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The rules of Barat. Tribal documents from Yemen

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Paul Dresch

Part 2. Customary law in context

Assessing wrongs

Entrées d'index

Mots clés :

Juif yéménite

Keywords :

Yemeni Jew

Texte intégral

  • 1 Ḥabshūsh Ruʼyah p. 55, Yémen pp. 93-4, cf. al‑ʿAlīmīʼs Qaḍāʼ qabalī p. 51. For estimates of the nom (...)
  • 2 Zabārah (Āʼimmah vol. 1/1 pp. 66-7) quotes Ḥusayn Jaghmānʼs table and poem of rates for wounds, whe (...)
  • 3 To imagine a whole tribe, let alone a family, really paying this amount is difficult. But early twe (...)

1We are not told anywhere in our documents what the standard rate was for dīyah or full blood-money, and nineteenth-century accounts suggest the nominal sum being lowered arbitrarily in tribal practice.1 But a sensible guess would be of the order of 770 or 800 silver pieces. In text B section 14 the fine for shooting at a man without good reason is said to be 110 silver pieces, and doing so at truce, a worse offence by definition, is a quarter-dīyah: somewhere between 192, which is roughly a quarter of 770, and 220 silver riyāls, twice the usual ʿayb, sounds plausible for the latter sum, and a full dīyah was thus probably close to 800 riyāls in the eighteenth century as it was in the nineteenth and early twentieth.2 The standard ʿayb of 110 riyāls, where no multiple is applied, is itself quite serious. In Sufyān a generation ago this, with an accompanying bull, was the amount prescribed for entering a manʼs house by force and denying the man access. According to the texts at hand, if one rejects the judgement of an arbitrator one must give the arbitrator surety worth 110 silver pieces before going to appeal (text B sections 39, 40); shooting at a man without reason, as we saw, requires payment of that amount; the cost of wrongly “vilifying” a fellow­tribesman (the details will be explained below) is fined the same; and doing so in the tribeʼs own market is penalized that much eleven-fold. Killing a man at market might perhaps be eleven times the blood-money, more than 8,000 silver pieces or fairly nearly a king's ransom.3

  • 4 For slaughter-beasts in amends cf. al‑Akwaʿ Madkhal pp. 28, 40, Dresch ʻḤūthʼ pp. 65, 77, ʻSufyānʼ (...)
  • 5 Ḥabshūsh Ruʼyah pp. 37-8, 56, Yémen pp. 69-71, 94-5. Bin Miʿṣār and Abū Laḥūm in the stories follow (...)

2To make a table of amends would be pointless if one drafted it simply in terms of money. Although the terms and rhetoric are consistent, their interpretation is not. “Four-fold” can be as different as four times the blood money or four times the standard ʿayb (a difference of an order of magnitude in gold or silver); and in one case that I noted, “eleven-fold”, which sounded at first to mean eleven times the blood-money, turned out in the end to be five bulls and six head of sheep slaughtered as formal amends for breach of the market-peace.4 Nor is the division of amends specified. The principle is that they go to those insulted, but who counts for legal purposes as having been insulted varies. Two stories from Ḥabshūsh about Nihm in the nineteenth century will make the point.5

3In the first, a Jew under Bin Miʿṣārʼs protection was robbed; his protector retrieved the Jewʼs goods by violence and then pursued a veritable war against the culprit, finally killing him and his brother, but what amends, if any, were ever paid to whom fade from notice. In the second, one of Bin Miʿṣārʼs people (somewhat unbalanced and later claimed to be outright mad, which removes the need for personal vengeance) killed a Jew under Abū Laḥūmʼs protection. Abū Laḥūm and Bin Miʿṣār confronted each other, each with some 2,000 men. Shaykhs from miles around were called on to arbitrate, and they judged against the killerʼs people four times the blood­-money, 3,080 riyāls in total. Abū Laḥūm kept two dīyahs and passed the others to the dead manʼs heirs. This has the appearance less of a right (the amends could as well have been split three to one) than of Abū Laḥūm making a grand gesture.

