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date: 10 December 2018

Islam in Mughal India

Summary and Keywords

The history of the Mughal Empire (1526–1858) reveals much of the diversity among Muslims and the complexity of Islam as variously envisioned and as practiced in India. The empire’s ruling Timurid dynasty was patrilineally Sunni; many of its original core supporters were also Sunni immigrants or descendants of immigrants from Central Asia, especially Turks and Mongols. But Mughal emperors married women from families who were Shiʿites or who either converted to Islam in India or remained Hindus; similarly, the imperial army and administration also broadened its composition to include such families. Each individual emperor developed his own religious ideology, including Sunni, Sufistic, strongly influenced by Shiʿism, and eclectically drawing upon diverse Islamic and non-Islamic Indic traditions (i.e., Hindu devotional bhakti, Zoroastrianism, Jainism). Roughly a quarter of the Mughal dynasty’s subjects were Muslim, but these also followed an array of diverse Islamic ideologies and social and religious practices (many functioning much like “castes”). Conversely, many non-Muslim officials and subjects of the dynasty adapted its Persianate patterns of culture and belief. Over the 16th and 17th centuries, the Mughal dynasty conquered most of the Indian subcontinent (except the southern tip of the peninsula), but then its empire fragmented over the 18th and early 19th centuries. Evidence for the variety of Islamic expressions within the Mughal Empire comes from many types of sources. Imperial officials, accountants, and scribes compiled Persian-language records in detail, extent, and preservation that exceeded previous states in India. Emperors, courtiers, and authors whom they patronized created sophisticated works of history and literature that described events, rituals, and values, using Persian and also Sanskrit and regional Indian languages. Additionally, various types of material evidence have survived—including architecture, paintings, coins, weapons, and clothing—that display the dynasty’s religious expressions, values, and technologies. Muslim and Christian visitors from Central and Western Asia and Europe also wrote down their observations and assessments while traveling to the imperial court or through the Empire’s provinces. The relationships between Islamic beliefs and practices and the Mughal Empire that travelers, commentators, and historians noted and evaluated varied over time.

Keywords: Akbar, ʿAlamgir/Aurangzeb, Bangladesh, conquest, conversion, Pakistan, Shiʿite, South Asia, Sufi, Sunni

The Mughal Empire (1526–1858)

The Mughal dynasty, at its 17th-century peak, ruled almost the entire Indian subcontinent (except for the southern peninsular tip), containing roughly 3.2 million square kilometers (1.24 million square miles) and about 150 million people (half of western Europe in size but double its population). The emperors all identified themselves as Muslim, patrilineally descended from Timur (1336–1405, a.k.a. Tamerlane), the Sunni Turkish conqueror of Central Asia. Each individual Mughal emperor developed his own religious beliefs and expressions within what he considered true Islam. These included elements that we can identify as Sunni, Sufistic, strongly influenced by Shiʿism, or eclectically drawing upon diverse non-Islamic Indic traditions (i.e., Hindu devotional bhakti, Zoroastrianism, and Jainism). Further, many Mughal emperors married women who were Shiʿite or Hindu, some of whom continued their natal religious traditions and influenced their imperial husbands, and some whose sons inherited the throne. Hence, after the third generation, all Mughal emperors had Hindu ancestors.

Through personal example, patronage, and state policy, Mughal emperors for nearly two centuries strongly shaped the culture and religio-ethnic composition of the imperial court, army, and administration. In the top ranks of these bodies, the proportions of predominantly Sunni Central Asians, predominantly Shiʿite Iranians, Indian-domiciled Muslims, and Hindus varied over time. Further, specific communities tended to concentrate in particular roles (e.g., the warrior community of Hindu Rajputs were prominent in the army but not often in the central or provincial administrations).

Below the imperial core, the bulk of the army and administration and the diverse subjects of the Mughal Empire belonged to a variety of Indic religious traditions. About a quarter of those ruled by the dynasty had Indian ancestors who had converted to Islam but whose regionally based communities also retained a range of preconversion beliefs and practices, functioning much like “castes.” Each emperor in distinctive ways sought to guide the religious identities of his subordinates and subjects, for example, by rewarding converts to Islam or by either collecting or abolishing jizya (a wealth tax on non-Muslim subjects). Conversely, some Hindus, in particular Rajputs, regarded the Mughal dynasty as following a warrior dharma (code for conduct) comparable to their own. Some emperors and imperial armies made military or political assertions in religious terms (e.g., desecrating the sacred sites of their opponents). Conversely, various religious and political challengers to the incumbent Mughal emperor also evoked the authority of Islam. During the dynasty’s last century and a half, a series of diverse kingmakers largely shaped imperial policies, while weak emperors often lacked control even within their palace. Overall, the relationships between the Mughal dynasty and Islamic beliefs and practices varied over time by reign, region, and circumstance and reveal much of the diversity among Muslims and the complexity of Islam in India.

The Origins of the Mughal Empire

In 1526, Zahir al-Din Muhammad Babur (1483–1530), the ruler of Kabul, invaded northern India and imperiously declared himself its emperor. He based his claim on the brief conquest of Delhi in 1398 by his distant Turkish ancestor, Timur.1 Babur’s band of Muslim Turkic, Mongol, Afghan, Hazara, Arab, and Baluch warriors then defeated Muslim Indo-Afghan Sultan Ibrahim Lodi (r. 1517–1526) and his Hindu Rajput allies at Panipat (near Delhi), and then seized much of the upper Gangetic plain.

In 1527, Babur faced a predominantly non-Muslim (Hindu Rajput) army for the first time. Hence, Babur sought divine support and to rally his core force of Central Asians and substantial Indian Muslim supporters by highlighting his Islamic identity more than ever before. He exempted all Muslims from taxes on cattle and goods. He publicly renounced wine (forbidden in Islam), even destroying a newly arrived shipment of “three camel trains [of] superior Ghazni wine” intended for his household.2 He shattered his own gold and silver wine-drinking vessels, distributing the valuable shards to poor Muslims. The soldiers of what Babur now called his “Army of Islam” swore on the Qurʾan to fight as ghazis (Islamic warriors) in a jihad until death.

The armies met at Khanua (near Agra). After desperate fighting, Babur’s forces prevailed. In triumph, Babur built a huge tower of enemy skulls in the Timurid mode and seized territories from those who had opposed him. Featuring his newly emphasized Islamic identity, Babur officially added “Ghazi” to his own titles and coins. He also composed the verses:

  • I have become a desert wanderer for Islam
  • Having joined battle with infidels [kafar] and Hindus.
  • I readied myself to become a martyr [shahid],
  • God be thanked I am become a ghazi.3

Babur also renamed his most effective cannon “Ghazi.” Two of Babur’s courtiers separately “found” the Hijri year of his victory in the alphanumerical value of Fath-i Badshah-i Islam (Victory of the Emperor of Islam), thus discovering God’s will via chronogram. Indeed, increasingly in India, Babur reduced his earlier emphasis on Timur as his source of authority, which had proved unpersuasive to Indians. Instead, Babur highlighted himself as conquering champion of Islam in the pattern of Mahmud of Ghazni (971–1030, r. 998–1030), who had invaded India seventeen times from 1001 to 1025.4

During Babur’s four-year reign in north India, he largely continued his family’s Sunni and Timurid religious traditions. Like Timur and many other Timurids, Babur always revered Sufi holy men, who sought direct experience of the Divine but who also often engaged actively in affairs of this world. In particular, charismatic Naqshbandiyya pirs (saintly men, living or dead) guided Babur, including by mystically prophesizing through his dreams and visions. At several critical times, the late Naqshbandiyya pir Khwaja ʿUbaidullah Ahrar (d. 1490) appeared to Babur, accurately promising battlefield victory or rescue from threatening death. In 1528, when Babur was afflicted with a debilitating bowel inflammation that even prevented him from offering namaz (Islamic prayer), he sought again the intercession of ʿUbaidullah Ahrar. When Babur recovered, he vowed to versify one the pir’s treatises as a 243-line poem; Babur even attributed liberation from his lingering desire for wine to this poetic act of devotion.5 Further, some leading Naqshbandiyyas joined Babur in India as prominent courtiers.

On occasion, Babur also pragmatically incorporated Shiʿi practices. In 1511, in exchange for Irani military support to retake Samarkand, Babur had donned the distinctive qizilbash turban (having twelve, red-pointed folds representing the twelve Ismaʾiliyya Shiʿite Imams) as a disciple of Safavid emperor Shah Ismaʾil (1487–1524) and his Shiʿite Sufi order. While ruling in Kabul, Babur had married his main wife, Maham Begum (d. 1533), who was evidently Shiʿite. She claimed descent from a four-centuries-earlier Sufi pir, Sheykh Ahmad, known for his ferocity as Zinda-fil (literarily, “Awesome Elephant”). Maham secured her prime position in Babur’s household by bearing his first surviving son, Humayun (1508–1556).

On first entering conquered Delhi in 1526, Babur prioritized paying reverence to the major Sufi shrines (dargah) of Chishtiyya pirs Sheykh Nizam al-Din Aulia (1238–1325) and Sheykh Bakhtiar Kaki of Fargana (1173–1235). Babur renewed many of the revenue grants given earlier by Delhi sultans to their shrines. After conquering north India, Babur additionally began occasionally to honor India-based Shattariyya and Suhrawardiyya pirs. Each of these Sufi orders had its own distinctive practice of mystical devotion and widespread network of shrines and disciples across much of north and central India. Gaining the support of these revered men and their disciples provided Babur (and, even more so, his successors) with wider legitimacy among Muslim and also non-Muslim Indians of many social and economic classes. Conversely, these pirs were often rivals of each other and the Naqshbandiyyas, vying for Babur’s financial and political support.

