Some of the Leading Muslim Administrators
Compiled By: Syed Ali Shahbaz
Hassan ibn Abdullah Naser od-Dowla Hamdani, the Emir of Mosul
On 12th of the Islamic month of Rabi al-Awwal in 358 AH, Hassan ibn Abdullah Naser od-Dowla Hamdani, the Emir of Mosul, died under detention by his son, two years after the death in Aleppo of his younger and more famous brother, Ali Sayf od-Dowla. They were sons of Abdullah Abi’l-Hayja, the ruler of Mosul and there was deep affection between the two brothers, to the extent that the elder one lost all interest in life and state affairs when the younger died, and was consequently put under detention by his son. The Hamdanids belonged to the Banu Taghlib Arab tribe and were staunch followers of the school of the Ahl al-Bayt of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA). For a brief period, Naser od-Dowla taking advantage of the weakness of the Abbasid caliph, took over Baghdad, but had to quit the city and leave for Mosul because of opposition by the powerful faction of Turkic slave-soldiers.
Mahmoud Ghazaan Khan the Mongol Ilkhanid ruler of Iran and Iraq
On 27th of the Islamic month of Rabi al-Awwal in 699 AH, Mahmoud Ghazaan Khan the Mongol Ilkhanid ruler of Iran and Iraq fought a battle in Syria with Nasser Qalawoun, the ruler of the Mamluk or Turkic Slave Dynasty of Egypt at Marj al-Morouj, east of Homs. The Mamluks were defeated and pushed back from Syria into Egypt. Ghazan was the 7th ruler of the Ilkhanid dynasty and the first one to convert to Islam from Buddhism.
Mirza Ispand, the governor of Baghdad Province
On 29th of the Islamic month of Safar in 848 AH, Mirza Ispand, the governor of Baghdad Province, passed away. In 840 AH, he invited prominent ulema of all denominations of Islam to hold a debate, in which the Shi'ites or followers of the Prophet's Ahl al-Bayt triumphed through their rational discourse on the basis of the holy Qur'an and the Prophet's Hadith. Mirza Ispand thereby declared the School of the Ahl al-Bayt as the official creed of his almost autonomous state under the Qara Quyunlu Turkic Shi'ite dynasty.
Sultan Mu'zeddin Ahmad Sanjar
On 14th of the Islamic month of Rabi al-Awwal in 552 AH, Sultan Mu'zeddin Ahmad Sanjar bin Malik Shah bin Alp Arsalan, died, and with him the Seljuqid Empire in Central Asia, Iran, and Iraq, came to its end after 120 years of domination by this Turkic tribe. A branch of the Seljuqs survived in Anatolia (or modern Turkey), and northern parts of Syria for another 150 years. Sanjar died in captivity of the Oghuz Turks in the Khorasani city of Merv (in present day Turkmenistan) three years after suffering a heavy defeat at the hands of the infidel Qara Khitai Turks at the Battle of Qatawan near Samarqand. The Seljuq Turks, who overthrew the Ghaznawid Turks in Khorasan and then wiped out the Daylamite Persian dynasty in Iran and Iraq, had adopted Persian culture and language, and were patrons of Iranian poets.
Mohammad bin Hakim, famous as Chang Ji Mai in China
On 14th of the Islamic month of Rabi al-Awwal in 1019 AH, Mohammad bin Hakim, known as Chang Ji Mai in Chinese language, was born in the Iranian city of Isfahan. His ancestors were from Samarqand (presently in Uzbekistan), and at the age of 9, along with his uncle, he migrated to China. Chang Ji Mai taught Islamic sciences as well as Arabic and Persian literature in China and trained talented students in different fields. The Grand Mosque of Ji Nien is his masterpiece. He is known as a great scholar and interpreter of the holy Qur'an in China.
The 6th Ottoman Sultan, Murad II
On February 3, 1451 AD, the 6th Ottoman Sultan, Murad II, died after a reign of almost three decades during which he expanded the Turkish Empire into Europe, defeating the Christian coalition of the holy Roman Empire, Poland and Serbia-Hungary in several battles in the Balkans and in Hungary. He was, however, unsuccessful in the east in Anatolia (most of modern day Turkey) against fellow Turkic rulers, especially the forces of the Iran-based Empire of Shahrokh, the son of the fearsome central Asian conqueror, Amir Timur. On this same day Murad was succeeded by his son, Sultan Mohammad II, who accomplished his father's goal of exterminating the Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire and liberating the city of Constantinople; subsequently renamed Islambol or Istanbul – as it is known today. On entering this once formidable city, he recited the Persian couplet of the famous Iranian poet, Shaikh Mosleh od-Din Sa'di: "The spider weaves the curtains in the palace of the Caesars; The owl calls the watches in the towers of Afrasiyab."
