Essay on the Foreign Policy of Muhammad Bin Tughluq


(1) The Delhi Sultanate was not free from external dangers during the reign of Muhammad Tughluq. In 1328-29, Tarmashirin Khan, the Chaghatai chief of Transoxiana, invaded India. He ravaged the country from Multan and Lahore to the outskirts of Delhi.

It appears that the change of capital from Delhi to Daulatabad and the neglect of the defense of the North-Western frontier by Muhammad Tughluq encouraged the Mongols to attack the country. There is a difference of opinion among writers regarding the outcome of the invasion. Yahiya-bin-Ahmad and 3adauni tell us that Muhammad Tughluq defeated the Mongols and drove them out of the country.

However, Ferishta says that Muhammad Tughlaq bribed the invaders and they retired. The gold and jewels given by the Sultan to the invaders have been described “as the price of the kingdom.” Whatever the truth, “the invasion was no more than a raid and Tarmashirin disappeared as suddenly as he had come.”


(2) Muhammad Tughluq had visions of universal conquest. He decided to conquer Khurasan and Iraq and mobilized a huge army for the purpose. He was encouraged to do so by the Khurasani nobles who had taken shelter in his court. They had also their own axe to grind. Zia-ud-Din Barani tells us that as many as 3, 70,000 men were enrolled in the Diwan-i-Arz or the office of muster master.

They were paid for full one year by the state. It cannot be denied that there was instability in Khurasan on account of the unpopular rule of Abu Said and Muhammad Tughluq could certainly take advantage of the same.

However, it cannot be ignored that the position of Muhammad Tughluq was not very stable in India itself and consequently it was foolish on his part even to think of conquering foreign lands. Moreover, he did not take into consideration the problem of transport.

The difficulties of geography were also ignored. It was completely forgotten that it was not an easy task to send such a huge army through the passes of the Himalayas or the Hindukush and also to provide for their food and other necessaries in such a distant land.


Moreover, the Muslim soldiers of India would not have been a match for the hardly hordes of Central Asia. Muhammad Tughluq could not have depended upon the help of the Sultan of Egypt and Tarmashirin Khan. They had their own interests to serve than to help Muhammad Tughluq.

It has rightly been said that the scheme was impolitic in the highest degree from every point of view and no wonder the same was abandoned. Zia-ud-Din Barani observes: “The coveted countries were not acquired…And his treasure which is the true source of political power, was expended.”

(3) The fort of Nagarkot was situated on a hill in the Kangra district of the Punjab. It had defied every Turkish army from the time of Mahmud Ghazni.

It had not been conquered during the reign of Ala-ud-Din Khalji. In 1337, Muhammad Tughluq led an expedition against Nagarkot. The Hindu Raja offered resistance but was forced to submit. However, the fort was restored to him.


(4) Following the lead of Ferishta, many writers of Indian History have wrongly maintained that Muhammad Tughluq sent an expedition against China. However, it is clearly stated by Zia-ud-Din Barani and Ibn Batuta that Muhammad Tughluq intended to capture the mountain of Karajal which lies between the territories of Hind (India) and those of China. Ibn Batuta tells us that the Karajal Mountain was situated at a distance of 10 stages from Delhi.

It appears that the expedition was directed against some refractory tribes in the Kumaon-Garhwal region with the object of bringing them under the Delhi Sultanate. A huge army was sent in 1337-38 for the purpose.

The first attack was a success, but when the rainy season set in the invaders suffered terribly. The entire baggage of the army was plundered by the mountaineers. According to Zia-ud-Din Barani only 10 horsemen came back to tell the story of the disaster. However, Ibn Batuta gives the number as 3. In spite of this failure, the object of the expedition was achieved.

The hillmen realised the folly of defiance and came to terms with the Sultan by agreeing to him tribute.


(5) Bengal had never been loyal to the Delhi Sultanate. Fakhr-ud-Din the armour-bearer of Bahram Khan, Governor of Eastern Bengal, killed his master and usurped his territory in 1336-37. | Qadr Khan, Governor of Lakhnauti, marched against him, but was himself killed. Fakhr-ud-Din took advantage of the difficulties of Muhammad Tughluq and declared himself an independent ruler of Bengal. He also got coins struck in his own name.

As there was no interference from Delhi. Fakhr-ud-Din was able to consolidate his position and Bengal became prosperous under his rule the prices of foodstuffs and other necessaries of life were so low that people from Persia called Bengal a “hell crammed with good things.”