  • 6 The initial claimant says, sāmiḥ la-kum, “I allow you”, “I treat you kindly”. Large differences bet (...)

4A Jew, as Ḥabshūsh puts it, “had no price” (mā la-h thaman). But the same indeterminacy recurs with tribesmen. The difficulty at points in the market-guaranty (text 1 sections 3, 9, 10, 12) of understanding whether payment is once, twice, or four‑fold derives in part from unstated assumptions about the course of a claim, as do ambiguities about who receives how much of, say, four-fold recompense. If the guarantors of the market act promptly to restore the loss, their offer of multiple amends should be waived by the claimant. If they tarry, then the claimant would expect rather more of what they take from the culprit (he may even have a separate action against the guarantors for an ʿayb in multiples); and if they expend much effort in pursuing the culprit, perhaps fighting to extract what is due, the guarantors would be expected as those primarily wronged to take, say, three parts in four of the complete amends. Even compensation for material loss or damage obeys this logic. A prompt, unambiguous offer should draw a partial waiver;6 delay involves further insult.

  • 7 Serjeant ʻSunnah, Qurʼānʼ p. 48. Earlier (ibid. pp. 45-6) he quotes the line that an arbitrator in (...)

5As we shall see when we come to the Baraṭ documents, particularly texts A and B, most payments simply between antagonists are made through specific guarantors. They too may take part of a prescribed payment (text B section 37: part six, below). A certain balance is often arrived at in the payments themselves, meanwhile, not by summing the wrongs on each side and simply according the surplus or deficit to one of the disputing parties, but by prescribing reciprocally payments for each wrong. In Murhibah some years ago, for example, a rather volatile man shot at another for no good reason, and the second man, rushing into his own house, fired off in return a whole magazine from an automatic rifle. Neither man was hurt; but the first had to pay the second a full ʿayb (110 riyāls with a bull), and the second paid the first a half­ ʿayb (55 riyāls and two sheep) for gratuitous aggression. Compensation for wounds and for damage to property is usually paid back and forth in the same way. An arbitrator, for his part, is supposed to be guided by the principle, al‑riāʼsayyid al‑aḥkām, “satisfaction [of the parties] is what rules judgements”, or perhaps more classically al‑ṣulḥ sayyid al‑aḥkām, what matters is “reconciliation”.7

  • 8 Cf. al‑Sudumī Naẓarīyah pp. 116, 121. Notes from Sufyān, Arab, and al‑ʿUṣaymāt two decades ago and (...)
  • 9 H.R. Loyn, Kinship in Anglo-Saxon England, Anglo Saxon England vol. 3 (1974) p. 205, citing Felix L (...)

6What payments are finally agreed between parties at odds, or prescribed by an arbitrator, may be divided among recipients. Blood-money for a man killed by an outsider, where there is no aggravating circumstance, tends increasingly these days to go to the victimʼs family: the owners of the blood (awliyāʼal‑dam) are then approximately the heirs described in sharīʿah law. But a common “rule” even twenty years ago was that half went to the family, half to “the tribe” (qabīlah or ʿashīrah), usually understood as a sub-section of the kind that make up Dhū Muḥammadʼs fifths.8 If extracting the payment involved effort by a larger unit, “the tribe” here might be larger: half the blood-money, or even more, might rightly (if notionally) have been spread among a great many recipients. At every stage of dispute, opinion on the justice of claims is formed both within and between the units conceptually opposed, and thus determines who exactly is involved to what degree. A section or tribe that appears on a diagram as a solid bloc is in practice “a virtual court of equity”.9

  • 10 Stewart (ʻContractʼ pp. 171,269) describes a system in Sinai where even very small payment-groups o (...)
  • 11 Ideals of fairness, sympathy, and charity do not end or begin at the borders of sections. Within a (...)

