ḴĀṢṢA, an Arabic term that in the early Muslim period as well as later denoted people and things that were “special, elite, private” as against those that were “public, common, general” (ʿāmma; Morony, p. 258; see CLASS SYSTEM iv). However, soon the term was also used to denote the private crown lands and other properties, real and moveable, owned or controlled directly by the ruler, as well as all functions, activities, and artifacts pertaining to the ruler, his court, and his family.

The so-called ḵāleṣa or public crown lands (confiscated or abandoned land) was part of the ḵāṣṣa holdings, and often the dividing line between the two was blurred. Both stood in contrast to amlāk-e divāni or mamālek, which referred to state lands. During the 18th century the term ḵāṣṣa, as well as divāni and mamālek, fell into disuse and was replaced by the term ḵāleṣa denoting all crown domains. Henceforth, the ruler’s private property was referred to as molk-e ḵāṣṣ and as amlāk-e salṭanati (Lambton, 1953, pp. 167-68; Floor, 1998, p. 337).


With the conquest of Sasanian Iran, the leaders of the newly arisen Islamic empire had to make decisions concerning what to do with the conquered lands, in particular the former royal properties, other confiscated estates, abandoned lands, and properties of uncertain status, both real and moveable. As there were no clear rules, the Qurʾanic guideline (VIII:41) was applied, according to which one-fifth (ḵoms) of the booty (ḡanima) was to be set aside for the prophet and his relatives and the remainder to be divided among the other combatants. This was in accordance with the pre-Islamic custom of fayʾ, whereby booty was divided into five shares by the victors. However, there was no agreement what property was subject to fayʾ and what was not. For example, in Iraq royal estates, mills, drained swamps, and property belonging to fire temples or to those who fell in battle were exempted from fayʾ by most Muslim authorities, although others disagreed (Abu Yusuf, p. 75; Aghnides, p. 508; Lokkegaard, pp. 50, 224; van Berchem, pp. 41-42).

Almost immediately there were accusations that those in power, the Ommayads, were monopolizing the fayʾ for their own use and that of relatives and supporters, giving rise to resentment and armed rebellions (Moroni, pp. 261, 477). Under the early caliphs, it was common practice to set aside one-fifth of the booty for them as well, which was transformed into their property. Such lands were denoted as ṣawāfi (land taken for the treasury from the conquered territories), ṣawāfi al-ostān, ṣawāfi al-solṭān, qesṭ, or crown lands. The caliph’s private property was referred to as żiāʿ al-solṭān. The term żiāʿ denoted tithe land given to Muslims that was not subject to ḵarāj (see fiscal system iii). It also happened that caliphs transformed drained lands or other estates into ṣawāfi lands and allotted these to themselves and their supporters as eqṭāʿ al-tamlik (see eqṭāʿ).

The biggest owner of żiāʿ during the ʿAbbasid epoch was the caliph himself; his estates were managed by the divān al-żiāʿ al-ḵāṣṣa; estates directly maintained by the state (solṭāniya, divāniya) were likewise divided into żiāʿ. The private property (ḵāṣṣ) of the ʿAbbasids was substantial in Khorasan, Fars, Azerbaijan, as well as in other parts of Iran, and increasing (Shaban, pp. 89, 124, 132; Schmucker, p. 142; Lokkegaard, p. 58; Spuler, 1952, pp. 443-45; Petrushevskiĭ, tr., II, p. 448; Mez, pp. 105-6, 115-16; Schwarz, VII, p. 876; Bosworth, 1968, p. 82). Due to arbitrary rule and injustice, many landowners in conquered areas sought the ruler’s protection (eltejāʾ) and transformed their lands into crown land and shared the proceeds with the caliphs (Lokkegaard, pp. 68-70; Ḥasan Qomi, p. 187).

Over time, Islamic scholars would adjust the concept of fayʾ as actual practice that had little to do with Islamic rules. Islamic jurists were mainly concerned with the practical consequences of land allocation rather than its legal status. Discussion was focused on whether lands were the joint and inalienable possession of the Muslim community and managed by its leaders or were held by the imam for the community and at his full disposal. Each legal school had divergent opinions on several aspects of these questions (Schmucker, passim). The revenues from crown lands were collected by the bayt al-māl al-ḵāṣṣa, while the revenues of other state properties went into the general bayt al-māl—a split system that had come into being under the ʿAbbasids.

