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Muizzeddin Ahmet Sancar

The last sultan of Great Seljuk Empire (B. 1086, Sincar - D. 1157, Merv). His full name was Muizzeddin Ahmet Sancar, he was the son of Sultan Malik-Shah. From an early age he was raised by learning the sciences of the era, gained experience in the affairs of state and helped his brother Sultan Berkyaruk. In the reigns of both his brothers Berkyaruk and Muhammed Tapar, he exerted himself to assist in ensuring national unity by doing government service; he suppressed the rebellions in the east. In the meantime, Sanjar, who was assigned as the Melik of Khorasan due to his achievements, repelled the attacks of Kadir Khan, the monarch of eastern Karakhanid, who had attacked to the Seljuk territory by taking advantage of the situation of the fights for throne within the Great Seljuk Empire (1102). By annexing the Ghaznavids to the Seljuk Empire; he had the khutbah read on behalf of firstly Caliph, and Sultan and Melik Sanjar and the last Behramşah of Gaznavids (1118).

Sanjar continued his sincere and sober cooperation with his older brother Sultan Muhammed Tapar after the death of his brother Berkyaruk. While he applied his politics in the East, Sultan Muhammed was dealing with the west. Thus, the future sultan and Sultan Berkyaruk complemented each other. Sanjar, who followed the policy of his father Malik-Shah, starting from Khorasan, re-established the order of the Seljuk in the east of the country. Thus, the Great Seljuk State continued its struggles in the west by having ensured the east.

Upon the death of Muhammed Tapar on April 18th, 1118, his son, Mahmud, who was at a young age, ascended to the throne by the state officials. On the other side, Sultan Sanjar also declared himself as the sultan and in Khorasan on June 14th, 1118 and had caliph confirm his sultanate. To be the sole sultan of Great Seljuk Empire, Mahmud, who had been enthroned, had to be disposed of. On August 14th, 1119 in Save, the war between uncle and nephew  resulted in victory of Sanjar and Sanjar became the Sultan of Great Seljuk Empire, the capital of state moved from the central Irak-ı Acem to Khorasan. According to the agreement with Mahmud, Rey was left to Sanjar and the West parts of the country were given to Mahmud. Yet, Mahmud would continue to assume the title of sultan and was affiliated to Sanjar. Thus, the Iraqi Seljuk Empire was established.

Sanjar, launching series of expeditions in 1113 on Samarkand, in 1114 on Ghazni and Ghurids, restored the domination over the region. In addition, he gained domination over Iraq, Azerbaijan, Taberistan, Iran, Sistan, Kerman, Khorezm, Afghanistan, Kashgar and Transoxiana. Sanjar, who almost reestablished the state by re-ordering and re-editing what had struggled in the fights for the throne for a long time, also re-appointed executive cadre. He gave the region of Gilân and half of Irak-ı Acem to Tuğrul, Persian province with Isfahan and half of Huzistan to Seljuk Shah. He, assuming the title of the "Sultan-ül-Azam" (Great Sultan), established a federal state.

This union continued for a while. But Mahmud, who cooperated with Caliph Müsterşid, started to prepare an uprising against his uncle. Sanjar received the news and proceed towards Mahmud. The Dinever battle on May 26th, 1132 resulted in the victory of Sanjar. Sanjar had younger brother of Mahmud, Tuğrul whom he brought with, ascended to the throne of Iraqi Seljuks instead of Mahmud and returned by giving him some exhortations. Sanjar, who had suppressed the Karakhanids revolt, suppressed the revolts of Ghaznavids in 1136 and Khwarezm in 1141. When Sanjar tried to prevent the attack of Karakhitans on Karakhanids, he was defeated by the Karakhitans on the desert of Katawan near Samarkand in the same year, and this was the turning point of his long lasting reign and what made him extremely anxious; then he lost Belh.

This defeat created great echoes in the Christian world as well as in the Muslim world. Khwarezmian, taking advantage of this situation, took the treasure by invading Khorasan and Merv, the capital of Sanjar. Atsız, who was informed that Sanjar started an expedition on Khwarizm, couldn’t have taken the risk of challenging him on the battle field. After having paid homage, he was forgiven and gave the treasure back. However the reconciliation did not solve anything and Sanjar sent the famous poet Edip Sabir as the ambassador to convince Atsız. When Atsız had Edip Sabir assassinated, Sanjar had to launch an expedition for the third time to Khwarezm, Atsız sent an ambassador to be forgiven, Sultan Sanjar forgave him again.

Meanwhile Kumac, one of the Sanjar’s commanders, was defeated by Sultan Alâeddin Hüseyin Cihansuz of Ghurids, who declared his independency. While Sanjar was preparing for the expedition to Ghurids, Ghurids fought Ghaznavids. In the end, Ghaznavids were totally vanquished and Behramshah ran to India. When Alâeddin Hüseyin Cihansuz of the monarch of Ghurids destroyed the Ghaznavids’ capital, Sultan Sanjar started an expedition to Ghurids. Ghurids were defeated in the battle fought in June 1152 and their monarch was held captive and the country was given to Alâeddin Cihansuz again. Sanjar won a great victory for the first time after the defeat in the desert of Katawan and gained reputation again.

However, this time, the disagreement between emirs of Seljuks and Oghuzs deepened and Sultan Sanjar had to fight in the province of Belh on the insistence of some emirs (1153). The battle resulted in the defeat of Seljuk army and Sanjar was captivated. After that unexpected result, all of a sudden, the Oghuzs, who captivated the sultan of Great Seljuk Empire to which they were affiliated, found themselves at the head of the state. Though Sanjar had been a captive among them, they didn’t choose a sultan among them instead of him, keeping him on the throne indicated that they wanted the Great Seljuk Empire to be continuing. Yet, the great sultan opted to abdicate the throne instead of being a captive sovereign and secluded himself in a hankâh (dervish lodge) in Merv. He suffered great difficulties during his captivation, which lasted for three years. He was salvaged from the hands of Oghuzs in April 1156 by Müeyyed Ayaba, the grandson of Kumac, one of his commanders. A year after his liberation, he died at the age of 91 on April 29th, 1157 and was buried in the tomb in Merv that he had had built. After his death, the Great Seljuk Empire collapsed.

Sultan Sanjar, during his forty year reign, followed a bidirectional politics towards both the west and the east. During his reign, the people of country were in welfare. The Batiniyya and Ismailiyya movements emerging to violate the existing order, despite all the measures taken by government, continued to spread among the ignorant, leaping from one castle to another reached Syria and Khorasan the backbone of the empire. A bullying movement spread all over the country. Sultan Sanjar hadn’t had the time for dealing with this problem since he was struggling with the fights for throne, internal disorders, and attacks from the east.

His relation with the greatest scholar of the era İmam-ı Gazalî was famous, who also lived in the reign of his father Malik-Shah, and Sanjar, who also had relations with Ahmet Namık-i Camî, had poets in his palace. As a result, during his long lasting reign, several physicians, scientist, artist, who were complimented by the Sultan, were raised. Sultan Sanjar liked to be among them, listened to their advices and asked them to warn him when he was wrong. He always patiently listened to complainers whoever they were and in the end, he secured the justice.

Sanjar assumed as a great sultan as his father Malik-Shah while he was alive. After his death, he was exemplified as a great sultan. Because of his authority in Hadith, he was deemed one of the Hadith scholars. It is known that he wrote poems in Farsi. His tomb that he had built in Merv while he was still alive was a great work of art and indicated the level of civilization in the era.



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