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Slave Sultans of Hindustan

Slavery was wide-spread in Islam. The early Turkish invaders and rulers of India were slaves or scions of slaves. Mahmud of Ghazni was the son of a purchased slave, Subuktigin. Subuktigin in his turn had been bought by one Alptigin who himself was a purchased slave. Alptigin was the first Turkish slave-warrior-ruler who carried his arms into Hindustan. His career and resourcefulness are symbolic of the Turkish slaves as a whole.

Alptigin was purchased by Ahmad bin Ismail, the Samanid king of Khurasan and Bukhara. The Samanid rulers had adopted the Abbasid custom of enrolling slaves. They used to purchase small Turkish children and impart to them training in arms and religious education. In course of time these slaves were appointed to various offices but primarily as bodyguards to Amirs and sentinels of frontiers. Such an one was Alptigin. He began his career as a Sarjandar (Life Guard) and soon became the head of Sarjandars. He proved to be a man of great ability and courage and at the age of thirty-five was placed in charge of the Iqta of Khurasan by the Samanid governor, Abdul Malik (954-961 C.E.). As the Muqta of Khurasan he had 500 villages and about 2,000 slaves of his own. Deprived of his office at the death of his patron, he betook himself to Ghazni where his father had been governor under the Samanids. At Ghazni he acted more or less as an independent chief.1 After his death a number of his slaves like Baltagin, Pirai and Subuktigin ruled over Ghazni, but of them the last one alone proved to be successful.

Alptigin had purchased Subuktigin at Nishapur2 from a certain merchant, Nasir Haji, who had brought him from Turkistan to Bukhara. Subuktigin was born in 942 C.E. (331 H.) He was captured by some Turk marauders when he was about 12.3 Alptigin brought him up and gradually raised him in posts of honour. He married his daughter to Subuktigin and, in course of time, conferred upon him the title of Amir-ul-Umara in recognition of his talents and because of the psychological awe which self-asserting slaves instilled in the masters’ minds, to which Juwayni refers. Subuktigin ‘made frequent raids into Hind, in the prosecution of holy wars.’4 After his master’s death he was raised to the throne by his nobles. He turned out to be an ambitious ruler. With the help of his Turk and Afghan retainers and troops he mounted attacks upon the Samanid power at Bukhara and after years of continued fighting succeeded in securing the province for his son Mahmud in 994 C.E. Mahmud took the title of sultan and was so recognized by the Caliph. We meet Mahmud of Ghazni again and again during his campaigns in India.

About two centuries later, the Ghauris wrested Ghazni from the Ghaznavids. One of its great sultans was Sultan Shihabuddin (also known as Muizzuddin bin Sam and Muhammad Ghauri). Just as Mustasim was the first caliph to have collected a large force of Turkish slaves under his employment, Sultan Muizzuddin bin Sam Ghauri also ‘took considerable delight in purchasing Turkish slaves and educating them.’5 The Sultan did not have a son who could succeed him, but this fact did not cause him any worry because of his liking for and faith in his slaves. Minhaj Siraj writes that on one occasion when a favourite courtier spoke to the Sultan about the default of male heirs, he replied with absolute confidence: ‘Other monarchs may have one or two sons: I have so many thousand sons, namely, my Turkish slaves, who will be the heirs of my dominions, and who, after me, will take care to preserve my name in the Khutbah throughout those territories.’6 And so it happened. With the help of his Turkish slaves Sultan Muizzuddin built up a large empire in India. He sent them there first as invaders and later as governors and viceroys in various parts for its governance.

As said earlier, Sultan Muizzuddin possessed thousands of slaves many of whom he purchased. Others must have been captured in campaigns because financial constraints would not have permitted buying of all of them. The life story of every Turkish slave who rose to any position of prominence was full of adventure and hazard, ‘accidents and vicissitude of the world’. Some of these have been recorded by contemporary and later chroniclers. It is not possible here to study about them all in detail. However, the careers of two, Aibak the ugly and Iltutmish the handsome, may receive our particular attention as being samples for most of them.

