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Antonin Jaussen, sciences sociales occidentales et patrimoine arabe

 | 
Géraldine Chatelard
, 
Mohammed Tarawneh

Première partie. Antonin Jaussen : de l'exégèse biblique à l'ethnographie arabe

On the Nature of Power in the Works of Orientalist Scholars and its Contribution to a History of Bedouin Society and Nomad-Sedentary Relations in the Bilad ash-Sham

De la nature du pouvoir dans les travaux des savants orientalistes et sa contribution à une histoire de la société bédouine et des rapports entre nomades et sédentaires dans le Bilad esh-Sham

William Lancaster et Fidelity Lancaster

Résumé

The great orientalist scholars - such as Burckhardt, Doughty, Jaussen, and Musil – provide an impressive corpus of descriptive and analytic material on power among the bedouin and their relations with settled populations. Their work was a product of their aims and research interests, methods of collecting information, often affected by external factors, and scholarly influences. The bedouin tended to be viewed as survivals or as a stage in the evolutionary progression from simple to complex, while particular institutions were regarded as the effect of environment, national character, or evolutionary stage. While this side of their work now seems inappropriate, their observations and descriptions were acute and provide valuable information. Using the tools of contemporary anthropological methodology, the orientalist corpus provides major detail and general trends alongside other sources for a history of bedouin society. However, tribal genealogies, narratives and poems recorded by the orientalist scholars are from a concept of history different from that of western history. Thus their position in constructing a history of bedouin society and nomad-sedentary relations is both more valuable but less explicit that it would seem at first sight.

On trouve, chez les grands savants orientalistes, tels Burckhardt, Doughty, Jaussen et Musil, une somme impressionnante de matériaux analytiques et descriptifs traitant du pouvoir chez les bédouins et des relations de ces derniers avec les populations sédentaires. Plusieurs facteurs ont influencé les travaux des orientalistes : les buts poursuivis et les centres d’intérêts propres à chacun, la méthode employée pour collecter l’information, elle-même souvent affectée par des éléments extérieurs, les divers courants intellectuels de l’époque. Les orientalistes considéraient l’organisation sociale bédouine comme la survivance d’un état antérieur, ou bien comme une étape dans l’évolution des formes sociales du simple vers le complexe. De même voyaient-ils dans certaines institutions l’influence de l’environnement, d’un caractère “national” ou ne les envisageait-ils que comme une étape de l’évolution.

Tous ces aspects de leurs travaux apparaissent aujourd’hui dépassés. Demeurent leurs observations et descriptions précises qui fournissent des informations de valeur. La méthodologie anthropologique actuelle permet d’utiliser le corpus orientaliste, en conjonction avec d’autres sources, afin de faire l’histoire de la société bédouine. Cependant, les généalogies tribales, les récits et les poèmes recueillis par les orientalistes s’insèrent dans une conception de l’histoire différente de celle de l’histoire occidentale. C’est pourquoi, si ce matériau est d’une grande valeur pour élaborer l’histoire de la société bédouine et des relations entre nomades et sédentaires, il est aussi moins explicite qu’il n’y parait à première vue.

Texte intégral

1Jaussen’s Coutumes des Arabes au pays de Moab (1948) and Coutumes des Fuqara (1920) will be the main sources for our discussion of the nature of power in Bedouin society. Jaussen undertook his studies in Moab between 1902 and 1905, considering that “comme l’établissement de la voie ferrée du Hedjaz ne manquera pas d’apporter d’importantes modifications dans la vie et les coutumes des habitants, bédouins et semi-sédentaires, il m’a semblé urgent de procéder à une enquête avant la pénétration d’idées étrangères dans une population restée neuve jusqu’à nos jours” (...) “l’intérêt qui s’attache à la connaissance d’usages primitifs est rendu plus attrayant, dans le cas actuel, par la situation spéciale de ces tribus qui vivent dans un pays limitrophe de la Terre sainte et si souvent mentionné dans la Bible”. His stated intention was not to propose “de soutenir aucune thèse ni d’étayer aucun système; j’ai voulu constater des faits, relever et noter des observations” (1948: 2).

2His method of working was to visit encampments, usually of noted shaikhs, repeatedly thus overcoming their suspicions: “j’ai rarement interrogé un seul bédouin à part, mais en général au milieu d’un groupe. (...) Souvent le dire d’un interlocuteur était corrigé par une explication donnée à propos; parfois aussi il était nié et rejeté par un témoin qui avait tout approuvé jusqu’alors. Cette négation soudaine appelait inévitablement un échange de vues et des explications nouvelles. Le débat une fois terminé, un cheikh reprenait la question et par la clarté de sa parole, la limpidité de son exposition, obtenait l’approbation de l’assistance; j’écrivais alors sans crainte d’erreur les paroles que j’entendais” (1948: 4). These enquiries focused on “enregistrer des faits et rapporter les conceptions et les manières de voir des nomades sur un certain nombre d’objets”, but “si les explications ne sont pas assez claires pour procurer une lumière capable de dissiper toute obscurité, on voudra bien l’attribuer au sujet traité ainsi qu’à la méthode suivie” (1948: 11). The resulting material is ordered under headings of family life, the tribe, relations between tribes, rights, economic life, and religion for the Moab tribes.

3His enquiries among the Fuqara Bedouin were secondary to epigraphic and archaeological researches in the region of Medain Saleh and al-’Ula carried out with Savignac before 1914. His stated aim was to make a “contribution à l’étude des Arabes, sans autre prétention que celle de l’exactitude et de la vérité objective” (1920: 2). The study is under the main headings of tribe and family, individual life, religious life, and plants and animals.

4Does he achieve his intention of recording facts without incurring subjective biases? The conclusion must be that he does not, for there are remarks that carry bias: “cette existence bizarre” (1948: 3), “l’éducation morale, s’il est permis d’user ce mot au désert, est des plus primitives et ne saurait atteindre un haut degré de perfection” (1948: 29), or “il est difficile de bien définir l’essence et la composition de ces afkhadh; tout reste flou et indécis dans l’esprit du bédouin. Cependant, ces intelligences incultes ont essayé de se créer une histoire ou tout au moins de recueillir leurs traditions” (1920: 4). However, such comments are found when Jaussen finds 'a fact’ difficult to define or in the realm of the family, and in relation to women. He was dependent on men for his information on women, and had very little direct observation of them, but he accepts the information he was given about the position of women at face value.

5The vast bulk of his material is recorded speech, taken at face value; there is little observation apparent. The books provide 'what people say’ rather than ‘what people do’; and even more, ‘what men say in response to questions in public, plus the stories they tell to emphasise a point’. This leads to an emphasis on institutions, partly formed by the scholar who decides what he thinks are the relevant topics, and partly by the information he receives in response. The one reflects the concerns of the scholar, drawn from his academic concerns and his social background; the other a public, consensual response to a necessarily limited range of enquiry. Jaussen’s acceptance of his information at face value results in an apparent assumption that anything “vague” or “insufficient” comes from a lack of clarity, intelligence or knowledge in the bedouin world (1948: 111) rather than the inadequacy or inappropriateness of his questions or understanding. Given these caveats, the amount and quality of the information recorded in these two books is impressive.

JAUSSEN IN PERSPECTIVE

6Musil was a contemporary of Jaussen, and his Arabia Petraea (1908), Arabia Deserta (1927) and The Manners and Customs of the Rwala Bedouins (1928) complement Jaussen’s work. Like Jaussen, Musil travelled widely with the shaikhs of bedouin tribes and was an Arabist. Musil’s interest was in historical geography, although he provided information on tribal and Ottoman politics and personalities to the government of Austro-Hungary and was engaged in mapping the inner desert. Earlier travellers whose materials on the bedouin are well known were Doughty and Burckhardt. Doughty (1936) recorded in Syria, Hijaz and Qasim in 1876-8, while Burckhardt (1822) travelled in Syria, the Hijaz and Sinai between 1810 and 1816. In addition to these records of his travels, he compiled Notes on the Bedouins and Wahabys (1831). Doughty’s purpose was “to add something to the common fund of Western knowledge” (1936: i, 33). Burckhardt, employed by the Association for Promoting the Discovery of the Interior of Africa, was sent by them to Syria to enable him to acquire the language and manners of an Arab and a Muslim to facilitate his explorations in Africa. Having spent three years in Syria, studying and travelling, he reached Egypt to find that ail commercial trade from Egypt to the African interior was suspended by the activities of Muhammad Ali Pasha. For the next five years he travelled in the parts of Egypt, Nubia, Arabia and Sinai least frequented by European travellers. Both Burckhardt and Doughty, fluent Arabists, moved around as poor travellers, relying on the hospitality of villagers and tribes people and sometimes worked as doctors.

7A contrast between Burckhardt and Doughty on the one side, and Jaussen and Musil on the other side is not only that of those travelling before and after the extension of direct Ottoman rule to the lands east of the Jordan and of the Hauran, but also between those backed by foreign institutions or influence known to the Ottomans and those depending entirely on their own efforts. This is not to say that Jaussen and Musil had every difficulty smoothed from their paths, but they did have official positions that they could use. They had official personas in a situation where centralised state authority was active; Doughty and Burckhardt did not, and relied upon local practice and their personas that they had developed to achieve their purposes. AU these scholars had an interest in the study of human societies, but the theoretical positions current at the time of their travels and writings changed, as did the availability and knowledge of Arabic scholarly works. In addition, between the beginning of the nineteenth Century and the twentieth, the development of the nation-state and its centralised institutions, the increasing influence of Western capital and industrialisation on the economies of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf and the Indian Ocean, and the domination of Western technology and political and economic institutions surely affected the attitude of scholars to the societies where they travelled. From these considerations, Burckhardt and Doughty give greater value to the effectiveness of bedouin society as a whole, with less emphasis on shaikhs. Jaussen and Musil focus more on the apparently unchanging nature of bedouin society, the role of its shaikhs, and their confrontation with the expanding, newly centralised Ottoman state with its bureaucratie structures and adoptions of Western financial Systems and technology as exemplified in the telegraph and the railway. While Burckhardt and Doughty comment on the actions of the governments of the Ottomans, Egyptians, ibn Saud and ibn Rashid on the bedouin, and the differences between these centralised and hierarchie political structures and those of the bedouin, their main focus is the effectiveness of security of persons and goods, the accountability of agents, and justice within both Systems. Jaussen and Musil share these concerns, but assume that centralised state Systems are not only better and inevitable but that the bedouin will lose out with the state’s greater ability to control through technological progress.

8Jaussen and his fellow orientalists arrange their material in relatively similar ways around universal social topics and institutions. Power is discussed under the family, the shaikh, and the tribe, and enters into the topics of property, economic and political relations, and law. There is, however, another arena of power, that of the individual’s power to make his way in the world – to make a livelihood, to find a wife, to achieve the position of ‘a good man’, that often stated ambition of a bedouin; this kind of power is considered only implicitly, although the texts resonate with illustrations. There are, therefore, the explicit statements about ‘power over’ and the institutions in which this is demonstrated, and the implicit comments showing ‘power to’ shown by individual bedouin. This reflects the different situation between the intellectual interests of the orientalists manifesting themselves in the focus on institution and identifiable social groups, and the actions of bedouin tribes people in pursuing their aims illustrating processes motivated from social premises.

9The orientalists were studying ‘the Bedouin’, defined as people living in the harsh physical environment of the desert from the herding of camels, sheep and goats although they also had other agricultural or service resources, nomadic and tribal. This was drawn from what the bedouin said about themselves, and appears to depend on a physical environment which thus determines human institutions. Jaussen reports: “Ce mouvement des nomades pourrait être comparé à la marée de l’Océan, qui se retire et revient à époque fixe; les forces cosmiques président à cette régularité, tandis que le va-et-vient des nomades est commandé par les nécessités de l’existence et les conditions climatiques. Les divers clans ne sauraient se soustraire à ces lois génerales; c’est ce qui explique l’uniformité de leurs mouvements et la bonne entente relative qui leur permet de vivre côte-à-côte, cette compénétration apparente, et ce laisser-aller un peu indolent qui sied à des natures impliables à la contrainte” (1948: 118). This comments on the need for seasonal grazing for the herds and for access to markets, but while in regard to jural institutions he remarks: “Si le désert a su mettre un frein à la convoitise du plus fort en plaçant à la portée du plus faible un moyen facile de se faire rendre justice, il n’est point douteux qu’il n’ait établi une barrière contre les violences et les meurtres dans lesquels doivent fatalement tomber des natures à demi-sauvages. C’est la loi du sang qui arrête bien souvent les coups mortels, et maintient une certaine sécurité chez les nomades” (1948: 211).

