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26
CALIPHATE

of the obedience of his subjects. Ali, on the other hand, was unable to convert enthusiasm for the principle inscribed on his banner into enthusiasm for his person. It was necessary that he should accommodate himself to the wishes of his supporters, which, however, were inconsistent. They compelled him suddenly to break off the battle of Sifiān, which he was apparently on the point of gaining over Moawiya, because the Syrians fastened copies of the Koran to their lances to denote that not the sword, but the word of God should decide the contest (see further below, B. 1; also Ali). But in yielding to the will of the majority he excited the displeasure of the minority, the genuine zealots, who in Moawiya were opposing the enemy of Islam, and regarded Ali's entering into negotiations with him as a denial of the faith. When the negotiations failed and war was resumed, the Kharijites refused to follow Ali's army, and he had to turn his armies in the first instance against them. He succeeded in disposing of them without difficulty at the battle of Nahrawān, but in his success he lost the soul of his following. For they were the true champions of the theocratic principle; through their elimination it became clear that the struggle had in no sense anything to do with the cause of God. Ali's defeat was a foregone conclusion, once religious enthusiasm had failed him; the secular resources at the disposal of his adversaries were far superior. Fortunately for him he was murdered (end of January 661), thereby posthumously attaining an importance in the eyes of a large part of the Mahommedan world (Shī‛a) which he had never possessed during his life.

B.—The Omayyad Dynasty

Summary of Preceding Movements.—The conquest of Mecca had been of the greatest importance to the Prophet, not only because Islam thus obtained possession of this important city with its famous sanctuary, but above all because his late adversaries were at last compelled to acknowledge him as the Envoy of God. Among these there were many men of great ability and influence, and he was so eager to conciliate them or, as the Arabic expression has it, “to mellow their hearts” by concessions and gifts, that his loyal helpers (Ansar) at Medina became dissatisfied and could only with difficulty be brought to acquiesce in it. Mahomet was a practical man; he realized that the growing state needed skilful administrators, and that such were found in much greater number among the antagonists of yesterday than among the honest citizens of Medina. The most important positions, such as the governorships of Mecca and Yemen, were entrusted to men of the Omayyad house, or that of the Makhzūm and other Koreishite families. Abu Bekr followed the Prophet's example. In the great revolt of the Arabic tribes after the death of Mahomet, and in the invasion of Irak and Syria by the Moslems, the principal generals belonged to them. Omar did not deviate from that line of conduct. It was he who appointed Yazīd, the son of Abu Sofiān, and after his death, his brother Moawiya as governor of Syria, and assigned the province of Egypt to Amr-ibn-el-Ass (‛Amr b. Āṣ). It is even surprising to find among the leading men so few of the house of Hāshim, the nearest family of the Prophet. The puzzled Moslem doctors explain this fact on the ground that the Hashimites were regarded as too noble to hold ordinary administrative offices, and that they could not be spared at Medina, where their counsel was required in all important affairs. There is, however, a tradition in which Ali himself calls the Omayyads born rulers. As long as Omar lived opposition was silent. But Othman had not the strong personality of his predecessor, and, although he practically adhered to the policy of Omar, he was accused of favouring the members of his own family—the caliph belonged himself to the house of Omayya—at the expense of the Hashimites and the Ansar. The jealousy of the latter two was prompted by the fact that the governorship and military commands had become not only much more important, but also much more lucrative, while power and money again procured many adherents. The .truly devout Moslems on the other hand were scandalized by the growing luxury which relaxed the austere morals of the first Moslems, and this also was imputed to Othman.

We thus see how the power of the house of Omayya developed itself, and how there arose against it an opposition, which led in the first place to the murder of Othman and the Caliphate of Ali, and furthermore; during the whole period of the Omayyad caliphs, repeatedly to dangerous outbreaks, culminating in the great catastrophe which placed the Abbasids on the throne. The elements of this opposition were of very various kinds:—(1) The old-fashioned Moslems, sons of the Ansar and Mohājir, who had been Mahomet's first companions and supporters, and could not bear the thought that the sons of the old enemies of the Prophet in Mecca, whom they nicknamed ṭolaqā (freedmen), should be in control of the imamate, which carried with it the management of affairs both civil and religious. This party was in the foreground, chiefly in the first period. (2) The partisans of Ali, the Shi‛a (Shi‛ites), who in proportion as their influence with the Arabs declined, contrived to strengthen it by obtaining the support of the non-Arabic Moslems, aided thereto, especially in the latter period, by the Abbasids, who at the decisive moment succeeded in seizing the supreme power for themselves. (3) The Kharijites, who, in spite of the heavy losses they sustained at the hands of Ali, maintained their power by gaining new adherents from among those austere Moslems, who held both Omayyads and Alids as usurpers, and have often been called, not unjustly, the Puritans of Islam. (4) The non-Arabic Moslems, who on their conversion to Islam, had put themselves under the patronage of Arabic families, and were therefore called maula's (clients). These were not only the most numerous, but also, in virtue of the persistency of their hostility, the most dangerous. The largest and strongest group of these were the Persians, who, before the conquest of Irak by the Moslems, were the ruling class of that country, so that Persian was the dominant language. With, them all malcontents, in particular the Shi‛ites, found support; by them the dynasty of the Omayyads and the supremacy of the Arabs was finally overthrown. To these elements of discord we must add:—(1) That the Arabs, notwithstanding the bond of Islam that united them, maintained their old tribal institutions, and therewith their old feuds and factions; (2) that the old antagonism between Ma‛adites[1] (original northern tribes) and Yemenites (original southern tribes), accentuated by the jealousy between the Meccans, who belonged to the former, and the Medinians, who belonged to the latter division, gave rise to perpetual conflicts; (3) that more than one dangerous pretender—some of them of the reigning family itself—contended with the caliph for the sovereignty, and must be crushed coûte que coûte. It is only by the detailed enumeration of these opposing forces that we can form an idea of the heavy task that lay before the Prince of the Believers, and of the amount of tact and ability which his position demanded.

The description of the reign of the Omayyads is extremely difficult. Never perhaps has the system of undermining authority by continual slandering been applied on such a scale as by the Alids and the Abbasids. The Omayyads were accused by their numerous missionaries of every imaginable vice; in their hands Islam was not safe; it would be a godly work to extirpate them from the earth. When the Abbasids had occupied the throne, they pursued this policy to its logical conclusion. But not content with having exterminated the hated rulers themselves, they carried their hostility to a further point. The official history of the Omayyads, as it has been handed down to us, is coloured by Abbasid feeling to such an extent that we can scarcely distinguish the true from the false. An example of this occurs at the outset in the assertion that Moawiya deliberately refrained from marching to the help of Othman, and indeed that it was with secret joy that he heard of the fatal result of the plot. The facts seem to contradict this view. When, ten weeks before the murder, some hundreds of men came to Medina from Egypt and Irak, pretending that they were on their pilgrimage to Mecca, but wanted to bring before the caliph their complaints against his vicegerents, nobody could have the slightest suspicion that the life of the caliph was in danger; indeed it was only during

  1. Ma‛ad is in the genealogical system the father of the Moḑar and the Rab‛īa tribes. Qais is the principal branch of the Moḑar.