Rule and Government among the Arabs

Rule and Government among the Arabs

When talking about the Arabs before Islam, we see what it is necessary to outline the history of rule, government, sectarianism, and the religious domination of the Arabs, to facilitate the understanding of the emergent circumstances when Islam appeared. When the sun of Islam rose, rulers of Arabia were of two kinds: crowned kings. who were in fact not independent; and heads of tribes and clans, who enjoyed the same authorities and privileges possessed by crowned kings and were mostly independent, though some of them may have shown some kind of submission to a crowned king. The crowned kings were those of Yemen, and those of geographical Syria; the Family of Ghassan and the Monarchy of Heerah. All other rulers of Arabia were noncrowned.

Rule in Yemen

In Yemen, the people of Sheba were one of the oldest known nations of the pure Arabs. Mention has been made of them as early as the 25th century B.C., according to excavations undertaken at Or. Their civilization flourished, and their domain spread in the 11th century B.C. It is possible to divide their ages to the following estimation: 1. From 1300 to 650 B.C., their nation was known as ‘Ma’iniyah during which their kings were called ‘Makrib Sheba’. Their capital was Sarwah, also known as Kharibah, whose ruins lie approx. 50 kms. north west of Ma’rib, and 142 kms. east of San’a’. During this period, they began building the Dam of Ma’rib which had great importance in the history of Yemen. Sheba had so great a domain that they had colonies inside and outside Arabia. 2. From 620 B.C. to 115 B.C. uring this era, their nation was known by the name Sheba. They left the name Makrib and assumed the designation of Kings of Sheba. They also made Ma’rib

their capital instead of Sarwah. The ruins of Ma’rib lie at a distance of 192 east of San’a’. [1]

  1. From 115 B.C. until 300 C.E. During this period, the nation became known as Himyariyah the First after the tribe of Himyar conquered the kingdom of Sheba making Redan their capital instead of Ma’rib. Later on, Redan was called Zifar. Its ruins still lie on Mudawwar Mountain near the town of Yarim. During this period, they began to decline and fall. Their trade failed to a great extent; firstly, because of the Nabetean domain over northern Hijaz; secondly, because of the Roman superiority over the naval trade routes after the Roman conquest of Egypt, Syria and northern Hijaz; and thirdly, because of the inter-tribal warfare. Because of the three above-mentioned factors, the families of Qahtan remained disunited and scattered about.
  2. 4. From 300 C.E. until Islam dawned in Yemen. During this period the nation was known as Himyariyah the Second, and it witnessed increasing disorder and turmoil, followed by civil rebellion and outbreaks of tribal wars rendering the people of Yemen liable to foreign subjection and hence loss of independence. During this era, the Romans conquered ‘Adn and even helped the Abyssinians (Ethiopians) to occupy Yemen for the first time in 340 C.E., making use of the constant intra-tribal conflict in Hamdan and Himyar. The Abyssinian (Ethiopian) occupation of Yemen lasted until 378 C.E., where after Yemen regained its independence. Later on, cracks began to show in the Ma’rib Dam which led to the Great Flood (450 or 451 C.E.) mentioned in the Noble Qur’ân. This was a great event, which caused the fall of the entire Yemeni civilization and the dispersal of the nations living therein. In 523. Dhu Nawas, a Jew, dispatched a great campaign against the Christians of Najran in order to force them to convert to Judaism. Having refused to do so, they were thrown alive into a big ditch where a great fire was set. The Qur’ân referred to this event:

(1) Muhadarat Tarikh Al-Umam Al-Islamiyah by Al-Khudari, 1/15,16. Al-Yaman

‘Abrat-Tarikh pp. 77. 83. 124. 130. and Tarikhul-‘Arab Qablal-Islam 101-112.

