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Observations on General Maclagan's paper on the Jesuit Missions to the Emperor Akbar, J.A.S.B. for 1896, p. 38.—By H. BEVERIDGE.
[Read November, 1903.]
General Maclagan's paper is a very valuable and interesting one, but he has fallen into some mistakes from relying upon Mr. Rehatsek, etc. I beg to offer the following remarks as supplementary to it:
It is somewhat singular that the writers who have discussed the religious opinions of the Emperor Akbar have said so comparatively little about the account of them given by Abul-Fazl in the historical portion of the Akbarnāma.
Mr. Blochmann has noticed the references in the Ain-i-Akbari, and he, as well as Vans Kennedy, H. H. Wilson, Rehatsek and General Maclagan, have given full abstracts of Badayuni's account of the matter. But they have said little about the references in the historical parts of the Akbarnāma, and with the exception of Rehatsek, none of them has noticed the chapter in the Akbarnāma which deals expressly with Akbar's position as the founder of a religion. This chapter occurs in the annals of the 24th year of the reign and is headed "The acceptance by the wise men of the age of the spiritual authority (Ijtihād) of the world's lord."
This chapter is to be found in Vol. III, p. 268 of the Bib. Ind. ed., which corresponds to Vol. III, p. 140 of the Cawnpore ed. Rehatsek has indeed referred, though without citing the page, to two passages in this chapter, but he has not done so correctly, and so he has misled General Maclagan.
Mr. Rehatsek, who was a man of varied accomplishments, but the conditions of whose life were not favourable to accuracy, published in the Calcutta Review for January 1886 an article called "Missionaries to the Mogul Court," and at page 3 he makes two erroneous statements. The first is that Abul Fazl states that the malevolent rumour of Akbar's hatred to Muhammadanism and of his having become a Brahman, was refuted by the Christian philosophers. Evidently this refers to two J. 1. 7 I.
passages in the Akbarnama, Bib. Ind. ed., Vol. III, pp. 272, 73, corresponding to III. 142 of the Cawnpore edition. But though Akbar's alleged dislike to the Muhammadan religion and partiality for Hinduism are there mentioned, nothing is said about the assertions being refuted by the Christians. The second misstatement is more serious. Mr. Rehatsek says: "The only passage in the whole Akbarnāma in which a temporary inclination of Akbar towards Christianity has been alluded to is as follows:"
"He conversed for some time on the religious information he had obtained from Christian priests, but it appeared after a short while, that their arguments had made no great impression upon his mind, so that he troubled himself no more with contemplations about asceticism, the allurements of poverty, and the despicableness of a worldly life."
Now, it would indeed be extraordinary if Abul Fazl had represented his master as ceasing to be interested in contemplations about asceticism, etc., for he is continually saying the reverse. He is never weary of referring to Akbar's love for a detached and solitary life, and of describing him as keeping the lamp of privacy burning, though apparently engrossed in worldly business or pleasure. In the Memorabilia collected at the end of the Ain we find Akbar saying: "Discourses on philosophy have such a charm for me that they distract me from all else, and I forcibly restrain myself from listening to them, lest the necessary duties of the hour should be neglected" (Jarrett's translation). It is incredible, too, that any one who aspired to found a new religion would think, or speak, lightly of asceticism. But in fact Abul Fazl has no such passage as Mr. Rehatsek has ascribed to him. The reference he gives is to the Lucknow ed. III. 208. This corresponds to III. 128 of the Cawnpore ed. and to III, 243, 44 of the Bib. Ind. ed. But the passage does not refer to Akbar at all! It is a description of one 'Abdul Baqi Turkestānī who had been to Mecca and had picked up some religious notions from Christian philosophers (Aḥbar-i-Naṣārā). "For a time," says Abul Fazl, "his fluency gained him credit, but it soon appeared that he had not exercised a seeing eye, and had not penetrated to the holy temple of religious observances (or asceticism, riyazat). He became convinced of his incapacity and of the waste that he had made of his life, and started his studios anew." Probably this means that 'Abdul Baqi, who is described as being a man of good disposition and as acquainted with philosophy, became one of Akbar's disciples, for we learn from the Ain that he became a Șadr or chief minister of religion.
The chapter on Akbar's "Ijtihad " describes the declaration of faith made by the Ulama, but does not give a copy of it. This, however, may be seen in Badayuni, Lowe's translation, p. 279, and also in the
Tabaqāt-i-Akbari of Nizām-u-d-din, though unfortunately the passage has not been translated in Elliot's History. Curiously enough, Abul Fazl does not mention his father Mubārak as one of the authors of the declaration. According to Badayuni, it was Mubarak who drafted the document and who was the chief instigator of it, and the only one who voluntarily signed it. The chapter also tells of Akbar's mounting the pulpit, and gives the verse composed for him by Faizi, though of course it makes no allusion to the break-down described by Badayūnī. Apparently this incident took place in the last week of June 1579, and so about two months before the signing of the declaration which seems to have occurred in the beginning of September of that year. Abul Fazl however mentions the latter event first, which shows, if proof were needed, that he is not an accurate chronologist. The chapter goes on to notice the opposition excited by Akbar's procedure, and how some accused him of claiming to be God, others of his claiming to be a prophet, while a third set maintained that he was a Shia, and a fourth that he had turned a Hindu!
