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Volume 3 / 2018 / Issue 1

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    About Global Late Antiquity

    Al-Ḥīrah, the Naṣrids, and Their Legacy

    New Perspectives on Late Antique Iranian History

    About Global Late Antiquity

    Al-Ḥīrah, the Naṣrids, and Their Legacy

    New Perspectives on Late Antique Iranian History

    Introduction

    Over the last decades, Late Antiquity has been increasingly apprehended as a temporal category having its own significance, defined by the binding elements of empire and monotheism, and less as a period interpreted under the sign of antique decadence, as it was before.1 This reconceptualization has caused its timeline to be gradually extended right into the third/ninth and even the fourth/tenth century, leading to the inclusion of the Umayyad and (partially) the Abbasid Caliphate, to now be interpreted as forms of late antique monotheistic empire.2 Furthermore, the geographical focus has shifted towards including the areas located at the eastern and southern peripheries of the Roman Empire, whose peoples regularly interacted with Greco-Roman culture and participated in the gradual conversion to monotheistic religions. Against this background—especially given that the Sasanian Empire was not only the main rival and competitor of Rome, but also in continuous contact with it as its most powerful neighbor—it does not come as a surprise that the late antique period in Iran is receiving increasing scholarly attention.3

    In this context, it is crucial to investigate liminal contact zones between both empires that acted as spaces of cultural contact, exchange, and cross-pollination, thus spreading late antique models beyond the Roman frontiers and simultaneously functioning as focal points of “Iranization.” The following study concentrates on one of these hotspots, namely the Naṣrid principality in Iraq, an Arab petty state around the city of al-Ḥīrah in southern Iraq, whose dominion reached as far as al-Anbār, Dūmat al-Jandal and ʿAyn al-Tamr, and which played a crucial role in functioning as a transitional and translational zone between Iran, Arabia, and Rome.4 The purpose of this article is to provide a survey on the current state of research about al-Ḥīrah, as well as to sketch recent discoveries and innovative approaches in this critical subfield of late antique Iranian history.

    Al-Ḥīrah and the Naṣrids in the east: new discoveries and innovative approaches

    Considering the above-mentioned shifts in the study of Late Antiquity, as well as the relevance of al-Ḥīrah for the investigation of late antique Iran, it might come as a surprise that its investigation has only gained momentum in the last few years.5 Here we may rely on a monograph by one of the authors of this article published in 2014,6 as well as on several recent articles,7 in addition to diverse novel studies that discuss topics relevant to the broader historical context.8 This state of affairs is in contrast to the many studies published over previous decades on the Jafnid petty kingdom, the most obvious parallel of the Naṣrids, a tribal state that played a very similar role at the fringes of the Roman Empire in Greater Syria in the same period.9 The imbalance is partly due to the difficulties in the source material. In the case of the Jafnids, archaeological, numismatic, and epigraphic evidence abounds and has been investigated broadly by Roman archaeologists and ancient historians.10 Furthermore, as allies of the Romans, the Jafnids have a significant presence in contemporaneous Greek and Roman historiography. The material remains of the Naṣrids of al-Ḥīrah, in contrast, have much less frequently been investigated, and have suffered from the general shortcomings of late antique archaeology in Mesopotamia.11 In addition, as Persian allies, the Naṣrids rarely appear in Greek, Roman, and Syriac sources, and since Sasanian historiography is mostly lost, we must rely on later Arabic reports from Islamic times.

    Concerning the archaeology of al-Ḥīrah, the situation has indeed been complicated for a long time, but will hopefully improve soon. Until recently, we have had to rely on the sketchy results from a preliminary excavation undertaken in the 1930s12 and a brief campaign in 1946,13 complemented by those of a German survey of the area in the 1970s14 and that of a Japanese excavation in the 1980s in the nearby site of Ain Shai’a.15 The ruins of al-Ḥīrah, located in the outskirts of modern, rapidly growing Kufa and Najaf, have almost disappeared and partly been overbuilt, and the long-lasting military conflicts in the zone have impeded any continuous archaeological research for a long time. However, the current calming of the situation in southern Iraq may provide opportunity to investigate the zone anew: there is an ongoing German-Iraqi archaeological survey that has been taking place since 2015 that pursues an integrated approach, focusing on questions of settlement and urban development, and which promises to yield very significant new insights soon. It has already brought to light interesting minor findings such as pottery, fragments of glass vessels, stucco plaques with incised and colored crosses, and copper coins.16 It is to be said that al-Ḥīrah has an advantage in that the site has not been disturbed by building activities until recently, so that, despite the difficulties already mentioned, we may expect exciting new insights.

    In terms of the written record, the study of al-Ḥīrah must draw mainly on the rich Arabic tradition of historiography, which has the disadvantage of having been composed centuries later during Islamic times, and so requires critical assessment based on a good knowledge of the peculiarities of the Arabic textual tradition.17 However, the strand in this tradition relevant to al-Ḥīrah is most probably based on local Ḥīran traditions collected in nearby Kufa such as local chronicles, informants, and dynastic lists,18 which permits one to grasp the insider’s perspective, in contrast to the case of the Jafnids, whose traditions are much less attested in Arabic sources.19 In this regard we may also expect new insights, as is shown by recent discoveries. From the 1980s, we have the publication of the Manāqib al-mazyadiyyah of Abū’l-Baqāʾ,20 a very valuable source of the fifth/eleventh century, that was already used in manuscript by M. J. Kister in the 1960s,21 and contains numerous passages not preserved in the usual well-known sources used by Rothstein.22 Furthermore, the recent discovery of the so-called “Haddad Chronicle,”23 which has been identified as a missing portion of the Chronicle of Seert, permits us to increase our knowledge of the early history of al-Ḥīrah, for example, by shedding light on its early tribal composition.24

    Beyond the discovery of new evidence, the application of new interpretative frameworks on the already known material is opening fresh perspectives on al-Ḥīrah and its legacies. For example, Greg Fisher has taken concepts from anthropology and analyzed the Arabs in the limes or boundary zone from the point of view of state-tribe interaction, highlighting aspects of tribal leadership in peripheral polities at the Roman frontier.25

    Another approach that promises to be fruitful is to look at al-Ḥīrah as an example of a borderland area and as a cultural translation zone, both in the pre-Islamic and in the Islamic period, as is illustrated by the following.

    The petty state of al-Ḥīrah can be interpreted as an Iranian frontier state that parallels the multifaceted nature of Roman frontier states like the foederati in North Africa and Germania. This is, first of all, the consequence of its geographic location at the banks of the Middle Euphrates. On the one hand, its proximity to Ctesiphon, the Sasanian capital—located 100 kilometers to the northeast—inserted al-Ḥīrah into the Persian sphere of influence and ended up transforming the petty-kings of al-Ḥīrah from allies into dependent “vassals” of the Sasanian King of Kings; on the other hand, its location at the western frontier of the Sasanian Empire, looking westwards to the Syrian desert and ultimately to the Roman Empire, as well as southwards to the Arabian Peninsula, determined its key strategic function for the Sasanians as buffer state.

    As a consequence, the Naṣrids were commissioned by the Persians first to wage proxy wars against the allies of the Romans, the Jafnids, with the aim to keep the conflict between both empires on a manageable level, and second, to serve the Persians as both a protective shield against the Arab tribes from the peninsula and also as useful mediators with aggressive Bedouin.26 In addition, al-Ḥīrah became a neutral zone populated by very diverse religious communities that suffered persecution elsewhere, like Monophysite monks and Manichaeans, tolerated by the pagan dynasty of the city that sought to maintain room to maneuver in a period when political considerations, especially negotiating alliances, had come to be inflected by questions of religious identity.

    In cultural terms, this condition as frontier state meant that al-Ḥīrah occupied an in-between space, typical for borderland areas, characterized by a high degree of diverse cultural, linguistic, and societal hybridity. The population was composed of various communities bearing a broad and often overlapping spectrum of ethnic, linguistic, cultural, and religious features: tribal and urban Arabs, Persian noblemen and soldiers, Syriac Christians, pagan Aramaeans, Manichaean, and Jewish communities. A telling example is the polyglot ʿibād, the local Christian Arab community, whose members can be characterized as multilingual transcultural agents and brokers.27 Cultural innovations associated with Late Antiquity such as literacy, monotheistic notions of spiritual salvation and political power, and biblical narratives and religious organization all reached the Arabian Peninsula principally via transmitters like these ʿibād. The cultural hybridity in al-Ḥīrah further parallels its structural diversity: the simultaneous coexistence of tribalism and semi-nomadism with peculiar forms of Arab urbanism and semi-state monarchic structures is attested in this period; we also find highly developed ecclesiastical and monastic structures and building activities.28 As a hybrid frontier zone, al-Ḥīrah thus became a crucial bridge between the Romans, the Sasanians, and the Arabs—in other words, a space of cultural translation.29

    The historical importance of the Arab-Iranian matrix of al-Ḥīrah is further to be seen in its role as long-term mediator and translation zone of late antique models to what became classical Islam. Classical Islam—here understood as the canonized cultural and religious model of the “Golden Age” in Baghdad—was the product of the society of the early Abbasid period, and was shaped in Iraq, namely in Kufa, Basra, and Baghdad. As a consequence of this, we must assume that the Naṣrid legacy in Iraqi al-Ḥīrah was much more important as a late antique substratum for Islam than the Jafnid legacy, simply because of its proximity to the cultural centers of the Abbasid period.

    Indeed, the Arabic textual tradition tells us that al-Ḥīrah served as an important historical reference and model, and that it functioned as a site of memory and remembrance, a symbol of the theme of sic transit Gloria mundi, and as a frequent topos in literature, in which al-Ḥīrah became the main site associated with pre-Islamic kings, poets, vineyards, monasteries, and luxury, but also with the abhorrent jāhiliyyah of pagan kings.30 The vicinity of al-Ḥīrah with its Islamic successor-heir city Kufa, one of the birthplaces of the study of Arabic history and antiquities as well as grammar and philology, further explains the prominence of al-Ḥīrah in Arabic historiographical and adab narratives, since Ḥīran and Kufan informants were thus able to inscribe and glorify their history as an essential part of the (re)constructed pre-Islamic Arab past.31

    These early Arabic scholars and philologists, men like the philologist Ibn al-Mufaḍḍal, the antiquarian Muḥammad Ibn Ḥabīb, and the family of al-Kalbī, would establish the canon of classical Arabic culture and memory.32 They managed to establish therein the Ḥīran court of the Naṣrids, of al-Mundhir and al-Nuʿmān, and canonized al-Ḥīrah as the splendorous center of early pre-Islamic poetry, especially of wine-poetry and early panegyrics.33 Al-Ḥīrah also became the emblematic site where Arab-Iranian cultural contacts had taken place, as reflected in the legends surrounding Bahram Gūr, the Sasanian prince of the fifth century CE who lived as young man among the Arabs of al-Ḥīrah, where he learned Arab ways of hunting, but also introduced such Iranian customs as polo—a veritable cultural hero who embodies the long-lasting history of endemic cultural contact between Arabs and Iranians.34

    The late antique legacy as mediated through al-Ḥīrah would also affect Islamic history in an indirect way, since the early decades of Islamic history would take place in another geographical setting, namely in the northwestern Arabian Peninsula, in the Ḥijāz. The Arabs dwelling there had never been direct allies of the great powers of the day, but nevertheless they did not fall outside of the late antique world thanks to their contacts with the Naṣrids and the Jafnids.35 In the sixth century, Yathrib (later Medina) had fallen under the suzerainty of the Naṣrids and thus into the sphere of Sasanian influence.36 The well-known local hegemony of the Jewish tribes in Medina is probably to be seen in this context, since the Sasanians tended to foster the Jews as a counterbalance to the Christian Arabs allied with Rome.37 Merchants, probably from al-Ḥīrah, seem to have introduced Manichaeism, probably Christianity, and even the knowledge of Iranian epics into Yathrib/Medina.38 Poets who frequented the court in al-Ḥīrah spread the news about Arab Christianity and the community of ʿibād all over the peninsula, as well as the knowledge that there were literate, Iranized, and urban Arabs.39 The Naṣrids also controlled the caravan routes in central Arabia on behalf of the Sasanians. Mecca and the Quraysh, in contrast, remained independent, but had close commercial connections to Syria and to the tribes dwelling there.

    The results of this late antique imprint are to be felt in our main source for the origins of Islam, i.e., in the Qurʾān itself. The qurʾānic kerygma not only claims to constitute a continuation of the earlier revealed religions of Late Antiquity, i.e., of Christianity and Judaism. It also reflects the religious language of the contemporary universal religions by combining late antique notions of universal leadership and monotheism with the birth of a new community that surpasses tribal and ethnic boundaries.40 Furthermore, Muḥammad’s idea of prophethood incarnates values associated with the holy man of Late Antiquity (e.g., individual morality, asceticism) that were further amalgamated with ideas of charismatic political authority modeled according to the concept of imperial rule.41 In addition, the Qurʾān addresses an Arabic-speaking audience that was not only imbued with a mixture of polytheistic creeds and tribal values, but that was also familiar with biblical legends, monotheism, and ideas about scripture.42 Thus, we can state that the Naṣrids and the Jafnids contributed first to familiarizing the Arabs with late antique cultural and political models and second to shaping the Meccan milieu where the Prophet Muḥammad proclaimed the qurʾānic message.

    Al-Ḥīrah in the west: new perspectives on al-Andalus

    The importance of al-Ḥīrah and its people as mediators and cultural translators of Late Antique Iran can be seen in unexpected and very distant regions, as will be shown in the following example that further exemplifies the fruitfulness of considering unusual source material such as—in this case—Latin and Romance sources.

    The Iranian influence in the Islamic West has often been minimized or reduced to cultural elements, mediated by personalities of Abbasid background like the famous musician Ziryāb or the historians of the al-Rāzī family, who originally hailed from Baghdad and came to al-Andalus in the third/ninth century introducing the Iranian/Abbasid model of courtly culture into the then-provincial Umayyad court of al-Andalus.43

    However, as will be shown in the following, the Iranian presence in al-Andalus may be dated already to the arrival of the first Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula, and continued for several centuries in spheres linked to political and economic power such as taxation and systems of weights and measures. The bearer of this Iranian influence was none other than Mūsā b. Nuṣayr (d. 97–98/716), the famed conqueror of al-Andalus, who originally came from ʿAyn al-Tamr, a town already mentioned as within the dominion of the Naṣrid king of al-Ḥīrah, and, as we will see, similarly populated by Arab Christians.44

    Mūsā b. Nuṣayr

    In 11/633, the caliph Abū Bakr sent his commander, Khālid b. al-Walīd, to Iraq at the head of an army of Muslims, thus initiating the swift conquest of Mesopotamia. The first city to fall was al-Ḥīrah, which would negotiate its surrender. From there, Khālid moved toward al-Anbār, whose inhabitants also came to terms with the conquerors and capitulated, and then marched with his soldiers in the direction of the nearby ʿAyn al-Tamr. Unlike in previous cities, they confronted there a mixed army of Persians and Arabs loyal to the Sasanians.45 The Muslims arrived at the gates of the city and, after the resistance of the garrison had vanished, plundered it.

    The event was memorialized by numerous informants, whose accounts, all very similar, became part of several compilations.46 According to the version of events in Ṭabarī, it was Khālid himself who entered the city, where he found forty young men (ghilmān), who would be held as hostages, at the moment when they were studying the scriptures inside a church (kanīsah). Among them was Nuṣayr, the father of Mūsā. This account raises several questions of interest connected to the origins of Mūsā b. Nuṣayr.

    The first question concerns the important presence in ʿAyn al-Tamr in 12/633–4 of Arabs who collaborated with the Persians. As has been mentioned above, the Arab kingdom of al-Ḥīrah based its existence as a buffer and frontier state on successful collaboration between the Naṣrid monarchs and the Sasanian emperors, but while al-Ḥīrah and al-Anbār had refused to resist the Muslim conquerors and negotiated a peaceful surrender, ʿAyn al-Tamr offered resistance. This indicates either that the Persian presence was particularly strong there, or that the local Arabs felt a special loyalty towards the Sasanian sovereign.

    The second issue is the great weight that Christianity seems to have had in the city. From the point of view of church history, the existence of Christians in ʿAyn al-Tamr is not surprising at all, since Christianity had had a significant presence on Persian soil for centuries before the arrival of Islam in the region.47 From 410 CE onwards, the Persian church even counted on an independent ecclesiastical organization that would pursue the “Nestorian” doctrine, a development that was tolerated and even supported by the Sasanian dynasty, eager to counterbalance the aggressive religious policy of the Roman Empire since Constantine.48

    The third concerns the fact that the ghilmān were captured while learning the scriptures, that is, receiving ecclesiastical education and formation (probably in Syriac), which suggests that their families enjoyed a high status among the Arab tribes. Apparently the Christians in ʿAyn al-Tamr played a similar role as the famous ʿibād from al-Ḥīrah, forming a local, urbanized, and literate Arab elite. In any case, given their status as Arabs, their social rank would always be lower than that of the Persian aristocracy, which, after the suppression of al-Ḥīrah’s kingdom in 602 CE, occupied the highest positions in the local administration. Their hostage status supports this hypothesis: the practice of taking hostages among the children of prominent families functioned as warrant of their loyalty or of non-aggression; it is understandable in the period preceding the Islamic conquest, when relations between the Sasanian authorities and the Arab tribes were going through very tense moments.49

    The chroniclers have not preserved much evidence about Nuṣayr, the father of Mūsā. The texts repeat again and again that his son Mūsā was a mawlā of the Marwānid Umayyads, a condition that he presumably inherited from his father. However, despite the prominence of the Umayyads in the conquest of Syria, there is no testimony that allows us to locate specific members of the Umayyad lineage taking part in the conquest of Iraq. When and how did the encounter between the captive Nuṣayr and the Umayyad Marwānids take place? In the absence of information, we can only speculate. Thus, several compilers transmit the notice that the captives of ʿAyn al-Tamr were dispatched to Medina and delivered to the caliph ʿUthmān.50 The only report we have about Nuṣayr after his captivity places him, like his fellow captives, in conditions very far from what could be expected of a servant or manumitted slave. The unique notice, which must date to sometime after 41/661, places Nuṣayr in the closest circle of the caliph Muʿāwiyah b. Abī Sufyān (r. 41/661-60/680), as a member of his bodyguard no less.51

    Mūsā was born in Syria, in the village (qaryah) of Kafr Mary, in the year 19/640.52 The first decades of his life remain totally obscure and we will have to wait until the 60s/680s to find an isolated but very revealing indication that allows us to state that, as with so many other mawālī, Mūsā continued to prosper under the Umayyads. It is a report mentioning his participation in the civil war between the supporters of the Marwānid Umayyads and those of the anti-caliph ʿAbd Allāh b. al-Zubayr. In this conflict, Egypt favored the latter, so that the Marwānids sent an army there under the command of ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. Marwān (d. 85–86/705), future governor of the region. In that army also came Bishr ibn Marwān, son and brother of caliphs, and next to him appears Mūsā b. Nuṣayr.53 There is no further mention of Mūsā’s participation in this war, although Ṭabarī notes the strong involvement of Bishr in favor of his brothers in Mesopotamia.54

    At an indeterminate date between 73/692 and 76/695, Mūsā appeared alongside Bishr b. Marwān in the government of Iraq, his country of origin.55 The text of the chronicler Ibn ʿAbd al-Ḥakam (d. 257/871) does not indicate his position, but one source points out that he held the office of vizier and counsellor (wazīr wa-mushīr); another, that he was appointed by the caliph himself as the collector of the kharāj or land tax in Basra.56 We might note first his proximity to his family’s place of origin, ʿAyn al-Tamr, and second, as Morony has pointed out, that this was a region where the taxation system of the Sasanian era still had very considerable weight.57

    The death of Bishr in 75/694–5 seemed first to be a setback for Mūsā, since it revealed that there were problems in the economic management, which brought him the enmity of the Caliph ʿAbd al-Malik. According to a testimony collected by Ibn ʿIdhārī, Mūsā was accused of appropriating money from the public treasury (al-amwāl), wherefore the caliph ordered him to be apprehended and condemned him to death.58 Mūsā then asked for the protection of ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz , who was already governor of Egypt, and it was agreed that the sentence should be commuted to the payment of a considerable sum valued at 100,000 dinars, half of which came from the account of ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz himself. Having thus resolved the conflict, ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz brought him to Egypt, and a few years later, on a date between 78–79/698 and 89–90/708, appointed him governor of Ifrīqiyyah, a position subordinate to the governor of Egypt.59 From Ifrīqiyyah, Mūsā would make the leap to al-Andalus in the year 92–93/711. He would never return to Iraq; other campaigns awaited him in the western Mediterranean, which would transform him into a semi-legendary character and the hero of the conquest of al-Andalus, at the side of Tāriq b. Ziyād.

