Ana səhifə

Le califat de yazid ier. 1909-21


Yüklə 0.82 Mb.
səhifə1/13
tarix18.07.2016
ölçüsü0.82 Mb.
  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   13
ISLAM
BELIEFS AND INSTITUTIONS


April 13, 2004

www.muhammadanism.org

Greek text requires Code2000 font



BY THE SAME AUTHOR


LE BERCEAU DE L'ISLAM. VOL. I. LE CLIMAT. LES BEDOUINS. Rome, 1914.

FATIMA ET LES FILLES DE MAHOMET: NOTES CRITIQUES POUR L'ETUDE DE LA SIRA. Rome, 1912.

LISLAM: CROYANCES ET INSTITUTIONS. Beyrouth, 1926.

LA SYRIE: PRECIS HISTORIQUE. Beyrouth, 1921.


ALSO ARTICLES IN
BULLETIN DE L'INSTITUT EGYPTIEN.

JOURNAL ASIATIQUE.

RECHERCHES DE SCIENCE RELIGIEUSE.

RIVISTA DEGLI STUDI ORIENTALI.


The following articles from the 'MELANGES DE I. A FACULTE ORIENTALE DE BEYROUTH' are also published separately:—
ETUDES SUR LE RÈGNE DU CALIFE OMAYADE MO’AWIA IER. 1906—08.

LE CALIFAT DE YAZID IER. 1909-21.

LA CITE ARABE DE TAIF A LA VEILLE DE L'HEGIRE. 1922.

LA MECQUE A LA VEILLE DE L'HEGIRE. 1924.

LA Badia ET LA Hira SOUS LES OMAIYADES: UN MOT A PROPOS Msatta. 1910.

LE TRIUMVIRAT ABOU BAKR, OMAR ET ABOU 'OBAIDA. 1910.

PETITE HISTOIRE DE SYRIE ET DU LIBAN. 1924.

LES SANCTUAIRES PREISLAMITES DANS L'ARABIE OCCIDENTALE. 1926.


ISLAM

BELIEFS AND INSTITUTIONS


BY
H. LAMMENS, S.J.
PROFESSOR OF ARABIC AT ST. JOSEPH'S UNIVERSITY, BEYROUT

TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH BY

SIR E. DENISON ROSS

DIRECTOR OF THE SCHOOL OF ORIENTAL STUDIES, LONDON


METHUEN & CO. LTD.

36 ESSEX STREET W.C.

LONDON
First Published in 1929
PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN
CONTENTS

PAGE








FOREWORD

ix

I




THE CRADLE OF ISLAM: PRE-ISLAMITE ARABIA

I




1.

THE HEJAZ

I







The Climate—The Nefud—The Oases.







2.

POPULATION

5







The Beduins—Their Portrait—Arabic Lan­guage and Poetry—Beduin Character—Hospitality—Courage—Tenacity—Anarchy—The Tribal Chief—Mekka—Government at Mekka—Commercial Life—Caravans—Site of Mekka.







3.

RELIGION

17







The Ka'ba—No Idols—The Jews—The Christians.




II




MUHAMMAD: THE FOUNDER OF ISLAM

24




I.

MEKKAN PERIOD

24







Muhammad's Youth—Marriage, Vocation—First Preaching—Failure, The Hijra.







2.

MEDINESE PERIOD.

28







Muhammad at Medina—The Battles, Badr—Ohod—War of the 'Trench'—Diplomacy—Expulsion of the Jews—Defeat at Muta—Conquest of Mekka—Last Successes—Death of Muhammad—His Succession.



v

vi ISLAM BELIEFS AND INSTITUTIONS


PAGE

III

THE QORAN: THE SACRED BOOK OF ISLAM

37




The Qoran—Its Authenticity—Present Form—Exegesis—Chief Commentaries—Mekkan Suras—Medinese Suras—Dogma in the Suras—Legends of the Prophets—Christology—Escha­tology—Influence of the Qoran.







THE FIVE PILLARS OF ISLAM

56




The 'Shahada'—The Theodicy of Islam—Prayer—The Zakat—Fasting—The Pilgrimage to Mekka—The Jehad—The Personal Statute—Other Pre­scriptions.




IV

THE 'SUNNA', OR TRADITION OF ISLAM

65




The Sunna—Its Importance—Complement of the Qoran—The Sunna of the 'Companions '—The Hadith—Criticism—Chief Collections of Hadith —The 'Six Books'.




V

JURISPRUDENCE AND ISLAMIC LAW

82




Origin—The 'Roots' of Fiqh—Early Schools—Orthodox Schools —Their Methods—Differences—Casuistry—Modern Practice —Ijma'—The Living Authority—Ijtihad—No Councils—The 'Ulema—The Qadi—No Clergy—The Caliphate.




VI

ASCETICISM AND MYSTICISM OF ISLAM

111




The Qoran and Asceticism—Sufism—Christian Influence—Influence of Ghazali—Other Influ­ences—Deviations and Esoterism—The Inquisi­tion and the Sufis—Sufi Fraternities—The 'Dhikr’—Music—Internal Organization of the Fraternities—The Chief Fraternities— Their Present Position.




VII

THE SECTS OF ISLAM

140




Their Number—The Kharijites—The Shi'as—'Kitman' or 'Taqiyya’—The Invisible Imam—The Imamites or 'Twelvers' —The Mahdi—Divergences between Sunnis and Shi'as—Shi'a Exegesis—The Metoualis—The Zaidites—The Isma'ilis —The Druses—The Nosairis—The 'Ali-ilahis.'




