Iraqi Moral Values:
Iraqis in the Ottoman period were closer to Bedouin values than Islamic values, due to the control of the ‘Bedouin tide’ on them, there is a stark difference between the values of Bedouins and Islam, in a nutshell, Bedouin values glorify racism, vengeance, looting, killing women to wash away shame and so forth, while Islam condemns all that and considers it banned. Nevertheless, those values were common in the Ottoman period as many people glorified the man who shakes the ground when he walks and who robs houses at night out of manhood, describing him as a ‘lion’, ‘nightman’ or ‘tribe’s pride’.
Those Bedouin tides have always encompassed the Iraqi society at one time or another, in a continuous ebb and flow as
- The Ottoman conquest came after a series of Mongul conquests in which no civil government to promote trade and encourage production and irrigation was established, one of the darkest passages of Iraqi history and the lowest of civilization. Post-Abbasid governments were first interested in conquest and taxes instead of reconstruction and order, city dwellers were forced to take shelter in Bedouin and tribal ruggedness as a reaction to save money and soul.
Ottoman Statewas past its prosperity and power and started showing signs of stagnation and decay at the time when it seized in the 16th Century. It was not supposed to stay alive afterwards for a long time but what kept it so was what became known as the ‘Eastern Affair’, as major powers such as Britain and France were interested in keeping the Ottoman State balanced between life and death so it does not die without their having a proper agreement on how to distribute its wealth. As a result, Iraq suffered under a long era of governmental decay and cultural backwardness, which prompted Bedouin tribes to rule supreme. Iraq
- Ottoman state was preoccupied with its continuous war with
Iran, which allowed tribes to do as they please in . The state itself used the tribes sometimes in its war against Iraq Iran, those tribes are known to fight not for any patriotic or religious motive but only for the bounty and to gain rewards that enable dominance on nearby tribes, wide areas of thus is under the control of Tribal sheikhs ruling according to Bedouin custom. Iraq
- Diseases filled
at the Ottoman period once every 10 years, an important factor in crystallizing Bedouin tides and destroying civilizations. Iraq
Cities and Tribes
There are two social patterns that lay evidence to the extremity of the Bedouin tide in the Ottoman era ; the sparse population and the high ratio of tribes per cities. Mid-19th century
On the other hand, city dwellers had three levels of social identification as opposed to the sole tribal one. First of all comes the neighborhood or district against all other neighborhoods in his city, as it comes to be a synonym for the tribe for Bedouins, this local identification would expand to what we could the ‘city’ identification, when the city is threatened under a common ailment. The third level is sectarian, such as when a sectarian case is raised or a state of one of the two sects comes to invade, the citizens then forget all their district and city identifications and pour their attention on that, to quote the Bedouin saying: “Me and my brother on our cousin, and me and our cousin on the stranger.” Hereby, it is clear that sectarianism is another level of social awareness, and is not based on religion or care for it.
The Phenomenon of ‘Shaqawa’
One of the most important social aspects that hint at the Bedouin tide is the ‘shaqawa’, which gives us a clear insight on the values and composition of the Iraqi society.
A “shaqi”, legally speaking, is a criminal who loots houses and imposes ‘taxes’ on the rich. Socially however, he is a hero by which the neighborhood takes pride, he does not disobey the dominant local customs – often a rich, noble guardian of his neighbors, and is keen to observe the rights of ‘the common bread and salt’, his criminal behavior is directed both at the government and at those who do not encompass his identification. Many a bloody battle has been fought at night between the Shaqi and the governmental soldiers, as his status in the eyes of the people increases with the increasing number of victims and battles, if he enters prison, it is a medal on his chest, if he is killed ; a funeral comes out to mourn the ‘great’ man. (Konfused Kid – I have often wondered how come the criminals are always loved, this seems to be universal somewhat in humans, Natural Born Killers, anyone?)
The ratio of shaqis to normal population was very few per district, in spite of their small numbers, they exemplified the social standards with clarity. Their small numbers is a result of the rare qualities one must have to be the shaqi : Courage, physical prowess, weapon efficiency, a stout heart and a dashing spirit. If one person gets lucky and have all this, and then gets to be luckier by surviving a few bloody battles, then his reputation will soar in his neighborhood, eventually adopting all the manners of the confident protector and champion, with a certain ‘walk’ and ‘talk’. Most boys in the neighborhood look up to him as a role model, wishing to be like him when they listen to their fathers and relatives speak copiously, most of those boys will never be like him as explained earlier, which could lead them to suffer immense psychological complexes like the ones which troubled Khalaf bin Ameen.
Khalaf bin Ameen:
Khalaf bin Ameen lived at late-Ottoman period, Baghdadis still chuckle at his anecdotes, all revolving about him being an ugly, cowardly person wishing all the time to be a shaqi to be looked at, he had holstered two big guns which he never uses unless he is absolutely certain that the danger has passed completely. He would spin tales of the most intricate detail about his adventures of looting, mudering and robbing, most of which attributed to himself naturally, if a big heist is attempted, Khalaf would go to people asking whether his name was included in the list of the accused, laying birth to the famous saying: “Didn’t they mention the name of your uncle?”, he would try to confess for crimes he did not commit to attempt and enter jail, but the governor would obstinately release him every time, leading him to come about complaining about the unjust governor who releases the criminals and imprisons the ‘innocents’. Most people, like Khalaf, loved to pompously pose as shaqis, bin Ameen was alone in the spotlight because he exaggerated himself to the point of mockery. A lot of people still carry that trait, and if their hearts are exposed to the masses then we would see many Khalaf bin Ameens. Dr. Mustafa Juwad traces the traditions of Shaqawa to those of the ‘Ayareen’ and ‘Shuttar’ who dominated Baghdad at the Abassid, while the comparison is valid, there is a huge difference; a Shaqi works alone while Ayareen and Shuttar were groups that resembled military soldiers at times and unions at others, and my personal judgement is that the ‘Ayareen’ represented the revolution of the poor over the rich as a result of the aristocracy that grew in the civilized Baghdad at the time, the rich capital of a far-reaching empire. Historians say that when ayareens and bandits would intercept tribes they would justify this by taking their right of ‘zakat’, of which merchants deprived them. This social condition is undoubtedly different from the Ottoman-era
The Principle of Intercession will be the focus of the next post.