A new era of Muslim rule began with the Mughals from Central Asia in the early 16th century. Beginning with Babar, who founded the empire, followed by Humayun, who fought to keep control of it, and Akbar, under whom the empire rose to its greatest height.
Babar from Central Asia, the great grandson of Timur as well as descendant of the famous Chenghiz Khan, was the founder of the Mughal Empire. After failing to expand his empire in Central Asia, he turned his sights towards the Delhi Sultanate, seeking to restore the land that had belonged to Timur. Daulat Khan, the viceroy of Punjab under Ibrahim Lodhi, invited Babar to conquer India and rid it of the unpopular Lodhi ruler. In 1526 he invaded, meeting the forces of Ibrahim Lodhi, the last head of the Delhi Sultanate, at Panipat. Babar won a complete victory. He went on to defeat the Rajputs in 1527 and Lodhi’s brother in 1529, making him the ruler of northern part of the subcontinent. Babar stayed on to organize the administration of his empire and died shortly after in 1530.
In 1530 Babar was succeeded by his son Humayun, who gave the empire its first distinctive features. Humayun fought two battles against the great Sher Shah Suri, Battle of Chaunsa in 1539 and Battle of Kanauj the following year, and was completely defeated. For 15 years he was in exile until he was able to regain control of the empire, when he took advantage of the discord that followed the death of Sher Shah. However, Humayun was not destined to rule his father’s empire, dying only a year later. In the brief span that he ruled, Humayun codified the administrative regulations put into place by Sher Shah Suri that would be used for years to come in the empire.
Akbar ascended the Mughal throne at the age of 13 and reigned from 1556 to 1605. In the early years he faced two major threats to his throne: the Afghans and Rajputs. Akbar’s greatest victory came when he met the Afghan forces, under the command of Hemu, at the Second Battle of Panipat in 1556. After this victory, Akbar’s forces faced little resistance. Akbar was able to deal with the Rajputs more through diplomacy and marrying a Rajput princess.
During Akbar’s reign the empire tripled in size and wealth. He extended his empire as far to the west as Afghanistan, and as far south as the Godavari River. Akbar is remembered as a tolerant ruler. He won over the Hindus by abolishing the jizya tax and naming them to important military and civil positions. Akbar was also an enlightened ruler. He invited holy men, poets and artisans to his court for discussion and created a library of over 24,000 volumes of works from all over the world.
Bajwa, Farooq N. “The Mughal Empire.” Pakistan: A Historical and Contemporary Look. Revised ed. Karachi: Oxford UP, 2002.