Sultan Sati Bey Khan is another forgotten Muslim female ruler in history we would like to remember today. She was part of the Khan family of the Moslem Ilhan branch of the Mongol Empire and ruled in the XIVth century. First, the author in this chapter briefly summarises Ilhan history, starting with Hulagu, grandson of Genghis Khan. Hulagu is well-known for having marched on Baghdad where in November 1258 he put an end to the Abbasid State.
Hulagu died in 1265 and, during the reigns of his successors, most of the Mongols who lived in today’s Iran converted to Sunni Islam. According to Bahriye Üçok, thanks to the general Mongolian religious tolerance, women maintained their important political and social position they had had in the past. Gazan Khan also showed great indulgence towards Shiites. Under his reign, the Empire reached its peak. After his death, in 1304, his brother and successor Hudabende Oljaytu Khan was unable to continue his works of reform.
In addition he converted to Shia Islam and proceeded to take strict and harsh measures against Suuni Muslims. Of course, this plunged the country into discontent. His son and successor Ebu Said tried to shift the balance in favour of the Sunnis, but because of his youth and inexperience, his reign was noted for various intrigues. In 1324 Ebu Said was poisoned, and the Ilhan Empire split up unto various separate kingdoms reigned by emirs.
They were also faced with attack by Altmordu, and upon this the emirs chose Arık Boga’s great grandson Arpa Khan as ruler. Arpa Khan immediately put a stop to the dangerous raids, but when the emirs presented themselves before him, he treated them so harshly that most of them now set their hopes on the birth of a son to Ebu Said’s pregnant widow Dilşad Hatun. Thus, we see that Arpa Khan’s sovereignty was shaken at the foundations.
A short while later, Ebu Said’s uncle Ali Padishah’s ambition to obtain influence resulted in a civil war. Arpa was captured and put to death and Ali Padishah, by putting Baydu’s grandson Musa on the throne (1336) set up a rule that was in every way despotic. However this manner of administration drove Hadji Togay, the Emir of Oyrat, to call upon Prince Muhammed, who was a descendant of Mengü Timur, and bringing him from Tabriz he proclaimed him as Sultan.
This action of Hadji Togay’s resulted in armed conflict and in 1336 Emîr Ali Padishah, together with his followers, was put to the sword; Musa fled to Baghdad, and Muhammed established himself in Tabriz. Hasan, the grandson of Choban who had risen to the post of chief emir of the Ilhan Empire and had later been put to death, now emerged from hiding and was immediately surrounded by his father’s former followers. Hasan, who was a trickster by nature, found somebody who closely resembled his father Timurtash, and pretending that this was indeed Timurtash, spread word that he had escaped and returned from Egypt.
This sufficed to alarm Büyük Hasan, who was of the Jelâyirîs, even more than had been hoped. For this deception, he used his slave Karacher, but he was unable to keep for long the gains he had thus made. The truth was soon discovered. This Hasan is referred to as “Küçük Hasan” (Small Hasan), in order to distinguish him from Hasan Jelâyirî or İlkâni, who was one of the most influential men of his time, and known as “Hasan the Great”, Büyük Hasan.
