Archives for posts with tag: arab tribes

inigo montoya sm

asabiyyah. it’s a word that was used by ibn khaldun in his work on history entitled Muqaddimah or Prolegomena (“Introduction” — here’s a version on google books).

asabiyyah often gets translated simply as “group solidarity” or “social cohesion” or “group feeling” which has led many a westerner to think that it can be applied to any old group, but that is just not so. this “group feeling” that khaldun was writing about was specifically the solidarity found in arab or arabized clans and tribes. other thinkers of the islamic golden age, such as al-farabi, also discussed the concept of asabiyyah. al-farabi, however, used the word more in its (apparently) original sense — clannishness. i kid you not! [pg. 171]:

“According to Muhsin Mahdi in his authoritative work, ‘Ibn Khaldun’s Philosophy of History’ (London: George Allen and Unwin, 195), 263 n. 1, Ibn Khaldun’s use of ‘asabiyyah differs from Alfarabi’s. The former views ‘asabiyyah both as a source of division *and* as a source of unity; the latter views it merely as a source of division. Thus, Mahdi translates ‘asabiyyah in his book on Ibn Khaldun as ‘social solidarity’ rather than as ‘clannishness.’

“But perhaps Iban Khaldun has not departed from Alfarabi in the respect Mahdi suggests. For Alfarabi, although ‘asabiyyah is a source of division between different clans, it is certainly a source of unity within the clan (or *dunasteia*). The common purpose of fighting common enemies unites the members of the clan. Once the law has unified clans into a city, the city’s common fighting purpose still derives from the ‘asabiyyah of its citizens, especially of its leading clan. Is ‘asabiyyah really a greater source of unity than this in the ‘Muqaddimah’? As Mahdi himself notes, Ibn Khaldun never identifies what he calls the ‘natural rule or governance (*mulk tabi’i*) in which one clan rules a group of other clans by virtue of its superior ‘asabiyyah without the assistance of a law (divine or ‘rational’) as a ‘regime’ (ibid., 264-265). The reason why he does not refer to it as a regime is obvious: The result of this kind of rule is not the minimum of internal peace necessary for political life but ‘constant war [i.e., civil war] and confusion’ (ibid., 265).”

asabiyyah, then, is the “group solidarity” or “social cohesion” of the clan or the tribe. it is not the social cohesion that held medieval arab/arabized societies together. asabiyyah was, in fact, the force that divided those societies — and is dividing iraq and syria today. the problem for arabized societies is not having too little asabiyyah, it’s that they have too much.

according to khaldun, part of the trick to maintaining a state full of independent clans each with their own asabiyyah is for the ruling clan to develop some sort of supra-asabiyyah and in that way reach a state of iltiham or coalesence [pg. 285 and pg. 32 here]. this is easier said than done, since each of the clans/tribes at least theoretically wants to be the one on top — if they can get there. islam itself was an excellent uniting force early on for arab tribes. until mohammed died and the infighting over who’d be in charge started (i.e. the origin of the sunni-shia split). maybe some form of radical islam will work today — perhaps whatever al-qaeda or isis has on offer. the problem is, all of the asabiyyah in arab societies is always pulling it apart.

another trick to running a country full of clans while maintaining your own clan on the top is to give enough favors to other clans to keep them happy in their subordinate positions. these are just patron-client systems writ large. this is exactly what the ruling clans did when the arabs first invaded iraq. i wrote in my last post on the arabs in iraq how the clans and tribes set themselves up in separate streets in separate neighborhoods. well, most of these newly relocated clans received stipends from the clans in charge to compensate them for their services during the invasion. this was their booty, in other words. and the financing for these stipends came from taxes — in part from the jizya payed by the non-muslims in iraq. you may have heard about jizya. [see morony on all of this.]

the patronage system — with nepotism to boot — is how arabized states are still run today. it’s the only way, because otherwise the asabiyyahs of all the different clans would tear these countries apart [pgs. 3-4]:

“Ibn Khaldun claims that power (*mulk*) is not based in the [arab] city as was the case in Greek tradition, but is instead based on an essential regroup of key ‘asabiyyah concepts. These are emotional links and blood relationships (*silat-ar-rahem*) — both tribal and familial — driven by sociological narrative rather than citizenship in public space. The roles of brothers, sons, uncles, half-brothers, wives, daughters, and mothers of the leader are defined via ‘asabiyyah in Arab political systems. These elements of analysis, beyond their anecdotal dimensions, introduce us to the heart of how authoritarian dynastical rule functions. ‘Asabiyyah acquires an incomparable force by controlling the state apparatus and carrying out public politics.

“This type of ‘asabiyyah was particularly visible in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, mainly within the security and intelligence apparatuses. It is obvious today in the republican-style authoritarian regime of Asad. We also find ‘asabiyyah applied in the Arab Gulf countries, led by large families who dominate ‘departments of sovereignty’ (*wizarat as-seyadah*), meaning all key positions in the state. Saudi Arabia could be cited as the singular example in which dynastic succession functions through internal cooptation of the al-Saud clan, but it can also be understood as a rotation of the top matrilineages — the clans of origin of the princes’ mothers.

“The princes that belong to the first circle of power and lead departments of sovereignty or hold the governorates of important provinces tend to enter exogamous marriages (which is contrary to the norms established for preferential Arab unions). The women of the al-Saud clan typically enter endogamous marital unions. The clan is therefore a taker, rather than a giver, of women, which both expresses and helps perpetuate the dominant position it holds. Here, matrimonial strategies ensure the clientelism of other clans in the country. In a tribalized and a poorly integrated society, such as that of Saudi Arabia, the paternal clan’s grip on power ensures the cohesion and stability of the ruling group.”

