The Story of a Treachery: Murder of Jalal-ud-din Firoz Khilji

Jalal-ud-din Firoz Khilji (1290-1296) had two nephews, Ala-ud-din and Almas Beg (afterwards Ulugh Khan). Later they became his son-in-laws too. After deposing Malik Jhaju, Jalal-ud-din appointed Ala-ud-din as the governor of Kara. He took into service the officers and friends of Malik Jhaju, who had taken part in his rebellion. In 1293, Ala-ud-din plundered Bhilsa (now Vidisha) and brought some bronze idols, which the Hindus worshiped, along with much spoil to the Sultan. Ala-ud-din was then made the Aariz-ul-Mumalik and Oudh was added to his estates.

Ala-ud-din's Frustrations:

Ala-ud-din was not in good terms with his aunt as well as mother-in-law, the Malika-i-Jahan (Queen) of the Sultan, and also with his wife, the daughter of the Sultan. She always spoke ill of him to her father. Ala-ud-din was tired by their tyranny and oppression; so he was anxious to get away from them. He had been thinking that on any pretext, he would leave the Sultan's dominions; take possession of some distant country, and make a position for himself. Money only was needed. When Ala-ud-din went to Bhilsa, he heard much about the wealth of Devagiri (also known as Daulatabad). He secretly planned the conquest of that place. He lied to the Sultan that he was proceeding to conquer Chanderi, and promised him the return of great spoils. Ala-ud-din soon proceeded to Devagiri with a large army. Malik Alau-l mulk, the uncle of Ziauddin Barani, and one of the favorites of Ala-ud-din, was made deputy of Kara and Oudh in his absence. Raja Ramachandra Yadava, the ruler of Devagiri, opposed the Mohammedans, but was defeated. Ala-ud-din got possession of immense treasure and elephants.

As Sultan Jalal-ud-din got no news of Ala-ud-din for a long time, he started towards Gwalior for hunting. There he built a lofty dome for travelers. In the meantime, rumours reached him that Ala-ud-din, after conquering Devagiri, was on his way back to Kara with elephants and treasures. The Sultan, who never suspected the loyalty of Ala-ud-din, delighted at this news; in the simplicity of his heart he thought that whatsoever his nephew had captured, he would joyfully bring to him. He assembled his council, and asked them, "Ala-ud-din is coming from Devagiri with all these horses, elephants and booty. Should I remain where I am; or should I hasten to welcome him; or should I return to Delhi?". Malik Ahmad Habib Barbak, sister's son and well-wisher of the Sultan, said, "Elephants and wealth, when held in great abundance, are the cause of much strife. Whoever acquires them becomes so intoxicated that he can not distinguish his hands from feet. Ala-ud-din is surrounded by many of the rebels and insurgents who supported Malik Jhaju; and they incited him to go to Devagiri without the Sultan's orders. The wise have said 'Money and strife; strife and money', that is, the two things are allied to each other. My opinion is that we should march towards Chanderi, and encamp on the road along which lay Ala-ud-din's route to Kara. By these means, Ala-ud-din, if he meditated revolt, would be deserted by the greatest part of his army, which would oblige him to abandon his ambitious plans. When he finds that the Sultan is so near, he will not be able to complete his arrangements and will be forced to come and pay his homage to the Sultan, and present all his spoils at the foot of the throne, whether he likes or not. The Sultan should then take his elephants, gold and jewels, and leave the rest to him. But if the Sultan marches to Delhi without taking proper measures; and if Ala-ud-din goes to Kara with such an immense quantity of treasure, and there places all his arrangements on a right footing, the Sultan will have, in a manner, endeavoured to bring about his own destruction". The Sultan also consulted Malik Fakhr-ud-din Kuchi; Fakhr-ud-din did not want to incur the Sultan's displeasure, although he knew that what Ahmad Habib had said was right. He said, "The news of Ala-ud-din's return and the amount of his plunder have not yet been confirmed either by his petition or by the testimony of trustworthy persons, in such a way that we may place any reliance on it. Supposing that the news turns out to be true, is it not natural to imagine, that when he will hear of the approach of the Sultan's army, that the fear of false accusation will prevail on him to retreat among the mountains? As the rainy season is approaching, it will be impossible to dislodge him. Let us not, therefore cast off our shoes before we reach the river, but wait till Ala-ud-din will arrive at Kara. If he cherishes treasonable views, one assault of the Sultan's forces will crush his ambition". Malik Ahmad rose up and spoke, "The time passes - As soon as Ala-ud-din shall have escaped us, will he not proceed by the way of Oudh to Lakhnauti, where his treasure will soon enable him to raise such an army as neither you nor I will be able to oppose? O shame! that men should know better, yet not have the honesty to give salutary advice". The Sultan became angry on hearing this, and said, "What have I done to Ala-ud-din that he should turn away from me, and not present his spoils? Ahmad Habib always has an evil opinion of Ala-ud-din. I am so well assured of the loyalty of Ala-ud-din, whom I have nursed in my bosom, that I should sooner believe treason in my son than in him". Upon this, Malik Ahmad walked out. Following the advice of Fakhr-ud-din, Jalal-ud-din returned to Kilokhari.

