Firuz Tughluq: Agrarian measures, achievements in civil engineering and public works, decline of the Sultanate

Firuz Tughluq: Agrarian measures, achievements in civil engineering and public works, decline of the Sultanate

  • The long reign of Firuz Tughlaq (1351-88), a cousin of Muhammad Tughlaq, who succeeded him after he left the army in a state of disarray at Thatta, is a watershed in the history of the Delhi sultanat.
  • Firuz Tughlaq tried to revive the tradition of a state based on benevolence, and the welfare of the people which had been sought to be established by Jalaluddin Khalji, as we have noted earlier.
  • Firuz pursued a policy of conciliation, of trying to win over the sections—nobles, administrators, soldiers, clergymen, peasants etc. which had been alienated by Muhammad bin Tughlaq for one reason or another.
  • After a number of military expeditions, which were not significantly successful, Firuz gave up warfare, and made the state more an instrument of development and welfare.
  • Unfortunately, during the latter part of his reign, Firuz became more and more narrow in his understanding of religion. Lacking a broad philosophical base such as Muhammad Tughlaq had, he interpreted religion in a narrow sense, and indulged in acts of bigotry and oppression, against sections of the Hindus and sometimes the Muslims. This weakened rather than strengthened his concept of a benevolent state.
  • Finally, Firuz undertook a series of administrative reforms which brought him popularity in the immediate context, but weakened the central government in the long run

Firuz’s Concept of Benevolence, and Peoples’ Welfare:

  • Firuz Tughlaq spells out his basic concept of benevolence in the Fatuhat-i-Firuz Shahi, a book which he is supposed to have written. Mentioning that in the past times, much “Muslim” blood had been shed, and varieties of tortures been used which he describes, such as cutting of hands, feet, ears and noses; plucking out the eyes, breaking bones, burning and flaying people alive etc., Firuz goes on to say that he had resolved that during his reign “no Muslim blood shall be shed without just cause or excuse, that there shall be no torture, and that no human beings shall be mutilated.”
  • Firuz’s orders in the matter covered mostly Muslims but also non-Muslims, though Firuz prefaces his orders by saying that as a good Muslim, his concern was to prohibit all practices contrary to the Muslim holy law, the shara. The shara did, of course, sanction cutting off the hands and feet of robbers, and punishment for retaliation for a crime committed against an individual. Perhaps, his orders were restricted to political, and in some cases, financial offences.
  • Firuz says that the purpose of giving drastic punishments in previous times was “to terrorise the people so that fear of the government gripped their hearts and the tasks of government were carried out undisturbed.” Firuz asserts that the fear and prestige of the government did not decline by abrogating drastic punishments.
  • The basic concept of benevolence, that the state was to be based on the willing acceptance of the people, rather than fear or threats of violence, had wider implications, especially in a society where the large majority consisted of non-Muslims.
  • As a part of his policy of conciliation, Firuz publicly destroyed the documents on the basis of which advance of money amounting to two crore tankas had been made to officials by Muhammad bin Tughlaq in order to expand and improve cultivation in the doab, but most of which had been misappropriated.
  • In a somewhat childish manner, Firuz Tughlaq asked those who had been punished by Muhammad bin Tughlaq by their eyes, noses, hands and feet being cut off, to write letters of good-will which were put in a box and deposited at the head of Muhammad bin Tughlaq’s tomb.
  • Likewise, no large scale punishments were given to those who had joined Ahmad Ayaz, the favourite of Muhammad bin Tughlaq, in putting up a rival prince on the throne at Delhi while Firuz was at Thatta. If Firuz had his way, he would have excused even Ahmad Ayaz, but his leading supporters would not permit it. However, no attempt was made to recover the jewels and gold which Ahmad Ayaz had distributed to gather a following—a practice which was in sharp contrast to what Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq had done at the time of his accession, adopting harsh methods to disgorge funds from those who had benefitted from the liberality of Khusrau Malik.
  • Another step taken by Firuz Tughlaq was to restore the rent-free lands (inam, idrar) granted to theologians, the learned and the weaker sections but which had been resumed by the previous rulers and included in the royal crown-lands (khalisa). These grants were, in fact, increased. 
  • It was due to these mild methods that in the exaggerated language of Barani, “the administration became stable, all the tasks of government became firm, and all men, high and low, were satisfied, and the subjects, Muslims and Hindus, made content, and everyone busied himself in his own pursuits.”
  • All contemporary writers refer to the general prosperity in Firuz Shah’s long reign of 40 (lunar years), and the cheapness of commodities. Shams Siraj Afif, the biographer of Firuz, says that while food grains were cheap during the reign of Alauddin due to his strict regulations, there was all round cheapness in Firuz Shah’s reign without any effort on his part. This prosperity was, according to him, shared by everyone, including traders and artisans, because production and wages increased from year to year.
  • Referring obviously to previous practices, regulations had been made that “brocades, silks and goods required for the royal establishments were to be purchased at the market price, and the money paid.” Afif says that all homes were replete with grains, property, horses and furniture, and no women was without her ornaments.
  • Regarding the peasants or the raiyat, Afif says that previously “it was the practice to leave the raiyat one cow and take the rest.” Firuz tried to rectify this situation by abolishing all taxes not sanctioned by the shara, and by preparing a new valuation (jama) which was based on produce, not measurement.
  • Firuz Shah’s benevolent and humanitarian efforts extended to repairing and rehabilitating the mosques and the madrasas attached to them. The grants (idrar) of the teachers were raised. Likewise, the students who earlier did not receive even 10 tankas as stipends, were given grants of 100 or 200 or 300 tankas.
  • Similarly, many sufi khanqahs which had been repaired were rehabilitated and villages assigned for their upkeep.
  • Grants were also made to the old men and women, widows, orphans and the physically handicapped.
  • An attempt was made to set up a kind of an unemployment bureau for the unemployed, and to provide state help for the marriage of girls of respectable families.
  • These measures were largely meant to benefit Muslims, especially those among them who were living at or near Delhi.
  • A reform which was of more general benefit was Firuz Tughlaq’s setting up a hospital (dar-us-shafa) at Delhi for free treatment for all. Although Delhi had a number of hospitals from the time of Muhammad bin Tughlaq, the extension of state patronage to hospitals must be considered a positive factor.
  • In the medieval context where warfare and violence were almost the norm, the emphasis on the principle of benevolence, even though with limitations, was a valuable contribution for which Firuz must be given credit.

