The following points highlight the top five successors of Sultan Iltutmish. They are: 1. Rukn-Ud-Din Firoz Shah 2. Sultana Raziyya 3. Muizzudin Bahram Shah 4. Ala-Ud-Din Masud Shah 5. Nasir-Ud-Din Mahmud Shah.

Successor # 1. Rukn-Ud-Din Firoz Shah:

The eldest and the ablest son of Iltutmish had died in 1229 A.D. His next son, Firoz, was lazy, pleasure-loving and irresponsible. Iltutmish, therefore, nominated his daughter Raziyya as his successor and coins were struck on which the name of Raziyya was inscribed along with the name of the Sultan.

But, probably, during his illness before his death, he changed his mind because of the opposition of certain nobles, brought Firoz to Delhi from Lahore and issued coins bearing the name of Firoz along with his own name.

It meant that before his death, Iltutmish desired that instead of Raziyya, his son, Firoz should succeed him. However, it is not quite certain whether Iltutmish desired that his daughter Raziyya should succeed him or his son Firoz.


After the death of Iltutmish, Firoz succeeded the throne of Delhi. His mother, Shah Turkan, was a clever and intriguer lady and could enlist the support of Wazir, Nizam-ul-Mulk Muhammad Junaidi and the provincial governors who had gathered at Delhi after the campaign in the north-west with Iltutmish. But, the reign of Firoz proved short-lived.

While he himself engaged in sensual pleasures, his mother proved cruel and treacherous which created dissatisfaction among the nobility. It resulted into revolts. The governors of Multan, Hansi, Lahore and Badaun entered into an understanding against Firoz and marched with their armies towards Delhi with a view to depose Firoz from the throne. Firoz proceeded against them with his army.

On the way, the larger part of his army revolted, killed non-Turkish nobles and returned to Delhi. At the capital, Raziyya took advantage of Firoz’s absence. She succeeded in getting support of the people of Delhi and also that of the nobles and the soldiers who had left Firoz and returned to the capital. She declared herself Sultana in Firoz’s absence. Shah Turkan was imprisoned and so was Firoz. Both were killed afterwards. Thus ended the reign of Firoz within seven months after his succession.

The accession and deposition of Firoz brought out one point. He was placed on the throne with the active support of the provincial governors and he was deposed from the throne because of the revolt of governors against him and active support of the people and nobles at Delhi to Raziyya.


It meant that both Firoz and Raziyya ascended the throne with the support of the nobles the one with the support of provincial governors and the other with the support of the nobles at Delhi. It further meant that both the nobles at the court and the provincial governors desired to interfere and, in turn, succeeded in putting their respective candidates on the throne.

However, the provincial governors had not participated directly in raising Raziyya to the throne which they desired. The real problem was that while the Turkish slaves of lltutmish accepted the right of his successors to be the Sultan of Delhi, yet they asserted the right to choose the ruler themselves. Raziyya refused to accept it and, therefore, her period of rule was the period of constant struggle between the Sultana and her nobles including provincial governors.

Successor # 2. Sultana Raziyya:

In one sense, the reign of Firoz can be accepted as that of struggle for power between the son and the daughter of lltutmish. Firoz had succeeded in becoming Sultan because he could muster the support of provincial governors to his side and, in turn, Raziyya succeeded in deposing him because she could get the support of the nobles at the court to her side. But, with the accession of Raziyya on the throne, the struggle for power between the Sultana and her Turkish slave- nobles became quite open.

While Raziyya asserted her rights as Sultana and decided to be the real ruler of her kingdom, the nobles and the provincial governors desired the right to choose the ruler and keep her or him dependent on themselves. Raziyya was more correct in upholding the cause of absolute monarchy initiated by lltutmish in that infant stage of Turkish rule in India as compared to her nobles who meant to divide the power of the state.


