Who Built the Qutb Minar - Ghori, Aibak or Iltutmish?

"In the northern courtyard of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque is a minaret which is without parallel in the Muslim countries. It is made of red stone in contrast with the rest of the mosque, which is white. The stones of the minaret are sculptured and it is very high. Its spire is of pure white marble, and its apples (rounded ornamentations) are of pure gold. Its staircase is so wide that elephants can go up there. A reliable person told me that while its construction was in progress, he saw an elephant carrying stones up to its top", says Ibn Battuta who visited Delhi in 1334.

Qutb Minar enjoys itself the fame of being the tallest stone tower in India with a height of 238 feet (72.5 metres). It has five stories and 379 steps. Each storey diminishes in size as they go up. Each storey is decorated by ornamental bands and separated by a balcony, which is wonderfully carved. The first three stories are built entirely of red sandstone finely decorated with carved scrolls (flutings). Marble too was used in the 4th and 5th storeys. The lowest storey has 24 flutings, alternately round and angular; the second has round flutings only; and the third only angular. The line of each fluting continues throughout the three storeys. On the top of the 5th storey there was a cupola, which was destroyed and thrown down by an earthquake in 1803. It was replaced by Major Robert Smith, an executive engineer, in 1828, at a costs of Rs 17,000; but in 1848 it was removed by the order of Lord Hardinge. It is now placed near the Minar.

Qutb Minar in the 1880s

Purpose of the Minar:


Qutb Minar is the mazina (a tower for sounding the Azan or call for prayers) of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque.

Inscriptions on the 1st Storey:

Inscriptions on the first storey contain the titles and names of Muiz-ud-din Muhammad Bin Sam otherwise known as Muhammad Ghori, Ghias-ud-din Muhammad Bin Sam (brother of Muhammad Ghori) & Sikandar Lodi.

The basement storey has six ornamental bands. Inscription on the lowest band of the basement storey is very much obliterated and unintelligible. Third and sixth band contains verses from the Quran. The fifth band contains ninety-nine Arabic names of the God.

Ornamental bands and inscriptions on the Qutb Minar

Inscription on the second band: "The great King; the exalted Emperor; Master of the necks of the people; Lord of the Kings of Arabia and Ajm [Persia]; sustaining the Kings of the world; great in the world and in faith; the redresser of Islam and the Musalman; the Crown of Kings and Princes; the spreader of justice and peace in the two worlds; the shadow of God from one corner [of the world] to the other; the shepherd of God's servants; the defender of the countries of God; the helped from the sky; the conqueror of his enemies; great among the conquering powers; great among the people of Light; the firmament of the creed of the Pure; the King of land and water; the refuge of the countries of the Earth, the revealer of the glorious words of God; a second Alexander: Abul Muzaffar, Muhammad Bin Sam, ally of the Amir al-Mu'minin, may God perpetuate his reign and his kingdom, and exalt his power and his prestige."

Inscription on the fourth band: "The greatest sultan, the most exalted emperor, the lord of the necks of the people, the master of the kings of Arabia and Persia, the sultan of the sultans of the world, Ghiyasu-d-dunyawa-d-din (Ghias-ud-din Muhammad Bin Sam, brother of Muhammad Ghori), who rendered Islam and the Muslims powerful, the reviver of justice in the worlds, the grandeur of the victorious government,... of the magnificent, the bright blaze of the Khilafat, the propagator of kindness and mercy amongst created beings, the shadow of God in east and west, the defender of the countries of God. the shepherd of the servants of God, the guard of the kingdoms of the world, and the proclaimer of the word of God, which is the highest, Abu...ibn Sam, an ally of Amir al-Mu'minin (the prince of the faithful), may God illumine his proofs."

