Slaves – yet Powerful Conquerors…………………….

“Oh while I live, to be the ruler of life, not a slave, to meet life as a powerful conqueror, and nothing exterior to me will ever take command of me.”

Walt Whitman


Internet Image

Turkic slaves of Shahabuddin Ghori

Mu’izz ad-Din Muhammad, born Shihab ad-Din (1149 – March 15, 1206), also known as Muhammad of Ghor, was Sultan of the Ghurid Empire along with his brother Ghiyath ad-Din Muhammad from 1173 to 1202, and as the supreme ruler of the Ghurid Empire from 1202 to 1206.

Shahabuddin Ghori had no offspring, but he treated his Turkic slaves as his sons, who were trained both as soldiers and administrators and provided with the best possible education. Many of his competent and loyal slaves rose to positions of importance in Shahabuddin Ghori’s army and government.


Shahabuddin Ghori (Internet Photo)

Slaves of Shahabuddin Ghori

i) Qutb-ud-din Aibak became ruler of Delhi in 1206, establishing the Sultanate of Delhi, which marked the start of the Slave dynasty.


Qutb ud din Aibak (Internet Photo)

Qutb-ud-din Aibak was born of Turkish parents in Turkistan.

He was sold as a slave in his childhood and after passing through few hands was purchased by Sultan Muhammad of Ghur.

Very soon he drew the attention of his master by his talent and superb swordsmanship. He was offered with several responsible posts gradually.

He was very faithful to his master Muhammad Ghori and was with him throughout his Indian campaigns.

Owing to his meritorious services, he was assigned with the charge of his Indian conquests after the second battle of Tarain in 1192 A.D.

It was Qutb-ud-din who consolidated and extended his conquests in India. In 1206 A.D., Qutb-ud-din was formally invested with viceregal powers and promoted to the rank of Malik by Sultan Muhammad of Ghur.

Moreover, he had to face strongest opposition from Taj-ud-din Yeldoz and Nasir-ud-din Qubacha, the two more contenders for the throne of Delhi.

Yeldoz was the ruler of Ghazni and Qubacha was of Uch and both had matrimonial relations with Qutb-ud-din.

Yeldoz was his father-in-law and Qubacha was his brother-in-law as he had married a   daughter of Yelzdoz and one sister of Nasir-ud-din Qubacha .

Sultan Mu’izz-ad-din (Mohammad Ghori) used occasionally to indulge in music and conviviality, and one night he had a party, and in the course of the banquet he graciously bestowed gifts of money and of un-coined gold and silver upon his servants.

Qutb-ud-din received his share among the rest, but whatever he got, whether gold or silver, coined or uncoined, he gave it all, when he went out of the assembly, to the Turkish soldiers, guards, farashes, and other servants. He kept nothing, either small or great, for himself.

Next day when this was reported to the king, Qutb was looked upon with great favor and condescension, and was appointed to some important duties about the court. He thus became a great officer, and his rank grew higher every day, until by the king’s favor he was appointed Master of the Horse.

ii) Nasir-ud-Din Qabacha became ruler of Multan in 1210.

In 1210 Nasir-ud-Din Qabacha declared himself independent. He twice repulsed the attacks of Tajuddin Elduz of Ghazni, but could not defeat Shams-ud-Din Iltutmish and drowned in the Indus River while trying to escape.

In 1214 Muhammad II of Khwarezm drove Tajuddin Elduz from Ghazni, and took him to Lahore, and gave the authority to Nasir-ud-Din Qabacha.

Iltutmish protested against this act of aggression, and when the protest was disregarded marched towards Lahore. Tajuddin Elduz accepted the challenge and on January 25, 1216, the armies met on the already famous field of Taraori.

Tajuddin Elduz was defeated and taken, and after being led through the streets of Delhi was sent to Budaun, where he was put to death in the same year.

After the overthrow of Tajuddin Elduz, Nasir-ud-Din Qabacha again occupied Lahore.

He was married to one of the daughters of Aibak in 1205.

Death of Nasir-ud-Din Qabacha

As Iltutmish approached Uch his lieutenant, Nasiruddin Aiyitim, advanced from Lahore and besieged Multan, Qabacha took to his boats and fled to the island-fortress of Bhakkar, in the Indus River, leaving his minister to follow him with the treasure stored at Uch.

On February 9, 1228, Iltutmish arrived at Uch and opened the siege, at the same time dispatching a force under his minister, Kamaluddin Muhammad Junaidi, entitled Nizam al-Mulk, in pursuit of Qabacha, who in his despair sent Alauddin Bahram Shah, his son by Aibak’s daughter, to make terms.

