NIZAM al-MULK, Abu 'Ali al-Hasan b. 'Ali b. Ishaq al-Tusi, the celebrated minister of
the Saldjuqid sultans Alp Arslan [q.v.] and Malikshah [q.v.]. According to most authorities, he
was born on Friday 21 Dhu 'l-qa'da 408/10 April 1018, though the 6th/12th century
Ta'ri¦h-i Bayhaq of Ibn Funduq al-Bayhaqi [q.v.], which alone supplies us with detailed
information about his family, places his birth in 410/1019-20. His birth-place was Radkan,
a village in the neighbourhood of Tus, of which his father was revenue agent on behalf of
the óhaznawid government. Little is recorded of his early life. The Wasaya-yi Khwadja-yi Nizam
al-Mulk, however (for a discussion of the credibility of which see JRAS [1931], The
Sar-gudhasht-i Saiyidna, etc.), contains several anecdotes of his childhood, and is also responsible
for the statement that he became a pupil in Nishapur of a well-known Shafi'i doctor Hibat
Allah al-Muwaffaq. On the defeat of Mas'ud of óhazna at Dandanqan [q.v. in Suppl.] in
431/1040, when most of Khurasan fell into the hands of the Saldjuqs, Nizam al-Mulk's father
'Ali fled from Tus to Khusrawdjird in his native Bayhaq, and thence made his way to óhazna.
Nizam al-Mulk accompanied him, and whilst in óhazna appears to have obtained a post in a
government office. Within three or four years, however, he left the óhaznawid for the Saldjuq
service, first attaching himself to 1aghrË-Beg's [q.v.] commandant in Bal¦h (which had fallen
to a Saldjuqid force in 432/1040-1), and later, probably about 445/1053-4, moving to
1aghrË's own headquarters at Marw. It seems to have been now, or soon after, that he first
entered the service of Alp Arslan (then acting as his father's lieutenant in eastern Khurasan)
under his wazir, Abu 'Ali Ahmad b. Shadhan. And he so far won Alp Arslan's regard as on Ibn
Shadhan's death to be appointed wazir in his stead (then, probably, receiving his best-known
laqab). During the period between the death of 1aghrË-Beg in 451/1059 and that of
TughrËl-Beg in 455/1063, therefore, Nizam al-Mulk had the administration of all Khurasan in
his hands.

The fame which he thereby acquired, and the fact that by now Alp Arslan was firmly
attached to him, played a considerable part in prompting TughrËl-Beg's wazir al-Kunduri [q.v.],
first, before his master's death, to scheme for the throne to pass to 1aghrË's youngest son
Sulayman, and then, after it,qto do his utmost to prevent Alp Arslan's accession. For he
calculated that Alp Arslan, on becoming sultan, would retain Nizam al-Mulk rather than
himself in office. In the event, al-Kunduri, who soon found himself too weak to oppose Alp
Arslan, and thereupon sought to retrieve his position by acknowledging his claim, was
retained in his post on the new sultan's first entry into Rayy. But a month later Alp Arslan
suddenly dismissed him and handed over affairs to Nizam al-Mulk. Al-Kunduri was shortly
afterwards banished to Marw al-Rudh, where ten months later he was beheaded. His
execution was undoubtedly due to Nizam al-Mulk, whose fears he had aroused by appealing
for help to Alp Arslan's wife.

During Alp Arslan's reign, Nizam al-Mulk accompanied him on all his campaigns and
journeys, which were almost uninterrupted. He was not present, however, at the famous
battle of Malazgird [q.v.], having been sent ahead with the heavy baggage to Persia. On the
other hand, he sometimes undertook military operations on his own, as in the case of the
reduction of Ista¦hr citadel in 459/1067. Whose, his or Alp Arslan's, was the directing mind
in matters of policy, it is hard to determine. Its main points, however, appear to have been
the following: first, the employment of the large numbers of Türkmens that had immigrated
into Persia as a result of the Saldjuq successes, in raids outside the Dar al-Islam and into
Fatimid territory: hence the apparently strange circumstance that Alp Arslan's first enterprise
after his accession, despite the precarious condition of the empire he had inherited, was a
campaign in Georgia and Armenia [see al-kurdj]; secondly, a demonstration that the
sultan's force was both irresistible and mobile, coupled with clemency and generally with
reinstatement for all rebels who submitted; thirdly, the maintenance of local rulers, Shi'i as
well as Sunni, in their positions as vassals of the sultan, together with the employment of
members of the Saldjuq family as provincial governors; fourthly, the obviation of a dispute
over the succession by the appointment and public acknowledgement of Malikshah [q.v.],
though he was not the sultan's eldest son, as his heir; and lastly the establishment of good
relations with the 'Abbasid caliph al-qa'im [q.v.], as the sultan's nominal overlord.