Detail of balcony of Qutb Minar

Inscription on the entrance doorway of the basement storey: "The Prophet, on whom be God's blessing and peace said: 'He who builds a mosque for God, God will build for him a similar house in paradise.' The fabric of the Minar of his majesty the king of kings Shamsu-d-dunyawa-d-din (Iltutmish), who has received God's pardon and forgiveness, (the deceased) may his grave be purified, and may paradise be his resting place, was injured. In the reign of the great, the illustrious and exalted king, (named) Sikandar Shah, the son of Bahlol Shah Sultan, may God perpetuate his kingdom and reign, and exalt his power and prestige, and under the superintendence of Khanzadah Fath Khan, the son of Masnad-i-Ali Khawas Khan....the cracks were filled in and the upper storeys were repaired on the first day of Rabia II in the year 909 (23rd September 1503)."

Inscription near the doorway: "Fazl, son of Abul Maali, was the Mutawali of this Minar".

Inscriptions on the 2nd Storey:

Detail of balcony of Qutb Minar

Inscriptions on the second storey contain the title and name of Shams-ud-din Iltutmish (1211-1236).

The second storey has two bands of inscriptions. The upper band contains verses from the Quran.

Inscription on the lower band: "The most exalted sultan, the great emperor, the lord of the necks of the people, the pride of the kings of Arabia and Persia, the shadow of God in the world, Shamsu-d-dunyawa-d-din, the help of Islam and the Muslims, the crown of kings and sultans,.... in the worlds, the grandeur of the victorious government, the majesty of the shining religion, helped from the heavens, victorious over his enemies, the bright meteor of the sky of the Khilafat, the propagator of justice and kindness, the guard of the kingdoms of the world and the proclaimer of the word of the High God, (named) Abul Muzaffar Iltutmisha-s-sultani, the helper of the prince of the faithful, may God perpetuate his kingdom and rule and increase his power and rank."

Inscription on the doorway: "The completion of this building was commanded by the king, who is helped from the heavens, Shamsu-l-haqwa-d-din Iltutmish-l-Qutbi (slave of Qutub-ud-din), the helper of the prince of the faithful".

Inscriptions on the 3rd Storey: Inscriptions on the third storey contain the title and name of Shams-ud-din Iltutmish (1211-1236).

The third storey is ornamented with two bands. The upper band contains a scroll.

Inscription on the lower band: "The great King; the exalted Emperor; master of the necks of the people; chief amongst the Kings of Arabia and Ajm; King of the Kings of the earth; the protector of the countries of the world; the helper of God's servants; conqueror of his enemies; the helped from the sky; the crown of Islam and the Musalman; the redresser of Kings and Princes; protector of the countries of God; shepherd of God's people; the right arm of sovereignty; spreader of mercy and justice; Abul Muzaffar Iltutmish, Sultan, ally of the Amir al-Mu'minin; may God preserve his kingdom aud his reign and exalt his power and prestige!".

Inscription on the doorway: "The great sultan, the most exalted emperor, the lord of the necks of the people who vies with the kings of Arabia and Persia, helped from the heavens, victorious over his enemies, the sultan of the earth of God, the protector of the lands of God, the helper of the servants of God, the preserver of the kingdoms of the world, the proclaimer of the word of the High God, the splendour of the victorious rule, the administration of the refulgent religion, (named) Shamsu-d-dunyawa-d-din, the help of Islam and the Muslims, the shadow of God in the world, the crown of the sovereignty and the people, the source of justice and mercy, the king of the kings of the empire and religion, the right hand of the Khalifa of God, the helper of the prince of the faithful".

Inscription on one side of the door: "This building was completed under the superintendence of the slave and sinner, Muhammad Amir Koh".

Inscriptions on the 4th Storey: Inscriptions on the fourth storey contains the title and name of Shams-ud-din Iltutmish (1211-1236).

Fourth storey has four ornamental bands.

Inscription on one of the bands: "The great King; the exalted Emperor; master of the necks of the people; chief among the Kings of Arabia and Ajm; King of the Kings of the world; the protector of the countries of the world and the helper of God's servants; the conqueror of his enemies; the helped from the sky; the crown of Islam and of the Musalman; the redresser of Kings and Princes; protector of the countries of God and shepherd of God's servants; the right arm of sovereignty; spreader of justice and mercy: Abul Muzaffar Iltutmish, ally of the Amir al-Mu'minin; may God preserve his kingdom and his reign, and increase his authority and his prestige".

