History Optional Paper- 1 Solution – 2004: Q.5 (c)
Q.5 (c) Write a short essay on: “Was Din-i-Ilahi ‘a monument of Akbar’s folly’ ?”
Din-i-Ilahi (“Divine Faith”) was an syncretic faith propounded by the Akbar in 1582 AD, intending to merge the best elements of various religions. This faith had many ethical principles like kindness, prohibiting lust etc.
Din-i-Ilahi functioned as a personality cult contrived by Akbar around his own person. Members of the religion were handpicked by Akbar according to their devotion to him.
Historian Dr. Smith writes about Din-i-Ilahi: “The whole scheme was the outcome of ridiculous vanity, monstrous growth of unrestrained autocracy. The Divine Faith (Din-i-Illahi) was a monument of Akbar’s folly, not of his wisdom.” He further calls it a silly invention.
Contemporary historian Budauni regards the founding of Din-i-Ilahi as an un-Islamic act and Akbar was dubbed as heretic.
The Jesuit missionary charged Akbar of hypocrisy for founding Din-i-Ilahi.
Many historian says that Akbar had a certain political motive to create a group who will always favour him.
But Din-i-Ilahi was not Akbar’s folly
(1) Many a historian failed to understand the true significance of Din-i-Illahi. They relied on the evidence of Badayuni, a hostile critic of Akbar and an orthodox Muslim, with whom the omission of a single ceremony of Islam amounted to apostasy and on the writings of Jesuits who must have been displeased with the Emperor for their failure to convert Akbar to their faith.
(2) Akbar had not founded Din-i-Ilahi to satisfy his vanity or to play the role of the prophet and pope. If he had been guided by those motives, he would have employed the whole state machinery for propagating his faith. The very fact that his close associates like Bhagwan Das and Man Singh did not join the fold of Din-i-Illahi and continued to enjoy the old favors is a clear proof that his experiment of a new order was not the outcome of his ridiculous vanity for the monstrous growth of unrestrained autocracy.
(3) Akbar did neither exhibit himself as the religious precept nor did he make any book for followers of this religion. According to R.S. Sharma: “To allot Din-i-Ilahi the place of a religion will be certainly an exaggeration. It will be only proper to call it a sect or a creed because Din-i-Ilahi was not a new religion out of Islam and nor any effort to separate it from Islam was ever made.”
(4) Akbar’s motive in organizing The Dini-i-Illahi as the new order was outcome of political necessity, not religious. Just as the Emperor had conquered the whole of Indo-Pakistan he also wanted to put the chief principles of various religions together and create a new social order to build a common nation. Akbar’s foremost aim was the union of Hindustan under one head which was difficult to achieve had he persecuted non-Islamic religions. Din-i-Ilahi contained was an admixure of different religions and it was supposed to bridge the differences between religions.
According to S R. Sharma, far from being a monument of Akbar’s folly, Din-i-Ilahi was the crowning expression of Akbar’s national idealism.
Hence, Din-i-Ilahi was not the monument of Akbar’s folly, it was a monument of his wisdom. As a political institution the Din-i-Illahi entirely fulfilled Akbar’s hopes and expectations. As long as he was alive, he enjoyed loyalty of his subjects, differences between religions were not large and Mughal Empire remained vast and consolidated.