“Cursed were the people of the ditch.” (85:4) This aroused great wrath among the Christians, and especially the Roman emperors, who not only instigated the Abyssinians (Ethiopians) against Arabs but also assembled a large fleet of seventy thousand warriors, which helped the Abyssinian (Ethio pian) army to affect a second conquest of Yemen in 525 C.E. under the leadership of Eriat. He was granted rulership over Yemen, a position he held until he was assassinated by one of his army leaders, Abrahah, who, after reconciliation with the king of Abyssinia, took rulership over Yemen and, later on, deployed his soldiers to demolish Al-Ka’bah, and hence, he and his soldiers came to be known as the “Men of the Elephant”. In the year 575 C.E., after the “Elephant” incident, the people of Yemen, under the leadership of Ma’dikarib bin Saif Dhu Yazin AlHimyari, and through Persian assistance, revolted against the Abyssinian (Ethiopian) invaders, restored independence and appointed Ma’dikarib as their king. However, Ma’dikarib was assassinated by some of his Abyssinian (Ethiopian) servants. The family of Dhu Yazin was thus deprived of royalty forever. Kisra, the Persian king, appointed a Persian ruler over San’a, and thus made Yemen a Persian colony. Persian rulers maintained rulership of Yemen until Badhan, the last of them, embraced Islam in 638 C.E., thus terminating the Persian domain over Yemen. [1]

Rulership in Heerah

Ever since Korosh the Great (557-529 B.C.) united the Persians. they ruled Iraq and its neighborhood. Nobody could shake their authority until Alexander the Great vanquished their king Dara I and thus subdued the Persians in 326 B.C. Persian lands were

Persian landa

[1] For details see Al-Yaman ‘Abrat-Tarikh pp. 77, 83, 124, 130, 157, 161. Tarikh Ardil

Qur’an 1/133. and Tarikhul-‘Arab Qablal-Islam 101-151. There is a considerable amount of discrepancy in the historical references for these dates. Indeed some such details are mentioned in the Qur’an: “Indeed these are but tales of the ancients.” [23:831

thenceforth divided and ruled by kings known as “the Kings of Sects”, an era that lasted until 230 C.E. Meanwhile, the Qahtanians occupied some Iraqi territories, and were later followed by some ‘Adnanians who managed to share some parts of Mesopotamia with them. The Persians, under the leadership of Ardashir, who had established the Sasanian state in 226 A.D, regained enough unity and power to subdue the Arabs living in the vicinity of their kingdom, and force the Quda’ah tribe to leave for Syria, leaving the people of Heerah and Anbar under the Persian domain. During the time of Ardashir, Jadhimah Alwaddah exercised rulership over Heerah and the rest of the Iraqi desert area including Rabi’ah and Mudar in Mesopotamia. Ardashir had reckoned that it was impossible for him to rule the Arabs directly and prevent them from attacking his borders unless he appointed one of them who enjoyed support and power of his tribe as a king. He had also seen that he could make use of them against the Byzantine kings who always harassed him. At the same time, the Arabs of Iraq could face the Arabs of Syria who were in the hold of Byzantine kings. However, he deemed it fit to keep a Persian battalion under command of the king of Heerah to be used against those Arabs who might rebel against him. After the death of Jadhimah, and during the era of Kisra Sabour bin Ardashir, ‘Amr bin ‘Adi bin Nasr Al-Lakhmi was ruler of Heerah and Anbar (268-288 C.E.). The Lakhmi kings remained in rule of Heerah until the Persians appointed Qabaz bin Fairuz in whose reign appeared someone called Mazdak, who called for dissoluteness in social life. Qabaz, and many of his subjects. embraced Mazdak’s religion and even called upon the king of Heerah, Al-Mundhir bin Ma’-us-Sama’ (512-554 C.E.), to follow suite. When the latter, because of his pride and self-respect. rejected their call, Qabaz discharged him and nominated Harith bin ‘Amr bin Hajar Al-Kindi, who had accepted the Mazdak doctrine,

