ʾIqraʾ bismi Rabbika.
Recite! In the name of your Lord!
ʾal-Qurʾân, Sûrah 96, Verse 1
Not long afterwards King Ðū al-Makān became, as every creature must, dust within the Hand which created him, and it was as if he had never been. For time reaps all and does not remember; therefore let him who would know the fate which will befall his name in time to come, guard the fame of those who have passed before him into the room of death.
"The Tale of King Umar al-Numān," The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night, rendered into English from the Literal and Complete French Translation of Dr. J.C. Mardrus, by Powys Mathers, Volume I, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1964, 1972, 1986, pp.552-553; diacritic added to "Ðū al-Makān," , "Belongs to the Place."
Wanaḥnu ʾaqrabu ʾilayhi min ḥabli-l-warîdi.
We are nearer to him than the jugular vein.
ʾal-Qurʾân, Sûrah 50, Verse 16
Waman yuḍlili llâhu famâ lahu min hâdin.
And whom God leads astray, there is for him no right guide.
ʾal-Qurʾân, Sûrah 39, Verse 23
ʾIslâm, , is the religion founded by the Prophet Muḥammad. The word is sometimes said to mean "peace," but it is salâm, , that is the word for peace. ʾIslâm means "submission, resignation," i.e. to the will of God. Both are from the same root, slm, , "to be safe and sound, unharmed," and many other meanings. This is related to Hebrew , shalôm, "peace," and the Ancient Egyptian root snb, "health."
The , Dâru-l-ʾIslâm, the "House of ʾIslâm," means the predominantly Islâmic part of the world, especially or particularly the part covered by Islâmic states. Outside the Dâru-l-ʾIslâm is the , Dâru-l-Kufr, the "House of Unbelief," or, more to the point, the , Dâru-l-Ḥarb, the "House of War." An "unbeliever" (literally the participle "unbelieving") is a , Kâfir (regular plural , Kâfirûn, irregular or "broken" plural , Kuffâr, and others).
|the endings here curiously shift between masculine and feminine|
This expansion of the Dâru-lʾIslâm was the Jihâd, , the Holy War. Someone who does the Jihâd is a Mujâhid, (pl. Mujâhidûn, ). Jihâd is now often said not to mean, or not primarily to mean, Holy War but merely a moral and spiritual "struggle" for perfection. The root (jhd, ), indeed, does mean "to endeavor, struggle," etc., but also "to fight." Different derivatives of the root, as with slm, are used for different purposes. ʾIjtihâd, , is from the same root and can also mean "struggle," but it is mainly used to mean "independent interpretation" on a point of Islâmic Law, i.e. independent of legal precedent (following precedent is taqlîd, ).
It is no distortion of Jihâd to say that it means "Holy War." Indeed, in the Middle Ages it was an important question whether ʾIslâm could be properly practiced in a non-Muslim state. Even though ʾIslâm was supposed to tolerate "People of the Book," which originally meant Jews and Christians but in practice came to include, unevenly, Zoroastrians and even Hindus (until ʾAurangzeb), this was only in a subordinate position (dhimma, , the status of the dhimmî, , the tolerated non-believer) -- Muslims being "tolerated" in a non-Muslim state was against the divine order. Non-believers paid the poll tax, the , jizyah, which could be translated "tribute," "punishment," or "compensation." Muslims, in turn paid the , zakâh (or "zakat"), "purity," "honesty," etc. -- the alms tax, regarded by some as voluntary (one of the five "Pillars of ʾIslâm") but generally the principal tax of an Islâmic realm. See ʾIbn Khaldûn on taxes.
At the same time, "toleration" for Christians and Jews did not always mean what we might expect. Churches could be razed or turned into mosques (as Santa Sophia has just been made a mosque again), and Christians tortured to force conversions, or children taken from their parents -- these have been repeated practices by historical Islâmic regimes in Egypt, Spain, Russia, and elswhere. The Caliph ʾUmar II, reputed for piety, began killing Christians who would not convert after the failure of his siege of Constantinople in 718. Humiliating requirements, for dress, housing, etc., were typtically imposed on Christians and Jews. Today, mobs in Pakistan attack Christians and their institutions on the slightest hint of "blasphemy" or "insults" to ʾIslâm, anywhere in the world. How this can play out is examined below under "Islamophobia." Christians now steadily flee the Islâmic world, as Jews have mostly done already (with the refuge of Israel). It is not surprising that Pakistan, long ostensibly an American ally, seems to rate as the most anti-American country in the world, and has long been suspecting of tolerating, harboring, and even sponsoring terrorists.
The treatment of Jihâd in public discourse does not always seem honest. Thus, the former History International cable channel (then "H2," 2011 through 2016, now "Viceland") aired a show (12/10/08) called "Secrets of the Koran." This was copyrighted 2006 and so was a repeat showing. The show explained the ideology of Jihâd as the direct result of the Crusades, to which it was a reaction, and otherwise positively affirmed that Muslims are only supposed to use force in self-defense. But to suppose such a thing with any kind of superficial consistency, major events in Islamic history were then ignored or glossed over. The Crusades were themselves a reaction to the Jihâd.
The Omayyad Caliphs were never even mentioned during the show, and the original Islamic conquest of Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Iran, and Egypt, although visible on maps, was discussed in no detail and often only characterized as "spreading the Word of ʾIslâm." This was a grave distortion of the facts of the original Islamic Conquest, which consisted not only of violent invasions but was not even intended to "spread the Word" or obtain converts at all. ʾIslâm was initially viewed as a religion just for Arabs. The earliest non-Arab coverts had to become affiliated with an Arab tribe, and their status was subordinate. Equality for all Muslims was, in general, the achievement of the Abbasid Revolution. The Islamic Conquest was therefore in the name of ʾIslâm, but its purpose was simply domination.
Apologetics for Jihâd
Most terrible evils has Romania suffered from the Arabs even until now.
Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (d.959) quoting The Chronicle of Theophanes (c.815) [De Administrando Imperio, Greek text edited by Gy. Moravcsik, Dumbarton Oaks Texts, 1967, 2008, p.94]
Later, the show mentioned that the Crusades were elicited by an appeal from the Roman/Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus, and that this had something to do with the Turks. Exactly what the Turks had been doing, however, was glossed over nearly as completely as the history of the Omayyads, and one might have derived the impression that Turkey had always been in Anatolia (they are not shown coming from anywhere else). That the advent of the Turks represented a major surge in Islamic Conquest was not made obvious; and the viewer of the show might notice a hiatus between fending off the Crusaders and the Ottoman Turks arriving at the gates of Vienna. In between, of course, there were rather serious events like the Fall of Constantinople, which get ignored.
Obviously, if the ideology of Jihâd only exists because of the aggression of the Crusaders, and war in ʾIslâm is only supposed to be used for defense, things like the Arab Conquest of the Middle East or the Turkish Conquest of Romania and Hungary are going to be somewhat awkward to explain. Hence the dishonesty. Just don't explain them. It is as though Egyptians, Syrians, etc., on hearing the Word, spontaneously converted to ʾIslâm, with Christian counter-attacks constituting, in modern leftist terminology, "Imperialist Aggression." No, the only thing about any Imperium that is really resented is that the wrong people possessed it. "Secrets of the Koran," thus, unfortunately, constituted a dishonest apologetic, not truly informative history.
Islâmic rulers engaged in Jihâd were not secular rulers in the modern sense, but neither were Mediaeval Christian rulers. In some ways Islâmic rulers seem more secular than Christian ones, since their military origin was usually recent and conspicuous (the Mamlûks are the most obvious), while Christian rulers (like the Kings of France) might claim authority directly from God. More important were other differences. European states had a legal tradition from Roman Law that was originally independent of Christianity, while ʾIslâm had developed its own system of law. European judges were thus secular officials, while Islâmic judges were religious jurists. Europe even had parallel secular and eccelesiastical judicial systems, which is why King Henry II of England could be angry with Thomas à Becket, not for protecting the poor Saxons from oppression by the Norman King, but for protecting priests guilty of rape and murder from the full force of the King's secular justice.
The history of Jihâd in ʾIslâm, and the actual treatment of Christians under Islâmic regimes, is examined by Raymond Ibrahim, himself of Coptic derivation, in Sword and Scimitar, Fourteen Centuries of War Between Islam and the West [Da Capo Press, 2018], using a description of eight key battles, four won by Jihadists, four lost, with their circumstances and consequences. Little is left of dishonest apologetics for ʾIslâm after this treatment. And after the vandalism and savagery manfested by the Tâlibân, al-Qaida, ISIS, Boko Haram, Hezboallah, and other groups, we see that this is not new, but really no more than a revival of the worst practices of Mediaeval ʾIslâm. Public opinion in Islâmic countries, like Pakistan, Malaysia, and even recent Turkey, leaves one worried that ʾIslâm can ever really modernize and accept other religions as equals. Popular opposition to the theocracy in Irân so far has not endangered the security of the government.
Islâmic jurists were the principal institutional existence of Mediaeval ʾIslâm, which otherwise had no priests or religious hierarchy. The ʾImâm in Orthdox ʾIslâm might be learned (an ʿÂlim, , "Knower," pl. ʿUlamâʾ, ), might even be a judge (a Qâḍî, ), but essentially is just the leader of the Prayer, with no particular religious authority. ʿUlamâʾ or "Ulema" is frequently used for jurists and learned religious opinion in general; and, strickly speaking, the indefinite citation form for Qâḍî is Qâḍin, .
The institutional distinction in the West between Church and State, and the continued existence of secular Roman law, made it relatively easy to separate these institutions. This separation was not only less easy in ʾIslâm but the trend in recent years has actually reversed, with a reinstitution of Islâmic Law in states that had previously adopted secular law codes. This reversal has, not surprisingly, accompanied a renewed militancy and a sense of Jihâd that owes nothing to mollifying apologetics.
Other comparisons have been made between the characters of Muḥammad, Jesus, and Moses, since Muḥammad commanded armies, had multiple marriages, etc. Muḥammad, indeed, had the responsibilities of rule, with a hostile enemy, Mecca, nearby. This involved battles. Jesus wasn't in any such position. His Kingdom, as he said, was not of this world. Moses did have the responsibilities of rule, though actual fighting didn't begin until the Israelites crossed the Jordan. Moses didn't go with them, and Joshua then handled the military business. Since Joshua was instructed by God to annihilate the people he found in the Promised Land, Muḥammad comes off rather well in comparison, since the war with Mecca ended in a negotiated settlement where the only losers were the idols in the Kaʿaba, (though there had been a fair amount of killing in the conflict, and Muḥammad had in the meantime expelled the Jews from Medina).
As for his marriages, Muḥammad seemed to have been genuinely devoted to his wife Khadîja, an older widow whom he married after helping her run her business. Khadîja was one of the first who believed that Muḥammad was actually receiving a divine revelation. He married no other until after she died. I do not know how to judge the subsequent marriages. At least some of them seem to have been honorary, with the widows of fallen companions. His favorite wife, ʿÂʾiša, was betrothed to him at six. It was she who laid him to rest in the floor of their house in Medina, and the last person to set foot there for many centuries, as the Prophet's Mosque was built around it. One might think the Prophet was simply heir to some of the understandable temptations of power, but this explanation is generally not allowed in Islâmic tradition, since the Prophet is viewed as necessarily morally perfect. That is hardly necessary. The Bible does not present Moses as morally perfect -- indeed, God prohibits his entry into the Promised Land as a punishment.
At right we have been seeing an image of the Angel Gabriel leading the Prophet Muḥammad on the miraculous horse Buraq, from a 15th century Persian miniature. I include this because of the controversy over cartoons of the Prophet published in October 2005 in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. By early 2006, Islamic radicals managed to stir up riots in many Islâmic countries over the cartoons, featuring attacks on Denmark, the EU, and Christians.
It was positively affirmed by the radicals that images of the Prophet are absolutely forbidden in ʾIslâm and that the cartoons were an intolerable slander against ʾIslâm -- except that the Danish cartoons were really very mild and the radicals had included some other cartoons, nastier ones, that had nothing to do with the Danish newspaper. They were obviously looking for a pretext, not honestly expressing any reasonable protest. They wanted a pretext for violence.
Not only that, but what they positively affirmed was not true. Although images have definitely been frowned upon in Islâmic history, and often absent altogether, there is nevertheless no lack of them. A favorite theme was the Prophet's "Night Journey," when he was taken up in a dream to heaven and hell, as we see in the image here. The whole episode thus exposes the extremism of modern Islâmic fundamentalism. This is not the ʾIslâm of The Thousand and One Nights or ʿUmar Khayyâm. It is a fascism that derives from the least humane and most intolerant varieties of Islâmic law, often that of the Ḥanbalî school favored by the Wahhâbîs of Saʿudi Arabia, not to mention the dangerous, militant, and reactionary insanity of revolutionary Irân.
But Iranian Shiʿism has always been rather free with images. When a friend of mine came back from Irân in 1970 with a large poster of ʿAlî, I was surprised. But in fact these were all over the place, as even were images of Muḥammad. Revolutionary Irân is now viewing this with some disfavor, but there is no doubt about the tradition. A 1976 movie, Mohammad, Messenger of God, got around objections by simply not showing Muḥammad, ʿAlî, and other sacred figures -- except for ʿAlî's distinctive forked sword. Thus, dialogue was directed to empty spaces, and it was answered with apparent silence. But the movie was an Arab production, with advice from Sunni authorities, some of whom objected to having such a movie at all.
Apologists accuse Westerners of hostile misunderstandings of ʾIslâm, when generally the disagreement of the apologists is with the radicals, whose own interpretations often have substantial support in Islâmic jurisprudence -- if indeed the apologists really do disagree with the radicals: They often seem disingenuous to a suspicious degree. Or we run into differences characteristic of Shiʿism. It is also unsettling when opinion polls in Muslim countries show what are often majorities of Muslims endorsing radical views, such as the death penalty for apostates from ʾIslâm. This sort of thing is not easily explained away. Nor is it easily excused that most Muslim countries really do not have freedom of religion.
In 2020 and 2021, the pandemic involving the Wuhan Corona Virus resulted in a lockdown of economic activity in many countires. Generally these made exceptions for "essential services," such as food stores and drug stores, trash pickup, mail delivery, and a few other things. In the United States, many jurisdictions decided that religion was not to be counted among "essential services," and public meetings for religious services were prohibited. At the same time, other "essential services," like liquor stores and casinos, were allowed to do business.
This struck many people as biased and even Unconstitutional. The judgment that religious services were "inessential" is something that only the ultra-secular minded or atheistic would believe -- i.e. people actually hostile to religion. Many Catholics, at least, rely on daily masses and Communion. People began to defy the orders, often in ways that revealed, not just the bias, but the irrationality of such things. Thus, one Christian minister held services in the parking lot of his church, with his sermon broadcast over the radio to the attendees in their cars. This was judged illegal, and people, safely sitting isolated in their own cars, were threatened by the police. Later, Christians were actually arrested for singing hymns in the open air, which posed little or no threat of spreading disease.
In Canada, Pastor James Coates of the GraceLife Church in Edmonton was arrested on February 16, 2021 for "contravening the Public Health Act" by holding services beyond the 15% capacity allowed. A condition of bail would be that he no longer hold services, to which he has refused to consent. The Canadian court thus intends to hold him in custody until his "trial," perhaps not until May -- although some charges have been withdrawn and Coates may be released.
In New York City, Orthodox Jews, often called "Ultra-Orthodox" by the hostile media, held public funerals, attended by large crowds. This infuriated officials, who nevertheless feared carrying out mass arrests. Other such services were planned in private and held by surprise, so that hostile city officials could not prepare for them. Such acts of resistence, however, among Christians and Jews, have not been general; and their infrequency made it easier for malicious officials to target those engaged in them. Part of the passivity of believers may be the difficulty for them to actually believe that public American culture has become as hostile to religion as it is, and that the lockdowns of religion are a reflection of this.
Apart from mere defiance, Christian and Jewish groups began to sue. The results of that have been uneven, with many judges obviously sharing the hostile secular and atheistic biases of public officials. Other cases have been won, even though the Supreme Court itself has recently proven to be a "crushed reed" for the protection of religious freedom. This follows a string of betrayals of his trust by Chief Justice Roberts.
In all this, I came to notice that Muslims were conspicuously absent, whether in vocal protests, acts of defiance, or even joining in religious freedom lawsuits. It certainly is not because they are secular or atheistic. If "moderate" Muslims wanted to show Christians and Jews their good will, nothing would have done so like participating in the lawsuits against hostile, even anti-religious, officials. But I haven't seen it. I hazard a guess that it is because Muslims don't want to annoy what they see as their natural allies on the Left, whether they are atheists hostile to religion or not.
Then I began to wonder if Muslims perhaps have quietly been defying the lockdown orders all along, especially to attend Friday prayer services. Even atheistic journalists and officials might be terrified of hassling Muslims by even noticing or reporting on such activities, lest they be accused of "Islamophobia." Reporters don't even seem to interview Muslim clerics with questions about their attitudes. Or at least I haven't seen anything of the sort. Nor have I ever seen reporters ask Muslim clerics about gay rights, gay marriage, or biological males in women's rest rooms, locker rooms, etc. I think we know what the answers would be, and the reporters, like Sergeant Schultz, just want to see nothing, hear nothing [cf. Hogan's Heroes, 1965–1971].
As Christians are arrested and Jews threatened (by Bill de Blasio), Muslims have simply been off the radar. They should speak up. Do they really think that religion is not an "essential service"? Do they think that cowardly sources like the New York Times are going to complain about them? If Muslims want to make a positive contribution to American life, and not just elect anti-Semitic and anti-American members of Congress, here was their chance.
Muslims have also been missing in action when Christian bakers, photographers, and other business people have been persecuted for declining to participate in "gay" weddings and other hetero-normative activities. Surveys of Muslim bakers in Michigan indicate that most of them would not bake "gay" wedding cakes either. But Muslims don't get sued for "civil rights" violations in such cases, and we know why. But, as it happens, they are then silent when support is needed for pious Christians. They probably intend to be no more faithful to their Leftist allies than the allies will be to them, when Christianity and Judaism are destroyed and an alliance is no longer needed. It is a foolish and dishonest calculation.
In transcribing Arabic there are interesting difficulties involving the definite article, , ʾal-, "the." In context, ʾal- undergoes two kinds of changes. One is that, when following another word, is loses its initial consonant, the glottal stop, / ʾ/ (IPA ʔ), and the vowel that goes with it. So we are left with no more than an /l/. This is no problem in Classical Arabic, where words generally end with vowels, and the stranded /l/ simply joins the syllable of that vowel. In writing, the loss of the glottal stop is indicated by the loss of the diacritic called a hamzah, , and the substitution of another diacritic, the waṣlah, which we see in the modified writing, as , of "the."
We can see all this in operation in a very common given name in Arabic, ʿAbdu-llâh, , which means the "servant" or even the "slave" of God. Here we have ʿabdu, , followed by the word for "God," ʾAllâh, , whose structure I have examined elsewhere. An equivalent expression, "slave of god," meant "priest" in Ancient Egyptian.
ʿAbdu begins with the letter ʿayn, ع (IPA ʕ), whose pronunciation I discuss as part of the phonology of Egyptian. Since ʾAllâh means "the God," and begins with the definite article, it loses its hamzah and initial vowel. No problem. ʿAbdu ends in a vowel, so we seamlessly get the name ʿAbdullâh -- sometimes abbreviated to ʿAbdul. Other names also begin with ʿabdu, so the latter may be ambiguous.
However, there comes to be a difficulty. In spoken Modern Arabic, the short final vowels of Classical Arabic are generally lost; so ʿabdu becomes ʿabd. What then happens to the stranded /l/? Well, spoken Arabic generally supplies a vowel, which colloquially is usually an /i/ or /e/, and where Hans Wehr wants to indicate it, he may use the schwa, /ǝ/, indicating an indefinite vowel. But, with a nod to Classical Arabic, this is often transcribed as an /a/. So we get ʿAbd Allâh or ʿAbdallâh. It is not clear to me whether the glottal stop is ever restored along with the new vowel; and I have determined not to write one. Exactly how a personal name is pronounced, and written, of course, depends on the preference of the bearer.
Whether the Classical vowels are used, however, or exactly how the words are separated -- we could see ʿAbd-Allâh -- is something about which sources are often inconsistent; and I have allowed some of that inconistency to creep on to this page, often just because of variations in my sources, which I have not always regularized. An example is with the name of the great Sulṭân of Egypt, Saladin, whose name, , the "Righteousness of the Religion," can be transcribed Ṣalâḥu-d-Dîn, Ṣalâḥ-ad-Dîn, or Ṣalâḥaddîn, etc. I prefer the first, for its dignity, and with the separation of the distinct words. Some sources use an apostrophe to indicate the elided glottal stop and vowel, but this can too easily be confused with the symbol for a glottal stop.
With "Saladin" we see another complication of the use of , ʾal-. When the article is used with words starting with particular letters, the /l/ is assimilated to them. These are called "sun" (, šams) letters because the word for "sun" begins with one of them, as "sun" does even in English. The "sun" letters are "t, th/θ, d, dh/ð, r, z, s, sh/š, ṣ, ḍ, ṭ, ẓ, l, and n." The other letters are "moon" (, qamar) letters.
The word for "religion," , dîn, begins with a /d/. When this happens, not only do we see the waṣlah in use, but the diacritic for no vowel, the sukkun (a little circle), is left off the /l/ and another diacritic, the šaddah (looking like a little "w"), which signifies a doubled letter, is added to the following consonant, as we see in , d-dîn.
A similar example occurs with a name that I remember from an interesting incident in my own life. In 1973, at a party in Honolulu, I met a Malay woman whose last name was "Shamsuddin," which would be written . She did not know what her name meant, which is "Sun of the Religion," or what her first name name, which was also Arabic, meant. Her pronunciation reflects the Arabic reading Šamsuddîn. We actually find this name in the Thousand and One Nights, where the Powys Mathers translation renders it "Shams al-Dīn" ["The Tale of Alā al-Dīn
Abū Shāmāt," The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night, Volume III, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986].
Another example with , d-dîn, in the Thousand and One Nights occurs with a name that is very familiar, in a story that has been made into cartoons, movies, and a Broadway show. This is the name "Aladdin," from the story "Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp." In Arabic this is , ʿAlâʾu-d-dîn, the "Nobility of the Religion," which is the name of several historical rulers on this page, as among the Ghûrids. And, in form and sense, we see it as comparable to the name, or title, of Saladin. While the ʿayn, the glottal stop, and macrons are generally left out of the transcribed name of "Aladdin," we do see the doubling of the "d," and the replacement of "u" with "a." From the same root, the word , ʿâl, is common in spoken Arabic, used as an exclamation just meaning "Great!" The Persian derivative of this, to the same effect, is , âli. The Arabic form of that, , ʿÂlî, is the name of the fourth Caliph, and a very common given name in all of ʾIslâm.
Finally, I'd like to look at a name that I've seen recently, which is rendered in English as "Ezzeddine." In Arabic this is , ʿIzzu-d-dîn. This means the "might, power, strength, force, honor," or "glory" of the religion. I've seen this name for a Lebanese-American astrophysicist and a Lebanese politician. If I had not seen it written in Arabic, I doubt that would have ever figured out what "Ezze-" was supposed to be.
From the same root as ʿizzu, we get the common names , ʿAzîz, and , ʿAzîzah, the masculine and feminine, respectively, for "powerful, respected, distinguished, strong, noble, august, honorable," etc. These turn up as the names of betrothed cousins in a tragic story in the Thousand and One Nights. We also see the name ʿAzîz annoyingly repeated at the beginning of the movie The Fifth Element . At least it's pronounced correctly. There is also the longer name , ʿAbdu-l-ʿAzîz, where God is now the powerful, noble, honorable one.
Along with ʿâl there are some other common exclamations in Arabic that involve the phenomena I'm examining. If you want to hurry someone along in Arabic, you say , Yâllâh, "Let's go!." This is a contraction of ʾAllâh with , Yâ, "Oh," an interjection of direct address, like Greek ὦ used with the vocative. Why "Oh God!" would mean "Let's go!" is a little mysterious, but its original use seems to have been more general; and we see it transcribed Yâ Allâh in some translations of the Thousand and One Nights, with many uses. As such, the suspicion is that the Spanish exclamation ¡Ole!, which has no credible European etymology, derives from it. That is likely. Another candidate for ¡Ole! exists, however, which is , Wallâh, "By God!" The conjunction , wa, generally means "and," but it can be used to introduce "oaths," as here. I suspect that it has taken over most of the previous uses of Yâllâh, as the meaning of the latter has narrowed.
It is a little tangential to transcription issues, but Yâllâh prompts me to address another Arabic idiom. This is the word , Tafaḍḍal. This is the second person singular masculine imperative of the Form V, , tafaḍḍala, of the verb , faḍala, which means a number of things in the Form I but in the Form V, "to have the kindness (with, etc.), deign, condescend, be graciously disposed (to do something)" and, in the imperative, "please," etc. -- according to Hans Wehr [A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, Cornell, 1966, p.717-718]. This imperative is , Tafaḍḍalî in the singular feminine, , Tafaḍḍalû in the plural maculine, and , Tafaḍḍalna in the plural feminine. The plural feminine is only going to be used where a group of persons is entirely female [note].
In colloquial Arabic, Tafaḍḍal, which tends to lose the first vowel (hence, Tfaḍḍal), has a particular, unusual, meaning. I have seen its sense as, "Do the obvious." Thus, when you offer something to someone, you say Tafaḍḍal. When you are at a doorway and would say, "After you," you say Tafaḍḍal, or Tafaḍḍalî to the lady. This is very useful, and it does not have a simple English equivalent.
It does have equivalents in other languages. In Persian, , Befarmâid is used in exactly the same way. This is from the verb , farmudan, which is "to command" but has a more polite meaning in this usage.
I understand that in Modern Greek ορίστε is used in much the same way as these words in Arabic and Persian. This is from the verb ορίζω, which, as in Persian, actually means "rule, control, give orders," among other things. In Classical Greek, also from the verb ὀρίζω, that would be ὀρίσατε. Modern Greek seems to have lost the alpha out of that form -- where the form itself is the aorist second person plural imperative of ὀρίζω -- the comparable imperative in the present would be ὀρίζετε. The Classical verb has a variety of meanings, similar to the Modern, but without the Modern implication I am examining.
Outside the Middle East, we get Dozo in Japanese. At a drugstore in Honolulu once, I saw a clerk greet some Japanese tourists with Aloha, Dozo, which I have now put on my telephone message system -- joining my "¿Por qué no te callas?" ringtone.
And, last but definitely not least, is Italian Prego. This can mean "You're welcome" but also all the other meanings we find in Tafaḍḍal, Dozo, etc., including "How can I help you?" (like Dozo with the Hawaiian clerk) "Have a seat!" "Come on in!" and so forth. One of the joys of the Italian language.
In 1969 I didn't know anything about Persian, Modern Greek, Japanese, or Italian, so Tfaḍḍal is the first such word I learned.
While I'm doing idioms, let me do just one more. This is the Arabic word , yaʿnî. This literally means "it means," from the verb , ʿanâ, which can mean "to worry; to interest," and also just "to mean." Thus, an Arabic word for "meaning" is , maʿnan.
Yaʿnî, , is a word that one may hear a lot in spoken Arabic, since it is used the way a lot of people say "you know" in spoken English -- or ano (anō) in Japanese. If you are thinking of something to say, but don't know yet quite what to say, you say yaʿnî. It can occur more than once in a single sentence, just to fill space.
Spanish is full of Arabic words. They can often be identified when they begin with "al," as in the "Alhambra," Arabic , ʾAlḥamrâʾ, "the Red," the famous and marvelous fortress capitol of Granada. The Alhambra is, of course, a place name. We also see the name of the Alcázar palace in Seville. This is from Arabic , ʾal-Qaṣr, "the Palace" (see the use of this for the city of Luxor in Egypt). This is actually short for , ʾal-Qaṣr al-Mûriq, "the Verdant Palace." The original Muslim palace had been destroyed in the Reconquista, so the present palace is what was rebuilt (1364) by Peter the Cruel of Castile (1350-1366, 1367-1369). We also might expect that "al" sometimes has been assimilated to a sun letter.
A good candidate for that is arroz, the word for "rice." The word comes from Mediaeval Greek ὄρυζα or ὄρυζον, whose origin might be Iranian or Indian. In Arabic the word for "rice," which is not listed with an Arabic root, and so is clearly borrowed, is , ʾaruzz, or , ruzz. These do not begin with ʾal. However, A Modern English-Arabic Dictionary, by Munir Baʿalbaki [Dar el-Ilm Lil-Malayēn, Beirut, 1967, 1987], cites both words with articles, as , ʾal-ʾaruzz, and , ʾar-ruzz [p.788]. The latter is coming very close to our Spanish word.
I see at Wikipedia that there is an "Andalusian" Arabic version of "rice" as , which is going to be vocalized ʾarrawz or ʾarroz. Bingo. We lengthened the central vowel into a diphthong, which in later Arabic just becomes "o." And the ʾal comes before a sun letter.
For some reason, these phenomena of transciption now pose difficulties in public discourse. The convention in scholarship and the press is generally not to write the doubled letter, but to write "l" even when this is not actually what is pronounced. Thus, the current President of Egypt is ʿAbd-al-Fattâḥ Saʿid Ḥussain Khalîl as-Sîsî. It is the last element of the name, (meaning "the pony"), that is generally used, and it is commonly written "al-Sisi" and even pronounced /al-Sissy/. This is not very dignified (one wonders if ʾas-Sîsî knows what a "sissy" is); and, of course, it is not how the name is pronounced -- where it should match the name of St. Francis of Assisi, even though President ʾas-Sîsî is not going to belong to the same class of persons as St. Francis. This is where a transcription practice, that doesn't make a lot of sense in the first place, has unfortunate consequences. On this page, I supply the doubled letters, as pronounced. After this discussion, the reader will know what is going on. Scholarship which has no pronunciation guides and skips explanations like this is becoming a problem.
At the same time, we get a problem similar to that of in another word. This is , ʾibn, meaning "son." This occurs in many names, as the functional equivalent of a patronymic. As with ʾal, the initial glottal stop and vowel of ʾibn are lost when it follows another word. Again we see a waṣlah, , bn. When we lose final vowels from Classical Arabic a couple different things happen to this bn. One is that, as with ʾal, a vowel is restored to the word. So we see "ibn" in most of the lists on this page. However, the tendency to use "bn" alone, with a perhaps vocalized "n," also leads to an interior vowel being supplied for the word, as "bin." This begins to look like Hebrew , bēn, "son." It is also the root that we see in Arabic for "daughter," , bint. I have seen no discussion of the use of the actual "bin" in colloquial Arabic. In the names of Saʿûdî Royals, I actually see "ibn" written , which seems anomalous.
The existence of hamzah is an artifact of the history of Arabic. While historically the letter ʾalif (written as a simple vertical stroke), the Hebrew , ʾaleph, represents a glottal stop, its sound often dropped out of the spoken Arabic of Mecca, the dialect that the Prophet Muḥammad spoke himself. The glottal stop could become a /w/, a /y/, or just disappear altogether. This is how the basic consonants of Arabic are actually written. However, the spoken Arabic of Mecca was not the elevated language of poetic Arabic. That poetic language became the literary standard, and the way the Qurʾân was properly to be spoken.
The written word of the Qurʾân, as in the case of the Hebrew Bible, could not be altered, so the elevated pronunciation of Arabic came to be represented with diacritics. Hence the use of the hamzah, which shows where a glottal stop is spoken, regardless of the consonants written. The hamzah is written were it properly occurs. The letter actually there, if there is one, is then called the "chair" of the hamzah. We have seen hamzah on an ʾalif in our original example of , ʾal-.