Nizam al-Mulk did not really come into his own until after the assassination of Alp Arslan in
465/1072. But thenceforward, for the next twenty years, he was the real ruler of the Saldjuq
empire. He succeeded from the outset in completely dominating the then eighteen-year-old
Malikshah, being assisted in this purpose by the defeat of qawurd's [q.v.] attempt to secure the
throne for himself (for which service Nizam al-Mulk received the title atabeg [q.v.], thus
bestowed for the first time). Indeed, in one aspect the history of the reign resolves itself into
repeated attempts by the young sultan to assert himself, always in vain.

Malikshah undertook fewer campaigns and tours than his father, the prestige of the Saldjuq
arms now being such that few would risk rebellion, and warlike operations being left largely
to the sultan's lieutenants, as they had not been under Alp Arslan. Nevertheless, from Isfahan,
which had by now become the sultan's normal place of residence, Malikshah visited the
greater part of his empire accompanied by Nizam al-Mulk.

Policy continued on the same lines under Malikshah as under his father. Nizam al-Mulk,
however, was notably less tender than Alp Arslan had been to insubordinate members of the
Saldjuq family,qinsisting at the outset on the execution of qawurd, and, later, on the blinding
and imprisonment of Malikshah's brother Tekesh.

He also reversed during the earlier part of Malikshah's reign the conciliatory policy originally
pursued under Alp Arslan towards the caliph. He had been rewarded for the friendly
attitude he first evinced-which formed a welcome contrast to that of al-Kunduri-by the
receipt from al-qa'im of two new laqabs, viz. qiwam al-Din and Radi Amir al-Mu'minin (the latter
believed to be the earliest of this type in the case of a wazir); and up to 460/1068, his
relations with the caliph's wazir Fa¦hr al-Dawla Ibn "ahir [see djahir, banu] became more
and more cordial; so much so, indeed, that al-qa'im in that year dismissed Ibn "ahir, chiefly
on account of his too-subservient attitude to the Saldjuq court. To secure this attitude in the
caliph's wazir was, however, the very aim of Nizam al-Mulk; and on Fa¦hr al-Dawla's
dismissal he sought to impose a nominee of his own in a certain al-Rudhrawari, and
subsequently in the latter's son Abu Shudja'. Al-qa'im, to avoid this, reappointed Fa¦hr
al-Dawla, though on condition that his relations with the Saldjuqids should in future be
more correct. In fact, they soon grew strained, till Nizam al-Mulk came to attribute any
unwelcome event in Baghdad to Fa¦hr al-Dawla's influence. For many years, matters were
prevented from coming to a head by the tact of Fa¦hr al-Dawla's son, 'Amid al-Dawla [see
djahir, banu], who won Nizam al-Mulk's favour so far as to marry in turn two of his
daughters, Nafsa and Zubayda; but in 471/1078 Nizam al-Mulk demanded Fa¦hr al-Dawla's
dismissal, which the caliph al-Muqtadi [q.v.] (who had succeeded in 467/1075), was obliged
to grant. Nizam al-Mulk now hoped to obtain the office for his own son Mu'ayyid al-Mulk;
but to this al-Muqtadi would not agree. Henceforward, accordingly, his dislike was deflected
to al-Muqtadi himself, and to Abu Shudja', his former protege, whom the caliph now created
deputy wazir in an effort to conciliate him, leaving the vizierate itself unoccupied till the next
year, when he appointed 'Amid al-Dawla. But in 474/1082 Nizam al-Mulk in turn
demanded the dismissal and banishment of Abu Shudja', and at the same time composed his
quarrel with Fa¦hr al-Dawla, when the latter was sent on a mission to Isfahan, concerting
with him a plan by which Fa¦hr al-Dawla should watch his interests at Baghdad. As a result,
al-Muqtadi, who gave in with a bad grace, lost all confidence in the Banu "ahir, and two
years later replaced 'Amid al-Dawla with the offensive Abu Shudja'; whereupon Fa¦hr
al-Dawla and 'Amid al-Dawla fled to the Saldjuqid headquarters. Nizam al-Mulk, on this,
vowed vengeance on al-Muqtadi, and at first seems even to have contemplated the abolition
of the caliphate (see Sibt Ibn al-"awzi, Mir'at al-zaman), as a prelude to which he
commissioned Fa¦hr al-Dawla to conquer Diyar Bakr from the Marwanids [q.v.], the sole
remaining Sunni tributaries of any consequence. The Marwanids were duly ousted by
478/1085, whilst al-Muqtadi, on his side, showed himself consistently hostile to Nizam
al-Mulk. But the latter's feelings towards the caliph were in the following year completely
transformed as a consequence of his first visit to Baghdad (for the wedding of al-Muqtadi to
Malikshah's daughter). The caliph received him very graciously; and thenceforward he
became a champion of the caliphate in face of the enmity which developed between
al-Muqtadi and Malikshah as a result of the marriage.

