Muhammad of Ghor

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Muhammad of Ghor
  • Champion of Islam
  • Sultan-i-Ghazi
  • al-Sultan al-Azam
  • Sikander al-Thani (Second Alexander)
Gold coin of Muhammad from Ghazni, for circulation in Central Asia and what is present-day Afghanista].
Sultan of the Ghurid Empire
PredecessorGhiyath al-Din Muhammad
Reign1173–1203 (with his brother Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad)
Reign11 February 1203–15 March 1206 (as sole ruler)
Ghor (present-day Afghanistan)
Died15 March 1206(1206-03-15) (aged 61–62)
Damyak (present-day Pakistan)
Ghazni (present-day Afghanistan)
HouseGhurid dynasty
FatherBaha al-Din Sam I
ReligionSunni Islam

Mu'izz ad-Din Muhammad ibn Sam (Persian: معز الدین محمد بن سام; 1144 – March 15, 1206), also known as Muhammad of Ghor or Muhammad Ghori, was a ruler from the Ghurid dynasty based in the Ghor region of what is today central Afghanistan who ruled from 1173 to 1206. Muhammad and his elder brother Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad ruled in a dyarchy until the latter's death in 1203. Ghiyath al-Din, the senior partner, governed the western Ghurid regions from his capital at Firozkoh whereas Muhammad extended Ghurid rule eastwards, laying the foundation of Islamic rule in South Asia, which lasted after him for nearly half a millennium under evolving Muslim dynasties.

During his early career as governor of the southern tract of Ghurid Empire, Muhammad subjugated the Oghuz Turks after a series of forays and annexed Ghazni where he was installed by Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad as an independent sovereign. Expanding the Ghurid dominion east of the Indus Delta from his base in Ghazni, Muhammad crossed the river Indus in 1175, approaching it through the Gomal Pass and captured Multan and Uch from the Carmathians within a year. Afterwards, Muhammad took his army by the way of lower Sindh, endeavoring to penetrate into present-day Gujarat through the Thar Desert, only to end up getting routed near Mount Abu at Kasahrada by a coalition of Rajput chiefs led by the Chaulukya king Mularaja, which forced him to change his route for future inroads into the Indian Plains. Hence, Muhammad pressed upon the Ghaznavids and uprooted them by 1186, conquering the upper Indus Plain along with most of the Punjab. After expelling the Ghaznavids from their last bastion, Muhammad, thus secured the Khyber Pass, the traditional route of entry for invading armies into northern India.

Extending the Ghurid dominion further eastwards into the Gangetic Plain, the Ghurid forces suffered a decisive reverse and Muhammad himself got wounded in engagement with the Rajput Confederacy led by the Chahamana ruler Prithviraj Chauhan at Tarain in 1191. Muhammad returned to Khurasan, and returned a year later with a vast army of mounted archers to secure a decisive victory in the return engagement on the same battleground and executed Prithviraj shortly afterwards. He limited his presence in India afterwards, deputing the political and military operations in the region to a handful of elite slave commanders who swiftly raided local Indian kingdoms and extended the Ghurid influence as far east as the Ganges delta in Bengal and regions to the north in Bihar.

After the death of Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad in 1203, Muhammad of Ghor ascended the throne of Firozkoh as well, becoming the supreme Sultan of the Ghurid Empire. Within a year or so, Muhammad suffered a devastating defeat at Andkhud against their Turkish rivals Khwarazmians aided by timely reinforcements from the Qara Khitais, which resulted in the Ghurid power ebbing out in most of the Khurasan. Muhammad quelled the widespread insurrection throughout his empire after the debacle and ordered the construction of a bridge over the Oxus River to launch a full-scale invasion of Transoxiana in order to avenge his defeat at Andkhud, although a rebellion by the Hindu Khokhars forced him to move towards the Salt Range, where he brutually crushed the Khokhar revolt during his last campaign.

On his way back, Muhammad of Ghor was assassinated on the bank of Indus at Damyak on 15 March 1206, by the Ismāīlī emissaries while offering evening prayers. Muhammad's assassination led to the rapid decline of the Ghurids and enabled Shah Muhammad II to annex remaining Ghurid territories west of the Indus River by 1215. However, his conquests east of the Indus in the Indian Subcontinent, evolved into the formidable Delhi Sultanate under his slave commander Qutbuddin Aibak.

Early life[edit]


Muhammad of Ghor was born in the Ghur region of present-day west-central Afghanistan to the Ghurid ruler Baha al-Din Sam I who ruled his ancestral realm briefly before he died in 1149, when Muhammad of Ghor was a child.[1] His name is variously transliterated as Muizuddin Sam, Shihabuddin Ghuri, Muhammad Ghori and Muhammad of Ghor.[2] According to the Tabaqat-i-Nasiri, his birth name was "Muhammad" which is vernacularly spelt as "Hamad" by the Ghurids. During his childhood, his mother used to call him "Zangi" due to his dark skin tone. After the coronation in Ghazni, he styled himself as "Malik Shihabuddin" and after his occupation of Khurasan, he took the title of "Muizzuddin" or "Mu'izz al-Din".[3]

