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The rules of Barat. Tribal documents from Yemen

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Paul Dresch

Part 2. Customary law in context

Editing conventions

Texte intégral

  • 1 al‑ʿAlīmī ( Qaḍā’ qabalī p. 118-41) divides text B into seventy numbered sections, thus fitting the (...)

1To make the texts readable and yet fairly accurate in English is not easy, and the critical apparatus can be cumbersome. Each Arabic text is therefore given separately and in full; photocopies are followed by typed versions of the Arabic and these typed versions are divided into numbered sections for ease of reference.1 I have then divided the translations into corresponding sections, with commentary to each where needed. First comes the market guaranty (text 1; part four), with an English translation and explanatory notes, then text A (part five) in photocopy with a typed version and summary translation. This is followed, as part six, by a photocopy version of text B, with a typed edition of the text drawn from five manuscript copies and discussions with those who know the “custom” of Baraṭ best, then a more heavily annotated translation. The guarantors in texts A and B are apparently the same (to get the list for A one simply subtracts al‑Maʿāṭirah and Dhū ʿAmr from B). I have therefore given only one list, placed after part six, along with the list of transcriptions from a copy of text B given me by Bayt Thawābah.

  • 2 Vowelling is difficult to pin down in speech. I have been as careful as I can manage. Local usage i (...)
  • 3 This is not to say documents never contain the upright alif. Some from Sufyān, which we have quoted (...)

2Knowing how far to go with editing is difficult. Obviously one could “correct” the Arabic to the point where a colloquial text disappears entirely, and with it all the ideas one wants to capture; on the other hand, people well used to reading manuscripts of histories or legal works have sometimes found even typed versions of the present documents difficult. I have therefore standardized spellings (in certain copies of texts A and B, for instance, the word miʼah, a “hundred”, might be spelled in three different ways by the same scribe) and added vowelling to several words to help with ease of reading.2 I have added tamwīn on occasion (for instance, jamīʿan), and I have written khamsat ʿashar yawman though no one but a pedant would read it other than khamsat ʿashar, or perhaps khamast ʿashar yawm.3 Where I have added, for instance, a particle or preposition I have said so in the notes.

3The word for woman (marʼah) I have spelled as such, though it is written and pronounced marah. Elsewhere hamzahs have been added although at Baraṭ none is usually written or pronounced in, for instance , ḍumanāʼ, naqāʼ, or hāʼulā’i (the last of these would be pronounced and is often spelled hawlāyī): for ease of reading some hamzahs have been added even where optional, as with riḍāʼ or raḍāʼ. There seems in effect to be no real hamzah al‑qaṭʿ in local usage, so for instance al‑awwal, the first, is read lawwal, and in transliteration I have everywhere used the simplest convention, omitting both hamzat al‑waṣal and initial hamzah, so for instance wa-l-awwal (“and the first”), not wa-’l-’awwal. The word explained as mu’minah (“making secure”, text 1 section 15) sounds in fact more like mūminah.
This is not to say scribes do not sometimes scatter
hamzahs at random like confetti.

  • 4 Examples can easily be multiplied, e.g. musabbagh / muṣabbagh ; sabīghah / ṣabīghah ; misrākh / miṣ (...)
  • 5 For further notes on colloquial Yemeni orthography see Samia Naïm-Sanbar’s introduction to the Arab (...)
  • 6 Some of these speakers assimilate alif-mīm to “sun” letters, so fī m-bayt but fawq as-sayārah. Othe (...)

4In places one finds ṣād in the original for sīn (e.g. waṣaṭ in text 1 section 14; ṣariqah for theft in text B section 33; yaṣīr for to go or do in text B section 20), and since this reflects simply local pronunciation and anyway is not done consistently by copyists, I have standardized the spelling.4 On the other hand yaʿūd, although explained quite firmly by some readers as yaʿūdh, has been left (its relation to the word ʿawd or ʿūd is more convincing anyway, although not altogether clear: text 1 section 13, text B section 34). Dots have been added where terminal is obviously tā marbūṭah. But even correcting ẓā to ḍād, as I have in such words as ḍumanā’ or “guarantors”, looks to my eye slightly overdone: this is really so typical of tribal documents that one almost feels one is reading a translation.5 Readers should also be aware that most speakers at Baraṭ use alif-mīm in place of alif-lam.6

  • 7 The odd script out here is the market guaranty (text 1) which writes both illā and ilā as if they w (...)
  • 8 Cf. Rossi ‘Diritto’ p. 18, where some oddities of Yemeni dialect are also mentioned, such as the us (...)
  • 9 E.g. text A section 4, text B sections 3, 38. One might wish to take this as fa-ʿalā, meaning “then (...)

