Muhammad’s successors established the first dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate, while the Mamluk Dynasty (mamluk means “slave” and referred to the Turkic slave soldiers who became rulers throughout the Islamic world) in 1211 (however, the Delhi Sultanate is traditionally held to have been founded in 1206) seized the reins of empire. The territory under control of the Muslim rulers in Delhi expanded rapidly. By mid-century, Bengal and much of central India was under the Delhi Sultanate. Several Turko-Afghan dynasties ruled from Delhi: the Mamluk (1211-90), the Khalji (1290-1320), the Tughlaq (1320-1413), the Sayyid (1414-51), and the Lodhi (1451-1526). As Muslims extended their rule into southern India, only the Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar remained immune, until it too fell in 1565. Although some kingdoms remained independent of Delhi in the Deccan and in Gujarat, Malwa (central India), and Bengal, almost all of the area in Pakistan came under the rule of the Delhi Sultanate.
The sultans of Delhi enjoyed cordial relations with Muslim rulers in the Near East but owed them no allegiance. The sultans based their laws on the Quran and the sharia and permitted non-Muslim subjects to practice their religion only if they paid the jizya or head tax. The sultans ruled from urban centers–while military camps and trading posts provided the nuclei for towns that sprang up in the countryside. Perhaps the greatest contribution of the sultanate was its temporary success in insulating the South Asia from the potential devastation of the Mongol invasion from Central Asia in the thirteenth century, which nonetheless led to the loss of Afghanistan and western Pakistan to the Mongols (see the Ilkhanate Dynasty). The sultanate ushered in a period of Indian cultural renaissance resulting from the stimulation of Islam by Hinduism. The resulting “Indo-Muslim” fusion left lasting monuments in architecture, music, literature, and religion. In addition it is surmised that the language of Urdu (literally meaning “horde” or “camp” in various Turkic dialects) was born during the Dehli Sultanate period as a result of the mingling of Sanskritic prakrits and the Persian, Turkish, Arabic favored by the Muslim invaders of India. The sultanate suffered from the sacking of Delhi in 1398 by Timur (Tamerlane) but revived briefly under the Lodhis before it was conquered by the Mughals in 1526.