Suleiman the Magnificent, a short biography

Born on November 6, 1494, in the Black Sea coastal town of Trabzon (eastern Turkey), Suleiman is regarded as one of the most important rulers of Islam and of the world during his time. Suleiman led his armies on 13 campaigns, spending perhaps a quarter of his reign on campaigns.

After his accession to the throne in 1520, he made a major shift in Ottoman policy. Instead of fighting in the east against the Safavids of Iran, he reoriented Ottoman strategy against the empire’s western enemies whom he considered the weaker warrior. The reasons for this shift were mainly sociopolitical, economic, and military.

In 1521, he conquered Belgrade. Next year in 1522, he annexed Rhodes to his empire, thereby secured his control over the Eastern Mediterranean. In 1526, he achieved his greatest victory at the Battle of Mohács (August 29) in southern Hungary, where he crushed the Hungarians and killed their king, Louis II.

In 1529, he failed to capture Vienna after around a 2-week-long siege. In 1534, he captured Baghdad from the Safavids. In 1541, he conquered Buda after defeating Habsburgs.

On the other hand, his admiral Hayreddin Barbarossa conquered Tunis in 1534. In 1538, the governor of Egypt Süleyman Pasha captured parts of Yemen. After Barbarossa’s death, he was replaced by the naval commander Turgut Reis who conquered Tripoli in 1551. The campaign in 1554 brought Nakhichevan (in present-day Azerbaijan) and Yerevan (capital of present-day Armenia) under Ottoman rule. However, his forces faced a brutal defeat during the siege of Malta in 1565.

On September 06, 1566, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent died during the siege of Szigetvár after a long deterioration in his health. Suleiman was 72-year-old when he led his last campaign to fight the Habsburgs. After two days of his death, the fort of Szigetvár was conquered by the Ottomans. Grand Vizier Mehmed Pasha his death until Sultan Selim II was enthroned in Istanbul.

During his forty-six-year reign, Süleyman had added to the Empire territory in eastern Anatolia, Iraq, the Gulf and the Red Sea, the Aegean, Moldavia, and Hungary. Some of these territories cost more in defence than they provided in revenue, but all served to emphasise Süleyman’s status as the ruler of one of the world’s greatest Empires. The Ottoman territory was to expand further during the reigns of his two successors, but the Empire was never again to play the international role that it had done at the height of Süleyman’s power, writes Colin Imber.

Ottoman Empire at the time of the death of Suleiman the Magnificent, 1566

Sultan Suleiman sponsored an army of artists, religious thinkers, and philosophers that outshone the most educated courts of Europe. He commissioned the great building projects in Istanbul and other provinces of his empire. The great architect Mimar Sinan served during his reign. The Süleymaniye and Selimiye mosque complexes in Istanbul and Edirne are the most popular buildings built by the sultan’s chief architect Sinan.

He restored many religious buildings like the tomb of Jurist Abu Hanifa, mosques in Jerusalem, Mecca, and Medina. He also ordered to build the tomb of famous Sufi master Sheikh Abdul Qadri Jilani after his conquest of Baghdad.

He has been known to Europeans as ‘the Magnificent’ for the grandeur of his court. While his subjects and the Muslims have called him ‘Kanuni’ (the Lawgiver) because it was under his rule that Sultanic laws (kanun) were compiled, systematized, and harmonized with Islamic law (sharia).

During his rule of 46 years, the empire enjoyed its zenith under his leadership. During his last days, he devoted most of his attention to just governing, law-making, and pious life. He died during the siege of Szigetvár but within two days of his death, the fort of Szigetvár surrendered to the Ottomans. He was succeeded by his son Selim II.

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