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MAHOMMEDAN INSTITUTIONS

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Originally appearing in Volume V17, Page 412 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MAHOMMEDAN INSTITUTIONS. Of all the institutions of Islam the caliphate is the oldest, the most fundamental, and in essence the most enduring. For its history see CALIPHATE; the present subject is its origin and nature. Mahomet enjoyed absolute rule over his people as a divinely inspired and guided prophet. He led the public prayers; he acted as judge; he ruled. If he consulted with others or paid attention to public feeling or local usage, it was as a matter of policy; the ultimate decision lay with himself. He was the state. On his death a leader was put in his place of similar authority, though withoutthe divine erophetic guidance. He was called the " successor " (khalifa, caliph) of the Prophet, later also the amir-al-mu'minin, commander of the faithful, and was elected by the The Call-Moslems, just as the Arab tribes had always elected phate. their chiefs. He was thus an absolute ruler, but was democratically elected; and such is the essence of the caliphate among Sunnite Moslems to this day. For them it has been a matter of agreement (see MAHOMHEDAN LAW) from the earliest times that the Moslem community must appoint such a leader (see IMAM). The Shiites, on the other hand, hold that the appointment lies with God, and that God always has appointed, though his appointment may not always have been known and accepted. Their position may be called a legitimist one. Some few heretical sects have held that the necessity of a leader was based on reason, not on the agreement of the community. But, for all, the rule of the leader thus appointed is absolute, and all authority is delegated from him and, in theory, can be resumed by him at any time. Just as God can require unreasoning obedience from his creatures (his " slaves " in Arabic), so can the caliph, his representative on earth. But Abu Bekr, the first caliph, nominated his successor, Omar, and that nomination was accepted and confirmed by the people. So a second precedent was fixed, which was again carried a step farther, when Moawiya I., the first Omayyad caliph, nominated his son, Yazid I., as his successor, and caused an oath of allegiance to be taken to him. The hereditary principle was thus introduced, though some relics of the form of election persisted and still persist. The true election possible in the early days of the small community at Medina became first a formal acceptance by the populace of the capital; then an assertion, by the palace guard, of their power; and now, in the investiture of the sultans of the Ottoman Turks, who claim the caliphate, a formal ceremony by the `ulema (q.v.) of Constantinople. The Ottoman claim is based on an asserted nomination by the last Abbasid, who died in exile in Egypt in 1538, of the Ottoman sultan, Suleiman the Great, as his successor. Such a nomination in itself was a perfectly legal act, but in this case had a fatal flaw. It is an absolute condition, laid down in tradition, that the caliph must be of the tribe of Koreish (Quraish), that of the Prophet. The duties of this democratically elected autocrat are, in theory, generally stated as follows. He shall enforce legal decisions and maintain the divinely revealed restrictive ordinances; guard the frontiers and equip armies; receive the alms; put down robberies, thieving, highwaymen; maintain the Friday services and the festivals; decide disputes and receive evidence bearing on legal claims; marry minors, male and female, who have no guardians; divide booty. He must be a free, male, adult Moslem; must have administrative ability; must be an effective governor and do justice to the wronged. So long as he fulfils these conditions he is to be absolutely obeyed; private immorality or even tyranny are not grounds for deposing him. This is a position reached by Islam practically. But a caliph who openly denied the faith would be as impossible as an unbelieving pope. The caliph, therefore, is the highest executive officer of a system assumed to be definite and fixed. He, in a word, administers Islam; and the content of Islam is determined by the agreement of the Moslem people, expressed immediately through the `ulema, and ultimately, if indirectly and half-consciously, by the people. To depose him a fatwa (see MUFTI) would be required—in Turkey from the Sheikh-ul-Islam—that he had violated some essential of the Moslem faith, and no longer fulfilled the conditions of a caliph. But it was impossible for the caliph personally to administer the affairs of the empire, and by degrees the supreme office was gradually put into commission, until the caliph himself The became a mere figurehead, and vanished into the sacred piwana. seclusion of his palace. The history of the creation of government bureaus (diwans; see DIVAN) must therefore now be sketched. The first need which appeared was that of a means of regulating and administering the system of taxation and the revenues of the state. Immense sums flowed into Medina from the Arab conquests; the surplus, after the requirements of the state were met, was distributed among the believers. All Moslems had a right to a certain share of this! which was regarded as booty. Omar, the second caliph, regulated this distribution and also the system of taxation, and the result was the first divan and the constitution of Omar, looked back to now by all Sunnite Moslems as an ideal. The sources of revenue were (i) the poor-rate (zakal), a tithe paid by every Moslem; (ii) the fifth of all booty; (iii) the poll-tax (jizya) on non-Moslems; and (iv) the land-tax (kharaj) also on non-Moslems. Thus the constitution determined the position of all non-Moslems in a Moslem state. The ideal was that the Moslems should be kept apart as a superior, fighting caste, and that the non-Moslems should support them (cf. CALIPHATE, B. § 8, on the reign of Omar II.). The Moslems, therefore, were for-bidden to acquire land in conquered countries. The non-Moslems must retain their lands, cultivate them and pay the land-tax (the Arabic word is also used of revenue from the work of a slave) and the poll-tax (the Arabic word means also " ransom "), and give contributions in