DĪVĀN, archive, register, chancery, government office; also, collected works, especially of a poet.

i. The term.

ii. Government office.

iii. Collected works of a poet.




Dīvān is a Persian loan-word in Arabic and was borrowed also at an earlier date into Armenian. It is attested in Zoroastrian Middle Persian in the spellings dpywʾn and dywʾn. It has long been recognized that the word must go back to some derivative of Old Persian dipi-, (inscription, document), itself borrowed, via Elamite, from Akkadian ṭuppu and ultimately from Sumerian dub (clay tablet). Compare also Persian debīr (scribe), Middle-Persian dibīr, from *dipī-var-. Armenian divan, which occurs already in the translation of the Bible, could in theory represent an Arsacid Parthian *dēvān, but such a form would be most difficult to explain, as it is hardly imaginable that dipi- should have become *dē-. But the Armenian form could equally well be a later borrowing from Sasanian Middle-Persian dīvān (with -ī-), which (following Bailey) could continue an earlier Middle-Persian *diβi-vān, from the adjective *dipi-vān- (relating to documents) with contraction of -iβi- to -ī-. In this case, must one assume that the word was borrowed into Armenian after the Middle-Persian shift of post-vocalic -p- to -b/β- (i.e., not before the 3rd century) and, moreover, that the correct Middle-(and early New-)Persian form is dīvān, not *dēvān. To be sure, there is an often quoted fanciful etymology (e.g., in Aṣmaʿī, apud Jawāleqī, p. 70), according to which the Persians called the chancery dīvān because they considered the bureaucrats to be devils (dēvān), - a variant of this says that it was because they were crazed (dēvāna); either version seems to presuppose the pronunciation dēvān, but one need not attach much importance to this obviously facetious story. It does, however, seem that, probably as a result of this sort of popular etymology, there was a secondary pronunciation dēvān, which still survives in Tājīkī. (For the treatment of the Iranian vowels in Armenian loan-words see ARMENIA AND IRAN iv).



(For the cited works not given in detail see “Short References.”) H.W. Bailey, in BSOS 7, 1933, pp. 76-77.

Horn, Etymologie, p. 119.

Hübschmann, Persische Studien, p. 60.

Idem, Armenische Grammatik, pp. 143-44.

Abū Manṣūr Jawāleqī, Ketāb al-moʿarrab men kalām al-ʿajamī, ed. E. Sachau, Leipzig, 1867.

Nyberg, Manual II p. 64.




The origins of the dīvān lie in the earliest years of the Arab caliphate in Medina, when the caliph ʿOmar b. Ḵaṭṭāb is said to have instituted a register (dīvān) in which were recorded tax payments, as well as the names of Arab warriors entitled to stipends (ʿaṭāʾ) and the appropriate rates (Ṭabarī, I, p. 2412). In the Arabic sources, this innovation was in imitation of fiscal and administrative practice in Byzantine Syria and Sasanian Persia, the latter associated with the name of a Persian secretary in Sasanian Iraq, Fayrūzān (Pērōzān; Jahšīārī, p. 11; Balāḏorī, Fotūḥ, pp. 450-61; Ṭabarī, I, pp. 2749-50; Sprengling, pp. 177-81; Kennedy, pp. 68-69).

By the beginning of the Omayyad period (41-132/661-750) the central administration in Damascus had to be more specialized than the single dīvān of the first four caliphs in Medina and Kūfa. The central dīvān, called dīvān al-ḵarāj, was concerned with assessments and receipts, as well as taxation in the conquered lands. It was backed by a dīwān al-rasāʾel for official correspondence; a dīwān al-ḵātam for sealing these documents and checking on possible forgeries; and a dīwān al-jond responsible for military affairs and keeping up to date the payrolls for Arab warriors. In addition, there were dīvāns responsible for collection of the poor tax (ṣadaqa), administration of revenues from state domains, manufacture of the ṭerāz (official textiles), and running the postal and courier services (barīd). The caliph Moʿāwīa (41-64/661-80) seems to have been the guiding hand in the formation of these new organs.

It is difficult to assess the degree of continuity, with the previous Sasanian administration, though it must have been extensive in Iraq and Persia itself, where most official personnel there under Arab provincial governors were undoubtedly either Per-sianized Arameans or ethnic Persians; certainly Persian remained the language of official business in the eastern provinces of the caliphate until the adoption of Arabic toward the end of the 7th century. The sources bearing on this process are confused and contradictory, but it was almost certainly gradual, rather than abrupt, as implied by those authors who attribute the decisive influence to Ḥajjāj b. Yūsof, governor of Iraq under ʿAbd-al-Malek (65-86/685-705). Moʿāwīa’s earlier viceroy there, Zīād b. Abīhi, seems to have first employed the Persian Zādān-Farroḵ in his dīwān al-ḵarāj, and others of the same family followed him there. His son Mardānšāh is supposed to have opposed the process of arabization, but Ḥajjāj resolved to carry it through in 78/697, following the advice and with the technical assistance of another Persian, Sāleḥ b. ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Sīstānī, who had been a subordinate official of Zādān-Farrok (Jahšīārī, p. 23; Balāḏorī, Fotūḥ, pp. 300-01; Sprengling, pp. 183-201; Zarrīnkūb, pp. 45-48). In the farther provinces like Khorasan, however, the change from Persian did not take place until almost the end of the Omayyad period (Hawting, pp. 63-64).