Military Expeditions of Firuz and the Impact of their limited success

  • When Firuz Tughlaq ascended the throne at Thatta in 1351, the Sultanat was faced with a crisis. The southern states, which had been brought within the ambit of the Sultanat by Ghiyasuddin and Muhammad bin Tughlaq, had fallen away, followed by the loss of Daultabad. There were rebellions in Gujarat and Sindh. Bengal, too, had once again asserted its independence.
  • Neither by temperament nor by training was Firuz Tughlaq cut out to be a great warrior or military leader. He did, however, lead two campaigns to Bengal, raided Orissa and Nagarkot, and led a campaign into lower Sindh. None of them added to the territories of the Delhi sultanat. At the same time, nor did the territories of the Delhi sultanat diminish further. (

Bengal Campaigns

  • The two Bengal campaign of 1353-54 and 1359-60 were aimed at recovering Bengal which had declared independence of Delhi. On both occasion, Firuz led a large army which was joined by local rais, such as the powerful rais of Gorakhpur and Champaran.
  • On both occasions, the Bengal sovereigns, Haji llyas during the first expedition, and his son, Sikandar, during the second, retreated, taking shelter at Ikdala which was a strong fort surrounded by a broad moat linked by a canal to a river nearly. On both occasion, Firuz was unable to storm the fort. 
  • Considering the fort to be impregnable, and unwilling to wait outside it any longer in view of the approaching monsoon which would have made all roads impassable and the climate, unhealthy Firuz opened negotiations for peace. After exchange of costly presents, status quo and a policy of mutual peace was agreed upon. 
  • Afif’s story that Firuz refused to attack the fort because it would lead to further bloodshed, and the dishonouring of Muslim women was, perhaps, the official explanation put out.

