Book I the Sultanate Period Chapters /. The Arabs and the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent 1



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Rukn-ud-din Firuz, to see how he fared. Before he could decide the question of succession, Iltutmish fell seriously ill and the matter was still unsettled when he died. Firuz ascended the throne with the support of army leaders, but he started squandering public funds and misusing power in such a way that the provincial governors revolted. Firuz left the capital to deal with the rebels when one of the most gruesome tragedies of early Muslim rule took place.
Massacre of Tajik Notables. Firuz’s misbehaviour and high-handedness of his mother Shah Turkan had so offended the thinking people that even the wazir Nizam al-Mulk Junaidi left the king to join his opponents. Nizam al-Mulk was a Tajik, and probably other Tajik notables were also not favourably inclined towards Firuz. This attitude so enraged the Turkish soldiers accompanying the king, that they joined hands and, in the neighbourhood of Karnal, massacred all the Tajik notables who were in the royal camp. ”... they martyred Taj-ul-Mulk, the Dabir (Secretary), the son of the Mushrif-i-Mamalik, Bahaud-Din Hasan (Husain)-i Ash’ari, Karim-ud-Din Zahid, Zia-ulMulk, the son of Nizam-ul-Mulk Muhammad Junaidi, Nizamud-Din Shafurqani, Khwaja Rashid-ud-Din Maikani, Amir Fakhr-ud-Din, the Dabir, and a number of other Tajik officials.”10
Tajiks” are Persian-speaking Turks who had migrated from Turkish homelands earlier and differed from the Turks in several national characteristics. The contribution of the Tajiks in the building up of the early Muslim State at Delhi was very substantial. They are traditionally good penmen, and not only monopolised the higher posts in the Delhi secretariat, but also dominated literary and intellectual life. The wazir himself was a Tajik. So was Minhaj al-Siraj, the historian and the future Oac/i-i Mumalik In the list of casualties preserved by him Taj al-Mulk Rida’ was the first Persian poet of importance at Delhi. Diya’ al-Mulk was the son of the wazir, Nizam al-Mulk Junaidi. Baha’ al-Mulk Ash’ari was the brother of ’Ain alAsh’ari, the great wazir of Qabacha, and himself a distinguished

m-
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noble. The other Dabir Amir Fakhr-ud-din may, if his name has been slightly mutilated, very well be the famous Fakhr-i Mudir (or Mudabbir).
It is painful to think that practically all the leading literary lights of Iltutmish’s reign were extinguished on one dark day. The tragedy irreparable damaged the influence of the Tajiks and also impoverished the intellectual life of the new State.
Radiyah Sultanah. When Rukn-ud-din Firuz’s supporters were destroying the flower of the imperial secretariat, his sister, Radiyah, made a bold bid for the throne. Clad in red, she appeared before the people gathered for Friday prayer in the principal mosque at Delhi and appealed to them in the name of Iltutmish to give her a chance to show her worth. This dramatic gesture evoked ready response and the people of Delhi, who had not so far taken the oath of allegiance to Firuz, accepted her claim. Firuz, on his return, was imprisoned and subsequently put to death, but Radiyah’s accession, which had been effected without the consent of provincial governors and even the wazir, was doomed from the beginning. The powerful nobles felt ignored and considered her accession irregular. Radiyah tried to create dissensions amongst her opponents, and was temporarily successful, but the elevation of an Abyssinian to the major post of Amir-i Akhur (Master of the Horse) and possibly some other appointments (like that of Hindu Khan, presumably a Hindu convert, to the governorship of Sind) gave serious offence to the Turkish nobles and they rose in rebellion against her. Radiyah’s discarding of the veil and her severity swung public opinion against her. Her retinue murdered the Abyssinian Amir-i Akhur, and imprisoned her while she was camping at Bhatinda to deal with the rebels. Her efforts to weather the storm by marrying Altuniyah, the’rebel governor of Bhatinda, did not succeed. Her brother, Bahrarn, who had been proclaimed king at Delhi during her absence entrusted young Balban with the task of dealing with Radiyah and her husband’s troops, and Balban carried out the mission with the competence which was, in course of time, to carry him to the
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throne of Delhi. Radiyah and Altuniyah were defeated and deserted by their troops, and, in the course of their lonely fight, were murdered by the Hindus (14 October 1240).
During Radiyah’s reign the Isma’ilis made another bid for power. On Friday, 5 March 1237, nearly a thousand of them, incited by the harangues of a zealous preacher, Nur Turk, entered by the great mosque of Delhi from two directions and fell upon the congregation. Many fell under their swords, but the Turkish nobles assembled their troops, who, aided by the congregation, overpowered and slaughtered the insurgents.
Struggle between the Throne and the Nobility. Radiyah’s end highlighted a development, which, though visible even in the success of nobles in sponsoring the claims of Iltutmish against those of Qutb-ud-din Aibak’s son, had become more marked since the death of Iltutmish. This was the question of the right and power of the nobility to determine the choice of the king and place limitations on his power and sphere of activity. In England, within the same century, there was a somewhat analogous struggle between the English monarch and the barons, which ended in the grant of the Magna Carta by the feeble King John, confirming the rights of the barons which, through an orderly evolution over centuries, were broadened and extended to the general public.
After Radiyah was defeated and imprisoned, her halfbrother Mu’iz-ud-din Bahram was proclaimed king, but ”on the stipulation of deputyship being conferred on Malik Ikhtiyar-uddin Aetkin,”12 who ”by virtue of his deputyship took the affairs of the kingdom into his own hands and in conjunction with the wazir (Muhazzab-ud-din) and Muhammad Iwaz, the Mustaufi, assumed control over the disposal of state affairs.”13 This was ”an experiment with immense possibilities for constitutional progress,”14 and did not basically differ from the contemporary attempt in England made by English barons, but the arrangement at Delhi did not work. The basic responsibility for the failure was that of the Deputy, nominated by the nobles, who started assuming royal prerogatives, and took steps which

