Muhammad of Ghor

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Coin of Mu'izzuddin Muhammad Bin Sam, circa 1173 C.E.-1206 C.E., issued from Delhi following coin typology of Prithviraja.
Obv: Rider bearing lance on caparisoned horse facing right. Devnagari Legends: Sri /hamirah'. Rev: Simple rendition of recumbent bull with long snout facing left, Devnagari Legends: "Sri Mahamada Same" in arc.

Muhammad Shahab-ud-Din Ghori (Persian, Pashto, Urdu: محمد شہاب الدین غوری), also spelled Mohammad Ghauri, originally named Mu'izzuddin Muhammad Bin Sam but famously known as Muhammad of Ghor (1162-1206), was a governor and general under the Ghorid dynasty. He was the governor of Ghazni, a province in modern-day Afghanistan from 1173 to 1206 and Sultan from 1202. His ethnic background was most likely of Persian-speaking Eastern-Iranian Tajik stock. He conquered various kingdoms in India as far south as Delhi. His successor, General Qutb-ud-din Aybak was the first Muslim Sultan of Delhi, where his heirs ruled until 1290. Delhi would remain under Muslim rule until the beginning of the British Raj and the end of the Moghul Empire.

Muhammad of Ghor is credited with launching Muslim rule in India. Previously, Muslims raiding India from Afghanistan had treated it as the source of plunder. By appointing Qutb-ud-din Aybak as his Viceroy in India, Muhammad started to establish Islamic governance in India on a permanent basis. This changed the dynamics of Indian society. Islam would become India's second-largest religion. Relations between India's Hindu majority and its Muslims has at times seen violence and conflict; in 1947, incompatible Hindu and Muslim communitarian political aspirations resulted in the Partition of India. Yet the Muslim presence in India also saw a meeting, mixing and mingling of ideas, culture, spirituality, art, and architecture that, at its best, shows how people of different religions can benefit from mutual exchange and from mutual respect. Muhammad of Ghor's legacy created opportunities for positive as well as for negative inter-religious relations. Only when different religions encounter each other, often as the result of imperial conquest, do people have the chance to deny or to affirm that different religions have many shared values, and that the hope of a peaceful and just world is common to most faiths. The choice of cooperation instead of conflict is always open, and peace-loving people will find ways to pursue the former, rejecting the latter.


Muhammad of Ghor was the brother of the Sultan Ghiyas-ud-din Muhammad of Ghor, a province in modern-day Afghanistan. Ghor lay on the western boundary of the Ghaznavid Empire. Before 1160, the Ghaznavid Empire covered an area running from central Afghanistan to the Punjab, with capitals at Ghazni and Lahore.[1]

In 1160, the Ghorids conquered Ghazni from the Ghaznavids, and in 1173 Muhammad Shahab-ud-Din Ghori became governor of the province. In 1186-87 he conquered Lahore, ending the Ghaznavid Empire and bringing the last of Ghaznavid territory under his control. Muhammad Shahab-ud-Din Ghori was a loyal brother. He refrained from declaring his independence in the Indian Subcontinent, knowing that it would result in civil war between the two brothers. Until the death of Ghiyas-ud-din Muhammad in 1202, Ghori never considered himself anything but a general in his brother's army. After every victory he would send the best of the looted items to his elder brother in Afghanistan. Ghiyas-ud-din reciprocated by never interfering in the affairs of his younger brother. Thus they were each able to concentrate on their own responsibilities. As a result, Ghori managed to push Muslim rule much further east than Mahmud of Ghazni did.

Muhammad attacked the north-western regions of the Indian Subcontinent many times. The first time he was defeated in the First Battle of Tarain in present-day Haryana, India by Prithviraj Chauhan, the Hindu Rajput ruler of Delhi and Ajmer. But he defeated Prithviraj Chauhan in the Second battle of Tarain in 1192 C.E. Rajput kingdoms like Saraswati, Samana, Kohram and Hansi were captured without any difficulty. Then Ghori proceeded to Ajmer. Nobody challenged him. After reaching Ajmer, he spared the son of Prithviraj Chauhan, Kola, who in turn took the oath of loyalty to Ghori. One of his generals conquered Bihar in 1199 and Lower Bengal in 1203.[2]

Muhammad "had little time to consolidate his Indian conquests."[2] However, he made a solid effort to rule the territory he had conquered by appointing deputies to collect of taxes and to administer the rule of law. He distributed land equally among his senior officers and set up consultative councils, where local representatives met with his own administrators.