Jajnagar (Orissa) Campaign:

  • On his way back from Bengal during the second expedition, Firuz halted at Jaunpur, and from there marched on Orissa. The purpose of the expedition was to reassert Delhi’s overlordship over the region which had been subjugated following the expedition of Prince Muhammad bin Tughlaq, during the reign of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq. The ruler had also withheld tribute when Bengal asserted its independence from Delhi. Worse, he had sided with the ruler of Bengal in his conflict with Delhi.
  • Firuz’s march became almost a pleasure hunt because the Orissa ruler avoided conflict. Ultimately, a truce was patched up, with the Orissa ruler agreeing to pay regular tribute including a certain number of elephants which were highly valued by Firuz. 
  • The return journey was uneventful, except that Afif tells us that Firuz wandered about, lost in the jungles for six months before returning.

Nagarkot Campaign

  • After a stay of four years at Delhi, Firuz decided to undertake a campaign against Nagarkot in Kangra which was reputed to be one of the strongest forts in the country. Perhaps, it was also considered to be an occasion to compensate for the hardly successful campaigns in Bengal. At first, Firuz had decided to move against Daultabad, and moved upto Bayana for the purpose. But wiser counsel had prevailed. The Rai of Nagarkot retreated, and shut himself in the fort which was besieged by the invading forces. The countryside was, as usual, put up to plunder. 
  • After six month of siege, the two sides entered into negotiations. The Rai made a personal submission, and Firuz placed his hand on the shoulder of the Rai, bestowed on him robes of honour and a chatr, and sent him back, laden with presents. In return, the Rai accepted the Sultan’s overlordship as before, and sent many offerings and horses of priceless worth.
  • There is no reference to the destruction of any temples during this expedition. In fact, Afif mentions that Firuz visited the Jwalamukhi temple which was on the way to Nagarkot, but he indignantly refutes the rumour “put out by some Hindus that during the visit he (Firuz) held a golden umbrella over the idol (in fact, the flame).” 

Thatta Compaign

  • The last campaign in which Firuz spent two-and-a-half years was a campaign against Thatta in lower Sindh to punish its local rulers, called Jam and Bahbina. The governor of Multan had many complaints against them—hardly sufficient for Firuz himself undertaking to punish them. Perhaps, the campaign was concerned with the recurrence of Mongol activities. The previous year, a Mongol army had reached upto Dipalpur, but retreated on the arrival of armies from Delhi. Jam and Bahbina were suspected to be in close touch with the Mongols. Firuz must apparently have feared that Mongol control over lower Sindh would endanger Punjab, and also disrupt the trade down the river Indus. (
  • Some modern historians have dubbed the Thatta campaign as the most mismanaged campaign. Firuz Shah marched with an army which was supported by a flotilla of 5000 boats, itself an index of the amount of river trade along the Indus. Arrived at Thatta, Firuz encountered stiff resistance which he had not expected. Meanwhile, three-fourths of the horses died due to an epidemic, and there was acute shortage of food in his camp.
  • With defeat staring him in the face, Firuz retreated to Gujarat, but lost his way in the Rann of Kutch due to the treachery of his guides. After great sufferings, the army reached Ahmedabad. Two crores were taken out of the treasury to re-equip the army, but many soldiers took advantage of the situation to return to Delhi. Firuz considered it counter-productive to try to stop them. But when he returned to Thatta with his reduced forces, he was unable to capture the two parts of the city which were situated on opposite sides of a broad river. Hence, he asked the wazir, Khan-i-Jahan, to send reinforcements. It was only after their arrival that Jam and Bahbina entered into negotiations and submitted. They were treated with honour, and taken with Firuz to Delhi. In their place, lower Sindh was assigned to a son of the Jam, and to Tamachi, the brother of Bahbina.

No More Compaign

  • After his return from Thatta, Firuz decided not to lead any further campaigns, but to devote himself to peace. A last effort was made when Firuz announced his decision to invade Daultabad, but he allowed Khan-i-Jahan to “dissuade” him from an enterprise which would lead to shedding of further Muslim blood.
  • Firuz’s love of peace, and his reluctance to shed Muslim blood have little to do with the limited success of his various military expeditions, and show his incompetence as a leader. 
  • However, these failures themselves became a blessing in disguise. Deterred from undertaking any more military adventures, he now presided over a state which was territorially more cohesive and manageable. Even in its reduced size, it was by no means small, consisting more or less of the territories bequeathed by Alauddin Khalji at the time of his death (but excluding Daultabad annexed during the last few years of his reign). 
  • Firuz was lucky that unlike the previous rulers, he did not have to face recurrent Mongol attacks on his territories. Thus, Firuz was able to concentrate on the tasks of consolidation and development which brought an unprecedented level of prosperity, at least to the central areas of his empire.

