The important works of history written during the 14th century

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Many scholars seem to have written the 14th century histories of the Khalji and the Tughlaq Sultans.

Ziauddin’Barani mentions the official history of Sultan Alauddian Khalji’s reign by Kabiruddin, son of Tajuddin Iraqi but it is now extant. Amir Khusrau also compiled the Khazainul Futuh, devoted to the achievements of Alauddin Khalji. Khusrau also composed five historical masnavis (poems) in each of which historical events are described (in verse).

It may however, be recalled that neither Ziauddin Barani nor modern scholar, Peter Hardy regards Khusrau as a historian. They consider Khusrau’s works as literary pieces rather than a historical work. Of the surviving 14th century works, Isami’s Futuh us Salatin(1350), Ziauddin Barani’s Tarikh- i Firuzshahi(l357), anonymous Sirat-I Firuzshahi (1370-71) and Shams Siraj Afif’s Tarikh-i Firuzshahi (c.1400) are important historical works. A few of these 14th century historical works need to be analysed separately.

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Isami’s Narrative :

The Futuh-us Salatin of Isami is a versified history of the Muslim rulers of India. It begins with the account of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna’s reign (999-1030 ad) and comes to a close with that of the foundation of the Bahmani Sultanate in the Deccan by Alauddin Bahaman Shah, a rebel against Sultan Muhammad Tughluq, in 1350.

Though much is not known about the author, yet it may be added that his ancestors served the Delhi court since the time of Sultan Iltutmish. Ziauddin Barani includes one of the Isami families in the list of the leading nobles of Sultan Balban. Isami, himself was brought up by his grandfather, Izuddin Isami, a retired noble. He was still in his teens when his family was forcibly shifted to Daulatabad in 1327. His grandfather died on the way and the young Isami was filled with hatred against Sultan Muhammad Tughluq.

The hostility towards Sultan Mohammad Tughluq is quite evident in his account and needs to be treated with caution. The early part of Isami’s narrative is based on popular legends and oral traditions which had reached to him through the time. His account of the early Sultans of India is also based on popular tales with historical facts available to him through earlier works. But the details of historical events from the reign of Sultan Alauddin Khalji are much more authentic and can be of corroborative and supplementary importance.

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In this part Isami supplements the information contained in Barani’s Tarikh-i Firuzshahi about the siege operations conducted by the military commanders of the Delhi Sultanate in different regions during the Khalji and the Tughluq period. Isami’s description of the foundation of Daulatabad by Muhammad bin Tughluq as the second most important city and his account of socio-economic growth of Delhi under Alauddin Khalji and other cities is graphic and insightful. Barani has precedence on Isami only in his analysis of cause and effect, connected with historical events.

Ziauddin Barani’s Tarikh-i-Firuzshahi :

Barani is, no doubt, the doyen of the Indo-Persian historians of medieval India. Born in an aristocratic family and associated with the royal court of Delhi for generations, he was obviously concerned with the fate of the Delhi Sultanate. He seems to have believed that it was his duty to present through his Tarikh-i Furuzshahi an intellectual composition for the enlightenment of the ruling elite of his times.

Barani’s Tarikh begins with the accession of Sultan Balban to the throne of Delhi in 1266 and comes to a close with the account of first six years of Sultan Firuzshah Tughluq’s reign, i.e. the year 1356. Barani’s Tarikh is unique to the Persian history writing tradition prevalent till his times. It is for the first time that he tries to analyse the cause and effect of the events and developments taking place in polity and economy. In his account of the economic policies and measures of Alauddin Khalji he provides an analysis with causes and formulation of the policies and their impacts. Barani also elaborates the purpose of writing history in explicit terms:

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‘The mean, the ignoble, the rude, the uncouth, the lowly, the base, the obscure, the vile, the destitute, the wretched, the low-born and the men of the marketplace, can have no connection or business with History; nor can its pursuit be their profession.

The above-mentioned classes can derive no profit at all by learning the science of History, and it can be of no use to them at any time; for the science of History consists of (the account of) greatness and the description of merits and virtues and glories of the great men of the Faith and State… The

(Pursuit of the) science of History is (indeed) the special preserve of the nobles and the distinguished, the great men and the sons of great men.’ Barani also declares that the job of the historian is not only to eulogise the deeds and good works of the rulers but also to present to readers a critical account of the shortcomings and drawbacks of policies. Moreover, the scope of history is considerably widened by Barani with the inclusion of details about the cultural role performed by intellectuals, scholars, poets, and saints. Barani’s style of history writing inspired the historians of the subsequent period, many of whom tried to follow his ideas.