.
CONTENTS vii


PAGE

VIII

REFORMISTS AND MODERNISTS

179




Reaction and Reform—Ibn Taimiyya—The Wah­habis—Ibn Sa‘ud—The Ahmadiyya—Babism—Behai'sm—'Abbas-Effendi—The Present-day Problem of the Caliphate—Nationalism—Pan-Islamic Congress —Modernism—In India—In Egypt—In Turkey—Some Statistical Data—Future Prospects.







BIBLIOGRAPHY

227




THE QORAN, PRINCIPAL VERSES EXPOUNDED OR QUOTED

241




INDEX

243

BLANK PAGE

FOREWORD
A BOOK written in good faith! This work seeks to be no more, no less. Neither controversial, nor polemical; sine ira nec studio. An entirely objective account, as its sub-title announces, of the beliefs and institutions of Islam. Otherwise, a manual—that is to say, a popular work. But I venture to hope that Islamists and Orientalists will recognize that it is a popular work which has drawn its information from the fountain-heads of the Qoran, of Islamic tradition, of the Sira, etc. To these sources let me add a prolonged contact with Muslim circles. In the matter of references I have been content to limit myself to the Qoran.

It is first and foremost contemporary Islam which is here considered, Islam as formed by the evolution of thirteen centuries. But the details supplied enable the reader to follow its historical development. I take for granted a knowledge of the outline of its political history from the death of the Prophet onwards. I have omitted vanished sects, also the description of the quarrels of Muslim scholasticism, those which gave birth to the schools of the Mu‘tazilites, the Ash-‘arites, the Murjites, etc., contenting myself with such brief allusion to them as the account of the beliefs requires. As regards private institutions, marriage, slavery, etc., the author has confined himself to essential elements, sacrificing picturesque detail.

Beyrout, 1926

ix
BLANK PAGE

ISLAM

BELIEFS AND INSTITUTIONS


I
THE CRADLE OF ISLAM: PRE-ISLAMITE

ARABIA
ARABIA presents the picture of a rectangle terminating in the south of Nearer Asia. This gigantic screen of inhospitable territory intervenes between the fabled lands of India and the classical East, the cradle of our civilization. Western Arabia alone in its mountainous complexity will claim our attention in this survey. There, to the east of the Red Sea, about half-way between Syria and the Indian Ocean in the province called Hejaz, Islam was born. From this region, bounded on the north by Syria, the east by Nejd, the south by Yemen and the west by the Eritrean Sea, sprang the impulse which resulted in the Muslim conquests and expansion. It is, then, to the Hejaz that we shall devote our first pages: to the Hejaz, the cradle of Islam.
I. THE HEJAZ
CLIMATE. The climate of this province is tropical and the heat oppressive, except in certain mountainous
1

2 ISLAM BELIEFS AND INSTITUTIONS


regions situated on the borders of Nejd and of Yemen. In this region the picturesque district where the town of Taif stands about 1,500 metres high, and especially its southern extension, the mountain chain of Sarat reaching a height of 10,000 feet, might pass for an Alpine resort. The climate of the Hejaz, intemperate during the summer, is rigorous, even in winter, especi­ally on the exposed steppes of the interior, where at night the thermometer then falls below zero. Everything in Arabia is harsh and decisive: the weather, the colours of the landscape, the character of the inhabitants, their constitution all nerves, muscle and bone—their language possessing so poor a gamut of vowel sounds, side by side with a veritable debauch of consonants and gutturals—and finally their alphabet in which more than half their characters are only distinguished from one another by diacritical signs.

Rain falls at very long and irregular intervals during the winter and at the beginning of spring only. Periods of complete drought, possibly extending over a period of three years or more, are also known. On the other hand, there are sometimes exceptionally rainy years. Rainstorms of short duration—but of extraordinary violence—occur, veritable water-spouts and cloud-bursts, which in a few hours send flowing down the hollow valleys temporary rivers as wide as the Nile and the Euphrates, sweeping away whole encampments with their flocks and herds. At Mekka the rains penetrate into the Ka'ba and overthrow it. These cataracts put new life into the steppes: reduce the excessive salinity of the soil, and develop in a few days the hardy pastoral flora of the desert.

It is the rabi or the festival of nature for the flocks and their watchers. ‘Milk and butter, as an Arab author says, flow in streams. The emaciated little Beduin children grow fat-bellied and fill out in all
THE CRADLE OF ISLAM 3
directions. Their shape, tubby and full to bursting, makes them look like puppies gorged with mother's milk.' In ordinary times the camels do without water for four or even five days at a time: but now, full-fed on grass and succulent plants lush with sap, they no longer need be led to the distant watering-place, and can endure thirst for nearly a month at a time.

The Arab too can supplement the usual meagre fare with an abundant crop of truffles, wild artichokes and other uncultivated plants.

The Beduin, according to Sprenger, is the parasite of the camel. This picturesquely brutal phrase means that when the camel is full-fed all the Saracen people cease to be hungry! Nothing is better justified than the nomad's solicitude for this noble animal, his foster-parent, his means of transport, and his wealth in barter.

The Qoran (16, 5–7) rightly regards it as a gift of Providence. Its milk, its flesh and hair furnish him with food and covering: its hide makes leather bottles and other domestic utensils, even its dung is used as fuel and its urine as a specific against malaria and lingering fevers.