Reorganisation of the Nobility and the Administration

  • Firuz was keen to conciliate all sections, including the nobility. He wanted a nobility which was stable and cohesive. There had been a lot of instability in the nobility since the death of Iltutmish, successive rulers trying to constitute a new nobility loyal to them. The efforts of Jalaludain Khalji and Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq to take a kinder attitude towards the earlier nobility had been frustrated.
  • Firuz Tughlaq tried to cherish the nobility which had remained loyal to Muhammad bin Tughlaq. Thus, he appointed Khan-i-Jahan Maqbul who had been trained by Muhammad bin Tughlaq as the wazir, and left much of the work of the administration to him. Other senior nobles, such as Tatar Khan, were also honoured.
  • Unlike Muhammad bin Tughlaq, Firuz had no special fondness for foreigners. He made this clear at the outset when many foreigners from Herat, Sistan, Aden, Egypt etc. had been camping at Thatta, waiting to hear from Muhammad bin Tughlaq offering them employment, or asking them to meet him. They were given travelling money by Firuz, and asked to go back. 
  • At the same time, Firuz did not try to induct into the nobility men from the lower classes, either Muslims and Hindus, whom Barani had denounced as “mean and ignoble.”
  • Firuz awarded extremely high salaries to the nobles. These salaries were given in terms of grants of iqtas.Right at the beginning of his reign, Firuz had a new valuation (lama) of the income from the lands made. This jama was not revised during the rest of his reign. The nobles, therefore, were the beneficiaries of any extension and improvement of cultivation which took place in their holdings during the period. (
  • Finally, Firuz tried to give to his nobility a hereditary character. In his Fatuhat, Firuz says, “When a person holding an office died, I transferred his office and his dignities to his son, and the status, perquisites and dignities of the office were not reduced in any way.” Some examples of the application of this law of heredity, the most notable example being that of Khan-i-Jahan Maqbul whose son, Jauna Khan, succeeded him in his office as wazir after his death in 1368-69. However, this was done when Jauna Khan asserted that Firuz had given a written undertaking, apparently at the time of Khan-i-Jahan’s accession, that the post of wizarat would remain in his family as long as he reigned. Another such case was that of Zafar Khan, governor of Gujarat, who died in 1370-71 and was succeeded in his post and title by his son, Darya Khan. But Darya Khan was ousted from the post soon after. 
  • The rule of heredity was not applied by Firuz to any of the other senior posts. Perhaps, what Firuz implied was that the iqta of any incumbent would not be transferred, but granted to his sons after his death. Such an attempt had recurred whenever there was any weakness in the central government, for it strengthened the position of the nobles vis-a-vis the Sultan.
  • Next to the nobility, the army was the next most important element in the administration. Like the nobility, Firuz wanted to have an army which was drawn from elements which had a tradition of soldiering, and which had a long term stake in the stability of the state. Hence, he ordered that the soldiers of the central army-should be paid not in cash, but by grants of villages (wajh) in the neighbourhood of Delhi and the doab. He thus conceded the demand put forward by the Turkish soldiers and partly conceded by Balban, but sternly rejected by Alauddin Khalji. Eighty per cent of the central army were paid by means of grants of villages (wajh). The rest which included irregular (ghair-wajahi) soldiers were to be paid in cash from the treasury or by assignments on the iqtas held by the nobles.(
