622 AD-present

ʾIqraʾ bismi Rabbika.
Recite! In the name of your Lord!

ʾal-Qurʾān, Sūrah 96, Verse 1

Not long afterwards King Ðū al-Makān became, as every creature must, dust within the Hand which created him, and it was as if he had never been. For time reaps all and does not remember; therefore let him who would know the fate which will befall his name in time to come, guard the fame of those who have passed before him into the room of death.

"The Tale of King Umar al-Numān," The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night, rendered into English from the Literal and Complete French Translation of Dr. J.C. Mardrus, by Powys Mathers, Volume I, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1964, 1972, 1986, pp.552-553; diacritic added to "Ðū al-Makān," , "Belongs to the Place."

Wanaḥnu ʾaqrabu ʾilayhi min ḥabli-l-warīdi.
We are nearer to him than the jugular vein.

ʾal-Qurʾān, Sūrah 50, Verse 16

Waman yuḍlili llāhu famā lahu min hādin.
And whom God leads astray, there is for him no right guide.

ʾal-Qurʾān, Sūrah 39, Verse 23

ʾIslām, , is the religion founded by the Prophet Muḥammad. The word is sometimes said to mean "peace," but it is salām, , that is the word for peace. ʾIslām means "submission, resignation," i.e. to the will of God. Both are from the same root, slm, , "to be safe and sound, unharmed," and many other meanings. This is related to Hebrew , shalôm, "peace," and the Ancient Egyptian root snb, "health."

The , Dāru-l-ʾIslām, the "House of ʾIslām," means the predominantly Islāmic part of the world, especially or particularly the part covered by Islāmic states. Outside the Dāru-l-ʾIslām is the , Dāru-l-Kufr, the "House of Unbelief," or, more to the point, the , Dāru-l-Ḥarb, the "House of War." An "unbeliever" (literally the participle "unbelieving") is a , Kāfir (regular plural , Kāfirūn, irregular or "broken" plural , Kuffār, and others).
GenderMas. Fem.
the endings here curiously shift between masculine and feminine
It was the traditional duty of Islāmic rulers to extend the House of ʾIslām into the House of War; and accusations of complacency or laxness could result in changes of regime, as when the Almohads replaced the Almoravids in North Africa.

This expansion of the Dāru-lʾIslām was the Jihād, , the Holy War. Someone who does the Jihād is a Mujāhid, (pl. Mujāhidūn, ). Jihād is now often said not to mean, or not primarily to mean, Holy War but merely a moral and spiritual "struggle" for perfection. The root (jhd, ), indeed, does mean "to endeavor, struggle," etc., but also "to fight." Different derivatives of the root, as with slm, are used for different purposes. ʾIjtihād, , is from the same root and can also mean "struggle," but it is mainly used to mean "independent interpretation" on a point of Islāmic Law, i.e. independent of legal precedent (following precedent is taqlīd, ).

It is no distortion of Jihād to say that it means "Holy War." Indeed, in the Middle Ages it was an important question whether ʾIslām could be properly practiced in a non-Muslim state. Even though ʾIslām was supposed to tolerate "People of the Book," which originally meant Jews and Christians but in practice came to include, unevenly, Zoroastrians and even Hindus (until ʾAurangzeb), this was only in a subordinate position (dhimma, , the status of the dhimmī, , the tolerated non-believer) -- Muslims being "tolerated" in a non-Muslim state was against the divine order. Non-believers paid the poll tax, the , jizyah, which could be translated "tribute," "punishment," or "compensation." Muslims, in turn paid the , zakāh (or "zakat"), "purity," "honesty," etc. -- the alms tax, regarded by some as voluntary (one of the five "Pillars of ʾIslām") but generally the principal tax of an Islāmic realm. See ʾIbn Khaldūn on taxes.

At the same time, "toleration" for Christians and Jews did not always mean what we might expect. Churches could be razed or turned into mosques (as Santa Sophia has just been made a mosque again), and Christians tortured to force conversions, or children taken from their parents -- these have been repeated practices by historical Islāmic regimes in Egypt, Spain, Russia, and elswhere. The Caliph ʾUmar II, reputed for piety, began killing Christians who would not convert after the failure of his siege of Constantinople in 718. Humiliating requirements, for dress, housing, etc., were typtically imposed on Christians and Jews. Today, mobs in Pakistan attack Christians and their institutions on the slightest hint of "blasphemy" or "insults" to ʾIslām, anywhere in the world. How this can play out is examined below under "Islamophobia." Christians now steadily flee the Islāmic world, as Jews have mostly done already (with the refuge of Israel). It is not surprising that Pakistan, long ostensibly an American ally, seems to rate as the most anti-American country in the world, and has long been suspecting of tolerating, harboring, and even sponsoring terrorists.

إِنَّمَا ٱلْمَسِيحُ عِيسَى ٱبْنُ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولُ ٱللهِ وَكَلِمَتُهُ
أَلْقَٮٰهَآ إِلَىٰ مَرْيَمَ وَرُوحٌ مِّنْهُ

Indeed, the Messiah [מָשִׁיחַ, Māšîaḫ; Μεσσίας], Jesus the son of Mary, was a messenger of Allāh and His Word [Λόγος], which He directed to Mary, and a Spirit [Πνεῦμα] from Him.

ʾal-Qurʾān, Sūrah 4, Verse 171. Some web-browsers, like Chrome and Firefox, seem to automatically insert a shadda and a dagger alif into ʾAllāh. For some, like Firefox, entering the code for the appropriate diacritics overrides the automatic insert. For others, like Chrome, this does not override any other coding but kicks any entered diacritics onto the following ha. But for Qurʾān 4:171, the dagger alif is not used.

Thus, in Firefox, أَللَّه appears correctly; but in Chrome we see an inappropriate dagger alif with the proper diacrtics kicked back over the ha. Here I have allowed Firefox to insert the inappropriate diacritics in the text so that there will not be the weird effect in Chrome. Usually, the dagger alif is OK, but not at 4:171

Apologetics for Jihād

The treatment of Jihād in public discourse does not always seem honest. Thus, the former History International cable channel (then "H2," 2011 through 2016, now "Viceland") aired a show (12/10/08) called "Secrets of the Koran." This was copyrighted 2006 and so was a repeat showing. The show explained the ideology of Jihād as the direct result of the Crusades, to which it was a reaction, and otherwise positively affirmed that Muslims are only supposed to use force in self-defense. But to suppose such a thing with any kind of superficial consistency, major events in Islamic history were then ignored or glossed over. The Crusades were themselves a reaction to the Jihād.

The Omayyad Caliphs were never even mentioned during the show, and the original Islamic conquest of Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Iran, and Egypt, although visible on maps, was discussed in no detail and often only characterized as "spreading the Word of ʾIslām." This was a grave distortion of the facts of the original Islamic Conquest, which consisted not only of violent invasions but was not even intended to "spread the Word" or obtain converts at all. ʾIslām was initially viewed as a religion just for Arabs. The earliest non-Arab coverts had to become affiliated with an Arab tribe, and their status was subordinate. Equality for all Muslims was, in general, the achievement of the Abbasid Revolution. The Islamic Conquest was therefore in the name of ʾIslām, but its purpose was simply domination.

Most terrible evils has Romania suffered from the Arabs even until now.

Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (d.959) quoting The Chronicle of Theophanes (c.815) [De Administrando Imperio, Greek text edited by Gy. Moravcsik, Dumbarton Oaks Texts, 1967, 2008, p.94]

Later, the show mentioned that the Crusades were elicited by an appeal from the Roman/Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus, and that this had something to do with the Turks. Exactly what the Turks had been doing, however, was glossed over nearly as completely as the history of the Omayyads, and one might have derived the impression that Turkey had always been in Anatolia (they are not shown coming from anywhere else). That the advent of the Turks represented a major surge in Islamic Conquest was not made obvious; and the viewer of the show might notice a hiatus between fending off the Crusaders and the Ottoman Turks arriving at the gates of Vienna. In between, of course, there were rather serious events like the Fall of Constantinople, which get ignored.

Obviously, if the ideology of Jihād only exists because of the aggression of the Crusaders, and war in ʾIslām is only supposed to be used for defense, things like the Arab Conquest of the Middle East or the Turkish Conquest of Romania and Hungary are going to be somewhat awkward to explain. Hence the dishonesty. Just don't explain them. It is as though Egyptians, Syrians, etc., on hearing the Word, spontaneously converted to ʾIslām, with Christian counter-attacks constituting, in modern leftist terminology, "Imperialist Aggression." No, the only thing about any Imperium that is really resented is that the wrong people possessed it. "Secrets of the Koran," thus, unfortunately, constituted a dishonest apologetic, not truly informative history.

Islāmic rulers engaged in Jihād were not secular rulers in the modern sense, but neither were Mediaeval Christian rulers. In some ways Islāmic rulers seem more secular than Christian ones, since their military origin was usually recent and conspicuous (the Mamlūks are the most obvious), while Christian rulers (like the Kings of France) might claim authority directly from God. More important were other differences. European states had a legal tradition from Roman Law that was originally independent of Christianity, while ʾIslām had developed its own system of law. European judges were thus secular officials, while Islāmic judges were religious jurists. Europe even had parallel secular and eccelesiastical judicial systems, which is why King Henry II of England could be angry with Thomas à Becket, not for protecting the poor Saxons from oppression by the Norman King, but for protecting priests guilty of rape and murder from the full force of the King's secular justice.

The history of Jihād in ʾIslām, and the actual treatment of Christians under Islāmic regimes, is examined by Raymond Ibrahim, himself of Coptic derivation, in Sword and Scimitar, Fourteen Centuries of War Between Islam and the West [Da Capo Press, 2018], using a description of eight key battles, four won by Jihadists, four lost, with their circumstances and consequences. Little is left of dishonest apologetics for ʾIslām after this treatment. And after the vandalism and savagery manfested by the Tālibān, al-Qaida, ISIS, Boko Haram, Hezboallah, and other groups, we see that this is not new, but really no more than a revival of the worst practices of Mediaeval ʾIslām. Public opinion in Islāmic countries, like Pakistan, Malaysia, and even recent Turkey, leaves one worried that ʾIslām can ever really modernize and accept other religions as equals. Popular opposition to the theocracy in Irān so far has not endangered the security of the government.

ʾIslām Index

Jurists and Islāmic Law

Islāmic jurists were the principal institutional existence of Mediaeval ʾIslām, which otherwise had no priests or religious hierarchy. The ʾImām in Orthdox ʾIslām might be learned (an ʿĀlim, , "Knower," pl. ʿUlamāʾ, ), might even be a judge (a Qāḍī, ), but essentially is just the leader of the Prayer, with no particular religious authority. ʿUlamāʾ or "Ulema" is frequently used for jurists and learned religious opinion in general; and, strickly speaking, the indefinite citation form for Qāḍī is Qāḍin, .

The institutional distinction in the West between Church and State, and the continued existence of secular Roman law, made it relatively easy to separate these institutions. This separation was not only less easy in ʾIslām but the trend in recent years has actually reversed, with a reinstitution of Islāmic Law in states that had previously adopted secular law codes. This reversal has, not surprisingly, accompanied a renewed militancy and a sense of Jihād that owes nothing to mollifying apologetics.

Other comparisons have been made between the characters of Muḥammad, Jesus, and Moses, since Muḥammad commanded armies, had multiple marriages, etc. Muḥammad, indeed, had the responsibilities of rule, with a hostile enemy, Mecca, nearby. This involved battles. Jesus wasn't in any such position. His Kingdom, as he said, was not of this world. Moses did have the responsibilities of rule, though actual fighting didn't begin until the Israelites crossed the Jordan. Moses didn't go with them, and Joshua then handled the military business. Since Joshua was instructed by God to annihilate the people he found in the Promised Land, Muḥammad comes off rather well in comparison, since the war with Mecca ended in a negotiated settlement where the only losers were the idols in the Kaʿaba, (though there had been a fair amount of killing in the conflict, and Muḥammad had in the meantime expelled the Jews from Medina).

As for his marriages, Muḥammad seemed to have been genuinely devoted to his wife Khadīja, an older widow whom he married after helping her run her business. Khadīja was one of the first who believed that Muḥammad was actually receiving a divine revelation. He married no other until after she died. I do not know how to judge the subsequent marriages. At least some of them seem to have been honorary, with the widows of fallen companions. His favorite wife, ʿĀʾiša, was betrothed to him at six. It was she who laid him to rest in the floor of their house in Medina, and the last person to set foot there for many centuries, as the Prophet's Mosque was built around it. One might think the Prophet was simply heir to some of the understandable temptations of power, but this explanation is generally not allowed in Islāmic tradition, since the Prophet is viewed as necessarily morally perfect. That is hardly necessary. The Bible does not present Moses as morally perfect -- indeed, God prohibits his entry into the Promised Land as a punishment.

The Prohibition of Images

At right we are seeing an image of the Angel Gabriel leading the Prophet Muḥammad on the miraculous horse Buraq, from a 15th century Persian miniature. I include this because of the controversy over cartoons of the Prophet published in October 2005 in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. By early 2006, Islamic radicals managed to stir up riots in many Islāmic countries over the cartoons, featuring attacks on Denmark, the EU, and Christians.

It was positively affirmed by the radicals that images of the Prophet are absolutely forbidden in ʾIslām and that the cartoons were an intolerable slander against ʾIslām -- except that the Danish cartoons were really very mild and the radicals had included some other cartoons, nastier ones, that had nothing to do with the Danish newspaper. They were obviously looking for a pretext, not honestly expressing any reasonable protest. They wanted a pretext for violence.

Not only that, but what they positively affirmed was not true. Although images have definitely been frowned upon in Islāmic history, and often absent altogether, there is nevertheless no lack of them. A favorite theme was the Prophet's "Night Journey," when he was taken up in a dream to heaven and hell, as we see in the image here. The whole episode thus exposes the extremism of modern Islāmic fundamentalism. This is not the ʾIslām of The Thousand and One Nights or ʿUmar Khayyām. It is a fascism that derives from the least humane and most intolerant varieties of Islāmic law, often that of the Ḥanbalī school favored by the Wahhābīs of Saʿudi Arabia, not to mention the dangerous, militant, and reactionary insanity of revolutionary Irān.

But Iranian Shiʿism has always been rather free with images. When a friend of mine came back from Irān in 1970 with a large poster of ʿAlī, I was surprised. But in fact these were all over the place, as even were images of Muḥammad. Revolutionary Irān is now viewing this with some disfavor, but there is no doubt about the tradition. A 1976 movie, Mohammad, Messenger of God, got around objections by simply not showing Muḥammad, ʿAlī, and other sacred figures -- except for ʿAlī's distinctive forked sword. Thus, dialogue was directed to empty spaces, and it was answered with apparent silence. But the movie was an Arab production, with advice from Sunni authorities, some of whom objected to having such a movie at all.

Apologists accuse Westerners of hostile misunderstandings of ʾIslām, when generally the disagreement of the apologists is with the radicals, whose own interpretations often have substantial support in Islāmic jurisprudence -- if indeed the apologists really do disagree with the radicals:  They often seem disingenuous to a suspicious degree. Or we run into differences characteristic of Shiʿism. It is also unsettling when opinion polls in Muslim countries show what are often majorities of Muslims endorsing radical views, such as the death penalty for apostates from ʾIslām. This sort of thing is not easily explained away. Nor is it easily excused that most Muslim countries really do not have freedom of religion.

ʾIslām Index

Update 2021, Religious Lockdowns

In 2020 and 2021, the pandemic involving the Wuhan Corona Virus resulted in a lockdown of economic activity in many countries. Generally these made exceptions for "essential services," such as food stores and drug stores, trash pickup, mail delivery, and a few other things. In the United States, many jurisdictions decided that religion was not to be counted among "essential services," and public meetings for religious services were prohibited. At the same time, other "essential services," like liquor stores and casinos, were allowed to do business.

This struck many people as biased and even Unconstitutional. The judgment that religious services were "inessential" is something that only the ultra-secular minded or atheistic would believe -- i.e. people actually hostile to religion. Many Catholics, at least, rely on daily masses and Communion. People began to defy the orders, often in ways that revealed, not just the bias, but the irrationality of such things. Thus, one Christian minister held services in the parking lot of his church, with his sermon broadcast over the radio to the attendees in their cars. This was judged illegal, and people, safely sitting isolated in their own cars, were threatened by the police. Later, Christians were actually arrested for singing hymns in the open air, which posed little or no threat of spreading disease.

In Canada, Pastor James Coates of the GraceLife Church in Edmonton was arrested on February 16, 2021 for "contravening the Public Health Act" by holding services beyond the 15% capacity allowed. A condition of bail would be that he no longer hold services, to which he has refused to consent. The Canadian court thus intends to hold him in custody until his "trial," perhaps not until May -- although some charges have been withdrawn and Coates may be released.

In New York City, Orthodox Jews, often called "Ultra-Orthodox" by the hostile media, held public funerals, attended by large crowds. This infuriated officials, who nevertheless feared carrying out mass arrests. Other such services were planned in private and held by surprise, so that hostile city officials could not prepare for them. Such acts of resistence, however, among Christians and Jews, have not been general; and their infrequency made it easier for malicious officials to target those engaged in them. Part of the passivity of believers may be the difficulty for them to actually believe that public American culture has become as hostile to religion as it is, and that the lockdowns of religion are a reflection of this.

Apart from mere defiance, Christian and Jewish groups began to sue. The results of that have been uneven, with many judges obviously sharing the hostile secular and atheistic biases of public officials. Other cases have been won, even though the Supreme Court itself has recently proven to be a "crushed reed" for the protection of religious freedom. This follows a string of betrayals of his trust by Chief Justice Roberts.

In all this, I came to notice that Muslims were conspicuously absent, whether in vocal protests, acts of defiance, or even joining in religious freedom lawsuits. It certainly is not because they are secular or atheistic. If "moderate" Muslims wanted to show Christians and Jews their good will, nothing would have done so like participating in the lawsuits against hostile, even anti-religious, officials. But I haven't seen it. I hazard a guess that it is because Muslims don't want to annoy what they see as their natural allies on the Left, whether they are atheists hostile to religion or not.

Then I began to wonder if Muslims perhaps have quietly been defying the lockdown orders all along, especially to attend Friday prayer services. Even atheistic journalists and officials might be terrified of hassling Muslims by even noticing or reporting on such activities, lest they be accused of "Islamophobia." Reporters don't even seem to interview Muslim clerics with questions about their attitudes. Or at least I haven't seen anything of the sort. Nor have I ever seen reporters ask Muslim clerics about gay rights, gay marriage, or biological males in women's rest rooms, locker rooms, etc. I think we know what the answers would be, and the reporters, like Sergeant Schultz, just want to see nothing, hear nothing [cf. Hogan's Heroes, 1965–1971].

As Christians are arrested and Jews threatened (by Bill de Blasio), Muslims have simply been off the radar. They should speak up. Do they really think that religion is not an "essential service"? Do they think that cowardly sources like the New York Times are going to complain about them? If Muslims want to make a positive contribution to American life, and not just elect anti-Semitic and anti-American members of Congress, here was their chance.

Muslims have also been missing in action when Christian bakers, photographers, and other business people have been persecuted for declining to participate in "gay" weddings and other hetero-normative activities. Surveys of Muslim bakers in Michigan indicate that most of them would not bake "gay" wedding cakes either. But Muslims don't get sued for "civil rights" violations in such cases, and we know why. But, as it happens, they are then silent when support is needed for pious Christians. They probably intend to be no more faithful to their Leftist allies than the allies will be to them, when Christianity and Judaism are destroyed and an alliance is no longer needed. It is a foolish and dishonest calculation.

Update 2023

In 2023 there is a hopeful sign. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which has been suspected of ties to terrorism, and seems to generally ignore issues where common cause could be made with Christians and Jews, joined Catholic and Protestant groups to oppose a suggested law in Michigan that would criminalize religious groups that might object to same sex marriage and other "gay rights" issues.

This law, of course, was proposed by Democrats and the evil and despicable Michigan govenor, Gretchen Whitmer (reelected by the folly of Michigan voters), to attack religion and curry favor with hostile atheists and alphabet soup social activists. If this continues, "progressive" and "liberal" activists could soon be charged with "Islamophobia," and the practical alliance between radical ʾIslām and the Left damaged. I'm not holding my breath, but this could easily be a first step. It is certainly about time.

Degrees of Obligation in ʾIslāmic Law
Permissbile, IndifferentmubāḥIndicative
Represensible, DiscouragedmakrūhNegative,

Whitmer and the others, of course, were mainly thinking about criminalizing Christians; and the idea that the law might be applied against Muslims probably never crossed their feeble little minds.

In fact, ʾIslām is never treated the same way as Christians and Jews, despite serious social conservativism in Islamic Law and in the customs of Muslims and Muslim immigrants. This is, of course, because political correctness prohibits Muslims being hassled about anything concerning their religion. That would be Islamophobia.

So far, Muslims are generally content enough to accept this protection and have done nothing to help defend Christians, let alone Jews, against religious persecution. This is short-sighted. The immunity enjoyed by ʾIslām will not last, and eventually the activists will come after Muslims.

Cracks have already been showing. In Octobr, 2022, Muslim parents in Dearborn, Michigan, stormed a school board meeting in protest over pornography and explicit gender ideology matters being featured in Dearborn elementary schools. Previously, protesting parents, especially in Virginia, have been smeared by the FBI as "terrorists." Calling Muslim parents "terrorists," however, will be severely Islamophobic. So the whole smear campaign -- on the part of the Federal Government, no less -- will break down if the Muslim parents keep it up.

More disturbing to the Left was when the City Council of Hamtramck, Michigan, voted unanimously in June 2023, right in the middle of "Gay Pride Month," to permanently ban the display of Gay Pride flags on public property. The law actually prohibits flying any "religious, ethnic, racial, political, or sexual orientation group flags." Hamtrack elected a Muslim (all male) majority City Council in 2015. The Left is simply astonished that Muslims might be socially conservative. This may have been the first time that Muslims used their political power to stop some elements of gender ideology.

There was also a protest by Muslim parents in Maryland, in July 2023, where the Montgomery County Public Schools were going to use sex and gender propaganda even for Kindergarten children, without allowing parents an "opt out" option for their children. The parents are also suing.

Board "chairwoman" Lynne Harris claimed that the parents were promoting "hatred" toward the "LGBTQ community." She said that exempting children from the gender propaganda was the same as saying, "Here’s another reason to hate another person." In other words, Muslim religious beliefs about sexuality represented "ignorance and hate," which she was not going to allow "in our community." How about that? ʾIslām is "ignorance and hate"! She must not have gotten the memo about "Islamophobia."

A Maryland court ruled this week that parents cannot opt their children out of lessons featuring inclusive LGBTQ+ books on religious grounds, stating that families do not have a “fundamental right” to disrupt public education in the name of their faith.

In the lawsuit, Tamer Mahmoud et al. v. McKnight et al., filed in May, three families from Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) sought to reinstate a district policy that would allow them to remove their children from lessons featuring inclusive books because they “contradict their sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage, human sexuality, and gender,” the decision viewed by The Post explained.

Judge Deborah L. Boardman, however, denied the parents’ request for a preliminary injunction for when school starts on Aug. 28, stating that they failed to establish that their due process right to shape their children’s education in line with their religious practices was a “fundamental right,” the document continued. ["Maryland court rules that parents can’t opt out of inclusive lessons," The New York Post, August 25, 2023]

Thus, we learn that parents do not have a "fundamental right" to shield their children from offensive material that is contrary to their religion. What this judge therefore says is that the State has a right to propagandize against the religion of its citizens. The unconstitutionality of this not withstanding, since the practice of one's religion is indeed a "fundamental right," while State propaganda against religion isn't, Christians and Jews have had to put up with it for a while; but it must sting when Muslims are subject to the same kind of hostility, "Islamophobia" all forgotten.

Muslims are now being warned by the Left that they are being "used" by "white supremacists." But most can see what is happening, and it doesn't help when Leftists decide to insult them, as Hollywood now insults movie audiences for hating their movies. I hope Muslims do keep up their protests. Their reaction to the failure of the Courts to secure their parental rights in Maryland will mean appealing this biased court decision, withdrawing their children from the schools, organizing to take over the Montgomery County School Board, or all of these. I don't think they will take this lying down.


ʾIslām Index

Arabic Transcription Issues

In transcribing Arabic there are interesting difficulties involving the definite article, , ʾal-, "the." In context, ʾal- undergoes two kinds of changes. One is that, when following another word, it loses its initial consonant, the glottal stop, / ʾ/ (IPA ʔ), and the vowel that goes with it. So we are left with no more than an /l/. This is no problem in Classical Arabic, where words generally end with vowels, and the stranded /l/ simply joins the syllable of that vowel. In writing, the loss of the glottal stop is indicated by the loss of the diacritic called a hamzah, , and the substitution of another diacritic, the waṣlah, which we see in the modified writing, as , of "the."

We can see all this in operation in a very common given name in Arabic, ʿAbdu-llāh, , which means the "servant" or even the "slave" of God. Here we have ʿabdu, , followed by the word for "God," ʾAllāh, , whose structure I have examined elsewhere. An equivalent expression, "slave of god," meant "priest" in Ancient Egyptian.

ʿAbdu begins with the letter ʿayn, ع (IPA ʕ), whose pronunciation I discuss as part of the phonology of Egyptian. Since ʾAllāh means "the God," and begins with the definite article, it loses its hamzah and initial vowel. No problem. ʿAbdu ends in a vowel, so we seamlessly get the name ʿAbdullāh -- sometimes abbreviated to ʿAbdul. Other names also begin with ʿabdu, so the latter may be ambiguous.

However, there comes to be a difficulty. In spoken Modern Arabic, the short final vowels of Classical Arabic are generally lost; so ʿabdu becomes ʿabd. What then happens to the stranded /l/? Well, spoken Arabic generally supplies a vowel, which colloquially is usually an /i/ or /e/, and where Hans Wehr [A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, Cornell, 1966] wants to indicate it, he may use the schwa, /ǝ/, indicating an indefinite vowel. But, with a nod to Classical Arabic, this is often transcribed as an /a/. So we get ʿAbd Allāh or ʿAbdallāh. The glottal stop is not restored along with the new vowel. Exactly how a personal name is pronounced, and written, of course, depends on the preference of the bearer.

Whether the Classical vowels are used, however, or exactly how the words are separated -- we could see ʿAbd-Allāh -- is something about which sources are often inconsistent; and I have allowed some of that inconistency to creep on to this page, often just because of variations in my sources, which I have not always regularized. An example is with the name of the great Sulṭān of Egypt, Saladin, whose name, , the "Righteousness of the Religion" (صَلَاحُ ٱلدِّينِ), can be transcribed Ṣalāḥu-d-Dīn, Ṣalāḥ-ad-Dīn, or Ṣalāḥaddīn, etc. I prefer the first, for its dignity, and with the separation of the distinct words. Some sources use an apostrophe to indicate the elided glottal stop and vowel, but this can too easily be confused with the symbol for a glottal stop.

With "Saladin" we see another complication of the use of , ʾal-. When the article is used with words starting with particular letters, the /l/ is assimilated to them. These are called "sun" (, šams) letters because the word for "sun" begins with one of them, as "sun" does even in English. The "sun" letters are "t, th/θ, d, dh/ð, r, z, s, sh/š, ṣ, ḍ, ṭ, ẓ, l, and n." The other letters are "moon" (, qamar) letters.

The word for "religion," , dīn, begins with a /d/. When this happens, not only do we see the waṣlah in use, but the diacritic for no vowel, the sukkun (a little circle), is left off the /l/ and another diacritic, the šaddah (looking like a little "w"), which signifies a doubled letter, is added to the following consonant, as we see in , d-dīn.

A similar example occurs with a name that I remember from an interesting incident in my own life. In 1973, at a party in Honolulu, I met a Malay woman whose last name was "Shamsuddin," which would be written . She did not know what her name meant, which is "Sun of the Religion," or what her first name, which was also Arabic, meant. Her pronunciation reflects the Arabic reading Šamsuddīn. We actually find this name in the Thousand and One Nights, where the Powys Mathers translation renders it "Shams al-Dīn" ["The Tale of Alā al-Dīn Abū Shāmāt," The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night, Volume III, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986].

Another example with , d-dīn, in the Thousand and One Nights occurs with a name that is very familiar, in a story that has been made into cartoons, movies, and a Broadway show. This is the name "Aladdin," from the story "Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp." In Arabic this is , ʿAlāʾu-d-dīn, the "Nobility of the Religion," which is the name of several historical rulers on this page, as among the Ghūrids. And, in form and sense, we see it as comparable to the name, or title, of Saladin. While the ʿayn, the glottal stop, and macrons are generally left out of the transcribed name of "Aladdin," we do see the doubling of the "d," and the replacement of "u" with "a." From the same root, the word , ʿāl, is common in spoken Arabic, used as an exclamation just meaning "Great!" The Persian derivative of this, to the same effect, is , āli. The Arabic form of that, , ʿĀlī, is the name of the fourth Caliph, and a very common given name in all of ʾIslām.

Finally, I'd like to look at a name that I've seen recently, which is rendered in English as "Ezzeddine." In Arabic this is , ʿIzzu-d-dīn. This means the "might, power, strength, force, honor," or "glory" of the religion. I've seen this name for a Lebanese-American astrophysicist and a Lebanese politician. If I had not seen it written in Arabic, I doubt that would have ever figured out what "Ezze-" was supposed to be.

From the same root as ʿizzu, we get the common names , ʿAzīz, and , ʿAzīzah, the masculine and feminine, respectively, for "powerful, respected, distinguished, strong, noble, august, honorable," etc. These turn up as the names of betrothed cousins in a tragic story in the Thousand and One Nights. We also see the name ʿAzīz annoyingly repeated at the beginning of the movie The Fifth Element [1997]. At least it's pronounced correctly. There is also the longer name , ʿAbdu-l-ʿAzīz, where God is now the powerful, noble, honorable one.

Along with ʿāl there are some other common exclamations in Arabic that involve the phenomena I'm examining. If you want to hurry someone along in Arabic, you say , Yāllāh, "Let's go!." This is a contraction of ʾAllāh with , , "Oh," an interjection of direct address, like Greek used with the vocative. Why "Oh God!" would mean "Let's go!" is a little mysterious, but its original use seems to have been more general; and we see it transcribed Yā Allāh in some translations of the Thousand and One Nights, with many uses. As such, the suspicion is that the Spanish exclamation ¡Ole!, which has no credible European etymology, derives from it. That is likely. Another candidate for ¡Ole! exists, however, which is , Wallāh, "By God!" The conjunction , wa, generally means "and," but it can be used to introduce "oaths," as here. I suspect that it has taken over most of the previous uses of Yāllāh, as the meaning of the latter has narrowed.

It is a little tangential to transcription issues, but Yāllāh prompts me to address another Arabic idiom. This is the word , Tafaḍḍal. This is the second person singular masculine imperative of the Form V, , tafaḍḍala, of the verb , faḍala, which means a number of things in the Form I but in the Form V, "to have the kindness (with, etc.), deign, condescend, be graciously disposed (to do something)" and, in the imperative, "please," etc. -- according to Hans Wehr [op.cit., p.717-718]. This imperative is , Tafaḍḍalī in the singular feminine, , Tafaḍḍalū in the plural masculine, and , Tafaḍḍalna in the plural feminine. The plural feminine is only going to be used where a group of persons is entirely female [note].

In colloquial Arabic, Tafaḍḍal, which tends to lose the first vowel (hence, Tfaḍḍal), has a particular, unusual, meaning. I have seen its sense as, "Do the obvious." Thus, when you offer something to someone, you say Tafaḍḍal. When you are at a doorway and would say, "After you," you say Tafaḍḍal, or Tafaḍḍalī to the lady. This is very useful, and it does not have a simple English equivalent.

It does have equivalents in other languages. In Persian, , Befarmāid is used in exactly the same way. This is from the verb , farmudan, which is "to command" but has a more polite meaning in this usage.

I understand that in Modern Greek ορίστε is used in much the same way as these words in Arabic and Persian. This is from the verb ορίζω, which, as in Persian, actually means "rule, control, give orders," among other things. In Classical Greek, also from the verb ὀρίζω, that would be ὀρίσατε. Modern Greek seems to have lost the alpha out of that form -- where the form itself is the aorist second person plural imperative of ὀρίζω -- the comparable imperative in the present would be ὀρίζετε. The Classical verb has a variety of meanings, similar to the Modern, but without the Modern implication I am examining.

Outside the Middle East, we get Dozo in Japanese. At a drugstore in Honolulu once, I saw a clerk greet some Japanese tourists with Aloha, Dozo, which I have now put on my telephone message system -- joining my "¿Por qué no te callas?" ringtone.

And, last but definitely not least, is Italian Prego. This can mean "You're welcome" but also all the other meanings we find in Tafaḍḍal, Dozo, etc., including "How can I help you?" (like Dozo with the Hawaiian clerk) "Have a seat!" "Come on in!" and so forth. One of the joys of the Italian language.

In 1969 I didn't know anything about Persian, Modern Greek, Japanese, or Italian, so Tfaḍḍal is the first such word I learned.

While I'm doing idioms, let me do some more. One is the Arabic word , yaʿnī. This literally means "it means," from the verb , ʿanā, which can mean "to worry; to interest," and also just "to mean." Thus, an Arabic word for "meaning" is , maʿnan.

Yaʿnī, , is a word that one may hear a lot in spoken Arabic, since it is used the way a lot of people say "you know" in spoken English -- or ano (anō) in Japanese. If you are thinking of something to say, but don't know yet quite what to say, you say yaʿnī. It can occur more than once in a single sentence, just to fill space.

Not exactly an idiom, but a very common expression, is إِنْ شَاءَ ٱللّٰه, ʾIn šāʾa llāh. This is literally, "If God wishes." It is appropriate before any event or action, addressing the circumstance that nothing good can happen without the favor of God, and that it will always help to be sensible of this. Failure to invoke the will of God invites disaster.

For favorable events or successful actions, it is suitable to then acknowledge the help of God. This can be done with مَا شَاءَ ٱللّٰه, Mā šāʾa llāh, literally "What God wished."

While ʾIn šāʾa llāh can be said by anyone, whether persons hoping for good outcomes or others commenting on it, Mā šāʾa llāh will be used more by others, often as a kind of congratulation for those benefiting from the outcomes -- also as a reminder that nothing can prosper without God -- as we also see in the expression, , Lā ḥawla wa-lā qūwata ʾillā bi-llāh, "There is no power and no strength if not in God" -- called the , Ḥawqalah, which invokes the aid of God, prospectively or retrospectively, more directly than ʾIn šāʾa llāh. We see this used frequently in the Thousand and One Nights, especially when someone finds themselves in some difficulty.

Spanish is full of Arabic words. They can often be identified when they begin with "al," as in the "Alhambra," Arabic , ʾAlḥamrāʾ, "the Red," the famous and marvelous fortress capitol of Granada. The Alhambra is, of course, a place name. We also see the name of the Alcázar palace in Seville. This is from Arabic , ʾal-Qaṣr, "the Palace" (see the use of this for the city of Luxor in Egypt). This is actually short for , ʾal-Qaṣr al-Mūriq, "the Verdant Palace." The original Muslim palace had been destroyed in the Reconquista, so the present palace is what was rebuilt (1364) by Peter the Cruel of Castile (1350-1366, 1367-1369). We also might expect that "al" sometimes has been assimilated to a sun letter.

A good candidate for that is arroz, the word for "rice." The word comes from Mediaeval Greek ὄρυζα or ὄρυζον, whose origin might be Iranian or Indian. In Arabic the word for "rice," which is not listed with an Arabic root, and so is clearly borrowed, is , ʾaruzz, or , ruzz. These do not begin with ʾal. However, A Modern English-Arabic Dictionary, by Munir Baʿalbaki [Dar el-Ilm Lil-Malayēn, Beirut, 1967, 1987], cites both words with articles, as , ʾal-ʾaruzz, and , ʾar-ruzz [p.788]. The latter is coming very close to our Spanish word.

I see at Wikipedia that there is an "Andalusian" Arabic version of "rice" as , which is going to be vocalized ʾarrawz or ʾarroz. Bingo. We lengthened the central vowel into a diphthong, which in later Arabic just becomes "o." And the ʾal comes before a sun letter.

For some reason, these phenomena of transciption now pose difficulties in public discourse. The convention in scholarship and the press is generally not to write the doubled letter, but to write "l" even when this is not actually what is pronounced. Thus, the current President of Egypt is ʿAbd-al-Fattāḥ Saʿid Ḥussain Khalīl as-Sīsī. It is the last element of the name, (meaning "the pony"), that is generally used, and it is commonly written "al-Sisi" and even pronounced /al-Sissy/. This is not very dignified (one wonders if ʾas-Sīsī knows what a "sissy" is); and, of course, it is not how the name is pronounced -- where it should match the name of St. Francis of Assisi, even though President ʾas-Sīsī is not going to belong to the same class of persons as St. Francis. This is where a transcription practice, that doesn't make a lot of sense in the first place, has unfortunate consequences. On this page, I supply the doubled letters, as pronounced. After this discussion, the reader will know what is going on. Scholarship which has no pronunciation guides and skips explanations like this is becoming a problem.

At the same time, we get a problem similar to that of in another word. This is , ʾibn, meaning "son." This occurs in many names, as the functional equivalent of a patronymic. As with ʾal, the initial glottal stop and vowel of ʾibn are lost when it follows another word. Again we see a waṣlah, , bn. When we lose final vowels from Classical Arabic a couple different things happen to this bn. One is that, as with ʾal, a vowel is restored to the word. So we see "ibn" in most of the lists on this page. However, the tendency to use "bn" alone, with a perhaps vocalized "n," also leads to an interior vowel being supplied for the word, as "bin." This begins to look like Hebrew , bēn, "son." It is also the root that we see in Arabic for "daughter," , bint. I have seen no discussion of the use of the actual "bin" in colloquial Arabic. In the names of Saʿūdī Royals, I actually see "ibn" written , which seems anomalous.

The existence of hamzah is an artifact of the history of Arabic. While historically the letter ʾalif (written as a simple vertical stroke), the Hebrew , ʾaleph, represents a glottal stop, its sound often dropped out of the spoken Arabic of Mecca, the dialect that the Prophet Muḥammad spoke himself. The glottal stop could become a /w/, a /y/, or just disappear altogether. This is how the basic consonants of Arabic are actually written. However, the spoken Arabic of Mecca was not the elevated language of poetic Arabic. That poetic language became the literary standard, and the way the Qurʾān was properly to be spoken.

The written word of the Qurʾān, as in the case of the Hebrew Bible, could not be altered, so the elevated pronunciation of Arabic came to be represented with diacritics. Hence the use of the hamzah, which shows where a glottal stop is spoken, regardless of the consonants written. The hamzah is written where it properly occurs. The letter actually there, if there is one, is then called the "chair" of the hamzah. We have seen hamzah on an ʾalif in our original example of , ʾal-.

Elsewhere at this site we have seen hamzah on a final "y" with , qāniʾ, "blood red," cognate to "jealous," , qannā, in Hebrew. If "y" provides a "chair" medially, it is used without its dots, which thus count as diacritics. This happens in , masāʾil, "questions" (singular , masʾalah). This is also the name of the 15th month on the calendar of the Bahaʾi Faith. There is also the interesting case of , biʾr, "well," where the hamzah takes the sukkun, to show no vowel. The "chair" here originally would have been to write a long vowel.

