Social Scientist. v 20, no. 232-33 (Sept-Oct 1992) p. 16.

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Akbar's Personality Traits and World Outlook:

A Critical Reappraisal

Akbar's contribution to the establishment of Mughal authority in Hindustan on a firm basis has engaged the attention of the modem historians for a long time. Some of the recent researches on Akbar, however, have tended to focus on a particular theme, namely, the factors contributing to the rise of his policy of religious tolerance based on the principle of sulh-i kul, or 'Absolute Peace*. Akbar's 'religious policy* is often viewed in these studies as being linked to his transformation of the nobility into a composite ruling group including within its ranks a fairly large number of Shi'as and Rajput chieftains.

An important factor to study in evaluating these interpretations is the nature of Akbar*s personal world outlook and of the ideological influences that went to shape his religious policy in the last twentyfive years of his reign. Athar Ali has recently re-examined this aspect in his article 'Akbar and Islam'.1 His article has given rise to several significant questions having a bearing on the basic character and motivations of Akbar's 'religious policy'. Perhaps two of the most relevant of these questions are: (a) To what extent did Akbar's personal world outlook influence his religious policy? and (b) What was the response of the different sections of his subjects to his religious views and more importantly to the state policy formulated by him. These questions assume special significance in view of the contemporary testimony of Badauni and the Jesuits suggesting that, from 1581 onwards, Akbar had ceased to be a Muslim. Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi's insistence that Akbar's tolerant attitude towards the non-Muslims stemmed basically from his hostility to Islam, further underlines the significance of the above two questions for a proper assessment of Akbar's policy of religious tolerance.2

In this paper an attempt is made to briefly trace the deyelopment of Akbar's world view from his accession in 1556 to 1605. While doing so, I shall also be focussing on the two questions identified above. To the extent it is permitted by the new evidence that I plan to present in this

Centre of Advanced Study in History, Aligarh Muslim University.

Social Scientist, Vol. 20, Nos. 9-10, September-October 1992

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