Firoz Tughlaq a cousin brother of Muhammad Tughlaq ascended the throne after the death of Muhammad Tughlaq who was issueless and loved Firoz Tughlaq very much.
His reign lasted for about 37 years from 1351 to 1388 A.D. During his rule, Firoz Tughlaq adopted measures like revenue reforms, irrigation works, charitable programmes and public works etc. which won praise from various quarters.
At the same time, his military expeditions, slave system, feudal practice and religious policy etc. brought discredit to him. Accordingly his reign was a ‘mixture of good and evil’ as observed by Dr. Ishwari Prasad.
Bright side of Firoz Tughlaq’s reign:
1. Assessment of the revenue:
Firoz Tughlaq appointed a special officer namely Khawja Hisan-ud-Din to prepare an estimate of the public revenue of the kingdom. It took 6 years to complete this work. The Khawja toured the entire kingdom and prepared proper records. Thereafter he fixed the revenue of the ‘Khalsa’ land (Government land) in the kingdom at six crores and eighty-five lakhs of ‘Tankas’ (silver coins).
It was a rough estimate. The revenue which was fixed remained unchanged during the reign of Firoz Tughlaq. The chief merit of this system was that the income of the state was fixed and the expenditure of the state could be adjusted according to the income which was known before hand.
2. New system of taxation:
In accordance with the Islamic law, he imposed the following four taxes:
It was the land tax which was equal to one-tenth of the produce of the land.
It was two-and-half per cent tax on property realized from the Muslims and utilized for specific religious purposes only.
It was one-fifth of the booty captured and the four-fifth was left for the soldiers.
It was levied on the Non-Muslim subjects, particularly the Hindus. Women and children were, however exempted from the taxes.
3. Levy of other taxes:
The irrigation tax, garden tax, octroi tax and the sales tax were the other important taxes.
4. Irrigation works:
With a view to encourage irrigation, the Sultan paid a lot of attention to irrigation works.
Following four canals were constructed:
(i) The first and the most important and the longest canal were one which carried the waters of the river Jamuna to the city of Hissar. It was 150 miles long.
(ii) The second canal was drawn from river Sutlej to Ghaghra. It was about 100 miles long.
(iii) The third canal was from Mandvi and Sirmur hills to Hansi.
(iv) The fourth canal ran from Ghaghra to the newly established town of Firozabad.
Irrigation tax was charged at the rate of one-tenth of the produce of the irrigated land.
5. Laying out gardens:
The Sultan laid out about 1200 gardens in and around Delhi. These gardens produced so much fruit that they brought to the treasury an annual income of one lakh and eighty thousand tankas’.
6. Welfare of the peasants:
The Sultan waived off the loans that were given to them by Muhammad Tughlaq at the time of drought. He issued strict instructions to the officers not to harass the peasants.
7. Benevolent works:
These included the following:
It performed two main functions. The marriage bureau gave grants to the poor parents for the marriage of their daughters. It also provided financial help to the destitute.
Hospitals were set up in important towns where medicines were given free of charge. Poor people were also supplied food.
About 200 ‘ ‘sarais’ (rest houses) were built by the Sultan for the benefits of merchants and other travellers.
(iv) Grants to sufferers:
The Sultan gave liberal grants to all those persons or their heirs who had suffered bodily or executed during the reign of Muhammad Tughlaq.
8. Public works department:
The Sultan got constructed four canals, ten public baths, four mosques, thirty palaces, two hundred, Sarais’, one hundred tombs, 30 towns and one hundred bridges. Firoz Shah had a passion for public works. About his building activities, Sultan himself observed, “Among the gifts which God has bestowed upon me, His humble servant, had a desire to erect public buildings. So 1 built many mosques and monasteries that the learned and the devout and the holy, might worship God in these edifices and aid the kind builder with their prayers.”
Four important towns founded by him were of Firozabad, Fatehabad, Jaunpur and Hissar Firoza. Two pillars of Ashoka were brought to Delhi—one from Meerut and the other from Topra, Arnbala district—and erected in Delhi. In this regard Dr. V.A. Smith has observed, “Asiatic kings as a rule show no interest in buildings erected by their predecessors, which usually are allowed to decay uncared for. Firoz Shah was particular in devoting much attention to the repair and rebuilding of the structures of former kings and ancient nobles.”
9. Promotion of education and literature:
Firoz Tughlaq was a great patron of historians, poets and scholars. He himself was a man of learning and wrote his biography entitled ‘Fatuhat-i-Firozshah’. He established thirty educational institutions including three colleges. Teachers were liberally paid and stipends were granted to the students.
Zia-ud-Din Barani wrote ‘Fatwah-i-Jahandari’ and Afif wrote his ‘Tarikh-i-Firuzshah’.
Maulana Jalal-ud-Din Rumi, the famous theologian also flourished in his court.