The ʿAbbasids (after 132/750) established their capital in Iraq, eventually at Baghdad. A shift in orientation toward the east is discernible, encouraged by increased receptiveness to Persian cultural influence and the roots of the ʿAbbasid revolution in Khorasan (Kennedy, pp. 134-37). The ʿAbbasid central administration became increasingly complex; the financial administration in particular was subdivided into departments responsible for financial control and accounting (dīvān al-zemām/al-azemma), the caliphs’ personal domains (dīvān al-żīāʿ al-ḵāṣṣa), confiscation of the estates of fallen officials (dīwān al-moṣādara), and so on. The military department retained a special importance (see Hoernerbach, pp. 257-90), but there was further specialization there too, under its chief(ʿāreż); for example, the dīwān al-mawālī wa’l-ḡelmān was responsible for the new, professional slave army that increasingly replaced traditional Arab troops during the 9th century, and the dīwān al-jond wa’l-šākerīya, responsible, according to M. A. Shaban (pp. 64-65) for personal retainers brought into the ʿAbbasid army by Persian and Turkish magnates from Central Asia (on the ʿAbbasid dīvāns in general, see Levy, pp. 305-07, 322-27; Dūrī).

It was on from these caliphal institutions that the administrations of the successor states in Persia were formed after the relaxation of the caliphal grip on outlying provinces from the 9th century on. Such provincial capitals as Shiraz, Marāḡa, and Marv and later Nīšāpūr, Zarang, and Sīrjān must already have had local dīvāns for collection of the provincial revenues and employees responsible to the chief tax collectors (ʿāmel or bondār); virtually nothing is known, however, about the working of these officials or their subordinates.

All that is known of the administration of the Taherid governors in Nīšāpūr, for example, is that the treasuries of the last of them, Moḥammad b. Ṭāher (II) b. ʿAbd-Allāh, were plundered by the Saffarid Yaʿqūb b. Layṯ when he captured the city in 259/873 (Gardīzī, ed. Ḥabībī, p. 140); presumably they were part of a financial dīvān. At that time the dīvān of Khorasan was situated in the center of the city, but in the 10th and early 11th centuries it was located in the more salubrious suburb of Šādyāḵ (Bosworth, Ghaznavids, pp. 160-61). A little more is known about the administration of the Saffarids, founded by Yaʿqūb (r. 253-65/867-79), who had a dīwān al-ʿarż, in which his soldiers and their pay allotments were registered; it and other offices were located in the dār al-emāra, or government building, at Zarang (Bosworth, 1968, p. 549). His successor, ʿAmr b. Layṯ (r. 265-88/879-901) had three separate treasuries, which suggests a degree of specialization; the second, responsible for the māl-e ḵāṣsá, corresponds to the ʿAbbasid dīwān al-żīāʿ al-ḵāṣṣa. The chief secretary must have presided over a dīvān al-rasāʾel/al-enšāʾ, though its precise name is unrecorded in the sources (for Saffarid administration, see Bosworth, 1992, ch. VII).

The Buyids took control of lands in northern, western, and southern Persia that had been administered directly by the caliphate, so that an appreciable amount of administrative continuity was to be expected, not only in Baghdad, which Moʿezz-al-Dawla Aḥmad took over in 334/945, but also in the capitals of other members of the Buyid confederacy: Isfahan, Ray, and Shiraz. Nevertheless, the very nature of this family’s rule implied a certain degree of decentralization, compared with the ʿAbbasid bureaucracy. At the head of the Buyid system were the three great departments: the dīwān al-wazīr for finance, the dīwān al-rasāʾel for correspondence, and the dīwān al-jayš for military affairs. Several other dīvāns were directly continued from their ʿAbbasid predecessors, for example, those of the barīd, the zemām, and the al-żīāʿ al-ḵāṣṣa. A dīvān al-ḵelāfa controlled what remained of the puppet ʿAbbasid caliphs’ executive powers in Baghdad and oversaw liaison between them and the Buyid amirs. In the time of ʿAżod-al-Dawla (367-72/978-83) the special section of the central financial department responsible for revenues from the rich Mesopotamian agricultural plains, the dīwān ḵarāj al-savād, was transferred to Shiraz, the capital of southern and western Persia (Busse, pp. 310-17). As the Buyid confederation was essentially the military domination of a Deylamite-Turkish elite, the department of military affairs was of premier importance, and the sources for the period include much information about the activities of its chief (ʿāreż al-jayš). At the zenith of the dynasty’s fortunes, under ʿAżod-al-Dawla and his son Bahāʾ-al-Dawla (379-403/989-1012) there were actually two separate ʿāreżes, one for the Deylamite troops and one for the Turks, Arabs, and Kurds, hence the term dīwān al-jayšayn (department of the two armies; Bosworth, 1965-66, pp. 162 ff.; Busse, pp. 339 ff.).

