The Comman of the Faithful in Al Andalus a Study in the Articulation of Caliphal Legitimacy

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The Command of the Faithful in al-Andalus: A Study in the Articulation of Caliphal Legitimacy Author(s): Janina Safran Reviewed work(s): Source: International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 30, No. 2 (May, 1998), pp. 183-198 Published by: Cambridge University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/164699 . Accessed: 06/12/2011 04:18 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/t
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  The Command of the Faithful in al-Andalus: A Study in the Articulation of CaliphalLegitimacyAuthor(s): Janina SafranReviewed work(s):Source: International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 30, No. 2 (May, 1998), pp. 183-198Published by: Cambridge University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/164699. Accessed: 06/12/2011 04:18 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jspJSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. Cambridge University Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to  International Journal of Middle East Studies. http://www.jstor.org  Int.J.MiddleEast Stud. 30(1998),183-198.Printedinthe UnitedStatesofAmerica JaninaSafran THECOMMANDOFTHEFAITHFUL INAL-ANDALUS:ASTUDY INTHEARTICULATIONOF CALIPHALLEGITIMACY In929,theeighthUmayyadruler ofal-Andalus,'Abdal-RahmanIII(r. 912-61),formallyassumed the exclusivecaliphal prerogativesofkhutba and sikka.1 Afternearlytwocenturiesofindependent Umayyadrule inthe Iberianpeninsula,'Abdal-RahmanIIIissuedacirculartohisgovernorsdirectingthem toaddresshimforth-withasamiral-mu'minin,orCommander oftheFaithful,andto ensurethat thekhutba,orFridaysermon,ineverycongregational mosqueinvoked his name withthisdesignation.2With this hereclaimedtheUmayyad dynasty'srightstothecaliphaltitle: Wehaveunderstoodthat tocontinue nottouse thistitle,whichis incumbentuponus,is to allowoneofourrightstodecayand afirmdesignationto becomelost. 3Later the sameyear,he established a mintinCordoba and ordered the strik-ingofgolddinars inhisname(sikka),resumingthemintingofgoldcoins inal-Andalus,whichhadbeensuspendedsince the overthrowoftheUmayyad caliphateinSyria.4CAbdl-Rahman III'ssymbolicactionsposedachallengeto thelegitimacyoftheAbbasid and Fatimidcaliphatesasheassertedhisowndistinctive claims tothelead-ershipof the Muslims: Anyoneelse whousesthetitle[ofamiral-mu'minin]isanimposterwhoappropriateswhat isnotrightlyhis. 5From the remove of centu-ries,CAbdal-Rahman III's wordsringoffalsebravado,giventhat theAndalusi-Umayyadcaliphatelastedless than acenturyandencompassedalimited territorialextent. In thisperspective,theAndalusi-Umayyadcaliphateappearsapettyrival tothe Abbasid andFatimidcaliphates.YetCAbdl-Rahman III's assertion ofhislead-ershipof theMuslims warrantsnvestigationas acasestudyin thearticulation ofclaimstocaliphal legitimacyinthecaliphalage.HowdidCAbdl-RahmanIIIjus-tifyhisrightto the title andauthorityofCommanderof theFaithful?Thisarticleinvestigatesthe terms in whichCAbdal-RahmanIIIarticulated hiscaliphal legitimacyin historicalcontext.CAbdl-RahmanIIIdeclared himselfCom-mander of theFaithfulwith arecordofmajorsuccessesinal-Andalus behindhim,at a time when theShiciFatimidswerechallengingthelegitimacyandauthorityofthe SunniAbbasidsaggressivelyand,fromtheirbaseinNorthAfrica,threateningthesecurityof hisownrule. Overthe courseof hislong reign,CAbdl-RahmanIII