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Iqta‘ (Arabic: اقطاع‎) was an Islamic practice of tax farming that became common in Muslim Asia during the Buyid dynasty. The prominent Orientalist Claude Cahen described the Iqta‘ as follows:

a form of administrative grant, often (wrongly) translated by the European word “fief”. The nature of the iḳṭāʿ varied according to time and place, and a translation borrowed from other systems of institutions and conceptions has served only too often to mislead Western historians, and following them, even those of the East.[1]

Muslim tax farming before the Iqta‘[edit]

The early Iqta‘[edit]

The Buyids reform of Iqta‘[edit]

Iqta‘ in the Seljuq era[edit]

In the Seljuk Empire, the move toward the iqta' system was facilitated by the Persian bureaucrat Nizam al-Mulk "who developed and systemized the trend towards feudalism that was already inherent in the tax-farming practices of the immediately preceding period," [2]

Iqta‘ in the Mamluk sultanate[edit]

Iltutamish established the `Iqta‘ system` based on Mohammad Gori's ideas. Iqta‘ meant revenue assignment in lieu of salary. The Iqta‘ system was later reorganized by Balban, who opposed making Iqta‘ hereditary.

Iqta‘ and Feudalism[edit]

Although there are similarities between the Iqta‘ system and the common fief system practiced in the west at similar periods, there are also considerable differences.

The Iqta‘ holders generally did not technically own the lands, but only assume the right to the revenue of the land. A right that the government typically reserve the right to change. Many Iqta‘ holders did not hold their Iqta' for life, and at least in most cases they were not subject of inheritance to the next generation.

Although the subjects attached to the Iqta‘ were still technically free men, in real practice the end result often end up with them functioning like serfs.

There are significant variance in the actual implementation of Iqta' systems throughout the different periods and in different area, so it is difficult to completely generalize them.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Claude Cahen, "Iḳṭā'," EI2, Vol. 3, p. 1088.
  2. ^ Lewis, Bernard. "The Middle East".

Further reading[edit]

  • Cahen, Claude, "Iḳṭā'," Encyclopaedia of Islam, Vol. 3, pp. 1088–1091.
  • Cahen, Claude, “L’évolution de l’iqṭāʿ du IXe au XIIIe siežcle,” Annales, économies-sociétés-civilisation Vol. 8, (1953), pp. 25–52.
  • Duri, A. A., “The Origins of the Iqṭāʿ in Islam,” al-Abḥāṯ Vol. 22 (1969), pp. 3–22.
  • Küpeli, Ismail: iqta als "islamischer Feudalismus"? Munich, 2007, ISBN 978-3-638-74966-4

External links[edit]