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Emet m'Tsiyon

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Sociology of Arab Imperialism -- Part Three

President Bush believes that Islam is a "religion of peace." Be that as it may, Professor Schumpeter was of a different opinion.

[Schumpeter, Imperialism, p 36]
". . . the call for war on behalf of the faith --the jihad--. . . the most important practical demand, the normal outward attitude of the faithful. Partly as a result of this ideological orientation, partly as its consequence, there came into being a practical fighting organization, which reduced the element of inner communion to the role of a means for self-discipline on the part of the warrior, and to which the Bedouins took like ducks to water. Both ideology and organization proved their vitality and grew with the task for which they had been created -- the struggle for Mecca and the unifying conversion of the Arab tribes. And when, suddenly, they had arrived, become firm, grown into a power, they followed the impulse they had received. Mohammed himself attempted to reach beyond Arabia (the campaign of Said), though without success. Abu Bekr, having developed the new politico-military organization and secured it against uprisings, invaded Syria without difficulty. Yet the new clerical warrior state remained democratic, despite the Caliph's wealth of temporal and clerical power. It could do so, because it had grown straight from the people. Loot was community property, to be distributed according to military rank. Not until Othman was the acquisition of land in the conquered countries permitted. The original idea had been that the Arabs would [p 37] remain a master class, merely establishing garrisons. Under Omar . . ."
. . . Arab-Muslim invasions continued, occupying in a short period Persia, the Land of Israel, Syria and Lebanon of today, and Egypt.

The Arabs had defeated two mighty empires, the Persian and Byzantine, that were exhausted from decades of struggle against each other. Then North Africa and Spain [the Visigoths were defeated in Spain in the 7th century]. However, the Arab advance in the West was stopped at Poitiers in middle France by the Frankish chieftain Charles Martel:

"Frankish might rather than any lack of Arab will put an end to further penetration" in the West. Meanwhile, in the eastern Mediterranean, "The Arab wave spent itself against Byzantium," which Arab armies besieged twice and failed to conquer twice. "In Asia it was the same story. Many armed actions still succeeded. A halt was called only when it was impossible to push on. And whenever a halt was called, internal difficulties erupted, destroying the empire in the end." As the centuries went on, Arab rulers increasingly used Turkish tribes converted to Islam to do their fighting and protect the rulers. Eventually these Turkish warriors became the effective rulers themselves, the Arab Abbasid caliph remaining as a nominal sovereign. Of course, as one would expect among the Arabs, one dynasty and one sect fought another, sometimes sectarian warfare combining with dynastic ambitions. And the armies of Turkomans joined in the destructive festivities. All this occurred before the Crusades, when Fatimids ruled an empire from Egypt, Abbasids ruled in Bagdad, Hamdanids and Tulunids had ruled as well, not forgetting the depredations in the Land of Israel of the Arab-Muslim Karmathian sect, etc.

Note that Arab society in the conquered territories was originally meant to maintain the Arabs as an exploitative ruling class over the conquered non-Muslims, and that war was necessary to prevent "internal difficulties." Further, the conquests would have continued indefinitely if they had not been stopped by equal or superior military force.

There is also a hint of communism in Schumpeter's account. "Loot was community property." Some mad "leftist" historians and sociologists, such as one Maxime Rodinson, operating in France, have waxed poetic over the "communism" of the Arabs. That is, the loot that they seized from conquered and occupied peoples became the community property, waqf, of the Arab Muslims. Is this what the Left of today wants us to admire in Islam?

The early Arab Muslim empire existed not merely on loot from the conquered and occupied peoples, but on taxes regularly collected from them. At the beginning, only the non-Muslims paid taxes, which at the very beginning remained as they were under the previous regime [Byzantine, Persian]. However, as time went on, the tax burden became more onerous, whether because the Arab state needed more money, or because conversions to Islam --not allowed at the beginning-- reduced the size of the tax base, or for both of these reasons, and perhaps others. Eventually, Muslims too had to pay taxes, although these were always much less than those paid by non-Muslims, dhimmis. The taxes paid by non-Muslims, by unbelievers, infidels, were considered tribute, in line with the Quranic verse 9:29, which exhorts the Muslims to fight the unbelievers until they are brought low and pay tribute. This tribute too was communal property, giving the mad Leftists like Rodinson and others a pretext to idealize Islam as "communist" [of course, it's all a matter of definition. Maybe communism means exploitation of non-Muslim occupied peoples].
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to be continued
The low status of Jews in Arab-Muslim society .
Poems of Zion
Jews in Jerusalem and the Land of Israel under Muslim rule, particularly in the 19th century


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