Elsewhere at this site we have seen hamzah on a final "y" with , qâniʾ, "blood red," cognate to "jealous," , qannâ, in Hebrew. If "y" provides a "chair" medially, it is used without its dots, which thus count as diacritics. This happens in , masâʾil, "questions" (singular , masʾalah). This is also the name of the 15th month on the calendar of the Bahaʾi Faith. There is also the interesting case of , biʾr, "well," where the hamzah takes the sukkun, to show no vowel. The "chair" here originally would have been to write a long vowel.
We even see a hamzah in a final position on an ʾalif in , ʾiqraʾ, "Recite!" at Qurʾân, Sûrah 96:1, which is supposed to be the first thing Muḥammad heard in his Revelation. Where a glottal stop had dropped out altogether, the hamzah is written without a chair, as in , murûʾah, Arabic for "virtue."
We see a hamzah on a "w" in , tuʾminûna, "you believe," at Qurʾân, Sura 69:41. This is the 2nd person masculine plural imperfect indicative of the verb , ʾamuna, in Form IV (out of the X Forms of the Arabic verb), , ʾâmana, meaning "to believe." This follows , qalîlân mâ (perhaps pronounced qalîlâmmâ), "seldom, rarely," so that the phrase means "how seldom you believe," addressing those who believe the wrong thing about the prophecy of the Prophet. Sura 69:41 denies that Muḥammad is either a poet or a "seer," , kâhin.
In the word Qurʾân itself, , we have a diacritic, a wavy line called a maddah, which is a combination of a hamzah and a long vowel "a." This avoids a more elaborate ligature.
With a new movie version of the science fiction classic Dune , I am reminded of all the Arabic used in the original novel . One phrase I find of interest is the title, "Lisan al-Gaib," which is translated, "the Voice from the Outer World." Well, , lisân, is "tongue, language, mouthpiece," etc. This is a word that goes back to Akkadian, whose cognates I have examined elsewhere. With "gaib," there is no "g" in Classical Arabic, so we may guess that this is really ghaib, , which means "hidden, concealed, invisible; that which is transcendental, the supernatural; divine secret" [Hans Wehr, A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, Cornell U. Press, 1966, p.689]. This is not "Outer World," but "supernatural" fits in nicely with the idea that the "Lisan al-Gaib," , is a prophet, which is what we get in the book.
The word "ʾAllâh" in Arabic, with Cognates in Hebrew & Babylonian
Islâmic Fascism and Satyagraha in Palestine
Philosophy of Religion
Philosophy of History
Home Page My thanks to Professor Shaun Marmon of Princeton University for drawing my attention to Clifford Edmund Bosworth's The New Islamic Dynasties [Edinburgh University Press, 1996]. This remarkable and invaluble work is, strangely enough, already out of print. Also of great use was Classical Islam, a History 600-1258, by G.E. von Grunebaum [Aldine Publishing, 1970 -- a professor, d.1972, I had a class with at UCLA while an undergraduate], The Arabs, by Anthony Nutting [Mentor, 1964], The Arab Awakening, by George Antonius [Capricorn Books, 1965], The Cambridge History of Islam, edited by P.M. Holt, Ann K.S. Lambton, and Bernard Lewis [Vols. 1A, 1B, 2A, & 2B, Cambridge, 1977], and other historical sources credited elsewhere in these pages.
The word "ʾAllâh" in Arabic, with Cognates in Hebrew & Babylonian
Islâmic Fascism and Satyagraha in Palestine
Philosophy of Religion
Philosophy of History
Jurists and Islâmic Law
The Prohibition of Images
Update 2021, Religious Lockdowns
Arabic Transcription Issues
Copyright (c) 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved
ʾIslâm, 622 AD-present; Note 1;
Gender in Arabic
The word "ʾAllâh" in Arabic, with Cognates in Hebrew & Babylonian
Islâmic Fascism and Satyagraha in Palestine
Philosophy of Religion
Philosophy of History
The word "ʾAllâh" in Arabic, with Cognates in Hebrew & Babylonian
Islâmic Fascism and Satyagraha in Palestine
Philosophy of Religion
Philosophy of History
|Arabic, Form V, Imperatives|
However, criticizing what is the eternal and inalterable language of the holy Qurʾân is undoubtedly going to be "Islamophobic" and even racist. The enlightened response is thus to resolutely ignore it, even when English grammar, where gender has largely disappeared, is fiercely attacked with a blizzard of invented, whimsical pronouns, whose enforcement recalls the rigors of the Spanish Inquistion. People, indeed, have lost their jobs over "misgendering." But Arabs and Muslims need not worry. Their sacred and historic language is safely above criticism, protected by the shameless hypocrisy and cowardice of the Left.
Note on Gender
Return to Text It is a hard fight. It's extremely difficult, day after day, when you face people and say, "If Sharia law is taken to its logic this is what things are going to look like" and you come across people who say, "You got it all wrong."
Ayann Hirsi Ali, "Notable & Quotable," The Wall Street Journal, November 22-23, 2014, at the Independent Woman's Forum's Women of Valor Dinner, November 19, 2014 -- note the arrogance and isolence of ignorant Joe Biden trying to lecture a Somali women, raised as a Muslim, about ʾIslâm. Since then Biden has developed senile dementia and has been elected 46th President of the United States.
People who are viewed as "insulting" ʾIslâm are regularly threatened with violence, including death. This happens inside and outside Islamic countries, occurring in the form of legal sanctions in the former, with efforts to institutionalize such prohibitions everywhere, so that ʾIslâm could not be criticized even, for instance, in the United States.
At Brandeis University, we are learning the hierarchy of the new multiculti caste system. In theory, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is everything the identity-group fetishists dig: female, atheist, black, immigrant. If conservative white males were to silence a secular women's rights campaigner from Somalia, it would be proof of the Republican Party's "war on women," or the encroaching Christian fundamentalist theocracy, or just plain old... racism... But when the sniveling white male who purports to be the President of Brandeis (one Frederick Lawrence) does it out of deference to Islam, Miss Hirsi Ali's blackness washes off her like a bad dye job on a telly news anchor. White feminist Germaine Greer [The Female Eunuch, 1970] can speak at Brandeis because, in one of the more whimsical ideological evolutions even by dear old Germaine's standards, Ms. Greer feels that clitoridectomies add to the rich tapestry of "cultural identity": "One man's beautification is another man's mutilation," as she puts it. But black feminist Hirsi Ali, who was on the receiving end of "one's man's mutilation" and lives under death threats because she was boorish enough to complain about it, is too "hateful" to be permitted to speak. In the internal contradictions of multiculturalism, Islam trumps all: race, gender, secularism, everything. So, in the interests of multiculti sensitivity, pampered upper-middle-class trusty-fundy children of entitlement are pronouncing a Somali refugee beyond the pale and signing up to Islamic strictures on the role of women.
Mark Steyn, The [Un]documented Mark Steyn, Don't Say You Weren't Warned [Regnery Publishing, 2014, pp.371-372, boldface added]
Islam was never a religion of peace. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Caliph of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), 14 May 2015; apparently killed himself, and two children, with a suicide bomb when cornered by American forces in Syria, 26 October 2019.
We hate you, first and foremost, because you are disbelievers; you reject the oneness of Allah -- whether you realize it or not -- by making partners for Him in worship, you blaspheme against Him, claiming that He has a son, you fabricate lies against His prophets and messengers, and you indulge in all manner of devilish practices.
"Why We Hate You," ISIS official Dabiq Magazine, July 2016
Muslim clerics are threatening the lives of Jews from the pulpits of American mosques, and they are doing it with virtual impunity, say former US law-enforcement officials who worry that the rhetoric could lead to violent attacks.
"License to Incite," The New York Post, January 28, 2018, p.34 -- so much for the idea the Muslims are minding their own business but being widely victimized and assaulted in America. A new political crime has been added to Leftist demonology. This is "Islamophobia." The precedent for this term seems to be "homophobia," and both are about equally confused in their etymology. A "phobia" is a fear, so "Islamophobia" should mean "fear of ʾIslâm," as "homophobia," with "homo" used as a prefix for "homosexual," should mean "fear of homosexuals." This is not the way these words are used, however. "Homophobia" and "Islamophobia" are supposed to mean hatred of homosexuals, and of ʾIslâm, respectively, where this hatred is the morally (and perhaps legally) culpable expression of bigotry and hostility.
In "homophobia" this was already a tendentious reading of traditional attitudes towards homosexuality. Certainly there are people who hate homosexuals, and are even willing to commit violence against them, and it might be reasonable to imagine people fearing homosexuals, if they think that the innocent can be "converted" to homosexuality, or that homosexuality is a decadent and disruptive influence in society. But in general, "homophobia" is usually just applied to people who, largely for religious reasons, and without any particular personal hostility or tendency to violence, judge that homosexual practices are immoral. This is rarely addressed in an honest way in public debate, where "liberal" opinion is in the business of smearing traditional religion (or at least traditional Christianity). Instead, "homophobia" has become a political slogan and a slur, whose meaning and implications are left unarticulated, and which itself becomes an expression of hostility and contempt for religious traditionalists.
It is then ironic that "Islamophobia" should follow in the footsteps of this usage, taking advantage of its device as a political slogan and a slur, when in the modern world the source of some of the most intense persecution of homosexuals is from militant ʾIslâm. When the President of Iran, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, was invited to speak at Columbia University (at the time of his appearance before the United Nations), many of the anti-American elite were certainly hopeful of hearing a good diatribe against Imperialism and the United States. Unfortunately, a naive, or perhaps hopeful (or both), participant then asked Ahmadinejad about the status of homosexuals in Iran. The answer was that there are no homosexuals in Iran. An informed questioner would have already known that they are hanged as quickly as they can be identified, sometimes with construction cranes. The sentiment that homosexuals should be executed had also been previously expressed by a British Imam, without consequences, despite laws in Europe that could construe such an opinion as an incitement to a hate crime.
How absurd this can all get was revealed recently when a "gay pride" parade was cancelled in London, not because of anti-gay threats from Muslims -- which had actually been expressed -- but purportedly in "solidarity" with opposition to anti-Muslim "Islamophobia," which was said to be the moral equivalent of homophobia. Why a desire to assert solidarity between anti-homophobia and anti-Islamophobia should result in a "gay pride" parade being cancelled was left unexplained -- as, indeed, one would expect the opposite reaction, that the "gay pride" parade, with an anti-homophobia theme, would be combined with a parade asserting an anti-Islamophobia theme. Obviously, the fear of violence against the parade from Muslims led to its cancellation; but the organizers, in a sort of anticipatory Stockholm Syndrome, decided to dislay their political correctness by identifying with those from whom they feared violence. There are few more bizarre contortions evident in contemporary politics.
Ironic or not, the use of "Islamophobia" is an attempt to demonize those who actually do fear ʾIslâm, when such a fear is well justified by recent events and by the behavior of people in the Islamic world.
We took the liberty to make some enquiries concerning the ground of their pretentions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury, and observed that we considered all mankind as our friends who had done us no wrong, nor had given us any provocation.
Islam is the religion of fighting.
Islam was never a religion of peace.
"Why We Hate You," ISIS official Dabiq Magazine, July 2016
Jihad against America is binding upon myself, just as it is binding on every other able Muslim.
Anwar al-Awlaki (d.2011)
The conflicts, confusions, and deceptions in these attitudes came to a head with the proposal for building a mosque on Park Place, a couple of blocks from the site of the World Trade Center in New York -- the "ground zero mosque." We see the building on the site at right, with modest New York City police protection.
There would have been a right way and a wrong way to do this project. The right way would have reflected the concern of well-meaning Muslims to dissociate their religion from the 9/11 attacks and to express their dismay and mortification that the terrorists should have invoked ʾIslâm to justify the atrocities. The mosque as an expression of contrition for the damage done by vicious co-religionists would have at least been a step in assuaging the justifiable fears of all the targets of terrorism. Indeed, there should be such a mosque at Ground Zero, in conjunction with facilities related to the religions of all the victims of 9/11. There were, after all, many innocent Muslims who were killed at the World Trade Center. The project of the mosque should be making clear that the "martyrs" of 9/11 were the victims of the terrorists, not the terrorists themselves (for whom, of course, a "martyrdom operation" means a suicide attack).
The wrong way to promote the project, however, is the way it has actually been done. The leader of the effort, the Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, himself was on record as blaming the United States for the 9/11 attacks and refused to distance himself from terrorist organizations like Hamas. He and his wife have responded to objections to the project with accusations of "Islamophobia," by which they clearly mean, not reasonable "fear of ʾIslâm," but a bigoted and intolerant hostility for ʾIslâm. Thus, they give every indication of militancy and would leave any reasonable person with the impression that the mosque is not an attempt at reconciliation -- which would be ill served by calling most Americans bigots -- but is in fact a Jihad Victory Mosque whose purpose is to promote an Islamist agenda as close as possible to the place were militant Islamists killed almost 3000 victims. This makes the project an insolent gesture that both insults America and makes use of the anti-American "useful idiots" who are eager to cooperate in their own destruction.
Imam Rauf appeared on "The O'Reilly Factor" on 8 May 2012 and announced that he was no longer involved with the Park Place mosque, citing some kind of disagreements with other backers. It would be nice to know who those other backers are and what Rauf's differences were with them. Nevertheless, in the interview Rauf keep talking as though he were still planning the project. Perhaps he was just talking about his general goals. Bill O'Reilly mentioned that he had long ago said that if Rauf would appear on "The Factor" and renounce Terrorism, O'Reilly himself would take up a hammer and help build the mosque. Rauf brought along a drawing of a hammer, that he said was from his wife, and gave it to O'Reilly. I did not notice, however, that Rauf ever did actually renounce Terrorism during the interview. Perhaps my attention wandered and I missed it.
We need to begin to suspect the motives of anyone willing to use the term "Islamophobia." The Left admires militant ʾIslâm for its expressions of hostility to America, capitalism, "imperialism," and democracy -- i.e. for something that apologists want to deny that ʾIslâm actually represents. The Left, of course, has no respect for ʾIslâm as a religion or for its traditional religious or social values. All of these, from the subordination of women to the ferocious treatment of homosexuals, are actually anathema to elite political correctness. But opportunism trumps honesty, and this is as true for the Islamists as for Western Leftists. Both are pleased with the alliance, however Unholy to either ideology, as the old Arab saying (from the days of tribal vendettas) is well remembered -- "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."
We see this alliance in various examples of what can only be called wishful thinking, if not outright delusion. Thus, Hollywood personality Rosie O'Donnell, a homosexual herself, drew considerable attention to her assertion that Christian fundmentalists are as bad as Islamic terrorists (along with claims that the 9/11 attack was an "inside job," a favorite trope of the Left). Since "just as bad" doesn't seem to square with the absence of Christian suicide bombers, mass terror attacks, or large popular organizations that preach Christian Holy War through terror and combat, O'Donnell seemed more than a little out of touch with reality. Not as extreme but just as revealing was the speculation by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg that the perpetrator of the May 2010 attempted Times Square bombing was, "Homegrown, maybe a mentally deranged person or someone with a political agenda that doesn’t like the health care bill or something." It looked like Bloomberg was hoping that the bomber was one of his political enemies (i.e. opposed to socialized medicine), rather than the kind of Muslim radical that he turned out in fact to be. Bloomberg loudly supports the ground zero mosque.
Meanwhile, the City of New York attempted to prevent the rebuilding of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, which was actually crushed by the falling South Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11. Bloomberg did not speak out on this issue. Fortunately, the church persisted in its right to rebuild, and now a glorious design has been approved, which should be finished by 2016 or 2017. Adjacent to the 9/11 Memorial, which is open, bleak, and cold -- appropriately -- the church will display a warm glow from its translucent walls. With elements borrowed from Santa Sophia, the church stands in fitting contrast to any Jihad Victor Mosque that might be built.
The courageous Ayaan Hirsi Ali grew up in Somalia, lived in Saudi Arabia and Kenya, and fled an arranged marriage, and ʾIslâm, to the Netherlands. There she worked with Theo van Gogh on the movie about women in ʾIslâm that got him assassinated on the street. She was elected to the Dutch parliament before her citizenship was revoked, probably because of the embarrassment she was causing to spineless Dutchmen like Ian Buruma (a Professor of "Democracy and Human Rights" at Bard College), who has publicly said that Ali is as much a fanatic (for freedom, human rights, and tolerance?) as the Islamists (for murder, terror, and intolerance?). If Buruma means that this is good, he has not done a good job of clarifying his intention.
Similarly, Ali has been confronted in interviews with the proposition that crimes are committed as much by Christians as by Muslims. Since the common crimes of Christians are rarely framed in terms of a Holy War against infidels, or suicide bombings, Ali naturally found the proposition more puzzling than anything else; and we are left with the impression of a kind of desperation on the part of the interviewers to deflect blame from ʾIslâm and to create the kind of "moral equivalence" that the Left promoted, in relation to the United States and the Soviet Union, during the Cold War. Most people see through this easily, although, as George Orwell said, nothing is so preposterous that an intellectual will not believe it. People like O'Donnell, Bloomberg, and Buruma know that they have the "useful idiot" intellectuals on their side.
In 2014 American "higher education" disgraced itself when Ali was at first invited as a commencement speaker at Brandeis University and then "disinvited" when it was realized that she might criticize ʾIslâm, and had done so in the past. This was an opportunity for every other college in the country to scramble and invite her themselves. Apparently none of them did. All this was was after Theo van Gogh had been assassinated, after Malala Yousafzai had been shot in the head by the Talibân, after the girls had been kidnapped and sold into slavery in Nigeria, and after many other cases of violence and oppression against women in ʾIslâm. Since Brandeis said that Ali's views were "inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values," one could be excused some curiosity about what those values might be, since critics of Judaism and Christianity, sometimes vitriolic ones, have been invited to speak at Brandeis. The values, not just of Brandeis but of most other colleges in the country, are clearly those of cowardice, if not anti-American sympathy for the Terrorist enemies of America, civilization, and humanity. This what American education has come to.
Currently, the ugliest counter-examples to the good intentions of Muslims are the continuing attacks on Christians in Iraq, Pakistan, and especially in Egypt. Churches are looted, burned, demolished, and/or bombed. Christians in Iraq and Egypt are kidnapped and ransomed or tortured and murdered. Women and girls are kidnapped, forcibly converted to ʾIslâm, and "married" to Muslims against their will. Campaigns are conducted in Egypt that Christians families are holding their own girls "hostage" after they supposedly converted to ʾIslâm. The government of Egypt does not even allow churches to be built or repaired without its permission, which is effecively never given. Or, if it is, mobs often attack the churches, or even the whole Christian villages around them, during or after construction. On 24 November 2010, Egypt security forces actually stormed the St. Mary and St. Michael churches, which were under construction in Giza, occupying them and firing live ammunition at Coptic demonstrators, killing at least four. The official complaint was that a permit for the construction had not been obtained, although actually it had. Either way, a paramilitary attack, shooting civilians, is not the reasonable response to people building churches.
The Western Press pays little attention to these atrocities, both because the Western secular elite, in the intelligentsia, academia, and the media, is hostile to Christianity, and generally kills stories about the persecution of Christians, and because the political Left is effectively an ally of Islamic Fascism. Since Egyptian state security forces fail to protect Christians and often appear to cooperate in their persecution, including this recent case of shooting Christian demonstrators, while the government-controlled Press promotes anti-Christian hysteria, this puts the lie to claims about the general tolerance, respect, and good-will that ʾIslâm is supposed to show towards other religions. That is not the practice on the ground in most Islamic countries, whether the Western Press reports it or not.
On 15 April 2013, the Jihad struck a great blow against that hated symbol of American imperialism and oppression: the Boston Marathon. It also struck a blow against the idea that there is some sort of factual, moral, or psychological problem with fearing and suspecting American Muslims of nurturing and harboring terrorists. It now turns out that the apparently nice Muslim kid next door, who hangs out, smokes dope, plays on the soccer team, isn't named "Muhammad," doesn't even look like an Arab (as was all the case with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev) might nevertheless be building bombs and planning to blow up children who are watching a footrace. It is also a sobering lesson that the Chechens, whose main nationalistic complaint is with Russia, and with whom we fought on the same side in Kosovo, nevertheless harbor the same antipathy towards the "Great Satan" as other Jihadists. The Leftist "Islamophobia" narrative is exploded. Of course, since it was perverse, dishonest, and tendentious to begin with, there is nothing to stop it contining in the hands of the same blind anti-American ideologues who originated it.
Philosophy of Religion
Philosophy of History
The advent of Islâm, with Arab armies coming out of the practical equivalent of nowhere, was unforeseen and unforeseeable. It dramatically and permanently altered the history of both the Middle East and the Mediterranean world. Persia was eliminated for many years as an independent political or cultural force, and the revival of Romania was ended, with the Empire reduced from about 3/4 of its original extent, as restored by Justinian, to little more than 1/4, all that was left by the reign of Leo III.
ʾIslâm, 622 AD;
|THE HIJRAH, , ERA,|
|16 July 622 AD|
|28 April 1998 AD = 1419 Annô Hegirae|
Peace Upon Him
Although the Arabs tend to be thought of as desert nomads, the origin of Muḥammad was urban and mercantile. His home town of , Makkah (Mecca), became increasingly hostile to his attacks on polytheism and idolatry, until he was invited to the nearby Yathrib as a mediator -- later marked as the beginning of the Islâmic Era in 622. Soon the virtual ruler of Yathrib, which then became , Madînatu-n-Nabîy, the "City of the Prophet," or just , Madina (Medina), Muḥammad seemed to pose an even greater threat, and the Meccans resorted to military force. Since the results of this were inconclusive, and warfare was very bad for business, the Meccans decided that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Under a treaty, Muḥammad returned to Mecca and smashed the idols. Since the House of God, the , Kaʿabah, then became the goal of universal Moslem pilgrimage, the Meccans ended up doing very well out of the transaction. Muḥammad did not long survive this triumph and was buried in his house in Medina, around which the Prophet's Mosque was built.
At a time when the very existence of Jesus is often doubted, and that of Moses regularly taken as no more than mythic, the historicity of Muḥammad has generally been regarded as secure. Nevertheless, most of the information we have about Muḥammad comes from much later sources. Although Islâm would develop a rich tradition of historiography, this did not begin until the days of the Abbasids, and many of the later traditions that are reported about Muḥammad are rightly matters of scepticism. The full treatment of "higher criticism" in Islâm, however, has only come recently; and Muslims are often unsettled and "offended" (i.e. make death threats) when fundamental questions about the historical Muḥammad get asked. Not only do we get proposals that Muḥammad didn't exist but also strange assertions such as that the Qurʾân was originally in Aramaic and was patched together over many years.
A moderate and sober version of this revisionism can be found with In the Shadow of the Sword, The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire, by Tom Holland [Anchor Books, 2012, 2013]. The salient issue in this book is whether Muḥammad actually came from Mecca. The arguments, largely from the internal evidence of the Qurʾân itself, seem quite strong, but with one fatal flaw. If Muḥammad was not from Mecca, but from some locale rather further north, where was that? There is not a clue about a specific location, and never even a speculative suggestion from Holland. Yet if Muḥammad seems to have been involved in active international trade, as we are given to understand, and if he achieved enough fame to be invited to rule Yathrib, as he was, it is hard to understand how the center of his early activities would never get mentioned. If one objection against Mecca is that there is really little notice of the place in the Qurʾân, this same objection applies even more strongly to a place that, as it happens, is not mentioned at all. And if another objection to Mecca is that it is never mentioned by non-Islâmic sources, then, again, this applies equally well to the place that the Qurʾan does mention as the site of the Kaʿabah, namely "Bakka," which itself otherwise cannot be identified from any other source whatsoever.
So, while it is edifying that Islâm should receive the same kind of critical attention that Judaism and Christianity have endured, it is not clear that this really adds up to much. We may have questions, but clear and decisive answers are elusive, and the forms of revisionism, radical or moderate, are left with incomplete cases. A mature and confident Islâm could shrug off such things, as Christians must the constant assaults of atheists; but it is obviously a condition of our times that Muslims often react with fury and violence to skepticism, whether innocent, perceptive, or foolish. Until Muslims get a grip, "Islamophobia," as fear of ʾIslâm, will be fully justified.
The Islâmic Era accompanies the Islâmic Calendar, which is purely lunar and cycles through the seasons every 32 or 33 years, a convenient provision when fasting is required during the daylight hours in the month of Ramaḍân -- neither Northern nor Southern hemispheres are stuck with Ramaḍân at times of either long or short days.
|ʾAbû Bakr ʿAtîq|
|assumes title , Khalîfah, "Successor," to the Prophet|
|ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭâb||634-644|
|Romans defeated at Yarmûk, 636; fall of Gaza, Antioch, Persians defeated, al-Qadisiyyah, Mesopotamia falls, 636/8; Jerusalem surrendered, 638; Egypt invaded, 639; fall of Caesarea in Palestine, 640; Persians defeated, Nihawand, opens Iranian plateau, 642|
|ʿUthmân ibn ʿAffân||644-656|
|attacks in India, 644; Roman army destroyed in North Africa, but army withdraws, 647; Persia overrun, by 651|
|ʿAlî ibn ʾAbî Ṭâlib||656-661|
|ʿÂʾiša takes Basra, Battle of the Camel, ʿÂʾiša defeated, 656; Battle of Siffin, truce with Mu'âwiya, 657; ʿAlî assassinated with poisoned sword by Kharijite|
With the death of the Prophet, some Arabs thought that the House of ʾIslâm had ended. They were soon persuaded of the error of their ways, and the armies of united Arabia were turned on Romania and Persia, which were both exhausted from the longest and harshest war they had ever fought against each other. The Roman position in Syria and Egypt was also compromised by the Monophysite heresy of the locals, and its suppression by Imperial authorities.
The tolerance of the Arabs for any "People of the Book" seemed preferable, especially after the respect and consideration shown by the Caliph 'Umar when he entered Jersualem. The period of the "Rightly Guided Caliphs," who were all either fathers-in-law or sons-in-law of Muḥammad, however, ended in some confusion. The murder of 'Uthman was blamed by his powerful Meccan relatives on ʿAlî, who was unable to exert authority against them over all Islâmic territories. The "bloody shirt of 'Uthman" was thereafter considered a largely cynical ploy by the Omayyads to further their own cause, which soon did triumph at the death of ʿAlî, whose sons were either bought off (Ḥasan) or killed (Ḥusayn).
Part of the strategy of conquest was the founding of Arab garrison towns. These were called the , ʾamṣâr. The word in the singular, , miṣr, could mean "big city, metropolis, capital"; and the root verb could mean "to colonize," which seems appropriate for the circumstances. The same word, Miṣr, also meant "Egypt," with cognates in all the ancient Semitic languages to that effect. With the Arabs, the Semitic name would settle permanently on Egypt.
The ʾamṣâr might be called the "Fetters" of ʾIslâm, on analogy with the "Fetters" of Greece, since they helped a relatively small number of Arabs concentrate their force to hold a large empire -- although the original "Fetters" were to secure hegemony, not conquest, and so were mainly forts, not Macedonian settler cities. The ʾamṣâr were created to be exclusively Arab cities; but local women, freely admitted to the towns, soon altered their purely Arab character. Whether the conquerors had families back at Medina, or elsewhere, they did not resist taking local wives or concubines.
Soon, the Abbasid Caliphs themselves mostly would have Persian or Turkish mothers. Indeed, of the 37 Caliphs down to 1258, only three of their mothers would be free-born Arabs. Other mothers were Afghan, Khawarizmian, Greek, Slavic, Berber, Persian, Turkish, Armenian, and Ethiopian [Arabs, A 3,000-Year History of Peoples, Tribes and Empires, by Tim Mackintosh-Smith, Yale University Press, 2019, p.283].
These cities were ʾal-Baṣrah, (founded 636), ʾal-Kûfah, (639), ʾal-Fusṭâṭ, (641), and ʾal-Qayrawân, (670). Baṣrah was founded below the point where the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers conjoin. This was a strategic location where attacks could be launched north, east, and back west, if need be. Kûfah was on the Euphrates near the Lakhmid capital of al-Ḥîrah and thus was positioned to dominate the Arab tribes adjacent to Mesopotamia. This is where the first battle was with the Sassanids, in 633. Fusṭâṭ was in Egypt and is discussed at that link. Al-Qayrawân was founded a bit later, by the Omayyads, as part of the invasion of North Africa. It noteworthy that all these cities were founded inland. The Caliph Umar had told his generals to go nowhere they could not get by camel, and so for a long time the Arabs avoided contact with the sea, either to use it, or be vulnerable from it. This would change, but the locations of the cities didn't. This is especially striking in Egypt and North Africa, where the Roman metropoles, at Alexandria and Carthage, were taken but not used in the same way. Although the Omayyads were cousins of Muḥammad, they definitely had the greater status at Mecca and were originally quite hostile (except for ʿUthman) to ʾIslâm. The symbolic crowns in the diagram are for the Prophet and the Caliphs (, Khalîfah, "successor"). Only that for the Prophet is given with a nimbus, since for the Orthodox only he was divinely inspired and authoritative. The light blue nimbus for ʿAlî indicates the Shiʿite belief that he and his descendants were divinely inspired and authoritative also (the ʾImâms). Modern families that trace descent to the Prophet or his family, like Kings of Hijaz, Iraq, and Jordan, call themselves Hâshemites.
