Table of Contents
The Khalifa His Court 5 central departments or ‘Diwan’
Muawiyah nominated his son Yazid for succession. This became a precedent form the coming Caliphs. This was the first major change against the Orthodox Caliphate. But the succession wasn’t to be strictly father to son. There were cases when an uncle, brother, or nephew were elected keeping in mind the character and the need of time. Umar bin Abdul Aziz was elected although he was a cousin.
In theory, Khalifa had the same responsibilities as Orthodox Caliphs such as being a religious, political, and military leader. In addition, he was to be a Qazi too. But hardly any of later Caliphs ever led prayer. Their judgements as Qazi were prejudiced. They loved to spend on slave girls.
Under the Orthodox Caliphs, the principle of consultation was followed. Under the Umayyads, the place where consultations were supposed to take place was called ‘the court’. Now the milieu of the court varied with the Caliph. For example, under
Muawiyah and Abdul Malik serious political consultations took place. In Umar bin Abdul Aziz’s era theologians acquired greater space. Whereas in reigns of others the place was a disgrace to look at. Drinking wine and slave girls’ dancing was the order of the day.
Diwan al-Kharaj (land revenue and finance)
It was originally established by Umar. For the collection of land-revenue, but under the Umayyads, it also administered the entire finances of the State. It received all the taxes, disbursed all expenses and maintained records of all receipts and payments. The surplus of all Provinces was deposited here.
It was the military department, first established by Umar. It paid annual ata or pensions to the Arab and a few non-Arab Muslim soldiers in accordance with the Register of Diwans. But the Umayyads tempered it with putting in the names of their favorites or changing the life-allowances of others as they liked.
The department of royal correspondence. It also existed since the days of the Pious Caliphs. It performed several functions. Besides the letters and orders of the Caliph, it also issued circulars and instructions to the provincial officials and subjects. It was headed by a Katib or scribe.
It was first established by Muawiyah to prevent forgery of royal correspondence. A copy od correspondence was entered in a register, while the original was sealed and dispatched.
It was the postal department to transmit royal mail between the capital and the provinces. It was properly re-organized by Abdul Malik. Postal stages each at a distance of 18 km were set up along the roads and highways leading from Damascus to the provinces. Each province had an officer in charge.
Owing to the greatest expansion, the Umayyads administration was divided into 114 provinces, some large and others small. They were further grouped into 5 viceroyalties. The viceroys were Chief Governors; they worked the same way as the Caliph did, but just in their respective regions. Chief Governors usually had high form of autonomy and self-government. They chose lesser governors for smaller provinces. The 5 viceroyalties (al-Iqleem) were: Iraq, al-Jazirah, Arabia, Egypt, and Ifriqia.
The Chief Governor was usually called Wali to distinguish him from lesser governors. Hajjaj bin Yusuf was Wali for he ruled entire Iraq. The lesser governors were in practice only military leaders who protected the smaller provinces for the Chief Governors.
All provincial officers except provincial treasury officer were selected by Chief Governors. Sahib al Kharaj answered to the Caliph directly, so that public money cannot be misappropriated by the Governor.
Some lower level officers/offices
The Katib → kind of a secretary to the Governor. He was an administrative officer, rather than an executive one.
Sahib al Kharaj → he was the most important next to the governor. Tax-collection was a key part of the Caliphate. He was answerable to the Caliph. he collected all kinds of taxes.
Sahib ash Shurta → police were not a norm in those days. Anyone found guilty of committing crime was left to the tribe chief to be dealt with. But the state did have a force that maintained the general law and order of the society especially developed cities.
Sahib al Burid → provincial post master.
The Qazi → the trend of appointing judges started since the days of Umar. They had command on fiqh and were highly just and pious men. The court was usually a mosque. Non-Muslims had their own community judges.
We have read about the social life and the rise of feudalism in the Caliphate. This feudalism became the root cause of the tribal rivalry in the future and the Abbasids finally revolted. But we need to realize that Abbasids only took advantage of the time and crisis. The revolts had already started to appear in Syria and Yemen.