10Burckhardt reflected: “The political institutions of the Bedouins, the nature of the offices of their shaikhs and elders, the rules which they observe in war and in negotiating peace – rules founded on the very spirit and wandering life – might probably be traced to such an origin. They are so well adapted, so natural, and so simple, that every nation, not yet reduced to slavery, if thrown at large upon the wide Desert, might be expected to observe the same rules and usages. But quite contrary is the case with their civil institutions, which it is difficult to imagine could ever have originated in chance, or the consent gradually obtained of a wild and warlike multitude. The general law by which the right of blood-revenge is determined to rest within the khomseh, and which limits hospitality towards a fugitive to three and one third of a day; the rules of dakheil, of the rabiet, of several of the laws relating to divorce; the nice distinctions made in estimating wounds and insults; to which may be added the nature of the agayd’s office; all these seem so many arbitrary regulations, that, in my opinion, indicate the work of a legislator” (1831: i, 378-9).

11Doughty, who makes no formulated generalisations, notes: “But to speak now of the nomad inhabitants and how they lead their lives. El-Beduw ma yetaboun, ‘toil not’ [say they], that is not bodily; but their spirits are made weary with incessant apprehension of their enemies, and their flesh with continual thirst and hunger. The necessitous lives of the Aarab may hardly reach to a virtuous mediocrity; they are constrained to be robbers” (1936: i, 285-6). This was written while travelling with Fuqara families; five lines later, we read “pleasant is the sojourn in the wandering village, in this purest earth and air, with the human fellowship, which is all day met at leisure about the cheerful coffee fire, and amidst a thousand new prospects”. At the same time, he comments on the Fuqara majlis or ‘sitting’: “they commune together of the common affairs; they reason of their policy in regard of Ibn Rashid, the Dowla [Ottomans], the tribes about them. Here is reported what any may have heard of the movement of foemen, of have signs been seen of a ghrazzu [raiding party]: tidings from time to time are brought in of their own or foreign waters; householders tell of the pasture found yesterday by their dispersed herdsmen. Let him speak here who will, the voice of the least is heard among them; he is a tribesman... hither the tribesmen bring their causes at all times, and it is pleaded by the maintainers of both sides with busy clamour; and everyone may say his word that will” (1936: i, 290-1). It can be seen that while the orientalists consider that bedouin life is determined by the constraints of their physical environment, they vary in ascribing particular aspects to that source. What they all remark on is the flexibility of and variation of badia environments through the seasons and over the years, which requires badia dwellers to have the ability to respond.

12These scholars all note that bedouin have relations, not only with other tribes in the badia, but with agriculturists, merchants and agents of other political Systems, either the Ottoman Empire (Jaussen, Musil and Oppenheim) or the Emirates of Ibn Saud (Burckhardt) or Ibn Rashid (Doughty). Thus bedouin have multi-resource economics, and what may be called multi-referrent politics. That not all Arab tribes living in the badia were bedouin was also recorded by the Orientalists, and the reasons why some were not, throws light on bedouin ideas on the nature of power, together with their participation in multi-resource economics and multi-referrent politics. It is necessary to expand somewhat on these as portrayed by the orientalists, as these, together with bedouin ideas of ownership and Islamic ideas of the duties of the state, before the nature of power among the bedouin is discussed.

MULTI-RESOURCE ECONOMICS

  • 1 See R. Abujaber in this volume.

13Some of the most interesting and valuable sections in Jaussen’s works are those dealing with the economic life of the bedouin. Among the Fuqara, he notes: “Un fait est à remarquer lorsqu’on étudie les nomades d’Arabie. Très peu de tribus vivent uniquement de leurs troupeaux; toutes celles qui sont accessibles à notre connaissance directe dépendent plus ou moins de l’agriculture. Et nous prenons ici le mot agriculture dans son sens le plus large” (1920: 7-8). The Fuqara owned part of the gardens of Khaibar, where dates and cereals were grown. Both crops were grown by cultivators. The date gardens were owned by Fuqara, who kept two-thirds of the crop; cereal cultivation was left to the peasants, and the harvest belonged to them except for the straw, which went to the Fuqara, and the payment of a hundred measures of grain for each well -this was for the value of the water. Onions and tobacco were grown, and the owner of the land received two or three baskets of the produce. In Moab, both Jaussen (1948: 235-48) and Musil (1908: iii, e.g. 84-88, 293-307) comment on the place of agriculture in the economy of bedouin tribes. Jaussen writes: “Chez les Beni Sakhr, aucun membre de la tribu ne voudrait s’humilier dans ce travail manuel (...) le travail de la terre n’est pas honorable. Au contraire, les tribus du Belqa, les Hama’ideh dans la Kourah, les tribus de Kérak [il faudrait faire une exception pour les nombreuses familles des cheikhs] et les habitants du Gebal, en un mot tous les Arabes semi-sédentaires, comme ceux de Kérak, ou nomades comme les Belqawiyeh, mais cantonnés dans un certain rayon et vivant sur des terrains cultivables qui leur appartiennent, conçoivent un dédain moins prononcé pour le labourage, quoi qu’un grand nombre parmi eux se comportent à cet égard en vrais bédouins” (1948: 241). Peasants came from the West Bank and cultivated tribesmen’s land under two contracts, the fourth and the fifth. In the fourth, the peasant provided only his labour, the landowner everything else, and the peasant received a quarter (sometimes a third or a fifth) of the crop, his keep and clothing. Under the fifth, the peasant supplied labour, tools, draught animal and seed, the landowner land, protection and taxes due to the Ottomans; the landowner took a fifth of the crop, the peasant the rest1.

14An alternative route to agricultural produce for bedouin tribes was through khuwa, which Jaussen (1948: 162) derives from ‘brother’ and Musil (1928: 59-60) also from ‘brother’, although he writes: “the basis of khuwa is quwa, force. Those who are strong compel the numerous settlements to raise khuwa for them. Those who have no akh/brother must rely only on the drawn sword/seif tayel. Those who receive the khuwa must protect those who give it to them, or, as the Rwala say: ‘He who eats a young goat must protect its mother, alli yakul al-jidi yahma ummoh’”. Khuwa was given as agricultural produce, tentcloth or other goods in return for services of protection of persons and goods, as can be seen from the détails given in Musil (1908: e.g. 67, 69, 88, 117) and Jaussen (1948: 163). Some groups both took khuwa and gave it (e.g. Burckhardt 1831: 15), so it functioned as a distribution system between agricultural, sheep and goat producers, and camel herders as well as providing security of persons and goods. Burckhardt (1831: 15) mentions the position of the sheep and goat herding ‘Umur, who took khuwa from the villages between Homs and Tudmor but paid khuwa to the Hessene Aneze. Musil’s and Jaussen’s references provide a similar picture for Karak, with the shaikhs of the Majali and other families taking khuwa from the Ghawarnah in the Valley, from mountain villages and from within the tribes of Karak, but Karak as a whole gave khuwa to the Beni Sakhr.

15Bedouin also got income from the service provision of safe passage to travellers, merchants, and the Pilgrimage to the Holy Places. These practices are of long standing, mentioned in the Mamluk administrative manuals, sixteenth Century Ottoman registers, European traders, and travellers. Jaussen (1948: 139) includes payments by merchants to a shaikh for protection while trading in his territory among a sheikh’s sources of income, as does Musil (1928: 270, 280). Income from merchant caravans for protection from tribesmen while travelling desert routes is noted by Burckhardt (1831: 6, 8, 25). Income from the Pilgrimage for protecting pilgrims on their journey and return, and for ensuring supplies of water and provisions are mentioned by Burckhardt (1831: i, 3, 5, 28; ii, 3, 26, 31) and Jaussen (1948: 123, n. 3). Jaussen (1948: 123) comments on the behavior of the Ottoman government in Damascus in the early years of the extension of direct rule when the government made generous payments to many notable tribesmen, but then reduced the amounts and the recipients. He (1920: 9) foresaw a similar pattern in the way the Fuqara were being treated with the extension of the Hijaz Railway through their territory. There could also be payments to tribal leaders for acting on behalf of the government, as tax collectors (Jaussen, 1948: 121; Burckhardt, 1831: i, 16; Musil, 1928: 58-9), or, earlier, for protecting villages against other tribes (Burckhardt, 1831: i, 10).

16Protection is the key, the providing of defence and restitution for those unable or unwilling to provide their own. The ability to provide the defence of one’s property, one’s assets, is a main factor in the definition of ‘bedouin’ in the Bilâd ash-Shâm. (In Highland Yemen, it is a definition of being ‘tribal’, of having ‘honour’ ‘urd). On this point Jaussen, in his discussion of the right to obtain protection by an individual or family by calling on the face of another, quotes a Bedouin proverb: ‘Mieux vaut du détriment dans les biens que dans la famille, dans la famille que dans l’honneur, dans l’honneur que dans la religion [diin]”. He continues: “Sans vouloir en ce moment apprécier la justesse de ces paroles dans toute leur extension, on en conclura que sur le point d’honneur le nomade est de la plus grande sensibilité. Il se targue volontiers de posséder à un degré supérieur les deux qualités les plus estimées au désert: la bravoure à la guerre et la générosité envers les hôtes et les faibles” (1948: 204-5). Not only are bedouin proud to possess these qualities, they are seen to define being bedouin, to be one of the premises on which being bedouin is built. The most basic is that of religion/ faith, where all men are seen as equidistant from God and therefore jurally equal in His eye who is the Creator and Judge of all; the moral premise of jurai autonomy explicated by the Rwala (Lancaster, 1981: 73). This allows all to have honour, and having honour enables a man to partake in economic, political and social life; he can make contracts, be a witness, act as a guarantor and so on. Musil discusses desired personal qualities and lists a number of poems illustrating them. A “sahab al-marjala stands in high esteem among the Rwala. Such a one has a brave, strong heart; knows how to wrestle with the greatest danger; has a broad outlook; thinks of the future; and never acts hastily... But the most popular among the chiefs is the sahab al-mruwwa. He is kind; truthful; disregards trifles; and knows no distinction between great and small. Of such the proverb say s: ‘A wolf does not suffer hunger with him, neither do his sheep perish’. As examples... Qoftan ibn Hamad of the Beni Sakhr and Hajar ibn Mijwal of the Rwala were named to me... Ash-shima is among the most prominent qualities of a famous man. He who has ash-shima will not always insist on his rights, gladly yielding to one weaker than himself and sometimes giving up his claim to a thing which clearly belongs to him... Without ash-shima no ra’al-mruwwa is perfect. Seemly behaviour is esteemed by the Rwala. The proverb: ‘Ar-rajul ya’ref metabbeh’, a true man knows how to behave is frequently heard” (1928: 471 ff.). Commenting on the values prized by the Fuqara, Jaussen says: “Le faqir estime, avant tout, la valeur guerrière et la générosité. Au désert, le bédouin doit être en état de défendre son campement, sa tente, sa famille, tous les jours et à chaque instant... De même, tous les soirs, la tente doit être ouverte aux voyageurs et aux hôtes: c’est la tradition du désert. L’hospitalité est sacrée; jamais, nous affirme-t-on, elle n’a été violée chez les Fuqara; elle est l’ornement du campement et la gloire de la tente” (1920: 42).

17But while all may have honour (as a good man), not all have esteem or reputation as bedouin; the payment of khuwa by the Hutaim tribes, as they owned no dira (tribal territory) of their own and must pay for the use of others’, meant they had no reputation (Musil, 1928: 136). Doughty considered the Hutaim more prosperous than the bedouin of same diras, since they did not have to defend themselves and saw: “many poor families of Bedouin tribesmen living [for their more welfare] in the peaceable society of the Hutaim” (1936: ii, 214-2). Paying for access to grazing and for protection while using the pasture, as did the shwaya in the Bilâd ash-Shâm who were sheep herding groups from certain tribes and villages of the Qalamoun, was a seasonal process; when the sheep herders were paying Rwala for use of pasture and protection they were shwaya; but when they were in their own pastures they were themselves, bedu or villagers. To pay for protection was a choice, made for economic and/or political reasons. Categories of groups apparently fixed and determined need not be other than descriptive. A further example can be found in Musil where he points out that although: “al-Arab live in tents, the fellahin in houses. Whenever the fellahin, or townsmen of some of the border settlements, leave for their herds and settle in tents, they are at once spoken of as ‘arab” (1928: 474).

