The below mentioned article provides a biography of Jalal-Ud-Din Firozshah Khaliji.
The family of Jalal-ud-din had settled itself in India much earlier and its members had been in the service of Turk-Sultans since long time. Jalal-ud-din, by his own merit, rose to the position of sar-i-jandar, that is, the head of the royal bodyguard. Afterwards, he was appointed governor of Samana where he successfully fought many battles against the Mongols.
Kaiqubad called him to Delhi, gave him the title of Shaista Khan and appointed him ariz-i-mumalik, that is, army-minister. Thus, Jalal-ud-din enjoyed the reputation of being a capable commander and held highest military position in the reign of Sultan Kaiqubad. Besides, he was the leader of the Khalji clan and non-Turkish nobles at the court.
When Turkish nobles conspired to murder non-Turkish nobles including Jalal-ud-din, he outmanoeuvred them and, ultimately, after murdering both Kaiqubad and Kayumars, occupied the throne. He had his coronation at the unfinished fort of Kilokhari on 13 June 1290.
Jalal-ud-din sat on the throne at the ripe age of seventy years and weaknesses of old age affected his attitudes and activities. He lost interest in the battles, became extremely liberal and tolerant and therefore, adopted a pacific policy. He tried to please the Turkish nobles and mostly allowed them to enjoy their previous posts.
He pardoned not only those who revolted against him but also thugs and robbers. He tried to win over his disloyal officers by exhibition of personal chivalry or unbounded generosity because of which he, ultimately, became a prey to the conspiracy of his son-in-law and was murdered. Jalal-ud-din did not behave nor had ambitions worthy of a Sultan. When nearly after a year he went to the red fort of Balban he got down from his horse, wept before the throne of Balban and refused to sit on it.
Like a religious minded old Muslim, he did not desire anything except to pass his old age in peace and acts of benevolence. Jalal-ud-din was not related to the previous royal family. Therefore, the people of Delhi, who regarded only Ilbari-Turks as worthy of rule, regarded him as an usurper and did not accept his claim to the throne.
The Turkish nobles, who regarded Khaljis as non-Turks, felt humiliated under his rule. Some among them revolted or plotted against him. The young Khalji- nobles also felt dissatisfied with him as they found that there was no scope of fulfillment of their ambitions under the new monarch.
Under these circumstances, Jalal-ud-din’s gesture of generosity and kindly acts were misunderstood both by friends and foes. In fact, the Delhi Sultanate required a strong and determined Sultan instead of a generous Sultan like Jalal-ud-din. Jalal-ud-din did not act according to the circumstances and that proved to be a major reason which led to his murder.
Jalal-ud-din tried to satisfy the Turkish nobles and mostly allowed them to enjoy their previous posts. Fakhr-ud-din remained the Kotwal of Delhi, Malik Chhajju, who was the nephew of Balban and the sole survivor of his dynasty, was allowed to remain the governor of Kara and Manikpur and Khwaja Khatir remained as vazir. However, he assigned high ranks to his own sons and loyal nobles. His first son was given the title of Khan-i-Khan, the second was titled as Arkali Khan and the third was given the title of Qadr Khan.
He appointed his younger brother Yaghrus Khan as ariz-i-mamalik, his relative Malik Ahmad Chap was promoted to the rank of amir-i-hajib and so were promoted his nephews Ala-ud-din and Almas Beg. Thus, though he tried to satisfy the Turkish nobles, yet promoted his own men to higher ranks to keep control over the administration.
The Revolt of Malik Chhajju:
In August 1290 A.D., Malik Chhajju revolted. He assumed the title of Sultan Mughis-ud-din, issued coins and Khutba was read in his name. Amir Ali Hatim Khan, Governor of Oudh and certain other nobles of eastern provinces also joined the revolt.
He proceeded towards Delhi via Badaun. Jalal-ud-din himself proceeded against him. Arkali Khan, son of the Sultan, marched ahead and defeated Chhajju near Badaun. Chhajju fled away but was captured afterwards. Chhajju was produced before the Sultan in chains and dirty clothes.
The Sultan wept at his disgraceful condition, released him and invited him to a feast where he praised him and his supporters because of being loyal to the previous dynasty. Afterwards, Chhajju was handed over to Arkali Khan and his supporters were released.
Ala-ud-din and Ahmad Chap protested against this behaviour of the Sultan but were silenced by him by saying that he was not prepared to shed the blood of the Muslims for the sake of the throne. Ala- ud-din was now appointed governor of Kara and Manikpur.
The Sultan carried his generosity to the extreme. Nearly one thousand thugs and robbers were captured in Delhi. The Sultan sent them to Bengal where they were released by his orders. At one time, when the Sultan had been campaigning against Ranthambhor, some nobles in a state of drunkenness at a party spoke that they would kill the Sultan and raise Malik Tajuddin Kuchi to the throne.
When the Sultan came to know about the incident, he called them to a private audience and challenged them for a duel in turn. But when pacified he became satisfied only by turning them out of the court for a year.
Only at one time Jalal-ud-din gave up his usual generosity. One religious leader, Sidi Maula was believed to be an aspirant for the throne. He had a large number of followers whom he used to entertain lavishly. Prince Khan-i-Khan was his disciple and the number of his followers had reached to ten thousand. Dr K.S. Lal has expressed the view that he used to interfere in politics and therefore, prince Arkali Khan was dissatisfied with him.
The followers of Sidi Maula plotted to marry him with a daughter of late Sultan Nasir-ud-din and raise him to the throne. But the Sultan was informed of the conspiracy. Sidi Maula was captured and brought before the Sultan and when he refused to accept the charge of participating in politics the Sultan ordered to kill him. A member of an opposite Muslim sect stabbed him several times and then he was trampled under foot by an elephant by the orders of prince Arkali Khan.
Jalal-ud-din exhibited his weakness of temperament and action in matters of foreign policy as well. In 1290 A.D., he attacked Ranthambhor. The Chauhana ruler, Rana Hammir Deva had extended his power by defeating the kings of Gonda and Ujjain. Jalal-ud-din decided to put a check to his power. In the way, he captured the fort of Jhain. One part of his army attacked Malva and looted the territories of its frontier. Then, the Sultan reached the fort of Ranthambhor.
Realising the futility of attempting to capture the fort, the Sultan withdrew the same day and told his nobles that he did not consider ten such forts worth a single hair of a Muslim. The Sultan reached back Delhi in 1291 A.D. In 1292 A.D., Mandawar was captured from the Rajputs and Jhain was looted for the second time.
In 1292 A.D., the Mongols, under the command of a grandson of Hulagu, Abdullah attacked Punjab and reached near Sunam. Jalal-ud-din immediately marched against them and reached the banks of the river Indus. According to Barani, the Mongols were defeated by Jalal-ud-din. But it was not so.
The Sultan succeeded in defeating an advance guard of the Mongols and captured many officers of them. But, afraid to face the main force of the Mongols, he tried for peace which was agreed upon by the Mongols. The Mongols agreed to withdraw, but, Ulghu, a descendent of Chengiz Khan, accepted Islam with 4,000 followers and decided to stay in India. They were called “New Muslims” and were settled in the suburbs of Delhi.
Two courageous expeditions, however, were undertaken by Ala-ud-din, nephew of the Sultan during this period. In 1292 A.D. Ala-ud-din attacked Bhilsa after seeking permission of Sultan. He plundered Bhilsa and a part of the booty was sent to the Sultan. As a reward, Ala-ud-din got governorship of Awadh in addition to that of Kara and Manikpur. This whetted his appetite for money and power.
In fact, Ala-ud-din dreamed to become the Sultan of Delhi and all those nobles who were dissatisfied with the weak policy of Jalal-ud-din gathered round him. Ala-ud-din needed wealth to increase the number of his followers and strengthen his position. He had heard about the fabulous wealth of Devagiri during his campaign of Bhilsa.
Of course, Devagiri was the strongest and the richest state of South India. Its ruler Ram Chandra Deva was a capable ruler and had defeated the rulers of Malwa and Mysore. The internal peace, good administration and prosperous trade and agriculture had, certainly, made Devagiri as one of the most prosperous states of South India.
So far, no ruler of Delhi Sultanate had dared to attack the South and therefore, wealth and honour of the Hindu states were kept safe so far. Ala-ud-din decided to loot the wealth of Devagiri. He did not disclose his plans to anybody. Even from the Sultan, he sought permission simply to attack Chanderi. In 1296 A.D., he proceeded towards the South with his selected 8,000 horsemen.
Passing through Chanderi and Bhilsa, he reached Ellichpur, the northernmost outpost of the kingdom of Devagiri. He gave the impression that he was a disaffected noble of the Delhi-court and was going to seek service in Telingana. After two days when he marched ahead of Ellichpur, his passage was obstructed by Kanha, one of the governors of Ramchandra Deva.
