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Fakhruddin Mubarak Shah


Fakhruddin Mubarak Shah sultan of Bengal (1338-1349). He was the founder of the earliest independent Muslim sultanat in Bengal with his headquerters at the historic city of Sonargaon. This epoch making change in the administration of Bengal was initiated at a period when after the fall of the new Mamluq dynasty the whole realm of Bengal was under the yoke of the Tughlaq sultan of Delhi.

Fakhruddin was of Turki origin and appears to belong to the Qaraunah Turks. He was the silahdar (superintendent of armoury) in the service of bahram khan, Tughlaq governor (wali) of Sonargaon. On the death of Bahram Khan in 1337 AD, Fakhruddin emerged to have been the master of the situation, assumed the government of Sonargaon, and having consolidated his position asserted sovereignty the following year. In his coins, Fakhruddin is styled as Al-Sultan al-Azam Fakhr al-duniya wal-din Abu'l Muzaffar Mubarak-shah al-sultan. (The great Sultan, Pride of the world and of the religion, Father of the conqueror, Mubarak Shah the sultan).

Immediately after assumption of sovereignty by Fakhruddin in 1338 AD, QADR KHAN, Tughlaq governor of Lakhnauti, Izzuddin Yahya, muqti of Satgaon, became united in arms under the directives of Delhi Sultan muhammad tughlaq, and being reinforced by Firuz Khan, amir of Kara (Koh-i-Jud), marched towards Sonargaon to crush the rebel. Fakhruddin was defeated by the combined forces under Qadr Khan, and was compelled to withdraw from his capital, and took position perhaps to the other side of the Meghna. Qadr Khan took charge of Sonargaon, and secured a large number of elephants besides the accumulated treasures of the eastern capital (1339).

When the rainy season had set in, all the auxiliary forces returned to their respective fiefs, and Qadr Khan dispersed the greater number of his own troops to collect the revenues. On the plea of rendering better service to the Delhi sovereign by accumulating wealth for him, the greedy and covetous Qadr Khan appropriated to himself all the wealth and treasures that had fallen into his hands at Sonargaon, refusing soldiery the canonical share of the booty. Shortly, Qadr Khan made his position utterly insecure in the eastern capital amidst his troops already exasperated, and made matters worse for himself by his failure to maintain his line of communication with the western capital. Fakhruddin, well acquainted with the peculiar geography of Sonargaon, was then waiting for his natural strategy, the rainy season. With the rains he appeared on the scene, and besieged Qadr Khan by water. Unused to the damp soil and vapoury heat of the eastern capital, the troops and cavalry horses of Qadr Khan perished in the large numbers.

The siege of the eastern capital by the naval forces of Fakhruddin would naturally result in the doom of Qadr Khan. But Fakhruddin was not ready to take the least of risk, and soon took recourse to intrigues to achieve his goal. Having obtained intelligence of discontentment of the soldiers of Qadr Khan, he sent proposals with promise to distribute the whole of the treasures accumulated at the capital amongst the soldiers provided they kill their master and join him. The soldiers of Qadr Khan, out of their greed for wealth, made common cause with Fakhruddin, rose against Qadr Khan, assassinated him (1340), and then proceeded to join Fakhruddin who immediately advanced to the capital, and having taken possession of the treasure distributed it according to his promise.

Having consolidated his position in Sonargaon, Fakhruddin aspired for the government of Lakhnauti and of Satgaon which had fallen vacant at the murder of Qadr Khan, and the death of Izzuddin Yahya in the encounter between Fakhruddin and the combined imperial forces. Fakhruddin appointed Mukhlis Khan as his deputy to Lakhnauti, and sent him with a well-equipped army to take possession of Lakhnauti along with the dependent districts. But Malik Ali Mubarak, ariz-i-laskar (pay-master) of the forces of Qadr Khan, opposed the invader, defeated and killed Mukhlis, routed the latter's entire force, and established himself in authority in Lakhnauti. Fakhruddin's attempt to capture Satgaon does not appear to be successful. His army raided Satgaon, launched indiscriminate plunder, but failed to establish his sway over the region.