Qutbuddin Aibak, who rose to be the first slave-sultan of Hindustan, was purchased, early in life, by Fakhruddin, the chief Qazi of Nishapur who appears to have been a great slave trader. Through his favours and along with his sons, Aibak received training in reciting the Quran and practising archery and horsemanship. Expenditure on such instructions used to be regarded as an investment by slave merchants: a trained slave fetched a better price in the market. After the Qazi’s death his sons sold Aibak to a merchant who took him to Ghazni and sold him to Sultan Muizzuddin. Though ugly in external appearance, Aibak’s training had endowed him with ‘laudable qualities and admirable impressions’. He cultivated his compatriots by being most liberal with the ‘Turkish guards, the slaves of the household.’7 Thereby he won their affection and support. Merit raised him to the position of Amir Akhur (Master of the Horse Stables). He was deputed to campaign in India extensively, a task he accomplished with determination and success. In course of time, loyalty and signal services to Sultan Muizzuddin secured him the post of vice-regent in Hindustan. In accordance with Muizzuddin’s desire, Tajuddin Yaldoz, another slave of the Sultan, married his daughter to Aibak.8 Aibak extended Muslim dominions in India by undertaking expeditions on behalf of his master. The Sultan seems to have desired that Aibak should succeed him in Hindustan, and after the death of the Sultan, he ascended the throne of Hindustan at Lahore in 1206 and ruled up to 1210.

The career of Shamsuddin Iltutmish, who reigned as Sultan from 1210 to 1236, was more romantic and more eventful. He was a purchased slave of Aibak and thus he became ‘the slave of a slave’. He originally belonged to ‘the territory of Turkistan and the families of the Ilbari (tribe)’. His father, Ilam Khan, happened to have numerous kindred, relations, dependents and followers. Iltutmish, from his earliest years, ‘was endowed with comeliness, intelligence, and goodness of disposition to a great degree, so much so that his brothers began to grow envious of these endowments’. They took him away from his parents on some pretext and sold him to a slave merchant by the name of Bukhara Haji. The merchant sold him to the Sadr Jahan or the chief ecclesiastic of the place. He remained in ‘that family of eminence and sanctity  and the family used to nourish him like his own children in infancy.’ Subsequently, another merchant by the name of Jamaluddin Muhammad bought him and brought him to the city of Ghazni, where he was mentioned in terms of commendation to Sultan Muizzuddin. After a long stay at Ghazni, where the merchant wanted a high price for Iltutmish but could not get it, he brought him to Delhi. Iltutmish had received good training as a soldier and had also learnt the art of reading and writing. After many vicissitudes, he was at last purchased by Qutbuddin Aibak for a high price. Sultan Muizzuddin is believed to have said to Qutbuddin: ‘Treat Iltutmish well, for he will distinguish himself.’

Iltutmish was first made Sarjandar to Qutbuddin. He was later promoted to the offices of Amir-i-Shikar (Master of Hunt), governor of Gwalior and governor of Badaon in succession. Qutbuddin Aibak had three daughters, of whom two, one after the death of the other, were married to Nasiruddin Qubacha, and the third was married to Iltutmish.9 Such close relationships ensured continuance of the governance of Hindustan to the people of one tribe, that of the Turki slaves. But relationships did not restrain their ambition. After Aibak’s sudden death, the Amirs and Maliks placed on the throne his son, Aram Shah, and Qubacha marched to Uchch and Multan and seized those places. The nobles then invited Iltutmish from Badaon to assume charge of the empire. Aram’s small army was overpowered. He was probably done to death and Iltutmish ascended the throne of Delhi. He waded through blood to the throne by doing away with most of the Muizzi and Qutbi Amirs. According to the standards of behaviour then prevailing among Turkish slaves, he could not be accused of disloyalty to Aibak’s salt for doing away with his son, nor for that matter shedding the blood of his rival compatriots.