But, the selfishness of his nobles made them blind to realize this fact which led to an open conflict between them and the Sultana which, ultimately, led to her fall and elimination of power and respect of the Sultan till its restoration by Balban.

Raziyya was the worthy daughter of a worthy father. In her personal life she was the first Muslim Sultana who challenged the traditions of Islam concerning women and, politically, she tried to establish her absolute rule as Sultana and refused to share her authority with her nobles and provincial governors. This led her into troubles from the beginning of her reign and finally to her downfall.

When Raziyya ascended the throne, the governors of Badaun, Multan, Hansi and Lahore had already marched towards the capital with their armies with a view to depose Firoz from the throne. In the meantime, Raziyya had captured the throne, the event in which they had not participated.

Therefore, they continued their march and besieged Delhi to place a candidate of their own choice on the throne. Firoz’s vazir, Muhammad Junaidi had also joined them. Thus. Raziyya’s position became precarious in the very beginning of her reign. However, she moved diplomatically. She sowed dissension among her rivals and the confederacy of the nobles was broken.

The governors of Badaun and Multan were brought to her side secretly and the rest of the two felt disheartened and fled away. They were captured and slain. Vazir Junaidi fled to the hills of Sirmur and died there as a fugitive.

After her initial success against the governors, Raziyya tried to concentrate power in her own hands and succeeded. Her primary aim was to make the Turkish slave-nobles subservient to the throne. She made fresh appointments of the governors and redistributed the high offices of the State.

Khwaja Muhazzab-ud-din was appointed as vazir, Malik Izzudin Kabir Khan Ayaz was assigned the Iqta (province) of Lahore and after the death of Aibak Bahtu, the army was placed under the charge of Malik Qutb-ud-din Hassan Ghuri. Two more important appointments were made. Malik-i-Kabir Ikhtiyar-ud-din Aitigin was appointed as Amir-i-hajib and Ikhtiyar-ud-din Altunia was appointed governor of Bhatinda.

Both of them rose to eminence as loyal officers of Raziyya but both largely participated in her downfall. One Abbysinian, Malik Jamal-ud-din Yakut was appointed as amir-i-akhur. Some historians have charged Raziyya to be in love with this officer but the story has been rejected by the majority of historians. Raziyya succeeded in bringing about submission of all nobles.

The rebel noble Tughan Khan also accepted her suzerainty and, thus, she became the mistress of all the territories extending from Uch in the west to Lakhnauti in the east. However, she failed to conquer Ranthambhor and Gwalior.

Raziyya changed her personal behaviour in order to raise the power and prestige of throne. She started dressing herself in male attire when attending the court, left purdah, went for hunting and horse-riding and met the public without veil. Surely, she must have annoyed the orthodox Muslim opinion by these actions but it was not the primary cause of dissatisfaction of the people against her.

Raziyya also saved her kingdom from the invasion of the Mongols in the same diplomatic way as was done by her father. In 1238 A.D., Malik Hasan Karlugh, the Kwazirizm subedar of Ghazni and Banyana sought her help against the Mongols. Raziyya sympathised with him, offered him the income of the territory of Baran but politely refused to give him military help which would have created problems for her from the side of the Mongols.

However, from the third year of her reign, her problems arose seriously. The Turkish slave-nobles could not tolerate her policy of concentration of power in her own hands. They started conspiring against her with a view to depose her from the throne. The conspirators were led by Amir-i-hajib, Ikhtiyar-ud-din, Malik Altunia, governor of Bhatinda and Kabir Khan, governor of Lahore.

But Raziyya was safe in Delhi as she commanded the loyalty of her subjects in Delhi and therefore, a direct attack on Delhi could probably fail. Therefore, the conspirators planned to take her away from Delhi. For that purpose, Kabir Khan revolted in Lahore in 1240 A.D. Raziyya marched against him so quickly that the supporters of Kabir Khan could not reach to help him in time. Kabir Khan was defeated and he fled away.

