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Ibn Zafar--Arab Precursor to Machiavelli

Ibn Zafar--Arab Precursor to Machiavelli

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British Society for Middle Eastern Studies
Machiavelli's Arab Precursor: Ibn Ẓafar al-ṢiqillīAuthor(s): R. Hrair Dekmejian and Adel Fathy ThabitSource:
British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies,
Vol. 27, No. 2 (Nov., 2000), pp. 125-137Published by:
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BritishJournalofMiddle EasternStudies(2000), 27(2),125-137
p^
Machiavelli's
Arab
Precursor:
Ibn
Zafar
al-Siqilli
R.HRAIRDEKMEJIAN* and ADELFATHYTHABIT**
ABSTRACT
Virtuallyunknown tocontemporaryWestern scholars andmost Arabintellectuals isthepolitical thoughtofIbnZafaral-SiqillT,adistinguishedArabphilosopherandpoliticalactivistofthetwelfthcentury.Firstdiscoveredinmid-nineteenthcenturybyan ItalianArabist,IbnZafarwasconsidered aworthyprecursortoMachiavellibyGaetano Mosca. Thispaper presentsanlanalysisofIbn.Zafar'stheoriesof powerandleadershipanddraws relevantparallelsbetween IbnZafar'smagnumnopus,Sulwidnal-Muta',andMachiavelli's Prince.Written inthegenre of'advice to theprince',Ibn.Zafar'sbookoffersanempiricalanalysisofpowerand asetofmaxims andstrategiesto beusedbya virtuousrulerinorder topreservehispowerand securehis realm. Itwill beshown that Ibn.Zafar'smaxims,likeMachiavelli's,transcendedhishistorical milieuand there-fore,deserveattentionbymodernstudentsofArabpoliticalthought.
IntroductionDespitetherenewedscholarlyattentiongiventoIslamicpoliticaltheory,therestillexistlacunaeinthehistoryofMuslimpoliticalthoughtwhichremain to beexplored.Indeed,theplethoraofrecent studiesonIslamicpoliticaltheory appearto bepromptedbytherise ofIslamistmovements inthetwentiethcentury.Consequently,scholarlyinteresthasfocused onthehistoricalanchorsof contem-poraryIslamistthoughtfound inwritingsofsuchmajorthinkersasal-Mawardi(d. 1058),al-Ghazal(d. 1111),IbnTaymiyya(d.1328)and hisintellectualdescendants.Yetthecontemporarynterest intheintellectualantecedentsof Islamismmayhavedetractedscholars fromexploringpreviouslylittle knownArabthinkers,whosewritingstranscended heirhistoricalmilieu.One suchthinker sAbu'AbdAllahMuhammadbn Zafaral-Siqilli(b.497/1104),a twelfthcenturyman of
letters,whosebookSulw,nal-Muta',written inthegenreof'advice tothe
prince',makes himaworthy precursoro noneother thanNiccoloMachiavelli(b.1469).IbnZafar'spoliticalthoughthasbeenvirtuallyunknown ntheWest,save forthe workofMicheleAmari,thedistinguishednineteenthcenturySicilianArabist,whotranslatedSulwadnl-Mutci' n1851 intoItalian;anEnglisheditionappearedn1852.2Inhisintroductoryhapter,Amariproudlyrefersto IbnZafar
*R. HrairDekmejiansProfessor ofPoliticalScience at theUniversityofSouthernCalifornia,LA,USA.::AdelFathyThabit isAssociateProfessorofPoliticalScience at theUniversityofAlexandria nEgypt.For adiscussionsee 'Adil FathiThabit,Abdal-Hafiz,Shar'iyyatil-Slttafi'l-lsl/o1i(LegitimationofAuthorityinIslam)(Alexandria:Daral-Jama'a al-Jadidali'l-Nashr,1996),pp.12-13. R.HrairDekmejian,IslaminRevollution,Syracuse:SyracuseUniversityPress,1995),pp.8-19,36-40.
2MicheleAmari,Solwan:orWatersofConmfor)tyIbZafeir,Vols IandII,(London:RichardBentley,1852).
Foran Arabicedition seeSulwlnl
al-Muitu'
fi'Udvtdl
ail-Atbi'
(Consolationfor the RulerDuringtheHostilityofSubjects),introductionbyAbuNahlaAhmadb.'Abdal-Majid(Cairo:Daral-Thaqafa.1978).
ISSN1353-0194print/ISSN1469-3542online/00/020125-13?2000BritishSocietyforMiddleEastern StudiesDOI:10.1080/13530190020000493
 
