Stunned by the news from Islamnagar, Bhopal was plunged into a state of despair and uncertainty. The main contenders to mount the throne through this turmoil prepared for a protracted battle of succession. Amir Mohammad Khan, Nazar’s elder brother, was the leading contender. He had been passed over in favor of his younger brother, but as Wazir’s elder son, was the first claimant. His wife, Munawwar Jahan, and her elder brother, Asad Ali Khan of Basoda supported him. The second aspirant was Moiz Mohammad Khan, Ghous’ eldest son and Qudsia’s real brother. Though Ghous was still alive (he died in 1826), he was too feeble and discredited to reclaim the throne for himself. Moiz thus considered himself heir apparent to the title of Nawab. In the third group of aspirants were other direct descendants of Dost Mohammad Khan and also the remainder of Ghous’ brood of 60 children who fancied their chances. Major Henley, the British Political agent, was expected to have the determining influence on the issue of succession.
In this atmosphere of gloom and foreboding, the family gathered for the Soyem (mourning ceremony) at Nazar’s palace on 13 November 1819, with all the contending rivals for the succession present in the durbar hall. Nazar’s supporters, Mian Karam Mohammad Khan (a loyal, Mirazi-khel cousin), Hakim Shahzad Masih, Bakshi Bahadur Mohammad Khan and Raja Khushwakt Rai (a wise, Hindu administrator) – the Loyal Quartet – were also present, as were senior state officials including the state’s religious functionaries, the Qazi and the Mufti.
In this room stood Qudsia, veiled in a burqa, the tall, willowy, 19-year-old widow of Nazar Mohammad Khan with her 15-month-old daughter, Sikandar, clutching her tightly by the hand. Qudsia was several months pregnant with her second child. As soon as the eldest member had completed his funeral oration, tension bristling among the various family heads, the congregation was shocked to see Qudsia take off her veil and moving to the center of the room. In a calm and dignified address to the gathering, she produced Nazar’s will in which he had ordained that, in the event of his premature death, Sikandar should be declared the ruler and Qudsia act as regent until Sikandar’s marriage to a “close family member” who would then become the Nawab. She then challenged anyone who objected to her proposal to speak out. Everyone kept silent, partly because by raising an objection, they would have attracted the accusing finger of suspension over Nazar’s death. The Loyal quartet rallied to her side and thus in 1819, began the first period of womens rule in Bhopal, which lasted almost uninterrupted for the next 107 years.