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Map of the Sawad ("Iraq") under the Abbasid Caliphate

Sawad was the name used in early Islamic times (7th–12th centuries) for southern Iraq. It means "black land" or "arable land"[1] and refers to the stark contrast between the alluvial plain of Mesopotamia and the Arabian desert. Under the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates, it was an official political term for a province encompassing most of modern Iraq (except for the western desert and al-Jazira in the north).

As a generic term in Arabic and Persian, sawād was used to denote the irrigated and cultivated areas in any district. Unmodified, it always referred to southern Iraq, the sawād of Baghdad. It replaced the earlier and more narrow term Rādhān.


  • Schaeder, H.H. (1997). "Sawād". In Bosworth, C. E.; van Donzel, E.; Heinrichs, W. P. & Lecomte, G. (eds.). The Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition, Volume IX: San–Sze. Leiden: E. J. Brill. p. 87. ISBN 90-04-10422-4.
  • Michele Campopiano, “Land Tax Alā l-misāḥa and muqāsama: Legal Theory and Balance of Social Forces in Early Medieval Iraq (Sixth to Eighth Centuries)”, in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 54/2, 2011, 239-269 [1]


  1. ^ Hans Wehr (1979). sawād. A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. Retrieved 18 July 2019.