Eligibility for friendship

As for those entitled to be included in the class of sadaqa, both al-Sijistanl and al-Tawhldl identify two categories: the “possessors of religion and piety”, and the “people of knowledge”.

As for the possessors of religion and piety, despite their rarity, friendship for them may be valid, because they build it on godliness, and founded it on the rulings concerning unlawfulness and on their quest for true salvation. When writers and the people of knowledge have withdrawn themselves from competition, jealousy, hypocrisy, and duplicity, sometimes friendship with them may become sound, and they may show fidelity, though that is scarce, and this scarcity is due to a scarcity in its origins.110

Al-Sijistanl says that the friendship of these two categories can be valid, while their conditional structure indicates the necessity of an alternative social setting. People of knowledge are capable of sadaqa but the way for them to achieve it is through moral refinement to eliminate competition, jealousy, hypocrisy, and duplicity among them. Piety and the rulings concerning unlawfulness the aim of which is to achieve salvation and goodness are the basis for sound friendship among people of religion and piety. Thus, sadaqa is socially patterned by pious religiosity and purified knowledge.

It would appear that there are six types of power in society, but only two, according to al-Sijistanl, are eligible for sadaqa. The exclusions of kings and their entourages, aristocrats and landowners, merchants and finally the ‘amma or, as described by al-Sijistanl, “the rabble”, challenges the credibility of state and society and the common belief that friendship is a form of social interaction to which everyone is entitled. More precisely, this exclusion, especially of kings in the current conception and moral decline, from having friends breaks radically with common pre-existing customs and beliefs in Arabo-Persian Islamic traditions or in ancient Middle Eastern civilizations,111 as expressed in the ‘Mirrors for Princes’ literature. This was a special sub-genre of adab literature that was addressed to Islamic rulers and was intended to provide advice to rulers, including on their entourage or companions.112 For example, in his Risala fl al-Sahaba (Letter on Companionship) Ibn al-Muqaffa‘ (d. 139/ 756)113 deals briefly with the subject of the entourage of the caliph, his advisors, his beneficiaries,114 providing an ideology of the ideas of companionship (suhba) which corresponds to the taste of rulers and asserts the interests and values of the highest authorities.115 It was directed to the caliph and his closest companions, emphasising the ability and necessity of the caliph to have the right companions, and discusses the types of persons who should be his boon companions.116 Ibn al-Muqaffa‘ emphasises the legislative capacity of the ruler and recommends to his company not the aristocrats but the technocrats.117 He bases his analysis not on Arabo-Islamic elements, but rather introduces foreign elements that reflect the changes in Muslim societies of the time.118

Kadi argues that the writing of Ibn al-Muqaffa‘ is no more than a collection of advice to rulers and, moreover, it discusses this advice from the point of view of the rulers, not that of the intellectual, and nor does it necessarily reflect the best interests of society as a whole.119 In this sense, it emphasises the virtue of loyalty to the ruler, and thus differs from al-Tawhldl whose writing takes an independent line of thinking that challenges pre-existing values about the authority of a ruler.

Thus examining sadaqa against the background of varying hierarchical categories of society sets al-Tawhldl’s and al-Sijistanl’s discussions in a new framework that challenges the notion of a common meaning to that term which has been much emphasised by historians. Whereas historians stressed the importance of the value of loyalty and of keeping faith with lords and masters to maintain social differentiations and the moral order,120 al-Tawhldl expresses a general loss of trust in the system that relies on loyalty to kings and the prevailing form of kingship, and its ability to cultivate virtue in society to produce a context in which friendship could exist. He raises his own intellectual concerns for the conditions in society. Al-Tawhldl, in the voice of al-Sijistanl, criticises the existing form of kingship, along with all the administrative practices developed under it in the Buyid period, as a vicious form of governance. His criticism subverts the perceived sanctity of traditional types of loyalties, such as loyalty to kings, which, as Mottahedeh says, formed “the resilient social order of society”,121 attempting to introduce through sadaqa an alternative set of social bonds, proposing rules for new norms of behaviour and governance in society.

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