Uzun Hasan at Ushturjan

Subordinary patronage under the Akkoyunlu: Uzun Ḥasan at Ushturjān [DYNTRAN WORKING PAPER 6, November 2015]

by Georg LEUBE

After wandering the far-off realms of Ottoman Rumeli in the last two posts, I would like to return to the Ak- and Karakoyunlu with this post’s inscription. The village of Ushturjān, today also known as Īmānshahr, is located some thirty kilometres to the south-west of Iṣfahān on the left bank of the fertile Zāyande Rūd valley, half an hour by foot from the busy highway from Iṣfahān to Fūlādshahr. It is described by the famous traveller Ibn Baṭṭūṭa (d. 779 a.h.) in the context of his journey from Basra to Iṣfahān as follows:

Then we came to the village of Ushturkān [sic]. It is a beautiful village with plentiful water and gardens. There is also a miraculous mosque there, which is crossed by the river. (Ibn Baṭṭūṭa Riḥla I, p. 179)

In the centre of the village there is indeed, to this day, a rather miraculous mosque of Īlkhānid appearance, quite possibly the one mentioned by Ibn Baṭṭūṭa even though no river crosses it today.

Outside view UshturjanThe inscription above the original main portal of the mosque, written in light and dark blue tiles in thulūth runs as follows:

Amara bi-bināʾi hādhā l-masjidi l-mubāraki l-ṣāḥibu l-aʿẓamu maliku l-wuzarāʾi fī l-ʿālami fakhru l-dunyā wa-l-dīni Muḥammad b. Maḥmūd b. ʿAlī al-Ushturjānī.

The building of this blessed mosque was ordered by the great lord, the king of the wazīrs in the world, the splendour of the world and the religion Muḥammad b. Maḥmūd b. ʿAlī al-Ushturjānī.

This inscription is dated to 715 hijrī qamarī on an information board inside the mosque, even though its present shape looks a bit suspiciously renovated. According to this same board, the original foundation is somewhat older, going back at least to Seljuk times. The construction recorded in the portal inscription would therefore rather be a renovation of an earlier building. Its patron appears to be by a notable of local extraction who ‒ according to his slightly fancy titles and the sophisticated care employed in the portal, the minarets and the dome containing the miḥrāb ‒ seems to have come to some renown outside of his home village before deciding to embellish the local mosque.

Inside view of the domeThere is another renovation of the mosque recorded in more modest terms in an inscription on one of the Eastern piers surrounding the court of the mosque. This inscription is cut into a large panel of red clay embedded in the brickwork of the piers and located about three metres above ground.

Inscription Uzun Hasan Ushturjan

Its inscription is somewhat difficult to read and runs as follows:

Central field:

1) Dar zamān-i khilāfat-i ḥaḍrat-i

2) pādshāh-i islām al-sulṭāni

3) al-aʿẓami māliki riqābi l-umami

4) Abū l-Naṣr Ḥasan Bahādur Khān

5) khallada llāhu mulkahū wa-sulṭānahū yuʿmiru

6) yamīnu wa-yasāru masjidi [l-]jāmiʿi Ushturjān bi-mawādhiri

7) [l-]khāṣṣi jūdi māli l-shaykhi l-sāliki l-muttaqī

8) Kamāl al-Dīn Ismāʿīl bni Ẓahīr al-Dīn Ibrāhīm [al-]Ushtur-

9) -jānī btighāʾa li-marḍāti llāhi taʿālā amadda lahū qabūlu ḥaḍrati

10) wa-aʿazzahū li-raddi dhahli l-shayni bi-duʿāʾin nādirin kamala fī tārīkhi rabīʿi l-thānī sanati iḥdā wa-thamānīna wa-thamānmiʾah.

Frame (starting at the bottom right corner):

Right side) Bi-smi llāhi l-raḥmāni l-raḥīmi innamā yaʿmuru masājida llāhi man amana bi-llāhi wa-l-yawmi l-akhiri wa-aqāma

Top) l-ṣalāta wa-atā l-zakāta wa-lam [lā] yakhsha illā llāha

Left side) fa-ʿasā ūlāʾika an yakūnū mina l-muhtadīna [Sūrat al-Tawbah, 18]. Ṣaddiq llāha l-ʿaẓīma wa-ṣalli [ʿalā] rasūlihī.

