Tobunken-Seminar "Early Islamic Kings: When, Where and Why Did Kings First Appear in the Early Islamic World?"

Speaker: Professor Luke Treadwell (Samir Shamma Associate Professor of Islamic Numismatics, University of Oxford (

Title: Early Islamic Kings: When, Where and Why Did Kings First Appear in the Early Islamic World?

Date: March 21, 2015 at 17:00-18:30

Venue: Room 304, 3rd floor, Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (Tobunken), the University of Tokyo

Some years after coming to power, the Samanid ruler Nuh b. Nasr b. Isma’il (331-343 AH), broke off relations with the Abbasid caliph in Baghdad and took the title al-malik al-mu’ayyad min al-sama (the Divinely Aided King), the earliest royal title to be incorporated into the official titulature of a Muslim monarch. Why did kingship come so late and leave such a light imprint on the Islamic world? This presentation will examine how strongly negative attitudes towards kings were formed in the first two centuries of Islam; and yet how, in spite of the widespread aversion to ‘royal tyrants’ prevalent in the 3rd and 4th centuries, the Abbasid caliph began to grant formal recognition of kingly status to rulers of peripheral states. The enquiry will be based on a study of the titulature found on coins and other formal documents (including the titles malik and sultan), regalia (crowns and swords) and the literary evidence of early Mirrors for Princes texts and related books, which show a persistent undercurrent of enthusiasm for Persian notions of kingship that survived the Islamic conquests. Malik is a key term in this enquiry: although translated as ‘king’ in English, it may be that the limited scope of powers normally attributed to mukluk in the Islamic world was one factor that restricted its use.

The lecture will be in English. Open to public and no registration required.

Contact person: Kazuo Morimoto, morikazu[at]