Muhammad bin Tughluq

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For the 1971 Tamil film, see Muhammad bin Tughluq (film).
Muhammad bin Tughluq
Fakhr Malik
Delhi tughra.jpg
Sultan of Delhi
Reign 1324– 20 March 1351
Predecessor Ghiyasuddin Tughluq
Successor Firuz Shah Tughluq
Full name
Muhammad bin Tughluq
Died 20 March 1351
Thatta, Delhi Sultanate (present day Sindh, Pakistan)
Buried Tughlaqabad, (present day Delhi, India)
Religion Islam

Muhammad Salman Khan Tughluq (Arabic: محمد بن تغلق‎‎) (also Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq, Prince Fakhr Malik, Jauna Khan, Ulugh Khan; died 20 March 1351) was the Turkic Sultan of Delhi through 1324 to 1351.[1] He was the eldest son of Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq. He was born in Kotla Tolay Khan in Multan. His wife was the daughter of the raja of Dipalpur.[2] Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq sent the young Muhammad to the Deccan to campaign against king Prataparudra of the Kakatiya dynasty whose capital was at Warangal in 1321 and 1323.[3] Muhammad succeeded to the Delhi throne upon his father's death in 1325. Muhammad Tughlaq was a scholar of logic, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, physical sciences and calligraphy. He was also interested in medicine and was skilled in several languages — Persian, Arabic, Turkish and Sanskrit. Ibn Battuta, the famous traveller from Morocco, was a guest at his court.[4] From his accession to the throne in 1325 until his death in 1351, Muhammad contended with 22 rebellions, pursuing his policies consistently and ruthlessly. It is said that he deliberately killed his father Ghiyasudden Tughlaq to ascend the throne of Delhi, although modern historians do not support this theory. From the chronicles of Barani, we came to know that, on his return from a campaign, Ghiyasuddin was watching the parade of the elephants he got as war booty and then the stage along with the Sultan himself, collapsed. It is noteworthy that the salary of the wazir of Muhammed-Bin-Tughlaq was equal to the income of the then Iraq under the Persian Shah. Elphinstone wrote "It is admitted, on all hands, that he was the most eloquent and accomplished prince of his age. His letters, both in Arabic and Persian, were admired for their elegance long after he had ceased to reign. His memory was extraordinary ; and, besides a thorough knowledge of logic and the philosophy of the Greeks, he was much attached to mathematics and to physical science ; and used himself to attend sick persons for the purpose of watching the symptoms of any extraordinary disease. He was regular in his devotions, abstained from wine, and conformed in his private life to all the moral precepts of his religion. In war he was distinguished for his gallantry and personal activity, so that his contemporaries were justified in esteeming him as one of the wonders of the age. Yet the whole of these splendid talents and accomplishments were given to him in vain : they were accompanied by a perversion of judgement, which, after every allowance for the intoxication of absolute power, leaves us in doubt whether he was not affected by some degree of insanity".[5]


Muhammad Bin Tughlaq (Jauna Khan) came to throne after the accidental death of his father Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq and remained an unsuccessful sultan till his last breath. He had been a man of controversies and crisis, he faced worst attacks of Mongols, He experimented to shift his capital from Delhi to Daulatabad that was disastrous decision which cost millions of tankas and thousands of lives. Muhammad Bin Tughluq was careless, sometimes insane and sometimes acted like a real hero and leader.

Death of Tughlaq Shah and Accession of Muhammad Bin Tughlaq[edit]

