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Sultan Mohammad Shah Tughlaq (1325-1351 AD)

Sultan Mohammad Shah Tughlaq (1325-1351 AD)

Jauna Khan/Alagh Khan/Fakhr Malik ascended the throne in 1325 AD in Tughlaqabad as Sultan Mohammad Shah Tughlaq after the death of his father who was crushed under the newly-built palace in Afghanpura. After the forty days of the burial of Sultan Tughlaq, Mohammad Shah, the eldest child of Sultan Tuglaq rejoiced his coronation in Delhi and started his regime which lasted for 26 years.

Being an expert of many languages and a poet and writer of Turkish, Arabic, and Persian, Mohammad Shah enjoys an exalted position among the kings and crowns. Knowledge of Mathematics, Astronomy, Philosophy, and Physics made him streets ahead of his contemporaries. Medicine and fine arts at the same time turned him a “versatile genius” as he was rightly called by the historians. Besides these, he had beautiful hand writing and sharp memory along with the knack of oratory and knew how to convince and win the audience.

The historians do not commemorate him in high-quality words and call him a crazy man who has nothing to do with logic. And these historians include the famous names of Badayuni, Farishta, Asami, and even African tourist Ibn Batoota who unanimously declare him mad and round the bend. But the question is that how can a person with expertise in such a large number of domains be mad? How can a man with his expertise in Mathematics, Physics, Astronomy and Philosophy be crazy? Being a man of logics and reason, he disbelieved the hearsays and indoctrinated beliefs of the common people and even kings before him which had been in vogue since long. He was innovative in his nature to devise the new ways away from the conventional practices especially in religion. Innovations in age which was far away from such “blasphemous” acts brought a bad name of the Sultan in the pages of history.

After coming into power, Sultan banned the religious fanatics and Qazis in his court as they, in his opinion, adulterated the basic creeds of the people. He went to the extent of punishing these Mullas (people with strict religious orientation) and made inroads in their monopoly in the society. The religious community which was “trading in religion” and befooling the laymen with their miracles and preaching, turned against Sultan and propagated him as mad. Sultan was called an insane person by the chroniclers because according to them, he has penalized some of the highly venerated celebrities such as Sheikh Houd (the ascendant of Sheikh Baha-ud-Din Zakaria Multani) who started spending his riches in opulent activities instead of preaching and religion and was ordered to be killed. Another scholar Sheikh Shams-ud-Din was sentenced to death because he had assisted a rebel noble of the Sultan in conspiring against him. Besides them, Sheikh Haidari was murdered for his plotting against the king. The reason of insanity looks closer to another trait of his personality which was his stubbornness and haste which hastened the death penalties of such people and even his regime. He devised the reforms to facilitate the public but instead of indoctrinating those reforms in the subjects, he forced them to obey to his commands. Thus, his positives moves turned negative as with such a sharp and smart brain, he was a misfit in those days. Rightly someone called him premature saying that “he was born before his time”.

The capital shifted from Delhi to Devgari (1327 AD)

The Muslim empire in the age of Mohammad Tughlaq expanded on all directions and the vast empire needed a focused administration in the remote and far off areas such as Talangana and Devgari. The Mongols were consistently invading Delhi and the governors of Madora and Kernatak inclined to rebel against the king which drove the Sultan to shift his capital from Delhi to Devgari named as Daulatabad later. Lying in the center from Gujrat, Lukhnauti and Delhi, it located at 700 miles equally from these areas. Sultan not only shifted his capital to Devgari but also ordered the population of Delhi to migrate to Devgari. He did not spare the ladies and children who were forced to leave their homes and belongings. Delhi was left desolate and no man’s land after the public shifted to Devgari. They could not realize the dream of Sultan as some of them died on the way, some died of nostalgia and unavailability of the facilities of life though Sultan tried his level best to facilitate the masses with everything they needed. But the home-sickness took the life of most of the people populating the graveyards all around Devgari. The imprudent decision of transferring the capital to Devagari was taken back after two years and “Delhi” came back to Delhi. Sultan was intending to turn Daulatabad the center of the whole Islamic world. This desire is seen from the coinage of those days. Irrespective of the desire of the Sultan, it was the peak of injudiciousness of him.After the capital was shifted to Devgari, Mongols invaded India and plundered Delhi, Lahore, and Multan besides Badayun, and Samana. Sultan had to withdraw and submitted to the Mongols for the bundles of riches and they returned via Multan and Sindh.

Coinage of Mohammad Tughlaq

Sultan is accredited with the coinage of gold and silver called Denars and Adli respectively in the beginning. But later, he issued bronze and copper coins but soon he had to revise the policy of coinage when the public started making counterfeit coins and undermining the national economy. He could not stop the forgery of the people and the coinage was soon devalued in the market. Other countries refused to recognize it on its value which forced Sultan to replace the bronze coins possessed by the public with gold and silver coins. Consequently, the royal treasury ran short of money. Sultan issued the bronze coins on the same line of China but the forgery on a large scale could not be stopped by him and the idea of bronze coins ended in smoke as the people disbelieved the coins of gold and silver which fell short in the state to replace the bronze coins.