Bahram was successful, and in accordance with the treaty Uch was surrendered in May 4, but Junaidi was either not informed of the treaty or willfully disregarded it, for he continued to besiege Bhakkar, and Qabacha drowned in the Indus River.

The circumstances of his death are variously related; some writers say that he was accidentally drowned in attempting to escape, and others that he committed suicide by throwing himself into the river.

His death ended the campaign, and his troops transferred their services to Iltutmish, who returned to Delhi in August, leaving Junaidi to complete the conquest of lower Sindh.


Coins of time of Nasiruddin Qabacha (Sind)

iii) Tajuddin Yildoz became ruler of Ghazni.


Tajuddin Yildoz Coins (Internet Photo)

Taj al-Din Yildoz (also spelled Yaldiz, Yildoz, and Yalduz) was a Turkic slave commander of the Ghurids, who, after the death of Sultan Mu’izz al-Din Muhammad, became the ruler of Ghazni, while, however, still recognizing Ghurid authority.

Yildoz later fought the Turkic ruler Iltutmish, and laid claim to the throne of Delhi as the heir to Mu’izz al-Din Muhammad. Iltutmish refused. The two armies met at Tarain in January 1216. Yildoz was defeated and taken by Iltutmish, and after being led through the streets of Delhi was sent to Budaun, where he was put to death in the same year. After the fall of Yildoz, Qabacha again occupied Lahore.

iv) Ikhtiyar Uddin Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji became ruler in parts of Bengal.

A certain reference in literature suggests that in 1193, the ancient college-city of Nalanda and the University of Vikramshila were sacked by Bakhtiyar Khilji. The Persian historian Minhaj-i-Siraj, in his chronicle the Tabaqat-i-Nasiri, reported that thousands of monks were burned alive and thousands beheaded as Bakhtiyar Khilji tried his best to uproot Buddhism. The burning of the library continued for several months and “smoke from the burning manuscripts hung for days like a dark pall over the low hills.


The end of Buddhist Monks, A.D. 1193 (Internet Image)

Death of Ikhtiyar Khilji

Ikhtiyar Khilji left the town of Devkot in 1206 to attack Tibet, leaving Ali Mardan Khilji in Ghoraghat Upazila to watch the eastern frontier from his headquarters at Barisal.

Khilji forces were ambushed in Assam and Ikhtiyar returned to Devkot with about one hundred surviving soldier. Upon Ikhtiyar Khilji’s return to India, while he was lying ill at Devkot, he was assassinated by Ali Mardan.

Loyal troops under Muhammad Shiran Khilji avenged Ikhtiyar’s death, imprisoning Ali Mardan.

Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khilji had the Khutbah read and coins struck in his own name. Mosques, madrasas, and khanqahs arose in the new abode of Islam through Bakhtiyar’s patronage, and his example was imitated by his Amirs.

Buddhist sources hold him responsible for the destruction of Nalanda.

Slave Dynasty aka Mamluk dynasty

Qutbuddin Aibak (1206-1210)


Internet Photo

Qutbuddin Aibak was a slave of Muhammad Ghori, who made him the Governor of his Indian possessions. Qutb-ud-din Aibak began his career as Malik or Sipahasalar under Muhammad Ghori. He set up his military headquarters at Indraprasta, near Delhi. He raised a standing army and established his hold over north India even during the life time of Ghori. After the death of Ghori in 1206, Aibak declared his independence. He severed all connections with the kingdom of Ghori and thus founded the Slave dynasty as well as the Delhi Sultanate.

He assumed the title Sultan and made Lahore his capital. His rule lasted for a short period of four years. Muslim writers call Aibak Lakh Baksh or giver of lakhs because he gave liberal donations to them.

Aibak patronized the great scholar Hasan Nizami. He also started the construction of after the name of a famous Sufi saint Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakthiyar. It was later completed by Iltutmish.

Islam mosque was commissioned by him. His tomb is located in Anarkali Bajar at Lahore. His successor Iltutmish was his son in law.

Aibak died suddenly while playing chaugan (horse polo) in 1210. He was succeeded by his son Aram Baksh, who was replaced by Iltutmish after eight months.

Shamsuddin Iltutmish (1211-1236)


Internet Image

Iltutmish belonged to the Ilbari tribe and hence his dynasty was named as Ilbari dynasty. His half-brothers sold him as a slave to Aibak, who made him his-son-in law by giving his daughter in marriage to him.

About Iltutmish

“It is related by credible persons that Sultan Shams-ad-din Altamish was chosen in early childhood by the destiny of Providence from the tribes of Albari in Turkistan for the sovereignty of Islam and of the dominions of Hindustan.

