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Painted decoration on the celing if Itmad-ad-daulah’s tomb

Chapter 5 – Raziya, The Mohammedan Empress of India

1236–1240 A.D.

Upon the death of Altamish in 1236, his good-for-nothing son, Firoz, succeeded to the throne, but died after a brief and dissipated reign of seven months. India then experienced a novel sensation in having a woman upon the throne of Delhi. By a curious coincidence, noted by Lane-Poole, “the only three women who were ever elected to the throne in the Mohammedan East, reigned in the thirteenth century. Shajar-ad-durr, the high-spirited slave-wife of Saladin’s grandnephew, the woman who defeated the crusade of Louis IX and afterwards spared the saintly hero’s life, was queen of the Mamluks in Egypt in 1250. Abish, the last of the princely line of Salghar, patrons of Sa’di, ruled the great province of Fars for nearly a quarter of a century during the troubled period of Mongol

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supremacy. Raziya, daughter of Altamish, less fortunate, sat on the throne of Delhi for only three years and a half (1236–1240).”

The story of Raziya’s short-lived reign has already been sketched in this History, but we have also a good description of it from the Oriental chronicler Minhajas-Siraj, and this, with one unimportant omission, is used here. It will be noted that Minhaj always speaks of the queen as “Sultan,” since this title, or that of Padshah, “king,” was given to her, as well as to a few queens regent, despite the Mohammedan aversion to female rulers1. The account by Minhaj follows:–

Sultan Raziya was a great monarch. She was wise, just, and generous, a benefactor to her kingdom, a dispenser of justice, the protector of her subjects, and the leader of her armies. She was endowed with all the qualities befitting a king, but she was not born a man, and for that reason, in the estimation of men, all these virtues were worthless. In the days of her father, Sultan Shams-ad-din Altamish, she had exercised authority with great dignity. Her mother was the chief wife of his Majesty, and Raziya herself resided in the chief palace in the Kushk-firozi. The Sultan discerned in her countenance the signs of power and bravery, and although she was a girl and lived in retirement, yet when he returned from the conquest of Gwalior, he directed his secretary, Taj-al-Malik Mahmud, who was the director of the government, to

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put her name in writing as heiress of the kingdom and successor to the throne. Before this firman was executed, the servants of the State, who were in close intimacy with his Majesty, represented that there would be little wisdom in making a woman heir to a Mohammedan throne, especially as the king had grown-up sons who were worthy of the dignity. They besought him, therefore, to set their minds at ease, for the course that he proposed seemed very inexpedient. The king replied: “My sons are devoted to the pleasures of youth, and no one of them is qualified to be king. They are unfit to rule the country, and after my death you will find that there is no one more competent to guide the State than my daughter.” It was afterwards agreed by common consent that the king had judged aright.

When Sultan Raziya succeeded to the throne, all things reverted to their old order. The vizir of the State, Nizam-al-mulk Junaidi, however, refused to give allegiance, and he, together with Malik Jani, Malik Kochi, Malik Kabir Khan, and Malik Izz-ad-din Mohammad Salari, who assembled from different parts of the country at the gates of Delhi, made war for a long time against the Sultan Raziya. After awhile, Malik Nasir-ad-din Tabashi Mu’izzi, who was governor of Oudh, hurried his forces to Delhi to the assistance of Sultan Raziya; but when he had crossed the Ganges, the generals who. were fighting against the city met him unexpectedly and took him prisoner, after which he fell sick and died.

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Since the stay of the insurgents at the gates of Delhi was protracted, Sultan Raziya went out from the city and ordered her tents to be pitched at a certain place on the banks of the Jumna. Several engagements took place between the insurgent chiefs and the Turkish nobles who were on the side of the Sultan, but at last peace was effected with great adroitness. Malik Izz-ad-din Mohammad Salari and Malik Izz-ad-din Kabir Khan Ayyaz secretly joined the Sultan, and came at night to her Majesty’s tents, with the understanding that Malik Jani, Malik Kochi, and Nizam-al-Mulk Junaidi were to be summoned and closely imprisoned, so that the rebellion might subside. When these chiefs were informed of this matter, they fled from their camp, and some horsemen of the Sultan pursued them. Malik Kochi and his brother Fakhr-ad-din were captured, and were afterwards killed in prison. Malik Jani was slain in the neighbourhood of Babul and Nakwan, and Nizam-al-Mulk Junaidi went into the mountains of Bardar, where he died.

