Friday, May 18, 2007

Sultan Qutubuddin Aibak – Subcontinent’s first Muslim Ruler

While Shalimar Gardens in Lahore are famous monuments; partially for being the final resting place of their founder, the late Mughal King, Jehangir; Anarkali Bazaar, the other quisstentaially famous landmark of Lahore, can wax similar lyrics of playing host to the resting place of another great Muslim ruler- in fact the very first Muslim to rule this part of the world - Sultan Qutub-uddin Aibek.

Born into a Turk family in Central Asia, Qutub-uddin Aibek was sold into slavery when he was a young boy. His owner, a local Persian chieftain treated him like his own son, educating him with all aspects of military maneuvers and horsemanship. After the Chieftain’s death, jealous of his standing among them, chieftain’s other sons sold him to Mohd Khan Ghauri.

As Ghauri started conquering parts of India, he appointed Aibek, whose had rapidly risen among the ranks to become Ghauri’s most trusted general, as his Governor to oversee the new territory. In 1191 Aibek took control of this land and ruled it till his master’s death in 1206; after which, he became the supreme ruler of the region till his own death four years later. In doing so, he became as the first-ever Muslim ruler to rule (Northern) India.

Aibek initially chose Lahore as his seat of command, but later on moved the capital to Delhi, hence his rule came to known as the Delhi Sultanate. Being followed in succession by nine other ‘slave’ kings, his lineage also came to be called as the Slave Dynasty of Northern India.

He was a patron of the building-art and is known to have erected some earliest monumental stone buildings in Delhi and elsewhere. Two of the still-standing monuments, Qutub Minar and Quwat-ul-Islam mosque both in Delhi are credited to him. Though the Qutub minar was partially constructed by him, it not named in his honour as is commonly believed, but in honour of Khwaja Qutub-ud-din Bakhtiar Kaki, a saint from Baghdad, who came to live in northern India.

Although his formal tenure as ruler was only four years, Qutub-ud-din did managed to establish a defined administrative system which was later followed by his successors. He was also a pious and a very generous person, locally famous as ‘Lakh Baksh’ or ‘giver of hunderd thousands’.

A very avid player of polo, Qutub-ud-Din Aibak died in Lahore in 1210 A.D., while playing the game. His original tomb was destroyed during the Mongol attack on Lahore in 1241 but was reconstructed during Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto tenure in 1971.

So next time you are in Lahore and plan to visit Anarkali Bazaar, make sure to include a quick visit to pay your respects to our region’s first-ever Muslim Sovereign.


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