The death of his father has been a bone of contention among the historians: Farishta claims that the death of Giyasuddin was an accident because the passionate and obedient son was totally loyal to his father. But Vincent A. Smith has a particularly different point of view. He says that Muhammad Bin Tughlaq carefully designed the incident because how it was possible that a moment before the incident Muhammad Bin Tughlaq has left the hall. In his words, it was a planned murder. His proceedings had given his father reason to suspect his loyalty. The Sultan desired his son to build for him a temporary reception pavilion or pleasure-house on the bank of the Jumna. Jauna Khan entrusted the work to Ahmad, afterwards known as Khawaja Jahan, who was head of the public works department and in his confidence. The prince asked and obtained permission to parade the elephants fully accountered before his father, who took up his station in the new building for afternoon prayers. The conspirators arranged that the elephants, when passing, should collide with the timber structure, which accordingly fell on the Sultan and his favorite younger son, Mahmud, who accompanied him. Jauna Khan made a pretense of sending for picks and shovels to dig out his father and brother, but purposely hindered action being taken until it was too late. The Sultan was found bending over the boy's body, and if he still breathed, as some people assert that he did, he was finished off (A.D 1325). After the nightfall, his body was removed and interred in the massive sepulcher which he had prepared for himself in Tughlaqabad, the mighty fortress which he had built near Delhi.[6] But Abu Al-Qasim Farishta remarkably disagree to such kind of controversy, he says that we have no concrete evidence to support this argument. Because, just before the death of Giyasudin, Jauna Khan was highly submissive to his father. He, in his passion, asked permission from him to host a ceremony, so, if this was the case, Giyasudin, (being a man of great wisdom) must have known, and it was just an accident that led to the accession of Jauna Khan (Muhammad Bin Tughlaq).[7]


After the death of his father Ghiyasuddin Tughluq, Muhammad bin Tughluq ascended the throne of Tughluq dynasty of Delhi in February, 1325 A.D. Unlike the Khaljis who did not annex stable kingdoms, Tughluq would annex kingdoms around his sultanate. In his reign, he conquered Warangal (in present-day Telangana, India) Mabar and Madurai, (Tamil Nadu, India), and areas up to the modern day southern tip of the Indian state of Karnataka. In the conquered territories, Tughluq created a new set of revenue officials to assess the financial aspects of the area. Their accounts helped the audit in the office of the wazir.[8]

Shifting of capital[edit]

In 1327, Tughluq passed an order to shift the capital from Delhi to Daulatabad (in present day Maharashtra) in the Deccan region of south India. Tughluq said that it would help him to establish control over the fertile land of the Deccan plateau.[9] He also felt that it would make him safe from the Mongol invasions which were mainly aimed at Delhi and regions in north India.[10] Also, it was not always possible to operate an army from Delhi for the occupation of Southern states. Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq himself had spent a number of years while a prince in occupying and guarding the southern states during the reing of his father. Daulatabad was also situated at a central place so the administration of both the north and the south could be possible.[11]

All facilities were provided for those who were required to migrate to Daulatabad. It is believed that the general public of Delhi was not in favour of shifting base to Daulatabad. This seems to have annoyed Tughluq, for he ordered all people of Delhi to proceed to Daulatabad with their belongings. Ibn Batuta cites that the force was applied without any leniency. Barani observes: "Without consultation or weighting the pros and cons, he brought run on Delhi which for 170 to 180 years had grown in prosperity and rivaled Baghdad and Cairo. The city with its Sarais and suburbs and villages spread over four or five leagues, all was destroyed (i.e., deserted). Not a cat or a dog was left."[12]

A broad road was constructed for convenience. Shady trees were planted on both sides of the road; he set up halting stations at an interval of two miles. Provisions for food and water were also made available at the stations. Tughluq established a khanqah at each of the station where at least one sufi saint was stationed. A regular postal service was established between Delhi and Daulatabad. In 1329, his mother also went to Daulatabad, accompanied by the nobles. By around the same year, Tughluq summoned all the slaves, nobles, servants, ulema, sufis to the new capital.[13] The new capital was divided into wards called mohalla with separate quarters for different people like soldiers, poets, judges, nobles. Grants were also given by Tughluq to the immigrants. Even though the citizens migrated, they showed dissent. In the process, many died on the road due to hunger and exhaustion. Moreover, coins minted in Daulatabad in around 1333, showed that Daulatabad was "the second capital".[13]

However, in 1334 there was a rebellion in Mabar. While on his way to suppress the rebellion, there was an outbreak of bubonic plague at Bidar due to which Tughluq himself became ill, and many of his soldiers died. While he retreated back to Daulatabad, Mabar and Dwarsamudra broke away from Tughluq control. This was followed by a revolt in Bengal. Fearing that the sultanate's northern borders were exposed to attacks, in 1335, he decided to shift the capital back to Delhi, allowing the citizens to return to their previous city.[14]

