Al-Ashraf Khalil

Al-Malik al-Ashraf
Sultan of Egypt and Syria
Reign 12 November 1290 – 14 December 1293
Predecessor Al-Mansur Qalawun
Successor An-Nasir Muhammad
Born c. 1260s
Cairo, Mamluk Sultanate
Died 14 December 1293 (age early 30's or younger)
Turuja, Buhayra
Consort Ardukin
Issue Two daughters
Full name
Al-Malik al-Ashraf Salah ad-Din Khalil ibn Qalawun
House Qalawuni
Dynasty Bahri
Father Al-Mansur Qalawun
Mother Qutqutiya
Religion Islam

Al-Ashraf Salāh ad-Dīn Khalil ibn Qalawūn (Arabic: الملك الأشرف صلاح الدين خليل بن قلاوون); (c. 1260s – 14 December 1293) was the eighth Mamluk sultan between November 1290 until his assassination in December 1293. He was well known for conquering the last of the Crusader states in Palestine in the capture of Acre in 1291.

Early life

Khalil's exact year of birth is not known, although according to the Mamluk-era historian, Khalil ibn Aybak as-Safadi, he died "in his thirties or less".[1] He was the second eldest son of Sultan Qalawun (r. 1279–1290) and his mother was a woman named Qutqutiya.[1][2] Khalil had three brothers, as-Salih Ali, an-Nasir Muhammad and Ahmad, and two sisters.[3] In 1284, Khalil married Ardukin, the daughter of Sayf ad-Din Nukih ibn Bayan, a Mongol emir of Qalawun.[4] As-Salih Ali, al-Ashraf Khalil's brother, married Ardukin's sister, and both wives were chosen by Qalawun's second wife because of their Mongol ethnicity, which was considered prestigious by the Mamluks.[4] Khalil had two daughters with Ardukin, who are unnamed in the Mamluk sources.[5]

Qalawun had proclaimed as-Salih Ali as his heir apparent in 1280. From that point on, as-Salih Ali's name was added next to Qalawun's name in treaties. Khalil's name also began to be added to treaties in the regal style of "al-Malik al-Ashraf" starting in 1285 in the treaty between Qalawun and the king of Lesser Armenia. When as-Salih Ali died in 1288, Qalawun appointed al-Ashraf Khalil as his co-sultan.[6] While al-Ashraf Khalil's name was read alongside Qalawun's name in the khutba (Friday prayer sermon) and the emirs swore their allegiance to him,[2] Qalawun did not sign the ahd (diploma of investiture) confirming al-Ashraf Khalil's appointment.[2][6] The reason for Qalawun's apparent hesitance is not clear, but he may have considered al-Ashraf Khalil unsuitable for the sultanate or was wary of the enmity between al-Ashraf Khalil and the na'ib as-saltana (viceroy of Egypt), Emir Husam ad-Din Turuntay, who had been a strong advocate for as-Salih Ali's accession.[2]


Al-Ashraf Khalil succeeded Qalawun following the latter's death on 9 November 1290. He prevented Qalawun's burial for two months, either as a precaution to ensure his smooth succession or to wait until Qalawun's mausoleum was completed.[3] With his ascendancy, al-Ashraf Khalil absorbed his father's roughly 6,000 Mansuriyya mamluks into his own 1,200-strong,[7] mostly Circassian,[8] mamluk corps, the Ashrafiyya.[7] The Mansuriyya were the most powerful mamluk regiment in the sultanate and al-Ashraf Khalil sought to co-opt them.[7]

In the royal procession that following al-Ashraf Khalil's accession to the throne, Turuntay launched an assassination attempt against al-Ashraf Khalil, but it failed.[9] Instead, al-Ashraf Khalil had Turuntay imprisoned in the Cairo Citadel.[9] After being heavily tortured for three days, Turuntay was put to death in November.[9] He was briefly replaced by Emir Sanjar al-Shuja'i until the latter was dispatched to Damascus and replaced by Emir Baydara. Al-Ashraf Khalil made Baydara na'ib as-saltana and atabeg al-asakir (commander in chief). The frequent exchanging of offices between the Mansuri emirs and their frequent imprisonment and release was a phenomenon that marked al-Ashraf Khalil's three-year reign. According to historian Amir Mazor, "Al-Ashraf Khalil's policy toward the Mansuriyya was totally arbitrary, haphazard and lacked long-term political vision",[10] but he nonetheless did not target the Mansuri mamluks as a faction and did not replace Mansuri officeholders with his Ashrafi mamluks.[9]

Conquest of Acre and defeat of the Crusaders

Main article: Siege of Acre (1291)
An 1840 painting depicting the 1291 Siege of Acre

