Rise of Qutb al-Din Aibak: From Slave to Sultan

In our previous post, we explored the historic battle of Tarain where Muhammad Ghori emerged victorious over Prithviraj Chauhan, capturing several cities including Ajmer, Hansi, Kohram, and Sarsuti. Ghori entrusted the fort of Kohram to his loyal slave, Qutub-ud-din Aibak, before returning to Ghazni

Among Muhammad Ghori's most trusted companions were six slaves: Taju-d din Yalduz, Baha-ud-din Tughril, Nasir-ud-Din Qabacha, Muhammad Bakhtiar Khilji, Shams-ud-din Iltutmish (who later became the third Sultan of the first Turkish empire) and Qutub-ud-din Aibak (who became the first Turkish Sultan).

Rise of the Slave Qutub-ud-din Aibak to the Throne and Establishment of the Turkish Empire in Delhi:

Muhammad Ghori had no sons. However, he found great joy in purchasing Turkish slaves and educating them. He once said, "Other monarchs may have one or two sons, but I have thousand of sons, namely my Turk slaves who will inherit my dominions and preserve my name in the Khutbah throughout my territories". 

Among his many slaves, Qutub-ud-din stood out for his exceptional courage and generosity. Ghori had purchased him at a high price from merchants in Ghazni, and due to his broken little finger, he was called I-bak-i-Shil. During an entertainment at court, Ghori bestowed lavish gifts upon his adherents and servants, including Qutub-ud-din. However, Aibak divided his share among his companions and servants. 

When Ghori asked the reason for this, Aibak humbly explained that he had no desire for excess wealth as his needs were already generously met by his Majesty's bounty. This response impressed the Sultan so much that he immediately appointed Aibak to an honorable post in the court and later promoted him to Amir-i-Akhur (Lord of the Stables).

Qutub-ud-din Aibak

Ibn Batuta recounts a fascinating incident that occurred in Lahore, which sheds light on Ghoris' favor towards Qutub-ud-din. After the capture of Lahore, Qutub-ud-din's power grew significantly, and some of Ghori's courtiers poisoned his ears with false accusations that Qutub-ud-din was in open revolt to become the king of India. Upon learning of this, Qutub-ud-din rushed to Ghazni and presented himself before Ghori. The next day, Ghori concealed Qutub-ud-din from the conspirators and inquired about him. The courtiers falsely claimed that Qutub-ud-din was indeed in revolt. Then the Sultan kicked the foot of the throne and clapped his hands, shouting "Aibak!" Aibak, who was hiding nearby, emerged before his accusers. The conspirators were confounded and terrified, hastening to kiss the ground. Ghori pardoned them on this occasion, but warned them to be cautious about speaking against Aibak in the future. 

Qutub-ud-din's Campaigns:

In the late 1192, Qutub-ud-din captured the fort of Meerut and subsequently conquered Delhi after defeating the kinsmen of Govind Rai in 1193. The fort of Kol was captured in the same year. Qutub-ud-din established his capital at Delhi.

In 1193, Muhammad Ghori returned to India, leading his army, commanded by Aibak, towards Kannauj, where Raja Jai Chand, the king of Kannauj and Banares, opposed him with a large army and 300 elephants. The two forces clashed at Chandwar, which is now known as Firozabad in Uttar Pradesh, in which Raja Jai Chand was defeated. 

As Jai Chand was preparing to retreat, Qutub-ud-din shot an arrow that struck the king's eye, killing him. After the battle, Raja Jai Chand's body was identified 'by means of the golden studs with which his teeth, on account of extreme age, had been fixed in their sockets'. Muhammad Ghori then seized the fort of Asni, where Jai Chand had stored his treasure. He then marched towards Varanasi and destroyed idols of over 1000 temples. Ghori returned to Ghazni with an immense amount of treasure from Raja Jai Chand. Before his return, he conferred on Aibak the vice regency of India. Historians note that Ghori's conquests extended as far as the outskirts of China.

After the death of Prithviraj Chauhan, his son Govindaraj was appointed to the government of Ajmer, as a tributary ruler. But Hariraj, the brother of Prithviraj, on hearing that Govindaraj had accepted to pay a tribute to the Sultan, expelled his nephew from Ajmer and forced him to take shelter at Ranthambore. Govindaraj established his kingdom at Ranthambore; since then Ranthambore became the capital of the Chauhans. But Hariraj marched to Ranthambore and attacked Govindaraj, who requested the aid of Qutub-ud-din Aibak, who marched in person towards Ranthambore. Hariraj was therefore obliged to retreat to Ajmer. But, not long afterwards he was attacked by Qutub-ud-din and a battle was fought in 1194, in which he sustained defeat, after which he sacrificed himself in the flames of a pyre. 

In 1194, Hariraj, the brother of Prithviraj Chauhan, rebelled and expelled Prithviraj's son, ultimately capturing Ajmer. Qutub-ud-din marched from Delhi to confront Hariraj and killed him. He then appointed a Muslim governor at Ajmer. 

During the same year, Qutub-ud-din engaged in a fierce battle with Rai Bhim Dev Solanki of Nahrwala in Gujarat, seeking revenge for Ghori's defeat. After a prolonged period of plundering, he returned to Delhi with a significant amount of spoils.

