Ispahsālār (Persian: اسپهسالار‎) or sipahsālār (سپهسالار; "army commander"), in Arabic rendered as isfahsalār (إسفهسلار) or iṣbahsalār (إصبهسلار), was a title used in much of the Islamic world during the 10th–15th centuries, to denote the senior-most military commanders but also as a generic general officer rank.

Islamic East and Persia

The title derives from Middle Persian spāh-sālār (𐬯𐬞𐬁𐬵⸱𐬯𐬁𐬮𐬁𐬭‎),[1] already attested in Pazend texts of the 9th century. It was the equivalent of the old Sasanian title of Spahbed (New Persian ispahbadh), which during the Islamic era fell out of general use and became a regnal title among certain local dynasties in Tabaristan and Khurasan.[2] The titles of Ispahsalar and Sipahsalar came into prominence in the Islamic world in the later 10th century, with the rise to power of Iranian dynasties during the so-called "Iranian Intermezzo". In its sense of "commander-in-chief", the title was used in parallel to the usual Arabic titles Ḥājib al-Ḥujjāb (حاجب الحجاب), Ḥājib al-Kabīr (حاجب الكبير) or Ṣāhib al-Jaysh (صاحب الجيش).[2]

Among the Buyids, it was given as a sign of conciliation as well as of particular honour to two rebellious Turkish generals, Sebüktigin al-Mu'izzi in 971, and, after his death, Alptakin in 974/5. With the growing instability of the Buyid states towards the end of the century, the usage of Ispahsalar became debased, and it came to mean simply "commander" or just "officer".[2] Among the later Saffarid dynasty under Khalaf ibn Ahmad (reigned 963–1002), the title was applied to the commander-in-chief of the army, while the Hajib al-Hujjab was a separate office, possibly commanding the slave troops (mamalik, ghilman).[2] Among the Turkic dynasties, the Arabic and Persian titles were supplemented by the Turkish title Sübashi. The Ghaznavids employed Sipahsalar and its Arabic equivalents in its original sense of "commander-in-chief", but also for commanders of specific contingents of their army, alongside the use of "plain" salar (and in Arabic, hajib) for less exalted generals.[2] The Seljuq Empire and the Sultanate of Rum used a number of variants of the title, such as Ispahsālār-i Buzurg (اسپهسالار بزرگ) or Amīr-i Ispahsālār (امیر اسپهسالار), as well as a variety of other Arabic, Persian and Turkish titles both in a technical sense for the commander-in-chief of the army as well as the governors and army commanders of important regions, as well as in a more general sense of "general officer".[3] The title was also used by the Khwarizmshahs, originally Seljuq vassals, who employed a unique variant, Qīr Isfahsālār (قیر اسفهسالار), for commanders of frontier regions.[4]

The Mongol conquests diminished the use of the title, bringing to the fore Turkish and Mongol ones instead, but it remained in widespread use in the isolated and conservative regions of Gilan and Daylam on the Caspian shore.[4] In Persia proper, it was revived by the Safavids under Shah Abbas I (r. 1587–1629), replacing the Arabic title Amir al-Umara used until then. The office was apparently usually held by the Beglerbegi of Azerbaijan, with Rustam Khan the most prominent person to occupy it. The post was abolished again in 1664/77, after which a commander-in-chief (Sardar) was appointed only in wartime.[4] The title re-appeared in the form Sipahsālār-i A'zam (سپهسالار اعظم) under the late Qajar dynasty, being held as an honorific by Minister of War Mirza Muhammad Khan Qajar in 1858, the reformist Minister of War (and soon after chief minister) Mirza Husayn Khan Qazwini—who also built the namesake Sipahsalar Mosque in Tehran—in 1871, and by chief minister Mohammad Vali Khan Tonekaboni in 1910.[4][5]

Use in the Caucasus and Mashriq

Buyid, and especially Seljuq influence, led to the spread of Ispahsalar, alongside other Persian titles, westwards to the Mashriq and even the Christian countries of the Caucasus: in Armenian it became [a]spasalar, and in Georgian Amirspasalari, one of the four great ministers of state of the Georgian realm.[4] The title was also in common use among the Turkic Atabeg dynasties of Syria and Iraq and later the Ayyubids, both for regional military commanders but also, uniquely, as one of the personal titles of the Atabegs themselves.[6] In Fatimid Egypt, the Isfahsalar was the commander-in-chief of the army and jointly responsible with the Head Chamberlain (Wazīr al-Ṣaghīr وزير الصغير or Ṣāhib al-Bāb صاحب الباب) for military organization.[4] The title survived among the Mamluks of Egypt, where both Isfahsalar and the nisba "al-Isfahsalārī" (الإسفهسلاري) were commonly used in the titelature of the senior commanders in the 13th century, but it seems to have been debased and fallen out of use thereafter. It is still attested as late as 1475 for a Mamluk commander-in-chief, but by this time the term isbahsalar was also applied generally to the guards of the Mamluk sultan.[7] Among the Ottomans, sipāhsālār (سپاهسالار) continued to be used but in a generic sense, the usual terms for commander-in-chief being serdār (سردار) and serasker (سرعسكر).[7]

