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Royal and noble ranks in Iran, Turkey, Caucasus, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan
Turban helmet Met 04.3.211.jpg
Emperor: Caliph, Shahanshah, Padishah, Chakravarti, Khagan
High King: Sultan, Maharaja, Chhatrapati
King: Emir, Shah, Raja, Khan
Grand Duke: Nawab, Wāli, Nizam
Crown Prince: Mirza, Yuvraj, Vali Ahd
Prince  : Shahzada, Şehzade, Sahibzada, Nawabzada
Earl  : Dewan Bahadur, Rao Bahadur, Rai Bahadur, Khan Bahadur
Viscount: Khan Sahib, Baig, Begzada
Baron  : Lala, Agha, Hazinedar
The Sultan Suleiman I is considered one of the most famous Ottoman sultans. BASA-516K-1-2080-10-Suleiman the Magnificent.JPG
The Sultan Suleiman I is considered one of the most famous Ottoman sultans.

Sultan ( /ˈsʌltən/ ; Arabic : سلطانsulṭān, 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 سلطةsulṭah, 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 (سلطنةsalṭanah).

A verbal noun is a noun formed from or otherwise corresponding to a verb. Different languages have different types of verbal nouns and different ways of forming and using them. An example of a verbal noun in English is the word singing in the sentence "Singing is fun" . Verbal nouns may be non-finite verb forms such as infinitives or gerunds in English usage. They may also be "pure" verbal nouns, formed from verbs, but behaving grammatically entirely like nouns rather than verbs. Such cases may also be called deverbal nouns.

Caliphate Islamic form of government

A caliphate is an Islamic state under the leadership of an Islamic steward with the title of caliph, a person considered a religious successor to the Islamic prophet Muhammad and a leader of the entire ummah (community). Historically, the caliphates were polities based in Islam which developed into multi-ethnic trans-national empires. During the medieval period, three major caliphates succeeded each other: the Rashidun Caliphate (632–661), the Umayyad Caliphate (661–750) and the Abbasid Caliphate (750–1258). In the fourth major caliphate, the Ottoman Caliphate, the rulers of the Ottoman Empire claimed caliphal authority from 1517. During the history of Islam, a few other Muslim states, almost all hereditary monarchies, have claimed to be caliphates.

A governor is, in most cases, a public official with the power to govern the executive branch of a non-sovereign or sub-national level of government, ranking under the head of state. In federations, governor may be the title of a politician who governs a constituent state and may be either appointed or elected. The power of the individual governor can vary dramatically between political systems, with some governors having only nominal or largely ceremonial power, while others having a complete control over the entire government.


The term is distinct from king (ملكmalik), 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.

King class of male monarch

King, or king regnant is the title given to a male monarch in a variety of contexts. The female equivalent is queen regnant, while the title of queen on its own usually refers to the consort of a king.

A feminine form of sultan, used by Westerners, is Sultana 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.

Sultana or sultanah is a female royal title, and the feminine form of the word sultan. This term has been officially used for female monarchs in some Islamic states, and historically it was also used for sultan's consorts. Nevertheless, westerners have also used the title to refer to Muslim women monarchs and sultan's women relatives who do not hold this title officially.

Turkish language Turkic language (possibly Altaic)

Turkish, also referred to as Istanbul Turkish, is the most widely spoken of the Turkic languages, with around ten to fifteen million native speakers in Southeast Europe and sixty to sixty-five million native speakers in Western Asia. Outside Turkey, significant smaller groups of speakers exist in Germany, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Northern Cyprus, Greece, the Caucasus, and other parts of Europe and Central Asia. Cyprus has requested that the European Union add Turkish as an official language, even though Turkey is not a member state.

Ottoman Turkish, or the Ottoman language, is the variety of the Turkish language that was used in the Ottoman Empire. It borrows, in all aspects, extensively from Arabic and Persian, and it was written in the Ottoman Turkish alphabet. During the peak of Ottoman power, Arabic and Persian vocabulary accounted for up to 88% of the Ottoman vocabulary, while words of foreign origin heavily outnumbered native Turkish words.

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. A notable example is Morocco, whose monarch changed his title from sultan to king in 1957.