    Having established that Mūsā’s origin in ʿAyn al-Tamr points to a good knowledge of administrative and political practices ultimately rooted in late antique Iranian traditions, and given his eminent role in the first years of al-Andalus, it is unsurprising to detect traces of Iranian taxation and measure systems in the Islamic West, as will be shown in the following.

    The fossilization of Persian elements in Romance language: taxes and measures

    The year 92–93/711 marked the beginning of the Islamic conquest of the Visigothic kingdom of Toledo and the establishment of al-Andalus under Islamic government, first under the suzerainty of the wilāyah (rule) of Ifrīqiyyah, then under the Umayyad Emirate. In the following years, Islamic expansion there would continue, coming to embrace almost the whole Iberian Peninsula as well as dominating the province of Septimania, to the north of the Pyrenees.

    However, halfway through the second/eighth century, the conquests halted, and now began the process of expansion of the Latin kingdoms at the expense of the Andalusian territory. First came the Carolingians, to the north of the Pyrenees, advancing into the northeast of the peninsula, conquering Narbonne in the year 141–142/759, Girona in 168–169/785, and Barcelona in 184–185/801. At the same time, new political entities started to emerge in the Cantabrian area, gradually evolving into the Latin kingdoms of the north of the peninsula. In their advance towards the south, these political entities would take on many of the Islamic institutions of the conquered territory, which becomes visible in the surviving documentation of these states, written in Latin and Romance. In particular, the Latin kingdoms would adopt Islamic taxation and measures systems; thus, the Arab origin of Romance forms like the tax of the alcabala, or measures like the almud, the arroba, and the arrobada is well known.60

    This peculiarity of the Iberian Peninsula allows us to reconstruct the first layer of these institutions as they existed at the time of the Islamic conquest through—paradoxically—the Latin documentation, which provides data that otherwise would have been lost. As in other territories of the Dār al-Islām, the early institutions of the conquest period in al-Andalus evolved and disappeared, supplanted and superseded by the canonical Islamic system that was developed later. However, in the territories conquered by the Latin kingdoms, fossilized names reveal a reality that the later Arabic texts seem to ignore. Among these institutions, we can recognize several of Iranian origin, and that can be attributed to the time of the conquest carried out by Mūsā b. Nuṣayr.

    The accounts of the conquest of Mesopotamia repeatedly mention the imposition of a certain tribute, the ṭasqā, and the obligation to pay taxes in various measures, including the qafīz. Both terms, ṭasqā and qafīz, appear centuries later in Romanized versions in a place as remote as the western end of the Mediterranean, in al-Andalus, and do so in a context that stopped being Islamic after its conquest by the Latin kingdoms. These references demonstrate the great weight of the Persian element in the conquest of al-Andalus.

    The earliest mention of ṭasqā is found in the Babylonian Talmud, a text that contains a broad set of rules governing the lives of Jews living on Sasanian soil. Among these rules is the obligation to pay the ṭasqā tax, a tax that was justified by the fact that the state was the sole owner of arable land. Those who exploited it, with the right of usufruct, had to satisfy the payment of a fee to the state—of proportional character—that authorized them to exploit these lands.61 With the Islamic conquest, the ṭasqā was levied on the crops of state lands conquered by force (arḍ ʿanwah)62 and was still proportional: in the fourth/tenth century, Qudāmah b. Jaʿfar (d. ca. 75/948) still defined the ṭasqā as “taxes (that) are levied on state lands in accordance with the terms of the leases and the quality of the land, and half of the share in crops was levied on the lands.”63 Despite these late references, we can perceive a gradual displacement of the term in favor of kharāj, which ultimately replaces it completely. Unlike the term ṭasqā, probably Iranian Persian, the term kharāj has qur’anic resonances.64 However, on the other side of the Mediterranean, and in a Latin context, this tax did not disappear, but rather survived until the late Middle Ages.

    The earliest mention of this tax in the Latin sources appears in a document dated 802 CE, which includes the obligation to satisfy the abbey of Caunes (Minervois) with the payment of tascaset decima.65 This first mention of the tax of the tasca appears in an area that had been part of al-Andalus in the Septimania, where the presence of Islam was brief, between 719 and 759 CE, but, according to this document, intense. The references to this tax, the tasca or tascha, are repeated in the Latin documentation on both sides of the eastern end of the Pyrenees, in Septimania and Catalonia, until the later medieval centuries.66 This is not just a question of nomenclature; as Viladrich has shown, as its Eastern equivalent, the tasca/tascha is a tax that is applied for the usufruct of land for life and has a hereditary character.67

    Like ṭasqā, the term qafīz has a Persian origin as a measure for aggregates and liquids; it dates at least as far back as the fourth century BCE, when it first was mentioned by Xenophon in the Anabasis in an Iranian context.68 The Muslims adopted this measure and the Islamic jurists consecrated it as a canonical measure by associating it with the first caliphs. Thus, Abū Yūsuf pointed out in his Kitāb al-Kharāj that “when ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb surveyed the lands of al-Sawād, he found them to measure 36,000,000 jarībs, and levied on each jarīb of cereal-growing land taxes per dirham or per qafīz of yield.”69 Note, first, that the appraisal is carried out in an area where the Persians had ruled for centuries, and second, that the surface measure used, the jarīb, is also of Persian origin.70

    The same term appears in the Latin and Romance documentation of the Iberian Peninsula from the late third/ninth century in the form kafiz, cafiz, or cahiz, as well as its derivative, kafizada. The earliest mention in Latin is in a document dating back to 894 CE, which includes the sale of a vineyard in the Maresme, that is, in the eastern end of the Pyrenees, and where the term kaficada is used as a unit of area.71 Another mention of the kafiz, now as a measure of capacity, is documented in the Ribagorza, in the central Pyrenees region, dated in the year 925 CE.72 In the year 931 CE we can document another similar mention in Viguera, in the Ebro valley.73 It is evident that by the end of the fourth/tenth century, kafiz, as a reference to area or a measure of capacity, was well known throughout the Pyrenean region.74

    In both cases, the use of tasca and kafiz in Latin and Romance indicates an Iranian influence that can only be explained as going back to the oldest layer of Islamic administrative practice in the Iberian Peninsula, which in its turn has roots in a Mesopotamian and Iranian substratum. Having stated this, we must suppose that the governor Mūsā b. Nuṣayr, and maybe other Iranized Arabs from around al-Ḥīrah who had come to form part of the leading elite in the early Umayyad Caliphate, applied their expertise in administrative and taxation matters and thus left an Iranian imprint in a region as far away as al-Andalus.

    Conclusion

    This survey has shown that the discovery of new evidence in terms of written and archaeological material on the one hand, and the reassessment of already known material inspired by innovative approaches in cultural studies on the other, may yield new insights in the study of al-Ḥīrah and the Naṣrids, and contributes to a better understanding of their role in the context of late antique Iran. It further highlights the key role played by the Christianized and Iranized Arabs of Iraq, soon to become members of the leading elite in the caliphate, as catalysts of cultural contact and Iranization not only in pre-Islamic, but also in Islamic times, when the conquests widened their radius of movement enormously. This process is exemplified by the case of Mūsā b. Nuṣayr, the conqueror of al-Andalus. Finally, it has demonstrated that, by analyzing material that normally falls outside of the scope of a Middle Eastern historian such as Latin documentation, one might detect Iranian influence in unexpected corners of the Mediterranean.

    About the authors

    Isabel Toral-Niehoff, Ph.D. Tübingen 1997, is scientific coordinator at the University of Mainz and has taught at the Freie Universität Berlin in the Department of Arabic Studies since 2008. She has also held various research positions and fellowships in Freiburg, Berlin, London (Marie Curie Fellowship), and Göttingen. Her main publishing and research fields are Arabia and the Near East in Late Antiquity; cultural identity and cultural contact/translation; the Arabic occult sciences; adab, fiction, and encyclopaedias; and al-Andalus.

    Jesús Lorenzo Jiménez holds a Ph.D. in History from the University of the Basque Country (2008). His main research field is the study of the first centuries of al-Andalus in close connection with the rest of the Islamic world. He is the author of a monograph entitled La Dawla de los Banû Qasî. Origen, auge y caída de una dinastía muladí en la Frontera Superior de al-Andalus (Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones científicas, 2010), as well as several articles published in international journals.

