Razia Sultana

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Daughter of Iltutmush, Razia Sultana was the first female Muslim ruler of South Asia. She was a talented, wise, just and generous woman. She was a great administrator and was well versed in governmental affairs. She was not only a good leader in the battlefield but herself was also an excellent fighter. As the most capable son of Iltutmush died during his own life, and the rest were incompetent to govern, Iltutmush nominated his daughter, Razia Sultana, as his successor on the throne of Delhi. Whenever Iltutmush had to leave his capital, he used to leave Razia Sultana in charge of the affairs in Delhi. But when Iltutmush died, Rukn-ud-din Firuz, one of his sons, occupied the throne and ruled for about seven months. Razia Sultana, with the support of the people of Delhi, secured the throne after defeating her brother in 1236.

Razia Sultana established complete law and order in her country. To rule the country, she abandoned her femininity and adopted a masculine getup. She used to dress as a man when appearing in public, be it in court or on the battlefield. She made an Ethiopian slave named Jalal-ud-din Yaqut her personal attendant and started trusting him the most. This challenged the monopoly of power claimed by the Turkish nobles.

The Turkish nobles resented having a woman as their ruler, especially when she started challenging their power. They began conspiring against her. In 1239, the Turkish governor of Lahore rebelled against Razia Sultana. However, when she marched against him, he first fled and then apologized. Then the governor of Bhatinda revolted. When Razia Sultana was trying to suppress the rebellion in Bhatinda, her own Turkish officers deposed her from the throne of Delhi and made her brother Bahram the Sultan. Razia Sultana married the governor of Bhatinda, Malik Altunia, and with his help tried to reoccupy the throne. She was defeated by the Turkish nobles and was compelled to flee away. A peasant who had offered her food and shelter while fleeing from an encounter killed her in her sleep. She died in 1240.

This article was last updated on Sunday, June 01, 2003