7Collecting compensation (naqīṣah) from oneʼs fellows is again a matter of right and wrong. In the theoretical case nowadays that someone from Dhū Muḥammad killed an outsider where no specific blame attached (a squabble erupted on the road or in open country, for instance, and each man simply went for his gun) the blood-­money would supposedly be paid by the manʼs laḥmah (pl. liḥām). The liḥām at issue in Āl Aḥmad b. Kawl (one fifth of Dhū Muḥammad) might be Āl Yaḥyā b. Aḥmad (some 300-350 grown men), for instance, or Āl Thaybah (perhaps 200), which are surprisingly large units. In practice, unless a case had developed in such a way that it became a collective issue, blood-money would usually be paid by something more like a family group, perhaps a dozen men; also, the maternal kin, who formally share no responsibility at all for blood, may be called on and most of the paternal kin omitted.10 But a man faced with large payments of any kind can yataraffad (that is, ask rifdah, the same word as is used of voluntary contributions at a wedding) as widely as he likes. He can go from village to village announcing his case, rather as people sit in mosques with a placard asking help, or send friends and relatives to ask: there is nothing dishonourable about doing so.11

  • 12 Cf. Ḥabshūsh Ruʼyah pp. 38, 70. The practice is discussed in Dresch Tribes pp. 51, 86-7, 254, 268, (...)

8In brief, no table of shared identities specifies what occurs in practice. It does, however, specify the range of events first possible, and collective identity works primarily from the outside inwards: if someone from Dhū Muḥammad kills someone from Dhū Ḥusayn, for instance, then the two tribes as wholes are potentially at odds and the implication needs denying. Normally this is done by others in Dhū Muḥammad, now themselves all under threat, proffering rifles to the victimʼs people.12 Such rifles can also form a link whereby someone from the culpritʼs section or tribe takes responsibility for payment of his debt and for his conduct. Hardly any but the smallest dispute occurs without the proffering of slaughter-beasts and pledges of rifles to define who is implicated in what degree, and the “links” that result, not least those of guaranty for othersʼ conduct, may last for years, if not indefinitely. One always, so to speak, comes in half-way through: before a particular dispute emerges, there are already links of truce, of guaranty, and ongoing arbitration that cross-cut the simple identities of who belongs to which tribe and section.

Document 8: Provisions on truce and arbitration in the Jawf (1409/1989)

Document 8: Provisions on truce and arbitration in the Jawf (1409/1989)
  • 13 For the importance of guaranty elsewhere than Yemen see e.g. Jaussen Pays de Moab pp. 185, 195-6, 2 (...)
  • 14 The word siʿāyah or suʿāyah in the Arabic text here is a plural of sāʿin, “one who tries or works f (...)

9The importance of arbitration is obvious, and the amends or compensation prescribed are only part of this. At arbitration the dispute itself is defined, as too are the parties actually at odds. Beyond this, a structure of guaranty is established. The arbitrator himself is inviolate, and each party chooses guarantors or bondsmen (ḍumanā' kufalāʼ) for the other.13 The connections among these people –disputing parties, guarantors, arbitrator– are links (ʿulaq) that are formed explicitly, that are actionable, and that cannot be broken, any more than those of escort or protection, without risking oneʼs standing as legal subject. Around them often form links of secondary guaranty (radm or ṣawn). Although a dispute may to start with be ill­-defined and subject to differing interpretations, the structure of the truce is formed of clear commitments; and within that structure, the plaint is specified (drafted in document form as raqm al‑maraḍ) and a ruling given by the arbitrator. A document typed in the late 1980s, reproduced here as Document 8, shows the then-Governor of the Jawf, himself a noted shaykh of Dhū Muḥammad, exhorting tribesmen in the name of ”religion and custom“ (din wa-ʿurf) to observe a truce of arbitration on pain of a fine of 220 silver riyāls each day they remain in breach. Half would go to those who sought or agreed the truce and half to those pursuing settlement, “for this is a weighty link (ʿulqah ghaṣṣābah) for the seeker [of truce] and the arbitrator”.14

  • 15 A truce in the name of, say, a tribe is binding on all the tribeʼs members, and breaking the truce (...)
  • 16 At truce or under guaranty a dispute is said to be hāmid jāmid, quiet and frozen, or bārid bard al‑ (...)

