R is for Raziya Sultana

Raziya was born Raziyya al-Din in 1205. Her father was Shams-ud-din Iltutmish to the Sultanate of Delhi. Since she was a Muslim princess she was taught to lead armies and manage kingdoms in case the need arose. At the age of thirty-one, she became Sultan after being proclaimed heir apparent years before. Her father, being born a slave, saw no reason why she couldn’t be next in line to rule the most powerful state in northern India just because she was female. Thus she became the first woman sultan of Northern India. Amazingly, this was not the case of an only child to succeed the throne, but she had many half-brothers who were not thought fit enough to rule by her father. Many did not agree with her father and people rioted. However, being trained for such an emergency, Raziya led the army and extinguished these outbreaks.

Despite being a girl, but lucky for her being a princess, she was educated. Obviously she believed in education for she had schools and libraries constructed. She also had roads build and wells dug. Coins were made with her name and the inscription ‘Pillar of women, Queen of the times.’ She wore a sword, trousers, and turban, but would not dress in the veil. And she knew how to use that sword for she was acknowledged as a wonderful swordsman.

Once she was thrown into prison by her opposers. She promised marriage to her guard, who used to be her Calvary head, if he would help her escape. He did. They rallied her supporters and she went into battle to win back the throne. However, she did not win. There are various counts of her death. Some say the enemy was repulsed at her unveiled face and they killed her, or by Turkish paid Hindu troops, Shi’tes, her own army, or even a man who gave her food thinking she was a man. Fatigued from fighting, she slept and the man saw the jewels beneath her clothes; he killed and buried her. Supposedly he was arrested and her body recovered and she was reburied.

Her legacy was the Sultana of Delhi  from 1236 until  May 1240.

Razia Sultana was the only woman ruler of both the Sultanate and the Mughal period, although other women ruled from behind the scenes.[1]

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.

Although Raziya ruled for a few years, she is still recognized as one of the great queens of India.


.[1]Table of Delhi Kings: Muazzi Slave King The Imperial Gazetteer of India, 1909, v. 2, p. 368..

Uppity Women of Medieval Times by Vicki Leon



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