We even see a hamzah in a final position on an ʾalif in , ʾiqraʾ, "Recite!" at Qurʾān, Sūrah 96:1, which is supposed to be the first thing Muḥammad heard in his Revelation. Where a glottal stop had dropped out altogether, the hamzah is written without a chair, as in , murūʾah, Arabic for "virtue."

We see a hamzah on a "w" in , tuʾminūna, "you believe," at Qurʾān, Sura 69:41. This is the 2nd person masculine plural imperfect indicative of the verb , ʾamuna, in Form IV (out of the X Forms of the Arabic verb), , ʾāmana, meaning "to believe." This follows , qalīlān mā (perhaps pronounced qalīlāmmā), "seldom, rarely," so that the phrase means "how seldom you believe," addressing those who believe the wrong thing about the prophecy of the Prophet. Sura 69:41 denies that Muḥammad is either a poet or a "seer," , kāhin.

In the word Qurʾān itself, , we have a diacritic, a wavy line called a maddah, which is a combination of a hamzah and a long vowel "a." This avoids a more elaborate ligature.

With a new movie version of the science fiction classic Dune [2021], I am reminded of all the Arabic used in the original novel [1965]. One phrase I find of interest is the title, "Lisan al-Gaib," which is translated, "the Voice from the Outer World." Well, , lisān, is "tongue, language, mouthpiece," etc. This is a word that goes back to Akkadian, whose cognates I have examined elsewhere. With "gaib," there is no "g" in Classical Arabic, so we may guess that this is really ghaib, , which means "hidden, concealed, invisible; that which is transcendental, the supernatural; divine secret" [Hans Wehr, op.cit., p.689]. This is not "Outer World," but "supernatural" fits in nicely with the idea that the "Lisan al-Gaib," , is a prophet, which is what we get in the book.


The word "ʾAllāh" in Arabic, with Cognates in Hebrew & Babylonian

Islāmic Fascism and Satyagraha in Palestine

Ḥamās Kills Jews; Students Celebrate

ʾIslām Index

Philosophy of Religion

Philosophy of History

Home Page

ʾIslām Index

My thanks to Professor Shaun Marmon of Princeton University for drawing my attention to Clifford Edmund Bosworth's The New Islamic Dynasties [Edinburgh University Press, 1996]. This remarkable and invaluble work is, strangely enough, already out of print. Also of great use was Classical Islam, a History 600-1258, by G.E. von Grunebaum [Aldine Publishing, 1970 -- a professor, d.1972, I had a class with at UCLA while an undergraduate], The Arabs, by Anthony Nutting [Mentor, 1964], The Arab Awakening, by George Antonius [Capricorn Books, 1965], The Cambridge History of Islam, edited by P.M. Holt, Ann K.S. Lambton, and Bernard Lewis [Vols. 1A, 1B, 2A, & 2B, Cambridge, 1977], and other historical sources credited elsewhere in these pages.

The word "ʾAllāh" in Arabic, with Cognates in Hebrew & Babylonian

Islāmic Fascism and Satyagraha in Palestine

Ḥamās Kills Jews; Students Celebrate

Philosophy of Religion

Philosophy of History

Political Economy

Home Page

Copyright (c) 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved

ʾIslām, 622 AD-present; Note 1;
Gender in Arabic

Arabic, Form V, Imperatives
Mas. Fem.
These forms pose a dilemma for the politically correct. The grammar of gender in Arabic, which is more elaborate than either Spanish or German or even
Greek, with gender distinguished even in second and third person plural (but not always dual) inflections, would certainly be "sexist" to the language police.

However, criticizing what is the eternal and inalterable language of the holy Qurʾān is undoubtedly going to be "Islamophobic" and even racist. The enlightened response is thus to resolutely ignore it, even when English grammar, where gender has largely disappeared, is fiercely attacked with a blizzard of invented, whimsical pronouns, whose enforcement recalls the rigors of the Spanish Inquistion. People, indeed, have lost their jobs over "misgendering." But Arabs and Muslims need not worry. Their sacred and historic language is safely above criticism, protected by the shameless hypocrisy and cowardice of the Left.

Note on Gender

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We took the liberty to make some enquiries concerning the ground of their pretentions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury, and observed that we considered all mankind as our friends who had done us no wrong, nor had given us any provocation.

The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the laws of their Prophet; that it was written in their Koran; that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners; that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners; and that every Mussulman [, i.e. Muslim] who was slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise. He said, also, that the man who was the first to board a vessel had one slave over and above his share, and that when they sprang to the deck of an enemy's ship, every sailor held a dagger in each hand and a third in his mouth; which usually struck such terror into the foe that they cried out for quarter at once.

Letter by John Adams & Thomas Jefferson, March 28, 1786, to John Jay, U.S. Secretary of Foreign Affairs (under the Articles of Confederation), concerning an interview in London with the ambassador from Tripoli, Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja.

It is a hard fight. It's extremely difficult, day after day, when you face people and say, "If Sharia law is taken to its logic this is what things are going to look like" and you come across people who say, "You got it all wrong."

I had a Q&A in a setting like this one with the vice president of our country [Joe Biden, ]. He said "ISIS had nothing to do with Islam." I said, "I beg to differ." He said, "Let me tell you one or two things about Islam." I politely left the conversation at that. I wasn't used to arguing with vice presidents.

Ayann Hirsi Ali, "Notable & Quotable," The Wall Street Journal, November 22-23, 2014, at the Independent Woman's Forum's Women of Valor Dinner, November 19, 2014 -- note the arrogance and isolence of ignorant Joe Biden trying to lecture a Somali women, raised as a Muslim, about ʾIslām. Since then Biden has developed senile dementia and has been elected 46th President of the United States.

People who are viewed as "insulting" ʾIslām are regularly threatened with violence, including death. This happens inside and outside Islamic countries, occurring in the form of legal sanctions in the former, with efforts to institutionalize such prohibitions everywhere, so that ʾIslām could not be criticized even, for instance, in the United States.

Yet most of the genuine insults to ʾIslām these days come from Muslims themselves. If anyone's purpose was to discredit ʾIslām by vicious actions done in its name, there is now abundant evidence that this is the program of many Muslims, including several internationally recognized Islamic states.

In April 2014, the radical Islamic group in Nigeria, Boko Haram ("Education is forbidden") kidnapped 276 girls out of a government school in the north of the country. The leader of the group, Abubakar Shekau, subsequently asserted, in a videotaped message, that the girls were now slaves and would be sold as slaves. "Slavery is allowed in my religion, and I shall capture people and make them slaves," he said. This must be cold comfort for the anti-American ideologues who want to convey the impression that slavery was invented in America and was a unique evil imposed by white people on Africans, and that one of the worst and most unforgivable things about slavery was sexual expoitation. Now Abubakar Shekau openly proclaims slavery and sexual slavery part of the program of Islamic revival, and he is correct in terms of traditional Islamic law, where slaves are indeed the sexual property of their owners.

Although Michelle Obama joined a Twitter campaign to "free our girls," the girls mostly have not been freed, but have vanished into forced conversion, forced marriages, and slavery. The Nigerian Army is so corrupt and ineffective (at least until the recent elections) that the influence and massacres of Boko Haram have continued to spread across northeastern Nigeria and now are spilling into the Cameroon and Chad, whose own armies now seem a bit more active than that of Nigeria. Abubaker Shekau boasts of all these developments as triumphs, even as the Obamas, the American Left, and the "Mainsteam" media subsequently seem to have entirely forgotten about "our girls."

Meanwhile, the Sudan condemned to death Meriam Yehya Ibrahim for apostasy from ʾIslām, on the principle that her father was a Muslim, even though he had abandoned her at birth and she was raised as a Christian by her Ethiopian mother. People claiming to be her father's family suddenly showed up and charged her with apostasy, perhaps in the hope of seizing her business. A Sudanese court condemned Ibrahim to death by hanging for apostasy; nullified her marriage to her American husband, Daniel Wani, on the grounds that he was not a Muslim; and then condemned her to 100 lashes for adultery before her execution. Since Ibrahim was actually pregnant, her punishments were deferred for two years, and she subsequently gave birth under degrading conditions in prison, where she is still held. International protests have had no effect on the Sudanese government, let alone on the sort of general opinion in ʾIslām that might otherwise make a difference. According to opinion polls, most Muslims still think that apostasy should be punished with death and are thus complacent in the face of the outrage a case like this provokes among morally sensible and conscientious persons everywhere.

Eventually, Ibrahim was at first given permission to leave the Sudan, but then she was rearrested at the airport. After being released again, Ibrahim was protected at the U.S. Embassy. On 24 July 2014, she finally arrived in Rome through the additional assistance and good offices of the Italian Government. Finally safe in New Hampshire, the actions of the Sudan have come in for wide condemnation.

Equally ugly and vicious, or more so, on 27 May 2014 a pregnant Pakistani woman, Farzana Parveen, was stoned to death by members of her own family in broad daylight and in full view of the public outside the High Court in Lahore, where she was going to refute the chargers filed by her family that she had been kidnapped by her husband. The actions of the family thus tend to contradict their own complaint, and one begins to suspect that the charges were filed only to draw Parveen out in public, where she could be captured or killed. This is in the despicable category of "honor killings" of women, of which there have even been examples in the United States, as when two sixteen-year-old girls in Texas were murdered by their own father, who then escaped back to Egypt. At least in Pakistan, several of the perpetrators have now been arrested, including Parveen's father, although police present at the scene of the murder did nothing and, of course, it remains to be seen what will come of the case. Surrendering at the scene, the father was unrepentant and said, "I killed my daughter as she had insulted all of our family by marrying a man without our consent, and I have no regret over it."

The ideology of the "Islamic State" (IS, ISIS, or ISIL), that was established in Syria and Iraq in 2014, is that "People of the Book," Christians and Jews, are no longer to be tolerated by ʾIslām. This was a provision only for the early days of ʾIslām. Now, unbelievers of any sort must convert, leave, or die in the territory governed by the State. Of course, Jews in the area, given the attitude of previous regimes, already had almost entirely fled to Israel. Now all the rest, mostly Christians, must go -- although it looks like Shiʿites and other heterodox sects of ʾIslām, constituting a plurality of the population of Iraq, are also not longer going to be tolerated by the Militantly Sunni State. Thus, after apologists have told Western audiences about the tolerance of ʾIslām for everyone, the fighters on the ground have instead taken to apply ethnic (or religious) cleansing, that is, where Christians are not actually executed, or Christian women and girls sold into slavery. This seems to provoke rather more enthusiasm than outrage in Muslim communities around the world, even as we were archly informed by Obama and John Kerry how "un-Islamic" ISIS really is.

Although now (2019) ISIS has been driven from Iraq, after hard fighting, and has mostly been eliminated in Syria, it has been regrouping with allies in Somalia, Yemen, Nigeria, etc. It is not clear what has happened to its leadership, like the "Caliph" al-Baghdadi, who have always maintained a shadowy existence.

In the news has been another case in Pakistan. A poor, illiterate Christian woman, Asia Noreen Bibi, was arrested and tried for "blasphemy" in 2009 and condemned to death by hanging in 2010. Although her sentence was upheld by some higher courts (Lahore, 2014), the Supreme Court of Pakistan voided the verdict in 2018. In January, 2019 the Supreme Court has cleared the way for her to leave the country, apparently to join her family in Canada, as she has done.

Ironically, in a 2018 election Ireland just revoked its ancient blasphemy law, which of course had not been applied for centuries. The situation in Pakistan is very different, where flimsy accusations of blasphemy have been used to persecute or even kill Christians, often at the hands of mobs or prison inmates or even by prison guards. A Government minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, and the Governor of the Punjab, Salmann Taseer, were both murdered, Taseer by his own bodyguard, simply for criticizing the blasphemy laws and the handling of Bibi's case. One of the Justices on the Supreme Court asked, "Is this the face of ʾIslām you want to show to the world?" Indeed. The fanatics are making it a very ugly face. But the bloody minded and chanting mobs don't really seem to even know their ʾIslām. The school of Islamic law traditionally followed in Pakistan, the Hanafi, does not call for the death penalty for non-Muslims who might be considered to blaspheme against ʾIslām. At the same time, Bibi was originally accused by two Muslim woman who objected to her using a water cup that Muslims had used to drink water. An argument ensued. Thus, the original objection had nothing to do with ʾIslām but reflected the pollution taboos germane to the Hindu Caste sytem, from which Indians presumably would escape by converting to ʾIslām. But these now seem to have been imported into Pakistani ʾIslām, with Christians regarded as the equivalent of Untouchables. This is thin ice for Muslims, many of whom are suspected by Hindus of having originally been Untouchables themselves. This encourages Hindu fanatics in India, who are allied with Prime Minister Modi, who was just reelected.

With a further irony, Pakistan has long been a nominal ally of the United States. Yet opinion polls seem to show that Pakistan is the most anti-American nation in the world, followed closely, as we might expect, by Palestinians. But it is not clear what kind of grudge Pakistanis have; and the popular anti-American element is suspected to extend into parts of the Pakistani government, including the intelligence services. That Osama bin Ladin lived unmolested in Pakistan for years, and was only killed in a secret American operation, would seem to reflect protection by powerful figures, powerful enough that no one in Pakistan could be trusted with information about the surgical strike to kill him in 2011. The Pakistani Government objected to the raid, of course, but it seemed the sort of half-hearted objection that reflected understanding of its circumstances.

While outrages by the Tālibān, Boko Haram, or ISIS allow us the comfort of seeing fanatical Jihadists as a minority of fanatics, the murderous mobs and celebrated assassins in Pakistan give a very different impression. As the Justice said, "Is this the face of Islam you want to show to the world?" For a great many Pakistanis, apparently so.

On 16 October 2020, in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a suburb of Paris, a French middle-school teacher, Samuel Paty, was murdered and beheaded with a cleaver by an Islamic terrorist, Abdoullakh Abouyedovich Anzorov, an 18-year-old Chechen refugee. Anzorov was shot and killed by police minutes later. Paty had, in a class on freedom of speech, shown his students Charlie Hebdo's 2012 cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Since many Muslims say the cartoons are "offensive," Paty had exempted any students from attending the class if they did not want to. However, some parents lied about the class and encouraged some kind of action against Paty. Since the action that resulted was murder, seven people, including an imam, a parent of a student, and two students at Paty's school have been charged with assisting the killer.

After French president Emmanuel Macron condemned the attack, he was condemned by Islamic countries, including Turkey, Iran, Jordan, and Kuwait and by the "Organisation of Islamic Cooperation." The increasingly Islamist and dictatorial President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, called for a boycott of French goods.

Soon after this attack, on 29 October 2020, three people were killed in a stabbing attack at the Notre-Dame basilica in Nice, with one of the victims, a woman, beheaded. The attacker, Brahim Aouissaoui, a Tunisian, shouting “Allahu Akbar,” was (non-fatally) shot by police and taken into custody. Aouissaoui had entered Italy illegally, was captured and ordered to leave the country, was released, and then traveled to France. So, in a strong sense, he was no more than a roving, Jihadist infiltrator, apparently looking for Christians to kill.

The most striking response to this attack was from Mahathir Mohamad, former Prime Minister of Malaysia, who said that “Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past.” Mohamad evidently wants French people killed because of (former) Franch colonialism, although there were no French colonies in Malaya -- the nearby French colony in Indo-China was not in a Muslim country -- excusing terrorist attacks like the killing of Samuel Paty, and also denouncing "female freedoms." In other words, Mahathir Mohamad provides many reasons to justify actual "Islamophobia," i.e. the "fear of ʾIslām." If you're French, Mohamad wants you killed. A reason to fear.

Thus, in all this, is ʾIslām truly insulted and discredited, rivaling in moral perversity the now well-established tradition of "martyrdom" by the murderous suicide bombing of civilians; and Muslims are left with no reasonable ground for complaint when others view ʾIslām with distrust, fear, and loathing. When the "Believers" come, it seems that others, including heterodox Muslims, have reasonably come to expect only murder, torture, and tyranny.

Ἐγκλινοβάραγγος (Enklinobarangus)

At Brandeis University, we are learning the hierarchy of the new multiculti caste system. In theory, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is everything the identity-group fetishists dig:  female, atheist, black, immigrant. If conservative white males were to silence a secular women's rights campaigner from Somalia, it would be proof of the Republican Party's "war on women," or the encroaching Christian fundamentalist theocracy, or just plain old... racism... But when the sniveling white male who purports to be the President of Brandeis (one Frederick Lawrence) does it out of deference to Islam, Miss Hirsi Ali's blackness washes off her like a bad dye job on a telly news anchor. White feminist Germaine Greer [The Female Eunuch, 1970] can speak at Brandeis because, in one of the more whimsical ideological evolutions even by dear old Germaine's standards, Ms. Greer feels that clitoridectomies add to the rich tapestry of "cultural identity":  "One man's beautification is another man's mutilation," as she puts it. But black feminist Hirsi Ali, who was on the receiving end of "one's man's mutilation" and lives under death threats because she was boorish enough to complain about it, is too "hateful" to be permitted to speak. In the internal contradictions of multiculturalism, Islam trumps all:  race, gender, secularism, everything. So, in the interests of multiculti sensitivity, pampered upper-middle-class trusty-fundy children of entitlement are pronouncing a Somali refugee beyond the pale and signing up to Islamic strictures on the role of women.

Mark Steyn, The [Un]documented Mark Steyn, Don't Say You Weren't Warned [Regnery Publishing, 2014, pp.371-372, boldface added]

Islam was never a religion of peace.
Islam is the religion of fighting.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Caliph of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), 14 May 2015; apparently killed himself, and two children, with a suicide bomb when cornered by American forces in Syria, 26 October 2019.

We hate you, first and foremost, because you are disbelievers; you reject the oneness of Allah -- whether you realize it or not -- by making partners for Him in worship, you blaspheme against Him, claiming that He has a son, you fabricate lies against His prophets and messengers, and you indulge in all manner of devilish practices.

We hate you because your secular, liberal societies permit the very things that Allah has prohibited while banning many of the things He has permitted...

Your secular liberalism has led you to tolerate... and even support 'gay rights,' to allow alcohol, drugs, fornication, gambling, and usury to become widespread, and to encourage the people to mock those who denounce these filthy sins and vices. As such... we wage war against you to stop you from spreading your disbelief and debauchery...

The fact is, even if you were to stop bombing us, imprisoning us, torturing us, vilifying us, and usurping our lands, we would continue to hate you because our primary reason for hating you will not cease to exist until you embrace Islam. Even if you were to pay jizyah [, the tax on infidels] and live under the authority of Islam in humiliation, we would continue to hate you.

"Why We Hate You," ISIS official Dabiq Magazine, July 2016

Muslim clerics are threatening the lives of Jews from the pulpits of American mosques, and they are doing it with virtual impunity,
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, November 3, 2023
say former US law-enforcement officials who worry that the rhetoric could lead to violent attacks.

Over the past six months, at least five prominent US imams have been caught on tape preaching violence against Jews in sermons at mosques across America.

Yet these radical preachers inciting anti-Semitic violence aren't prosecuted or even permanently banished by the leadership of their mosques.

"It's outrageous they aren't immediately removed and investigated for what may be solicitation [to commit a crime of volence]," was the view of veteran FBI Special Agent John Guandolo...

Jewish people already are disproportionately targeted for hate crimes in America, but recent sermons could fan the flames of anti-Semitism. In November, the FBI released new data showing there were more Jewish victims of anti-religious hate crimes in 2016 (the last reported year) than victims of all other religious groups combined.

"License to Incite," The New York Post, January 28, 2018, p.34 -- so much for the idea the Muslims are minding their own business but being widely victimized and assaulted in America.

In any case, the veep had a very specific form of hatred she said she wants to fight. And that is the thing called “Islamphobia.”

Personally, I do not care for this word. It has always seemed to me to be -- as my late friend Christopher Hitchens put it -- “a word created by fascists, and used by cowards, to manipulate morons.” He must have seen Kamala [Harris] coming...

Of course, if there is any such thing as “Islamophobia,” it has a very straightforward explanation. “Islamophobia” is the expression of distaste many people feel about the murderous behavior of radical Muslims. And while most Muslims in the West don’t engage in such acts, too many are willing to condone them, or fail to condemn them. A lot of people notice that and don’t like it.

Douglas Murray, "Pols defending haters from hate," or "Faced with rise in Jewish hate, Kamala Harris tackles made-up ‘Islamphobia’," The New York Post, November 3, 2023, p.15.

A new political crime has been added to Leftist demonology. This is "Islamophobia." The precedent for this term seems to be "homophobia," and both are about equally confused in their etymology. A "phobia" is a fear, so "Islamophobia" should mean "fear of ʾIslām," as "homophobia," with "homo" used as a prefix for "homosexual," should mean "fear of homosexuals." This is not the way these words are used, however. "Homophobia" and "Islamophobia" are supposed to mean hatred of homosexuals, and of ʾIslām, respectively, where this hatred is the morally (and perhaps legally) culpable expression of bigotry and hostility.

In "homophobia" this was already a tendentious reading of traditional attitudes towards homosexuality. Certainly there are people who hate homosexuals, and are even willing to commit violence against them, and it might be reasonable to imagine people fearing homosexuals, if they think that the innocent can be "converted" to homosexuality, or that homosexuality is a decadent and disruptive influence in society. But in general, "homophobia" is usually just applied to people who, largely for religious reasons, and without any particular personal hostility or tendency to violence, judge that homosexual practices are immoral. This is rarely addressed in an honest way in public debate, where "liberal" opinion is in the business of smearing traditional religion (or at least traditional Christianity). Instead, "homophobia" has become a political slogan and a slur, whose meaning and implications are left unarticulated, and which itself becomes an expression of hostility and contempt for religious traditionalists.

It is then ironic that "Islamophobia" should follow in the footsteps of this usage, taking advantage of its device as a political slogan and a slur, when in the modern world the source of some of the most intense persecution of homosexuals is from militant ʾIslām. When the President of Iran, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, was invited to speak at Columbia University (at the time of his appearance before the United Nations), many of the anti-American elite were certainly hopeful of hearing a good diatribe against Imperialism and the United States. Unfortunately, a naive, or perhaps hopeful (or both), participant then asked Ahmadinejad about the status of homosexuals in Iran. The answer was that there are no homosexuals in Iran. An informed questioner would have already known that they are hanged as quickly as they can be identified, sometimes with construction cranes. The sentiment that homosexuals should be executed had also been previously expressed by a British Imam, without consequences, despite laws in Europe that could construe such an opinion as an incitement to a hate crime.

How absurd this can all get was revealed recently when a "gay pride" parade was cancelled in London, not because of anti-gay threats from Muslims -- which had actually been expressed -- but purportedly in "solidarity" with opposition to anti-Muslim "Islamophobia," which was said to be the moral equivalent of homophobia. Why a desire to assert solidarity between anti-homophobia and anti-Islamophobia should result in a "gay pride" parade being cancelled was left unexplained -- as, indeed, one would expect the opposite reaction, that the "gay pride" parade, with an anti-homophobia theme, would be combined with a parade asserting an anti-Islamophobia theme. Obviously, the fear of violence against the parade from Muslims led to its cancellation; but the organizers, in a sort of anticipatory Stockholm Syndrome, decided to dislay their political correctness by identifying with those from whom they feared violence. There are few more bizarre contortions evident in contemporary politics.

Ironic or not, the use of "Islamophobia" is an attempt to demonize those who actually do fear ʾIslām, when such a fear is well justified by recent events and by the behavior of people in the Islamic world.
Jihad against America is binding upon myself, just as it is binding on every other able Muslim.

Anwar al-Awlaki (d.2011)

Since Islamists, terrorists, and assorted tyrannical regimes and radicals like to justify their attitudes and actions in terms borrowed from the Qurʾān and from Islamic Law, one might think that honest defenders of ʾIslām would acknowledge this, find it an embarrassment, and attempt to both combat the radicalism and assuage the fears of its victims. But this is not done -- except among a few well meaning Muslims who do not receive nearly as much attention as their militant brethren. Instead, public apologists for ʾIslām seem to want to put the blame on the fearful victims, while discounting or ignoring the well-funded popularity of the terrorists. When Palestinians danced in the streets on 9/11, it was not because they believed that the Jews or George Bush were behind the attack on America, or because they believed that Islamic terrorism was an embarrassment to ʾIslām. They were spontaneously celebrating a great heartfelt victory in the Jihād. Apologists who do not acknowledge this are simply exposing their bad faith and ill will.

The conflicts, confusions, and deceptions in these attitudes came to a head with the proposal for building a mosque on Park Place, a couple of blocks from the site of the World Trade Center in New York -- the "ground zero mosque." We see the building on the site at right, with modest New York City police protection.

There would have been a right way and a wrong way to do this project. The right way would have reflected the concern of well-meaning Muslims to dissociate their religion from the 9/11 attacks and to express their dismay and mortification that the terrorists should have invoked ʾIslām to justify the atrocities. The mosque as an expression of contrition for the damage done by vicious co-religionists would have at least been a step in assuaging the justifiable fears of all the targets of terrorism. Indeed, there should be such a mosque at Ground Zero, in conjunction with facilities related to the religions of all the victims of 9/11. There were, after all, many innocent Muslims who were killed at the World Trade Center. The project of the mosque should be making clear that the "martyrs" of 9/11 were the victims of the terrorists, not the terrorists themselves (for whom, of course, a "martyrdom operation" means a suicide attack).

The wrong way to promote the project, however, is the way it has actually been done. The leader of the effort, the Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, himself was on record as blaming the United States for the 9/11 attacks and refused to distance himself from terrorist organizations like Hamas. He and his wife have responded to objections to the project with accusations of "Islamophobia," by which they clearly mean, not reasonable "fear of ʾIslām," but a bigoted and intolerant hostility for ʾIslām. Thus, they give every indication of militancy and would leave any reasonable person with the impression that the mosque is not an attempt at reconciliation -- which would be ill served by calling most Americans bigots -- but is in fact a Jihād Victory Mosque whose purpose is to promote an Islamist agenda as close as possible to the place were militant Islamists killed almost 3000 victims. This makes the project an insolent gesture that both insults America and makes use of the anti-American "useful idiots" who are eager to cooperate in their own destruction.

Imam Rauf appeared on "The O'Reilly Factor" on 8 May 2012 and announced that he was no longer involved with the Park Place mosque, citing some kind of disagreements with other backers. It would be nice to know who those other backers are and what Rauf's differences were with them. Nevertheless, in the interview Rauf keep talking as though he were still planning the project. Perhaps he was just talking about his general goals. Bill O'Reilly mentioned that he had long ago said that if Rauf would appear on "The Factor" and renounce Terrorism, O'Reilly himself would take up a hammer and help build the mosque. Rauf brought along a drawing of a hammer, that he said was from his wife, and gave it to O'Reilly. I did not notice, however, that Rauf ever did actually renounce Terrorism during the interview. Perhaps my attention wandered and I missed it.

We need to begin to suspect the motives of anyone willing to use the term "Islamophobia." The Left admires militant ʾIslām for its expressions of hostility to America, capitalism, "imperialism," and democracy -- i.e. for something that apologists want to deny that ʾIslām actually represents. The Left, of course, has no respect for ʾIslām as a religion or for its traditional religious or social values. All of these, from the subordination of women to the ferocious treatment of homosexuals, are actually anathema to elite political correctness. But opportunism trumps honesty, and this is as true for the Islamists as for Western Leftists. Both are pleased with the alliance, however Unholy to either ideology, as the old Arab saying (from the days of tribal vendettas) is well remembered -- "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

We see this alliance in various examples of what can only be called wishful thinking, if not outright delusion. Thus, Hollywood personality Rosie O'Donnell, a homosexual herself, drew considerable attention to her assertion that Christian fundmentalists are as bad as Islamic terrorists (along with claims that the 9/11 attack was an "inside job," a favorite trope of the Left). Since "just as bad" doesn't seem to square with the absence of Christian suicide bombers, mass terror attacks, or large popular organizations that preach Christian Holy War through terror and combat, O'Donnell seemed more than a little out of touch with reality. Not as extreme but just as revealing was the speculation by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg that the perpetrator of the May 2010 attempted Times Square bombing was, "Homegrown, maybe a mentally deranged person or someone with a political agenda that doesn’t like the health care bill or something." It looked like Bloomberg was hoping that the bomber was one of his political enemies (i.e. opposed to socialized medicine), rather than the kind of Muslim radical that he turned out in fact to be. Bloomberg loudly supports the ground zero mosque.

Meanwhile, the City of New York attempted to prevent the rebuilding of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, which was actually crushed by the falling South Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11. Bloomberg did not speak out on this issue. Fortunately, the church persisted in its right to rebuild, and now a glorious design has been approved, which should be finished by 2016 or 2017. Adjacent to the 9/11 Memorial, which is open, bleak, and cold -- appropriately -- the church will display a warm glow from its translucent walls. With elements borrowed from Santa Sophia, the church stands in fitting contrast to any Jihād Victor Mosque that might be built.

The courageous Ayaan Hirsi Ali grew up in Somalia, lived in Saudi Arabia and Kenya, and fled an arranged marriage, and ʾIslām, to the Netherlands. There she worked with Theo van Gogh on the movie about women in ʾIslām that got him assassinated on the street. She was elected to the Dutch parliament before her citizenship was revoked, probably because of the embarrassment she was causing to spineless Dutchmen like Ian Buruma (a Professor of "Democracy and Human Rights" at Bard College), who has publicly said that Ali is as much a fanatic (for freedom, human rights, and tolerance?) as the Islamists (for murder, terror, and intolerance?). If Buruma means that this is good, he has not done a good job of clarifying his intention.

Similarly, Ali has been confronted in interviews with the proposition that crimes are committed as much by Christians as by Muslims. Since the common crimes of Christians are rarely framed in terms of a Holy War against infidels, or suicide bombings, Ali naturally found the proposition more puzzling than anything else; and we are left with the impression of a kind of desperation on the part of the interviewers to deflect blame from ʾIslām and to create the kind of "moral equivalence" that the Left promoted, in relation to the United States and the Soviet Union, during the Cold War. Most people see through this easily, although, as George Orwell said, nothing is so preposterous that an intellectual will not believe it. People like O'Donnell, Bloomberg, and Buruma know that they have the "useful idiot" intellectuals on their side.

In 2014 American "higher education" disgraced itself when Ali was at first invited as a commencement speaker at Brandeis University and then "disinvited" when it was realized that she might criticize ʾIslām, and had done so in the past. This was an opportunity for every other college in the country to scramble and invite her themselves. Apparently none of them did. All this was was after Theo van Gogh had been assassinated, after Malala Yousafzai had been shot in the head by the Talibān, after the girls had been kidnapped and sold into slavery in Nigeria, and after many other cases of violence and oppression against women in ʾIslām. Since Brandeis said that Ali's views were "inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values," one could be excused some curiosity about what those values might be, since critics of Judaism and Christianity, sometimes vitriolic ones, have been invited to speak at Brandeis. The values, not just of Brandeis but of most other colleges in the country, are clearly those of cowardice, if not anti-American sympathy for the Terrorist enemies of America, civilization, and humanity. This what American education has come to.

Currently, the ugliest counter-examples to the good intentions of Muslims are the continuing attacks on Christians in Iraq, Pakistan, and especially in Egypt. Churches are looted, burned, demolished, and/or bombed. Christians in Iraq and Egypt are kidnapped and ransomed or tortured and murdered. Women and girls are kidnapped, forcibly converted to ʾIslām, and "married" to Muslims against their will. Campaigns are conducted in Egypt that Christians families are holding their own girls "hostage" after they supposedly converted to ʾIslām. The government of Egypt does not even allow churches to be built or repaired without its permission, which is effecively never given. Or, if it is, mobs often attack the churches, or even the whole Christian villages around them, during or after construction. On 24 November 2010, Egypt security forces actually stormed the St. Mary and St. Michael churches, which were under construction in Giza, occupying them and firing live ammunition at Coptic demonstrators, killing at least four. The official complaint was that a permit for the construction had not been obtained, although actually it had. Either way, a paramilitary attack, shooting civilians, is not the reasonable response to people building churches.

The Western Press pays little attention to these atrocities, both because the Western secular elite, in the intelligentsia, academia, and the media, is hostile to Christianity, and generally kills stories about the persecution of Christians, and because the political Left is effectively an ally of Islamic Fascism. Since Egyptian state security forces fail to protect Christians and often appear to cooperate in their persecution, including this recent case of shooting Christian demonstrators, while the government-controlled Press promotes anti-Christian hysteria, this puts the lie to claims about the general tolerance, respect, and good-will that ʾIslām is supposed to show towards other religions. That is not the practice on the ground in most Islamic countries, whether the Western Press reports it or not.

On 15 April 2013, the Jihād struck a great blow against that hated symbol of American imperialism and oppression:  the Boston Marathon. It also struck a blow against the idea that there is some sort of factual, moral, or psychological problem with fearing and suspecting American Muslims of nurturing and harboring terrorists. It now turns out that the apparently nice Muslim kid next door, who hangs out, smokes dope, plays on the soccer team, isn't named "Muhammad," doesn't even look like an Arab (as was all the case with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev) might nevertheless be building bombs and planning to blow up children who are watching a footrace. It is also a sobering lesson that the Chechens, whose main nationalistic complaint is with Russia, and with whom we fought on the same side in Kosovo, nevertheless harbor the same antipathy towards the "Great Satan" as other Jihadists. The Leftist "Islamophobia" narrative is exploded. Of course, since it was perverse, dishonest, and tendentious to begin with, there is nothing to stop it contining in the hands of the same blind anti-American ideologues who originated it.

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Copyright (c) 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2023 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved

ʾIslām, 622 AD;
Classical ʾIslām

The advent of Islām, with Arab armies coming out of the practical equivalent of nowhere, was unforeseen and unforeseeable. It dramatically and permanently altered the history of both the Middle East and the Mediterranean world. Persia was eliminated for many years as an independent political or cultural force, and the revival of Romania was ended, with the Empire reduced from about 3/4 of its original extent, as restored by Justinian, to little more than 1/4, all that was left by the reign of Leo III.
16 July 622 AD
28 April 1998 AD = 1419 Annô Hegirae
Muḥammad, ,

Peace Upon Him
The Arabs were the first Semitic speaking people since the Assyrians to dominate the Middle East. This broke up the cultural oecumene that had been created by the conquests of Alexander the Great and reinforced by Rome, and it reduced Western Europe for some time to a cultural and economic backwater. The poverty and ignorance of the "Dark Ages" was in fact a side show to the prosperity and learning of the Islāmic Middle East. In European eyes, this made Islām the successor to what Persia had been for the Greeks, the great looming threat of Oriental Despotism, now including North Africa (where, after all, the earlier threat of Carthage had been) and with the added twist of religious Unbelief. This polarization, however, obscures the fact that Greece itself was essentially a Middle Eastern civilization, and that Islām itself had nothing else to build upon but a common heritage of Greece, Rome, Irān, Judaism, and Christianity. Although perhaps alienated cousins, Christendom and Islām could have nearly equal claim as standard bearers of "Western Civilization," and the revival of European learning after the 11th Century undeniably owed a heavy debt to what Islām had been doing with Classical philosophy and science in the previous centuries.

Although the Arabs tend to be thought of as desert nomads, the origin of Muḥammad was urban and mercantile. His home town of , Makkah (Mecca), became increasingly hostile to his attacks on polytheism and idolatry, until he was invited to the nearby Yathrib as a mediator -- later marked as the beginning of the Islāmic Era in 622. Soon the virtual ruler of Yathrib, which then became , Madīnatu-n-Nabīy, the "City of the Prophet," or just , Madina (Medina), Muḥammad seemed to pose an even greater threat, and the Meccans resorted to military force. Since the results of this were inconclusive, and warfare was very bad for business, the Meccans decided that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Under a treaty, Muḥammad returned to Mecca and smashed the idols. Since the House of God, the , Kaʿabah, then became the goal of universal Moslem pilgrimage, the Meccans ended up doing very well out of the transaction. Muḥammad did not long survive this triumph and was buried in his house in Medina, around which the Prophet's Mosque was built.

At a time when the very existence of Jesus is often doubted, and that of Moses regularly taken as no more than mythic, the historicity of Muḥammad has generally been regarded as secure. Nevertheless, most of the information we have about Muḥammad comes from much later sources. Although Islām would develop a rich tradition of historiography, this did not begin until the days of the Abbasids, and many of the later traditions that are reported about Muḥammad are rightly matters of scepticism. The full treatment of "higher criticism" in Islām, however, has only come recently; and Muslims are often unsettled and "offended" (i.e. make death threats) when fundamental questions about the historical Muḥammad get asked. Not only do we get proposals that Muḥammad didn't exist but also strange assertions such as that the Qurʾān was originally in Aramaic and was patched together over many years.

A moderate and sober version of this revisionism can be found with In the Shadow of the Sword, The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire, by Tom Holland [Anchor Books, 2012, 2013]. The salient issue in this book is whether Muḥammad actually came from Mecca. The arguments, largely from the internal evidence of the Qurʾān itself, seem quite strong, but with one fatal flaw. If Muḥammad was not from Mecca, but from some locale rather further north, where was that? There is not a clue about a specific location, and never even a speculative suggestion from Holland. Yet if Muḥammad seems to have been involved in active international trade, as we are given to understand, and if he achieved enough fame to be invited to rule Yathrib, as he was, it is hard to understand how the center of his early activities would never get mentioned. If one objection against Mecca is that there is really little notice of the place in the Qurʾān, this same objection applies even more strongly to a place that, as it happens, is not mentioned at all. And if another objection to Mecca is that it is never mentioned by non-Islāmic sources, then, again, this applies equally well to the place that the Qurʾan does mention as the site of the Kaʿabah, namely "Bakka," which itself otherwise cannot be identified from any other source whatsoever.

So, while it is edifying that Islām should receive the same kind of critical attention that Judaism and Christianity have endured, it is not clear that this really adds up to much. We may have questions, but clear and decisive answers are elusive, and the forms of revisionism, radical or moderate, are left with incomplete cases. A mature and confident Islām could shrug off such things, as Christians must the constant assaults of atheists; but it is obviously a condition of our times that Muslims often react with fury and violence to skepticism, whether innocent, perceptive, or foolish. Until Muslims get a grip, "Islamophobia," as fear of ʾIslām, will be fully justified.

The Islāmic Era accompanies the Islāmic Calendar, which is purely lunar and cycles through the seasons every 32 or 33 years, a convenient provision when fasting is required during the daylight hours in the month of Ramaḍān -- neither Northern nor Southern hemispheres are stuck with Ramaḍān at times of either long or short days.
ʾAbū Bakr ʿAtīq
assumes title , Khalīfah, "Successor," to the Prophet
ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb634-644
Romans defeated at Yarmūk, 636; fall of Gaza, Antioch, Persians defeated, al-Qadisiyyah, Mesopotamia falls, 636/8; Jerusalem surrendered, 638; Egypt invaded, 639; fall of Caesarea in Palestine, 640; Persians defeated, Nihawand, opens Iranian plateau, 642
ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān644-656
attacks in India, 644; Roman army destroyed in North Africa, but army withdraws, 647; Persia overrun, by 651
ʿAlī ibn ʾAbī Ṭālib656-661
ʿĀʾiša takes Basra, Battle of the Camel, ʿĀʾiša defeated, 656; Battle of Siffin, truce with Mu'āwiya, 657; ʿAlī assassinated with poisoned sword by Kharijite
Curiously, the 30 year cycle of the Islāmic calendar
commensurates with the 19 year cycle of the Jewish calendar after 1368 solar or 1410 lunar Islāmic years. This puts the Islāmic Era in 622 at one full cycle after the beginning of the Era of Nabonassar in 747 BC. Another full cycle comes down to our time, in 1990. Anyone disposed to numerological portents are welcome to make of this what they will.

