Parts 32c

The ministry of financial operations and taxation

January 17, 2020

The ministry (diwan) of (financial) operations and taxation

The ministry of taxation is is concerned with tax operations and guards the rights of the dynasty in the matters of income and expenditures. It takes a census of the names of all soldiers, fixes their salaries, and pays out their allowances at the proper times.

In this connection recourse is had to rules set up by the chiefs of (tax) operations and the stewards of the dynasty. They are all written down in a book which gives all the details concerning income and expenditures.

It is based upon a good deal of accounting, which is mastered only by those who have considerable skill in (tax) operations. The book is called the diwan. At the same time, (the word diwan) designates the place where the officials who are concerned with these matters have their offices.

The name is said to have had the following origin. One day, Khosraw looked at the secretaries in his ministry (diwan). They were all engaged in their separate calculations, and it looked as if they were talking to themselves. The king exclaimed= “Dewaneh”-which is Persian for “crazy.” 478 As a result, the place where they were working was called by that name. The ending -eh was dropped, because the word was so much used, and dropping the -eh made it easier to pronounce.

The word thus became diwan. Later, it came to signify the (tax) book which contained the rules and computations.

Another story is that diwan is the Persian name for the devils. The secretaries were called “devils” because of their quick comprehension, their understanding of both the obvious and the difficult, and their ability to combine random and disparate facts. The name was then extended to designate the offices where they worked.

In this sense, the name diwan was taken over by the secretaries in charge of (official) correspondence and used to designate the place where their offices were located in the ruler’s court, as will be mentioned later on. 479

One person is in charge of this office. He supervises all the operations of this kind. Each branch has its own supervisor. In some dynasties supervision of the army, of military fiefs, of keeping count of allowances, and of other (such) things, is constituted as separate offices. (Whether this is done or not) depends on the organization of a given dynasty and the arrangements made by its first rulers.

It should be known that the office of (tax collections) originates in dynasties only when their power and superiority and their interest in the different aspects of royal authority and in the ways of efficient administration have become firmly established. The first to set up the diwan in the Muslim dynasty was ‘Umar. 480

The reason is said to have been the arrival of Abu Hurayrah with money from al-Bahrayn. (The Muslims) thought that it was a very large sum, and they had trouble with its distribution. They tried to count the money and to establish how it should be paid out for allowances and claims. On that occasion, Khalid b. al-Walid advised the use of the diwan. He said= “I have seen the rulers of Syria keeping a diwan.” ‘Umar accepted the idea from Khalid.

The person who advised ‘Umar to introduce the diwan was al-Hurmuzan. 481 He noticed that (military) missions were dispatched without a diwan (a muster roll). He asked (‘Umar)= “Who would know if some of (the soldiers) disappeared?

Those who remain behind might leave their places and abscond with the money that had been given to them for their services (if they could assume that their desertion would not be noticed). Such things should be noted down exactly in a book. Therefore, establish a diwdn for them.” ‘Umar asked what the word diwdn meant, and it was explained to him. When he agreed to (have a diwdn), he ordered ‘Aqil b. Abi Talib, 482 Makhramah b. Nawfal, 483 and Jubayr b. Mut’im, 484 all of them secretaries of the Quraysh, to write down the diwan of theMuslim army.

The diwan was arranged according to family relationships and began with the relatives of the Prophet and continued according to the degree of relationship.

This was the beginning of the ministry (diwan) of the army.

Az-Zuhri 485 reported on the authority of Sa’id b. alMusayyab 486 that this took place in al-Mubarram of the year twenty [December, 640/January, 641].

After the advent of Islam, the ministry (diwan) of the land tax and tax collections remained as it had been. The 487 (diwan) of the ‘Iraq used Persian, and that of Syria Byzantine Greek. The secretaries of the diwans were Muslim subjects of the two groups. Then, with the appearance of ‘Abd-alMalik b. Marwan, the form of the state became that of royal authority. People turned from the low standard of desert life to the splendor of sedentary culture and from the simplicity of illiteracy to the sophistication of literacy. Experts in writing and bookkeeping made their appearance among the Arabs and their clients.

Thus, ‘Abd-al-Malik ordered Sulayman b. Sa’d, then governor of the Jordan (province), to introduce the use of Arabic in the diwan of Syria. Sulayman completed the task in exactly one year to the day. Sarhitn, 488 ‘Abd-al-Malik’s secretary, looked at (the situation) and said to the Byzantine secretaries= “Seek you a living in another craft, because God has taken this one from you.”

Al-Hajjaj ordered his secretary Salih b. ‘Abd-ar-Rahman to introduce the use of Arabic, instead of Persian, in the diwan of the ‘Iraq. Salih knew how to write both Arabic and Persian. He had learned it from Zadanfarrfikh, his predecessor as secretary to al-Hajjaj. When Zadan was killed in the war against ‘Abd-ar-Rahman b. al-Ash’ath , 489 al-Hajjaj appointed Salih as his successor. (Salih now carried out al-Hajjaj’s order and introduced the use of Arabic in the diwan). He succeeded in doing that and in overcoming the reluctance of the Persian secretaries. ‘Abd-al-Hamid b. Yahya 490 used to say= “Salih was an excellent man. He was a great boon to the secretaries.”

