Public Violence in Islamic Societies

Public Violence in Islamic Societies: Power, Discipline, and the Construction of the Public Sphere, 7th-19th Centuries CE

Christian Lange
Maribel Fierro
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Public Violence in Islamic Societies
    Book Description:

    This volume explores the use of violence in the construction of Islamic public and private spheres. It contributes to the growing interest in the vital question of Muslim attitudes towards violence._x000B_Editors blurb:_x000B_This volume offers the first hitherto available overview of the role of public violence in the history of Muslim societies. Islam is often perceived as a civilization breeding violence toward the outside. To counter such negative stereotypes, the approach of this volume is to stress the nature of violence as a means of political dominion. The volume demonstrates the diversity of attitudes toward violence within Muslim societies and thus helps to overcome essentialist assumptions about Islamic violence.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-3733-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of abbreviations
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Introduction: Spatial, ritual and representational aspects of public violence in Islamic societies (7th–19th centuries CE)
    (pp. 1-24)
    Christian Lange and Maribel Fierro

    Violence as an element in the historical relationships both among Muslims and between Muslims and non-Muslims has been the object of some scholarly work in the past, as in the case of jihād, the law of rebellion (aḥkām al-bughāt), or penal law.¹ However, the role of violence in the political economy of Muslim societies, especially inasmuch as it was used as a strategy to take possession of the public sphere,² has only recently begun to receive the scholarly attention the topic deserves. Few if any attempts have been made to offer a comprehensive picture of the political uses of violence...

  6. PART I Public violence and the construction of the public sphere
    • 1 The case of Jaʿd b. Dirham and the punishment of ‘heretics’ in the early caliphate
      (pp. 27-41)
      Gerald Hawting

      Jaʿd b. Dirham is known in Muslim tradition as an adherent of unorthodox or heretical religious views, executed in Iraq towards the end of the rule of the Umayyad Caliph Hishām b. ʿAbd al-Malik (r. 105–25/724–43). It is widely reported that his execution took place on the Day of Sacrifices (Yawm, or ʿĪd, al-Aḍḥā), and usually that the unfortunate Jaʿd was killed in the same way as the sheep or goats dedicated for slaughter on that day – by dhabḥ: that is, by having his throat cut so as to sever the windpipe and the major blood vessels...

    • 2 Qāḍīs and the political use of the maẓālim jurisdiction under the ʿAbbāsids
      (pp. 42-66)
      Mathieu Tillier

      The role of the maẓālim jurisdiction is generally regarded as threefold by present-day historians. As ordinary courts – all grievances could in theory be brought to the caliph – the maẓālim symbolized the discretionary authority vested in the ruler who could, at any time, exercise a power that he would ordinarily delegate to other judges. Moreover, the maẓālim offered the possibility to claim damages for unjust acts committed by public servants, public officials or high-ranking dignitaries against whom the qāḍīs would find it difficult to take punitive actions. Finally, the maẓālim emerged as a possible recourse against the judgement of...

    • 3 From revolutionary violence to state violence: the Fāṭimids (297–567/909–1171)
      (pp. 67-86)
      Yaacov Lev

      A Hebrew maxim which has its origin in the early modern European revolutionary tradition says: “The revolution kills its sons.” This certainly sums up the experience of countless 20th-century revolutionaries, among them many Jews, who massively and enthusiastically joined the Bolshevik revolution only to be confronted later with its ugly face: Stalin’s reign of terror and anti-semitism. Thus, while I was reading ʿAbbāsid history with Simha Sabari at Tel Aviv University (herself an ex-revolutionist in Mandatory Palestine and the Israel of the 1950s), the killing of the ʿAbbāsid propagandist Abū Muslim was no great surprise. For her, however, the ʿAbbāsids,...

    • 4 Actions speak louder than words: reactions to lampoons and abusive poetry in medieval Arabic society
      (pp. 87-116)
      Zoltán Szombathy

      The genre of hijāʾ, ‘satire’, ‘lampoon’, or ‘invective poetry’, was a cultural phenomenon very characteristic of pre-Islamic Arabian society. It had a special significance in the context of tribal conflicts and rivalry, and was by no means considered sinful or reprehensible per se even though recognized to be a form of aggressive challenge. From the time of the great Islamic conquests urbanization, detribalization and the increasing dominance of Islamic values, emphasizing the brotherhood of all Muslims and condemning unnecessary conflict as well as malevolence and slander gradually modified popular attitudes to hijāʾ to some extent. Popular assessments of the phenomenon...

  7. PART II Ritual dimensions of violence
    • 5 Reveal or conceal: public humiliation and banishment as punishments in early Islamic times
      (pp. 119-129)
      Everett K. Rowson

      The Kitāb al-aghānī (Book of Songs) by Abū l-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī (d. ca 363/972) includes a lengthy biography of the Umayyad poet al-Aḥwaṣ (d. ca 110/728), which is replete with amusing stories about his profligacy and flippancy, and the trouble he repeatedly got himself into with the local authorities in Medina.¹ One of the more striking (and convoluted) of these stories may be summarized as follows. Al-Aḥwaṣ paid a visit to the caliph al-Walīd b. ʿAbd al-Malik (r. 86–96/705–15) and offered him a panegyric. The caliph gave him lodging and ordered that his kitchens be put at his disposal....

