The excellence of historiography. -An appreciation of
IT SHOULD BE KNOWN that history is a discipline that has a great number of (different) approaches. Its useful aspects are very many. Its goal is distinguished.
(History) makes us acquainted with the conditions of past nations as they are reflected in their (national) character. It makes us acquainted with the biographies of the prophets and with the dynasties and policies of rulers. Whoever so desires may thus achieve the useful result of being able to imitate historical examples in religious and worldly matters.
The (writing 32 of history) requires numerous sources and greatly varied knowledge. It also requires a good speculative mind and thoroughness. (Possession of these two qualities) leads the historian to the truth and keeps him from slips and errors. If he trusts historical information in its plain transmitted form and has no clear knowledge of the principles resulting from custom, the fundamental facts of politics, the nature of civilization, or the conditions governing human social organization, and if, furthermore, he does not evaluate remote or ancient material through comparison with near or contemporary material, he often cannot avoid stumbling and slipping and deviating from the highroad of truth. Historians, Qur'an commentators and leading transmitters have committed frequent errors in the stories and events they reported. They accepted them in the plain transmitted form, without regard for its value. They did not check them with the principles underlying such historical situations, nor did they compare them with similar material. Also, they did not probe (more deeply) with the yardstick of philosophy, with the help of knowledge of the nature of things, or with the help of speculation and historical insight. Therefore, they strayed from the truth and found themselves lost in the desert of baseless assumptions and errors.
This is especially the case with figures, either of sums of money or of soldiers, whenever they occur in stories. They offer a good opportunity for false information and constitute a vehicle for nonsensical statements. They must be controlled and checked with the help of known fundamental facts.
For example, al-Mas'udi and many other historians report that Moses counted the army of the Israelites in the desert.33 He had all those able to carry arms, especially those twenty years and older, pass muster. There turned out to be 600,000 or more. In this connection, (al-Mas'udi) forgets to take into consideration whether Egypt and Syria could possibly have held such a number of soldiers. Every realm may have as large a militia as it can hold and support, but no more. This fact is attested by well-known customs and familiar conditions. Moreover, an army of this size cannot march or fight as a unit. The whole available territory would be too small for it. If it were in battle formation, it would extend two, three, or more times beyond the field of vision. How, then, could two such parties fight with each other, or one battle formation gain the upper hand when one flank does not know what the other flank is doing! The situation at the present day testifies to the correctness of this statement. The past resembles the future more than one (drop of) water another.
Furthermore, the realm of the Persians was much greater than that of the Israelites. This fact is attested by Nebuchadnezzar's victory over them. He swallowed up their country and gained complete control over it. He also destroyed Jerusalem, their religious and political capital. And he was merely one of the officials of the province of Fars.34 It is said that he was the governor of the western border region. The Persian provinces of the two 'Iraqs,35 Khurasan, Transoxania, and the region of Derbend on the Caspian Sea36 were much larger than the realm of the Israelites. Yet, the Persian army did not attain such a number or even approach it. The greatest concentration of Persian troops, at alQadisiyah, amounted to 120,000 men, all of whom had their retainers. This is according to Sayf 37 who said that with their retainers they amounted to over 200,000 persons. According to 'A'ishah and az-Zuhri,38 the troop concentration with which Rustum advanced against Sa'd at al-Qadisiyah amounted to only 60,000 men, all of whom had their retainers.
Then, if the Israelites had really amounted to such a number, the extent of the area under their rule would have been larger, for the size of administrative units and provinces under a particular dynasty is in direct proportion to the size of its militia and the groups that support the (dynasty), as will be explained in the section on provinces in the first book.39 Now, it is well known that the territory of the (Israelites) did not comprise an area larger than the Jordan province and Palestine in Syria and the region of Medina and Khaybar in the Hijaz.40 Also, there were only three generations41 between Moses and Israel, according to the best-informed scholars. Moses was the son of Amram, the son of Kohath (Qahat or Qahit), the son of Levi (Lewi or Lawi),42 the son of Jacob who is Israel-Allah. This is Moses' genealogy in the Torah.43 The length of time between Israel and Moses was indicated by al-Mas'udi when he said: "Israel entered Egypt with his children, the tribes, and their children, when they came to Joseph numbering seventy souls. The length of their stay in Egypt until they left with Moses for the desert was two hundred and twenty years. During those years, the kings of the Copts, the Pharaohs, passed them on (as their subjects) one to the other."44 It is improbable that the descendants of one man could branch out into such a number within four generations.45
It has been assumed that this number of soldiers applied to the time of Solomon and his successors. Again, this is improbable. Between Solomon and Israel, there were only eleven generations, that is: Solomon, the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed ('Ubidh, or ' Ufidh), the son of Boaz (Ba'az, or Bu'iz), the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab ('Amminddhab, or Hamminddhab), the son of Ram, the son of Hezron (Had/srun, or Hasran), the son of Perez ( Baras, or Bayras), the son of Judah, the son of Jacob. The descendants of one man in eleven generations would not branch out into such a number, as has been assumed. They might, indeed, reach hundreds or thousands. This often happens. But an increase beyond that to higher figures46 is improbable. Comparison with observable present-day and well-known nearby facts proves the assumption and report to be untrue. According to the definite statement of the Israelite Stories,47 Solomon's army amounted to 12,000 men, and his horses48 numbered 1,400 horses, which were stabled at his palace. This is the correct information. No attention should be paid to nonsensical statements by the common run of informants. In the days of Solomon, the Israelite state saw its greatest flourishing and their realm its widest extension.
Whenever49 contemporaries speak about the dynastic armies of their own or recent times, and whenever they engage in discussions about Muslim or Christian soldiers, or when they get to figuring the tax revenues and the money spent by the government, the outlays of extravagant spenders, and the goods that rich and prosperous men have in stock, they are quite generally found to exaggerate, to go beyond the bounds of the ordinary, and to succumb to the temptation of sensationalism. When the officials in charge are questioned about their armies, when the goods and assets of wealthy people are assessed, and when the outlays of extravagant spenders are looked at in ordinary light, the figures will be found to amount to a tenth of what those people have said. The reason is simple. It is the common desire for sensationalism, the ease with which one may just mention a higher figure, and the disregard of reviewers and critics. This leads to failure to exercise self-criticism about one's errors and intentions, to demand from oneself moderation and fairness in reporting, to reapply oneself to study and research. Such historians let themselves go and made a feast of untrue statements. "They procure for themselves entertaining stories in order to lead (others) astray from the path of God."50 This is a bad enough business.
It 51 may be said that the increase of descendants to such a number would be prevented under ordinary conditions which, however, do not apply to the Israelites. (The increase in their case) would be a miracle in accordance with the tradition which said that one of the things revealed to their forefathers, the prophets Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, was that God would cause their descendants to increase until they were more numerous than the stars of heaven and the pebbles of the earth. God fulfilled this promise to them as an act of divine grace bestowed upon them and as an extraordinary miracle in their favor. Thus, ordinary conditions could not hinder (such an event), and nobody should speak against it.
Someone might come out against this tradition (with the argument) that it occurs only in the Torah which, as is well known, was altered by the Jews. (The reply to this argument would be that) the statement concerning the alteration (of the Torah by the Jews) is unacceptable to thorough scholars and cannot be understood in its plain meaning, since custom prevents people who have a (revealed) religion from dealing with their divine scriptures in such a manner. This was mentioned by al-Bukhari in the Sahih.52 Thus, the great increase in numbers in the case of the Israelites would be an extraordinary miracle. Custom, in the proper meaning of the word, would prevent anything of the sort from happening to other peoples.
It is true that a (co-ordinated battle) movement in (such a large group) would hardly be possible, but none took place, and there was no need for one. It is also true that each realm has its particular number of militia (and no more). But the Israelites at first were no militiamen and had no dynasty. Their numbers increased that much, so that they could gain power over the land of Canaan which God had promised them and the territory of which He had purified for them. All these things are miracles. God guides to the truth.
The53 history of the Tubba's, the kings of the Yemen and of the Arabian Peninsula, as it is generally transmitted, is another example of silly statements by historians. It is said that from their home in the Yemen, (the Tubba's) used to raid Ifriqiyah and the Berbers of the Maghrib. Afriqus b. Qays b. Sayfi, one of their great early kings who lived in the time of Moses or somewhat earlier,54 is said to have raided Ifriqiyah. He caused a great slaughter among the Berbers. He gave them the name of Berbers when he heard their jargon and asked what that "barbarah" was.55 This gave them the name which has remained with them since that time. When he left the Maghrib, he is said. to have concentrated some Himyar tribes there. They remained there and mixed with the native population. Their (descendants) are the Sinhajah and the Kutamah. This led at-Tabari, al-Jurjani,56 al-Mas'udi, Ibn al-Kalbi,57 and al-Bayhaqi58 to make the statement that the Sinhajah and the Kutamah belong to the Himyar. The Berber genealogists do not admit this, and they are right. Al-Mas'udi also mentioned that one of the Himyar kings after Afriqus, Dhul-Adh'ar, who lived in the time of Solomon, raided the Maghrib and forced it into submission. Something similar is mentioned by al-Mas'udi concerning his son and successor, Yasir.59 He is said to have reached the Sand River60 in the Maghrib and to have been unable to find passage through it because of the great mass of sand. Therefore, he returned.
