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Religious diversity can be a challenging issue to deal with, especially for leaders who expect their followers to adhere to different policies and structures regardless of their religious affiliations. In the past, leaders have experienced significant challenges when trying to rule in a manner that does not conflict with the religious beliefs held by their followers. For example, in Mughal India, religious diversity was widespread with large groups of Islam and Hindu believers. It was, therefore, important for the leaders of this time to ensure that they respected the religious beliefs of their followers in order to promote success and wellbeing of the people. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the manner in which Mughal India rulers went about the religious diversity of their subjects during their reign. Furthermore, the writer will answer some questions such as why many Muslims choose to withdraw their support for Akbar. In addition, the paper covers the issues on how Akbar`s successors changed his policy and approach towards religious diversity. It also includes an assessment of Aurangzeb as a ruler. The Mughal Empire rulers embraced diversity and offered leadership, which was channeled towards prosperity, and creation of a cohesive culture; nonetheless, once created during the Mughal Empire, such cohesive community was destroyed in the same epoch.
How Rulers of Mughal India Dealt with Religious Diversity
During the period of the Mughal Empire, the Islam was widespread among the Mughals. Nonetheless, the empire was fast growing; thus, expansion led to the inter-religious relations between the Islam Mughals and Hindus from the neighboring regions. As the result of the interreligious interactions between the Hindu and the Muslims due to trade activities, the rulers found it necessary to implement an approach that would govern the multi-racial and multi-religious society. The ruling class consisted of Muslims, while the subjects within the empire were Sikh and Hindu. The most important approach of dealing with the multi-religious society was that the first ruler, Babur, did not focus on his religion but rather emphasized on the Mongol heritage and values. In this case, he was able to apply socially accepted values in his administration since these values were shared between his subjects and the ruling class.
Additionally, over time other rulers such as Akbar abolished the jizya, which was imposed on non-Muslims. This was also a step towards the right direction in terms of providing a fair playing ground for all subjects. Prior to the abolishment of jizya, the non-Muslims were required to pay a higher tax for their trade activities within the Empire, and this was unfair since they competed with Muslims. Furthermore, Akbar harmonized the empire by changing from the application of the Luna Muslim calendar into the usage of the solar calendar. Akbar was a visionary ruler who foresaw the combination of religions in ruling. He perceived that Islam, Hindu, and Christianity should be applied. These were specific aims by the ruling class in order to deal with the religious diversity and enhance religious tolerance within the community. In addition, the ruling class viewed themselves as rulers who received leadership through divine rights rather than through Islamic law. Therefore, religious influence was not applied in ruling, thereby allowing the ruling class to embrace diversity and manage the diverse population.
Why Did Muslims Choose to Withdraw Their Support for Akbar?
During the time of his ruling, Akbar was interested in extending the tolerance that had been achieved by his predecessor. At that time, the Mughal Empire was a diverse society with both Muslims and Hindus. However, his measures to foster tolerance and pluralism of both religions in the empire caused him to take certain actions that were not supported by the Muslims thus losing their support. Akbar attempted to reconcile the differences between Islam and Hinduism by introducing a new faith known as Din-i-llahi. The court abolished jizya under his leadership. The Muslim subjects during his reign were angered by the enforcement of Din-i-llahi as a common religion since this was perceived as a very unusual idea. Furthermore, he forcefully imposed this religion as the state`s religion during the entire period until his death. Therefore, at this point, Muslims felt that their right to practice their beliefs and adhere to the Sharia laws were being violated. Besides, the leader sought to bring together the different groups of Muslims such as the Sunni and non-Sunni Muslims since he did not like the disagreements between the different groups.
All these measures made Muslims withdraw their support towards Akbar since he did not follow any particular line of thought and practice in Islam and wanted to have a solution for everything. Some of the differences between the religious groups are irreconcilable; thus, attempting to create harmony or promote one religion led to a stronger resistance among his subjects. Finally, Akbar lost the support of his subjects since he did not follow the teachings of Islam in terms of leadership within the religion. In this case, Akbar utilized his political authority to select the religious leaders, and such policy did not receive support from his subjects. Overall, the main cause of losing support was the interference that Akbar had towards religious principals and beliefs.
