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The Early Islamic Mawālī: A Window Onto Processes Of Identity Construction And Social Change

The mawālī (sg. mawlā) were key players in early Islamic history. Scholars have long noted that they participated in political revolts, religious movements, Islamic scholarship, translation projects, and other activities that influenced Islamic society in direct and active ways. Yet, the term mawlā itself remains difficult to define: the term is usually translated as client or freedman, but it can also mean patron, kinsman, ally, friend, convert, non-Arab Muslim, or several of these things at once. Because of this range and flexibility of meaning, I argue that the mawālī create a conceptual prism for understanding broader social phenomena of the early Islamic period. In particular, this dissertation reveals how the mawālī are associated with the Quran's foundation of an Islamic community; debates about the role of genealogy in structuring society and politics; different expressions of belonging, group affiliation, and self-identification; and motherhood and mothers' contribution to their children's social identity. The ultimate goal of this analysis is to shed light on the sweeping socio-political changes that propelled the first century and a half of Islamic history.




THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO THE EARLY ISLAMIC MAW!L": A WINDOW ONTO PROCESSES OF IDENTITY CONSTRUCTION AND SOCIAL CHANGE A DISSERTATION SUBMITTED TO THE FACULTY OF THE DIVISION OF THE HUMANITIES IN CANDIDACY FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY DEPARTMENT OF NEAR EASTERN LANGUAGES AND CIVILIZATIONS BY ELIZABETH URBAN CHICAGO, ILLINOIS JUNE 2012 UMI Number: 3513525 All rights reserved INFORMATION TO ALL USERS The quality of this reproduction is dependent on the quality of the copy submitted. In the unlikely event that the author did not send a complete manuscript and there are missing pages, these will be noted. Also, if material had to be removed, a note will indicate the deletion. UMI 3513525 Copyright 2012 by ProQuest LLC. All rights reserved. This edition of the work is protected against unauthorized copying under Title 17, United States Code. ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway P.O. Box 1346 Ann Arbor, MI 48106 - 1346 Copyright © 2012 by Elizabeth Urban. All rights reserved. In loving memory of my grandparents, Bob, Marjorie, J., and Betty TABLE OF CONTENT S LIST OF TABLES vii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS viii ABSTRACT x INTRODUCTION 1 Literature Review 4 Methodology and Organization 6 CHAPTER ONE: “They are Your Brothers i n Religion and Your Maw!l"”: The Quranic Transformation of the Ter m Mawl! 12 I. Setting the Semantic Stage: The Arabic Root WLY in the Quran 15 II. Attestations of Mawl! in the Quran: Conceptual Layers 24 A. The First Layer: Speaking to a Pre-Islamic Audience 24 B. The Second Layer: God as Mawl! 28 C. The Third Layer: Internal Workings of the Umma 30 Conclusions 44 CHAPTER TWO: Ab! Bakra, Mawl! of the Prophet? Problematizing Early Islamic Wal!# 46 iv I. Unconditional Manumission in an Arabian Milieu 49 A. The One Set Loose by God and His Apostle 50 B. Supplementary Evidence for a Lack of Wal!" 59 II. Good Brother, Bad Brother: Ab! Bakra as a Foil to Ziy"d b. Ab#hi 64 Conclusions 84 CHAPTER THREE: Maw!l# and $Ajam in Times of Trouble: The Dynamic Discourses of Belonging and Otherness 86 I. The First Civil War: Setting the Stage 93 II. The Second Civil War: Social Disruption and Sharaf in Iraq 97 A. Al-Mukht"r’s Rebellion: Maw!l# as a Symbol of Chaos 98 B. Debates about Sharaf 104 C. Maw!l# and $Ajam: Historical Development or Later Conflation? 110 III. New Group Affiliations: Government, Faction, and Religion 113 A. Service to the House of Umayya 115 B. Competing Discourses in the East: Factionalism, Alterity, and Religion 119 Conclusions 135 CHAPTER FOUR: The Counterparts of the Maw!l#: Slave Mothers and Their Children 138 I. Searching for the Umm Walad 141 II. The Political Trajectory from Maslama to Marw"n II 148 A. The Factional Model of Socio-Political Change 149 v B. The Great Men Model of Socio-Political Change 153 III. The Changing Rhetoric of Motherhood 157 A. The “My Mother is a Secret Princess” Model 158 B. The Questionable Paternity Model 160 C. The Islamic Models of Hagar and M!riya the Copt 162 Conclusions 174 CONCLUSIONS 176 The Big Picture 177 BIBLIOGRAPHY 181 vi LIST OF TABLES Table 1: Variations of the “man idda!"” Hadith 75 vii ACKNOWLEDGME NTS I am deeply grateful to many people for their love, support, friendship, and guidance throughout the years I have spent writing this dissertation. The first thanks—now, as always— goes to my parents. They have directly supported my academic career by reading numerous chapter drafts, conference abstracts, and job applications. But more importantly, they raised me to work hard, to value compassion, to cultivate an open and inquisitive mind, and to seek knowledge not just for knowledge’s sake, but in order to actively improve my self and the world around me. I cannot thank them enough for their unconditional love and moral guidance. I would also like to thank my siblings (my sister Catherine, my brother Dave, and my sister-in-law Celina) and extended family for their love, support, and