13th century ruler of the Delhi Sultinate

Shams ud-Din Iltutmish (r. 1211 – 1236) was the third of the Mamluk kings who ruled the former Ghurid territories in northern India. He was the first Muslim sovereign to rule from Delhi, and is thus considered the effective founder of the Delhi Sultanate.

Illtumish Tomb in Qutub Minar Complex

Quotes edit

  • “You cannot take the world through inheritance and boasting, you can take it only by wielding the sword in battle.”
    • Iltumish. Isami, II, 221. quoted from Lal, K. S. (1994). Muslim slave system in medieval India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 4
  • The faithful Gabriel carried the tidings to the dwellers in heaven,
    From the record of victories of the Sulṭan of the age Shams ud-Din,
    Saying — Oh ye holy angels raise upon the heavens,
    Hearing this good tidings, the canopy of adornment.
    That from the land of the heretics the Shahanshah of Islam
    Has conquered a second time the fort resembling the sky;
    The Shah, holy warrior and Ghazi, whose hand and sword
    The soul of the lion of repeated attacks praises.
    • The poet Ruhani al-SamarqandiGhulam Husain Salim Zaidpuri devoting a poem to the Sultan. Ghulam Husain Salim Zaidpuri, Riyaz us-Salatin (1778)
  • “Iltutmish did not forget that he was a Muslim conqueror. He showed himself to be very pious, never forgetting to do his five devotional daily….He likewise showed himself totally intolerant vis-à-vis the Hindus who refused to convert, destroying their temples and annihilating Brahmin communities.”
    • Louis Frederic, L'Inde de l'Islam, p. 42-49, (quoted from: Decolonizing the Hindu Mind - By Koenraad Elst p. 328)
  • “After he returned to the capital in the year AH 632 (AD 1234) the Sultan led the hosts of Islam toward Malwah, and took the fortress and town of Bhilsan, and demolished the idol-temple which took three hundred years in building and which, in altitude, was about one hundred ells.”
    • Vidisha (Madhya Pradesh). Tabqat-i-Nasiri, translated into English by Major H.G. Reverty, New Delhi Reprint, 1970, Vol. I, pp. 621-22
  • “From thence he advanced to Ujjain-Nagari and destroyed the idol-temple of Mahakal Diw. The effigy of Bikramjit who was sovereign of Ujjain-Nagari, and from whose reign to the present time one thousand, three hundred, and sixteen years have elapsed, and from whose reign they date the Hindui era, together with other effigies besides his, which were formed of molten brass, together with the stone (idol) of Mahakal were carried away to Delhi, the capital.”
    • Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh). Tabqat-i-Nasiri, translated into English by Major H.G. Reverty, New Delhi Reprint, 1970, Vol. I, pp. 622-23
  • Among his “Victories and Conquests” is counted the “bringing away of the idol of Mahakal, which they have planted before the gateway of the Jami’ Masjid at the capital city of Delhi in order that all true believers might tread upon it.”
    • Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh). Tabqat-i-Nasiri, translated into English by Major H.G. Reverty, New Delhi Reprint, 1970, Vol. I, pp. 628
  • “The Sultan then returned [from Jalor] to Delhi… and after his arrival ‘not a vestige or name remained of idol temples which had raised their heads on high; and the light of faith shone out from the darkness of infidelity… and the moon of religion and the state became resplendent from the heaven of prosperity and glory.”
  • “In AH 631 he invaded Malwah, and after suppressing the rebels of that place, he destroyed that idol-temple which had existed there for the past three hundred years.... “Next he turned towards Ujjain and conquered it, and after demolishing the idol-temple of Mahakal, he uprooted the statue of Bikramajit together with all other statues and images which were placed on pedestals, and brought them to the capital where they were laid before the Jami‘ Masjid for being trodden under foot by the people.”110
    • Vidisha and Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh) Tarikh-i-Mubarak Shahi, of Yahya Sirhindi, Translated from the Urdu version by Dr. Ãftab Asghar, second edition, Lahore. 1982.
