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Slave-Taking During Muslim Rule

Slavery forms an integral part of the history of Islam. The Turks practised it on a large scale before they entered India as invaders. Slaves were abducted or captured by marauders (Subuktigin, Balban), they were sold by jealous or needy relatives (Iltutmish), and they were purchased by slave-traders to be sold for profit (Aibak). These methods were known to Muslim rulers in India. All these and many other methods were employed by them and their nobles in making slaves in India. The phenomenon and its application was shocking to the Hindu mind; the Muslims, however, thought otherwise. According to Ibn Khaldun, the captives were ‘brought from the House of War to the House of Islam under the rule of slavery, which hides in itself a divine providence; cured by slavery, they enter the Muslim religion with the firm resolve of true believers ’1 Muslims took pride in enslaving people; the feelings of Hindu victims were just the opposite.

Qutbuddin Aibak entered upon a series of conquests. He dispatched Ikhtiyaruddin Bakhtiyar Khalji to the East and himself concentrated in Hindustan proper. He captured Kol (modern Aligarh) in 1194. There ‘those of the garrison who were wise and cute were converted to Islam, but those who stood by their ancient faith were slain with the sword.’2 Surely, those who embraced Islam during or immediately after the battle were ‘cute’ and wise, because by this initiative on their part they were counted as free-born Muslims as against those who fought, were captured in battle, and then enslaved. T.P. Hughes gives the legal position: ‘If a captive embraced Islam on the field of battle he was a free man; but if he were made captive, and afterwards embraced Islam, the change of creed did not emancipate him.’ Women captives were invariably taken prisoner. ‘Atiyat-ul-Qurazi relates that, after the battle with the Banu Quraizah, the Prophet ordered all those who were able to fight to be killed, and the women and children to be enslaved.’3

Both these traditions were followed in India. In 1195 when Raja Bhim was attacked by Aibak 20,000 slaves were captured, and 50,000 at Kalinjar in 1202. ‘The temples were converted into mosques,’ writes Hasan Nizami, ‘and the voices of the summoners to prayer ascended to the highest heavens, and the very name of idolatry was annihilated.’4 Call to prayer five times a day with a loud voice carried an invitation and a message - join us, or else. People ‘could refuse this invitation or call at their own peril, spiritual and physical. As His followers became more powerful, the peril became increasingly more physical.’5 This process helped in the conversion of captives. Murry Titus pertinently remarks that ‘we may be sure that all those who were made slaves were compelled to embrace the religion of the masters to whom they were allotted.’6 Farishtah specifically mentions that during the capture of Kalinjar ‘fifty thousand kaniz va ghulam, having suffered slavery, were rewarded with the honour of Islam.’ Thus enslavement resulted in conversion and conversion in accelerated growth of Muslim population.

Minhaj Siraj assigns twenty (lunar) years to Qutbuddin’s career in Hindustan from ‘the first taking of Delhi’ up to his death, both as a commander of Sultan Muizzuddin and as an independent ruler.7 During this period Aibak captured Hansi, Meerut, Delhi, Ranthambhor and Kol.8 When Sultan Muizzuddin personally mounted another campaign against Hindustan, Aibak proceeded as far as Peshawar to meet him, and the two together attacked the Khokhar stronghold in the Koh-i-Jud or the Salt Range. The Hindus (Khokhars) fled to the highest in the mountains. They were pursued. Those that escaped the sword fled to the dense depth of the jungle; others were massacred or taken captive. Great plunder was obtained and many slaves.9 According to Farishtah three to four hundred thousand Khokhars were converted to Islam by Muizzuddin;10 but this figure is inflated. More than a hundred years later, Amir Khusrau refers to Khokhars as a non-Muslim tribe, and the way they were constantly attacked and killed by Sultans Iltutmish and Balban confirms Khusrau’s contention.11 Minhaj also says that ‘the Khokhars were not annihilated in this affair (Muizzuddin-Aibak attack) by any means, and gave great trouble in after years.’12