On Babur’s death, his eldest son, Humayun (r. 1530–1540, 1555–1556) inherited the north Indian part of the Mughal Empire. But Humayun had only limited experience or ties with India. To empower and legitimate his reign, he constructed his court as a mystical microcosm of the universe, centered on his own sacred self. He draped a veil over his turban and face, sheltering his courtiers from his divine splendor, occasionally ritually raising his veil to reveal his effulgence. He identified each weekday with an astral body, wearing self-designed robes of the conforming color while conducting the corresponding imperial functions. For instance, on Tuesday, identified with the astrological planet Mars, Humayun wore red garments, sat “on the throne of wrath and vengeance,” and directed the sentencing of each criminal and war captive with imaginative punishments, guided by Humayun’s inspired insight into the otherwise hidden essence of the prisoner and his alleged deeds.6 Humayun ordered his tents to be symbolically made in twelve sections, each representing a zodiac sign. Humayun’s model, which stressed mystical powers, evidently resonated with the transcendent doctrines of his favored Shattariyya Sufi order, which specialized in interpreting and channeling cosmic forces through yogic practices. Thus, he used various novel rituals to create an imperial cult as his regime’s core. But this was not enough to secure the support of his brothers, vital Central Asian supporters, or Indian subjects.

After a decade, Humayun lost a series of disastrous battles to resurgent Sunni Indo-Afghans led by the Suri clan. Humayun fled to Iran, where he accepted the Shiʿite Safavid emperor Tahmasp (r. 1524–1576) as his pir, just as Babur had done for Tahmasp’s father. Humayun eventually fought his way back to rule over Kabul and then reconquered north India in 1555, after fifteen years away. Only seven months later, however, he accidently fell down the steps of his library (famously, while rushing to answer the Islamic call to prayer) and died. Although Babur and Humayun tenuously created the Mughal Empire using largely Timurid, Central Asian Islamic religious ideologies, the next generation established it, in large part by incorporating more Indic religious elements.

The Establishment of the Mughal Empire under Emperor Akbar (1542–1605, r. 1556–1605)

The teenage Akbar succeeded to Humayun’s throne and survived only with the military support of a series of powerful guardian-regents (most notably, Bairam Khan [1501–1561], a Persianized Shiʿite Turk). In 1562, Akbar threw off his last regent and began to innovate the imperial culture and institutions that would sustain the Mughal dynasty thereafter. Besides organizing a more powerful and effective army and administration than any previous ruler in India, Akbar and his core Muslim and Hindu confidants also incrementally developed a synthetic court culture and imperial religious cult that attracted to the Mughal dynasty the support of an array of Indians and Central and West Asian immigrants. However, Akbar’s relationships with Islam and various other religions proved highly controversial, from his day into the 21st century.

Through the 1570s, Akbar personally observed conventional Sunni forms of worship, including the prescribed five daily prayers. In principle (although not always in practice), the Mughal judicial system applied the sharia of the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam, as interpreted by ʿulama (Islamic scholars and jurists), and later by Akbar, for criminal law for all and also of civil law for Muslims. Further, Hindu and other religious communities often provided legal advisers to assist the Muslim judge when their members were involved; additionally, local and community traditions evidently often shaped verdicts. From 1576, Akbar officially subsidized Indians making the Hajj to Mecca. Akbar himself once dressed as a Hajj pilgrim and symbolically set out for Mecca, but he allowed himself to be dissuaded from the trip by courtiers concerned about such an extended absence.

Akbar also initially gave both financial and ideological support to Sunni ʿulama. His regime needed ʿulama to staff judicial courts, lead Muslim congregational prayers, invoke divine blessings on the sovereign, teach Islamic sciences, instruct children in basic literacy and numeracy, and make India a moral society. To secure their support and services, Akbar appointed prominent Sunni men as sadr (the imperial official empowered to give land-revenue grants on religious grounds) who supported ʿulama, Sufi pirs (Naqshbandiyyas and also Indian-based orders), and indigent but worthy Muslims. Under the guidance of strongly Sunni ʿulama, Akbar punished sects they claimed were deviant, including millennial Mahdawiyya and outspoken Shiʿites. During this period, Akbar also characterized some military campaigns against non-Muslims as jihads, including some fought on his behalf that included Hindu Rajputs fighting against other Hindu Rajputs.

Concurrently, however, from his early youth Akbar also incorporated into his household, court, and administration non-Sunni people, ideologies, and practices to an extent unprecedented for either his Mughal predecessors or the Delhi sultans. During his lifetime and still today, those who regard Akbar as an ecumenical man and ruler have seen early Shiʿite influences on him from his mother, his guardian-regent Bairam Khan, and several other close companions. Commentators who highlight Akbar’s later eclectic beliefs find them inspired by charismatic mystics and learned scholars, both Muslim and non-Muslim, whom Akbar chose to meet.

Significantly, Akbar gradually shifted his devotion from the more conventionally Sunni Naqshbandiyya order his ancestors had favored to Indian-based orders, particularly the Chishtiyya, who embraced a more incorporative vision of Islam and customarily refrained from overt political engagement. Starting in 1566, for fourteen years annually, Akbar visited the shrine of Khwaja Muʿin al-Din Chishtiyya (1141–1230) in Ajmer—including making a 1570 pilgrimage on foot, some 360 kilometers from Agra.

Akbar also incorporated non-Muslim Indians into his household and inner circle, especially through political marriages with Hindu Rajput brides. Akbar’s first Rajput bride was Harkha Bai (d. 1613; also known as Hira Kunwari, “Diamond Princess,” and Mariam al-Zamani, “Mary of the Age”), eldest daughter of Raja Bihari Mal (r. 1547–1574, the beleaguered ruler of Amber and disputed head of the Kachhwaha Rajput clan).7 Of Akbar’s many official wives, at least eleven (and probably far more) were from Hindu Rajput families. Historically, aspiring Rajputs had long practiced hypergamy, giving brides to more powerful and higher-ranked Rajput clans; now many Rajputs related similarly to the Mughal dynasty.8

Some earlier Muslim sultans had taken Hindu Rajput noblewomen as wives or concubines, often as war booty, and customarily converted them to Islam. But Akbar innovatively honored his Rajput wives by respecting their religious traditions and choices; some converted to Islam, but others freely performed Hindu rituals in his harem, and Akbar often participated. Akbar also recognized their sons as his legitimate heirs. Additionally, Akbar enrolled their menfolk into the highest levels of imperial service and supported them against those of his Muslim courtiers who held anti-Hindu sentiments.

Despite Akbar’s growing number of wives, as he reached his late twenties he still had no surviving children—a daughter and twin sons having died soon after birth. Seeking divine intervention, Akbar humbly made a pilgrimage to Chishtiyya Sufi Sheykh Salim (1478–1572), who lived near Sikri village. Harkha Bai soon became pregnant. For the birth, Akbar sent her to a palace he had built near Sheykh Salim’s home. Akbar named his first son and eventual heir Mirza Salim (1569–1627), with the pet name “Sheykhu Baba.” Akbar then appointed Sheykh Salim’s daughters and daughters-in-law to be the baby’s wet nurses, the sheykh’s second son to be the child’s tutor, the sheykh’s grandsons to be the child’s foster brothers, and other male descendants of the sheykh as high-ranking imperial officials. Similarly, Akbar’s two other sons, Mirza Murad (1570–1599) and Mirza Daniyal (1572–1604), were born, respectively, at the Chishtiyya shrines of Sheykh Salim and Sheykh Daniyal (a 15th-century disciple of Khwaja Muʿin al-Din) in Ajmer. These long-awaited births further bound Akbar to the Chishti order.

As Akbar’s sons matured, he married each one to many Hindu Rajput wives (and also to many high-born Muslim spouses). The wedding ceremonies for the Hindu brides combined Islamic and Indic-Hindu wedding rituals, conducted by qazis (Muslim clerics) and Brahmins.9 On their part, Rajput imperial wives, their male relatives in Mughal service and outside it, and various other Hindus amalgamated into their own Indic-Hindu cultural traditions many of the Persianate customs developing in Akbar’s court. Hindu bards wrote praise poems to their Rajput patrons, in the Rajasthani, Braj Basha, and Sanskrit languages, sometimes celebrating heroic opposition to the Mughal emperor, sometimes lauding valiant service to him, both as justified by Rajput dharma. For instance, Amrit Rai’s 1585 biography of Raja Man Singh, the Rajput Kachhwaha clan ruler of Amber (r. 1589–1614), who was repeatedly a bride giver to the Mughal house and a leading imperial general, identifies Akbar as a worthy divine master within the Indic-Hindu cosmic order:

  • A portion of the supreme being descended to earth
  • to destroy the suffering of others . . .
  • The emperor upholds dharma. His rule stabilizes the earth . . .
  • The goddess Lakshmi shares her time between Vishnu’s embrace and nestling at Akbar’s breast.10

Such praise singers thus glorified their Rajput patrons by elevating their employer and sovereign Akbar to semidivine status and intimacy with Hindu goddesses.

The growing presence in Akbar’s harem of Hindu Rajput wives and in the Mughal administration of their male relatives and other Rajput and non-Rajput Hindus correlates with Akbar’s religious and political policies from early in his reign. In particular, Akbar terminated several taxes and regulations that discriminated against non-Muslims, including the prohibition on the construction of new Hindu, Jain, Parsi (Zoroastrian) and other non-Muslim temples and the pilgrim tax on Hindus. He made inams (endowments of land revenue) to Hindu temples and to non-Muslim holy men. He prohibited the slaughter of cows and peacocks. In 1564, he halted the collection of jizya, regarded by many non-Muslims as a discriminatory tax, including his growing number of Rajput officials. In contrast, some strict Muslims regarded jizya as an appropriate and legally required penalty on subjects who refused to convert to Islam; they convinced Akbar to reimpose it in 1575. These imperial orders largely went unenforced, however, and Akbar officially reconfirmed its abolition in 1579. These policies evidently gained support from many non-Muslims, who made up the vast majority of his subjects.