Taxation in Doab

Sultan increased the tax rate in Ganges and Jamuna which created unrest in the farmers and landlords who left their lands uncultivated as the heavy taxes were beyond their capacity. The decision of imposing such a heavy tax was ill-advised and improperly implemented by Sultan who earned a bad name due to these reforms.

Quests

Sultan Mohammad Shah Tughlaq instigated diplomatic terms with the Mongols and the king of Egypt and intended to invade Khurasan and Iran seeing the differences and conflicts of the both. Supported by the nobles of Khurasan, he prepared a convoy of 370,000 soldiers to invade Khurasan and paid these personnel even for the next year. But he had to postpone the expedition due to the internal conflicts and the fear of rebellion in the empire. He also sent an expedition against the Rajas of Himala while another was sent to Nepal but it ended in failure because of the rainy season and the lack of support from the capital. The local people looted the royal army and perished it in their guerilla style war. Thus the campaign could not bring the desired upshots.

Insurrections

Sultan spent the first 10 years of his rule with a plain sailing but later, the states after states went on slipping from his hands. Mysur, Bengal, Deccan, and Talangana liberated themselves from the royal control and the empire, which sprawled over from Himala to Mysur and from Sindh and Punjab to Bihar and Bengal, now squeezed to Gujrat and northern India. Malabar revolted against the Sultan in 1335 AD and Jala-ud-Din Ehsan Shah, the ruler of Malabar declared his independence. Mohammad Shah Tughlaq assaulted the south of India to penalize Jala-ud-Din Ehsan Shah despite the calamities of starvation and revolts in the empire. But cholera broke out in the unfortunate army of Sultan who had to come back. Fakhr-ud-Din, the flag-bearer of the governor of East Bengal, murdered his master and captured the throne. Qadir Khan, the governor of Lakhnauti tried to check him but was killed by Fakhr-ud-Din who declared his independence. In 1336 AD Bengal was disintegrated from the capital.

Amin-ul-Mulk, the governor of Oudh (who was a capable general and a trust-worthy soldier of Sultan and had assisted Sultan in the days of starvation with the grain worth 7000000-8000000 tankas. He had checked the rebellion of the governor of Kara) was transferred to Deccan from Oudh. Outrageous of his unwanted transfer, he headed against the Sultan but was soon crushed by the Sultan who forgave him and appointed him as the guardian of the royal gardens in Delhi. In 1342 AD the rebels of Sindh invited Sultan to curb them but they were arrested and released after they embraced Islam.

In 1335 AD Madora got liberation from the capital and in 1336 AD Vijia Nagar, a Hindu state came into existence after a coup. Sultan’s weakness as a king encouraged the other states to crumble the empire. Warangal was captured by Krishan Natak, the son of Paratab Dev and the ruler of Warangal escaped to Daulatabad which was already a hot seat of revolts. Qatlagh Khan, the ruler of Daulatabad was unable to rule the state and the Sultan replaced him with his brother Alim-ul-Mulk who was supported by four junior officers. But all these steps could not restore peace in the state. Sultan Mohammad Tughlaq appointed Aziz the governor of Malwa but he adopted a policy of blood and iron in the state and killed the nobles in a large number. It resulted in massive uprising on the chiefs and Aziz was arrested and killed by them.

The flame of Malwa reached Gujrat and seeing the power spilling over to the others; the outrageous Sultan plundered his empire and left for Daulatabad which no more hosted the Sultan. Hindus, Turks, and Afghans of Daulatabad solicited an alliance against him. Before he could appease the rebellion of Daulatabad, he had to go back to Gujrat where a cobbler revolted against him but he fled to Sindh after Sultan reached there. The rebels in Daulatabad lifted their heads again when Sultan went to Gujrat and they killed Imad-ul-Mulk, the son-in-law of Sultan and made Hasan Gangu their king. Hasan Gangu came to power under the title of Ala-ud-Din Behman Shah and founded the Behman sultanate in 1347 AD. Sultan overwhelmed the Raja of Jona Garh, but the later uplifted his head as soon as the Sultan departed from Jona Garh.

Death of Sultan Mohammad Shah (1351 AD)

The Sultan could not bear the continuous battles and wars and fell ill in a place near Kernal. He had to rush to Thatha (Sindh) to crush an upheaval and stayed with a Soomro chief. He again fell ill and breathed his last on the bank of River Indus on March 1351 AD. He was alone on all the fronts before him. It was highly unfortunate that he could not foster any capable team of generals and governors to rule the empire in a peaceful way. He had to indulge himself in many military campaigns at one time which weakened his political and military muscle and finally took his life. The vastness of the empire was in dire need of a trust worthy and loyal teamwork which was unfortunately not destined to Sultan Mohammad Shah. He would be remembered for his bold experiments and decisions which met with severe criticism by the historians of that age and the ages to come.

About SAIMA ASHRAF

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