Under Aibak most of Hindustan from Delhi to Gujarat, and Lakhnauti to Lahore, was brought under the sway of the Turks. In his time a large number of places were attacked and many more prisoners were captured than for which actual figures are available. Figures of slaves made during campaigns of Kanauj, Banaras (where the Muslims occupied ‘a thousand’ temples),13 Ajmer (attacked thrice), Gujarat, Bayana and Gwalior are not available. Similar is the case with regard to Bihar and Bengal. About the end of the twelfth or the beginning of the thirteenth century, Ikhtiyaruddin Bakhtiyar Khalji marched into Bihar and attacked the University centres at Nalanda, Vikramshila and Uddandpur.14 The Buddhist monks and Brahmans mistaken for monks were massacred and the common people, deprived of their priests and teachers, became an easy prey to capture and enslavement. But no figures of such captives are known. Ibn Asir only says that Qutbuddin Aibak made ‘war against the provinces of Hind  He killed many, and returned with prisoners and booty.’15 In Banaras, according to the same author, ‘the slaughter of the Hindus was immense, none was spared except women and children,’16 who would have been enslaved as per practice. Habibullah writes that Muslim sway extended from Banaras through the strip of Shahabad, Patna, Monghyr and Bhagalpur districts,17 and repeated references to the presence of Muslims in this tract from the early times indicates that taking of slaves and conversion was common in the region. Fakhr-i-Mudabbir informs us that as a result of the Turkish achievements under Muizzuddin and Aibak, Eleven poor (Muslim) householder became owner of numerous slaves.’18

The narratives of contemporary and later chroniclers should not lead us to the conclusion that taking of Hindus as slaves was a child’s play. There was stiff resistance to Muslim conquest and Muslim rule. Besides, the Sultans of Delhi had always to deal with a number of problems simultaneously. Most of the time of Sultan Iltutmish (1210-1236) was spent in suppressing his Turkish opponents, Qutbi and Muizzi Amirs in Delhi and rivals Yaldoz and Qubacha in Punjab and Sindh. He also faced the threat of invasion from the Mongol conqueror Chingiz Khan and the Khwarizmi Prince Jalaluddin Mangbarni fleeing before Chingiz. Therefore it was only sixteen years after his accession that he could march against Ranthambhor in 1226. During this period many Hindu kingdoms subdued by Aibak were becoming independent. Mandor near Jodhpur was attacked a little later. Here ‘much booty fell into the hands’ of the victors, which obviously included slaves also.19 The year 1231 witnessed his invasion of Gwalior where he ‘captured a large number of slaves’. In 1234-35 he attacked Ujjain, broke its temple of Mahakal, and as usual made captives ‘women and children of the recalcitrants.’20 But most of his compatriot Muslims were not satisfied with the Sultan’s achievements in the sphere of slave-taking and converting the land into Dar-ul-Islam all at once.

It is true that foreign Muslims - freemen and slaves were flocking into Hindustan and this development was of great significance for the Sultanate. Adventurers and job seekers were flocking into Hindustan, the new heaven of Islam. More importantly, because of the Mongol upheaval, as many as twenty-five Muslim refugee princes with their retinues arrived at the court of Iltutmish from Khurasan and Mawaraun Nahr.21 During the reign of Balban fifteen more refugee rulers and their nobles and slaves arrived from Turkistan, Khurasan, Iraq, Azarbaijan, Persia, Rum (Turkey) and Sham (Syria).22 Their followers comprised masters of pen and of sword, scholars and Mashaikh, historians and poets. The pressure of these groups on the Sultan for Islamization of Hindustan would have been great. In 1228 C.E. Iltutmish received a patent of investiture from Al-Mustansir Billah, the Khalifa of Baghdad, in recognition of his enormously augmenting the prestige of the Muhammadan government in India. This was a booster as well as a further pressure. No wonder, the capital city of Delhi looked like Dar-ul-Islam and its ruler the leader of the eastern world of Islam.23 But since the whole country was not conquered and converted, it did not amuse the Ulama and the Mashaikh.

Slave-taking a matter of policy

Some Ulama therefore approached the ‘pious’ Sultan Iltutmish to rule according to the Shariat and confront the Hindus with choice between Islam and death. Muslims had set up their rule and so the country had become Dar-ul-Islam. Any opposition to it was an act of rebellion. The Hindus who naturally resisted Muslim occupation were considered to be rebels. Besides they were idolaters (mushrik) and could not be accorded the status of Kafirs, of the People of the Book - Christians and Jews. For them the law provided only Islam or death. Islamic jurisprudence had crystallized over the last five centuries. Besides the evolvement of the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence, Shaikh Burhauddin Ali’s Hidayah (530-596 H./1135-1199 C.E.), the Compendium of Sunni Law, based on the Quran and the Hadis, was also readily available in the time of Iltutmish. Muslim scriptures and treatises advocated jihad against idolaters for whom the law advocated only Islam or death.

