Din-i Ilahi

Din-i Ilahi “the religion of God,” was a system of religious beliefs proposed by the Mughal emperor Akbar in 1582 CE. The idea was to combine Islam and Hinduism into one faith, but also to add aspects of Christianity, Zoroastrianism and Jainism — the latter an ancient Indian creed which emphasized non-violence and vegetarianism. The point, that is, was to combine all India’s religion into one and thereby to ensure national unity and peace.

Akbar clearly took a personal interest in religious matters. He founded an academy, the Ibadat Khana, “the House of Worship,” in 1575, where representatives of all major faiths could meet to discuss questions of faith. Listening to these debates, Akbar concluded that no single religion captured all of the truth and that they consequently had to be combined. Din-e Ilahi emphasized morality.  It prohibited lust, sensuality and pride, and took piety, abstincence and kindness as its core values. The slaughter of animals was also forbidden. The new religion had no scriptures and no priests and it never had more than a handful of adherents — the members of Akbar’s closest circle. The most prominent of which was Abul-Fazl ibn Mubarak, the emperor’s vizier, or prime minister. Abul Fazl was the author of the Akbarnama,  “the Book of Akbar,” a history of Akbar’s reign written in three volumes, which provide a rich description of India at the height of the Mughal’s power.

Din-e Ilahi is probably best viewed as a state religion with the emperor himself at its center. As the single authority on all religious matters Akbar was not only going to interpret and apply the religious law, but to actually make it. For Akbar himself the new religion would solve the thorny problem of how a Muslim ruler could govern a predominantly Hindu state. Din-e Ilahi was fiercely opposed by Muslims clerics who declared it blasphemous.

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