    Notes

    1. See the recent surveys of the history of Late Antique Studies: Garth Fowden, Before and After Muhammad: The First Millennium Refocused (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016), 18–48 and Aziz Al-Azmeh, The Emergence of Islam in Late Antiquity: Allah and His People (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 1–47.
    2. Al-Azmeh has argued extensively in favor of seeing Islamic civilization as the “most successful crystallization” of Late Antiquity, ibid., 2, et passim.
    3. Beate Dignas and Engelbert Winter, Rome and Persia in Late Antiquity: Neighbors and Rivals (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).
    4. Cf. maps 1, 2, and index in Isabel Toral-Niehoff, Al-Ḥ̣īra: Eine arabische Kulturmetropole im spätantiken Kontext (Islamic History and Civilization 104; Leiden: Brill, 2014).
    5. For a long time, the only monograph available was Gustav Rothstein, Die Dynastie der Laḫmiden in al-Ḥîra: Ein Versuch zur arabisch-persischen Geschichte zur Zeit der Sasaniden (Göttingen: Dieterich, 1898; repr. Hildesheim: Olms, 1968), complemented only in the 1960s by the important article of Meir J. Kister, “Al-Ḥīra: Some Notes on its Relations with Arabia,” Arabica 15 (1968): 143–169.
    6. Toral-Niehoff, Al-Ḥīra, passim.
    7. Eadem, “The ʿIbād of al-Ḥīra: An Arab Christian Community in Late Antique Iraq,” in Angelika Neuwirth, Michael Marx and Nicolai Sinai (eds.), The Qurʾān in Context: Historical and Literary Investigations into the Qurʾānic Milieu (Leiden: Brill, 2010), 323–347; eadem, “Late Antique Iran and the Arabs: The Case of al-Hira,” Journal of Persianate Studies 6 (2013): 115–126; Greg Fisher and Philip Wood, “Writing the History of the ‘Persian Arabs’: The Pre-Islamic Perspective on the ‘Naṣrids’ of al-Ḥīrah,” Iranian Studies 49 (2016): 247–290; Adam Talib, “Topoi and Topography in the Histories of al-Hira,” in Philip Wood (ed.), History and Identity in the Late Antique Near East (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 123–147; Philip Wood, “Al-Ḥīra and Its Histories,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 136 (2016): 785–799.
    8. For instance, cf. Richard E. Payne, A State of Mixture: Christians, Zoroastrians, and Iranian Political Culture in Late Antiquity (Transformation of the Classical Heritage 56; Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2015); Parvaneh Pourshariati, Decline and Fall of the Sasanian Empire: The Sasanian-Parthian Confederacy and the Arab Conquest of Iran (London: I.B. Tauris, 2008); and Joel Thomas Walker, The Legend of Mar Qardagh: Narrative and Christian Heroism in Late Antique Iraq (Transformation of the Classical Heritage 40; Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2006).
    9. Cf. Greg Fisher (ed.), Arabs and Empires before Islam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015) with further references, and the numerous works by Irfan Shahîd.
    10. Cf. the state of research sketched by Denis Genequand, “The Archaeological Evidence for the Jafnids and the Naṣrids,” in Fisher, Arabs and Empires, 172–213, and Peter Edwell et al., “Arabs in the Conflict between Rome and Persia,” in Fisher, Arabs and Empires, 214–275.
    11. Cf. the survey of Stefan Hauser, “Christliche Archäologie im Sassanidenreich: Grundanlagen der Interpretation und Bestandaufnahme der Evidenz,” in Arafa Mustafa (ed.), Inkulturation des Christentums im Sasanidenreich (Wiesbaden: Reichert, 2007), 93–136.
    12. David Talbot Rice, “The Oxford Excavations at Hira,” Ars Islamica 1 (1934): 51–73; idem, “The Oxford Excavations at Hira, 1931,” Antiquity 6 (1932): 276–291, idem, “The Oxford Excavations at Hira,” Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society (1932): 254–268. The results are partly kept in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
    13. Mahmud Ali, “Tanqībat fī al-Ḥīra,” Sumer 2 (1946): 29–32.
    14. Barbara Finster and Jürgen Schmidt, Sasanidische und frühislamische Ruinen im Iraq (Baghdader Mitteilungen 8; Berlin: Mann, 1976).
    15. Yasuyoshi Okada, “Excavations at Ain Shai’a Ruins and Dukakin Caves,” Al-Rāfidān 10 (1989): 27–88; idem, “Early Christian Architecture in the Iraqi South-Western Desert,” Al-Rāfidān 12 (1991): 72–83; idem, “Ain Shai’a and the Early Gulf Churches: An Architectural Analogy,” Al-Rāfidān 13 (1992): 87–93.
    16. Martina Mueller-Wiener, Ulrike Siegel, Martin Gussone, and Ibrahim Salman, “Archaeological Survey of al-Hira/Iraq. Fieldwork Campaign 2015,” Fondation Max van Berchem (2015); cf. the report by Martina Mueller-Wiener and Ulrike Siegel, “The Pre-Islamic and Early Islamic City of al-Hira: First Results of the Archaeological Survey 2015,” in Barbara Horejs, Roderick B. Salisbury, Felix Höflmayer, Teresa Bürge et al. (eds.), Proceedings of the 10th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, Volume 2 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2018), 639–652.
    17. Toral-Niehoff, Al-Ḥ̣īra, 10–26.
    18. Eadem, Al-Ḥ̣īra, 21; Wood, “Al-Ḥīra and Its Histories,” 798–799, et passim.
    19. For this problem, cf. Robert G. Hoyland, “Insider and Outsider Sources: Historiographical Reflections on Late Antique Arabia,” in Jitse H. F. Dijkstra and Greg Fisher (eds.), Inside and Out: Interactions between Rome and the Peoples on the Arabian and Egyptian Frontiers in Late Antiquity (Late Antique History and Religion 8; Leuven: Peeters, 2014): 267–280.
    20. Abū’l-Baqāʾ al-Ḥillī, Manāqib al-mazyadīyyah fī akhbār mulūk al-asadiyyah, ed. Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Qādir Khuraysāt and Ṣālih Mūsā Darādika (2 vols.; Amman: n.p., 1984; repr. Al-ʿAyn: Markaz Zāyid li’l-Turāth wa’l-Taʾrīkh, 2000).
    21. Kister, “Al-Ḥīra,” 151, et passim.
    22. Rothstein, Die Dynastie der Laḫmiden in al-Ḥîra, 5–12.
    23. Buṭrus Ḥaddād (ed.), Mukhtaṣar al-akhbār al-bīʿiyyah: wa-huwa’l-qism al-mafqūd min “al-Taʾrīkh al-Siʿirdī”(?) (Baghdad: Maṭbaʿat al-Dīwān, 2000); Herman Teule, “L’abrégé de la chronique ecclésiastique (Muḫtaṣār[sic] al-aḫbār al-bīʿiyyah) et la chronique de Séert. Quelques sondages,” in Muriel Debié (ed.), Historiographie syriaque (Études syriaques 6; Paris: Geuthner, 2009), 161–77; Philip Wood, The Chronicle of Seert: Christian Historical Imagination in Late Antique Iraq (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 70–71.
    24. Wood, “Al-Ḥīra and Its Histories,” 789.
    25. Greg Fisher, Between Empires: Arabs, Romans, and Sasanians in Late Antiquity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), passim.
    26. Edwell et al., “Arabs in the Conflict between Rome and Persia,” in Fisher, Arabs and Empires, 214–275; Isabel Toral-Niehoff, “Imperial Contests and the Arabs: The World of Late Antiquity on the Eve of Islam,” in Armando Salvatore, Roberto Tottoli, Babak Rahimi, et al. (eds.), The Wiley Blackwell History of Islam (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2018), 59–76.
    27. Toral-Niehoff, “The ʿIbād of al-Ḥīra,” passim.
    28. Greg Fisher has dedicated much of his work to the tribal aspects of the Naṣrid state and to the interactions between the Roman Empire and the Arab tribes.
    29. For this concept, cf. Doris Bachmann-Medick (ed.), The Trans/national Study of Culture: A Translational Perspective (Concepts for the Study of Culture 4; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2014).
    30. Talib, “Topoi and Topography,” passim.
    31. Toral-Niehoff, Al-Ḥ̣īra, 10–23. ↑
    32. Rina Drory, “The Abbasid Construction of the Jahiliyya: Cultural Authority in the Making,” Studia Islamica 83 (1996): 33–49.
    33. Kirill Dmitriev is preparing a study on the poetical school of al-Ḥīrah in the context of Late Antiquity.
    34. Toral-Niehoff, Al-Ḥ̣īra, 68; eadem, “Late Antique Iran and the Arabs,” 120–122.
    35. For the relationship between al-Ḥīrah, the Ḥijāz, and other Arabic tribes in particular, cf. Kister, “Al-Ḥīra,” passim.
    36. Michael Lecker, “The Levying of Taxes for the Sassanians in Pre-Islamic Medina (Yathrib),” Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 27 (2008): 109–126.
    37. Idem, “Were the Ghassānids and the Byzantines behind Muḥammad’s hijra?,” in Denis Genequand and Christian Julien Robin (eds.), Les Jafnides, des rois arabes au service de Byzance (VIe siècle de l’ère chrétienne) actes du colloque de Paris, 24–25 novembre 2008 (Orient & Méditerranée 17; Paris: Éditions De Boccard, 2015), 268–286. Lecker has even suggested that the Ghassānids—and their Byzantine overlords—were active behind the scene of the hijrah, encouraging the Anṣār to provide Muḥammad and his Companions with a safe haven, and thus to counteract the Jews as Sasanian agents.
    38. Toral-Niehoff, Al-Hira, 51–58.
    39. For example, via poems like the “Creation Poem” by the Ḥīran poet ʿAdī b. Zayd. Cf. eadem, “Eine poetische Gestaltung des Sündenfalls: Das Mythos in dem vorislamisch-arabischen Schöpfungsgedicht von ʿAdī b. Zayd,” in Dirk Hartwig, Walter Homolka, Michael J. Marx, and Angelika Neuwirth (eds.), “Im vollen Licht der Geschichte”: Die Wissenschaft des Judentums und die Anfänge der kritischen Koranforschung (Ex Oriente Lux 8; Würzburg: Ergon-Verlag, 2008), 235–256; Kirill Dmitriev, “An Early Christian Arabic Account of the Creation of the World,” in Neuwirth et al., The Qurʾān in Context, 349–347.
    40. Garth Fowden, Empire to Commonwealth: Consequences of Monotheism in Late Antiquity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993); Neuwirth et al., The Qurʾān in Context;  Angelika Neuwirth, Der Koran als Text der Spätantike: Ein europäischer Zugang (Berlin: Verlag der Weltreligionen, 2010).
    41. Peter Brown, “The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity,” Journal of Roman Studies 61 (1971): 80–101.
    42. Neuwirth, Der Koran als Text der Spätantike, passim.
    43. Dwight F. Reynolds, “Al-Maqqarī’s Ziryāb: The Making of a Myth,” Middle Eastern Literatures 11 (2008): 155–168; Ahmad b. Muḥammad al-Maqqarī, Nafḥ al-ṭīb min gusn al-Andalus al-ratib, ed. Iḥsān ʿAbbās (8 vols.; Beirut: Dār Ṣādir, 1408/1988), 1.344, 3.122–133 (quoting Ibn Ḥayyān), 3.615.
    44. Cf. note 4 above.
    45. Regarding the Iranian troops stationed in al-Ḥīrah, cf. Kister, “Al-Ḥīra,” 165–167.
    46. The episode is preserved in very similar variants in Abū Jaʿfar Muḥammad b. Jarīr al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-rusul wa’l-mulūk, ed. M. A. Bayḍūn (6 vols.; Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, 2005), 2.324, 345; Aḥmad b. Yaḥyā al-Balādhurī, Futūḥ al-buldān, ed. ʿAbd al-Qādir Muḥammad ʿAlī (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, 2000), 141, 150–152.
    47. This border region, however, became also the retreat of dissidents, like many Syrian Monophysites and heretic ascetics persecuted by Justin and Justinian.  We have reports that the oasis of ʿAyn al-Tamr, known as Payram in Christian sources, became the refuge of the fanatic Monophysite sect of Julian of Halicarnassus; cf. Theresa Hainthaler, Christliche Araber vor dem Islam: Verbreitung und konfessionelle Zugehörigkeit; eine Hinführung (Eastern Christian Studies 7; Leuven: Peeters, 2007), 105 et passim, and Toral-Niehoff, Al-Ḥ̣īra, 172.
    48. For these developments in Persian church history, and particularly in regard to al-Ḥ̣īra, see the survey in Toral-Niehoff, Al-Ḥ̣īra, 151–210.
    49. “The Rahāʾin were youths from Arab tribes taken by the kings of al-Ḥīra as hostages guaranteeing that their tribes would not raid the territories of al-Ḥīra and that they would fulfill the terms of their pacts and obligations between them and the kings of al-Ḥīra. They counted—according to a tradition quoted by Abū’l-Baqāʾ—500 youths and stayed 6 months at the court of al-Ḥīra. After this period they were replaced by others”; see Kister, “Al-Ḥīra,” 167. As we can deduct from the statement about these hostages in ʿAyn al-Tamr, the Persians continued this effective practice after their seizure of power in 602 CE.
    50. Aḥmad b. Yaḥyā al-Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, eds. Suhayl Zakkār and Riyāḍ Ziriklī (13 vols.; Beirut: Dār al-Fikr, 1997), 6.255.
    51. Abū ʿUbayd ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. Muḥammad b. Ayyūb b. ʿAmr al-Bakrī, Al-Masālik wa’l-mamālik, ed. Jamāl Ṭalbah (2 vols.; Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, 2003), 2.387; Muḥammad b. ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAbd al-Munʿim al-Ḥimyarī, Al-Rawḍ al-miʿṭār fī khabar al-aqṭār: muʿjam jughrāfī maʿa fahāris shāmilah, ed. Iḥsān ʿAbbās (Beirut: Maktabah Lubnān, 1984), 33; Aḥmad b. Muḥammad Ibn ʿIdhārī al-Marrākushī, Al-Bayān al-mughrib fī akhbār mulūk al-Andalus wa’l-Maghrib, ed. Georges-Séraphin Colin and Évariste Levi-Provençal (2 vols.; Leiden: Brill, 1951), 2.22–23; ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Muḥammad Ibn Khaldūn, Kitāb al-ʿIbar wa-dīwān al-mubtadaʾ wa’l-khabar fī taʾrīkh al-ʿarab wa’l-barbar wa-man ʿāṣarahum min dhawī al-shaʾn al-akbār, ed. Khalīl Shaḥādah (8 vols.; Beirut: Dār al-Fikr, 1988), 4.224; Aḥmad b. Muḥammad b. Ibrāhīm b. Abū Bakr Ibn Khallikān, Wafayāt al-aʿyan wa-anbāʾ abnā ahl al-zamān, ed. Iḥsān ʿAbbās (8 vols.; Beirut: Dār Ṣādir, 1970), 5.317–318; Anon., Fatḥ al-Andalus: Luis Molina (ed.), La conquista de al-Andalus (Madrid: CSIC, 1994), 11–12; ʿAlī b. Muḥammad ʿIzz al-Dīn b. al-Athīr, Kāmil fī’l-taʾrīkh, ed. ʿAbd Allāh al-Qāḍī (10 vols.; Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, 1987), 4.252.
    52. Between January 2 and December 20, 640. Curiously, this is one of the few pieces of information about the origins of Mūsā b. Nuṣayr upon which all chroniclers agree. Cf. Bakrī, Al-Masālik, ed. Ṭalbah, 2.387; Ḥimyarī, Al-Rawḍ al-miʿṭār, ed. ʿAbbās, 33; Maqqarī, Nafḥ al-ṭīb, ed. ʿAbbās, 1.283; ʿAbd al-Malik b. Ḥabīb, Taʾrīkh Ibn Ḥabīb, ed. Jorge Aguadé (Madrid: CSIC, 1981), 136, no. 391; Ibn ʿIdhārī, Al-Bayān al-mughrib fī akhbār al-Maghrib (I): Reinhardt P.A. Dozy (ed.), Histoire de l’Afrique et de l’Espagne, Al-Bayano ‘l-Mogrib et fragments de la chronique d’Aríb (de Cordove) (I) (Leiden: Brill, 1848), 46; idem, Bayān (II), ed. Colin and Levi-Provençal, 22; Ibn Khallikān, Wafayāt al-aʿyan, ed. ʿAbbās, 5.329; La conquista de al-Andalus, ed. Molina, 11; ʿAbd al-Malik b. Abī’l-Qāsim b. Muḥammad b. al-Kardabūs, Kitāb al-Iktifāʾ fī akhbār al-khulafāʾ, ed. Ṣāliḥ b. ʿAbd Allāh al-Ghāmidī (3 vols.; Medina: Al-Jāmiʿah al-Islamiyyah, 2008), 1002.
    53. Abū Muḥammad ʿAbd Allāh b. Muslim Ibn Qutaybah al-Dīnawarī, Al-Imāmah wa’l-siyāsah: wa-huwa al-maʿrūf bi-taʾrīkh al-khulafāʾ, ed. ʿAlī Shīrī (2 vols.; Beirut: Dār al-Aḍwāʾ, 1990), 2.69; Taqī al-Dīn Abū’l-ʿAbbās Aḥmad b. ʿAlī b. ʿAbd al-Qādir b. Muḥammad al-Maqrīzī, Kitāb al-Mawāʿiẓ wa’l-iʿtibār bi-dhikr al-khiṭaṭ wa’l-āthār, ed. Khalīl al-Manṣūr (4 vols.; Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, 1988), 1.387.
    54. Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh, ed. Bayḍūn, 2.524, 529–530.
    55. According to Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh, ed. Bayḍūn, 2.542, Bishr b. Marwān became governor of Basra in 73/692–693.
    56. Abū’l-Qāsim ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAbd al-Ḥakam, Futūḥ al-Miṣr: Charles C. Torrey (ed.), The History of the Conquest of Egypt, North Africa and Spain (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1922; repr. Piscataway: Gorgias Press, 2002), 203. Ibn Qutaybah, Al-Imāmah wa’l-siyāsah, ed. Shīrī, 2.69; Ibn ʿIdhārī, Histoire de l’Afrique et de l’Espagne, ed. Dozy, 1.24.
    57. Michael G. Morony, Iraq after the Muslim Conquest (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984; repr. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2005), 51–68.
    58. Ibn ʿIdhārī, Histoire de l’Afrique et de l’Espagne, ed. Dozy, 1.24–25.
    59. The historians disagree about the date of this event, ranging from 78/697–698 in Ibn ʿAbd al-Ḥakam (History of the Conquest of Egypt, North Africa and Spain, ed. Torrey, 87) to 89/707–708 in Balādhurī (Futūḥ al-buldān, ed. ʿAlī, 141). The most common date is 79/698–699: Ibn Qutaybah, Al-Imāmah wa’l-siyāsah, ed. Shīrī, 2.72; Aḥmad b. Yaḥyā al-Ḍabbī, Bughyat al-multamis fī taʾrīkh rijāl ahl al-Andalus, ed. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Sawifī (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, 1997), no. 1334; Ibn al-Abbār, Kitāb al-Ḥullah al-siyarāʾ li-Ibn al-Abbār, ed. Ḥusayn Muʾnis (2 vols.; Cairo: Dār al-Maʿārif, 1984), 2.332.
    60. Arnald Steiger, Contribución a la fonética del hispano-árabe y de los arabismos en el ibero-románico y el siciliano (Madrid: CSIC, 1991 [1932]).
    61. Mercé Viladrich, “La transferencia de términos fiscales islámicos de oriente a occidente: Ṭasq y tascha/tasca en Catalunya Vella y Septimania durante la primera organización emiral omeya,” in Xavier Ballestín and Ernesto Pastor (eds.), Lo que vino de Oriente. Horizontes, praxis y dimensión material de los sistemas de dominación fiscal en Al-Andalus (VII-IX) (Oxford: Archeopress, 2013), 46.
    62. Qudāmah b. Jaʿfar, Kitāb al-Kharāj wa-ṣināʿat al-kitābah, ed. Muḥammad al-Zubaydī (Baghdad: Dār al-Rashīd, 1981), 202.
    63. Ibid., Kitāb al-Kharāj, 221.
    64. Q Muʾminūn 23:72, “Or dost thou ask of them any reward? But the reward of thy Lord is best; and He is the Best of providers (am tasʾaluhum kharjan fa-kharāj rabbika khayrun wa-huwa khayru’l-rāziqīn)”;The Noble Qur’an. English Translation of the Meanings and Commentary, trans. Muhammad Taqî-ud-Dîn Al-Hilâlî and Muhammad Muhsin Khân (Medina: King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qurʾān, 1419/1999). Cf. Viladrich, “La transferencia de términos fiscales,” 47. About the origin and evolution of the term kharāj, see Ghaida Khazna Katbi, Islamic Land Tax – Al-Kharaj. From the Islamic Conquest to the ʿAbbasid Period (London: I. B. Tauris, 2010), 14–19.
    65. Claude Devic and Joseph Vaissete (eds.), Histoire Générale de Languedoc avec des notes et les pièces justificatives. Tome deuxième (Toulouse: J.-B. Paya, 1875), 597–598, doc. XI: ibidem vobis exinde tascas et decimas persolvere debuissemus.
    66. Cf. numerous examples in Viladrich, “La transferencia de términos fiscales,” 48–52.
    67. Ibid., 50.
    68. Xenophon, Anabasis, trans. and ed. Carlos Varias (Madrid: Cátedra, 1999), 1.5.6. In the text we find kapithē, the Greek transcription of Parthian kapīč. Cf. Adrian David Hugh Bivar, “Achaemenid Coins, Weights and Measures,” in Ilya Gershevitch (ed.), The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. 2: The Median and Achaemenian Periods (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 610–639, 633–634.
    69. Abū Yūsuf Yaʿqūb b. Ibrāhīm al-Anṣārī, Kitāb al-Kharāj, ed. Ṭāhā ʿAbd al-Raʾūf Saʿd and Saʿd Ḥasan Muḥammad (Cairo: Al-Maktabah al-Azhariyyah li’l-Turāth, 1999), 46; idem, Taxation in Islām (Vol. III): Abū Yūsuf’s Kitāb al-Kharāj, trans. Aharon Ben Shemesh (Leiden; London: Brill, 1969), 96.
    70. Cf. the equivalences in Walther Hinz, Islamische Masse und Gewichte (Leiden: Brill, 1970), 48–50.
    71. Angel Fabrega i Grau (ed.), Diplomatari de la catedral de Barcelona, documents dels anys 844–1260, t. I: Documents dels anys 844–1000 (Barcelona: Arxiu capitular de la catedral de Barcelona, 1995), 193–194: in ipsa uinea, ipsa quarta parte, kaficadas duas (March 23, 894).
    72. Ramón d’Abadal i de Vinyals, Catalunya Carolíngia, vol: 3/2: Els Comtats de Pallars i Ribagorça (Barcelona: Institut dʿEstudis Catalans, 2007), 354: terra juris meis quem abeo de ruptura parentum meorum in castro Avileto, ubi dicitur cubile… et est ad seminandum I k(afiz) (May 925).
    73. Antonio Ubieto Arteta (ed.), Cartulario de Albelda (Valencia: Anubar, 1981), 6: ut commutaremus (omines de ciuitate quod dicitur Vecaria) tecum (el abad Auriolo) terras in loco quod dicitur Loreto iuxta Sancti Pantaleonis. Contulistis nobis in parte nostra agrum quod situm est iusta Fastigia Sanctarum ecclesiarum in seminatura terra kafiz et medio (January 11, 931).
    74. Jesús Lorenzo Jiménez and Ernesto Pastor, “Dominando territorios, imponiendo medidas: de Banbalūna a Barsilūna,” in Ballestín and Pastor (eds.), Lo que vino de Oriente, 61.
    Cite this passage

    Al-Ḥīrah, the Naṣrids, and Their Legacy

    New Perspectives on Late Antique Iranian History

    This paper argues that the famous conqueror of al-Andalus, Mūsā ibn Nuṣayr, who originally came from ʿAyn al-Tamr, a town under the hegemony of Naṣrid al-Ḥīrah, transmitted aspects of Sasanian administrative practice to al-Andalus and hence to Europe, as evidenced by the taxation terms tasca and kafiz attested in Latin and Romance texts. This specific argument is embedded in a larger argument about cultural hybridity centering on the city of al-Ḥīrah as a pre-Islamic and Islamic contact zone among cultures—Roman, Iranian, Arab; Christian, Muslim; tribal and urban. It thus links the processes of transculturation observable in al-Ḥīrah with developments in the far edges of the Islamic world through the person of the conqueror Mūsā b. Nuṣayr.

    Introduction

    Over the last decades, Late Antiquity has been increasingly apprehended as a temporal category having its own significance, defined by the binding elements of empire and monotheism, and less as a period interpreted under the sign of antique decadence, as it was before.1 This reconceptualization has caused its timeline to be gradually extended right into the third/ninth and even the fourth/tenth century, leading to the inclusion of the Umayyad and (partially) the Abbasid Caliphate, to now be interpreted as forms of late antique monotheistic empire.2 Furthermore, the geographical focus has shifted towards including the areas located at the eastern and southern peripheries of the Roman Empire, whose peoples regularly interacted with Greco-Roman culture and participated in the gradual conversion to monotheistic religions. Against this background—especially given that the Sasanian Empire was not only the main rival and competitor of Rome, but also in continuous contact with it as its most powerful neighbor—it does not come as a surprise that the late antique period in Iran is receiving increasing scholarly attention.3

    In this context, it is crucial to investigate liminal contact zones between both empires that acted as spaces of cultural contact, exchange, and cross-pollination, thus spreading late antique models beyond the Roman frontiers and simultaneously functioning as focal points of “Iranization.” The following study concentrates on one of these hotspots, namely the Naṣrid principality in Iraq, an Arab petty state around the city of al-Ḥīrah in southern Iraq, whose dominion reached as far as al-Anbār, Dūmat al-Jandal and ʿAyn al-Tamr, and which played a crucial role in functioning as a transitional and translational zone between Iran, Arabia, and Rome.4 The purpose of this article is to provide a survey on the current state of research about al-Ḥīrah, as well as to sketch recent discoveries and innovative approaches in this critical subfield of late antique Iranian history.

    Al-Ḥīrah and the Naṣrids in the east: new discoveries and innovative approaches

    Considering the above-mentioned shifts in the study of Late Antiquity, as well as the relevance of al-Ḥīrah for the investigation of late antique Iran, it might come as a surprise that its investigation has only gained momentum in the last few years.5 Here we may rely on a monograph by one of the authors of this article published in 2014,6 as well as on several recent articles,7 in addition to diverse novel studies that discuss topics relevant to the broader historical context.8 This state of affairs is in contrast to the many studies published over previous decades on the Jafnid petty kingdom, the most obvious parallel of the Naṣrids, a tribal state that played a very similar role at the fringes of the Roman Empire in Greater Syria in the same period.9 The imbalance is partly due to the difficulties in the source material. In the case of the Jafnids, archaeological, numismatic, and epigraphic evidence abounds and has been investigated broadly by Roman archaeologists and ancient historians.10 Furthermore, as allies of the Romans, the Jafnids have a significant presence in contemporaneous Greek and Roman historiography. The material remains of the Naṣrids of al-Ḥīrah, in contrast, have much less frequently been investigated, and have suffered from the general shortcomings of late antique archaeology in Mesopotamia.11 In addition, as Persian allies, the Naṣrids rarely appear in Greek, Roman, and Syriac sources, and since Sasanian historiography is mostly lost, we must rely on later Arabic reports from Islamic times.

