Ghazi (or Gazi) (Arabic: غازى) means warrior
or raider. The word became a borrow word in other languages spoken by
Muslims, especially Turkish, and the
institution of Ghazis was especially developed by the Turks. It is derived from from ghazawa, meaning "he raided"
or "he made war", and was applied to warriors who had vowed to combat the infidels. The Ghazi is a type of Mujaheed.
However, the term Ghazi actually seems to be used to refer to several different types of warriors or individuals:
1- A general term for any Islamic warrior.
2- A term for a kind of border guerilla, Islamic knight or mercenary, used both by the Arabian and later by the
Ottoman Empire to expand their borders by
raiding enemy areas repeatedly and softening up the populace to make them more willing to submit to Islamic rule through
terror and brigandage:
- For the ghazis in the marches, it was a religious
duty to ravage the countries of the infidels who resisted Islam, and to force them into subjection. (Cambridge
History of Islam, p. 283)
The ghazi generally lived off plunder and could be rewarded for his services with a territory given to him as a
fiefdom. In some respects, this parallels the use of pirates and mercenaries in 16th and 17th century Europe,
particularly by the British against the Spanish and Portuguese, and by various parties in the Thirty Years War in
Germany. But whereas the brigands and mercenaries of Europe were eventually viewed as a danger and their use was
discarded, the ghazi tradition was institutionalized in Muslim culture through its religious significance, much like the
prestige awarded the Christian Crusaders.
3 - A term of respect and title of honor taken by the leaders of imperial dynasties, and particularly by Ottoman
Sultans, the first nine of whom included it in their titles:
By early Ottoman times it had become a title of honor and a claim to leadership. In an inscription of 1337
Orhan, second ruler of the Ottoman line, describes himself as "Sultan, son of the Sultan of the Gazis, Gazi son of Gazi… march lord of the horizons." The Ottoman poet
Ahmedi, writing ca. 1402, defines a gazi as "the instruments of
God's religion, a servant of God who cleanses the earth
from the filth of polytheism… the sword of
God." (Lewis, Bernard, The Political Language of Islam, University of Chicago Press, pp. 147–148, note 8)
Synonyms and alternate spellings: