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Administrative System Of The Umayyads



  • Lack of any fundamental laws of the state structure, constitution.
  • Evolution of Caliphate institution was accidental, not by theory or law of the state.
  • No rules and regulations for election of caliph or for its republican structure.
  • Few general principles of consultation by the head of the state which led to the growth, of rudimentary consultative system called “Shura”.
  • Few rules regarding qualifications and duties of the Ruler and his advisers, appointees etc.
  • Umayyad Caliphate was in a hereditary and monarchial form.


  • Khalifa
  • Court
  • Five central Departments/Divisions
  1. Diwan al-Kharaj,
  2. Diwan al-Jund,
  3. Diwan al-Rasail,
  4. Diwan al-Khatim,
  5. Diwan al-Barid.

The Khalifa: 

  • Caliph, Khalifa, Imam, or Ameerul Momineen; Head of the state.


  • Umayyad caliphs nominated their successors from their own family or clan in their own life.
  • Caliphate was confined to Umayyad by dynasty.
  • Hereditary institution like monarchy.
  • Not necessarily son, but any leading member of the family.
  • Often they nominated two successors which led to troubles after the death of caliph.
  • Courtiers, Grandees, Governors and other leading personalities of the Empire had to take oath of allegiance/Bayt onto the hands of presumptive caliph at the time of his accession.


  • Similar functions as did an orthodox Caliph but with a different attitude and spirit.
  • Imam or spiritual head of Islam.
  • Ameerul Momineen or supreme commander and the supreme judge.
  • Led public prayers in the central mosque of Damascus,
  • Delivered Friday Khutba
  • Adjusted disputes of common people
  • They were autocrats.
  • They held themselves responsible to neither religion nor public opinion and nor to a shura.
  • They appointed and dismissed civil and military officials of the provinces.
  • The officials were responsible to caliph alone.
  • They treated Bayt al-Mal/public treasury as their private property.
  • They were inaccessible to their common subjects, even in the mosque where they kept themselves aloof in a stone enclosure called “muqsura.”

The Court:

  • In Umayyad Caliphate, Shura ceased to exist.
  • Its place was taken by the court, which comprised members ofthe Umayyad clan, their supporters, big landlords and other leading men of the Arabic tribes.
  • Life and work of court varies with reigning caliph e.g.
  1. Muwaiya & Abdul Malik’s Court- Business centre.
  2. Umar II’s court –centre of religions discussions.
  3. Yazid II/ Walid II’s court centre of pleasure.
  4. Marwan II’s court like military camp.
  • Umayyad caliphate was a worldly government rather than a theoretic state of early Islam.

The Central Diwans:

  • Five departments of the central government.
  • Each department/Diwan headed by one or more officials, called the “Katib” or “Sahib”.
  • They (Katib, Sahib) act under the directions from caliph.
  • They were really caliph’s servants, appointed or dismissed by him without any consultation.

The five central Diwans of Umayyad Caliphate were

Diwan al-Kharaj:

Department of land, Revenue, and Finance.

  • Received all taxes.
  • Disbursed all expenses.
  • Maintained records of all receipts and payments.
  • Bank of surplus revenue of Provinces.

Diwan al Jund:

  • Military department.
  • Responsible for pensions of soldiers according to the Register of Diwan of pensions.
  • Tampered by Umayyads who added names of their favourites / loyal in pension lists. Not for their services to Islam but to the Umayyad rule.

Diwan al Rasail:

  • Department of Royal correspondence.
  • Issue of royal letters, orders, circulars and instructions of caliph to the provincial officials and subjects.
  • To coordinate work among different Diwans.

Diwan al-Khatim:

  • Chancery of the Umayyads.
  • Established by Muawiya to prevent forgery of royal correspondence.
  • A copy of correspondence was entered in a register, while the original was sealed and dispatched.
  1. Diwan al-Barid:
  • Postal Department.
  • Developed by Muawiya but organized properly by Abdul Malik.
  • At first confined for royal letters and mails.
  • Later opened to general subjects of the caliphate.
  • Postal stages along roads and highways every 18km.
  • Every stage had its relay of horses with tails cut off to distinguish them from ordinary horses.
  • Every province has postal In charge, called the Sahib al Barid.
  • He was the post master.

Provincial Administration:

Distinctive Features:

  • Expansion of Umayyad Empire.
  • 114 provinces, some large and other smalls.
  • 5 viceroyalties for effective administration.
  • Lack of speedy and effective communication between caliph and administrators – Caliph entrusted authority to Governors to sort out the things their selves.
  • Each province was further divided into districts for the purpose of revenue collection.
  • Districts were administered by “Amils”.

Provincial Officials:

  • Essential functions of state activists under Umayyads.
  • Political administration
  • Preserve peace and order
  • Punishing criminals & rebels.
  • Tax collection.
  • Judicial function.
  • Constructive or nation building activities were unknown.
  • The administrative officials were Governors, the katibs, the Sahib al Barid, and the Amils.
  • The revenue officers were Sahib al Kharaj & amils etc.
  • The police officials were Sahib ash-Shurta and the Sahib – Ahdath.
  • The judicial officers were Qazis.

The Governors:-

  • Head of provincial administration.
  • Governor of major provinces.
  • Governor of the small provinces.
  • Viceroys of East were man of great learning and culture because East was the hub of these activities in Umayyad times.
  • Viceroys of Western regions were commanders and warriors because they had to crush barbarous and rebellious tribes and races.

Position & function of the Governors:-

  • Same position within province as that of caliph in Empire.
  • Conduct/ arrays public prayers.
  • Command/supervise armies.
  • Maintain peace and crush disorder.
  • Punish criminals, violators of law.
  • Development of province through development of trade, agriculture and industry.
  • Construction of roads, dams, canals, etc.
  • Supervise tax collection in the province.

The Katib:-

  • Secretary to Governor to share burden of work.
  • Works on the instruction of Governor.

Sahib al-Kharaj:-

  • Next to Governor.
  • Collect land tax (Kharaj), Jizya, Zakat, Ushar and other taxes.
  • Pay all provincial officials expenses like pensions, salaries etc.
  • Responsible for his work to caliph, not to Governor.

Sahib Ash-Shurta:-

  • In tribes, tribal chief punished the criminals.
  • In town, state itself punished the culprit under the law of Islam.
  • Police chief of the provincial capital Sahib Ash-Shura.
  • Under direct control of governor.
  • Ziyad had a force of 40,000 shvitas in kufa.

Sahib al-Ahdath:-

  • A paramilitary force was created to preserve law and order in the countryside. It was called Ahdath.
  • Half-way between the police and regular army.
  • Militia duty of suppressing rebellions.

Sahib al-barid:

  • Provincial post-master.
  • Controlled the provincial post department/barid.

The Qazi:

  • Judges to settle disputes between Muslims according to Islamic Fiqah or jurisprudence.
  • Non-Muslim Dhimmies had their own judges.
  • Qazi’s court was held in the mosque.


  • Chief district officer for tax collection.

Provincial Departments:-

  • Diwan ar- Rasail
  • Diwan al Jund
  • Diwan al Mustagilate
  • Diwan al –Burid provincial postal office. Financial department of province.
1 Comment
  1. Reyaz Ahmad Reshi says

    Umar 2 did not considered the bait ultimate maaliss as his private property

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