In such a situation the answer of the Sultan to the Ulama was: ‘But at the moment in India  the Muslims are so few that they are like salt (in a large dish)  However, after a few years when in the capital and the regions and all the small towns, when the Muslims are well established and the troops are larger  it would be possible to give Hindus, the choice of death or Islam.’24 Such an apologetic plea was not necessary to put forward. The fact was that the Muslim regime was giving a choice between Islam and death only. Those who were killed in battle were dead and gone; but their dependents were made slaves. They ceased to be Hindus; they were made Musalmans in course of time if not immediately after captivity.

There was thus no let up in the policy of slave-taking. Minhaj Siraj writes that Ulugh Khan Balban’s ‘taking of captives, and his capture of the dependents of the great Ranas cannot be recounted’. Talking of his war in Avadh against Trailokyavarman of the Chandela dynasty (Dalaki va Malaki of Minhaj), the chronicler says that ‘All the infidels’ wives, sons and dependents  and children  fell into the hands of the victors.’ In 1253, in his campaign against Ranthambhor also, Balban enslaved many people. In 1259, in an attack on Haryana, many women and children were enslaved.25 Twice Balban led expeditions against Kampil, Patiali, and Bhojpur, and in the process enslaved a large number of women and children. In Katehar he ordered a general massacre of the male population of over eight years of age and carried away women and children.[^26] In 658 H. (1260 C.E.) Ulugh Khan Balban marched with a large force on a campaign in the region of Ranthambhor, Mewat and Siwalik. He made a proclamation that a soldier who brought a live captive would be rewarded with two silver tankahs and one who brought the head of a dead one would get one silver tankah. Soon three to four hundred living and dead were brought to his presence.26 Like Balban other slave commanders of Iltutmish, or the ‘Shamsia Maliks of Hind’ were marching up and down the Hindustan, raiding towns and villages and enslaving people. This was the situation prevailing from Lakhnauti to Lahore and from Ajmer to Ujjain. The Hindus used to reclaim their lands after the Muslim invaders had passed through them with fire and sword, and Turkish armies used to repeat their attacks to regain control of the cities so lost. But the captives once taken became slaves and then Musalmans for ever. The exact figures of such slaves have not been mentioned and therefore cannot be computed. All that is known is that they were captured in droves. Only one instance should suffice to convey an idea of their numbers. Even in the reign of a weak Sultan like Nasiruddin, son of Iltutmish, the ingress of captives was so large that once he presented forty beads of staves to our chronicler Minhaj Siraj to send to his ‘dear sister’ in Khurasan.27

Enslavement under the Khaljis

The process of enslavement during war gained momentum under the Khaljis and the Tughlaqs. In two or three generations after Iltutmish the Muslims were digging their heels firmly into the country. Their territories were expanding and their armies were becoming larger. All the time, the desire to convert or liquidate the idolaters remained ever restless. Achievements in this regard of course depended on the strength, resources and determination of individual Muslim rulers. For example, although Jalaluddin Khalji was an old and vacillating king, even he did not just remain content with expressing rage at the fact of not being able to deal with the Hindus according to the law.28 During six years of his reign (June 1290 -July 1296), he mounted expeditions and captured prisoners. While suppressing the revolt of Malik Chhajju, a scion of the dynasty he had ousted, he marched towards Bhojpur in Farrukhabad district and ruthlessly attacked Hindus in the region of Katehar (later Rohilkhand). During his campaign in Ranthambhor he broke temples, sacked the neighbouring Jhain and took booty and captives, making ‘a hell of paradise’.29 Later on Malwa was attacked and large quantity of loot, naturally including slaves, was brought to Delhi.30 His last expedition was directed against Gwalior.31

Jalaluddin’s nephew and successor Alauddin Khalji (1296-1316) turned out to be a very strong king. He marched against Devagiri in 1296. On his way through Gondwana and Khandesh he took prisoners a large number of Mahajans and cultivators, and ransomed them for wealth.32 At Devagiri he enslaved a number of the Raja’s relatives, and Brahmans and Mahajans. He put them in shackles and chains and paraded them in front of the fort to pressure the besieged king. After victory, he released many of the captives because of compulsions of the situation. He was only a prince who had marched to the Deccan without the Sultan’s permission. But his taking of slaves in large numbers was in consonance with the policy of Muslim sultans and gave a foretaste of what was to follow during the course of his reign.

