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Religion

The Mughal ruling class were jovial and clement Muslims, although many of the subjects of the Empire were Hindu. When Babur first founded the Empire, he did not emphasize his religion, but rather his Mongol heritage. Under Akbar, the court abolished the jizya, the tax on non-Muslims, and abandoned use of the lunar Muslim calendar in favor of a solar calendar more useful for agriculture. One of Akbar's most unusual ideas regarding religion was Din-i-Ilahi (Godism in English), which was an eclectic mix of Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity. It was proclaimed the state religion until his death. These actions were later retracted by Aurangzeb, known for his zealotry.


Akbar succeeded his father, Humayun (r. 1530-40 and 1555-56), whose rule was interrupted by the Afghan Sur Dynasty, which rebelled against him. It was only just before his death that Humayun was able to regain the empire and leave it to his son. In restoring and expanding Mughal rule, Akbar based his authority on the ability and loyalty of his followers, irrespective of their religion. In 1564 the jizya on non-Muslims was abolished, and bans on temple building and Hindu pilgrimages were lifted.

Akbar's methods of administration reinforced his power against two possible sources of challenge--the Afghan-Turkish aristocracy and the traditional interpreters of Islamic law, the ulama. He created a ranked imperial service based on ability rather than birth, whose members were obliged to serve wherever required. They were remunerated with cash rather than land and were kept away from their inherited estates, thus centralizing the imperial power base and assuring its supremacy. The military and political functions of the imperial service were separate from those of revenue collection, which was supervised by the imperial treasury. This system of administration, known as the mansabdari, was based on loyal service and cash payments and was the backbone of the Mughal Empire; its effectiveness depended on personal loyalty to the emperor and his ability and willingness to choose, remunerate, and supervise.

Akbar declared himself the final arbiter in all disputes of law derived from the Qur'an and the sharia. He backed his religious authority primarily with his authority in the state. In 1580 he also initiated a syncretic court religion called the Din-i-Ilahi (Divine Faith). In theory, the new faith was compatible with any other, provided that the devotee was loyal to the emperor. In practice, however, its ritual and content profoundly offended orthodox Muslims. The ulama found their influence undermined. The concept of Islam as a superior religion with a historic mission in the world appeared to be compromised. The syncretism of the court and its tolerance of both Hindus and unorthodox Shia sects among Muslims triggered a reaction among Sunni Muslims. In the fratricidal war of succession that closed the reign of Akbar's grandson Shah Jahan in 1658, the aristocracy supported the austere military commander Aurangzeb against his learned and eclectic brother Dara Shikoh, whom Aurangzeb defeated in battle and later had decapitated in 1662.

A picture from the inside of the Moghul palace Khas Mahal

 

All text of this article available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License (see Copyrights for details).



 
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