14 minutes • 2791 words
History is a discipline that is very useful and has many different approaches. It makes us acquainted with
- the conditions of past nations as they are reflected in their national character.
- the biographies of the prophets and with the dynasties and policies of rulers.
The study of history requires:
- many sources
- greatly varied knowledge
- a good speculative mind and thoroughness
These lead the historian to the truth. If he trusts historical information in its plain transmitted form and has no clear knowledge of the principles resulting from custom, the fundamental facts of politics, the nature of civilization, or the conditions governing human social organization, and if, furthermore, he does not evaluate remote or ancient material through comparison with near or contemporary material, he often cannot avoid stumbling and slipping and deviating from the highroad of truth.
Historians, Qur’an commentators and leading transmitters have committed frequent errors in the stories and events they reported. They accepted them in the plain transmitted form, without regard for its value.
They did not check them with the principles underlying such historical situations, nor did they compare them with similar material. Also, they did not probe (more deeply) with the yardstick of philosophy, with the help of knowledge of the nature of things, or with the help of speculation and historical insight. Therefore, they strayed from the truth and found themselves lost in the desert of baseless assumptions and errors.
This is especially the case with figures, either of sums of money or of soldiers, whenever they occur in stories. They offer a good opportunity for false information and constitute a vehicle for nonsensical statements. They must be controlled and checked with the help of known fundamental facts.
For example, al-Mas’udi and many other historians report that Moses counted 600,000 or more men in the Israelite army in the desert. These were the men able to carry arms.
Al-Mas’udi forgets to take into consideration whether Egypt and Syria could possibly have held such a number of soldiers. Every realm may have such a militia. However, a militia of this size cannot march or fight as a unit.
The available territory would be too small for it. If it were in battle formation, it would extend three or more times beyond the field of vision.
How could two such parties fight with each other, or one battle formation gain the upper hand when one flank does not know what theother flank is doing?
Furthermore, the Persian realm was much greater than that of the Israelites. This is attested by Nebuchadnezzar’s victory over them. He swallowed up their country and gained complete control over it. He also destroyed Jerusalem, their religious and political capital.
He was merely one of the governors of the province of Fars, 34 a governor of the western border region. The Persian provinces of the two ‘Iraqs, Khurasan, Transoxania, and the region of Derbend on the Caspian Sea 36 were much larger than the realm of the Israelites. Yet, the Persian army did not attain such a number or even approach it.
The greatest concentration of Persian troops, at alQadisiyah, amounted to 120,000 men, all of whom had their retainers. This is according to Sayf 37 who said that with their retainers they amounted to over 200,000 persons.
According to ‘A’ishah and az-Zuhri, the troop concentration with which Rustum advanced against Sa’d at al-Qadisiyah amounted to only 60,000 men, all of whom had their retainers.
Then, if the Israelites had really amounted to such a number, the extent of the area under their rule would have been larger, for the size of administrative units and provinces under a particular dynasty is in direct proportion to the size of its militia and the groups that support the (dynasty), as will be explained in the section on provinces in the first book.39
The Israelites’ territory did not comprise an area larger than the Jordan province and Palestine in Syria and the region of Medina and Khaybar in the Hijaz.40 Also, there were only three generations41 between Moses and Israel, according to the best-informed scholars.
Moses was the son of Amram, the son of Kohath (Qahat or Qahit ), the son of Levi (Lewi or Lawi ), 42 the son of Jacob who is Israel-Allah. This is Moses’ genealogy in the Torah. 43
The length of time between Israel and Moses was indicated by al-Mas’udi when he said= “Israel entered Egypt with his children, the tribes, and their children, when they came to Joseph numbering 70 souls. The length of their stay in Egypt until they left with Moses for the desert was 220 years.
During those years, the kings of the Copts, the Pharaohs, passed them on (as their subjects) one to the other.” 44 It is improbable that the descendants of one man could branch out into such a number within four generations. 45
This number of soldiers was assumed to apply to the time of Solomon and his successors. Again, this is improbable. Between Solomon and Israel, there were only eleven generations, that is= Solomon, the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed (‘Ubidh, or ’ Ufidh), the son of Boaz (Ba’az, or Bu’iz), the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab (‘Amminddhab, or Hamminddhab), the son of Ram, the son of Hezron (Had/srun, or Hasran), the son of Perez ( Baras, or Bayras ), the son of Judah, the son of Jacob.
The descendants of one man in 11 generations would not branch out into such a number, as has been assumed. They might, indeed, reach hundreds or thousands. This often happens.
