For a westerner, talking about a dynasty from the 7th century might sound absurd and outdated. In the western world, in our day and age, if we mention something from 300 years ago, we’re talking about “ancient history”. However, in the East, especially in the Middle East, the sense of history and its current relevancy is acutely diverse. The very sense of time lapse related to history is different.
According to philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, a man (and therefore a whole nation or people) can see, experience and use history in three distinct ways. If a man who wants to create greatness uses the past, he seizes upon it for himself by means of monumental history; in contrast, one who is habituated by tradition and custom insists on cultivating the past as an antiquarian historian; and only one whose breast is oppressed by a present need and who wants to cast off his load at any price has a need for critical history, i.e., history which tries and passes judgment.
Several scholars agree that, by Nietzsche’s definition, the Arab people are totally oriented by what he calls “antiquarian history”.
“Even the concepts of history and identity require a redefinition for the Westerner trying to understand the contemporary Middle East. In current American usage, the phrase ‘that’s history’ is commonly used to dismiss something unimportant, of no relevance to current concerns, and despite an immense investment in the teaching and writing of history, the general level of historical knowledge in our society is abysmally low. The Muslim peoples [and all the Arabs], like everyone else in the world, are shaped by their history, but unlike some others, they’re keenly aware of it. Their awareness dates however from the advent of Islam, with perhaps some minimum references to Pre-Islamic times, necessary to explain historical allusions in the Qur’an and in the early Islamic traditions and chronicles.” (“The crisis of Islam – Holy war and unholy terror”, Bernard Lewis, 2003, p.xviii-xix)
From that citation, we can easily conclude, that what happened in the sixth and seventh centuries, keep being amazingly ‘fresh’ for the Arabs all over the Middle East. Everything from that period is very current and relevant. All the 7th century events are very vivid in the minds of the Middle Easterners. Like the Battle of Al-Qadisiyya (637 A.D.) was constantly cited by both sides of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980’s.
“References to early, even to ancient history are common-place in public discourse. In the 1980’s, during the Iran-Iraq war, for instance, both sides waged massive propaganda campaigns that frequently evoked events and personalities dating back as far as the seventh century, to the battles of Qadisiyya (637 C.E.) and Karbala (680 C.E.).” (“The crisis of Islam – Holy war and unholy terror”, Bernard Lewis, 2003, p.xxiii)
A very good proof of that is the adoption of the Sharia (Islamic) Law, shaped and used in those times and today with the very same importance and usage.
“Islamic history, for Muslims, has an important religious and also legal significance, since it reflects the work of God’s purpose for His community – those that accept the teachings of Islam and obey its law.” (“The crisis of Islam– Holy war and unholy terror”, Bernard Lewis, 2003, p.xviii-xix)
Outside the few developed metropolis, the great majority of the Arab people still live in the very same way as, at least, a thousand years ago.
“Rather than living in the present with their eyes turned toward the future, the Arabs lived in an illusory museum of petrified images of their past, a past that, in their presumption of its immortality, was in actuality absurd.” (“Egypt, Islam, and the Arabs: The Search for Egyptian Nationhood, 1900-1930”, Israel Gershoni, James P. Jankowski, 1987, p.108)
“The Arab sense of history, they [Egyptian intellectuals] claimed, did not see its purpose as one of advancing the present through an understanding of the past. Rather, it tended to embalm and mummify the present in the image of the past. Rather than harnessing and using the past for the sake of the present, the Arab approach buried the present in the sarcophagus of the past.” (Ibid.,p.109)
“For the Arabs, the study of the past was not a means of creating a better present and future; instead the present and future were perceived merely as an extension and continuation of the past.” (Ibid.)
The very same cultural and social behavior as well the code of etiquette and manners. Also, the usage of outfits both ethnic and religious had changed very little from those centuries.
“It was in modern Psychology that [Arab scholar Salama] Musa found the explanation for the inner drive behind the anti-historical, petrified Arab sense of history. In his view, the Arabs were attempting to ‘flee’ their dismal present through their addiction to the presumably more perfectly era of salaf [forefathers]. The constantly changing realities of the modern world which the Arab personality by its very nature was not adapted to, was replaced by the ‘fortified shelter’ of a more glorious and more perfect past.” (Ibid.)
Noteworthy, the Muslim rulers of today claim direct descent from the Prophet Mohammad (i.e. Hashemite Family of Jordan and Alaouite Family of Morocco). Hence, the sense of what could be called in the West of “Ancient Genealogy” is not considerate as such by the Arabs.
“Caliph ‘Umar [6th and 7th Centuries] is quoted saying to the Arabs, “Learn your genealogies, and do not be like the local peasants who, when they are asked who they are, reply: I am from ‘such-and-such place.’” (“The crisis of Islam– Holy war and unholy terror”, Bernard Lewis, 2003, p.xxi)
Also is worthy to mention, that Arabs have no sense of country as a nation as we have in the West.
“…because Arabs simply did not think in terms of combined ethnic and territorial identity.” (“The crisis of Islam– Holy war and unholy terror”, Bernard Lewis, 2003, p.xxi)
So, in other words, until very recently, in the Arabs’ minds there was only one great nation, the Islamic nation. By implication, all the Arabs, should be Muslims. That’s perfectly understandable because the countries we see today in the Middle East are simply recent European creations and its frontiers drawn mostly by British and French bureaucrats. There’s no historical legitimacy, fact that it’s constantly debated in today’s societies in the region.
We can also understand that, regardless of all the time that had passed, all the different dynasties that ruled the region, it’s common (and legal) understanding that the land was inhabited and ruled before by non-Muslims and it was taken away from them by the religious authority invested in the Muslims by God. The Muslims have been dwelling and ruling the land ever since.
“In the early centuries of the Muslim era, the Islamic community was one state under one ruler. Even after that community split up into many states, the ideal of a simple Islamic polity persisted.” (“The crisis of Islam– Holy war and unholy terror”, Bernard Lewis, 2003, p.xxi)
All the other detail and minutiae, historically and legally regarded as important by Westerners are simply not valid in the eyes of Muslim Arabs, especially any claim that non-Muslims may had or have.
“The Arab’s sense of history is not stretched out on a time line; rather, it is focused on the occurrence of clusters of important events.” (Saudi Arabia: a kingdom in transition, Abdulaziz I. Al-Sweel/Saudi Arabia – Mulḥaqīyah al-Thaqāfīyah/U.S., 1993, p. 87)
“The classical Arabic historians tell us that in the year 20 of the Muslim era, corresponding to 641 C.E., the Caliph ‘Umar decreed that Jews and Christians should be removed from all but the southern and eastern fringes of Arabia, in fulfillment of an injunction of the Prophet uttered on his deathbed: “Let there not be two religions in Arabia.” (“The crisis of Islam– Holy war and unholy terror”, Bernard Lewis, 2003, p.xxix)
The consequences of that can be seen and felt even today.
“The expulsion was in due course completed, and from then until now the Holy Land of the Hijaz has been forbidden territory for non-Muslims. According to the school of Islamic jurisprudence accepted by the Saudi state and by Usama bin Ladin [Osama Bin Laden] and his followers, for a non-Muslim even to set foot on the sacred soil is a major offense. In the rest of the kingdom [of Saudi Arabia], non-Muslims, while admitted as temporary visitors, were not permitted to establish residence or practice their religions. The Red Sea port of Jedda for long served as a kind of religious quarantine area, in which foreign diplomatic, consular, and commercial representatives were allowed to live on a strictly temporary basis.” (“The crisis of Islam– Holy war and unholy terror”, Bernard Lewis, 2003, p.xxx)
“Their presence [foreigners non-Muslims, especially Americans], still seen by many as a desecration, may help to explain the growing mood of resentment.” (Ibid.)
Once more, capital evidence that there’s no difference for Arabs regarding the lapse of time in history; a fourteen centuries old decree, is still in force today.
Another good example of that is the whole legacy of the Christian Arabs. Even the term is new. May be one of the reasons that Christian-Arabs never had a voice is because they were never seen by the Muslims as such, but as “Greeks” or “Romans” or by the famous pejorative “infidels” or “unbelievers”. You either have Christians (regardless of ethnicity) or Arabs, in their minds by implication; an Arab is a synonym of a Muslim. Everything belonging to the Christian Arabs was outlawed.
“The history of non-Muslim states and peoples conveys no such message and is therefore without value or interest. Even in countries of ancient civilization like those of the Middle East, the knowledge of pagan [in this case, non-Muslim] history – of their own ancestors, whose monuments and inscriptions lay around them – was minimal. The ancient languages and scripts were forgotten, the ancient records buried, until they were recovered and deciphered in modern times by inquisitive Western archeologists and philologists.” (“The crisis of Islam– Holy war and unholy terror”, Bernard Lewis, 2003, p.xix)
“In Muslim tradition, the world is divided into two houses: the House of Islam (Dar al-Islam), in which Muslim governments rule and Muslim law prevails; and the House of War (Dar al-Harb), the rest of the world, still inhabited and, more important, ruled by infidels. The presumption is that the duty of jihad will continue, interrupted only by truces, until all the world either adopts the Muslim faith or submits to Muslim rule. Those who fight in the jihad qualify for rewards in both worlds – booty in this one, paradise in the next.” (“The crisis of Islam– Holy war and unholy terror”, Bernard Lewis, 2003, p.31-32)
“[according to] Arthur Jeffrey (1942): The classical works on jurisprudence define it [jihad] quite badly as ‘the religious duty of spreading Islam by force of arms’ and lay down five propositions concerning it: * It is a duty because such war was ordered by the Prophet * It must continue until the whole world is under the domination of Islam * The sovereign must be at the head of it and direct it – not some upstart, self-appointed leader * The offer of Islam or Dhimmi status [second class citizenship for non-Muslims] must be made before the attack is launched * Any Muslim who dies fighting on Jihad is a “shahid” (martyr) and as such is assured of Paradise will have particular privileges.” (“The Legacy of Jihad – Islamic Holy War and the Fate of non-Muslims”, Andrew G. Boston, MD, 2008, p. 95)
We also have to understand that, although there were some times of relative peace between Muslims and Christians, the latter were never considered to be equals by Islamic rulers. Even in times of truce and when collaboration flourished between both religions, the Christians were always considered second class citizens and although their religious practice could be relatively free, they always had to pay the tax (Jiyza) and even the absurd of paying differentiated prices in goods and services. There was a lowest price for Muslims, an intermediary for Jews and the higher price for Christians.
“The renowned Ottomanist Roderick Davison has observed that under the Shari’a (Islamic Holy Law) the ‘infidel gavours [‘dhimmis’, ‘rayas’]’ were permanently relegated to a status of ‘inferiority’ and subjected to a ‘contemptuous half-toleration”. Davison further maintain that this contempt emanated from ‘an innate attitude of superiority’, and was driven by an ‘innate Muslim feeling’.” (“The Legacy of Jihad – Islamic Holy War and the Fate of non-Muslims”, Andrew G. Boston, MD, 2008, p.521)
By all the above, it’s also easy to conclude that in the Arabs minds, there are only two historical periods: before Islam and after Islam. For Christians, the division of history in “before Christ” and “after Christ” is symbolic and subdivided in hundreds of other periods. And although Christians try to follow or even imitate Jesus, He stands in “ancient history” and albeit many religious leaders try to bring His teachings to our times it’s imprinted in Christian’s minds the words “at that time” as it was something holy but far away from our reality.
