Rituals of Islamic Monarchy

Rituals of Islamic Monarchy: Accession and Succession in the First Muslim Empire

ANDREW MARSHAM
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 360
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3366/j.ctt1r295w
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  • Book Info
    Rituals of Islamic Monarchy
    Book Description:

    A history of the ceremony of the oath of allegiance to the caliph from the time of the Prophet Muhammad until the fragmentation of the caliphate in the late 9th and 10th centuries._x000B_Blurb by author:_x000B_Rituals of Islamic Monarchy is the first full-length study of the rituals by which the caliphs were made rulers of the early Muslim empire. It is an original contribution to scholarship on early Islam and the Middle East, which gives important insights into the formation of classical Islamic culture and civilisation. It clearly sets out the particular evidential problems of early Islamic history and identifies strategies for overcoming them. It also engages with the problem of how Islamic history relates to the history of the pre-Islamic Middle East, arguing for the importance of the pre-Islamic, Arabian context of early Islam, as well as a wider perspective that takes in the legacy of the pre-Islamic empires of Rome and Iran.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-3077-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. List of maps and figures
    (pp. v-v)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. vi-vii)
  5. Map 1
    (pp. viii-ix)
  6. Map 2
    (pp. x-xi)
  7. Map 3
    (pp. xii-xiv)
  8. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-18)

    This book is a history of the rituals by which the first Muslim monarchs were formally acknowledged. Like the Christian Roman emperor and the Iranian King of Kings, the caliph of the first Muslim empire was acclaimed by his followers nd received oaths of allegiance from them. He appeared before them enthroned in both religious and royal settings, bearing the insignia of his office. That the caliph was a ‘monarch’, and in some senses a ‘king’, perhaps does not need to be restated.¹ However, the emphasis in much of Islamic political thought on the notion of ‘kingship’ (mulk) as mere...

  9. PART I. LATE ANTIQUE ARABIA AND EARLY ISLAM (C. 550–C. 660)

    • INTRODUCTION
      (pp. 21-23)

      The great political achievement of Muḥammad and his seventh-century successors was the creation of a sustainable political unity that brought together the settled population of the Arabian Peninsula and the tribes of pastoral nomads that dominated the steppes of Syria and Iraq. It was a feat that was unprecedented and unrepeated in Arabia in both scale and consequence: never before had the whole Peninsula come under the political domination of one power, nor had an Arabian federation ever founded such a vast and long-lasting empire.

      According to the extant, ninth- and tenth-cent ury sources, loyalty and allegiance within the Muslim...

    • CHAPTER 1 ALLIANCE AND ALLEGIANCE IN PRE-ISLAMIC ARABIA
      (pp. 24-39)

      The Greek geographer and historian Herodotus (d. c. 425 BCE) wrote the first ethnographic account of oath-taking for alliance among Arabians:

      No nation regards the sanctity of a pledge (pistis) more seriously than the Arabs (arabioi). When two men wish to make a solemn compact, they get the service of a third, who stands betweeen them and with a sharp stone cuts the palms of their hands near the base of the thumb; then he takes a little tuft of wool from their clothes, dips it in their blood and smears the blood on seven stones which lie between them,...

    • CHAPTER 2 THE VERB BĀYAʿA IN THE QURʾĀN: ALLEGIANCE TO MUḤAMMAD
      (pp. 40-59)

      Throughout the Islamic tradition (that is, in texts composed in the eighth and ninth centuries and after) the verb bāyaʿa is used to describe the taking or giving of the pledge of allegiance to the leader of the Muslims (whence the noun, bayʿa, ‘pledge of allegiance’). This use of a quranic word is one instance of the numerous examples of Prophetic practice assuming the status of kerygma in the Islamic tradition. In this respect, the invention of the bayʿa as the means of recognising religio-political authority in the early Muslim community in some ways resembles the invention of the office...

    • CHAPTER 3 THE OATH OF ALLEGIANCE IN THE ‘CONQUEST SOCIETY’ (C. 628–C. 660)
      (pp. 60-78)

      The thirty-two years between c. 628 and c. 660 witnessed the spectacular military and diplomatic success of the monotheist polity that had been founded after Muḥammad’s emigration from Mecca to Yathrib (later Medina) in 622. In the last few years of his life (c. 628–32) Muḥammad consolidated his authority over Yathrib/Medina, brought most of the Ḥijāz into federation and began to extend his influence to other parts of the Arabian Peninsula. During the next three decades, those who succeeded him presided over the conquest of the rest of the Peninsula, the defeat of Sasanian Iran and the annexation of...

