ʿAWĀREŻ, term used since 4th/10th century to denote extraordinary imposts of various kinds, the nature of which differed per area and historic period. ʿAwāreż (sing. ʿāreża) was used as a singular, so that in later times we encounter the pluralized form ʿawāreżāt. Ḵᵛārazmī (Mafātīḥ, p. 61) referred to extraordinary contributions as ʿawāreż. In the beginning the imposition of ʿawāreż probably was limited to contributions exacted by the king’s army as a punitive measure when it had to appear to put down some unrest or in case of some delay in paying the taxes (Bosworth, Ghaznavids, p. 80). It appears, however, that ʿawāreż was imposed with more regularity than it was supposed to be. The impost was collected either from a town, village, region, or a distinct group such as a guild. Such tax categories could also be exempted from paying ʿawāreż. Aḥmad b. Ḥasan Maymandī, the Ghaznavid grand vizier, for example, is reported to have exempted for two years the town of Lomḡān from payment of ʿawāreż (Neẓāmī ʿArūżī, Čahār maqāla, text, pp. 29-31). Under the Saljuqs and Ḵᵛārazmšāhs ʿawāreż seams to have been collected almost like a regular impost. Sanjar in a decree to a local raʾīs (governor) instructed the latter to avoid collecting ʿawāreż, if possible. If it was unavoidable the burden had to be distributed equitably among the subjects (H. Horst, Die Staatsverwaltung der Grosselğuqes und Ḫorezmšahs (1032-1231), Wiesbaden, 1964, pp. 77, 78). Under the Mongols ʿawāreż continued to be collected regularly. Jovaynī, when describing the organization of the Mongol horde, mentions certain contributions they were liable to make, including ʿawāreżāt. He also mentions that the Mongols exempted the most learned of every religion (aḥbār-e aḵyār) from every kind of ʿawāreżāt (I, pp. 11, 22; tr. Boyle, I, pp. 16, 30). The burden of the imposition of ʿawāreżāt was so heavy that Rašīd-al-dīn goes so far as to say that it was one of the causes of the ruinous state of Iran. ʿAwāreżāt, moreover, were collected in cash, which increased the burden, since peasants who were forced to sell their produce found themselves in a disadvantageous bargaining position. (Rašīd-al-dīn Fażlallāh, Mokātabāt-e rašīdī, p. 28; see also Waṣṣāf, Tārīḵ-eWaṣṣāf, p. 197). In the 8th/14th and 9th/15th centuries under the Jalayerids and Timurids ʿawāreż continues to be levied. Naḵjavānī gives various instances of its imposition. He also indicates that in many cases ʿawāreż was levied illegally, in which case the wronged subjects were invited to complain to the central government (dīvān-e bozorg) in order to get a compensation (Moḥammad b. Hendūšāh Naḵjavānī, Dostūr al-kāteb fī taʿyīn al-marāteb, ed. ʿA. ʿA. ʿAlīzāda, Moscow, 1964, I, pp. 64. 110, 535, 685; I/2, p. 467; II, 1976, pp. 89, 280, 282, 301; for the Timurids see H. R. Roemer, Staatsschreiben der Timuridenzeit, Wiesbaden, 1970, pp. 78, 165, 166).

Under the Aq Qoyunlū and Qara Qoyunlū the imposition or the exemption from payment of ʿawāreżāt is mentioned in several documents. By that time the term ʿawāreżāt-e dīvānī is also found in decrees issued by the Qara Qoyunlū Jahānšāh and Ḥasan-ʿAlī, and the Āq Qoyunlū Uzun Ḥasan (G. A. Bourhoutian, Eastern Armenia in the Last Decade of Persian Rule, Malibu, 1982, p. 124; A. D. Papazian, Persidskie dokumenty Matenaderana, I, Ukazy, pp. 223, 230; H. Busse, Untersuchungen zum islamischen Kanzleiwesen, Cairo, 1959, p. 104). In Herat in 1298/698 Faḵr-al-dīn the Karti ruler of Herat granted exemption to the people of Herat of inter alia ʿawāreż-dīvānī (Sayfī Heravī, Tārīḵ-nāma-ye Herāt, ed. Moḥammad Zobayr Ṣeddīqī, Calcutta, 1943, p. 439).

