Parts 17-19

The Ruler's Supporters

January 24, 2020

17. The ruler seeks the help of clients and followers against the men of his own people and group feeling.

A ruler can achieve power only with the help of his own people. They are his group and his helpers in his enterprise.

He uses them to fight against those who revolt against his dynasty. He fills the administrative offices with them as his wazirs and tax collectors, helping him achieve superiority.

This applies as long as the first stage of a dynasty lasts, as we have stated. 168 With the approach of the second stage, the ruler shows himself independent of his people,169 claims all the glory for himself, and pushes his people away from it with the palms (of his hands).

This makes his own people his enemies. To prevent them from seizing power, he needs other friends, not of his own skin, whom he can use against his own people and who will be his friends in their place. These (new friends) become closer to him than anyone else.

They deserve better than anyone else to be close to him and to be his followers, as well as to be preferred and to be given high positions, because they are willing to give their lives for him, preventing his own people from regaining the power that had been theirs and from occupying with him the rank to which they had been used.

In this (situation), the ruler cares only for his new followers. He singles them out for preference and many honors. He distributes among them as much (property) as (he does among) most of his own people.

He confers upon them the most important administrative positions, such as the offices of wazir, general, and tax collector, as well as royal titles which are his own prerogative, and which he does not share (even) with his own people.

He does this because they are now his closest friends and most sincere advisers. This, then, announces the destruction of the dynasty and indicates that chronic disease has befallen it, the result of the loss of the group feeling on which the (dynasty’s) superiority had been built.

The feelings of the people of the dynasty become diseased as a result of the contempt in which they are held and the hostility the ruler (shows against them). They hate him and await the opportunity of a change in his fortune. The great danger inherent in this situation reverts upon the dynasty.

There can be no hope it will recover from that illness. The mistakes of the past grow stronger with each successive generation and lead eventually to loss of the (dynasty’s) identity.

This is exemplified by the Umayyad dynasty.

Their wars and for administrative purposes, they had recourse to the support of Arabs such as

  • Amr b.Sa’d b. Abi Waggas
  • Ubaydallah b. Ziyad b. Abi Sufyan
  • al-Hajjaj b. Yusuf
  • al-Muhallab b. Abi Sufrah, Khalid b.
  • Abdallah al-Qasri
  • Ibn Hubayrah
  • Musa b. Nusayr
  • Bilal b. Abi Burdah b. Abi Musa al-Ash’ari
  • Nasr b. Sayyir, and
  • other Arab personalities.

The ‘Abbasid dynasty, too, used the support of Arab personalities. But when the dynasty came to claim all the glory for itself and kept the Arabs from aspiring to administrative positions, the wazirate fell to non-Arabs and followers such as the Barmecides, the Banu Sahl b. Nawbakht,171 and, later, theBuyids, and Turkish clients such as Bughi, Wasif, Utamish, Bakiyik (Bayakbak), Ibn Tulun, and their descendants, among other non-Arab clients.

Thus, the dynasty came to belong to people other than those who had established it. The power went to people other than those who had first won it.

18. The situation of clients and followers in dynasties.

The followers in a dynasty occupy different positions in the dynasty depending on whether their close contact with the ruler is of old or of recent date. This is because the purpose of group feeling is defense and aggression. It can materialize only with the help of a common descent.

Blood relations and other close relatives help each other, while strangers and outsiders do not.

Client relationships 173 and contacts with slaves or allies have the same effect as (common descent). The consequences of (common) descent, though natural, still are something imaginary.174

The real thing to bring about the feeling of close contact is social intercourse, friendly association, long familiarity, and the companionship that results from growing up together, having the same wet nurse, and sharing the other circumstances of death and life.

If close contact is established in such a manner, the result will be affection and cooperation. Observation of people shows this to be so. Something similar can be observed in connection with the relation between master and follower. Between the two, there develops a special closeness of relationship which has the same effect (as common descent) and strengthens the close contact.

Even though there is no (common) descent, the fruits of (common) descent are there. Whenever such a client relationship exists between a tribe and its clients before the tribe has obtained royal authority, the roots of the relationship are more firmly intertwined, the feelings and beliefs involved are more sincere, and the relationship itself is more clearly defined, for two reasons.

  1. Before (people obtain) royal authority, they are a model in their ways.

Only in the rarest cases is a distinction made between (common) descent and the client relationship. The position (of clients) is the same as that of close or blood relatives. However, if they choose followers after they have obtained royal authority, their royal rank causes them to make a distinction between master and client, and (another) between close relatives and clients or followers.

The conditions of leadership and royal authority require this in view of (existing) distinctions and differences in rank. The situation (of followers), therefore, is different. They are now on the same level as strangers. The close contact between (the ruler and his followers) weakens, and co-operation, therefore, becomes less likely.