Significantly, Akbar and his successors gave his sisters and daughters as wives to Timurids and other high-born Central and West Asian Muslims, never as brides to Rajputs or any other non-Muslims. Instead, Akbar informally adopted some daughters of close Rajput courtiers and arranged their marriages with Rajput royal houses. Later, Emperor Jahangir, himself the son of Akbar’s first Rajput wife and having many Rajput brides of his own, nonetheless wrote condemning Muslim clans, which reciprocated by giving brides to Hindus: “They ally themselves with Hindus, and both give and take girls. Taking them is good, but giving them, God forbid! I gave an order that hereafter they should not do such things, and whoever was guilty of them, should be capitally punished.”11 Moreover, regardless of who was the mother, Mughal emperors raised their sons and daughters as Sunni Muslim Timurids.

But Akbar’s prohibitions on cow slaughter and temple destruction did not protect those Hindus who openly opposed him. In 1572, Akbar sent forces north against Kangra, a Hindu rebellious kingdom in the Himalayan foothills. Seeking to dishearten and punish the defenders, Akbar’s army assaulted Kangra’s most prestigious temple. Imperial soldiers reportedly slaughtered the temple’s Rajput guardians, Brahmin priests, and hundreds of dedicated cows. A contemporary recorded, “Some savage Turks . . . took off their boots and filled them with the [cow’s] blood, and splashed it on the roof and walls of the temple.”12 The defenders finally negotiated a surrender, and the Mughal commander erected a mosque near Kangra’s palace. These events suggest how contingent Akbar’s policies and relationships with diverse religious communities were.

Akbar’s Religious Innovations at Fatehpur (1571–1585)

From 1571, Akbar created a new, purpose-built capital, which he called Fatehpur (City of Victory), around the shrine to Shaykh Salim in the village of Sikri.13 During the years he ruled from there (1571–1585), Akbar gradually moved away from Timurid and conventional Sunni beliefs and practices and incorporated Indic ones. In his new palace wall, for instance, Akbar built an elaborate portal, jharoka, from which he revealed himself daily to his revering subjects on the ground below, who thus reassured themselves of his good health, savored his latest sartorial fashion, or worshipped him. Akbar’s amanuensis Abu al-Fazl (1551–1602) described this as Akbar bestowing “the light of his countenance” by giving darshan (Sanskrit for the “auspicious sight” that a Hindu deity bestows on devotees).14 A public sect of worshippers of Akbar emerged, called the Darsaniyya. Sunni courtier and historian ʿAbd-ul-Qadir Badaʾuni (1540–1605) wrote critically of Akbar’s encouragement of such worshippers:

[Those] not admitted into the palace, stood every morning opposite to the window . . . and declared that they had made vows not to rinse their mouth, nor to eat and drink, before they had seen the blessed countenance of the Emperor. And every evening [assembled] needy Hindus and Musalmans, all sorts of people, men and women, healthy and sick, a queer gathering and a most terrible crowd. No sooner had His Majesty . . . stepped out into the balcony, than the whole crowd prostrated themselves.15

Around 1575, Akbar built a highly controversial building in Fatehpur, called the ʿibadat-khana (“divine worship hall” in Persian and Arabic). This building’s exact location remains uncertain, but it was the site of fiery evening debates among leading religious scholars and leaders, over which Akbar arbitrated.16 At first, Akbar only invited prominent Sunni ʿulama and Sayyids (revered as the biological descendants of the Prophet Muhammad). Nonetheless, representing various Sunni legal and philosophical schools, they disputed bitterly, as Akbar moved among them listening and also setting contentious questions. One difficult question he posed was how many wives a Muslim man may legally marry by nikah (formal Islamic marriage). Since he was unwilling to divorce any of his hundreds of nikah wives, he challenged these established Sunni authorities to either dare to rule against him or else find a legalistic way to justify his condition. Akbar reportedly punished prominent Sunni jurists who refused to approve more than four nikah wives. The Mughal clan and most Sunnis in India followed the Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence, but after much debate, more-compliant ʿulama found Maliki school rulings that they interpreted as allowing multiple temporary marriages, nikah al-mutʿah (“joyous marriage” in Arabic), which were legally contracted for a fixed period in exchange for specified monetary compensation to the wife and the rights to any offspring. Shiʿite theologians (evidently not included in these early debates) also accept mutʿah marriages. The inflexibility of some of the Sunni ʿulama and the unseemly casuistry of others apparently reinforced Akbar’s shift from his earlier conformity with established Sunni traditions and spurred his religious search.

In 1578, amid a massive hunt, Akbar collapsed unconscious, to the consternation of his attendants: “Suddenly all at once a strange state and strong frenzy came upon the Emperor . . . And when news of this became spread abroad . . . strange rumours and wonderful lies became current in the mouths of the common people and some insurrections took place among the [peasants], but these were quickly quelled.”17 Akbar had previously had similar experiences, although contemporary sources are vague about their severity and duration since any weakness in the heir apparent or emperor would be perilous for the state. This time, after regaining consciousness, Akbar suddenly ordered the enclosed animals freed rather than killed en masse as usual; he designated the site as sacred, and he had the top of his head shorn (reportedly to enable his soul to escape at death). Abu al-Fazl proclaimed this a transfiguring infusion of the divine spirit into Akbar. Most recent scholars doubt a supernatural cause. Rather, some explain what happened physiologically, claiming, for example, Akbar was epileptic. Others use psychology, maintaining that Akbar was undergoing inner struggle to reconcile his earlier conventional Sunni beliefs with his growing crisis of faith and mystical searching.18 However, no further similar episodes were recorded, and four centuries, later there is insufficient evidence for a definitive diagnosis.

Akbar apparently felt empowered by this experience. He was already extending his own control over the established Sunni ʿulama, whose services Akbar’s administration still needed but whose religious authority he was questioning. Some subsequent innovations arose from Akbar and his close advisers, but others came from courtiers hoping to anticipate Akbar’s approval or wishing to gain his patronage for their own ideologies or factions. Since the stakes were so great, many rivals maneuvered, allied, conspired, or strongly advocated policies that they favored or would favor them.

Many Sunni ʿulama, like other religious figures, had received or inherited revenue grants from earlier rulers and from Akbar. Periodically, but particularly after 1578, Akbar ordered the sadr to investigate all these grants, reducing or confiscating many that lacked documentation or whose current recipient appeared to be undeserving. Akbar then lavishly redistributed grants to Muslim and non-Muslim worthies who had earned his respect and demonstrated loyalty (some grants were for uncultivated lands that he wished to make productive, thereby extending and developing the agricultural base of his empire). Many ʿulama who lost grants, and even some who received renewals, resented being judged by the emperor instead of just recognized and supported. Additionally, Akbar added to his many titles Amir al-Muminin (Commander of the Faithful), asserting his leadership over the Muslim community in India and globally.

On Friday, June 26, 1579, in Fatehpur’s main mosque, Akbar publicly demonstrated both his sovereignty and also his right as imam (Islamic “prayer leader”). A few earlier rulers had personally done this, but no previous Mughal emperors had. Akbar recited a khutba (invocation) calling down Allah’s blessing on the sovereign (Akbar himself):

  • The Almighty God, that on me the empire conferred;
  • A mind of wisdom, and an arm of strength conferred!
  • To justice and to equity, He did me guide;
  • Expelled all but justice, from my thought;
  • His attributes beyond all comprehension soar!
  • Exalted His greatness, Allah-o-Akbar!19

The last phrase (which Akbar also minted on his coins) conventionally means “God is Great” but also, controversially, “Akbar is Allah.”

Continuing this trend of subordinating Sunni ʿulama, in September 1579, a mahzar circulated at court; this was an “attestation,” a religious decree whose authority was endorsed by all who signed or affixed their personal seals, or who did both. Most ʿulama at court signed, under severe threat to their offices, income, or lives. Scholars (then and now) have debated the nature, meaning, and legitimacy of this mahzar and the extent of Akbar’s ambitions. The text explicitly recognizes Akbar’s authority to arbitrate any religious issue whenever the ʿulama were not unanimous—as long as his interpretation accorded with the Qurʾan and Hadith, in his judgment. Some later commentators designated this Akbar’s “Infallibility Decree,” implying he modeled his claims on the concept of papal infallibility (which, though not yet Roman Catholic doctrine, was explained by Jesuits at Akbar’s court).20 Other later scholars argue that Akbar intended to be caliph over all Muslims in his own domain; others that Akbar claimed authority over all Muslims globally and thus rejected subordination to the Ottomans, Safavids, or any other Muslim ruler; yet others assert that Akbar proclaimed himself the millennial sovereign, equal to his ancestor Timur.21 Whatever the precise intention of this mahzar, it accorded with Akbar’s efforts to subordinate the Sunni ʿulama. Yet some still resisted, even those who had signed the mahzar. This motivated Akbar to seek additional political support and religious knowledge outside the Sunni establishment.

By the late 1570s, Akbar had also broadened his ʿibadat-khana debates to include Shiʿite and Hindu scholars and holy men. He listened closely, challenging each speaker’s assertions, testing them against his own developing theology, and adopting parts of their ideology when they confirmed or advanced his own.

From 1578 onward, Akbar welcomed leading Jains to court. Subsequently, Akbar reconciled doctrinal divisions within the Jain community and endowed some of their sacred sites. Jains credit their leaders’ personal and spiritual influence for Akbar’s empire-wide ban on animal slaughter during the annual Jain holy season. Indeed, Akbar personally experimented with vegetarianism.

Throughout his reign, Akbar faced revolts and insurrections, especially on the margins of his empire and in the name of Islam. For instance, around 1579, the prominent Sunni Qazi of Jaunpur issued a fatwa (religious ruling) legitimating for Muslims the rejection of the allegedly apostate Akbar’s authority and supporting a popular insurrection in eastern India during an invasion into the Punjab from Kabul by Akbar’s younger brother Hakim (1554–1585). In response, Akbar personally led successful expeditions west to Kabul in 1581 against Hakim and then east into Bengal in 1582 against the rebels.

