Two Divergent Views
By: Dr. Muhammad Masjid-Jame‘i
The beginning of this dualistic attitude towards this problem goes back to before the Prophet’s (S) death, after which, nobody doubted that the religious precepts had to govern the society. It was known and agreed on according to which laws and rules the society had to be run. However, concerning the ruler that had to be selected as caliph, the issue was not so clear. What was important and practically existed was that the society had to be run and an individual had to be selected to that position. When Abu Bakr was selected as caliph, he received general allegiance not because he had a certain characteristic or qualification that they had defined for the ruler. According to them, the issue was far more practical and urgent or rather regular than such reflections or controversies. A number swore allegiance to him and the others followed them without delay.
Abu Bakr’s caliphate and rule was accepted as a reality. If the people had pledged allegiance to someone else, his caliphate and rule would have been accepted as a reality. What established the caliphate for the first caliph was that a number pledged allegiance and the others said that they would follow the former. It is interesting that, in response to the repeated calls by Fatimah Zahra (‘a), who asked them not to forget the Prophet’s (S) recommendations and to administer the truth through the right path, they said, “You should have taken action sooner. We have pledged our allegiance, the issue is settled. If you had come to us earlier, we might have pledged allegiance to you.”59
Now let’s see what the final result was. The Prophet (S) has a position of his own as the ruler and sovereign. The position as the religious legislator, the policy-maker and the political leader was accepted by all, and this was a religious acceptance. After the Prophet, the power was put in the hands of Abu Bakr. The people of that time did not attach any religious respect to him either before or after his caliphate. In their opinion, he was a person like the other Immigrants and Helpers. However, the important point is that, allegiance to him prepared the ground for a thought that was later established as a principle of Sunni thought concerning the ruler and his qualifications. This requires further explanation.
The first people who pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr were very small in number. It was mainly their allegiance that stimulated the others to swear allegiance, i.e. the others said, “We will swear allegiance because they did, and this means accepting the reality.”, which means recognizing him since recognizing him was a reality.
Although the story was not so tangible concerning the second and the third caliphs, the truth of the matter about them was like this as well. Abu Bakr appointed ‘Umar, i.e. recognized his caliphate and succession, and the others followed him. ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn ‘Awf, on behalf of the six-man council, recognized ‘Uthman, and the people accepted this. However, the story of ‘Ali’s (‘a) selection as caliph was different. It was the large masses of the people who swore allegiance to him with much insistence.
What is important in the meanwhile is that the seed of obeying the ruler because his rule is a reality was planted at the time of the Senior Caliphs. Although this seed sprouted later when the Umayyad took power, taking a meaning and dimensions far different than what it practically meant at the time of the Senior Caliphs. At this time, the religious and sacred aspects of this part of the history was extended and received wide acceptance and the more or less unanimously achieved religious acceptance of it largely contributed to this.
As we said, the final improvement of this way of thought occurred during the Umayyad period and the person of Mu‘awiyah had an essential share in this. After his power was established, he tried hard to make caliphate hereditary in his clan. This was unprecedented until that time. Despite some important opposition, he was the final victor and the caliphate became hereditary. From then on, transfer of power followed a mechanism that was beyond or rather independent of the will of the Muslims. The question was not what the people want and say or what the religious rules relating to the ruler were according to by which to appoint the caliph. This was the fact and it was very difficult and to some people of that time impossible to change it. They considered it very difficult and were not willing to do it because it required doing things they did not like and were not willing to do as it required a great deal of distress and devotion.60
Thus, the reality won over beliefs, ideals and rules because the principle was accepting the reality although the reality that was later recognized was totally different from the one that had been initially accepted and the mechanism of appointing the caliph and the general qualifications for it and the limits of his powers were totally different from what existed at the time of the Senior Caliphs. As a result, the ruler was acceptable and had to be obeyed solely on the grounds that he had the power, even if he did not have the least qualifications or he took power by force and violence or oppression and violated the limits of the shari‘ah and became corrupt.61
As an example, the well-known jurisprudent and judge, Ibn Jama‘ah says, “The third way through which compulsory allegiance is made is the force of a powerful person. Then, if a time is void of a qualified imam to take the position and a powerful person establishes his control over the people by using force and military force and without the people’s allegiance or without being the successor to one to whom the people had pledged allegiance, he has to be obeyed… so that the Muslims’ affairs are put in order and unified and ignorance and corruption will not impede this flow.” He then adds, “If someone becomes the imam by means of force and then another person rises up and defeats the previous person, the previous person will be deposed and the new person will be the imam, which is according to what we said about the expedience of the Muslims and the need to maintain unity among them. It was because of this that Ibn ‘Umar said on the episode of Harrah, ‘We are with the one who wins.’”62
Naturally, the ruling system was not indifferent in the meanwhile and it would not be logical for it to be so. Such a way of thinking was satisfactory and even ideal for it and it tried to support it by the Qur’an, sayings and stories, jurisprudence, history, theology and philosophy, and it did so. Since it was in harmony with the spirit of the people and their historical and cultural background and the sociopolitical developments of their time, it was widely accepted. As further dealing with this and also how forgery and distortion were involved in the meantime would make us deviate from the main discussion, we give it up and suffice to make two points.63
Now we have to see what the problem was of those in power in those days. They wanted to make the people obey the ruler merely on the account that his power and rule were a reality. The Umayyad practically did not want anything more than this. As we have already mentioned, they were not so willing to be given a religious stature. They neither required it nor liked it. Even if they made use of religious motivations, it was to reinforce their worldly power not to consolidate their religious position as the caliph of the Muslims—quite contrary to the ‘Abbasid caliphs, who were willing to define themselves a religious position and stature, in whose light to consolidate their worldly power.64
What factor could be put at the service of such a goal and to make the people obey them unconditionally? Considering the psychological, cultural and historical backgrounds, the best means was to resort to fatalism. The pre-Islamic Arabs had an unalterable belief in fate. They believed that the human life and fate are beyond his will and control and that the ups and downs of life are due to predetermined causes, in which human beings have no role.