After ascending the throne, Alauddin Khalji embarked upon a series of conquests. He turned out to be the greatest king of the Sultanate period (cir. 1200-1500), and his success as regards capture of slaves was stupendous. He started by seizing the families and slaves of his brothers and brother-in-law.33 In 1299 he despatched a large army for the invasion of Gujarat. There all the major towns and cities like Naharwala, Asaval, Vanmanthali, Surat, Cambay, Somnath etc. were sacked. There the temples were broken, wealth looted and large numbers of captives of both sexes captured, including the famous Malik Kafur34 and the Vaghela king’s consort Kamala Devi.35 In the words of Wassaf, the Muslim army in the sack of Somnath ‘took captive a great number of handsome and elegant maidens, amounting to 20,000, and children of both sexes  the Muhammadan army brought the country to utter ruin, and destroyed the lives of inhabitants, and plundered the cities and captured their offspring ’36 In 1301 Ranthambhor was attacked and in 1303 Chittor. In the invasion of Chittor, 30,000 people were massacred in cold blood and obviously females and minors of their families were captured.37 Slaves were also taken in large numbers in the expeditions to Malwa, Sevana and Jalor (1305-1311); these will be referred to again in the course of this study. Maybe the number of captives obtained from Rajasthan was not that large knowing the bravery and chivalry of the Rajputs and their prevailing customs of Jauhar and Sati. But the highly successful Deccan campaigns of Malik Kafur must have supplied a large corps of captives. Besides, Alauddin did not confine to obtaining Hindu slaves. During the invasion of the Mongol Saldi (1299), the commanders of the Sultan captured 1,700 of his officers, men and women and sent them as slaves to Delhi.38 During the raid of Ali Beg, Tartaq and Targhi (1305), 8,000 Mongol prisoners were executed and their heads displayed in the towers of the Siri Fort which were then under constructions.39 The women and children accompanying the Mongol raiders Kubak and Iqbalmand were sold in Delhi and the rest of Hindustan. ‘The Mongol invaders were certainly infidels,’ says Mahdi Husain. This enslavement was as beneficial to Islam as that of the Hindus. Muslims were not enslaved because they were already Muslim.40

Sultan Alauddin’s collection of slaves was a matter of successful routine. Under him the Sultanate had grown so strong that, according to Shams Siraj Afif, in his days ‘no one dared to make an outcry.’41 Similar is the testimony of the Alim and Sufi Amir Khusrau. In Nuh Sipehr he writes that ‘the Turks, whenever they please, can seize, buy or sell any Hindu.’42 No wonder, under him the process of enslavement went on with great vigour. As an example, he had 50,000 slave boys in his personal service43 and 70,000 slaves worked continuously on his buildings.44 We must feel obliged to Muslim chroniclers for providing such bits of information on the basis of which we can safely generalize. For instance, it is Barani alone who writes about the number of slaves working on buildings and Afif alone who speaks about the personal ‘boys’ of Sultan Alauddin who looked after his pigeons. Ziyauddin Barani’s detailed description of the Slave Markets in Delhi and elsewhere during the reign of Alauddin Khalji, shows that fresh batches of captives were constantly arriving there.45

Enslavement under the Tughlaqs

All sultans were keen on making slaves, but Muhammad Tughlaq became notorious for enslaving people. He appears to have outstripped even Alauddin Khalji and his reputation in this regard spread far and wide. Shihabuddin Ahmad Abbas writes about him thus: ‘The Sultan never ceases to show the greatest zeal in making war upon infidels  Everyday thousands of slaves are sold at a very low price, so great is the number of prisoners’.46 Muhammad Tughlaq did not only enslave people during campaigns, he was also very fond of purchasing and collecting foreign and Indian slaves. According to Ibn Battuta one of the reasons of estrangement between Muhammad Tughlaq and his father Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq, when Muhammad was still a prince, was his extravagance in purchasing slaves.47 Even as Sultan, he made extensive conquests. He subjugated the country as far as Dwarsamudra, Malabar, Kampil, Warangal, Lakhnauti, Satgaon, Sonargaon, Nagarkot and Sambhal to give only few prominent place-names.48 There were sixteen major rebellions in his reign which were ruthlessly suppressed.49 In all these conquests and rebellions, slaves were taken with great gusto. For example, in the year 1342 Halajun rose in rebellion in Lahore. He was aided by the Khokhar chief Kulchand. They were defeated. ‘About three hundred women of the rebels were taken captive, and sent to the fort of Gwalior where they were seen by Ibn Battutah.’50 Such was their influx that Ibn Battutah writes: ‘At (one) time there arrived in Delhi some female infidel captives, ten of whom the Vazir sent to me. I gave one of them to the man who had brought them to me, but he was not satisfied. My companion took three young girls, and I do not know what happened to the rest.’51 Iltutmish, Muhammad Tughlaq and Firoz Tughlaq sent gifts of slaves to Khalifas outside India. To the Chinese emperor Muhammad Tughlaq sent, besides other presents, ‘100 Hindu slaves, 100 slave girls, accomplished in song and dance  and another 15 young slaves.’52

