Did Muhammad Tughlaq Kill His Father?

Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq (1321-1325) was the founder of the Tughlaq dynasty of Delhi. The Sultan built the city of Tughlaqabad and made it his capital. He declared his eldest son Fakhr-ud-din Jauna (afterwards Muhammad) as the heir apparent with the title of Ulugh Khan.

Sultan Tughlaq's Bengal Campaign: On the death of Sultan Shamsuddin Firoz Shah, his son Shihabuddin Bughra succeeded him in Bengal (Lakhnauti or Gaur). But Ghiyasuddin Bahadur Shah, another son of Shamsuddin Firoz, and the governor of Sonargaon, refused to accept the suzerainty of his brother. He ousted Shihabuddin and killed Kutlu Khan, another of his brothers, and assumed the whole control of Bengal. Shihabuddin fled with another brother Nasir-ud-din to Delhi and sought aid of Sultan Tughlaq. This happened in 1323. Sultan Tughlaq decided to march in person to Bengal. He summoned Ulugh Khan from Telangana and appointed him his regent of Tughlaqabad. In the meanwhile Nasir-ud-din got possession of Lakhnauti from Bahadur Shah. When the Sultan reached Lakhnauti, Nasir-ud-din came to pay his respects, and Sultan Tughlaq confirmed him to the government of Lakhnauti. Ghiyasuddin Bahadur Shah was defeated by Tatar Khan, the Sultan's adopted son and was taken prisoner to Delhi.

Sultan Tughlaq's Death:

Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq, founder of the Tughlaq dynasty of Delhi

After his conquest of Bengal, Sultan Tughlaq returned to Tughlaqabad triumphant carrying with him Bahadur Shah. But his death was approaching. Nizamuddin, Ferishta and Badauni suspects Muhammad's involvement in the apparent accident, while Ibn Battuta clearly charges Muhammad with the murder of his father. Let's see various historical accounts regarding the death of Sultan Tughlaq:

Barani: When Ulugh Khan received information of the Sultan's hastening homewards to Tughlaqabad, he ordered a temporary erection to be raised at Afghanpur, about three or four kos from the city, where the Sultan might stay for the night and take rest, before marching on the following day into the city with pomp and triumph. Sultan Tughlaq arrived in the afternoon, and Ulugh Khan, with all the great nobles and officers, gone forth to meet him, and conducted him thither with great ceremony. The Sultan's table had been spread, and he took food; the nobles came out to wash their hands. 'A thunderbolt from the sky descended upon the earth', and the roof under which the Sultan was seated fell down, crushing him and five or six other persons, so that they died.

Ferishta: When the Sultan had reached Afghanpur, he was met by Ulugh Khan, with all the nobles of the court, to congratulate him upon his safe return. Ulugh Khan had in that place raised a temporary wooden building in three days time, for his father's reception. When the entertainment was over, the Sultan ordered his equipage to proceed; every body hastened out and stood ready to accompany him, Then the roof of the building suddenly fell, and the Sultan and five of his attendants were crushed in the ruins. Some authors have attributed this accident to the nature of the building, and think it might have been pushed down by the crowd of elephants that were without. Others refer it to design, of which they accuse the Prince Ulugh Khan as the contriver, because, say they, the construction of such a building in a camp was quite unnecessary. It must be recollected that the Prince himself had been for some time with his father in the building, during the entertainment. How, then, was he to effect, as if by a miracle, that the house should fall on the very moment he left it? According to the author of Tarikh-i Sadr-i Jahan the Prince Ulugh Khan raised the palace by magic, and the instant the magical art which upheld it was withdrawn, it fell. Haji Mohammed Kandahari says that it was struck by lightning.

Badauni: Ulugh Khan upon hearing the news of the Sultan's return gave immediate orders for the erection of a lofty and noble palace near Afghanpur which is at a distance of 3 krohs from Tughlaqabad. It was completed in three days so that Sultan Tughlaq might alight there, and having passed the night in it and having rested might depart thence at an auspicious moment and alight at Tughlaqabad. The Sultan arrived there and Ulugh Khan having gone out to meet him with all the nobles and grandees, spread a banquet of welcome. The Sultan gave orders for the elephants which he had brought with him from Bengal to be raced and as the foundation of the new palace was new and unsettled the palace began to shake and totter with the tramp of the elephants. When the people became aware that the Sultan was mounting with all haste, they hurriedly came out from the palace, without even washing their hands. The Sultan was engaged in washing his hands and so did not come out. In consequence he washed his hands of life and the palace fell in upon him.

Yahya: His Majesty made his way to the capital carrying with him Bahadur Shah. Reaching in all haste Afghanpur for the royal audience, the Sultan granted an interview to the nobles of the court and ordered "Bring up those elephants that have been captured during the sack of Lakhnauti and make them run together". The construction was newly made; the earth under the erection trembled, and by divine pre-ordination it gave way. The Sultan attended by one servant fell under it and was martyred in Feb-Mar 1325.

Nizamuddin Ahmad: When Ulugh Khan heard that his father was coming back by rapid marches he ordered that a pavilion should be erected near Afghanpur, which is three krohs from Tughlaqabad, in the course of three days. So that when the Sultan arrived there, he might halt and pass the night in it, and the citizens might come there to welcome him, and render him service. Then when the morning would break, he would start for the capital, at an auspicious moment. When the Sultan arrived in the pavilion, there were rejoicings in Tughlaqabad, and triumphal domes were erected. Ulugh Khan accompanied by the Maliks and Amirs and the great men of the city went out to meet him; and were honoured with the permission to do him homage. The Sultan entered the pavilion, with the people who had come out to meet him; and a table was spread. When the food had been taken away and the men thought that the Sultan would mount at once, they came out without washing their hands. The Sultan remained there, to wash his hands. At this moment the roof of the pavilion fell in, and the Sultan fell under it, and was united with the Divine mercy.

