Razia Sultan became the ruler at a time when women were not even allowed to come out of purdah. But Iltutmish found a daughter more worthy than his sons, and he declared her as his successor. Razia dressed like men and assumed the title of Sultan. Although she could rule for only 4 years. In this blog, we will discuss the life, rule, and reasons for the failure of Razia Sultan.
Razia Sultan Biography
The first female ruler of South Asia who hated love stories
The will to rule was there but it was not to be until one day the sun rose and Razia Sultan became the first Muslim woman of the subcontinent and the only Muslim woman of Delhi.
Birth and upbringing of Razia
Born in 1205, Razia was the daughter of Shams-Ud-Din Iltutmish and Turkan Khatun (also known as Qutb Begum), the third sultan of India’s first Muslim dynasty of the ‘slave dynasty’, and Qutb-Ud-Din, the first sultan. She was the granddaughter of Aibak.
Razia not only studied science in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish but also mastered the art of warfare. Razia’s father Iltutmish used to tell her the tricks of running the work of the court and also used to consult her in the affairs of the state.
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Iltutmish had groomed his eldest son and representative in Bengal, Nasir al-Din Mahmud, to be his successor, but he died in 1229.
Ilttamish told daughters are better than sons
According to the historian Minhaj al-Siraj, Iltutmish felt that his surviving sons were engaged in luxury and would not be able to handle the affairs of the state after him. Therefore, he had tested his daughter’s administrative capacity, so he decided to hand over the affairs of the state to Razia.
While leaving for the Gwalior campaign in 1231, Iltutmish handed over the rule of Delhi to his daughter Razia. Historian K. A. Nizami writes that Razia carried out this responsibility so efficiently that on his return to Delhi, Iltutmish decided to nominate her as his successor. When the emirs questioned the decision that Iltutmish’s successor was his son, Iltutmish replied that Razia was more worthy than his sons.
In the history of Muslim rule in India, ‘Fatuh al-Salatain’, Abdul Malik Isami wrote that Iltutmish once told his emirs that ‘as much as all my sons have courage and brains, Razia with knowledge and wisdom There is also more in courage and valor.
But it wasn’t easy then
Iltutmish did whatever he wanted with respect to his daughter, but there were 40 nobles who were members of a committee known as ‘Turkan-i Chahalgani’, whose cooperation was necessary for her to ascend to the position of the Sultanate.
Fahad Kihar writes that there were forty reliable personalities who did not agree with Razia’s rule after Iltutmish. Turkan Shah, the concubine, and queen of Iltutmish herself (Razia’s stepmother) was also against Razia and wanted to see her son (and Razia’s half-brother) Ruknuddin Firuz as Sultan.
The result was that Ruknuddin became Sultan in 1236, but within a few months, it was proved that he was not the sole ruler and that the real power actually belonged to Queen Turkan Shah, who put obstacles in her way. The rich were determined to end the power of mother and son. At last, Turkan-e-Chalgani got tired of the atrocities of mother and son.
According to K.A. Nizami, the blinding and execution of Ruknuddin’s son Qutb-Ud-Din by these two (mother and son) led to the revolt of many nobles.
Even Wazir Nizam-ul-Mulk Junaidi joined the rebels. Nizami writes that Ruknuddin killed several important officials, including the sons of Junadi, who issued the decree declaring Razia as the successor.
Satish Chandra in his book ‘Medieval India: From the Empire to the Mughals’ writes that Rukn-Ud-Din kept himself busy in pursuit of pleasure and left the affairs of the state to his mother (Queen). Queen Turkan was a Turkish concubine and she used this opportunity to take revenge on all those who had insulted her in the past. Thus, Ruknuddin’s rule became unpopular and paved the way for Razia to come to power.
How did Razia get power?
When Ruknuddin marched to Kahram to fight the rebels, Queen Turkan Shah also made plans to kill Razia in Delhi, but after Razia gave a speech in a red dress, the symbol of supplication, at the Friday meeting, The mob killed the Shah. Attacked the palace and took Turkan Shah into custody. Turkan and her son Ruknuddin, who had ruled for less than seven months, were executed in a single day.
Pro. K.A. Nizami says that Razia’s seat on the Takht-i-Delhi had very prominent features. For the first time in the history of the Delhi Empire, the people on their own initiative decided the matter of succession. The support of the population of Delhi was the main source of Razia’s power. According to Isami, Razia told people that if she did not live up to their expectations, she should be sacked.