In 1581, Akbar ceased underwriting the Hajj. He resented the demeaning necessity of either seeking unreliable Portuguese protection while crossing the Indian Ocean or requesting uncertain Safavid permission for the more onerous overland route, and then having to submit to Ottoman authority once there. In 1582, Akbar wrote to the hereditary Sharifs of Mecca (who governed under the Ottomans) diplomatically apologizing for the absence of a Mughal Hajj party the previous year and also requesting written receipts for his earlier lavish financial donations, which remained unacknowledged and unaccounted for.22 Despite this deferential letter, Akbar never sponsored another Hajj (although many imperial courtiers went on Hajj anyway).

Around 1583, Akbar reportedly ceased performing the five daily Islamic prayers and began publicly worshiping the sun four times daily and divine light more generally.23 Akbar’s new rituals may have multiple sources. Mongol tradition proclaims divine luminescence as impregnating the Mongols’ mythic mother. Some of Akbar’s Rajput Hindu wives claimed to be descended from the sun, and they performed Brahmanic fire worship and solar worship in his harem. Indeed, Akbar reportedly included in his noontime ritual the recitation of the sun’s 1,001 Sanskrit names.

In 1578, some Portuguese came from Bengal to Fatehpur and the Portuguese viceroy sent an ambassador from Goa. Seeking more educated informants, Akbar asked the viceroy in 1579 to “send me two learned priests who should bring with them the chief books of the [Catholic] Law and the Gospel, for I wish to study and learn the Law and what is best and most perfect in it.”24 In response, the viceroy sent three Jesuits (their young religious order had worked to convert India since 1542). This delegation included a Persian-speaking Iranian convert to Catholicism. Akbar questioned them about many theological topics, including Mary’s sinless impregnation by the Holy Spirit. During their three years at court, these Jesuits diligently but ineffectively pursued their usual strategy of attempting to convert the entire kingdom by starting with its ruler.

Akbar’s search to find a universal basis for all religions and to create congeniality among all his subjects’ religious communities became his policy sulh-i kul (a Persian-language term translated variously as “universal peace” or “tolerance for all”).25 He thus respected all groups that submitted to him as the “perfect man” and “universal sovereign.” However, his armies continued to suppress dissidents and conquer neighbors. Reorienting time, Akbar devised a new solar-based calendar, Tarikh-i Ilahi (“Divine Era” in Persian), that began with his own accession. This calendar also had practical administrative advantages since the annual harvest and thus the revenue cycle varied within the lunar Islamic Hijri calendar. Akbar also added “Allah-o-Akbar” to imperial documents and coins. Critics created a popular couplet in 1584:

  • The king this year has laid claim to be a Prophet,
  • After the lapse of a year, please God, he will become God!26

A factor probably strengthening Akbar’s millennial ideology was the approaching Hijri year 1000 (1591–1592 ce), when many Muslims expected the Mahdi to reveal himself and lead the faithful to eternal salvation. In anticipation, in 1585 Akbar ordered seven courtiers to begin to coauthor the Tarikh-i Alfi (History of the First Thousand Years), chronicling Muslim rulers from the death of the Prophet Muhammad to Akbar. He later ordered “Era of the Thousand” minted on his coins.

Akbar’s Later Religious Policies

In 1585, Akbar abruptly left Fatehpur, never to return. He shifted his court and main army to concentrate first on his northwestern and then his southern frontiers. Especially thereafter, Akbar and his close companions created a new court culture centering on him as spiritual master. Service to Akbar would be the main—perhaps the only—way for men to reach their highest virtue. Their own households should be microcosms of his, and they themselves perfect men within them. But this cult’s nature, composition, and goals were controversial, then and today.

The cult had secret mystical practices so only full initiates knew them. The most extensive surviving descriptions were by Badaʾuni, an outsider to the cult and a bitter opponent of its emperor worship and incorporation of Indic and mystical ideologies. Even the name was disputed. Frequently, Badaʾuni called it Din-i Ilahi (“Religion of God” or “Highest/Divine Religion” in Persian), a name used by many later commentators but apparently not by initiates. Further, scholars after Badaʾuni who characterize Akbar as secularist question the use of din (religion).27 In other places, Badaʾuni wrote, “His Majesty gave his religious system the name of Tauhid-i-Ilahi.”28 The Arabic term tauhid has a long philosophical tradition and range of meanings, including “belief in the unity of God” and “the fifth degree of perfection in Sufi life, where the divine essence is contemplated as void of any attribute conceived by thought.”29 This ideology resonated with the monistic theology of wahdat al-wujud (unity of existence), most prominently expounded by the Arab Andalusian Sufi Ibn al-ʿArabi (1165–1240), whom Akbar’s supporters explicitly evoked.

The imperial cult had an elite membership. Some contemporary texts listed only nineteen members, all in Akbar’s inner circle, but other sources suggested that disciples included many of Akbar’s personal bodyguard (who totaled hundreds of men) or even a majority of high officials.30 The initiation reportedly involved especially deep prostration to Akbar and vowing: “I . . . voluntarily, and with sincere predilection and inclination, utterly and entirely renounce and repudiate the religion of Islam . . . and do embrace the [Tauhid-i Ilahi] of Akbar Shah, and do accept the four grades of entire devotion, viz., sacrifice of Property, Life, Honour, and Religion.”31 Initiates received from Akbar an icon of the sun, a special turban, and a small portrait of him to wear on the turban or breast. Imitating Akbar, but going against Sunni custom, many disciples shaved off their beards (except for the mustache). Further, initiates stopped using among themselves the conventional Arabic greeting al-salam alaykum (peace be upon you) and response wa alaykum al-salam (and unto you be peace), instead substituting Allah-o Akbar, with the response jalla jalaluhu (glorified be His glory), evoking Akbar’s title, Jalal al-Din. Akbar and his initiates periodically performed sun and light worship.

Humayun had evoked the model of the emperor as the “Shadow of God on earth.” But Abu al-Fazl repeatedly proclaimed Akbar to be “divine light” itself: an earthly embodiment of the sacred, the millennial sovereign. Some recent scholars explain that Akbar was asserting this status above all other sovereigns to wipe out (either in his own mind or diplomatically) the shame of Babur’s and Humayun’s humiliating religious and political submissions to the Safavids. However, Akbar’s contemporary critics, including Hanafi jurist and Naqshbandi pir Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi (1564–1624), condemned Akbar for making heretical pretensions of his own divinity, thus affronting Islam’s unqualified monotheism and absolute prohibition against worshipping any except Allah.

Akbar’s military victories and, further, his incorporation of mystical Islamic and Indic religious ideologies broadened and strengthened his imperial administration and army by attracting a range of supporters, but these also provoked opposition, within his court as well as beyond it. Most prominently, as Akbar entered his sixties and the fifth decade of his rule, his eldest son, Salim, revolted, establishing an independent imperial rule based in Allahabad. Only at Akbar’s deathbed in 1605 did Salim resubmit and receive forgiveness.

Elaboration of the Mughal Empire under Emperor Jahangir (r. 1605–1627)

The new Mughal emperor was determined to distinguish himself as the greatest Muslim monarch. Two Ottoman emperors had already used the title Salim, so he chose a new one for himself, explaining: “The labour of the emperor is world domination so I named myself Jahangir (World Seizer).”32 He also enhanced many of Akbar’s imperial and religious models, especially those featuring divine light; he took as his “title of honour” Nur al-Din (“Light of Religion” in Persian and Arabic) “inasmuch as my sitting on the throne coincided with the rising and shining on the earth of the great light (the Sun).”

On his accession, he ordered a golden “chain of justice” strung from his throne room to outside the fortress, so any aggrieved subject could directly evoke his imperial intervention. However, Jahangir evidently never referred to this chain again, and we have no proof that it was ever installed within the public’s reach. Nonetheless, he periodically initiated or renewed his symbolic moral authority, banning the production of alcohol and drugs (although he overindulged in both and compelled his sons to imbibe as well). He thus portrayed himself as imposing impartial, moral justice on all.

Jahangir presented himself as the embodiment of universal righteousness, and he did not constrain himself by conventional Sunni tradition. In his thirteenth regnal year, he declared: “It entered my mind that . . . in each month that a coin was struck, the figure of [that month’s astrological] constellation was to be on one face, as if the sun were emerging from it. This usage is my own, and has never been practised until now.”33 Additionally, he had coins portraying himself holding a wineglass, offending some of his Muslim subjects.

Over time, Jahangir interested himself in various religious dignitaries, assembling current favorites at court. While maneuvering for accession and to strengthen his early regime, he courted the support of leading advocates for Sunni traditions, including Naqshbandiyya pir Sheykh Ahmad Sirhindi, who had been so critical of Akbar. But Jahangir never wanted these religious leaders to interfere in his reign. After fourteen years as emperor, Jahangir noted that

a Shayyad (a loud talker, a cheat) of the name of Shaikh Ahmad [Sirhindi] had spread the net of hypocrisy and deceit . . . and caught in it many of the apparent worshippers without spirituality . . . I considered the best thing for him would be that he should remain . . . in the prison of correction until the heat of his temperament and confusion of his brain were somewhat quenched, and the excitement of the people also should subside. He was accordingly . . . imprisoned in Gwalior fort.34

A year later, Jahangir released Sheykh Sirhindi and brought him to court.

Jahangir also initially developed his self-identification with Chishtiyya pirs. Jahangir recounted that his namesake, Sheykh Salim Chishti, had prophesized that his own death would occur as soon as the infant prince (Jahangir) memorized something. When, at age two, the prince learned a simple couplet (from a maidservant who was unaware of the pir’s prophesy), Sheykh Salim indeed died. But, as Jahangir claimed, only after designating Jahangir as his spiritual heir. Emperor Jahangir employed Sheykh Salim’s male descendants, awarding them important offices; some became Jahangir’s own spiritual devotees.

