Qutb al-Din Aibak
Qutb al-Din Aibak was a medieval Indian king born around 1150. He was significantly known as Mu’izz ad-Din Muhammad Ghori’s general. He is often regarded as a founder of Muslim governance in India. He was the founder of the Slave dynasty and the first king of the Delhi Sultanate. He was a Turkish Aybak tribesman who served as sultan for just four years, from 1206 to 1210. He was kidnapped as a youngster and sold as a slave to Nishapur’s ruler Qazi, a town in northeastern Iran.
He was in command of the Ghurid regions in northern India, and after Mu’izz ad-assassination, he became the ruler of an autonomous region that developed into the Delhi Sultanate, which was governed by the Mamluk dynasty.
Aibak was born in Turkestan and sold into slavery as a youngster. He was bought by a Qazi in Nishapur, Persia, where he acquired talents such as archery and horseback riding. He was then resold to Mu’izz ad-Din in Ghazni, where he ascended to the rank of royal stables officer. He was kidnapped by Sultan Shah’s scouts during the Khwarazmian-Ghurid wars; after the Ghurid triumph, he was freed and favored by Mu’izz ad-Din.
Mu’izz ad-Din appointed Aibak ruler of his Indian domains after the Ghurid victory in the Second Battle of Tarain in 1192. Aibak consolidated Ghurid dominance in northern India by conquest and invading many kingdoms, including Chahamana, Gahadavala, Chaulukya, and Chandela.
When Mu’izz ad-Din died in 1206, Aibak battled for control of the Ghurid lands in northwestern India with another former slave-general Taj al-Din Yildiz. He pushed as far as Ghazni during this war, but subsequently withdrew and established his capital at Lahore. He ostensibly accepted Mu’izz ad-successor Din’s Ghiyasuddin Mahmud’s suzerainty, who afterward recognized him as India’s king.
He was from Turkestan and was a member of the Turkic tribe Aibak. He was separated from his family as a youngster and brought to the Nishapur slave market. There, he was bought by Qazi Fakhruddin Abdul Aziz Kufi, a descendant of the eminent Muslim scholar Abu Hanifa. Aibak was treated well by the Qazi’s family and schooled alongside the Qazi’s sons. Along with Quran recitation, he studied archery and horseback riding.
Aibak was sold by the Qazi or one of his sons to a trader, who in turn sold him to Ghazni’s Ghurid Sultan Mu’izz ad-Din. He was eventually bought by Sultan Muhammad Ghori, the ruler of Ghor in central Afghanistan.
Aibak’s intellect and kind demeanor caught the Sultan’s attention when he was introduced to the Sultan’s slave-household. When the Sultan showered presents on his slaves, Aibak divided his portion among them. The Sultan, impressed by this gesture, elevated him to a higher position.
Rise to Power
Qutubuddin Aibak eventually ascended to the post of amir-i akhur, the official in charge of the royal stables. He became one of Sultan Ghori’s most trusted nobles. Northern India’s conquests were mostly carried out by Qutb-ud-din Aibak, which aided Ghori in consolidating his power there. Gradually, when Sultan Ghori’s focus shifted to Central Asia after 1192, he was granted autonomous command of the Indian conquests.
Aibak was responsible for the overall upkeep of the horses, as well as their food and equipment, during the Ghurid wars with the Khwarazmian monarch Sultan Shah. He was caught one day while foraging for horse feed by Sultan Shah’s scouts and imprisoned in an iron cage. Mu’izz ad-Din saw Sultan Shah in the cage after the Ghurids beat him and was moved by his terrible situation. Following his liberation, the Sultan showed him tremendous favor. Aibak’s future duties are unknown until the First Battle of Tarain, fought in India in 1191-1192.
Aibak’s career in India may be classified as follows:
- Officer in charge of parts of Sultan Mu’izz ad-northern Din’s Indian provinces (1192-1206)
- As a Malik and Sipah Salar of Delhi and Lahore, he exercised informal sovereignty over Mu’izz ad-old Din’s domains (1206-1208)
- Sovereign monarch of an Indian kingdom that is legally independent (1208-1210)
Conquest of Chahamanas
Aibak was one of the generals of the Ghurid army that was defeated at India’s First Battle of Tarain by the troops of Chahamana king Prithviraja III. At the Second Battle of Tarain, in which the Ghurids triumphed, he was in command of the Ghurid army’s general disposition and remained close to Sultan Mu’izz ad-Din, who had positioned himself in the army’s center.
Mu’izz ad-Din gave Aibak the old Chahamana region after his victory at Tarain (present-day Ghuram in Punjab, India).
Following Prithviraja’s demise, Aibak installed his son Govindaraja IV as a vassal of the Ghurid. Prithviraja’s brother Hariraja subsequently attacked the Ranthambore Fort, which Aibak had subordinated to Qawamul Mulk. Aibak marched to Ranthambore, forcing Hariraja to flee the city and the ancient Chahamana capital Ajmer.
