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{{About|sultans in general|the Turkish Sultans|List of sultans of the Ottoman Empire|other uses|Sultan (disambiguation)}}{{more footnotes|date=March 2014}}{{Royal and noble ranks of West, Central, and Southern Asia}}File:BASA-516K-1-2080-10-Suleiman the Magnificent.JPG|thumb|upright=0.9|The Sultan Suleiman I is considered one of the most famous Ottoman sultans.]]Sultan ({{IPAc-en|ˈ|s|ʌ|l|t|ən}}; {{transl|ar|ALA|sulṭān}}, {{IPA-ar|sʊlˈtˤɑːn, solˈtˤɑːn|pron}}) is a position with several historical meanings. Originally, it was an Arabic abstract noun meaning "strength", "authority", "rulership", derived from the verbal noun {{transl|ar|ALA|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",Sultanic - Define sultan at and the dynasty and lands ruled by a sultan are referred to as a sultanate ( {{transl|ar|ALA|salṭanah}}).The term is distinct from king ( {{transl|ar|ALA|malik}}), despite both referring to a sovereign ruler. The use of "sultan" is restricted to Muslim countries, where the title carries religious significance,BOOK, James Edward Montgomery, ʻAbbasid Studies: Occasional Papers of the School of ʻAbbasid Studies, Cambridge, 6-10 July 2002,weblink 2004, Peeters Publishers, 978-90-429-1433-9, 83, BOOK, Riad Aziz Kassis, The Book of Proverbs and Arabic Proverbial Works,weblink 1999, BRILL, 90-04-11305-3, 65, 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. A notable example is Morocco, whose monarch changed his title from sultan to king in 1957.

Feminine forms

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.

Compound ruler titles

File:Ralamb-2.jpg|thumb|upright=0.7|Ottoman Sultan Mehmed IVMehmed IVThese 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 ({{transl|ar|Amir}}; ) 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 ({{transl|ar|malik Misr}}, considered a promotion) were granted the title Sahib(at) us-Sumuw al-Malaki, or Royal Highness.

Former sultans and sultanates

Anatolia and Central Asia


Levant and Arabian peninsula

File:Qabus bin Said.jpg|thumb|upright=0.7|H.M. Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, the current Sultan of Oman from the Al SaidAl Said

North Africa

File:Abdelhafid.jpg|thumb|upright=0.7|Sultan Abd al-Hafid of MoroccoAbd al-Hafid of Morocco

Horn of Africa

File:YagbeaSionBattlingAdaSultan.JPG|thumb|upright=1.2|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.

West and Central Africa

  • 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:
  • 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.

Southern Asia

Southeast and East Asia

File:Hamengkubuwono x.jpg|thumb|upright=0.7|Hamengkubuwono XHamengkubuwono XFile:COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Pakoe Boewono XII de Susuhunan van Solo in de kraton TMnr 60052129.jpg|thumb|upright=0.7|Pakubuwono XIIPakubuwono XIIFile:Saifuddin of Tidore.JPG|thumb|upright=0.7|Sultan Saifuddin of Tidore ]]File:Sultan Kudarat Monument Cotabato.jpg|thumb|upright=0.7|Sultan Kudarat of Maguindanao ]]File:Sulu Sultan Mohammed Mahakuttah Abdullah Kiram.jpg|thumb|upright=0.7|Mohammed Mahakuttah Abdullah KiramMohammed Mahakuttah Abdullah KiramIn 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.
  • {{ill|Ili Sultanate|lt=|zh|伊犁苏丹国}}
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

File:Nicolas de Nicolay- La grande dame turcque.jpg|thumb|upright=0.7|The Valide Sultan (Sultana mother) of the Ottoman EmpireOttoman EmpireBy 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".BOOK, The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire, Peirce, Leslie P., New York, Oxford University Press, 1993, 0-19-507673-7, 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|date=February 2016}}. The best of sultans was elected as khan by people at Kurultai{{citation needed|date=February 2016}}. 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


{{Commons category|Sultans}}{{Reflist}} {{List of titles and honours of the Countries Crown}}{{Authoritarian types of rule}}

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