In 1195, Ghori again returned to India, capturing Bayana (Thangar) which he placed under the command of Baha-ud-din Tughril. He then proceeded to lay siege to the fort of Gwalior, leaving Tughril to continue the siege. Tughril built a new fort and relentlessly harassed the garrison of Gwalior. The Raja of Gwalior, feeling the pressure, sent an embassy to Aibak and agreed to surrender the fort to him. Aibak marched to Gwalior and took possession of the fort. Thus enmity rose between Aibak and Tughril. Tughril died a short time later.

In 1197, Rai Bhim Dev of Nahrwala, with the assistance of the rulers of Chandravati and Nagore, launched an attack on Ajmer and defeated Aibak. However, Ghori quickly sent reinforcements to assist Aibak, resulting in the capture of Nahrwala. By 1202, Aibak conquered the forts of Badaun, Kalpi and Kalinjar.

In 1203, Sultan Ghias-ud-din passed away, and Muhammad Ghori ascended to the throne. He then divided his brother's dominions among his kin: Firozkoh and Ghor went to Malik Zia-ud-din, son-in-law of his late brother Sultan Ghias-ud-din; Bust, Farah and Isfarain were given to Prince Muhammad, son of Sultan Ghias-ud-din; and Herat and its dependencies were granted to Nasir-ud-din, the nephew of Sultan Ghias-ud-din. 

Ghori marched an army against Khwarezm. Sultan Muhammad Khwarazm Shah sought assistance from the Gurkhan of Qara Khitai. In the ensuing battle, many of Ghori's generals were slain, and Ghori was forced to retreat towards Balkh. However, the Gurkhan of Qara Khitai and Sultan Usman Khan Samarqandi, who had come to aid Muhammad Khwarazm Shah, blocked his path. Ghori was completely defeated and took refuge in the fort of Andkhud, where he attempted to establish himself. He managed to save his life by paying a large ransom to Sultan Usman and was allowed to return to Ghazni.

Ghakkar's Revolt & Ghori's Death: After Ghori's defeat by the Turks of Khita, rumors spread throughout the kingdom that he had been killed. This news sparked a wave of enemies to rise up against him. In the vicinity of Lahore, the Ghakkars tribe revolted and captured the city. Ghori marched towards Lahore from Ghazni to suppress the Ghakkar's revolt. He summoned Aibak from Delhi and Shams-ud-din Iltutmish joined him as well. The Ghakkars fought so valiantly that Ghori was compelled to retreat. Meanwhile, Qutub-ud-din arrived with his army and began to slaughter the Ghakkars. The Ghakkars fled, with many being killed and others committing jauhar. Lahore was eventually recovered, and Qutub-ud-din returned to Delhi. Ghori left Lahore to return to Ghazni, but his journey was cut short when he was assassinated near Dhamiak by some Ghakkars. 

The Turkish Kings of Delhi: Qutub-ud-din Aibak (1206-1210): 

After the death of Ghori, the Turk officers were eager for Prince Mahmud, son of Sultan Ghias-ud-din, to take over his uncle's throne. However, Mahmud preferred the throne of Ghor and Firozkoh. He granted Ghazni to Taju-d din Yalduz and bestowed the sovereignty of Hindustan upon Qutub-ud-din Aibak. 

Thus Qutub-ud-din became master of all the Indian possessions of Muhammad Ghori. He came to Lahore from Delhi and took the throne of Hindustan, marking beginning of the first Turkish empire. This empire was subsequently ruled by four other Muslim dynasties - the Khiljis, the Tughlaqs, the Sayyids and the Lodis - until the arrival of Babur.

Ghori bestowed upon Taju-d din Yalduz the governance of Kirman and Turan in Sind. After Ghori's death, Yalduz ascended to the throne of Ghazni. When Yalduz marched against Lahore, Qutub-ud-din opposed him and emerged victorious, forcing Yalduz to retreat to Kirman. Qutub-ud-din then seized Ghazni; for forty days he sat upon the throne of Ghazni spending his time in amusements and self-indulgence. He totally neglected the affairs of the state. Annoyed by his behavior, the people of Ghazni secretly summoned Yalduz, who returned with his army and surprised Qutub-ud-din. Qutub-ud-din was forced to flee Ghazni and retreat to Lahore. 

Death of Qutub-ud-din Aibak:

Qutub-ud-din Aibak died falling from his horse while playing chaugan (polo) in Lahore. He reigned for a total of 18 years, four of which he was a Sultan. His tomb is located at Anarkali Bazar in Lahore, Pakistan. 

Qutub-ud-din married a daughter of Taju-d din Yalduz. His eldest daughter was married to Nasir-ud-Din Qabacha, but when she passed away, he married the youngest one. The second daughter was married to Shams-ud-din Iltutmish. 

Qutub-ud-din was known for his lavish generosity and was even given the nickname "Lak bakhsh" (Giver of Laks). He was responsible for the construction of the Jami Masjid (Quwwat-ul-Islam) in Delhi and the foundation of the Qutb Minar.

Entrance of the tomb of Qutub-ud-din Aibak at Anarkali Bazar in Lahore, Pakistan


History of the Rise of Mahommedan Power in India by Ferishta

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.) by Abu-'Umar-i-'Usman (Minhaj al-Siraj Juzjani) Translated by H. G. Raverty

Taj-ul-Maasir of Hasan Nizami
Tabaqat-i-Akbari: A History of India from the Early Musalman Invasions to the Thirty-eighth year of the Reign of Akbar by Khwajah Nizamuddin Ahmad Translated By B. De