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Sulayman the Magnificent



Sultan Sulayman the Magnificent, as he is known in the West, is known by the more noteworthy title of al-Kanuni, the Lawgiver, to his Muslim nation. He was responsible for bringing the Ottoman Empire (al-Dawlat al-‘Uthmaniyyah) to its zenith of territorial possessions as well as cultural, religious and political prestige. His rule lasted from 1520 to 1566 and he was a contemporary of the Hapsburg Empire's Charles V, England's King Henry VIII and France's King Francis I.

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Sultan Sulayman began his reign by strengthening Ottoman power in Europe. He captured the city of Belgrade from the Hungarians in 1521, ridding the Balkans of any Christian threat south of the Danube River. The next year he led his army and navy to eliminate the Knights of St. John, who were engaged in terrorizing Muslims from their pirate's nest on the Aegean island of Rhodes. In 1526, the mighty Sultan mobilized his forces for a push into Hungary. The Hungarian King Louis II tired in vain to stop the armies of Islam but was completely crushed, along with his military, at the Battle of Mohács in southern Hungary. Sulayman's forces pushed on after their victory to capture the cities of Buda and Pest. Using these two Hungarian cities as his base, the Sultan launched an attack on the city of Vienna in 1529. Only the arrival of winter saved the city from falling to the Ottomans. Over the next decades Sulayman was engaged in campaigns against the Safavid Persians in the East as well as occasional outbreaks of violence with the Hapsburgs in Central Europe.

Sulayman the Lawgiver used the periods of peace to see to the stability of his empire. He was key in developing the secular laws that held together the multi-ethnic and multi-religious population of the Ottoman Empire. He was surrounded by the most able of advisers, most notably Ibrahim Pasha (who was of Greek origin) and Mehmed Pasha Sokolović (who was of Serb descent). Like most of the other Sultans of the empire, Sulayman was a deeply religious man who held fast to his Islamic beliefs. Among the innumerable civic works he constructed, he was responsible for the erection of several great mosques that still stand today.

The Sultan prepared his last campaign in an effort to protect Muslim lands in the Balkans from the marauding and undisciplined soldiers of Christian Europe. In 1566 he took to the head of Ottoman forces in Hungary and laid siege to a band of Hungarian bandits who were held up in the fortress of Szigetvar. While the fortress was successfully stormed by the undaunted military skill of the Janissaries, the Sultan succumbed to illness and died. He left this world having more than doubled the size of the empire that his father left to him some forty years earlier. And he secured the growth of Islam among the people of the Balkans by ensuring another century and a half of peace and prosperity in that region.


Doraş, Sabahattin. Osmanli Zaferleri (İstanbul,Osmanli Yayınevi, 1988)

Handžić, Mehmed. Islamizacija Bosne i Hercegovine i porijeklo bosansko-hercegovačkih muslimana (Sarajevo, Knjižeria Kayan, 1990)

Suleyman I Microsoft ® Encarta ® Online Encyclopedia

Edited, Researched and Written by: 
Aqil Baig, Sead Puskar, Taariq Goder
January 17, 2001

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