The synchronous accounts did not write much about Muhammad's exact birth date, although based on the writings of Juzjani - Muhammad was younger to Ghiyath al-Din by three years and few months, who was born in 1140. Therefore, Muhammad's birth year can be dated to 1144.[4]

Accession to the throne[edit]

The early years of both Muhammad and his brother Ghiyath al-Din were spent in constant hardship. Their uncle Ala al-Din Husayn after his campaign in Ghazni, initially installed them as governors of Sanjah.[5] However, their efficient administration of the province, made him doubtful of their uprise and seeing a possible challenge to his own authority, he ordered his nephews to be imprisoned in the castle of Gharjistan.[5] Although, they were released from the captivity by his son Sayf al-Din Muhammad after the death of his father in 1161.[6][7] Sayf al-Din, later died in a battle against the nomadic Oghuzs of Balkh.[8][9]

‌After their release from the captivity, "Tarik-i-Firishtah" states that the Ghurid siblings were reinstated in Sanjah, although the earlier account of "Tabaqat-i-Nasiri" stated that the hardship continued due to their financial conditions. Muhammad thus, took shelter in the court of his uncle Fakhruddin Masud who held the principality of Bamiyan as vassal of their uncle Alauddin Husayn.[10]

Later, Fakhr al-Din Masud laid his own claim for the succession after Sayf al-Din death as the elder member of the Ghurid family. Muhammad helped his brother in suppressing the revolt of Fakhruddin who garnered a sizeable army in alliance with the chiefs of Balkh and Herat who both were executed in the battle, although Fakhruddin was reinstated in Bamiyan in 1163.[11][12] Afterwards, with the support of the remaining local Ghurid officers and "maliks", his brother succeeded Sayf al-Din to the throne in 1163 and initially placed Muhammad as a minor officer in his court, which result in him retiring (unhappy with his position) to the court of Sistan where he spend a whole season. However, later Ghiyath-al din sent an envoy to brought him back who subsequently placed him in charge of the southern part of the Ghurid domains which possibly included Istiyan and Kajuran.[13][14] ‌ During the early campaigns of Muhammad as a prince, he was instructed to subdue the Oghuz tribes whose power and influence began to wane, although they were still controlling extensive territories.[15] He used Qandhar as a base and raided the principality of Oghuzs multiple times, before defeating them decisively along with Ghiyath al-Din and followed up their victory by conquering Ghazni in 1169 along with some other territories in what is present-day eastern Afghanistan.[9][8][16] Soon, Muhammad's coronation took place in Ghazni in 1173 and his brother returned to Firuzkuh for the westwards expansion in Transoxania.[14] Subsequently, Muhammad utilized the city of Ghazni as a launch pad to led a series of lucrative forays down to the Indus Delta and beyond. In 1174, Muhammad led an expedition against the Ghuzzs of Sanquran in present-day Turkmenistan and subdued them.[17]

In 1175, Muhammad marched from Ghazni and helped his brother in the annexation of the cosmopolitan city of Herat and Pushang after defeating a former general of the Seljuks.[18][14] The Ghurid siblings advanced into the present-day Iran and brought Nasrid dynasty of Sistan under their sway whose ruler Taj al-Din III Harb ibn Muhammad ibn Nasr acknowledged the Ghurid suzerainty and later sent his armies several times assisting the Ghurids in their warfares.[12] Afterwards, Ghiyath al-Din captured Balkh and territories adjoining Herat in Khurasan.[19]


After the death of Ghiyath Al-Din Muhammad – the senior partner in the dyarchy – Muhammad assumed the title of "Al-Sultan Al-Azam" which meant the "Greatest Sultan".[20] On one of colonnade in the Qutb Minar along with some of his golden mints circulated in India – Muhammad is eulogized as the "Sikander Al-Thani". (Second Alexander)[21]

Muhammad's courtier rhetorically aggrandize him as the champion of Islam styling him as the "Sultan-i-Ghazi" (sultan of the holy warriors) portraying his Indian expeditions as the engagement between the army of Islam (Lashkar-i Islam) and the army of infidels (Lashkar-i Kuffar).[22]

Invasion of India[edit]

Early invasions[edit]

The Ghurid brothers ruling in a dyarchy with the senior partner Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad engaged in a protracted duel with the Khwarazmians from his capital Firuzkuh situated in west-central Afghanistan, while Muhammad expanded the Ghurid domains eastwards into the Indian plains from his capital at Ghazni.[24] The expeditions into the Indian plains and the plunder extracted from the sacking of lucrative Hindu temples in the Gangetic Plain, gave Muhammad access to a vast amount of treasure in Ghazni which according to chronicler Juzjani based on the authority of Muhammad's comptroller included 60,000 kg (1500 mann) of jewels.[25]

Muhammad's expeditions in the Indian subcontinent started against the Qarmatians (sevener branch of Isma'ilis) who regained a foothold in Multan, soon after the death of Mahmud of Ghazni who installed a Sunni governor there.[26] Muhammad defeated the Qarmatian ruler Khafif in 1175 and annexed Multan.[27] The defeat turned to be a death blow for the Qarmatian power in Multan, who never regained their influence in the region again.[28]