    Concerning the archaeology of al-Ḥīrah, the situation has indeed been complicated for a long time, but will hopefully improve soon. Until recently, we have had to rely on the sketchy results from a preliminary excavation undertaken in the 1930s12 and a brief campaign in 1946,13 complemented by those of a German survey of the area in the 1970s14 and that of a Japanese excavation in the 1980s in the nearby site of Ain Shai’a.15 The ruins of al-Ḥīrah, located in the outskirts of modern, rapidly growing Kufa and Najaf, have almost disappeared and partly been overbuilt, and the long-lasting military conflicts in the zone have impeded any continuous archaeological research for a long time. However, the current calming of the situation in southern Iraq may provide opportunity to investigate the zone anew: there is an ongoing German-Iraqi archaeological survey that has been taking place since 2015 that pursues an integrated approach, focusing on questions of settlement and urban development, and which promises to yield very significant new insights soon. It has already brought to light interesting minor findings such as pottery, fragments of glass vessels, stucco plaques with incised and colored crosses, and copper coins.16 It is to be said that al-Ḥīrah has an advantage in that the site has not been disturbed by building activities until recently, so that, despite the difficulties already mentioned, we may expect exciting new insights.

    In terms of the written record, the study of al-Ḥīrah must draw mainly on the rich Arabic tradition of historiography, which has the disadvantage of having been composed centuries later during Islamic times, and so requires critical assessment based on a good knowledge of the peculiarities of the Arabic textual tradition.17 However, the strand in this tradition relevant to al-Ḥīrah is most probably based on local Ḥīran traditions collected in nearby Kufa such as local chronicles, informants, and dynastic lists,18 which permits one to grasp the insider’s perspective, in contrast to the case of the Jafnids, whose traditions are much less attested in Arabic sources.19 In this regard we may also expect new insights, as is shown by recent discoveries. From the 1980s, we have the publication of the Manāqib al-mazyadiyyah of Abū’l-Baqāʾ,20 a very valuable source of the fifth/eleventh century, that was already used in manuscript by M. J. Kister in the 1960s,21 and contains numerous passages not preserved in the usual well-known sources used by Rothstein.22 Furthermore, the recent discovery of the so-called “Haddad Chronicle,”23 which has been identified as a missing portion of the Chronicle of Seert, permits us to increase our knowledge of the early history of al-Ḥīrah, for example, by shedding light on its early tribal composition.24

    Beyond the discovery of new evidence, the application of new interpretative frameworks on the already known material is opening fresh perspectives on al-Ḥīrah and its legacies. For example, Greg Fisher has taken concepts from anthropology and analyzed the Arabs in the limes or boundary zone from the point of view of state-tribe interaction, highlighting aspects of tribal leadership in peripheral polities at the Roman frontier.25

    Another approach that promises to be fruitful is to look at al-Ḥīrah as an example of a borderland area and as a cultural translation zone, both in the pre-Islamic and in the Islamic period, as is illustrated by the following.

    The petty state of al-Ḥīrah can be interpreted as an Iranian frontier state that parallels the multifaceted nature of Roman frontier states like the foederati in North Africa and Germania. This is, first of all, the consequence of its geographic location at the banks of the Middle Euphrates. On the one hand, its proximity to Ctesiphon, the Sasanian capital—located 100 kilometers to the northeast—inserted al-Ḥīrah into the Persian sphere of influence and ended up transforming the petty-kings of al-Ḥīrah from allies into dependent “vassals” of the Sasanian King of Kings; on the other hand, its location at the western frontier of the Sasanian Empire, looking westwards to the Syrian desert and ultimately to the Roman Empire, as well as southwards to the Arabian Peninsula, determined its key strategic function for the Sasanians as buffer state.

    As a consequence, the Naṣrids were commissioned by the Persians first to wage proxy wars against the allies of the Romans, the Jafnids, with the aim to keep the conflict between both empires on a manageable level, and second, to serve the Persians as both a protective shield against the Arab tribes from the peninsula and also as useful mediators with aggressive Bedouin.26 In addition, al-Ḥīrah became a neutral zone populated by very diverse religious communities that suffered persecution elsewhere, like Monophysite monks and Manichaeans, tolerated by the pagan dynasty of the city that sought to maintain room to maneuver in a period when political considerations, especially negotiating alliances, had come to be inflected by questions of religious identity.

    In cultural terms, this condition as frontier state meant that al-Ḥīrah occupied an in-between space, typical for borderland areas, characterized by a high degree of diverse cultural, linguistic, and societal hybridity. The population was composed of various communities bearing a broad and often overlapping spectrum of ethnic, linguistic, cultural, and religious features: tribal and urban Arabs, Persian noblemen and soldiers, Syriac Christians, pagan Aramaeans, Manichaean, and Jewish communities. A telling example is the polyglot ʿibād, the local Christian Arab community, whose members can be characterized as multilingual transcultural agents and brokers.27 Cultural innovations associated with Late Antiquity such as literacy, monotheistic notions of spiritual salvation and political power, and biblical narratives and religious organization all reached the Arabian Peninsula principally via transmitters like these ʿibād. The cultural hybridity in al-Ḥīrah further parallels its structural diversity: the simultaneous coexistence of tribalism and semi-nomadism with peculiar forms of Arab urbanism and semi-state monarchic structures is attested in this period; we also find highly developed ecclesiastical and monastic structures and building activities.28 As a hybrid frontier zone, al-Ḥīrah thus became a crucial bridge between the Romans, the Sasanians, and the Arabs—in other words, a space of cultural translation.29

    The historical importance of the Arab-Iranian matrix of al-Ḥīrah is further to be seen in its role as long-term mediator and translation zone of late antique models to what became classical Islam. Classical Islam—here understood as the canonized cultural and religious model of the “Golden Age” in Baghdad—was the product of the society of the early Abbasid period, and was shaped in Iraq, namely in Kufa, Basra, and Baghdad. As a consequence of this, we must assume that the Naṣrid legacy in Iraqi al-Ḥīrah was much more important as a late antique substratum for Islam than the Jafnid legacy, simply because of its proximity to the cultural centers of the Abbasid period.

    Indeed, the Arabic textual tradition tells us that al-Ḥīrah served as an important historical reference and model, and that it functioned as a site of memory and remembrance, a symbol of the theme of sic transit Gloria mundi, and as a frequent topos in literature, in which al-Ḥīrah became the main site associated with pre-Islamic kings, poets, vineyards, monasteries, and luxury, but also with the abhorrent jāhiliyyah of pagan kings.30 The vicinity of al-Ḥīrah with its Islamic successor-heir city Kufa, one of the birthplaces of the study of Arabic history and antiquities as well as grammar and philology, further explains the prominence of al-Ḥīrah in Arabic historiographical and adab narratives, since Ḥīran and Kufan informants were thus able to inscribe and glorify their history as an essential part of the (re)constructed pre-Islamic Arab past.31

    These early Arabic scholars and philologists, men like the philologist Ibn al-Mufaḍḍal, the antiquarian Muḥammad Ibn Ḥabīb, and the family of al-Kalbī, would establish the canon of classical Arabic culture and memory.32 They managed to establish therein the Ḥīran court of the Naṣrids, of al-Mundhir and al-Nuʿmān, and canonized al-Ḥīrah as the splendorous center of early pre-Islamic poetry, especially of wine-poetry and early panegyrics.33 Al-Ḥīrah also became the emblematic site where Arab-Iranian cultural contacts had taken place, as reflected in the legends surrounding Bahram Gūr, the Sasanian prince of the fifth century CE who lived as young man among the Arabs of al-Ḥīrah, where he learned Arab ways of hunting, but also introduced such Iranian customs as polo—a veritable cultural hero who embodies the long-lasting history of endemic cultural contact between Arabs and Iranians.34

    The late antique legacy as mediated through al-Ḥīrah would also affect Islamic history in an indirect way, since the early decades of Islamic history would take place in another geographical setting, namely in the northwestern Arabian Peninsula, in the Ḥijāz. The Arabs dwelling there had never been direct allies of the great powers of the day, but nevertheless they did not fall outside of the late antique world thanks to their contacts with the Naṣrids and the Jafnids.35 In the sixth century, Yathrib (later Medina) had fallen under the suzerainty of the Naṣrids and thus into the sphere of Sasanian influence.36 The well-known local hegemony of the Jewish tribes in Medina is probably to be seen in this context, since the Sasanians tended to foster the Jews as a counterbalance to the Christian Arabs allied with Rome.37 Merchants, probably from al-Ḥīrah, seem to have introduced Manichaeism, probably Christianity, and even the knowledge of Iranian epics into Yathrib/Medina.38 Poets who frequented the court in al-Ḥīrah spread the news about Arab Christianity and the community of ʿibād all over the peninsula, as well as the knowledge that there were literate, Iranized, and urban Arabs.39 The Naṣrids also controlled the caravan routes in central Arabia on behalf of the Sasanians. Mecca and the Quraysh, in contrast, remained independent, but had close commercial connections to Syria and to the tribes dwelling there.

    The results of this late antique imprint are to be felt in our main source for the origins of Islam, i.e., in the Qurʾān itself. The qurʾānic kerygma not only claims to constitute a continuation of the earlier revealed religions of Late Antiquity, i.e., of Christianity and Judaism. It also reflects the religious language of the contemporary universal religions by combining late antique notions of universal leadership and monotheism with the birth of a new community that surpasses tribal and ethnic boundaries.40 Furthermore, Muḥammad’s idea of prophethood incarnates values associated with the holy man of Late Antiquity (e.g., individual morality, asceticism) that were further amalgamated with ideas of charismatic political authority modeled according to the concept of imperial rule.41 In addition, the Qurʾān addresses an Arabic-speaking audience that was not only imbued with a mixture of polytheistic creeds and tribal values, but that was also familiar with biblical legends, monotheism, and ideas about scripture.42 Thus, we can state that the Naṣrids and the Jafnids contributed first to familiarizing the Arabs with late antique cultural and political models and second to shaping the Meccan milieu where the Prophet Muḥammad proclaimed the qurʾānic message.

    Al-Ḥīrah in the west: new perspectives on al-Andalus

    The importance of al-Ḥīrah and its people as mediators and cultural translators of Late Antique Iran can be seen in unexpected and very distant regions, as will be shown in the following example that further exemplifies the fruitfulness of considering unusual source material such as—in this case—Latin and Romance sources.

    The Iranian influence in the Islamic West has often been minimized or reduced to cultural elements, mediated by personalities of Abbasid background like the famous musician Ziryāb or the historians of the al-Rāzī family, who originally hailed from Baghdad and came to al-Andalus in the third/ninth century introducing the Iranian/Abbasid model of courtly culture into the then-provincial Umayyad court of al-Andalus.43

    However, as will be shown in the following, the Iranian presence in al-Andalus may be dated already to the arrival of the first Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula, and continued for several centuries in spheres linked to political and economic power such as taxation and systems of weights and measures. The bearer of this Iranian influence was none other than Mūsā b. Nuṣayr (d. 97–98/716), the famed conqueror of al-Andalus, who originally came from ʿAyn al-Tamr, a town already mentioned as within the dominion of the Naṣrid king of al-Ḥīrah, and, as we will see, similarly populated by Arab Christians.44

    Mūsā b. Nuṣayr

    In 11/633, the caliph Abū Bakr sent his commander, Khālid b. al-Walīd, to Iraq at the head of an army of Muslims, thus initiating the swift conquest of Mesopotamia. The first city to fall was al-Ḥīrah, which would negotiate its surrender. From there, Khālid moved toward al-Anbār, whose inhabitants also came to terms with the conquerors and capitulated, and then marched with his soldiers in the direction of the nearby ʿAyn al-Tamr. Unlike in previous cities, they confronted there a mixed army of Persians and Arabs loyal to the Sasanians.45 The Muslims arrived at the gates of the city and, after the resistance of the garrison had vanished, plundered it.

    The event was memorialized by numerous informants, whose accounts, all very similar, became part of several compilations.46 According to the version of events in Ṭabarī, it was Khālid himself who entered the city, where he found forty young men (ghilmān), who would be held as hostages, at the moment when they were studying the scriptures inside a church (kanīsah). Among them was Nuṣayr, the father of Mūsā. This account raises several questions of interest connected to the origins of Mūsā b. Nuṣayr.

    The first question concerns the important presence in ʿAyn al-Tamr in 12/633–4 of Arabs who collaborated with the Persians. As has been mentioned above, the Arab kingdom of al-Ḥīrah based its existence as a buffer and frontier state on successful collaboration between the Naṣrid monarchs and the Sasanian emperors, but while al-Ḥīrah and al-Anbār had refused to resist the Muslim conquerors and negotiated a peaceful surrender, ʿAyn al-Tamr offered resistance. This indicates either that the Persian presence was particularly strong there, or that the local Arabs felt a special loyalty towards the Sasanian sovereign.

    The second issue is the great weight that Christianity seems to have had in the city. From the point of view of church history, the existence of Christians in ʿAyn al-Tamr is not surprising at all, since Christianity had had a significant presence on Persian soil for centuries before the arrival of Islam in the region.47 From 410 CE onwards, the Persian church even counted on an independent ecclesiastical organization that would pursue the “Nestorian” doctrine, a development that was tolerated and even supported by the Sasanian dynasty, eager to counterbalance the aggressive religious policy of the Roman Empire since Constantine.48

    The third concerns the fact that the ghilmān were captured while learning the scriptures, that is, receiving ecclesiastical education and formation (probably in Syriac), which suggests that their families enjoyed a high status among the Arab tribes. Apparently the Christians in ʿAyn al-Tamr played a similar role as the famous ʿibād from al-Ḥīrah, forming a local, urbanized, and literate Arab elite. In any case, given their status as Arabs, their social rank would always be lower than that of the Persian aristocracy, which, after the suppression of al-Ḥīrah’s kingdom in 602 CE, occupied the highest positions in the local administration. Their hostage status supports this hypothesis: the practice of taking hostages among the children of prominent families functioned as warrant of their loyalty or of non-aggression; it is understandable in the period preceding the Islamic conquest, when relations between the Sasanian authorities and the Arab tribes were going through very tense moments.49

    The chroniclers have not preserved much evidence about Nuṣayr, the father of Mūsā. The texts repeat again and again that his son Mūsā was a mawlā of the Marwānid Umayyads, a condition that he presumably inherited from his father. However, despite the prominence of the Umayyads in the conquest of Syria, there is no testimony that allows us to locate specific members of the Umayyad lineage taking part in the conquest of Iraq. When and how did the encounter between the captive Nuṣayr and the Umayyad Marwānids take place? In the absence of information, we can only speculate. Thus, several compilers transmit the notice that the captives of ʿAyn al-Tamr were dispatched to Medina and delivered to the caliph ʿUthmān.50 The only report we have about Nuṣayr after his captivity places him, like his fellow captives, in conditions very far from what could be expected of a servant or manumitted slave. The unique notice, which must date to sometime after 41/661, places Nuṣayr in the closest circle of the caliph Muʿāwiyah b. Abī Sufyān (r. 41/661-60/680), as a member of his bodyguard no less.51

    Mūsā was born in Syria, in the village (qaryah) of Kafr Mary, in the year 19/640.52 The first decades of his life remain totally obscure and we will have to wait until the 60s/680s to find an isolated but very revealing indication that allows us to state that, as with so many other mawālī, Mūsā continued to prosper under the Umayyads. It is a report mentioning his participation in the civil war between the supporters of the Marwānid Umayyads and those of the anti-caliph ʿAbd Allāh b. al-Zubayr. In this conflict, Egypt favored the latter, so that the Marwānids sent an army there under the command of ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. Marwān (d. 85–86/705), future governor of the region. In that army also came Bishr ibn Marwān, son and brother of caliphs, and next to him appears Mūsā b. Nuṣayr.53 There is no further mention of Mūsā’s participation in this war, although Ṭabarī notes the strong involvement of Bishr in favor of his brothers in Mesopotamia.54

    At an indeterminate date between 73/692 and 76/695, Mūsā appeared alongside Bishr b. Marwān in the government of Iraq, his country of origin.55 The text of the chronicler Ibn ʿAbd al-Ḥakam (d. 257/871) does not indicate his position, but one source points out that he held the office of vizier and counsellor (wazīr wa-mushīr); another, that he was appointed by the caliph himself as the collector of the kharāj or land tax in Basra.56 We might note first his proximity to his family’s place of origin, ʿAyn al-Tamr, and second, as Morony has pointed out, that this was a region where the taxation system of the Sasanian era still had very considerable weight.57

    The death of Bishr in 75/694–5 seemed first to be a setback for Mūsā, since it revealed that there were problems in the economic management, which brought him the enmity of the Caliph ʿAbd al-Malik. According to a testimony collected by Ibn ʿIdhārī, Mūsā was accused of appropriating money from the public treasury (al-amwāl), wherefore the caliph ordered him to be apprehended and condemned him to death.58 Mūsā then asked for the protection of ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz , who was already governor of Egypt, and it was agreed that the sentence should be commuted to the payment of a considerable sum valued at 100,000 dinars, half of which came from the account of ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz himself. Having thus resolved the conflict, ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz brought him to Egypt, and a few years later, on a date between 78–79/698 and 89–90/708, appointed him governor of Ifrīqiyyah, a position subordinate to the governor of Egypt.59 From Ifrīqiyyah, Mūsā would make the leap to al-Andalus in the year 92–93/711. He would never return to Iraq; other campaigns awaited him in the western Mediterranean, which would transform him into a semi-legendary character and the hero of the conquest of al-Andalus, at the side of Tāriq b. Ziyād.

    Having established that Mūsā’s origin in ʿAyn al-Tamr points to a good knowledge of administrative and political practices ultimately rooted in late antique Iranian traditions, and given his eminent role in the first years of al-Andalus, it is unsurprising to detect traces of Iranian taxation and measure systems in the Islamic West, as will be shown in the following.

    The fossilization of Persian elements in Romance language: taxes and measures

    The year 92–93/711 marked the beginning of the Islamic conquest of the Visigothic kingdom of Toledo and the establishment of al-Andalus under Islamic government, first under the suzerainty of the wilāyah (rule) of Ifrīqiyyah, then under the Umayyad Emirate. In the following years, Islamic expansion there would continue, coming to embrace almost the whole Iberian Peninsula as well as dominating the province of Septimania, to the north of the Pyrenees.

    However, halfway through the second/eighth century, the conquests halted, and now began the process of expansion of the Latin kingdoms at the expense of the Andalusian territory. First came the Carolingians, to the north of the Pyrenees, advancing into the northeast of the peninsula, conquering Narbonne in the year 141–142/759, Girona in 168–169/785, and Barcelona in 184–185/801. At the same time, new political entities started to emerge in the Cantabrian area, gradually evolving into the Latin kingdoms of the north of the peninsula. In their advance towards the south, these political entities would take on many of the Islamic institutions of the conquered territory, which becomes visible in the surviving documentation of these states, written in Latin and Romance. In particular, the Latin kingdoms would adopt Islamic taxation and measures systems; thus, the Arab origin of Romance forms like the tax of the alcabala, or measures like the almud, the arroba, and the arrobada is well known.60

    This peculiarity of the Iberian Peninsula allows us to reconstruct the first layer of these institutions as they existed at the time of the Islamic conquest through—paradoxically—the Latin documentation, which provides data that otherwise would have been lost. As in other territories of the Dār al-Islām, the early institutions of the conquest period in al-Andalus evolved and disappeared, supplanted and superseded by the canonical Islamic system that was developed later. However, in the territories conquered by the Latin kingdoms, fossilized names reveal a reality that the later Arabic texts seem to ignore. Among these institutions, we can recognize several of Iranian origin, and that can be attributed to the time of the conquest carried out by Mūsā b. Nuṣayr.

