Sheikh abu al-Fazal ibn Mubarak also known as Abu’l-Fadl, abu’l-Fadl Allami or Abu’l-Fazl was among the nine jewels or ‘navratna’ of Mughal emperor akbar’s court. He has a high position of grand vizier in the court. He was the brother of the poet Faizi.
Abul Fazl was born in 14 January 1551 in Agra. His father’s name was Sheikh Mubarak. His primary education began in Arabic and till the age of five he could easily read and write properly.
He was very intelligent. His father was teaching him. His father was Indian scholar and teacher and he taught him science, Greek philosophy and mysticism.
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Abul Fazal Life in the court
Although his elder brother Faizi- a famous poet was in Akbar’s court, he was not attracted towards court services. He devoted himself to the study of Arabic, Greek philosophy and Sufism. At the age of fifteen he outdid himself in this area. His thoughtfulness seemed to be misfit for the society.
By the age of twenty he moved towards asceticism. But later on his life some instances occurred in life which changed his ways
His father Shaikh Mubarak was also very liberal in his thoughts and religion. He defended an ‘Ullema’ publicly. For this he was found guilty by the court as Ullemas were considered the messengers of Allah and were very powerful at that time.
It was then that Abu’l Fazal made his first appearance in Akbar’s court to defend his father. He impressed the emperor with his thoughts and words and there after entered court services.
He soon became Akbar’s chief secretary and close friend. He helped Akbar in shaping of different emperor’s projects also. He actively took part in weekly discussions where variety of different religious participants in the house of worship i.e. ibadat-khana. He gave moral support and strength to Akbar’s views and thoughts.
Abu’l Fazal supported Akbar in spreading and gaining confidence of Muslim masses in regards with his thoughts of religious tolerance in his empire. With the help of his father Sheikh Mubarak and Faizi who were also liberal in their approach towards religious tolerance.
Abu’l Fazal composed the decree known as the ‘infallibility Decree’. It gifted the emperor Akbar with religious superiority over the orthodox society of the Ullemas and discussed that the king is above all orthodox societies.
In 159 Abu’l Fazal was given his first military duty in Deccan. His military abilities could be seen as a military commander in that area. He supervised there for three years.
He was assassinated while he was returning from Deccan by Vir singh Bundela in an intriguing conspiracy plot by Jahangir or Prince Salim. Abu’l Fazal was known to oppose Jahangir’s rule over the throne as a successor.
His head was sent to Jahangir and he was buried at Antri. His son Sheikh Afzal Khan later was appointed the governor of Bihar in 1608.
Akbarnama is a series of three volumes depicting Akbar and his ancestor’s reign. It started from Timur to huamyun and then to Akbar. This book gives detailed account of Babur, Humayun and Suri sultanates of Delhi. It is written in Persian language. It took almost six years to complete Akbarnama and more than 49 people helped him in illustrating the events.
The second volume of Akbarnama describes Akbar’s own reign till 1602. As it was written around 1590, it also contained details of Hindu beliefs and practices. The third volume ‘Ain-i-Akbari’ also known as ‘institutes of Akbar’ is his most famous book. It contained detailed report of Akbar’s government and administration. The ‘ain-i-akbari’ is itself divided into five books.
First book deals with the royal household, second book deal with the servants of Akbar in military and civil officers and services, the third book deals with Akbar’s administration, rules and regulations of judiciary and other minister departments.
The fourth book gives a more general history of India with respect to an account of Hindu philosophy, literature, religion and customs. The fifth book contains Akbar’s words with an account of the ancestor’s biography of the author.
Also, the Ain-i-Akbari gives a vivid description of the Jauhar committed by women and children to save themselves from any abuse at the hands of their captors.
This referral of Hindu customs in the volumes of Akbarnama has come across as a very surprising step. But it also depicts the broad mindedness of Abul Fazal and his faith in notions of secularism.
It is a collection of private letters from Abu’l Fazal to murad, Daniyal, mariam Makani and Salim. Other than that, several other letters were written to queens and daughters, mothers and brothers and other contemporizes on the behalf of Akbar by Abu’l fazal.
They were collected by his nephew for the compilation for future generations to see.
The Insha-i-abu’l Faazl or the Maqtubt-i-Allami contains official letters and is divided into two parts. The first part contains Akbar’s letters written to Abdullah Khan Uzbeg of Turan, shah Abbas of Persia, Raja Ali khan of Khandesh, Burhan-ul-mulk of Ahmadnagar and Abdul Rahim Khan Khanan of his court.
The second part consists of letters written by Abu’l Fazal to Akbar, Daniyal, Mirza Shah Rukh ans Khan Khanan.
Abul fazal was the master of literature. His works are a mirror reflection of his thoughts towards patriotism and secularism. He was deeply committed to giving the empire with all his dedication and hard work. He was one of the closest friends of Akbar and Akbar had an unassuming faith in his friendship.
He was very intimate to Akbar. Akbar, being born in a Hindu family household as his father was in exile at that time, had great respect for Hinduism. He was open to accepting all religions.
He had that spark in him and Abul Fazal helped him in spreading his thoughts and ideas by providing the right direction to him. Abul fazal like a chronicler his personal diary to him as Akbar would always rely on Abul Fazal for everything.