Nefud. It is a popular misconception to imagine Arabia as buried under a shroud of moving sands. This description applies only to certain provinces, happily not numerous, which are called the nefud. This term is unknown in the literary language, in which the nefud correspond to the Desert of Dahna. They consist of ranges of white or reddish sand-dunes covering an area of hundreds of square miles and sometimes attaining a height of over 150 feet. In summer these dreary wastes of waterless sand are the traveller's nightmare.

But when the winter has been rainy they become the camel's paradise. According to the explorer


4 ISLAM BELIEFS AND INSTITUTIONS
Charles Huber, ‘to possess a corner of land in the nefud is considered as a source of wealth'. The first rains cover the earth with a carpet of verdure; euphorbiæ, which love a sandy soil, spring up in the midst of a multitude of humble plants, vigorous creepers and strongly aromatic and savoury herbs.

OASES. The Hejaz, then, has the aspect of a broken and hilly country, interspersed with barren steppes, except after the winter rains. The greyish, ashen appearance of the landscape is relieved by tracts covered with black rocks, thrown out by old volcanoes. These are the harra, and are found principally towards the east in the direction of Nejd. There are some small oases. The principal ones going from north to south are Tabuk, Taima, Al-'Ola, Fadak, Medina and Khaibar. The old palm-groves strung out near the watering-places down the long corridor of Wadi 'l Qora between Medina and Tabuk have disappeared to-day as well as the oasis of Fadak. Some have deduced from this that the climate of the Peninsula has been modified. But in Arabia, since the Hijra and especially since the advent of the ‘Abbasids, there has been no change except a recrudescence of anarchy and insecurity, going hand in hand with a lessening human activity in the struggle against a rigorous climate. The most important of the oases cover a bare ten square miles of surface. Khaibar, which is situated in the middle of the harra, owes its existence to the abundance of its water-supply and the disin­tegration of its volcanic rocks. It has always been famous for its fertility, no less than for its unhealthiness and for the torrid heat of its climate. At the time of the Hijra all these oases, with the exception of Tabuk, were occupied and their value enhanced by the Jews, although it appears that in Medina the Arabs had obtained a slight numerical superiority over their


THE CRADLE OF ISLAM 5
Jewish fellow-citizens. But apart from Medina, which became the cradle of Muslim tradition, the population of the oases has exercised only a very slight influence on the evolution of primitive Islam.
II. THE POPULATION
THE BEDUINS. The population is divided into two classes: the Beduins or nomad shepherds and the settled peoples who were once Beduins. Language, customs and religion are everywhere the same. The settlers occupy the oases and three agglomerations worthy of the name of towns: Medina, Mekka and Taif. The agglomeration and the port of Jeddah (present population 30,000) date from the Hijra.

The Beduins then constituted the great majority of the population as they do to-day, when they are in the proportion of 83 per cent. It was they who were to accept Islam from the townspeople, and maintain in strength the armies of the Arab conquest, until such time as the conquered peoples came forward to fill the gap. On this account alone they would be entitled to claim our attention, but also because it is amongst them that the type and character of the race are best preserved. The same cannot be said of the settlers. Notwithstanding constant renewal by influx from the desert, the townspeople show undeniable traces of foreign influence and even of the infiltration of non-Arab blood. Taif was near the Yemen. Mekka had become a cosmopolitan centre, frequented by foreign merchants, and also an important slave-market, the slaves being principally imported from Africa. It possessed a colony of Abyssinians and Medina was half Judaized. No such influences affected the Beduins, protected by their isolation and the bitter harshness of their deserts from the invasion of exotic manners and customs.


6 ISLAM BELIEFS AND INSTITUTIONS
THEIR PRINCIPAL CHARACTERISTICS. What picture should we form of the Arab, that is to say of the Beduin? For when speaking, for the sake of brevity, of the Arab, it is the Beduin we mean and not the neighbouring populations of Arabia, Syria and Egypt, upon whom the idiom of the desert was eventually imposed by the Muslim Conquests. How was it that these people, previously unknown to the Old World, came to make such a resounding entry on the stage of history? ‘Nothing is more false,' says Renan, ‘than to imagine the Arabs before the advent of Islam, as a rude, ignorant and superstitious people.' They are a pre-eminently open-minded race with a receptive intelligence. Even on a first encounter, the Beduin, in spite of his rough appearance, can never be mistaken for a man of primitive or barbarian stock. His resolute bearing, his virile appearance—the inclemency of the climate, the privations of a desert life, bring about natural selection and ruthlessly eliminate the weak­lings—the shrewdness and point of his replies, the ease of bearing with which he receives a guest, rather produce the impression of some gentleman fallen on evil days, some belated descendant of the Biblical patriarchs. Everything about this poverty-stricken fellow, even to his picturesque rags, his solemn exterior and his sententious speech, goes to complete the illusion. Placed under favourable conditions, which he can only find outside his own country, he is able to assimilate our progress, and the most advanced conquests of civilization. We may recall Philip the Arab, a Syrian­ized Arab of Hauran—Zenobia—and the great build­ings of Palmyra and Petra.

