Abul Fazl


Akbar’s success was mainly due to capable and talented men who surrounded him. One of them was Sheikh Abul Fazl who was born in Agra on 14 January 1551 during the reign of Shah Suri. His family originally belonged to Sehwan in Sind. As a man of letters he ranks very high owing to his monumental work the Akbarnama (the history of Emperor Akbar’s reign) that gives a vivid picture of Akbar’s age and policies. Akbar was greatly influenced by his political theory of kingship that left deep and happy impressions and memories. No doubt the new Mughal State as created by Akbar was above race, caste and creed. It functioned for the protection and well being of the people and resulted in their social and cultural uplift. The Mughal Badshah was no more an autocratic Sultan but God’s shadow on earth (Zill-i-Ilahi), Ma’I Bap (Mother and Father of the people) and trustee of their welfare.

Abul Fazl was did not possess a high mansab (designation) and was only in charge o the Correspondence Office but merely due to his loyalty, courtly posture, scholarship and industry, he became his “friend, philosopher and guide”. In 1574 Abul Fazl was barely twenty-three when he was introduced at the royal court and soon won Akbar’s favor. Faizi, his elder brother was also serving in royal court and was the poet Laureate. His father, Sheikh Mubarak was well known in his day for his great learning and wisdom. But according to many historians, all of them were responsible for introduction of a new religion Din-i-Ilahi in the court. Din-i-Ilahi that was meant to merge the two communities but was doomed to fail as it betrayed Akbar’s wisdom and proved to be a monument of his folly.

Abul Fazl rapidly gained influence in Akbar’s court son much so that his opinion was essential for the decision of almost every affair. Even for any slight physical ailment if a physician had to be selected, he was to be necessarily consulted and an ointment was not applied to a sore till Abul Fazl had had his say in the matter. He was much more than Akbar’s courtier. He was counselor, confidant, chief secretary, official chronicler, legislator and master of the Dewani Department. He also led the imperial army in its wars in the Deccan. In the words of Professor Azad he was “a veritable Aristotle to this Alexander (Akbar). Akbar loved him more then his sons and highly valued his opinions but this proved to be fatal for Abul Fazl. He was assassinated in a plot contrived by the prince Salim (later Emperor Jahangir) in 1602 who considered Abul Fazl’s influence on Akbar’s decisions a major hindrance in his way to become the future king. When the news of the death of Abul Fazal was broken to Akbar, the king was plunged in grief deeper than that felt for the loss of any son.

This article was last updated on Wednesday, Jan 04, 2006