Independent Umayyad rule in Spain began with the arrival in the Iberian peninsula of 'Abd al-Rahman I, al-Dakhil, in I38/755-6 and his successful assumption of authority there, with the defeat of both the incumbent governor and subsequent 'Abbasid attempts to reassert central control from Baghdad. Umayyad victory in Spain immediately raised the question of the caliphate: could this Umayyad prince, one of the few survivors of the 'Abbasid slaughter of his house, proffer recognition to the 'Abbasids as caliphs? If he did, then this would destroy his own legitimacy. If he did not, his action would stand as a challenge to the usurpers and possibly also affect the nature of the universal caliphate.
This first Umayyad in fact adopted both policies. At first, and probably more by unthinking accident than by deliberate policy, he named the 'Abbasid caliph in the weekly khutba, the Friday sermon in the mosque, of which a prayer containing the name of the reigning caliph formed part. After a few months, a relative, himself a newly arrived refugee from the east, pointed out the incongruity and the absurdity of this action, and urged him to stop it. 'Abd al-Rahman did so, and thereafter, for well over a century, no caliph was named in the khutba at all. The caliphate, so far at least as concerned al-Andalus, appears to have been regarded as having a sedes vacans. The Umayyad rulers of Islamic Spain saw themselves as unjustly excluded from their caliphal inheritance in the east, both as caliphs and as rulers; they called themselves 'sons of the caliphs', with an evident propagandistic, as well as merely nostalgic, purpose; throughout this period they refrained from minting gold coins, an action associated with sovereignty and hence reserved to a caliph or those acting in his name; and they made no attempt to establish a rival caliphal institution, Avignon-style, in Cordoba, to challenge the 'Abbasids.
This last feature of Umayyad reaction to the 'Abbasids is worthy of note, for it in fact implied acceptance that there existed, indeed could exist, but a single caliphal institution; since the 'Abbasids occupied that institution, though as usurpers, the Umayyads themselves could not do so; but they could refuse explicit recognition.
The successors of 'Abd al-Rahman I continued his policy, ignoring the 'Abbasids so far as possible, being largely ignored by them in their far-off corner of the Islamic world, and allowing the question of the role of the caliphal institution for al-Andalus to remain unanswered and unclear, until the reign of 'Abd al-Rahman III (300/9I2-350/96I). For much of this time, indeed, the very status of the Umayyads as rulers of al-Andalus, if by and large unchallenged by the 'Abbasids, had been severely dented by challenges within: a whole series of rivals and rebels against Cordoban Umayyad authority had kept the state, and the dynasty, in a condition of great weakness. There were times when the power and authority of the Umayyads scarcely extended outside the capital. At certain periods the failure to mint coinage in gold seems to have been a result as much of poverty as of policy.
During the half-century reign of 'Abd al-Rahman III, however, all this changed. This ruler spent the first third of his long reign in asserting the authority of Cordoba, gradually wearing down and defeating one by one all the local magnates and marcher lords who had alternately defied and ignored his predecessors. He crowned a decade and a half of energetic campaigning with the final defeat of the longest-lasting and most serious rebellion of all, that of the Hafsunids, in 3I5/928. In the following year, secure at home and feeling the beginnings of a new role for Islamic Spain outside the peninsula, he proceeded to an act of an altogether different order: he assumed caliphal titles, or, more precisely, he reassumed the caliphal dignity and titles of his oriental ancestors.
The motives which led 'Abd al-Rahman to do this appear to have been mixed. The decline of the real power and influence of the 'Abbasids, in Baghdad, was probably the most encouraging feature of the contemporary political landscape, as it suggested that from that quarter at least would come no serious reaction to this move. The rise of the Fatimids, by contrast, at this time still based in Qayrawan, in north Africa, showed that, while there might exist only a single caliphal institution, there might coexist simultaneously more than a single dynasty with some fairly acceptable claims to fill it. But while the Fatimids' caliphal claims might encourage others also to similar claims, their military and political strength, expressed through the dispatch very widely all over the Islamic world of religious-cum-political da's, or missionaries, compelled the Umayyads to think in terms of an ideologically based reaction, as well as one built on purely political or military foundations.
The assumption of caliphal titles was an obvious choice of strategy. As a policy, it had other advantages too, for it marked in a sense the coming of age of al-Andalus under the Umayyads as a Mediterranean state, one with claims to equal status with other states around that sea, and most particularly with the states of the Fatimids and the great traditional rival and enemy of Islam, the Byzantine emperor. Acceptance of Umayyad claims in this area by Constantinople would mark Umayyad membership in the society of sovereigns on the international plane, throwing down a gauntlet to the 'Abbasids and recalling long-past Umayyad-Byzantine conflicts from the days of the Damascene Umayyads.
'Abd al-Rahman's assumption of the caliphal titles took the form of a letter to his governors in different places announcing, not that he had adopted such titles, but rather that thenceforward he should be addressed by such titles and mentioned under caliphal title in the khutba, the weekly sermon in the mosques.