The celebrity of Nizam al-Mulk is really due to the fact that he was in all but name a
monarch, and ruledqhis empire with striking success. It was not his aim to innovate. On the
contrary, it was to model the new state as closely as possible on that of the óhaznawids, in
which he had been born and brought up. His position was similar to that of his forerunners,
the Barmakids [see baramika], and the notable Buyid wazir, the Sahib Isma'il b. 'Abbad [q.v.].
All three may be said to have represented the old Persian civilisation (progressively
Islamicised, of course) in the face of a rise to empire of barbarian conquerors, Arab, Daylami
and now Türkmen. The monarchs were in each case equalled, if not surpassed, by their
wazirs, and most of all in the case of Nizam al-Mulk. For with him the invaders aspired to an
emperor's position whilst still quite unacclimatised to their new habitat, so that his
superiority in culture was the more marked (cf. Barthold, Turkestan, 308). But in revenge, the
Saldjuqs' lack of acclimatisation stood in the way of a complete realisation by Nizam al-Mulk
of the now traditional Perso-Muslim state. Hence the lamentations that recur in the

The Siyasat-nama or Siyar al-muluk, written by Nizam al-Mulk in 484/1091 with the addition of
eleven chapters in the following year, is in a sense a survey of what he had failed to
accomplish. It scarcely touches upon the organisation of the diwan, for instance, partly, it is
true, because the book was intended as a monarch's primer, but also because Nizam
al-Mulk, having absolute control of the diwan, as opposed to the dargah (cf. again Barthold,
227), had succeeded with the assistance of his two principal coadjutors, the mustawfi Sharaf
al-Mulk and the munshi Kamal al-Dawla, in exactly modelling this, his special department, on
traditional lines. Of the dargah, on the other hand, Nizam al-Mulk complains that the sultans
failed to maintain a sufficient majesty. They were neither magnificent (though he approves
their daily free provision of food), formal, nor awe-inspiring enough. At their court,
accordingly, the formerly important offices of hadjib, wakil and amir-i haras had declined in
prestige. Nor, as had his model potentates, would they maintain a sound intelligence or barid
[q.v.] service, whereby corruption might be revealed and rebellion forestalled. The
Siyasat-nama consists in all of fifty chapters of advice illustrated by historical anecdotes. The
last eleven chapters, added shortly before the wazir's assassination, deal with dangers that
threatened the empire at the time of writing, in particular from the Isma'ilis (on the work, see
Bibl., 3).

Nizam al-Mulk's situation resembled that of the Buyid administrators in another respect. He
wwas faced, as they had been, with the problem of supporting a largely tribal army, and
solved it likewise by a partial abandonment of the traditional tax-farming system of revenue
collection for that of the iqta' or fief [q.v.], whereby military commanders supported
themselves and their troops on the yield of lands allotted to them. Since in the decay of the
'Abbasid power provincial amirs had tended to assume the originally distinct and profitable
office of 'amil, the way for this development had been paved. The Buyids had later attempted
to restore the older system; but the establishment of numerous local minor dynasties had
favoured the new. Nizam al-Mulk now systematised it in the larger field open to him. In the
Siyasat-nama he insists, however, on the necessity of limiting the rights of fief-holders to the
collection of fixed dues, and of setting a short time-limit to their tenures (see on this subject,
Becker, Steuerpacht und Lehnswesen, in Isl., v [1914], 81-92, and iqta').

In the absence of the intelligence service he desired,qNizam al-Mulk contrived to intimidate
potential rebels and suppress local tyranny by a judicious display of the might and mobility
of the Saldjuqid arms. He also insisted on the periodical appearance at court of local dynasts
such as the Mazyadids [q.v.] and 'Uqaylids [q.v.], and proclaimed the sultan's accessibility to
appeals for the redress of wrongs by means of notices circulated throughout the empire and
exposed in public places (see al-Mafarru¦hi, Mahasin-i Isfahan). He also gained the powerful
support of the 'ulama', especially those of the Shafi'i school, of which he was an ardent
champion, by the institution of innumerable pious foundations, in particular of madrasas,
the most celebrated being the Nizamiyya of Baghdad (opened 459/1067), the earliest west of
Khurasan (see below), by the general abolition of mukus (taxes unsanctioned by the shari'a) in
479/1086-7; and by undertaking extensive public works, particularly in connection with
the hadjdj. After the Hidjaz had returned from Fatimid to 'Abbasid allegiance in 468/1076, he
exerted himself to make the 'Iraq road safe from brigandage for pilgrims, as well as to
diminish their expenses; and from the next year until that of his death, the journey was
accomplished without mishap. It was not until the second half of Malikshah's reign that the
full effects of Nizam al-Mulk's achievement made themselves felt. By 476/1083-4, however,
such were the unwonted security of the roads and the low cost of living that reference is
made to them in the annals.

Nizam al-Mulk was naturally much sought after as a patron. The poet Mu'izzi [q.v.] accuses
him of having 'no great opinion of poetry because he had no skill in it', and of paying 'no
attention to anyone but religious leaders and mystics' (see Nizami 'Arudi Samarqandi, 1ahar
maqala, tr. Browne, 46). But though his charity, which was profuse (see for example, al-Subki,
Tabaqat al-Shafi'iyya, iii, 41), went in large measure to men of religion-among them the most
notable objects of his patronage being Abu Ishaq al-Shirazi [q.v.] and Abu Hamid al-óhazali
[q.v.]-, he was clearly a lavish patron also of poets, as is attested by the Dumyat al-qasr of
al-Ba¦harzi [q.v.], the greater part of which is devoted to his panegyrists. In another sphere,
the inauguration of the "alali calendar [q.v.] in 466/1074 was probably due to his
encouragement, since at this time his ascendancy over Malikshah was at its most complete.

Nizam al-Mulk's name is especially associated with the founding of a series of colleges whose
ethos and teachings were closely connected with the Ash'ari kalam and the Shafi'i legal school,
of which the vizier himself was an adherent. His reasons for the setting-up of a chain of
madrasas in the main cities of 'Iraq, al-"azira and Persia (and especially in his home province
of Khurasan) [see madrasa. I. 4] are not entirely clear. But in the context of the age, with its
reaction against Mu'tazilism in philosophy and dialectics and against political Shi'ism as
manifested in the preceding Buyid and north Syrian amirates and the still-powerful Fatimid
caliphate in Egypt and southern Syria, it seems possible that he aimed at training a body of
reliable, Sunni-oriented secretaries and officials who would run the Great Saldjuq empire
when Nizam al-Mulk had moulded it along the right lines and thus further the progress of
the Sunni political and intellectual revival. In his patronage of such institutions as these
colleges, he was by no means an innovator, for the Sunni madrasa-building movement had
been under way since the later part of the 4th/10th century, and other leading figures in the
Saldjuq state were equally active in founding andqendowing madrasas and associated
institutions like hostels for students, such as the Hanafi official of Alp Arslan's, the mustawfi
Abu Sa'd, who built a madrasa attached to the shrine of Abu Hanifa in Baghdad, and Nizam
al-Mulk's enemy at the court of Malikshah, the mustawfi Tadj al-Mulk Abu 'l-óhana'im (d.
485/1093), founder of the Tadjiyya college there (see G. Makdisi, Muslim institutions of learning
in eleventh-century Baghdad, in BSOAS, xxiv [1961], 1-56; C.E. Bosworth, in Camb. hist. of Iran, v,
70-4). Nizam al-Mulk may have intended to give an impetus to the spread of his own Ash'ari
and Shafi'i views (although, in fact, the Baghdad Nizamiyya, where the great Abu Hamid
al-óhazali had taught, declined in the 6th/12th century, when the Hanbali institutions of
learning there showed greater vitality), but it seems reasonable to impute to him a wider
vision of a Sunni political, cultural and intellectual revival in the central and eastern lands of
Islam, in which his own colleges would play a contributory role.

