By Gabby Storey
Sultan Raziyyat-Ud-Dunya Wa Ud-Din, otherwise known as Razia Sultana (c.1205-1240) was a ruler of the Delhi Sultanate, India. She was the first female Muslim ruler of the Indian subcontinent. She was also the only female Muslim ruler of Delhi.
Born to the Delhi Sultan Shams-ud-din Illutmish and his wife Qutub Begum, Raziyyat was not expected to inherit the throne as she had an older brother, Nasiruddin. After Nasiruddin’s death in 1229, Illutmish left Raziyyat in charge of Delhi’s administration in 1231 whilst on campaign. Upon his return, Illutmish nominated Raziyyat as heir apparent.
After Illutmish’s death in 1236, the nobility appointed his son Ruknuddin Firuz as the new king, the circumstances of which are debated. Ruknuddin’s rule was unpopular, and Raziyyat turned the public to her side and gained the allegiance of the army and several nobles. She ascended to the throne successfully, but soon faced opposition from the nobles who wanted her to be a figurehead. Raziyyat increasingly asserted herself, issuing coins in her own name and acting as a sultan. Opposition soon turned to rebellion and Raziyyat was deposed and imprisoned in April 1240.
In September 1240, she married Ikhtiyar-ud-din Altunia, a former slave who although favoured by Raziyyat, turned against her in the initial 1240 rebellion. Their forces fled when faced with the army of the new king, Muiz ud-din Bahram, and Razia was killed on 15 October 1240. Her tomb is situated near Turkman Gate, Old Delhi, alongside that of her sister’s.
K. A. Nizami, “The Early Turkish Sultans of Delhi,” in A Comprehensive History of India: The Delhi Sultanate (A.D. 1206-1526), eds., M. Habib, K. A. Nizami, 191-303 (Delhi: People’s Publishing House, 1970)
Peter Jackson, The Delhi Sultanate: A Political and Military History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003)
Sudha Sharma, The Status of Muslim Women in Medieval India (New Delhi: SAGE, 2016).