18Raiding was at the same time both the testing ground for bravery and initiative in building up the raiders’ assets –“les razzias... sont une source de revenus pour une tribu remuante et guerrière” (Jaussen, 1948: 165)- and the opportunity for the raided to defend their property. The successful raid provided occasions for generosity to the raided, and to co-members in the disposai of gains, although many raiders agreed on the terms of disposal of animals in advance. Jaussen quotes Fuqara as saying: “Nous faisons la razzia parce que nous sommes des bédouins et que les bédouins ont, de par Allah, toute autorisation pour manger les troupeaux des voisins” (1920: 37). Burckhardt noted that: “Most families of the Anezes are unable to defray the annual expenses from the profits on their cattle, and few Arabs would sell a camel to defray expenses: he knows, from experience, that to continue long in a state of peace, diminishes the wealth of an individual; war and plunder therefore become necessary” (1831: 71-2). Many institutionalised processes protected against the loss of animals and other property, and injury or loss of life, in raids. Jaussen (1948: 165-172) describes many of those in use among the tribes of Moab, while Musil (1928: 47, 49-50, 438, 447-51) does so for the Rwala and other tribes. These are based on the nature of formalised relations between tribes, such as beni ‘amma or sohba treaties; formalised relations between individuals or groups involving protection, such as guest, neighbour, travelling companion, guarantor, or khuwa; or the spontaneous use of formalised demands for protection, as in putting oneself under someone’s face, or entering a tent for protection. Raids were made against the herds and property of those groups with whom the raiders had no relations: “le fait seul de n’avoir aucune relation d’amitié avec un clan éloigné ou avec des fellahs inoffensifs autorise la razzia pour le bédouin pillard... Les Haweitat vont razzier les Arabes des bords de l’Euphrate; les Sakhour attaquent les habitants de la plaine de Hismeh; un groupe de cavaliers de Kérak vient se promener du coté de Banias dans l’intention de faire un gain, si l’occasion se présente; les Terabin descendent au fond de l’Arabah chercher une occasion favorable de s’enrichir. Chaque année, des maraudeurs, Hagaia ou Rashaideh, dépouillent les voyageurs dans le Ghor. Tous ces gens font la razzia à leur manière et maintiennent au pays un vrai caractère de pays de brigands. Mais la grande razzia est organisée d’une façon savante, sous la conduite du ‘aqid’ (Jaussen, 1948: 166).

19This sort of raid is an expression of political power with the aims of getting booty and reknown, undertaken in a kind of sporting contest with known rules, the breaking of which causes the loss of honour. Raids of this sort are also undertaken to avenge actual or assumed slurs on honour, especially by young potential seekers of reputation. Musil writes (1928: 504): “The Rwala are ever at war with one tribe or another. Without war a Rweili could not live. War gives him an opportunity of displaying his cunning, endurance, and courage. He neither loves the shedding of blood, nor craves booty, but is allured by danger and delights of the predatory art. The booty itself he will give away without thinking much about it -even to the wife of the very man he has just robbed. Some tribes, not always entire strangers, hate each other cordially. Between them peace is never of long duration. Despite the greatest efforts of the chiefs to prevent war, their people continue to attack and destroy one another”. The breakdown in returning strayed animals and ones stolen on small raids for booty is often a cause for war, but war can only be declared by the removal of the good name or integrity of the tribe to be attacked. Individual tribesmen accuse each other of harbouring stolen camels, and then call on their chiefs for help. The chiefs send messengers between tribes, and if there is no satisfaction, eventually “the chief of one tribe sends to the chief of the other a letter worded somewhat as follows: we announce to you that your Arabs are harassing our people and robbing them of their property continually without any effort on your part to put a stop to it. From this we judge that it happens with your assent. We now demand that you return without delay the stolen camels. If you refuse, you are, behold! hereby deprived of your good name, majrud an-neqa’”. The return of the good name of the one tribe by the aggrieved allows attack without their honour being injured.

20All the orientalist scholars recount tales and poems of raids and wars. There is, of course, no way of knowing how the authors selected narratives for inclusion, whether they made the choice to illustrate particular points or because they were good stories, but the motifs of honourable behaviour, generosity, cunning and astuteness, valour and protection are noticeable, placed in particular events and naming individuals. Jaussen (1948) and Musil (1928) focus on the raids and actions of shaikhs, while Burckhardt (1831: i, 157-176) and Doughty (1936: i, 387-397) give more details on raids by small groups of individual tribesmen. The point of these narratives and poems is that they illustrate the ‘power to’ achieve reputation. Generosity is emphasised by all the orientalist scholars in many contexts. To be generous and hospitable needs the wherewithal to be so; the giver and host have a shelter and food, and this needs a wife; to be married means the ability to provide for her, the man must have access to the means of livelihood, and the right to disposal over his production. To give protection means he must have the capacity to be effective.

OWNERSHIP AND FAMILY STRUCTURES

21Jaussen provides a nice illustration of the achievement of this state by the sons of a household (1948: 11-12), where he is discussing 'the family’. In the hope of sorting out the ambiguous nature of the terms in use, he considers: “il ne paraît pas inutile de mentionner les dénominations actuellement en usage”. Ahel designates “la famille, non point considérée dans toute son extension, comprenant toute la parenté, mais restreinte à la descendance directe. Le père est naturellement le chef et le principe de cette ahel, qui tire surtout son importance du nombre et de la capacité des enfants mâles” and he uses ahel Saleh as an example. Saleh has four sons, two of whom are married and have sons; as the married sons continue to live under Saleh’s tent, they remain part of his ahel rather than forming ahel of their own, and maintain a common household. Hospitality and protection would be in Saleh’s name, not that of any of the sons even though it were one of the married sons who actually extended protection or killed the sheep; they would be doing so as agents and representatives of their father. This assumes all the household property to be held in common. Some of it is, but it would be highly probable that each son, Saleh’s wife and his daughters would have property of their own although by living under their own tent and maintaining a common household they make their individual property available to the common good of the household but maintain rights over its disposal. The complications of establishing the existence of a household and common purse are well described by Antoun (1972: 49-58) in a north Jordanian village, and those of the production, consumption and distribution by the domestic group among Shammar bedouin are exposed and analysed by Fabietti (1990: 242).

22The ‘dénominations actuellement en usage’ that Jaussen, and other orientalists, used to clarify ambiguities provide others. This appears to be because terms are expected to define, to carry a determined, bounded meaning. As Montgomery Watt has pointed out (1973: 315) Arab thought is descriptive (bi-l-wasf), not determinative. We have noted earlier that the use of terms changes when the actors are in different contexts. Similarly, the meanings of terms like ownership become mobile in an Arab context. In this context, owning focuses on the means of production -domesticated draft, milking or riding animals, wells and irrigation works, the plough and tools, seeds and the trees watered by the irrigation, and on what is achieved from this production. The medium of production -earth, water, grazing- comes from God not the efforts of man and therefore cannot be owned. Access to the medium may be restricted to customary users, identifiable through known tribal or family identities; but at the same time the medium of production is assumed by all users not to be a scarce resource as everything comes from God and He is generous. Local scarcities through natural causes or the greed of men are expected as part of the normal run of things, and every household has ways of compensating. There is always grazing, water and land somewhere; the family can find its location and arrange access through relations, social processes, contracts or self-help. This is use. Owning comes from developing a resource beyond its natural capacities, such as cisterns, wells, gardens, domestic animals. Producing groups (not necessarily the same as those who consume) are not bounded, defined and permanent units but labile and flexible groupings of individuals who may well be closely related but rarely include all those within a denominated unit even at the most inclusive level.

23Jaussen, in Moab, notices the individual ownership of the tent, animals, and after “Des diverses constatations énumérées, il est permis de tirer une conclusion: les terrains plantés d’arbres, les jardins, les vignes, en un mot toute terre apte à une culture spéciale et capable de fournir une récolte bien déterminée est devenue la propriété d’un chef, d’une famille laborieuse, d’un homme actif...” (1948: 236-7). Individual and family are loosely subsumed by Jaussen into each other, rather as in the use of the domestic group by Fabietti and household by Antoun. Concerning grazing, Jaussen writes: “Il y a une quarantaine d’années seulement, la plupart de ces terres étaient reconnues se trouver sur le territoire d’une tribu, et appartenir par conséquent à cette tribu, mais au même titre que tel pâturage. Les troupeaux du clan venaient y paître en liberté; ceux des étrangers y cherchaient aussi leur nourriture; en somme, la délimitation était assez vague, semblable à la démarcation de la steppe à l’heure présente. Ces champs, sur le territoire de la tribu, n’appartenant à personne, étaient appelés ard shamsiyeh, mot à mot ‘terre ensoleillée’, sans propriétaire autre que la tribu.” Again, tribe and clan are interchangeable. Ard shamsiyyah, or rain-fed arable land was, in many places, held by undivided possession, as in Karak. Jaussen notes: “chaque tribu possède telle quantité de terrain labourable; aux Hegazin, tribu chrétienne, par exemple, appartient la terre cultivable aux environs de Smakieh. Chaque année le cheikh, aidé du conseil des anciens, partage le terrain en trois parties égales, correspondant aux trois principales divisions de la tribu. C’est le sort qui détermine la répartition. Chacune de ces trois parties est sub-divisée ensuite en autant de portions égales qu’il y a de familles, de façon à ce que chaque famille, nombreuse ou non, obtient une égale quantité de terrain à cultiver. Chaque année, la même répartition aura lieu. ‘De cette manière’, me disait un de ces Arabes, ‘la pauvreté ne peut s’implanter chez nous, car personne ne peut accaparer le terrain, mais chacun peut vivre, s’il travaille’” (1948: 238). The ownership of pastures for the “nomades fixés aux confins du désert” was even more indeterminate. The nomads were divided into many tribes which possessed distinct territories “parfois nettement limités. Cependant on rencontre, de fait, leurs troupeaux un peu partout dans le désert... Il semble vrai de dire que le droit de pâturage est concédé à tout Arabe, indistinctement. Appliquée à certaines régions, comme le Negeb, cette conclusion est rigoureuse. Les Tiaha, les ‘Azazmeh, les Terabin et les autres tribus se compénètrent pour le pâturage et, suivant la belle remarque d’un Terabin, ‘conduisent leurs troupeaux dans les vallées arrosées et fécondées par la pluie d’Allah’.” (1948: 239).

24While an individual’s access to livelihood came from his family membership, family assets were held under the name of the senior active man of the household. An individual got possession by inheritance, contract, purchase, debt, gift of by his/her own efforts in developing a resource. The orientalists have much information and many illustrations. For example, Jaussen (1948: 20-23) presents the general rule for the division of the family assets between the sons. Division can occur by inheritance, with provision for the widow, at marriage, or at the setting up by a son of a separate household. One example he gives is that of Salim ibn Nasr and his sons at Madaba. Salim has four sons; the eldest is married but remains in his father’s tent with his wife and children; the second is also married, but set up his own household, asking for and receiving his share of the common property, knowing that any increase in this after he received his share will not be available to him. The third son quarelled with his father over his marriage and left his father’s household, asking for and getting nothing; if the quarrel remains unresolved, the third son will wait until the father’s death when he will receive his share but valued from the time he left the tent not at the time of death. The fourth son is too young to marry, but has the choice when he does of staying in his father’s tent and sharing in and contributing to the common household, or of leaving and taking his share. The situation where all the sons are under the father’s tent at his death when the inheritance is divided equally; sometimes the land and animals are divided, sometimes there is an agreement for one to have the land, another the herd, another the mare. “Devant témoins, chacun se déclare satisfait, et la paix règne dans la famille, ce qui est assez rare, notons-le en passant” (Jaussen, 1948: 21), although the desire “to be a good family” and to work as an entity is constantly to be heard. It can be seen that there may be a conflict over whether the goods an individual acquires by his own efforts is his own property or is part of that of the household. Jaussen reports that in Moab while the son remains under his father’s tent, “les biens eux-mêmes que le fils, par son industrie propre, soit par son travail, soit à la razzia, pourrait acquérir, tombent sous pouvoir du père” (1948: 19). He writes of a similar position among the Fuqara, and tells the story of a son returning to his father’s tent with a camel he had raided. The father claimed the camel “en vertu du principe: que l’enfant est au père et travaille pour le père” (1920: 30). The son refused and put himself under the protection of a neighbour. The matter was taken to a judge, who said that the son must put himself under his father’s authority. The father, when he saw his son in his tent, shot and killed him: “les Arabes approuvèrent cette action en disant: celui qui n’obéit pas à son père, on ne sait ni d’où il est, ni qui il est”. Musil has no information on this issue of property, but does report that “in the opinion of the Bedouins the son who disobeys is guilty, for which the proper punishment is the sabre” (1928: 256). The putting of booty raided by the son to the common property of the household may be because the son used a camel or a weapon from the household to win it, since Burckhardt reports that for the Ahl al Shemal and Aneze: “when a son reaches maturity, his father generally gives him a mare or a camel, that he may try his fortune in plundering excursions. Whatever booty falls to his lot, is reckoned his own property, and cannot be taken from him by his father” (1831: i, 114). Musil reports that Rwala babies, when taken by their mothers to her relations, are given présents, “often either a young camel or a colt, the gifts remaining its property” (1928: 243); women sell butter and wool to merchants to buy jewellery (124) or to save (142), that women are given and inherit camels (663-5), and that women have property that is theirs, often presents from husbands (1927: 494). Burckhardt says that the Ahl al Shemal gave the girl’s father the five articles -a carpet, a large silver nose-ring, a silver neck-chain and bracelets and a camel-bag of Baghdad manufacture- but that these became the girl’s property and remained with her even if she were divorced. Aneze young men gave presents to their girls, and the husband would induce an unhappy wife to return to him with presents of fine clothes, ear-rings or carpets (1831: i, 109, 112).

