9. A dynasty rarely establishes itself firmly in lands
with many different tribes and groups.
The 51 reason for this is the differences in opinions and desires. Behind each opinion and desire, there is a group feeling defending it. At any time, therefore, there is much opposition to a dynasty and rebellion against it, even if the dynasty possesses group feeling, because each group feeling under the control of the ruling dynasty thinks that it has in itself (enough) strength and power.
One may compare what has happened in this connection in Ifriqiyah and the Maghrib from the beginning of Islam to the present time. The inhabitants of those lands are Berber tribes and groups. The first victory of Ibn Abi Sarh 52 over them and the European Christians (in the Maghrib) was of no avail. They continued to rebel and apostatized time after time. The Muslims massacred many of them. After the Muslim religion had been established among them, they went on revolting and seceding, and they adopted dissident (Kharijite) religious opinions many times. Ibn Abi Zayd 53 said that the Berbers in the Maghrib revolted twelve times and that Islam became firmly established among them only during the governorship of Musi b. Nusayr and thereafter. This is what is meant by the statement reported on the authority of 'Umar, that "Ifriqiyah 'divides' 54 the hearts of its inhabitants." The statement refers to the great number of tribes and groups there, which causes them to be disobedient and unmanageable. The 'Iraq at that time was different, and so was Syria. The militia of the ('Iraq and Syria) consisted of Persians and Byzantines (respectively). All (the inhabitants) were a mixed lot of town and city dwellers. When the Muslims deprived them of their power, there remained no one capable of making a defense or of offering opposition.
The Berber tribes in the West are innumerable. All of them are Bedouins and members of groups and families. Whenever one tribe is destroyed, another takes its place and is as refractory and rebellious as the former one had been. Therefore, it has taken the Arabs a long time to establish their dynasty in the land of Ifriqiyah and the Maghrib.
The same was the case in Syria in the age of the Israelites. At that time, there existed (there) a very large number of tribes with a great variety of group feelings, such as the tribes of Palestine and Canaan, the children of Esau, the Midyanites, the children of Lot, the Edomites, the Armenians[!], the Amalekites, Girgashites, and the Nabataeans from the Jazirah and Mosul 55 Therefore, it was difficult for the Israelites to establish their dynasty firmly. Time after time, their royal authority was endangered. The (spirit of) opposition (alive in the country) communicated itself to (the Israelites). They opposed their own government and revolted against it. They thus never had a continuous and firmly established royal authority. Eventually they were overpowered, first by the Persians, then by the Greeks, and finally by the Romans, when their power came to an end in the Diaspora. "God has the power to execute His commands." 56
On the other hand, it is easy to establish a dynasty in lands that are free from group feelings. Government there will be a tranquil affair, because seditions and rebellions are few, and the dynasty there does not need much group feeling. This is the case in contemporary Egypt and Syria. They are (now) free from tribes and group feelings; indeed, one would never suspect that Syria had once been a mine of them, as we have (just) stated. Royal authority in Egypt is most peaceful and firmly rooted, because Egypt has few dissidents or people who represent tribal groups. Egypt has a sultan and subjects. (Egypt's) ruling dynasty consists of the Turkish rulers and their groups. They succeed each other in power, and the rule circulates among them, passing from one branch to another. The caliphate belongs in name to an 'Abbasid, a descendant of the 'Abbasid caliphs of Baghdad.
The same is the case in contemporary Spain. The group feeling of the ruler of (Spain), Ibn al-Ahmar (the Nasrids of Granada), was not strong or widespread to begin with. (The Nasrids) belonged to one of the Arab houses that had supported the Umayyad dynasty, a few survivors of which remained. This situation came about as follows: When the Spaniards were no longer ruled by the Arab dynasty (of the Umayyads) and the Lamtanah and Almohad Berbers became their rulers, they detested this domination. Their oppression weighed heavily upon them, and their hearts were full of hate and indignation against (the new rulers).
Near the end of the (Almohad) rule, the Almohad lords handed over many of their strongholds to the abominable (Christian ruler), in order to gain his support for their attempts to capture the capital city of Marrakech. That caused remnants of the people in Spain who represented the ancient group feeling to unite. These were descendants of Arab houses who had to some degree kept away from urban civilization and the cities, and who were firmly rooted in military life. They included Ibn Had (of Saragossa), Ibn al-Ahmar (of Granada), and Ibn Mardanish (of Valencia and Murcia), and others like them. Ibn Had seized power, made propaganda for the 'Abbasid caliphate in the East, and caused the people to revolt against the Almohads. Allegiance to them was denounced, and they were driven out. Ibn Had thus became the independent ruler of Spain. Then, Ibn alAhmar rose to power and opposed Ibn Had's propaganda. He made propaganda for Ibn Abi Hafs, the Almohad ruler of Ifriqiyah, and seized power with the help of a group of relatives who were called "the chiefs." He needed no more people than these, because there were so few groups in Spain (at that time) possessing a government (sultan) and subjects. Ibn al-Ahmar then sought support against the abominable (Christian ruler) from Zanatah chieftains who came to him from across the sea. These Zanatah chieftains became his associates in defense of the frontier regions and the manning of the garrisons.
Now, the Zanatah (Merinid) ruler of the Maghrib had hopes of gaining power in Spain. But these Zanatah chieftains who were Ibn al-Ahmar's associates defended him. His power, eventually, was firmly established. The people became used to his rule and could do nothing against him. He bequeathed his power to his descendants, who have held it down to the present. One should not think that he was without group support. This was not so. He started out with a group, but it was a small one. However, it was sufficient for his needs, because there were few groups and tribes in (Spain) and, consequently, not much group feeling was needed there, in order to gain the upper hand over the Spaniards.
"God has no need of the worlds." 57