funny Youtube videos. No matter how rewarding and exhilarating it can be to discover a fascinating research topic or complete a dissertation chapter, it can never compare to the joy of sharing a Thanksgiving meal with my family. Next, I would like to thank my dissertation advisor and number-one advocate, Fred Donner. His insightful teaching, advice, and encouragement have molded me into the scholar I am today. I am also grateful for the devoted guidance of my other committee members, Tahera Qutbuddin, Ahmed El Shamsy, former member Wadad Kadi, and Richard Bulliet. Many other scholars and mentors have also pushed me to become a better academic and have helped propel my fledgling academic career, among them Farouk Mustafa, Kay Heikkinen, Bruce Craig, Marlis Saleh, Donald Whitcomb, John Woods, Michael Sells and Walter Kaegi. To these viii and my other teachers, I owe my sincerest gratitude. Last but not least, I must thank my friends and colleagues. Without any doubt, first thanks goes to my dear friend and colleague, Jennifer London. She has read so many of my chapter drafts, bought me so many cups of coffee, and offered so many warm words of love and encouragement, that I cannot imagine how I could have finished this dissertation without her. I would also like to thank my friends Tanya Treptow, Katharyn Hason, Dan Mahoney, Emran El-Badawi, Sean Anthony, Catherine Bronson, Mehmetcan Akpinar, Rana Mikati, Rasheed Hosein, Ed Hayes, Cameron Cross, Kaveh Hemmat, Rahaf Kalaaji, and all the folks from Early Islamic Lunch. I only hope I have been as much help for them as they have been for me. ix ABST RACT DISSERTATION TITLE: The Early Islamic Maw!l": A Window onto Processes of Identity Construction and Social Change NAME: Elizabeth Urban COMMITTEE CHAIR: Fred M. Donner COMMITTEE: Tahera Qutbuddin; Ahmed El Shamsy; Richard W. Bulliet The maw!l" (sg. mawl!) were key players in early Islamic history. Scholars have long noted that they participated in political revolts, religious movements, Islamic scholarship, translation projects, and other activities that influenced Islamic society in direct and active ways. Yet, the term mawl! itself remains difficult to define: the term is usually translated as client or freedman, but it can also mean patron, kinsman, ally, friend, convert, non-Arab Muslim, or several of these things at once. Because of this range and flexibility of meaning, I argue that the maw!l" create a conceptual prism for understanding broader social phenomena of the early Islamic period. In particular, this dissertation reveals how the maw!l" are associated with the Quran’s foundation of an Islamic community; debates about the role of genealogy in structuring society and politics; different expressions of belonging, group affiliation, and self- identification; and motherhood and mothers’ contribution to their children’s social identity. The ultimate goal of this analysis is to shed light on the sweeping socio-political changes that propelled the first century and a half of Islamic history. x INT RODUCTIO N The early Islamic period was a time of great transformation in the Near East. In the early seventh century CE, a new world order erupted from the Arabian peninsula, propelled by the preaching of the Prophet Muhammad and carried out by the Arabian tribes now united under the banner of Islam.1 These armies toppled the Persian Sasanian Empire, crippled the Byzantine Empire, and spread the political hegemony of Islam from Spain to India. Arabia was the last place anyone would have expected a new world order to spring from. Not only did it have an inhospitable climate, but it also lacked a central state apparatus. Most of the political, legal, social, and religious functions that one might associate with a centralized state were carried out by the Arabian tribal system.2 Belonging to a tribe gave a person his name and identity; provided him with sustenance, wellbeing, and physical protection; and determined his marriages and other kinship connections. It was into this world that Muhammad brought his message of Islam. However, when Muhammad emigrated to Medina with his faithful followers in 622 CE, he 1 F. Donner has demonstrated that these armies were disparate tribes united by Islam, not by some overriding “Arab” cultural identity. Donner, The Early Islamic Conquests. Moreover, these conquests did not spread the religion of Islam, but only the political rule of the Muslim elite. Conversion initially occurred at a slow rate, which in fact seems to be a crucial factor in the development of a class called the maw!l", which seems to have largely disappeared when conversion rates accelerated and Islam became the majority religion. (See Bulliet, Conversion to Islam; Bulliet, “Onomastic Evidence.”) 2 Although some scholars have argued that the tribal system had already ceased to function properly in Mecca before Muhammad’s day (see Watt, Muhammad at Mecca; Robertson Smith, Marriage and Kinship), the concept of tribalism was nevertheless pervasive and at least nominally operative throughout Arabia. 