Part 32e

The Police

January 22, 2020

The police 512

In Ifriqiyah, the chief of police is now called the “magistrate” (hakim).

In Spain, he is called the “town chief” (sahib al-madinah).

In the Turkish dynasty in Egypt, he is called the “governor” (wali).

It subordinate to the person in charge of “the sword” in the dynasty, who at times uses the chief of police to execute his orders.

This was originally created by the ‘Abbasid dynasty. The person who held it had a twofold duty:

  • criminal investigation
  • executing the legal punishments

The religious law cannot concern itself with suspicions of possible criminal acts. It can concern itself only with executing the legal punishments.

Political leadership, on the other hand, has to concern itself with the investigating stage, in which is (ascertained the commission of crimes) necessitating (legal punishments). It does this through the magistrate, who, being in the possession of all the circumstantial evidence, forces (the criminal) to confess, as is required by the general (public) interest.

The person in charge of the investigating stage and of executing afterwards the legal punishments due, when the judge has no (longer) anything to do with (the case), was called “chief of police.” Occasionally, he was given sole jurisdiction over capital crimes and legal punishments, and those matters were taken away from the judge’s jurisdiction.

This rank was considered one of great reputation, and was entrusted to high military leaders and important clients of the court entourage. It implied no general executive power over all classes, itsjurisdiction extending only over low and suspect elements and (involving) the restraining of turbulent and criminal people.

Among the Spanish Umayyads, the (office of chief of police) acquired great celebrity. It was divided into a “great police” and a “small police.” The jurisdiction of the “great police” was made to extend over both the upper and the lower classes.

It had jurisdiction over government dignitaries, and, in cases of wrongdoing, could restrain them, their relatives, and other persons of rank who were connected with them as clients. The chief of the “small police” was concerned only with the common people. The chief of the “great police” had his seat at the gate of the palace of the ruler. He had footmen (raji) who occupied places near him,513 which they did not leave except to go about his business.

The office was entrusted only to great personalities of the dynasty. It even became a stepping stone to the wazirate and to the office of doorkeeper (hajib).

In the Almohad dynasty in the Maghrib, (the office) enjoyed a certain reputation, even though it did not have general (jurisdiction). It was entrusted only to important Almohad personalities. It did not have authority over government dignitaries. Nowadays, its importance has greatly decreased. It no longer is the preserve of Almohad personalities, and may be entrusted to any follower (of the dynasty) who (is able to) take charge of it.

In the Merinid dynasty at this time in the West, (the office) is vested in the houses of Merinid clients and followers.

In the Turkish dynasty in the East, (the office is entrusted) to Turkish personalities or to descendants of the people of the preceding Kurdish dynasty. Incumbents are chosen for (the office) in both regions 514 according to the energy and resolution they show in enforcing the law.

The purpose is to cut down corruption, to stamp out criminality, to destroy and dissolve the homes and centers of criminal activity, and to enforce the punishments imposed by the religious law and by the political authorities, as concern for the general (public) interests in a town requires.

The admiralty is one of the ranks and functions of the dynasty in the realm of the Maghrib and Ifriqiyah. It is subordinate to the person in charge of “the sword” and comes under his authority in many respects. In customary usage, the person in charge of the admiralty is called Almiland, 516 with an emphatic l. (The word) is derived from the language of the European Christians. It is the technical term for the office in their language.

The rank (of admiral) is restricted to the realm of Ifriqiyah and the Maghrib, because both Ifriqiyah and the Maghrib are on the southern shore of the Mediterranean. Along its southern shore the lands of the Berbers extend from Ceuta to Alexandria and on to Syria. Along its northern shore are the countries of Spain and of the European Christians (Franks), the Slavs, and the Byzantines, also extending to Syria.

It is called the Byzantine Sea or the Syrian Sea, 517 according to the people who inhabit its shores. Those who live along the coast and on the shores of both sides of the Mediterranean are more concerned with (maritime) conditions than any other maritime nation.

