ADMINISTRATION UNDER THE SULTANATE
IQTA SYSTEM The iqtadari was a unique type of land distribution and administrative system evolved during the Sultanate per~od. Under the system, the whole empire was divided into several large and small tracts of land, called the iqtas, which were assigned to nobles, officers and soldiers for the purpose of administration and revenue collection. The iqtas were transferable, i.e., the holders of iqtas-iqtadars-were transferred from one region to another every three to four years. It means that the grant of iqta did not imply a right to the land. It was just an administrative unit.
The iqtas could be big (whole province) or small. The assignees of bigger iqtas-known as muqti or lOali-had dual obligation, tax collection and administration. They collected revenue from their iqta, defrayed their own expenses, paid the troops maintained by them and sent the bawazil (surplus) to the Centre. Their accounts were checked by the royal auditors of the dilOan-i-lOizarat.
The holders of small iqtas were individual troopers. They had no administrative responsibilities. They appropriated, for their personal use, the land revenue collected by them. In return, when the central government called them
for service or inspection, they had to be present with horses and arms.
Muhammad of Ghur was the first to introduce the iqta system in India, but it was lltutrnish who gave it an institutional form. The iqtadari system witnessed numerous changes during the Sultanate period. Initially, iqta was a revenue-yielding piece of land which was assigned in lieu of salary. However, during Firuz Shah Tughlaq's reign, it became hereditary.
The government of the Delhi sultans was a theocracy in the sense that the ruler was subject to the Shariat, the Islamic law. The sultans were head of state, not religion, but their duty was to observe the Shariat in matters of state. The Sultan was an autocrat and his will was law, though he considered himself the deputy of the Khalifa. The Sultans of Delhi did not follow any law of succession. The choice of the sultan depended largely on the decisions of nobles. The organisation of the government was feudal in character. The provinces were mostly military fiefs entrusted to the charge of nobles.
The sultan was the chief law-giver and the final court of appeal. He was also the commander-in-chief of the military forces. He had a council of trusted advisers, called majlis-i-khaiwat which he consulted on important occasions but he was not bound to accept its decision. The business of the government was organised in several departments.
The lOazir was the chief minister of the state. He was in charge of revenue and finance, and controlled the other departments. l-Jis office was known as the dilOan-i-lOazarat. The next important department was diwan-i-arz headed by ariz-i-mumalik, who was responsible for the recruitment, payment and inspection of troops. The diwan-i-insha headed by dahir-i-mumalik managed the royal correspondence. Religious matters and endowments were dealt with by the diwan-i-rasalat headed by sadr-us sudur. (But Dr. Habibullah holds that this official managed foreign affairs, and received and sent envoys.) The sadr-us-sudur enforced the Islamic rules and regulations, and supervised charity and pious foundations.
In the 13th century, the Delhi Sultanate was divided into a number of military regions, called iqtas. The provinces were also called iqtas. Each province was under a mukti or lOali. During the reign of Ala-ud-din Khalji, three types of provinces existed. Muktis or lOalis were responsible for law and order and collection of taxes in their iqtas or provinces. They were also responsible for implementing the decision of the courts, providing encouragement to trade and commerce, and managing judicial administration.
During the Sultanate period, many officials were recruited in the provinces for collecting revenue. These officials included nazir and lOakuf. Besides, sahib-i-diwan or khlOaja maintained accounts of the provinces and sent them to the central administration.
Each province was divided into a number of shiqs which were under the officials called shiqdars. The shiqdar was responsible for maintaining law and order in their areas. There was also an official called katwal at the shiq level. The demarcation of duties between shiqdars and katwais is not very clear.
Each shiq was divided into a number of parganas, groups of hundred villages. The chaudhari was the head of a pargana. A m1'shrif was in charge of accounts and revenue at the pargana level.
The village was the smallest unit of administration. The functioning and administration remained basically the same as it had existed during the pre-Turkish phase. Khat, muqaddam and patwari were the main village functionaries.
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