How Did Akbar Successors Change His Policy?
Akbar`s successors were aware of where Akbar had gone wrong thus were interested in restoring normalcy and order. Nonetheless, their changes were not aimed at reversing the religious tolerance that had been achieved over the years but at achieving space and authority for each religious group to practice its beliefs. The first successor to retract Akbar`s actions was Aurangzeb. Some of the immediate actions that he took upon assuming leadership included restoring Sharia law, which also restored the practice of Islamic beliefs and practices within the empire. Furthermore, Aurangzeb imposed the jizya, which served the purpose of reconnecting the Islamic believers. Most importantly, Aurangzeb mobilized resources towards the destruction of temples with the purpose of building mosques in the empire. In addition, he had a personal bias against non-Muslims thus wanted Muslims to flourish and have the best opportunities within the empire.
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Other actions taken by Akbar`s successors include changing of the Mughal court life in order to eradicate music within the court and eliminate the role of dancers and singers during court processions. Aurangzeb was interested in administration and governance based on the Muslim provisions. In this case, he forbade images and the production of any artwork, which was representational. Other rulers persecuted Sikh Gurus. These changes in policy were improved over the successions and were aimed at ensuring that Muslims were able to dominate the empire. Nonetheless, it is clear that each ruler during this period had a specific interest in terms of restoring the strength of Islam within the Empire and promoting economic prosperity of the subjects.
Assessment of Aurangzeb
From a personal assessment of Aurangzeb, it is evident that he was an Islam fanatic who was far much interested in the wellbeing of his Muslim subjects rather than the non-Muslims. Upon assuming leadership and becoming the ruler of Mughal, Aurangzeb begun revising the policies that Akbar had implemented in order to achieve religious tolerance. He was biased against non-Muslims and implemented policies that damaged the religious harmony that existed. These actions resulted into a crisis within the empire among the Hindus, who had begun to thrive in terms of religion and social inclusion in the empire. His actions led to the collapse of the religious tolerance that had been achieved by his predecessors. Nonetheless, his actions appear to be guided not by his righteousness but by his fanatical perspective regarding the role of Islam in building the empire. He completely ignored the peace and milestones that had been achieved by those who came before him and their policies. During his reign, he focused on promoting the beliefs of Islam in order to ensure that his subjects in the empire lived their lives according to Islamic law. Furthermore, he was quite interested in adopting an anti-Hindu approach. Trying to achieve its prime goal, he was oblivious of the effect that he would cause in the empire.
Some of the measures he took against Hindus included authorizing the demolition of temples and destruction of idols since these were not allowed in Islam. Furthermore, he restored the tax on Hindus, which was combined with a bid to convince Hindus to convert to Islam. On the collection of tax for non-Muslims, Aurangzeb was very strict on the manner that the collection process should have taken place. He also actively removed the Hindus from government jobs in order to ensure that they would convert to Islam. Other measures consisted in restriction of non-Muslims from educational institutions such as Maqtabs and Madaras. These were extreme measures towards conversion of non-Muslims to Islam. Therefore, it is clear that he was obsessed with the idea of having an Islamic empire, which would adhere to Sharia laws and all provisions of Islam. He was also interested in limiting the economic prosperity of members of other religions thus promote mass conversion of his subjects.
All things considered, the religious preferences of those residing in Mughal India were diverse and incompatible in many aspects. This issue was given an attempt to be resolved during the reign of Akbar, who sought for a compromise between the competing groups, namely Muslims and non-Muslims, and within the Muslim community itself. The corresponding measure sets were implemented by Akbar to facilitate the living of non-Muslim people, but such “privileges” given to them were later considered by Muslims as their leader’s betrayal and made them stop supporting him. Muslim-oriented policy was then regained during the ruling of Aurangzeb, as he underlined previously obliterated boundaries between the religious groups and brought the penalties for non-Muslims back to life.
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