Part 11

Leadership cannot be handed to those not of the same descent

by Ibn Khaldun Icon

This is because leadership exists only through superiority, and superiority only through group feeling. 61

Therefore, the leadership over people must come from a group feeling that is superior to each individual group feeling.

Each individual group feeling that becomes aware of the superiority of the leader’s group feeling is ready to obey that leader.

A person who has become attached to people of a common descent usually does not share the group feeling arising from their common descent. He is merely attached to them. 62 The firmest connection he has with the group is as client and ally.

This in no way guarantees his superiority over them. Assuming that he has developed close contact with them, that he has mixed with them, that the fact that he was originally merely attached to them has been forgotten, and that he has become one of their skin and is addressed as one having the same descent as they, how could he, or one of his forebears, have acquired leadership before that process had taken place, since leadership is transmitted in one particular branch that has been marked for superiority through group feeling?

The fact that he was merely attached to the tribe was no doubt known at an earlier stage, and at that time prevented him (or rather, his forebears) from assuming leadership.

Thus, it could not have been passed on by a man who was still merely attached to the tribe. Leadership must of necessity be inherited from the person who is entitled to it, in accordance with the fact, which we have stated, that superiority results from group feeling.

Many leaders of tribes or groups are eager to acquire certain pedigrees. They desire them because persons of that particular descent possessed some special virtue, such as bravery, or nobility, or fame, however this may have come about. They go after such a family and involve themselves in claims to belong to a branch of it.

They do not realize that they thus bring suspicion upon themselves with regard to their leadership and nobility.

This is why the Zanatah claim to be Arabs. The Awlad Rabab, who are known as the Hijazis and who belong to the Banu ‘Amir, one of the branches of the Zughbah, claim that they belong to the Banu Sulaym and, in particular, to the Sharid, a branch of the Bani Sulayin.

Their ancestor is said to have joined the Banu ‘Amir as a carpenter who made biers. He mixed with them and developed a close contact with them. Finally, he became their leader was called al-Hijazi. Similarly, the Banu ‘Abd-al-Qawi b. al-‘Abbas of the Tiljin claim to be descendants of al-‘Abbas b. ‘Abd-alMuttalib, because they want to have noble descent from the family of the Prophet, and hold a mistaken opinion concerning the name of al-‘Abbas b. ‘Asiyah, the father of ‘Abd-alQawi.

It is not known that any ‘Abbasid ever entered the Maghrib.

From the beginning of the ‘Abbasid dynasty and thereafter, the Maghrib was under the influence of the Idrisids and the ‘Ubaydid(-Fatimids), ‘Alid enemies of the ‘Abbasids.

No ‘Abbasid would have become attached to a Shi’ah.Similarly, the Zayyanids, the ‘Abd-al-Wadid rulers (of Tlemcen), claim to be descendants of al-Qasim b. Idris, basing their claim on the fact that their family is known to have descended from al-Qasim.

In their own Zanitah dialect, they are called Ait al-Qasim 63 that is, Banu-l-Qasim. They claim that the Qasim (after whom they are named) was alQasim b. Idris, or al-Qasim b. Muhammad b. Idris. If that were true, all that can be said concerning that Qasim is that he fled his own realm and attached himself to (the Zanatah group of the ‘Abd-al-Wad).

How, then, could he have gained complete leadership over them in the desert?

The story is an error resulting from the name of al-Qasim, which is very frequent among the Idrisids.

The Zayyanids, therefore, thought that their Qasim was an Idrisid. But after all, they hardly need so spurious a genealogy.

They gained royal authority and power through their group feeling, not through claims to ‘Alid, ‘Abbasid, or other descent.

These things are invented by people to get into the good graces of rulers, through (sycophantic) behavior and through the opinions they express.

Their fabrications eventually become so well known as to be irrefutable. I have heard that Yaghamrasin 64 b. Zayyan, the founder of the Zayyanid rule, when he was asked about (the alleged Idrisid descent of his family), denied it.

He expressed himself in the Zanatah dialect as follows= “We gained worldly power and royal authority with our swords, not through (noble) family connections. The usefulness of (our royal authority for us) 64a in the next world depends on God.” And he turned away from the person who, in this way, had hoped to get into his good graces.

Another example is the claim of the Banu Sa’d, shaykhs of the Banu Yazid of the Zughbah, to be descendants of (the Caliph) Abu Bakr as-Siddiq. Then, there is the claim of the Banu Salimah, shaykhs of the Banu Yadlaltin (Idlelten) of the Titjin, that they belong to the Sulaym, as well as the claim of the Dawawidah, shaykhs of the Riyah, that they are descendants of the Barmecides. 65 We also hear that the Banu Muhanna’, amirs of the Tayy in the East, claim to be descendants of the Barmecides.

There are many such examples. The fact that these groups are the leaders among their peoples speaks against their claims to such pedigrees, as we have mentioned. Their common descent (with their people) must be pure, and they must enjoy the strongest possible group feeling (in their own tribe, to have gained the leadership). Were this taken into consideration, errors in this matter would be avoided.

The connection of the Mahdi of the Almohads with the ‘Alid family should not be considered a case of this type. The Mahdi did not belong to the leading family among his people, the Harghah. He became their leader after he had become famous for his knowledge and religion, and by virtue of the fact that the Masmudah tribe followed his call.

Yet, he belonged to a (Harghah) family of medium rank. 66

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