History Of Muhammad Bin Tughluq, The Great


Prince Jauna declared himself as the Sultan three days after his father’s death in February-March, 1325, under the title of Muhammad bin Tughluq. Forty days later he proceeded to Delhi and ascended the throne without any opposition in the old palace of the Sultans, amidst a profuse display of Pageantry.

Muhammad Bin Tughluq

Like ‘Ala-ud-din, he lavishly distributed gold and silver coins among the populace and title among the nobles.

Muhammad Bin Tughluq

For studying the history of Muhammad bin Tughlaq’s reign we have besides the admirable history of a contemporary official, Ziauddin Barni, who wrote his work in the time of the Sultan’s successor, Firuz Shah, several other Persian works of his near contemporaries like the Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi by Shams-i-Siraj Afif, the Futuhat-i-Firuz Shahi, an autobiographical memoir of Sultan Tughluq Namah of the Amir Khusrav and the Tarikh-i-Mubarak which contains much supplementary  information.

IBN Battuta – Chief Quazi of Delhi in Muhammad Bin Tughluq Government

The work of the African traveller, Ibn Battuta, is  also of great importance for the history of this period. He came to India in September, A.D, 1333, and was hospitably received by the Delhi Sultan, who appointed him Chief Qazi of Delhi, which office he continued to hold till he was sent as the Sultan’s ambassador to China in July, A.D, 1342.

His account bears on the whole the stamp of impartiality and is remarkable for preciseness of details. The coins of Muhammad bin Tughluq are also of informative value.

Ibn Battuta

Muhammad bin Tughluq is indeed an extraordinary personality, and to determine his place in history is a difficult task. Was he a genius or a lunatic ? An idealist or a visionary ? A bloodthirsty tyrant or a benevolent king ? A heretic or a devout Mussulman ? There is no doubt that he was one of the most learned and accomplished scholars of his time, for which he has been duly praised by Barni and others.

Endowed with a keen intellect, a wonderful memory and a brilliant capacity of assimilating knowledge, he was proficient in different branches of learning like logic, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy and the physical sciences.

A perfect master of composition and style, he was a brilliant calligraphist. He had a vast knowledge of persian poetry and quoted persian verses in his letters.

The science of medicine was not unknown to him. He was also well skilled in dialectics, and scholars thought twice before opening any discussion with him on a subject in which he was well versed.

An experienced general, he won many victories and lost few campaigns.

Private Life Of Sultan Muhammad Bin Tughluq 

In his private life the Sultan was free from the prevailing views of the age and his habits were simple.

Possessed of remarkable humility and generosity, he was lavish in distributing gifts and presents. Ibn Batutah, who has characterized him “as the most humble of men and one who is most inclined towards doing what is right and just”, writes that “the most prominent of his qualities is generosity”.

Writers like Barni, Yahiya bin Ahmad Sirhindi and on their authority, Badauni, Nizam-ud-din Ahmad and Ferishta, have wrongly charged the Sultan with Ir-religiousness and the slaughter of pious and learned men, scribes and soldiers.

Ibn Batutah asserts that “he follows the principles of religion with devoutness and performs the prayers himself and punishes those who neglect them.”

This  is corroborated by two other contemporary writers, Shihab-ud-din Ahmad and Badr-i-Chach, and even Ferishta has to admit it. Muhammad bin Tughlaq’s chief offence was that, probably inspired by the example of the Khaljis, “he ignored the canon law” as expounded by learned Doctors and based his political conduct on his own experience of the world.

In any case, the Sultan needed useful judgment and sound judgment and somewhat fixated on his hypothetical learning, enjoyed grandiose hypotheses and visionary activities.

His plans however stable in principle and at times indicating flashes of political knowledge, turned out to be impracticable in genuine operation, and at last brought debacle on his kingdom.

This was because of certain grave deformities in his character. Hurried and hot-tempered, he should have his own particular manner and would stream no restriction.

Sultan Muhammad Bin Tughluq 

The developing feeling of the disappointment of his strategy made him accuse the general population of perversity and improved his seriousness. Thwarted in his points, the Sultan lost the harmony of his brain.

  • “Shame took after humiliation, and perplexity turned out to be more awful frustrated.” In course of a discussion with Barni, he shouted : “I visit them (the general population) with reprimand upon the doubt or assumption of their defiant and tricky outlines, and I rebuff the most piddling demonstration of contumacy with death.
  • At that point I will do until I bite the dust, or until the general population act truly, and surrender insubordination and contumacy.
  • I have no such wazir as will make principles to hinder my shedding blood. I rebuff the general population since they have at the same time become”my adversaries and rivals.
  • I have apportioned incredible riches among them. Yet, they have not turned out to be well disposed and faithful.”