    The accounts of the conquest of Mesopotamia repeatedly mention the imposition of a certain tribute, the ṭasqā, and the obligation to pay taxes in various measures, including the qafīz. Both terms, ṭasqā and qafīz, appear centuries later in Romanized versions in a place as remote as the western end of the Mediterranean, in al-Andalus, and do so in a context that stopped being Islamic after its conquest by the Latin kingdoms. These references demonstrate the great weight of the Persian element in the conquest of al-Andalus.

    The earliest mention of ṭasqā is found in the Babylonian Talmud, a text that contains a broad set of rules governing the lives of Jews living on Sasanian soil. Among these rules is the obligation to pay the ṭasqā tax, a tax that was justified by the fact that the state was the sole owner of arable land. Those who exploited it, with the right of usufruct, had to satisfy the payment of a fee to the state—of proportional character—that authorized them to exploit these lands.61 With the Islamic conquest, the ṭasqā was levied on the crops of state lands conquered by force (arḍ ʿanwah)62 and was still proportional: in the fourth/tenth century, Qudāmah b. Jaʿfar (d. ca. 75/948) still defined the ṭasqā as “taxes (that) are levied on state lands in accordance with the terms of the leases and the quality of the land, and half of the share in crops was levied on the lands.”63 Despite these late references, we can perceive a gradual displacement of the term in favor of kharāj, which ultimately replaces it completely. Unlike the term ṭasqā, probably Iranian Persian, the term kharāj has qur’anic resonances.64 However, on the other side of the Mediterranean, and in a Latin context, this tax did not disappear, but rather survived until the late Middle Ages.

    The earliest mention of this tax in the Latin sources appears in a document dated 802 CE, which includes the obligation to satisfy the abbey of Caunes (Minervois) with the payment of tascaset decima.65 This first mention of the tax of the tasca appears in an area that had been part of al-Andalus in the Septimania, where the presence of Islam was brief, between 719 and 759 CE, but, according to this document, intense. The references to this tax, the tasca or tascha, are repeated in the Latin documentation on both sides of the eastern end of the Pyrenees, in Septimania and Catalonia, until the later medieval centuries.66 This is not just a question of nomenclature; as Viladrich has shown, as its Eastern equivalent, the tasca/tascha is a tax that is applied for the usufruct of land for life and has a hereditary character.67

    Like ṭasqā, the term qafīz has a Persian origin as a measure for aggregates and liquids; it dates at least as far back as the fourth century BCE, when it first was mentioned by Xenophon in the Anabasis in an Iranian context.68 The Muslims adopted this measure and the Islamic jurists consecrated it as a canonical measure by associating it with the first caliphs. Thus, Abū Yūsuf pointed out in his Kitāb al-Kharāj that “when ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb surveyed the lands of al-Sawād, he found them to measure 36,000,000 jarībs, and levied on each jarīb of cereal-growing land taxes per dirham or per qafīz of yield.”69 Note, first, that the appraisal is carried out in an area where the Persians had ruled for centuries, and second, that the surface measure used, the jarīb, is also of Persian origin.70

    The same term appears in the Latin and Romance documentation of the Iberian Peninsula from the late third/ninth century in the form kafiz, cafiz, or cahiz, as well as its derivative, kafizada. The earliest mention in Latin is in a document dating back to 894 CE, which includes the sale of a vineyard in the Maresme, that is, in the eastern end of the Pyrenees, and where the term kaficada is used as a unit of area.71 Another mention of the kafiz, now as a measure of capacity, is documented in the Ribagorza, in the central Pyrenees region, dated in the year 925 CE.72 In the year 931 CE we can document another similar mention in Viguera, in the Ebro valley.73 It is evident that by the end of the fourth/tenth century, kafiz, as a reference to area or a measure of capacity, was well known throughout the Pyrenean region.74

    In both cases, the use of tasca and kafiz in Latin and Romance indicates an Iranian influence that can only be explained as going back to the oldest layer of Islamic administrative practice in the Iberian Peninsula, which in its turn has roots in a Mesopotamian and Iranian substratum. Having stated this, we must suppose that the governor Mūsā b. Nuṣayr, and maybe other Iranized Arabs from around al-Ḥīrah who had come to form part of the leading elite in the early Umayyad Caliphate, applied their expertise in administrative and taxation matters and thus left an Iranian imprint in a region as far away as al-Andalus.

    Conclusion

    This survey has shown that the discovery of new evidence in terms of written and archaeological material on the one hand, and the reassessment of already known material inspired by innovative approaches in cultural studies on the other, may yield new insights in the study of al-Ḥīrah and the Naṣrids, and contributes to a better understanding of their role in the context of late antique Iran. It further highlights the key role played by the Christianized and Iranized Arabs of Iraq, soon to become members of the leading elite in the caliphate, as catalysts of cultural contact and Iranization not only in pre-Islamic, but also in Islamic times, when the conquests widened their radius of movement enormously. This process is exemplified by the case of Mūsā b. Nuṣayr, the conqueror of al-Andalus. Finally, it has demonstrated that, by analyzing material that normally falls outside of the scope of a Middle Eastern historian such as Latin documentation, one might detect Iranian influence in unexpected corners of the Mediterranean.

    About the authors

    Isabel Toral-Niehoff, Ph.D. Tübingen 1997, is scientific coordinator at the University of Mainz and has taught at the Freie Universität Berlin in the Department of Arabic Studies since 2008. She has also held various research positions and fellowships in Freiburg, Berlin, London (Marie Curie Fellowship), and Göttingen. Her main publishing and research fields are Arabia and the Near East in Late Antiquity; cultural identity and cultural contact/translation; the Arabic occult sciences; adab, fiction, and encyclopaedias; and al-Andalus.

    Jesús Lorenzo Jiménez holds a Ph.D. in History from the University of the Basque Country (2008). His main research field is the study of the first centuries of al-Andalus in close connection with the rest of the Islamic world. He is the author of a monograph entitled La Dawla de los Banû Qasî. Origen, auge y caída de una dinastía muladí en la Frontera Superior de al-Andalus (Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones científicas, 2010), as well as several articles published in international journals.

    Notes

    1. See the recent surveys of the history of Late Antique Studies: Garth Fowden, Before and After Muhammad: The First Millennium Refocused (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016), 18–48 and Aziz Al-Azmeh, The Emergence of Islam in Late Antiquity: Allah and His People (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 1–47.
    2. Al-Azmeh has argued extensively in favor of seeing Islamic civilization as the “most successful crystallization” of Late Antiquity, ibid., 2, et passim.
    3. Beate Dignas and Engelbert Winter, Rome and Persia in Late Antiquity: Neighbors and Rivals (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).
    4. Cf. maps 1, 2, and index in Isabel Toral-Niehoff, Al-Ḥ̣īra: Eine arabische Kulturmetropole im spätantiken Kontext (Islamic History and Civilization 104; Leiden: Brill, 2014).
    5. For a long time, the only monograph available was Gustav Rothstein, Die Dynastie der Laḫmiden in al-Ḥîra: Ein Versuch zur arabisch-persischen Geschichte zur Zeit der Sasaniden (Göttingen: Dieterich, 1898; repr. Hildesheim: Olms, 1968), complemented only in the 1960s by the important article of Meir J. Kister, “Al-Ḥīra: Some Notes on its Relations with Arabia,” Arabica 15 (1968): 143–169.
    6. Toral-Niehoff, Al-Ḥīra, passim.
    7. Eadem, “The ʿIbād of al-Ḥīra: An Arab Christian Community in Late Antique Iraq,” in Angelika Neuwirth, Michael Marx and Nicolai Sinai (eds.), The Qurʾān in Context: Historical and Literary Investigations into the Qurʾānic Milieu (Leiden: Brill, 2010), 323–347; eadem, “Late Antique Iran and the Arabs: The Case of al-Hira,” Journal of Persianate Studies 6 (2013): 115–126; Greg Fisher and Philip Wood, “Writing the History of the ‘Persian Arabs’: The Pre-Islamic Perspective on the ‘Naṣrids’ of al-Ḥīrah,” Iranian Studies 49 (2016): 247–290; Adam Talib, “Topoi and Topography in the Histories of al-Hira,” in Philip Wood (ed.), History and Identity in the Late Antique Near East (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 123–147; Philip Wood, “Al-Ḥīra and Its Histories,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 136 (2016): 785–799.
    8. For instance, cf. Richard E. Payne, A State of Mixture: Christians, Zoroastrians, and Iranian Political Culture in Late Antiquity (Transformation of the Classical Heritage 56; Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2015); Parvaneh Pourshariati, Decline and Fall of the Sasanian Empire: The Sasanian-Parthian Confederacy and the Arab Conquest of Iran (London: I.B. Tauris, 2008); and Joel Thomas Walker, The Legend of Mar Qardagh: Narrative and Christian Heroism in Late Antique Iraq (Transformation of the Classical Heritage 40; Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2006).
    9. Cf. Greg Fisher (ed.), Arabs and Empires before Islam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015) with further references, and the numerous works by Irfan Shahîd.
    10. Cf. the state of research sketched by Denis Genequand, “The Archaeological Evidence for the Jafnids and the Naṣrids,” in Fisher, Arabs and Empires, 172–213, and Peter Edwell et al., “Arabs in the Conflict between Rome and Persia,” in Fisher, Arabs and Empires, 214–275.
    11. Cf. the survey of Stefan Hauser, “Christliche Archäologie im Sassanidenreich: Grundanlagen der Interpretation und Bestandaufnahme der Evidenz,” in Arafa Mustafa (ed.), Inkulturation des Christentums im Sasanidenreich (Wiesbaden: Reichert, 2007), 93–136.
    12. David Talbot Rice, “The Oxford Excavations at Hira,” Ars Islamica 1 (1934): 51–73; idem, “The Oxford Excavations at Hira, 1931,” Antiquity 6 (1932): 276–291, idem, “The Oxford Excavations at Hira,” Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society (1932): 254–268. The results are partly kept in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
    13. Mahmud Ali, “Tanqībat fī al-Ḥīra,” Sumer 2 (1946): 29–32.
    14. Barbara Finster and Jürgen Schmidt, Sasanidische und frühislamische Ruinen im Iraq (Baghdader Mitteilungen 8; Berlin: Mann, 1976).
    15. Yasuyoshi Okada, “Excavations at Ain Shai’a Ruins and Dukakin Caves,” Al-Rāfidān 10 (1989): 27–88; idem, “Early Christian Architecture in the Iraqi South-Western Desert,” Al-Rāfidān 12 (1991): 72–83; idem, “Ain Shai’a and the Early Gulf Churches: An Architectural Analogy,” Al-Rāfidān 13 (1992): 87–93.
    16. Martina Mueller-Wiener, Ulrike Siegel, Martin Gussone, and Ibrahim Salman, “Archaeological Survey of al-Hira/Iraq. Fieldwork Campaign 2015,” Fondation Max van Berchem (2015); cf. the report by Martina Mueller-Wiener and Ulrike Siegel, “The Pre-Islamic and Early Islamic City of al-Hira: First Results of the Archaeological Survey 2015,” in Barbara Horejs, Roderick B. Salisbury, Felix Höflmayer, Teresa Bürge et al. (eds.), Proceedings of the 10th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, Volume 2 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2018), 639–652.
    17. Toral-Niehoff, Al-Ḥ̣īra, 10–26.
    18. Eadem, Al-Ḥ̣īra, 21; Wood, “Al-Ḥīra and Its Histories,” 798–799, et passim.
    19. For this problem, cf. Robert G. Hoyland, “Insider and Outsider Sources: Historiographical Reflections on Late Antique Arabia,” in Jitse H. F. Dijkstra and Greg Fisher (eds.), Inside and Out: Interactions between Rome and the Peoples on the Arabian and Egyptian Frontiers in Late Antiquity (Late Antique History and Religion 8; Leuven: Peeters, 2014): 267–280.
    20. Abū’l-Baqāʾ al-Ḥillī, Manāqib al-mazyadīyyah fī akhbār mulūk al-asadiyyah, ed. Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Qādir Khuraysāt and Ṣālih Mūsā Darādika (2 vols.; Amman: n.p., 1984; repr. Al-ʿAyn: Markaz Zāyid li’l-Turāth wa’l-Taʾrīkh, 2000).
    21. Kister, “Al-Ḥīra,” 151, et passim.
    22. Rothstein, Die Dynastie der Laḫmiden in al-Ḥîra, 5–12.
    23. Buṭrus Ḥaddād (ed.), Mukhtaṣar al-akhbār al-bīʿiyyah: wa-huwa’l-qism al-mafqūd min “al-Taʾrīkh al-Siʿirdī”(?) (Baghdad: Maṭbaʿat al-Dīwān, 2000); Herman Teule, “L’abrégé de la chronique ecclésiastique (Muḫtaṣār[sic] al-aḫbār al-bīʿiyyah) et la chronique de Séert. Quelques sondages,” in Muriel Debié (ed.), Historiographie syriaque (Études syriaques 6; Paris: Geuthner, 2009), 161–77; Philip Wood, The Chronicle of Seert: Christian Historical Imagination in Late Antique Iraq (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 70–71.
    24. Wood, “Al-Ḥīra and Its Histories,” 789.
    25. Greg Fisher, Between Empires: Arabs, Romans, and Sasanians in Late Antiquity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), passim.
    26. Edwell et al., “Arabs in the Conflict between Rome and Persia,” in Fisher, Arabs and Empires, 214–275; Isabel Toral-Niehoff, “Imperial Contests and the Arabs: The World of Late Antiquity on the Eve of Islam,” in Armando Salvatore, Roberto Tottoli, Babak Rahimi, et al. (eds.), The Wiley Blackwell History of Islam (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2018), 59–76.
    27. Toral-Niehoff, “The ʿIbād of al-Ḥīra,” passim.
    28. Greg Fisher has dedicated much of his work to the tribal aspects of the Naṣrid state and to the interactions between the Roman Empire and the Arab tribes.
    29. For this concept, cf. Doris Bachmann-Medick (ed.), The Trans/national Study of Culture: A Translational Perspective (Concepts for the Study of Culture 4; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2014).
    30. Talib, “Topoi and Topography,” passim.
    31. Toral-Niehoff, Al-Ḥ̣īra, 10–23. ↑
    32. Rina Drory, “The Abbasid Construction of the Jahiliyya: Cultural Authority in the Making,” Studia Islamica 83 (1996): 33–49.
    33. Kirill Dmitriev is preparing a study on the poetical school of al-Ḥīrah in the context of Late Antiquity.
    34. Toral-Niehoff, Al-Ḥ̣īra, 68; eadem, “Late Antique Iran and the Arabs,” 120–122.
    35. For the relationship between al-Ḥīrah, the Ḥijāz, and other Arabic tribes in particular, cf. Kister, “Al-Ḥīra,” passim.
    36. Michael Lecker, “The Levying of Taxes for the Sassanians in Pre-Islamic Medina (Yathrib),” Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 27 (2008): 109–126.
    37. Idem, “Were the Ghassānids and the Byzantines behind Muḥammad’s hijra?,” in Denis Genequand and Christian Julien Robin (eds.), Les Jafnides, des rois arabes au service de Byzance (VIe siècle de l’ère chrétienne) actes du colloque de Paris, 24–25 novembre 2008 (Orient & Méditerranée 17; Paris: Éditions De Boccard, 2015), 268–286. Lecker has even suggested that the Ghassānids—and their Byzantine overlords—were active behind the scene of the hijrah, encouraging the Anṣār to provide Muḥammad and his Companions with a safe haven, and thus to counteract the Jews as Sasanian agents.
    38. Toral-Niehoff, Al-Hira, 51–58.
    39. For example, via poems like the “Creation Poem” by the Ḥīran poet ʿAdī b. Zayd. Cf. eadem, “Eine poetische Gestaltung des Sündenfalls: Das Mythos in dem vorislamisch-arabischen Schöpfungsgedicht von ʿAdī b. Zayd,” in Dirk Hartwig, Walter Homolka, Michael J. Marx, and Angelika Neuwirth (eds.), “Im vollen Licht der Geschichte”: Die Wissenschaft des Judentums und die Anfänge der kritischen Koranforschung (Ex Oriente Lux 8; Würzburg: Ergon-Verlag, 2008), 235–256; Kirill Dmitriev, “An Early Christian Arabic Account of the Creation of the World,” in Neuwirth et al., The Qurʾān in Context, 349–347.
    40. Garth Fowden, Empire to Commonwealth: Consequences of Monotheism in Late Antiquity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993); Neuwirth et al., The Qurʾān in Context;  Angelika Neuwirth, Der Koran als Text der Spätantike: Ein europäischer Zugang (Berlin: Verlag der Weltreligionen, 2010).
    41. Peter Brown, “The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity,” Journal of Roman Studies 61 (1971): 80–101.
    42. Neuwirth, Der Koran als Text der Spätantike, passim.
    43. Dwight F. Reynolds, “Al-Maqqarī’s Ziryāb: The Making of a Myth,” Middle Eastern Literatures 11 (2008): 155–168; Ahmad b. Muḥammad al-Maqqarī, Nafḥ al-ṭīb min gusn al-Andalus al-ratib, ed. Iḥsān ʿAbbās (8 vols.; Beirut: Dār Ṣādir, 1408/1988), 1.344, 3.122–133 (quoting Ibn Ḥayyān), 3.615.
    44. Cf. note 4 above.
    45. Regarding the Iranian troops stationed in al-Ḥīrah, cf. Kister, “Al-Ḥīra,” 165–167.
    46. The episode is preserved in very similar variants in Abū Jaʿfar Muḥammad b. Jarīr al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-rusul wa’l-mulūk, ed. M. A. Bayḍūn (6 vols.; Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, 2005), 2.324, 345; Aḥmad b. Yaḥyā al-Balādhurī, Futūḥ al-buldān, ed. ʿAbd al-Qādir Muḥammad ʿAlī (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, 2000), 141, 150–152.
    47. This border region, however, became also the retreat of dissidents, like many Syrian Monophysites and heretic ascetics persecuted by Justin and Justinian.  We have reports that the oasis of ʿAyn al-Tamr, known as Payram in Christian sources, became the refuge of the fanatic Monophysite sect of Julian of Halicarnassus; cf. Theresa Hainthaler, Christliche Araber vor dem Islam: Verbreitung und konfessionelle Zugehörigkeit; eine Hinführung (Eastern Christian Studies 7; Leuven: Peeters, 2007), 105 et passim, and Toral-Niehoff, Al-Ḥ̣īra, 172.
    48. For these developments in Persian church history, and particularly in regard to al-Ḥ̣īra, see the survey in Toral-Niehoff, Al-Ḥ̣īra, 151–210.
    49. “The Rahāʾin were youths from Arab tribes taken by the kings of al-Ḥīra as hostages guaranteeing that their tribes would not raid the territories of al-Ḥīra and that they would fulfill the terms of their pacts and obligations between them and the kings of al-Ḥīra. They counted—according to a tradition quoted by Abū’l-Baqāʾ—500 youths and stayed 6 months at the court of al-Ḥīra. After this period they were replaced by others”; see Kister, “Al-Ḥīra,” 167. As we can deduct from the statement about these hostages in ʿAyn al-Tamr, the Persians continued this effective practice after their seizure of power in 602 CE.
    50. Aḥmad b. Yaḥyā al-Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, eds. Suhayl Zakkār and Riyāḍ Ziriklī (13 vols.; Beirut: Dār al-Fikr, 1997), 6.255.
    51. Abū ʿUbayd ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. Muḥammad b. Ayyūb b. ʿAmr al-Bakrī, Al-Masālik wa’l-mamālik, ed. Jamāl Ṭalbah (2 vols.; Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, 2003), 2.387; Muḥammad b. ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAbd al-Munʿim al-Ḥimyarī, Al-Rawḍ al-miʿṭār fī khabar al-aqṭār: muʿjam jughrāfī maʿa fahāris shāmilah, ed. Iḥsān ʿAbbās (Beirut: Maktabah Lubnān, 1984), 33; Aḥmad b. Muḥammad Ibn ʿIdhārī al-Marrākushī, Al-Bayān al-mughrib fī akhbār mulūk al-Andalus wa’l-Maghrib, ed. Georges-Séraphin Colin and Évariste Levi-Provençal (2 vols.; Leiden: Brill, 1951), 2.22–23; ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Muḥammad Ibn Khaldūn, Kitāb al-ʿIbar wa-dīwān al-mubtadaʾ wa’l-khabar fī taʾrīkh al-ʿarab wa’l-barbar wa-man ʿāṣarahum min dhawī al-shaʾn al-akbār, ed. Khalīl Shaḥādah (8 vols.; Beirut: Dār al-Fikr, 1988), 4.224; Aḥmad b. Muḥammad b. Ibrāhīm b. Abū Bakr Ibn Khallikān, Wafayāt al-aʿyan wa-anbāʾ abnā ahl al-zamān, ed. Iḥsān ʿAbbās (8 vols.; Beirut: Dār Ṣādir, 1970), 5.317–318; Anon., Fatḥ al-Andalus: Luis Molina (ed.), La conquista de al-Andalus (Madrid: CSIC, 1994), 11–12; ʿAlī b. Muḥammad ʿIzz al-Dīn b. al-Athīr, Kāmil fī’l-taʾrīkh, ed. ʿAbd Allāh al-Qāḍī (10 vols.; Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, 1987), 4.252.
    52. Between January 2 and December 20, 640. Curiously, this is one of the few pieces of information about the origins of Mūsā b. Nuṣayr upon which all chroniclers agree. Cf. Bakrī, Al-Masālik, ed. Ṭalbah, 2.387; Ḥimyarī, Al-Rawḍ al-miʿṭār, ed. ʿAbbās, 33; Maqqarī, Nafḥ al-ṭīb, ed. ʿAbbās, 1.283; ʿAbd al-Malik b. Ḥabīb, Taʾrīkh Ibn Ḥabīb, ed. Jorge Aguadé (Madrid: CSIC, 1981), 136, no. 391; Ibn ʿIdhārī, Al-Bayān al-mughrib fī akhbār al-Maghrib (I): Reinhardt P.A. Dozy (ed.), Histoire de l’Afrique et de l’Espagne, Al-Bayano ‘l-Mogrib et fragments de la chronique d’Aríb (de Cordove) (I) (Leiden: Brill, 1848), 46; idem, Bayān (II), ed. Colin and Levi-Provençal, 22; Ibn Khallikān, Wafayāt al-aʿyan, ed. ʿAbbās, 5.329; La conquista de al-Andalus, ed. Molina, 11; ʿAbd al-Malik b. Abī’l-Qāsim b. Muḥammad b. al-Kardabūs, Kitāb al-Iktifāʾ fī akhbār al-khulafāʾ, ed. Ṣāliḥ b. ʿAbd Allāh al-Ghāmidī (3 vols.; Medina: Al-Jāmiʿah al-Islamiyyah, 2008), 1002.
    53. Abū Muḥammad ʿAbd Allāh b. Muslim Ibn Qutaybah al-Dīnawarī, Al-Imāmah wa’l-siyāsah: wa-huwa al-maʿrūf bi-taʾrīkh al-khulafāʾ, ed. ʿAlī Shīrī (2 vols.; Beirut: Dār al-Aḍwāʾ, 1990), 2.69; Taqī al-Dīn Abū’l-ʿAbbās Aḥmad b. ʿAlī b. ʿAbd al-Qādir b. Muḥammad al-Maqrīzī, Kitāb al-Mawāʿiẓ wa’l-iʿtibār bi-dhikr al-khiṭaṭ wa’l-āthār, ed. Khalīl al-Manṣūr (4 vols.; Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, 1988), 1.387.
    54. Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh, ed. Bayḍūn, 2.524, 529–530.
    55. According to Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh, ed. Bayḍūn, 2.542, Bishr b. Marwān became governor of Basra in 73/692–693.
    56. Abū’l-Qāsim ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAbd al-Ḥakam, Futūḥ al-Miṣr: Charles C. Torrey (ed.), The History of the Conquest of Egypt, North Africa and Spain (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1922; repr. Piscataway: Gorgias Press, 2002), 203. Ibn Qutaybah, Al-Imāmah wa’l-siyāsah, ed. Shīrī, 2.69; Ibn ʿIdhārī, Histoire de l’Afrique et de l’Espagne, ed. Dozy, 1.24.
    57. Michael G. Morony, Iraq after the Muslim Conquest (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984; repr. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2005), 51–68.
    58. Ibn ʿIdhārī, Histoire de l’Afrique et de l’Espagne, ed. Dozy, 1.24–25.
    59. The historians disagree about the date of this event, ranging from 78/697–698 in Ibn ʿAbd al-Ḥakam (History of the Conquest of Egypt, North Africa and Spain, ed. Torrey, 87) to 89/707–708 in Balādhurī (Futūḥ al-buldān, ed. ʿAlī, 141). The most common date is 79/698–699: Ibn Qutaybah, Al-Imāmah wa’l-siyāsah, ed. Shīrī, 2.72; Aḥmad b. Yaḥyā al-Ḍabbī, Bughyat al-multamis fī taʾrīkh rijāl ahl al-Andalus, ed. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Sawifī (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, 1997), no. 1334; Ibn al-Abbār, Kitāb al-Ḥullah al-siyarāʾ li-Ibn al-Abbār, ed. Ḥusayn Muʾnis (2 vols.; Cairo: Dār al-Maʿārif, 1984), 2.332.
    60. Arnald Steiger, Contribución a la fonética del hispano-árabe y de los arabismos en el ibero-románico y el siciliano (Madrid: CSIC, 1991 [1932]).
    61. Mercé Viladrich, “La transferencia de términos fiscales islámicos de oriente a occidente: Ṭasq y tascha/tasca en Catalunya Vella y Septimania durante la primera organización emiral omeya,” in Xavier Ballestín and Ernesto Pastor (eds.), Lo que vino de Oriente. Horizontes, praxis y dimensión material de los sistemas de dominación fiscal en Al-Andalus (VII-IX) (Oxford: Archeopress, 2013), 46.
    62. Qudāmah b. Jaʿfar, Kitāb al-Kharāj wa-ṣināʿat al-kitābah, ed. Muḥammad al-Zubaydī (Baghdad: Dār al-Rashīd, 1981), 202.
    63. Ibid., Kitāb al-Kharāj, 221.
    64. Q Muʾminūn 23:72, “Or dost thou ask of them any reward? But the reward of thy Lord is best; and He is the Best of providers (am tasʾaluhum kharjan fa-kharāj rabbika khayrun wa-huwa khayru’l-rāziqīn)”;The Noble Qur’an. English Translation of the Meanings and Commentary, trans. Muhammad Taqî-ud-Dîn Al-Hilâlî and Muhammad Muhsin Khân (Medina: King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qurʾān, 1419/1999). Cf. Viladrich, “La transferencia de términos fiscales,” 47. About the origin and evolution of the term kharāj, see Ghaida Khazna Katbi, Islamic Land Tax – Al-Kharaj. From the Islamic Conquest to the ʿAbbasid Period (London: I. B. Tauris, 2010), 14–19.
    65. Claude Devic and Joseph Vaissete (eds.), Histoire Générale de Languedoc avec des notes et les pièces justificatives. Tome deuxième (Toulouse: J.-B. Paya, 1875), 597–598, doc. XI: ibidem vobis exinde tascas et decimas persolvere debuissemus.
    66. Cf. numerous examples in Viladrich, “La transferencia de términos fiscales,” 48–52.
    67. Ibid., 50.
    68. Xenophon, Anabasis, trans. and ed. Carlos Varias (Madrid: Cátedra, 1999), 1.5.6. In the text we find kapithē, the Greek transcription of Parthian kapīč. Cf. Adrian David Hugh Bivar, “Achaemenid Coins, Weights and Measures,” in Ilya Gershevitch (ed.), The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. 2: The Median and Achaemenian Periods (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 610–639, 633–634.
    69. Abū Yūsuf Yaʿqūb b. Ibrāhīm al-Anṣārī, Kitāb al-Kharāj, ed. Ṭāhā ʿAbd al-Raʾūf Saʿd and Saʿd Ḥasan Muḥammad (Cairo: Al-Maktabah al-Azhariyyah li’l-Turāth, 1999), 46; idem, Taxation in Islām (Vol. III): Abū Yūsuf’s Kitāb al-Kharāj, trans. Aharon Ben Shemesh (Leiden; London: Brill, 1969), 96.
    70. Cf. the equivalences in Walther Hinz, Islamische Masse und Gewichte (Leiden: Brill, 1970), 48–50.
    71. Angel Fabrega i Grau (ed.), Diplomatari de la catedral de Barcelona, documents dels anys 844–1260, t. I: Documents dels anys 844–1000 (Barcelona: Arxiu capitular de la catedral de Barcelona, 1995), 193–194: in ipsa uinea, ipsa quarta parte, kaficadas duas (March 23, 894).
    72. Ramón d’Abadal i de Vinyals, Catalunya Carolíngia, vol: 3/2: Els Comtats de Pallars i Ribagorça (Barcelona: Institut dʿEstudis Catalans, 2007), 354: terra juris meis quem abeo de ruptura parentum meorum in castro Avileto, ubi dicitur cubile… et est ad seminandum I k(afiz) (May 925).
    73. Antonio Ubieto Arteta (ed.), Cartulario de Albelda (Valencia: Anubar, 1981), 6: ut commutaremus (omines de ciuitate quod dicitur Vecaria) tecum (el abad Auriolo) terras in loco quod dicitur Loreto iuxta Sancti Pantaleonis. Contulistis nobis in parte nostra agrum quod situm est iusta Fastigia Sanctarum ecclesiarum in seminatura terra kafiz et medio (January 11, 931).
    74. Jesús Lorenzo Jiménez and Ernesto Pastor, “Dominando territorios, imponiendo medidas: de Banbalūna a Barsilūna,” in Ballestín and Pastor (eds.), Lo que vino de Oriente, 61.