The text of the letter (after the introductory formulas) was as follows:
"We are the most worthy to fulfil our right, and the most entitled to complete our good fortune, and to put on the clothing granted by the nobility of God, because of the favour which He has shown us, and the renown which He has given us, and the power to which He has raised us, because of what He has enabled us to acquire, and because of what He has made easy for us and for our state [? dynasty; Arabic. dawla] to achieve; He has made our name and the greatness of our power celebrated everywhere; and He has made the hopes of the worlds depend on us, and made their errings turn again to us and their rejoicing at good news be (rejoicing at good news) about our dynasty. And praise be to God, possessed of grace and kindness, for the grace which He has shown, [God] most worthy of superiority for the superiority which He has granted us. We have decided that the da'wa should be to us as Commander of the Faithful and that letters emanating from us or coming to us should be [headed] in the same manner. Everyone who calls himself by this name apart from ourselves is arrogating it to himself [unlawfully] and trespassing upon it and is branded with something to which he has no right. We know that if we were to continue [allowing] the neglect of this duty which is owed to us in this matter then we should be forfeiting our right and neglecting our title, which is certain. So order the khatib in your place to pronounce [the khutba] using [this title] and address your communications to us accordingly, if God will. Written on Thursday, 2 Dhu al-Hljja 3I6 [I6JanUary 929]."
The formulation of this letter both follows and diverges somewhat from that of other such communications. It was normal for letters containing material for onward transmission to his subjects to be sent by 'Abd al-Rahman to his governors, and for him to instruct the addressees to read them out to his subjects in the mosques. Such a letter is that announcing his destruction of the Hafsunid stronghold of Bobastro, recorded by Ibn Hayyan. At the end, this document says: 'and order this letter of ours to be read out in the main mosque (al-masjid al-jami') in your place to our followers and subjects in your presence, that they may rejoice at it and give praise to God, may He be exalted.' The similarity with our document is clear. But there is a difference: in the caliphal document, it is not the text of the document itself which is to be published thus, but the effect of the instruction contained in it. The khatib was not to read out the new caliph's letter, but to mention him, as caliph, during the sermon. The difference may not be insubstantial.
Almost at once, in 3I7/929, 'Abd al-Rahman began issuing gold coin, and on it he placed the appropriate caliphal legends: al-imam al-Nasir li-Dm Allah 'Abd al-Rahman amtr al-mu'mintn. He had in fact placed these words on silver coin as early as 3I6/928, but we cannot know whether these inscriptions antedated his assumption of the titles formally at the end of the year.
It is difficult to know what meaning is to be attached to this new set of titles thus taken on by the Spanish Umayyad. On the one hand, it seems from the phraseology employed in his letter announcing the change that he was aiming at an Umayyad restoration, if not immediate then at least at some time in the future, in the whole Islamic world, and the overthrow of the 'Abbasids. A century and three-quarters earlier, when the first 'Abd al-Rahman had called himself simply amr, without laying claim to caliphal titulature, it had been abundantly clear that to claim anything more would have been absurd. Now the Spanish Umayyads had to be taken more seriously, and their titles, along with their implications, with them.
On the other hand, even given the radically altered balance of power as between the Umayyads and the 'Abbasids, no one can seriously have thought that an Umayyad restoration in the east was anything more than a mirage: too much else had changed in that area since the 'Abbasid removal of the Umayyads for the Cordoban rulers to be able to return. In this sense, while their new titulature certainly had a programmatic significance for the Islamic world as a whole, expressing very clearly something of the ambition of the Cordoban caliph, the programme envisaged by it was largely theoretical; to the extent that it was more than that, it was aimed at a more local audience, in Spain itself and, beyond that, in the western Mediterranean basin.
We have a good example of the issues that this raised in the record of a series of contacts between 'Abd al-Rahman III al-Nasir and the Fatinud al-Mu'izz (34I/952-365/974). The contacts can be dated to the last four years of 'Abd al-Rah. man's reign, the period between 346/957 and his death in 350/96I. Recorded by the qadi Nu'man, a strong partisan of the Fatimids, our account naturally tends to glorify al-Mu'izz and to make little of the claims of the Umayyad. None the less, through the reports that we have in this account of what were in effect indirect negotiations between the two courts, we can discern something of the different claims and counter-claims on the caliphal level made by these two dynasties.
These negotiations had to be indirect, at least on the formal level, as each caliph rejected the legitimacy of the other; neither could even address a letter to the other that he might have accepted; the letters that are sent are quite regularly represented as being written by and to intermediaries, always unnamed, who were dignitaries at the two courts (in fact, on the Fatimid side, no letters are reported as having been written at all; what we have is rather a record of al-Mu'izz's contemptuous muna-zara, or dialectical rebuttal, of al- Nasir's proposals).
Al-Mu'izz adds but little to the debater's quiver. He complains that the Umayyads had renewed the ancient practice of cursing the 'Alids (sc. the Fatimids) from their pulpits. And he throws back at the Umayyads a charge made against his own dynasty, that of illegitimate descent, in order the better to bring out the illegitimacy of their claims to the caliphal title: 'and to whom do they [sc. the Umayyads] trace their ancestry? To dogs, or to apes, or to pigs? By God, these are better than the people to whom they trace their ancestry. . . so leave them and their claims [to high descent]; it sufffices them as a shame and a disgrace that they trace their descent to him [sc. 'Abd al-Rahman I al-Dakhil].' And he asks how it arises that 'Abd al-Rahman III suddenly chooses to call himself 'Commander of the Faithfull':
"if this [title] was not known to him other than [as applied] to the prophets, as he says, then what is the reason for his calling himself Commander of the Faithful? This was unknown among those who [governed] in al-Andalus [before him], and his ancestors who preceded him did not call themselves by [this title], and nor did he during a long part of his life. So what is it that has compelled him to act thus [now]? Was he in the past, and [were] his ancestors before him, in ignorance of this, and was he guided [only] afterwards to the correct [path]? [Nay] let him bear witness against himself and them about that! But if they were right, then the ignoramus, in differing from them and in calling himself [by this title], has taken something to which he is no more entitled than they were.