Inscription on the door: "This building was ordered in the age and the reign of the great King; the exalted Emperor; master of the necks of the people; chief among the rulers of Turkestan, Arabia and Ajm; the sun of the world and faith; the glory of Islam and the Musalman; master of peace and bounty; the heir of the kingdom of Solomon: Abul Muzaffar Iltutmish, Sultan, the ally of the Amir al-Mu'minin".

Inscriptions on the 5th Storey: Inscriptions on the fifth storey has the name of Firoz Shah Tughlaq (1351-1388).

5th storey of the Minar

Inscription on the doorway: "This Minar was injured by lightning in the months of the year 770. (1368) Firoz [Shah Tughlaq] Sultan, with the grace of the Protector; the elect by the mercy of the Pure, repaired this building with great care. May the Unknown Creator preserve this building from all dangers".

(Apart from the above inscriptions, several Nagari inscriptions are also found on the Minar. We shall discuss it in another post.)

So, Who Built the Minar?


Nobody has left any inscription on the Minar stating that 'he' commenced the construction of the Minar.

Was it Muiz-ud-din Muhammad Bin Sam (Muhammad Ghori)? - According to Ibn Batuta the Minar was built by Muhammad Ghori. Amir Khusru calls it the Minar-i jami. Firoz Shah says, "The Minaret built by Sultan Muiz-ud-din Sam, destroyed by a stroke of lightning was renovated so that it became better than it used to be and it was also raised higher". However, Muhammad Ghori did not stay much time in India so that he can build the Minar. Moreover, none of the inscriptions mention that it was Muiz-ud-din Muhammad Bin Sam who built it.

Was it Iltutmish? - Shams-i Siraj Afif ascribes the Minar to Iltutmish. He says, "Every great king took care during his reign to set up some lasting memorial of his power. So Sultan Shams-ud-din Iltutmish raised the large pillar in the Masjid-i-Jama (Quwwat-ul-Islam) at old Delhi, the history of which is well known". Iltutmish. One can find the inscriptions of Iltutmish on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th storeys of the Minar, where it is written that he completed the construction of the Minar. On the other hand, an inscription on the 4th storey mentions that 'this building was ordered in the age and the reign' of Iltutmish. Sikandar Lodi also ascribes the Minar to Iltutmish. Muhammad Aufi in his Jawami ul-Hikayat ascribes the construction of both the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque and minaret to Iltutmish. It should be remembered that Iltutmish enlarged the Quwwat-ul-Islam by extending the prayer hall and the screen so that the Qutb Minar also fell within the mosque enclosure.

Was it Qutub-ud-din Aibak? - Only this much is visible of the inscription on the lowest band of the basement storey, "The Amir, the commander of the army, the glorious, the great..". These titles apparently refer to none other than Aibak (1206-1210).

The Conclusion:

Detail of the top storey of the Minar

According to the evidence of the inscriptions, the basement storey of the Minar was built by Qutub-ud-din Aibak (while he was the Viceroy of Delhi), as a dedication to his master Muhammad Ghori, and the rest of it was completed by Iltutmish. Firoz Shah Tughlaq repaired the 4th storey, which was struck by lightening, in 1368, and 'raised it higher than it was before'. The 5th storey and the cupola was added by him. It was subsequently repaired by Sikandar Lodi in 1503. Some Nagari inscriptions on the Minar are below:

"In the reign of Muhammad Sultan (Muhammad Shah Tughlaq) in 1326, the monument was struck by lightning".

"In the auspicious reign of the illustrious Firoz Shah Sultan in 1368-69, the restoration of the Minar was carried out in the palace or temple of Vishvakarman (a Hindu deity). The architect was the maternal grandson of the son of Chahada Devapala; the measuring cord was drawn and the foundation laid. height, 92 yards".

"In 1369 lightning fell. The monument was then repaired in the same year. The architects were Nana, Salha, Lola and Lashmana". 

Comments