The Sultanate Period:
The Sultans of Delhi ruled over India from 1206 A.D. to 1526 A.D. — a period of about 320 years.
Qutub-ud-Din Aibak was the first Sultan and Ibrahim Lodi, the last Sultan.
With the defeat of Ibrahim Lodi at the hands of Babur in 1526, came the end of the Delhi Sultanate.
Chief Characteristics of administration of the Delhi Sultanate:
The first salient feature was that it was expected to work in accordance with the Islamic jurisprudence or law. The second was that it should follow the Islamic principle of sovereignty which declares that the Muslims all over the world have only one ruler i.e. the Caliph or Khalifa of Baghdad.
None else could be deemed as a sovereign ruler. The Sultan was considered as a representative of the Caliph. Most of the Sultans of Delhi regarded themselves as the Viceroys of the Khalifa in whose name they ruled. Again most of them used Khalifa’s name on their coins.
The first ruler to abandon this practice was Ala-ud-Din. The third feature was that the state under the Sultan rulers was an Islamic or Theocratic state. The fourth feature was that the state was a military state and the Sultan himself was the supreme commander of his forces. The fifth feature was that it was a feudal state. The sixth feature was that the Sultan was the fountain head of all authority. The seventh feature was that the Ulemas tried to influence administration and policy.
1. Sovereignty of the king and his power:
The Sultan enjoyed vast powers. He was the fountain head of all power. Some of the Sultans like Balban and Ala-ud-Din enjoyed vast powers. Ala-ud-Din used to say that his ‘word was law’. Secondly the Sultan usually behaved like a despot. Thirdly he was the head of the executive, judiciary and military.
Some rulers like Ala-ud-Din assumed the role of a religious head also. Fourthly, the Sultan maintained a great grandeur in his court. The court was considered as a symbol of power and glory of the Sultanate. Fifthly, the king depended mostly on the power of his army. Sixthly, in general the Sultan tried to seek the advice of the Ulemas in various types of administrative matters.
2. The Ministers:
It is said, “The bravest of men require arms and the wisest of Kings need ministers.” The Sultans tried to appoint only competent ministers who were responsible to them only. Their positions and powers were defined by law as well as by tradition. Usually there were six ministers. The Wazir, Diwan-i-Risalt, Sadr-us-Sudur, Diwan-i-Insha, Diwan-i-Arz, Qazi-ul-Quzat.
Sometimes, there existed a post of a Naib which was next only to the Sultan and he was above the wazir. This post became important when there were weak Sultans. The powerful Sultan either abolished the post altogether or gave it to a noble simply to honour him as was done by Ala-ud-Din Khalji. In that case the post was just ‘ornamental’ and the ‘Naib’ enjoyed no special powers in administration.
3. Chart showing Administrative structure at the centre:
4. Revenue sources:
Following were the sources of revenue:
It was a tax on land which was collected from Muslim peasants. It was 10 per cent of the produce on the land watered by natural resources and 5 per cent on the land which enjoyed facilities provided by irrigation works.
It was a land tax charged from non-Muslims and ranged from one third to half of the produce.
It was one-fifth of the booty captured in the war. Four- fifth of it went to the army which fought war.
It was a religious tax on Non-Muslims. According to Islam, a Zimmi (Non-Muslim) had no right to live in the kingdom of a Muslim Sultan. But this concession was permitted after payment of the tax called Jizya. Women, children, beggars, priests, Brahmans etc. and all those who had no source of income were exempted from this tax. Firoz Tughlaq levied this tax on Brahmans also.
This was a religious tax which was imposed only on rich Muslims and it was 2 1/2 per cent of their income.
(vi) Trade tax:
Trade tax was charged at the rate of 2 1/2 per cent from the Muslims and 5 per cent from the Hindus.
(vii) Horse tax:
There was 5 per cent tax on the sale and purchase of horses.
(viii) House tax:
It was levied by Ala-ud-Din Khalji.
(ix) Grazing tax:
It was also levied by Ala-ud-Din Khalji.
(x) Property revenue:
All property which had no heirs passed to the state.
(xi) Mines tax:
It was 1/5 of the produce of the mines.
(xii) Buried treasure tax:
It was 1/5 of the buried treasure that was found.
5. Assessment of Land and land revenue:
The land was of 4 kinds:
(a) The Khalsa land:
This land was directly administered by the central government. The central government appointed revenue officers for the collection of revenue.
(b) The Walis or Muqtis:
This land was in the hands of provincial governors. The provincial governors collected land revenue from this land and after meeting the collection charges they deposited the surplus in the central treasury,
(c) Land of the Feudary Hindu chiefs:
The chiefs paid fixed annual tributes to the Sultan.
(d) Inam or Waqf land:
This type of land was given to the people in gift or charity and particularly to Muslim scholars and saints. It was free of tax. Mostly the land revenue was collected in cash but sometimes in kind also.
The Sultan was the highest judicial authority He used to hold his court twice a week and decided all types of cases. Qazi-ul-Qazat (Chief/judicial officer or the Minister for justice) heard appeals from the lower courts. There was a ‘Qazi’ in every town. The Qazis’ were appointed by the Sultan in consultation with the chief judicial officer. Usually severe punishments were awarded.
A strong army was needed by the Sultan as his very existence depended upon it.
It was needed for four purposes:
(i) For extending kingdom
(ii) For checking rebellions
(iii) For maintaining law and order and
(iv) For meeting the challenge of Mongol invasions.
It was a heterogeneous body comprising the Turks of various tribes, the Tajiks, the Persians, the Arabs, the Afghans, the Abyssinians, Indian Muslims and Hindus.
Provincial governor’s army:
The governors maintained their own armies. They brought their armies to the service of the Sultan when ordered.
Feudal lords or chiefs army:
Feudal chiefs whether directly under the Sultan or under his suzerainty maintained armies and supplied the same when asked by the Sultan.
Soldiers were recruited on temporary basis.
Holy war army:
There were Muslim soldiers who joined the army voluntarily to fight wars against the Hindus. They received no pay but were given the share of booty captured during war.