The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Monday, August 25, 2014


I have just now via email (thanks, "Maxim") been alerted to the Âshtinâmeh.

I know of several other sulh-pacts in this general format. If you flip through the translation of Baladhuri’s Futuh al-Buldan you’ll see some examples: treaties with Yemeni notables, mainly. Several more are footnoted in Robinson's book Empire and Elites. And I won't dismiss these pacts out of hand. The so-called Constitution of Madina is usually thought to be a compilation of pacts with Hijazi Arabs and Jews from the Prophet’s time. There also survives a Pact of Umar; although this one is more likely a codification of later practice (Milka Levy-Rubin, Non-Muslims in the Early Islamic Empire).

The Âshtinâmeh for its own part quotes from sura 29. I happen to think that sura 29 belongs to the Marwânî era. This makes me suspect the Âshtinâmeh, too, as late (or at least as interpolated). Worse, the repetitive disavowals of poll-tax make me suspect special-pleading - a Christian origin. And where is this document in the Arabic sources? Where is it in Baladhuri? Where in Ibn Asakir and the historians in Egypt?

I would, myself, pin this forgery upon the monks living under the early `Abbasids. First, the very term âshti-nâmeh is Persian. Mainly, that sect's takeover was about when Palestinian communities worried about the “new deal” they’d be getting. Milka Levy-Rubin has also penned a translation of the Samaritan chronicle; this shows how rough the Syrians had it. Ditto the Christian chronicle at Zuqnin. Further south at Sinai, the `Abbasids were getting further from their Iraqi / Khurasani base and too close to Egypt’s vast population. More generous terms could be negotiated there. They still had to be negotiated.

The document wouldn't be fit for display to the historians. This was shown to Muslim bands who had been hoping to shake the monks down.

UPDATE 8/30/2014: Ahhh... so that is why we've been hearing about it this month.. Spencer has floated some other rebuttals. UPDATE 3/20/2016: Spencer in January '14, with more.

posted by Zimri on 19:21 | link | 0 comments

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