Aolib.comFragment of Photochrom print of the front of Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany (ca. 1897)

Akbar, Emperor of India »


By Richard von Garbe

[Footnote 38: J.T. Wheeler, IV, I, 165, note, 47; M. Elphinstone, 523, note 8; G.B. Malleson, 162.]

In conversation with the Jesuits Akbar proved to be favorably inclined towards many of the Christian doctrines and met his guests half way in every manner possible. They had permission to erect a hospital and a chapel and to establish Christian worship in the latter for the benefit of the Portuguese in that vicinity. Akbar himself occasionally took part in this service kneeling with bared head, which, however, did not hinder him from joining also in the Mohammedan ritual or even the Brahman religious practices of the Rajput women in his harem. He had his second son Murad instructed by the Jesuits in the Portuguese language and in the Christian faith.

The Jesuits on their side pushed energetically toward their goal and did not scorn to employ flattery in so far as to draw a parallel between the Emperor and Christ, but no matter how slyly the fathers proceeded in the accomplishment of their plans Akbar was always a match for them. In spite of all concessions with regard to the excellence and credibility of the Christian doctrines the Emperor never seemed to be entirely satisfied. Du Jarric “complains bitterly of his obstinacy and remarks that the restless intellect of this man could never be quieted by one answer but must constantly make further inquiry.”[39] The clever historian of Islam makes the following comment: “Bad, very bad;–perhaps he would not even be satisfied with the seven riddles of the universe of the latest natural science.”[40]

[Footnote 39: In Noer, I, 485.]

[Footnote 40: A. Mueller, II, 420 n.]

To every petition and importunity of the Jesuits to turn to Christianity Akbar maintained a firm opposition. A second and third embassy which the order at Goa sent out in the nineties of the sixteenth century, also labored in vain for Akbar’s conversion in spite of the many evidences of favor shown by the Emperor. One of the last Jesuits to come, Jerome Xavier of Navarre, is said to have been induced by the Emperor to translate the four Gospels into Persian which was the language of the Mohammedan court of India. But Akbar never thought of allowing himself to be baptized, nor could he consider it seriously from political motives as well as from reasons of personal conviction. A man who ordered himself to be officially declared the highest authority in matters of faith–to be sure not so much in order to found an imperial papacy in his country as to guard his empire from an impending religious war–at any rate a man who saw how the prosperity of his reign proceeded from his own personal initiative in every respect, such a man could countenance no will above his own nor subject himself to any pangs of conscience. To recognize the Pope as highest authority and simply to recognize as objective truth a finally determined system in the realm in which he had spent day and night in a hot pursuit after a clearer vision, was for Akbar an absolute impossibility.

Then too Akbar could not but see through the Jesuits although he appreciated and admired many points about them. Their rigid dogmatism, their intolerance and inordinate ambition could leave him no doubt that if they once arose to power the activity of the Ulemas, once by good fortune overthrown, would be again resumed by them to a stronger and more dangerous degree. It is also probable that Akbar, who saw and heard everything, had learned of the horrors of the Inquisition at Goa. Moreover, the clearness of Akbar’s vision for the realities of national life had too often put him on his guard to permit him to look upon the introduction of Christianity, however highly esteemed by him personally, as a blessing for India. He had broken the power of Islam in India; to overthrow in like manner the second great religion of his empire, Brahmanism, to which the great majority of his subjects clung with body and soul, and then in place of both existing religions to introduce a third foreign religion inimically opposed to them–such a procedure would have hurled India into an irremediable confusion and destroyed at one blow the prosperity of the land which had been brought about by the ceaseless efforts of a lifetime. For of course it was not the aim of the Jesuits simply to win Akbar personally to Christianity but they wished to see their religion made the state religion of this great empire.

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