The Rise of the Seljuks – The Saviours of Sunni Islam

The Seljuk Dynasty was a Turkic Sunni Dynasty that came to the rescue of the Abbasid Caliph of Baghdad. They pushed back against Fatimid Ismaili dominance, opened Anatolia, and set up the famed Nizamia Colleges across the Muslim World.

The Seljuk period witnessed some of the greatest giants known in Islamic History such as Toghril Beg, Alp Arsalan, Malik Shah, Nizam al-Mulk, Imam Ghazali, Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani, Mevlana Rumi and others. It was also a period that witnessed the advance of the Mongols, the Christian Crusaders, and the menace of the Hashashiyun assassins.

Learn about the heydays of Sultan Malik Shah and Sultan Alaudin Keyqubad to the internal chaos and eventual fall of the dynasty. It is also upon the ruins of the Seljuks that the Ottomans eventually rise.

In this course, you will learn about:

1. One of the greatest and most influential Muslim dynasties- The Seljuk Dynasty.

2. Important events between 1000-1300 that shaped the world.

3. The conflict between the Sunni Seljuks and Ismaili Shia Fatimids.

5. The advance of the Crusaders and their eventual take of Jerusalem.

4. The great contributions of the Seljuk Empire.

Session Outline

Session 1 – Overview

We will begin with a broad overview by discussing the following:

–          The context.

–          The great Seljuks and Seljuks of Rum.

–          Who were the three Major Personalities: Toghril Beg, his nephew Alp Arsalan and Arsalan’s son Malik Shah?

–          The three Major Events that occurred during the rule of the Seljuks:

  • The Battle of Dandanaqan against the Ghaznavid Empire.
  • The entry into Baghdad and coming to the rescue of the Abbasid Caliphate.
  • Battle of Manzikert against the Byzantine Empire.

–          Isfahan, the capital of the Seljuk Empire.

–          Some prominent scholars of this period.

–          Three Major Achievements of the Seljuks.

Session 2 – Politics

In Session 2, we will get deep into matters of politics. 

–          An overview of the years 1000-1250.

–          Toghril Beg & his setting up of the Seljuk dynasty.

–          Muhammad Alp Arsalan and his victory in the battle of Manzikert in 1071 against the Byzantine Empire in which the Byzantine Emperor was taken, prisoner.

–          The heydays of Sultan Malik Shah.

–          Chaos post-Sultan Malik Shah.

–          The internal fighting in the family led to the eventual decline caused by disunity and chaos among them.

–          Barkiyaruk.

–          Terken Hatun & her son.

–          Muhammad Tapar.

–          Ahmad Sanjar.

–          The house of the Zenkids.

Session 3 – The Ismailis Batinis & Hasan al-Sabbah

This session is all about the Ismailis, Fatimids, Shia and Dawoodi Bohras.

–          Terms & definitions and different groupings.

–          Dawoodi Bohra and their fancy dressing.

–          49th Ismaili Imam Karim al-Husseini.

–          The 4 Aga Khans.

–          The Fatimids Dynasty.

–          The “Mad Caliph”.

–          Ismaili and Twelve Shia Branches and divisions.

–          The Beliefs of the Ismailis.

–          The Ginans- devotional hymns and poems which they recite.

–          How the Al-Azhar University in the city of Cairo was set up by the Ismaili Fatimids.

–          Assassins Creed!

–          How the term ‘assassin’ comes from the Hashashiyun- the Nizari Ismailis.

–          The Alamut Castle (featured in the Assassins game!).

–          The Dawoodi Bohras and the divisions within them.

Session 4 – Movers and Shakers

–          Nizam al-Mulk- the famous vizier and the one who set the Nizamia Colleges.

–          Nizami Colleges and the Sunni Project.

–          Omar Khayyam- the scholar.

–          Relationship between the Abbasid Caliphs and the Seljuk rulers and sultans during this period.

–          Recap and Q&A.

Session 5 – Imam Ghazali

This session is all about one of the greatest scholars of this period- Imam Ghazali

–          Introduction.

–          Context.

–          Chronological overview of his life.

–          His different works.

–          Criticism that he had against other ulema and the criticism that they levelled against him.

–          Some lessons that we can extract from his life.

Session 6 – Abdul Qadir Jilani (rahimahullah)

This session is about another great scholar of this period who is influential to this day.

Abdul Qadir Jilani or Al-Baz-al-Ashab (The Grey Falcon) – An epithet with which he is widely known.

–          Introduction to his life.

–          Background & context.

–          Some of his advice.

–          The issues and tension between him and the famous scholar Ibn al-Jawzi.

Session 7 – The Crusades

–          Motivations behind the Crusades.

–          Timeline of the Crusades.

–          The fall of Jerusalem.

Session 8 – The Seljuks of Rum

This session is about the Seljuks based in Anatolia, which is modern-day Turkey

–          The capital of the Seljuks of Rum- Konya.

–          10 Quick Facts.

–          Details.

Session 9 – Mawlana Jalaludin Rumi

This session is about the scholar of Konya- Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi

–          8 Quick Facts about his life.

–          His life & times.


This is where we will go over everything we have learned and:

–          Extract lessons from what we learned.

–          Go through the Resources used & discuss further reading material for those who want to learn more and dig deeper.

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