NATIV Online        

  Vol. 5  /  August 2004                   A JOURNAL OF POLITICS AND THE ARTS      


    The following is the first chapter of the book by David Bukay, Total Terrorism in the Name of Allah: The Emergence of the New Islamic Fundamentalists,  ACPR Publishers, 2001.

    Total Terrorism in the Name of Allah:
    The Emergence of
    the New Islamic Fundamentalists

    PART I

    David Bukay


Islam is extremely widely spread throughout the world. There are 56 states that belong to the bloc of Islamic states. In another 40 odd states, Muslims make up a prominent minority. In toto there are more than one billion Muslims. The Arabs constitute about a quarter of all Muslims, but they stand out in every field of activity, and in the issue of Islamic Fundamentalism they are of critical importance.

The “Return to Islam” phenomenon has many names, according to the observer: awakening, return, rebirth, reassertion, resurgence, resurrection, militancy, fundamentalism, messianism, march of Islam, political Islam, Islamism, radical Islam, zealots, Islamic extremism, Islamic movement, Islamic fanatics.

The Muslims relate to the phenomenon by a variety of expressions with a positive meaning: deep-rootedness (usuliyah), men from-the-source (asliyun), Islamists (Islamiyun), faithful (mu’minun), “[God] fearers” (mutadayinum). But there is also a negative approach: muta`asibun, mutatarrifun, mutashadidun, terms that refer to extremist believers and fanatics. We will use the concept of fundamentalism1 both since it is akin to “deep-rootedness” in Arabic (usuliyah), and since it is better understood and more meaningful in the Western political dialogue.

The attitude in the West to the fundamentalist Islamic threat began to gather momentum only at the end of the 1970s. Until then, the conception was that the problem was a local one of the Arab regimes, and that all in all, they were succeeding reasonably in contending with the problem. However, the victory of Khomeinism in Iran supplied tremendous momentum to the upsurge of Islamic violence which became ever more extreme, threatening regimes that were viewed as pro-Western, like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan, and even fueling an Islamist uprising in Syria. At the beginning of the 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union and the Eastern European regimes, while the illusion flourished that the world was marching toward a new age, the Islamic threat broke into international consciousness. Suddenly, expressions began to be heard such as “a new Cold War”, “the new fanatic enemy”, and “the green march”. Yet, the threat was still seen as far off, certainly not a direct one against Western civilization and modernity.

Only on September 11, 2001, after the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, was the Islamic threat internalized. Only then did the comprehension penetrate to the Western political consciousness that Islam is aggressive and violent, dynamic and spreading, and that it arouses popular forces huge in their scope. Moreover, its aspirations are worldwide. Only then, perhaps after a long delay, certainly at an extremely high price, did the West begin to deploy to contend with it.

Dekmejian analyzed 175 Islamic movements, and found that 74% were militant and radical, according to their revolutionary ideology and their operational use of violence. It comes as no surprise that the country with the largest number of Islamic movements is Egypt (40), but it is surprising that Lebanon comes in second place with 29. Even Jordan comes in third place (15). Iraq, which has a Shiite majority, is in fourth place (13), whereas Syria and Algeria stand out with 12 Islamic movements each.2 In practice, the number of Islamic movements significant for research is much smaller.

The Return to Islam movement began right after the first Muslim defeat at the hands of the unbelievers in the West. In 1699, Islamic armies besieged the gates of Vienna, but in contrast to the pattern customary until then, not only were they not victorious but they were defeated. Not only did they not enforce their policy through a “peace treaty”, but such treaties were forced upon them, the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699, and subsequently the Treaty of Constantinople in 1700. This reality was not temporary, and from then on the Ottoman Empire began its process of decline compared with the European powers, with the “Eastern Question” becoming a salient issue, and the focus of discussion being: What to do about the Ottoman Empire and about its successor states. This too was a sign of a new reality that the Muslims could not recognize, after all from then on, the discussions centered on them and their fate.

Muslim weakness facing the West was to leave deep feelings of frustration and a profound sense of inferiority among the Muslims, whose conquering, righteous religion had been humbled by the West, the lowly infidels. This reality was not only unrecognizable but it was unreasonable. It contradicted all the laws of Islamic logic. The result was a strengthening of the trend of Return to Islam, back to the sources of the religion as a means of softening the shock, but also as a source of salvation and return to “the correct and just condition”. The reactions to the political and military weaknesses of Islam were always perceived and defined as religious. The problems were formulated in religious terms, and so were the solutions that were proposed. The conception was a return to the original Islamic foundations and the goal was defined as a restoration in the present of past attainments, and application of the principles of the past for successful activity in the future.

Out of all the many political and ideological movements that bloomed in the Middle East, only the Muslim movements were original in their inspiration and won enthusiastic hearts among the masses. This is one of the central reasons for the failure of the liberal, fascist, communist, and socialist movements in the Middle East in the 20th century. This was also the reason for the absence of democratization processes in the Arab states and the lack of ability to make a transition to a civil society.3 The greater the dissonance that was created between the world outlook of the believer and the harsh reality, the more he felt impelled to act drastically to change the reality. The profound cultural conflict of values intensified the social frustration and the political agitation, and served as a powerful catalyst for the Return to Islam, as to a warm and beloved hearth. But it is important to know that violent Islamic aggressivity does not derive only from frustration that leads – in social science theory – to aggression. Islam has violent, aggressive elements and a radical ideology – together with externalized protest – which originate in Arab culture. The combination between “pleasant and peaceful ways”, as the Qur`an preaches, and destructive, unrestrained fanaticism, is astonishing. The phenomenon is not only in the division of relationships, internally in contrast to policy directed outwards. It exists also on the inward dimension; this is extreme duality (izdiwaj) which makes up a central part of the Arab-Islamic personality.

The great hero of strict orthodox Islam was Ibn Hanbal (780-855) whose works form the theoretical basis of Islamic fundamentalism in our times. After him came the theologian Ahmad Taqi al-Din ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1328), who expressed a profound commitment to renewal of the ideal Islamic community through a return to the sources, and stringent and binding application of the shari`ah. He consistently supported the use of jihad against the enemies of Islam as such.4 His influence has been great as a theoretician and ideologue. It was expressed in preaching and the activity of radical thinkers as a basis for the activity of the new anarchistic Islamic terrorist groups.

The first fundamentalist movements in Islam sprouted on the periphery of the Arab world, in the wake of the decline of the Ottoman Empire: the Wahhabiyyah movement in the Arabian Peninsula, which was established by Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792), as a Unitarian movement under Hanbali influence (and under that of the puritan interpretations of Ibn Taymiyyah). It stood for total adherence to the shari`ah, and flourished in the Arabian Peninsula as the ideological basis of the Saudi state.5 The Sanusiyyah movement was set up by Muhammad bin `Ali al-Senusi (1787-1859), as a missionary effort among the Bedouin in Cyrenaica. In contrast to the revolutionary Wahhabiyyah, the Sanusiyyah movement was mystical and reformist, and conformed in its values to North African culture.6 The Mahdiyyah movement was set up by Muhammad Ahmad bin `Abdallah al-Mahdi (1843-1885), who proclaimed himself to be the messiah. The Mahdiyyah, extreme and puritanical like the Wahhabiyyah, flourished in the Sudan. The main task of the mahdi was to advance pan-Islamism under his leadership, but the movement was dissolved in 1898 by the British.7

The movement that led fundamentalist Islam into the 20th century was the al-Salafiyyah, the Islamic reform movement. It was an intellectual movement led by Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (1838-1897) who preached pan-Islamic solidarity and active resistance to Western penetration by a return to a renewed, reformist Islam.8 His disciple, Muhammad `Abduh (1849-1905), stressed the rationalism in Islam and its modernistic vitality, and was active in Egypt.9 Nevertheless, as early as the age of `Abduh’s disciple, Muhammad Rashid Rida` (1865-1935), who called for an Islamic revival in the mode of the Wahhabis,10 the conservative approach in the al-Salafiyyah movement took the lead. It became active in violent Islamic activism in Egypt and Algeria.11

At the end of 20th century, it became clear that the relatively modest approach of Rashid Rida` had nothing to offer and after the acute political crises, the socio-economic decline in most Arab countries, and the European imperialist conquest, it was replaced by radical activism in the style of the Muslim Brotherhood led by Hasan al-Bana (1906-1949). The movement won huge success and set up branches with continuing influence throughout all the Arab countries.12 Not in vain did Egypt earn, in consequence of the large number of radical Islamic movements that sprouted there, the dubious title of “cradle of Islamic fundamentalism”. Meanwhile, the Wahhabi movement founded a state for itself, Saudi Arabia, which became the stronghold of puritanical Islamic conservatism. Yet the Muslim Brotherhood did not become institutionalized. Rather it continued to promote intense political and social activism in the name of radical Islam.