Ibn Battutah’s eye-witness account of the Sultan’s gifting captured slave girls to nobles or arranging their marriages with Muslims on a large scale on the occasion of the two Ids, corroborates the statement of Abbas. Ibn Battutah writes that during the celebrations in connection with the two Ids in the court of Muhammad bin Tughlaq, daughters of Hindu Rajas and those of commoners, captured during the course of the year were distributed among nobles, officers and important foreign slaves. ‘On the fourth day men slaves are married and on the fifth slave-girls. On the sixth day men and women slaves are married off.’53 This was all in accordance with the Islamic law. According to it, slaves cannot many on their own without the consent of their proprietors.54 The marriage of an infidel couple is not dissolved by their jointly embracing the faith.55 In the present case the slaves were probably already converted and their marriages performed with the initiative and permission the Sultan himself were valid. Thousands of non-Muslim women56 were captured by the Muslims in the yearly campaigns of Firoz Tughlaq, and under him the id celebrations were held on lines similar to those of his predecessor.57 In short, under the Tughlaqs the inflow of women captives never ceased.

Similar was the case with males, especially of tender and young age. Firoz Tughlaq acquired them by all kinds of methods and means, so that he collected 180,000 of them.58 Shams Siraj Afif, the contemporary historian, writes that under Firoz, ‘slaves became too numerous’ and adds that ‘the institution took root in every centre of the land’. So that even after the Sultanate broke up into a number of kingdoms, slave-hunting continued in every ‘(Muslim) centre of the land.’59

Sufferings of the enslaved

This is the version of the slave-capturing victors. The humiliation and suffering of the victims finds no mention in Muslim chronicles. Sustained experience of grief and pain and loss of dignity and self-respect used to turn them into dumb driven animals. The practice and pattern of breaking the spirit of the captives under Aibak, Iltutmish and Balban, indeed throughout the medieval period, was the same as during the days of the Khaljis and the Tughlaqs. Only one case may be cited as an instance. Balban, when he was Ulugh Khan Khan-i-Azam, once brought to Delhi (in about 1260) two hundred fifty ‘Hindu leading men and men of position’ from Mewar and Siwalik, bound and shackled and chained. During the expedition he had proclaimed that a royal soldier would be rewarded with two silver tankahs if he captured a person alive and one tankah if he brought the head of a dead one. They brought to his presence 300 to 400 living and dead everyday. The reigning Sultan Nasiruddin ordered the death of the leading men. The others accompanying them were shaken to the bones and completely tamed. Depiction of their suffering is found in an Indian work - Kanhadade Prabandha. Written in ‘old Rajasthani or old Gujarati’, it was composed in mid-fifteenth century and records the exploits of King Kanhardeva of Jalor against Alauddin’s General Ulugh Khan who had attacked Gujarat in 1299 and taken a number of prisoners. In the Sorath (Saurashtra) region ‘they made people captive - Brahmanas and children, and women, in fact, people of all (description)  huddled them and tied them by straps of raw hide. The number of prisoners made by them was beyond counting. The prisoners’ quarters (bandikhana) were entrusted to the care of the Turks.’ The prisoners suffered greatly and wept aloud. ‘During the day they bore the heat of the scorching sun, without shade or shelter as they were [in the sandy desert region of Rajasthan], and the shivering cold during the night under the open sky. Children, tom away from their mother’s breasts and homes, were crying. Each one of the captives seemed as miserable as the other. Already writhing in agony due to thirst, the pangs of hunger  added to their distress. Some of the captives were sick, some unable to sit up. Some had no shoes to put on and no clothes to wear.  Some had iron shackles on their feet. Separated from each other, they were huddled together and tied with straps of hide. Children were separated from their parents, the wives from their husbands, thrown apart by this cruel raid. Young and old were seen writhing in agony, as loud wailings arose from that part of the camp where they were all huddled up  Weeping and wailing, they were hoping that some miracle might save them even now.’60 The miracle did happen and Kanhardeva was successful in rescuing them after a tough fight.

