A divan or diwan (Persian: دیوان, dīvān) was a high
governmental body in a number of Islamic states, or its chief official
2 Creation and development under the early Caliphates
2.1 Establishment and Umayyad period
2.2 Abbasid period
3 Later Islamic dynasties
3.1 Tahirids, Saffarids,
Buyids and Samanids
4 Government councils
5 Ministerial departments
The winter Diwan of a Mughal Nawab.
The word, recorded in English since 1586, meaning "Oriental council of
a state," from Turkish divan, from
It is first attested in
Middle Persian spelled as dpywʾn and dywʾn,
itself hearkening back, via Old Persian,
Elamite and Akkadian,
ultimately to Sumerian dub, clay tablet. The word was borrowed into
Armenian as well as divan; on linguistic grounds this is placed after
the 3rd century, which helps establish the original Middle Persian
(and eventually New Persian) form was dīvān, not dēvān, despite
later legends that traced the origin of the word to the latter form.
The variant pronunciation dēvān however did exist, and is the form
surviving to this day in Tajiki Persian.
In Arabic, the term was first used for the army registers, then
generalized to any register, and by metonymy applied to specific
government departments. The sense of the word evolved to "custom
house" and "council chamber," then to "long, cushioned seat," such as
are found along the walls in Middle-Eastern council chambers. The
latter is the sense that entered European languages as divan
The modern French, Spanish, and Italian words douane, aduana, and
dogana, respectively (meaning "customs house"), also come from
Creation and development under the early Caliphates
Establishment and Umayyad period
The first dīwān was created under Caliph
Umar (reigned 634–644 CE)
in 15 A.H. (636/7 CE) or, more likely, 20 A.H. (641 CE). It comprised
the names of the warriors of
Medina who participated in the Muslim
conquests and their families, and was intended to facilitate the
payment of salary (ʿaṭāʾ, in coin or in rations) to them,
according to their service and their relationship to Muhammad. This
first army register (dīwān al-jund) was soon emulated in other
provincial capitals like Basra,
Kufa and Fustat.
With the advent of the Umayyad Caliphate, the number of dīwāns
increased. To the dīwān al-jund, the first Umayyad caliph, Mu'awiya
(r. 661–680), added the bureau of the land tax (dīwān al-kharāj)
in Damascus, which became the main dīwān, as well as the bureau of
correspondence (dīwān al-rasāʾil), which drafted the caliph's
letters and official documents, and the bureau of the seal (dīwān
al-khātam), which checked and kept copies of all correspondence
before sealing and dispatching it. A number of more specialist
departments were also established, probably by Mu'awiya: the dīwān
al-barīd in charge of the postal service; the bureau of expenditure
(dīwān al-nafaḳāt), which most likely indicates the survival of a
Byzantine institution; the dīwān al-ṣadaḳa was a new foundation
with the task of estimating the zakāt and ʿushr levies; the dīwān
al-mustaghallāt administered state property in cities; the dīwān
al-ṭirāz controlled the government workshops that made official
banners, costumes and some furniture. Aside from the central
government, there was a local branch of the dīwān al-kharāj, the
dīwān al-jund and the dīwān al-rasāʾil in every province.
Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan
Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan (r. 685–705), the practices of the
various departments were standardized and Arabized: instead of the
local languages (Greek in Syria, Coptic and Greek in Egypt, Persian in
Sasanian lands) and the traditional practices of book-keeping,
seals and time-keeping, only
Arabic and the
Islamic calendar were to
be used henceforth. The process of Arabization was gradual:
the first in 697, followed by Syria in 700, Egypt in 705, and finally
Khurasan in 742.
Abbasid Caliphate the administration, partly under the
increasing influence of Iranian culture, became more and more
elaborate and complex. As part of this process, the dīwāns
increased in number and sophistication, reaching their apogee in the
9th–10th centuries. At the same time, the office of vizier
(wazīr) was also created to coordinate government. The
administrative history of the Abbasid dīwāns is complex, since many
were short-lived, temporary establishments for specific needs, while
at times the sections of larger dīwān might be also be termed
dīwāns, and often a single individual was placed in charge of more
than one department.
Caliph al-Saffah (r. 749–754) established a department for the
confiscated properties of the Umayyads after his victory in the
Abbasid Revolution. This was probably the antecedent of the later
dīwān al-ḍiyāʿ, administering the caliph's personal domains.