Later on, in the ‘Abbasid dynasty, the office was added to the duties of (the wazir) who supervised the man in charge of it. This was the case under the Barmecides and the Banu Sahl b. Nawbakht and other ‘Abbasid wazirs.

Certain religious laws attach to the office. They concern the army, the income and expenditures of the treasury, and it, is the differing tax situations of the different regions, which depend on whether they had surrendered (peacefully) to the Muslim conquerors or had been conquered by force. Then, there is the question as to who makes appointment to the office. There are also the conditions governing the person in charge and the secretaries, as well as the rules according to which the accounts are to be kept.

All (these legal problems) belong to the books on administration (al-Ahkam as-sultaniyah) and are written down in them. It is not the purpose of this book to deal with them. We discuss the subject only as it has to do with the nature of royal authority, in the discussion of which we are presently engaged.

This office constitutes a large part of all royal authority. In fact, it is the third of its basic pillars. Royal authority requires soldiers, money, and the means to communicate with those who are absent. The ruler, therefore, needs persons to help him in the matters concerned with “the sword,” “the pen,” and finances. Thus, the person who holds the office (of tax collections) has (a good) part of the royal authority for himself.

This was the case under the Umayyad dynasty in Spain and under its successors, the reyes de ta’ifas. In the Almohad dynasty, the man in charge of (theoffice) was an Almohad.

He had complete freedom to levy, collect, and handle money, to control the activities of officials and agents in this connection, and then to make disbursements in the proper amounts and at the proper times. He was known as Sahib al-ashghal (financial affairs manager). Occasionally, in some places, the office was held by persons who had a good understanding of it, but were not Almohads. 491

The Hafsids gained control over Ifrigiyah at the time when the exodus from Spain took place. Exiled (Spanish) notables came to (the Hafsids). 492 Among them, there were some who had been employed in this (type of work) in Spain, such as the Banu Sa’id, 493 the lords of Alcala near Granada, who were known as the Banu Abi l-Husayn. (The Hafsids) liked to have them for this (type of work). They entrusted them with the supervision of (tax) affairs, which was what they had been doing in Spain.

They employed them and the Almohads alternately for this purpose. Later on, the accountants and secretaries took the office over for themselves, and the Almohads lost it. As the position of doorkeeper (hajib) became more and more important, and as his executive power came to extend over all government affairs, the institution of the Sahib al-ashghal ceased to be influential 494 The person in charge of it was dominated by the doorkeeper (hajib) and became (no more than) a mere tax collector.

He lost the authority he had formerly had in the dynasty.

In the contemporary Merinid dynasty, the accounting of the land tax and military allowances is in the hands of one man. He audits all accounts. Recourse is had to his diwan, and his authority is second (only) to the authority of the ruler or wazir.

His signature attests to the correctness of the accounts dealing with the land tax and (military) allowances.

These are the principal governmental ranks and functions. They are high ranks, involving the exercise of general authority and (requiring) direct contact with the ruler.

In the Turkish dynasty, the functions (under discussion) are divided. The person in charge of the diwan of (military) allowances is known as inspector of the army (nazir aljaysh). The person in charge of finances is called the wazir.

He has supervision over the dynasty’s diwan of general tax collection. This is the highest rank among the men who are in charge of financial matters. Among (the Turks), supervision of financial matters is spread over many ranks, because the dynasty rules a large (territory) and exercises great powers, and its finances and taxes are too vast to be handled by one man all by himself, however competent.

Therefore, for the general supervision of (financial affairs), the man known as wazir is appointed.

In spite of his (important position), he is second to one of the clients of the ruler who shares in the ruler’s group feeling and belongs to the military (caste) and who is called Ustadh-ad-dar. 495 This official outranks the wazir, who does all he can to do his bidding. He is one of the great amirs of the dynasty and belongs to the army and the military (caste).

Other functions are subordinate to that of (the wazir) among (the Turks). All of them have reference to financial matters and bookkeeping, and are restricted in their authority to particular matters. There is, for instance, the inspector of the privy purse (nazir al-khass)-that is, the person who handles the ruler’s private finances, such as concern his fiefs or his shares in the land tax and taxable lands that are not part of the general Muslim fist 496 He is under the control of the amir, the Ustadh-ad-dar, but if the wazir is an army man, the Ustadh-ad-dar has no authority over him.

The inspector of the privy purse also is under the control of the treasurer of the finances of the ruler, one of the latter’s mamelukes, who is called Khazindar(treasurer), because his office is concerned with the private property of the ruler.

Such is the nomenclature 497 used in connection with the function of (financial administration) in the Turkish dynasty in the East. We have mentioned how it was handled in the Maghrib.