Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 March 2011
Throughout history, financing the military has always represented a difficult endeavour for states, while being essential for the survival of societies. Dissatisfied soldiers represented a high risk of instability and violence. They would either cause riots or even attempt an upheaval against the ruling dynasties. Armies with a high percentage of professional mercenaries, who had no emotional connection to the inhabitants of the land they were fighting for, were even more susceptible to failures in the remuneration system. Muslim societies were no exception to this rule. Once the initial religious impetus and motivation of the armies of the early Islamic period had ceased, the financial aspect became increasingly important, even more so after the stream of booty collected during the early military successes came to a standstill as did the Islamic military campaign as a whole in the second/eighth century.
This required a change of policy in order to keep the military satisfied. The so-called iqṭāʿ system was initiated in the fourth/tenth century in the Muslim east by the Iranian dynasty of the Būyids. Soldiers were granted the tax income of specific lands in exchange for military service (khidma). In combination with military slavery, the iqṭāʿ system became the prevalent method of payment for the military in the eastern and central Islamic lands. The system reached its peak during the Mamlūk reign in Egypt and Syria (648–923/1250–1517) and continued in a modified way right up to the Ottoman period.