Updated: Sep 6, 2021
When Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (1628–1658) in 1632 commissioned to build the tomb of his favorite wife of three, Mumtaz Mahal, his fellow people created one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. They created Taj Mahal.
Art: A mogul's love by Dedic Ahmad Risalahati, Indonesia Text: Dr M Westerlund
Akbar’s eclectic mind was always searching for spiritual answers. In the splendid city of Fatehpur Sikri, which he founded, he built a house of worship called Ibadat Khana. Here, he invited scholars and listened to their discourse on matters of religion and ethics.
Initial sittings with Muslim scholars broke up in disputes and arguments. On one occasion, two of his most prominent courtiers, Shaykh Abdul Nabi and Shaykh Maqdum ul Mulk went after each other with such vehemence that the Emperor had to intervene. Disillusioned, Akbar opened up the discourse to men of other faiths.
Hindu priests expounded the philosophy of karma; Jains presented the doctrine of ahimsa; Parsis joined in to discuss the tenets of their ancient faith. In 1580, he sent word to the Portuguese governor of Goa that he would like to hear from Christian priests. The governor, sensing an historic opportunity to convert the Great Moghul, and win over Asia to his faith, promptly dispatched three Jesuit priests, Antony Monserrate, a Spaniard; Rudolf Aquaviva, an Italian; and Francis Enrique, a Persian. The three brought with them paintings of Jesus and Mary which the Emperor himself helped carry to the quarters of the priests.
Akbar listened to the Christians, as he had listened to Muslims-Shi’a and Sunni alike-Hindus, Jains and Parsis, benefiting from the many insights offered by the learned men of all religions. But at no point during these years did the Emperor renounce his faith in Islam or embrace another faith. He remained a Muslim throughout his life and set an example of open-mindedness, which has seldom been matched among monarchs of any faith.
Ahkbar fell deeply in love with the Hindu Rajput Princess Jodha, well documented in the magnificient film Jodha Ahkbar.
Akbar was a product of Sufic Islam that dominated Asia until recent years. The Sufis, while accepting the Shariah to be the fundamental platform of religion, consider the obligations of Fiqh to be an outer kernel, which has to be penetrated to reach the inward spirituality of religion. Without the Shariah, there is no religion. But without its spiritual dimension, religion itself becomes a litany of do’s and don’ts.
Akbar’s greatest contribution to Islamic history was his extension of the framework for interaction between Muslims and non-Muslims.
As a devotee of the Chishti order, Akbar was in tune with Sufi practices, which were animated by the philosophy of Wahdat al Wajud (unity of existence). Although this philosophy was in existence since the earliest days of Islam, it appears in the writings of Sadruddin Konawi, a student of Ibn al Arabi (d. 1240). Born in Spain during the waning years of Al Muhaddith rule, Ibn al Arabi traveled through North Africa to Syria and Arabia. He learned the tasawwuf (realizing ethical and spiritual ideals) of Divine Love from the Sufi (lady) masters of the era, Nurah Fatima binte Al Muthanna of Cordova, Shams Yasminah Um ul-Fakhr al Marhena az-Zaytun of Cordova, and Ain as Shams, of Mecca.
His standing in Sufi circles is so great that he is referred to as al Shaykh al Akbar (the greatest of the Shaykhs). A powerful speaker and a prolific writer, he influenced the evolution of tasawwuf in lands as diverse as Morocco and Indonesia. His masterpiece works include Ruh al Quds, Tarjamanul Ishwaq and Futuhat al Makkiyah. He passed away in Damascus.
History of Islam-An Encyclopedia of Islamic History
Picture: Great Mogul And His Court Returning From The Great Mosque At Delhi India-Wikipedia