The Arab political system began to act against Western imperialism in order to achieve national independence, while in the background Islamic movements stood out as foci of anti-establishment agitation. These movements had not accepted the Arab political order which had been imposed for the most part by Western imperialism.

The political system in the Arab states was ripe for an outbreak of Muslim reaction by the fundamentalist movements.



Arab-Islamic Political Culture

A culture is a system of beliefs and behaviors that include symbols, values and norms which characterize a certain society, and are understood to its members alone. A culture is unique, as an evolutionary, accumulative outcome of societal behavior and activity through acculturation and socialization. From Geertz’ standpoint, culture is:

A historically transmitted pattern of meanings, embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate and develop their knowledge...13

Understanding and studying the culture are critical variables for understanding the political behavior of Arab-Islamic society, and therefore, its terroristic fundamentalism as well. The central typical claim is that a deep gap exists between the culture of Arab society and the culture of Western society, which underlies the flawed thinking, the distortions of perception, and the failing policy which in turn leads to strategic surprises, to mental blindness, and to lack of preparedness. An outstanding expression of this is “the mirror image” that makes us think that our adversary resembles us conceptually and operationally; you view his strategy, tactics, and goals as images of your own, and you perceive him as having your values, in the parameters of your approaches. However, in fact, this is your own reflection in the mirror, while the adversary is different from you qualitatively in his values and actions.

Islamic Civilization and its Sources

Islam forms a universal Weltanschauung, an all-embracing civilization that determines for the believer commandments of what to do and what not to do. It is the only religion the name of which appears in its own holy writings (eight times in the Qur`an), and the name means: absolute and exclusive devotion and submissiveness to the will of Allah. There is no separation in Islam between the domain of Allah and the domain of the ruler; between religion and state; and its supreme goal is building a political community (ummah) that matches the values of the Islamic ideal.14 This system of faith is formal and institutionalized, and the Qur`an is the supreme source of authority. The Muslims believe that the Qur`an represents the actual words of God, as they were transmitted to the Prophet Muhammad over a period of 23 years, and were preserved accurately and in the correct order.15 Additional sources of authority are the sunnah and the hadith, which document the words and deeds of the Prophet. These explain the Qur`anic text, and together they constitute a basis for a written and oral law (shari`ah) and they absolutely guide the life of the believers.16 Islam is an inclusive system of religion (din) and state (dawlah), and everything is in the hands of Allah and derives from Him.17

In contrast to Judaism, which is a religion closed to the outside and makes conversion difficult, and conducts missionary preaching to those within (“All Israel [all Jews] are responsible for one another”), Islam maintains great tolerance in matters of faith within the religion, while it is forcefully militant towards the outside world. On the inside it is very easy to become a Muslim. A man need only say the shahadah (“There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah”) three times with conviction, in front of witnesses or before a religious judge (qadi), and he has become a Muslim. After that, no one investigates his deeds or conduct. This is the reason for the astonishing success of Islam in countries of the Third World in the 20th century. On the outside, Islam distinguishes between Dar al-Islam (the domain of Islam, “Islamic soil”) and Dar al-harb (the domain of war, “the soil of the infidel”). It sees the world in dynamic terms of constant expansion, and obliges political occupation and religious coercion in the setting of holy war (jihad), and someone who falls in a jihad is called shahid. Between Dar al-Islam and Dar al-harb there is Dar al-Sulh, the domain with which Islam is in a state of truce, but it is only temporary, until the Muslims become stronger militarily.

Religion has served as a political tool. No religious sect has been excommunicated from Islam, unless it excommunicated itself. Most of the splits in Islam have originated from political issues, and the religious framework has only served as an expedient reference. Nevertheless, since it was shameful to assert political goals, the method applied was political negation in religious terms. (That is, the ruler was not going in the path of Allah and His Prophet, and was betraying religious values; hence he deserved being removed from power.) The pattern that emphasized these trends for the first time was the break away of the Khawarij sect and the rift with the shi`at `Ali (faction of Ali) which brought about the rise of the Shi`a as an alternative religious movement to the Sunnah. That is, the important struggle was political, but its expressions were in the name of religious arguments.

Islam is very conservative in its political conceptions. The paramount goal is attaining an Islamic order and political stability, while preserving the community’s unity in the Dar al-Islam. The main role of the ummah is “enforcing the good and rejecting what is subject to contradiction” (al-amr bil-ma`ruf wal-nahi `an al-munkar). Any government is preferable to lack of government. There is a cynical evaluation of the reality of imperfect political life, and therefore there is a capacity to accept any ruler, whether because he is preferable to anarchy, or whether because he forces himself on the population, which is not considered a factor whose opinion and positions have to be considered. Islam makes up a closed political system and a traditional social system, which blurs the difference between “what is” and “what must be”, causing political cynicism and lack of desire for innovation, while reinforcing submission and passivity. We must recall that “the gates of innovation” (ijtihad) were closed in the eleventh century. This explains the traditional cloistered state of society and the thoughtless imitation (taqlid). The Islamic consensus has applied flexible judgment and expressed various interpretations – but only towards the way of life desirable for the believer, and the place of Islam in society, and not, definitely not towards the outside.

On the other hand, political expression was also “encouragement” for unbelief, for rebelliousness, and for political violence. How can we explain the paradoxical phenomenon that Islam is conservative and conformist and any opposition is a challenge to Allah, yet in reality there have been so many revolts, coups d’état, and political murders? The answer is fascinating: there is no need for legitimization by the people, since sovereignty belongs to Allah. And from the moment that state power is replaced, the new rulers become acceptable and agreed. Everything on earth is by the will of Allah, and thus too are rebellious aspirations and violence towards the authorities. The true test is always the result. If the deed succeeds, Allah wanted it so. And if the deed fails, this too was the will of Allah. The ruler has full responsibility, since he expresses the will of Allah. But if there exists any problem, the ruler is guilty and must be removed. Hence, the religious sages (the `ulema) determined that there is an obligation to oppose any ruler who lacks fear of Heaven, a position supported in the traditions ascribed to the Prophet. This is the religious “ideological” foundation for violence and revolutionism in Islam.18

The Islamic state is theocratic – Allah is the only source of faith, and religious worship is the symbol of collective identity. All criticism is interpreted as denial of the faith. Therefore, any challenge to the existing political order – in order for it to become legitimate – is translated into religious preaching aimed at proving deviation on the part of the existing authorities. Unbelief is linked to belief, and that is the only basis for conducting political life among the rival factions in Islam. Any opposition to the existing political order is considered infidelity to Allah: the Khawarij that was supported by the Bedouin, in their protest against the very fact of the state and its coercion; Shi`at `Ali (Shi`ites) which began as supporters of Ali’s claims to rule and became a religious faction which was supported by the mawali, the non-Arab Muslims who accepted the Islamic religion and turned to the Shi`ah for social reasons. These phenomena were the foundation for Arab-Islamic behavior in history.

This trend links up to the problem of regime legitimacy. Islam has not succeeded in laying the basis for a conception of legitimacy and authoritative governance on a sovereign foundation since the view that the state is the creation of a “social contract” is alien to Islam. The state, like other phenomena, reflects and embodies the will of Allah. Sovereignty (hakmiyah) derives from Allah alone, and does not at all have to do with the will of the ruled. The Western doctrine holds that there is a right to resist an evil government, and that there is even a duty to replace it. This does not exist in Islam. Any attempt to change the structure of legitimacy and sovereignty is bid`ah, which is interpreted as innovation, but it literally means any thing or custom that was not approved in the time of the Prophet. To prove this argument, a hadith attributed to the Prophet is quoted: “The worst of things are the modern things. All innovation is a mistake, and any mistake leads to hellfire.”

