Parts 8-10

Political power relies on the feelings of supporters Icon

January 29, 2020

8. The greatness, territorial size, and length of a dynasty depend on the numbers of its supporters.

This is because royal authority exists only through group feeling.

Representatives of group feeling are the militiamen who settle in the territories of the dynasty. The more numerous the tribes and groups of a large dynasty, the stronger and larger are its and lands. Their royal authority, therefore, is wider.

An example of this was the Muslim dynasty when God united the power of the Arabs in Islam. The Prophet’s last raid had 110,000,45 Muslims against Tabuk. This consisted of Mudar and Qahtin horsemen and foot soldiers.

This was augmented by those who became Muslims after the raid up to the Prophet’s death.

When all these people then set out to seek for themselves the royal authority held by other nations, there was no protection against them or refuge.

They were allowed to take the realms of:

  • the Persians,
  • Byzantines,
  • the Turks in the East
  • the European Christians and Berbers in the West (Maghrib)
  • the Goths in Spain

They went from the Hijiz to as-Sus in the far west, 46 and from the Yemen to the Turks in the farthest north. They gained possession of all seven zones.

One may also look at the Sinhajah and Almohad dynasties and their relationship to the ‘Ubaydid (-Fitimids) before them.

The Kutimah were the supporters of the ‘Ubaydid-Fatimid dynasty. They were more numerous than the Sinhajah and the Masmudah.

Consequently, their dynasty was larger. They took possession of:

  • Ifriqiyah
  • the Maghrib
  • Syria,
  • Egypt
  • the Hijaz.

One may also look at the later Zanatah dynasty. Since the number of the Zanatah was smaller than that of the Masmt dah, their royal authority fell short of that of the Almohads, because the Zanatah were numerically inferior to the MasmGdah from the very start.

One may also consider the situation of the two Zanatah dynasties at this time, the Merinids and the ‘Abd-al-Wadids.

The Merinids were numerically stronger than the ‘Abd-alWadids when they first seized power. Therefore, their dynasty was stronger and larger than that of the ‘Abd-alWadids.

Time after time, the Merinids defeated the Abdal-Wadids. There were 3,000 Merinids at the start of their rule. The Abd-al-Wadids were 1,000.

However, possession of dynastic power with its life of ease and the great number of its followers increased their numbers.

Thus, the expansion and power of a dynasty correspond to the numerical strength of those who obtain superiority at the beginning of the rule.

The length of its duration also depends upon it. The life of anything that comes into being depends on the strength of its temper. The temper of dynasties is based on group feeling.

If the group feeling is strong, the dynasty’s temper likewise is strong, and its life of long duration. Group feeling, in turn, depends on numerical strength.

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Large dynasties last longer because when collapse comes, it begins in the outlying regions. The large dynasty has many such provinces far from its center.

Each defection that occurs necessarily requires a certain time. The time required for collapse of the dynasty will be long in such cases, because there are many provinces, each of which collapses in its own good time.

The duration of a large dynasty, therefore, is long. This is observed in the Arab Muslim dynasty.

It lasted the longest of all Muslim dynasties, counting both the Abbasids in the center and the Umayyads far away in Spain. Their rule collapsed only after the 10th century.

The ‘Ubaydid-Fatimids lasted about 280 years. The Sinhajah dynasty did not last as long as that of the Ubaydid-Fatimids, namely, from the time when Ma’add al-Mu’izz entrusted Ifrigiyah to Buluggin b. Zirt in 969 up to the time when the Almohads took possession of al-Qal’ah 49 and Bougie in 1162.

The contemporary Almohad (Hafsid) dynasty has lasted nearly 270 years.

Thus, the life of a dynasty depends on the number of its supporters.

9. A dynasty rarely establishes itself firmly in lands with many different tribes and groups.

This is because the differences in opinions and desires. Behind each opinion and desire, there is a group feeling defending it. At any time, therefore, there is much opposition to a dynasty and rebellion against it, even if the dynasty possesses group feeling, because each group feeling under the control of the ruling dynasty thinks that it has in itself (enough) strength and power.

One may compare what has happened in this connection in Ifriqiyah and the Maghrib from the beginning of Islam to the present time. The inhabitants of those lands are Berber tribes and groups.

The first victory of Ibn Abi Sarh 52 over them and the European Christians (in the Maghrib) was of no avail. They continued to rebel and apostatized time after time.

The Muslims massacred many of them. After the Muslim religion had been established among them, they went on revolting and seceding, and they adopted dissident (Kharijite) religious opinions many times. Ibn Abi Zayd 53 said that the Berbers in the Maghrib revolted twelve times and that Islam became firmly established among them only during the governorship of Musi b. Nusayr and thereafter.