Similar fluctuations of fortune attended the careers of other Sultans. Tajuddin Yaldoz was purchased by Sultan Muhammad Ghauri when he was young. In course of time he was appointed head of a group of Turkish slaves. His ability and courage won him the confidence of the Sultan who conferred upon him the office of the Wali of Kirman. Minhaj writers, ‘He was a great monarch (of Kirman) of excellent faith, mild, beneficent, of good disposition and very handsome.’ After Muizzuddin’s death he became ruler of Ghazni with the consent of Maliks -and Amirs. He was a great warrior but was expelled by Qubacha who made himself master of the country. Yaldoz hit back and occupied Qubacha’s Sindh and established himself in the Punjab. But Iltutmish defeated him in 1215. Yaldoz was taken prisoner, sent to the fortress of Badaon and there done to death. Qubacha made his submission to Iltutmish in 1217 and was finally eliminated in 1227.

Qubacha was the son-in-law of both Aibak and Yaldoz. By the command of Sultan Muizzuddin a daughter of Yaldoz was married to Aibak and another to Qubacha.10 It may be remembered that as per the Islamic law, slaves could not enter into matrimony except with the consent and permission of the master. Through Muizzuddin’s favour, Qubacha had acquired considerable experience of civil and military affairs in passing from humble to high posts. He was made governor of Uchch. In a short time he made himself master of Multan, Siwistan and the whole country of Sindh. But his ambition came in clash with that of Yaldoz and Iltutmish and he lost in the game of power politics. Similarly, the scions of Iltutmish lost to Balban, another ambitious Turkish slave.

Balban was a Turk of the Ilbari tribe from which Iltutmish himself had descended. His father was a Khan of 10,000 families. In his youth, he was captured by the Mongols who took him to Baghdad. Khwaja Jamaluddin of Basrah purchased him from the Mongols, brought him up like his own son and along with other slaves brought him to the capital city of Delhi in the year 1232.11 Shortly after, Balban entered the service of Iltutmish. This is the version of the official chronicler Minhaj Siraj. According to Isami, however, some Chinese merchants brought forty Turkish slaves along with other goods and displayed them before Sultan Iltutmish. The Sultan rejected Balban, short statured as he was. But the Wazir Kamaluddin Muhammad Junaidi, noticing marks of promise in Balban, purchased him. Ibn Battuta’s version is like this: Sultan Iltutmish purchased in bulk a hundred slaves leaving out only Balban. When the latter asked the Sultan for whom he had purchased the other slaves, Iltutmish replied, ‘for myself’. Balban pleaded that he may purchase him for ‘God’s sake’. Touched by the appeal Iltutmish bought him too. In short, Balban entered the service of Iltutmish and was appointed his Khasabardar (Personal Attendant) and then enrolled in the famous corps of Forty Slaves. Raziyah promoted him to the rank of Amir-i-Shikar. When some nobles rose against Raziyah, Balban joined their faction and assisted in her deposition. He helped in the accession of the new king, Bahram, who rewarded him with the fief of Rewari to which later on Hansi also was added. His shrewdness and cunning played an important role in raising Nasiruddin Mahmud to the throne. In 1246, he became the principal adviser to the king.12 A few years later he further strengthened his position by marrying his daughter to the Sultan, whereupon he was given the title of Ulugh Khan (the Great Khan), and appointed Naib Mumlikat (Deputy Sultan). He was all powerful in the politics of the Sultanate until he himself became king in 1265, some say after poisoning Sultan Nasiruddin.13

Slave Kings

The success of slaves such as these has made many scholars praise the medieval Muslim slave system as being marvellous, asserting that it provided unlimited scope for rise so much so that a slave could even become a king. This is not a correct assessment. Slaves were not captured to be made kings; they were not purchased to be made kings. They were abducted, captured, or purchased to serve as domestics, guards, troopers etc. They were sold to make money. ‘Slave’ and ‘king’ are contradictory terms. If a few slaves could become kings, it was not because the system provided them with such opportunities but mainly because of their ability to indulge in unscupulous manipulations, muster armed band of followers, and strike for the throne at an appropriate moment. Isami puts the idea in suitable words in the mouth of the slave Sultan Shamsuddin Iltutmish who declared: ‘You cannot take the world through inheritance and boasting, you can take it only by wielding the sword in battle.’14 Kingship was won through the sword, not by mere loyalty or service. Slave adventurists openly supplanted the forces of the reigning monarch to seize authority. The killings and blindings of Caliph Umar (644 C.E.), scions of Alauddin Khalji (1316), Mubarak Khalji (1320), Farrukhsiyar (1719) and Shah Alam (1788) by slave nobles clearly shows that treachery stalked every step of the reigning monarch, so that courtesy and conspiracy by slaves went hand in hand throughout the medieval period. In such an atmosphere, loyalty was a luxury only a few could indulge in. One thing is certain. In these ‘favourable openings’ for rise to the highest office no moral principles were involved. All this is seen in the careers of the Turkish slave rulers of India, who, just because they were successful, are called remarkable men by some modern historians. In all their cases applies the dictum: ‘Nothing succeeds like success.’ For if some slaves rose to become kings, myriads of others, equally ambitious and efficient, got nowhere.