Central field:

1) [Persian] During the time of the khilāfah of His Heighness

2) The emperor of islām [Arabic] the most exalted sulṭān

3) the owner of the people of the nations

4) Abū l-Naṣr Ḥasan bahādur khān

5) may God make his kingship and rule eternal were constructed

6) the right and the left [sides] of the Friday-mosque of Ushturjān by means of special posthumous endowments

7) of the munificence of the property of the righteous and God-fearing shaykh

8) Kamāl al-Dīn Ismāʿīl b. Ẓahīr al-Dīn Ibrāhīm of Ushturjān

9) for the contentment of God, may he be exalted, may He accept him in His presence

10) and make him strong to withstand the blemish of oblivion by means of precious prayer. [The construction] was completed on the date of rabīʿ al-thānī of the year eight hundred and eighty one.


Right side) In the name of God the merciful and compassionate, the mosques of God are built by those who believe in God and the Last Day

Top) who uphold the prayer, give the alms and only fear God,

Left side) they may be among the rightly guided. Trust in God the most exalted and pray [for] His prophet!

The final part of the inscription in the central field is a bit difficult to read. While Hunarfar read the text as Persian (see the link below for a scan of the passages concerning the masjid-i jāmiʿ of Ushturjān in his Ganjīne-yi āthār-i Iṣfahān), the interpretation proposed here depends on the reading of mawādhiri in line 6) as posthumous endowments from the Arabic root wadhara, in the meaning of to leave behind, of which I am by no means sure. The text given here is an attempt to present a coherent Arabic reading of the letters visible, the purport of which would be to record the founder and provide eulogies suitable to his status as a posthumous renovator.

A similar caveat holds for the end of the text of the frame. While the Qurʾanic verse 9:18 eulogising the founders of mosques is appropriate and common enough for epigraphy recording building activities on a mosque, the reading of the concluding admonition as Arabic imperatives directed towards the reader of the inscription is tentative as well. The content is, however, once again rather straightforward.

The titles of the Akkoyunlu ruler Uzun Ḥasan differ slightly from the ones given in his inscription in the masjid-i jāmiʿ of Iṣfahān, discussed in the first post. Particularly hard to explain is the Persian of line 1) and the first part of line 2), followed by the Arabic more frequently used in epigraphy. The change in language may, however, be explainable by the content of these lines calling Uzun Ḥasan’s rule a caliphate, khilāfah, and himself the supreme ruler (pādshāh) of islām. This peculiar set of titles may have been a response to the theoretical subordination of an Islamic sulṭān under a khalīfah or caliph wielding supreme authority over islām as the deputy of God or His Prophet on earth. Since Uzun Ḥasan at the time of the renovation of the mosque of Ushturjān by all likelihood did not envisage himself as subordinated to any external authority, caliph or otherwise, he may have searched for an unambiguous expression of supreme rule short of proclaiming himself caliph. Quite possibly the use of the abstractum of khilāfah, caliphate, in a Persian context coupled to the purely Persian title of pādshāh, translated above as emperor, a title clearly purveying notions of supreme rule, may have been seen as sufficiently removed of the proclamation of himself as an actual caliph in the stead of earlier caliphs. If criticized for this use of khilāfah, notwithstanding the detachment offered by the change of language, the ruler could still resort to the literal sense of khilāfah as deputyship, quite possibly arguing for his rule being a khilāfah in the stead of some other caliph.

A quite similar use of khilāfah can be found in some of the historiography produced at Uzun Ḥasan’s court. Most notably, in his preface to the Kitāb-i Diyārbakriyya, Uzun Ḥasan’s close personal associate Abū Bakr-i Ṭihrānī skirts the legitimating field offered by the notion of a righteous caliphate in styling Uzun Ḥasan muʿīn al-khilāfah, helper of the caliphate, (p. 7) or wārith al-mulk wa-l-khilāfah, inheritor of the kingship and the caliphate (p. 9). In both titles, the concept of a legitimate caliphate floats virtually free from the question of who exactly is seen as the incumbent caliph. That, notwithstanding this argumentative void, Uzun Ḥasan is indeed the rightful supreme ruler of his time is expressed by Abū Bakr-i Ṭihrānī by the designation of Uzun Ḥasan as ṣāḥib-qirān, lord of the happy conjunction [of the stars] (e.g. p. 7-8). This concept, however, does not to my current knowledge occur in epigraphy. One may think about why this medium with its proper rules governing the representation of authority did not allow for an expression of a claim to being lord of the moment. However, this question of the permeability of the iconography of authority between different media could probably better be discussed in a separate post after my evening lecture on this topic and the subsequent discussions at Erlangen on December 3rd 2015.