10Permanence of such “links” and commitments is sought in truces, though establishing a general truce is difficult.15 It was also sought in hijrah-pacts that protect families of learned persons (the details will be looked at below) and in market-pacts of the kind we mentioned in part one. In these latter cases a shaykh must stand guarantor for his men. But each signatory is answerable to the others, and in all of these cases where the give and take of potential revenge is “frozen”,16 specific links are formed, entered into by named individuals on a given date in the same way as the definitive links of for instance escort. Violating such a link requires not compensation for a loss (naqīṣah) but amends for an insult (ʿatb, ʿayb), and someone who commits an ʿayb is due no support. As recent documents from Sufyān express it, he loses his ʿarḍ, and “who loses his ʿarḍ loses his tribe”. As texts A and B phrase the matter, he has no sinnah.

  • 17 Cf. Kelly Irish Law pp. 125-6, Miller Bloodtaking p. 190, though the case Miller cites seems to end (...)
  • 18 This does not mean amends are due to the tribe as such or to e.g. a village. One sometimes for conv (...)

11The market-guaranty (text 1 section 13) states the point in perhaps archaic language: whoever of Dhū Muḥammad commits theft in the market at al‑ʿInān, or fails to act against a thief when called on by the tribe to do so, shall have “no fellow and no paternal cousin” (lā la-h ṣāḥib wa-lā ibn ʿamm). Until settlement is made, he ceases in effect to be a tribesman. But there are very few offences that cannot with due care be composed by payment,17 and once the payment is made, then right (sinnah), obligation (malzam), and fellowship (ṣaḥb) each fall back into place as previously. Normally that payment is owed to specific persons, whether guarantors whose trust has been breached or a claimant directly wronged, but with some offences the wrong-doer is said also to shame/insult his [own] tribesmen (yuʿayyib qabā'il-ah).18 For this to be clearly so a set of agreements needs to be in place, whether signed qawāʿid of the kind represented in the texts at hand or for instance a truce, again signed by guarantors.

  • 19 The plural form (wajīh) is unexpected here, and may well be a copying error, but the distinction be (...)
  • 20 al‑Sudumī Naẓarīyah pp. 96-7. I have not heard madhammah used spontaneously at Bara but the term i (...)
  • 21 Rossi ʻDirittoʼ pp. 19-20. The culprit is supposed, indeed, to kill himself, which seems almost unt (...)

12Tagged on to text B as a later postscript (section 44) is the note that whoever shames their own honour (ʿāba fī wajīh-hum) must pay eleven-fold. This might mean, for instance, breaking a truce agreed to and upheld by all the signatories. But the meaning consistently given it by shaykhs from Baraṭ has been that the offender breaks his own commitment by, for instance, wronging his guest or a person he has promised to escort in safety.19 He thus breaches the very basis of the moral system we discussed above, and is guilty of what al‑Sudumī notes as madhammah, a wrong affecting the tribeʼs general reputation (sumʿah).20 In some cases there is no way out. As one of Rossiʼs texts explains, a protector who deliberately murders someone under his protection should in turn be killed by his own kinsmen: “there is no means of absolution (naqā) for him, and if his kin do not kill him then they themselves are covered with disgrace (iʿtābū) and become dishonoured”.21 In cases like these people speak of black shame (ʿayb aswad).

  • 22 In 1966, in the midst of the civil war, a meeting was convened between Arab (largely royalist) and (...)

13It certainly happens on occasion that a man is wiped off the tribal map, though rarely, I suspect, by execution.22 Only a few years ago, in the 1990s, for instance, a Muḥammadī came from Ṣanʿāʼ with a companion from Dhū Ḥusayn and, probably to steal his money, murdered him near Kharāb al‑Marāshī, at the foot of Baraṭ on the road to Sūq al‑ʿInān. Although there had not been any formal engagement of escort, which the eighteenth-century texts stress as definitive (text A section 7, text B section 9), Dhū Muḥammad turned on the murderer. Not even the market-guaranty seemed the crux of the matter; rather, the killer had acted in a way that no-one among the tribes should act. He produced no satisfactory explanation of why he had killed the man from Dhū Ḥusayn, and Dhū Muḥammad not only drove him from their territory but destroyed his house to wipe out the stain on their collective honour (li-ajli l-naqā).