…by keeping subordinate clans happy by sharing with them some of the “spoils” (in the case of saudi arabia or the uae or qatar — oil money!).

some of the confusion some (many!) westerners have about what asabiyyah refers to comes, i think, from the fact that they overlook which populations khaldun was talking about. he specifically looked at the arab states in spain and north africa [pg. 214] and contrasted them with kurdish and bedouin and berber tribal populations [pg. 45]. by the time that khaldun was writing in the fourteenth century, all of these groups were well-arabized and probably had been practicing father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage for several hundred years and, so, would’ve been very clannish [see, for example, the previous post on iraq]. the arab states repeatedly fell apart, not because they ran out of asabiyyah, but because those in charge didn’t manage to hold together their state in the face of all the different asabiyyahs of the various clans/tribes within their states. the invading groups — the kurds, bedouin, and berbers — of course held together by the promise of riches if and when they succeeded in conquering the settled arabs.

most importantly, though, the lessons learned from these populations can’t be applied most other places, because different peoples are different. so, for instance, i think peter turchin’s got two out of three right: 1) yes, you need a charismatic leader to unite clans/tribes (think: mohammed); 2) yes, you need some sort of ideology to create that iltiham (islam worked great back in the day) — even better if you can throw in some spoils; but 3) no, you cannot just go to the desert, either literally or figuratively, in order for your group to acquire asabiyyah. (although dune is an awesome novel/movie! so turchin’s actually got three out of four things right….) you need to be a real clan to do that with real (close) genetic ties and enough time to allow natural selection to select for asabiyyah. the problem is, what to do with it once you’ve got it?

update: see also asabiyyah ii – clannishness and the abbasid caliphate

(note: comments do not require an email. asabiyyah.)

krsna slava is a traditional serbian (although it seems that there are similar traditions elsewhere in the balkans) celebration of a family’s particular patron saint — and by “family” here i mean an extended, patrilineal family — a celebration by a man and his wife and their sons and their families (if they have any) plus any unmarried daughters. a wife would celebrate the slava with her husband and his family of their patron saint, not the one which she grew up with (although if a woman was the last in her line, her slava might be celebrated in the household, too). the tradition goes right back to at least the medieval period — the earliest known record of slava celebrations is from 1018 a.d. [pg. 68] — although it probably has pre-christian roots.

the krsna slava qualifies as “clannish” as far as i am concerned (even though the serbs might not — surprisingly — be the most clannish of the balkan populations — more on that some other time). the slava is a way of distinguishing one extended family from another — each family has its own patron saint and own slava day (the saint’s feast day, i think) — and there’s some evidence/suggestions that the slava tradition ties back into the days when the serbs (and other balkan populations) were organized more into clans or tribes and not just extended families.

from Serbia [pgs. 42-43]:

“There are many facets of Orthodox religious practice that are central to Serbian culture even for individuals who are not especially religious. One of the most important of these is the custom of celebrating *slava*, a practice which may also be encountered in Montenegro, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Croatia, although it is most commonly associated with the Serbs. *Slava*, which might be best translated as meaning ‘praise’ or ‘glory’, is the celebration of a patron saint. Each family celebrates its own saint, who is considered to be its protector. A particular *slava* is inherited from father to son and the occasion brings families together as each household, in sharing the same *slava*, is obliged to celebrate the event together. In special cases, such as migration abroad, family members may stage the event separately but as a rule it takes place under one roof, that of the family patriarch.

“During a *slava* the family home is open to anyone who wishes to drop by. It is considered untraditional to actually invite guests outside the family, but visitors are welcomed if they come of their own free will. To be turned away from a Serbian home during a *slava* is unheard of as this would bring disgrace to the household. The Krsna *slava* ritual involves the breaking of bread and the lighting of a candle by a priest. A prayer is said over the *koljivo* — ground cooked wheat — the third of the three ingredients central to the *slava* ceremony (the Serbs have a thing about the number three). Incense is burned and everyone present is blessed with holy water before the priest blesses and cuts the bread in the sign of the cross. The bread is then rotated by the family patriarch, his godfather and the priest before everyone assembled sits down for a meal. Of the various saints’ days, the most commonly celebrated are those of St. Nicholas (Nikolijdan) on 19 December, St. George (Durdevan) on 6 May, St. John the Baptist (Jovanjdan) on 20 January and St. Archangel Michael (Arandelovdan) on 21 November.

The custom of *slava* is believed to date back to the late 9th century when the Serbs were first Christianised. It is thought that each of the Serb tribes adopted its collective saint protector around this time and this is borne out by *slava* variations according to geographical regions. Another commonly held belief, which does not necessarily contradict this, is that the custom of *slava* is a remnant from pre-Christian paganism and that *slava* was a syncretic adaptation in which the qualities of the old Serbian gods found sustenance in the personalities of the new Christian saints. Occasionally, a new *slava* is adopted when it is believed that a particular saint has facilitated deliverances from an afflication such as an illness, in response to prayer.”

interestingly, though:

“As well as individuals and families, various communities such as villages, cities, organisations, political parties, institutions and professions, can have their own *slava*. Belgrade’s *slava* is on Ascension Day, which takes place on a Thursday, 40 days after Easter each year.”

middling inbreeders/outbreeders, the serbs? more in-betweeners? dunno.

james hedman (of the nsa?! (~_^) ) commented the other day:

“The tribes of Arabia were at the time of Mohammed by and large polytheistic pagans, each tribe having its own specific deities to nature, such as oases, trees, and weather.”

quite so. from Islam: A Guide for Jews and Christians [pgs. 41-42]:

“The inhabitants of Arabia assuredly had a religious tradition before Islam, and although we are not particularly well informed about it, it appears to have been quite complex, as we would expect to discover in societies that were splintered into tribes and clans of widely varying sizes, some sedentary and some nomadic, with a number of the latter ranging seasonally over enormously broad terrains.