Initially the difference between royal private property (ḵāṣṣa) and state property (solṭaniya or divāniya) was adhered to, but soon the line between the ruler’s private and state property was blurred and caliphs drew on both in case of need, without having to account to anybody (Spuler, 1952, pp. 445-46; Mez, pp. 113-14; Wellhausen, pp. 171-72; Fischel; Lambton, 1953, p. 17; Bosworth, 1963, p. 68). This development probably was due to the need for money as well as greed and was justified by politicians such as Neẓām-al-Molk, who argued that “the country and the peasants belong to the ruling power” (Neẓām-al-Molk, tr., p. 33/chap. 5). His contemporary, Moʾayyed-al-Din (d. 592/ 1196), vizier of the caliph al-Nāṣer be’llāh (1180-225), likewise argued: “All [Muslim] lands belong to the commander of the faithful” (Rāvandi, pp. 381-82; Barthold, p. 348). Naṣir-al-Din Ṭusi (d. 672/ 1274), an Il-khanid minister, tried to put a good face on this reality by distinguishing between the ruler’s revenues from his private assets (ḵāṣṣa) and those “destined for the welfare of the kingdom” (māl-e maṣāleḥ-e pādšāhi; Minorsky, p. 69).

The system applied by local rulers in Iran indicates that they only adhered to a longstanding practice. For example, the Saffarid ʿAmr b. Layṯ (r. 879-900) had four treasuries, one of which (ḵazina-ye māl-e ḵāṣṣ) was for the upkeep of his court (Gardizi, p. 142; Barthold, p. 221). The Samanids had an office to manage the crown lands, called divān-e mamlaka-ye ḵāṣṣ, whose revenues were all dedicated to the ruler’s court (Naršaḵi, p. 36, tr., p. 26; Barthold, pp. 229, 231). Under the Ghaznavids the divān-e wekālat administered crown lands and the finances of the royal household. The private properties of the Ghaznavids (żiāʿ-e ḡazni-e ḵāṣṣ) were managed by the wakil-e ḵāṣṣ. These included not only land, but also herds and cash. Revenue assignments were given from confiscated land and land without heir (ṭayyārāt; Bosworth, 1963, pp. 69-70). In 1002, there was a divān al-ḵāṣṣa under the Buyids in Baghdad. It was a continuation of the divān al-żiāʿ al-ḵāṣṣa and was in charge of the Buyid family’s domains taken from the caliph’s property, confiscations, and other goods. The caliph’s private estates (żiāʿ al-solṭān) were given as fiefs to the army (Busse, pp. 149, 314-15; Barthold, p. 231).


Under the Saljuqs the eqṭāʿ or revenue assignment dominated the system of land administration; crown lands did not play a major role. Nevertheless, these eqṭāʿs were granted from public lands, for those granted from ḵāṣṣa were reserved for the ruler and his family. Therefore there was an administration for the royal domains (amlāk-e ḵāṣṣ); moveable crown property was referred to as asbāb-e ḵāṣṣ, and both were managed by the divān-e ḵāṣṣ. The amlāk-e ḵāleṣāt-e divān is also mentioned and presumably administered public crown lands (Horst, pp. 19-20, 60-61; Montajab-al-Din, pp. 33, 52-53, 67, 72-73). Under the Ḵᵛārazmšāhs the amlāk al-ḵāṣṣ were likewise managed by the divān al-ḵāṣṣ (Nasavi, tr., pp. 175, 374, 407).