Similarly, under al-Mansur (r. 754–775) there was a bureau of
confiscations (dīwān al-muṣādara), as well as a dīwān
al-aḥshām, probably in charge of palace service personnel, and a
bureau of petitions to the Caliph (dīwān al-riḳāʿ). Caliph
al-Mahdi (r. 775–785) created a parallel dīwān al-zimām (control
bureau) for every one of the existing dīwāns, as well as a central
control bureau (zimām al-azimma). These acted as comptrollers as well
as coordinators between the various bureaus, or between individual
dīwāns and the vizier. In addition, a dīwān al-maẓālim was
created, staffed by judges, to hear complaints against government
officials. The remit of the dīwān al-kharāj now included all
land taxes (kharāj, zakāt, and jizya, both in money and in kind),
while another department, the dīwān al-ṣadaḳa, dealt with
assessing the zakāt of cattle. The correspondence of the dīwān
al-kharāj was checked by another department, the dīwān
al-khātam. As in Umayyad times, miniature copies of the dīwān
al-kharāj, the dīwān al-jund and the dīwān al-rasāʾil existed
in every province, but by the mid-9th century each province also
maintained a branch of its dīwān al-kharāj in the capital.
The treasury department (bayt al-māl or dīwān al-sāmī) kept the
records of revenue and expenditure, both in money and in kind, with
specialized dīwāns for each category of the latter (e.g. cereals,
cloth, etc.). Its secretary had to mark all orders of payment to make
them valid, and it drew up monthly and yearly balance sheets. The
dīwān al-jahbad̲ha, responsible for the treasury's balance sheets,
was eventually branched off from it, while the treasury domains were
placed under the dīwān al-ḍiyāʿ, of which there appear at times
to have been several. In addition, a department of confiscated
property (dīwān al-musādarīn) and confiscated estates (dīwān
al-ḍiyāʿ al-maḳbūḍa) existed.
Caliph al-Mu'tadid (r. 892–902) grouped the branches of the
provincial dīwāns present in the capital into a new department, the
dīwān al-dār (bureau of the palace) or dīwān al-dār al-kabīr
(great bureau of the palace), where "al-dār" probably meant the
vizier's palace. At the same time, the various zimām bureaux were
combined into a single dīwān al-zimām which re-checked all
assessments, payments and receipts against its own records and,
according to the 11th-century scholar al-Mawardi, was the "guardian of
the rights of bayt al-māl [the treasury] and the people". The
dīwān al-nafaḳāt played a similar role with regards to expenses
by the individual dīwāns, but by the end of the 9th century its
role was mostly restricted to the finances of the caliphal palace.
Under al-Muktafi (r. 902–908) the dīwān al-dār was broken up into
three departments, the bureaux of the eastern provinces (dīwān
al-mashriḳ), of the western provinces (dīwān al-maghrib), and of
Iraq (dīwān al-sawād), although under al-Muqtadir (r.
908–932) the dīwān al-dār still existed, with the three
territorial departments considered sections of the latter. In
913/4, the vizier Ali ibn Isa established a new department for
charitable endowments (dīwān al-birr), whose revenue went to the
upkeep of holy places, the two holy cities of
Mecca and Medina, and on
volunteers fighting in the holy war against the
Under Caliph al-Mutawakkil (r. 847–861), a bureau of servants and
pages (dīwān al-mawālī wa ’l-ghilmān), possibly an evolution of
the dīwān al-aḥshām, existed for the huge number of slaves and
other attendants of the palace. In addition, the dīwān
al-khātam, now also known as the dīwān al-sirr (bureau of
confidential affairs) grew in importance.
Miskawayh also mentions
the existence of a dīwān al-ḥaram, which supervised the women's
quarters of the palace.
Later Islamic dynasties
Abbasid Caliphate began to fragment in the 9th century, its
administrative machinery was copied by the emergent successor
dynasties, with the already extant local dīwān branches likely
providing the base on which the new administrations were formed.
Buyids and Samanids
The administrative machinery of the autonomous
Tahirid dynasty of
Khurasan is almost unknown, except that their treasury was located in
their capital of Nishapur.
Ya'qub al-Saffar (r. 867–879), the
founder of the
Saffarid dynasty who supplanted the Tahirids, is known
to have had a bureau of the army (dīwān al-ʿarḍ) for keeping the
lists and supervising the payment of the troops, at his capital
Zarang. Under his successor
Amr ibn al-Layth
Amr ibn al-Layth (r. 879–901) there were
two further treasuries, the māl-e khāṣṣa, and an unnamed bureau
under the chief secretary corresponding to a chancery (dīwān
al-rasāʾil or dīwān al-inshāʾ).
