Abu Sa’id Bahadur Khan


Ala al-Dunya wa-d-din Abu Sa”id Bahadur Khan (2 June 1305 (1305-06-02) – 30 November 1335) was the Ilkhan of the Hulaguid state (1316-1335), successor of his father Oljeitu. During the first ten years of his reign (until 1327) the country was ruled by a provisional, powerful emir Choban from the Mongolian Sulduz tribe.

Abu Sa”id succeeded his father after the death of his elder brother Suleiman Shah. In April-May 1314 he was appointed governor of Khorasan and Mazanderan under the guardianship of emir Sevinj ibn Shisha, and after the news of Oljeitu”s death (December 16, 1316) he was returned by Sevinj to the capital, Soltanieh, where he arrived not before the spring of 1317. Some time later he solemnly ascended the throne; sources differ on the exact date: April-May (Hamdallah Mostoufi), August 16 (Shabankarai), or July 5 (Mahmud Amoli). The delay in the ascension of Abu Sa”id to the throne is probably partly related to the designs of the emir of Sevinj who wanted to remove the ulus emir (amir-e ulus) Choban from his high position. The position of Choban as the real ruler of the country under the twelve-year old ilkhan was consolidated after the death of Sevinj in January 1318.

The name of Sevinj was rumored to be associated with the unrest in Khorasan that followed the departure of the Ilkhan. The emir Yasawul, who had been left to rule the province, was killed at the instigation of his subordinate Begtut and the Chagatai prince Yasawur Nikudari, who had fled from Central Asia and gained possessions south of the Amu Darya. At first Begtut and Yasavur declared their loyalty to the Ilkhan, but then they rebelled openly and invaded Mazanderan. Resistance in their rear by local rulers, notably Giyas ad-Din Kurt, ruler of Herat, forced the rebels to confine their actions to Khorasan. By the time the Ilkhan army under Amir Husayn (father of the first Jalayyiri ruler, Sheikh Hasan Buzurg) arrived in the spring of 1319, the rebellion had all but collapsed. The following year Yasawur was killed by his Chagataid kinsmen.

A major event in the early years of Abu Sa”id”s Ilkhanate was the deposition of Rashid al-Din, who had been vizier since 1298, and who, since the time of Oljeitu, had shared this post with Taj al-Din Ali Shah. The aged Rashid ad-Din, having fallen victim to the intrigues of his co-worker, was dismissed from his post, put on trial through the efforts of Choban on charges of poisoning Oljeitu, and executed on July 18, 1318. The finances of the state during the vizirate of Taj ad-Din Ali Shah fell into disorder, and the positive results of Gazan Khan”s reforms, which partially eliminated the arbitrariness of officials and nomadic nobles, were wiped out. The abuses of the powers-that-be were compounded by the natural disasters that befell the country in 1318-1320 – drought, swarms of locusts and heavy hail, which led to famine and completely deprived the sedentary peasants.

The invasion of the Golden Horde Uzbek Khan”s troops in the region of Derbent in early 1319 led to a revolt among the emirs. After the retreat of the enemy, Choban, dissatisfied with the actions of his commanders, punished one of them, emir Kurumishi, with sticks. In response, the latter revolted in Georgia, killing several officials of the ulus emir. The ruler of Diyarbakir, supported by the keraites Irincin (Irenjin), whom Choban had once deposed, Kurumishi moved on to Soltanieh. On June 20, in a fierce battle on the river Zendjan-rud near Miane, the rebels were defeated by an army led by the Ilkhan himself. Abu Sa”id, who showed personal courage in the battle, received the title bahadur (“hero”) as well as sultan al-adil (“fair sultan”). Kurumishi and Irincin and their associates were captured and brutally executed at Soltanieh.

According to the Egyptian chronicler Mufaddal, Abu Sa”id, wishing to be free from the tutelage of Choban, was at first ready to support Kurumishi”s performance. After its suppression, Choban took Abu Sa”id”s sister Sati-beg as his wife, and soon the state was effectively divided among the members of the emir”s family. Choban”s sons became viceroys of the provinces: Timurtash (Hasan, after the death of Amir Husayn in 1322, – Khorasan; Talysh, Hasan”s son, – Kerman and Fars. Dimishq Hoxha ruled in Azerbaijan and both Iraq, and also exercised the function of vizier. Rukn ad-Din Sa”in, who got this post after the death of Ali Shah (1324) and a brief vizierate of his sons, was a vizier only nominally. The position of the family was not shaken even by the attempt to defer from the central government of Timurtash (1322), who began minting coins and proclaiming khutba with his name. He declared himself mahdi (messiah) and urged the Mamluks to start a campaign with him to conquer Iran. Choban himself opposed his son, who was brought to the court, but only to obtain a pardon from the Ilkhan and restoration of his rights.

Abu Sa”id, who had come of age, grew weary of the tutelage of Choban and his sons. The Dimashq Hoxha was rampaging in Tabriz, abusing the inhabitants and openly laughing at the Ilkhan. When it was reported to him, “Abu Sa”id has nothing on his dinner table,” Dimishq-khoja replied that two chickens were enough for him every day. The last straw that broke the patience of the Ilkhan was the news that Dimashq-whoja was visiting the king”s harem. On August 27, 1327, Abu Sa”id put him to death in Soltanieh and ordered the destruction of the entire family.

Choban, who was in Khorasan, moved west. He halted with his army southeast of Ray, a day”s journey from the camp of the Ilkhan who had come to meet him. During the night the greater part of the emirs with thirty thousand troops went over to Abu Sa”id, and Choban had no choice but to flee. From Sawa he sent his wife Sati-beg back to her brother, and he found refuge at his friend Giyas ad-Din Kurt, the ruler of Herat. But the latter, having received Abu Sa”id”s order, was compelled to execute Choban and send the finger of his hand as proof of his death. Timurtash, learning of his father”s death, fled from Kayseri through Karaman to lands subject to the Mamluk Sultan, who offered him refuge. The fugitive was first received with great honor in Cairo, but then imprisoned and executed on August 22, 1328.