25The pastures of Karak were used in the summers by local tribes and those from the south who came to summer their herds and to buy for subsistence and trade grain supplies, and relations between these tribes were regulated by customary agreements; Jaussen writes: “Je n’ai pas entendu dire qu’une difficulté sérieuse ait jamais surgi parmi les clans divers à propos de ces coutumes qui répondent à des besoins impérieux” (1948: 117). These observations of Jaussen are valuable; other orientalists do not make them as clearly, possibly because no-one else had the opportunity of observing the regions, like Karak and Moab or the Hauran, that were markets for grain supplies for the tribes. His remarks on the freedom of grazing can be found in Burckhardt, Doughty and Musil, but these scholars focus as much on territory to be defended rather than to be shared. Doughty (1936: i, 396) and Musil (1928: 47, 49-50) mention beni ‘amma and khuwa as processes that allowed grazing in allies’ or protectors’ pastures. Musil (1928: 533) uses dira as territory, presenting it as property to be defended (1928: 505). Dira is another of those labile, flexible terms, influenced by context. Rwala use dira in a variety of ways; as an administrative centre, as a market centre from which one supplies oneself, as the place where one is and as a good man keeps the peace, defends its assets, and lives from it. These uses slip between a place on the ground, and use and ownership by tribally identified persons through livelihood, ruling and defence. Rwala subsume the place on the ground into their actions: “my dira moves with me”, they say, placing an emphasis on the efficacy of action or capacity as Jaussen says. Is the difference between, say, Beni Sakhr and Rwala one of tribal usage and a real difference between tribal thought, or one of the chance opportunities of research?

INDIVIDUALISM V. COLLECTIVISM

26From the material of Jaussen and other orientalists it may be seen that bedouin society functioned with a multi-resource economy based on herding animals for subsistence, the market, and service provision. Jaussen, especially, pointed out (1920: 7 ff.) that bedouin did not live from their animals alone and that their method of livelihood included a market component. Its political activities centred around ideas of access to and defence of resources of livelihood, mediated by generosity and protection, and operating through individual capacity to use named social processes of a variety of contracts and guarantees. The motivation for bedouin action was presented in terms of honour acquired, defended, lost or regained by the individual and the named groupings to which he belonged. These named groupings, presented as a series of inclusive groups by bedouin informants, were discussed as the formal structural units of bedouin society and as originating in and bounded by a framework of genealogical descent in the male line.

27The portrayal of the tribal structure as a series of inclusive and replicated groups leads almost automatically to Jaussen’s expectation of a hierarchy of authority and power in the functioning of groupings and tribe, though Musil records narratives of events and explanations of observed events that contradict such a perspective and where shaikhs’ views were ignored (e.g. 1928: 595; 1927: 239). The emphasis on individual action and the importance of honour, given perhaps particularly by Musil and to a lesser extent by Doughty, lead to a picture of almost anarchical violence. Musil’s inclusion of a large number of poems about war and raiding encourages this view (Meeker 1979), while Jaussen’s focus on the many processes available to avoid or insure against violence is a most valuable contribution. Musil’s 1928 volume was a presentation of Rwala customs seen during years of economic and political difficulties for camel-herding tribes of the inner desert, when an emphasis on self-help and the recalling of recent political struggles in poems and narratives was important to tribesmen and shaikhs, whereas other scholars present evidence that indicates violence was less present, less effective and less successful that might be expected from the heightened language of many of the recorded narratives. The complications of and contradictions between individual autonomy and the inclusive structure of tribe were not resolved by the orientalists; some ignored the question or said they were only presenting observed facts, or it was subsumed into an example of environmental determinism, survival from earlier and simpler times, and the unsatisfactory nature of tribal society. The orientalists, while dividing bedouin society apart from other Arab groups following other patterns of livelihood in the countryside of the Bilâd ash-Shâm, regarded bedouin society as having considerable antiquity although it was “simple” and “primitive”. The contradiction between having antiquity and therefore historical depth, and being simple but maintaining itself as an active and viable force was not explored. The idea of bedouin society seeing itself as having a moral or ideological foundation is hardly perceptible, although all the orientalists comment on the importance of generosity and protection. Perhaps this had to do with the nature of the study of societies in Western scholarship, where the evolutionary framework of progress from simple to complex economic and political institutions was dominant.

28However, in bedouin society as part of Arab Middle Eastern societies in general, the concept of jural responsibility is important, stemming from the idea that law was personal rather than territorial (Goitein, 1967: 66), and derived from membership of a religious community rather than a territorially based state. The question of whether or not bedouin society was Islamic interested the orientalists who all point out the often lax regard for the formal prescriptions of Islam but overwhelming dependence on the will of Allah. As we have seen, Jaussen (1948: 204-5) found that to lose one’s religion/faith was more important than to lose one’s honour. Goitein also says (1978: 33) that precepts of the various monotheistic religions held that families were mutually responsible for their members, although in strict Islamic and Judaic law this could not be upheld. At the same time that individuals are responsible for their actions, they are also responsible for those of their brothers and cousins to set degrees -the khamsa or fifth. These apparently bounded groups of co-responsible persons, as set out in a formal decription of bedouin society, in fact are capable of adjustment and manipulation by known and accepted social processes, such as the rule of many tribes that the father follows his son into the sixth generation, and the substitution of compensation for blood by those on the edges of the five generation group and after various limitations on time for blood vengeance. The presence of so many of these unbounded, labile categories of persons in the production of livelihood and in jural responsibility indicates the existence of active participation -that is, ‘power to’ – by individuals in these groupings in which they can claim membership and accept or lessen obligations. Such information exists in a diffuse manner in the works of the orientalists, but is never recognised by them in the way that the formal groupings and rights were; and it is difficult to notice until one has lived with tribespeople for some time. The way in which individuals pursue their aims, or are encouraged to conform, is shown but not that such actions generated new groupings or adaptations to circumstance. Similarly, the orientalists recount examples of individuals identified in group terms in situations where the explicit hierarchy of values is not maintained, and where honour is negotiated either in terms of the values contained in honour -for example, where a reluctance to take vengeance is explained as compassion or a desire not to split the group and so weaken it- or by redefining the context of personnel, where a dispute involving cousins is put inside the immediate family by calling on the claims of affection of the mother’s kin, so that a man who should be killed moves closer and inside the immediate family, so that no other personnel are involved, by his maternal kin links. The orientalists record the contradictions and ambiguities between power, strength, and compassion, generosity, in a society where reputation for honourable behaviour is a driving force, but do not examine the consequences for the social units that are thus shown to be more fluid than they are described.

POWER STRUCTURES WITHIN THE FAMILY

29The question of power and authority is separated into power within the family or household held by the father, and that of the shaikh within the tribe. A conscious parallel is made between the tent of the household and the tribe, and the father and the shaikh; this may follow bedouin use of metonymy and metaphor in using the part for the whole or the whole for the part, and the hinted comparison between the two social units (this practice may have influenced the theory of segmentation in lineage Systems, elaborated by Durkheim, where the series of inclusive units from family to tribe are seen to replicate each other, whereas each unit recruits and maintains itself in specific ways). In his discussion on the family among the tribes of Moab, Jaussen states: “le père est naturellement le chef et le principe de cette ahel” (1948: 11), “le mari est le maître et seigneur” (14), “si l’autorité du mari est quasi complète sur son épouse, elle ne saurait être moindre sur ses enfants. Ses filles dépendent absolument de sa volonté, il en dispose à sa guise, les donne en mariage à qui bon lui semble, et ne cesse de les regarder comme sa chose qu’au moment où elles pénètrent dans la maison de leur mari” (17), “il s’exerce également sur les enfants mâles, quoique avec un peu plus d’adoucissement. On m’a affirmé cependant que si un fils, dans sa révolte contre son père, s’oubliait jusqu’à l’injurier ou à le frapper insolemment, le père pourrait user du droit de vie et de mort, sans avoir à rendre compte de ses actes” (19). As for the household property of land and animais, the father “administre en maître absolu, augmente sa fortune ou la dissipe et la disperse; ni sa femme, ni ses enfants n’ont droit de l’arrêter ou de le réprimander” (19). He finds a similar situation among the Fuqara (1920: 30), with the exception of the bestowing of daughters in marriage (19-20); among the tribes of Moab, Jaussen was “frappé du caractère vénal des négociations matrimoniales; le mariage est presque un trafic”. With the Fuqara, “cet âpre calcul du gain ne contaminerait pas... le contrat matrimonial; le père ne compte pas sur la vente de sa fille pour s’enrichir; il n’exige pas le mahar ou prix d’achat du jeune homme qui demande sa main”. When a young Fuqara décides on a girl, he approaches her father; when his approval has been gained, he then has to get the girl’s acceptance for “la jeune fille jouit ici d’une plus grande indépendance que ses compagnes les bédouines de Moab. Dans la grave affaire de son avenir, elle ne se croit nullement engagée par la décision paternelle, et si le prétendant à sa main ne lui convient pas ou bien s’il n’a pas su gagner toutes les sympathies de son coeur, elle n’hésitera pas à rejeter ses avances, et son refus mettra un terme aux négociations” (20).

30Doughty, travelling with Fuqara some thirty years earlier, commented on the liberty of the women, who went unveiled (1936: i, 272), and where “the fugitive Bedouin wife has good leave to run whithersoever she would; she is free as the desert, there is none can detain her” (273); again, “large is the nomad housewives’ liberty” (367). He also notes the burden of her work, and that “few are the nomad wives whose years can be long happy in marriage! They are few indeed or nearly none that continue in their first husband’s household. Such are commonly mothers of many children, or wedded in needy families, so that the house-fathers are not able to maintain another housewife... The woman’s joy and her comfort is to be mother of sons, that at least she may remain a matron in her boy’s tent” (278). The portrayal of Fuqara marriage given by Jaussen is close to that of the Rwala, also Aneze, where the girl should not be married against her will. Burckhardt reports similarly for Aneze, writing “when a man desires to marry a girl, he sends some friend of the family to her father, and a negotiation commences; the girl’s wishes are then consulted; if they agree with those of the father, (for it is never supposed that she should be compelled to marry against her inclination,)...” (1831: i, 107). The information from Musil (1928: 135, 139) confirms this, with the addition of the rights of the ibn 'amm, who must give his permission, and can demand the girl, but is more honourable if he does not. Doughty gives a fairly gloomy picture of bédouin marriages, whereas Musil is more cheerful, writing that: “The man who loves his wife helps her in ail thèse labours. He never lets her pitch, strike or load up the tent alone, but along with his herdsman, servants, and sons always aid her... a careful husband often loads two or three camels with fuel, especially dry branches and small stumps of ghadha or arta -ail this is to save his beloved wife labour... on the other hand, a man not on good terms with his wife lets her do all the work herself, urging her on to greater speed all the time. On arriving at the new camping ground he selects a place for his tent, takes the saddles off the animals, leans against the camel saddle, and waits for his wife to come and pitch the tent, spread out the rugs, and bring fuel. Only when all this is done will he enter the tent, build a fire and make his coffee. Thus he acts the master until a reconciliation with the wife takes place; then he helps her again” (1928: 231-2). Musil points out (1928: 238), as does Doughty (1936: i, 272) that a married woman had plenty of opportunities to meet other men in the course of migrations. If she falls in love with another man, she does not conceal it, and the news reaches her husband who “if he is a man of a magnanimous disposition, he releases her without raising objections... A man of this kind is wont to say 'She is a free daughter of a free tribe. Allah made her love another man, so I will not hinder’”. It is for similar convictions that Aneze do not give girls in compensation in blood money as do other tribes (Jaussen, 1948: 222), as this would be counter to her liberty and autonomy. In addition, Rwala know that noble qualities are inherited through women, so to transfer them like things to another tribe would be denying this quality and letting it pass outside. Rwala women were not, however, considered to have equal rights with men in conversation reported by Musil: “when the enemy appears and the sound of the battle cry arises, is it the women who rush to the defence? Is it the women who undertake aggressive raids?... We keep women to bear us children and to care for our tents. We do not oppress them, but a woman must always be conscious of the fact that man is her master. Thus Allah has willed; our ancestors observed this order and we likewise observe it” (1927: 7). When the speaker, Nawwaf ibn Nuri, was reminded that at times the women were braver than men, urging on the men to offer resistance and that many women handled weapons as well as men, Nawwaf said these were exceptions; when asked why the children of Turkiyya, Sattam’s widow, were known as ayyal Turkiyya rather than ayyal Sattam, Nawwaf replied “Turkiyya surpasses by virtue of her intelligence and calm deliberation. We consult her, but I don’t think we would subject ourselves to her were she our chief. When asked about ‘Alya, who led the Beni Sakhr and Rwala against the troops of Ibrahim Pasha, Nawwaf answered: “On that occasion Allah took from the Arabs a prudent man and substituted a woman but today we would permit no woman to command us”. Much of Nawwaf’s answers are rhetoric, concealing instances of women acting successfully out of their assigned sphere, and thereby threatening men’s power.