After the conquest of Multan, Muhammad captured Uch which was situated south of the confluence of the rivers Chenab and Jhelum. His campaign in Uch is not mentioned in detail in the near contemporary accounts except Kāmil fit-Tārīkh, although the detail in the text about his expedition in Uch is possibly blurred by a legend associated with the Bhati Rajputs. Nonetheless, Firishta, a later chronicler mentioned the year of Uch conquest as 1176. It was placed under Malik Nasiurdin Aitam until his death in the Battle of Andkhud in 1204. Afterwards, it was placed under Nasiruddin Qabacha.[29]

During the course of his early invasions, Muhammad avoided Punjab and instead focused on lands bordering the middle and lower course of the Indus. Therefore, to outflank the Ghaznavids in Punjab and to open up an alternative route to the Northern India, Muhammad turned south towards present-day Gujarat in Anhilwara.[30] Before entering in Anhilwara, he laid siege to the fort of Nadol (around Marwar) and captured it after a short siege from Kelhanadeva along with sacking the Shiva temple in Kiradu. After marching through the dry Thar Desert south of Marwar, the Ghurid army got exhausted, when they reached Mount Abu where they were routed in the mountainous pass of Gadararaghatta, by the Solanki ruler Mularaja II who was also aided by other Rajput chiefs mainly the Naddula Chahamana ruler Kelhanadeva (who was earlier deposed by from Nadol by Muhammad), the Jalor Chahamana ruler Kirtipala, and the Arbuda Paramara ruler Dharavarsha.[31] The Ghurid army suffered heavy casualties during the battle, and also in the retreat back across the desert to Ghazni.[17] The defeat forced Muhammad to opt for the northern routes who thenceforth, concentrated on creating a suitable base in Punjab and northwest for further incursions into northern India.[32]

Conquest of Punjab[edit]

In 1179, Muhammad conquered Peshawar which was possibly ruled by the Ghaznavids.[33] Thereafter, he advanced further and besieged Lahore in 1181, although Khusrau Malik managed to keep him around the borders of Lahore for few more years by sending tributes along with one of the Ghaznavid prince (Malik Shah) under his custody in Ghazni as a hostage. In 1182, Muhammad followed a southerly arc to the port city of Debal on the Arabian Sea coast of Sindh, subjugating the Soomras.[34] In the subsequent years, he expanded and consolidated his conquests around present-day Pakistan and annexed Sialkot along with sacking Lahore and the countryside.[35][36] After Khusrau Malik made an unsuccessful attempt to dislodge the Ghurid garrison in Sialkot, Muhammad made the final assault on Lahore and forced him to surrender after a short siege.[37] He imprisoned Khusrau Malik in the fort of Gharchistan, breaching his own agreement of safe conduct for his presence. Khusrau Malik was sent to Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad in Firuzkuh where he and all his kinfolks were executed before 1192.[35][38] Thus, ended the lineage of Ghaznavids and their historic struggle with the Ghurids.[39]

After uprooting the Ghaznavids, Muhammad now established his sway over the strategic Indus Basin including most of the Punjab.[40][41] He, appointed Mulla Sirajuddin who was earlier a high-ranking Qāḍi in his father court, as the head of judicature department in the newly conquered Ghaznavid territories along with the charge of Multan. His son Minhaj al-Siraj Juzjani (born 1193) later composed the Tabaqat-i-Nasiri in 1260 which is regarded as a monumental work from the medieval period on the Ghurid dynasty and the Delhi Sultanate.[42][35]

First Battle of Tarain[edit]

In 1190, after consildating in Sindh and western Punjab, the Ghurid generals began to raid the eastern Punjab region and captured a castle - Bathinda in present-day Punjab state on the northwestern frontier of Prithviraj Chauhan's kingdom. After appointing a Qazi Zia-ud-Din of Tulak as governor of the fortress with 1200 horsemen, Muhammad received the news that Prithviraj's army, led by his vassal prince Govind Rai were on their way to besiege the fortress. The two armies eventually met near the town of Tarain, 14 miles from Thanesar in present-day Haryana. The battle was marked by the initial attack of mounted Mamluk archers to which Prithviraj responded by counter-attacking from three sides and thus dominating the battle. Muhammad mortally wounded Govind Rai in personal combat[a] and in the process was himself wounded, whereupon his army retreated[44] and Prithvīrāj's army was deemed victorious.

According to Juzjani, Muhammad was carried away from the battleground in wounded state by a Khalji horsemen.[45] A largely different account from Za'inul Masir claimed that Muhammad after being wounded in combat with Govindraja fell unconscious and his forces withdrew in disarray after assuming him to be dead, later a remnant of his soldiers arrived in the night and searched for his body at the battlesite. Muhammad in extremely critical situation recognised his soldiers, who rejoiced after finding him alive and took him from the battlefield in a litter to Ghazni.[46] However, the version from Za'inul Masir is not corroborated by any other contemporary and later writers, which made its authenticity dubious and the version of Juzjani more credible.[35]

The Ghurid garrison of Tabarhind under Ziauddin, held out for thirteen months before being capitulated. The Rajputs could not make quick progressions during the siege due to absence of siege engines on their part, which strengthened the position of Muhammad during these months to raise a formidable army.[47]

Second Battle of Tarain[edit]