As was common among the Bedouins, this thought was perfectly accepted among the people of Mecca and the Quraysh. Basically, their idolatry can be comprehended and analyzed in such a relationship. Therefore, they believed in various deities and they made sacrifices to them while believing that they had a role in their lives. Any event that occurred from their birth time to their death, be it the birth of a boy or girl, drought, trade and profit, victory or defeat in war, disabling diseases or poverty, they considered to be the direct result of the same deity while they did not define any role for human decision in this regard.65
Principally, dualism, polytheism and belief in various deities and idols are contradictory to the belief in human freedom and responsibility. Human freedom would not make sense in a world in which the fates of any part of it is controlled by an independent metaphysical force. Man can be said to be free if he is the architect of his own fate, at least to a certain extent. Otherwise, if the fates and events of one’s life are controlled by independent deities, it will not make sense to talk about freedom.
Nevertheless, fatalism and determinism were the prevailing thought in the pre-Islamic Arabian society, which was strongly criticized by the Qur’an as it resulted in internal human deterioration. The criticisms followed several goals. Firstly, they sought to eliminate this unrealistic untrue thought, which was a foolish delusion of the pre-Islamic Arabs thinking of the world as having several deities. Secondly, they thought to revive the human conscience and the personal sense of responsibility in individuals who did not think of themselves as having any will. On the same basis, they would submit to any mean or evil act and, as opposed to their internal pressures, they approached the fictitious gods to attain salvation rather than by reforming their selves.
When one’s happiness or misery is not controlled by his own actions and are referred only to the will of the gods and goddesses, naturally no one will try to reform himself in order to achieve happiness and everyone will resort to the same idols or, in their own words, interceders. Finally, the criticisms sought to collapse the doctrinal and intellectual foundations of the superiority of the chosen nobility which was ruthless, materialistic and evil. In the ignorant pre-Islamic society of those days, what consolidated the ruling nobility was not the power of the sword. It was, rather, the deterministic superstitions.
The society of Arabia then was too tribal and dispersed to be made obedient by the force of the sword. The stature and position of the corrupt ruthless powerful people of that time arose from the people’s ignorance and dogmatism rather than their weakness or inability. It was exactly because of this that they were the most revengeful enemies of the Prophet (S) to the last moment and would not bow to the Prophet. When they converted to Islam because of fear or greed, they constantly sought to take revenge and, finally, they did so under the protection of the Umayyad.
The fact is that perceiving and accepting monotheism, in the sense that it is understood in divine religions, especially Islam, although it is an inherent and conscientious ability, requires a minimum of intellectual and rational growth. One who is incapable of this cannot simply accept and comprehend that everything is controlled by God and that, what man considers to be the effective factors, are all the material and non-material means and tools of this great world, which were entirely created by God and obey Him. It is to be said that the ignorant pre-Islamic Arabs lacked such intellectual and rational abilities. Their biological, social, historical and cultural backgrounds were distant from the developments that would entail such growth.
As we have said, they did not even have a clear understanding of the concept of causality although they were perhaps familiar with it yet were unable to discover the relations between different factors. This was because of the absolute commonality of the superstitions and fortunetelling among them at the most obtuse level. Indeed, any tribe and nation has superstitions of its own but what was common among the pre-Islamic Arabs was more than superstitions. More than being due to factors that would result in seeking and loving superstitions, which was generally due to idiocy, lunacy and not using the rational forces rather than the suppressed or unsuppressed spiritual and psychological needs. It would be appropriate here to quote part of the precise description of Ahmad Amin on “the intellectual life of the pre-Islamic Arabs”.
“The pre-Islamic Arabs were not able to establish a proper relationship between cause and effect. If somebody was sick and in pain, they would consider it to be incurable. Although they somehow knew there was a relationship between the illness and the drug, the relationship was not clear to them. They just knew that the tribal habit was to use such a drug for such pain. That was the most of their understanding. Therefore, it would not be strange for them to believe that the chief’s blood would cure a dog or that the cause of a human disease is an evil spirit that has entered his body and the spirit has to be rejected in order to cure the person. When they feared that somebody might go mad, they would apply the waste matters and bones of a dead body on him. There are many such examples. None of these things, so long as the tribal chief did them, were questioned or denied because people refuse to do such things if they are really looking for the causes of the diseases while the pre-Islamic Arabs had not yet attained such a level of development.”
“The same inability to have a causative understanding of affairs accounts for the absolute commonality of superstitions and myths among the pre-Islamic Arabs and the reason literary books are full of such myths and superstitions… This was why they resorted to fortunetelling in order to study the events of the past and of the future.”
“It is true that in any tribe or society, however civilized and developed they might be, there are people who believe in superstitions, but Arab literary books indicate that such beliefs were believed by the people in general rather than by certain individuals, and that fortunetelling and the like have been recognized by all the tribes of that time although, in a couplet of pre-Islamic Arab poetry, an example of astral discussions or a story with high thoughts indicating the causative relations might be found. However, even in these cases, one cannot find deep thought or a clear analysis.”66
Amin quotes a story from Sirah by Ibn Hisham, “One of the tribes of Thaqif were terrified by the fall of the stars—i.e. meteors. They went to a person in their tribe who was known as ‘Amru ibn Umayyah, who was from Bani ‘Alaj. He was the most clever and deep-thinking of the Arabs. They told him, ‘O’ ‘Amru, did you not see what happened in the sky because of the fall of the stars?’ He said, ‘I did.’, and then added, ‘If those of the stars fell with whose help the people find the directions on land and in the sea and the seasons of summer and winter are identified by them and the people’s lives depend on them, I swear by God that it means the end of the world and the destruction of the creatures. If stars other than these fell and the former remained in place, it means a fate that God has determined for the creatures. Which of them fell?’”67
The strange thing is that such things are still believed by some Arabs today, indeed by those who have maintained and been brought up according to their old heritage. They still breathe and think in such atmospheres. A while ago, newspapers wrote that the great Mufti of Arabia, Sheikh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Baz has taken a devil out of an Arab and he converted him to Islam .68
What is considerable among these is that the most reputable and influential cleric of a country or even of a religious branch, i.e. Wahhabism, which deems that it is the only branch whose Islam is pure and, like the original Islam, is beneficent and away from additions and superstitions and forged items, thinks like this in our time and takes direct action to exorcise the devil and then calls it to Islam and the latter accepts it. More importantly, the newspapers of this country write it without the least doubt, while they so strongly believe in it and in their own beliefs they would not hesitate even to mock and be harsh to others.