A curious feature of the genealogical diagram is the presence of an adopted son of Muḥammad. This is Zayd, the only living person besides Muḥammad himself named in the Qurʾân (33:37) and the first male to convert to Islam. If Zayd had lived, and his status affirmed, not only would he have been the obvious heir and successor to Muḥammad, but it is conceivable that he might have inherited the full mantle of prophecy from him. Instread, Zayd was killed in battle and predeceased Muḥammad, leaving only a minor son, ʾUsâmah. And the doctrine became accepted that prophecy ceased with Muḥammad, the "Seal" of the prophets. Islâmic tradition is that Zayd had actually been "unadopted," with verses in the Qurʾân explicitly abolishing adoption altogether and denying that Muḥammad was the father of anyone (Sura 33:4,40). However, when Muḥammad triumphantly entered Mecca, ʾUsâmah rode behind him, in a position reserved for his heir. And when the Prophet lay dying, and ʾUsâmah arrived, Muḥammad, no longer able to speak, placed his hand on the 17 year-old boy's head, in a gesture that could well have been a conferral of authority. Instead, the boy was pushed aside by the older Companions. When an edition of the Qurʾân was redacted by the Omayad Caliph ʿAbd ʾal-Malik, there is some suspicion that the verses were introduced to discredit the line of Zayd and eliminate the family of ʾUsâmah as a threat to the Throne. The Shiʿites had no reason to complain about this. And thus, if there had been a Party of Zayd and ʾUsâmah, it entirely lost its place in history. ʾUsâmah himself lived out his life, with heirs, but had been retired to a quiet life in Medina, like ʿAlî's son Ḥasan.
|THE SHÎʿITE ʾIMÂMS|
|First Cousin & Son-In-Law|
of the Prophet
& Fourth Rightly Guided Caliph
|Martyred at Karbalâ', 680|
|4||ʿAlî Zayn al-ʿÂbidîn||680-712|
|Schism -- followers of ʾIsmaʿil become the "Seveners" or "Ismailis," basis of Shîʿism of the Fatimids, the Assassins, and in India|
|Disappears, 878 -- becomes the "Hidden ʾImâm," basis of "Twelver" & Iranian Shiʿism|
The Shîʿah, , or "Faction" of ʿAlî held that he was the proper Successor to the Prophet and that only his descendants qualified for the office. Soon, he and his successors were also believed to have a unique divinely inspired understanding of the meaning of the Qurʾân. Thus, the Shî'ite office of , ʾImâm, became a source of doctrinal authority such as was missing from Orthodox ʾIslâm, which relied on tradition and consensus to establish Islâmic law and doctrine. The line of ʾImâms splits, however, when the Seventh, Ismâ'îl, is rejected by much of the community. The Seveners, nevertheless, had the most spectacular successes of Shî'ism in the Middle Ages. Today, the Agha Khan heads a Sevener community in India. The collateral line ended with the Twelfth Imâm, who disappeared in 878. Although probably kidnapped and murdered by the Abbasid Caliph, he was believed by his followers to have gone into deathless "Occultation," preparing to return as the "Rightly Guided One," the , Mahdî, to usher in the Apocalypse. In time, this Twelver Shî'ism was used by the Safavids to establish a durable national monarchy in Irân. In 1848, it had been 1000 Islâmic lunar years since the Occultation, and the return of the Hidden Imâm was widely expected. Various figures appeared as the Imâm, including the , Bâb ("Gate"), from whom the Bâbî and Bahâʾî faiths derive. The source of doctrinal authority in Irânian Shiʿism became an , Ayatollâh (in Persian pronunciation), the "Sign [σήμεῖον] of God," who was not individually believed to be the Hidden Imâm but was thought to communicate with him. The Ayatollâh Khomeini was able to use his position to overthrow the last Shâh in 1979 and establish a theocratic "Islâmic Republic."
|assumes caliphate at death of ʿAlî, moves capital to Damascus; Arab aristocratic government; attacks on Constantinople, 667/668-669; Siege of Constantinople, 674-677; attacks in India, 677|
|ʿUqba ibn Nâfiʿ founds Qayrawân, 663/4; reaches the Atlantic, killed & Army annihilated by Berber Kusayla, 683|
|Builds the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, finished 691/692; Romans defeated at Sebastopolis, 20,000 Slav conscripts, now the , Ṣaqâliba, desert, 692, stationed at Antioch; Conquest of Armenia, 693; silver , dirham (from δράχμα) & gold , dînâr (from denarius), first minted, 695; Fall of Carthage, 698, 705; Ḥassân ibn al-Nuʿmân al-Ghassânî defeated by Berber (possibly Jewish) prophetess ʾal-Kâhina (Dahiyah, Dahia, or Dhabba), driven out of North Africa, after 698; Kâhina defeated, Berbers convert, 702|
|Builds the Omayyad Mosque in Damascus, 706-715; Spain falls to ʾIslâm, end of Visigoths, invasion of India, 711|
|Siege of Constantinople, 717-718|
|defeat, 725, & explusion, 737, from India; defeated by Khazars, Ardebil, 730; but defeated and subjected Khazars, 737-c.740|
|Abbasid revolution, Omayyads overthrown and massacred (except in Spain); end of Arab empire, 750; Battle of Talas, 751, T'ang Dynasty Chinese defeated, but no further advance into Central Asia|
|The Omayyad Mosque,|
Two attempts were made on Constantinople. Flush with his power and successes, Muʿâwiya hoped to cap off his record of conquest with the ultimate prize. The siege of 674-677 was a desperate business, but its failure was finally sealed with the Roman use of a secret weapon, the "Greek fire" whose nature is still unclear but which functioned like a flamethrower -- something to use carefully under specific conditions, and which could never be used with ships under sail. Galleys in the Mediterranean, and especially in the confined waters of the Bosporus were just perfect.
The high water mark of the Omayyad realm was certainly under ʿAbd al-Malik and ʾal-Walîd, as North Africa, Spain, Transoxania, and part of the Indus Valley fell to ʾIslâm. Permanent monuments to the period were ʿAbd al-Malik's Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and ʾal-Walîd's Omayyad Mosque in Damascus. Since both these buildings are now some 1300 years old, it is an oversight of many treatments of history that they are not more celebrated as monuments from a period that is otherwise considered an obscure part of the "Dark Ages." Never before had Damascus been, and never again would it be, the center of such power and civilization.
ʾAl-Walîd's brother Sulaymân, riding the wave of conquest in Central Asia and Spain, thought it was time to return to Constantinople. He was also encouraged by a prophecy that the City would fall to a ruler named after a Prophet.
|The Omayyad Mosque,|
The Arab force avoided the Greek fire for a while; but two events conspired to foil the siege. A cold winter began to starve the besiegers, whose supplies were delayed, leaving the City, which could not be closely blockaded, well supplied. Then Christian sailors defected from the Muslim fleet, reducing its manpower and carrying intelligence. The Roman navy attacked, even while the Bulgars had been encouraged to attack the Muslim army on land. Greek fire did it again; and the Arab fleet, of an impressive 2560 ships (which may be exaggerated), beat a retreat, many ships burning, many captured by the Romans, and many others burned again in the ashfall of the 718 volcanic eruption of Thera -- whose 726 eruption the Emperor Leo I ironically interpreted as a judgment against the use of Icons. Only ten ships returned to Alexandria and other ports. The army, which had been some 200,000 men (which may be exaggerated) returned with only 30,000. Arab Caliphs never tried this again, although their ships would plague Roman waters and pick off conquests.
Meanwhile, Sulaymân, lacking any Jinn, had died, and his successor, his cousin ʾUmar II, began to vent his fury on his Christian subjects. Later sources claim that ʾUmar moderated his behavior after an exchange of letters with the Emperor Leo, who rebuked him. The reputation of ʾUmar was for his piety and moderation -- although these do not always go together in the history of ʾIslâm. It is not clear whether his subsequent assassination was the result of resentment over his tolerant treatment of Christians, or whether the rest of the Omayyads resented the moral rigor of his piety.
Later, ʾal-Walîd II is supposed it have shot a Qurʾân to pieces with arrows because of the verse "every forward potentate shall be brough to nought." The Qurʾân, of course, also prohibited wine, which ʾal-Walîd much enjoyed. His desert hunting lodges, some of which survive, contain images much more Roman than Islâmic in inspiration. The Caliph was himself deposed and killed, but then some thought him all too characteristic of the Arab aristocracy. The Caliph Hishâm's son Muʿâwiya was killed falling off a horse in a hunting accident. Hishâm said, "I brought him up for the caliphate, and he pursued a fox" [The Arabs, a Narrative History from Mohammad to the Present, by Anthony Nutting, A Mentor Book, 1964, p.93]. The dynasty's days were numbered.
As it happened, when Constantinople fell to the Turks, it was indeed to a ruler named after a Prophet, namely Muḥammad himself, Meḥmed II.
In a short time, hostility against the Arab regime of the Omayyads began to mount. The resentment of the non-Arabic second-class Moslems joined with the cause of the partisans of ʿAlî, questioning the legitimacy of the regime and agitating against it. Also, later Omayyads, like ʾal-Walîd II, sometimes seemed insufficiently interested in ʾIslâm.
When the storm broke, it was with astonishing ferocity. The entire Omayyad clan was exterminated. Only one prince, a son of our luckless Muʿâwiya, would escape to Spain, where an Omayyad regime endured -- although one brother of Muʿâwiya was protected by the Abbasids and another is said to have fled to India. Elsewhere, the rebellion succeeded completely, bringing to power distant cousins of the Omayyads, the descendants of Muḥammad's uncle ʿAbbâs.
All Moslems now became (more or less) equal, and when the capital shifted to Baghbad, the influence of Persian civilization began to predominate over Roman. The Arabs lost their preeminence, and soon it was the rare Caliph who was not the child of a Persian or Turkish mother. As the Abbasids later declined, Arabia itself slipped from their hold, to become once again a political, if not a religious, backwater. The Arabs had bestowed their religion and their language on the civilization of the Middle East, but true Arabian Arabs would be politically insignificant until the discovery of oil in the 20th century gave them a geopolitical status beyond what any other asset would warrant.
The defeat of the Chinese at Talas in 751 was probably still a function of the momentum of Omayyad conquest. However, the overthrow of the Omayyads immediately deflated this momentum, and no further advantage was taken of the Chinese embarrassment -- at a time when the T'ang Dynasty had seen its best days and was on the verge of decline. Curiously, there seems to have been one long-term consequence of the battle of a very different sort.
Reportedly, among the Chinese prisoners taken at Talas were artisans who knew how to make paper. What they were doing with a Chinese army in Central Asia, I don't know; but the significance of their craft was quickly recognized. Soon, the Abbasids founded paper mills in Baghdad and the industry quickly spread to Romania. Since parchment is more durable than paper, surviving books tend to be in that material; and the role of paper books in the Mediaeval book market is thus a matter of some uncertainty. That they existed, however, at least in ʾIslâm and Romania, is beyond doubt. Paper mills in Francia are first attested in Aragón in 1282.
The Arabic title , ʾamîr, is important. Originally this just means "commander" and would be used for a general military officer, or even for the Caliph himself, the , ʾAmîru l-Muʾminîn, "Commander of the Faithful." The military commanders then become governors, and so ʾamîr comes to mean "governor." The governors then drift into independence, and amîr then can reasonably be translated "prince." The first truly independent Amirs were the Omayyads in Spain, who were content with the title for a century and a half. Later many Abbasid governors drifted into independence, and the "Emirate" becomes the basic domain of independent Islâmic statehood.
A title that is mostly not seen for many centuries is , malik, "king." This is not really an Islâmic title of rule, though it can be a proper name and is very close to one of the Names of God, , Mâlik, "Owner, Master, Possessor." Every day, Muslims invoke God as the , Mâliku Yaumi d-Dîni, "Possessor the of the Day of Judgment" (Sûrah 1:4). Malik has largely been a post-colonial title, often an ephemeral one.
The old Persian word for King, however, , Shâh, occurred with some frequently in Iran and India. What becomes the classic Islâmic title of rule, , Sulṭân, "Power, Dominion, Authority," the equivalent in significance and ideology, of universal secular rule, begins with the Seljuks. Its effective universality, however, is shortlived.
Meanwhile, we see a title used for the Roman Emperor in Constantinople. The Arab historian ʾaṭ-Ṭabarî (839-923), in his Annales (edition in Leiden, 1883-1884), relates details of embassies in 845 between the Abbasid Caliph ʾal-Wâthiq (842-847) and the Amorian Emperor Michael III (842-867) -- or his Regent mother, Theodora (842-856) -- about a prisoner exchange.
The Caliph had been executing prisoners, taken in the sack of Amoricum in 838, when they refused to convert to ʾIslâm. Since the Romans had their own Arab prisoners, an exchange was suggested, and accepted.
The Roman ambassadors are called , rusulu Ṣâḥibi-r-Rûm, the "messengers of the Emperor of the Romans," one of whom seems to have been the future Patriarch Photius. See the discussion of the expression for "Romans."
So here the word for "Emperor" is (irregular or "broken" plural , ṣaḥâbah), which is familiar, as "Sahib," in countless movies about India and Africa. It is an important word in Arabic. Ṣâḥib can mean "owner, possessor, master, lord," etc., as it does here, or it can mean "companion, comrade, friend, follower" (comes in Latin). Thus, , ʾaṣ-Ṣaḥâbah, are the "Companions" of the Prophet Muḥammad. These are the most important personages in the history of ʾIslâm apart from the Prophet himself. Also noteworthy is the term , "messengers," where the singular, , rasûl, is found in the expression , rasûlu-llâh, i.e. Muḥammad as the "Messenger of God," which is used in the Confession of Faith.
ʾAṭ-Ṭabarî also reports that Muḥammad had written a letter to the Roman Emperor Heraclius, inviting him to convert to ʾIslâm, much as Aśoka had written to Hellenistic monarchs for a similar purpose. Heraclius is addressed as , Harqal ʿAẓîm ar-Rûm, whose terms are examined at the link.
|mythic and cultural height of Abbasid Caliphate; Idrîsids break away in Morocco, 789; first paper mill established in Baghbad, 794-795; great earthquake in Egypt, Alexandria & Pharos Lighthouse damaged, 797|
|moved to Samarra with Turkish guard|
|deposed, executed by|
|used North African troops to kill Turkish leader, but then deposed and executed by Turkish guard|
|Zanj Rebellion, 869-883; tried to ban alcohol; assassinated by Turkish guard|
|returned to Baghdad; suppressed Zanj Rebellion, 883; recognizes King of Armenia, 885|
|commanded suppression of Zanj rebellion, 869-883, recovers territories|
|deposed, blinded by Turkish guard|
|deposed, blinded by Turkish guard|
|under Shiʿite Buwayids, 945; deposed, blinded by Iranian hillmen|
|under Seljuks; 1055, grants title of Sulṭân|
from Seljuks, 1194
|1258, killed by Mongol Khân Hülägü; end of Abbasid Caliphate; Mamlûks set up Abbasid puppet caliphate in Egypt; continues until Ottoman conquest|
The height of the Abbasid period in legendary hindsight is the reign of Hârûn arRashîd. There are several stories about him in the (Book of) One Thousand and One Nights (Kitâb ʾAlf Layla waLayla, ), often with him visiting the public incognito. It is hard to know how much of a historical basis there is for most of those stories. It does lend, however, a magical air to the early culture of Baghdâd. The collection of stories itself seems to date in a definitely form from Mamlûk Egypt.
As noted above, Chinese artisans with knowledge of paper making are supposed to have been captured in 751. They were first put to work making paper in nearby Samarkand. By 794-795, the Wazîr of Hârûn ar-Rashîd, Jafar al-Barmak, founded a paper mill in Baghbad. The relative cheapness and convenience of paper over the alternatives (parchment, papyrus, stone, clay, bone, shells, ostraca) transformed literate culture, with the drawback, however, that the medium, like papyrus, is less durable than parchment, let alone stone or ostraca. The technology was soon exported to Romania, where we get notable developments in the literate culture of the 9th century, such as the introduction of "miniscule" script and punctuation -- things that are often noted as features of the Carolingian "Renaissance" but certainly derive from the innovations apparent in ʾIslâm and Romania.
Politically, the Abbasid era then becomes a story of fragmentation, as governors become autonomous and then rival powers arise.
|OMAYYAD AMIRS OF SPAIN|
|grandson of the Caliph|
Hishâm; escapes to Spain from
the massacre of the Omayyads
|Line continues with the|
Omayyad Caliphs, 912-1031
After the Abbasid overthrow and massacre of the Omayyads, Spain was a place where their authority was never asserted. Instead, the Omayyad prince ʿAbdu-r-Raḥmân, escaping the massacre, established himself and his line.
ʾIslâm had little trouble in Spain these days. Charlemagne pushed the Omayyads back from the Pyrenees and established the Marches there that grew into later kingdoms, but he was defeated at Roncesvalles in 778 and the heart of Spain was little effected. Eventually, in response to the Fatimid Shiʿite Caliphate, the Spanish Omayyads proclaimed their own Caliphate.
|THE AGHLABID AMIRS|
OF TUNISIA, ALGERIA,
|Ziyâdat allâh I||817-838|
|Invasion of Sicily, 827|
|Sack of Ostia|
& the Vatican, 846
|Ziyâdat allâh II||863|
|Capture of Malta, 870|
|Capture of Syracuse, 878|
|Ziyâdat allâh III||903-909|
|Conquest by the Fatimids, 909|
|THE ṬÂHIRID AMIRS OF KHURÂSÂN|
|Occupied by Ṣaffârids|
The Ṭâhirids were the faithful Abbasid governors of Khurâsân, only beginning the process of drifting out of central control when the area was seized by the Ṣaffârids. Ṭâhirids were also governors of Baghdad and Iraq under the Abbasids. For many years, Muḥammad continued as the nominal governor of Khurâsân while living in Iraq. His brother ʾal-Ḥusayn briefly returned in 876.
Egypt first drifted out of Abbasid control under its originally faithful Ṭûlûnid governors, while the Caliphate was distracted by the Zanj Rebellion.
|THE ṬÛLÛNID AMIRS OF EGYPT|
|Aḥmad ibn Ṭûlûn||868-884|
|Recovered by Abbasids|
The Zanj Rebellion (869-883) was a lengthy and terrifying business, which at one point threatened the existence of the Caliphate. "Zanj," , is a name for East Africa and for the black slaves taken from there, by capture or purchase. Thus, the slaves, or the people, could be either , ʾaz-Zanj, or , Zunûj (an irregular or "broken" plural). An individual of the kind is a , Zanjî. "Zanj" seems to be preserved in the Arabic name of Zanzibar, , Zanjabâr, which contained a great slave market and was the source of slaving expeditions into the interior -- right down to the 19th century, when the British, of course, stopped the slave trade and made Zanzibar a Protectorate in 1890.
The Zanj Rebellion against the Abbasids began with escaped African slaves, who had sought refuge in the historic marshlands of southern Iraq (as slaves in America could find refuge in the everglades of Florida among the Seminole Indians, who also fought their own wars, 1816–1819, 1835–1842, & 1855–1858). They were joined by other (white) slaves and, apparently, people who were just brigands.
Some scholarly opinion questions whether African slaves were predominant, or even present at all. The testimony of Arab historians apparently isn't enough to overcome the squeamishness of modern historians to admit that ʾIslâm enslaved and ferociously treated black Africans (something that, to ignorant or dishonest politically correct opinion, has only ever been done by racist Europeans), who in this case rose up with a force that made the rebellion of Nat Turner (1831) look like a strongly worded letter to the editor. At one point the Zanj actually captured and looted the major city of Basra and advanced to within 50 miles of Baghdad. Vast slaughter attended suppressing the Zanj -- Masʿûdî (c.896–956) says 500,000 dead in the whole rebellion. Larger numbers were suggested by other sources.
|THE SÂMÂNID AMIRS|
|ʿAbd al-Malik I||954-961|
|patron of Ibn Sîna (d.1037)|
|ʿAbd al-Malik II||999-1000|
|Conquest by Qarakhanids|
& Ghaznawids, 1005
|THE ṢAFFÂRID AMIRS|
|Overthrow Ṭâhirids, 873|
|ʿAmr ibn al-Layth||879-900|
|Sâmânid Occupation, 911-912|
|ʿAmr ibn Yaʿqûb||912|
|Sâmânid Occupation, 912-914|
|Ghaznawid Occupation, 1003|
Although Orthodox, the Ṣaffârids rejected the need for recognition by the Caliphal authority -- but the second amir was eventually recognized as governor of several Irânian provinces. Ṣaffârid power, however, was soon checked by the Sâmanîds, who themselves claimed descent from the Sassanid Shâhs and patronized the revival of Persian as a literary language in the epic of Firdawsî (940-1020), the Shâh-nâma (Book of Kings -- nâma is today used to mean "letter" or "paper," while Arabic kitâb is used for "book"). This is now regarded as the Irânian National Epic and is noteworthy for the dignity accorded to Zoroaster as a Prophet of God.
The book contains a striking dream image, of four men pulling at the corners of a square cloth, but not tearing it. This is interpreted to mean that the four men are the Prophets Moses, Zoroaster, Jesus, and Muḥammad, while the cloth is the Religion of God. That Zoroaster figures along with Moses, Jesus, and Muḥammad is an unmistakable clue that we are dealing with a Persian source. Otherwise, Muslims do not go out of their way to include Zoroaster, certainly not on equal footing, with the other three -- the Qurʾân mentions the "Magians," , ʾal-Majûs [22:17], but not among the tolerated "People of the Book." Also, as a statement about religion it is un-Islâmic and subversive in that it implies an equality, despite the conflict, between the four attendant religions. The Islâmic view is that only Muḥammad delivers an uncorrupted revelation, with his definitive version replacing that of the earlier prophets -- who in turn are accused of "corrupting" their own scriptures. Nevertheless, the origin of Islâmic Law in Abbasid Iraq seems to have involved many Persian converts, whose influence may be evident in provisions such as for a Zoroastrian practice of five prayers a day, where the Qurʾân only specifies three, and for the execution of apostates.
Both the Ṣaffârids and Sâmanîds eventually fell to the coming wave of Turkish regimes. The Sâmânids were thus the last Irânian domain in Transoxania, which in short order will merit the name "Turkestan," , Persian Torkestân.
The defeat of the Zanj seems to have allowed, if not exemplified, a revival of Abbasid power, which again spread as far as Egypt. Much of this work was conducted by the future Caliph al-Muʿtaḍid, whose father, and then himself, ruled as regents for the Caliph al-Muʿtamid. Fondly remembered in the Thousand and One Nights, ʾal-Muʿtaḍid nevertheless has his name misspelled, as "al-Mutasid" and his succession stated as "sixth Khalīfah in the line of Abbās," instead of as the sixteenth ["The Tale of Pearl Harvest,"
|THE IKHSHÎDID AMIRS OF EGYPT|
|Muḥammad ibn Ṭughj al-Ikhshîd||935-946|
|Kâfûr al-Lâbî, Regent||966-968|
|Conquest by the Fatimids, 969|
But then the old inertia took over again, and the Caliphs again lost their grip. ʾAl-Qâhir, ʾal-Muʿtaḍid's own son, would be deposed and blinded by his Turkish Guard, already of evil memory. In short order, three Caliphs would be blinded, perhaps adopting the more "humane" approach practiced on Emperors in Constantinople. This did not last long, as by 945 the Caliphate would be under the thumb of the Buwayid princes. The initial victim of this, ʾal-Mustakfî, would himself be deposed and then blinded by the Iranians. This would last until the arrival of the Seljuks in 1055, four reigns later.
Meanwhile, in Egypt, the Ikhshîdids began the process of drifting out of Abbasid control but then found themselves trying to stop the triumphant Fatimids, ultimately unsuccessfully.
|patron of ʾal-Fârâbî (d.950)|
|Antioch lost to Romania, 969|
|ʿAlî II & Sharîf II||1002-1004|
|Vassal of Fatimids, 1004|
|Fled to Romania, 1015|
|THE BUWAYID (BÛYID)|
AMIRS OF IRAQ
|ʾAḥmad ibn Bûya||945-967|
|Overthrown by Seljuk|
Great Sulṭâns, 1055
The origin of the name of Baghdâd, , is itself obscure. The dâd element looks like it is from the Indo-European verb "give," which we also see in Persian names like Mehrdâd, "given by Mithra." With the first element, it could be Middle Persian "god," bag (Sanskrit bhaga), or Middle Persian "garden," bâgh (also bâgh in Punjabi, which looks like a borrowing from Persian -- the "gh" is not a voiced aspirate stop, as in Sanskrit or Hindi, but the fricative that is indicated, but not always pronounced, in Indian, i.e. Hindi and Urdu, borrowings from Persian or Arabic). My guess is that "garden" is more likely right, so that the meaning is probably "a garden is given," rather than "given by God." But this can still leave us wondering whether the name already belonged to the site, and what it was about the site that appealed to the Abbasid builders. Ctesiphon is not far down the river, closer than Samarra is up river.
The complete genealogy of the Alids, Omayyads, and Abbasids is in The Cambridge History of Islam, Volume 1B, [edited by P.M. Holt, Ann K.S. Lambton, & Bernard Lewis, Cambridge University Press, 1970, pp.731-733]. Unfortunately, the diagrams contain no dates. Much the same information, with dates, is in The Arabs by Anthony Nutting [Mentor Books, 1964, p.202-203]. I have not found a complete genealogy of the Egyptian Abbasids. According to Bosworth's The New Islamic Dynasties [pp.7 & 9], the relationship of the two lines is uncertain anyway.
Now, however, I have received from Derek Whaley a genealogy of the Egyptian Abbasids which he has assembled, with a connection to the main Abbasid line. Much of this can be confirmed in Bosworth, and I provide it, with a couple of additions and corrections, here, formerly just in a popup, but now connected up with the rest of the Abbasids.
While the Seljuks rescued the Abbasids from the Buwayids, this meant nothing like the restoration of Abbasid power. Autonomy, at least, was restored in 1194 as the Seljuks passed into their own decline, but freedom for the Caliphs would be short lived. The next invaders, the Mongols, had not (yet) converted to ʾIslâm and had no respect or interest for the Abbasids. The wife of the Khan Hülegü was reportedly a Nestorian Christian, who advised killing the Caliph. Warned the calamities would follow if the Caliph's blood touched the ground, in 1258 Hülegü had al-Musta'ṣim beaten to death in a sack. After all the glories and romance of the Abbasid Caliphate, this was a particularly sad, ignominous, and humiliating end. It seemed like a body blow to ʾIslâm, which had lost its institutional and genetic continuity to the Prophet himself. Baghdad would not even be a capital city again until the British carved modern Iraq out of the Ottoman Empire, even as the previous prosperity of the country fell into neglected ruin, perhaps for the first time since the Sumerians.
But the Mamlûks, after a fashion, came to the rescue of the Abbasids. They reckoned that a figurehead Caliph in Cairo could be useful, as it would be. So an Abbasid cousin was recruited; and, after a while, his position even became accepted as legitimate. Even the Ottomans sought diplomas of political authority and titles from the Caliph. But eventually the Ottomans showed up in person, and Selim "the Grim" overthrew the Mamlûks and annexed Egypt. The last, the very last, Abbasid Caliph, al-Mutawakkil III, was shipped off to Constantinople.
There is no reason why the Abbasid line should not have continued in Constantinople, as figureheads for the Ottomans, as they had been for the Mamlûks, but instead they disappear from history. I do not know whether they died out, the Ottomans exterminated them, or they just faded into obscurity.
I have one source with a little more information. Tim Mackintosh-Smith says:
For the embedded quote, Mackintosh-Smith (who does not bother to number his endnotes and does not use diacritics in his text) cites "Jabarti I, p.37," which seems to mean the entry, "al-Jabartī, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān, ʿAjā'ib al-āthār fi 'l-tarājim wa-'l-akhbār, Beirut, n[o].d[ate]." in the bibliography [p.605]. So we are not given an English language source for this information. al-Jabartī (1753-1825) was a scholar and historian who was born, lived, and died in Cairo. Since his life was a couple of centuries after the Ottoman conquest of Egypt, he had to have been relying on earlier sources about the fate of al-Mutawakkil III.
That the Ottoman Sulṭâns somehow were the annointed successors of the Abbasids is the claim they made much later, whose mysterious origin and baseless audacity is only matched by its remarkable acceptance among Orthodox Muslims. When the title and office were abolished by Kemal Atatürk in 1924, we then have the equally puzzling lack of interest in the attempt to claim it by Hussein of Mecca, whose descent from the Prophet was otherwise acknowledged. Meanwhile, as Muslims in India had been accusing the British of undermining the Ottoman Caliph, perhaps because of the Allied occupation of Constantinople, Atatürk suddenly took all the wind out of their sails. The British had nothing to do with it, except that they had previously supported Hussein's revolt against the Turks.
Below we see ʾIslâm in the year 1000 AD. The days of secular authority of the Abbasid Caliphs are now gone. The Caliphs are dominated by the Buwayid princes. The center of Islamic power and culture has moved to Egypt, with the Caliphate of the Shiʿite Fatimids. The Fatimids even control the sacred cities of Mecca and Medina. Representing Orthodoxy, the Omayyads in Spain have also declared a Caliphate. In the East, we see the fateful advent of the Turks, with the Ghaznawids beginning their inroads into India. This will permanently introduce ʾIslâm into India, even as these Turkish states mean the disappearance of Iranian people from Central Asia and the penetration of Turkish peoples deep into Iran and ultimately Anatolia, whose modern name becomes the eponym of the whole people.
The Mamluks still had an Abbasid puppet caliph in residence, al-Mutawakkil III (they had long ago run out of new throne-names); the conquerors took him to Constantinople, now more usually called Istanbul, 'and the caliphate and the swearing of allegiance to it were cut off'. In the Ottoman capital al-Mutawakkil was at first treated with due respect; later, however, he was accused of embezzling religious trust-funds, and was sent back in disgrace to Cairo, where he died in 1543. [Arabs, A 3,000-Year History of Peoples, Tribes and Empires, Yale, 2019, p.399]
I have one source with a little more information. Tim Mackintosh-Smith says:
|OMAYYAD CALIPHS OF SPAIN|
|(ʿAlî ibn Hamûd)||1017-1021|
|(Yaḥyâ ibn ʿAlî)||1024-1027|
Note that the genealogy of the Omayyads here is included with that of the original Caliphate.
|THE MULÛK AT-ṬAWÂ'IF,|
REYES DE TAIFAS
|The Jahwarids of Cordova, Qurṭubah|
|Jahwar ibn Muḥammad|
|'Abbâdid conquest, 1069|
The map above shows 21 Reyes de Taifas in 1030, but at different times there were up to 39 of them. Only some of the more significant and durable are listed in the tables here. Already, both León and Navarre are larger than any Islamic state. Spain would never again be unified by a native Islamic state. This disunity was, of course, a golden opportunity for the Christian kingdoms; and the fall of Toledo to León and Castille in 1085 is significantly considered the beginning of the Christian Reconquista. The Moslem position was restored by the advent of the Almoravids, who then absorbed all the Taifa states. Toledo, however, which had been the capital of the Visigoths and was still considered the heart of Spain, was never recovered.
|ʾAfṭasids of Badajoz, Baṭalyaws|
|ʿAbdallâh ibn Muḥammad|
|Almoravid conquest, 1091|
|The ʿÂmirids of Valencia, Balansiyyah|
|ʿAbd alʿAzîz ibn abî ʿÂmir al-Manṣûr (Sanchuelo)||1021-1060|
|ʿAbd al-Malik Niẓâm ad-Dawla||1060-1065|
|Occupied by Dhu-n-Nûnids, 1065-1076|
|ʾAbû Bakr al-Manṣûr||1076-1085|
|Yaḥyâ II Dhu-n-Nûnid||1085-1092|
|Almoravid conquest, 1102|
|The Dhu'n-Nûnids of Toledo, Ṭulayṭulah|
|Yaʿîsh ibn Muḥammad al-Qâdî||1012-1018|
|ʾIsmâʿîl Dhu-r-Riyâsatayn aẓ-Ẓâfir||1018-1043|
|Yaḥyâ I Sharaf ad-Dawla al-Ma'mûn||1043-1075|
|Yaḥyâ II al-Qâdir||1075-1080,|
|Occupied by ʾAfṭasids, 1080-1081;|
Conquest by Leon & Castille, 1085
|The Banû Mujâhid|
of Denia and Majorca
|ʿAlî ʾIqbâl ad-Dawla||1045-1076|
|conquest by Hûdids, 1076|
|The Tujîbids of Saragossa, Saraquṣtah|
|ʾal-Mundhir I al-Tujîbî||governor,|
|The Hûdids of Saragossa|
|Sulaymân ibn Hûd|
|Sulaymân Tâj ad-Dawla||c.1047-1049|
|ʾAḥmad I Sayf ad-Dawla||1049-1082|
|Aḥmad II al-Mustaʿîn||1083-1110|
|Almoravid occupation, 1110-1118;|
occupation by Aragón, 1118-1130
|Conquest by Aragón, 1146|
|ʿAbd alʿAzîz ibn Abî ʿÂmir|
al-Manṣûr of Valencia
|Aḥmad ibn Ṭâhir||c.1049-1063|
|Muḥammad ibn Ṭâhir||1063-1078|
|Abbâdid conquest, 1078|
|The ʿAbbâdids of Seville, Ishbîlyah|
|Muḥammad I ibn ʾIsmâʿîl|
|ʿAbbâd Fakhr ad-Dawla|
|Muḥammad II al-Muʿtamid||1069-1091,|
|Almoravid conquest, 1091|
|The Ḥammûdids of Málaga, Malaka|
|ʿAlî ibn Ḥammûd||1014/15-1017|
|ʾal-Qâsim I al-Maʾmûn||1017-1021,|
|Yaḥyâ I al-Muʿtalî||1021-1022,|
|Idrîs I al-Mutaʾayyad||1036-1039|
|Yaḥyâ II al-Qâʾim||1039-1040|
|Idrîs II al-ʿAlî||1043-1046,|
|Muḥammad I al-Mahdî||1046-1052|
|Idrîs III as-Sâmî||1052-1053|
|Muḥammad II al-Mustaʾlî||1056|
|Zîrid conquest, 1056|
|The Zîrids of Granada, Gharnâṭah|
|Zâwî ibn Zîrî|
|Ḥabbûs ibn Mâksan||1019-1038|
|ʿAbdallâh ibn Buluggîn||Granada,|
|Almoravid conquest, 1090|
|Yûsuf ibn Tâshufîn||1061-1107|
|Crosses over into Spain,|
defeat of Alfonso VI at Zallâqa, 1086
|ʿAlî ibn Yûsuf||1107-1142|
|Tâshufîn ibn ʿAlî||1142-1146|
|Ibrâhîm ibn Tâshufîn||1146|
|Isḥâq ibn ʿAlî||1146-1147|
|Almohad conquest, 1147|
|THE RUSTAMIDS OF ALGERIA, 778-909 AD|
|ʾAflaḥ abû Saʿîd||824-872|
|Yûsuf ʾAbû Ḥâtim||894-895, 899-?|
|Fatimid Conquest, 909|
|The Hammâdids of Algeria, 1015-1152 AD|
|ʾal-Qâʾid Sharaf ad-Dawla||1028-1054|
|Almohad Conquest, 1152|
|THE IDRÎSID CALIPHS OF MOROCCO, 789-985 AD|
|ʿAlî I Ḥaydara||836-849|
|Yaḥyâ III al-Miqdâm al-Jûṭî||?-905|
|Tributary to Fatimids, 917|
|Annexed by Fatimids, 985|
In Morocco, under Idrîs I ibn 'Abdallâh, a great-grandson of Ḥasan, the son of ʿAlî, we get another movement. With his background, it is perhaps not surprising that Idrîs both claimed the Caliphate and established Shiʿism. He also founded the Madînat Fâs, the city of Fez. Eventually the Idrîsids fragmented and then fell to the Fatimids, who inherited the mantle of the Shiʿite Caliphate. Years later, an Idrîsid branch, the Ḥammûdids became one of the Reyes de Taifas of Spain.