Raziyya pursued him and forced him to surrender himself near the bank of the river Chenab because he could not dare to cross the river due to the fear of the Mongols on the other side. But hardly ten days had passed after her return to the capital when Raziyya received the message that Malik Altunia had revolted at Bhatinda. Raziyya immediately marched against him and besieged the fort of Bhatinda. There she was deceived by her Turkish nobles.

They murdered Jamal-ud-din Yakut and imprisoned Raziyya by surprise. Immediately, Bahram, the third son of Iltutmish was raised to the throne at Delhi. The leader of the conspirators, Aitigin, was appointed naib-i-mamlakat and was expected to control the whole administration by virtue of his newly-created office. But, Bahram became so much dissatisfied with his behaviour that he got him murdered within a month or two.

Malik Altunia was dissatisfied with the distribution of high offices of the state. He got nothing from the new Sultan and hoped for none after the murder of Aitigin. He married Raziyya which seemed to be of advantage to both. While Raziyya expected to win back her freedom and the throne, Malik Altunia saw in it an opportunity to enhance his status.

Certain dissatisfied nobles like Malik Qaraqash and Malik Salari also joined them. Altunia raised an army consisting of the Khokhars, the Jats and the Rajputs. They proceeded towards Delhi but were defeated by the organised army of Delhi and fled away. Raziyya and Altunia were deserted by their soldiers and they were murdered by some Hindu robbers near Kaithal on 13 October 1240 A.D.

An Estimate:

According to Minhaj-us-Siraj, Raziyya ruled only for 3 years, 6 months and 6 days. He described that ‘she was endowed with all admirable talents necessary for a Sultan.’ But he gave an indication that her greatest weakness was that she was a woman. Some other historians have also accepted that the primary cause of her failure was that she was a woman. But modern historians do not accept this view.

They maintain that those who opposed her simply tried to exploit the situation in their own favour and blamed her for nothing. Of course, she was a woman but she never exhibited any feminine weakness. She was shrewd and diplomatic. Besides, she understood well the permanent interests of the state and pursued them in right earnest. She believed in power and prestige of the Sultan and tried to uphold them with her best abilities.

Raziyya had captured the throne after deposing her own brother. But, her father too had desired that she should be his successor and was restrained only because of disapproval of some of his powerful nobles. Besides, his brother proved incapable and she was always in danger of being murdered. Therefore, she was quite justified in asserting her right to get the throne.

Of course, she was a woman and she opened a new chapter in the history of the Delhi Sultanate by becoming its first Sultana or female ruler. But, it was nothing new in the history of Islam. Women had ruled in Egypt, Iran and Kwarizm empire.

As regards her personal virtues every historian has praised her. Contemporary historian Isami blamed her to be in immoral roman

ce with Jamal-ud-din Yakut but no proof is available to testify this charge and therefore, has been rejected by all modern historians.

Even Minhaj-us-Siraj has stated that the relations between the two were perfectly pure. She was successful as a diplomat. The first attack of nobles on Delhi was nullified by her by dividing them among themselves and she safeguarded her kingdom from involvement in the politics of Ghazni and Central Asia by refusing to help Malik Hasan Karlugh against the Mongols.

She was a tough soldier and an able commander is proved by the fact that she personally commanded all campaigns during her reign. She dressed herself in male attire and sat on the throne without veil because she wanted to perform her duties as a ruler unhesitatingly and truthfully. It had not affected her popularity in any way as is clear from the fact that her subjects at Delhi remained loyal to her till last and there was no possibility of any successful conspiracy against her while she was in Delhi.

Raziyya believed that it was in the interest of the state to create a strong monarchy and therefore, desired to put a check on the power of the Turkish slave-nobles. She succeeded in her attempt for three years, ruled her kingdom well and kept the Turkish slave- nobles under her control. But, ultimately, she failed because she failed to break their power.