Nevertheless, a proper sympathetic understanding of the intellectual and mental characteristics of pre-Islamic Arabs is of key importance in understanding this and many other discussions, we had better quote another part of Amin’s description, although it would be a bit lengthy.
World Knowledge of the Arabs in Old Times
“An Arab’s attitude towards the world is not general and all-inclusive, like that of a Greek. In their first philosophical attempts, the Greeks looked at the world in a comprehensive and all-inclusive manner. They would ask, ‘How did this world come to existence? In my view, this world is a set of changes and developments. Is there a single stable basis beyond all this change and development? If there is, is it water, air or fire? My feeling is that all the components are interrelated like the components of a single object and that they follow fixed laws. What is the system and how was it formed and from what?
A Greek would ask himself these and similar questions and this would form the basis of his philosophy, all of which was the result of his general outlook. However, an Arab, whether before or after Islam, would not look at the world in this way. He would look around himself and, if something caught his attention, he would run to it and he would be inspired by a great deal of poetry, wisdom and proverbs and would say something in its description.
He did not have a perfect inclusive outlook. He could not analyze its causes and effects. More importantly, when encountering an object, he would not see it in its entirety. For example, when he stood before a tree, he would not see it as a whole. He would pay attention to some of its components, like the straightness of the stem or the beauty of the branches. The entirety of a garden would not catch his attention and his mind would not take an image of it like a photograph taken by a camera. He was like a honeybee that flies from one flower to another and sucks some juice from any of them. These are the mental and rational characteristics of an Arab, which accounts for the defect as well as the beauty of Arab literature, even during the Islamic period.” 69
Shahrestani puts this in another way, “There were few Arab philosophers and their philosophy consisted of sudden and self-motivated thoughts… The intellectual activities of Arabs and Indians were similar to each other. Their goal was to know the properties of objects and the dominating feature of their thought was essence and nature. The intellectual activities of Iranians and Romans were similar as well. Their goal was to study the quality of objects and the dominating feature of their thought was acquisition and attempt.”70 After quoting this, Amin adds that many orientalists such as Shahrestani thought that the Arab outlook on the world was not general and inclusive and principally could not look at this world in that way.
Naturally, fatalism would grow and progress in such an atmosphere. It is not necessary for anyone to contribute to its promotion. In such a background, chiefly no thought other than fatalistic thoughts had a chance to progress. The mentality and the psychological structure of the people is such that bows to anything that is not supported by reason because there is practically no rational or analytical activity going on. This is because of the final victory of the Ash‘arites, the Traditionists and the supporters of determinism and condemnation of reason. The problem, more than having political causes, had social, psychological, cultural and educational causes. They achieved victory at a time when the political rule had been weakened and dispersed. Their final victory was not acquired with the support of the ruling power, religious domination or propaganda. Ultimately, it was the determinist-thinking and determinist society, rather than the rulers promoting determinism, which defeated the supporters of reason and freedom.
At the same time, however, this does not mean that the pre-Islamic determinism had certain well-defined principles and existed as a philosophical and theological school, like the one we witness in the later centuries. It was public belief and had a wide influence, in a way that the psychological and doctrinal and even sociopolitical structure of the Arabs had been developed under its influence. It has to be added, indeed, that this belief and way of thinking was for a while overshadowed by the suspenseful as well as hopeful sociopolitical conditions of the days when Islam was taking power and its power was extending. However, when the world conquests of Islam were on the fall and the other tribes and nations were included within the new empire, the ground was prepared for its further appearance, especially since the newly converted Muslims had much experience and well-developed systematized thoughts and beliefs in this respect, all of which coincided with the period of domination of Mu‘awiyah. It is at this point that the story begins seriously, as there was a ground for it.71
The situation was quiet and the conquests had ended. There also had been the heavy and difficult-to-accept experience of the time of ‘Uthman and ‘Ali and the clashes between the Muslims. Meanwhile, the Peoples of the Book and the various sects had found an opportunity to find their position in the new system in order to promote their beliefs. More importantly, when Mu‘awiyah and the Umayyad took power, the best background was prepared for the reviving of the pre-Islamic Ignorant heritage as the Bedouin and their Ignorant nature was strongly sympathetic with the pre-Islamic period while they also needed it for continuing their domination and the mass of the Arab people in that time liked and even loved it.72
As if the ground was prepared, from every respect, for the reviving of the Ignorant heritage, especially for fatalism and determinism. It happened in practice. This conquering thought stepped forward and covered the entire society. This was indeed approved and supported by the ruling system. Even if there had not been the well-thought and systematic support of Mu‘awiyah and the Umayyad, this thought would still have opened a place for itself considering the conditions of that period. However, when the support was added, it became dominant in all aspects. Worse than anything else was that it was under the mask of the religion and the Qur’an, for which forgeries, distortions and new interpretations were applied on Islam and the Qur’an in order to give them an image that would approve the principle of determinism. The problem was not, anymore, whether the thought was approved by the Qur’an. More important than that was that they said Islam and the Qur’an were nothing other than that.73
Now we have to see what they wanted and why they propagated this thought so strongly. We have already mentioned that they required the people to be obedient and quiet. They wanted the people to follow them, not to criticize or object to them, not to say ‘Why did you do this? Why did you do that?’, not to say, ‘Why are you oppressive? Why are you violating the religion?’, not to say, ‘Why do you violate God’s limits? Why do you not punish the violators?’, not to say, ‘Why do you plunder the public treasury and spend it for your personal desires? Why do you not stop the recklessness of your governors?’ They wanted to be absolute in what they did and to rule without any impediment. Their Bedouin Ignorant nature, wealth, unlimited facilities and power, limitless lechery, lack of capacity, mean personalities and the tendency to saturate themselves in all ways did not let them think other than about their whims and wishes. Those whose fathers would be more than satisfied by several camel loads and would envy such a thing were now on top of the greatest empire. Naturally, what they did and expected irrationally was quite expectable.74
How could the ruler, be it the caliph, his province governors or governors, rule freely? The religious precepts as well as the people who believed in the precepts would limit him. This could not be countered. The Islamic society was not the pre-Islamic ignorant society without laws or rules. Islam existed and they could not deny it explicitly because this would result in their own denial. They could ignore the laws but could not deny its principle.