  • 23 This practice of razing a culpritʼs house is called kharāb wa-turāb. It is not all that rare. It oc (...)

14Stories of houses being razed like this, some deeply mythic and others with much circumstantial detail of names and dates, recur widely in Upper Yemen.23 On the other hand, dreadful things may be done and then left alone. For instance, the great hero of Yemeni nationalism, Muḥammad al‑Zubayrī, was murdered at Baraṭ in 1965 when effectively the guest of Dhū Ḥusayn, The people who shot him from concealment were relatives of those escorting him (the implication for the tribeʼs collective name or sumʿah could scarcely have been more serious) but, despite the disgrace at national level, they still live in Dhū Ḥusayn and seem still to draw a pension from people domiciled in Saudi Arabia. The inhabitants of Baraṭ, like those of Britain or America in comparable circumstances, look disgusted and say “politics”. One doubts the eighteenth century was in this respect much different.

15Obviously such language excludes arbitrarily much that might be thought inherent to the tribal world, leaving tribalism as sometimes merely an idealized image. The tribes, however, are indeed vulnerable to politics conducted in other terms. Party allegiances, for instance can divide men within a tribe, as presumably alliance with rival claimants to the Imamate once did. On the other hand, the “customary” practice of large meetings to debate claims and wrongs makes public and evident much that otherwise is hidden; and the differences that emerge are accessible to customary law, which may not resolve them but does at least contain them. A certain promise of unity and justice, meanwhile, runs through the language of both nationalist and Islamic statcraft.

Notes

1 Ḥabshūsh Ruʼyah p. 55, Yémen pp. 93-4, cf. al‑ʿAlīmīʼs Qaḍāʼ qabalī p. 51. For estimates of the nominal dīyah at 770 silver pieces, below, see Ḥabshūsh loc. cit. The ratio of blood­-money to ʿayb would come out neatly were the former 880 riyāls, but I have not seen clear evidence for this ever being so. A womanʼs full blood-money is formally half a manʼs.

2 Zabārah (Āʼimmah vol. 1/1 pp. 66-7) quotes Ḥusayn Jaghmānʼs table and poem of rates for wounds, where the full blood-money for killing a man amounts to 787.1/2 silver pieces. If the dates of our texts are right (that is, mid to late 18th century), then the coins in texts A and B might be Spanish riyāls; later a qirsh abyaḍ would be a Maria Theresa thaler.
In Sufyān, twenty years ago, I was told that 800 Maria Theresas would be paid and 12.1/2 handed back as milqāt, or “tweezers”; the theoretical total paid would thus have been 787.1/2, although Sufyāni tribesmen were not aware of scholarly calculations and no rationale was offered for their own custom.

3 To imagine a whole tribe, let alone a family, really paying this amount is difficult. But early twentieth-century (supposedly “Islamic”) provisions for the market at Ḥūth, one should note, prescribe for murder in the market four bulls, a dīyah of 800 riyāls, and an additional fine of 1,200 riyāls: see Dresch ʻḤūthʼ p. 77.

4 For slaughter-beasts in amends cf. al‑Akwaʿ Madkhal pp. 28, 40, Dresch ʻḤūthʼ pp. 65, 77, ʻSufyānʼ p. 54. The practice of paying cash and livestock together (sometimes cloth as well) opens up still further variation. A judgement “four-fold” might be just the blood-money and four bulls, or the blood-money plus four bulls and four times the standard ʿayb-money, or four times the blood-money, or the blood-money plus 110 riyāls plus a bull all multiplied by four, a huge difference in nominal money value.

5 Ḥabshūsh Ruʼyah pp. 37-8, 56, Yémen pp. 69-71, 94-5. Bin Miʿṣār and Abū Laḥūm in the stories following are famous families of shaykhs in Nihm: see e.g. Ibrāhīm al‑Maqḥafī Muʿjam al‑buldān wa‑l‑qabāʼil al‑yamanīyah (2002) p. 1770.