The last stand of Rajputs, depicting the Second Battle of Tarain in 1192

After the defeat in Tarain, Muhammad meted out severe punishments to the Ghurid, Khalji and Afghan "emirs" who fled during the battle. The wallets filled with grains were tied around their necks and under this condition they were paraded through Ghazni, those who refused were beheaded.[48] The late medieval historian Ferishta further states on the testimony of folklore in Ghazni, that Muhammad vowed not to visit his royal harem and heal his wounds sustained in the battle till he avenged the humiliation of his defeat.[49] Husain Kharmil, a prominent Iranian general of the Ghurids, was called from Ghazni with a large contingent along with other seasoned warlords like Mukalba, Kharbak and Illah.[50] Muhammad made necessary arrangements to counter the elephant phalanx of the Rajput forces by having them attack mock elephants made of mud and wood.[51] The near contemporary chroniclers Juzjani and Isami stated that Muhammad brought 120,000-130,000 fully armoured men to the battle in 1192.[52] Ferishta placed the strength of Rajput army in the decisive battle at 3,000 elephants, 300,000 cavalry and infantry (most likely a gross exaggeration).[53]

Prithviraj Chauhan had called his banners but hoped to buy time as his banners (other Rajputs under him or his allies) had not arrived.[54] Instead of engaging in direct confrontation as they did in the initial Battle of Tarain, the Ghurids adopted a strategy of deceit and diplomacy to overcome the Rajputs, as documented in Taj-ul Ma'asir by Hasan Nizami. Upon Ghori's arrival on the battlefield, Prithviraj, the Rajput leader, purportedly sent a formal message suggesting a peaceful resolution, stating, "It would be wise for you to return to your homeland, and we have no intention of pursuing you." In response, Ghori replied, indicating that he had come to face challenges on the directive of his ruling sibling and proposing the dispatch of an envoy to negotiate peace.[55]

According to accounts from Hasan Nizami, Muhammad Ufi, and Firishta, it becomes evident that Ghori employed deception, and Prithviraj, considering it a genuine truce, accepted the proposal. Before the next day, the Ghurids attacked the Rajput army. The assault occurred before sunrise, catching the Chahamana army off guard as they had spent the night in a state of unawareness.[56] Although they were able to quickly form formations, they suffered losses due to surprise attacks before sunrise. Juzjani attributed the success of the Ghurid army to the 10,000 elite mounted archers whom Muhammad stationed at a small distance from the elephant phalanx of the Rajput forces and which ultimately scattered the "infidel host".[54] Prithviraj was captured during the battle on the bank of river Saraswati (present-day Sirsa) and summarily executed.[52] After the victory, Muhammad took over much of the Chahamana kingdom and sacked their capital Ajmer during which several Hindu temples were desecrated by the Ghurids in Ajmer.[57]

Muhammad captured and placed strong garrisons at the strategic military stations of Sirsa, Hansi, Samana and Kohram.[58] Muhammad later installed Prithviraja's minor son Govindaraja IV as his puppet ruler on condition of heavy tribute.[59] However, later after a revolt by his uncle Hariraja, Govindraja was forced to move towards Ranthambore, where he established a new dynasty of the Chahamanas. Hariraja, briefly dislodged the Ghurid garrison from Ajmer, but was later defeated by Qutb ud-Din Aibak. Subsequently, Hairaja immolated himself on a funeral pyre and the Ghurids reoccupied Ajmer and placed it under a Muslim governor.[60] Soon after, Delhi was also captured by Muhammad and Qutb al-Din Aibak in 1193,[61] although in continuation with the policy adopted earlier in Ajmer, a puppet Rajput scion was installed in Delhi on tribute. (possibly the son of Govindraja who died in Tarain) However, he was soon deposed on the account of treason.[62][63]

While, Muhammad continued to carry raids in the north Indian plain, although later he got preoccupied with the Ghurid expansion in Transoxiana against the Khwarezmian Empire as his brother Ghiyath al-Din began to have health problems. Notwithstanding, Muhammad as per the writings of Fakhr-i Mudabbir and Minhaj-i Siraj Juzjani, appointed Aibak as his administraitor of the Ghurid domains in North India after the Second Battle of Tarain.[64][65][66] His lieutenants - Qutb ud-Din Aibak, Bahauddin Tughril, Bakhtiyar Khalji and Yildiz before his assassination, swiftly raided the local kingdoms and expanded his empire in the Indian Subcontinent up to north-western parts of Bengal in east, Ajmer and Ranthambore (Rajasthan) in north and till the borders of Ujjain in south.[67]

Further campaigns[edit]

Bengal coinage of Bakhtiyar Khalji (1204-1206). Struck in the name of Mu'izz al-Din Muhammad, dated Samvat 1262 (1204).
Obverse: Horseman with Nagari legend around: samvat 1262 bhadrapada "August, year 1262". Reverse: Nagari legend: srima ha/ mira mahama /da saamah "Lord Emir Mohammed [ibn] Sam".

