1,300 miles away from the capital, one of Muhammad Tughluq's governors rebelled against him and proclaimed himself Sultan. This prompted him to bring his army south. During the next two and a half years that the Sultan was away at battle, Ibn Battuta lived in Delhi. He acted as a judge giving out punishments (such as eighty lashes with a whip for drinking wine!) and he took care of the tomb which required 460 workers. His job of collecting debts from his villages was made harder because of disastrous famine that hit North India in 1335 and lasted seven years. "Thousands upon thousands of people perished of want," he told. He helped to give charity to some of the poor.
The Sultan returned after an unsuccessful campaign against the rebellious army in the south. Then army officers and a governor near Delhi also rebelled. The empire was disintegrating around Muhammad Tughluq. This time he proved himself a skillful soldier and marched out to secure the town. Ibn Battuta was witness to all this for future historians to read. The traitorous leaders were captured and thrown to the elephants.
"They started cutting them in pieces with the blades placed on their tusks and throwing some of them in the air and catching them. All the time the bugles and fifes and drums were being sounded."
And Muhammad Tughluq began to lash out at real and imagined enemies.
Even Ibn Battuta came under suspicion. While living in Delhi, Ibn Battuta married a woman and had a daughter by her. This woman was the daughter of a court official who had plotted a rebellion and was executed by the Sultan. But the most serious problem for Ibn Battuta was his friendship with a Sufi holy man. This holy man refused to have anything to do with politics and tried to live a religious life. He snubbed the Sultan and refused to obey the Sultan's commands. In retaliation Muhammad had the holy man's beard plucked out hair by hair, then banished him from Delhi. Later the Sultan ordered him to return to court, which the holy man refused to do. The man was arrested, tortured in the most horrible way, then beheaded.
Take a side trip to read about Ibn Battuta's comments on torture.
The following day the Sultan demanded a list of friends of the holy man, and Ibn Battuta's name was included. For nine days he remained under guard imaging in horror that he would be executed, too.
"I recited [lines of prayer] 33,000 times and ... fasted five days on end, reciting the Koran from cover to cover each day, and tasting nothing but water. After five days I broke my fast and then continued to fast for another four days on end." [Dunn, p. 209]
He rid himself of his possessions, and donned the clothes of a beggar. He was given permission to join a hermit who lived in a cave outside of Delhi. He lived like that for five months.
Then Ibn Battuta was called back to the palace. Fearfully he returned, and was greeted warmly. But determined to avoid further troubles, got up enough courage to ask the Sultan (now in a good mood), if he could make another hajj.
But the Sultan had another task in mind, one that Ibn Battuta found fascinating. Knowing of Ibn Battuta's love of travel and sightseeing, the Sultan wanted to make Ibn Battuta ambassador to the Mongol court of China. He would accompany 15 Chinese messengers back to their homeland and carry shiploads of gifts to the emperor. Now he was given an opportunity to get away from Muhammad Tughluq and to visit further lands of Islam in a grand style! It was an offer too exciting - and too dangerous - to refuse.