An accomplished scholar with fluency in several languages such as Turkish, Persian, Arabic and Greek, he was a great builder of schools, mosques and libraries, and during his 30-year reign, he further consolidated Ottoman rule in southwestern Europe and in Anatolia.
The 12th Ottoman Sultan, Murad III, who styled himself as the 4th Turkish caliph
On January 15, 1595 AD, the 12th Ottoman Sultan, Murad III, who styled himself as the 4th Turkish caliph, died after a reign of 21 years, during which he earned notoriety for his fratricide (strangling five of his brothers to death), massacre of fellow Muslims, and institutional decline of the empire. Son of Sultan Salim II, “the Drunkard” and his Jewess concubine, Rachel, he ended the long Peace of Amasya with Iran, by starting the 12-year war in the Caucasus. As a result of the growing inclination of the Turkish tribes of Anatolia towards the school of the Prophet's Ahl al-Bayt, he made a pact with France, stopped the Ottoman push into Europe, and massacred thousands of Shi'ite Muslims in his dominions. As a result, his armies suffered defeats in Europe as well, at the hands of the Austrian Hapsburg Empire.
Mustafa II, the 22nd Ottoman Sultan and the 14th self-styled Turkish caliph
On February 6, 1664 AD, Mustafa II, the 22nd Ottoman Sultan and the 14th self-styled Turkish caliph, was born in Edirne to Sultan Mohammad IV and his Greek Cretan slave-girl, Evemia Voria, who on becoming Muslim was given the Persian-Arabic name Mahparah Amatullah Rabia Golnoush. He succeeded his uncle, Sultan Ahmad I in 1695 and died in January 1704, a few months after being deposed by the Jannisarries, in favour of his younger brother, Ahmad II, for his indulgence in pleasures and negligence of state affairs. In 1696, he had lost Azov at the mouth of the Don River in the Crimean Peninsula in what is now Ukraine to Russia. In the next year, he suffered a disastrous defeat in the Battle of Zenta, resulting in the death of 30,000 Turkish troops, and killing his military ambitions in Europe. The subsequent Treaty of Carlowitz in 1699 forced the Ottoman Empire to lose much of its Balkan territories: Hungary and Transylvania to Austria, Morea to the Venetian Republic and Podolia to Poland.
Al-Ashraf Sayf od-Din Qaytbay, the famous Burji Mamluk Sultan of Egypt and Syria
On 6th of the Islamic month of Rajab in 782AH, al-Ashraf Sayf od-Din Qaytbay assumed power in Cairo as the eighteenth Burji Mamluk Sultan of Egypt and Syria. He was Circassian by birth from the Caucasus, and was purchased by the 9th Burji ruler Sultan Barsbay (also a freed Circassian slave), before being manumitted by the 11th ruler, Sultan Jaqmaq, who appointed him executive secretary. Under the Sultans Inal, Khushqadam, and Yilbay, he was further promoted through the Mamluk military hierarchy, eventually becoming commander of a thousand troops.
Under Sultan Timurbugha, he was appointed “Atabak”, or field marshal of the entire army. When Timurbugha was dethroned in a palace coup, the Mamluk council chose Qaitbay as Sultan. During his 29-year rule, he stabilized the Mamluk state and economy, consolidated the northern boundaries of the Sultanate on the Syrian-Anatolian border with the rising Ottoman Empire, engaged in trade with other contemporaneous polities, and emerged as a great patron of art and architecture.
In fact, although he fought sixteen military campaigns, he is best remembered for his Islamic piety and the spectacular building projects that he sponsored, leaving his mark as an architectural patron on the holy cities of Mecca, Medina, and Bayt al-Moqaddas, as well as Damascus, Aleppo, Alexandria, and every quarter of Cairo.
During his Hajj pilgrimage, appalled by the pecuniary condition of the people of the two holy cities, Qaytbay initiated public welfare schemes, in addition to carrying out extensive renovation projects in Mecca and Medina including the rebuilding of Holy Shrine and Mosque of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA).