The other two North African dynasties given here (perhaps a bit out of sequence) were successors to the Fatimids. These began with Zîri ibn Manâd, a Berber retainer of the Fatimids. The succession of the Zirids is given below. Zîri's son, Buluggîn, was appointed Fatimid governor of Ifrîqiya -- the Roman province of Africa, which then gave its name to the whole continent, often to the confusion of "Afro-Centric" education. As with the Abbasids, so with the Zîrids. They began to drift away into autonomy. In 1015, Bâdîs ceded the western part of the territory to his uncle Ḥammâd, after a falling out over Ḥammâd's shift in allegiance to the Abbasids. Thus we get a division between Algeria and Tunisia. The Fatimids didn't much worry about autonomy in North Africa, but they were outraged when the Amîr al-Muʿizz changed his own allegiance to the Abbasids -- even while the Hammâdids had returned to Shiʿism.
The Fatimids were too weak at this point (1049) to visit their own vengeance, so they directed instead two Arab tribes, the Banu Hilâl and the Banu Sulaym, to do the job for them (1051). The result was an unorganized pillaging, which mainly just ruined the countryside and hinterland. The Zîrids and Hammâdids moved down to the coast and built fleets. This was useful against the Norman conquest of Sicily but ultimately, by 1091, the Normans succeeded, ending the history of Islamic Sicily that had begun with the Aghlabids. Eventually the Almohads ended both regimes and unified North Africa again.
|THE FATIMID CALIPHS|
|Shiʿite (Sevener) Caliphate established in North Africa to rival Orthodox Abbasid Caliphate|
|Battle of the Straits, at Messina, defeated Romania, Rometta, last city of Romania in Sicily, falls, 965; Egypt occupied, Caliphate removed to new city, ʾal-Qâhirah -- Cairo -- 969|
|collateral line assumes throne; no longer considered to be Shiʿite Imâms|
|Apostacy of & Zirids, 1049; dispatch of Banu Sulaym and Hilali into Tunisia, 1051|
|dies natural death as Egypt passes to Yûsuf ibn Ayyûb Ṣalâhu dDîn|
When the Fatimids occupied Egypt in 969, it did look like they might be the heirs of all of ʾIslâm. The new capital founded in Egypt, ʾal-Qâhirah, , "the Victorious," although at the place of the Roman fortress of Babylon (of all things) and the Omayyad city of Fusṭâṭ, (Old Cairo), now becomes the classic Islâmic capital of Egypt, Cairo. While Fatimid control soon extended into the Levant and to the Holy Cities of the Hijaz, this proved to be the Fatimid high water mark.
In the Fatimid decline, North Africa broke away, the Crusaders arrived in the Levant, and the Fatimid succession itself passed to a collateral line that lost the numinous status of Shiʿite Imâm. The last Fatimid Caliph, a sickly child, was allowed to die a natural death by the occupier of Egypt, Saladin, before the regime was deposed.
|THE ZÎRIDS OF TUNISIA, 947-1163 AD|
|Yûsuf Buluggîn I||972-984|
|Bâdîs Nâṣir ad-Dawla||996-1016|
|Division of Tunisia & Algeria, 1015|
|Breaks with Shiʿism & Fatimids, 1049; invasion of Banu Sulaym and Hilâli, 1051|
|conquest of Sicily by Normans, 1061-1091|
|conquest by Normans then Almohads, 1148|
The story of the Zîrids has been detailed above. However, it merits noting again their origin as governors for the Fatimids, the Fatimid wrath they brought down upon themselves for converting to Orthodoxy, but then their survival of this until Almohad conquest -- although they did not actually survive the Fatimids.
The story of the Kalbî Amîrs of Sicily begins much like that of the Zîrids, as Fatimid governors. Their experience, however, would be rather different. They were the cutting edge of Islamic Conquest in the South of Italy. As such they were in close conflict with the Dukes of Benevento, the Republics of Naples, Amalfi, and Gaeta, the Papacy, and Romania. The Aghlabids had conquered Sicily between 827 and 878 but had little time to enjoy their triumph before being overthrown by the Fatamids in 909.
|THE KALBÎ AMÎRS OF SICILY, 948-1053 AD|
|ʾAhmad ibn Ḥasan||954-969|
|Rometta, last city of Romania in Sicily, falls, 965|
|ʾAbû l-Qâsim ʿAlî ibn al-Ḥasan||969-982|
|killed, Battle of Stilo, 982|
|appeals for help to Romania against rebellion, 1035|
|killed (?) by William Iron Arm de Hauteville, 1040|
|Normans arrive, 1061; capture of Palermo, 1072; conquest complete, 1091|
A few years later the Kablîs had to contend with an ambitious attempt by Constantinople to reconquer Sicily (1038-1040), under the command of the excellent general, George Maniaces. A fateful moment came when a Norman mercenary, William de Hauteville, met the Amîr of Syracuse in single combat during a sortee from the beseiged city. De Hauteville killed him and earned the sobriquet "Iron Arm." Syracuse was taken. The question I am left with is whether this Amîr of Syracuse was none other than the Kalbî Amîr of Sicily. The table lists the Amîr as Abdullâh, who is reported to have died in the same year, 1040; but Abdullâh is also said to have been the son of the Zîrid Amîr of Tunia, ʾal-Muʿizz, who had been sent to Sicily to help the rebellion of the brother of ʾal-Akhal, who in 1035 then appealed to Romania for help, before being assassinated in 1037. Abdullah was defeated by Maniakes in open battle at Troina in 1040 and fled the island before the events at Syracuse. I have been unable to clear this up, or find an alternative name for the Amîr of Syracuse. Kalbî fortunes briefly revived, however. Maniaces was suspected of treason and recalled. De Hauteville and other mercenaries revolted and began the process of ejecting Romania from Italy, with De Hauteville's own dynasty of Normans soon dominating and absorbing the older Christian states. This provided a brief respite for Islamic Sicily, with Romania abandoning the island in 1042. Successful on the mainland, the Normans turned their attention to Sicily, which William's half-brother Roger conquered between 1061 and 1091. By then, the Kalbîs themselves were gone, and the local Muslims, fighting among themselves, were not able to resist as long at the Romanian regime had against the Aghlabids. Sicily was restored to Christendom even as the Reconquista began in Spain.
|Invasions of India, 1001-1024|
|Malik ʾArslan Shâh||1116-1117|
|Seljuk Occupation, 1117|
|Ghûrid Occupation, 1150-c.1152|
|Khusraw Shâh||in Lahore,|
|Ghûrid Conquest, 1186|
|ʿAlî ʾArslan Khân||Great Qaghan|
|ʾAḥmad ʾArslan Qara Khân||998-1017|
|Overthrow of Sâmânids, 1005|
|Manṣûr Arslan Khân||1017-1024|
|Muḥammad Toghan Khân||1024-1026|
|Yûsuf Qadır Khân||1026-32|
|ʿAlî Tigin Bughra Khân||Great Qaghan|
|Muḥammad ʾArslan Qara Khân||c.1042-c.1052|
|Ibrâhîm Tabghach Bughra Khân||c.1052-1068|
|Naṣr Shams al-Mulk||1068-1080|
|Yaʿqûb Qadır Khân||1089-1095|
|Sulaymân Qadır Tamghach||1097|
|Maḥmûd ʾArslan Khân||1097-1099|
|Jibrâ'îl ʾArslan Khân||1099-1102|
|Muḥammad ʾArlsan Khân||1102-1129|
|ʾAḥmad Qadır Khân||1129-1130|
|Ḥasan Jalâl ad-Dunyâ||1130-1132|
|Ibrâhîm Rukn ad-Dunyâ||1132|
|Defeat of Seljuks,|
Qara-Khitaï Occupation, 1141
|Ibrâhîm Tabghach Khân||1141-1156|
|ʿAlî Chaghrı Khân||1156-1161|
|Masʿûd Tabghach Khân||1161-1171|
|Muḥammad Tabghach Khân||1171-1178|
|Ibrâhîm ʾArslan Khân||1178-1204|
|ʿUthmân ʾUlugh Sulṭân||1204-1212|
|Khwârazm Conquest, 1212|
Note that the Arabic "w" in Ghaznawid is usually pronounced as a "v," as it would be in Persian or Turkish.
The "Black" (Turkish , qara) Khâns displace the Sâmânids in Transoxania and begin the process whereby the region, now Turkestan, becomes predominately Turkish. Vassals of the Seljuks and then of the Buddhist Qara-Khitaï, the khâns survive until absorbed in the brief empire of the Khwârazm Shâhṣ
|SELJUK GREAT SULṬÂNS|
Tughril I Beg
|1055 frees Caliphs|
from Shiʿite Buwayids;
granted title of Sulṭân
|Destroys Roman army, captures|
Emperor Romanus IV,
Battle of Manzikert, 1071
|Malik Shâh I||1073-1092|
|Sulṭâns of Rûm independent, 1092|
|Malik Shâh II||1105|
|Muḥammad I Tapar||1105-1118|
|ʾAḥmad Sanjar||in Khurâsân|
|Defeat by Qara-Khitaï,|
driven out of Transoxania, 1141
|Maḥmûd II||in Iraq|
|Ṭughril II||in Iraq|
|Malik Shâh III||in Iraq|
|Muḥammad II||in Iraq|
breaks up, 1157
|Sulaymân Shâh||in Iraq|
|ʾArslan Shâh||in Iraq|
|Ṭughril III||in Iraq|
|Conquest by Khwârazm Shahs, 1194|
The Sejuks created a great empire in Central Asia and profoundly transformed the politics and even the ethnology (with the spread of Turkic peoples) of the Middle East. After being freed from the Buwayids by the Orthodox Seljuks, the Caliph bestows a new title on Ṭughrul Beg: , Sulṭân -- "Power, Dominion, Authority." This looked like it might divide the ultimate authority in ʾIslâm into secular and divine halves, between the Sulṭân and the Caliph. It might have, had the Seljuk domain maintained its unity and its power, which it didn't. The title of Sulṭân, rather than signifying unique and universal authority, henceforth becomes the title of choice for successor states. The greatest long term consequence, however, of the Seljuk state was the destruction of Roman power in Anatolia. There was no way of knowing it at the time, but the battle of Manzikert in 1071 was the end of Mediaeval Romania and the beginning of modern Turkey.
Under Alp Arslan and Malik Shâh there was considerable intellectual and cultural achievement, in part encouraged by their great Vizir, Niẓâm al-Mulk. This included the greatest of Islamic philosophers, ʾal-Ghazâlî (1058-1111), and the mathematician, astronomer, and poet ʿUmar Khayyâm (d.1122). Khayyâm's fatalism, although with its Islamic overtones, may owe more to an Iranian sensibility, as would what seems to be his worldiness and even cynicism ("Of all that one should care to fathom, I was never deep in anything but Wine," as FitzGerald translated it). Harsher times and considerably less intellectual daring were ahead.
The map below shows ʾIslâm at the death of Malik Shâh I (1092). The Seljuk Great Sultanate, so vast (at least in Asia) and formidable, will now fragment, weaken, and disappear. When the First Crusade arrives in 1098, neither Seljuks nor Fatimids are in any shape to resist it. There is some irony in this, since the Crusades were initiated in response to the Seljuk conquest of Anatolia, which was then partially recovered for Romania. The extent of Seljuk control over the Ghaznawids is unclear, but the Ghûrids are just beginning their rise against their suzerains, whom they will replace (1186). While the Ghûrids fall to the Khwârazm Shâhs (1215), their slave vassals in India found the Sultanate of Delhi. The Almoravids have crossed over to Spain, defeated the Christians (1086), and delayed the Reconquista. When the Fatimid vassals, the Zirids of Tunisia, converted to Orthodox ʾIslâm (1049), the Fatimids rid themselves of some troublesome Arab tribes by directing them to North Africa. This was a sterile revenge which gained the Fatimids nothing, but did contribute to an Arabization of North Africa.
|ʾAbû ʿAlî||Ghaznawid vassal,|
|Ḥusayn II ʿAlâʾ ad-dîn,||1149-1161|
Ghûr & India,
|takes Lahore, 1186|
|Atsız ʿAlâʾ ad-Dîn||1213-1214|
|Khwârazm Conquest, 1215|
|THE KHWÂRAZM SHÂHS|
|Ekinchi ibn Qochqar||Seljuk governor, 1097|
|ʾArslan Tigin Muḥammad Quṭb ad-Dîn||1097-1127|
|Qızıl ʾArslan ʾAtsız ʿAlâʾ ad-Dîn||1127-1156|
|Vassal of Qara Khitaï, 1141|
|Tekish Tâj ad-Dunyâ wad-Dîn||1172-1200|
|Overthrows last Sejuks in Iraq, 1194|
|Muḥammad ʿAlâʾ ad-Dîn||1200-1220|
|Conquest of Qarakhânids, 1212, of Ghûrids, 1215|
|Mengübirti Jalâl ad-Dîn||1220-1231|
|Thrown out of Transoxanian by Mongols, 1220-1221; Mongol conquest, 1231|
Jalâl adDîn was deposed without a major expenditure of Mongol effort. Greater effort came in 1256, when Qubilai Khan's brother Hülägü arrived with full Mongol force and the intention to conquer the whole Middle East. The long Abbasid Caliphate ended when Hülägü killed the last Caliph, perhaps at the urging of his Christian wife. The Seljuks of Rûm were subjugated, but then the Great Khan Möngke died in 1259. Hülägü returned to Mongolia to elect Qubilai Great Khan. This permanently redirected the main force of the Mongols, now against China. When the Mamlûks defeated a Mongol party in 1260, this was the practical end of Mongol expansion in the Middle East. Nevertheless, what was left was the massive state of the Il Khâns, which survived until collapsing in confusion in 1338. This was a brief ascendancy; and the great traveler Ibn Battuta, who visited the Khân Abû Saʿîd in 1327, at the flood tide of Mongol power, found upon his return from China and India, in 1348, that the realm had already disintegrated. Mongol successors, like the Jalayirids and the Black Sheep Turks, are followed on the Mongol page.
|THE ZANGID ATABEGS|
OF MOSUL, ALEPPO, & DAMASCUS
|Zangî I ʿImâd ad-Dîn||appointed by Seljuk Sulṭân|
Maḥmûd II, 1127; Atabeg
of Mosul, 1127-1146
|Capture of the County|
of Edessa from Crusaders, 1144
1154; sends Shîrkûh to
conquer Egypt, 1169;
Shîrkûh dies, command
passes to Saladin, 1169
Damacus & Aleppo
|ʾArslan Shâh I Nûr ad-Dîn||Mosul,|
|Masʿûd II ʿIzz ad-Dîn||Mosul,|
|ʾArslan Shâh II Nûr ad-Dîn||1218-1219|
|Luʾluʾ Badr ad-Dîn||Mosul,|
|ʾIsmâʿîl Rukn ad-Dîn||Luʾluʾid,|
|Mongol dominion, 1254, conquest, 1262|
Nûr ad-Dîn soon discovered that Ṣalâḥud-Dîn had his own ideas about governing Egypt, like ignoring orders to depose the last Fatimid Caliph (who then died a natural death in 1171). The insubordination of the subordinate soon was a practical independence that Nûr ad-Dîn could not contest before his death (1174). The tables were soon turned, as Ṣalâḥud-Dîn returned to take Damascus from the Zangids (1183) and then Jerusalem from the Crusaders (1187). The Islâmic Reconquista thus had passed to the Ayyûbids, as would eventually most of the rest of the Zangid possessions. What the Ayyûbids didn't get, the Mongol Il Khâns did.
The Jazîra, , "Island," here is the broad land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in Upper Mesopotamia. This was originally the site of the mysterious and intriguing Kingdom of the Mitanni in the Second Millennium BC.
|THE AYYÛBID SULṬÂNS|
Yûsuf ibn ʾAyyûb
|Battle of the Horns of Hattin, Capture of King Guy|
of Jerusalem; Fall of Jerusalem, 1187;
Third Crusade, led by King Richard I, 1189-1192
|ʾal-ʿAzîz ʿImad ad-Dîn||1193-1198||ʾal-ʾAfḍal Nûr ad-Dîn||1186-1196|
|ʾal-Mansûr Nâṣir ad-Dîn||1198-1200||ʾal-ʿAdil I Sayf ad-Dîn||1196-1201|
|Fourth Crusade, 1202-1204|
|1218-1238||ʾal-Kamil I Nâṣir ad-Dîn||ʾal-Muʿaẓẓam Sharaf ad-Dîn||Governor|
|ʾaṣ-Ṣâliḥ I ʿImad ad-Dîn||1237-1238|
|Fifth Crusade, 1228-1229;|
Jerusalem turned over to Emperor Frederick II;
remained in Crusader Hands, 1229-1244
|1238-1240||ʾal-ʿAdil II Sayf ad-Dîn||1238-1239|
|1240-1249||ʾaṣ-Ṣâliḥ II Najm ad-Dîn||1239, 1245-1249|
|1249-1250||ʾal-Muʿaẓẓam Tûrân-Shâh Ghiyâth ad-Dîn||1249-1250|
|Sixth Crusade, 1248-1254;|
St. Louis IX captured and held for ranson, 1250-1254
|Shajar ad-Durr, widow of Najm ad-Dîn||1250||ʾan-Nâṣir II Ṣalâḥ ad-Dîn||1250-1260|
|ʾal-ʾAshraf II Muẓaffar ad-Dîn||1250-1252,|
|Sulṭânate of Egypt seized by the Mamlûk Slave-soldier Aybak, 1252|
by Mongols, then seized by the Mamlûk Baybars, 1260
Edward the "Black Prince" of England (d.1376), no Crusader himself (his military distinctions were in the Hundred Years War against France), possessed bed-curtains that were embroidered with the exploits, not of Richard the Lionheart, but of Saladin. Dante, of course, could only put Saladin in Hell, but his place was with the "virtuous pagans," enjoying an Elysian existence with the likes of Plato and Aristotle, not punished like the Prophet Muḥammad himself.
What was it about Saladin? It was certainly what was seen as his nobility and humanity of character, on top of his remarkable military abilities. This made him an exemplar of the virtues of Chivalry, far more so that the violent and treacherous King Richard, who broke faith and infamously slaughtered the surrendering population of Acre. Richard's insult to the Duke of Austria resulted in his kidnapping on the way home.
If you had to lose your battle, Saladin was the kind of noble enemy by whom you would choose to be defeated -- unless you were a military monk, like the Templars or Hospitallers, who were all killed, or anyone with a history of treachery. A prime example of the latter, was Reynald of Châtillon, guilty of multiple crimes and betrayals, whom Saladin is said to have killed with his own hand. See the dealings of Saladin with Balian of Ibelin (d.1193). Saladin's character was widely recognized in ʾIslâm as well in Christendom, and every year men came from his native Kurdistan just to fight with him in his annual campaigns. There have been few men like him since, and perhaps none living today in either ʾIslâm (poisoned by Terrorism) or Christendom (where the cultural elite, following Nietzsche, despise Christianity).
Saladin set up his sons and relatives in several subsidiary lines, in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs (Ḥimṣ), Hamah (Ḥamât), Diyâr Bakr, and Yemen. Most of these were ended by 1260 by the Mamlûks or fell to the Mamlûks after Mongol conquest.
|Saladin the Victorius,|
by Gustave Doré (1832–1883)
Although originally ruling from Egypt, Saladin spent the last years of his life fighting in Syria and Palestine and was buried in Damascus, next to the Omayyad Mosque. The Ayyubid family still survives in Lebanon and retains Saladin's sword. His tomb is intact and open to visitors of the Omayyad Mosque. It was even visited by Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.
Under Saladin, Cairo replaces Baghdad as the intellectual center of the Central Islâmic lands. The great Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) and the Sûfî ʾIbn ʿArabî (1165-1240) both relocated from Spain to Egypt. This climate became the subject of the play Nathan der Weise (1779) by Gotthold Lessing (1729-1781). Saladin's toleration, however, had its limits, since he executed another Sûfî, Suhrawardî (1153-1191) for heterodoxy -- less of a danger for Islâmic mystics than for Christian, but still a problem.
The genealogy of the Ayyûbids that follows is from The New Islamic Dynasties by Clifford Edmund Bosworth [Edinburgh University Press, 1996, pp.70-73] and A History of the Crusades, Volume III,
Saladin's Tomb, The Omayyad Mosque, Damascus, 1970
The chart below includes the Ayyubid lines for Aleppo and Ḥimṣ (, Homs) that are not included in the table above. A larger popup table also includes the lines of Ḥamâh (), Yaman (Yemen), and Diyâr Bakr.
The continuation of the Ayyubids in Diyâr Bakr under the Mongols, until annexation by the White Sheep Turks, is covered in a separate popup. Dıyarbakir is today a city in Turkey, on the upper Tigris near where the Tigris and Euphrates approach each other before diverging courses.
|The Ayyûbid Gateway of the Citadel of Aleppo, 1970|
Today, the northern part of the Jazîra lies in Turkey and the southern part in Syria. A corner of it lies in Iraq northwest of Mosul. Edessa, long the principal city of the area and a Crusader County, is now the city of Urfa in Turkey.
It is not clear from the sources who actually used the title , Sulṭân. I have restricted it to the rulers in Egypt and Damascus. Other rulers are simply "Lords," except in Yemen, whose ruler Rucimen calls "King." As a matter of fact, every single one of these sovereigns employs the title ʾal-Malik, i.e. "the King" -- so I have at least used it for Yemen.
|THE MULÛK AT-TAWÂ'IF,|
REYES DE TAIFAS
|Aḥmad III Sayf ad-Dawla Hûdid||1145-1146|
|Yaḥyâ ibn Ghâniya||1146-1148|
|Almohad conquest, 1148|
|Manṣûr ibn ʿAbdallâh Qâḍî||1144-1147|
|ʾAbû ʿAbdallâh Muḥammad|
|Almohad conquest, 1172|
|ʿAbdallâh ibn ʿIyâd.||1145-1148|
|ʿAbdallâh ibn Faraj ath-Thaghrî||1145-1148|
|ʾAbû ʿAbdallâh Muḥammad of Valencia||1148-1172|
|Almohad conquest, 1172|
|The Banû Ghâniya of Majorca|
|Muḥammad al-Mussûfî ibn Ghâniya||1126-1155|
|ʾAbû ʾIbrâhîm ʾIsḥâq||1155-1183|
|Muḥammad ibn ʾIsḥâq||1183-1184|
|ʿAlî ibn ʾIsḥâq||1184-1187|
|ʿAbdallâh ibn ʾIsḥâq||1187-1203|
|Almohad conquest, 1203|
|MUWAḤḤID (ALMOHAD) CALIPHS|
OF SPAIN & NORTH AFRICA
|Yûsuf I ʾabû Yaʿqûb||1163-1184|
|Yaʿqûb ibn Yûsuf al-Manṣûr||1184-1199|
|Muḥammad ibn Yaʿqûb||1199-1213|
|devastating defeat by Christian|
Spain at Las Navas de Tolosa, 1212
|Yûsuf II abû Yaʿqûb||1213-1224|
|ʿAbdul-Wâḥid ʾAbû Muḥammad||1224|
|ʿAbdallâh ʾAbû Muḥammad||1224-1227|
|Yaḥyâ ʾAbû Zakariyyâʾ||1227-1235|
|ʾIdrîs I ibn Yaʿqûb||1227-1232|
|abandonment of Spain, 1228-1229|
|ʿAbdul-Wâḥid ibn ʾIdrîs I||1232-1242|
|ʿAlî ibn ʾIdrîs I||1242-1248|
|ʿUmar ibn ʾIsḥâq||1248-1266|
|ʾIdrîs II ibn Muḥammad||1266-1269|
|North Africa breaks up|
between Ḥafṣids, Marînids,
& ʿAbdul-Wâdids (Zayyânids)
The Almohads styled themselves Caliphs, something not always noted in historical summaries of the area. Since they claimed to be Orthodox, and the Abbasid line in Baghbad had not ended yet (though it would by the end of the dynasty), the precedent may have been the Omayyad Caliphate in Spain -- if there was even a concern with precedent. Instead, since the Almohads had no connection to the Spanish Omayyads, the claim to a Caliphate may indicate a rejection, characteristic of such a sect, that the Abbasids really were really Orthodox.
Almohad Spain ironically was then distinguished by intellectual brilliance and by intolerant oppression. Some of the most important Islâmic and Jewish philosophers of the Middle Ages lived during the Almohad period. The principal Islâmic figures were Ibn Bâjja (Avempace, d.1138), Ibn Ṭufayl (Abubacer, d.1185), and especially, Ibn Rushd (Averroës, 1126-1198). The great Jewish philosophers were Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) and Moses Nahmanides (1194-1270). Ibn Rushd was probably one of the two or three greatest Islâmic philosophers ever, and was certainly the most influential on subsequent thought in 13th Century Europe. Maimonides was definitely the most important Jewish philosopher of the Middle Ages. Both men suffered from the religious fanaticism of the Almohad regime. Ibn Rushd was the last Islâmic philosopher to rigorously defend Neoplatonic and Aristotelian principles that had come to be regarded as un-Islâmic. However, it was his skill as a physician that helped in his ultimate rehabilitation with the Caliph. Maimonides, on the other hand, fled the Almohad persecution of Christians and Jews all the way to Egypt, where he found refuge at the court of Saladin. Nahmanides, on the other hand, was already a denizen of Christian Spain as, in his lifetime, the Almohads lost most of the Spain, abandoned the peninsula, and then were even overthrown in North Africa.
|The Marînid Amîrs of Morocco|
|ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq I||1195-1217|
|ʿAbd al-ʿAzîz I||1366-1372|
|ʿAbd al-ʿAzîz II||1393-1396|
|ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq II||1420-1465|
|The Waṭṭâsid Amîrs of Morocco|
|interregnum, Idrîsid Shurafâ, 1465-1471|
|The Saʿdid Sharîfs of Morocco|
|Muḥammad I al-Qâʾim al-Mahdî||1510-1517|
|Muḥammad II||1574-1576, d.1578|
|died, battle of Alcácer Quibir, where Sebastian I of Portugal and Muḥammad II were killed, 1578|
|Conquest of Songhay, Battle of Tondibi, 1591|
|ʿAbdallâh||Marrakech, 1603-1606; Fez, 1606-1609|
|ʿAbdallâh||Marrakech, 1606-1609; Fex, 1609-1623|
|ʿAbd al-Malik ash-Shaykh||Fez, 1623-1627|
|ʿAbd al-Malik an-Nâṣir||Marrakech, 1627-1631|
|Muḥammad al-Walîd||Marrakech, 1631-1636|
|The ʿAlawid Sharîfs, Sulṭâns, & Kings of Morocco, 1640-present|
|The Ḥafṣid Amirs, Caliphs, or Sulṭâns of Tunisia|
|Seventh Crusade by St. Louis IX, 1270|
|ʾAbû Bakr I||1309|
|Khâlid I||1309-1311, d.1313|
|ʾAbû Bakr II||1318-1346|
|Marînid rule, 1347-1350|
|Muḥammad VI||1526-1534, 1535-1542|
|Ottoman occupation, 1534-1535; vassal of Charles V, 1635-1569|
|Ottoman rule, 1569-1573|
|vassal of Spain, 1573-1574; Ottoman conquest|
& direct rule, 1574-1705
|The Zayyânid or Ziyânid Amîrs of Algeria|
|Yaghmurâsan ibn Ziyân or Zayyân||1236-1283|
|ʿAbd ar-Raḥmân I||1318-1337|
|Marînid rule, 1337-1348|
|ʿUthmân II & ʾaz-Zaîm||1348-1352|
|Marînid rule, 1352-1359|
|ʿAbd ar-Raḥmân II||1389-1394|
|ʿAbd ar-Raḥmân III||1411|
|ʿAbd al-Wâḥid||1411-1424, 1428-1430|
|vassal of Spain, 1512|
|Ottoman presence, 1518|
|ʾAḥmad II||1541-1543, 1544-1550|
|Spanish occupation, 1543-1544|
|Ottoman conquest, 1555; Barbary States|
|French occupation, 1830-1871; French annexation; 1871-1962; Republic of Algeria, 1962-present|
These tables are based on both The New Islamic Dynasties by Clifford Edmund Bosworth [Edinburgh University Press, 1996] and the Oxford Dynasties of the World by John E. Morby [Oxford University Press, 1989, 2002]. Bosworth has all of the rulers listed, while Morby gives only the Marînids [p.183] and Ḥafṣids [p.185]. Morby has a clearer presentation, but Bosworth also has a brief discussion of the history.
With the Crusades, Francia begins to develop the seapower that enables it to return to North Africa. On the Seventh Crusade in 1270, St. Louis IX of France lands in Tunisia, formally as a preparation to return to Egypt but apparently simply at the self-interested urging of his brother, Charles of Anjou, who wanted to enlarge his Mediterranean empire. He dies instead and accomplishes nothing for Charles -- it is also the last Crusade.
After completing the expulsion of ʾIslâm from Spain, both Spain and Portugal become intent on expanding into North Africa. Various cities get taken and held for a time, and local rulers become temporary vassals, but nothing permanent gets accomplished and it seems impossible to establish a durable or extensive presence on the continent.
