The Macksey Journal


A great deal of history on religion in South Asia tends to dwell on harsh divisions between sects, particularly Islamic and Hindu in defining the relationship between peoples. Even the newer approaches, which reject the Turkish invasion narrative in favor of cooperation and transformation, still view these different faiths as starkly different identities, only tentatively bridged by a Muslim, Sufi mediator. In the Dabestan-e Mazaheb though, a guide to religions written during the age of Akbar, the author hopes to classify and explain the many religions he encountered during his life as a religious leader in Mughal India. In his classification of these faiths, there are some whom he struggles to define as either Hindu or Islamic, instead preferring to call them Sufi-Hindus, and categorizing them under a tentative Hindu label despite these groups self-identity as Muslims. Looking at the different Hindu-Muslim sects discussed, it is possible to present a religious climate, especially among the lower classes that esteemed mutually significant religious acts over any specific identity. In a space where Hindu sects became Sufi sects and vice-versa, a ripe ground is presented for the retention and diffusion of various forms of pious performance, where sainthood, veganism, bhang drinking, Vedic allusion and more can become part of even the most astutely Islamic sects' discourse. With this all it is possible to look at the contrasts between self-description and the labels imposed by the higher class author, presenting an look into the meaning of labels and identities in this time