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Old Monday, June 08, 2009
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Default Reforms Of Firoz Tughlaq

Reforms Of Firoz Tughlaq

Firoz Tughlaq, cousin of Mohammad Tughlaq, was candidate of throne of Delhi in 1315. It is generally accepted that Firoz was not aspirant for the throne and accepted it because of persuasion of the nobles. Some historians maintain that Firoz manipulated circumstances in his favour and became Sultan as according to his aspirations.

The other question regarding the accession of Firoz is that whether he was an usurper. Sir Wellesley Haig described that the son of Muhammad Tughlaq was declared as Sultan by Khawaja Jahan. But Firoz declared himself as the king and was an usurper. However, a majority of modern historians did not accept this contention.

First, there is no evidence that the child was the real son of the Tughlaq while all the cotemporaries and modern historians have expressed that Mohammad Tughlaq left no male issue.

Second, the principle of hereditary succession was not accepted as general rule among the Muslims. Thus, according to Muslim law. Firoz held an election and that was valid and therefore he cannot be regarded as an usurper. According to Dr. Srivasitava, two new principles emerged because of the succession of Firoz.

First, there was no bar on a person becoming the Sultan if he was a son of a lady if she was non-Muslim before her marriage. Second, it was not necessary that Sultan should be a distinguished soldier.


Firoz paid attention primarily towards consolidation and reforms instead of conquests. During the last year of Muhammad Tughlaq’s reign, the administration was disrupted; subjects were mostly dissatisfied within the religious policy and worst of all was the weak domain of economy. Firoz concentrated his attention to improve these matters. He largely succeeded in achieving these objects.


Firoz imposed only four taxes including Kharaj (land tax), Khumus (1/5 of booty) Jizya (tax on Hindus for providing them safety in a Muslim state) and Zakat (2, 1/2% of the income of the Muslim).

Firoz imposed jizya even on the Brahamans who were exempted from this tax by Sultan earlier to him. He imposed irrigation tax on the peasants who used the water of the canals constructed by the state as 1/10 of their products (usher).

Firoz abolished nearly 24 taxes. Officers were ordered to collect only those taxes which were due to the state. Firoz also reduced revenue from 1/2 to 9 1/5 to 1/3. Revenue was fixed according to rough estimate of production. It was only a guess work which was supported by the previous revenue orders and records. This system had an advantage that the income of the state was fixed and was known before the expenses of the state could be adjusted according to the income. But its disadvantage was that state could not draw any benefit even if there was an increase in production.


Fixed increased salaries of his officers. He also banned the offering of presents to Sultan by officers or nobles of the state. He abolished a number of internal trade taxes which resulted in reduction of prices of goods and increase in trade.

All the measures of Firoz were successful. These resulted in increase of prosperity of both the subjects and the state. All contemporary historians praised the prosperity in his reign. Sharms Siraj Afif is of the view that the necessaries of life were abundant and grain continued to be cheap throughout the reign of the Firoz.”


Ala-ud-Din abolished Jagirdari system and took back all jagirs from nobles due to the shortcoming of the system. Ghayas-ud-Din Tughlaq and Muhammad Tughlaq followed him, but Firoz again distributed a large part of his empire among nobles and civil and military officers. This step was to win over the confidence of the nobles. Although, the system ran successfully during Firoz’s reign yet in the long run, it contributed to the disintegration of the empire.


Firoz constructed five canals for the irrigation purpose. He also got 150 wells dug for the same purpose. According to Frishta, Firoz also constructed 50 dams and 30 lakes to store water. All these resulted in the extension of area under cultivation. There was increase in tradition and income of the state in the form of irrigation tax.


It is said that Firoz established 300 cities. Important among these were Firozabad. Frishta credited him for the construction of 50 dams, 40 mosques, 30 colleges, 20 palaces, 100 caravan saries, 20 reservouirs, 100 hospitals, 5 mausoleums, 100 public baths, 10 monumental pillars, 10 public wells and 150 bridges numerous gardens and pleasure houses he used. He also repaired many historical buildings.


Firoz distributed a large amount of wealth and land among saints and other religious people. He established employment and marriage bureaus and a separate department called Siwan-e-Khairat which cared for orphans and bride and arranged for marriage of poor Muslims girls. He established a charitable hospital called Sar-ul-Shafa near Delhi.


His administration was based on Islamic laws. He restored the privileges of Qazis. He held his own court for administering justice and was in the favour of mild punishments. He abolished the practice of torturing the guilty to extract truth from him.


Firoz was himself a scholar. His writings were Fitwa-e-Jagandare and Tarikh-e-Firoz Shahi respectively. He wrote his autobiography, Fatuhat-e-Firoz Shahi. There were five libraries with one hundred volumes of Sanskrit texts. He established on the translated works which dealt with philosophy and astronomy titled as Dalait-e-Firoz Shahi. Sultan encouraged the study of Islamic laws and established thirty Madras including three colleges.

