Akbar’s Attitude to Jihãd
The story of how Akbar, the Mughal emperor, earned the title of ghãzî by beheading the defenceless Himu on November 5, 1556, and its repudiation by his court historians (Abul Fazl etc.) is a silent commentary on the doctrine of jihãd by the one and the only Muslim potentate of medieval times who had a wiser head on his shoulders. I give below the two versions of the story - one from the pen of the Afghan historian Ahmad Yadgar and the other from that of Badauni (who drew his material from Nizamuddin’s Tabaqãt-i-Akbarî). I need only add that Nizamuddin, Abul Fazl, and Faizi - all give the same fabricated version of the story.
According to Ahmad Yadgar, “By the decree of the Al-mighty an arrow struck Himûn in the forehead… (His soldiers) saw how matters stood, and he sustained a complete defeat. When Shãh Kulî Beg was told of what had occurred, he came up to the elephant (of Himûn) and brought it into the presence of Bairam Khãn. Bairam Khãn… caused Himûn to descend from the elephant and took him before the young and fortunate prince and said, ‘As this is our first success, let your Highness’s own august hand smite this infidel with the sword.’ The Prince, accordingly, struck him and divided his head from his unclean body.”1
It has only to be remarked that modern historians accept this version alone as the true story of how Akbar earned the title of ghãzî (=slayer of infidels) after the Second Battle of Panipat. They do not credit the story circulated by court historians like Nizamuddin and Abul Fazl, which in due course was taken up by Abdul Kadir Badauni.
According to Badauni, “(Bairam Khan said): ‘This is your first war (ghãzd), prove your sword on this infidel, for it will be a meritorious deed.’ Akbar replied: ‘He is now no better than a dead man, how am I to strike him? If he had sense and strength, I would try my sword.’ Then in the presence of them all, the Khan as a warrior of the faith, cut him down with the sword.”2
This version of the story is extremely interesting, and, as an indication of Akbar’s mind at its maturity, is far more valuable than the true story itself. The reader of the present work would understand that in jihãd there is absolutely no room for chivalry to the fallen enemy. In 627 AD the Banu Kuraizah in chains were cut off at the market place of Medina with nauseating cruelty and little consideration for norms of chivalry. The fourteen-year old Akbar, at the bidding of Bairam Khan, had certainly cut off the head of the defenceless Himu in 1556, confirming thereby the classical Islamic practice. But his court historians knew enough of the Emperor’s mind at its maturity to realise that this story would never do in a general history of his reign. They ‘paltered with the truth’ of history, or rather Akbar himself did so, but they did reveal, as if in a flash, the aging emperor’s contempt for the doctrine of jihãd and the glory of ghazihood that went with it.
But this is not
all. Besides his contempt for jihãd, Badauni’s account
contains an ideal of chivalry maturing in Akbar’s mind which was little
different from the Rajput ideal. That ideal again was the Hindu ideal of
chivalry par excellence, harking back to the heroic exploits described
in the Mahabharata. It has often been remarked that Akbar’s brand of religious
tolerance was more a matter of policy than conviction; but the above account
indicates how, with advancing years, he inclined with his whole heart towards
Hindu ideals and abhorred Islamic teachings in the secret recesses of his
being. No wonder, Islamists have never forgiven him for such transparent
indications of downright apostasy.
Ibid., p. 253. Akbar’s court historians have also suppressed the
fact that Akbar had viewed as jihãd his expedition to Chittor
in 1567-68 in which he had ordered the massacre of 30,000 Hindus, including
non-combatants. The text of his Fathnãma, issued from Muinuddin
Chishti’s dargah at Ajmer in March 1568, was included in Munshãt-i-Namakîn
compiled in 1598 by Saiyid Abdul Qasim Khan, a prominent noble who served
under Akbar as well as Jahangir. The Fathnãma cites the jihadic
verses from the Koran, and refers to Hindus as accursed infidels. It has
been translated into English by Ishtiaq Ahmed Zilli, and published in Proceedings
of the Indian History Congress, 1972 (pp. 350-61).