There’s a theological reason for that. Christians believe that the Bible was “inspired” by God. Muslims believe that the Quran is the word of God “ipsis literis, ipsis verbis” i.e. word by word, dictated to the Prophet Mohammad, therefore, it’s immutable.
For the West, the separation of church and State is a reality. For Arabs, it’s a sacrilege. Islam was conceived to be a political regime, not only a code of spiritual beliefs as Christianity or other religions. For Muslims, there’s no other identity but the Muslim. Everything else is secondary, even the modern phenomena called nationalism.
In the 1950’s and 1960’s, with the Pan-Arabism movement, a secular alternative was tried and with that a considerable degree of modernization for the Middle East. However, with the advent of the Six-day war of 1967and the Arab coalition’s defeat against Israel, the modernization was seen as a sacrilege and almost completely abandoned creating even a setback with more severe and radical religious allusions reinforcing the hatred against the West. It was clear at the time that, any tentative of abandoning the ‘old ways’ wouldn’t work and the real solace and source of so many past glories should come back to power. That just reinforced the sense of “antiquarian history” of the Arabs.
In conclusion, the Arab sense of time related to history, because of Islamic influence, is completely different from the Western. All the events of the 7th century are very alive for the Arabs as the WWII events are for the West. If for westerners, 300 years is a lot of time, for Arabs is just “yesterday”.
Fruit of the age of social media and the pseudo-intellectuals, we see today the rise of stupid opinions that have the pretention of replacing facts. That virus, using malice and political interests as catalysts, gave birth to the “fake news” phenomenon – common to the left as well to the right – and the “shower of ignorance” that we witness today. Everyone can give opinions about any subject.
The major problem I see, is that those stupid opinions don’t arise only from less or non-educated people but also from people with degrees and significant information. Anyone with a diploma in a specific area feels entitled to give opinions about anything and everything.
Well, if someone is the world’s greatest orthopedist, even being a medical doctor, it doesn’t automatically makes him or her a brain or a heart surgeon. But people don’t care! The social media gave the idiots a megaphone and none can stop them! That has affected all areas of human knowledge, unfortunately.
People don’t know the “status quaestionis” or the actual broad scholarly vision of a certain subject and still think their opinion is law. Usually, because they heard “someone saying it”. They judge that someone usually as “more intelligent” or at least more knowledgeable in that particular field and they “go with it”, defending it with all their might, usually without any further comprehensive research (or with a rudimentary one).
They don’t realize that their opinion usually is not even that, but “a mere emotional reaction” to something that “doesn’t look right” for them. Because this “emotional reaction” is shared by that “intelligent someone” and/or by a celebrity or even by other members of his or her social group or someone they admire, he or she honestly believe that the reaction is actually a based assertion or the ultimate truth.
That happens a lot in the world of nobility and chivalry. People come to me with absurd myths and misconceptions and they just say: “well, but he or she said that and he or she knows about the subject”.
Fine, if he or she knows about the subject I want to presume that he or she didn’t get this amazingly great knowledge from “voices on his or her head” or from “whispering of an angel” or even by “divine intervention”. Someone must have written that somewhere! Simple, show me the book! Well, none can. Or usually it’s the opinion of one author on one book that the other person read or, even worse, it’s the result of a Google search and usually the opinion of a couple of more idiots online (normally less informed about the subject than anyone) that automatically entitled that person to be a PhD on the field.
Another very important point, there arethousands and thousands of royal and noble families in the world and it’s humanly impossible, even for a scholar, to know every single peculiarity, every single detail of all of them. For the millionth time, even European royal and noble families have considerable different rules amongst themselves! Imagine Middle Eastern, African (in Africa alone there’s 10,000 ruling families!), Asian, etc. To “paint all with the same brush” is not only irresponsible, but stupid!
Well, by reading my articles you can attest that every single thing I claim is backed by several bonafide scholars and I give verifiable references. And with that I don’t want to presume myself as “right” but as “sufficiently backed by scholars”. Also, I’m writing about a subject that I’ve been studying since 1992 (and I still don’t claim to know everything about it!).
So please, you’ve all the right of disagreeing with me, but at least bring half of the academic backing I’m offering!
For lack of comprehensive knowledge of the Byzantine and Ghassanid history some historians create confusion about the actual role of the Ghassanids and their alliance with Byzantium. They pejoratively call Ghassan “client-state” or “vassal” without even explaining what that really meant in the context of 6th and 7th century.
“He [Arethas] was a king (rex) without a kingdom (regnum), that is, his Basileia carried with it no real territorial jurisdiction since he and his federates were settled on Roman soil. He was the king of the Ghassanids or Saracens in Oriens (and beyond Byzantine limits).” (Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the Sixth Century, vol. 1, 1995, p. 107)
The “Basileia” (Byzantine kingship) that Professor Shahid refers to, is the bestowal of a second kingship by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I to King Al-Harith (Arethas) in 529 AD. That second kingship was not accompanied by a territorial grant of the part of Syria (Al-Sham) which was “de jure” Byzantine territory but “de facto” Ghassanid, or as per several Muslim scholars (see reference below), Syria was a “shared sovereignty” by Byzantines and Ghassanids. As far as the Ghassanid role within the Byzantine boarders it may be accurate, but, as proven below, the Ghassanid jurisdiction did not depend on the Roman (Byzantine) Empire, as the Kingdom was founded in 220 AD ( hundreds of years before their allegiance to the Byzantine Empire ) on land that did not belong either to the western or to the eastern (Byzantine) Roman Empire.
To assume that is a very common mistake made even by scholars due to several facts, specially the prejudice of several historians past and present. The worst fact is that the great majority of them even admitted their prejudice and open dislike of the Ghassanids.
We have to separate the role of “Archphylarc” (Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Arab Tribes) of the Byzantine Federation and the title “Basileus Araves” (Emperor or High King of All Arabs) given by Emperor Justinian in 529 CE from the actual Kingship over the people of Ghassan, which the majority of scholars have agreed, were not Roman (Byzantine) citizens.
“The dignity of King in Procopius had been sharply differentiated from the “Supreme Phylarchate” (archyphilarchia), with which Arethas was endowed“ (Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the Sixth Century, vol. 1, 1995, p. 103).
“The title awarded to the Ghassanid Ruler or Chief BY HIS OWN PEOPLE was neither Patricius nor Phylarch but KING (AL-MALIK). The title , established BEYOND DOUBT by Procopius is confirmed by the contemporary poetry of Hassan and of later poets who continued this authentic tradition,. But the strongest evidence is supplied by contemporary epigraphy — the Usays Inscription carved by one of [King] Arethas commanders, Ibn Al-Mughira, who refers to him around A.D. 530 as Al-Malik, the King. There is also no doubt that the Ghassanid Arethas was dressed as a King on important occasions in Ghassanland, since the poet laureate of later times underscores his own eminent position among his Ghassanid patrons by nothing that he used to sit not far from their crowned head.” (Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the sixth century, Volume 2 part 2 pg.164)
“The (Usays) inscription is considered to be the most important Arabic inscription of the sixth century, the second most important of all the pre-Islamic Arab inscriptions as a historical document. (Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the Sixth Century, vol. 1, 1995, p. 117)
The significance of the term “vassal” is broad:
“Vassal is a term used as part of feudalism in medieval Europe, where one enters into mutual obligations to a monarch, usually in the form of military support and mutual protection, in exchange for certain privileges, usually to include land held as a fiefdom. This system can be applied to similar systems in other feudal societies. Although related, a fidelity, or fidelitas, is somewhat different as it is a sworn loyalty, subject to the king.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vassal
The concept of sovereignty is very debatable and until today has no unanimity or general agreement on:
“The concept has been discussed, debated and questioned throughout history, from the time of the Romans through to the present day, although it has changed in its definition, concept, and application throughout, especially during the Age of Enlightenment.”
According to Professor Lassa Oppenheim, one of the highest authorities on international law (International Law 66 (Sir Arnold D. McNair ed., 4th ed. 1928) :
“There exists perhaps no conception the meaning of which is more controversial than that of Sovereignty. It is an indisputable fact that this conception, from the moment when it was introduced into political science until the present day, has never had a meaning which was universally agreed upon. “
The simple namesake of “Vassal” does not mean“without Sovereignty”:
“Feudal vassalage . So, also, tributary states, and those subject to a kind of feudal dependence or vassalage, are still considered as sovereign, unless their sovereignty is destroyed by their relation to other states. Tribute does not necessarily affect sovereignty, nor does the acknowledgment of a nominal vassalage or feudal dependency.” (Henry Wager Halleck, Elements of international law and laws of war p.44)
“… the mere fact of dependence or feudal vassalage and payment of tribute, or of occasional obedience, or of habitual influence, does not destroy, although it may greatly impair, the sovereignty of the state so situated.”(Ibid. p. 188)
It’s ludicrous to try to diminish the role of the Ghassanids by saying that their military alliance to Byzantium and occasional “honorific homages” represented any loss of sovereignty. If the payment of any tribute, financial or honorary, is an indicative of the lack of sovereignty, so also the Byzantine emperors were not sovereign since they’ve had, for many times, paid tributes to barbarian kings to prevent invasions and other neighboring dynasties like the Persian emperor or the Arab Caliph.
Interesting to mention, that the actual recipients of a financial compensation from Byzantium were the Ghassanids and not the opposite since Byzantium used to pay a “munera” (directly to the kings), a “salaria” (to be given to the soldiers) and also the “annona foederatica” (a subsidy given to allies) to the Ghassanid kings in exchange of the military support. By simple logic, if Byzantium had the legal ownership of the Ghassanid sovereignty, they could simply demand the support without paying a single dime.
Remember that a sovereign don’t “ask”, but “command”.
Also, by saying that the Ghassanids had no sovereignty because the Ghassanid king had to have the support of the Byzantine emperor to be accepted is also nonsensical since every single king in Europe had to have the support of the Pope and sometimes even his physical presence in the coronation in order to be accepted. That didn’t make the European kings any less sovereign.
According to one of the Forefathers of International Law, Emmerich de Vattel in his book, “Law of Nations“:
Book I – Chap. I. Of Nations or Sovereign States
§ 5. States bound by unequal alliance.
We ought, therefore, to account as sovereign states those which have united themselves to another more powerful, by an unequal alliance, in which, as Aristotle says, to the more powerful is given more honour, and to the weaker, more assistance. The conditions of those unequal alliances may be infinitely varied, but whatever they are, provided the inferior ally reserve to itself the sovereignty, or the right of governing its own body, it ought to be considered as an independent state, that keeps up an intercourse with others under the authority of the Law of Nations.
