Tughlaq: Play Scene 5 - Summary & Analysis

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      As indicated earlier towards the close of the Scene Four, a few Amirs, Sayyids, Shihab-ud-din and Ratansingh are seen assembled on the stage, in a house in Delhi. They discuss the administration of the Sultan full of atrocities and tyranny and wrong decisions that has given rise to an atmosphere of uncertainty and distrust.

      Shihab-ud-din, at the very outset, tells them plainly that he, being an outsider has nothing to do with it, it is their problem. They appeal to him to lead them against the move of the Sultan to shift the capital from Delhi to Daultabad. They try to convince him that it is a very dangerous move as Daultabad is a Hindu dominated city and Muhammad wants to weaken the Amirs there. In Delhi they are strong.

      Shihab-ud-din, on the other hand, praises the administration and mentions various developments like building of schools, roads, hospitals etc. One of the Sayyids is very attacking and speaks about the Sultan’s transgression from the path of koran and charges him with his disregard of religion. He says, “the koran sanctions only four taxes”, but he has levied such taxes on the poor farmers that they preferred to starve as Ratansingh has already mentioned. And the worst is that he has exempted Hindus from paying Jijiya and the bloody “infidels” (Hindus) are called his brothers. Thus he exposes Muhammad’s impartiality. Shihab-ud-din somehow is not convinced, rather gets annoyed with their filthy remarks against, the Sultan. So he gets up to go. He can’t tolerate anything against the sultan.

      He refuses flatly he is “not going to associate” with them. However, his attention is attracted by an “old man’s age and sincerity.” He is Sheikh Shams-ud-din whose impressive personality makes him stay.

      A lively discussion follows. Shihab-ud-din is surprised to see a holy man like this Sheikh in that company. The Sheikh continues. It is true he should have been aloof from the dirty politicians, but he could not do so because of the tyrannical attitude of Sultan towards the leaders of Islam. He mentions Sheikh Haidari who is in prison and Sheikh Hood in exile. Shihab-ud-din points out their mistake that they “dabbled in politics”. When Sheikh tries to prove that Sheikh Imam-ud-din was killed because he was open, frank and honest. Shihab-ud-din, while defending the Sultan, says that here the citizens of Delhi were equally responsible. “He came here to speak to the people and not a soul turned up to hear him”. Why blame the Sultan then? Sheikh makes a startling revelation of the Sultan’s role “behind the scenes”. The Sultan invited all to hear the Sheikh, but issued secret orders and “soldiers went from door to door threatening dire cosequences if anyone dared to attend the meeting”. He unbuttons his shirt and showing a wound on his shoulder tells Shiab-ud-din, this is the result of forcing his way to the big Mosque. He once again makes an earnest appeal that Shihab is a capable man and all look to him for help by accepting leadership. Shihab, still adamant, though seems to be convinced from within, suggests that they should approach his father for this who shall prove better. Even Muhammad is also afraid of him.

      Shihab’s reluctance is now intolerable to Ratansingh. He wants he should join hands with them. He begins to expose the treachery of Shihab-ud-din is father who was supposed to have killed his father and usurped the kingdom. He continues, “that’s why I’m here, as his adopted brother”. He turns to Shihab-ud-din and warns him lest he should also fall victim to the Sultan’s treachery. “You’ll have to face it some day. After all, what did the Sultan do to Sheikh Imam-ud-din?” This was enough, Shihab-ud-din agrees.

      Ratansingh proposes a plan, though a treacherous one that is supposed to work on the Sultan’s fanaticism regarding prayers. “He made it compulsory for every Muslim to pray five times a day”. “Even the soldiers have to pray, and while they pray they are not allowed to carry arms. Which means that at the time of prayers, the whole palace is unarmed.”

      Next Tuesday, he continues, at the time of Durbar-i-khas the Amirs will meet the Sultan. The only thing that they have to do is to extend the meeting till the prayer time for mass prayer. The call to prayer should be signal of attack. That’s all.

      A controversy arose over the action plan. Orthodox Sayyids and Amirs don’t feel it praper to kill someone during prayer Ratansingh brushes aside the view and asserts his point that a “tyrant doesn’t deserve to be considered among the faithful”. Moreover, he adds, the Sultan killed his own father during prayer time”.

      Sheikh Shams-ud-din, however, opposes the plan very strongly telling them that the time of prayer can’t be polluted. “It’s a sacred time”. It will be an act of “sacrilege”. He appeals to Shihab-ud-din not to agree, as he is quite sensible. But he seems to be already convinced. He replies to Sheikh Shams-ud-din questioningly. Does your Islam work only at prayer? You have persuaded me to do what I had sworn never to do-you, your Holiness”. Ultimately it was decided to go ahead and work out details.

Critical Analysis

      The scene is highly significant as it throws more light on the Sultan’s character. The public opinion is against him because of his craftiness. This is evident from the way he puts Sheikh Imam-ud-din in an awkward and humiliating situation when “not a soul turned up to hear him”. Muhammad’s role in deputing soldiers to threaten the people coming to attend the meeting is surely the cause of uproar in public. Moreover, he plays another trick in getting him ready to act as his emissary for peace that proved fatal.

      The scene also focuses on the atmosphere of uproar and secret conspiracy going on against the Sultan. There’s also a general climate of uncertainty and distrust.

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