History Optional Paper-1 Solution – 1985: Q.5 (b)

Q.5 (b) Examine the responsibility of Firuz Tughluq for the fall of his dynasty. [1985, 20m]


Though no individual sultan can be held responsible for the downfall of the Delhi sultanat, some of the responsibilty for the fall of Sultanat lies with Firoz Tughluq:

1. 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 and then power struggle with slaves. Firuz was not able to decide decisively about his succession. 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. These events contributed to the decline of his Sultanat.

2. Religious intolerance of Firoz Tughluq had alienated hindu majority and weakened his kingdom. Dr. Ishwari Prasad has commented, “The reforms of Firoz failed to gain confidence of Hindus whose feelings were embittered by his religious intolerance. Altogether they produced a reaction which proved fatal to the interest of the dynasty which was by no means an unworthy representative.”

3. Ulemas influence on administration also weakened the Sultanat. Dr. U.N. Dey has observed, “His supplication to the ‘Ulemas’ only encouraged a group of unscrupulous selfish people to behave arrogantly and pose themselves as the custodians of Muslim conscience. All these combined to create a situation in which disintegration became inevitable.”

4. System of decentralization of Firoz also caused disintegration. He gave extensive powers to his nobles and officials which ultimately went against the larger interests of the state. According to Sir Woolesely Haig, “His system of decentralisation accelerated the downfall of his dynasty.”

5. Firuz tried to give to his nobility a hereditary character. 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 which became detrimental to the Sultanat.

6. Next to the nobility, the army was the next most important element in the administration and Firuz tried to make it hereditary. In order to emphasize the hereditary and family character of soldiering, 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. The hereditary soldiers proved inefficient which affected the quality of army badly.

8. Firuz had undermined the system of dagh or branding of horses which led to the sub-standard horses being produced for service. Normally, horses had to be produced for branding within a year. But many soldiers were not able to do so and Firuz used to grant them extension. 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.

9. 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. 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.
The corp of slaves was a counter to the power of the nobility and the standing army, it created a duality in the administration, and 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. The corp of slaves were selfish and disloyal.

7. Firoz’s failure as a conqueror show his incompetence as a leader which weakened the Sultanat. 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.

8. 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. This affected economic condition of the Sultanat.

Dr. R.C. Majumdar has correctly remarked, “On the whole, in-spite of peace, prosperity and contentment that prevailed during the long reign of Firoz Shah, no one can possibly doubt that his policy and administrative measures contributed to a large extent to the downfall of the Delhi Sultanate, and accelerated the process of decline that had already set in during his predecessor’s reign.”

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