Qalawun had conquered the County of Tripoli in 1289 and made clear his determination to end the Crusader presence in Syria.[11] In November 1290, he began his march toward Acre, the capital of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, but died outside of Cairo shortly after.[11] With the siege plans having already been prepared by Qalawun and his lieutenants, al-Ashraf Khalil resumed his father's offensive on 2 March 1291.[12] As he led the Mamluk army of Egypt, he sent orders to the Mamluk emirs of Syria, including the sultanate's Ayyubid vassals in Hama under al-Muzaffar Mahmud II, to assemble their mangonels and head toward Acre.[13] The other Syrian Mamluk armies were from Damascus (led by Lajin), Tripoli (led by Bilban) and al-Karak (led by Baibars al-Dawadar). There are no reliable figures for the size of the Mamluk army, but it was likely a significantly larger force than that of the Crusader defenders of Acre.[14]

In May 1291, al-Ashraf Khalil's army launched the assault against Acre. Heavy fighting ensued with the Knights Templar, which controlled the fortress.[13] By 17 June, the Mamluks captured Acre, and a number of its inhabitants fled by sea.[13] Remaining Crusader defenders held out in some of the towers in the city, but after further fighting they surrendered.[13] Al-Ashraf Khalil ordered the execution of the remaining defenders and inhabitants.[13] After abundant amounts of loot were plundered from the city by the Mamluk troops, al-Ashraf Khalil had Acre's fortifications destroyed.[13]

Remains of the Templar fortress of Atlit, the last Crusader outpost in Syria conquered by al-Ashraf Khalil's forces

The news of the conquest of Acre reached Damascus and Cairo. Al-Ashraf Khalil entered the decorated city of Damascus with Franks chained at the feet and the captured crusader standards which were carried upside-down as a sign of their defeat. After celebrating his victory in Damascus, Khalil left for Cairo which was also decorated and celebrating.[15] Arriving at Cairo, he ordered the release of Philip Mainebeuf and the men who accompanied him to Cairo earlier.[16]

Following Acre's capture, al-Ashraf Khalil and his generals proceeded to wrest control of the remaining Crusader-held fortresses along the Syrian coast.[13] Within weeks, the Mamluks conquered Tyre, Sidon, Beirut, Haifa and Tartus.[13] In August, the last Crusader outpost in Syria, the Templar fortress of Atlit south of Acre, was taken and on 7 August, al-Ashraf Khalil returned to Cairo in triumph as the "final victor in the long struggle with the Crusaders", according to historian Peter Malcolm Holt.[13]

Conquest of Lesser Armenia

In 1292, Al-Ashraf Khalil accompanied by his Vizier Ibn al-Sal'us arrived in Damascus and then travelled via Aleppo to besiege the castle of Qal'at ar-Rum (Hromgla in Armenian). Qal'at ar-Rum, which was the seat of the Patriarch of Armenia, was besieged by more than 30 catapults[17] and was captured after 30 days by Khalil, who renamed it Qal'at al-Muslimin (Castle of the Muslims).[18] Khalil left Emir al-Shaja'i at the castle and returned to Damascus with prisoners. The population of Damascus bid farewell to the victorious Sultan on his way to Cairo at night with thousands of lighted candles. The Sultan entered Cairo through the Victory Gate (Bab al-Nasr) and was greeted by the celebrating population, also with thousands of lighted candles .

The Kingdom of Cilician Armenia, 1199–1375.

The Sultan returned to Damascus and assembled an army to invade Sis,[19] the capital of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, but Armenian messengers arrived in Damascus and appealed to him not to attack Sis. Til Hemdun, Marash and Behesni were given to the Sultan in exchange for peace.

The Crusaders were shocked. Their 200 years of effort had gone in vain. The crusaders' kingdom of Jerusalem had already been destroyed by Saladin, Baibars and Qalawun, and Louis IX's Seventh Crusade against Egypt ended in a complete failure, but the crusaders tried to keep their strongholds on the Syrian coast intact, hoping to be able one day to recapture what they had lost. Pope Nicholas IV tried to act but he died in 1292,[20] and the European kings, who became involved in internal conflicts and struggles,[21] became unable to organize new effective crusades. As for the Templars, they were accused of heresy in Europe and badly persecuted by King Philip IV of France and Pope Clement V.