For the first seven years of Malikshah's reign, Nizam al-Mulk's authority went altogether
unchallenged. In 472/1079-80, however, two Turkish officers of the court instigated
Malikshah into killing a protege of the wazir; and in 473/1080-1, again, the sultan insisted on
disbanding a contingent of Armenian mercenaries against Nizam al-Mulk's advice. Malikshah
now began to hope, indeed, for the overthrow of his mentor, showing extraordinary favour
to officials such as Ibn Bahmanyar and, later, Sayyid al-Ru'asa' Ibn Kamal al-Mulk, who were
bold enough to criticise him. Ibn Bahmanyar went so far as to attempt the wazir's
assassination (also in 473), whereas Sayyid al-Ru'asa' contented himself with words. But in
each case, Nizam al-Mulk was warned; and the culprits were blinded. In the case of Ibn
Bahmanyar, in whose guilt a court jester named "a'farak was also implicated, Malikshah
retaliated by contriving the murder of Nizam al-Mulk's eldest son "amal al-Mulk, who had
taken "a'farak's execution into his own hands (475/1082). After the fall of Sayyid al-Ru'asa'
in 476/1083-4, however, the sultan left plotting till, some years later, a new favourite, Tadj
al-Mulk, caught his fancy.

All went well with Nizam al-Mulk till 483/1090-1. In that year, however, occurred the first
serious challenge to the Saldjuqid power, when Basra was sacked by a force of qarmatians [see
qarmati]; and almost simultaneously their co-sectary the Assassin leader al-Hasan b.
al-Sabbah [q.v.] obtained possession of the fortress of Alamut [q.v.], from which repeated
attacks failed to dislodge him. Meanwhile, moreover, an awkward problem had arisen over
the succession to the sultanate, on account of the death in turn of Malikshah's two eldest
sons, Dawud (474/1082) and Ahmad (481/1088). These sons had both been children of the
qara¦hanid princess Terken Khatun (see Rashid al-Din, "ami' al-tawari¦h), who had borne the
sultan a third son, Mahmud, in 480/1087. She was eager for Mahmud to be formally
declared heir. Nizam al-Mulk, however, was in favour of Barkiyaruq [q.v.], Malikshah's eldest
surviving son by a Saldjuq princess. Hence Terken Khatun became his bitter enemy, and
joined with Tadj al-Mulk, who was in her service, in instigating Malikshah against the wazir.

Tadj al-Mulk accused Nizam al-Mulk to the sultan, who by this time was in any case
incensed with the wazir's championship of al-Muqtadi, of extravagant expenditure on the
army and of nepotism; and Malikshah's wrath was finally inflamed beyond bearing by an
unguarded reply made by Nizam al-Mulkqto a formal accusation of these practices. But
even so, he did not dare to dismiss him. (The earliest historian to assert that he was
dismissed is Rashid al-Din Fadl Allah, who appears to have misunderstood the purport of
some verses by al-Nahhas quoted in the Rahat al-sudur of Rawandi, and really composed after
the wazir's death.)

Nizam al-Mulk was assassinated on 10 Ramadan 485/14 October 1092 near Sihna, between
Kanguwar and Bisutun, as the court was on its way from Isfahan to Baghdad. His murderer,
who was disguised as a Sufi, was immediately killed, but is generally thought to have been
an emissary of al-Hasan b. al-Sabbah. Contemporaries, however, seem to have put the
murder down to Malikshah, who died suddenly less than a month later, and to Tadj al-Mulk,
whom Nizam al-Mulk's retainers duly tracked down and killed within a year. Rashid al-Din
combines the two theories, stating that the wazir's enemies at court concerted it with the
Assassins. The truth is therefore uncertain; but as Rashid al-Din is one of the earliest
historians to whom the Assassin records were available, his account would seem to deserve

The extraordinary influence of Nizam al-Mulk is attested by the part played in affairs after
his death by his relatives, despite the fact that only two appeared to have displayed much
ability. For the next sixty years, except for a gap between 517/1123 and 528/1134,
members of his family held office under princes of the Saldjuqid house.

