Abul Fazal, the vizier at Akbar’s court


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12th August is the death anniversary of Abul Fazal, the vizier in Akbar’s court. On this very day in 1602, Abul Fazal was assassinated because Akbar’s son, Prince Salim who was later known as Jahangir instigated it.

Abul Fazal was also known as Shaikh Abu al-Fazi ibn Mubarak. He was a high-ranking minister and political advisor in Akbar’s court. His job was translating the Bible into Persian. Apart from this, he was also the author of the Akbarnama which was the official history of Akbar’s life and his rule. Faizi, who was Fazal’s brother was also a poet laureate in Akbar’s court.

Abul Fazal was born in Agra in the lap of Shaikh Mubarak (his father). He began teaching his son Arabic as a start to his education. By the time he was five years old, Abul Fazal could read and write. When his father started teaching him the Islamic sciences, Fazal found it difficult to keep pace with scientific learning and went through a period of depression. Finally, a friend of his helped him come out of that phase and resume his studies.

Abul Fazal joined Akbar’s court in 1575. There he noticed Akbar’s secular outlook towards religion and was highly inspired by it. He also led Akbar’s army into various battles, especially in the Deccan. The relationship between Akbar and Abul Fazal was very strong. Even in his writings, Fazal provides a very informative description of the accomplishments of Akbar as well as the administration, economy, political and social structure of the Mughal Empire.

Fazal was very brilliant since the day he was born which means he showed proof of his intelligence from a young age. When he was young, he once found a dictionary of Ishafani which was destroyed because ants had eaten half of it. Fazal removed the destroyed parts, joined blank paper to what was left, found the beginning and end of it all, and composed a draft of it. Later on, when the Ishafani was discovered, it was compared to Fazal’s draft. It was seen that the draft differed in only two to three places and the rest of it completely matched the original.

The Akbarnama was commissioned by Akbar who wanted Abul Fazal to write about the glory of his kingdom and how good a ruler he was along with his biography and achievements. The Akbarnama was written in two parts. The first part of it dealt with the reign of Akbar, his descent, his lineage, and the first 17 years of his rule. The second part of the Akbarnama deals with the rest of the life of Akbar till he was 46 years old. This was exactly the time when Fazal was assassinated on his way back from the Deccan by Vir Singh Bundela. Akbar’s son prince Salim had ordered the attack because Abul Fazal opposed his ascension to the Mughal throne. The severed head of Fazal was sent as proof and present to Salim or rather whom we all know today as Jahangir. Abul Fazal was buried at Antri. His son was later appointed governor of Bihar by Jahangir himself in 1608. Thus ended the legacy of Abul Fasal, the vizier in Akbar’s court.

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