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Ābish Khātūn bint Saʿd II

George Lane
The Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Women What is This? A single source for accurate overview articles covering the major topics of scholarly interest within the study of women and Islam.

Ābish Khātūn bint Saʿd II

Ruler of Fārs Province, wife of Mongol prince Tash-Möngke bin Hülegü Khan. A daughter of the Salghurid dynasty whose grandfather, Abū Bakr Qutlugh Khan (r. 1226–60) in 1258 had marched with Hülegü Khan on Baghdad, Abīsh Khātūn was first appointed ruler of the province in 1263–64 while still a child. After a forced exile, she returned to her capital in Shiraz, where—despite a highly questionable record—she was given a rapturous welcome by the citizenry.

In contrast with the situation in Kermān, especially under Terkān Khātūn, a pervasive culture of corruption and financial chaos defined the province of Fārs, which strove to keep its distance, politically and financially, from the Ilkhans and their capital Tabrīz. Not only did the people of Shīrāz resist outside interference, but, highly unusually, one of their Salghurid monarchs, Seljuk Shāh, in 1263–64, actually led a short-lived rebellion against the Mongol Ilkhans. The ill-fated uprising, which resulted in Seljuk Shāh's execution, led to the enthronement of the four-year-old Abīsh on the Salghurid throne. Abīsh and her sister Salgham were the only remaining direct heirs to the Salghurid throne.

In 1273–4 a deterioration of the situation in Shīrāz and the involvement in corruption of some advisers close to Abīsh resulted in her removal from the city and the consummation of her marriage to Prince Tash-Möngke, a union arranged many years previously by her ambitious mother. Though she eventually became his chief wife, there is evidence that not all was well within the marriage and while Tash-Möngke saw to affairs in Shīrāz his wife remained behind with Öljei Khātūn, her husband's mother, and intrigued among the courts in Azerbaijan. Tash-Möngke returned from Shīrāz in 1283–84 and on the Ilkhan Ahmad Tegudar's (r. 1282–84) directive, Abīsh was appointed governor in his place. It is said that though their paths crossed as they travelled to take up their new posts, Tash-Möngke declined to meet or speak with his wife as their caravans passed each other. The historian, Wạṣsāf, dismisses Tash-Möngke as being extremely stupid and proud.

Upon entering Shīrāz, Abīsh was lavishly welcomed by the citizens, but the fervor was undeserved and soon forgotten. Abīsh Khātūn was very capable, confident, and resourceful but interested only in amassing personal wealth. With her two royal daughters, Kürdüjin and Alghanchi, under her protection, she felt her position was unassailable and her person untouchable. Her greed and arrogance knew no bounds and little of the revenue that she milked from the province found its way back to the state coffers of Tabrīz.

However, Ahmad Tegudar's successor, Arghūn Khan (r. 1284–90), had little sympathy with Abīsh's excesses and he angrily demanded her appearance at court while at the same time appointing a certain ʿImād al-Dīn Alavī to replace her as governor of the province. She refused to move and immediately began undermining Arghūn Khan's new governor. Her intrigues led to a confrontation between her supporters and ʿImād al-Dīn, which resulted in the governor's death during a brawl and the murder of his nephew shortly afterward, both deaths blamed directly on Abīsh Khātūn. Her removal to Arghūn Khan's ordu to face a yarghu (Mongol court) was now inevitable and Shīrāz passed to direct rule from the Ilkhanid capital.

As a concession in recognition of her royal status Abīsh Khātūn was allowed to appoint a representative to appear in court on her behalf, an indulgence that saved her life. The chief nāʾib of her dīwān, Jamāl al-Dīn, was subjected to vigorous interrogation by the yarghuchi and after three strikes of the bastinado he admitted his and Abīsh's guilt and for this he was cut in two, a not uncommon form of Mongol execution. Abīsh herself was forced to pay compensation to the families of ʿImād al-Dīn and his nephew and she was forced to remain at the ordu where in 1286–87 she died.

Though a Muslim, she did not follow Islamic custom in disposing of her considerable estate, and her two daughters, Kürdüjin and Alghanchi, received a half of her wealth while Taichu, her son with Tash-Möngke, was awarded a quarter, and the final quarter was divided among her household slaves. Mongol practice rather than Islamic custom was also followed for her funeral service and burial and her body was accompanied by gold and silver vessels of wine for her final journey.

Like some other Muslim Khwātin (pl. Khatun) in Ilkhanid Iran (1258–1335), Abīsh maintained an ambiguous relationship with her professed religion, Islam. Her daughter, Kürdüjin, was far more devout and observant than she and Kürdüjin did not marry out of the faith, a practice forbidden for Muslim women but contravened among others, by Abīsh and Pādeshāh Khātūn, the daughter of Qutlugh Terkān of Kermān. Like other women from Iran's ruling houses, Abīsh used her family's Turkic ethnicity to exploit her connections to the ruling Ilkhans in Tabrīz. Though many generations away from the steppe and out of the saddle such brave women as Abīsh Khātūn provided aspirational role models for many of the women of her time.



  • Shabānkārāʾī Moḥammed b. ʿAlī b. Moḥammed, Majma’-‘Ansāb, Tehran, 1984 [1363].
  • Ibn Zarkūb Shīrāzī, (ed.) Ismāʾīl Wāʾiż Javādī, Shīrāznāma, Inteshārāt Baniyād Farhang, Tehran, 1971 [1350].
  • Wassāf, Shihab al-Dīn ʿAbdallah Sharaf Shīrāzī, (ed.) M. M. Isfahānī, Tārīkh-i-Wassāf, Tehran, 1959/1338.
  • Howorth, Henry Hoyle, History of the Mongols: The Mongols of Persia, Lightning Source U.K.: Milton Keynes, 2011
  • Lambton, A. K. S. Continuity and Change in Medieval Persia: Aspects of Administrative, Economic, Social History in 11th–14th Century Persia. London: I. B. Taurus, 1988.
  • Lane, George, Early Mongol Rule in Thirteenth Century Iran. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003.
  • Lane, George, Daily Life in the Mongol Empire. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2006.
  • Spuler, B., “ĀBEŠ ḴĀTŪN,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, vol. I, 1985.
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