The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Ṣiffīn was a Jahili brawl

This morn I got around to Peter Webb's excellent essay on the poetry around Ṣiffīn. (Zeca had alerted CEMB last Friday.) Dr Webb says that we need to unwrap the transmission-history of the poetry quoted in the classic histories. Firstly, comparing Tabari with Ibn Muzahim shows that Tabari had access to much more poetry than he actually used, secondly Ibn Muzahim didn't curate his own poetry as well as he could have.

As a result the poetry which they preserve represents a progressive motion-picture of forgery, which we must roll back from these historians' own day (ideologically pro / anti Shiite) to the days of the first Umayyads.

Interesting to me, is that the earliest strand of poetry - the poetry that contains the nonstandard Arabic vocabulary or even Himyaritic - looks like... well, just read some of this stuff. Start with Syria, the worst-preserved side of Umayyad-era conflicts:

I've never seen horsemen rushing so ferociously
Nor more invincible than on that day at the Hill of Skulls:
A morning when the Iraqis emerged
Like lambs bursting through narrow passes.
Whenever I said they've retreated,
They came on again,
Squadrons gathered, flushing white helmets at the fore.
They said 'accept 'Ali!''
'Certainly not!' we replied, with unbending swords.
We rose up against them with sword and spear,
In close-ranks, our horsemen drove them back.

I see here no care for "The Book Of God And The Sunna Of His Prophet". All I see is 'Ali demanding subjugation and free men resisting him. (If you're Syrian. But there's a mound of this on the Iraqi side too - check out the Rabi'a poem.)

This poem agrees with Pseudo-Sebeos (Armenia), Juansher's eulogist (northern Atropatene), Bar Penkaye (north Syria), and the Greeks. It also agrees with early Muslim apocalyptic. It even agrees with the Muslims' slowness to apply the "fitna" label to the event. Ṣiffīn was a naked power struggle, strai'dup eas'side-wes'side yo.

Where I start to see the qurra' getting involved is in the second civil war, the Zubayrid Fitna - which is where the label "fitna" starts to fit.


posted by Zimri on 10:50 | link | 0 comments

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