Malik-Shah I

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Malik-Shah I
Büyük Selçuklu Sultanı Melikşah.jpg
Malik-Shah I (miniature)
Sultan of the Seljuq Empire
Reign 1072 – 1092
Predecessor Alp Arslan
Successor Mahmud I
Spouse Turkan Khatun
Zubeida Khatun
Issue Rukn ad-Din Barkiyaruq
Ghiyath ad-Din Tapar
Muizz ad-Din Sanjar
Nasir ad-Din Mahmud
Adud ad-Dawlah Ahmad
Princess Mah-i Mulk
Princess Sitara
Gawhar Khatun
Full name
Laqab: Muizz ad-Din (shortly), Jalal ad-Dawlah
Kunya: Abul-Fath
Given name: Hasan
Regnal name: Malik-Shah
Nasab: Malik-Shah ibn Alp Arslan ibn Chaghri-Beg ibn Mikail ibn Seljuq ibn Duqaq
House House of Seljuq
Father Alp Arslan
Mother ?
Born 1055
Died 19 November 1092
Religion Sunni Islam

Malik-Shah I (Turkish: Melikşah; Turkmen: Mälikşa; Persian: ملکشاه‎; full name: Arabic: معز الدنيا والدين جلال الدولة حسن ملكشاهMuizz ad-Dunya wa ad-Din Jalal ad-Dawlah Hasan Malik-Shah ibn Muhammad) (1055 – 19 November 1092) succeeded his father, Alp Arslan, as the Sultan of the Seljuk Empire in 1072, and reigned until his death in 1092.[1][2]

Although Malikshah was the nominal head of the Seljuq state, his famous vizier Nizam al-Mulk held near absolute power during his reign.[3]


In 1064, Malik-Shah, along with Nizam al-Mulk, the vizier of the Empire, took part Alp Arslan’s campaign in the Caucasus. The same year, Malik-Shah was married to Turkan Khatun, the daughter of the Kara-Khanid khan,[4] Ibrahim Tamghach-Khan.[5] Following his father's assassination, Malik was challenged in battle by his uncle, Qawurd-Beg. In January 1074, their armies met near Hamadan, Qawurd-Beg's troops consisting of the traditional Turkmen elements from Alp Arslan's army, while Malik's consisted of ghulams and contingents of Kurdish and Arab troops. Due to Turkmen defections to Malik's army, Qawurd was defeated and, despite Malik's consideration for mercy, was later poisoned, presumably on the orders of vizier Nizam al-Mulk.[6]

Under Nizam's guidance the Seljuq armies contained the Ghaznavids in Khorasan, rolled back the Fatimids in Syria, defeated the Seljuq pretenders to the throne, invaded Georgia and reduced it to a tributary state, compelled the submission of regional governors, and kept the Abassid Caliphs in a position of impotence.[7] Alp Arslan's victory at Manzikert in 1071 was followed up by a Turkish conquest of Anatolia. This campaign was the work of independent Turkmen armies, such as that of Atsiz ibn Uvaq, and not of the Seljuk army. As a result, the Sultanate of Rum, as the new state was called, did not acknowledge the authority of the House of Seljuq. In 1074, Malik-Shah ordered the Turkic warlord Arghar to restore what he had destroyed during his raids in the territory of the Shirvanshah Fariburz I.[8]

In 1075, the Jalali calendar was reformed[9] and throughout Malik's reign new institutions of learning were established throughout the Seljuq lands.[10] In 1092 Nizam al-Mulk was assassinated near Sihna, on the road to Baghdad, by a man disguised as a Sufi.[11] As the assassin was immediately cut down by Nizam's bodyguard, it became impossible to establish with certainty who had sent him. One theory had it that he was an Is'maili fanatic, since these regularly made attempts on the lives of Seljuq officials and rulers during the 11th century. Another theory had it that the attack had been instigated by Malikshah, who may have grown tired of his overmighty vizir.[12] Probably the truth will never be known.

