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Sultan (/ˈsʌltən/; Arabic: سلطان‎ sulṭān, pronounced [sʊlˈtˤɑːn, solˈtˤɑːn]) is a position with several historical meanings. Originally, it was an Arabic 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), albeit without claiming the overall caliphate, or to refer to a powerful governor of a province within the caliphate. The adjective form of the word is "sultanic",[1] and the dynasty and lands ruled by a sultan are referred to as a sultanate (سلطنة salṭanah).

The term is distinct from king (ملك malik), despite both referring to a sovereign ruler. The use of "sultan" is restricted to Muslim countries, where the title carries religious significance,[2][3] contrasting the more secular king, which is used in both Muslim and non-Muslim countries.

In recent years, "sultan" has been gradually replaced by "king" by contemporary hereditary rulers who wish to emphasize their secular authority under the rule of law.

Feminine forms


A feminine form of sultan, used by Westerners, isSultana or Sultanah and this title has been used legally for some (not all) Muslim women monarchs and sultan's mothers and chief consorts. However, Turkish and Ottoman Turkish also uses sultan for imperial lady, as Turkish grammar—which is influenced by Persian grammar—uses the same words for both women and men. However, this styling misconstrues the roles of wives of sultans. In a similar usage, the wife of a German field marshal might be styled Frau Feldmarschall (similarly, in French, constructions of the type madame la maréchale are quite common). The female leaders in Muslim history are correctly known as "sultanas". However, the wife of the sultan in the Sultanate of Sulu is styled as the "panguian" while the sultan's chief wife in many sultanates of Indonesia and Malaysia are known as "permaisuri", "Tunku Ampuan", "Raja Perempuan", or "Tengku Ampuan". The queen consort in Brunei especially is known as Raja Isteri with the title of Pengiran Anak suffixed, should the queen consort also be a royal princess.

Compound ruler titles


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 (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 (malik Misr, considered a promotion) were granted the title Sahib(at) us-Sumuw al-Malaki, or Royal Highness.

Former sultans and sultanates


Apparently derived from the Arabic malik, this was the alternative native style of the sultans of the Kilwa Sultanate in Tanganyika (presently the continental part of Tanzania).

  • 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:

This was the native ruler's title in the Tanzanian state of Uhehe.

  • 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, founded in 1770 - initially styled lamido 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: the Amenokal of the Aïr confederation of Tuareg the Sarkin Damagaram since the 1731 founding of the Sultanate of Damagaram (Zinder)
  • in Nigeria most monarchies previously had native titles, but when most in the north converted to Islam, Muslim titles were adopted, such as emir and sometimes sultan. in Borno (alongside the native title Mai) since 1817 in Sokoto, the suzerain (also styled Amir al-Mu´minin and Sarkin Musulmi) of all Fulbe jihad states and premier traditional Muslim leader in the Sahel (according to some once a caliph)

In Indonesia (formerly in the Dutch East Indies):

In Malaysia:

In Brunei:

In China:

  • Dali, Yunnan, capital of the short-lived Panthay Rebellion Furthermore, the Qa´id Jami al-Muslimin (Leader of the Community of Muslims) of Pingnan Guo ("Pacified South State", a major Islamic rebellious polity in western Yunnan province) is usually referred to in foreign sources as Sultan.
  • Ili Sultanate

In the Philippines:

In Thailand:

Contemporary sultanates


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


By the beginning of the 16th century, the title sultan was carried by both men and women of the Ottoman dynasty and was replacing other titles by which prominent members of the imperial family had been known (notably khatun for women and bey for men). This usage underlines the Ottoman conception of sovereign power as family prerogative.

Western tradition knows the Ottoman ruler as "sultan", but Ottomans themselves used "padişah" (emperor) or "hünkar" to refer to their ruler.

In Kazakh Khanate a Sultan was a lord from the ruling dynasty (a direct descendants of Genghis Khan) elected by clans, i.e. a kind of princes. The best of sultans was elected as khan by people at Kurultai. See ru:Казахские султаны

Sultan Agung


Interestingly, an title from sultan in Mataram Sultanate use "Sultan Agung" with the full title: Sultan Agung Senapati-ing-Ngalaga Abdurrahman.

In Indonesia-English translation is will translated to "Grand Sultan" or "Holy Sultan".

Military rank


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 modern-day captain in the West; socially in the fifth-rank class, styled 'Ali Jah.

See also


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