Who was the first woman ruler of Delhi Sultanate?

Delhi Dec 09, 2019

Razia Sultana, the eldest daughter of the Turk ruler, Illtutmish and his chief wife Terken Khatun, was the first woman to rule over Delhi. Razia Sultana was the only woman ruler in India to have ascended the throne in her right, as the lawful successor. Other female rulers were acting as regents for minor males for example, Rani Laxmibai. She ruled over the Delhi Sultanate from 1236 to 1240. She took the throne on November 10, 1236 under her official name Jalalat-ud-Din Raziya after being named successor by her dying father on his deathbed as he did not deem his sons to take over after the son he wanted should take over, Naser al-Din Mahmud Shah died prematurely.

No easy climb to the top

Even before she was announced as Illtutmish’s heir by an official decree, his attendants, his nobility and advisors were against the idea and had assumed Razia’s half brother Firuz Shah would take the throne and he did take the throne for a brief period of time but his rule was dominated by his mother’s ideas who used the power to settle old scores and wanted to execute Razia which ultimately led to a rebellion and seized her. Razia was finally put to power after this tumultuous episode who then ordered Firuz Shah to be imprisoned and executed.

Against the odds

1. She refused to be called Sultana, as she perceived the people using the term to address her would be identifying her gender with it. She proclaimed herself the “ Sultan” as she did not think she was any inferior to her male predecessors.

2. She made a conscious decision to give up the traditional Muslim attire and opted for a gender neutral attire and this led to the people who were opposing her rule in silence and also the people who supported her attempting rebellions against her which she quelled successfully.

But then she could not quell Malik Ikhtiar-ud-din Altunia's conspiracy. Altunia was the then governor of what is present day Bhatinda. She was captured by Alttunia. The Turk Emirs who supported this rebellion were hoping to assert their influence on the kingdom under the new Sultan, by having Aytegin appointed as the vicerory. But Aytegin overstepped his bounds and was executed and this is when a dramatic twist happened. Altunia who was hoping to extract some favors from Aytegin who was now dead, thought marrying Razia would help him advance his favours and they both led a battle against the new ruler and were executed in October 1240.