After Aibak consolidated the Ghurid rule in and around the Delhi doab, Muhammad himself returned to India to further expand down the Ganges Valley. Accordingly, in 1194, he crossed the Jamuna river with an army of 50,000 horsemen where he confronted the forces of the Rajput Gahadavala king Jayachandra in the Battle of Chandawar. The Ghurid army was victorious, Jayachandra was killed in the battle, and much of his army was slaughtered. Following the battle, the Ghurids took the fort at Asni, where they plundered the royal treasure of the Gahadavalas, and went on to take the pilgrimage city of Varanasi, which was looted and a large number of its temples destroyed.[68] The Gahadavala capital Kanauj was annexed in 1198.[62][69][70] During this campaign, the Buddhist city of Sarnath was also sacked.[70][71]

Conquest of Bayana[edit]

Muhammad returned to the Indian frontier again around 1196 to consolidate his hold around the present-day Rajasthan. The territory of Bayana at the time was under the control of a sect of Jadaun Rajputs. Muhammad along with Aibak advanced and besieged Thankar whose ruler Kumarpal was defeated. Muhammad placed the fort under his senior slave Bahauddin Tughril, who later established Sultankot and used it as his stronghold.[72][73] After the conquest of Thankar, Bahaurddin Turghil reduced the fort of Gwalior whose Parihar chief Sallakhanapala surrendered after a long siege and accepted the Ghurid suzerainty.[74] After the assassination of Muhammad, Tourghil styled himself as the Sultan in Bayana.[75]

In 1197, Qutb ud-Din Aibak invaded Gujarat and defeated Bhima II in Sirohi after a sudden attack and afterwards sacked his capital Anhilwara. Thus, Aibak avenged the rout of Muhammad at the same place in 1178.[76]

Struggle in Central Asia[edit]

Muhammad continued to aid his brother for the expansion in west against the Khwarezmians in the interlude of his eastwards expansion. Meanwhile, in the affairs of Khurasan, Sultan Shah was defeated by his brother Ala al-Din Tekish in alliance with the Qara Khitai troops and the later succeeded the throne of Khwarezm in December 1172. Sultan Shah fled to the Ghurid brothers and asked for their assistance in order to expel his brother Tekish. While they received him well, they refused to give him military aid against Tekish, with whom the Ghurids were on good terms till then.[77] Sultan Shah, carved out his independent principality in Khurasan and began plundering the regions of Ghor along with his governor Bahauddin Turghil. Thus, Ghiyath al-Din asked for aid from Muhammad, who was occupied with his Indian expeditions at the time, marched with his army from Ghazni. The Ghurid feudatories: Shamsuddin Muhammad of Bamiyan and Tajuddin of Herat joined them with their respective contingents against the Khwarezmians.[78]

The Ghurid forces decisively defeated Sultan Shah on the banks of river Murgabh after months of campaigning and executed their governor of Herat Bahauddin Turghil while Sultan Shah fled to Merv.[79] The Ghurids followed their victory by recapturing Herat.[80] Sultan Shah died after a year in 1191 possibly due to the drug overdose.[79] According to historian A.B.M. Habibullah, the Ghurids could not annex any territory in Khurasan outside Herat which remained under the sway of Tekesh[80] and who by 1193 captured much of the Persia along with the Trans-Caspian belt.[81] Conversely, C. E. Bosworth stated that Ghurids annexed some part of Khurasan after their victory in Merv.[12]


Tekish died in 1200, which led to a brief period of struggle for the succession between Alauddin Shah of Khwarezm and his nephew Hindu Khan. The Ghurid siblings seized the opportunity and amidst the turmoil in the Khwarezmian house for succession, Muhammad and Ghiyath al-Din invaded and captured the oasis cities of Nishapur, Merv and Tus and reached as far as Gorgan. The Ghurids, thus, for a short span established their sway over most of the Khurasan for first time in their history.[82][83] However, their success turned to be a short-term affair as Alauddin succeeded the throne in August 1200[84] and soon after recaptured his lost territories by 1201.[85] Despite the success against the Ghurids, Alauddin sent an envoy for diplomacy to Muhammad, probably in order to focus solely on overcoming from the suzerainty of Qara Khitais by sougthing peace with the Ghurids. However, the attempt turned to be futile and Muhammad marched again with his forces on Nishapur which forced Alauddin to shut himself inside the city walls. Muhammad recaptured Tus along with Herat and sacked the country-side.[86]

Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad around this time died at Herat on 13 March 1203,[87] after months of illness which briefly diverted Muhammad's attention from the existing state of affairs. Thus, taking advantage of his absence from Herat where he appointed his nephew Alp Ghazi, Khwarezmian forces captured Merv and beheaded the Ghurid governor Karang there.[88] Muhammad of Ghor, possibly to take over the entire Khwarezmian Empire, laid siege to their capital Gurganj, instead of Herat which was besieged by the Khwarezmians after Ghiyath al-Din's death. Alauddin retreated on the Ghurid advance and desperately requested aid from the Qara Khitais, who sent a sizeable army to aid the Khwarezmians. Muhammad, because of the pressure from the Qara Khitai forces was forced to relieve the siege and retreat. However, he was chased on his way to Firuzkuh and was decisively defeated in the Battle of Andkhud in 1204 by the combined forces of Qara Khitai and Kara-Khanid Khanate under Taniku and Uthman ibn Ibrahim.[89] He was allowed to return to his capital, after paying a heavy ransom to the Qara Khitai general Taniku (Tayangu) which included several elephants and gold coins.[90] According to Juzjani, the negotiations between Muhammad and Taniku were arranged by Uthman ibn Ibrahim of Samarkand who do not want the "Sultan of Islam" to be captured by the infidels.[91] Following the defeat, the Ghurids lost the control over most of the Khurasan except Herat and Balkh.[92] Thus, Muhammad of necessity agreed for a cold peace with the Khwarezmians.[93]