Likewise, it is said that the last Tubba',61 As'ad Abu Karib, who lived in the time of the Persian Kayyanid king Yastasb,62 ruled over Mosul and Azerbaijan. He is said to have met and routed the Turks and to have caused a great slaughter among them. Then he raided them again a second and a third time. After that, he is said to have sent three of his sons on raids, (one) against the country of Firs, (one) against the country of the Soghdians, one of the Turkish nations of Transoxania, and (one) against the country of the Rum (Byzantines)63 The first brother took possession of the country up to Samarkand and crossed the desert into China. There, he found his second brother who had raided the Soghdians and had arrived in China before him. The two together caused a great slaughter in China and returned together with their booty. They left some Himyar tribes in Tibet. They have been there down to this time. The third brother is said to have reached Constantinople. He laid siege to it and forced the country of the Rum (Byzantines) into submission. Then, he returned.
All this information is remote from the truth. It is rooted in baseless and erroneous assumptions. It is more like the fiction of storytellers. The realm of the Tubba's was restricted to the Arabian peninsula. Their home and seat was San'a' in the Yemen. The Arabian peninsula is surrounded by the ocean on three sides: the Indian Ocean on the south, the Persian Gulf jutting out of the Indian Ocean to al-Basrah on the east, and the Red Sea jutting out of the Indian Ocean to Suez in Egypt on the west. This can be seen on the map. There is no way from the Yemen to the Maghrib except via Suez. The distance between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean is two days' journey or less. It is unlikely that the distance could be traversed by a great ruler with a large army unless he controlled that region. This, as a rule, is impossible. In that region there were the Amalekites and Canaan in Syria, and, in Egypt, the Copts. Later on, the Amalekites took possession of Egypt, and the Israelites (took possession) of Syria. There is, however, no report that the Tubba's ever fought against one of these nations or that they had possession of any part of this region. Furthermore, the distance from the Yemen to the Maghrib is great, and an army requires much food and fodder. Soldiers traveling in regions other than their own have to requisition grain and livestock and to plunder the countries they pass through. As a rule, such a procedure does not yield enough food and fodder. On the other hand, if they attempted to take along enough provisions from their own region, they would not have enough animals for transportation. So, their whole line of march necessarily takes them through regions they must take possession of and force into submission in order to obtain provisions from them. Again, it would be a most unlikely and impossible assumption that such an army could pass through all those nations without disturbing them, obtaining its provisions by peaceful negotiation. This shows that all such information (about Tubba' expeditions to the Maghrib) is silly or fictitious.
Mention of the (allegedly) impassable Sand River has never been heard in the Maghrib, although the Maghrib has often been crossed and its roads have been explored by travelers and raiders at all times and in every direction.64 Because of the unusual character of the story, there is much eagerness to pass it on.
With regard to the (alleged) raid of the Tubba's against the countries of the East and the land of the Turks, it must be admitted that the line of march in this case is wider than the (narrow) passage at Suez. The distance, however, is greater, and the Persian and Byzantine nations are interposed on the way to the Turks. There is no report that the Tubba's ever took possession of the countries of the Persians and Byzantines. They merely fought the Persians on the borders of the 'Iraq and of the Arab countries between al-Bahrayn and al-Hirah, which were border regions common to both nations.65 These wars took place between the Tubba' Dhul-Adh'ar and the Kayyanid king Kaygawus, and again between the Tubba' al-Asghar 66 Abu Karib and the Kayyanid Yastasb (Bishtasp). There were other wars later on with rulers of the dynasties that succeeded the Kayyanids, and, in turn, with their successors, the Sassanians. It would, however, ordinarily have been impossible for the Tubba's to traverse the land of the Persians on their way to raid the countries of the Turks and Tibet, because of the nations that are interposed on the way to the Turks, because of the need for food and fodder, as well as the great distance, mentioned before. All information to this effect is silly and fictitious. Even if the way this information is transmitted were sound, the points mentioned would cast suspicion upon it. All the more then must the information be suspect since the manner in which it has been transmitted is not sound. In connection with Yathrib (Medina) and the Aws and Khazraj, Ibn Ishaq67 says that the last Tubba' traveled eastward to the 'Iraq and Persia, but a raid by the Tubba's against the countries of the Turks and Tibet is in no way confirmed by the established facts. Assertions to this effect should not be trusted; all such information should be investigated and checked with sound norms.68 The result will be that it will most beautifully be demolished.
God is the guide to that which is correct.
Even 69 more unlikely and more deeply rooted in baseless assumptions is the common interpretation of the following verse of the Surat al-Fajr: "Did you not see what your Lord did with 'Ad -Iram, that of the pillars?"70
The commentators consider the word Iram the name of a city which is described as having pillars, that is, columns. They report that 'Ad b. 'Us b. Iram had two sons, Shadid and Shaddid, who ruled after him. Shadid perished. Shaddad became the sole ruler of the realm, and the kings there submitted to his authority. When Shaddad heard a description of Paradise, he said: "I shall build something like it." And he built the city of Iram in the desert of Aden over a period of three hundred years. He himself lived nine hundred years. It is said to have been a large city, with castles of gold and silver and columns of emerald and hyacinth, containing all kinds of trees and freely flowing rivers. When the construction of (the city) was completed, Shaddad went there with the people of his realm. But -when be was the distance of only one day and night away from it, God sent a clamor from heaven, and all of them perished. This is reported by at-Tabari, ath-Tha'alibi,71 az-Zamakhshari,72 and other Qur'an commentators. They transmit the following story on the authority of one of the men around Muhammad, 'Abdallah b. Qilabah.73 When he went out in search of some of his camels, he hit upon (the city) and took away from it as much as he could carry. His story reached Mu'awiyah, who had him brought to him, and he told the story. Mu'awiyah sent for Ka'b al-ahbar74 and asked him about it. Ka'b said, "It is Iram, that of the pillars. Iram will be entered in your time by a Muslim who is of a reddish, ruddy color, and short, with a mole at his eyebrow and one on his neck, who goes out in search of some of his camels." He then turned around and, seeing Ibn Qilabah, he said: "Indeed, he is that man."
No information about this city has since become available anywhere on earth. The desert of Aden where the city is supposed to have been built lies in the middle of the Yemen. It has been inhabited continuously, and travelers and guides have explored its roads in every direction. Yet, no information about the city has been reported. No antiquarian, no nation has mentioned it. If (the commentators) said that it had disappeared like other antiquities, the story would be more likely, but they expressly say that it still exists. Some identify it with Damascus, because Damascus was in the possession of the people of 'Ad. Others go so far in their crazy talk as to maintain that the city lies hidden from sensual perception and can be discovered only by trained (magicians) and sorcerers. All these are assumptions that would better be termed nonsense.
All these suggestions proffered by Qur'an commentators were the result of grammatical considerations, for Arabic grammar requires the expression, "that of the pillars," to be an attribute of Iram. The word "pillars" was understood to mean columns. Thus, Iram was narrowed down in its meaning to some sort of building. (The Qur'an commentators) were influenced in their interpretation by the reading of Ibn az-Zubayr75 who read (not 'Adin with nunation but) a genitive construction: 'Ad of Iram. They then adopted these stories, which are better called fictitious fables and which are quite similar to the (Qur'an) interpretations of Sayfawayh which are related as comic anecdotes.76
(In fact,) however, the "pillars" are tent poles. If "columns" were intended by the word, it would not be farfetched, as the power of (the people of Ad) was well known, and they could be described as people with buildings and columns in the general way. But it would be farfetched to say that a special building in one or another specific city (was intended). If it is a genitive construction, as would be the case according to the reading of Ibn az-Zubayr, it would be a genitive construction used to express tribal relationships, such as, for instance, the Quraysh of Kinanah, or the Ilyis of Mudar, or the Rabi'ah of Nizir. There is no need for such an implausible interpretation which uses for its starting point silly stories of the sort mentioned, which cannot be imputed to the Qur'an because they are so implausible.
Another fictitious story of-the historians, which-they all report, concerns the reason for ar-Rashid's destruction of the Barmecides. It is the story of al-'Abbasah, ar-Rashid's sister, and Ja'far b. Yahya b. Khalid, his client. Ar-Rashid is said to have worried about where to place them when he was drinking wine with them. He wanted to receive them together in his company. Therefore, he permitted them to conclude a marriage that was not consummated. Al-'Abbasah then tricked (Ja'far) in her desire to be alone with him,77 for she had fallen in love with him. Jafar finally had intercourse with her-it is assumed, when he was drunk-and she became pregnant. The story was reported to ar-Rashid who flew into a rage.