This phenomenon is connected to contemporary politics and it has influence on understanding the Islamic fundamentalist phenomenon. The Arab regimes in the Middle East are authoritarian and fall into two kinds: military regimes in which the army is in power, and monarchic regimes where the army serves as a support for the existence of the regime and its survival. The authoritarian tradition is not new, and it is inherent in Islam and Arab culture. The Arab leaders are patrimonial, and this pattern too is typical of Arab-Islamic culture.19

Political culture is subordinate at the center and parochial at the periphery. There is no political tradition of a sovereign people, and of course the phenomenon of citizenship is hardly widespread. Most of the population does not belong to the ruling elite, to the political leadership, and is not viewed as a participant in political bargaining. There is no political participation, except on the level of support alone, and not of demands, and the political mobility is low, and dependent on the will of the regime. The same is true for pressure groups and interest groups.

The Arabic word for state is dawlah, which was interpreted as dynasty, and its original meaning was to overthrow or to replace20 (Sura 3:134-140; Sura 79:7). The Islamic state is a theocracy where Allah is the only source of power and law, and the ruler is his representative. The basic conception was of the ummah in which everyone was equal, without a class hierarchy. In practice, the state which arose was very far from the ideal. It had a broad class structure, a division between the center and the periphery, between nomads and village dwellers and city dwellers, and secondary divisions and many cross-categories within each group. There were ethnic, religious, and class controversies, and a class of Arab aristocracy took shape. This class was oppressive socially, economically, and religiously. The central phenomenon is that most of the population was totally alienated from the government, and was not viewed as a factor that had to be considered in conducting policy.

Further, scientific thought in Islam, like legitimacy and sovereignty, is different from the Western conception, and this has significant implications for political principles. The conception is atomistic and not integrative. There is no principle of causality, since everything derives from the will of Allah. Hence, there is no need to ask questions, or to clarify details involving any world issues. The phenomenon is expressed by the term fitnah which basically means a test of faith or proof of ability to withstand the evil impulse. However, the term serves as a description of a movement that might disrupt the existing political order. The prototype came with the murder of the reigning khalifah (caliph), `Uthman, in 656 CE, and the civil war that subsequently broke out. Nowadays, fitnah means rebellious separation or opposition by force to governmental authority. This notion leads to conservatism and collectivism in thought and ways of action. The result, a synthetic culture was formed with the supreme aspiration to preserve stability, and with the fear of undermining the socio-political order, lest breakup, anarchy, and disorientation take place. 

* * * 

Islamic values have been deeply influenced by the Arab values of the pre-Islamic jahiliyyah age, as well as by Jewish values. In practice, there is very little from the Islamic age in the values important to Arab conceptions and behavior. Rather, they reflect the Arab tribal values from the Arabian Peninsula until the rise of Islam. In the jahiliyyah period, “The Arabs did not know Allah and his messenger and the laws of the religion.” Therefore, it has been defined wrongly as “the period of ignorance”. Nevertheless, it was more an age of savagery, violence, and idol worship.

The name Allah is jahili in origin, and represents a full Islamic adoption. Allah was considered a supreme god, and He had three daughter goddesses: al-Lat, al-Manat, and al-`Uzza. These were transferred as a whole to Islam. Even the worship of stones was one of the most important in jahili Arab society, and the “black stone” in the Ka`abah in Mecca stood out. This was the sublime expression of a fetishistic religion. Yet as a consequence of its centrality and importance, Muhammad was forced to absorb it as a prominent component of Islam. He transformed it into a proof of the covenant between Allah and Abraham (called in Arabic al-Khalil, the friend). The most outstanding example of absorption of a jahili world outlook in an absolute and perfect manner is the custom of pilgrimage (hajj): the ritual included circumambulation around the Ka`abah seven times, kissing the black stone, and running between Safa and Marwah seven times. They held mass ceremonies that took place at fixed times: running to Muzdalifah and to Mina where they threw seven stones at Satan who exists in the form of three mounds of stones. This set of ceremonies too expresses jahili fetishism. However, the Prophet Muhammad understood that they were deeply rooted in the Arab consciousness, and he gave them an Islamic configuration.

Additional jahili customs that Muhammad continued were the month of fasting and charity. In jahili Arab society, violent and anarchistic, it was customary to stop warfare for four months during the year. A holy month for fasting and three months in which it was customary to do business rather than make war. That is, the fast was connected to business. This custom too was transferred to Islam and fixed in the month of Ramadan. On the 27th of this month, the Qur`an began to be revealed on laylat al-qadar. During the month of fasting, the believer must avoid any food or marital life, from sunrise until sundown, and at its end, the holiday of ending the fast (`id al-fitr) is celebrated.

Giving sadaqah (charity) was one of the features of the perfect Bedouin, a commandment that was stressed in the age of jahiliyyah. Islam absorbed it without determining exact rules as to the manner of distributing it. At the beginning of Islam, sadaqah served a political purpose, to draw those wavering into joining. Over time, the dhakat became a regular, defined tax (a tithe from all field produce; and the fortieth part of the beasts, silver, gold, and merchandise), and sadaqah refers to any other act of generosity of the believer.

If we skip over the practices that were copied from jahili customs, we see that only two of the Five Pillars of Islam (arkan al-Islam) – prayer (salat) and testimony (shahadah) – are Muslim in origin. Even in regard to the roots of Islamic law (usul al-shari`ah), we find two out of five that were jahili: general agreement or consensus (ijma`) and the custom of the place (`adah or `urf). The other three: the written law (Qur`an), the oral law (sunnah), and analogy on the basis of the texts (qias) are Islamic in origin. Islamic tolerance within the religion is expressed by recognition of four schools of legal interpretation (madhahib): hanafi (named after Abu Hanifah 702-772); maliki (named after Malik, 716-795); shafi`i (after al-Shafa`i, 768-820); and hanbali (after Ibn Hanbal, 780-855). Indeed, only groups that arrived at real exaggeration in their religious attachment and took upon themselves various beliefs that were perceived as ascribing partners to Allah (shirk) were excommunicated from Islam, since they were accused of exaggeration (ghulat). 

* * * 

The influences of Jewish tradition on the Prophet Muhammad were essential. In the period when he was born, into the Hashim family of the Quraish tribe, in 570 CE, the importance of Mecca as a commercial city was rising as a consequence of the disintegration of the Persian Empire in the east and the Byzantine in the northwest, as well as the decline of the kingdoms of south Arabia.21 Since Muhammad’s father had died before he was born, and his mother died when he was six, he was raised by his grandfather Hashim and afterwards by his uncle, Abu Talib, who was a well-known merchant. The major part of his business was with Jewish merchants. Muhammad accompanied him, and absorbed stories from the Torah (the Patriarchs, Joseph, Pharaoh, the Children of Israel in the desert). He began to prophesy at age 40 (in accord with the tradition that a man reaches his intellectual perfection at that age), going into solitude on Mount Hira, near Mecca. Muhammad attests to the influence of Judaism (Sura 26:197; Sura 10:43) on his prophecy, and his opponents accused him with: “Those are stories of the Israelites.” The people of Mecca banished him and persecuted him, while the Jews saw him as a false prophet and avoided him.

When persecutions by the economic and social elite of Mecca became intolerable, Muhammad left Mecca22 and came to Yathrib (which he called al-Madina) in 622. This time, July 16, 622, was the beginning of the Muslim counting of time. The hijra (migration to Yathrib) transformed Muhammad, the prophet of a persecuted sect of believers, into the leader of a religious community. He began to organize the believers as a group of believers: the unification of the migrants from Mecca (the muhajirun) with the supporters in Madina (al-ansar) in the framework of “rules of the community” (`ahd al-ummah). Islam changed from being a religious message to a political institution, to a framework of offensive political action with enthusiastic supporters.23

Muhammad sought to co-opt the Jews to his community of believers, as a basis of support for his ideas. But the Jews, since they were “a people that dwells alone”, rejected and kept away from him as a false prophet, and became his enemies:

  1. Prayer and the direction of prayer. Muhammad told the believers to pray, like the Jews, three times a day. And when he was rejected, he announced that Islam was better than they, and therefore believers should pray fives times a day (there is also an opinion that this had to do with applying an originally Persian belief). Each prayer is preceded by a partial purification, and on Friday and holidays – a full purification. When there is no water, one may use sand. At a time of danger, one may cut the prayer short, and one may pray while walking or riding. The main part of the prayer is kneeling and touching one’s forehead to the ground (rak’ah). The purpose of these acts is to express absolute submission to Allah, while saying the surat al-fatihah. There are no prayer arrangements: one begins with proclaiming Allahu-akbar; afterwards one says the shahadah: There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. At the end come the blessings of the Prophets. There are personal prayers and elective prayers. The time of prayer is set according to the course of the sun.