31The power of the father as head of the household portrayed by Jaussen is that of a domestic tyrant. Those of Burckhardt and Musil include more amiable pictures, although they both recount events where parents have total power over members in situations of honour. Burckhardt (1831: i, 325-6) tells of a Suwalha of Sinai who threw his son off a mountain because the son had been proven guilty of stealing corn from a friend. Musil (1928: 52-54) has the story from when the ash-Shreifi of the Kwatzbe were fighting against ash-Sha’alan of the Rwala. The seven sons of ash-Shreifi led a raid of Kwatzbe, Shammar and Dhafir against the Rwala. A Rwala herdsman in ash-Shreifi’s tent warned the Rwala who set an ambush for the raiders. As the raiders approached, the wind carried the scent of the herb in which armour was stored towards them. A Shammari smelt it, and warned the seven sons of ash-Shreifi to flee with him, but only the youngest, Mashlan, did so. All the other raiders rode into the ambush, where most fell, including the six sons of ash-Shreifi. Mashlan, with a Shammari, came to his father’s tent. The father asked the Shammari for news of the raid. He told him, adding: “Oh ash-Shreifi, do you not see the darling of your eye?” Ash-Shreifi was silent. At last he asked his wife, the mother of all the sons, who was sitting in the women’s side and had heard the news: “Mistress of my tent, where is Mashlan, your youngest son?”. She replied: “We did not carry, we did not bear and we did not receive a son named Mashlan”. Mashlan got up, left the tent, and was never seen again. His mother died from grief shortly afterwards.

POWER STRUCTURES WITHIN THE TRIBE

32In the context of the wider society, the figure of power is the shaikh. Jaussen in Moab says: “À la tête de chaque ashireh (d’autres diront: hamouleh) se trouve ordinairement un cheikh; la qabileh ou la tribu entière, si elle comprend plusieurs clans considérables, n’en reconnaît un seul que dans les affaires de plus grave importance” (1948: 127). This seemingly straightforward picture is complicated in reality by the existence of other male members of the shaikhly families of the tribe and its sections, as, for example, may be seen in Jaussen’s picture for the transfer of power among the ibn Fa’iz of the Beni Sakhr (1948: 128). Dealings with state government and with the shaikhs of other tribes on matters of the “gravest importance” of peace or war required a single figure around whom a tribe would be expected to coalesce. Shaikhly functions could be split, as Musil reports: “if the hereditary head chief is not distinguished by warlike ability... he then directs the external affairs of his tribe as sheikh al-baba, while affairs of war are left to a man renowned for his courage and prudence even though he may be descended from a different kin. Such a leader is known as sheikh ash-shedad or sheikh al-harb” (1928: 50-51). Musil shifts the emphasis from that of Jaussen, who has a shaikh at the head of each ashirah as if the nesting descent groups mirror political influence and authority, to that where groups of tribesmen tend to focus around politically active men from the shaikhly families of different descent groups. Musil says “the word qowm indicates the bedouins ruled by a chief. Thus it is possible to say: ‘qowm ibn Sha ‘alan, he is of the qowm of ibn Sha’alan; the qowm of ibn Me’gil are encamped over there; the qowm of ibn Gandal also took part in the raid; but such a phrase as ‘that is the qowm of the Rwala’ or ‘he is descended from the qowm of the Freje’ will never be heard” (1928: 50). For Moab, Jaussen présents a different meaning for qowm, quoting a story where a Huwaiti ate with a Beni Sakhr and then stole two horses from one of the Ghanamat. The Ghanami learnt the name of the thief and went to the Beni Sakhri’s tent, saying: “the salt is in your tent, and my horses are stolen”. The Sakhri recognised the obligation of hospitality, took the tray from which his guest had eaten and rode to the encampment of ibn Jazi, shaikh of the Huwaitat, saying: “you have eaten from this tray and you have stolen the horses of the Ghanamat, my allies. Give them back or I will stick the bawq, shame you”. Ibn Jazi replied: “between us and the Ghanamat there is qowm; I will not give back the horses”. The story continues, but qowm is further elucidated as ‘troop’, but in the special sense of a raiding party; when there is qowm between two tribes, there is a state of hostility. Doughty also records (1936: i, 388, 380) qowm as a raiding party, and enmity between tribes, commenting “There are tribes of neighbours, cruel qomanies since their grand-dames... that have never met in general battles, when, in a day, they might void long controversies, by the destruction of one of them. Even the bedouin’s cruel rancours are often less than the golden piety of the wilderness. The danger past, they can think of the defeated foemen with kindness... When men fall down wounded in a foray the enemies which had the upper hand will often send again far back and bear them to their menzil: and there they nourish their languishing foemen, until they be whole again; when they give to each a water-skin and say to h im ruhh, ‘départ’, without taking promises, putting their trust in Ullah to obtain the like at need for themselves”. Burckhardt has a somewhat similar position to Musil, writing: “Every Arab tribe has its chief sheikh, and every camp (for a tribe often comprises many) is headed by a shaikh, or at least by an Arab of some consideration” (1831: i, 115). Doughty regards the sheikhs as “nobles of the blood, of a common ancestor, the reputed Jid or father of the tribe; the great sheikh’s dignity he has of inheritance.... No commoner, nor any of strange blood, even though he surpassed all men in wealth and sufficiency, can corne to be the head of a nomad ashira, or even to be named of the sheikhly kindred” (1936: i, 293).

33On this point, Jaussen asked Abd el-Ghany, sheikh of the Batush at Khanzira, how someone became an Arab sheikh. Abd el-Ghani replied: “‘Par l’intelligence et le poignet’, me dit-il en brandissant son sabre. Sa réponse était vraie sans être complète. La valeur personnelle joue un grand rôle dans l’acquisition du pouvoir, mais le droit d’héritage n’est pas une vaine ombre” (1948: 127). Musil discusses (1928: 51) the moving of the head chiefdom of the Rwala transferring it from the Ga’ga’a to the Sha’alan, and gives one of the traditions. There are others, and most versions revolve around the re-establishment of peace between the tribe and settlers by Sha’alan’s successful médiation, or in one story, of the restablishment of tribal autonomy by his refusal to pay taxes to a state authority. The establishment of an individual as sheikh depends on his recognition by the tribespeople. All the orientalists make this clear, while Burckhardt puts it succinctly: “when a sheikh dies, he is succeeded in his dignity by one of his sons, or his brothers, or some other relation distinguished for valour and liberality: but this is not a general rule. If some other Arab of the tribe should possess those qualities in a more eminent degree, he may be chosen: the tribe is often divided; one party adhering to the family of the last shaikh, the other choosing a new one. A living sheikh is sometimes deposed and a more generous man elected in his place” (1831: i, 118).

34The sheikhly qualities celebrated among the Arabs of Moab (Jaussen, 1948: 128-9) were generosity, horsemanship symbolising bravery, intelligence and caution, wealth, and his following among the tribe. He illustrates the first three with narratives demonstrating these qualities, while wealth is discussed in more specific detail. Jaussen says: “Un cheikh ne se conçoit guère sans une fortune personnelle qui lui permette de subvenir à tant de frais et de donner toujours une large hospitalité. La richesse du cheikh peut venir de trois sources différentes: de la terre, du bétail, de la razzia. A propos de cette dernière source de revenus, on me citait le proverbe vulgaire: ‘celui qui ne mange pas le bien des autres, ne termine jamais les affaires des hommes’” (1948: 136). In this analysis, the shaikh’s generosity, bravery, intelligence and prudence combine to produce wealth and increase his following; “son premier soin est-il de s’attirer tous les cœurs et d’éteindre les sujets de discorde parmi les siens, afin d’écarter toute compétition et d’unir les membres de sa tribu qui devront rester autour de sa personne... il ne dépend point d’un cheikh d’avoir une tribu nombreuse; mais la bonne entente parmi ses membres est bien souvent son œuvre. Le courage et l’intrépidité des guerriers dépendent aussi de sa valeur personelle. Il se les attire par sa bonté, par sa générosité et son intelligence” (1948: 138). In Jaussen’s Moab, it seems as if a sheikh has the intention or the ambition to be a shaikh and actively works towards this aim; in Burckhardt a shaikh “endeavours to maintain his influence by the means which wealth, talents, courage and noble birth afford” (1831: i, 284). Musil’s listing of the qualities of a chief have been mentioned earlier, and wealth is not among them.

35Some of the yearly expenses incurred by Nuri ash-Sha’alan are enumerated (1928: 59), mostly for the upkeep of the horses and the tent, and food and clothing for the family and guests, together with the payment of taxes to the Ottoman government (1927: 4301). His income came from tax collection (1928: 59; 1927: 326), from merchants (270, 280) and khuwa (1927: 353). It would not appear that Nuri had outstanding wealth. The shaikh of any tribe would not be the only one to receive income from khuwa or merchants, several noted men were ‘brothers’ for different settlements or quarters of settlements, and at whose encampments merchants traded. Burckhardt writes: “the sheikh does not derive any yearly income from his tribe or camp; on the contrary, he is obliged to support his title by considerable disbursements, and to extend his influence by great liberality. It is expected that he should treat strangers in a better style than any other person of the tribe; that he should maintain the poor, and divide among his friends whatever presents he may receive. His means of defraying these expenses are the tribute which he exacts from the Syrian villages, and his emoluments from the Mecca caravan” (1831: i, 118). Not every tribe received income from the Haj -the Rwala did not. Doughty (1936: i, 387) estimated the Fuqara shaikh to be worth four times that of a poor household; the shaikh’s income came from his share of Haj payments, a fourth of ail raided camels, and dates from his garden at Khaibar. Khuwa payments from Taima and al-’Ula mentioned by Jaussen (1920: 8) were omitted by Doughty. The Fuqara gained more money from the government for a short while when the railway was extended to their region, and Jaussen (1920: 9-10) notes the increase in the number of mares and the increased consumption of bread.

36All the orientalists make it clear that unlike the head of the family, the shaikh’s power was discretionary. Jaussen writes: “il est aussi difficile de déterminer l’autorité du chef de la tribu que de délimiter l’horizon du désert. Aucune charte n’existe, aucune règle écrite n’a jamais rien définitivement fixé (a cry from the heart). Tout dépend de l’usage et aussi de la capacité de celui qui commande. Parfois il serait permis de dire que le cheikh n’est rien, d’autres fois il serait juste d’affirmer que le cheikh est tout” (1948: 139). The sheikh demonstrated his authority in the sitting of the encampment and its movements; he kept the peace in the encampment, and saw to the restitution of raided and stolen goods; he declared war and peace, and established relations with other tribes and the government. However (143), “si grand que soit le pouvoir du cheikh, il n’est cependant pas absolu. Il ne pourrait pas exproprier un membre de la tribu à son avantage. Si un champ lui fait plaisir, il l’achètera, mais ne s’en emparera point de force, à moins qu’il n’appartienne à un étranger. De même, s’il désire posséder une jument de race, ou une bonne arme dont un de ses Arabes est fier, il pourra l’acquérir par voie d’achat, ou de cadeau, mais il lui est interdit de s’en emparer par la violence. Le pouvoir du cheikh est donc limité par droit de propriété individuelle”. (His remark that the Rwala are an exception to this rule is not borne out in Musil’s work, nor by Rwala). Again, with the Fuqara, Jaussen’s criterion as to whether the power of the shaikh is, or is not, discretionary centres on this question of arbitary possession: “Ce vieux Mutlaq, à barbe grisonnante, détient l’autorité d’une main puissante. Les Arabes lui obéissent... Il ne pourrait pas, comme Eben Rashid, s’emparer arbitrairement de la tente ou des troupeaux de ses administrés. Si, d’aventure, il désire obtenir une jument de race qui est entre les mains d’un membre de la tribu, il la demande au propriétaire qui ordinairement la lui cède de plein gré, mais qui n’hésiterait pas à résister à ses violences s’il prétendait s’en emparer de force. Il est cependant un cas où Mutlaq a le droit d’imposer sa volonté: en temps de guerre. Il peut obliger ses sujets à prendre les armes. Si quelqu’un refusait de lui obéir en cette circonstance, le cheikh peut détruire sa maison et faire périr ses troupeaux pour le contraindre à défendre la tribu. Mais ce sont des cas extrêmes”.

