Sher Shah Suri

Founder of the Suri Empire in India (1472-1545)

Shēr Shāh Sūrī (1486 – 22 May 1545), born Farīd Khān, was the founder of the Suri Empire in India, with its capital in Sasaram in modern-day Bihar. He introduced the currency of rupee. An ethnic Afghan ruler, Sher Shah took control of the Mughal Empire in 1540. After his accidental death in 1545, his son Islam Shah became his successor.


  • Sher Shah, an Afghan chief, defeated him in two bloody battles, and restored for a time the Afghan power in India. Sher Shah, though capable of slaughter in the best Islamic style, rebuilt Delhi in fine architectural taste, and established governmental reforms that prepared for the enlightened rule of Akbar.
  • “…The nobles and chiefs said, ‘It seems expedient that the victorious standards should move towards the Dekhin’…Sher Shah replied: ‘What you have said is most right and proper, but it has come into my mind that since the time of Sultan Ibrahim, the infidel zamindars have rendered the country of Islam full of unbelievers, and having thrown down masjids and buildings of the believers, placed idol-shrines in them, and they are in possession of the country of Delhi and Malwa. Until I have cleansed the country from the existing contamination of the unbelievers, I will not go into any other country’…”
    • Sher Shah Sur (AD 1538-1545) Tarikh-i-Sher Shahi in Eliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, Vol. IV, pp. 403-04.
  • “His attack on Maldev, Raja of Jodhpur, (was due) partly to his religious bigotry and a desire to convert the temples of the Hindus into mosques.”
    • Sher Shah Sur (AD 1538-1545) Jodhpur (Rajasthan) Tarikh-i-Da‘udi in Sharma, Sri Ram, Religious Policy of the Mughal Emperors, Bombay, 1962.
  • …Upon this, Sher Shah turned again towards Kalinjar… The Raja of Kalinjar, Kirat Sing, did not come out to meet him. So he ordered the fort to be invested, and threw up mounds against it, and in a short time the mounds rose so high that they overtopped the fort. The men who were in the streets and houses were exposed, and the Afghans shot them with their arrows and muskets from off the mounds. The cause of this tedious mode of capturing the fort was this. Among the women of Raja Kirat Sing was a Patar slave-girl, that is a dancing-girl. The king had heard exceeding praise of her, and he considered how to get possession of her, for he feared lest if he stormed the fort, the Raja Kirat Sing would certainly make a jauhar, and would burn the girl...
    “On Friday, the 9th of RabI’u-l awwal, 952 A.H., when one watch and two hours of the day was over, Sher Shah called for his breakfast, and ate with his ‘ulama and priests, without whom he never breakfasted. In the midst of breakfast, Shaikh NizAm said, ‘There is nothing equal to a religious war against the infidels. If you be slain you become a martyr, if you live you become a ghazi.’ When Sher Shah had finished eating his breakfast, he ordered Darya Khan to bring loaded shells, and went up to the top of a mound, and with his own hand shot off many arrows, and said, ‘Darya Khan comes not; he delays very long.’ But when they were at last brought, Sher Shah came down from the mound, and stood where they were placed. While the men were employed in discharging them, by the will of Allah Almighty, one shell full of gunpowder struck on the gate of the fort and broke, and came and fell where a great number of other shells were placed. Those which were loaded all began to explode. Shaikh Halil, Shaikh Nizam, and other learned men, and most of the others escaped and were not burnt, but they brought out Sher Shah partially burnt. A young princess who was standing by the rockets was burnt to death. When Sher Shah was carried into his tent, all his nobles assembled in darbAr; and he sent for ‘Isa Khan Hajib and Masnad Khan Kalkapur, the son-in-law of Isa Khan, and the paternal uncle of the author, to come into his tent, and ordered them to take the fort while he was yet alive. When ‘Isa Khan came out and told the chiefs that it was Sher Shah’s order that they should attack on every side and capture the fort, men came and swarmed out instantly on every side like ants and locusts; and by the time of afternoon prayers captured the fort, putting every one to the sword, and sending all the infidels to hell. About the hour of evening prayers, the intelligence of the victory reached Sher Shah, and marks of joy and pleasure appeared on his countenance. Raja Kirat Sing, with seventy men, remained in a house. Kutb Khan the whole night long watched the house in person lest the Raja should escape. Sher Shah said to his sons that none of his nobles need watch the house, so that the Raja escaped out of the house, and the labour and trouble of this long watching was lost. The next day at sunrise, however, they took the Raja alive…”
    • Tarikh-i-Sher Shahi of Abbas Khan Sherwani in Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, Volume IV, pp. 407-09. Quoted in S.R.Goel, The Calcutta Quran Petition
