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the official in medieval eastern Islamic states who had charge of the administrative side of the military forces, being especially concerned with payment, recruitment, training, and inspection.

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Volume II, Fascicle 4, pp. 393-394

ʿĀREŻ (Arabic ʿĀriḍ, from the verb ʿaraḍa, also iʿtaraḍa, istaʿraḍa, “to lay open to view,” i.e., for inspection), the official in medieval eastern Islamic states who had charge of the administrative side of the military forces, being especially concerned with payment, recruitment, training, and inspection; he thus combined many of the duties of a modern war minister, paymaster-general, and quartermaster-general. The term ʿāreż was used in the ʿAbbasid caliphate and spread thence to the successor states which arose from it, including those of Iran, and eventually passed to the culturally Iranized states of Muslim India.

The idea of organizing reviews (Arabic ʿarż, pl. ʿurūḍ) of the military forces must be an ancient one in the Near Eastern empires, and probably existed in Sasanian Iran, although we lack explicit contemporary evidence (cf. on the Sasanian army. Christensen, Iran, Sass., pp. 206-18). Subsequent Islamic sources for Sasanian history do however speak of army reviews, in particular, Ṭabarī (I, pp. 963-65), and Dīnavarī (pp. 74-75). Nöldeke (Geschichte der Perser und Araber, pp. 247-49) considered the passage of Ṭabarī too anecdotal to be relied upon, but he was probably over-skeptical. According to these accounts, Ḵosrow Anōšīravān had a special department of the bureaucracy for the soldiers (dīvān al-moqātela), and his official Bābak held periodic reviews of the army at which mounts, equipment and weapons were all inspected, the soldier’s salary only being paid over if all was satisfactory; even the emperor himself, as commander-in-chief, was not exempt from a meticulous examination.

A considerable amount is known about the working of the ʿAbbasid military department, the Dīvān al-ǰayšä, especially for the 3rd/9th and 4th/10th centuries. Its head, who was an official of the bureaucracy, is usually given the general designation of Ṣāḥeb in the sources, and amongst his functions was the recruitment of soldiers, the purchase of mounts, and the keeping of up-to-date registers of the troops and their horses. The soldiers, amongst whom Turkish slaves (ḡelmān, mamālīk) now predominated, were kept in fighting trim by reviews held in Baghdad (or in the provinces during campaigns) before the caliph’s palace and in the presence of the sovereign himself (see W. Hoernerbach, “Zur Heeresverwaltung der ʿAbbāsiden: Dīwān al-ğaiš,” Islam 29, 1949-50, pp. 268ff.).

Since the provincial dynasties which arose from the later 3rd/9th century onwards modeled their military machines on those of the ʿAbbasid central government, the concept of a specific military department and a minister in charge of it naturally appears in the Iranian states from the Saffarids and Samanids onwards, and it is now that the more specific term ʿāreż for this minister appears. And as under the caliphs, this person was normally an Arab or Iranian with a secretarial training and not one drawn from the ethnic groups (Turkish, Daylami, Kurdish, etc.) which provided most of the actual fighting men. Under the Saffarids of Sīstān, according to a lengthy description of an ʿarż or review given by Ebn Ḵallekān in his biography of Yaʿqūb b. Layṯ (Wafayāt al-aʿyān, ed. E. ʿAbbās, VI, pp. 421-23, tr. de Slane, IV, pp. 322-24), periodic reviews of the army were carried out in the time of Yaʿqūb’s brother and successor ʿAmr (265-88/879-901) by the ʿāreż Sahl b. Ḥamdān. The quarterly pay allotments (razaqāt, bīstgānī) were given out then, and, echoing the allegedly Sasanian practice, inspection began with the Amīr ʿAmr b. Layṯ himself (see C. E. Bosworth, “The armies of the Saffarids,” BSOAS 31, 1968, pp. 548-51 ).

Because of the need to maintain a high standard of weapon training, equestrian skills and general discipline in battle, the ʿāreż had to be particularly on his guard against interlopers and intruders into the ranks of the army, attracted by the pay and the prospects of plunder. This motive comes out very clearly in accounts given by the Saffarids historian Meskawayh of the ʿarż procedure under the Buyids of northern and western Iran and Iraq, when the military department of the administration assumed such prime importance that under ʿAżod-al-dawla (338-72/949-83) and his son Bahāʾ-al-dawla (388-403/998-1012), there were two ʿāreżs, one for the Daylamis and the other for the Turks, Arabs, and Kurds, reflecting the ethnic components of the Buyid forces. At the Buyid reviews, care was taken to weed out intruders (doḵalāʾ) and substitutes (bodalāʾ) and to check off the Daylamis against the tribal genealogies; they were also the occasions for the payment of salaries and the redistribution of land grants (eqṭāʿs) (see Bosworth, “Military Organisation under the Būyids of Persia and Iraq,” Oriens 18-19, 1965-66, pp. 162-65).

