"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 (ball on top) 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.", noted Ibn Battuta who visited Delhi in 1334.
Qutb Minar is the tallest stone tower in India with a height of 238 feet (72.5 metres). It is a remarkable feat of architecture, boasting a unique blend of red sandstone and marble, and intricate carvings that make it a sight to behold.
It has five stories and 379 steps. Each storey diminish in size as they go up. Each storey is separated from the next by wonderfully carved balconies adorned with ornamental and inscribed bands. The first three stories are built entirely of red sandstone finely decorated with carved scrolls (flutings). Marble is mainly used in the fourth and fifth storeys. The base of the Minar is a polygon of 24-sides, with alternately round and angular flutings on the first, round flutings on the second, and angular flutings on the third. On the top of the fifth storey there was a cupola built by Firoz Shah, which was thrown down in the earthquake of 1803. It was replaced by Major Robert Smith, a British engineer, in 1828, and also the repairs were done at a cost of Rs 17,000. In 1848, Major Smith's cupola was removed by the order of Lord Hardinge. It is now placed near the Minar.
Purpose of the Minar:
Qutb Minar is the mazina (a tower for sounding the Azan or call for prayers) of the adjacent 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, his brother Ghias-ud-din Muhammad Bin Sam and Sikandar Lodi.
The basement storey features six ornamental bands. The inscription on the lowest band is very much obliterated and unintelligible. The third and sixth band contain verses from the Quran, while the fifth band features ninety-nine Arabic names of God.
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."
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:
The inscriptions on the second storey bear the title and name of Shams-ud-din Iltutmish, the Sultan of Delhi from 1211 to 1236.
The second storey has two bands of inscriptions. The upper band contains verses from the Quran. "O! true believers, when ye were called to prayer on the Day of Assembly, hasten to the commemoration of God and leave merchandising....The reward of God is better than any sport or merchandise, and God is the best provider". This alone proves that the Minar is the Mazina.
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: The 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: The inscriptions on the fourth storey contains the title and name of Shams-ud-din Iltutmish (1211-1236).
The 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: The inscriptions on the fifth storey has the name of Firoz Shah Tughlaq (1351-1388).
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".
Was it Muiz-ud-din Muhammad Bin Sam (Muhammad Ghori)? - In his Memoirs, Firoz Shah Tughlaq credits Muiz-ud-din Muhammad Bin Sam, otherwise known as Muhammad Ghori, for his construction of the iconic Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque and Minar: "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 remain in India for long 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. It is possible that Firoz Shah attributed the Minar to Ghori out of respect, as both structures were built in his honor.
Was it Iltutmish? - Shams-i Siraj Afif, author of Tarikh-i-Firoz Shahi, ascribes the Minar to Iltutmish: "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". Sikandar Lodi (r: 1489-1517) also credited Iltutmish with the construction of the Minar. Muhammad Aufi, author of Jawami ul-Hikayat, further attested to Iltutmish's hand in the building of both the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque and minaret. Muhammad Shafi Warid, who wrote his Mirat-i Waridat in 1734, referred to the minaret as Minar-i-Shamsi, or the Minar of Iltutmish.
One can find the inscriptions of Iltutmish on the second and third storeys of the Minar, which indicate that he completed the construction of the building. An inscription on the fourth storey mentions that 'this building was ordered in the age and the reign' of Iltutmish. It is noteworthy that Firoz Shah was responsible for engraving Iltutmish's name on the fourth storey after restoring it.
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..". This title apparently refers to Qutub-ud-din Aibak, as the same title is prefixed to his name in an inscription over the entrance of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque. The rest of the inscription might read: "This tower was built in the months of the year 596 (AD 1199) by the Amir, the great and glorious commander of the army, Qutb-al-daulat-wa'l-din, the Amiru-l-umara Aibak Sultani....
Near the doorway of the basement storey, there is an inscription: "Fazl, son of Abul Maali, was the Mutawali of this Minar". He was also the Mutawali of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque in the reign of Aibak.
A Nagari inscription mentioning the date AD 1199 occurs thrice in the basement storey. AD 1199 falls during the governorship of Qutub-ud-din Aibak.
An inscription on the basement storey gives the titles and name of Muhammad Ghori, the suzerain of Qutub-ud-din. Syed Ahmed Khan points out that if Muhammad Ghori was the founder, the accomplishments of his Commander-in-chief would not have been inscribed there!
Iltutmish's name is not mentioned in any of the inscriptions in the lowest storey, which means that he didn't commence it.
All the above points adds weight to our claim that Qutub-ud-din built the first storey.
After considering all the above facts, it can be concluded that the basement storey of the Minar was built by Qutub-ud-din Aibak (r: 1206-1210) while he was the Viceroy of Delhi, as a dedication to his master Muhammad Ghori, or by the order of Muhammad Ghori. The remaining storeys [2, 3 & 4 storeys] were completed by Iltutmish (r: 1211-1236). Firoz Shah Tughlaq (r: 1351-1388) repaired the fourth storey, which was struck by lightening, in 1368, and 'raised it higher than it was before'. He also added the fifth storey and the cupola.