    Al-Ḥīrah, the Naṣrids, and Their Legacy

    New Perspectives on Late Antique Iranian History

    Al-Ḥīrah, the Naṣrids, and Their Legacy

    New Perspectives on Late Antique Iranian History

    About Global Late Antiquity

    Al-Ḥīrah, the Naṣrids, and Their Legacy

    New Perspectives on Late Antique Iranian History

    This paper argues that the famous conqueror of al-Andalus, Mūsā ibn Nuṣayr, who originally came from ʿAyn al-Tamr, a town under the hegemony of Naṣrid al-Ḥīrah, transmitted aspects of Sasanian administrative practice to al-Andalus and hence to Europe, as evidenced by the taxation terms tasca and kafiz attested in Latin and Romance texts. This specific argument is embedded in a larger argument about cultural hybridity centering on the city of al-Ḥīrah as a pre-Islamic and Islamic contact zone among cultures—Roman, Iranian, Arab; Christian, Muslim; tribal and urban. It thus links the processes of transculturation observable in al-Ḥīrah with developments in the far edges of the Islamic world through the person of the conqueror Mūsā b. Nuṣayr.
    This paper argues that the famous conqueror of al-Andalus, Mūsā ibn Nuṣayr, who originally came from ʿAyn al-Tamr, a town under the hegemony of Naṣrid al-Ḥīrah, transmitted aspects of Sasanian administrative practice to al-Andalus and hence to Europe, as evidenced by the taxation terms tasca and kafiz attested in Latin and Romance texts. This specific argument is embedded in a larger argument about cultural hybridity centering on the city of al-Ḥīrah as a pre-Islamic and Islamic contact zone among cultures—Roman, Iranian, Arab; Christian, Muslim; tribal and urban. It thus links the processes of transculturation observable in al-Ḥīrah with developments in the far edges of the Islamic world through the person of the conqueror Mūsā b. Nuṣayr.
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    TABLE OF CONTENTS

    About Global Late Antiquity

    Al-Ḥīrah, the Naṣrids, and Their Legacy

    New Perspectives on Late Antique Iranian History

    Introduction

    Over the last decades, Late Antiquity has been increasingly apprehended as a temporal category having its own significance, defined by the binding elements of empire and monotheism, and less as a period interpreted under the sign of antique decadence, as it was before.1 This reconceptualization has caused its timeline to be gradually extended right into the third/ninth and even the fourth/tenth century, leading to the inclusion of the Umayyad and (partially) the Abbasid Caliphate, to now be interpreted as forms of late antique monotheistic empire.2 Furthermore, the geographical focus has shifted towards including the areas located at the eastern and southern peripheries of the Roman Empire, whose peoples regularly interacted with Greco-Roman culture and participated in the gradual conversion to monotheistic religions. Against this background—especially given that the Sasanian Empire was not only the main rival and competitor of Rome, but also in continuous contact with it as its most powerful neighbor—it does not come as a surprise that the late antique period in Iran is receiving increasing scholarly attention.3

    In this context, it is crucial to investigate liminal contact zones between both empires that acted as spaces of cultural contact, exchange, and cross-pollination, thus spreading late antique models beyond the Roman frontiers and simultaneously functioning as focal points of “Iranization.” The following study concentrates on one of these hotspots, namely the Naṣrid principality in Iraq, an Arab petty state around the city of al-Ḥīrah in southern Iraq, whose dominion reached as far as al-Anbār, Dūmat al-Jandal and ʿAyn al-Tamr, and which played a crucial role in functioning as a transitional and translational zone between Iran, Arabia, and Rome.4 The purpose of this article is to provide a survey on the current state of research about al-Ḥīrah, as well as to sketch recent discoveries and innovative approaches in this critical subfield of late antique Iranian history.

    Al-Ḥīrah and the Naṣrids in the east: new discoveries and innovative approaches

    Considering the above-mentioned shifts in the study of Late Antiquity, as well as the relevance of al-Ḥīrah for the investigation of late antique Iran, it might come as a surprise that its investigation has only gained momentum in the last few years.5 Here we may rely on a monograph by one of the authors of this article published in 2014,6 as well as on several recent articles,7 in addition to diverse novel studies that discuss topics relevant to the broader historical context.8 This state of affairs is in contrast to the many studies published over previous decades on the Jafnid petty kingdom, the most obvious parallel of the Naṣrids, a tribal state that played a very similar role at the fringes of the Roman Empire in Greater Syria in the same period.9 The imbalance is partly due to the difficulties in the source material. In the case of the Jafnids, archaeological, numismatic, and epigraphic evidence abounds and has been investigated broadly by Roman archaeologists and ancient historians.10 Furthermore, as allies of the Romans, the Jafnids have a significant presence in contemporaneous Greek and Roman historiography. The material remains of the Naṣrids of al-Ḥīrah, in contrast, have much less frequently been investigated, and have suffered from the general shortcomings of late antique archaeology in Mesopotamia.11 In addition, as Persian allies, the Naṣrids rarely appear in Greek, Roman, and Syriac sources, and since Sasanian historiography is mostly lost, we must rely on later Arabic reports from Islamic times.

    Concerning the archaeology of al-Ḥīrah, the situation has indeed been complicated for a long time, but will hopefully improve soon. Until recently, we have had to rely on the sketchy results from a preliminary excavation undertaken in the 1930s12 and a brief campaign in 1946,13 complemented by those of a German survey of the area in the 1970s14 and that of a Japanese excavation in the 1980s in the nearby site of Ain Shai’a.15 The ruins of al-Ḥīrah, located in the outskirts of modern, rapidly growing Kufa and Najaf, have almost disappeared and partly been overbuilt, and the long-lasting military conflicts in the zone have impeded any continuous archaeological research for a long time. However, the current calming of the situation in southern Iraq may provide opportunity to investigate the zone anew: there is an ongoing German-Iraqi archaeological survey that has been taking place since 2015 that pursues an integrated approach, focusing on questions of settlement and urban development, and which promises to yield very significant new insights soon. It has already brought to light interesting minor findings such as pottery, fragments of glass vessels, stucco plaques with incised and colored crosses, and copper coins.16 It is to be said that al-Ḥīrah has an advantage in that the site has not been disturbed by building activities until recently, so that, despite the difficulties already mentioned, we may expect exciting new insights.

    In terms of the written record, the study of al-Ḥīrah must draw mainly on the rich Arabic tradition of historiography, which has the disadvantage of having been composed centuries later during Islamic times, and so requires critical assessment based on a good knowledge of the peculiarities of the Arabic textual tradition.17 However, the strand in this tradition relevant to al-Ḥīrah is most probably based on local Ḥīran traditions collected in nearby Kufa such as local chronicles, informants, and dynastic lists,18 which permits one to grasp the insider’s perspective, in contrast to the case of the Jafnids, whose traditions are much less attested in Arabic sources.19 In this regard we may also expect new insights, as is shown by recent discoveries. From the 1980s, we have the publication of the Manāqib al-mazyadiyyah of Abū’l-Baqāʾ,20 a very valuable source of the fifth/eleventh century, that was already used in manuscript by M. J. Kister in the 1960s,21 and contains numerous passages not preserved in the usual well-known sources used by Rothstein.22 Furthermore, the recent discovery of the so-called “Haddad Chronicle,”23 which has been identified as a missing portion of the Chronicle of Seert, permits us to increase our knowledge of the early history of al-Ḥīrah, for example, by shedding light on its early tribal composition.24

    Beyond the discovery of new evidence, the application of new interpretative frameworks on the already known material is opening fresh perspectives on al-Ḥīrah and its legacies. For example, Greg Fisher has taken concepts from anthropology and analyzed the Arabs in the limes or boundary zone from the point of view of state-tribe interaction, highlighting aspects of tribal leadership in peripheral polities at the Roman frontier.25

    Another approach that promises to be fruitful is to look at al-Ḥīrah as an example of a borderland area and as a cultural translation zone, both in the pre-Islamic and in the Islamic period, as is illustrated by the following.