Information about the structure of the Samanid central at Bukhara is available from Naršaḵī’s listing of the various dīvāns there in the time of the amir Naṣr b. Aḥmad (303-31/913-43) and from material on their procedures and techniques given by Ḵᵛārazmī. Naršaḵī mentioned the dīvāns of the wazīr, the chief secretary (ʿamīd al-molk), the treasurer and accountant (mostawfī), the commander of the guard (ṣāḥeb-e šoratÂ), the postmaster and intelligence chief (ṣāḥeb-e barīd), the controller and inspector of finances (mošref), the intendant (ṣāḥeb) of the amir’s personal domains (mamlaka-ye ḵāṣṣ), the market inspector and custodian of public morals (moḥtaseb), the comptroller of pious endowments (awqāf), and the judiciary (qażā; Naršaḵī, p. 31; tr. Frye, p. 26; Barthold, Turkestan3, pp. 229-32). The reliance on the ʿAbbasid model is apparent, reflecting a distinct sophistication, as is further apparent in the material provided by Ḵᵛārazmī, apparently himself a secretary in the administration at Bukhara. Naršaḵī did not mention the office for military affairs (unless he subsumed it under the dīvān-eṣāḥeb-e šoratÂ), but Ḵᵛārazmī devoted special sections to the dīwān al-jayš and its procedures, including the use of the black register (al-jarīda al-sawdāʾ), the master register of troops, their fighting skills, equipment, pay entitlements, and so on (Ḵᵛārazmī, pp. 56, 64-66; Bosworth, 1969).

As the Ghaznavids arose from the slave guard of the Samanids, it was likely that the administration in their capital, Ḡazna, would follow in essentials that of Bukhara, especially as there was some continuity of personnel between the two centers. Five central dīvāns served the sultan: those of the vizier, the chief secretary (dīvān-e rasāʾel), the army (dīvān-e ʿarż), the internal spy and police system (dīvān-e šoḡl-e ešrāf-e mamlakat), and the official (wakīl-e ḵāṣsá) responsible for operation and supply of the royal palaces and gardens. Similar organs existed on a reduced scale in the provincial centers of the extensive Ghaznavid empire, like Nīšāpūr and Lahore. Remarkable insight into the workings of the Ghaznavid bureaucracy, with a detail unparalleled in medieval Persian history, can be gained from the history of Abu’l-Fażl Bayhaqī (see Nāẓim, pp. 130-50; Bosworth, Ghaznavids, pp. 48-97, 122-26, 137-38; idem, Later Ghaznavids, pp. 33-35, 69-74).

In Transoxania the Turkish Qarakhanids succeeded the Samanids; the predominance of this nomadic steppe group meant a lightening of administrative and fiscal burdens in Transoxania, and it must be assumed that the requirements for a Qarakhanid bureaucracy were much reduced and that much of the complex Samanid government machinery fell into disuse. Unfortunately, no direct information is available on the administrative arrangements of the Qarakhanids, though, as Reşat Genç has pointed out (pp. 254-62), Yūsof Ḵāṣṣ Ḥājeb’s didactic poem Qutadgu bilig (comp. 461/1069), permits inference of the existence at least of organs corresponding to a great dīvān and a dīvān-e enšāʾ. The same process of simplification in both central and local administration is observable, though on a less drastic scale, in the lands south of the Oxus, where the Saljuqs replaced the Ghaznavids and Buyids (Klausner, pp. 9-13).

