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Safavid and Mughal WHAP/Napp


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The Mughals, a mixture of Mongol and Turkish peoples from Central Asia, rose to power a little later than the Ottomans, beginning their invasion of India in 1526. Under four generations of commanding emperors – Akbar (r. 1556-1605), Jehangir (r. 1605-27), Shah Jahan (r. 1627-58) and Aurangzeb (r.1658-1707) – they dominated most of the subcontinent, ruling it from splendid capitals that they built in the north, and from mobile tent-cities that they occupied while fighting throughout the subcontinent. Although they continued to rule in name until 1858, the Mughals began to decline as a result of Aurangzeb’s extended military campaigns, which wasted the financial and human resources of his empire and also antagonized the Hindu majority population over whom the Mughals, who were Muslims, ruled.


Akbar the Great was raised on stories of his ancestors, Timur the Lame and Chinggis Khan, and of his grandfather, Babur [the founder of the Mughal Empire]. Akbar now set about creating an empire of his own. He showed no mercy to those who would not submit to his rule. In 1572-3, Akbar conquered Gujarat, gaining control of its extensive commercial networks and its rich resources of cotton and indigo; then came Bengal to the east, with its rice, silk, and saltpeter. Kashmir to the north, Orissa to the south, and Sind to the west followed. Each new conquest brought greater riches.

Akbar understood immediately that as a foreigner and a Muslim in an overwhelmingly Hindu country, he would have to temper conquest with conciliation. He appointed Hindus to a third of the posts in his centralized administration. In 1562 Akbar discontinued the practice of enslaving prisoners of war and forcing them to convert to Islam. In 1563 he abolished a tax on Hindu pilgrims traveling to sacred shrines. The next year, most importantly, he revoked the jizya, the head tax levied on non-Muslims. Between 20 and 25 percent of India’s population became Muslim, most through conversion, the rest the result of immigration from outside.

Akbar encouraged and participated personally in religious discussions among Muslims, Hindus, Parsis (Indians who followed Zoroaster, their name means ‘Persians,’ where Zoroaster had his greatest influence), and Christians (Jesuits visiting the court mistook his enquiries into Catholic doctrine as a willingness to convert). Sufis spread their message in Hindi, a modern derivative of Sanskrit, the sacred language of Hindus. At the same time they inspired the creation of Urdu (camp) language, the language of common exchange between the invaders and the resident population. Urdu used the syntactical structure of Hindi, the alphabet of Arabic and Persian, and a vocabulary of words drawn from Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic. Akbar, in particular, encouraged these kinds of cultural syncretism and the mixing of groups. In 1582, he declared a new personal religion, the Din-i-Ilahi, or Divine Faith, an amalgam of Islamic, Hindu, and Persian perspectives.”

~ The World’s History


  1. Identify and explain four significant facts about the Mughal Empire. ________________________________________________________________________

  2. Identify and explain five significant facts about Akbar the Great. ________________________________________________________________________

  1. The Safavid Empire

  1. Founded by Safavids, Sufi order that dates back to Safi al-Din (1252-1334)

  2. Safi al-Din converted to Shi’ism and was a Persian nationalist
  3. The order became stronger and became a military and religious in 15th century


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

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

  6. Largest sect of Shi’a: Twelvers – believe twelve divinely appointed Imams descended from Prophet in line of Ali and Hussein, led community until 9th century

  7. Then twelfth imam disappeared but believed will return at end of time

  8. In 1501, Safavid Shah declared independence when Ottomans outlawed Shi’a Islam

I. Shi’a Islam was declared the state religion

J. A campaign was launched to convert a Sunni population by persuasion and force

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

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

II. Safavid Culture

  1. Artistic achievements and the prosperity of the Safavid period are best represented by Isfahan, the capital of Shah Abbas

  2. Beautiful hand-woven rugs and miniature paintings

IV. Decline

  1. With reduced threat from Ottomans, Safavid Shahs became complacent, and then corrupt and decadent until powerful Afghans invaded

V. The Mughals

A. Mughal (or Mogul) Empire ruled most of India and Pakistan in the 16th and 17th centuries, a Muslim Empire who ruled a country with a large Hindu majority

B. But Muslims in India before Mughals; had arrived in 8th century and established the Delhi Sultanate at end of 12th century


