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Coat of arms of the Ottoman Grand Vizier

A vizier (/ˈvɪziər/;[1] Arabic: وزير, romanizedwazīr; Persian: وزیر, romanizedvazīr) is a high-ranking political advisor or minister in the Near East.[2] The Abbasid caliphs gave the title wazir to a minister formerly called katib (secretary), who was at first merely a helper but afterwards became the representative and successor of the dapir (official scribe or secretary) of the Sassanian kings.[3]

In modern usage, the term has been used for government ministers in much of the Middle East and beyond.

Several alternative spellings are used in English, such as vizir, wazir, and vezir.


Vizier may be derived from the Arabic wazara (lit.'to bear a burden'), from the Semitic root W-Z-R(Semitic root can show Iranic root).[4] The word is mentioned in the Quran, where Aaron is described as the wazir (helper) of Moses, as well as the word wizr (burden) which is also derived from the same root.[5] It was later adopted as a title, in the form of wazīr āl Muḥammad (lit.'Helper of the Family of Muhammad') by the proto-Shi'a leaders al-Mukhtar and Abu Salama.[6] Under the Abbasid caliphs, the term acquired the meaning of "representative" or "deputy".[6]

Another possibility is that it is Iranian word, from the Pahlavi root of vičir, which originally had the meaning of a decree, mandate, and command, but later as its use in Dinkard also suggests, came to mean judge or magistrate.[7] Arthur Jeffery considers the word to be a "good Iranian" word, as it has a well-established root in Avestan language.[7] The Pahlavi vičir, is in fact from the Avestan vīčira, which means deciding.[7] This Avestan root is behind the Modern Persian form of the word which is večer which means judge.[7] This etymology is supported - among other scientists - by Johnny Cheung,[8] Ernest David Klein[4] and Richard Nelson Frye.[9]

Historical ministerial titles

The winter Diwan of a Mughal Vizier

The office of vizier arose under the first Abbasid caliphs,[6] and spread across the Muslim world.

The vizier stood between sovereign and subjects, representing the former in all matters touching the latter.[10] The 11th-century legal theorist al-Mawardi defined two types of viziers: wazīr al-tanfīdh ("vizier of execution"), who had limited powers and served to implement the caliph's policies, and the far more powerful wazīr al-tafwīd ("vizier with delegated powers"), with authority over civil and military affairs, and enjoyed the same powers as the caliph, except in the matter of the succession or the appointment of officials.[11] Al-Mawardi stressed that the latter, as an effective viceroy, had to be a Muslim well versed in the Shari'a, whereas the former could also be a non-Muslim or even a slave, although women continued to be expressly barred from the office.[12]

Historically, the term has been used to describe two very different ways: either for a unique position, the prime minister at the head of the monarch's government (the term Grand Vizier always refers to such a post), or as a shared 'cabinet rank', rather like a British secretary of state. If one such vizier is the prime minister, he may hold the title of Grand Vizier or another title.

In Islamic states

See also: Grand vizier

Portrait of Amir Kabir, Vazir of Naser al-Din Shah Qajar (Qajar dynasty)

Modern post-monarchy use

Wazīr is the standard Arabic word for a government minister. Prime ministers are usually termed as Ra'īs al-Wuzara (literally, president of the ministers) or al-Wazīr al-'Awwal (prime minister). The latter term is generally found in the Maghreb, while the former is typical of usage in the Mashriq (broadly defined, including Egypt, Sudan, Levant, Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula). Thus, for example, the Prime Minister of Egypt is in Arabic a wazīr.

In Iran the ministers of government are called Vazir in Persian (e.g. foreign/health Vazir), and prime minister of state before the removal of the post, was called as Nokhost Vazir.

In Pakistan, the prime minister (de facto ruling politician, formally under the president) is called Vazīr-e Azam (Persian for Grand vizier), other Ministers are styled vazirs.

In India, Vazīr is the official translation of minister in the Urdu language, and is used in ministerial oath taking ceremonies conducted in Urdu.

