Was Syed Sahib a Traitor?

Mir Mu'inuddin, also known as Syed Sahib, was both the cousin and father-in-law of Tipu Sultan. In 1795, Tipu Sultan married Syed Sahib's daughter, Khadija Zamani Begum. Tragically, she passed away during childbirth just two years later.

Syed Sahib was a prominent figure in Tipu Sultan's court, but his loyalty has been questioned by historian Mohibbul Hasan. During the 4th Anglo-Mysore war, Tipu entrusted Purnaiya and Syed Sahib with the task of halting General Harris's advance towards Srirangapatna. According to Hasan, they had made a secret agreement with the British and chose to remain inactive, allowing the enemy to march forward without any resistance.


During the 4th Anglo-Mysore War, Syed Sahib was in charge of the south-west angle, near the breach, assisted by Sayyid Gaffur.

Syed Sahib lost his life during the assault on May 4, 1799. On that fateful morning, he had warned Tipu of the impending attack, but Tipu was convinced that the British would not strike during daylight hours. These events serve to vindicate Syed Sahib and his dedication to the Sultan.

In his last moments, Syed Sahib provided crucial information to the British, revealing that Tipu was inside the palace. It is possible that Syed Sahib shared this information out of concern for the safety of his family. Nevertheless, it was later discovered that Tipu Sultan had already passed away at that time.

Presented below are two detailed accounts of this event.

Major Allan: "As Beatson, Dallas and myself were going along the rampart, two remarkably fair men, who lay in the inner ditch attracted our notice. One, whom Dallas immediately recognized to be Syed Sahib, attempted to raise himself. We supported him and he clung round Dallas's knees and implored his compassion [imploring compassion for himself and for the honour of his family; according to Mark Wilks]. He was much surprised at being known and asked Dallas where he had seen him, who answered, at Mangalore in 1784, when the commissioners negotiated peace with Tipu. We gave him some water and tried to carry his palanquin to him which lay in the ditch. We sent for a surgeon to dress his mortal wounds, but a heavy fire of musketry commencing in the fort and a party of the enemy advancing toward that quarter, we are constrained to leave Syed Sahib to his fate. On being questioned, he told us that Tipu and all his family were in the fort."

Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Beatson: "In the rear of the great round tower, about three hundred yards from the breach. Majors Dallas, Allan and myself, discovered three men apparently dead; two of them, from their dress and other circumstances, appeared to be persons of consequence. Upon a closer examination, one of them showing some remains of life, was removed by Major Dallas from under the two bodies which had fallen upon him. He was severely wounded.

On being raised up, he at first looked wild and alarmed, as if he had mistaken our intentions; but when Major Dallas took him by the hand, and looking in his face, pronounced his name "Syed Sahib", he started and said, "Yes, it is Syed Sahib". In an instant he became tranquil and composed. He then raised Major Dallas's hand several times to his forehead, and embraced his knees in a most affecting manner. At first he was unable to speak, but having drank a little water, and apparently recovered a greater degree of strength he asked Major Dallas's name, and how he came to know him. Being informed that he was the officer who commanded the escort with the commissioners at Mangalore in 1784, he recognized him.

Syed Sahib observing how much we were interested in his behalf, showed his sense of our attentions by silent expressions of gratitude that are indescribable. We called the assistance of a surgeon, who was passing, but unfortunately, he had neither instruments nor dressings. Syed Sahib shook his head, and observed, it was of no consequence, for he was badly wounded, and must die.

While we sent for his palanquin, to convey him to camp, we asked him several questions, and particularly if the Sultan was in the fort. He replied that he was in the palace. Scarcely believing it possible, we again urged him upon this point; he assured us that the Sultan and and his family were still there, and that he had left them but a short time before.

At this moment, a firing of musketry recommenced on the south rampart, at a little distance from us; and being informed that the enemy led on by Frenchmen, had rallied, and were advancing in force, we ascended the rampart, leaving Syed Sahib in the charge of two Sepoys. We were much concerned to learn that soon after we quitted him, in attempting to get up, he staggered, and fell into the inner ditch. This accident probably occasioned his death."

From one of the bastions, the three officers - Dallas, Allan and Beatson - noticed a number of persons assembled in a durbar. One individual in particular caught their attention as he prostrated himself before taking a seat. Their recent intelligence from Syed Sahib led them to believe that Tipu had managed to escape the assault and sought refuge in the palace. Without delay, they rushed to inform General David Baird of their findings. However, Baird had already received word of Tipu's presence in the fort from other sources. Little did they know that Tipu Sultan had already breathed his last by then.

The following morning, Major Allan, accompanied by Captain Macleod, Mir Nadim, the killedar, and Syed Sahib's brother, set out to the spot where Syed Sahib had been spotted the previous day. They discovered that his body was missing. They then proceeded to Syed's house, only to find that it had been ransacked and his family had been subjected to unspeakable atrocities.

They were informed that Syed's body had been found and taken to a nearby house. Upon arriving at the house, they found Syed Sahib's lifeless body laid out, with his 8-year-old son and other relatives mourning beside it.

A grave was prepared and his body was laid to rest. Syed Sahib was approximately sixty years old.

The British afterwards assigned two hundred pagodas for the maintenance of Syed Sahib's family, which consisted of 18 members.