Impact of the Change of Capital[edit]

While most of the Medieval historians, including Barani and Ibn Batuta, tend to have implied that Delhi was entirely emptied (as is famously mentioned by Barani that not a dog or cat was left), it is generally believed that this is just an exaggeration. Such exaggerated accounts simply imply that Delhi suffered a downfall in its stature and trade. Besides, it is believed that only the powerful and nobility suffered hardships, if any. Two Sanskrit inscriptions dated 1327 and 1328 A.D. confirm this view and establish the prosperity of the Hindus of Delhi and its vicinity at that time.

One of them records the foundation of a well by a Brahman of the name of Srindhara at the village of Nadayana, the modern Naraina, near Delhi. The verses of this inscription speak of Muhammad bin Tughluq as "the mighty Saka Lord" and throw light on the favorable conditions in which the Hindu families of Delhi lived.

The second inscription found at the village of Sarbar, five miles from Delhi, also refers to the prosperity of a Hindu family. These inscriptions, read with Barani's remarks about the "misery of the selected people", lead to the inference that Sultan Muhammad's orders for migration applied to the leading Mussulman families only. This is also supported by Barani's references to heavy casualties in these words: "And on all sides of the old infidel land of Deogiri, there sprang up graveyards of the Mussulmans."

There is more to the transfer of capital than what is generally written. It is believed that Tughluq wanted to make Daulatabad an Islamic cultural centre, thereby helping him to have better control over the region, reducing the number of "Hindu" rebellions. His efforts to bring Ulema and Shaikhs from provincial towns and make them settle down in that city give a clue to his true intentions. The Chishti and Subrawardi mystic orders carried on an extensive religious propaganda in every village and town of Hindustan and their efforts brought a considerable minority of poor Indians within the fold of Islam. This minority of gardeners, cooks, barbers etc., converted to Islam and gave to the Empire of Delhi the strength it needed. The view of Muhammad Tughluq was that something like the above had to be done in the Deccan to strengthen the Muslim position in that area.

As regards its remote effects, the Deccan experiment of Muhammad Tughluq was a remarkable success. The boundaries which had separated the North from the South broke down. It is true that the extension of the administrative power of the Delhi Sultanate into the Deccan failed, but so far as the extension of the cultural institutions was concerned, it was successful.[12]

Failed expeditions[edit]

After the death of Genghis Khan, one line of his descendants, the Chagatai Khanate, ruled over Turkistan and Transoxiana and another branch of Hulagu Khan conquered present day Iran and Iraq. [note 1] However, at the time of Tughluq, both of the dynasties were on the downfall, with conditions in Transoxiana unstable after the death of Tarmashirin.[14] He was ambitous of annexing these kingdoms. He invited nobles and leaders from these regions and gave them grants. Partly with their help and partly from his own kingdom, Tughluq raised an army of three million and seven hundred thousand soldiers in 1329. Barani has written that Tughluq took no step to check the ability of the soldiers or the brand of horses. They were paid in one year advance, and after being kept idle for one year, Tughluq found it difficult to pay them. Therefore, he decided to disperse and dissolve the soldiers in 1329.[15]

In 1333, Tughluq led the Qarachil expedition to the Kullu-Kangra region of modern-day Himachal Pradesh in India. Historians like Badauni and Ferishtah wrote that Tughluq originally wanted to cross the Himalayas and invade China. However, he faced local resistance in Himachal. Unable to combat in the hills, nearly entire of his 10,00 soldiers perished and Tughluq was forced to retreat.[15]

Collapse of the empire[edit]

Tughluq died in 1351 on his way to Thatta, Sindh in order to intervene in a war between members of the Gujjar tribe. He had lived to see his empire fall apart. During his reign new kingdoms broke away in south India and the Deccan. Several south Indian rulers like Prolaya Vema Reddy of the Reddy dynasty, Musunuri Kaapaaneedu and the Vijayanagara Empire liberated the whole of the South of India from the Delhi Sultanate and the Bahmani kingdom was founded by Hasan Gangu.[16]


