Shamsuddin Firuz Shah

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Shamsuddin Firuz Shah (1301-1322) was the sultan of the Muslim kingdom of lakhnauti from 701-722 AH (1301-1322 AD). He ascended the throne with the title of Al-Sultan Al-Azam Shams Al-Duniya wa Al-Din Abu Al-Muzaffar Firuz Shah Al-Sultan and invoked the name of the Abbaside Caliph Mustasim Billah in his coins.

Controversies persist among scholars regarding his origin and identity. According to ibn battuta he was a son of Nasiruddin bughra khan and, hence, the grandson of Sultan ghiyasuddin balban. Amir Khusrau mentions the names of two sons of Bughra Khan- Kaikobad and ruknuddin kaikaus and does not mention the name of Shamsuddin Firuz. Moreover, Ghiyasuddin Balban, following the Iranian tradition, named his grandsons as Kaikobad, Kaikaus, Kaikhusrau, Kaimurs etc. But the name 'Firuz' does not agree with the Iranian tradition. Furthermore, Kaikobad was only 19 at the time of his accession to the throne of Delhi in 1288 AD. Kaikaus was a younger brother of Kaikobad and hence, if Firuz was a younger brother of Kaikaus, he would be in his mid-thirties at the time of his accession to the throne in 1301 AD. Two of his grown-up sons are found helping their father in affairs of state. But at such an age it is unlikely for a person to have two or more grown-up sons. On these grounds and on a close examination of his coins modern scholars hold that he did not belong to the House of Balban. Shamsuddin Firuz nowhere claims himself to be the son of a sultan, but all his sons and successors call themselves 'Sultan bin Sultan'.

It is assumed that Shamsuddin Firuz was one of the two Firuzes left by Balban to assist his son Bughra Khan, who was appointed to the governorship of Lakhnauti. Of these two officers, Firuz Iitigin, the ruler of Bihar, was more competent. Probably Firuz Iitigin, one of the two Firuzes, after the death of Kaikaus or displacing him forcibly, came to the throne of Bengal in 701 AH/1301 AD with the title of Sultan Shamsuddin Firuz Shah. On his accession to the throne Sultan Shamsuddin Firuz Shah entrusted the governorship of Bihar to Tajuddin Hatim Khan, one of his sons.

Having consolidated his position, Firuz Shah turned his attention towards the expansion of his kingdom. The Muslim principality of Lakhnauti was limited to Bihar, north and northwest Bengal and up to Lakhnur in southwest Bengal. Kaikaus had already started the conquest of the eastern part of Bengal, and the task was completed during the time of Firuz Shah. It is said that Kaikaus issued coins for the first time from the Kharaj (revenue) of Bengal. But during the time of Firuz Shah the sonargaon area (southeast Bengal) was included in the Muslim Kingdom. He built a mint at Sonargaon from where a large number of coins were issued. Similarly, the conquest of satgaon, begun during the time of Kaikaus under his general Zafar Khan, was completed during the time of Firuz Shah. From an inscription of Firuz, it is learnt that one Zafar Khan built a madrasa called Dar-ul-Khairat in 713 AH/1313 AD. Very little is known about his conquest of Mymensingh. It is only known that his son Ghiyasuddin Bahadur issued coins from Ghiyaspur mint, identified with a village having the same name, about 24 km from Mymensingh. During the reign of Firuz Shah, Sikandar Khan Ghazi led a fruitful expedition against Matuk, a Hindu Raja of the Sundarban area. A coin of Sultan Firuz has been discovered in a village in the extreme south of Satkhira distirct. The most important event of the reign of Shamsuddin Firuz Shah was the conquest of Sylhet. According to an inscription Firuz Shah conquered Sylhet in 703 AH/1303 AD. The names of the famous Sufi-saint Hazrat shah jalal (r) and the commander Syed Nasiruddin are associated in connection with the conquest of Sylhet.

Firuz Shah also held Bihar firmly against the Khaljis. Two inscriptions of his reign, discovered in Bihar, prove this. Thus the Bengal Sultanate during the time of Sultan Shamsuddin Firuz Shah extended from at least the rivers Son and Ghogra in the west to Sylhet in the east and from Dinajpur-Rangpur in the north to Hughli and the Sundarbans in the south.

Firuz had six grown-up sons - Shihabuddin Bughda, Jalaluddin Mahmud, Ghiyasuddin Bahadur, Nasiruddin Ibrahim, Hatim Khan and Kutlu Khan. Of these six, Tajuddin Hatim Khan was the governor of Bihar. It is evident from numismatic evidence that during the lifetime of Firuz Shah, his sons Jalaluddin Mahmud, Shihabuddin Bughda and Ghiyasuddin Bahadur issued coins in their own names from the Lakhnauti mint. Ghiyasuddin Bahadur also issued coins from the mints of Sonargaon and Ghiyaspur.

A group of scholars, on the basis of these coins, have argued that the sons of Firuz Shah rose in rebellion against their father and alternately ruled Lakhnauti. But the minting of coins by the sons of Firuz Shah was not the result of their rebellion, rather it was the result of their sharing of power with their father. In fact, Shamsuddin Firuz Shah ascended the throne of Lakhnauti at quite an advanced age when he was the father of half a dozen grown-up sons who helped him in the affairs of the kingdom. Being satisfied with the co-operation of his sons, Firuz Shah allowed his sons to run the administration of some portions of his kingdom independently and to exercise royal authority as in the minting of coins. Had the sons revolted against their father, chaos and confusion would have prevailed and expansion of the kingdom would not have been possible.

Shamsuddin Firuz Shah died in 722 AH/1322 AD. An experienced soldier, he proved himself strong and vigorous as a ruler and skillful as a diplomat. He directly encouraged and helped in the propagation of Islam for which he is specially remembered. He succeeded in establishing a dynasty of his own. [ABM Shamsuddin Ahmed]