§ 6. Or by treaties of protection.
Consequently a weak state, which, in order to provide for its safety, places itself under the protection of a more powerful one, and engages, in return, to perform several offices equivalent to that protection, without however divesting itself of the right of government and sovereignty, – that state, I say, does not, on this account, cease to rank among the sovereigns who acknowledge no other law than that of Nations.
§ 8. Of feudatory states.
The Germanic nations introduced another custom – that of requiring homage from a state either vanquished, or too weak to make resistance. Sometimes even, a prince has given sovereignties in fee, and sovereigns have voluntarily rendered themselves feudatories to others.
When the homage leaves independency and sovereign authority in the administration of the state, and only means certain duties to the lord of the fee, or even a mere honorary acknowledgment, it does not prevent the state or the feudatory prince being strictly sovereign. The King of Naples pays homage for his kingdom to the Pope, and is nevertheless reckoned among the principal Sovereigns of Europe.”
It is Important to mention again that several historians in the past had vested interests in diminishing the role and sovereignty of the Ghassanids. The Byzantine historians like Procopius and later some of the Muslim authors did the same once the Ghassanidswere their declared historical enemies. On the one hand, the Greco-Roman historians had high prejudice against the Ghassanids, firstly, because they were Arabs, and secondly, because they were Monophysite Christians, a faith that was against the “mainstream” Christianity, officially adopted by the Byzantine Empire.
“Menander (Protector, the Byzantine historian) was a Christian, presumably a Chalcedonian. If so it’s not impossible that he saw in the strongly monophysite Ghassanids a schismatic group that was disrupting the Ecclesiastical unity of the empire with political implications as a centrifugal force. Hence, his dislike of the Ghassanids Arethas and Mundir who were the pillars of the movement both politically and militarily.” (Ibid. p. 335)
On the other hand, the great majority of Muslim historians (past and present) have considered the Ghassanids as traitors and infidels, after the fall of the Kingdom in 638 CE when the last King arguably briefly converted to Islam by force and then apostatized.
“In the capital [Constantinople] he [King Jabalah, the last King of Ghassan] reverted back to Christianity. Heraclius [Byzantine Emperor] received him with honour and bestowed upon him estates and palaces.” (Professor Yasmine Zahran, “Ghassan Resurrected” p. 13)
According to the reputed and greatest scholar in the world regarding Ghassanids, the UNESCO Professor Yasmine Zahran on her book “Ghassan Resurrected” p. xii:
““Ghassan’s strong sense of identity and its fierce Arab Asabiyay* sustained throughout its domination for it remained as an integral part of the Arab tribal world with close relations with their relatives the Uzd (Azd), scattered over the peninsula in Yemen, Hejaz and Iraq and with major tribes outside the Ghassanid Federation and beyond the Roman Limes (Boundary).
With Rome, they kept their imperial connection but they did not adopt or ape Roman customs nor take Greco-Roman names. Their pride kept them from the status of clients or vassals and their integrity made them withdraw twice from Roman (Byzantine) service, but like their predecessors Philip the Arab (Roman Emperor) and Zenobia (Palmyrene Empress), they did not escape Greco-Roman prejudice as authors such as, Agathias, Menander, Evagrius, Theophylact Simocatta, gave them only a marginal role. Theophylact described them as “the Saracen tribe known to be unreliable and fickle, their mind is not steadfast” . Procopius blackened the Ghassanids whom he despised as barbarians to protect Belisarius and to criticize Justinian and Theodora. Theophanes called them wild and rude invaders.”
** `Asabiyya or asabiyah refers to social solidarity with an emphasis on unity, group consciousness, and social cohesion, originally in a context of “tribalism” and “Clanism”, but sometimes used for modern nationalism as well, resembling also Communitarianism . It was a familiar term in the pre-Islamic era, but became popularized in Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah where it is described as the fundamental bond of human society and the basic motive force of history.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asabiyyah
This ancient prejudice is echoed by some modern historians who wrote:
“ ‘The lack of information in Greek historians about Arab affairs in the late six and seventh centuries accurately reflects their lack of any importance in contemporary wars and diplomacy, fact that the Arabs appear marginal is because they were.’ (Yasmine Zahran, “Ghassan Resurrected” p. xii)
By the same token, Professor Evangelos Chrysos’ arguments and his prejudice against the Ghassanids, have been “bashed ” by Professor Shahid:
“It does not, however, justify [Professor Evangelos] Chrysos’ conclusion in rejecting on this basis the title of King for Arethas and the appellation regis” (Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the Sixth Century, vol. 1, 1995, p. 112)
“Chrysos is still in the embrace of the Lakhmid theory of Procopius and suggesting the utterly incomprehensibe view that Arethas had been given the insignia of Kingship but without the title – and this in spite of the explicit statement that Justinian gave the title to him (Arethas).” (Ibid. 113)
“It is easy to argue, as Chrysos did, from the erroneous premise of a nomadic life for the Ghassanids to the conclusion that their ruler was a tribal shaykh (chief) not a byzantine basileus (king).” (Ibid. 110)
“Chrysos does not do justice to the Kaiserkritik expressed and implied in the passage in Procopius.” (Ibid. 111)
According to Stein, King Arethas was a complete sovereign and independent King:
“He [Professor Ernst Stein] continued to think that Mundir and Arethas were two absolutely sovereign Kings allied to the Persians and the Romans by treaty-relationships, and that in matters of foreign policy. The two client-kings were free to act as they pleased.” (The Arabs in the peace treaty of A.D. 561, Irfan Kawar, 1956, p. 204-20
All this matches with the recent archeological findings.
About Theodor Noldeke, his works are completely and absolutely outdated. His writings about the Ghassanids (Die Ghassanischen Fursten aus dem Hause Gafna’s) dated 1887, have ignored the recent archeological findings:
“When Noldeke wrote his monograph about the Ghassanids , [King] Jabala was a name associated with events around 500, thereafter disappearing from the sources then known. Subsequently, further sources, especially the new letter of Simeon of Beth-Arsham, have placed him around 520, leading to the identification of Arfar, who died in the battle of Thannuris in 528, with the Ghassanid federate King Jabala.” (Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the sixth century, Volume 1, p.48)
“Though the explicit of Simeon’s letter is short, it contains much information. First, Jabala is specifically referred to as King, as is confirmed by the Arabic sources and by Zacharia in Syriac. He inerited the title from his father Harith/Arethas [IV Ibn Hijr], and Byzantium confirmed it. Second, he is referred as ‘King of the Ghassanids’ . This phrase indicates clearly that Jabala was King only of the Ghassanids, not of the other Foederati (Arabs Allies of Byzantium) as well, as his son Arethas [V Ibn Jabala] was to become in 530 when Justinian conferred the extraordinary Basileia (Kingship) on him.” (Ibid.)
Finally, both the Usays Inscription and the Bishop Simeon’s letter, “pulverize” any of the ideas developed by Noeldeke, Chrysos or anyone trying to discredit the might of the Ghassanid Dynasty.
The Ghassanids Kings were sovereign because:
– They were Kings before they founded the Kingdom of Ghassan as they came from the Sabean Royal Family. So, they were not ennobled solely by the Byzantine Empire. There is a great difference between the “Basileia” (Byzantine Kingship) given by Justinian I in 529 CE, the “Supreme Phylarchate” given in the same occasion and the original Kingship (Arab) that the Ghassanids had since more than 300 years before:
“The dignity of King was not new to the Ghassanids, they had brought it with them from the Arabian where its assumption by a Ghassanid ruler is attested in a Sabaic inscription. When the Ghassanids appeared on the stage of Byzantine history, their chiefs, such as Tha’laba and Harith had already been Kings to their subjects. ” (Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the sixth century, Volume 1, p.104)
– They’ve founded the Kingdom of Ghassan in 220 AD, exactly 110 years before the establishment of the Byzantine Empire,
– The original settlement of the Kingdom of Ghassan, although not very clear in terms of boundaries (as every ancient Asian Kingdom), didn’t belong to and wasn’t granted by the Byzantine Empire which considered the area outside their “limes” (boundaries).
Above: Maps: The Ghassanid Kingdom not only controlled their own land but also the Byzantine land (Oriens) , Hejaz, Yemen and all the areas relating to the Azd tribes.
– Although the exact actual boundaries are disputed, the original Ghassanid settlement from the 3rd Century (northern Arabia and Hejaz) was recognized to be Ghassanid jurisdiction, as it was depicted on the map of the Roman Empire in the 3rd Century that it was not part of the Roman Empire at that date.
Above: Maps: The areas relating to the original Ghassanid settlement (Northern Arabia, Hejaz and Yemen never belonged to either the Western or the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empires.
By that, we can conclude that although it might have some debate about the sovereignty of the part of Syria that was Roman (Byzantine) territory, there’s absolutely NO debate about the sovereignty of the Ghassanids beyond the Byzantine borders.
“The only region over which he may have territorial jurisdiction must have been extra limitem (beyond the Byzantine borders) either in Northern Arabia or Hijaz, the original homeland of the Ghassanids.” (Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the sixth century, Volume 1, p.107)
Irfan Shahid, based only on Procopius, admits that the Ghassanids had territorial jurisdiction over their homeland which tallies with the original Kingship existing prior to the relationship with the Byzantine Empire and recognized by Emperor Justinian l in 529 AD. Please note that Procopius is the only ancient source of these facts (on the Ghassanid Kingship) and he was openly biased against the Ghassanids.
“Procopius, our only source” (Ibid p. 108)
“Though often he [Procopius] is the only source for what he says .” (Ibid. p.301)
Clearly, asProcopius was both biased against the Ghassanids and the only source of the historical records on the Ghassanids’ Sovereignty, his statements or text cannot be completely fair and true due to his vested interests in diminishing the Ghassanid role in the Byzantine History.
“It is possible that Procopius had a brush with one or both of the Ghassanid figures [Kings Jabala and Arethas]and that this ill-disposed him toward them and their dynasty.” (Ibid. p.303)
“It was noted in the earlier studies that Procopius indulged in a series of ‘suppressio veri”‘ [suppressions of the truth] and ‘suggestio falsi’ [false suggestions] involving [King] Arethas and that this encompassed his military in two Persian wars, his Roman connections and his religious affiliation. This series comprises not only [King] ARETHAS but also his father, [King]JABALA” (Ibid. p.299)
“all of which enables Procopius to present [King] Arethas as ‘incompetent’ and ‘treacherous’, springing ‘ex nihilo’ [out of nothing], rather than someone descended from a distinguished Federate in the service of Rome – [King] Jabala.” (Ibid.)
“Most serious in Procopius’ garbled account is his suppression of the fact that [King] Arethas won a great victory over [Lakhmid King] Mundir in 554 of which Procopius certainly knew.” (Ibid.)
