Khilijinomics: The Economic Policy of Ala-ud-din Khilji

The history of the Sultans of the Delhi Sultanate (the Muslim Kingdoms that ruled from Delhi starting 1206 and ending 1526) are detailed by several contemporary Muslim historians. Of these, one of the foremost is Zia-ud-din Barani—a contemporary of Ala-ud-din Khilji. Barani is best known for his Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi which covers a fairly wide span of rule, starting with Balban, and ending with Firuz Tughlaq, and covers Ala-ud-din’s rule in some detail.

Of late, there has been a laughable attempt to portray Ala-ud-din as some sort of advanced economics thinker of his time (see my previous post on Ala-ud-din for a reference). Well, let us proceed from first principles. How is a ruler’s economic policy to be judged? By how well it does for most of his subjects. Now, at the time of Ala-ud-din, more than 95% of his subjects were Hindu. Indeed, Islam had not percolated into today’s Bharat broadly, except in the neighborhood of Delhi, and pockets elsewhere. Large parts of the country were almost entirely Hindu. So, we should judge Ala-ud-din by how his economic policies treated Hindus, right? Seems reasonable …so let’s see. Luckily, Barani gives us good detail on this aspect of Khiljinomics.

The Sultán then asked, “How are Hindus designated in the law, as payers of tribute (kharáj-guzár) or givers of tribute (kharáj-dih)?”

The Kází replied, “They are called payers of tribute, and when the revenue officer demands silver from them, they should, without question and with all humility and respect, tender gold. If the officer throws dirt into their mouths, they must without reluctance open their mouths wide to receive it. By doing so they show their respect for the officer. The due subordination of the zimmí (tribute-payer) is exhibited in this humble payment and by this throwing of dirt into their mouths.

The glorification of Islám is a duty, and contempt of the Religion is vain. God holds them in contempt, for he says, ‘Keep them under in subjection.’ To keep the Hindus in abasement is especially a religious duty, because they are the most inveterate enemies of the Prophet, and because the Prophet has commanded us to slay them, plunder them, and make them captive, saying, ‘Convert them to Islám or kill them, enslave them and spoil their wealth and property.’ No doctor but the great doctor (Hanífa), to whose school we belong, has assented to the imposition of the jizya (poll tax) on Hindus. Doctors of other schools allow no other alternative but ‘Death or Islám.’”

“Now you tell me that it is all in accordance with law that the Hindus should be reduced to the most abject obedience.” Then the Sul-tán said, “Oh, doctor, thou art a learned man, but thou hast had no experience; I am an unlettered man, but I have seen a great deal; be assured then that the Hindus will never become submissive and obedient till they are reduced to poverty. I have, therefore, given orders that just sufficient shall be left to them from year to year, of corn, milk, and curds, but that they shall not be allowed to accumulate hoards and property.”

In short, the Sultan consults a Kazi on how Hindus should be treated as per Sharia law. The Kazi gives him details that roughly say “worse than animals.” The Sultan then says that his own policy is to keep them in abject poverty.

So much for the economic policies of Ala-ud-din Khilji! The policies that were expressly designed to keep 95% of his subjects in abject poverty. Just imagine: if today Bharat’s finance minister said that he had policies designed to drive 95% of the population into poverty, would we call him a “progressive economics thinker” or some such? What a joke. I guess it is just a continuation of the joke being played at the expense of Hindus for centuries. Though they are the majority, their lives do not matter. They are just expendable. Fuel for Islamic invaders, fuel for Marxists, fuel for secularists. Just expendable. Really tragic.

Note: The passage from Barani can be read online from various sources. I have taken the emphasis (the words that are in bold letters) from Dharmaveer’s blogsite since I would have put more or less the same words in emphasis, and I acknowledge the source gratefully.


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About the Author

Vinay Kumar
Devout Hindu and practising brahmin, very interested in history and current affairs of Bharat. Do not believe in birth-based "caste" but rather varna based on swadharma and swabhava, and personal commitment to that varna's dharmas. I don't judge people by the religion they profess: every human being should be treated with equal dignity. At the same time, I don't judge a religion by the people I know who profess it. A religion, like any doctrine, should be subjected to critical examination using facts and reason.