  • “…In 631 (1233), Shamsuddin marched to Malwa and conquered the city of Bailsan and its fort and demolished its famous temple. The historians have narrated that its citizens built the temple by digging its foundation and raising its walls one hundred cubits from the ground in 300 years. All the images are fixed with lead. The temple is called Gawajit (?) (Vikramajit) Sultan of Ujjain Nagari. The history of the temple is a proof of what is said about its construction and demolition, that is, eleven hundred years. People of Hind are ignorant of history.”
    • Sultan Shamsu’d-Din Iltutmish (AD 1210-1236) Vidisha (Madhya Pradesh) Zafaru’l-Walih Bi Muzaffar Wa Ãlihi Zafaru’l Walih Bi Muzaffar Wa Ãlihi, translated into English by M.F. Lokhand­wala, Baroda, 1970 and 1974, Vol. II, p. 575.
  • “…And in the year AH 631 (AD 1233) having made an incursion in the direction of the province of Malwah and taken Bhilsa and also captured the city of Ujjain, and having destroyed the idol-temple of Ujjain which had been built six hundred years previously, and was called Mahakal, he levelled it to its foundations, and threw down the image of Rai Vikrmajit from whom the Hindus reckon their era… and brought certain other images of cast molten brass and placed them on the ground in front of the door of the mosque of old Dihli and ordered the people to trample them under foot…”
    • About Sultan Shamsu’d-Din Iltutmish (AD 1210~1236) conquest of Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh). Muntakhab-ut-Tawarikh by `Abd al-Qadir Bada'uni.
  • Shamsuddin Iltutmish who succeeded Aibak at Delhi invaded Malwa in 1234 AD. He destroyed an ancient temple at Vidisha. Badauni reports: “Having destroyed the idol temple of Ujjain which had been built six hundred years previously, and was called Mahakal, he levelled it to its foundations, and threw down the image of Rai Vikramajit from whom the Hindus reckon their era, and brought certain images of cast molten brass and placed them on the ground in front of the doors of mosques of old Delhi, and ordered the people of trample them under foot.”
  • During his expedition to Gwalior, Iltutmish (1210-36) massacred 7000 persons besides those killed in the battle on both sides. His attacks on Malwa (Vidisha and Ujjain) were met with stiff resistance and were accompanied by great loss of life. He is also credited with killing 12,000 Khokhars (Ghakkars) during Aibak's reign.
    • Lal, K. S. (1999). Theory and practice of Muslim state in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 7
  • [As early as in the time of Sultan Iltutmish (1210-1236), soon after the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate in 1206, some Ulama suggested to him to confront the Hindus with a choice between Islam and death. The Wazir Nizamul Mulk Junaidi replied:]
    “But at the moment in India… the Muslims are so few that they are like salt (in a large dish). If such orders are to be enforced… the Hindus might combine… and the Muslims would be too few in number to suppress(them). However, after a few years when in the capital and in the regions and small towns, the Muslims are well established and the troops are larger, it will be possible to give Hindus, the choice of ‘death’ or ‘Islam’.”
    • Ziyauddin Barani, Sana-i-Muhammadi, trs. in Medieval India Quarterly, (Aligarh), I, Part III, 100-105. quoted from Lal, K. S. (1994). Muslim slave system in medieval India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 5, also in K.S. Lal, Legacy of Muslim rule in India, 1992., also in Jain, M. (2010). Parallel pathways: Essays on Hindu-Muslim relations, 1707-1857.
  • The following anecdote is related of Sultan Shamsuddin Iltutmish. He was greatly enamoured of a Turkish slave girl in his harem, whom he had purchased, and sought her caresses, but was always unable to achieve his object. One day he was seated, having his head anointed with some perfumed oil by the hands of the same slave girl, when he felt some tears fall on his head. On looking up, he found that she was weeping. He inquired of her the cause. She replied, “Once I had a brother who had such a bald place on his head as you have, and it reminds me of him.” On making further inquiries it was found that the slave girl was his own sister. They had both been sold as slaves, in their early childhood, by their half-brothers; and thus had Almighty God saved him from committing a great sin. Badaoni states in his work, “I heard this story myself, from the emperor Akbar’s own lips, and the monarch stated that this anecdote had been orally traced to Sultan Ghiyasuddin Balban himself.”
