History of Seljuk Empire

Who Was Nizam Ul Mulk / Seljuk Vizier?

Who Was Nizam Ul Mulk?

Abu Ali Hasan ibn Ali Tusi (April 10, 1018 – October 14, 1092), better known by his honorific title of Nizam al-Mulk was a Persian scholar, jurist, political philosopher and Vizier of the Seljuk Empire. Rising from a lowly position within the empire, he effectively became the de facto ruler of the empire for 20 years after the assassination of Sultan Alp Arslan in 1072, serving as the archetypal “good vizier”.

Viewed by many historians as “the most important statesman in Islamic history”, the policies implemented by Nizam al-Mulk would go on to remain as the basic foundation for administrative state structures in the Muslim world up until the 20th century. which would go on to inspire the works of Ibn Khaldun and became the prototype for Machiavellian thought throughout Europe.

History Of Nizam Ul Mulk:

One of his most important legacies was the founding of the madrasa system in cities across the Seljuk Empire which were called the Nizamiyyas after him. This was seen to be as the first government sponsored education system in history and as the inspiration behind the university system in Western Europe. He also wrote the Book of Government, a political treatise that uses historical examples to discuss justice, effective rule, and the role of government in Islamic society.

Abu Ali Hasan was born on 10 April 1018, in a small village named Radkan, near Tus, in Iran, to a dehqan family. Growing up he studied Shafi fiqh and the Ashari school of theology. His father Ali ibn Ishak served as a financial officer to the Ghaznavids. However, when the Seljuk Turks defeated the Ghaznavids at the Battle of Dandanaqan in 1040, and conquered Khorasan.

Abu Ali Hasan’s father fled to Ghazni. Hasan followed his father to Ghazni, and it is there where he first assumed a government office. He remained in Ghazni for three or four years, when he left the Ghaznavid court and entered service with the Seljuks.

Alp Arslan’s strength lays in the military realm. Domestic affairs were handled by Nizam al-Mulk, who also founded the administrative organization that characterized and strengthened the sultanate during the reigns of Alp Arslan and his son, Malik Shah I. Military iqtā’ (fiefs), governed by Seljuk princes, were established to provide support for the soldiery and to accommodate the nomadic Turks to the established Anatolian agricultural scene.

After Alp Arslan had consolidated his power in the Sejluk realm, he appointed Abu Ali Hasan as his vizier who would remain in that position throughout the reigns of Alp Arslan (1063–1072) and Malik-Shah I (1072–1092). Abu Ali Hasan was also given the title of “Nizam al-Mulk” (“Order of the Realm”).

This type of military fiefdom enabled the nomadic Turks to draw on the resources of the sedentary Iranians, and other established cultures within the Seljuk realm, and allowed Alp Arslan to field a huge standing army without depending on tribute from conquest to pay his soldiers. He not only had enough food from his subjects to maintain his military, but the taxes collected from traders and merchants added to his coffers sufficiently to fund his continuous wars.

In 1091, a group of Qarmatians sacked Basra, while the Isma’ilis under the leadership of Hassan-i Sabbah seized the fortress of Alamut. Moreover, the succession to the sultanate was complicated by the death of two of Malik-Shah’s eldest sons: Dawud (died 1082) and Ahmad (died 1088), whom both were sons of the Kara-Khanid Princess Terken Khatun. She also had a son named Mahmud (born 1087) whom she wanted to succeed his father, while Nizam and most of the Seljuk army was in favor of Barkiyaruq.

The oldest of all Malik-Shah’s living sons and born to a Seljuk princess. Terken Khatun then allied with Taj al-Mulk Abu’l Ghana’im to try to remove Nizam from his post. Taj even accused Nizam of corruption before the sultan. Malik Shah I, however, did not dare to dismiss Nizam. Nizam later besieged Alamut, but was forced to withdraw.

Nizam al-Mulk is also widely known for his voluminous treatise on kingship titled Siyasatnama (Book of Government) which was written after Malik Shah had requested that his ministers produce books on government, administration and the troubles facing the nation. However, the treatise made by Nizam was the only one to receive approval and was consequently accepted as forming “the law of the constitution of the nation“.

The treatise uses historical examples to discuss justice, effective rule, and the role of government in Islamic society, and has been compared to Machiavelli’s The Prince. The work also discusses various aspects of state surveillance and spying, advising rulers to establish an extensive espionage network.

Death Of Nizam Ul Mulk:

Nizam al-Mulk was assassinated en route from Isfahan to Baghdad on 10 Ramadan 485 A.H. (14 October 1092) The mainstream literature says he was stabbed by the dagger of a member of the Assassins, sent by the notorious Hassan-i Sabbah near Nahavand, as he was being carried on his litter. The killer approached him disguised as a Sufi.

This account is particularly interesting in light of a possibly apocryphal story that first appeared in English in the introduction to Edward Fitzgerald’s translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. In this story a pact is formed between a young Nizam al-Mulk (at that time known as Abdul Khassem) and his two friends, Omar Khayyam and Hassan-i-Sabbah. Their agreement stated that if one should rise to prominence, that they would help the other two to do likewise.

Nizam al-Mulk was the first to do this when he was appointed vizier to the sultan Alp Arslan. To fulfill the pact he offered both friends positions of rank within the court. Omar refused the offer, asking instead to be given the means to continue his studies indefinitely. This Nizam did, as well as building him an observatory. Although Hassan, unlike Omar, decided to accept the appointment offered to him, he was forced to flee after plotting to depose Nizam as vizier.

Subsequently, Hassan came upon and conquered the fortress of Alamut, from where he established the Assassins. According to Bernard Lewis, this tale is unlikely to be true because Hassan-i Sabbah died in 1124, and Omar Khayyam in 1123 at the earliest. Since Nizam al-Mulk was born in 1020 at the latest, the three were not of similar ages and were probably not students together.

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