No sooner did Kisra Anu Shairwan succeed Qabaz than he, due to

hatred of Mazdak’s philosophy, killed Mazdak and many of his followers, restored Mundhir to the throne of Heerah, and gave orders to summon under arrest Harith who sought refuge with AlKalb tribe where he spent the rest of his life. Sons of Al-Mundhir bin Ma’-us-Sama’ maintained kingship a long time until An-Nu’man bin Al-Mundhir took over. Because of a calumny borne by Zaid bin ‘Adi Al-‘Abbadi, the Persian king got angry at An-Nu’man and summoned him to his palace. An-Nu’man went secretly to Hani bin Mas’ud, chief of Shaiban tribe, and left his wealth and family under the latter’s protection, and then presented himself before the Persian king, who immediately threw him into prison until his death. Kisra, then, appointed Eyas bin Qubaisah At-Ta’i as king of Heerah. Eyas was ordered to tell Hani bin Mas’ud to deliver An-Nu’man’s charge up to Kisra. No sooner than had the Persian king received the fanatically motivated rejection on the part of the Arab chief, he declared war against the tribe of Shaiban. He mobilized his troops and warriors under the leadership of King Eyas to a place called Dhi Qar which witnessed a most furious battle wherein the Persians were severely routed by the Arabs for the first time in history.” They say that this occurred very soon after the birth of Prophet Muhammad eight months after Eyas bin Qubaisah’s rise to Power over Heerah. After Eyas, a Persian ruler named Azadhabah was appointed over Heerah, ruling for seventeen years (614-631 C.E.) after which the authority returned to the family of Lakhm when Al-Mundhir AlMa’rur took over. Hardly had the latter’s reign lasted for eight months when Khalid bin Al-Walid autem fell upon him with Muslim soldiers,12]

[1] That was reported in a tradition in Musnad Khalifah bin Khaiyat p. 24, and Ibn

Sa’d 7/77. [2] Muhadarat Tarikh Al-Umam Al-Islamiyah 1/29-32. The details are mentioned by At-Tabari

, Al-Mas’udi, Ibn Qutaibah, Ibn Khaldun, Al-Baladhiri, and Ibnul-Athir and others.

  • ibn Khaldun, Al-Baladhtrl, and Ibnul-A

Rulership in Geographical

Syria During the tribal emigrations, some branches of the Quda’ah tribe reached the borders of geographical Syria where they settled down. They belonged to the family of Sulaih bin Halwan, of whose offspring were the sons of Da’am bin Sulaih known as AdDaja’imah. The tribes of Quda’ah were used by the Byzantines in the defense of the Byzantine borders against both Arab bedouin raiders and the Persians. A king was put in charge of them. One of their most famous kings was Ziyad bin Al-Habulah.They enjoyed autonomy for a considerable phase of time that lasted from the beginning of the first century to near the end of the second century C.E. Their authority however ended upon defeat by the Ghassanides who were consequently granted the proxy rulership over the Arabs of Syria and had Dumatul-Jandal as their headquarters, which lasted until the battle of Yarmuk in the year 13 A.H. Their last king Jabalah bin Al-Aihum embraced Islam during the reign of the Chief of believers, ‘Umar bin AlKhattab

Rulership in Hijaz

Ishmael en administered authority over Makkah as well as custodianship of the Al-Ka’bah throughout his lifetime. Upon his death, at the age of 137,121 two of his sons succeeded him; Nabet then Qidar. They also say the opposite in order. Later on, their maternal grandfather, Mudad bin ‘Amr Al-Jurhumi took over, thus transferring rulership over Makkah to the tribe of Jurhum, preserving a venerable position. Very little authority remained for Ishmael’s sons even though they held a sacred status since it was their father who built Al-Ka’bah.!

(3) Time passed without the case of the children of Ishmael changing, until the rule of Jurhum declined prior to the invasion of

[1] ibid. [2] Genesis 25:17. Tarikh At-Tabari 1:314. 131 Ibn Hisham 1/111-113, where he only mentioned the rule of Nabet among the

sons of Ishmael gut.

