Islam Shah Suri’s original name was Jalal Khan and he was the younger son of Sher Shah Suri. He was the second ruler of Suri Dynasty. As he was fairly well-educated man and a poet in Persian at the time of his accession, it may be presumed that he must have been given a fairly high education in his early years. But he was primarily a soldier and had given proof of his military ability on more than one occasion before he was called to the sovereignty of Hindustan.
In 1531 his valiant defence of Chunargarh so impressed Humayun that on the conclusion of peace the latter insisted on Islam Shah Suri’s taking charge of the Afghan contingent which Sher Shah had placed at the disposal of Mughal emperor. In 1527, Islam Shah played a prominent part in the siege of Gaur, and was subsequently entrusted with the defense of Teliagarhi, the Gateway of Bengal, where the Afghans under him inflicted the first defeat upon the Mughal army. In 1539 and 1540 he was placed in charge of an important division of his father’s army in the battles of Chausa and Kanauj, and in both the engagements he displayed great valor and military the rulers of Raisin and Jodhpur. While Sher Shah was engaged in the siege of Kalinjar, Islam Shah was deputed to reduce Rewa, but his work could not be accomplished due to Sher Shah’s untimely death.
We have little evidence to form an estimate of Islam Shah Suri’s administrative achievements before his accession. It is certain that he must have been employed by his father in settling the country and in helping him in the enforcement of his varied reforms. Islam Shah must have, therefore, acquired a considerable administrative experience before 1545.
Accession and struggle with Adil Khan
When Sher Shah Suri was burnt to death at Kalinjar on 22nd May, 1545, his eldest son, Adil Khan, was at Ranthambhor and Jalal Khan at Rewa, 15 miles south-east of Kalinjar. Although the deceased monarch had nominated Adil as his heir-apparent, his nobles preferred Jalal Khan who was industrious and skilled in arms, while his elder brother was ease-loving and devoted to pleasures. Moreover, Jalal Khan was nearer at hand, and it was then thought dangerous to keep the throne vacant for long. So the nobles, headed by Isa Khan Hajib, sent a messenger to Jalal Khan to come immediately to take his father’s place as king. Jalal Khan reached Kalinjar on May 27, 1945 and was crowned the same day. He assumed the title of Islam Shah Suri.
Islam Shah Suri began his reign by putting the Chandel ruler of Kalinjar, Kirat Singh, and his seventy principal followers to death. In order to enlist the support of the army he paid it two month’s salary in cash of which one month’s was by way of reward. Next he promoted all the 6,000 soldiers of his personal army which he had maintain as a prince – the ordinary soldiers being raised to status of officer and officers to that of amirs. This unwise measure caused dissatisfaction among the old nobility. Some of the disaffected nobles turned secretly to Adil Khan.
While at Agra, Islam Shah Suri hatched an unsuccessful plot against his life. In spite of the apparent reconciliation, the quarrel between the two brothers continued and Islam Shah sent an assassin to Bayana to take Adil’s life. Eminent nobles like Qutb Khan Naib, Isa khan Niyaji, Khawas Khan and Jal Khan Julwani stood in support of Adil Khan. Adil Khan revolted and, accompanied by Khawas Khan, proceeded to attack Agra; but he was defeated in a battle outside the town and fled to Panna and was not heard of any more.
Last days and death
Islam Shah wanted to put down the powerful governors of provinces of his father’s time as well. He reduced Shujaat Khan to submission. He removed Qazi Fazilat from the governorship of Bengal and appointed Mahmud Khan Sur in his place. In other provinces, too, he appointed men of his own choice after removing the governors of his father’s time. He brought East Bengal under his sway.
In 1553 Humayun, who had got rid of his ungrateful brother, Kamran, made a feeble attempt to recover Hindustan and as a preliminary step set out to conquer Kahnir. Islam Shah was at this time lying ill at Delhi. When he heard that Humayun had crossed the Indus, he immediately took off leeches from his throat and, though ill, started to face the invader, Humayun was dismayed at the promptitude displaced by his old rival’s son and returned to Kabul. There seemed to be now no danger to the Afghan kingdom and Islam Shah Suri returned to his favorite residence at Gwalior. Here, an attempt was made on his life by the disaffected nobility but the plot was soon discovered and the conspirators put to death. This was the second attempt on his life, the first having been made early during his reign. During the later part of his reign Islam Shah Suri passed his days in pleasure and enjoyment. Not long afterwards, however, he was afflicted by a painful disease and medical aid proved of no help. Islam Shah Suri died on 30th October, 1553.