Therefore, the primary cause of Raziyya’s failure was the growing ambitions of her Turkish slave-nobles. Iltutmish had brought them to such a level by assigning all important posts of the state to them. They served Iltutmish well but proved treacherous to his successors. No male-child of Iltutmish was worthy of the throne and the situation was exploited by the nobles.

They decided to keep a puppet ruler on the throne. But when Raziyya, the ablest child of Iltutmish occupied the throne and decided to rule in her own right and curb the power of the nobles, they conspired, revolted and, ultimately, succeeded in deposing her.

The accession of Bahram on the throne was the victory of the nobles against the Sultan. Thus, Raziyya, failed. Yet, she occupies a respectable place in the history of the Delhi Sultanate.

Dr A.L. Srivastava writes of her:

“Other members of the dynasty of Iltutmish, both before and after her, were much weaker in personality and character.” Prof. K.A. Nizami also writes- “She was the ablest of the successors of Iltutmish can hardly be denied.”

Successor # 3. Muizzudin Bahram Shah:

Bahram Shah was raised to the throne by the nobles on the condition that he would hand over all the powers of the state in the hands of his naib-i-mamlakat. First, Malik Ikhtiyar-ud-din Aitigin was given this post. But, would the Sultan agree to this situation? Bahram Shah accepted the power of the nobles but refused to compromise with his respect and privileges and therefore, he too was deposed from the throne and the nobles succeeded in enhancing further their position in the state.

Aitigin married one of the sisters of the Sultan, kept a naubat at the gate of his palace and also an elephant which were the special prerogatives of the Sultan. Therefore, Bahram felt offended and got him murdered in his office itself. No naib was appointed after him but very soon Badr-ud-din Sunqar who was an influential member of the Turkish nobility known as ‘the forty’, appropriated all the powers of the state.

Bahram Shah became dissatisfied with him as well, took vazir to his side and conspired against Sunqar. Sunqar, in his own turn, tried to depose the Sultan and plotted against him. But the vazir disclosed the conspiracy to the Sultan. Bahram Shah imprisoned all the conspirators but, realising his weak position, failed to punish them severely.

Some of them were deposed from their positions while others were sent outside Delhi. Sunqar was sent to Badaun from where he came back only after four months. Bahram Shah put him to death and also another noble, Saiyyid Taj- ud-din Ali Musawi.

The Turkish nobles were dissatisfied with the murder of Aitigin but the murders of Sunqar and Taj-ud-din alarmed them. The Ulema were also dissatisfied with the Sultan. The vazir, Muhazab-ud-din now decided to make use of their dissatisfaction in his own favour. In 1241 A.D., he got the right opportunity when the Mongols besieged Lahore. He himself went with the army which was sent for the rescue of Lahore.

In the way, he instigated the Turkish nobles by convincing them that the Sultan had given secret orders to kill them all. This infuriated the nobles who took an oath to depose the Sultan and returned to Delhi. Bahram Shah was captured and killed in May 1242 A.D.

One of the Turkish nobles, Malik Izz-ud-din Balban Kishlu Khan, who had entered Delhi first, tried to make himself Sultan but as other nobles did not agree to it, he gave up his claim. Ultimately, Ala-ud-din Masud, son of Firoz Shah was placed on the throne.

Successor # 4. Ala-Ud-Din Masud Shah:

The accession of Masud Shah was a complete victory for the nobles. It was now clear that only a puppet of the nobles could remain Sultan of Delhi. But, one more thing was clear that not a single noble among ‘the forty’ was powerful enough to raise himself to the throne.

Their mutual jealousy had restrained them to place anyone of them on the throne and therefore, once more the throne was offered to one of the descendents of Iltutmish though, of course, without power.

Masud Shah was offered the throne on the condition that he would delegate all the powers to ‘the forty’ and remain the Sultan only in name. Primarily the period of Masud Shah marked the rise of Balban as power behind the throne. The conflict between the Taziks and the Turkish slave-nobles, on the one hand and the mutual jealousies of the slave-nobles, on the other, gave him the opportunity to build up his position.

