Let us read the story of Razia Sultana- the only woman ever to sit on the throne of Delhi.
Razia Sultana was the first woman ruler of an Islamic empire in the Indian subcontinent. It is hard to find women leaders in Islamic countries even today. This secures the fact that what Razia achieved back then was historical and outright iconic.
As expected, the descent to the throne was not easy for her. Her father Iltutmish had no intentions of making her his heir. He had groomed his eldest son Nasiruddin to be the next ruler of Delhi. But Iltutmish had to change his plans as Nasiruddin died unexpectedly. To procure the next king, Iltutmish gave small provinces to all his sons. But most of his sons became drunk on power. They used their wealth and influence for gaining the pleasures of life.
While leaving for an expedition, Iltutmish thought of leaving her daughter Razia as his caretaker for Delhi. Razia was his firstborn and had learned politics through experience. While on duty as the temporary head of the state, she did an excellent job of managing the capital. She was so good that Iltutmish when he returned, could not ignore her management.
Iltutmish was impressed beyond words and decided to name Razia as his heir. He asked his royal ministers to create a decree stating the same. But his orthodox Muslim ministers convinced him to not choose a woman as his heir.
On his death bed, the same ministers convinced Iltutmish to make Raknuddin the new king.
Raknuddin was an alcoholic, so he let his mother Shah Turkan rule on his behalf. Turkan cunningly eliminated contenders for the throne. The biggest contender was Razia. Killing Razia would put a seal on his son’s fate as a king. So Turkan wanted to do it publicly. Killing the public’s beloved figure in front of them was a great power move.
But the tables turned. Turkan and Razia were visiting a nearby place of worship when Turkan ordered her soldiers to arrest Razia. But Razia delivered such an inspiring speech that the soldiers, as well as the public, rebelled. They pledged their allegiance to Razia and instead arrested Turkan.
Soon both Raknuddin and her mother were executed.
Even after ascending the throne, she did not gain the support of every nobleman. Over the four years, she kept executing these rebel noblemen. This act made her unpopular amongst the noble houses. Apart from this, her decisions were on point. She appointed Qutbuddin as her military general. This man had protected the Sultanate without getting any help from the then king, Raknuddin.
She also chose an able prime minister and other important ministers from her loyal followers.
But she was not aggressive enough. She hardly did any attacks to gain new territories. Hence she was overthrown by noblemen after just four years of reign. She married one of the rebel nobles and tried getting back on the throne. The rebel group was now divided into two groups. Unfortunately, her rebellions lost the battle and deserted her and her husband. Both of them were then killed by the robbers who had come to rob the battlefield.
Her remains were buried near the present-day old Delhi. Such iconic and outstanding was her work that her grave became a symbol, a shrine. People from across the world and with different religious backgrounds visit it. They come for her blessings but are left with her astonishing story of achieving the impossible. Isn’t that the greatest blessing?