6 The initial claimant says, sāmiḥ la-kum, “I allow you”, “I treat you kindly”. Large differences between the judgement announced and the amount finally to be paid were long ago documented for North Arabian cases, e.g. Jaussen Pays de Moab p. 224 and passim, G.W. Murray Sons of Ishmael: a study of the Egyptian Bedouin (1935) p. 204. The same is found in Yemen, where the demonstration of generosity or moderation overlaps with giving, or imposing on, the claimant self-judgement: the debtor by letting his creditor specify the debtʼs extent all but forces him to make it little.
Miller (Bloodtaking p. 371) finds Iceland and Yemen unusual in this respect. But surely in any system that takes honour and morals seriously, which in some form means human society, something of this kind must happen? The question may be whether or not it features in anything approximating formal law.

7 Serjeant ʻSunnah, Qurʼānʼ p. 48. Earlier (ibid. pp. 45-6) he quotes the line that an arbitrator in customary law should also judge by the politics in his tribe and according to his own understanding” (yaḥkum ayḍan bi-l-siyāsah fī ʿashīrat-hu wa-ʿalā qadr ijtihād-hu). This seems to come from Rossiʼs Bin Zinbāʿ text, cf. Abū Ghānim Bunyah qabalīyah p. 375. The phrases resurface in my own notes of conversations from just the last few decades.

8 Cf. al‑Sudumī Naẓarīyah pp. 116, 121. Notes from Sufyān, Arab, and al‑ʿUṣaymāt two decades ago and more (Dresch Tribes pp. 112-13) all suggest a similar idea, and the key payment-group mentioned was always of the same order, a cluster usually of 100-300 men. The extreme case in my notes is from Sufyān, where people said that of incoming dīyah only 110 riyāls would go to the immediate kin and the rest to the laḥmah or section.

9 H.R. Loyn, Kinship in Anglo-Saxon England, Anglo Saxon England vol. 3 (1974) p. 205, citing Felix Liebermann.

10 Stewart (ʻContractʼ pp. 171,269) describes a system in Sinai where even very small payment-groups of 10 or 15 men are a question of formal contract. I have not come across anything comparable in Yemen. The lists giving divisions of joint expenses within a tribe are very hard to find. But the insistence there are rules that govern sharing compensation, when in practice it is surely indeterminate, find echoes elsewhere, cf. Miller Bloodtaking p. 144, Kelly Irish Law p. 15 on the contributions of affines and maternal kin.

11 Ideals of fairness, sympathy, and charity do not end or begin at the borders of sections. Within a section, although rules about payments may be invoked, one also hears such phrases as ʿalā l-mūjad an yuqaddim ʿalay-h, meaning a person who is well-off should help a poorer man with his debt.

12 Cf. Ḥabshūsh Ruʼyah pp. 38, 70. The practice is discussed in Dresch Tribes pp. 51, 86-7, 254, 268, and al‑Sudumī Naẓarīyah pp. 151, 156 ff. The vocabulary describing such pledges is extensive and is not by any means standardized: indeed a large part of dealing with claims and counter-claims turns on arguments about what exactly people are obliged and not obliged to do by a specific pledge and what it should properly be called.

13 For the importance of guaranty elsewhere than Yemen see e.g. Jaussen Pays de Moab pp. 185, 195-6, 223, Murray Sons of Ishmael pp. 206, 227 ff., Stewart ʻContractʼ. For a brief sketch of how such guaranty at arbitration is organized in Yemen, Dresch Tribes pp. 93-6. As Stewart, points out (ʿUrf in Encyclopaedia of Islam vol. 10 p. 888), Yemen is unusual in that guarantors are made answerable to the arbitrator as well as to one of the disputing parties.

14 The word siʿāyah or suʿāyah in the Arabic text here is a plural of sāʿin, “one who tries or works for something”, not the verbal noun meaning denigration. Readers will note how close some of the terminology is to that in the older documents.