“this week was a sector that had been entrusted in large measure to the Ghassandis, and Procopius is completely silent on their watch over this segment of the ‘limes orientalis‘ [Oriental borders].” (Ibid. p.300)
“The complete silence of Procopius on both these areas [King Arethas’ titles, patriciate and Christian affiliation] becomes even more noticeable.” (Ibid. p. 301)
“The scope of Procopius silence and misinterpretation should have become clear in the course of this book, as it involved not only [King] Arethas but the entire Ghassanid Dynasty, from its inception as Federate ally of Byzantium at the opening of the sixth century. [King] Jabala as a figure in Arab-Byzantine relations is completely ignored. ” (Ibid.)
The prejudice against Arabs was open and notorious and was extended to other nations:
“it is well known that Procopius was not sympathetic to the barbarians to which Arabs in his arithmetic belonged..” (Ibid.p.303)
“Kinda [Arab Kingdom] also suffered from Pocopius’ account in much the same way that Ghassan [Ghassanid Kingdom] did, and so the two principal allies of [Byzantine Emperor] Justinian were denigrated.” (Ibid.)
“Thus, although [Ghassanid King] Arethas was the man target of Procopiius’ criticism, the Arabs in general are object of his disapproving comments, both federates living in the Oriens and non-federate pastoralists living in the Peninsula. ” (Ibid.)
“For a writer of the sixth century Procopius is as remarkable for what he leaves out , as for what he has to say.” (Ibid.)
For his prestige and being the only source, it is obvious that Procopius’ prejudice would echo from the majority of scholars.
– The Ghassanids were “Foederati” or “symmacos”, in other words “fighting allies” that marked the limit of their vassalage. They did not pay any tributes to the Byzantine Empire; on the contrary, the Empire used to pay a “Salaria” (or salary) for their services to defend the Byzantine borders.
“In their military aspects, Byzantium established a relation with the limitrophe Arabs which made of them symmachoi, allies who received from the Empire the annona [tribute or payment] and in return watched the limes against the raids of the nomads, as well as participating effectively in the campaigns of the Army of the Orient against the Sasanids.” (The relations between Byzantium and the Arabs, Report on the Dumbarton Oaks Symposium of 1963, Hamiltona R. Gibb, p. 363)
“Whether the Ghassanid takeover from the limitanei (frontier districts), which made them de facto, if not, de jure, entailed corresponding changes in term of the foedus (Treaty )is not clear.” (Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the sixth century, Volume 2, part , p.xxxiv)
It is clear that the Ghassanids had a Treaty with the Empire. Only sovereign states can enter into a treaty in accordance with International Law. That defines completely the term “Foederati”:
“Early in the history of the Roman Republic, a foederatus identified one of the tribes bound by Treaty (Foedus), who were neither Roman colonies nor had they been granted Roman citizenship (Civitas) but were expected to provide a contingent of fighting men when trouble arose, thus were allies.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foedus
“It is also worth remembering that this was consonant with the tone and character of these two client-kingdoms (Ghassanids and Lakhmids); they were essentially military and not commercial organizations as the Nabataeans of Petra had been.” (The Arabs in the peace treaty of A.D. 561, Irfan Kawar, Arabica, T. 3, Fasc. 2 (May, 1956), p. 187)
– This is very important and corroborates with where the forefathers of international law defined the line of having or not having sovereignty: the Byzantine empire did not interfere with the internal affairs of the Ghassanid rule – a very important issue regarding sovereignty. Even in the Byzantine areas governed by the Ghassanids, they were considered to be the “de facto” rulers in full capacity:
“And though the Ghassanid King was the head of what we would today call a client state, he and the [Byzantine] Emperor met on EQUAL FOOTING – as comrades in arms – discussing matters of earthshaking and less-than-earthshaking importance.” (Gene Gurney, “Kingdoms of Asia, the Middle east and Africa”, 1986, p.70)
– Because of the abovementioned , some Muslim authors defer to the Ghassanids sharing the sovereignty of present Syria (besides the aforementioned area of the original settlement of Northern Arabia and Hejaz),
” The lands of Ash-Sham (present Syria) were under the sovereignty of the Roman [Byzantine] Empire AND THE GHASSANIDS who had influence over the Arab tribes there who were their representatives in the south of Ash-Sham.” (Child companions around the Prophet, by Darussalam, p.147)
– The titles and styles given to the Ghassanid Kings increased (not diminished) to recognize their prior territorial sovereignty and power:
“These were included in the phrase in Procopius that spoke of the elevation of Arethas to the Archyphilarchia and the Basileia: as many tribes as possible placed under his command‘.” (Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the Sixth Century, vol. 2, part 1, 1995, p. 51)
“…the Ghassanid Mundir (King Arethas V’s son), as his father before him, was a crowned King, a dignity inherited from his father, who belonged to an Arab royal house, and which was CONFIRMED (NOT BESTOWED) by the Byzantine autocrator [Emperor] . ” (Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the sixth century, Volume 1, Part 1 p.497)
“[Ghassanid King] Mundir represented the highest summit that the Ghassandi Kings reached in the ladder of the imperial administration, and so the title used to describe him must have been the highest . Besides, it is used together with Patricius, which was the highest dignitas [dignitas] Byzantium could bestow.” (Ibid.p.496)
No other sovereignty could compare with the great powers and honors relating to the new Kingship, suggesting a high degree of sovereignty as related by the historian Procopius, who was, in fact, often biased against the Ghassanids:
“The Basileia (Kingship) conferred by Justinian on Arethas takes a new meaning, one which Procopius’ comment that is something that ‘among the Romans (both Western and Eastern – Byzantine) HAD NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE‘ …” (Ibid)
– The fact that the Ghassanid Kings were “Archphylarcs” and “Basileus” (Kingly Byzantine title) of the Byzantine Empire did not conflict with their titles and prerogatives as Arab Kings (Maliks and Sheiks) as aforementioned.
“The OLD Basileia (Arab Kingship) was confirmed by the Byzantine Emperor; the NEW ONE (Byzantine Kingship) was bestowed by him”” (Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the sixth century, Volume 1, p.104)
“Contemporary documents reflect the contrast between the two Basileia (Kingships). In Simeon, Jabala is termed as ‘King of the Ghassanids’, in Usays inscription Arethas is called simply ‘The King’, possibly indicating the extension of the Basileia (kingship) over non-Ghassanids including the person who sets up the inscription.” (Ibid)
“In the case of the Ghassanids it was a confirmation and an extensions of the royal tradition that the Ghassanids had had and which they hadbrought with them from South Arabia.” (Ibid p.111)
“The more important element in the Lakhmid echo was the creation of the Archphylarchate, which was covered under the umbrella of the Basileia (Kingship). This is where the effect of the Lakhmid echos ends, and this is the extent of the Lakhmid implication in the passage in Procopius.” (Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the Sixth Century, vol. 1, 1995, p. 111)
It clearly shows that the previous sovereignty of the Ghassanids existed and was confirmed by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian l in 529 independently of the new kingship bestowed upon King Arethas.
– During the 520’s, they did briefly withdrew their services to the Byzantine Empire and at the same time existed as a nation. They did it twice.
– Some historians defend that the Ghassanids had their Sovereignty encroached by the Byzantine-Persian Treaty of A. D. 561.:
“. . . the Byzantine-Persian Treaty of A. D. 561. . . encroach on whatever sovereignty the Ghassanids had. But they do not imply that the Ghassanid were Roman (Byzantne) citizens.” (Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the Sixth Century, vol. 1, 1995, p. 226)
First of all, the word “encroach” doesn’t mean “eliminate”, but “negatively affect”. With that citation, an important fact arises: the Ghassanids were not Roman (Byzantine) citizens. By International Law, if you agree that the Ghassanids were active parties of the referred Treaty, you’ve to assume that they were sovereign. To be sovereign, according to International Law, treaties are binding only from the consent of the States:
“Treaties are not necessarily permanently binding upon the signatory parties. As obligations in International Law are traditionally viewed as arising only from the consent of States, many treaties expressly allow a state to withdraw as long as it follows certain procedures of notification.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty#Ending_treaty_obligations
“The Saracen (Arab) allies of both States (Byzantine and Persian) were included in this peace (Treaty).” (J. B. Bury, History of the Later Roman Empire, I923, II, P. 121.)
The Treaty included the Saracen (Arab) allies of both Empires (Byzantine and Persian), so again, by International Law, they can only be parties of a treaty if they were sovereign states or international organizations. The Ghassanids clearly weren’t an “organization” as even with their vassalage, they were sovereign:
“A Treaty is an express agreement under International Law entered into by actors in international law, namely sovereign states and international organizations.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty
This treaty was broken and withdrawn by the Byzantine side in 572 AD by Emperor Justin II:
” A struggle over Lazika dragged on until a general treaty, pledging peace for 50 years, was signed in 561. War erupted in 572 [eleven years later] when Justin ll refused tribute to the Persians. [which was a major clause of the treaty]” (John Hutchins Rosser, ‘ Historical dictionary of Byzantium’ p.79)
“Indeed one of the main conditions of the treaty under discussion was the payment by Byzantium of a huge sum of money to Persia, in return for the cession of Lazica.” (The Arabs in the peace treaty of A.D. 561, Irfan Kawar, Arabica, T. 3, Fasc. 2 (May, 1956), p. 193)
– Even in the hypotheses that they didn’t have any previous sovereignty, the fact that the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I bestowed on King Al-Harith (Flavius Arethas) in 529 AD, the highest hereditary title of King “Basileus“, created an “Independent Sovereign entity” , perfectly valid according to Dynastic Law. Even after the deposition in 638 Ce when Byzantine Emperor Heraclius had received Ghassanid King Jablah with “open arms” in Constantinople.
“The Ghassanid Basileia (Kingship) was hereditary, passing from father to son.”(Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the sixth century, Volume 1, p.104)
Below is an awarded article (the best publication of History of Law and Heraldry by the International Writers Association in 2002) by Professor Mario Silvestre de Meroe:
Above: the certificate given to Professor Dr. Mario Silvestre de Meroe by the International Writers Association in Ohio (USA) as the “Best Publication of History of Law and Heraldry ” in 2002.
“The Dynastic bestowal, institutional in nature, gives rise to an entity, the legal personality of a dynastic right, with representation and leadership positions assigned to an individual, awarded the title corresponding to the virtual domain and, as a rule, with the prerogatives of jus honorum. The dynastic being so raised, through its representative, called the Chief of Name and Arms, may grant titles and awards to those whom he considers worthy of honor, at his discretion, not subject to any limitation in time (several people can be bestowed in the same generation ), or in relation to the amount of titles. Occurs, thus creating a Dynasty, a cycle that will begin their own traditions, a separate institution of the house grantor, whom shall not have power or control over their actions.
The entity is established dynastic well-endowed in perpetuity, irrevocability, and irreversibility, under the accepted doctrine, historical examples and case nobility law. Once created, being separated from the dynastic heritage of its founder and acquires independent existence, with historical attributes of sovereignty, recognized as the dynastic houses in exile.
The attribute of irrevocability of the dynastic bestowal, along with good doctrine, refers to its historical origins. In another work of mine, we cite the first known event, the translation of dynastic rights, narrated in the Bible (Genesis, chap. 25, 27), evoking the saga of Jacob and Esau.
