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Akbar vs. Aurangzeb - Part 6 of 6: A Concluding Look at the Long-term Impact on the Sub-Continent

Ultimately, Indian society had grown accustomed to change, and a return to the old systems of Sharia-based rule over a non-Muslim society, where temple destruction and increasing segregation was becoming more and more common, was not acceptable to the Indian masses, nor to the rising powers from both within and without. Akbar’s days of fusing religions, and shifting Indian Islam in a direction more compatible with Hinduism and the other native religions were gone. Syncretism movements were dead and the Ulema was alive and well.

In hindsight, one can follow along, and see the general progression of both the Ulema and the Sufi orders, starting from Akbar, when the Empire was at its peak, and syncretistic Sufism was the popular Islam, and follow through to the end of Aurangzeb’s reign and see that, ultimately, both the resurgence of the Ulema and the downfall of Sufism in India under the Mughals can be attributed to one common denominator: change.
Change was the commonality between both syncretists and the orthodoxy, yet while Sufism was constantly looking to change society from within, it was the Ulemas uncompromising determination to remain stagnant in their views that helped them reclaim their political authority.

The syncretistic Sufi Orders, always adapting new methods and changing with the times, led them to, what one can assume to be, too many changes, and an inability to remain focused on a goal of political influence or spiritual progression. The Ulema, who were adamant on maintaining a status quo, were able to focus their efforts on changing society to what they believed to be the best adaptation of Islam, by focusing solely on the political hierarchy. In the end, though, none of it mattered, as both were each others downfall.

Sufism led to the political downfall of the Sharia and its authority in the eyes of both Hindus and Muslims, and the Ulema, in their resurgence under Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb led to the permanent second-rate spiritual status of Sufism in Indian society. Both, however, can also attest to the fact that each had a part to play in the level of power held by both Akbar and Aurangzeb, and that they each, politically, played the Sultans for the advancement of their own agendas. They used the Sultans to impose their own views on Indian society through these monarchs, with little regard for the long-term effects on the country. The extremism to which Akbar went to suppress the Ulema, in what became his mission to propagate syncretism and monism into Indian society, while the reactionary efforts to such a movement by Aurangzeb in his policies of mutual exclusiveness created a back and forth power struggle for ultimate authority in the Empire. This power struggle between the two Muslim bases of support left the Hindus with no real political sway in policy. Thus, after the death of Aurangzeb, and the increased rebellions during his reign, we see the Hindus fighting for their rights. The further vacuum for power created with the onslaught of the British only created a society where the Muslims and Hindus were on the same level, and neither orthodox ulemic ideals, nor syncretistic Sufi ideals mattered, as both had bandied together to counter the now strong Hindu opposition to Muslim rule in what would ensue to become a great tension between the two religious groups.

Tensions between the Hindus and Muslims built up over time and ultimately led to the separation of the subcontinent into three nations; India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Part | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |

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