Fakhruddin's ambition to capture Lakhnauti being foiled by the defeat and death of his general Mukhlis Khan in the hands of Ali Mubarak, and the latter's assumption of power at Lakhnauti, initiated constant rivalry and strife between the two aspirants for supremacy over the whole of Bengal. The nature of conflict between the two rivals was both offensive and defensive on either side. Fakhruddin, whose naval force was powerful and well-trained, used to invade Lakhnauti during the rains and retaliated attacks in the dry season when alauddin ali shah (Ali Mubarak) was powerful with his superior cavalry and infantry.

Fakhruddin is reported to invade Tripura earlier in 1340 AD, and in the encounter he is said to have defeated the Tripura king, Raja Pratap Manikya. He then advanced through Noakhali to conquer Chittagong which was then a part of the kingdom of Tripura. He is said to have occupied the lofty and strong fort on the other side of the Karnaphuli opposite the Fort of Chatgaon. Chittagong appears to have been conquered by Fakhruddin in 1340 AD. In this campaign a great number of sufi saints under Badruddin Allama alias Badr Pir joined the army of the Sultan. After the conquest of Chittagong the Sultan appointed one sufi saint named Shayda as his deputy (naib) to rule over Chittagong which was annexed to his sultanat as a province (mulk).

Fakhruddin's domination over the greater districts of Comilla, Noakhali, Sylhet and Chittagong naturally tightened his grip on the king of Tripura, and even the king of Arakan felt himself insecure for the south-eastward march of Fakhruddin, and is said to have courted alliance with the sultan of Sonargaon.

The Moroccan traveller ibn battuta visited Bengal (1346) during the reign of Fakhruddin Mubarak Shah. He has left a valuable account of his sojourn in the country of Bangalah, its natural view, different aspects on the life of the people and prosperity of the country. He reveals in giving Fakhruddin an extremely good character felicitating him as a distinguished sovereign.

Ibn Battuta describes Fakhruddin as the sultan of Bangalah and includes Chittagong within his kingdom. To determine the area of the kingdom of Bangalah we may assume that his kingdom stretched over almost the whole of eastern Bengal and the eastern part of southern Bengal. The kingdom of Fakhruddin was divided into provinces such as iqlim and mulk. Iqlim and mulk denoted province of the kingdom of Fakhruddin in eastern and southern Bengal respectively. As to the officer in charge of the provinces we have a single reference that mulk Chatgaon was under a naib. The provinces seem to have been divided into parganas, such as Mubarak Ajial, named after him as a pargana in Iqlim-i-Mubarakabad.

The general prosperity of the country of Bangalah under Fakhruddin is evidenced by Ibn Battuta through his comment on super-abundance of commodities of daily necessity, brisk internal trade, big surplus of commodities especially rice forming important item of export trade, external trade-link of Sonargaon port with the neighbouring countries like China and Java.

Sultan Fakhruddin had great devotion to the fakirs and sufis. The sultan had the standing order for the exemption of freight charges from the fakirs on the river, and also ordered that provisions free of cost should also be supplied to the strangers, fakirs and sufis, and a minimum allowance of half a dinar was to be given to a fakir arriving in a town.

The distinguished sovereign of Ibn Battuta, a great military organizer, conqueror and a diplomat was obviously the forerunner in initiating the independence of Bengal from the yoke of Delhi with its horizon open for two centuries of independent rule. This great monarch with most beautifully executed coins, a patron of arts and crafts, promoter of trade and commerce, generous patron of the strangers fakirs and sufis, builder of mosques and tombs, roads and highways, protector of his people from the atrocities of the Maghs of Arakan, left an outstanding mark in the history of Bengal. The great success of this accomplished Bengal sultan rests mainly on his giving a comfortable and easy living to his people providing super-abundance and extraordinary cheapness of necessaries of life.

Fakhruddin Mubarak Shah died in Sonargaon in 1349 AD (750 AH). [Muazzam Hussain Khan]

Bibliography Muazzam Hussain Khan, Fakhruddin Mubarak Shah of Sonarganw, Dhaka, 2005.