That he was a medieval king who, with a progressive bent of mind, dared to look ahead to find that common ground for all his people to stand together. That he was a medieval king who is today tempting us to look back into the past to see our future through his eyes.
Ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government came to power in 2014 with Narendra Modi as the prime minister, an organised campaign began to vilify Emperor Akbar and the Mughals. While there were always voices that tried to project the Mughals as just another 'Islamic empire', ignoring the civilisational impact they had on India, even for them Akbar was a shining light in an otherwise era of darkness. Those talking in terms of easy binaries always found a 'good Muslim' in Akbar and a 'bad Muslim' in Aurangzeb.
Academics and other liberals who could have countered this incorrect portrayal did not do it, dismissing such claims as mere screeches by the fringe that do not deserve any attention. But with the Hindu Right assuming political power, the fringe today has become the mainstream. And Akbar is no longer the 'good Muslim'.
Why is there such hatred for Akbar, once the most loved king in India? What was the journey like, from being great to not-so-great? And how is this India different from Akbar's Hindustan? Has he become irrelevant in an India where growing Hindu nationalism threatens to alter the nature of the Indian state from a secular republic to a theocracy? Or is Akbar even more relevant today given the backdrop of hate that we all find ourselves in?
Allahu Akbar seeks to find answers to these questions while providing a profile sketch of the emperor, his empire and his times.