The best solution, which would neither result in the denial of Islam nor impede their freedom, power and lechery, would be one that would encourage determinism and say that man is a forced being without a will that does not and cannot have a role in determining his destiny. The events of his life are controlled by God and what happens to the human being are from Him and his will. The same pre-Islamic deterministic thought was encouraged in an Islamic rendering, with the difference being that various deities were replaced by God.75
According to this interpretation, what occurs to man is beyond his will and is from the absolute will of God Almighty, be it from the nature or from the ruler or caliph or other people. The important point is this last one, i.e. what is from the ruler is the same as God’s decision which is realized through the ruler and, therefore, is unchangeable and unobjectionable. Also the very existence of the ruler is a God’s decision and cannot be changed. He exists because God wants him to exist, and he has power because God wants him to have power.76
For example, consider these words of Mansur, the second ‘Abbasid caliph, addressed to the people in one of his trips to Mecca, “O’, people! I am God’s sultan on the earth. I rule you with His help, approval and inspiration. I am his treasurer and act based on what He wants and distribute with his permission. God has given me the lock to his treasury. He will open it to you when He so wishes and will lock it when He wishes to lock it. So, go to God and on this day that he will bestow on you what he told in his book and ask for it, about which He said, “Now I completed my religion on you and perfected my blessing on you and chose Islam as your religion.” Ask him to aid me on the right path and inspire me to be kind and good to you and open me to give away to you your portions fairly.”77
Another example is what Mu‘awiyah said. The book Aghrad as-Siyasah fi I‘rad ar-Riasah, which is full of such examples, thus quotes him, “We kings are like the time. He whose hand we get will rise and he whom we put below will be inferior.” Then, the author, as an explanation and approval of Mu‘awiyah’s words, says, “These words indicate his high character and the ultimate point of his nobility while being a king under God’s approval. In fact, kings are God’s substitutes and caliphs and their orders on the people’s property will be effective. One who wants to get to a noble rank has to see it as a duty to obey the king.”78
In Nazariyyat al-Imamah, Mahmud Subhi thus explains Mu‘awiyah’s policy, “In order to consolidate the columns of his government he merely use force and material power. He also made use of the religious beliefs. He told the people that there had been a difference between him and ‘Ali as to caliphate. Therefore, they left it to God to decide and God chose him before ‘Ali and selected him as caliph. In the same manner, when he wanted to make the people of Hijaz pledge alleiance to his son, Yazid, he told them that his selection as caliph is a predetermined decision of God and the people have no choice in it. It was thus nearly settled in the Muslims’ minds that whatever the caliph wants and orders, even if it contradicts God’s orders, is a predetermined decision of God and He has decided to make it happen to his people.
During his emirate at the time of ‘Uthman, Mu‘awiyah explicitly said that the assets at the public treasury belonged to God rather than to Muslims. He meant to keep them for himself. In a like manner, he made use of the ideology of divine determination and the religious right of the kings in order to found and consolidate his rule. This was the worst change possible in the religious policy of Muslims because he wanted to exploit the religion for his power and to make the believers follow the ruler’s whims.”79
Mu‘awiyah’s propaganda and that of his successors succeeded for numerous reasons, many of which had social, mental and historical backgrounds and were rooted in the psychological structure of the people of that time and not merely to his actions and propaganda. The people saw and evaluated the issues and currents the same way that he and his likes wanted. An example of such a way of thinking can be seen in the theory that Hasan Basri told Hajjaj ibn Yusuf. Interestingly, he was more liberal and bolder than his contemporary jurisprudents and sayings scholars>, so much so that the Mu‘tazilites consider him one of their own because he rose up against the deterministic thought of his time. In this respect, he has made some correspondence with ‘Abdu’l-Malik and Hajjaj himself, in which he rejects their invoking some verses of the Qur’an to prove their deterministic theory.80
He is even one who criticized Mu‘awiyah on various occasions because of what he did.81 However, despite all these, he prevented the people from fighting against Hajjaj, who committed any crime, saying, “Do not fight him because he is God’s punishment. Therefore, you cannot turn away God’s punishment with your swords. If he is God’s calamity, then be patient to such calamity so that God will rule between you and him because God is the best ruler.”82 This was while he considered Hajjaj to be the worst of God’s people and said about him, “If any nation brings forth the worst and the most evil of them and we take forth Hajjaj, we will be the winner in such a competition.”83
It would be appropriate to mention some examples here. After the bloody episode of ‘Ashura, when Imam Husayn’s family was taken to Ibn Ziyad as captives, there were exchanges of words between Ibn Ziyad and Zaynab and Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin, which are considerable in respect of this discussion. Ibn Ziyad pointed to Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin, and asking who he was. They said he was ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn. “Was it not ‘Ali ibn al-Husyan whom God killed.” Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin said, “I had a brother who was also named ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn, whom the army killed”. Ibn Ziyad said, “Rather say God killed him.” The Imam read the verse “God kills the people when their time comes.” Ibn Ziyad was angry and said, “Do you dare respond to and deny me? Behead him.” Indeed, things happened and the order was not performed.84
A similar discussion took place in Yazid’s court. Yazid addressed the Imam, saying, “Praise to God who killed your father.” Imam said, “God’s curse on him who killed my father.” Hearing this, Yazid ordered his death, but this was not performed. After a short time, he ordered that Imam be taken to him. He began cutting the chain that was on Imam’s neck, while reading this verse, “The troubles that the people have are because of the wrong things they do while God forgives many of them.” The Imam said, “You are wrong to think this verse is about us. What is about us is that, ‘The calamity will affect you, whether calamities to you or your soul or the things that happen to you from outside, unless they are written in the heavenly scripture. Do not regret and do not be happy for what has happened to you.’” 85
Is it not true that the only thing the two wanted to say was that what happened to Imam Husyan and his companions was done by God rather than by the ruler and that the ruler was only a means for the realization of God’s will? That is to say, it was not Yazid or Ibn Ziyad or their army who killed Imam Husyan but it was God who killed them. And why did God do so? It was the result of their own actions and they deserved such punishment. Here this was important for fully acquitting the ruler, as if no responsibility was to be attached to him and all returned to God.