Does the biblical text quoted in the book, Jacob, prompted by his mother, Rebecca, through a ruse, transacted the birthright to his brother Esau, who was the “heir” of the leadership of the tribe. With cunning, he obtained the blessing, the patriarch Isaac, and became, ipso facto, leader of Israel, father of twelve children, which would lead to the tribes that formed the Hebrew people. “Verbis”:
“The ceremony of blessing described here, although riddled with addiction (fraud), its consummation had irrevocable effect, condoning the translation previously held, probably kept secret by the parties. It was thus solemnly sworn, in fact and law, the new head of the fledgling Israeli nation. The biblical text emphasizes the perplexity and impotence of Isaac before the fait accompli and unmovable.”
We want to emphasize, is the irrevocable nature of the enthronement, in its various forms, indelibly embedded in the person of the recipient, who will forward it unscathed to their heirs and successors There is, reading the above excerpt, the patriarch Isaac is tipped perplexed by the warp of his son, but above all, powerless to undo the act (the blessing) of transmission of the dynastic rights (at the time, absolute) in the form of ceremonial force. By virtue of his succession to power, had lost jurisdiction over the tribe.”
Above: an excerpt of an Italian Newspaper announcing Dr. Mario de Meroe as winner of another award. It says: ” To the Jurist Dr. Mario de Meroe the International Cultural Award of Saint Venceslau 2009 Edition“. Dr. Meroe’s work was entitled “The Byzantine Theocracy in Italy.”
As clearly stated by Dr. Meroe, the enthronement is irrevocable and indelible. If the bestowed King promises to exercise it in any condition of Vassalage, it doesn’t change the fact that, even if his sovereignty was limited, he was incontestably King and Sovereign. The same happens in present Constitutional Monarchies, the King voluntarily accepts to limit his Sovereignty. According with Professor Stephen P. Kerr:
“A monarch is not deprived of the power conferred on him by his Kingship merely because he has promised to exercise it in a certain way..” (“King and Constitution in International Law,” The Augustan, vol. 18, no. 4, 1977, p. 130)
“Sovereignty does not cease to be such even if he who is going to exercise it makes promises – even promises touching matters of government. ” (Hugo Grotius, The Law of War and Peace, Book I, Chapter 3, number XVI )
“That what I say is true becomes clear from the similarity of the case under consideration to that of the head of a household. If the Head of a household promises that he will do for it something which affects the government of it, he will not on that account cease to have full authority over his household, so far as matters of the household are concerned. A husband, furthermore, is not deprived of the power conferred on him by marriage because he has promised something to his wife..” (Ibid.)
For the ones that question the Ghassanid sovereignty, some questions must be addressed:
* If the Ghassanid Kings were so inferior and so dependent, How could they meet on ‘equal footing ‘ with the Byzantine Emperor?
“And though the Ghassanid King was the head of what we would today call a client state, he and the [Byzantine] Emperor met on equal footing – as comrades in arms – discussing matters of earthshaking and less-than-earthshaking importance.” (Gene Gurney, “Kingdoms of Asia, the Middle east and Africa”, 1986, p.70)
* If the Ghassanid Kingdom was so dependable of the Byzantine Empire, why do the Ghassanid Kings withdrew their alliance with the Byzantine Empire twice?
“The Ghassanids, removed from Byzantine service for a relatively long time ” (Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the sixth century, Volume 1, part 1, p.38)
“Their pride kept them from the status of clients or vassals and their integrity made them withdraw twice from Roman (Byzantine) service. ” (Professor Yasmine Zahran, “Ghassan Resurrected” p. xii)
* If they were so inferior, how could the Ghassanid King Mundir have so much influence over Pope Gregory, to have him interfere over a dispute with Byzantine Emperor Maurice in the end of the 6th Century?
“The Pope’s [Gregory] sympathy with [Ghassanid King] Mundir, the chief of the Monophysite Ghassanids, is noteworthy” (Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the sixth century, Volume 1, part 1, p.605)
* If they did not have territorial sovereignty outside the Byzantine borders how could the Ghassanid Prince Abu Karib give territory (Phoinikon/Tabuk) as a gift to Byzantium?
Logically, for one to give something, one has to own it.
“Procopius explicitly documents the Ghassanid character of Phoinikon/Tabuk, a site that belonged to the Ghassanids and was offered to Byzantium by its master, the Ghasanid Phylarch [Prince] Abu KaribP (King Arethas V’s brother).” (Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the sixth century, Volume 2, part 2, p.23)
“Thus the region of Phoinikon that [Prince] Abu Karib [King Arethas’ brother] presented to Justinian around 530 must have been in that category, then to become technically Roman territory.”
“Procopius states [Prince] Abu Karib [brother of King Arethas V] ruled over Phoinikon in Northern Hijaz (beyond Byzantine borders).” (Ibid. p. 38)
“The Ghassanids must have possessed themselves or Phoinikon, or at least reaffirmed their connection with it, while they were withdrawn from Byzantium.” (Ibid. p. 39)
“The Ghassanid withdrawal to Northern Hijaz was thus a matter of some importance both to Arabian history and to Arab-Byzantine relations.” The Ghassanids reaffirmed their Peninsular connections in Hijaz , which was in a sense the territory of the ‘outer shield’ ‘ for Byzantium.” (Ibid. p. 39)
* Why did the Byzantine Emperor Justinian give to King Arethas so many titles, especially the imperial address?
“The Basileia (Kingship) conferred by Justinian on Arethas takes a new meaning, one which Procopius’ comment that is something that ‘among the Romans (both Western and Eastern – Byzantine) had never been done before…” (Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the sixth century, Volume 2, part 1, p.51)
* Why did Justin II (Justinian’s nephew and heir) give his daughter the name “Arabia”, so unconventional for the Byzantine customs?
“Even more relevant and more certain is the name ‘Arabia’, which was given to the daughter of Justine ll, the nephew of Justinian. Nomenclature is significant and can reflect attitudes and relationships; I have argued elsewhere that this strikingly un-Byzantine, un-Greek, and un-Christian name was given her as a result of the warm relations that obtained between the Arab Phyarchate-Kingship of the Ghassandis and the Central Government during the reign of.” (Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the sixth century, Volume 2, part 2, p.114)
This last action had sealed the warm relationship between the Ghassanids and the Byzantium.
In closing, as far as Dynastic Law, the Ghassanid Claim of Sovereignty is perfect. To understand its perfection we have to ask the question related to the 4 (four) basic Sovereign Rights:
1. Did the Ghassanids have “Jus Imperii” (the right to rule over a territory and a people)?
Yes they did. It’s clear that they’ve had jurisdiction coming from the Byzantine Empire over the Oriens (the Diocese of the East, composed by provinces of the western Middle East, between the Mediterranean Sea and Mesopotamia). They’re “Kings of the Oriens”, even being vassals as far as the territories they’ve had shared sovereignty with the Byzantine empire like greater Syria. They’ve had total control over the area and the Byzantine Empire didn’t interfere in the internal affairs and decisions made by the Kings. Regardless of the Byzantine Vassalage, they’ve had full territorial jurisdiction over the areas of northern (present) Saudi Arabia, Hejaz, Yemen and other areas inhabited by the Azd (Uzd) tribes.
2. Did the Ghassanids have “Jus Gladii” (the right of the sword, the right to command armies and inflict capital penalties)?
Yes they did. Both in the Byzantine Oriens and over the independent jurisdiction of northern (present) Saudi Arabia, Hejaz, Yemen and other areas inhabited by the Azd (Uzd) tribes. Regarding the Oriens, the Byzantine Empire actually didn’t interfere in any decisions regarding capital punishments and the Ghassanid function on the area was the “supreme Phylarchate”, in other words, they were the “commanders-in-chief” of the whole federation armies.
3. Did they have “Jus Majestatis” (the right to be honored and respected according with your title)?
Yes they did. That was recognized even by Byzantine Emperor Justin I before bestowing the another “Basileia” (Kingship) on the (already) King Arethas (Al-Harith). That’s absolutely proven not only by historians but by many archeological evidences.
4. Did they have “Jus Honorum” (the right to award titles, merit and virtue)?
Yes they did. They created Princes and Princesses and also “Sheiks” among other honors.
The above fully satisfies Dynastic and International Law as far as Sovereignty.
Due to the massive fall of monarchies in the 19th and 20th centuries, the study of Dynastic and Nobility Law has decayed considerably becoming a very rare subject amongst the scholars today. This fact gave birth to several myths and misconceptions about the subject even amongst reasonably educated people.
Because of the European colonial dominance in the world until the last century and the current existence of several acting monarchies in the region, as well as several non-ruling royal families being extremely active socially and even politically, createdthe false ideathat all the royal and noble titles in the world and their succession should follow the European model, regardless of any local – and sometimes millennial – traditions that particular family may have. Truth to be told, many royal houses decided to “Europeanize” their customs and traditions, especially during the 18th and 19th centuries. However, those “adaptations” to the European model were dully and legally documented, not leaving any room for guessing and hearsay.
Also, there’s an enormous misconception regarding legality versus notoriety and prestige. There are thousands of former ruling and noble families in the world. Some more and some less known and prestigious. Not all of them have a plethora of information available in other languages than their native ones. It’s humanly impossible, even for a scholar, to know the peculiarities and rules of every single one of them. Therefore, it’s not because many people “never heard” of this or that family means that the family is legitimate or not.
Through this blog and many other documents and articles containing several scholarly references from bonafide academic organizations all over the world, we’ve proven to exhaustion the legal rights of the El Chemor/Gharios family according to the Middle Eastern custom and the international law to the Royal Ghassanid titles.
Before we proceed, we’d like to suggest some complimentary reading to fully understand this article:
Currently, there’re today two different schools of thought (or legal theories) about the rights of ruling families that are dispossessed of their thrones.
One defends that the “de jure” (by law) sovereign rights are perpetual and attached to the person of the dethroned sovereign and his/her heirs – observed the respective laws of succession – regardless of time elapsed, of territorial and political control and indifferently to the fact that that sovereign or his/her heirs are exercising or not their dynastic prerogatives in exile like for example, using publicly their titles, arms, etc. or even manifesting any kind of diplomatic protests.
They defend that, due to domestic law in the dispossessed country or in exile, the public use of titles may be forbidden as in countries like Austria and Brazil, where after the fall of the monarchical regimes, their constitutions expressly forbade any mention to any title on the person’s name. Also, any so-called “diplomatic protests” would represent an immense risk for the life of the protesters in absolute and/or theocratic regimes like some Islamic regimes in past and present.
Many European jurists and even recent court decisions defend the aforementioned theory.