Under the Mongols crown lands were very important due to the fact that so many people had been killed, resulting in much conquered, abandoned, neglected, and/or unclaimed lands, which were all transformed into crown lands. There was great insecurity concerning property rights, resulting in the increase of state and crown lands (dālāy and inju). Private property was often confiscated and, as with abandoned lands, added to the inju. Some of these confiscated lands were identifiable as the ḵāṣṣa-ye atābaki, which the Il-khans had taken from the Salghurid rulers of Fars, known as Atābakān-e Fars (r. 1148-1287; Waṣṣāf, red. Āyati, pp. 123-24; Ḥafeẓ-e Abru, 1996- 99, II, p. 183; Zarkub, p. 94). The properties acquired were divided into dālā or dālāy and inju—terms denoting that they belonged to the ruler. The same terms were applied to properties granted as appanages to his relatives (Rašid-al- Din, pp. 19-20, 351; Doerfer, I, p. 325; Petrushevskiĭ, tr., II, p. 448). A. Zarkub makes an interesting statement to the effect that, when Maḥmudšāh Inju (r. 1304-25) became independent in Fars, “inju and dālā became one” (Zarkub, p. 101), suggesting that dālā was crown land granted as an appanage, while inju was crown land belonging directly to the ruler. The term inju denoted not only landed estates but also persons, because everybody living and working on these estates was dependent on the Il-khan. Sometimes cities, such as Ani under Abu Saʿid (r. 1316-35), hoped to be protected by becoming inju property, in the same manner as the practice of eltejāʾ (seeking refuge, protection) under the early caliphs (Petrushevskiĭ, tr., II, pp. 250-51; Rašid-al-Din, tr. Quatremère, pp. 130, n. 112).

Because inju is a Mongolian term, Persian officials also used the term inju-ye ḵāṣṣa, presumably for clarity’s sake. As a result, inju and ḵāṣṣa gradually became synonyms (Rašid-al-Din, tr. Quatremère, pp. 130-32 and note 12; Waṣṣāf, red. Āyati, p. 74). According to Petrushevskiĭ and Lambton, eventually there came to be no distinction made between dālāy and inju, and the former term fell into disuse (Petrushevskiĭ, tr., II, p. 460; Lambton, 1978). However, Waṣṣāf continued to use both as distinct terms throughout his work; there even existed a divān-e dālāy va inju around 1300 (Nāṣer-al-Din Monši, pp. 61, 64; Aqsarāyi, p. 228).

Amlāk-e ḵāṣṣa, including dālāy, were given to others to manage and usually were farmed out as moqāṭāʿa or fixedsum lease contracts (Waṣṣāf, red. Āyati, pp. 138, 161-62, 205-6, 217). Peasants working on inju lands were known as raʿiyat-e ḵāṣṣ (Petrushevskiĭ, tr., II, p. 458). Its revenues were administered by the divān-e inju, ḥokumat-e inju, or divān-e ḵāṣṣ and recorded in the awrāq-e moḥāsabāt-e inju (Waṣṣāf, red. Āyati, pp. 138, 160, 231; Petrushevskiĭ, tr., II, p. 455; Rašid-al-Din, tr. Quatremère, pp. 130-32 and note 12). Its chief was a powerful courtier (Petrushevskiĭ, tr., II, p. 455). Under Abaqa Khan (r. 1265-82, q.v.) the inju lands were entrusted to the inju noyān (Qoṭbi, p. 192). Later the term inju not only denoted lands given to members of the royal family, but also those given in appanage to their dependent khans and officials, for the Il-khans gave inju and waqf property in usufruct to their khans, even as a gift (Petrushevskiĭ, tr., II, pp. 251-52). An inju property was usually inherited by members of the royal family, but it was sometimes sold like any other property (Waṣṣāf, red. Āyati, pp. 74, 194, 234; Lambton, 1953, p. 87). Ḡāzān Khan (r. 1295-1304) transferred inju land to each horde for their upkeep and that of the Mongol princesses (Rašidal- Din, p. 330). He further used inju land to grant eqtāʿs (Rašid-al-Din, pp. 305-6; Lambton, 1953, p. 89), while some crown lands were turned into awqāf-e ḵāṣṣ for his chief wife’s sons. According to Waṣṣāf, officials who were not mentioned in the deed received payments from these properties (Waṣṣāf, red. Āyati, pp. 137, 161, 193, 211; see also Lambton, 1953, p. 87). The waqf-e ḵāṣṣ-e ḡāzāni still existed two generations later; together with the awqāf-e ḵāṣṣ va ʿāmm, they were overseen by the chief judge (qāżi; Naḵjavāni, I/1, pp 193, 196, 200-201, 232).

