Assessment of Ala-ud-Din’s Rule:
For having an objective assessment of the rule of Ala-ud-Din, we may consider the following aspects:
1. Objectives of Ala-ud-Din.
2. Ala-ud-Din’s Theory of Kingship.
3. Conquests of Ala-ud-Din.
4. Suppression of Revolts: Administrative Reforms.
5. Economic Policy. Revenue Reforms, Market Control.
6. Military Reforms.
7. Religious Matters.
8. Development of Arts.
I. Objectives of Ala-ud-Din:
Ala-ud-Din was very ambitious. Two great ambitions in his mind were:
(a) Firstly, he began to dream of founding a new religion like Mohammad the Prophet.
(b) Secondly, he wished to be a world conqueror like Alexander.
The account of the means to achieve these ambitions and aims is given in his own words, “God had given Mohammad four friends with whose help Islam was founded, and by laying the foundation of Islam Muhammad immortalized his name until Doom’s Day. Likewise, God has given me also four friends, Ulugh Khan, Zafar Khan, Nusrat Khan, and Alap Khan, (four commanders).
If I wish I too can with the help of these four friends lay the foundation of a new religion. My friend’s swords and mine own can compel mankind to profess the new religion, my name and those of my friends will exist till Doom’s Day. I possess treasure, elephants and a countless army. I wish to make over the charge of Delhi kingdom to a Viceroy and launch myself a course of conquests with this army like Alexander till I conquer the whole world.” However, on the advice of Qazi Ala-ul-Malik, the uncle of the famous historian Barani, Ala-ud-Din modified his plans.
In respect of his first aim the Qazi tola Ala-ud-Din, “Religion and Law originate from God alone and they are never planned by man. Laying the foundation or religion has been the work of prophets since Adam to this day. The prophet’s performance (work) is quite different from that of a king. No king can ever do the work of a prophet, properly and adequately. Hence, it is my advice to you that you should ever avoid thinking about such matters.”
With regard to Ala-ud-Din’s second aim, the sagacious Qazi said to him, “To plan the world-conquest like Alexander is too impracticable (impossible) because the times are different from that of Alexander in the first place. Besides this, you do not have any adviser like Aristotle who planned Alexander’s course of conquests.
Hence, it is but proper for you to conquer far-lying parts of India and bring them under your domination. Moreover, it is imperative for you to defend the country from the Mongol invasions by ensuring the safety of the reads in the North-West Frontier c’ the country.”
Now Ala-ud-Din aimed at the following:
1. Promotion of Islam but not according to the plans of the Ulemas, (Priestly Muslim Class)
2. Conquest of India.
3. Defending the country from Mongol invasions.
II. Ala-ud-Din’s Theory of Kingship:
Ala-ud-Din believed in the Divine Right of the King i.e. the King was God’s representative on earth and was there to rule. Others were there to obey him. He used to say, “I do not know whether this is lawful or unlawful, whatever I think to be for the good of the state or suitable for the emergency, I do”. He did not allow anyone to interfere in his work. He was an autocrat, despot, expansionist and an imperialist.
III. Conquests of Ala-ud-Din:
Ala-ud-Din’s conquests may be categorized under the following two heads:
A. Conquests of North India.
B. Conquests of South India.
A. Conquests of North India:
1. Conquest of Gujarat (1299):
Chief cities of Gujarat namely, Anhilwara and Somnath were plundered and sacked. An. enormous booty was collected. The Sultan’s army also captured a promising Hindu Youngman who later on came to be known as Malik Kafur. Malik Kafur played an important role in extending the Kingdom of Ala-ud-Din.
2. Conquest of Ranthambhor (1299-1301):
The Sultan had to wage a fierce and prolonged battle to capture the strong fort of Ranthambhor.
3. Conquest of Chittor (1303):
The popular episode of Rani Padmini, the beautiful queen of Raja Ratan Singh, saving from the captivity of Ala- ud-Din through not adequately authenticated by historical records is often cited in the conquest of Chittor. The Rajput’s offered stiff resistance but were finally defeated. Padmini with other Rajput women performed ‘Johar’ (Immolation of Rajput women to preserve their purity and to protect themselves from captivity or pollution by the enemy.)
4. Conquest of Malwa (1305):
Ala-ud-Din conquered all the territories of Malwa, including Ujjain, Dhar, Chanderi and Mandu.
5. Other conquests in North India:
Ala-ud-Din conquered Siwana, Jalor, Bundi, Mandor, Tonk and probably Jodhpur. Thus the whole of Rajasthan came under his domination.
B. Conquests of Deccan and South India:
There were two important objectives of the conquests of the Deccan and South India:
1. To possess the wealth of the prosperous southern states whom Ala- ud-Din regarded as milch cow for gold.
2. To get the credit of conquering southern kingdoms.
It is important to remember that he did not annex these states. He accepted the kingdoms as tributary states. He felt contended when they accepted his suzerainty, agreed to pay annual tributes and to act in all manners as his subordinates. The credit for making these states subordinate to Ala-ud-Din goes to Malik Kafur who attacked south four times and brought with him enormous wealth which included about 300 elephants, 20,000 horses, 2,700 pounds of gold/equal in value to 10 crores of Tankas—rupee), and chests of jewels. It is said, “No such booty had ever before been brought to Delhi.”