Death and aftermath[edit]

Malikshah later fell ill and died several months later. According to some contemporary accounts he was poisoned by men loyal to the memory of Nizam al-Mulk.[13]

Upon his death the Seljuq dynasty fell into chaos, as rival successors and regional governors carved up their empire and waged war against each other. The situation within the Seljuq lands was further complicated by the arrival of the first crusade, which detached larged portions of Syria and Palestine from Muslim control in 1098 and 1099. The success of the first crusade is at least in part attributable to the political confusion which resulted from Malikshah's death.[14]


The 18th century English historian Edward Gibbon wrote of him:

On his father's death the inheritance was disputed by an uncle, a cousin, and a brother: they drew their cimeters, and assembled their followers; and the triple victory of Malek Shah established his own reputation and the right of primogeniture. In every age, and more especially in Asia, the thirst of power has inspired the same passions, and occasioned the same disorders; but, from the long series of civil war, it would not be easy to extract a sentiment more pure and magnanimous than is contained in the saying of the Turkish prince. On the eve of the battle, he performed his devotions at Thous, before the tomb of the Imam Riza. As the sultan rose from the ground, he asked his vizier Nizam, who had knelt beside him, what had been the object of his secret petition: "That your arms may be crowned with victory," was the prudent, and most probably the sincere, answer of the minister. "For my part," replied the generous Malek, "I implored the Lord of Hosts that he would take from me my life and crown, if my brother be more worthy than myself to reign over the Moslems." The favourable judgment of heaven was ratified by the caliph; and for the first time, the sacred title of Commander of the Faithful was communicated to a Barbarian. But this Barbarian, by his personal merit, and the extent of his empire, was the greatest prince of his age.[15]


  1. ^ René Grousset, The Empires of the Steppe: a history of Central Asia, Trans. Naomi Walford, (Rutgers University Press, 1991), 152.
  2. ^ Alp Arslan, C. Cahen, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Vol. 1, Ed. H. A. R. Gibb, J. H. Kramers, E. Levi-Provençal and J. Schacht, (E. J. Brill, 1986), 421.
  3. ^ Gibb, H. A. R. (1960–1985). The Encyclopedia of Islam, vol. 8. Leiden: Brill. p. 70. 
  4. ^ "MALEKŠĀH" Encyclopædia Iranica
  5. ^ Ann K. S. Lambton, Continuity and Change in Medieval Persia, (State University of New York, 1988), 263.
  6. ^ Kawurd, C. E. Bosworth, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Vol. 4, Ed. E. van Donzel, B. Lewis and C. Pellat, (E. J. Brill, 1997), 807.
  7. ^ Gibb, H. A. R. (1960–1985). The Encyclopedia of Islam, vol. 7. Leiden: Brill. pp. 273–275. 
  8. ^ Minorsky 1958, p. 40.
  9. ^ Djalali, S. H. Taqizadeh, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Vol. 2 , Ed. B. Lewis, C. Pellat and J. Schacht, (E. J. Brill, 1991), 397-398.
  10. ^ Gibb, H. A. R. (1960–1985). The Encyclopedia of Islam, vol. 8. Leiden: Brill. p. 71. 
  11. ^ Gibb, H. A. R. (1960–1985). The Encyclopedia of Islam, vol. 8. Leiden: Brill. pp. 69–72. 
  12. ^ Gibb, H. A. R. (1960–1985). The Encyclopedia of Islam, vol. 8. Leiden: Brill. p. 72. 
  13. ^ Gibb, H. A. R. (1960–1985). The Encyclopedia of Islam, vol. 7. Leiden: Brill. p. 275. 
  14. ^ Jonathan Riley-Smith, The Oxford History of the Crusades, (Oxford University Press, 2002), 213.
  15. ^ Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, New York: The Modern Library, n.d. v. 3, p. 406.


Malik-Shah I
Born: 1055 Died: 19 November 1092
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Alp Arslan
Sultan of the Seljuq Empire
Succeeded by
Mahmud I