Birthday: December 17, 1556
Died At Age: 70
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Also Known As: Khanzada Mirza Khan Abdul Rahim Khan-e-Khana, Rahim, Abdul Rahim Khan-e-Khana
Born Country: India
Born in: Delhi, Mughal empire
Famous as: Poet
Spouse/Ex-: Mah Banu Begum
father: Bairam Khan
mother: Sultana Begum
children: Jana Begum
Died on: October 1, 1627
place of death: Agra, Mughal empire
Abdul Rahim Khan-I-Khana was an Indian poet who lived and worked during the rule of Mughal emperor Akbar. A key part of the nine important ministers in Akbar’s royal court, he was the son of Akbar’s guardian and mentor, Bairam Khan. Bairam Khan was a Turkic warrior who worked as a close aide to Humayun and married the daughter of Khanzada Jamal Khan of Mewat. Following Bairam Khan’s demise, Abdul Khan, his son, was brought to Akbar’s court and was given the title of “Mirza Khan.” Abdul was interested in poetry ever since he was young and was a devotee of the Hindu God Lord Krishna, despite being a Muslim. Most of his poems were dedicated to Krishna. He was also a great philanthropist, who donated ample food and money to the poor. He also never gazed at the people he gave alms to. Akbar was known as a secular ruler who never discriminated on the basis of religion, and Abdul Rahim shared the same views. Other than writing many “dohas,” Abdul Rahim was also known for translating Emperor Babur’s biography, titled ‘Baburnama,’ from Chagatai to Persian. He also wrote in Sanskrit, and over the years, he earned massive respect as one of the greatest Indian poets from the medieval era. He passed away at the age of 70, on October 1, 1627.
Childhood & Early Life
Abdul Rahim Khan-I-Khana was born on December 17, 1556, in Delhi, Mughal Empire, to Bairam Khan and his first wife, Sultana Begum. His father was one of the closest aides and military generals of Emperor Akbar and also served as his mentor. His mother was a noblewoman from Mewat in Nuh district (part of modern-day Haryana). Bairam Khan was a Turkic noble, while his wife was from an Indian family that had converted to Islam earlier.
Bairam Khan was murdered in Patan, Gujrat, following which Abdul Rahim and his mother were invited to Ahmedabad. They were in Delhi back then, to ensure their own security. They were soon invited by Emperor Akbar to the royal court.
Akbar treated Abdul as he did his father, Bairam Khan, and gave him utmost respect and the title of “Mirza Khan.” However, in another turn of events, Abdul also became Akbar’s stepson, when Akbar married Bairam Khan’s second wife, Salima Sultan Begum.
Akbar also included Abdul in the team of his nine key ministers, known as the “Navratnas.” Among them, there were poets, military generals, intellectuals, and both Hindu and Muslim nobles.
Ever since the beginning of his rule, Akbar was a secular emperor, as he wanted India to be an inclusive society. Abdul Rahim adopted the same ideology and began studying writings of both Hinduism and Islam. He was interested in poetry ever since he was young. Upon growing up, he became one of the most prominent poets of his time.
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Major Works & Career
Emperor Akbar also made him a military commander and gave him 5,000 men to command. He lived in the time of Ameer Khusro, another poet who went on to become much more popular than Abdul Rahim. He was well-read and was also appointed as a tutor to Akbar’s son, Salim.
Apart from Persian, Abdul Rahim also had a strong command over the ancient Indian language Sanskrit, and he wrote many of his “dohas” in the language.
Apart from this, he was also known for translating ‘Baburnama’ from Chagatai to Persian language. It was the biography of the founder of the Mughal Empire in India, Babur, who also happened to be Akbar’s grandfather. His translation of ‘Baburnama’ is known to be a great piece of writing even to this day.
He also studied the ancient Indian scriptures and astrology in deep and managed to compile two books on astrology in the Sanskrit language, titled ‘Khetakautukam’ and ‘Dwatrimshadyogavali.’ This was a great example of his secular ethics and values.
In addition to this, he was also known for being an ardent devotee of the Hindu God Krishna. In one incident, his womenfolk were captured by Maharana Pratap but were safely returned to him. This gave him a push to understand the Hindu culture better. This also led him to become a devotee of Lord Krishna, for whom he wrote many great “dohas” and poems.
When writing about Krishna, he wrote mostly in the Hindi language. It was a time when the Hindu and Islamic cultures had mingled to form a combined art, form, and Abdul Rahim excelled in that. There were two schools of devotional thoughts: “Nirgun” and “Sagun.” Abdul Rahim excelled in “Sagun,” which claimed that Lord Krishna was a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu.
His writings were also inspired by ancient Hindu epics such as the ‘Ramayana,’ the ‘Bhagavad Gita,’ and the ‘Mahabharata.’
Abdul Rahim married Mah Banu, the daughter of Ataga Khan, another important nobleman in the Mughal court. Abdul Rahim’s daughter, Jana Begum, was known to be a scholar and noblewoman in the Mughal court.
Despite Abdul Rahim Khan-I-Khana being one of the most prominent ministers in Akbar’s court, he was never quite respected by Akbar’s son, Jehangir. His closeness to Akbar and the massive respect that he had gained among the Mughal nobles made Jehangir perceive him as a threat. Hence, he was always treated shabbily by Jehangir.
In one infamous instance, Jehangir ordered the murder of two of Abdul Rahim’s sons at the ‘Khooni Darwaza’ in Delhi. They were accused of being traitors to the throne, which led Jehangir to acquire the permission to kill them. However, the real reason was believed to be the fact that Abdul Rahim’s sons were not in favor of Jehangir being the rightful heir to the throne following the death of Emperor Akbar.
Mirza Raja Man Singh and Mirza Aziz Kokaltash, two of the Mughal court’s nobles, also conspired with Jehangir. The dead bodies of the sons of Abdul Rahim were left to rot at the place where they were murdered and were eaten by birds.
Following the death of Akbar and Jehangir’s accession to the throne, Abdul Rahim began serving Jehangir and continued to do so for the next 21 years. Over the years, he became one of the most prominent personalities in the entire Mughal era.
He also had a unique way of doing charity. He was a kind man who often fed poor people and donated a lot of money. However, one interesting feature about his way of giving away alms, as mentioned by Tulsidas, was that he never quite looked into the eyes of the people he helped.
Personal Life & Death
Abdul Rahim Khan-I-Khana’s wife passed away in 1598, and he built a tomb for her near ‘Humayun’s Tomb’ on Mathura Road, near Nizamuddin East in New Delhi. He passed away in Agra, on October 1, 1627. His body was placed in the tomb that he had built for his wife. The tomb, located near the ‘Dargah of Nizamuddin Auliya,’ is currently a major tourist attraction.
The marble and sandstone used to build this tomb became so famous that the same material was used to build ‘Safdarjung’s Tomb’ located in New Delhi.
In 2014, ‘InterGlobe Foundation’ joined hands with the ‘Aga Khan Trust for Culture’ to preserve the tomb of Abdul Rahim.