R. HRAIR DEKMEJIAN AND ADELFATHY THABIT
as'myArabfellow-countrymanof the 12thcentury',whose book 'offersmanyprofoundviews ofpolicy,which are asapplicablenow astheywould have been
intheageof Tacitus or of Machiavel'.3
Ahalf-centurylater,Amari's Italian rendition was discoveredbyGaetanoMosca,yetanotherSicilian,who alsodrewparallelsbetween Ibn Zafar's workand that of Machiavelli.4As the founderof the modern field of elitestudies,Mosca waskeenlyinterestedinexploringthe contributionsof medieval Arabthinkers o the field ofpoliticalscience.Indeed,Mosca discoveredn Ibn Zafar'swork 'a Machiavelismmore refinedthan that of the FlorentineSecretary'5SinceMosca,Ibn Zafar has receivedonlybriefmentionin anentryintheEncyclopae-diaofIslam,andina Frenchmonographon Arab miniatures;6e is betterknownto modemItalianspecialistson MuslimSicily,such as UmbertoRizzitano,whohas builtuponAmari'spioneeringefforts.7Ibn Zafar's HistoricalMilieuIbn Zafar'swork needs to beanalysed againstthebackdropof thepoliticaldevelopmentsof his time and thestrategic positionofSicilyintheongoingconflict betweenthe Muslim world and ChristianEurope.Ibn Zafar's worldofthetwelfthcenturywas one of Arab-Muslimdecline.TheAghlabid conquestofSicily(827),wasfollowedbythe rule of the Fatimids andtheir Kalbiteclients,who lostpowerin1052 amidinternecine conflictsamongcompetingfactions:i.e. AfricanArabs versusSpanishArabs,SunniversusShi'a,and ArabsversusBerbers.8Aperiodofanarchyensued,where rivalqac'ids lordlings)ruled overtheisland,openingthewayfor the Normaninvasionbegunin1061andcompletedin1097.9RogerIpresidedover a ChristianKingdomwhere Muslimsoccupiedkey positionsinthe Normancourt and themilitary,n auniquemilieuof Christian-Muslimsymbiosisandcoexistence.10As theepicentreof aflourishingculture,Sicilybecameabridgeof culturaltransmissionbetweentheMuslimworld and ChristianEurope.UnderRogerII,Sicily's Arabophileculturereachedazenith,althoughafter his death(1154)aperiodof Muslim restlessnessensued,particularlyduringthereignof WilliamII(1166-1189)."Notably,IbnZafar was born underNormanrule,whichshapedhis worldview andaspirationsasa Muslimfacingtheconsequencesof Islamic declineat home andabroad.This milieu ofpolitical upheavalanduncertainty gavebirth to Ibn Zafar'smasterpiece-Sulwdnal-Muta'.
3
Amari,Solwan,Vol.I,p.2.4G.Mosca,Histoire des DoctrinesPolitiques(Paris:Payot,1936),p.27.Ibid.6TheEncyclopaediaof Islam,NewEdition,Vol. III(Leiden:E.J.Brill,1971),p.970;RachelArid,MiniaturesHispano-Musulmanes Leiden:E. J.Brill,1969);pp.1-8.7See UmbertoRizzitano,Storia eCulturantellaSicilia Saracena(Palermo:S.F.Flaccovio,1975),pp.160,284-285,366,434-35,450-451.8Fora detailedaccount,see LeonardC.Chiarelli,Sicily DuringTheFatimidAge,Ph.D.Dissertation,DepartmentofHistory, UniversityofUtah,June1986,pp.119-123.9FrancescoGabrieli,TheArabs:ACompactHistory,ranslatedySalvatorAttanasioWestport,CT:GreenwoodPress, 1981),p.136.10Ibid.,p.137.Abual-HusaynMuhammad bn Ahmad IbnJubayr,Rilia(Travels) (Leiden:E. J.Brill,1907),pp.341-342.
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