10. Judicial reforms:
Firoz Tughlaq was opposed to severe punishments. He ended punishments like cutting of the limbs, extracting the eyes, putting melted glass in the throat, burning alive etc. He established courts at all important places of his empire and appointed Qazis etc. to administer justice.
11. Reforms in the currency system:
The Sultan introduced several types of new coins and small coins and ensured that no false coins came into circulation.
Dark Side of Firoz Tughlaq‘s Reign:
1. Failure as a conqueror:
Firoz Tughlaq was not an able general. No significant conquests were made by him.
Main military events are given below:
Firoz Tughlaq made two attempts to conquer Bengal but failed.
While returning from Bengal, he attacked Orissa. The ruler agreed to pay tribute to the Sultan.
(iii) Nagarkot (Kangra):
It took about six months to subjugate the Raja who acknowledged the Sultan’s suzerainty.
In the initial attacks by the Sultan himself, about three- fourth of his army was destroyed. Later the Sindh ruler accepted the suzerainty of the Sultan.
2. Army organization:
The Sultan introduced several reforms in the army which produced negative results.
(i) He did not maintain a standing army,
(ii) Military service was made hereditary,
(iii) The principle of merit was ignored,
(iv) The Sultan introduced the system of paying salary by grant of land.
This meant that a soldier had to go to his village for collecting his land revenue in lieu of salary.
3. Evils of Jagirdari system:
Firoz Tughlaq introduced the system of granting jagirs (lands) to his officials in place of cash payment. In due course, jagirdars became very powerful and created difficulties for the rulers
4. Nereauary nobles:
Firoz Tughlaq decreed that whenever a noble died, his son should be allowed to succeed to his position. This reduced the chances of competent persons being appointed at responsible posts.
5. Slave system:
It is said that Firoz Tughlaq had maintained about one lakh, eighty thousand slaves. It put great economic burden on the state. This slave system proved very harmful and became one of the contributory factors of the downfall of the Tughlaq empire.
6. Fanatically intolerant religious policy towards the Hindus:
Firoz encouraged the Hindus for conversion to Islam. In his autobiography, he wrote, “I encouraged my infidel subjects (Hindus) to embrace the religion of the Prophet (Islam religion), and I proclaimed that everyone who left his creed and became a Mussalman should be exempted from ‘jizya’. He further wrote, “I also ordered that the infidel books, the idols and the vessels used in their worship (Hindus) should all be publicly burnt.”
7. Habit of drinking:
Firoz was so addicted to drinking that whenever he set out on a military expedition, he would remain in a state of drunkenness for several days. This was followed by his nobles and forces as well.
An estimate of Firoz Tughlaq:
(a) Appreciation by historians:
“The welfare of the people”, says Dr. Ishwari Prasad, “was the watchword of his administration. Therefore, Firoz is considered by Barani as an ideal Muslim King.”
In the words of Havell Firozj’s reign “is a welcome breath in the long chain of tyranny, cruelty and debauchery which make up the gloomy annals of the Turkish dynasties.”
Afif, a contemporary of Firoz writes, “Their (peasants) homes were replete with grain, everyone had plenty of gold and silver. “No women was without ornaments”
About the previous penal code and the changes brought about by Firoz, S.R. Sharma states, “it was left to his less appreciated successor (Firoz) to mitigate its ferocity.”
About the judicial system, V.A. Smith has said, “One reform the abolition of mutilation and torture, deserves unqualified commendation.”
About his love for buildings, Sir Woolseley Haigh has remarked, “He indulged in a passion for building which equalled if it did not surpass that of Roman emperor Augutus.”
(b) Criticism by historians:
About his lack of military skill, V.A. Smith states, “The campaign (Bengal) had no result except the wanton slaughter thus evidenced. No territory was annexed and the practical independence of the eastern empire continued unimpaired.” He further observes, “It seems to be plain that Firoz Shah possessed no military capacity. His early campaigns in the east and the west were absolutely futile, and during the greater part of his long reign he abstained from war.”
Likewise regarding Firoz’s expedition to Sindh, Dr. Ishwari Prasad wrote, “The expedition was a singular instance of the Sultan’s felinity and lack of strategic skill.”
Regarding his religious intolerance, S.R. Sharma states, “It is a pity that such a Sultan should have besmirched his fair name by acts of religious intolerance.”
In the same manner Dr. R.C. Majumdar writes, “Firoz was the greatest bigot of his age.”
Professor B.P. Saxena also states, “…But in the last fifteen years of his reign Firoz was an incurable and degenerate fanatic.”
We may conclude the discussion with the views of Dr. V.A. Smith, “Firoz Shah, whatever may have been his defects or weaknesses deserves much credit for having mitigated in some respects the horrible practices of his predecessors, and for having introduced some tincture of humane feelings into the administration.”