    The petty state of al-Ḥīrah can be interpreted as an Iranian frontier state that parallels the multifaceted nature of Roman frontier states like the foederati in North Africa and Germania. This is, first of all, the consequence of its geographic location at the banks of the Middle Euphrates. On the one hand, its proximity to Ctesiphon, the Sasanian capital—located 100 kilometers to the northeast—inserted al-Ḥīrah into the Persian sphere of influence and ended up transforming the petty-kings of al-Ḥīrah from allies into dependent “vassals” of the Sasanian King of Kings; on the other hand, its location at the western frontier of the Sasanian Empire, looking westwards to the Syrian desert and ultimately to the Roman Empire, as well as southwards to the Arabian Peninsula, determined its key strategic function for the Sasanians as buffer state.

    As a consequence, the Naṣrids were commissioned by the Persians first to wage proxy wars against the allies of the Romans, the Jafnids, with the aim to keep the conflict between both empires on a manageable level, and second, to serve the Persians as both a protective shield against the Arab tribes from the peninsula and also as useful mediators with aggressive Bedouin.26 In addition, al-Ḥīrah became a neutral zone populated by very diverse religious communities that suffered persecution elsewhere, like Monophysite monks and Manichaeans, tolerated by the pagan dynasty of the city that sought to maintain room to maneuver in a period when political considerations, especially negotiating alliances, had come to be inflected by questions of religious identity.

    In cultural terms, this condition as frontier state meant that al-Ḥīrah occupied an in-between space, typical for borderland areas, characterized by a high degree of diverse cultural, linguistic, and societal hybridity. The population was composed of various communities bearing a broad and often overlapping spectrum of ethnic, linguistic, cultural, and religious features: tribal and urban Arabs, Persian noblemen and soldiers, Syriac Christians, pagan Aramaeans, Manichaean, and Jewish communities. A telling example is the polyglot ʿibād, the local Christian Arab community, whose members can be characterized as multilingual transcultural agents and brokers.27 Cultural innovations associated with Late Antiquity such as literacy, monotheistic notions of spiritual salvation and political power, and biblical narratives and religious organization all reached the Arabian Peninsula principally via transmitters like these ʿibād. The cultural hybridity in al-Ḥīrah further parallels its structural diversity: the simultaneous coexistence of tribalism and semi-nomadism with peculiar forms of Arab urbanism and semi-state monarchic structures is attested in this period; we also find highly developed ecclesiastical and monastic structures and building activities.28 As a hybrid frontier zone, al-Ḥīrah thus became a crucial bridge between the Romans, the Sasanians, and the Arabs—in other words, a space of cultural translation.29

    The historical importance of the Arab-Iranian matrix of al-Ḥīrah is further to be seen in its role as long-term mediator and translation zone of late antique models to what became classical Islam. Classical Islam—here understood as the canonized cultural and religious model of the “Golden Age” in Baghdad—was the product of the society of the early Abbasid period, and was shaped in Iraq, namely in Kufa, Basra, and Baghdad. As a consequence of this, we must assume that the Naṣrid legacy in Iraqi al-Ḥīrah was much more important as a late antique substratum for Islam than the Jafnid legacy, simply because of its proximity to the cultural centers of the Abbasid period.

    Indeed, the Arabic textual tradition tells us that al-Ḥīrah served as an important historical reference and model, and that it functioned as a site of memory and remembrance, a symbol of the theme of sic transit Gloria mundi, and as a frequent topos in literature, in which al-Ḥīrah became the main site associated with pre-Islamic kings, poets, vineyards, monasteries, and luxury, but also with the abhorrent jāhiliyyah of pagan kings.30 The vicinity of al-Ḥīrah with its Islamic successor-heir city Kufa, one of the birthplaces of the study of Arabic history and antiquities as well as grammar and philology, further explains the prominence of al-Ḥīrah in Arabic historiographical and adab narratives, since Ḥīran and Kufan informants were thus able to inscribe and glorify their history as an essential part of the (re)constructed pre-Islamic Arab past.31

    These early Arabic scholars and philologists, men like the philologist Ibn al-Mufaḍḍal, the antiquarian Muḥammad Ibn Ḥabīb, and the family of al-Kalbī, would establish the canon of classical Arabic culture and memory.32 They managed to establish therein the Ḥīran court of the Naṣrids, of al-Mundhir and al-Nuʿmān, and canonized al-Ḥīrah as the splendorous center of early pre-Islamic poetry, especially of wine-poetry and early panegyrics.33 Al-Ḥīrah also became the emblematic site where Arab-Iranian cultural contacts had taken place, as reflected in the legends surrounding Bahram Gūr, the Sasanian prince of the fifth century CE who lived as young man among the Arabs of al-Ḥīrah, where he learned Arab ways of hunting, but also introduced such Iranian customs as polo—a veritable cultural hero who embodies the long-lasting history of endemic cultural contact between Arabs and Iranians.34

    The late antique legacy as mediated through al-Ḥīrah would also affect Islamic history in an indirect way, since the early decades of Islamic history would take place in another geographical setting, namely in the northwestern Arabian Peninsula, in the Ḥijāz. The Arabs dwelling there had never been direct allies of the great powers of the day, but nevertheless they did not fall outside of the late antique world thanks to their contacts with the Naṣrids and the Jafnids.35 In the sixth century, Yathrib (later Medina) had fallen under the suzerainty of the Naṣrids and thus into the sphere of Sasanian influence.36 The well-known local hegemony of the Jewish tribes in Medina is probably to be seen in this context, since the Sasanians tended to foster the Jews as a counterbalance to the Christian Arabs allied with Rome.37 Merchants, probably from al-Ḥīrah, seem to have introduced Manichaeism, probably Christianity, and even the knowledge of Iranian epics into Yathrib/Medina.38 Poets who frequented the court in al-Ḥīrah spread the news about Arab Christianity and the community of ʿibād all over the peninsula, as well as the knowledge that there were literate, Iranized, and urban Arabs.39 The Naṣrids also controlled the caravan routes in central Arabia on behalf of the Sasanians. Mecca and the Quraysh, in contrast, remained independent, but had close commercial connections to Syria and to the tribes dwelling there.

    The results of this late antique imprint are to be felt in our main source for the origins of Islam, i.e., in the Qurʾān itself. The qurʾānic kerygma not only claims to constitute a continuation of the earlier revealed religions of Late Antiquity, i.e., of Christianity and Judaism. It also reflects the religious language of the contemporary universal religions by combining late antique notions of universal leadership and monotheism with the birth of a new community that surpasses tribal and ethnic boundaries.40 Furthermore, Muḥammad’s idea of prophethood incarnates values associated with the holy man of Late Antiquity (e.g., individual morality, asceticism) that were further amalgamated with ideas of charismatic political authority modeled according to the concept of imperial rule.41 In addition, the Qurʾān addresses an Arabic-speaking audience that was not only imbued with a mixture of polytheistic creeds and tribal values, but that was also familiar with biblical legends, monotheism, and ideas about scripture.42 Thus, we can state that the Naṣrids and the Jafnids contributed first to familiarizing the Arabs with late antique cultural and political models and second to shaping the Meccan milieu where the Prophet Muḥammad proclaimed the qurʾānic message.

    Al-Ḥīrah in the west: new perspectives on al-Andalus

    The importance of al-Ḥīrah and its people as mediators and cultural translators of Late Antique Iran can be seen in unexpected and very distant regions, as will be shown in the following example that further exemplifies the fruitfulness of considering unusual source material such as—in this case—Latin and Romance sources.

    The Iranian influence in the Islamic West has often been minimized or reduced to cultural elements, mediated by personalities of Abbasid background like the famous musician Ziryāb or the historians of the al-Rāzī family, who originally hailed from Baghdad and came to al-Andalus in the third/ninth century introducing the Iranian/Abbasid model of courtly culture into the then-provincial Umayyad court of al-Andalus.43

    However, as will be shown in the following, the Iranian presence in al-Andalus may be dated already to the arrival of the first Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula, and continued for several centuries in spheres linked to political and economic power such as taxation and systems of weights and measures. The bearer of this Iranian influence was none other than Mūsā b. Nuṣayr (d. 97–98/716), the famed conqueror of al-Andalus, who originally came from ʿAyn al-Tamr, a town already mentioned as within the dominion of the Naṣrid king of al-Ḥīrah, and, as we will see, similarly populated by Arab Christians.44

    Mūsā b. Nuṣayr

    In 11/633, the caliph Abū Bakr sent his commander, Khālid b. al-Walīd, to Iraq at the head of an army of Muslims, thus initiating the swift conquest of Mesopotamia. The first city to fall was al-Ḥīrah, which would negotiate its surrender. From there, Khālid moved toward al-Anbār, whose inhabitants also came to terms with the conquerors and capitulated, and then marched with his soldiers in the direction of the nearby ʿAyn al-Tamr. Unlike in previous cities, they confronted there a mixed army of Persians and Arabs loyal to the Sasanians.45 The Muslims arrived at the gates of the city and, after the resistance of the garrison had vanished, plundered it.

    The event was memorialized by numerous informants, whose accounts, all very similar, became part of several compilations.46 According to the version of events in Ṭabarī, it was Khālid himself who entered the city, where he found forty young men (ghilmān), who would be held as hostages, at the moment when they were studying the scriptures inside a church (kanīsah). Among them was Nuṣayr, the father of Mūsā. This account raises several questions of interest connected to the origins of Mūsā b. Nuṣayr.

    The first question concerns the important presence in ʿAyn al-Tamr in 12/633–4 of Arabs who collaborated with the Persians. As has been mentioned above, the Arab kingdom of al-Ḥīrah based its existence as a buffer and frontier state on successful collaboration between the Naṣrid monarchs and the Sasanian emperors, but while al-Ḥīrah and al-Anbār had refused to resist the Muslim conquerors and negotiated a peaceful surrender, ʿAyn al-Tamr offered resistance. This indicates either that the Persian presence was particularly strong there, or that the local Arabs felt a special loyalty towards the Sasanian sovereign.

    The second issue is the great weight that Christianity seems to have had in the city. From the point of view of church history, the existence of Christians in ʿAyn al-Tamr is not surprising at all, since Christianity had had a significant presence on Persian soil for centuries before the arrival of Islam in the region.47 From 410 CE onwards, the Persian church even counted on an independent ecclesiastical organization that would pursue the “Nestorian” doctrine, a development that was tolerated and even supported by the Sasanian dynasty, eager to counterbalance the aggressive religious policy of the Roman Empire since Constantine.48

    The third concerns the fact that the ghilmān were captured while learning the scriptures, that is, receiving ecclesiastical education and formation (probably in Syriac), which suggests that their families enjoyed a high status among the Arab tribes. Apparently the Christians in ʿAyn al-Tamr played a similar role as the famous ʿibād from al-Ḥīrah, forming a local, urbanized, and literate Arab elite. In any case, given their status as Arabs, their social rank would always be lower than that of the Persian aristocracy, which, after the suppression of al-Ḥīrah’s kingdom in 602 CE, occupied the highest positions in the local administration. Their hostage status supports this hypothesis: the practice of taking hostages among the children of prominent families functioned as warrant of their loyalty or of non-aggression; it is understandable in the period preceding the Islamic conquest, when relations between the Sasanian authorities and the Arab tribes were going through very tense moments.49

    The chroniclers have not preserved much evidence about Nuṣayr, the father of Mūsā. The texts repeat again and again that his son Mūsā was a mawlā of the Marwānid Umayyads, a condition that he presumably inherited from his father. However, despite the prominence of the Umayyads in the conquest of Syria, there is no testimony that allows us to locate specific members of the Umayyad lineage taking part in the conquest of Iraq. When and how did the encounter between the captive Nuṣayr and the Umayyad Marwānids take place? In the absence of information, we can only speculate. Thus, several compilers transmit the notice that the captives of ʿAyn al-Tamr were dispatched to Medina and delivered to the caliph ʿUthmān.50 The only report we have about Nuṣayr after his captivity places him, like his fellow captives, in conditions very far from what could be expected of a servant or manumitted slave. The unique notice, which must date to sometime after 41/661, places Nuṣayr in the closest circle of the caliph Muʿāwiyah b. Abī Sufyān (r. 41/661-60/680), as a member of his bodyguard no less.51

    Mūsā was born in Syria, in the village (qaryah) of Kafr Mary, in the year 19/640.52 The first decades of his life remain totally obscure and we will have to wait until the 60s/680s to find an isolated but very revealing indication that allows us to state that, as with so many other mawālī, Mūsā continued to prosper under the Umayyads. It is a report mentioning his participation in the civil war between the supporters of the Marwānid Umayyads and those of the anti-caliph ʿAbd Allāh b. al-Zubayr. In this conflict, Egypt favored the latter, so that the Marwānids sent an army there under the command of ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. Marwān (d. 85–86/705), future governor of the region. In that army also came Bishr ibn Marwān, son and brother of caliphs, and next to him appears Mūsā b. Nuṣayr.53 There is no further mention of Mūsā’s participation in this war, although Ṭabarī notes the strong involvement of Bishr in favor of his brothers in Mesopotamia.54

    At an indeterminate date between 73/692 and 76/695, Mūsā appeared alongside Bishr b. Marwān in the government of Iraq, his country of origin.55 The text of the chronicler Ibn ʿAbd al-Ḥakam (d. 257/871) does not indicate his position, but one source points out that he held the office of vizier and counsellor (wazīr wa-mushīr); another, that he was appointed by the caliph himself as the collector of the kharāj or land tax in Basra.56 We might note first his proximity to his family’s place of origin, ʿAyn al-Tamr, and second, as Morony has pointed out, that this was a region where the taxation system of the Sasanian era still had very considerable weight.57

    The death of Bishr in 75/694–5 seemed first to be a setback for Mūsā, since it revealed that there were problems in the economic management, which brought him the enmity of the Caliph ʿAbd al-Malik. According to a testimony collected by Ibn ʿIdhārī, Mūsā was accused of appropriating money from the public treasury (al-amwāl), wherefore the caliph ordered him to be apprehended and condemned him to death.58 Mūsā then asked for the protection of ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz , who was already governor of Egypt, and it was agreed that the sentence should be commuted to the payment of a considerable sum valued at 100,000 dinars, half of which came from the account of ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz himself. Having thus resolved the conflict, ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz brought him to Egypt, and a few years later, on a date between 78–79/698 and 89–90/708, appointed him governor of Ifrīqiyyah, a position subordinate to the governor of Egypt.59 From Ifrīqiyyah, Mūsā would make the leap to al-Andalus in the year 92–93/711. He would never return to Iraq; other campaigns awaited him in the western Mediterranean, which would transform him into a semi-legendary character and the hero of the conquest of al-Andalus, at the side of Tāriq b. Ziyād.

    Having established that Mūsā’s origin in ʿAyn al-Tamr points to a good knowledge of administrative and political practices ultimately rooted in late antique Iranian traditions, and given his eminent role in the first years of al-Andalus, it is unsurprising to detect traces of Iranian taxation and measure systems in the Islamic West, as will be shown in the following.

    The fossilization of Persian elements in Romance language: taxes and measures

    The year 92–93/711 marked the beginning of the Islamic conquest of the Visigothic kingdom of Toledo and the establishment of al-Andalus under Islamic government, first under the suzerainty of the wilāyah (rule) of Ifrīqiyyah, then under the Umayyad Emirate. In the following years, Islamic expansion there would continue, coming to embrace almost the whole Iberian Peninsula as well as dominating the province of Septimania, to the north of the Pyrenees.

    However, halfway through the second/eighth century, the conquests halted, and now began the process of expansion of the Latin kingdoms at the expense of the Andalusian territory. First came the Carolingians, to the north of the Pyrenees, advancing into the northeast of the peninsula, conquering Narbonne in the year 141–142/759, Girona in 168–169/785, and Barcelona in 184–185/801. At the same time, new political entities started to emerge in the Cantabrian area, gradually evolving into the Latin kingdoms of the north of the peninsula. In their advance towards the south, these political entities would take on many of the Islamic institutions of the conquered territory, which becomes visible in the surviving documentation of these states, written in Latin and Romance. In particular, the Latin kingdoms would adopt Islamic taxation and measures systems; thus, the Arab origin of Romance forms like the tax of the alcabala, or measures like the almud, the arroba, and the arrobada is well known.60

    This peculiarity of the Iberian Peninsula allows us to reconstruct the first layer of these institutions as they existed at the time of the Islamic conquest through—paradoxically—the Latin documentation, which provides data that otherwise would have been lost. As in other territories of the Dār al-Islām, the early institutions of the conquest period in al-Andalus evolved and disappeared, supplanted and superseded by the canonical Islamic system that was developed later. However, in the territories conquered by the Latin kingdoms, fossilized names reveal a reality that the later Arabic texts seem to ignore. Among these institutions, we can recognize several of Iranian origin, and that can be attributed to the time of the conquest carried out by Mūsā b. Nuṣayr.

    The accounts of the conquest of Mesopotamia repeatedly mention the imposition of a certain tribute, the ṭasqā, and the obligation to pay taxes in various measures, including the qafīz. Both terms, ṭasqā and qafīz, appear centuries later in Romanized versions in a place as remote as the western end of the Mediterranean, in al-Andalus, and do so in a context that stopped being Islamic after its conquest by the Latin kingdoms. These references demonstrate the great weight of the Persian element in the conquest of al-Andalus.

    The earliest mention of ṭasqā is found in the Babylonian Talmud, a text that contains a broad set of rules governing the lives of Jews living on Sasanian soil. Among these rules is the obligation to pay the ṭasqā tax, a tax that was justified by the fact that the state was the sole owner of arable land. Those who exploited it, with the right of usufruct, had to satisfy the payment of a fee to the state—of proportional character—that authorized them to exploit these lands.61 With the Islamic conquest, the ṭasqā was levied on the crops of state lands conquered by force (arḍ ʿanwah)62 and was still proportional: in the fourth/tenth century, Qudāmah b. Jaʿfar (d. ca. 75/948) still defined the ṭasqā as “taxes (that) are levied on state lands in accordance with the terms of the leases and the quality of the land, and half of the share in crops was levied on the lands.”63 Despite these late references, we can perceive a gradual displacement of the term in favor of kharāj, which ultimately replaces it completely. Unlike the term ṭasqā, probably Iranian Persian, the term kharāj has qur’anic resonances.64 However, on the other side of the Mediterranean, and in a Latin context, this tax did not disappear, but rather survived until the late Middle Ages.

