When Muslim forces under the Ghurid sultan, Mu'izz al-Dīn Muḥammad b. Sām, made their first major breakthrough into Hindūstān in the 1190s, they brought with them two institutions that had long since taken root in the Islamic world. One was the iqṭā' or assignment of land or its revenue, in some cases in return for military service (sometimes misrepresented as “fief” on the Western European model). The other was the mamlūk, or military slave. Mamlūk status, it should be stressed, bore none of the degrading connotations associated with other types of slavery: mamlūks – generally Turks from the Eurasian steppelands – were highly prized by their masters, receiving both instruction in the Islamic faith and a rigorous training in the martial arts, and were not employed in any menial capacity. The mamlūk institution, whose origins go back to the first century of Islam, came into vogue from the first half of the third/ninth century, as the ‘Abbasid Caliphs built up a corps of Turkish mamlūk guards and their example was followed, with the disintegration of their empire, by the various autonomous dynasties that sprang up in the provinces. Turkish slave officers themselves went on to found dynasties, as in the case of the Tulunids and the Ikhshidids in Egypt and the Ghaznawids in the eastern Iranian world. The institution surely entered upon its heyday in the seventh/thirteenth century, with the military coup of 648/1250 in Cairo: a group of mamlūk officers overthrew the last Ayyubid sultan of Egypt and inaugurated a regime in which slave status was the essential qualification for high military and administrative office.