Jahangir claimed in 1614 that long-deceased Sheykh Muʿin al-Din Chishtiyya restored him from illness to health. Jahangir displayed this mark of spiritual blessing by piercing his earlobes for pearl earrings. Out of devotion to Jahangir, hundreds of officials, both at court and in the field, imitated him; Jahangir supplied 732 pearl earrings to his devotees.35

Indeed, Jahangir made himself pir over many officials. They received imperial initiation, symbolized by their receipt of his miniature portrait, which they wore on the breast or a turban. Jahangir also appeared in visions and dreams to his disciples, curing them of illness, often over great distances.36

For a time, Jahangir interested himself in a famous holy recluse, Gosain Jadrup (c. 1559–1638).37 Born into a wealthy Brahmin jeweler family, Jadrup had left his parents, wife, and children to live in a tiny cave. Jahangir had first met him in 1601 with Akbar. In 1617 and then four times in 1619, Jahangir visited Jadrup who discoursed about Hindu Vedanta (goal or culmination of the Veda) theology but also gave administrative advice, some of which Jahangir implemented. For instance, when a local official chastised Jadrup, Jahangir had the official dismissed (albeit temporarily). But Jahangir’s attention to Jadrup was transitory.

Jahangir quizzed men from various religions, often posing provocative queries and pitting theologians against each other in evening sessions. For instance, Portuguese Jesuits (a small but constant presence at his court) recorded how Jahangir questioned their beliefs about Jesus and his miracles, evidently bemused by some of their responses about their celibacy and the Holy Trinity. But he permitted Jesuits in 1610 to baptize three of his nephews.

Among other diverse attendants at Jahangir’s court were leading Jain ascetics. Although he reportedly mocked their celibacy, he also inquired about their beliefs, especially in total nonviolence. Periodically, he himself made vows not to hunt on certain weekdays or for specific time periods.

Distinctive of Jahangir’s later reign was the rise to dominance of Iʿtimad al-Daula’s family. An impoverished Irani immigrant from the Safavid court had joined Akbar’s service and climbed due to his administrative expertise, gaining the title Iʿtimad al-Daula (d. 1622). In 1611, he brought his widowed daughter to join the imperial household.38 Within a few months Jahangir had married her, entitled her Nur Mahal (Light of the Palace) and then Nur Jahan (Light of the World), both echoes of his own title, Nur al-Din. As Jahangir grew infirm, Nur Jahan (1577–1645) emerged as the empire’s guiding force. However, following his death in 1627, her stepson, Shah Jahan (1592–1666), eventually seized the throne. Over his reign, Jahangir’s often idiosyncratic religious policies and practices proved less politically effective and culturally incorporative than those of Akbar, but the imperial apparatus and army continued to sustain Mughal wealth, authority, and power.

Emperor Shah Jahan and Building up the Mughal Empire (r. 1628–1658/66)

Emperor Shah Jahan soon established his own court culture and relationship to Islam, identifying strongly with the tradition of his Sunni Timurid Central Asian ancestors. He included among his many titles Sahib-i Qiran-i Sani (“Second Lord of the [Astrological] Conjunction” in Persian) evoking his ancestor Timur (“Lord of the Conjunction”) with status as millennial sovereign.39 From his youth, Shah Jahan wore a full beard, breaking with Akbar’s and Jahangir’s practice of shaving all but a mustache, but emulating Timur and also many religiously observant Sunnis. Indeed, Shah Jahan always devoutly performed the Sunni-required five daily prayers and Ramadan-month fast. He reinstated imperial sponsorship of Hajj pilgrims, sending nine missions to Mecca with generous donations. He favored Sunni ʿulama and referenced the Sharia more than his predecessors had. Additionally, he associated with Naqshbandiyyas as well as the Indian-based Chishtiyya and Shattariyya Sufi orders. Approaching his accession, Shah Jahan reverently attended Muʿin al-Din Chishtiyya’s shrine at Ajmer. There, he constructed an impressive white marble mosque (completed 1637–1638) and an imperial palace; he would revisit thrice more (in 1636, 1643, 1654), often approaching on foot.40 However, he also respected the Shiʿism of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, her family, and numerous other Irani courtiers. When she died in her fourteenth childbirth, he built a magnificent tomb in Agra, which became famous as the Taj Mahal. Shah Jahan also constructed a new imperial capital, Shahjahanabad, at Delhi, including a vast mosque.41

Shah Jahan’s children developed factions loyal to themselves, each with a different relationship to Islam. Some were more eclectic, especially the faction around his eldest child and favorite daughter, Jahanara Begum (b. 1614).42 Combining her religious and literary commitments, she had herself initiated into the Qadriyya Sufi order and wrote a Persian-language account of her contemporary Qadiriyya pir Shah Badakhshi, which included a dozen of her own verses. Similarly, she was deeply devoted to the Chishtiyya order, writing a Persian-language biography of Khwaja Muʿin al-Din, entitled Muʿnis al-Arwah (The Confidant of Spirits). Further, like Shah Jahan, she strongly supported Dara Shikoh (1615–1658), her nearest younger full brother, who shared many of her eclectic and mystical inclinations.

Dara also had himself initiated into the Qadriyya order, in 1640 by Shah Badakshi. Dara wrote five Persian-language works on Sufism (1640–1653). He sought the universal truth of Islam, including through esoteric Indic religions.43 He composed a Persian-language comparative study of Islamic and Indic esotericism, entitled Majmaʿ al-Bahrayn (Meeting-Place of the Oceans). Further, he gathered fellow seekers into his household and supervised their translations of over fifty major Indic religious works into Persian, including the Bhagavad Gita (Song of God [Krishna]) and some Brahmanic texts, collected as Sirr-i Akbar (The Greatest Mystery). From this title and from Dara’s sincere spiritual searching beyond the Islamic tradition alone, many commentators identify him with his great-grandfather Akbar.

Neither Shah Jahan nor Dara could secure Dara’s succession in the deadly factional competition against his brothers, however. Instead, in a bloody war, the third son, Prince Aurangzeb (1618–1707), defeated and killed his brothers and imprisoned his father, succeeding him as Emperor ʿAlamgir. Personal and factional interests motivated many Mughal courtiers and commanders during this succession war, but Aurangzeb’s policies and personal practices also gained him support from the Sunni establishment.

The Extension of the Empire under Emperor Aurangzeb/ʿAlamgir (r. 1658–1707)

Throughout his half-century-long reign, ʿAlamgir focused on mobilizing support from leading Sunni ʿulama and Naqshbandiyya pirs and the force of what he considered pure Islam.44 For instance, the imperial chief Qazi issued a fatwa validating ʿAlamgir’s unfilial and otherwise illegal usurpation as being necessary for Islam and the Empire. ʿAlamgir soon appointed a muhtasib (official empowered to enforce Islamic moral standards).

ʿAlamgir himself consistently sought to behave and govern according to his strong Sunni beliefs, convinced that his personal piety would secure God’s blessing on his empire and assure its triumphs over its enemies and those of Islam. Even as a prince, he was known for strictly observing conventional Sunni devotional, dietary, and sartorial traditions, even pausing in the midst of heated battle to perform the requisite prayers on time. He kept the Ramadan-month fast and never indulged in drink or opium (which had debilitated so many of his relatives). As a twenty-six-year-old prince, he had displeased his father by resigning his offices and begging permission to devote his life to religious devotion; after six months, Shah Jahan ordered him to resume his imperial duties. When companions or loyal servants died, ʿAlamgir personally led commemorative prayers as imam and followed the bier, even while he was emperor. Late in ʿAlamgir’s life, he sewed prayer caps and copied the Qurʾan to sell, with the proceeds going toward his modest personal expenses.

After ʿAlamgir’s formal enthronement, he began to cleanse his court’s culture and protocols from what he considered his predecessors’ unorthodox and un-Islamic practices. An early reform ended the solar Nauroz (New Year) festivities—a pre-Islamic Iranian tradition celebrated since Akbar’s reign that differed from the lunar Hijri calendar. To protect the Islamic creed from possible disrespect, ʿAlamgir removed it from imperial coins. He sent a richly laden embassy to the Sharif of Mecca seeking validation for his reign; when this first mission failed, he sent a second, eventually gaining the sharif’s sanction.

Additionally, ʿAlamgir manifested his personal piety by relinquishing putatively impious pretensions. Considering the near deification of earlier emperors to be immoral, ʿAlamgir stopped his courtiers from prostrating before him. He no longer bestowed an anointing tilak on the forehead of acceding Rajput rulers. He ordered the two life-size stone elephants ornamenting Agra Fort’s main gate, like a Hindu temple, to be removed. He also ceased displaying himself for daily darshan by the public.

To impose more Islamic decorum, ʿAlamgir reduced his court’s pomp. He forbade courtiers from wearing ostentatious garments, including gold or red cloth, considered improper by many devout Muslims. Courtiers were forbidden “ribbon frills in the European style” on their palanquins or boats.45 Earlier emperors had weighed themselves against gold and other precious substances on the solar and lunar anniversaries of their coronations and births, and then distributed the wealth charitably. By 1668, ʿAlamgir had ended this practice in his court (although he allowed favored sons to perform this ritual occasionally on recovery from illness). ʿAlamgir also terminated the disputations in court among advocates of the various religious traditions that his predecessors had patronized. Instead, ʿAlamgir ordered his best Sunni ʿulama to edit the most authoritative Hanafi legal judgments into the still widely consulted Persian-language Fatawa-i ʿAlamgiri (Religious Rulings of ʿAlamgir). Thus, Islamic sciences always received his patronage.

Throughout his reign, peasant communities in the Mughal heartland persistently rebelled, often mobilized by religious sentiments. Through the late 1660s, Hindu Jats around Mathura rallied under their popular leader Gokula. Eventually, in 1670, Mughal troops subdued this insurrection (albeit temporarily) and captured Gokula’s children. ʿAlamgir renamed Mathura “Islamabad” and ordered the demolition of the major temple there (recycling its stonework into a mosque in nearby Agra). ʿAlamgir also had Gokula’s son and daughter converted to Islam and made, respectively, a Qurʾan reciter and a wife of an imperial servant. Yet Jat uprisings re-emerged in the late 1680s.