But the description provides the scenario in which the brave and the strong, the elite and the plebeian, were made captives and their spirit broken. That is how Timur was enabled to massacre in one day about 100,000 of captives he had taken prisoner on his march to Delhi. They had been distributed among his officers and kept tied and shackled. That is how Maulana Nasiruddin Umar, a man of learning in Timur’s camp, ‘slew with his own sword fifteen idolatrous Hindus, who were his captives’. If the prisoners could ‘break their bonds’, such a carnage could not have been possible. Prisoners were often brought to Timur’s presence with hands bound to their necks.61 Jahangir (1605-27) also writes that ‘prisoners were conducted to my presence yoked together.’62 Most of them were kept yoked together even when they were sent out to be sold in foreign lands or markets in India.

The captives, on their part, clung together and did not separate from one another even in their darkest hour. Nor were they permitted an opportunity to do so under Islamic law which the victors always observed with typical Muslim zeal. The Hidayah lays down that ‘if the Mussulmans subdue an infidel territory before any capitation tax be established, the inhabitants, together with their wives and children, are all plunder, and the property of the state, as it is lawful to reduce to slavery all infidels, whether they be Kitabees, Majoosees or idotters.’63 The Hidayah also lays down that ‘whoever slays an infidel is entitled to his private property,’64 which invariably included his women and children. That is how a large number of people were involved, whether it was a matter of taking captives, making converts, or ordering massacres. About women and children of a single family of a slain infidel, or of droves of slaves captured in an attack on a region or territory Fakhre Mudabbir furnishes information on, both counts during the campaigns of Muhammad Ghauri and Qutbuddin Aibak. He informs us that during their expeditions ghulams of all descriptions (har jins) were captured in groups and droves (jauq jauq) so that even a poor householder (or soldier) who did not possess a single slave (earlier) became the owner of numerous slaves ’65

In short, the captives swam or sank together so that if they were captured they were taken in large numbers. A manifest example of this phenomenon is that during a rebellion-suppressing expedition of Muhammad bin Tughlaq in the Deccan (1327), all the eleven sons of the Raja of Kampil (situated on the River Tungbhadra, Bellary District), were captured together, and made Muslims.66 Generally, able bodied men and soldiers were massacred, and their helpless women and children were made prisoners in large numbers or groups.67 Even in peace times people of one or more villages or groups acted in unison. When Firoz Shah Tughlaq proclaimed that those who accepted Islam would be exempted from payment of Jizyah, ‘great number of Hindus presented themselves  Thus they came forward day by day from every quarter ’68 Similarly, from the time of entering Hindustan, up to the time of reaching the environs of Delhi, Amir Timur had ‘taken more than 100,000 infidels and Hindus prisoners ’69 Timur massacred them all, but the fact that people could be made slaves in such unbelievably large numbers was due to their keeping together through thick and thin, howsoever desperate the situation. Nobody knew the reality better than Ibn Battuta who travelled in India extensively. During his sojourn he found villages after villages deserted.70 Nature’s ravages or man’s atrocities might have made them flee, or more probably they would have been enslaved and converted, or just carried away. But the fact of habitations being completely deserted shows that large groups suffered together and did not forsake one another in times of trial and tribulation. This factor swelled the number of slaves.

Special Slaves of Firoz Shah Tughlaq

By the time of Firoz Shah Tughlaq, the institution of slavery had taken root in every region of Muslim domination. The Sultanate of Delhi was now two hundred years old and well entrenched. The need of slaves for all kinds of errands was great. So that slaves were ever needed in hundreds, and slave-taking did not remain confined to their capture during wars. Firoz Tughlaq resorted to some other methods of acquiring slaves. One of these was akin to the famous Dewshrime widely practised in the Ottoman Empire.