In September 1192, in the old Chahamana region, a rebel called Jatwan attacked Hansi. Aibak marched to Hansi, forcing Jatwan to flee to Bagar, where he was assassinated.
Earlier Campaigns in Doab
He returned to Kuhram after defeating Jatwan and began plans to attack the Ganga-Yamuna Doab. In 1192, he captured Meerut and Baran (modern Bulandshahr), from whence he subsequently launched assaults on the Gahadavala empire. He also conquered Delhi in 1192, initially retaining as a vassal the local Tomara king. He ousted the Tomara king for treason in 1193 and established direct control of Delhi.
Sultan Mu’izz ad-Din invited Aibak to Ghazni, the Ghurid capital, in 1193. Minhaj, a near-contemporary chronicler, did not expand on why, but Isami, a 14th-century chronicler, says that some individuals raised the Sultan’s suspicions about Aibak’s allegiance. K. A. Nizami, a historian, believes Isami’s story is inaccurate and speculates that the Sultan may have sought Aibak’s assistance in plotting further Ghurid expansion in India.
Returning to India
Aibak spent about six months in Ghazni. In 1194, upon his return to India, he crossed the Yamuna River and conquered Koil (modern Aligarh).
War against Gahadavala
Sultan Mu’izz ad-Din came to India in 1194 intending to wage war against the Gahadavala empire. Aibak and Izzuddin Husain ibn Kharmil commanded the vanguard of his army at the Battle of Chandawar, which ended in the defeat of Gahadavala king Jayachandra. Although the Ghurids did not acquire full control of the Gahadavala kingdom, their success enabled them to construct military outposts in several locations across the area.
Following his victory at Chandawar, Aibak concentrated his efforts on strengthening his position in Koil. Mu’izz ad-Din returned to Ghazni but returned to India in 1195-96 after defeating Kumarapala, the Bayana Bhati king. He subsequently marched to Gwalior, where Sallakhanapala, the local Parihara king, recognized his suzerainty.
He launched many more campaigns, all of which were successful. His victories are summarised as follows: He battled against the Mher tribals but was forced to withdraw to Ajmer. The Mhers were eventually forced to withdraw, aided by reinforcements from Ghurid’s army.
In 1197, Aibak defeated the Chaulukya army at Mount Abu, avenging Mu’izz ad-loss Din’s almost two decades before in the Battle of Kasahrada.
Aibak invaded Badaun in modern-day Uttar Pradesh in 1197-98, and also reclaimed control of the old Gahadavala capital Varanasi, which had fallen out of Ghurid authority.
Meanwhile, another famous Ghurid slave-general, Baha’ al-Din Toghril, attacked the Gwalior Fort. In 1200, having been reduced to a desperate position, the defenders approached Aibak and handed up the fort to him.
In 1202, Aibak attacked Kalinjar, a significant fort in central India’s Chandela empire.
Mu’izz ad-Din was defeated by the Khwarazmians at Andkhoy in 1204, which was followed by numerous threats to his power. Aibak assisted him in putting down a revolt led by the Khokhar leaders of the Lahore area and subsequently returned to Delhi. Mu’izz ad-Din was murdered on 15 March 1206, with conflicting accounts attributing the crime to Khokhars or Ismailis.
Aibak had captured land all the way to the southern borders of Ujjain. He exercised influence over the following areas:
- Nahrwala (Patan)
- Adwand (identity uncertain)
- Lakhnauti in Bengal
The Ghurid control, on the other hand, was not equally successful in all of these regions. Ghurid control had diminished or even ceased to exist in many of these locations, including Gwalior and Kalinjar.
Qub al-Dn was the natural successor of Muizz al-Dn when he was murdered (1206). He was legally still a slave, but he gained manumission swiftly. He married the daughter of Tj al-Dn Yildiz of Ghazna, one of the other major contenders to replace Muizz al-Dn, and cemented his power by other carefully planned marriages. Iltutmish (reigned 1211–36), his son-in-law, ablest commander, and successor, was able to secure the Delhi sultanate’s independence by capitalizing on the victories of Qub.
Death and Succession
In 1210, Qutb-ud-din Aibak was killed in a polo accident. He was badly wounded when he fell off his horse. He was laid to rest in Lahore, close to the Anarkali market. Iltutmish, another slave who ascended to the rank of Sultan, succeeded him, thereby prolonging the Slave Dynasty.
He is well remembered for transforming India’s loosely controlled Ghurid lands into the mighty Delhi Sultanate.
Qutb-ud-din Aibak began building the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque and the Qutub Minar, two of the city’s oldest Muslim structures, but he was unable to finish them. This mosque was constructed by demolishing Prithvi Raj’s Hindu temple, with portions of the temple remaining intact outside the mosque. Iltutmish’s successor Iltutmish finished these structures.
Qub is described as malik (“king”) in surviving inscriptions, and the Qub Mnr in Delhi remains to honor his conquests.
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