This story78 is irreconcilable with al-'Abbasah's position, her religiousness, her parentage, and her exalted rank. She was a descendant of 'Abdallah b. 'Abbas and separated from him by only four generations, and they were the most distinguished and greatest men in Islam after him. Al-'Abbasah was the daughter of Muhammad al-Mahdi, the son of Abu Ja'far 'Abdallah al-Manslir, the son of Muhammad as-Sajjad, the son of the Father of the Caliphs 'Ali. 'Ali was the son of 'Abdallah, the Interpreter of the Qur'an, the son of the Prophet's uncle, al-'Abbas. Al-'Abbasah was the daughter of a caliph and the sister of a caliph. She was born to royal power, into the prophetical succession (the caliphate), and descended from the men-around-Muhammad aril his uncles. She was connected by birth with the leadership of Islam, the light of the revelation, and the place where the angels descended to bring the revelation. She was close in time to the desert attitude of true Arabism, to that simple state of Islam still far from the habits of luxury and lush pastures of sin. Where should one look for chastity and modesty, if she did not possess them? Where could cleanliness and purity be found, if they no longer existed in her house? How could she link her pedigree with (that of) Ja'far b. Yahya and stain her Arab nobility with a Persian client? His Persian ancestor had been acquired as a slave, or taken as a client, by one of her ancestors, an uncle of the Prophet and noble Qurashite, and all (Ja'far) did was that he together with his father was dragged along (by the growing fame of) the 'Abbisid dynasty and thus prepared for and elevated to a position of nobility. And how could it be that ar-Rashid, with his high-mindedness and great pride, would permit himself to become related by marriage to Persian clients! If a critical person looks at this story in all fairness and compares al-'Abbasah with the daughter of a great ruler of his own time, he must find it disgusting and unbelievable that she could have done such a thing with one of the clients of her dynasty and while her family was in power. He would insist that the story be considered untrue. And who could compare with al-'Abbasah and ar-Rashid in dignity!
The reason for the destruction of the Barmecides was their attempt to gain control over the dynasty and their retention of the tax revenues. This went so far that when ar-Rashid wanted even a little money, he could not get it. They took his affairs out of his hands and shared with him in his authority. He had no say with them in the affairs of his realm. Their influence grew, and their fame spread. They filled the positions and ranks of the government with their own children and creatures who became high officials, and thus barred all others from the positions of wazir, secretary, army commander, doorkeeper (hajb), and from the military and civilian administration. It is said that in the palace of ar-Rashid, there were twenty-five high officials, both military and civilian, all children of Yahya b. Khalid. There, they crowded the people of the dynasty and pushed them out by force. They could do that because of the position of their father, Yahya, mentor to Harun both as crown prince and as caliph. (Harun) practically grew up in his lap and got all his education from him. (Harun) let him handle his affairs and used to call him "father." As a result, the (Barmecides), and not the government, wielded all the influence.78a Their presumption grew. Their position became more and more influential. They became the center of attention. All obeyed them. All hopes were addressed to them. From the farthest borders, presents and gifts of rulers and amirs were sent to them. The tax money found its way into their treasury, to serve as an introduction to them and to procure their favor. They gave gifts to and bestowed favors upon the men of the ('Alid) Shi'ah79 and upon important relatives (of the Prophet). They gave the poor from the noble families (related to the Prophet) something to earn. They freed the captives. Thus, they were given praise as was not given to their caliph. They showered privileges and gifts upon those who came to ask favors from them. They gained control over villages and estates in the open country and (near) the main cities in every province.
Eventually, the Barmecides irritated the inner circle. They caused resentment among the elite and aroused the displeasure of high officials. Jealousy and envy of all sorts began to show themselves, and the scorpions of intrigue crept into their soft beds in the government. The Qahtabah family, Ja'far's maternal uncles, led the intrigues against them. Feelings for blood ties and relationship could not move or sway them (the Qahtabah family) from the envy which was so heavy on their hearts. This joined with their master's incipient jealousy, with his dislike of restrictions and (of being treated with) highhandedness, and with his latent resentment aroused by small acts of presumptuousness on the part of the Barmecides. When they continued to flourish as they did, they were led to gross insubordination, as is shown, for instance, by their action in the case of Yahya b. 'Abdallah b. Hasan b.' al-Hasan b. 'All b. Abi Talib, the brother of "the Pure Soul" (an-Nafs az-Zakiyah), Muhammad al-Mahdi, who had revolted against al-Mansur.80
This Yahya had been brought back by al-Fadl b. Yahya from the country of the Daylam under a safe-conduct of arRashid written in his own hand. According to at-Tabari,81 (al-Fadl) had paid out a million dirhams in this matter. Ar-Rashid handed Yahya over to Ja'far to keep him imprisoned in his house and under his eyes. He held him for a while but, prompted by presumption, Ja'far freed Yahya by his own decision, out of respect for the blood of the Prophet's family as he thought, and in order to show his presumption against the government. When the matter was reported to ar-Rashid, he asked Ja'far about (Yahya). Ja'far understood and said that he had let him go. Ar-Rashid outwardly indicated approval and kept his grudge to himself. Thus, Ja'far himself paved the way for his own and his family's undoing, which ended with the collapse of their exalted position, with the heavens falling in upon them and the earth's sinking with them and their house. Their days of glory became a thing of the past, an example to later generations.
Close examination of their story, scrutinizing the ways of government and their own conduct, discloses that all this was natural and is easily explained. Looking at Ibn 'Abdrabbib's report 82 on ar-Rashid's conversation with his greatgranduncle Dawud b. 'Ali concerning the destruction of the Barmecides as well as al-Asma'i's evening causeries with arRashid and al-Fadl b. Yahya, as mentioned in the chapter on poets in the 'Igd,83 one understands that it was only jealousy and struggle for control on the part of the caliph and his subordinates that killed them. Another factor was the verses that enemies of the Barmecides among the inner circle surreptitiously gave the singers to recite, in the intention that the caliph should hear them and his stored-up animosity against them be aroused. These are the verses:
Would that Hind could fulfill her promise to us
And deliver us from our predicament,
And for once act on her own.
The impotent person is he who never acts on his own.84
When ar-Rashid heard these verses, he exclaimed: "Indeed, I am just such an impotent person." By this and similar methods, the enemies of the Barmecides eventually succeeded in arousing ar-Rashid's latent jealousy and in bringing his terrible vengeance upon them. God is our refuge from men's desire for power and from misfortune.
The stupid story of ar-Rashid's winebibbing and his getting drunk in the company of boon companions is really abominable. It does not in the least agree with ar-Rashid's attitude toward the fulfillment of the requirements of religion and justice incumbent upon caliphs. He consorted with religious scholars and saints. He had discussions with alFudayl b. 'Iyad,85 Ibn as-Sammak,86 and al-'Umari,87 and he corresponded with Sufyan.88 He wept when he heard their sermons. Then, there is his prayer in Mecca when he circumambulated the Ka'bah.89 He was pious, observed the times of prayer, and attended the morning prayer at its earliest hour. According to at-Tabari and others, he used every day to pray one hundred supererogatory rak'ahs.90 Alternately, he was used to go on raids (against unbelievers) one year and to make the pilgrimage to Mecca the other. He rebuked his jester, Ibn Abi Maryam, who made an unseemly remark to him during prayer. When Ibn Abi Maryam heard ar-Rashid recite: "How is it that I should not worship Him who created me?" 91 he said: "Indeed, I do not know why." Ar-Rashid could not suppress a laugh, but then he turned to him angrily and said: "O Ibn Abi Maryam, (jokes) even during the prayer? Beware, beware of the Qur'an and Islam. Apart from that, you may do whatever you wish."92
Furthermore, ar-Rashid possessed a good deal of learning and simplicity, because his epoch was close to that of his forebears who had those (qualities). The time between him and his grandfather, Abu Ja'far (al-Mansur), was not a long one. He was a young lad when Abu Ja'far died. Abu Jafar possessed a good deal of learning and religion before he became caliph and (kept them) afterwards. It was he who advised Malik to write the Muwatta', saying: "O Abu 'Abdallah, no one remains on earth more learned than I and you. Now, I am too much occupied with the caliphate. Therefore, you should write a book for the people which will be useful for them. In it you should avoid the laxity of Ibn 'Abbas and the severity of Ibn 'Umar,93 and present (watti') it clearly to the people." Malik commented: "On that occasion, al-Mansur indeed taught me to be an author." 94
Al-Mansur's son, al-Mahdi, ar-Rashid's father, experienced the (austerity of al-Mansur) who would not make use of the public treasury to provide new clothes for his family. One day, al-Mahdi came to him when he was in his office discussing with the tailors the patching of his family's worn garments. Al-Mahdi did not like that and said: "O Commander of the Faithful, this year I shall pay for the clothes of the members of the family from my own income." AlMansur's reply was: "Do that." He did not prevent him from paying himself but would not permit any (public) Muslim money to be spent for it. Ar-Rashid was very close in time to that caliph and to his forebears.95 He was reared under the influence of such and similar conduct in his own family, so that it became his own nature. How could such a man have been a winebibber and have drunk wine openly? It is well known that noble pre-Islamic Arabs avoided wine. The vine was not one of the plants (cultivated) by them. Most of them considered it reprehensible to drink wine. Ar-Rashid and his forebears were very successful in avoiding anything reprehensible in their religious or worldly affairs and in making all praiseworthy actions and qualities of perfection, as well as the aspirations of the Arabs, their own nature.