One durable consequence of these attempts was the result of the Battle of Alcácer Quibir. Sebastian I of Portugal was attempting to restore the Sulṭân Muḥammad II, nephew of ʿAbd al-Malik. Both were killed in the battle. ʿAbd al-Malik also died in the battle, but evidently from natural causes. The Arabic name of the site of the battle was , ʾal-Qaṣr l-Kabîr, "the Great Castle." This was "Alcácer Quibir" in Portuguese and "Alcazarquivir" in Spanish, with other versions. This was also called the "Battle of the Three Kings," , Maʿrakah al-Mulûk aθ-Θalāθa. The most serious consequence of the battle was the slaughter of the Portuguese nobility and the death of Sebastian himself, without heirs. This seriously degraded the status of the whole Portuguese state. After the brief reign of Sebastian's great uncle, a Cardinal, Portugal passed to Philip II of Spain, who had married Sebastian's aunt Maria. Since Sebastian's body was not recovered, to everyone's agreement, the legend grew that he was waiting, somewhere, to return -- like Frederick Barbarosa or the Emperor Constantine XI. The Portuguese would actually need to wait for the (illegitimate) House of Braganza in 1640.
It is not Europe but Turkey that actually enforces sovereignty over North Africa. Both the Ḥafṣids and Ziyânds come to an end with the Turkish conquest. Indeed, in the last stages, the local rulers sometimes relied on the Christians as allies against the Turks. North Africa thus became a theater of the larger conflict between Christendom and the Ottomans.
North Africa, however, was a long way from Constantinople. And as the Turkish reach slackened with time, local governors and princes began to run their own operations. This came to mean piracy and slaving. We enter the period of the Barbary States, a good three hundred years, when corsairs, from Algeria especially, were a plague on the surrounding seas, with ship after ship taken, and Christian crews and passengers sold on the slave markets. After 1604, when English pirates taught them Atlantic navigation, Barbary ships ranged as far as Newfoundland and even captured ships in Plymouth harbor. Between 1609 and 1616, they captured 446 English ships and sold more than 7000 English captives as slaves. Some such captives might be ransomed, but many others were lost the rest of their lives.
At right we have a sculpture, "The Greek Slave," by Hiram Powers , which is supposed to be a Greek women captured by the Turks and sold into slavery. At the opposite end of the Mediterranean, and after the relevant era, she would probably not be a captive of the Barbary Pirates, but slavery in ʾIslâm was not confined to them and there is nothing ahistorical or untrue about imagining Greek slaves of the Ottomans, as Powers himself imagined her a captive because of the revolt of the Greeks.
Such a sculpture might serve several purposes. One would be to publicize the reality of the Muslim slave market, whether in North Africa or elsewhere. It also does this with an example of the humiliating exposure of a helpless victim, which raises slavery as a sexual issue. We might see this as part of an extreme subset of the business, but it is not a falsehood. The sexual slavery practiced recently (2014/2016) by Boko Haram in Nigeria and ISIS in Iraq and Syria is a conspicuous revival of the practice -- the leader of Boko Haram publicly boasted of what he was doing.
At the same time, we can also see "The Greek Slave" as an opportunity to engage in a bit of mild pornography, with the image of the helpless women actually appealing to sexual fantasies. This could be called a form of "Orientalism," by which the East is fictionalized and sexualized by what are essentially Western desires.
However, since there is nothing inaccurate about portrayals of sexual slavery in ʾIslâm, accusations of "Orientalism" can be seen as a self-interested and dishonest way of deflecting and concealing attention from the realities of Islamic civilization. Nor, as noted, is this merely a matter of historical interest. In Nigeria, Iraq, and Syria, even as I write, women are being constantly raped by Jihadists, a situation that curiously seems to draw relatively little attention, and less ire, from Western feminists, whose own animus may be directed elsewhere.
Christian states were scandalized by the piracy and slave trade, but punitive expeditions were usually no more successful than they had been since St. Louis. An English expedition against Algeria in 1620 was a failure, but one in 1637 was more successful, seizing the city of Salee, with 300 captives freed. Nevertheless, it was easier to pay for "protection" and buy off the pirates (who also sometimes could be used as allies against other European powers). This was never more than partially effective, since, as the saying goes, once you pay the Danegeld, you can't get rid of the Dane (very similar kinds of pirates and slavers, as pagans, in their day).
The situation became especially infuriating to the new but distant United States of America. After paying $2,000,000 in extortion money, Thomas Jefferson had had enough and in 1801 sent the U.S. Navy and Marines against the city of Tripoli (actually just east of Tunisia, in modern Libya). This brought at least a temporary respite, and contributed a phrase ("the shores of Tripoli") to the Marine Hymn. The piracy and slaving did not really and fully end, however, until the French landed in Algeria, intent upon conquest, in 1830. They had a hard fight against the local charismatic leader, ʿAbd al-Kader, from 1832 to 1847, but they accomplished the task. Fighting there would often be in French Algeria, for which the legendary Foreign Legion would be created, but local pirates would no longer plague the seas or harvest Christian merchants and travellers for hostages and slaves. This is now entirely forgotten by people who want to blame Europeans, or even specifically Americans, for slavery (or "imperialism"), with the idea that they invented it just to oppress Africans. It is often actually Africans who must remind anti-American Americans that the slave trade originated with Arabs and Africans themselves. The following section throws yet another light on this.
|The Keita Kings of Mali|
|Mari Sun Dayâta|
(Mârî Jâṭâ) I
|Mansâ ʾAbû Bakr I,|
|Mansâ ʾAbû Bakr II||1310-1312|
|Mansâ Mûsâ I||1312-1337|
|Mansâ Maghan/Maghâ I||1337-1341|
|Mansâ Mari Dyâta/Mârî Jâṭa II||1361-1374|
|Mansâ Mûsâ II||1374-1382|
|Mansâ Maghan II||1382-1388/89|
|Mansâ Maghan III, Maḥmûd||1390|
|succession strife, ascendancy of Songhay|
The ʾIslâm that the Kings of Mali did want rigorously enforced was the prohibition of taking Muslims as slaves. Slavers from North Africa usually regarded all black people, Muslims or not, as fair game, and this became a matter of continuing annoyance, outrage, and reproach over time. The recent self-righteous expressing indignation over the European slave trade from the coast of West Africa usually forget that the trade began and long continued, in much the same volume, across the Sahara to the Arab north. There are few descendants of those slaves in Arab countries today, reflecting the harshness of their treatment, including the castration of the men.
Today this area suffers from an advance of the desert that has continued through all historical time. The Sahara has only gotten worse in the last five thousand years and more. The mediaeval kingdom thus enjoyed considerable rainfall and arable land now lost. The modern Republic of Mali, although encompassing some of the same territory as the old Kingdom, nevertheless has no direct connection to it and is named just in commemoration of it.
The fury and anaesthesia of Islamic Fascism have now come to historic and fabled Timbuktu. In late June, 2012, Islamist fanatics, such as the "Ansar Dine" group, have by pick-axes, hoes, and fire destroyed the tombs of the Mediaeval Muslim Saints Sidi Mahmoud, Sidi Moctar, and Alpha Moya in Timbuktu, previously called the "city of 333 Saints." This is consistent with the vandalism visited on cultural and religious artifacts by Jihadists, as most notoriously seen in the destruction of Buddhist art and monuments in Afghanistan; but it may surprise some that Islamic monuments, in this case ones designated by UNESCO as "world-heritage" sites, are now the target. But the Wahhabist inspired ʾIslâm of modern zealots regards the veneration or even commemoration of saints as un-Islamic, and they scruple at no death or destruction to enforce their particular fundamentalism.
Since their fire also burned priceless manuscripts in the tombs, they are also indifferent to traditions of Islamic literature and historiography. In short, they are savages and barbarians, in the fullest senses of those terms. Curiously, the books of Timbuktu had been burned before, when the city was taken by the Songhay ruler Sonni ʿAlî, in 1468. It is not clear what he had against the scholars and scholarship of the city, but, but both burning the books and killing many scholars, he certainly earned their hostility. We can discern no ideology in his actions, unlike the modern vandals.
|The Si & Askiya Kings of Songhay|
|Sonni ʿAlî Ber, the Great||1464/1465-1492|
|Burned the books & killed scholars of Timbuktu, 1468|
|Muḥammad I Ture|
|Muḥammad II Benkan||1531-1537|
|Development of slave economy|
& slave trade
|Muḥammad IV Bani||1586-1588|
|Defeat by Morocco,|
Battle of Tondibi, 1591
|conquest by Morocco, 1591-1592|
It is extraordinary that the modern world still has to deal with people like this. Much worse, such movements seem to be admired and supported by many Muslims, while Barack Obama, while taking some measures against them, continues to express complacency about the level of threat they represent -- while refusing to acknowledge the Islamic connection of their ideology, even as the alarm and fear they generate are regarded as a political crime, "Islamophobia," by the Left.
Mali was the scene of an attempted coup in March, 2012, and this unleashed the anarchy and fanaticism that now are in play in the north of the country. Many more tombs in Timbuktu are vulnerable to destruction; but the intervention of French troops later secured the situation for the time being.
The successor to Mali on the Niger River, Songhay had begun a good bit earlier, back in the 9th century. However, there really are no dates before the Si (or Sonni) dynasty, beginning with ʿAlî Golom (or Kolon) around 1275. Songhay is then a vassal of Mali. After that, things are still obscure, with few dates and even poorly attested names for the rulers until Sonni ʿAlî "the Great," who definitively established the ascendency of Songhay in the area. In short order Muḥammad I Ture Askiya founds a new dynasty, which continues until the Morocco conquest. The Moroccans had the advantage at this point of firearms, but their ability to hold the area was limited. Even the presence of a Moroccan governor in Timbuktu seems to have lapsed around 1660. The region fell into disorder.
The kings of both Mali and Songhay are from Clifford Edmund Bosworth's The New Islamic Dynasties [Edinburgh University Press, 1996, pp.122-125].
|THE MAMLÛK SULṬÂNS|
OF EGYPT, 1252-1517
|Baḥrî line, 1252-1390|
|Baybars I al-Bunduqdârî||1260-1277|
|Defeats Mongols, 1260|
|Fall of Acre, 1291;|
End of Outremer
|Pharos Lighthouse collapses|
after earthquake, 1303
|Baybars II al-Jâshnakîr|
|Burjî line, 1382-1517|
|ʾInâl al-ʿAlâʾî al-Ẓâhirî||1453-1461|
|Qâyit Bay al-Ẓâhirî||1468-1496|
|Ṭûmân Bay I||1501|
|Qânṣawh II al-Ghawrî||1501-1516|
|Ṭûmân Bay II||1516-1517|
|Ottoman Conquest by|
Selîm I Yavuz;
line of Mamlûks actually
continues until 1811
|THE ABBASID PUPPET|
CALIPHS OF EGYPT,
UNDER THE MAMLÛKS
ʿAbbâs or Yaʿqûb
|1517, Caliph removed|
to İstanbul by Ottoman
Sulṭân Selîm I Yavuz,
later credited with
Slave troops at first were Turkish, but then preference shifted, as it did with the Ottomans, to originally Christian boys from the Caucasus, especially Circassians. Although Cairo was a major terminus for the African slave trade, black boys were not used for this purpose -- they were generally castrated and used as harem eunuchs, or even at the shrines in Mecca and Medina. However, I have recently  read a newspaper article where the author apparently assumed that all slaves are black Africans and that therefore the Mamlûks were some kind of black dynasty. This is certainly the result of the propaganda and tendentious "history" taught in American "education," where slavery is uniquely of Africans -- and the unforgivable sin of white Christians, and Jews. At least the author could not assume that the Mamlûks had been enslaved by such Europeans or Americans -- but if that is the next step, it wouldn't surprise me.
Although the Mamlûk Sulṭânate formally and by reputation was non-hereditary, it does turn out that many of the Sulṭâns were sons or brothers of others. This can be seen in Bosworth's The New Islamic Dynasties [pp.76-78] and, rather more clearly, in the Oxford Dynasties of the World by John. E. Morby [Oxford, 2002, pp.189-190] -- note that a genealogy of the Egyptian Abbasid Caliphs is given above.
Mamlûk Egypt for many years was the principal state of ʾIslâm. The defeat of the Mongols in 1260 and then the establishment of an Abbasid line of Caliphs in Cairo gave the regime a respect and status that others could not match. The architectural monuments of Mamlûk Cairo are still impressive.
It is noteworthy that the great collection of Mediaeval Islâmic stories, the ʾAlf Layla wa Layla, , the Thousand Nights and a Night, i.e. the Thousand and One Nights, is to be strongly associated with Egypt and the Mamlûk state.
The "oldest substantial surviving Arabic version" of the Thousand and One Nights, according to Robert Irwin, is a manuscript held today in the Bibiothèque Nationale in Paris. This was acquired and used by Antoine Galland (1646-1715) to produce the first translation of the Nights into a European language, Les Mille et Une Nuits (twelve volumes, 1704-1717). Galland had been attached to the French Embassy in Constantinople in 1670, and between then and 1679 he traveled in the Middle East and is said to have become fluent in Greek, Arabic, Persian, and Turkish. In Constantinople he acquired a manuscript of the voyages of Sindbad, which he translated and published in 1698.
It was actually in Paris that Galland acquired a manuscript of the Nights. Its origin is unclear, although Irwin says that "It seems to have been put together in Syria in the late fifteenth century," which at the time, of course, was under Mamlûk rule [The Arabian Nights, Tales of 1001 Nights, Volume II, Nights 295 to 719, translated by Malcolm C. Lyons, with Ursula Lyons, Introduced and Annotated by Robert Irwin, Penguin Classics, 2008, p.x].
That manuscript begins a series of mysteries associated with the Nights. Part of the text apparently has been lost, and what survives contains only "thirty-five and a half stories." Nowhere does the manuscript contain the Sindbad stories, or those of "Ali Baba" or "Aladdin." No Arabic texts of the latter two have ever been found (and Galland's text of Sindbad seems to have been lost), yet they are included, with Sindbad, in Galland's translation. Thus called the "orphan stories," there is no explanation of where Galland got them.
In 1709, Galland is said to have used a Maronite Christian from Aleppo, Hanna Diab, who recounted many stories from memory, although none of those is identified by name. Whether this is where "Ali Baba" and "Aladdin" came from seems to be a matter of speculation, although I find it confidently asserted now. Some think that Galland even made up some stories, although Irwin says "he seems to have drawn on one or more Egyptian manuscripts of the Nights" [p.xi]. Irwin cites no evidence of such manuscripts, but it is not the last time that Cairo comes up as a sometimes mysterious source of Nights literature [note].
The Thousand and One Nights collection, including stories that must have been circulating for many centuries, is noteworthy for the social, cultural, and religious attitudes it reveals. While fiercely pro-Islâmic, with stories even about questions of Islâmic Law, and a very long and boring one about fighting the Romans (with nice touches like the notion that Christian incense is made from the excrement of Bishops), we find things that now seem rather un-Islâmic. For instance, there is a great deal of wine drinking, which seems to be casually accepted, even while its irreligion, strictly speaking, is noted.
Thus, in one story, a character swears off wine in order to purify himself for the Pilgrimage. In another story, a man discovers that his wife has been having sex with a gorilla. With a shocking touch of racism, this affair is said to have commenced after a previous black lover had died (which fits the surviving stereotype of black sexual prowess but betrays ignorance of the anatomy of gorillas, which actually have smaller genitals than humans). We might expect that the proper thing to do about this would be to kill the wife. However, the wife's unnatural lust is extraordinarily treated as a medical disorder, and a physician is employed to cure her, which he does. Besides the wine drinking, there seems to be considerable ease and interest in unsanctioned sexual activities, although happy endings always lead to marriage. Even those eunuchs who have been deprived of their testicles but not their penises boast of their ability to have sex with their mistresses. One real world consequence of that was the custom of only using black eunuchs, who typically had amputated penises, in the harîm.
Although the story of the Mamlûks is easily thought to end in 1517 with the Ottoman conquest, the amazing truth is that the Mamlûk garrison was not abolished by the Turks and that, as Ottoman authority weakened, Egypt ended up again under the de facto rule of the same "peculiar institution." Thus, when Napoleon arrived in Egypt in 1798, it was the Mamlûks with whom he had to contend. When he defeated them at the Battle of the Pyramids, he may not have stopped to think (so distracted by all the Egyptian stuff) that he had beaten victors over the Mongols. Nevertheless, this was still not the end of the Mamlûk story. They retreated up the Nile from the French and were again contesting the rule of Egypt when Muḥammad ʿAlî deceived, trapped, and exterminated them in 1811.
What did end in 1517 was the line of Abbasid Caliphs. The last was taken off to Constantinople. Ironically, this was al-Mutawakkil III -- the same title as the Caliph who was assassinated by his own Turkish guard in 861. It is not clear whether the Ottomans had any intention of continuing the line, as useful figureheads, as the Mamlûks had, for the Caliph and any possible descendants simply disappear from history. Later, when the Sulṭâns got to thinking about it, they claimed the Caliphate for themselves.
|The Hûdids of Murcia|
|Muḥammad ibn Hûd al-Mutawakkil||1228-1238|
|Conquest of Valencia|
by Aragón, 1238
|ʾal-ʿAzîz Ḍiyâʾ ad-Dawla||1239-1241|
|Muḥammad Abû Jaʿfar Bahâʾ ad-Dawla||1241-1262|
|Muḥammad ibn ʾAbî Jaʿfar Muḥammad||1262-1264|
|occupation by Granada, ?-1266|
|Conquest by Aragón, 1266|
|THE NAṢRID SULṬÂNS|
|Muḥammad I al-Ghâlib,|
|Muḥammad II al-Faqîh||1273-1302|
|Muḥammad III al-Makhlûʿ||1302-1309|
|Yûsuf I al-Muʾayyad||1333-1354|
|Muḥammad V al-Ghani||1354-1359,|
|Muḥammad VI al-Ghâlib,|
|Yûsuf II al-Mustaghnî||1391-1392|
|Yûsuf III an-Nâṣir||1408-1417|
al-Ṣaghîr, el Pequeño
|Muḥammad IX al-Ghâlib,|
al-ʾAysar, el Zurdo
|Yûsuf IV, Abenalmao||1432|
|Muḥammad X al-Aḥnaf, el Cojo||1445,|
|Yûsuf V ibn ʾIsmâl, Aben Ismael||1445-1446,|
|Muḥammad XI, el Chiquito||1451-1455|
|Saʿd al-Musta'în, Ciriza, Muley Zad||1454-1464|
|ʿAlî ibn Saʿd, Muley Hácen||1464-1482,|
|Muḥammad XII al-Zughûbî, Boabdil el Chico||1482-1483,|
|Mu.hammad ibn Saʿd al-Zaghal||1485-1490|
|Conquest by Castile & Aragón,|
end of Islamic Spain, 1492
The Alhambra (a redundant expression, since "al" already means "the") survives out of its time as a living fossil of Islâmic Spain -- with its name transported to a city in Southern California, where at least the climate is similar. Another echo of Islamic Spain lives in California, however, where the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel reflects, on a more humble scale, architectural elements of the Great Mosque of Cordova (which survived through its conversion into the church). The builder of the Mission, it seems, was from Cordova. The buttresses unique to California Missions, unfortunately, have not always preserved San Gabriel from earthquake damage. An image of San Gabriel has recently been proposed for the Seal of the County of Los Angeles, since the City of Los Angeles was originally founded in 1781 as an asistencia or outlier of the Mission.
In the summer of anti-American anarchist rioting and looting in 2020, on July 11th an arsonist got to the old church of the San Gabriel Mission. The building was gutted, but the walls are intact. Full restoration is possible. Vandalism against statues of Junipero Serra has been a feature of the rioting, and one statue in Golden Gate Park was pulled down, without protest from, say, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who actually attended the canonization ceremony for Serra at the Vatican. Hostility to Serra and the Missions, of course, is part of the general hated by the Left of European colonization in the Americas; and pride in Latino (now mutilated to "Latinx" or "Latin-Ex") heritage is immediately forgotten when activists occasionally remember that the Spanish were conquistadores who snuffed out entire New World civilizations, along with many of their people. Since a majority of American voters seem to have endorsed crime, anarchy, looting, and vandalism in 2020, this is not the end of the matter.
|Chinese suzerainty, 1409|
|Megat Iskandar Shâh||1414-1424|
|Śri Maharâjâ Sulṭân Muḥammad Shâh||1424-1445|
|last Chinese fleet visit, 1433|
|Râjâ Ibrâhîm Śri Parameśvara Deva Shâh||1445-1446|
|Râjâ Qâsim Sulṭân Maẓaffar Shâh||1446-1459|
|Râjâ ʿAbdallâh Sulṭân Manṣûr Shâh||1459-1477|
|Sulṭân ʿAlâʾ ad-Dîn Riʿâyat||1477-1488|
|Sulṭân Maḥmud Shâh||1488-1510, 1510-1528|
|Sulṭân ʾAḥmad Shâh||1510|
|Portuguese conquest, 1511; dynasty continues in Johor, 1528; Dutch, 1641; British, 1824|
One result of this was gradual and incomplete Islamicization, i.e. the previous civilization was not simply superseded, and the social rigors of Islâmic law only adopted imperfectly. This can be seen in the very names of the Sulṭâns of Malacca, which begin with Sanskrit, including titles like śri, râjâ, and maharâjâ, and shift over to Arabic and Persian, including titles like Sulṭân and shâh. With the last three rulers before the Portuguese, the Sanskrit titles and names have disappeared entirely.
The most remarkable name/title is undoubtedly deva, , "god." This is familiar from an early date in India but would be absolutely anathema in ʾIslâm -- its implication of polytheism would even be punishable by death under Islamic Law. Indeed, it only occurs once, and that with a ruler whose name otherwise seems to put more emphasis on the Indian elements.
At the beginning of the line of the Sulṭâns of Malacca, it was Siam that exerted influence. But then in 1409 the Chinese arrived. Admiral Zheng He and his great fleets, projecting the new power of the Ming Dynasty, established a base at Malacca, and the Sulṭân became a tributary of China. He even sailed to China to pay homage to the Emperor. A Chinese cantonment protected, stored, and shipped goods from China and those obtained on the further expeditions into the Indian Ocean. On nearby Sumatra, a Chinese governor was installed at Palembang after a Chinese pirate was defeated, captured, and sent back to China for execution. In northern Sumatra (near Acheh), troops were put ashore to install one king and execute his rival. A king in Ceylon was defeated and sent to China, but then the Emperor returned him to his kingdom (thought he evidently was unable to recover his throne). Some of Zheng He's detachments went into the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and even down the coast of Africa, perhaps as far as Zanzibar. This impressive exercise ended abruptly in 1433, when the xenophobic Confucian faction became dominant at the Chinese Court. China was cut off from the external world and began to lose its ability to deal with that world, either culturally, economically, or militarily.
Arriving next by sea and by trade would be the Portuguese (led by Afonso de Albuquerque), Dutch, and British, all of whom were also interested in secure bases for their activities. So Malacca became a European colony. Under the British, it became part of the Straits Settlements, which was a string of cities along, indeed, the Straits of Malacca, between Malaya and Sumatra. British Malaya was otherwise a group of client kingdoms, including some whose rulers were actually descendants of the Sulṭâns of Malacca.
In 1972 I was looking through some books that were on sale at the University of Hawai'i bookstore. Among them I found two small pamphlets that looked like children's primers written entirely in the Arabic alphabet. I had no idea what these could be, or what they were doing in Hawai'i. They were, however, published in Singapore by the "Malaysia Press Ltd." This was the clue; for, as I soon learned, and as is generally characteristic in Mediaeval Islamic converts, the Arabic alphabet is adopted to write the local language, which was Malay, , Melayu. This grew up as a trade language of Malaya and Indonesia,
|Shams ad-Dîn Shâh||?-c.1496|
|ʿAlî Mughâyat Shâh||c.1496-c.1530|
|Riʿâyat Shâh ʿAlâʾ ad-Dîn al-Qahhâr||c.1537-1571|
|appeals to Ottoman Sulṭân for aid against the Portuguese, 1563|
|ʿAlî/Ḥusayn Riʿâyat Shâh||1571-1579|
|Sultan Śri ʿÂlam||1579|
|Manṣûr Shâh ʿAlâʾ ad-Dîn||1579-c.1586|
|ʿAlî Riʿâyat Shâh Râjâ Buyung||c.1586-c.1588|
|Riʿâyat Shâh ʿAlâʾ ad-Dîn||c.1588-1604|
|ʿAlî Riʿâyat Shah/Sultan Muda||1604-1607|
|ʾIskandar Muda Makota ʿÂlam||1607-1636|
|Mughâyat Shâh, Iskandar Thânî ʿAlâʾ ad-Dîn||1636-1641|
|Ṣafiyyat ad-Dîn Shâh Tâj al-ʿÂlam||1641-1675|
|Naqiyyat ad-Dîn Shâ'h Nûr al-ʿÂlam||1675-1678|
|Zakiyyat ad-Dîn Shâh ʿInâyat||1678-1688|
|Zînat ad-Dîn Kamâlat Shâh||1688-1699|
|Sharîf Hâshim Jamâl ad-Dîn Badr al-ʿÂlam||1699-1702|
|Perkasa ʿÂlam Sharîf Lamtuy||1702-1703|
|Badr al-Munîr, Jamâl al-ʿÂlam||1703-1726|
|ʾAmîn ad-Dîn Shâh, Jawhar al-ʿÂlam||1726|
|Shams al-ʿÂlam, Wandi Tebing||1726-1727|
|ʾAḥmad Shâh, Maharâjâ Lela Melayu, ʿAlâʾ ad-Dîn||1727-1735|
|Jahân Shâh, Potjut Auk, ʿAlâʾ ad-Dîn||1735-1760|
|Maḥmûd Shâh, Tuanku Raja||1760-1781|
|Muḥammad Shâh, Taunku Muḥammad, ʿAlâʾ ad-Dîn||1781-1795|
|Jawhar al-ʿÂlam Shâh, ʿAlâʾ ad-Dîn||1795-1824|
|capital at Kutaraja captured by Dutch, 1874|
|Muḥammad Dawud Shâh, ʿAlâʾ ad-Dîn||1874-1903|
|Dutch conquest of Acheh, 1903|
Malay is now the national language of Malaysia (Bahasa Malaysia), Indonesia (Bahasa Indonesia), and Singapore (Bahasa Melayu, among others). The British and the Dutch introduced systems of Romanization -- e.g. "u" in Malaya was "oe" in Indonesia -- which now have been reconciled to a universal standard, with the Dutch idiosyncrasies eliminated. The use of the Arabic alphabet had been dying out, but not entirely.
As initially in Persian, it was necessary to introduce some extra letters into the alphabet to write all the sounds of Malay. These would be, most importantly, letters for the velar nasal "ng" and the palatal nasal "ny" (or "ñ"). A small problem arose with writing three dots over the "chair" for an "n" with "ny." In the final or independent position, the letter would be distinctive. Written initially or medially, however, the letter would look like the Arabic "th." Thus, in the initial or medial positions, the three dots for "ny" are written under rather than over the "chair." This, however, would then look like the Persian "p." Malay also needed a "p," so the "chair" of Arabic "f" was used, with three dots, for the "p." Otherwise, we get the variation that "g," borrowed from Persian, might be written with a dot rather than an extra line; and Arabic "w," pronounced "v" in Persian, could be left alone to mean "w" in Malay or written with a dot to mean "v." Otherwise, "ch" was also borrowed from Persian.
The way things are going in ʾIslâm, it may well be that the use of the Arabic alphabet will increase; but little of it had been left in public life.
Acheh at the northern end of Sumatra, just across the Straits from Malacca, was a larger and more durable realm. We see less in the way of Sanskrit names and titles, though there are some local names and references, as with Aḥmad Shâh (1727-1735), who is called Maharâjâ Lela Melayu -- i.e. "the Malay." We also see something very unusual in ʾIslâm, a number of female rulers.
In 1563 Sulṭân Ri'âyat Shâh of Acheh wrote to the Ottoman Sulṭân, in this case no less than Suleiman the Magnificent, requesting help against the Portuguese. This episode reveals the extent of the Oecumene of ʾIslâm, and the recognition of the common enemy. Turkey at the height of its power, and willing to help, nevertheless had some difficulty projecting that power as far as Indonesia. After a delay of some years, and not until after the death of Suleiman, an Ottoman fleet of 19 ships sailed from Egypt. Only two ships reached Acheh, however, the rest having been diverted to bolster Ottoman authority in Yemen. The aid finally delivered to Acheh was thus minimal and, as it happened, ineffective.
While it is tempting now to think of Indonesia as a unified realm, not only were there multiple sovereignties in earlier days, but their subjugation by the Dutch was a process that took some time. Thus, the last Sulṭân of Acheh held out for many years, and the Dutch conquest was not complete until 1903. We see much the same process in Bali, where Dutch conquest was not complete until 1906, amid scenes of great slaughter, something like 3600 Balinese falling.
Acheh entered the news late in 2004 with a great earthquake, magnitude 9.0, the largest on Earth in forty years, off the coast of Sumatra. This was bad enough, but the tsunami, , generated by the earthquake inundated coasts as far away as Sri Lanka and Thailand. The death toll overall is estimated up to 200,000 people.
We are thus unpleasantly reminded of the geological forces at work under Indonesia, where many great earthquakes and some of the largest volcanic eruptions in the geological record have occurred. For instance, the eruption of Mt. Tambora in 1815 put so much material into the atmosphere that it darkened the sky world wide and produced "the year without summer" in 1816 -- producing the cold and rains in Europe that enforced the leisure for Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein .
Not as large but better known was the eruption of Karakatoa (Krakatau, between Java and Sumatra) in 1883. This blew away the small island of Karakatoa itself, with a blast that was actually heard as far as 1000 miles away. There have been few such eruptions anywhere in historical times. Ice cores show a spike of volcanic gasses for 535 AD. It was long not known if this was one of the Indonesian volcanoes. They were the best candidates; but now it turns out that this must have been Mt. Ilopango in El Salvador, which would have been an eruption as large or larger than Tambora. Such eruptions did have some serious historical consequences. There is much comment in Roman records of the time about the dim sunlight of 536 AD and the failure of crops thereafter. The cooling may have precipitated the plague that arrived in Egypt in 541. The "Dark Ages Cooling" was thus another heavy blow against the diminishing Roman Empire.
Prehistorically, Sumatra may have been the place of the largest volcanic eruption in the history of the human species. When Mt. Toba erupted 74,000 years ago, it was perhaps 10,000 times the size of the Mt. St. Helens eruption in 1980. This could have caused a 5o Celsius (9o Fahrenheit) global drop in temperature around the world. The "year without summer" might have become months or years without summer. There is some evidence that this caused a "genetic bottleneck" in human evolution, which means a large portion of human beings may have died. This was before the advent of fully modern humans, about 30,000 years ago; so, literally, people like us have not seen its like. Islâmic Index
Philosophy of History
Home Page The Penguin edition of the Thousand and One Nights, which is annotated and introduced by Robert Irwin (b.1946), a research associate at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), and other things, is based on editions of the Arabic text published in India. These began, as recounted by Irwin, with an edition in 1814 and 1818, "Calcutta I," another in 1835, the "Bulaq" edition, and finally a four volume set, "Calcutta II," published in 1839-1842.
These were all based on manuscripts from Egypt. "Bulaq" is a suburb of Cairo, where the edition was published. Richard Burton characterized this as "ruthlessly mutilated" [The Book of The Thousand Nights and a Night, Volumes I & II, The Heritage Press, 1934, 1962, p.xi]. A manuscript in possession of Henry Salt (1780-1827), British Consul in Egypt, made its way to India for the "Calcutta II" edition. This itself had been compiled in Egypt from various sources, which included the Calcutta I text and the "Breslau Edition" from a German scholar, Maximilian Habricht, in 1824, which Richard Burton described as "wretchedly edited from a hideous Egyptian MS" [ibid.]. The publication in India began in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1837. Burton seems pleased with this edition -- "the least corrupt and the most complete" [ibid.] -- and used it; but after the full edition of the text was published, the manuscript went missing. This leaves the whole question of the origins of the Indian editions of the Nights obscure and mysterious.