The Saljuqs were also originally nomadic pastoralists, and the Great Saljuq sultans tended to maintain a somewhat peripatetic existence, with their capital shifting among various Persian cities, like Nīšāpūr, Ray, Isfahan, Hamadān, and also, in the 12th century, Baghdad. The sultan was, moreover, often absent on long military campaigns. The Saljuq administration was directed from a supreme dīvān (dīvān-e aʿlā)presided over by the vizier, who, at least at first, played a greater role in the state than previously, exercising civil, military, and religious responsibilties; the careers of statesmen like Abū Naṣr Kondorī and Ḵᵛāja Neẓām-al-Molk illustrate this change. The raising of funds for the sultan was naturally one of the vizier’s prime duties, but he also directed a secretariat (dīvān-al-enšāʾ wa’l-ṭoḡrā), an accounting department (dīvān al-zemām wa’l-estīfāʾ), and a department concerned with financial control and oversight of provincial officials (dīvān-e ešrāf). From the end of the 11th century the mostawfī might on occasion wield an influence in the state comparable with that of the vizier, whose authority would then be correspondingly restricted. There are also references in the sources to dīvāns concerned with redress of grievances (maẓālem), the sultans’ private domains (ḵāṣsá), the awqāf, land grants (eqṭāʿ), and confiscations (moṣādarāt), though they may not all have functioned continuously. The military department, led by the ʿāreż, retained its importance, and this office was often a stepping stone to the vizierate itself. Only the earlier dīvān-e barīd was allowed to fall into disuse (Neẓām al-Molk, ch. X). Mo st government departments must have remained in the capital of the time, but the vizier normally accompanied the sultan on his progresses and military expeditions, and it is probable that the privy treasury, kept in the dīwān al-ḵāṣṣ, also went with the ruler. The pattern of central administration was partly repeated in the provinces, as at Marv under Sultan Sanjar (511-52/1118-57; Horst, pp. 25-60; Lambton, Camb. Hist. Iran, pp. 247 ff.; idem, 1988, pp. 28-48; idem, in EI2; Klausner, pp. 15-21).

Not much is known about the administrative arrangements of the Ḵᵛārazmšāhs, but they appear to have followed the lines of those of the Great Saljuqs, normally headed by a vizier in his dīvān-e aʿlā. In 615/1218 ʿAlāʾ-al-Dīn Moḥammad replaced his vizier with a body of six high officials (wakīldārs), one of whom is described as head of the chancery (dīvān-e enšāʾ); whether there was any shared responsibility among these officials is unclear (Horst, p. 25).

The Mongol invasion, however disastrous for Persia in regard to population, land use, and economic life, did not entail a traumatic break in the remarkably resilient Persian administrative tradition. In the decades immediately after the establishment of the Il-khanids in the mid-13th century members of minority groups were employed as officials, for example, the Jewish Saʿd-al-Dawla under Arḡūn Khan (683-90/1284-91). But, as usually happened, incoming rulers eventually turned to Muslim Persians to run the financial and administrative system, even though there was a certain simplification of the latter, compared even with Saljuq practice; once the Il-khans themselves became Muslims at the end of the 13th century, there was a distinct revival of the Persian Islamic bureaucratic ethos. The dīvān-e aʿlā remained necessary, and the chief minister was still the vizier, though occasionally known as the deputy (raʾīs) of the ruler, but there was a tendency for the supervision of financial affairs to pass to the ṣāḥeb-e dīvān, whose power might at times equal or surpass that of the vizier. For example, for several years toward the end of the 13th century the vizier ʿAṭā-Malek Jovaynī shared power with the mošref al-mamālek Majd-al-Molk Yazdī; and, when in 699/1299-1300 Rašīd-al-Dīn Fażl-Allāh became ṣāḥeb-e dīvān for Ḡāzān Khan (694-703/1295-1304), he was entrusted with the general supervision of the Il-khanid realm, including finance, administration of crown domains, appointment of subordinate officials, operation of the postal and courier service (yām; Morgan, pp. 105-07), and general promotion of the development and prosperity of the empire (Tārīkò-e Waṣṣāf, p. 347, cited in Lambton, EI2).

The Il-khanid financial departments operated under the direction of a group of senior secretaries, the uluḡ bitikčīs; they included the dīvān-e estīfāʾ or dīvān-e ešrāf and a bureau for overseeing the Il-khans’ private domains, īnjū or, tautologically, īnjū-ye ḵāṣṣa. The Mongol chancery was inaugurated by the body of Chinese, Uighur, Nestorian Christian, and Muslim bitikčīs whom Čengīz Khan and the first Il-khanids had employed. The diplomacy of the Il-khanids was far-flung, and there was always a need to communicate, not only with the unconquered rulers of the Muslim world, particularly the Mamluks, but also with the Frankish Christians, the Byzantines, the Il-khanids’ pagan kindred in Inner Asia, and the Chinese. The Il-khanid secretaries thus not only performed such routine duties as affixing to documents the khans’ seals (āl tamḡā and altūn tamḡā) and preparing and issuing tablets of authority (pāyza, Mong. gerege) but also the inditing of correspondence in a formidable array of languages and scripts. Jovaynī mentioned that the chancery had secretaries specifically for issuing decrees in Persian, Uighur Turkish, North Chinese (ḵetāʾī), Tibetan, Tangut, and so on (ed. Qazvīnī, III, p. 89; tr. Boyle, II, pp. 606-07).