1 founded a new polity headed not by the tribal leaders but by himself as the Prophet of God. This devaluation of the tribes and emphasis on a new centralized religious and political authority worked well in Muhammad’s lifetime, when Islam had not spread far beyond the Arabian peninsula and the community was still united by their acceptance of the Prophet’s singular authority. But within a few decades after the Prophet’s death, the situation had changed: the political hegemony of Islam was spreading rapidly in all directions, a tiny Muslim minority was coming to rule over a vast non-Muslim population, and various internal disputes were beginning to flare up among the Muslims themselves. Without the charismatic leadership of the Prophet, the new Muslim polity needed an overarching system to hold it together.3 The most readily available system was the familiar Arabian tribal system, which was now mapped on to the state apparatus as an organizing principle. For instance, people registered in the Muslim army according to tribe, and the newly built garrison towns of Basra and Kufa were organized by tribal neighborhood. By the time of the first dynasty of Islam, the Umayyad dynasty (41–132/661–749),4 the Islamic state had come to rely almost completely on the Arabian tribal elite for its leadership and its organization. This political tribalism, too, only functioned for a short time as the organizing principle of the Islamic empire. As the Umayyad armies continued to bring new lands under Islamic rule, as people migrated away from their tribal homelands towards the frontiers and garrison towns, and as ever more non-Arabian Muslims joined the community through conquest and conversion, the tribal system became increasingly 3 To speak in Weberian terms, the charismatic power of the Prophet needed to be routinized. 4 In this dissertation, all dates from the Islamic era are given first as hijr" (AH) dates, and then as common era (CE) dates. (= AH/CE). 2 obsolete. In its stead, there arose a political system based on two polarized military factions: the Northern Arabs and the Southern Arabs. These factions were based not on tribal kinship networks, but on the ideology of shared descent through the paternal line from one of two distant ancestors—Qa!t"n for the Southern faction, #Adn"n for the Northern faction. This factionalism was associated with new forms of political rhetoric and social identity; it was also inherently unstable, and it devolved into a full-fledged civil war from which the Umayyad dynasty would never recover.5 When the Abbasids overthrew the Umayyad dynasty in 132/749, they also eschewed factional politics and instituted more stable, centralized, and explicitly Islamic systems of rule. Because of this sea change between the Umayyad period and Abbasid period, the Umayyad period is remembered as a period of rampant “Arabism” and an un-Islamic sense of hierarchy and inequality, while the Abbasid period is remembered as a time of cosmopolitanism, egalitarianism, and Islamic values. Undoubtedly, these characterizations of Umayyad Arabism and Abbasid egalitarianism are exaggerated,6 but there does seem to have been a genuine socio-political shift between the Umayyad and the Abbasid periods. The mechanics of this shift are still poorly understood. Although we have some general sense of why this shift happened— geographic expansion, demographic change, the elaboration of Islamic values—scholars still struggle to understand exactly when and where it was happening, who exactly was making it happen, and how people were explaining, justifying, and reacting to it. It is 5 This shift from tribalism to factionalism will be discussed more thoroughly, especially in Chapters 3 and 4. It is based on the argument of Patricia Crone’s Slaves on Horses. 6 Given that most of our historical sources were written down in the Abbasid period, these exaggerations are not surprising. 3 precisely these questions about the mechanisms of social change that I hope to address by looking through the lens of the early Islamic maw!l". The term mawl! began as a tribal designation in pre-Islamic Arabian society.7 It indicated a contract of mutual aid or alliance,8 and it was used as a means for incorporating outsiders (including manumitted slaves) into a tribe and giving them a much-needed tribal identity. In this setting, the maw!l" were those members of a tribe who were not born into the tribe but who instead made a socio-legal contract to become part of the tribe by affiliation. In the Islamic period, this same term maw!l" continued to be used describe outsiders who were incorporated into society, but its meaning was becoming increasingly complicated. The tribal meaning of maw!l" continued to operate, but Islam also created a new type of community—the umma, or religious community—into which people could be incorporated as maw!l". Moreover, when the tribal system began to break down, as I have indicated above, new forms of belonging and assimilation were described using the old tribal vocabulary of maw!l". In short, the term maw!l" is a chameleon, changing its valence to match its historical environment, but it very often reveals information about the assimilation of outsiders and the navigation of social boundaries. 7 Although, the concept may have roots stretching back to the Ancient Near East; Old Babylonian societies had a shadowy social class called the mushkenum who resembled the early Islamic maw!l" in some respects (Soden, “Mu$k%num und Maw"l&.”) 