[PDF Notes] Comprehensive Biography of Sultana Raziya

After the death of Rukn-ud-Din Firuz Shah, Sultana Raziya was put on the throne. Dr. R. P. Tripathi points out that considering “the time and general outlook of the Muslim people, chiefly of the military and religious classes, the selection of Raziya was unique and most daring. Although her reign lasted for three years and a half, yet its significance cannot be measured by Dr. Habibullah points out that taking advantage of the absence of her brother, Raziya cleverly exploited the general discontent against the rule of Shah Turkan.

Clad in a red garment customary for the aggrieved, Raziya showed herself to the people assembled for the Friday prayers and in the name of her father appealed for help against the intrigues of Shah Turkan. This had a profound effect on the people, lsami tells us that Raziya even entered into an agreement with the people to the following effect: “She was to be given a chance to prove her abilities and if she did not prove better than men, her head was to be struck off.”

The army officers lent their weight to the action and by the time her brother came back in the city, Raziya’s enthronement was complete and Shah Turkan had been thrown into prison. At least it indicates the freshness and robustness of the Turkish mind in the thirteenth century, which then seemed to be capable of taking of such a bold step and trying such a pediment.

It was left to only one solitary jurist to observe, some three centuries afterwards, that the selection of Raziya was most curious and to express his surprise at the action of contemporary ‘unrests and Shaikhs who confirmed it. He explains it away by suggesting that it must have been due to the united support and power of the maliks.”

Prof. K. A. Nizami says that the accession of Raziya to the throne of Delhi was marked by veral striking features. The people of Delhi, for the first time in the history of Delhi Sultanate decided a succession issue on their own initiative. The support of the Delhi population was the main source of the strength of Raziya.

So long as she did not move out of Delhi, no rising against her could succeed and no violent revolution was possible against her. Raziya gave her accession the form of a contract when she asked the people to depose her if she did fulfill their expectations.

It vindicated the choice of Iltutmish. It shows the virility and robustness of the urkish mind in accepting a woman as a ruler. It indicates the indifference or impotence of the eulogies in matters of state as the elevation of a woman to royal authority was contrary to Islamic practice.

The army, officers and the people of Delhi had placed Raziya on -the throne and aurally the provincial Governors felt ignored and humiliated and consequently from the very beginning of her reign, Raziya and to deal with their opposition. Art) Raziya had remarkable talents.

According to Minhaj-us-Siraj, she was a great sovereign, gacious, just, beneficent, the patron of the learned, a dispenser of justice, the cherisher of her subjects and of warlike talent and was endowed with all the admirable attributes and qualifications necessary for kings. She marched in person against her enemies. She put aside her dress s a woman.

She gave up veil and “donned the tunic and assumed the head dress of a man.” She conducted the affairs of the state with considerable ability in open Darbar. She tried to “play the king” in all possible ways. In spite of all this, her rule ended after a brief period of three years and a half for the simple reason that she was a woman.

The throne which was ascended by Sultana Raziya was not a bed of roses. The Governors of Multan, Badaun, Hansi and Lahore openly revolted against her. Wazir Muhammad Junaidi and some other nobles refused to reconcile themselves to have a woman as their ruler.

For some time, by intrigues and diplomacy, Raziya was able to create dissensions among the rebel Governors and nobles. Wazir Junaidi was defeated and he retired and died. She was also able to win over some of Muslim nobles to her side.

During her reign, some unorthodox sects among the Muslims raised the standard of revolt. They were’ed by Nur-ud-Din. They entered the Jama Masjid of Delhi and tried to harass the orthodox people by performing their own prayers. Raziya took no time in sending a force against them. They were crushed and order was restored in the capital.

It is contended that if Raziya had not been a woman, she would have been a most successful ruler in India. Her great weakness was her sex. Elphinstone points out that even “her talents and virtues were insufficient to protect her from (this) single weakness.” She began to show undue favours to Jamal-ud-Din Yaqut, an Abyssinian slave, who was raised to the post of the master of stables. Ibn Batuta says that her fondness for the Abyssinian was criminal.

However, no such allegation has been made by Minhaj-us-Siraj, the contemporary writer. He simply says that the Abyssinian “acquired favour in attendance upon the Sultana.” The only allegation made against Raziya by Farishta is that “a very great degree of familiarity was observed to exist between the Abyssinian and the Queen, so much so that when she rode he always lifted her on horse by raising her up under those arms.”

According to Thomas, “It was not that a virgin Queen was forbidden to love. She might have indulged herself in submissive Prince Consort or reveled almost unchecked in the dark recesses of the palace harem, but way ward fancy pointed in a wrong direction and led her to prefer a person employed about her court the Turki nobles resented with one accord.’” However, this view is not accepted by Major Raverty who contends that the attack of Thomas was without a just cause.

The nobles became jealous of Yaqut and turned against Raziya. There were simultaneous revolts in the various parts of the kingdom. The Governor of Lahore was the first to create trouble but he was defeated by Raziya. There was a serious rebellion in Bhatinda.

Malik lkhtiar-ud-Din Altunia, Governor of Bhatinda, refused to acknowledge the suzerainty of Raziya. No wonder, Raziya accompanied by Yaqut marched against Altunia. On the way, the Turkish followers of Altunia murdered Yaqut and imprisoned Raziya. She was placed in charge of Altunia and her brother Bahram was proclaimed the Sultan of Delhi. Raziya felt that the only way out of the difficulties was to marry Altunia and she did accordingly.

After that, the newly married couple marched towards Delhi. When she reached near Kaithal, she was deserted by the followers of Altunia. On 13th October, 1240, she was defeated by Bahram. On the next day, she was put to death along with her husband. Thus ended the brilliant career of a young lady who gave promise of greatness.

About Raziya, Minhas-us-Siraj says: “Sultana Raziya was a great monarch. She was wise, just and generous, benefactor to her kingdom, and a dispenser of justice, the protector of her subjects and the leader of her armies. She was endowed with all the qualities befitting a king, but she was not born of the right sex, and so, in the estimation of men, all these virtues were worthless.”

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