After building up his position, he conspired to depose Masud Shah from the throne. In June, 1246 A.D., Masud Shah was deposed and Nasir-ud-din Mahmud, a grandson of Iltutmish was placed on the throne. It could be done peacefully which proved that the Sultan had totally lost his power and was not in a position to exhibit even a show of resistance against the Turkish nobility.

Successor # 5. Nasir-Ud-Din Mahmud Shah:

Nasir-ud-din sat on the throne on 10 June 1246 A.D. and his accession marked the end of the conflict between the Sultan and the Turkish slave-nobles. Nasir-ud-din never ruled. He remained Sultan only in name and handed over power of the state to Turkish nobles and their leader Balban. It has been expressed by some historians that Nasir-ud-din was a religious minded man, had no worldly desires or ambition, copied the Quran and engaged himself in other religious activities.

Several anecdotes became popular about him. It is said that his wife prepared his meals. One day, her fingers were burnt and she asked the Sultan to keep a maid-servant. But, the Sultan refused it on the plea that he was simply a trustee of the state and, therefore, could not spend public money for his own convenience. But such stories are, certainly, highly exaggerated.

His wife was the daughter of Balban who was the naib of the state. It is simply unbelievable that she did not keep maid-servants to look after her household. Sir Woolsley Haig has written that ‘on one occasion the Sultan presented forty slaves to the historian Minhaj-ud-din.’

Of course, it is accepted that Nasir-ud-din was simple, kind-hearted and avoided the pomp and show usually attached with the office of the Sultan. But more than that the circumstances had forced him to behave like that.

The very fact that he conspired against Masud Shah to get the throne proves that he was not entirely immune from temptations of worldly life. But he possessed practical wisdom and common sense. He had seen the fate of previous four sultans who had tried to oppose ‘the forty’ nobles.

Each of them was forced to leave the throne and face death ignominiously. It was sufficient to terrify Nasir-ud-din who was only sixteen years of age at the time of his accession. Nasir-ud-din got the throne with the help of the nobility and he understood well that he could be easily deposed by it. It forced him to accept the position of being only nominal head of the state.

Therefore, as Professor K.A. Nizami writes:

“The surrender was absolute.” The Sultan did nothing which could provoke the displeasure of ‘the forty.’

Historian Isami wrote:

“He expressed no opinion without their prior permission, he did not move his hands or feet except at their order. He would neither drink nor go to sleep except with their knowledge.”

In fact, during the reign of Nasir-ud-din the power of the state was enjoyed by his naib, Balban, except for a brief interval of about a year. In August, 1249 A.D., Balban, married his daughter to the Sultan to strengthen his position. At that time, he was assigned the post of Naib-i-Mamlakat and the title of Ulugh Khan and, thus, the power of the state was legally transferred to him.

However, Dr A.B. Pandey has expressed another view concerning Nasir- ud-din. He has opined that he was not merely a puppet king but, on the contrary, he was quite effective till 1255 A.D. With a view to support his opinion he has quoted Minhas-us-Siraj who expressed that ‘while Nasir-ud-din was the Hakim (officer) of Bahraich, he fought many battles against the Hindus and ruled there so well that the subject people became happy and prosperous.’

Dr Pandey has expressed that the removal of Balban from the post of Naib-i- Mamlakat in 1253 A.D. and his reappointment in 1254 A.D. were proofs of his effective rule. He has quoted Farishta as well to support his argument.

Farishta wrote that ‘his claim on the throne was not because of this that he was its rightful heir but also because he was courageous, capable, scholar and possessed several other virtues.’ The view of Dr A.B. Pandey, however, has not been accepted by the majority of historians.

