|Sultan of Delhi
Governor of Badayun
|Reign||1210– 28 April 1236|
|Successor||Rukn ud din Firuz|
|Died||28 April 1236|
|Burial||Qutb Complex, Mehrauli, Delhi|
|Spouse||Nadira Begum, Qutub Begum, Shah Turkan|
Shams-ud-din Iltutmish (reigned: 1211–36) was a ruler of the Delhi Sultanate in India. Although his predecessor Qutb ud Din Aibak established the Mamluk Dynasty of Delhi, Iltutmish is considered the founder of the Delhi Sultanate, because he consolidated its position in India.
Shams-ud-din Iltutmish was the second ruler of the Slave dynasty. He founded the Delhi Sultanate in 1211 and received the Caliph's investiture in his rule. He conquered Multan and Bengal from contesting rulers, and Ranathambhore and Siwalik from their rulers.
He expanded his domain by defeating the Muslim rulers of Ghazni, Multan and Bengal, which had previously annexed some of his territories and threatened his domain. He conquered the latter two territories and made further conquests in the Hindu lands, conquering the fort of Ranathambhore and the lands of Gwalior and the fort of Mandur.
He instituted many changes to the Sultanate, re-organising the monetary system and the nobility as well as the distribution of grounds and fiefs, and erected many buildings, including Mosques, Khanqas (Monasteries), Dargahs (Graves) and a Hauz (reservoir) for pilgrims.
Shams ud-din Iltutmish founded the Delhi Sultanate and much strengthened the power of the slave dynasty and of Islam in the India, although his kindred and heirs were not as politically gifted, with no ruler comparable to him in the area until the time of Ghiasuddin Balban.
The name Iltutmish is a Turkic name, meaning "he has held/owned land" (İltutmuş, in modern Turkish). Another theory concerning the meaning of the name suggests a connection with an eclipse that supposedly occurred at his birth (an event of some importance in the view of the people of the time). The other etymologies for his name include Altamash, which donates the number sixty, or the guard of the army, which is the ancient Turkic Khanates numbered at sixty; but this theory falsely draws its source from that he is often referred to as "Al-Tamash", which is most likely an Arabic variation of his Turkic name.
The title "Shams ad-Dunya Wa'd-Din" is a royal Laqab (regal title) of the time, translated as "Sun of the world and [of the] Faith" which he used once he was established Sultan at Delhi. Subsequent to the investiture by the Caliph, he was also addressed by the title "Yamin Amir al-Mu'minin" - The righthand man of the commander of the Faithful, or as "Naib" (lieutenant) of the Commander of the Faithful, which is the Caliph.
Early life and career
Shams-ud-din belonged to the tribe of Ilbari in the Eurasian Steppe of Turkestan. While his association (by his biographers) with the Turkic nobility of that tribe confidence can be seen as dubious and anachronistic, it is possible that he was indeed high-born.
He was sold into slavery at an early age, reportedly after being sold by his kinsmen to slave merchants. the motif was for being handsome and particularly intelligent that Iltutmish caused jealousy among his brothers (a motif admittedly taken from the Biblical and Quranic tale of Joseph) that were all around the Steppe, supplying Turkic slaves as soldiers (Ghilman) to the military Elite of the Muslim world of the time.
He was taken to the great slave market of Bukhara, and later to Ghazni, which was the Western capital of the Ghurid dynasty, where he was purchased to the court of the Sultan, Muhammad Ghuri Sam, a notable Muslim ruler of the time. Earning some reputation in his court, he was quickly appointed personal attendant of the Sultan.
Muhammad's deputy and former slave, Qutub-ud-din-Aybak, then Viceroy of Lahore, sought to procure the slave. Due to the Sultan's refusal to sell his slave to his nobles, it was decided that Iltutmish be taken to Delhi, and there bought by Aibak, so that the Sultan's orders may not be violated in his own capital. Aibak bought Iltutmish and another slave (who would later perish) for the high price of 100,000 Tankas, the silver coin used in Muslim India.
