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Messianism, Heresy and Historical Narrative in Mughal India

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Chapter Summary

In 990/1582, the Mughal emperor Jalāl al-Dīn Akbar stood accused of abjuring Islam and claiming to be the harbinger of a new sacred order. The first millennium of Islam was coming to a close and astrological signs held omens for religio-political change. The religious opposition to Akbar's claims among his courtiers is epitomized by ʿAbd al-Qādir Badāʾ ūnī. This chapter complicates Badāʾ ūnī's image of being an "orthodox"Sunnī critic of the emperor, and provides a new way of understanding his writings. The Mughal use of a messianic and saintly idiom to organize their court was not as novel as it may appear at first glance. In fact, the contemporary rulers of Iran, the Safavids, had already instituted this practice at the beginning of the sixteenth century and, indeed, may have been crucial in providing the millennial model and messianic inspiration for the Mughals of India.

Keywords: ʿAbd al-Qādir Badāʾ ūnī; Islam; Jalāl al-Dīn Akbar; messianic idiom; Mughals; Safavids



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