1902 Encyclopedia > Arabia > Arabia - Arab Titles of Rank - Sheyk (Sheik), Emeer (Emir), Sultan

(Part 27)


(27) Arab Titles of Rank - Sheyk (Sheik), Emeer (Emir), Sultan

Arab Titles of Rank -- Sheyk (Sheik)

"Sheykh," or elder, "Emeer," or ruler, "Imam," or preceder, and "Sultan," or monarch, are personal and often, though not necessarily, hereditary titles of rank. "Walee," or governor, is a word the use of which is limited to Yemen and Oman. "Sheykh," on the contrary, is universal; every village, however, small, every separate quarter of a town, has a "sheikh," in whom is lodged the executive power of government- a power loosely defined, and of more or less extent according to the personal character and means of the individual who wields it. A village "sheikh" is a sort of head magistrate and chief of police, or like a sheriff of old times. His power is, however, occasionally limited, particularly in towns, by that of the "kadee," or "judge," whose duty consists in the official, though rather arbitrary, interpretation of the law, and whose sentence ought, in theory at least, to precede the action of the sheikh. But as the Koran, the sole authentic authority in all matters, legal or civil, throughout Arabia, never accurately distinguished between the two classes, and its phrases, besides, are vague and capable of admitting different and even opposite interpretations, the administrative of law and justice has in consequence always remained extremely irregular, and dependent much more on the personal good sense and integrity of the officials, or too often on their want of those desirable qualities, than on any methodized system. The sheikh has no fixed income; he is usually a landed proprietor, sometimes a merchant; many sheikhs, however, abuse their power for their own private advantage. Nor is his office strictly hereditary, though it may become accidentally so.

Arab Titles of Rank -- Emeer (Emir)

Emeer is a higher title, restricted to a governor of a district or province, especially in Shomer, Nejd, and the rest of the central region. An emeer is in most respects nothing but a magnified sheikh, he has, however, the advantage of drawing a considerable portion of his income from the country he administers. Thus in Nejd the emeers receive and retain, partially in Wahhabee governments, wholly in others, the "zekat," or tithes, varying from one twentieth up to one-fifth of the value of property, besides other occasional dues, fines, &c., in Hasa, Bahreyn, Katar, Mahrah, and Hadramaut the emeer can also claim the fishery tax and customs. Beyond Wahhabee limits he has the ordinary, within them the extraordinary, power of life and death; in all cases he can punish by imprisonment and fine. Part of his office is to hold public audiences daily, on which occasions every one who chooses, of whatever rank or condition, has the right of coming forward and of presenting any complaint or petition. Sometimes the emeer takes the matter thus brought before him into his own hands at once; sometimes he refers it to the radee, or to the elder and more respectable inhabitants, who in these meetings take seat near the emeer, and form a kind of improvised council. The emeer himself wears about him no distinctive badge of office; nor is he approached with any ceremony beyond that of ordinary Arab politeness. In the Wahhabee provinces, or those where Wahhabeesm, though no longer dominant, has made a permanent impression, as in Shomer for instance, the emeer commonly takes on himself the duties of the Friday "imam," not unlike those of precentor in Presbyterian worship, in the public mosque; now and then he preaches a sermon. His position is generally hereditary, but not always in direct line.

Arab Titles of Rank -- Sultan

The title of "sultan", or king, one of doubtful antiquity, has been assumed by the hereditary Wahhabee ruler of Riad, tihe capital of Nejd; it is also often applied to the sovereign of Oman, and to some petty princes in the south of the peninsula. In practice it adds little or nothing to the dignity of emeer, but implies a larger territorial range of authority.

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