Kanha was defeated and Ala-ud-din reached the city-gates of Devagiri. Ramchandra Deva was totally unprepared to face this surprise attack. He had sent his main army to the frontier of the neighbouring Hoysala kingdom under his son Sankara (Singhana). He was, therefore, forced to seek shelter within the fort. But he had not arranged anything for the defence of the fort.
The moat around his fort had no water in it and there were no provisions in the fort. The sacks which were hurriedly collected as sacks of cereals were found filled up with salt. Ala-ud-din, on his own part, gave the impression that his army was only the advance guard of the main army of Delhi-court which was following him fast. Feeling himself entrapped, Ramchandra sued for peace only after a week. Ala-ud-din readily agreed for it.
Meanwhile Sankara had received the news of the attack of Ala- ud-din and had hurried back to the capital with his army. Leaving Nusrat Khan at the fort to continue with the siege, Ala-ud-din faced Sankar’s army only with one thousand horsemen. He would have lost the battle but for the timely arrival of Nusrat Khan with his contingent who came to his rescue after realising his difficult condition.
His army was mistaken as the main Muslim army of Delhi by the troops of Devagiri and therefore, they retreated in confusion. Ramchandra Deva was now forced to sue for peace on more harder terms. Ala- ud-din got huge indemnity, horses and elephants and the promise of annual payment of the revenue of Ellichpur.
Some historians have expressed that Ramchandra Deva married one of his daughters to Ala-ud-din. It is, however, not certain but there is no doubt that the wealth which Ala-ud-din got from Devagiri was enormous and that helped him in making him the Sultan of Delhi.
Dr S. Roy writes- “Delhi was really conquered at Devagiri, for it was the gold of the Deccan that paved the way for Ala-ud-din’s accession to the throne.” Besides, it was a concrete proof of the courage and military talents of Ala-ud-din.
Murder of Jalal-Ud-Din:
Jalal-ud-din was at Gwalior when Ala-ud-din was returning after his successful campaign of Devagiri. Ahmad Chap advised Jalal-ud-din to check Ala-ud-din in the way and snatch away the booty from him. But the Sultan did not agree to it and went back to Delhi.
Ala-ud-din reached Manikpur safely. He, then, wrote letters to his brother Almas Beg who was at the court and also to the Sultan that as he had attacked Devagiri without the permission of the Sultan he was very much afraid of his wrath. He requested Sultan to pardon him and visit Manikpur personally.
In that case he promised to handover the entire booty of Devagiri to the Sultan. But, if the Sultan would not agree then he would commit suicide or flee away to Bengal. By that time most of the nobles at the court were convinced that Ala-ud-din was playing false with the Sultan. Yet, Almas Beg succeeded in convincing Jalal-ud-din that Ala-ud-din was innocent.
Therefore, much against the advice of his loyal nobles he marched towards Manikpur. While the Sultan himself travelled through river, his army under Ahmad Chap marched along the land route. When the Sultan reached Manikpur, Ala-ud-din again requested that the Sultan should come to meet him only with some attendants and his army should not cross the river.
Again, against the advice of his nobles, Jalal-ud-din left his army and went to meet Ala-ud-din with some nobles and attendants. Ala-ud-din then met Jalal-ud-din and there, as was planned, the Sultan was treacherously attacked and beheaded. All of his followers except Malik Fakhruddin were either killed or drowned in the river.
It happened on July 20, 1296 A.D. and the same day Ala-ud-din declared himself the Sultan. Jalal-ud-din’s head was placed on a spear and paraded through the provinces of Avadh and Kara-Manikpur like the head of an ordinary criminal.
Ala-ud-din had declared himself the Sultan but the capital Delhi was not in his possession. Besides, Ahmad Chap had successfully reached back Delhi with the army of the Jalal-ud-din and Arkali Khan, the successor to the throne was a capable general. Therefore, it was no easy task for Ala-ud-din to capture Delhi and once he decided to march off to Bengal with a view to set-up an independent kingdom there.
But the politics of Delhi encouraged Ala-ud-din to proceed towards Delhi. Arkali Khan, Jalal-ud-din’s eldest son and successor to the throne, was at that time in Multan. His mother, Malika-i-Jahan, rashly proclaimed her youngest son, Qadr Khan as the Sultan with the title of Ruknuddin Ibrahim at Delhi.
Arkali Khan, who alone could put up serious challenge to Ala-ud-din, therefore, decided to stay at Multan and refused to acknowledge his younger brother as the Sultan. This division of the royal family and, thereby, also the division of nobles encouraged Ala-ud-din and he marched towards Delhi.
