The office of ḥājeb, implying military command, appears in the Iranian world with the Samanids, where it probably grew out of the amir’s domestic household, in which the ḥājeb had had duties similar to those of the Umayyad and Abbasid ḥājebs or doorkeepers/chamberlains. The office of chief ḥājeb of the Samanids (al-ḥājeb al-kabir, ḥājeb al-ḥojjāb, ḥājeb-e bozorg) was in the 10th century held by the leader of the amir’s Turkish ḡolāms (q.v.) or slave guards, combining the duty of head of the palace organization with that of commander-in-chief of the army. Such were the functions of Alptigin (q.v.), while his subordinate Sebüktigin, founder of the Ghaznavid line, considered himself a provincial ḥājeb, or governor, in Ghazna on behalf of the Samanids; on his tomb there he is described as al-ḥājeb al-ajall ’Most Exalted Commander’ (Flury, pp. 63-64).

Amongst the Buyids, Meskawayh’s use of the term ḥājeb shows that it also became an essentially military office in western Persia during the course of the 10th century, although we do not hear of a chief ḥājeb or commander-in-chief in the Buyid chain of military command. Below the Esfahsālār, or commander-in-chief, there seems to have been a descending hierarchy of ḥājeb ’general’, qāʾed ‘field officer’, and naqib ‘junior officer’ (Meskawayh, Tajāreb al-omam, cited in Bosworth, 1965-66, p. 163).

The Ghaznavids inherited many of the administrative and military structures of the Samanids, especially as the founders, Sebüktigin and Maḥmud, had themselves served in the Samanid army in Khorasan. Abuʾl Fażl Bayhaqi’s Tāriḵ-e Masʿudi shows the wide usage of the title ḥājeb at the Ghaznavid court and in the army. The commander-in-chief of the army, almost invariably a Turk, held the title of ḥājeb-e bozorg and was directly responsible to the sultan, while below him were general officers, ḥājebs, all with the special distinguishing dress and insignia of the slave guards, i.e., a black hat, a two-pointed cap (kolāh-e do-šāḵ), and a special type of belt (cf. Bayhaqi, p. 288). In times of crisis, the ḥājeb-e bozorg might become the focus of authority in the state and act as virtual king-maker, as didʿAli Qarib in the succession dispute at Maḥmud’s death in 421/1030 (Bayhaqi, pp. 12-14, 552-57; Bosworth, Ghaznavids, pp. 110, 231-32).

Under the Saljuqs, however, the office of ḥājeb or amir-e ḥājeb tended to decline in status compared with the functions and prestige which it still held under the later Ghaznavids (Bosworth, Later Ghaznavids, pp. 43, 48, 61, 139, 153). The Saljuq historical sources usually refer to the commander-in-chief of the Saljuq forces as esfahsālār; and the amir-e ḥājeb was at times more a court official. Thus Neẓām-al-Molk in his Siāsat-nāma (sec. 30, p. 145; tr., p. 120), describes the ḥājeb-e dargāh as a court official. Soon afterwards, Moḥammad I b. Malekšāh made one of his military commanders, ʿAli b. ʿOmar, amir-e bār, or official in charge of admission to the court, superseding the previous civilian vakil-dār, although civilian officials managed to regain control of the office after Moḥammad’s death. In any case, since the sultan’s court was essentially the central organ of state for war, ḥājebs were also soldiers and took part in campaigns. Rāvandi lists in his history the viziers as well as the (amir-e) ḥājebsfor each sultan. Some of these ḥājebs are comparatively obscure, such as Moḥammad I’s ʿAli Bār (see above; thus named in this source), others played leading roles in the politics and military events of the time, such as Ḵāṣṣ Beg Arslān, ḥājeb to Masʿud b. Moḥammad I and Malekšāh III b. Maḥmud II; the Atā-bak Noṣrat-al-Din Pahlavān, ḥājeb to Arslan b. Ṭoḡrïl II and later ruler of the Ildegozid line of Atābaks in Azerbaijan and Arrān (see ATĀBAKĀN-E ĀḎARBĀYJĀN) and the Atābak Jamāl-al-Din Ay Aba, ḥājeb to the last sultan Ṭoḡrïl III b. Arslān (Rāvandi, pp. 153, 225, 249, 282, 331).

The office apparently passed to the Ḵᵛārazmšāhs, though we know very little of how it worked in practice, except that, as with the Saljuqs, it seems to have comprised both direction of the ruler’s court and military command; thus in one investiture document, a ḥājeb-e ḵāṣṣ-e ḥażrat is appointed vazir, or governor, of Naḵče-vān in Transcaucasia. (Horst, pp. 19, 49, 125). A similar situation prevailed under the Il-Khanids, when the ḥā-jeb, though a military man, functioned as court chamberlain, and probably also under the succeeding Turkmen dynasties. Under the early Safavids, the commander-in-chief of the Qezelbāš tribal forces was termed the amir al-omarā, with the qurčibāši (whose exact functions remain obscure) in an apparent second place in the military hierarchy (Savory, pp. 99-101), whilst the two officials who shared the court functions of the ḥājeb, i.e. as chamberlain, were known as the chief ushers (ešik-āqāsi-bāši; q.v.).



Abu’l-Fażl Bayhaqi, Tāriḵ-e Masʿudi, ed. Fayyāż and Ḡani, Tehran, 1324 Š./1945.

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

Idem and Anne K. S. Lambton, “Ḥādjib iii.” EI2, III, pp. 46-47.

Samuel Flury, “Le décor épigraphique des monuments de Ghazna,” Syria 6, Paris, 1925, pp. 61-90.

Heribert Horst, Die Staatsverwal-tung der Grosselğūqen und Ḫōrazmšāhs (1038-1231), Wiesbaden, 1964.

Carla L. Klausner, The Seljuk Vezi-rate: A Study of Civil Administration 1055-1194, Cambridge, Mass., 1973.

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

Neẓām-al-Molk, Siāsat-nāma, ed. Hubert Darke, Tehran, 1340/1962; tr. idem, as The Book of Government or Rules for Kings, 2nd ed., London, 1978.

Moḥammad b. ʿAli Rāvandi, Rāḥat al-ṣodur wa āyat al-sorur, ed. M. Iqbál, London, 1921.

Roger M. Savory, “The Principal Offices of the Ṣafavid State During the Reign of Ismāʿil I (907-30/1501-24),” BSOAS 23, 1960, pp. 91-105.

(C. Edmund Bosworth)

Originally Published: December 15, 2002

Last Updated: March 1, 2012

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Vol. XI, Fasc. 5, pp. 544-545