Shams ud din Iltutmush

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Iltutmush belonged to a noble family of the Ilbari Turks. His brothers became jealous of his intelligence and good looks and sold him to a slave dealer. After being sold and purchased a few times, he was bought by Sadr Jahn, the Qazi of Bukhara. It was there that he got good training and education. Later he was brought to Delhi where Aibak purchased him. Aibak, who realized the young slave’s potential, treated him with kindness and appointed him as Sar-Jandar (Chief of Guards). Due to his hard work, he was first promoted as Amir-i-Shikar and then was promoted to the position of Amir of Gwalior. He also remained in-charge of the Bada’um. Aibak married his daughter to Iltutmush. When Aibak’s son, Aram Shah, proved incompetent, the Turkish nobles chose Iltutmush as Sultan.

Iltutmush was a sensible and competent ruler. He welcomed the scholars, administrators and generals who had to leave their countries due to the Mongol invasions, and with their help he established a sound administration. He was a deeply religious man and had great respect for the saints. Qutb-ud-din Bakhtiyar Kaki was a famous saint of his period. Men like Fakh-i-Mudabbir and Minhaj-i-Siraj are considered as great historians of his time, while Taj-ul-Mulk earned great fame in the field of poetry. Iltutmush completed the construction of the Qutb Minar, which had been started by Aibak. He also constructed a mosque at Ajmer that is considered a masterpiece of architecture.

He was the first Muslim ruler of South Asia who introduced Arabic coinage and issued silver, the Tankah. He received a deed of investiture from the Abbasid Caliph of Baghdad, Mustansir Billah, in 1229. This increased his prestige. Iltutmush was a great monarch. He created a stable empire out of the newly conquered territories and protected it from internal opposition and external attacks. Nasir-ud-din Qubachah, one of the nobles of Ghuri, refused to recognize Iltutmush as Sultan and declared his independence. He occupied Uch, Multan and Lahore. Similarly, another Turkish noble Taj-ud-din Ildiz declared his independence in Ghazni. Iltutmush took immediate action and defeated both of them. In 1225 he conquered Bengal, where the Khalji ruler Husam-ud-din Iwaz had declared his independence. He also recaptured Rajputana, where many Hindu rulers had revolted against the central government.

Chengez Khan, following Jalal-ud-din Khwarizm, reached the Indus near Attock. Jalal-ud-din asked Iltutmush to allow him to take refuge in Delhi. By giving him refuge, Iltutmush did not want to annoy Chengez Khan. He politely refused Jalal-ud-din’s request by writing him that the climate of Delhi would not suit him. So Jalal-ud-din left for Iran via Sindh. Thus Iltutmush saved the newly established Muslim State from the Mongols.

Iltutmush was also a great general and he extended the borders of the Muslim rule in South Asia. Following Qubachah, Iltutmush’s forces entered the territories of Uch and captured them. He also defeated the Sumra, rulers of lower Sindh, and made the area part of his empire. In 1231, Iltutmush besieged the fortress of Gwalior. After a resistance of almost a year, Mangal Dev, the ruler of Gwalior, ran away from the battlefield and the Muslim forces occupied the city. In 1234, Iltutmush conquered Malwa, Bhilsa and Ujjain and managed to extend the southern limits of his empire to Narbad.

The real founder of the Sultanate of Delhi, Iltutmush, died a natural death in April 1236, after ruling for about 26 years.

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