In 1672, members of the Satnami religious movement in eastern Punjab revolted. Imperial accounts disparaged them as a “rebellious horde of low people like goldsmiths, carpenters, scavengers, tanners and members of other menial professions.”46 ʿAlamgir personally oversaw the imperial forces that gradually repressed them.

In the Punjab, another popular religious movement, the Sikhs under their gurus, revolted repeatedly against Mughal rule and repulsed several imperial suppression campaigns. After the death of the seventh guru Guru, Hari Rai (r. 1644–1661), who had aided Dara Shukoh against ʿAlamgir, he tried to arbitrate the Sikh succession. Instead, the Sikh community chose Guru Har Krishnan (r. 1661–1664), who died very young in Delhi. Then the Sikhs recognized Guru Tegh Bahadur (r. 1665–1675), who proselytized widely, especially among Jats in the Punjab. ʿAlamgir had him arrested and executed. Nonetheless, the tenth guru, Gobind Singh (r. 1675–1698) for decades mobilized increasing militant resistance against the Mughal authorities.

The Marathas of the western Deccan were the martial-agricultural community on the Mughal frontier that was most powerfully resistant to both imperial armies and also to enticements. Many Marathas had rallied under their charismatic leader Shivaji (1627–1680).47 ʿAlamgir sent some of his best commanders and troops to fight against Shivaji, but their efforts repeatedly failed. In a daring, lucrative, and politically significant expedition, Shivaji sacked the rich strategic imperial port of Surat, in 1664, which Mughal authorities proved incompetent to defend. In 1666, ʿAlamgir sought to buy off Shivaji by appointing his seven-year-old son, Sambhaji, an imperial official and by summoning them both to the imperial court at Agra. But Shivaji rejected the culture of the Mughal imperial court, and successfully escaped to renew his campaigns.

In 1670, Shivaji plundered Surat again, adding to his own wealth and fame and humiliating its imperial defenders. In 1674, Shivaji further enhanced his status through an elaborate Brahmanical enthronement as Maharaja Chatrapati (Sanskritic: Emperor of the Four Quarters). Shivaji made the Maratha coalition the most expansive force in central India, mobilized around potent Hindu cultural symbols—like so many other rebellions against ʿAlamgir’s regime and policies.

ʿAlamgir increasingly ordered constraints on non-Muslim subjects. He was both offended by the non-Muslim ideologies that motivated many of his opponents and also swayed by his own self-identification as leader of the Muslim community. Among other policies, he reinstated the pilgrim tax on non-Muslim religious festivals and tried to curtail them. Although ʿAlamgir gave financial support to some Hindu temples, he canceled revenue grants and directed the destruction of others, especially those belonging to rebels. In 1679, ʿAlamgir reimposed the long-abolished jizya, sparking popular demonstrations against him.

While imperial armies under ʿAlamgir’s personal command gained victories and imperial armies conquered to India’s southern tip, the overstretched empire fragmented. None of ʿAlamgir’s sons lived up to his standards for a true Muslim ruler. Indeed, he exiled or imprisoned several of them. Imperial governors advanced their own interests instead of that of the imperial dynasty.48 Following ʿAlamgir’s death, in 1707, the Mughal imperial center lost control over religious policy, provincial administrations, and even the emperor himself.

The Mughal Dynasty’s Final Century and a Half

During the Mughal Empire’s final 150 years, the dynasty retained the throne but usually as the dependent or palace prisoner in the imperial capital, Shahjahanabad. A series of only nominally subordinate Sunni, Shiʿite, Hindu, and Protestant Christian regional governors or warlords divided the empire, one of them functioning as regent. Some regents would depose an incumbent emperor and install another member of the imperial family. In 1738, Nadir Shah (r. 1736–1747), a Persianized Turk, invaded north India, seized the current emperor, and looted Shahjahanabad, before withdrawing. Another series of regents then fought to control the emperor.

Some Islamic scholars and reformers attempted to reverse the empire’s evident spiritual, moral, and political decline. Most notably, Naqshbandiyya pir Shah Wali Ullah of Delhi (1703–1762) wrote extensive commentaries on theology and jurisprudence. He applied ijtihad (extending the principles of the Qurʾan, Hadith, and the Sunna, by analogy and the consensus of the Muslim community, to apply to circumstances not explicitly mentioned in them or in previous commentaries). He wrote a Persian-language translation of the Qurʾan to make its message more accessible to Indians who were not literate in Arabic. He also tried to reconcile the doctrines of all the Sufi orders to be fully in accord with each other and Islamic law. For instance, he taught that Sheykh Ahmad Sirhindi’s doctrine of “unity of experience” wahdat al-shuhud does not contradict but rather confirms the “unity of existence” wahdat al-wujud of Ibn ʿArabi. To lead the Muslim community politically, Shah Wali Ullah sought a strong and just ruler. Since Mughal emperors were failing to do this, he invited Afghan Ahmad Shah (r. 1747–1772) to invade and do so.

Indeed, from 1747, Ahmad Shah had been raiding the Punjab and Kashmir almost annually, ransoming or sacking cities. In 1757 and again in 1759–1760, he seized Shahjahanabad and the emperor. But instead of establishing his own rule over India, he fought off Maratha forces at Panipat in 1760 and then withdrew, carrying much booty back with him.

In 1760–1764 and again in 1803–1858, the English East India Company had custody of a series of Mughal emperors. In 1764, in exchange for a pension, Emperor Shah ʿAlam II (1728–1806, r. 1759–1806) appointed the East India Company to be his revenue official (diwan) over the still-rich provinces of Bengal and Bihar (which the English had already conquered following the Battle of Panipat in 1757). Then, in 1803, the English defeated the Maratha coalition, which had been holding the emperor, and seized Shahjahanabad and the surrounding region. For the next half century, the English nominally recognized the authority of the Mughal dynasty but also kept the current emperor as a palace prisoner. Various scholars concentrating on British colonialism find different degrees of continuity and change from the Mughal Empire, citing the 18th century as a time of major transition, as diverse Indians reoriented from the empire toward the incoming Europeans.49

Yet the Mughal imperial court remained the center of a synthetic culture that patronized Muslim, Hindu, and other authors of religious and literary works and artists, musicians, and dancers. During the uprising of 1857, popular Muslim, Hindu, and other north Indian religious leaders and their followers, as well as Indian sepoys rebelling against the East India Company’s Bengal Army, rallied to restore the Mughal dynasty and expel the British. Instead, the British reconquered and then deposed, tried for treason, and exiled the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah II (1775–1862, r. 1837–1857). To further degrade the dynasty, the British desecrated the imperial palace and the city’s mosques and expelled the inhabitants of Shahjahanabad, not allowing most Muslims to return for two years.

Review of Literature

So significant has been the Mughal Empire for South Asia, the Islamic world, and the West that diverse historians from each have written extensively about it, from its earliest years into the 21st century. Many British historians during the British Raj (1858–1947) regarded their Raj as the more virtuous and technologically superior successor to the Mughal Empire. They drew lessons from the rise and then fragmentation of that empire about how to deal with Muslims, Islam, and other issues. In particular, some prominent British colonial historians translated and interpreted Mughal-era Indic texts to highlight the religious conflicts between Muslims and Hindus, thus attempting to justify British arbitration and regulation of these allegedly distinct communities.50 Following independence, historians in the new nations of Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India also developed their own schools of historiography about the Mughal dynasty, as did scholars internationally.

Leading up to 1947 and subsequently, many Pakistani scholarly and popular histories have presented their nation as the successor to the Sunni Muslim-ruled Mughal Empire: the eastern bastion of Islamic states that extended west across North Africa.51 Further, some Pakistani historians asserted that Hindus and European Christians worked to bring down that Muslim Empire, with lessons for Pakistan. Emperor Akbar is often contrasted with Aurangzeb: the former destroyed the Islamic basis for Mughal authority, which the latter proved unable to restore.

For many Bangladeshi historians (formerly East Pakistanis, before the 1971 secession), the counterpart was the de facto independent Mughal imperial province of Bengal. It also succumbed to treacherous European imperialism in the late 18th century.52

In India, the Mughal Empire remains subject of extensive popular debate and scholarly research. For Indian secular nationalists, Emperor Akbar appears as an idealized Indian ruler who harmonized all Indian religions (including Islam) through imperial Rajput marriages, evolving court rituals and imperial ideologies, and the vast number of diverse Indians who entered the imperial household, administration, and army.53 In contrast, Emperor Babur and later Emperor Aurangzeb appear as bigoted Muslim conquerors who oppressed Hindus, the latter thereby destroying Mughal authority.

The current ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has revised government-approved textbooks to advance the Hindutva (Hindu-ness) ideology that regards the Mughals as predatory foreigners, characterizing all Muslims in India as alien “sons of Babur.” In contrast, Maratha Emperor Shivaji appears to champion Hindu-based Indian nationalism against Mughal imperialism.