THE ARABIC LANGUAGE AND POETRY. From the sixth century A.D. onwards, the Beduin possessed in his national tongue a marvellously flexible literary instru­ment, capable of becoming, and which did in fact


THE CRADLE OF ISLAM 7
become, a scientific idiom. These illiterate people love poetry and cultivate it with passion, the women sharing in the general enthusiasm. If we may judge by frag­ments dating from the century before the Hijra, some of them touched up under the ‘Abbasids, which have been handed down to us by literary tradition, it appears to be a poetry of skilful construction and varied prosody. If it is rich in sententious expression and overflowing with energy and passion rather than with ideas, yet it lacks neither harmony nor picturesqueness and possesses a surprising profusion of formulæ. This poetry is poor in figurative expression, in original and thought-provoking imagery, still more so in moral or religious themes—these are, as it were, set aside. Filled with eloquent tirades, it has no emotional appeal and no gift of dreams.

It confines itself to the representation of external life, which it depicts with vigorous realism and with a construction as monotonous as the desert: it strives to give by means of words the impression of forms and colours. It does not bear translation well. Possessed of a sonorous idiom, keen powers of observation and a passionate temperament, loving independence up to —and beyond—the point of anarchy, the Arab had everything that made for the development of eloquence. But his rudimentary social organizations did not help to that end either before or after the Hijra. If a highly perfected language can be considered as a reflection of the soul and spirit of a nation, then the very advanced evolution of the Arab idiom should preclude the possi­bility of regarding the pre-Islamic Beduins as a primi­tive people.

ARAB CHARACTER. Where the moral qualities are concerned, we must speak with some reserve; they are not on a level with the intellectual faculties or with the literary development attained by the Beduins.
8 ISLAM BELIEFS AND INSTITUTIONS
Justice forces us to protest against the wild enthusiasm of romantic admirers, in love with the exotic, or local colour. There is reason to contest the accuracy of the idyllic picture painted by certain Orientalists of this fundamentally positivist and realist specimen of humanity.

Renan, for instance, says, ‘I do not know whether there exists in the whole history of ancient civilization a more gracious, pleasing or animated picture than that of pre-Islamic Arab life, especially as it appears to us in the admirable type of ‘Antar.' Renan's excuse is in too shallow a knowledge of ancient Arabic litera­ture. He had not taken the time to examine how much historical truth is contained in the legend of ‘Antar, created by the romancers of Baghdad and Kufa. When we call the Beduin an individualist, we have pointed out the principal source of his failings and summed up in a word the gravest deficiencies in his moral nature. He has never raised himself to the dignity of a ‘social animal', never established any stable or regular form of authority. Ibn Khaldun had already noted this in pages of his Muqaddama or Prolegomena which have become classic. We must not be deceived by the history of the Caliphate. First this adventure completely removed the nomads from the disastrous influence of their surroundings. Then, under the Omayyads, it was the Syrians, and in Baghdad the Iranians, who organized a form of agreement and per­mitted the rule of the Caliphate to function, although not without incessant jolts.

Only individualism can adequately explain the Beduin's lack of devotion to the general good, of kind­ness, or even of mere humanity. The harsh and depressing climate of the desert aggravates his indi­vidualistic tendencies. It forces him to live in isolation with his family and to wrangle with his neighbours
THE CRADLE OF ISLAM 9
over the scanty water supply and meagre pastures, essential to the existence of those flocks on which depends the life of him and his.

The nomad possesses all the defects of individualism, and also its doubtful and troublous qualities—self-­confidence, dogged determination, tenacious egotism and rapacity. On the other hand, solitude, by forcing him to rely upon himself alone, by heightening his natural faculties, by straining them to give the last ounce of which they are capable, has saved him from lapsing into the commonplace.

HOSPITALITY. Egoistic, self-seeking and with a heart closed to altruistic sentiments, the Beduin has an instinctive horror of bloodshed, not from mawkish sentiment but because he fears the consequences of the inexorable law of the ‘thar’ or vendetta. He con­siders this as the most sacred of all the institutions of the desert, a veritable religion with its hard conse­quences which the legal avenger, that is, the nearest relative of the victim, will not attempt to avoid. But he feels no scruple in robbing a traveller, strayed without an official protector into the territory of his tribe. Hospes, hostis. The property of a stranger, even though he be an Arab, if not protected by the ægis of the small tribal community, is regarded as bonum nullius, or, as it is called, ‘mal Allah’, ‘the goods of Allah', and therefore fair game and the prey of the strongest. In a good year when copious rains have brought life to the solitary places and swollen the udders of his flocks, the descendant of Ishmael resembles Abraham. He suddenly becomes a great lord and fulfils the duties of hospitality nobly, especially should there be a poet near by to blazon to the four corners of Arabia—where the poet acts as journalist and arbiter of opinion—the proofs of his munificence. For he is vainglorious and is sensible of the charms
10 ISLAM BELIEFS AND INSTITUTIONS
of good verse. He maintains that ‘fame is worthy to be bought at the price of gold'.

COURAGE. He has been called courageous. Scholars have even attributed the success of the first Muslim conquests to the exceptional quality of his valour. We may well hesitate to share so flattering an opinion, and the reasons for this reserve will appear later in our second chapter when we have to survey briefly Muhammad's military career. The Beduin hates to fight in the open—especially since the use of firearms. What we should call courage he merely considers as recklessness and gratuitous bravado. In the matter of warfare he only practises raiding, if in his struggle for existence raiding can be said to merit that name. Ruse plays a predominant part; like the beasts of prey, he prefers to surprise his enemy, and flight seems to him a simple stratagem of war. Finally, he does not esteem anonymous courage, that of the soldier fighting in the ranks or dying in the trenches, the obscure victim of an order, or of honour. It used to be customary for the women to come and weep over the tombs of the departed. 'Go not far away, noble shade!' they cried. ‘A fine consolation!' replied the Beduin poets, whom any one wishing to understand fully the mentality of the nomad must not weary of citing—'Will the elegies of our women call me back to life?'