This means that followers are now less (close to the ruler) than they were before (the ruler obtained) royal authority.

  1. Followers from before (the time the ruler obtained) royal authority had the status of followers long before the dynasty (came to power). 176

It is, thus, no longer clear (to contemporaries) how the close contact (originally) came about.

As a rule, it is supposed to be a case of (common) descent, and in this case the group feeling is strengthened. On the other hand, (follower relationships formed) after (the ruler has obtained) royal authority are of recent date and equally well known to most people.

The origin of the close contact is clear, and it is clearly distinguishable from (common) descent. The group feeling, in the latter case, is weak in comparison with the group feeling that results from the client relationshipthat existed before the dynasty came to power.

A look at known dynasties and other cases of political leadership will show this to be so. Follower relationships formed before leadership and royal authority were obtained, will be found to show a stronger and closer contact between masters and followers.

The latter occupy the same position with their master as do his children, his brothers, and other blood relatives. On the other hand, follower relationships formed after royal authority and (political) leadership were obtained do not show the same close connection that exists in the first (group).

One may observe this with one’s own eyes.

At the end of their power, dynasties eventually resort to employing strangers and accepting them as followers. These people, however, do not acquire any such glory as the men who had become followers of the dynasty before (it came to power) were able to build up for themselves.

Their (status as followers) is too recent in origin. Also, the destruction of the dynasty is impending. Therefore, they occupy a very low and humble position.

In taking them on as followers and replacing his old clients and original followers by them, the ruler is motivated by the fact that (his old clients and followers) have become overbearing. They show little obedience to him. They look at him in the same way as his own tribe and relatives do.

Close contact existed between him and them for a very long time. They had grown up together with him, had had connections with his ancestors and older members of his family, and were aligned with the great men of his house. (Thus, they are familiar with him) and, as a result (of their familiarity with him), they become proud and overbearing towards him.

This is the reason why the ruler comes to shun them and use others in their place. It has been only for a short time that he has come to care for these others and to use them as followers. Therefore, they do not attain positions of glory, but retain their position as outsiders. 177

This is the case with dynasties at their end. As a rule, the words “followers” and “clients” are used for the first group. The more recent followers are called “servants” and “helpers.”

19. Seclusion of, and control over, the ruler (by others) may occur in dynasties

When royal authority is firmly established in one particular family and branch of the tribe supporting the dynasty, and when that family claims all royal authority for itself and keeps the rest of the tribe away from it, and when the children of (that family) succeed to the royal authority in turn, by appointment, then it often happens that their wazirs and entourage gain power over the throne.

This occurs most often when a little child or a weak member of the family is appointed successor by his father or made ruler by his creatures and servants. It becomes clear that he is unable to fulfill the functions of ruler. Therefore, they are fulfilled by his guardian, one of his father’s wazirs, someone from his entourage, one of his clients, or a member of his tribe. (That person) gives the impression that he is guarding the power of the (child ruler) for him. Eventually, it becomes clear that he exercises the control, and he uses the fact as a tool to achieve royal authority.

He keeps the child away from his people. He accustoms him to the pleasures of his life of luxury and gives him every possible opportunity to indulge in them. He causes him to forget to look at government affairs. Eventually, he gains full control over him. He accustoms the (child ruler) to believe that the ruler’s share in royal authority consists merely in sitting on the throne, shaking hands, 179 being addressed as Sire (mawla), and sitting with the women in the seclusion of the harem. All (exercise of the) actual executive power, and the personal handling and supervision of matters that concern the ruler, such as inspection of the army, finances, and (defense of) the border regions, are believed (by the child ruler) to belong to the wazir. He defers to him in all these things.

Eventually, the wazir definitely adopts the coloring of the leader, of the man in control. The royal authority comes to be his. He reserves it for his family and his children after him.

Such was the case with:

  • the Buyids
  • the Turks
  • Kaffir al-Ikhshidi 180 and others in the East
  • al-Mansur b. Abi ‘Amir in Spain

A secluded ruler who is deprived of authority might become aware of his situation and tries to escape from it. He thus regains the royal authority for his family. He stops the person who has gained power over it, either by killing him or by merely deposing him. However, this happens very rarely.

Once a dynasty has fallen into the hands of wazirs and clients, it remains in that situation and rarely is able to escape from it. This is because such control by others is mostly the result of living in luxury.

They have forgotten the ways of manliness and have become accustomed to the character traits of wet nurses.

They do not desire leadership. They are not used to exercising sole power, the prerogative of superiority.

All their ambition requires is the satisfactions of pomp and having a great variety of pleasures and luxuries. Clients and followers gain superiority when the family of the ruler is in sole control over its people and claims all royal authority for itself to their exclusion.

This is something that happens to dynasties of necessity.

These are two diseases of dynasties which cannot be cured, except in very rare cases.