With the death of the Prophet, some Arabs thought that the House of ʾIslām had ended. They were soon persuaded of the error of their ways, and the armies of united Arabia were turned on Romania and Persia, which were both exhausted from the longest and harshest war they had ever fought against each other. The Roman position in Syria and Egypt was also compromised by the Monophysite heresy of the locals, and its suppression by Imperial authorities.
The tolerance of the Arabs for any "People of the Book" seemed preferable, especially after the respect and consideration shown by the Caliph 'Umar when he entered Jersualem. The period of the "Rightly Guided Caliphs," who were all either fathers-in-law or sons-in-law of Muḥammad, however, ended in some confusion. The murder of 'Uthman was blamed by his powerful Meccan relatives on ʿAlī, who was unable to exert authority against them over all Islāmic territories. The "bloody shirt of 'Uthman" was thereafter considered a largely cynical ploy by the Omayyads to further their own cause, which soon did triumph at the death of ʿAlī, whose sons were either bought off (Ḥasan) or killed (Ḥusayn).

Part of the strategy of conquest was the founding of Arab garrison towns. These were called the , ʾamṣār. The word in the singular, , miṣr, could mean "big city, metropolis, capital"; and the root verb could mean "to colonize," which seems appropriate for the circumstances. The same word, Miṣr, also meant "Egypt," with cognates in all the ancient Semitic languages to that effect. With the Arabs, the Semitic name would settle permanently on Egypt.

The ʾamṣār might be called the "Fetters" of ʾIslām, on analogy with the "Fetters" of Greece, since they helped a relatively small number of Arabs concentrate their force to hold a large empire -- although the original "Fetters" were to secure hegemony, not conquest, and so were mainly forts, not Macedonian settler cities. The ʾamṣār were created to be exclusively Arab cities; but local women, freely admitted to the towns, soon altered their purely Arab character. Whether the conquerors had families back at Medina, or elsewhere, they did not resist taking local wives or concubines.

Soon, the Abbasid Caliphs themselves mostly would have Persian or Turkish mothers. Indeed, of the 37 Caliphs down to 1258, only three of their mothers would be free-born Arabs. Other mothers were Afghan, Khawarizmian, Greek, Slavic, Berber, Persian, Turkish, Armenian, and Ethiopian [Arabs, A 3,000-Year History of Peoples, Tribes and Empires, by Tim Mackintosh-Smith, Yale University Press, 2019, p.283].

These cities were ʾal-Baṣrah, (founded 636), ʾal-Kūfah, (639), ʾal-Fusṭāṭ, (641), and ʾal-Qayrawān, (670). Baṣrah was founded below the point where the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers conjoin. This was a strategic location where attacks could be launched north, east, and back west, if need be. Kūfah was on the Euphrates near the Lakhmid capital of al-Ḥīrah and thus was positioned to dominate the Arab tribes adjacent to Mesopotamia. This is where the first battle was with the Sassanids, in 633. Fusṭāṭ was in Egypt and is discussed at that link. Al-Qayrawān was founded a bit later, by the Omayyads, as part of the invasion of North Africa. It noteworthy that all these cities were founded inland. The Caliph Umar had told his generals to go nowhere they could not get by camel, and so for a long time the Arabs avoided contact with the sea, either to use it, or be vulnerable from it. This would change, but the locations of the cities didn't. This is especially striking in Egypt and North Africa, where the Roman metropoles, at Alexandria and Carthage, were taken but not used in the same way.

Although the Omayyads were cousins of Muḥammad, they definitely had the greater status at Mecca and were originally quite hostile (except for ʿUthman) to ʾIslām. The symbolic crowns in the diagram are for the Prophet and the Caliphs (, Khalīfah, "successor"). Only that for the Prophet is given with a nimbus, since for the Orthodox only he was divinely inspired and authoritative. The light blue nimbus for ʿAlī indicates the Shiʿite belief that he and his descendants were divinely inspired and authoritative also (the ʾImāms). Modern families that trace descent to the Prophet or his family, like Kings of Hijaz, Iraq, and Jordan, call themselves Hāshemites.

A curious feature of the genealogical diagram is the presence of an adopted son of Muḥammad. This is Zayd, the only living person besides Muḥammad himself named in the Qurʾān (33:37) and the first male to convert to ʾIslām. If Zayd had lived, and his status affirmed, not only would he have been the obvious heir and successor to Muḥammad, but it is conceivable that he might have inherited the full mantle of prophecy from him. Instread, Zayd was killed in battle and predeceased Muḥammad, leaving only a minor son, ʾUsāmah. And the doctrine became accepted that prophecy ceased with Muḥammad, the "Seal" of the prophets. Islāmic tradition is that Zayd had actually been "unadopted," with verses in the Qurʾān explicitly abolishing adoption altogether and denying that Muḥammad was the father of anyone (Sura 33:4,40). However, when Muḥammad triumphantly entered Mecca, ʾUsāmah rode behind him, in a position reserved for his heir. And when the Prophet lay dying, and ʾUsāmah arrived, Muḥammad, no longer able to speak, placed his hand on the 17 year-old boy's head, in a gesture that could well have been a conferral of authority. Instead, the boy was pushed aside by the older Companions. When an edition of the Qurʾān was redacted by the Omayad Caliph ʿAbd ʾal-Malik, there is some suspicion that the verses were introduced to discredit the line of Zayd and eliminate the family of ʾUsāmah as a threat to the Throne. The Shiʿites had no reason to complain about this. And thus, if there had been a Party of Zayd and ʾUsāmah, it entirely lost its place in history. ʾUsāmah himself lived out his life, with heirs, but had been retired to a quiet life in Medina, like ʿAlī's son Ḥasan.

First Cousin & Son-In-Law
of the Prophet
& Fourth Rightly Guided Caliph
Martyred at Karbalā', 680
4ʿAlī Zayn al-ʿĀbidīn680-712
5Muḥammad al-Bāqir712-731
6Jaʿfar aṣ-Ṣādiq731-765
Schism -- followers of ʾIsmaʿil become the "Seveners" or "Ismailis," basis of Shīʿism of the Fatimids, the Assassins, and in India
7Mūsā al-Kāẓim765-799
8ʿAlī ar-Riḍā799-818
9Muḥammad al-Jawād818-835
10ʿAlī al-Hādī835-868
11ʾal-Ḥasan al-ʿAskarī868-874
al-Muntazar al-Mahdī
Disappears, 878 -- becomes the "Hidden ʾImām," basis of "Twelver" & Iranian Shiʿism

The Shīʿah, , or "Faction" of ʿAlī held that he was the proper Successor to the Prophet and that only his descendants qualified for the office. Soon, he and his successors were also believed to have a unique divinely inspired understanding of the meaning of the Qurʾān. Thus, the Shī'ite office of , ʾImām, became a source of doctrinal authority such as was missing from Orthodox ʾIslām, which relied on tradition and consensus to establish Islāmic law and doctrine. The line of ʾImāms splits, however, when the Seventh, Ismā'īl, is rejected by much of the community. The Seveners, nevertheless, had the most spectacular successes of Shī'ism in the Middle Ages. Today, the Agha Khan heads a Sevener community in India. The collateral line ended with the Twelfth Imām, who disappeared in 878. Although probably kidnapped and murdered by the Abbasid Caliph, he was believed by his followers to have gone into deathless "Occultation," preparing to return as the "Rightly Guided One," the , Mahdī, to usher in the Apocalypse. In time, this Twelver Shī'ism was used by the Safavids to establish a durable national monarchy in Irān. In 1848, it had been 1000 Islāmic lunar years since the Occultation, and the return of the Hidden Imām was widely expected. Various figures appeared as the Imām, including the , Bāb ("Gate"), from whom the Bābī and Bahāʾī faiths derive. The source of doctrinal authority in Irānian Shiʿism became an , Ayatollāh (in Persian pronunciation), the "Sign [σήμεῖον] of God," who was not individually believed to be the Hidden Imām but was thought to communicate with him. The Ayatollāh Khomeini was able to use his position to overthrow the last Shāh in 1979 and establish a theocratic "Islāmic Republic."

Muʿāwiya I661-680
assumes caliphate at death of ʿAlī, moves capital to Damascus; Arab aristocratic government; attacks on Constantinople, 667/668-669; Siege of Constantinople, 674-677; attacks in India, 677
Yazīd I680-683
Muʿāwiya II683-684
Marwān I684-685
ʿUqba ibn Nāfiʿ founds Qayrawān, 663/4; reaches the Atlantic, killed & Army annihilated by Berber Kusayla, 683
ʿAbd al-Malik685-705
Builds the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, finished 691/692; Romans defeated at Sebastopolis, 20,000 Slav conscripts, now the , Ṣaqāliba, desert, 692, stationed at Antioch; Conquest of Armenia, 693; silver , dirham (from δράχμα) & gold , dīnār (from denarius), first minted, 695; Fall of Carthage, 698, 705; Ḥassān ibn al-Nuʿmān al-Ghassānī defeated by Berber (possibly Jewish) prophetess ʾal-Kāhina (Dahiyah, Dahia, or Dhabba), driven out of North Africa, after 698; Kāhina defeated, Berbers convert, 702
ʾal-Walīd I705-715
Builds the Omayyad Mosque in Damascus, 706-715; Spain falls to ʾIslām, end of Visigoths, invasion of India, 711
Siege of Constantinople, 717-718
ʿUmar II717-720
Yazīd II720-724
defeat, 725, & explusion, 737, from India; defeated by Khazars, Ardebil, 730; but defeated and subjected Khazars, 737-c.740
ʾal-Walīd II743-744
Yazīd III744
Marwān II744-750
Bashmurite revolt in Egypt, 749; Abbasid revolution, Omayyads overthrown and massacred (except in Spain); end of Arab empire, 750; Battle of Talas, 751, T'ang Dynasty Chinese defeated, but no further advance into Central Asia
Under the Omayyads the House of ʾIslām was undoubtedly an Arab Empire, with only a very secondary interest in winning converts to the Faith -- although there were exceptions to this.
The Omayyad Mosque,
Damascus, 1970
Indeed, many Arabs believed that Muḥammad had simply been a Prophet for the Arabs, as Moses had been the Prophet for the Israelites, and this view was reflected in the practice that newly converted Moslems needed to be affiliated with an Arab tribe. Despite the sometimes seemingly half-hearted religious mission, the zeal of the Arab armies nevertheless permanently altered the linguistic and religious map of lands from the Hindu Kush to the Atlantic. Of the major territories won in this period, only Spain would later return to Christendom, while in our own time a precarious Jewish state has been established in Palestine. The principal disappointment, the failure to take Constantinople and overthrow Romania, had to wait 800 years for the
Ottoman Turks.

Two attempts were made on Constantinople. Flush with his power and successes, Muʿāwiya hoped to cap off his record of conquest with the ultimate prize. The siege of 674-677 was a desperate business, but its failure was finally sealed with the Roman use of a secret weapon, the "Greek fire" whose nature is still unclear but which functioned like a flamethrower -- something to use carefully under specific conditions, and which could never be used with ships under sail. Galleys in the Mediterranean, and especially in the confined waters of the Bosporus were just perfect.

The high water mark of the Omayyad realm was certainly under ʿAbd al-Malik and ʾal-Walīd, as North Africa, Spain, Transoxania, and part of the Indus Valley fell to ʾIslām. Permanent monuments to the period were ʿAbd al-Malik's Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and ʾal-Walīd's Omayyad Mosque in Damascus. Since both these buildings are now some 1300 years old, it is an oversight of many treatments of history that they are not more celebrated as monuments from a period that is otherwise considered an obscure part of the "Dark Ages." Never before had Damascus been, and never again would it be, the center of such power and civilization.

ʾAl-Walīd's brother Sulaymān, riding the wave of conquest in Central Asia and Spain, thought it was time to return to Constantinople. He was also encouraged by a prophecy that the City would fall to a ruler named after a Prophet.
The Omayyad Mosque,
Damascus, 1970
Sulaymān was the only member of his House with such a name -- a name associated, as we see often in The Thousand and One Nights, with magical powers and command over the Jinn. Some Jinn would have helped.

The Arab force avoided the Greek fire for a while; but two events conspired to foil the siege. A cold winter began to starve the besiegers, whose supplies were delayed, leaving the City, which could not be closely blockaded, well supplied. Then Christian sailors defected from the Muslim fleet, reducing its manpower and carrying intelligence. The Roman navy attacked, even while the Bulgars had been encouraged to attack the Muslim army on land. Greek fire did it again; and the Arab fleet, of an impressive 2560 ships (which may be exaggerated), beat a retreat, many ships burning, many captured by the Romans, and many others burned again in the ashfall of the 718 volcanic eruption of Thera -- whose 726 eruption the Emperor Leo I ironically interpreted as a judgment against the use of Icons. Only ten ships returned to Alexandria and other ports. The army, which had been some 200,000 men (which may be exaggerated) returned with only 30,000. Arab Caliphs never tried this again, although their ships would plague Roman waters and pick off conquests.

Meanwhile, Sulaymān, lacking any Jinn, had died, and his successor, his cousin ʾUmar II, began to vent his fury on his Christian subjects. Later sources claim that ʾUmar moderated his behavior after an exchange of letters with the Emperor Leo, who rebuked him. The reputation of ʾUmar was for his piety and moderation -- although these do not always go together in the history of ʾIslām. It is not clear whether his subsequent assassination was the result of resentment over his tolerant treatment of Christians, or whether the rest of the Omayyads resented the moral rigor of his piety.

Later, ʾal-Walīd II is supposed it have shot a Qurʾān to pieces with arrows because of the verse "every forward potentate shall be brough to nought." The Qurʾān, of course, also prohibited wine, which ʾal-Walīd much enjoyed. His desert hunting lodges, some of which survive, contain images much more Roman than Islāmic in inspiration. The Caliph was himself deposed and killed, but then some thought him all too characteristic of the Arab aristocracy. The Caliph Hishām's son Muʿāwiya was killed falling off a horse in a hunting accident. Hishām said, "I brought him up for the caliphate, and he pursued a fox" [The Arabs, a Narrative History from Mohammad to the Present, by Anthony Nutting, A Mentor Book, 1964, p.93]. The dynasty's days were numbered.

As it happened, when Constantinople fell to the Turks, it was indeed to a ruler named after a Prophet, namely Muḥammad himself, Meḥmed II.

In a short time, hostility against the Arab regime of the Omayyads began to mount. The resentment of the non-Arabic second-class Moslems joined with the cause of the partisans of ʿAlī, questioning the legitimacy of the regime and agitating against it. Also, later Omayyads, like ʾal-Walīd II, sometimes seemed insufficiently interested in ʾIslām.

When the storm broke, it was with astonishing ferocity. The entire Omayyad clan was exterminated. Only one prince, a son of our luckless Muʿāwiya, would escape to Spain, where an Omayyad regime endured -- although one brother of Muʿāwiya was protected by the Abbasids and another is said to have fled to India. Elsewhere, the rebellion succeeded completely, bringing to power distant cousins of the Omayyads, the descendants of Muḥammad's uncle ʿAbbās.

All Moslems now became (more or less) equal, and when the capital shifted to Baghbad, the influence of Persian civilization began to predominate over Roman. The Arabs lost their preeminence, and soon it was the rare Caliph who was not the child of a Persian or Turkish mother. As the Abbasids later declined, Arabia itself slipped from their hold, to become once again a political, if not a religious, backwater. The Arabs had bestowed their religion and their language on the civilization of the Middle East, but true Arabian Arabs would be politically insignificant until the discovery of oil in the 20th century gave them a geopolitical status beyond what any other asset would warrant.

The defeat of the Chinese at Talas in 751 was probably still a function of the momentum of Omayyad conquest. However, the overthrow of the Omayyads immediately deflated this momentum, and no further advantage was taken of the Chinese embarrassment -- at a time when the T'ang Dynasty had seen its best days and was on the verge of decline. Curiously, there seems to have been one long-term consequence of the battle of a very different sort.

Reportedly, among the Chinese prisoners taken at Talas were artisans who knew how to make paper. What they were doing with a Chinese army in Central Asia, I don't know; but the significance of their craft was quickly recognized. Soon, the Abbasids founded paper mills in Baghdad and the industry quickly spread to Romania. Since parchment is more durable than paper, surviving books tend to be in that material; and the role of paper books in the Mediaeval book market is thus a matter of some uncertainty. That they existed, however, at least in ʾIslām and Romania, is beyond doubt. Paper mills in Francia are first attested in Aragón in 1282.

The Arabic title , ʾamīr, is important. Originally this just means "commander" and would be used for a general military officer, or even for the Caliph himself, the , ʾAmīru l-Muʾminīn, "Commander of the Faithful." The military commanders then become governors, and so ʾamīr comes to mean "governor." The governors then drift into independence, and amīr then can reasonably be translated "prince." The first truly independent Amirs were the Omayyads in Spain, who were content with the title for a century and a half. Later many Abbasid governors drifted into independence, and the "Emirate" becomes the basic domain of independent Islāmic statehood.

A title that is mostly not seen for many centuries is , malik, "king." This is not really an Islāmic title of rule, though it can be a proper name and is very close to one of the Names of God, , Mālik, "Owner, Master, Possessor." Every day, Muslims invoke God as the , Māliku Yaumi d-Dīni, "Possessor the of the Day of Judgment" (Sūrah 1:4). Malik has largely been a post-colonial title, often an ephemeral one.

The old Persian word for King, however, , Shāh, occurred with some frequently in Iran and India. What becomes the classic Islāmic title of rule, , Sulṭān, "Power, Dominion, Authority," the equivalent in significance and ideology, of universal secular rule, begins with the Seljuks. Its effective universality, however, is shortlived.

Meanwhile, we see a title used for the Roman Emperor in Constantinople. The Arab historian ʾaṭ-Ṭabarī (839-923), in his Annales (edition in Leiden, 1883-1884), relates details of embassies in 845 between the Abbasid Caliph ʾal-Wāthiq (842-847) and the Amorian Emperor Michael III (842-867) -- or his Regent mother, Theodora (842-856) -- about a prisoner exchange.

The Caliph had been executing prisoners, taken in the sack of Amoricum in 838, when they refused to convert to ʾIslām. Since the Romans had their own Arab prisoners, an exchange was suggested, and accepted.

The Roman ambassadors are called , rusulu Ṣāḥibi-r-Rūm, the "messengers of the Emperor of the Romans," one of whom seems to have been the future Patriarch Photius. See the discussion of the expression for "Romans."

So here the word for "Emperor" is (irregular or "broken" plural , ṣaḥābah), which is familiar, as "Sahib," in countless movies about India and Africa. It is an important word in Arabic. Ṣāḥib can mean "owner, possessor, master, lord," etc., as it does here, or it can mean "companion, comrade, friend, follower" (comes in Latin). Thus, , ʾaṣ-Ṣaḥābah, are the "Companions" of the Prophet Muḥammad. These are the most important personages in the history of ʾIslām apart from the Prophet himself. Also noteworthy is the term , "messengers," where the singular, , rasūl, is found in the expression , rasūlu-llāh, i.e. Muḥammad as the "Messenger of God," which is used in the Confession of Faith.

ʾAṭ-Ṭabarī also reports that Muḥammad had written a letter to the Roman Emperor Heraclius, inviting him to convert to ʾIslām, much as Aśoka had written to Hellenistic monarchs for a similar purpose. Heraclius is addressed as , Harqal ʿAẓīm ar-Rūm, whose terms are examined at the link.



Bashmurite revolt in Egypt, 767




mythic and cultural height of Abbasid Caliphate; Idrīsids break away in Morocco, 789; first paper mill established in Baghbad, 794-795; great earthquake in Egypt, Alexandria & Pharos Lighthouse damaged, 797



leads army into Egypt to put down the Bashmurite revolt (831–832), breaks into and enters Great Pyramid, 832

moved to Samarra with Turkish guard


assassinated by
Turkish guard

assassinated by
Turkish guard?

deposed, executed by
Turkish guard

used North African troops to kill Turkish leader, but then deposed and executed by Turkish guard

Zanj Rebellion, 869-883; tried to ban alcohol; assassinated by Turkish guard

returned to Baghdad; suppressed Zanj Rebellion, 883; recognizes King of Armenia, 885

commanded suppression of Zanj rebellion, 869-883, recovers territories



deposed, blinded by Turkish guard


deposed, blinded by Turkish guard

d. 949
under Shiʿite Buwayids, 945; deposed, blinded by Iranian hillmen




under Seljuks; 1055, grants title of Sulṭān







from Seljuks, 1194



1258, killed by Mongol Khān Hülägü; end of Abbasid Caliphate; Mamlūks set up Abbasid puppet caliphate in Egypt; continues until Ottoman conquest
Military expansion of the Caliphate ceased under the Abbasids. Instead there soon was, in effect, a turning inward and an examination and definition of what ʾIslām and Islāmic civilization were going to mean, especially in relation to the rival religions and the heritage of Classical civilization. Thus, we find the beginning of
philosophy in ʾIslām, especially when ʾal-Maʾmūn creates the Dāru-l-Ḥikmah, the "House of Wisdom," principally to translate Greek texts into Arabic. This gives rise to the Hellenizing tradition of falsafah, . On the other hand, we also get the independent, or antagonistic, development of Islamic theology, or Kalām, ("Talk") -- which often displays more original ideas than the strictly philosophical tradition.

The height of the Abbasid period in legendary hindsight is the reign of Hārūn arRashīd. There are several stories about him in the (Book of) One Thousand and One Nights (Kitāb ʾAlf Layla waLayla, ), often with him visiting the public incognito. It is hard to know how much of a historical basis there is for most of those stories. It does lend, however, a magical air to the early culture of Baghdād. The collection of stories itself seems to date in a definitely form from Mamlūk Egypt.

As noted above, Chinese artisans with knowledge of paper making are supposed to have been captured in 751. They were first put to work making paper in nearby Samarkand. By 794-795, the Wazīr of Hārūn ar-Rashīd, Jafar al-Barmak, founded a paper mill in Baghbad. The relative cheapness and convenience of paper over the alternatives (parchment, papyrus, stone, clay, bone, shells, ostraca) transformed literate culture, with the drawback, however, that the medium, like papyrus, is less durable than parchment, let alone stone or ostraca. The technology was soon exported to Romania, where we get notable developments in the literate culture of the 9th century, such as the introduction of "miniscule" script and punctuation -- things that are often noted as features of the Carolingian "Renaissance" but certainly derive from the innovations apparent in ʾIslām and Romania.

Politically, the Abbasid era then becomes a story of fragmentation, as governors become autonomous and then rival powers arise.
ʿAbdu-r-Raḥmān I756-788
grandson of the Caliph
Hishām; escapes to Spain from
the massacre of the Omayyads
Hishām I788-799
ʾal-Ḥakam I799-822
ʿAbdu-r-Raḥmān II822-852
Muḥammad I852-886
Line continues with the
Omayyad Caliphs, 912-1031
At first, only Spain escaped the Abbasid revolution.

After the Abbasid overthrow and massacre of the Omayyads, Spain was a place where their authority was never asserted. Instead, the Omayyad prince ʿAbdu-r-Raḥmān, escaping the massacre, established himself and his line.

ʾIslām had little trouble in Spain these days. Charlemagne pushed the Omayyads back from the Pyrenees and established the Marches there that grew into later kingdoms, but he was defeated at Roncesvalles in 778 and the heart of Spain was little effected. Eventually, in response to the Fatimid Shiʿite Caliphate, the Spanish Omayyads proclaimed their own Caliphate.

ʾIbrāhīm I800-812
ʿAdbullāh I812-817
Ziyādat allāh I817-838
Invasion of Sicily, 827
Muḥammad I841-856
Sack of Ostia
& the Vatican, 846
Ziyādat allāh II863
Muḥammad II863-875
Capture of Malta, 870
ʾIbrāhīm II875-902
Capture of Syracuse, 878
ʿAbdullāh II902-903
Ziyādat allāh III903-909
Conquest by the Fatimids, 909
The Aghlabids were originally the faithful Abbasid governors of Tunisia and only gradually drifted out of central supervision and control. Their greatest independent project was the conquest of Sicily, 827-878, which remained in ʾIslām until the arrival of the
Normans. Although the Aghlabids lost their position to the Fatimids, Sicily drifted into autonomy again with the Kalbī ʾAmīrs.

Ṭāhir I821-822
Ṭāhir II845-862
Occupied by Ṣaffārids

The Ṭāhirids were the faithful Abbasid governors of Khurāsān, only beginning the process of drifting out of central control when the area was seized by the Ṣaffārids. Ṭāhirids were also governors of Baghdad and Iraq under the Abbasids. For many years, Muḥammad continued as the nominal governor of Khurāsān while living in Iraq. His brother ʾal-Ḥusayn briefly returned in 876.

Egypt first drifted out of Abbasid control under its originally faithful Ṭūlūnid governors, while the Caliphate was distracted by the Zanj Rebellion.
Aḥmad ibn Ṭūlūn868-884
Recovered by Abbasids
Aḥmad built one of the oldest monuments in Cairo (at the time still called Fusṭāṭ), the Ibn Ṭūlūn Mosque. The dynasty fell victim to the brief revival of Abbasid power at the beginning of the 10th century.

The Zanj Rebellion (869-883) was a lengthy and terrifying business, which at one point threatened the existence of the Caliphate. "Zanj," , is a name for East Africa and for the black slaves taken from there, by capture or purchase. Thus, the slaves, or the people, could be either , ʾaz-Zanj, or , Zunūj (an irregular or "broken" plural). An individual of the kind is a , Zanjī. "Zanj" seems to be preserved in the Arabic name of Zanzibar, , Zanjabār, which contained a great slave market and was the source of slaving expeditions into the interior -- right down to the 19th century, when the British, of course, stopped the slave trade and made Zanzibar a Protectorate in 1890.

The Zanj Rebellion against the Abbasids began with escaped African slaves, who had sought refuge in the historic marshlands of southern Iraq (as slaves in America could find refuge in the everglades of Florida among the Seminole Indians, who also fought their own wars, 1816–1819, 1835–1842, & 1855–1858). They were joined by other (white) slaves and, apparently, people who were just brigands.

Some scholarly opinion questions whether African slaves were predominant, or even present at all. The testimony of Arab historians apparently isn't enough to overcome the squeamishness of modern historians to admit that ʾIslām enslaved and ferociously treated black Africans (something that, to ignorant or dishonest politically correct opinion, has only ever been done by racist Europeans), who in this case rose up with a force that made the rebellion of Nat Turner (1831) look like a strongly worded letter to the editor. At one point the Zanj actually captured and looted the major city of Basra and advanced to within 50 miles of Baghdad. Vast slaughter attended suppressing the Zanj -- Masʿūdī (c.896–956) says 500,000 dead in the whole rebellion. Larger numbers were suggested by other sources.

ʾAḥmad Igovernor
of Farghāna
& Soghdia,
Naṣr I864-892
ʾAḥmad II907-914
Naṣr II914-943
Nūḥ I943-954
ʿAbd al-Malik I954-961
Manṣūr I961-976
Nūḥ II976-997
patron of Ibn Sīna (d.1037)
Manṣūr II997-999
ʿAbd al-Malik II999-1000
ʾIsmāʿīl II1000-1005
Conquest by Qarakhanids
& Ghaznawids, 1005
The Sāmānids, like many other Abbasid successors, were originally duly appointed governors, but the Ṣaffārids started as aggressive rebels, overthrowing the Tāhirids and launching an invasion of Iraq that reached the Tigris in 876.

Overthrow Ṭāhirids, 873
ʿAmr ibn al-Layth879-900
Sāmānid Occupation, 911-912
ʿAmr ibn Yaʿqūb912
Sāmānid Occupation, 912-914
[local commanders]914-923
Ghaznawid Occupation, 1003

Although Orthodox, the Ṣaffārids rejected the need for recognition by the Caliphal authority -- but the second amir was eventually recognized as governor of several Irānian provinces. Ṣaffārid power, however, was soon checked by the Sāmanīds, who themselves claimed descent from the Sassanid Shāhs and patronized the revival of Persian as a literary language in the epic of Firdawsī (940-1020), the Shāh-nāma (Book of Kings -- nāma is today used to mean "letter" or "paper," while Arabic kitāb is used for "book"). This is now regarded as the Irānian National Epic and is noteworthy for the dignity accorded to Zoroaster as a Prophet of God.

The book contains a striking dream image, of four men pulling at the corners of a square cloth, but not tearing it. This is interpreted to mean that the four men are the Prophets Moses, Zoroaster, Jesus, and Muḥammad, while the cloth is the Religion of God. That Zoroaster figures along with Moses, Jesus, and Muḥammad is an unmistakable clue that we are dealing with a Persian source. Otherwise, Muslims do not go out of their way to include Zoroaster, certainly not on equal footing, with the other three -- the Qurʾān mentions the "Magians," , ʾal-Majūs [22:17], but not among the tolerated "People of the Book." Also, as a statement about religion it is un-Islāmic and subversive in that it implies an equality, despite the conflict, between the four attendant religions. The Islāmic view is that only Muḥammad delivers an uncorrupted revelation, with his definitive version replacing that of the earlier prophets -- who in turn are accused of "corrupting" their own scriptures. Nevertheless, the origin of Islāmic Law in Abbasid Iraq seems to have involved many Persian converts, whose influence may be evident in provisions such as for a Zoroastrian practice of five prayers a day, where the Qurʾān only specifies three, and for the execution of apostates.

Both the Ṣaffārids and Sāmanīds eventually fell to the coming wave of Turkish regimes. The Sāmānids were thus the last Irānian domain in Transoxania, which in short order will merit the name "Turkestan," , Persian Torkestān.

The defeat of the Zanj seems to have allowed, if not exemplified, a revival of Abbasid power, which again spread as far as Egypt. Much of this work was conducted by the future Caliph al-Muʿtaḍid, whose father, and then himself, ruled as regents for the Caliph al-Muʿtamid. Fondly remembered in the Thousand and One Nights, ʾal-Muʿtaḍid nevertheless has his name misspelled, as "al-Mutasid" and his succession stated as "sixth Khalīfah in the line of Abbās," instead of as the sixteenth ["The Tale of Pearl Harvest,"
Muḥammad ibn Ṭughj al-Ikhshīd935-946
Kāfūr al-Lābī, Regent966-968
Conquest by the Fatimids, 969
The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night, rendered into English from the Literal and Complete French Translation of Dr. J.C. Mardrus, by Powys Mathers, Volume IV, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1964, 1972, 1986, p.1].

But then the old inertia took over again, and the Caliphs again lost their grip. ʾAl-Qāhir, ʾal-Muʿtaḍid's own son, would be deposed and blinded by his Turkish Guard, already of evil memory. In short order, three Caliphs would be blinded, perhaps adopting the more "humane" approach practiced on Emperors in Constantinople. This did not last long, as by 945 the Caliphate would be under the thumb of the Buwayid princes. The initial victim of this, ʾal-Mustakfī, would himself be deposed and then blinded by the Iranians. This would last until the arrival of the Seljuks in 1055, four reigns later.

Meanwhile, in Egypt, the Ikhshīdids began the process of drifting out of Abbasid control but then found themselves trying to stop the triumphant Fatimids, ultimately unsuccessfully.

ʿAlī I
Trapped by Leo Phocas on raids, armies destroyed, 950, 960; defeats Bardas Phocas, captured his son Constatnine, 953, again, 954; patron of ʾal-Fārābī (d.950)
Sharīf I
Antioch lost to Romania, 969
ʿAlī II & Sharīf II1002-1004
Vassal of Fatimids, 1004
Fled to Romania, 1015
As the Ikhshīdids became autonomous, Northern Syria broke away from them, beginning an era of considerable fragmentation. Sayf-ud-Dawla ("Sword of the State") became a celebrated foe of Romania, but he was largely unsuccessful against the revival of Roman power, and his son experienced devastating defeats, at one point with Aleppo and Ḥoms themselves falling, though retained with the payment of tribute. As the Abbasids declined, Romania revived, recovered lost territory, like Antioch, evicted Muslims, and established a regional hegemony. Only the arrival of the Seljuk Turks reversed fortunes again.

ʾAḥmad ibn Būya945-967
Fanā Khusraw978-983
Shīrzīl I987-989
ʾAbū Shujāʿ1012-1021
Shīrzīl II1025-1044
Khusraw Fīrūz1048-1055
Overthrown by Seljuk
Great Sulṭāns, 1055
The Buwayids were Shiʿite Princes who dominated the Abbasid Caliphs for a century. Although they fostered a flourishing of Shiʿite scholarship and theology, they never tried to suppress the Orthodox Caliphs altogether, so the Abbasids continued to exercise their minimal religious authority under the regime. Nevertheless, the Caliphs and the Orthodox were not too happy about this and so, at least initially, welcomed the coming of the Orthodox Seljuks. The appeal of Shiʿism in Irān, evident here, later becomes the basis of Irānian nationalism in the
Safavids. This is the nadir of the Abbasid Caliphate, with its secular power and prestige completely eclipsed.

The origin of the name of Baghdād, , is itself obscure. The dād element looks like it is from the Indo-European verb "give," which we also see in Persian names like Mehrdād, "given by Mithra." With the first element, it could be Middle Persian "god," bag (Sanskrit bhaga), or Middle Persian "garden," bāgh (also bāgh in Punjabi, which looks like a borrowing from Persian -- the "gh" is not a voiced aspirate stop, as in Sanskrit or Hindi, but the fricative that is indicated, but not always pronounced, in Indian, i.e. Hindi and Urdu, borrowings from Persian or Arabic). My guess is that "garden" is more likely right, so that the meaning is probably "a garden is given," rather than "given by God." But this can still leave us wondering whether the name already belonged to the site, and what it was about the site that appealed to the Abbasid builders. Ctesiphon is not far down the river, closer than Samarra is up river.

The complete genealogy of the Alids, Omayyads, and Abbasids is in The Cambridge History of Islam, Volume 1B, [edited by P.M. Holt, Ann K.S. Lambton, & Bernard Lewis, Cambridge University Press, 1970, pp.731-733]. Unfortunately, the diagrams contain no dates. Much the same information, with dates, is in The Arabs by Anthony Nutting [Mentor Books, 1964, p.202-203]. I have not found a complete genealogy of the Egyptian Abbasids. According to Bosworth's The New Islamic Dynasties [pp.7 & 9], the relationship of the two lines is uncertain anyway.

Now, however, I have received from Derek Whaley a genealogy of the Egyptian Abbasids which he has assembled, with a connection to the main Abbasid line. Much of this can be confirmed in Bosworth, and I provide it, with a couple of additions and corrections, here, formerly just in a popup, but now connected up with the rest of the Abbasids.

While the Seljuks rescued the Abbasids from the Buwayids, this meant nothing like the restoration of Abbasid power. Autonomy, at least, was restored in 1194 as the Seljuks passed into their own decline, but freedom for the Caliphs would be short lived. The next invaders, the Mongols, had not (yet) converted to ʾIslām and had no respect or interest for the Abbasids. The wife of the Khan Hülegü was reportedly a Nestorian Christian, who advised killing the Caliph. Warned the calamities would follow if the Caliph's blood touched the ground, in 1258 Hülegü had al-Musta'ṣim beaten to death in a sack. After all the glories and romance of the Abbasid Caliphate, this was a particularly sad, ignominous, and humiliating end. It seemed like a body blow to ʾIslām, which had lost its institutional and genetic continuity to the Prophet himself. Baghdad would not even be a capital city again until the British carved modern Iraq out of the Ottoman Empire, even as the previous prosperity of the country fell into neglected ruin, perhaps for the first time since the Sumerians.

But the Mamlūks, after a fashion, came to the rescue of the Abbasids. They reckoned that a figurehead Caliph in Cairo could be useful, as it would be. So an Abbasid cousin was recruited; and, after a while, his position even became accepted as legitimate. Even the Ottomans sought diplomas of political authority and titles from the Caliph. But eventually the Ottomans showed up in person, and Selim "the Grim" overthrew the Mamlūks and annexed Egypt. The last, the very last, Abbasid Caliph, al-Mutawakkil III, was shipped off to Constantinople.

There is no reason why the Abbasid line should not have continued in Constantinople, as figureheads for the Ottomans, as they had been for the Mamlūks, but instead they disappear from history. I do not know whether they died out, the Ottomans exterminated them, or they just faded into obscurity.

I have one source with a little more information. Tim Mackintosh-Smith says:

The Mamluks still had an Abbasid puppet caliph in residence, al-Mutawakkil III (they had long ago run out of new throne-names); the conquerors took him to Constantinople, now more usually called Istanbul, 'and the caliphate and the swearing of allegiance to it were cut off'. In the Ottoman capital al-Mutawakkil was at first treated with due respect; later, however, he was accused of embezzling religious trust-funds, and was sent back in disgrace to Cairo, where he died in 1543. [Arabs, A 3,000-Year History of Peoples, Tribes and Empires, Yale, 2019, p.399]

For the embedded quote, Mackintosh-Smith (who does not bother to number his endnotes and does not use diacritics in his text) cites "Jabarti I, p.37," which seems to mean the entry, "al-Jabartī, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān, ʿAjā'ib al-āthār fi 'l-tarājim wa-'l-akhbār, Beirut, n[o].d[ate]." in the bibliography [p.605]. So we are not given an English language source for this information. al-Jabartī (1753-1825) was a scholar and historian who was born, lived, and died in Cairo. Since his life was a couple of centuries after the Ottoman conquest of Egypt, he had to have been relying on earlier sources about the fate of al-Mutawakkil III.

That the Ottoman Sulṭāns somehow were the annointed successors of the Abbasids is the claim they made much later, whose mysterious origin and baseless audacity is only matched by its remarkable acceptance among Orthodox Muslims. When the title and office were abolished by Kemal Atatürk in 1924, we then have the equally puzzling lack of interest in the attempt to claim it by Hussein of Mecca, whose descent from the Prophet was otherwise acknowledged. Meanwhile, as Muslims in India had been accusing the British of undermining the Ottoman Caliph, perhaps because of the Allied occupation of Constantinople, Atatürk suddenly took all the wind out of their sails. The British had nothing to do with it, except that they had previously supported Hussein's revolt against the Turks.

Below we see ʾIslām in the year 1000 AD. The days of secular authority of the Abbasid Caliphs are now gone. The Caliphs are dominated by the Buwayid princes. The center of Islamic power and culture has moved to Egypt, with the Caliphate of the Shiʿite Fatimids. The Fatimids even control the sacred cities of Mecca and Medina. Representing Orthodoxy, the Omayyads in Spain have also declared a Caliphate. In the East, we see the fateful advent of the Turks, with the Ghaznawids beginning their inroads into India. This will permanently introduce ʾIslām into India, even as these Turkish states mean the disappearance of Iranian people from Central Asia and the penetration of Turkish peoples deep into Iran and ultimately Anatolia, whose modern name becomes the eponym of the whole people.

