Imperial, royal and noble ranks in West Asia, Central Asia and South Asia, and North Africa
|Emperor: Caliph, King of Kings, Shahanshah, Padishah, Chakravarti, Chhatrapati, Samrat, Khagan|
|High King: Sultan, Maharaja|
|King: Malik, Emir, Hakim, Sharif, Shah, Shirvanshah, Raja, Khan|
|Grand Duke: Khedive, Nawab, Wāli, Nizam|
|Crown Prince: Mirza, Nawabzada, Yuvraj, Vali Ahd, Prince of the Sa'id|
|Prince / Duke: Emir, Sheikh, Ikhshid, Thakur, Babu Saheb, Sardar, Shahzada, Rajkumar, Şehzade, Sahibzada, Nawabzada|
|Earl/Count: Mankari, Dewan Bahadur, Rao Bahadur, Rai Bahadur, Khan Bahadur|
|Viscount: Zamindar, Khan Sahib, Bey, Baig, Begzada|
|Baron: Lala, Agha, Hazinedar|
Sultan (/; Arabic: سلطان sulṭān, pronounced [sʊlˈtˤɑːn, solˈtˤɑːn]) is a position with several historical meanings. Originally, it was an Arabic abstract noun meaning "strength", "authority", "rulership", derived from the verbal noun سلطة sulṭah, meaning "authority" or "power". Later, it came to be used as the title of certain rulers who claimed almost full sovereignty in practical terms (i.e., the lack of dependence on any higher ruler), albeit without claiming the overall caliphate, or to refer to a powerful governor of a province within the caliphate. The adjective form of the word is "sultanic", and the dynasty and lands ruled by a sultan are referred to as a sultanate (سلطنة salṭanah).
The term is distinct from king (ملك malik), despite both referring to a sovereign ruler. The use of "sultan" is restricted to Muslim countries, where the title carries religious significance, contrasting the more secular king, which is used in both Muslim and non-Muslim countries.
A feminine form of sultan, used by Westerners, is Sultana or Sultanah and this title has been used legally for some (not all) Muslim women monarchs and sultan's mothers and chief consorts. However, Turkish and Ottoman Turkish also uses sultan for imperial lady, as Turkish grammar—which is influenced by Persian grammar—uses the same words for both women and men. However, this styling misconstrues the roles of wives of sultans. In a similar usage, the wife of a German field marshal might be styled Frau Feldmarschall (similarly, in French, constructions of the type madame la maréchale are quite common). The female leaders in Muslim history are correctly known as "sultanas". However, the wife of the sultan in the Sultanate of Sulu is styled as the "panguian" while the sultan's chief wife in many sultanates of Indonesia and Malaysia are known as "permaisuri", "Tunku Ampuan", "Raja Perempuan", or "Tengku Ampuan". The queen consort in Brunei especially is known as Raja Isteri with the title of Pengiran Anak suffixed, should the queen consort also be a royal princess.
In recent years, "sultan" has been gradually replaced by "king" by contemporary hereditary rulers who wish to emphasize their secular authority under the rule of law. A notable example is Morocco, whose monarch changed his title from sultan to king in 1957.
Compound ruler titles
Ottoman Sultan Mehmed IV
attended by a eunuch and two pages.
These are generally secondary titles, either lofty 'poetry' or with a message, e.g.:
- Mani Sultan = Manney Sultan (meaning the "Pearl of Rulers" or "Honoured Monarch") - a subsidiary title, part of the full style of the Maharaja of Travancore
- Sultan of Sultans - the sultanic equivalent of the style King of Kings
- Certain secondary titles have a devout Islamic connotation; e.g., Sultan ul-Mujahidin as champion of jihad (to strive and to struggle in the name of Allah).
- Sultanic Highness - a rare, hybrid western-Islamic honorific style exclusively used by the son, daughter-in-law and daughters of Sultan Hussein Kamel of Egypt (a British protectorate since 1914), who bore it with their primary titles of Prince (Amir; Turkish: Prens) or Princess, after 11 October 1917. They enjoyed these titles for life, even after the Royal Rescript regulating the styles and titles of the Royal House following Egypt's independence in 1922, when the sons and daughters of the newly styled king (malik Misr, considered a promotion) were granted the title Sahib(at) us-Sumuw al-Malaki, or Royal Highness.