If al-Mu'izz's arguments are not of the most sophisticated, they are none the less revelatory of the twin positions of these two daimants to caliphal dignity, and especially of the Umayyad's. It is clear that the Fatimid, in impugning the legitimacy of the Umayyad, both as a member of that family and as a caliph, had in mind his own Sunni subjects and other Sunnis farther west, among whom the Umayyad might win, or had already won, support against him. He was faced with a real competitor: if the Fatimids could add a second caliphate to that of the 'Abbasids (even if a slightly different one), then the Umayyads could do so just as well, with just as plausible a title, and even perhaps face them down. In order to deny the legitimacy of 'Abd al-Rahman as a caliph, he rejects, in accordance with standard Shi'i doctrine, the legitimacy of the oriental Umayyads as caliphs, not just because they had excluded 'Ali and his descendants from the succession to the Prophet but also on account of their differences with the Prophet himself. And in case that is not seen as a sufficient argument, he proceeds to claim that the Marwanid branch of the Umayyad family was itself a bunch of usurpers, having removed the Sufyanids from the succession; and on top of this, he tosses in the old stand-by of doubt about the authenticity of the Spanish Umayyads' identity as Umayyads at all: who really knew whether 'Abd al-Rahman I al-Dakhil had not been simply an audacious impostor, claiming Umayyad blood in order to further his own private ambitions in Spain?
Although this has all the character of what may well have been a literary topos, it seems also to contain elements of historical reality; that historical reality, the political and military relationship between the Fatimids and the Spanish Umayyads, was in fact littlee affected by the rival caliphal claims of these rulers. A decade after this exchange the Fatimids moved eastwards from Qayrawan, to Egypt, and their interest, and significance, in north Africa diminished. While Umayyad interest in north Africa continued, and indeed increased, thereafter, it never became so great as to bring these two dynasties into direct contact again.
Under 'Abd al-Rahman's son and successor, al-Hakam II al- Mustansir (350/96I-366/976), little changed. Like the Malikism of Umayyad Spain, the caliphal title of its rulers became a part of the established orthodoxy, and effectively unquestionable on that account. Its nature or meaning, what purposes (beyond the purely ceremonial) it served, what needs it answered, were questions which were little discussed. To the extent that they were discussed, the regime seems to have felt an interest in suppressing divergence from its own views. We have good evidence of this in the case of a man put on trial for heresy during al-Hakam's reign.
Analysis of the charges against this man, Abu al-Khayr, and of the evidence offered at his trial, is complicated by the fact that some parts of it are in flat contradiction to others. Thus, for example, he is accused of denying the reality of the Last Judgement and of punishment in the hereafter, at the same time as he is accused of maintaining the Mu'tazil positions that Muhammad does not intercede for sinners and that these latter remain for ever in hell. And he is accused of having permitted both the eating of pork and the drinking of wine, as well as of disregarding the times and obligations of prayer. Others of the charges against him, however, suggest generally Shi'i sympathies, while others again quite explicitly attack the legitimacy of the caliphal institution occupied by al-Hakam and assert the right of the Fatimids as against the Umayyads. Different interpretations of the evidence have been offered in the past, to the effect that Abu al-Khayr was a Fatimid propagandist working in Spain for al-Mu'izz, and that he was a free-thinker who perhaps let himself get a little too carried away for the atmosphere of the times; on balance, the latter judgement seems closest to accounting for all the evidence.
Was Abu al-Khayr just an isolated case of eccentric hostility to the regime expressed in the conventional formulas of religion? Was his opposition to the regime essentially political, secular, in character, or was it rather religiously based, with political implications flowing from religious sources? His trial, condemnation, and rapid execution by al-Hakam, further, suggest an early example of that phenomenon of our own century, the show trial. Such events were not the invention of the twentieth century; nor of the fifth/eleventh century, and all the circumstances of this trial support such a view of it. But if that was the case, was Abu al-Khayr then the tip of an iceberg of suppressed discontent with Umayyad rule? We do not have the evidence to reach a conclusion on this, but the apparently thorough effort by the state to ensure that the evidence should damn Abu al-Khayr completely seems to indicate that the regime may have feared such discontent.
Under 'Abd al-Rahman III and al-Hakam II, the caliphal title seems to have been simply one means by which these rulers sought to increase their own magnificence; void of any but the most normative of religious content, and lacking any of the attributes usually associated with the command of the faithful, the Umayyad caliphal title came under these two rulers to be little more than a local Iberian variant of the title of amir. When al-Hakam succeeded his father in 350/96I, he did so by virtue of his appointment as heir at about the age of eight; this appointment must have taken place in about 3II/923-4 or some five or six years before 'Abd al-Rahman assumed caliphal titles. So far as we know, al-Hakam was nominated by his father to succeed as amir; we have no reason to suppose that the nomination was repeated, or renewed, later on, when 'Abd al-Rahman was calling himself caliph, to take account of the new situation. After the death of al-Hakam the character of the caliphal institution was transformed.
The most significant role in this development was played by al-Mansur. A high official in the government under al-Hakam, he engineered both the succession of that ruler's young son, Hisham, on al-Hakams death and his own advancement to supreme power in the state as his hajib, or chamberlain. In the course of a very few years, he arrogated to himself all power and virtually all authority in the state, isolated the nominal ruler from any contact with his subjects, and laid the foundations for the development of the caliphal institu- tion in the century following his death.