The titles of al-sulṭān al-aʿẓam, the most exalted sulṭān, in lines 2) and 3) also occur in the inscription of Uzun Ḥasan at Iṣfahān, as do the titles of Abū l-Naṣr Ḥasan bahādur, Ḥasan, father of victory, followed by the Central Asian designation as bahādur in line 4). The title of mālik riqāb al-umam, translated here as the owner of the people of the nations in line 3) is not at present familiar to me: It remains to be seen what further research turns up in this regard.

The title of khān, or supreme ruler in the Central Asian tradition, following Abū l-Naṣr Ḥasan bahādur in line 4) is frequently used in the epigraphy of the Ottomans and coinage of the Akkoyunlu rulers while lacking in Uzun Ḥasan’s inscription in Iṣfahān and in the context of Akkoyunlu chancellery. Its absence in Iṣfahān may be explainable by the fact that the inscription in Iṣfahān (dated 880 AH) precedes the present inscription of 881 AH by about a year. I am, however, not currently aware of any events during this year which might motivate the assumption of this title. The concluding eulogy of khallada llāhu mulkahū wa-sulṭānahū, may God make his kingship and rule eternal, in line 5), is again familiar from the inscription of Uzun Ḥasan in Iṣfahān and numerous of his coins.

The titles and names of the actual patron of the building activity at Ushturjān span line 7) to 9) as al-shaykh al-sālik al-muttaqī Kamāl al-Dīn Ismāʿīl b. Ẓahīr al-Dīn Ibrāhīm [al-]Ushturjānī. While the nisbah of al-ushturjānī in line 8) and 9) clearly identifies the patron by affiliation to the locale the mosque was built in, his titles of kamāl al-dīn, the perfection of religion, enforce the notion of righteous religiosity already hinted at in his designation as al-shaykh al-sālik al-muttaqī, the righteous and God-fearing shaykh. This vision of near-holy religiosity is again enforced by his affiliation to his father styled ẓahīr al-dīn, the helper of the religion, in line 8). His father’s name being Ibrāhīm nicely squares off with his own name being Ismāʿīl to form a short genealogical sequence neatly replicating the Salvation History of Ibrāhīm and Ismāʿīl, which in Islamic tradition parallels the story of Abraham and Isaac in the Old Testament.

When comparing the internal hierarchy of patronage at Ushturjān with the elaborate structure governing the building inscription of Stara Zagora discussed in the last post, the hierarchy suggested here is much less contested. In a way the presentation of Ismāʿīl al-Ushturjānīʾs and his father’s alqāb and names as well as of his nisbah in line 8) structurally parallels the presentation of Uzun Ḥasan’s “core-titles” presented in line 4). In contrast, the actual titles used are clearly subordinate to the ruler’s set of

claims to authority. On a structural level, this subordination may be borne out by the splitting up of the local founder’s nisbah over lines 8) and 9) and the successive crowding of the part of the inscription dedicated to Ismāʿīl. A clear subordination of the local patron under patronage of Uzun Ḥasan is lastly also borne out by the actual building renovated. While Uzun Ḥasan had just a year ago rebuilt the great masjid-i jāmiʿ of Iṣfahān bearing the proud memory of many patrons of imperial standing, the masjid-i jāmiʿ of Ushturjān seems to have belonged to a different class of buildings sponsored by patrons of local renown such as Ismāʿīl al-Ushturjānī and his precursor Muḥammad al-Ushturjānī remembered on the portal inscription of the mosque.

Georg Leube (Marburg, October 18th 2015)


Abū Bakr-i Ṭihrānī Kitāb-i Diyārbakriyya, edd. N. Lugal and F. Sümer, Ankara 1962 / 1964.

Ibn Baṭṭūṭa Riḥla, ed. Darwīsh al-Juwaydī, Beirut 2010.

al-Qurʾān al-Karīm, present of the Saʿūdī Embassy in Berlin without year or place of publishing.

Postscriptum (January 6, 2016):

While writing this short interpretation, I was not aware of the article on The Inscriptions of the Masjid-i Jāmi’ at Ashtarjān by George Miles in Iran, Vol. 12 (1974), pp. 89-98. It differs mainly in the lower part of the inscription from the reading given here, proposing to read the text as partly Arabic and partly Persian.

To quote this publication:

Leube, Georg, “Subordinary patronage under the Akkoyunlu: Uzun Ḥasan at Ushturjān”, DYNTRAN Working Papers, n° 6, online edition, November 2015, available at:

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