Was Mughal King Akbar An Infidel?
There are so many opinions about the faith of Mughal king Akbar. Some consider him a heretic and some claim that he was a pluralist, who had imbibed the universal spirit of Sufism. He was a liberal and humanistic. He respected all religions and tried to unite them under one banner of Godhood. He had coined up a new slogan: “There is no god but God and Akbar is His caliph/ vice regent”.
This belief goes against the Islamic belief that says: “There is no god but God; Muhammad (PBUH) is the prophet of God.” In the pronouncement of King Akbar, the belief in the prophethood of Muhammad (PBUH) is forsaken. Hence, the religious authorities like Mujaddad Alf-e-Thani, Sheikh Abdullah Sultan Puri and Sheikh Abdul Nabi decreed about the heresy of King Akbar.
On the other hand, the author of very famous literary book titled “آبِ حیات” Moulana Muhammad Hussain Azad in his book titled “دربارِاکبر” has written that King Akbar was a liberal and secular Muslim who respected all faiths and had sufistic nature. He became the victim of some retrogressive and bigoted fundamentalists.
Similar are the views of the former Vice Chancellor of Allah Abad University Dr R. P. Tripathi about King Akbar. In his book “The Rise and Fall of Mughal Empire”, he proves with arguments and facts that King Akbar yearned for human unity and pluralism.
Once, at his wish a “Worship House” was built wherein, the believers of all religions could pray and interact with each other. Interfaith dialogue and religious tolerance was promoted by discussions amongst the clerics of different faiths. The king also used to attend these meetings and listened to these discussions which mostly turned into heated, irrational, dogmatic and prejudicial discourses. Eventually, this “Universal Abode” built by the King was closed down because of the immodest, indignant and indiscreet mind set of these clerics.
King Akbar was highly disappointed on the narrow mindedness and short vision of the custodians of different religions. He desired to unite them under one banner, but realized that the self-styled custodians of religions can never unite. They sow the toxic seeds in the minds of others. Abdul Latif Qazvini had introduced to him the poetry of Hafiz Sherazi and Moulana Rumi which lit the candle of Sufism in his soul.
The company of Faizi, Bairum Khan, Munam Khan and Ba-Yazid infused in him the poetic and secular spirit. This was the reason, he married some Hindu ladies as well. His personality is so complex that one needs very impartial approach to find the facts. One sided approach will not solve the issue. The ultra-liberal people praise his inclusive and pluralistic nature, while the fundamentalists and hard liners regard him an infidel, apostate and renegade.
Conclusively, in brief, how I look at this controversy. There is a verse in the Holy Quran in Surah Al Baqara (The Cow) that says: “Believers, Jews, Christians, and Sabaeans- whoever believes in God and the last day and does what is virtuous, shall be rewarded by their Lord. And there will be no fear for them, nor will they grieve.” (Quran 2:62).
There are four views about God. Theism, monotheism, atheism and idolatry. The Muslim history authenticates this fact that the Islamic movement which started at Mecca, was only against idolatry and it was a peaceful mission. The prophet preached monotheism which means negation of self- made gods, idols and is belief in One God.
Later, when he migrated to Medina, he made a social peace truce with the Jews of Medina to protect each other. That truce candidly announces that the prophet of Islam declared and desired peace for all, whether Muslims or non-Muslims. He was only against idol-worship. Later on, battles and skirmishes were thrust on him by the idolaters of Mecca and the Jews of Medina. He never had any clash with the Christians.
Once, the Christians of Najran called on him and discussed with him about Islam. He hosted them and made them stay in the mosque. They were permitted to pray in the mosque. On seeing the Christians praying in the mosque, some companions of the prophet got disturbed and asked the prophet about it. He retorted “Mosque is the house of God and everyone can pray in it”. This universal, humanistic and pluralistic spirit is the real core and crux of the message of Islam.
When King Akbar declared a new creed and called it دینِ الہی (The Religion of God), by it he desired the negation of idolatry of Hindus and very sanely tried to preach monotheism. When his slogan chanted and declared: “There is no god but God”, what it meant? It meant rejection and obliteration of idolatry. I am of the view, on first step he desired the end of Hindus idolatry and on second step, he yearned oneness of humans under the banner of one God. One God means: oneness of humans. But he did not succeed in his mission.
At present there are three camps. One camp is of the believers which consists of different religions and are antagonistic against the other religions. The second camp is of non- believers which consists of atheists, Marxists, materialists and agnostic while the third camp is of Theists. These people believe in one God but not through the prophets but through rationality or intuition.
So far the mind set of King Akbar is concerned, he belonged to the third camp which believes in God through intuitive, mystical/sufistic feelings and faith. This camp is not the camp of atheists rather is of the believers in God. As a secular and inclusive Muslim, with the zeal of Sufism, King Akbar also believed in God and humanity in the light of Islamic universalism. There is nothing on record that he rejected or abandoned Islam as a Last Message of Allah Almighty. His new method of merging all religions into one God-adoring religion did not succeed.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Voice of East.
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