The practice of Dewshrime (Greek for ‘collecting boys’), ‘is the name applied to the forcible pressing of Christian children to recruit the janissary regiments  of the Turkish Empire  mainly in the European parts with a Christian population (Greece, Macedonia, Albania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Bulgaria).’71 These Christians, Jews and Gypsies turned Muslims were trained to fight against their own erstwhile brethren. ‘Instituted by Urkhan in 1330, it formed for centuries the mainstay of the despotic power of the Turkish sultans, and was kept alive by a regular contribution exacted every four years (or so), when the officers of the Sultan visited the districts over and made a selection from among the children about the age of seven. The Muhammadan legists attempted to apologise for this inhuman tribute by representing these children as the fifth of the spoil which the Quran assigns to the sovereign.’72

Sultan Firoz commanded his great fief-holders and officers to capture slaves whenever they were at war, and to pick out and send the best for the service of the court. The fifth part of slaves captured in war in India were always despatched to the ruler (or Caliph) ever since the days of Muhammad bin Qasim. Firoz Tughlaq desired slaves to be collected in the Dewshrime fashion. Great numbers of slaves were thus collected, and when they were found to be in excess, the Sultan sent them to Multan, Dipalpur, Hissar Firozah, Samana, Gujarat, and all the other feudal dependencies.’73

The policy of Delhi Sultanate of leaving the bare minimum to the peasant helped in Firoz’s ‘Dewshrime’. Under Muslim rule, a substantial portion of the agricultural produce was taken away by the government as taxes and the people were left with the bare minimum for subsistence in order to impoverish them because it was thought that ‘wealth’ was the source of “rebellion and disaffection.’74 This policy was in practice throughout the medieval period, both under the Sultans and the Mughals. Conditions became intolerable by the time of Shahjahan as attested to by Manucci and Manrique. Peasants were compelled to sell their women and children to meet the revenue demand. Manrique writes that ‘the peasants were carried off  to various markets and fairs (to be sold), with their poor unhappy wives behind them carrying their small children all crying and lamenting, to meet the revenue demand.’ Bernier too affirms that ‘the unfortunate peasants who were incapable of discharging the demand of their rapacious lords, were bereft of their children Who were carried away as slaves.’75 As in the Ottoman Empire, Christians and Jews turned Muslim were trained to fight their erstwhile brethren, so also in India in the medieval period Hindus captured and converted were made to fight their erstwhile brethren in Muslim wars of conquest. Trained or accustomed to fighting their own people, these converts to Islam are posing various kinds of problems in the present-day India and Eastern Europe.


  1. Ibn Khaldun; Ibar, trs. by Bernard Lewis in Islam, 98. 

  2. Hasan Nizami, Taj-ul-Maasir, E.D., H, 222. 

  3. Dictionary of Islam, 597. 

  4. Hasan Nizami, Taj-u-Maasir, E.D., II, 231. Farishtah, I, 62. 

  5. Ram Swarup, Introduction to the Reprint of William Muir’s The Life of Mahomet, New Delhi, 1992, 9. 

  6. Titus, Islam in India and Pakistan, 31. 

  7. Minhaj, 523 n. Also Farishtah, I, 63. 

  8. Ibid., 528. 

  9. Minhaj 483-84. 

  10. Farishtah, I, 59-60. 

  11. Amir Khusrau, Tughlaq Nama, Aurangabad text, 128. 

  12. Minhaj, 484n. 

  13. Farishtah, I, 58. 

  14. Opinions differ on the date of this raid. Ishwari Prasad, Medieval India, 138, places it probably in 1197; Wolseley Haig, C.H.1, III, 45-46, a little earlier than this, and Habibullah, 70 and 84, in 1202-03. 