Late Fourteenth Century Histories :

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Other major works of history from the second half of the 14th century are the anonymous

Sirat-i Firuzshahi, Futuhat-i Firuzshahi, composed by the Sultan Firuz Tughluq himself and Shams Siraf Aifif’s Tarikh-i-Firuzshahi.. The rare manuscript copy of the Sirat-i Firuzshahi, available in the Khuda Bakhsh library, Patna, does not contain the name of its author. It reads as an official history of Firuz Shah’s reign up to the years 1370-71.

It contains, besides the details of military and hunting expeditions led by Sultan Firuzshah, interesting information about religious sects, sufis, ulema, socio-ethical matters, science and technology such as astronomy, medicines, pharmacology, etc. It is really a compendium of many-sided activities, accomplishments and contribution made by the Sultan to the works of public utility.

The construction of canals and water reservoirs, the foundation of the new cities with forts and repair of old monuments are described in detail. The Futuhat-i Firuzshahi was originally an inscription fixed on the wall of the Jama Mosque of Firuzshah’s capital. Later on, it was copied and preserved in the form of a book. Through this, the Sultan wanted to disseminate to general public about reforms and projects he undertook for public welfare.

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Shams Siraj Afif, another historian of the period seems to have served the Sultan during the last years of Firuzshah’s reign. He tells us that his great grandfather, Malik Shihab Afif worked as revenue officer in the province of Dipalpur under Ghazi Malik during the reign of Ala-Uddin Khalji. His father and uncle supervised the management of Firuzshah’s karkhanas.

As chaos and anarchy began to prevail after the death of Firuzshah (1388), he seems to have retired and devoted himself to writing the history of the Sultanate from the reign of Sultan Ghiyasuddin Tughluq Shah (1320-1324). He refers to many volumes of his works, each devoted to the reigns of the individual Sultans. Of these only one, devoted to the reign of Firuzshah has survived the ravages of time.

It seems to have been completed after the sack of Delhi by Timur in 1398. This work of his is full of nostalgia and portrays Firuzshah as a saintly ruler whose presence on the throne saved Delhi from every calamity. Because of this reason, he has written this volume in the form of manaquib (collection of virtues) like that of the spiritual biography of a saint. The name Tarikh-i Firuzshahi has been given to it by the editors of the Text.

The book is divided into five qism (parts) each containing eighteen muqaddimas (chapters) of unequal length. The last (fifth) qism of the printed text comes to an end with the fifteenth chapter. The last three chapters seem to have been destroyed by the Mughal Emperors probably because they contained vivid details of the sack of Delhi by Timur, the ancestor of Babur.

This volume of Afif is important for the information about socio economic life and prosperity that resulted from the state-policies followed by Firuzshah. The details about the foundation of new urban centres, construction of canals, water reservoirs and the administrative reforms are invaluable.

Similarly, mention made by him of the agrarian reforms introduced by Firuzshah casts light on his interest in revenue matters. It may also be pointed out that Afif does not fail to mention the abuses and corruption that had crept in the administration; and says that officials in every ministry became corrupt. In the diwan-i arz (military department) the officials took one tanka per horse as bribe from the horseman at the time of annual muster.

He also provides us with hints about the degeneration of the central army that was considered the best fighting force which could successfully defend the frontier against the Mongol invaders. On the whole it is an important source of information about the life and culture in the Sultanate of Delhi during the later half of the fourteenth century.

After the dissolution of the Delhi Sultanate, a number of regional Sultanates and principalities arose. The capitals of these regional Sultanates replaced Delhi as the main centre of learning and culture. Delhi, which was reduced to the size of a town, was seized by Khizr Khan (Saiyid) the founder of a new dynasty. Khizr Khan (ruled from 1414 to 1421) and his son and successor, Sultan Mubarkshah (1421- 1434) tried to rebuild the power of the Delhi Sultan but could not succeed. The latter was assinated by his own nobles in the prime of his life.

One of his officials Yahya bin Ahmad Sirhindi, composed the history of the Sultanate and named it after the Sultan as Tarikh-i Mubarakshahi in 1434. It begins with an account of Sultan Muizuddin Mohammed bin Sam, who led the Ghurian conquest of India and the account closes with the accession of Mohammad Shah in 1434. The compiler seems to have drawn information from a number of histories written in India at different times.

Some of the sources utilised by Yahya are now extant but bits of information on them survived through information collected and incorporated in the Tarikh-i Mubarakshahi. It enhances its importance. The historian of Akbar’s reign utilised the Tarikh in the preparation of their volumes devoted to the history of the Delhi Sultanate.

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