kind to support the local Moslem garrisons which were massed in great camp-cities at strategic points. If a non-Moslem embraced Islam he entered the ruling caste; his land was distributed among his non-Moslem fellows, and he no longer paid the land-tax but rather received support from the public funds. The amount of these pensions varied with the standing of the pensioner from Io,000 dirhems (a dirhem equalled about a franc) to the widows and relations of the Prophet down to 300. This bureau had, therefore, not only to keep the books of the state, but also to maintain a list of all Moslems, classified genealogically and socially. Its registers were kept by Greeks, Copts and Persians; the Arabs, it may be said in general, adopted the method of ad-ministration which they found in the captured countries and drew upon the trained services of their inhabitants. Such a system led naturally to wholesale conversions to Islam; and the consequent decline in revenue, combined with large donations of lands by Othman, the third caliph, to his own family, gradually broke it down. The first patriarchal period of conquest, unearned wealth and the simple life -called by Moslems the period of the " four rightly guided caliphs," and very happily by Sachau, ein mOnchisches Imperium—passed rapidly into the genuinely Arab empire of the Omayyads, with whom came an immediate development of organization in the state. The constructive genius in this was Moawiya, the first Omayyad caliph. Under him the old simplicity vanished. A splendid and ceremonious court was maintained at Damascus. A chamberlain kept the door; a bodyguard surrounded the caliph, and even in the mosque the caliph, warned by the-murder of Othman and of Ali, prayed in a railed-off enclosure. The beginning of the seclusion of the caliph had come, and he no longer walked familiarly among his fellow Moslems. This seclusion increased still further when the administration of the state passed by delegation into other hands, and the caliph himself became a sacrosanct figure-head, as in the case of the later Abbasids; when theories of semi-divine nature and of theocratic rule appeared, as in the case of the Fatimites; and finally when all the elaborate court ritual of Byzantium was inherited by the Ottoman sultans. But Moawiya I. was still a very direct and personal ruler. He developed a post-system for the carrying of government despatches by relays, and thus received secret information from and kept control of the most distant provinces. He established a sealing-bureau by which state papers were secured against change. He dealt arbitrarily with the revenues of the state and the pensions of the Moslems. Governors of provinces were given a much freer hand, and were required to turn over to the central treasury their surplus revenue only. As they were either conquerors or direct successors of conquerors they had an essentially military government, and were really semi-independent rulers, unhampered except by direct action of the caliph, acting on information sent by the post-master, who was his local spy. Being thus the heads of armies of occupation, they were not necessarily charged with the control of religious ritual and of justice. These, like every other function, inhered in the office of the caliph and he generally appointed in each province independent cadis over the courts and imams to be in charge of religious services. Yet the governor was sometimes permitted to hold these two other offices (see CAOI; IMAM). Further administrative developments came with the Abbasids. They created a new city, Bagdad, between the Tigris and the Euphrates, where the three races, Syrian, Arab and Persian, met and sought with Bagdad as a capital to consolidate the empire. The Arab empire, it is true, had passed away with the Omayyads; yet there might be a chance to create a world-empire of all the Moslem peoples. But not even the genius and administrative skill of the early Abbasids could hold together that unwieldy mass. The semi-independent provinces soon became fully independent, or at most acknowledged the caliph as a spiritual head and paid a nominal tribute. His name might stand on the coinage and prayers be offered for him in the Friday service, the two signs of sovereignty to this day in Islam. With this crumbling of the empire went a more elaborate organization;bureaus took the place of principles and of the energy of indi vidual rulers, As the system of Moslem law was built on that of the Roman codes, so was the machinery of administration on that of Persia. And with the Abbasids the chance of the Persians had come. Abu '1-Abbas, the first Abbasid caliph, was the first to appoint a vizier (wazir, " helper," so Aaron is The wazir to Moses in the Koran), a confidential minister vlzierate• to advise him and come between him and the people. Advisers the caliphs had had before; but not a definite adviser with this name. He must, we are told, have a strain of the ruler in him and a strain of the people to be able to work with both. He must know how to be acceptable; fidelity and truthfulness are his capital; sagacity, firmness, generosity, clemency, dignity,' effectiveness of speech are essential. It is plain that the vizier became as important as the caliph. But Abu '1-Abbas was fortunate in early securing as his vizier the grandfather of the house of the Barmecides (q.v.). On this Persian family the fortunes of the Abbasids hung, and it secured for them and for Islam a short golden age, like that of the Antonines, until the jealous madness of Harun al-Rashid cast them down. Thereafter the vizierate had many vicissitudes. Technically a vizier could be either limited or unlimited. The limited vizier had no initiative; he carried out the commands of the caliph. The unlimited vizier, often afterwards called the grand vizier, exercised full authority and was the alter ego of the caliph, to whom he was required only to report. Naturally the formal distinction is a later theorizing of history; for a weak ruler his vizier became absolute, for a strong ruler his vizier remained subordinate. Here, as with regard to all Moslem institutions, a marked distinction must be made between the historic facts and the speculative edifices raised by constitutional theorizers. Compare especially
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