Razia Sultan: As the Sultan
Many nobles and the army accepted Razia’s obedience and placed her on the throne, thus becoming the first female Muslim ruler of South Asia and preferred to be called ‘Sultana’. She used to say that ‘Sultana’ means Sultan’s wife, which means she is second class, whereas I am Sultan myself.
Razia first issued coins in the name of her father. When her name was minted, two inscriptions were inscribed on it: ‘Sultan Jalta al-Duniya Walidin’ and ‘Al-Sultan al-Mazam Raziauddin bint al-Sultan’.
Razia did welfare work for the public during her time and maintained public peace. She used to take quick decisions in any problem and gave severe punishment to the criminals.
It is said that Razia hated love stories and ordered that no love story should ever be told in front of her, saying that she did not want to be a coward and a coward. She used to wear a dress that covered her entire body except for her face.
Fahd writes that Razia used to sit on the throne wearing a crown and a turban and used to do government work. Due to her political understanding and policies, she was able to attract the army and the people toward her. She diligently participated in wars and successfully suppressed every rebellion that arose.
Fahd Kihar says that Razia Sultan ascended the throne in 1236 AD, but it was not so easy to rule. Many important personalities of Turks did not accept Razia in their heart.
Junaid refused to sit on the throne. They were joined by four Turkish nobles, who had also rebelled against Ruknuddin, Razia’s predecessor. These princes advanced against Razia from different directions of Badaun, Multan, Hansi, and Lahore, but Razia either defeated them or accepted her submission.
Razia’s love for Ghulam Jamaluddin Yakut
Fahd Kihar says that Razia started bringing non-Turks forward to break the power of her opposing elements. A step was taken in this regard, which caused irreparable loss to Razia. Jamaluddin Yakut, the slave of this abyss, was appointed Amir.
“In Turkish circles, those who had sat on the ‘rule of women’ were now enraged to see a black slave in high office. They spread the rumor that Razia actually preferred Yakut. How much was truth and how much fiction? Nothing can be said for sure about this because there is a lot of difference of opinion among the historians of that time.
In 1238–1239, Malik Izzuddin Kabir Khan Ayaz, the governor of Lahore, rebelled against Razia. Razia’s advances forced him to run toward Sudhra. Since the area beyond Sudhra was under Mongol influence and Razia continued to pursue them, Izzuddin had to once again surrender and accept Razia’s authority. Razia treated him kindly. Lahore was taken from them but Multan was handed over to them.
The ruler of Bathinda (the name was later changed to Bathinda), an important territory of the Delhi Sultanate, was Malik Akhtaruddin Altunia. Fahad writes that he once sent a marriage proposal to Razia but she refused. When the false stories of Razia and Yakut came to light, they became angry and aroused the spirit of rebellion.
To put an end to this rebellion, Razia decided to leave Delhi and fight, but some elements of the army killed Yakut in front of Razia’s eyes and themselves arrested her, and handed her over to Malik al-Tuniya. This ended Razia’s tenure of three and a half years.
She remained in captivity at Altunia, while the government in Delhi passed to her half-brother, Bahram Shah.
Marriage, Defeat, and Murder
During the reign of Bahram Shah, the real power was with Turkan-i-Chalgani. When Malik al-Tuniya got nothing, he realized that there was no use in removing Raziya from the throne, and then al-Tuniya decided to support Raziya, and Raziya herself saw a way to regain her throne. The two got married and decided to fight together.
In October 1240 an army commanded by Malik al-Tuniya clashed with Bahram Shah’s army, but once again Razia Sultana was defeated. Razia and Altunia barely escaped from the field with their lives. Both of them fled the field in injured condition and reached Kaithal, where some local people gave them food and drink, but the next day their bodies were found at the same place.
It is said that both have been killed for expensive clothes and jewelry.
There are conflicting statements about whether Razia Sultan’s tomb is in Delhi or somewhere else.
The 14th-century traveler Ibn Battuta wrote that Razia’s tomb became a place of pilgrimage. A dome is built over it and people take its blessings.
In Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s book ‘Attar al-Sanadid’ titled ‘The Tomb of Razia Sultan Begum’ it is written: ‘There is a dilapidated boundary wall and a broken tomb near the Turkman Gate in the city of Shahjahanabad. (Old Delhi) Razia Sultan Begum bint Sultan Shamsuddin Iltutmish, who also sat on the throne for some time. According to 638 Hijri, in 1240 AD during the time of Muezuddin Bahram Shah, when this mausoleum was built, but now there is nothing more than a token.
