This article discusses Jalal ud din Akbar’s policy of religious toleration and integration as the third important king of the Mughal empire. His tolerant approach continued to inspire the later Mughals to follow in his footsteps to maintain peace and keep India under one rule for the first time.
What are the important indicators of Akbar’s policy of toleration?
Jalal-ud-din Akbar believed in equal treatment and ensured that it is implemented in its true sense. Akbar’s policy of religious toleration acted as a source of guidance for his successors until Aurangzeb ascended to the throne to reverse everything his predecessors followed thus setting the stage for the gradual decline of the great empire.
Following were the important measures that Mughals took to promote a policy of integration and religious tolerance in India:
1. Matrimonial relationship with Hindu Rajputs
To build a close relationship with Rajputs, Akbar came into a matrimonial relationship with Hindu Rajputs. He and his successors married daughters of Rajput nobles who were allowed to maintain their religion. Out of 40 marriages of the male members of the royal family 17 were Rajput-Mughal alliances. Mughal king Jahangir and Shah Jahan had Rajput mothers.
2. End of Taxes on Non-Muslims
In the time of the Delhi Sultanate, the sultans imposed Jyzia and other taxes on non-Muslims that adversely impacted the economy of the poor farming communities. These taxes continued in one way or the other even after the fall of the sultanate. As part of his policy of religious toleration, Akbar repealed all taxes including Jizya previously levied exclusively on non-Muslims.
3. Religious freedom
Akbar and his successors adopted a policy of religious freedom. Hindus freely practiced and regulated themselves as per their own religious law and institutions. Nobody forced them to obey Islamic law or convert to Islam.
4. Akbar’s religious synthesis
As part of his policy of religious harmony and tolerance, Akbar even stepped out of conventional Islam. He introduced a syncretic religious practice by merging some important elements of religions of that time in India, i.e. Islam, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Jainism, Buddhism, and his new capital, Fatehpur Sikri. He called this new syncretic religion, God-ism which means Din-i-ilahi in Urdu. Fatehpur Sikri is also considered a synthesis of Hindu and Islamic architecture.
5. Appointment of non-Muslims
During Akbar, Jahangir, and Shah Jahan, the Mughal nobility also included Hindu Rajput leaders. The Rajput Chiefs got placed at high ranks and received pay and assurance to maintain their own beliefs, customs, and rituals in turn for the allegiance and military service to the Mughal empire.
Furthermore, they could hold on to their jagirs and often received additional lands outside their area of jurisdiction. The Mughal king just had to make sure they accepted him as the paramount power. The Mughals dealt with Rajputs as landholders who paid tribute rather than acting as rulers.
6. Close alliances with Rajputs
Akbar formed closed relationships and alliances with Rajput kingdoms of his time. The latter accepted the suzerainty of the Mughal king and also kept their kingdoms under the Mughal rule. It was Akbar’s policy of religious toleration and integration that he was able to lay the foundations of the Mughal empire in India.
Due to his integration policy, in the last days of Akbar, thousands of Rajput warriors were a part of the Mughal army. They held large and small regions throughout the Mughal Empire.