Razia Sultana

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Sultana Raziya
Sultanah of Delhi
Razia Jital.JPG
Billon Jital of Razia
5th Sultana of the Delhi Sultanate
Reign10 October 1236 − 14 October 1240
Coronation10 October 1236
PredecessorRukn ud din Firuz
SuccessorMuiz ud din Bahram
Bornc. 1205
Budaun, Uttar Pradesh, India
Died14 October 1240 (aged 34-35)
Kaithal, Delhi Sultanate
Bulbul-i-Khan near Turkmen Gate, Delhi
SpouseMalik Altunia
Full name
Raziya Begum bint Shams-ud-Din Iltutmish
Regnal name
Jalâlat-ud-Dîn Raziyâ
HouseMamluk dynasty
MotherQutub Begum

Radhiyah bint Iltutmish or popularly known as Razia Sultana (Persian: رَضِيَه سُلْطَان), known in Arabic: رَضِيَة بِنْت إِلْتُتْمِش‎; c. 1205 – 14 October 1240) was the empress regnant of the Delhi Sultanate from 10 October 1236 to 14 October 1240. A member of the Mamluk dynasty, she is known for being one of the few women in history to have ruled a large empire[1] and the first sovereign female ruler in both Islamic and Indian history.[2]

An efficient ruler, according to Persians historian Minhaj-i-Siraj, she was sagacious, just, beneficent, the patron of the learned, a dispenser of justice, the cherisher of her subjects, and of warlike talent, and endowed with all the admirable attributes and qualifications necessary for a monarch.

At the zenith of Razia's power, her empire included large parts of today's modern Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

Early life and Career[edit]

Razia Sultana was the daughter of Shams-ud-din Iltutmish,[3] who had begun life as a Turk slave.[4] Iltutmish had been a great favourite of his master, Qutb ud-din Aibak, the first Sultan of Delhi, and had been married to his only daughter Qutb Begum (or also known as Turkan Khatun), who gave birth to Razia.[5][6]

Razia had a brother named Nasiruddin Mahmud.[7] Being a member of the ruling family, Razia grew up in privileged circumstances and was close to the levers of power both within the harem (where her mother was dominant) and in the court, where she was a favorite of both her maternal grandfather and her father. This was in contrast with her half-brothers Rukn ud-din Firuz, and Muiz ud-din Bahram who were the sons of former slave-girls, and thus grew up quite distant from the centers of power.

When Razia was five years old, Qutubuddin Aibak died and was succeeded by Iltutmish. Razia was a favorite of her father, and as a child was allowed to be present around him while he dealt with affairs of state. Later, like some other princesses of the time, she was trained to administer a kingdom if required, in the absence of her father or her husband.[8] Her abilities and diligence, no less than her mother's royal lineage, commended Razia to Iltutmish and made her a confirmed favorite with him. Nevertheless, Iltutmish's eldest son Nasiruddin Mahmud, Razia's brother, was groomed by Iltutmish to succeed him.

However, Nasiruddin Mahmud died suddenly in 1229 CE, and Iltutmish was at a loss as to a successor because he felt that none of his several surviving sons, born of his other wives, were worthy of the throne.[4] In 1230, he had to leave the capital in order to lead an invasion against Gwalior. During his absence, Razia acted as a competent regent, with the assistance of the Sultan's trusted minister. Iltutmish returned to Delhi in 1231 after having captured Gwalior, and the issue of succession was foremost on his mind. Iltutmish became the first sultan to appoint a woman as his successor when he designated Razia as his heir apparent. However, after Iltutmish died on 30 April 1236, Razia's half-brother Rukn ud-din Firuz was elevated to the throne instead.

Rukn ud-din Firuz's reign was short. With Iltutmish's widow Shah Turkan for all practical purposes running the government, Rukn ud-din abandoned himself to the pursuit of personal pleasure and debauchery, to the outrage of the citizenry. On 9 November 1236, both Rukn ud din and his mother Shah Turkaan were assassinated[9] after only six months in power. With reluctance, the nobility agreed to allow Razia to reign as Sultana of Delhi.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Razia's reign was going glorious and she ruled for almost 4 years but soon she was caught up in a conspiracy by her step brother Bahram shah and Malik Ikhtiar-ud-din Altunia the subedar of Bhatinda, together with the help of turkish nobles they planned to dethrone Razia , whom the nobles couldn't bear ruling Delhi as she was a woman.Razia fought the battle hard but unfortunately lost and was imprisoned , to save her life she agreed to marry Altunia , the subedar of Bhatinda.Some turkish nobles earlier joined Razia's name with Jamal-ud-din yakut a Abyssian slave with intention to ruin Razia's reputation among public .