The ultimate origin of the Nights itself is pretty mysterious. Irwin says that it all, "goes back to a lost Sanskrit original dating from no later than the eight century" [p.ix]. How we know this, he doesn't say; but there was a lot of Indian literature that sounds a bit like the Nights stories. But at some point, something of the sort turns up in Persian:
As it happens, we don't know what the Hezar Afsaneh was actually like, and Irwin can only speculate on its contents. However, we seem to be on the right track. The persons who figure in the framing story of the Thousand and One Nights, all have Persian names. The King is Šahryâr, . The stories are told to him by Šahrâzâd, , i.e. "Scheherazade." And her sister is little Dunyâzâd, . The names of the women both feature the Persian patronymic ending, -zâdeh, ; and the names of the two principals contain šahr, , "city" in Persian. Other discussion of these names can be seen at the patronymic link.
The first direct evidence cited by Irwin:
This marvelous Kitâb Ḥadîθ ʾAlf Laylah, , is missing a day, but it otherwise is getting very close. A telling feature of this reference is passed over by Irwin.
This page is said to be a "paper fragment." The original must have been a paper book. As it happens, we know about the start of paper making in Baghdad. But there are drawbacks. We have copies of the works of Plato, Aristotle, and the rest of Greek literature because the manuscripts are written on parchment, which is tough and durable. Paper is cheap and convenient, but it not as tough or durable. Even modern books have problems. It was only after the 1960's that many books began to be made with acid-free paper. The first edition I examined of the Greek text of Anna Comnena was not on acid-free paper. The pages were discolored and brittle. They could break as you turned them. This alarmed librarians. No one ever had to worry about that with parchment. Also, high quality paper, with a high percentage of rag in it, was durable -- but also expensive, defeating a major advantage of paper in the first place.
The Thousand and One Nights was clearly popular literature. It accumulated stories that circulated among public story tellers, and it even references such story tellers, and attributes some of its own specific stories to them. As such, cheap paper fits the bill. But it also explains why manuscripts of the Nights seem to be so few and so elusive. They just don't survive. Attempts have been made to identify separate Syrian and Egyptian recensions of the Nights, but there are no canonical texts for either, and the impression about Antoine Galland is that he mixed Egyptian stories in with his possibly Syrian manuscript -- for which there is vanishing small evidence.
A popular version of the Nights has been a French translation by Joseph-Charles-Victor (J.C.) Mardrus (1868-1949) in twelve volumes, 1899-1904. This was translated into English by E. Powys Mathers and published in 1923 and 1937. I have a four volume Routledge & Kegan Paul edition of this from 1986 (originally 1964 & 1972). Irwin says about it:
As it happens, we don't know what the "original" was. And Irwin can't say either. Mardrus, born in Cairo, said he had his own manuscript, but this has never turned up. Some think he was using the published editions, like the ones in India. If so, then it is reasonable to imagine that he "invented" some stories. However, as we have seen, these sorts of problems go all the way back to Antoine Galland, whose own sources are lost, obscure, or suspicious. So even if Mardrus is guilty of Irwin's accusations, none of that would be anomalous in the tradition of the Nights. Indeed, if we cannot account for the source of all Galland's stories, what is the complaint if we cannot account for all the sources of all Mardrus' stories? Indeed, we must resort to the idea of Galland's mysterious Maronite informant. But, unlike Galland, Mardrus was himself a native of the Middle East, a child and resident of Egypt and Lebanon; and so he might be counted as an equally legitimate source himself, no less than Galland's Maronite. I think Irwin overlooks this circumstance, or is uncomfortable with it.
For all we know, Mardrus heard stories in the Cairo marketplace. It was the place for it. At the same time, modern editions of the Nights have often suffered from "bowdlerization," i.e. the removal of "offensive," mainly sexual, material. Richard Burton certainly didn't do that, but then his translation had to be published by private subscription to avoid the obscenity laws. Mathers' first printing in 1923 was also by private subscription, but Mardrus and Mathers didn't touch any of the considerable "offensive" material in the Nights. Indeed, Mardrus is accused of adding to the homosexual material in the stories. It is a little hard to understand the motivation for that. Since homosexuality is always portrayed negatively -- it does violate Islâmic Law -- Mardrus cannot have been promoting it; and if he had some special personal hostility to it, one might wonder why he thought the Nights was an appropriate vehicle for that.
Mardrus is a bit of a mysterious character himself. Irwin introduces him as "a member of a Caucasian clan who grew up in Cairo" [p.xvi]. What in the world is a "Caucasian clan"? This could mean anything. Does Irwin deliberately muddle this lest we think of Mardrus as himself an informant on par with Galland's Maronite? As it happens, Mardrus was born in Cairo to a Catholic Armenian family, studied in Lebanon, trained as a physician, and moved to France. There were many Armenians in Egypt until they became unwelcome under the Nasser regime. "Catholic Armenian" can well mean members of the Catholic counter-church to the Patriarchate of the Great House of Cilicia. This began when the Armenian Patriarchs fled the Turks to Cilicia in 1062. That was even before the Turks broke into Anatolia after the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. A schism in 1737 resulted in the Catholic counter-church. The Patriarchs of both Cilician churches are now in Lebanon, and the Catholic one was already there in 1749. Thus, Mardrus may have moved to Lebanon because of a religious, if not family, connection there, in a heavily Francophile and Francopohone community.
So the case of Dr. Mardrus' Nights includes all the mystery, obscurity, and suspicion that seems to attend a lot of the history, scholarship, and publication of the Nights. Irwin says, "As a work of creative literature, Mardrus's version certainly has its merits, but as a rendering of an Arabic original it is almost worthless." Since we don't know what the "Arabic original" was, Irwin's judgment might not be true. What we do get with Mardrus is a full 1001 nights that include "Ali Baba" and "Aladdin," as the Penguin edition actually does not -- although it includes them as a supplement, translated from Galland's French. Thus, a certain "merit" of "a work of creative literature" is to produce something that actually looks like a complete, canonical text in its own right. For all we know, this is what Mardrus's mysterious source looked like.
A couple interesting points of comparison occur on single pages in both the Routledge and the Penguin editions. Thus, in the "The Adventures of Hasan of Basrah," in the description of the beauty of the Jinnîyah Princess Splendor, Mathers says, "her mouth is carnelian needing no cup" [Volume III, p.207]. The Penguin edition has, "Her mouth is like a ring of carnelian" [Volume III, p.216]. To me, the Mardrus/Mathers phrase doesn't make any sense. What is "needing no cup" supposed to mean there? I don't know. A "ring of carnelian," however, makes perfect sense. This may be an example of Irwin saying, "This 'translation' is extremely inaccurate." It looks like Mardrus may have misunderstood the words, the construction, or the idiom involved in the text. But I don't see a lot of things like that in Mathers. What it does mean to me is that Mardrus has indeed done a translation from an Arabic text, but has just made a mistake. We are just left wondering what text that was.
The same page in both editions raises a different issue about the translations. Splendor has between her thighs something that is stated in terms of "letters." In the Penguin edition it says, "They are four into five, and six into ten." This is footnoted as "A sexual reference." We are not told how it is. Mathers says, "And four by five, and six by ten will show it." This is footnoted, "The riddle: Kaf, which stands for twenty, and sin, which stands for sixty, together spell kus, a low word for the female parts." Wow. Anyone who knows their spoken Arabic or Hebrew knows that word.
Every letter in the Arabic alphabet has a numerical value, so the "riddle" of the numbers generates two letters. But we only get a real explanation of this "sexual reference" from Mathers, not from Robert Irwin, who is responsibile for the annotation of the Penguin edition. Looks like a bit of bowdlerization, in a case where Irwin cannot accuse Mardrus of making anything up. We are looking at the same numbers in the same context in the same story.
I am intrigued about the origin of this word. We are given it as two letters. Arabic roots typically have three consonants. "K" and "s" are only two. Of course, the "s" could be doubled; but there is no "kss" root in Hans Wehr. There is a "kys" root, from which we get , kîs, which can mean, "sack, bag, pouch, purse." This is not the cited "kus," but I heard the word as kis in Lebanon, with a shortened vowel. "Kus" seems to be how it occurs now in Hebrew. "Pouch," "purse," etc. look to be excellent euphemisms for "vagina," as "vagina" is itself actually a euphemism, of similar meaning, in Latin.
Another issue of scholarship concerns diacritics. Both the Penguin edition and the Routledge largely avoid the diacritics that are appropriate for Arabic, with a couple curious exceptions. I have addressed the Penguin usage elsewhere, noting that the text does indicate non-initial glottal stops, as with the Caliph "al-Maʾmun," and the Arabic letter ʿayn. These are not shown by Mathers, who does, however, always indicate long vowels, for instance "Hārūn al-Rashīd" [at countless places]. Between the two sources, we can derive a fair amount of information about the words, but not the diacritic underdots that indicate the "emphatic" series of Arabic consonants. Mathers also uses a simple "k" for Arabic "q." I can't imagine why, although I have seen it elsewhere, including in Burton. In this name from Mathers, we also see the failure to assimilate the "l" of the definite article to the "sun letter" of "r" in "Rashīd." This is typical in all modern transcription. I have explained the issue in detail above.
The trouble that substituting "k" for Arabic "q" can cause turns up at another point in the Thousand and One Nights. In the Mathers edition we have "the Tale of the Girl Heart's-Miracle, Lieutenant of the Birds" [op.cit., Volume IV, p.307]. The name of the "girl" of the story, Heart's-Miracle, is given as Tufhah al-kulūb [p.310]. This poses some problems in recovering the actual Arabic. The second word unfortunately looks like it is from the root klb, such as we see in the word , kalb, "dog," which is not what we expect. And dogs are unclean in ʾIslâm. Here the root is certainly supposed to be qlb, such as we see in the word , qalb, "heart," which is more like it. Anyone familiar with love songs in Arabic knows the phrase, , Yâ qalbî, "Oh my heart!" What we actually get here is , qulūb, the "broken" or irregular plural, "hearts." The full expression is , al-qulūb, "of the hearts." Kalb also has a broken plural, but it is not of the same form as with qalb, so al-kulūb is not as ambiguous as it might have been.
"Tufhah" poses its own problems. There is a root tfh in Hans Wehr's dictionary, but it means "to be little, paltry," etc. [p.95], with no noun of the form tufhah, let alone anything with a relevant meaning. What looks like a prospect is the root ṭfḥ, , "to flow over, overflow" [p.562]. We don't get nouns that really match the text, but , ṭafḥā, "flowing over, brimful, replete" (feminine), comes close. To be sure, this is not "miracle," although it gives us a nice name, "Overflow of the hearts." If we really want "miracle," there may be a problem. "Miracle" can be muʿjizah, , or ʾuʿjūbah, , neither of which looks remotely like "Tufhah." The root ʿajiba, , "to wonder, marvel, be astonished, be amazed," is productive of many words with related meanings; it is just that none of these will be relevant to the name we are given for "Heart's-Miracle." Either we have a mistranslation or an intervention by the translator to produce a name he likes better.
"The Tale of the Girl Heart's-Miracle, Lieutenant of the Birds" seems to be one of the stories that occurs in the Mardrus edition of the Nights but not in the Burton or Penguin editions, which are based on the Calcutta II text. So Mardrus has made it up -- a tribure to his skill as a story teller -- or it is based on oral or textual sources that cannot now be recovered.
Return to Text
ʾIslâm, 622 AD; Classical ʾIslâm; Note
The tenth-century Arab polymath al-Masʿudi refers to the Persian version, which was called Hezar Afsaneh [ ], 'A Thousand Stories.' [ibid.]
A ninth-century paper fragment of the opening page of the Nights survives (its title is Kitab Hadith Alf Layla, or 'The Book of the Tale of One Thousand Nights') but, though it features an early version of Sharazad telling stories to her sister, the plot device of telling stories to prolong life does not appear. [p.x]
This 'translation' is extremely inaccurate and some of the stories seem to have been invented by Mardrus. The prose was embellished in a fin-de-siècle manner. Though it is perhaps easier to read than the English of [Edward William] Lane [1801-1876] or [Richard] Burton, some readers may find it rather sickly. As a work of creative literature, Mardrus's version certainly has its merits, but as a rendering of an Arabic original it is almost worthless. [p.xvi-xvii]
YEMEN, 1230 BC-1962 AD
Philosophy of History
The first direct evidence cited by Irwin:
Return to Text
|The State of at-Tababiʿa|
|al-Harith ar-Raish||1230-1105 BC|
|Afrikis ibn Abrahah||922-758|
|al-ʿAbd Dhu al-Adhʿar||758-733|
|al-Hedhed ibn Sharahil||733-658|
|Balkis (Bilqis) bint al-Hedhed "Queen of Sheba"?||658-638|
|Tubba' ibn al-Akran||461-408|
|al-Akran ibn Abu Malik||338-175|
|Assʿad Abu Karib||140-20|
|Hassan ibn Tubba'||20 BC-50 AD|
|ʿAmr ibn Tubba'||50-113|
|Tubba' ibn Hassan||187-265|
|Marthid ibn ʿAbid||265-306|
|Waliʿa ibn Marthid||306-343|
|Abrahah ibn as-Sabbah||343-416|
|Sahban ibn Muhrath||416-431|
|Hassan ibn ʿAmr ibn Tubbaʾ||431-488|
|Yusuf Ashʿar Dhu-Nuwas||King of Himyar, 515-525|
|convert to Judaism; Ethiopian invasion, 525-c.533|
|Ethiopian rule, 533-575; to Himyar, 575-577; to Persia, 577-631; to ʾIslâm, 629|
Yemen is an ancient and noteworthy center of civilization. It was long off the beaten track, at the entrance to the Red Sea, and rarely the focus, or the target, of major political events; but it certainly deserves more attention than it customarily receives. For instance, the recent and enormous (911 pages) Ancient History, from the First Civilizations to the Renaissance, by J.M. Roberts [Duncan Baird Publishers, London, 2004], contains nothing whatsoever about Yemen, and neither the name, nor "Saba," nor "Sheba," even appear in the index. This is a grotesque but not unusual oversight.
If there were no ruins or no records, this neglect might be expected; but there are both. South Arabia, indeed, has its own derived version of the alphabet, which survives today in its Ethiopian version. As for inscriptions and literature, Joan Copeland Biella says, in her Dictionary of Old South Arabic [Harvard Semitic Museum Studies 25, 1982]:
....thousands of texts in Sabaean, Minnaean, Qatabanian and Ḥaḍramitic have been published, ranging in type from brief graffiti to substantial historical annals. [p.vii]
One would never know this from treatments of ancient history like Roberts' book.
The ruins are extensive and include unique structures, like the extraordinary Maʾrib Dam (Sadd Maʾrib, , in Arabic), built from cut stone in the Wadî Sadd (or Wadi Saba'). This was 1,800 feet long and was not alone, except in scale and fame, in the irrigation of the region. Much is left of the structure, including its spillway system.
The Maʾrib Dam should have rated as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Its final and catastrophic break, however, which entered into Islâmic legend, represented the definitive decline of the area and also the uncertainties of Yemeni history, since the event cannot be well dated -- just between the 5th and the 7th centuries AD.
The name of Yemen itself is of interest. The Romans called the area Arabia Felix, "happy" or "fortunate" Arabia, in contrast to Arabia Deserta, "desert" Arabia, and Arabia Petraea, "rocky" Arabia (where the Romans annexed the remarkable city of Petra). As it happens, Yemen in Arabic, , ʾal-Yaman, is from a verb, , yamana, that can mean "to be lucky, fortunate." Yaman can also mean "right side or hand" and "south." This can be contrasted with shâm, which can mean "north," "Syria," and "Damascus" but from a root that can also mean "evil omen," "ominous," "calamity," and "misfortune." The actual word for left in Arabic is different, shamâl -- which can also mean north (we don't get the sinister associations with this root). Indeed, if one faces east, the south is on one's right and the north on the left. And Arabic is not the only language in which right (dexter) is lucky and left (sinister) threatening.
For a long time, the only proper history book in print that I have found for South Arabia is Robert G. Hoyland's Arabia and the Arabs, From the Bronze Age to the Coming of Islam [Routledge, 2001]. For the historiography of South Arabia, he says:
....we are equipped with some ten thousand inscriptions. Unfortunately, however, these are not dated according to an absolute era until the first century AD and they almost never allude to events outside south Arabia. Scholars have tried to arrange them in chronological order according to the style of their script, but with hardly any firmly dated examples to provide a fixed point this method can offer no more than a rough indication. [p.36]
Now there is a new book, Arabs, A 3,000-Year History of Peoples, Tribes and Empires, by Tim Mackintosh-Smith [Yale University Press, 2019]. Mackintosh-Smith has mainly been a travel writer, and he is someone who actually lives in Yemen and is apparently fluent in Arabic and familiar with classical Arabic literature. One of his travel books is already about Yemen, and occasionally we get the aside about what he can see out his window in Sanaʿa, , Ṣanʿāʾ. Thus, no only do we not get the neglect of J.M. Roberts, but Mackintosh-Smith is literally on the ground where it counts. He has seen the Maʾrib Dam and knows the literature that refers to it.
|Kingdom of Sabaʿ/Sheba|
|Samahu ʿAli||c.750 BC|
|Yathiʿ-amar Watar I|
|Yadaʿ-il Bayin I|
|Yathiʿ-amar Watar II|
|Dhamar ʿAli Watar|
|Samahu ʿAli Yanif I|
|Yathiʿ-amar Bayin I|
|Kariba-il Watar I||c.450 BC|
|Samahu ʿAli Darih|
|Kariba-il Watar II|
|Karib-il Watar IV|
|Karib-il Watar V|
|Dhamar ʿAli Darih|
|Karib-il Watar Yuhan'im|
|Yarim Ayman I||c.80-c.60 BC|
|Yarim Ayman II||c.35-c.25|
|Shaʿirum Awtar||c.25 BC-?|
|Yazil Bayin||c.25 BC-?|
|Ilasharah Yahdub||c.25 BC-?|
|Kingdom of Sabaʿ/Sheba|
|Yadaʿil Yanif ben Kariba-il||c.755-c.740|
|Samahu ʿAli Darih I ben Yadaʿil Yanuf||c.740-715|
|Yathiʿ-amar Bayin I|
|Dhamar ʿAli I|
|Kariba-il Watar I||c.685-c.675|
|tribute paid to Assyria, 685|
|Samahu ʿAli I|
|Yadaʿil Darih I|
|Samahu ʿAli Yanuf I|
|Yadaʿil Bayin I|
|Karib-il Bayin I|
|Dhamar ʿAli Watar|
|SamahuʿAli Yanuf II||c.545-c.525|
|Yathiʿ-amar Bayin II||c.525-c.495|
|Yadaʿil Bayin II|
|Samahu'Ali Yanuf III||c.410-c.380|
|Yathiʿ-amar Watar I|
|Yaqrub Malik Darih|
|SamahuʿAli Yanuf IV|
|Yadaʿil Bayin III|
|Yaqrub Malik Watar I|
|Yathiʿ-amar Bayin III|
|Karib-il Watar II||c.320-c.270|
|Yadaʿil Bayin IV|
|Yaqrub Malik Watar II|
|Yathiʿ-amar Bayin IV|
|SamahuʿAli Darih II||c.200-c.175|
|Karib-il Bayin II|
|unknown, c.140-c.116; to Himyar, 116-55|
|SamahuʿAli Yanuf V||c.55|
|Yadaʿil Watar I||c.30|
|DhamarʿAli Bayin I||c.25|
|Yadail Darih II||c.10 BC-c.10 AD|
|Yathiʿ-amar Watar II||c.10-20|
|Yadaʿil Watar II||c.20-30|
|Dhamar ʿAli Bayin II||c.30-60|
|Karib-il Watar Yuhanʿim||c.60-75|
|to Himyar, Gurat, & Marib|
The only lists of kings I have found are in Bruce R. Gordon's Regnal Chronologies. Where Bruce gets this stuff, I would like to know. He does say that the earliest material is "culled entirely from traditional sources," apparently meaning that it is legendary in nature and of doubtful historical value. Indeed, the earliest list he gives includes "a son of the eponymous ancestor of the Habiru (Hebrew) nomadic peoples." This is part of legendary genealogy, not history. I have skipped that list. But what I do give first, the list of kings of Tababiʿa above, begins with reigns that are more than a century long. When it comes to the kings of Saba', the classic kingdom of Yemen, Gordon says, "sources I have for early Yemeni states disagree to a large extent, and cannot be reconciled with any clarity." Thus, he simply gives two different lists for Saba'. They are presented side by side here. They both do end with the same king, Ilasharah Yahdub, but one dates him close to the beginning of the Christian Era, the other a good century later. This is like the degree of uncertainty and variation that one gets with thinly historical material like that of nearby early Ethiopia or even the (contemporary and equally remote) Greek Kingdom of Bactria. It is also noteworthy that Old South Arabic did not write vowels. Genuine Sabaean texts are without vowels. The names of the kings given in these lists thus cannot have been derived directly from Yemeni epigraphy or annals. I am left wondering how much of Sabaean history actually can be reconstructed from contemporary sources, and how much of this derives from later texts and legends. Although Hoyland mentions the latter, he does not discuss the nature of their use or value.
The legends, indeed, extend to the Old Testament. The kingdom of Saba' is the Biblical Sheba. Here the reign of Solomon is dated 970-931 BC. This antedates the beginning of either list here for Saba', and all the reasonable reigns even for at-Tababiʿa -- though Balkis is the candidate for the Biblical "Queen of Sheba." Hoyland suspects that the reference to Sheba "may only have been slipped in at a later date" [p.39]. It was long doubtful that developed states even existed in that era; but Hoyland says that now it seems more likely that things were happening by Solomon's 10th century, though we don't have texts appearing until the 8th. The rulers of Saba' were kings (mlk, Arabic malik, ) or "unifiers" (mkrb, Arabized rendering mukarrib, ). It is not clear what the relationship was between these titles, and the mukarribs are often regarded as early priest-kings or as later "emperors." There are a couple of female rulers given in the lists, so it is conceivable that there was a Queen of Sheba as in the Biblical story. Her visit to Jerusalem, of course, is also part of Ethiopian legend, since her son by Solomon is supposed to have been Menelik, the founder of the Abyssinian state. There is little doubt that these stories, whatever their historicity, reflect the existence and development, even if in later periods, of sophisticated states in South Arabia and adjacent Africa.
The early development of Sabaʿ and the other states in the area was on the inland, the eastern slopes of the mountains. The wadî dammed at Maʾrib thus flows into a desert basin; and the city of Maʾrib itself, capital of the Sabaeans, is at the foot of the mountains. This is very different from what we might expect, which would be a watershed flowing west into the Red Sea, with the cities concentrated there. But that is not what we see. Development occurring in this way was coupled to the caravan routes, which headed up inland. Even from later history it is noteworthy that Mecca, a caravan center itself, is well in from the coast. Part of the considerations for all this may have been the danger of pirates in the Red Sea. Coastal depots, unless sufficiency fortified, could be attached with complete surprise, by enemies who could vanish to distant and unknown sources -- like Somali pirates in our own day.
In two voyages between 117 and 109 BC, however, Eudoxus of Cyzicus, Εὔδοξος ὁ Κυζικηνός, is supposed to have learned how to use the monsoons to sail all the way from Ptolemaic Egypt to India and back. Initially he was reportedly guided by a shipwrecked sailor from India. One suspects South Arabians to have known about this already, and kept it secret; but the evidence that they didn't may be that the seaports in the region only developed subsequently. The caravan routes continued, but a sea trade developed that continued into the modern era -- later the lifeblood of realms like Oman. But then Oman was poorly placed to join the caravan routes in Yemen and the Hejaz.
Toward the end of this period, or right at the end, depending on the chronology, the Roman Emperor Augustus is supposed to have sent an expedition down to Arabia Felix under Gaius Aelius Gallus. According to Strabo, this was launched in 26 BC, but was treacherously guided by the Nabataean Syllaeus. The Romans suffered in the desert and did not arrive until the year 24. They were sick and wasted but nevertheless captured some cities and began besieging the city of Marsiaba. Lack of water prevented success, however, and Gallus had to retreat. No effort was made again to project Roman power or impose Roman sovereignty -- until Justinian found an ally nearby.
|Haris ar-Raʿish||c.120-c.90 BC|
|Zu-l-ʾAdjar||c.20 BC-10 AD|
|Dhamar ʿAli Yuhabir I||c.100-c.120|
|Tharan Yaʿubb Yuhan'im|
|Shammar Yuharish I||?-c.160|
|To Saba, c.160-c.195|
|Laziz Yuhnaf Yuhasdiq||c.195-c.200|
|Yasir Yuhanʿim I|
|Shammar Yuharish II|
|Tharan Yaʿubb Yuhanʿim||c.230-c.250|
|Dhamar ʿAli Watar Yuhabir II|
|Amdan Bayin Yuhagbid|
|Yasir Yuhanim II|
|Shamir Yuharʿish III||c.290|
|Kingdom of Himyar & Sabaʿ|
|Nash'a-Karib Yamin Yuharhib||c.1 AD|
|Watar Yuhamin||Era of Himyar, year|
1 = 110 BC
= -109 AD
|Dhamar ʿAli Yuhabir I|
|Tharan Yaʿubb Yuhanʿim|
|Dhamar ʿAli Yuhabir II|
|Dhamar ʿAli Bayin|
|Dhamar ʿAli Dharih|
|Il-Adhdh Naufan Yuhasdiq||c.245-?|
|Yasir Yuhanʿim II|
|Shamir Yuharʿish III||c.290|
|conquers Hadramawt; "King of Saba and Dhu Raydan and Hadramawt and Yamanat," 299 AD = 409 Era of Himyar|
|To Abyssinia, c.310-c.378|
|Ela Amida of Axum||c.340-c.378|
|Abi-Karib Asʿad (Kamil ut-Tubba)||c.385-c.420|
|Warau-amar Ayman (Hasan Yuhan'im)||c.420-c.433|
|invasion by Abyssinia|
|Masruq Dhu-Nuwas (Yusuf Ash'ar)||c.517-525|
|convert to Judaism, occupation by Abyssinia, 525-c.533|
|Sumu-Yafaʿ Ashwaʿ (Esimfey, Esimiphaeus)||526-c.533|
|Dhu Jadan of Himyar||525-533|
|Abrahah (al-Ashram) of Abyssinia||c.533-570|
|Era of Himyar 669, 559 AD, last dated South Arabian text|
|Masruq ibn Abraha (Maʿadi-Karib)||577-587|
|Sayf ibn Dhi-Yazan (Abu Murra)||587-599|
|installed by Persia;|
Persia rule, 599-629
|To ʾIslâm, 629|
Shamir Yuhar'ish, indeed, appears to be the first fully historical ruler in the region, and we even get absolute dating in a Himyarite Era, whose Year 1 Benchmark would have been 110 BC. This also happens to be the era in which Abyssinia, centered at Axum, converts to Christianity (c.305 AD) and helps, at least, in ending the long running kingdom of Kushite Ethiopia (c.355). Indeed, Abyssinia begins to intervene in South Arabia itself. The list for Himyar notes an Abyssinian occupation c.310-c.378 AD.
We now begin to get political events on a larger scale that impact South Arabia. While Abyssinia, apparently, hardly needed encouragement to project its power, it got some anyway. Its own conversion to Christianity went along with a process in which tribes and domains in Arabia converted both to Christianity and to Judaism. A number of Yemeni Kings converted to Judaism. This was annoying to the distant Roman Emperor Justinian, who encouraged the Ethiopians to do something about it. The complaint was that the Yemenis were persecuting Christians, but then persecution often accompanied perceptions that Christian were agents of Rome. Who was initially to blame for this is anyone's guess. Under the Sassanids, Armenians and other Christians were often suspect also.
The Ethiopian Emperor Ella Asbeha responded by invading Yemen, 523-525. The occupation lasted a few years longer, and an Abyssinian governor, Abrahah, later established himself in his own right -- though Hoyland describes him as installed by the Himyarites and merely tributary to Ethiopia. Attracting distant Roman attention, Yemen even became an object of more distant Persian interest. According to Hoyland, discontent with Ethiopian rule (by the son of Abrahah), let to solicitations of the Sassanid Shâh Khusro II to intervene. Where Alexander the Great had planned to conquer Arabia by sea, Khusro actually did so. At first installing his own candidate, outright conquest and Persian governors then followed (599). With this wrapped up, Khusro (temporarily) occupied Syria, Egypt, and Asia Minor in a great (and foolish) war against Rome. While Heraclius defeated Khusro in the north, Persian domination in Yemen was brought to an end from a very different and portentous quarter -- the forces of the Prophet Muḥammad.
No more profound a change would happen in the history of Yemen and South Arabia than would now happen. The language, the alphabet, the age old civilization of the happy South would disappear as the area would be assimilated to the ecumenical civilization of ʾIslâm. Fortunately, much of what was distinctive would survive, under constant siege from ʾIslâm, in the daughter civilization of Ethiopia. In its homeland, the Yemeni past would survive in legend, in ruins, and in some practices, but it would become something alien to the new values and beliefs.
In the final group of Yemeni Kings, the sequence of events narrated by Hoyland does not match very well the sequence in Gordon's king list. I have tried to tidy things up, but Hoyland's description isn't complete enough to know what all is going on in the list -- another case where I find myself frustrated and annoyed with historians who apparently don't think that their narrative histories need to be supplemented with chronological framework in tables or lists (or, when possible, genealogies). As already noted, Hoyland's opaque reference to "lists of Sabaean rulers" raises more questions than it answers.
The neglect this civilization still suffers is tragic. Part of the problem was the self-imposed isolation of the later Yemeni Kingdom, and then many years of political instability and civil war. Subsequently, a great deal of archaeology was undertaken, and I have noticed much more about Yemen in documentaries at places like The History Channel than I have in accessible scholarly history books. Travel was easier, despite some terrorism, and I have a friend who has inspected the ruins of the Maʾrib Dam. I was hoping that the archaeologists in the documentaries would eventually begin to fill in the gaps, clarify the uncertainties, and in general provide definitive histories of the area.
Unfortunately, civil war has returned to Yemen, drawing in Saudi Arabia on the Sunni side and Iran, as in the days of Khusro, on the Shiʿite side. The geopolitical stakes are high, and so that sort of conflict that no one else would pay much attention to has become a matter of international interest.
|ʾal-Qâsim al-Ḥasanî ar-Rassî||d.860|
|Yaḥyâ al-Hâdî ʾilâ-l-Ḥaqq||897-911|
|Muḥammad al-Murtaḍâ||911-913, d.922|
|Yûsuf al-Manṣûr al-Dâʿî||968-998,d.1012|
|ʾAbu-l-Fatḥ al-Daylamî an-Nâṣir||1045-1062?|
|Ṣan'â' captured by Ṣulayḥids, 1062|
|Hamdânid occupation, 1171-1174, Ayyûbid occupation, 1174-1229|
|Yaḥyâ Najm ad-Dîn al-Hâdî ilâ-l-Ḥaqq||1217|
|Muḥammad ʿIzz ad-Dîn an-Nâṣir||1217-1226|
|ʾAḥmad al-Mahdî al-Mûṭiʾ||1248-1258|
Despite this egalitarian doctrine, the Zaydî sect in Yemen began with al-Qâsim al-Ḥasanî, who claimed descent from Alî's eldest son Hassan. During the reign of al-Ma'mûn (813-833), Al-Qâsim moved from Medina and established himself at Ṣa'da in northern Yemen. This became the center of the Zaydî Mission, whose work (for a while) was far ranging, and in time assumed secular authority in competition with other local rulers. Thus, the Imâms by no means dominated Yemen. Their rule became seriously compromised when the Ṣulayḥid dynasty occupied Ṣan'â' (which has become the modern capital of Yemen) in 1062 and then the Hamdânids in 1171. After 1258, the line of Imâms continued without any political role. Nevertheless, the Imâms reemerged with secular authority in the later Qâsimid line. The name of his initial line, the Rassids, derived from ar-Rass in the Hijaz, is used more by Western scholars than by Yemenis.
