Firuz was the cousin brother of Muhammad Tughluq. His father was Rajjab, younger brother of late Sultan Ghiyas-ud-din Tughluq. His mother was the daughter of Ran Mal, a petty Rajput chief of Abohar in the modern district of Hissar in east Punjab. He was born in 1309 A.D. and provided necessary facilities for building up himself. Yet, Firuz did not rise to the mark. He neither participated in any successful military campaign nor exhibited any administrative qualities during his life.
However, his greatest virtue was that he was absolutely obedient to his brother, Sultan Muhammad Tughluq. Therefore, he was dear to him and received always respectable assignments. When Sultan Mohammad Tughluq was on his death-bed, Firuz was with him. After the death of the Sultan, he was chosen the Sultan by the nobles and, thus, became the ruler of Delhi on 23 March 1351 A.D.
Contradictory opinions have been expressed by historians regarding accession of Firuz on the throne of Delhi. The one question that has been discussed is whether Firuz himself aspired for the throne or not? The view which has been generally accepted is that Firuz did not aspire for the throne but accepted it because of the persuasion of the nobles.
However, this view has been challenged by some modern historians, particularly, by Dr U.N. Dey who has argued that Firuz aspired for the throne, made calculated attempts for it and succeeded. He contends that Firuz was not a man of high character. He was fond of drinking, dance and particularly music. He belonged to one of those groups which were formed by aspirants to the throne and their supporters after the death of Sultan Muhammad Tughluq.
He had been carefully supporting the group of those conservative Muslim saints and nobles who were against the liberal religious policy of Muhammad Tughluq and desired to change it after his death. That group became the champion of his cause. Firuz, in turn, tried to please that group. That is why, during his march from Thatta to Delhi, he visited the Majors (graves) of every Sunni saint on the route, gave respect to every living Sunni saint and always expressed faith in principles of Sunni sect of the Muslims.
When he was persuaded to ascend the throne by the nobles, he was hesitant to accept it not because he did not desire it but because he desired to be sure of the support of that conservative group of Muslims. Dr Dey writes- “His reluctance or hesitation was the result of his uncertainty regarding the support that he would get from all sections of his kingdom.”
He further says- “He was very much interested in becoming the Sultan and did manage things in such a way as to achieve success.” Dr Dey has supported his argument by statement of Badayuni which mentioned that Sultan Muhammad had a son whom Firuz got murdered by nobles and captured the throne. Dr Dey contends that modern historians have given undue importance to descriptions of Barani and Afif who both aspired for the goodwill of Sultan Firuz and therefore, could not dare to write anything against him.
The contention of Dr U.N. Dey is logical. Firuz had never exhibited any military talent whatsoever, yet he was chosen the Sultan by nobles at a time when the Delhi Sultanate was passing through a crisis. Firuz always depended on the support of the Ulema and pursued a narrow religious policy after his accession to the throne.
These facts, certainly, support the contention of Dr Dey that Firuz had sought support of the Ulema and that group of conservative Muslims who desired a change in the religious policy of Sultan Muhammad and succeeded in capturing the throne.
Barani and Afif described that Firuz was appointed as his successor by Sultan Muhammad himself. But no other evidence is available to support their statements. Of course, it is acceptable that difficult condition of the empire needed speedy election of Sultan and a matured man was certainly preferable than a child and both these points went in favour of Firuz.
That is why the majority of the nobles were in favour of Firuz’s accession. Yet, it does not prove that Firuz himself did not aspire for the throne and accepted it reluctantly. It is nearer the truth that Firuz manipulated circumstances in his favour and became the Sultan according to his aspiration.
The other question regarding accession of Firuz is whether he was an usurper or, in other words, he had no legal claim over the throne? Sir Woolseley Haig described that the child who was declared the Sultan at Delhi by Khwaja Jahan was the real son of Muhammad Tughluq and therefore, had the rightful claim over the throne. Firuz dethroned him and therefore was an usurper.
Among modern historians, Dr R.C. Johri is one who has regarded Firuz an usurper. He has argued that none among contemporary historians except Barani described that Muhammad Tughluq nominated Firuz his successor and if Muhammad would have nominated Firuz his successor then the sister of Muhammad, Khudavandzada would not have claimed the throne for her son, Dawar Malik and there was no necessity of electing the Sultan by the nobles.
Besides, it has been stated in favour of this argument that Badayuni had stated that Muhammad had a son. Therefore, he had a legitimate claim over the throne. Dr Tripathi and Dr S.R. Sharma have also regarded Firuz as an usurper. But the majority of modern historians do not accept this view.
First, there are no clear evidences to prove that the child produced forth by the vazir was the real son of Muhammad Tughluq. Yahiya Bin Ahmad, Firishta and Nizamuddin Ahmad have described that the child belonged to an unknown family. Among modern historians, Dr Ishwari Prasad and Dr A.C. Banerjee have not accepted that child as the son of Muhammad Tughluq.
Secondly, the principle of hereditary succession was not accepted as a general rule among the Muslims. The principle of election was quite prevalent among Muslim rulers. Thus, according to Muslim law and traditions, the election of Firuz as the Sultan was valid and therefore, he cannot be regarded as an usurper.
However, the accession of Firuz was not uncontested. When Sultan Muhammad Tughluq died, one brother of the Sultan, three cousin brothers, one nephew, two sons of his daughter and, probably, a minor son were alive. Besides, his sister Khudavandzada claimed the throne for her son though it was not accepted by nobles and Firuz was declared Sultan at Thatta. Firuz proceeded towards Delhi.