ʿAbdu-r-Raḥmān III912-961
ʾal-Ḥakam II961-976
Hishām II976-1008
& 1010-1012
Muḥammad II1008-1009
Sulaymān1009 &
(ʿAlī ibn Hamūd)1017-1021
ʿAbdu-r-Raḥmān IV1021-1022
ʿAbdu-r-Raḥmān V1022-1023
Muḥammad III1023-1024
(Yaḥyā ibn ʿAlī)1024-1027
Hishām III1027-1031
The glorious culmination of Omayyad rule in Spain comes when ʿAbdu-r-Raḥmān III proclaims himself Caliph. One reason that he may have done so, besides the general decline of the Abbasids in power the prestige, was the new
Fatimid Caliphate in North Africa. However, this epochal elevation of the Omayyads to the status they previously had enjoyed in Damascus ends up leading to a surprisingly rapid collapse of the regime. ʿAbdu-r-Raḥmān's great grandchildren became the pawns of slave troups from Europe (the Ṣaqāliba) and North Africa. Leadership devolved onto the Ḥājib or Chief Minister, like ʾIbn abī ʿAmir al-Manṣūr (Almanzor), who scored one of the great successes of Islamic Spain by capturing Barcelona and sacking the shrine of St. James of Compostella (Santiago -- later in the battle cry of Spanish armies, Santiago y España) in Galicia, hitherto the most sacred site of Christian Spain. But from this pinnacle of triumph against Christendom, the situation soon, very soon, escaped even this kind of control. Islāmic Spain broke into petty states and permanently lost its ability to maintain its own unity or resist the Christian Reconquista.

Note that the genealogy of the Omayyads here is included with that of the original Caliphate.

The Jahwarids of Cordova, Qurṭubah
Jahwar ibn Muḥammad
ibn Jahwar
Muḥammad ar-Rashīd1043-1058
ʿAbd al-Malik
Dhu-s-Siyādatayn al-Manṣur
'Abbādid conquest, 1069
Omayyad Spain broke up into a chaos of petty states, like the period of the
Oghullar in Anatolia. In Arabic, the rulers were called the , mulūk aṭ-Ṭawāʾif, or the "kings of the bands/factions/parties [singular , ṭāʾifah]." This was adapted into Spanish as the Reyes de Taifas.

The map above shows 21 Reyes de Taifas in 1030, but at different times there were up to 39 of them. Only some of the more significant and durable are listed in the tables here. Already, both León and Navarre are larger than any Islamic state. Spain would never again be unified by a native Islamic state. This disunity was, of course, a golden opportunity for the Christian kingdoms; and the fall of Toledo to León and Castille in 1085 is significantly considered the beginning of the Christian Reconquista. The Moslem position was restored by the advent of the Almoravids, who then absorbed all the Taifa states. Toledo, however, which had been the capital of the Visigoths and was still considered the heart of Spain, was never recovered.

ʾAfṭasids of Badajoz, Baṭalyaws
ʿAbdallāh ibn Muḥammad
ibn al-Afṭas
Muḥammad al-Muẓaffar1045-1068
ʿUmar al-Mutawakkil1068-1094
Almoravid conquest, 1091
The ʿĀmirids of Valencia, Balansiyyah
ʿAbd alʿAzīz ibn abī ʿĀmir al-Manṣūr (Sanchuelo)1021-1060
ʿAbd al-Malik Niẓām ad-Dawla1060-1065
Occupied by Dhu-n-Nūnids, 1065-1076
ʾAbū Bakr al-Manṣūr1076-1085
ʿUthmān al-Qāḍī1085
Yaḥyā II Dhu-n-Nūnid1085-1092
Rodrigo Díaz,
El Cid,
Almoravid conquest, 1102
The Dhu'n-Nūnids of Toledo, Ṭulayṭulah
Yaʿīsh ibn Muḥammad al-Qādī1012-1018
ʾIsmāʿīl Dhu-r-Riyāsatayn aẓ-Ẓāfir1018-1043
Yaḥyā I Sharaf ad-Dawla al-Ma'mūn1043-1075
Yaḥyā II al-Qādir1075-1080,
Occupied by ʾAfṭasids, 1080-1081;
Conquest by Leon & Castille, 1085
The Banū Mujāhid
of Denia and Majorca
Mujāhid al-ʿĀmirī
ʿAlī ʾIqbāl ad-Dawla1045-1076
conquest by Hūdids, 1076
The Tujībids of Saragossa, Saraquṣtah
ʾal-Mundhir I al-Tujībīgovernor,
Yaḥyā al-Muẓaffar1023-1029
ʾal-Mundhir II
Muʿizz ad-Dawla
ʿAbdallāh al-Muẓaffar1039-1040
The Hūdids of Saragossa
Sulaymān ibn Hūd
Sulaymān Tāj ad-Dawlac.1047-1049
ʾAḥmad I Sayf ad-Dawla1049-1082
Yūsuf al-Muʾtamin1081-1083
Aḥmad II al-Mustaʿīn1083-1110
ʿAbd al-Malik
ʿImād ad-Dawla
Almoravid occupation, 1110-1118;
occupation by Aragón, 1118-1130
ʾAḥmad III
Sayf ad-Dawla
Conquest by Aragón, 1146
Murcia, Mursiyah
Khayrān aṣ-Ṣaqlabī1012/13-1028
Zuhayr aṣ-Ṣaqlabī1028-1038
ʿAbd alʿAzīz ibn Abī ʿĀmir
al-Manṣūr of Valencia
Mujāhid al-ʿĀmirī1045-c.1049
The Ṭahirids
Aḥmad ibn Ṭāhirc.1049-1063
Muḥammad ibn Ṭāhir1063-1078
Abbādid conquest, 1078
The ʿAbbādids of Seville, Ishbīlyah
Muḥammad I ibn ʾIsmāʿīl
ibn ʿAbbād
ʿAbbād Fakhr ad-Dawla
Muḥammad II al-Muʿtamid1069-1091,
Almoravid conquest, 1091
The Ḥammūdids of Málaga, Malaka
ʿAlī ibn Ḥammūd1014/15-1017
ʾal-Qāsim I al-Maʾmūn1017-1021,
Yaḥyā I al-Muʿtalī1021-1022,
Idrīs I al-Mutaʾayyad1036-1039
Yaḥyā II al-Qāʾim1039-1040
ʾal-Ḥasan al-Mustanṣir1040-1043
Idrīs II al-ʿAlī1043-1046,
Muḥammad I al-Mahdī1046-1052
Idrīs III as-Sāmī1052-1053
Muḥammad II al-Mustaʾlī1056
Zīrid conquest, 1056
The Zīrids of Granada, Gharnāṭah
Zāwī ibn Zīrī
Ḥabbūs ibn Māksan1019-1038
Bādīs al-Muẓaffar
ʿAbdallāh ibn BuluggīnGranada,
ibn Buluggīn
Almoravid conquest, 1090

Yūsuf ibn Tāshufīn1061-1107
Crosses over into Spain,
defeat of Alfonso VI at Zallāqa, 1086
ʿAlī ibn Yūsuf1107-1142
Tāshufīn ibn ʿAlī1142-1146
Ibrāhīm ibn Tāshufīn1146
Isḥāq ibn ʿAlī1146-1147
Almohad conquest, 1147
The Murābiṭūn, , or Spanish Almorávides, began as a Berber religious movement, named after a ribāṭ, , or "hermitage" at the mouth of the Senegal River from which, perhaps spuriously, its militants originally derived. Calling this a "hermitage," however, may be a euphemism, since the word in
origin is for a religious frontier, or frontier fortress, and its dedicated fighters.

Be that as it may, the movement began with a local chief, Yaḥyā ibn Ibrāhīm, who returned from Mecca with a Moroccan scholar, 'Abdallāh ibn Yāsīn, both ready to fire up a rivalist and militant movement. The warriors moved north, under multiple leadership. Since they wore veils, as do the Tuaregs today, they are also known as the mutalaththimūn, "veiled ones." A state was founded in Morocco and Algeria by Yūsuf ibn Tāshufīn, who established himself at a new capital, Marrakech. Intervention in Spain followed shortly (1086), largely restoring the Islāmic position there. The Almoravids were Orthodox and acknowledged the Abbasid Caliph. They ended up getting overwhelmed by a new religious movement, less conservative, the Almohads.

ʿAbd ar-Raḥmān778-788
ʿAbd al-Wahhāb788-824
ʾAflaḥ abū Saʿīd824-872
ʾAbū Bakr872-874
Muḥammad abū-l-Yaqẓān874-894
Yūsuf ʾAbū Ḥātim894-895, 899-?
Yaʿqūb895-899, ?-907
Fatimid Conquest, 909
The Hammādids of Algeria, 1015-1152 AD
ʾal-Qāʾid Sharaf ad-Dawla1028-1054
Buluggīn II1055-1062
Almohad Conquest, 1152
ʾIdrīs I789-791
ʾIdrīs II791-828
Muḥammad al-Muntaṣir828-836
ʿAlī I Ḥaydara836-849
Yaḥyā I849-863
Yaḥyā II863-866
ʿAlī II866-?
Yaḥyā III al-Miqdām al-Jūṭī?-905
Yaḥyā IV905-925
Tributary to Fatimids, 917
ʾal-Ḥasan al-Ḥajjām925-938
ʾal-Qāsim Gannūn938-948
Aḥmad abu'l-ʿAysh948-954
Annexed by Fatimids, 985
After the
Omayads prevented the imposition of Abbasid authority in Spain, the first territories to be wholly alienated from the Caliphate were in North Africa -- the Maghrib, the "West." This was mostly a matter of heterodoxy. The Rustamids were Khārijites. In the East the Khārijites had been a violent and revolutionary heresy, denying that those who violated the moral strictures of ʾIslām were even Muslims. In the East, they were suppressed amid great slaughter. In North Africa, the sect finds a nationalistic base among the Berbers, creating a mass movement, beginning with the Rustamids, such as didn't exist in the East.

In Morocco, under Idrīs I ibn 'Abdallāh, a great-grandson of Ḥasan, the son of ʿAlī, we get another movement. With his background, it is perhaps not surprising that Idrīs both claimed the Caliphate and established Shiʿism. He also founded the Madīnat Fās, the city of Fez. Eventually the Idrīsids fragmented and then fell to the Fatimids, who inherited the mantle of the Shiʿite Caliphate. Years later, an Idrīsid branch, the Ḥammūdids became one of the Reyes de Taifas of Spain.

The other two North African dynasties given here (perhaps a bit out of sequence) were successors to the Fatimids. These began with Zīri ibn Manād, a Berber retainer of the Fatimids. The succession of the Zirids is given below. Zīri's son, Buluggīn, was appointed Fatimid governor of Ifrīqiya -- the Roman province of Africa, which then gave its name to the whole continent, often to the confusion of "Afro-Centric" education. As with the Abbasids, so with the Zīrids. They began to drift away into autonomy. In 1015, Bādīs ceded the western part of the territory to his uncle Ḥammād, after a falling out over Ḥammād's shift in allegiance to the Abbasids. Thus we get a division between Algeria and Tunisia. The Fatimids didn't much worry about autonomy in North Africa, but they were outraged when the Amīr al-Muʿizz changed his own allegiance to the Abbasids -- even while the Hammādids had returned to Shiʿism.

The Fatimids were too weak at this point (1049) to visit their own vengeance, so they directed instead two Arab tribes, the Banu Hilāl and the Banu Sulaym, to do the job for them (1051). The result was an unorganized pillaging, which mainly just ruined the countryside and hinterland. The Zīrids and Hammādids moved down to the coast and built fleets. This was useful against the Norman conquest of Sicily but ultimately, by 1091, the Normans succeeded, ending the history of Islamic Sicily that had begun with the Aghlabids. Eventually the Almohads ended both regimes and unified North Africa again.

Shiʿite (Sevener) Caliphate established in North Africa to rival Orthodox Abbasid Caliphate
Battle of the Straits, at Messina, defeated Romania, Rometta, last city of Romania in Sicily, falls, 965; Egypt occupied, Caliphate removed to new city, ʾal-Qāhirah -- Cairo -- 969
collateral line assumes throne; no longer considered to be Shiʿite Imāms
Apostacy of & Zirids, 1049; dispatch of Banu Sulaym and Hilali into Tunisia, 1051
dies natural death as Egypt passes to Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb Ṣalāhu dDīn
While the Fatimids claimed descent from the Prophet's daughter Fāṭima, as descendants of the Seventh Imām, Ismā'īl, there is little confidence and less evidence for this genealogy. What it gave the Fatimids, however, was a claim to the Shiʿite Imāmate. This was an Apocalyptic movement, coincidentally approaching the Millennium on the Christian calendar.

When the Fatimids occupied Egypt in 969, it did look like they might be the heirs of all of ʾIslām. The new capital founded in Egypt, ʾal-Qāhirah, , "the Victorious," although at the place of the Roman fortress of Babylon (of all things) and the Omayyad city of Fusṭāṭ, (Old Cairo), now becomes the classic Islāmic capital of Egypt, Cairo. While Fatimid control soon extended into the Levant and to the Holy Cities of the Hijaz, this proved to be the Fatimid high water mark.

In the Fatimid decline, North Africa broke away, the Crusaders arrived in the Levant, and the Fatimid succession itself passed to a collateral line that lost the numinous status of Shiʿite Imām. The last Fatimid Caliph, a sickly child, was allowed to die a natural death by the occupier of Egypt, Saladin, before the regime was deposed.
Yūsuf Buluggīn I972-984
Bādīs Nāṣir ad-Dawla996-1016
Division of Tunisia & Algeria, 1015
Breaks with Shiʿism & Fatimids, 1049; invasion of Banu Sulaym and Hilāli, 1051
conquest of Sicily by Normans, 1061-1091
conquest by Normans then Almohads, 1148

The story of the Zīrids has been detailed above. However, it merits noting again their origin as governors for the Fatimids, the Fatimid wrath they brought down upon themselves for converting to Orthodoxy, but then their survival of this until Almohad conquest -- although they did not actually survive the Fatimids.

The story of the Kalbī Amīrs of Sicily begins much like that of the Zīrids, as Fatimid governors. Their experience, however, would be rather different. They were the cutting edge of Islamic Conquest in the South of Italy. As such they were in close conflict with the Dukes of Benevento, the Republics of Naples, Amalfi, and Gaeta, the Papacy, and Romania. The Aghlabids had conquered Sicily between 827 and 878 but had little time to enjoy their triumph before being overthrown by the Fatamids in 909.
Ḥasan al-Kalbī948-954
ʾAhmad ibn Ḥasan954-969
Rometta, last city of Romania in Sicily, falls, 965
ʾAbū l-Qāsim ʿAlī ibn al-Ḥasan969-982
killed, Battle of Stilo, 982
Jabir al-Kalbī982-983
Jafar al-Kalbī983-985
ʾAbd-Allah al-Kalbī985-990
Yusuf al-Kalbī990-998
Jaʿfar al-Kalbī998-1019
appeals for help to Romania against rebellion, 1035
killed (?) by William Iron Arm de Hauteville, 1040
Ḥasan as-Samsam1040-1053
Normans arrive, 1061; capture of Palermo, 1072; conquest complete, 1091
In 948 Ḥasan al-Kalbī was made Fatimid governor of Sicily. The conflict in the South of Italy was intense and there were times when a full Islamic Conquest would have seemed possible. One of the high points of this may have been the Battle of Stilo, in Calabria, in 982. The conflict had drawn in the German Emperor Otto II, whose Byzantine wife, Theophano Scleraena, promoted the attention both of him and of their son, Otto III, to the lands of Romania in the South of Italy. This was often not welcomed by the Emperors in Constantinople, and there were even rumors that at Stilo they favored the Arabs over Otto. He was badly defeated by the Amīr Abū l-Qāsim ʿAlī and many of his Germans were slaughtered. Otto himself had to swim out to a (in this case helpful) Byzantine ship. However, the Amīr was killed, and the Kablīs did not follow up their victory with any serious occupation of Calabria. Stilo remains a picturest city today, with a conspicuously Byzantine style church.

A few years later the Kablīs had to contend with an ambitious attempt by Constantinople to reconquer Sicily (1038-1040), under the command of the excellent general, George Maniaces. A fateful moment came when a Norman mercenary, William de Hauteville, met the Amīr of Syracuse in single combat during a sortee from the beseiged city. De Hauteville killed him and earned the sobriquet "Iron Arm." Syracuse was taken. The question I am left with is whether this Amīr of Syracuse was none other than the Kalbī Amīr of Sicily. The table lists the Amīr as Abdullāh, who is reported to have died in the same year, 1040; but Abdullāh is also said to have been the son of the Zīrid Amīr of Tunia, ʾal-Muʿizz, who had been sent to Sicily to help the rebellion of the brother of ʾal-Akhal, who in 1035 then appealed to Romania for help, before being assassinated in 1037. Abdullah was defeated by Maniakes in open battle at Troina in 1040 and fled the island before the events at Syracuse. I have been unable to clear this up, or find an alternative name for the Amīr of Syracuse. Kalbī fortunes briefly revived, however. Maniaces was suspected of treason and recalled. De Hauteville and other mercenaries revolted and began the process of ejecting Romania from Italy, with De Hauteville's own dynasty of Normans soon dominating and absorbing the older Christian states. This provided a brief respite for Islamic Sicily, with Romania abandoning the island in 1042. Successful on the mainland, the Normans turned their attention to Sicily, which William's half-brother Roger conquered between 1061 and 1091. By then, the Kalbīs themselves were gone, and the local Muslims, fighting among themselves, were not able to resist as long at the Romanian regime had against the Aghlabids. Sicily was restored to Christendom even as the Reconquista began in Spain.

in Ghazna
for Sāmānids,
of Ghazna
Invasions of India, 1001-1024
Musʿūd I1031-1040
Mus'ūd II1048
ʿAbd ar-Rashīd1049-1052
Masʿūd III1099-1115
Malik ʾArslan Shāh1116-1117
Seljuk Occupation, 1117
Bahrām Shāh1117-1150,
Ghūrid Occupation, 1150-c.1152
Khusraw Shāhin Lahore,
Khusraw Malik1160-1186,
Ghūrid Conquest, 1186
With the Ghaznawids, Turkish leaders first appear as a major power in ʾIslām. With the celebrated Maḥmūd, ʾIslām also becomes for the first time a permanent factor in Indian history. Maḥmūd's invasions of India involved looting temples and smashing idols. This was long remembered in anger by Hindus; but it was the first time in the history of ʾIslām, since the
Prophet Muḥammad's reoccupation of Mecca, that idols could be smashed in real pagan temples.
ʿAlī ʾArslan KhānGreat Qaghan
ʾAḥmad ʾArslan Qara Khān998-1017
Overthrow of Sāmānids, 1005
Manṣūr Arslan Khān1017-1024
Muḥammad Toghan Khān1024-1026
Yūsuf Qadır Khān1026-32
ʿAlī Tigin Bughra KhānGreat Qaghan
in Samarkand,
Muḥammad ʾArslan Qara Khānc.1042-c.1052
Ibrāhīm Tabghach Bughra Khānc.1052-1068
Naṣr Shams al-Mulk1068-1080
Yaʿqūb Qadır Khān1089-1095
Sulaymān Qadır Tamghach1097
Maḥmūd ʾArslan Khān1097-1099
Jibrā'īl ʾArslan Khān1099-1102
Muḥammad ʾArlsan Khān1102-1129
ʾAḥmad Qadır Khān1129-1130
Ḥasan Jalāl ad-Dunyā1130-1132
Ibrāhīm Rukn ad-Dunyā1132
Defeat of Seljuks,
Qara-Khitaï Occupation, 1141
Ibrāhīm Tabghach Khān1141-1156
ʿAlī Chaghrı Khān1156-1161
Masʿūd Tabghach Khān1161-1171
Muḥammad Tabghach Khān1171-1178
Ibrāhīm ʾArslan Khān1178-1204
ʿUthmān ʾUlugh Sulṭān1204-1212
Khwārazm Conquest, 1212
Apart from the iconoclasm, however, Maḥmūd does not seem to have displayed any hostility or persecution of Hindus themselves, whom he actually recruited for his army. This began a long history of ambiguity, or worse, in the relations of Hindus and Moslems in India. ʾIslām always did best in India when tolerant, as under the
Moghul Akbar, but could forfeit its strength suddenly with persecution.

Note that the Arabic "w" in Ghaznawid is usually pronounced as a "v," as it would be in Persian or Turkish.

The "Black" (Turkish , qara) Khāns displace the Sāmānids in Transoxania and begin the process whereby the region, now Turkestan, becomes predominately Turkish. Vassals of the Seljuks and then of the Buddhist Qara-Khitaï, the khāns survive until absorbed in the brief empire of the Khwārazm Shāhṣ

Tughril I Beg

1055 frees Caliphs
from Shiʿite Buwayids;
granted title of Sulṭān
ʾAlp ʾArslan1063-1073
Destroys Roman army, captures
Emperor Romanus IV,
Battle of Manzikert, 1071
Malik Shāh I1073-1092
Sulṭāns of Rūm independent, 1092
Maḥmūd I1092-1094
Berk Yaruq
Malik Shāh II1105
Muḥammad I Tapar1105-1118
ʾAḥmad Sanjarin Khurāsān
Defeat by Qara-Khitaï,
driven out of Transoxania, 1141
Maḥmūd IIin Iraq
Dāwūdin Iraq
Ṭughril IIin Iraq
Masʿūdin Iraq
Malik Shāh IIIin Iraq
Muḥammad IIin Iraq
Great Sultanate
breaks up, 1157
Sulaymān Shāhin Iraq
ʾArslan Shāhin Iraq
Ṭughril IIIin Iraq
Conquest by Khwārazm Shahs, 1194

The Sejuks created a great empire in Central Asia and profoundly transformed the politics and even the ethnology (with the spread of Turkic peoples) of the Middle East. After being freed from the Buwayids by the Orthodox Seljuks, the Caliph bestows a new title on Ṭughrul Beg:  , Sulṭān -- "Power, Dominion, Authority." This looked like it might divide the ultimate authority in ʾIslām into secular and divine halves, between the Sulṭān and the Caliph. It might have, had the Seljuk domain maintained its unity and its power, which it didn't. The title of Sulṭān, rather than signifying unique and universal authority, henceforth becomes the title of choice for successor states. The greatest long term consequence, however, of the Seljuk state was the destruction of Roman power in Anatolia. There was no way of knowing it at the time, but the battle of Manzikert in 1071 was the end of Mediaeval Romania and the beginning of modern Turkey.

Under Alp Arslan and Malik Shāh there was considerable intellectual and cultural achievement, in part encouraged by their great Vizir, Niẓām al-Mulk. This included the greatest of Islamic philosophers, ʾal-Ghazālī (1058-1111), and the mathematician, astronomer, and poet ʿUmar Khayyām (d.1122). Khayyām's fatalism, although with its Islamic overtones, may owe more to an Iranian sensibility, as would what seems to be his worldiness and even cynicism ("Of all that one should care to fathom, I was never deep in anything but Wine," as FitzGerald translated it). Harsher times and considerably less intellectual daring were ahead.

The map below shows ʾIslām at the death of Malik Shāh I (1092). The Seljuk Great Sultanate, so vast (at least in Asia) and formidable, will now fragment, weaken, and disappear. When the First Crusade arrives in 1098, neither Seljuks nor Fatimids are in any shape to resist it. There is some irony in this, since the Crusades were initiated in response to the Seljuk conquest of Anatolia, which was then partially recovered for Romania. The extent of Seljuk control over the Ghaznawids is unclear, but the Ghūrids are just beginning their rise against their suzerains, whom they will replace (1186). While the Ghūrids fall to the Khwārazm Shāhs (1215), their slave vassals in India found the Sultanate of Delhi. The Almoravids have crossed over to Spain, defeated the Christians (1086), and delayed the Reconquista. When the Fatimid vassals, the Zirids of Tunisia, converted to Orthodox ʾIslām (1049), the Fatimids rid themselves of some troublesome Arab tribes by directing them to North Africa. This was a sterile revenge which gained the Fatimids nothing, but did contribute to an Arabization of North Africa.

ʾAbū ʿAlīGhaznawid vassal,
Ḥusayn I1100-1146
Sām I1149
Ḥusayn II ʿAlāʾ ad-dīn,
Sayf ad-Dīn
Bahāʾ ad-Dīn,
Muʿizz ad-Dīn
Sulṭān in
Ghūr & India,
takes Lahore, 1186
Ghiyāth ad-Dīn
Yıldız Muʿizzī
Tāj ad-Dīn
of Ghazna,
Sām II
Bahāʾ ad-Dīn
Khwārazm Vassals
Atsız ʿAlāʾ ad-Dīn1213-1214
Shujāʿ ad-Dīn
Khwārazm Conquest, 1215
The Ghaznawids eventually came under the suzerainty of the Sejuks, and about the same time start displaying Persian rather than just Arabic (or Turkish) names. Their end came from the Ghūrids, one time vassals and now aggressive conquerers in their own right, following the last Ghaznawids to their last refuge in the Punjab. Thus the first permanent Islāmic state in Northern India became established, with the Ghūrids own vassals beginning the line of the
Sulṭāns of Delhi -- we even see a title with a word that will become very famous in India, Tāj ad-Dīn, "Crown of the Religion." Soon, however, the power of the Khwārazm Shāhs began to overtake the Ghūrids -- though the Mongols were not far behind.

Ekinchi ibn QochqarSeljuk governor, 1097
ʾArslan Tigin Muḥammad Quṭb ad-Dīn1097-1127
Qızıl ʾArslan ʾAtsız ʿAlāʾ ad-Dīn1127-1156
Vassal of Qara Khitaï, 1141
ʾIl ʾArslan1156-1172
Tekish Tāj ad-Dunyā wad-Dīn1172-1200
Overthrows last Sejuks in Iraq, 1194
Muḥammad ʿAlāʾ ad-Dīn1200-1220
Conquest of Qarakhānids, 1212, of Ghūrids, 1215
Mengübirti Jalāl ad-Dīn1220-1231
Thrown out of Transoxanian by Mongols, 1220-1221; Mongol conquest, 1231
For a while, the Seljuk successors, the Khwārazm Shāhs, seemed on the way to restoring the Seljuk empire, and more. By 1215, it looked like they had. From Central Asia to Iraq to India, the Shāhs held sway. Unfortunately for them,
Genghis Khan was on the move. He arrived in 1220. The Shāh was crushed, but lingered in a rump of western Irān until 1231. In that twilight period Shāh Jalāl adDīn actually expanded into Azerbaijan and Georgia, but there was little he could do about the Mongols.

Jalāl adDīn was deposed without a major expenditure of Mongol effort. Greater effort came in 1256, when Qubilai Khan's brother Hülägü arrived with full Mongol force and the intention to conquer the whole Middle East. The long Abbasid Caliphate ended when Hülägü killed the last Caliph, perhaps at the urging of his Christian wife. The Seljuks of Rūm were subjugated, but then the Great Khan Möngke died in 1259. Hülägü returned to Mongolia to elect Qubilai Great Khan. This permanently redirected the main force of the Mongols, now against China. When the Mamlūks defeated a Mongol party in 1260, this was the practical end of Mongol expansion in the Middle East. Nevertheless, what was left was the massive state of the Il Khāns, which survived until collapsing in confusion in 1338. This was a brief ascendancy; and the great traveler Ibn Battuta, who visited the Khān Abū Saʿīd in 1327, at the flood tide of Mongol power, found upon his return from China and India, in 1348, that the realm had already disintegrated. Mongol successors, like the Jalayirids and the Black Sheep Turks, are followed on the Mongol page.

Zangī I ʿImād ad-Dīnappointed by Seljuk Sulṭān
Maḥmūd II, 1127; Atabeg
of Mosul, 1127-1146
Capture of the County
of Edessa from Crusaders, 1144
Ghāzī I
Sayf ad-Dīn
Nūr ad-Dīn
Quṭb adDīn
1149-1170Second Crusade,
captures Damascus,
1154; sends Shīrkūh to
conquer Egypt, 1169;
Shīrkūh dies, command
passes to Saladin, 1169
Ghāzī II
Sayf ad-Dīn
Nūr ad-Dīn
Masʿūd I
ʿIzz ad-Dīn
Zangī II
ʿImād ad-Dīn
& Aleppo,
Sanjar Shāh
Muʿizz ad-Dīn
1180-1208Conquest of
Damacus & Aleppo
by Saladin,
ʾArslan Shāh I Nūr ad-DīnMosul,
Quṭb ad-Dīn
Muʿizz ad-Dīn
Masʿūd II ʿIzz ad-DīnMosul,
ʾArslan Shāh II Nūr ad-Dīn1218-1219
Nāṣir ad-Dīn
ʿImad ad-Dīn,
Jalāl ad-Dīn,
& ʿUmar
Faṭh ad-Dīn
by Ayyūbids,
Luʾluʾ Badr ad-DīnMosul,
ʾIsmāʿīl Rukn ad-DīnLuʾluʾid,
Conquest by
Ayyūbids, 1250,
then Luʾluʾids
Mongol dominion, 1254, conquest, 1262
An , ʾatabeg (ata="father"; beg or bey a
title that now can just mean "mister") was a guardian for a minor Seljuk prince. The princes tended to disappear and the atabegs to become independent rulers. In no case was this process as fateful as with Zangī ʿImād ad-Dīn, who took Edessa from the Crusaders in 1144.

This began what might be called the Islāmic Reconquista of the Crusader states in the Middle East. The vigor of Zangī's house seemed to promise the complete defeat of the Crusaders, but Maḥmūd Nūr ad-Dīn chose his own lieutenants far too well for the preservation of Zangid authority. His Kurdish general Shīrkūh completed the conquest of Egypt; but Shīrkūh then died, leaving authority to his nephew Yūsuf ibn ʾAyyūb, who became Ṣalāḥu-d-Dīn.

Nūr ad-Dīn soon discovered that Ṣalāḥud-Dīn had his own ideas about governing Egypt, like ignoring orders to depose the last Fatimid Caliph (who then died a natural death in 1171). The insubordination of the subordinate soon was a practical independence that Nūr ad-Dīn could not contest before his death (1174). The tables were soon turned, as Ṣalāḥud-Dīn returned to take Damascus from the Zangids (1183) and then Jerusalem from the Crusaders (1187). The Islāmic Reconquista thus had passed to the Ayyūbids, as would eventually most of the rest of the Zangid possessions. What the Ayyūbids didn't get, the Mongol Il Khāns did.

The Jazīra, , "Island," here is the broad land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in Upper Mesopotamia. This was originally the site of the mysterious and intriguing Kingdom of the Mitanni in the Second Millennium BC.

1169-1193ʾan-Nāṣir I
Ṣalāḥu-d-Dīn (Saladin),

Yūsuf ibn ʾAyyūb
Battle of the Horns of Hattin, Capture of King Guy
of Jerusalem; Fall of Jerusalem, 1187;
Third Crusade, led by King Richard I, 1189-1192
ʾal-ʿAzīz ʿUthmān ʿImad ad-Dīn1193-1198ʾal-ʾAfḍal Nūr ad-Dīn1186-1196
orders destruction of the Pyramid of Menkaure, recounted by ʿAbd al-Laṭīf al-Baghdādī (1162-1231), leaves large gash in northern side, 1196; however, actually appears to have been a treasure hunt.
ʾal-Mansūr Nāṣir ad-Dīn1198-1200ʾal-ʿAdil I Sayf ad-Dīn1196-1201
Fourth Crusade, 1202-1204
1218-1238ʾal-Kamil I Nāṣir ad-Dīnʾal-Muʿaẓẓam Sharaf ad-DīnGovernor
ʾal-Nāṣir II
Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn
ʾal-ʾAshraf I
Muẓaffar ad-Dīn
ʾaṣ-Ṣāliḥ I ʿImad ad-Dīn1237-1238
Fifth Crusade, 1228-1229;
Jerusalem turned over to Emperor Frederick II;
remained in Crusader Hands, 1229-1244
1238-1240ʾal-ʿAdil II Sayf ad-Dīn1238-1239
1240-1249ʾaṣ-Ṣāliḥ II Najm ad-Dīn1239, 1245-1249
1249-1250ʾal-Muʿaẓẓam Tūrān-Shāh Ghiyāth ad-Dīn1249-1250
Sixth Crusade, 1248-1254;
St. Louis IX captured and held for ranson, 1250-1254
Shajar ad-Durr, widow of Najm ad-Dīn1250ʾan-Nāṣir II Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn1250-1260
ʾal-ʾAshraf II Muẓaffar ad-Dīn1250-1252,
until 1254
Sulṭānate of Egypt seized by the Mamlūk Slave-soldier Aybak, 1252
Damascus occupied
by Mongols, then seized by the Mamlūk Baybars, 1260
The immortal Saladin, صَلَاحُ ٱلدِّينِ, Ṣalāḥu-d-Dīn, the "
Righteousness of the Religion," defeated the Crusaders in battle and then drove them from Jerusalem. This should have made him universally hated in Christendom, but instead we get the extraordinary effect of almost universal admiration.

Edward the "Black Prince" of England (d.1376), no Crusader himself (his military distinctions were in the Hundred Years War against France), possessed bed-curtains that were embroidered with the exploits, not of Richard the Lionheart, but of Saladin. Dante, of course, could only put Saladin in Hell, but his place was with the "virtuous pagans," enjoying an Elysian existence with the likes of Plato and Aristotle, not punished like the Prophet Muḥammad himself.

What was it about Saladin? It was certainly what was seen as his nobility and humanity of character, on top of his remarkable military abilities. This made him an exemplar of the virtues of Chivalry. Yet he was not always humane and faithful. King Richard the Lionnheart slaughtered the surrendering population of Acre, but this was after Saladin broke faith with him over the surrender settlement and slaughtered his own prisoners.

If you had to lose your battle, Saladin might have been the kind of noble enemy by whom you would choose to be defeated -- unless you were a military monk, like the Templars or Hospitallers, who were all killed, in a mass execution giving everyone the privilege of decaptitating a Christian -- an event happily remembered, unfortunately, by modern Jihadists, who have at times restaged it. Saladin was also unforgiving of anyone with a history of treachery.

A prime example of the latter, was Reynald of Châtillon, guilty of multiple crimes and betrayals, whom Saladin is said to have killed with his own hand. See the dealings of Saladin with Balian of Ibelin (d.1193).

Saladin's character was widely recognized in ʾIslām as well in Christendom, and every year men came from his native Kurdistan just to fight with him in his annual campaigns. There have been few men like him since, and perhaps none living today in either ʾIslām (poisoned by Terrorism) or Christendom (where the cultural elite, following Nietzsche, despise Christianity).

Contrary to the (general) honesty and good faith of Saladin, the concern of the Left for "Islamophobia" is, of course, nothing but the suspension of all its purported principles, especially of its hatred of religion and conservative social mores, just for the sake of a cynical political alliance. We see it today (2023) in the Leftist support for the Terrorism of Ḥamās, ignoring the savagery and intolerance of that organization, its contempt for non-Muslims, and its condemnation of the Leftist countenance of things like homosexuality and "trans-gender" rights, all offensive to ʾIslām.

Saladin set up his sons and relatives in several subsidiary lines, in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs (Ḥimṣ), Hamah (Ḥamāt), Diyār Bakr, and Yemen. Most of these were ended by 1260 by the Mamlūks or fell to the Mamlūks after Mongol conquest.
Saladin the Victorius,
by Gustave Doré (1832–1883)
The line in Ḥamāh (or Ḥamāt) was a little more durable, only falling to the Mamlūks in 1332; and the line in Diyār Bakr, with some interruptions, survived until conquest by the White Sheep Turks in the later 15th century. Only the lines in Egypt and Damascus are given in the table -- genealogies of the others are below.

Although originally ruling from Egypt, Saladin spent the last years of his life fighting in Syria and Palestine and was buried in Damascus, next to the Omayyad Mosque. The Ayyubid family still survives in Lebanon and retains Saladin's sword. His tomb is intact and open to visitors of the Omayyad Mosque. It was even visited by Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.

Under Saladin, Cairo replaces Baghdad as the intellectual center of the Central Islāmic lands. The great Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) and the Sūfī ʾIbn ʿArabī (1165-1240) both relocated from Spain to Egypt. This climate became the subject of the play Nathan der Weise (1779) by Gotthold Lessing (1729-1781). Saladin's toleration, however, had its limits, since he executed another Sūfī, Suhrawardī (1153-1191) for heterodoxy -- less of a danger for Islāmic mystics than for Christian, but still a problem.

The genealogy of the Ayyūbids that follows is from The New Islamic Dynasties by Clifford Edmund Bosworth [Edinburgh University Press, 1996, pp.70-73] and A History of the Crusades, Volume III,
Saladin's Tomb, The Omayyad Mosque, Damascus, 1970
The Kingdom of Acre and the Later Crusades
by Steven Runciman [Cambridge University Press, 1951, 1993, p.532]. Since Bosworth simply gives names, and the genealogy there must be reconstructed from the patronymics, about which there are minor but confusing variations, some uncertainties occur. Some of these can be confirmed or corrected with Runciman's chart, which otherwise is innocent of dates and of diacritics for Arabic.

The chart below includes the Ayyubid lines for Aleppo and Ḥimṣ (, Homs) that are not included in the table above. A larger popup table also includes the lines of Ḥamāh (), Yaman (Yemen), and Diyār Bakr.

The continuation of the Ayyubids in Diyār Bakr under the Mongols, until annexation by the White Sheep Turks, is covered in a separate popup. Dıyarbakir is today a city in Turkey, on the upper Tigris near where the Tigris and Euphrates approach each other before diverging courses.
The Ayyūbid Gateway of the Citadel of Aleppo, 1970
South of this, the broad area between the rivers came to be called the , Nahrain, the "Two Rivers," or the , Jazīra, the "Island."

Today, the northern part of the Jazīra lies in Turkey and the southern part in Syria. A corner of it lies in Iraq northwest of Mosul. Edessa, long the principal city of the area and a Crusader County, is now the city of Urfa in Turkey.

It is not clear from the sources who actually used the title , Sulṭān. I have restricted it to the rulers in Egypt and Damascus. Other rulers are simply "Lords," except in Yemen, whose ruler Rucimen calls "King." As a matter of fact, every single one of these sovereigns employs the title ʾal-Malik, i.e. "the King" -- so I have at least used it for Yemen.

Cordova, Qurṭubah
Ḥamdīn al-Manṣūr1144-1145,
Aḥmad III Sayf ad-Dawla Hūdid1145-1146
Yaḥyā ibn Ghāniya1146-1148
Almohad conquest, 1148
Valencia, Balansiyyah
Manṣūr ibn ʿAbdallāh Qāḍī1144-1147
ʾAbū ʿAbdallāh Muḥammad
(Rey Lobo/Lope)
Almohad conquest, 1172
Murcia, Mursiyah
ʿAbdallāh ibn ʿIyād.1145-1148
ʿAbdallāh ibn Faraj ath-Thaghrī1145-1148
ʾAbū ʿAbdallāh Muḥammad of Valencia1148-1172
Almohad conquest, 1172
The Banū Ghāniya of Majorca
Muḥammad al-Mussūfī ibn Ghāniya1126-1155
ʾAbū ʾIbrāhīm ʾIsḥāq1155-1183
Muḥammad ibn ʾIsḥāq1183-1184
ʿAlī ibn ʾIsḥāq1184-1187
ʿAbdallāh ibn ʾIsḥāq1187-1203
Almohad conquest, 1203
The rapid decline and fall of the Almoravids allowed a revival of the Reyes de Taifas. These were overtaken by the Almohads soon enough, although in the Balaerics the kings of Majorca held out until few days were even left for the Almohads.
Aragón had the islands by 1231.