The Byzantines, the European Christians, and the Goths lived on the northern shore of the Mediterranean. Most of their wars and most of their commerce was bysea. They were skilled in navigating (the Mediterranean) and in naval war. When these people coveted the possession of the southern shore, as the Byzantines (coveted) Ifriqiyah and as the Goths (coveted) the Maghrib, they crossed over in their fleets and took possession of it.

Thus, they achieved superiority over the Berbers and deprived them of their power. They had populous cities there, such as Carthage, Sbeitla, Jalula, 518 Murnaq, 519 Cherchel, and Tangier. The ancient master of Carthage used to fight the master of Rome and to send fleets loaded with armies and equipment to wage war against him. Thus, (seafaring) is a custom of the inhabitants of both shores of the Mediterranean, which was known in ancient as in modern times.

When the Muslims took possession of Egypt, Umar b. al-Khattab wrote to ‘Amr b. al-‘As and asked him to describe the sea to him. ‘Amr replied= “The sea is a great creature upon which weak creatures ride -like worms upon a piece of wood.”

520 Thus, he recommended at that time that the Muslims be kept away from seafaring. No Arab traveled by sea save those who did so without ‘Umar’s knowledge and were punished by him for it. ‘Umar thus punished ‘Arfajah b. Harthamah al-Azdi, the chief of the Bajilah. 521 He sent him on a raid against Oman, and he learned (later that he had raided it by sea). 522 He disapproved of his having made the raid by sea, and told him so in no uncertain terms. Thus it remained until Mu’awiyah’s reign. He permitted the Muslims to go by sea and to wage the holy war in ships.

This was because of their Bedouin attitude. This made the Arabs first not skilled in navigation and seafaring, whereas the Byzantines and the European Christians, on account of their experience of the sea and the fact that they had grown up traveling in ships, were used to the sea and well trained in navigation.

The Arabs employed seagoing nations for their maritime needs. Their own experience of the sea and of navigation grew, and they turned out to be very expert. They wished to wage the holy war by sea. They constructed ships and galleys and loaded the fleet with men and weapons. They embarked the army and fighters to fight against the unbelievers across the sea. This was the special concern of the provinces and border regions closest to the shores of the Mediterranean, such as Syria, Ifriqiyah, the Maghrib, and Spain.

The caliph ‘Abdal-Malik recommended to Hassan b. an-Nu’man, 523 the governor of Ifriqiyah, that a shipyard 524 be set up in Tunis for the production of maritime implements, as he was desirous of waging the holy war.

From there, the conquest of Sicily was achieved in the days of Ziyadat-Allah I b. Ibrahim b. al-Aghlab under the leadership of the chief mufti, Asad b. al-Furat 525 Pantelleria 526 also was conquered in his day. Mu’awiyah b. IIudayj 527 had been sent on a raid against Sicily in the days of Mu’awiyah b. Abi Sufyan, but God had not enabled him to conquer it. It was conquered by the Aghlabid ruler and his general, Asad b. al-Furat.

Thereafter, under the ‘Ubaydid(-Fatimids) and the (Spanish) Umayyads, the fleets of Ifriqiyah and Spain constantly attacked each other’s countries in civil war operations, and they thoroughly devastated the coastal regions. In the days of ‘Abd-ar-Rahman an-Nasir, the Spanish fleet had grown to about two hundred vessels, and the African fleet to the same number, or close to it.

The fleet admiral in Spain was Ibn Rumahis. The port used by (the Spanish fleet) for docking and hoisting sail was Pechina and Almeria. The fleet was assembled from all the provinces. Each region where ships were used contributed one fleet (unit) under the supervision of a commander in charge of everything connected with fighting, weapons andcombatants alike. There also was a captain who directed the movement of the fleet, using either the wind or oars. He also directed its anchoring in port. When the whole fleet was assembled for a large-scale raid or for important government business, it was manned in its home port.

The ruler loaded it with men (drawn from) his best troops and clients, and placed them under the supervision of one commander, who belonged to the highest class of the people of his realm and to whom all were responsible. He then sent them off, and awaited their victorious return with booty.