Teachers were liberally paid and students were awarded stipends. Acceding to a renowned historian, Sultan spent 36 lakh tankas allowances to learned men and the Quran reciters. Literature of that time was highly influenced by Islam.


Firoz was fond of keeping slaves and their number reached 180,000 during his reign. He established a separate department for their welfare and betterment. This in actual scene was a burden on economy and later these slaves interfered in the affairs of the state.


Organization of his army remained weak. Army suffered from two major defects. First, it was difficult especially of clergies to maintain army. The army was managed by provincial chiefs and governments. Secondly, the military services were mostly hereditary. It meant if a soldier retired his son and even son-in-law could claim his post. Probably, Sultan kept thousands of horsemen at the canter and the rest he depended upon his nobles and governors.


Firoz’s religious policy has become subject to severe criticism mainly by Indian historians. It is said that Sultan not only supported Islamic law but also accepted laws of Islam as basic principles in administration. His religious policy is also compared with that of Aurangzeb with only one difference that later by him was a master of Islamic law and former depended completely on Ulma. In fact, Sultan was not a bigot but his policy was mainly to win the support of the majority of the Muslims.

He was criticized by Hindu historians because he imposed Jizya on the Brahmans and also claimed in his autobiography to embrace the religion of the Prophet (PUBH) and proclaimed that everyone who adopted religion, should be exempted from Jizya.

Matter of fact is that if he imposed Jizya on the Hindus, it is not strange but was simply an Islamic principle but it is on the record that in personal life Firoz was not a model of correct Islamic living. He continued to drink wine and was also fond of music. So S.M Ikram has rightly said that his claims cannot be taken as their face value, but Firoz had seen the fate of Muhammad Tughlaq and was anxious to win the favour of powerful religions leaders and orthodox Muslim nobility.


Historians of his time and modern ones generally hailed policies of Firoz Tughlaq. As a ruler, he was successful. He brought about prosperity in the empire. Due to these achievements, Henry Eliot and Elphinstone described him as the Akber of the Sultanate period. Sir Wolsey Haig is also of the opinion that the reign of Firoz touches most important epoch of the Muslims rule in India before Akber. Inspite of his defects of character, Firoz succeeded in inspiring the administration and elevating a lot and wining the affection of his subject”

But historians like V.A Smith and Ishwari Persad are not ready to accept him the Akber of sultanate period. Thus Firoz was not as great as Akber, he was the last important ruler of the Sultanate of Delhi.

One can question of his greatness on the ground that some measure like jagirdari system and hereditary system in army contributed to the down fall of his empire and he failed to check the process of disintegration of the empire. But one has to praise the role in establishing peace and order and mild ways of governance. His measures increased prosperity and confidence of his subjects. His greatness lies in the fact that he cured those wounds which were inflicted by Mohammad Tughlaq on his subjects. He strengthened the empire that was at the verge of collapse at the time of his succession. Whatever was the impact of his policies in the long run, he was successful in making his rule a success so far as his role in the down fall of empire is concerned that was due to his incompetent successor than his policies and reforms.

Dark Side Of His Character


He lacked tolerance and patience. All his plans just as transfer of capital, introduction of new coins etc., were such acts which show that whatever he wished, he wanted to carry out them all at once. Lane Pole observes, “To him what seemed good he did at once.”


He was a very obstance person. Whatever he thought to do, he would not leave it unless he had done it no matter if his subjects had to suffer a lot. Transfer of capital from Delhi to Doulatabad is example of such haughty attitude of Tughlaq maintains, “At present I am angry with my subject and they are aggrieved with me. The people are acquainted with my feelings and I am aware of their misery and wretchedness. The more people resist, the more I inflict chastisement”.


He was fond of devising strange plans. Levying of new tax in the Doab, the transfer of the capital, issuing of new copper coins and idea of conquering distant countries were such strange plans that struck him from time to time and harassed the people.


The sultan harassed his subjects several times like a wicked man. Ibn-e-Batuta described many events in which the Sultan manifested madness in action. Just to hear the story of punishment, he awarded to his brother and nephew, makes ones hair stand on ends.

V. A. Smith say, “Not withstanding that Muhammad bin Tughlaq was guilty of acts which the pen shrinks from recording and that he brought untold miseries during his reign, he was not wholly evil, he was mixture of opposite”.

In fact, Sultan was not a mad man. All his plans and castles were built in the air and were not based on bad intentions. The reality was that all of them were much in advance that people were not able to understand them.
It may be concluded that Muhammad Tughlaq had many qualities but it also seems that he suffered from some inherent weaknesses in his character, so he may be called the mixture of opposites. He was not as mad as some historians have said to him. According to Elphinstone, “If he infected the penalty of death even for petty offences, that was due to the fact that he had no scene of proportion and also because such was the custom prevailing in Europe and Asia at that time”.
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