  • However, the soldiers could obtain only a part of the grants from the iqtas held by the nobles. In order to emphasize the hereditary and family character of soldiering, Firuz ordered that if an army man died, his village would go permanently to his son; if he had no sun to his son-in-law; if he had no son-in-law, to his slave, and if he had no slave, then permanently to his women. Later, Firuz issued an order that if a soldier became old, he could be deputized by his son, if he had no son by his son-in-law, if he had no son-in-law by his slave. 
  • It is hardly possible to defend these measures. Even then, an attempt to create a corp of families whose profession would be soldiering might have succeeded if Firuz had not undermined the system of dagh or branding of horses to ensure that sub-standard horses were not produced for service. Normally, horses had to be produced for branding within a year. But many soldiers were not able to do so and, at the instance of the deputy muster-master, Firuz granted them an extension of 51 days, and then, another two months. Even this was waived on the ground that the soldier had to go to the village at the instance of the officers to collect their salaries. Adopting a wholly wrong view of generosity, Firuz once even gave a golden tanka to a distraught soldier so that he could bribe the clerk to pass his sub-standard mount before the year ended!
  • In the later part of his reign, Firuz seems to have realised that by his mistaken view of generosity, he had undermined the efficiency of the central army. Hence, he ordered the great iqtadars and officers to capture slaves whenever they were at war, and to pick out and send the best of them for the service of the court. This was extended to chiefs who, according to practice, sent annual presents to the ruler. In this way, 180,000 slaves were collected. While some of them spent their time in reading and in religious studies, and 12,000 of them became artisans of various types and were dispersed into many parganas, a large central corp of slaves was brought together as an armed guard. This was in addition to the central army. A separate muster-master, a separate treasury and a separate diwan was set up for this corp of slaves who consisted mostly of converted Hindus.
  • The efficiency of the corp of slaves was not tested in battle by Firuz, but to the extent that it was a counter to the power of the nobility and the standing army, it created a duality in the administrationand went counter to Firuz’s attempt to provide stability by depending upon a cohesive nobility and an army drawn from a band of military-minded families. It was, therefore, no surprise that conflict between the two erupted even before Firuz closed his eyes.
  • In the field of general administration, Firuz was fortunate in having an able and energetic officer in the person of Khan-i-Jahan Maqbul whom the Sultan used to call ‘brother’, and to whom the Sultan extended full support. He went so far to say that he (Khan-i-Jahan) was the real sultan. On his part, Khan-i-Jahan never exceeded his powers, and kept the sultan fully informed. He was also scrupulously honest. Although he did take presents from the governors of provinces, he entered them in the royal treasury. He was also strict in collecting government dues. His powers, however, were restricted by the Auditor (mustaufi) and by the Accountant-General (mushrif) both of whom had direct access to the Sultan. Sometimes, it led to bitter disputes in which the sultan mediated.
  • Another powerful noble at Firuz’s court was Bashir Sultani, the Ariz-i-Malik (Muster-Master). He had been a slave of Firuz and accumulated a lot of money by dishonest means. Khan-i-Jahan shielded him for his corrupt practices. When Bashir died, he left 13 crores. Firuz confiscated nine crores on the ground that Bashir had been his slave, and distributed the rest among his sons.
  • The tasks of administration were continued with reasonable efficiency after the death of Khan-i-Jahan by his son, Jauna Shah, or Khan-i-Jahan II. But Khan-i-Jahan II was ambitious, and tried to build a party of his own supporters while the powers of Firuz gradually declined with advancing age. This was another cause of conflict after the death of Firuz.