Of Nizam al-Mulk's family, 4iya' al-Mulk is remarkable as being his son by a Georgian
princess, either the daughter or the niece of Bagrat I, formerly married, or at least betrothed,
to Alp Arslan, after the campaign of 456/1064.

See further, on the sons and descendants of Nizam al-Mulk in the 6th/12th century,
(H. Bowen
[C.E. Bosworth])


1. For the Arabic and Persian
primary sources, see the Bibl. of the EI1 article of H. Bowen.
Studies: E.G. Browne, LHP, ii, 167, 174-91, 212-17

M.T. Houtsma, The death of Nizam al-Mulk and its consequences, in Jnal. of Indian History, iii
(1924), 147-60

Barthold, Turkestan down to the Mongol invasion, London 1928, 25-6, 306-10

H. Bowen, The sar-gudhasht-i sayyidna, the 'Tale of the Three Schoolfellows' and the wasaya of
the Nizam al-Mulk, in JRAS (1931), 771-82

Asad Talas, La Madrasa Nizamiyya et son histoire, Paris 1939

K.E. Schabinger-Schowingen, Zur Geschichte des Saldschuqen-Reichskanzlers Nisamu 'l-mulk, in
Historische Jahrbücher, lxii-lxix (1942-9), 250-83

idem, Nisamulmulk und das Abbasidische Chalifat, in ibid., lxxi (1952), 91-136

K. Rippe, Über den Sturz Nizam-ul-Mulks, in Fuad KKprülü armaÅanÌ, Istanbul 1953, 423-35

`. KafesoÅlu, Sultan Melikâah devrinde Büyük Sel±uklu imparatorluÅu, Istanbul 1953

'Abbas Iqbal, Wizarat dar 'ahd-i salatin-i buzurg-i Saldjuki, Tehran 1338/1959, 46-63

C.E. Bosworth, in Camb. hist. of Iran, v, Cambridge 1968, 66 ff., 99-102

A.K.S. Lambton, in ibid., 211-17

Carla L. Klausner, The Seljuk vezirate, a study of civil administration 1055-1194, Cambridge,
Mass. 1973, index

G. Makdisi, Les rapports entre Calife et Sultan a l'epoque Saljuqide, in IJMES, vi (1975), 228-36

idem, The rise of colleges. Institutions of learning in Islam and the West, Edinburgh 1981, 23-4, 41,
54, 301-4, 306-7, 311

S.A.A. Rizvi, Nizam al-Mulk Tusi, his contribution to statecraft, political theory and the art of
government, Lahore 1978

Lambton, The dilemma of government in Islamic Persia: the Siyasat-nama of Nizam al-Mulk,
inqIran, JBIPS, xxii (1984), 55-66

eadem, Concepts of authority in Persia: eleventh to nineteenth centuries A.D., in ibid., xxvi (1988), 98

eadem, Continuity and change in medieval Persia, London 1988, 40-4 and index

KafesoÅlu, `A, art. Nizam-ül-Mülk.
On the Siyasat-nama: see the studies given in 2. above, especially the works of Lambton.
Numerous translations exist: (French) C. Schefer, Paris 1893, accompanying critical
edition of text, Paris 1891

(Russian) B.N. Za¦hoder, Moscow-Leningrad 1949

(Turkish) M. ”erif 0avdaroÅlu, Istanbul 1954 (see on this, KafesoÅlu, Büyük Sel±uklu veziri
Nizamü 'l-Mülk'ün eseri Siyasetname ve türk±e tercümesi, in Türkiyat MecmuasÌ, xii, 231-56)

(German) Schabinger-Schowingen, Freiburg-Munich 1960

(English) H. Darke, London 1960, second, revised version London 1978, accompanying
critical edition of text, Tehran 1340/1962.

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