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could not but alarm the new monarch. He married the king’s sister, assumed the triple naubat, and stationed an elephant at the entrance of his residence. These developments, according to Minhaj, ”began to press heavily upon the noble mind” of the youthful monarch who secretly encouraged violent measures to deal with the situation, and, within three months of the assumption of office, the na’ib was assassinated in the royal presence at a gathering arranged to hear a religious discourse. The wazir was also attacked and wounded by the assassins but he managed to escape.
This was, however, not the end of the struggle between the nobles and the king. Now, Badr-ud-din Sunqar, the Amir-i Hajib, and a patron of young Balban, assumed the direction of State affairs but he suffered, not only from the hostility of the king, but also from the lack of cooperation from the wazir. He called a meeting of the principal nobles at the residence of the Miishnj-i Mumalik, where Qadi-i Mumalik Jalal-ud-din Kashani, sadrs and nobles of the realm and other amirs and important personages were present. They discussed amongst themselves the recent events and sent the Mushrif-i Mumalik to the wazir to invite him to join them. The wazir sent back the messenger, with a promise to follow him, but conveyed the news of what was happening to the king. Bahram immediately mounted his horse and reached the place, where the meeting was being held. He took away Sunqar with him, but so strong was the power of the nobles that the only punfshment that was inflicted on the leader of the conspiracy at this time was to post him to Badaun, which was given to him as his fief. Qadi Jalalud-din was, however, relieved of the office of the Chief Qadi (which a few weeks later was conferred on Minhaj), and some of his collaborators left the capital fearing unpleasant developments.
The wazir now became all-powerful, but attack on him had shown Bahram’s real sentiments towards him, and he soon joined hands with the nobles to depose Bahram, who was dethroned on 10 May 1242. The principal senior noble, ’Izz-
77 Early Slave Kings & Establishment of Delhi Sultanate [ Ch. 4
ud-din Kishlu Khan, now made a bid for the throne, but his associates repudiated him, and, assembling at the tomb of Iltutmish, chose the latter’s grandson, ’Ala-ud-din Mas’ud, as the king. Qutb-ud-din Husain of Ghur was named Deputy, but the real power remained with the Wazir. The Turkish amirs, who were the soldier-administrators of the realm and governed large tracts, did not like the concentration of power -in the hands of somebody selected from ”the writer” class (ahl-i qalam, i.e. ”people of the pen”). The wazir also grossly abused his position, and ”took all functions out of the Turkish Amirs” so that they joined hands and had him assassinated. The submissive Najm-ud-din Abu Bakr now became wazir, and Balban was appointed to the key post of Amir-i Hajib. ’Ala’-ud-din Mas’ud continued to rule for more than four years with tolerable success, but later when he tried to curb the power of the nobles, he alienated the most powerful of them. He was deposed on