The absence, at least initially, of a specific military department is, however, noteworthy, reflecting the fact that the original Mongol army was coterminous with the free, adult, male nation, thus differing fundamentally from the armies of earlier rulers in Persia. Only during Ḡāzān Khan’s reign were new recruitment and pay arrangements, including allocation of eqṭāʿs, introduced, bringing the Mongol army more in line with earlier Persian armies; eventually, at an unspecified date, a dīvān-e ʿarż appeared. The Il-khanids themselves followed a seminomadic or transhumant way of life similar to that of the Saljuq sultans. Although Oljāytū, for example, built a capital at Solṭānīya in northwestern Persia between 705/1305 and 713/1313, he often moved his military camp (ordū) between winter and summer quarters and was accompanied by a mobile administration, as well as the army; this administration usually included the vizier and at least some chancery officials (monšīs or bitikčīs/baḵšīs, mošrefs, and mostawfīs), but their spheres of duty are somewhat imprecise in the sources (Melville, pp. 55, 60-61; for the Il-khanid administration, see Spuler, Mongolen1 pp. 282 ff.; Uzunçarşılı, pp. 198-241; Lambton, in EI2; idem, 1988, pp. 50-67).

Under the Il-khans there had been in practice an administrative division between military (Mongol and Turkish) and the civilian (Persian) populations, which remained under the Timurids. In the time of Tīmūr himself (771-807/1370-1405) the dīvān-e aʿlā assessed and collected tribute (māl-e amān) from the conquered provinces and towns and was also responsible for collection of taxes, though the ruler himself might well modify the assessments. The title borne by the head of the supreme dīvān is unscertain. The official historian of Tīmūr’s reign, Neẓām-al-Dīn Šāmī, seldom mentioned the term wazīr and then only in the plural, as the term for a group of leading state dignitaries (omarāʾ wa wozarāʾ wa arkān-e dawlat); he also mentioned a dīvān-e ḵāṣṣ. This paucity of reference indicates that under Tīmūr the chief of the dīvān-e ḵāṣṣ had only limited authority and was closely supervised by the khan (Manz, pp. 200-02). A century later, under Solṭān-Ḥosayn Bayqarā, the administrative-ethnic division still persisted below the level of the dīvān-e aʿlā, which was responsible for both civil and military, Turkish and Persian spheres of affairs. Subordinate to it, first, was the organ charged with Turkish and military matters, the dīvān-e bozorg-e amārat, led by a dīvānbegī, with a staff of bitikčīs/baḵšīs; the tavajī dīvānī “department of the army inspector” (i.e., of an official corresponding to the ʿāreż as muster master) was probably a subdivision of this dīvān. Second, the dīvān-e ʿālī or Sart (Mong. and Turk. “Persian, Tajik”) dīvānī was responsible for affairs of the Persian population and was staffed by secretaries (nevīsandagān-e tājīk); the dīvān-e māl must have been a subdivision of this dīvān (Hinz, cited in Morvārīd, comm., p. 169).

The Turkmen dynasties that succeeded the Il-khanid state in western Persia and Iraq, the Jalayerids, the Qara Qoyunlū, and the Āq Qoyunlū, probably inherited the administrative institutions of the Il-khanids, though little specific is known about the workings of the individual dīvāns. It seems that Moḥammad b. Hendūšāh Naḵjavānī, author of Dastūr al-kāteb, worked in the chanceries of both the Il-khanid Abū Saʿīd (717-36/1316-35) and the Jalāyerid Šayḵ Oways (757-76/1356-74; Storey, III, pp. 5-9, 246-47). The civil administration of the Qara Qoyunlū, as well as of the Āq Qoyunlū, was headed by a supreme dīvān-e aʿlā/aʿẓam, with a vizierwho oversaw central and provincial administration in general. Under the Āq Qoyunlū there was also a secretarial department, the dīvān-e parvānačī, corresponding to the older dīvān-e rasāʾel/enšāʾ, where official documents (parvāna) were drawn up and sealed. The revenue department of the Āq Qoyunlū was presided over by the ṣāḥeb(-e) dīvān, whose Persian title ḵᵛāja could be traced back to the Samanids; the dīvān-e ṣadārat, directed by the ṣadr, or head of the religious institution, seems to have originated under the Timurids (Savory, 1961, p. 103). In the military sphere the term dīvān appeared in the title of the Āq Qoyunlū amīr-e dīvān, a soldier who functioned as viceroy or deputy for the sultan; virtually nothing is known, however, about his duties or his supporting staff. The equivalent of the earlier dīvān-e ʿarż was the dīvān of the tavajīs, a group of senior military officers (for the term, see Deny, pp. 160-61) who possibly constituted in a sort of “general staff” (Minorsky, 1939, p. 163); the duties of this dīvān included keeping a register (daftar, q.v.) of the names and qualifications of the troops (on administrative arrangements of the Turkmen dynasties, see Uzun-çarşılı, pp. 286-308; Minorsky, 1939, pp. 162-63, 169-71; idem, 1957, pp. 28, 101).