IV. Suppression of Revolts: Administrative Reforms:
On analysis of revolts of the nobles, Ala-ud-Din found the following causes:
(i) Ineffective Spy System
(ii) Drinking parties among the nobles.
(iii) Intermarriages among the nobles,
(iv) Social intercourse among the nobles.
(v) Excess of wealth with the nobles which gave them both leisure and power for indulging in devilish thoughts and rebellions.
Having analyzed the causes, the Sultan took the following measures to curb the power of the nobles:
(a) Organisation of an efficient Spy System to acquaint himself with the activities of the officers, governors and nobles etc.
(b) Restriction on social gatherings.
(c) Prohibition policy which prohibited the sale and use of wine.
(d) Setting an example by the Sultan himself to refrain from his wine and breaking down all his wine vessels in public.
(e) Confiscation of property and stoppage of grants on various pretexts.
V. Economic Policy: Revenue Reforms and Market Control:
The economic policy of Ala-ud-Din was primarily guided by the huge expenditure to be incurred on the maintenance of a strong army and making the nobles poor by extracting wealth from them.
The Sultan’s main concern was to enable the soldiers to live on their pay and to have necessities of life i.e. goods at a price within their reach. To this he evolved the system of controlling prices of daily use and ensured that these were easily made available.
VI. Military Reforms:
Ala-ud-Din based his Kingship on military power. He, therefore, maintained a strong army for crushing internal revolts, for expanding his Kingdom and for checking the Mongol invasions. He provided the army with several types of new weapons and reasonable salaries.
VII. Religious Matters:
Historians have expressed divergent opinions regarding the religious policy of Ala-ud-Din. Prof. S.R. Sharma, Dr. S. Roy and Sir Woolseley Haig are of the view that Ala-ud-Din policy towards the Hindus was actuated by communal and religious considerations.
On the other hand, Dr. U.N. Dey, Dr. K.S. Lai and Dr. R.P. Tripathi are of the view that economic measures which Ala-ud-Din took to take away wealth did affect the Hindus adversely and were truly oppressive but these were adopted not on religious considerations but on economic and political considerations. The Hindus had to pay several taxes. One half of the gross produce of the land was extracted from them.
According to Eliot, “The Hindus were reduced to a state of abject misery to such an extent that the wives of ‘Khuts’ and ‘Muqaddams’ (Hindu officers of various ranks) went and served for hire in the house of Musalmans”
In the words of Dr. V.S. Smith,” He required his advisers to draw up rules and regulations for grinding down the Hindus, and for depriving them of that wealth and prosperity which fosters disaffection and rebellion.”
Dr. U.N. Dey has observed,” The ‘Khuts’ and ‘Muqaddams’ at no stage of Indian history ever reached that stage of poverty as is told about his reign.”
Sir Woolseley Haig writes, “Hindus, throughout the Kingdom were reduced to one dead level of poverty and misery.”
To sum up, Ala-ud-Din’s policy towards the Hindus was motivated by economic, political as well as religious considerations. Of course, in his policy he was not dictated by the Muslim Ulemas.
VIII. Development of Arts:
Though Ala-ud-Din was illiterate yet he was a patron of art and literature. His court was adorned with great poets and scholars like Amir Khusro, Amir Hasan and Qazi Ala-ul-Malik. During his reign Delhi became the rival of Cairo. Ala-ud-Din also constructed several good buildings including the Siri Fort, Palace of One Thousand Pillars called ‘Hazar Situn’, many mosques, tanks including the famous Shamsi Tank and ‘Sarais’. His Alai Darwaza, an extension of Qutbi Mosque in Delhi, is regarded as one of the best specimens of early Turkish architecture.
General Assessment of Ala-ud-Din by Historians:
(a) Appreciation of Ala-ud-Din:
Dr. A.L. Srivastva concludes, “A balanced view of Ala-ud-Din’s work and achievement must give him a high place among the rulers of Delhi during the medieval age.”
Eliphinstone felt, “The rule of Ala-ud-Din was glorious and he was a successful monarch who exhibited a just exercise of his power.”
Ferishta praises his law and order as, “The traveller slept secure on the highways and the merchant carried his commodities in safety from the Sea of Bengal to the mountains of Kabul and from Tellingana to Kashmir.”
Lane-poole writes, “Though he might be wronged-headed and disdainful of the law, Ala-ud-Din was a man of determination.”
Dr. K.S. Lai states, “From nothingness he rose to be one of the greatest rulers of medieval India.”
Dr. S.R. Sharma writes, “Ala-ud-Din was the first Muslim Emperor of India. During his reign, for the first time, the present (Muslim flag) dominated over the whole country from the Himalayas to Cape Commorin and from Sea to sea.”
Dr. S. Roy writes, “Ala-ud-Din was the Muslim administrator of India, The History of Muslim Empire and administration in India really begins with him.”
(b) Criticism of Ala-ud-Din:
According to Dr. S. Roy, “As a king he was ruthless and as a man treacherous and ungrateful.”
Prof. S.R. Sharma is very critical of Ala-ud-Din’s policy towards the Hindus, “The choice forced by Ala-ud-Din to the Hindus was to be hewers of wood and drawers of water.”
Dr. V.S. Smith writes, “Ala-ud-Din was a particularly savage tyrant with very little regard for justice. His reign was exceedingly disgraceful in many respects.”
Sir Woolseley Haig’s opinion is, “Hindus throughout the Kingdom were reduced to one dead level of poverty and misery.”