He rose quickly in Aibak's service, earned the title Amir Tamghach, married Aibak's daughter, and served in succession as the Governor of Tabarind, Gwalior and Baran. In recognition of his services during the campaign of Muhammad of Ghur against the Khokhars in 1205-06, he was, by the Sultan's order, manumitted. Iltutmish was appointed Governor of Badaun in 1206 and was serving in this post when Aibak died in a polo accident and succeeded by Aram Shah. Subsequently, a group of noblemen invited Iltutmish to stake his claim on the Indian dominions of the Ghurids.
Sultan of Delhi
Rise to power
In 1210, Qutb-ud-din Aibak died in a Polo accident in his capital of Lahore. Muizzi amirs, who had been appointed by Muhammad of Ghor, supported Aram Shah, whose relation to Aibak is clad in mystery. Sources and estimations vary, considering him Aibak's son, brother or one of his nobles.
Qutbi amirs, owing allegiance to Aibak, invited Iltutmish, then Governor of Badaun, to seize power in Delhi. Aram Shah acceded to the throne in Lahore. In 1211, Iltutmish claimed the throne in Delhi. Aram Shah marched towards Delhi but was slain in battle at Bagh-i-Jud (the plains of Jud) leaving Iltutmish unopposed in Delhi.
On his accession, Iltutmish faced a number of challenges to his rule. In the aftermath of Aibak's death, the Ghurid dominions in India had divided into four. Iltutmish controlled Delhi. Nasir-ud-Din Qabacha, the Governor of Uch and Multan asserted his independence. Ali Mardan Khilji, who had been appointed Governor of Lakhnauti in Bengal by Aibak in 1206, had thrown off his allegiance to Delhi after his death and styled himself Sultan Ala-ud-din. His successor, Ghiyasuddin, conquered Bihar. Lahore was contested by Iltutmish, Qabacha and [Tajuddin Yildoz], Muhammad of Ghor's adopted son and successor in Ghazni. Yildoz attempted to bring Delhi under his control. Initially, Iltutmish acknowledged Yildoz's suzerainty by accepting the symbolic presents of the chatr and durbash. The Hindu princes and chiefs were discontented at their loss of independence and had recovered Kannauj, Benaras, Gwalior, and Kalinjar had been lost during Qutub-ud-din's reign while Ranthambore had been reconquered by the Chauhans during Aram Shah's rule. To add to Iltutmish's troubles, some of the Amirs of Delhi expressed resentment against his rule.
The first order of business was to bring under control dependencies of Delhi that were under the control of Muizzi nobles and Hindu chieftains. Iltutmish launched military campaigns to assert his rule over Awadh, Badaun, Benaras and Siwalik. Iltutmish's son Nasir-ud-din Mahmud captured the Gangetic valley territories of Budaun, Kanauj, and the Hindus' holy city of Benaras. Rohilkhand was taken with heavy losses.
In 1215-1216, Yildoz, who had been defeated and expelled from Ghazni by the forces of the Shah of Khwarezm, moved towards Punjab and captured Lahore from Qabacha. Yildoz laid claim to the throne of Delhi as the heir to Muhammad of Ghor. Iltutmish refused, stating:
[T]he dominion of the world is enjoyed by the one who possesses the greatest strength. The principle of hereditary succession is not extinct but long ago destiny abolished this custom.
Iltutmish defeated Yildoz at Tarain. Yildoz was imprisoned in Badaun and was later executed. This ended Ghazni's aspirations to dominate northern India
After the death of Yildoz, Qabacha had retaken Lahore. In 1217, Iltutmish led his army towards Qabacha. Qabacha attempted to retreat from Lahore towards Multan but was defeated at Mansura. Iltutmish refrained from attacking Sindh due to the presence of Mongols on his north-west frontier. Iltutmish was preoccupied with the Mongol threat and did not threaten Qabacha until year 1227. Lahore was under Iltutmish's rule but not for long.
In 1221, the Mongols, under Genghis Khan appeared for the first time on the banks of the Indus. They had overrun the countries of Central and Western Asia with lightning rapidity. The Mongols sacked the Khwarazmian kingdom (Khwarazm-Shah), captured Khiva and forced its ruler, Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu al-Khwarazmi to flee to the Punjab.