  10. PART II. THE UMAYYAD CALIPHATE (C. 660–750)

    • INTRODUCTION
      (pp. 81-85)

      By the 650s an Arabian–Muslim empire stretched across the East Mediterranean and the Middle East, from Tripoli, in North Africa, to Balkh, in northern Afghanistan. The establishment of garrison camps (amṣār) in many of the conquered provinces in the 630s and 640s began the sedentarisation of the Arabian armies and contributed to the consolidation of their cultural and religious unity, but did not prevent conflict over the leadership of the empire and the division of its resources. Two especially widespread outbreaks of such conflict dominated the second half of the seventh century (656–61 and 683–92). However, the...

    • CHAPTER 4 SUFYANID ACCESSION AND SUCCESSION, C. 660–683
      (pp. 86-95)

      Only with the victory of the Marwanid Umayyads in the second civil war (683–92) does evidence for caliphal accession and sucession become plentiful. However, what evidence there is for the Sufyanid Umayyad period indicates that many aspects of Marwanid ritual had precedents in late-seventh-century practice. Indeed, with hindsight, the reign of Mu˓āwiya b. Abī Sufyān (r. 661–80) and that of Yazīd, his son (r. 680–3), can be seen as a period of experimentation with the trappings of Near Eastern monarchy, and the prelude to the establishment of a more successful Islamic state by their Marwanid cousins after...

    • CHAPTER 5 THE OATH OF ALLEGIANCE IN THE EARLY TRADITION AND POETRY, C. 680–C. 710
      (pp. 96-112)

      For all that the ‘Maronite Chronicle’ attests to some of the details of Mu˓āwiya’s accession in Jerusalem in c. 660, there is no evidence for what was actually said at the Temple Mount, nor, beyond a hostility to the imposition of dynastic succession, does the later Arabic–Islamic tradition tell us with any verifiable accuracy what was pledged to Yazīd in c. 670 and reaffirmed in 680. From after the turn of the century, the evidential situation begins to improve. There is good evidence that some of the earliest extant versions of Islamic legal traditions (ḥadīth) took shape in the...

    • CHAPTER 6 THE MARWANID PATRIMONY AND DYNASTIC SUCCESSION
      (pp. 113-133)

      The Marwanids followed Muʿāwiya and his sons in securing recognition of the caliph’s successor by taking the pledge of allegiance to that successor, while the incumbent himself was still living. In Marwanid times, two successors were usually so recognised, in a stipulated order. The Muslims, or their representatives, swore allegiance (bāyaʿa) to the nominated successors, and this effected the change in their status; they became the walī al-ʿahds (‘two successors to, or possessors of, the covenant’). Thus, the wilāyat al-ʿahd(‘succession to, or possession of, the covenant’) was an adaptation of existing Arabian(and now Islamic) custom in which leadership was recognised...

    • CHAPTER 7 MARWANID RITUALS OF ACCESSION AND SUCCESSION
      (pp. 134-144)

      Because of the secondary, and very laconic and fragmentary, literary evidence for Marwanid rituals of accession and succession only a fraction of their symbolic resonances can now be glimpsed. However, when the texts are read alongside the material evidence for the architectural settings of rituals of accession and succession, and the evidence for the dress and regalia of the ruler, some sense of the form and meaning of these rituals can be gained. The two bayʿas to Marwān I and Yazīd III, in 684 and 744 respectively, were remembered in more detail because they were of great political signifiance. Even...

    • CHAPTER 8 WRITING AND THE BAY˓A IN THE MARWANID PERIOD
      (pp. 145-167)

      During the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century CE, a senior administrator for the Egyptian Mamluks, Shihāb al-Dīn al-Qalqashandī (d. 1418), composed an authoritative, encyclopaedic manual for secretaries. The Ṣubḥ al-aʿshā fī ṣināʿat al-inshāʾ(‘Daybreak for the Night-Blind regarding the Composition of Chancery Documents’) comprises a vast collection of copies of state documents (the early twentieth-century edition runs to fourteen large volumes), together with discourses on the theory and practice of the scribe and secretary. Long before al-Qalqashandī’s time, the dīwān al-inshāʾ (‘chancery’) had taken on a central importance in the administration of most Islamic states, but the scribes of the...