Developmental Activities—Agrarian & Urban

  • Firuz Tughlaq carried forward the traditions of Muhammad bin Tughlaq in the field of agricultural development. At the outset of his reign, he appointed Khwaja Hisamuddin Junaid to settle the revenues afresh. The Khwaja toured the country for six years with a team of officials, and made a new valuation (jama). The amount, six crores and seventy-five lakhs tankas, was fixed on the basis of “inspection”, i.e., rough estimation, and was not altered during the rest of Firuz Tughlaq’s reign. Although the standard share to be paid by the cultivator is nowhere stated, the basis of assessment was not measurement but sharing. This meant that the benefit of any growth (or decline) would be shared by the peasant and the State.
  • Since the bulk of the land-revenue had been granted to the nobles as iqta, they were likely to be the principal beneficiaries of any development. This is exactly what happened.
  • In between his Bengal campaigns, Firuz founded the city of Hissar-Firuza (modern Hissar), and decided to dig two canals to bring water to the city from the Sutlaj and the Jamuna. These canals joined together near Karnal and provided plenty of water to the city of Hissar. Now the peasants could cultivate two crops, the spring (kharif) and winter (rabi). This canal which had become choked up, was repaired by Akbar. Later, in the time of Shah Jahan, it was extended upto Delhi. In the 19th century, the British repaired and extended it, and it became the basis of the Western Jamuna Canal.
  • In Firuz’s time, the entire tract of land along the canal was irrigated, and led to the expansion of cultivation in the old villages, and new villages came up.
  • Other canals were also dug by Firuz. Most of these canals were in the present Haryana area. One canal also carried water to the city of Ferozpur— south of Delhi founded by Firuz. Afif says that the entire areas from the river Sutlej to Koil (modern Aligarh) became fully cultivated.
  • An effort was also made to improve the cropping pattern in the area so that wheat and sugar-cane began to be cultivated in place of inferior crops.
  • It was perhaps the prosperity of this area, and the resulting affluence of the nobility, which is reflected in the writings of Barani and Afif. Of course, other sections, such as the peasants, the artisans, and traders of the area also benefited. But in places distant from Delhi, such as Sindh grain-prices were unstable and wages of the artisans extremely high. We have no information of the situation prevailing in other areas.
  • Firuz also benefited from the agrarian prosperity of this region. He brought together a set of learned men and mullahs who decreed that for his pains of digging the canals and bringing water, the sultan was entitled to an extra charge of 10 per cent or haqq-i-sharb. This was levied from the old villages where cultivation had grown, and was a part of the personal income (khalisa) of the sultan. The normal land-revenue of the new villages was also part of the sultan’s personal income. This was distributed by the sultan in charity to the religious divines and learned people.
  • Besides canals, Firuz also built many dams (bunds) for purposes of irrigation. 
  • He was also very fond of planting orchards, and is supposed to have planted 1200 gardens around Delhi, after paying the price to those in whose property or tax-free (inam) lands they lay. The gardens included 30 which had been commenced by Alauddin. Most of the orchards grew black and white grapes and also dry fruits, and that the sultan’s income from these was 180,000 tankas.
  • In the latter years of his reign, Firuz tried to bring the agricultural taxation system in line with the sharaThus, he abolished all the taxes not sanctioned by the shara. Twenty-one such taxes which were abolished have been listed by contemporaries. These included the ghari (house tax) of which we hear during the time of Alauddin. Many others were cesses on produce payable at the market. It is difficult to say how far the abolition of these taxes benefited the peasants, or how effective the abolition was, because many of them had to be abolished by Akbar, and again by Aurangzeb!
  • As part of his policy of levying only taxes sanctioned by shara, Firuz insisted upon payment of jizyah by the non-Muslims. Although jizyah was levied by the earlier rulers, it was treated as a part of the land-tax (kharaj), and was indistinguishable from it. Firuz was the first ruler who collected jizyah as a separate tax apart from land-revenue. To some extent, it replaced ghari or house tax which was also a tax on individuals.
  • Firuz built a number of towns around Delhi, two of them, Hissar-Feroza and Ferozpur having been mentioned earlier. He founded Fatehabad. He also built or renovated Jaunpur in East UP, and built a new capital, Ferozabad, along the Jamuna. Only the fort, now called Kotla Feroz Shah, has survived from this town.

    Remains of  Kotla Feroz Shah
  • The eastern part of this town extended up to the Ridge, the town itself being five kos or ten miles, including some parts of what later became Shahjahanabad, or the present Old Delhi.
  • The many towns which Firuz built reflected a felt need. They reflected the agricultural development of the area which needed new towns (qasbas) as their grain-markets. The new towns also became centres of trade and handicrafts, some of the 12,000 slaves trained as artisans being posted in these towns.
  • Thus, Firuz’s concept of development, both agricultural and urban, was strikingly modern.

Firuz as a builder

  • Firuz was also a great builder. He set up a public works department which repaired many old buildings and mausoleums. Thus, he repaired the Qutb Minar a storey of which had been destroyed by lightening, and restored the Mosque and the tombs of Iltutmish and Alauddin near it.
  • He also repaired the Shamsi Tank (south of Qutb Minar), and the Hauz-i-Alai (present Hauz Khas), the water-channel to which had been choked.
  • Firuz Tughlaq also had two Ashokan pillars transported from Meerut and Topra (Haryana), installing one of them at the Kotla at Firozabad, and another at a hunting lodge on the Ridge. 
  • He also built many inns for the use of the travellers.