The key to this process was the need for legitimacy felt by al-Mansur, and after him by almost all rulers in Islamic Spain before the invasions of the Almoravids. Legitimation could be provided by a caliph. As a result, al-Mansur took great care to preserve the institution which provided him with a caliph. At the same time, he also took care to ensure that the caliph should be a cipher, a task made easier by the fact that he was only a boy when he succeeded:
"he sat upon the throne of the kingdom, and ordered that he be saluted with the salutation of kings, and he called himself 'the hajib al-Mansur', and letters and proclamations and orders were dispatched in his name, and he ordered that the du'a' should be made for him in his name on the pulpits [manabir] immediately after the du'a' for the caliph, and he erased the mark of the caliphate completely, and Hisham al-Mu'ayyad had no more of the marks of the caliphate than the du'a' on the pulpits, and the inscription of his name on the coins and embroidered robes [sc. robes of honour], and his chancery [diwan] was disregarded in respect of anyching beyond these matters."
There was thus a twofold process: on the one hand the caliph was progressively removed from the sight of his subjects, isolated from the exercise of any power from the day of his accession, and made more and more a purely nominal head of state; on the other, the real effective ruler, al-Mansur, while not arrogating to himself any of the titles or formal prerogatives of the caliph, nevertheless took on both the reality and even the forms of kingship, including the very title of malik. This dual process had the effect of transforming the nature of the Iberian caliphal institution. From providing the state with what were relatively normal secular rulers, it came now to be the quasi-religious source of authority for other wielders of secular power. In this, of course, the Iberian institution was not so different from that in Baghdad, but it suffered, among other things, from one crucial difference from that oriental institution: it lacked any real base in religion or ideology more broadly considered.
The caliphal title had always been an extra adornment for its first two, powerful wearers, but it had not, of itself, formed part of an ideology giving meaning to Umayyad rule in the peninsula (or elsewhere), and decline of the Umayyads inevitably drew in its train decline of their institution.
The method created by al-Mansur for the legitimation of his usurpation of authority worked successfully throughout his own reign and that of his son, 'Abd al-Malik al-Muzaffar (up till 399/I008), but it could not last indefinitely. The effect of total isolation of the nominal ruler and of his removal from the exercise of any power was a decline in his prestige, and this was followed by a decline in the prestige attached to his offfice. As in the east, again, though in al-Andalus the whole process was rather telescoped, the caliphal institution came to seem in the end unnecessary both to the exercise and to the legitimation of power (though it is striking, if not therefore all that surprising, that it is just at this stage in their history that works propounding a caliphal theory begin to be written).
The transformation is visible already during the reign of 'Abd al- Malik al-Mu2affar, the first son of al-Mansur.28 Clearly anxious, like his father, both to ensure the obedience of the caliph and to assure the succession of rule within his own family, he took on extra titles and also sought to advance his young son, Muhammad, some way on the cursus honorum of a ruler's son in those days. In 398/I008, not very long before his own death, he caused Hisham al-Mu'ayyad to send him the following letter:
"From the Caliph Hisham b. al-Hakam al-Mu ayyad billah: In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful: May God complete His kindness to you, and give you an excellent fate, and clothe you in His pardon and His forgiveness.
"Since we see that you, may God preserve you, through God's great work and mighty excellence, have done for us things which restore the heart and gladden the eye, we have asked God for permission to call you 'al-Muzaffar' ['the one who has been given victory', sc. by God]. We ask God urgently and humbly and supplicatingly to let us and you know the meaning of this name, and to adorn you with its meaning, and to give us and you and all the Muslims the good fortune that you derive from it, and make us and them prosper [thereby] in all regions [?], and to combine it with success and prosperity from Him, through His favour and His unseen kindness. And therefore have we permitted [you to be addressed by] your kunya [this means: th form of a name consisting of Abu' (Father of") plus a name or a word denoting some abstract idea or [physical object (such as a son) associated with the person bearing the name] in our assemblies and our gatherings, and in the letters that are addresed to you or that emanate from you in [all] the areas of our empire [sultanina], and on any other documents on which your name appears [either] with or without ours, as a mark of your position in our eyes, and a proof of the rank you enjoy with us. And similarly have we honoured your son, Abu Amir Muhammad b. al-Muzaffar, our charge, may God make him happy, by advancing hmm to the rank of the two vizierates, and we have added to that the [right to be called by his] kunya, in addition to [the title of] shaykh and [the right to] rank immediately after you in the state.
"You are worthy of all that, and of a great deal more than that, from us, since you are our guardian and the sword of our state [? dynasty; Ar. dawla], and the one charged with the care of our da'wa,32 the product of our beneficence and the student of our teaching [?].
"So announce what we have appointed for you to the mawali, and to the civil servants [ahl al-khidma], and write about it to [all] the provinces of the kingdom [mamlaka], and apply yourself accordingly to thanks for [His] beneficence. May God grant you success and may He grant us to enjoy your ing long in good health and may He delight us for a long time to come with your continued well-being. He is a powerful ruler [Ar. Wali], mighty, victorious. If God, may He be exalted, will."
As one of the sources of fbn 'Idhari, who is one of our sources for this document, points out, 'Abd al-Malik was at pains, in procuring this letter, to establish for his son 'what fathers before him have done for their sons, by way of making them inherit their high rank'. He was also anxious to make it appear, at least on the surface, that the real initiative for the decrees in this letter came from the caliph, not from himself, but both the reality of the situation and the honours granted to the dictator's young son indicate well enough who the source of the idea was.
The change in the character of the caliphal institution is well brought out by this document: the caliph is now no longer an independent actor on the political stage; he is no more than the tool of the real ruler in the state, and his only function, beyond the ceremonial, is to provide some form of legitimation for the rule exercised by those who have supplanted him.