Raihan as Vakildar (1253-1254 A.D.):

The growing prestige and power of Balban provoked the jealousy of certain other Turkish nobles. They organised a group of their own including some Indian Muslim nobles under Raihan. The mother of Nasir-ud-din was with them and, probably, Nasir-ud-din also. On their advice, Nasir-ud-din asked Balban to go to his province of Hansi and thereafter to Nagaur.

Both times, Balban accepted the orders of the Sultan and waited for his opportunity which came quite early. The Turkish nobles could not tolerate the influential position of Raihan as he was an Indian Muslim. They went back again to the side of Balban. The provincial governors also assured their support to Balban. Thereafter Balban and his supporters collected their armies at Bhatinda and then proceeded towards Delhi.

The Sultan also moved out of Delhi to face them. The two armies faced each other but did not fight. Instead, efforts were made for reconciliation. Raihan advised the Sultan to fight but he could not muster courage for it.

The Sultan felt that the Turkish nobles were in a much powerful position and, therefore, acted on their advice. Raihan was first sent to Badaun and then to Bahraich where he died afterwards. Balban was again appointed the Naib of the state. Thus, the first attempt of the Indian Muslim nobles to capture the power of the state failed after a short period.

Balban again Naib (1254-1265 A.D.):

After the fall of Raihan Balban enjoyed undisputed power in the state till the end of the reign of Nasir-ud-din. He further strengthened his position by assigning all important posts to his own relatives or to nobles loyal to him. And those who dared to oppose him like Malik Qutub-ud-din Hasan were killed or thrown out of power.

During the remaining years, the sole concern of Balban was to keep intact the territories of the Delhi Sultanate and to keep his power supreme within it. However, the Iqta (province) of Bengal was lost to the Delhi Sultanate during this period. Arslan Khan, the Iqtadar of Kara succeeded in capturing Bengal and behaved as an independent ruler. The territory of north-west Punjab was also occupied by the Mongols.

At one time they occupied Lahore as well though afterwards left it by their own choice. However, peace prevailed in the north­west when an understanding was made with Hulaqu, the Mongol ruler of Persia. The position of the provinces of Multan and Sindh also remained insecure during this time. Balban had to face many other rebellions. Practically every year he had to face one or the other revolt.

The Khokhars in the west and the Meos in Mewat troubled him occasionally. There were rebellions in Doab and Bundelkhand while the Rajput rulers of Malwa and Rajasthan also engaged his attention. He failed to conquer Ranthambhor, Bundi and Gwalior while the rulers of Kamrupa and Jajanagar succeeded in defeating the invading Turkish armies.

Thus, as naib, Balban succeeded only partially in strengthening the Delhi Sultanate. But, he succeeded completely in making his position supreme against other Turkish nobles. In 1265 A.D., Sultan Nasir-ud-din died suddenly. Historian Isami has expressed the view that Balban murdered the Sultan by poisoning him.

Ferishta also wrote that Balban got murdered many other descendants of Iltutmish so that no one remained as claimant to the throne. Ibn Batuta also expressed that ‘ultimately the Naib got him (Nasir-ud-din) killed and himself became the Sultan.’ Therefore, Professor K.A. Nizami holds the view that Nasir-ud-din was murdered by Balban. Sultan Nasir-ud-din was only 36 years of age when he died while Balban was 20 to 24 years elder to him.

Therefore, there seems good justification for upholding the view that ambitious Balban got the Sultan poisoned to get the throne for himself. However, Barani has written nothing about it while, according to Tarikh-i-Mubarakshahi, the Sultan died of illness. Therefore, Sir Woolsley Haig and Professor Habibullah have expressed the view that Nasir-ud-din died suddenly and as he had no child, Balban ascended the throne after him.

The accession of Balban on the throne of Delhi established the fact that in the conflict for power between the Sultan and ‘the forty’ Turkish slave-nobles, the nobles had succeeded in the end as Balban who was one of them became the undisputed Sultan after the death of Nasir-ud-din.