These measures of the Sultan, as compared with his brighter qualities have led some later writers to describe him as “A mixture of opposites”.

But others again have pointed out that he was not really an “amazing compound of contradictions” and that the charges of “blood-thirstiness and madness” were wrongly brought against him by the members of the clerical party, who always thwarted him in his policy.

The Sultan’s defects might have been exaggerated, but it cannot be denied that he was devoid of the keen insight of a statesman and thus could not adapt his policy welcome, as these entailed great hardships.

He was, in short, a poor judge of human nature, who failed to realise that administrative reforms, however beneficial these may be, cannot be easily imposed on the people against will and that repression generally breeds discontent if the vital interests of the people are affected.

Thus, as Mr. Stanley Lane-Poole observes, “with the best intentions, excellent ideas, but no balance or patience, no sense of proportion, Muhammad Tughlak (sic) was a transcendent failure”.

Transfer Of Capital From Delhi To Deavagiri by Muhammad Bin Tughluq 

Muhammad bin Tughlaq’s decision to transfer the capital in 1327 from Delhi to Devagiri, remained by him Daulatabad, was another ill-calculated step, which ultimately caused immense suffering to the people.

This project of the Sultan was not, as some modern writers have suggested, a wild experiment tried with the object of wreaking vengeance on the people of Delhi, but the idea behind it was originally sound. The new capital occupied a central and strategic situation.

The kingdom then embraced within its sphere the Doab, the plains of the Punjab and Lahore with the territories extending from the Indus to the coast of Gujarat in the north, the whole province of Bengal in the east, the kingdoms of Malwa, Mahoba, Ujjain and Dhar in the central region, and the Deccan, which had been recently added to it.

Such a kingdom demanded close attention from the Sultan. Barni writes : “The place held a central situation ; Delhi, Gujarat, Lakhnauti, Satgaon, Sonargaon, Telang, Mabar, Dwarasamudra and Kampila were about equidistant from thence, there being but a slight difference in the distances.”

Further, the new capital was safe from Mongol invasions. Which constantly threatened the old one the Sultan also did his best to make the new capital a suitable abode for his officers, and the people, by providing it with beautiful buildings, the splendour of which has been described by Ibn Batutah, ‘Abdul Hamid Lahori, the court historian of Shah Jahan’s reign and the European travellers of the seventh century.

All facilities were provided for the intending immigrants. A spacious road was constructed for their convenience, shady trees being planted on both sides of it and a regular post being established between, Delhi and Daulatabad.

Even Barni writes that  the Sultan “ was bounteous in his liberality and favours to the emigrants, both on their journey and their arrival”. In all this Sultan acted reasonably.

But when the people of Delhi, out of sentiment, demurred at leaving their own homes which were associated with memories of sense, and he ordered all the people of Delhi to proceed en masse to Daulatabad with their belongings.

We need not believe in the unwarranted statement of Ibn Battuta that a blind man was dragged from Delhi to Daulatabad and that a bedridden cripple was projected there by a ballista.

Nor should we literally accept the hyperbolic statement of Barni that “ not a cat or a dog was left among the buildings of the city (of Delhi), in its palaces or in its suburbs”.

Such forms of expression of the people of Delhi were undoubtedly considerable on a long journey of 700 miles.

Worn out with fatigue, many of them died on the way and many who reached Daulatabad followed suit in utter despair and agony if the Sultan’s Lane-Poole aptly, “was a monument of misdirected energy.”

Muhammad bin Tughlaq

The Sultan, having at last recognized the folly and iniquity of his policy, red-shifted the court to Delhi and ordered a return march of the people.

But very few survived to return, and Delhi had lost its former prosperity and grandeur which could not be restored until long after, though the Sultan “brought learned men and gentlemen, tradesmen and landowners, into the city (of Delhi) from certain towns in his territory, and made them reside there”.

Ibn Batutah found Delhi in A.D. 1334 deserted in some places and bearing the marks of ruin.

  • Muhammad bin Tughlaq tried important monetary experiments. Edward Thomas has described him as “a Prince of Moneyers” and writes that “one of the earliest acts of his reign was to remodel the coinage, to readjust its divisions to the altered values of the precious metals, and to originate new and more exact representatives of the subordinate circulation”.
  • A new gold piece called the Dinar by Ibn Batutah, weighing 200 grains, was issued by him. He also revived the Adali, equivalent in weight to 140 grains of silver, in place of the old gold and silver coins weighing 175 grains.
  • This change was probably due to a “fall in the relative value of gold to silver, the imperial treasury having been replenished by large quantities of the former metal as a result of the campaigns of the Deccan”.

