Ibrahim of the Ottoman Empire

Ibrahim (/ˌɪbrəˈhm/; Ottoman Turkish: ابراهيم; Turkish: İbrahim; 5 November 1615 – 18 August 1648) was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1640 until 1648. He was born in İstanbul, the son of Ahmed I by Valide Kösem Sultan, an ethnic Greek originally named Anastasia.[1][2][3]

Ottoman Caliph
Amir al-Mu'minin
Kayser-i Rûm
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
Ibrahim I.jpg
18th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire (Padishah)
Reign9 February 1640 – 8 August 1648
PredecessorMurad IV
SuccessorMehmed IV
Born5 November 1615
Topkapi Palace, Constantinople, Ottoman Empire
(present-day Istanbul, Turkey)
Died18 August 1648(1648-08-18) (aged 32)
Constantinople, Ottoman Empire
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Issuesee below
Ibrahim bin Ahmed
FatherAhmed I
MotherKösem Sultan
ReligionSunni Islam
TughraIbrahim's signature

He was called Ibrahim the Mad (Turkish: Deli İbrahim) due to his mental condition and behavior.[4] However, Scott Rank notes that his opponents spread rumors of the sultan's insanity, and some historians suggest he was more incompetent than mad.[5]

Early lifeEdit

Ibrahim was born on 5 November 1615, the son of Sultan Ahmed I and his favorite concubine who later became his legal wife, Kösem Sultan. When Ibrahim was 2, his father suddenly died, and Ibrahim's uncle Mustafa I became the new sultan. By that time, Kosem Sultan and her children, including young Ibrahim had been sent to the Old Palace. After the succession of his brother Murad IV, Ibrahim was confined in the Kafes, which affected his health. Ibrahim's other brothers Şehzade Bayezid, Şehzade Suleiman and Şehzade Kasım had been executed by the order of Sultan Murad IV, and because of that Ibrahim feared that he was next in the line. However, after his brother's death, Ibrahim became the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.



One of the most notorious Ottoman Sultans, Ibrahim spent all of his early life in the close confinement of the Kafes before succeeding his brother Murad IV (1623–40) in 1640. Two of their brothers had been executed by Murad, and Ibrahim lived in terror of being the next to die. His life was saved only by the intercession of Kösem Sultan, mother of Ibrahim and Murad.[6]

After Murad's death, Ibrahim was left the sole surviving prince of the dynasty. Upon being asked by Grand Vizier Kemankeş Kara Mustafa Pasha to assume the Sultanate, Ibrahim suspected Murad was still alive and plotting to trap him. It took the combined persuasion of Kösem and the Grand Vizier, and personal examination of his brother's dead body, to make Ibrahim accept the throne.

Early years as the SultanEdit

During the early years of Ibrahim's reign, he retreated from politics and turned increasingly to his harem for comfort and pleasure. During his sultanate, the harem achieved new levels of luxury in perfumes, textiles and jewellery. His love of women and furs led him to have a room entirely lined with lynx and sable. Because of his infatuation with furs, the French dubbed him "Le Fou de' Fourrures." Kösem Sultan kept her son in check by supplying him with virgins she personally purchased from the slave market, as well as overweight women, for whom he craved.[7][8]

An account of his reign is given by Demetrius Cantemir. He wrote of Ibrahim:

“As Murat was wholly addicted to wine so was Ibrahim to lust. They say he spent all his time in sensual pleasure and when nature was exhausted with the frequent repetition of venereal delights he endeavoured to restore it with potions or commanded a beautiful virgin richly habited to be brought to him by his mother, the Grand Vezir, or some other great man. He covered the walls of his chamber with looking glasses so that his love battles might seem to be enacted in several places at once. He ordered his pillows to be stuffed with rich furs so that the bed designed for the Imperial pleasure might be the more precious. Nay, he put sable skins under him in a notion that his lust might be flamed if his love toil were rendered more difficult by the glowing of his knees.”[9]