After the death of Dimashq-hoja, the post of vizier was entrusted to the son of the executed Rashid ad-Din, Giyas ad-Din, who further sought to pursue policies in the spirit of Ghazan Khan”s reforms. The post of ulus emir was given to Sheikh Hasan (the future founder of the Jalairid dynasty), apparently as compensation for the loss of his wife Baghdad-khatun, Choban”s daughter. Abu Sa”id, who had long sought Baghdad-khatun, forced her husband to divorce her. Three years later, Sheikh Hasan and his ex-wife were accused of a conspiracy intended to assassinate the Ilkhan. Sheikh Hasan was exiled to the fortress of Kamah on the Euphrates, but in 1333 he was released and made viceroy of Rum. The last major rebellion that happened after the fall of Choban was that of the viceroy of Khorasan, Narin-Tagai. He and his accomplice Tash-Temur were executed in September 1329.

The foreign policy during the reign of Abu Sa”id differed markedly from that of his predecessors. Relations with the Delhi Sultanate, strained during the reign of Oljeitu, under his son took on a friendly character and became more frequent. Abu Sa”id exchanged expensive gifts with Sultan Muhammad Tughlaq from at least 1328 until the end of his reign. However, Muhammad”s attempts to induce the Ilkhan to act together against the common enemy, the Chagataids, were unsuccessful, even though Abu Sa”id”s relations with them were steadily deteriorating. Chagataid assistance against the rebellious Yasawur (1320), was replaced by their incursions into Khorasan in 1322 and probably in 1328. In 1326 a Hulaguid army under the command of Hasan, son of Choban, expelled the Chagataid Tarmashirin from the district of Ghazna, but only temporarily, for Ibn Battuta seven years later found the city occupied by representatives of Tarmashirin.

The rapprochement with the Mamluk sultans of Egypt was of greater importance. After the invasion of the Mamluks into Cilician Armenia, vassal to the Hulaguids (1320), the Ilkhan, seeking to end the sixty-year war, signed a peace treaty with Sultan an-Nasir Muhammad in Aleppo (1323). Al-Nasir Muhammad, faithful to the treaty, not only did not accept Uzbek Khan”s offer of joint military action against Iran, but also notified Choban of his negotiations with him. Another positive result of the treaty later on was the execution by the Mamluks of Timurtash, an enemy of the Ilkhan, who had fled to Egypt. In signing the agreement, the rulers were undoubtedly also concerned with the economic benefits arising from peace on the Syrian frontier.

With the Golden Horde, another traditional enemy of the Hulaguids, relations remained as hostile as before. After the invasion of 1319 and the defeat by Abu Sa”id and Choban at Kura, Uzbek Khan continued to trouble the Ilkhan at every opportunity. If later Mamluk authors are to be believed, he was in correspondence with Yasawur and made an unsuccessful attempt to help Kurumishi and Irincin. In 1320 Abu Sa”id was forced to send troops to expel Ghazan, brother of Uzbek Khan, from Georgia. At the next invasion of the Golden Horde army in 1325, Choban made a return raid through the Derbent gate and devastated the enemy territory to the Terek. At the very end of Abu Sa”id”s reign, Uzbek Khan again undertook an offensive in the Caucasus, and the Ilkhan spent his last days in the campaign.

Ibn Battuta, who saw the young Abu Sa”id in Baghdad, calls him “the most beautiful of God”s creations. Ibn Taghriberdi describes him as “a brave and brilliant prince of stately appearance, magnanimous and witty. Ilkhan seems to have had a high reputation among his contemporaries, who described him as a cultured ruler who was equally proficient in both Mongolian and Arabic script. He attained mastery as a musician and was also the only Ilkhan to compose verses in Persian, one of which, written in the form of dubeiti, is cited by al-Ahari in the Tarikh-i sheikh Uwais. Abu Sa”id, according to the same author, enjoyed spending time in conversations with scholarly ulema. In contrast to Oljeit”s Shiite sympathies, he was an adherent of orthodox Islam, and the names of the four righteous caliphs again appeared on the coins.

The Ilkhan”s attitude toward Christianity is difficult to assess unequivocally. On the one hand, according to Safadi, he destroyed churches in Baghdad and actively encouraged conversions to Islam. On the other hand, the beginning of his reign is marked by the establishment of the Archbishopric of Soltanieh by Pope John XXII (1318), and Western traveler monks such as Jourdain de Severac cite no evidence that the Ilkhan hindered missionary activity. Religious tolerance in some cases may have been based on economic motives. For example, when a commercial treaty was concluded with Venice in 1320, Europeans were guaranteed the opportunity to build their chapels in Persian cities.

Abu Sa”id died on November 30, 1335 in Karabakh during a campaign against the Golden Horde Uzbek Khan, who invaded the Caucasus. It is reported that he was poisoned by Baghdad-khatun, whom he had neglected lately, being infatuated with her niece Delshad-khatun, the daughter of Dimishq-khoja. Baghdad-khatun, however, had better reasons to hate the Ilkhan: he had destroyed her father and brothers and separated her from her husband.

After the death of Abu Sa”id, who left no heir, the state began to disintegrate. The puppet Ilkhans were enthroned by their rivals, the Khasans, nicknamed the Big and the Little, the founders of the new dynasties of the Jalairids and the Chobanids.




  1. Абу Саид Бахадур-хан
  2. Abu Sa”id Bahadur Khan