Meaning of 'AYN in English


( (Arabic: notable), ) plural A'yan, in Islamic countries, an eminent person. Under the Ottoman regime (c. 13001923) the term at first denoted provincial or local notables, but in the 18th and early 19th century it was applied to a class of landlords who exercised political functions and were accorded official status. Many a'yan during the 17th century acquired lifelong leases on tax farms and prospered financially. During the 176874 Russo-Turkish War, the Ottoman government turned to the a'yan for military and financial assistance and in return officially recognized them as the chosen representatives of the people. In 1786 the central government, suspicious of the a'yan's growing influence, attempted to exclude them from provincial government; but, when war with Russia broke out again (1787), it once more turned to them for assistance and (1790) restored their provincial authority. During the reigns of Selim III (17891807) and Mahmud II (180839), the a'yan in Rumelia (the Balkan section of the empire) played an important part in Ottoman affairs, often defying the central authority. Of these Ali Pasa of Jannina (now in Greece), Pasvanoglu of Vidin (now in Bulgaria), and Ismail Bey of Seres (now Srrai, Greece) maintained their own private armies, levied taxes, and dispensed justice. The 'ayn of Rusuk (now in Bulgaria), Bayrakdar Mustafa Pasa, although he failed to restore Selim III, led a successful coup and brought Selim's nephew Mahmud II to the throne. Bayrakdar subsequently became grand vizier and convened (1808) a conference of a'yan and derebeys (valley lords, hereditary and virtually independent feudatories in Anatolia) in Istanbul, where they and representatives of Mahmud II signed a mutual assistance pact that recognized and confirmed their status. Soon after, however, Mahmud succeeded in breaking the power of the a'yan and the derebeys and established his rule over most of the empire.

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