In this article we will discuss about the successors of Sher Shah of the Mughul dynasty.
Islam Shah (1545-1553 A.D.):
When Sher Shah died, his eldest son, Adil Khan was at Ranthambhor and the younger one. Jalal Khan was at Rewa. Sher Shah had nominated Adil Khan as his successor but the nobles preferred Jalal Khan who was regarded more capable and industrious by them. Jalal Khan was called by them to come to Kalinjar and, on his arrival, was declared Sultan on 27 May 1545 A.D. He assumed the title of Islam Shah.
1. Conflict with Adil Khan:
Islam Shah could not feel secure as long as his elder brother was alive. He asked him to come to Agra. He was assured of his life and the grant of Jagir of Bayana. Eminent nobles like Isa Khan and Khavass Khan stood surety for his life. Adil Khan went to Agra, paid homage to the Sultan and returned to Bayana. Islam Shah tried to murder him but failed.
Feeling insecure Adil Khan sought support of Khavass Khan. They combined their forces and proceeded towards Agra. Isa Khan also came to their side and some other nobles also assured to assist them at the time of battle. But the rebels were defeated in a battle which was fought near Agra. Adil Khan fled towards Panna and was heard of no more. Khavass Khan also fled towards Sarhind.
2. The Revolt of Nobles and its Suppression:
Islam Shah tried to kill all those nobles who were supposed to be in sympathy with Adil Khan. Jalal Khan Julwani and his brother Khudad Khan were put to death while thirteen other old nobles were sent to Gwalior where they were blown by gun-powder.
Said Khan Niyazi fled away from the court and found shelter with his brother Haibat Khan Niyazi, governor of Lahore. Islam Shah asked Haibat Khan and also Shujaat Khan, governor of Malwa to present themselves in the court. Shujaat Khan attended the court and was pardoned on the plea of his adopted son. But Haibat Khan refused to attend the court.
(i) The Rebellion of Niyazis:
Haibat Khan Niyazi revolted against the Sultan. Khavass Khan also came and joined him. Islam Shah went himself to suppress this revolt. He met the rebels near Ambala (1547 A.D.). Khavass Khan left Haibat Khan on the eve of the battle because he wanted to fight in the name of Adil Khan while Haibat Khan was fired with the ambition of himself being crowned.
The Niyazis were defeated and Islam Shah pursued them up to the bank of the river Jhelum. He left an army to suppress the fugitives and himself returned to Agra. The Niyazis found shelter with the Gakkhars and could be eliminated only after two years of fighting. Haibat Khan fled to Kashmir and interfered in its politics. Ultimately, the Niyazis were all slain by the Chakkas there.
(ii) Shujaat Khan:
Shujaat Khan was the governor of Malwa. Islam Shah transferred him to Gwalior. There an Afghan tried to murder him. He felt that it was on the direction of Islam Shah. He, therefore, fled to Malwa. Islam Shah attacked Malwa. Shujaat Khan fled away without fighting. He was, afterwards, pardoned and most of the territory of Malwa was returned to him by Islam Shah.
(iii) Khavass Khan:
Khavass Khan had fought against Islam Shah from the side of Adil Khan and after being defeated had fled towards Sarhind. There he supported the Niyazis but left them on the eve of the battle. He fled away and found shelter with the king of Kumayun. Islam Shah asked the king to surrender him but was refused.
Then he assured Khavass Khan of his life arid lured him to return. Khavass agreed to come back to the court, but, while coming back, he was attacked and killed by the governor of Sambhal at the direction of Islam Shah. Islam Shah, thus, got rid of another member of the old nobility.
The Result of Revolts:
Islam Shah succeeded in suppressing all revolts. He, thus, broke the power of the old nobility which could pose a threat to the power of the Sultan. He appointed his own loyal nobles to all important posts and was able to command their unflinching respect. In this respect, Islam Shah proved more successful than his father.
The provincial governors showed respect not only to him but even to his shoes and obeyed his commands blindly. But, this policy towards the nobles did not prove in the lasting interest of the state. Two attempts were made to murder him though both failed. But the nobles could not remain loyal to the royal family. It was only the fear of Islam Shah which kept them in check during his life.
Once the personality of the Sultan was removed from the scene, they became restless and decided the fate of the throne by the power of their swords. Thus, Islam Shah’s greatest failure was that instead of consolidating the power of the Afghans he divided it and, thus, participated in the downfall of the second Afghan empire.