Before long, the influence of the two powerful emirs began to show itself in the Ilhan territories. The Empire became divided into two major zones of influence: while Hasan the Great placed first Toqa Timur, who was descended from Juchi Kasar, and then Keyhatu’s grandson Jihan Timur on the throne, Küçük Hasan in return encouraged Oljaytu Khan’s daughter, Ebu Said Khan’s sister Sati Bey to proclaim her sovereignty in 1338. Since Sati Bey was a woman of the Khan family, as soon as Ilhan Arpa, on becoming Khan, came to Tabriz, he married her. Sati Bey was in any case no stranger to Küçük Hasan, who was chief of the Oyrat; after the death of Oljaytu’s daughter Dolandı Hatun, Küçük Hasan’s grandfather Emîr Choban had asked for the hand of her sister, that is to say Sati Bey, and had been accepted. After Choban’s death, in 1335, his widow became betrothed to Arpa Khan with the object of strengthening the latter’s position. This marriage, which lasted for two years, ended when Arpa Khan was killed in battle. During the course of the same year, he was succeeded by Musa and Muhammed. At this juncture, Juchi Kasar’s descendant Toqa Timur appeared on the scene, and joining forces with Büyük Hasan of the Je-lâyir tribe, marched against Timurtash’s son Küçük Hasan. Faced with this force, which grew steadily larger, Küçük Hasan, wishing to use the support of Sati Bey, in 1338, persuaded her to lay claim to the throne. She now declared herself sovereign in Tabriz, took over personal command of the army and marched against Sheikh Hasan llkânî (Büyük Hasan). The latter prepared lines of defence at Kazvin. Küçük Hasan and his followers, having conquered Azerbaijan, proceeded by forced march towards Kazvin. However, owing to the harsh winter conditions, the two sides made an arrangement to call a temporary cease-fire. Sati Bey and her retinue departed to Azerbaijan and Büyhük Hasan retired to Sultaniye. During this year, the Ilhan territories were the centre of various disturbances. Indeed, while the lord of Diyarbakır, Emîr Hadji Togay and the Oyrat tribes were succeeding to the Arabs’ position of power in Baghdad and Iraq, the emir of Ertana took possession of certain areas of Rumelia, while the son of the emir Akranjin occupied Kurdistan and Huzistan. Meanwhile, Büyük Hasan, not trusting in the continuation of the peace, which he had signed for one season, gave his recognition to the rule of Toqa Timur and offered to go to Iraq.
On the other hand, Küçük Hasan, who realised the danger to himself from the alliance of Toga Timur and Büyük Hasan, did not hesitate to resort to certain diplomatic tricks. He sent word to Toga suggesting that he should marry Sati Bey and thus gain command over all the Choban-oqullan. In return for this attractive offer, he asked for Toga’s help to eliminate Büyük Hasan. Sati Bey sent word to Toga Timur that if he would write in his own hand promising friendship to the Choban people and declaring his enmity towards the Jelâyrî, she would be prepared to marry him.
This offer from Sati Bey must have so appealed to Toga Timur that without thinking of the fatal consequences for himself from this action, he wrote that he accepted the offer and would agree to the conditions. When Sati Bey received this letter, Küçük Hasan took it and sent it to Büyük Hasan. The latter was greatly angered by this treachery on the part of Toga Timur, whom he had thought to be his ally, and when Toga Timur learned of the situation, he fled to Horasan.
In the hope of improving his weak position Büyük Hasan proclaimed as king Jihan Timur (İzzüddîn), who was one of the sons of Alafrenk, now entered Mesopotamia and succeeded in conquering Baghdad; he also partially occupied Diyarbakır, Kurdistan and Huzistan.
Meanwhile Küçük Hasan, who had gained powerful supporters on account of his connection with Sati Bey, was now searching for means to be rid of her in order to replace her. But Sati Bey was informed of the plot prepared against her. In order to stamp out this enmity amongst Sati Bey’s followers, Küçük Hasan even went so far as to put to death the most powerful of them.
Sati Bey Hatun reigned for 9-12 months. Thus, the Ilhan Empire was supposedly ruled by Toga Timur and Sati Bey Hatun, even if there was a constant power struggle under the powerful emirs. History does not relate what befell Sati Bey at this period. After she had been obliged to relinquish the throne of the Khans, all her life remains in darkness. Sati Bey Khan was not that kind of women who made personal effort to become empress. She lived in a very turbulent time, full of disintegration and power struggle, as all other Muslim ruling dynasties we have known until now in Üçok’s book. And she tried to affirm herself in this complex stage of power, but did never force the situation. She reached a very high position in the State, as the Friday prayer was read in her name, an essential element characterising the Islamic political leader of a State.
This entry is based on “Female Sovereigns in Islamic States.” You can find it on Amazon here.
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