. 272]
“To be fair to Akbar, we could only quote Major Nassau Lees and join with him in saying “it would be grossest piece of injustice to the dead Emperor to present the public with Abdul Qadir’s review of his character and no other.” And V. A. Smith has done it.” [P. 275]
“The Sufi creed of the Din-i-IIahi was promulgated in the beginning of the year 1582.” [P. 276]
“The only author who narrated the fundamentals of the Din-i-Ilahi was Mohsin Fani who has described a part of it in his famous “Dabistan-i-Mazahib.’ [P. 278]
“Mohsin Fani was a sympathetic observer unlike Badauni or Portuguese priests; and there is a touch of romance in his way of speaking a thing. The Philosopher of the Dabistan who represented the Emperor at the end of a general debate where the champions of other faiths were present, propounded the Din-i-Ilahi in ten virtues:
(1) Liberality and beneficence
(2) Forgiveness of the evil doer and repulsion of anger with mildness
(3) Abstinence from worldly desires
(4) Care of freedom from the bonds of the worldly existence and violence as well as accumulating 
precious stores for the future real and perpetual world
(5) Wisdom and devotion in the frequent meditation on the consequences of actions
(6) Strength of dexterous prudence in the desire of marvellous actions
(7) Soft voice, gentle words, pleasing speeches for every body
(8) Good treatment with brethren, so that their will may have the precedence to our own
(9) A perfect alienation from creatures and a perfect attachment to the Supreme Being
(10) Dedication of soul in the love of God and union with God the preserver of all.” [P. 279]
“The whole philosophy of Akbar was: “The pure Shast and the pure sight never err.” Great stress was thus laid on purity of individual life and purity of outlook on affairs of life.” [P. 280]
“The word “Shast” literally means “anything round” either “a ring or a bow.” The shape of the symbol was like that of ring which may fairly be called ‘Swastika.‘ It was wrapped in clothes studded with jewels and was worn on the top of the turban. It was their symbol of Brotherhood.” [P. 286]
“Von Noer says, “there was no priesthood in the Din-i-Ilahi it being confined to the select few.” But to us it appears that the Din was never regarded by Akbar as a new religion and therefore, there was no need of a separate priesthood and separate church so natural and so common to the promulgation of a new faith.” [P. 281]
“Nor did Akbar himself play the part of a Pope, as Smith would have his readers believe, for Akbar himself used to say “Why should I claim to guide men before I myself am guided.” Like his great Indian predecessor Asok, 1800 years back, he issued a general order to all state officials to look after the spiritual development of all subjects.” [P. 282]
“Practices of an llahian were:
(a) Not to feast after death,
(b) to feast of life during life,
(c) to avoid flesh as far as possible,
(d) not to take anything slain by one’s ownself,
(e) not to eat with butchers, fishers and bird catchers,
(f) not to cohabit with pregnant, old and barren women nor with women under the age of puberty.” [PP. 288-289]
“The famous “Forty” which he reorganised in 1582 after being disgusted with Mulla unchangeability and rigidity, had its own contribution to make. No historian, not even Smith has drawn any inference from the famous “Forty” and the Din, both coming at the same time. They were very closely related to each other.” [P. 291]
“The discussions and decisions on knotty points of law were now being done there by ”The Forty”; there was no need of a propaganda henceforth everything was to be “decided by reason and not by authority.” Like the “Free masons” it was a grouping of the few enlightened minds bound together by common political allegiance, by the idea of ultimate good to humanity, breathing the spirit of the great man who occupied the centre, we mean Akbar, who was the embodiment of the forces of the liberalism of that age of Renaissance in India.” [PP. 291-292]
“The members of the Din-i-Ilahi may be divided into two groups:
(a) those who accepted the creed in all its aspects, internal as well as external forms;
(b) those who accepted the “Sfiasf” only.” [P. 292]
“Of the initiated disciples have been mentioned,
(1) Shaikh Mubarak
(2) Shaikh Faizi
(3) Jafar Beg
(4) Qasim Kahi
(5) Abul Fazl
(6) Azam Khan
(7) Abdus Samad
(8) Mulla Shah Muhammad Shahadad
(9) Sufi Ahmad
(10) Mir Sharif Amal
(11) Sultan Khwaja
(12) Mirza Jani Thatta
(13) Taki Shustar
(14) Shaikhzada Gosla Benarasi
(15) Sadar Jahan
(16) Sadar Jahan’s son, no. I
(17) Sadar Jahan’s son, no. II
(18) Birbal
(19) Prince Salim” [PP. 292-293]
“The reader must make a distinction between what Akbar himself followed and what an Ilahian was expected to follow. Much misconception has crept into the Din-i-Ilahi owing to misunderstanding of Akbar’s personal practices and follower’s practices; and for that Badauni is responsible.” [P. 303]
“This proves that it was not a proselytising creed but was only a Sufi order.” [P. 293]
“As a Sufi, Akbar cried with brother Sufis like Sadi, Rumi, Jami, Hafiz and Shamshuddin Tabrizi, for union with Him; and the Happy Sayings as quoted by Abul Fazl clearly illustrated the view point of the great questor.” [P. 302]
“No doubt that there is a Sufi touch throughout his life and actions, but this would have been no ground for branding Akbar as an apostate, had he not touched the Mulla interest in the distribution of religious endowments and turned Them out of their privileged position.” [PP. 303-304]
“Like an orthodox Islamic Sufi, he believed in the unity of God; like a Hindu, he felt the universal presence of the Deity. To him the symbol of fire and sun “represented the Supreme Being in the letter of creation in the vast expanse of nature” as if he was a Mobed, and the Jain principles of harmlessness and sanctity of animal life had almost made him a royal Vikshu. The Persian etiquette and manners formed the formula of the daily life of an Ilahian generally.” [P. 305]
“He was even more eclectic in manners. Toleration was the basis of the whole system.” [P. 305]
“The Din-i-Ilahi . . . was not a new religion; it was a Sufi order with its own formula . . .” [P. 306]

1 thought on “Finished reading The Din-e-Ilahi or The Religion of Akbar”

  1. Dr. Vincent A. Smith & Co., Ltd., of the Pax Britannic Empire cannot stand absolved of sowing seeds of hate in the minds of Indian Muslims and Indian Hindus.(hate against each other, and hate & dislike of some against some among the same community). Works of scholars and historians like Dr. Vincent, and Arnold Toynbee need to be critically discussed from the vantage point of freeing ourselves from the yoke of historical mistruths generated by them, and accepted as truths by local Indian men of letters, and propagated by politicians for netting votes.

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