  2. Fasting. At the beginning, Muhammad ordered the believers to fast on the Ashurah, the tenth day, the Day of Atonement. However, after the conflict with the Jews, he went back to jahili sources for a month of fasting, the month of Ramadan.

  3. Jerusalem. The connection is definitely Jewish, whereas Jerusalem is not mentioned at all in the Qur`an.24 Muhammad’s dream is of isra umi`raj (the Night Journey), together with the horse, al-Buraq (in Aramaic: susa barkiya, the white horse). The origin of this story is in the Prophet Elijah’s ascent on the horse-drawn flaming chariot to Heaven. The concept of al-Aqsa mentioned in the dream means extremely far-off, not Jerusalem but apparently the end of the earth, the zone of Islam’s aspirations. Jerusalem was only conquered in 638 CE, and since then its importance has grown, in consequence of the Muslim practice of fixing the ruler’s status over the ruled by building mosques in places holy to Jews and Christians (consider the Temple Mount and the Cave of Machpelah).

Arab-Islamic Society

The tradition and tribal clannishness have the dominant influence over Arab society and reflect the jahili tribal ideals.25 The tribe was the only social-cultural unit, and it was in constant confrontation with other tribes over sources of subsistence: the scarcity of resources against the many demands to obtain them. (A society based on “Thou shalt live by thy sword.”) At the head of the tribe was the sayyid, who was chosen by the tribal elders, and was the first among equals. The social structure included the hamulah (clan) and the extended family. Between the tribal territories there was a haram, a kind of no-man’s-land. Its neutral holiness was accepted as a place of clarifications and inter-tribal treaties. Hence, the tremendous experience and the proven ability that Arabs accumulated in conducting negotiations. There is no doubt that this was one of their strongest skills, which they brought to the level of an art, and this is expressed in their negotiating policy today. Structures for mediation and compromise developed that were not institutionalized and were called “middle mechanisms” (wasat or wusta). Their role was to prevent development of situations destructive to society, as a result of the widespread violence and the blood vengeance.

The tribe was composed of family groups linked to each other by a common father, and the cultivation of a sense of solidarity. The social basis was the group of origin through male relatives alone from the father’s family, which maintained control over a territory. Tribal society was anarchic, and had a decentralized system of security, founded on self-help and mutual responsibility for the welfare and security of the people in the tribe. Everyone was responsible for the acts of the individual and worked for the sake of the group. Juridically speaking, every adult tribesman was equal to every other. This required him to be responsible in his activities and tolerant in his attitude toward his close and known environment.

In contrast to modern societies that promote individual interests and the ethos is what the individual takes and receives from the collective, in Islamic society the ethos was the opposite. There was a communal consensus as opposed to an individual’s opinion. Islam does not encourage individualism, rather, it favors organized, orderly authority. The individual does not exist by his own right, and he is not important except through his belonging to a collective framework, as a result of the concept that “the opinion of the many cannot be wrong.” There is nothing more contemptible than individualism, which is conceived as divisive and as harming the achievement of goals. All these traditions and values originate from the Arabs, from the socio-economic reality in the Arabian Peninsula when the individual could not exist without the group, and any accepted legal opposition was lacking there.

The cultural phenomenon of favoring collectivism has had a great influence on today’s reality. A collective culture emphasizes responsibility and mutual dependence. A man has no importance in his own right, but only in relation to the group. This is a vertical culture with a high communications context. People are viewed differently according to their status and their capability. They have a low self-esteem as regards aspirations for freedom and their status in regard to the authorities; and more than anything, they are expected to conform to the group and to its needs, the indirect and cloudy messages of communications, and the wide-ranging conformism with the stress on the population’s dependence on the authorities. This is in contrast with the individualistic culture, which is accepted in the West, which is horizontal and has a low context of communications. People are equal in status and ability, they have a high esteem for aspirations for freedom and independence, and they expect that the group will conform to their needs. Communications messages are direct, while emphasizing innovation and competitiveness, and there exists high mobility in the setting of the legitimate struggle for power and influence.

The family structure in Arab society is authoritarian and patriarchal. A group typified by mutual responsibility, which stresses the centrality of the tribe, the clan, and the extended family in the social structure. It stresses the absolute superiority of these ascriptive groups over the individual’s life. It casts out those who deviate from its way or who act against its interests. Social ostracism is tashmis which originally meant exposure to the sun, and in the past was called khali`: outcast, expellee. Tashmis was a defensive action and was aimed at maintaining social coherence and mutual responsibility.

The determining group membership is within, inside the family or the clan. Ties of friendship with those belonging to groups of other origins, however strong they may be, will not last if a conflict breaks out between the two groups. The friend becomes an adversary and an enemy. An example of this is the saying which is found in several variants: “My brothers and I against my cousins; my cousins and I against the neighbor; the neighbor and I against the outsider.” And the outsider is usually a member of the same tribe. Of course hostility and suspicion towards members of other tribes is deep and intense. From this we may understand the hatred of outsiders who are not Muslims or Arabs, certainly of those of whom it was said that they are infidels. In this way, we reach the social foundation of Arab-Muslim hatred, which is mixed with envy and feelings of inferiority towards the West.

The duty to support the clan/family setting of belonging against others exists without any link to the issue of right or wrong. The attitude towards the outsider is characterized by a fascinating contrast: Politeness and the sympathy of a warm welcome but at the very same time, alienated suspicion. The outsider may even be the neighbor (jar). This is true even in modern times. Even if the status of the clan (hamulah) has weakened, it has certainly not disintegrated. Its importance is great as a foundation for social organizing.

Muhammad succeeded in laying the political and intellectual basis for the Islamic social system. He even tried to build a new society made up of the Islamic community instead of the existing tribe and clan structure. However, reality was different. The tribes joined Islam on the basis of the existing customary solidarity. And they swore allegiance (mubay`ah) to him personally, since he was perceived as a victor. This is a striking phenomenon among the Arabs, which originated in the spread of Islam, and has paramount implications for the issue of “the Return to Islam”. The victor is just, and the just always is victorious. Like the test of success, so too the test of justice. Justice and success are in the hands of Allah alone. Hence it is understood that Islam wins and succeeds because it is just. Yet, when Muhammad realized that he would not succeed and that the jahili values were deeply rooted, he took them into Islam and gave them an Islamic configuration with the meaning of, “For the Sake of Allah (fi sabil Allah)”.

In tribal society, the secular ideas took a central place and were expressed in the concept of “manliness” (muruwwah). This refers to a whole complex of characteristics of the perfect Bedouin man. The most important trait was safeguarding the rules of tribal solidarity (`asabiyyah). The tribe was the principal social unit, the basis for personal and collective existence. Hence, the centrality of the collectivistic conception as against the individualistic one in Islamic society. The most outstanding, most central phenomenon in society is honor. This is the highest, most important value. It is even more important than life itself. A man without honor was considered dead. The place of a man within the tribe, like the place of the tribe within federations of tribes, was in conformity with the measure of his honor. All social values are aimed at attaining, preserving, and increasing honor: giving shelter to a stranger, preserving family and tribal honor through the tradition of blood vengeance; hospitality; and actions to reinforce honor like advertising and renovating one’s genealogy. This particular subject, the family tree, was developed and brought by the Arabs to the level of real science.