“The inhabitants of the Hajaz worshiped the way they lived: the small settled populations visited fixed shrines in oases, whereas the Bedouin carried their gods with them. The objects worshiped were principally stones, trees, and heavenly bodies, or rather, the gods thought to reside in them, or possibly — and here we begin to enter a world we do not fully understand — represented by them. Reasonably clear is that in the more recent Arabian past sacred stones were increasingly being shaped into human likenesses, rough or fine, perhaps, it has been surmised, because of the extension of Hellenistic styles into the peninsula.

“However the devotees thought of it, Arabian cultus was highly volatile, the deities often sharing characteristics, being harmonized into families, or passing now into the possession of this tribe and now of that. There is a distinctly tribal notion to the Arabs’ worship of the gods. On the basis of the South Arabian evidence, with which the more meager Arab tradition concurs, each tribe or tribal confederation had a divine patron whose cult gave the group a focus for its solidarity. In a practice that points directly to what was occurring at Mecca, each of these ‘federal deities’ was the ‘lord’ of a shrine that served as the federation’s cult center.”

i feel that the krsna slava of the serbs is just a half step away from the tribal gods of the arabs, and both of them are clearly related to household deities. all of these “clan gods” serve to both unite extended families/clans/tribes AND to distinguish them from all the other extended families/clans/tribes out there.

the best sort of “clan god” worship, imho, has got to be the veneration of the dead. have some shrines in your house to your ancestors — maybe exhume them every now and again just to say hello. how more uniting can THAT be to actually remember, on a regular basis, (former) members of your actual family/clan? it’s very direct. i like that!

i kinda/sorta recognize the family patron saint thing from my own semi-clannish background. traditionally, individuals often had “favorite” saints, and it was not uncommon for kids to adopt their parents’ favorite saints, although, afaik, there were no hard-and-fast rules about this. and there were no party days on the saints’ days (d*rn!). my mother adopted my grandfather’s (her father’s) favorite saint, and i am actually named after that saint. my gradmother’s favorite saint was st. martin de porres:

MartinDePorres

granny was always so daring! (~_^)

previously: mating patterns in medieval eastern europe

(note: comments do not require an email. family shrine – japan.)

in my last post on saudi arabs, i mentioned that there are maybe, perhaps some hints that the historic mating patterns amongst the najdis of the central part of the arab peninsula were closer than those amongst the hejazis of the western coast. maybe. there are only hints, so it’s hard to be sure.

one other hint that the hejazis maybe outbred a bit more than the najdis is the somewhat greater freedoms that women have historically had in the region (the pattern seems to be the stronger the inbreeding, the more restrictions on women). from Cradle of Islam: The Hijaz and the Quest for an Arabian Identity [pg. 27]:

“As in other societies the Arab concept of family is closely linked to that of female honour. In the Arabian Peninsula the urban Hijazis have historically been viewed as more lax or lenient in such matters than tribal Najdi culture, with its strict Wahhabi norms of sexual segregation. An increased emphasis on female honour has, however, developed among some of the Hijazi *’awa’il* in reaction to Najdi standards.”

if the elevation/marginal environment theory of inbreeding/outbreeding is correct, then it would make sense if arabs living right along the coast in the west were inbred less. same for those on the east coast, i suppose. (the greatest oubreeders of the arab peninsula ought to be in the southeast area of saudi arabia, but i don’t think many people live there!):

saudi arabia - topography
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in any case, saudi society is not just clannish, it’s downright tribalistic — and the people of the hejazi region don’t like the people of the najdi region. and the feeling is very much mutual [pgs. 16-17, 85]:

The most obvious and important expression of the persistence of social boundaries is the rarity of intermarriage between Najdis and Hijazis, with obvious implications for cultural assimilation. Hijazi opinion on this matter varies. Some explain that Najdi men fear the consequences of marital alliances with Hijazi families, while others contend that Hijazis are reluctant to allow their daughters to marry Najdis, because of polygamy, ease of divorce and stricter gender segregation among the Najdis. Najdi men — who do not hesitate to take wives from other Arab countries — regard marrying a woman from the same country as a greater commitment, especially when she is from an inferior or less ‘pure’ lineage in the Najdi grading of tribal descent. Meanwhile, the Hijazies, who claim descent from the Prophet’s tribe, the Quarysh, consider themselves the superior ones. Competition in ‘purity of blood’ in the Arabian Peninsula reaches its apotheosis in the context of intermarriage, and the few instances of it are typically between a Hijazi man and a non-tribal (i.e. ‘non-pure blood’) Najdi *khadiri*, as a tribal Najdi *gabili* will not marry outside the group. Even in these rare cases, the Najdi *khadiri* family typically makes the marriage procedures very lenthy and costly….

“The images that Hijazi and Najdi have of one another and the names they use to describe each other are further indications of social boundaries and the consciousness that sustains them. The Hijazis, for example, call the Najdis *shurug* (Easterners), a derogatory term. Another term, *badu* (Bedouin), carries an even worse connotation — essentially a lack of urban refinement. On the other hand, the Najdis call Hijazis *tarsh al-bahr*, (the flotsam of the sea) and *bagaya hujjaj*, (pilgrimage remnants). Whereas the first term is applied to those from Jeddah and the second to Meccans and Medinese, both allude to the ‘impurity’ of Hijazis’ Arab descent, owing to intermarriage with non-Arab Muslims. While the Najdis pride themselves on their lineage and *asala* (purity of blood), the Hijazis pride themselves on their *zawg* (good taste), *anaga* (elegance), *nazaka* (refinement) and *usul* (knowledge of the rules of propriety). To be sure, Hijazis also place lineage as the first criterion of status and respectability, especially those claiming descent from the Quraysh. But for those from other Muslim countries who settled in Mecca, Medina or Taif, lineage does not imply ‘blood purity’, but rather three generations of good social standing. As a result, ‘Najdis regard Hijazis as degenerate and not quite Arabian’….

