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Shams-ud-Din Iltutmish (1211-1236 AD)

Shams-ud-Din Iltutmish (1211-1236 AD)

Shams-ud-Din Iltutmish (or Atamish, the son of Neem Khan from Ilbri clan of Turkistan) came as the third king of the Ilbri Turks who succeeded after the death of Qutab-ud-Din Aibak. Being the son-in-law and trust worthy general of Aibak, he was selected as the sultan of India though the elites of the court put the crown on the head of Aram Shah, the son of Qutab-ud-Din Aibak. Aram Shah could not qualify as the king because the governors in all of the major areas did not support him.

Ghazni was under Taj-ud-Din Yaldoz, Qabacha was ruling Lahore and Sindh, Khilji governed Behar and Bengal, and Iltutmish was the governor of Badayun. The Amirs of Delhi (Amir Dawood and Amir Ali) asked   Iltutmish to depose Aram Shah who was not in a position to combat the combined forces of these generals. In January 1211, Iltutmish defeated Aram Shah and rose to power. Muslim rule in India owes a lot to Iltutmish who took the reins of the empire in his hands; otherwise it was almost impossible for a weak king like Aram Shah to secure and carry the vast empire. Chroniclers remember him as a capable general and a prudent politician on one hand and a pious man on the other.

Early life

Being ultra-intelligent and the most handsome of his brothers, Iltutmish excited the jealousy of his brothers who sold him in Bukhara. The trader, who bought him, sold him to Jamal-ud-Din Amir who nurtured and educated him. He was again sold. This time his destiny was opening the doors of affluence on him and the buyer this time was Qutab-ud-Aibak who bought him for his master Shahab-ud-Din Ghauri. Aibak made out the promising features of Iltutmish and wedded his daughter to him. He was promoted to army chief and then elevated to the office for Nazim of Barn, Badayun, and Gwalior. As soon as he sat on the throne, the elites of Qutab-ud-Aibak voiced out their rivalry whereas the Hindu rulers of Central India and Rajputana were already in ambush to liberate them from the Muslim empire.

Rivalry and Expeditions

Nasir-ud-Din Qabacha, Taj-ud-Din Yalduz, and Ali Mardan were his sturdy claimants who took it as a challenge and turned against him. Iltutmish had to topple the Amirs of Delhi who were pro-Aram Shah during 1211-1214 AD.  Taj-ud-Din Yalduz, the governor of Ghazni came up with the fiercest resistance. In 1214 AD Alaa-ud-Din, the ruler of Khawarism assaulted Ghazna. Finding him unable to meet him, Taj-ud-Din Yalduz fled to Lahore and occupied it. Iltutmish took it as a serious threat on the northern frontiers and defeated him at Tarain (Thanesar) in 1216 AD. Yalduz was arrested and died in the next year in the prison.

Nasir-ud-Din Qabacha, the governor of Multan mutinied against Iltutmish but surrendered in 1217 AD and was appointed the governor of Sindh, Multan and western Punjab. Ali Mardan of Bengal was deposed by the Khilji elites because of his bad governance and atrocities on the subjects. They chose Ghiyath-ud-Din as their governor and Iltutmish had to curb him in 1225 AD. He disintegrated Behar from Bengal and appointed Aziz-ud-Din as its governor and Oudh was put under Nasir-ud-Din Mehmud, his son. As soon as he returned, Ghyath-ud-Din re- attacked Behar which was taken by Nasir-ud-Din Mehmud. After the death of Nasir-ud-Din Mehmud (the son of Ghiyath-ud-Din) captured Bengal but Iltutmish defeated and killed him.

In 1228, Iltutmish turned his face towards Multan where Qabacha was poking him with malpractices though militarily he was too weak to meet Iltutmish. Repulsed by the onslaught of Iltutmish, Qabacha fled from Uch to the Bhhakkar Fort. Iltutmish captured Uch after the confiscation of three months. Nasir-ud-Din Qabacha drowned himself in an effort to cross the Indus River. Following it, Iltutmish left for Gwalior to pin down it. Ranthambor, Malwa, Mando, and Bhelsa came under his influence. The Caliph of Baghdad rewarded him Khil’at (the royal dress, a sign of supremacy).

Mongols’ assault in 1221 AD is the most outstanding event of the age of Iltutmish. Mongols were a feral nation headed by Chengez Khan (Temojin), who dominated over the areas of China and rushed to the bank of the River Indus. They plundered the areas of Bukhara, Samarkand, and Balkh in East Asia and then marched towards Jalal-ud-Din Shah, the ruler of Khawarism who fled to India riding on the back of a horse which swam into the River Indus taking him across the river. He sought an asylum in the empire of Iltutmish but the later refused. Chengez Khan went back to Central Asia. After his departure, Jalal-ud-Din molested Nasir-ud-Din Qabacha and confined him to Multan. Iltutmish grabbed the occasion and occupied Sindh.


Iltutmish occupies the most prominent place among the Turk Ilbari sultans. In his 20 years’ rule, he not only pacified the military upraises against him but also expanded his empire from Sindh, Ranthambor, and Malwa to Nirbada. “The Forty” were the forty slaves of Iltutmish who were elevated from slavery to the high-profile ranks in his court. One of these Negro slaves, Jalal-ud-Din was bestowed with extraordinary favors of the Sultan and was promoted to the office of Amir-ul-Umara (chief of the chiefs). Their influential role excited the envy of the provincial governors plotted against them in the days to come. He is accredited for his coinage in silver and copper called Taanka and Jital respectively. He also introduced Iqtadari system which was the division of the empire into small parts to grant salaries of the officials.


Qutab minar was finished in the age of Iltutmish. Haud-e-Shamsi, Jamea Masjid Qutabi, and Mehrabi Jali are the notable constructions in his age.


Sultan Shams-ud-Din Iltutmish died in 1236 AD after a rule of 26 years. His devoutness and piety have been quoted by the chroniclers who call him a saint. When Khawaja Qutab-ud-Din Bakhiyar Kaki, a famous Sufi of his day died, no one was eligible to lead his Namaz-e-Janaza (the funeral prayer) because according to the will of Bakhtiyar Kaki, it should be led only one who had never missed the four “Sunnah of the Asr Prayer” and had never committed Zina (rape) in his life. After waiting sometimes, Shams-ud-Din Iltutmish stepped ahead and led the funeral prayer of the saint. He was succeeded by his sons and the universally famous daughter Razia Sultan in the later years.


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