Ibn Battuta: When the Sultan came near to his capital, he ordered Ulugh Khan to build for him a palace in the plain of Afghanpur. Ulugh Khan built it in the course of three days, making it chiefly of wood. It was elevated above the ground, and rested on pillars of wood. It was consolidated geometrically under the charge of Malikzada Ahmad Ayaz, the superintendent of buildings, who afterwards became the chief wazir of Sultan Muhammad with the title of Khwaja Jahan. It was so contrived that when the elephants should step on a part of it the palace would collapse and tumble down. The Sultan stopped in this palace and feasted his guests. After the dinner they dispersed. His son then asked permission to parade the elephants before him, fully accoutered, and the Sultan consented. Shaikh Rukn-ud-din told me that he was then near the Sultan, and that the Sultan's favourite son, Mahmud, was also with them. Thereupon Ulugh Khan came and said to the Shaikh, "Maulana, it is now the time for afternoon prayer, come down and pray".  The Shaikha went down, and the elephants were brought from a certain direction as had been arranged. When they stepped over, the building fell on the Sultan and his son Mahmud. The Shaikh said, "I heard the uproar, and came back without saying the prayer. I saw that the palace had fallen, and Ulugh Khan was ordering pickaxes and shovels to be brought to dig and seek for his father, but he made signs for them not to hurry, and the tools were not brought till after sunset".

When the Sultan was dug out he was seen bending over his son Mahmud to save him from death. Some assert that he was taken out dead; some apprehended that he was taken out alive and was finished. He was carried in the course of the night to the tomb which he had built at Tughlaqabad, and there he was interred. In recognition of the aforesaid geometrical ingenuity shown by the wazir Khwaja Jahan in the construction of this palace, his position became great in the eyes of Muhammad Shah, and great was the favour he showed him.

Did Muhammad kill his father?

Muhammad Tughlaq, Sultan of Delhi

The death of Sultan Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq happened in the year 1325, after a reign of four years and some months (ten months according to Muhammad). When Ulugh Khan ascended the throne, he took the title of Muhammad (1325-1350) (or Abul Mujahid Muhammad Shah according to Ibn Battuta).

In his account of Muhammad's reign, Ferishta says, "Muhammad's generosity was like his wealth, without bounds, which no man could well account for, there being no great sum in the treasury upon his accession; it is therefore probable that he had concealed the riches of the Raja of Warangal, from his father, and that his liberality was supplied from the wealth of the Deccan, which circumstance strengthens our suspicion that he was accessory to his father's death".

Badauni tells us that from having built a palace such as that, which was unnecessary, there is a suspicion that Ulugh Khan may have built the palace without foundations as was currently rumoured, He also suspects that Barani, the author of the Tarikh-i-Firoz Shahi, makes no mention of this although this may be due to a desire to flatter Firoz Shah and out of regard for him.

Nizamuddin also supports Badauni by saying that as the pavilion had been newly erected, and had not set properly, and the elephants which Sultan Tughlaq Shah had brought with him, from Bengal, were driven round it, the ground subsided and the roof fell in. It cannot however remain hidden from the minds of the intelligent, that the erection of the pavilion, for which there was no necessity whatever, creates a suspicion that Ulugh Khan encompassed his father's death. It is evident that Barani, the author of the Tarikh-i-Firoz Shahi, which was written in the reign of Sultan Firoz, who had great regard for Sultan Muhammad, was reticent about the matter, out of regard for the reigning monarch. Sir Wolseley Haig also believe that Barani did not speak the truth for fear of incurring the displeasure of Sultan Firoz Shah, who had great regard of Muhammad.

Muhammad and Nizamuddin Auliya: Ibn Battuta says that Muhammad had great faith in the Saint Nizamuddin Auliya. When Sultan Tughlaq was on his return journey from Bengal, Muhammad visited the Saint, who told him, "We accord you the scepter". Nizamuddin Auliya died before Sultan Tughlaq's return to Delhi. When the Saint died, Muhammad carried the coffin on his shoulders. When Sultan Tughlaq heard this, he disapproved of it and threatened him. Sundry acts on his part-his purchase of a large number of slaves, his lavish gifts and captivating the hearts of the people-had already inspired the Sultan with suspicion. Further the astrologers told him that he would not enter the city of Delhi after his aforesaid journey. Nizamuddin Ahmad says that as 'Sultan Tughlaq was displeased with Nizamuddin Auliya, he sent a message to the latter [from Bengal], telling him to leave Delhi, by the time he would himself arrive there. The Saint said, "Delhi is far off yet"'.

Agha Mahdi Husain proves that Sultan Tughlaq's death was an accident and Muhammad had no hand in it. According to him the story of Muhammad's plot to kill his father was borne out by Isami's Futuh-us-Salatin, and, Ibn Battuta followed the same lines.
  • According to Battuta, the Sultan's favourite son was not Muhammad but Mahmud; while the contemporary and later historians tell us that Muhammad was the best of the Sultan's sons and he was made his heir apparent.
  • According to Battuta, two years before the tragical death of the Sultan, Muhammad had revolted in Telangana and spread the news of his father's death. But the chiefs of the army had refused to co-operate with him. How can they bring about the murder of the Sultan now?
  • Muhammad considers Ala-ud-din as an usurper in his Memoirs. It is difficult to believe that he courted the same indignity for which he had disliked Ala-ud-din, by murdering his own father. 
  • Muhammad always speaks of his father with great respect. 
  • Unlike Jalal-ud-din Khilji, Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq was popular among his subjects, who would have taken steps to save him (if it was a pre-planned murder). 

Tughluq Dynasty By Agha Mahdi Husain