But an increase beyond that to higher figures 46 is improbable. Comparison with observable present-day and well-known nearby facts proves the assumption and report to be untrue.
According to the definite statement of the Israelite Stories, 47 Solomon’s army amounted to 12,000 men, and his horses48 numbered 1,400 horses, which were stabled at his palace. This is the correct information.
In the days of Solomon, the Israelite state saw its greatest flourishing and their realm its widest extension. Whenever49 contemporaries speak about the dynastic armies of their own or recent times, and whenever they engage in discussions about Muslim or Christian soldiers, or when they get to figuring the tax revenues and the money spent by the government, the outlays of extravagant spenders, and the goods that rich and prosperous men have in stock, they are quite generally found to exaggerate, to go beyond the bounds of the ordinary, and to succumb to the temptation of sensationalism.
When the officials in charge are questioned about their armies, when the goods and assets of wealthy people are assessed, and when the outlays of extravagant spenders are looked at in ordinary light, the figures will be found to amount to a tenth of what those people have said. The reason is simple. It is the common desire for sensationalism, the ease with which one may just mention a higher figure, and the disregard of reviewers and critics.
This leads to failure to exercise self-criticism about one’s errors and intentions, to demand from oneself moderation and fairness in reporting, to reapply oneself to study and research. Such historians let themselves go and made a feast of untrue statements. “They procure for themselves entertaining stories in order to lead (others) astray from the path of God.” 50
This is a bad enough business. 51 The increase of descendants to such a number would be prevented under ordinary conditions which, however, do not apply to the Israelites. The increase in their case would be a miracle in accordance with the tradition which said that one of the things revealed to their forefathers, the prophets Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, was that God would cause their descendants to increase until they were more numerous than the stars of heaven and the pebbles of the earth.
God fulfilled this promise to them as an act of divine grace bestowed upon them and as an extraordinary miracle in their favor. Thus, ordinary conditions could not hinder (such an event), and nobody should speak against it.
Someone might come out against this tradition (with the argument) that it occurs only in the Torah which, as is well known, was altered by the Jews. (The reply to this argument would be that) the statement concerning the alteration (of the Torah by the Jews) is unacceptable to thorough scholars and cannot be understood in its plain meaning, since custom prevents people who have a (revealed) religion from dealing with their divine scriptures in such a manner. This was mentioned by al-Bukhari in the Sahih. 52
Thus, the great increase in numbers in the case of the Israelites would be an extraordinary miracle. Custom, in the proper meaning of the word, would prevent anything of the sort from happening to other peoples.
A co-ordinated battle movement in would hardly be possible, but none took place, and there was no need for one. Each realm has its particular number of militia. But the Israelites at first were no militiamen and had no dynasty. Their numbers increased that much, so that they could gain power over the land of Canaan which God had promised them and the territory of which He had purified for them.
All these things are miracles. God guides to the truth. The history of the Tubba’s, the kings of the Yemen and of the Arabian Peninsula, as it is generally transmitted, is another example of silly statements by historians.
From their home in the Yemen, (the Tubba’s) used to raid Ifriqiyah and the Berbers of the Maghrib. Afriqus b. Qays b. Sayfi, one of their great early kings who lived in the time of Moses or somewhat earlier, 54 is said to have raided Ifriqiyah. He caused a great slaughter among the Berbers.
He gave them the name of Berbers when he heard their jargon and asked what that “barbarah” was. 55This gave them the name which has remained with them since that time.
When he left the Maghrib, he is said. to have concentrated some Himyar tribes there. They remained there and mixed with the native population. Their (descendants) are the Sinhajah and the Kutamah. This led at-Tabari, al-Jurjani, 56 al-Mas ’ udi, Ibn al-Kalbi, and al-Bayhaqi 58 to make the statement that the Sinhajah and the Kutamah belong to the Himyar. The Berber genealogists do not admit this, and they are right.
Al-Mas’udi also mentioned that one of the Himyar kings after Afriqus, Dhul-Adh’ar, who lived in the time of Solomon, raided the Maghrib and forced it into submission. Something similar is mentioned by al-Mas’udi concerning his son and successor, Yasir.
He is said to have reached the Sand River 60 in the Maghrib and to have been unable to find passage through it because of the great mass of sand. Therefore, he returned.
The last Tubba’ was said, 61 As’ad Abu Karib, who lived in the time of the Persian Kayyanid king Yastasb, 62 ruled over Mosul and Azerbaijan. He is said to have met and routed the Turks and to have caused a great slaughter among them.