Yūsuf I ʾabū Yaʿqūb1163-1184
Yaʿqūb ibn Yūsuf al-Manṣūr1184-1199
Muḥammad ibn Yaʿqūb1199-1213
devastating defeat by Christian
Spain at Las Navas de Tolosa, 1212
Yūsuf II abū Yaʿqūb1213-1224
ʿAbdul-Wāḥid ʾAbū Muḥammad1224
ʿAbdallāh ʾAbū Muḥammad1224-1227
Yaḥyā ʾAbū Zakariyyāʾ1227-1235
ʾIdrīs I ibn Yaʿqūb1227-1232
abandonment of Spain, 1228-1229
ʿAbdul-Wāḥid ibn ʾIdrīs I1232-1242
ʿAlī ibn ʾIdrīs I1242-1248
ʿUmar ibn ʾIsḥāq1248-1266
ʾIdrīs II ibn Muḥammad1266-1269
North Africa breaks up
between Ḥafṣids, Marīnids,
& ʿAbdul-Wādids (Zayyānids)
The Almohads were the , ʾal-Muwaḥḥadūn, those who "Profess the Unity of God." Since all Muslims -- and Jews and Christians -- believe in the Unity [, tawḥīd] of God, there is nothing exceptional about this name, except that it is often used in the history of ʾIslām to mean that this this sect really believes in the Unity of God, while others, particuarly Christians, but also most Muslims, do not. This often accompanies a rejection of tradition, the Sunnah, , after which Orthodox, i.e. Sunnī, Muslims are named. The claim usually is that only the Sunnah of the Prophet and his Companions, or the
Rightly Guided Caliphs, is allowed, while anything else in the tradition, like respect paid to graves or tombs, even the Tomb of the Prophet in Medina, is a matter of , bidʿah, "innovation," "novelty," and even "heresy." And it goes beyond that. Muslim "heretics" may also be accused of apostasy or "polytheism," , širk, which warrants death. Such a sect then tends to be hostile, intolerant, and violent, and not just towards Christians and Jews, but also towards other Muslims. The Wahhābīs in Arabia are today the most conspicuous and successful exponents of this sort of "fundamentalism," which rejects traditions accepted by the Orthodox schools of jurisprudence.

The Almohads styled themselves Caliphs, something not always noted in historical summaries of the area. Since they claimed to be Orthodox, and the Abbasid line in Baghbad had not ended yet (though it would by the end of the dynasty), the precedent may have been the Omayyad Caliphate in Spain -- if there was even a concern with precedent. Instead, since the Almohads had no connection to the Spanish Omayyads, the claim to a Caliphate may indicate a rejection, characteristic of such a sect, that the Abbasids really were really Orthodox.

Almohad Spain ironically was then distinguished by intellectual brilliance and by intolerant oppression. Some of the most important Islāmic and Jewish philosophers of the Middle Ages lived during the Almohad period. The principal Islāmic figures were Ibn Bājja (Avempace, d.1138), Ibn Ṭufayl (Abubacer, d.1185), and especially, Ibn Rushd (Averroës, 1126-1198). The great Jewish philosophers were Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) and Moses Nahmanides (1194-1270). Ibn Rushd was probably one of the two or three greatest Islāmic philosophers ever, and was certainly the most influential on subsequent thought in 13th Century Europe. Maimonides was definitely the most important Jewish philosopher of the Middle Ages. Both men suffered from the religious fanaticism of the Almohad regime. Ibn Rushd was the last Islāmic philosopher to rigorously defend Neoplatonic and Aristotelian principles that had come to be regarded as un-Islāmic. However, it was his skill as a physician that helped in his ultimate rehabilitation with the Caliph. Maimonides, on the other hand, fled the Almohad persecution of Christians and Jews all the way to Egypt, where he found refuge at the court of Saladin. Nahmanides, on the other hand, was already a denizen of Christian Spain as, in his lifetime, the Almohads lost most of the Spain, abandoned the peninsula, and then were even overthrown in North Africa.

The Marīnid Amīrs of Morocco
ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq I1195-1217
ʿUthmān I1217-1240
Muḥammad I1240-1244
ʾAbū Bakr1244-1258
ʿUthmān II1310-1331
Muḥammad II1358-1359
ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm1361-1362
Muḥammad III1362-1366
ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz I1366-1372
Muḥammad IV1372-1374
Muḥammad V1386
Muḥammad VI1386-1387
ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz II1393-1396
ʿAbd Allāh1396-1398
ʿUthmān III1398-1420
ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq II1420-1465
The Waṭṭāsid Amīrs of Morocco
Yaḥyā I
Yaḥyā IIregent,
interregnum, Idrīsid Shurafā, 1465-1471
Muḥammad I1472-1504
Muḥammad II1504-1526
ʿAlī1526, 1554
Muḥammad III1545-1547
The Saʿdid Sharīfs of Morocco
Muḥammad I al-Qāʾim al-Mahdī1510-1517
ʾAḥmad al-Aʿraj1517-1543
Maḥammad ash-Shaykh1517-1557
Muḥammad II1574-1576, d.1578
ʿAbd al-Malik1576-1578
died, battle of Alcácer Quibir, where Sebastian I of Portugal and Muḥammad II were killed, 1578
Conquest of Songhay, Battle of Tondibi, 1591
ZaydānFez, 1603-1604;
Marrakech, 1609-1627
ʿAbdallāhMarrakech, 1603-1606; Fez, 1606-1609
MaḥammadFex, 1606-1613
ʿAbdallāhMarrakech, 1606-1609; Fex, 1609-1623
ʿAbd al-Malik ash-ShaykhFez, 1623-1627
ʿAbd al-Malik an-NāṣirMarrakech, 1627-1631
Muḥammad al-WalīdMarrakech, 1631-1636
Maḥammad ash-Shaykh1636-1655
ʾAḥmad ash-Shaykh1655-1659
The ʿAlawid Sharīfs, Sulṭāns, & Kings of Morocco, 1640-present
With the decline of the Almohads, we get North Africa breaking up into familiar parts, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. These modern divisions may not be perfectly natural, and the borders ebb and flow, but we are not that far from the modern divisions. Morocco originally looks the most likely to retain the unity of the region, and briefly holds it, but otherwise is the most durable unit, with a continuous succession of rulers, despite some moments of anarchy or transition, down to the present.
The Ḥafṣid Amirs, Caliphs, or Sulṭāns of Tunisia
Yaḥyā I1229-1249
Muḥammad I1249-1277
Seventh Crusade by St. Louis IX, 1270
Yaḥyā II1277-1279
ʾIbrāhīm I1279-1283
ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz1283
ʿUmar I1284-1295
Muḥammad II1295-1309
ʾAbū Bakr I1309
Khālid I1309-1311, d.1313
Zakariyā' I1311-1317
Muḥammad III1317-1318
ʾAbū Bakr II1318-1346
ʾAḥmad I1346-1347
ʿUmar II1347
Marīnid rule, 1347-1350
ʾIbrāhīm II1350-1369
Khālid II1369-1370
ʾAḥmad II1370-1394
ʿAbd al-'Azīz1394-1434
Muḥammad IV1434-1435
Yaḥyā III1488-1489
ʿAbd al-Mu'min1489-1490
Zkariyā' II1490-1494
Muḥammad V1494-1526
Muḥammad VI1526-1534, 1535-1542
Ottoman occupation, 1534-1535; vassal of Charles V, 1635-1569
ʾAḥmad III1542-1569
Ottoman rule, 1569-1573
Muḥammad VII1573-1574
vassal of Spain, 1573-1574; Ottoman conquest
& direct rule, 1574-1705

The Zayyānid or Ziyānid Amīrs of Algeria
Yaghmurāsan ibn Ziyān or Zayyān1236-1283
ʿUthmān I1283-1304
Muḥammad I1304-1308
Mūsā I1308-1318
ʿAbd ar-Raḥmān I1318-1337
Marīnid rule, 1337-1348
ʿUthmān II & ʾaz-Zaīm1348-1352
Marīnid rule, 1352-1359
Mūsā II1359-1389
ʿAbd ar-Raḥmān II1389-1394
Yūsuf I1394
Yūsuf I1394-1395
Muḥammad II1395-1400
ʿAbdallāh I1400-1402
Muḥammad III1402-1411
ʿAbd ar-Raḥmān III1411
ʿAbd al-Wāḥid1411-1424, 1428-1430
Muḥammad IV1424-1428
ʾAḥmad I1430-1462
Muḥammad V1462-1469
ʾAbū Tāshufīn1469
Muḥammad VI1469-1504
Muḥammad VII1504-1517
vassal of Spain, 1512
Mūsā III1517-1528
Ottoman presence, 1518
Muḥammad VIII1540-1541
ʾAḥmad II1541-1543, 1544-1550
Spanish occupation, 1543-1544
Ottoman conquest, 1555; Barbary States
French occupation, 1830-1871; French annexation; 1871-1962; Republic of Algeria, 1962-present


These tables are based on both The New Islamic Dynasties by Clifford Edmund Bosworth [Edinburgh University Press, 1996] and the Oxford Dynasties of the World by John E. Morby [Oxford University Press, 1989, 2002]. Bosworth has all of the rulers listed, while Morby gives only the Marīnids [p.183] and Ḥafṣids [p.185]. Morby has a clearer presentation, but Bosworth also has a brief discussion of the history.

With the Crusades, Francia begins to develop the seapower that enables it to return to North Africa. On the Seventh Crusade in 1270, St. Louis IX of France lands in Tunisia, formally as a preparation to return to Egypt but apparently simply at the self-interested urging of his brother, Charles of Anjou, who wanted to enlarge his Mediterranean empire. He dies instead and accomplishes nothing for Charles -- it is also the last Crusade.

After completing the expulsion of ʾIslām from Spain, both Spain and Portugal become intent on expanding into North Africa. Various cities get taken and held for a time, and local rulers become temporary vassals, but nothing permanent gets accomplished and it seems impossible to establish a durable or extensive presence on the continent.

One durable consequence of these attempts was the result of the Battle of Alcácer Quibir. Sebastian I of Portugal was attempting to restore the Sulṭān Muḥammad II, nephew of ʿAbd al-Malik. Both were killed in the battle. ʿAbd al-Malik also died in the battle, but evidently from natural causes. The Arabic name of the site of the battle was , ʾal-Qaṣr l-Kabīr, "the Great Castle." This was "Alcácer Quibir" in Portuguese and "Alcazarquivir" in Spanish, with other versions. This was also called the "Battle of the Three Kings," , Maʿrakah al-Mulūk aθ-Θalāθa. The most serious consequence of the battle was the slaughter of the Portuguese nobility and the death of Sebastian himself, without heirs. This seriously degraded the status of the whole Portuguese state. After the brief reign of Sebastian's great uncle, a Cardinal, Portugal passed to Philip II of Spain, who had married Sebastian's aunt Maria. Since Sebastian's body was not recovered, to everyone's agreement, the legend grew that he was waiting, somewhere, to return -- like Frederick Barbarosa or the Emperor Constantine XI. The Portuguese would actually need to wait for the (illegitimate) House of Braganza in 1640.

It is not Europe but Turkey that actually enforces sovereignty over North Africa. Both the Ḥafṣids and Ziyānds come to an end with the Turkish conquest. Indeed, in the last stages, the local rulers sometimes relied on the Christians as allies against the Turks. North Africa thus became a theater of the larger conflict between Christendom and the Ottomans.

Piracy and Slaving in the Barbary States

North Africa, however, was a long way from Constantinople. And as the Turkish reach slackened with time, local governors and princes began to run their own operations. This came to mean piracy and slaving. We enter the period of the Barbary States, a good three hundred years, when corsairs, from Algeria especially, were a plague on the surrounding seas, with ship after ship taken, and Christian crews and passengers sold on the slave markets.

After 1604, when English pirates taught them Atlantic navigation, Barbary ships ranged as far as Iceland and Newfoundland and even captured ships in Plymouth harbor. Between 1609 and 1616, they captured 446 English ships and sold more than 7000 English captives as slaves. Some such captives might be ransomed, but many others were lost the rest of their lives.

At right we have a sculpture, "The Greek Slave," by Hiram Powers [1844], which is supposed to be a Greek women captured by the Turks and sold into slavery. At the opposite end of the Mediterranean, and after the relevant era, she would probably not be a captive of the Barbary Pirates, but slavery in ʾIslām was not confined to them and there is nothing ahistorical or untrue about imagining Greek slaves of the Ottomans, as Powers himself imagined her a captive because of the revolt of the Greeks.

Such a sculpture might serve several purposes. One would be to publicize the reality of the Muslim slave market, whether in North Africa or elsewhere. It also does this with an example of the humiliating exposure of a helpless victim, which raises slavery as a sexual issue. We might see this as part of an extreme subset of the business, but it is not a falsehood. The sexual slavery practiced recently (2014/2016) by Boko Haram in Nigeria and ISIS in Iraq and Syria is a conspicuous revival of the practice -- the leader of Boko Haram publicly boasted of what he was doing.

At the same time, we can also see "The Greek Slave" as an opportunity to engage in a bit of mild pornography, with the image of the helpless women actually appealing to sexual fantasies -- the triumphant Nietzschean predator. This could be called a form of "Orientalism," by which the East is fictionalized and sexualized by what are essentially Western desires.

However, since there is nothing inaccurate about portrayals of sexual slavery in ʾIslām, accusations of "Orientalism" can be seen as a self-interested and dishonest way of deflecting and concealing attention from the realities of Islamic civilization.

Nor, as noted, is this merely a matter of historical interest. In Nigeria, Iraq, and Syria, women have been constantly raped by Jihadists, a situation that curiously seems to draw relatively little attention, and less ire, from Western feminists, whose own animus may be directed elsewhere (i.e. against America and the West).

Indeed, on October 7, 2023, when the Palestinian Terrorist organization Ḥamās, launched a large scale attack from Gaza into southern Israel, what we saw, besides mass murder, was also mass rape, carried out both by the Ḥamās "fighters" and by Palestinian civilians who followed them into Israel. Since the mass rapes involved torture and kidnapping, we would be reminded of the Nietzschean predators who valorized cruelty and humiliation -- as in the genre of pornography where the victim is always traumatized (unlike some rape fantasies with victims who are willing, or become willing). Captured Israel women, paraded on videos made by Ḥamās itself, were seen bleeding from their genitals.

Again, Western "feminists," and UN agencies supposedly for the benefit of women, have been quiet about the rapes, or have actually excused, or tried to deny, them -- as we often see "feminists" selling out women for other Leftist causes -- for instance, since 2021, feminists are also silent about the rapes and sex tafficking conducted by drug cartels and coyote human smugglers at the United States southern border, which the Biden Administration has left open, not just to illegal entries, but to all illegal activities.

Thus, we learn that the pro-Terrorist Left doesn't care about the Mediaeval purposes and practices of Ḥamās, but will use anything to attack capitalism and liberal society, while demanding privileges from the same, which Ḥamās itself would never recognize. This is what is taught in American universities.

Christian states were scandalized by the piracy and slave trade, from the 17th to the 19th centuries, but punitive expeditions were usually no more successful than they had been since St. Louis. An English expedition against Algeria in 1620 was a failure, but one in 1637 was more successful, seizing the city of Salee, with 300 captives freed. Nevertheless, it was easier to pay for "protection" and buy off the pirates (who also sometimes could be used as allies against other European powers). This was never more than partially effective, since, as the saying goes, once you pay the Danegeld, you can't get rid of the Dane (very similar kinds of pirates, slavers, and rapists, as pagans, in their day).

The situation became especially infuriating to the new but distant United States of America. After paying $2,000,000 in extortion money, Thomas Jefferson had had enough and in 1801 sent the U.S. Navy and Marines against the city of Tripoli (actually just east of Tunisia, in modern Libya). This brought at least a temporary respite, and contributed a phrase ("the shores of Tripoli") to the Marine Hymn.

The piracy and slaving did not really and fully end, however, until the French landed in Algeria, intent upon conquest, in 1830. They had a hard fight against the local charismatic leader, ʿAbd al-Kader, from 1832 to 1847, but they accomplished the task. Fighting there would often be in French Algeria, for which the legendary Foreign Legion would be created, but local pirates would no longer plague the seas or harvest Christian merchants and travellers for hostages and slaves. This is now entirely forgotten by people who want to blame Europeans, or even specifically Americans, for slavery (or "imperialism"), with the idea that they invented it just to oppress Africans. It is often actually Africans who must remind anti-American Americans that the slave trade originated with Arabs and Africans themselves. The following section throws yet another light on this.

The Double Standard Over Slavery

Islāmic Index

The Keita Kings of Mali
Mari Sun Dayāta
(Mārī Jāṭā) I
Mansā ʾUlī/ʾUle1255-1270
Mansā Wātī1270-1274
Mansā Khalīfa1274-1275
Mansā ʾAbū Bakr I,
Mansā Gaw/Qū1300-1305
Mansā Mamadu/Muḥammad1305-1310,
Mansā ʾAbū Bakr II1310-1312
Mansā Mūsā I1312-1337
Mansā Maghan/Maghā I1337-1341
Mansā Sulaymān1341-1360
Mansā Kamba/Qanba/Qāsā1360-1361
Mansā Mari Dyāta/Mārī Jāṭa II1361-1374
Mansā Mūsā II1374-1382
Mansā Maghan II1382-1388/89
Mansā Maghan III, Maḥmūd1390
succession strife, ascendancy of Songhay
Mali was a literate sub-Saharan Islāmic African kingdom. It followed and absorbed the earlier state of Ghana, which we know about mainly from Arab sources. Ghana was the first sub-Saharan Islāmic state. But Mali had its own scholars, so it is the first literate sub-Saharan African state since

The city of Timbuktu on the Niger River, although not the capital of Mali, was nevertheless probably the most famous city of the area (and now of the region), at the end of the caravan routes from North Africa. Pilgrimages of the Kings of Mali to Mecca, passing through Cairo, drew considerable attention, especially that of Mansā Mūsā I, whose attendants, walking by camels, all carried staffs covered in gold. His reign also saw a visit to the Kingdom from the great traveller Ibn Baṭṭūṭa, who observed, among other things, that the sexual mores of the people were somewhat less rigorous than required by ʾIslām. Indeed, some accommodation with pre-Islamic practices long persisted.

The ʾIslām that the Kings of Mali did want rigorously enforced was the prohibition of taking Muslims as slaves. Slavers from North Africa usually regarded all black people, Muslims or not, as fair game, and this became a matter of continuing annoyance, outrage, and reproach over time. The recent self-righteous expressing indignation over the European slave trade from the coast of West Africa usually forget that the trade began and long continued, in much the same volume, across the Sahara to the Arab north. There are few descendants of those slaves in Arab countries today, reflecting the harshness of their treatment, including the castration of the men.

Today this area suffers from an advance of the desert that has continued through all historical time. The Sahara has only gotten worse in the last five thousand years and more. The mediaeval kingdom thus enjoyed considerable rainfall and arable land now lost. The modern Republic of Mali, although encompassing some of the same territory as the old Kingdom, nevertheless has no direct connection to it and is named just in commemoration of it.

The fury and anaesthesia of Islamic Fascism have now come to historic and fabled Timbuktu. In late June, 2012, Islamist fanatics, such as the "Ansar Dine" group, have by pick-axes, hoes, and fire destroyed the tombs of the Mediaeval Muslim Saints Sidi Mahmoud, Sidi Moctar, and Alpha Moya in Timbuktu, previously called the "city of 333 Saints." This is consistent with the vandalism visited on cultural and religious artifacts by Jihadists, as most notoriously seen in the destruction of Buddhist art and monuments in Afghanistan; but it may surprise some that Islamic monuments, in this case ones designated by UNESCO as "world-heritage" sites, are now the target. But the Wahhabist inspired ʾIslām of modern zealots regards the veneration or even commemoration of saints as un-Islamic, and they scruple at no death or destruction to enforce their particular fundamentalism.

Since their fire also burned priceless manuscripts in the tombs, they are also indifferent to traditions of Islamic literature and historiography. In short, they are savages and barbarians, in the fullest senses of those terms. Curiously, the books of Timbuktu had been burned before, when the city was taken by the Songhay ruler Sonni ʿAlī, in 1468. It is not clear what he had against the scholars and scholarship of the city, but, but both burning the books and killing many scholars, he certainly earned their hostility. We can discern no ideology in his actions, unlike the modern vandals.
The Si & Askiya Kings of Songhay
Sonni ʿAlī Ber, the Great1464/1465-1492
Burned the books & killed scholars of Timbuktu, 1468
ʾAbū Bakr/Bakari/Baru1492-1493
Muḥammad I Ture
Muḥammad II Benkan1531-1537
ʾIsḥāq I1539-1549
Development of slave economy
& slave trade
Muḥammad III1582-1586
Muḥammad IV Bani1586-1588
ʾIsḥāq II1588-1591
Defeat by Morocco,
Battle of Tondibi, 1591
Muḥammad V
conquest by Morocco, 1591-1592

It is extraordinary that the modern world still has to deal with people like this. Much worse, such movements seem to be admired and supported by many Muslims, while Barack Obama, while taking some measures against them, continues to express complacency about the level of threat they represent -- while refusing to acknowledge the Islamic connection of their ideology, even as the alarm and fear they generate are regarded as a political crime, "Islamophobia," by the Left.

Mali was the scene of an attempted coup in March, 2012, and this unleashed the anarchy and fanaticism that now are in play in the north of the country. Many more tombs in Timbuktu are vulnerable to destruction; but the intervention of French troops later secured the situation for the time being.

The successor to Mali on the Niger River, Songhay had begun a good bit earlier, back in the 9th century. However, there really are no dates before the Si (or Sonni) dynasty, beginning with ʿAlī Golom (or Kolon) around 1275. Songhay is then a vassal of Mali. After that, things are still obscure, with few dates and even poorly attested names for the rulers until Sonni ʿAlī "the Great," who definitively established the ascendency of Songhay in the area. In short order Muḥammad I Ture Askiya founds a new dynasty, which continues until the Morocco conquest. The Moroccans had the advantage at this point of firearms, but their ability to hold the area was limited. Even the presence of a Moroccan governor in Timbuktu seems to have lapsed around 1660. The region fell into disorder.

The kings of both Mali and Songhay are from Clifford Edmund Bosworth's The New Islamic Dynasties [Edinburgh University Press, 1996, pp.122-125].

OF EGYPT, 1252-1517
Baḥrī line, 1252-1390
(usually Turkish)
ʾAybak al-Turkumānī1250,
ʿAlī I1257-1259
Qutuz al-Mu'izzī1259-1260
Baybars I al-Bunduqdārī1260-1277
Defeats Mongols, 1260
Baraka/Berke Khān1277-1279
Qalāwūn al-ʾAlfī1279-1290
Fall of Acre, 1291;
End of Outremer
Muḥammad I1293-1294,
Lāchīn/Lājīn al-ʾAshqar1296-1299
Pharos Lighthouse collapses
after earthquake, 1303
Baybars II al-Jāshnakīr
ʾAbū Bakr1341
ʾAḥmad I1342
Sha'bān I1345-1346
Ḥājjī I1346-1347
Muḥammad II1361-1363
Shaʿbān II1363-1377
ʿAlī II1377-1382
Ḥājjī II1382,
Burjī line, 1382-1517
(usually Circassian)
Barqūq al-Yalburghāwī1382-1398,
ʿAbd al-ʿAziz1405
Shaykh al-Maḥmūdī
ʾAḥmad II1421
Muḥammad III1421-1422
ʾInāl al-ʿAlāʾī al-Ẓāhirī1453-1461
ʾAḥmad III1461
Qāyit Bay al-Ẓāhirī1468-1496
Embassy from Ethiopia to arrange for a new Abuna, 1480-1481
Muḥammad IV1496-1498
Qānṣawh I1498-1500
Ṭūmān Bay I1501
Qānṣawh II al-Ghawrī1501-1516
Ṭūmān Bay II1516-1517
Ottoman Conquest by
Selīm I Yavuz;
line of Mamlūks actually
continues until 1811
The Mamlūks, , Mamālīk, literally "possessed" (singular , Mamlūk), i.e. "slaves," represent one of the strangest political institutions in world history, compared by
Machiavelli to nothing so much as the Papacy. This was because of the non-hereditary nature of the succession, though the Mamlūks were by no means celibate -- that would be foreign to ʾIslām.
1261-1517 AD,
al-Ḥākim I
in Aleppo
in Cairo
al-Mustakfī I
al-Wāthiq I
al-Ḥakīm II
ʾAbū Bakr
al-Muʿtaḍid I
al-Mutawakkil I
al-Wāthiq II
ʿAbbās or Yaʿqūb
Sulṭān, 1412
al-Muʿtaḍid II
al-Mustakfī II
al-Mutawakkil II
al-Mutawakkil III
1517, Caliph removed
to İstanbul by Ottoman
Sulṭān Selīm I Yavuz,
later credited with
assuming Caliphate
The pool of candidates for the Sultanate was from the ranks of the soldiers bought as slaves when children and then raised to rule Egypt. This force originated under the Ayyūbids, as a similar practice created an elite army, the Janissaries, under the Ottomans. While the Janissaries were eventually massacred (1826) for their practice of king-making, the Mamlūks were successful at replacing the Ayyūbid Sulṭāns of Egypt completely, with themselves (1252).

Slave troops at first were Turkish, but then preference shifted, as it did with the Ottomans, to originally Christian boys from the Caucasus, especially Circassians. Although Cairo was a major terminus for the African slave trade, black boys were not used for this purpose -- they were generally castrated and used as harem eunuchs, or even at the shrines in Mecca and Medina. However, I have recently [2020] read a newspaper article where the author apparently assumed that all slaves are black Africans and that therefore the Mamlūks were some kind of black dynasty. This is certainly the result of the propaganda and tendentious "history" taught in American "education," where slavery is uniquely of Africans -- and the unforgivable sin of white Christians, and Jews. At least the author could not assume that the Mamlūks had been enslaved by such Europeans or Americans -- but if that is the next step, it wouldn't surprise me.

Although the Mamlūk Sulṭānate formally and by reputation was non-hereditary, it does turn out that many of the Sulṭāns were sons or brothers of others. This can be seen in Bosworth's The New Islamic Dynasties [pp.76-78] and, rather more clearly, in the Oxford Dynasties of the World by John. E. Morby [Oxford, 2002, pp.189-190] -- note that a genealogy of the Egyptian Abbasid Caliphs is given above.

Mamlūk Egypt for many years was the principal state of ʾIslām. The defeat of the Mongols in 1260 and then the establishment of an Abbasid line of Caliphs in Cairo gave the regime a respect and status that others could not match. The architectural monuments of Mamlūk Cairo are still impressive.

It is noteworthy that the great collection of Mediaeval Islāmic stories, the أَلْف لَيْلَة وَلَيْلَة, ʾAlf Layla wa Layla ( ), the Thousand Nights and a Night, i.e. the Thousand and One Nights, is to be strongly associated with Egypt and the Mamlūk state.

The "oldest substantial surviving Arabic version" of the Thousand and One Nights, according to Robert Irwin, is a manuscript held today in the Bibiothèque Nationale in Paris. This was acquired and used by Antoine Galland (1646-1715) to produce the first translation of the Nights into a European language, Les Mille et Une Nuits (twelve volumes, 1704-1717). Galland had been attached to the French Embassy in Constantinople in 1670, and between then and 1679 he traveled in the Middle East and is said to have become fluent in Greek, Arabic, Persian, and Turkish. In Constantinople he acquired a manuscript of the voyages of Sindbad, which he translated and published in 1698.

It was actually in Paris that Galland acquired a manuscript of the Nights. Its origin is unclear, although Irwin says that "It seems to have been put together in Syria in the late fifteenth century," which at the time, of course, was under Mamlūk rule [The Arabian Nights, Tales of 1001 Nights, Volume II, Nights 295 to 719, translated by Malcolm C. Lyons, with Ursula Lyons, Introduced and Annotated by Robert Irwin, Penguin Classics, 2008, p.x].

That manuscript begins a series of mysteries associated with the Nights. Part of the text apparently has been lost, and what survives contains only "thirty-five and a half stories." Nowhere does the manuscript contain the Sindbad stories, or those of "Ali Baba" or "Aladdin." No Arabic texts of the latter two have ever been found (and Galland's text of Sindbad seems to have been lost), yet they are included, with Sindbad, in Galland's translation. Thus called the "orphan stories," there is no explanation of where Galland got them.

In 1709, Galland is said to have used a Maronite Christian from Aleppo, Hanna Diab, who recounted many stories from memory, although none of those is identified by name. Whether this is where "Ali Baba" and "Aladdin" came from seems to be a matter of speculation, although I find it confidently asserted now. Some think that Galland even made up some stories, although Irwin says "he seems to have drawn on one or more Egyptian manuscripts of the Nights" [p.xi]. Irwin cites no evidence of such manuscripts, but it is not the last time that Cairo comes up as a sometimes mysterious source of Nights literature [note].

The Thousand and One Nights collection, including stories that must have been circulating for many centuries, is noteworthy for the social, cultural, and religious attitudes it reveals. While fiercely pro-Islāmic, with stories even about questions of Islāmic Law, and a very long and boring one about fighting the Romans (with nice touches like the notion that Christian incense is made from the excrement of Bishops), we find things that now seem rather un-Islāmic. For instance, there is a great deal of wine drinking, which seems to be casually accepted, even while its irreligion, strictly speaking, is noted.

Thus, in one story, a character swears off wine in order to purify himself for the Pilgrimage. In another story, a man discovers that his wife has been having sex with a gorilla. With a shocking touch of racism, this affair is said to have commenced after a previous black lover had died (which fits the surviving stereotype of black sexual prowess but betrays ignorance of the anatomy of gorillas, which actually have smaller genitals than humans). We might expect that the proper thing to do about this would be to kill the wife. However, the wife's unnatural lust is extraordinarily treated as a medical disorder, and a physician is employed to cure her, which he does. Besides the wine drinking, there seems to be considerable ease and interest in unsanctioned sexual activities, although happy endings always lead to marriage. Even those eunuchs who have been deprived of their testicles but not their penises boast of their ability to have sex with their mistresses. One real world consequence of that was the custom of only using black eunuchs, who typically had amputated penises, in the harīm.

A noteworthy feature of the Nights is that we get more of a sense of mortality than in Western fairy tales. Thus, we are familiar with stories that end, "and they lived happily ever after." But stories in the Nights, however, happy the outcome, nevertheless remind us that this is not permanent. We get marvelous expressions, such as فَاصِل ٱلْأَصْدِقَاء, fāṣil al-ʾaṣdiqāʾ, the "Separator of Friends," as epithets or euphemisms for death. We might think this reflects more of an Islamic consciousness in the Nights than we find a Christian consciousness in, for instance Grimms' Fairy Tales. Certainly, there is no less an awareness of death in Christianity than in ʾIslām -- but with the Brothers Grimm we may already have an Enlightenment disinterest in religion and a valorization of folktales, if not for their possible pagan roots.


Although the story of the Mamlūks is easily thought to end in 1517 with the Ottoman conquest, the amazing truth is that the Mamlūk garrison was not abolished by the Turks and that, as Ottoman authority weakened, Egypt ended up again under the de facto rule of the same "peculiar institution." Thus, when Napoleon arrived in Egypt in 1798, it was the Mamlūks with whom he had to contend. When he defeated them at the Battle of the Pyramids, he may not have stopped to think (so distracted by all the Egyptian stuff) that he had beaten victors over the Mongols. Nevertheless, this was still not the end of the Mamlūk story. They retreated up the Nile from the French and were again contesting the rule of Egypt when Muḥammad ʿAlī deceived, trapped, and exterminated them in 1811.

What did end in 1517 was the line of Abbasid Caliphs. The last was taken off to Constantinople. Ironically, this was al-Mutawakkil III -- the same title as the Caliph who was assassinated by his own Turkish guard in 861. It is not clear whether the Ottomans had any intention of continuing the line, as useful figureheads, as the Mamlūks had, for the Caliph and any possible descendants simply disappear from history. Later, when the Sulṭāns got to thinking about it, they claimed the Caliphate for themselves.

The Hūdids of Murcia
Muḥammad ibn Hūd al-Mutawakkil1228-1238
Conquest of Valencia
by Aragón, 1238
Muḥammad al-Wāthiq1238-1239,
ʾal-ʿAzīz Ḍiyāʾ ad-Dawla1239-1241
Muḥammad Abū Jaʿfar Bahāʾ ad-Dawla1241-1262
Muḥammad ibn ʾAbī Jaʿfar Muḥammad1262-1264
occupation by Granada, ?-1266
Conquest by Aragón, 1266
Muḥammad I al-Ghālib,
ibn al-Aḥmar
Muḥammad II al-Faqīh1273-1302
Muḥammad III al-Makhlūʿ1302-1309
ʾIsmāʿīl I1314-1325
Muḥammad IV1325-1333
Yūsuf I al-Muʾayyad1333-1354
Muḥammad V al-Ghani1354-1359,
ʾIsmāʿīl II1359-1360
Muḥammad VI al-Ghālib,
el Bermejo
Yūsuf II al-Mustaghnī1391-1392
Muḥammad VII
Yūsuf III an-Nāṣir1408-1417
Muḥammad VIII
al-Ṣaghīr, el Pequeño
Muḥammad IX al-Ghālib,
al-ʾAysar, el Zurdo
Yūsuf IV, Abenalmao1432
Muḥammad X al-Aḥnaf, el Cojo1445,
Yūsuf V ibn ʾIsmāl, Aben Ismael1445-1446,
Muḥammad XI, el Chiquito1451-1455
Saʿd al-Musta'īn, Ciriza, Muley Zad1454-1464
ʿAlī ibn Saʿd, Muley Hácen1464-1482,
Muḥammad XII al-Zughūbī, Boabdil el Chico1482-1483,
d. 1533
Mu.hammad ibn Saʿd al-Zaghal1485-1490
Conquest by Castile & Aragón,
end of Islamic Spain, 1492
The end of Islāmic Spain turned out to be a very protracted business, 260 years to be exact. In the course of this, one of the architectural jewels of the world was created, the Alhambra (ʾal-Ḥamrāʾ, "the Red"). When the real end came, it was by no means easy for the Christians. A long and tough campaign finally resulted in a negotiated surrender. Muḥammad XII (Boabdil), left for North Africa, and freedom of religion was supposedly obtained for Granadan Moslems (1492). Frustration with this incomplete victory may have helped
Ferdinand and Isabella with their resolve to expel the Jews from Spain. Toleration for Moslems, however, was revoked as soon as 1499. Actions against the Moriscos, Christian converts from ʾIslām, led to a great revolt in 1568-1570. Dispersed through Spain, the remaining Moriscos nevertheless were enough of a worry that it was determined in 1609 to expel them from Spain altogether. By 1614, they were gone, and with them the last link with the 700 years of Islāmic Spain.

The Alhambra (a redundant expression, since "al" already means "the") survives out of its time as a living fossil of Islāmic Spain -- with its name transported to a city in Southern California, where at least the climate is similar. Another echo of Islamic Spain lives in California, however, where the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel reflects, on a more humble scale, architectural elements of the Great Mosque of Cordova (which survived through its conversion into the church). The builder of the Mission, it seems, was from Cordova. The buttresses unique to California Missions, unfortunately, have not always preserved San Gabriel from earthquake damage. An image of San Gabriel has recently been proposed for the Seal of the County of Los Angeles, since the City of Los Angeles was originally founded in 1781 as an asistencia or outlier of the Mission.

In the summer of anti-American anarchist rioting and looting in 2020, on July 11th an arsonist got to the old church of the San Gabriel Mission. The building was gutted, but the walls are intact. Full restoration is possible. Vandalism against statues of Junipero Serra has been a feature of the rioting, and one statue in Golden Gate Park was pulled down, without protest from, say, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who actually attended the canonization ceremony for Serra at the Vatican. Hostility to Serra and the Missions, of course, is part of the general hated by the Left of European colonization in the Americas; and pride in Latino (now mutilated to "Latinx" or "Latin-Ex") heritage is immediately forgotten when activists occasionally remember that the Spanish were conquistadores who snuffed out entire New World civilizations, along with many of their people. Since a majority of American voters seem to have endorsed crime, anarchy, looting, and vandalism in 2020, this is not the end of the matter.

Chinese suzerainty, 1409
Megat Iskandar Shāh1414-1424
Śri Maharājā Sulṭān Muḥammad Shāh1424-1445
last Chinese fleet visit, 1433
Rājā Ibrāhīm Śri Parameśvara Deva Shāh1445-1446
Rājā Qāsim Sulṭān Maẓaffar Shāh1446-1459
Rājā ʿAbdallāh Sulṭān Manṣūr Shāh1459-1477
Sulṭān ʿAlāʾ ad-Dīn Riʿāyat1477-1488
Sulṭān Maḥmud Shāh1488-1510, 1510-1528
Sulṭān ʾAḥmad Shāh1510
Portuguese conquest, 1511; dynasty continues in Johor, 1528; Dutch, 1641; British, 1824
ʾIslām in Southeast Asia is the counterexample to the notion sometimes affirmed that the religion has never spread except by the sword. Instead, ʾIslām arrived in Malaya and Indonesia by sea and by trade. It took hold gradually against Hinduism and Buddhism, which had previously arrived by sea and by trade.

One result of this was gradual and incomplete Islamicization, i.e. the previous civilization was not simply superseded, and the social rigors of Islāmic law only adopted imperfectly. This can be seen in the very names of the Sulṭāns of Malacca, which begin with Sanskrit, including titles like śri, rājā, and maharājā, and shift over to Arabic and Persian, including titles like Sulṭān and shāh. With the last three rulers before the Portuguese, the Sanskrit titles and names have disappeared entirely.

The most remarkable name/title is undoubtedly deva, , "god." This is familiar from an early date in India but would be absolutely anathema in ʾIslām -- its implication of polytheism would even be punishable by death under Islamic Law. Indeed, it only occurs once, and that with a ruler whose name otherwise seems to put more emphasis on the Indian elements.

At the beginning of the line of the Sulṭāns of Malacca, it was Siam that exerted influence. But then in 1409 the Chinese arrived. Admiral Zheng He and his great fleets, projecting the new power of the Ming Dynasty, established a base at Malacca, and the Sulṭān became a tributary of China. He even sailed to China to pay homage to the Emperor. A Chinese cantonment protected, stored, and shipped goods from China and those obtained on the further expeditions into the Indian Ocean. On nearby Sumatra, a Chinese governor was installed at Palembang after a Chinese pirate was defeated, captured, and sent back to China for execution. In northern Sumatra (near Acheh), troops were put ashore to install one king and execute his rival. A king in Ceylon was defeated and sent to China, but then the Emperor returned him to his kingdom (thought he evidently was unable to recover his throne). Some of Zheng He's detachments went into the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and even down the coast of Africa, perhaps as far as Zanzibar. This impressive exercise ended abruptly in 1433, when the xenophobic Confucian faction became dominant at the Chinese Court. China was cut off from the external world and began to lose its ability to deal with that world, either culturally, economically, or militarily.

Arriving next by sea and by trade would be the Portuguese (led by Afonso de Albuquerque), Dutch, and British, all of whom were also interested in secure bases for their activities. So Malacca became a European colony. Under the British, it became part of the Straits Settlements, which was a string of cities along, indeed, the Straits of Malacca, between Malaya and Sumatra. British Malaya was otherwise a group of client kingdoms, including some whose rulers were actually descendants of the Sulṭāns of Malacca.