The phenomenon of honor has paramount importance in Arab culture, and its implications for every issue in society is worthy of additional elaboration. As we have said, honor is more important even than death. Hence, the Arab saying: “It is better to die with honor than to live with humiliation.” There are several kinds of honor: sharaf is manly honor. It is a flexible kind of honor that can go up or down. One may add to it or take away from it through the man’s activity and through the perception of his environment. On the other hand, `ird is the honor of a woman (and also means a woman’s pelvis). This sort of honor operates in connection with her modesty. It is a hard kind of absolute honor. The woman is born and grows up with honor. It is her duty to preserve it from any defamation. The moment that it is lost, it cannot be restored.26 Muslim tradition attaches supreme importance to manly honor, and to womanly modesty, which expresses the man’s honor. This is the basis for the conduct of Islamic society in respect of women and their status. And it is one of the difficult problems involved in the lack of equality.27

A family’s honor depends on the virginity of its daughters. The harshest blow against honor derives from a daughter or a sister’s improper sexual behavior, or that of a female cousin on the father’s side. An adulterous woman must be killed. That is, the family’s honor is preserved by the action of her male relatives. The act of killing against the background of family honor not only cancels the shame, but it also renews the family’s status and raises its prestige and esteem. A wife’s modest manner of dress, speech, and conduct are the bases for the husband’s honor. In contrast to conventional thinking, family honor murders are more common in the cities than in the countryside.28

The polar opposite to honor is shame. Researchers are not sure whether the concept of honor is more important than the feeling of shame that will be caused if honor is wounded. In the Middle East, not honor but shame is the decisive preoccupation. Shame does not refer to the acts of dishonor, such as illicit sexual relations, but to their revelation, to their becoming public knowledge. Revelation of shameful acts to the public is what most wounds a man’s honor and humiliates him in the eyes of society. The Arab moves along a continuum of constant effort to actively avoid anything that causes shame, as well as energetic actions to promote his honor.29

One of the most important phenomena of the issue of honor, which has huge influence on the behavior today of the fundamentalist Islamic movements, is the aggressive, externalized approach. After all, beyond the shame, that derives from wounded honor, lies revenge. This is the hostility towards the outsider, that honor will be attained and advanced only if vengeance is taken in a way that will be seen by everyone.30 The Jewish approach offers a cheek to slap. This arises from the concept, “We have sinned, we have transgressed, we have committed a crime,” and “Because of our sins, we were exiled from our Land.” The Christian approach offers the other cheek while taking responsibility. Meanwhile, the main component of the Arab-Muslim approach is offensive: “Do I have a problem? You are guilty.” – This is open, blatant hostility towards whatever is perceived as a wrong, as an injustice, as inability to attain one’s goals. There is no attempt to compromise. Further, there is certainly no tolerance for or consent to the rights and the justice of the other. Nor is there any understanding that relative concepts are involved. The phenomenon has taken on perfect dimensions in the Arab approach to the Palestine Question. The conception is total and absolute. Justice and truth are totally with the Palestinians, definitely and without challenge. Benny Morris, one of the leaders of Post-Zionism, understands this, and became somewhat wiser: “They do not understand that there is justice on the other side... Did you ever hear a Palestinian say that there is justice to the Jewish claims to Eretz Israel? I never heard it.”31

The reason for emphasizing the importance of honor derives from the centrality of the patriarchal authoritarian family in tribal society.32 It is easier to violate any treaty other than one based on a man’s word of honor, which obliges him at any price. After all, what does a man have besides his honor? Therefore, the most forceful curse that can be said about a man is that he lacks honor (kalil al-adab). When one wants to stop a man from speaking or when he is speaking silly things, one does not tell him to stop, whether harshly or softly, directly or indirectly, after all, this might wound his honor. Therefore, one uses a parable or an epigram with a clear meaning, or one tells him, “Pray to the Prophet” (salli `ala al-Nabi). The speaker cannot proceed with his words, which are everyday chatter, and he stops speaking immediately. Or when a man says things that are not agreed to, he is not told this openly or crudely. Rather he is offered a parable or an epigram, such as: “There is no tax on words” (al-kalam mafish `alaiha gumruc).

Language is a cultural phenomenon possessing supreme importance. It embodies a system of symbols that enable members of the same culture to communicate. It enables people to understand their social environment, and determines their world outlook. The tradition, the history, and the cultural values are imprinted within it. In Arab society, the use is prominent of expressions, parables, metaphors, linguistic allegories, and there are exaggeration (mubalaghah) and boasting (mufakharah) of one’s command of the language. Hence, there is also exaggeration in speech, verbal pathos, and the wide use of rhetorical phrases. This approach is absolutely opposed to the understatement of Western culture. And here is one of the cultural problems in full force: What happens in the encounter between the overstatement of Arab culture and the understatement of Western culture? In a society that stresses understatement, like world public opinion, there is great attention paid to the apocalyptic hyperbole of overstatement. This is one of the most important reasons for Israel’s difficult situation in world public opinion, which believes that the Arab cultural trait of exaggerated speech describes an existing reality. Arab culture represents a collective ethos and it esteems tradition and honor. It is indirect, with a tendency to avoid insult and causing shame. Therefore, it is better to lie in order to prevent confrontations and insults. The Arabic language is a heritage of rhetoric.33

The power of the rich and beautiful Arabic language’s influence on the Arab’s conduct is astonishing. No people has feelings of such ardent admiration for, or makes such intense and conscious use of their language as do the Arabs. No people is moved so quickly or so swept away by the written or spoken word. The Arabic language is a mirror through which the Arabs examine the world. Even the language of the uneducated is very rich and leads to hyperbole and overemphasis. The Arabs are very proud of their language and they are convinced that it is the most excellent, most beautiful in the world. Patai refers to this as rhetoricism, because of the high value that the Arabs attach to their language and its profound influence on their lives.34 Lewis quotes the philologist al-Tha`alibi who insisted:

Whoever loves the Prophet loves the Arabs. And whoever loves the Arabs loves the Arabic language...because Muhammad is the best of prophets... The Arabs are the best of all the peoples...and the Arabic language is the most excellent of languages.35

The Arab personality excels in antitheses and opposites. This is a deeply rooted duality. The anthropologist Blackman describes the peasants, the fellahin, of Upper Egypt:

They are happy, joyful people in part, lovers of jokes and stories, modest and lovers of hard work, and they offer enthusiastic welcomes to strangers. Yet at the same time, they are extremely emotional; easily and quickly lose their tempers, rising to very high levels of hostility and animosity without self-control. And under the influence of pathos and fanaticism, they are capable of committing any violent, cruel action with terrifying intensity. And the change is dramatic and extreme.36

This is the way of tribalism and clannishness: fatalism and passivity under wondrous self-control, yet, impulsivity astounding in its intensity and out of all proportion in its uncontrolled violence.37

The tribal phenomenon and the anarchic structure bring to expression a number of important characteristics: the centrality of blood ties among the extended family or the tribe, rather than ties to institutions or organizations, determines one’s loyalty and one’s personal and group identification. As a result, there has existed a lack of basic trust, suspicion, and hostility toward “the Other”, even if he is from the neighboring clan or a member of the same tribe. This is a central process in social life, certainly in village areas.38 Hence, it goes without saying that toward non-Muslim strangers the phenomenon is much more extreme. Therefore, all the mechanisms of welcoming and the intensive activity of blessings and hospitality are aimed at creating a protective buffer, at softening the threatening interpersonal encounter.

The picture is obtained of social anarchy, of a war of all against all. However, at the very same time the duty to submit and obey leaders has been very prominent. The masses are strangers to and alienated from political processes; they do not see themselves, and are certainly not seen, as a factor with a position and an opinion that need to be taken into account. There is seemingly a duty of consultation (shura) that Muslim researchers and theologians have turned into an element that expresses Islamic democracy. Yet even in the jahili tribal society it was limited to a council of elders and notables alone. The broad consensus that was achieved among the notables was based on the talents and fluent speech of the leader. Thus, the phenomenon of general consensus (ijma`) too, which supposedly served as an expression of consensus and democratic values in Islam, was in fact among the ruling elite and the notables. This reality increased political cynicism, strengthened the trend that politics is “a necessary evil” (sharr), and therefore one ought to avoid involvement in it. On the other hand, it justified the right to rebelliousness and revolutionism. These explain why the Islamic ideal was so far from realization, and change of regime could be carried out only in an uninstitutionalized manner, usually violently.

Indeed, Arab society resembles any other tribal society in its characteristics. But the difference is essential, since in no other society have the values and means of government operated through an all-embracing religion which rules over all political life, and gives incentives to take power and coerce one’s will. Islam implanted in the Arabs values and attitudes that have barely changed over the generations. Another phenomenon that made it possible for Islam to exist as a political system was to accept the many anarchic conflicts as legitimate and to institutionalize them. That is, Arab society adopted a flexible political system with a high capacity for adaptation. However, this was only on the inside. In everything having to do with non-Muslims, there was a lack of tolerance, and total, uncompromising hostility.