8 In pre-Islamic Arabia, an entire tribe would often become the maw!l" of another tribe, meaning simply that they formed an alliance of mutual protection and cooperation. (See Juda, “Die sozialen und wirkschaftlichen Aspekte,” Introduction and Ch. 1; Crone, Roman Provincial and Islamic Law, Chapter 4). 4 Literature Review My research is built on a solid foundation of previous scholarship on the maw!l". The groundwork was laid by Orientalist scholarship in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such as Ignác Golziher’s monumental Muslim Studies and Julius Wellhausen’s The Arab Kingdom and its Fall. Such scholars tended to focus on the Arabs’ bias against the maw!l", the maw!l"’s role in overthrowing the unjust Umayyad regime, and the cultural and intellectual contributions of the maw!l" to a seemingly backward Arab society.9 Counter to these trends, the mid-twentieth century saw a renewal of Arab scholarly interest in the maw!l"—most notably in Mu!ammad Bad&# al-Shar&f’s Al- #ir!$ bayna al-Maw!l" wa-al-$Arab and Mu!ammad al-'ayyib al-Najj"r’s Al-Maw!l" f" al-$A%r al-Umaw". These works were inspired by the Pan-Arab nationalist movement flourishing in that period, and these scholars tended to project their modern nationalist sentiments about the “clash” between Arabs and Persians/Iranians onto the events of early Islamic history. The late 1970s and early 1980s witnessed a reaction to both the Orientalist and Arab Nationalist scholarship on the maw!l". On the one hand, the prominent revisionist scholar Patricia Crone produced two important works on the maw!l". The first is Slaves on Horses, in which she outlines the collapse of the tribal-based political structure of the Umayyad state and reveals the maw!l" as the forerunners of the military slaves (maml&ks) who were a characteristic feature of many later Islamic polities.10 The second 9 Harald Motzki has highlighted the anti-Arab bias inherent in the notion that the maw!l" contributed more to Islamic scholarship than did the Arabs, see “The Role of Non-Arab Converts.” 10 This book was instrumental in shaping my understanding of Umayyad politics, particularly the breakdown of tribalism and the rise of factionalism. However, I reject the notion that the development of 5 is Roman Provincial and Islamic Law, in which she argues that the origins of Islamic clientage (wal!') are to be found in Roman Provincial law rather than in pre-Islamic Arabian custom. On the other hand, the Arab scholars Jamal Juda and Ma!m(d Miqd"d rejected the earlier Arab nationalist theory of a “clash” between Arabs and non-Arabs, opting instead for a more nuanced view of the social, economic, political, and intellectual history of the maw!l" in the Umayyad period. These two scholars focus on social issues such as the economic status of the maw!l", their occupations, their marriages, and other forms of their participation in early Islamic society. Scholars studying the maw!l" today continue to refine their methodologies and to extend their attention to new areas. The recently published edited volume, Patronate and Patronage in Early and Classical Islam, is a good illustration of the current state of the field. Its authors use a variety of techniques to study the early Islamic maw!l"—hadith analysis, textual analysis, quanitative analysis, etc.—and reveal that the avenues for studying the maw!l" are almost limitless. Yet, the contributors to this volume also arrive at different conclusions about what the term mawl!/maw!l" means, whether or not the maw!l" formed a cohesive social group, and other fundamental questions. In the end, this volume reveals that our questions about the maw!l" still far outnumber our answers. Method ology and Organization When reviewing the previous scholarship on the maw!l", certain problems in outlook and methodology become manifest. As for outlook, many authors consciously military slavery represented a “failure” of the Islamic state. Daniel Pipes’ Slave Soldiers and Islam is essentially a repetition and elaboration of Crone’s argument in Slaves on Horses. 6 or unconsciously adopt an ideological agenda, whether it is Goldziher’s Orientalism, Sharif’s Arab nationalism, Pipes’ desire to prove the “failure” of the Islamic political project, or Miqd"d’s rosy-eyed universalism. In short, all of these authors have some essentialist point of view that they hope to substantiate by using the past to explain the present. While it is impossible to filter all personal perspectives and biases out of one’s research, I strive to view the source material in its own light, avoiding anachronistic analyses and ideological interpretations to the best of my ability. I particularly try to avoid foisting the concepts of nationalism and ethnicity onto the early Islamic maw!l". To be candid about my own motivations in pursuing the topic of the maw!l", my historical outlook has been shaped by social historians who look at society “from below,” including as the master, Howard Zinn. I am interested in slaves, women, minorities, and marginalized groups because I find it important to rediscover those historical voices that have long been muted. This interest in the underdog also makes me sympathetic to the Umayyads themselves—even though they were most definitely social elites—because they are so thoroughly maligned in Islamic historical memory. While the Umayyad rulers and governors were certainly flawed humans, they were also often ju