We possess from the Samanid official Ḵᵛārazmī’s account of the technical terminology of the central and eastern Islamic dīvāns much information on the administrative procedures of the military department under the Samanids of Transoxania and Khorasan without however gleaning therefrom much specific information on the institution of the ʿarż there or on the duties of the ʿāreż (see Bosworth, “An Alleged Embassy from the Emperor of China to the Amir Naṣr b. Aḥmad: A Contribution to Samanid Military History,” Yād-nāma-ye īrānī-e Mīnorskī, ed. M. Mīnovī and Ī. Afšār, Tehran, 1969, pp. 17-29; idem, “Abū ʿAbdallāh al-Khwārazmī on the Technical Terms of the Secretary’s Art…” JESHO 12, 1969, pp. 143-47). But that the practice and the official existed seems certain, from the fact that we find them flourishing in full vigor among the Ghaznavids of Afghanistan and Khorasan in the 5th/11th century, for the Ghaznavids, in many respects a successor-state to the Samanids, followed the administrative traditions of Bokhara. Since the Ghaznavid empire was an archetypical military state, it is not surprising that the ʿāreż’s office was second in importance only to that of the vizier; an ʿāreż like Abū Sahl Zūzanī acquired at times in Sultan Masʿūd’s reign (421-32/1031-41) a position in the ruler’s counsels equal to or superior to that of the vizier himself. The Ghaznavid ʿāreż’s functions were exercised from the court, since the bureaucracy accompanied the sultan, but there were also subordinate ʿāreżs for the troops in the provinces. Historians like Gardīzī and Bayhaqī give descriptions of large-scale reviews, such as those held on the plain of Šābahār outside Ḡazna, during which the troops were checked against a nominal roll, the ǰarīda-ye ʿarż, and at which ancillary elements of the army like the war elephants were also paraded. It is doubtless Ghaznavid practice, taken over and perhaps modified to some extent by their Ghurid epigoni in Afghanistan, that is reflected in the detailed description of the ʿarż and the functions of the ʿāreż—“the mainstay, the very mother and father of the army, upon whom the strength and reliance of the troops rest”—in Faḵr-e Modabber Mobārakšāh’s 7th/13th-century treatise on the art of war, the Ādāb al-ḥarb wa’l-šaǰāʿa or Ādāb al-molūk (ed. A. S. Ḵᵛānsārī, Tehran, 1346 Š./1967, pp. 267-68).

In the administration of the Great Saljuqs, the department of the ʿĀreż al-ǰayš was a constituent of the great dīvān of the vizier, with the usual task of ensuring that the army was an efficient fighting force and with important responsibilities regarding the eqtāʿs which supported the soldiers financially. The office of ʿāreż was not infrequently the stepping-stone to the supreme offices of vizier and chief secretary; the historian Anūšervān b. Ḵāled progressed in the early 6th/12th century from being ʿāreż for Moḥammad b. Malekšāh to becoming vizier for Maḥmūd b. Moḥammad.

The office of ʿāreż passed, whether under that name specifically or a synonymous one, to the successor states in Iran of the Great Saljuqs. Nūr-al-dīn Monšī’s collection of letters, the Wasāʾel al-rasāʾel, compiled for the brother of the Ḵᵛārazmšāh Jalāl-al-dīn Mingburnu, contains the investiture diploma for an ʿāreż. The institution is found amongst the Mongol Il-khanids as the ʿāreż or amīr-e ʿāreż, whilst for the Turkmen dynasties arising in Iran after the Il-khanids, we possess a detailed account of an ʿarż under the Āq Qoyunlū in the later 9th/15th century, in which the Amīr Uzun Ḥasan’s son Solṭān Ḵalīl, governor of Fārs, passed in review 23,000 troops, the provincial army of Fārs, at Band-e Amīr near Persepolis (see V. Minorsky, “A Civil and Military Review in Fārs in 881/1476,” BSOS 10, 1940-42, pp. 141-78).

Via the Rūm Saljuqs, the institution of the ʿarz passed to the Ottomans under the designation of yoqlama, with the yoqlamaǰi as the equivalent of the ʿāreż. A similar process took place in Muslim India, where the institution was transmitted from Ghaznavid and Ghurid practice to the Slave Kings of Delhi, and thence to the Khaljis and Tughluyids, under whom the official in charge was called the rāwat-e ʿarż (Hindi rāwat “warrior”) or ʿāreż-e ḥašam, and ultimately to the Mughals, under whom many of the functions of the medieval ʿāreż were exercised by the secretary for war, the mīr-baḵšī or baḵšī al-mamālek (see W. Irvine, The Army of the Indian Moghuls: Its Organization and Administration, London, 1903, pp. 36-56). During the Safavid period in Iran, however—one which brought new bureaucratic practices and a dependence, at least initially, on the tribal qizilbāš rather than on the hitherto numerous class of military slaves—the office of ʿāreż as such apparently drops out of use. If the actual functions did survive in some form or other, they were presumably exercised by officials responsible to such exalted dignitaries as the amīr al-omarāʾ or commander-in-chief and the qūṛčībāšī (q.v.), commander of the Turkmen tribal cavalry.


See also the detailed article by Bosworth, “Istiʿrāḍ,” in EI2 IV, pp. 265-69, and idem, “Recruitment, Muster and Review in Medieval Islamic Armies,” in War, Technology and Society in the Middle East, ed.

V. J. Parry and M. E. Yapp, London, 1975, pp. 59-77.

Cite this page
C. Edmund Bosworth, “ʿĀREŻ”, in: Encyclopaedia Iranica Online, © Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York. Consulted online on 21 July 2024 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2330-4804_EIRO_COM_5674>
First published online: 2020
First print edition: 19861215

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