In 1972 I was looking through some books that were on sale at the University of Hawai'i bookstore. Among them I found two small pamphlets that looked like children's primers written entirely in the Arabic alphabet. I had no idea what these could be, or what they were doing in Hawai'i. They were, however, published in Singapore by the "Malaysia Press Ltd." This was the clue; for, as I soon learned, and as is generally characteristic in Mediaeval Islamic converts, the Arabic alphabet is adopted to write the local language, which was Malay, , Melayu. This grew up as a trade language of Malaya and Indonesia,
ʿInāyat Shāhc.1450-?
Muẓaffar Shāhd.1497
Shams ad-Dīn Shāh?-c.1496
ʿAlī Mughāyat Shāhc.1496-c.1530
Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīnc.1530-c.1537
Riʿāyat Shāh ʿAlāʾ ad-Dīn al-Qahhārc.1537-1571
appeals to Ottoman Sulṭān for aid against the Portuguese, 1563
ʿAlī/Ḥusayn Riʿāyat Shāh1571-1579
Sultan Muda1579
Sultan Śri ʿĀlam1579
Zayn al-ʿĀbidīn1579
Manṣūr Shāh ʿAlāʾ ad-Dīn1579-c.1586
ʿAlī Riʿāyat Shāh Rājā Buyungc.1586-c.1588
Riʿāyat Shāh ʿAlāʾ ad-Dīnc.1588-1604
ʿAlī Riʿāyat Shah/Sultan Muda1604-1607
ʾIskandar Muda Makota ʿĀlam1607-1636
Mughāyat Shāh, Iskandar Thānī ʿAlāʾ ad-Dīn1636-1641
Ṣafiyyat ad-Dīn Shāh Tāj al-ʿĀlam 1641-1675
Naqiyyat ad-Dīn Shâ'h Nūr al-ʿĀlam 1675-1678
Zakiyyat ad-Dīn Shāh ʿInāyat 1678-1688
Zīnat ad-Dīn Kamālat Shāh 1688-1699
Sharīf Hāshim Jamāl ad-Dīn Badr al-ʿĀlam1699-1702
Perkasa ʿĀlam Sharīf Lamtuy1702-1703
Badr al-Munīr, Jamāl al-ʿĀlam1703-1726
ʾAmīn ad-Dīn Shāh, Jawhar al-ʿĀlam1726
Shams al-ʿĀlam, Wandi Tebing1726-1727
ʾAḥmad Shāh, Maharājā Lela Melayu, ʿAlāʾ ad-Dīn1727-1735
Jahān Shāh, Potjut Auk, ʿAlāʾ ad-Dīn1735-1760
Maḥmūd Shāh, Tuanku Raja1760-1781
Muḥammad Shāh, Taunku Muḥammad, ʿAlāʾ ad-Dīn1781-1795
Jawhar al-ʿĀlam Shāh, ʿAlāʾ ad-Dīn1795-1824
Muḥammad Shāh1824-1836
Manṣūr Shāh1836-1870
Maḥmūd Shāh1870-1874
capital at Kutaraja captured by Dutch, 1874
Muḥammad Dawud Shāh, ʿAlāʾ ad-Dīn1874-1903
Dutch conquest of Acheh, 1903
a linga franca, like Swahili in East Africa and Hindi-Urdu in India. Like those languages, Malay has a strong element of Arabic in it, though this is often obscured by the pronunciation. Thus, a basic greeting in Malay is Apa kabar? This simply means "What's new?" Apa is a Malay word, but kabar is from Arabic , khabar, "news, information, report."

Malay is now the national language of Malaysia (Bahasa Malaysia), Indonesia (Bahasa Indonesia), and Singapore (Bahasa Melayu, among others). The British and the Dutch introduced systems of Romanization -- e.g. "u" in Malaya was "oe" in Indonesia -- which now have been reconciled to a universal standard, with the Dutch idiosyncrasies eliminated. The use of the Arabic alphabet had been dying out, but not entirely.

As initially in Persian, it was necessary to introduce some extra letters into the alphabet to write all the sounds of Malay. These would be, most importantly, letters for the velar nasal "ng" and the palatal nasal "ny" (or "ñ"). A small problem arose with writing three dots over the "chair" for an "n" with "ny." In the final or independent position, the letter would be distinctive. Written initially or medially, however, the letter would look like the Arabic "th." Thus, in the initial or medial positions, the three dots for "ny" are written under rather than over the "chair." This, however, would then look like the Persian "p." Malay also needed a "p," so the "chair" of Arabic "f" was used, with three dots, for the "p." Otherwise, we get the variation that "g," borrowed from Persian, might be written with a dot rather than an extra line; and Arabic "w," pronounced "v" in Persian, could be left alone to mean "w" in Malay or written with a dot to mean "v." Otherwise, "ch" was also borrowed from Persian.

The way things are going in ʾIslām, it may well be that the use of the Arabic alphabet will increase; but little of it had been left in public life.

Acheh at the northern end of Sumatra, just across the Straits from Malacca, was a larger and more durable realm. We see less in the way of Sanskrit names and titles, though there are some local names and references, as with Aḥmad Shāh (1727-1735), who is called Maharājā Lela Melayu -- i.e. "the Malay." We also see something very unusual in ʾIslām, a number of female rulers.

In 1563 Sulṭān Ri'āyat Shāh of Acheh wrote to the Ottoman Sulṭān, in this case no less than Suleiman the Magnificent, requesting help against the Portuguese. This episode reveals the extent of the Oecumene of ʾIslām, and the recognition of the common enemy. Turkey at the height of its power, and willing to help, nevertheless had some difficulty projecting that power as far as Indonesia. After a delay of some years, and not until after the death of Suleiman, an Ottoman fleet of 19 ships sailed from Egypt. Only two ships reached Acheh, however, the rest having been diverted to bolster Ottoman authority in Yemen. The aid finally delivered to Acheh was thus minimal and, as it happened, ineffective.

While it is tempting now to think of Indonesia as a unified realm, not only were there multiple sovereignties in earlier days, but their subjugation by the Dutch was a process that took some time. Thus, the last Sulṭān of Acheh held out for many years, and the Dutch conquest was not complete until 1903. We see much the same process in Bali, where Dutch conquest was not complete until 1906, amid scenes of great slaughter, something like 3600 Balinese falling.

Acheh entered the news late in 2004 with a great earthquake, magnitude 9.0, the largest on Earth in forty years, off the coast of Sumatra. This was bad enough, but the tsunami, , generated by the earthquake inundated coasts as far away as Sri Lanka and Thailand. The death toll overall is estimated up to 200,000 people.

We are thus unpleasantly reminded of the geological forces at work under Indonesia, where many great earthquakes and some of the largest volcanic eruptions in the geological record have occurred. For instance, the eruption of Mt. Tambora in 1815 put so much material into the atmosphere that it darkened the sky world wide and produced "the year without summer" in 1816 -- producing the cold and rains in Europe that enforced the leisure for Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein [1818].

Not as large but better known was the eruption of Karakatoa (Krakatau, between Java and Sumatra) in 1883. This blew away the small island of Karakatoa itself, with a blast that was actually heard as far as 1000 miles away. There have been few such eruptions anywhere in historical times. Ice cores show a spike of volcanic gasses for 535 AD. It was long not known if this was one of the Indonesian volcanoes. They were the best candidates; but now it turns out that this must have been Mt. Ilopango in El Salvador, which would have been an eruption as large or larger than Tambora. Such eruptions did have some serious historical consequences. There is much comment in Roman records of the time about the dim sunlight of 536 AD and the failure of crops thereafter. The cooling may have precipitated the plague that arrived in Egypt in 541. The "Dark Ages Cooling" was thus another heavy blow against the diminishing Roman Empire.

Prehistorically, Sumatra may have been the place of the largest volcanic eruption in the history of the human species. When Mt. Toba erupted 74,000 years ago, it was perhaps 10,000 times the size of the Mt. St. Helens eruption in 1980. This could have caused a 5o Celsius (9o Fahrenheit) global drop in temperature around the world. The "year without summer" might have become months or years without summer. There is some evidence that this caused a "genetic bottleneck" in human evolution, which means a large portion of human beings may have died. This was before the advent of fully modern humans, about 30,000 years ago; so, literally, people like us have not seen its like.

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Copyright (c) 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved

ʾIslām, 622 AD; Classical ʾIslām; Note

The Penguin edition of the Thousand and One Nights, which is annotated and introduced by Robert Irwin (b.1946), a research associate at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), and other things, is based on editions of the Arabic text published in India. These began, as recounted by Irwin, with an edition in 1814 and 1818, "Calcutta I," another in 1835, the "Bulaq" edition, and finally a four volume set, "Calcutta II," published in 1839-1842.

These were all based on manuscripts from Egypt. "Bulaq" is a suburb of Cairo, where the edition was published. Richard Burton characterized this as "ruthlessly mutilated" [The Book of The Thousand Nights and a Night, Volumes I & II, The Heritage Press, 1934, 1962, p.xi]. A manuscript in possession of Henry Salt (1780-1827), British Consul in Egypt, made its way to India for the "Calcutta II" edition. This itself had been compiled in Egypt from various sources, which included the Calcutta I text and the "Breslau Edition" from a German scholar, Maximilian Habricht, in 1824, which Richard Burton described as "wretchedly edited from a hideous Egyptian MS" [ibid.]. The publication in India began in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1837. Burton seems pleased with this edition -- "the least corrupt and the most complete" [ibid.] -- and used it; but after the full edition of the text was published, the manuscript went missing. This leaves the whole question of the origins of the Indian editions of the Nights obscure and mysterious.

The ultimate origin of the Nights itself is pretty mysterious. Irwin says that it all, "goes back to a lost Sanskrit original dating from no later than the eight century" [p.ix]. How we know this, he doesn't say; but there was a lot of Indian literature that sounds a bit like the Nights stories. But at some point, something of the sort turns up in Persian:

The tenth-century Arab polymath al-Masʿudi refers to the Persian version, which was called Hezar Afsaneh [ ], 'A Thousand Stories.' [ibid.]

As it happens, we don't know what the Hezar Afsaneh was actually like, and Irwin can only speculate on its contents. However, we seem to be on the right track. The persons who figure in the framing story of the Thousand and One Nights, all have Persian names. The King is Šahryār, . The stories are told to him by Šahrāzād, , i.e. "Scheherazade." And her sister is little Dunyāzād, . The names of the women both feature the Persian patronymic ending, -zādeh, ; and the names of the two principals contain šahr, , "city" in Persian. Other discussion of these names can be seen at the patronymic link.

The first direct evidence cited by Irwin:

A ninth-century paper fragment of the opening page of the Nights survives (its title is Kitab Hadith Alf Layla, or 'The Book of the Tale of One Thousand Nights') but, though it features an early version of Sharazad telling stories to her sister, the plot device of telling stories to prolong life does not appear. [p.x]

This marvelous Kitāb Ḥadīθ ʾAlf Laylah, , is missing a day, but it otherwise is getting very close. A telling feature of this reference is passed over by Irwin.

This page is said to be a "paper fragment." The original must have been a paper book. As it happens, we know about the start of paper making in Baghdad. But there are drawbacks. We have copies of the works of Plato, Aristotle, and the rest of Greek literature because the manuscripts are written on parchment, which is tough and durable. Paper is cheap and convenient, but it not as tough or durable. Even modern books have problems. It was only after the 1960's that many books began to be made with acid-free paper. The first edition I examined of the Greek text of Anna Comnena was not on acid-free paper. The pages were discolored and brittle. They could break as you turned them. This alarmed librarians. No one ever had to worry about that with parchment. Also, high quality paper, with a high percentage of rag in it, was durable -- but also expensive, defeating a major advantage of paper in the first place.

The Thousand and One Nights was clearly popular literature. It accumulated stories that circulated among public story tellers, and it even references such story tellers, and attributes some of its own specific stories to them. As such, cheap paper fits the bill. But it also explains why manuscripts of the Nights seem to be so few and so elusive. They just don't survive. Attempts have been made to identify separate Syrian and Egyptian recensions of the Nights, but there are no canonical texts for either, and the impression about Antoine Galland is that he mixed Egyptian stories in with his possibly Syrian manuscript -- for which there is vanishing small evidence.

A popular version of the Nights has been a French translation by Joseph-Charles-Victor (J.C.) Mardrus (1868-1949) in twelve volumes, 1899-1904. This was translated into English by E. Powys Mathers and published in 1923 and 1937. I have a four volume Routledge & Kegan Paul edition of this from 1986 (originally 1964 & 1972). Irwin says about it:

This 'translation' is extremely inaccurate and some of the stories seem to have been invented by Mardrus. The prose was embellished in a fin-de-siècle manner. Though it is perhaps easier to read than the English of [Edward William] Lane [1801-1876] or [Richard] Burton, some readers may find it rather sickly. As a work of creative literature, Mardrus's version certainly has its merits, but as a rendering of an Arabic original it is almost worthless. [p.xvi-xvii]

As it happens, we don't know what the "original" was. And Irwin can't say either. Mardrus, born in Cairo, said he had his own manuscript, but this has never turned up. Some think he was using the published editions, like the ones in India. If so, then it is reasonable to imagine that he "invented" some stories. However, as we have seen, these sorts of problems go all the way back to Antoine Galland, whose own sources are lost, obscure, or suspicious. So even if Mardrus is guilty of Irwin's accusations, none of that would be anomalous in the tradition of the Nights. Indeed, if we cannot account for the source of all Galland's stories, what is the complaint if we cannot account for all the sources of all Mardrus' stories? Indeed, we must resort to the idea of Galland's mysterious Maronite informant. But, unlike Galland, Mardrus was himself a native of the Middle East, a child and resident of Egypt and Lebanon; and so he might be counted as an equally legitimate source himself, no less than Galland's Maronite. I think Irwin overlooks this circumstance, or is uncomfortable with it.

For all we know, Mardrus heard stories in the Cairo marketplace. It was the place for it. At the same time, modern editions of the Nights have often suffered from "bowdlerization," i.e. the removal of "offensive," mainly sexual, material. Richard Burton certainly didn't do that, but then his translation had to be published by private subscription to avoid the obscenity laws. Mathers' first printing in 1923 was also by private subscription, but Mardrus and Mathers didn't touch any of the considerable "offensive" material in the Nights. Indeed, Mardrus is accused of adding to the homosexual material in the stories. It is a little hard to understand the motivation for that. Since homosexuality is always portrayed negatively -- it does violate Islāmic Law -- Mardrus cannot have been promoting it; and if he had some special personal hostility to it, one might wonder why he thought the Nights was an appropriate vehicle for that. If there were homosexual stories floating around, and Mardus set them down, one would not think objections could be raised to that now.

Mardrus is a bit of a mysterious character himself. Irwin introduces him as "a member of a Caucasian clan who grew up in Cairo" [p.xvi]. What in the world is a "Caucasian clan"? This could mean anything. Does Irwin deliberately muddle this lest we think of Mardrus as himself an informant on par with Galland's Maronite? As it happens, Mardrus was born in Cairo to a Catholic Armenian family, studied in Lebanon, trained as a physician, and moved to France. There were many Armenians in Egypt until they became unwelcome under the Nasser regime. "Catholic Armenian" can well mean members of the Catholic counter-church to the Patriarchate of the Great House of Cilicia. This began when the Armenian Patriarchs fled the Turks to Cilicia in 1062. That was even before the Turks broke into Anatolia after the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. A schism in 1737 resulted in the Catholic counter-church. The Patriarchs of both Cilician churches are now in Lebanon, and the Catholic one was already there in 1749. Thus, Mardrus may have moved to Lebanon because of a religious, if not family, connection there, in a heavily Francophile and Francopohone community.

Nor was the life Mardrus lived in France particularly obscure. His wife (1900-1915), Lucie Delarue (1874-1945), was an author, poetess, sculptor, and other things, i.e. a very public figure, who seems to have ended up separating from Mardus because of an attraction to women, while Mardus went on to marry Gabirelle "Cobrette" Bralant (1897-1997). Delarue seems to have made an impression at their wedding by wearing a "cycling outfit," which may have influenced the fashion designer Paul Poiret (1879–1944), who liked the themes of the Thousand and One Nights. This makes it sound like Mardrus, after an Odyssey from Egypt and Lebanon, was moving with a very fast crowd in France. Indeed, perhaps his wife's Lesbianism may explain the non-canonical stories of homosexuality in Mardrus' translation.

So the case of Dr. Mardrus' Nights includes all the mystery, obscurity, and suspicion that seems to attend a lot of the history, scholarship, and publication of the Nights. Irwin says, "As a work of creative literature, Mardrus's version certainly has its merits, but as a rendering of an Arabic original it is almost worthless." Since we don't know what the "Arabic original" was, Irwin's judgment might not be true. What we do get with Mardrus is a full 1001 nights that include "Ali Baba" and "Aladdin," as the Penguin edition actually does not -- although it includes them as a supplement, translated from Galland's French. Thus, a certain "merit" of "a work of creative literature" is to produce something that actually looks like a complete, canonical text in its own right. For all we know, this is what Mardrus's mysterious source looked like.

A couple interesting points of comparison occur on single pages in both the Routledge and the Penguin editions. Thus, in the "The Adventures of Hasan of Basrah," in the description of the beauty of the Jinnīyah Princess Splendor, Mathers says, "her mouth is carnelian needing no cup" [Volume III, p.207]. The Penguin edition has, "Her mouth is like a ring of carnelian" [Volume III, p.216]. To me, the Mardrus/Mathers phrase doesn't make any sense. What is "needing no cup" supposed to mean there? I don't know. A "ring of carnelian," however, makes perfect sense. This may be an example of Irwin saying, "This 'translation' is extremely inaccurate." It looks like Mardrus may have misunderstood the words, the construction, or the idiom involved in the text. But I don't see a lot of things like that in Mathers. What it does mean to me is that Mardrus has indeed done a translation from an Arabic text, but has just made a mistake. We are just left wondering what text that was.

The same page in both editions raises a different issue about the translations. Splendor has between her thighs something that is stated in terms of "letters." In the Penguin edition it says, "They are four into five, and six into ten." This is footnoted as "A sexual reference." We are not told how it is. Mathers says, "And four by five, and six by ten will show it." This is footnoted, "The riddle: Kaf, which stands for twenty, and sin, which stands for sixty, together spell kus, a low word for the female parts." Wow. Anyone who knows their spoken Arabic or Hebrew knows that word.

Every letter in the Arabic alphabet has a numerical value, so the "riddle" of the numbers generates two letters. But we only get a real explanation of this "sexual reference" from Mathers, not from Robert Irwin, who is responsibile for the annotation of the Penguin edition. Looks like a bit of bowdlerization, in a case where Irwin cannot accuse Mardrus of making anything up. We are looking at the same numbers in the same context in the same story.

I am intrigued about the origin of this word. We are given it as two letters. Arabic roots typically have three consonants. "K" and "s" are only two. Of course, the "s" could be doubled; but there is no "kss" root in Hans Wehr's dictionary. There is a "kys" root, from which we get , kīs, which can mean, "sack, bag, pouch, purse." This is not the cited "kus," but I heard the word as kis in Lebanon, with a shortened vowel. "Kus" seems to be how it occurs now in Hebrew. "Pouch," "purse," etc. look to be excellent euphemisms for "vagina," as "vagina" is itself actually a euphemism, of similar meaning, in Latin. The literal Latin word is a cognate of English "c**t."

Another issue of scholarship concerns diacritics. Both the Penguin edition and the Routledge largely avoid the diacritics that are appropriate for Arabic, with a couple curious exceptions. I have addressed the Penguin usage elsewhere, noting that the text does indicate non-initial glottal stops, as with the Caliph "al-Maʾmun," and the Arabic letter ʿayn. These are not shown by Mathers, who does, however, always indicate long vowels, for instance "Hārūn al-Rashīd" [at countless places]. Between the two sources, we can derive a fair amount of information about the words, but not the diacritic underdots that indicate the "emphatic" series of Arabic consonants. Mathers also uses a simple "k" for Arabic "q." I can't imagine why, although I have seen it elsewhere, including in Burton. In this name from Mathers, we also see the failure to assimilate the "l" of the definite article to the "sun letter" of "r" in "Rashīd." This is typical in all modern transcription. I have explained the issue in detail above.

The trouble that substituting "k" for Arabic "q" can cause turns up at another point in the Thousand and One Nights. In the Mathers edition we have "the Tale of the Girl Heart's-Miracle, Lieutenant of the Birds" [op.cit., Volume IV, p.307]. The name of the "girl" of the story, Heart's-Miracle, is given as Tufhah al-kulūb [p.310]. This poses some problems in recovering the actual Arabic. The second word unfortunately looks like it is from the root klb, such as we see in the word , kalb, "dog," which is not what we expect. And dogs are unclean in ʾIslām. Here the root is certainly supposed to be qlb, such as we see in the word , qalb, "heart," which is more like it. Anyone familiar with love songs in Arabic knows the phrase, , Yā qalbī, "Oh my heart!" What we actually get here is , qulūb, the "broken" or irregular plural, "hearts." The full expression is , al-qulūb, "of the hearts." Kalb also has a broken plural, but it is not of the same form as with qalb, so al-kulūb is not as ambiguous as it might have been.

"Tufhah" poses its own problems. There is a root tfh in Hans Wehr's dictionary, but it means "to be little, paltry," etc. [p.95], with no noun of the form tufhah, let alone anything with a relevant meaning. What looks like a prospect is the root ṭfḥ, , "to flow over, overflow" [p.562]. We don't get nouns that really match the text, but , ṭafḥā, "flowing over, brimful, replete" (feminine), comes close. To be sure, this is not "miracle," although it gives us a nice name, "Overflow of the hearts." If we really want "miracle," there may be a problem. "Miracle" can be muʿjizah, , or ʾuʿjūbah, , neither of which looks remotely like "Tufhah." The root ʿajiba, , "to wonder, marvel, be astonished, be amazed," is productive of many words with related meanings; it is just that none of these will be relevant to the name we are given for "Heart's-Miracle." Either we have a mistranslation or an intervention by the translator to produce a name he likes better.

"The Tale of the Girl Heart's-Miracle, Lieutenant of the Birds" seems to be one of the stories that occurs in the Mardrus edition of the Nights but not in the Burton or Penguin editions, which are based on the Calcutta II text. So Mardrus has made it up -- a tribure to his skill as a story teller -- or it is based on oral or textual sources that cannot now be recovered.

Return to Text

YEMEN, 1230 BC-1962 AD

The State of at-Tababiʿa
al-Harith ar-Raish1230-1105 BC
Abrahah Dhu-l-Manar1105-922
Afrikis ibn Abrahah922-758
al-ʿAbd Dhu al-Adhʿar758-733
al-Hedhed ibn Sharahil733-658
Balkis (Bilqis) bint al-Hedhed "Queen of Sheba"?658-638
Nashir an-Niʿam638-553
Shammar Yarʿish553-516
Abu Malik516-461
Tubba' ibn al-Akran461-408
Dhu Jaychan408-338
al-Akran ibn Abu Malik338-175
Assʿad Abu Karib140-20
Hassan ibn Tubba'20 BC-50 AD
ʿAmr ibn Tubba'50-113
ʿAbid Kilel113-187
Tubba' ibn Hassan187-265
Marthid ibn ʿAbid265-306
Waliʿa ibn Marthid306-343
Abrahah ibn as-Sabbah343-416
Sahban ibn Muhrath416-431
Hassan ibn ʿAmr ibn Tubbaʾ431-488
Dhu Shanatir488-515
Yusuf Ashʿar Dhu-Nuwas King of Himyar, 515-525
convert to Judaism; Ethiopian invasion, 525-c.533
Dhu Jadan525-533
Ethiopian rule, 533-575; to Himyar, 575-577; to Persia, 577-631; to ʾIslām, 629

Yemen is an ancient and noteworthy center of civilization. It was long off the beaten track, at the entrance to the Red Sea, and rarely the focus, or the target, of major political events; but it certainly deserves more attention than it customarily receives. For instance, the recent and enormous (911 pages) Ancient History, from the First Civilizations to the Renaissance, by J.M. Roberts [Duncan Baird Publishers, London, 2004], contains nothing whatsoever about Yemen, and neither the name, nor "Saba," nor "Sheba," even appear in the index. This is a grotesque but not unusual oversight.

If there were no ruins or no records, this neglect might be expected; but there are both. South Arabia, indeed, has its own derived version of the alphabet, which survives today in its Ethiopian version. As for inscriptions and literature, Joan Copeland Biella says, in her Dictionary of Old South Arabic [Harvard Semitic Museum Studies 25, 1982]:

....thousands of texts in Sabaean, Minnaean, Qatabanian and Ḥaḍramitic have been published, ranging in type from brief graffiti to substantial historical annals. [p.vii]

One would never know this from treatments of ancient history like Roberts' book.

The ruins are extensive and include unique structures, like the extraordinary Maʾrib Dam (Sadd Maʾrib, , in Arabic), built from cut stone in the Wadī Sadd (or Wadi Saba'). This was 1,800 feet long and was not alone, except in scale and fame, in the irrigation of the region. Much is left of the structure, including its spillway system.

The Maʾrib Dam should have rated as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Its final and catastrophic break, however, which entered into Islāmic legend, represented the definitive decline of the area and also the uncertainties of Yemeni history, since the event cannot be well dated -- just between the 5th and the 7th centuries AD.

The name of Yemen itself is of interest. The Romans called the area Arabia Felix, "happy" or "fortunate" Arabia, in contrast to Arabia Deserta, "desert" Arabia, and Arabia Petraea, "rocky" Arabia (where the Romans annexed the remarkable city of Petra). As it happens, Yemen in Arabic, , ʾal-Yaman, is from a verb, , yamana, that can mean "to be lucky, fortunate." Yaman can also mean "right side or hand" and "south." This can be contrasted with shām, which can mean "north," "Syria," and "Damascus" but from a root that can also mean "evil omen," "ominous," "calamity," and "misfortune." The actual word for left in Arabic is different, shamāl -- which can also mean north (we don't get the sinister associations with this root). Indeed, if one faces east, the south is on one's right and the north on the left. And Arabic is not the only language in which right (dexter) is lucky and left (sinister) threatening.

For a long time, the only proper history book in print that I have found for South Arabia is Robert G. Hoyland's Arabia and the Arabs, From the Bronze Age to the Coming of Islam [Routledge, 2001]. For the historiography of South Arabia, he says:

....we are equipped with some ten thousand inscriptions. Unfortunately, however, these are not dated according to an absolute era until the first century AD and they almost never allude to events outside south Arabia. Scholars have tried to arrange them in chronological order according to the style of their script, but with hardly any firmly dated examples to provide a fixed point this method can offer no more than a rough indication. [p.36]

Now there is a new book, Arabs, A 3,000-Year History of Peoples, Tribes and Empires, by Tim Mackintosh-Smith [Yale University Press, 2019]. Mackintosh-Smith has mainly been a travel writer, and he is someone who actually lives in Yemen and is apparently fluent in Arabic and familiar with classical Arabic literature. One of his travel books is already about Yemen, and occasionally we get the aside about what he can see out his window in Sanaʿa, , Ṣanʿāʾ. Thus, no only do we not get the neglect of J.M. Roberts, but Mackintosh-Smith is literally on the ground where it counts. He has seen the Maʾrib Dam and knows the literature that refers to it.

Kingdom of Sabaʿ/Sheba
Samahu ʿAlic.750 BC
Yadaʿ-il Dharih
Yathiʿ-amar Watar I
Yadaʿ-il Bayin I
Yathiʿ-amar Watar II
Kariba-il Bayin
Dhamar ʿAli Watar
Samahu ʿAli Yanif I
Yathiʿ-amar Bayin I
Kariba-il Watar I c.450 BC
Samahu ʿAli Darih
Kariba-il Watar II
Il-Sharah I
Il-Sharah II
Karib-il Watar IV
Il-Karib Yuhan'im
Karib-il Watar V
Anmar Yuhan'im
Dhamar ʿAli Darih
Nashʿa-Karib Yuhamin
Nasir Yuhan'im
Wahb-il Yahuz
Karib-il Watar Yuhan'im
Yarim Ayman Ic.80-c.60 BC
ʿAlhan Nahfanc60-?
Far'um Yanhab
Yarim Ayman IIc.35-c.25
Shaʿirum Awtarc.25 BC-?
Yazil Bayinc.25 BC-?
Ilasharah Yahdubc.25 BC-?
To Himyar
Kingdom of Sabaʿ/Sheba
Yadaʿil Yanif ben Kariba-ilc.755-c.740
Samahu ʿAli Darih I ben Yadaʿil Yanufc.740-715
Yathiʿ-amar Bayin I
Dhamar ʿAli I
Kariba-il Watar Ic.685-c.675
tribute paid to Assyria, 685
Samahu ʿAli I
Yadaʿil Darih I
Samahu ʿAli Yanuf I
Yathiʿ-amar Watar
Yadaʿil Bayin I
Karib-il Bayin I
Dhamar ʿAli Watar
SamahuʿAli Yanuf IIc.545-c.525
Yathiʿ-amar Bayin IIc.525-c.495
Kariba-il I
Yadaʿil I
Yathiʿ-amar I
Kariba-il II
Samahu'Ali II
Yadaʿil II
Yathiʿamar II
Yadaʿil Bayin II
Samahu'Ali Yanuf IIIc.410-c.380
Yathiʿ-amar Watar I
Yaqrub Malik Darih
SamahuʿAli Yanuf IV
Yadaʿil Bayin III
Yaqrub Malik Watar I
Yathiʿ-amar Bayin III
Karib-il Watar IIc.320-c.270
Yadaʿil Bayin IV
Yaqrub Malik Watar II
DhamarʿAli Yanuf
Yathiʿ-amar Bayin IV
SamahuʿAli Darih IIc.200-c.175
Karib-il Bayin II
Yathiʿ-amar III
unknown, c.140-c.116; to Himyar, 116-55
SamahuʿAli Yanuf Vc.55
Yadaʿil Watar Ic.30
DhamarʿAli Bayin Ic.25
Yadail Darih IIc.10 BC-c.10 AD
Yathiʿ-amar Watar IIc.10-20
Yadaʿil Watar IIc.20-30
Dhamar ʿAli Bayin IIc.30-60
Karib-il Watar Yuhanʿimc.60-75
DhamarʿAli Darihc.75-85
Ilasharah Yahdubc.85-100
to Himyar, Gurat, & Marib
With the neglect and uncertainties of Yemeni history, I have found little to go on for displaying the chronology. Hoyland refers to "lists of Sabaean rulers," but then doesn't mention if these are provided by the Sabaeans (like the
Egyptian king lists), assembled by modern scholars, or found in Arab legend. He certainly doesn't provide any such list. Mackintosh-Smith discusses Yemeni kings but provides no lists. Nor does he have the discussion of lists in Hoyland.

The only lists of kings I have found are in Bruce R. Gordon's Regnal Chronologies. Where Bruce gets this stuff, I would like to know. He does say that the earliest material is "culled entirely from traditional sources," apparently meaning that it is legendary in nature and of doubtful historical value. Indeed, the earliest list he gives includes "a son of the eponymous ancestor of the Habiru (Hebrew) nomadic peoples." This is part of legendary genealogy, not history. I have skipped that list. But what I do give first, the list of kings of Tababiʿa above, begins with reigns that are more than a century long. When it comes to the kings of Saba', the classic kingdom of Yemen, Gordon says, "sources I have for early Yemeni states disagree to a large extent, and cannot be reconciled with any clarity." Thus, he simply gives two different lists for Saba'. They are presented side by side here. They both do end with the same king, Ilasharah Yahdub, but one dates him close to the beginning of the Christian Era, the other a good century later. This is like the degree of uncertainty and variation that one gets with thinly historical material like that of nearby early Ethiopia or even the (contemporary and equally remote) Greek Kingdom of Bactria. It is also noteworthy that Old South Arabic did not write vowels. Genuine Sabaean texts are without vowels. The names of the kings given in these lists thus cannot have been derived directly from Yemeni epigraphy or annals. I am left wondering how much of Sabaean history actually can be reconstructed from contemporary sources, and how much of this derives from later texts and legends. Although Hoyland mentions the latter, he does not discuss the nature of their use or value.

The legends, indeed, extend to the Old Testament. The kingdom of Saba' is the Biblical Sheba. Here the reign of Solomon is dated 970-931 BC. This antedates the beginning of either list here for Saba', and all the reasonable reigns even for at-Tababiʿa -- though Balkis is the candidate for the Biblical "Queen of Sheba." Hoyland suspects that the reference to Sheba "may only have been slipped in at a later date" [p.39]. It was long doubtful that developed states even existed in that era; but Hoyland says that now it seems more likely that things were happening by Solomon's 10th century, though we don't have texts appearing until the 8th. The rulers of Saba' were kings (mlk, Arabic malik, ) or "unifiers" (mkrb, Arabized rendering mukarrib, ). It is not clear what the relationship was between these titles, and the mukarribs are often regarded as early priest-kings or as later "emperors." There are a couple of female rulers given in the lists, so it is conceivable that there was a Queen of Sheba as in the Biblical story. Her visit to Jerusalem, of course, is also part of Ethiopian legend, since her son by Solomon is supposed to have been Menelik, the founder of the Abyssinian state. There is little doubt that these stories, whatever their historicity, reflect the existence and development, even if in later periods, of sophisticated states in South Arabia and adjacent Africa.

The early development of Sabaʿ and the other states in the area was on the inland, the eastern slopes of the mountains. The wadī dammed at Maʾrib thus flows into a desert basin; and the city of Maʾrib itself, capital of the Sabaeans, is at the foot of the mountains. This is very different from what we might expect, which would be a watershed flowing west into the Red Sea, with the cities concentrated there. But that is not what we see. Development occurring in this way was coupled to the caravan routes, which headed up inland. Even from later history it is noteworthy that Mecca, a caravan center itself, is well in from the coast. Part of the considerations for all this may have been the danger of pirates in the Red Sea. Coastal depots, unless sufficiency fortified, could be attached with complete surprise, by enemies who could vanish to distant and unknown sources -- like Somali pirates in our own day.

In two voyages between 117 and 109 BC, however, Eudoxus of Cyzicus, Εὔδοξος ὁ Κυζικηνός, is supposed to have learned how to use the monsoons to sail all the way from Ptolemaic Egypt to India and back. Initially he was reportedly guided by a shipwrecked sailor from India. One suspects South Arabians to have known about this already, and kept it secret; but the evidence that they didn't may be that the seaports in the region only developed subsequently. The caravan routes continued, but a sea trade developed that continued into the modern era -- later the lifeblood of realms like Oman. But then Oman was poorly placed to join the caravan routes in Yemen and the Hejaz.

Toward the end of this period, or right at the end, depending on the chronology, the Roman Emperor Augustus is supposed to have sent an expedition down to Arabia Felix under Gaius Aelius Gallus. According to Strabo, this was launched in 26 BC, but was treacherously guided by the Nabataean Syllaeus. The Romans suffered in the desert and did not arrive until the year 24. They were sick and wasted but nevertheless captured some cities and began besieging the city of Marsiaba. Lack of water prevented success, however, and Gallus had to retreat. No effort was made again to project Roman power or impose Roman sovereignty -- until Justinian found an ally nearby.

Haris ar-Raʿishc.120-c.90 BC
ʾAbrahah Zu-l-Mamur
Zu-l-ʾAdjarc.20 BC-10 AD
Shammar Zarash
ʾAbu Malik
Yasir Yuhasdiqc.80-c.100
Dhamar ʿAli Yuhabir Ic.100-c.120
Tharan Yaʿubb Yuhan'im
Shammar Yuharish I?-c.160
To Saba, c.160-c.195
Laziz Yuhnaf Yuhasdiqc.195-c.200
Yasir Yuhanʿim I
Shammar Yuharish II
Karibaʿil Yuhanʿim
Tharan Yaʿubb Yuhanʿimc.230-c.250
Dhamar ʿAli Watar Yuhabir II
Amdan Bayin Yuhagbid
Yasir Yuhanim II
Shamir Yuharʿish IIIc.290
Kingdom of Himyar & Sabaʿ
Nash'a-Karib Yamin Yuharhibc.1 AD
Watar YuhaminEra of Himyar, year
1 = 110 BC
= -109 AD
Yasir Yuhasdiq
Dhamar ʿAli Yuhabir I
Tharan Yaʿubb Yuhanʿim
Dhamar ʿAli Yuhabir II
Dhamar ʿAli Bayin
Karib-il Watar
Dhamar ʿAli Dharih
Yadaʿ-il Watarc.200-?
Il-Adhdh Naufan Yuhasdiqc.245-?
Yasir Yuhanʿim II
Shamir Yuharʿish IIIc.290
conquers Hadramawt; "King of Saba and Dhu Raydan and Hadramawt and Yamanat," 299 AD = 409 Era of Himyar
Yarim Yarhab
To Abyssinia, c.310-c.378
Ela Amida of Axumc.340-c.378
Malik-Karib Yuhaminc.378-c.385
Abi-Karib Asʿad (Kamil ut-Tubba)c.385-c.420
accepts Judaism
Warau-amar Ayman (Hasan Yuhan'im)c.420-c.433
Sharah-bil Yaʿfurc.433-?
Sharah-bil Yakuf464-?
Lahi-ʿAthra Yanuf
Marthad-ilan Yanuf496-?
Maʿadi-Karib Yaʿfurc.500-c.517
invasion by Abyssinia
Masruq Dhu-Nuwas (Yusuf Ash'ar)c.517-525
convert to Judaism, occupation by Abyssinia, 525-c.533
Sumu-Yafaʿ Ashwaʿ (Esimfey, Esimiphaeus)526-c.533
Dhu Jadan of Himyar525-533
Abrahah (al-Ashram) of Abyssiniac.533-570
Last dated repair of Maʾrib Dam, 542; Era of Himyar 669, 559 AD, last dated South Arabian text
Masruq ibn Abraha (Maʿadi-Karib)577-587
Sayf ibn Dhi-Yazan (Abu Murra)587-599
installed by Persia;
Persia rule, 599-629
To ʾIslām, 629
The kingdom of Sabaʿ as the principal state of the area is followed by Himyar. However, according to Hoyland [p.47], Sabaʿ, in "strained circumstances", formed a "united monarchy" with the Himyarite Dhu Raydan. In the 2nd century AD, Saba' became the dominant state again, but then by the end of the 3rd had simply disappeared. This confused process is reflected in conflicting lists from Gordon, who says of Dhu-Raydan (Zu-Raidan) that it is, "An earlier core of Himyar. As with Saba above, this list is inconsistent with other sources for Himyar, and so I show both." His list for Dhu-Raydan ends with Shamir Yuhar'ish III, who can be found at a similar date (c.290 AD) in the list for Himyar. What we may have is one list of strictly Himyarite rulers, and another consisting of many from Saba', until with Shamir Yuhar'ish the Sabaean line is gone.

Shamir Yuhar'ish, indeed, appears to be the first fully historical ruler in the region, and we even get absolute dating in a Himyarite Era, whose Year 1 Benchmark would have been 110 BC. This also happens to be the era in which Abyssinia, centered at Axum, converts to Christianity (c.305 AD) and helps, at least, in ending the long running kingdom of Kushite Ethiopia (c.355). Indeed, Abyssinia begins to intervene in South Arabia itself. The list for Himyar notes an Abyssinian occupation c.310-c.378 AD.

We now begin to get political events on a larger scale that impact South Arabia. While Abyssinia, apparently, hardly needed encouragement to project its power, it got some anyway. Its own conversion to Christianity went along with a process in which tribes and domains in Arabia converted both to Christianity and to Judaism. A number of Yemeni Kings converted to Judaism. This was annoying to the distant Roman Emperor Justinian, who encouraged the Ethiopians to do something about it. The complaint was that the Yemenis were persecuting Christians, but then persecution often accompanied perceptions that Christian were agents of Rome. Who was initially to blame for this is anyone's guess. Under the Sassanids, Armenians and other Christians were often suspect also.