10th June 1246, and, after receiving many assu ranees, the nobles, among whom Balban played a dominant role, enthroned JJtutmish’s youngest son, Nasir-ud-din Mahmud.



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NOTES ft REFERENCES
Under Islamic Law an unmanumitted ilave C(nnot (,e accepted ai ruler, and the fact that Qutb-ud-din Aibak was accepted „ ,uch „„ been a source of perplexity to later jurists, and some writer) nive even doubted whether he should be treated as an independent king.
The Cambridge lli\tnr\ of India, in, 25 Dlytt’ nd din Hnrnnl, Tartkh-i I’iruz Shaln, p.|37 Medieval India {t,inrlerl\; \llg;,rli, 1/3 and 4, |(,4 ,,5. U.N. l)cj liiminntrnt,,,,! nftlie Sullanntf of D,n,t p. jfio.
Isatni also praise Nizam al-Mulk’s ”wisdom” IIMj ”jmegrity” in Futuh al-Salatin, and mentions that it was Nizam al-Mulk who purchased Balban as a slave and presented him to Iltutmish.
Medieval India Quarterly, Aligarh, 1/3 and 4,1114/105.
E.G. Browne, A Literary History of Persia, II, 427.
llnrhiln< Snrdn, \jmer. p. S5
Raverty, Tr., Tabaqal.t Nastri, I, 635.
The term Tajik” was originally used for u,e Arabi> particularly the Arab
conquerors of Central Asia. Later, it was looK|y uae(j for t),e Persian-speaking
people of eastern Iran, Ghur and adjacent ter*jlorje, irrespective of their ethnic
origins.
Raverty, op. en , I, 649 Ibid., I, 650
A.B.M. Habibullah in R.C. Majumdar, Ed., Hlslory and culiure of the Indian People, I, 138.
Chapter 5
THE ERA OF BALBAN
(644-684/1246-1287)
Era of Balban. The Sultanate of Delhi suffered grievously from the civil war which raged practically unabated for ter, years after the death of Iltutmish. The Mongols who had been hovering on the frontier grew bolder, and in 639/1241 sacked Lahore. They harried Multan, Sind and the central Punjab, and were in virtual control of this area for a number of years. In the east, Bengal and Bihar became independent. To the south of Delhi, the Hindus began to reassert themselves, and the Muslims lost many important strongholds which had been captured in the days of Aibak and Iltutmish. Gwalior and Ranthambhor were abandoned during Radiyah’s reign. Now, even in areas nearer to the capital, like Katehr (modern Rohilkhand) and Doab, Hindu resistance was intensified. ”The half-subdued countryside offered enough manoeuvering space for the local tribes, who, in the absence of organized military leadership, took to a form of guerilla warfare.”
Not less important than these material losses were the fissures and weaknesses -displayed by the administrative structure built up by Iltutmish. The lines on which he had organised the new government required for their success a man of great ability, wisdom and resourcefulness, but, as he had feared, there was nobody equal to the task in his family. A mad scramble for power followed his death, in which the Tajiks were pitted against the Turks and the nobility was at loggerheads with the king, to say nothing of the warring ambitions of individual nobles. The man who emerged supreme