TENACITY. The most indisputable quality of the Beduin—yet another fruit of his individualism—is his sabr. This word must not be translated as ‘patience'. It is something quite different. It is an indomitable tenacity in struggling against his enemy —nature—against the implacable elements, against the desert beasts of prey, and above all against man, a hundred times more menacing to his flocks, his sole fortune, than the wolf and the hyena. This tenacity
THE CRADLE OF ISLAM 11
has given him a temperament of steel, at once supple and resisting. It enables him to live and even to prosper under a sky and in an environment where everything pines except the Beduin and his alter ego, ‘the ship of the desert'. Sensation pierces like a lancet-point that angular and bony frame, perpetually bathed in a hardy, dry air. Hence his fits of rage, his lusts, and his unbridled sensuality.

ANARCHY. Ishmael, the Biblical ancestor of the Arabs, is thus described in Genesis (16, 12):—‘manus ejus contra omnes et manus omnium contra eum et a regione universorum fratrum suorum figet tabernaculum’—'His hand shall be against every man and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.' In his aggressive per­sistent isolation the Beduin has remained the true descendant of the son of Abraham and the desert still remains the country of bellum omnium contra omnes. Incapable of rising unaided above the clan idea, or of conceiving any higher form of social organization, the Arab's political scheme inevitably falls to pieces the moment some ‘iron hand' is withdrawn and he is left to follow the bent of his own anarchical temperament.

THE TRIBAL CHIEF. Of the modern demagogue it has been written: 'While refusing to admit that any man is above him, he finds it intolerable not to be superior to others.' This further trait fits the Beduin marvellously. The chief of the tribe was formerly called Seyyid, Master, Lord, but this title has in modern times been replaced by that of Sheikh, since Seyyid has been reserved for the descendants of Husain, the grandson of Muhammad. The Caliph Mu‘awiya one day asked a nomad on what conditions it was pos­sible in the desert to obtain the title of Seyyid. The answer is worthy of consideration: 'Keep open house: be gentle of speech: make no demands on anyone:

12 ISLAM BELIEFS AND INSTITUTIONS


show the same cordiality to rich and poor alike—in short, treat all men as equals.' This is to demand the continuous exercise of heroic self-abnegation, and popular wisdom bears witness to the same thing in these proverbs: Sayyidu ’l-qawm ashqahum and again Sayyidu ’l-qawm khadimuhum, ‘The Seyyid of the tribe must make himself a slave, the most humble of all men.'

The choice of the Seyyid, then, depends upon the free election of the tribe. The choice rests on the principle of seniority. The precarious authority of the chief is transmitted—so says the formula—(kabir 'an kabir) 'from elder to elder'. These haughty demo­crats, these heads stuffed with aristocratic prejudices, these fighters, incessantly called upon to defend against aggression the handful of goods which they possess, flatly refuse to bow to the edicts of an inexperienced young man. The word ‘Sheykh', 'senior', old man, in itself suggests these prejudices. With total disre­gard for the services of the dead chief, and for the merits of his sons and brothers, they are supremely unwilling to be bound in allegiance to a family. Thus authority may pass from uncle to nephew: it may migrate from clan to clan. The case of chiefs whose ancestors to the third degree were successively Sey­yid are quoted as phenomenal. The transmission of power, succession in the direct line, in short, the dynastic principle as the Omayyads inaugurated it, revolted the Arabs. It can readily be imagined whether their political habits permitted the stabilization of authority, and the softening of the individualism and anarchical instincts of the race.

MEKKA. Let us now turn our attention to the settled peoples, or better, the townspeople. In order to study them we shall consider Mekka, the religious and commercial metropolis of the Hejaz, as it appears

THE CRADLE OF ISLAM 13


to us at the end of the sixth century of our era, on the eve of Muhammad's appearance on the scene.

Mekka seems to correspond to the Macoraba of the Greek geographer, Ptolemy. The name is thought to be derived from the Sabbean mukarrib, sanctuary, which would imply the antiquity of the Ka'ba. The chief and ruling tribe in the city, that of Quraish, were orig­inally nomads but had been settled there for about 200 years, and wielded full authority. They governed by means of a sort of guild of merchants, and formed, as it were, an oligarchical republic. Mekka owed its economic prosperity to its geographical position and to its relations with the important trade route to India. This strange city was fortunately encamped at the extremity of white Asia, opposite Africa of the blacks, at the cross-roads leading from Babylonia and Syria towards the plateaux of Yemen, the ‘Arabia Felix' of the Classics—towards the provinces of the Indian Ocean and of the Red Sea. From Babylonia, from the ports of the Persian Gulf as well as from the Yemen, flowed the rich products of the Middle East and of India: from Syria those of the Mediterranean world. We see Mekka opening negotiations with the neighbour­ing states, obtaining safe-conducts, free passage for her caravans, and concluding the equivalent of com­mercial treaties with Byzantium, Abyssinia, Persia, and the Emirs of Yemen.

THE GOVERNMENT OF MERKA. We have used the word republic, for want of a more suitable term. It is true that we find at Mekka a vested authority, a form of government, but it is precarious and difficult to define. It is the Mala’ of the Qoran (23, 34, 48; 26, 33; 27, 29, 38), something like a gathering of notables, of chiefs of the clans. It included repre­sentatives of the richest and most influential families.

