Akbar Prays for a Son

Akbar was so sad that he had not been blessed with a son and heir. He began to despair of the future of the Moghul Empire. He knew that a Sufi saint named Sheikh Salim Chishti lived in some rocks near the village of Sikri, a distance of some twenty miles from Agra. Akbar decided to go to this saint and ask him for a boon.

On the chosen day, Akbar dressed very simply and walked with bare feet all the way to Sikri. He approached the saint and said, “O saint, please grant me a boon. I have brought peace to this vast empire, but I lack one thing: I am childless. Allah has not blessed me with a son. I have made many pilgrimages to holy shrines, I have prayed most sincerely but, alas, my prayers have been denied. You are an ascetic, a saint. I am sure that if you pray to Allah on my behalf, He will definitely listen to you.”

The saint replied, “O Emperor, be patient. Allah will definitely grant you your heart’s desire. Not one, but three sons will soon be born to you.”

Akbar returned to the palace with great joy and in a short time he came to learn that his Hindu wife, the daughter of the Rajah of Amber, was with child. Akbar sent her to stay with the saint until the child was born. In August 1569 a boy was born and Akbar gave him the name Salim after the saint. The following year, his son Murad was born and later his son Daniyal.

In gratitude to the saint who made the happy prophecy, Akbar decided to leave Agra and move his court to Fatehpur Sikri, meaning ‘the City of Victory’. In 1571 he undertook the construction of a new capital which was a synthesis of Muslim and Hindu styles of architecture. Akbar personally supervised the throngs of builders, stone-carvers and other workmen. At times he even quarried the red sandstone himself. The barren land was transformed by palaces, pavilions, gardens and ornamental pools of water.

Upon the great portal of the mosque, Akbar had an immortal utterance of the Christ inscribed:

“So said Jesus upon whom be peace: The world is a bridge; pass over it, but build no house upon it.”

Akbar lived at Fatehpur Sikri until 1585 when lack of water forced him to abandon it for the more strategic location of Lahore.


from The Moghul Emperors
by Sri Chinmoy