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Tarikh-I Firoz Shahi - A Fine Specimen of Indo-Persian Historiography

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Item Code: NAL600
Author: Ishtiyaq Ahmad Zilli
Publisher: Primus Books, Delhi
Language: English
Edition: 2022
Pages: 411
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.5 inch x 6.5 inch
Weight 730 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

Tarikbi-i Firoz Sbabi is the finest specimen of Indo-Persian historiography produced during the Sultanate period in India. Written by Zia ud Din Barani during the reign of Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq, it was completed 1357 CE and was dedicated to the reigning monarch. Primarily a history of the sultans of Delhi, it begins with the reign of Sultan Ghiyas ud Din Balban and concludes in the sixth years of Firoz Shah Tughlaq’s rule. It covers Balbans’s dynasty, the Khaljis and the Tughlaqs. Information regarding Balbans’s dynasty was supplied to Barani by his father, grandfather and others who held important offices in the regime. From the period of Sultan Jalal ud Din Khalji, the account is based on Barani’s personal observations.

Unlike other histories of the Period, Tarikb-i Firoz Sbabi is not confined to an account of wars and the accession of rulers. In this regard it is a welcome departure, for it takes into account the socio-economic conditions of the time and, thereby, provides a realistic portrait of society as it existed in the period under discussion.

About the Author

Ishtiyaq Ahmad Zilli retired as Professor from the Centre of Advanced Study in History, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh. He has written extensively on medieval India. His most recent work is Tbe Mughal State and Culture 1556-1598 (Selected Letters and Documents from Munshaat-i Namakin). He is currently Director of Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy, Azamgarh, a premier research institute for oriental studies in South Asia. He also edits the oldest Urdu literary and research monthly journal Maarif.


It is indeed surprising that Tarikh-i Firoz Shahi the most important history of the Delhi Sultanate, was never fully translated into English despite its immense relevance for student of medieval Indian history. A number of scholars have translated extracts that they have considered to be significant. The most significant and abiding endeavour in this regard was that of Elliot and Dowson in The History of India as told by its own Historians, edited by John Dowson. Those who did not have access to the Persian text have mainly relied on this version of the work for their study of the period covered by Tarikh-i Firoz Shahi and even for research. Editor of the book, Professor John Dowson informs that Sir H.M. Elliot planned to translate the full text of the Tarikh-i Firoz Shahi, it not materialize. Others who translated excerpts from the work include Major A.R. Fuller (Reign of Alaud Din Khalji), P. Whalley (The Reign of Muizzud Din) and Auckland Colvin (The Reign of Ghiyasud Din Tughlaq Shah). These translations appeared in the Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal. It was translated into Urdu first by Waris Ali bin Shaikh Bahadur and later by Dr Saiyid Moinul Haq. The latter’s translation was published by the Urdu Science Board, Lahore, first in 1969 and then in 1991.

While teaching the history of Delhi Sultanate at the Centre of Advanced Study in History, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, I felt the need for an English translation of the complete text of Tarikh-i Firoz Shahi particularly in view of the fact that the number of the scholars of medieval Indian history who can access Persian text is declining by the day. It was this realization that persuaded me to undertake this arduous job. I sincerely hope that this translation will be instrumental in stimulating interest in the history of Delhi Sultanate.

Persian text of Tarikh-i Firoz shahi was edited by syed Ahmad khan under the supervision of Captain Nassau Lees and Maulavi kabirud Din Ahmad. It was published by the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Calcutta, under the Bibliotheca India Series in 1862. His preface was not included in the book but it later appeared in the Aligarh Institute Gazette of 22 August 1866, some four years after the publication of the book. This gave significant details of the manuscripts that he used in the preparation of the text. Though the book was very popular and one could have reasonably expected that many manuscripts of the work would have been available in libraries and personal collections but that was not the case. He, in fact, informs that manuscripts of the book were extremely rare. He could procure only one manuscript of the book and consequently underwent great difficulty in editing it. He later found one incomplete copy in the Imperial Library of Delhi. One manuscript was procured from Banaras and one was in the possession of Sir Edward Thomas. He based his edition of Tarikh-i Firoz Shahi on these four manuscripts, one of which was incomplete. He has provided any other details about these manuscripts. Moreover, he has also shed any light on the methodology that he had adopted in editing the book. In fact, he was setting a new setting a new tradition as it was the first attempt at editing a Persian text in India. This edition is now very rare and difficult to procure. Professor Asghar Abbas, during the period of his directorship of the Sir Syed Academy, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, published a reprint of the book and brought it within the reach of the students of Delhi Sultanate history. He deserves our grateful thanks for this. Besides a brief introduction, he also added the preface of Syed Ahmad Khan that did not appear in the earlier edition. He has also added an index of the names of persons and places.

