Parts 20-23

The True Character of Royal Authority

January 23, 2020

20. Those who gain power over the ruler do not share with him in the special title that goes with royal authority

This is because the first men to achieve royal and governmental authority at the beginning of the dynasty do so with the help of the group feeling of their people and with the help of their own group feeling which causes their people to follow (them) until they and their people have definitely adopted the coloring of royal authority and superiority.

The coloring, then, continues to exist. Through it, the identity and persistence of the dynasty are assured. Now, the person who gains superiority (over the ruler) may have a share in the group feeling that belongs to the tribe which has obtained royal authority or to its clients and followers.

However, his group feeling still is comprised by, and subordinate to, the group feeling of the family of the ruler. He cannot (take on) the coloring of royal authority.

Thus, in gaining control, he does not plan to appropriate royal authority for himself openly, but only to appropriate its fruits, that is, the exercise of administrative, executive, and all other power. 183

He gives the people of the dynasty the impression that he merely acts for the ruler and executes the latter’s decisions from behind the curtain. He carefully refrains from using the attributes, emblems, or titles of royal authority. He avoids throwing any suspicion upon himself in this respect, even though he exercises full control.

For, in his exercise of full control, he takes cover behind the curtain the ruler and his ancestors had set up to protect themselves from their own tribe when the dynasty came into being. He disguises his exercise of control under the form of acting as the ruler’s representative.

Should he undertake to adopt (any of the royal prerogatives), the people who represent the group feeling and tribe of the ruler would resent it 184 and contrive to appropriate (the royal prerogatives) for themselves, to his exclusion. He has no definite coloring to (make him appear suited for the royal prerogatives) or cause others to submit to him and obey him. (Any attempt by him to appropriate the royal prerogatives) would, thus, instantly precipitate his doom.

Something of the sort happened to ‘Abd-ar-Rahman b. al-Manslir b. Abi Amir.

He aspired to share the title of caliph with Hisham and his house. He was not satisfied with control of the executive power and the resulting forms (of honor) with which his father and brother had been satisfied. He sought to be entrusted with the caliphate by his caliph, Hisham. The Marwanids (Umayyads) and the other Qurashites were furious to see him do that. They took the oath of allegiance to a cousin of the caliph Hisham, Muhammad (b. Hisham) b. ‘Abd-al-Jabbir b. an-Nasir, and revolted against (the party of Ibn Abi ‘Amir).

That caused the ruin of the ‘Amirid dynasty and the destruction of their caliph (Hisham) al-Mu’ayyad. In (al-Mu’ayyad’s) place, someone else from among the leaders of the dynasty was chosen, (and his house remained in power) down to the end of the dynasty and the dissolution of their pattern of royal authority.

21. The true character and different kinds of royal authority

Royal authority is an institution that is natural to mankind because humans need social organization and cooperation for obtaining their food and necessities of life.

When they have organized, necessity requires that they deal with each other and (thus) satisfy (their) needs. Each one will stretch out his hand for whatever he needs and (try simply to) take it, 188 since injustice and aggressiveness are in the animal nature. The others, in turn, will try to prevent him from taking it, motivated by wrathfulness 189 and spite and the strong human reaction when (one’s own property is menaced). This causes dissension. (Dissension) leads to hostilities, and hostilities lead to trouble and bloodshed and loss of life, which (in turn) lead to the destruction of the (human) species. Now, (the human species) is one of the things the Creator has especially (told us) too preserve.

People, thus, cannot persist in a state of anarchy and without a ruler who keeps them apart. Therefore, they need a person to restrain them. He is their ruler.

He must be a forceful ruler, as required by human nature. He should actually exercise authority.

Group feeling is absolutely necessary in this, because aggressive and defensive enterprises can succeed only with the help of group feeling. A royal authority of this kind is a noble institution, toward which all claims are directed, and (one) that needs to be defended.

Group feelings differ. Each group feeling exercises its own authority and superiority over the people and family adhering to it. Not every group feeling has royal authority.

Royal authority, in reality, belongs only to those who dominate subjects, collect taxes, send out (military) expeditions, 191 protect the frontier regions, and have no one over them who is stronger than they. This is generally accepted as the real meaning of royal authority.