Documentation for the Safavid administration is much more comprehensive than that for the preceding periods in Persia, though one of the most detailed and important sources, the Taẕkerat al-molūk of Mīrzā Samīʿā, was not compiled until around 1137/1725, at the very end of effective Safavid rule. The elucidation of this material nevertheless poses problems that are inherent in the nature and evolution of the Safavid state. First, there was from the beginning a mingling of a Turkmen-dominated secular monarchy not very dissimilar from the Āq Qoyunlū and the Timurids with a theocratic kingship, messianic and Shiʿite, in which the shah was spiritual director (moršed-e kāmel) of the Ṣafawīya Sufi order. Second, it is not easy to demarcate the various spheres of competence of the dīvān-e aʿlā, which functioned both as royal court (dargāh) and as central government; equally, the functions of civil, military, and religious officials are frequently difficult to distinguish. Third, the Safavid state evolved considerably over the two and a quarter centuries of its existence; Roger Savory (Camb. Hist. Iran, pp. 351-72) has distinguished three phases: the formative phase (907-96/1501-88), during which spheres of authority were not yet clearly defined and clashes and changes could occur; inauguration of a new system by Shah ʿAbbās I (996-1038/1588-1629); and “gradual sclerosis and consequent decline” (1038-1135/1629-1722).

At first, under Shah Esmāʿīl I (907-30/1591-24) and Shah Ṭahmāsb I (930-84/1524-76), the head of the dīvān-e aʿlā was also the shah’s chief deputy (wakīl) for both civil and military affairs. The vizier was of little importance at that time; only toward the end of Ṭahmāsb’s reign did his power increase as he became wazīr-e aʿẓam or wazīr-e mostaqell (Savory, 1960, pp. 93-99, 102); in the 17th century he acquired the official title eʿtemād-al-dawla. All financial transactions, both civil and military, were supervised by the dīvān-e aʿlā, and subordinate viziers were responsible for overseeing various groups connected with the court, eunuchs, falconers, and the like. The military responsibilities of the dīvān obviously included payment of the professional troops, commanded initially by the amīr al-omarāʾ but increasingly by the qūrčī-bāšī, commander-in-chief of the Turkmen tribal cavalry (Savory, 1960, pp. 99-101; idem, 1961, pp. 77-79). The dīvān itself had two important divisions: the dīvān-e mamālek under the mostawfi’l-mamālek, concerned with taxation and general administration of the Safavid empire and those provinces and districts administered directly by governors; and the dīvān-e ḵāṣṣa under the nāẓer-e boyūtāt (lit., “superintendent of the royal workshops”). As the operations of the latter, which included supervision of the crown domains, were so close to the shah, the nāẓer was a powerful figure, whose authority at times encroached on that of the grand vizier.

The Safavid chancery (dār al-enšāʾ) also evolved during the three periods distinguished by Savory. It was originally under the monši’l-mamālek but subsequently became more complex, as new types of registers and documents were issued in greater numbers, especially those concerning grants of taxation (barāt) and land (soyūrḡāl, tīūl). Under Shah ʿAbbās the majlesnevīs or wāqeʿanevīs expanded his duties to include issuing of diplomas for provincial governors and amirs, court officials, and the like, while the monši’l-mamālek receded into the background and was reduced to issuing diplomas for minor provincial officials; hence in the 17th and early 18th centuries there were both an “old chancery” and a “new chancery,” the latter predominant; because of it chief’s closeness to the shah he even rivaled the grand vizier.

It should be further noted that, according to Taḏkerat al-molūk (tr. Minorsky, p. 44, comm. pp. 113-14; cf. Savory, in Camb. Hist. Iran, pp. 353-54), there was a state advisory council, also called dīvān and later jānqī (a Mongol term suggesting an Il-khanid or Timurid origin for the institution), to which in later Safavid times certain members of the dīvān-e aʿlā also belonged; they included the grand vizier; the dīvānbegī, or chief justiciar; and the majlesnevīs or chief secretary. This council was outside the normal pattern of central administration.

Provinces like Khorasan and Azerbaijan were governed through regional administrations. In the 16th century a centrally nominated official with the title wazīr-e koll (general vizier) administered each province, and, in the absence of specific information, it seems reasonable to assume that he had his own dīvān, staffed by revenue officials and secretaries. The wazīr-e koll oversaw the finances of the province, including those of any ḵāṣṣa lands situated there, ensuring a regular flow of collected taxes to the central treasury; an important additional part of his duties was to act as a check on the activities of the beglerbegī, or provincial governor.

From this sketch of the functioning of dīvāns in the Safavid period, it is clear that, though there is considerable information on some aspects, it is patchy, making it extremely difficult to perceive an orderly pattern and to distinguish the functions of officials known by frequently changing or evolving titles (Savory, Camb. Hist. Iran, pp. 351-72; Lambton, EI2; Rohrborn, 1966; idem, 1979, pp. 17-57; Savory, 1987, arts. IV-VII; Taḏkerat al-molūk, ed. Minorsky, comm.).

