Din-i-Ilahi (Persian: دین الهی, romanized: Dīn-i-Ilāhī, lit. 'Religion of God'), also known as Tawhid-i-Ilahi (Persian: توحيد الهی, romanized: Tawḥīd-i-Ilāhī, lit. 'Oneness of God'), was a syncretic religious tradition propounded by the third Mughal emperor Akbar (r. 1556–1605) in c. 1582, intending to merge some of the elements and create a new religion of his empire, and thereby reconcile the differences that divided his subjects. The elements were primarily drawn from Hinduism, Islam, and Zoroastrianism, but some others were also taken from Christianity, Jainism, and Buddhism. Akbar himself along with some of his close officials converted to this new religion Dīn-i-Ilāhī leaving Islam to encourage other to become adherents of Dīn-i-Ilāhī.
|Type||Abrahamic- and Dhārmic-influenced syncretism|
Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Mughal Empire
|Members||21; also there were several influenced followers|
The name Dīn-i Ilāhī literally translates to "God's Religion" or "Religion of God" or "divine religion". According to the renowned historian Mubarak Ali, Dīn-i Ilāhī is a name that was not used in Akbar's period. According to the court historian Abu al-Fazl ibn Mubarak (d. 1602), during Akbar's time, the religion was called Tawhid-i-Ilāhī (lit. 'Oneness of God'). This name suggests a particularly monotheistic focus for Akbar's faith. The anonymous Dabestan-e Mazaheb uses the name Ilahíah to refer to the faith.
Akbar promoted tolerance of other faiths and even encouraged debate on philosophical and religious issues. This led to the creation of the Ibādat Khāna ("House of Worship") at Fatehpur Sikri in 1575, which invited theologians, poets, scholars, and philosophers from all religious denominations, including Christians, Hindus, Jains, and Zoroastrians.
Since Akbar suffered from severe dyslexia, rendering him totally unable to read or write, such dialogues in the House of Worship became his primary means of exploring questions of faith. Despite his aforementioned illiteracy, Akbar would eventually amass a library full of more than 24,000 volumes of texts in Hindi, Persian, Greek, Latin, Arabic and Kashmiri. The later Mughal Emperor and son of Akbar, Jahangir, stated that his father was "always associated with the learned of every creed and religion." In a letter to King Philip II of Spain, Akbar laments that so many people do not inquire into issues within their own religion, stating that most people will instead "follow the religion in which [they] were born and educated, thus excluding [themselves] from the possibility of ascertaining the truth, which is the noblest aim of the human intellect."
By the time Akbar established the Dīn-i Ilāhī, he had already repealed the jizya (tax on non-Muslims) over a decade earlier in 1568. A religious experience while he was hunting in 1578 further increased his interest in the religious traditions of his empire. From the discussions held at the Ibādat Khāna, Akbar concluded that no single religion could claim the monopoly of truth. This revelation inspired him to Leave Islam and create a new religion Dīn-i Ilāhī in 1582 and Akbar along with his loyal officials converted to this new religion Dīn-i Ilāhī in 1582.
This Conversion of Akbar to Dīn-i Ilāhī angered various Muslims, among them the Qadi of Bengal Subah and Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi, responded by declaring it to be blasphemy to Islam. Some modern scholars have argued that the Din-i Ilahi was a spiritual discipleship of Akbar of his own belief which he propounded in his new religion.
The Din-i-Ilahi survived for a few more years after Akbar's death, and was included in the Dabestan-e Mazaheb of the historian Mohsin Fani (d. 1670), composed perhaps in c. 1655. Akbar's great-grandson and Shah Jahan's eldest son Dara Shikoh made an attempt to re-establish the Din-i-Ilahi. However, the prospects of an official revival were halted by Shikoh's brother and the sixth Mughal emperor Aurangzeb (r. 1658–1707), who executed Shikoh on grounds of apostasy. During Aurangzeb's reign, the movement was suppressed by penalty and force after his death and was totally eradicated by Aurangzeb which made it never numbered more than 18 adherents. Aurangzeb compiled the Fatawa-e-Alamgiri, re-imposed the jizya, and established the Sharia across South Asia, spreading Islamic orthodoxy and extinguishing any chance of religious reform for generations.
Beliefs and practicesEdit
Although the spirit and central principles of Dīn-i Ilāhī were adapted from Sufism (including ideas from the Andalusi Sufi mystic, Ibn al-'Arabi), Akbar endeavored to create a synthesis of other beliefs and so his personal religion borrowed concepts and tenets from many other faiths. Aligned with Sufi practices, one's soul is encouraged to purify itself through yearning of God. Sins included lust, sensuality, slander, and pride; virtues included piety, prudence, abstinence, and kindness. The following details illustrate the personal religious observances of Akbar:
As an inquisitive inquirer endowed with the spirit of reason, he learnt the Hindu alchemy and medicine and cultivated their Yoga system; like his Central Asian ancestor, he believed in astronomy and astrology; and after his association with the Zoroastrian mobed, he believed that life might be lengthened by lightning fire or by the repetition of a thousand names of the Sun. Following the Buddhist custom, he used to shave the crown of his head thinking that the soul passed through the brain. He turned into a vegetarian later in life.
The visitation of Jesuit missionaries such as Rodolfo Acquaviva brought the virtue of celibacy into the House of Worship, where it consequently became a virtue of Akbar's faith that was not mandatory (as it is for the priests of Roman Catholicism) but respected. The faith also adopted the principle of ahimsa, an ancient virtue of almost all Indian religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The nonviolence extended from humans to animals, encouraging vegetarianism and prohibiting the slaughter of animals for any reason at all. The Dīn-i Ilāhī had no sacred scriptures and, similar to both Islam and Sikhi, there was no priestly hierarchy.
Light was a focus of divine worship, with a light-fire ritual based on the yasna (the primary form of worship in Zoroastrianism) and an adoption of the hymn of the 1,000 Sanskrit names for the sun. Followers were referred to as chelah (meaning: “disciples”).
The major practices and beliefs of Dīn-i-Ilāhī were as follows:
- The unity of God
- Followers salute one-another with Allah-u-Akbar or Jalla Jalalahu (meaning: "may His glory be glorified")
- Absence of meat of all kinds
- One’s "on-birth-by-anniversary" party was a must for every member
- Ahimsa (non-violence); followers were prohibited from dining with fishers, butchers, hunters, etc.
It has been argued that the theory of Dīn-i Ilāhī being a new religion was a misconception which arose because of erroneous translations of Abu'l-Fazl's work by later British historians. However, it is also accepted that the policy of sulh-i-kul, which formed the essence of Dīn-i Ilāhī, was adopted by Akbar as a part of general imperial administrative policy. Sulh-i-kul means "universal peace". According to Abu'l-Fazl, the emperor was a universal agent of god, and so his sovereignty was not bound to any single faith. The emperor is further prohibited from discriminating between the different religions of the realm and if the ruler did discriminate, then they were not fit for the role as agent of god. Abu'l-Fazl saw the religious views of Akbar as a rational decision toward maintaining harmony between the various faiths of the empire.
The initiated disciples of Dīn-i Ilāhī during emperor Akbar's time included (p. 186):
- Abu'l-Fazl ibn Mubarak
- Qasim Khan
- Azam Khan
- Shaikh Mubarak
- Abdus Samad
- Mulla Shah Muhammad Shahadad
- Sufi Ahmad
- Mir Sharif Amal
- Sultan Khwaja
- Mirza Sadr-ud-Din
- Taki Shustar
- Shaikhzada Gosala Benarasi
- Sadar Jahan
- Sadar Jahan's first son
- Sadar Jahan's second son
- Shaikh Faizi
- Jafar Beig
- Murad Mirza
- Dara Shikoh
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