There are people whose group feeling falls short of accomplishing (one or another of these things which constitute) part of (real royal authority), such as protecting the frontier regions, or collecting taxes, or sending out (military) expeditions.

Such royal authority is defective and not royal authority in the real meaning of the term. This was the case with many of the Berber rulers of the Aghlabid dynasty in al-Qayrawan, and with the non-Arab (Persian) rulers at the beginning of the ‘Abbasid dynasty.

Then, there are people whose group feeling is not strong enough to gain control over all the other group feelings or to stop everyone, so that there exists an authority superior to theirs. Their royal authority is also defective, and not royal authority in the real meaning of the term.

It is exercised by provincial amirs and regional chieftains who are all under one dynasty. This situation is often found in farflung dynasties. There are rulers of provincial and remote regions who rule their own people but also obey the central power of the dynasty.

Such was the relationship of the Sinhajah with the ‘Ubaydid(-Fatimids); of the Zanatah with the (Spanish) Umayyads at one time and with the ‘Ubaydid(-Fatimids)at another; of the non-Arab (Persian) rulers with the ‘Abbasids; of the Berber amirs and rulers with the European Christians (in the Maghrib) prior to Islam; and of the rulers of the (old) Persian successor states with Alexander and his Greeks.

22. Exaggerated harshness is harmful to royal authority and in most cases causes its destruction.

The interest subjects have in their ruler is not interest in his person and body, for example, in his good figure, handsome face, large frame, wide knowledge, good handwriting, or acute mind. Their interest in him lies in his relation to them. Royal and governmental authority is something relative, a relationship between two things (ruler and subjects).

Government becomes a reality when (there is a ruler who) rules over subjects and handles their affairs. A ruler is he who has subjects (ra’aya), and subjects are persons who have a ruler. The quality accruing to the ruler from the fact of his correlative relation with his subjects is called “rulership” (malakah). 194

That is, he rules them, and if such rulership and its concomitants are of good quality, the purpose of government is most perfectly achieved. If such rulership is good and beneficial, it will serve the interests of the subjects. If it is bad and unfair, it will be harmful to them and cause their destruction.

Good rulership is equivalent to mildness. If the ruler uses force and is ready to mete out punishment and eager to expose the faults of people and to count their sins, (his subjects) become fearful and depressed and seek to protect themselves against him through lies, ruses, and deceit. This becomes a character trait of theirs.

Their mind and character become corrupted. They often abandon (the ruler) on the battlefield and (fail to support his) defensive enterprises. The decay of (sincere) intentions causes the decay of (military) protection. The subjects often conspire to kill the ruler. Thus, the dynasty decays, and the fence (that protects it) lies in ruins.

If the ruler continues to keep a forceful grip on his subjects, group feeling will be destroyed, for reasons stated at the beginning. 195 The fence (which protects the dynasty) is torn down, for the dynasty has become incapable of (military) protection.

(On the other hand,) if the ruler is mild and overlooks the bad sides of his subjects, they will trust him and take refuge with him. They (then) love him heartily and are willing to die for him in battle against his enemies. Everything is then in order in the state.

The concomitants of good rulership are being kind to one’s (subjects) and defending them. The true meaning of royal authority is realized when the ruler defends his subjects. To be kind and beneficent toward them is part of being mild to them and showing an interest in how they are living.

These things are important for the ruler in gaining the love of his subjects.

An alert and very shrewd person rarely has the habit of mildness. Mildness is usually found in careless and unconcerned persons. The least (of the many drawbacks) of alertness (in a ruler) is that he imposes tasks upon his subjects that are beyond their ability, because he is aware of things they do not perceive and, through his genius, foresees the outcome of things at the start.

The ruler’s excessive demands may lead to his subjects’ ruin. Muhammad said= “Follow the pace of the weakest among you,” 195a

Muhammad, therefore, made it a condition that the ruler not be too shrewd. The source for (this statement) is a story about Ziyad b. Abi Sufyan.

When ‘Umar deposed him (as governor) of the ‘Iraq, he asked ‘Umar why he had been deposed, whether it was because of his inability or his treachery. ‘Umar replied that he had deposed him for neither of those reasons but because he disliked having people become the victim of his superior intelligence.