The ruler would thus have unlimited power and immunity because all his actions were the manifestation of God’s will and, therefore, could not be changed or objected to. This was the Umayyad interpretation because they neither had to deny the principle of the religion nor failure to make such denial would limit them. They wanted power and unlimited freedom in action rather than religious justification or the like. All this was obtained in the light of such interpretation.
The Umayyad principally thought, lived, ruled and made propaganda on such basis. Their caliphate is full of such examples. When Mu‘awiyah died, Yazid wrote to the governor of Medina, “Mu‘awiyah was one of God’s people. God dignified him and made him His successor and entrusted the people’s affairs to him and gave him power and mastery.”86 Similarly, in response to those who objected to the crown princedom of his son, Yazid, Mu‘awiyah said, “This kingdom and sultanate is God’s and He will give it to anyone He wants. God has chosen Yazid as crown prince and you are not in a position to object to it. No one has power over it.”87
Their governors would talk and make propaganda in a like manner. One day, Ibn Ziyad said to the people, “O’ people, we are your chiefs and it is us who protect you from affliction. We rule with the power that God has given us and we give you from the things He has bestowed on us while we will treat you fairly. Then try to obey, cooperate with and give advice to us so as to deserve our justice.”88 A more developed example of such a way of thinking, to which many elements of the Qur’an and sayings are attached, can be found in the elaborate will of Yazid ibn ‘Abdu’l-Malik for the crown princedom of his two sons.89
Forging Sayings of the Tradition
Based on such a way of thinking, a great deal of sayings were forged to the effect that what is done by the ruler is the same as God’s wish. “Let the ruler do what he wants because, if he does good deed, he will be awarded and you shall be grateful and, if he does bad deed, he will be responsible for his own sins and you shall be patient. If the ruler does a religiously undesirable thing to you, be patient towards him and do not violate your allegiance to him because one who does this will die as if he died before Islam.” They went so far as to claim that the Prophet (S) had said, “There will be rulers who will not follow my directions and my method and will have a devil’s heart in a human body.” “What should we do towards them?”, the Prophet was asked. “Listen to and obey his orders even if he lashes you and takes your belongings.”, said the Prophet (S). Finally, they said that the Prophet said, “Obey any emir as obeying him will be like obeying me.” As an example, refer to the chapter “Kitab Al-Imarah”, of the book Kanz al-‘Ummal. Interestingly, most sayings quoted in this respect contain similar points.90
As we said, the main motivation of forging such sayings was the deterministic thought and the thought that the ruler himself and his actions are the actions of God. However, those in power were apparently not satisfied and did not think of it as sufficient for stabilizing their position. Therefore, they forged many sayings to the effect that breaking one’s allegiance in any form was religiously prohibited. If somebody has not pledged allegiance to an emir, he will die as if before Islam. “Pray behind any emir, good or bad, just or roué, and follow his orders. Do not say a bad thing about them, as cursing them is cursing me. If they delay saying the prayer, follow them without objection. Never think of standing up against the ruler as one who does this has abandoned the religion. Behead the one who stands up against the ruler. Kill the one who violates the Muslims’ customs. It behooves you to obey the emir in any situation, whether you are satisfied or have reservations for doing so. Do not fight them for power. The tribe who wishes to weaken the sultan will be weakened by God in this world. One who calls the people to himself while there is an emir, may God, his angels and his people curse him and you shall kill such a person.91
This was the story of the deterministic propaganda of the Umayyad. They wanted to put the ruler in a position that was not harmed by criticisms. The fact is that they succeeded in doing so. They worked so hard and invested so much to this end that it was later said that, “It is the Umayyad who support and promote determinism and the Alavites who claim and promote justice and monotheism.” The Infallible Imams stood, as much as they could, against the blind crippling and stagnating determinism and fought it. However, because of the reasons that were mentioned, this thought opened a position for itself and had a share in forming the Sunni thought about the ruler. Indeed, this does not mean that Sunnis later accepted their deterministic interpretation. Yet, this is true to a certain extent, but the point was that their attitude towards the ruler grew and was accepted under the effect of such thought.92
Although this series of sayings was not directly related to the subject of determinism that was promoted and supported by the Umayyad, it was a consequence thereof and for reinforcing and strengthening it. Sayings to the effect that the divine will was carried out through the ruler’s commands and actions actually put the ruler in an invulnerable and un-criticizable position without the need to assume a religious position for him. Sayings to the effect that it was necessary to obey the ruler and prohibited to break allegiance with and rise up against him in fact served the same un-criticizable position.
The great Sunni jurisprudents, sayings scholars and theologians viewed the ruler from this same point of view and defined and evaluated the necessity of obeying him and the prohibition of opposing him and the limits of his powers on the same basis. The gist of their argument was that the ruler per se without considering who he is and how he took power and what he believed in and how he acts was legal and had to be obeyed because his presence and power was a reality and this is God’s wish as He realized it as a fact.93
Although there have been people among the outstanding jurisprudents, theologians and scholars whose views of the ruler was not so, i.e., for example, they defined certain conditions for him such as practicing the religion and justice, being brave, knowledge of politics, tactfulness, being from the Quraysh tribe and even ijtihad (religious expertise). However, firstly they were a minority and, secondly, they disappeared through time and their thought was consequently forgotten, as the Mu‘tazilites faded away and their thoughts and beliefs were overshadowed by the dogmatic beliefs of the Ash‘arites and their predecessors. This group of jurisprudents and theologians, like their fellow liberal thinkers, i.e. the Mu‘tazilites, shone for a while in the first centuries and in the flourishing period of rationalism of the Islamic civilization and then faded away for ever. The important thing is that their thoughts did not receive any attention either in their own time or in the following periods, and did not change into an independent jurisprudential and theological or possibly sociopolitical current and did not penetrate the structure of Sunni socio-religious thought. What ruled and created flows was the public thought that shaped Islam and is still active despite all changes and developments.