This is what is meant by the statement reported on the authority of ‘Umar, that “Ifriqiyah ‘divides’ 54 the hearts of its inhabitants.” The statement refers to the great number of tribes and groups there, which causes them to be disobedient and unmanageable. The ‘Iraq at that time was different, and so was Syria.

The militia of the (‘Iraq and Syria) consisted of Persians and Byzantines (respectively). All (the inhabitants) were a mixed lot of town and city dwellers. When the Muslims deprived them of their power, there remained no one capable of making a defense or of offering opposition.

The Berber tribes in the West are innumerable. All of them are Bedouins and members of groups and families. Whenever one tribe is destroyed, another takes its place and is as refractory and rebellious as the former one had been. Therefore, it has taken the Arabs a long time to establish their dynasty in the land of Ifriqiyah and the Maghrib.

The same was the case in Syria in the age of the Israelites. At that time, there existed (there) a very large number of tribes with a great variety of group feelings, such as the tribes of Palestine and Canaan, the children of Esau, the Midyanites, the children of Lot, the Edomites, the Armenians[!], the Amalekites, Girgashites, and the Nabataeans from the Jazirah and Mosul 55 Therefore, it was difficult for the Israelites to establish their dynasty firmly.

Time after time, their royal authority was endangered. The (spirit of) opposition (alive in the country) communicated itself to (the Israelites). They opposed their own government and revolted against it.

They thus never had a continuous and firmly established royal authority. Eventually they were overpowered, first by the Persians, then by the Greeks, and finally by the Romans, when their power came to an end in the Diaspora. “God has the power to execute His commands.” 56

On the other hand, it is easy to establish a dynasty in lands that are free from group feelings. Government there will be a tranquil affair, because seditions and rebellions are few, and the dynasty there does not need much group feeling. This isthe case in contemporary Egypt and Syria.

They are (now) free from tribes and group feelings; indeed, one would never suspect that Syria had once been a mine of them, as we have (just) stated.

Royal authority in Egypt is most peaceful and firmly rooted, because Egypt has few dissidents or people who represent tribal groups. Egypt has a sultan and subjects. (Egypt’s) ruling dynasty consists of the Turkish rulers and their groups. They succeed each other in power, and the rule circulates among them, passing from one branch to another.

The caliphate belongs in name to an ‘Abbasid, a descendant of the ‘Abbasid caliphs of Baghdad. The same is the case in contemporary Spain.

The group feeling of the ruler of (Spain), Ibn al-Ahmar (the Nasrids of Granada), was not strong or widespread to begin with. (The Nasrids) belonged to one of the Arab houses that had supported the Umayyad dynasty, a few survivors of which remained. This situation came about as follows= When the Spaniards were no longer ruled by the Arab dynasty (of the Umayyads) and the Lamtanah and Almohad Berbers became their rulers, they detested this domination.

Their oppression weighed heavily upon them, and their hearts were full of hate and indignation against (the new rulers). Near the end of the (Almohad) rule, the Almohad lords handed over many of their strongholds to the abominable (Christian ruler), in order to gain his support for their attempts to capture the capital city of Marrakech. That caused remnants of the people in Spain who represented the ancient group feeling to unite.

These were descendants of Arab houses who had to some degree kept away from urban civilization and the cities, and who were firmly rooted in military life. They included Ibn Had (of Saragossa), Ibn al-Ahmar (of Granada), and Ibn Mardanish (of Valencia and Murcia), and others like them.

Ibn Had seized power, made propaganda for the ‘Abbasid caliphate in the East, and caused the people to revolt against the Almohads. Allegiance to them was denounced, and they were driven out. Ibn Had thus became the independent ruler of Spain. Then, Ibn alAhmar rose to power and opposed Ibn Had’s propaganda. He made propaganda for Ibn Abi Hafs, the Almohad ruler of Ifriqiyah, and seized power with the help of a group of relatives who were called “the chiefs.”

He needed no more people than these, because there were so few groups in Spain (at that time) possessing a government (sultan) and subjects. Ibn al-Ahmar then sought support against the abominable (Christian ruler) from Zanatah chieftains who came to him from across the sea. These Zanatah chieftains became his associates in defense of the frontier regions and the manning of the garrisons.

Now, the Zanatah (Merinid) ruler of the Maghrib had hopes of gaining power in Spain. But these Zanatah chieftains who were Ibn al-Ahmar’s associates defended him. His power, eventually, was firmly established.

The people became used to his rule and could do nothing against him. He bequeathed his power to his descendants, who have held it down to the present. One should not think that he was without group support.

This was not so. He started out with a group, but it was a small one. However, it was sufficient for his needs, because there were few groups and tribes in (Spain) and, consequently, not much group feeling was needed there, in order to gain the upper hand over the Spaniards.