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Zafar Khan (Indian general)

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Years of service  ? - 1299
Role  General
Battles and wars  Mongol invasions of India
Name  Zafar Khan
Died  1299
Allegiance  Delhi Sultanate
Zafar Khan (general)
Service/branch  Khilji dynasty, Ariz-i-Mumalik
Battles/wars  Mongol invasions of India

Zafar Khan(Persian: ظفر خان‎‎ literally chief of victory), originally named Malik Hizbaruddin Yusuf, with Zafar a title was a Muslim Pashtun military general of Khilji dynasty, ruler of the Delhi Sultanate in northern India. He successfully repelled several Chagatai Khanate Mongol's invasions which secured Alauddin Khilji's throne.


Early career

Zafar Khan (Indian general)

Zafar Khan was one of the earliest followers of Alauddin Khilji who followed him even at the time of Alauddin's Uncle, Jalaluddin Khilji, who are of non-Turkish origins aside Nusrat Khan and Malik Kafur who also achieved high positions in the sultanate. Together with Ulugh Khan they are important supporters of Alauddin when the future Sultan attempted his coup against Jalaluddin Khilji and succeeded as the next Sultan. According to Barani's Tarikh i Firoze Shahi, he was regarded by Barani as one of four Alauddin's most important and trusted generala, collectively known as four great Khans of Delhi Sultanate, the other Khans consisting of Ulugh Khan, Nusrat Khan, and Alp Khan. He had a nephew named Alisha, or Ali Shah, who was an amir a sada(literally leader of hundred) under Qutlugh Khan

During Alauddin's launched expedition in southern India, first campaign taking place in Deccan in 1294, without Jalaluddin's permission, Zafar Khan had been in the forefront along with another Khilji's famous general Malik Kafur through hilly range path. Both generals easily defeated the Devagiri army in this campaign and Alauddin exacted tributary status towards Devagiri kingdom

After Alauddin's conquest of Delhi, he wanted to settle score with the Jalali family which was headed by Arkani Khan, son of Jalal ud din Firuz Khilji and the Governor of Multan and Sindh. So he dispatch Ulugh Khan and Zafar Khan with 30.000 to 40.000 cavalry. They laid siege to the fort of Multan for two months before the fort was finally subdued and Arkali surrendered. For his contributions he was now promoted by Sultan to be Ariz-A-Mumalik, or minister of war, which was responsible for the administration of the army, including recruiting, payment of salaries, supplies, and transportation. The office was similar to that of the mir bakshi under the Mughals

Mongol invasion

During the invasion of the Chagatai Mongols, the Delhi Sultanate's army managed to halt the advance of Chagatai army under the command of Saldi near the city of Jalandhar. The Chagatai army perished with 20.000 men slaughtered near Jalan Manjur by Zafar Khan and Ulugh Khan while hundreds of Mongols were captured and brought before Sultan Alauddin.

In 1298 he once again led the Sultanate army to defeat the Mongols who invaded lower Sindh and occupied Siwistan fortress, which was also known by the name of Sadusan by the medieval Arab geographers prior to the expedition of Muhammad bin Qasim in the 7th century. Firstly, he led the punitive force to engage the Mongol army outside, engaging them in fierce close combats and then continued to proceed attacking until inside the fortress. As a result of this battle the Mongol forces were completely vanquished and even their commander was captured. This great victory inspired awe in Zafar Khan's name. So, in effect, he was given charge of Samana, an important military post in Punjab to defend the Sultanate from the Mongol invasion

The biggest Mongol invasion took place in 1299, when under the command of Qutlugh Khwaja, Mongols attacked India. This time the Mongols did not plunder the people on the way to Delhi. They did not want to waste their energy doing this. This was considered a wise step and succeeded to reach near Delhi. The situation became very grave. The people of nearby areas entered into Delhi. There was no free space even in mosques

Alaa-ud-Din consulted his ministers and chiefs. Many of them said that it was impossible to say as to which side was likely to emerge victorious. They said that their own army had spent their lives in warfare against the Hindus only, and had not joined in battle against the Mongols. They suggested for a compromise, but Ala-ud-Din was not ready for it. He rejected their advice and said, "If I were to follow your advice how could I show my face, how could I go into my harem? No, come what may tomorrow, I must march into the battlefield".

He ordered his army to attack under the command of Zafar Khan leading the wing and Ulugh Khan. His army attacked and fought bravely and managed to force the enemy army to retreat while he pursued them. Ala-ud-Din defeated the Mongols despite Zafar Khan being killed in this battle by the Mongol commander Targhi Beg because he was recklessly pursuing the retreating enemy without realizing he's falling onto a trap. It is said that, before being slain, Zafar Khan fought in reckless abandon by shooting his remaining arrows knowing his end was near and killed several enemy soldiers before he succumbed


It is due to his successful campaign against Chagatai Khanate that the legend has it that Zafar Khan created such great terror in the minds of the Mongols that whenever their horses refused to drink water, the Mongols would ask them if they had seen Zafar Khan.


Later after his death, his title was bestowed upon Malik Dinar, Alauddin Khilji's master of the elephants(Shihna-yi pil ) and subordinate officer of Malik Kafur.

Zafar Khan's tomb is situated just opposite the main entrance of Tughlaqabad Fort in the octagonal fortress enclosing the majestic tomb of Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq which also has the grave of Muhammad bin Tughluq, on the Mehrauli-Badarpur Road which was commonly known as "Badarpur Border" in New Delhi.

Other Language Books

  • Jaamiya Taareekh e Hind (Urdu) by Dr. Khaliq Ahmad Nizami. Aligarh Muslim University Press 1954.
  • The Behmanis of Deccan by Dr. Harun Khan Sherwani. National Book Trust New Delhi 1979.
  • Futuh-i-Salatin(Persian) by Abdul Malik Isami.
  • Tareekh i Firuzshahi (Persian) by Shamsuddin Ibn Sirajuddin Afeef.
  • Tareekh i Firuzshahi (Persian) by Ziauddin Barni.
  • The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians Volume 3 By Sir Henry Miers Elliot
  • References

    Zafar Khan (Indian general) Wikipedia