During the time of the Muslim dynasty, the Muslims gained control over the whole Mediterranean. Their power and domination over it was vast. The Christian nations could do nothing against the Muslim fleets, anywhere in the Mediterranean. All the time, the Muslims rode its wave for conquest. There occurred then many well-known episodes of conquest and plunder.

The Muslims conquered the islands that lie off its shores, such as Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza, Sardinia, Sicily, Pantelleria, Malta, Crete, Cyprus, and of all the other provinces of the Byzantines and the European Christians (on its shores).

Abu 1-Qasim ash-Shi’i 528 and his descendants sent their fleets on raids against the island of Genoa from al-Mahdtyah. They returned victorious with booty. Mujahid al-‘Amiri, the master of Denia, one of the reyes de taifas, conquered the island of Sardinia with his fleet in the year 405 [1014/15]. 529

The Christians reconquered it in due course.

During all that time, the Muslims were gaining control over the largest part of the high sea. Their fleets kept coming and going, and the Muslim armies crossed the sea in ships from Sicily to the great mainland opposite Sicily, on the northern shore. They fell upon the European Christian rulers and made massacres in their realms. This happened in the days of the Banu Abul-Husayn, 530 the rulers of Sicily, who supported the ‘Ubaydid(-Fatimid) propaganda there.

The Christian nations withdrew with their fleets to the northeastern side of the Mediterranean, to the coastal regions inhabited by the European Christians and the Slavs, and to the Aegean islands, 531 and did not go beyond them. The Muslim fleet had pounced upon them as eagerly as lions upon their prey.

They covered most of the surface of the Mediterranean with their equipment and numbers and traveled its lanes (on missions both) peaceful and warlike. Not a single Christian board floated on it.

Eventually, however, the ‘Ubaydid(-Fatimid) and Umayyad dynasties weakened and softened and were affected by infirmity. Then, the Christians reached out for the eastern islands of the Mediterranean, such as Sicily, Crete, and Malta, and took possession of them. They pressed on against the shores of Syria during this interval, and took possession of Tripoli, Ascalon, Tyre, and Acco.

They gained control over all the seaports of Syria. They conquered Jerusalem and built there a church as an outward manifestation of their religion and worship. They deprived the Banu Khazrun of Tripolitania 532 and (they conquered) Gabes and Sfax, and imposed a poll tax upon their inhabitants. Then they took possession of al-Mahdtyah, the (original) seat of the ‘Ubaydid(-Fatimids), and took it away from the descendants of Buluggtn b. Zirt. In the fifth [eleventh] century, they had the lead in the Mediterranean.

In Egypt and Syria, interest in the fleet weakened and eventually ceased to exist. Since then, they have shown no concern for the naval matters with which they had been so exceedingly concerned under the ‘Ubaydid(-Fatimid) dynasty, as is known from ‘Ubaydid(-Fatimid) history.

In consequence, the identity of the office of the admiralty was lost in those countries. It remained in Ifriqiyah and the Maghrib, but only there. At the present time, the western Mediterranean has large fleets and is very powerful. No enemy has trespassed on it or been able to do anything there.

In Lamtunah (Almoravid) times, the admirals of the fleet in the West were the Banu Maymun, chieftains from the peninsula of Cadiz, 533 which they later on handed over to the Almohad ‘Abd-al-Mu’min, to whom they paid obedience. Their fleets, (assembled) from the countries on both shores, reached the number of one hundred.

In the 12th century, the Almohad dynasty flourished and had possession of both shores. The Almohads organized their fleet in the most perfect manner ever known and on the largest scale ever observed. Their admiral was Ahmad as-Siqilli, who belonged to the Sadghiyan, a branch of the Sadwikish, 534 who lived on the island of Jerba.

The Christians had captured him there, and he had grown up among them. The ruler of Sicily (Roger II) selected him for his service and employed him in it, but he died and was succeeded by his son, whose anger (Ahmad) somehow aroused.

He feared for his life and went to Tunis, where he stayed with the chief of Tunis, one of the Banu ‘Abd-al-Mu’min. He went on to Marrakech, and was received there by the caliph Yusuf al-‘Ashrt b. ‘Abd-al-Mu’min 535 with great kindness and honor. (The caliph) gave him many presents and entrusted him with command of his fleet. (As commander of the fleet) he went to wage the holy war against the Christian nations. He did noteworthy and memorable deeds during the Almohad dynasty.