Morocco country in North Africa

Morocco, officially the Kingdom of Morocco, is a country located in the Maghreb region of North West Africa with an area of 710,850 km2 (274,460 sq mi). Its capital is Rabat, the largest city Casablanca. It overlooks the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Morocco claims the areas of Ceuta, Melilla and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera, all of them under Spanish jurisdiction.

Compound ruler titles

Ottoman Sultan Mehmed IV attended by a eunuch and two pages. Ralamb-2.jpg
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.:

Maharaja Hindu male monarch in South Asia

Mahārāja is a Sanskrit title for a "great ruler", "great king" or "high king". A few ruled mighty states informally called empires, including Jat ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh, founder of the Sikh Empire, and Maharaja Sri Gupta, founder of the ancient Indian Gupta Empire, but 'title inflation' soon led to most being rather mediocre or even petty in real power, while compound titles were among the attempts to distinguish some among their ranks.

Travancore historic state in India

The Kingdom of Travancore (Thiruvithamkoor) was an Indian kingdom from 1500 until 1949. It was ruled by the Travancore Royal Family from Padmanabhapuram, and later Thiruvananthapuram. At its zenith, the kingdom covered most of modern-day central and southern Kerala with the Thachudaya Kaimal's enclave of Irinjalakuda Koodalmanikkam temple in the neighbouring Kingdom of Cochin, as well as the district of Kanyakumari, now in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The official flag of the state was red with a dextrally-coiled silver conch shell at its center. In the early 19th century, the kingdom became a princely state of the British Empire. The Travancore Government took many progressive steps on the socio-economic front and during the reign of Maharajah Sri Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, Travancore became the second most prosperous princely state in British India, with reputed achievements in education, political administration, public work and social reforms.

Sultan of Sultans is the literal English translation of the Ottoman Turkish royal title Sulṭānü's-Selāṭīn. But this title was firstly used by Sultan of Delhi Sultanate in Persian context.

Former sultans and sultanates

Anatolia and Central Asia

Ghaznavids former country

The Ghaznavid dynasty was a Persianate Muslim dynasty of Turkic mamluk origin, at their greatest extent ruling large parts of Iran, Afghanistan, much of Transoxiana and the northwest Indian subcontinent from 977 to 1186. The dynasty was founded by Sabuktigin upon his succession to rule of the region of Ghazna after the death of his father-in-law, Alp Tigin, who was a breakaway ex-general of the Samanid Empire from Balkh, north of the Hindu Kush in Greater Khorasan.

Mahmud of Ghazni Sultan of Ghazni

Mahmud of Ghazni was the first independent ruler of the Ghaznavid dynasty, ruling from 998 to 1030. At the time of his death, his kingdom had been transformed into a extensive military empire, which extended from northwestern Iran proper to the Punjab in the Indian subcontinent, Khwarazm in Transoxiana, and Makran.

Seljuk Empire Medieval empire

The Seljuk Empire or Great Seljuq Empire was a medieval Turko-Persian Sunni Muslim empire, originating from the Qiniq branch of Oghuz Turks. The Seljuk Empire controlled a vast area stretching from the Hindu Kush to western Anatolia and the Levant, and from Central Asia to the Persian Gulf. The Seljuk empire was founded by Tughril Beg (1016–1063) in 1037. From their homelands near the Aral Sea, the Seljuks advanced first into Khorasan and then into mainland Persia, before eventually conquering eastern Anatolia. Here the Seljuks won the battle of Manzikert in 1071 and conquered most of Anatolia from the Byzantine Empire, which became one of the reasons for the first crusade (1095-1099). From c. 1150-1250, the Seljuk empire declined, and was invaded by the Mongols around 1260. The Mongols divided Anatolia into emirates. Eventually one of these, the Ottoman, would conquer the rest.


Levant and Arabian peninsula

H.M. Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, the current Sultan of Oman from the Al Said dynasty. Qabus bin Said.jpg
H.M. Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, the current Sultan of Oman from the Al Said dynasty.

North Africa

Sultan Abd al-Hafid of Morocco. Abdelhafid.jpg
Sultan Abd al-Hafid of Morocco.

Horn of Africa

Sultan of Adal and his forces (right) battling the Abyssinian King and his men (Le Livre des Merveilles, 15th century). YagbeaSionBattlingAdaSultan.JPG
Sultan of Adal and his forces (right) battling the Abyssinian King and his men (Le Livre des Merveilles, 15th century).