This trend was expressed also in a realistic, sober-minded conception of the possible as against the desirable. Living in the desert, in hostile surroundings, with resources rare and hard to obtain, in a state of parochialism and social and political alienation, they created a society that came to terms with the harsh reality. Political conformism was necessary as was acceptance of the rules of conduct which defined social goals in religious terms. In contrast to Jewish society, which is implanted with a messianic heritage of exile – revolutionism, pleading with rulers, placating, and the culture of the enclave, Arab society speaks with pathos and feeling, but stands stable in the desert sand, while actually racially rejecting the Other.

An important cultural phenomenon is the attitude toward time. Time was always an exciting and mysterious subject. In ancient cultures, they even invented gods of time. The Greeks had Kronos. From his name are derived the terms chronological, synchronization, anachronism. There are three kinds of time, objective, physical time – represented by the clock and the calendar; biological time which expresses processes through creatures and plants, and is unique in accord with the seasons of the year; and psychological time which expresses a man’s subjective experience. Time is much influenced by culture. Thus among the Bedouin, “Time is a cigarette”; among the American Indians: “Time is a red apple.” In Arab society time is not characterized in terms of shortage, and the conception is that “There is time” always, and “There is no need to achieve everything in our times.” The phenomenon of “Now” is not known and not understood. One may put off attaining goals if one encounters a difficulty or resistance, and one needs patience to realize them. There is a fatalistic coming to terms with life and death.

These are definite symptoms of behavioral polarization, between unity and schism, between honor and shame, between violent aggressivity and passive submission to the state, between the ideal and reality, between fantasy reaching up to the skies and the earthiness of the burning desert, between hatred of the imperialist West and admiration of its attributes and activity. The dominant phenomenon is the aspiration for freedom, a result of the stormy, emotional personality type, contrasted with the anarchy of desert life which requires patience and endurance. Arab society in the Middle East is tribal in origin, and became institutionalized over the centuries into a village society with a minority in the cities. Urban society sprouted up in the 20th century. Nevertheless, patterns of thought and activity have remained village and tribal for the most part.

The Arab-Islamic Political System

The two central phenomena that explain the Arab-Islamic political system are authoritarian regimes and patrimonial leadership.

The authoritarian phenomenon covers various and varied instances of political regimes. The pioneering research in the field was done by Linz, who considered Spain in the time of Franco.39 He discerned four dimensions that characterize authoritarianism as personal leadership, which exercises power within very broad boundaries – which are yet undefined formally – at the head of a military junta; lack of a detailed guiding ideology; very limited political pluralism; lack of mobility, and absence of sovereign legitimacy.

From Linz’ research, two approaches to research emerged with different foci. One, that of Perlmutter40 concerning the Middle East, emphasized the institutional-structural dimensions of authoritarian regimes, as a successful way of understanding their political dynamics and practical behavior. The second approach, that of O’Donnell, concerns the political system in South America.41 He stressed the processes of modernization as a principal focus for understanding the phenomenon. He found three kinds of authoritarianism: traditional, populistic, and bureaucratic, which he analyzed in accord with the dimensions of institutionalization and integration of modernization.

The typifying components according to which one can discern the phenomenon of authoritarian regimes are personal leadership and the centrality of the army in politics.

  1. The Personality of the Leader and His Centrality as an Alternative to Regime Legitimacy. The leadership in Arab politics was always an activity limited to the level of the ruling elite, and distinguished as a personal system, without fixed political structures. Most inhabitants were not involved in political activity, and viewed it as a malignant evil that one must not be involved in. The state oppressed them and demanded two things: enlistment in the army and payment of taxes. Participation in politics was always on a low level, and was expressed by support for the government, and not in demands on it. The leadership was always the most important factor in Arab political history, which was a kind of existence (wajib). Any government was preferable to lack of government, which meant anarchy. Hence, “even an Ethiopian slave whose head is like a watermelon” in the words of Khawarij, and “better 40 years of tyranny than lack of government,” according to the Hadith. Nevertheless, politics was limited to the level of the ruling elite, without fixed structures or mechanisms of institutionalization. The caliphs (khulafa) were defined as replacements for the Prophet, and earned oaths of allegiance (mubaya`ah).

    Muslim history gave prominence to the dominance of the patrimonial leadership. The leader was located in the center of the political system, and within the inner circle around him loyal advisors ran to and fro competing for power and influence. Islam cultivated patrimonial patterns through stressing the religious ideals of submission and sublimation. Competition was institutionalized in the political system alone, while the patrimonial leader encouraged these processes by the method of divide and rule.

    As opposed to other societies, Islam institutionalized conflict, as a political feature, as a way of life, and thereby systemic stability was strengthened. Halpern analyzed the Islamic system in terms of its capacity to transform tensions into balances, and to link all the components of society together through conflict no less than through coordination and integration.42 In the Arab-Islamic tradition we find a stress on the traits and personality of the ruler and prominence of non-institutionalization of politics.43 This setting, which was created in the historical and religious tradition, emphasized the anarchic links of sublimation combined with horizontal links of competition and conflict.

    Arab-Muslim political culture is subordinated at the center and parochial at the periphery, and possesses an alienated character. Political power has led to economic wealth (the opposite happened in the West). The political elite included – traditionally – three bodies of functionaries: religious scholars, military officers, and members of the bureaucracy. Four kinds of leadership are known: consensus, a jahili custom (appointment of tribal elders and one chosen first among equals); legitimacy of choice, an Islamic tradition based on blood ties to the tribe of Qureish and to the Sah`abah; Muslim dynastic theocracy; and the techno-bureaucratic leadership of army officers.

    Islamic has succeeded in channeling anarchistic energies into a dynamic, expanding system, an aggressive foreign policy, and into conquests for the sake of Allah. Islam satisfied economic and social needs for conquest, and established an empire with two phenomena: Islamization of the conquered territories, and their Arabization. Therefore, the factors in the success of Islamic expansion44 were a combination of three aspects: first, religious motives for spreading the Muslim religion as a religious duty that was rewarded with paradise; second, economic-social aspects – harsh years of drought had brought about pressure to apply an aggressive external policy. Fertile lands were conquered while religion served as a cover. The climactic approach stands out: the climactic conditions were so harsh that they brought about offensive wandering northwards, to departure from the Arabian Peninsula. The third, diplomatic aspects: the Byzantine and Persian Empires had been weakened while chaos prevailed in them. They were worn out and not held in affection. In contrast, the new conquerors enjoyed high morale and the offensive spirit of combat methods, and with endurance to withstand the difficult conditions of shortage. And there was a reward for their labor: They received loot and regular payments, and those who fell in battle were promised all the delights of Paradise, for those who fell for the sake of Allah (shuhadah).

    The leadership is the central factor in importance in every political system. However, its influence and power in an authoritarian regime is great and significant. The authoritarian leadership is not protected like the totalitarian leadership, and emerges mainly from the army or rests on the army’s support. Hence, Wriggins claimed45 that in developing states there is no greater importance than the functioning of the leadership, and he proposes examining the political system in terms of strategies in aggregation of power, while emphasizing the leader’s personality.

    Due to the lack of institutional legitimacy, legitimacy is bestowed on the leadership. The competition to achieve and preserve power is not institutionalized, and everything flows from the will and the whims of the leader, who serves as a central index for the importance of the state.46 All national issues revolve around the leader’s personality and prestige. The structure is one of primordial groups possessing loyalties and belonging. Effective political non-institutionalization and the lack of formal procedures are expressed in the weakness of organizational ties, and they encourage disorder and political decadence.47 Political struggle takes place through interpersonal rivalries and not between parties representing functional interests. The leaders shape policy in all areas of life with a hierarchical, centralized policy, while the conception of politics is bureaucratic.

