Tughlaq: Play Scene 3 - Summary & Analysis

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      As the curtain rises Sultan Muhammad and Sheikh Imam-ud-din and a few servants are seen on the stage facing the audience. A long silence prevails. Thereafter, Muhammad breaks the silence and begins to converse with the Sheikh, expressing his regret that the audience has failed to turn up to listen to a reputed saint like him. The Sheikh smells some device and passes sarcastic remarks on the Sultan.

      The Sultan, however, orders his servant to call at once everyone - “all the Khans, Amirs, Sardars, but the Sheikh intervenes and refuses to address only a collection of courtiers who are “bootlickers” of the Sultan, the flatterers.

      Sultan Muhammad Tughlaq’s purpose is fulfilled. In fact, he wanted to talk to the Sheikh alone. He tells the Sheikh that he has never consciously tried to go against the tenets of Islam. The Sheikh, on the other hand, tells him that he can quote several examples of “transgressions”. If they are not ‘wilful’, surely they show his ignorance. But how can he believe that a great scholar like Muhammad could be so ignorant? He should have consulted the theologians, the Sayyids and the Ulema. Instead he had punished them, put them behind bars because they criticized the religious policy of the Sultan.

      Sultan Muhammad, while defending himself, makes it clear that the religious people should never indulge in politics. Those who did so were punished. He being a thorough Muslim has never denied the word of god. Islam is his soul. It gives him light of divinity when he suffers from inner emptiness, when he feels lonely, when others fail to cooperate with him in achieving his high ideals of secularism, ‘humanism’, equality and democracy. He has to build his kingdom, bring about social reforms, make it an ideal kingdom for all including “Muslims, Hindus, Jains.”

      The Sheikh’s main concern however, is Islam, its spread round the world as the Arabs did in past. Right now, there could be no better a person than Sultan Muhammad Tughlaq to spread the “Kingdom of Heaven” on earth as he is endowed with power, learning, intelligence, and talent by God.

      He trusts, Muhammad is quite capable of flourishing Islam in his kingdom. Muhammad expresses his ambition to bring about radical reforms and drastic changes in society and for that matter, he has to take very quick decisions and implement his plans speedily. He has a mind to ‘gallop’, move fast and not crawl. He is warned by the Sheikh that he should be guided by koran before he does anything but in view of his “transgressions” he is trying to become another God which is a “sin worse than parricide” The Sultan defends himself and calls himself “God’s most humble servant.”

      Coming to religion and politics the Sheikh gives him another warning (ironically enough) that the verbal distinction between religion and politics pleaded by the Sultan that religious people have nothing to do with politics may prove destructive for him. The Sultan tells the Sheikh he knows very well the consequence of speaking the Truth-Socrates had to accept poison. Even Plato, the great Greek philosopher invited criticism. But it was altogether a different culture, a “new world” that he discovered which he never had in the Arabs or the koran. How can he Kill the Greek in him or even ignore the visions of Zarathustra or Lord Buddha? As a visionary Muhammad is unique, as a scholar he is great.

      His learning is acknowledged by Sheikh Imam-ud-din, but one doubt is raised. Muhammad, being a learned man can manage things in his own way, but will his successors too be able to earry on his plans and message to posterity. To this the Sultan replies that this is the great task before him to prepare men who would think like him. He hopes to do it, for his intentions are fair.

      Most wittily the Sultan changes the topic and comes to the point and tells the Skeikh about his role in Kanpur where he had inspired the rebls. Now in Delhi people suspect him to be a spy, that is why they stayed away wisely.

      The Sheikh admires Muhammad’s wisdom in creating such a dramatic and yet an awkward situation for him. He congratulates him for his brilliant success in his experiment and wishes to leave the stage. But he is stopped and the Sultan strikes the iron as it was hot.

      The Sultan appeals to him to help him as he was in a desperate situation. He tells him about the revolt of his best friend Ain-ul-Mulk.

      Since he wants peace he would like to send him as his envoy to pacify him and “dissuade him from this folly.” He plays another trick. If there is war, it will simply mean “slaughter of Muslims at the hands of fellow - Muslims”. The Sheikh had no option except to agree.

       The Sultan orders to bring the robes of honor for the royal envoy at once. Interestingly, the Sheikh in royal robes and head-dress looks even more like the Sultan.

Critical Analysis

      The scene is highly significant as it reveals the dashing aspect of Muhammad’s character. He has manipulated things so deftly that in spite of public announcement the Sheikh had to go without audience and thus created a situation in which he will be treated as a spy of the Sultan. What a marvelous strategy! It’s his wit and wisdom combined with eloquence that he wins his adversary in Sheikh Imam-ud-din to act as his envoy to Ain-ul-Mulk for peace. The scene thus illustrates what the Sheikh commented “you are the cleverest man in the world.”

      How dramatic a situation is when the Sheikh puts on the royal robes and the Sultan places head-dress on his head, they resemble all the more! Interestingly, this striking resemblance is likely to play something dramatic. It’s also ironical that the Sheikh warns the Sultan that his verbal distinction between religion and politics will one day “rip you into two”. He doesn’t know or expect then what the future has in store for him.

      One thing is clear now that Muhammad knows well how to play the ‘game’ in his own way.

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