Reasons Why the Early Turkish Dynasty of Delhi Was Not a Dynasty of Slaves

Shahab-ud-din Muhammad Ghori defeated the Indian ruler Prithviraj Chauhan in the battle of Tarain in 1192. Ghori's faithful slave commander Qutub-ud-din Aibak conquered Delhi in the same year and established it as his capital. After Ghori's death in 1206, Aibak ascended the throne of Ghori's Indian dominions and laid the foundations of Muslim rule in India, which became known as the Delhi Sultanate. 

Delhi Sultanate:

From 1206 to 1526, five Muslim dynasties ruled over Delhi. These were: the Early Turkish dynasty popularly known as Slave dynasty (1206-1290), Khilji dynasty (1290-1320), Tughlaq dynasty (1320-1414), Sayyid dynasty (1414-1451) and Lodi dynasty (1451-1526). The first three dynasties of Delhi were ruled by Turks, while the fourth was governed by Sayyids and the fifth by Afghans or Pathans.

Why the Early Turkish Dynasty of Delhi is Known as Slave Dynasty?

The first Muslim dynasty of Delhi is known by various names in modern history, such as the Slave dynasty and Mamluk dynasty. However, not all of the kings of this dynasty were slaves. Only three of them had been slaves: Aibak, Iltutmish and Balban. Some writers say that this dynasty is called the Slave dynasty because its founder, Qutub-ud-din, was originally a slave. Others believe that all the kings of this dynasty were either slaves or descendants of slaves, and hence the name Slave dynasty. 

Historians like Aziz Ahmad and Ishwari Prashad argue that the name Slave dynasty is a misnomer. Contemporary historians like Minhaj al-Siraj had styled them as Muizziya (successors of Muiz-ud-din Muhammad Bin Sam, also known as Shahab-ud-din Muhammad Ghori) and Shamsiya (successors of Shams-ud-din Iltutmish) Sultans of Hindustan. Ferishta calls it the First Tartar dynasty of Delhi, while Badauni name it the Ghori dynasty. Aziz Ahmad calls it the early Turkish empire of Delhi.

Aibak, Iltutmish, and Balban had originally been slaves, but they were manumitted by their masters. When a slave is manumitted by their master, they are no longer considered a slave. Aibak was given the title of Sultan by Sultan Ghiyath al-Din Mahmud, the successor of Muhammad Ghori (at Ghor). Iltutmish, who was once a slave of Aibak, had already been granted his freedom by his master before the latter's death. Balban, who was once a slave of Iltutmish, served as the vizier of Sultan Nasir-ud-din Mahmud before ascending to the throne. It's important to note that none of these rulers were slaves when they became rulers.

The Early Turkish Sultans of Delhi:


I. Qutb al-Din AibakSlave General of Muhammad Ghori (1206-1210): Qutub-ud-din Aibak was the founder of the Delhi Sultanate. He died falling from his horse while playing polo at Lahore, in 1210.

II. Aram Shah, Son of Aibak (1210-1211): After Aibak's death, his [adopted?] son Aram Shah was placed on the throne of Delhi. However, he proved to be a weak ruler, and many chiefs declared their independence. The chief Amirs of Delhi invited Shams-ud-din Iltutmish, the governor of Budaun, to take over the Delhi throne. Aram was defeated and deposed. 


III. Shams al-Din Iltutmish, Slave, Son-in-law and Adopted Son of Aibak (1211-1236): Shams-ud-din Iltutmish was the greatest ruler of the Early Turkish dynasty. He is widely regarded as the true founder of the Delhi Sultanate. Iltutmish died in 1236.

IV. Rukn al-Din Firuz, Son of Iltutmish (1236): Upon his accession, Rukn-ud-din Firuz, abdicated his governing duties to his mother, Shah Turkan. However, her tyrannical actions incited rebellions across the country. The people of Delhi imprisoned Shah Turkan and raised Iltutmish's eldest daughter Raziyya to the throne. Rukn-ud-din was captured, confined and ultimately perished in captivity.


V. Raziyyat al-Din, Daughter of Iltutmish (1236-1240): Raziyya was the first woman ruler of Delhi. Raziyya was murdered in 1240.

VI. Muizz al-Din Bahram, Son of Iltutmish (1240-1242): During Bahram's reign, many amirs and nobles revolted against him. Bahram was thrown into prison, and was slain in 1242.

VII. Ala al-Din Masud, Son of Rukn-ud-din (1242-1246): During the reign of Masud, the Mongols advanced as far as Uch. When Masud's army reached near Beas, the Mongols raised the siege and retreated. Unfortunately, Masud's behavior took a turn for the worse as he indulged in wine and women, committing various acts of cruelty and injustice. The amirs and maliks summoned his uncle, Nasir-ud-din Mahmud, from Bahraich to take control. Masud was imprisoned, where he remained for the rest of his life.

VIII. Nasir al-Din Mahmud, Son of Iltutmish (1246-1266): It was to Nasir-ud-din Mahmud that the historian Minhaj al-Siraj dedicated his Tabaqat-i Nasiri. Nasir-ud-din died in 1266. 


IX. Ghiyath al-Din Balban, Slave of Iltutmish and Father-in-law of Nasir-ud-din (1266-1286): Ghias-ud-din Balban, also known as Ulugh Khan, was the vizier of Nasir-ud-din Mahmud and one of the Forty Slaves of Iltutmish. His eldest son, Prince Muhammad, also known as Khan-i-Shahid, lost his life in battle against the Mongols in 1285. Balban was more than eighty years old when he passed away, consumed by grief and sorrow over the loss of his beloved son.

X. Muiz al-Din Qaiqabad, Grandson of Balban (1286-1290): Muiz-ud-din Qaiqabad, the last king of the Early Turkish dynasty, was a weak ruler. Due to his licentious mode of life, he was struck with Paralysis. During this time, the nobles raised his infant son Shams-ud-din Kaimurs to the throne.

Usurpation by Jalal-ud-din Khilji:

Qaiqabad was murdered by the Khilji chief Jalal-ud-din Firoz. Jalal-ud-din seized the throne and established the Khilji dynasty. After a month or two, Kaimurs was also put to death. Thus, the first Muslim dynasty of Delhi came to an end.


Tabakat-i-Nasiri of Minhaj al-Siraj

Political history & institutions of the early Turkish empire of Delhi By Muhammad Aziz Ahmad

The Chronicles of the Pathan Kings of Delhi By Edward Thomas