Aligarh Muslim University’s Centre of Advanced Study in History has produced many justly influential historians with a mastery of Persian sources, most prominently, Irfan Habib.54 Often, Aligarh-trained scholars use Marxist-influenced analysis featuring economics (e.g., a class struggle between overburdened peasants and the oppressive imperial administration and declines in agricultural productivity feature as the prime causes of Mughal weakness).55

Other important scholars in South Asia and internationally have used diverse primary sources and methodologies to analyze the relationship between the Mughal Empire and Islam.56 Cultural historians read paintings, buildings, ornamentation, and music commissioned by various Mughal emperors, courtiers, and noblewomen to decipher the goals of patron and producer.57 Studies using the imperial court’s predominantly Persian-language histories and records are being supplemented by the literature in Sanskrit and other Indian languages that it sponsored.58 Other scholars reveal continued trade, cultural, and migration links with other Asian Muslim empires, especially the Turks, Uzbeks, and Safavids.59 Moving below the conventional focus on elites, the vital roles of Indian scribes and merchants become visible, and the empire appears more porous, as various people and religious ideas flow into and out of it.60 Some scholars highlight how indigenous Indians determined the empire’s trajectory: few lower-caste Hindus or lower-class Muslims were ever culturally or politically incorporated, and many opponents rejected assimilation.61 Other historians have deconstructed even elite texts to recover the texts’ own histories, considering how and why each was produced, the presuppositions inherent in its genre, what its author could or could not express, and how it was consumed by being acquired, preserved, and read silently or aloud—alone or in communal settings.62 Studies about how gender was enacted by Mughal emperors, their female relatives, and high imperial officials are reshaping and enriching our understanding of the empire.63 Environmental studies show the effects of imperial policies and technologies.64 Comparative perspectives raise questions about the “modernity” of Mughal Empire (versus its Eurasian contemporaries) and why European and Asian economies underwent dramatically diverging developments.65

Drawing on provincial or local sources produces decentralized models of the empire as an arena for pragmatic compromises and collaborations among lower-level officials and local magnates, merchants, and other power holders.66 Localities collectively composed the Mughal state, but they also existed outside it, with their own ongoing histories.67 While the influential Subaltern Studies school of neo-Marxist Gramscian interpretation overwhelmingly concentrates on the British colonial period, Gautam Bhadra has shown how to recover popular perspectives through reading imperial texts against the grain.68 New insights from all these fields are continuing to revise and deepen our understanding of the Mughal Empire and its relationship to Islamic and Indic religious beliefs and practices.

Primary Sources

More than in any previous state in South Asia, Mughal emperors and officials themselves produced both substantial and often highly contested historical writing and also rich primary sources, including written, artistic, numismatic, and architectural. Many libraries, archives, and museums have online catalogs, and in some the original material has been digitalized. Major archives holding written materials include the British Library (London), the Royal Asiatic Society Library (London), the National Archives of India (New Delhi), the Raza Library (Rampur, India), and the Khuda Baksh Oriental Library (Patna, India). In addition, archives and libraries in many of the provinces in India and Pakistan hold Persian and regional-language sources. In addition, Mughal works of art are held and available for reproduction in museums and galleries internationally, for instance, the British Museum (London), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles), and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in the Smithsonian Museum (Washington, DC). Coin collections (including evidence about their inscriptions, metallic content, and place of discovery) are valuable sources housed in museums, including the American Numismatic Society (New York City). Many Mughal period buildings, monuments, and other infrastructure have survived (in varying degrees of preservation) on sites throughout South Asia.

To understand the perspectives of Mughal emperors and their confidants, we can look at works they themselves produced. Several emperors (including Babur and Jahangir) penned their own memoirs. Emperor Akbar requested that his aunt Gulbadan Begum (1523–1603) recount her personal experiences of his father’s and grandfather’s lives; she thus preserved her own perspective on early Mughal history.69 Many emperors also commissioned official histories of their reigns. Shah Jahan, for instance, closely supervised the series of historians he commissioned to compile his massive official regnal chronicle, the Padshahnama.70 Courtiers and Central and West Asian and European visitors also wrote about the empire and their own experiences there.71 For example, an Ottoman admiral, Sidi Ali Reis, traveled through the empire and spent time in the imperial court.72 Further, court historians revealed their agendas and those of their factions by differing in their selection of evidence and argumentation, especially about the Mughal dynasty’s relationship to Islam.

Further Reading

In addition to the primary and secondary sources discussed in “Review of the Literature” and “Primary Sources,” a growing number of substantial introductions to the Mughal Empire are available, including works by Michael H. Fisher, A Short History of the Mughal Empire, and Harbans Mukhia, Mughals of India.73 Highlighting the relationships between geography, economics, culture, and politics are Irfan Habib, Atlas of the Mughal Empire, and Joseph Schwartzberg, An Historical Atlas of South Asia.74 Insightful studies of the Mughal dynasty and religion are collected by Vasudha Dalmia and Munis D. Faruqui in Religious Interactions in Mughal India.75 Studies of the structure and composition of the imperial administration and army include Apparatus of Empire by M. Athar Ali and Nobility under the Mughals (1628–1658) by Firdos Anwar.76 Recent works on the Mughal dynasty include those by Sunil Sharma, Mughal Arcadia: Persian Literature in an Indian Court, and Munis Faruqui, Princes of the Mughal Empire, 1504–1719.77


(1.) Stephan F. Dale, Garden of the Eight Paradises (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2004).

(2.) Babur, The Baburnama, trans. and ed. Wheeler McIntosh Thackston (New York: Modern Library, 2002), 373–380, 383.

(3.) Babur, 387, 397; and Dale, Garden, 351.

(4.) Ali Anooshahr, “‘King Who Would Be Man,’” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 18 (2008): 327–340.

(5.) Ahrar’s Risala-i Walidiyya mentioned in Babur, Baburnama, 410, 425.

(6.) Abu al-Fazl, Akbar Nama, trans. Henry Beveridge, 3 vols. (Calcutta, India: Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1907–1939), vol. 1, 314, 644–651.

(7.) Abu al-Fazl, Akbar Nama, vol. 2, 242.

(8.) F. H. Taft, “Honor and Alliance,” in Idea of Rajasthan, 2 vols., ed. Karine Schomer, Deryck O. Lodrich, and Joan Erdman (Delhi, India: Manohar, 1994), vol. 2, 217–241; and Norman Ziegler, “Some Notes on Rajput Loyalties during the Mughal Period,” in Kingship and Authority in South Asia, ed. John Richards (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin–Madison, 1978), 242–284.

(9.) ʿAbd-ul-Qadir Badaʾuni, Muntakhabu-t-Tawarikh, 3 vols., trans. George S. A. Ranking, Sir Wolseley Haig, and William Henry Lowe (Delhi, India: Atlantic, 1990), vol. 2, 352.

(10.) Allison Busch, “Portrait of a Raja in a Badshah’s World: Amrit Rai’s Biography of Man Singh (1585),” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 55, no. 2–3 (2012): 287–328.

(11.) Jahangir, Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri, 2 vols., trans. Alexander Rogers, ed. Henry Beveridge (London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1909, 1914), vol. 2, 181.

(12.) Badaʾuni, Muntakhab, vol. 2, 165.

(13.) Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi, ed., Fatehpur Sikri Revisited (Delhi, India: Oxford University Press, 2013).

(14.) Abu al-Fazl, Ain-i Akbari, trans. Henry Blochmann and Henry Sullivan Jarrett, 3 vols. (Calcutta, India: Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1873–1894), vol. 1, 165.

(15.) Badaʾuni, Muntakhab, vol. 2, 336.

(16.) Khwaja Nizamuddin Ahmad, Tabaqat-i Akbari, 3 vols., ed. Bani Prasad, trans. Bajendranath De (Delhi, India: Low Price, 1992), 3:470–472; Muzaffar Alam, “Mughals, the Sufi Shaikhs and the Formation of the Akbari Dispensation,” Modern Asian Studies 43, no. 1 (2009): 135–174; and Badaʾuni, Muntakhab, vol. 2, 200–204.

(17.) Badaʾuni, Muntakhab, vol. 2, 260–261.

(18.) Iqtidar Alam Khan, “Akbar’s Personality Traits and World Outlook,” Social Scientist 20, no. 9–10 (1992): 16–30; Rosalind O’Hanlon, “Kingdom, Household, and Body,” Modern Asian Studies 41, no. 5 (2007): 889–923; and Irfan Habib, ed., Akbar and His India (Delhi, India: Oxford University Press, 2000).

(19.) Abu al-Fazl, Akbar Nama, vol. 3, 395–396; and Ahmad, Tabaqat, vol. 3, 520–521.

(20.) Henry Blochmann, “Introduction,” in Abu al-Fazl, Akbar Nama, vol. 1, 168–187.

(21.) Ibn Hasan, Central Structure of the Mughal Empire (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1936); S. Nurul Hasan, Religion, State, and Society in Medieval India, ed. Satish Chandra (Delhi, India: Oxford University Press, 2005); and Ahmed Azfar Moin, Millennial Sovereign (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012).

(22.) Najaf Haidar, “Prices and Wages in India (1200–1800),” in Towards a Global History of Prices and Wages (Utrecht, Netherlands: International Institute of Social History, 2004), 52–59.

(23.) John Richards, Mughal Empire (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 47.

(24.) Muzaffar Alam and Sanjay Subrahmanyam, “Frank Disputations,” Indian Economic and Social History Review 46, no. 4 (2009): 463; Edward Maclagan, Jesuits and the Great Mogul (Gurgaon, India: Vintage, 1990), 24; and Antonio Monserrate, The Commentary of Father Monserrate S.J. on His Journey to the Court of Akbar, trans. John S. Hoyland, ed. S. N. Banerjee (Delhi, India: Asian Educational Services, 1992), 2:28.

(25.) Ali Anooshahr, “Dialogism and Territoriality in a Mughal History of the Islamic Millennium,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 55, no. 2–3 (2012): 220–254; and Moin, Millennial, 493–526.

(26.) Abu al-Fazl, MakatabIt-i Allami, trans. Mansura Haidar (Delhi, India: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1998), 33–36; and Badaʾuni, Muntakhab, 2:319.

(27.) Satish Chandra et al., “Akbar and His Age,” Social Scientist 20, no. 9–10 (1992): 61–72.

(28.) Badaʾuni, Muntakhab, vol. 2, 335–336.

(29.) Francis Steingass, Comprehensive Persian-English Dictionary (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1892), s.v. “Tauhid.”

(30.) Badaʾuni, Muntakhab, vol. 2, 336; Richards, Mughal Empire, 48; and Saiyid Athar Abbas Rizvi, Religious and Intellectual History of the Muslims in Akbar’s Reign (Delhi, India: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1975).

