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the department of the administration which, in the successor states to the ʿAbbasid caliphate in the Islamic East, looked after military affairs, such as the recruitment and discharge of soldiers, their pay allotments, etc.

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Volume II, Fascicle 7, pp. 687-689

ʿARŻ, DĪVĀN(-E), the department of the administration which, in the successor states to the ʿAbbasid caliphate in the Islamic East, looked after military affairs, such as the recruitment and discharge of soldiers, their pay allotments, their training in the military and equestrian skills, the procurement of arms and mounts, the periodic inspection of the troops’ weapons and their preparedness or otherwise for battle (the specific meaning of the term ʿarż), etc. The institution of the ʿarż or inspection of the army (Arabic ʿaraḍa “lay open, reveal to view”) must be distinguished from the parallel use of ʿarż in the Islamic East in the sense of “presentation of a request, petition,” synonymous with ʿarż-e ḥāl, a procedure which appears at various times, and especially in the post-Saljuq period, at various Iranian and Indo-Muslim courts.

The military ʿarż (the form esteʿrāż is also found) must have its roots in the pre-Islamic past of Iran, very probably in the time of the Sasanians and perhaps in those of the Arsacids and Achaemenids. The early Islamic writers Dīnawarī and Ṭabarī (qq.v.) both give what purport to be accounts of the Sasanian ʿarż procedure, with armored cavalrymen who formed the backbone of the army filing past the inspecting official, who scrutinized their mounts, their personal equipment and weapons; even the emperor himself was not exempt from this rigorous parade of inspection (see Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, pp. 247-49; Nöldeke was probably unduly skeptical about the authenticity of this information).

In the early ʿAbbasid caliphate, it was the dīvān al-ǰayš “department of the army” which regulated military affairs and which became increasingly complex and far-ranging in its operations as the caliphs came to depend on professional and mercenary troops instead of, as earlier, tribal levies. At the ʿAbbasid ʿarż, the caliph or his representative the vizier acted as ʿāreż or inspecting officer. We possess, for instance, an account from Helāl al-Ṣābī of an ʿarż at Baghdad by the caliph al-Moʿtażed and his minister ʿObaydallāh b. Solaymān b. Wahb in 280/893, in which the soldiers had to undergo practical weapon training tests; cf. W. Hoernerbach, “Zur Heeresverwaltung der ʿAbbasiden. Studie über Abulfarağ Qudāma: Dīwān al-ğaiš,” Der Islam 29, 1949/50, pp. 257-90, and H. Busse, “Das Hofbudget des Chalifen al-Muʿtaḍid billāh (279/892-289/902),” Der Islam 43, 1967, pp. 17-20.

As with many other administrative organs and procedures, the autonomous and then independent states which arose in Iran from the 3rd/9th century onwards modeled their military infrastructures and their inspection patterns on those of the ʿAbbasids. Since the basis of these states was essentially military, we note the appearance in many of them of an official— in the cases of such Turkish dominated states as those of the Ghaznavids and Saljuqs, usually a civilian member of the Iranian bureaucracy—with the specific title of ʿāreż. This functionary usually enjoyed a very close relationship with and easy access to the ruler; this intimacy emerges from the moǰalladāt or official memoirs of the Ghaznavid chancery official Abu’l- Fażl Bayhaqī (q.v.), in which the author’s personal enemy, the ʿāreż Abū Sahl Zawzanī, is portrayed as in many ways the evil genius of Sultan Masʿūd (see M. R. Waldman, Toward a Theory of Historical Narrative. A Case Study in Perso-Islamicate Historiography, Columbus, Ohio, 1980, pp. 92, 96-97).

A department of military affairs under its ʿāreż is mentioned as having been set up by the Saffarid adventurer Yaʿqūb b. Layṯ when he carved out his vast if transient military empire in Afghanistan and eastern Iran in the second half of the 3rd/9th century. Inspections, ʿorūż, were combined with pay parades, and we find again the Sasanian topos of the emir himself having to submit himself for inspection before the ʿāreż when Ebn Ḵallekān describes how ʿAmr b. Layṯ would step forward for scrutiny on these occasions (see C. E. Bosworth, “The Armies of the Saffarids,” BSOAS 31, 1968, pp. 544, 549-51 = The Medieval History of Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia, London, 1977, no. XVII).

Information is somewhat sparse on the military department of the Samanid emirs of Transoxania and Khorasan, although a special dīvān in Bukhara for the Ṣāḥeb-e Šoraṭ or commander of the guard there is mentioned by Naršaḵī, tr. R. N. Frye, The History of Bukhara, Cambridge, Mass., 1954, p. 26, and the late Samanid official Abū ʿAbdallāh Ḵᵛārazmī mentions the muster rolls, pay registers, etc. of the dīvān al-ǰayš in the capital, see Bosworth, “Abū ʿAbdallāh al-Kwārazmī on the Technical Terms of the Secretary’s Art … ,” JESHO 12, 1969, pp. 125ff., Medieval Arabic Culture and Administration, London, 1982, no. XV.

Meanwhile, in western Iran and Iraq the function of ʿāreż had certainly been carried on from the caliphs into the administration of the Daylami Buyids. The chronic turbulence of the emirs’ military supporters, and the disorders which regularly broke out when the army’s pay fell into arrears, necessitated particular care over military organization, and under the great emir ʿAżod al-dawla (q.v.) there was an expansion of staff in the military department, when we hear of two separate ʿāreżs, one for the Daylamis and one for the Arabs, Kurds, and Turks, a reflection of the heterogeneousness of the Buyids’ forces. The Buyid ʿarż was often the occasion for a redistribution of eqṭāʿs or land grants to the troops and for the weeding-out of sub-standard intruders from the army’s ranks; see Bosworth, “Military Organisation under the Būyids of Persia and Iraq,” Oriens 28/29, 1965/66, pp. 162ff., and Busse, Chalif und Grösskonig. Die Buyiden im Iraq (945-1055), Beirut and Wiesbaden, 1969, pp. 314-15, 340-41.