Domestic conflicts and assassination

Militarily, Al-Ashraf Khalil possessed the vigor and capability of two of his predecessor, Baibars and his father Qalawun. But many Emirs disliked him. He started his reign by executing and imprisoning a few prominent Emirs of his father, among them the vice-Sultan Turuntay. During the battle for Acre he arrested Hosam ad-Din Lajin and later after he returned to Cairo he executed Sunqur al-Ashqar[22] and a few Emirs. Khalil continued his father's policy of replacing Turkish Mamluks with Circassians, a policy which contributed in the intensification of the rivalry among the Mamluks. After his victories against the Franks, arrogance got hold of al-Ashraf Khalil, he treated the Emirs roughly and began to sign messages and documents with the letter "KH" only.[23] In addition, his Vizier Ibn al-Salus was envied by many Emirs and by the vice-Sultan Baydara in particular. Ibn al-Salus who, originally, was neither a Mamluk nor an Emir but a merchant from Damascus, became the most influential official during the reign of Khalil. While Al-Ashraf was rough on the Emirs, he was very generous towards Ibn al-Salus who did not treat the Emirs with respect.[24] Ibn al-Salus was involved in the unjustly persecution of the supreme judge of Egypt Ibn Bint al-A'az, as he was involved in provoking the Sultan against Baydara on several occasions.

In December 1293, Al-Ashraf Khalil, accompanied by Ibn al-Salus, Baydara and other Emirs went to Turug[25][26] in northern Egypt on a bird-hunting expedition. He sent Ibn Al-Salus to the nearby city of Alexandria to bring materials and to collect the taxes. Arriving at Alexandria, Ibn Al-Salus found out that the deputies of Baydara had already taken everything. On receiving a message from Ibn Al-Salus with this news, Al-Ashraf summoned Baydara to his Dihlis and insulted and threatened him in the presence of other Emirs. The distressed Baydar left the Dihlis and called Lajin, Qara Sunqur and other Emirs and together they decided to kill the Sultan. On 14 December,[27] while the Sultan was walking with his friend Emir Shihab ad-Din Ahmad he was attacked and assassinated by Baydara and his followers. The Emirs who struck the Sultan after Baydara were Hosam ad-Din Lajin and Bahadir Ras Nubah followed by other Emirs. After the assassination of Al-Ashraf Khalil, Baydara and his followers went to the Dihliz and proclaimed Baydara the new Sultan. But Baydara was soon arrested by the Sultani Mamluks and Emirs.[28] Baydara was killed by the Sultani Emirs led by Kitbugha[29] and Baibars al-Jashnikir[30] and his head was sent to Cairo. Ibn al-Salus was arrested in Alexandria and was sent to Cairo where he was mistreated and at last beaten to death. The Emirs who were involved in the assassination of Al-Ashraf Khalil were severely punished and executed. Lajin and Qara Sunqur fled and disappeared.[31]

After the death of Al-Ashraf Khalil, the Emirs decided to install his 9-year-old brother Al-Nasir Muhammad as the new Sultan with Kitbugha as vice-Sultan and al-Shaja'i as the new Vizier. But the death of Al-Ashraf Khalil was concealed for sometime. While Al-Ashraf was dead, his brother Al-Nasir Muhammad was proclaimed Vice-Sultan and heir. A message from Egypt to the Syrian Emirs said: "I appointed my brother al-Malik al-Nasir Muhammad as my Vicegerent and heir so that when I go to fight the enemy he replaces me ".[32] As soon as everything was under control the death of Al-Ahraf Khalil was revealed to the public in Egypt and Syria.[33]

Al-Ashraf Khalil ruled about three years and two months. He had two daughters. Besides being remembered as the conqueror of Acre, he was remembered by Muslim historians as an intelligent Sultan who was fond of reading and learning.[34]


Coins of al-Ashraf Khalil were unique in Mamluk coinage history. New kind of titles were inscribed on his coins such as : al-Sultan al-Malik al-Ashraf Salah al-Din Nasir al-Milah al-Muhamadiyah Muhyyi al-Dawalah al-Abasiyah ( The Sultan King al-Ashraf Salah al-Din the Promoter of the Muhammadan Nation and the Revitalizer of the Abbasid Caliphate ), al-Sultan al-Malik al-Ashraf Salah al-Donya wa al-Din Qasim Amir al-mu'minin ( The Sultan King al-Ashraf reform of temporal world and faith sharer of the Emir of the faithful ) the Emir of the faithful was the title of the Abbasid Caliph. His father Qalawun was also mentioned on Al-Ashraf's coins as : Mawlana al-Sultan al-Malik al-Mansur ( Our benefactor the Sultan King al-Mansur).[35]