When the affairs of Raziya were thus settled, she conferred the office of vizir on an upright officer who had been the deputy of Nizam-al-Mulk, and he likewise received the title of Nizam-al-Mulk. The command of the army was given to Malik Saif-ad-din Aybek Bahtu, with the title of Katlagh Khan. To Kabir Khan was assigned the province of Lahore. The country now enjoyed peace, and the power of the State became manifest. Throughout its territories, from Lakhnauti to Daibul, all the princes and nobles made their submission.

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A Mohammedan woman

Shortly afterward, Malik Aybek Bahtu died, whereupon Malik Kutb-ad-din Hasan Ghori was appointed to his office and was ordered to march against the fort of Rantambhor. The Hindus had laid siege to this fortress after the death of Shams-ad-din, and had beleaguered it for some time, but when Kutb-ad-din arrived, he drew the Mussulman forces out of the fort and destroyed it, after which he returned to Delhi.

About this time Malik Ikhtiyar-ad-din Itigin was appointed lord chamberlain, and Amir Jamal-ad-din Yakut, the Abyssinian superintendent of the stables, was made a personal attendant of her Majesty, an act which created jealousy among the Turkish nobles. The Sultan Raziya now threw off the dress and veil of women. She put on a coat and cap, and showed herself among the people, so all men saw her openly as she rode on her elephant. She now ordered an army to march to Gwalior, and sent with it rich gifts. As there was no possibility of resistance, Minhaj-as-Siraj, the well-wisher of the victorious government, and the author of this book, together with Majd-al-Umara Zia-ad-din Junaidi, chief justice of Gwalior, and other principal officers, came out of the fort of Gwalior on the first of Sha’ban, 635 A.H. (Feb., 1238 A.D.), and proceeded to the Court of Delhi. In the month of Sha’ban of the

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same year, Sultan Raziya appointed the writer of these lines to the Nasiriya college and to the office of Judge of Gwalior. In 637 A.H. (1239 A.D.), Malik Izz-ad-din Kabir Khan, governor of Lahore, broke out in revolt. The Sultan led her army from Delhi in that direction and pursued him. After a time he made peace and did homage. The province of Milian, which had been held by Malik Karakash, was given to Malik Izz-ad-din Kabir Khan.

On Thursday, the nineteenth of Ramazan, 637 A.H. (April, 1240 A.D.), the Sultan Raziya returned to the capital. Malik Altuniya, who was governor of Tabarhindh, revolted, and some of the high officials on the frontier supported him. On Wednesday, the ninth of the same month and year, she marched with a numerous army toward Tabarhindh to put down these rebels. When she arrived there, she was attacked by the Turks, who put the Abyssinian Amir Jamal-ad-din Yakut to death. They then seized the Sultan Raziya and sent her a prisoner to the fort of Tabarhindh.

When Sultan Raziya was taken to Tabarhindh as a captive, Malik Altuniya espoused her cause and led her army toward Delhi to regain possession of the kingdom, whereupon Malik Izz-ad-din Mohammad Salari and Malik Karakash left the capital and went to join them. Meanwhile, Mu’izz-ad-din had ascended the throne, Ikhtiyar-ad-din Itigin, the lord chamberlain, had been slain, and Badr-ad-din Sankar Rumi had been appointed his successor. In the month of Rabi’-al-awwal, 638 A.H. (Sept., 1240 A.D.), the Sultan marched from

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Delhi to repel his opponents, and Sultan Raziya and Malik Altuniya were defeated. When they reached Kaithal in their flight, their remaining forces abandoned them, and they both fell into the hands of the Hindus and were killed. The date of this defeat was the twenty-fourth of Rabi’-al-awwal, 638 A.H. (Oct. 13, 1240 A.D.), and the Sultan Raziya was killed on the day following, after a reign of three years and six days.

A projectile used in Indian warfare


1. The title Sultan is retained in the translation, especially as Sultana would not be an appropriate rendering, since sultana, in its original meaning, signifies “a scold.”

This collection transcribed by Chris Gage
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