  • “It is related in the Akbar ShahI, that when Sher Shah rendered up his life to the angel of death in Kalinjar, Jalal Khan, his youngest son, was in the town of Rewan, in the province of Bhata, and his eldest son ‘Adil Khan, the heir-apparent, in the fort of Runthur (Ranthambhor). The nobles perceived that ‘Adil KhAn would be unable to arrive with speed, and as the State required a head, they despatched a person to summon Jalal Khan who was nearer. He reached Kalinjar in five days, and by the assistance of ‘Isa Hajjab and other grandees, was raised to the throne near the fort of Kalinjar, on the 15th of the month RabI’u-1 awwal, 952 A.H. (25th May, 1545 CE). He assumed the title of Islam Shah… “After his accession, he ordered the Raja of Kalinjar, who had been captured with seventy of his adherents, to be put to death, and directed that not one of them should be spared…”
    • Tarikh-i-Daudi of ‘Abdullah in Elliot and Dowson's History of India as told by its own Historians, Volume IV, pp. 478-79. Quoted in S.R.Goel, The Calcutta Quran Petition
  • Sher Shah Sur’s name is associated in our textbooks with the Grand Trunk Road from Peshawar to Dacca, with caravanserais, and several other schemes of public welfare. It is true that he was not a habitual persecutor of Hindus before he became the emperor at Delhi. But he did not betray Islam when he became the supreme ruler. The test came at Raisen in 1543 AD. Shaykh Nurul Haq records in Zubdat-ul-Tawarikh as follows: “In the year 950 H., Puranmal held occupation of the fort of Raisen… He had 1000 women in his harem… and amongst them several Musulmanis whom he made to dance before him. Sher Khan with Musulman indignation resolved to conquer the fort. After he had been some time engaged in investing it, an accommodation was proposed and it was finally agreed that Puranmal with his family and children and 4000 Rajputs of note should be allowed to leave the fort unmolested. Several men learned in the law (of Islam) gave it as their opinion that they should all be slain, notwithstanding the solemn engagement which had been entered into. Consequently, the whole army, with the elephants, surrounded Puranmal’s encampment. The Rajputs fought with desperate bravery and after killing their women and children and burning them, they rushed to battle and were annihilated to a man.”
    • Zubdat-ul-Tawarikh quoted in Goel, Sita Ram (2001). The story of Islamic imperialism in India. Chapter 7 ISBN 9788185990231
  • "Sher Shah gave to many of his kindred who came from Roh money and property far exceeding their expectations." ... "To every pious Afghan who came into his presence from Afghanistan, Sher Shah used to give money to an amount exceeding his expectations, and he would say, 'This is your share of the kingdom of Hind, which has fallen into my hands, this is assigned to you, come every year to receive it.'" And to his own tribe and family of Sur, who dwelt in the land of Roh, he sent an annual stipend of money, in proportion to the members of his family and retainers; and during the period of his dominion no Afghan, whether in Hind or Roh was in want, but all became men of substance. It was the custom of the Afghans during the time of sultans Bahlul and Sikandar, and as long as the dominions of the Afghans lasted, that if any Afghan received a sum of money or a dress of honour, "that sum of money or dress of honour was regularly apportioned to him, and he received it every year". Sher Shah Suri too said, "It is incumbent upon kings to give grants to imams; for the prosperity and populousment of the cities of Hind are dependent on the imams and holy men... whoever wishes that God Almighty should make him great, should cherish Ulama and pious persons, that he may obtain honour in this world and felicity in the next."
    • Abbas Sarwani, Tarikh-i-Sher Shahi, trs. E.D. vol. IV, pp. 390, 424. quoted from Lal, K. S. (1999). Theory and practice of Muslim state in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 5
  • It is wrong to say that Sher Shah did not destroy a temple or break an image. His conquest and occupation of Jodhpur was followed by the conversion of the Hindu temple in the fort into a mosque. The Thrlkh-i-DnUdl ascribes his attack on Maldev, Raja of Jodhpur, partly to his religious bigotry and a desire to convert the temples of the Hindus into mosques. His treachery towards Puran Mall was not, as Qanungo tries to assert, the result of a fanatic religious leader forcing his opinions upon an unwilling king. It had been planned by Sher Shah beforehand, discussed by him with his officers and was deliberately done to earn religious merit by exterminating this arch-infidel. Sher Shah said prayers of thanks after this ‘religious’ deed. No amount of mere rhetoric can enable us to get over the accounts of the expedition, especially when we find Sher Shah, who got ill on the eve of the battle, inviting his officers and confiding to them that ever since his accession he had been anxious, in the cause of his religion, to defeat Puran Mall. All accounts give this expedition a religious significance which no argument can destroy. Sher Shah was only a product of his own age as far as his religious policy was concerned. Like Feroz Shah before him, he combined administrative zeal with religious intolerance. His place in history does not depend upon his initiating a policy of religious toleration or neutrality. He had no more to do with founding a united nation in India, which is yet in the making, than any other successful ruler before him.
    • Sharma Sri Ram. 1988. The Religious Policy of the Mughal Emperors. 3rd ed. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal. ch 2
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