14 ISLAM BELIEFS AND INSTITUTIONS


Thus Abu Sufyan, father of the future Caliph Mu'awiya, of the illustrious Omayyad family, is called ‘Sheikh of Quraish and its head' (Kabiruhum). We must be care­ful not to look too closely at this high-sounding title, accorded, moreover, to other contemporary Quraish­ites. Even at Mekka, we still meet with the manners and prejudices of the individualist Arab. Abu Sufyan was merely the foremost of the merchants, of the Mekkan financiers, the richest of them perhaps, but certainly the most intelligent, the most patriotic, and possessing more than any other a feeling for the common weal. In these qualities lies the secret of his real authority and of his influence for good. Against him and his colleagues of the merchants' guild, the heads of the Quraish families jealously guarded their author­ity and the right of veto, which they did not hesitate to use, as any decision taken must be unanimous. Without interfering with the autonomy of particular clans, however, the general assembly or Mala’ knew how to exercise discreet pressure when the public good or the interest of the city demanded such inter­vention. It was this interest which was cited at first as cause for opposition to the religious propaganda of Muhammad. The Mala’ began by counsels which were succeeded by threats. There came outlawry, that is, the recalcitrants were placed under the ban of the tribe, which thenceforth refused them its pro­tection. This instinct of solidarity, continued with constant resurgences of the anarchical spirit native to the Arab, constituted the originality of the Mekkan Government.

This conservative spirit was fostered by the desire to exploit commercially the protection of the holy months—a sort of truce of God—as well as the attrac­tion exercised by the sanctuary of the Ka'ba, and the annual pilgrimage, with its stations near Mekka,

THE CRADLE OF ISLAM 15
which were the sites of fairs visited by the majority of Arabs. The Quraishite guild strove to utilize these advantages, unique in Arabia, in order to make them a source of economic benefits. Considerations of trade always came before everything else in Mekka.

COMMERCIAL LIFE. A close study of the rich and picturesque literature of the Sira and hadith conveys an impression of the intense and overflowing life of ‘this unfruitful valley' of Mekka, as the Qoran (14, 40) calls it. It is as if we caught the humming of a human hive or found ourselves in the vicinity of a modern Stock Exchange. There is the same constant agitation, the same money-fever, the same frenzied speculation, and also the same succession of rapid fortunes and sudden catastrophes. Mekka became the Paradise of stockbrokers, of middlemen, of bankers with their money-loans placed at rates of interest which were usurious or appear so to those who will not take into account the enormous risks run by capital at that time and in such a place.

In the money-changers' books, men speculated on the currency exchange: they gambled on the rise and fall of foreign monies, on caravan freights, on their arrival and also their lateness. The influx of Byzan­tine, Sassanid and Yemenite coins, the complications of the old monetary systems and the knowledge necessary for their manipulation, gave rise to an infinity of operations and to the most lucrative trans-actions.

CARAVANS. According to Strabo, all Arabs are stockbrokers and merchants, χάπηλοι μαλλον ὁί Ἂραβες χαι ἐμποριχοί. At Mekka ‘esteem was professed only for the merchants'. Man lam yakun tajiran fa laysa ‘indahum bishayin. This infatuation spread even to the women. They put their wealth into banks and commercial enterprises: they took shares in them

16 ISLAM BELIEFS AND INSTITUTIONS
sometimes for trivial amounts. Thus few caravans set forth in which the whole population, men and women, had not a financial interest. On their return, every one received a part of the profits proportionate to his stake and the number of shares subscribed. The dividend was never less than 50 per cent., and often amounted even to the double. On departure the cara­vans carried leather, spices, precious essences, and metals, particularly silver, from the Arabian mines. Given this business activity there is no cause for aston­ishment if we find at Mekka merchants who in our day would be classed as millionaires. I may here refer the reader to the special study which I have devoted to them.1

THE SITE OF MEKKA. And yet it would be difficult to meet with a more forbidding site, even amongst the ruined rock-masses of Tihama, the lowest-lying and most desolate part of this stern province of Hejaz. Gripped, as it were, in a vice between two steep and naked mountains, the town occupies the bottom of a depression, a veritable basin, where in winter the rains of the formidable Tihama thunderstorms were stored. Such was their violence that periodically they devas­tated the city and overthrew, as has been seen, even the sanctuary of the Ka'ba. In the badly-ventilated corridor, scorched all through the endless summer by the pitiless sun of Arabia, without the shelter of a single palm-tree, the population in order to slake their thirst were reduced to the uncertain flow of the well of Zamzam, near the Ka'ba. But this hollow, swamp and furnace by turns, coincided with one of the most important stations on the ancient spice route, with the cross-roads of the continental routes linking up Yemen, Africa and Syria, and leading to the rich markets of India, coveted and striven for by every nation. This

THE CRADLE OF ISLAM 17
coincidence accounts, in spite of the heavy drawbacks of its climate, for the role played in Arabia by this strange city destined to shelter the cradle of Muhammad and that of Islam.
III. RELIGION
Orientalists continue to discuss at length the reality and also the depths of religious feeling which should be attributed to the Saracens before the Hijra. A perusal of the oldest monuments of Beduin literature, that is to say, what remains of pre-Islamite poetry, which Renan has aptly described as legere et indevote—‘light and irreligious', yields to the student, as we have seen, no trace of real, religious preoccupation.