Safavid practice does not greatly differ from that of the previous dynasties. According to Minorsky ʿawāreż-e dīvānī was imposed for the upkeep of ambassadors, for public festivities, and fireworks (V. Minorsky, Taḏkerat al-molūk, p. 181). Based on the practice in the Caucasus, he states, quoting Kaempfer, that in case of imposition on rural communities the peasants had to provide additional imposts (ibid., p. 22; idem, “A Soyūrghāl of Qāsim b. Jahāngīr Aq-qoyunlu (903/1498),” BSOAS 9/4, 1939, pp. 930, 946f.) which were four times higher than for urban subjects (Anonymous, A Chronicle of the Carmelites, London, 1939, p. 116). Throughout the Safavid period ʿawāreż(āt) were levied as attested by many documents.

Busse concludes from a study of chancellery documents that the term ʿawāreż(āt) is used as a generic term in either the introductory or concluding fiscal formulas in government decrees. Almost invariably ʿawāreż is mentioned together with other generic fiscal terms. The texts state, for example, that so-and-so is exempt from the imposition of cesses, imposts, duties or other state duties and imposts of the kingdom (zawāyed o ʿawāreż o eḵrājāt or sāyer-e ekrājāt o ʿawāreżāt-e mamlakatī). This chancellery practice can already be discerned among the Saljuqs and continues till the 12th/18th century (see Horst, op. cit., pp. 77, 78; Busse, op. cit., pp. 104-05; Naḵjavānī, ibid.). This string of generic fiscal terms is usually concluded with another generic term “wa sāyer-e takālīf-e dīvānī” (and other dīvān taxes, see Busse, op. cit., pp. 104).

Safavid texts also indicate that ʿawāreż(āt) could either be imposed by decree or by other means (ʿawāreżāt-e ḥokmī o ḡayr-e ḥokmī) (A. K. S. Lambton, Landlord and Peasant, London, 1953, p. 116) as is clear from a decree issued by Shah Esmāʿīl I in 918/1512-13. A similar terminology is used by Shah ʿAbbās I exempting the hairdresser guild from inter alia ʿawāreżāt in 1628/1038 where the text states duties imposed by decree or other means (ḵārejāt-e ḥokmī o ḡayr-e ḥokmī; Honarfar, Eṣfahān, 2nd ed., Tehran, 1350 Š./1971, p. 436). The use of this terminology probably also refers to illegal or excessive imposition of ʿawāreżāt. Most decrees exhort the officials not to levy this or other imposts from the tax categories that had been exempted from it “under any guise whatsoever” (Lambton, op. cit., p. 116; S. ʿA. Bāybūrdī, Tārīḵ-eArasbārān, Tehran, 1341 Š./1962, p. 160). Shah Sultan Ḥosayn (r. 1105-35/1694-1722) is even more explicit when he speaks about ʿawāreżāt-e ḵelāf-e ḥokm o ḥesāb (Moḥammad-Ḥasan Khan Eʿtemād-al-salṭana, Merʾāt al-boldān, Tehran, 1294/1877, I, p. 337). Although a generic term, sometimes the texts indicate what they mean by ʿawāreż. The decree by Shah Sultan Ḥosayn specifically refers to “ʿalafa, ʿolūfa, šekār, bīgār, etc.” when he mentions the ʿawāreżāt-e mazbūra (aforementioned imposts) (ibid.). Shah ʿAbbās I in his decree exempting the hairdresser guild of Isfahan from ʿawāreżāt uses the term ʿawāreżāt-e masdūdat al-abwāb (the following imposts) to refer to the same imposts as mentioned in Shah Sultan Ḥosayn’s decree (Honarfar, op. cit., pp. 435-36). Other decrees also imply or explicitly indicate a similar identification of the particular indirect tax they are referring to (see Busse, op. cit., p. 104). M. E. Bāstānī Pārīzī (Sīāsat o eqteṣād-e ʿaṣr-e Ṣafawī, Tehran, 1357 Š./1978, 2nd ed., p. 183) mentions the term ʿawāreż-e rosūm-e dār al-marz, which, however, is a misreading of Mīrzā Rafīʿā’s Dostūr al-molūk that clearly states ʿaważ (ed. M. T. Dānešpažūh, Tehran, 1346 Š./1967, p. 58).

