Safavid and Mughal

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Babur (1483–1530), the founder of the Mughal Empire, descended from Timur. Though

Mughal means ‘Mongol’ in Persian, the Timurids were of Turkic rather than Mongol origin. Timur’s marriage to a descendant of Genghis Khan had earned him the Mongol designation ‘son-in-law’. Invading from Central Asia, Babur defeated the last Muslim sultan of Delhi at the Battle of Panipat in 1526. Even though this victory marked the birth of a brilliant and powerful state in India, Babur’s descendants continued to think of Central Asia as their true home, expressing intentions of recapturing Samarkand.
India had not been dominated by a single ruler since the time of Harsha Vardhana (r. 606-647). But the politically divided Hindus did not put up a combined resistance. The Mughal state, in contrast, inherited traditions of unified imperial rule from both the Islamic caliphate and the more recent examples of Genghis Khan and Timur. Akbar, the most illustrious Mughal ruler, differed from his Ottoman and Safavid counterparts – Suleiman the Magnificent and Shah Abbas the Great – in his striving for social harmony and not just for more territory and revenue. On reaching twenty, Akbar took command of the government. He married a Hindu Rajput princess and welcomed her to the court in Agra.
Akbar signaled a desire for Muslim-Hindu reconciliation. A year later he rescinded the head tax that Muslim rulers traditionally levied on tolerated non-Muslims. This measure was more symbolic than real because the tax had not been regularly collected, but the gesture helped cement the allegiance of the Rajputs. To his relief, his Rajput wife gave birth to a son in 1569, ensuring future rulers would have both Muslim and Hindu ancestry.
He also made himself the center of a new ‘Divine Faith’ incorporating Muslim, Hindu, Zoroastrian, Sikh, and Christian beliefs. Sufi ideas attracted him and permeated his court. To promote serious consideration of his religious principles, he monitored, from a high catwalk, debates among scholars of all religions assembled in his private octagonal audience chamber. When courtiers uttered the Muslim exclamation ‘Allahu Akbar’ – ‘God is great’ – its second grammatical meaning, ‘God is Akbar,’ was not lost on them. Akbar’s religious views did not survive him, but the court culture he fostered, reflecting a mixture of Muslim and Hindu traditions, flourished until his zealous great-grandson Aurangzeb (r. 1658–1707) reinstituted many restrictions on Hindus. Some scholars maintain that most Muslim converts came from the lowest Hindu castes but little data confirm this theory. Others argue that Sufi brotherhoods led the way in converting people, but this has not been proved. The most heavily Muslim regions developed in the valley of the Indus River and in Bengal. The Indus center dates from the isolated establishment of Muslim rule there as early as the eighth century.” ~ The Earth and Its Peoples

1. For Babur and his successors, their ruling family would always be “The House of Timur,” prompting historians to sometimes refer to the line as the Timurids. However, because of their claims to the legacy of Genghis Khan, they would be better known to the world as the
(A) Huns (C) Sheikh

(B) Mughals (D) Safavids

2. Which of the following ranks as the most remarkable aspect of the reign of Akbar the Great?

(A) his construction of the Taj Mahal

(B) his mighty victories in battle

(C) his many wives

(D) his dedication to the ideal of religious tolerance

(E) his establishment of the Mughal Empire

Key Words/



I. The Safavid Empire

A. Founded by a Sufi order that dates back to Safi al-Din (1252-1334)

  1. Safi al-Din converted to Shi’ism and was a Persian nationalist

  2. The order became a military and religious order in the 15th century

  3. Many were attracted by allegiance to Ali and a “hidden imam”

  4. Leadership of the Shi’a community continued with ‘Imams’ who were believed to be divinely appointed from Prophet’s Family

  5. Largest sect of Shi’a: Twelvers – believe twelve divinely appointed Imams descended from Prophet from line of Ali and Hussein