15 A truce in the name of, say, a tribe is binding on all the tribeʼs members, and breaking the truce insults all who signed up to it. But gaining agreement to a wide-scale truce is difficult, and by the time that a breach occurs the enthusiasm of the moment has often evaporated such that no-one on the culpritʼs side except the signatories feels an insult. For truces generally, al‑Sudumī Naẓarīyah pp. 53, 113, 120, 179.
Lesser truces come in several forms. The party ahead in the calculus of blood or damage may offer their opponents
ṣulḥ (the same word used of settlement); if this accepted, a period of truce is specified and guarantors appointed. Alternatively third parties intervene and force a cease-fire (hudnah or kuflah), which lasts eight days, and ṣulḥ may follow.

16 At truce or under guaranty a dispute is said to be hāmid jāmid, quiet and frozen, or bārid bard al‑māʼ, cold as water. The truce or settlement that resolves personal killing is often permanent, guaranty being for life, or even supposedly heritable (ʿafw wa-ʿāfīyah).

17 Cf. Kelly Irish Law pp. 125-6, Miller Bloodtaking p. 190, though the case Miller cites seems to end with the debtor being killed: a presumptuous, explicit claim that mere compensation will settle matters can be an insult to those who suffered the loss.
Texts, conversation, and observation all suggest that disputes of most sorts in Yemen can be composed, but in practice the claimantsʼ anger must be appeased: it is usually only after others have been involved and e.g. slaughter-beasts given that claimants will “give
sinnah, i.e. admit that recompense is possible.

18 This does not mean amends are due to the tribe as such or to e.g. a village. One sometimes for convenience wants to use the word fine”, but as Stewart points out, in the Mashriq there seems no equivalent to the Maghrebi concept of offences against a discrete, bounded moral community: see Stewart, ʿUrf in Encyclopaedia of Islam vol. 10 p. 890. Nonetheless, the pacts expressed in texts A and B, below, do align breaches of important links with an insult to the guarantors. See e.g text B sections 5 and 6.

19 The plural form (wajīh) is unexpected here, and may well be a copying error, but the distinction between ʿāba fī wajh (to commit an act disgracing oneself, besmirching oneʼs own honour) and ʿayyaba fī wajh (to insult or disgrace some one else, besmirching his honour) is standard usage. Interpretation of the passage has been consistent among the experts on ʿurf, and between interviews with the same expert 20 years or more apart.

20 al‑Sudumī Naẓarīyah pp. 96-7. I have not heard madhammah used spontaneously at Bara but the term is immediately intelligible there, rather as with muʿawwarāt which we mentioned earlier. “Black shame” is the usual phrase.

21 Rossi ʻDirittoʼ pp. 19-20. The culprit is supposed, indeed, to kill himself, which seems almost unthinkable in tribal reality. Rossiʼs citation is of Kitāb aI-tabyīn. A closely parallel formula occurs in the Bin Zinbāc text, Abū Ghānim Bunyah qabalīyah p. 363.

22 In 1966, in the midst of the civil war, a meeting was convened between Arab (largely royalist) and Ḥāshid. Ḥamīd ʿAbdullāh Radmān of Arab was shot in the back and killed on the way to the meeting, the intention being that the blame fall on Ḥāshid. Actually the murderer was a relative of his victim. He was caught by Arab, dragged to the meeting and shot dead there by the victimʼs brother, who was also paid four dīyahs by Arab as a whole.

23 This practice of razing a culpritʼs house is called kharāb wa-turāb. It is not all that rare. It occurred in the Radmān case just mentioned. A house was also destroyed by the guarantors of a man killed at truce in Sufyān during 1983: Dresch ʼPlacing the blameʼ p. 438. A few years earlier at al‑Fasīrah, in Banī Ṣuraym just west of Khamir, a house was destroyed when, although no truce was in force, a man gratuitously murdered another for his money and did so in brutal fashion when he was the victimʼs guest.

Table des illustrations

Titre Document 8: Provisions on truce and arbitration in the Jawf (1409/1989)
URL http://books.openedition.org/cefas/docannexe/image/864/img-1.jpg
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© Centre français de recherche de la péninsule Arabique, 2006

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