One may further compare the story of the physician Jibril b. Bukhtishu' reported by at-Tabari and al-Mas'udi.96 A fish had been served at ar-Rashid's table, and Jibril had not permitted him to eat it. (Jibril) had then ordered the table steward to bring the fish to (Jibril's) house. ArRashid noticed it and got suspicious. He had his servant spy on Jibril, and the servant observed him partaking of it. In order to justify himself, Ibn Bukhtishu' had three pieces of fish placed in three separate dishes. He mixed the first piece with meat that had been prepared with different kinds of spices, vegetables, hot sauces, and sweets. He poured iced water over the second piece, and pure wine over the third. The first and second dishes, he said, were for the caliph to eat, no matter whether something was added by him (Ibn Bukhtishu') to the fish or not. The third dish, he said, was for himself to eat. He gave the three dishes to the table steward. When ar-Rashid woke up and had Ibn Bukhtishu' called in to reprimand him, the latter had the three dishes brought. The one with wine had become a soup with small pieces of fish, but the two other dishes had spoiled, and smelled differently. This was (sufficient) justification of Ibn Bukhtishu" s action (in eating a dish of fish that he had prevented the caliph from eating). It is clear from this story that ar-Rashid's avoidance of wine was a fact well known to his inner circle and to those who dined with him.
It is a well-established fact that ar-Rashid had consented to keep Abu Nuwas imprisoned until he repented and gave up his ways, because he had heard of the latter's excessive winebibbing.97 Ar-Rashid used to drink a date liquor (nabidh), according to the `Iraqi legal school whose responsa (concerning the permissibility of that drink) are well known.98 But he cannot be suspected of having drunk pure wine. Silly reports to. this effect cannot be credited. He was not the man to do something that is forbidden and considered by the Muslims as one of the greatest of the capital sins. Not one of these people (the early 'Abbasids) had anything to do with effeminate prodigality or luxury in matters of clothing, jewelry, or the kind of food they took. They still retained the tough desert attitude and the simple state of Islam. Could it be assumed they would do something that would lead from the lawful to the unlawful and from the licit to the illicit? Historians such as at-Tabari, al-Mas'udi, and others are agreed that all the early Umayyad and `Abbasid caliphs used to ride out with only light silver ornamentation on their belts, swords, bridles, and saddles, and that the first caliph to originate riding out in golden apparel was al-Mu'tazz b. alMutawakkil, the eighth caliph after ar-Rashid.99 The same applied to their clothing. Could one, then, assume any differently with regard to what they drank? This will become still clearer when the nature of dynastic beginnings in desert life and modest circumstances is understood, as we shall explain it among the problems discussed in the first book, if God wills.100
A parallel or similar story is that reported by all (the historians) about Yahya b. Aktham, the judge and friend of al-Ma'mun.101 He is said to have drunk wine together with al-Ma'mun and to have gotten drunk one night. He lay buried among the sweet basil until he woke up. The following verses are recited in his name:
O my lord, commander of all the people!
He who gave me to drink was unjust in his judgment.
I neglected the cupbearer, and he caused me to be,
As you see me, deprived of intelligence and religion.
The same applies to Ibn Aktham and al-Ma'mun that applies to ar-Rashid. What they drank was a date liquor (nabidh) which in their opinion was not forbidden. There can be no question of drunkenness in connection with them. Yahyi's familiarity with al-Ma'mun was friendship in Islam. It is an established fact that Yahya slept in al-Ma'mum's room. It has been reported, as an indication of al-Ma'mun's excellence and affability, that one night he awoke,102 got up, and felt around for the chamber pot. He was afraid to wake Yahya b. Aktham. It also is an established fact that the two used to pray together at the morning prayer. How does that accord with drinking wine together! Furthermore, Yahya b. Aktham was a transmitter of traditions. He was praised by Ibn Hanbal103 and Judge Ismi'il.104 At-Tirmidhi105 published traditions on his authority. The hadith expert al-Mizzi mentioned that al-Bukhari transmitted traditions on Yahya's authority in works other than the Jami' (as-Sahih).106 To vilify Yahya is to vilify all of these scholars.
Furthermore, licentious persons accuse Yahya b. Aktham of having had an inclination for young men. This is an affront to God and a malicious lie directed against religious scholars. (These persons) base themselves on storytellers' silly reports, which perhaps were an invention of Yahya's enemies, for he was much envied because of his perfection and his friendship with the ruler. His position in scholarship and religion makes such a thing impossible. When Ibn Hanbal was told about these rumors concerning Yahya, he exclaimed: "For God's sake, for God's sake, who would say such a thing!" He disapproved of it very strongly. When the talk about Yahya was mentioned to Ismi'il, he exclaimed: "Heaven forbid that the probity ('adalah) 107 of such a man should cease to exist because of the lying accusations of envious talebearers." 108 He said: "Yahya b. Aktham is innocent in the eyes of God of any such relationship with young men (as that) of which he is accused. I got to know his most intimate thoughts and found him to be much in fear of God. However, he possessed a certain playfulness and friendliness that might have provoked such accusations." Ibn Hibban mentioned him in the Thiqat.109 He said that no attention should be paid to these tales about him because most of them were not correct.
A similar story is the one about the basket reported by Ibn 'Abdrabbih, author of the 'Iqd, in explanation of how al-Ma'mun came to be al-Hasan b. Sahl's son-in-law by marrying his daughter Buran.110 One night, on his rambles through the streets of Baghdad, al-Ma'mun is said to have come upon a basket that was being let down from one of the roofs by means of pulleys and twisted cords of silk thread. He seated himself in the basket and grabbed the pulley, which started moving. He was taken up into a chamber of such-andsuch a condition-Ibn 'Abdrabbih described the eye and soul-filling splendor of its carpets, the magnificence of its furnishings, and the beauty of its appearance. Then, a woman of extraordinary, seductive beauty is said to have come forth from behind curtains in that chamber. She greeted al-Ma'mun and invited him to keep her company. He drank wine with her the whole night long. In the morning he returned to his companions at the place where they had been awaiting him. He had fallen so much in love with the woman that he asked her father for her hand. How does all this accord with alMa'mun's well-known religion and learning, with his imitation of the way of life of his forefathers, the right-guided ('Abbasid) caliphs, with his adoption of the way of life of those pillars of Islam, the (first) four caliphs, with his respect for the religious scholars, or his observance in his prayers and legal practice of the norms established by God! How could it be correct that he would act like (one of those) wicked scoundrels who amuse themselves by rambling about at night, entering strange houses in the dark, and engaging in nocturnal trysts in the manner of Bedouin lovers! And how does that story fit with the position and noble character of al-Hasan b. Sahl's daughter, and with the firm morality and chastity that reigned in her father's house!
There are many such stories. They are always cropping up in the works of the historians. The incentive for inventing and reporting them is a (general) inclination to forbidden pleasures and for smearing the reputation of others. People justify their own subservience to pleasure by citing men and women of the past (who allegedly did the same things they are doing). Therefore, they often appear very eager for such information and are alert to find it when they go through the pages of (published) works. If they would follow the example of the people (of the past) in other respects and in the qualities of perfection that were theirs and for which they are well known, "it would be better for them," 111 "if they would know."112
I once criticized a royal prince for being so eager to learn to sing and play the strings. I told him it was not a matter that should concern him and that it did not befit his position. He referred me to Ibrahim b. al-'Mahdi 113 who was the leading musician and best singer in his time. I replied: "For heaven's sake, why do you not rather follow the example of his father or his brother? Do you not see how that activity prevented Ibrahim from attaining their position?" The prince, however, was deaf to my criticism and turned away.
Further silly information which is accepted by many historians concerns the 'Ubaydid (-Fatimids), the Shi'ah caliphs in al-Qayrawan and Cairo.114 (These historians) deny their 'Alid origin and attack (the genuineness of) their descent from the imam Ismail, the son of Ja'far as-Sadiq. They base themselves in this respect on stories that were made up in favor of the weak 'Abbasid caliphs by people who wanted to ingratiate themselves with them through accusations against their active opponents and who (therefore) liked to say all kinds of bad things about their enemies. We shall mention some such stories in our treatment of the history of (the 'Ubaydid-Fatimids). (These historians) do not care to consider the factual proofs and circumstantial evidence that require (us to recognize) that the contrary is true and that their claim is a lie and must be rejected.