Mingburnu, a staunt opposer of the Mongols, entered into an alliance with the Khokhars and captured Lahore and much of the Punjab. He requested an alliance with Shams-ud-din against the Mongols . The Sultan of Delhi refused, not wishing to get into a conflict with Genghis Khan and marched towards Lahore at the head of a large army. Mingburnu retreated from Lahore and moved towards Uchch inflicting a heavy defeat on Qabacha, and plundered Sindh and northern Gujarat and returned to Persia in 1224. The Mongols invested Multan before leaving as well.
Consolidation of power
Loath to get into a conflict with the Mongols, Iltutmish turned his attention towards the Hindu east. Iltutmish marched against Ghiyasuddin in 1225 and was successful. Ghiyasuddin accepted Iltutmish's suzerainty, ceded Bihar, and paid a large tribute. However, soon after Iltutmish left, Ghiyasuddin revoked the agreement and retook control of Bihar. Iltutmish's son Nasiruddin Mahmud, Governor of Awadh was tasked with dealing with Bengal. In 1227, when Ghiyasuddin was campaigning in Assam, Mahmud launched a sudden attack, capturing Lakhnauti. Ghiyasuddin was imprisoned and then executed. Mahmud died suddenly in 1229, to the dismay of his father. This led to further revolts by the Khalji Maliks of Bengal until Iltutmish captured Lakhnauti again in 1230. Ala-ud-din Jani was appointed Governor of Lakhnauti.
Iltutmish then turned his attention to Qabacha. Capture of Bengal and Rajput territories had significantly enhanced the state of Iltutmish's treasury whereas Qabacha had been weakened by Mingburnu's sack of Uchch and the Mongol siege of Multan. The upheaval caused by the Mongol invasion had led to a large number of military adventurers and officers from Turkic lands to move to India. Iltutmish's replenished treasury allowed him to recruit a large army. A number of officials also defected from Qabacha's camp. In 1228, Iltutmish attacked Qabacha. Ucch was captured after a siege of three months. Qabacha fled and was surrounded on all sides in the fort of Bhakkar, on the banks of Indus. He drowned while attempting to escape. Sindh and Multan were incorporated into the Delhi Sultanate and placed under separate governors.
In 1228-29, Iltutmish received emissaries from the Abbasid Caliph Al-Mustansir and was presented with the Caliphal robe (khilat) and investiture (manshur) signifying the Caliphate's recognition of Iltutmish's rule over India. Such recognition was highly sought after by the Sunni Muslim rulers of India as it lent religious and political legitimacy and prestige. In Iltutmish's case, in particular, this was a symbolic declaration of the Delhi Sultanate's status as an independent kingdom rather than a client of the Ghurids. and earned Iltutmish the title of "Lieutanat" (Naib) or "righthand man" (Yamin) of the Caliph, or Commander of the Faithfull (Amir al-Mu'minin). Iltutmish also went to Egypt, the seat of the Caliph under the Ayyubid Cairo Sultanate, as part of the mutual delegations between his domain and the Caliphate.
Due to his problems first with Turkic nobles and then with the Mongols, Iltutmish had also ignored the Rajputs, who had regained territory lost earlier to the Turks, for the first fifteen years of his reign. Starting in 1226, however, Iltutmish began a series of campaigns against the Rajputs. Ranthambore, considered impregnable, was taken in 1226; Mandsaur in 1227. Bayana, Ajmer and Sambhar were also captured. Ranthambore was returned to its Chauhan rulers, who served as feudatories, while Ajmer remained part of the Delhi Sultanate. Nagaur was captured in 1230 and Gwalior was captured in 1231 after a one-year siege. Iltutmish's army was forced to retreat with heavy losses from Gujarat by the ruling Chalukyas. In 1235, Iltutmish sacked Ujjain.
During his dominion in Badaun, Iltutmish built the city's fort (Kotla) and the Jama Masjid Shamsi (great Friday Mosque) of the city, which remained the biggest and most famous Mosque in Medieval India until the expansion of Delhi's Jama Masjid in Alauddin's time and is still second largest with the largest Mosque Dome.