“. . . in order that silence may establish the presumption of abandonment of ownership, two conditions are requisite, that the silence be that of one who acts with knowledge and of his own free will. For the failure to act on the part of one who does not know is without legal effect.” On the Law of War and Peace, Book I, chapter IV, number 5
In other words:
“Presumption of neglect cannot justly exist, where the original owner has, by ignorance of his rights, or by deception, or personal fear, been prevented from claiming what he is entitled to. If he knew not that he had a right, he could not be supposed to relinquish it. And if fear or fraud induced his neglect, his mind could not have voluntarily consented.” John Penford Thomas, A Treatise of Universal Jurisprudence, chapter II, no. 13, 1829, p. 34
“CHAP. XI. OF USUCAPTION AND PRESCRIPTION AMONG NATIONS”
§ 144. Claimant alleging reasons for his silence.
In cases of ordinary prescription, THE SAME ARGUMENT CANNOT BE USED AGAINST A CLAIMANT WHO ALLEGES JUST REASONS FOR HIS SILENCE, as, the impossibility of speaking, or a well-founded fear, etc., BECAUSE IS THERE IS NO LONGER ANY ROOM FOR A PRESUMPTION THAT HE HAS ABANDONED HIS RIGHT. IT IS NOT HIS FAULT IF PEOPLE HAVE THOUGHT THEMSELVES AUTHORIZED TO FORM SUCH A PRESUMPTION; NOR OUGHT HE TO SUFFER IN CONSEQUENCE: HE CANNOT THEREFORE BE DEBARRED THE LIBERTY OF CLEARLY PROVING HIS PROPERTY. THIS METHOD OF DEFENCE IN BAR OF PRESCRIPTION HAS BEEN OFTEN EMPLOYED AGAINST PRINCES WHOSE FORMIDABLE POWER HAD LONG SILENCED THE FEEBLE VICTIMS OF THEIR USURPATIONS.” http://www.constitution.org/vattel/vattel_02.htm
According to Salvioli (History of Italian Law, Utet, 1930, p.272) sovereignty as an element of state power sprang from the struggle of the kings against the great feudatories and owes its character of necessity to the resulting concentration of the powers of the state in the hands of the monarch.
“Born of feudal origins, this power continued to bear the imprint of the personal property of the Prince, whence derives its transmissibility by hereditary right IN PERPETUITY.”
By this doctrine the Prince logically retains his sovereignty always (suprema potestas, whence supremitas, sovereignty) even when he is no longer reigning.
Archbishop Hyginus E. Cardinale in his book stated:
“A Sovereign in exile and his legitimate successor and Head of the Family continue to enjoy the ius collationis [the right to confer and enjoy honours] and therefore may bestow [such] honours in full legitimacy. . . . No authority [no matter what that authority is] can deprive them of the right to confer honours, since this prerogative belongs to them as lawful personal property iure sanguinis [by right of blood], and both its possession and exercise are inviolable.” (Orders of Knighthood Awards and the Holy See — A historical, juridical and practical Compendium, Van Duren Publishers, Gerrands Cross, 1983, p. 119)”
The following legal conclusion reflects knowledge of perpetual sovereignty. The learned Italian judge officially recognized that:
“Among those rights [of a former ruling house inherited by the successors is] the faculty to ennoble, to grant and confirm coats of arms, to bestow titles drawn from places over which their ancestors had exercised their sovereign powers, and also the right to found, re-establish, reform and exercise the Grand Magistracy of the Orders of Chivalry conferred by their family, which may be handed down from father to son as an irrepressible birthright.” (The United Court of Bari, The Republic of Italy, Sig. Dr. Giovanni de Gioca, March 13, 1952)
A Court sentence of the Republican Italy (Pretoria de Vico Del Gargano, Repubblica Italiana sentence number 217/1949) corroborates the above-mentioned:
“(…) it’s IRRELEVANT if that Imperial family is no longer ruling FOR CENTURIES, because the deposition doesn’t harm the sovereign prerogatives even if the sovereign renounces, spontaneously, to the throne. In substance, in this case, the Sovereign does not cease to be King, even living in exile or IN PRIVATE LIFE (WITHOUT CLAIMING HIS SOVEREIGNTY), because his prerogatives are, itself, by birth and CANNOT BE EXTINGUISHED, but remains and may be transmitted in time, from generation to generation.”
From Professor Doctor W. Baroni Santos, Doctor D’Etat in Nobility Law at The University of Reims in France, in his book “Treaty of Heraldry / Nobility Law Vol. I, Book II, chapter I “Jurisprudence of Nobility” page 197:
“A “Chief of Name and Arms”, a title attributed to a Claimant, being by juris sanguinis (law of blood) “heir apparent” of a defunct throne, as long as has not formalized a voluntary act of resignation and acquiescence [formalized, not assumed or presumed] to the new political order of the state, according to the classic expression “subito la debellatio”, retains, in all its fullness, the sovereign prerogatives of Fons Honorum (Fountain of Honours) and Jus Majestatis (right to majestic dignity). It is, a fortiori, the source of nobility and honor, and may, without restrictions, create nobles and arm knights.”
According to the former president of the Italian (Supreme) Court of Cassation, Professor Doctor Renato de Francesco in 1959:
“… It’s simply ridiculous, from a legal point of view, the distinction intended to be done about Dynasties that have reigned until recently of those who ruled in the distant past. It’s not understandable how you can launch at the foot numerous pages of history, only to give luster to this or that family, who, aided by good luck, has managed to remain on the throne, after the year 1815. A Dynasty either reigned or not reigned. If reigned, even in very remote time, deserves the historical and legal treatment as a Dynasty and all its effects.”
Here is an extract from the book “Chivalry Orders and Nobility titles in Italy ” (Ordine Cavallereschi e titoli nobiliari in Italia), Basilio Petrucci, pg.87:
“So does the former King Umberto II of Savoy , once there was no ‘subito la debellatio, he conserves the royal prerogative in granting honorific titles of nobility and chivalry, along with other sovereigns of the former Italian and foreign states…”
Here is another extract from the book “Studies on Nobility Law” (Estudos sobre Direito Nobiliário), Dr. Mario Silvestre de Meroe, pg. 63:
“There outbreaks of political crises in front of which the monarch himself voluntarily accepted – sometimes even want to – that institutional rupture, expressly agreeing with the new order of things. In such cases, AND ONLY THOSE, he loses the dynastic rights, retaining only the princely qualities inherited and transmitted to their descendants, without, however, the attributes of ‘pretender’.”
Professor Emilio Furno, an eminent Italian jurist and scholar, former advocate in the Supreme Court of Appeal, writes as follows in “The Legitimacy of Non-National Orders“, Rivista Penale, No.1, January 1961, pp. 46-70:
“There are not a few judgments, civil and criminal, albeit some very recent, all of which tend as a rule to the acceptance of traditional principles re-enunciated not long since. The issue is that of innate nobility – “Jure Sanguinis” (right of blood) – which looks into the prerogatives known as “Jus Majestatis” and “Jus Honorum” and which argues that the holder of such prerogatives is a subject of international law with all the logical consequences of that situation. That is to say, a deposed sovereign may legitimately confer titles of nobility, with or without predicates, and the honorifics which pertain to his heraldic patrimony as head of his dynasty. The qualities which render a deposed Sovereign a subject of international law are undeniable and in fact constitute an absolute personal right of which the subject may never divest himself and which needs no ratification or recognition on the part of any other authority whatsoever. A reigning Sovereign or Head of State may use the term recognition in order to demonstrate the existence of such a right, but the term would be a mere declaration and not a constitutive act. (Furno, op.cit.).
“A notable example of this principle is that of the People’s Republic of Chinawhich for a considerable time was not recognized and therefore not admitted to the United Nations, but which nonetheless continued to exercise its functions as a sovereign state through both its internal and external organs.” (Furno, op.cit.).
The eminent author concludes:
“To sum up, therefore, the Italian judiciary, in those cases submitted to its jurisdiction, has confirmed the prerogatives “jure sanguinis” of a dethroned sovereign without any vitiation of its effects, whereby in consequence it has explicitly recognized the right to confer titles of nobility and other honorifics relative to his dynastic heraldic patrimony. “(Furno, op.cit.).
According to the above, the El Chemor/Gharios Familyfully retains the Royal Ghassanid titles satisfying the legal criteria since it’s proven their descent from the last Ghassanid King in male line in perfect accordance with the respective Arab Laws of Succession.
The second school of thought defends that royal heir only retain their sovereign rights if, and only if, they use their titles publicly and/or make diplomatic protests.
Here we will quote excerpts to his book that are particularly interesting since they clearly show a legal parallel with the El Chemor/Gharios Family.
The Prescriptive Preservation of the Ancient Royal House of David
Maintaining royal rights and keeping them alive, according to the rules of prescription, can be easily discerned in the following case, which represents prescriptive preservation of deposed rights for almost a thousand years. It has been gleaned from what history is available to show that titles were used by a well-known deposed royal house, such that, their claim was never discarded, neglected or abandoned. From 970 B.C. to the coming of Christ in 1 A.D., the Davidic line was a dispossessed and did not rule or reign in the Holy Land. This loss of kingship was prophesied or foretold by the Prophet Hosea, who lamented for the sins of Israel and explained the result thereof, “For the children Israel shall abide many days [thousands of years] without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice. . . ,” etc. (Hosea 3:4) In other words, he considered that part of the curse of sin is to lose the great blessing and national benefit of having a royal house reigning in the midst of the people. Nevertheless, the House of David followed what perpetuates or keeps the non-territorial right alive according to natural law. The example is that:
Jesus [who was called the Christ] was in the most full and perfect sense a descendant of David, not only by law in the royal line of kings through his reputed father, but also in fact by direct personal descent through his mother.
The angel announced to his mother, Mary:
He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. (Luke 1: 32-33)
Jesus the Christ was of the lineage of the ancient kingly line and the rightful heir of the family. However, to be the royal scion of a royal house is not enough. Titles of sovereign rank had to consistently used to legally and lawfully maintain a claim of sovereign royalty by a deposed house, which requirement was full achieved by the ruling line of the descendants of David. This was exemplified by the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was called “the son of David” seventeen times in the New Testament account. “Son of David” was a title. It did not merely mean a descendant of David, but is found elsewhere in Jewish tradition. It refers to the heir to the throne.
. . . Son of David was one of the most common Jewish titles . . . . It was a royal title denoting his lineage from the family of the Great King David and his right to re-establish and rule over the coming kingdom of God.
This title is similar to the French title “dauphin,” which was the title of the heir apparent to the throne in France. The title “son of David” was the de jure and rightful head and chief of the royal house of David. With the addition of “the” to the title, making it “the son of David,” it was the title of Jesus the Christ. It meant that he was the actual, legal and lawful king of all Israel.
Joseph, the step-father of Jesus, was also called “son of David,” in other words, heir to the throne holding dynastic or de jure succession rights. (Matthew 1:20) That is, “The scepter of Juda [the right to the throne] . . . came to Joseph by hereditary succession. . . .” According to Hammurabi’s Code, section 188, if a man teaches his adopted son a trade, the son is thereby confirmed in all the complete rights of heirship. As the adopted step-son of the Davidic heir to the crown of Judah and Israel, Jesus became the rightful heir after his father’s death.