The Ethiopian Emperor Ella Asbeha responded by invading Yemen, 523-525. The occupation lasted a few years longer, and an Abyssinian governor, Abrahah, later established himself in his own right -- though Hoyland describes him as installed by the Himyarites and merely tributary to Ethiopia. Attracting distant Roman attention, Yemen even became an object of more distant Persian interest. According to Hoyland, discontent with Ethiopian rule (by the son of Abrahah), let to solicitations of the Sassanid Shāh Khusro II to intervene. Where Alexander the Great had planned to conquer Arabia by sea, Khusro actually did so. At first installing his own candidate, outright conquest and Persian governors then followed (599). With this wrapped up, Khusro (temporarily) occupied Syria, Egypt, and Asia Minor in a great (and foolish) war against Rome. While Heraclius defeated Khusro in the north, Persian domination in Yemen was brought to an end from a very different and portentous quarter -- the forces of the Prophet Muḥammad.

No more profound a change would happen in the history of Yemen and South Arabia than would now happen. The language, the alphabet, the age old civilization of the happy South would disappear as the area would be assimilated to the ecumenical civilization of ʾIslām. Fortunately, much of what was distinctive would survive, under constant siege from ʾIslām, in the daughter civilization of Ethiopia. In its homeland, the Yemeni past would survive in legend, in ruins, and in some practices, but it would become something alien to the new values and beliefs.

In the final group of Yemeni Kings, the sequence of events narrated by Hoyland does not match very well the sequence in Gordon's king list. I have tried to tidy things up, but Hoyland's description isn't complete enough to know what all is going on in the list -- another case where I find myself frustrated and annoyed with historians who apparently don't think that their narrative histories need to be supplemented with chronological framework in tables or lists (or, when possible, genealogies). As already noted, Hoyland's opaque reference to "lists of Sabaean rulers" raises more questions than it answers.

The neglect this civilization still suffers is tragic. Part of the problem was the self-imposed isolation of the later Yemeni Kingdom, and then many years of political instability and civil war. Subsequently, a great deal of archaeology was undertaken, and I have noticed much more about Yemen in documentaries at places like The History Channel than I have in accessible scholarly history books. Travel was easier, despite some terrorism, and I have a friend who has inspected the ruins of the Maʾrib Dam. I was hoping that the archaeologists in the documentaries would eventually begin to fill in the gaps, clarify the uncertainties, and in general provide definitive histories of the area.

Unfortunately, civil war has returned to Yemen, drawing in Saudi Arabia on the Sunni side and Iran, as in the days of Khusro, on the Shiʿite side. The geopolitical stakes are high, and so that sort of conflict that no one else would pay much attention to has become a matter of international interest.

RASSIDS, 860-1226
ʾal-Qāsim al-Ḥasanī ar-Rassīd.860
Yaḥyā al-Hādī ʾilā-l-Ḥaqq897-911
Muḥammad al-Murtaḍā911-913, d.922
ʾAḥmad an-Nāṣir913-934
Yūsuf al-Manṣūr al-Dāʿī968-998,d.1012
ʾal-Qāsim al-Mansur998-1003
ʾal-Ḥusayn al-Mahdī1010-1013
ʾAbu-l-Fatḥ al-Daylamī an-Nāṣir1045-1062?
Ṣan'ā' captured by Ṣulayḥids, 1062
ʾAḥmad al-Mutawakkil1138-1171
Hamdānid occupation, 1171-1174, Ayyūbid occupation, 1174-1229
ʾAbdallāh al-Manṣūr1187-1217
Yaḥyā Najm ad-Dīn al-Hādī ilā-l-Ḥaqq1217
Muḥammad ʿIzz ad-Dīn an-Nāṣir1217-1226
ʾAḥmad al-Mahdī al-Mūṭiʾ1248-1258
The history of Yemen under ʾIslām, at first submerged in the triumphant
Caliphates, assumes a distinctive form and enters into its own characteristic history as the result of the Shiʿite movement and the breakup of the Abbasid Caliphate. The Zaydī branch of Shiʿism held that Zayd, the brother of the Fifth Imām, al-Bāqir, murdered by the Omayyad Caliph al-Hishām, was the true Imām. Zaydī doctrine, nevertheless, was that the proper Imām was not necessarily a descendant of the Prophet, but was qualified by his own personal moral and spiritual qualities. Also, they did not believe that the Imām possessed the divine spark and the intuition for authoritative doctrinal pronouncements that other Shiʿites believed was the mark of the Imām.

Despite this egalitarian doctrine, the Zaydī sect in Yemen began with al-Qāsim al-Ḥasanī, who claimed descent from Alī's eldest son Hassan. During the reign of al-Ma'mūn (813-833), Al-Qāsim moved from Medina and established himself at Ṣa'da in northern Yemen. This became the center of the Zaydī Mission, whose work (for a while) was far ranging, and in time assumed secular authority in competition with other local rulers. Thus, the Imāms by no means dominated Yemen. Their rule became seriously compromised when the Ṣulayḥid dynasty occupied Ṣan'ā' (which has become the modern capital of Yemen) in 1062 and then the Hamdānids in 1171. After 1258, the line of Imāms continued without any political role. Nevertheless, the Imāms reemerged with secular authority in the later Qāsimid line. The name of his initial line, the Rassids, derived from ar-Rass in the Hijaz, is used more by Western scholars than by Yemenis.

I have not given the dynasty of Hamdānids here because their predominance is brief. Just as they might have become established, Yemen suddenly became the target again of larger political events. Forces from the powerful Ayyūbid dynasty of Egypt now arrive and establish a Ayyūbid collateral line as Kings of Yemen -- though the Rassids continued to hold strategic positions, including Ṣan'ā' itself. The genealogy of the Ayyūbid Kings of Yemen is given in a popup at the Ayyūbid
ʾal-Mu'aẓẓam Shams ud-Dīn Tūrān Shāh1173-1181 d. 1186/7
ʾal-ʿAzīz Zahir ud-Dīn Tughtigin1181-1197
Muʿizz ud-Dīn ʾIsmāʿīl1197-1202
ʾal-Muʿaẓẓam (ʾal-Muẓaffar) Sulaymān1214-1215 d. 1251/2
ʾal-Masʿūd Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf1215-1229
entry, but for convenience I reproduce the link here. It will be noted that the affinity of the second to the last king is uncertain., and that last one, al-Mas'ūd, is a son of the Sulṭān of Egypt, al-Kāmil I -- his own son would be the last Ayyūbid Sulṭān of Egypt.

Well before the fall of the Ayyūbids in Egypt (1252), they are replaced in Yemen.
RASŪLIDS, at Taʿizz
ʾal-Manṣūr ʾUmar I Nūr ad-Dīn1229-1250
ʾal-Muẓaffar Shams ad-Dīn Yūsuf I1250-1295
ʾal-Ashraf Mumahhid ad-Dīn 'Umar II1295-1296
ʾal-Muʿayyad Ḥizabr ad-Dīn Dāwūd1296-1322
ʾal-Mujāhid Sayf ad-Dīn ʿAlī1322-1363
ʾal-Afḍal Ḍirghām ad-Dīn al-ʿAbbās1363-1377
ʾal-ʾAshraf ʾIsmā'īl I1377-1400
ʾan-Nāṣir Salāḥ ad-Dīn Aḥmad1400-1424
ʾal-Manṣūr ʾAbdallāh1424-1427
ʾal-ʾAshraf ʾIsmāʿīl II1427-1428
ʾaz-Ẓāhir Yaḥyā1428-1439
ʾal-ʾAshraf ʾIsmāʿīl III1439-1442
ʾal-Muẓaffar Yūsuf II1442-1450/1
ʾal-ʾAfḍal Muḥammad 1442
ʾan-Nāṣir ʾAḥmad1442
ʾal-Masʿūd Salāḥ ad-Dīn1443-1454
ʾal-Muʾayyad al-Ḥusayn1451-1454
This is not done by a local dynasty, but by a Turkish deputy left in charge by ʾal-Masʾūd, who left for Syria. A genealogy was manufactured for ʾal-Manṣūr from the pre-Islamic
Ghassānids, but his family had already come to notice as Seljuk envoys (rasūl) of the Abbasid Caliphs.

Although, like the Ayyūbids, the Rasūlids were Sunnis, and we might expect local opposition of a religious nature, they nevertheless endured more than two centuries with a prosperous and culturally productive realm. From the port of Aden trade extended as far as East Africa, India, and China. Indeed, we arrive at the era in which Chinese fleets sailed in the Indian Ocean (1405-1433), and a Rasūlid embassy to China itself is recorded. Chinese ships undoubtedly called at Aden. But the Chinese disappeared, soon to be followed by an equally unexpected power.

The chronology of the Rassids is from Clifford Edmund Bosworth's The New Islamic Dynasties [Edinburgh University Press, 1996, p.96]. The subsequent Islāmic dynasties are given by Bruce R. Gordon's Regnal Chronologies, which were initially transcribed but are here corrected and supplemented (as with diacritics) from Bosworth. The New Islamic Dynasties gives many other local dynasties, but here I have tried to confine things to a central succession.

ṬĀHIRIDS, at ʾal-Miqrāna and Juban
ʾaz-Ẓāfir ʿĀmir I Salāḥ ad-Dīn1454-1460
ʾal-Mujāhid ʿAlī Shams ad-Dīn1454-1478
ʾal-Manṣūr ʿAbd al-Wahhāb Tāj ad-Dīn1478-1489
ʾaz-Ẓāfir ʿĀmir II Salāḥ ad-Dīn1489-1517
to Mamlūks, 1517, then Ottomans, 1517-1635

The Rasūlids are ultimately overthrown by a local, but still Sunni, family, the Ṭāhirids, a name that recalls an important family of the early days of the Abbasids. The Ṭāhirids now witness the epic arrival of the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean (1498). Afonso d'Albuquerque sieged Aden in 1513. This alarmed the Mamlūks, who realized that their trade monopoly from the Mediterranean to India had been bypassed. They began moving against Yemen in 1515 and had occupied most of the country by 1517. Some Ṭāhirid princes survived in fortresses until 1538. However, it was not to be the Mamlūks who eliminated the holdouts. Just as the Mamlūks completed their conquest in South Arabia, Egypt itself was conquered by the Ottoman Sulṭān Selim I, "the Grim." Equally alert to the Portuguese threat, the Ottomans inherited the Mamlūk position in Yemen and, for a while, vigorously enlarged it. This also included intervention in the Horn of Africa, where the Portuguese had made contact with the long isolated Christian Emperors of Ethiopia. Portuguese firearms, delivered after an appeal for help by the Emperor Lebna Dengel in 1535, enabled the Emperor Galawedos to defeat and kill the ʾImām of Harer, ʾAḥmad ibn ʾIbrahim, at the battle of Lake Tana in 1543. Like Ella Asbeha and Justinian many centuries earlier, in reverse, ʾAḥmad had been encouraged and supported by Süleymān the Magnificent to move against Ethiopia. After this epic event, Ottoman interest began to wane and the Turkish grip in Yemen slacken -- though they only entered Ṣanʿāʾ itself in 1547.

ʾal-Qāsim I al-Manṣūrc.1592/97-1620
Muḥammad I al-Muʾayyad1620-1644
Ṣanʿāʾ occupied, 1629;
Ottomans ejected, 1635
ʾIsmāʾīl al-Mutawakkil1644-1676
ʾAḥmad I al-Mahdī1676-1681
Muḥammad II al-Mutawakkil1681-1686
Muḥammed III an-Nāṣir al-Hādi1686-1718
ʾal-Qāsim II al-Wutawakkil1718-1727
ʾal-Ḥusayn al-Manṣūr1727-1748
ʾal-ʿAbbās I al-Mahdī1748-1775
ʿAlī I al-Manṣūr1775-1806
ʾAḥmad II al-Mahdī1806-1808
ʾAḥmad III al-Mutawakkil1808-1816
ʿAbdallāh I al-Mahdī1816-1835
ʿAlī II al-Manṣūr1835-1837, 1844-1845, 1849-1850, 1857
ʿAbdallāh II an-Nāṣir1837-1840
Muḥammed IV al-Hādī1840-1844
Muḥammed V al-Mutawakkil1845-1849
Ottoman attack on Ṣanʿāʾ, 1849
ʿAbbās II al-Mu'ayyad1850
Ghālib al-Hādī1850-1857
Civil War, 1857-1871; to Ottomans, 1871-1918
Muḥammed VI al-Manṣūr1890-1904
Yaḥyā al-Mutawakkil1904-1948
Independent Kingdom, 1918
ʿAbdallāh (III) al-Hādī1948
ʾAḥmad (III) an-Nāṣir1948-1962
Muḥammad al-Manṣūr al-Badr1962, d. 1996
the United Arab Republic, 1958-1961; Civil War, 1962-1970; Republic, 1962-present
Thus, we get the return of the Zaydī Imāms. At first this was as vassals of the Turks, but in short order (1635) the conquerors were ejected and Yemen achieved independence. However, this would be an obscure and isolated independence. Distant power again returned when the
British seized Aden in 1839 to put down pirates and the slave trade. Aden remained a British possession until 1967, and gradually a British Protectorate was extended inland and to the east. Yemen lost its coast on the Indian Ocean.

As with the early days of Sheba, there is a conflict between sources for some of the Qāsimi Imāms. Bosworth's The New Islamic Dynasties [Edinburgh University Press, 1996, p.96-97] leaves out several rulers given by Bruce R. Gordon's Regnal Chronologies -- but also adds a few. Where Gordon does not give diacritics or honorifics (laqab, like "al-Manṣūr"), and Bosworth creates confusion by only giving the first year of a reign, I have followed the Oxford Dynasties of the World by John E. Morby [Oxford University Press, 1989, 2002, p.194], which may in fact be Gordon's source, but does give diacritics and honorifics. I have retained one feature in Bosworth, that there are two Aḥmads between 1806 and 1816, not just one.

By the middle of the 19th century there are serious problems. The Turks, despite their general lethargy, are back, and the Wahhābīs, no doubt taking strong objection to Yemeni Shiʿism, are intervening also. Between civil war and invasion, the Ottomans end up annexing the country again by 1871. But, again, their rule tends to lapse into local control, and the Imāms, whose hold on the countryside had never been entirely broken, reemerged, at least as vassals, in 1890. This was the situation when World War I shattered Ottoman power at its source. Yemen was simply cut loose, and the Imām becomes the King of Yemen.

After another bit of conservative and Tibetan isolation, the winds of change arrive again. Yemen joined the Arab League in 1945 and then the United Arab Republic, with Egypt and Syria, in 1958. Meanwhile, the substantial Jewish population of Yemen, under increasing persecution, largely decamped to Palestine and then Israel. The King withdrew from the UAR in 1961 but then was overthrown by the Nassarite army the following year. As before, this did not break the power of the dynasty, and a long civil war followed, with the King supported by Saudi Arabia and Jordan and the Nassarites by, naturally, the Egypt of Gamal Abdel Nasser. Nasser died in 1970, but, with 150,000 dead, the King gave up and went into exile. Meanwhile, things got more complicated when the British left Aden in 1967. The new People's Republic of South Yemen soon lapsed into civil war itself and was restyled the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen when the more radical Marxists, i.e. the Communists, won the war in 1970. Bubbling with violence, the radicals kept attacking the Yemen Arab Republic, to which 300,000 refugees, disillusioned with Marxism, fled, and war broke out between them in 1979. In 1990 this got resolved by the actual unification of North and South -- now simply known as the Republic of Yemen. The unification came apart in another brief civil war, 1994-95, but things got patched back together again. Although now friendly with the West, the country became the scene for one of the Islamist terror attacks leading up to 9/11 -- the bombing of the United States destroyer Cole on 12 October 2000 in Aden harbor. Where the "Democratic Republic" had invited Soviet troops in during the 1970's, American forces now help hunt down al-Qaeda members.

In 2015 the secular government of Yemen was overthrown and the country is now the venue for civil war between Shiʿite forces, back by Iran, the Sunni al-Qaʿida in the Arabian Penninsula, backed by the lunatics of Islamic Fascism, and the Saʿudis, with support from Egypt in the background, who don't want either of such forces to control the area. The United States backs the Saʿudis, but initially tepidly, since the Obama Administration decided to further its anti-American and anti-Israeli agenda by enabling the Iranian nuclear program. The fate of Yemen thus now rides on serious Great Power problems and is a bellweather for the future of the Middle East.

In 2019 things haven't changed much. Because the Saʿudis assassinated one of their critics, the U.S. Congress has voted to cut off aid; but the Trump Administration has maintained the relationship, judging, properly, that the Saʿudis as a counter-weight to Iran are too important.

Index of Mesopotamian and Ancient Middle Eastern History

Hellenistic Index

Islāmic Index

Philosophy of History

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Copyright (c) 2005, 2015, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2022 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved



"Modern ʾIslām" here means
Ottoman successor regimes in the Central Islamic lands, with some states that were never Ottoman (like Oman) but rode out the Colonial period into significant contemporary roles. Irān is listed separately, though it definitely falls into the latter category. Morocco alone of the Arab world retains a genuinely Mediaeval monarchy.

Aḥmad ibn Saʿīdc. 1754-1783
Saʿīd ibn ʾAḥmad1783-1786
Ḥāmid ibn Saʿīd1786-1792
Sulṭān ibn ʾAḥmad1792-1806
Treaty with British East India Company, 1798
Sālim ibn Sulṭān1806-1821
Saʿīd ibn Sulṭān1806-1856
Thuwaynī ibn Saʿīd1856-1866Majīd ibn Saʿīd1856-1870
Sālim ibn Thuwaynī1866-1868
ʿAzzān ibn Qays1868-1870
Turkī ibn Saʿīd1870-1888Barghash ibn Saʿīd1870-1888
Fayṣal ibn Turkī1888-1913Khalīfa ibn Barghash1888-1890
British Protectorate, 1890
ʿAlī ibn Saʿīd1890-1893
Ḥāmid ibn Thuwaynī1893-1896
ibn Muḥammad
ʿAlī ibn Ḥammūd1902-1911
Taymūr ibn Fayṣal1913-1932Khalīfa ibn Kharūb1911-1960
Saʿīd ibn Taymūr1932-1970
ʿAbdallāh ibn Khalīfa1960-1963
Jamshīd ibn ʿAbdallāh1963-1964
Independent, 1963;
Sulṭān Overthown in Coup,
End of British Protection, 1967linked to Tanganyika
as Republic of Tanzania,
Qābūs ibn Saʿīd1970-2020
Haytham ibn Ṭarīq2020
The ʾĀl Bū Saʿīd dynasty, of Muscat, Zanzibar, and Oman, essentially exercised Arab sea power in the Indian Ocean until the domination of Europe became overwhelming. After fighting off the Portuguese and Dutch, the Omani position was strengthened by an alliance with Britain -- which lasted until Britain withdrew from commitments East of Suez in 1967.

Saʿīd ibn Sulṭān (1806-1856) came to dominate the east coast of Africa south of Mogadishu, and mostly ruled from Zanzibar after 1827, permanently after 1840. After his death the Sulṭānate was divided.

The British connection proved the ultimate undoing of this empire, since Britain began to suppress the slave trade, which was the principal business of the Arabs in East Africa, and both Britain and Germany began to annex the mainland areas (Kenya and Tanganyika).

Reduced to British "protection," the Sulṭāns of Zanzibar then did survive until independence, but after that were promptly overthrown. Zanzibar was then absorbed with Tanganyika into the socialist republic of Julius Nyerere (1962-1985), a darling of the Left, whose harebrained economics managed to dig the country further and further into poverty all the years of his rule, despite (more like because of) some of the highest levels of foreign aid in the world.

Meanwhile, Oman was eventually cut loose by the British and emerged from Mediaeval isolation with the Sulṭān still in charge. Qābūs ibn Saʿīd, with another extraordinarily long reign, was the last Sulṭān in the Middle East, and the last in ʾIslām apart from Brunei. Having died in 2020, now his successor is these things.

We should also notice that Oman represents one of the last homes of the Arab seafaring tradition in the Indian Ocean, vividly recollected in the tales of Sindbad the Sailor, , ʾas-Sindibādu l-Baḥrī, in the Thousand and One Nights stories. Even now, the ancient type of ship, the dhow, , dāwa, still transverses the waters down the East Coast of Africa and to India. These ships have been doing this for thousands of years, perhaps since the Hellenistic Age, and it is not clear whether the ship type originated in India or Arabia. They have often just been built in India, since more appropriate wood is available there.

This throws an interesting light on Sindbad's own name, whose etymology is uncertain. The name looks like it begins with , ʾas-Sind, the Arabic version of the name of the region of India. Although there are different ideas around, the name may well end with , ābād, from Persian, which is "inhabited" or "a suffix denoting place of abode." This turns up a lot in India, although from a later era, like the city of Aḥmadābād, , or in Hindi. With some abbreviation, it looks like Sindbad's name could just mean that he is from Sind, although the Nights story begins in Baghbad. But the stories are actually much older.

Also noteworthy may just be the word for "sailor," , ʾal-Baḥrī, which is just the adjective of , baḥr, "sea." This originally puzzled me seeing it in the name of Deir al-Baḥri. Actually, Sindbad is not a sailor, but a merchant. He is on his ships as a passenger, not as a member of the crew.

Much of the geography, flora, and fauna of the Sindbad stories is fantastic. However, the references to large numbers of islands, of which there really aren't that many in the Indian Ocean itself, suggests that they go back to experiences in Indonesia. We hear of the trees from which camphor is derived, and these trees actually grow on Borneo and Sumatra. There are also references to various kinds of rather intelligent apes, which thus begin to sound like Orangutans, only found in Indonesia. The apes are intelligent enough to hijack one of the ships Sindbad is on. Of named places, an undoubted destination would have been "Sarandib," which is Ceylon.

To the Greeks, in two voyages between 117 and 109 BC, Eudoxus of Cyzicus, Εὔδοξος ὁ Κυζικηνός, is reported to have learned how to use the monsoons to sail all the way from Egypt to India and back. He is supposed to have been guided by a shipwrecked Indian sailor who was brought to the Court of Ptolemy VIII. Arab sailors must have already been making the voyages, but kept their knowledge secret. After Eudoxus, regular trade by the Greek and Romans with India followed.

The Sun Never Set on the British Empire

Sharif ʿAlic.1526
Abdul Qahhard.1578
Saif ur-Rijalc.1578-c.1590
Shah Bruneic.1590
Raja Ghafurc.1600
Muḥammad Hassanregent,
Abdul-Jalil Akbar1617-c.1637
Abdul-Jalilul Jabbarc.1637-c.1642
Haji Muhammed ʿAlic.1642-c.1648
Abdul Hakk Mubinc.1648-1655
Nasrud-Din Husin Kamaluddin1670-1680
Muḥammad Aliud-Dinc.1680-c.1690
civil war, c.1690-c.1750
Omar ʿAli Saif ud-Din Ic.1750-1780,
Muhammed Tajud-Din1780-1792,
Muhammed Jamal ul-ʿAlam1792-1793
Muhammed Khanzul Alam1806-1822
Raja Api1822
Omar ʿAli Saifud-Din II Djamal ul-Din1822-1852
Hashim Jalilul ʿAlam Akam ud-Din1885-1906
British Protectorate, 1888-1984,
British Resident, 1906
Muhammed Jamalul ʿAlam II1906-1924
Ahmad Tajud-Din1924-1941,
Japanese occupation, 1941-1945
Sir Omar ʿAli Saifud-Din III1950-1967, d. 1986
Sir Hassanu-l-Bolkiah Muʿizzaddin Waddaulah1967-present
Independent, 1984
A Sulṭānate on the northeast coast of Borneo, and one of the wealthiest states on Earth, due to oil revenues. Formerly in control over much of the island, it became a British Protectorate 1888-1984. The present Sulṭān, one of the richest men in the world, is well known, if not infamous, for his luxuriant lifestyle. Good looking foreign girls and women recruited for innocent sounding jobs have reported some bad experiences. In 2019, the Sulṭān supported the institution of Shariʿa pentalities, meaning death, for homosexuality and adultery. Considering the scandals about the lifestyle of the Sulṭān, this is a little incoherent, or hypocritical. It has set off boycotts of foreign investments owned by Brunei, like hotels, including the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel.

Some details here are from Bruce R. Gordon's Regnal Chronologies, but the list is largely based on Clifford Edmund Bosworth's The New Islamic Dynasties [Edinburgh University Press, 1996]. Unfortunately, Boswoth does not give the Arabic diacritics that he otherwise provides for Islamic dynasties. He may do this because the local language would be Malay rather than Arabic.

Charles Anthony1868-1917
Charles Vyner1917-1942,
Japanese occupation, 1942-1945; Great Britain, 1946-1957; Malaya, 1957-1963; Malaysia, 1963-present

One of the stranger domains in the British Empire, perhaps the fantasy of many English boys in the 1890's. Sarawak was granted by the Sulṭān of Brunei to a British adventurer, James Brooke, the "White Rajah of Sarawak," who used it as a base from which to eradicate piracy in the South China Sea and headhunting in the interior. His successors continued as Rajahs until after the World War II, with a domain that ended up larger than the original Sultanate of Brunei.

Then, since the place had been so thoroughly trashed by the Japanese, C.V. Brooke ceded it to Britain. Although the Brookes were not Moslems, their subjects were, and Sarawak eventually became part of the very Moslem country of Malaysia.

The list is from Bruce R. Gordon's Regnal Chronologies and Chester L. Krause and Clifford Mishler, the Standard Catalog of World Coins [Colin R. Bruce II, editor, Krause Publications, Iola, Wisconsin, 1982, p.1227].

Islāmic Index

The Sun Never Set on the British Empire

The Hashemites, 1827-present

When I lived in Beirut in 1969-70, one of the principal locations in the city was a large square downtown. It was a transportation hub. Busses and taxis left from there for Damascus and elsewhere. The place itself was commonly called the "Bourj," , which means "tower" -- usually written and even pronounced as though it were French. There was no tower, but evidently there had been, and the name had stuck. The official name was the "Places des Martyrs," which at the time seemed to be about something else equally non-existent, since my fellow students and I could not imagine what kind of "martyrs" there ever could have been in Lebanese history.

As it turned out, there were indeed martyrs, but it was not just in Lebanese history. On August 21, 1915, eleven suspected Arab nationalist leaders were hung on that very site in Beirut, oddly called "Liberty Square" at the time, by the Turkish military authorities, under Jemal Pasha. On May 6, 1916, the Turks executed twenty-one others, seven in Damascus and fourteen in Beirut.

On hearing the news of the latter, Prince Fayṣal, son of the Sharīf Ḥusayn of Mecca, who was visiting near Damascus, is supposed to have thrown down his headress and exclaimed, "Death has become sweet, Oh Arabs!" Fayṣal returned to Mecca, and the Arab Revolt against the Turks, long in preparation by Fayṣal's father, commenced on the 5th of June.

Prince Fayṣal and the Sharīf Ḥusayn were Hashemites, i.e. were supposed to be descendants of the Prophet Muḥammad. At right is the complete genealogy of this descent, as reported by the family itself. I have derived this from a curious source, a book called A Prince of Arabia, the Amir Shereef Ali Haider, by George Stitt [George Allen & Unwin, London, 1948 -- this is from the personal historical library of my friend Tom Dunlap]. Ali Haider was from the senior or Zaidi branch of the Hashemite family, who had supplied most of the Amirs or Sharifs of Mecca until 1882, when the junior or ʿAwni branch took over.

When Ḥusayn revolted against the Turks in 1916, Ali Haider was appointed in his place by the Ottoman Sultān. Ali Haider was never able to go to Mecca and exercised no real authority under the Turks. His son did end up marrying the granddaughter of the Ottoman Sultān Murad V (1876). Histories of the period or the area rarely mention him.

Unfortunately, George Stitt's book about the Prince uses Anglicized versions of the Arabic names, without diacritics. I have not been able to supply the proper transcriptions for all the names. Other information here is from Clifford Edmund Bosworth, The New Islamic Dynasties [Edinburgh University Press, 1996], and from George Antonius, The Arab Awakening [1946, Capricorn Books, New York, 1965].

The romance of the Arab Revolt, with Lawrence of Arabia and all, and its success in sweeping all the way to Damascus, as the British advanced into Palestine, came to be fully balanced by bitterness at the British betrayal of assurances for Arab independence after the war. The British had made promises elsewhere, to the French and to the Zionists, and not a lot of care had been taken in the desperate days of the war to keep all these undertakings consistent with each other. Initially, the worse betrayal seemed to be over Syria.

With Fayṣal in possession of Damascus, he was elected King of Syria in 1920; but in short order the French, to whom the British had handed control of Lebanon, as they had honestly warned the Arabs they would, moved in force to occupy Damascus and the rest of Syria, which the British had agreed with them, but not with the Arabs, that they could do. Fayṣal was tossed out. The French commemorated this victory by carving a stele in the rock at the Nahr al-Kalb (the Dog River) in Lebanon, joining earlier stelae by the Egyptians, Assyrians, and others. After the Vichy French were overthrown in Lebanon and Syria, in turn, in World War II, the stele naturally was attacked and mutilated beyond recognition [note].

The Hāshimites, 1827 AD-present
Mecca and Ḥijāz
ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib,
Sharīf of Mecca,
1827, 1851-1856,
Muḥammad1827-1851, 1856-1858
ʿAwn ar-Rafīq1882-1905
Arab Revolt
against Turkey,
King, 1916-1925
Caliph, 1924-1925,
d. 1931
ʿAliKing, 1925,
d. 1934
Overthrown by Ibn Saʿūd
"Greater Syria"
FayṣalKing, 1920
Overthrown by France
Iraq, British Mandate
Fayṣal IKing, 1921-1933
end of British Mandate, 1932
Fayṣal II1939-1958
pro-German coup suppressed, 1941;
King overthrown & killed
in Coup, 1958
Transjordan, British Mandate
ʿAbdullāh I,
Amīr, 1921-1946
End of British
Mandate, 1946
King, 1946-1951,
Arab Legion enters Palestine, 1948;
Kingdom of Jordan,
annexation of the West Bank, 1949
Ṭalāl1951-1952, d. 1972
Six Day War, Israeli Occupation of the
West Bank, 1967; "Black September,"
Palestinian guerrillas ousted from
Jordan, 1970; peace treaty with
Israel, 1994
ʿAbdullāh II1999-present
The British sense of fair play in such circumstances manifested itself as a desire to compensate individuals. There was rarely a sense in British policy that popular sentiment might be something to reckon with. Thus, Fayṣal was personally compensated with the throne of Iraq, which for a decade was maintained as a British Mandate. This may or may not have reconciled Fayṣal to all that had happened. But it certainly did not reconcile his father, the old Sharīf of Mecca, now King of the Ḥijāz, Ḥusayn. Nothing could reconcile Ḥusayn to what had happened, and his attitude resulted in a dangerous break with the British -- very dangerous for Ḥusayn because his ambitious neighbor, Ibn Saʿūd, remained on good terms with the British and was supported by subsidies.

One of Ḥusayn's other sons, ʿAbdullāh, even led a small force north, evidently to contest Syria with the French. However, before ʿAbdullāh crossed the French border, he was persuaded that perhaps he should stay where he was, just across the Jordan River, in a area of vague jurisdiction. This was at the time considered part of Syria, but the French evidently had no use for it, and its proximity to Palestine put it more or less in the British sphere of influence. So 'Abdullāh settled down as the Amīr of the Transjordan, filling in the space between British Palestine and British Iraq.

This did not improve the humor of ʿAbdullāh's father, whose leadership turned out to be not much better than his diplomacy. When Kemal Attatürk abolished the Ottoman Caliphate in 1924 (the Sulṭānate had already been abolished in 1922), Ḥusayn decided that if it was anyone's business to be Caliph, it was his. Indeed, the last bona fide Abbasid Caliph had been carted off to Constantinople in 1517, and it was only after three hundred years or so that the Ottoman Sulṭāns began to claim that the office had been passed on to them. This unlikely and irregular transmission, however, eventually came to be accepted by many Moslems, and the abolition of the office left ʾIslām without somebody to claim it for the first time in Islāmic history. From a dynasty that had served as the Guardians of the Holy Cities for some time, and which was accepted as belonging to the Hashimite clan of the Prophet himself, it must have seemed quite reasonable to Ḥusayn, as it still seems fairly reasonable in retrospect, that the office should fall to him.

At the time, however, nobody was buying this, and Ḥusayn's reputation was badly damaged. Ibn Saʿūd and his Wahhābī fundamentalists began protesting and threatening, and Ḥusayn had put himself in no good position to resist them. When consensus is so important in the tradition of Islāmic Law, Ḥusayn would have been better advised to first solicit opinions from respected jurists about whether there needed to be a Caliph, who would be appropriate for it, etc. In 1925 he abdicated in favor of his eldest son ʿAlī, but this did not stop Ibn Saʿūd. The Ḥijāz soon joined the Saʿūdī central Arabian domain of Najd in the new Kingdom of Saʿūdī Arabia. Then Ibn Saʿūd's British subsidies soon gave way to income of a different sort, when vast oil reserves were discovered under the Arabian sands. But Ḥusayn and ʿAlī could only flee to the welcome of ʿAbdullāh's court in the Transjordan to live out the rest of their lives.

Britain's other conflicting promises, over Palestine, prepared the way for the most dangerous and intractable problem in all of 20th Century politics, diplomacy, and war, as Jewish colonists sought, and achieved, the creation of a Jewish State, Israel, in Palestine. The best showing by an Arab army in the 1948 war was, ironically, the British commanded Arab Legion of ʿAbdullāh, at that point King of the Transjordan. Yet ʿAbdullāh had no particular animus against either Jews or Zionists, and rumor maintains that in a secret meeting with Golda Meir he actually proposed some kind of condominium over Palestine between the Zionists and himself. This was rejected, but then ʿAbdullāh subsequently annexed the Palestinian territory that he ended up occupying, creating simply the Kingdom of (the) Jordan. Since the Palestinian fire-eaters were all ready to found their own radical Palestinian republic in the land preserved from Israel, this move earned ʿAbdullāh his own assassination. Now, ironically, by conquering Jordanian Palestine in 1967, the Israelis have ended up with the fire-eaters in their own house, setting off bombs.

The throne of Jordan soon passed over ʿAbdullāh's mentally incompetent son Ṭalāl to his grandson Ḥusayn. In 1999, Ḥusayn, having endured every war, revolution, and upheaval since, died after a long fight with cancer. Thus passed a man of astonishing durability in the merciless politics of the Middle East, although hated by many Arabs for his suppression of armed Palestinian organizations in Jordan (in "Black September"). Ḥusayn, the namesake of his great-grandfather and eyewitness to his grandfather's assassination, was the last living link to the Arab Revolt. Although he was long denigrated as a reactionary, who wasn't in tune with all the great new Marxist Arab Nationalism of the 50's, 60's, and 70's, Ḥusayn survived into a era when it is hard to tell the Marxists from the Mujāhidūn (Islāmic fighters in the Holy War), and where the folly of each is, or should be, fairly obvious. To everyone's surprise, Ḥusayn had, just a couple weeks before his death, disinherited his brother Ḥassan, the Crown Prince for 34 years, and left the Throne to his son 'Abdullāh, who thus becomes King ʿAbdullāh II of Jordan. One hopes this was not entirely a surprise to Ḥassan.

Ḥusayn's second cousin, King Fayṣal II of Iraq, unfortunately, was overthrown and murdered in 1958, sending Iraq down a path to a despotism which it was doomed to long endure. Only now, in 2003, after three wars, has the dictator of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, been overthrown, thanks to an American and British invasion of the country.

The 1st Gulf War was initiated by Hussein in 1980, hoping to seize the east bank of the Shatt-al-'Arab (the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates) from Irān, whose military had been weakened by purges of the Shah's officers. By 1982 the Iranians managed, with suicidal "human wave" attacks, to throw Hussein back, and he was willing to call it quits; but the Ayatollah Khomeini refused to let up. It didn't do much good, and, even though Khomeini said he would rather "drink poison," he finally accepted a ceasefire in 1988.

The 2nd Gulf War was initiated by Hussein in 1990, invading and occupying Kuwait. Just a year later a coalition of American, Arab, and European forces threw Hussein out of Kuwait. Although warned that it might precipitate a global ecological disaster, Hussein ordered the torching of over 600 oil wells as Iraqi forces retreated from Kuwait. Fortunately, although it was a terrible mess, the disaster was of more limited consequence. Iraqi territory itself was not occupied, and revolts by Shiʿites in the south of Iraq and Kurds in the north were brutally suppressed by Hussein. Iraq subsequently was under UN sanctions until the destruction of its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs could be certified. American and British air power patrolled "no fly zones" in the north and south of the country. This didn't really make much difference in the south, but in the north it protected what had become an autonomous Kurdish domain.

UN inspectors could not certify that Hussein had destroyed his unconventional weapons, and they even left the country in 1998 after Iraqi non-cooperation. In 2003, the 3rd Gulf War was initiated by the United States and Britain, principally, with the determination, apparently, that it was simply high time to resolve the matter and get rid of Hussein -- especially after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. Hussein was overthrown, later captured, tried, and finally executed -- shamefully taunted at his hanging by Shiʿite executioners.

Iraq itself, however, although with a democratically elected government in 2007, in which all groups managed to participate, nevertheless was a place of constant violence. The Sunni minority, with Baathist diehards, began an "uprising" rather than live under governments dominated by the Shiʿite majority. Although this is portrayed, often by Western sympathizers, as a national struggle against American occupation, most of the casualties have been civilian victims of suicide bombers and car bombs. There have also been attacks against Islamic sites, like the Golden Mosque in Samara, which was associated with Shiʿism. These tactics in part are the inspiration of al-Qaʿida and effected by an influx of foreign Jihadists. Substantial parts of the Sunni community tired of this, especially since the Shiʿites have answered in kind, with help from the Shiʿite motherland, Iran. Since the Shiʿites and Iran have little more sympathy for America than they do for the Sunnis, American (and British) forces tend to get caught in the middle.

Nevertheless, it is the interest of the West, the International Community, and Iraq that neither Sunnis nor Shiʿites have an outright victory, and the only way to prevent that and mediate a settlement is for a third party (the Americans) to maintain the balance. Meanwhile, the Kurds, although provoking Turkey by supporting Kurdish terrorists there, have been relatively safe and prosperous in their part of Iraq -- now behind a dike to inhibit terrorist infiltration. They have even paid for commercials on American television with thanks for American efforts. With many in American politics cynically and opportunistically hoping to benefit from a defeat in Iraq, however, as they benefited from defeat in Vietnam (along with Isolationists and simple anti-American Leftists), those efforts would not continue much longer.

Meanwhile, all the major communities seem to have joined in an ethnic purge of Iraqi Christians, the Syrian Orthodox and Catholics, Chaldeans and Assyrians. As with the persecution of Christians anywhere, this draws little attention from the Western Press -- whose template is that Christians are as bad, or worse, than Muslim Jihadists; and the numbers of Iraqi Christians are too small to figure in most geopolitical calculations. The simple hostility of Western elites for Christianity is now an important factor.

Note on the modern Assyrians

The withdrawl of American forces from Iraq by President Obama, and then the invasion and conquest of the much of the country by the forces of the "Islamic State" (ISIS, ISIL, IS), led to a whole new era of conflict. As of 2020, ISIS has been wiped out in Iraq and all but wiped out in Syria, done there mainly by the Kurds, with American support. Since the Turks don't want the Kurds triumphant in Syria, where Russia has helped the Assad regime survive, and an unlimited American involvement supporting the Kurds is not politically viable, various betrayals and abandonments look to be in the cards again. This is familiar to Kurds and Christians in all the modern history of Iraq.

The whole area around the Bourj in Beirut was destroyed in the Lebanese civil war of the 70's and 80's. Plenty of new martyrs were created, though it is not clear what the cause was supposed to be when the Lebanese largely destroyed their own country and slaughtered each other, opening the door to a Syrian occupation of much of the country, something that no Lebanese of any faction really wanted. After some years of relative peace, chaos has returned as Syria evidently continues to promote its interests (starting with key assassinations) and both radicalized Shiʿites and Sunni Jihadists display little desire to live peaceful, ordinary lives.