Waṣṣāf writes that inju and dālāy were accounted separately from ḵāleṣajāt va arbābi, which shows that privately owned landed estates still existed. His statement also makes it likely that ḵāleṣajāt (abandoned lands exempt from taxes) were also part of the ruler’s property (Waṣṣāf, red. Āyati, p. 263; Petrushevskiĭ, tr., II, p. 460). Moreover, Waṣṣāf explicitly refers to the ruler’s, ḵāleṣajāt and reports the transfer of land to the divān-e ḵaleṣāt (Waṣṣāf, red. Āyati, pp. 211, 232). This institution was in charge of implementing Ḡāzān Khan’s fiscal and land reforms and dealt with the tenants who developed these lands and were known as tāni (pl. tonnā; Petrushevskiĭ, tr., II, pp. 457, 460-62). Local officials (molāzem) were responsible for the reform’s implementation, but the divān-e ḵāleṣajāt had to assess the situation every two years (Rašid-al-Din, p. 356; Lambton, 1953, p. 91; Spuler, 1955, p. 268). Ḡāzān Khan used his ḵāleṣajāt to finance the postal system. He also transferred large estates near Baghdad and Shiraz to the divan-e ḵāleṣa and made seeds, animals, and other inputs available to those tilling the land in exchange for an annual payment (Waṣṣāf, red. Āyati, pp. 211-12, 232-33; Rašid-al-Din, p. 274).

Amlāk-e ḵāṣṣ or amlāk-e ḵāṣṣa continued to denote private royal property or property “pertaining to the royal court” (Naḵjavāni, II, p. 309) under the Il-khanid successor states, such as that of the Jalayerids (r. 1335-432). Confiscation of a private property by the ruler was called ḵāṣṣ kardan (Jorfādqāni, p. 357) or ḵāṣṣ-e divan gardānidan (Naḵjavāni, I/1, p. 302). The crown lands were variously referred to as motamallakāt-e solṭāni (Naḵjavāni, I/1, p. 297), ḵāṣṣa-ye ḵodāvandi (Naḵjavāni, I/2, p. 369), or dehhā-ye ḵāṣṣa (Naḵjavāni, I/2, p. 418). Buildings and similar property belonging to the ruler also were designated with the term ḵāṣṣa, such as anbār-e ḵāṣṣa, bāḡāt-e ḵāṣṣa, ʿemārat-e ḵāṣṣa (Naḵjavāni, I/1, pp. 371-72, 461-62, 498), as was moveable property. Terms for herds, for instance, included čārpāyān-e ḵāṣṣa, jofthā-ye ḵāṣṣa, and šotorān-e ḵāṣṣa (Naḵjavāni, I/1, pp. 376, 380, I/2, p. 384; Māzandarāni, fols. 116a, 122b, 129a [aḡnām], 131a [gusfand]). The staff managing these properties were variously referred to as nowwāb-e ḵāṣṣa, moʿtamedin-e ḵāṣṣa, wokalā-ye ḵāṣṣa (Naḵjavāni, I/1, pp. 43, 380, 395, 461-62). Purveyors who had to collect supplies (taḥwilāt) for the royal court were garak-yarāq-e ḵāṣṣ (Naḵjavāni, I/2, pp. 495; 488-89; Māzandarāni, fol. 95b). The people working on crown lands were known as ʿawāmel-e ḵāṣṣa (Naḵjavāni, I/2, pp. 371, 380) or nowkarān-e ḵāṣṣa (Naḵjavāni, II, pp. 52, 155). Their revenues were called wojuh-e ḵāṣṣa (Naḵjavāni, I/2, pp. 373, 381, 422, 424, 498). In addition, there were ʿommāl-e ḵāleṣ or aʿmāl-e ḵāleṣ, which presumably referred respectively to staff of the public crown domains as well as to the crown domains themselves (Naḵjavāni, II, pp. 310-11).