Dr. James E. Talmage wrote:
Had Judah been a free and independent nation, ruled by her rightful sovereign, Joseph the carpenter would have been her crowned king; and his lawful successor to the throne would have been Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.
Canon Girdlestone adds:
If the crown of David had been assigned to his successor in the days of Herod it would have been placed on the head of Joseph. And who would have been the legal successor to Joseph? Jesus of Nazareth. . . .
Not only was the regal and exalted title of the “son of David” used, but:
. . . The words “mother of my Lord” [spoken by Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist] point to Mary as a queen-mother figure [or personage of high royal status]. It has been noted in the royal court language of the Ancient Near East, the title “mother of my Lord” would have been used to address the queen mother of the reigning king (who himself is addressed as “my Lord;” 2 Samuel 24:21).
The royal line kept their de jure royal rights alive the same way international law requires today. Specifically it was through the continued use of royal titles, such as, using the royal title “son of David,” which was the equivalent of “prince of the royal Davidic line.”
“[This ruling office] was hereditary, passing directly from father to son in most but not all cases.”
Note the title of rightful kingship “the Son of David,” meant the heir to the throne.
Rightful sovereignty has been preserved intact for both of these sovereign entities for thousands of years.
Summarizing, Dr. Kerr y Baca defends that the use of the surname “Ben David” or “son of David” was enough to represent legally the use of the royal Davidic titles and claims therefore constituting a diplomatic protest necessary to preserve intact the sovereign claim for thousands of years according to international law.
The El Chemor/Gharios family did exactly the same thing. The Sheikhs El Chemor ascended to power in 1211 CE in Koura (today’s Lebanon) due to their genealogical direct descent to the Ghassanid Kings. They were known as “the descendants of King Chemor Jablah”, the last king of Ghassan. That’s the origin of the surname “Chemor” (other transliterations: Shamir, Shammar, Chemr, etc. ) since after the deposition of the last Ghassanid King in 636 CE his Royal descendants were known as “Bani Chemor” and the regular Ghassanid citizens as “Bani Ghassan”.
According to Dr. Kerr y Baca, that alone would be enough to keep the sovereign claim legally alive. However, the El Chemor family kept using the Royal title of “sui iuris” “Sheikh” until the present date. This title was recognized by the Ottoman empire until its demise in 1924 and also by the Lebanese republic since its inception until the present date being printed in Identification cards, driver’s licenses and passports. Therefore, there was never a time in history since the loss of the Ghassanid kingdom in 636 CE until the present day that the descendants of the last king didn’t use their titles and/or surnames in public. (IMPORTANT: there’s a difference between the Royal and the Noble Sheikhs in Lebanon, please see this article for a better understanding)
Photo: The grave of His Highness Sheikh Selim El Chemor (passed away 1909 CE, the great grandfather of HRH Prince Sheikh Selim El Chemor, honorary head of the Royal House of Ghassan), note that the royal title of Sheikh (in Arabic, upper right side) is on his tombstone, a capital proof that the family has been publicly using the ‘sui iuris’ titles for centuries until the present date. (Grave at the cemetery at the Mar Mama Ancient Church in Kferhata, Lebanon) Understand the legality of the titles here: https://royalblog.org/2017/12/26/the-sheikhs-el-chemor-a-legal-study-of-titles/
After everything presented, it’s extremely easy to conclude that the El Chemor/Gharios Family have preserved intact its sovereign legal rights and titles.
We’ve already covered here the fact that the Arab Royal laws of succession are different than the European in many ways, specially by a fundamental point: the principle of primogeniture.
Primogeniture (English: /praɪməˈdʒɛnɪtʃər/) is the right, by law or custom, of the paternally acknowledged, firstborn son to inherit his parent’s entire or main estate, in preference to daughters, elder illegitimate sons, younger sons and collateral relatives. The son of a deceased elder brother inherits before a living younger brother by right of substitution for the deceased heir. In the absence of any children, brothers succeed, individually, to the inheritance by seniority of age (subject to substitution). Among siblings, sons inherit before daughters. In the absence of male descendants in the male-line, there are variations of primogeniture which allocate the inheritance to a daughter or a brother or, in the absence of either, to another collateral relative, in a specified order (e.g. male-preference primogeniture, Salic primogeniture, semi-Salic primogeniture). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primogeniture
That was never accepted in the Arab monarchies until very recently.
“Middle Eastern monarchical systems have established various methods of choosing which among the eligible princes will rule.” (Michael Herb, All in the family: absolutism, revolution, and democracy in the Middle Eastern Monarchies, p. 27)
According to one the foremost scholars in Middle eastern history and Professor Emeritus of Princeton University, USA, Professor Bernard Lewis:
“… the dynastic principle and the practice of hereditary succession remained powerful, deep-rooted, and virtually universal in the Islamic Middle East. Even in the nomadic tribes, the shaikh is normally chosen from among the members of one family, who have a recognized hereditary claim to the headship of the tribe and very often to the custody of some sacred place or object—the palladium or ark of the covenant, so to speak. Similar practices may be observed also among Iranian and Turkic nomads. The principle of primogeniture—of succession from father to eldest son in the direct—is a European idea. It was not accepted among the ancient Arabs, and it never took root in the great Muslim dynastic empires. Descent in the male line from the founding and the ruling families was the sole requirement. The most usual practice was for the ruler to designate his successor, choosing whichever of his uncles, brothers, nephews, or sons might be the most suitable. Sometimes the ruler might designate more than one in line, though this was neither usual nor required.” From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East, By Bernard Lewis, Oxford 2004, p. 96
Since the time of the ancient Arab tribes, we see a system called “rotation”. Usually, the heir to the throne was selected from among the King’s male descendants for his qualities, such as: physical force, nobility (if the prince was descended from another Royal line from his mother, it would make him more fit for the throne: even the King’s direct sons could come from different mothers) and also the most intelligent and popular prince among the people.
In succession based on “rotation”, all (male) members of the dynasty are entitled to the monarchy.
“In Europe, where dynasties flourished, succession was once determined by a show of strength among a ruler’s sons. In time, however, it reverted to primogeniture, in which a ruler’s oldest male descendant acceded to the throne. For a variety of reasons, chiefly because of religious and tribal traditions, Primogeniture has not developed among Arabian dynasties in quite the same way, because under Shariah law, all sons of a man are equal and legitimate, even if they were born from illegitimate marriages. Moreover, in pre-Islamic tribal norms, while the throne could have passed from one generation to the next within a particular family, it was not necessarily passed from father to son. Rather the authority also fell to a ruler’s brother, uncle, or cousin, depending on which of these oldest male relatives was seen to possess ‘ the qualities of nobility; skill in arbitration; hazz or ‘good fortune’; and leadership ’ “. (Joseph A. Kechichian, “Succession in Saudi Arabia”, 2001, p.10)
“No firm principle specified which member of the ruling family had the right to rule.” (Michael Herb, All in the family: absolutism, revolution, and democracy in the Middle Eastern Monarchies, p. 22)
The same principle was not only limited to the Arab Dynasties, but also the great majority in the Middle East.
“In the Ottoman Empire after 1617 the eldest living male of the dynasty succeeded, though this was not formalized legally.” (Alderson, “The Structure of the Ottoman Dynasty“, 12-13. J.C. Hurewitz reviews succession across the Middle Eastern empires in “Middle East politics: the military dimension”, 18-27)
Again, that’s a common pattern for all the Middle East.
“In vain would it be to establish here the succession of the eldest son; the Prince [King] might always choose another as every Prince of the royal family has an equal capacity to be chosen, hence it follows that the Prince who ascends the throne strangles immediately his brothers [once they all compete equally for the succession], as in Turkey; or put out their eyes, as in Persia; or bereaves them of their understanding as in the Mogul’s country,” (Nathan J. Brown, Constitutions in a nonconstitutional world: Arab basic laws, p.12 citing Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu (1748), The Spirit of Laws, Book V)
“In Arabia [Arabic monarchies], all males within the ruling sublineages of the families have a theoretic right to the rulership. In practice, the succession generally goes to those whose fathers ruled (though not necessarily to the sons of the most recent ruler). These general guidelines leave a large number of shayks [Sheikhs] and princes eligible, especially if, as in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait [as in Ghassan], the succession has moved laterally to brothers and cousins instead of directly to the ruler’s sons.” (Michael Herb, All in the family: absolutism, revolution, and democracy in the Middle Eastern Monarchies, p. 26, 27)
Even today, the only country to adopt legally the principle of primogeniture is the Kingdom o Bahrain.
“Alone among the Gulf ruling families, the Al Khalifa pass the succession according to a fixed rule. The constitution specifies that the eldest son of the ruler shall succeed him.” (Michael Herb, All in the family: absolutism, revolution, and democracy in the Middle Eastern Monarchies, p. 132)
But even in Bahrain, the Constitution says that:
“… the Amir (ruler), during his lifetime, can appoint a different son as Crown Prince [successor]” (Section 1, Article 1).
That’s in perfect harmony with the standards of the Arab monarchies.
For a better understanding, we also recommend the following articles:
It’s important to point that although the Rasulid Sultans were direct descendants from the last Ghassanid King Jabalah VI – as the Sheikhs El Chemor – they could never claim the Ghassanid titles due to a law imposed by Ghassanid kings in the 6th century CE of theRoyal Family having to be necessarily Christian.
After the advent of Islam, it’s known that the Ghassanid Royal Family had to leave the Ghassanid territory (today’s Syria, Jordan, Northern Saudi Arabia and Northern Iraq). Part of the family went to Byzantine empire and part sought refuge in the heights of the Mount Lebanon, a safe haven for Christians.
“It is a reputed deep-rooted allegation that the heads of Al-Chemor tribe are rooted from Bani Chemor, who are the Christian Kings of Ghassan which belong to [King] Al Jafna.” Father Ignatios Tannos El-Khoury, Historical Scientific Research: “Sheikh El Chemor Rulers of Al-Aqoura (1211-1633) and Rulers of Al-Zawiye (1641-1747)” Beirut, Lebanon, 1948, p.38
By “jus sanguinis” (or law of blood) as the undisputed descendants and heirs of Ghassanid King Chemor Jablah they were already the legitimate heirs of the Ghassanid Imperial and Royal titles. Nevertheless, for local and circumstantial reasons, they’ve ruled two small sheikhdoms or principalities (Akoura and Zgharta-Zawiye) in Mount Lebanon for approximately 500 years (until 1747 CE) using the title of “Sheikh”.
“Sheikh (pronounced /ʃeɪk/ SHAYK or /ʃiːk/ SHEEK; Arabic: شيخ šayḫ [ʃæjx], mostly pronounced [ʃeːx/ʃejx], plural شيوخ šuyūḫ [ʃuju:x])—also transliterated Sheik, Shaik, Shayk, Shaykh, Cheikh, Shekh, and Shaikh—is an honorific title in the Arabic language. It commonly designates the ruler of a tribe, who inherited the title from his father. “Sheikh” is given to a royal male at birth, whereas the related title “Sheikha” is given to a royal female at birth.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheikh
There were several different categories of “Sheikh” in Mount Lebanon through history. To understand the role and importance of the Sheikhs El Chemor in later times one has to comprehend the nobiliary system of Mount Lebanon in the last centuries.