“Marriages between Hijazis and Najdis are very rare. The exceptions are one way, occurring between a *khadiri* (non-tribal, ‘non-pure’ Najdi) woman and a Hijazi man, especially if he is wealthy and offering a high *mahr*. Najdis do not marry Hijazis because their lineage is not considered pure enough. Therefore Hijazis are excluded from marriage with the Najdi elite…. The rarity of cases of inter-marriage between Hijazis and Najdis is the most significant expression of the social boundaries between the regions of Saudi Arabia and an obvious example of the cultural distinctivenss of the Hijazis. Despite the attempt at integration and national homogeneity, marriage practices and alliances demonstrate the fractured nature of the Saudi state.

not much love there, then.
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and, like i said, saudi society is very tribal — extremely tribal. from Challenges to the Cohesion of the Arab State [pgs. 181-182, 184, 186-187 - links added by me]:

“Saudi Arabia is known in the literature as a ‘rentier state.’ In its most narrow meaning, a rentier states refers to a state which gains most of its revenues not from taxes, but rather from the income (‘rents’) derived from the sale of natural resources, in this case — petroleum. In the Saudi case, the state distributes much of the income to the population, without taxing it. Saudi Arabia has (as have other wealthy Gulf states) an unwritten ‘social contract’ between the Sa’ud family and its subjects: the family runs a cradle-to-grave social welfare system and guarantees employment in the public sector; in exchange, the population is expected to be loyal, without having a representative system. It is, in fact, a system of ‘no taxation, no representation.’

This governmental system dovetails quite nicely with the tribalistic character of Saudi Arabia, and to a great extent even duplicates it. Although the tribe, as a discrete social unit, has been somewhat weakened in Saudi Arabia due to the efforts of the Saudi state, the structure of relations between the Sa’ud family and the population operates to a great extent according to tribalistic patterns and values, and thus contributes to national cohesion.

“Certain political, and socio-economic groups develop a corporate identity and behavior, not unlike that of tribes. These groups are termed *’asabiyyat* (from the word *’asabiyya*, tribal solidarity), and indeed form the core of social cohesion in Saudi Arabia. They are patron-client groups that have a common tribal, regional, family, or ethnic background, which is used to obtain jobs or resources from the central government. In return, the central government uses these relationships to command the loyalty of these groups. In this sense, the state is an extension of tribal politics.

in 1961, when the saudi central government was moved from jeddah (in hejazi territory) to riyadh (in najdi territory), pretty much ALL of the hejazi civil servants were sacked and replaced with najdis [pg. 94]. now THAT’S what i call nepotism!

more from Challenges to the Cohesion of the Arab State:

“Tribalistic patterns of behavior are characterized by a high degree of personalization since they are based on personal relationships. For instance, the main ministries are headed by members of the Saudi royal family that represent the various ‘circles of power.’ To get a job in one of those ministries, one must ally oneself with the relevant faction of the family, or with someone associated with it. The most powerful circles of power [in 2008 when this book was published-h.chick] are the Al Salman (connected to Salman, the governor of Riyadh province), the Al’ Abdallah (associated with the present king), the Al Fahd (connected to Fahd, who was king until his death in 2005), the Al Na’if (connected to the minister of the interior, and the Al Sultan (connected to the heir apparent and minister of defense and aviation). These circles act as corporate groups looking out for one another. They consist of blood relatives and their associates. Until a few years ago, applicants for government jobs were required to provide their family and tribal background, going back five generations, as part of the application process. This clearly illustrates how the royal family uses tribal patterns and values to maintain its rule.

“Like the head of a tribe, the state is responsbile for the protection of its citizens. The state, personified in the Sa’ud family which functions as the head of a tribe, protects the people’s physical and financial safety. Like all tribal leaders, members of the royal family mediate disputes, and keep the peace….

The Saudi royal family/state also functions as a genealogical organizer of society. As tribes did in the past, it determines who will marry whom. The fact that it makes it hard for Saudis to marry non-Saudis contributes to the myth of an entire country under Sa’ud domination, of one vast exclusive tribal family patronized by the Al Sa’ud. Since Saudi citizenship, which grants admission to the tribal family, confers entitlement to the largesse of the *shaykh*, the Saudis have created powerful incentives for their citizens to accept the truth of the myth of Saudi national identity, an identity fused with religion, in which membership is in fact a coveted privilege bestowed by birthright….

“Regional identities

“The region with the most highly developed sense of regional identity is the Hijaz, a strip of land along Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast, stretching from the border with Jordan in the north nearly to Yemen in the south. In it are situated the two holiest places in Islam, Mecca and Medina.

“In the Hijaz the elite are quite aware of the status they enjoyed before what the Saudis call unification, and some Hijazis call occupation, or annexation. When they feel they are being treated as second-class citizens, which they often are because the Najdis hold most of the government and religious jobs, they strive to gain recognition by asserting their distinctiveness as the elite of Islam’s holiest places.

“One recent manifestation of the this regionalism is the periodical *al-Hijaz*, published in London by the Hijazi National Organization (*al-jam’iyya al-wataniyya al-Hijaziyya*). The periodical is extremely anti-Saudi, and seeks to celebrate Hijazi culture and distinctiveness. The articles, most of which remain unsigned, refer not to the ‘unification’ of Arabia under the Saudis, as stated in the official narrative, but rather to the occupation of the Hijaz….