A battle between Razia and Altunia ensued, with the result that Yaqut was killed and Razia taken prisoner. Death Escape.[11] 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 24th of Rabi' al-awwal A.H. 638 (Oct. 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 by the JATS on 25th of Rabi' al-awwal A.H. 638,Bio.[12] this date corresponds to October 13, 1240. Bahram, for his part, would later be dethroned for incompetence.


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. She especially protected and preserved the indigenous cultures of her Hindu subjects during her reign.[13] Her reign was characterised as spirited and dynamic by many.

In popular culture[edit]

Razia Sultan is a 1983 biopic on Razia Sultan, with Hema Malini taking the titular role.[14]

In 2015, & TV started airing Razia Sultan, a TV series on the life of Razia, starring Pankhuri Awasthy. Both the film and tv show were far from actual history of Razia sultan and showed some fabricated sequences for audience interest.

Burial site[edit]

According to Historian Rana Safvi's book, 'The Forgotten Cities of Delhi', Sultana Raziya's grave lies near Turkman Gate in Bulbul-i-khana near Bhojali Pahari. It is known locally as "Rajji Shajji Ki Qabr". The other grave is said to be of her sister Shazia. She was a devotee of Shah Turkman Bayabani, a thirteenth-century saint and the place where she is buried is said to be his khanqah, his hospice.

'The Forgotten Cities of Delhi' quotes Sir Syed and states that Sultan Raziya's grave was built by her brother and successor Muizuddin Bahram Shah.

In her book, Rana Safvi writes, "The lanes leading to her tomb are very confusing and one has to ask for directions at Bhojala Pahari. There is an ASI board which leads into Bulbulikhana. At the end of some narrow, dingy lanes is another stone sign by ASI, which announces the last resting place of South Asia's first female monarch."


  1. ^ Bowering et al., The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought, ISBN 978-0691134840, Princeton University Press
  2. ^ Table of Delhi Kings: Muazzi Slave King The Imperial Gazetteer of India, 1909, v. 2, p. 368.
  3. ^ "The rise and fall of Delhi's only female monarch".
  4. ^ a b Reina Pennington (2003). Amazons to Fighter Pilots: a Biographical Dictionary of Military Women. Westport, CT: Greenwood press. p. 355. ISBN 0313291977.
  5. ^ Sharma, Sudha (21 March 2016). The Status of Muslim Women in Medieval India. SAGE Publications India. pp. 196, n.2, 3. ISBN 978-9-351-50567-9.
  6. ^ Jackson-Laufer, Guida Myrl (1999). Women Rulers Throughout the Ages: An Illustrated Guide. ABC-CLIO. p. 341. ISBN 978-1-576-07091-8.
  7. ^ Siddiqi, Iqtidar Husain (1992). Perso-Arabic sources of information on the life and conditions in the Sultanate of Delhi. Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers. p. 6.
  8. ^ Gloria Steinem (Introduction), Herstory: Women Who Changed the World, eds. Deborah G. Ohrn and Ruth Ashby, Viking, (1995) p. 34-36. ISBN 978-0670854349 Archived 19 June 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Satish Chandra, History of Medieval India(800–1700), New Delhi, Orient Longman, (2007), p.100. ISBN 81-250-3226-6
  10. ^ Reina Pennington (2003). Amazons to Fighter Pilots: a Biographical Dictionary of Military Women. Westport, CT: Greenwood press. p. 356. ISBN 0313291977.
  11. ^ "Razia Sultan Death". History. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  12. ^ "Bio". Jatland. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  13. ^ Majumdar, R.C., ed. The History and Culture of the Indian People. Volume V. Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1957
  14. ^ "Razia Sultan". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
Preceded by
Rukn ud din Firuz
Mamluk Dynasty
Succeeded by
Muiz ud din Bahram
Preceded by
Rukn ud din Firuz
Sultan of Delhi
Succeeded by
Muiz ud din Bahram


  • Asif, Salman, and Kate Montgomery. Razia: Warrior Queen of India. London: Hood Hood Books, 1998. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/43208215
  • Goel, Devendra, Chandrakant Chadda, Nirupa Roy, Jairaj, Kamran, M. Kumar, N.A. Ansari, and Lachhiram. Razia sultan Raziyā Sultāna. Mumbai: Shemaroo Entertainemtn, 2012. DVD; NTSC all regions; 5.1 surround sound. Hindi with English subtitles. Abstract: A tale of stormy love and passion for each other and unflinching loyalty between Razia, the Queen Empress of India and an Abyssinian slave Yaqub. She became immortalised as a symbol of the highest, the noblest and the most sacred in love. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/905056178
  • Dasgupta, Shahana. Razia: The People's Queen. New Delhi: Rupa & Co, 2001. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/422540172
  • Maqbul Arshad. Razia Sultana. Lahore: Maqbul Academy, 1900. Fiction: Juvenile audience: Urdu. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/651942430

External links[edit]