THE KA'BA. We have already mentioned the cult of the Ka'ba. It is a rectangular building, originally roofless. It serves as a casket for the Black Stone, which was the great fetish, the principal though not the only divinity of the Quraish clan. The actual length of the Ka'ba, frequently altered and recon­structed—the last restoration dates from the seven­teenth century—is 39 feet by 33, with a height of 49½ feet. The Black Stone is built into the south-eastern angle 5 feet above the ground. On the eve of the Hijra in all nomadic Arabia, particularly in the Hejaz, religion shows, behind this practica multiplex, and throughout the varying local observances, one characteristic trait; the predominance and popularity of litholatry, the cult of sacred stones or baetuli. They were called ‘bait Allah’ —‘The House of God'; they passed for the representation and also the dwelling-place of the divinity, and none attempted to examine or discuss these traditional ideas. The Ka'ba, originally a Beduin sanctuary, served, with this sacred well of Zamzam, as centre to the agglomeration of settlers which grew into Mekka.

18 ISLAM BELIEFS AND INSTITUTIONS
NO IDOLS. In spite of the absence of a real mytho­logy recalling that of Greece, Arab paganism possesses a sort of Pantheon in which figure gods and goddesses whose relationships have been insufficiently studied. But it knew no idols properly so-called, no formal representations of divine beings. Its divinities were, as we have just seen, stones which took the most varied forms: oddly-shaped blocks, monoliths, erected or strangely sculptured by atmospheric erosion, assuming sometimes the appearance of men, of columns or pylons. Some remained attached to the rock where they had been discovered. Others, like the Black Stone, were preciously enclosed in a small building when the wor­shippers were not content to surround them with a circle of stones. Usually there was a well in the neighbourhood which served for ablutions, and often also a sacred tree, itself a god or the habitation of a divine being. On this were suspended the trophies of war, votive weapons, the offerings of visitors, sometimes a bit of stuff or a fragment of clothing.

All round stretched the haram, sacred territory affording the right of sanctuary to all living things, men and animals. Even the trees of the haram must be religiously respected, and no branch must be plucked from them. These rustic open-air sanctuaries were deserted during the greater part of the year. The tribe—each tribe or group of tribes possessed its own special gods—assembled there on solemn occasions—for example, the beginning of autumn or of spring—to offer up sacrifices, principally of camels. Those present had to undergo purification and ritual absti­nences.

The Biblical holocaust was unknown. The blood of the victim, sometimes replaced by libations of milk, was poured out on the baetulus, or into an opening made at the foot of the god-fetish. After that came

THE CRADLE OF ISLAM 19


ritual repasts—a sort of communion, in which the flesh was eaten by the participants, who had all shaved their heads. After this ceremony they came out of the haram, the state of holiness, to enter the hill, the profane state: in other words, to resume their ordinary occupations.

Certain baetuli were carried into war, when the nomad community was engaged in a struggle where its very existence was at stake. This also happened during certain religious ceremonies: for example, those of the Rogations, ‘ istisqa’, following prolonged droughts, or at the time of the pilgrimages. On these occasions the qubba, a kind of pavilion-tabernacle, made of red leather, was used. These processions ended by the sevenfold tawaf, the ritual circumam­bulation of the sanctuary. The guardianship of the qubba was entrusted to an escort of women, who accompanied with clashing of timbrels the liturgical chants and shouts of praise and thanksgiving. During the pilgrimage similar processions conducted the participants to its various stations, or linked-up neigh­bouring sanctuaries. Divination was also practised, in front of the baetulus, by means of ritual arrows with which the Kahin, or accredited soothsayer, drew lots. These furnished the affirmative and negative answer to the question asked. A Kahina, or female soothsayer, often replaced the Kahin.

The cult of the Quraish clan and the whole ritual of the Mekka pilgrims, with its halts, mauqif, at 'Arafa, Mina, etc., its circumambulation and processions to Safa, Marwa and other urban sanctuaries, sprang from this extremely primitive fetishism. Of this complex mass of archaic ceremonies, the Islamic hajj has preserved the principal practices.

It has summarily destroyed all traces of their origin. In order to destroy their polytheistic significance it

20 ISLAM BELIEFS AND INSTITUTIONS
has attached them to the cult of Allah, and ascribed their institution to Abraham, founder of the Ka'ba. Incurable fatalists, the Beduins had never retained any precise idea of a future life or of the immortality of the soul. They admitted the existence of jinns—ill-defined beings, half-demon and half-man, reproducing in the same way as mortals. They are feared because they have the power of rendering themselves invisible: nevertheless, they are subject to the law of death. In the century which saw the birth of Muhammad, Allah began, however, to emerge from the mass of tribal deities and from the group of baetuli. They still continued to be honoured, but it was acknow­ledged that ‘Allah akbar'—Allah is the greater.

There was no real clergy or priestly caste. Its place was filled by hierophants, dancers of an inferior kind, soothsayers, augurers, diviners, officiating priests, guardians of the baetuli and the sanctuaries. The Kahin and his feminine counterpart, the Kahina, uttered oracles, questioned the sacred arrows, presided at the istisqa—the object of which was to bring rain. The sadin were mere keepers of the sanctuaries. The ‘aif and the qaif interpret omens and decide knotty questions of civil status and genealogy. The Kahin were at the head of the ill-defined hierarchy; the office was not hereditary like that of the sadin. They accompanied the armies and the qubba tabernacle and by virtue of their prescience must give information about the movements and plans of the enemy. They exercised also the functions of hakam—judge-arbiter. They were credited—especially the Kahina, or pythonesses—with secret powers, such as that of drawing down rain, of conjuring spirits, maladies and spells, and that of rendering the arms and strategy of the enemy powerless by means of mysterious formulæ, as did Balaam in the Bible.