For the administrative systems of the Zands and Qajars, see ADMINISTRATION i


(For the cited works not given in detail see “Short References.”) ʿAbd-Allāh Morvārīd, Šaraf-nāma, facs. ed. and tr. H. R. Roemer as Staatsschreiben der Timuridenzeit. Das Šaraf-Nāma des ʿAbdallāh Marwārid in kritisches Auswertung, Wiesbaden, 1952.

C. E. Bosworth, “Military Organisation under the Būyids of Persia and Iraq,” Oriens 18-19, 1965-66, pp. 143-67.

Idem, “The Armies of the Ṣaffārids,” BSO(A)S 31, 1968, pp. 534-54.

Idem, “Abū ʿAbdallāh al-Khwārazmī on the Technical Terms of the Secretary’s Art. A Contribution to the Administrative History Mediaeval Islam,” JESHO 12, 1969, pp. 113-64.

Idem, The History of the Saffārids of Sistan and the Maliks of Nimruz, Costa Mesa, Calif., 1994.

H. Busse, Chalif und Grosskönig. Die Buyiden im Iraq (945-1055), Wiesbaden, 1969.

J. Deny, “Osmanli ancien tovija (dovija),” JA 221, 1932, pp. 160-61.

ʿA. ʿA. Dūrī, “Dīwān i. The Caliphate,” in EI2 II, pp. 323-27.

Ebn Ḵaldūn, al-Moqaddema, tr. F. Rosenthal as The Muqaddimah. An Introduction to History, New York, 1958.

R. Genç, Karahanlı devlet teşkilâtı. XI Yüzyıl, Istanbul, 1981.

G. Hawting, The First Dynasty of Islam. The Umayyad Caliphate AD 661-750, London, 1986.

W. Hoenerbach, “Zur Heeresverwaltung der ʿAbbāsiden. Studie über Abulfarağ Qudāma: Dīwān al-ğaiš,” Der Islam 29, 1950, pp. 257-90.

H. Horst, Die Staatsverwaltung der Grosselğūqen und Ḫōrazmšāhs (1038-1231), Wiesbaden, 1964.

Abū ʿAbd-Allāh Moḥammad Jahšīārī, Ketāb al-wozarāʾ wa’l-kottāb, Baghdad, 1357/1938.

Abū ʿAbd-Allāh Moḥammad b. Aḥmad Ḵᵛārazmī, Mafātīḥ al-ʿolūm, ed. G. van Vloten, Leiden, 1895.

H. Kennedy, The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates, London, 1986.

C. L. Klausner, The Seljuk Vezirate. A Study of Civil Administration 1055-1194, Cambridge, Mass., 1973.

A. K. S. Lambton, “The Internal Structure of the Saljuq Empire,” in Camb. Hist. Iran V, pp. 203-82.

Idem, Continuity and Change in Medieval Persia. Aspects of Administrative, Economic and Social History, 11th-14th Century, London, 1988.

Idem, “Dīwān iv. Iran,” in EI2 II, pp. 332-36.

R. Levy, The Social Structure of Islam, Cambridge, 1957.

B. Lewis, The Political Language of Islam, Chicago, 1988.

B. F. Manz, “Administration and the Delegation of Authority in Temur’s Dominions,” Central Asiatic Journal 20, 1976, pp. 191-207.

C. Melville, “The Itineraries of Sultan Öljeytü, 1304-16,” Iran 28, 1990, pp. 55-70.

V. Minorsky, “A Civil and Military Review in Fārs in 881/1476,” BSOS 10, 1939, pp. 141-78.

Idem, Persia in A.D. 1478-1490, London, 1957.

M. Morgan, The Mongols, Oxford, 1986.

M. Nāẓim, The Life and Times of Sulṭān Maḥmūd of Ghazna, Cambridge, 1931.

Ḵᵛāja Neẓām-al-Molk Ṭūsī, Sīar al-molūk(Sīāsat-nāma), ed. H. Darke, 2nd. ed., Tehran, 1347 Š./1968.

K. Rohrborn, Provinzen und Zentralgewalt Persiens im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert, Berlin, 1966.

Idem, Regierung und Verwaltung Irans unter den Safaviden, HO, pt. 1, VI/5, Leiden and Cologne, 1979.

Neẓām-al-Dīn Šāmī, Ẓafar-nāma, ed. F. Tauer, Prague, 1937.

R. M. Savory, “The Principal Offices of the Ṣafawid State during the Reign of Ismaʿīl I (907-30/1501-24),” BSO(A)S 23, 1960, pp. 91-105.