They all tell the same story about the-begilnli g of the Shi'ah dynasty. Abu 'Abdallah al-Muhtasib115 went among the Kutamah urging acceptance of the family of Muhammad (the 'Alids). His activity became known. It was learned how much he cared for 'Ubaydallah al-Mahdi and his son, Abu1-Qasim. Therefore, these two feared for their lives and fled the East, the seat of the caliphate. They passed through Egypt and left Alexandria disguised as merchants. Isa anNawshari, the governor of Egypt and Alexandria, was informed of them. He sent cavalry troops in pursuit of them, but when their pursuers reached them, they did not recognize them because of their attire and disguise. They escaped into the Maghrib. Al-Mu'tadid 116 ordered the Aghlabid rulers of Ifriqiyah in al-Qayrawan as well as the Midrarid rulers of Sijilmasah to search everywhere for them and to keep a sharp lookout for them. Ilyasa', the Midrarid lord of Sijilmasah, learned about their hiding place in his country and detained them, in order to please the caliph. This was before the Shi'ah victory over the Aghlabids in al-Qayrawan. Thereafter, as is well known, the ('Ubaydid-Fatimid) propaganda spread successfully throughout Ifriqiyah and the Maghrib, and then, in turn, reached the Yemen, Alexandria and (the rest of) Egypt, Syria and the Hijaz. The ('Ubaydid-Fatimids) shared the realm of Islam equally with the Abbasids. They almost succeeded in penetrating the home country of the 'Abbasids and in taking their place as rulers. Their propaganda in Baghdad and the 'Iraq met with success through the amir al-Basasiri, one of the Daylam clients who had gained control of the 'Abbasid caliphs. This happened as the result of a quarrel between al-Basasiri and the non-Arab amirs.117 For a whole year, the ('Ubaydid-Fatimids) were mentioned in the Friday prayer from the pulpits of Baghdad. The 'Abbasids were continually bothered by the ('UbaydidFatimid) power and preponderance, and the Umayyad rulers beyond the sea (in Spain) expressed their annoyance with them and threatened war against them. How could all this have befallen a fraudulent claimant to the rulership, who was (moreover) considered a liar?118 One should compare (this account with) the history of the Qarmatian.119 His genealogy was, in fact, fraudulent. How completely did his propaganda disintegrate and his followers disperse! Their viciousness and guile soon became apparent. They came to an evil end and tasted a bitter fate. If the 'Ubaydid(-Fatimids) had been in the same situation, it would have become known, even had it taken some time.
Whatever qualities of character a man may have,.
They will become known, even if he imagines they are concealed from the people120
The ('Ubaydid-Fatimid) dynasty lasted uninterruptedly for about two hundred and seventy years. They held possession of the place where Ibrahim (Abraham) had stood 121 and where he had prayed, the home of the Prophet and the place where he was buried, the place where the pilgrims stand and where the angels descended (to bring the revelation to Muhammad). Then, their rule came to an end. During all that time, their partisans showed them the greatest devotion and love and firmly believed in their descent from the imam Ismail, the son of Ja'far as-Sadiq. Even after the dynasty had gone and its influence had disappeared, people still came forward to press the claims of the sect. They proclaimed the names of young children, descendants of (the 'UbaydidFatimids), whom they believed entitled to the caliphate. They went so far as to consider them as having actually been appointed to the succession by preceding imams. Had there been doubts about their pedigree, their followers would not have undergone the dangers involved in supporting them. A sectarian does not manipulate his own affairs, nor sow confusion within his own sect, nor act as a liar where his own beliefs are concerned.
It is strange that Judge Abu Bakr al-Baqillani'122 the great speculative theologian, was inclined to credit this unacceptable view (as to the spuriousness of the 'Ubaydid-Fatimid genealogy), and upheld this weak opinion. If the reason for his attitude was the heretical and extremist Shi'ism of (the 'Ubaydid-Fatimids, it would not be valid, for his denial of their 'Alid descent) does not invalidate 123 (the objectionable character of) their sectarian beliefs, nor would establishment of their ('Alid) descent be of any help to them before God in the question of their unbelief. God said to Noah concerning his sons: "He does not belong to your family. It is an improper action. So do not ask me regarding that of which you have no knowledge."124 Muhammad exhorted Fatimah in these words: "O Fatimah, act (as you wish). I shall be of no help to you before God."124a
When a man comes to know a problem or to be certain about a matter, he must openly state (his knowledge or his certainty). "God speaks the truth. He leads (men into) the right way."125 Those people (the 'Ubaydid-Fatimids) were constantly on the move because of the suspicions various governments had concerning them. They were kept under observation by the tyrants, because their partisans were numerous and their propaganda had spread far and wide. Time after time they had to leave the places where they had settled. Their men, therefore, took refuge in hiding, and their (identity) was hardly known, as (the poet) says:
If you would ask the days what my name is, they would
And where I am, they would not know where I am.126
This went so far that Muhammad, the son of the imam Isma'il, the ancestor of 'Ubaydallah al-Mahdi, was called "the Concealed (Imam)."127 His partisans called him by that name because they were agreed on the fact he was hiding out of fear of those who had them in their power. The partisans of the 'Abbasids made much use of this fact when they came out with their attack against the pedigree of (the 'UbaydidFatimids). They tried to ingratiate themselves with the weak ('Abbasid) caliphs by professing the erroneous opinion that (the 'Alid descent of the 'Ubaydid-Fatimids was spurious). It pleased the 'Abbasid clients and the amirs who were in charge of military operations against the enemies of the ('Abbasids). It helped them and the government to make up for their inability to resist and repel the Kutimah Berbers, the partisans and propagandists 128 of the 'Ubaydid(-Fatimids), who had taken Syria, Egypt, and the Hijaz away from (the 'Abbasids). The judges in Baghdad eventually prepared an official statement denying the 'Alid origin (of the 'Ubaydid-Fatimids).129 The statement was witnessed by a number of prominent men, among them the Sharif ar-Radi 130 and his brother al-Murtada,131 and Ibn al-Bathawi.132 Among the religious scholars (who also witnessed the document) were Abu Hamid al-Isfarayini,133 al-Quduri,134 as-Saymari135 Ibn al-Akfani,136 al-Abiwardi,137 the Shi'ah jurist Abu 'Abdallah b. an-Nu'man,138 and other prominent Muslims in Baghdad. The event took place one memorable 139 day in the year 402  in the time of al-Qadir. The testimony (of these witnesses) was based upon hearsay, on what people in Baghdad generally believed. Most of them were partisans of the 'Abbasids who attacked the 'Alid origin (of the 'UbaydidFatimids). The historians reported the information as they had heard it. They handed it down to us just as they remembered it. However, the truth lies behind it. Al-Mu'tadid's 140 letter concerning 'Ubaydallah (addressed) to the Aghlabid in al-Qayrawan and the Midrarid in Sijilmasah, testifies most truthfully to the correctness of the ('Alid) origin of the ('Ubaydid-Fatimids), and proves it most clearly. AlMu'tadid (as a very close relative) was better qualified than anyone else to speak about the genealogy of the Prophet's house.141
Dynasty and government serve as the world's market place,142 attracting to it the products of scholarship and craftsmanship alike. Wayward wisdom and forgotten lore turn up there. In this market stories are told and items of historical information are delivered. Whatever is in demand on this market is in general demand everywhere else. Now, whenever the established dynasty avoids injustice, prejudice, weakness, and double-dealing, with determination keeping to the right path and never swerving from it, the wares on its market are as pure silver and fine gold. However, when it is influenced by selfish interests and rivalries, or swayed by vendors of tyranny and dishonesty, the wares of its market place become as dross and debased metals. The intelligent critic must judge for himself as he looks around, examining this, admiring that, and choosing this.
A similar and even more improbable story is one privately discussed by those who attack the ('Alid) descent of Idris b. Idris b. 'Abdallah b. Hasan b. al-Hasan b. 'All b. Abi Talib, who became imam after his father in Morocco.143 They hint at the punishable crime of adultery by insinuating that the unborn child left after the death of the elder Idris was in fact the child of Rashid, a client of the Idrisids. How stupid of these God-forsaken men! They should know that the elder Idris married into the Berber tribes and, from the time he came to the Maghrib until his death, was firmly rooted in desert life. In the desert, no such thing could remain a secret. There are no hiding places there where things can be done in secret. The neighbors (if they are women) can always see and (if they are men) always hear what their women are doing, because the houses are low and clustered together without space between them. Rashid was entrusted with the stewardship of all the women after the death of his master, upon the recommendation of friends and partisans of the Idrisids and subject to the supervision of them all. Furthermore, all Moroccan Berbers agreed to render the oath of allegiance to the younger Idris as his father's successor. They voluntarily agreed to obey him. They swore that they were willing to die for him, and they exposed themselves to mortal danger protecting him in his wars and raids. Had they told each other some such scandalous story or heard it from someone else, even a vengeful enemy or scandal-mongering rebel, some of them at least would have refused to do those things. No, this story originated with the 'Abbasid opponents of the Idrisids and with the Aghlabids, the 'Abbasid governors and officials in Ifriqiyah
This happened in the following manner. When the elder Idris fled to the Maghrib after the battle of Fakhkh,144 alHadi sent orders to the Aghlabids to lie in wait and keep a sharp watch out for him. However, they did not catch him, and he escaped safely to the Maghrib. He consolidated his position, and his propaganda was successful. Later on, arRashid became aware of the secret Shi'ah leanings of Wadih, the 'Abbasid client and governor of Alexandria, and of his deceitful attitude in connection with the escape of Idris to the Maghrib, and (ar-Rashid) killed (Wadih). Then, ashShammakh, a client of (ar-Rashid's) father, suggested to arRashid a ruse by means of which to kill Idris. (Ash-Shammakh) pretended to become his adherent and to have broken with his 'Abbasid masters. Idris took him under his protection and admitted him to his private company. Once, when Idris was alone, ash-Shammakh gave him some poison and thus killed him. The news of his death was received by the 'Abbasids most favorably, since they hoped that it would cut the roots and blunt the edge of the 'Alid propaganda in the Maghrib. News of the unborn child left after Idris' death had not (yet) reached them. Thus, it was only a brief moment until the ('Alid) propaganda reappeared. The Shi'ah was successful in the Maghrib, and Shi'ah rule was renewed through Idris, Idris' son. This was a most painful blow to the 'Abbasids. Weakness and senility had already taken hold of the Arab dynasty. No longer could (the 'Abbasids) aspire to the control of remote regions. Far away as the elder Idris was in the Maghrib, under the protection of the Berbers, ar-Rashid had just enough power, and no more, to poison him with the help of a ruse. Therefore, the 'Abbasids now had recourse to their Aghlabid clients in Ifrigiyah. They asked them to heal the dangerous breach caused by (the Idrisids), to take measures against the woe that threatened to befall the dynasty from that direction, and to uproot (the Idrisids) before they could spread. Al-Ma'mun and the succeeding caliphs wrote to the Aghlabids to this effect. However, the Aghlabids were also too weak (to control) the Berbers of Morocco, and might better have tried to embarrass their own rulers as (the Idrisids embarrassed them), because the power of the caliphate had been usurped by non-Arab slaves, who diverted to their own purposes its entire control and authority 145 over men, taxes, and functionaries. It was as the contemporary ('Abbasid) poet described it:146
A caliph in a cage
Between Wasif and Bugha
He says what they tell him,
Like a parrot.
