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A vizier (or wazir) (/vɪˈzɪər/, rarely /ˈvɪziər/;[1] Arabic: وزيرwazīr, Persian: وزیرvazīr) is a high-ranking political advisor or minister in the Muslim world.[2] The Abbasid caliphs gave the title wazir to a minister formerly called katib (secretary), who was at first merely a helper but afterwards became the representative and successor of the dapir (official scribe or secretary) of the Sassanian kings.[3]

In modern usage, the term has been used for government ministers in much of the Middle East and beyond.

Several alternative spellings are used in English, such as vizir, wazir, and vezir.

Etymology

The word entered into English in 1562 from the Turkish vezir ("counselor"), derived from the Arabic وزير wazīr[2] ("viceroy"). Wazir itself has two possible etymologies:

  • The most accepted etymology is that it is derived from the Arabic wazara ("to bear a burden"), from the Semitic root W-Z-R.[4] The word is mentioned in the Quran, where Aaron is described as the wazir (helper) of Moses, as well as the word wizr (burden) which is also derived from the same root.[5] It was later adopted as a title, in the form of wazīr āl Muḥammad ("Helper of the Family of Muhammad") by the proto-Shi'a leaders al-Mukhtar and Abu Salama.[6] Under the Abbasid caliphs, the term acquired the meaning of "representative" or "deputy".[6]
  • On the other hand, the presence of a Middle Persian word vizīr or vicīr (meaning "a legal document" or "decision"),[7] cognate to the Avestan vīcira, meaning "decreer" or "arbitrator", could possibly indicate an Indo-European origin.[8][9]

Historical ministerial titles

The winter Diwan of a Mughal Vizier.

The office of vizier arose under the first Abbasid caliphs,[6] and spread across the Muslim world.

The vizier stood between sovereign and subjects, representing the former in all matters touching the latter.[10] The 11th-century legal theorist al-Mawardi defined two types of viziers: wazīr al-tanfīdh ("vizier of execution"), who had limited powers and served to implement the caliph's policies, and the far more powerful wazīr al-tafwīd ("vizier with delegated powers"), with authority over civil and military affairs, and enjoyed the same powers as the caliph, except in the matter of the succession or the appointment of officials.[11] Al-Mawardi stressed that the latter, as an effective viceroy, had to be a Muslim well versed in the Shari'a, whereas the former could also be a non-Muslim or even a slave, although women continued to be expressly barred from the office.[12]

Historically, the term has been used to describe two very different ways: either for a unique position, the prime minister at the head of the monarch's government (the term Grand Vizier always refers to such a post), or as a shared 'cabinet rank', rather like a British secretary of state. If one such vizier is the prime minister, he may hold the title of Grand Vizier or another title.

In Islamic states

An Iranian Afsharid Vizier.
In modern usage, the term has been used for government ministers in much of the Middle East and beyond.

Several alternative spellings are used in English, such as vizir, wazir, and vezir.

The word entered into English in 1562 from the Turkish vezir ("counselor"), derived from the Arabic وزير wazīr[2] ("viceroy"). Wazir itself has two possible etymologies:

  • The most accepted etymology is that it is derived from the Arabic wazara ("to bear a burden"), from the Semitic root W-Z-R.[4] The word is mentioned in the Quran, where Aaron is described as the wazir (helper) of Moses, as well as the word wizr (burden) which is also derived from the same root.[5] It was later adopted as a title, in the form of wazīr āl Muḥammad ("Helper of the Family of Muhammad") by the proto-Shi'a leaders al-Mukhtar and Abu Salama.[6] Under the Abbasid caliphs, the term acquired the meaning of "representative" or "deputy".[6]
  • On the other hand, the presence of a Middle Persian word vizīr or vicīr (meaning "a legal document" or "decision"),[7] cognate to the Avestan vīcira, meaning "decreer" or "arbitrator", could possibly indicate an Indo-European origin.[8][9]

Historical ministerial titles

[6] and spread across the Muslim world.

