RANDOM THOUGHTS: Ibn Battutah and Shaikh Murshidi (Part II) - BY: Dr. A.Q. Khan

Ibn Battutah and Shaikh Murshidi
Part II
Dr. A.Q. Khan


After travelling to Makkah, Madina, Southern Persia, Iraq, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, Ibn Battutah reached the Indian sub-continent, where he travelled from Sindh to the north west and then on to Delhi (which he called Dihli). At that time Sultan Ghiasuddin Tukhluq was the king. The king’s son, Mujahid Muhammad Shah treacherously killed his father when the former returned from an expedition. He took possession of the kingdom without opposition. His real name was Jawnah, but when he became king he called himself Muhammad and took the kunyah name of Abu ‘l-Mujahid. About the new king, Ibn Battutah said: “My statements about him are based for the most part on what I myself witnessed in the days when I was in his land. He was, of all men, the most addicted to the making of gifts and the shedding of blood. His gate is never without some poor man enriched or some living man executed, and there are current amongst the people many stories of his generosity and courage and of his cruelty and violence towards criminals. For all that, he is, of all men, the most humble and the readiest to show equity and to acknowledge the right. The ceremonies of religion are strictly complied with at his court and he is severe in the matter of attendance at prayer and in punishing those who neglect it. I have seen some with my own eyes and have myself had a large share, I cannot do otherwise than speak the truth. In addition, most of these facts are established by numerous independent authorities in the lands of the East.” He then goes on to list some incidents.

Abd al-Aziz was a jurist who had studied in Damascus. He came to the court of the sultan, who received him generously and made rich gifts to him. One day Abd al-Aziz detailed a number of traditions about al-Abbas and his son and some of the memorable deeds of the caliphs descended from them. The sultan was highly pleased due to his attachment to the house of Al-Abbas and, after having kissed the scholar’s feet, ordered a golden tray with two thousand tangahs to be fetched. “These are for you” the sultan said, “and the tray as well.”

The doctor, Shams al-Din al-Andukani, a philosopher and gifted poet, wrote a laudatory ode to the sultan in Persian. It contained 27 verses and the sultan gave him a thousand silver dinars for each verse. Former kings used to give only one-tenth of this amount as rewards.

The sultan was called to appear before the qadi on a claim against him brought by a Hindu chief saying that he had killed the chief’s brother without just cause. The sultan went on foot and unarmed to the qadi, having previously sent orders that, upon his arrival at the tribunal, the qadi should not get up. Upon arrival he saluted, made the signs of homage and remained standing while judgement, decreeing that he should give satisfaction to his opponent, was passed against him.

A young boy, one of the sons of the maliks, brought a claim against the sultan that the latter had struck him without cause. Judgement was given against the sultan stating that he should either pay the plaintiff monetary compensation or allow him to exercise his right to retaliate in kind. The sultan summoned the boy, gave him a stick and said: “By my head, you shall strike me just as I struck you.” Whereupon the boy took the stick and gave him twenty-one blows so that his high cap actually flew off his head.

Strict about the observance of prayers, congregational attendance was obligatory and any dereliction was severely punished. On one day alone, he put to death 9 people, of whom one was a singer, for neglecting these religious duties. He gave orders that the people in general should show knowledge of the obligations and binding articles of Islam. On these matters they were questioned and if anyone failed to give the correct answer, he/she was punished. The people used to study with one another and set the questions down in writing.

When a severe drought reigned over India and Sind and wheat prices rose to extraordinary heights, the sultan ordered that the whole population of Dihli, small or great, free man or slave, should be given six months’ supplies from the royal granary at a nominal price.

Despite what has been related about his humility, fairness, compassion and liberality, the sultan was far too free in shedding blood. It was seldom that the entrance to his palace was without a corpse. One day Ibn Battutah’s horse shied from something on the ground. One of his companions informed him that it was part of the torso of a man who was cut into three pieces. The sultan often punished faults, great or small, without compunction, irrespective of their being men of learning, piety or noble descent. Every day, excepting Fridays, everyone in his prisons were brought before him, chained and fettered.

Once a section of the army, under the leadership of Malik Yusuf Bughrah, was designated to engage the infidels in an area bordering the province of Dihli. Some of the troops stayed behind and Yusuf informed the sultan accordingly. The sultan gave immediate orders for all of them to be arrested and all 350 of them were executed.

To be continued

Note: It is most unfortunate that a rather unfair criticism was launched against the Pakistan Kidney and Liver Transplant Institute, Lahore. An operation in India costs about Rs. 5 million and in China, about Rs. 6 million. A surgeon (being accused of high salary) can do 15 or 16 operations per month, thus saving/earning Rs. 80 to 90 million; that is beside the benefits to the country’s prestige and reputation. Nobody talks about those officials who are known to earn anything from 1.5 million to 4 million per month. Let us not kill a fine institution under flimsy accusations and before it has even had a chance to fully prove itself.

Posted on May 07, 18 | 3:51 pm