Final days[edit]

After the disaster of Andkhud and the subsequent rumours of Muhammad's death in the battle led to widespread insurrections throughout the Ghurid Sultanate, most notably by Aibak Beg, Husain Kharmil and by the governor of Ghazni, Yildiz, as well.[b][94] Muhammad first marched to Multan instead of Ghazni, where his slave general Aibak Beg (who rescued him in Battle of Andkhud) assassinated the Ghurid governor Amir Dad Hasan in a personal meeting and issued a fake decree of him being appointed by Muhammad as the new governor of Multan. Muhammad defeated Aibak Beg decisively and captured him in the battle. Afterwards, he marched towards Ghazni, where Yildiz mutinied earlier and seized the city.[95] On the advance of a vast army of Muhammad of Ghor, foreseeing an inevitable defeat, Yildiz and his aristocrats surrendered to Muhammad, who pardoned them.[96]

Thus, Muhammad successfully restored his empire to stability, after suppressing the mutineers and turned his attention towards the affairs of Central Asia again to avenge the rout at Andhkhud and to reclaim his holdings in Khurasan. Accordingly, by July 1205, Muhammad's governor of Balkh besieged Tirmidh in the present-day Uzbekistan and captured the city following a short siege, destroying the Qara Khitai garrison stationed there and placed it under his son.[97] Afterwards, Muhammad ordered his viceory in the Bamiyan Valley, Baha al-Din Sam II to construct a boat bridge and a castle across the river Oxus to facilitate the march of his armies in Transoxiana.[96][98] Muhammad also directed his Indian soldiers to join him in the expedition against the Qara Khitais.[99] However, soon another political unrest broke out which turned Muhammad towards Punjab again where he was eventually assassinated.[100]

Campaign against Khokhars[edit]

The Khokhar tribe whose influence extended from the lower Indus until Siwalik hills, arose in the wake of Muhammad's rout in the Battle of Andkhud and rebelled by disrupting the Ghurid communication chain between Lahore and Ghazni along with plundering Lahore.[95] According to Juzjani, the Khokhars were hostile to Muslims and use to "torment every "Musalman they captured".[96]

Hence, Muhammad marched from Ghazni in December 1205 for his last campaign in order to subjugate the Khokhars. The Khokhars led by Bakan and Sarkha offered a battle somewhere between the Chenab and Jhelum rivers and fought valiantly until the afternoon but Muhammad carried the day after Iltutmish arrived with a reserve contingent, whom Muhammad earlier stationed on the banks of Jhelum. Muhammad followed his victory by a large scale slaughter of the Khokhars. His armies also burnt down the forests where many of them took refuge while fleeing.[101][102]

Iltutmish was rewarded for his gallantry against the Khokhars with a presentation of special robe of honour from Muhammad. According to Juzjani, Muhammad also manumitted Illtutmish, despite the fact that his master Aibak who purchased him originally was still a slave along with other senior slaves of Muhammad who were not manumitted until that point.[103]


Artistic description of Muhammad's assassination while offering evening prayers.[104]

After crushing the Khokhars, on his way back to his capital in Ghazni, Muhammad's caravan rested at Dhamiak near Sohawa (which is near the city of Jhelum in the Punjab province of modern-day Pakistan) where he was assassinated on March 15, 1206, by the Ismāʿīlī emissaries.[105]

The martyrdom of the sovereign of sea and land, Muizz-ud-din,
From the beginning of the world the like of whom no monarch arose,
On the third of the month Sha`ban in the year six hundred and two,
Happened on the road to Ghazni at the halting-place of Damyak.

— Tabakāt-i-Nāsirī, 1260 CE.[106]

According to some sketchy accounts regarding the identity of Muhammad's assassins, claimed that the assassins were sent by Muhammad II of Khwarezm. However, the Khwarezmians already curbed the Ghurid ambition in Transoxiana after the Andkhud debacle and were not facing any potential danger from them. Hence, historian Mohammad Habib theorizes that this speculation that the Ismaili assassins were sent by the Khwarezmian Shah is unlikely to be correct. Muhammad's assassins were probably sent by the Imam of Alamut whose castle he sacked during the Khurasan expedition.[107]

Some later accounts possibly with the genesis in the writing of Ferishta claimed that his assassins were Hindu Khokhars. In "Tarikh-i-Firishta", he stated that "Twenty Khokhar infidels" who were cowed down by him earlier attacked his carvan and stabbed him with a "dagger". However, this account is not corroborated by the earlier authorities. Minhaj al-Siraj Juzjani, Hasan Nizami and Shams ad-Dīn adh-Dhahabi all contemporary or near contemporary accounts confirmed that Muhammad was assassinated by a "Heretic devote" ("fida-i-mulahida"). The story of his assassination by the Khokhars is probably an invention of later times based on indirect evidences.[108] Muhammad's coffin was carried from Dhamiak to Ghazni by his Vizier Moidul Mulk along with other elites, where he was buried (Ghazni) in the mausoleum of his daughter.[96][109]

