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An imperial edict carrying the Ottoman sultan's tughra, or signature.

Fermans were regulations or communiqués issued on a wide variety of topics in response to appeals from government officials and subjects throughout the empire. They were issued after discussion by top officials at the sultan's palace, or Sublime Porte, often but not necessarily including the sultan himself. The grand vizier handled appeals of a general administrative nature, while the defterdar considered fiscal matters and the kadi-asker matters of shariʿa, or religious law. The sultan's tughra would be affixed near the top of the document, which would then be placed in a small bag and sent by courier to the appellant.

With the expansion of government and the increasingly autonomous responsibility of the grand vizier in the nineteenth century, fermans were replaced by irade, which means "the sultan's will." The irade was an inscription expressing the sultan's approval that was affixed at the bottom of a document drawn up by the grand vizier. Documents originating personally with the sultan were then called hatti hümayun, literally "imperial documents."

See also Sublime Porte.


Shaw, Stanford, and Shaw, Ezel Kural. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey, Vol. 2: Reform, Revolution, and Republic: The Rise of Modern Turkey, 18081975. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1977.

elizabeth thompson