Kara Mustafa Pasha remained as Grand Vizier during the first four years of Ibrahim's reign, keeping the Empire stable. With the treaty of Szön (15 March 1642) he renewed peace with Austria and during the same year recovered Azov from the Cossacks. Kara Mustafa also stabilized the currency with coinage reform, sought to stabilize the economy with a new land-survey, reduced the number of Janissaries, removed non-contributing members from the state payrolls, and curbed the power of disobedient provincial governors. During these years, Ibrahim showed concern with properly ruling the empire, as shown in his handwritten communications with the Grand Vizier.[10] Kara Mustafa in turn wrote a memo on public affairs to coach his inexperienced master. Ibrahim's replies to Kara Mustafa's reports show he had actually received a good education. Ibrahim often traveled in disguise, inspecting the markets of Istanbul and ordering the Grand Vizier to correct any problems he observed.[11]

Decadence and crisisEdit

Ibrahim was often distracted by recurring headaches and attacks of physical weakness, perhaps caused by the trauma of his early years.[12] Since he was the only surviving male member of the Ottoman dynasty, Ibrahim was encouraged by his mother Kösem Sultan to distract himself with harem girls and soon fathered three future sultans: Mehmed IV, Suleiman II and Ahmed II. The distractions of the harem allowed Kösem Sultan to gain power and rule in his name, yet even she fell victim to the Sultan's disfavor and left the Imperial Palace.[13]

Ibrahim came under the influence of various unsuitable people such as mistress of the imperial harem Şekerpare Hatun and the charlatan Cinci Hoca, who pretended to cure the Sultan's physical ailments. The latter, along with his allies Silahdar Yusuf Agha and Sultanzade Mehmed Pasha, enriched themselves with bribes and eventually usurped enough power to secure the execution of Grand Vizier Ḳara Muṣṭafā. Cinci Hoca became Kadiasker (High Judge) of Anatolia, Yusuf Agha was made Kapudan Pasha (Grand Admiral) and Sultanzade Mehmed became Grand Vizier.[12]

In 1644, Maltese corsairs seized a ship carrying high-status pilgrims to Mecca. Since the pirates had docked in Crete, Kapudan Yusuf Pasha encouraged Ibrahim to invade the island. This began a long war with Venice that lasted 24 years—Crete would not completely fall under Ottoman domination until 1669. In spite of the decline of La Serenissima, Venetian ships won victories throughout the Aegean, capturing Tenedos (1646) and blockading the Dardanelles. Kapudan Yusuf enjoyed temporary success in conquering Canea, starting a jealous rivalry with the Grand Vizier that led to his execution (January 1646) and the Grand Vizier's deposition (December 1645).

With his cronies in power, Ibrahim's extravagant tendencies went unchecked. He raised eight concubines to the favored position of haseki (royal consort), granting each riches and land.[14] After legally marrying the concubine Telli Haseki, he ordered the palace of Ibrahim Pasha to be carpeted in sable furs and given to her.[12]

Deposition and executionEdit

Mass discontent was caused by the Venetian blockade of the Dardanelles—which created scarcities in the capital—and the imposition of heavy taxes during a war economy to pay for Ibrahim's whims. In 1647 the Grand Vizier Salih Pasha, Kösem Sultan, and the şeyhülislam Abdürrahim Efendi unsuccessfully plotted to depose the sultan and replace him with one of his sons. Salih Pasha was executed and Kösem Sultan was exiled from the harem.[14]

The next year the Janissaries and members of the ulema revolted. On 8 August 1648, corrupt Grand Vizier Aḥmed Pasha was strangled and torn to shreds by an angry mob, gaining the posthumous nickname "Hezarpare" ("thousand pieces").[12] On the same day, Ibrahim was seized and imprisoned in Topkapı Palace.[13] Kösem gave consent to her son's fall, saying "In the end he will leave neither you nor me alive. We will lose control of the government. The whole society is in ruins. Have him removed from the throne immediately."[15]

Ibrahim's six-year-old son Meḥmed was made sultan. The new grand vizier, Ṣofu Meḥmed Pasha, petitioned the sheikh ul-Islam for a fatwā sanctioning Ibrahim's execution. It was granted, with the message "if there are two caliphs, kill one of them." Kösem also gave her consent. Two executioners were sent for; one being the chief executioner who had served under Ibrahim.[16] As the executioners drew closer, it was reported that Ibrahim's last words were: "Is there no one among those who have eaten my bread who will take pity on me and protect me? These cruel men have come to kill me. Mercy! Mercy!"[17] As his mother, Kösem Sultan, and officials watched from a palace window, Ibrahim was strangled on 18 August 1648. His death was the second regicide in the history of the Ottoman Empire.

