Rafed English

Form of Government in Pagan Times

Sociologists say that in those days when man lived alone (if indeed there were such days!) he had no need of a master, since he was his own master and servant; his own ruler, his own government and his own nation. But as soon as he emerged from this solitary state and formed a family, and as soon as their number rose to four, there rose the question of who headed the family and who was the chief. Sociologists claim that in most parts of the world headship belonged to the men while in certain parts to the women, that is to say the father acting as the head in the former case, and the mother in the latter. As the family grew larger, several families formed a group, called tribe, the family then acquired a tribal form. Thereby the question of the chief, the elder, the senior and the 'grey-beard' of the tribe came up who should settle the affairs of the group.

When several tribes took form, the issue became more extensive and there came into existence national government, and the issues in turn became international though yet such a government has not appeared.

With the rise of several tribes, these tribes that lived alongside each other neither knew their common ancestors nor did they regard each other as kith and kin. As they coexisted in one area and shared common interests, they found that they had need for a government in order to preserve their social system. Thus the formation of a government from the viewpoints of history and sociology began with the tribes' realisation of a need for a guardian to safeguard their common interests and social system. This guardian then became their government.

From the viewpoint of political process, this was the most critical phase, namely the transfer of power from the tribal system and tribal chief to a central government. This critical phase had been accomplished in Yemen many centuries before Islam where a central government in its true sense had been formed and this was also the case in Ghassan and Hira where governments ruled. On the other hand in the interior of Arabia such a governments did not exist except in very rare instances.

Ya'qubi says in his book of history: "The tribal disputes or problems between individuals were usually settled by a number of persons known to be wise and far-sighted as well as unprejudiced and impartial. They settled the disputes through elderly intervention and arbitration. Such arbitrators were called magistrates. Ya'qubi mentions in his book of history (Vol. 1, p. 337) the names of a large number of such magistrates, who were not heads of a government but only arbitrators who adjudicated in the matters of disputes. In the history of the corresponding period in Arabia we come across only one or two cases when government is mentioned in connection with the interior of Arabia, namely in Hejaz and Najd. Among these accounts a Jewish historian writes that in the fifth century A.D., that is one century before Islam, Abu Karab, king of Yemen had assigned his son as the regent of Median. Since this governor had been installed by the ruler of Yemen, it could hardly be called the government of Medina.

Thus at that time while there existed governments along the borders outside of Arabia, such as the Chassanis and Mundherian, and those who had remained in Yemen and in the coastal regions of the Persian Gulf, no progress had been made from a tribal society towards a central government in the central parts of Arabia.

Adapted from the book: "Background of the Birth of Islam" by: "S. T. H. Khwarazmi"

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