This place with two graves is also called ‘Raji Saji’ because one grave is of Razia and the other is of her sister Shazia.
Researcher Rana Safvi writes in ‘The Forgotten City of Delhi’ that ‘the lanes leading to her tomb are very confusing and one has to ask for directions from Bhojla hill.
The Archaeological Survey of India points to Bulbulkhana. At the end of some of the narrow, dilapidated streets, another stone declares it to be the final resting place of South Asia’s first female ruler.
Researcher Alyssa Gabe writes that Razia is a classic example of a woman who rose to power in a pre-modern Islamic society. This paved the way for Razia’s father to recognize and develop her intelligence and leadership abilities and produce an heir and ascend to her throne.
“Razia ruled in an environment in which the birth of daughters was generally frowned upon and women had few avenues of empowerment.”
Reasons for the failure of Razia Sultan
The following reasons were responsible for the downfall (failure) of Razia
(1) Razia Sultan being a woman –
The main reason for Razia’s downfall was her being a woman. The Muslim chieftains considered it an insult to be ruled by a woman. According to Islam also it was inappropriate for a woman to be a ruler.
(2) Free conduct of Razia Sultan –
Razia’s free conduct also made her an opponent of Sardars and Subedars. Her leaving the purdah, wearing men’s clothes, and riding an elephant was against the tenets of Islam. This behavior of her made the Sardars and the general public against her.
(3) Autocracy more than necessary
Razia did not recognize the time and became unnecessarily autocratic. This autocracy of his proved fatal for her. Most of the nobles and nobles turned against her.
(4) not getting public support
Razia did not even get the support of the public. Not only the Sardars were angry with her conduct, but the general public also did not like her roaming around in a male dress.
(5) Family tension
It is true that Iltutmish had declared Razia as his successor, but her brothers regarded her as their adversary and always conspired against her. Even the opposing Sardars used to support the brothers. In this way, Razia’s power was deeply hurt.
(6) Betrayal of chieftains
Razia was betrayed by her loyal Sardars. Some Sardars went towards Altunia. Altunia took advantage of the opportunity and made Raziya a prisoner.
(7) Love for the slave Yakut
Jalaluddin Yakut was an Abyssinian slave. Yakut had given full support to Razia in the initial crisis, so he became her special favor. After the victory of Ranthambore, Razia promoted him to the post of ‘Amir-ul-Umra’. This promotion enraged the nobles and they began to understand that Razia was in love with Yakut.
Firishta writes, “The other chieftains were angered by this promotion and began to look closely at the reason for this favoritism. They came to know that there was great affection between the Sultana and the Yakut. The affection was so great that when she used horses To ride, he would put his arm around her and help her to mount the horse. This proximity, sudden promotion, and rise to first-class status in the entire sultanate naturally aroused one’s envy. It became more humiliating when he was just a favorite Abyssinian slave.”
Evaluation of Razia Sultan’s character
In relation to Razia’s personality, Dr. Ashirwad Lal Srivastava writes, “Razia was the first and last Sultan of Iltutmish’s dynasty, who took over the politics of Delhi Sultanate on the strength of her ability and character.”
Iltutmish said to the nobles about Razia, “My sons are indulged in the pleasures of youth and none of them is fit to be the Sultan and after my death, you will see that my daughter (no one is more worthy than Razia).
(1) having different qualities
The then historian Minhaj wrote, “She was a great ruler, intelligent, honest, generous, nurturer of education, jurist, pro-people and war lover. She had all the admirable qualities that a king should have.”
(2) efficient ruler
Although Razia was a woman, she was an able ruler. She kept all the power of governance in her hands and very efficiently suppressed her rebels. She used to inspect all the government departments sitting in the court without a curtain and do justice after listening to the prayers of the complainants.
(3) brave and courageous
Despite being a woman, she did not lack courage and bravery. She fought fearlessly and suppressed her opponents fearlessly.
(4) Great diplomat
Razia was not only a valiant warrior, but also a great diplomat and shrewd woman. She knew that military power cannot be used everywhere. On the basis of this policy, she divided her opponents. She never allowed her opponents to organize. When Altunia took her captive, she cleverly got him out of jail by trapping him in his love trap.