“Some Hijazis are thus beginning to assert their distinctiveness, whether through writing about Hijazi customs and food, or by wearing Hijazi dress. Indeed, there seems to be a revival of Hijazi dress lately. People who choose to wear Hijazi dress do so at some risk since it is Najdi dress which is considered the national dress and is worn by most of those in or close to power. What one wears is a statement, and is noted immediately. Some Hijazis are demonstratively reverting to their own regional dress, which includes a tighter-fitting robe calle a *jubba*, and a turban, or *’amama*….

“One man stands out as leader of the Hijazi cultural movement, namely Sami al-Angawi, an architect, who has made it his life’s work to preserve the customs, dress, and architecture of the Hijaz against Najdi attempts to eliminate them. He openly wears Hijazi dress. Moreover, he explicitly declares that he is a Sufi, a mystic — in other words, that he belongs to a stream of Islam which is forbidden by the Wahhabi clerics, who monopolize religion in Saudi Arabia.

He has protested the destruction of Hijazi architecture and Hijazi holy sites by envious Wahhabis, who see the worship of these sites as unlawful religious innovation (*bid’a*). Several of these sites have been destroyed, the most recent amongst them being the Jiyad fortress, built by the Ottomans in the eighteenth century, and destroyed in 2002. The fortress was the site from which Husayn bin ‘Ali started the Arab Revolt in Mecca. It overlooks the Ka’aba, and was removed to make way for a massive, five-story project. The developers of the project are the Bin Ladin Company, which has close ties to the royal family.”

i could never understand all the destruction of islamic sites — including mohammed’s mother’s grave (!) — happening in mecca and medina (see also here). greed (i.e. wanting to build huMONgous hotel complexes to milk the hajj crowds) doesn’t seem to cover it, afaiac. but now that i know that all these sites are in hejazi territory and are connected with hejazi history — and the fact that it’s mostly najdis destroying them — NOW it all makes sense! it’s tribes vs. tribes, that’s all.

previously: historic mating patterns on the arabian peninsula and tribalism on the innerwebs

(note: comments do not require an email. mecca’s big ben!)

anybody else getting a little bored with europe and europeans? yeah, i thought so. here’s a little diversion! (i will return to the mating patterns of europeans shortly.)

the arabs. and by “the arabs” i mean the ones on the arabian peninsula. even more specifically, i mean to contrast the arabs living in the hejaz on the west coast with the arabs from the najd in the interior. for a very long time, the hejazi arabs have been quite comopolitan and internationally-oriented, whereas the najdi arabs were mostly camel-herding nomads or settled in and around desert oases. the balance of power between the two shifted beginning in the 1700-1800s when the al saud clan — from the najd region — gained control of the region, and, most importantly, when they eventually acquired de facto control of the nation’s oil.

consang.net tells us that the saudi arabians today inbreed a LOT: 50%+ of all marriages are consanguineous (between second cousins or closer). there is variation within the country though.

from Consanguinity among the Saudi Arabian population (1995) [click on table for LARGER view] …

consanguinity among the saudi arabian peninsula - table 02

… the total consanguinity rate in what the authors refer to as the “north western province” (i think this must be some former provincial designation), which is basically the hejaz region, was 67.7% in 1995. the “central province” — the northern part of the najd region — had a consanguineous marriage rate of 60.8% — so lower than the hejaz region.

i don’t think that this was always the case, that consanguineous marriage was more common in the hejaz region than in the najd region. in fact, i think that the hejazis have adopted cousin marriage more and more over the course of the last couple of centuries thanks to a process of “najdification” that, presumably, the entire country has been undergoing since the al saud clan came to prominence. (also, perhaps many najdis have moved to places in the hejaz region like mecca.)

from Cradle of Islam: The Hijaz and the Quest for an Arabian Identity (2004) [pgs. 77-81]:

Of key interest here is the introduction of what may be called the ‘tribalisation’ of marriage relations amongst the Hijazis. In contrast to past practices of marriage with non-Arab Muslims, marriages now take place within the Hijazi cultural group. The definition of what constitutes a Hijazi for marriage purposes has become more strict….

One implication of ‘tribalisation’, however, is that it draws the cultural form of association that sets the standards for the Hijazis from Najdi life. The emphasis placed on lineage, purity and related ideas confirms the superiority of a particular conception of what a social group should be: a tribe….

“For members of the Hijazi *’awa’il*, establishing and dissolving contemporary marriage relationships is now regulated by several sets of rules and considerations, most of which are relatively recent in origin…. All of these changes are best understood in light of the contrast between the period prior to and that following the Hijaz’s political unification under Saudi rule….

“In the period before Saudi political unification the rules governing marriage derived from largely religious sources, reflecting a very different relation between state and society to that which exists in the present. All contemporary marriage rules are closely related to these earlier ones, either as refinements or entailing new but subordinate principles.

“At the most general level, the Quran is broadly permissive of potential marriage partners: ‘Oh! Mankind! We have created you from a single [pair] of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other. Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is the most pious of you.’ There are, however, some qualifications to this open-ended approach. The first is that Islam permits marital ties between Muslim men and non-Muslim women, provided the latter are ‘people of the book’, *ahl al kitab*, i.e. Jews or Christians. The Quran tells male Muslims that, ‘lawful for you are the chaste women from among those who have been given the book’. Muslim women, on the other hand, are absolutely prohibited from marrying non-Muslims. A Muslim woman’s marriage to a non-Muslim is considered to entail illegal intercourse and thus produces illegitimate offspring who are prohibited from inheriting the father’s wealth….

