Revisiting the history and historiography of mughal pluralism

Rajeev Kinra*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

The concept of sulh-i kull is well known as a core feature of the Mughal Empire's state ideology, one that made it, comparatively speaking, arguably the most tolerant and inclusive state in the entire early modern world. Often translated as "peace with all," the term has become almost synonymous in South Asian historiography with the policies of religious pluralism promoted by the dynasty's most celebrated emperor, Jalal al-Din Muhammad Akbar "the Great" (r. 1556-1605) and his famed courtier and biographer, Abu al-Fazl ibn Mubarak (1551-1602). Surprisingly enough, however, despite its ubiquity in discussions of Mughal attitudes toward religious and cultural pluralism, a comprehensive intellectual history of the term sulh-i kull does not, in fact, appear to have ever been attempted. It is often taken for granted that sulh-i kull was the obvious term to express the ethos of civility, universal reason, and inclusiveness that Akbar wanted to promote. But why did Akbar and Abu al-Fazl choose this term, specifically? What exactly did they mean by it? And how was the term actually understood in practice, not just in Akbar's era but also in the subsequent decades and indeed centuries? These are the kinds of questions this article seeks to address.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-182
Number of pages46
JournalReOrient
Volume5
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2020

Keywords

  • Abu al-Fazl
  • Mughal history
  • Pluralism
  • Tolerance
  • sulh-i kull

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • Philosophy
  • Cultural Studies

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