|Type||Abrahamic and Dharmaic-influenced Syncretism|
Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Mughal Empire
|Separated from||Sunni Islam|
|Members||21; also there were several influenced followers|
The Dīn-i Ilāhī (lit. "Religion of God") was a syncretic religion propounded by the Mughal emperor Akbar in 1582 CE, intending to merge some of the elements of the religions of his empire, and thereby reconcile the differences that divided his subjects. The elements were primarily drawn from Islam and Hinduism, but some others were also taken from Christianity, Jainism, and Zoroastrianism.
Akbar promoted tolerance of other faiths. In fact, not only did he tolerate them, he encouraged debate on philosophical and religious issues. This led to the creation of the Ibādat Khāna ("House of Worship") at Fatehpur Sikri in 1575. He had already repealed the jizya (tax on non-Muslims) in 1568. A religious experience while hunting in 1578 further increased his interest in the religious traditions of his empire.
From the discussions held at the Ibādat Khāna, Akbar concluded that no single religion could claim the monopoly of truth. This inspired him to create the Dīn-i Ilāhī in 1582. Various pious Muslims, among them the Qadi of Bengal Subah and the seminal Sufi personality Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi, responded by declaring this to be blasphemy to Islam. According to a renowned historian Mubarak Ali, Dīn-i Ilāhī is a name not present in Akbar's period. At that time it was called Tawhid-i-Ilāhī ("divine monotheism"), as it is written by Abu Al Fazal, a court historian during the reign of Akbar. So it can be said that it was not a religion in the proper sense or in comparison with the mainstream religions, as there was no compulsion in its acceptance, no reward, no punishment and no establishment of religious institutions. Furthermore, it can be said that it was a political system to bring unity in plurality rather than a religion.
Despite Akbar's personal controversies, Dīn-i Ilāhī prohibits lust, sensuality, slander and pride, considering them sins. Piety, prudence, abstinence and kindness are the core virtues. The soul is encouraged to purify itself through yearning of God. Celibacy is respected and the slaughter of animals is forbidden. There are neither sacred scriptures nor a priestly hierarchy in this religion.
In the 17th century, Dīn-i Ilāhī was attempted to be re-established by Shah Jahan's eldest son Dara Shikoh, but was prevented by his brother Aurangzeb who executed him, and later compiled the Fatawa-e-Alamgiri and established Islamic Sharia law across the Indian subcontinent. .
It has been argued that the theory of Dīn-i Ilāhī being a new religion was a misconception which arose because of erroneous translations of Abu'l-Fazl's work by later British historians. However, it is also accepted that the policy of sulh-i-kul, which formed the essence of Dīn-i Ilāhī, was adopted by Akbar as a part of general imperial administrative policy. Sulh-i-kul means "universal peace".
In practice, however, the Dīn-i Ilāhī functioned as a personality cult contrived by Akbar around his own person. Members of the religion were handpicked by Akbar according to their devotion to him. Because the emperor styled himself a reformer of Islām, arriving on Earth almost 1,000 years after the Prophet Muḥammad, there was some suggestion that he wished to be acknowledged as a prophet also. The ambiguous use of formula prayers (common among the Ṣūfīs) such as Allāhu akbar, “God is most great,” or perhaps “God is Akbar,” hinted at a divine association as well
Akbar is recorded by various conflicting sources as having affirmed allegiance to Islām and as having broken with Islām. His religion was generally regarded by his contemporaries as a Muslim innovation or a heretical doctrine; only two sources from his own time—both hostile—accuse him of trying to found a new religion. The influence and appeal of the Dīn-i Ilāhī were limited and did not survive Akbar, but they did trigger a strong orthodox reaction in Indian Islām.
The initiated disciples of Dīn-i Ilāhī during emperor Akbar the Great's time included (p. 186):