The Aghlabid amirs, therefore, were afraid of possible intrigues and tried all kinds of excuses. Sometimes, they belittled the Maghrib and its inhabitants. At other times, they tried to arouse fear of the power of Idris and his descendants who had taken his place there. They wrote the 'Abbasids that he was crossing the borders of his territory. They included his coins among their gifts, presents, and tax collections, in order to show his growing influence and to spread terror about his increasing power, to magnify (the dangers) which would lie in attacking and fighting him, as they were being asked to do, and to threaten a change in allegiance if they were forced to that. Again, at other times, they attacked the descent of Idris with the (aforementioned) lie, in order to harm him. They did not care whether the accusation was true or not. The distance (from Baghdad) was great, and, weak-minded as the 'Abbasid children and their non-Arab slaves were, they took anybody's word and listened to anybody's noise. They went on in this manner until the Aghlabid rule came to an end.
The nasty remark (about the Idrisid genealogy) then became known to the mob. Some slanderers listened eagerly to it, using it to harm the Idrisids when there were rivalries. Why do such God-forsaken men stray from the intentions of the religious law, which knows no difference between definite (fact) and (mere) guess? 146a Idris was born in his father's bed, and "the child belongs to the bed."147 It is a (Muslim) article of faith that the descendants of Muhammad are above any such thing (as adultery). God removed every turpitude from them and cleansed them. Idris' bed is free of all uncleanliness and all turpitude. This is decided in the Qur'an.148 Whoever believes the contrary confesses his guilt and invites unbelief.
I have refuted the accusation against Idris here at length, in order to forestall doubts and strike out against the envious. I heard the story with my own ears from a man who was hostile to (the Idrisids) and attacked their descent with this lying invention. In his self-deception, he passed on the story on the authority of certain historians of the Maghrib who had turned their backs on Muhammad's descendants and were skeptical concerning their ancestors. But the situation (of the Idrisids) is above all that and not susceptible of such a (taint). (No space should be devoted to refuting such an accusation, since) to deny a fault where (the existence of) a fault is impossible is (in itself) a fault.149 However, I did defend them here in this world and, thus, I hope that they will defend me on the Day of Resurrection.
It should be known that most of those who attack the ('Alid) descent of (the Idrisids) are themselves persons who claim to be descendants of Muhammad or pretend to be connected with his descendants, and who envy the descendants of Idris. The claim to (Muhammadan) descent is a great title to nobility among nations and races in all regions. Therefore, it is subject to suspicion. Now, both in their native Fez and in the other regions of the Maghrib, the descent of the Idrisids is so well known and evident that almost no one can show or hope to show as well-established a pedigree. It is the result of continuous transmission by the more recent nations and generations on the authority of the older preceding ones. The Idrisids count the house of their ancestor Idris, the founder and builder of Fez, among their houses. His mosque is adjacent to their quarter and streets. His sword is (suspended) unsheathed atop the main minaret of their residence. There are other relics of his which have been attested to many times in an uninterrupted tradition, so that the tradition concerning them is almost as valuable as direct observation (as to its reliability). Other descendants of Muhammad can look at these signs which God gave to the Idrisids. They will see the Muhammadan nobility of the Idrisids enhanced by the majesty of the royal authority their ancestors exercised in the Maghrib. They will realize that they themselves have nothing of the sort and that they do not measure up even halfway to any one of the Idrisids. They will also realize that those who claim to be Muhammad's descendants but do not have such testimonies to confirm their claim as the Idrisids have, may at best find their position conceded (as possibly true), because people are to be believed with regard to the descent they claim for themselves,150 but there is a difference between what is known and what is mere guess, between what is certain and what is merely conceded as possibly true.
When they realize these facts, they are choked in their own spittle (which they swallow in impotent jealousy). Their private envy causes many of them to wish that they could bring down the Idrisids from their noble position to the status of ordinary, humble persons. Therefore, they have recourse to spite and persistent malevolence and invent erroneous and lying accusations such as the one discussed. They justify themselves by the assumption that all guesses are equally probable. They ought to (prove) that! We know of no descendants of Muhammad whose lineage is so clearly and obviously established as that of the descendants of Idris of the family of al-Hasan. The most distinguished Idrisids at this time are the Banu 'Imran in Fez. They are descendants of Yahya al-Juti b. Muhammad b. Yahya al-'Addam b. alQasim b. Idris b. Idris. They are the chiefs of the 'Alids there. They live (at the present time) in the house of their ancestor Idris. They are the leading nobility of the entire Maghrib. We shall mention them in connection with the Idrisids, if God wills.151 They are the descendants of 'Imran b.Muhammad b. al-Hasan b. Yahya b. 'Abdallah b. Muhammad b. 'All b. Muhammad b. Yahya b. Ibrahim b. Yahya alJuti. The chief of their (house) at this time is Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Muhammad b. 'Imran.
To these wicked statements and erroneous beliefs one may add the accusations that weak-minded jurists in the Maghrib leveled against the imam al-Mahdi, the head of the Almohad dynasty.152 He was accused of deceit and insincerity when he insisted upon the true oneness of God and when he complained about the unjust people before his time. All his claims in this respect were declared to be false, even down to his descent from the family of Muhammad, which his Almohad followers accept. Deep down in their hearts it was envy of al-Mahdi's success that led the jurists to declare him a liar. In their self-deception, they thought that they could compete with him in religious scholarship, juridical decisions, and religion. He then turned out to be superior to them. His opinion was accepted, what he said was listened to, and he gained a following. They envied this success of his and tried to lessen his influence by attacking his dogmas and declaring his claims to be false. Furthermore, they were used to receive from al-Mahdi's enemies, the Lamtunah kings (the Almoravids), a respect and an honor they received from no one else, because of the simple religion (of the Almoravids). Under the Lamtunah dynasty, religious scholars held a position of respect and were appointed to the council, everybody according to his influence among his people in his respective village. The scholars, therefore, became partisans (of the Almoravids) and enemies of their enemies. They tried to take revenge on al-Mahdi for his opposition to them, his censure of them, and his struggle against them. This was the result of their partisanship for the Lamtunah and their bias in favor of the Lamtunah dynasty. Al-Mahdi's position was different from theirs. He did not share their beliefs. What else could be expected of a man who criticized the attitude of the ruling dynasty as he did and was opposed in his efforts by its jurists? He called his people to a holy war against them. He uprooted the dynasty and turned it upside down, despite its great strength, its tremendous power, and the strong force of its allies and its militia. Followers of his killed in the struggle were innumerable. They had sworn allegiance to him until death. They had protected him from death with their own lives. They had sought nearness to God by sacrificing themselves for the victory of the Mahdi's cause as partisans of the enterprise that eventually gained the upper hand and replaced the dynasties on both shores.153 (Al-Mahdi himself) remained always frugal, retiring, patient in tribulation, and very little concerned with the world to the last; he died without fortune or worldly possessions. He did not even have children, as everybody desires but as one often is deceived in desiring. I should like to know what he could have hoped to obtain by this way of life were it not (to look upon) the face of God, for he did not acquire worldly fortune of any kind during his lifetime. Moreover, if his intention had not been good, he would not have been successful, and his propaganda would not have spread. "This is how God formerly proceeded with His servants.154
The (jurists') disavowal of (al-Mahdi's) descent from Muhammad's family is not backed up by any proof. Were it established that he himself claimed such descent, his claim could not be disproved, because people are to be believed regarding the descent they claim for themselves.155 It might be said that leadership over a people is vested only in men of their own skin. This is correct, as will be mentioned in the first156 chapter of this book. But157 al-Mahdi exercised leadership over all the Masmudah. They agreed to follow him and be guided by him and his Harghah group, and, eventually, God gave complete success to his propaganda. In this connection, it must be realized that al-Mahdi's power did not depend exclusively on his Fatimid descent, and the people did not follow him on that account (only). They followed him because of their Harghah-Masmudah group feeling and because of his share in that group feeling which was firmly rooted in him. (Al-Mahdi's) Fatimid descent had become obscured and knowledge of it had disappeared from among the people, although it had remained alive in him and his family through family tradition. His original (Fatimid) descent had, in a way, been sloughed off, and he had put on the skin of the Harghah-Masmudah and thus appeared as one of their skin. The fact that he was originally of Fatimid descent did not harm him with regard to his group feeling, since it was not known to the members of the group. Things like that happen frequently once one's original descent has become obscured.