Barani began his account where Qazi Minhaj ud Din Juzjani had left it in his Tabaqat-i Nasiri. Minhaj had covered the history of mankind from Adam till the end of Sultan Nasir ud Din’s reign. Consequently Tarikh-i Firoz Shahi begins from the accession of Balban in AH 662/1266 CE and it is brought to the sixth year of Firoz Shah Tughlaq’s reign in AH 758/1357. Therefore, it covers a period of ninety-five years in the history of Delhi Sultanate. Had it not been for Tarikh-i Firoz Shahi, the history of a very crucial period in medieval India would have been mostly lost. In all, the reign of eight rulers have been covered in the volume. Thses include Sultan Ghiyas ud Din Balban, Sultan Muizz ud Din Kaiqubad, Sultan Jalal ud Din Khalji, Sultan Alaud Din Khalji, Sultan Qutb ud Din Khalji, Ghiyas ud Din Tughlaq, Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq and Sultan Firoz Tuhglaq.

Barani belonged to an aristocratic family. His father and grandfather had held important positions in the government. His uncle, Alaul Mulk, was a confidante of Sultan Alaud Din Khalji from his Kara days and held the kotawali of Delhi. He himself was close to Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq and was his courtier (nadeem for seventeen years. With the accession of Sultan Firoz Tughlaq he fell out of favour. He was imprisoned for some time and though his life was spared, he lost all his property and position. Towards the end of his life he was reduced to abject poverty and penury. It was at this stage that he took the remarkable decision to turn a new leaf and become an author.He is not known to have written anything before the Tarikh-i Firoz Shahi in his life. When he decided to pen to paper to beat his sorrow and grief and attract the attention of the ruling monarch, he had nothing left but his memorie.


All praise is due to Allah who enlightened the people with the annals and reports of prophets and kings through the means of divine revelation. Thereby He made the affairs of those whose actions were approved and also those who were condemned, as the virtues of the pious and the wickedness of those of those who were cast away from among the nations preceding the ummah (community) of Muhammad as clear as daylight and thereby put this community under great obligation. He says in the Holy Book, ‘And We record that which they send before and that which they leave behind’. He further says in another verse, ‘We relate to you the best of stories’. Grateful thanks are due to the Lord who illuminated the eyes of the discerning and the wise with the light of perception and insight of reality and adorned them with lucid thinking so they could cast an eye of discernment on the remains and records of the people bygone, virtues and evil acts of the ancients, merits and demerits as well as the submission of the obedient and wrongdoing of the recalcitrant, and the salvation of the truly learned and perdition of those cast away (from divine favour). This will enable them to consider the recipients of divine favour as fortunate ones and those who do not have access to divine assemblage as unfortunate, to distinguish between the lucky and the wretched, the favourites and the condemned, the auspicious and the wretched, those on the right path and those off the course, and the friends from the enemies. Thereby, they could be able to differentiate their discerning thought between worth and worthlessness, the virtues from the objects of reproach, and in the intrinsic value of Islam and the wickedness of infidelity, beauty of goodness and loathsomeness of evil. Thus, they could consider it incumbent upon themselves to follow and emulate the sayings and actions of those who are friends of God and refrain from degrading and demeaning attributes of those who have been deprived of divine favour and are enemies of God. Udoubtedly, the emulation of the fortunate ones and refraining from following the evil ones is to be considered as the most important of the affairs of both religion and state and by doing so they could be included among those who are saved and may get a place under the shadow of the mercy of God (on the Day of Judgement). Awareness about good and evil and knowledge regarding obedience and wrongdoing of the earlier people should be considered as great blessing for the masses as well as the select among the Muslims. They should therefore continue to offer grateful thanks for this great bounty and consider it a reward of God and a consequence of the divine declaration, ‘That is the grace of Allah, which He bestows on whom He bestows on whom He wills.’