“In addition to religion, considerations of the nature of wider family life have been most influential in regulating marriage. Here the promotion and defence of patrilineal group status is of central significance. Family status is related to the *’ird* (honour) of its male members, which is defended by ensuring the chastity of female dependants. The idea of *’ird* is a key reason why marriage based on overt love has traditionally been considered *’ayb* (shameful): admitting love implies a clandestine pre-marital relationship. Indeed, the idea that marriage should be based on an emotional bond between husband and wife conflicts with the primacy of maintaining well-integrated families; it implies putting one’s personal interests and needs above the extended family’s wellbeing. In this, Hijazis conform to general Arabian attitudes but, as ever, the Hijazi preoccupation with family creates a specific distrust of bonds based on emotion or sentiment….

Accounts of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries clearly show that these rules did indeed regulate Hijazi marriages. For instance, being Muslim, regardless of other origins, provided a sufficiently strong basis on which to build marriages. Mecca was a melting pot for the Islamic world, so mixed marriages were common. Marriage made a significant contribution to the heterogeneous and cosmopolitan nature of Hijazi society.

By contrast, Najdi marriage was, and remains within the same lineage, with bonds among the tribal families usually reinforced by patrilineal parallel-cousin marriages. There is, however, an important distinction between *khadiri* (non-tribal, i.e. ‘non-pure’ Najdi), and *gabili* (tribal ‘pure-blooded’ Najdi). Strict patrilinearity allowed *gabili* men to marry outsiders, such as Egyptian, Moroccan or Lebanese women, but their female relatives have never married outside the tribe. In principle, then, men from the Hijaz would not have been able to marry into a pure-blooded Najdi family, while women would, although Hijazi women were not, as a rule, given in marriage to Najdi families, nor were they asked. In this intricate system of social boundaries expressed through marriage practices, Hijazis — both men and women — married from the Asir tribal region more easily than from the tribal Najd….

“Among elite Najdi men polygamy has also been more prominent.”

so it sounds as though the najdi arabs have had a longer history of closer inbreeding than the hejazi arabs.

if we go even further back, there are more hints that the hejazis may have been comparative outbreeders, as far as arabs go anyway. from Close Relationships: Incest and Inbreeding in Classical Arabic Literature (2005) [pgs. 78-81]:

“Much has been written on the extent to which Islam changed or confirmed the existing customs in pre-Islamic Arabia. Data on these customs are scanty…. As for the forbidden degrees of marriage, early Muslim authorities explain that the main differences between pre-Islamic and Islamic customs concerned the marriage of stepmothers and sons, and being married to two sisters simultaneously. Muhammad ibn al-Saib al-Kalbi (d.146/763) praises the Arabs in the Jahiliyya, the period of ‘ignorance’, for anticipating the Qur’anic prohibitions:

“‘The Arabs, in the time of their Ignorance, held things for forbidden that the Qur’an was to declare forbidden. They did not marry daughters or mothers, nor sisters or aunts from the mother’s side or the father’s side. The worst thing they used to do was to be married to two sisters at the same time, or to succeed one’s deceased father as husband to his wife. They used to call someone who did this *dayzan*….

“‘(…) If a man died, leaving a wife, or divorced his wife, his eldest son would stand up and throw his cloak over her if he wanted her. If he did not want her, one of his brothers would marry her, with a new brideprice.’

“Ibn Habib (d. 245/860), who has a nearly identical passage, adds that ‘Islam has separated men from the wives of their fathers; they are numerous’….

“Ibn Habib also states that the Arabs used to marry two sisters….”

not too much about marrying cousins there, but there’s this…

Against the tendency of presenting the pre-Islamic Arabs as being very close to Islam already, others restrict this virtuous behaviour to the inhabitants of Mecca, contrasting them with the Bedouins, as did Yaqut in the passage quoted above….

and that passage from yaqut [pg. 60]:

“In his ‘Kitab al-Arab’ (‘Book of the Arabs’), devoted to the virtues of the Arabs, Ibn Qutayba praises especially Quaysh, the Prophet’s tribe, for preserving something of the old Abrahamic religion, inherited through Abraham/Ibrahim’s son Ismael/Imail; these remnants included ‘circucision, ritual ablution, repudiation of women, manumission of slaves, and the prohibition of marriage with forbidden family members, through kinship, milk relationship, or affinity by marriage’. Yaqut (d. 626/1229) rephrases the same idea: the pre-Islamic Meccans:

‘were not like the uncouth Bedouins. They used to circumcise their sons, to perform the Hajj at the Kaaba; … they shunned marriages with a daughter, a daughter’s daughter, a sister, and a sister’s daughter, because of their sense of jealous honour and in order to keep aloof from the Magians.'”

in other words, perhaps the pre-islamic hejazi were not at all like the pre-islamic najdis (bedouins) … and, perhaps, the hejazi — the population from whence mohammed hailed — didn’t inbreed so much [pg. 81]:

In general, as far as may be ascertained, inbreeding was not very common in pre-Islamic times. It is difficult to obtain precise information. The genealogies of tribes and clans in the pre-Islamic and early Islamic periods, though very detailed, are notoriously unreliable, loaded as they are with politics and sentiments; an alliance between tribes was often cemented by fabricating a common ancestor. Moreover, the genealogies normally present the male lines only and give very little information on females. Among the exceptions are the lineages of the Prophet Muhammad and other prominent early Muslims. Thus Ibn Habib gives Muhammad’s ancestors in the all-female line, going back seven generations. Similar but shorter matrilinear lines are given for Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali, and al-Hasan. Only two lines are given in full in these lineages: the all-male and the all-female, out of the theoretical maximum of 128 (2 to the 7th) lines of ascendants that go with a full picture of seven generations in Muhammad’s case. Therefore it is hazardous to draw any firm conclusions. Yet the general picture that emerges from this admittedly limited sample is clear: there may have been ‘irregularities’ by Islamic standards, such as the above-mentioned stepmother-marriages, but the spouses are not closely related and even first-cousin unions, often assumed to be dominant in Arab society, are almost absent as far as can be observed. In the Prophet’s lineage, one finds that his great-grandmother Umm Habib and her husband Abd al-Uzza had a great-grandfather (Qusayy) in common; Uthman’s maternal great-great-grandmother Sakhra bint Abd ibn Imran married her first cousin Amr ibn Aidh ibn Imran.”