(31.) Badaʾuni, Muntakhab, vol. 2, 299.

(32.) Jahangir, Tuzuk, vol. 1, 22.

(33.) Jahangir, vol. 2, 6–7.

(34.) Jahangir, vol. 2, 91–92.

(35.) Jahangir, vol. 1, 267–268, 279.

(36.) E.g., Mirza Nathan, Baharistan-i-Ghaibi, 2 vols., trans. Moayyidul Islam Borah (Gauhati, India: Narayani Handiqui Historical Institute, 1936), vol. 1, 25.

(37.) Shireen Moosvi, “Mughal Encounter with Vedanta,” Social Scientist 30, no. 7–8 (2002): 13–23.

(38.) Ruby Lal, Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan (New York: W. W. Norton, 2018).

(39.) Naindeep Singh Chann, “Lord of the Auspicious Conjunction,” Iran and the Caucasus 13, no. 1 (2009): 93–110; and Moin, Millennial.

(40.) Catherine Asher, Architecture of Mughal India (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 175–178.

(41.) Stephen Blake, Shahjahanabad: The Sovereign City in Mughal India 1639–1739 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

(42.) Qamar Jahan Begam, Princess Jahan Ara Begam (Karachi, Pakistan: S. M. Hamid Ali, 1991).

(43.) Carl Ernst, “Muslim Studies of Hinduism?,” Iranian Studies 36, no. 2 (2003): 173–195; Bikrama Jit Hasrat, Dara Shikuh (Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1982); and Rajeev Kinra, “Infantilizing Baba Dara,” Journal of Persianate Studies 2, no. 2 (2009): 165–193.

(44.) M. Athar Ali, Mughal Nobility under Aurangzeb (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001).

(45.) Saqi Mustaid Khan, MaaIir-i ʿAlamgiri, trans. Jadunath Sarkar (Calcutta, India: Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1947), 66.

(46.) Saqi Mustaid Khan, 71–72.

(47.) Stewart Gordon, Marathas, 1600–1818 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

(48.) Muzaffar Alam, Crisis of Empire in Mughal North India (Delhi, India: Oxford University Press, 2013); and John Richards, “Imperial Crisis in the Deccan,” Journal of Asian Studies, 35, no. 2 (1976): 237–256.

(49.) Seema Alavi, Eighteenth Century in India (Delhi, India: Oxford University Press, 2002); C. A. Bayly, Rulers, Townsmen and Bazaars (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1988); Satish Chandra, Eighteenth Century in India (Calcutta, India: K.P. Bagchi, 1986); and Peter James Marshall, ed., Eighteenth Century in Indian History (Delhi, India: Oxford University Press, 2003).

(50.) Most prominently, Henry Meirs Elliot, History of India as Told by Its Own Historians, ed. John Dowson, vols. 4–8 (London: Trubner, 1873–1877). Errors in these translations are corrected in Shahpurshah Hodiwala, Studies in Indo-Muslim History: A Critical Commentary (Bombay, India: S. H. Hodivala, 1939–1957).

(51.) E.g., Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi, Administration of the Mughal Empire (Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press, 1966).

(52.) E.g., Mohammad Arshad, Advanced History of Muslim Rule in Indo-Pakistan (Dacca, Bangladesh: Ideal, 1967), 132–137.

(53.) Typical of the Indian National Congress leadership was Jawaharlal Nehru, especially in his Discovery of India (New Delhi, India: Signet, 1946). More scholarly studies include Sri Ram Sharma, Religious Policy of the Mughal Emperors (London: Asia, 1962).

(54.) Irfan Habib, Agrarian System of Mughal India (Delhi, India: Oxford University Press, 1999).

(55.) Shireen Moosvi, Economy of the Mughal Empire, c. 1595 (Delhi, India: Oxford University Press, 1987).

(56.) For thoughtful historiography, see Muzaffar Alam and Sanjay Subrahmanyam, eds., Mughal State, 1526–1750 (Delhi, India: Oxford University Press, 1998). See also Muzaffar Alam, Languages of Political Islam (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2004); William Dalrymple, Last Mughal (London: Bloomsbury, 2006); Richard Eaton, Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204–1760 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1996); and David Gilmartin and Bruce Lawrence, eds., Beyond Turk and Hindu (Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2000).

(57.) Catherine Asher, Architecture of Mughal India (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992); Catherine Asher and Cynthia Talbot, India Before Europe (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006); Milo Beach, Early Mughal Paintings (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987); Beach, Mughal and Rajput (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992); Ebba Koch, Complete Taj Mahal (London: Thames and Hudson, 2006); Katherine Schofield, “Reviving the Golden Age Again: ‘Classicization’, Hindustani Music, and the Mughals,” Ethnomusicology 54, no. 3 (2010): 484–517; and Schofield, “Courtesan Tale: Female Musicians and Dancers in Mughal Historical Chronicles, c. 1556–1748,” Gender and History 24, no. 1 (2012): 150–171.

(58.) Allison Busch, Poetry of Kings: The Classical Hindi Literature of Mughal India (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

(59.) Stephen Dale, Muslim Empires of the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press 2010); Francis Robinson, Mughal Emperors and the Islamic Dynasties of India, Iran and Central Asia, 1206–1925 (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2007); and Douglas Streusand, Islamic Gunpowder Empires (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2011).

(60.) Najaf Haider, “Norms of Professional Excellence and Good Conduct in Accountancy Manuals of the Mughal Empire,” International Review of Social History 56 (2011): 263–274; and Rajeev Kinra, “Master and Munshi,” Indian Economic and Social History Review 47, no. 4 (2010): 527–561.

(61.) Iqtidar Alam Khan, “State in the Mughal India,” Social Scientist 30, no. 1–2 (2001): 16–45; and Michael Naylor Pearson, “Shivaji and the Decline of the Mughal Empire,” Journal of Asian Studies 35, no. 2 (1976): 221–235.

(62.) Ali Anooshahr, “Mughal Historians and the Memory of the Islamic Conquest of India,” Indian Economic and Social History Review 43, no. 3 (2006): 275–300.

(63.) Afshan Bokhari, Imperial Women in Mughal India (London: I. B. Tauris, 2018); Ruby Lal, Domesticity and Power in the Early Mughal World (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005); and Rosalind O’Hanlon, “Manliness and Imperial Service in Mughal North India,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 42, no. 1 (1999): 47–93.

(64.) Michael H. Fisher, An Environmental History of India (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming); Anand S. Pandian, “Predatory Care,” Journal of Historical Sociology 14, no. 1 (2001): 79–107; and Chetan Singh, “Forests, Pastoralists and Agrarian Society in Mughal India,” in Nature, Culture, Imperialism, ed. David Arnold and Ramchandra Guha (Delhi, India: Oxford University Press, 1995), 21–48.

(65.) Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Explorations in Connected History, 2 vols. (Delhi, India: Oxford University Press, 2005).

(66.) Richard Barnett, North India between Empires (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1980); Ashin Das Gupta, Indian Merchants and the Decline of Surat (c. 1700–1750) (Delhi, India: Manohar, 1994); Farhat Hasan, State and Locality in Mughal India (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004); and Chetan Singh, Region and Empire (Delhi, India: Oxford University Press, 1991).

(67.) Richard Eaton, Social History of the Deccan, 1300–1761 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005); Heidi Pauwels, “Saint, the Warlord, and the Emperor,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 52, no. 2 (2009): 187–228; and John Richards, Mughal Administration in Golconda (Oxford, UK: Clarendon, 1975).

(68.) Gautam Bhadra, “Two Frontier Uprisings in Mughal India,” in Subaltern Studies, vol. 2, ed. Ranajit Guha (Delhi, India: Oxford University Press, 1983), 43–59.

(69.) Gulbadan Begum, The History of Humayun, trans. Annette Beveridge (London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1902).

(70.) Inayat Khan, Shah Jahan Nama, trans. A. R. Fuller, ed. Wayne Edison E. Begley and Ziyaud-Din A. Desai (Delhi, India: Oxford University Press, 1990).

(71.) Muzaffar Alam and Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Indo-Persian Travels in the Age of Discovery (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007); Francois Bernier, Travels in the Mogul Empire, trans. Irving Brock and Archibald Constable Westminster, UK: Constable, 1891); John Correia-Alfonso, Jesuit Letters and Indian History, 1542–1773 (Bombay, India: Oxford University Press, 1969); Correia-Alfonso, Letters from the Mughal Court (Bombay, India: Heras Institute, 1980); Niccolao Manucci, Memoirs of the Mogul Court, Storia do Mogor, 4 vols., trans. William Irvine (London: John Murray, 1907–1908); and Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, Travels in India, 2 vols., trans. Valentine Ball (London: Oxford University Press, 1925).

(72.) Sidi Ali Reis, Travels and Adventures of the Turkish Admiral Sidi Ali Reis: in India, Afghanistan, Central Asia, and Persia, during the Years 1553–1556, trans. Ármin Vámbéry (London: Luzac, 1899).

(73.) Michael H. Fisher, A Short History of the Mughal Empire (London: I. B. Tauris, 2016); and Harbans Mukhia, Mughals of India (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 2004).

(74.) Irfan Habib, Atlas of the Mughal Empire (Delhi, India: Oxford University Press, 1982); and Joseph Schwartzberg, An Historical Atlas of South Asia (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1978).

(75.) Vasudha Dalmia and Munis D. Faruqui, eds., Religious Interactions in Mughal India (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2014).

(76.) M. Athar Ali, Apparatus of Empire (Delhi, India: Oxford University Press, 1985); and Firdos Anwar, Nobility under the Mughals (1628–1658) (Delhi, India: Manohar, 2001).

(77.) Sunil Sharma, Mughal Arcadia: Persian Literature in an Indian Court (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017); and Munis Faruqui, Princes of the Mughal Empire, 1504–1719 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012).