A similar situation existed under the Injuids (r. 1335-57) and Mozaffarids (r. 1314-93), in whose territory the term inju was still used, although the inju of Fars was explicitly denoted as māl-e ḵāṣṣ-e padšāh and amlāk-e divān-e bozorg (Šabānkāraʾi, p. 296). In Fars there was an inju administration referred to as ḥokumat-e inju-e mamālek-e Fārs (Šabānkāraʾi, p. 296). Ḥāfeẓ-e Abru mentions the amlāk-e ḵāṣṣa of Amir Maḥmudšāh Inju (r. 725-36/1325-36; Ḥāfeẓ-e Abru, 1971, p. 187).

Under the Timurids likewise sizeable crown lands (ḵāṣṣa) existed, but not much is known about their extent (Chekhovich, pp. 66, 67, 128-29, 164 [bāḡ-e ḵāṣṣa], 254). Although a distinction was made between ḵāleṣāt (public crown lands) and ḵāṣṣa (private crown lands), terms such as ḵāleṣa-ye solṭāni and mamlakat-e pādšāhi were used as synonyms. (Subtelny, pp. 224-26, 353 n.; Chekhovich, p. 64 [ḵāṣṣa-ye pādšāhi]). Ḵaleṣa-ye solṭāni was either leased or assigned as revenue grants, mostly to the military (Subtelny, pp. 159, 220). There was both new and old ḵāleṣa; presumably the old lands had been inherited (Subtelny, p. 263; Chekhovich, pp. 121, 330). All kinds of property, even cash, could be ḵāṣṣa (Ḵᵛāndamir, p. 137). Solṭan Ḥosayn (r. 1469-1506) deeded many royal domains as waqf, but before he did so, he first privatized these as ḵāleṣa-ye solṭāni (Subtelny, pp. 220, 225-26, 353 n. 1). In 15th-century Yazd, there was much ḵāleṣa property in flourishing condition (Aḥmad Kāteb, pp. 180, 201, 205, 207, 218).


During the Safavid period, a change occurred in how land was considered. The division between crown (ḵāṣṣa) and state (divāni or mamālek) lands still existed. However, this distinction was not based on ownership, but rather on which state agency controlled its revenue. The country was divided into ḵāṣṣa, over which the shah had direct control, and mamālek provinces, over which the shah allowed his vassals to control the revenue within certain bounds. This change in focus was due to the fact that the Safavid shahs claimed ownership of all land, and others could only enjoy the usufruct, not the ownership, of land (Du Mans, p. 226; Chardin, V, pp. 249-50, 394-95; Sanson, p. 91).

Ḵāṣṣa, which included the ruler’s private property, designated those lands whose revenues were earmarked for the functioning of the court and the royal household. The mamālek lands were those allocated for the financing of the state’s other administrative and military infrastructure. Therefore, teyuls or revenue assignments were only granted from mamālek lands; those found drawing upon ḵāṣṣa were only given to royal relatives or ḵāṣṣa staff. The monarch kept close control over ḵāṣṣa by appointing royal viziers to govern ḵāṣṣa provinces. The ḵāṣṣa lands were recorded in dafāter-e ḵāṣṣa, and their revenues were managed by an officer called nāẓer-e sarkār-e ḵāṣṣa-e šarifa, and as of about 1600 by a mostawfi-e ḵāṣṣa. Nevertheless, both ḵāṣṣa and mamālek lands and their revenues were under the overall and final control of the grand vizier (wazir-e aʿlā). As in the earlier period, purveyors (garakyarāq) supplied the court with its needs from crown lands (Mirzā Samiʿā, tr., pp. 94-95, 123, 177-78; Mirzā Rafiʿā, tr., pp. 55, 156; Nāṣeri and Raḥimlu, pp. 57-58; Floor, 1998, pp. 108-9; idem, 2003, pp. 27, 41, 44, 78).