THE CRADLE OF ISLAM 21
There is nothing to prove that infanticide was prevalent in Arabia, except in the Tamim tribe, which appears to have practised it during a severe famine. This imputation, too easily admitted by Orientalists, is based upon the disregard of the Beduins for their female children. This has been associated with a rhetorical question in the Qoran (16, 61) which was too literally interpreted by poets in the first century of the Hijra.

THE JEWS. We have already spoken of the occupa­tion of the oases of the Hejaz by the Jews. They were to be found in more compact colonies in Medina, where they monopolized the most profitable spheres, commerce and industry, and had permitted the Arabs—those who were soon to be called the Ansar—to in­stal themselves as their customers. These customers, having finally acquired numerical superiority, aspired to become the sole masters. After the Hijra Muham­mad came sharply up against the hostility of the Jews of Medina, a fact to which the Qoran bears eloquent testimony. Taif also possessed a Jewish colony. At Mekka they were only represented by passing mer­chants. In Yemen they succeeded in founding a Jewish state, and came into conflict with the Christians of the country.

They had rabbis, synagogues, schools, in short all the organization and the exclusive prejudices of Talmudic Mosaism. To them the Arabs were ‘ommiy­yun’, Gentiles, not ignorant people, or solely in the sense that they did not possess a Kitab—a revealed book. The Jews looked down on them from a great height, although they were themselves for the most part proselytes of Ismaelitish origin. This scorn told against them in their struggles against Islam; but at any rate it did not prevent them from cultivating, and with success, Arabic poetry in the style of the

22 ISLAM BELIEFS AND INSTITUTIONS


Beduins. They were all town-dwellers; there is no record of a single Jewish nomad tribe.

THE CHRISTIANS. The position of Christianity in the Hejaz was much less favourable from the point of view of diffusion and especially of cohesion, and it did not, like Judaism, enjoy the advantage of being concentrated in the oases. It was nevertheless widely spread amongst the Beduins living near the Syrian frontier, also in the States of the Ghassanids and in the Yemen, where it struggled successfully against Judaism. In the corridor of Wadi'l Qora and in the neighbourhood of Syria groups of ascetics and Christian hermits were to be found. Ancient poetry bears witness to the popularity of these monks and the echo of that sympathy lingers in the Qoran (5, 85; 24, 35, etc.; 57, 27). At Mekka we can only prove the existence of a tiny handful of native Christians, that is to say Quraishites. Like the Jews, the Christians in Arabia were addicted to commerce, principally to pedlary in the towns, the oases and the Beduin encampments. Abyssinian Christians, both merchants and slaves, appear to have been numerous at Mekka. All these foreigners were upholders of old heresies. They belonged to heterodox states, principally to Jacobitism, and after that to Nestorianism and to the Christianity of Abyssinia, heavily intermingled with elements of Judaism. Muhammad seems to have sought their company (16, 105; 25, 8).

Intercourse with such informants, persons of vague conceptions and speaking a foreign language (Qoran 16, 105), knowing their own religion very imperfectly and filled with disagreements and doctrinal divisions,—all these circumstances contributed towards a lack of finality in Muhammad's judgment of the dogmas and value of Christianity. In the early days he failed to distinguish it clearly from Judaism. This was also

THE CRADLE OF ISLAM 23


the mistake of the small contemporary group of Hanif—monotheists, but neither Jews nor Christians. Before his arrival at Medina, Muhammad believed himself to agree in principle and on broad lines with the two Scripturary religions.1 He appealed constantly to their testimony (Qoran 16, 45; 21, 7, passim) and found in the agreement with monotheistic dogma the proof of the reality of his mission to work amongst his compatriots for the triumph of monotheism. He cordially desired (Qoran 30, 4) the victory of the Byzantines over the Iranian polytheists. It was at Medina, in disputing with the Jews, that he discovered his misconceptions and became firmly convinced of the bad faith of the Scripturaries.

II


MUHAMMAD: THE FOUNDER OF ISLAM
IT was in this anarchic Arabia, in the cosmopolitan and pagan atmosphere of Mekka, that Muham­mad—the original form of the anglicized name ‘Mahomet'—was born. The Qoran (61, 6) also calls him ‘Ahmad'. His date of birth should be fixed not towards 570—the traditional date still commonly admitted by Islamologists—but towards 580, if it is true that he barely passed his fiftieth year.

His life is known to us through the Qoran and from a traditional compilation, the Sira, the matter of which was collected and later edited by Muslims from the end of the first century of the Hijra onwards. Dur­ing the last half-century this prolix documentation has been subjected by Orientalists to a severely critical examination. The least well-known, and certainly the most often debated part of the Sira is that dealing with the Prophet's life in the Mekkan period. After the Hijra the principal data grow more precise.


I. MEKKAN PERIOD
YOUTH. Muhammad came of a good family, that of the Hashimites, which belonged to what one might call the citizen-aristocracy, but had fallen on evil days. At Mekka, Muhammad's enemies alleged these origins and the lowliness of his social station as arguments against his prophetic mission (Qoran 17, 96; 25, 8;
24

MUHAMMAD: THE FOUNDER OF ISLAM 25

  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   13


Verilənlər bazası müəlliflik hüququ ilə müdafiə olunur ©atelim.com 2016
rəhbərliyinə müraciət