The term ʿawāreż(āt) is less frequently used after the Safavid era. In the latter half of the 12th/18th century ʿawāreż was an expected supplementary tax burden, which, in many cases, however, was not only neglected but positively repudiated by Karīm Khan Zand once he came to power (J. R. Perry, Karim Khan Zand, Chicago, 1979, p. 236).

In Qajar times the term ʿawāreż is seldom used and then only in the general sense for tax (see, e.g., ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Żarrābī, Tārīḵ-eKāšān, p. 315). Oddly enough its use increases after the Persian revolution of 1906 when the term is regularly used in fiscal laws to denote any kind of indirect tax or more specifically as a customs or road/transportation tax. A decree by Moẓaffar-al-dīn Shah (9 Ḏu’l-ḥejja 1318/31 March 1901) concerning customs and road tax tariffs (mālīāt o ʿawāreż-e gomrokī) mentions in article 1 woṣūl-e ḥoqūq-e rāhdārī o ḵānāt o qapāndārī o sāyer-e ʿawāreż-ī har-ča būda ast (for levying road duties, octroi, weighbridge tax, and other similar imposts of whatever nature may have been) (Majīd Yaktāʾī, Tārīḵ-egomrok, Tehran, 1355 Š./1976, pp. 60-61). The tax laws enacted after the constitutional revolution of 1906 in Iran continue this practice. The law of 22 Tīr 1320 Š./1941 states ḥoqūq-e gomrokī o ʿawāreż-e dīgar (customs duties and other imposts), and similar terminology (mālīāt-e rāh o ḥoqūq-e gomrok o ʿawāreż-e dawlatī, i.e., road taxes, customs duties, and state imposts) is used in the tax laws of 20 Āḏar 1307 Š./1928 and 22 Tīr 1320 Š./1941. The law of 3 Day 1312 Š./1933 mentions ʿawāreż-e bandarī (port duties), while the law of 4 Šahrīvar 1309 Š./1930 states all kinds of other imposts such as road duties (har gūna ʿawāreż-e dīgar-ī az qabīl-e ʿawāreż-e rāh), etc. Especially the law of 19 Bahman 1304 Š./1926 lists a large number of indirect taxes, referring generically to them as ʿawāreż-e ḏayl “the following imposts.” Nowadays the term ʿawāreż is commonly used and refers to any kind of extraordinary indirect tax. Often it is used in combination with mālīāt.



Abū ʿAbdallāh Moḥammad b. Aḥmad Ḵᵛārazmī, Mafātīḥ al-ʿolūm, ed. G. van Vloten, n.p., n.d. Neẓāmī ʿArūżī Samarqandī, Čahār maqāla, ed. M. Qazvīnī and M. Moʿīn, 3rd ed., Tehran, 1333 Š./1954.

Ḵᵛāja Rašīd-al-dīn Fażlallāh, Mokātabāt-e rašīdī, ed. M. Š. Lāhūrī, Lahore, 1367/1947.

Šehāb-al-dīn ʿAbdallāh Waṣṣāf Šīrāzī, Tārīḵ-eWaṣṣāf, lith. ed., Bombay, 1269/1853.

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Originally Published: December 15, 1987

Last Updated: August 18, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. III, Fasc. 2, pp. 115-117