Firuz as an orthodox

  • Firuz mentions his orthodox measures in the Fatuhat, but does not mention having forbidden wine bibbling. Interestingly, Afif lists the wine department as one of the departments (karkhanas) of the state. Firuz was also fond of music and songs to which he listened during the festivals of the two Ids and after the Friday prayers—a practice which he continued till the end of his reign. He also celebrated Shab Barat with great pomp. These were practices which were banned as being anti-Islamic by Aurangzeb later on.
  • However, as Firuz grew older, he became narrower, even bigoted in his religious approach. Although he was reputed to be a disciple of the liberal sufi saint, Fariduddin Ganj Shakar of Ajodhan, the warrior saint Salar Masud Ghazi appeared to him in a dream when the Sultan visited his tomb at Bahraich in 1374-75. Much moved, the Sultan had his head shaved as a mark of submission to him. Many nobles followed suit. Thereafter, the Sultan decided to forbid all practices which were against the shara, banned all taxes not sanctioned by sham, and warned the revenue officials not to realise any such taxes. He also ordered all paintings with human figures erased from his palace, and forbade the use of gold and silver vessels for dinner. He also banned clothes of pure silk or pure brocade, or where human figures had been painted.
  • One of the worst instance of bigotry on the part of Firuz at this time was that he publicly burnt a brahman on the charge that he openly conducted idol-worship at his house in which both Hindus and Muslims participated, and that he had converted a Muslim woman. He also insisted on collecting jizya from the brahmans who had been exempted from this tax till then. He refused to relent even though the brahmans from the four cities of Delhi went on hunger strike. Finally, the Hindus of the city agreed to pay themselves the brahmans’ share of the jizyah.
  • In the Fatuhat, Firuz says that while the Hindus who paid jizyah were protected people, and their property was safeguarded as also freedom of worship, they had started to build new temples which was against the shara. He had such temples razed. He includes in this a temple in village Malwa near Delhi on the ground that the Hindus had built a hauz (tank) where a festival was held to which Hindu men and women and even Muslims used to go. Similarly, he destroyed new temples built in the villages of Salehpur and qasba Gohana.
  • In his eagerness to serve the shara, Firuz inflicted death penalty on the leaders of the Ismaili group of Shias. He also inflicted a similar punishment on a number of Muslims who in a sufistic manner, had gone against the orthodox beliefs. In his orthodoxy, he even banned Muslim women going to the tomb of saints outside Delhi, as it would expose them to licentious people.
  • There is, however, no evidence to show that despite individual acts of intolerance, Firuz went against the concept of broad religious freedom granted to the dhimmis or Hindu subjects. Nor can the age of Firuz be considered one of growing intolerance. In fact, this was the age when the largest number of Sanskrit works on music, medicine etc. were translated into Persian. Hindu chiefs were treated with respect by Firuz, and three of them were even allowed to sit on the floor in his Court, which was considered a rare honour.
  • Nevertheless, Firuz’s occasional acts of intolerance, and the importance given by him to theologians and men of religion, to the exclusion of others, tended to strengthen the position of the orthodox ulemas, and to that extent, weaken the concept of a benevolent policy based on peoples’ welfare and broad religious freedom.
  • Firuz also reversed the trend towards a composite ruling class, consisting of Muslims and Hindus, a trend which had been started by Muhammad bin Tughlaq. This was resumed in a cautious manner by the Lodis, but was resumed in a real sense only with the coming of Akbar.

