Raziyya, the First Women Ruler of Delhi

Raziyya was the eldest daughter of Sultan Shams al-Din Iltutmish (1211-1236). She possessed all the admirable attributes and qualifications necessary for kings. During the lifetime of her father, she used to administer affairs of the state, and possessed great grandeur, on this account, that her mother, Turkan Khatun, was the greatest of the sublime harem, and her place of residence was the royal palace, the Kushk-i-Firuz. During his Gwalior campaign, Iltutmish had left Raziyya in charge of Delhi and on his return, he was very much impressed by her abilities in managing the administration of the Sultanate.

As the Sultan used to notice in her indications of sovereignty and high spirit, although she was a daughter, when he returned after acquiring possession of Gwalior, he commanded the secretary to write out a decree, naming his daughter as his heir-apparent. While this decree was being written out, the courtiers represented the Sultan by saying, "Inasmuch as he has grownup sons who are eligible for the sovereignty, what scheme and what object has the Sultan of Islam in view in making a daughter sovereign and heir-apparent? Be pleased to remove this difficulty from our minds, as this deed does not seem advisable to your humble servants". The Sultan 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".

Rukn-ud-din Firuz Succeeds Iltutmish: However, upon the death of Iltutmish in 1236, the nobles placed the Sultan's eldest surviving son Rukn al-Din Firuz on the throne. Rukn-ud-din was a pleasure-loving King who left the affairs of the government to his mother, Shah Turkan. Shah Turkan used her authority to ill treat the ladies of Iltutmish's harem; she blinded and murdered Qutb al-Din, the infant son of Iltutmish. When Shah Turkan made an attempt to assassinate Raziyya, the people of Delhi rose in her defense. Shah Turkan was imprisoned, and Raziyya was raised to the throne in November 1236. Rukn al-Din was captured and confined by Raziyya (He died in confinement).

Raziyya, Fifth Ruler of the 1st Turkish Sultanate of Delhi (1236-1240):

Raziyya, Sultan of Delhi
Raziyya Sultan (digital painting) by Hussam ul Wahid

Raziyyat-ud-dunya wa ud-din (1236-1240) was the first woman ruler of India and the only woman who ever sat upon the throne of Delhi.

When Raziyya ascended the throne, the wazir, Nizam-ul-Mulk Junaidi and four other Maliks: Malik Jani, Malik Kuji, Malik Izz al-Din Salari and Malik Izz al-Din Kabir Khan Ayaz, refused to acknowledge her. They assembled before the gate of the city of Delhi and commenced hostilities against her. Malik Nasir al-Din Tabashi Muizzi, the governor of Awadh, hurried to Delhi to assist Raziyya, but before he could cross the Ganges he was defeated and imprisoned by the rebels. She left Delhi along with the army and encamped on the banks of river Yamuna to confront the rebels. Several conflicts took place between them. Izz al-Din Salari and Kabir Khan Ayaz, two Maliks of the rebel group, secretly went over to the Sultan's side on a condition that, Malik Jani, Malik Kuji and Junaidi should be imprisoned. When this news spread in the rebel camp, the Maliks fled. Followed by this, Malik Kuji, his brother Fakhr al-Din and Malik Jani were captured and slain. Junaidi fled into the Sirmur hills, where he died. After this victory, all Maliks and Amirs from Lakhnauti to Dewal submitted to Raziyya's authority. She made Khwaja Muhazzab al-Din her wazir and gave him the title of Nizam-ul-Mulk.

The kingdom of Raziyya gained considerable power. She sent an army under Qutb al-Din Hasan Ghauri against the Rajputs of Ranthambhore, which after the death of Iltutmish, the Rajputs had invested. Qutb al-Din drew the Muslim forces out of the fort and destroyed it.

Raziyya and Yaqut: Malik Jamal al-Din Yaqut, an Abyssinian, was Lord of the Stables (Amir-i-Akhur). Yaqut became her confidant and trusted adviser [the same term Minhaj uses with respect to Muhammad Ghori's favour towards his slave Qutub-ud-din Aibak], which created jealousy among the Turks. She was accused of having connections with him. Sultan Raziyya discarded her female attire by putting on tunic and kullah; sat on the throne without a veil and appeared in public riding on elephant. Isami and many other historians distorts her character and says that she began to ride escorted by the State officers and everybody became suspicious of her. He further adds that Yaqut used to stand by her side when she mounted her horse. With one hand he used to hold her arm and help her to mount her horse firmly. In this way Yaqut made himself more powerful in the State than other servants; and the Turks conspired to depose Raziyya and put Yaqut to death. [Yaqut was the Amir-i-Akhur before she came to the throne. And she never rode a horse but always an elephant. It is possible that it was part of the duty of the Lord of the Stables to assist his sovereign to mount. It was only in the last year of her reign that she assumed male attire, when she appeared in public].

Rebellions: In 1239, Kabir Khan Ayaz, the governor of Lahore, broke out into rebellion. Raziyya led an army against him, and forced him to surrender. When Raziyya returned victorious to the capital, Malik Ikhtiyar al-Din Altunia, the governor of Bhatinda, revolted with support of some of the Turkish Amirs of the court (April 1240). Raziyya marched to Bhatinda to put down the rebellion, but could not succeed. Yaqut was put to death and Raziyya was imprisoned in the fort of Bhatinda. The Turk rebels returned to Delhi, where they elevated to the throne Raziyya's half-brother Muizz al-Din Bahram (1240-1242).

Raziyya's Marriage with Altunia: When they imprisoned Sultan Raziyya within the stronghold of Bhatinda, Malik Ikhtiyar al-Din Altunia entered into a matrimonial contract with her, and espoused her.

Death of Sultan Raziyya: Raziyya and her husband Altunia won over certain amirs of Delhi and collected a large army of Jats and Khokhars, and marched towards Delhi. Bahram sent an army to oppose them and they were defeated. When Raziyya and Altunia reached Kaithal (in Haryana), the remaining troops abandoned them, and they both fell captive into the hands of Hindus, and were put to death in October 1240. Raziyya Sultan's reign lasted three years and six months.


Iltutmish's eldest and most capable son, Nasir al-Din Mahmud, died prematurely in 1229.