    In a place where the frameworks of traditional power are not in effect, and the political systems from the colonial period are not well regarded, the leader’s personality is the principal embodiment of past tradition and of aspirations for the future. His personality is a vital index in the eyes of the population, for the place and importance of the state in the world.48

    The “simple” political system and processes of decision-making are placed in the hands of the leader, without any involvement of interest groups, and without institutionalized activity through procedures and practices. Authoritarianism is not ideological, and lack of competition and parties is a striking trait. The bureaucracy becomes the essence of everything, in the manner of a hierarchical military command structure.49

    The ruling elite comes from among the religious sages, army officers, and members of the bureaucracy. Most of the population were not at all involved in political activity, and saw it as “a malignant evil” which it was necessary to live with and accept, but it was absolutely desirable and very advisable not to be involved in. Three kinds of leadership developed: “traditional”, which passes down as an inheritance according to tradition and custom; “feudal”, growing out of landed property and tribal status; and “revolutionary”, which derives from the seizure of power by force. The three kinds of leadership differ in their forms of government, in patterns of control, and in sources of legitimacy. Yet they all have something in common; the leaders are patrimonial.  

    In order to understand the phenomenon of patrimonial leadership, we will discuss several considerations of the matter. Weber examined three kinds of leadership: traditional personal, charismatic personal, and legal-rational non-personal. Patrimonialism is a sub-type of traditional leadership and exceeds in importance, patriarchal and gerontocratic leadership.50 Coming after Weber, Roth pointed out that patrimonialism is separate from traditional legitimacy, and is based on personal loyalty of men to a leader through material incentives.51 Patrimonial leadership is most suitable in Third World countries, some of which, “perhaps are not states but rather private governments of those who possess governmental power”.52  

    Following Roth and on the basis of Weber’s terminology, two sub-tendencies developed. One by Linz who dealt with patrimonial personal leadership, and developed four kinds of non-democratic regimes which are founded on personal loyalty to the leader: modern sultanism; oligarchic democracy; caudillismo (rule by army commanders); and caciquismo (rule by bosses of organized crime). Among the four, modern sultanism is the most personal. In it, the army and police play a decisive role.53 The second sub-tendency is Eisenstadt’s. He considered neo-patrimonialism, and created a distinction between traditional patrimonialism and modern neo-patrimonialism, principally in Africa.54

    Jackson and Rosberg found that the absence of effective political institutions flows from the dominance of personal leaders in military or party regimes. Personal leadership necessarily also means an authoritarian regime which is founded on personal ties in patron-client relationships, through divide and rule: religious leadership that stresses an all-embracing ideology and requires loyalty and absolute submission; princely leadership based on kinship ties of manipulative coalitions; authoritarian-personal leadership that rules without competitors and without coalitions; and tyrannical leadership that is a parallel to Linz’s sultanism, and exercises coercive power without limitations.55

    We may characterize patrimonial leadership in the Arab political, military, and kingship systems by four central aspects:

  1. Personalism. Personal ties are the most important, and not study or understanding of the formal structures and organizations. This means that the leader is responsible for all areas of society, and his importance is greater than all the mechanisms and balances, and his leadership style is more important than the functioning of the political institutions.56 Legitimacy is not institutional but solely personal, and the leader represents the aspirations of the past and the hopes for the future. Patrimonial leadership lacks tolerance for institutionalized political processes, for the existence of an opposition, and does not recognize the legitimacy of social conflicts. It opposes the “politics of politics” that is expressed in compromises and negotiations. The political struggle is not between parties, but through interpersonal rivalry. Opposition parties, if they exist, are inclined to act as revolutionary movements, which negate the existing political order. In consequence of high politicization, the phenomenon of praetorianism developed as a central political process.57

  2. Strategic Personal Ties. The leadership attaches great importance to physical proximity. Indeed, it exists in all the political systems, but it has a great importance in a place where processes of decision-making are centralized, personalist, and informal. Those who are close to the leaders – family members, friends and personal loyalists – take the senior government positions. This is the central reason for governmental nepotism. Furthermore, what is involved is clientelist politics in which the leader brings personalities and advisors near to him and pushes them away in a strategy of divide and rule, in order to prevent formation of alternate foci of power which might threaten him and his regime, as well as his aspiration to create competition among them.

  3. Informal Politics. Processes of decision-making are not structured in institutionalized settings. Political institutions are weak, without capacity to influence. Therefore, they serve as a means for rationalization of power. They make it possible for leaders to emphasize capabilities for maneuvering, while taking minimal responsibility. Hence, politics is non-corporative, performed through informal bodies without political structures bearing influence, and political participation is on the level of demands alone.58

  4. Military Power. This power is at the disposal of the leader and of his needs. The army has an important, significant role in the political system, and constitutes the basis for the leader’s status and courage. Military parades, ceremonies, and displays of military power are among the major foundations for attaining and preserving power, and in projecting political power. Therefore, patrimonialism emerges chiefly in military regimes or in regimes wherein the army is a support for the regime and a basis of its existence.

  1. High Involvement by the Army in Shaping and Administering Politics. The army is critical in its importance for the functioning of the authoritarian state. Since the beginning of the 1930s and until the end of the 1980s, the army has intervened and ruled in more than seventy states. Finer argued that it was possible to explain military involvement in politics through objective and subjective factors. In relating to the motive and the opportunity, Finer speaks of four combinations of possible military involvement: there is no military involvement, since there is neither motive nor opportunity for it; there is military involvement – there are both a motive and an opportunity; “In sum”, there is no military involvement, since there is no motive despite there being an opportunity; and military involvement is unsuccessful, since there is a motive but no opportunity. The motives for intervention are: national interests, destiny of the army in politics, sectoral-class interests, and corporative interests. He analyzed the role of the army in politics, through a typology identifying five characteristics of a military regime.59

    Huntington’s classic, influential study is the most famous analysis of the roles performed by military regimes. He examined three phenomena, while referring to praetorianism and to the level of political participation. The oligarchic type is connected with a low level of political participation, the radical type of the middle class is connected with an average level of political participation, and the mass type is linked to a high level of political participation.60 It is important to signify that the term praetorian is taken from the Praetorian Guards in the Roman army which succeeded in placing their candidates on the throne of imperial power. Nowadays, the concept serves to explain situations of chronic interference by the army in politics, and when the army constitutes an independent influential political force. Huntington argues that a praetorian society means politicization of the army and of all social forces. All societies that go through processes of modernization are inclined to be praetorian, since the political institutions cannot contend with the constantly growing demands for political participation.61

    In every type of praetorian society, the army performs a different role. The Oligarchic Type touches the personalist political leadership, and has stood out since the nineteenth century in regimes in South America. In the Radical Type of the Middle Class, the army fulfills an autonomous role through a reformist overthrow and is prominent among the regimes of the Middle East and Africa, whereas in the Mass Type, the army plays the role of guardian of the regime, and carries out a “veto overthrow” in order to protect the dominance of the middle class against all the new groups that have joined politics, mainly from the lower classes.62

    Perlmutter described two types of the revolutionary praetorian army: the Arbitrator Type which accepts the existing social order, and is ready to go back to the barracks after the issues have been settled; and the Ruling Type that challenges the existing institutional legitimacy, does not trust civilian politicians, and is inclined to maximize the role of the army in politics. Perlmutter adds a third type to these two: “the army-party regime”.63

    Nordlinger created a similar typology in which there are three types of military regime: the Ruling Type that expresses a broad control; the Guardian Type expresses limited goals and direct control; the Mediator Type expresses limited goals and indirect control. These types are discerned through two variables: the scope of political-economic goals of the regime, and the scope of military influence on the government. The army’s power reaches its peak in the “Ruling Type” of military regime. Nordlinger based his analysis on the reasons for army intervention, referring to the Why and the When does the army intervenes. He intensely stressed the corporative interests of the army.64 Taking power is the simpler act compared with administering power. A practical guide for taking power is that of Luttwak,65 and in the context of South America that of Firko.66 Among them Nordlinger briefly analyzed the techniques for action.67 

    The authoritarian regimes in the Arab world are of two kinds: first, military regimes, in which the army has seized power by force, without parliamentary arrangements, and it holds control of all institutions of power, making decisions without restraints.68 Secondly, royalist regimes are where power is passed down as a family inheritance, but the army serves as a major support for the regime’s existence.69 In both types of regime, the leadership is patrimonial.  

    What is implied by features of Arab politics, is that the authoritarian regime and the patrimonial leadership violently suppress all opposition. They do not recognize the legitimacy of political bargaining, of pluralism, or of the basic rights of the individual; and they demand political support and submission, while not honoring political demands. Hence, any opposition is conspiratorial, and the more that the regime suppresses it, the more the opposition becomes violent. Here is the link to the action of the fundamentalist Islamic movements, to their successful suppression which brought about their exit from the scene, out of the Arab states, to Afghanistan, and to creating the new anarchistic Islamic terrorist groups.

