AMĪR ḤARAS

 

AMĪR-E ḤARAS “commander of the guard,” the official at the court of the ʿAbbasid caliphs and at certain of its provincial successor states who was directly responsible for policing the palace and for carrying out the caliph’s wishes, including, for instance, executions and the bastinadoing of offenders. To assist him, there was a force of guards armed with maces or clubs and under his command. Neẓām-al-molk quotes words allegedly uttered by the caliph Maʾmūn (198-218/813-33): “I have two commanders of the guard who are occupied from morn till night in cutting off people’s heads, chopping off hands and feet, beating with rods and putting men in prison” (Sīāsat-nāma, chap. 39, ed. H. Darke, Tehran, 1340 Š./1961, pp. 172f.; tr. idem, London, 1960, pp. 135f.). He further states that in the past, the commander of the guard was entitled to the privileges of banners, drums, and music, and he and his force of čūbdārs wore sumptuous uniforms. It seems that the ʿAbbasid ṣāḥeb/amīr-al-ḥaras was a separate official from the ṣāḥeb-al-šorṭa or military governor of the capital, though their functions were similar. The sources are reticent, but the office was probably retained by succeeding provincial rulers after the breakdown of caliphal central authority. Under the early Ghaznavids, the amīr-e ḥaras is mentioned by Bayhaqī as a prominent court figure; in one passage his Tārīk mentions a ḵayma-ye ḥaras, apparently a kind of guardroom for confining offenders. It is probable that this office came to the Ghaznavids via the Samanids, among whom there certainly existed, on the evidence of Naršaḵī, a ṣāḥeb-e šoraṭ. Neẓām-al-molk was nevertheless to lament that, under his own Saljuq masters, the office had lost all importance (loc. cit.)

 

Bibliography:

Barthold, Turkestan3, pp. 227-28, 306.

Bosworth, Ghaznavids, p. 138.

Bosworth and A. K. S. Lambton, in Camb. Hist. Iran V, pp. 76, 226.

(C. E. Bosworth)

Originally Published: December 15, 1989

Last Updated: August 3, 2011

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