Personal lifeEdit

Ibrahim, according to some sources, was obsessed with larger women, and he would direct his officers to find the fattest women in his empire so that he could add them to his large harem as concubines.[18][19]

Ibrahim (in some sources) is said to have drowned 280 concubines of his harem in the Bosphorus.[20][21] At least one of his concubines, Turhan Sultan, a Russian girl who came into the Ottoman Empire as a slave sold by Nogai slavers, survived his reign.

Ibrahim I by Arolsen Klebeband

All of Ibrahim's Hasekis received 1,000 aspers a day except for Aşub Sultan who received 1,300 aspers a day.[22] Ibrahim gifted the incomes of Bolu, Hamid, Nicopolis Sanjaks, and Syria Eyalet to Aşub, Mahienver, Saçbağı, and Şivekar Sultans respectively.[23] He also lavished the treasury of Egypt upon Saçbağı and Hümaşah Sultans,[24] and presented the Ibrahim Pasha Palace to Hümaşah. His consorts were:

  • Mehmed IV (2 January 1642 – 6 January 1693) – with Turhan Sultan;
  • Suleiman II (15 April 1642 – 22/23 June 1691) – with Aşub Sultan;
  • Ahmed II (25 February 1643 – 6 February 1695) – with Muazzez Sultan;
  • Şehzade Murad (22 March 1643 – 16 January 1645);
  • Şehzade Selim (19 March 1644 – October 1669);
  • Şehzade Osman (August 1644 – 1646);
  • Şehzade Bayezid (1 May 1646 – August 1647);
  • Şehzade Cihangir (14 December 1646 – 1 December 1648);
  • Şehzade Orhan (October 1648 – January 1650) – with Hümaşah Sultan.

Ibrahim had several daughters,[27] including the following:

At one point Ibrahim took a great liking to the infant son of a slave woman, to the extent of preferring the unrelated child to his son Mehmed. Turhan, Mehmed's mother, grew extremely jealous and vented her anger to Ibrahim, who flew into a rage and grabbed Mehmed from Turhan's arms and threw him into a pool. Mehmed would have drowned if a servant had not rescued him. He was left with a permanent scar on his forehead.[32]

In popular cultureEdit

The tragic play Ibrahim, the Thirteenth Emperor of the Turks, written by Mary Pix and first performed in 1699, purported to describe incidents in Ibrahim's life. The numbering is correct only if Mehmed the Conqueror is regarded as the First Emperor, and the disputed reign of his son Cem is counted as well.

In the Turkish series, Muhteşem Yüzyıl: Kösem he is portrayed by actor Ridvan Aybars Duzey as a prince and by Tugay Mercan as a Sultan.[33]