C. Mughal Empire grew out of descendants of the Mongol Empire in Turkestan

D. Babur was the first Mughal Emperor, descendent of Genghis Khan and Tamerlane

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

F. Under Babur, Hinduism was tolerated and new Hindu temples were built

G. The third Emperor, Abu Akbar, is regarded as one of the great rulers of all time; Expanded empire, married a Hindu princess, religiously tolerant

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

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

J. Akbar’s son, Emperor Jahangir, readopted Islam but a policy of religious toleration

K. Jahangir’s approach typified by development of Urdu as official languageUrdu uses Arabic script, but Persian vocabulary and Hindi grammatical structure

L. Shah Jahan commissioned Taj Mahal, a mausoleum built by Jahan for his wife Mumtaz

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

N. Aurangzeb was a strong leader and expanded Mughal Empire to greatest size

R. Also a very observant and religious Muslim who ended the policy of religious tolerance

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

T. Thousands of Hindu temples and shrines were torn down and a punitive tax on Hindu

U. Under Aurangzeb, the Mughal empire reached the peak of its military power

V. Decline – Aurangzeb’s intolerance and empire had simply become too big

  1. Who was Safi al-Din and how did he change Persia? ________________________________________________________________________


  2. Why is an Imam significant in the Shi’a religion? ________________________________________________________________________

  3. Identify and explain several facts about the Twelfth Imam. ________________________________________________________________________

  4. What did a Safavid Shah declare in 1501? ________________________________________________________________________

  5. How did the Safavid ensure that the people of the Empire were Shi’a? ________________________________________________________________________

  6. Define ulama. ________________________________________________________________________

  7. What happened to the Sunni ulama in the Safavid Empire? ________________________________________________________________________

  8. Why was the Safavid Empire a theocracy? ________________________________________________________________________

  9. Where was the capital of Shah Abbas located? ________________________________________________________________________

  10. Identify several artistic accomplishments of the Safavid. ________________________________________________________________________

  11. What factors led to the decline of the Safavid Empire? ________________________________________________________________________

  12. What was the religion of the rulers of the Mughal Empire? ________________________________________________________________________

  13. What was the religion of the majority of the subcontinent’s inhabitants? ________________________________________________________________________

  14. Who was the founder of the Mughal Empire and who were his ancestors? ________________________________________________________________________
  15. Identify and explain two significant facts regarding Akbar the Great. ________________________________________________________________________


  16. What tax did Akbar the Great abolish? Why? ________________________________________________________________________

  17. What new state religion did Akbar the Great proclaim? ________________________________________________________________________

  18. How is Urdu an example of cultural diffusion? ________________________________________________________________________

  19. What did Shah Jahan commission? Why? ________________________________________________________________________

  20. Identify and explain two significant facts regarding Aurangzeb. ________________________________________________________________________

  21. How did Aurangzeb differ from Akbar the Great? ________________________________________________________________________

  22. How did Aurangzeb treat the Hindu majority? ________________________________________________________________________

  23. Why did the Mughal Empire begin to weaken? ________________________________________________________________________

1. Which of these were considered the Gunpowder Empires in the Islamic world?

  1. Ming China, Mughal India, Seljuk Turks

  2. Tokugawa Shogunate, Ming China, Yuan China

  3. Ottoman Turkey, Delhi Sultanate, Khmer Cambodia

  4. Safavid Persia, Ottoman Turkey, Mughal India

  5. Safavid Persia, Ming China, Tokugawa Shogunate


2. Over two hundred years, between the 1000s and 1200s, the ____________ seized parts of northern India.

(A) Muslims

(B) British

(C) Mongolians

(D) Chinese
3. 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
4. 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.


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

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

  2. A system in which an Islamic minority ruled over a Hindu majority

  3. A government based on an examination system

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

  5. The rule of a Hindu majority over a Buddhist minority


6. Which religious schism stemmed from disputes over legitimate succession of leadership after the death of its key or founding figure?

  1. Eastern Orthodox and Catholic

  2. Catholic and Protestant

  3. Mahayana and Theravada

  4. Sunni and Shia
  5. Mahayana and Zen



7. The official religion of the Safavid Empire was

  1. Sunni Islam

  2. Orthodox Christianity

  3. Shiite Islam

  4. Judaism

  5. Hinduism


8. The founder of the Mughal Empire was

  1. Aurangzeb

  2. Babur

  3. Akbar

  4. Jahan

  5. Nanak


Thesis Practice: Comparative

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


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