The Buyids, who took over Baghdad and the remains of the Abbasid
Caliphate in 946, drew partly on the established Abbasid practice, but
was adapted to suit the nature of the rather decentralized Buyid
"confederation" of autonomous emirates. The Buyid bureaucracy was
headed by three great departments: the dīwān al-wazīr, charged with
finances, the dīwān al-rasāʾil as the state chancery, and the
dīwān al-jaysh for the army. The Buyid regime was a military
regime, its ruling caste composed of Turkish and Daylamite troops. As
a result, the army department was of particular importance, and its
head, the ʿariḍ al-jaysh, is frequently mentioned in the sources of
the period. Indeed, at the turn of the 11th century, there were two
ʿariḍs, one for the Turks and one for the Daylamites, hence the
department was often called "department of the two armies" (dīwān
al-jayshayn). A number of junior departments, like the dīwān
al-zimām, the dīwān al-ḍiyāʿ, or the dīwān al-barīd were
directly inherited from the Abbasid government. Under Adud al-Dawla
(r. 978–983), however, the dīwān al-sawād, which oversaw the rich
lands of lower Iraq, was moved from Baghdad to Shiraz. In addition, a
dīwān al-khilāfa was established to oversee the affairs of the
Abbasid caliphs, who continued to reside in Baghdad as puppets of the
Great Seljuqs tended to cherish their nomadic origins, with their
sultans leading a peripatetic court to their various capitals. Coupled
with their frequent absence on campaign, the vizier assumed an even
greater prominence, concentrating the direction of civil, military and
religious affairs in his own bureau, the "supreme dīwān" (dīwān
al-aʿlā). The dīwān al-aʿlā was further subdivided into a
chancery (dīwān al-inshāʾ wa’l-ṭughrā, also called dīwān
al-rasāʾil) under the ṭughrāʾī or munshī al-mamālik, an
accounting department (dīwān al-zimām wa’l-istīfāʾ) under the
mustawfī al-mamālik, a fiscal oversight office (dīwān al-ishrāf
or dīwān al-muʿāmalāt) under the mushrif al-mamālik, and the
army department (dīwān al-ʿarḍ or dīwān al-jaysh) under the
ʿariḍ (further divided into the recruitment and supply bureau,
dīwān al-rawātib, and the salary and land grants bureau, dīwān
al-iqṭāʾ). A number of lesser departments is also
attested, although they may not have existed at the same time: the
office charged with the redress of grievances (dīwān al-maẓālim),
the state treasury (bayt al-māl) and the sultan's private treasury
(bayt al-māl al-khaṣṣ), confiscations (dīwān al-muṣādara),
the land tax office (dīwān al-kharāj) and the department of
religious endowments or waqfs (dīwān al-awqāf). A postal department
(dīwān al-barīd) also existed but fell into disuse. The
system was apparently partly copied in provincial centres as well.
Divan-ı Hümayun or
Sublime Porte was for many years the council
of ministers of the Ottoman Empire. It consisted of the Grand Vizier,
who presided, and the other viziers, the kadi'askers, the nisanci, and
The Assemblies of the
Danubian Principalities under Ottoman rule were
also called "divan" ("Divanuri" in Romanian) (see Akkerman Convention,
ad hoc Divan).
In Javanese and related languages, the cognate
Dewan is the standard
word for chamber, as in the
Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat or Chamber of
In the sultanate of Morocco, several portfolio Ministries had a title
based on Diwan:
Diwan al-Alaf: Ministry of War.
Diwan al-Bahr: 'Ministry of the Sea', i.e. (overseas=) Foreign
Diwan al-Shikayat (or - Chikayat): Ministry of Complaints.
^ a b de Blois 1995, p. 432.
^ a b c Duri 1991, p. 323.
^ Holt, Lambton & Lewis 1977, p. 533.
^ Bosworth 1995, pp. 432–433.
^ a b c d e f Bosworth 1995, p. 433.
^ Duri 1991, pp. 323–324.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Duri 1991, p. 324.
^ a b c d e f g h Duri 1991, p. 325.
^ Duri 1991, pp. 324, 325.
^ a b c d e Bosworth 1995, p. 434.
^ Lambton 1988, pp. 28–29.
^ a b Korobeinikov 2014, p. 84.
^ a b Bosworth 1995, p. 435.
Bosworth, C. E. (1995). "DĪVĀN – ii. GOVERNMENT OFFICE". In
Yarshater, Ehsan. Encyclopaedia Iranica. VII.
de Blois, François (1995). "DĪVĀN – i. THE TERM". In Yarshater,
Ehsan. Encyclopaedia Iranica. VII. p. 432.
Duri, A. A. (1991). "Dīwān i.—The caliphate". The Encyclopedia of
Islam, New Edition, Volume II: C–G. Leiden and New York: BRILL.
pp. 323–327. ISBN 90-04-07026-5.
Holt, P. M.; Lambton, Ann K. S.; Lewis, Bernard, eds. (1977). The
Cambridge History of Islam, Volume 2B: Islamic Society and
Civilization. Cambridge University Press.
Korobeinikov, Dimitri (2014). Byzantium and the Turks in the
Thirteenth Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Lambton, Ann K. S. (1988). Continuity and Change in Medieval Persia.
Albany, New York: State University of New York Press.