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out of this crisis and who not only dealt successfully with the problems of internal disorder, Mongol menace and Hindu resurgence, but also made far-reaching changes in the system of government, was yet another slave who had risen to prominence by his ability and strength of character. Balban ascended the throne in 663/1265, but he exercised so much authority during Nasir-ud-din’s reign (644-664/1246-1265) that all this period and his own reign may well be designated as the ”Era of Balban.”
Nasir-ud-din Mahmud. With the accession of Nasir-ud-din Mahmud in 644/1246, the period of acute conflict between the monarchy and the nobles came to an end. He reigned rather than ruled, leaving real power to his most prominent noble, Balban. Writing about Nasir-ud-din Mahmud, Barani says: ”During the twenty years of his reign Balban was Deputy of the State, and bore the title of Ulugh Khan. He, keeping Nasir-ud-din as a puppet (namuna), carried on the government, and even while he was only a Khan used many of the insignia of royalty.”1 In 651/1253-54, the non-Turkish elements in the empire, headed by ’Imad-ud-din Raihan, a newly converted Indian Muslim, aided by the Queen mother, made a bid to oust Balban from the control of affairs. This attempt was only temporarily successful and soon the Turkish governors of the provinces rallied around Balban. Terms were accordingly arranged between the king and Balban, now also his father-inlaw, and later to be appointed the deputy of the realm. Balban maintained his ascendency till Mahmud’s death in 664/1265, when he succeeded him to the throne.
During Mahmud’s reign, Balban took measures for suppressing disorder and lawlessness, but they remained inconclusive. Another disturbing feature of the times was the foothold which the Mongols had secured in the areas which now constitute Pakistan. They sacked Lahore in 639/1241, and soon the governors of Lahore, Multan and Uch were looking for protection more to the Mongol chiefs than to the then Sultan of Delhi. Disgruntled nobles like Kishlu Khan, the
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The Era of Balban
[Ch. 5
erstwhile governors of Uch and Multan, even tried to persuade Hulagu to sanction a fullscale invasion of the Sultanate. Thanks, however, to the precautions taken by Balban, all this did not materialise.
Ghiyath-ud~din Balban (563-686/1265-1287). Ghiyath-uddin Balban belonged to a noble family of Ilbari Turks of Central Asia, but, in the disturbed conditions following the Mongol irruption, was carried away and sold as a slave in Baghdad. From there he was taken to Gujarat, and in 629/1232 reached Delhi, where he was purchased by Iltutmish. Finding him to be a youth of promise, the Sultan appointed him as his personal attendant (khasadaf). He continued to hold this post till he became the Chief Huntsman (Amir-i Shikar) during the days of Radiyah. He first came into prominence in 637/1240 when, according to ’Isami, he was entrusted with the task of dealing with Radiyah and her supporters. He carried out his assignment successfully, and soon became Amir-i Akhur (Master of the Horse). He got Reward as his iqta’ (fief) and proved an excellent administrator. In the time of ’Ala’-ud-din Mas’ud he was appointed Amir-i Hajib (641/1244), and in

643/1246, when Nasir-ud-din Mahmud was placed on the throne, Balban became the most influential noble of the realm, and maintained this position till he ascended the throne.


New Pattern of Government. Balban’s work as a ruler involved, not only the defence of the country against foreign aggression and internal dangers, but called for a reorganisation of the administration to make it more effective.
Iltutmish had organised the administration in the newly conquered territories as a loose decentralised system, in which the fief-holders enjoyed wide powers, and high nobles were treated practically as the peers of the king. Balban changed all this. He had his own theory of kingship which did not differ much from the Iranian theory,2 but which was introduced in Muslim India for the first time with a thoroughness characteristic of Balban. Iltutmish was a pious Muslim, disdaining show and unenthusiastic about asserting royal