Bukhtanassar. The political role of the ‘Adnanides had begun to gain firmer grounds in Makkah, which could be clearly attested to by the fact that upon Bukhtanassar’s first invasion of the Arabs in Dhati ‘Irq, the leader of the Arabs was from the ‘Adnanides not from Jurhum. Upon Bukhtanassar’s second invasion in 587 B.C., however, the ‘Adnanides were frightened out to Yemen, while the Israelite proclaimed Prophet Burkhiya afled to Syria from Harran with Ma’ad. But when Bukhtanassar’s pressure lessened, Ma’ad returned to Makkah to find none of the tribe of Jurhum except Jursham bin Jalhamah, whose daughter, Mu’anah, was given to Ma’ad as wife. She later had a son by him named Nizar. [2] On account of difficult living conditions and poverty prevalent in Makkah, the tribe of Jurhum began to treat visitors of Al-Ka’bah poorly and obtain by force its funds. That aroused resentment and hatred of the ‘Adnanides (sons of Bakr bin ‘Abd Manaf bin Kinanah). They, with the help of the tribe of Khuza’ah that had come to settle in a neighboring area called Marr Az-Zahran, invaded Jurhum and frightened them out of Makkah. Rulership was left to Quda’ah in the middle of the second century C.E. Upon leaving Makkah, Jurhum filled up the well of Zamzam, levelled its place and buried a great many things in it. ‘Amr bin AlHarith bin Mudad Al-Jurhumi(4) was reported by Ibn Ishaq to have buried the two gold deer of Al-Ka’bah, together with the Black Stone in the Zamzam well

, after sealing it up, he and those with him escaped to Yemen.

151 Ishmael’s period is estimated to have lasted for twenty centuries B.C. It means that Jurhum stayed in Makkah for twenty-one centuries and held rulership there for about twenty centuries.

LIJ Tarikh At-Tabari 1:559. 2) Tarikh At-Tabari 1:559-560, 2/271, and Fathul Bari 6/622. 331 Tarikh At-Tabari 2:284. 14 This is not the earlier Mudad Al-Jurhumi Al-Akbar who was mentioned in the

story of Ishmael 15) Ibn Hisham 1/114,115.

Upon defeat of Jurhum, the tribe of Khuza’ah monopolized rulership over Makkah. Mudar tribes, however, enjoyed three privileges:

The First: Leading pilgrims from ‘Arafat to Muzdalifah and during the rites at Mina on the Day of Sacrifice. This was the authority of the family of Al-Ghawth bin Murrah, descendants of Elias bin Mudar, who were called ‘Sufah’. This privilege meant that the pilgrims were not allowed to throw stones at Al-‘Aqabah until one of the Sufah men did that. When they finished stoning and wanted to leave the valley of Mina, Sufah men stood on the two sides of Al-‘Aqabah and nobody would pass that position until the men of Sufah passed and cleared the way for the pilgrims. When the Sufah perished, the family of Sa’d bin Zaid Manat from the Tamim tribe inherited the responsibility.

The Second: Al-Ifadah (leaving for Mina after Muzdalifah) on sacrifice morning, and this was the responsibility of the family of Adwan.

The Third: Postponement of the sacred months, and this was the responsibility of the family of Tamim bin ‘Adi from Bani Kinanah.[1]

Khuza’ah’s reign in Makkah lasted for three hundred years,

[21 during which, the ‘Adnanides spread all over Najd and the sides of Bahrain and Iraq, while small branches of the Quraish remained on the sides of Makkah; they were Halloul, Sarim and some other families of Kinanah. They enjoyed no privileges over Makkah or the Sacred House until the appearance of Qusai bin Kilab, whose father is said to have died when he was still a baby, and whose mother subsequently married Rabi’ah bin Haram, from the tribe of Bani “Udhrah. Rabi’ah took his wife and her baby to his homeland on the borders of Syria. When Qusat became a young man, he returned to Makkah, which was ruled by Hulail bin Habshah from

[1] Ibn Hisham 1/44-119, 120-122. [2] Yaqut Maddah’s Makkah and Fathul Bari 6:633. [3] Ibn Hisham 1/117.

Khuza’ah, who gave Qusai his daughter, Hobbah, as wife. After Hulail’s death, a war between the Khuza’ah and the Quraish broke out resulting in Qusai’s taking hold of Makkah and the Sacred House.!

The Reasons of this War have been illustrated in Three Versions

The First: Having noticed the spread of his offspring, increase of his property and exalt of his honor after Hulail’s death, Qusai found himself more entitled than the tribes of Khuza’ah and Bani Bakr to shoulder the responsibility of rulership over Makkah and custodianship of the Sacred House. He also advocated that Quraish were the chiefs of Ishmael’s descendants. He consulted Quraish and Kinanah to expel Khuza’ah and Bani Bakr from Makkah and they supported him.