On the way, he lavishly distributed the wealth which he had brought from Devagiri. It enabled him to collect a large army. Some Jalali nobles who were sent from Delhi to check his march also joined him. Ruknuddin faced Ala-ud-din outside Delhi but was deserted by a large part of his army. Ahmad Chap with the queen-mother, however, fled away to Multan. Ala-ud-din captured Delhi on 22 October 1296 A.D. and declared himself Sultan in the red palace of Balban.
Dr A.B. Pandey has praised Jalal-ud-din Khalji for several things. He says- “Jalal-ud-din was the first Sultan who tried to adopt benevolence as the base of his administration.” He has written that “while assessing the achievements of Jalal-ud-din we should not forget these facts that except the unsuccessful revolt of Malik Chhajju, no other revolt occurred during his reign, the nobles, though they did not agree with his policies, supported and respected him; he, realising the difficulties of the state, did not pursue the policy of aggression; he combined strictness and vigilance with benevolence while carrying on administration; and, he ruled successfully without pursuing the policy of terrorism. He became a victim of the conspiracy of Ala-ud-din because he had complete faith in his nephew and son-in-law. And that, in fact, became the primary cause of his defame.”
Dr A.L. Srivastava also says, “Jalal-ud-din was the first Turkish Sultan of Delhi who placed before him the ideal of benevolent despotism.” Of course, Jalal-ud-din was the first Sultan who tried to reconciliate even those who opposed him. He had been a successful general and had successfully repulsed many Mongol invasions prior to his becoming the Sultan. But when he occupied the throne, he left the policy of war and conquest.
He behaved most liberally even with his enemies and instead of terrorising them tried to win over their sympathies. Yet, all this was pursued not as a matter of policy alone but, as Dr Srivastava himself has said, because of his old age. Jalal-ud-din was not coward but his policy of peace and kindness was so pursued to the extreme that it became his weakness which was not in the interest of the state.
His generosity was appreciable as a person but as a Sultan it created misgivings about his capability among his nobles. He returned from Ranthambhor without conquering it. Of course, it can be accepted that he did not want to shed the blood of the faithfuls for his personal gains but, certainly, it lowered down the prestige of the Delhi Sultanate.
Besides, as Dr A.L. Srivastava has written, he was not liberal towards the Hindus who constituted the majority of his subjects. He destroyed Hindu temples and disrespected images of their gods and goddesses. The death of Sidi Maula was also due to his fanatic zeal. Thus, liberalism was no trait of Jalal-ud-din’s character. It was mostly because of his old age.
Dr K.S. Lal has expressed that he had failed to defeat the Mongols when he was the Sultan and the price which he paid for peace with them was not honourable. Besides, his behaviour and actions in dealing with Ala-ud-din were certainly foolish. He was repeatedly warned by his loyal nobles, yet he fell in the trap laid down by Ala-ud-din and was finally put to death.
It was simply foolish to go to meet Ala-ud-din unarmed and with disarmed followers. This is why Dr K.S.Lai has concluded, “Never was a man more unsuited to wear the crown than the founder of the Khalji dynasty.”
It is also not acceptable that Jalal-ud-din pursued the policy of peace because he had to restore order within the empire as the administration was thrown out of gear during the three years of rule of Kaiqubad and Kayumars. We find no effort on the part of the Sultan to organise the administration.
Of course, the only source of knowing the history of the Khaljis is Tarikh-i-Firozshahi written by Ziyauddin Barani who was certainly biased against all Khalji rulers and therefore, his account cannot be accepted in toto. Yet, it is difficult to support Jalal-ud-din as a ruler. Jalal-ud-din was certainly a kind-hearted, pious and religious minded person but as a Sultan he failed.
However, there is one point which goes in his favour as a ruler. He made no distinction between Turks, non-Turks and Indian Muslims and sought help of all of them in administration. Thus, he tried to provide a broad base to Muslim rule in India which was lacking during the reigns of Sultans of slave dynasty.
Dr K.A. Nizami writes- “Jalal-ud-din’s reign bridged the experimental age of the Mameluks with the planned imperialist economy of Ala-ud-din. History used him as an instrument to end the retrogressive, outmoded racial polity of the Turks and to set the stage for an integrated Indo-Muslim state.”
Of course, this was again because of his personal circumstances as Jalal-ud-din could never claim as a pure Turk. Yet, it has to be accepted that his generosity was also responsible for initiating this policy. Besides, he was also the founder of the Khalji dynasty. Therefore, though inconsequential from other points of view, the reign of Jalal-ud-din has found place in history.