5One also finds illā (il-lā, “if not” or “otherwise”) and ilā (“to”) spelled the same, and I have differentiated these in the typed versions.7 Other typical oddities include in hu (or in huwa, “if he”) spelled as inna-hu or anna-hu and kulli man (“whoever”, “all who”) written as one word.8 These have not been corrected, though in the former case vowels and tashdīd have been added. Where the imperfect or incomplete tense, third person plural, of whatever mood, ends simply with a waw I have added an alif, as I have, more properly, for the third person plural perfect. Faʿlā for the imperative “do” has been left.9

  • 10 Again, I have failed to spot a pattern. The perfect “to take or make absolution”, naqiya, is genera (...)

6Alif maqṣūrah and alif mamdūdah are often not distinguished, nor are the orthographic forms of alif maqṣūrah as an upright alif or the letter . Many of these I have left as I found them. Some people pronounce the perfect of “it remained” or “stayed” baqā rather than baqiya or baqī.10 Also, with an absence of pointing, it is possible I am sometimes misreading an active for a passive verb, and readers should not have their judgement too badly clouded; on the other hand, the name Mūsā spelled with an upright alif tends to bring readers up short, so I have standardized the spelling. In summary I have tried to use a light touch but to make the texts easier for readers of standard Arabic. In the notes and glossary, verbs in the perfect tense are transcribed as e.g. qatala though in colloquial usage the final vowel is not pronounced. In the translations, where Arabic verbs appear in parentheses, they are given more as they sound, without the final vowel.

Notes

1 al‑ʿAlīmī ( Qaḍā’ qabalī p. 118-41) divides text B into seventy numbered sections, thus fitting the idea of “the Rules of the Seventy” (qawāʼid al‑sabʿīn). I do not see that the exercise is justified. My own divisions try just to follow the sense of the Arabic, though some of the paragraph breaks are arbitrary.

2 Vowelling is difficult to pin down in speech. I have been as careful as I can manage. Local usage is not itself quite uniform, however. For example, the usual pronunciation of the passive perfect, form I, is e.g. qutal, he was killed, not qutila; dhukar, it was mentioned, not dhukira, and so on. That is the pattern followed in vowelling the Arabic texts here. But some speakers consistently pronounce the passive dhikar.

3 This is not to say documents never contain the upright alif. Some from Sufyān, which we have quoted already, do so consistently. But the Baraṭ texts generally do not.

4 Examples can easily be multiplied, e.g. musabbagh / muṣabbagh ; sabīghah / ṣabīghah ; misrākh / miṣrākh. Less expectedly, and more confusingly, this can happen with other pairs of consonants, but sīn and ṣād are the most commonly exchanged or assimilated.

5 For further notes on colloquial Yemeni orthography see Samia Naïm-Sanbar’s introduction to the Arabic edition of Ḥabshsūh’s Ru’yah. She had a more difficult job than mine in that the original is not accessible. In the present case readers have several photocopy texts to consult, and what other copies I have will be deposited at CEFAS in Ṣanʿā’.

6 Some of these speakers assimilate alif-mīm to “sun” letters, so fī m-bayt but fawq as-sayārah. Others do not, so fawq am-sayārah or taḥt am-shajarah. This does not show in script, with the occasional exception of proper names: e.g Āl al‑Nūfīyah, read by some as Āl am-Nūfīyah, can warp into al‑Amnūfīyah or even, which presumably is downright error on the scribe’s part, Āl al‑Manūfīyah. I have failed to attach the variation of alif-mīm to geography, age, or section-membership.

7 The odd script out here is the market guaranty (text 1) which writes both illā and ilā as if they were bi-lā, a habit quite common in Lower Yemen but less so in documents from Upper Yemen.

8 Cf. Rossi ‘Diritto’ p. 18, where some oddities of Yemeni dialect are also mentioned, such as the use of qad and of . The word illā in fact is commonly used where other forms of Arabic might use aw: e.g. he’ll arrive today or tomorrow, al‑yawm wa-illā ghudwā, which sounds very much like al‑yawm wa-lā ghudwā. Other colloquial habits, such as lam for the negative with perfect verbs, require no comment.

9 E.g. text A section 4, text B sections 3, 38. One might wish to take this as fa-ʿalā, meaning “then [what should be done is] according to...,” but informants insist it is an imperative form of faʿala.

10 Again, I have failed to spot a pattern. The perfect “to take or make absolution”, naqiya, is generally pronounced naqī. Why some say baqī and others baqā eludes me.

© Centre français de recherche de la péninsule Arabique, 2006

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