Then he raided them again a second and a third time. After that, he is said to have sent three of his sons on raids, (one) against the country of Firs, (one) against the country of the Soghdians, one of the Turkish nations of Transoxania, and (one) against the country of the Rum (Byzantines) 63 The first brother took possession of the country up to Samarkand and crossed the desert into China.
There, he found his second brother who had raided the Soghdians and had arrived in China before him. The two together caused a great slaughter in China and returned together with their booty. They left some Himyar tribes in Tibet. They have been there down to this time. The third brother is said to have reached Constantinople. He laid siege to it and forced the country of the Rum (Byzantines) into submission. Then, he returned.
All this information is remote from the truth. It is rooted in baseless and erroneous assumptions. It is more like the fiction of storytellers. The realm of the Tubba’s was restricted to the Arabian peninsula. Their home and seat was San’a’ in the Yemen.
The Arabian peninsula is surrounded by the ocean on three sides=
- the Indian Ocean on the south
- the Persian Gulf jutting out of the Indian Ocean to al- Basrah on the east
- the Red Sea jutting out of the Indian Ocean to Suez in Egypt on the west
There is no way from Yemen to the Maghrib except via Suez. The distance between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean is two days’ journey or less. It is unlikely that the distance could be traversed by a great ruler with a large army unless he controlled that region. This, as a rule, is impossible.
In that region there were the Amalekites and Canaan in Syria, and, in Egypt, the Copts. Later on, the Amalekites took possession of Egypt, and the Israelites (took possession) of Syria. There is, however, no report that the Tubba’s ever fought against one of these nations or that they had possession of any part of this region. Furthermore, the distance from the Yemen to the Maghrib is great, and an army requires much food and fodder.
Soldiers traveling in regions other than their own have to requisition grain and livestock and to plunder the countries they pass through. As a rule, such a procedure does not yield enough food and fodder. On the other hand, if they attempted to take along enough provisions from their own region, they would not have enough animals for transportation. So, their whole line of march necessarily takes them through regions they must take possession of and force into submission in order to obtain provisions from them.
Again, it would be a most unlikely and impossible assumption that such an army could pass through all those nations without disturbing them, obtaining its provisions by peaceful negotiation. This shows that all such information (about Tubba’ expeditions to the Maghrib) is silly or fictitious.Mention of the (allegedly) impassable Sand River has never been heard in the Maghrib, although the Maghrib has often been crossed and its roads have been explored by travelers and raiders at all times and in every direction. 64
Because of the unusual character of the story, there is much eagerness to pass it on. With regard to the (alleged) raid of the Tubba’s against the countries of the East and the land of the Turks, it must be admitted that the line of march in this case is wider than the (narrow) passage at Suez.
The distance, however, is greater, and the Persian and Byzantine nations are interposed on the way to the Turks. There is no report that the Tubba’s ever took possession of the countries of the Persians and Byzantines. They merely fought the Persians on the borders of the ‘Iraq and of the Arab countries between al-Bahrayn and al-Hirah, which were border regions common to both nations.
These wars took place between the Tubba’ Dhul-Adh’ar and the Kayyanid king Kaygawus, and again between the Tubba’ al-Asghar 66 Abu Karib and the Kayyanid Yastasb (Bishtasp). There were other wars later on with rulers of the dynasties that succeeded the Kayyanids, and, in turn, with their successors, the Sassanians.
It would, however, ordinarily have been impossible for the Tubba’s to traverse the land of the Persians on their way to raid the countries of the Turks and Tibet, because of the nations that are interposed on the way to the Turks, because of the need for food and fodder, as well as the great distance, mentioned before. All information to this effect is silly and fictitious.
Even if the way this information is transmitted were sound, the points mentioned would cast suspicion upon it. All the more then must the information be suspect since the manner in which it has been transmitted is not sound. In connection with Yathrib (Medina) and the Aws and Khazraj, Ibn Ishaq 67 says that the last Tubba’ traveled eastward to the ‘Iraq and Persia, but a raid by the Tubba’s against the countries of the Turks and Tibet is in no way confirmed by the established facts. Assertions to this effect should not be trusted; all such information should be investigated and checked with sound norms.
The result will be that it will most beautifully be demolished.
Even more unlikely and more deeply rooted in baseless assumptions is the common interpretation of the following verse of the Surat al-Fajr= “Did you not see what your Lord did with ‘Ad -Iram, that of the pillars?” 70