His father, whose name was Yalam Khan, had numerous dependents, relatives, and followers in his employ. The future monarch was remarkable from his childhood for beauty, intelligence, and grace, which excited such jealousy in the hearts of his brothers that they enticed him away from his father and mother on the pretense of going to see a drove of horses; but when they brought him there, they sold him to a horse-dealer.

Some say that his sellers were his cousins.

The horse-dealers took him to Bokhara and sold him to one of the relatives of the chief judge of that city. For some time he remained with that great and noble family, whose chiefs nourished and educated him like a son.

A credible person has related that he heard in the gracious words of the king himself that on a certain occasion one of the members of the family gave him a piece of money and ordered him to go to the bazaar and buy some grapes.

He went to the bazaar, and on the way lost the coin. Being of tender age, he began to cry for fear; and while he was weeping and crying, a dervish came to him, took his hand, purchased some grapes, and gave them to him, saying: “When you obtain wealth and dominion, take care that you show respect to dervishes and holy men, and uphold their rights.”

He gave his promise to the dervish, and whatever fortune and power he obtained he always ascribed to the favour shown him by that kindly man.

The Destroyer

……………..from thence he proceeded to Ujjain, where there was a temple of Mahakal, which he destroyed, as well as the image of Vikramaditya, who was King of Ujjain and reigned 1316 years before his time. The Hindu era dates from his reign. Some other images cast in copper were carried to Delhi with the stone image of Mahakal.

An anecdote

Sultan Shamsuddin Iltutmish was greatly enamored by 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.”

Later Qutbuddin Aibak appointed Shamsuddin Iltutmish as “iqtadar” of Gwalior. In 1211 Iltutmish defeated Aram Baksh and became Sultan. He shifted his capital from Lahore to Delhi. During the first ten years of his reign he concentrated on securing his throne from his rivals.

Fortunately for Iltutmish, Chengiz Khan (who was extending his empire in the neighborhood) retuned home without entering into India. In fact, the Mongol policy of Iltutmish saved India from the wrath of Chengiz Khan.

Apart from completing the construction of Qutb Minar at Delhi, India (238 ft.), he built a magnificent mosque at Ajmer.

Iltutmish introduced the Arabic coinage into India and the silver tanka weighing 175 grams became a standard coin in medieval India. The silver tanka remained the basis of the modern rupee. Iltutmish had also created a new class of ruling elite of forty powerful military leaders, the Forty.

Era of Ghiyasuddin Balban (1246-1287)


Internet Image

He (born 1200 AD) was son of a [Central Asia] Turkic noble. As a child he and others from his tribe – were captured by the Mongols and sold as a slave at Ghazni. Prof K. Ali (1950, reprint 2006)”A new history of Indo-Pakistan”.]

He was sold to Khwaja Jamal ud-din of Basra, a Sufi who nicknamed him Baha ud din. The Khwaja brought him to Delhi where he and the other slaves were bought by Sultan Shams ud-din Iltutmish, himself a captured Ilbari Turk in origin, in 1232 CE.

Ghiyasuddin Balban, who was also known as Ulugh Khan, served as Naib or regent to Sultan Nasiruddin Mahmud. He also strengthened his position by marrying his daughter to the Sultan Nasiruddin Mahmud-Son/Grand Son of Iltutmish.


Internet Photo

Balban was all powerful in the administration but he had to face the intrigues of his rivals in the royal court. He had overcome all the difficulties. In 1266 Nasiruddin Mahmud died without issues and Balban ascended the throne.

In 1279, Tughril Khan, the governor of Bengal revolted against Balban. It was suppressed and he was beheaded. In the northwest the Mongols reappeared and Balban sent his son Prince Mahmud against them. But the prince was killed in the battle and it was a moral blow to the Sultan. Balban died in 1287.

He was undoubtedly one of the main architects of the Delhi Sultanate. He enhanced the power of the monarchy. However, he could not fully safeguard India from the Mongol invasions.

When Balban died, one of his grandsons-Kaiqubad was made the Sultan of Delhi. After four years of incompetent rule, Jalaluddin Khalji captured the throne of Delhi in 1290.

Slavery during Mamluk dynasty

According to Barani, the Shamsi “slave-king” Balban (r. 1266–87) ordered his shiqadars in Awadh to enslave those peoples resistant to his authority, implying those who refused to supply him with tax revenue.

