top of page

Sälçük (Seljuk)

The Sälçüks (Kharakhanid: سَلجُك; Persian: سلجوق) were a dynasty of Oğuz Türkmän origin, founded by members of the Qınıq tribe.




Sälçük is the form given by Mahmud al-Kashgari in his Dīwān Lughāt al-Turk or "Compendium of the Turkic Languages." There, it is transcribed as Sälçük (سَلجُك) *sält͡ʃyk. There is also the variant, Salçuq, which is featured in Persian transcriptions.

Given Mahmud al-Kashgari's expertise, it is safe to say Sälçük is the correct form. Unfortunately, it is of uncertain etymology. Though, it has been claimed that it is derived from Arabic sayl (سَيْل‎) /sajl/ or "flood" and the Turkic diminutive suffix *-çük. Yet, an Arabic etymology seems unlikely given Sälçük Bäg's personal history. As warriors under the Xazar Qağanate, both Sälçük and his father, Doqaq, were heavily influenced by their Judeo-Oğuric overlords. So much so that Sälçük would give his children Judaic names. Moreover, their association with the Xazars would have made them hostile to the Arabs, providing little incentive for Doqaq to name his son from their language. Given that Sälçük's name is not Judaic, one would then assume it must be Turkic.

If it is derived from an Oğuz language, then there are no obvious etymologies. However, if one considers an Oğuric etymology, then there is Oğuric *s(ʲ)äl or "wind." It is comparable to Mongolic *salkïn s.m. (Nugteren ,2011) and survives in Çŏvaş as ҫил /sʲäl/ s.m. It is also a loan in Hungarian as szél /seːl/ s.m. Thus Sälçük could mean "little wind."










Sälçük's clan belonged to the Qınıq tribe, a subtribe of the Oğuz. Prior to the formation of the 8th century Oğuz İli state (Oghuz Yabghu State), the Oğuz tribes inhabited the lands of the Central Asian Xunı. However, with the Islamic conquest and the rise of the rival Kök Türüks in Inner-Asia, their Hunnish ancestors found themselves trapped between several emerging powers. By the late 7th century, the empire of the Xunı had collapsed. Thereafter, much of their former territory would be ruled by local Persianate, Arab, and Kök Türük rulers. While some of their descendants would join the Kök Türüks, forming many Turko-Hunnish states, many would migrate to the lands between the Xazar and Aral Seas. There they would establish the Oğuz İl state.


Under the Xazars


According to the İlxan official Raşid al-Din Fazlullah Hamadani in his Jami al-Tawarikh, itself based on Zahir al-Din Nişapuri’s Saljuq-Nama, Sälçük was a descendant of Doqşurmış, the son of Gärägücü Xwaca, presumably a yurt maker for the Yabğus of the Oğuz İl. The Oğuz-Name expands on this genealogy, claiming the following order of descent: Sälçük, Doqaq (Temür Yalığ), Ertoğrul, Luqman, Doqşurmış İlçi, and Gärägücü Xwaca. Of these, the Arabic Luqman may be ignored, as the ancestors of Sälçük would be unlikely to have Islamic names. So too may we consider the omission of Ertoğrul, a name possibly inserted into their genealogy to tie them to the House of Osman.

As for their migration to the lands of Inner Turan, Räşidäddin recounts that Sälçük and his clan migrated “on account of their prevalence and the inadequacy of grazing lands… [thus] they came from Türkestan to the province of Transoxiana” (Luther, 2001). This, however, may not be the entire truth of the matter. For prior to their migration, Doqaq served as a Sü-başı or “commander-in-chief” to the Oğuz Yabğu and by extension, as a commander under the Xazar Qağan. According to the Malik-Nama, Doqaq refused the Xazar Qağan’s command to attack a group of Muslim Türks, going so far as to knock him (or his official) off his horse. Later writers would interpret this as proof of Doqaq’s conversion to Islam, but this is unlikely given that Sälçük himself converted only after his clan’s migration. In any case, Doqaq would soon die. At the time Sälçük was between eighteen and nineteen years old and would soon inherit his father’s position as Sü-başı. Reportedly, Sälçük was well-liked by the Yabğu who would take the young warrior under his wing. However, the Yabğu’s wife, fearing Sälçük’s growing influence, would come to order his execution. Muhammad Ibn Xavandşah’s version of the Malik-nama in his Rawzat as-Safa notes that at this time, “[Sälçük] thought much about how to save himself. He decided to flee into exile. When he had decided on flight, with a hundred horsemen, 1500 camels and 50,000 sheep he headed for the lands of Samarqand” (Peacock, 2015).


Revolt Against the Oğuz


Sälçük and his clan would migrate to Cand (Jand), on the left bank of the Yrt river (Syr-Darya) and to the south-east of Yeŋi-Kent, where the Oğuz Yabğu is said to have wintered. Hmdllah Mustwfi Qzvini’s Tarix-i Guzideh dates the migration to 375 H or 985–6 C.E. At the time, Cand was under the vassalage of Xwarzm (Khwarazm), ruled by the Mämuniyan (Ma'munid) dynasty, themselves vassals of the Samaniyan (Samanids).

bottom of page