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Akbar the Great

Akbar the Great can be considered the most popular Mughal ruler due to his liberal ideologies.

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The Mughal Empire was a powerful Muslim empire in South Asia that dominated most of northern India from 1526 to 1857. The kingdom was founded by an Uzbek conquerer named Babur, who descended from two famous leaders: Tamerlane, and Genghis Khan. Babur began conquering kingdoms towards the south modern day Afghanistan, Pakistan, and northeastern India, near what is today Jammu and Kashmir. At Babur’s death, his son Humayun succeeded him. Humayun strengthened the empire and its borders, but he lost the empire to a Suri king, Sher Shah Suri. Sher Shah’s Sur dynasty ruled from 1540 to 1555, when an older Humayun recaptured the empire. Humayun died within a year of his return. It was at this time that Humayun’s thirteen year old son Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar came to power. A king born in exile, Akbar proved to be one of the best Mughal rulers by bringing the empire to its strongest point in history.

Akbar the Great can be considered the most popular Mughal ruler due to his liberal ideologies. Many historians agree that he is not only one of the best, but the best Mughal ruler. The real secrets behind Akbar’s successes include his views on religion and social tolerance, government and economic reform, and embracement of all forms of culture from all around the world.

Akbar was a tolerant king, who accepted all ethnic groups, no matter their race, social class, or religion. The Mughal government during the later 16th century was a sectarian state, and perhaps the only purely secular government in the entire Mughal Empire. Akbar allowed all Hindus to believe in their own faith and even make their own laws. He abolished jizya, a tax that every non-Muslim was forced to pay in order to stay in the empire, and similar taxes that targeted non-Muslims. But as the old saying goes, “When even a little is leaked, the damage is already done!” the jizya and similar taxes had already caused stereotypes and discrimination against non-Muslim religious groups. Akbar issued these groups land grants for financial aid and government support. Eventually, Akbar even created his own religion by combining elements of Jainism, Sikhism, Islam, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, and some Christianity. “He was enormously liberal for his time, promoting religious tolerance (and even his own hybrid Islamic / Hindu / Christian / Zoroastrian religion called Din – i llahi), abolishing slavery and forbidding forced sati [an illogical Hindu tradition]” (Fletcher). This new religion meant “The Religion of God”, and it was meant to end religious conflict. Akbar’s religious reforms lasted into the early 18th century, when a cruel Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb, slaughtered many Hindus. Akbar also tolerated all social groups. He allowed any social group to become a part of Mughal Nobility, including Turko-Mongols, Hindu Rajputs, Irani-Persians, and Afghans. Akbar’s imperial service was also ethnically diverse, and included Persians, Rajputs, and Muslim Uzbeks. His social reforms also lasted until the 18th century, again changing once Aurangzeb came to power. Akbar’s religious and social reforms made many civilians happy. Happy citizens increased his popularity in the Mughal Empire.

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