Historian Ishwari Prasad writes that different coins of different shapes and sizes were produced by his mints which lacked the artistic perfection of design and finish. In 1330, after his failed expedition to Deogiri, he issued token currency; that is coins of brass and copper were minted whose value was equal to that of gold and silver coins. Historian Ziauddin Barani felt that this step was taken by Tughluq as he wanted to annex all the inhabited areas of the world for which a treasury was required to pay the army. Barani had also written that the sultan's treasury had been exhausted by his action of giving rewards and gifts in gold. This experiment failed, because, as said by Barani, "the house of every Hindu became a mint". During his time, most of the Hindu citizens were goldsmiths and hence they knew how to make coins. In the rural areas, officials like the muqaddams paid the revenue in brass and copper coins and also used the same coins to purchase arms and horses.[17] As a result, the value of coins decreased and, as said by Satish Chandra, the coins became "as worthless as stones". This also disrupted the trade and commerce. The token currency had inscriptions marking the use of new coins instead of the royal seal and so the citizens could not distinguish between the official and the forged coins. Records show that the use of token currency has stopped in 1333 as Ibn Batuta who came to Delhi in 1334 and wrote a journal made no mention of this currency.[18]


Forced token currency coin

Foundation of the Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar

The widespread rebellions gave an opportunity to the Hindus of southern India to make a bid for their independence. An enterprising Hindu leader, named Harihar, laid the foundation of the kingdom of Vijayanagar in 1336. He gave secret support to Krishna Nayak who rebelled against the Sultan of Delhi in 1343-44. This rebellion could not be suppressed and a large part of southern India passed into the hands of the Hindus.

The people of Devagiri rebelled in 1345 owing to the extortions and harsh treatment of the local officers. The historian

Farishta writes that the people "rebelled in all quarters and the country was devastated and depopulated in consequence." Next in importance came the rebellion of the foreign nobles, known as Amiratt-i-Sadah (Centurions) who had enjoyed certain special privileges. These foreign nobles embezzled money, aided other rebels and took to plunder whenever there was any confusion in the Dakhin. Muhammad instructed Aziz Khummar, governor of Malwa, to punish the foreign nobles. Aziz treacherously put to death a number of them. This caused dissatisfaction among the foreign nobles in Gujarat who, too, raised the standard of rebellion. They captured Aziz and put him to death. Muhammad had to proceed to the scene of action. He defeated the rebels near Dabohi. This success was able to put down the Amir-i-Sadah. The foreign nobles at Devagiri became apprehensive of their fate. They rebelled and occupied Devagiri. From there the trouble spread to Berar, Khandash and Malwa. The Sultan had to proceed to Devagiri and put down the rebellion. Meanwhile, there was another rebellion in Gujarat and Muhammad had to proceed there. This gave the rebels of Devagiri a chance. They repudiated allegiance to Delhi and laid the foundation of the Bahamani kingdom.

The rebellion in Gujarat proved to be formidable. The Sultan, however, hunted down the rebel named Taghi, who was compelled to take shelter at Thatta in Sindh. Muhammad remained in Gujarat for three years in order to reorganise the administration of the province and conquer Girnar, that is the modern Junagarh. After this, he proceeded to Sindh to punish Taghi, and there he was taken ill. He died on March 20, 1351. In the words of the historian Badauni: "The king was freed from his people and they from the king." [19]


Our knowledge of the second sovereign of the Tughlaq dynasty, who appears in history as Muhammad bin (son of) Tughlaq, is extraordinarily detailed and accurate, because, in addition to the narrative of an unusually good Indian historian (Ziau-d din Barani), we possess the observations of the African traveller, Ibn Batuta, who spent several years at the court and in the service of the Sultan until April 1347, when he succeeded in retiring from his dangerous employment. He was then sent away honorably as ambassador to the emperor of China, but the ships on which the members of the embassy embarked were wrecked off Calicut and the mission was broken up. Ibn Batuta escaped with his life, and ultimately made his way safely to Fez in northern Africa, in November 1349, after twenty-five years of travel and astounding adventures.[6]