37Doughty’s description of the power of the shaikh among the Fuqara is similar but the évidence of the limitation of powers focuses on a different aspect: “his (the sheikh’s) authority slumbered, till, there being some just occasion, he ruled with a word the unruly bedu. A rude son of the désert sat down by me in the mejlis at my first coming... I asked him... ‘Which of them is Motlog?’ Answer: ‘Yonder is Motlog!’ and he added boisterously... ‘The man there is our Pasha; for right as the haj pasha, this Motlog governs the Aarab. When he says ‘The rahla!’ we all mount and set forth; and where he alights there we pitch our booths’. The sheykh of a nomad tribe is no tyrant; a great sheykh striking a tribesman he should bruise his own honour” (1936: i, 292-3). Burckhardt considered: “the shaikh has no actual authority over the individuals of his tribe: he may, however, by his personal qualities obtain considerable influence” (183: i, 116). The powers of the shaikh described by Jaussen for the tribes of Moab and the Fuqara are greater than those of the tribes known by Burckhardt, who reports: “Should a dispute happen between two individuals, the sheikh will endeavour to settle the matter; but if either party be dissatisfied with his advice, he cannot insist upon obedience. The Arab can only be persuaded by his own relations; and if they fail, war commences between the two families and all their kindred respectively. Thus the bedouin truly says, that he acknowledges no master but the Lord of the Universe; and in fact, the most powerful Aneze chief dares not inflict a trifling punishment on the poorest man of the tribe, without incurring the risk of mortal vengeance from the individual and his relations... Their prerogative consists in leading their tribe against the enemy; in conducting negotiations for peace or war; in fixing the spot for encampments; in entertaining strangers of note, etc.; and even these privileges are much limited... His orders are never obeyed, but his example is generally followed”.

38This portrayal agrees in principle with that of Musil nearly one hundred years later, with the difference that the expanded power of the Ottoman government and the decline in the need for bedouin services and camels meant that the shaikh had to collect taxes from the tribe for the government, and refusal to pay taxes was punished (1928: 59). The only outright power given by Musil was the right to declare war and conclude peace (1929: 58). He has many comments showing actions of chiefs in protecting the oppressed, their generosity to the poor (453) and protecting the weak (465). He says: “if the guest has only one host, who is not very powerful, whilst his violater is a member of a powerful kin, the host with all his kin will conduct the guest to a prominent chief, put himself under his protection, and in this manner fulfil his obligation. No chief would think of refusing to protect a man so situated, since it is the duty of the strong to protect the weak, or, as it is said in the desert: ‘the big horses protect the small ones’”. Chiefs also help to settle vengeance disputes, and must not ask for or accept compensation for this as this would stain his honour (493): “his sole reward is the public acknowledgement that he has been instrumental in doing good, and preventing fresh shedding of blood”. It is clear from reading the orientalists that many, and probably all, bedouin acted in the same ways as chiefs in offering hospitality, protection, mediating disputes, defending honour, and doing good; the only authority they did not have was to make war and peace. Not only bedouin tribesmen either; women too gave hospitality (Doughty, 1936: i, 444; Musil, 1927: 216); gave protection (Musil, 1928: 447, 637; Wallin, 1854: 149), and defended honour by actively protecting their property (Musil 1927: 185; 1928: 622).

“POWER TO” AND “POWER OVER”

39Within bedouin society, the “power to” act through known social processes by identifiable individuals is more relevant than “power over”. Honourable behaviour by being a good person depends on individual responsibility and accountability within moral parameters; this is within an individual’s power. The only occasion of absolute power by a chief is over war and peace; he, having ascertained the opinions of leading tribesmen, decides and those who do not follow can be expelled. It is only in this situation that the tribe coalesces into one unit. In other intertribal arrangements and in relations with governments the tribal shaikh may reach agreements, and advise their acceptance but he cannot compel tribesmen to comply. Burckhardt gives a general and a specific instance: “It is a custom among bedouins, when a party of them with their sheikh visit any neighbouring town, to express great deference towards him, representing themselves as being completely under his control. This they do, that the governor of the town with whom they have to treat may be inspired with a high opinion of the sheikh’s great power and authority; an opinion which often causes more favourable terms to be granted (...) as soon as the party returns to their desert the mask is thrown off, and the sheikh mixes again with the crowd of his people (...) Mohammad Aly Pasha learned from his own experience the truth of what I have just mentioned”, he continues, “when collecting camels and gaining the support of local sheikhs for his attack on the Wahhabies around his head-quarters at Taif (...) Among these sheikhs he distributed great sums of money, yet found (...) that the bedouin sheikhs do not possess absolute power at home. Not one camel could they drive away without the owner’s consent: not one Arab could they force to enlist under the banners of a foreign chief (...) His money was taken; but such Arabs only could be assembled with their camels, whose vicinity to Mekka and Tayf exposed them to the attacks of the Pasha’s cavalry, and whose principal means of subsistence were derived from the Pasha’s granaries at Djida and Mekka” (183: i, 285-7).

  • 2 See E. Rogan in this volume.

40The relations between tribal shaikhs and central authorities have been constructed on variable sets of premises over the years, of which Burckhardt provides information for those of the first Wahhabi state, Doughty for ibn Rashid’s polity, and Jaussen and Musil on the Ottoman policy after the tanzimat. All these polities were Islamic. In the Bilâd ash-Shâm, the main concern of the pre-tanzimat Ottoman governments was to ensure the safe passage and return of the Pilgrimage to the Holy Places, as this legitimised their claim to rule. To ensure this, agents of the Sultan in Damascus contracted with shaikhs of the tribes along the route to provide supplies, ensure water, and to provide safety for its passing in return for payments. Non-compliance was punished by military expeditions, confiscations, imprisonment and/or death. The System of contracts worked relatively well in general, and breakdowns occurred from partial non-fulfilment by the Ottoman agents, extreme drought conditions, or the Wahhabi incursions at the beginning of the nineteenth Century. After the reforms of the tanzimat, the losses of the grain producing areas of the Crimea and the Balkans, and suspicion of British expansion in Egypt and the Gulf, the Ottomans extended direct rule into the Bilâd ash-Shâm south of Damascus during the second half of the nineteenth Century. The aims of the newly installed Ottoman administration in Moab were the exercise of justice, the propagation of the practices of Islam2, and to collect taxes; as an important part of these aims, the customary usages over theft, raids and vengeance were forbidden. The installation of telegraphs and the building of the Hijaz railway were also important in extending control over the desert, and in undercutting the economic independence of the tribes. With the extension of the reach of central governments over markets and the desert, shaikhs were made responsible for the collection and delivery of taxation to the state authorities; that is, the shaikh became accountable to the state on behalf of the tribe in those situations where the well-being of tribespeople necessitated access to markets in regions now directly administered by the state (Jaussen, 1948: 121-3; Musil, 1928: 58; 1927: 430-1). Confiscations of property, especially animals, fines, and imprisonment were common. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and the establishment of the French and British mandated territories and of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, shaikhs were either further incorporated into centralised administrations or side-lined. With the establishment of the nation-states of Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, the position of tribal shaikhs is curiously ambiguous: formally, as heads of tribes, they have no power and no influence; informally, as représentatives of bodies of identifiable citizens, some have considerable influence at high levels.

41The relations between the first Wahhabi polity and bedouin have been described by Burckhardt (1831: ii). The aims of Wahhabi government parallel those of the Ottomans in many respects; strict Islamic law replaced customary law (136), raiding was expected to cease by the practice of making the Arabs “responsible for every robbery committed within their territory, should the robber be unknown; and those who were sufficiently strong to repel or resist a hostile invasion of a camp or town, and wanted the inclination or courage to do so, were punished by a fine equivalent to the amount of cattle or other property taken away by the robbers” (136-7). The acceptance of compensation instead of taking blood vengeance was heavily encouraged but not imposed. Confiscations and fines were the usual punishments for infringements of the peace and transgressions, and reconciliations insisted upon. Trading with countries outside the Wahhabi realm was initially forbidden but “as the inhabitants of Nedjd... were much in the habit of visiting Medinah, Damascus, Baghdad, and the adjacent countries... at last it was necessary to relax... on that subject. He [ibn Saud] even tacitly connived, in the last period of the Syrian hadj, at his Arabs transporting provisions for the caravans, and took himself one dollar for every camel, belonging to his people, so employed; but except in this (...) he never would allow any of his Arabs to trade with Syria or Baghdad until after 1810, when the Egyptian expedition began” (141). Details of the Wahhabi state’s income are given, among which was the zeka tax, acknowledged to be “peculiarly galling to the Arabs under Saoud’s authority, as they were formerly free from taxes of any kind. Distant tribes have frequently revolted on account of them” (153-4). Some tribes, like many parts of Aneze, successfully resisted the paying of zeka (168) with its explicit acceptance of the political authority of ibn Sa’ud and implication that the tribe was not free or capable of providing its own defence. The power of bedouin shaikhs in the Wahhabi domains appears to have been to exécute justice, recruit troops for the Wahhabi armies, and to assist the tax-collectors, and in time of war, to form a council with the governors of the provinces (132-3). Some of the great bedouin tribes of the Wahhabi state were in frequent revolt (143), particularly about confiscations, fines and taxation.

42Similar policies used by ibn Rashid in his polity were seen by bedouin as deliberate. Doughty (1936: ii, 241) heard Hutaim complaining of ibn Rashid, that he weakened the tribes “for before a qabila is subdued to him he has brought them almost to nothing: after that, he makes them live in peace”. While Doughty was with the Fuqara, their shaikh went “to treat with the emir” (1936: i, 388, 394) on behalf of the tribe; on his return, all the tribesmen not away herding heard their taxes were “but four hundred reals... the free-born, forlorn and predatory bedu grimly fret their hearts under these small burdens; the emir’s custom is ever untimely, the exaction, they think, of a stronger, and plain tyranny; yet yielding this tribute, they become of the prince’s federation, and are sheltered from all hostility of the Arab in front”. The Mwahib Aneze (502-3), too, were considering whether they should not submit themselves to ibn Rashid; in earlier years, they had paid but had lapsed, “trusting in their harra mountain”. Ibn Rashid saw the payment of zeka as a religious duty, calling the Mwahib (and other bedouin) mushrakin, idolators, because they did not pay whereas the bedouin -as shown in the Rwala statement that “our holy war is to protect our tents and herds” (Musil, 1927: 443)- saw zeka as an infringement of autonomy.

NOMAD-SEDENTARY RELATIONS

43The orientalists’ generalised accounts of relations between nomads and sedentaries of the Bilâd ash-Shâm treat of relations with centralised governments and with villagers. Those with central government are in terms of government security, formal institutions, and taxation; those with villagers through depredations, khuwa, and share-cropping. Scholars vary in their portrayal. Burckhardt, in his Account of the Bedouins (1831: 193), says khuwa is a contract for security of production and restitution of goods from a tribe against payment to one of the notable tribesmen and made before witnesses; small merchants (191-2) made similar agreements. In his Travels in Syria (1822), a more informal account, khuwa is described as protection for payment, but an “oppressive tax” and “the sum paid to a single shaikh is quite arbitrary, and varies according to his avidity, or the wealth of the Fellahs”. In his 1831 volume, the amount is agreed in advance (1831:193). In addition, “it may easily be imagined, however, that depredations are often committed, without the possibility of redress, the depredator being unknown, or flying immediately towards the desert” (1822: 302); an example is given (1831: 192) of a trader getting his goods returned through the khuwa system. The standard of living of the Hauran peasants appears relatively good (1822: 292, 295). Oppressions there were, but peasants mitigated the effects of these by moving from village to village (1822: 221, 299), as peasants did not have to own land to use it and there was an abundance of fertile land; movement gave peasants freedom. Villagers also had remedies of self-help; the story of how Sha’alan became shaikh (Musil 1928: 51) is about his success in mediating between oasis dwellers who impounded Rwala camels because their sheep and goats had been stolen. Khuwa usually existed where a direct state administration did not, but sometimes in parallel, as in the Hauran of the early nineteenth Century and in Qalamoun in the 1930s where the French Mandate System used indirect rule.