Not long after the date of this document (and notwithstanding the caliph's prayers that he should live long) 'Abd al-Malik was dead. He was succeeded by his brother 'Abd al-Rahman, also known as Sanchuelo. It is possible that Sanchuelo may have had his brother poisoned, in order to assure his own, rather than Muhammad b. al-Muzaffar's, succession to him, but certainty on this cannot be attained. Sanchuelo was a very different man from his father and his elder brother, dazzled by the magnificence of which he had always been a part and was now become the focus. Realizing, too, the change which the role of the caliph, and of the caliphal institution, had undergone thanks to his father's career, he seems to have decided both to increase still further the magnificence of his own position and to do away with what was otherwise a useless relic, a caliphal institution separate from the person of the ruler. To do this, he simply decided to make the caliph declare him his heir in that role. Hisham, possibly unaware that in once again signing documents placed in front of him he was actually signing his own death warrant, complaisantdy sent the document required of him.
This document is of a piece with the man it is addressed to; 'Abd al-Rahman had by this time taken on new and grandiose tides, including dhat of 'al-Nasir', deliberately echoing that of the founder of the caliphal institution in Cordoba, and immediately afterwards he proceeded to grant his own young son, 'Abd al-'Azlz, then less than two years old, the title of hajib, in addition to the laqab of Sayf al-Dawla, 'Sword of dhe Dynasty', which had been borne by al-Muzaffar. The document itself is flowing and elegant, flattering its addressee and offering him apparently copper-bottomed guarantees for the security of its contents. It reads almost asthlough drafted by a barrack-room lawyer, widh its attempts to block imaginary loopholes and prevent the caliph from changing his mind afterwards. The document is as follows:
"This is what the Commander of the Faithful, Hisham al-Mu'ayyad billah -- may God grant him long life -- enjoins on the people in general, and what he commits himself in particular before God [to do]; he has given his right hand [to it] in complete agreement, after careful investigation, and long consideration. He has been worried about the Imamate of the Muslims which God has given to him, and about the Command of the Faithful which God has entrusted to him; he fears the blow of fate against which there is no security; and he is afraid of the descent of the judgement which cannot be turned aside; he is alarmed that, if that destiny should befall him, and that fate come upon him, without his having erected for this community [Ar. umma] a banner of refuge, and having furnished it with a sanctuary to which it may turn, [then] he might meet God in [a state of] remissness towards [the community] and neglecting to fulfil the duty that is owed to them.
"Therefore he has searched the ranks of the men of the tribe of Quraysh and others, to find someone worthy to have the power entrusted to him, who may be relied upon to take on this task, from among those worthy of it by their religion and their integrity, their good guidance and their piety; he has one so rejecting partiality and renouncing idle whim, striving for the truth md seeking [only] God's pleasure, may He be mighty and majestic, through what pleases Him, even if it means cutting the bonds of friendship and mbittering the ties of kinship, knowing that there is no intercession with [God] that is higher [in value] than pious actions, and sure that there is no nore pleasing path to Him than the purest religion. And he has found no ne who is more worthy to be invested with the caliphate and entrusted with the care of the affairs of the caliphate after him[self], by virtue of his excellence, and the nobility of his character, the extent of his devotion and he pre-eminence of his rank, together with his god-fearing, and his probity, his knowledge, and his prudence, than the most trustworthy, the most excellent adviser, pure of every fault, Nasir al-Dawla Abu al-Mutarrif Abd-Rahman b. al-Mansur Abl 'Amir Muhammad Ibn Abl 'Amir -- may God grant him success -- since the Commander of the Faithful has tested him and examined him, and investigated him and studied him; he has seen that he is devoted to [all] that is good, winner of contests, possessed of the extremes [of the virtues], piling up glorious feats, heir to noble actions, raised up to the highest dwelling-places of piety and elevated to the highest level of wisdom. He is] a matchless father and a twin without peer [?]; he who had al-Mansur or a father and al-Muzaffar for a brother, it is little wonder that he should reach the utmost degree of excellence, and encompass all the varieties of glory.
"At the same time, the Commander of the Faithful -- may God ennoble him -- because of the hidden learning which he has read, and the stored up traditions which he has studied, hopes that his heir will be th[at] Qahtam about whom Abd Allah b. Amr b. al- As spoke, and that in him will be confirmed what Abu Hurayra ascribed to the Prophet -- may God bless him and give him peace -- [to the effect] that the Last Judgement could not come until a man of Qahtan went out driving the Arabs with his stick. And since experience points to him, and the traditions come together in him in his view, and he has not found any rival or any equal to him, he has handed over to him the administration of affairs during his lifetime, and entrusted to him the care of the caliphate after his death, voluntarily, willingly, of his own initiative and choice, not at the suggestion of another and not inclining towards him in partiality, nor ignoring the interests of Islam and his people in so doing. And he grants him permission to allow the community to choose concerning his succession over them, if he thinks that the Commander of the Faithful -- may God make him glorious -- is staying in office too long.
"And the Commander of the Faithful -- may God make him glorious -- signed this document, and issued it, and authorized it, and confirmed it, and did not make it conditional on any exclusion or any right of withdrawal, and agreed to its fulfilment in private and in public, in speech and in act, invoking the trust and promise of God and the protection of His Prophet -- may God bless him and give him peace -- and the protection of the Righteous Caliphs of his house and his ancestors, and his own protection, to the effect that it be not changed, and be not altered, and be not transformed and be not taken back. And he calls God and His angels to witness that and God is a sufficient witness. And he calls as witnesses to it those who have placed their names to this document. And he -- may God make him glorious -- gave permission for this matter and made the words and the action effective, in the presence of the one who is his heir, al-Ma mun Nasir al-Dawla Abu al-Mutarrif Abd al-Rahman b. al-Mansur -- may God give him success -- and with his agreement to what he has been invested with and his [agreement to] undertaking the duties thus imposed on him, [all that in the month of Rabi I 399[/November-December I008]."
