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Muslim Discourse on Rebellion

  • John Kelsay
Extract

We can begin with a story. In his account of the reign of Harun al-Rashid, al-Tabari spends considerable time on the matter of Yahya ibn Abdallah. Scion of the family of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, Yahya was the leader of a group active in Daylam, a region in present-day Iran. Al-Rashid and other Abbasid leaders laid claim to the territory, but at the time (the 790s) they did not have effective control over it. Ever-sensitive to the challenge presented by sentiment favoring the house of ‘Ali, al-Rashid and his advisers devised a scheme by which the ruler of Daylam received payment for persuading Yahya to turn himself in. He did so, but only on the condition that al-Rashid provide him with a written aman, or guarantee of security.

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NOTES

1 The History of al-Tabari, volume 30: The ‘Abbasid Caliphate in Equilibrium, trans. Bosworth, C. E. (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1989), especially pp. 16–20, 115–31, and 205–08.

2 Ibid., p. 125.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 Thanks to Kevin Jacques of Indiana University, who called this to my attention during a visit to Bloomington.

6 For more detail, see my discussion in Arguing the Just War in Islam (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2007). It is worth noting that bughat (which is the plural of baghi) suggests “transgression.” In the juridical context, the term serves to indicate a category of persons as rebels. However, the root meaning helps to indicate why, in some contexts, the term is associated with “tyrannical” behavior. As I shall indicate, there are some instances in which recent invocations of the term carry that sense, so that an established ruler or government may be described as baghi or bughat.

7 Following the translation by M. A. S. Abdel Haleem (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

8 The term is usually translated as “spoils” or “booty”; however, it is usually thought to indicate the special category of payments made to the Muslim regime on the part of those who accede to Muslim dominance without armed resistance.

9 As translated by Khadduri, Majid in The Islamic Law of Nations: Shaybani's Siyar (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1966), pp. 230–31.

10 From this point on, I will simply refer to bughat or ahkam al-bughat in place of the longer ahkam al-khawarij wa al-bughat.

11 As will be evident, my account of these matters is indebted to Khaled Abou El Fadl, “ Ahkam al-Bughat: Irregular Warfare and the Law of Rebellion in Islam,” in Johnson, James Turner and Kelsay, John, eds., Cross, Crescent, and Sword (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1990), pp. 149–78; and also to Fadl's, El expansive study, Rebellion and Violence in Islamic Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).

12 See “Ahkam al-Bughat,” p. 162.

13 Here, the reference is to Rebellion and Violence in Islamic Law.

14 Though El Fadl does identify a few instances in which the notion has been invoked by lawyers (though ultimately ruled irrelevant by judges). See “Ahkam al-Bughat,” p. 168; Rebellion and Violence in Islamic Law, pp. 333–42.

15 For more detail, and indications of relevant literature, see my Arguing the Just War in Islam.

16 Muhammad al-Faraj, Al-Faridah al-Ghaibah is translated by Jansen, Johannes J. G. as The Neglected Duty (New York: Macmillan, 1986). The Hamas Charter is available in a translation by M. Maqdsi (Dallas: Islamic Association for Palestine, 1990). For the World Islamic Front Declaration, see http://www.fas.org/irp/world/para/docs/980223-fatwa.htm.

17 See the translation by Algar, Hamid in Islam and Revolution (Berkeley, Calif.: Mizan Press, 1981), pp. 27168 . Khumayni delivered these lectures to students in Najaf, Iraq, where he taught for a time during his exile from Iran.

18 See freehalab.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/formation-of-the-revolutionary-military-council-of-aleppo/.

19 See, for example, David D. Kirkpatrick and Mayy El Sheikh, “Egypt Military Enlists Religion to Quell Ranks,” New York Times, August 25, 2013, at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/26/world/middleeast/egypt.html?pagewanted=all.

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Ethics & International Affairs
  • ISSN: 0892-6794
  • EISSN: 1747-7093
  • URL: /core/journals/ethics-and-international-affairs
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