One might compare (with the above) the story of Arfajah and Jarir concerning the leadership of the Bajilah.158 Arfajah had belonged to the Azd but had put on the skin of the Bajilah so successfully that he was able to wrangle with Jarir over the leadership before 'Umar, as has been reported. This example makes one understand what the truth is like.
God is the guide to that which is correct.
Lengthy discussion of these mistakes has taken us rather far from the purpose of this work. However, many competent persons and expert historians slipped in connection with such stories and assertions, and they stuck in their minds. Many weak-minded and uncritical persons learned these things from them, and even (the competent historians) themselves accepted them without critical investigation, and thus (strange stories) crept into their material. In consequence, historiography became nonsensical and confused, and its students fumbled around. Historiography came to be considered a domain of the common people. Therefore, today, the scholar in this field needs to know the principles of politics, the (true) nature of existent things, and the differences among nations, places, and periods with regard to ways of life, character qualities, customs, sects, schools, and everything else. He further needs a comprehensive knowledge of present conditions in all these respects. He must compare similarities or differences between the present and the past (or distantly located) conditions. He must know the causes of the similarities in certain cases and of the differences in others. He must be aware of the differing origins and beginnings of (different) dynasties and religious groups, as well as of the reasons and incentives that brought them into being and the circumstances and history of the persons who supported them. His goal must be to have complete knowledge of the reasons for every happening, and to be acquainted with the origin of every event. Then, he must check transmitted information with the basic principles he knows. If it fulfills their requirements, it is sound. Otherwise, the historian must consider it as spurious and dispense with it. It was for this reason alone that historiography was highly considered by the ancients, so much so that at-Tabari, al-Bukhari, and, before them, Ibn Ishaq and other Muslim religious scholars, chose to occupy themselves with it. Most scholars, however, forgot this, the (real) secret of historiography, with the result that it became a stupid occupation. Ordinary people as well as (scholars) who had no firm foundation of knowledge, considered it a simple matter to study and know history, to delve into it and sponge on it. Strays got into the flock, bits of shell were mixed with the nut, truth was adulterated with lies.
"The final outcome of things is up to God."159
A160 hidden pitfall in historiography is disregard for the fact that conditions within the nations and races change with the change of periods and the passing of days. This is a sore affliction and is deeply hidden, becoming noticeable only after a long time, so that rarely do more than a few individuals become aware of it.
This is as follows. The condition of the world and of nations, their customs and sects, does not persist in the same form or in a constant manner. There are differences according to days and periods, and changes from one condition to another. This is the case with individuals, times, and cities, and, in the same manner, it happens in connection with regions and districts, periods and dynasties.
"This is how God formerly proceeded with His servants."161
The old Persian nations, the Syrians, the Nabataeans, the Tubba's, the Israelites, and the Copts, all once existed. They all had their own particular institutions in respect of dynastic and territorial arrangements, their own politics, crafts, languages, technical terminologies, as well as their own ways of dealing with their fellow men and handling their cultural institutions. Their (historical) relics testify to that. They were succeeded by the later Persians, the Byzantines, and the Arabs. The old institutions changed and former customs were transformed, either into something very similar, or into something distinct and altogether different. Then, there came Islam with the Mudar dynasty. Again, all institutions underwent another change, and for the most part assumed the forms that are still familiar at the present time as the result of their transmission from one generation to the next.
Then, the days of Arab rule were over. The early generations who had cemented Arab might and founded the realm of the Arabs, were gone. The power was seized by others, by non-Arabs like the Turks in the east, the Berbers in the west, and the European Christians162 in the north. With their 162a passing, entire nations ceased to exist, and institutions and customs changed. Their glory was forgotten, and their power no longer heeded.
The widely accepted reason for changes in institutions and customs is the fact that the customs of each race depend on the customs of its ruler. As the proverb says: "The common people follow the religion of the ruler." 163
When politically ambitious men overcome the ruling dynasty and seize power, they inevitably have recourse to the customs of their predecessors and adopt most of them. At the same time, they do not neglect the customs of their own race. This leads to some discrepancies between the customs of the (new) ruling dynasty and the customs of the old race.
The new power, in turn, is succeeded by another dynasty, and customs are further mixed with those of the new dynasty. More discrepancies come in, and the discrepancy between the new dynasty and the first one is much greater (than that between the second and the first one). Gradual increase in the degree of discrepancy continues. The eventual result is an altogether distinct (set of customs and institutions). As long as there is this continued succession of different races to royal authority and government, discrepancies in customs and institutions will not cease to occur.
Analogical reasoning and comparison are well known to human nature. They are not safe from error. Together with forgetfulness and negligence, they sway man from his purpose and divert him from his goal. Often, someone who has learned a good deal of past history remains unaware of the changes that conditions have undergone. Without a moment's hesitation, he applies his knowledge (of the present) to the historical information and measures the historical information by the things he has observed with his own eyes, although the difference between the two is great. Consequently, he falls into an abyss of error.
This may be illustrated by what the historians report concerning the circumstances of Al-Hajjaj.164 They state that his father was a schoolteacher. At the present time, teaching is a craft and serves to make a living. It is a far cry from the pride of group feeling. Teachers are weak, indigent, and rootless. Many weak professional men and artisans who work for a living aspire to positions for which they are not fit but which they believe to be within their reach. They are misled by their desires, a rope which often slips from their hands and precipitates them into the abyss of ruinous perdition. They do not realize that what they desire is impossible for men like them to attain. They do not realize that they are professional men and artisans who work for a living. And they do not know that at the beginning of Islam and during the (Umayyad and 'Abbasid) dynasties, teaching was something different. Scholarship, in general, was not a craft in that period. Scholarship was transmitting statements that people had heard the Lawgiver (Muhammad) make. It was teaching religious matters-that-were not known, by wavy of oral transmission. Persons of noble descent and people who shared in the group feeling (of the ruling dynasty) and who directed the affairs of Islam were the ones who taught the Book of God and the Sunnah of the Prophet, (and they did so) as one transmits traditions, not as one gives professional instruction. (The Qur'an) was their Scripture, revealed to the Prophet in their midst. It constituted their guidance, and Islam was their religion, and for it they fought and died. It distinguished them from the other nations and ennobled them. They wished to teach it and make it understandable to the Muslims. They were not deterred by censure coming from pride, nor were they restrained by criticism coming from arrogance. This is attested by the fact that the Prophet sent the most important of the men around him with his embassies to the Arabs, in order to teach them the norms of Islam and the religious laws he brought. He sent his ten companions165 and others after them on this mission.
Then, Islam became firmly established and securely rooted. Far-off nations accepted Islam at the hands of the Muslims. With the passing of time, the situation of Islam changed. Many new laws were evolved from the (basic) texts as the result of numerous and unending developments. A fixed norm was required to keep (the process) free from error. Scholarship came to be a habit.166 For its acquisition, study was required. Thus, scholarship developed into a craft and profession. This will be mentioned in the chapter on scholarship and instruction.167
The men who controlled the group feeling now occupied themselves with directing the affairs of royal and governmental authority. The cultivation of scholarship was entrusted to others. Thus, scholarship became a profession that served to make a living. Men who lived in luxury and were in control of the government were too proud to do any teaching. Teaching came to be an occupation restricted to weak individuals. As a result, its practitioners came to be despised by the men who controlled the group feeling and the government.
Now, Yusuf, the father of al-Hajjaj, was one of the lords and nobles of the Thaqif, well known for their share in the Arab group feeling and for their rivalry with the nobility of the Quraysh. Al-Hajjaj's teaching of the Qur'an was not what teaching of the Qur'an is at this time, namely, a profession that serves to make a living. His teaching was teaching as it was practiced at the beginning of Islam and as we have just described it.
Another illustration of the same (kind of error) is the baseless conclusion critical readers of historical works draw when they hear about the position of judges and about the leadership in war and the command of armies that judges (formerly) exercised. Their misguided thinking leads them to aspire to similar positions. They think that the office of judge at the present time is as important as it was formerly. When they hear that the father of Ibn Abi 'Amir, who had complete control over Hisham, and that the father of Ibn 'Abbad, one of the rulers of Sevilla, were judges,168 they assume that they were like present-day judges. They are not aware of the change in customs that has affected the office of judge, and which will be explained by us in the chapter on the office of judge in the first book. 169 Ibn Abi 'Amir and Ibn 'Abbad belonged to Arab tribes that supported the Umayyad dynasty in Spain and represented the group feeling of the Umayyads, and it is known how important their positions were. The leadership and royal authority they attained did not derive from the rank of the judgeship as such, in the present-day sense that (the office of judge constitutes an administrative rank). In the ancient administrative organization, the office of judge was given by the dynasty and its clients to men who shared in the group feeling (of the dynasty), as is done in our age with the wazirate in the Maghrib. One has only to consider the fact that (in those days judges) accompanied the army on its summer campaigns and were entrusted with the most important affairs, such as are entrusted only to men who can command the group feeling needed for their execution.