For that understanding, it’s necessary a division:
Mount Lebanon BEFORE the Ottoman rule
Ottoman Sultan Selim I invaded Syria and Mount Lebanon in 1516 CE and allied to the famous Druze Prince Fakhr ad Din I established a semi-autonomous country that only worked in practice for the urbanized areas, since the rural areas, specially in Northern Mount Lebanon, were ruled by the local chiefs. That would take over a century to change. But lets’ return to that later.
Before the Ottoman invasion, the natural local leaders called “Sheikhs” or “Muqqadams”, ruled “sui iuris” sovereign and semi-sovereign “sheikhdoms” or small principalities only paying taxes to neighboring dynasties. And they were left considerable alone to take care of their own affairs. In other words, they were “sovereign” (or “semi-sovereign”) being considerably independent and autonomous. That characteristic makes those ruling families technically “royal” giving the title “Sheikh” the same connotation that it had and still has in the Arabian gulf today. The Sheikhs El Chemor were ruling Akoura since 1211 CE, exact 305 years before the Ottoman invasion. They were known and acclaimed by the people as “sui iuris” “Sheikhs”, they were not formally invested (or elevated) by an Emperor, Sultan or Emir.
“Local leaders in fragmented Lebanon were called Zu’ama, and their followers were described by an English visitor as ‘of an independent turn of mind; all are armed from the age of boys, and are governed by their own Emirs, or Sheikhs, or Princes … They are all warriors, loving athletic exercise.’ They included Christian Maroniteswho dominated the highlands of Mount Lebanon.”
Nicolle ill. McBride 1998 p22
Maybe the most important point to be understood about the honor system in Lebanon is the fact that the Sheikhs that had this title before the Ottoman invasion (1516 CE) were “natural autonomous tribal rulers” like their counterparts in the Arabian Gulf, they had the title “sui iuris” (by their own right), having autonomy and powers similar to the princes and sovereigndukes of the Holy Roman Empire. However, different than in Europe, their Lebanese counterparts had sovereignty locally but no saying in the administration of the Caliphates. (see “A House of many mansions: the history of Lebanon reconsidered”, Berkley, 1988, Kamal Salibi and “Lebanon A History 600-2011, Oxford, 2012, William Harris)
The Sheikhs El Chemor ascended to power due to their genealogical direct descent to the Ghassanid Kings. They were known as “the descendants of Ghassanid King Chemor Jablah”. That’s the origin of the surname “Chemor” (other transliterations: Shamir, Shammar, Chemr, etc. ) It was very common at the time the knowledge of genealogy.
“Druze and Maronite muqataajis (feudal lords) could trace their descent back over many generations to the ancestors of their families…” All Honourable Men: The Social Origins of War in Lebanon, Oxford, 2001, Dr. Michael Johnson pgs. 98-99
The founder of the Ghassanid Dynasty was King Jafna Ibn Amr (ruled 220-265 CE). He was the son of the Azd ruler Amr Ibn Muzaikiya. The other sons of Amr gave origin of other important Arab ruling families like the Al-Said Sultans of Oman, the Al-Nahyam rulers of Abu-Dhabi, the Al-Maktoums rulers of Dubai and the Al-Nasrids rulers of Al-Andaluz (Spain). Originally as part of the Azd tribe, the Sheikhs El Chemor have blood ties with many major Arab ruling houses. The El Chemor Sheikhs were related by marriage to the El Hachem Sheikhs of Akoura in Lebanon (descendants of the Hashemites rulers of Jordan and Iraq) and, more recently, to the Shihab Emirs, the latest rulers of Lebanon before the republic.
Mount Lebanon AFTER the Ottoman rule
Although the “Iltizam” system was effective implemented in Mount Lebanon only in 1667, some “noble” (not “royal”) Sheikhs were created during the previous century by the Ottoman appointed princes. They were not natural “sovereign or semi-sovereign” tribal leaders but wealthy notable commoners elevated to nobility.
“Iltizām, in the Ottoman Empire, taxation system carried out by farming of public revenue. The state auctioned taxation rights to the highest bidder (mültazim, plural mültezim or mültazims), who then collected the state taxes and made payments in fixed installments, keeping a part of the tax revenue for his own use. The iltizām system included the farming of land taxes, the farming of urban taxes, the production of certain goods (such as wine, salt, or senna), and the provision of certain services. It began during the reign of Sultan Mehmed II (1444–46, 1451–81) and was officially abolished in 1856. Various forms of iltizām, however, continued until the end of the empire in the early 20th century, when the system was replaced by methods of taxation that were supervised by public officials.
About the difference between the original tribal Sheikhs and the appointed “multazims” Sheikhs:
“… [the tribal Sheikh] was a hereditary feudal chief whose authority over a particular district was vested within a patrilineal kinship group. He lived in his own village and maintained ties of patronage with his atba’ [following]. In contrast, the multazim [Sheikh] was not indigenous to the tax farm he controlled. He was more akin to a government official than a feudal sheikh.” “Lebanon’s Predicament“, Columbia, 1987, Samir Khalaf
In 1711, the Shihab Princes had codified the honor system which is the one known today. The system was divided as:
Grand Emirs (princes), Emirs, Muqqadams and Great Sheikhs (five Druze and three Maronite families) and Sheikhs.
The systemwas not based on pedigree but in political prestige and economical favors.
Even though the “Great Sheikhs” were maybe more relevant and prestigious in Lebanon’s modern history than the El Chemor Sheikhs, their titles are of “noble” assent, not “royal” since they were given by a higher authority corresponding to the equivalent of the European (non-sovereign) “Duke”.
A similar case happened with the Arslan Emirs (princes). According to several historians, they had less actual power than some Sheikhs but a higher social importance. (see “All Honourable men: the social origins of war in Lebanon“, Oxford 2001, Dr. Michael Johnson, p.99)
If you ask any Lebanese, even historians, who’s “royal” for them, they’ll immediately think of the princely families that ruled the whole Mount Lebanon under the Ottoman empire (i.e. Shuf Emirate, Emirate of Jabal Druze, Emirate of Mount Lebanon, as well as Ma’an Emirate)
However, the Thesaurus’ definition of the word “Royal” is
“of or relating to a king, queen, or other sovereign”
“1. a monarch; a king, queen, or other supreme ruler. 2. a person who has supreme power or authority.”
In the technical sense, the El Chemor family was also sovereign in Mount Lebanon as it was in Ghassansince their power was considerable autonomous and didn’t emanate from a higher authority. The family had to make deals with the Ottomans only in the last years of rule, to join the Iltizam system for some time culminating with the deposition.
According to accepted international law and its principle of “sovereign equality“, the Pope or the prince of Monaco is “as royal” as the Queen of England regardless of the size of their actual territories. That principle is one of the pillars of International Law itself.
By the aforementioned, the “sovereign” or “semi-sovereign” ruling Sheikh is the equivalent of a Prince.
“The original, but now less common use of the word, originated in the application of the Latin word princeps, from late Romanlaw, and the classical system of government that eventually gave way to the European feudal society. In this sense, a prince is a ruler of a territory which is sovereign, or quasi-sovereign, i.e., exercising substantial (though not all) prerogatives associated with monarchs of independent nations, as was common, for instance, within the historical boundaries of the Holy Roman Empire.”
“As a title, by the end of the medieval era, prince was borne by rulers of territories that were either substantially smaller than or exercised fewer of the rights of sovereignty than did emperors and kings [exactly as the Sheikhdoms]. A lord of even a quite small territory might come to be referred to as a prince before the 13th century, either from translations of a native title into the Latin princeps (as for the hereditary ruler of Wales), or when the lord’s territory was allodial.”
“Lords who exercised lawful authority over territories and people within a feudal hierarchy were also sometimes regarded as princes in the general sense, especially if they held the rank of count or higher. This is attested in some surviving styles for e.g., British earls, marquesses, and dukes are still addressed by the Crown on ceremonial occasions as high and noble princes (cf. Royal and noble styles) “
” Generically, prince refers to a member of a family that ruled by hereditary right, the title referring either to sovereigns or to cadets of a sovereign’s family. The term may be broadly used of persons in various cultures, continents or eras. In Europe, it is the title legally borne by dynasticcadets in monarchies, and borne by courtesy by members of formerly reigning dynasties“
There are so many examples in the Arabian peninsula and Gulf like Kuwait, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Qatar, etc
“Besides the sovereigns referred to above, there are several oriental potentates who should be mentioned, the rulers of the Sultanates and Sheikdoms of East Africa and the Persian Gulf (…) The style of these Sheikhs is His Highness.” “Titles: How the king became His Majesty”, L.G. Pine, New York, 1992 (Barnes & Noble) p. 137-138
“In the modern United Arab Emirates, however, none of the rulers of the constituent states are called emirs (princes); all are Sheikhs.”
Another undeniable evidence that proves the ROYAL character of the El Chemor titles is the fact that the origins of the Gulf Royal families and the El Chemor family is the very same, they came from Yemen and settled in different areas, before Islam. It’s more than natural that the pre-Islamic tribal traditions inherent to the titles be the same.
Even though all the Lebanese feudal titles were abolished by the Ottoman empire in 1858 CE, the empire could only do so with the titles bestowed by their own honor system. The El Chemor Family had both the Imperial and Royal Ghassanid titles and the ruling Sheikh titles by the “sui iuris” (by own right) legal principle, therefore, the revocation didn’t legally affect them.
However, both the empire and the subsequent Lebanese regimes have formally recognizedall the feudal titles by printing them in the official documents like birth certificates, driver’s licenses and passports.
Above: recent Lebanese Passport of HRH Sheikh Nassif El Chemor (1945-2017) with the Royal title officially displayed
No birth legal privilege attached to those titles, only the prerogative of using them publicly. Not much, but still a formal recognition.
Photo: The grave of His Highness Sheikh Selim El Chemor (the great grandfather of HRH Prince Sheikh Selim El Chemor, honorary head of the Royal House of Ghassan) passed away in 1909 CE), note that the royal title of Sheikh (in Arabic, upper right side) is on his tombstone, a capital proof that the family has been publicly using the ‘sui iuris’ titles for centuries until the present date. (Grave at the cemetery at the Mar Mama Ancient Church in Kferhata, Lebanon)
As mentioned, the El Chemor family was ruling since 1211 CE, almost 80 years before the Ottoman empire was even founded and over 300 years before the first emirate was created with prince Fakhr al-Din I (1516–1544).
We can conclude that there’s a huge difference between the prestige of titles in Mount Lebanon and their actual legal value. Important to note that we’re not debating neither the prestige nor the historical deeds of a particular family, but the actual title’s legal pedigree. There are many families with a more active and glamorous participation in Lebanon’s history than the Sheikhs El Chemor, however, only the families that actually ruled before the Ottoman invasion can claim sovereign or semi-sovereign status along with the Maanid and the Shihab Emirs.