The Mughal rulers were pretty tolerant of other beliefs and hence their reign is deemed fairly secular. Nevertheless, Islam spread far and wide by leaps and bounds in this era, not due to the efforts of the state but merely because of the sufis and mystics who attracted and inspired the masses with their saintly and humane behavior. The other significant feature was heterodox movements, which were egged on by the Islamic teachings and intended to reform Hinduism. A well-known example of these religious awakenings can be observed in Bhakti movement, one part of it remained within the limits of orthodoxy and produced men like Tulsi Das whose Ramayana has remained the Bible of the Hindu masses where Hindi is spoken. Apart from these movements there were individuals who rebelled against Hindu religion like Kabir, Dadu and Guru Nanak. Their mode of teachings was rather motivated by that of Muslim saints and poets.


The prominent Sufi silsilas were Qadiriya and Naqshbandiya. During the time of Akbar the Chishtiya order again recovered its ground but it influence waned to some extent after him. The Qadriya silsila was introduced in the sub-continent by Nimatullah and Makhdum Muhammad Jilani towards the middle of the century. Some of the most renowned Sufi saints of this era are Sheikh Daud Kirmani, Shah Abu’ Maali of Lahore, Mian Mir and Mulla Shah Badakhshi. Shah Jahan, Princess Jahan Ara and Dara Shakoh held Mian Mir and Mulla Shah Badakhshi in high esteem. The Naqshbandiya silsila rendered great services to counter pantheistic ideas of Akbar, and highlighted meticulous obedience to shariah necessary for mystic discipline and knowledge. It was introduced and popularized by Khwaja Baqi Billah and his disciple Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi. Alamgir was the disciple of Sheikh Safi-ud-din and under his influence he translated Sheikh Ahmad’s ideas into action.

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