The vizier stood between sovereign and subjects, representing the former in all matters touching the latter.[10] The 11th-century legal theorist al-Mawardi defined two types of viziers: wazīr al-tanfīdh ("vizier of execution"), who had limited powers and served to implement the caliph's policies, and the far more powerful wazīr al-tafwīd ("vizier with delegated powers"), with authority over civil and military affairs, and enjoyed the same powers as the caliph, except in the matter of the succession or the appointment of officials.[11] Al-Mawardi stressed that the latter, as an effective viceroy, had to be a Muslim well versed in the Shari'a, whereas the former could also be a non-Muslim or even a slave, although women continued to be expressly barred from the office.[12]

Historically, the term has been used to describe two very different ways: either for a unique position, the prime minister at the head of the monarch's government (the term Grand Vizier always refers to such a post), or as a shared 'cabinet rank', rather like a British secretary of state. If one such vizier is the prime minister, he may hold the title of Grand Vizier or another title.

In Islamic states

An Iranian Afsharid Vizier.
[10] The 11th-century legal theorist al-Mawardi defined two types of viziers: wazīr al-tanfīdh ("vizier of execution"), who had limited powers and served to implement the caliph's policies, and the far more powerful wazīr al-tafwīd ("vizier with delegated powers"), with authority over civil and military affairs, and enjoyed the same powers as the caliph, except in the matter of the succession or the appointment of officials.[11] Al-Mawardi stressed that the latter, as an effective viceroy, had to be a Muslim well versed in the Shari'a, whereas the former could also be a non-Muslim or even a slave, although women continued to be expressly barred from the office.[12]

Historically, the term has been used to describe two very different ways: either for a unique position, the prime minister at the head of the monarch's government (the term Grand Vizier always refers to such a post), or as a shared 'cabinet rank', rather like a British secretary of state. If one such vizier is the prime minister, he may hold the title of Grand Vizier or another title.

Wazīr is the standard Arabic word for a government minister. Prime ministers are usually termed as Ra'īs al-Wuzara (literally, president of the ministers) or al-Wazīr al-'Awwal (prime "first" minister). The latter term is generally found in the Maghreb, while the former is typical of usage in the Mashriq (broadly defined, including Egypt, Sudan, Levant, Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula). Thus, for example, the Prime Minister of Egypt is in Arabic a wazīr.

In Brunei the vizier is known as Pengiran Bendahara.

In Iran the ministers of government are called Vazīr in Persian (e.g. foreign/health Vazīr), and prime minister of state before the removal of the post, was called as Nokhost Vazīr.

In Pakistan, the prime minister (de facto ruling politician, formally under the president) is called Vazīr-e Azam (Persian for Grand vizier), other Ministers are styled vazirs.

In India, Vazīr is the official translation of minister in the Urdu language, and is used in ministerial oath taking ceremonies conducted in Urdu.

In East AfricaKenya and Tanzania, ministers are referred to as Waziri in Swahili and prime ministers as Waziri Mkuu.

In the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan is sometimes given the honorific title of Wazir

In Brunei, Viziers are divided into 5 titles, although two remain vacant since Brunei independence.

  • The current head of vizier or Perdana Wazir of Brunei is Prince Mohamed Bolkiah. His full title is His Royal Highness Perdana Wazir Sahibul Himmah Wal-Waqar Prince Haji Mohamed Bolkiah.
  • His Royal Highness Pengiran Bendahara Seri Maharaja Permaisuara Prince Haji Sufri Bolkiah
  • His Royal Highness Pengiran Digadong Sahibul Mal Prince Haji Jefri Bolkiah
  • Pengiran Pemancha Sahibul Rae' Wal-Mashuarah – vacant
  • Pengiran Temanggong Sahibul Bahar – vacant

Anachronistic historical use

Notes

  1. ^ a b c In the Ottoman Empire Grand vizier

References