44The bedouin system can be reduced to one of self-help, where a loose series of different contracts between the fluid networks that criss-crossed the Bilâd ash-Shâm and further made between known individuals of honourable reputation who could speak for groups, who fulfil the contracts that centred on protection of personal safety and restitution of goods, and where claimants had rights of redress and the ability to embark on these. Jaussen (1948: e.g. 196-7, 199, 201 ff.) gives many examples of individuals acting to get their rights, as does Musil (1928: e.g. 432 ff., 446-7, 496-500). There are also illustrations of shaikhs not having power; Burckhardt’s remark (1831: i, 116) that “[the shaikh’s] commands would be treated with contempt” has been mentioned earlier, and Musil records: “The prince paid me a visit and inquired how I liked the camel meat he had sent me. I thanked him for the bone, and asked his pardon for not being able to thank him for the meat, as I had received hardly half a rotl (1.28kg) of it. He declared (...) he had sent me the entire front leg, and he could not understand, any more than I could, how ail the meat had disappeared from the leg on the way from his tent to mine, the intervening distance being only thirty-four paces” (1927: 179-180). Orientalists, bedouin, and the Ottomans saw the Ottoman system as based on absolute power where security of person and property was not secure. Burckhardt writes: “the real government of the Bedouins may be said to consist in the separate strength of their different families, who constitute so many armed bodies, ever ready to punish or retaliate aggression” (1831: i, 116); this reads as if named descent groups are the operative units, but further on in the discussion of Arab government, Burckhardt refers consistently to “an Arab” as the prime actor, who then asks for support from those close to him -who in all instances outside blood revenge may refuse. Burckhardt describes the Ottoman governors of the towns as unable to “even imagine the existence of any chief without the possession of despotic powers” (1831: i, 286). Doughty (1936: i, 113, 132) refers to the bedouin commenting on the corruption and tyranny of the Ottoman govenment. Jaussen’s brief description of the Ottoman government in Karak (1948: 120-3) indicates the pressure of taxation on the region and the little that the region had gained from the establishment of central government up to 1905. Musil reports that tribal shaikhs “saw in the [Turkish] government merely a bureaucracy of tormentors who were of no benefit to the Arabs in general or the Bedouins in particular but, on the contrary, injured their interests whenever possible” (1927: 399). The power of expropriation by the Government was deeply resented; Musil wrote in 1914: “Not that the Bedouins cared in the least about the Government’s loss of large territories in the Balkans and in Tripolis; on the contrary, they wished to see it defeated and weakened. But they did resent deeply its action in requisitioning from the ‘Aqeyl for military purposes the camels they had bought from the Bedouins. Naturally the ‘Aqeyl were indisposed to buy camels now, since they could never hope to get as much for them from the Government as they would have received in Egypt; consequently the bedouins, unable to sell their camels, were suffering from want. Moreover, when at the end of June they entered the tilled region where the Government was stronger than they were, they were dispossessed by troops who commandeered their horses and camels for the Sultan in Constantinople” (1927: 427).

45The incorporation of local leaders into Government controlled areas is mentioned by Jaussen (1948: 121) and Musil (1928: 58). The incorporation of local leaders in the towns and countryside necessitated negotiations about taxation levels, impositions and levies, conscription and suppression of local customary law. Using court records and other sources, historians like Doumani (1995) for Nablus, Schilcher for the Hauran (1981, 1991) and Rogan for Karak and al-Balqa (1991), have examined these processes and shown that revolts were caused by demands for conscription, confiscations, extortions, and tax arrears; that is, demands effected through the exercise of absolute power rather than negotiation between parties. The Government saw bedouin and peasants as subjects of a state, and whose leaders could be manipulated by bribes, imprisonment and threats of death (e.g. Musil, 1927: 327, 389, 429, 430-1, 435-8; Jaussen, 1920: 9).

46The inter-relationships between badia, villages and the markets of Damascus are brought out by all. Bedouin needed goods -grain, clothing, household goods and weapons-and markets for camels and services; villagers needed access to the badia for seasonal grazing of sheep and goats, markets for grain, dried fruits and tobacco, and a market among the tribes for clothes and household goods; city markets needed camels for transporting agricultural, pastoral and industrial products. Production and distribution needed a system of security and restitution -i.e. protection in return for payment. Khuwa or taxation paid in kind was one method of moving services and goods between different production Systems. An alternative was a series of trading networks that criss-crossed the region, using various processes such as sureties and guarantors (rafiq and kafil). The villages of the Qalamoun traded with parts of Damascus, the inner desert and Jauf; the Hauran with the Maidan in Damascus, Acre, Ma’an, Jauf and the Hijaz; al-Balqa linked into Salt, Nablus, Jerusalem and the coast; Karak and Shaubak to Jerusalem, Hebron, Gaza and Egypt, and the Hijaz. The importance of trade for the desert and the mountains of Karak and Shaubak is a frequent comment of Burckhardt’s in his travels, since it was at the time when the Wahhabi prohibition of trade with Damascus and Baghdad had seriously affected the region (1822: e.g. 405, 437; 1831: i, 70). Wallin (1854: 141, 148-50) for al-Jaufand its relations “with their bedouin allies of Aneze and Shararat”; Doughty (1936: e.g. i, 86, 305, 354, 377, 425; ii, 425) for the northern Hijaz, Jaussen (1948: 255-60) for Moab, and Musil (1928: 124-5, 269-70, 278-80) for the inner desert all provide information on trade between the desert and the settled regions. Thoumin (1936: 162-192) and de Boucheman (1939: 73-97) provide information for the continuation of local trade between the villages of Qalamoun and Sukhne and the badia, while Lancasters continue this to the present.

47Share contracts (sharika) are the major enabler of economic enterprise in the Bilâd ash-Shâm, both in the past and now. Jaussen (1948: 241-3) gives details of the two methods of cultivating land in Moab by peasants from outside the area (see above). The contract called ‘the fourth’ was employment rather than a share partnership. The contracts called ‘the fifth’ was a legal share partnership as both sides contribute to the success of the enterprise. There are different sorts of legal share partnerships, but their legality in Islamic and customary law depends on the committed contributions of both parties above that of labour. From this fact, they are honourable, as neither party is dependent on the other, both having autonomy of action. Share partnerships were possible for every sort of enterprise (Firestone, 1975): raiding (Musil, 1928: 653), arable farming (Jaussen, 1948: 243), oasis agriculture (Doughty, 1936: ii, 133-4; Jaussen, 1920: 8; Musil, 1927: 332), animal trading (de Boucheman, 1939: 37- 9), herding (Burckhardt, 1831: i, 17-18; Musil, 1927: 391; Thoumin, 1936: 154), and manufacture (Doumani, 1995: 166-8, 190).

48These embedded networks, between partners construed as equals for that partnership, do not have the vertical relations of power that those of employer-worker have. Similarly, with the medium of production (undeveloped land for grazing or arable cultivation) coming from God, use of and access to the medium for livelihood (through the techniques of production -tools, draft animals, seed, grazing animals) is achieved by ownership (development of long-term improvements of irrigation and/or protection) or contract. Again, relations of power are more or less horizontal not vertical, and freedom of movement did not permit vertical relations to develop. Once the state decides it owns all otherwise unowned land and demands title to prove ownership, relations of access to the medium of production become more unequal since it is the state bureaucracy that controls recognition of ownership, usually through the payment of taxation and registration. Self-help shifts to the manipulation of paper and fees rather than appeals to moral values of honour and generosity. The orientalists provide much information on the exercise of power by individuals as free tribesmen and women but in an indirect fashion, referring to this exercise of power by free persons as honour. Power in the sense of vertical relations of ordering, compulsion is discussed mostly in the context of showing that, in Jaussen’s term, power among the bedouin is discretionary rather than absolute.

PROBLEMS AFFECTING A HISTORY OF BEDOUIN SOCIETY

49It can therefore be seen that the discussions of the nature of power in the works of the orientalists should make a major contribution to a history of bedouin society, but there are difficulties with the bodies of information available, with the interpretation of material, and what sort of history is wanted. The works of the orientalists would be used, preferably, in conjunction with other written records: government registers and fiscal sources, court records, land registers, family records and histories, and travellers’ and consular reports come to mind. But just as the orientalists’ works should be read with a critical appreciation so do the other written sources. None are impeccable. Mundy (1992: 230) has shown the Ottoman Land registers for villages in North Jordan “represent not a topographie map of cultivation on the ground, but an abstract mapping of the relations of share-holders, the village community and the fisc to land”. She finds also that “both the patterns of the distribution of tapu fees and the evidence that taxation in the years preceding the tapu took the form of a block cash payment imposed on the village suggest the fiscal context of share-holding. In a small way they lend weight to those arguments which, far from seeing in musha’ the expression of a primitive social organisation based on communal property, have stressed the determining role of the system of taxation in creating peasant villages over the centuries” (231). The registration of land could be false, as indicated by Musil where he writes that after the death of Sattam at-Tiyyar of the Weld Ali “several citizens of Homs by bribing officials had had his villages transferred to their names” (1927: 390).

50“Bedouin” itself has shifted in emphasis. For the orientalists, it implied free tribal groups organised around the principle of descent in the male line from a common ancestor living in the desert from camel-herding, and therefore outside state governments. This was drawn from what bedouin said about themselves. Now nation-states have incorporated deserts in the territories, drawn boundaries, and extended their administrations over desert areas; in addition, changing technologies mean that there is virtually no market for camels after the introduction of the internal combustion engine and electricity, and the services once provided by tribesmen have been taken over by state bureaucracies. “Being bedouin” is either said to have gone -“we are all shwaya (sheep and goat herders under the protection of the state) now”, or redefined as “living by our own efforts, which means basically from herding and trading, and not depending on the government; we arrange our own lives in our own terms”. Both statements may be made by the same person on different occasions, depending on his immediate situation and feelings. Formerly, “being bedouin” was visible, providing the formal processes in the desert; now it is largely invisible but continues to drive use of badia regions. “Being bedouin” is often used as interchangeable with “being tribal”. Peasants, villagers, are also often tribal and say they use similar processes to bedouin. Indeed, urban families in the Bilâd ash-Shâm say that “we are like tribes only smaller, and we work like a tribe; we defend our interests, we are generous to those in need, we protect the weak, we try to be a good family”.

51The orientalists gave informations that permitted anthropologists to portray bedouin tribes as corporate bodies, composed of replicated nesting segments (Durkheim, 1893; Evans-Pritchard, 1949: 55 ff.). The complications between this model constructed out of “folk statements” (and the behaviour of tribespeople on the ground caused much rethinking of how bedouin tribes functioned and about the nature of their structures – e.g. Bonte and Conte, 1991). From our own researches in the Bilâd ash-Shâm and Oman (1992), we have come to consider that tribal membership provides an individual access to a social infrastructure through his identity, and in return by using the social infrastructure, the individual tribesman and woman generate its continuation.

52A history of bedouin society could be, using the information of the orientalists, a chronicle and a gazetteer of names, places and events; but one presumes that it would be expected to be in the tradition of a history that illustrates and develops wider themes of political and economic processes. Either of these raises problems for the use of the orientalists’ material. Making a history can be done only from recorded material, either written down by orientalists or into oral narratives and poems. Bedouin narratives and poems use metonymy and metaphor as literary devices which affect their reading. Metonymy both sharpens transmission of the actions of tribesmen and extends the honourable actions of a few individuals to larger groups or the tribe; its use and perception by its audience is also a function of the way in which individuals and their groups are identifiable in a system where the groups of smaller inclusion are subsumed in these of larger groups once there are present individuals from more than a smallest named unit. For example, a man recounting a raid will say: “we, the riders of the Rwala raided the Feda’an...”. On questioning, there were ten or twelve men from two of the tribal sections of the Rwala, who were from different ibn ‘amm groups within these tribal sections. Because the raiders came from six ibn ‘amm groups and two tribal sections the only term that includes them all is the tribal name. The other use of metonymy is that in descriptions of the genealogy of the Aneze, where the names of tribal shaikhs stand for the component tribes. However, this subsuming of tribe into its shaikhly family does not mirror tribal interests outside the context of the relations of the tribe with other structurally equivalent bodies of other tribes or state governments. Inside a tribe, the actions of its shaikhly family/ies are of little concern to other tribespeople until such actions affect their own interests. Metaphor can give a symbolic heightening to the reporting of events, signifying parallels between transcendant values with actual acts of bravery and generosity. Metaphors may be ambiguous; an example might be the Shararat referring to Rwala as eagles and themselves as ravens; Rwala might hear this as an acknowledgement of their position as protectors of the Shararat, while Shararat may be including a gloss of the greater resilience in survival of ravens. The use of figures of speech can be double-edged; one poem about a raid is entirely satirical. Details of a particular group repeated by orientalists may lead to confusion over dates and political influence, since the accurate numerical accounting of distance in time is not a concern of these narratives. For example, events recorded about the Beni Amr in Karak in Burckhardt (1822: 381, 396), Dissard (1905) and Musil (1908: iii, 70-86) are not wholly consistent with the assumptions of past and current political realities drawn from the narratives by commentators and land use recorded in Burckhardt and Musil.

53The emphasis placed on moral values by tellers and listeners alike means that these narratives and poems do not lend themselves to history as chronicle or as developing political or economic themes. A common complaint about tribal histories is that a great deal happens but nothing changes. Bedouin, tribal histories are placed outside time in the sense of changing, developing time and are rather achronic, concerned with the re-establishment of moral values, a recreation of a world founded on moral values.

