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Volume :12 Issue : 47 1994      Add To Cart                                                                    Download

The Implications of The Sedentary Dimension in Islam A Comparative Study With a View of Other Religious and Social Trends (in Arabic)

Auther : Mohammed Jabir Al-Ansari

One of the well-established and most revealing indications in the Holy Koran and Muslim tradition is that God has chosen His Prophets and Messengers only from the sedentary communities in the cities, and the main capital cities in particular: we sent not forth any before thee, but men we revealed to of the people living in the cities (Holy Koran, surant Yousif: 109, A. J. Arberry translation).

This affirmation of the sedentary roots and the character of the Islamic movement is clearer when contrasted to the clear-cut Koranic view of Nomadism: The Bedouins are more stubborn in unbelief and hypocrisy, and apter not to know the bounds of what God has sent down on His Messenger (Repentence: 97).

It is of paramount importance to realize that this is basically a religious distinction and not merely a social one. Islamic teachings and legistlations cannot be fulfilled properly except in the settled and disciplined communites of towns and cities.

From a comparative approach, it is interesting to note that Judaism, on the other hand, is more inclined to the spirit of nomadism than to sedentary values. In the Old Testament, Abel, the shepherd, receives the acceptance and the blessings of God, while his brother Cain, the settled agriculturist is cursed eternally by the Lord, (Genesis IV,1-5).

It is from this angle that the orientalist G.V.Grunebaum has criticized the German sociological thinker Max Weber, for viewing the sedentary trend (Bergerlich Stadiche) in Islam as only political while considering it as mainly religious in both Judaism and Christianity. The present writer concludes from documented evidence that it is Islam, rather than Judaism, which represents the real sedentary spirit.

Several ancient and modern thinkers, however, From Ibn Khaldun to Ahmed Amin, viewed nomadim romantically as an ideal state of innocence, spiritual pureness, and primitive happiness.

This view, however, does not stand the scrutiny of the real bedouin life by modern research. As any human and social phenomenon, nomadism is, of course, a mixture of positive and negative aspects, a fact which explains the contradictory views of the same thinkers towards it, as Ibn Khaldun.

Islam, however, being a realistic approach to society has endeavoured to bring nomadic forces under its sedentary control when it was not practical to urbanize them immediately or completely.

This balance of sedentary leadership, controlling and directing nomadic forces is one of the most remarkable aspects about the rapid, but highly disciplined, Islamic conquests. Some orientalists have misunderstood this delicate balance of power in the movement of Islamic conquests, as a bedouin outbreak, a conception which is alien to the real nature of the early Islamic civilisation established by these conquests.

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