The first major increase in ḵāṣṣa lands began in the 1540s; the process received a further boost under Shah ʿAbbās I (r. 1587-629), and finally Shah Ṣafi I (r. 1629-42) made the largest increase in ḵāṣṣa lands by transforming major mamālek provinces such as Fars and Qazvin into ḵāṣṣa. Under Shah ʿAbbās II (r. 1642-66), Kerman became a ḵāṣṣa province, but Gilan, Mazandaran, Yazd, Khorasan, and Azerbaijan did not, as J. Chardin maintained (Chardin, V, p. 251; see Nāṣeri and Raḥimlu, pp. 154-56, 195, 203, 215, 245, 282, 302).

Ḵāleṣa, as in previous centuries, was the land that was acquired through conquest, abandonment and/or neglect by its owners, and confiscation, or whose owners were unknown. Several 16th-century decrees denote these lands as amlāk-e ḵāleṣa-ye amwāl al-żāyeʿa va ṣunki va dunki-e majhul al-molk (Floor, 1998, p. 111). Terms like dunki va beyt al-māl suggest that these estates were held for the Muslim community if the owners were unknown or were without heir (Floor, 1998, p. 111). Ḵāleṣa lands were managed by the ḵāṣṣa administration, even if they constituted a separate category (Moḥammad Mofid, III, p. 173). In Kerman, for example, the ḵāleṣa properties were managed by a wazir-e ḵāleṣa in the 17th century (Mašizi, pp. 246, 339, 349, 369, 372, 377), who was assisted by agents (motaṣaddi; ibid., pp. 358, 395, 489) or workmen (ʿamala-ye faʿla-ye ḵāleṣa; ibid., pp. 291, 339, 348, 500). Ḏakāt or canonical tax was paid over and above the revenues of the ḵāleṣajāt and given to deserving people in Kerman (ibid., pp. 307, 480). The revenues were recorded in a separate register, and the ḵāleṣajāt were often farmed out to leaseholders (mostaʾjer; ibid., pp. 405, 447, 505, 526, 529).

Thus, the shah also had direct control over the revenues of ḵāleṣa properties, which is also clear from the use of terms like ḵāleṣāt-e pādšāhi and ḵāleṣāt-e sarkār-e homāyun under Shah Ṣafi (Tafreši, pp. 35, 227). The shah used to give various types of grants to deserving people and pay the royal and provincial governors’ army from ḵāleṣajāt (Sanson, p. 106; Chardin, V, pp. 250-52, 279, 298-99, 303-4, 380-82). Shah ʿAbbās I financed his construction program in Isfahan and other provinces from the revenues of ḵāṣṣa and ḵāleṣa (Nāṣeri and Raḥimlu, p. 58). The state might return confiscated lands to the original owners, while neglected estates could be farmed out to those who wanted to develop them, in which case they were called ḵāleṣa-ye enteqāli. By the end of the Safavid period there were: (1) ḵāleṣa-ye maḥāll, crown lands in and around Isfahan and Kerman; (2) ḵāleṣa-ye qadim (probably domains acquired before ca. 1600); and (3) ḵāleṣa-ye enteqāli (estates given out for development under certain conditions). At the end of the 17th century, ḵāleṣa revenues were estimated at 100,000 tumans; therefore, if the annual state revenue was indeed 700,000 tumans, then the ḵāleṣa portion represented 14 percent of total revenues (Chardin, V, p. 412; Taḏkerat al-moluk, tr. Minorsky, p. 184; Floor, 1998, pp. 108-14).


After the Safavids the administrative and fiscal distinction between ḵāṣṣa and mamālek lands disappeared. There is still occasional mention of divāni lands and ḵāleṣa, that is, lands the ruler acquired through confiscation. Under Nāder Shah Afšār (r. 1736-47), ḵāleṣa holdings increased enormously, mainly due to the large confiscations, in particular of waqf lands, in 1738 and 1747. They were managed by the divān-e ḵāleṣa, which recorded them in the raqabāt-e nāderi (Fasāʾi, I, pp. 540, 544; II, pp. 960, 1045; Jāberi Anṣāri, pp. 36-38; Floor, 1998, pp. 241-42). After Nāder Shah’s death, some of these lands were returned to the owners (Jāberi Anṣāri, p. 49).