  15. Ibn Asir, Kamil-ut-Tawarikh, E.D., II, 250. 

  16. Ibid,, 251. 

  17. Habibullah, op.cit., 147. 

  18. Tarikh-i-Fakhruddin Mubarak Shah, 20. 

  19. Minhaj, 611. 

  20. Farishtah, I, 66. 

  21. Farishtah, I, 73; Minhaj, 598-99. 

  22. Farishtah, I, 75. Also Habibullah, 272. 

  23. Barani, 57-58; Farishtah, I, 75; Habibullah, 294-95. 

  24. Ziyauddin Barani, Sana-i-Muhammadi, trs. in Medieval India Quarterly, (Aligarh), I, Part III, 100-105. 

  25. Minhaj 680, 683, 391, 828; E.D., II, 348, 367, 371, 380-81, Farishtah, I, 73. 

  26. Farishtah, I. 73. 

  27. Minhaj, 686; 675 n.5, 719-868, 

  28. Barani, 216-17. 

  29. Khusrau, Miftah-ul-Fatuh, Aligarh text, 1954, 35-36; Barani, 213. 

  30. Khusrau, Miftah-ul-Fatuh, 38-39; Farishtah, I, 94. 

  31. Barani, 222-23; Farishtah, I, 95-97. 

  32. Farishtah, I, 95-96. 

  33. Barani, 249; Farishtah, I, 102: Badaoni, Ranking, I, 248. 

  34. Isami, 243; Barani, 251-52. 

  35. For detailed references see Lal, Khaljis, 69-71. 

  36. Wassaf, Bk. IV, 448. Also trs. in E.D. III, 43. 

  37. Khazain, Habib trs., 49; Lal, Khaljis, 101. 

  38. Barani, 253-54; Farishtah, I, 103: Futuh, 241. 

  39. Farishtah, I, 114-15; Barani, 320; Khazain, Habib, 28; Wassaf, IV, 526-27. The walls of the towers popularly known as Chor Minar in modern Hauz Khas Enclave are pierced with 225 holes. In medieval India apertures on the walls of towers were used by Muslims not only as windows but also to display heads of captured and executed prisoners. The custom was to cut off their heads and stick them into those holes, to be seen by everybody. During wars, only the heads of chiefs were displayed; those of common soldiers were simply piled into pyramids. 

  40. For references Lal, Khaljis, 146-48. 

  41. Afif, 37-38. 

  42. Trs, in E.D., III, 561. Also in his Ashiqa, ibid., 545-46. 

  43. Afif, 272. 

  44. Barani, 341. 

  45. Barani, 318; Lal, Khaljis, 214-15. 

  46. Masalik-ul-Absar, E.D., III, 580. 

  47. Ishwari Prasad, Qaraunh Turks, 39-40 citing Battutah, Def. and Sang., II, 212-14. 

  48. Qaraunah Turks, 96, 126, 129-30, 173. 

  49. Mahdi Husain Tughlaq Dynasty, 195-257. 

  50. Qaraunah Turks, 148 citing Battutah, Def. and Sang, III, 332. 

  51. Battutah, 123. 

  52. Qaraunah Turks, 138-39. 

  53. Battutah, 63; Hindi trs. by S.A.A. Rizvi in Tughlaq Kalin Bharat, part I, Aligarh 1956, 189. 

  54. Hamilton, Hedaya. I, 161. 

  55. Ibid., 174. 

  56. Afif, 265. also 119-120. 

  57. Ibid., 180. 

  58. Ibid., 267-73. 

  59. Ibid., 270-71. 

  60. Padmanabh, Kanhadade Prabandh, trs. Bhatnagar, 11, 16, 18. 

  61. Yazdi, Zafar Nama, II, 92-95; Mulfuzat-i-Timuri, trs. E.D., III, 436, 451. 

  62. Tarikh-i-Salim Shahi, 165. This was the fate of the captives throughout the medieval period and therefore there is no need to cite any more instances. 

  63. Hedaya, Hamilton, II, 213. 

  64. Ibid., 181. 

  65. Tarikh-i-Fakkruddin Mubarak Shah, ed. Denison Ross, 20. 

  66. Battutah, 95. For details see Ishwari Prasad, Qarunab Turks, 65-66; Mahdi Husain, Tughlaq Dynasty, 207-208. 

  67. Barani, 56; Afif, 119-120; Lal, Growth of Muslim Population, 106, 113-16, 211-217 for copious references from Muslim chronicles. 

  68. Fatuhat-i-Firoz Shah, E.D., III, 386. 

  69. Mulfuzat-i-Timuri, E.D., III, 435-36; Z.N. Yazdi II, 192, Rauzat-us-safa, VI, 109. 

  70. Battuta, 10, 20, 155-56. 

  71. Encyclopaedia of Islam, First ed., 1913-38, II, 952. 

  72. Arnold, The Preaching of Islam, 150; Quran, 8:42. Bernard Lewis, Islam, 22627 also traces its origin to the fourteenth century. 

  73. Afif, 267-73. 

  74. Barani, Tarikh 2, 16-17, 287, 291, 430, and Fatawa-i-Jahandari, 46-48; Afif, E.D., III, 289-90. 

  75. Manucci, II. 451; Manrique, II, 272; Bernier, 205. For details see Lal, Legacy, 24955.