Suspensionist [irja’] Thought
Another factor in this regard was the thought that emerged from mid-Umayyad period and grew and extended rapidly, i.e. the thoughts of suspensionism [murajja’ah].94 Why this thought was created and extended is an independent question itself. However, what is certain is that the Umayyads welcomed it very much and worked hard to promote and exploit it.95
Suspensionism was in fact a reaction to the strict thought of the Rebels, who said that even the doers of minor sins were infidels and had to be killed. Such strictness resulted in a form of laxity, believing that one’s deeds do not harm one’s faith96 and that one cannot judge the good or bad personalities of individuals according to their behavior and deeds. What was important was the individual’s faith, but what he did neither mattered nor could one judge the individuals in this world based on that. This was some form of religious and doctrinal justification for any dissipation and breaking of the rules. Therefore, it was desirable to the reckless people, who constituted a vast portion in that time while it was consistent with the pre-Islamic ignorance heritage, which was still in place and had an unrivalled domination.97
One of the characteristics of the Ignorance period was the people’s hate of and escaping from any limit, law and rule. The Ignorance culture was a free culture that would not accept laws. More importantly, it was a culture of laxity and especially lechery. The conditions of those days required such a culture and the available evidence confirms this. Islam was in contradiction with this culture in all its aspects. Although Islam made important changes, the culture that had brought up its children according to its own characteristics and value system was too powerful, influential and lasting to retreat from its rival this soon, although it was not at the same time so strong as to deny it and rule again. However, it could wear the mask of religion and continue its life, and it did so.98
The lustful nature of the Arabs and their unwillingness to accept obligations and limitations, the vast facilities and endless wealth of the conquered lands, the beautiful female slaves and the large number of boy slaves,99 getting familiar with means of pleasure which had never been imaginable to Arabs, all together created conditions in which the people looked for a justification to resort to, which would reduce their internal pressures and the pressures of their conscience and would provide a religious way to take pleasure. The fact is that the willingness of the people to reckless pleasure at the time of the Umayyad was not weaker than that of the Umayyad themselves. As an example, see the book Al-Aghani.100
The ignorant nature, the strong psychological desire and the sociocultural conditions required the thought of suspensionism. Therefore, when it came to the fore, many of the people rushed towards it. This was indeed desirable to the Umayyads because of two reasons. Firstly, it was in harmony with their desires and whims and, when the people adopted a lecherous life and broke the religious and moral limits, then no one could criticize them for the same reasons. Secondly, the principle that one’s deeds do not affect one’s faith immunized them as they could resort to it to say that if the ruler or his governors, who were often more corrupt and reckless than themselves, practiced a corrupt life, drank wine and violated the limits, it did not matter. What mattered was the faith, which was not affected by the deeds. The deeds not only do not exclude him from the realm of the religion, but do not reduce his faith and spiritual position. They could thus disarm their critics before the public opinion as they said that one would lose their faith and piety by doing such things and would be disqualified for being a ruler.101
Nevertheless, this thought was supported and encouraged by the Umayyads and played an important role, at least during the Umayyad period, in legalizing the ruler, thus securing his position against any harm or criticism. As we have already said, there were also other factors involved, which we will not mention here.
59. Al-Imamah wa’s-Siyasah, vol. 1, p. 12. Anothr example is the words of Bashir ibn Sa‘d Ansari, who after hearing ‘Ali’s (‘a) speech on the Prophet’s (S) family to the effect that they were worthier of caliphate, said, “O’ ‘Ali, if the Helpers had heard this before pledging allegiance to Abu Bakr, they would have never disagreed with you.” Ibid., p. 12.
“If the caliph becomes corrupt, he will not be deposed. Hanafite jurisprudents have adopted this opinion. Justice is not a qualification for one to become caliph. A corrupt person can be caliph although this is not desirable.” ‘Abdu’l-Karim al-Buka’ says, “I saw ten of the Prophet’s Companions, all of whom said prayers while standing behind unjust imams.”, Ma‘alim al-Khilafah al-Islamiyyah, pp. 306-7.
60. It is one of the best examples of explicit criticism of Imam Husayn by an uncommitted tyrant-serving scholar of his time and rather all times. Tuhaf al-‘Uqul, pp. 171-2.
61. Min Usul al-Fikr as-Siyasi al-Islami, pp. 438-44.
62. Quoted from Al-Khilafah wa’l-Imamah by ‘Abdu’l-Karim al-Khatib, pp. 303.
63. Al-Islam wa Usul al-Hukm well analyzes this story, especially pp. 168-82.
64. Goldziher well explains the effects of the actions of the ‘Abbasids in forming the jurisprudential and theological and traditional structures of Muslims and in consolidating their position.
Goldziher, Muslim Studies, vol. 2, pp. 75-7.
65. Concerning the concept of causality and principally the rational life of Arabs, see Fajr al-Islam, pp. 30-49.
66. Fajr al-Islam, p. 39.
67. Ibid., quoted from Sirah ibn Hisham.
68. As-Sunnah an-Nabawiyyah bayn Ahli’l-‘Iqd wa Ahli’l-Hadith, p. 95. This book, wich is written by one of the greatest and best-known scholars, is one of the best examples showing the difference of perception in the interpretation of the writer and his fellow thinkers and supporters about Islam and the perception and interpretation of the early and Wahhabi scholars about this religion.
The book is more important from this point of view than from the point of view of its contents. In addition, the author tells the story of his argument with one of the Sa‘udi students about the prohibition or permission of music and about which types are prohibited while teaching at ‘Abdu’l-‘Aziz University in Mecca, “…then I told him seriously, ‘Islam is not a climatic religion that belongs to you or so that you are the only people to understand or interpret it. You have strict limited Bedouin jurisprudence and when you put this jurisprudent and Islam in the same place and introduce them as inseparable, you will reduce the value of Islam and make the people run away from it. This is a great injustice to the mission and way of Islam…’”, pp. 75-6.
69. Fajr al-Islam, pp. 41-2.
70. Ibid., p. 43, quoted from Al-Milal wa’n-Nihal by Shahrestani.
71. Concerning the strong effective influence of the Jewish and Christian clerics and especially those who converted to Islam, on the thoughts and beliefs of the early Muslims, see Al-Milal wa’n-Nihal, Subhani, pp. 71-96. Concerning Mu‘awiyah’s love of mythology and his supporting its promotion, see Murawwij adh-Dhahab, vol. 3, p. 39.