This is an extraordinary document, both as to its general content and as to its expression of that content. Such caliphal theory as really existed at the time certainly allowed the caliph to nominate his own successor, and it was up to a point conceivably possible (though almost impossible in practice) that that nominated successor should be a member of a different family. The idea that a caliph must necessarily be a Qurashl, that is, of the same tribe as the Prophet Muhammad, which has a very respectably ancient pedigree, does not mean that he must be a member of the 'Abbasid or Umayyad families, or indeed of any particular family. The elective element which is strong in all caliphal theory helps to make it clear why this should be so. And indeed, later, when the question had become largely academic, theorists tended to allow that anyone at all might become caliph (though in practice, for perhaps obvious reasons, it was generally easier to ascribe a fictitious Qurashi ancestry to anyone claiming caliphal title, like the Ottomans). But in this early stage, before caliphal theory, with the decline of caliphs everywhere, had had time to take shape, the handing over of the institution as a whole from one dynasty to a man who was not even of Qurashi descent still shocked. This was particularly so in the context of the extreme normativism of the Malik- orthodoxy of al-Andalus under the Umayyads. For Muslims in the Iberian peninsula, there could be only one caliphal institution. It could be filled by only one caliph: if that caliph were not the 'Abbasid in Baghdad, then he must be the Cordoban Umayyad, who denied the legitimacy of his ancestors' usurpers; if the Cordoban ruler were not an Umayyad, then he could have no reason to reject 'Abbasid legitimacy. But Sanchuelo's action shocked not only those with an interest in theoretical analysis of dynastic quarrels. It also angered very many of the caliph's subjects in Cordoba, including those Umayyads who had survived the careful weeding-out programme of al-Mansur and his elder son.
It was perhaps in order to anticipate their objections to Hisham's signing away of their family inheritance that Sanchuelo had the document drawn up in the form which it has. Easily the longest and the most ornate of the documents considered here, it is drawn up clearly with the aim of justifying the action proposed in advance of any critics, and of ensuring that once signed it could not be cancelled. From a beginning in which the caliph is made to protest his concern for the welfare of the community, and his care that he should have a suitable successorÑno mention is made here, perhaps curiously, of the fact that Hisham was childless, but as one reason for is was deliberate action on the part of his hajibs it may not be so curious an omission as all thatÑHisham goes on to explain his search, both among members of the caliphally qualified Quraysh and among members of other tribes, for a suitable candidate to succeed him. He describes the sorts of qualities, moral, religious, and other, which the man sought must have, and stresses that he carried out his search without bias and without allowing himself to be swayed by any idle whim; and he stresses, too, that he has ignored the obligations which might have been thought to be imposed by friendship and by family ties, but has sought only what is right in terms of his relationship to God and the community of Muslims. Following this long apologetic preamble, and the inevitable conclusion that follows from it, that he cannot find anyone else with the required qualities, he identifies his candidate, and then confirms that he has tested him repeatedly to make sure of his worth for the post of caliph. And then, returning to the matter of descent once again, he attempts to justify his departing from the ranks of the Quraysh in choosing Sanchuelo by reliance on a tradition of the Prophet, one which it is worth noting he claims to have found in learning to which he has privileged access. He then formally states that he hands over the succession to him, and even makes it permissible for him to anticipate his inheritance, if he feels that Hisham himself has reigned for too long, before finally, in a long list of clauses which sound more like a commercial contract than a statement by a reigning monarch, hedging everything round with legal forms attesting to the firmness and irrevocability of the document altogether.
Form seems somehow to have taken over completely from reality at this stage. The document setting out the basis for Umayyad caliphal claims in 3I6/929 was a model of concision and content. It was also very short. A great ruler, sure in his greatness, could lay out his arguments and act in accordance with them. But the relationship between a supreme caliphal institution, represented now by fainŽant caliphs, and a series of hajibs, of non-existent theoretical legitimacy, dominating that institution from below, was always bo`und to be awkward. The texts of the documents illustrating that relationship become longer and the significance of their contents shorter more or less in proportion. When 'Abd al-Malik appointed his son to the double vizierate he was in fact carrying on a family tradition of lofty titulature: his father had given both him and his brother Sanchuelo high rank and titles in 38I/992, when Sanchuelo was probably no more than nine years old. The devaluation had begun early.
The real reaction to this act on the part of Sanchuelo came very soon. It is well known how, ignoring advice, he left Cordoba on a raid into Christian Spain, how in his absence a revolution occurred which swept away both his own dynasty and the caliph Hisham, replacing both with another Umayyad prince, Muhammad al-Mahdl, and how Sanchuelo ended up shortly afterwards on a gibbet in his former capital. In the course of this revolution, the caliph seems to have abdicated formally, declaring his incapacity to rule, and for the next few years it seems to have been the case that where a caliph was unseated, as distinct from merely being killed, he was generally made to sign some form of recognition of such legal incompetence. anterestingly, in these cases we have no examples of such caliphs being mutilated, for instance by being blinded, to ensure that they remained legally incompetent ).
