ČAK, (< Middle Pers. čak “document”; Mādayān,pt. 1, 73.14, 74.3), legal document, testament, money draft, check. The Middle Persian word gty, gtky, apparently meaning “testament,” is a loanword from Semitic, cf. Babylonian giṭṭu, Syriac geṭṭa, also borrowed in Armenian as ktak, ktakaran (Back, p. 215; Gignoux, p. 22; Henning, p. 41 n. 3; Szemerényi, p. 420). The Arabic form ṣakk (plur. ṣokūk) must be a loan from Persian (with regular Ar. ṣ for Pers. č) rather than from Aramaic/Syriac. (Eng. check is probably related to check in checkmate, ultimately from Pers. šāh, and has nothing to do with čak, see, e.g., An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language, Oxford.)
The Persian word čak is found as early as Ferdowsī (especially in compounds such as čak ferestādan/neveštan/setadan/dādan; Šāh-nāma, Borūḵīm, ed., VIII, pp. 2270 l.57, 2271 l.72; IX, p. 2753 l.1366; Baḷʿamī, ed. Rowšan, I, pp. 58, 60, 535; II, pp. 1191, 1214; Loḡat-e fors, ed. Dabīrsīāqī, p. 87; Sanāʾī, in Farhang-e jahāngīrī I, p. 284; Dehḵodā, s.v.) but later went out of use until it was used again in the 13th/19th century in the meaning “check” under the influence of European banking practice and terminology (Etteḥādīya and Saʿdvandīān, I, pp. 262, 385; Fāteḥ, p. 86; Ḵosrowpūr, p. 15). However, the terms softa (promissory note), ḥawāla (draft, money order), and barāt (draft) are still used beside čak (Benedick, pp. 65-70)
Arabic ṣakk was used after the Arab conquest of the Middle East in the meaning of money draft (Jacob, pp. 280-81). It was even used as a verb, ṣakka ʿalā, to denote the writing of a money draft (Mez, p. 447). Although still used in this sense in the 4th/10th century the word, meaning money draft, was being supplanted by terms such as ḵaṭṭ-e ṣarrāf (Nāṣer-e Ḵosrow, Safar-nāma, p. 128) and softaja (Spuler, pp. 408, 410-11). According to Ḵᵛārazmī (p. 59) ṣakk was a technical financial term, designating a payment order which showed the name(s) and number of the recipients, the amount due to each of them, and the seal of the ruler authorizing the payment. Ṣakk or, more commonly, the plural form ṣokūk continued to be used in the general meaning of legal document (Schacht, pp. 78, 82 n. 1, 193), e.g. in Il-khanid (Naḵjavānī, II, pp. 187, 237, 238, 240), and Timurid times (Roemer, p. 148: Ketāb-e ṣokūk wa sejellāt). In fact, Naḵjavānī refers to a ṣokūk as one of a number of legal (šaṛʿī) documents such as qebālāt, ḥojaj, and waṯāyeq (ibid., II, pp. 187, 238, cf. p. 240). The term ṣokūk-e amlāk also occurs, meaning property documents (ibid., p. 237); it was still used in this sense in the 11th/17th century, as is clear from the Ṣokūk o sejellāt-e teymūrī, the title of a manuscript written around 1060/1650, which contains among other things a waqf-nāma (Horst, pp. 23-49).
M. Back, Die Sassanidischen Staatsinschriften, Acta Iranica 18, Tehran and Liège, 1978.
Baḷʿamī, ed. M. Rowšan, Tārīḵ-nāma-ye Ṭabarī, 3 vols., Tehran, 1366 Š./1987.
R. E. Benedick, Industrial Finance in Iran, Cambridge, 1964.
Borhan-e qāṭeʿ, ed. Moʿīn, II, p. 648.
Mīr Jamāl-al-Dīn Ḥosayn Enjū Šīrāzī, Farhang-e jahāngīrī, Mašhad, 1351 Š./1972, I, p. 910; II, pp. 1508, 2230.
M. Etteḥādīya and S. Saʿdvandīyan, eds., Ḥokmrānī wa molkdārī, Tehran, 1364 Š./1985.
M. Fāteḥ, Pūl wa bānkdārī, Tehran, 1309 Š./1930.
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W. B. Henning, “Notes on the Great Inscription of Šāpūr I,” in Prof. Jackson Memorial Volume, Bombay, 1954, pp. 40-54.
H. Horst, Tīmūr und Ḫoğä ʿAlī, Mainz, 1958.
G. Jacob, “Die Ältesten Spuren des Wechsels,” Mitteilungen des Seminars für Orientalische Sprachen der Fr-Wilhelms-Universität zu Berlin 28/2, 1925, pp. 280-81.
Abū ʿAbd-Allāh Moḥammad b. Aḥmad Ḵᵛārazmī, Mafātīḥ al-ʿolūm, ed. G. van Vloten, n.p., 1895, pp. 56-57.
ʿA.-A. Ḵosrowpūr, Bānkdārī, Tehran, 1325 Š./1946. A. Mez, Die Renaissance des Islams, Heidelberg, 1922.
Moḥammad b. Hendūšāh Naḵjavānī, Dostūr al-kāteb fī taʿyīn al-marāteb II, ed. ʿA.-ʿA. ʿAlīzāda, Moscow, 1976.
Nāṣer-e Ḵosrow, Safar-nāma, ed. M. Ḡanīzāda, Berlin, 1341/1922-23.
H. R. Roemer, Staatsschreiben der Timuridenzeit, Wiesbaden, 1952.
J. Schacht, An Introduction to Islamic Law, Oxford, 1964.
B. Spuler, Iran in frühislamischer Zeit, Wiesbaden, 1952.
O. Szemerényi, “Iranica III,” in W. B. Henning Memorial Volume, ed. M. Boyce and I. Gershevitch, London, 1970, pp. 417-26.
Originally Published: December 15, 1990
Last Updated: December 15, 1990
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