    • CHAPTER 9 THE QURANIC CONTENT OF THE MARWANID DOCUMENTS
      (pp. 168-180)

      The features that the rasāʾil of al-Walīd II and Yazīd III share with mid-eighthcentury ‘religious epistles’ give some indication of their function: they are to be read out to large audiences at (in the extant cases) Iraqi and Khurasani osques. They are also statements of religio-political dogma that begin with the general (even ‘banal’) and move to the particular (and highly contested) for sound rhetorical reasons. Just as the ‘religious epistles’ and sermons of the Kharijites were propaganda, the purpose of the late Marwanid texts is also persuasion – the communication of the caliph’s claim to legitimate authority, to the...

  11. Part III. THE EARLY ABBASID CALIPHATE (C. 750–809)

    • INTRODUCTION
      (pp. 183-191)

      In the latter part of the Umayyad period, clandestine revolutionaries in the north-eastern frontier province of Khurasan began to call for al-riḍā min āl Muḥammad (‘the Chosen One from the Family of the Prophet’) and al-kitāb wa’l-sunna (‘the Book and Custom’). The first slogan invoked the idea that the caliph should be drawn from the Prophet’s clan of Hāshim (as opposed to merely from Quraysh, like the Umayyads) and that he should be chosen by the Muslims, not imposed upon them. The second appealed to Islamic piety as the basis for just rule: if God’s word and the customs of...

    • CHAPTER 10 THE CONSOLIDATION OF ABBASID POWER: AL-MANṢŪR AND AL-MAHDĪ (754–785)
      (pp. 192-215)

      Al-Manṣūr ruled for just over twenty-one years, from about 10 June 754 until about 7 October 775.¹ For much of his reign, his authority was far from secure. Continued upheaval across the caliphate appears to reflect the dislocation caused by the revolution and its aftermath: there were rebellions in the name of descendants of the Prophet in Medina and Basra in the autumn of 762, and syncretist revolts, rooted in pre-Islamic Iranian religion, broke out in Khurasan, such as those led by Sunbādh (755) and Ustādhsīs (767). The Abbasid army itself was also prone to unruly millenarian and messianic fervour,...

    • CHAPTER 11 THE CALIPHATES OF MŪSĀ AL-HĀDĪ (785–786) AND HĀRŪN AL-RASHĪD (786–809)
      (pp. 216-229)

      When al-Mahdī died suddenly, and unexpectedly, on a hunting expedition on 4 August 785, Hārūn al-Rashīd was with the caliph at Māsabadhān (the foothills of al-Jibāl, some 250 kilometres east of Baghdad). Al-Hādī, the senior successor, was campaigning in Jurjān, east of the Caspian Sea (a further 750 kilometres north-east of the capital). Hārūn al-Rashīd duly had Mūsā recognised as caliph, but Mūsā was to reign for less than fourteen months; he died in September 786. As a result, accounts of the events of his very brief caliphate (and of the succession arrangements under al-Mahdī) were shaped during the caliphate...

    • CHAPTER 12 ‘DISPOSITIVE DOCUMENTS’ FOR THE EARLY ABBASID SUCCESSION
      (pp. 230-250)

      At this point, it is worth pausing to assess how the understanding of the ‘covenant’ between Humanity, God and the caliph had been transformed by the events of the mid-eighth century. Among the best sources of evidence for this are the copies of the ‘dispositive documents’ (sharṭ, pl. shurūṭ, sharāʾiṭ) concerning the succession that emanated from the early Abbasid caliphal court. These were written records of contractual agreements about the succession. The anonymous commander’s account of the ceremony at which ʿĪsā b. Mūsā was deposed in 764 describes how:

      ‘By God, if by chance ʿĪsā b. Mūsā forgot something in...

  12. Part IV. THE MIDDLE ABBASID CALIPHATE (809–865)

    • INTRODUCTION
      (pp. 253-258)

      The first two-thirds of the ninth century were framed by two destructive civil wars, in 811–19 and 865–70. The first was a war of succession fought between Khurasan and Iraq. Khurasan backed Hārūn al-Rashīd’s second heir, al-Maʾmūn, against the new caliph, al-Amīn (r. 809–13), in Iraq. After Iraq’s defeat, the Iraqi Abbasids and the Abnāʾ (that is, the descendants of the revolutionary army) lost their leading place in the government of the empire; they were replaced by local dynasts in the provinces – most importantly the Ṭāhirids of Khurasan – and, especially after the accession of al-Muʿtaṣim...

