Itutmish died in April 1236 and after his death struggle to succeed him started. Nassiruddin Mahmud was the was eldest and most capable son of Itutmish, but he died in the year 1229 before Iltutmish. Iltutmish considered other son Ruknuddin of low calibre as he over indulge in sensual pleasure. He wanted his daughter, Razia to rule after his death. But his Nobles did not wish to serve a woman, so they against the wishes of Iltutmish raised Ruknuddin to throne. After becoming ruler Ruknuddin neglected his empire and powerful nobles lost confidence in him. Real power was exercised by emperor’s mother, Shah Turks. She mismanaged the state affairs and angered both royal household and nobles.
So, Ruknuddin was dethroned after seven months of rule and Razia became the new Ruler of the empire. Razia made sure that Ruknuddin died in the prison. Razia was bought up like son and so she was well educated. She mastered the art of horse-riding, swordsmanship and archery.
Rise to Power
Due to Ruknuddin incompetency, governor of Lahore, Hansi, Badaun and Multan started rebellion. They were joined by wazir(prime minister) Nizam ul Mulk Junaidi. Ruknuddin led his army to move out of Delhi to defeat Rebel. People of hated him and made their discontent public. Razia ceased the opportunity and gave rousing speech in mosque after friday prayers against Ruknuddin and Shah Turkan. She promised that if she became sultan she will rule as per their wishes, failing to do she will accept any punishment including death. Aroused by Razia’s speech, crowd went in frenzy and attacked the royal household. They soon found Shah Turkan and killed her. Army residing inside Delhi proclaimed Razia as new Sultan. Ruknuddin rushed to Delhi to save his throne but his army arrested him and put him behind the bars. Razia Sultan soon got him killed.
Razia’s accession to throne was against the Islamic tradition, but ulema and Muslim nobles did not show their disapproval. They were too afraid to take any action against her due to her popularity and waited for her to make mistake.
First Challenge as Sultan
First challenge for Razia as a ruler was threat of four rebellious governor, who has encamped outside Delhi. They wanted to get rid of Ruknuddin but after his death they don’t know if they should fight widely popular Razia Sultan. Razia was shrewd tactician and moved her small army outside Delhi to fight rebels. She also followed the policy of divide and rule by starting negotiation with two of Rebel and starting false rumors and rest of the two. Her strategy worked and two rebels switched side and other two were captured and brought in chains in Delhi. Rebel wazir Junaidi ran for his life but Razia’s supporter caught and killed him. Thus she won her first battle without even fighting.
The power and prestige of Razia rose and regional governor cam to Delhi to offer their submission. She met them as benign but independent ruler. The new sultan gave promotion to those nobles who stood by her. She wants to break the power of Turkish nobles. So, she gave governorship of some province to capable non-turkish officers.
The Rajput recovered the fort of Ranthambore from Turks after the death of Iltutmish. Razia send an army to recover the fort. Ranthambore was recaptured and dismantled to prevent Rajput from occupying it.
Conspiracy against Sultan
Razia was growing confident as a sultan, so she discarded purdah(veil) which alienated Muslim religious leader. Turkish nobles were also angry with her as she started giving non-turkish officer governorship of important provinces. Some powerful Turkish nobles considered below their dignity to serve a woman. Soon, these nobles started rumour campaign against her to discredit her. One of the rumor that did serious damage to her character was her romantic relationship with Abyssinia slave Yakut, who she promoted to the position of Master of Royal Stable.
Razia was aware of all the the rumours against her and took steps to increase security around royal household. She command loyalty of strong army and respect of people of Delhi. So, turkish nobles hatched a conspiracy to lure her out of Delhi as it was impossible to defeat her while she is in Delhi. Ikhtiyaruddin Ziauddm Junaidi, governor of Gwalior was one of the leading conspirator. Razia recalled her back to Delhi, accused him of disloyalty and executed him.
The execution of governors of Gwalior, spread fear among Turkish nobles. They decided that time had come to execute their conspiracy. Governor of Lahore and Multan, Kabir Khan Ayaz, raised the banner of revolt against Sultan on the pretext of her unislam relationship with Yakut.
Fall of First Female Sultan
Razia organised a strong army and launched attack on Lahore. She defeated governor of Lahore, captured him and imprisoned him. Later, Kabir Khan apologize and was reinstated as governor of Multan but governorship of Lahore was taken from him. First part of nobles conspiracy, to get sultan out of Delhi was successful. Turkish nobles executed second part of conspiracy, to cut her supply line to Delhi and defeat her.
Soon, Razia received news that Altunia, the governor of Bhatinda has raised banner of revolt. she turned around her army and launched attack on Bhatinda. Altunia soundly defeated her and took her prisoner. Yakut was captured during the battle by Turkish nobles and was immediately killed. Turkish Courtiers in Delhi raised Behram, third son of Iltutmish to the throne and got themselves appointed to high offices.
In the excitement of getting high appointment from new sultan, Turkish nobles made a crucial mistake, they forgot about Altunia and gave him nothing. Such behaviour deeply offended Altunia. Razia saw the opportunity and befriended Altunia. Soon, they fell in love and got married. Altunia and Razia together raised an army to recover the throne of Delhi. However Turkish nobles were in no mood to give up their hard won high office raised large army. Many supporter of Razia and Altunia lost courage and deserted them. Razia and Altunia gave heroic fight but were defeated in the battle of Kaithal. They were captured on the battlefield. On October 13, 1240, day after the battle both were beheaded. she was ablest of all the five successor of Iltutmish but has only on fatal flaw- she was a woman. To the conservative medieval mind of Muslim aristocracy that was unacceptable.