In his period, the Muslim fleet was of a size and quality never, to our knowledge, attained before or since. When Salah-ad-din Yusuf b. Ayyub, the ruler of Egypt and Syria at this time, set out to recover the border cities (ports) of Syria from the Christian nations and to cleanse Jerusalem of the abomination of unbelief and to rebuild it, one fleet of unbelievers after another came to the relief of the border cities (ports), from all the regions near Jerusalem which they controlled.

They supported them with equipment and food. The fleet of Alexandria could not stand up against them. (The Christians) had had the upper hand in the eastern Mediterranean for so long, and they had numerous fleets there. The Muslims, on the other hand, had for a long time been too weak to offer them any resistance there, as we have mentioned.

In this situation, Salah-ad-din sent ‘Abd-alKarim b. Munqidh, a member of the family of the Banu Munqidh, the rulers of Shayzar, as his ambassador to Ya’qub al-Mansur, the Almohad ruler of the Maghrib at that time. 536 Salahaddin had taken Shayzar away from the Banu Munqidh but had spared them to use them in his government. Now, he sent ‘Abd-al-Karim, a member of that (family), to the ruler of the Maghrib to ask for the support of his fleets, to prevent the fleets of the unbelievers from achieving their desire of bringing relief to the Christians in the Syrian border cities (ports). (‘Abd-al-Karim) carried a letter from (Salah-addin) to that effect. The letter had been composed by (alQadi) al-Fadil al-Baysani. 537 It began with these words= “May God open to our Lord the gates of success and good fortune.”

The letter is quoted by the ‘Imad al-Isfahani in the Fath alQudsi. 538 Al-Mansur was greatly annoyed with the (members of the embassy), 539 because they did not address him as Commander of the Faithful; but he concealed his annoyance and treated them with great kindness and honor. He sent them back to (Salah-ad-din) who had sent them, and did not comply with his request.

This (story) is evidence (for the facts that) the ruler of the Maghrib alone possessed a fleet, that the Christians controlled the eastern Mediterranean, and that the dynasties in Egypt and Syria at that time and later were not interested in naval matters or in building up government fleets. Ya’qub al-Mansur then died, and the Almohad dynasty became infirm.

The Galician nations seized control of most of Spain. The Muslims took refuge in the coastal region and took possession of the islands of the western Mediterranean. They regained their former strength, and their power on the surface of the Mediterraneangrew. Their fleets increased, and the strength of the Muslims became again equal to that of (the Christians).

This happened in the time of (the Merinid) Sultan, Abul-Hasan, 540 the Zanatah ruler in the Maghrib. When he desired to wage the holy war, his fleet was as well equipped and numerous as that of the Christians.

Then, the naval strength of the Muslims declined once more, because of the weakness of the ruling dynasty. Maritime habits were forgotten under the impact of the strong Bedouin attitude prevailing in the Maghrib, and as the result of the discontinuance of Spanish habits. The Christians resumed their former, famous maritime training, and (renewed) their constant activity in (the Mediterranean) and their experience with conditions there.

They again showed their former superiority over others on the high seas of (the Mediterranean) and in (Mediterranean) shipping.

The Muslims came to be strangers to the Mediterranean. The only exceptions are a few inhabitants of the coastal regions, who are active on (the sea). They should have many assistants and supporters, or they ought to have support from the dynasties to enable them to recruit help and to work toward the goal of (increased seafaring activities).

The rank (of admiral) has been preserved to this day in the dynasties of the Maghrib. There, the identity (of the admiralty is still preserved), and how to take care of a fleet, how to build ships and navigate them, is known. Perhaps some political opportunity will arise in the coastal countries, and the Muslims will (once again) ask the wind to blow against unbelief and unbelievers. The inhabitants of the Maghrib have it on the authority of the books of predictions that the Muslims will yet have to make a successful attack against the Christians and conquer the lands of the European Christians beyond the sea. This, it is said, will take place by sea.


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