I have not given the dynasty of Hamdânids here because their predominance is brief. Just as they might have become established, Yemen suddenly became the target again of larger political events. Forces from the powerful Ayyûbid dynasty of Egypt now arrive and establish a Ayyûbid collateral line as Kings of Yemen -- though the Rassids continued to hold strategic positions, including Ṣan'â' itself. The genealogy of the Ayyûbid Kings of Yemen is given in a popup at the Ayyûbid
|ʾal-Mu'aẓẓam Shams ud-Dîn Tûrân Shâh||1173-1181 d. 1186/7|
|ʾal-ʿAzîz Zahir ud-Dîn Tughtigin||1181-1197|
|Muʿizz ud-Dîn ʾIsmâʿîl||1197-1202|
|ʾal-Muʿaẓẓam (ʾal-Muẓaffar) Sulaymân||1214-1215 d. 1251/2|
|ʾal-Masʿûd Ṣalâḥ ad-Dîn Yûsuf||1215-1229|
Well before the fall of the Ayyûbids in Egypt (1252), they are replaced in Yemen.
|RASÛLIDS, at Taʿizz|
|ʾal-Manṣûr ʾUmar I Nûr ad-Dîn||1229-1250|
|ʾal-Muẓaffar Shams ad-Dîn Yûsuf I||1250-1295|
|ʾal-Ashraf Mumahhid ad-Dîn 'Umar II||1295-1296|
|ʾal-Muʿayyad Ḥizabr ad-Dîn Dâwûd||1296-1322|
|ʾal-Mujâhid Sayf ad-Dîn ʿAlî||1322-1363|
|ʾal-Afḍal Ḍirghâm ad-Dîn al-ʿAbbâs||1363-1377|
|ʾal-ʾAshraf ʾIsmâ'îl I||1377-1400|
|ʾan-Nâṣir Salâḥ ad-Dîn Aḥmad||1400-1424|
|ʾal-ʾAshraf ʾIsmâʿîl II||1427-1428|
|ʾal-ʾAshraf ʾIsmâʿîl III||1439-1442|
|ʾal-Muẓaffar Yûsuf II||1442-1450/1|
|ʾal-Masʿûd Salâḥ ad-Dîn||1443-1454|
Although, like the Ayyûbids, the Rasûlids were Sunnis, and we might expect local opposition of a religious nature, they nevertheless endured more than two centuries with a prosperous and culturally productive realm. From the port of Aden trade extended as far as East Africa, India, and China. Indeed, we arrive at the era in which Chinese fleets sailed in the Indian Ocean (1405-1433), and a Rasûlid embassy to China itself is recorded. Chinese ships undoubtedly called at Aden. But the Chinese disappeared, soon to be followed by an equally unexpected power.
The chronology of the Rassids is from Clifford Edmund Bosworth's The New Islamic Dynasties [Edinburgh University Press, 1996, p.96]. The subsequent Islâmic dynasties are given by Bruce R. Gordon's Regnal Chronologies, which were initially transcribed but are here corrected and supplemented (as with diacritics) from Bosworth. The New Islamic Dynasties gives many other local dynasties, but here I have tried to confine things to a central succession.
|ṬÂHIRIDS, at ʾal-Miqrâna and Juban|
|ʾaz-Ẓâfir ʿÂmir I Salâḥ ad-Dîn||1454-1460|
|ʾal-Mujâhid ʿAlî Shams ad-Dîn||1454-1478|
|ʾal-Manṣûr ʿAbd al-Wahhâb Tâj ad-Dîn||1478-1489|
|ʾaz-Ẓâfir ʿÂmir II Salâḥ ad-Dîn||1489-1517|
|to Mamlûks, 1517, then Ottomans, 1517-1635|
The Rasûlids are ultimately overthrown by a local, but still Sunni, family, the Ṭâhirids, a name that recalls an important family of the early days of the Abbasids. The Ṭâhirids now witness the epic arrival of the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean (1498). Afonso d'Albuquerque sieged Aden in 1513. This alarmed the Mamlûks, who realized that their trade monopoly from the Mediterranean to India had been bypassed. They began moving against Yemen in 1515 and had occupied most of the country by 1517. Some Ṭâhirid princes survived in fortresses until 1538. However, it was not to be the Mamlûks who eliminated the holdouts. Just as the Mamlûks completed their conquest in South Arabia, Egypt itself was conquered by the Ottoman Sulṭân Selim I, "the Grim." Equally alert to the Portuguese threat, the Ottomans inherited the Mamlûk position in Yemen and, for a while, vigorously enlarged it. This also included intervention in the Horn of Africa, where the Portuguese had made contact with the long isolated Christian Emperors of Ethiopia. Portuguese firearms, delivered after an appeal for help by the Emperor Lebna Dengel in 1535, enabled the Emperor Galawedos to defeat and kill the ʾImâm of Harer, ʾAḥmad ibn ʾIbrahim, at the battle of Lake Tana in 1543. Like Ella Asbeha and Justinian many centuries earlier, in reverse, ʾAḥmad had been encouraged and supported by Süleymân the Magnificent to move against Ethiopia. After this epic event, Ottoman interest began to wane and the Turkish grip in Yemen slacken -- though they only entered Ṣanʿâʾ itself in 1547.
|ʾal-Qâsim I al-Manṣûr||c.1592/97-1620|
|Muḥammad I al-Muʾayyad||1620-1644|
|Ṣanʿâʾ occupied, 1629;|
Ottomans ejected, 1635
|ʾAḥmad I al-Mahdî||1676-1681|
|Muḥammad II al-Mutawakkil||1681-1686|
|Muḥammed III an-Nâṣir al-Hâdi||1686-1718|
|ʾal-Qâsim II al-Wutawakkil||1718-1727|
|ʾal-ʿAbbâs I al-Mahdî||1748-1775|
|ʿAlî I al-Manṣûr||1775-1806|
|ʾAḥmad II al-Mahdî||1806-1808|
|ʾAḥmad III al-Mutawakkil||1808-1816|
|ʿAbdallâh I al-Mahdî||1816-1835|
|ʿAlî II al-Manṣûr||1835-1837, 1844-1845, 1849-1850, 1857|
|ʿAbdallâh II an-Nâṣir||1837-1840|
|Muḥammed IV al-Hâdî||1840-1844|
|Muḥammed V al-Mutawakkil||1845-1849|
|Ottoman attack on Ṣanʿâʾ, 1849|
|ʿAbbâs II al-Mu'ayyad||1850|
|Civil War, 1857-1871; to Ottomans, 1871-1918|
|Muḥammed VI al-Manṣûr||1890-1904|
|Independent Kingdom, 1918|
|ʿAbdallâh (III) al-Hâdî||1948|
|ʾAḥmad (III) an-Nâṣir||1948-1962|
|Muḥammad al-Manṣûr al-Badr||1962, d. 1996|
|the United Arab Republic, 1958-1961; Civil War, 1962-1970; Republic, 1962-present|
As with the early days of Sheba, there is a conflict between sources for some of the Qâsimi Imâms. Bosworth's The New Islamic Dynasties [Edinburgh University Press, 1996, p.96-97] leaves out several rulers given by Bruce R. Gordon's Regnal Chronologies -- but also adds a few. Where Gordon does not give diacritics or honorifics (laqab, like "al-Manṣûr"), and Bosworth creates confusion by only giving the first year of a reign, I have followed the Oxford Dynasties of the World by John E. Morby [Oxford University Press, 1989, 2002, p.194], which may in fact be Gordon's source, but does give diacritics and honorifics. I have retained one feature in Bosworth, that there are two Aḥmads between 1806 and 1816, not just one.
By the middle of the 19th century there are serious problems. The Turks, despite their general lethargy, are back, and the Wahhâbîs, no doubt taking strong objection to Yemeni Shiʿism, are intervening also. Between civil war and invasion, the Ottomans end up annexing the country again by 1871. But, again, their rule tends to lapse into local control, and the Imâms, whose hold on the countryside had never been entirely broken, reemerged, at least as vassals, in 1890. This was the situation when World War I shattered Ottoman power at its source. Yemen was simply cut loose, and the Imâm becomes the King of Yemen.
After another bit of conservative and Tibetan isolation, the winds of change arrive again. Yemen joined the Arab League in 1945 and then the United Arab Republic, with Egypt and Syria, in 1958. Meanwhile, the substantial Jewish population of Yemen, under increasing persecution, largely decamped to Palestine and then Israel. The King withdrew from the UAR in 1961 but then was overthrown by the Nassarite army the following year. As before, this did not break the power of the dynasty, and a long civil war followed, with the King supported by Saudi Arabia and Jordan and the Nassarites by, naturally, the Egypt of Gamal Abdel Nasser. Nasser died in 1970, but, with 150,000 dead, the King gave up and went into exile. Meanwhile, things got more complicated when the British left Aden in 1967. The new People's Republic of South Yemen soon lapsed into civil war itself and was restyled the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen when the more radical Marxists, i.e. the Communists, won the war in 1970. Bubbling with violence, the radicals kept attacking the Yemen Arab Republic, to which 300,000 refugees, disillusioned with Marxism, fled, and war broke out between them in 1979. In 1990 this got resolved by the actual unification of North and South -- now simply known as the Republic of Yemen. The unification came apart in another brief civil war, 1994-95, but things got patched back together again. Although now friendly with the West, the country became the scene for one of the Islamist terror attacks leading up to 9/11 -- the bombing of the United States destroyer Cole on 12 October 2000 in Aden harbor. Where the "Democratic Republic" had invited Soviet troops in during the 1970's, American forces now help hunt down al-Qaeda members.
In 2015 the secular government of Yemen was overthrown and the country is now the venue for civil war between Shiʿite forces, back by Iran, the Sunni al-Qaʿida in the Arabian Penninsula, backed by the lunatics of Islamic Fascism, and the Saʿudis, with support from Egypt in the background, who don't want either of such forces to control the area. The United States backs the Saʿudis, but initially tepidly, since the Obama Administration decided to further its anti-American and anti-Israeli agenda by enabling the Iranian nuclear program. The fate of Yemen thus now rides on serious Great Power problems and is a bellweather for the future of the Middle East.
In 2019 things haven't changed much. Because the Saʿudis assassinated one of their critics, the U.S. Congress has voted to cut off aid; but the Trump Administration has maintained the relationship, judging, properly, that the Saʿudis as a counter-weight to Iran are too important.
Index of Mesopotamian and Ancient Middle Eastern History
Philosophy of History
|SULṬÂNS OF OMAN AND ZANZIBAR|
|Aḥmad ibn Saʿîd||c. 1754-1783|
|Saʿîd ibn ʾAḥmad||1783-1786|
|Ḥâmid ibn Saʿîd||1786-1792|
|Sulṭân ibn ʾAḥmad||1792-1806|
|Treaty with British East India Company, 1798|
|Sâlim ibn Sulṭân||1806-1821|
|Saʿîd ibn Sulṭân||1806-1856|
|Thuwaynî ibn Saʿîd||1856-1866||Majîd ibn Saʿîd||1856-1870|
|Sâlim ibn Thuwaynî||1866-1868|
|ʿAzzân ibn Qays||1868-1870|
|Turkî ibn Saʿîd||1870-1888||Barghash ibn Saʿîd||1870-1888|
|Fayṣal ibn Turkî||1888-1913||Khalîfa ibn Barghash||1888-1890|
|British Protectorate, 1890|
|ʿAlî ibn Saʿîd||1890-1893|
|Ḥâmid ibn Thuwaynî||1893-1896|
|ʿAlî ibn Ḥammûd||1902-1911|
|Taymûr ibn Fayṣal||1913-1932||Khalîfa ibn Kharûb||1911-1960|
|Saʿîd ibn Taymûr||1932-1970|
|ʿAbdallâh ibn Khalîfa||1960-1963|
|Jamshîd ibn ʿAbdallâh||1963-1964|
Sulṭân Overthown in Coup,
|End of British Protection, 1967||linked to Tanganyika|
as Republic of Tanzania,
|Qâbûs ibn Saʿîd||1970-2020|
|Haytham ibn Ṭarîq||2020|
Saʿîd ibn Sulṭân (1806-1856) came to dominate the east coast of Africa south of Mogadishu, and mostly ruled from Zanzibar after 1827, permanently after 1840. After his death the Sulṭânate was divided.
The British connection proved the ultimate undoing of this empire, since Britain began to suppress the slave trade, which was the principal business of the Arabs in East Africa, and both Britain and Germany began to annex the mainland areas (Kenya and Tanganyika).
Reduced to British "protection," the Sulṭâns of Zanzibar then did survive until independence, but after that were promptly overthrown. Zanzibar was then absorbed with Tanganyika into the socialist republic of Julius Nyerere (1962-1985), a darling of the Left, whose harebrained economics managed to dig the country further and further into poverty all the years of his rule, despite (more like because of) some of the highest levels of foreign aid in the world.
Meanwhile, Oman was eventually cut loose by the British and emerged from Mediaeval isolation with the Sulṭân still in charge. Qâbûs ibn Saʿîd, with another extraordinarily long reign, was the last Sulṭân in the Middle East, and the last in ʾIslâm apart from Brunei. Having died in 2020, now his successor is these things.
We should also notice that Oman represents one of the last homes of the Arab seafaring tradition in the Indian Ocean, vividly recollected in the tales of Sindbad the Sailor, , ʾas-Sindibâdu l-Baḥrî, in the Thousand and One Nights stories. Even now, the ancient type of ship, the dhow, , dâwa, still transverses the waters down the East Coast of Africa and to India. These ships have been doing this for thousands of years, perhaps since the Hellenistic Age, and it is not clear whether the ship type originated in India or Arabia. They have often just been built in India, since more appropriate wood is available there.
This throws an interesting light on Sindbad's own name, whose etymology is uncertain. The name looks like it begins with , ʾas-Sind, the Arabic version of the name of the region of India. Although there are different ideas around, the name may well end with , âbâd, from Persian, which is "inhabited" or "a suffix denoting place of abode." This turns up a lot in India, although from a later era, like the city of Aḥmadâbâd, , or in Hindi. With some abbreviation, it looks like Sindbad's name could just mean that he is from Sind, although the Nights story begins in Baghbad. But the stories are actually much older.
Also noteworthy may just be the word for "sailor," , ʾal-Baḥrî, which is just the adjective of , baḥr, "sea." This originally puzzled me seeing it in the name of Deir al-Baḥri. Actually, Sindbad is not a sailor, but a merchant. He is on his ships as a passenger, not as a member of the crew.
Much of the geography, flora, and fauna of the Sindbad stories is fantastic. However, the references to large numbers of islands, of which there really aren't that many in the Indian Ocean itself, suggests that they go back to experiences in Indonesia. We hear of the trees from which camphor is derived, and these trees actually grow on Borneo and Sumatra. There are also references to various kinds of rather intelligent apes, which thus begin to sound like Orangutans, only found in Indonesia. The apes are intelligent enough to hijack one of the ships Sindbad is on. Of named places, an undoubted destination would have been "Sarandib," which is Ceylon.
To the Greeks, in two voyages between 117 and 109 BC, Eudoxus of Cyzicus, Εὔδοξος ὁ Κυζικηνός, is reported to have learned how to use the monsoons to sail all the way from Egypt to India and back. He is supposed to have been guided by a shipwrecked Indian sailor who was brought to the Court of Ptolemy VIII. Arab sailors must have already been making the voyages, but kept their knowledge secret. After Eudoxus, regular trade by the Greek and Romans with India followed.
The Sun Never Set on the British Empire
The Sun Never Set on the British Empire
|Haji Muhammed ʿAli||c.1642-c.1648|
|Abdul Hakk Mubin||c.1648-1655|
|Nasrud-Din Husin Kamaluddin||1670-1680|
|civil war, c.1690-c.1750|
|Omar ʿAli Saif ud-Din I||c.1750-1780,|
|Muhammed Jamal ul-ʿAlam||1792-1793|
|Muhammed Khanzul Alam||1806-1822|
|Omar ʿAli Saifud-Din II Djamal ul-Din||1822-1852|
|Hashim Jalilul ʿAlam Akam ud-Din||1885-1906|
|British Protectorate, 1888-1984,|
British Resident, 1906
|Muhammed Jamalul ʿAlam II||1906-1924|
|Japanese occupation, 1941-1945|
|Sir Omar ʿAli Saifud-Din III||1950-1967, d. 1986|
|Sir Hassanu-l-Bolkiah Muʿizzaddin Waddaulah||1967-present|
Some details here are from Bruce R. Gordon's Regnal Chronologies, but the list is largely based on Clifford Edmund Bosworth's The New Islamic Dynasties [Edinburgh University Press, 1996]. Unfortunately, Boswoth does not give the Arabic diacritics that he otherwise provides for Islamic dynasties. He may do this because the local language would be Malay rather than Arabic.
|Japanese occupation, 1942-1945; Great Britain, 1946-1957; Malaya, 1957-1963; Malaysia, 1963-present|
One of the stranger domains in the British Empire, perhaps the fantasy of many English boys in the 1890's. Sarawak was granted by the Sulṭân of Brunei to a British adventurer, James Brooke, the "White Rajah of Sarawak," who used it as a base from which to eradicate piracy in the South China Sea and headhunting in the interior. His successors continued as Rajahs until after the World War II, with a domain that ended up larger than the original Sultanate of Brunei.
Then, since the place had been so thoroughly trashed by the Japanese, C.V. Brooke ceded it to Britain. Although the Brookes were not Moslems, their subjects were, and Sarawak eventually became part of the very Moslem country of Malaysia.
The list is from Bruce R. Gordon's Regnal Chronologies and Chester L. Krause and Clifford Mishler, the Standard Catalog of World Coins [Colin R. Bruce II, editor, Krause Publications, Iola, Wisconsin, 1982, p.1227].
The Sun Never Set on the British Empire When I lived in Beirut in 1969-70, one of the principal locations in the city was a large square downtown. It was a transportation hub. Busses and taxis left from there for Damascus and elsewhere. The place itself was commonly called the "Bourj," , which means "tower" -- usually written and even pronounced as though it were French. There was no tower, but evidently there had been, and the name had stuck. The official name was the "Places des Martyrs," which at the time seemed to be about something else equally non-existent, since my fellow students and I could not imagine what kind of "martyrs" there ever could have been in Lebanese history.
As it turned out, there were indeed martyrs, but it was not just in Lebanese history. On August 21, 1915, eleven suspected Arab nationalist leaders were hung on that very site in Beirut, oddly called "Liberty Square" at the time, by the Turkish military authorities, under Jemal Pasha. On May 6, 1916, the Turks executed twenty-one others, seven in Damascus and fourteen in Beirut.
On hearing the news of the latter, Prince Fayṣal, son of the Sharîf Ḥusayn of Mecca, who was visiting near Damascus, is supposed to have thrown down his headress and exclaimed, "Death has become sweet, Oh Arabs!" Fayṣal returned to Mecca, and the Arab Revolt against the Turks, long in preparation by Fayṣal's father, commenced on the 5th of June.
Prince Fayṣal and the Sharîf Ḥusayn were Hashemites, i.e. were supposed to be descendants of the Prophet Muḥammad. At right is the complete genealogy of this descent, as reported by the family itself. I have derived this from a curious source, a book called A Prince of Arabia, the Amir Shereef Ali Haider, by George Stitt [George Allen & Unwin, London, 1948 -- this is from the personal historical library of my friend Tom Dunlap]. Ali Haider was from the senior or Zaidi branch of the Hashemite family, who had supplied most of the Amirs or Sharifs of Mecca until 1882, when the junior or ʿAwni branch took over.
When Ḥusayn revolted against the Turks in 1916, Ali Haider was appointed in his place by the Ottoman Sultân. Ali Haider was never able to go to Mecca and exercised no real authority under the Turks. His son did end up marrying the granddaughter of the Ottoman Sultân Murad V (1876). Histories of the period or the area rarely mention him.
Unfortunately, George Stitt's book about the Prince uses Anglicized versions of the Arabic names, without diacritics. I have not been able to supply the proper transcriptions for all the names. Other information here is from Clifford Edmund Bosworth, The New Islamic Dynasties [Edinburgh University Press, 1996], and from George Antonius, The Arab Awakening [1946, Capricorn Books, New York, 1965].
The romance of the Arab Revolt, with Lawrence of Arabia and all, and its success in sweeping all the way to Damascus, as the British advanced into Palestine, came to be fully balanced by bitterness at the British betrayal of assurances for Arab independence after the war. The British had made promises elsewhere, to the French and to the Zionists, and not a lot of care had been taken in the desperate days of the war to keep all these undertakings consistent with each other. Initially, the worse betrayal seemed to be over Syria.
With Fayṣal in possession of Damascus, he was elected King of Syria in 1920; but in short order the French, to whom the British had handed control of Lebanon, as they had honestly warned the Arabs they would, moved in force to occupy Damascus and the rest of Syria, which the British had agreed with them, but not with the Arabs, that they could do. Fayṣal was tossed out. The French commemorated this victory by carving a stele in the rock at the Nahr al-Kalb (the Dog River) in Lebanon, joining earlier stelae by the Egyptians, Assyrians, and others. After the Vichy French were overthrown in Lebanon and Syria, in turn, in World War II, the stele naturally was attacked and mutilated beyond recognition [note].
The Hashemites, 1827-present
|The Hâshimites, 1827 AD-present|
|Mecca and Ḥijâz|
Sharîf of Mecca,
|Overthrown by Ibn Saʿûd|
|Overthrown by France|
|Iraq, British Mandate|
|Fayṣal I||King, 1921-1933|
end of British Mandate, 1932
|pro-German coup suppressed, 1941;|
King overthrown & killed
in Coup, 1958
|Transjordan, British Mandate|
|End of British|
|Arab Legion enters Palestine, 1948;|
Kingdom of Jordan,
annexation of the West Bank, 1949
|Ṭalâl||1951-1952, d. 1972|
Six Day War, Israeli Occupation of the|
West Bank, 1967; "Black September,"
Palestinian guerrillas ousted from
Jordan, 1970; peace treaty with
One of Ḥusayn's other sons, ʿAbdullâh, even led a small force north, evidently to contest Syria with the French. However, before ʿAbdullâh crossed the French border, he was persuaded that perhaps he should stay where he was, just across the Jordan River, in a area of vague jurisdiction. This was at the time considered part of Syria, but the French evidently had no use for it, and its proximity to Palestine put it more or less in the British sphere of influence. So 'Abdullâh settled down as the Amîr of the Transjordan, filling in the space between British Palestine and British Iraq.
This did not improve the humor of ʿAbdullâh's father, whose leadership turned out to be not much better than his diplomacy. When Kemal Attatürk abolished the Ottoman Caliphate in 1924 (the Sulṭânate had already been abolished in 1922), Ḥusayn decided that if it was anyone's business to be Caliph, it was his. Indeed, the last bona fide Abbasid Caliph had been carted off to Constantinople in 1517, and it was only after three hundred years or so that the Ottoman Sulṭâns began to claim that the office had been passed on to them. This unlikely and irregular transmission, however, eventually came to be accepted by many Moslems, and the abolition of the office left ʾIslâm without somebody to claim it for the first time in Islâmic history. From a dynasty that had served as the Guardians of the Holy Cities for some time, and which was accepted as belonging to the Hashimite clan of the Prophet himself, it must have seemed quite reasonable to Ḥusayn, as it still seems fairly reasonable in retrospect, that the office should fall to him.
At the time, however, nobody was buying this, and Ḥusayn's reputation was badly damaged. Ibn Saʿûd and his Wahhâbî fundamentalists began protesting and threatening, and Ḥusayn had put himself in no good position to resist them. When consensus is so important in the tradition of Islâmic Law, Ḥusayn would have been better advised to first solicit opinions from respected jurists about whether there needed to be a Caliph, who would be appropriate for it, etc. In 1925 he abdicated in favor of his eldest son ʿAlî, but this did not stop Ibn Saʿûd. The Ḥijâz soon joined the Saʿûdî central Arabian domain of Najd in the new Kingdom of Saʿûdî Arabia. Then Ibn Saʿûd's British subsidies soon gave way to income of a different sort, when vast oil reserves were discovered under the Arabian sands. But Ḥusayn and ʿAlî could only flee to the welcome of ʿAbdullâh's court in the Transjordan to live out the rest of their lives.
Britain's other conflicting promises, over Palestine, prepared the way for the most dangerous and intractable problem in all of 20th Century politics, diplomacy, and war, as Jewish colonists sought, and achieved, the creation of a Jewish State, Israel, in Palestine. The best showing by an Arab army in the 1948 war was, ironically, the British commanded Arab Legion of ʿAbdullâh, at that point King of the Transjordan. Yet ʿAbdullâh had no particular animus against either Jews or Zionists, and rumor maintains that in a secret meeting with Golda Meir he actually proposed some kind of condominium over Palestine between the Zionists and himself. This was rejected, but then ʿAbdullâh subsequently annexed the Palestinian territory that he ended up occupying, creating simply the Kingdom of (the) Jordan. Since the Palestinian fire-eaters were all ready to found their own radical Palestinian republic in the land preserved from Israel, this move earned ʿAbdullâh his own assassination. Now, ironically, by conquering Jordanian Palestine in 1967, the Israelis have ended up with the fire-eaters in their own house, setting off bombs.
The throne of Jordan soon passed over ʿAbdullâh's mentally incompetent son Ṭalâl to his grandson Ḥusayn. In 1999, Ḥusayn, having endured every war, revolution, and upheaval since, died after a long fight with cancer. Thus passed a man of astonishing durability in the merciless politics of the Middle East, although hated by many Arabs for his suppression of armed Palestinian organizations in Jordan (in "Black September"). Ḥusayn, the namesake of his great-grandfather and eyewitness to his grandfather's assassination, was the last living link to the Arab Revolt. Although he was long denigrated as a reactionary, who wasn't in tune with all the great new Marxist Arab Nationalism of the 50's, 60's, and 70's, Ḥusayn survived into a era when it is hard to tell the Marxists from the Mujâhidûn (Islâmic fighters in the Holy War), and where the folly of each is, or should be, fairly obvious. To everyone's surprise, Ḥusayn had, just a couple weeks before his death, disinherited his brother Ḥassan, the Crown Prince for 34 years, and left the Throne to his son 'Abdullâh, who thus becomes King ʿAbdullâh II of Jordan. One hopes this was not entirely a surprise to Ḥassan.
Ḥusayn's second cousin, King Fayṣal II of Iraq, unfortunately, was overthrown and murdered in 1958, sending Iraq down a path to a despotism which it was doomed to long endure. Only now, in 2003, after three wars, has the dictator of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, been overthrown, thanks to an American and British invasion of the country.
The 1st Gulf War was initiated by Hussein in 1980, hoping to seize the east bank of the Shatt-al-'Arab (the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates) from Irân, whose military had been weakened by purges of the Shah's officers. By 1982 the Iranians managed, with suicidal "human wave" attacks, to throw Hussein back, and he was willing to call it quits; but the Ayatollah Khomeini refused to let up. It didn't do much good, and, even though Khomeini said he would rather "drink poison," he finally accepted a ceasefire in 1988.
The 2nd Gulf War was initiated by Hussein in 1990, invading and occupying Kuwait. Just a year later a coalition of American, Arab, and European forces threw Hussein out of Kuwait. Although warned that it might precipitate a global ecological disaster, Hussein ordered the torching of over 600 oil wells as Iraqi forces retreated from Kuwait. Fortunately, although it was a terrible mess, the disaster was of more limited consequence. Iraqi territory itself was not occupied, and revolts by Shiʿites in the south of Iraq and Kurds in the north were brutally suppressed by Hussein. Iraq subsequently was under UN sanctions until the destruction of its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs could be certified. American and British air power patrolled "no fly zones" in the north and south of the country. This didn't really make much difference in the south, but in the north it protected what had become an autonomous Kurdish domain.
UN inspectors could not certify that Hussein had destroyed his unconventional weapons, and they even left the country in 1998 after Iraqi non-cooperation. In 2003, the 3rd Gulf War was initiated by the United States and Britain, principally, with the determination, apparently, that it was simply high time to resolve the matter and get rid of Hussein -- especially after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. Hussein was overthrown, later captured, tried, and finally executed -- shamefully taunted at his hanging by Shiʿite executioners.
Iraq itself, however, although with a democratically elected government in 2007, in which all groups managed to participate, nevertheless was a place of constant violence. The Sunni minority, with Baathist diehards, began an "uprising" rather than live under governments dominated by the Shiʿite majority. Although this is portrayed, often by Western sympathizers, as a national struggle against American occupation, most of the casualties have been civilian victims of suicide bombers and car bombs. There have also been attacks against Islamic sites, like the Golden Mosque in Samara, which was associated with Shiʿism. These tactics in part are the inspiration of al-Qaʿida and effected by an influx of foreign Jihadists. Substantial parts of the Sunni community tired of this, especially since the Shiʿites have answered in kind, with help from the Shiʿite motherland, Iran. Since the Shiʿites and Iran have little more sympathy for America than they do for the Sunnis, American (and British) forces tend to get caught in the middle.
Nevertheless, it is the interest of the West, the International Community, and Iraq that neither Sunnis nor Shiʿites have an outright victory, and the only way to prevent that and mediate a settlement is for a third party (the Americans) to maintain the balance. Meanwhile, the Kurds, although provoking Turkey by supporting Kurdish terrorists there, have been relatively safe and prosperous in their part of Iraq -- now behind a dike to inhibit terrorist infiltration. They have even paid for commercials on American television with thanks for American efforts. With many in American politics cynically and opportunistically hoping to benefit from a defeat in Iraq, however, as they benefited from defeat in Vietnam (along with Isolationists and simple anti-American Leftists), those efforts would not continue much longer.
Meanwhile, all the major communities seem to have joined in an ethnic purge of Iraqi Christians, the Syrian Orthodox and Catholics, Chaldeans and Assyrians. As with the persecution of Christians anywhere, this draws little attention from the Western Press -- whose template is that Christians are as bad, or worse, than Muslim Jihadists; and the numbers of Iraqi Christians are too small to figure in most geopolitical calculations. The simple hostility of Western elites for Christianity is now an important factor.
Note on the modern Assyrians
The withdrawl of American forces from Iraq by President Obama, and then the invasion and conquest of the much of the country by the forces of the "Islamic State" (ISIS, ISIL, IS), led to a whole new era of conflict. As of 2020, ISIS has been wiped out in Iraq and all but wiped out in Syria, done there mainly by the Kurds, with American support. Since the Turks don't want the Kurds triumphant in Syria, where Russia has helped the Assad regime survive, and an unlimited American involvement supporting the Kurds is not politically viable, various betrayals and abandonments look to be in the cards again. This is familiar to Kurds and Christians in all the modern history of Iraq.
The whole area around the Bourj in Beirut was destroyed in the Lebanese civil war of the 70's and 80's. Plenty of new martyrs were created, though it is not clear what the cause was supposed to be when the Lebanese largely destroyed their own country and slaughtered each other, opening the door to a Syrian occupation of much of the country, something that no Lebanese of any faction really wanted. After some years of relative peace, chaos has returned as Syria evidently continues to promote its interests (starting with key assassinations) and both radicalized Shiʿites and Sunni Jihadists display little desire to live peaceful, ordinary lives.