Ziau-d din of Baran (Bulandshahr)was also a contemporary official and wrote in the reign of Muhammad bin Tughlaq's cousin and successor, Firoz Shah. Although he naturally does not exhibit the impartial detachment of the foreign observer, his narrative is full of vivid details. If space permitted, the materials would suffice for a long story, but room can only be found for just a brief selection of the doings of one of the most astonishing kings mentioned in the records of the world. Notwithstanding that Muhammad bin Tughlak was guilty of acts which the pen shrinks from recording, and that he wrought untold misery in the course of his long reign, he was not wholly evil. He was "a mixture of opposites", as Jahangir was in a later age. He established hospitals and almshouses, and his generosity towards learned Muslims was unprecedented. It was even possible to truly describe him as both "the humblest of men" and also as an intense egotist.[6]

Tughluq was a strict Muslim, maintaining his five prayers during a day, fasting. Courtesans had hailed Tughluq as a "man of knowledge" and had interest in subjects like philosophy, medicine, mathematics, religion, Persian and Hindi poetry. Barani has written that Tughluq wanted the traditions of the nubuwwah to be followed in his kingdom.[20] Even though he did not believe in mysticism, Chandra states that he respected the Sufi saints, which is evident from the fact of his building of the mausoleum of the saint Nizamuddin Auliya at Nizamuddin Dargah. He was also the first Delhi sultan to visit the Dargah Sharif, the mausoleum of saint Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer (in present-day Rajasthan, India). His tolerance of other religions is also evident from the fact of his association with Jain saints (as described in Vividha Tirtha Kalpa, a contemporary text) and participation in Hindu festivals like Holi. Critics have called him hasty in nature, owing to most of his experiments getting failed because of lack of preparation. Ibn Batuta has written that he depended on his own judgment and rarely took advice from others. He criticizes him for giving out excessive gifts and "harsh punishments".[21]

His Sadness[edit]

Elphinstone was the first historian who believed that Muhammad suffered from some degree of insanity. His views have been shared by later European writers. A perusal of the contemporary authorities shows that there is nothing in the pages of Barani and Ibn Battuta which might show that the Sultan ever suffered from any ailment. He had interest in astronomy, logic and mathematics. He learnt many languages like Persian, Arabic, and Turkish. He also had knowledge in Medicine. Historian Lane Pole believed that he was a man beyond his age. As a sultan he took some steps to improve the condition of his kingdom. His ideas behind the steps he took were great. But his impatience failed him to imply them properly. As a result, his policies became a reason behind the decline of his kingdom. He was an open minded king. During his time people had the freedom to choose any religion. Probably, Elphinstone and other European writers were misled by the statement of Barani and Ibn Battuta that there were always some dead bodies found lying in front of the Sultan's palace. Muhammad inflicted the punishment of death for petty offences not because he was mad but because he could make no discrimination between crimes. The mistake was due to the lack of a sense of proportion rather than to mental insanity. It must also be said in fairness to the Sultan that punishment of death was common in the medieval age both in Europe and in Asia. It is also incorrect to say that Muhammad delighted in shedding human blood. The charge was brought against him by Barani, who belonged to the clerical party which was particularly hostile to the Sultan for his policy of depriving them of their privileges and chastising them for their failings and presumptions. The charge of atheism is also untenable. Barani says that the Sultan had lost faith in Islam and acted against its tenets, while Ibn Battuta definitely asserts that he was very meticulous in his daily prayers and other religious rites enjoined by Islam. Not only did he adhere strictly to the dogma, precept and practice of his religion but he punished those who deviated from them, and even those who did not say their prayers regularly. The truth was that in the early stage of his career Muhammad was assailed by doubts and, hence, he acted as a sceptic. But, some years after his accession, he gave up scepticism and behaved like an orthodox cleric. There is another charge against Muhammad, namely, that of his being a visionary. There is some substance in the contention that he was fond of building castles in the air and that he thought of schemes which failed in operation. But one should not forget that many of his projects and reforms, such as the currency and revenue reforms, were, on the other hand, sound, constructive and practicable. Some of them even showed "flashes of political insight." Hence, Muhammad was both an idealist and a visionary.[22]

