Modern History of the Arab Countries. Vladimir Borisovich Lutsky 1969


aga – chief. Any officer from the grade of major up in the Ottoman Empire; battalion commander in Abd-el-Kader’s army

aga el-askar – commander of Abd-el-Kader’s regular army

aghnam – sheep tax

akche – silver coin, about a quarter of a dirhem

ardeb – dry measure containing 198 litres

asnaf – artisan guilds

atar – allotted land in the Egyptain commune; in the iltizam

ayan – feudal lord, a notable

baladiah – municipal council

barrani – an extra tax exacted by the multazims from the peasants in addition to the mal el hurr

bedel el-askari – payment for exoneration from military service. It applied to the Christians of the Ottoman Empire in the second half of the 19th century

Belt-El-Mal – the treasury, the department that handled state property

bek – see bey

Bektashi – Dervish order

bey – feudal title literally meaning ruler

beylik – state land in Algeria and Tunisia

cadi – Moslem judge

cadi-askari – military judges in the Ottoman Empire

caliph – lit. “deputy”; in particular, heir of the prophet; spiritual head of all Moslems

cantar – Egyptian weight measure, about a hundredweight

chift – allotment given to the peasant by the feudal lord

defterdar – inspector of taxes

derebcy – feudal lord, sovereign; literal meaning, “ruler of the valley”

dervish – member of Moslem brotherhoods or religious order; Moslem monk

dey – Algerian ruler prior to French conquest

dirhem – the principal silver coin which was equivalent to one-tenth of a dinar

diwan – council of higher dignitaries

Druze – Moslem religious sect, offshoot of Ismailism

duar – village (in Algeria)

emir (“sovereign”) – prince; feudal title

emir el-mumeneen (“sovereign of the faithful”) – title of the caliph

enzel – a form of alienating waqfs

eiyalet – see pashalik

faiz – portion of the mal-el-hurr (q.v.) that remained in the multazims’ hands; interest, profit

fakir – poor dervish, hermit; see dervish

feddan – Egyptian unit of area equal to 1.038 acres

fetwa – formal pronouncement made by the appropriate theological authority on matters involving the interpretation of the canon law

firman – decree

gafir – village watchman (in Egyptian commune)

hadj – pilgrimage to the holy places of Islam

hatti-humayun – sultan’s rescript

hatti-sheriff Gulhane – noble rescript, same as the hatti-humayun

Iltizam – feudal estate in Egypt based on tax farming

Imam – (1) the spiritual head of the Moslems in several Moslem countries and religious communities; (2) Moslem minister of religion

janissary – Turkish soldier, member of a privileged professional infantry corps formed in the 14th century

jihad – holy war waged by Moslems

jizyah – (kharaj ra’asi) poll tax exacted from non-Moslems

Kafir (gaur) – infidel, apostate of Islam

Kaid – chief, the governor of a district (kaidat) in Tunisia

kaidat – administrative and territorial division in Tunisia

kasida – verse or poem

kashif – provincial or district ruler in Egypt

kashifia – payments for the upkeep of the provincial administration (in Egypt)

kaza – smallest administrative and territorial division in the Ottoman Empire

khabus – see waqf

khammas – propertyless peasant who cultivated the land on the basis of the khammasat

khammasat – a medieval form of holding land on lease for one-fifth of the crop yield

kharaj – exorbitant land tax, amounting sometimes to half of the harvest

kharaj ra’asi – see jizyah

kharajiya – peasant lands in Egypt that were affected by the kharaj

khas – large estates for the private use of the Sultan, members of his dynasty, ministers and other important dignitaries

khauli – land surveyor (in Egypt’s communal administration)

khedive – sovereign, seignior (Persian); in 1867 khedive became the hereditary title of the ruler of Egypt

khutbah – Friday sermon in which the ruling sovereign’s name was mentioned

kiakhya – estate manager, butler

kibar – feudal lord, a magnate

kulemenis – white slaves in Iraq forcibly converted to Islam and given a military training; the same as the Mamelukes in Egypt

kurbash – five-tail whip made of rhinoceros hide

liwa – sanjaq

madrasah – collegiate mosque

mahmal – palanquin or litter used to carry the presents that were sent daily to Mecca with the pilgrimage caravan

makhzen – privileged tribes in the government’s service in Maghreb

mal-el-hurr – money rent, the comhbined payments exacted by the multazim from the peasants

malmudir (muhassil) – official in charge of the finance and tax department in the sanjaq (during the tanzimat period)