The fact is that the simplistic mind and culture of the early Arabs and the numerous questions that had been aroused in their minds with the coming of Islam and their contacts with the other tribes and nations, and their sensitive and inquiring nature along with the respect they had for the clerics of the Book People since the pre-Islamic Ignorance period, provided the ground in the best way for the influence of the clerics of the Book People on the Muslims.
When Ibn Khaldun talks about analyses of the Qur’an, he cleverly mentions and emphasizes this point, which we quote here completely because of its importance, “A narrative analysis is documented with the works and stories quoted by the early scholars, consisting of studying the abrogating and the abrogated and the reasons for revelation and the purposes of the verses. In order to know all of these, there is no way other than quoting from the Companions and the Followers. The earlier people have gathered complete collections in this respect.
However, their books and quotations consist of acceptable and unacceptable elements, since the Arab tribes were not People of the Books and knowledge. Rather, they had been overcome by Bedouin habits of illiteracy and, when they intended to learn about issues that are sought by human nature, such as the development of phenomena, the beginning of the creation and the mysteries of existence, they would ask those who had been People of the Books before them, which consisted of the believers in the Torah among the Jews and those of the Christians who followed their religion. The followers of the Torah lived among Arabs at that time and were Bedouins like them and were not aware of such subjects other than for what the People of the Books in general knew.
Most followers of the Torah were Humayranis that had converted to Judaism who, when converting to Islam, had the same knowledge and dependence on religious orders which were not to be cautiously considered, such as the beginning of the creation and what related to predictions and the like. This group consisted of the Ka‘b al-Ahbar, Wahab bin Munabbah, ‘Abdullah bin Salam and their likes. Therefore, analyses for such purposes became full of the stories and quotations that they knew while these were not among the issues that related to the precepts so as to make enquiries as to reaching proofs for practicing them.
And the analysts were negligent about them and filled analysis books with such stories while the roots of these, as we mentioned, are the Bedouin Torah followers, and what they quote is not based on research and awareness. Nevertheless, the entire members of the group became well-known and attained a high rank both in the religion and in the Muslim nation. Therefore, their quotations were accepted in those days…” Ibn Khaldun, Introduction, Persian translation, vol. 2, pp. 891-2, and especially Goldziher, Muslim Studies, vol. 2, pp. 152-9.
72. For instance, when some of the Prophet’s (S) Companions asked what do you talk about when you get together, they replied, “We read poems and recount stories of the pre-Islamic Ignorance period.” Fajr al-Islam, p. 95. This indicated now strongly the early Muslims liked their pre-Islamic Ignorance heritage. Many similar examples can be provided.
73. To find examples in this regard, see Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Kitab as-Sunnah, p. 143. This is an example, “‘Amru ibn Muhammad recounts, ‘I was with Salim bin ‘Abdullah when a man came to ask, ‘Is it fate to comit adultery?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ The man asked, ‘Will I be punished for it?’ He threw him a grit.’”, As-Sunnah, p. 143.
74. In his various sermons, Imam ‘Ali mentions the very hard biological and living conditions of the Ignorant Arabs. For example, see Imam’s sermon in which after the selection of ‘Uthman, as quoted by Kanz al-‘Ummal, vol. 5, p. 718, he considers Arabs to be the poorest people in terms of living conditions and the way they dressed. Also see another sermon of the Imam, in which he points this out; Al-Gharat, 1, p. 302.
75. The religion of determinism was formed in the time of Mu‘awiyah and caliphs of Bani Marwan. Bab Dhikr al-Mu‘tazilah on determinism of the Umayyads and their poetry, see Al-Umawiyyun wa’l-Khilafah, pp. 27-47.
76. One of the best people to describe this movement is ‘Abdu’r-Razzaq, “The Muslims in general and the Islamic clerics generally believe that the caliph gets his government and power from God. In the following phrases, you will see that they have defined the caliph as God’s shadow and Mansur thinks that he was God’s sultan on the earth. This theory was expressed by clerics and poets since the early centuries. They believed that it is constantly God who selects the caliph and gives him caliphate… so much so that they sometimes put the caliph in a position along God’s or close to His, like the poet of this poem, ‘What you want rather than what the fate wants will happen. Rule as if you are the only almighty…’”, Al-Islam wa Usul al-Hukm, pp. 117-8. Also pp. 113-20, especially see the very good argument of Hasan Hanafi in this respect in Min al-‘Aqidah ila’th-Thawrah, vol. 1, pp. 21-9.
77. ‘Uyun al-Akhbar, vol. 2, p. 247.
78. Aghrad as-Siyasah fi I‘rad ar-Riyasah, p. 271.
79. Nazariyyat al-Imamah, p. 334.
80. Concerning that the Mu‘tazilites consider Hasan Basri as one of their own, see Ahmad bin Yahya bin Murtada, Bab Dhikr al-Mu‘tazilah, pp. 12-15. Concerning his letters to ‘Abdu’l-Malik and Hajjaj, see Ibid., pp. 12-14, and also Al-Umawiyyun wa’l-Khilafah, p. 36.
81. Concerning Hasan Basri’s critique of Mu‘awiyah, see Tabaqat by ibn Sa‘d, 1, p. 119.
82. For his discouraging the people from fighting Hajjaj and his argument, see Ash-Shi‘ah wa’l-Ḥakimun, p. 26.
83. Concerning his description of Hajjaj, see Al-A’immah al-Arba‘ah, 1, p. 257.
84. The elaborate account of the story can be found in ‘Abdu’r-Razzaq Muqrim, Maqtal al-Husayn, pp. 422-3, and Muntahi al-Amal, lithography, vol. 1, p. 362.
85. The elaborate account of the story can be found in Maqtal al-Husain, p. 452, and Muntahi al-Amal, vol. 1, p. 357.
86. Al-Imamah wa’s-Siyasah, vol. 1, p. 203.
87. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 191.
88. Tarikh-e Tabari, 5, p. 220.
89. Al-Umawiyyun wa’l-Khilafah, pp. 26-8.
90. Kanz al-‘Ummal, 6, pp. 4-89.
91. Ibid., pp. 39-47.
92. In the Umayyad period, other than through the Infallible Imams and the Shi‘ites, there was scattered opposition to the blind crippling determinism of those days, generally by independent freethinkers who opposed the ruling system ideologically because of intellectual, political and religious reasons. Ghaylan Damashqi, who, along with two of his fellow thinkers, was later killed by Hisham, is among such people. For more examples, especially see Bab Dhikr al-Mu‘tazilah, pp. 5-23.
