Biography of Muhammad-bin-Tughluq

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Ghiyas-ud-Din Tughluq was succeeded by his son Prince Juna Khan who took up the title of Muhammad-bin-Tughluq. We are fortunate in having a lot of authentic and interesting material about his reign.

(1) Zia-ud-Din Barani (born 1285) wrote his famous work Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi in the time of Firuz Shah Tughluq. He was a native of Barani in the Doab. His ancestors held high offices under the Khaljis.

Qazi Ala-ud-Mulk, one of his uncles, was the Kotwal of Delhi in the time of Ala-ud-Din Khalji and was very much trusted by the Emperor. No wonder, the account of Barani regarding the reign of Ala-ud-Din has original value as it was based on the information given to Barani by Qazi Ala-ul-Mulk. Barani himself spent seventeen years in the court of Muhammad-bin-Tughluq and also some years in that of Firuz Tughluq.

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Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi of Barani was completed in 1359. It is a standard historical work on Medieval India. We are told that before writing his work.

Barani took a vow that he would write nothing but the truth. No wonder, his account is trustworthy. Barani praises Ala-ud-Din for his achievements but condemns him for his cruel punishments.

He has showered praises on Ghiyas-ud-Din Tughluq, the founder or the Tughluq dynasty. He has described in detail the various events of the reign of Muhammad-bin-Tughluq. He has given us details about the taxation in the Doab, transfer of the capital from Delhi to Daulatabad, the introduction of token currency, the various schemes of conquest of Muhammad-bin-Tughluq etc. He has also given some important information about the reign of Firuz Tughluq.

However, it is to be noted that at times, chronology in the account of Barani is defective. Sometimes, he also brings in his personal prejudices. His account of the sufferings of the people of the Doab on account of high taxation by Muhammad-bin-Tughluq is obviously an exaggerated one.

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Barani catches the thread of the narrative dropped by Minhaj Siraj. He begins with the history of the reign of Balban and ends with the first six years of the reign of Firuz Tughluq. Comparatively speaking, the reign of the Khaljis is more systematically treated than that of the Tughluqs. In the narrative of the Khaljis, chronological sequences of the events are maintained fairly accurately.

Although Barani refers very often to the sources of his information, he did not take full advantage of the works of his contemporaries while writing his Tarikh. Had he improved upon the drafts of his book after consulting Amir Khusro’s Mjftah-ul-Fatuh, Khazain-ul-Fatuh and Devalrani and Kabir-ud-Din’s Fatehnamah, he would surely have given more reliable information on Ala-ud-Din’s wars in Chittor, Ranthambhor and Malwa than the sketchy accounts to be found in his Tarikh. He does not refer to the episode of Devalrani at all.

His account of the Deccan campaigns of Malik Kafur is extremely poor. Moreover once he starts writing about the Deccan, he neglects the North altogether. He furnishes little information about events in Northern India from 1308 to 1313 particularly about wars in Jalor and Sevana.

Moreover Barani finished his work at the advanced age of 74 when he was in a miserable condition. His financial difficulties made him bitter and disappointed. He was more likely to refer to the agonies of his soul than to sit down and improve his notes after comparing them with the works of Amir Khusro and other contemporary writers.

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The sarcasm of Barani is incisive. Occasionally, his sardonic humour helps him to sum up his ideas in a few words. His remark that in Ala-ud-Din’s days, a camel could be had for a Dang shows that articles were cheap in the time of Ala-ud-Din. The stern attitude of Ala-ud-Din towards the revenue officials made them so unpopular that service in the revenue department was considered worse than plague.

Nobody gave his daughter in marriage to a revenue clerk. The office of the Superintendent was accepted by one who had no regard for life. The plight of the agriculturists was so bad that they sold their wives and children to pay the land revenue. The wives of the rich Zamindars (Khuts and Muqqaddams) worked in the houses of the Mussalmans for wages. The bazar people were the worst of all the 72 classes of people who inhabited the globe.

Barani had his likes and dislikes. He did not feel interested in the description of battles, tactics used in a particular engagement and such other points of military strategy. Whenever he was forced to give a description, he became very brief. However, he did pause to praise an act, a character or a motive.

When he praised somebody, he praised him to heaven. When he condemned somebody, he wrote with his pen dipped in acid. In spite of this, his character sketches were excellently done. He was a philosopher-cum-historian and not an accurate historian always. His memory was prodigious.

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It cannot be denied that the work of Barani is very valuable. Later historians have depended upon him for information and inspiration. Nizam-ud-Din Ahmad, Badaoni, Ferishta and Hajiuddabir have depended upon Barani for their account of the history of the period covered by him. Nizam-ud-Din Ahmad especially quotes him very often.

At some places, he merely copies Barani. At other places, he tries to solve the problems left by Barani. Ferishta tries to analyse the passage in which Barani described the salaries of the soldiers Fixed by Ala-ud-Din.

Hajiuddabir throws fresh light on some questions not properly explained by Barani such as the age of Ala-ud-Din and the causes underlying the constant quarrels between Ala-ud-Din and the family of Jalal-ud-Din. Abdul Haq Dehlvi, the author of Akhbarul Akhyar, depends upon Barani completely for the biographical sketches of Nizam-ud-Din Auliya and other saints of the period.

In additioji to Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi, Barani wrote Fatwa-i-Jahandari. This work does not refer to the events of any particular ruler. However, it contains the political ideals which must be pursued by the Muslim rulers in order to earn religious merit and the gratitude of the people.

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He also wrote Salvat-i-Kabir, Sanai Muhammadi, Hasratnamah, Inayatnamah, Ma’asir-i-Saadat and a history of the Barmakides.