Muslim India

From the Ghaznavids, the title also passed to the Ghurid dynasty, rulers of Afghanistan and northern India. Under the Ghurids, Isfahsalar signified the commander-in-chief, but in the 13th century it denoted an officer in command of 100 cavalry, and under the Tughluqids it declined to signify the commander of ten men.[7] Aside from this technical meaning, the term continued to be used in the Muslim states of India in the 14th–15th centuries as a generic term for "general officer", e.g. under the Lodi dynasty, or as "commander-in-chief", e.g. in the Bengal Sultanate or the Deccan sultanates. Under the Mughals, it was a title sometimes given to the Khankhanan ("Khan of Khans"), the Mughal commander-in-chief, especially when he led the army in place of the Mughal emperor.[7]

See also


  1. ^ "Kursi-i hazrat Zartosht", Nirangs.
  2. ^ a b c d e Bosworth & Digby 1978, p. 208.
  3. ^ Bosworth & Digby 1978, pp. 208–209.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Bosworth & Digby 1978, p. 209.
  5. ^ Katouzian 2006, pp. 26–27, 35, 203.
  6. ^ Bosworth & Digby 1978, pp. 209–210.
  7. ^ a b c d Bosworth & Digby 1978, p. 210.


  • Bosworth, C. E. & Digby, S. (1978). "Ispahsālār, Sipahsālār". In van Donzel, E.; Lewis, B.; Pellat, Ch. & Bosworth, C. E. (eds.). The Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition, Volume IV: Iran–Kha. Leiden: E. J. Brill. pp. 208–210. ISBN 90-04-05745-5.
  • Katouzian, Homa (2006). State and Society in Iran: The Eclipse of the Qajars and the Emergence of the Pahlavis. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 1845112725.
Ali I (Bavandid ruler)

Ali I (Persian: علی), was the ruler of the Bavand dynasty from 1118 to 1142. He was the uncle and successor of Rustam III.

Amir al-umara

The office of amir al-umara (Arabic: أمير الأمراء‎, romanized: amīr al-umarāʾ), variously rendered in English as emir of emirs, chief emir, and commander of commanders, was a senior military position in the 10th-century Abbasid Caliphate, whose holders in the decade after 936 came to supersede the civilian bureaucracy under the vizier and become effective regents, relegating the Abbasid caliphs to a purely ceremonial role. The office then formed the basis for the Buyid control over the Abbasid caliphs and over Iraq after 946.

The title continued in use by Muslim states in the Middle East, but was mostly restricted to senior military leaders. It was also used in Norman Sicily for a few of the king's chief ministers.

Anwaruddin Khan

Anwaruddin Khan (1672 – 3 August 1749), also known as Muhammad Anwaruddin, was the 1st Nawab of Arcot of the second Dynasty. He was a major figure during the first two Carnatic Wars.

He was also Subedar of Thatta from 1721-1733.

Battle of Kapetron

The Battle of Kapetron or Kapetrou was fought between a Byzantine-Georgian army and the Seljuq Turks at the plain of Kapetron (modern Hasankale/Pasinler in northeastern Turkey) in 1048. The event was the culmination of a major raid led by the Seljuq prince Ibrahim Inal into Byzantine-ruled Armenia. A combination of factors meant that the regular Byzantine forces were at a considerable numerical disadvantage against the Turks: the local thematic armies had been disbanded, while many of the professional troops had been diverted to the Balkans to face the revolt of Leo Tornikios. As a result, the Byzantine commanders, Aaron and Katakalon Kekaumenos, disagreed on how best to confront the invasion. Kekaumenos favoured an immediate and pre-emptive strike, while Aaron favoured a more cautious strategy until the arrival of reinforcements. Emperor Constantine IX chose the latter option and ordered his forces to adopted a passive stance, while requesting aid from the Georgian ruler Liparit IV. This allowed the Turks to ravage at will, notably leading to the sack and destruction of the great commercial centre of Artze.