    Chapter II in the next issue of



    Webster’s defines it as “a movement in 20th century Protestantism emphasizing the literally interpreted Bible as fundamental to Christian life and Teaching”. The Encyclopedia Britannica defines it as a conservative movement in American Protestantism arising out of the millenarian movement of the 19th century and emphasizing as fundamental to Christianity the literal interpretation and absolute inerrancy of the Scriptures, the imminent and physical second coming of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Birth, Resurrection and Atonement.


    R.H. Dekmejian, Islam in Revolution, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1995, pp. 57-59, 66, 220-245.


    We will consider specifically these two issues in the course of the present study.


    V.E. Makari, Ibn-Taymiyyah’s Ethics, Chico: Scholars Press, 1983.


    C.M. Helms, The Cohesion of Saudi Arabia: The Evolution of Political Identity, Baltimore: John’s Hopkins University Press, 1980.


    N.A. Ziadeh, Sanusiya: A Study of a Revivalist Movement in Islam, Leiden: Brill, 1958.


    P.M. Holt, The Mahdist State in the Sudan, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1958; H. Shaked, The Life of the Sudanese Mahdi, New Brunswick: Transaction, 1978.


    N.R. Keddie, An Islamic Response to Imperialism: Political and Religious Writing of Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.


    M.H. Kerr, Islamic Reform: The Political and Legal Theories of Muhammad Abduh and Rashid Rida, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966; A. Hourani, Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, London: Oxford University Press, 1970, pp 130-160.


    Ibid., Hourani., pp. 222-244.


    Ibid., pp. 231-232.


    The best study on the Muslim Brotherhood and its influence is still that of Mitchell. R.P. Mitchell, The Society of Muslim Brothers, London: Oxford University Press, 1969.


    C. Geertz, Interpretation of Cultures, New York: Basic Books, 1973, p. 89.


    P.K. Hitti, Islam: A Way of Life, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1970.


    M. Ruthven, Islam in the World, New York: Oxford University Press, 2000, pp. 26-79.


    Ibid., pp. 80-121; M.W. Watt, Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961.


    M. Zia Ullah, Islamic Concept of God, London: Kegan-Paul, 1983.


    A fascinating analysis of these movements in terms of “the meaning of unbelief”, “revolutions in Islam”, and “Islamic conceptions of revolutions” can be found in B. Lewis, Islam in History: Ideas, Men and Events in the Middle East, London: Alcove Press, 1973.


    We will consider these two important phenomena below in this chapter.


    M. Hoffman, Islam the Alternative, Reading: Garnet Publishing, 1993, pp. 89-98.


    P. Crone, Trade and the Rise of Islam, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1987.


     M.W. Watt, Muhammad at Mecca, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1960.


    M.W. Watt, Muhammad at Medina, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962.


    The issue of Jerusalem is heavy, subject to deeply emotional controversies, and apologetics in the conceptions of the sides. Indeed, Jerusalem has no real link to or touch on Islam, except as a defiant political demand, but it is not our task to discuss in the context of this study.


    F.M. Denny, An Introduction to Islam, New York: Macmillan, 1985, pp. 46-64.


    R.T. Antoun, “On the Modesty of Women in Arab Muslim Villages: A Study in the Accommodation of Tradition”, American Anthropology, Vol. 70/4, August 1968, pp. 671-697.


    F. Mernissi, Beyond the Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in Modern Moslem Society, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987; L. Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate, Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 1993.


    J.G. Peristiany (ed.), Honor and Shame: The Values of Mediterranean Society, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966; B. Altorki, Women in Saudi Arabia, New York: Columbia University Press, 1986.


    S. Hamady, The Temperament and Character of the Arabs, New York: Twaine, 1960, pp. 34-39, 50-54.


    D.P. Ausubel, “Relationship Between Shame and Guilt in the Socializing Process”, Psychological Review, Vol. 62/5, September 1955.


    B. Morris, “The Arabs Are the Same Arabs”, Yediot Aharonot, November 23, 2001 (Hebrew).


    H.H. Williams and J.R. Williams, “The Extended Family as a Vehicle of Culture Change”, Human Organization, Vol. 24/1, Spring 1965.


    E. Shouby, “The Influence of the Arabic Language on the Psychology of the Arabs” in A.M. Lutfiyya and C.W. Churchill (eds.), Readings in Arab Middle Eastern Societies and Cultures, The Hague: Mouton, 1970.


    R Patai, The Arab Mind, New York: Charles Schriber, 1983, pp. 48-49.


    B. Lewis, The Middle East and the West, New York: Harper and Row, 1965, p. 86.


    W.S. Blackman, The Fellahin of Upper Egypt, London: Harrap, 1927, pp. 23-24.


    H.H. Ayrout, The Egyptian Peasant, Boston: Beacon Press, 1963, pp. 141-145; S. Hamady, The Temperament and Character of the Arabs, New York: Twaine, 1960, pp. 54-55.


    H. Ammar, Growing up in an Egyptian Village, London: Routledge and Kegan Pall, 1954.


    J.J. Linz, “An Authoritarian Regime: Spain”, in: E. Allardt and S. Rokkan (eds.), Mass Politics, New York: Free Press, 1964, pp. 255-259, 269-270; J.J. Linz, “Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes”, in: F.I. Greenstein and N.W. Polsby (eds.), Macropolitical Theory: Handbook of Political Science, Vol. 3, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1975.


    A. Perlmutter, Modern Authoritarianism: A Comparative Institutional Analysis, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981.


    G. O’Donnell, Modernization and Bureaucratic Authoritarianism, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973.


    M. Halpern, The Politics of Social Change in the Middle East and North Africa, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963, pp. 10, 18.


    H.C. Moore, “On the Theory and Practice Among the Arabs”, World Politics, Vol. 23/1, October 1971.


    F.M. Donner, The Early Islamic Conquests, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981.


    W.H. Wriggins, The Ruler’s Imperative, New York: Columbia University Press, 1969.


    M. Hudson, Arab Politics, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977.


    S.P. Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968.


    Y. Emerson, From Empire to Nation, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960.


    J. Heaphey, “The Organization of Egypt: Inadequacies of a Non-Political Model for Nation-Building”, World Politics, Vol. 2/2, January 1966.


    M. Weber, The Theory of Social and Economic Organization, New York: Free Press, 1964, pp. 328, 358-360.


    G. Roth, “Personal Rulership, Patrimonialism, and Empire Building in the New States”, World Politics, Vol. 20/2, January 1968, pp. 195-196.


    Ibid., pp. 196, 198.


    Op. cit., J.J. Linz, 1975, pp. 253, 259-264.


    S.N. Eisenstadt, Traditional Patrimonialism and Modern Neopatrimonialism, Beverley Hills: Sage, 1973.


    R.H. Jackson and C.G. Rosberg, Personal Rule in Black Africa, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982, pp. 9-10, 12-19, 37-81.


    Op. cit., G. Roth, 1968.


    A. Perlmutter, Egypt: The Praetorian State, New Brunswick: Transaction, 1974.


    H.C. Moore, “Authoritarian Politics in Unincorporated Society: The Case of Nasser’s Egypt”, Comparative Politics, Vol. 6/2, January 1974.


    S.E. Finer, The Man on the Horseback, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975.


    S.P. Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968, p. 80. Despite this, Huntington himself admits that his theory is taken mainly from the South American experience, and that in other regions of the world, reality might be different. Ibid., pp. 199-200.


    Ibid., pp. 79-80, 194-196.


    Ibid., pp. 199-205, 209, 214, 216-218, 222-223.


    A. Perlmutter, The Military and Politics in Modern Times, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977, pp. 104-105, 145-147.


    E.A. Nordlinger, Soldiers in Politics: Military Coups and Government, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1977.


    E. Luttwak, Coup d’Etat: A Practical Handbook, London: Allen Lane, 1968.


    B.W. Faracau, The Coup: Tactics in the Seizure of Power, Westport: Praeger, 1994.


    Op. cit., E.A. Nordlinger, 1977, pp. 102-106.


    Ibid.; R. O’Kane, The Likelihood of Coups, Aldershot: Avebury, 1987.


    M. Herb, All in the Family: Absolutism, Revolution, and Democracy in the