See also


  1. 1 2 Richards, Donald S. (2001). "A Mamluk Amir's Mamluk History: Baybars al-Mansuri and the Zubdat al-Fikra". In Kennedy, Hugh N. The Historiography of Islamic Egypt: (c. 950 - 1800). Brill. p. 37. ISBN 9789004117945.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Northrup 1998, p. 143.
  3. 1 2 Northrup 1998, p. 158.
  4. 1 2 Northrup 1998, p. 117.
  5. Bauden, Frédéric. "The Qalawunids: A Pedigree" (PDF). University of Chicago. Retrieved 2016-02-25.
  6. 1 2 Holt 1986, p. 103.
  7. 1 2 3 Mazor 2015, p. 75.
  8. Holt 1986, p. 106.
  9. 1 2 3 4 Mazor 2015, pp. 75–76.
  10. Mazor 2015, p. 78.
  11. 1 2 Northrup 1998, p. 157.
  12. Northrup 1998, pp. 157–158.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Holt 1986, p. 104.
  14. Asili, p.111
  15. The gate of the San Andreas Church was transported from Acre to Cairo to be used in the Al-Ashraf's Mosque which the Sultan was building. Asili, p. 123
  16. Ibn Taghri, p.9/ vol.8
  17. Abu Al-Fida, p.386/ vol.13. According to Al-Maqrizi, al-Ashraf besieged Qal'at ar-Rum with 20 catapults. Al-Maqrizi, p.233/vol.2
  18. al-Maqrizi, p.234/ vol.2
  19. The Holy See moved to Sis after al-Ashraf Khalil captured Qal'at ar-Rum
  20. Pope Nicholas IV was a promoter of the crusaders. After Qalawun recaptured Tripoli in 1289, Nicholas sent twenty galleys, which were armed in Venice, to the aid of the city of Acre. — the Templar Master. Chronicle Gestes des Chiprois, P.101/ part 3
  21. One of these conflicts was the war that broke out between England and France in 1293. see also Philip IV of France
  22. Shams ad-Din Sunqur al-Ashqar, was a prominent Emir and one of the most devoted Bahri Emirs since days of Sultan Baibars. He was taken prisoner by the Armenians and was freed in exchange for Leo the son of King Hethum I who was captured during the invasion of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia in 1266. During the reign of Baibars' son Solmish he was the deputy of the Sultan in Damascus. During the reign of Qalawun he proclaimed himself a Sultan while in Damascus, taking the royal name al-Malik al-Kamil. He fought a few battles against Qalawun's Emirs but was pardoned later after he joined Qalawun's army against the Mongols. Al-Maqrizi, p.51, 121, 127, 131–133, 145/vol.2
  23. In Arabic "Kh" is one letter (خ).
  24. Al-Maqrizi, p.221-222 and 251/vol.2. Ibn Taghri, p.45/vol.8. Abu Al-Fida,p.395/vol.13
  25. Now Kom Turuga
  26. "Google Maps". Google Maps.
  28. Before the arrest of Baydara he was asked by Baibars, Emir of Jandar, whether other Emirs knew about his plan to kill Al-Ashraf. He answered: "Yes, I killed him according to their advice and under their eyes" then he added the reasons for killing him which included: "He did not respect the Emirs and the Mamluks of his father. He made Ibn Al-Salus a Vizier. He arrested Izz ad-Din al-Afram and executed Sunqur al-Ashqar and others. He promoted his Mamluks to the rank of Emir". When he was asked whether Kitbugha knew about his plan, he replied: "Yes, he was the first one to suggest it." —Ref. Ibn Taghri, p. 18/ vol.8. Al-Maqrizi, p.247/ vol2
  29. Kitbugha became Sultan of Egypt in 1295. See [[al-Adil Kitbugha|]]
  30. Baibars al-Jashnikir (Baibars II) became Sultan of Egypt in 1308. See Baibars II
  31. Lajin appeard sometime after the assassination of Al-Ashraf Khalil. He was pardoned by al-Nasir Muhammad who became the new Sultan. Ref. Ibn Taghri, p.40/ vol.8. Al-Maqrizi, p.255/ vol.2 .
  32. According to Al-Maqrizi this letter was sent according to the instruction given by Emir al-Shuja'i. Al-Maqrizi, p.249/vol.2
  33. Al-Maqrizi, p.249-250/vol.2
  34. Also the chronicler Ludolph of Suchem described Al-Ashrafe Khalil as "an exceedingly wise man".Ludolphi, Rectoris Ecclesiæ Parochialis in suchem, p.42
  35. Mahdi, p. 97


Primary sources

External links

Al-Ashraf Khalil
Cadet branch of the Mamluk Sultanate
Born: c.1260 Died: 14 December 1293
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Al-Mansur Qalawun
Sultan of Egypt and Syria
November 1290 – December 1293
Succeeded by
An-Nasir Muhammad

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