Extraordinary Women of the Medieval and Renaissance World: A Biographical Dictionary

By Carole Levin; Debra Barrett-Graves et al. | Go to book overview

RAZIYA, THE SULTAN
(also Raziyya, Razia, Radiyya)
(no dates)

India
Muslim Queen

Sultan Raziya ruled in northern India from 1236 to 1240 as a Muslim ruler, the fifth in the first Muslim dynasty, known as the Slave Kings. Islamic Turks had conquered territory in northern India in the late twelfth century and established a Sultanate of Delhi. Raziya's father chose her as his heir instead of her brothers because she was most able. The author of Tabakat-i Nasiri, the only contemporary authority for the period, describes her as wise, fair, generous, and brave. She protected her people, dispensed justice, and led her armies. She dressed as a man and rode at the head of her troops on an elephant. She did all she could to break the power of the Muslim nobles. But despite all her gifts, the fact that she was a woman made her unacceptable to too many of her subjects, and she was able to rule for only four years. She was imprisoned and later killed. Because of the horror so many felt over having a woman ruler, Raziya's rule was ignored or slandered by many historians.

Raziya's father Iltutmish Kutb-ud-Din ascended the throne of Delhi in 1210 or 1211 and immediately fought to keep his rivals from taking over his territory. Most of his reign was spent fighting both Hindu and other Muslim chiefs in an attempt to consolidate his empire and make his throne secure. He was successful and by the end of the reign ruled much of northern India. He was not only a brave warrior but also a shrewd and talented ruler who worked to keep his empire independent and to encourage its economy. He built up the city of Delhi so that it was beautiful and a center of learning and culture. He was also intensely religious and always spent part of each night in prayer and meditation.

In 1229 his oldest son and heir, Mahmud, died. Raziya, daughter of Iltutmish's chief wife, Turkan Khatun, lived in the chief royal pal

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