The position of Mamluk in Islam should not be confused with the oppressed state of slaves and bonded labour in the Christian West or other non-Muslim cultures. According to the dynamic laws of Islam, as was evident in the different lands the Muslims ruled and the societies they formed, purchases of human beings were made for emancipating them from oppression, and providing them education and training in various vocations. The Mamluk were viewed as adopted children, even eligible for marriage with the offspring of the person who purchased them, and this explains their rise as governors and even kings.
Az-Zahir Rukn od-Din Baibars al-Bunduqdari
On July 1, 1277 AD, the Mamluk sultan of Egypt and Syria, az-Zahir Rukn od-Din Baibars al-Bunduqdari, died in Damascus at the age of 55. He was one of the commanders of the Muslim army which inflicted a devastating defeat on the Seventh Crusade of King Louis IX of France in 1250.
Ten years later he led the vanguard of the Egyptian army at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260, which marked the first crushing defeat of the Mongol army of Buddhist and Christians, and is considered a turning point in history.
A Qipchaq Turk, who as a child was sold into slavery, he rose to become the first of the Bahri Mamluk sultans, and managed to pave the way for the end of the Crusader occupation by uniting Egypt and Syria into one powerful state that was able to fend off threats from both Crusaders and Mongols. He was buried in the az-Zahiriyah Library in Damascus.
Admiral Zheng He (Mahmoud Shams od-Din) of China’s Ming Dynasty
On July 6, 1411 AD, Admiral Zheng He (Mahmoud Shams od-Din) of China’s Ming Dynasty returned to Nanjing after his second voyage and presented the Sinhalese king, captured during the Ming–Kotte War, to the Yongle Emperor. In 1405 AD, he set sail to explore the world on the first of his seven voyages that took him to Southeast Asia, the Subcontinent, Arabia, Iran, and Africa.
He was the great-great-great-grandson of Seyyed Ajal Shams od-Din, the Iranian statesman who served in the administration of the Mongol Empire, and was appointed governor of Yunnan by the Yuan Dynasty. Born in 1371, his father and grandfather were both Hajis, who had performed pilgrimage to holy Mecca. As a 10-year boy, Mahmoud was captured by the Ming, who castrated him and gave him the Chinese name of Zheng He.
Nonetheless, his indomitable spirit made him to overcome his physical handicap to rise as a general, diplomat, courtier and admiral. He commanded a flotilla of several hundred galleys, including huge five-decked ships, on each of his voyages in the span of 28 years, and in addition to demonstrating the might of China through presents to the rulers of lands he visited, he brought back home exotic things and animals including zebras, giraffes and ostriches. During his last journey in 1433, at the age of 62, he died off the coast of Calicut (Kozhikode), southern India, and was buried at sea.
The Ilkhanid Sultan of Iran, Sultan Oljeitu Khodabanda
On 30th of the Islamic month of Ramadhan in 716 AH, the 8th ruler of the Ilkhanid Dynasty of Iran-Iraq-Afghanistan-Caucasus-and Anatolia, Sultan Oljeitu Khodabanda, died at the age of 36 after a reign of 12 years and ten months, and was buried in the famous mausoleum of Soltanieh that he had built for himself near Qazvin in northwestern Iran. Born a Buddhist and baptized as Christian, he became a Muslim along with his elder brother and predecessor, Sultan Mahmoud Ghazaan.
In the 6th year of his reign, following a lively debate at his court among the scholars of the Shafei, Hanafai, Hanbali, Maliki and Ja’fari schools of Jurisprudence, during which the celebrated theologian Allamah Hilli proved the rationality of the School of the Ahl al-Bayt, Oljeitu became a staunch Shi’ite Muslim and decreed that henceforth this would be the official creed of his dominions.
In Shiraz, he founded a Dar as-Siyadah for descendents of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) and endowed it with an income of 10,000 Dinars a year. Another Imami scholar who impressed Oljeitu was Sheikh Maitham al-Bahrani and his rationalistic philosophical school of Bahrain. Oljeitu built trade ties with the Genoese and Venetians of Europe, and with China in the east. He allowed the Republic of Genoa to set up a consul in his capital Tabriz. He fought for the control of Syria with the Mamluks of Egypt and after an unsuccessful bid to hold on to Damascus, he withdrew his forces from the Levant.