Razia Sultana

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Tomb of Razia Begum (w:Razia Sultana) in Mohalla Bulbuli Khana
Razia Sultan
Sultan of Delhi
Reign 10 November 1236– 13 October 1240
Coronation 1236
Predecessor Rukn ud din Firuz
Successor Muiz ud din Bahram
House Mamluk Dynasty (Delhi)
Father Iltutmish
Born 1205
Died 13 October 1240
Burial Bulbul-i-Khan near Turkoman Gate, Delhi

Raziyya al-Din (1205 – October 13, 1240 aged 35), throne name Jalâlat ud-Dîn Raziyâ (Perso-Arabic:جلاله الد دین رضیه), Hindi: जलालत उद-दीन रज़िया), usually referred to in history as Razia Sultan, was born in Budaun and was the Sultan of Delhi in India from 1236 to May 1240. Like some other Muslim princesses of the time, she was trained to lead armies and administer kingdoms if necessary.[1] Razia Sultana was the only woman ruler of both the Sultanate and the Mughal period, although other women ruled from behind the scenes.[2] Razia refused to be addressed as Sultana because it meant "wife or mistress of a sultan". She would answer only to the title "Sultan." In many people's opinions Razia had all the qualities of a great monarch.

Reign as Sultan and death[edit]

Razia (also called Radiyya or Raziyya) succeeded her father Shams-ud-din Iltutmish to the Sultanate of Delhi in 1236. Iltutmish became the first sultan to appoint a woman as his successor when he designated his daughter Razia as his heir apparent. Razia was the first and last women ruler of Delhi Sultanate. (According to one source, Iltumish's eldest son had initially been groomed as his successor, but had died prematurely.) But the Muslim nobility had no intention of acceding to Iltutmish's appointment of a woman as heir, and after the sultan died on Wednesday 30 April 1236, Razia's brother, Rukn ud din Firuz, was elevated to the throne instead.

Ruknuddin's reign was short. With Iltutmish's widow Shah Turkaan for all practical purposes running the government, Ruknuddin abandoned himself to the pursuit of personal pleasure and debauchery, to the outrage of the citizenry. On November 9, 1236, both Ruknuddin and his mother Shah Turkaan were assassinated[3] after only six months in power.

With reluctance, the nobility agreed to allow Razia to reign as Sultan of Delhi. She dressed like a man and sat in open durbar. She was an efficient ruler and possessed all the qualities of a Monarch. As a child and adolescent, Razia had little contact with the women of the harem, so she had not learnt the customary behavior of women in the Muslim society that she was born into. Even before she became Sultan, she was reportedly preoccupied with the affairs of state during her father's reign. As Sultan, Razia preferred a man's tunic and headdress; and contrary to custom, she would later show her face when she rode an elephant into battle at the head of her army.

A shrewd politician, Razia managed to keep the nobles in check, while enlisting the support of the army and the populace. Her greatest accomplishment on the political front was to manipulate rebel factions into opposing each other. At that point, Razia seemed destined to become one of the most powerful rulers of the Delhi Sultanate.

But Razia miscounted the consequences that a relationship with one of her advisers, Jamal-ud-Din Yaqut, an Abyssinian Siddi (Habshi) slave,[4] would have for her reign. According to some accounts, Razia and Yaqut were lovers, other sources simply identify them as close confidants. In any case, before long she had aroused the jealousy of the Turkic nobility by the favoritism she displayed toward Yaqut, who was not a Turk, when she appointed him to be Superintendent of the Stables. Eventually, a childhood friend named Malik Altunia, the governor of Bhatinda, joined a rebellion by other provincial governors who refused to accept Razia's authority.

A battle between Razia and Altunia ensued, with the result that Yaqut was killed and Razia taken prisoner.[5] She was incarcerated in April, 1240 at Qila Mubarak at Bathinda. While in prison, Razia Sultan was allowed to go to Hajirattan mosque to offer prayers on Fridays in a special palki. She was released in August 1240. To escape death, Razia agreed to marry Altunia. Meanwhile, Razia's brother, Muizuddin Bahram Shah, had usurped the throne. After Altunia and Razia undertook to take back the sultanate from Bahram through battle, both Razia and her husband were defeated on the 24th of Rabi' al-awwal A.H. 638 (October 1240). They fled Delhi and reached Kaithal the next day, where their remaining forces abandoned them. They both fell into the hands of Jats and were robbed and killed on the 25th of Rabi' al-awwal A.H. 638,[6] this date corresponds to October 13, 1240.[7] Bahram, for his part, reigned from 1240 to 1242, but would be dethroned for incompetence.

Legacy[edit]

Billon Jital of Razia

Razia is said to have pointed out that the spirit of religion was more important than its parts, and that even the Islamic prophet Muhammad spoke against overburdening the non-Muslims. On another occasion, she reportedly tried to appoint an Indian Muslim convert from Hinduism to an official position but again ran into opposition from the nobles.

Razia was reportedly devoted to the cause of her empire and to her subjects. There is no record that she made any attempt to remain aloof from her subjects, rather it appears she preferred to mingle among them.

Razia established schools, academies, centers for research, and public libraries that included the works of ancient philosophers along with the Qur'an and the traditions of Muhammad. Hindu works in the sciences, philosophy, astronomy, and literature were reportedly studied in schools and colleges.[citation needed]

Controversy regarding Razia's grave[edit]

Grave of Razia Sultana in Bulbul-i-Khan near Turkoman Gate, Delhi

There are conflicting accounts regarding her actual site of grave. There are at least three claims regarding her grave site. This is compounded by the fact that none of the 3 grave sites has any epitaph (inscription) on tombstone in memory of the one buried there. So far there are no archaeological or documentary evidences to confirm the site of her grave. The dispute is whether she was buried in Kaithal or Delhi or Tonk, and also where were Altunia and Yakut buried.

Claim regarding Razia's Grave at Old Delhi[edit]

First claim is that Razia's grave lies among the narrow lanes of Old Delhi that is in a courtyard in Bulbul-i-khana, Shahjahanabad, near the Turkman Gate entrance. Crumbling and cov

References[edit]