In the meantime, Khwaja Jahan declared a child as the Sultan. But the nobles refused to accept that child as the son of the late Sultan. Khwaja Jahan, therefore, surrendered and was murdered on his way to Samana. Firuz’s coronation took place in Delhi in August 1351 A.D.
According to Dr A.L. Srivastava, two new principles emerged because of the accession of Firuz on the throne. One of them was that there was no bar on a person becoming the Sultan of Delhi even if he was the son of a lady who had been a non-Muslim before her marriage. The second was that it was not necessary that the Sultan should be a distinguished soldier. Therefore, he remarks- “Firuz’s accession is as important as it is interesting.”
Wars, Conquests and Rebellions during the Reign of Firuz Shah Tughluq:
Muhammad Tughluq had lost Bengal and entire south India during his reign. Firuz did not attempt to conquer the South on the plea that he did not desire to shed the blood of the Muslims for the sake of his personal ambitions.
He did not try to conquer Rajasthan while his attempt to conquer Bengal failed. Firuz, primarily, did not pursue a policy of extension of the empire but pursued a policy of consolidation. Thus, his foreign policy remained weak. No significant conquest was made during his reign.
Haji Iliyas, who styled himself as Shams-ud-din Iliyas Shah, had conquered the entire territory of Bengal and ruled there as an independent king He further attempted to conquer Tirhut which was under the rule of the Delhi Sultanate.
Therefore, Firuz attacked Bengal in 1353 A.D. Iliyas left his capital Pandua and sought shelter in the fort of Ikadala. Firuz could not subdue the fort and turned back. Iliyas followed him but was defeated and again sheltered himself in the fort. Firuz failed to conquer the fort and, ultimately, returned to Delhi in 1355 A.D.
Firuz attacked Bengal again in 1359 A.D. Zafar Khan, a son-in-law of a previous ruler of east Bengal had sought his help in conquering Bengal. Firuz agreed to help him. But by that time Iliyas had died and his son Sikandar was on the throne.
Sikandar followed the footsteps of his father and found safety inside the fort of Ikadala. Firuz failed to capture the fort, recognised the independent status of Bengal and returned to Delhi. Thus, Firuz failed to bring Bengal under the suzerainty of Delhi.
2. Jajnagar (Orissa):
While returning from Bengal, Firuz stayed at Jaunpur for some time. From there, he attacked Jajnagar primarily with a view to destroy the famous Hindu temple of Puri. Bhanu Deva III, the ruler of Jajnagar fled away but his soldiers faced the army of the Sultan. They were, however, defeated and the Sultan destroyed the temple and its idols. Bhanu Deva, then, submitted and agreed to give some elephants to the Sultan every year. Firuz then returned to Delhi.
In 1360 A.D., Firuz attacked Nagarkot in Kangra district of Punjab. His main object was to destroy the temple of Jwalamukhi. The king surrendered after a siege of six months and accepted the suzerainty of the Sultan. The temple of Jwalamukhi was destroyed.
According to Firishta, “The Sultan broke the idols of Jwalamukhi, mixed their fragments with the flesh of cows, and hung them in nosebags round the necks of Brahamans, and that he sent the principal idol as a trophy to Medina.”
In 1362 A.D., Firuz attacked Sind. The rebellious people were yet active there. The Sultan was faced by Jam Babaniya and forced to move towards Gujarat for reinforcement. On the way, he was trapped in the Ran of Kutch for six months.
He stayed in Gujarat for some months till he received reinforcement from Delhi. Then he attacked Sind again in 1363 A.D. This time Jam Babaniya accepted the suzerainty of the Sultan and agreed to pay annual tribute. The Sultan, then, returned to Delhi.
5. The Rebellions:
Some revolts occurred during the reign of Firuz. They were all of a minor nature and failed. The conspiracy of his cousin sister, Khudavandzada to kill him in the beginning of his reign failed. The governor of Gujarat, Damaghani revolted as he failed to pay that much revenue to the Sultan which he had promised. He was killed and his head was sent to the Sultan.
The landlords of Etawah revolted in 1377 A.D. They were punished and forced to pay the revenue. Kharku, the king of Katehar (Ruhelkhand) revolted and put two Sayyids to death. The Sultan went in person to Katehar and suppressed the revolt. Kharku fled to Kamaun hills. Firuz punished his subjects severely.
Thousands of Hindus were put to death and nearly 23,000 Hindus were forced to accept Islam. The Sultan appointed an Afghan officer in Katehar, ordered him to continue the oppression and visited Katehar annually for five years in order to satisfy himself that his orders were obeyed.
Thus, Firuz succeeded in consolidating the empire which he inherited from Muhammad Tughluq. But he failed to extend it or restore it to its previous boundary.
Last Days and Death of Firuz:
The later years of Firuz remained full of sorrow. His two sons had died and he nominated his third son, Muhammad Khan, as his successor. The Sultan had reached the ripe age of eighty years and therefore, had lost his mental balance. His new vazir, Khan-i-Jahan tried to kill prince Muhammad and capture the power for himself. But he failed and fled for safety to Mewat.
Afterwards, he was killed. Prince Muhammad who shared the power of the throne with the Sultan for some time was a pleasure-seeker and therefore, neglected the administration. Some nobles revolted against the prince and captured the Sultan. Prince Muhammad who was fighting against them, ultimately, fled away. Therefore, the Sultan nominated Tughluq Shah, son of his deceased son, Fateh Khan, as his successor. After some time, the Sultan died in September 1388 A.D.