Mamelukes – white slaves in Egypt, especially bought and trained for military service

mamleket (miri) – state land property belonging to the treasury in the Ottoman Empire

ma’mur – ruler of a markaz

marabout – leader in North Africa, head of a religious brotherhood

markaz – territorial division in Egypt

Maronites – followers of one of the Eastern Christian churches as a separate Monothelete organisation

mashhad – village policeman in mediaeval Egypt

mawat – “dead land,” according to Moslem law

mejba – poll-tax in Tunisia

mejliss – council, assembly

mejliss idaroh – administrative council under governor (wali) in the Ottoman Empire (during the tanzimat period)

mek (melik) – leader, ruler or king (in East Sudan)

melikat – the jurisdiction of the mek (melik)

melkiti – members of Greek Uniate Church

millet – nationality, national group; according to the pan-Ottoman theory, one of the elements or components of the single “Ottoman” nation

miri – see mamleket

miri tapu – state lands handed over to private owners for use on the basis of special documents (“tapu”)

mudir – head or ruler of province (mudiria) in Egypt

mudiria – administrative and territorial division in Egypt since the time of Mohammed Ali; province

Mufti – expounder of the canon (Moslem) law; head of the Moslem clergy of a province

mugaras – agreement by which one person undertook to plant and cultivate fruit-trees on another person’s land; when the term of agreement expired the plantation was divided

muhassil – see malmudir

mukabala – reimbursement, compensation; according to the Egyptian law of mukabala of 1871, all landowners could redeem one half of the land tax to which they were liable by payment of the six years’ tax, either in one sum or in instalments spread over a period of twelve years

mulk – privately owned lands

multazim – feudal lord, owner of iltizam

mutasallim – governor, district head in Syria and Iraq

mutasarrif – (1) governor of autonomous Lebanon according to the “reglement organique” of 1861; (2) head or governor of a district in the Ottoman Empire

nahiya – the smallest administrative and territorial subdivision in Egypt

nazir – governor, head of a nahiya (in Egypt)

Nizam-El-Jadid – regiments of the “new order”; Turkish name for the regular forces founded by Selim III

omdah – village elder, head of a village administration in Egypt

padishah – official title of the Turkish sultan, the supreme authority in the Ottoman Empire

pasha – feudal title; deputy, governor of a province

pashalik (eiyalet) – province or territory under the pasha’s jurisdiction

piastre – monetary unit in the Ottoman Empire

qa’im ma’qam – deputy; head of the sanjaq in the Ottoman Empire

raya – tax-paying population, who had to give nearly half their harvest to the feudal lord

reis-es-saf – platoon commander in Abd el-Kader’s army

rizq – see waqf

Sadr Azam – title of the Grand Visier, head of the government of the Ottoman Empire

sanjaq, or liwa (banner) – district, the knights (sipahi) of which formed a military unit of the Ottoman cavalry; later an administrative and territorial division in the Ottoman Empire

sanjaq bey – governor of a district and commander of the knights (sipahi) of the district

sarraf – money-changer; tax collector

sayaf – platoon commander in Ahd el-Kader’s army

seyyid (also sherif) – (1) a descendant of the prophet; (2) title of the ruler of Oman (Muscat)

sheikh – elder, tribal leader

sheikh-el-Islam – head of the Moslem clergy

sherif – the hereditary ruler of Mecca; also see seyyid

Shi’as – followers of one of two trends in Islam; that branch of the Moslems who reject the first three caliphs and consider Ali, Mohammed’s son-in-law, as the first rightful successor of Mohammed; and those who do not recognise the sunna as any part of the law

sirdar – commander-in-chief (in Turkey and Egypt)

sirdar-i-ekram – Supreme Commander-in-Chief in the Ottoman Empire

sipahi – horsemen, knights

Sufist – member of a madrasah in Turkey

sultan – sovereign; title of hereditary ruler in many Moslem countries

sultanate – territory under the sultan’s jurisdiction

Sunnites – followers of Orthodox Islam; one of a Moslem sect that acknowledges the first four caliphs to be the rightful successors of Mohammed

Tanzimat – the name of a period of reforms in the Ottoman Empire that began in 1839. The term comes from the name of the reforms tanzimat-elkhairiye

tanzimat-el-khairiye (“charity reforms”) – an expression used in the hatti-sherif Gulhane of 1839 in reference to certain projected reforms

timar – military fief with a revenue of up to 20,000 akchas

timarji (timariot) – sipahi, owners of the timar

Ulema – Moslem theologians, learned men

ushr – tithe (one-tenth)

ushriya – various categories of feudal land in Egypt from which after 1854 a tithe was collected

usia – originally land, allotted to serve the community’s needs; later, a landlord’s estate

vilayet – administrative and territorial division; province

Vizier – minister

wakil – representative, agent

wali – governor; head of vilayet administration

waqf (khabus) – land and other property of Moslem religious institutions

zaim – sipahi, owner of a ziamet

zakat – cattle tax

zawia – hermitage, dervish monastery

zaydites – religious Moslem sect, offshoot of Shiism; not so far removed from the Sunnites as other Shi’s orders

ziamet – military fief with revenue exceeding 20,000 akches


Last updated: 31 July 2020