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superiority over the nobility. In fact, Barani says that Sultan Shams-ud-din used to say repeatedly before the public that he was grateful to God for having raised him above his companions and comrades who were a thousand times superior to him. He would say that when they stood before him in courtly respect and followed him, he felt embarrassed and desired that he should come down from the throne and kiss their hands and feet.3 The disturbed conditions which followed his death, due really to a struggle between the king and the nobility, showed the dangers inherent in this attitude. Nasir-uddin Mahmud did not change this position and lived an unassuming life, leaving real power with the deputy. The attitude of Sultan Ghiyath-ud-din Balban was, however, completely different. Influenced by the Persian theory of royalty, and taking a lesson from the anarchy which prevailed after the death of Iltutmish, he proceeded to raise the royal status far above that of the nobles. He used to say that, next to Prophethood, the highest office was that of Kingship. According to him, the ruler who did not maintain the dignity of his office, and safeguard its status would fail to perform his functions properly, and his subjects would resort to insubordination and fall a prey to crime, immorality and other abuses.
To strengthen the royal position, Balban, as soon as he ascended the throne, concentrated his attention on strengthening the army and providing a material basis for maintaining the new royal status. Aibak and Iltutmish had relied largely on the contingents of the fief-holders and under them the office of the ’Arid was a subordinate branch of the Central Secretariat under the overall control of the wazir. Balban reorganised the war office, raised the status of ’Arid-i Mumalitf and dealt directly with him. Most of all he reorganised and strengthened the royal army. He increased its size, placed the troops under hand-picked commanders who were brave, dignified and with clean records, and raised their emoluments. He kept the army in good trim by taking it
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tCh. 5
regularly on long, arduous expeditions and periodic large scale hunting parties. He built up ”an instrument and source of government,” which was not only adequate for external and internal enemies, but made the position of the king immeasurably stronger than that of the nobles and fief-holders.
In order to enhance the royal status Balban took some other steps. He attached great importance to the observance of an impressive and imposing court etiquette. When the royal cavalcade move, hundreds of well-built and impressive-looking heralds, dressed in brilliant uniforms, preceded it and it was altogether such an impressive show that, according to the historian Barani, people came from long distances to witness the procession. At the royal court there was such an atmosphere of awe and majesty that occasionally the ambassadors, who came to present their credentials, and the Hindu rajas who came to pay tribute became nervous and stumbled on the steps.5
Balban was very meticulous about royal dignity even in private life, and imposed a rigorous discipline on himself. No valet of the Sultan ever saw him without a cap or socks or shoes, and throughout his long period of kingship he never laughed aloud before other, nor had anybody the courage to laugh aloud in his presence.6
A major problem with which Balban was faced was the all powerful military oligarchy which had dominated the politics of the Sultanate since the death of Iltutmish. This aristocratic corps commonly known as the Chihilgan or ”The Forty” had, at one time, played a constructive role, but in the days of lltutmish’s weak successors, it had become a major threat to the State. Balban was originally one of the Forty but he now set about breaking their power by all possible means, including the use of poison and the assassin’s dagger.
As a natural consequence of this policy the provincial governors lost much of their power and privileges. The instructions which Balban gave to his son Bughra Khan, while

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entrusting to him the government of Bengal, and which he had had formally written down by Shams Dabir, the chief secretary, clearly laid down the relationship which was to exist between the central government at Delhi and the governors of tlie provinces. Even more effective were the practical steps he took to control the provincial chiefs. In all provinces, he appointed barids (intelligence officers), who were to faithfully report the important doings of the local chiefs. On the basis of these reports, Balban meted out exemplary punishments to the provincial governors for any lapse or misbehaviour.
Iltutmish honoured the sufis. Formal-minded Balban’s highest honours were reserved for the ulema and Muslim lawyers, whom he visited after Friday prayers, with his entire retinue. He, however, claimed complete freedom for the head of the State in framing rules and regulations.
Balban transformed Iltutmish’s loosely-knit, decentralised, para-democratic organisation into a highly centralised government under the complete control of an autocratic king. Henceforward, subject to occasional variations, this was to be the normal pattern of the Muslim government in India.
Balban’s Achievements. Balban insisted on the rights of kingship, but he was equally conscious of its responsibilities. He acknowledged that it was the bounden duty of a ruler to provide peace and tranquillity within his dominion, which the early Muslim rulers, in spite of their best efforts, had not always been able to ensure. The Jats, the Mewatis and the Khokhars were a constant menace to peaceful subjects of the Sultanate. Muslim rulers had broken the power of the organised Hindu armies but warlike, restless tribes had taken to robbery and dacoity. Every year there would be some major disturbance of peace, and even the city of Delhi was not immune from plundering operations. Robbers infested the jungles around Delhi and, not only robbed travellers, but carried their depredations right up to the walls of the city. According to near-contemporary accounts, the gates of the city had to be closed immediately after the afternoon prayers, and it
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