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A firman is a royal mandate or decree issued by a sovereign in certain historical Islamic states, including the Ottoman Empire, Mughal Empire, and Iranmarker under Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. The word firman comes from the Persian farmân (فرمان) meaning "decree" or "order". In Turkish it is called a ferman.

Origins of firmans in the Ottoman Empire

In the Ottoman Empire, the Sultan derived his authority from his role as upholder of the Shar'ia, but the Shar'ia did not cover all aspects of Ottoman social and political life. Therefore, in order to regulate relations and status, duties and dress of aristocracy and subjects, the Sultan created firmans.


Firmans were gathered in kanun, which were codes, kanun from the Hellenic Word kanon (Κανών) meaning rule or rules. The kanun were "a form of secular and administrative law considered to be a valid extension of religious law as a result of the ruler's right to exercise legal judgement on behalf of the community."

Examples of Ottoman firmans

Firman of Sultan Murad (26 October - 23 November 1386)

In this firman, Sultan Murad I recognises a degree created by his father Sultan Orhan (ca. 1324-60), He gives the monks all they owned during his father's reign, ordering that no one can oppress them or claim their land. The Firman is kept at St Paul's Monastery.

Firman of Sultan Mehmed IV (1648-1687)

In this firman, the monks of Mount Athos report that the administrative officials charged with the collection of taxes come at a later date than they are supposed to and demand more money than the value assessed. They also make illegal demands for additional food supplies.

Other firmans

One of the most important firmans governing relations between Muslims and Christians is a document kept at the St. Catherine's monasterymarker on the Sinai Peninsulamarker in Egypt. This monastery is Greek Orthodox and constitutes the autonomous Sinai Orthodox Church. The firman bears the hand print of the Prophet Muhammad, and requests the Muslims do not destroy the monastery for God-fearing men live there. To this day there is a protected zone around the monastery administered by the Egyptian government, and there are very good relations between the 20 or so monks, mainly from Greece, and the local community there.

Other uses

The term "firman" is also used by the archeologist/novelist Elizabeth Peters to mean official permission from the Egyptian Department of Antiquities to carry on an excavation.


  1. [1]
  2. Ira M. Lapidus, A History of Islamic Societies, 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002, 260-261
  3. Ira M. Lapidus, A History of Islamic Societies, 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002, 260-261
  4. "Firman of Sultan Murad I," Ottoman Documents, Hellenic Ministry of Culture, 11 Mar 2007
  5. "Firman of Sultan Mehmed IV," Ottoman Documents, Hellenic Ministry of Culture, 11 Mar. 2007

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