Muhammad Bin Tughluq Experiment With Currency Copper Coins

But the most daring of his experiments was the issue of a token currency in copper coins between A.D. 1329 and 1330 for which there had been examples before him in China and Persia. Towards the close of the thirteenth century, Kublai Khan, the Mongol Emperor of China, introduced a paper currency in China, and Gai Khatu the ruler of Persia, tried it in A.D. 1294. Muhammad bin Tughlaq also issued a decree proclaiming that in all transactions copper tokens should pass as legal tender like gold and silver coins. The motives of the Sultan behind this measure were to replenish his exhausted exchequer and find increased resources for his plans of conquest and administration. So he cannot be accused of any device or design to defraud the people.

  • This “precisely composed measure”, notwithstanding, fizzled owing predominantly to two causes. Right off the bat, it was far ahead of time of the time and the general population couldn’t make the issue of the copper coins an imposing business model of the State, and neglected to avoid potential risk against fraud.
  • As Thomas composes. “There was no uncommon hardware to stamp the distinction of the texture of the Royal Mint and the craftsmanship of the modestly gifted craftsman. Not at all like the precautionary measures taken to keep the impersonation of Chinese paper notes, there was decidedly no check upon the validness of the copper tokens, and no restriction to the energy of generation of the masses on the loose”.
  • The outcome was that extensive quantities of fake coins acquired flow. We are told by Barni that “the proclamation of this declaration transformed the place of each Hindu into a mint, and the Hindus of the different territories begat crores and lakhs of copper coins. With these they paid their tribute of various sorts.
  • The assault, the town headmen and landowners, developed rich and solid upon these copper coins, yet the State was ruined… .. In those spots where dread of the Sultan’s order won. The gold tanka rose to be justified regardless of a hundred of (the copper) tankas.
  • Each goldsmith struck copper coins in his own particular workshop, and the treasury was loaded with these copper coins. So low did they fall that they were not esteemed more than pobbles or potsherds. The old coin, from its awesome shortage, rose four-overlap and five-overlay in esteem”.
  • Exchange and enterprises were in outcome seriously influenced and perplexity ruled. The Sultan perceived his mistake and revoked his decree around four years after the presentation of the cash.
  • He paid for each copper coin conveyed to the treasury at its face an incentive in gold and silver coins, and people in general finances were along these lines relinquished with no relating advantage to the State.
  • Such a variety of copper coins were conveyed to Delhi that stores of them were aggregated at Tughlaqabad, which could be seen a century later in the rule of Mubarak Shah ⅱ.Muhammad bin Tughluq
  • The Delhi Sultanate was not totally free from outer risk amid this rule. In A.D. 1328-1329 the Chaghatay boss, Tarmashirin Khan, of Transoxiana attacked India.
  • He desolated the change of the capital from Delhi, and most likely the frail barrier of the north-west outskirts by the Delhi rulers, gave him the open door for this driven plan.
  • As indicated by Yahya canister Ahmad and Badayuni, Mohammad container Tughlaq crushed him and drove him out of the nation, while Ferishta composes that the Sultan got him off by paying vast displays in gold and gems, which he depicts “as the cost of the kingdom”.
  • In any case, “the intrusion was close to an attack, and Tarmashirin vanished as all of a sudden as he had come”.

Muhammad bin Tughluq never entertained the fantastic idea or conquering Tibet and China. But Barni, a contemporary officer, and Ibn Batutah clearly refer to his design of  “capturing the mountain of Kara-jal …… which lies between the territories of Hind (India) and those of China”.

Evidently the expedition was directed against some refractory tribes in the Kumaun-Garhwal region with the object of bringing them under the control of the Delhi-Sultan. A large army was sent from Delhi in the year A.D. 1337-1338 under the command of an general. But  after an initial success, the Delhi troops suffered terribly owing to geographical difficulties, setting in of the rains, and lack of provisions.

Only a few of them-ten according to Barni, three according to Ibn Batutah survived to relate the story of the tragic fate of the expedition. Its immediate objective was, however, gained, as the hillmen came to terms and agreed to pay tribute to the Delhi Sultan.

But the cumulative effect of all the fantastic projects of Muhammad bin Tughluq proved disastrous for him. They caused immense miseries to the people of his kingdom, who were afflicted at the same time by the ravages of famine, and finally exhausted their patience.

Popular discontent found expression in open distracted by repeated rebellions, which increased the severity of his temper, undermined his prestige and authority and accelerated the dismemberment of his vast empire.

