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

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

Medieval India: The 14th Century: Firuz Shah Tughluq

  • After death of Muhammad bin Tughlaq in 1351, Firoz Tughluq (a cousin of Muhammad Tughlaq) had the unique distinction of being chosen as sultan by the nobles.
  • His nature of kingship:
    • 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.
      • Irrigation, marriage bureau, employment bureau, promoted public work, Education- establishment of Madrasa and Hospital etc.
      • He created new department called Diwan-i-Khairat, to take care of orphans and widows.
    • He patronized scholars like Barani and Afif.
    • 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.
    • Linked state and religion. He proclaimed to rule on the basis of Islam. He appeased Ulemmas, he abolished many taxes which were un-islamic. He imposed Jaziya on Brahmans.
      • As he was guided by the Ulemas, he was intolerant towards Shia Muslims and Sufis.
      • In this respect he was the precursor of Sikandar Lodi and Aurangazeb.
    • He followed appeasement approach toward Nobles, Muqtis and made Iqta hereditary.
    • He maintained link with caliph by using caliph name of coins and in khutba.
  • Military Expeditions: He did 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.
    • 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 was unable to storm the fort. 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.
    • The purpose of the Orissa 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.
      • 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.
    • His Nagarkot Campaign also led to negotiation and didn’t add any territory. Similar was the case with Thatta campaign.
  • 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.
  • Firuz as an orthodox:
    • Firuz mentions his orthodox measures in the Futuhat-e-firozshahi (His 32-page autobiography),
      • 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 shara, 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.
  • Administrative reforms: 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 was keen to conciliate all sections, including the nobility. He wanted a nobility which was stable and cohesive.
    • 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 (Jama) 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. Eighty per cent of the central army were paid by means of grants of villages (wajh).
    • 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 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.

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