Monday, February 27, 2017

In God's Name

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Got a new and interesting coin after many months. A silver "adli" issued by the infamous Muhammad bin Tughlaq, second king of the Tughlaq dynasty. He ruled almost all of India (with the notable exception of Bihar, Orissa and coastal South India) from 1325 to 1351. A religious zealot and unabashed despot, he presided over many disasters - most notably his attempt to move the capital of the Sultanate from Delhi to Deogiri (Daulatabad) in the middle of the country. He is also known for issuing coinage with fiat value. He minted copper and bronze coins which, by decree, had the value of gold and silver coins. The coins bore Qur'anic injunctions to obey the ruler, presumably to encourage acceptance of the new coinage. Predictably, everyone with access to copper and bronze quickly began issuing their own coins and reaping the benefits. Fine jewelry and metalwork was mainly an occupation of Hindus at the time, and Barani writes that "Every Hindu's house became a mint". Like the moving of the capital, the Sultan had to abandon this experiment within a few years.

Muhammad bin Tughlaq is also famous as the king who hosted Ibn Battuta during his time and India, and whose despotic actions caused the famous traveler to flee in secret, first to the coast of Malabar and then on to Serandip (Sri Lanka).

This coin, also an innovation for that time, is called an "adli", and is made of silver. Like most of Muhammad bin Tughlaq's coins, it has extensive Islamic inscriptions, including the full shahadah on one side. Though he was not the only Indian king to use Islamic inscriptions, he used them more than anyone. I often wonder what the non-Muslim populace of India thought about these coins as they used them over the centuries.
Interestingly, it was Aurangzeb who systematically discontinued the practice of putting Islamic inscriptions on coins, though it had begun to decline after Akbar, who was rather fond of putting "Allah-u Akbar" ("God is Great", or. alternatively "God is Akbar") on his coins

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