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Dīvān or dīwān (Arabic دیوان) was a high governmental body in a number of Islamic states, or its chief official (see Diwan ).


The word is recorded in English since 1586, meaning "Oriental council of state," from Turkish divan, from Arabic diwan, is a Middle-Persian loan-word in Arabic and was borrowed also at an earlier date into Armenian dīvān "bundle of written sheets, small book, collection of poems" (as in the Divan-i Hafiz), related to debir "writer." Sense evolved through "book of accounts," to "office of accounts," "custom house," "council chamber," then to "long, cushioned seat," such as are found along the walls in Middle Eastern council chambers. The modern French and Spanish words douane and aduana "customs" also come from diwan.


The word first appears in the ninth-century descriptions of the caliphate of Omar I (A.D. 634-644). Great wealth, gained from the Muslim conquests, was pouring into Medina, and a system of business management and administration became necessary. This was copied from the Persians (whose Sassanid empire was being conquered and islamised under Umar) and given the Persian name divan. Later, as the state became more complicated, the term was extended over all the government bureaus.

The divan of the Sublime Porte was for many years the council of the Ottoman Empire.It consisted of the Grand Vizier, who presided when the Sultan was absent, and other viziers, and occasionally the Janissary Ağa.

The Assemblies of the Danubian Principalities under Ottoman rule were also called "divan" (see Akkerman Convention, ad hoc Divan).

In Javanese and related languages, the cognate Dewan is the standard word for council, as in the Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat or Council of People's Representatives.

Ministerial departments

In the sultanate of Moroccomarker, several portfolio Ministries had a title based on Diwan:
  • Diwan al-Alaf: ministry of War.
  • Diwan al-Bar: 'ministry of the Sea', i.e. (overseas=) Foreign ministry.
  • Diwan al-Shikayat (or - Chikayat): ministry of Complaints.


"Divan" refers to two types of palatial buildings in Indian courts.They tend to occur in pairs in the Mughal imperial capitals; the most famous ones are in Agra Fortmarker, but there are others in Delhimarker and Fatehpur Sikrimarker and certain other princely capitals such as Ambermarker and also in Lahoremarker Pakistanmarker.


This is a court's Hall of Public Audience, where the ruler can hold a mass audience. He would sit on his throne, facing the audience. His minister would assemble the petitions and handed them over to the Emperor and then he would dispense justice.

Diwan-i-Khas or Ibadat Khana

There is a red sand stone building near Diwan-E-Aam, a court's Hall of Private Audience, smaller than the Diwan-i-Am. Here envoys and other honored guests are granted a personal audience with the ruler.

Sources and references

  1. François de Blois, "Divan", Encyclopaedia Iranica; accessed February 10, 2007

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