Modern Morocco, Tunisia, & Tripoli
We took the liberty to make some enquiries concerning the ground of their pretentions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury, and observed that we considered all mankind as our friends who had done us no wrong, nor had given us any provocation.
|The ʿAlawid Sharîfs, Sulṭâns, & Kings of Morocco|
|ʿAbd Allâh||1729-1734, 1736, 1740-1741, 1741-1742, 1743-1747, 1748-1757|
|ʾal-Mustaḍî'||1738-1740, 1742-1743, 1747-1748, d.1760|
|Anti-Praicy Treaty with United States, 1786|
|ʿAbd al-ʿAzîz||1894-1908, d.1943|
|ʿAbd al-Ḥâfiẓ||1908-1912, d.1937|
|French Protectorate, 1912-1956|
|Muḥammad V||1927-1953, 1955-1957, King, 1957-1961|
|Muḥammad VI||1953-1955, d.1976|
|The Ḥusaynid Beys of Tunisia|
|Muḥammad III as-Ṣâdiq||1859-1882|
|French Occupation, 1881-1883; Protectorate, 1883-1956|
|Muḥammad VI al-Ḥabîb||1922-1929|
|Muḥammad VII al-Munṣif||1942-1943, d.1948|
|Muḥammad VIII||1943-1957, d.1962|
|Rashâd al-Mahdî||King, 1957|
|Republic of Tunisia, 1957-present|
From the colonial foundation of Algeria, France began to lean on Morocco and Tunisia. As Britain embarked on a long term occupation of Egypt in 1882, France, which had backed off joining the British move, consolidated control over Tunisia instead. The Ḥusaynid Beys then lasted, as French clients, all the way to independence. Briefly, it looked like the dynasty might survive independence, but the nationalist leader, Habib Bourgiba (Ḥabîb Bû Ruqayba), in the tradition of many other familiar dictators, did not need a tradtionalistic rival to his authority.
The Moroccan experience was different. While France moved steadily to consolidate its influence, this was not without complaint from other European powers. World War I nearly started early with the Agadir incident in 1911, as Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II offered hope that Germany would dispute any French designs on the Sultânate. As it happened, the War waited a couple more years and a French Protectorate was nevertheless imposed in 1912. Morocco then later became the scene of the mythic presence of "Rick" in the classic movie Casblanca, not far from the real life drama of American troops landing in November 1942, to precipitate French North Africa back into World War II against Germany. The Germans chased out, Morocco became the first French possession to regain independence, not in the dangerous grip of nationalist ideology, but still under the control of the traditional monarchy, the only such traditional national monarchy surviving in the Arab world from the Middle Ages.
|The Qaramânlî Beys of Tripoli|
|ʾAḥmad I Bey Qaramânlî||1711-1745|
|First Barbary War, 1801-1805|
|Ottoman direct rule, 1835-1911; Sanûsî Amîrs & Kings, 1837-1969|
Tripoli drifted into autonomy under a Janissary commander, Aḥmad Qaramânlî, whose name drives from some association of his or his ancestors with the former Turkish state of Qaramân in Anatolia. We also have the nice touch of the Greek origin of the name "Tripoli," whose Arabic form, for Libya, was , Ṭarâbulus al-Gharb, "Tripoli of the West" (as opposed to Tripoli in Lebanon). These are the rulers who ran afoul of Thomas Jefferson and the United States Marines. After paying $2,000,000 in "tribute" extortion money, Jefferson had had enough and in 1801 sent the U.S. Navy and Marines against Tripoli. This brought at least a temporary respite, and contributed a phrase ("the shores of Tripoli") to the Marine Hymn. Backing off of American shipping, the Beys were done in when the Turkish government became alarmed over the French occupation of Algeria in 1830. To forestall any French move against Tripoli, the Turks reasserted their authority, although the Sanûsî Amîrs began to drift into autonomy again.
Morocco and Tunisia now look like islands of bliss in comparison to Algeria, where dictatorship was supposed to end with elections, but then, when the elections went to Islâmic fundamentalists, the army set them aside in favor of a more moderate dictatorship. The result has been a particularly nasty kind of civil war, in which whole villages have been massacred by forces that don't even acknowledge which side they are fighting for. This frightening and perplexing dilemma is beginning to seem all too common in the Islâmic world, where the most vicious radicals nevertheless seem to command genuine popularity and prestige. It is thus an example of the challenge of Islamic Fascism that is beginning to characterize our era.
These tables are based on both The New Islamic Dynasties by Clifford Edmund Bosworth [Edinburgh University Press, 1996] and the Oxford Dynasties of the World by John E. Morby [Oxford University Press, 1989, 2002]. The ʿAlawid Sharîfs and Ḥusaynid Beys are treated by both sources. Morby has a clearer presentation, but Bosworth also has a brief discussion of the history.
The House of Suʿûd & Saudi Arabia,
|The House of Suʿûd,|
|Suʿûd ibn Muḥammad||ʾAmîr of Dirʿiyya,|
|ʿAbd al-ʿAzîz I||1765-1803|
|Egyptian Occupation, 1818-1822; ʿAbdallâh executed at Constantinople, identified as "Chief of the Wahabys," 1819|
|Egyptian Occupation, 1838-1843|
|Khâlid I||Vassal of Egypt,|
|ʿAbdallâh II||Vassal of Egypt,|
|Conquest and rule by Rashîdîs,|
|Direct rule by Rashîdîs,|
|ʿAbd al-ʿAzîz II||ʾAmîr, 1902-1926;|
King of Najd
and Ḥijâz, 1926-1932;
King of Saʿûdî
The House of Suʿûd, , ʾÂl Suʿûd, has made the Najd significant, for better or worse. At first this was just for religious reasons. The amirs allied themselves with a fundamentalist religious movement, the Wahhâbîs (, Wahhâbî). This was founded by Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhâb (1703-1792). Although educated as an Orthodox member of Ḥanbalî School, ʾal-Wahhâb soon developed heterodox ideas that had him denounced as a heretic and driven from one refuge to another. Rejecting the traditions of the conservative Ḥanbalî as well as the other three Orthodox Schools of jurisprudence, ʾal-Wahhâb decided that the only Sunnah, , the only "tradition" worthy of the name was that of the Prophet and his Companions alone. This meant that everything found introduced in subsequent ʾIslâm, all such "innovation," , bidʿah, was illegitimate and the moral equivalent of apostacy, which deserved death. ʾAl-Wahhâb's followers were to be , ʾal-Muwaḥḥadûn, those who "Profess the Unity of God" -- a term also used by the Almohads in North Africa. Wahhâbî doctrine was to be enforced by unrelenting Jihâd, against both Muslims and unbelievers. Thus, this tradition, whose influence would spread to India and elsewhere, was often killing many more Muslems than infidels. Like the heretical Kharijites of early ʾIslâm, Muslims were themselves infidels if they were not in doctrinal conformity with the Wahhâbîs. Such an attitude was deeply heretical in Orthodox ʾIslâm. In India, the British called similar Jihadists "Wahhabis" or the "Hindustani Fanatics."
ʾAl-Wahhâb, of course, would have had no influence anywhere if he had not finally found a refuge, which he did, with the House of Suʿûd. The militancy of the sect then motivated constant warfare, which was justified with something more than dynastic ambition. By the beginning of the 19th century, this began to trouble the Ottoman authorities at Mecca and Medina. The cities would be attacked and even occupied, with vandalism and mayhem inflicted on the locals and their ancient traditions -- because of the insufficient orthodoxy and purity, according to the Wahhâbîs, of their institutions. Since the Wahhâbîs did not believe that graves should be marked, lest individuals receive respect and devotion that is only owing to God, even the Prophet's Tomb in Medina was not immune from desecration.
The threat became so serious that the Sulṭân asked Muḥammad ʿAlî of Egypt to intervene. The Suʿûdîs were sharply defeated and driven out of the Hijaz (1818), the amir ʿAbdallâh captured and executed (1819). The job, however, had to be done all over again twenty years later (1838). This time the Egyptians maintained indirect control for a few years subsequently. Freed from Egyptian control, the Suʿûdis soon were more permanently subordinated to other Arabian princes, the Rashîdîs.
The realm was permanently liberated from outside control by a formidable ruler, ʿAbd al-ʿAzîz (II) ibn Suʿûd. In his long reign (1902-1952), ʿAbd al-ʿAzîz transformed the fortunes of his realm, by diplomacy, by war, and by extraordinary good fortune. Thus, a cash subsidy from the British meant that he was in the right place and at the right time to take advantage of the falling out between the British and the new king Ḥussayn of the Hijaz, the erstwhile leader of the Arab revolt against the Turks in World War I. By deposing Ḥusayn in 1925, ʿAbd al-ʿAzîz was soon able to unify the central Arabian Peninsula from the Persian Gulf right across to the Red Sea. This then became the Kingdom of Saʿûdî Arabia. ʿAbd al-ʿAzîz then had the wisdom to tolerate the institutions at Mecca and Medina that had previously offended Wahhâbî orthodoxy. He did not want to unite the whole Muslim world against him.
Something that puzzles many is whether the name of the dynasty and country is properly "Suʿûd" or "Saʿûd." Some research has failed to clarify this issue. Clifford Edmund Bosworth's The New Islamic Dynasties [Edinburgh University Press, 1996] simply gives both forms without comment [pp. 116-117]. In the text, he consistently uses "Suʿûd"; but, of course, in the news and public discourse the country is always called "Saudi" Arabia. An explanation would be welcome.
Before long the British subsidies to ʿAbd al-ʿAzîz were no longer necessary, since the discovery of vast oil reserves in the Persian Gulf soon brought in wealth such as the bare lands of Arabia had never seen before. The Najdi capital of Riyadh was at first so miserable that foreign embassies had been confined to Jiddah. Now "Arab" became a byword for "wealth."
While the British had long exploited oil in the Persian Gulf, the Saudis partnered with Americans instead, specifically Standard Oil of California, creating the "Arabian-American Oil Company," ARAMCO. Curiously, this preference seems to have been promoted by the former British diplomat Harry St John "Jack" Philby (1885-1960), father of the Cambridge spy Harold "Kim" Philby (1912-1988). After being fired as a British diplomat, the elder Philby became a retainer of ʿAbd-al-ʿAzîz. Thus, with a history of ill will, Philby was not likely to promote British interests. As previously noted here on the topic of slavery, Philby was on such intimate terms with the King that in 1945 he was gifted with a 16-year-old slave girl, Rozy al-ʿAbdul ʿAzîz, with whom he had three children. Philby would have been sixty. I don't see any information on what became of Rozy, not even a date of death.
Despite incredible wealth, kicked into overdrive by the Arab oil boycott in 1973, Saʿûdî Arabia remained deeply conservative and religiously fundamentalist, as in the early days of the Wahhâbîs. Alcohol is prohibited in the Kingdom. Women could not drive cars without the company of a man. Nor could women work in mixed company or appear on television without a veil. Religious services for any religion other than ʾIslâm are illegal. The full rigors of Islâmic law mean that fornication (let alone adultery) can be punished by death (beheading) and theft by the amputation of a hand. A special religious police force -- , muṭawwaʿ (plural , muṭawwaʿûn) -- looks after moral improprieties, including even excessive laughter in one's home.
The rigors of ʾIslâm, however, did not necessarily strike other Arabs as the most objectionable thing about Saʿûdî Arabia. Revolutions in Iraq, Syria, and especially Egypt, with promulgation of ideologies like Nasser's "Arab socialism," led to the desire and expectation that the "reactionary regimes," i.e. monarchies and pro-Western governments, would eventually all be swept away. The Saʿûdîs had some natural advantages against this. ʿAbd al-ʿAzîz begat literally dozens of children, and this formed a tight family corporation for the control of the country. At the same time, the Nasserites and socialists, by their close association with the Soviet Union, handed the Saʿûdîs a powerful card: the atheism of the Communists, of no particular concern to Nasser, was anathema to the fundamentalists. For many years beyond the time it made the slightest bit of sense, the Kingdom always linked Israel and the Soviets as the twin pillars of Communist atheism.
In more institutional terms, since a military coup was always the most serious threat to a Middle Eastern state, the Saʿûdîs created two entirely separate military establishments, the regular military and a national guard, that could serve as checks on each other. The Kingdom thus rode out the high tide of Arab revolution. As Egypt and Jordan made peace with Israel, and then Iraq threatened the Saʿûdîs with a surprise conquest of Kuwait (another "reactionary" Emirate), the Kingdom found itself in a grand alliance of Egypt, Syria, Britain, France, and the United States to liberate Kuwait.
Meanwhile, a threat to the Saʿûdîs had come from a very different kind of revolution, the Iranian upheaval of the Ayatollah Khomeini. With the beginning of the Islamic year 1400, in December 1979, Iranian inspired fanatics, including some American converts, took over the Great Mosque in Mecca, which houses the Kaʿaba, the House of God, built by Abraham, the most sacred place in all of ʾIslâm. A bloody firefight, damaging the building, was necessary to defeat the fanatics. Henceforth, Iranians were closely watched and controlled while on pilgrimage (nothing new, actually, in Orthodox Mecca, where Richard Burton, impersonating a Moslem, observed much the same thing in the 19th century).
In 2001, the Saʿûdîs, still ruled by sons of ʿAbd al-ʿAzîz (he had 43 or more of them, from 1900 to 1947), seemed secure enough. When OPEC drives up oil prices, the Kingdom wins browny points with the West (and makes extra money) by underselling Cartel prices. Conservative ʾIslâm is under no threat from any non-Western sources, though the occasional wild Prince, like the one with the nude statuary with painted pubic hair at his house in Beverly Hills, must be intensely embarrassing.
I always wonder about the Saʿûdî girls I knew in Beirut in 1969-1970, who used to change into see-through blouses on the flights from Jiddah to Beirut. Either they live a private life secure from the religious police (police invasions of domestic privacy common in the West would provoke serious bloodshed in Arabia), or they have moved to the West. As conservative guardians of the Holy Cities of ʾIslâm, Saʿûdî Arabia is probably in an ideologically position stronger than for most of the 20th century. ʾIslâm everywhere has tended to gravitate toward the Wahhâbî positions, rather than away from them.
The terrorist attacks against the United States on 9/11/2001 put conservative ʾIslâm in a somewhat different light. Saʿûdî subsidies to Islamic schools in countries like Pakistan have helped breed a generation of fanatics with a great hatred of modernity and the West. The mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, ʿUsâma bn Lâdin, was himself a Saʿûdî millionaire, stripped of his citizenship, who had created a state-within-a-state in Ṭâlibân Afghanistian. Ṭâlibân itself ominously means "students," i.e. students from the Pakistani Islâmic schools -- schools where Wahhâbî influence actually dates from the 19th century and once promoted the "Hindustani Fanatics" who had to be suppressed under British rule.
The Saʿûdîs are (officially) mortified by all this; but many Americans, particularly but not exclusively those sympathetic to Israel, are suddenly suspicious of a presumably friendly regime whose consistent actions have tended, not surprisingly, to promote anti-Americanism. There is undoubtedly an inner inconistency in Saʿûdî policy, which is overtly friendly, indeed dependent (with American troups stationed in the country), with the country whose culture represents the whole threat of freedom and modernity to Wahhâbî conservatism and the theocratic aspect of the Saʿûdî state. Where previously the threat to the Saʿûdî state had been from the Left, things like Nasser's "Arab Socialism," now the threat may be from the Right, from people who view any remnant of secular pragmatism and Realpolitik in Saʿûdî policy as irreligious -- the people who have created the present ideology of Islamic Fascism. This is an unusual position for the House of Suʿûd, and it may force some unpleasant choices upon them.
The death of King ʿAdballâh in 2015 meant that the resevoir of sons of ʿAbd al-ʿAzîz is beginning to run dry. The Crown Prince, Muqrin, at 69, is now the youngest surviving son. His successor will be from the next generation of Suʿûdîs, already designated as the Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed, son of Prince Nayef. In updating the page here for these changes, I noticed that my previous source, Robert Lacey's The Kingdom, Arabia & the House of Sa'ud [Avon Books, 1981, 1982] actually failed to include the new King, Salman, among the sons of ʿAbd al-ʿAzîz. Also, consulting Wikipedia and other sources, the birth dates for several Princes are different from those given by Lacey. I do not know if the problems with Lacey were his own carelessness or the difficulty of getting accurate information out of the Suʿûdîs. I have made some corrections but have not examined the dates and names for all the Princes. Many have died whose fate I have not yet recorded.
The paradox of the position of the Suʿûdîs continues. Whether we call it Islamic Fascism, Radical ʾIslâm, Terrorism, Islamism, Jihadism, or whatever, the Suʿûdîs are themselves responsible the promotion of the reactionary and fundamentalist ideas that have fueled it. Yet they are alarmed and threatened by the result. The "Arab Spring," with the promise of democratization, was as much as threat to Suʿûdî autocracy as it was to any other regime, but the collapse of the "Spring" into chaos, civil war, or radicalization everywhere except Tunisia has actually given the Suʿûdîs some breathing room. No sensible person wants the Monarchy overthrown just to end up with a bunch of raging Jihadists.
Of course, in that respect, one wonders about the policy of Barack Obama, whose tepid support for allies like both Israel and Saudi Arabia, and his apparent eagerness to strike even a bad nuclear deal with radical Iran, make one wonder about his commitment and even his intentions. After his infamous bow to King ʿAbdallâh, many wonder now if Obama has simply lost interest because of the complexity and intractability of the situation. He continues to boast of withdrawing American forces from both Iraq and Afghanistan, beyond the point where this seemed prudent -- as it definitely proved not to be in Iraq when the "Islamic State" (ISIS or ISIL) captured Mosul and much of the rest of the country in 2014. The Iraqi Army, purged of Sunnis, broke and fled, while the Kurds were stuck with a desperate Goal Line Defense. After foolish dithering, Obama agreed to some airstrikes and adivsors, but the Kurds were still not receiving direct military aid. Rumors float that Israel and the Suʿûdîs are secretly planning what to do about Iran's nuclear program if Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry sell everyone out to Iran. Many are surprised that Israel has not already struck Iran's nuclear facilities, as it previously has attacked such things in both Iraq, under Hussein, and Syria, more recently. The number of nuclear sites and their exteme range make it a difficult operation for the Israeli Air Force. It would all be a lot easier if the Suʿûdîs provided bases and support. Yet that probably could only be done secretly. Saudi Arabia cannot openly side with Israel at a time when pure hatred of Jews may be at its highest in the Islamic world. A feudal anachronism of desert sheiks thus continues to walk a thin line as a major player in 21st century politics.
In 2017 the son of King Salmân, Muḥammad bn Salmân, was made Crown Prince, following Prince Muqrin (the last surviving son of ʿAbd al-ʿAzîz ibn Suʿûd) in 2015 and Prince Muḥammad bn Nayef, 2016-2017. This was rather unusual, violating and ancient custom of succession moving to brothers and cousins before children. This was only the beginning of the shake-up. ʾIbn Salmân moved to liberalize the Kingdom. Women are allowed to drive alone. Mixed crowds of men and women now patronize restaurants and sporting events. Music concerts are allowed, with sexually mixed crowds. The authority of the religious police is curtailed. Things are relaxing and opening up. Actually, the extremes of moralistic suppression sometimes only date from reaction to the events of 1979. However, things have never been this open.
What goes along with this, however, is a ferocious suppression of any political opposition. Resistance can be expected to come from religious fanatics, but ʾIbn Salmân is apparently aware that the fanatics are often financed and encouraged by people whose hostility is less open, and whose aims are often more political than religious. When experiments in democracy in the Arab world have often resulted in people voting in religious extemists (e.g. Algeria, Egypt), it is perhaps not surprising that ʾIbn Salmân has no interest in promoting things like elections. Instead, there have been mass arrests, even of Royal Princes.
A key moment in the suppression of opposition came when Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in İstanbul in 2018. Khashoggi was an exiled journalist who had written for the Washington Post and other venues. This made him a darling of the bien pensants in the West. However, his sympathies seem to have been Islamist and Jihadist, and this may have marked him as particularly theatening to the Saʿûdî government. What happened is that Khashoggi, a Saʿûdî citizen, wanted to marry and required some kind of documents from a Saʿûdî Consulate in Turkey. Alerted to his plans, an assassination team of 15 was sent to get him. And it did. Khashoggi was seized when he entered the Consulate, murdered, dismembered, and the body parts disposed of.
The official Saʿûdî story is that this was done without authorization. Eleven assassins were tried and five were condemned to death. Three defendants, who coincidentally were high ranking security officials, were simply acquitted. No one believes any part of the Saʿûdî investigation or prosecution.
The bright spot in all this, oddly enough, is that the whole operation was done so clumsily. We might gather that ʾIbn Salmân has not made a habit of assassinations in foreign territory, or it would not have been done in such an obvious way. The Turks had actually bugged the Saʿûdî Consolate, so they had an audio recording of the whole business. This means that Saʿûdî Security had not bothered to sweep their own Consulate for bugs. The Russians have gotten away with several assassinations in Britain, using exotic poisons and radioactive materials. Their fingerprints are all over these things, but they have preserved enough deniability that there is little that Britain can do about it. ʾIbn Salmân perhaps can get some tips. Or he might swear off such operations.
Meanwhile, things have heated up with Irân. Since President Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal, Irân is in trouble and has tried to make trouble, attacking and seizing ships in the Persian Gulf. This culminated in an attack on a Saʿûdî oil facility, knocking it out for some weeks. Trump was ready to retaliate for this, but then backed off. However, Iranian terrorist attacks on American forces in Iraq led to the killing by drone of their terrorist mastermind, Qassim Suleimani, whose body and possessions were then immediately inspected by nearby U.S. troops. This made Suleimani a hero and martyr, not only in Irân, but, naturally, to Democrats and Leftists in the United States. But it was a warning to Irân that Trump was running out of patience.
How well the policies of ʾIbn Salmân, both liberalizing and brutal, will play out remains to be seen. Shows of strength can mask an actual fragility of power, but it is hard for outsiders to tell with Saʿûdî Arabia. If ʾIbn Salmân lives to become King --- in 2020 King Salmân is 84 years old -- it will be a very different era for the Kingdom. Since the United States is now self-sufficient in oil and natural gas, all the political leverage of OPEC, let alone Saʿûdî Arabia alone, will be a thing of the past -- unless the Environmentalists manage to destroy the American oil and gas industry, which is their goal. We can imagine secret subsidies from the Saʿûdîs to Environmentalists.
Philosophy of History
In Seven Pillars of Wisdom , the account by T.E. Lawrence (1888-1935) of his role in the Arab revolt, we learn that Lawrence suspected all along that Britain would not keep its promises to the Arabs. However, Lawrence had a job to do, out of loyalty to his country, so he would do his best for the Arabs and accomplish British war goals also. Later, he figured that the British had done right with the thrones secured for Fayṣal and ʿAbdullâh. The fury of their father Ḥusayn, however, led to a break with the British, which left him unprotected against the attack of ʿAbd al-ʿAzîz ibn Suʿûd. He had to live out his life with ʿAbdullâh in Amman.
To the international public, most knowledge about Lawrence will come from the movie Lawrence of Arabia , by David Lean, with Peter O'Toole playing Lawrence. It is a superior movie. However, it takes such liberties with the story as to create some misrepresentations. Much of what is done seems to be aimed at creating the impression that Lawrence was taumatized by his experiences, to the point where he was losing his grip. This does not seem accurate, and Lawrence's own brother objected to the apparent message. Almost all the incidents that supposedly traumatized Lawrence, or that display some disorder of mind, are distortions of the record.
One of the worst misrepresentations, however, is unrelated to those issues. Lawrence had engaged a guide to take him out to where Prince Fayṣal was camped with his army. They stop at a well for water. In the distance, they see a rider approaching. This is one of the principal characters of the movie, played by Omar Sharif. Lawrence's guide scrambles to defend himself but is shot dead by Sharif, who explains that the man had no right to use the well. Lawrence expresses his outrage and rebukes, not only Omar Sharif, but the Arabs in general.
However, this episode is fictional, and Omar Sharif plays a character who is also fictional. Lawrence and his guide are met by other travelers at the well, which was real, and there were some tribal tensions involved; but Lawrence explains to the reader that, indeed, anyone has a right to draw water from any well. It is, after all, a desert; and one could die of thirst. If Lawrence's guide had been killed just for using the well, it would have started a blood feud (lex talionis).
Thus, the rebuke to the Arabs, although perhaps warranted for things like blood feuds, is entirely baseless in this instance.
Another incident ends up involving issues of blood feud, but begins with something else entirely. One of the most dramatic sequences in the movie is when Lawrence's group crosses a stretch of harsh desert on the way to Aqaba. One of the Arabs is left behind, but Lawrence goes back and gets him. Later, there is a dispute and a killing in the Arab army camp, and Lawrence is asked to execute the perpetrator, which is the only way to avoid a blood feud. The perpetrator turns out to be the man he rescued from the desert. He is upset about this, and the marvelous Anthony Quinn, playing the historical character ʿAudah Abû-Tâyah (1872-1924), wonders why. The circumstances explained to him, Quinn dismisses the problem with a bit of Islamic fatalism, "It is written." Lawrence had been warned that his original rescue of the man may have been contrary to what was fated for him.
This sequence combines different episodes, and the addition of the fatalism, although perhaps accurate for Islam, is something that is never voiced in the entire Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Thus, the desert crossed was not on the way to Aqaba, but was a route inland, to the north-east, that Lawrence chose to get the quickest to the Wadi Sirhan, in the interior domain of ʿAudah himself -- of his Abu Tayi subtribe of the Howeitat, where forces could be assembled, plans debated, allies recruited, and, as it happened, multiple feasts of mutton, rice, and butter enjoyed. This trip was across the "el Houl" desert, adjacent to the barren Nefud ("Nefudh"), about which Lawrence was curious but which ʿAudah refused to enter. The movie says that they cross the Nefud. The problem with the man Lawrence rescued, Gasim, was not his presumed "fate," but the fact that he wasn't much liked, an "ill-natured stranger" to the others. I remember no reference to his death in the rest of the book, while he is still disliked. Instead, Lawrence was asked to execute a murderer in an unrelated incident, which otherwise did not particularly trouble him. Meanwhile, where Lawrence had regarded Gasim as his "man" and his responsibility, the slave of another leader had also been left behind -- but no one took his absence seriously, and it was no big deal when he and his camel were later found dead.
Thus, we see David Lean's story put together to convey something that does not exist in Seven Pillars of Wisdom, with a rebuke of Islamic fatalism, which is itself falsified, to Lawrence's (imaginary) distress. Having recuited ʿAudah's people and others for the cause of the Arab Revolt, the campaign against Aqaba, to the south-west, otherwise was without major difficulties, although not without some adventures and at least one pitched battle with the Turks, where Lawrence accidentally shoots and kills his own camel.
I also might note, as we have just seen, that there are a lot of slaves in Seven Pillars of Wisdom. This is accepted as a matter of course by the Arabs and does not come in for any particular comment by Lawrence. But there are no identified slaves in the movie Lawrence of Arabia. This is not irrelevant to current debates, where the Left in America wants to blame all slavery, which they assume is all African, on Europeans and Americans. David Lean can have had no such agenda, and there is no reason why the presence of "enslaved persons" should have been mentioned in the movie; but even in 1962 their presence would have been a little awkward. Saudi Arabia didn't formally abolish slavery until a year later -- Mauritania didn't abolish slavery until 2007, the last country on Earth.
The next problem concerns two orphan Arab boys, Farraj and Daud, whom Lawrence takes under his wing. Lawrence takes them along as he crosses the desert from Aqaba to Egypt to announce the capture of the city. One dies by falling into, apparently, quicksand. This is another trauma that Lawrence must endure. Later, Lawrence must kill the other boy after he is horribly injured in an explosives accident. Another trauma.
However, the first boy does not die in the trackless desert. Lawrence crosses from Aqaba to Suez with eight men, none of whom is identified as Farraj or Daud, and none of whom is lost. Daud does die later, apparently of the cold (it can get cold in the winter desert and in the Syrian mountains), but this isn't even in Lawrence's presence, and must be reported to him by Farraj. Subsequently, Farraj pines away for him -- "from that day till his service ended he made no more laughter for us." Instead he "wandered restlessly, grey and silent, very much alone." And he becomes reckless, so that in one action, "Farraj, riding in front of everyone, would not listen to our cries nor notice the warning shots fired past his head." He is shot by the Turks. "The bullet had smashed right through him, and his spine seemed injured. The Arabs said at once that he had only a few hours to live."
The Turks are coming, and "We could not leave him where he was, to the Turks, because we had seen them burn alive our hapless wounded." Farraj "told us to let him alone, as he was dying and happy to die, since he had no care of life." They tried carrying him, but "he screamed so pitifully that we had not the heart to hurt him more."
Lawrence does kill him, but he is reconciled to this because of the boy's desolation at the earlier loss of his friend and his resignation in the circumstances. But the poignant and moving dimensions of this scene are lost in the movie, where the trauma to Lawrence, not the tragedy to Farraj, seems to be the only concern. Nor is Farraj portrayed with the calm and peace reported by Lawrence.
Finally, I'll mention one more thing. Late in the movie, Lawrence is overcome by some kind of blood lust, and he orders the massacre of a retreating Turkish column. What this was all about is ignored in the movie. What we do see is that the Turks are leaving behind some dead people on the ground -- including the only woman in the entire movie. This is unexplained. In fact, Lawrence was constantly trying to get the Arabs to take Turkish prisoners alive and not kill them. In this instance, the retreating Turks had massacred an entire Arab village, which was in fact the native village of many men in the Arab Army. They wanted revenge, and in this instance Lawrence thought that was warranted. So the Turks were massacred in turn. But Lawrence was not overcome by a frenzy to go around slaughtering individual Turks, as David Lean shows us. This is only there to give us the idea that all the traumas endured by Lawrence have unsettled his mind. Indeed, David Lean gives us the impression that massacring Turks has become Lawrence's standard operating procedure. Nothing of the sort. This was a unique exception to Lawrence's principles. He took no pleasure in it.
Thus, the movie Lawrence of Arabia has some sort of odd agenda that leads to the misrepresentation of various events. This may add to the drama, but it is no favor to either T.E. Lawrence or to the Arab Revolt.
It is hard to know whether all the strategic initiatives in the Revolt, as recounted by Lawrence, really were Lawrence's ideas; but his later enemies did make the mistake of condemning him for advising that the Turks be left in possession of Medina, while the battle was taken North. As it happens, this is one of the more brilliant strategic ideas of the campaign, and its form would be reproduced in the "island hopping" strategy against Japan in World War II. Many Japanese garrisons were left to just wither on the vine, as the Turks were in Medina -- while the Turks needed to invest great resources in defending and repairing the Hejaz Railroad, so that Medina could be supplied. If the critics of Lawrence wanted to claim that he exaggerated his influence, attributing to him the idea of bypassing Medina, as though this was bad, was a mistake. Rather than discrediting Lawrence, it discredits the critics, even as it acknowledges that Lawrence contributed a key strategic plan.
Lawrence in Arabia, by Scott Anderson, Anchor Books, 2013, 2014
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ʾIslâm, 622 AD-present; Note;
Lawrence of Arabia
I waited a moment, and he said, 'Daud will be angry with you,' the old smile coming back so strangely to his grey shrinking face. I replied, 'Salute him from me.' He returned the formal answer, 'God will give you peace,' and at last wearily closed his eyes.
Lawrence in Arabia, by Scott Anderson, Anchor Books, 2013, 2014
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