18. Meekness and docility to outsiders that may come
to be found in a tribe are obstacles on the way
toward royal authority.
The 105 reason for this is that meekness and docility break the vigor and strength of group feeling. The (very fact) that people are meek and docile shows that (their group feeling) is lost. They do not become fond of meekness until they are 1, 256 too weak to defend themselves. Those who are too weak to defend themselves are all the more weak when it comes to withstanding their enemies and pressing their claims.
The Israelites are a good example. Moses urged them togo and become rulers of Syria. He informed them that God had made this their destiny. But the Israelites were too weak for that. They said: "There are giants in that country, and we shall not enter it until the giants have departed." 106 That is, until God has driven them out by manifesting His power, without the application of our group feeling, and that will be one of your miracles, O Moses. And when Moses urged them on, they persisted and became rebellious, and said: "Go you yourself and your Lord, and fight."107
The reason for (their attitude) was that they had become used to being too weak to offer opposition and to press claims.108 (That is the meaning) required by the verse, and it must be interpreted in that manner. (This situation) was the result of the quality of docility and the longing to be subservient to the Egyptians, which the Israelites had acquired through many long years and which led eventually to the complete loss of their group feeling. In addition, they did not really believe what Moses told them, namely, that Syria would be theirs and that the Amalekites who were in Jericho would fall prey to them, by virtue of the divine decree that God had made in favor of the Israelites. They were unable to do (what they were asked to do) and felt too weak to do it. They realized that they were too weak to press any claims, because they had acquired the quality of meekness. They suspected the story their prophet told them and the command he gave them. For that, God punished them by obliging them to remain in the desert. They stayed in the desert between Syria and Egypt for forty years. They had no contact with civilization nor did they settle in any city,109 as it is told in the Qur'an.110 This was because of the harshness the Amalekites in Syria and the Copts in Egypt had practiced against them. Thus, they thought themselves too weak to oppose them. From the context and meaning of the verse, it is evident that (the verse) intends to refer to the implication of such a sojourn in the desert, namely, the disappearance of the generation whose character had been formed and whose group feeling had been destroyed by the humiliation, oppression, and force from which it had (just) escaped, and the eventual appearance in the desert of another powerful generation that knew neither laws nor oppression and did not have the stigma of meekness. Thus, a new group feeling could grow up (in the new generation), and that (new group feeling) enabled them to press their claims and to achieve superiority. This makes it evident that forty years is the shortest period in which one generation can disappear and a new generation can arise. Praised be the Wise, the Knowing One.
This shows most clearly what group feeling means. Group feeling produces the ability to defend oneself, to offer opposition, to protect oneself, and to press one's claims. Whoever loses (his group feeling) is too weak to do any of these things.
The subject of imposts and taxes belongs in this discussion of the things that force meekness upon a tribe.
A tribe paying imposts did not do that until it became resigned to meek submission with respect to (paying them). Imposts and taxes are a sign of oppression and meekness which proud souls do not tolerate, unless they consider (the payment of imposts and taxes) easier than being killed and destroyed. In such a case, the group feeling (of a tribe) is too weak for its own defense and protection. People whose group feeling cannot defend them against oppression certainly cannot offer any opposition or press any claims. They have submitted to humble (meekness), and, as we have mentioned before, meekness is an obstacle.
(An illustration of this fact) is Muhammad's statement in the Sahih,111 on the subject of plowing. When he saw a plowshare in one of the houses of the Ansar (in Medina), he said: "Such a thing never entered anyone's house save accompanied by humbleness." This is sound proof for (the contention) that payment of imposts makes humbleness necessary. In addition, the humbleness that is the result of paying imposts is accompanied by character qualities of cunning and deceit, because force rules (under such circumstances). According to the Sahih112 the Messenger of God used to decry the payment of imposts. When he was asked about it, he said: "A man who has to pay imposts talks and lies. He promises, and breaks his promise." When one sees a tribe humiliated by the payment of imposts, one cannot hope that it will ever achieve royal authority.
This makes clear that it is erroneous to assume that the Zanatah in the Maghrib were sheep-breeding Bedouins who paid imposts to the various rulers of their time. As one can see, this is a serious error. Had such been the case, the Zanatah would never have achieved royal authority and established a dynasty.
In this connection, one may compare the words of Shahrbaraz, the ruler of Derbend.113 'Abd-ar-Rahman b. Rabi'ah came upon him, and Shahrbaraz asked him for his protection with the (promise) that he would belong to him. On that occasion, (Shahrbaraz) said: "Today, I am one of you. My hand is in your hands. I am your sincere friend. You are welcome. God bless us and you. The poll tax we shall pay you will consist in our helping you and doing what you will. But do not humiliate us by (imposing the) poll tax. (Otherwise,) you would weaken us to the point of (becoming the prey of) your enemies." 114 This story sufficiently (supports) our preceding remarks.