ACCOUNTING FOR CHANGE

54Change is perceived by bedouin to come from outside the moral concerns of bedouin society, but they see themselves to generate their responses to the political, economic and technological changes that have affected them over time. The orientalist scholars’ material used in this paper covers a century, from the early years of the nineteenth to the early years of the twentieth. In this period, a largely decentralised Ottoman administration using the Pilgrimage as a focus of taxation, administrative power and market gave way to a reformed Ottoman state, which extended direct rule, introduced centralised taxation, administrative and legal structures, used modem technology, and saw itself as threatened by Russia and the rise of nationalism in Europe, by the British in Egypt, the Gulf and the Red Sea, and by Arab polities in the peninsula. In the second half of the century, the economic under-pinning of bedouin society, the camel, was severely cut by the introduction and use of steamships and railways. At the same time, the expansion of the Ottomans into the Bilâd ash-Shâm and its demand for grain changed the means of access to land. In addition, there were, in the 1850s to the 1880s, rising prices for cereals and a flourishing export market -as there had been at times earlier-and the expansion of grain cultivation restricted the amounts of land available for grazing herds. Wetzstein, the Prussian consul in Damascus and himself an investor in Syrian agriculture, recorded the opinion of one of the Rwala shaikhs whom he was asking about the expected fighting between Rwala and Weld Ali over an-Nuqra, a grain growing area and market in the Hauran: “These camel herds stretch for six days to east and west, after ten days you cannot see the end (...) the land will not hold two peoples (...) A treaty would be possible if there were more grazing lands, but where are these in Syria? The Belqa is full of the Ahl ash-Shemal, the Hauran of the Zubaid, the Marj with the Na’ im and Agaydat, and the high price of cereals will colonise the deserted villages” (1860: 137-8). The Ottoman reforms and spending on greater direct administrative and military personnel and equipment, together with their involvement in inter-tribal politics, affected bedouin spending. Bedouin leaders felt they needed to manage the relations they had with Ottoman governors and agents, as well as acquiring more and more efficient weapons. And, of course, they were having to pay taxes to central government or to ibn Sa’ud or ibn Rashid with fewer opportunities to collect khuwa.

55To what extent did these changes affect the political structures of bedouin society? Would such changes and their recorded effects allow the construction of bedouin history in this period? We are dependent on the material recorded by the orientalists; its reinterpretation by modern bedouin after reading this material in the original language or in translation, or from their comments on glosses of the orientalists’ material by anthropologists. The initial impression is that the relations between tribal shaikhs and central governments became increasingly one-sided, with the aim by the central government of total incorporation. There were, during the century, two successful establishments of polities sometimes mistakenly considered as tribally based, and an attempt to set up ‘The Sha’alan kingdom of Northern Arabia’. As with the polities of ibn Sa’ud and ibn Rashid, that of ibn Sha’alan would have been of the family, not the tribe. Would this separation of shaikhly family from tribe have been an innovation, or a continuation of traditional practice? Did the establishment of a centrally organised polity mean the separation of bedouin premises from those of shaikhs, or would the shaikh/s have run two Systems in parallel, shifting practice according to the context? The first Wahhabi state, with its separation of religious and political-military spheres, and financed by booty taken from non-submitters sanctioned from taxation which had a religious basis yet necessitated political submission, appears to have had one single system, with the bedouin incorporated and marginalised. However, negotiation between the demands of Wahhabism and bedouin political thinking was possible. Negotiation took place in two arenas. One was within the Wahhabi state where, according to Burckhardt “in process of time the Wahaby chief became the governor of the greater part of Arabia: his government was free, because it was founded upon the system of a Bedouin commonwealth. He was the shaikh of tribes whose respective politics he directed, while all the Arabs remained within their tribes completely independent and at liberty, except that they were now obliged to observe the strict sense of the law, and liable to punishment if they infringed it” (1831: ii, 118-9). After all, if a tribesman really objected, he could leave and live outside, having his freedom but liable to being attacked since he would no longer be under ibn Sa’ud’s protection. The other route to negotiation was to perform a service for ibn Sa’ud which enabled him to give exemption from the obligation of political submission, as the Rwala did (Burckhardt, 1831: i, 7), and tribal tradition. Ibn Rashid’s polity started as an usurpation of power formerly delegated by ibn Sa’ud to ibn Rashid as his agent. Like ibn Sa’ud, he weakened the bedouin by raiding and attacking them until they decided to submit to his power and pay tribute in return for protection and support him in his wars. But negotiation was possible. Musil records: “... by wars and depredations he [Muhammad ibn Rashid, also called al-Emir] finally brought a number of Arabian tribes to obédience and soon had no rival in the whole desert (...) The Rwala alone opposed him. Enraged at this, he organised a raid against them, attacking the camp of the Ghshum kin (...) and looted it completely. Hazza’ ibn Sha’alan was the head chief of the Rwala (...) and he went in pursuit of ibn Rashid’s raiders (...) Allah gave them victory, all the animals taken from the Ga’adza’a clan were recovered, besides which they captured many horses and riding camels and won much glory by liberating their own she-camels and defeating the enemy. When Muhammad ibn Rashid returned to his people and learned of the extent of the losses the Rwala had caused him, he sent his friends to ibn Sha’alan (...) in this way ibn Rashid and his tribes became the friends and comrades of the Rwala, just as if they were related by blood. All that was captured [on raids they undertook together] by ibn Sha’alan he kept for himself and his raiders (...) Ibn Rashid never shared with his ally, because ibn Sha’alan was independent” (1928: 578-9).

  • 3 He could also see no reason to support the Ottomans (433), whose manipulations of the tribes only (...)

56Al-Rasheed (1989) points out that the Rashidi state was largely financed by the payments of khuwa from merchants and pilgrims, and trade by the Emir, which enabled the employment of paid soldiers and officials; it did not depend on tribal manpower. Hail, the Rashidi base in Jabal Shammar, was on main trade and pilgrimage routes between Iraq and the Hijaz. Nawwaf ibn Nuri Sha’alan proposed founding his Sha’alan Kingdom of Northern Arabia using al-Jauf as a base, but al-Jauf was not on any main route. Nawwaf took al-Jauf with thirty-five negro soldiers and the active support of some quarters of al-Jauf and some Rwala (Musil 1928: 162), his finances coming from raiding (424) and tax collected from the Rwala “when raids were scarce” (448). Nawwaf had the support of ibn Sa’ud, himself fighting ibn Rashid (168), and this alliance was favoured by most Rwala (280). Nuri himself was ambivalent initially (174-5, 207) but came to support Nawwaf (287) through not wishing to split the tribe and to back ibn Sa’ud against ibn Rashid, “whose abuses they [Rwala] had endured so often”3.

  • 4 After the death of Nawwaf ibn Nuri, Nuri gave al-Jauf to ibn Sa'ud and based himself in Syria wher (...)

57The effects of close links between tribal shaikhs and government officials on bedouin tribesmen was noted by Burckhardt who wrote: “It is certain that those sheikhs who are connected with the governors of towns in Syria, Egypt or Hedjaz, and derive from that connexion considerable gains, and still more such as have become tributary to those governments, or dependent upon them, have found means to extend their authority over their tribes, so much that an Arab will not readily oppose their wishes, knowing that the enmity of a sheikh can interfere with the profits which he might derive from the townspeople, and principally by the transport trade: but even here the sheikh has not any means of enforcing his commands; and daily experience teaches him to respect the individual independence of his Arabs” (1831: i, 285). Doughty saw the influence of income from the government for protecting the Pilgrimage to weaken a tribe, making them “coffee-lazing, beggarly and pitiless minded” (1936: i, 389), but not to increase the power or influence of the shaikh. Formalised relations with central government did involve shaikhs in increased expenditure for impression management, and enabled some shaikhs to become large landowners. It is however difficult to say definitively whether grants of land were for the benefit of a shaikh and his immediate family or entourage, or whether the income from land was informally and widely distributed. Sha’alan say that although the Emir had large amounts of land registered in his sole name in Syria, the income went to the wider family and for general hospitality and generosity throughout the tribe and beyond. A section of Beni Sakhr whose shaikh divided the allotment of land between all families of the section and who behaves in a traditional way has a better reputation than shaikhs of sections who retained land in their immediate families and have joined the elite4.

58Reading the material on the expansion of the first Wahhabi state in Burckhardt, or of ibn Rashid in Doughty, or the ideas of Sha’alan Kingdom of northern Arabia in Musil, it is apparent that a separation should be made between the development of power by members of tribal shaikhly families outside the arena of bedouin society, and bedouin participation in these events. Bedouin participation as bedouin was limited to raids and, as it were, use of the facilities offered by the developments such as markets; individual tribesmen were employed as mercenaries in the Emir’s army, as tribesmen where employed as herders or cameleers for caravans. Tribal leaders, one of whose function is to arrange for or to develop access to facilities under the control of another political authority, may embark on an extension of their own authority for whatever reason. But in doing this, they appeal to a legitimising authority outside tribe and which extends across and beyond tribe and bedouin as identifying units to a more universal membership. While to be bedouin, one must have a tribal identity, having a tribal identity does not make one bedouin; that comes from following the moral premises. Shaikhs have special functions; internally, they have to be bedouin with high reputations; externally, they must deal with government agencies, mediating between tribespeople and central government.

59The need for shaikhs, as points of contact for central government in their dealings with tribes, was increased in the initial stage of the Ottoman re-establishment of direct rule in the Bilâd ash-Shâm. Shaikhs were recognised or appointed by the Ottomans, and this was followed by the Mandate authorities. But tribespeople did not necessarily carry out government demands relayed by shaikhs anymore than they had obeyed shaikhs before or since. Central authorities had to come to terms with the unpalatable fact that shaikhs do not have power although they should have influence. Although the orientalists usually travelled with shaikhly families, and expected tribes to have shaikhs, some tribes like the Ahl al-Jabal did not have shaikhs but “leading men” while the Sa’idiyin on both sides of the Wadi Arabah said that either they had no shaikhs or that every man was a shaikh.

60The orientalists’ material on bedouin tribes sees the “folk statement” of common descent from a male ancestor as inadequate (e.g. Jaussen, 1948: 111) but the scholars do not examine the possibility that the idea of common descent may be a metaphor. That this possibility exists was stated by a Rwaili genealogist who said that Rwala was never a person, nor were the names at the head of the major tribal sections; they were rather ideas around which people gathered. Listening to discussions on the nature of being bedouin, being tribal and the working of tribal sections and sub-sections, and observing the behaviour of group members, Rwala appear to be closer to a “civil association” rather than an “enterprise body”, a power-based body. Oakeshott’s dichotomy is an ideal model, and the two classes are neither mutually exclusive or exhaustive and not really intended to be so. Oakeshott, quoted by Mount (1992: 75) says that a civil association is an association of persons who agree to subject themselves to a set of common rules and to a common government in order to pursue their own diverse purposes. Circumstances may, of course, intimate to them that they should join together in some common enterprise, to defend themselves against an external threat, such as war or famine: but these shared enterprises are not the prime purpose of the association. The set of common rules may be regarded as the named and known social processes by which bedouin pursue their livelihood and resolve disputes. The set of agreed rules is seen by Oakeshott to be a building, a place to dwell in, and not an engine for going places, whose “purposes and destinations could naturally expect to enjoy priority over private purposes”.

61When the orientalists travelled, bedouin tribes were extremely visible in their tents with their animals. Now, they are far less visible. Citizenship is the present entry to the means of livelihood rather than membership into a tribe or village or urban family. For many in the countryside and the badia, citizenship is a necessary veneer, a thin overlay above bedouin identity. Discontent with government effectiveness in a fundamental aspect of life, protection, is common. People say: “The government don’t protect you, but they won’t let you protect yourself. Hospitality continues to be seen and practised as fundamental to the bedouin ethic. Disputes continue to be settled using local practices with the exception that it is now the state, in the shape of the police, who give protection while compensation is agreed and collected. Witnessed partnerships and guaranteed sponsorships drive rural production. Shaikhs sort out tribespeople’s problems when these are beyond their own efforts, although now this is often done by telephone to a shaikh’s residence in the capital rather than attending a majlis in the badia. Indeed, the use of the telegraph by tribesmen is already recorded by Musil (1928: 296) and Jaussen (1948: 170).

62The corpus left by the orientalists on the nature of power among the bedouin is indeed valuable for a bedouin history as we have tried to show.

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Notes

1 See R. Abujaber in this volume.

2 See E. Rogan in this volume.

3 He could also see no reason to support the Ottomans (433), whose manipulations of the tribes only added to the increasing difficulties of bedouin society. Their economic difficulties have been mentioned above, but were compounded during the war by blockades on supplies of grain. Politically, while the suport of Rwala and other tribes was important to ibn Sa’ud, the tribes had become less important to the Turks after the building of the Hijaz Railway that now carried the pilgrims, traders, and the Turkish officials and military personnel.

4 After the death of Nawwaf ibn Nuri, Nuri gave al-Jauf to ibn Sa'ud and based himself in Syria where he and tribesmen had assets. Other Rwala had assets in northern Saudi Arabia and were based there. Nuri choose to live under the French Mandate as they administered the badia regions under a system of indirect government, which he thought enabled the bedouin to live more as bedouin; in Saudi Arabia, zeka tax was due to ibn Sa'ud, and in Jordan the Rwala had few assets while the British administration saw sheikhs as exercising undue power, and were keen to break this assumed power.

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