The Second: The Khuza’ah claimed that Hulail requested Qusai to hold custodianship of Al-Ka’bah and rulership over Makkah after his death. [3] The

Third: Hulail gave the right of Al-Ka’bah service to his daughter Hobbah and appointed Abu Ghubshan Al-Khuza’i to function as her agent whereof. Upon Hulail’s death, Qusai bought this right for a leather bag of wine, which aroused dissatisfaction among the men of Khuza’ah and they tried to keep the custodianship of the Sacred House away from Qusai. The latter, however, with the help of Quraish and Kinanah, managed to take over and even to expel Khuza’ah completely from Makkah.

[4] Whatever the truth might have been, the whole affair resulted in the deprivation of Sufah of their privileges, previously mentioned: evacuation of Khuza’ah and Bakr from Makkah and transfer of rulership over Makkah, and custodianship of the Holy Sanctuary to Qusai; after fierce wars between Qusai and Khuza’ah inflicting

(1) Ibn Hisham 1/117-118, [2] Ibn Hisham 1/117-118. Bl Ibn Hisham 1/118. 14) Rahmatul-lil-‘Alamin 2/55, Fathul Bari 6/634. Al-Ya’qubt 1/239. Al-Mas’udi 2/58.

heavy casualties on both sides, reconciliation and then arbitration of Ya’mur bin ‘Awf, from the tribe of Bakr, whose judgment entailed eligibility of Qusai’s rulership over Makkah and custodianship of the Sacred House; Qusai’s irresponsibility for Khuza’ah’s bloodshed, and imposition of blood money on Khuza’ah and Banu Bakr.1) Qusai’s reign over Makkah and the Sacred House began in 440 C.E., 21 and allowed him, and the Quraish after him, absolute rulership over Makkah and undisputed custodianship of the Sacred House to which Arabs from all over Arabia came to pay homage. Qusai brought his kinspeople to Makkah and allocated it to them, allowing Quraish some dwellings there. An-Nusia, the families of Safwan, Adwan, Murrah bin ‘Awf preserved the same rights they used to enjoy before his arrival. [3] A significant achievement credited to Qusai was the establishment of An-Nadwah House (an assembly house) on the northern side of Al-Ka’bah, to serve as a meeting place for the Quraish. This was very beneficial for the Quraish because it secured unity of opinions among them and cordial solutions to their problems. Qusai enjoyed the following privileges of leadership and nonor: 1. Presiding over An-Nadwah House Meetings: The consultations relating to serious issues were conducted there, and marriage contracts were announced. 2. The War Standard: There could be no declaration of war except with his approval or the approval of one of his sons. 3. Caravan Leader: He was the commander of all caravans. No caravan from Makkah could depart, be it for trade or otherwise, except under his authority or the authority of one of his sons. 4. Doorkeeper of Al-Ka’bah: He was the only one eligible to open

[1] Ibn Hisham 1/123-124. (2) Fathul Bari 6/633. Qalb Jaziratil-‘Arab p. 232. (3) Ibn Hisham 1/124-125. [4] Ibn Hisham 1/125, Muhadarat Tarikh Al-Umam Al-Islamiyah by Al-Khudari 1/36,

Akhbarul-Kiram p. 152.

its gate, and was responsible for its service and protection 5. Providing Water for the Pilgrims: They would fill basins sweetened by dates or raisins for the pilgrims visiting Makkah to drink 6. Feeding Pilgrims: This means making food for pilgrims who could not afford it. Qusai even imposed on Quraish annual land tax for food, paid at the season of pilgrimage. It is noteworthy however that Qusai singled out ‘Abd Manaf, a son of his, for honor and prestige though he was not his elder son (Abdud-Dar was), and entrusted him with such responsibilities as chairing of An-Nadwah House, the standard, the door keeping of Al-Ka’bah, providing water and food for pilgrims. Due to the fact that Qusai’s deeds were regarded as unquestionable and his orders inviolable, his death gave no rise to conflicts among his sons, but later it did among his grand children. For no sooner than ‘Abd Manaf had died, his sons began to have rows with their cousins – sons of ‘Abdud-Dar, which would have given rise to conflict and fighting among the whole tribe of Quraish, had it not been for a peace treaty. Thereby posts were reallocated to preserve feeding and providing water for pilgrims for the sons of ‘Abd Manaf; while An-Nadwah House, the flag and the door keeping of Al-Ka’bah were maintained for the sons of ‘Abdud-Dar. The sons of ‘Abd Manaf. however, cast the lot for their charge. Consequently they left the charge of food and water giving to Hashim bin ‘Abd Manaf, upon whose death, the charge was to be taken over by a brother of his called Al-Muttalib bin ‘Abd Manaf. After him it was to be taken by ‘Abdul-Muttalib bin Hashim, the Prophet’s grandfather. His sons assumed this position until the rise of Islam, during which ‘Abbas bin ‘Abdul-Muttalib was in charge. [2] Many other posts were distributed among people of Quraish for establishing the pillars of a new democratic minor state with

