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Kâtib is a term used to describe the position of writer, scribe, or secretary in the Arabic-speaking world, Persian World, and other Islamic areas as far as India.[1] Duties comprised reading and writing correspondence, issue instructions at the command of the person in charge and archiving documentation.[2]

The word comes probably from Arabic kitāb (book), and perhaps imported from the Northern Aramaic neighbors of the Arabs.[1] It is a pre-Islamic concept, encountered in the work of ancient Arab poets. The art of writing, although present in all part of Arabia, was apparently accomplishment of the few. Among the Companions of Medina, about ten are mentioned as kâtibs.[1] With the embrace of Islam, the office of kâtib became a post of great honor. By this time, one the model of Persian chancellery, a complicated system of government offices had developed, each branch of governmental, religious, civic, or military entity had it own kâtib.[1] Thus, the term became widely encountered in conjunction with other words in order to derive a more specific secretary position, i.e. kâtib dīwān - secretary in the financial bureaus, kâtib al-sirr - chancellery secretary or chief-secretary, kâtib al-djaysh - secretary of the army, and so on.[3]

It was used in the Ottoman Empire with the same meaning, i.e. Kiaya Katibi - private secretary of the Kiaya bey,[4] and thus transferred to other languages, i.e. qatib, qatip in Albanian.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d M. Th. Houtsma (1987), First encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936, E.J. Brill, p. 819,  
  2. ^ Akbar Shāh K̲h̲ān Najībābādī (2000), Ṣafī al-Raḥmān Mubārakfūrī, ed., The History of Islam 2, Houston: Darussalam, p. 600,  
  3. ^ Maya Shatzmiller (1994), Labour in the Medieval Islamic World, Islamic history and civilization 4, E.J. Brill, pp. 150–151,  
  4. ^ Lybyer, Albert Howe (1913), The government of the Ottoman Empire in the time of Suleiman the Magnificent (PDF), Cambridge: Harvard University Press, p. 184,  

See also

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