College of Liberal Arts

The Mughal Era

Friday Feb 15, 2019 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM | WCH 4.118

Audrey Truschke, Rutgers (Newark) and Rajeev Kinra, Northwestern University, will offer a workshop on "The Mughal Era" as part of the Spring South Asia Seminar series.

Dr. Trushke will present on "Situating sulh-i kull in Mughal India":

This paper seeks to challenge and advance modern ideas about the Mughal policy sulh-i kull. I start by naming two historiographical problems that treat sulh-i kull, respectively, in overly broad and overly specific terms. First, many scholars use the Mughal political and ethical philosophy of sulh-i kull (“universal peace”) as a catch-all for anything allegedly tolerant about Mughal policies. This tendency is ahistorical and so broad as to be rather unhelpful. Second, sulh-i kull is often narrowly associated with Akbar and is thus wrapped-up in a larger problem of Mughal historiography being emperor-centric, specifically Akbar-centric. In order to displace these bad assumptions and to provide a more contextualized view of sulh-i kull, I give several examples where the subject comes up in Mughal sources from the reigns of Akbar through Aurangzeb Alamgir. I seek to reconstruct the political, social, and theological questions that arose in connection with sulh-i kull when the Mughals negotiated with different groups of non-Muslims in their empire and see how the issues played out in specific circumstances. This analysis leads me to conclude that sulh-i kull is best understood, not as a meta-policy that can explain the infrastructure of Mughal sovereignty, but rather a set of messy on-the-grounds negotiations between Mughal elites and specific groups in their empire.

Dr. Kinra will present on "What Did Akbar and Abu al-Fazl Actually Mean by Sulh-i Kull? Some New Thoughts on a Very Old Question":

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 tolerance 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 the term’s ubiquity in discussions of Mughal attitudes toward religious and cultural pluralism, there have been relatively few detailed explications in modern scholarship of what Akbar and Abu al-Fazl actually meant when they invoked the concept of sulh-i kull. In this talk, therefore, we will revisit several key texts from Akbar's era and try to offer some provisional answers -- many of which, it turns out, are rather difficult to reconcile with the prevailing conventional wisdom, not only in terms of Akbar and Abu al-Fazl's brand of political Islam, specifically, but also in terms of the historiography and cultural memory of the Mughals more generally. 

The seminar series theme is "'Peace with All (Sulh-i Kull) Religions': Indo Persian Political Theology and Cosmopolitanism," convened by Azfar Moin, Religious Studies.

This talk is FREE! and open to the public.

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