  1. ^ Singh, Nagendra Kr (2000). International encyclopaedia of Islamic dynasties. Anmol Publications PVT. pp. 423–424. ISBN 81-261-0403-1. Kosem Walide or Kosem Sultan, called Mahpaykar (ca. 1589-1651), wife of the Ottoman Sultan Ahmad I and mother of the sultans Murad IV and Ibrahim [q.vv.]. She was Greek by birth, and achieved power in the first place through the harem, exercising a decisive influence in the state
  2. ^ Sonyel, Salâhi Ramadan (1993). Minorities and the destruction of the Ottoman Empire. Turkish Historical Society Printing House. p. 61. ISBN 975-16-0544-X. Many of these ladies of the harem were non-Muslim, for example Sultana Kosem (Anastasia), of Greek origin, who was the wife of Ahmet I (1603-17), and the mother of Murat IV (1623-40), and of Ibrahim (1640-8)
  3. ^ al-Ayvansarayî, Hafiz Hüseyin; Crane, Howard (2000). The garden of the mosques : Hafiz Hüseyin al-Ayvansarayî's guide to the Muslim monuments of Ottoman Istanbul. Brill. p. 21. ISBN 90-04-11242-1. Kosem Valide Mahpeyker, known also simply as Kosem Sultan (c. 1589-1651), consort of Sultan Ahmed I and mother of Murad IV and Ibrahim. Greek by birth, she exercised a decisive influence in the Ottoman state
  4. ^ John Freely, Inside the Seraglio: private lives of the sultans in Istanbul (2000) p. 145. online
  5. ^ Rank, 2020 ch 4. online
  6. ^ Baysun, M. Cavid (2012). Kösem Wālide or Kösem Sulṭān. Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Brill Online. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
  7. ^ Mansel 1995, p. 200.
  8. ^ Janda, Setareh (10 January 2020). "Facts About Ibrahim I, The Man Who Lived In A Cage". Ranker.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ Freely, John (2001). Inside the Seraglio: Private Lives of the Sultans in Istanbul. Tauris Parke Paperbacks. p. 151. ISBN 978-1784535353.
  10. ^ Gökbilgin, M. Tayyib (2012). Ibrāhīm. Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Brill Online. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
  11. ^ Börekçi, Günhan. "Ibrahim I." Encyclopedia of the Ottoman Empire. Ed. Gábor Ágoston and Bruce Masters. New York: Facts on File, 2009. p.263.
  12. ^ a b c d Gökbilgin, "Ibrāhīm."
  13. ^ a b Baysun, "Kösem Wālide or Kösem Sulṭān"
  14. ^ a b Börekçi, p.263.
  15. ^ Quioted in Thys-Senocak, p.26.
  16. ^ Kohen, p. 142.
  17. ^ Mansel 1995, p. 201.
  18. ^ Rutherford, Tristan; Tomasetti, Kathryn (2011). National Geographic Traveler: Istanbul and Western Turkey. National Geographic Books. pp. 60. ISBN 978-1-4262-0708-2.
  19. ^ Crofton, Ian (3 September 2013). "The 17th Century". History Without the Boring Bits. Quercus. ISBN 978-1-62365-244-9.
  20. ^ "Old World Empires: Cultures of Power and Governance in Eurasia". Ilhan Niaz (2014). p.296. ISBN 1317913787
  21. ^ Dash, Mike (22 March 2012). "The Ottoman Empire's Life-or-Death Race". Smithsonian.com.
  22. ^ Thys-Şenocak, Lucienne (2006). Ottoman Women Builders: The Architectural Patronage of Hadice Turhan Sultan. Ashgate. p. 89. ISBN 978-0-754-63310-5.
  23. ^ Resimli tarih mecmuasi. Iskit Yayinevi. 1956. p. 229.
  24. ^ a b Çelebi, Evliya; Erkılıç, Süleyman Cafer (1954). Turk Klasikleri, Issue 34. p. 62.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g Mustafa Çağatay. Uluçay (2011). Padişahların kadınları ve kızları. Ankara, Ötüken. pp. 56–61.
  26. ^ Kal'a, Ahmet (1997). Vakıf su defterleri: Hatt-ı Hümâyûn, 1577-1804. İstanbul Araştırmaları Merkezi. p. 57. ISBN 978-9-758-21504-1.
  27. ^ a b c d Mustafa Çağatay Uluçay (2011). Padişahların kadınları ve kızları. Ankara, Ötüken. pp. 63–65.
  28. ^ Uluçay 1992, p. 101.
  29. ^ a b c Sakaoğlu, Necdet (2008). Bu mülkün kadın sultanları: Vâlide sultanlar, hâtunlar, hasekiler, kadınefendiler, sultanefendiler. Oğlak Yayıncılık. pp. 260–262.
  30. ^ a b c Silahdar Findiklili Mehmed Agha (2012). ZEYL-İ FEZLEKE (1065-22 Ca.1106 / 1654-7 Şubat 1695). pp. 1290, 1400, 1580.
  31. ^ Silahdar Findiklili Mehmed Agha (2001). Nusretnâme: Tahlil ve Metin (1106-1133/1695-1721). p. 461.
  32. ^ Thys-Senocak, p.25.
  33. ^ Muhtesem Yüzyil: Kösem (TV Series 2015– ), retrieved 13 October 2017

Further readingEdit

  • Rank, Scott. History's 9 Most Insane Rulers (2020) ch 4.

External linksEdit

Born: 5 November 1615 Died: 18 August 1648
Regnal titles
Preceded by Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
9 February 1640 – 8 August 1648
Succeeded by