The revolution that swept away the 'Amirid dictatorship swept away also their institution of the hajibate. Authority, which had always in theory flowed from the caliph, now once again implied also power: the caliph seemed for a time to be again a secular prince. The quarrels which pitted a number of different factions in the peninsula against each other reflected this analysis in their concern with the placing of one or another Umayyad prince on the caliphal throne. But there was not an unlimited supply of Umayyad princes, and those who were available were not of the calibre of their common ancestor, 'Abd al-Rahman III al-Nasir. Al-Mansur and 'Abd al-Malik had made sure of that. The Umayyads' glory, like their power, was now spent. By the time their last caliph, Hisham III al-Mu'tadd, ruled, they were objects as much of contempt as their offce had once been of wonder. A fine story is preserved by Ibn Bassam, to the effect that this caliph sent someone on an embassy to the ruler of Tortosa, Muqatil, in about 420/I029, or slightly later. The ambassador, Fa'iz b. al-Mughlra, was a vizier of this caliph. In Tortosa, he met a poet, Abu al-Rabl' Sulayman b. Ahmad al-Quda-i, to whom he said, 'If you came to Cordoba, to the Commander of the Faithful al-Mu'tadd billah, then you would get the rank of vizier like me.' And the poet answered in verse: 'Look at you, calling yourself a vizier! Whose vizier are you, O vizier? By God, the [expression] commander [of the faithful] has no meaning; so how can there be any meaning in the [expression] vizier to that commander [of the faithful]!'
Somewhere in this turmoil, Hisham II al-Mu'ayyad seems to have met his end. He was probably murdered by Sulayman al-Musta'm, in one of that caliph's attempts on the caliphal throne; but he may have been killed during some other coup; and he may even have slipped away into permanent obscurity. No one will ever know. But during the second reign of Sulayman al-Musta'm, between 403/ IOI3 and 407/IOI6, Hisham al-Mu'ayyad, alive or dead, came to play a role of some little significance, as he was to do on and off hroughout the fifth/eleventh century.
One of the difficulties experienced by Sulayman al-Musta'm was that he was desperately dependent on Berber support to maintain his hold on the caliphal title and the city of Cordoba. He was regarded, indeed, as the caliph 'of the Berbers' by the Cordobans, and was little more than the convenient tool of their territorial ambitions to the north of the Straits of Gibraltar. On assuming power in Cordoba, he distributed fiefs among his Berber supporters, and among the rest he appointed 'Al- b. Hammud, an apparently genuine descendant of 'Al Ibn Abl Talib, and his brother al-Qasim to the governorates of Ceuta and Tangier. The potential danger which they represented to him was ignored, although he was warned by one adviser that he was 'making insects into serpents'. The courtier was right.
Together with another leader of a faction, Khayran, and with support also from another Berber leader, Zawi b. Z-iri, 'Al soon raised a legitimist banner of rebellion against Sulayman. In this context, of course, legitimacy was now little better than yesterday's newspaper, but it offered 'Ah, though perhaps without his allies understanding this, a major advantage: he rose in the name of Hisham II al-Mu'ayyad, by now almost certainly dead. Having deposed, and killed, Sulayman al-Musta'm, 'Ali, with the authority of his own distinguished ancestry, was ideally placed to assume the caliphal robes himself. He had in fact already prepared the ground for just such a step.
On first raising the flag of revolt against Sulayman from his governorate in Ceuta, 'Ali had claimed to be doing so in the name of Hisham II al-Mu'ayyad. The story that was put out was that that caliph, in gaol as a prisoner of Sulayman al-Musta'm, had addressed a letter to 'Ali in around 404/IOI3, in which he had said, 'Rescue me from imprisonment by the Berbers and al-Musta'm. You are my heir.' The caliph was apparently very interested in astrological texts. (There may be an echo of this in the reference to hidden lore in the document just considered.) In one such text, he had apparently found a tradition that related the end of the Umayyad dynasty in al-Andalus and possibly also vengeance for his own humiliations to someone from Ceuta whose name began with the letter 'ayn. On the basis of this story, which he seems to have been able to impose on his allies Khayran and Zail b. Z-iri, 'Ali Ibn Hammud succeeded in asserting a right to the caliphal title for himself, and in passing that title on to his family after him, to the permanent exclusion of the Umayyads.
It is not clear whether we actually possess the letter ascribed to Hisham which was produced by 'Ali Ibn Hammud. The quotation from it cited above may be the entire document produced by 'Ali (a possibility strengthened by the fact that the quotation comes from a text composed within a generation or so of the event described); it may be only part of that document. The references in our sources to the caliph's astrological interests may well have been influenced by references to them in the document itself as produced by 'Ali. We cannot know. But we can nevertheless point to the striking similarity between this docurnent, or what we know about it and about the context from which it emerged, and the document addressed by the same caliph only a few years earlier to his third hajib, Sanchuelo. This similarity is one of structure; as to detail, the two texts are just as strikingly different from each other. As in the earlier document, the main part of the letter to 'li is devoted to making the addressee Hisham's heir, and the second part (or the addition, if it did not actually form part of the original letter, itself forged by or for 'Ali provides a form of justification for the assignation of the inheritance to him. In the first document we have a hadith, or tradition ascribed to the Prophet, which can be found in the great collections of such traditions; in the second, simply a tradition, which may itself have been invented by or for 'Ail. The significant difference between the t vo documents lies in their form, at the level of the text: in the later document, if the quotation in al-Kita-b al-Muzaffari is authentic, all we have is a simple letter, bare of all rhetorical device, and devoted wholly to expressing a very direct message; in the earlier document, by contrast, we have, as Hoenerbach showed in some detail, a legal document drawn up with great care, showing all the lawyer's concern to block loopholes and close off any possibility of the document's being voided or cancelled (another example of the third 'Amirid's concern with forms over reality). In both cases the fundamental structure is the same, but the differences between the forms of the two documents demonstrate vividly the different aims which they came into existence to serve and the realities out of which they grew. It looks almost as though the later, much shorter document was created with that earlier one in mind.
