The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Sunday, June 05, 2016

How Muslim states interacted

Until 1917, Islam could admit of only one caliph. At times there were arguments over who that man was, as when some Berbers pretended to be Fatimids and took over Egypt, or when that Umayyad branch in Spain reasserted its caliphate. (Suyuti in his ta'rîkh dismisses the Fatimids as liars, but concedes the Umayyads had a point.)

Lewis offers the Muslims' answer: those other established Muslim states were rebels. Rebels were still Muslim, but were unlawfully withholding allegiance. War (harb) could still happen. But it was to be a war conducted under strict Islamic principles - your army couldn't shoot a fleeing rebel in the back, for instance, nor slaughter prisoners-of-war. This wasn't a jihad, after all.

If these armed rent-seekers weren't established, they were pirates and could simply be hanged. (I got no problem with that.) As for apostates, true murtadds were rare. Based on my reading of early Umayyad history: when rebels lost, they were posthumously declared apostates, and all those who had supported the rebels now had to beg al-Hajjaj to keep their heads.

So a "rebel" who lasted long enough to force a truce really wasn't a rebel as we Westerners would see him. He was a founder of an independent sovereign state. More usually, a restorer of same; we are often talking about Iranians here.

Thus, the surreal scene so common in Islamic history, of the Sultan of the Turks and the Shah of the Iranians (often a Turk himself) mutually cursing each other as "rebel!" in public, whilst calmly doing business across mutually-agreed borders. But at least this legal fiction prevented a full-on tribal knife fight.


posted by Zimri on 17:12 | link | 0 comments

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