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Majlis, Mejlis (Arabic: مجلس‎, pl. مجالس Majālis), or Majles (Persian: مجلس‎) is an Arabic and Persian term meaning "council", used to describe various types of special gatherings among common interest groups be it administrative, social or religious in countries with linguistic or cultural connections to Islamic countries. The Majlis can refer to a legislature as well and is used in the name of legislative councils or assemblies in some of the states where Islamic culture dominates.[1][2] The term Majlis is also used to refer to a private place (a lounge, or 'salon' in British English and French, or 'saloon' on a ship) where guests are received and entertained.[3]


It shares its root with the Arabic verb meaning 'to sit,' جلس julus (cf. British English 'sitting room' and 'seat').


In pre-Islamic Arabia, Majlis was a tribal council in which the male members participated in making decisions of common interest.[4] The council was presided over by the chief (Sheikh)[5] During the period of the Rashidun Caliphate majlis ash-shura was formed. The majlis during the Rashidun was to elect a new caliph. Al-Mawardi has written that members of the majlis should satisfy three conditions: they must be just, they must have enough knowledge to distinguish a good caliph from a bad one, and must have sufficient wisdom and judgment to select the best caliph.



The term majlis is also used to refer to a private place where guests, usually male, are received and entertained.[3] Frequently, the room has cushions placed around the walls where the visitors sit, either with the cushions placed directly on the floor or upon a raised shelf.

In many Arab homes, the majlis is the meeting room or front parlor used to entertain visitors. In Saudi Arabia, the decoration of the majlis in the home is often the responsibility of the women of the house, who either decorate the area themselves or barter with other women to do it for them. In the Asir Province and in neighboring parts of Yemen, geometric designs and bright colors are used in "majlis painting", or nagash painting. The term majlis is used to refer to a private place where house guests and friends are received and entertained. Because hospitality is taken seriously, many families take pride in making their guests comfortable when visiting.[3]

Sometimes public waiting rooms are also called a majlis, since this is an area where people meet and visit. Here the traditional "majlis painting or nagash painting has been added to the interior design of the room. The provincial airport in Abha has recently been designed to reflect the cultural heritage of the region, an airport official said: “Abha is the first city in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to have its airport decorated in a local-heritage style,” said Provincial Airport Director Abdul Aziz Abu Harba. “The seating arrangement at the airport lounge has been in the form of a traditional majlis and the walls are painted in various colors reflecting the natural beauty of Asir.”[6]

In the Najd province of Saudi Arabia, wall coverings include stars shapes and other geometric designs carved into the wall covering itself. Courtyards and upper pillared porticoes are principal features of the best Nadjdi architecture, in addition to the fine incised plaster wood (jiss) and painted window shutters, which decorate the reception rooms. Good examples of plasterwork can often be seen in the gaping ruins of torn-down buildings- the effect is light, delicate and airy. It is usually around the majlis, around the coffee hearth and along the walls above where guests sat on rugs, against cushions. Doughty wondered if this "parquetting of jis", this "gypsum fretwork... all adorning and unenclosed" originated from India. However, the Najd fretwork seems very different from that seen in the Eastern Province and Oman, which are linked to Indian traditions, and rather resembles the motifs and patterns found in ancient Mesopotamia. The rosette, the star, the triangle and the stepped pinnacle pattern of dadoes are all ancient patterns, and can be found all over the Middle East of antiquity. Qassim seems to be the home of this art, and there it is normally worked in hard white plaster (though what you see is usually begrimed by the smoke of the coffee hearth). In Riyadh, examples can be seen in unadorned clay."[7]


Other uses[edit]

  • Majlis is also the name of an organization in Mumbai, India which works for women's rights.[8]
  • Majlis is also used to mean a salon (musical or scientific), especially during the Abbasid era, e.g., for discussing the recent translations from Greek.[9] This sense is sometimes now distinguished as an "adabi majlis" ("artistic majlis"). See Dewaniya
  • The Majlis is the title of a Muslim periodical published in South Africa.[10]
  • MAJLIS is used as the name of the annual conference held by the Middle East Oracle User Group (MEOUG)
  • All India Majlis E Ittehadul Muslimeen is a political party in India that works for the upliftment of Muslims, Dalit Hindus and other minority communities in India.
  • Majlis 'Umumi is the name of general council of Sanjak of Jerusalem in Ottoman Empire, established in Jerusalem in 1913 by representative of different qadaas with main meetings once a year to decide on a budget for the sanjak.
  • Majlis Idara is the name of administrative council of sanjak, responsible for its general administration as part of Ottoman empire.

See also[edit]

Similar concepts


  1. ^ "عن المجلس". Federal National Council. 2011. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  2. ^ Parliament of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
  3. ^ a b c The Majlis Of The Future Today Archived 2011-07-22 at the Wayback Machine — Leading UAE Interior Designers Set To Reveal Their Visions At Index, Dubai City Guide, 9 November 2009.
  4. ^ Meri, Josef (October 31, 2005). Medieval Islamic civilization: an encyclopedia. Routledge. p. 171. ISBN 9780415966917.
  5. ^ Adamec, Ludwig (2001). Historical Dictionary of Islam. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 271. ISBN 9781442277243.
  6. ^ MISHAAL AL-TAMIMI. 2011 “Abha airport reflects heritage.” ARAB NEWS Thursday 19 May 2011.
  7. ^ Mostyn, Trevor. 1983. Saudi Arabia. London: Middle East Economic Digest. Pages 257-258.
  8. ^ "Majlis Legal Centre is a forum for women's rights discourse and legal initiatives".
  9. ^ Melvyn Bragg, "In Our Time" broadcast, BBC Radio 4, 2 October 2008.
  10. ^ "Mujlisul Ulama of South Africa".

External links[edit]