After the Georgians arrived, the combined Byzantine–Georgian force gave battle at Kapetron (modern Hasankale). In a fierce nocturnal battle, the Christian allies managed to repel the Turks, and Aaron and Kekaumenos, in command of the two flanks, pursued the Turks until the next morning. In the centre, however, Inal managed to capture Liparit, a fact of which the two Byzantine commanders were not informed until after they had given thanks to God for their victory. Inal was able to return unmolested to the Seljuq capital at Rayy, carrying enormous plunder. The two sides exchanged embassies, leading to the release of Liparit and the start of diplomatic relations between the Byzantine and Seljuq courts. Emperor Constantine IX took steps to strengthen his eastern frontier, but due to internal infighting the Turkish invasions did not recommence until 1054. The Turks experienced increasing success, aided by the renewed diversion of Byzantine troops to the Balkans fight the Pechenegs, disputes between the various ethnic groups of the eastern Byzantine provinces, and the decline of the Byzantine army.

Chanda Sahib

Chanda Sahib (died 12 June 1752) was a subject of the Mughal Empire who claimed to be the Nawab of the Carnatic between 1749 and 1752 (although his claim was challenged by Wallajah). Initially he was supported by the French. After his defeat at Arcot in 1751. He was captured by the "Marathas of Thanjavur" and executed.

He was the son-in-law of the Nawab of Carnatic Dost Ali Khan, under whom he worked as a Dewan.

Chanda Sahib was an ally of the French and annexed the Madurai Nayak and was declared as the "Nawab" and managed to bring Tanjore and Tinnevelly into the dominions of the Mughal Empire.

He was weakened by constant Maratha attacks and was defeated by Muhammed Ali Khan Wallajah. After his forces were defeated by Robert Clive and the Maratha Empire he attempted to recuperate his losses but was beheaded in a mutiny by Hindu subjects in the Tanjore army.

Hafiz Rahmat Khan Barech

Hafiz Rahmat Khan Barech (1723 – April 1774) was Regent of Rohilkhand in North India, from 1749 to 1774. He was a Pashtun by background, ruling over Rohillas. Hafiz Rahmat Khan had served honorably throughout the reign of three Mughal Emperors: Ahmad Shah Bahadur, Alamgir II and Shah Alam II. He was also a mentor of Prince Mirza Jawan Bakht.

Hyder Ali

Hyder Ali , Haidarālī (c. 1720 – 7 December 1782) was the Sultan and de facto ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore in southern India. Born as Sayyid wal Sharif Hyder Ali Khan, he distinguished himself militarily, eventually drawing the attention of Mysore's rulers. Rising to the post of Dalavayi (commander-in-chief) to Krishnaraja Wodeyar II, he came to dominate the titular monarch and the Mysore government. He became the de facto ruler of Mysore as Sarvadhikari (Chief Minister) by 1761. He offered strong resistance against the military advances of the British East India Company during the First and Second Anglo–Mysore Wars, and he was the innovator of military use of the iron-cased Mysorean rockets. He also significantly developed Mysore's economy.

Though illiterate, Hyder Ali earned an important place in the history of southern India for his administrative acumen and military skills. He concluded an alliance with the French against the British and used the services of French workmen in raising his artillery and arsenal. His rule of Mysore was characterised by frequent warfare with his neighbours and rebellion within his territories. This was not unusual for the time as much of the Indian subcontinent was then in turmoil. He left his eldest son, Tipu Sultan, an extensive kingdom bordered by the Krishna River in the north, the Eastern Ghats in the east and the Arabian Sea in the west.

Mian Sarfraz Kalhoro (Khudayar Khan)

Mian Sarfraz Kalhoro (Khudayar Khan) (Urdu) ميان سرفراز محمد خان کلھوڑو نواب المعروف خدايارخان : was the famous king of the Kalhora Dynasty that ruled Sindh from 1701 to 1783. He was given the title Khudayar Khan by the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II and is known to have assisted Timur Shah Durrani prior to the Third Battle of Panipat.

Muhammad Khan Bangash

Nawab Ghazanfar-Jang, Muhammad Khan Bangash (1665 – 1743) laid the foundation of the Nawab of Farrukhabad in Uttar Pradesh, India and was sworn in as its first Nawab in 1715. He was a "Bawan Hazari Sardar" (Commander of 52000 Men Strong force) in the Mughal Army. He served as governor of Malwa and Allahabad provinces of Mughal empire.

He was also viceroy of Assam from 1735-1743.Although regarded as rude and illiterate he was well regarded for his loyalty, and it is believed that had fortune sided with him he would have been able to establish a kingdom rivalling the deccan or awadh.

Muhammed Yusuf Khan

Maruthanayagam Pillai (1725 – 15 October 1764) a.k.a. Muhammad Yusuf Khan was born in a Hindu Vellalar family, in Panaiyur in British India, in what is now Ramanathapuram District of Tamil Nadu. He later converted to Islam to enlist in the British army. He became a warrior in the Arcot troops, and later a commandant for the British East India Company troops. The British and the Arcot Nawab employed him to suppress the Polygar (a.k.a. Palayakkarar) uprising in South India. Later he was entrusted to administer the Madurai country when the Madurai Nayak rule ended.