Despite the debacle of Andhkhud and the successive plummet of their western frontier, Muhammad's empire at the time of his assassination still spread out as far as Herat in the west, Zamindawar Valley in the south and the Yasin Valley in the north-east.[110]


Muhammad's only offspring was his daughter who died during his own lifetime.[111] His sudden assassination in Damyak led to a period of struggle among his slaves and other senior Ghurid elites for the succession. The Ghurid aristocrats of Ghazni and Fīrūzkūh supported the succession of Baha al-Din Sam II from the Bamiyan branch, although his Turkic slaves supported Ghiyath al-Din Mahmud who was his nephew and son of his brother Ghiyath al-Din.[112] Nonetheless, Baha al-Din died on his march to Ghazni on 24 February 1206 due to illness. [113][92]

Thus, Muhammad was succeeded by Ghiyath al-Din Mahmud in 1206, although most of his conquests in the Ganga Valley were in the grasp of his lieutenants – Qutb ud-Din Aibak, Taj al-Din Yildiz, Bahauddin Tughril, Nasir ad-Din Qabacha and Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khilji who barely consulted Ghiyath al-Din Mahmud in their affairs. Notwithstanding, they still paid him a minimal tribute.[114] During his reign, Mahmud also officially grant "manumission" on Aibak and Yildiz.[115][116] Thus, freed from the slavery and with investment of a "chatr" from Mahmud, Yildiz established himself as the king of Ghazni in 1206[116] and Aibak in Lahore (who declared independence in 1208) established the Delhi Sultanate. Historian Iqtidar Alam Khan though, doubted that Aibak styled himself as the "Sultan" as it is not attested by the numismatic evidences.[117] Soon, Mahmud was enforced to accept suzerainty of Alauddin Shah of Khawarazm as attested by the numismatic evidences in which he minted his name along with placing Alauddin's name in the "khuṭbah" until his assassination in 1212.[118]

Afterwards, the Khwarazmians established their puppet government in the Ghurid lands, although Yildiz drove them back in 1213[119] before Alauddin eradicated the Ghurids and annexed Fīrūzkūh from Zia al-Din Ali in 1215[120] who either died as his captive (burned in Iran) or retired to Delhi in exile.[113] Alauddin also defeated and executed the last Ghurid ruler Jalal al-Din Ali from the Bamiyan line in the same year. Thus, the Šansabānī house was extirpated by 1215.[121][92] Yildiz was toppled from Ghazni around the same time as well who later fled to Delhi and laid his own claim for succession of the Ghurid conquests of Muhammad of Ghor. However, he was defeated and executed in 1216 by Iltutmish in Tarain.[122]

Relations with slaves[edit]

According to Juzjani's Tabaqat-i-Nasiri (c.1260), Muhammad enthusiastically used to purchase several slaves during his lifetime who later according to Juzjani became renowned for their calibre in "east". Muhammad purchased a young Qabacha who was sold into slavery and was later bestowed with the domains of Kerman and Sanjar for his Iqṭāʿ by the Ghurid Sultan. He raised his slaves with affection and treated them as his sons and successors, after his despondency with his own Ghurid household in his later days.[123] According to another contemporary account of Fakhr-i Mudabbir who wrote under the patronage of Qutb ud-Din Aibak also emphasized upon the importance of each of the Turkish slaves ("bandagan") to Muhammad. He further panegyrise Aibak for enduring the trust of his master.[124] Muhammad's slaves played a key role in the expansion and consolidation of the Ghurid conquests in the Ganga-Jamuna doab when he was engaged in the affairs of Khurasan and amidst this also raised their own authority in the North India while still regarding Muhammad as their supreme master until his assassination.[125]

Muhammad, later also organized matrimonial alliances among the families of his slaves in accordance with the practise of endogamy. The notable among these alliances, were the marriages of the daughters of Taj al-Din Yildiz to Qutb ud-Din Aibak and Nasir ad-Din Qabacha. Further, two daughters of Aibak were married to Qabacha.[126] This policy was continued by Aibak as well, who married his daughter to his slave Illtutmish.[127]

In popular traditions, when a courtier lamented that the Sultan (Muhammad) had no male heirs, he retorted:

"Other monarchs may have one son or two sons; I have thousands of sons, my Turkish slaves who will be the heirs of my dominions, and who, after me, will take care to preserve my name in the Khuṭbah (Friday sermon) throughout these territories"

— Muhammad of Ghor on his succession[128]


The largest extent of the Ghurid empire in 1200 during the reign of Muhammad Ghori and Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad

During the dyarchy of Muhammad and his elder brother Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad, the Ghurids emerged as one of the major powers in the eastern Islamic world.[129] The Ghurids reached the greatest extent of their territorial expansion, where they briefly ruled over a territory which spanned over 3000 km from east to west. During these years, their empire stretched from Gorgan in eastern present-day Iran to Lakhnauti in present-day Bangladesh and from the foothills of the Himalaya south to Sindh (Pakistan).[130][131][82][83]