    • CHAPTER 13 FROM THE CIVIL WAR TO SAMARRA (809–847)
      (pp. 259-273)

      Hārūn al-Rashīd died at the Khurasani city of Ṭūs on 24 March 809. His first heir, al-Amīn, was his deputy in Baghdad, 1,000 kilometres to the west; al-Maʾmūn, the second successor, was at Marw, 300 kilometres to the east. Accounts of Hārūn’s death tend to focus on the importance of intelligence and communications in obtaining and maintaining power.¹ The ṣāḥib al-barīd (‘chief of the post’) in Khurasan sent news to his counterpart in Baghdad, who informed the heir apparent, al-Amīn. A few days later, on 4 April 809, a second barīd messenger arrived in Baghdad, sent by Ṣāliḥ, the most...

    • CHAPTER 14 THE CALIPHATE OF AL-MUTAWAKKIL (847–861)
      (pp. 274-282)

      Al-Yaʿqūbī describes the accession of al-Mutawakkil on the day of al-Wāthiq’s death (Wednesday 10 August 847):

      The pledge of allegiance was taken to Ja˓far b. al-Muʿtaṣim . . . the first who ledged allegiance to him were Sīmā the Turk, known as al-Dimashqī, and Waṣīf the Turk. He (al-Mutawakkil) immediately rode to the Public Audience Hall (Dāral-ʿĀmma), and ordered the giving of eight months pay to the army (al-jund). In total, the sons of seven caliphs greeted him (sallama ʿalayhi): Manṣūr b. al-Mahdī; al-ʿAbbās b. al-Hādī; Aḥmad b. al-Rashīd; ʿAbd Allāh b. al-Amīn; Mūsā b. al-Maʾmūn and his brothers; Aḥmad...

    • CHAPTER 15 THE OUTBREAK OF THE SECOND NINTH-CENTURY CIVIL WAR (861–865)
      (pp. 283-293)

      On the assassination of al-Mutawakkil, al-Muntaṣir’s entourage was swift to assert his right to the caliphate and to secure the pledges of the leading notables at Samarra and al-Mutawakkiliyya. Once again, al-Yaʿqūbī provides a concise account, and al-Ṭabarī a much fuller one.

      According to al-Yaʿqūbī:

      The pledge of allegiance was taken to Muḥammad al-Muntaṣir b. Jaʿfar al- Mutawakkil . . . on the night on which his father was killed, which was 4 Shawwāl 247 (11 December 861) . . . He summoned his two brothers ʿAbd Allāh al-Muʿtazz bi’llāh¹ and Ibrāhīm al-Muʾayyad. He took the pledge of allegiance from...

    • CHAPTER 16 ABBASID DOCUMENTS FOR CALIPHAL ACCESSION
      (pp. 294-308)

      Al-Ṭabarī’s accounts of al-Muntaṣir’s coup in 861 and of the outbreak of civil war in 865 include the first two complete, extant copies of documents said to have been written for the accessions of specific caliphs.¹ The first is said to have been composed for the accession of al-Muntaṣir in December 861 (‘I’), the second for the accession of his brother al-Muᶜtazz (and the succession of al-Muʾayyad) in February 865 (‘II’). As with other such copies of documents, certainty about the provenance and authenticity of the text is impossible, but the proximity of al-Ṭabarī to the original composition, and the...

  13. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 309-317)

    Although the script for the inauguration of the Abbasid caliph at his public pledge of allegiance was to remain substantially unchanged after 861, the first explicit written formulations of a theory of caliphal accession and succession were composed over 100 years later. They were written by theologians and jurists working at the Abbasid court in the 990s and after. This was the era of the restoration of the status of the Abbasid caliphate after its domination for much of the tenth century by Shiᶜite military elites. Under the caliph al-Qādir (r. 991–1031) and his son al-Qāʾim (r. 1031–75),...

  14. Genealogical table of Quraysh
    (pp. 318-318)
  15. Genealogical table of the Abbasid caliphs
    (pp. 319-319)
  16. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 320-337)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 338-346)