Sunday, March 27, 2011

RAZIA SULTANA, short biography

RAZIA SULTANA
    Razia al-Din (1205-1240), throne name Jalâlat ud-Dîn Raziyâ, usually referred to in history as Razia Sultan or Razia Sultana, was the Sultana of Delhi in India from 1236 to 1240. She was of Turkish Seljuks ancestry and like some other Muslim princesses of the time, she was trained to lead armies and administer kingdoms if necessary.Razia Sultana, the fifth Mamluk Sultan, was the very first woman ruler in the Muslim and Turkish history
    Razia succeeded her father Shams-ud-din Iltutmish to the Sultanate of Delhi in 1236. Iltutmish became the first sultan to appoint a woman as his successor when he designated his daughter Razia as his heir apparent. (According to one source, Iltumish's eldest son had initially been groomed as his successor, but had died prematurely.) But the Muslim nobility had no intention of acceding to Iltutmish's appointment of a woman as heir, and after the sultan died on April 29, 1236, Razia's brother, Ruknuddin Feroze Shah, was elevated to the throne instead.
    Ruknuddin's reign was short. With Iltutmish's widow Shah Turkaan for all practical purposes running the government, Ruknuddin abandoned himself to the pursuit of personal pleasure and debauchery, to the considerable outrage of the citizenry. On November 9, 1236, both Ruknuddin and his mother Shah Turkaan were assassinated after only six months in power.
    With reluctance, the nobility agreed to allow Razia to reign as Sultan of Delhi. As a child and adolescent, Razia had had little contact with the women of the harem, so she had not learnt the customary behavior of women in the Muslim society that she was born into. Even before she became Sultan, she was reportedly preoccupied with the affairs of state during her father's reign. As Sultan, Razia preferred a man's tunic and headdress; and contrary to custom, she would later show her face when she rode an elephant into battle at the head of her army.
    A shrewd politician, Razia managed to keep the nobles in check, while enlisting the support of the army and the populace. Her greatest accomplishment on the political front was to manipulate rebel factions into opposing each other. At that point, Razia seemed destined to become one of the most powerful rulers of the Delhi Sultanate.
    But Razia miscounted the consequences that a relationship with one of her advisers, Jamal-ud-Din Yaqut, an Abyssinian Siddi (Habshi) slave, would have for her reign. According to some accounts, Razia and Yaqut were lovers; other sources simply identify them as close confidants. In any case, before long she had aroused the jealousy of the Turkish nobility by the favoritism she displayed toward Yaqut, who was not a Turk, when she appointed him to be Superintendent of the Stables. Eventually, a childhood friend named Malik Altunia, the governor of Bhatinda, joined a rebellion by other provincial governors who refused to accept Razia's authority.
    A battle between Razia and Altunia ensued, with the result that Yaqut was killed and Razia taken prisoner. To escape death, Razia agreed to marry Altunia. Meanwhile, Razia's brother, Muizuddin Bahram Shah, had usurped the throne. After Altunia and Razia undertook to take back the sultanate from Bahram through battle, both Razia and her husband were killed on October 14, 1240 (some sources say October 13). Bahram, for his part, would later be dethroned for incompetence.
    As sultan, Razia reportedly sought to abolish the tax on non-Muslims but met opposition from the nobility. By way of response, Razia is said to have pointed out that the spirit of religion was more important than its parts, and that even the Islamic prophet Muhammad spoke against overburdening the non-Muslims. On another occasion, Razia reportedly tried to appoint an Indian Muslim convert from Hinduism to an official position but again ran into opposition from the nobles.
    Razia was reportedly devoted to the cause of her empire and to her subjects. There is no record that she made any attempt to remain aloof from her subjects, rather it appears she preferred to mingle among them. Her tolerance of Hinduism would later bring her criticism from Muslim historians.
    Razia established schools, academies, centers for research, and public libraries that included the works of ancient philosophers along with the Qur'an and the traditions of Muhammad. Hindu works in the sciences, philosophy, astronomy, and literature were reportedly studied in schools and colleges.
    Razia refused to be addressed as Sultana because it meant "wife or mistress of a sultan". She would answer only to the title "Sultan".

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