A Woman to Know: Razia Sultana

Razziya Sultana — may she rest in peace — was a great sovereign, and wise and just, and beneficient, the patron of the learned, a dispenser of justice, the cherisher of her subjects. — Minhaji Siraj Juzjani

(image via Wikimedia)


From 1236 to 1240, Razia ruled Delhi as its first female sultan (and to this day, the only female sultan). Razia's father chose her to lead, even over some of her younger brothers. Razia's siblings protested, and the country broke into riots — but Razia dressed in pants and a turban, squashing the uproar by leading her army into battle. She minted currency in her own name and image, establishing herself as the legitimate ruler, a "Pillar of Women" and "Queen of the Times," as recorded on these coins. She opened schools and libraries and won the admiration of her subjects.

But the nobility still wanted a man on the throne. In 1240, they imprisoned Razia and appointed one of her brothers in her stead. She joined forces with her lover, a powerful province governor, to fight to reclaim the throne — but in October of 1240, they lost the battle.

As her contemporary biographer Minjaji Siraj Juzjani recorded:

[She] was endowed with all the admirable attributes and qualities required of kings; but as she did not attain the destiny, in her creation, of being computed among men, of what advantage were all these excellent qualifications unto her?

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