In 1206, Ghori had to travel to Lahore to crush a revolt. On his way back to Ghazni, his caravan halted at Dhamiak near Jhelum. He was killed while offering his evening prayers. Many think that the murderer was an Ismaili. However, some historians believe that the murderer belonged to the warrior Gakhar tribe that resided in the area. In some compositions it is stated that Ghori did not kill Prithviraj but rather blinded him. Subsequently, Prithviraj discharged a Shabdbhedi arrow (an arrow shot at the source of a sound), on being challenged by Ghori to do so. The arrow hit Ghori and subsequently he was killed. Nonetheless in Ghor province, there exists a grave of Ghori as well as his arch rival Prithiviraj in the same vicinity despite the fact that his actual grave is in modern-day Pakistan.

Muhammad Ghori had no heirs and thus he treated his slaves as his sons. It is said that he trained thousands of Turkish slaves in the art of warfare and administration. Most of his slaves were given excellent education. Pande says that he was "very fond of his slaves."[3] During his reign many hardworking and intelligent slaves rose to positions of excellence. Once a courtier lamented; that Sultan has no male heirs. Ghori immediately replied:

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 Khutba throughout these territories.[4]


Muhammad's death left his generals in control of the whole of North India. He was succeeded by Qutb-ud-din Aybak, who had started of by sacking Ayodhya in 1193 C.E. then served as Muhammad's governor in India. He was Sultan until 1210, claiming the title "Sultan of Delhi. His established the Ghulam Dynasty, which ruled until 1290. He also started to build the Qutb complex at Delhi. As a former slave, Qutb-ud-din Aybak lineage is described as a Mamluk, or slave dynasty. Under these rulers, "India became for the first time the seat of resident" Muslim "sovereigns."[5]

Muhammad Ghori is remembered as an empire builder and is justly called the founder of the Muslim Empire in the Indian Subcontinent. He ushered in six centuries of Islamic rule. Gibbons says that he began "the Muslim empires of India."[6]

Keay attributes the destruction on Hindu temples to Muhammad of Ghor, which some later Muslim rulers emulated. "Waves of iconoclasm," he says, "under Muhammad of Ghor and the Delhi Sultans account for the disappearances of many … North Indian temple complexes of the tenth to twelfth centuries."[7] However, Hunter describes him as no "religious knight errant like Mahmud of Ghazni but a practical conqueror" thus "the objects of his distant expeditions were not temples but provinces."[2] When Muslims and Hindus have lived harmoniously in India, they have chosen to view each others' religions as expressing different, perhaps even apparently contradictory, truths about God while affirming that the totality of who God is eludes human comprehension. When one community has persecuted the other, they have chosen to view the others' religion as inferior, false or even as dangerously corrupt. For better or for worse, the possibility of choosing either approach was due to Muhammad of Ghor's conquests. Those who believe that the end-goal of human maturation through all the processes of history is the establishment of a unified world of peace will encourage all people to adopt the first option, to accept that God has "revealed God's-self through the many religions of the world" in order to remind "humanity that the totality of God, or of the Ultimate, can not be reduced to a single formulation, and that paradox lies at the heart of God, since apparently contradictory understandings of God's nature can all be true."[8] It is only when previously isolated communities become aware of each other, often as a result of imperial conquest, that humanity has the chance to mature towards achieving the goal of a unified world.

Missile homage

In response to India's development of its surface to surface missile Prithvi (actually named after one of the Five Elements—The Earth, Prithvi in Sanskrit), Pakistan launched its own missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads on April 6, 1998, called Ghauri I. It was symbolically named after Muhammad of Ghori, who is highly revered in Pakistan for having defeated his arch-rival, the Hindu Rajput ruler Prithvi Raj Chauhan, who is highly revered in India. Pakistan has since developed the Ghauri II and Ghauri III.


  1. Clifford Edmund Bosworth, GHURIDS (or AÚl-e ˆansab), Encyclopaedia Iranica. Retrieved October 17, 2008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Hunter (2000), 222.
  3. Pande (1990), 37.
  4. Pande (1990), 35.
  5. Hunter (2000), 223.
  6. Gibbons (2007), 51.
  7. Keay (2000), 213.
  8. Clinton Bennett, In Search of Solutions: The Problem of Religion and Conflict, Religion and violence (London, UK: Equinox Pub, 2008, ISBN 9781845532390), 9.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Gibbons, David. 2007. Faiths and Religions of the World. San Diego, CA: Thunder Bay Press. ISBN 9781592238491.
  • Hunter, William Wilson. 1882. 2000. The Indian Empire; its History, People, and {roducts. London, UK: Trübner.ISBN 9780415244954.
  • Jacobs, Daniel, and Gavin Thomas. 2007. The Rough Guide to Rajasthan, Delhi and Agra. London, UK: Rough Guides. ISBN 9781843538646.
  • Keay, John. 2000. India: A History. New York, NY: Atlantic Monthly Press. ISBN 9780871138002.
  • Pande, Rekha. 1990. Succession in the Delhi Sultanate. New Delhi, IN: Commonwealth Publishers. ISBN 9788171690695.


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