Disintegration of the Delhi Sultanat—Its causes:

  • Even before Firuz Tughlaq closed his eyes, the Sultanat of Delhi began to disintegrate. First there was a struggle for power between Prince Muhammad, the eldest surviving son of Firuz, and the wazir Khan-i-Jahan II. Prince Muhammad managed to win over Firuz to his side, and ousted Khan-i-Jahan. He was given all the paraphenalia of royalty by Firuz, and made joint sovereign. However, this was not to the liking of the slaves of Firuz, who numbered almost 100,000. In the struggle that followed, Firuz foolishly sided with the slaves, and Prince Muhammad was ousted.
  • Soon, Firuz died (1388), and a struggle for the Crown began between his sons and grand-sons. The corp of slaves tried to play the king-maker but failed, and were defeated and dispersed. 
  • A number of princes sat on the throne for a brief time till Nasiruddin Mahmud succeeded in 1394. He managed to remain on the throne till the Tughlaq dynasty was displaced in 1412.
  • Meanwhile, provincial governors had begun to assert their independence, the first to do so being the governor of Gujarat. The Khokhars of the Punjab followed suit, followed by Malwa and Khandesh.
  • Soon after, Khwaja-i-Jahan, the wazir of Nasiruddin Mahmud, got the privilege of governing all districts from Kannauj to Bihar. Thus was the kingdom of Jaunpur born. During this time, various Hindu chiefs had started withholding land-revenue.
  • The disintegration of the Delhi sultanat was completed by Timur who sacked Delhi and the neighbouring areas in 1398-99. Although Timur’s son had conquered Uchch and Dipalpur in 1396-97, and besieged Multan, no effort had been made by the rulers of Delhi to meet this threat, or resist the invasion of Timur. Timur not only spread death and destruction at Delhi and its neighbourhood, but, according to his usual practice, carried away a large number of slaves including Indian stone-cutters and masons etc, to beautify his buildings at Samarqand. He also annexed the districts of Lahore, Dipalpur, and Multan to his kingdom. This provided a basis for Babar’s claim later on. Apart from this, Timur’s invasion had little political consequences.

Why Delhi sultanat disintegrated?

  • No individual sultan can be held responsible for the downfall of the Delhi sultanat. Regional factors of disintegration were strong in medieval India. There were also numerous powerful chiefs who either had a clan-following of their own, or had strong links with particular areas. They were always ready to rebel when they found any weakness in the Central government. The Turkish sultans tried to counter these elements of disintegration first by collecting a corp of slaves, and creating a nobility completely dependent on the sultan. The main instrument of this devise was the iqta system. However, the sultans found it difficult to control the powerful and ambitious nobles even among this limited group, many of whom wanted to carve out their own independent spheres of authority. Thus, it was always difficult to control governors of distant places such as Bengal, Sindh, Gujarat, Daultabad etc.
  • Attempts of successive sultans to have a nobility based on racial antecedents (Balban), or personal loyalty checked by spies (Alauddin Khalji) or a dispersed nobility (Mahmud bin Tughlaq) failed. Hence, it is no surprise that Firuz’s attempt to build a small nobility based to a large extent on the principle of heredity also failed.
  • In this situation, religion was hardly of help because the main conflict, once the Sultanat had been established, was not between Hindus and Muslims, but between Muslims and Muslims. The slogan of religion was, however, used to justify the plunder of the Hindu rajas, and of the peasantry as a whole.
  • The recruitment of the army also created a problem. Once the sultans of Delhi had been cut off from West and Central Asia, they could no longer hope to recruit Turkish and other soldiers from that area. They had, therefore, to fall upon

 (a) Afghans many of whom had settled in India; 
 (b) descendants of Turkish soldiers who had come mainly at the time of occupation
 (c) Mongols and Muslims converts; and 
 (d) Hindus belonging to the martial communities (Rajputs, Jats etc.)

  • Each of these sections had their own problems. Firuz tried to give preference to the descendants of Turks and Mongols by giving them a hereditary character. He also recruited converted Muslims in his corp of slaves. Neither proved a success. The hereditary soldiers proved inefficient, and the corp of slaves selfish and disloyal. Each of these groups were also antagonistic to each other.
  • Another problem facing the sultans was that of succession. Even when the nobles were willing to accept that the successor to a successful ruler should be drawn from his progeny, there was no rule whereby the eldest son could succeed. This led to struggles for succession in which ambitious nobles found an opportunity to further their own interests.


Q. ‘Firuz Tughlaq’s policy and administrative measures contributed to a large extent to the downfall of the delhi sultanat’. Examine this statement.

Q. Firuz Tughlaq has figured in history as an ideal Muslim ruler, but a closer examination of his Character and policy leads to a different conclusion. Discuss.

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