Infinite encomium and copious praises from God, the prophets, angels, saints and holy men of the earlier communities and the chosen and the masses of the community who followed (the Muslims) may continually and interminably reach the holy soul of Chief of the Prophets, Muhammad bin Abdullah Qureshi Hashimi, and Abtahi, a Prophet, tidings of whose sublime attributes and the signs of whose laudable character are contained in the revealed books and will remain so till the end of time. The books of hadith (traditions of the Prophet) and history are full of the accounts of his glorious actions and auspicious sayings, and n emulation of both the regulations of the Shariat (Canon Law) and prescriptions of the Tariqat (path of Spirituality) took root in the four corners of the world. Undoubtedly, emulating the actions and following the sayings of the Sultan of the Prophets is the sure means of salvation and increase in the grades of piety of the members of the community. The basis of the rule of the kings of Islam and the pivot of the religion protecting sultans is linked with following the regulations of the Shari’at and the commandments of the King of the Prophets. The benevolence of God and the benediction of the Prophet and the saints and the masses following the religion of Muhammad may accrue on the saints and the masses following the religion of Muhammad may accrue on the four friends of Mustafa (the Prophet) the and members of his family (ahl-i bayt) and all the sincere companions of the Prophet every moment and every hour till the day of resurrection. How the eulogy of those could be committed to writing who are the chosen ones of God and His Prophet and in whose praise the Quran itself says, ‘And the foremost to embrace Islam of the Muhajirun (Companions of the Prophet who migrated from Makkah to Madinah) and the Ansar (Madinah Companions of the Prophet who helped and gave aid to the Muhajirun) and also those who followed them exactly (in faith). Allah is well pleased with them as they are well- pleased with Him. Which author and compiler could have courage to do justice in commending those in whose praise God Himself has in the Quran’ ‘O Prophet, Allah is sufficient for you and for the believers who follow you’. This is particularly so in the case of attributes and qualities of the four pillars of religiosity who in the matter of the organization of the religious and worldly affairs of the Muslim community, were like the four elements of the body of government. When they were chosen to succeed the Prophet, with the eternal grace of Mustafa (the Prophet), they successfully held the throne of Jamshed (a great Persian king) and royal chair of Kaikhusrau (Cyrus) and ruled over the inhabited world. But notwithstanding their great power and kingly status, it was due to the grace of the emulation of the traditions of the Prophet that never deviated from the path of abstinence, and the poverty that they had voluntarily adopted and ably managed the affairs of the select regions of the inhabited world with perfect piety clad in patched garments. It is indeed one of the miracles of the Prophet that (his companions) gave such lustre to the institutions of state, took the standard of Islam to every corner of the world and enforced the regulations of the Shariat of Muhammad over the inhabitants of the world while strictly holding to the practice of poverty and humility.

It was actually from the commencement of the Khilafat (Caliphate) of Abu Bakr Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him) that the twin tasks of governance and conquest began. The false claimants of prophethood and the enemies of frligion were uprooted. Moreover, the armies of Islam issued forth to raid the territories of Iraq and Syria and overthrow irreligious kings. As the Caliphate of Abu Bakr did not exceed thirty months, which is two and a half years, the territories of the enemies were not brought firmly under control though they were badly mauled. However, the false claimants of prophethood were completely uprooted along with their supporters and heretics were forced to revert to Islam. Similarly, sadaqat (voluntary donations), zakat (poor rate), jizy and ushur (tithe) from Muslims and those who were under the rule of Muslims were realized in the same way as during the time of the Prophet, such that even a rope by which the knee of the camel was tied, was not remitted. The false claimants of Prophethood, who had caused much mischief, were completely subdued with the blow of arrow and sword, their women and children as well as their property and assets were made over to the Muslims as booty of war for the warriors of religion. During his rule, the traditions of the Prophet received lustre, and due to the great status, extreme truthfulness and firmness in belief and the high position of siddiq-i Akbar (Abu Bakr), the companions became more closely knit and no division whatsoever took place among them.


Preface ix
Introduction 1
1 The Great Sultan Ghiyas ud Dunya Wad Din 16
2 The Gentle Sultan Jalal ud Dunya Wad Din Firoz Shah Khalji 108
3 The Second Alexander, the Great Sultan Ala ud Dunya wad Din Muhammad Shah Khalji 148
4 Al Sultan al Ghazi Ghiyas ud dunya wad din Tughlaq Shah al Sultan 260
5 Al Sultan al Mujahid Abul Fath Muhammad Shah bin Tughlaq Shah 280
6 The Sultan of the age, one who is supported by God, Firoz Shah al Sultan 324
Index 371

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