Shams ud-din built several Khanqas (monasteries) and Dargahs (graves) for Sufi saints, as Sufism was dominant in the Deccan. He commenced the structure of Hamid ud-din's Khanaqa, and build the Gandhak-ki-Baoli, a stepwell for the Sufi saint, Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, who moved to Delhi during his reign.
Near the Gandhaki Baoli, Shams ud-din also built the Hauz-i-Shamsi, a watertank (a popular means for the welfare of pilgrims), which he erected in 1230 after the Prophet Muhammad was claimed to have appeared in his dream and led him there. Iltutmish claimed to have found the footprint of the Buraq, the prophet's mount, at the site. The site also encompasses the Jahaz Mahal standing on its edge, used by later Mughal Emperors.
In 1231, following the demise of his oldest son and heir apparent, Nasir ud-Din Mahmud, he built Sultan Ghari the mausoleum for him, which was the first Islamic Mausoleum in Delhi. The tomb lies within fortified grounds, which also include the graves of several others of Iltutmish's kindred.
He is said to have completed the construction of the Qutb Minar, erected by Qutb ud-din, and expanded the Qutb complex and the Quwwat al-Islam Mosque therein.
The early Ghurid rulers had maintained the Rajput coinage system based on the Hindushahi bull-and horseman coins in place at the Delhi mint. Dehliwala, the standard coin, was a silver-copper alloy with a uniform weight of 3.38 grams, of which 0.59 grams was Silver. The major source of silver for the Delhi mint were coin hoards from Central Asia. Another source was European silver which made its way to Delhi via the Red Sea, Persian Gulf through the ports of Gujarat. By the 1220s, supply from Central Asia had dried up and Gujarat was under control of hostile forces.
In response to the lack of silver, Iltutmish introduced a new bimetallic coinage system to Northern India consisting of an 11 grams silver Tanka and the billon Jital, with 0.25 grams of silver. The Dehliwala was devalued to be on par with the Jital. This meant that a Dehliwala with 0.59 grams of silver was now equivalent to a coin with 0.25 grams of silver. Each Dehliwala paid as tax, therefore produced an excess 0.34 grams of silver which could be used to produce Tankas. The new system served as the basis for coinage for much of the Sultanate period and even beyond, though periodic shortages of silver caused further debasement. The Tanka is a forerunner to the Rupee.
Iltutmish introduced the Iqta-dar system, which had been the common practice of the majority of the Islamic world since the time of the Buyids. The system shares some similarities with the contemporary European custom of Feudalism, and involved dedicating the profits of a certain land of fief (Quta'/Iqta' in other islamic lands) to warlords in payment of their martial service and political loyalty. It was basically grant of revenue from a territory instead of a salary.
Shams ud-din's court was abundant with poets in the Arabic and Persian languages. He is said to have rewarded a poet called Nasiri for writing him a fifty-three couplets long Qasida, by giving him fifty-three thousands Tankas; Iltutmish is also said to have learned the opening (Fatiha) of the Qasida by heart. His victories against the Hindu Rajputs of Ranathambhor was celebrated by the poet Ruhani al-Samarqandi to devote these verses to the Sultan:
- The faithful Gabriel carried the tidings to the dwellers in heaven,
- From the record of victories of the Sulṭán of the age Shams ud-Dín,
- Saying — Oh ye holy angels raise upon the heavens,
- Hearing this good tidings, the canopy of adornment.
- That from the land of the heretics the Sháhansháh of Islám
- Has conquered a second time the fort resembling the sky;
- The Sháh, holy warrior and Ghází, whose hand and sword
- The soul of the lion of repeated attacks praises.
The verses compare the Sultan to 'Ali, who is often called Asad-Illah (or Shir-i Khuda), and adornes him with the Persian title of Shanshah (King of Kings) and clearly refer to Ranathambor as "the fort resembling the sky", due to its high position in the mountains. The famous poet, Amir Khusraw, was a poet in the service of his court, as well, and has mentioned the Sultan in verses often.
Shams ud-din installed a new nobility, which was based on a confederation of Turkic and a few Mawali (new Muslims of Hindu origin) that were acquitants of him or of Qutb ud-din. They formed a council of forty (Chilanghan) which was very powerful and became the de facto rulers behind the majority of his heirs.