Ala-ud-din Returns to Kara (Jun, 1296): A few days after Ala-ud-din's return to Kara, he sent a letter to the Sultan announcing his return. He said, "I wish to bring all my wealth to your presence; but as I have been absent for a long time, and I had set out on this expedition without your orders, a fancy has found its way into my mind, and my followers. If a farman is issued which will give me and my companions some assurance of our perfect safety, we would present ourselves at your gate without any anxiety". Ala-ud-din deceived the Sultan by such stories, at the same time he made preparations to go off to Lakhnauti and dispatched Zafar Khan towards Oudh, to secure boats on the river Sarayu. His plan was this: In case the Sultan should march to Kara, he would cross the river and march at once to Lakhnauti, where he establish independent sovereignty. The Sultan meanwhile wrote an affectionate letter to Ala-ud-din, assuring him and his companions of complete safety, and sent it by the hands of two trusted servants, Imad-ul-Mulk and Zia-ud-din, to Kara. On their arrival at Kara, they found that Ala-ud-din had become hostile to the Sultan. But, they were seized before they could inform the true state of things to the Sultan. A few days afterwards, Ala-ud-din wrote to his brother Ulugh Khan at Delhi, who was also a son-in-law of the Sultan, saying that ''as he had undertaken the expedition to Devagiri without the permission of the Sultan, certain persons have aroused a fear and anxiety in his heart. He had taken His Majesty's displeasure, which was worse than death to him, so much to heart, that he was afraid excess of sorrow would put an end to his melancholy life. But, as he was the loyal servant and son of the Sultan, if the Sultan would come alone, by rapid marches, to meet him and take him to Delhi, he would feel reassured, and would gladly render service and homage. If not, he would either take poison or look out for a place of security''. When Ulugh Khan showed this treacherous letter to the Sultan, he ordered Ulugh Khan to hasten to Kara, and not to let Ala-ud-din depart, and promised to follow him soon. After the arrival of Ulugh Khan at Kara, Ala-ud-din determined upon his expedition to Lakhnauti.

Ala-ud-din Plots to Murder the Sultan:

At that time, the crafty counselors of Ala-ud-din advised him, "What's the need to go to Lakhnauti when the Sultan by his excessive greed for the wealth and elephants of Devagiri, will come here lightly equipped in the midst of the rainy season?".