perhaps mohammed — who invented a fairly (fairly) universalistic religion — came from a comparatively not-so-inbred population [i.e. the hejazi arabs - mohammed's tribe, the quraysh tribe, was from mecca]. -?- dunno. difficult to tell, but it’s an interesting question, i think.

previously: inbreeding and the ancient hebrews (and the arabs) and father’s brother’s daughter’s marriage

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clans and tribes are reportedly making a comeback in syria — what a surprise! (did they ever really go away?)

here are some excerpts from two articles that appeared recently in al monitor.

the first article is a translation of an article that originally appeared in the lebanese paper, as-safir. the original title of the article was (translated to english): “Tribal ‘Solidarity’ and the Role That the Clans Play in the Syrian Crisis.” when the author refers to tribes, i believe that he is referring to groups such as the bedouin tribes in (iirc) northeastern/eastern syria as well as other arab tribes which have tribal connections in other countries (like iraq). he suggests that 1) tribalism is more prevalent in northern syria than in the south, and 2) the power of tribes is weaker in urban areas than in rural. ok, here we go (links added by me)…

“Tribalism and the Syrian Crisis”
“January 18 2013

“Prominent tribal figures have become omnipresent in Syrian opposition meetings, at a time when the regime is also hosting meeting after meeting for these same leaders. All of this is transpiring amid fears that societal unity will once again become fragmented, opening the door to tribal clashes in the worst possible scenario that could face Syria.

Tribal influence has returned to the forefront of the country’s political scene. Although their presence on the ground fluctuates between weak in some areas to effective in others, the impression is that Syrian society still longs for the old days of tribal friction and polarization, despite the fact that cohesion between some of them has played a positive role in avoiding disputes. As a result, there is a new drive to monitor the country’s tribal communities, their influence and relationship with the regime, be they for or against the current government.

“Syrian tribes

“The Syrian tribes are spread throughout all the regions of the country, from the extreme northeast in the plains of al-Jazira and the Euphrates river valley, all the way to the Badiya desert, Homs, Hama and the Damascus countryside, as well as the southern regions of Hauran and Jabal al-Druze. All these tribes are interconnected and have relationships with neighboring countries, especially Iraq and Jordan, with some tribes even claiming ties in Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, many inhabitants of Mount Lebanon still retain a strong connection to their places of origin in southern Syria and maintain good relations with their relatives there, while others have Turkish ancestry, such as the Abazaid clan in Daraa….

“On another note, researchers and activists in Hauran see that southern culture is based more on family relations than on tribal allegiance, because tribes are composed of large numbers of people, whereas there are many families in the plains region that have tribal connections which cross borders but whose presence remains concentrated in areas specific to each one of them. This is accentuated by the region’s agrarian character, which greatly diminishes nomadic tendencies and expands the influence of the family’s elders, who solve internal problems, reconcile disputes between people or give aid to any distressed member of the expanded Haurani family….

“Tribalism, on the other hand, leads to destructive armed conflicts and never-ending feuds. The concept of tribal solidarity might be the only one that southern families took with them to the city, a concept that Hauran‘s inhabitants point to when describing the uprising in the whole region against the regime. Everyone took to the streets without hesitation, before the Syrian crisis even erupted, to demonstrate and demand the release of some detained children. This solidarity also succeeded in thwarting any attempts to incite strife between them and their neighbors in the Jabal al-Druze, who reciprocated and snuffed out the flames of any possible conflict between themselves and the Hauranis….”

so, the tribe/clan leaders of the south pressured their members not to enter into conflict with their usual rivals? so clannishness can sometimes be a power for cooperation. hmmmm….

The region’s [i.e. the north - h.chick] inhabitants might be more prone to tribal fanaticism than their counterparts in the south. Tribal customs still prevail, especially in the countryside, which has begun to urbanize, but which still abides by many tribal concepts. This is mainly due to wide-ranging marginalization seen throughout the area, while cities seem to be in a much better state. The influence of tribal leaders there [i.e. in the cities - h.chick] waned until is became nearly nonexistent, due to two main factors: first, the large number of different tribes, and second, the urbanization of younger generations….

“The regime or the opposition: Who will win the clans?

“It wasn’t until the crisis was in its fourth month that anyone in the regime or the opposition considered playing on tribal sensitivities to mobilize clans in their favor. This occurred after organizers held demonstrations on what came to be known as the ‘Friday of the clans’….”

جمعة العشائر << "friday of the clans" — that, apparently, was a protest against the assad regime in june 2011 organized by opposition forces via facebook. a bunch of people were killed, of course.

“…As a result, a concerted large-scale campaign was initiated to win over the clans and provoke them into bearing arms against the regime, which, in turn, strove to reinvigorate tribalism and set about organizing meetings with tribal elders, mobilizing them through the media in an attempt to portray the clans as pro regime. In parallel, a tribal presence was now mandatory at all opposition meetings….

The foremost danger lies in the formation of armed militias by clans to fight against other clans based on their support for or opposition to the regime, which would surely lead the country into civil war….

“An activist in Hasakah, viewed as the perfect example of a tribal society, replied that the regime had intentionally let tribal elders rule those areas since the 1970s in return for absolute allegiance. Some of those elders even became members of the People’s Council representing their districts as a reward for that allegiance….

