Raziyya, the eldest daughter of Sultan Shams al-Din Iltutmish (1211-1236), possessed all the qualifications necessary for kings. During the lifetime of her father, she used to administer affairs of the kingdom, and possessed great grandeur, on account that her mother Turkan Khatun, was the chief lady of the 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 Sultan Iltutmish used to notice in her indications of sovereignty and high spirit, though she was a daughter, when he returned after getting capturing 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?". 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 his 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 (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. Raziyya summoned Malik Nasir al-Din Tabashi Muizzi, the governor of Awadh, who hurried to Delhi to assist her, but before he could cross the Ganges he was defeated and imprisoned by the rebels.
Raziyya now left Delhi with the army and encamped on the banks of the river Yamuna to confront the rebels. Several conflicts took place between them. At last a settlement was arranged; Maliks Izz al-Din Salari and Kabir Khan Ayaz, secretly went over to Raziyya's side on the condition that Malik Jani, Malik Kuji and Junaidi should be imprisoned. When this news spread, these Maliks fled. Raziyya's army pursued them and Malik Kuji, his brother Fakhr al-Din and Malik Jani were captured and slain. Junaidi fled to Sirmur hills, where he died after some time. Thus victorious Raziyya returned to Delhi. After this victory, all Maliks and Amirs from Lakhnauti to Dewal submitted to her authority. Khwaja Muhazzab al-Din was made the wazir with 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 acquired favour in attendance upon the Sultan, which created jealousy among the Turks. She was accused of having connections with him. The Turks conspired to depose Raziyya and put Yaqut to death. About the year 1239, 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 by saying that she began to ride escorted by the State officers and people became suspicious of her. Isami 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.
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. In March 1240, Malik Ikhtiyar al-Din Altunia, the governor of Bhatinda, revolted with secret support of some of the Turkish Amirs of the court. Raziyya marched to Bhatinda to put down the rebellion, but did not succeed. Yaqut was put to death by the Turk Amirs and Raziyya was imprisoned and send to the fort of Bhatinda. The victorious Turk rebels returned to Delhi, and elevated to the throne Raziyya's half-brother Muizz al-Din Bahram (1240-1242).
Marriage with Altunia: Malik Ikhtiyar al-Din Altunia had joined the Turks against Raziyya because he imagined that he would get a powerful position in the court. But he had been left out in the cold after being made a tool of. Altunia now entered into a matrimonial contract with Raziyya, 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. In October 1240, 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 on 14th 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.
Tabakat-i-Nasiri: A general history of the Muhammadan dynasties of Asia, including Hindustan; from A. H. 194 (810 A.D.) to A.H. 658 (1260 A.D.) and the irruption of the infidel Mughals into Islam, by Minhaj-ud-din, Abu-Umar-i-Usman; Translated by H. G. Raverty