Such an one was Ikhtiyaruddin Bakhtiyar Khalji. He had a hard time getting recognition. He belonged to the Khalji tribe of Ghaur in the province of Garmsir. He came to the court of Sultan Muizzuddin at Ghazni and applied for enrolment in the Diwan-i-Arz (Military Department), but he was rejected. Consequently, from Ghazni he proceeded towards Hindustan, but was again rejected by the Diwan-i-Arz at Delhi. He went to Badaon and later on to Avadh. The ruler of Avadh Malik Hisamuddin Aghilbek (Aghilbek is a Turkish word meaning Lord of the flock), gave him two fiefs for subsistence. He soon acquired all the requisites of power like arms, men and horses, and began to raid the territory of Bihar and Munghir. The fame of his bravery and news of his plundering raids spread abroad, attracting to his standard a body of Khalji warriors then found hanging about all over Hindustan. His exploits were reported to Qutbuddin Aibak, who sent him a robe of honour and appointed him to invade Bihar as the Sultan’s general in 1202 C.E.15 Ikhtiyaruddin Bakhtiyar Khalji conquered extensively in Bihar and Bengal but then died unhonoured and unsung.

In short, as Yahiya concluded in the fifteenth century, ‘each and every noble wanted to become sultan’,16 but of course only a few succeeded. Slave nobles who attained fame, position and crown, were feared, befriended and flattered; others were not given much attention. About the first set a few encomiums by Minhaj Siraj are worth reproducing. Qutbuddin Aibak was ugly and deformed, but because he ascended the throne, he was, according to our author, ‘endowed with all laudable qualities and admirable impressions  the beneficent Qutbuddin Aibak, the second Hatim, was a high spirited and open handed monarch, The Almighty God had endowed him with intrepidity and beneficence the like of which, in his day, no sovereign of the world, either in the east or west, possessed ’17 Nasiruddin Qubacha ‘was endowed with very great intellect, sagacity, discretion, skill, wisdom and experience ,’18 while Bahauddin Tughril, the governor of Thangir or Bayana, ‘was a Malik of excellent disposition, scrupulously impartial, just, kind to the poor and strangers, and adorned with humility.’19 Sultan Iltutmish was ‘just and munificent Sultan, upright, beneficent, zealous and steadfast warrior against infidels, the patronizer of the learned, the dispenser of justice  through his sovereignty  (and) valour the Ahmadi faith acquired pre-eminence. In intrepidity he turned out to be another impetuous Ali, and, in liberality, a second Hatim-i-Tai ’20 Even the belatedly recognized Ikhtiyaruddin Bakhtiyar Khalji was ‘a man impetuous, enterprising, intrepid, bold, sagacious, and expert.’21 But when he lay dying of age and exhaustion after the Tibetan debacle, our author could say nothing more than that ‘Ali Mardan in some way went unto him, drew the sheet from his face, and with a dagger assassinated him’, and add nothing more than that ‘these events and calamities happened in the year 602 H (1205-06 C.E.).’22

Exaggerated praise was normal with the panegyrists for those slaves who succeeded in wresting the throne. In all cases the length of the sword and the strength of the supporters was more important than any claims on the basis of inheritance or even an investiture from the Caliph. The first four Caliphs were directly related to the Prophet. There was therefore very great respect for the Caliphs in the world of Islam. Conscious of the moral benefits accruing from Caliphal support, there developed a tradition with medieval Muslim rulers to request for and receive recognition of their sovereignty from the Caliph. But even this recognition was of no avail before the power of arms. As Prince Masud, son of Mahmud Ghaznavi, once declared, when his claims were being superseded by his brother Muhammad, ‘the sword is a truer authority than any writing’23 (or investiture from the Caliph).