Islāmic Index

Modern Morocco, Tunisia, & Tripoli

We took the liberty to make some enquiries concerning the ground of their pretentions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury, and observed that we considered all mankind as our friends who had done us no wrong, nor had given us any provocation.

The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the laws of their Prophet; that it was written in their Koran; that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners; that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners; and that every Mussulman [, i.e. Muslim] who was slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise. He said, also, that the man who was the first to board a vessel had one slave over and above his share, and that when they sprang to the deck of an enemy's ship, every sailor held a dagger in each hand and a third in his mouth; which usually struck such terror into the foe that they cried out for quarter at once.

Letter by John Adams & Thomas Jefferson, March 28, 1786, to John Jay, U.S. Secretary of Foreign Affairs (under the Articles of Confederation), concerning an interview in London with the ambassador from Tripoli, Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja.

The ʿAlawid Sharīfs, Sulṭāns, & Kings of Morocco
Muḥammad ash-Sharīf1631-1659
Muḥammad I1635-1664
ʾIsmāʿīlSulṭān, 1672-1727
ʾAḥmad1727-1728, 1728-1729
ʿAbd al-Malik1728
ʿAbd Allāh1729-1734, 1736, 1740-1741, 1741-1742, 1743-1747, 1748-1757
Muḥammad II1736-1738
ʾal-Mustaḍī'1738-1740, 1742-1743, 1747-1748, d.1760
Zayn al-ʿAbidīn1741
Muḥammad III1757-1790
Anti-Praicy Treaty with United States, 1786
Hishām1792-1798, d.1799
ʿAbd ar-Rahmān1822-1859
Muḥammad IV1859-1873
ʾal-Ḥasan I1873-1894
ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz1894-1908, d.1943
ʿAbd al-Ḥāfiẓ1908-1912, d.1937
French Protectorate, 1912-1956
Muḥammad V1927-1953, 1955-1957, King, 1957-1961
Muḥammad VI1953-1955, d.1976
ʾal-Ḥasan II1961-1999
Muḥammad VII1999-present
Morocco continues more or less as it had from the Middle Ages, even exerting some influence south of the Sahara. As the Turkish presence waned in Algeria, Tunisia and Tripolitania, the area lapsed into a chaos of small states, whose principal business became piracy and slaving. This provoked the occasional sharp response from the European powers, but nothing got settled until in 1830 the French arrived to subdue Algeria. This ended the piracy and makes Algeria the most important French colony for the next 132 years, with a large population of French colonial farmers, the pieds noirs.
The Ḥusaynid Beys of Tunisia
Ḥusayn I1705-1735
ʿAlī I1735-1756
Muḥammad I1756-1759
ʿAlī II1759-1782
Ḥusayn II1824-1835
ʾAḥmad I1837-1855
Muḥammad II1855-1859
Muḥammad III as-Ṣādiq1859-1882
French Occupation, 1881-1883; Protectorate, 1883-1956
ʿAlī III1882-1902
Muḥammad IV1902-1906
Muḥammad V1906-1922
Muḥammad VI al-Ḥabīb1922-1929
Aḥmad II1929-1942
Muḥammad VII al-Munṣif1942-1943, d.1948
Muḥammad VIII1943-1957, d.1962
Rashād al-MahdīKing, 1957
Republic of Tunisia, 1957-present
While colonialism became the bête noire of
Marxism, the problem of these French colonials wracked France, brought down the Fourth Republic, and provoked an attempted coup against the founder of the Fifth Republic, Charles de Gaulle.

From the colonial foundation of Algeria, France began to lean on Morocco and Tunisia. As Britain embarked on a long term occupation of Egypt in 1882, France, which had backed off joining the British move, consolidated control over Tunisia instead. The Ḥusaynid Beys then lasted, as French clients, all the way to independence. Briefly, it looked like the dynasty might survive independence, but the nationalist leader, Habib Bourgiba (Ḥabīb Bū Ruqayba), in the tradition of many other familiar dictators, did not need a tradtionalistic rival to his authority.

The Moroccan experience was different. While France moved steadily to consolidate its influence, this was not without complaint from other European powers. World War I nearly started early with the Agadir incident in 1911, as Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II offered hope that Germany would dispute any French designs on the Sultānate. As it happened, the War waited a couple more years and a French Protectorate was nevertheless imposed in 1912. Morocco then later became the scene of the mythic presence of "Rick" in the classic movie Casblanca, not far from the real life drama of American troops landing in November 1942, to precipitate French North Africa back into World War II against Germany. The Germans chased out, Morocco became the first French possession to regain independence, not in the dangerous grip of nationalist ideology, but still under the control of the traditional monarchy, the only such traditional national monarchy surviving in the Arab world from the Middle Ages.
The Qaramānlī Beys of Tripoli
ʾAḥmad I Bey Qaramānlī1711-1745
ʿAlī I1754-1795
ʾAḥmad II1795-1796
Yūsuf1796-1832, d.1838
First Barbary War, 1801-1805
ʿAlī II1832-1835
Ottoman direct rule, 1835-1911; Sanūsī Amīrs & Kings, 1837-1969

Tripoli drifted into autonomy under a Janissary commander, Aḥmad Qaramānlī, whose name drives from some association of his or his ancestors with the former Turkish state of Qaramān in Anatolia. We also have the nice touch of the Greek origin of the name "Tripoli," whose Arabic form, for Libya, was , Ṭarābulus al-Gharb, "Tripoli of the West" (as opposed to Tripoli in Lebanon).

These are the rulers who ran afoul of Thomas Jefferson and the United States Marines. After paying $2,000,000 in "tribute" extortion money, Jefferson had had enough and in 1804-1805 sent the U.S. Navy and Marines against Tripoli. Actually, there were only nine U.S. Marines in the force, which was mostly Greek, Arab, and Berber mercenaries, who were not always easily controlled and barely got along with each other. Hired in Egypt, the force needed to march across hundreds of miles of desert to Libya, where, with the help of American ships, it was, perhaps surprisingly, successful.

This brought at least a temporary respite, and contributed a phrase ("the shores of Tripoli") to the Marine Hymn. Backing off of American shipping, the Beys were done in when the Turkish government became alarmed over the French occupation of Algeria in 1830 -- which finally ended altogether the centuries of Barbary slave trade -- an early case of the sort of problem that often provoked European "imperialism," despite the Lenin-inspired vilifications of it now.

Henceforth, Turkey would need to get its white slaves for the Sulṭān's harem from the Caucasus -- something well remembered by Armenians, Georgians, and Circassians. To forestall any French move against Tripoli, the Turks reasserted their authority, although the Sanūsī Amīrs began to drift into autonomy again.

The Double Standard Over Slavery

Morocco and Tunisia today look like islands of bliss in comparison to Algeria, where dictatorship was supposed to end with elections, but then, when the elections went to Islāmic fundamentalists, the army set them aside in favor of a more moderate dictatorship. The result has been a particularly nasty kind of civil war, in which whole villages have been massacred by forces that don't even acknowledge which side they are fighting for. This frightening and perplexing dilemma is beginning to seem all too common in the Islāmic world, where the most vicious radicals nevertheless seem to command genuine popularity and prestige. It is thus an example of the challenge of Islamic Fascism that is beginning to characterize our era.

These tables are based on both The New Islamic Dynasties by Clifford Edmund Bosworth [Edinburgh University Press, 1996] and the Oxford Dynasties of the World by John E. Morby [Oxford University Press, 1989, 2002]. The ʿAlawid Sharīfs and Ḥusaynid Beys are treated by both sources. Morby has a clearer presentation, but Bosworth also has a brief discussion of the history.

Islāmic Index

The House of Suʿūd & Saudi Arabia,

The House of Suʿūd,
Suʿūd ibn MuḥammadʾAmīr of Dirʿiyya,
Muḥammad I1735-1765
ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz I1765-1803
Suʿūd I1803-1814
ʿAbdallāh I1814-1819
Egyptian Occupation, 1818-1822; ʿAbdallāh executed at Constantinople, identified as "Chief of the Wahabys," 1819
Fayṣal I1834-1838,
Egyptian Occupation, 1838-1843
Khālid IVassal of Egypt,
ʿAbdallāh IIVassal of Egypt,
ʿAbdallāh III1865-1871,
Suʿūd II1871-1874
Muḥammad II1887
Conquest and rule by Rashīdīs,
ʿAbd al-Raḥmāngovernor,
Muḥammad IIIgovernor,
Direct rule by Rashīdīs,
ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz IIʾAmīr, 1902-1926;
King of Najd
and Ḥijāz, 1926-1932;
King of Saʿūdī
Arabia, 1932-1952
Suʿūd III1952-1964
Fayṣal II1964-1975
Khālid II1975-1982
ʿAbdallāh IV2005-2015
The central lands of the Arabian peninsula, the Najd, ("highland, upland"), is not a place of much significance in world history -- until recently. And there was a saying, "Nothing good ever came out of Najd." A tradition of the Prophet was that he was asked three times to bless Najd, and wouldn't, but finally said, "Earthquakes and dissension are there, and there shall arise the horns of Satan" [Charles Allen, God's Terrorists, The Wahhabi Cult and the Hidden Roots of Modern Jihad, Abacus, 2007, p.47].

The House of Suʿūd, , ʾĀl Suʿūd, has made the Najd significant, for better or worse. At first this was just for religious reasons. The amirs allied themselves with a fundamentalist religious movement, the Wahhābīs (, Wahhābī). This was founded by Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb (1703-1792). Although educated as an Orthodox member of Ḥanbalī School, ʾal-Wahhāb soon developed heterodox ideas that had him denounced as a heretic and driven from one refuge to another. Rejecting the traditions of the conservative Ḥanbalī as well as the other three Orthodox Schools of jurisprudence, ʾal-Wahhāb decided that the only Sunnah, , the only "tradition" worthy of the name was that of the Prophet and his Companions alone. This meant that everything found introduced in subsequent ʾIslām, all such "innovation," , bidʿah, was illegitimate and the moral equivalent of apostacy, which deserved death. ʾAl-Wahhāb's followers were to be , ʾal-Muwaḥḥadūn, those who "Profess the Unity of God" -- a term also used by the Almohads in North Africa. Wahhābī doctrine was to be enforced by unrelenting Jihād, against both Muslims and unbelievers. Thus, this tradition, whose influence would spread to India and elsewhere, was often killing many more Muslems than infidels. Like the heretical Kharijites of early ʾIslām, Muslims were themselves infidels if they were not in doctrinal conformity with the Wahhābīs. Such an attitude was deeply heretical in Orthodox ʾIslām. In India, the British called similar Jihadists "Wahhabis" or the "Hindustani Fanatics."

ʾAl-Wahhāb, of course, would have had no influence anywhere if he had not finally found a refuge, which he did, with the House of Suʿūd. The militancy of the sect then motivated constant warfare, which was justified with something more than dynastic ambition. By the beginning of the 19th century, this began to trouble the Ottoman authorities at Mecca and Medina. The cities would be attacked and even occupied, with vandalism and mayhem inflicted on the locals and their ancient traditions -- because of the insufficient orthodoxy and purity, according to the Wahhābīs, of their institutions. Since the Wahhābīs did not believe that graves should be marked, lest individuals receive respect and devotion that is only owing to God, even the Prophet's Tomb in Medina was not immune from desecration.

The threat became so serious that the Sulṭān asked Muḥammad ʿAlī of Egypt to intervene. The Suʿūdīs were sharply defeated and driven out of the Hijaz (1818), the amir ʿAbdallāh captured and executed (1819). The job, however, had to be done all over again twenty years later (1838). This time the Egyptians maintained indirect control for a few years subsequently. Freed from Egyptian control, the Suʿūdis soon were more permanently subordinated to other Arabian princes, the Rashīdīs.

The realm was permanently liberated from outside control by a formidable ruler, ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (II) ibn Suʿūd. In his long reign (1902-1952), ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz transformed the fortunes of his realm, by diplomacy, by war, and by extraordinary good fortune. Thus, a cash subsidy from the British meant that he was in the right place and at the right time to take advantage of the falling out between the British and the new king Ḥussayn of the Hijaz, the erstwhile leader of the Arab revolt against the Turks in World War I. By deposing Ḥusayn in 1925, ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz was soon able to unify the central Arabian Peninsula from the Persian Gulf right across to the Red Sea. This then became the Kingdom of Saʿūdī Arabia. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz then had the wisdom to tolerate the institutions at Mecca and Medina that had previously offended Wahhābī orthodoxy. He did not want to unite the whole Muslim world against him.

Something that puzzles many is whether the name of the dynasty and country is properly "Suʿūd" or "Saʿūd." Some research has failed to clarify this issue. Clifford Edmund Bosworth's The New Islamic Dynasties [Edinburgh University Press, 1996] simply gives both forms without comment [pp. 116-117]. In the text, he consistently uses "Suʿūd"; but, of course, in the news and public discourse the country is always called "Saudi" Arabia. An explanation would be welcome.

Before long the British subsidies to ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz were no longer necessary, since the discovery of vast oil reserves in the Persian Gulf soon brought in wealth such as the bare lands of Arabia had never seen before. The Najdi capital of Riyadh was at first so miserable that foreign embassies had been confined to Jiddah. Now "Arab" became a byword for "wealth."

While the British had long exploited oil in the Persian Gulf, the Saudis partnered with Americans instead, specifically Standard Oil of California, creating the "Arabian-American Oil Company," ARAMCO. Curiously, this preference seems to have been promoted by the former British diplomat Harry St John "Jack" Philby (1885-1960), father of the Cambridge spy Harold "Kim" Philby (1912-1988). After being fired as a British diplomat, the elder Philby became a retainer of ʿAbd-al-ʿAzīz. Thus, with a history of ill will, Philby was not likely to promote British interests. As previously noted here on the topic of slavery, Philby was on such intimate terms with the King that in 1945 he was gifted with a 16-year-old slave girl, Rozy al-ʿAbdul ʿAzīz, with whom he had three children. Philby would have been sixty. I don't see any information on what became of Rozy, not even a date of death.

Despite incredible wealth, kicked into overdrive by the Arab oil boycott in 1973, Saʿūdī Arabia remained deeply conservative and religiously fundamentalist, as in the early days of the Wahhābīs. Alcohol is prohibited in the Kingdom. Women could not drive cars without the company of a man. Nor could women work in mixed company or appear on television without a veil. Religious services for any religion other than ʾIslām are illegal. The full rigors of Islāmic law mean that fornication (let alone adultery) can be punished by death (beheading) and theft by the amputation of a hand. A special religious police force -- , muṭawwaʿ (plural , muṭawwaʿūn) -- looks after moral improprieties, including even excessive laughter in one's home.

The rigors of ʾIslām, however, did not necessarily strike other Arabs as the most objectionable thing about Saʿūdī Arabia. Revolutions in Iraq, Syria, and especially Egypt, with promulgation of ideologies like Nasser's "Arab socialism," led to the desire and expectation that the "reactionary regimes," i.e. monarchies and pro-Western governments, would eventually all be swept away. The Saʿūdīs had some natural advantages against this. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz begat literally dozens of children, and this formed a tight family corporation for the control of the country. At the same time, the Nasserites and socialists, by their close association with the Soviet Union, handed the Saʿūdīs a powerful card:  the atheism of the Communists, of no particular concern to Nasser, was anathema to the fundamentalists. For many years beyond the time it made the slightest bit of sense, the Kingdom always linked Israel and the Soviets as the twin pillars of Communist atheism.

In more institutional terms, since a military coup was always the most serious threat to a Middle Eastern state, the Saʿūdīs created two entirely separate military establishments, the regular military and a national guard, that could serve as checks on each other. The Kingdom thus rode out the high tide of Arab revolution. As Egypt and Jordan made peace with Israel, and then Iraq threatened the Saʿūdīs with a surprise conquest of Kuwait (another "reactionary" Emirate), the Kingdom found itself in a grand alliance of Egypt, Syria, Britain, France, and the United States to liberate Kuwait.

Meanwhile, a threat to the Saʿūdīs had come from a very different kind of revolution, the Iranian upheaval of the Ayatollah Khomeini. With the beginning of the Islamic year 1400, in December 1979, Iranian inspired fanatics, including some American converts, took over the Great Mosque in Mecca, which houses the Kaʿaba, the House of God, built by Abraham, the most sacred place in all of ʾIslām. A bloody firefight, damaging the building, was necessary to defeat the fanatics. Henceforth, Iranians were closely watched and controlled while on pilgrimage (nothing new, actually, in Orthodox Mecca, where Richard Burton, impersonating a Moslem, observed much the same thing in the 19th century).

In 2001, the Saʿūdīs, still ruled by sons of ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (he had 43 or more of them, from 1900 to 1947), seemed secure enough. When OPEC drives up oil prices, the Kingdom wins browny points with the West (and makes extra money) by underselling Cartel prices. Conservative ʾIslām is under no threat from any non-Western sources, though the occasional wild Prince, like the one with the nude statuary with painted pubic hair at his house in Beverly Hills, must be intensely embarrassing.

I always wonder about the Saʿūdī girls I knew in Beirut in 1969-1970, who used to change into see-through blouses on the flights from Jiddah to Beirut. Either they live a private life secure from the religious police (police invasions of domestic privacy common in the West would provoke serious bloodshed in Arabia), or they have moved to the West. As conservative guardians of the Holy Cities of ʾIslām, Saʿūdī Arabia is probably in an ideologically position stronger than for most of the 20th century. ʾIslām everywhere has tended to gravitate toward the Wahhābī positions, rather than away from them.

The terrorist attacks against the United States on 9/11/2001 put conservative ʾIslām in a somewhat different light. Saʿūdī subsidies to Islamic schools in countries like Pakistan have helped breed a generation of fanatics with a great hatred of modernity and the West. The mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, ʿUsāma bn Lādin, was himself a Saʿūdī millionaire, stripped of his citizenship, who had created a state-within-a-state in Ṭālibān Afghanistian. Ṭālibān itself ominously means "students," i.e. students from the Pakistani Islāmic schools -- schools where Wahhābī influence actually dates from the 19th century and once promoted the "Hindustani Fanatics" who had to be suppressed under British rule.

The Saʿūdīs are (officially) mortified by all this; but many Americans, particularly but not exclusively those sympathetic to Israel, are suddenly suspicious of a presumably friendly regime whose consistent actions have tended, not surprisingly, to promote anti-Americanism. There is undoubtedly an inner inconistency in Saʿūdī policy, which is overtly friendly, indeed dependent (with American troups stationed in the country), with the country whose culture represents the whole threat of freedom and modernity to Wahhābī conservatism and the theocratic aspect of the Saʿūdī state. Where previously the threat to the Saʿūdī state had been from the Left, things like Nasser's "Arab Socialism," now the threat may be from the Right, from people who view any remnant of secular pragmatism and Realpolitik in Saʿūdī policy as irreligious -- the people who have created the present ideology of Islamic Fascism. This is an unusual position for the House of Suʿūd, and it may force some unpleasant choices upon them.

The death of King ʿAdballāh in 2015 meant that the resevoir of sons of ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz is beginning to run dry. The Crown Prince, Muqrin, at 69, is now the youngest surviving son. His successor will be from the next generation of Suʿūdīs, already designated as the Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed, son of Prince Nayef. In updating the page here for these changes, I noticed that my previous source, Robert Lacey's The Kingdom, Arabia & the House of Sa'ud [Avon Books, 1981, 1982] actually failed to include the new King, Salman, among the sons of ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz. Also, consulting Wikipedia and other sources, the birth dates for several Princes are different from those given by Lacey. I do not know if the problems with Lacey were his own carelessness or the difficulty of getting accurate information out of the Suʿūdīs. I have made some corrections but have not examined the dates and names for all the Princes. Many have died whose fate I have not yet recorded.

The paradox of the position of the Suʿūdīs continues. Whether we call it Islamic Fascism, Radical ʾIslām, Terrorism, Islamism, Jihadism, or whatever, the Suʿūdīs are themselves responsible the promotion of the reactionary and fundamentalist ideas that have fueled it. Yet they are alarmed and threatened by the result. The "Arab Spring," with the promise of democratization, was as much as threat to Suʿūdī autocracy as it was to any other regime, but the collapse of the "Spring" into chaos, civil war, or radicalization everywhere except Tunisia has actually given the Suʿūdīs some breathing room. No sensible person wants the Monarchy overthrown just to end up with a bunch of raging Jihadists.

Of course, in that respect, one wonders about the policy of Barack Obama, whose tepid support for allies like both Israel and Saudi Arabia, and his apparent eagerness to strike even a bad nuclear deal with radical Iran, make one wonder about his commitment and even his intentions. After his infamous bow to King ʿAbdallāh, many wonder now if Obama has simply lost interest because of the complexity and intractability of the situation. He continues to boast of withdrawing American forces from both Iraq and Afghanistan, beyond the point where this seemed prudent -- as it definitely proved not to be in Iraq when the "Islamic State" (ISIS or ISIL) captured Mosul and much of the rest of the country in 2014. The Iraqi Army, purged of Sunnis, broke and fled, while the Kurds were stuck with a desperate Goal Line Defense. After foolish dithering, Obama agreed to some airstrikes and adivsors, but the Kurds were still not receiving direct military aid. Rumors float that Israel and the Suʿūdīs are secretly planning what to do about Iran's nuclear program if Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry sell everyone out to Iran. Many are surprised that Israel has not already struck Iran's nuclear facilities, as it previously has attacked such things in both Iraq, under Hussein, and Syria, more recently. The number of nuclear sites and their exteme range make it a difficult operation for the Israeli Air Force. It would all be a lot easier if the Suʿūdīs provided bases and support. Yet that probably could only be done secretly. Saudi Arabia cannot openly side with Israel at a time when pure hatred of Jews may be at its highest in the Islamic world. A feudal anachronism of desert sheiks thus continues to walk a thin line as a major player in 21st century politics.

In 2017 the son of King Salmān, Muḥammad bn Salmān, was made Crown Prince, following Prince Muqrin (the last surviving son of ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz ibn Suʿūd) in 2015 and Prince Muḥammad bn Nayef, 2016-2017. This was rather unusual, violating and ancient custom of succession moving to brothers and cousins before children. This was only the beginning of the shake-up. ʾIbn Salmān moved to liberalize the Kingdom. Women are allowed to drive alone. Mixed crowds of men and women now patronize restaurants and sporting events. Music concerts are allowed, with sexually mixed crowds. The authority of the religious police is curtailed. Things are relaxing and opening up. Actually, the extremes of moralistic suppression sometimes only date from reaction to the events of 1979. However, things have never been this open.

What goes along with this, however, is a ferocious suppression of any political opposition. Resistance can be expected to come from religious fanatics, but ʾIbn Salmān is apparently aware that the fanatics are often financed and encouraged by people whose hostility is less open, and whose aims are often more political than religious. When experiments in democracy in the Arab world have often resulted in people voting in religious extemists (e.g. Algeria, Egypt), it is perhaps not surprising that ʾIbn Salmān has no interest in promoting things like elections. Instead, there have been mass arrests, even of Royal Princes.

A key moment in the suppression of opposition came when Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in İstanbul in 2018. Khashoggi was an exiled journalist who had written for the Washington Post and other venues. This made him a darling of the bien pensants in the West. However, his sympathies seem to have been Islamist and Jihadist, and this may have marked him as particularly theatening to the Saʿūdī government. What happened is that Khashoggi, a Saʿūdī citizen, wanted to marry and required some kind of documents from a Saʿūdī Consulate in Turkey. Alerted to his plans, an assassination team of 15 was sent to get him. And it did. Khashoggi was seized when he entered the Consulate, murdered, dismembered, and the body parts disposed of.

The official Saʿūdī story is that this was done without authorization. Eleven assassins were tried and five were condemned to death. Three defendants, who coincidentally were high ranking security officials, were simply acquitted. No one believes any part of the Saʿūdī investigation or prosecution.

The bright spot in all this, oddly enough, is that the whole operation was done so clumsily. We might gather that ʾIbn Salmān has not made a habit of assassinations in foreign territory, or it would not have been done in such an obvious way. The Turks had actually bugged the Saʿūdī Consolate, so they had an audio recording of the whole business. This means that Saʿūdī Security had not bothered to sweep their own Consulate for bugs. The Russians have gotten away with several assassinations in Britain, using exotic poisons and radioactive materials. Their fingerprints are all over these things, but they have preserved enough deniability that there is little that Britain can do about it. ʾIbn Salmān perhaps can get some tips. Or he might swear off such operations.

Meanwhile, things have heated up with Irān. Since President Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal, Irān is in trouble and has tried to make trouble, attacking and seizing ships in the Persian Gulf. This culminated in an attack on a Saʿūdī oil facility, knocking it out for some weeks. Trump was ready to retaliate for this, but then backed off. However, Iranian terrorist attacks on American forces in Iraq led to the killing by drone of their terrorist mastermind, Qassim Suleimani, whose body and possessions were then immediately inspected by nearby U.S. troops. This made Suleimani a hero and martyr, not only in Irān, but, naturally, to Democrats and Leftists in the United States. But it was a warning to Irān that Trump was running out of patience.

How well the policies of ʾIbn Salmān, both liberalizing and brutal, will play out remains to be seen. Shows of strength can mask an actual fragility of power, but it is hard for outsiders to tell with Saʿūdī Arabia. If ʾIbn Salmān lives to become King --- in 2020 King Salmān is 84 years old -- it will be a very different era for the Kingdom. Since the United States is now self-sufficient in oil and natural gas, all the political leverage of OPEC, let alone Saʿūdī Arabia alone, will be a thing of the past -- unless the Environmentalists manage to destroy the American oil and gas industry, which is their goal. We can imagine secret subsidies from the Saʿūdīs to Environmentalists.

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Lawrence of Arabia

In Seven Pillars of Wisdom [1926], the account by T.E. Lawrence (1888-1935) of his role in the Arab revolt against Turkey (1916-1918), we learn that Lawrence suspected all along that Britain would not keep its promises to the Arabs. However, Lawrence had a job to do, out of loyalty to his country, so he would do his best for the Arabs and accomplish British war goals also. Nevertheless, "I was continually and bitterly ashamed."

Later, he figured that the British had done right with the thrones secured for Fayṣal and ʿAbdullāh. This was arranged at a conference in 1919:

Mr. Winston Churchill was entrusted by our harassed Cabinet with the settlement of the Middle East; and in a few weeks, at his conference in Cairo, he made straight all the tangle, finding solutions fulfilling (I think) our promises in letter and spirit (where humanly possible) without sacrificing any interest of our Empire or any interest of the peoples concerned. So we were quit of the war-time Eastern adventure with clean hands, but three years too late to earn the gratitude which peoples, if not states, can pay.

The British had a 19th century idea that buying off aristocrats, in this case the Hashemites, would settle popular discontents. This was increasingly out of touch in the 20th century and certainly in the aftermath of World War I. Fayṣal and ʿAbdullāh may have been gratified enough with Iraq and Jordan, but this was not the promise of general Arab unity and independence, especially in Palestine. The French, who had mainly been promised Lebanon, with its Christian population, were allowed to take Damascus, the prize of the Arab Revolt, by force. The fury of father Ḥusayn, however, led to a break with the British, which left him unprotected against the attack of ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz ibn Suʿūd. He had to live out his life with ʿAbdullāh in Amman. Lawrence lived to see that but apparently remained content with the well-meaning intention of Churchill's settlements.

To the international public, most knowledge about Lawrence will come from the movie Lawrence of Arabia [1962], by David Lean (1908-1991), with Peter O'Toole (1932-2013) playing Lawrence. It is a superior movie. However, it takes such liberties with the story as to create some misrepresentations. Much of what is done seems to be aimed at creating the impression that Lawrence was traumatized by his experiences, to the point where he was losing his grip. This does not seem accurate, and Lawrence's own brother objected to the apparent message. Almost all the incidents that supposedly traumatized Lawrence, or that display some disorder of mind, are distortions of the record.

One of the worst misrepresentations, however, is unrelated to those issues. Early in the movie, Lawrence had engaged a guide to take him out to where Prince Fayṣal was camped with his army. They stop at a well for water. In the distance, they see a rider approaching. This is one of the principal characters of the movie, played by Omar Sharif (1932-2015, born Michel Yusef Dimitri Chalhoub, from a Lebanese Melkite Catholic family). Lawrence's guide scrambles to defend himself but is shot dead by Sharif, who explains that the man had no right to use the well. Lawrence expresses his outrage and rebukes, not only Omar Sharif, but the Arabs in general.

However, this episode is fictional, the rebuke is fictional, and Omar Sharif plays a character who is also fictional. Lawrence and his guide are actually met by other travelers at the well, which was real, and there were some tribal tensions involved; but Lawrence explains to the reader that, indeed, anyone has a right to draw water from any well. It is, after all, a desert; and one could die of thirst. If Lawrence's guide had been killed just for using the well, it would have started a blood feud (lex talionis).

Thus, the rebuke to the Arabs, although perhaps warranted for things like blood feuds, is entirely baseless in this instance. The truce at the well is in fact the means of avoiding, not implementing, a blood feud.

This incident in the movie is the beginning of a character arc that seems essential to the movie's story and that commentators seize upon as the most revealing about Lawrence's character and experience. Thus, Lawerence's indignation at the murder committed by Omar Sharif's character leads to him refusing the man's good offices as a replacement guide. This lofty stance, however, is eroded through the rest of the movie, until we find that Lawrence orders the massacre of a Turkish column simply out of his own blood lust -- to the point where we find him stalking around like a frenzied lunatic with a bloody knife. As we will see, this episode is falsely represented in the movie, just like the incident at the well, with the result that the character arc being shown to us is entirely fictional. Since we are being told that Lawrence becomes a homicidal manaic, the falsehood of the episode, as an attack on Lawrence's moral character, strikes very deeply indeed.

After the well, another incident ends up involving issues of blood feud, but begins with something else entirely. One of the most dramatic sequences in the movie is when Lawrence's group crosses a stretch of harsh desert on the way to Aqaba.
Lawrence of Arabia, 1962; left to right: Anthony Quinn as ʿAudah Abū-Tāyah, Peter O'Toole as Lawrence, & Omar Sharif as the fictional "Ali ibn el Kharish"
One of the Arabs is left behind, but Lawrence goes back and gets him. Later, there is a dispute and a killing in the Arab army camp, and Lawrence is asked to execute the perpetrator, which is the only way to avoid a blood feud. The perpetrator turns out to be the man he rescued from the desert.

Lawrence is upset about this, and the marvelous Anthony Quinn (1915-2001, born in Chihuahua, Mexico), playing the historical character ʿAudah Abū-Tāyah (1872-1924), wonders why. The circumstances explained to him, Quinn dismisses the problem with a bit of Islamic fatalism, "It is written" (مَكْتُوب, maktūb -- Greek γέγραπται). Lawrence had been warned that his original rescue of the man may have been contrary to what was fated for him.

This sequence combines different episodes, and the addition of the fatalism, although perhaps accurate for ʾIslām, is something that is never voiced in the entire Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Thus, the desert crossed was not on the way to Aqaba, but was a route inland, to the north-east, that Lawrence chose to get the quickest to the Wadi Sirhan, in the interior domain of ʿAudah himself -- of his Abu Tayi subtribe of the Howeitat, where forces could be assembled, plans debated, allies recruited, and, as it happened, multiple feasts of mutton, rice, and butter enjoyed. Sounds good -- although too much of it gives many of the participants indigestion.

This trip was across the "el Houl" desert, adjacent to the barren Nefud ("Nefudh," صَحْرَاءُ ٱلنَّفُود, Ṣaḥrāʾ an-Nafūd), about which Lawrence was curious but which ʿAudah refused to enter. The movie says that they cross the Nefudh. The problem with the man Lawrence rescued, Gasim, was not his presumed "fate" (قَدَر, qadar), but the fact that he wasn't much liked, an "ill-natured stranger" to the others, "and they did not particularly care" about him or his loss. Lawrence did not care much about him himself:

...a gap-toothed, grumbling fellow, skrimshank in all our marches, bad-tempered, suspicious, brutal, a man whose engagement I regretted and of whom I had promised to rid myself as soon as we reached a discharging-place. It seemed absurd that I should peril my weight in the Arab adventure for a single worthless man.

While Gasim is mentioned in passing on the way later to Aqaba, I remember no reference to his death in the rest of the book, while he is still disliked.

Instead, Lawrence took the job of executing a murderer, "Hamed the Moor," in an unrelated incident, much earlier, which otherwise did not particularly trouble him -- where in the movie we have him later confessing that he enjoyed the killing -- another addition, apparently, to his movie career trajectory as a homicidal maniac. Lawrence did rather botch the execution. It took him three shots to kill "Hamed," and it was pretty messy. This may be why he had a "wakeful night" afterwards; but we don't hear any more about it.

Meanwhile, where Lawrence had regarded Gasim as his "man" and his responsibility, the slave of another leader had also been left behind -- but no one took his absence seriously, and it was no big deal when he and his camel were later found dead.

Thus, we see David Lean's story put together to convey something that does not exist in Seven Pillars of Wisdom, with a rebuke of Islamic fatalism, which is itself falsified, to Lawrence's (imaginary) distress. Reviewers of Lawrence of Arabia on line seem entirely unaware of the falsifications in the story of Gasim.

Having recuited ʿAudah's people and others for the cause of the Arab Revolt, the campaign against Aqaba, to the south-west, otherwise was without major difficulties, although not without some adventures and at least one pitched battle with the Turks, where Lawrence accidentally shoots and kills his own camel -- which is not in the movie. The movie gives us to understand that the final attack on Aqaba was a surprise to the Turks. That actually would not have been the case. Several small outlying Turkish posts had to be taken along the way. The problem was that the Turkish defenses had not been prepared against inland attacks. Nevertheless, a body of Turkish defenders had to be persuaded to surrender.

I also might note, as we have just seen, that there are a lot of slaves in Seven Pillars of Wisdom. This is accepted as a matter of course by the Arabs and does not come in for any particular comment by Lawrence. But there are no identified slaves in the movie Lawrence of Arabia.
Arab Slave Trade

This is not irrelevant to current debates, where the Left in America wants to blame all slavery, which they assume is all African, as an "original sin," on Europeans and Americans, never to be forgotten or forgiven -- for which a cash payout, in perpetuity, is expected. This is, of course, no more than a smokescreen, since it is ultimtely capitalism that is blamed for slavery; and slavery or racism are only condemned as part of a project of reviving Communism (which reduces everyone, except the elite, to slavery to the state -- and/or to the actual slave labor famously jusified by Trotsky).

In 1962, David Lean can have had no such agenda, and there is no reason why the presence of "enslaved persons" should have been mentioned in the movie; but even in 1962 their presence would have been a little awkward. Saudi Arabia didn't formally abolish slavery until a year later -- Mauritania didn't abolish slavery until 1981 -- but not effectively until 2007 -- the last country on Earth to do so -- while, nevertheless, the practice not only continues in many places but has been revived by ISIS, Boko Haram, and other radical forces. Since this also involves sex slavery of young girls, it is something about which Feminism should be particularly incensed. Establishment feminism, of course, seeing radical ʾIslām as an anti-American ally, and willing to sell out women for any popular leftist cause, is silent on the issue.

The next problem in Lawrence concerns two orphan Arab boys, Farraj and Daud, whom Lawrence takes under his wing. Lawrence takes them along as he crosses the desert from Aqaba to Egypt to announce the capture of the city. One dies by falling into, apparently, quicksand. This is another trauma that Lawrence must endure. Later, Lawrence must kill the other boy after he is horribly injured in an explosives accident. Another trauma.

However, the first boy does not die in the trackless desert. Lawrence crosses from Aqaba to Suez with eight men, none of whom is identified as Farraj or Daud, and none of whom is lost. Daud does die later, apparently of the cold (it can get cold in the winter desert and in the Syrian mountains), but this isn't even in Lawrence's presence, and must be reported to him by Farraj. Subsequently, Farraj pines away for him -- "from that day till his service ended he made no more laughter for us." Instead he "wandered restlessly, grey and silent, very much alone." And he becomes reckless, so that in one action, "Farraj, riding in front of everyone, would not listen to our cries nor notice the warning shots fired past his head." He is shot by the Turks. "The bullet had smashed right through him, and his spine seemed injured. The Arabs said at once that he had only a few hours to live."

The Turks are coming, and "We could not leave him where he was, to the Turks, because we had seen them burn alive our hapless wounded." Farraj "told us to let him alone, as he was dying and happy to die, since he had no care of life." They tried carrying him, but "he screamed so pitifully that we had not the heart to hurt him more."

I waited a moment, and he said, 'Daud will be angry with you,' the old smile coming back so strangely to his grey shrinking face. I replied, 'Salute him from me.' He returned the formal answer, 'God will give you peace,' and at last wearily closed his eyes.

Lawrence does kill him, but he is reconciled to this because of the boy's desolation at the earlier loss of his friend and his resignation in the circumstances. But the poignant and moving dimensions of this scene are lost in the movie, where the trauma to Lawrence, not the tragedy to Farraj, seems to be the only concern. Nor is Farraj portrayed with the calm and peace reported by Lawrence.

Finally, I'll mention one more thing. Late in the movie, Lawrence is overcome by some kind of blood lust, and he orders the massacre of a retreating Turkish column. What this was all about is ignored in the movie. What we do see is that the Turks are leaving behind some dead people on the ground -- including the only woman in the entire movie. This is unexplained. In fact, Lawrence was constantly trying to get the Arabs to take Turkish prisoners alive and not kill them. In this instance, the retreating Turks had massacred an entire Arab village, which was in fact the native village of many men in the Arab Army. They wanted revenge, and in this instance Lawrence thought that was warranted. So the Turks were massacred in turn. But Lawrence was not overcome by a frenzy to go around slaughtering individual Turks, as David Lean shows us. This is only there to give us the idea that all the traumas endured by Lawrence have unsettled his mind. Indeed, David Lean gives us the impression that massacring Turks has become Lawrence's standard operating procedure. Nothing of the sort. This was a unique exception to Lawrence's principles. He took no pleasure in it.

Thus, the movie Lawrence of Arabia has some sort of odd agenda that leads to the misrepresentation of various events. This may add to the drama, but it is no favor to either T.E. Lawrence or to our memory of the Arab Revolt. Commentators, even ones who seem to have read Seven Pillars of Wisdom, do not report on the ways that the movie falsifies the record, and they may swallow whole the presentation of Lawrence as someone who is broken in spirit and becomes homicidal. As we have seen, however, the character arc from the fictional killing at the well to the fictional motive for attacking the Turks is built on falsehoods.

It is hard to know whether all the strategic initiatives in the Revolt, as recounted by Lawrence, really were Lawrence's ideas; but his later enemies did make the mistake of condemning him for advising that the Turks be left in possession of Medina, while the battle was taken North. As it happens, this is one of the more brilliant strategic ideas of the campaign, and its form would be reproduced in the "island hopping" strategy against Japan in World War II. Many Japanese garrisons were left to just wither on the vine, as the Turks were in Medina -- while the Turks needed to invest great resources in defending and repairing the Hejaz Railroad, so that Medina could be supplied. If the critics of Lawrence wanted to claim that he exaggerated his influence, attributing to him the idea of bypassing Medina, as though this was bad, was a mistake. Rather than discrediting Lawrence, it discredits the critics, even as it acknowledges that Lawrence contributed a key strategic plan.

Lawrence in Arabia, by Scott Anderson, Anchor Books, 2013, 2014


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