Born in a well-to-do family of Tughluq nobles, Fakhr-ud-din Muhammad Junna Khan, popularly known as Muhammad bin Tughluq, received the best education available. At a very young age he made an impression on Alauddin Khalji, who gave him the title of Akhur Baig in his court. Muhammad supported his father during his campaign against Khusraw and when the father became Sultan, he helped him in administrative affairs of the state. He became the Sultan in February/March 1325 after his father’s accidental death.
Muhammad was without any doubt the most educated of all Muslim rulers who ruled Delhi. He had complete command over Persian, Arabic, Turkish and Sanskrit and could comprehend, speak and write all these languages. He was an authority on the subjects like Philosophy, Logic and Mathematics. He also had a good knowledge of Medicine. He started a number of hospitals in Delhi, where the patients were thoroughly looked after.
Muhammad was a deeply religious man and had learnt the Holy Quran by heart. He used to quote verses of the Quran during his conversations. He was a practicing Muslim who never missed his prayers and fasted regularly. During his regime, those who missed their prayers were severely punished. Besides being a pious man, he was also a just ruler. He was popularly known as Adil Sultan. One of the forts he constructed near Delhi was known as Adilabad. He used to listen to the complaints of his people twice a week and tried his best to remove them.
Muhammad was a genius and had a knack of making original plans. He issued copper coins instead of silver and golden coins. Introduction of token currency in those days was an excellent idea but some people started making fake coins in their homes. According to Burni, every house belonging to a Hindu was converted into a coin mint. The market was flooded with fake coins, which the merchants refused to take. In this situation, Sultan withdrew all copper coins and issued silver ones in their place. This caused a huge loss to the royal treasury.
It is generally believed that Muhammad made Deogir his capital instead of Delhi, and changed its name to Daullatabad. It is believed said that the Sultan ordered all the people of Delhi to shift to the new capital. But reliable sources of history prove that he only made Daullatabad his second metropolis so he could look after his southern provinces. He also transferred only a few of his government servants to the southern capital. Unfortunately for him, the government servants who were ordered to shift to the new city sabotaged his plans and created circumstances that compelled the Sultan to reverse his decision.
Muhammad also planned an expedition towards Khorasan. He raised an army of about 370,000 men. The political situation changed and due to his friendship with the new Iranian ruler Abu Said, he had to cancel his plan. This plan also caused heavy loss to the royal treasury. Sultan’s idea of sending an expedition to Qarachal also failed due to heavy rainfall in the area. Communication of Tughluq troops was disrupted and thus majority of the soldiers sent by the Sultan lost their lives in the expedition.
To increase the revenue of his country, Muhammad increased taxes in the fertile land of the Doab. Bad luck was once again waiting for him, as the area had no rainfall that year. He did not make any reduction in the land revenue and the farmers revolted. They left their land and took refuge in the jungles. The fertile land became barren. When Muhammad came to know about the real situation, he compensated the farmers and gave them large amounts to rehabilitate their land. All of this resulted in further losses to the royal treasury.
Unfortunately many of his plans failed and resulted in the loss of money and decline in his popularity. Some historians believe that his plans were not impracticable, and his schemes failed due to misunderstandings and unfavorable conditions. They believe that he was born before his time. However, many of schemes were unpopular his subjects did not appreciate them.
Muhammad became sick at Thatta and passed away on March 20 1351. The most famous historian of his time, Zia-ud-din Burni had differences with him and many accounts of his rule based on Burni’s work mostly present the negative picture of an important ruler in history.
This article was last updated on Sunday, June 01, 2003