Sultan of Delhi in India and First Woman Ruler in Muslim and Turkish History
Hijri 601-637 (AH); Common Era 1205-1240 (CE)
Sultan Raziyya was a great sovereign, and sagacious, just, beneficent, the patron of learned, a dispenser of justice, the cherisher of her subjects, and of warlike talent (Jones 42). Raziyya, or Razia, was the Sultan of Delhi in India from 1236 to 1240. Her father, Iltutmish, appointed her as his successor just before he died. As a result of Iltutmish’s choice of successor, rioting erupted. Raziyya sought to quell the disruptive bureaucrats and nobles by riding as a soldier on a horse throughout the streets. As she solidified her power, she believed that appropriating a masculine image would help her maintain control, so she dressed like a man, wearing a turban, trousers, coat, and sword. Contrary to custom, she appeared unveiled in public. Raziyya was known for her belief that the spirit of religion is more important than its parts. She established schools, academies, centers for research, and public libraries. Many different sections of the community opposed her rule and attempted to defy her in many different ways. After a relationship she had with an Abyssinian slave was exposed, her enemies tried to use that against her. This caused a split in factions and later a revolt against her led by her childhood friend Altunia. Iltutmish’s younger son, who had been working with Altunia, was then put on the throne and Raziyya was imprisoned. However, she later married Altunia, who had gone unrewarded by the conspirators. Altunia and Raziyya were later killed as they attempted to reclaim the sultanate.