Death and succession
The death of Iltutmish was followed by years of political instability at Delhi. During this period, four descendants of Iltutmish were put on the throne and murdered. Iltutmish's eldest son, Nasir-ud-din Mahmud, had died in 1229 while governing Bengal as his father's deputy. The surviving sons of the Sultan were incapable of the task of administration. In 1236, Iltutmish, on his death-bed, nominated his daughter Razia as his heiress. But, Razia did not have support of the nobles of the court, who did not want a woman ruler.
Iltutmish's eldest surviving son, Rukn-ud-din Firuz was raised to the throne. Firuz left governance in the hands of his mother, Shah Turken. Firuz was deposed within six months, and Razia became the ruler. Razia's growing assertiveness brought her in conflict with the nobles. In 1240, a rebellion led to the replacement of Razia by her brother, Muiz ud din Bahram. Bahram ruled for two years before he was overthrown in favour of Firuz's son, Ala ud din Masud in 1242.
Order was re-established only after Iltutmish's grandson Nasir-ud-din-Mahmud became Sultan with Iltutmish's prominent slave, Ghias-ud-din-Balban as his Deputy Sultan (Naib) in 1246. Balban held all the power at the time and became Sultan in 1266. There was internal stability from 1246 until 1290 when Jalal-ud-din Khilji overthrew Balban's great-grandson Kayumarath, thus ending the Mamluk Dynasty and founded the Khilji Dynasty.
- Ghulam Husain Salim Zaidpuri, Riyaz us-Salatin (1778); link:  (retrieved: 13 December 2013)
- The tradition goes that the intelligence, sagacity and handsome appearance of Iltutmish excited the jealousy of his brothers who sold him into slavery at an early age
- Mehta 1986, pp. 90–91
- Jackson 2003, p. 29
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- Wink 1997, p. 156
- Chandra 2004, pp. 44–45
- Hoiberg, Dale, and Indu Ramchandani, Students' Britannica India, (C&C offset Printing Co. LTD., 2000), 178.
- Ring, Trudy and Robert M. Salkin, Paul E Schellinger, Sharon La Boda, International Dictionary of Historic Places: Asia and Oceania, (Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1996), 837.
- Smith, Ronald Vivian (2005), The Delhi that no-one knows, Orient Blackswan, pp. 11–12, ISBN 81-8028-020-9
- Y.D.Sharma (2001). "Delhi and its Neighbourhood". Hauzi-i-Shamsi (New Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India). pp. 63–64 &73. Retrieved 2009-04-24.
- Blanchard 2005, pp. 1263–64
- Blanchard 2005, pp. 1264–65
- Wink 1997, p. 155
- Ghulam Husain Salim Zaidpuri, Riyaz us-Salatin (1778); link:  (retrieved: 13 December 2013).
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- Mehta, p. 98
- Sen, Sailendra (2013). A Textbook of Medieval Indian History. Primus Books. pp. 74–76. ISBN 978-9-38060-734-4.
- Jackson 2003, pp. 46–47
- Dara Shikoh and Other Poems The Caravan, May 2014
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Shams-ud-din Iltutmish.|
- Blanchard, Ian (2005), Mining, Metallurgy and Minting in the Middle Ages, 3, Franz Steiner Verlag
- Chandra, Satish (2004), Medieval India: From Sultanat to the Mughals-Delhi Sultanat (1206-1526) - Part One, Har-Anand Publications.
- Ikram, Sheikh Mohamad (1966), Muslim Rule in India & Pakistan, 711-1858 A.C., Star Book Depot.
- Jackson, Peter (2003), The Delhi Sultanate: A Political and Military History, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-54329-0.
- Mehta, J.L. (1986), Advanced Study in the History of Medieval India, Vol. 1, Sterling Publishers.
- McLeod, John (2002), The History of India, Greenwood Press.
- Wink, Andre (1997), Al-Hind: The Making of the Indo-Islamic World, Vol. II - The Slave Kings and the Islamic Conquest 11th-13th centuries, Brill, ISBN 90-04-10236-1.
|Sultan of the Mamluk Dynasty
Rukn ud din Firuz
|Sultan of Delhi
Rukn ud din Firuz