“But this model seemed to lose its effectiveness this time around in most areas. For despite the presence of many clans completely loyal to the regime, especially in rural Aleppo, Riqa and Hasakah, their influence remains limited when compared to the larger clans whose elders have completely lost any authority over the young clansmen. They have also lost their influence over the clans that have abandoned tribalism in favor of agrarianism, therefore succeeding in sparing themselves from any tribal conflict. The end result is a society that seems bent on trying to avoid any disintegration of its cohesiveness, regardless of political, tribal or sectarian considerations. As such, it is a true rarity in the midst of this conflict, and represents the only common goal over which both supporters and opponents of the regime agree: preventing the revival of tribalism.”

well, good luck with that. =/
_____

and the second article:

“Hezbollah Defends Shiite Villages In Syria War”
“February 20, 2013

“Several days ago, Hezbollah fighters guarding Shiite Lebanese citizens living in and around 14 Lebanese villages located in Syrian territory clashed with armed opposition groups affiliated with radical Sunni Islamist factions. The incident, the first of its kind, portends a possible transition of Syria’s sectarian strife to Lebanon….

“Since the start of the turmoil in Syria — which was accompanied by sectarian categorization between the Sunni Muslims, most of them against the Syrian regime, and the Alawite and Shiite Muslims who support it — the Sykes-Picot Agreement has had negative effects on the demographic balance in that region. Security incidents have taken place more than once during recent months among these Shiite villages, which are located in the middle of the smuggling line in the countryside between the Lebanese town of Arsal, Al-Qa’, Lake Homs, Al-Qusayr and Talkalakh.

Shia citizens from the adjacent Lebanese region of Hermel quickly became involved in these tensions. They belong to large clans, which have a social system that values ​the ‘support of relatives.’ In the current situation, they are Lebanese Shiite villagers living on Syrian territory, who complain that they are being subjected to attempts of forceful displacement by their Sunni Syrian neighbors.

“Last summer, military skirmishes took place between the Sunni town of Al-Qusayr, which is located behind the Syrian border and considered a stronghold of the armed opposition in its countryside, which is also the northern part of the countryside of the city of Homs — and between Lebanese residents in the Hermel region.

“Private sources have revealed to Al-Monitor that during one of these skirmishes, Jabhat al-Nusra militants attacked a Hezbollah training camp in the Hermel region from the Al-Qusayr countryside, killing and wounding 10 Hezbollah members. This was followed by a retaliatory operation by Hezbollah, which resulted in the killing of many members of the Syrian opposition.

“In general, Hezbollah is cautious about stepping into the sectarian strife raging in Syria. However, the issue of providing protection for the 14 Shiite villages located inside Syrian territory within the Al-Qusayr countryside arose as a challenge for the party before its social base in the Hermel region. It seems that the party has made the decision to protect these villages and prevent the people’s displacement based on the following considerations:

First, there are familial links between the residents of the Hermel region and those of the 14 Lebanese Shiite villages located inside Syrian territory. It should be noted that Hermel, in Lebanon’s Bekaa region, is considered as a popular reservoir for Hezbollah and its resistance apparatus. Accordingly, the party cannot turn its back to their appeal for help to save their relatives inside Syria from killing and displacement. Moreover, the Hamadah clan, one of the major clans in Hermel, owns vast areas of Lebanese territories that were cut off in the Sykes-Picot Agreement in the interest of Syria, and they still have the documents proving their ownership of these lands….”

yeah, i bet they do. old (clannish) grudges die hard.

it’s really irritating (if i bother to think about it, which i mostly don’t anymore) that the msm fails to mention ANYthing about clans/tribes in the middle east. EVER. or almost never anyway. rarely. instead it’s all just “arab springs” and “freedom fighters” in syria or bahrain or wherever. what a bunch of nonsense! i wonder if they (teh msm journalists) are really that clueless, or what?

previously: clans in the news: aleppo and clans in the news: the lebanon and syria and syrian tribes and more on syrian marriage and family types

(note: comments do not require an email. cool syrian music.)

oh, yes. saudi arabia. due for a “day of rage” tomorrow. (does that mean we’ll see the return of islamic rage boy?! oh, goodie! remember, tho — those folks don’t like to be made fun of!)

just don’t get fooled by the reports of sectarian violence and sunnis versus shias and all that. what it’ll be is tribal violence. it ain’t got nuthin’ to do with religious sects. it might seem so, but all that’s only on the surface. the sectarian divide(s) are just reflecting tribal (i.e. genetic relatedness) divides.

a lot (most?) of the shia minority in saudi arabia is found on the persian gulf. these people are baharna tribes — just like the shia in bahrain. there are some also other shias found in the south towards yemen.

the ruling saud family, and the wahhabis and salafis, are all related tribes from the central part of arabia. they are not (so) related to the baharnas or the folks down towards yemen. they’re all arabs, sure, but they’re all from different tribes. the sauds, et. al., are ruling over (somewhat) unrelated peoples who might just be getting fed up with the sitch. they are the ones that are gonna be spreading all the rage.

i would guess some of the saudi citizens along the red sea might also join in the action. these are the hashemite tribes who lost out to the al sauds when the “nation” of saudi arabia was founded. i’m guessing they might be generally p*ssed off, too.

and now … your daily hadith:

Narrated Wathilah ibn al-Asqa: I asked, “Messenger of Allah! What is tribalism?” The Prophet, peace be upon him, replied, “That you help your people in wrongdoing.”

[Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 41, Number 5100]

previously: aígyptos, baharnas and ajams and howalas, oh my! and libya – land o’ tribes

update: see also “Saudi Arabia without King Abdullah” for a good breakdown of who’s who in saudi arabian tribal politics.

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