    • Minhaj, 506, 526n. quoted from Lal, K. S. (1994). Muslim slave system in medieval India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 12
  • “…To Iletmish we owe some of the finest Muslim works in India. The Arhai din ka-Jhopra began by Qutab al-Din in AD 1198-99, was also completed by him. Tod had said of it that it was ‘one of the most perfect as well as the most ancient monuments of Hindu architecture’, on the evidence of certain four-armed figures to be seen on the pillars…
    • Syed Mahmudul Hasan, Mosque Architecture of Pre-Mughal Bengal, Dacca (Bangladesh), 1979. p. 38
  • “After the reduction of Gualiar, the King marched his army towards Malwa, reduced the fort of Bhilsa, and took the city of Oojein, where he destroyed a magnificent temple dedicated to Mahakaly, formed upon the same plan with that of Somnat. This temple is said to have occupied three hundred years in building, and was surrounded by a wall one hundred cubits in height. The image of Vikramaditya, who had been formerly prince of this country, and so renowned, that the Hindoos have taken an era from his death, as also the image of Mahakaly, both of stone, with many other figures of brass, were found in the temple. These images the King caused to be conveyed to Dehly, and broken at the door of the great mosque.”
    • Tãrîkh-i-Firishta by Firishta. Sultãn Shamsu’d-Dîn Iltutmish (AD 1210-1236) Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh)
  • “…In the year AH 631, he invaded the country of Mãlwah and conquered the fort of Bhîlsã. He also took the city of Ujjain, and had the temple of Mahãkãl… completely demolished, destroying it from its foundations; and he carried away the effigy of Bikramãjît… and certain other statues which were fashioned in molten brass, and placed them in the ground in front of the Jãmi’ Masjid, so that they might he trampled upon by the people.”
    • Sultãn Shamsu’d-Dîn Iltutmish (AD 1210-1236) Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh)
    • Tabqãt-i-Akharî by Nizamuddin Ahmad.
  • “That the practice of utilizing the spoils of Hindu temples continued throughout the reign of Sultan Iletmish is proved by the Mosque of Ukha in Bayana (Uttar Pradesh), which is also on the site of a Hindu temple…”
    • Bayana (Rajasthan) . Syed Mahmudul Hasan, Mosque Architecture of Pre-Mughal Bengal, Dacca (Bangladesh), 1979, p. 39
  • “The Jami Masjid of Badaun, also built by Iletmish is one of the largest mosques in India. Following the traditional courtyard plan, it also utilizes Hindu temple pillars. The entrance arches of the gateways leading into the courtyard of the Mosque presumably recall those in the great Mosques at Delhi and Ajmer…”
    • Badaun (Uttar Pradesh) Syed Mahmudul Hasan, Mosque Architecture of Pre-Mughal Bengal, Dacca (Bangladesh), 1979, p. 39
  • Next, Sultan Iltutmish (r. 1210–36) spent his early years in suppressing the Turkish opponents. He was also in fear of invasion by Genghis Khan. In 1226, he attacked Ranthambhor. Minhaj Siraj records that ‘much plunder fell into the hands of his followers;’dccvii the plunder obviously included slaves. In the 1234–35 attack of Ujjain, he made captives of the ‘women and children of the recalcitrant,’ according to Shiraj and Ferishtah.