    • 6 Emulating Abraham: the Fāṭimid al-Qāʾim and the Umayyad ʿAbd al-Raḥmān III
      (pp. 130-155)
      Maribel Fierro

      The image included here representing the sacrifice of Isaac by his father Abraham belongs to the tympanum of the Church of San Isidoro in León. In a pioneering study of this unique iconography in Romanesque art, John Williams pointed out that this Abraham relief is substantially more than a typological partner for the Agnus Dei, as it mainly stresses the opposition between Muslims and Christians – and the Christians’ ultimate victory – at the time of Alfonso VII (r. 1126–57).¹ Ishmael – Abraham’s other son by his concubine Hagar – and Hagar are the figures appearing on the left...

    • 7 Where on earth is hell? State punishment and eschatology in the Islamic middle period
      (pp. 156-178)
      Christian Lange

      The relationship between violence in this world and the next world in the Islamic tradition can be conceptualized from a number of analytical angles. One might ask, for example, to what extent Muslim thinkers have considered punishment in this world to atone for sins and thus forestall punishment in the hereafter. Opinions on the matter differed considerably. While some jurists believed that the discretionary punishment of the judge (taʿzīr) served as an expiatory act (kaffāra) for the punished individual, some Ḥanafī scholars were of the opinion that not even the divinely ordained punishments (ḥudūd) could expiate sins.¹

      Here, however, a...

    • 8 Justice, crime and punishment in 10th/16th-century Morocco
      (pp. 179-200)
      Fernando Rodríguez Mediano

      In the second volume of Archives Berbères, Louis Brunot describes a children’s game from Fez, called sheffār-qammār: one by one, children sitting in a circle throw their slippers into the air. According to the way they fall back to the ground (with both soles downwards, with the uppers to the ground, or with one sole and one upper to the ground) each child will play the role of a sulṭān, a vizier or a thief. The rules of the game say that the thief will only be punished if there already exists a sulṭān or a vizier, in which case...

  8. PART III Representations of public violence
    • 9 Responses to crucifixion in the Islamic world (1st–7th/7th–13th centuries)
      (pp. 203-216)
      Tilman Seidensticker

      The first longer treatment of crucifixion as a punishment in the Islamic world in a European language was a contribution by Otto Spies to the Festschrift für Gustav Mensching in 1967, bearing the title “Über die Kreuzigung im Islam” (“On crucifixion in Islam”). Spies’s article treats the background of the punishment in the Qurʾān, prophetic tradition (ḥadīth) and the books of Muslim jurists and then presents a long list of reports about crucifixions in the Arabic historical, biographical and narrative literature.¹ Nine years later, Hellmut Ritter’s short article “Kreuzigung eines Knaben” (“Crucifixion of a young boy”) was published posthumously by...

    • 10 Violence and the prince: the case of the Aghlabid Amīr Ibrāhīm II (261–89/875–902)
      (pp. 217-237)
      Annliese Nef

      The issue of public violence and its use is fundamental when defining the rules which govern the business of politics and which characterize any political regime; for it is closely linked to the nature of tyranny and the definition of the common good. In contrast to essentialist concepts which would lead one to see the Muslim world as being inherently violent, particularly when dealing with politics and the exercise of power,¹ there is a need to try to write a history of public violence, its uses and its perceptions in the Muslim world, for which we currently lack any precise...

    • 11 Concepts of justice and the catalogue of punishments under the Sultans of Delhi (7th–8th/13th–14th centuries)
      (pp. 238-255)
      Blain Auer

      Historians of the Delhi Sultanate, during the 7th/13th and 8th/14th centuries, interwove themes of justice (ʿadl) and punishment (siyāsa) to legitimate Muslim political authority. Justice was portrayed as a key component of kingship and the foundation on which conceptions of Muslim rule were built.¹ Punishment was equally central to representations of Muslim authority established in the Indian subcontinent under the imperial rubric of the sultans of Delhi. In the historiography of the period, justice and punishment were depicted as flowing from two distinct and ideally complementary structures of political power. One structure drew its legitimacy from ideas of pre-Islamic Persian...

    • 12 Public violence, state legitimacy: the Iqāmat al-ḥudūd and the sacred state
      (pp. 256-275)
      Robert Gleave

      Iqāmat al-ḥudūd – the implementation of the punishments specified in revelation – is subject to numerous caveats within Islamic legal theory. Caveats include the (at times) unrealistic demands of testimonial evidence for the ḥudūd, the suspension of punishment when the presence of the slightest doubt (shubha) is detected and the highly restrictive defi nitions of the crime.¹ All these indicate the Muslim jurists’ general attitude of extreme caution towards the implementation of ḥudūd punishments (Iqāmat al-ḥudūd). Also among the caveats is the presence of a legitimate political authority to carry out the punishments, and this constitutes one general point of...

    • 13 Violence in Islamic societies through the eyes of non-Muslim travellers: Morocco in the 19th and early 20th centuries
      (pp. 276-291)
      Manuela Marín

      The purpose of this chapter is to examine the work of Spanish travellers to Morocco during the 19th and early 20th centuries and to analyse their views on the “public display of violence”. Thus it will deal with materials generated outside Muslim societies, and with a period of history marked by the European threat towards Morocco, which finally lost its independence at the beginning of the 20th century and became a “protectorate” of France and Spain in 1912.

      Travel accounts are never objective, although many travellers pretend eagerly to be exact in their descriptions and fair in their opinions. The...

  9. Index
    (pp. 292-304)