  1. But twelfth imam disappeared yet believed to return at end of time

  1. In 1501, Safavid Shah declared independence from Ottomans

  1. Ottomans had outlawed Shi’a Islam

2. Safavids declared Shi’a Islam the state religion

H. Sunni population was converted by persuasion and force

1. Sunni ulama (Islamic religious scholars) either left or were killed

I. Safavid empire was effectively a theocracy ruled by a powerful Shah

J. Artistic achievements and the prosperity

1. Best represented by Isfahan, the capital of Shah Abbas

2. Beautiful hand-woven rugs and miniature paintings

  1. Shahs became complacent and corrupt until invaded by Afghans

II. The Mughals

  1. Mughal (or Mogul) Empire ruled most of India and Pakistan

  2. A Muslim Empire ruling a country with a large Hindu majority

  3. But Muslims in India before Mughals; had arrived in 8th century

  1. Muslims established the Delhi Sultanate at end of 12th century

D. Babur, the founder, was a descendent of Genghis Khan and Tamerlane

E. Babur moved into Afghanistan in 1504 and then moved on to India

F. His grandson, Abu Akbar, is regarded as one of the greatest rulers

1. Expanded empire, married a Hindu princess, religiously tolerant

2. Akbar ended a tax (jizya) that had been imposed on non-Muslims

3. Proclaimed an entirely new state religion of 'God-ism' (Din-i-ilahi)

J. Akbar’s son, Emperor Jahangir, tolerant but readopted Islam

K. Urdu language: Arabic script, Hindi grammar, Persian words

L. Shah Jahan commissioned Taj Mahal,

1. A mausoleum built by Jahan for his wife Mumtaz

M. Jahan’s son Aurangzeb was the last great Mughal Emperor

1. Aurangzeb expanded Mughal Empire to greatest size

2. An observant and religious Muslim ended religious toleration

3. Imposed Sharia law (Islamic law) over the whole empire

4. Thousands of Hindu temples were torn down and tax on Hindus

5. Mughal empire reached the peak of its military power

6. But decline – Aurangzeb’s intolerance and empire too big

III. The Gunpowder Empires of Asia

  1. Ottoman, Safavid, Mughal, and Tokugawa

1. Which of the following best describes the Mughal Empire?

(A) A political-economic-social system that recognized equality of all citizens.

(B) A system in which an Islamic minority ruled over a Hindu majority.

(C) A government based on an examination system.

(D) A social and political system that sought to value equally its Islamic, Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist populations.

(E) The rule of a Hindu majority over a Buddhist minority.
2. The official religion of the Safavid Empire was

(A) Sunni Islam

(B) Orthodox Christianity

(C) Shiite Islam

(D) Judaism

(E) Hinduism
3. The founder of the Mughal Empire was

(A) Aurangzeb

(B) Babur

(C) Akbar

(D) Jahan

(E) Nanak
4. Which of these were considered the Gunpowder Empires in the Islamic world?

(A) Ming China, Mughal India, Seljuk Turks

(B) Tokugawa Shogunate, Ming China, Yuan China

(C) Ottoman Turkey, Delhi Sultanate, Khmer Cambodia

(D) Safavid Persia, Ottoman Turkey, Mughal India

(E) Safavid Persia, Ming China, Tokugawa Shogunate

5. The Mughal Empire and the Ottoman Empire before 1700 C.E. shared which of the following characteristics?

(A) Both empires were able to expand without meeting strong resistance.

(B) Both empires formally restricted foreign trade.

(C) Both empires were ruled by a single religious official.

(D) Both empires were religiously and culturally diverse.
6. By borrowing heavily from Sufi mysticism, Persian court protocols, Zoroastrian sun and fire veneration, and even Muslim and Christian Neo-platonic spiritualism, Akbar's divine faith sought to:

(A) Increase the Sunni Islamic clerics and draw followers from other religions

(B) Create a new religious sect that would draw follower form other religions

(C) Make him the Supreme Being of the Empire

(D) Limit the power of Sunni Islamic clerics and draw followers from other religions
7. While this new philosophy did not end Akbar’s military campaigns, which he saw as ordained by God, it ultimately did lead him to conducting spirited religious debates with his subjects and formulating a new religion he called _________, or “divine faith.”

(A) Islam

(B) din-i ilahi

(C) Ain-i-Akbari

(D) Muraqaba
8. One of Aurangzeb's most resented policies was the reinstatement of the jiziya, a _________on non-Muslims, including a new tax on Hindu pilgrims.

(A) graduated head tax

(B) tariff

(C) embargo

(D) non-believer tax

Comparative Essay Practice:

Analyze similarities and differences in methods of political control in the Safavid and Mughal Empires.

Thesis: ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Body Paragraph:


Critical Thinking Questions:

How did religion inform government policies in the Islamic Gunpowder Empires? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

How and why did Mughal Emperor Akbar differ from Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Why did hostilities exist between the Safavid and Ottoman Empires? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What are two different theories as to why some Hindus converted to Islam during the Mughal Empire and why are these theories difficult to prove? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Why did Akbar’s Din-i-ilahi not survive after the end of his reign? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

How did the Safavids’ conversion to Shi’a Islam affect the peoples of the Empire? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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