  • The two early rebellions were put down with comparative ease, and the insurgents were given exemplary punishments.
  • Baha-ud-din Garshasp sister’s son to Ghiyas-ud-din tughluq and so first cousin to Muhammad bin Tughluq, who held the fief of Sagar, situated about ten miles north of Shorapur in the Deccan, refused to recognise the Sultan’s authority and rebelled against him in A.D 1326-1327.

Ghiyas-ud-din tughluq

  • But he was captured by the imperialists and sent to Delhi. He was flayed alive there, his dead body was paraded round the city, and his execution was proclaimed by way of warning to others : “Thus shall all traitors to their king perish”.
  • A more serious rebellion, which broke out in the next year , was that of Bahram  Aiba, surnamed Kishulu Khan, who held the fiefs of Uch, Sind, and Multan. Muhammad bin Tughluq, who was then at Devagiri, marched to Multan by way of Delhi and inflicted a crushing defeat on the rebel in a fight in the plain of Abohar.
  • The Sultan was inclined to order a general massacre of the inhabitants of Multan, but was restrained from doing so by the saint Rukn-ud-din.
  • Bahram was captured and beheaded and his head was hung up in the gate of the city of Multan by way of warning to persons of rebellious disposition.

Empire of Muhammad Bin Tughluq 

But the suppression of these two rebellions did not in any way strengthen the Sultan’s position. Rather, from A.D. 1335, his fortunes began to wane and his authority to be openly defied by Hindu chiefs and Muslims governors of provinces, who were even emboldened to assert their independence. Taking advantage of the Sultan’s engagements in Northern India, Jalal-ud-din Ahsan Shah, governor  of Mabar, proclaimed himself independent in A.D. 1335 and struck coins in his own name. The Sultan marched in person against him, but on reaching Warangal, was forced by an outbreak of cholera in his camp to retreat to Daulatabad. Thus came into existence the independent Muslim kingdom of Madura, which existed till A.D. 1377-1378, when it fell before the rising State of Vijayanagar. This kingdom of Vijayanagar was founded according to tradition in A.D. 1336.

Jalal-ud-din Ahsan Shah

In the North, Fakhar-ud-din Mubarak Shah, governor of the province of Bengal, the loyalty of which to the Delhi Sultanate had been always dubious, soon threw off his allegiance to it in A.D. 1338 and struck coins in his own name.

The Sultan of Delhi, then preoccupied with other troubles, could do nothing to subdue him, and Bengal thus became an independent province.

Rebellions followed in quick succession also in other parts of the Empire, the most formidable one being that of  Ain-ul-mulk, the  governor of Oudh and Zafarabad, in A.D> 1340-41. All those were indeed put down by the end of the year A.D 1342, but they badly affected the resources of the State, exhausted the energy of the Sultan and damped his spirits.

  • In this extremely  embarrassing situation, the Sultan sought pontifical recognition to strengthen his warning authority by obtaining a patent from the Abbasid Khalifah of Egypt.
  • The desired patent came and Muhammad bin Tughluq caused his name to be replaced by that of that Khalifah on the Khutba and the coins.
  • But his object was not fulfilled. The loyalty and confidence of his people had been too rudely shaken to be restored by the force of the Khalifa’s patent.
  • In fact, no one had questioned the Sultan’s title to the throne ; but it was his policy and measures which were not to the liking of his subjects.

The Sultan faced with serious difficulties in almost all parts of Muhammad Bin Tughluq kingdom:

In Telingana, Prolaya Nayaka and after him his nephew Kapaya Nayaka organised a Hindu national movement against Muslim rule, with the assistance of the Hoysala king, Vira Ballala Ⅲ.

A similar movement was started in the region along the Krishna. The ultimate result was the establishment of the Hindu Kingdom of Vijayanagar and a few other Hindu principalities in the Deccan.

The Sultan’s persecution of the “Centurions” (amiran-i-sadah) aggravated his troubles and “insurrection followed upon insurrection”.

The foreign Amirs revolted in Devagiri and the foundation of the Bahmani kingdom was laid by Abul Muzaffar Ala-ud-din Bahmani Shah, early in August, 1347.

When the Sultan proceeded to quell a disturbance in one part, another broke out in  a different quarter.

While thus occupied in chasing the rebels in Sind, he was attacked with fever near Tattah and died on 20th March, A.D. 1351. “And so,” remarks Badauni, “ the king was freed from his people and they from their king.”

In fact, the whole reign of Muhammad bin Tughluq dragged on through baffled aims to a pathetic end, marked by the dismemberment of his vast empire of twenty-three  provinces. There can be no doubt that the Sultan himself was largely responsible for this tragedy.

Endowed with extraordinary intellect and industry, he lacked the essential qualities of a constructive statesman and his ill-advised measures and stern policy enforced in disregard of popular will, sealed the doom of his empire.

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