According to Dr. S. M. Haq, Barani “can claim superiority to many a historian of the Middle Ages in having made the scope of his book wider and more comprehensive as well as in his fearlessness in expressing the truth the condemning the actions of great men when necessary and for a contemporary writer this is no mean virtue.

His style is extremely simple and remarkably free from unnecessary exaggerations and embellishments. Sometimes he indulges in needless repetitions, but he is not guilty of concealing the drawbacks of great men by artificial expressions and phrases or over-drawn metaphors and similes. These virtues give him a most prominent place in the long list of medieval historians of India.”

(2) Another interesting source of information is the account of his travels as given by Ibn Batuta, the Moorish traveler. He was born in 1304 A.D. and his original name was Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Batuta. However, he is commonly known as Ibn Batuta. He had a passion for travels. At the age of 21, he started his travels.

After wandering through the countries of Africa and Asia, he came to India through the passes of the Hindukush. He reached the Indus on 12 September, 1333. He proceeded to Delhi where he was hospitably received. He was given 6,000 Tankas in cash. He was also given a grant of three villages within 30 miles of Delhi which gave him an annual income of 5, 000, Tankas and 10 Hindu slaves.

Muhammad-bin-Tughluq was not in Delhi when Ibn Batuta reached there but when the Sultan came to Delhi in June, 1334, Ibn Batuta went out to meet him. Ibn Batuta has described the kind manner in which he himself was received by the Emperor and the great respect shown to the foreigners. The latter were offered appointments.

The revenue of two more villages was added to the grant of Ibn Batuta by the Sultan. He was offered the post of the Qazi of Delhi and he accepted the same after some hesitation when the Sultan agreed to appoint two assistants who were to perform the duties of the Qazi while Ibn Batuta was to enjoy the stipend Ibn Batuta stayed in India for 8 years from 1334 to 1342.

He was sent to China on a diplomatic mission but the same failed. After coming from China, he started from Malabar to the coast of Arabia and reached Fez in 1349. He put down in black and white all his experiences of his travels in his book called Tuhfat-un-Nuzzar fi Gharaib-il-Amsar. This work was finished in December, 1355 and he died in 1377-78 A.D.

We have a lot of useful information from Ibn Batuta regarding Muhammad-bin-Tughluq and his times. As regards the Sultan, he tells us that “Muhammad is a man who, above all others, is fond of making presents and shedding blood. There may always be seen at his gate some poor persons becoming rich or some living one condemned to death.

His generous and brave actions and his cruel and violent deeds have obtained notoriety among the people. In spite of this, he is the most humble of men and the one who exhibits the greatest equity.

The ceremonies of his religion are dear to his heart and he is very severe in respect of prayer and the punishment which follows its neglect.” Ibn Batuta has given a catalogue of the atrocities committed by Muhammad-bin-Tughluq during his reign. Muhammad-bin-Tughluq got his brother Masud murdered on mere suspicion. Ibn Batuta also refers to a few instances of a fantastic display of reverence for abstract justice and forms of law by the Sultan. On one occasion, a Hindu complained to a Qazi that the Sultan had killed his brother without any cause.

The Sultan appeared unarmed in the court and made his obeisance. He heard with humility and carried out the order of the Qazi asking him to pay compensation to the complainant. In another case, a Muslim complained that the Sultan had unjustly retained some of his property and the Sultan restored the property in compliance with the order of the Qazi.

In another case, a Youngman complained that the Sultan had arbitrarily caused him to be beaten without any rhyme or reason. It was found that the complaint was true and consequently in accordance with the Islamic law of retaliation, the Youngman was allowed to have his revenge. A stick was placed in his hand and he was allowed to give 21 strokes to the Sultan. The head-dress of the Sultan fell on the ground.

Ibn Batuta also refers to the heavy punishments inflicted by the Sultan on the Shaiks and Qazis. We are told that the Sultan slew both the small and the great and spared not the learned, pious or the nobles. Every day men in chains and fetters were brought to the council hall and some were led to executions, some to torture and some to scourging.

Ibn Batuta also refers to the various customs and “strange things” of India. He refers to the practice of Sati among the Hindus. He describes the postal system of those times.

He refers particularly to the efficiency of the runners of Dawats who carried letters from one place to another with great speed.

There is no doubt about the fact that the account of India as given, by Ibn Batuta is wholly reliable and in many respects the same that whatever he wrote, he wrote from memory. During his stay in India, he did not take down notes and consequently he is liable to make mistakes wherever memory fails him. Moreover, he did not write only those things which he saw personally. He even wrote about those things which he heard from his friends and others who came into contact with him.

(3) In addition to the account of Zia-ud-Din Barani and Ibn Batuta, we get welcome light from Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi by Shams-i-Siraji Afif, Fatuhat-i-Firuz Shahi, and an autobiographical memoir of Firuz Shah Tughluq.

Munshat-i-Mahru of Ain-ul-Mulk Multani. Tughluqnamah of Amir Khusro and Tarikh-i-Mubarak Shahi of Yahiya-bin-Ahmad Sarhindi “bringing the uncultivated lands under the plough by means of direct state management and financial support”, came too late.

The peasantry left their homes and shifted to other places. The Sultan was very much annoyed and he adopted very harsh measures to bring back the peasants to their original homes. However, all this had a very adverse effect so far as the future of the Tughluq dynasty was concerned.

(3) The Sultan created a new Department of Agriculture called Diwan-i-Kohi. The main object of this Department was to bring more land under cultivation by giving direct help to the peasants. A large tract of land measuring 60 miles square was chosen for that purpose.

Land was cultivated and different crops were grown in rotation. In two years the Government spent more than 70 lakhs. Land was given to those who were in need of it. Unfortunately, the experiment proved to be a failure. The land chosen for experiment was not fertile. The period of three years was too small to give any concrete results. The money was not properly spent and a large part of it was merely wasted.

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