The Catastrophe of Andkhud and the collapse of the Šansabānī dynasty within a decade of his assassination along with the rise of Genghis Khan who carved out the largest contiguous empire in history made his short-lived successes in the Khurasan and Persia as less consequential in contrast to the more substantial Islamic monarchs of Central Asia.[132] While, Muhammad was not much successful against his Turkish adversaries in the Transoxiana,[133] notwithstanding, his success in the Indian Subcontinent had far flug consequences. The 13th century chronicle Jawami ul-Hikayat, by Muhammad Aufi, mentioned that the Sultan (Muhammad of Ghor) "khuṭbah was read in all the mosques from Herat to Assam".[134] His decisive victory in the Second Battle of Tarain against the Rajput forces of Prithviraja III laid to the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate by Qutb ud-Din Aibak which was further consolidated by his slave commander Illtutmish.[135][136][137] In the ensuring times, the Sultanate of Delhi turned to be the only major Islamic state that survived amongst the carnage in the Central Asia caused by the Mongols during the thirteenth century.[138][139]

The Ghurids similar to the Ghaznavids were unpopular among their subjects of the Khurasan. According to Juzjani, Muhammad imposed heavy taxes, plundered and seized the property in Tus for the expanses of his army, which was committed for the protection of a Imam's shrine. These events eventually turned the people belligerent towards the Ghurids who retaliated when Muhammad besieged Gurganz and militarily supported the besieged Khwarezmian Shah who as a result collected a hughe army of 70,000 which eventually forced Muhammad to relieve the siege and retreat before being cornered by the Qara Khitai forces.[140][141][88]

The Ghor region, however, during his reign did prospered and became a leading centre of learning and culture. He also gave grants to various theologians like Maulana Fakharudin Razi who preached the Islamic teachings in the backward regions of the Ghurid empire. Muhammad also briefly contributed in the archietectural aspect of his region, chiefly constructing distinctive kind of Islamic glazed tiles in his capital Ghazni.[138][142]


Modern shrine to Muhammad, built by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan in 1994-1995, in Dhamiak, Sohawa Tehsil, Pakistan, where Muhammad was assassinated.[143] Muhammad was actually buried in Ghazni, according to contemporary sources.


The circulation of coins from Muhammad's court in Ghazni around 1199, confirming to the numismatic standards of the Islamic world, carried only Arabic calligraphy with the qalma and name of his sibling Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad along with his title on the obverse side of coin, whereas the reverse side of coin featured Muhammad's name and his title along with the title of Caliphate.[146] The paradigm of coins issued by Muhammad and Ghiyath al-Din shifted drastically from 1199 onwards to a further more orthodox ideologue with the Quranic verses on both sides. The radical shift to orthodoxy in the coinage is probably to propound their recent change of school from Karramiyya to the mainstream Hanafi and Shafi'i schools of Islam by Ghiyath al-Din and Muhammad respectively in order to embed themselves within cosmopolitan networks of the wider Islamic world and shed off their backward origin.[147]

The coins issued by Muhammad in northern India followed the Indian standards of weight and metallic purity.[148] The Ghurid coins in India except Bengal, continued on the same paradigm of pre-conquest with the existing Hindu iconography juxtaposed with the name of Muhammad written in Sanskrit, the language of northern Indian literate elites and not in the Arabic. [149] Coins minted by Muhammad and his lieutenants in north India continued featuring the iconographic programme of Hindu deity Lakshmi (based on the existing pattern of Chahamanas) on one side and Muhammad's name in the Nāgarī script on other side written in Sanskrit.[150] Similarly in Delhi, the Ghurid circulation continued on the pre-conquest paradigm which had the iconography of Nandi Bull and a "Chahaman horsemen" juxtaposed with Muhammad's name written as "Shri Hammirah".[151]

Finbarr Barry Flood commented on the notion of continuity of the pre-conquest arrangements in the numismatics as a pragmatic measure of Ghurids to met the economic realities in northern India.[152] Sunil Kumar further elaborated on the basis of hoard evidences that the coins issued by Muhammad were accepted on the same scale by the local Indian financiers and bankers as the previous coins which were issued by the Rajputs, despite a period of transition (regime change) in the political milieu of northern India.[153]

Popular culture[edit]

In the 2022 film Samrat Prithviraj, Manav Vij portrayed Muhammad of Ghor.[154]


  1. ^ Historian Kishori Saran Lal states Govind Rai was struck in the mouth, but does not mention any mortal wounds.[43]
  2. ^ This Yildiz is not Taj al-Din Yildiz who was in charge of Kirman then.


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  136. ^ Sugata Bose; Ayesha Jalal (2004). Modern South Asia: History, Culture, Political Economy. Psychology Press. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-415-30786-4. It was a similar combination of political and economic imperatives which led Muhmmad Ghuri, a Turk, to invade India a century and half later in 1192. His defeat of Prithviraj Chauhan, a Rajput chieftain, in the strategic battle of Tarain in northern India paved the way for the establishment of first Muslim sultante
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  153. ^ Kumar 2002, p. 30: "As the hoard evidences from north India confirms, Mu'izzi wede valued as much as the earlier Rajput currencies and were fully assimilated within an economic word unimpressed with transition in the political realm"
  154. ^ "Sources suggest that the movie is in the pre-production stage and the makers are making sure to match the deadline of November". News Nation. Archived from the original on 27 February 2021. Retrieved 3 December 2020.


External links[edit]