Part 6

The reliance of sedentary people on laws destroys their fortitude and power of resistance

by Ibn Khaldun Icon

This is because not everyone is master of his own affairs. Their leaders are few.

As a rule, man must by necessity be dominated by someone else.

Self-reliance eventually becomes a natural quality to the people if :

  • their leaders are kind and just
  • the people are not oppressed by their laws and restrictions
  • the people are guided by the courage or cowardice in themselves.

They become satisfied with the absence of any restraining power.

If, however, the domination with its laws is one of brute force and intimidation, it breaks their fortitude and deprives them of their power of resistance as a result of the inertness that develops in the souls of the oppressed, as we shall explain.

Umar forbade Sa’d (b. Abi Waqqas) to exercise such arbitrary power when Zuhrah b. Hawiyah took the spoils of al-Jalinus.

  • The value of the spoils was 75,000 gold pieces.

Zuhrah had followed al-Jalinus on the day of al-Qadisiyah, killed him, and taken his spoils.

Sa’d took them away from him and said:

“Why did you not wait for my permission to follow him?”

He wrote to ‘Umar and asked ‘Umar for permission (to confiscate the spoils).

But ‘Umar replied, “Would you want to proceed against a man like Zuhrah, who already has borne so much of the brunt (of battle), 27 and while there still remains so much of the war for you (to finish)? Would you want to break his strength and morale?”

Thus, Umar confirmed (Zuhrah) in possession of the spoils. 28

When laws are enforced by means of punishment, they completely destroy fortitude, because the use of punishment against someone who cannot defend himself generates in that person a feeling of humiliation that, no doubt, must break his fortitude. When laws are (intended to serve the purposes of) education and instruction and are applied from childhood on, they have to some degree the same effect, because people then grow up in fear and docility and consequently do not rely on their own fortitude.

This is why greater fortitude is found among the savage Arab Bedouins than among people who are subject to laws. Furthermore, those who rely on laws and are dominated by them from the very beginning of their education and instruction in the crafts, sciences, and religious matters, are thereby deprived of much of their own fortitude.

They can scarcely defend themselves at all against hostile acts. This is the case with students, whose occupation it is to study and to learn from teachers and religious leaders, and who constantly apply themselves to instruction and education in very dignified gatherings.

This situation and the fact that it destroys the power of resistance and fortitude must be understood. It is no argument against the (statement just made) that the men around Muhammad observed the religious laws, and yet did not experience any diminution of their fortitude, but possessed the greatest possible fortitude. When the Muslims got their religion from the Lawgiver (Muhammad), the restraining influence came from themselves, as a result of the encouragement and discouragement he gave them in the Qur’an.

It was not a result of technical instruction or scientific education. (The laws) were the laws and precepts of the religion, which they received orally and which their firmly rooted (belief in) the truth of the articles of faith caused them to observe.

Their fortitude remained unabated, and it was not corroded by education or authority. ‘Umar said, “Those who are not educated (disciplined) by the religious law are not educated (disciplined) by God.” 30

(This statement expresses) ‘Umar’s desire that everyone should have his restraining influence in himself. It also expresses his certainty that the Lawgiver (Muhammad) knew best what is good for mankind.

(The influence of) religion, then, decreased among men, and they came to use restraining laws. The religious law became a branch of learning and a craft to be acquired through instruction and education. People turned to sedentary life and assumed the character trait of submissiveness to law. This led to a decrease in their fortitude.

Thus, governmental and educational laws destroy fortitude because their restraining influence is something that comes from outside.

The religious laws, on the other hand, do not destroy fortitude, because their restraining influence is something inherent. Therefore, governmental and educational laws influence sedentary people, in that they weaken their souls and diminish their stamina, because they have to suffer (their authority) both as children and as adults. The Bedouins, on the other hand, are not in the same position, because they live far away from the laws of government, instruction, and education.

Therefore, Abu Muhammad b. Abi Zayd,31 in his book on the laws governing teachers and students (Ahkam al-mu’allimin wa-lmuta’allimin), said= “The educator must not strike a boy more than three times (in one punishment) as an educational measure.” 32

Ibn Abi Zayd reported this remark on the authority of Judge Shurayh. 33

Certain scholar(s) argued in favor of the procedure mentioned, by referring to the threefold choking mentioned in the tradition concerned with the beginning of revelation. 34 This, however, is a weak argument. (The tradition about the) choking is not suitable proof, because it has nothing to do with ordinary instruction. God “is wise and knowing.” 35


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