Was he a mixture of opposites?[edit]

Ishwari Prasad maintains that only when viewed superficially does Muhammad appear to be an "amazing compound of contradictions," but he was really not so. Dr. Mahdi Husain endeavors to show that though he had contradictory qualities in him, these appeared at different periods of his career and that there were clear reasons behind them. Hence, Dr. Husain contends that he could not be called a mixture of opposites. The present writer differs from the above learned historians and believes that Muhammad did possess contradictory qualities at one and the same period of his career and that these remained part and parcel of his character throughout his life. Dr. Mahdi Husain has shown that the Sultan was skeptic in the early days of his reign, but became really religious in his later years. This would show that so far as religion was concerned, the Sultan could not be called guilty of being religious and irreligious at one and the same time. But Dr. Husain is silent so far as the other qualities are concerned. Muhammad was humble and, at the same time, extremely arrogant, so that, as Barani writes, he would not like to be told that there was any part of the world or heaven which was not under his control. At times, he was so moderate and servile that Ibn Battuta considered humility to be the most important trait of his character. Usually, he was extremely generous; tut, at times, he was thoroughly narrow minded. Ibn Battuta has given a number of examples of Muhammad's great reverence for abstract justice and form of law. These show that he would, at times, appear as a supplicant in a court of justice, would behave like an ordinary citizen and receive punishment from the hands of his judge; on the other hand, he would, normally, inflict barbarous punishments of death and mutilation for the most petty offences. Usually, he was all kindness; but at times, when his wrath was excited, he would behave like a most cruel man and a great tyrant. Hence one cannot escape the conclusion that Muhammad bin Tughlak was a mixture of opposites.[23]

In popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ Tughlaq Shahi Kings of Delhi: Chart The Imperial Gazetteer of India, 1909, v. 2, p. 369..
  2. ^ Douie, James M. (1916) The Panjab North-West Frontier Province and Kashmir Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, page 171, OCLC 222226951
  3. ^ Sen, Sailendra (2013). A Textbook of Medieval Indian History. Primus Books. pp. 91–97. ISBN 978-9-38060-734-4. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Smith, Vincent A. (1919). THE OXFORD HISTORY OF INDIA. London: OXFORD, AT THE CLARENDON PRESS. p. 238. ISBN 978-0195612974. 
  6. ^ a b c Smith, Vincent A. (1919). Oxford History of India. London: Oxford University Press. p. 238. ISBN 978-0195612974. 
  7. ^ Farishta, Abu al-Qasim (2008). Tarikh e Farishta. Lahore: Al-Mizan Publisher Al-Karim Market Urdu Bazar Lahore. pp. 296–297. 
  8. ^ Chandra, p. 97.
  9. ^ Ahmed, p. 79.
  10. ^ Ahmed, p. 80.
  11. ^ "Biography of Muhammad-Bin-Tughluq (1325-1351)". History Discussion - Discuss Anything About History. 2015-01-13. Retrieved 2016-05-17. 
  12. ^ a b Sen, Pragati. "Transfer of Capital to Daulatabad by Muhammad Bin Tughluq". Retrieved 2016-05-17. 
  13. ^ a b Chandra, p. 101.
  14. ^ a b Chandra, p. 102.
  15. ^ a b Chandra, p. 103.
  16. ^ Verma, D. C. History of Bijapur (New Delhi: Kumar Brothers, 1974) p. 1
  17. ^ Chandra, p. 104.
  18. ^ Chandra, p. 105.
  19. ^ Srivastava, A. L. (1966). The Sultanate of Delhi 5th Edition. Agra, India: SHIVA LAL AGARWALA & COMPANY JATIONAL PUBLISHERS AGRA. pp. 199–200. 
  20. ^ Chandra, p. 98.
  21. ^ Chandra, p. 99.
  22. ^ Srivastava. The Sultanate of Delhi. p. 199. 
  23. ^ Ibid. p. 200. 


  1. ^ The term Khurasan refers to a historical area in Central Asia which included the mentioned regions.


External links[edit]

Preceded by
Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq
Sultan of Delhi
Succeeded by
Firuz Shah Tughluq