Iqta system was one of the most important features of the Turko-Afghan political system witnessed during the period of Delhi Sultanate. It was originally an Arabic practice from Arab Turk adopted it & Turks brought it to India. For the first time, Iqta was distributed in Punjab by Muhammad Ghori & gradually the practice was extended to other territories.
Iqta system plays an important role in the rise & fall of the Turko-Afghan rule in India. In the beginning, it provided immense strength Sultanate but later on, it becomes the main source of weakness. Iqta system was bureaucratic mechanical cause Iqtadar were officers of state. They performed various politico-administration functions.
The system had economic & military dimensions as well because Iqtadar collected revenue & maintain a fixed number of troops. Iqta system was based on merit because most meritorious commanders were appointed as Iqtadar. It was a centralized mechanism because Iqtadar was appointed by Sultan & they were always accountable to him.
It was based on the practice of transfers Iqtadars were transferred after every 3-4 years. The system was nonhereditary because Iqtas was granted only for the lifetime of officers. After the death of the holder, the Iqta was taken away. This system was based on the law of escheat. At the death of Iqtadar, all the properties/wealth accumulated by him during his lifetime was taken away.
The system was progressive in nature because the performance was rewarded & non-performance was punished. Iqta system evolved with time. It gains many essential features under different Sultan
Evolution of Iqta System
After being introduced by Muhammad Ghori, the Iqta system was reorganized properly by Sultan Iltutmish for the first time. He defined the duties & responsibilities of Iqtadar elaborately. Under this re-organized system the Iqtadar were responsible for, maintaining fixed numbers of troops, looking after the administration of the area under control, collecting revenue, and depositing Fawazal in the central treasury.
Sultan Balban imposed greater central control over Iqtadars. He appointed an accountant Khwaja with every Iqtadar to check the authentication of records maintained by them. Balban transferred Iqtadar from one Iqta to another so they couldn’t develop any bonding with people.
Sultan Alauddin Khalji abolished the number of small Iqtas in the Doab region to carry out the expansion of Khalisa land. He increased the revenue demands from Iqtadar. A new department – Diwan-i-Mushtkharaz for collection of arrears of revenue living with Iqtadar. Mohammad Bin Tughlaq increased central control on Iqtadar furthers.
He separated the income & expenditure of Iqtadar. They ordered to deposit entire revenue in central treasury & from where they were paid against their salary & other expenses. During the reign of Firoz Shah Tughlaq Iqta, the system was declared hereditary. After the death of Iqtadar, his son/son-in-law/slave/widow was allowed to succeed.
During the Lodhi period, the concept of Fawazal was abolished. The Iqtadar allowed retaining the revenue collected from Iqta. This was an expansion of Afghan kingship in Lodhi, in which the Sultan was ordered as first among the equals. Name Iqta got changed into Pargana & Sarkar. Smaller Iqta came to know as Pargana & bigger is Sarkar.
Contribution of Iqta system
The Iqta system contributed immensely to the consolidation & expansion of the Turko-Afghan rule. The system free Sultan responsibility of looking after. The administration of newly conquered territory once territory allowed to Iqta to commander every responsibility handled by him.
Since Iqtadar central officers & directly accountable to Sultan, the system helped maintain effective central control even over the remote areas. Iqta system increased merits & performance because the best performing commander was rewarded by allocating Iqta. Iqta helps in territorial expansion because Iqtadar used to take the military campaigns on behalf of the Sultan against neighboring Independent states.
The system also facilitated the maintenance of a large army because the responsibility to maintain soldiers was divided between Iqtadar. It also helps in strengthening the economic foundation of the Sultanate because Iqtadar used to collect revenue & deposit in the treasury. The system kept capital free from conspiracy held by powerful commanders such ambitious Nobel kept away from central by appointing them as Iqtadar in different areas.
The system provides opportunities to the capable commanders to use their strength for benefit of the state.
Drawbacks of System
The Iqta system functions perfectly under a strong Sultan but a weak ruler set on the throne it always used to become because of trouble. After the death of a powerful ruler, many of the Iqtadar used to declare their Independence from Sultan. New Sultan has to struggle hard to securely gate the control.
Iqtadar had immense resources both financial & military. They always in a position to defy the order of the weak Sultan. When the Iqta system gets hereditary by Firoz Shah Tughlaq the centrifugal force gets dominant & it contributed to the big way to decline the Tughlaq dynasty. Under the Lodhi Iqta system became because of further trouble because Lodhi stops collecting Fawazal from Iqtadar. Some of Lodhi Iqtadar in Punjab conspired to gain power ended up.