Hafsa Ahsan lifts up our spirits with an account of a Muslim leader, popularly known as the Tiger King.
In the wake of the current state of Muslim rulers, who succumb easily to their enemies, the life of Tipu Sultan stands as a shining example of a ruler, who chose martyrdom instead of defeat.
Fatah Ali Tipu was born on December 10, 1750, at Devanhalli, Saringapattam. His father was Sultan Haider Ali of Mysore.
He was trained in the art of warfare at a young age – specifically, fencing, sword fighting, and the use of the firearms. He also had a passion for learning, and his personal library comprised of more than 2,000 books in various languages.
Tipu Sultan earned the title of the ‘Tiger King’ as a result of a hunting experience, when he threw his sword and instantly killed a tiger that sprang up in front of his and his French guest’s horse.
In 1782, when Sultan Haider Ali was killed, Tipu Sultan took over the kingdom of Mysore. He proved to be an ideal and benevolent ruler. He treated his non-Muslim subjects justly. He took on many projects, such as the building of dams in order to facilitate agriculture. He built roads to improve the physical infrastructure. In addition, he improved the industrial infrastructure by introducing many new industries. Under his rule, he promoted trade and commerce on a large scale.
When the British came for trade in India, Tipu Sultan foresaw their aim to colonize the country. Hence, driving the British out of the subcontinent became his major aim. Realizing that they could not carry out their ulterior motives with him in power, the British allied with Nizam of Hyderabad and the Marhattas. What ensued were quite a few Anglo-Mysore battles, in which the army of Tipu Sultan fought against the British allied forces.
However, the British still couldn’t defeat Tipu Sultan, so they took help from two main traitors in the Sultan’s camp – Purnia, the military commander, and Mir Sadiq, the Prime Minister. During the fourth Anglo-Mysore War in 1798, these two traitors played a major part in aiding the British troops to enter the capital city, without the knowledge of the Sultan.
When Tipu Sultan heard the news, he marched out of the fort with his small army. But Mir Sadiq prevented him by closing the gates of the fort. Fortunately, one of the Sultan’s loyal soldiers managed to kill Mir Sadiq. At the heat of the battle, Purnia suddenly ordered all the troops to go back to the barracks, thus clearing the enemy’s way. British troops started entering the fort. Tipu Sultan ordered for the gates to be opened, but the gatekeeper refused to take the order.
The Sultan was ordered to surrender and sign a peace treaty with the British. To this, Tipu Sultan replied: “A day’s life of a tiger is better than a hundred years of a jackal.” He then plunged into the enemy ranks with swords in both hands. He killed scores of them. Even when his mare was shot, he continued to fight on foot till he embraced martyrdom. Even today, Tipu Sultan’s statement is widely quoted in history textbooks, his name stands out among those, who chose to fight rather than surrender.