Janina SafranisAssistantProfessor,DepartmentofHistory, PennsylvaniaStateUniversity,UniversityPark,Penn.16802-5500,U.S.A.?1998Cambridge UniversityPress 0020-7438/98$9.50  184JaninaSafran defined hisrulershipandrepresentedhis achievements andambitions in termsthathad universalresonance,addressinghese historicalcircumstances.This served to re-inforce and adddignityto the rule ofhisdynastyinal-Andalusandpromotealli-ances in NorthAfricaagainsttheFatimids.Because CAbdal-Rahman IIIexpressedhisauthorityinuniversalterms,thein-vestigation beginswith a closer look at the external context thatinformedhisclaimsto thecaliphateand examines the articulation of hislegitimacyabroad,primarilythroughhiscorrespondencewith North African Berber chiefs.6The article then ex-amines his definition ofcaliphalauthorityathome,discussingthesrcinalcircum-stancesof hisself-designationas Commanderof the Faithful andthe terms he usedtosupporthislegitimacythere.Next,the articleexploreshowCAbdl-Rahman III'sarticulationof hisauthorityspoketo the two arenassimultaneouslyand thedynamiche created between the local context of his rule and the wider context of hisaspira-tions. Theanalysiswilldemonstrate howCAbdl-RahmanIIIdevelopedapersua-sive case for hiscaliphal legitimacythat transcended hepracticallimitationsof hisrule,andhow hesubstantiatedhisadoptionofcaliphalinsigniainthe definition andexerciseof hisCommand of theFaithful. TheconcludingdiscussionwillconsiderCAbdal-RahmanIII'scaliphatefrom a more theoreticalperspective,as acaliphateamong caliphates,exploringfurther how the articulation of hisauthorityfollowedhistoricalprecedentsand conventions butclearly distinguishedhis rule asuniquelylegitimate.Thegeneralhistorical context in which'Abd al-RahmanIIImade his bidtothecaliphatewasessentiallydefinedbythegrowing powerofthe Ismaili Shici Fati-mids andtheapparentweaknessoftheAbbasidcaliphate.TheFatimidsemergedinNorthAfrica at thebeginningof the 10thcenturyand,with themightof the KutamaBerbers,conqueredIfriqiyafromtheAghlabids,adynastyofindependent governorswhoformally recognizedAbbasidsuzerainty.In910,the man who called himselfCAbdAllah AbuMuhammad declaredhimselfCommander of the Faithful and al-Mahdi Billah(theImamRightlyGuidedbyGod)and had the khutbasaid in hisnameinthe formerAghlabid capitalofRaqqadaandinQayrawan.7The Fatimidmovement(da'wa)andnewlyfoundedpolitywereexpansionary; bythenextyear,al-Mahdi(r.909-34)wasorganizingcampaignseastward,intendingtheconquestofEgyptandperhaps aspiringto theconquestofBaghdadand evenConstantinople,infulfillment of thepropheciesaboutthe arrivalof themessianicfigureofthe Mahdithathadbeencirculating amongShicisat least sincethe9thcentury.8At the sametime,the Fatimidcaliph keptavigilanteyeon the westernfringesof his domain andsent his armies tosuppressrebellion and the encroachmentof hostile tribes.The Fatimidsposeda threattoUmayyadrule in theirgrowing strengthinNorthAfrica andtheir secretmissionaryactivitiesinal-Andalus.9In917,inresponseto anappealforhelp,'Abdal-RahmanIII became involvedinNorth Africa insupportofBerber alliesresistant to Fatimidrule,sendinggenerousgiftsandsuppliesandmil-itaryand navalsupport.His involvement intensified after he becameCommanderof the Faithful andsecured theallegianceof the Zanata chief MuhammadibnKhazar and his brothers andson. Other allies soonfollowed,includingtheMiknasachief Musa ibn Abial-cAfiya,former FatimidgovernorofFez,extendingCAbdl-Rahman III'ssuzeraintyover the farwesternMaghrib.10n931 his forcesoccupiedthestrategicportofCeuta,whichopenedthewayto