In East AfricaKenya and Tanzania, ministers are referred to as Waziri in Swahili and prime ministers as Waziri Mkuu.

In the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan is sometimes given the honorific title of Wazir

In Pakistan, the foreign minister is known as Vazir-e-Xārjah.

In Brunei the vizier is classified into five titles, which are:

Princely title

In the rare case of the Indian princely state of Jafarabad (Jafrabad, founded c. 1650), ruled by Thanadars, in 1702 a state called Janjira was founded, with rulers (six incumbents) styled wazir; when, in 1762, Jafarabad and Janjira states entered into personal union, both titles were maintained until (after 1825) the higher style of Nawab was assumed.[citation needed]


In contemporary literature and pantomime, the "Grand Vizier" is a character stereotype and is usually portrayed as a scheming backroom plotter and the clear power behind the throne of a usually bumbling or incompetent monarch. A well-known example of this is the sinister character of Jafar in the Disney animated film Aladdin, who plots and uses magic to take over the entire Kingdom of Agrabah under the nose of the nation's naïve sultan, just as Jaffar in the 1940 movie The Thief of Bagdad dethroned his master, caliph Ahmad. Others include Zigzag from The Thief and the Cobbler (the original inspiration for the character of Jafar in Disney's Aladdin), the character Iznogoud in the eponymous French comic book by René Goscinny and Jean Tabary, Prince Sinbad's advisor Yusuf in the DC Vertigo series Fables, and the villains of the video games Prince of Persia (also called Jaffar, before the release of Disney's Aladdin) and King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow.[citation needed]

A much older example of this archetype is the character Haman from the biblical book of Esther. The book describes the rise of a Jewish woman to Queen of Persia, and her role in stopping the plot of Haman, chief advisor to the Persian king, to wipe out all Jews living in Persia.[citation needed]

Some famous viziers in history

Influence on chess

In Shatranj, from which modern chess developed, the piece corresponding to the modern chess "queen" (though far weaker) was often called Wazīr. Up to the present, the word for the queen piece in chess is still called by variants of the word "vazīr" in Middle Eastern languages, as well as in Hungarian ("vezér", meaning "leader") and Russian ("ferz' (ферзь)").

See also


  1. ^ a b c In the Ottoman Empire Grand vizier


  1. ^ "vizier". Lexico UK English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on May 6, 2021.
    "vizier". Dictionary.
  2. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Wazir" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 28 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 435.
  3. ^ R. A. Nicholson, A Literary History of the Arabs, p. 257
  4. ^ a b "vizier". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2017-07-22.
  5. ^ Goyṭayn, Šelomo D.. Studies in Islamic history and institutions. P.171. Compare Quran 20:29, Quran 25:35 and Quran 94:02.
  6. ^ a b c Zaman 2002, p. 185.
  7. ^ a b c d Jeffery, Arthur (2007). The foreign vocabulary of the Qur'ān. Leiden: Brill. p. 288. ISBN 9789004153523.
  8. ^ Cheung, Johnny (2016-06-06), On the (Middle) Iranian borrowings in Qur'ānic (and pre-Islamic) Arabic, retrieved 2023-03-10
  9. ^ Frye, Richard N. (1966). "Bukhara, the Medieval Achievement". Books Abroad. 40 (3): 72. doi:10.2307/40120947. ISSN 0006-7431. JSTOR 40120947.
  10. ^ "vizier", Encyclopædia Britannica 2010, Retrieved on 2010-06-17.
  11. ^ Zaman 2002, pp. 186–187.
  12. ^ Zaman 2002, p. 187.
  13. ^ Carmona 2002, pp. 191–192.
  14. ^ a b Carmona 2002, p. 192.
  15. ^ Abir, Mordechai (28 October 2013). Ethiopia and the Red Sea The Rise and Decline of the Solomonic Dynasty and Muslim European Rivalry in the Region. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1-136-28097-9.