Administrative System

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Sultan: The sultan was the head of the Muslim state. He owed nominal allegiance to the Abbasid caliph, although from all practical purposes he was independent. He was subordinate to shariah (the Islamic law, based on Quran and sunnah), and was dependent on the support of the soldiery, the nobility, the civil services and the ulema, which were considered as the five principal pillars of the state. Passive support from the masses both Hindus and Muslims was an important factor for the efficient and established authority of the sultan. The election of the sultan was never strictly hereditary, though the choice was normally limited to the royal house. Ulema and nobility played an important part in their selection. The functions of the sultan according to the Muslim Jurists were:

  • Protection of the faith,
  • Settlement of the disputes,
  • Defense of the realm of Islam,
  • Enforcement of law,
  • Collection of taxes, and
  • Welfare of the people. The non-Muslims enjoyed the status of safety and protection on payment of taxes and were guaranteed freedom of worship and administration of their social and religious laws.

Besides Sultan there were four important ministers who were the four pillars of the state i.e., wazir, sadr-us-sudur, ariz-i-mumalik and munshi-i-mumalik.

Wazir: The post was equivalent to the chief minister. He was in charge of the entire fiscal administration of the realm and all matters relating to income and expenditure came directly or indirectly under his purview. He appointed revenue officials, organized the collection or revenue and controlled the state expenditure. Normal functions of the wazir as viewed by Fakhr-i Mudabbir were to make a country prosperous, accumulate treasures, appoint officials, arrange stock-taking of the commodities in the karkhaanas, look after the men of piety and fame and give them stipends, take care of the widows and the orphans, provide the learned for smooth administration of the people and organize the business of the state. His department was known as diwan-i-wazarat. Sometimes he was assisted by a naib (deputy). Next to him were the mushrif-i-mumalik (the accountant general) and mustaufi-i-mumalik (the auditor-general). Both these officers held ministerial rank and had direct access to the sultan. The duty of sadr-us-sudur was to deal with the religious affairs and qazi-i-mumalik was the highest judge of the Empire. Both the designations were assigned to the same person.

Ariz-i-Mumalik was the controller general of the military department. Munshi-i-Mumalik dealt with the entire state correspondence with the help of a large number of dabirs.

Sahib-i Barid was the head of post and intelligence, Amir-I Hajibor the Barbek was often designated as the Chief Chamberlain. He was the master of the ceremonies at the court. This post was a highly prestigious post and was reserved for trusted nobles. At times he exercised absolute authority like Balban and in the reign of strong rulers the office was deemed as honorific.

Wakil-i-Dar was the controller of the Royal Household.

This article was last updated on Monday, Jan 03, 2005