Abstract Simon Pierre
Simon Pierre (Université Paris-Sorbonne)
Abstract: Ruling, Converting and Taxing the Christian Arab Tribes of Ǧazīra during the first Abbasid Century (c. 132/750-227/842)
The province of Ǧazīra resulted from the extension, at the end of the VIIth century, of the post-Roman and western Osrhoena, split from the northern Syria’s ǧund of Qinnasrīn, to the eastern post-Sasanian districts around Mosul and Adiabene. This process has run through the Marwanid era (72/692-132/750). At the same time, the Western-Syriac (miaphysit) church was expanding, from the Bēt Rūmōyē to the Bēt Pūrsōyē, with the complex and non-linear foundation and construction of the “metropolis of Tagrīt and the East”. The newly organized Ǧazīra wa-l-Mawṣil lied between Umayyad al-Šām and the Iraq-focused Abbasid state and literature, but remained on their margins with a relative autonomy. Consequently those areas and their residing populations continued to be deeply influenced by their Syro-Aramaic Churches (the western “Jacobite” and the eastern “Nestorian”), language and elites. Therefore, the culture and cult of the newly settled groups, and especially the Arab muhājirūn and/or the pastoralist tribes, may have been drastically modified by this particular new environment, as the strength of both Christianity and Kharijism indicates.
Nevertheless, during the second century of hiǧra, public power gradually focused more and more on Northern Mesopotamia: Ruṣāfa hosted Hišām’s court, Ḥarrān became the capital of the last Umayyad ruler and a new city was built in al-Raqqa, in two phases, by the Abbasids Abū Ja‘far (in 154-5/771-2) and Hārūn al-Rašīd (in 180/796-193/809). This paradoxically poorly-administered and external province, which turned into a center of the Abbasid Middle East, is also the background of the emergence of both historical and fiscal literature. The numerous Christian Arab individuals and groups attested in both Christian Syriac and Arabic Muslim texts cannot be apprehended outside of that framework. How did the increasing imperial attempt to impose religion, military order and fiscal assessment in Northern Mesopotamia contribute to the fixation of the Taġlib jurisprudential and episcopal paradigm? We propose to study and present the appearance, growth and generalization of the Christian Arab fiscal and moral archetype within the nearly formed and administered Ǧazīra and Mosul during the two generations before and after Hārūn al-Rašīd, in both Syriac and Arabic literature.
Scholars of the late IInd century like Sayf b. ‘Umar, al-Wāqidī, al-Šaybānī, Al-Ṣanʿānī, or Yaḥyā b. Adam for example all held a wide range of traditions and opinions about specific Christian tribes in Ǧazīra. Numerous tales are connected to the Taġlib, and mostly on the decision, attributed to the “Rightly Guided” and non-Umayyad/non-Hāšimit caliph ‘Umar b. al-Ḫaṭṭāb, to double their ṣadaqa and ʿušr. We need here to pay attention to the famous fiscalist Abū Yūsuf, qāḍī and commensal of Hārūn in Mosul and al-Raqqa who and discussed the matter in his Kitāb al-Ḫarāj. Other futūḥāt narratives about Christian tribes (Taġlib, Iyād, al-Namir in northern Iraq or Tanūḫ, Bahrā, Kinda in northern Syria) focused on the specific conversion versus felony topic, which can be interpreted in the light of the late VIIIth century events. Some of these tales appeared in Syriac chronographies, mostly in those which rely on the lost works of Theophile of Edessa (c. 150/c. 770) and of the famous patriarch Dionysius of Tell Maḥrē (202/818-230/845). This major ecclesiastic focused deeply on the reorganization of the church of Takrīt, and so did his predecessor Cyriacus, which was native of the city. Both were associated with the bishopric of the Taglibōyē, suffragan of the metropolis of the East.
Previously, Taglibōyē were one of the two ethnic groups (with Maʿaddōyē) which invaded Adiabene, on the east of the Tigris, during the fiscal-political crisis depicted by the apocalyptical chronicle of Zuqnīn, at the beginning of the 770’s. We also know by Ibn al-Aṯīr and his source, Al-Azdī al-Mawṣilī (IVth/Xth c.) that, at about the same period (in 171/787-8), Taġlib and maybe their other Nizārī allies refused to pay the ṣadaqa and rebelled in the steppe between Nusaybīn and Mosul. In both cases, there was no precision about their religion. The taxation of Arabs seems to have been a major and very recent issue during the 760’s-790’s. On the other hand, the association between tribal organization, Arabic language and Islam was probably more and more important for the umma and for the state, as the crescent martyr tales testify, first and foremost the Tanūḫ forced conversion under al-Mahdī (c. 150-5/770-5).
Those synchronic, geographic and onomastic coincidences may indicate that both the empire and the church undertook to submit and integrate Ǧazīrian Arabs. This process was based on legal traditions about christian tribes, whose practical application produced in turn more standardized categories and analogies at the end of the IInd century of hiǧra. I will attempt to present some parallel milestones of the Taġlib integration into the califal and episcopal taxonomy, within arab and syriac legal and literary order during the IXth century CE.