Mamluk Sultan Altamash (Iltutmish) built the Minarah, which till date is the tallest brick minaret on earth. Then why do we call it the ‘Qutub’ Minar?
The Qutb Minar of Delhi (also spelt Qutub Minar) is the world’s tallest brick minaret, and a world heritage site. In 1060 AD, after Muhammad-bin-Sam (Muhammad Ghori) defeated Prithvi Raj Chauhan, the then ruler of Delhi, he left his governor Qutb-ud-din Aibak to rule India, paving the way for the slave dynasty to establish roots in India. There is a huge minar in the heart of his city (now called Mehrauli), which most people attribute to this first Islamic ruler of north India – Qutb-ud-Din Aibak.
THE FIRST JAMA MASJID
For those who don’t know, ‘Jama Masjid’ (or Jami Masjid / Jumma Masjid / Masjid-e-Jami) is the majestic Friday Mosque built for the Muslim population of the city. Inscriptions in the Qutb Complex suggest that Qutb-ud-Din Aibak built this Mosque as the first building after stepping on Indian Soil. Qutb-ud-din Aibak was ruling over Delhi from 1206 to 1210 AD. There is some confusion over the actual name of this mosque. These days, we call it Quwwat-ul-Islam (Might of Islam), but the old books suggest that its name was Qubbat-e-Islam. R.N.Munshi even writes it as ‘Qutb-ul-Islam’. Further, Munshi quotes the translation of the inscription written on the walls of Mosque (done by Thomas in his book – Pathan Kings):
“Kutb-ud-Din Aibak, on whom be the mercy of God, constructed this mosque.
This fortress was conquered and this Masjid Jami was built during the months of the year 587 by the great and mighty commander-in-chief Kutb-ul-Dawlat-wa-ul-Din, the commander of commanders, Aibeg Sultan. May God exalt his helpers! Materials from 27 idol temples, each of which cost twice thousand into thousand Diliwals, have been used in this Masjid. May Almighty God send mercy on him, who prays for the rest of the builder!”
Quote Ref: The History of the Kutb Minar (Delhi) by R. N. Munshi (1911)
Later this mosque was extended by Alaudin Khilji and a college (Madrasa) was added to it.
ORIGIN OF QUTB MINAR
According to the popular belief, the Qutb Minar was built by Qutubud-din Aibak. However, I have found numerous proofs that he neither had funds, nor the time (in his tiny 4 year regime), to build, or even commence such a majestic structure. It appears to me that associating it with Sultan Qutb-ud-din Aibak was a “historian’s mistake”. If you read the notings of historians & travellers who came to India during the Sultanate period, you will find that they honour this Minar as “Sultan Altamash’s Minar”. Hasan Nizami dedicated his work Taj-ul-Maasir (the crown of exploits) to sultan Aibak but also mentioned major events from the period of his predecessor and successor. There is no reference to any such Minar in this important piece of work, which talks about a period after 7 years of Aibak’s death. If Qutubuddin Aibak even dreamed about (if not commissioned) this minar, then we must have found atleast some mention in this book. But Hasan Nizami do talk about the Jami Masjid of Delhi built by Aibak in following manner:
“Kutb-ud-Din built the Jami Masjid at Delhi, and adorned it with the stones and gold obtained from the temples which had been demolished by elephants, and covered it with inscriptions in Yoghra, containing the divine commands.”
Following are the other prominent travel historians of related period
a. Ibn Asir (with his work Kamil-ut-Tawarikh aka Tarikh-i-Kamil)
b. Ata Malik Juwaini aka Alau-ud-din Juwaini (with his work Tarikh-i-Jahan-Kusha)
c. Maulana Nuruddin Muhammed ‘Ufi, who lived in Delhi during Altamash’s period (with his work Jami-ul-Hikayat wa Liwami-ul-Riwayat)
d. Minhaj-i-Siraj (with his work Tabkat-i-Nasiri)
The above authors too make no mention of the Minar. If it was one of the biggest constructions of that era, these people, who were living in Mehrauli and writing particularly on Qutb-ud-Din Aibak must have mentioned about it.
Fatuhat-i-Feroz Shahi, written by Sultan Feroz Shah Tughlaq himself has a mention of Qutb Minar. It says:
“The minara of Sultan Muizz-ud-din Sam had been struck by lightning. I repaired it and raised it higher than it was before”
It should be noted that Feroz Shah Tughlaq also repaired other monuments and mentions their correct names like Hauz-i-Shamsi, Hauz-i-Alai, Madrasa of Altamash, Rukn-ud-din’s Tomb, Sultan Jalal-ud-Din’s Tomb and so on. Tarikh-i-Firozshahi written by Shams-i-Siraj Afif however refer to this Minar as “the large pillar at old Delhi” raised by Sultan Shams-ud-Din Altamash. Ibn Batuta was not sure who built this minar so all he wrote about the builder was “Is it the minar of Feroz Shah?” Babur in his memoirs mention about this minar as the Minar of Sultan Alauddin Khilji. This shows that even till late 16th century, this minar was not attributed to Qutb-ud-Din Aibak. It was known by the names of Altamash, Khilji or Tughlaq, who we know built and repaired portions of the minar.
A Translation of glyphs on the entrance gate of Qutb minar say:
“The prophet on whom be the mercy and peace of God, has declared “whoever erects a temple to the true God (on earth,) shall receive six such ‘dwellings in Paradise’. The Minar, the building of the king of kings, Shems-ud-Dunya-wa-ud-Din, now in peace and pardon, be his tomb protected, and his place be assigned in heaven ____ was injured by lightning in the reign of the exalted monarch Secander the son of Behlol : (may his power and empire last for ever and his reign be glorious); and therefore the slave Fatteh-Khan, the son of Mesned-Ali the liberal of the liberal, and the meritorious servant of the king _____________, repaired it according to command. The 13th of Rebi-ul-Akher in the year 909.”
MINARETS OF JAM, GHAZNI AND KONYE
Reputed historian Sir Syed Ahmed in his work Athar-us-Sanadid said that this Minar was actually built by Prithvi Raj Chauhan so that his daughter can have a view of Jamuna river. But if it is true, then its design and architecture must be unique and not match with the other Minars of Islamic countries.
Minaret of Ghazni:
Built by Muizuddin Bahram in 10th century in the city of Ghazni. It is little different from the Qutb Minar but has many similarities, like built by same generation of rulers and it is also the minaret of a mosque.
Minaret of Gutluk Temir in Konye-Urgench:
This is the third tallest brick minaret in world built in Old Urgench city of Turkmenistan in 11th century.
Minaret of Jam:
This Minaret, very much similar to the architecture of Qutub Minar is situated in Shahrak District of Ghor Province of Afghanistan. It is right next to the Hari River. This 65 metre high minaret was completed in 12th century. This place (called Firuzkoh) was the summer capital of Ghorid Dynasty (from whence Qutbuddin Aibak came). This is the second tallest brick minaret of world and was probably attached to a mosque, just like Qutb Minar.