Southeast Africa and Indian Ocean


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).

Swahili Coast

  • 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 a female sultan

West and Central Africa

Southern Asia

Southeast and East Asia

Hamengkubuwono X, the incumbent Sultan of Yogyakarta Hamengkubuwono x.jpg
Hamengkubuwono X, the incumbent Sultan of Yogyakarta
Pakubuwono XII, last undisputed Susuhunan of Surakarta COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Pakoe Boewono XII de Susuhunan van Solo in de kraton TMnr 60052129.jpg
Pakubuwono XII, last undisputed Susuhunan of Surakarta
Sultan Saifuddin of Tidore Saifuddin of Tidore.JPG
Sultan Saifuddin of Tidore
Sultan Kudarat of Maguindanao Sultan Kudarat Monument Cotabato.jpg
Sultan Kudarat of Maguindanao
Mohammed Mahakuttah Abdullah Kiram, last recognised Sultan of Sulu Sulu Sultan Mohammed Mahakuttah Abdullah Kiram.jpg
Mohammed Mahakuttah Abdullah Kiram, last recognised Sultan of Sulu

In Indonesia (formerly in the Dutch East Indies):

In Malaysia:

In Brunei:

In China:

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. See List of current constituent Asian monarchs and List of current constituent African monarchs

Princely and aristocratic titles

The Valide Sultan (Sultana mother) of the Ottoman Empire Nicolas de Nicolay- La grande dame turcque.jpg
The Valide Sultan (Sultana mother) of the Ottoman Empire

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. The emperor's formal title consisted of "sultan" together with "khan" (for example, Sultan Suleiman Khan). In formal address, the sultan's children were also entitled "sultan", with imperial princes (Şehzade) carrying the title before their given name, with imperial princesses carrying it after. Example, Şehzade Sultan Mehmed and Mihrimah Sultan, son and daughter of Suleiman the Magnificent. Like imperial princesses, living mother and main consort of reigning sultan also carried the title after their given names, for example, Ayşe Hafsa Sultan, Suleiman's mother and first valide sultan, and Hürrem Sultan, Suleiman's chief consort and first haseki sultan. The evolving usage of this title reflected power shifts among imperial women, especially between Sultanate of Women, as the position of main consort eroded over the course of 17th century, the main consort lost the title "sultan", which replaced by "kadin", a title related to the earlier "khatun". Henceforth, the mother of the reigning sultan was the only person of non imperial blood to carry the title "sultan". [4]

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[ citation needed ]. The best of sultans was elected as khan by people at Kurultai [ citation needed ]. 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

Other ruling titles

Related Research Articles

A monarch is a sovereign head of state in a monarchy. A monarch may exercise the highest authority and power in the state, or others may wield that power on behalf of the monarch. Typically a monarch either personally inherits the lawful right to exercise the state's sovereign rights or is selected by an established process from a family or cohort eligible to provide the nation's monarch. Alternatively, an individual may become monarch by conquest, acclamation or a combination of means. A monarch usually reigns for life or until abdication.

Shah Persian title

Shah is a title given to the emperors, kings, princes and lords of Iran. It was also adopted by the kings of Shirvan namely the Shirvanshahs. It was also used by Persianate socities such as the rulers and offspring of the Ottoman Empire, Mughal emperors of the Indian Subcontinent, the Bengal Sultanate, as well as in Afghanistan. In Iran the title was continuously used; rather than King in the European sense, each Persian ruler regarded himself as the Shahanshah or Padishah of the Persian Empire.

Khan is a title of Turkic origin for a ruler or military leader. It first appears among the Göktürks as a variant of khagan and implied a subordinate ruler. In the Seljuk Empire it was the highest noble title, ranking above malik (king) and emir. In the Mongol Empire it signified the ruler of a horde (ulus), while the ruler of all the Mongols was the khagan or great khan. The title subsequently declined in importance. In Safavid Persia it was the title of a provincial governor, and in Mughal India it was a high noble rank restricted to courtiers. After the downfall of the Mughals it was used promiscuously and became a surname.