Sultan Jalal-ud-din never expected that his death was nearing. He did not listen to the advices of his well-wishers and set out for Kara accompanied by a small retinue, and a thousand horse. He also sent Malik Ahmad with a body of force by land. Hearing the departure of the Sultan from Delhi, Ala-ud-din crossed the river Ganges and taken post between Kara and Manikpur with his army. When the royal canopy appeared in sight, he sent his brother Ulugh Khan to the Sultan, with directions to induce the Sultan to leave behind the thousand men he had brought with him, and to come with only a few attendants. When the traitor Ulugh Khan came to the presence of the Sultan, he said, "If I had not come and comforted my brother, he would have wandered away to some distant place; even now, fear and suspicion is by no means entirely removed from his mind; if he sees your majesty with these armed horsemen, he may be alarmed. His Majesty should show him some favour and kindness, and should reassure him, and going alone, without any retinue, should take his hand and lead him here". The Sultan, unsuspicious of treachery, ordered the horsemen to halt there, and with his select attendants, he entered the boat. Ulugh Khan further desired the Sultan to direct his attendants to lay aside their arms. He said, "My brother is in great fear and awe of the Sultan, and is quaking from head to foot; and when he sees even this small body of men, he will be all the more alarmed, and will despair of the Sultan's clemency". The poor Sultan directed his attendants to disarm. As the boats reached mid-stream, Ala-ud-din was plainly visible drawn up in close order fully armed and equipped. The Sultan's attendants became sure about the treachery of Ala-ud-din. Malik Khurram, the Vakildar, said to Ulugh Khan, "We left our army behind us at your instigation, and we laid down our arms, what is this that we see an army ready for action?". Ulugh Khan replied that Ala-ud-din wishes to review his army, and was anxious that his army should pay homage to the Sultan. The Sultan too saw the treachery, but he said to Ulugh Khan, "In spite of my old age, and the weakness due to fasting, I have come so far to meet your brother, Even yet will not your cruel brother's heart induce him to get into a boat and come to me?". Ulugh Khan replied, "My brother is unwilling to receive the Sultan empty handed. His intention is to await your majesty at the shore, with elephants, treasure and jewels, and there to present his officers. He has been preparing food for breaking your fast, and to do honour to the arrival of his guest". No thought of their treason passed through the Sultan's mind, who were his nephews and son-in-laws, whom he had cherished from their infancy.

Last Moments (July, 1296): Barani writes: The Sultan took the Quran and occupied in reading the sacred volume, and proceeded fearless and confiding as a father to his sons. The people who were in the boat saw death before them, and began to repeat the chapter appropriate to men in sight of death. The Sultan reached the shore before afternoon prayer. Ala-ud-din advanced to receive him and fell at his uncle's feet. The old king raised him up, treating him as a son, kissed his eyes and cheeks, stroked his beard, gave him two loving taps upon the cheek, and said, "Why are you afraid of me, who have brought you up from your childhood and cherished with a fatherly affection. You have been always dearer to me than my sons". Then taking Ala-ud-din's hand, the Sultan lead him towards the boat. At this moment, Ala-ud-din made a signal to his guards, who had sworn together to murder the Sultan. Mahmud Salim, rushing forward, wounded the Sultan with his sword. The Sultan ran towards the boat, crying, "Ah you villain, Ala-ud-din! what have you done?". But before he had reached the boat, another of the guards, Ikhtiyar-ud-din Hud, ran after him, threw him down, cut off his head, and bore it dripping with blood to Ala-ud-din. Afterwards the head of the Sultan was placed on a spear and carried it through the camp and city. Most of the attendants of the Sultan, who were in the boat, threw themselves into the river and were drowned. Malik Fakhr-ud-din Kuchi was taken prisoner.

Tomb of Jalal ud din Khilji at Kara

Historians also tell us the fate of Jalal-ud-din's assassins: Muhammad Salim, about a year after, died of leprosy. Ikhtiyar-ud-din became mad, crying out incessantly, that Sultan Jalal-ud-din was cutting off his head. Ulugh Khan died after three or four years. Barani concludes that although Ala-ud-din Khilji reigned with prosperity for many years, fate in the end placed a betrayer (Malik Kafur) in his path, by whom his family was destroyed.

The reign of Sultan Jalal-ud-din Firoz Khilji lasted six years. He had three sons: Khan-i-Khanan (died), Arkali Khan and Qadr Khan. The Mongol Alghu was also a son-in-law of the Sultan.