Hearing such things, some people are misled and get the wrong idea about conditions. At the present time, weakminded Spaniards are especially given to errors in this respect. The group feeling has been lost in their country for many years, as the result of the annihilation of the Arab dynasty in Spain and the emancipation of the Spaniards from the control of Berber group feeling. The Arab descent has been remembered, but the ability to gain power through group feeling and mutual co-operation has been lost. In fact, the (Spaniards) came to be like (passive) subjects,170 without any feeling for the obligation of mutual support. They were enslaved by tyranny and had become fond of humiliation, thinking that their descent, together with their share in the ruling dynasty, was the source of power and authority. Therefore, among them, professional men and artisans are to be found pursuing power and authority and eager to obtain them. On the other hand, those who have experience with tribal conditions, group feeling, and dynasties along the western shore, and who know how superiority is achieved among nations and tribal groups, will rarely make mistakes or give erroneous interpretations in this respect.
Another illustration of the same kind of error is the procedure historians follow when they mention the various dynasties and enumerate the rulers belonging to them. They mention the name of each ruler, his ancestors, his mother and father, his wives, his surname, his seal ring, his judge, doorkeeper, and wazir. In this respect, they blindly follow the tradition of the historians of the Umayyad and 'Abbasid dynasties, without being aware of the purpose of the historians of those times. (The historians of those times) wrote their histories for members of the ruling dynasty, whose children wanted to know the lives and circumstances of their ancestors, so that they might be able to follow in their steps and to do what they did,171 even down to such details as obtaining servants from among those who were left over from the (previous) dynasty 172 and giving ranks and positions to the descendants of its servants and retainers. Judges, too, shared in the group feeling of the dynasty and enjoyed the same importance as wazirs, as we have just mentioned. Therefore, the historians of that time had to mention all these things.
Later on, however, various distinct dynasties made their appearance. The time intervals became longer and longer. Historical interest now was concentrated on the rulers themselves and on the mutual relationships of the various dynasties in respect to power and predominance. (The problem now was) which nations could stand up (to the ruling dynasty) and which were too weak to do so. Therefore, it is pointless for an author of the present time to mention the sons and wives, the engraving on the seal ring, the surname, judge, wazir, and doorkeeper of an ancient dynasty, when he does not know the origin, descent, or circumstances of its members. Present-day authors mention all these things in mere blind imitation of former authors. They disregard the intentions of the former authors and forget to pay attention to historiography's purpose.
An exception are the wazirs who were very influential and whose historical importance overshadowed that of the rulers. Such wazirs as,-for -instance,- al-Ijajjaj,--the Band Muhallab, the Barmecides, the Banu Sahl b. Nawbakht, Kaffir al-Ikhshidi, Ibn Abi 'Amir, and others should be mentioned. There is no objection to dealing with their lives or referring to their conditions for in importance they rank with the rulers.
An additional note to end this discussion may find its place here.
History refers to events that are peculiar to a particular age or race. Discussion of the general conditions of regions, races, and periods constitutes the historian's foundation. Most of his problems rest upon that foundation, and his historical information derives clarity from it. It forms the topic of special works, such as the Muruj adh-dhahab of al-Mas'udi. In this work, al-Mas'udi commented upon the conditions of nations and regions in the West and in the East during his period (which was) the three hundred and thirties [the nine hundred and forties]. He mentioned their sects and customs. He described the various countries, mountains, oceans, provinces, and dynasties. He distinguished between Arabic and non-Arabic groups. His book, thus, became the basic reference work for historians, their principal source for verifying historical information.
Al-Mas'udi was succeeded by al-Bakri 173 who did something similar for routes and provinces, to the exclusion of everything else, because, in his time, not many transformations or great changes had occurred among the nations and races. However, at the present time-that is, at the end of the eighth [fourteenth] century-the situation in the Maghrib, as we can observe, has taken a turn and changed entirely. The Berbers, the original population of the Maghrib, have been replaced by an influx of Arabs, (that began in) the fifth [eleventh] century. The Arabs outnumbered and overpowered the Berbers, stripped them of most of their lands, and (also) obtained a share of those that remained in their possession. This was the situation until, in the middle of the eighth [fourteenth] century, civilization both in the East and the West was visited by a destructive plague which devastated nations and caused populations to vanish.174 It swallowed up many of the good things of civilization and wiped them out. It overtook the dynasties at the time of their senility, when they had reached the limit of their duration. It lessened their power and curtailed their influence. It weakened their authority. Their situation approached the point of annihilation and dissolution. Civilization decreased with the decrease of mankind. Cities and buildings were laid waste, roads and way signs were obliterated, settlements and mansions became empty, dynasties and tribes grew weak. The entire inhabited world changed. The East, it seems, was similarly visited, though in accordance with and in proportion to (the East's more affluent) civilization. It was as if the voice of existence in the world had called out for oblivion and restriction, and the world had responded to its call. God inherits the earth and whomever is upon it.
When there is a general change of conditions, it is as if the entire creation had changed and the whole world been altered, as if it were a new and repeated creation, a world brought into existence anew. Therefore, there is need at this time that someone should systematically set down the situation of the world among all regions and races, as well as the customs and sectarian beliefs that have changed for their adherents, doing for this age what al-Mas'udi did for his. This should be a model for future historians to follow. In this book of mine, I shall discuss as much of that as will be possible for me here in the Maghrib. I shall do so either explicitly or implicitly in connection with the history of the Maghrib, in conformity with my intention to restrict myself in this work to the Maghrib, the circumstances of its races and nations, and its subjects and dynasties, to the exclusion of any other region.175 (This restriction is necessitated) by my lack of knowledge of conditions in the East and among its nations, and by the fact that secondhand information would not give the essential facts I am after. Al-Mas'udi's extensive travels in various countries enabled him to give a complete picture, as he mentioned in his work. Nevertheless, his discussion of conditions in the Maghrib is incomplete. "And He knows more than any scholar." 176 God is the ultimate repository of (all) knowledge. Man is weak and deficient. Admission (of one's ignorance) is a specific (religious) duty. He whom God helps, finds his way (made) easy and his efforts and quests successful. We seek God's help for the goal to which we aspire in this work. God gives guidance and help. He may be trusted.
It remains for us to explain the method of transcribing non-Arabic sounds whenever they occur in this book of ours.
It should be known that the letters (sounds) 177 of speech, as will be explained later on,178 are modifications of sounds that come from the larynx. These modifications result from the fact that the sounds are broken up in contact with the uvula and the sides of the tongue in the throat, against the palate or the teeth, and also through contact with the lips. The sound is modified by the different ways in which such contact takes place. As a result, the letters (sounds) sound distinct. Their combination constitutes the word that expresses what is in the mind.
Not 179 all nations have the same letters (sounds) in their speech. One nation has letters (sounds) different from those of another. The letters (sounds) of the Arabs are twentyeight, as is known. The Hebrews are found to have letters (sounds) that are not in our language. In our language, in turn, there are letters sounds) that are not in theirs. The same applies to the European Christians, the Turks, the Berbers, and other non-Arabs.
In order to express their audible letters (sounds), literate Arabs 180 chose to use conventional letters written individually separate, such as ', b, j, r, t, and so forth through all the twenty-eight letters. When they come upon a letter (sound) for which there is no corresponding letter (sound) in their language, it is not indicated in writing and not clearly expressed. Scribes sometimes express it by means of the letter which is closest to it in our language, the one either preceding or following it.181 This is not a satisfactory way of indicating a letter (sound) but a complete replacement of it.
Our book contains the history of the Berbers and other non-Arabs. In their names and in some of their words, we came across letters (sounds) that did not correspond with our written language and conventional orthography. Therefore, we were forced to indicate such sounds (by special signs). As we said, we did not find it satisfactory to use the letters closest to them, because in our opinion this is not a satisfactory indication. In my book, therefore, I have chosen to write such non-Arabic letters (sounds) in such a way as to indicate the two letters (sounds) closest to it, so that the reader may be able to pronounce it somewhere in the middle between the sounds represented by the two letters and thus reproduce it correctly.
I derived this idea from the way the Qur'an scholars write sounds that are not sharply defined, such as occur, for instance, in as-sirat according to Khalaf's reading.182 The s is to be pronounced somehow between s and z. In this case, they spell the word with s and-write a z into it.183 thus - indicate a pronunciation somewhere in the middle between the two sounds.184
In the same way, I have indicated every letter (sound) that is to be pronounced somehow in the middle between two of our letters (sounds). The Berber k, for instance, which is pronounced midway between our clear k and j (g) or q, as, for instance, in the name Buluggin, is spelled by me with a k with the addition of one dot-from the j-below, or one dot or two-from the q-on top of it.185 This indicates that the sound is to be pronounced midway between k and j (g) or q. This sound occurs most frequently in the Berber language. In the other cases, I have spelled each letter (sound) that is to be pronounced midway between two letters (sounds) of our language, with a similar combination of two letters. The reader will thus know that it is an intermediate sound and pronounce it accordingly. In this way, we have indicated it satisfactorily. Had we spelled it by using only one letter (sound) adjacent to it on either side,185a we would have changed its proper pronunciation to the pronunciation of the particular letter (sound) in our own language (which we might have used), and we would have altered the way people speak. This should be known.
God gives success.