Like Sanchuelo, the Hammudids claimed a documented right of inheritance to the caliphal title; unlike him, they could support that claim also with their noble lineage. In addition, by this time, four years and more after the dethronement of Hisham by Muhammad al- Mahdi, the claim to inherit based on a document allegedly sent to them by Hisham may actually have had an element of the legitimist about it: the 'Amirids were now dead and gone (the renewal of an 'Amirid ruling presence in the peninsula, in the person of the infant son of Sanchuelo, still lay several years in the future); their usurping dictatorship already belonged to the past; al-Mahdi, the revolutionary whose rising had begun the collapse, was dead, killed by his own supporters; Sulayman al-Musta'm, who had profited by the confusion to make himself caliph, seemed to promise little: rejected by the mass of Andalusians and by most of the country outside the capital, supported only by some of the Berbers, discredited by the excesses of his supporters, he was as much the prisoner of those who had put him in power as Hisham had been of the 'Amirids. But for all the lack of power which had attended him throughout his life, precisely because of the way in which the first two 'Amirids had been able to isolate him from the exercise of power while allowing him to retain the forms and dignities of his title, Hisham was able, even in death, to offer a person like 'Al Ibn Hammud a form of legitimacy. 'Al Ibn Hammud inserted himself into a legitimist line founded on the high authority invested in the title of caliph by those who had actually destroyed the power of the caliph. The legitimacy to which he thus made appeal came for the rest of the century to serve as a point d'appui for many other rulers who needed a convenient form of legitimation for themselves.
Establishment of the inheritance in the Hammudid family might well have proved the salvation of the caliphal institution. Unfortunately, two factors supervened to prevent this. The first was the murder of 'All Ibn Hammud by two of his slaves in Dhu al-Qa'da 408/March IOI8; the second was what seems to have been an endemic inability in the members of the Hammudid family to understand the value and importance of family solidarity: throughout the whole period of their presence in the Iberian peninsula, the Hammudids appear to have regarded other members of their own family as their most dangerous rivals; in most cases this view was justified by the event.
During the decade and a half following the murder of 'Ali Ibn Hammud, Cordoba experienced a variety of rulers, of both the Hammudid and the Umayyad lines. Most of these were of small worth, and their acquisition of the caliphal titles of less note. In the case of one of these, however, the process of selection was of greater interest. This was the case of the caliph al-Mustazhir.
After the ejection of al-Qasim Ibn Hammud from Cordoba by the inhabitants of that city at the end of hus second reign, in Ramadan 4I4/November I023, the population of Cordoba seems to have decided on a return to the Umayyads. We are told that they proceeded to a form of election. The details of this episode are a little opaque, but there appears to have been a meeting of some sort of shura, possibly a form of electoral college, which agreed upon a field of three candidates, all of them Umayyad princes: 'Abd al- Rahman b. Hisham b. 'Abd al-Jabbar (a brother of Muhammad al- Mahd, Sulayman b. 'Abd al-Rahman al-Murtada, and Muhammad Ibn al-'Iraqi. All three were convoked to appear in the great mosque in Cordoba for the formal election of one of their number. The election was to have taken place in the presence of the 'amma (the 'common' people, or lower classes of the population) and the khassa (the 'special' people, or higher classes) but we can have no clear idea of who constituted the former in this context, and only a general idea of who constituted the latter. At the meeting, 'Abd al-Rahman b. Hisham b. 'Abd al-Jabbar made a sudden imposing appearance, flanked by a crowd of his supporters, and intimidated those assembled into electing him unopposed on the spot. We are told that the scribe Ahmad b. Burd (a well-known litterateur of the period) had prepared the formal document recording the accession of the victor, but with the name Sulayman al-Murtada inserted as he had been expected by all those present (who had presumably arranged the details of the whole rather theatrical episode in advance) to win the formal election. The necessary change was hurriedly made in the document, and the two losing candidates were then taken into custody by the supporters of the new caliph.
This process, even though it was aborted in the event, is very striking, for it seems to have been virtually the only example in the history of the Iberian (possibly of any) caliphal institution of a form of election. While the elective element was always present in some form, in theory at least, in the choice of a new caliph, it is very rarely that we come across actual examples of it in our sources, and in this case we appear to be faced with an elective process of a surprisingly open kind.
A perhaps slightly similar development may have taken place in the choice of the very last Umayyad caliph in Cordoba, Hisham III al-Mu'tadd, in 4I8/I027. On this occasion we hear that the Cordobans, having rid themselves of Yahya b. 'Al Ibn Hammud, al- Mu'ta, had witnessed a short-lived take-over of their city by the two Slav leaders Khayran and Mujahid and had indulged themselves in a massacre of the few Berbers still to be found in the city. The Slavs soon fell out and left the old imperial capital, and the Cordobans, fearful of a Berber return, sought a new caliph, preferably an Umayyad and if possible someone who could command some support outside the city, for themselves. Learning a little from past errors, they sought to gain support for an agreeable candidate from the emerging local dynasts in the northern part of al-Andalus, and finally agreement of a sort was reached on the appointment of Hisham III al-Mu'tadd, a brother of an earlier pretender to the caliphal title, al-Murtada.sl Unfortunately, we know very little of the details of his choice and his appointment; it seems that it was the result of complex bargaining and very lengthy negotiations between and among the leading citizens of Cordoba (possibly in some organized form, but perhaps more probably not) and the leaders of the northern provinces. We do not know enough to be able to judge whether any formal election took place.