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Religious Policy of Akbar

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Religious Policy of Akbar

Akbar is an outstanding ruler whose reign is marked by some epoch marking measures of which perhaps the most important was to integrate the different sections of the society and thereby to provide a solid social base for unity and integrity of the country. His policy of sulh-i-kul (peace to all) had a long antecedents in Indian history. Besides seeing a number of Muslim rulers adopting a liberal policy, religions toleration and patronizing Hindus and Muslims equally, we see a series of popular saints, such as Chaitanya, Kabir and Nanak who emphasized on the essential unity of Islam and Hinduism, and laid stress on religion based on love and devotion rather than one based on rituals or a literal interpretation of revealed books. Thus created an atmosphere in which liberal sentiments and views could grow and religious narrowness began to be locked upon. This was the atmosphere in which Akbar was born and reared.

Akbar took various measures to ensure communal harmony and social solidarity.

1) The first measure that he took was to abolish the poll tax or jaziya which the non-Muslims were required to pay in a Muslim state. At the same time, Akbar abolished the pilgrimage tax and the forcible conversion of prisoners of war to Islam. This laid the essential foundation of an empire based on equal rights to all citizens, irrespective of their religious belief.

2) He gave high positions to able Hindus in the Mughal nobility. Besides many Rajput mansabdars we find such competent Hindus like Todar Mal an expert in revenue affairs who rose to the position of Diwan, and Birbal, who was a favourite of the emperor.

3) Akbar modeled his state policy on the basis of Timurid, Persian and Indian ideas of sovereignty so that the system of government takes care of the interest of all sections of society.

Ibadat Khana: - From the very beginning Akbar was deeply interested in religion and philosophy. We are told that he spent whole nights in the thoughts of God and gathered at the court a band of talented people with liberal ideas. In 1575, Akbar built a hall called Ibadat Khana or the hall of prayer at his new capital Fatehpur Sikri. To this Ibadat Khana he called selected theologians, mystics and those of his courtiers and nobles who were known for their scholarship and intellectual attainments.

Akbar discussed religious and spiritual topics with them. The behaviour of the mullahs disgusted Akbar and alienated him from the mullahs. Akbar then opened the ibadat Khana to people of all religions- Christians, Zoroastrians, Hindus, Jains and even atheists. This created a strong resentment among the ulama as Akbar gave them freedom to raise issues that were not in favour of Islam. A rebellion broke out in the east. Futwas were given by the qazis declaring Akbar a heretic. Akbar suppressed the rebellion and gave drastic punishment to the qazis.

Mahzar: - In order to strengthen his position in dealing with the mullas, Akbar issued a declaration or mahzar which asserted that if there were conflicting views among the mujtahids (those who were considered fit to interpret the Quran) Akbar, by virtue of being the "most wise and just king" and his rank being higher in the eyes of God than of the mujtahids, was entitled to choose any one of the interpretations which would be of "benefit to the nation and in the interest of good order". Further, if Akbar issued a new order "in conformity with the Quran and calculated

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