In the Qajar period, ḵāleṣa was acquired through: (1) inheritance from the previous regime, or ḵāleṣa-ye qadim; (2) purchase by the monarch or the crown price, or ḵāleṣa-ye divāni; (3) confiscation from rebels or criminals, or amlāk-e żabṭi; (4) cession of lands by owners to pay a debt or tax arrears, or amlāk-e motaṣarrefi; and (5) abandonment of land by their owners, or amlāk-e baḏri or sarfuti (Lambton, 1953, p. 154; Floor, 1998, p. 335). Although the Qajars inherited much ḵāleṣa lands Āqā Moḥammad Khan (r. 1794-97, q.v.) and Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah (r. 1797-834, q.v.) added much more (Kinneir, p. 47; Lambton, 1998, p. 147; Floor, 1998, pp. 336-37). Under the latter, allegedly one-eighth of Fars and Persian Iraq was in the hands of the shah (Waring, p. 85). Another major increase occurred under Moḥammad Shah (r. 1834-48), when he confiscated the vast properties of Ḥāji Mirzā Āqāsi (q.v.), his grand vizier, and of various rebels. He had the total of ḵāleṣa properties recorded in the raqabāt-e moḥammadšāhi, which included and superseded all previous inventories. This register included also ḵāleṣa, because the shah wanted to make a distinction between his private property (molk-e ḵāṣṣ) and public crown domains (Floor, 1998, pp. 336-38).

The shah used molk-e ḵāṣṣ and ḵāleṣa-ye enteqāli to provide income to family members (Floor, 1998, pp. 337), while ḵāleṣa in general was used to grant teyuls and pay the army (Floor, 1998, pp. 333-34). By 1860, one-third to onehalf of Iran allegedly was ḵāleṣa land, much of which was neglected due to oppressive and arbitrary tenure arrangements (Eastwick, p. 70). Although some halfhearted and incidental attempts were made to develop the productivity of ḵāleṣa lands (see, e.g., Jāberi Anṣāri, p. 51), the situation deteriorated, a trend made worse by the 1871-73 famine, when much land was abandoned. In 1886 Nāṣer-al- Din Shah (r. 1848-96) needed money. He therefore started selling ḵāleṣajāt, with the objective to make these lands more productive and also raise funds for himself. Prior to that year such lands were farmed out for short periods and not longer than the farmer’s lifetime. As a result of the new policy, much land was sold, and even peasant-owned (ḵorda māleki) land was usurped and sold as ḵāleṣa-ye enteqāli. The government did not sell ḵāleṣa lands in Tehran and Tabriz, but, by 1900, it no longer owned a single ḵāleṣa village in Isfahan, Kerman, Erāq-e ʿAjam, Rasht, Fars, and Zanjaan (Floor, 1998, pp. 334-45).

Nevertheless, the problem of low productivity on the remaining public crown lands persisted. Therefore, to raise the productivity of public domains, the newly elected Majles in 1910 decided to sell part of the ḵāleṣa lands, whose status was changed into that of public lands; the private properties of the shah were referred to as amlāk-e salṭanati or amlāk-e šāhi. The Majles also abolished the artificial conversion rates or tasʿir-e ajnās on ḵāleṣa-ye enteqāli and established a so-called company (kompāni-e ḵāleṣajāt) to farm out public domains. This decision was barely implemented when parliament was suspended in 1911; moreover, Joseph Mornard, a Belgian working in the capacity of the treasurer-general, put a stop to any further activity. The crown’s land office (edāra-ye ḵāleṣajāt) took over management of all public domains. Because of different conditions under which ḵāleṣajāt-e enteqāli had been transferred to individuals in the past, the government tried to make a distinction to allow for these differences, but the situation remained unsatisfactory. For instance, it did not deal with the ḵāleṣajat-e ḥasab al-moqāṭaʿa, that is, those that had been granted as eqṭāʿs or revenue assignments (Floor, 1998, p. 343). After the coup d’etat of 1921, the new prime minister, Sayyed Żiāʾ-al-Din Ṭabāṭabāʾi, announced that ḵāleṣa lands would be distributed among peasants. However, his government lasted only a few months, and the plan was shelved. At that time much property was confiscated from rebels and fiscal defaulters, which increased the extent of ḵāleṣa (Lambton, 1969, pp. 49-50).