In such a situation there was no sanctity of any letter of manumission either. Manumission was of great importance in law, polity and society of Islam. It is even asserted that ‘no slave could ascend the throne unless he had obtained a letter of manumission (khatt-i-azadi) from his master.  because a slave is no longer slave when he is manumitted by his master.’24 Sure enough, many of the slaves tried to obtain such letters; it provided legitimacy to their office. But many slaves whose star was in ascendance lived almost like kings without receiving or caring to receive any manumission letter. For example, as mentioned earlier, Alptigin in Khurasan had 500 villages of his own and an assemblage of 2000 slave troopers. As such as governor of Khurasan his position was not inferior to that of any sultan, although he had not been manumitted. But since the sword was the ultimate arbiter, even this moral prop was not that important. Most of the slave Maliks of Muizzuddin requested for letters of manumission from the Sultan’s successor, Mahmud, and did receive them. Tajuddin Yaldoz and Nasiruddin Qubacha received their letters of manumission on request,25 but Qutbuddin Aibak received his letter of manumission more than one year after he had ascended the throne of Delhi.26 It is not clear when Balban received his letter of freedom. At one place the contemporary chronicler, Ziyauddin Barani, says that Balban used to maintain the paraphernalia of royalty even when he was a khan,27 at another that he ascended the throne after becoming free,28 and yet at another that all the Forty Amirs (Chahlgani) had obtained freedom (buzurgi) at one and the same time so that no one considered himself inferior to any other.

Slave Nobles

These Turkish slaves formed the ruling class of Muslim kings and nobles in Hindustan. A few became kings while most others remained nobles. The nobles were called Khans, Maliks and Amirs. The official status of a noble was determined by his shughl (office), khitab (title), iqta (land assignment) and maratib (status and position at the court). Each nobleman of any importance commanded his own army and held his own miniature court. Sometimes he gathered so much strength that the Sultan began to live in fear of him. Alauddin Ata Malik Juwaini in his Tarikh-i-Jahan Gusha writes that often the ruler of a Muslim country ‘talks with fear with his own purchased slave, if the latter possesses ten horses in his stable  If an army is placed under his command, and he attains to position of authority, he simply cannot be commanded. And often it happens that the officer himself rises in revolt (against the king).’29 This was precisely the situation during the period of the early sultans. When Sultan Muizzuddin was killed, the inheritance of his dominions was contested between his relatives and Amirs in the homeland and the Turkish slaves operating in India. ‘These slave Maliks and Amirs, deprived the Maliks and Amirs of Ghaur, by force, of the bier of the late Sultan, together with precious treasures, and took possession of them’ while they sent his body to Ghazni.30 This conveys the idea of the clout of the Turkish slaves appointed in Hindustan. Aibak, Iltutmish, Yaldoz, Qubacha and Balban were all purchased slaves. They fought amongst themselves and faced opposition from their slave nobles. The nobles flouted the wishes and dictates of the rulers to make a show of strength. They formed pressure groups and rejected the king’s nominee to the throne. Qutbuddin Aibak wanted his slave Iltutmish to succeed him, but the nobles raised Aram Shah to the throne of Delhi. Sultan Iltutmish made Raziyah his successor, but the Maliks raised Ruknuddin Firoz to the throne. Balban designated Kai Khusrau as his heir apparent, but the nobles placed Kaiqubad on the throne. As if this was not bad enough, in the thirteenth century, during the Slave Dynasty’s rule in Hindustan, out of ten rulers they killed six - Aram Shah, Ruknuddin Firoz, Raziyah, Bahram, Alauddin Masaud and Nasiruddin Mahmud. As we shall see later on, these slave nobles extended Muslim dominions in India, collected huge treasures through loot, and made their constructive and destructive contribution in the various spheres of life. But they always posed a challenge to the king about how to control them.

