A Dynasty of Slaves?

Shahab-ud-din Muhammad Ghori defeated the Indian ruler Prithviraj Chauhan in the battle of Tarain and laid the foundations of Muslim rule in India, which is known as the Delhi Sultanate. After Ghori's death in 1206, his faithful slave Qutub-ud-din Aibak ascended the throne (of Ghori's Indian dominions) and became the founder of the first Muslim dynasty of Delhi (1206-1290).

Delhi Sultanate:

Between 1206-1526, five Muslim dynasties ruled over Delhi. These were: the Slave dynasty (1206-1290), Khilji dynasty (1290-1320), Tughlaq dynasty (1320-1414), Sayyid dynasty (1414-1451) and Lodi dynasty (1451-1526). Rulers of the first three dynasties were Turks. Fourth dynasty kings were Sayyids and fifth were Afghans or Pathans.

Why the First Muslim Dynasty of Delhi is Known as Slave Dynasty?

The first Muslim dynasty of Delhi is known by various names in history; of which the most famous is the Slave dynasty or Mamluk dynasty. Don't assume that all 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 so because its founder Qutub-ud-din himself was originally a slave. Some others say that all the kings of this dynasty were either slaves or descendants of slaves and hence it is called Slave dynasty. According to historians like Aziz Ahmad and Ishwari Prashad, 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, otherwise known as Shahab-ud-din Muhammad Ghori) and Shamsiya (successors of Shams-ud-din Iltutmish) Sultans of Hindustan; Ferishta calls it the 1st Tartar dynasty of Delhi. Badauni names it the Ghori dynasty. Aziz Ahmad calls it the early Turkish empire of Delhi.

The slaves (Aibak, Iltutmish and Balban) who occupied the throne had been originally slaves but they were manumitted by their masters. A slave is no longer a 'slave' when he is manumitted by his master. Aibak was given the title of Sultan by Sultan Ghiyath al-Din Mahmud, successor of Muhammad Ghori (at Ghor). Aibak's slave Iltutmish had got his freedom from his master before the latter's death. Balban, a slave of Iltutmish, was the vizier of Nasir-ud-din Mahmud, before the his accession to the throne. None of these rulers was a slave when they ascended the throne.

Rulers of the So-called Slave Dynasty:

Qutub-ud-din Aibak, first Muslim king of India

I. Qutb al-Din Aibak, Slave and General of Muhammad Ghori (1206-1210): Qutub-ud-din Aibak, the most distinguished slave of Muhammad Ghori, was the founder of the so-called Slave dynasty. After the death of Ghori, Sultan Muhammad conferred on Aibak the title of Sultan. Please read my previous post to know more about him. Qutub-ud-din Aibak died falling from his horse while playing polo at Lahore in 1210.

II. Aram Shah, Son of Aibak (1210-1211): After the death of Aibak, the nobles placed his only son Aram Shah on the throne of Delhi. Many chiefs threw off their allegiance and declared independence. Nasir-ud-din Qabacha captured Sind, Multan and Uch. Ali Mardan Khilji declared his independence in Bengal. In this state of affairs, the chief men of Delhi sent a deputation to Shams-ud-din Iltutmish, the governor of Budaun, inviting him to ascend the throne. Aram was defeated and deposed by Iltutmish. When Aram Shah expired, the provinces of Uch, Multan and Sindh were possessed by Nasir-ud-din Qabacha; Gaur also known as Lakhnauti (in Bengal) was held by the Khilji chief Ali Mardan, and Lahore was held by Taju-d din Yalduz.

Shams-ud-din Iltutmish

III. Shams al-Din Iltutmish, Slave, Son-in-law and Adopted Son of Aibak (1211-1236): Shams-ud-din Iltutmish (variously spelt as Altmish, Altamsh and Iyaltimish. According to Thomas, the correct one is ay-tutulmash, meaning 'eclipse of the moon') was the greatest ruler of the so-called Salve dynasty. Historians considers him the real founder of Delhi Sultanate. He defeated Taju-d din Yalduz (1215) and Nasir-ud-din Qabacha (1217), and recovered lost territories. In 1221, the Mongols appeared for the first time on the banks of the river Indus under Chengiz Khan. Iltutmish refused giving shelter to Jalal-ud-din Khwarizm Shah, whom Chengiz Khan was chasing, and thereby saved the kingdom from the attack of the Mongols. In 1225, he conquered Bengal and Bihar from Ghias-ud-din Khilji and appointed his eldest son Nasir al-Din Mahmud the governor of Bihar. Iltutmish conquered Ranthambore (1226), Malwa (1227) and Gwalior (1231). Prince Nasir-ud-din Mahmud died in 1229. Iltutmish conferred the same title on his younger son. He died of sickness in 1236.

IV. Rukn al-Din Firuz, Son of Iltutmish (1236): Rukn-ud-din Firuz was a pleasure-loving king, who left the conduct of all the state affairs to his mother Shah Turkan. Shah Turkan was a cruel woman; she ill-treated the ladies of Iltutmish's harem and murdered Qutb-ud-din, the infant son of Iltutmish. Rebellions occurred in many parts of the country. The principal chiefs imprisoned Shah Turkan and raised Raziyya to the throne. Rukn-ud-din was captured and confined. He died in confinement.

V. Raziyyat al-Din, Daughter of Iltutmish (1236-1240): Please read my previous post to learn more about Raziyya, the first woman ruler of India. Raziyya was murdered by the troops of her brother Muizz-ud-din Bahram in 1240.

VI. Muizz al-Din Bahram, Son of Iltutmish (1240-1242): During Bahram's reign, the Nizam-ul-Mulk Khwaja Muhazzab-ud-din incited disaffection among the king's subjects. The amirs and nobles revolted against him. Bahram was thrown into prison, and was slain in the same year. During his reign, the Mongols plundered Lahore.

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 the Sultan marched an army and reached near Beas, the Mongols raised the siege and ran away from Uch. Ala-ud-din Masud thereafter abandoned himself to wine and women, and exercised various acts of cruelty and injustice. The amirs and nobles sent for Nasir-ud-din Mahmud, the king's uncle, from Bahraich. The nobles then cast Ala-ud-din into prison, where he remained 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 was a puppet king who entrusted the whole administration of the empire in his vizier Ghias-ud-din Balban. Nasir-ud-din died of sickness in 1266. He left no heir.

Ghias-ud-din Balban

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. He was one of the 'Forty Slaves' of Iltutmish. His eldest son Prince Muhammad, also known as Khan-i-Shahid, whom he had loved dearer than his life, was killed in an action against the Mongols in 1285. Balban was more than eighty years old when he died in distress and sorrow.

X. Muiz al-Din Qaiqabad, Grandson of Balban (1286-1290): Muiz-ud-din Qaiqabad, last king of the so-called Slave dynasty, was a weak ruler. Due to his licentious mode of life, he was struck with Paralysis. At that 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, and thus came to an end of the first Muslim dynasty of Delhi, otherwise called the Muizzi dynasty. After a month or two, Kaimurs was also put to death by him. Jalal-ud-din usurped the throne and established the Khilji dynasty.


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