Who Were the Khiljis?

Jalal-ud-din Firoz, the son of Malik Yaghrish Khilji, held the position of Sarjandar (Head of the royal bodyguard), during the reign of Sultan Balban. During this time, he governed the territory of Kaithal and served as the deputy of Samana.

In a previous post, we discussed how Jalal-ud-din Firoz occupied the throne of Delhi and established the Khilji dynasty.

Contemporary Historians on the Origin of the Khiljis:

Now, let us explore the perspectives of contemporary historians regarding the origin of the Khiljis.

According to Zia-ud-din Barani, Jalal-ud-din belonged to a different race than the Turks. When Sultan Qaiqabad was struck by paralysis, the Turks brought his infant son Kaimurs from the harem and placed him on the throne of Delhi in order to prevent Jalal-ud-din from gaining control of the kingdom.

Barani further elaborates that Jalal-ud-din Firoz Khilji assumed the throne in the grand palace of Kilokhari in the year 688 H (AD 1289). For eighty years, the people of Delhi had been under the rule of Turk sovereigns, and they were resistant to the succession of the Khiljis. The citizens, soldiers and traders were struck with admiration and amazement upon witnessing the Khiljis ascend the throne of the Turks, and wondered how the throne had passed from the one to the other.

Nizam-ud-din Ahmad states that from one of the authoritative histories, he read that the Khiljis trace their lineage back to Khalij Khan, who was a son-in-law of Genghis Khan. Khalij Khan faced marital issues, but due to his father-in-law's influence, he had no choice but to feign gentleness and politeness. Eventually, he broke away from Genghis Khan's allegiance and settled with his tribe amounting to 3,000 families, in the hills of Ghor and Gurjistan. When the rulers of Ghor conquered Hindustan, the Khiljis migrated to Delhi and established themselves there. The fathers of Jalal-ud-din and Sultan Mahmud Khiiji of Malwa were both grandsons of Khalij Khan.

Haji-ud-Dabir mentions that Khalij, after separating from his wife, settled in Kabul with 30,000 horsemen. He conquered Samarkand after Genghis Khan's death. Khalij's youngest son, Tulak Khan, converted to Islam and resided in Kunduz. After Tulak's death, his two sons, Nasir-ud-din and Jalal-ud-din, migrated to Delhi during Sultan Balban's reign. When Jalal-ud-din became the Sultan, he appointed his brother Nasir-ud-din as the governor of Amroha. Ali Sher, the son of Nasir-ud-din, was the father of Mughith, who, in turn, was the father of Sultan Mahmud Khiiji of Malwa.

Upendra Nath Day highlights the account of Shihab Hakim, the author of Tabaqat-i-Mahmud Shahi, who also recounts the same story of Khalij Khan and his descendants. According to Hakim, Tulak Khan had two sons: Amir Khurram Beg and Amir Muhammad Beg. The lineage further unfolds as Amir Khurram Beg's son is named Nasir-ud-din, while Amir Muhammad Beg's son is called Jalal-ud-din.

During the disturbances caused by the Tatars, Nasir-ud-din and Jalal-ud-din, left Kunduz for Delhi and entered the service of Sultan Iltutmish. Eventually, Jalal-ud-din ascended to the throne and appointed his brother, Nasir-ud-din, as the governor of Amroha.

Nasirud-din had a son named Ali Sher Buzurg (Senior), whose son was Nasir-ud-din Khurd (Junior). Nasir-ud-din Khurd's son was Malik Ardshir, who became the father of Ali Sher Khurd. Ali Sher Khurd's son, Mughith, was the father of Sultan Mahmud Khilji.

According to the author of Saljuq-Nama, as quoted by Nizam-ud-din Ahmad, Ferishta and Badauni, the Khiljis traced their lineage back to Khalj, one of the eleven sons of Turk. Turk was the son of Japheth and the grandson of Noah.

Were the Khiljis Non-Turks?

Ferishta further asserts that the Khiljis existed even before the time of Genghis Khan, as they were frequently mentioned in the history of the kings of Ghazni, particularly during the reigns of Sabuktigin and Sultan Mahmud. Furthermore, Ferishta emphasizes that the Khiljis were actively engaged in the business of war, offering their services as mercenaries to any power that sought their expertise.

Many Arab biographies attribute Turkish origins to the Khiljis. For instance, Hudud al-Alam, a 10th-century geography book written in Persian by an unknown author, mentions the Khiljis. It states that the Khalaj Turks, who possess a large number of sheep, reside in Ghazni and the surrounding areas. They wander along climates, grazing grounds and pasture-lands. These Khalaj Turks are also found in significant numbers in the provinces of Balkh, Tokharistan, Bust, and Guzgan.

Modern historians, such as Shaikh Abdur Rashid and K. S. Lal, among others, also support the notion that the Khiljis were originally of Turkish descent.

The name Khalj refers to the region situated on both sides of the Helmand River in Afghanistan, and its inhabitants were known as Khiljis. Jalal-ud-din's ancestors, after migrating from Turkestan, had resided in different parts of Afghanistan for more than two centuries, assimilating certain Afghan customs and traditions. Therefore, they were mistakenly identified as Afghans by the Ilbari Turks in India.

Rulers of the Khilji Dynasty (1290-1320):

I. Jalal-ud-din Firoz, Founder of the Khilji dynasty (r: 1290-1296):

Jalal-ud-din Khilji was the first ruler of the Khilji dynasty. Prior to ascending to the throne, Jalal-ud-din had engaged in numerous battles against the Mongols for several years. However, once he became Sultan, he adopted a policy of peace. Jalal-ud-din was assassinated by his son-in-law, Ala-ud-din Khilji, in 1296.

II. Ala-ud-din Khilji, Nephew and Son-in-law of Jalal-ud-din (r: 1296-1316):

Ala-ud-din is regarded as the most prominent ruler of the Khilji dynasty. He commissioned the construction of several significant structures, such as Alai Darwaza, Alai Minar and Hauz-i-Khas, also known as Hauz-i-Alai. Some of Ala-ud-din's notable military campaigns include the conquest of Gujarat, Ranthambore, Chittor, Malwa, Devagiri, Warangal, Mabar (Madurai) and Dwarasamudra. He also achieved decisive victories against the Mongols. Ala-ud-din's relationship with his favourite slave Malik Kafur is controversial.

III. Shihab-ud-din Omar, Son of Ala-ud-din Khilji (r: 1316):

After Ala-ud-din's death, Kafur placed Shihab-ud-din Omar, the young son of Ala-ud-din, on the throne and assumed the role of regent. Following Kafur's death, Shihab-ud-din was overthrown and imprisoned by his brother, Qutb-ud-din Mubarak.

IV. Qutb-ud-din Mubarak Shah, Son of Ala-ud-din Khilji (r: 1316-1320):

Qutb-ud-din Mubarak was the last ruler of the Khilji dynasty. He was murdered by his Vizier and favorite servant, Khusru Khan, in 1320.

Nasir-ud-din Khusru Khan, Vizier of Qutb-ud-din Mubarak (r: 1320):

Khusru Khan was the ruler of Delhi for a short period of time, prior to the establishment of the Tughlaq dynasty. He was murdered by Ghazi Malik Tughlaq, afterwards Sultan Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq, who founded the Tughlaq dynasty.


History of the Khaljis By K. S. Lal
Medieval Malwa A Political And Cultural History 1401-1562 By Upendra Nath Day