Sultan Mehmed II is considered among the most famous rulers of the Ottoman Empire.

Sultan (pronounced [ˈsulˈtˤɑːn]; Arabic: سلطانSulṭān) is a title with several historical meanings. Originally, it was an Arabic language abstract noun meaning "strength", "authority", "rulership", and "dictatorship", derived from the masdar 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 it was used 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: سلطنة‎).


Muslim ruler under the terms of shariah (King/Prince)

Hussein Kamel, Sultan of Egypt, 1914-1917.

The title carries moral weight and religious authority, in the Qur'an. The sultan, however, is not a religious teacher himself, and in constitutional monarchies, the sultanship can be reduced to a more limited role.

The first to title of Sultan was the Ghazni ruler Mahmud Ghaznawi (ruled 998 - 1030 CE). Later, "sultan" became the usual title of rulers of Seljuk and Ottoman Turks and Ayyubid and Mamluk rulers in Egypt. The religious validation of the title was illustrated by the fact that the shadow Caliph in Cairo bestowed the title "Sultan" on Murad I, the third ruler of the emerging Ottoman Empire in 1383; its earlier sovereigns had been beys or emirs, a lower rank in the orders of protocol.

At later stages, lesser rulers assumed the title Sultan, as was the case for the earlier leaders of today's royal family of Morocco. Today, only the Sultan of Oman, the Sultan of Brunei (both sovereign nations), the Sultans of Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Pahang, Perak, Selangor and Terengganu (within the constitutive states of the federation) in Malaysia, and the titular sultans of Sulu, Maguindanao , and Lanao Provinces in the southern Philippines and Java (Indonesia) regions still use the title or the Maharaja title. The sultan's domain is properly called a sultanate.

A feminine form, used by Westerners, is sultana or sultanah; 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 maréchalle are quite common). The rare female leaders in Muslim history are correctly known as "sultanas". In the Sultanate of Sulu, the wife of the Sultan is styled as the "Panguian", not "sultana".

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).

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 less poetically Honoured Monarch, was a subsidiary title, part of the full style of the Maharaja of Travancore
  • Sultan of Sultans is the 'sultanic equivalent' of 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 was 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 for life, even after the Royal Rescript regulating the styles and titles of the Royal House after 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

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

Near East and Central Asia

Arab World

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
  • in present-day Saudi Arabia :
  • Oman – Sultan of Oman (authentically referred to as Hami), on the southern coast of the Arabian peninsula, still an independent sultanate, since 1744 (assumed the formal title of Sultan in 1861)
  • 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)
  • in Morocco, till Mohammed V changed the style to Malik (king) on 14 August 1957, maintaining the subsidiary style Amir al-Mu´minin (Commander of the Faithful)
  • in Sudan:
    • Darfur
    • Dar al-Masalit
    • Dar Qimr
    • Funj Sultanate of Sinnar (Sennar)
    • Kordofan
  • in Chad:
    • Bag(u)irmi (main native title: Mbang)
    • Wada'i (main native title: Kolak), successor state to Birgu
    • Dar Sila (actually a wandering group of tribes)

Horn of Africa

East Africa and Indian Ocean


  • Angoche Sultanate, on the Mozambiquan coast (also several neighbouring sheikdoms)
  • various Sultans on the Comoros; however on the Comoros, the normally used styles were alternative native titles, including Mfalme, Phany or Jambé and the 'hegemonic' title Sultani tibe
  • the Maore (or Mawuti) sultanate on Mayotte (separated from the Comoros)


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 sultan

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

  • in Cameroon:
    • Bamoun (Bamun, 17th cent. founded uniting 17 chieftancies) 1918 becomes a Sultanate, but in 1923 re-divided into the 17 original chieftancies.
    • 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 ca.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 ca.1875 Sultanate, 8 April 1892 under Congo Free State protectorate, March 31, 1909 under French protectorate; 1939 Sultanate suppressed
    • Zemio ca.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.
    • 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)

Southern Asia

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

In Indonesia (formerly in the Dutch East Indies):

Hamengkubuwono X, the incumbent Sultan of Yogyakarta


Pakubuwono XII, last undisputed Sultan of Surakarta


Maulana Mohamad Kasim, Sultan of the Sultanate of Bulungan.

In the Peninsular Malaysia:

In Brunei:

  • Sultan of Brunei, Brunei (on Borneo island)

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.