No king could rule by himself; he had to govern through the nobles or Umara. They used to be appointed as Walis, Muqtis or Iqtadars to administer their assignments. W.H. Moreland enumerates the services rendered by some slave nobles like Tughan Khan, Saifuddin Aibak, Tughril Khan and Ulugh Khan Balban.31 But they had to be kept under control and there were many levers in the administrative machinery through which the Sultan kept a control over them. The lives of nobles, their titles and grants, were all dependent on the pleasure and mercy of the monarch. The absolute powers of the king regarding appointment and dismissal made the nobles completely dependent on him. The Sultan took extreme care in selecting them, and appointed to this cadre either his relatives or the most trusted persons. As a further safeguard some sort of a spoil system was resorted to. On accession a new monarch removed all nobles of his predecessor and appointed his own loyal slave supporters to important offices. Hence the Muizzi, Qutbi, Shamsi and Balbani slave Amirs (Ghulams) or nobles of Muizzudin bin Sam, Qutbuddin Aibak, Shamsuddin Iltutmish and Ghiyasuddin Balban.

Turkish nobles suffered from an inborn arrogance. Devoid of humanitarian learning and proud of military prowess, every one of them felt and said to the other: ‘What art thou and what shalt thou be, that I shalt not be?’32 Their continuous conflict born out of jealousy and intrigue, was a constant danger to the stability of the Muslim state and the monarch’s position. To show them their place the Sultan used to inflict humiliating and barbarous punishments on those found guilty of some crime. Malik Baqbaq, the Governor of Badaon and holder of a Jagir of 4000 horse, got a servant beaten to death. Sultan Balban ordered Malik Baqbaq to be publicly flogged. Balban also publicly executed the spies who had failed to report the misconduct of Malik Baqbaq. Another great noble, Haibat Khan, was the Governor of Avadh. In a state of drunkenness, he got a man killed. Balban ordered Haibat Khan to be flogged with five hundred stripes. He was also made to pay a compensation of 20,000 tankahs to the widow of the victim. Haibat Khan felt so ashamed that after this incident he never came out of his house till the day of his death. Amin Khan, the Governor of Avadh, was hanged at the gate of the city of Ayodhya because he had failed to defeat in battle the rebel Tughril Beg of Bengal. Balban is said to have poisoned even his cousin, Sher Khan, the Governor of Bhatinda. A well-established espionage system helped in keeping the nobles terrorized. While terror tactics made individual nobles squirm, junior Turks were promoted to important positions and placed on par with the important. That is how the slave rulers tried to keep individual slave nobles under control.

Under the Khaljis and Tughlaqs (fourteenth century) the nobles lived under constant fear of the Sultan. ‘Nor did they do anything nor utter a single word which could subject them to reproof or punishment.33‘ The Afghan nobles, who were considered to be difficult of control and therefore fairly independent, were no better. Whenever a farman was sent to a district officer by Sultan Sikandar Lodi (fifteenth century), the former received it with the utmost respect. Sikandar reduced the highest nobles to the position of slaves so that he could boast that ‘if I order one of my slaves to be seated in a palanquin, the entire body of nobility would carry him on their shoulders at my bidding.’34 Badaoni gives an eye-witness account of the situation under Islam Shah Sur (sixteenth century). ‘In the year 955H (1548 A.D.), when he was of tender age (the chronicler Badaoni) went to the country of Bajwara, one of the dependencies of Baiana   and witnessed the customs and rules in practice’ - that the high nobles holding ranks of 500 to 20000 sawars were ordered to set up a lofty tent every Friday; a chair was placed in its centre on which were kept the shoes of Islam Shah (how could the shoes of the Sultan be procured? Were they sent along with the farman?). The nobles sat at their proper places with bowed heads in front of them to show their respect. Thereafter, the amin read out the farman containing new regulations and reforms to be carried out by the nobles. If any one disobeyed the royal orders, the officer concerned informed the Sultan and ‘the disobedient Amir would forthwith be visited with punishment together with his family and relations.’ The Sultan also took away the elephants and even patars (dancing girls) of the nobles at will.35