Idem, “The Principal Offices of the Ṣafawid State during the Reign of Ṭahmāsp I (930-84/1524-76),” BSO(A)S 24, 1961, pp. 65-85.

Idem, “The Safavid Administrative System,” in Camb. Hist. Iran VI, pp. 351-72.

Idem, Studies on the History of Ṣafawid Iran, Variorum Reprints, London, 1987.

M. A. Shaban, Islamic History, A New Interpretation. A.D. 750-1055 (A.H. 132-448), Cambridge, 1976.

M. Sprengling, “From Persian to Arabic,” AJSLL 56, 1939, pp. 175-224, 325-36.

I. H. Uzunçarşılı, Osmanlı devleti teşkilâtına medhal, Istanbul, 1941.

ʿA. Zarrīnkūb, “The Arab Conquest of Iran and Its Aftermath,” in Camb. Hist. Iran IV, pp. 1-56.



The word dīvān is widely used both in Arabic and Persian to designate the collected poems of a particular author, generally without his or her long poems (maṯnawīs). The Arabic philologists of the Abbasid period (many of them of Persian origin) assembled the works of the pre-Islamic Arab poets, which had until then survived only through oral transmission, into collections which they called dīvāns, evidently by analogy to the registers or archives in which financial documents were preserved. Then the literate Arabic poets of the Abbasid period often collected their own poems in a dīvān, but in some cases their dīvāns were put together by others after their death, evidently because they had no time to do so themselves; this is the case, for example, with Motanabbī.

Many of the surviving dīvāns of pre-Mongol Persian poets are known only from manuscripts copied in the last two or at most three centuries and evidently represent collections assembled by literati of the Safavid period such as Taqī Kāšī (e.g., the dīvāns of Farroḵī, Lāmeʿī, Manūčehrī, and ʿOnṣorī). In the absence of old manuscripts it is difficult to say whether the Safavid prototypes of these dīvāns were based on earlier, lost, copies, or whether they were assembled ad hoc from the stray poems quoted in anthologies. Other published dīvāns were put together by their 20th-century editors. On the other hand, some early dīvāns, such as those of Azraqī or Sanāʾī, survive in good 13th-century manuscripts. In any case, Persian dīvāns did certainly exist at a very early date. Thus Nāṣer-e Ḵosrow writes that in the year 438/1046 the poet Qaṭrān “came to me and brought the dīvān of Monjīk and the dīvān of Daqīqī” (now both lost) and the same author speaks in his poems of his own ‘two dīvāns’ in Arabic and Persian. Neẓāmī Ganjavī indicates that he collected his own dīvān before 584/1188 (very early in his career) and his contemporary Farīdal-Dīn ʿAṭṭār also assembled his own dīvān, as he tells us in the introductions to two of his other works (Moḵtār-nāma and Ḵosrow-nāma). On the other hand the dīvān of Ẓahīr Fāryābī was assembled after the author’s death by the poet Shams-al-Dīn Sojāsī, who wrote a preface to it in prose.

In the post-Mongol period it is commonplace for poets to publish their own dīvāns. Amīr Ḵosrow collected his own poems at various stages in his life in five different dīvāns, for each of which he composed a prose introduction. His example was followed in the three dīvāns of Jāmī. By contrast, Saʿdī’s shorter poems are not assembled in a dīvān but rather are contained, together with his longer poems and his prose writings in the ‘complete works’ (kollīyāt) put together after his death by ʿAlī b. Aḥmad b. Abī Bakr b. Bīsotūn.

In most manuscripts (and modern editions) the poems in a given dīvān are grouped by genre (usually with qaṣīdas first, then strophic poems, ḡazals, qeṭʿas, and robāʿīs last) and then within each section the poems are arranged alphabetically by the last letter. However, in early manuscripts the poems are generally not arranged alphabetically, and often not separated by genre either, but often grouped by subject, or by their dedicatee. Both alphabetical and non-alphabetical ordering can be observed in early copies of Arabic dīvāns as well; it is thus likely that both systems were used for Persian dīvāns from an early date.


Nāṣer-e Ḵosrow, Dīvān, ed. M. Mīnovī and M. Moḥaqqeq, Tehran 1353 Š./1974, qaṣīda 64 v. 46; qaṣīda 177 v. 51.

Idem, Safar-nāma, ed. M. T. Dabīrsīāqī, Tehran 1354 Š./1976, p. 9.

Neẓāmī Ganjavī, Laylī o Majnūn, ed. A. A. Aleskerzade and F. Babayev, Moscow 1965, p. 39.

Storey/de Blois, V (for the manuscripts of Persian dīvāns). Ẓahīr Fāryābī, Dīvān, ed. T. Bīneš, Mašhad, 1337 Š./1959, pp. 2-9. 


(François de Blois)

Originally Published: December 15, 1995

Last Updated: November 28, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. VII, Fasc. 4, pp. 432-438