Khilji Dynasty

Malik Kafur


Internet Image

Malik Kafur was a eunuch slave who became a general in the army of Aladdudin Khilji, ruler of the Delhi sultanate from 1296 to 1316 A.D. He was originally seized by Alauddin’s army after the army conquered the city of Khambhat. It is theorized Alauddin Khilji fell in love with the effeminate beauty of Malik Kafur, castrated and converted him to Islam.Kafur was also called “Thousand Dinar Kafur”, probably the amount paid by sultan for his possession. The sultan had homosexual relation with Kafur.

After Kafur masterminded the death of Alauddin Khilji in 1316, he blinded the heir apparent Khizr Khan and Shadi Khan. He installed Umar Khan, Khilji’s 3-year old son on the throne. Mubarak Khan, Khilji’s third son escaped the blinding attempt and later Malik was assassinated by Khilji’s bodyguards.

Zafar Khan

He was the Son of a Turki Slave of Balban and a Jat mother. Within four years of Alauddin’s death, the rule of the Khiljis came to an end.

Zafar Khan aka Malik Dinar was an Indian slave who served as general in Khilji Dynasty of Delhi Sultanate. He served as subordinate officer to Malik Kafur.


Zafar Khan’s Tomb in Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq’s Mausoleum

Khusro Khan


Billon 2 gani of Khusro Khan (Internet Photo)

Khusro Khan (also spelled Khusrau Khan or Khusru or Khusraw Khan) was a medieval Indian military leader, and ruler of Delhi as Sultan Nasiruddin Khusrau Shah for a short period of time. Khusro Khan – A Hindu convert briefly overthrew the Khilji dynasty in 1320.

His stunning features and fair complexion evoked the perverted lust of his captor Sultan Allaudin Khilji’s perverted son, Qutbuddin Mubarak Khalji.


Internet Image

He like his more notorious father Alauddin Khalji, were in love with their young male slaves. Qutbuddin Mubarak had a particular fondness for his slave Khusro Khan and as a teenager, Khusro was sexually abused by Qutbuddin Mubarak for eight years. Khusro seethed for revenge against this barbarity that robbed him of his childhood and early youth.

Slavery during Khilji dynasty

Within Sultanate’s capital city of Delhi, during Alauddin Khilji’s reign, at least half of the population were slaves working as servants, concubines and guards for the Muslim nobles, amirs, court officials and commanders.

Slavery in India during Khalji, and later Islamic dynasties, included two groups of people – persons seized during military campaigns, and people who failed to pay tax on time. The first group were people seized during military campaigns.

The second group of people were revenue defaulters. If a family failed to pay the annual tax in full on time, their property was seized and even some cases all their family members seized then sold as slaves.

The institution of slavery and bondage labor became pervasive during the Khilji dynasty; male slaves were referred to as banda, qaid, ghulam, or burdah, while female slaves were called bandi, kaniz or laundi.

Sultan Alauddin Khilji (r. 1296–1316) is similarly reported to have legalised the enslavement of those who defaulted on their revenue payments. This policy continued during the Mughal era.

An even greater number of people were enslaved as a part of the efforts of the Delhi Sultans to finance their expansion into new territories.  For example, while he himself was still a military slave of the Ghurid Sultan Muizz u-Din, Qutb-ud-din Aybak (r. 1206–10 as the first of the Shamsi slave-kings) invaded Gujarat in 1197 and placed some 20,000 people in bondage. Roughly six years later, he enslaved an additional 50,000 people during his conquest of Kalinjar. Later in the 13th century, Balban’s campaign in Ranthambore, reportedly defeated the Indian army and yielded “captives beyond computation”.

Levi states that the forcible enslavement of non-Muslims during Delhi Sultanate was motivated by the desire for war booty and military expansion. This gained momentum under the Khilji and Tughluq dynasties.  Zia uddin Barani suggested that Sultan Alauddin Khilji owned 50,000 slave-boys, in addition to 70,000 construction slaves.

Tughlaq Dynasty

Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq

Ghazi Malik was a feudatory of the Khalji rulers of Delhi, India. Once while on a walk with his Khilji master, Ghazi Malik suggested that the king build a fort on a hillock in the southern portion of Delhi. The king jokingly told Ghazi Malik to build the fort himself when he would become king.

In 1321 AD, Ghazi Malik drove away the Khaljis and assumed the title of Ghias-ud-din Tughlaq, starting the Tughlaq Dynasty. He immediately started the construction of his fabled city, which he dreamt of as an impregnable, yet beautiful fort to keep away the Mongol marauders. However, destiny would not be as he would have liked.