“Ghaylan criticized the Umayyad very much because he did not accept their view of the caliphate. He stood against their oppression and opposed them openly because of their opposition to the Book and the Tradition. He would talk about their appointing corrupt people in top positions and their agents treating the people unjustly. It is well known that Hisham ordered his murder and he was cut to bits because he had not accepted that Hisham was God’s caliph and had resisted his possession of the Muslims’ properties, calling the people of Armenia to make a revolution against him”; Al-Umawiyyun wa’l-Khilafah, p. 176.
Concerning Ghaylan and his personality, thoughts, actions and end, see Al-Milal wa’n-Nihal, p. 127, especially Bab Dhikr al-Mu‘tazilah, pp. 15-17, which provides an account of his brave protest to the lavish spendings by the Umayyads, “He asked ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdu’l-‘Aziz to put him in charge of selling the treasury to compensate for any injustice, and he did so. He put the wealth in anauction, including a pair of furry socks worth 30,000 dirhms. He shouted, “Who is there to say these are the imams for guiding while, with this much wealth, people still starve to death?”, Ibid., p. 16.
Interestingly, Ghaylan was subject of much attention in his own time as well. It is well-known that Hasan Basri, when seeing him during a hajj ceremony, said about him, “Do you see this person? I swear by God he is the sign of God for you the people of Syria.” Bab Dhikr al-Mu‘tazilah, p. 15.
93. For example, see the views of Ibn Hanbal in this regard, Al-A’immah al-Arba‘ah, vol. 4, pp. 119-20, and also Ibn Jawzi, Manaqib al-Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, especially pp. 429-62.
94. Postponing/suspending judgment on whether someone is a believer or not [translator].
95. The suspensionists say, “If a person has faith, sin does not harm him as if someone is an infidel, his obedience will not make him profit. Some of their sects believed that faith consists of knowledge of God and humbleness towards Him, that kindness is in the heart and, if somebody has these attributes, he is a faithful person and will not be harmed by abandoning the religious duties and committing sins and will not be punished for the same.” Al-Fikr as-Siyasi ash-Shi‘i, p. 61, quoted from part 8 of Sharh Mawaqif.
96. Concerning the Heretics (Zandiqs) and the licentious, see Husayn ‘Atwan, Al-Zandaqah wa’sh-Shu‘ubiyyah fi’l-‘Asr al-‘Abbasi al-Awwal.
97. For further information on the suspensionists and the sociocultural background in which they appeared, see An-Nazm al-Islamiyyah, pp. 143-9 and Fajr al-Islam, pp. 279-82. To find sayings blaming them and the fatalists, see Ahmad ibn Hanbal, As-Sunnah.
98. Regarding the cultural characteristics of the pre-Islamic Ignorant culture, see Fajr al-Islam, pp. 1-66, and, best of all, Mu‘allaqat Saba‘, translated by ‘Abdu’l-Muhammad Ayati, especially pp. 11-21.
99. A man from among the children of the Immigrants said, “The sons of these non-Arabs are as if they have dug a tunnel out of the paradise while our children are like the blackened firewood of furnaces.” ‘Uyun al-Akhbar, vol. 4, p. 40.
100. Other than the book Al-Aghani, for example see Abu Nawas’s Divan. The strange thing is that music was so common in Medina that the Kufis said sarcastically about them, “Jurisprudence has to be learned in Kufah with the Hanafites. Medina is the city of music.”
For example, refer to the syllabic poems of the Kufis. Al-A’immah al-Arba‘ah, pp. 2, 9-10. Indeed, music was promoted in Mecca and Medina in Yazid’s time. Fajr al-Islam, p. 81. Interestingly, one like Barbahari, who is a great Hanbalite and, therefore, emotionally attached to Mecca and Medina, thus quotes from ‘Abdullah ibn Mubarak and advises others to do this, “Do not take anything of heresy from the Kufis, of bullying from Syrians, of fatalism from Basris, of suspensionism from Khurasanians, of grammar from Meccans and of music from Medinans.” Then, he adds, “Do not take these from them.” Tabaqat al-Hanabilah, p. 7.
101. The fact is that the corruption of the Umayyads and their governors was so extensive that they could not continue their rule by resorting to ways that could acceptably acquit and justify them and their actions—such as suspensionism. We provide two examples here.
Yazid ibn ‘Abdu’l-Malik, the son of Yazid ibn Mu‘awiyah’s daughter, and the successor of ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdu’l-‘Aziz, was a very lecherous and capricious person. He had two female servants by the names of Habbabah and Salamah, whom he loved very much. First Salamah and after that, which is said to be 17 days afterwards, Habbabah died. Yet, Yazid did not bury Habbabah for a few days. The others blamed him and he finally buried her. But after a while he exhumed her to see her again. Ma’athir al-Inaqah fi Ma‘alim al-Khilafah, pp. 145-6.
The author of Al-Aghani recounts that Harith bin Khalid Makhzumi was appointed by ‘Abdullah ibn Marwan as governor of Mecca. Harith loved ‘A’ishah, Talhah’s daughter. ‘A’ishah sent a message to Harith for him to delay the prayer until she finished a ritual circumambulation. Harith ordered the muezzins to delay the prayer until ‘A’ishah finished circumambulation. The hajj pilgrims took this as an unacceptable move until ‘Abdullah deposed him. Fajr al-Islam, p. 82, quoted from Aghani, 3, p. 103. See also the vivid description of Abu Hamzah Khariji about Yazid ibn ‘Abdu’l-Malik in a sermon of his in Mecca. He gives an account of his corrupt personality, lechery and lavish spendings and his adventures with Habbabah and Salamah. Al-Bayan wa’t-Tabyin, vol. 2, p. 101.
The al-Aghani’s report of the corruption of the Umayyad and ‘Abbasid caliphs is so disgraceful that Sunni fanatics have denied the book and the claims of its author. From among the predecessors, see Al-‘Awasim min al-Qawasim, pp. 49-251, and, from among the contemporaries, see Mu’allifat fi’l-Mizan, pp. 100-3.