Under the Mughals the nobles enjoyed a fair amount of respect but in principle their status was not changed. In fact, all nobles took pride in calling themselves ghulams of their superiors or the king. This indeed became a part of Muslim etiquette and culture. This explains how sometimes poets, physicians, musicians and scholars have all been bracketed together as slaves. In fact, they all were. It is true that some of them were not captured in war or purchased in slave markets. But there were certain conditions of slavery which were applicable to them as to the meanest of slaves. They were prohibited from visiting one another or holding get-together parties without the permission or at least the knowledge of the king. Further, they were prohibited from contracting any matrimonial alliances without permission of the king or the master. The king was heir to the noble; on his death his property went to the king and not to his children, and the sons of the noble became slaves of the king in their turn. Most of the kings kept a strict watch on the activities of their greatest nobles. Hence there should be no misgivings about the status of nobles and slaves. They were all slaves, whether high or low. As pointed out by Pelsaert, their ranks, assignments, ‘wealth, position, confidence, everything hangs by a thread’. The king could take away everything at any time. ‘A trifling mistake may bring a man to the depth of misery or to the scaffold.’36 The position of the highest noble was as uncertain as that of any slave.


  1. M. Ufi, Jami-ul-Hikayat, E.D., II, 179. 

  2. Minhaj, 70, 71. 

  3. Isami, I, 119. Also Majumdar, Struggle for the Empire, V, 2. 

  4. Utbi, Tarikh-i-Yamini, E.D., II, 18-19, 22-23. 

  5. Khondmir, Khulasat-ul-Akhbar, E.D., IV, 145 besides others. 

  6. Minhaj, 497. 

  7. Minhaj 513, 514 and n. 

  8. Hasan Nizami, Tajul Maasir, E.D., II, 221. 

  9. Minhaj, 529-30. 

  10. Minhaj, 500. 

  11. Ibid., 777-78. 

  12. Nigam, Nobility under the Sultans, 38. 

  13. Lal, Early Muslim, 64-65. 

  14. Isami, II, 221. 

  15. Lal, Early Muslims, 65-66. 

  16. Yahiya, Tarikh-i-Mubarak Shahi, 140. 

  17. Minhaj, 512, 513. 

  18. Ibid., 531. 

  19. Ibid., 544. 

  20. Ibid., 597-98. 

  21. Ibid., 548. 

  22. Ibid., 572-73. 

  23. Ibid., 91-92. 

  24. M.A. Ahmad Political History and Institutions of the Early Turkish Empire of Delhi, 1. 

  25. Minhaj, 398-99. 

  26. Aibak ascended the throne at Lahore on 24 June 1206 (17 Zilqada 602) more than three months after Muizzuddin’s death. His formal manumission, sent by sultan Mahmud, the nephew and successor of the deceased Sultan, was not obtained till 603 H/1208. Habibullah, The Foundation of Muslim Rule in India, 88-89, notes 7-11. 

  27. Barani, p. 26. 

  28. Ibid., 25. 

  29. Juwaini, Tarikh-i-Jahan Gusha (Tehran), 19-21 and summarized in Muhammad Aziz Ahmad, Political History and Institutions in the Early Turkish Empire of Delhi, Lahore 1949, Delhi reprint 1972, 40-41 

  30. Minhaj, 492. 

  31. Moreland, The Agrarian System of Moslem India, 216-220. 

  32. ‘tu kesti ki man na am va tu ki bashi ki man na basham’, Barani, 28. For the struggle of Iltutmish with his compatriots see Minhaj, 610, 774 and n. Also Tripathi, Some Aspects of Muslim Administration, 26. 

  33. Barani, 284; also Fatawa-i-Jahandari, 30. 

  34. Tarikh-i-Daudi, 40; Waqiat-i-Mushtaqui, 13(b). For more references, Lal, Twilight, 189. 

  35. Badaoni, I, 496-97. 

  36. Pelsaert, 56 for the Mughal period; Barani, 282 ff for the Sultanate.