Sultan

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This article is about sultans in general. For the Turkish Sultans, see List of sultans of the Ottoman Empire. For other uses, see Sultan (disambiguation).
Indo-Persian Royal and Noble Ranks
Turban helmet of a sultan
Emperor: Caliph, Padishah
King: Sultan, Shah
Royal Prince: Shahzada, Mirza, Emir
Noble Prince: Mirza, Sahibzada
Nobleman: Nawab, Baig
Sultan Mehmed II is considered one of the most famous Ottoman Sultans.

Sultan (/ˈsʌltən/; Arabic: سلطانSulṭān, pronounced [sʊlˈtˤɑːn, solˈtˤɑːn]) is a noble title with several historical meanings. Originally, it was an Arabic language abstract noun meaning "strength", "authority", "rulership" derived from the verbal noun سلطة sulṭah, meaning "authority" or "power". Later, it came to be used as the title of certain rulers who claimed almost full sovereignty in practical terms (i.e., the lack of dependence on any higher ruler), without claiming the overall caliphate, or to refer to a powerful governor of a province within the caliphate.

The dynasty and lands ruled by a sultan are referred to as a sultanate (Arabic: سلطنةṣalṭanah).

A feminine form, used by Westerners, is sultana or sultanah; though the very styling misconstrues the roles of wives of sultans. In a similar usage, the wife of a German Field-Marshal might be styled Feldmarschallin (in French, similar constructions of the type madame la maréchale are quite common). The rare female leaders in Muslim history are correctly known as "sultanas". However, in the Sultanate of Sulu, the wife of the sultan is styled as the "panguian".

Among those modern hereditary rulers who wish to emphasize their secular authority under the rule of law, the term is gradually being replaced by king (i.e. malik in Arabic) Datu in Meranaw (Maranao people).

Compound ruler titles[edit]

Ottoman Sultan Mehmed IV attended by a eunuch and two pages.

These are generally secondary titles, either lofty 'poetry' or with a message; e.g.:

  • Mani Sultan = Manney Sultan (meaning the "Pearl of Rulers" or "Honoured Monarch") - a subsidiary title, part of the full style of the Maharaja of Travancore
  • Sultan of Sultans - the sultanic equivalent of the style King of Kings
  • Certain secondary titles have a devout Islamic connotation; e.g., Sultan ul-Mujahidin as champion of jihad (To strive and to struggle in the name of Allah)
  • Sultanic Highness - a rare, hybrid western-Islamic honorific style exclusively used by the son, daughter-in-law and daughters of Sultan Hussein Kamel of Egypt (a British protectorate since 1914), who bore it with their primary titles of Prince (Arabic: Amir‎; Turkish: Prens) or Princess, after 11 October 1917. They enjoyed these titles for life, even after the Royal Rescript regulating the styles and titles of the Royal House following Egypt's independence in 1922, when the sons and daughters of the newly styled King (Arabic: Malik Misr, considered a promotion‎) were granted the title Sahib(at) us-Sumuw al-Malaki, or Royal Highness.

Former sultans and sultanates[edit]

Artistic representation of Saladin, the first Ayyubid Sultan of Egypt and Syria.

Anatolia and Central Asia[edit]

Levant and Arabian peninsula[edit]

H.M. Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, the current Sultan of Oman from the Al Said dynasty.
Audhali, Fadhli, Haushabi, Kathiri, Lahej, Lower Aulaqi, Lower Yafa, Mahra, Qu'aiti, Subeihi, Upper Aulaqi, Upper Yafa and the Wahidi sultanates

North Africa[edit]

Horn of Africa[edit]

Southeast Africa and Indian Ocean[edit]

Maliki[edit]

This was the alternative native style (apparently derived from malik, the Arabic word for king) of the Sultans of the Kilwa Sultanate, in Tanganyika (presently the continental part of Tanzania).