furtherexpansion.In his cor-  The CommandoftheFaithfulin al-Andalus185respondencewith the Berberchieftains,theAndalusi-Umayyadcaliphdeclared hisintentions toextend his rule across NorthAfricaandbeyondto theholycities,Egypt,Syria,and farthereast,challengingthe similarambitionsof hisFatimid ri-vals,and his allies communicated their shared commitment to thepropagationof hisauthoritytothe east and thewest,over desert andplain,land andsea,even tothe farthest endsofIraq. Wecan seehow 'Abdal-RahmanIIIdefinedhimself ascaliphin thewaysinwhichherepresentedhisauthorityandjustifiedhisambitions tohisBerber allies.12 Hepresentedhimself as the defenderof thetrue faithagainstdeviance,of thereligionoftheProphet againstfalseprophecy,ofthe sunnaagainsthereticalinnovation,andof theQur'anagainstcorruption,while hiscorrespondentsaddressedhim in the sameterms,describingtheirdedication tocombattingthe traitor of thefaith,thegreatimposter,andeliminatinghisfactionoferror(al-dalala)andunbelief(al-kufr).'3Defense ofthefaithmeant activeengagementwith,andpursuitof,theenemy.AsCAbdl-RahmanIIIwrote,conquestand the extension ofhissovereigntywerepartofhis divinemissiontopurifythe faith of allcorruptionsandbringabout the revivalofthereligion(ihyd'al-din).'4Echoingandappropriatinghe messianicpropagandaof his Fatimidrivals,hesuggestedthathis role in this missionwasanticipatedbythewell-knownsigns(al-athdral-mashhiura)and oft-mentioned traditions(al-riwdydtal-madhkiira),and thathis sense ofdestiny guidedhimin hisexpansionaryefforts.'5In hismissionagainsttheFatimids,thecaliphpresentedhimselfasupholderofthe one truefaith,andinthis sensehedefined thewayto salvation. Thecorrespon-dence betweenthecaliphand his alliesclearlyassociatedrecognitionof 'Abdal-Rahman III'slegitimacywiththestraightpathand refusal todoso asdeviation.Inapassagein alettertoMusa ibnAbial-'Afiya,urginghimtocallthepeopletoobediencetotheCommanderof theFaithful,'Abdal-Rahman IIIidentified himselfas theOneWhoUpholdstheTruth,heChampionof theReligionofGod(al-Qa'imbil-Haqq,al-Nasir li-DinAllah).'Abd al-RahmanIII'scaliphal laqab,orregnalhon-orific,al-Nasirli-DinAllah,is herecoupledwith alaqabthat recalls that of theFatimidheir-designate,al-Qa'imbi-AmrAllah,with itseschatologicalconnotationoftheone whowillusherintheqiydma,ordayofresurrection.16 nappropriatinghisrival'sname,'Abd al-Rahman IIIintimated thathe,nottheFatimid,wasGod'scho-senleader of the Muslims andthathe,not theFatimid,was thelong-awaitedQa'imwhowould restore them tothefaith aftertheyhadfallen intoerror.Thismeant,infact,defeatingtheimposterand hismisguidedfollowers andrestoringthe commu-nitytothe traditionalinterpretationofthe faith. Inhisletter,'Abd al-Rahman IIIelaborated that he was the onewho sustainedtherightpath(hudan)oftherightlyguidedcaliphs;the onewhodenied all innovation(bidca),extripatedall errordalala),andclarifiedalldoubts(shubha).To followhimwasto followtheright path;toobeyhimwas topleaseGod.Onlysomeonewhoseparatedfromthe truth would turnawayorrefuse.17'Abdal-RahmanIII staked his claim tobeChampionof theReligionof God on thetraditionalauthorityof the fourrightly guidedcaliphswho succeeded theProphet,andof theUmayyad dynastywhosecaliphateheclaimed to restore. Asthe 1Ith-centuryhistorian IbnHayyanrecords,'Abd al-Rahman III wrotetothe Berber chieftainsacross the straitsof Gibraltarremindingthemoftheir historicloyaltyto theUmay-yaddynastyandreceived,inresponse,recognitionthat theUmayyadshad introduced
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