[1] Ibn Hisham 1/130, Tarikh Al-Ya’qubt 1/240-241. [2] Ibn Hisham 1/129-179.

Rule and Government among the Arabs


government offices and councils similar to those of today. Enlisted as follows are some of these posts. 1. Casting the lots for the idols was allocated to Bani Jumah. 2. Noting of offers and sacrifices, settlement of disputes and relevant issues were to lie in the hands of Bani Sahm. 3. Consultation was to go to Bani Asad. 4. Organization of blood money and fines was with Bani Tayim. 5. Bearing the national banner was with Bani Umaiyah. 6. The military institute, footmen and cavalry would be Bani Makhzum’s responsibility. 7. Bani ‘Adi would function as foreign ambassadors. (1)

Rulership in Pan-Arabia

We have previously mentioned the Qahtanide and ‘Adnanide emigrations, and division of Arabia between these two tribes. Those tribes dwelling near Heerah were subordinate to the Arabian king of Heerah, while those dwelling in the Syrian deserts were under domain of the Ghassanides, a sort of dependency that was in reality formal rather than actual. However, those living in the far-off desert areas enjoyed full autonomy. These tribes in fact had heads chosen by the whole tribe which was a demi-government based on tribal solidarity and collective interests in defense of land and property. Heads of tribes enjoyed dictatorial privileges similar to those of kings, and were rendered full obedience and subordination in both war and peace. Rivalry among cousins for rulership, however, often drove them to outdo one another in entertaining guests. affecting generosity, wisdom, and chivalry for the sole purpose of outranking their rivals, and gaining fame among people especially

(il Tarikh Ardil-Qur’an 2/104-106, it is also popularly mentioned that the flag

bearing tribe was Banu ‘Abdud-Dar and the command of troops was under Banu Umaiyah.

poets who were the official spokesmen at the time. Head of tribe and master had special claims to spoils of war such as one-fourth of the spo’ls, whatever he chose for himself, or found on his

way back or even the remaining indivisible spoils.

The Political Situation

The three Arab regions adjacent to foreigners suffered great weakness and inferiority. The people there were either masters or slaves, rulers or subordinates. Masters, especially the foreigners, had claim to every advantage; slaves had nothing but responsibilities to shoulder. In other words, absolute rulership brought about violation on the rights of subordinates, ignorance, oppression, iniquity, injustice and hardship, and turning them into people groping in darkness and ignorance. So, fertile land rendered its fruits to the rulers and men of

power to extravagantly spend on their pleasures and enjoyments, wishes and desires, oppression and aggression. The tribes living near these regions were moving between Syria and Iraq, whereas those living inside Arabia, were disunited, and governed by tribal conflicts and racial and religious disputes. They had neither a king to maintain their independence nor a supporter to seek advice from, or depend upon in hardships. The rulers of Hijaz, however, were greatly esteemed and respected by the Arabs, and were considered as rulers and servants of the religious center, Rulership of Hijaz was, in fact, a mixture of secular and official superiority as well as religious leadership. They ruled among the Arabs in the name of religious leadership and always monopolized the custodianship of the Holy Sanctuary and its neighborhood. They looked after the interests of Al-Ka’bah visitors and were in charge of putting Abraham’s code into effect. They even had such offices and departments like those of the parliaments of today. However, they were too weak to carry the heavy burden, as this evidently came to light during the Abyssinian (Ethiopian) invasion,

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