Swahili Coast[edit]

  • Sultanate of Zanzibar two incumbents (from the Omani dynasty) since the de facto separation from Oman in 1806, the last assumed the title Sultan in 1861 at the formal separation under British auspices; since 1964 union with Tanganyika (part of Tanzania)

Mfalume is the (Ki)Swahili title of various native Muslim rulers, generally rendered in Arabic and in western languages as Sultan:

Sultani[edit]

This was the native ruler's title in the Tanzanian state of Uhehe a female sultan

West and Central Africa[edit]

  • In Cameroon:
    • Bamoun (Bamun, 17th century, founded uniting 17 chieftaincies) 1918 becomes a Sultanate, but in 1923 re-divided into the 17 original chieftaincies.
    • Bibemi 1770 founded- Rulers first style Lamido to ...., then Sultan
    • Mandara Sultanate since 1715 (replacing Wandala kingdom); 1902 Part of Cameroon
    • Rey Bouba Sultanate founded 1804
  • in the Central African Republic:
    • Bangassou created c.1878; 14 June 1890 under Congo Free State protectorate, 1894 under French protectorate; 1917 Sultanate suppressed by the French.
    • Dar al-Kuti - French protectorate since December 12, 1897
    • Rafai c.1875 Sultanate, 8 April 1892 under Congo Free State protectorate, March 31, 1909 under French protectorate; 1939 Sultanate suppressed
    • Zemio c.1872 established; December 11, 1894 under Congo Free State protectorate, April 12, 1909 under French protectorate; 1923 Sultanate suppressed
  • in Niger: Arabic alternative title of the following autochthonous rulers:
  • in Nigeria most monarchies previously had native titles but when most in the north converted to Islam, Muslim titles were generally adopted such as Emir; Sultan has also been used.

Southern Asia[edit]

Sultan Ali Khan Bahadur, grandson of Nawab H.H Noor ul Umrah and son of Nawab Shujaath Ali Khan

In India:

In the Maldives:

Southeast and East Asia[edit]

Hamengkubuwono X, the incumbent Sultan of Yogyakarta
Pakubuwono XII, last undisputed Susuhunan of Surakarta
Sultan Saifuddin of Tidore

In Indonesia (formerly in the Dutch East Indies):

In the Peninsular Malaysia:

In Brunei:

In China:

In the Philippines:

In Thailand (Siam):

Contemporary sovereign sultanates[edit]

In some parts of the Middle East and North Africa, there still exist regional sultans or people who are descendants of sultans and who are styled as such.

Princely and aristocratic titles[edit]

The Valide Sultan or "Mother Sultan"

In the Ottoman dynastic system, male descendants of the ruling Padishah (in the West also known as Great Sultan) enjoyed a style including Sultan. This normally monarchic title is thus equivalent in use to the Western Prince of the blood: Daulatlu Najabatlu Shahzada Sultan (given name) Efendi Hazretleri. For the Heir Apparent, however, the style was Daulatlu Najabatlu Vali Ahad-i-Sultanat (given name) Efendi Hazretleri; i.e. Crown Prince of the Sultanate.

  • The sons of Imperial Princesses, excluded from the Ottoman imperial succession, were only styled Sultan zada (given name) Bey-Efendi, i.e. Son of a Prince[ss] of the dynasty.

In certain Muslim polities, Sultan was also an aristocratic title, as in the Tartar Astrakhan Khanate.

The Valide Sultan was the title reserved for the mother of the ruling sultan. In Ottoman Empire, the Haseki Sultan was the title reserved for the mother of the princes.

Military rank[edit]

In a number of post-caliphal states under Mongol or Turkic rule, there was a feudal type of military hierarchy. These administrations were often decimal (mainly in larger empires), using originally princely titles such as Khan, Malik, Amir as mere rank denominations.

In the Persian empire, the rank of Sultan was roughly equivalent to that of a western Captain; socially in the fifth rank class, styled 'Ali Jah.

See also[edit]

Other ruling titles

References[edit]