(6) Ain-ul-Mulk Multani was the Governor of Oudh. He was a loyal officer, a great soldier and a man of letters. He was responsible for the suppression of the revolt of Nizam Main of Kara, when there was famine in Oudh, he sent 70 to 80 lakhs of Tankas worth of grain.

In spite of these services, he was ordered to go to Daulatabad in 1340-41 to put down disturbances there. Ain-ul-Mulk considered it as a diplomatic transportation to weaken his position and prestige in Oudh. He requested the Sultan not to send him to the Deccan but as the latter persisted, he revolted. However, he was defeated and taken a prisoner.


He was dismissed from his post and was made to put up with great humiliations. As the Sultan was convinced that Ain-ul-Mulk was a half-hearted rebel, his life was spared and he was made the keeper of the loyal gardens at Delhi.

(7) Taking advantages of the instability in the empire, brigandage grew to threatening proportions in Sind. Muhammad Tughluq led an expedition against them in person. The ruffians were scattered. Their leaders were captured and forced to embrace Islam.

(8) Harihar, an enterprising Hindu leader, founded the Hindu Kingdom of Vijayanagar in 1336. He also gave help to Krishna Naik, son of Prataparudra Kakatiya, when the latter revolted against Muhammad Tughluq in 1343-44.

Warangal was captured by Ballala I and its Muslim governor, Imad-ul-Mulk, ran away to Daulatabad. According to Ferishta, “Belal Deo and Krishna Naik both combined their forces and delivered Mabar and Dwarsamudra from Muslim control. On all sides the flames of war and rebellion were kindled and of the distant provinces nothing remained in the possession of the Sultan except Gujarat and Deogiri.”

(9) Qutlugh Khan was the Governor of Daulatabad. A lot of public revenue was embezzled by his subordinates and therefore Muhammand Tughluq decided to send Ain-ul-Mulk Multani to Daulatabad. That could not be done on account of the revolt of Ain-ul-Mulk. In spite of this, Qutlugh Khan was called back from Daulatabad.

However, the situation did not improve. According to Feristha. “The people disgusted at the removal of Qutlugh Khan and the want of capacity displayed by the new administration, rebelled in all quartes and the country was devastated and depopulated in consequence.”

(10) Aziz Khummar had been appointed the Governor of Malwa and Dhar by Muhammad Tughluq. His attitude towards the nobles was objectionable and consequently they revolted.

The Governor caught hold of 80 such nobles and got them beheaded in front of his palace with a view to terrorise others. This was too much and there was trouble everywhere. Aziz Khummar was captured and put to “an ignominious death”.

(11) The Sultan could not tolerate the defiance of his authority and consequently marched into Gujarat at the head of an army and destroyed all that fell into his hands. At that time, news came of a rebellion in Deogiri and Muhammad Tughluq marched towards Deogiri. There the Afghans, Turk and Hindus had made common cause against the Sultan but the latter was able to recover Daulatabad from the rebels.

While in Daulatabad, Muhammad Tughluq heard of another revolt in Gujarat. The leader of the revolt was Taghi, a common shoe-maker and slave of a Muslim nobleman. He was able to bring under his command all the discontented elements. He successfully
occupied and plundered places like Nehrwala, Cambay and Broach. However Muhammad Tughluq was successful in driving out Taghi from Gujarat and the latter took refuge in Sind. Things were brought to normal in Gujarat.

(12) When Muhammad Tughluq was in Gujarat, the foreign Amirs made a vigorous effort to recover their position and besieged the fort of Deogiri. All attempts of the imperialists to re- caputre it failed.

Imad-ud-Mulik was defeated by Hassan Gangu and the rebels occupied Daulatabad. Ismail Mulk whom the rebels had chosen as their king “voluntarily and gladly” resigned in favour of Hassan Gangu. Hassan took up the title of Ala-ud-Din Bahman Shah in August, 1347 and founded the Bahmani Kingdom.

(13) Taghi had taken refuge in Sind and Muhammad Tughluq decided to proceed against him. However, on the way, the Sultan fell ill at Gondal and was obliged to halt for some time. After partial recovery, he proceded towards Thatta in Sind.

When he was about 3 or 4 day’s march from that place, his condition became grave and he died on 20 March, 1351. Badauni observes: “And so the king was freed his people and they from their king.”

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