The Tomb of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq (Internet Photo)

Slavery under Tughlaq Dynasty

Enslaving non-Muslims was a standard practice during Delhi Sultanate, but it reached a new high during the Tughlaq dynasty. Each military campaign and raid on non-Muslim kingdoms yielded loot and seizure of slaves. Additionally, the Sultans patronized a market (al-nakhkhās) for trade of both foreign and Indian slaves. This market flourished under the reign of all Sultans of Tughlaq dynasty, particularly Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq, Muhammad Tughlaq and Firoz Tughlaq.


Internet Photo

Both Ibn Battuta’s memoir and Shihab al-Din ibn Fadlallah al-‘Umari texts recorded a flourishing market of non-Muslim slaves in Delhi. Al-‘Umari wrote, for example,

The Sultan never ceases to show the greatest zeal in making war upon the infidels. Everyday thousands of slaves are sold at very low price, so great is the number of prisoners (from attacks on neighboring kingdoms).

— Shihabuddin al-Umari, Masalik-ul- Absar

Ibn Battuta’s memoir record that he fathered a child each with two slave girls, one from Greece and one he purchased during his stay in Delhi Sultanate. This was in addition to the daughter he fathered by marrying a Muslim woman in India. Ibn Battuta also records that Muhammad Tughlaq sent along with his emissaries, both slave boys and slave girls as gifts to other countries such as China.

Sultan Firuz Shah Tughluq is said to have owned 180,000 slaves, roughly 12,000 of whom were skilled artisans. A significant proportion of slaves owned by the Sultans were likely to have been military slaves and not laborers or domestics.

However earlier traditions of maintaining a mixed army comprising both Indian soldiers and Turkic slave-soldiers (ghilman, mamluks) from Central Asia, were disrupted by the rise of the Mongol Empire reducing the inflow of mamluks. This intensified demands by the Delhi Sultans on local Indian populations to satisfy their need for both military and domestic slaves.

The Khaljis even sold thousands of captured Mongol soldiers within India, China, Turkistan, Persia, and Khurusan were sources of male and female slaves sold to Tughluq India. The Yuan Dynasty Emperor in China sent 100 slaves of both sexes to the Tughluq Sultan, and he replied by also sending the same amount of slaves of both sexes.

During Timur’s Invasion

After sacking Delhi, Timur enslaved several thousand skilled artisans, presenting many of these slaves to his subordinate elite, although reserving the masons for use in the construction of the Bibi-Khanym Mosque in Samarkand.

Young female slaves fetched higher market price than skilled construction slaves, sometimes by 150%.

Because of their identification in Muslim societies as kafirs, “non-believers”, Hindus were especially in demand in the early modern Central Asian slave markets, with Indian slaves specially mentioned in waqafnamas, and archives and even being owned by Turkic pastoral groups.

Slavery in Mughal Empire (16th to 19th century)

The Mughals continued the slave trade. Abd Allah Khan Firuz Jang, an Uzbek noble at the Mughal court during the 1620s and 1630s, was appointed to the position of governor of the regions of Kalpi and Kher and, in the process of subjugating the local rebels, ‘beheaded’ the leaders and enslaved their women, daughters and children, who were more than 200,000 in number.

When Shah Shuja was appointed as governor of Kabul, he carried out a ruthless war in Indian territory beyond the Indus. Most of the women burnt themselves to death to save their honour. Those captured were “distributed” among Muslim mansabdars.

Under Shah Jahan peasants were compelled to sell their women and children to meet their revenue requirements…The peasants were carried off to various markets and fairs to be sold with their poor unhappy wives carrying their small children crying and lamenting.

According to Qaznivi, Shah Jahan had decreed they should be sold to Muslim lords. The Augustinian missionary Fray Sebastiao Manrique, who was in Bengal in 1629–30 and again in 1640, remarked on the ability of the shiqdār—a Mughal officer responsible for executive matters in the pargana, the smallest territorial unit of imperial administration to collect the revenue demand, by force if necessary, and even to enslave peasants should they default in their payments.

In between Mughal Dynasty

Nadir Shah


Internet Photo

Nadir Shah aka Nader Shah aka Nadr Qoli Beg aka Ṭahmasp Qoli Khan (born Oct. 22, 1688, Kobhan, Ṣafavid, Iran—died June 1747, Fatḥabad)-was the son of a poor peasant, who lived in Khurasan and died while Nadir was still a child. Nadir and his mother were carried off as slaves by the Ozbegs, but Nadir managed to escape and became a soldier.

Soon he succeeded in attracting the attention of a chieftain of the Afshar1i, in whose service Nadir rapidly advanced. Eventually, the ambitious Nadir fell out of favor. He became a rebel and gathered a substantial army.


Internet Image

This entry was posted in Historical Accounts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.