There is another chapter in which Abul Fazl describes the discussions in the 'Ibādatkhāna or "House of worship." This is an earlier chapter and belongs to the 23rd year. (Bib. Ind. ed., III. 252.) This chapter has been partially translated in Elliot, VI. 59, and is famous on account of its mention of Father Rodolfo Acquaviva. Presumably the reference to Acquaviva was inserted in a subsequent recension by the author, for it is wanting in the Lucknow and Cawnpore editions. There can be no doubt that Rodolfo Acquaviva is the person meant, though some MSS. call him Radif and some Raunaq. In an excellent MS. belonging to the India Office, formerly numbered 564, and now 236, the name is spelt very carefully Rudulfu, all the points being given. It is singular, however, that Abul Fazl should have put his mention of Acquaviva into the 23rd year, i.e., between 10th March 1578 and March 1579, for it is certain that Acquaviva did not reach Fathpur Sikri till 18th February 15802 and presumably he could not have taken part in the discussions in the Ibadatkhana till some months later, when he might have acquired sufficient fluency in Persian.3
1 This is the spelling of the Father himself at the end of his letter of 27th September 1582 in the Marsden MS. 9854.
2 Bartoli says, 27th February, and probably 18 is a clerical error for 28. We are told by Bartoli that the land journey from Surat to Fatḥpūr took 43 days, and as they left that place on 15th January, this would make the day of their arrival 27th February. They left Goa on the 17th November 1579 and arrived at Surat after twenty days. Apparently they stayed there for some time. Monserrat fell ill on the way and was left at Narwar, so that only Acquaviva and Enriquez arrived at Fathpur in February.
3 Rodolfo was a year in Goa before he started for Fathpur, for he landed in
The chronology is important, for it seems to show that the mission of Acquaviva and his companions was doomed to failure from the first, as it is evident that they arrived too late.
Akbar had already made himself Pope, so to speak, and it was not likely that he would abandon his position as Mujtahid and sit at the feet of a young Feringhi Padre. The anachronism is not the only error in Abul Fazl's account. He misrepresents the story of the proposed ordeal by fire, and represents Acquaviva as doing the very foolish thing of challenging the Muḥammadan doctors to enter a fire. We know both from Badayuni, and from the Jesuits that the proposal came from a Muḥammadan. In all probability it was, as the Jesuits stated, not a bona fide proposal. Badayuni tells us that it came from Shaikh Qutbud-din of Jaleswar in the district of Agra. Evidently this is the Shaikh Qutbu of Jaleswar mentioned in the Akbarnāma III. 309 Bib. Ind. ed. There we are told that he was found out to be a cheat, and worthless outwardly and inwardly. This leads us to suppose that Blochmann is right in translating Badayuni's word kharābī as meaning that he was a wicked man, and that Mr. Lowe is wrong in taking it to mean that he was only intoxicated with Divine love. Badayuni, I think, meant to say that he was a drunken fanatic, and just such a person as a friend of S. Jamāl Bakhtiyārī was likely to be, for Jamal was notorious for his drunken habits, and was only tolerated by Akbar because his sister was one of the favourites of the harem.
Akbar's first introduction to the Portuguese was in the 17th year of his reign when he was engaged in besieging the fort of Surat. Abul Fazl's account of the matter III. 27, is that the Portuguese had been invited by the besieged to take over the fortress, but that when they found Akbar was too strong, they pretended that they had come on an embassy to him (See Elliot, VI. 42). It is likely enough that the Portuguese came with two objects in view. They had been invited by the besieged, just as they had been invited by Bahadur Shah forty years before, and they probably thought that they would be able to repeat their success and to acquire Surat as they had acquired Diu. But they were also prepared to act as ambassadors to Akbar and took a quantity of presents with them. Akbar, according to Abul Fazl, received them graciously and asked them many questions about the productions of Portugal, and the customs of the Europeans. It seemed as if he did this from a desire for knowledge, but he had another motive, namely, a wish to tame and civilise this savage race (guroh-i-waḥshi)!
India on 13th September 1578, but probably there were no facilities at Goa for learning Persian. As we have seen he left Goa for Fathpur viá Surat on 17th November 1579. Acquaviva was canonised by the late Pope in 1893.