In 1236, Raziya was made Sultana of Delhi by her father Iltutmish (or Altamsh), who chose her over her misbehaving brothers, making her the first woman to head a Muslim state. It was not a popular decision with the people of the country, who mostly seemed to think women should be confined to harems. The nobles constantly fought having to obey her, but nonetheless, Raziya managed to build schools and libraries and mint her own coins. She also had to deal with conflict between the Sunni and Shi'i branches of Islam; her favored group, the Sunni, triumphed for the moment. She tried to strengthen trade and was known for her battlefield skill, riding elephants along with her troops.

Those willing to accept a woman monarch considered her "wise, just, and generous." Others did not accept her interest in an Abyssinian male slave, Jalal-ud-din Yaqut, and used this as a reason to revolt against her, though a male ruler's interest in a female slave would probably have been considered perfectly normal. When her vassal, Altuniya, governor of Sarhind rebelled, Raziya brought her armies against him, but they were defeated. Raziya was imprisoned, but she got her captor to marry her. The two of them worked to consolidate power together, and in 1240 led an attack on other factions. Raziya is said to have shocked the opposition by unveiling her face in public. Raziya and Altuniya died during that campaign -- some sources say in battle, others that bandits or their own men killed them in their sleep.

"She's One in a Thousand Years; Visitors Have Named Indira Gandhi the 'Woman of the Millennium'." Business Wire, Dec 30, 1999, p.85

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