3. Last Days Arid Death:
Islam Shah was a successful ruler. He not only provided order and security to the empire which he inherited from his father but extended it further. East Bengal was conquered during the last days of his rule. Not a single revolt succeeded during his time. When Humayun tried to attack his north-west frontier in 1553 A.D., he was ill, yet, he immediately proceeded against him and Humayun had to withdraw.
He also tried to bring about improvement in the administration set up by his father and succeeded in certain measures. But Islam Shah could not live long. He died of illness in October 1553 A.D.
Islam Shah was a worthy son of his father. He not only maintained the administrative set-up of his father but strengthened it further. Sher Shah had constructed Sarais on every fourth mile. Islam Shah constructed Sarais on every second mile and arranged for free distribution of food in each of them.
Islam Shah could not abolish jagirdari system but he took away the land from old jagirdars and redistributed it among his loyal supporters. This measure created a class of people loyal to him and, indirectly, weakened the hereditary jagirdari system. He assigned the responsibility of maintaining law and order in villages to his officials also besides the local hereditary officers like Chaudharies and Muqaddams.
Islam Shah brought out changes in the army administration as well. He divided his cavalry into units of 50, 200, 250 and 500 soldiers and his infantry into 5,000, 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. Probably, he desired to rank his officers and organise his army on the decimal system.
Akbar elaborated these measures in his mansabdari system. In the north-west, he constructed a chain of five forts, viz., Shergarh, Islamgarh, Rashidgarh, Ferozgarh and Mankot. Together, these were called the forts of Mankot.
Islam Shah kept his nobles under strict discipline. Each of them respected or rather feared him very much. Each of them held a darbar every Friday in their respective districts on behalf of the Sultan and the shoes of the Sultan were placed on a raised platform. Then the orders of the Sultan were read out to all assembled officers.
Even big officers used to receive the orders of the Sultan by moving miles ahead of their respective stations and bringing them respectfully on their heads. No noble was allowed to keep elephants and dancing-girls. They could not use tent of red colour. All these were privileges of the Sultan.
Thus, the nobles were terrorised by Islam Shah and remained under his strict command during his life-time. But this policy proved harmful for the Sur-dynasty in the long run. The Sur-dynasty lost the love of its Afghan nobles and, as soon as Islam Shah passed away, they tried to decide the fate of the throne by the power of their swords and so were divided among themselves which ruined the fate of the Sur-dynasty.
The best novelty of the administration of Islam Shah was the passing of a very large number of administrative laws. His legislation practically covered every sphere of state activity and was universally applied throughout his empire. Of course, many of these laws existed prior to him. But, prior to him, they were enforced on the basis of the Shariat.
Islam Shah freed them from religion and enforced them purely on behalf of the state. Thus, he attempted to free law and legal procedures from the influence of the religion. This was not attempted even by rulers like Ala-ud-din Khalji and Muhammad Bin-Tughluq or by his father, Sher Shah.
Thus, Islam Shah was a capable administrator. Certain historians have described that some of his reforms, viz., construction of new sarais and distribution of free food, were superfluous and were promoted by his vanity or jealousy of his father’s reputation. However, it is difficult to accept this view in totality. Even if it was a fact, yet these measures served the interest of the people.
Islam Shah was an educated and cultured man. He composed verses in Persian. As an individual, he was a devoted Muslim but not a bigot as a ruler. He proved successful as a soldier, commander and administrator.
He was courageous and laborious. But Islam Shah was jealous, revengeful, cruel and vindictive and, thus, suffered from many human failings. These very weaknesses of his character proved disastrous for his family and the Afghans.
Feroz Shah and Muhammad Adil Shah—The Fall of the Sur-Empire:
The unity of the Sur-empire was destroyed just after the death of Islam Shah and that paved the way of its destruction. Islam Shah was succeeded by his minor son, Firoz Shah (1553 A.D.). He was murdered three days after his coronation by his maternal uncle, Mubariz Khan, who captured the throne and assumed the title of Muhammad Adil Shah. Adil Shah was an usurper and more than that he was incapable.
That resulted in the revolt of the nobles and encouraged other members of the Sur-dynasty to challenge him for the throne. One of his brothers-in-law captured Delhi and Agra and declared himself Sultan with the title of Ibrahim Shah. Another brother-in-law, Ahmad Khan who was the governor of Punjab also declared himself Sultan and assumed the title of Sikandar Shah.
The same way, Muhammad Khan Sur and Baz Bahadur declared themselves independent rulers in Bengal and Malwa respectively. Thus, the Sur-empire was divided into five independent kingdoms. Apart from that they fought against each other which sapped up the power of the Afghans in India. In these very conditions, Humayun attacked India and succeeded in capturing the throne of Delhi once more.