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The court of the Afghan Durrani Empire in 1839.

HRH Crown Prince Farouk, Amir of the Kingdom of Egypt and the Sudan, on ascension to the throne 1936 as HM King Farouk I.

Emir (pronounced [eˈmiːr], Arabic language: أميرʾAmīr (Feminine: Emira, أميرة ʾAmīrah), meaning "commander", "general", or "prince"; also transliterated as Amir, Aamir or Ameer) is a title of high office, used throughout the Muslim world. Emirs are usually considered high-ranking Sheikhs, but in monarchic states, the term is also used for Princes, with "Emirate" being analogous to a sovereign principality.

While Emir is a common transliteration in English and other languages, the form Amir is found for numerous compounds (e.g., admiral) and names. Transliteration differs depending on the sources consulted.


Amir, meaning "chieftain" or "commander", is derived from the Arabic root '-m-r, "command". It may also be related to the Hebrew word hemir, "exalt".[1] Originally simply meaning commander or leader, usually in reference to a group of people, it came to be used as a title for governors or rulers, usually in smaller states, and in modern Arabic is analogous to the English word "prince". The word entered English in 1593, from the French émir.[2] It was one of the titles or names of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. It is possibly derived from the Syriac Mar or Mora, a title of respect, literally meaning 'my lord'.

Princely, ministerial and noble titles

Mohammed Alim Khan, Emir of Bukhara, taken in 1911 by Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky.

  • The monarchs of Qatar and Kuwait are currently titled Emirs, as are those of the United Arab Emirates.
  • The caliphs first used the title Amir al-Muminin or "Commander of the Faithful", stressing their leadership over all Islam, especially in the military form of jihad; both this command and the title have been assumed by various other Muslim rulers, including Sultans and Emirs. For Shia Muslims, they still give this title to the Caliph Ali as Amir al Muminin.
  • The Abbasid (in theory still universal) Caliph Ar-Radi created the post of Amir al-Umara ("Amir of the Amirs") for Ibn Raik; the title was used in various Islamic monarchies; see below for military use
  • In Lebanon, the ruling Emir formally used the style al-Amir al-Hakim since, specifying it was still a ruler's title. Note that the title was held by Christians as well.
  • The word Emir is also used less formally for leaders in certain contexts. For example, the leader of a group of pilgrims to Mecca is called an Emir hadji, a title sometimes used by ruling princes (as a mark of Muslim piety) which is sometimes awarded in their name. Where an adjectival form is necessary, "Emiral" suffices.
  • Amirzade, the son (hence the Persian patronymic suffix -zade) of a prince, hence the Persian princely title Mirza.
  • The traditional rulers of the predominantly Muslim northern regions of Nigeria are known as Emirs, while the titular sovereign of their now defunct empire is formally styled as the Sultan of Sokoto, Amir-al-Muminin (or Sarkin Musulmi in the Hausa language).
  • The temporal leader of the Yazidi people is known as an Emir or Prince.

Military ranks and titles

From the start, Emir has been a military title, roughly meaning "general" or "commander." The Western naval rank "admiral" comes from the Arabic naval title amir al-bahr, general at sea, which has been used for naval commanders and occasionally the Ministers of Marine.

In certain decimally-organized Muslim armies, Amir was an officer rank. For example, in Mughal India Amirs commanded 1000 horsemen (divided into ten units, each under a Sipah salar), ten of them under one Malik. In the imperial army of Qajar Persia:

  • Amir-i-Nuyan,
  • Amir Panj, "Commander of 5,000"
  • Amir-i-Tuman, "Commander of 10,000"
  • Amir ul-Umara, "Amir of Amirs" (cfr. supra) or 'Commander of Commanders'

In the former Kingdom of Afghanistan, Amir-i-Kabir was a title meaning "great prince" or "great commander."

Muhammad Amin Bughra, Nur Ahmad Jan Bughra, and Abdullah Bughra declared themselves Emirs of the First East Turkestan Republic.

Other uses

  • Amir-i-Il designates the head of an Il (tribe) in imperial Persia.
  • In addition to being an Arabic name, Amir is also a common Muslim male name for both Arab and non-Arab Muslims, taken from Arabic just as the Western name Rex ("king") is borrowed from Latin while Amira is a common Muslim female name. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the female name Emira, often interpreted as "princess", is a derivative of the male name Emir.

Emirs in fiction

  • Abdul Abulbul Amir, both character and song.
  • Abul Qasim Qannadi, a character in Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's Rose of the Prophet trilogy.
  • In an episode of Gargoyles called "Grief", the Emir of Egypt summoned Anubis (Tony Jay) to resurrect his dead son.
  • In several of the Tintin books, Emir Ben Kalish Ezab makes an appearance along with his son Abdullah.
  • The Emir, a fictional representation of Osama Bin Laden in several of Tom Clancy's books, The Teeth of the Tiger, Dead or Alive, and Locked On.
  • In an episode of Star Wars: Clone Wars there is an Emir of the Techno Union called Wat Tambor.

See also

  • Murabitun

Specific emirates of note

Islamic titles

  • Amir al-Muminin
  • Bey
  • Beg
  • Caliph
  • Da'i
  • Dervish
  • Imam
  • Mahdi
  • Mir, itself used in various compounds
  • Mirza, literally "son of an Emir"
  • Sheikh
  • Sayyid
  • Shah
  • Sultan
  • Vizier


  1. Nachmanides, Commentary to Torah, Deuteronomy, 21:14
  2. EtymologyOnLine


  • WorldStatesmen Religious Organisations—see also many present Muslim countries

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