The new Pahlavi government tried to improve productivity and the position of peasants. In 1925, qarapešk ḵāleṣajāt around Tehran was sold to peasants to make it more productive (Kāẓemi; Floor, 1998, p. 340). Some ḵāleṣa was sold in 1927 in Khuzestan, and in 1933 in Sistan, to promote peasant proprietorship, but the effort was a failure due to the dishonesty of officials, oppression by landlords, and water control issues (Lambton, 1953, pp. 244-54). Reza Shah (r. 1925-41) acquired over 2,000 villages and parts of villages as his private property, which was managed separately from ḵāleṣa (for working conditions, see Barimāni). After his abdication, these estates were transferred to the state as amlāk-e vāgoḏāri (transfer estates) by a decree of 11 September 1941. A law passed on 2 June 1942 set up the legal procedure for their return to their original owners (Lambton, 1969, pp. 49-50). In Azerbaijan, in 1946, the communist Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (Ferqa-ye demokrāt-e Āẕarbāyjān), which had taken control of the local government, allowed peasants to take possession of all state domains—and also lands of those who had fled or opposed it—without any documentation or distribution, but this action was annulled when the central government took control of Azerbaijan at the end of the year.

These developments induced in 1946 the communist Tuda Party to propose that amlāk-e salṭanati and ḵāleṣa be given to peasants, a proposal that the government of Aḥmad Qawām (Qawām-al-Salṭana) accepted (Gharatchedaghi, pp. 34-38). However, nothing came of this due to the fall of that government. On 11 July 1949, it was decided to transfer to Mohammad Reza Shah (r. 1941- 79) those royal estates that had not yet been returned to the original owners. These estates were made into waqf and handed over to the Pahlavi Foundation (Bonyād-e Pahlavi) to be used for health and education purposes (Lambton, 1969, pp. 49-50; for the arrangements of the sale of ḵāleṣa, see Gharatchedaghi, pp. 39-42). In 1952, Mohammad Reza Shah made a timid beginning with the distribution of crown lands; these were returned to the state under Moḥammad Moṣaddeq, but, after his ouster in 1953, the shah continued to distribute crown lands (U.S. Army, 445; Gharatchedaghi, pp. 43-46). An estimation of land ownership in Iran by 1954 is shown in Table 1.

In 1956 a law was passed to distribute all ḵāleṣajāt except pastures, forests, buildings, and properties needed for government institutions. This task was entrusted to the ḵāleṣajāt department within the Ministry of Agriculture. Distribution started in 1958, but by 1961 only 55 of the 1,350 ḵāleṣa villages had been distributed, although the number of ḵāleṣa villages is variously reported (U.S. Army, pp. 453-54; Gharatchedaghi, pp. 47-66; Najmabadi, pp. 59-98). According to the 1956 census, the crown estate villages amounted to 812, or 2 percent of the total of some 40,000 villages (Iran Almanac, 1963, p. 386). A new land-reform law passed in 1962 would speed up the land distribution process. On 31 January 1963, the newspaper Eṭṭelāʿāt reported that, between 1953 and 1962, 517 of 1,008 villages had been distributed (that is, long-term leased) by the shah; the remainder were in dispute, and their title had been transferred to the Pahlavi Foundation for distribution. State-owned estates in urban areas were sold to the highest bidders (Iran Almanac, 1963, p. 395; for later years see ibid., 1965, p. 525; 1966, pp. 571-72; 1968, p. 534; 1969, pp. 522-23; 1970, pp. 523-24; 1972, pp. 560-61; 1973, pp. 406-7; Lambton, 1969, pp. 118-19, 156-61; Najmabadi, pp. 99-100). This signaled the end of ḵāleṣa property in Iran.



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(Willem Floor)

Originally Published: May 1, 2012

Last Updated: May 4, 2012

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