This book is the English translation of the Jurji Zaydan's Arabic text. It is a significant study for those who cannot read Arabic. Containing only three chapters it presents the history of Islamic civilization between Umayyads and Abbasids period in detail.
The prosperous condition of Egypt, due to the British occupation and Lord CROMER'S statesmanlike administration. has led to a renaissance of Arabic literature and learning in that country, surpassing all that might have been imagined. Societies formed for the encouragement of Arabic literature are constantly bringing to light important texts bearing on Mohammedan history, antiquities, and religion; and a whole series of magazines and reviews, such as the Muktataf, the Hilal, the Muktabis, the Manar, the Muhit, the Diya, and others, while providing lighter entertainment for the educated in Egypt, also devote some of their pages to the study of works which interest European Orientalists, The results and the methods of the latter are steadily making way among native scholars, to many of whom treatises in English, French, and Italian are accessible, while a smaller number have taken the trouble to familiarize themselves with German and Latin. Should the projected Cairene University be ultimately established, the admission of Egypt into the international republic of learning will be an accomplished fact.
The author of the present work, Mr. G. ZAIDAN, a Syrian by birth, but for many years resident in Cairo, where he edits the monthly magazine Hilal which has already been mentioned, is one of those Orientals who have taken pains to acquaint themselves with the works of European scholars. His" History of Islamic Civilization,', has received favourable notice from the doyen of our studies, Professor M. DE GOE]E, of Leyden, and other Orientalists of eminence have in letters to him or elsewhere expressed their approval of it, and their belief that it might with advantage be rendered accessible to those who cannot read Arabic. These opinions justified the present writer in gratifying the wish of the author that the former should at any rate for part of the work-undertake the task of translation: a service which on the ground of personal friendship the author had the right to demand. Should the part selected meet with a favourable reception, translators will easily be found for the remainder. The Gibb Trustees, by signifying their willingness to let the book appear among their publications, have both solved all difficulties connected with the printing and given it otherwise a favourable start.
The translator has endeavoured throughout to give a faithful rendering of the text before him,' and must not be held responsible for either the statements or the opinions expressed therein.
First Arabian Period
We mean by this time the period during which the Islamic empire was in the hands of the Arabs, its policy Arabian, and its generals and governors Arabs, the Arabic element having the predominance. This period extends from the commencement of Islam to the end of the Umayyad dynasty; and it is divided into two portions, the dynasty of the Pious Caliphs and the dynasty of the Umayyads. Each of the two had its own political principles and methods of government, as will be explained. By way of introduction we must give a statement of the condition of the Arabs before Islam, so far as concerns our present subject.
1. Bedouins and Townsfolk.
The life of the Bedouin has for its basis either agriculture or the rearing of animals, The Bedouin cultivator is compelled to stay in the same place, as he must wait for his crop. Such persons formed the population of hamlets, villages, and mountains; there were no large number of them in the deserts of Arabia; it is only in the Berber country, in North Africa, that they abound, as well as in the 'neighbourhood of the large towns in Egypt, Syria, Persia, and elsewhere. The Bedouins, on the other hand, who rear animals are accustomed to migrate in search of forage and water for their beasts Of these there are two classes: the cattle-rearers, who look after sheep and cattle, and go no long distance into the desert, owing to the want of good pasturage, sometimes called sheepmen ; examples are the: Berbers in North Africa, the Turks, their relations the Turcomans, the Sakalibah, and others who inhabit the deserts of Turkestan, Khorasan, etc.
The other sort, the camel-rearers, are chiefly represented by the Bedouins of Arabia, and they wander more and go further into the desert than the cattle-rearers, because the pastures, plants, and trees of the hills are not sufficient to maintain the life of the camel, which requires to feed on the desert trees, and to drink brackish water, and to wander in winter-time about the desert, in order to keep warm: the desert sand being required by this creature for dropping its young, since no other creature suffers more at that period, or requires more warmth. Hence the camel-rearing Bedouin is compelled to wander far into the desert, and bears to the townsfolk the relation of a wild and untameable beast to a tame one; so averse are these folks to society, and so isolated are they in their deserts, and so ready to defend themselves. They always carry arms, look about on the roads, sleep only in snatches, where they sit, or on their saddles or frames. They isolate themselves in the wilderness, relying on their bravery, which becomes part of their character; and indeed the further a Bedouin ventures into the desert the more courageous and hardy does he become.
The chief population of Arabia are nomad Bedouins, and hence cities were few in the peninsula, especially in the interior. The most famous Arabian cities before Islam were Meccah, Medinah, and Ta'if in the Hijaz, and Ma'rib and San'a in Yemen. The inhabitants were a mixture of Arabs, Persians, Jews, etc., who made their living by trading with their Bedouin visitors.
2. Arab Patriotism before Islam.
Patriotism is a necessary characteristic of Bedouin peoples such as were the Arabs. Mankind are naturally greedy, and inclined to quarrels and disputes; these in towns are settled by judges and rulers, who prevent mutual injury, and also avert the attacks of external enemies by walls, armies, and munitions of war; but the Bedouins have to submit to the judgment of sheikhs and chieftains, whose authority rests on the respect felt for them in the tribe or clan; and indeed reverence for age is a Bedouin characteristic. When an enemy attacks from outside, the settlement is defended by the young and brave, who, however, will only do their duty if nerved by patriotism.
The inhabitants of any country or republic must have some bond capable of uniting the individuals; and the nature of such bond varies with the circumstances of the nation. In some cases the bond is the land, in others a religion, in others pedigree or language; now the Bedouins, as we have seen, have no land, and before Islam they had no common religion; hence there was nothing to keep them together except pedigree or language, both of which hang together, especially among the Bedouins.'
The chief causes of patriotism among them were the relations of brotherhood, parentage, and avunculate. Out of persons in this relation to each other was composed the family, and from the families the clan, e.g. that of Abu Talib or 'Abbas ; each of these being a unit composed of a number of families, and each of them belonging to the Banu Hashirn. Of a number of clans was composed the fakhidh, e.g. the Banu Hashim and Banu Umayyah both belonged to the Banu 'Abd Manaf ; a number of fakhidhs went to a batn, e.g. the Banu 'Abd Manaf and the Banu Makhzum were included in the batn Kuraish ; a number of batns went to an 'imarah, e.g. Kuraish and Kinanah were both included in Mudar. A number of 'imarahs went to a kabilah, e.g. Rabi'ah and Mudar were both included in 'Adnan. A number of kabilahs were included in a" sha'b, which represents the extreme end of the pedigree, e g. that in which both 'Adnan and Kahtan were included.
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