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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:

Further Information: Mujahedin

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Encyclopedia of the Middle East

Note - This encyclopedia is a work in progress. It is far from complete and is being constructed and improved all the time. If you would like to contribute articles or expansions of existing articles, please contact news (at) mideastweb.org.  Suggestions and corrections are welcome. The concise version of this dictionary is at our Middle East Glossary.

Spelling - Spelling of words in Middle-Eastern languages is often arbitrary. There may be many variants of the same name or word such as Hezbollah, Hizbolla, Hisbolla or Husayn and Hussein. There are some conventions for converting words from Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew There are numerous variant renderings of the same Arabic or Hebrew words, such as "Hizbollah," "Hisbulla" etc. It is not possible to find exact equivalents for several letters. 

Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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