    • quoted in M.A. Khan , Islamic Jihad: A legacy of forced conversion, imperialism and slavery (2011), quoting quoting Elliot & Dawson, Vol. II
  • They left no stone unturned in de-Hinduizing or denationalizing the Hindus, in effect de-Indianizing the Indians, in various ways. It is preposterous to question their credentials as true Muslims. Their 'Ulama' exhorted them off and on to make the best of their sword to root out the Hindus and convert India into a full-fledged Dar al-lslam. Sayyid Nur ad-Din Mubarak Ghaznawi Suhrawardi, at once a leading Sufi, a leading Muslim divine, and the Shaykh al-lslam of Sultan Iltutmish. led a deputation of Ulama to the Sultan and advised him to give an ultimatum to the Hindus to embrace Islam or face death. The Sultan’s prime minister pleaded powerlessness on his behalf to do so." Then the Shaykh offered an alternative suggestion: ’... the king should at least strive to disgrace, dishonour, and defame the Mushrik and idol- worshipping Hindus.... The sign of the kings being protectors of the faith is this: When they see a Hindu, their faces turn red and they wish to swallow him alive....'
    • Sayyid Nur ad-Din Mubarak Ghaznawi Suhrawardi, Diya ad Din Barani, Sahifah i Na t i Muhammadi 391-2, in :Harsh Narain, Myths of Composite Culture and Equality of Religions (1990) p 10 ff
About the tomb
  • The ceiling rests on columns raised with two pillars each robbed from an earlier Hindu shrine; carved lintels from another were found embedded in the thick lime-concrete roof. Other pieces were used in the ceilings of the prayer-chamber and bastions and the pillars re-utilised in the verandahs, originally used as a madrasa, after chipping the decoration off them. The tomb was repaired later by Firuz Shah Tughluq.
    •  Archaeological Survey of India, Sultan Ghari, [1]
  • Tomb of Sultãn Ghãrî: Sayyid Ahmad Khãn notices this tomb and describes it as exquisite. He says that it was built in AH 626 corresponding to AD 1228 when the corpse of Sultãn Nãsiru’d-Dîn Mahmûd, the eldest son of Sultãn Shamsu’d-Dîn Iltutmish, who was Governor of Laknauti and who died while his father was still alive, was brought to Delhi and buried.391 But the editor, Khaleeq Anjum, comments in his introduction that “the dome of the mosque which is of marble has been re-used and has probably been obtained from some temple”, and that the domes on the four pavilions outside “are in Hindu style in their interior.”392 He provides greater details in his notes at the end of Sayyid Ahmad’s work. He writes: “…This is the first Muslim tomb in North India, if we overlook some others. And it is the third historical Muslim monument in India after Quwwat al-Islãm Masjid and ADhãî Din Kã JhoñpRã… Stones from Hindu temples have been used in this tomb also, as in the Quwwat al-Islãm Masjid.” “…In the middle of the corridor on the west there is a marble dome. A look at the dome leads to the conclusion that it has been brought from some temple. The pillars that have been raised in the western corridor are of marble and have been made in Greek style. It is clear that they belong to some other building…”
    • Ãsãru’s-Sanãdîd by Sayyid Ahmad Khãn, quoted from Shourie, A., & Goel, S. R. (1993). Hindu temples: What happened to them.
  • The tomb of Shamsu'd-Din Iltumish... was built in about 1235 by Iltumish himself, only five years after the construction of Sultan Ghari's tomb. Yet it is quite different from the latter and illustrates that phase in the develpment of Indo-Islamic architecture when the builder had ceased to depend for material on the demolition of temples, although the arches and semi-domes below the squinches were still laid in the indigenous corbelled fashion. ... The tomb is plain on the outside, but is profusely carved on the entrances and in the interior with inscriptions in Kufi and Naskh characters and geometrical and arabesque patterns in Saracenic tradition, although several motifs among its carvings are reminiscent of Hindu decoration. ... In view of its lavish ornamentation, Fergusson described it as 'one of the richest examples of Hindu art applied to Muhammadan purposes.' [...] The monument [Sultan Ghari] exemplifies the same phase in tomb-architecture, as we find in the Quwwatu'lIslam mosque: it is built with architrectural members removed from temples and employs the trabeated construction with which the indigenous architects were familiar.
    • Y.D. Sharma, Delhi and its Neighhbourhood. ASI, 2001. p. 56-57, 68
  • Naqvi has taken pains to describe at length the edifice which began as a temple, got converted into a tomb and to which was added a masjid with a marble mehrab and then a gate with pretty Arabic calligraphy of verses from the Holy Quran. As he puts it, the gateway projects 13 ~feet from the enclosure wall and is approached and entered by a flight of steps flanked by two square rooms which are roofed with stone slabs in the Hindu fashion. The external archway of the gate is formed by overlapping courses of marble and around it is the important Arabic inscription in Kufic characters.
    He goes on, after crossing the threshold, one stands under the eastern colonnaded verandah, the flat roof of which rests on red sandstone pillars. The latter are not uniformly carved, indicating that they have been re-used here from an older building. Opposite this colonnade and along the whole length of the west em wall runs another colonnaded verandah with a prayer chamber in the centre erected in white marble and covered with a corbelled pyramidal dome. The dome is almost certainly re-used and is lavishly carved internally with Hindu motifs, notably bands of lozenge or triangular patterns. The marble mehrab is embellished with verses from the Quran and a floral design. The floor is paved with marble slabs. The rest of the verandah on either side of the prayer chamber comprises red sandstone pillars and pilasters supporting a flat roof of Hindu design, with a brick work parapet...
    He winds up his description with the words: The Hindu elements in the architecture of the monument are apparent in the dome of the mosque and the partly defaced Hindu motifs on some of the pillar brackets of the western colonnade. The presence of a Gauripatta or receptacle of a linga in the pavement of the western colonnade is a further significant point. Furthermore, the marble stones in the external facade of the mosque are serially numbered, indicating their removal from elsewhere.
    • Naqvi, S.A.A., Archaeological Survey of India, January 1947. quoted from Goradia, P. (2002). Hindu masjids.
  • Yet another officer of the ASI, Sharma 12 published his findings in 1964. He had the advantage of research already done by Cunningham, as well as Naqvi who has been quoted earlier. A particularl y refreshing point that S harma makes is with regard to a couple of sculptured lintels and, an upright stone rail ing that were found embed ded in the roof of the edifice. The frieze or a band of decoration carved on one of the lentils has, what appears to be a bull and a horse facing each other. This was further proof of the Hinduness of Sultan Ghari's tomb. Sharma went on to add that in the eighth century, or a little earlier, a large temple existed at the site of the Sultan Chari's tomb, 8 km west of the Qutb-Minar. The temple was erected probably by some feudatory of the Pratiharas.
    • Sharma, Y.D., Archaeological Remains, Monuments and Museums, 1964 quoted from Goradia, P. (2002). Hindu masjids.
  • Cunningham's observations made in 1871/72 should be taken even more seriously because his impartiality would be beyond doubt. There would be no bias as between the Hindu and Muslim viewpoints . In the ASI report of those years he has written that the tomb of Sultan Chari, with its domes of overlapping courses, appears to be pre-Muhammadan, but when to this feature we add the other Hindu features, both of construction and ornamentation, the stones set without cement in the walls, the appearance of wear or weathering of the stones, greater even than in the Kutb, though similar in material, and the fact that the inner cell was originally finished in granite, but afterwards cased with marble, it becomes extremely probable that this is, like the Kutb, a Hindu building appropriated by the Muhammandans, and the probability is rendered almost a certainty by the existence of the central cell, which is a construction adapted to some Hindu forms of worship, the Saivic, but which is an anomaly in Muhammadan architecture.
    • Cunningham quoted from Goradia, P. (2002). Hindu masjids.
  • After he had reached the capital he sent, in A.H. 632 (1234 A.D.), the army of Islam towards Malwa and took the fort and city of Bhilsa. There was a temple there which was three hundred years in building. It was about one hundred and five gaz high. He demolished it. From thence he proceeded to Ujjain, where there was a temple of Maha-kal, which he destroyed.
    • Minhaju-s Siraj Elliot and Dowson, vol. II, quoted from Jain, M. (editor) (2011). The India they saw: Foreign accounts. New Delhi: Ocean Books. Volume II Chapter 12

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