Ottoman dynasty dynasty

The Ottoman dynasty was made up of the members of the imperial House of Osman, also known as the Ottomans. According to Ottoman tradition, the family originated from the Kayı tribe branch of the Oghuz Turks, under Osman I in northwestern Anatolia in the district of Bilecik Söğüt. The Ottoman dynasty, named after Osman I, ruled the Ottoman Empire from c. 1299 to 1922.

Vizier high-ranking political advisor or minister

A vizier is a high-ranking political advisor or minister. The Abbasid caliphs gave the title wazir to a minister formerly called katib (secretary), who was at first merely a helper but afterwards became the representative and successor of the dapir of the Sassanian kings.

Malik, Melik, Malka, Malek, Malick, or Melekh is the Semitic term translating to "king", recorded in East Semitic and later Northwest Semitic and Arabic.

Padishah Persian title

Ashish, sometimes rendered as ashish kujur, Padshah or Badshah(Persian: پادشاه‎, Turkish: padişah) is a superlative sovereign title of Persian origin, composed of the Persian pād "master" and the widespread shāh "king".

Valide sultan "Queen Mother" in the Ottoman Empire

Valide sultan was the title held by the "legal mother" of a ruling Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. The title was first used in the 16th century for Hafsa Sultan, consort of Selim I and mother of Suleiman the Magnificent, superseding the previous title of mehd-i ulya. Normally, this title was held by the living mother of a reigning sultan. The mothers who died before their sons' accession to the throne were never bestowed with the title of Valide Sultan. In special cases, there were grandmothers and stepmothers of a reigning sultan who assumed the title Valide Sultan.

Kraton (Indonesia)

Kraton or Keraton is the Javanese word for a royal palace. Its name is derived from ka-ratu-an which means the residence of ratu. Ratu is the traditional honorific title to refer the "ruler". In Java, the palace of a prince is called puro or dalem. The general word to designate a palace is istana, as in Indonesian and Malay.

The Walashma dynasty was a medieval Muslim dynasty of the Horn of Africa. Founded in 1285, it was centered in Zeila, and established bases around the Horn of Africa. It governed the Ifat and Adal Sultanates in what are present-day northern Somalia, Djibouti and eastern Ethiopia.

Ḥakīm and Ḥākim are two Arabic titles derived from the same triliteral root Ḥ-K-M "appoint, choose, judge". Compare the Hebrew title hakham.

The term paramount ruler, or sometimes paramount king, is a generic description, though occasionally also used as an actual title, for a number of rulers' position in relative terms, as the summit of a feudalistic pyramid of rulers of lesser polities in a given historical and geographical context, often of different ranks, which all recognize the single paramount ruler as their senior, though not necessarily with effectively commanding authority, but often rather a notion like the Western suzerainty.

Yogyakarta Sultanate sultanate of Indonesia

Yogyakarta Sultanate is a Javanese monarchy in Yogyakarta Special Region, Indonesia. The current head of the Sultanate is Hamengkubuwono X.


Şehzade is the Turkish form of the Persian title Shahzade, and refers to the male descendants of an Ottoman sovereign in the male line. This title is equivalent to "prince of the blood imperial" in English.

Haseki sultan

Haseki Sultan was the imperial title used for the chief consort of an Ottoman Sultan. Haseki sultan meant "chief consort" or "single favorite" of the sultan. In later years, the meaning of the title changed to "imperial consort". Hürrem Sultan, principal consort and legal wife of Suleiman the Magnificent, was the first holder of this title.

The Kraton Kacirebonan is the oldest kraton in the Indonesian city of Cirebon. It has existed since 1807. This colonial building housed many historical relics such as Keris, Puppet, war equipment, Gamelan and others . Kacirebonan in the area of the District Pulasaren Pekalipan village, exactly 1 kilometers southwest of Kasepuhan Palace and approximately 500 meters south Kanoman. Kraton Kacirebonan position stretching from north to south with a land area of about 46,500 square meters.


  1. Sultanic - Define sultan at
  2. James Edward Montgomery (2004). ʻAbbasid Studies: Occasional Papers of the School of ʻAbbasid Studies, Cambridge, 6-10 July 2002. Peeters Publishers. p. 83. ISBN   978-90-429-1433-9.
  3. Riad Aziz Kassis (1999). The Book of Proverbs and Arabic Proverbial Works. BRILL. p. 65. ISBN   90-04-11305-3.
  4. Peirce, Leslie P. (1993). The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN   0-19-507673-7.