The importance of the dīvān-e ʿarż under the Turkish Ghaznavids of Afghanistan and eastern Iran has already been noted, the offices of ʿāreż and chief secretary being next in importance only to the vizierate. The historical sources mention army reviews held on the plain of Šāhbahār outside Ghazna, when men, horses, and war elephants were examined and checked against the muster and payrolls, sometimes in the presence of the sultan himself. It must be the practice of the Ghaznavids, doubtless continued by their successors the Ghurids in the 6th/ 12th century, which the 7th/13th century Ghurid author Faḵr-e Modabber describes in his manual of military practice, the Ādāb al-ḥarb wa’l-šaǰāʿa or Ādāb al-molūk, claiming to set forth the practice of “former kings;” amongst other things, he stresses the value of the ʿarż as an aid to setting out the troops in battle order on the actual field of war (see Bosworth, “Ghaznevid Military Organisation,” Der Islam 36, 1960, pp. 68ff., and idem, The Ghaznavids, pp. 122-26).

The Great Saljuqs likewise had a war department as part of their bureaucracy, functioning as part of the dīvān-e aʿlā and under supreme control of the vizier, but with the ʿāreżal-ǰayš having a wide range of military and financial duties; tenure of this office was often a stepping-stone to the vizierate itself, as may be seen in the official career of the historian Anūšervān b. Ḵāled (d. 532/1137-38 or in the next year [q.v.] ), who was ʿāreż under Moḥammad b. Malekšāh and the latter’s son Maḥmūd and subsequently vizier for both the Saljuq sultans and the ʿAbbasid caliph.

Despite the break in political and social institutions brought about in the 7th/13th century by the Mongol cataclysms, the long-established administrative arrangements necessary for the mustering, payment, provisioning, and training of a professional army were continued, if in a modified and often somewhat simplified form, by the various Mongol and Turkmen dynasties which controlled the Iranian world till the advent of the Safavids. The Il-khanid ʿāreż is especially mentioned in connection with the allocation of eqṭāʿs, and we possess from the pen of the writer on ethics and political philosophy Jalāl-al-dīn Davānī (d. 908/1502-3) an ʿarż-nāma or account of a three-day review of the Āq Qoyunlū army by the ruler Uzun Ḥasan 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).

Under the Safavids, the administrative unity of the old dīvān-e ʿarż seems to have become divided, or rather, subsumed under the universal authority of the dīvān-e aʿlā, under the wakīl in the earlier part of the 10th/16th century or the wazīr-e aʿẓam or Eʿtemād-al-dawla of subsequent times, who had supreme administrative authority in the military as well as the civil sphere. However, military affairs were channeled from this chief minister through four military departments, corresponding to the four chief corps of the Safavid standing army, the Turkmen tribal cavalry (the qïzïl-baš or quṛčīs), the slaves (the gōlāms), the musketeers (the tofanġčīs), and the artillerymen (the ṭopčīs). Each of these departments had a staff of wazīrs, whose functions seem to have been basically secretarial, and of mostawfīs, concerned with auditing and the recording of payments, although the demarcation line between the two sets of functions was not entirely a hard-and-fast one (see Taḏkerat al-molūk, pars. 56-62, and Minorsky’s commentary, p. 141). With the establishment of the Qajars, the first tentative steps towards the organization of a modern, western-type army and military organization were taken in the 19th century and the ancient administrative forms fell into disuse.

Finally, one should note that in Muslim India, politically and culturally so much an extension of the Irano-Turkish world, the institution of the ʿarż and the dīvān-e ʿarż flourished in various guises as strongly as in Iran proper up to the end of the Mughal empire and the gradual assertion of British control. It was naturally the Ghurid, and ultimately the Ghaznavid traditions which were carried into the military institutions of the Slave Kings of Delhi, the Khaljis and the Tughluqids, as information from such contemporary historians as Baranī shows. The head of the military department was known as the ʿāreż-e mamālek or, in the reign of Sultan Balban (664-86/1266-87), by the Hinduized title of rāwat-eʿarż. The main army reviews were held in the capital Delhi itself, and the 8th/14th century tower which still survives there and is known as the Bijay mandal or “viewing area” was probably designed for the conduct of ʿarzs. Subsequent dynasties in Delhi and those in the provinces, as far as Mālwa, the Deccan, and Bengal, followed similar practices. Under the Mughals, with their complex military hierarchy of manṣabdārs, many of the functions of the older ʿarż devolved on the mīr-baḵšī or chief secretary. The emperor Akbar (963-1014/1556-1605) revived the former practice of the Delhi sultans in requiring accurate muster rolls of warriors and mounts, in order to prevent falsification and financial peculation, and the regular Mughal review process of dāḡ u taṣḥīḥa “branding and verification” may be regarded as the direct descendant of the classical ʿarż (see W. Irvine, The Army of the Indian Moghuls …, London, 1903, pp. 35-56).


In addition to references given in the article, see for a more exhaustive treatment of the topic (on which no comprehensive work exists), the EI2 articles “Istiʿrāḍ” (Bosworth) and, for Muslim India, “Lashkar” (S. A. A. Rizvi), and also EI2, Suppl. art. “Dāgh u taṣḥīḥa” (M. Athar Ali).

Cite this page
C. Edmund Bosworth, “ʿARŻ, DĪVĀN-E”, in: Encyclopaedia Iranica Online, © Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York. Consulted online on 16 July 2024 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2330-4804_EIRO_COM_5869>
First published online: 2020
First print edition: 19871215

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