This is the source for the statement that the ruler should not be too shrewd and clever, as were Ziyad b. Abu Sufyan and ‘Amr b. al-‘As. For such (qualities) are accompanied by tyrannical and bad rulership and by a tendency to make the people do things that it is not in their nature to do. This will be mentioned at the end of the book.197

The conclusion is that it is a drawback in a political leader to be (too) clever and shrewd. Cleverness and shrewdness imply that a person thinks too, much, just as stupidity implies that he is too rigid. In the case of all human qualities, the extremes are reprehensible, and the middle road is praiseworthy.

This is, for instance, the case with generosity in relation to waste and stinginess, or with bravery in relation to foolhardiness and cowardice,198 And so it is with all the other human qualities. For this reason, the very clever person is said to have the qualities of devils.

He is called a “satan” or, “a would-be satan,” and the like.

23. The meaning of caliphate and imamate.

The real meaning of royal authority is that it is a form of organization necessary to mankind.

Royal authority requires superiority and force, which express the wrathfulness 201 and animality (of human nature). The decisions of the ruler will therefore, as a rule, deviate from what is right.

They will be ruinous to the worldly affairs of the people under his control, since, as a rule, he forces them to execute his intentions and desires, which it may be beyond their ability (to do).

This situation will differ according to the difference of intentions to be found in different generations. (But) it is for this reason difficult to be obedient to (the ruler).

Disobedience makes itself noticeable and leads to trouble and bloodshed. Therefore, it is necessary to have reference to ordained political norms, which are accepted by the mass and to whose laws it submits. The Persians and other nations had such norms. The dynasty that does not have a policy based on such (norms), cannot fully succeed in establishing the supremacy of its rule.

If these norms are ordained by the intelligent and leading personalities and (best) minds of the dynasty, the result will be a political (institution) on an intellectual (rational) basis. If they are ordained by God through a lawgiver who establishes them as (religious) laws, the result will be a political (institution) on a religious basis, which will be useful for life in both this and the other world.

This is because the purpose of human beings is not only their worldly welfare. This entire world is trifling and futile. It ends in death and annihilation.

God says= “Do you think that we created you triflingly?” 204 The purpose (of human beings) is their religion, which leads them to happiness in the other world, “the path of God to whom belongs that which is in heaven and that which is on earth.”

Therefore, religious laws have as their purpose to cause (human beings) to follow such a course in all their dealings with God and their fellow men. This (situation) also applies to royal authority, which is natural in human social organization.

The religious laws guide it along the path of religion, so that everything will be under the supervision of the religious law. Anything done by royal authority that is dictated by force, superiority, or the free play of the power of wrathfulness, is tyranny and injustice and considered reprehensible by (the religious law), as it is also considered reprehensible by the requirements of political wisdom.

Likewise, anything (done by royal authority) that is dictated (merely) by considerations of policy or political decisions without supervision of the religious law 206 is also reprehensible, because it is vision lacking the divine light. “He for whom God makes no light has no light whatever.” 207

Muhammad knows better than the mass itself what is good for them so far as the affairs of the other world, which are concealed from the mass itself, are concerned. At the Resurrection, the actions of human beings, whether they had to do with royal authority or anything else, will all come back to them.

Muhammad said= “It is your own actions that are brought back to you.”

Political laws consider only worldly interests. “They know the outward life 208of this world.”

On the other hand, the intention the Lawgiver has concerning mankind is their welfare in the other world. 209 Therefore, it is necessary, as required by the religious law, to cause the mass to act in accordance with the religious laws in all their affairs touching both this world and the other world. The authority to do so was possessed by the representatives of the religious law, the prophets.

Later on, it was possessed by those who took their place, the caliphs. This makes it clear what the caliphate means. (To exercise) natural royal authority means to cause the masses to act as required by purpose and desire.

To exercise political (royal authority) means to cause the masses to act as required by intellectual rational insight into the means of furthering their worldly interests and avoiding anything that is harmful.

To exercise the caliphate means to cause the masses to act as required by religious insight into their interests in the other world as well as in this world.

The worldly interests have bearing upon the interests in the other world, since according to the Lawgiver (Muhammad), all worldly conditions are to be considered in their relation to their value for the other world. Thus, (the caliphate) in reality substitutes for Muhammad, in as much as it serves, like him, to protect the religion and to exercise (political) leadership of the world.