A dispute arose with the British and Arcot Nawab, and three of Khan's associates were bribed to capture him. He was captured during his morning prayer (Thozhugai) and hanged on 15 October 1764 at Sammatipuram near Madurai. Local legends state that he survived two earlier attempts at hanging, and that the Nawab feared Yusuf Khan would come back to life and so had his body dismembered and buried in different locations around Tamil Nadu.

Najib ad-Dawlah

Najib ad-Dawlah (Pashto: نجيب الدوله‎), also known as Najib Khan Yousafzai (Pashto: نجيب خان‎), was a Rohilla Yousafzai Pashtun who earlier served as a Mughal serviceman but later deserted the cause of the Mughals and joined Ahmed Shah Abdali in 1757 in his attack on Delhi. He was also a tribal chief in the 18th century Rohilkhand, who in the 1740s founded the city of Najibabad in Bijnor district, India.

He began his career in 1743 as an immigrant from the village Maneri, District Swabi Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as a soldier. He was at first an employee of Imad ul mulk. He deserted the cause of the Mughals and joined Ahmed Shah Abdali in 1757 in his attack on Delhi. He was then appointed as Mir Bakshi of the Mughal emperor by Abdali. Later in his career he was known as Najib ad-Dawlah, Amir al-Umra, Shuja ad-Dawlah. From 1757 to 1770 he was governor of Saharanpur, ruling over Dehradun. Many architectural relics of the period of Rohilla he oversaw remain in Najibabad, which he founded at the height of his career as a Mughal minister.


Spāhbed (Middle Persian: 𐭮𐭯𐭠𐭧𐭯𐭲‎‎; also spelled spahbod and spahbad, early form spāhpat) is a Middle Persian title meaning "army chief" used chiefly in the Sasanian Empire. Originally there was a single spāhbed, called the Ērān-spāhbed, who functioned as the generalissimo of the Sasanian army. From the time of Khosrow I (r. 531–579) on, the office was split in four, with a spāhbed for each of the cardinal directions. After the Muslim conquest of Persia, the spāhbed of the East managed to retain his authority over the inaccessible mountainous region of Tabaristan on the southern shore of the Caspian Sea, where the title, often in its Islamic form ispahbadh (Persian: اسپهبذ‎; in Arabic: اصبهبذ‎ ʾiṣbahbaḏ), survived as a regnal title until the Mongol conquests of the 13th century. An equivalent title of Persian origin, ispahsālār, gained great currency across the Muslim world in the 10th–15th centuries.

The title was also adopted by the Armenians (Armenian: սպարապետ, [a]sparapet) and the Georgians (Georgian: სპასპეტი, spaspeti), as well as Khotan (spāta) and the Sogdians (spʾdpt) in Central Asia. It is also attested in Greek sources as aspabedēs (ἀσπαβέδης). The title was revived in the 20th century by the Pahlavi dynasty, in the Modern Persian form sepahbod (سپهبد), equivalent to a three-star Lieutenant General, ranking below arteshbod (full General).

Star (classification)

Stars are often used as symbols for ratings. They are used by reviewers for ranking things such as films, TV shows, restaurants, and hotels. For example, a system of one to five stars is commonly employed to rate hotels, with five stars being the highest quality.

Tuzun (amir al-umara)

Abu'l-Wafa Tuzun was a Turkish soldier who served first the Iranian ruler Mardavij ibn Ziyar and subsequently the Abbasid Caliphate. Rising to a position of leadership in the Abbasid army, he evicted the Hamdanid Nasir al-Dawla from Baghdad and assumed the position of amir al-umara on 31 May 943, becoming the Caliphate's de facto ruler. He held this position until his death in August 945, a few months before Baghdad, and the Abbasid Caliphate with it, came under the control of the Buyids.

Zakariya Khan Bahadur

Zakariya Khan Bahadur, (d.1745) was the Mughal Empire's viceroy of Lahore from 1726, succeeding his father, Abdus Samad Khan Bahadur, in the post. He continued and extended his father's policy of severe persecution of Sikhs, and thousands of Sikhs were killed during his period in the post. Khan was given control of Lahore by Persian Emperor Nader Shah during his invasion of the Mughal Empire in 1738 in return for annual tribute payments to the Persian crown.

Zulfiqar Khan Nusrat Jung

Zulfiqar Khan Nusrat Jung (Urdu: ذو الفقار خان نصرت جنگ ‎) was born Muhammad Ismail (Urdu: محمد اسماعیل‎) son of renowned nobleman of Emperor Aurangzeb named Asad Khan and his wife Mehr-un-Nisa Begam (daughter of Asaf Khan IV). He was born in 1657 CE. and held several appointments under Emperor Aurangzeb in the Mughal Empire. He was married to the daughter of Shaista Khan (the son of Asaf Khan).



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