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Pearls on a String: The Writer

The writer and historian Abu’l Fazl ibn Mubarak (1551–1602) witnessed both intimate and momentous events at the court of Emperor Akbar (ruled 1556–1605) in Mughal India (present-day Pakistan and India).
Through his writings, Abu’l Fazl, the imperial chief secretary, presented an enduring image of Akbar’s court as a multicultural community engaged with different religious, artistic and intellectual traditions.  

Abu’l Fazl was among the most distinguished scholars of his day. He came from a family of learned men, and under his father’s guidance he studied religious sciences, Greek philosophy and mysticism by the time he was 15 years old. Abu’l Fazl was 23 when he came to Akbar’s court through an introduction by his brother, the poet Fayzi, who was employed there. Abu’l Fazl’s intellectual vigor, humanitarian values and liberal religious sentiments resonated with Akbar. The scholar remained in the emperor’s service — as advisor, chief secretary, ambassador, court historian, translator and trusted friend — until his death at the age of 51. Abu’l Fazl’s intellectual vigor and liberal religious sentiments resonated with Akbar. Yet his influence over the emperor and imperial policies threatened many, including the future emperor Jahangir.

Abu’l Fazl’s major achievement was writing a three-volume history of Akbar’s reign, the Akbarnama (History of Akbar), which includes an immense amount of information about the emperor’s achievements, events past and present, people who came and went, and much more. The Akbarnama remains a key resource even today, achieving a court historian’s goal of remaining alive for posterity.