In the Philippines:

  • Sultanate of Sulu
  • Sultanate of Buayan
  • Sultanate of Maguindanao
  • Sultanate of Sulu (Sulu, Basilan, Palawan and Tawi-Tawi islands and part of Sabah on North Borneo)
  • Sultanate of Ranaw (Sultan ko Pat a Pangampong a Ranao)
  • Sultanates of Lanao

In Thailand (Siam):

Contemporary sovereign sultanates

Princely and aristocratic titles

The Sultan Valide 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; so this normally monarchic title is equivalent in use to the western Prince of the blood: Daulatlu Najabatlu Shahzada Sultan (given name) Hazretleri Effendi. For the Heir Apparent, however, the style was Daulatlu Najabatlu Vali Ahad-i-Sultanat (given name) Effendi Hazlatlari; 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-Effendi, i.e. Son of a Prince[ss] of the dynasty.

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

The Sultan Valide was the title reserved for the mother of the ruling sultan.

Military rank

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

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

See also

Other ruling titles



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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Sultan — Sultan …   Deutsch Wörterbuch

  • SULTAN — SULTA Mot qui vient de l’arabe sul レ n, lui même probablement d’origine syriaque. On peut distinguer trois acceptions de ce terme: d’abord, «pouvoir», «autorité»; c’est ainsi qu’il est employé dans le Coran, à la sourate XV, verset 42: «Tu ne… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • sultan — SULTÁN, sultani, s.m. Titlu dat monarhului din Imperiul Otoman şi din alte ţări musulmane; persoană care poartă (sau purta) acest titlu. ♦ (înv.) Sultan mezat = licitaţie specială care avea loc în divanul ţării. – Din tc. sultan. Trimis de romac …   Dicționar Român

  • Sultán — (del árabe سلطان sulṭān, y éste de سلطة sulṭa: «poder») es un título utilizado en algunos países islámicos equivalente al de rey o monarca (aunque no se traduce, ya que un rey propiamente dicho es en árabe un malik). Literalmente vendría a… …   Wikipedia Español

  • sultan — 1. (sul tan) s. m. 1°   Titre de l empereur des Turcs. •   Je sais que des sultans l usage m est contraire, RAC. Bajaz. I, 3. 2°   Titre de plusieurs autres princes mahométans et tartares. 3°   Fig. Par extension, il se dit d un prince absolu… …   Dictionnaire de la Langue Française d'Émile Littré

  • Sultan — Sul tan, n. [F. sultan (cf. Sp. soldan, It. sultano, soldano), Ar. sult[=a]n sultan, dominion. Cf. {Soldan}.] A ruler, or sovereign, of a Mohammedan state; specifically, the ruler of the Turks; the Padishah, or Grand Seignior; officially so… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Sultan — Sultan, WA U.S. city in Washington Population (2000): 3344 Housing Units (2000): 1291 Land area (2000): 2.982622 sq. miles (7.724955 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000000 sq. miles (0.000000 sq. km) Total area (2000): 2.982622 sq. miles (7.724955… …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • Sultan, WA — U.S. city in Washington Population (2000): 3344 Housing Units (2000): 1291 Land area (2000): 2.982622 sq. miles (7.724955 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000000 sq. miles (0.000000 sq. km) Total area (2000): 2.982622 sq. miles (7.724955 sq. km) FIPS …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • sultan — 1550s, from M.Fr. sultan ruler of Turkey (16c.), from Arabic sultan ruler, king, queen, power, dominion, from Aramaic shultana power, from shelet have power. His wife, mother, daughter, concubine, or sister is a SULTANA (Cf. sultana) …   Etymology dictionary

  • sultan — sùltān m <G sultána> DEFINICIJA 1. pov. naslov osmanskih vladara od 13. st. 2. naslov vladara u nekim islamskim zemljama ONOMASTIKA Sùltān m. os. ime, zast.; isto: Zȍltān (← mađ.) pr.: Sȍltān (Jastrebarsko), Sùltanić (Split, Rijeka)… …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • Sultan — Sultan: Der in dieser Form seit dem 16. Jh. bezeugte Titel islamischer Herrscher ist aus arab. sulṭān »Herrscher« (ursprünglich »Herrschaft«) entlehnt. In der Form soldān war das Wort bereits im 13. Jh. aus älter it. soldano »Sultan«… …   Das Herkunftswörterbuch

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