    The earliest mention of this tax in the Latin sources appears in a document dated 802 CE, which includes the obligation to satisfy the abbey of Caunes (Minervois) with the payment of tascaset decima.65 This first mention of the tax of the tasca appears in an area that had been part of al-Andalus in the Septimania, where the presence of Islam was brief, between 719 and 759 CE, but, according to this document, intense. The references to this tax, the tasca or tascha, are repeated in the Latin documentation on both sides of the eastern end of the Pyrenees, in Septimania and Catalonia, until the later medieval centuries.66 This is not just a question of nomenclature; as Viladrich has shown, as its Eastern equivalent, the tasca/tascha is a tax that is applied for the usufruct of land for life and has a hereditary character.67

    Like ṭasqā, the term qafīz has a Persian origin as a measure for aggregates and liquids; it dates at least as far back as the fourth century BCE, when it first was mentioned by Xenophon in the Anabasis in an Iranian context.68 The Muslims adopted this measure and the Islamic jurists consecrated it as a canonical measure by associating it with the first caliphs. Thus, Abū Yūsuf pointed out in his Kitāb al-Kharāj that “when ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb surveyed the lands of al-Sawād, he found them to measure 36,000,000 jarībs, and levied on each jarīb of cereal-growing land taxes per dirham or per qafīz of yield.”69 Note, first, that the appraisal is carried out in an area where the Persians had ruled for centuries, and second, that the surface measure used, the jarīb, is also of Persian origin.70

    The same term appears in the Latin and Romance documentation of the Iberian Peninsula from the late third/ninth century in the form kafiz, cafiz, or cahiz, as well as its derivative, kafizada. The earliest mention in Latin is in a document dating back to 894 CE, which includes the sale of a vineyard in the Maresme, that is, in the eastern end of the Pyrenees, and where the term kaficada is used as a unit of area.71 Another mention of the kafiz, now as a measure of capacity, is documented in the Ribagorza, in the central Pyrenees region, dated in the year 925 CE.72 In the year 931 CE we can document another similar mention in Viguera, in the Ebro valley.73 It is evident that by the end of the fourth/tenth century, kafiz, as a reference to area or a measure of capacity, was well known throughout the Pyrenean region.74

    In both cases, the use of tasca and kafiz in Latin and Romance indicates an Iranian influence that can only be explained as going back to the oldest layer of Islamic administrative practice in the Iberian Peninsula, which in its turn has roots in a Mesopotamian and Iranian substratum. Having stated this, we must suppose that the governor Mūsā b. Nuṣayr, and maybe other Iranized Arabs from around al-Ḥīrah who had come to form part of the leading elite in the early Umayyad Caliphate, applied their expertise in administrative and taxation matters and thus left an Iranian imprint in a region as far away as al-Andalus.

    Conclusion

    This survey has shown that the discovery of new evidence in terms of written and archaeological material on the one hand, and the reassessment of already known material inspired by innovative approaches in cultural studies on the other, may yield new insights in the study of al-Ḥīrah and the Naṣrids, and contributes to a better understanding of their role in the context of late antique Iran. It further highlights the key role played by the Christianized and Iranized Arabs of Iraq, soon to become members of the leading elite in the caliphate, as catalysts of cultural contact and Iranization not only in pre-Islamic, but also in Islamic times, when the conquests widened their radius of movement enormously. This process is exemplified by the case of Mūsā b. Nuṣayr, the conqueror of al-Andalus. Finally, it has demonstrated that, by analyzing material that normally falls outside of the scope of a Middle Eastern historian such as Latin documentation, one might detect Iranian influence in unexpected corners of the Mediterranean.

    About the authors

    Isabel Toral-Niehoff, Ph.D. Tübingen 1997, is scientific coordinator at the University of Mainz and has taught at the Freie Universität Berlin in the Department of Arabic Studies since 2008. She has also held various research positions and fellowships in Freiburg, Berlin, London (Marie Curie Fellowship), and Göttingen. Her main publishing and research fields are Arabia and the Near East in Late Antiquity; cultural identity and cultural contact/translation; the Arabic occult sciences; adab, fiction, and encyclopaedias; and al-Andalus.

    Jesús Lorenzo Jiménez holds a Ph.D. in History from the University of the Basque Country (2008). His main research field is the study of the first centuries of al-Andalus in close connection with the rest of the Islamic world. He is the author of a monograph entitled La Dawla de los Banû Qasî. Origen, auge y caída de una dinastía muladí en la Frontera Superior de al-Andalus (Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones científicas, 2010), as well as several articles published in international journals.

    Notes

    1. See the recent surveys of the history of Late Antique Studies: Garth Fowden, Before and After Muhammad: The First Millennium Refocused (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016), 18–48 and Aziz Al-Azmeh, The Emergence of Islam in Late Antiquity: Allah and His People (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 1–47.
    2. Al-Azmeh has argued extensively in favor of seeing Islamic civilization as the “most successful crystallization” of Late Antiquity, ibid., 2, et passim.
    3. Beate Dignas and Engelbert Winter, Rome and Persia in Late Antiquity: Neighbors and Rivals (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).
    4. Cf. maps 1, 2, and index in Isabel Toral-Niehoff, Al-Ḥ̣īra: Eine arabische Kulturmetropole im spätantiken Kontext (Islamic History and Civilization 104; Leiden: Brill, 2014).
    5. For a long time, the only monograph available was Gustav Rothstein, Die Dynastie der Laḫmiden in al-Ḥîra: Ein Versuch zur arabisch-persischen Geschichte zur Zeit der Sasaniden (Göttingen: Dieterich, 1898; repr. Hildesheim: Olms, 1968), complemented only in the 1960s by the important article of Meir J. Kister, “Al-Ḥīra: Some Notes on its Relations with Arabia,” Arabica 15 (1968): 143–169.
    6. Toral-Niehoff, Al-Ḥīra, passim.
    7. Eadem, “The ʿIbād of al-Ḥīra: An Arab Christian Community in Late Antique Iraq,” in Angelika Neuwirth, Michael Marx and Nicolai Sinai (eds.), The Qurʾān in Context: Historical and Literary Investigations into the Qurʾānic Milieu (Leiden: Brill, 2010), 323–347; eadem, “Late Antique Iran and the Arabs: The Case of al-Hira,” Journal of Persianate Studies 6 (2013): 115–126; Greg Fisher and Philip Wood, “Writing the History of the ‘Persian Arabs’: The Pre-Islamic Perspective on the ‘Naṣrids’ of al-Ḥīrah,” Iranian Studies 49 (2016): 247–290; Adam Talib, “Topoi and Topography in the Histories of al-Hira,” in Philip Wood (ed.), History and Identity in the Late Antique Near East (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 123–147; Philip Wood, “Al-Ḥīra and Its Histories,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 136 (2016): 785–799.
    8. For instance, cf. Richard E. Payne, A State of Mixture: Christians, Zoroastrians, and Iranian Political Culture in Late Antiquity (Transformation of the Classical Heritage 56; Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2015); Parvaneh Pourshariati, Decline and Fall of the Sasanian Empire: The Sasanian-Parthian Confederacy and the Arab Conquest of Iran (London: I.B. Tauris, 2008); and Joel Thomas Walker, The Legend of Mar Qardagh: Narrative and Christian Heroism in Late Antique Iraq (Transformation of the Classical Heritage 40; Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2006).
    9. Cf. Greg Fisher (ed.), Arabs and Empires before Islam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015) with further references, and the numerous works by Irfan Shahîd.
    10. Cf. the state of research sketched by Denis Genequand, “The Archaeological Evidence for the Jafnids and the Naṣrids,” in Fisher, Arabs and Empires, 172–213, and Peter Edwell et al., “Arabs in the Conflict between Rome and Persia,” in Fisher, Arabs and Empires, 214–275.
    11. Cf. the survey of Stefan Hauser, “Christliche Archäologie im Sassanidenreich: Grundanlagen der Interpretation und Bestandaufnahme der Evidenz,” in Arafa Mustafa (ed.), Inkulturation des Christentums im Sasanidenreich (Wiesbaden: Reichert, 2007), 93–136.
    12. David Talbot Rice, “The Oxford Excavations at Hira,” Ars Islamica 1 (1934): 51–73; idem, “The Oxford Excavations at Hira, 1931,” Antiquity 6 (1932): 276–291, idem, “The Oxford Excavations at Hira,” Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society (1932): 254–268. The results are partly kept in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
    13. Mahmud Ali, “Tanqībat fī al-Ḥīra,” Sumer 2 (1946): 29–32.
    14. Barbara Finster and Jürgen Schmidt, Sasanidische und frühislamische Ruinen im Iraq (Baghdader Mitteilungen 8; Berlin: Mann, 1976).
    15. Yasuyoshi Okada, “Excavations at Ain Shai’a Ruins and Dukakin Caves,” Al-Rāfidān 10 (1989): 27–88; idem, “Early Christian Architecture in the Iraqi South-Western Desert,” Al-Rāfidān 12 (1991): 72–83; idem, “Ain Shai’a and the Early Gulf Churches: An Architectural Analogy,” Al-Rāfidān 13 (1992): 87–93.
    16. Martina Mueller-Wiener, Ulrike Siegel, Martin Gussone, and Ibrahim Salman, “Archaeological Survey of al-Hira/Iraq. Fieldwork Campaign 2015,” Fondation Max van Berchem (2015); cf. the report by Martina Mueller-Wiener and Ulrike Siegel, “The Pre-Islamic and Early Islamic City of al-Hira: First Results of the Archaeological Survey 2015,” in Barbara Horejs, Roderick B. Salisbury, Felix Höflmayer, Teresa Bürge et al. (eds.), Proceedings of the 10th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, Volume 2 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2018), 639–652.
    17. Toral-Niehoff, Al-Ḥ̣īra, 10–26.
    18. Eadem, Al-Ḥ̣īra, 21; Wood, “Al-Ḥīra and Its Histories,” 798–799, et passim.
    19. For this problem, cf. Robert G. Hoyland, “Insider and Outsider Sources: Historiographical Reflections on Late Antique Arabia,” in Jitse H. F. Dijkstra and Greg Fisher (eds.), Inside and Out: Interactions between Rome and the Peoples on the Arabian and Egyptian Frontiers in Late Antiquity (Late Antique History and Religion 8; Leuven: Peeters, 2014): 267–280.
    20. Abū’l-Baqāʾ al-Ḥillī, Manāqib al-mazyadīyyah fī akhbār mulūk al-asadiyyah, ed. Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Qādir Khuraysāt and Ṣālih Mūsā Darādika (2 vols.; Amman: n.p., 1984; repr. Al-ʿAyn: Markaz Zāyid li’l-Turāth wa’l-Taʾrīkh, 2000).
    21. Kister, “Al-Ḥīra,” 151, et passim.
    22. Rothstein, Die Dynastie der Laḫmiden in al-Ḥîra, 5–12.
    23. Buṭrus Ḥaddād (ed.), Mukhtaṣar al-akhbār al-bīʿiyyah: wa-huwa’l-qism al-mafqūd min “al-Taʾrīkh al-Siʿirdī”(?) (Baghdad: Maṭbaʿat al-Dīwān, 2000); Herman Teule, “L’abrégé de la chronique ecclésiastique (Muḫtaṣār[sic] al-aḫbār al-bīʿiyyah) et la chronique de Séert. Quelques sondages,” in Muriel Debié (ed.), Historiographie syriaque (Études syriaques 6; Paris: Geuthner, 2009), 161–77; Philip Wood, The Chronicle of Seert: Christian Historical Imagination in Late Antique Iraq (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 70–71.
    24. Wood, “Al-Ḥīra and Its Histories,” 789.
    25. Greg Fisher, Between Empires: Arabs, Romans, and Sasanians in Late Antiquity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), passim.
    26. Edwell et al., “Arabs in the Conflict between Rome and Persia,” in Fisher, Arabs and Empires, 214–275; Isabel Toral-Niehoff, “Imperial Contests and the Arabs: The World of Late Antiquity on the Eve of Islam,” in Armando Salvatore, Roberto Tottoli, Babak Rahimi, et al. (eds.), The Wiley Blackwell History of Islam (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2018), 59–76.
    27. Toral-Niehoff, “The ʿIbād of al-Ḥīra,” passim.
    28. Greg Fisher has dedicated much of his work to the tribal aspects of the Naṣrid state and to the interactions between the Roman Empire and the Arab tribes.
    29. For this concept, cf. Doris Bachmann-Medick (ed.), The Trans/national Study of Culture: A Translational Perspective (Concepts for the Study of Culture 4; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2014).
    30. Talib, “Topoi and Topography,” passim.
    31. Toral-Niehoff, Al-Ḥ̣īra, 10–23. ↑
    32. Rina Drory, “The Abbasid Construction of the Jahiliyya: Cultural Authority in the Making,” Studia Islamica 83 (1996): 33–49.
    33. Kirill Dmitriev is preparing a study on the poetical school of al-Ḥīrah in the context of Late Antiquity.
    34. Toral-Niehoff, Al-Ḥ̣īra, 68; eadem, “Late Antique Iran and the Arabs,” 120–122.
    35. For the relationship between al-Ḥīrah, the Ḥijāz, and other Arabic tribes in particular, cf. Kister, “Al-Ḥīra,” passim.
    36. Michael Lecker, “The Levying of Taxes for the Sassanians in Pre-Islamic Medina (Yathrib),” Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 27 (2008): 109–126.
    37. Idem, “Were the Ghassānids and the Byzantines behind Muḥammad’s hijra?,” in Denis Genequand and Christian Julien Robin (eds.), Les Jafnides, des rois arabes au service de Byzance (VIe siècle de l’ère chrétienne) actes du colloque de Paris, 24–25 novembre 2008 (Orient & Méditerranée 17; Paris: Éditions De Boccard, 2015), 268–286. Lecker has even suggested that the Ghassānids—and their Byzantine overlords—were active behind the scene of the hijrah, encouraging the Anṣār to provide Muḥammad and his Companions with a safe haven, and thus to counteract the Jews as Sasanian agents.
    38. Toral-Niehoff, Al-Hira, 51–58.
    39. For example, via poems like the “Creation Poem” by the Ḥīran poet ʿAdī b. Zayd. Cf. eadem, “Eine poetische Gestaltung des Sündenfalls: Das Mythos in dem vorislamisch-arabischen Schöpfungsgedicht von ʿAdī b. Zayd,” in Dirk Hartwig, Walter Homolka, Michael J. Marx, and Angelika Neuwirth (eds.), “Im vollen Licht der Geschichte”: Die Wissenschaft des Judentums und die Anfänge der kritischen Koranforschung (Ex Oriente Lux 8; Würzburg: Ergon-Verlag, 2008), 235–256; Kirill Dmitriev, “An Early Christian Arabic Account of the Creation of the World,” in Neuwirth et al., The Qurʾān in Context, 349–347.
    40. Garth Fowden, Empire to Commonwealth: Consequences of Monotheism in Late Antiquity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993); Neuwirth et al., The Qurʾān in Context;  Angelika Neuwirth, Der Koran als Text der Spätantike: Ein europäischer Zugang (Berlin: Verlag der Weltreligionen, 2010).
    41. Peter Brown, “The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity,” Journal of Roman Studies 61 (1971): 80–101.
    42. Neuwirth, Der Koran als Text der Spätantike, passim.
    43. Dwight F. Reynolds, “Al-Maqqarī’s Ziryāb: The Making of a Myth,” Middle Eastern Literatures 11 (2008): 155–168; Ahmad b. Muḥammad al-Maqqarī, Nafḥ al-ṭīb min gusn al-Andalus al-ratib, ed. Iḥsān ʿAbbās (8 vols.; Beirut: Dār Ṣādir, 1408/1988), 1.344, 3.122–133 (quoting Ibn Ḥayyān), 3.615.
    44. Cf. note 4 above.
    45. Regarding the Iranian troops stationed in al-Ḥīrah, cf. Kister, “Al-Ḥīra,” 165–167.
    46. The episode is preserved in very similar variants in Abū Jaʿfar Muḥammad b. Jarīr al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-rusul wa’l-mulūk, ed. M. A. Bayḍūn (6 vols.; Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, 2005), 2.324, 345; Aḥmad b. Yaḥyā al-Balādhurī, Futūḥ al-buldān, ed. ʿAbd al-Qādir Muḥammad ʿAlī (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, 2000), 141, 150–152.
    47. This border region, however, became also the retreat of dissidents, like many Syrian Monophysites and heretic ascetics persecuted by Justin and Justinian.  We have reports that the oasis of ʿAyn al-Tamr, known as Payram in Christian sources, became the refuge of the fanatic Monophysite sect of Julian of Halicarnassus; cf. Theresa Hainthaler, Christliche Araber vor dem Islam: Verbreitung und konfessionelle Zugehörigkeit; eine Hinführung (Eastern Christian Studies 7; Leuven: Peeters, 2007), 105 et passim, and Toral-Niehoff, Al-Ḥ̣īra, 172.
    48. For these developments in Persian church history, and particularly in regard to al-Ḥ̣īra, see the survey in Toral-Niehoff, Al-Ḥ̣īra, 151–210.
    49. “The Rahāʾin were youths from Arab tribes taken by the kings of al-Ḥīra as hostages guaranteeing that their tribes would not raid the territories of al-Ḥīra and that they would fulfill the terms of their pacts and obligations between them and the kings of al-Ḥīra. They counted—according to a tradition quoted by Abū’l-Baqāʾ—500 youths and stayed 6 months at the court of al-Ḥīra. After this period they were replaced by others”; see Kister, “Al-Ḥīra,” 167. As we can deduct from the statement about these hostages in ʿAyn al-Tamr, the Persians continued this effective practice after their seizure of power in 602 CE.
    50. Aḥmad b. Yaḥyā al-Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, eds. Suhayl Zakkār and Riyāḍ Ziriklī (13 vols.; Beirut: Dār al-Fikr, 1997), 6.255.
    51. Abū ʿUbayd ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. Muḥammad b. Ayyūb b. ʿAmr al-Bakrī, Al-Masālik wa’l-mamālik, ed. Jamāl Ṭalbah (2 vols.; Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, 2003), 2.387; Muḥammad b. ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAbd al-Munʿim al-Ḥimyarī, Al-Rawḍ al-miʿṭār fī khabar al-aqṭār: muʿjam jughrāfī maʿa fahāris shāmilah, ed. Iḥsān ʿAbbās (Beirut: Maktabah Lubnān, 1984), 33; Aḥmad b. Muḥammad Ibn ʿIdhārī al-Marrākushī, Al-Bayān al-mughrib fī akhbār mulūk al-Andalus wa’l-Maghrib, ed. Georges-Séraphin Colin and Évariste Levi-Provençal (2 vols.; Leiden: Brill, 1951), 2.22–23; ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Muḥammad Ibn Khaldūn, Kitāb al-ʿIbar wa-dīwān al-mubtadaʾ wa’l-khabar fī taʾrīkh al-ʿarab wa’l-barbar wa-man ʿāṣarahum min dhawī al-shaʾn al-akbār, ed. Khalīl Shaḥādah (8 vols.; Beirut: Dār al-Fikr, 1988), 4.224; Aḥmad b. Muḥammad b. Ibrāhīm b. Abū Bakr Ibn Khallikān, Wafayāt al-aʿyan wa-anbāʾ abnā ahl al-zamān, ed. Iḥsān ʿAbbās (8 vols.; Beirut: Dār Ṣādir, 1970), 5.317–318; Anon., Fatḥ al-Andalus: Luis Molina (ed.), La conquista de al-Andalus (Madrid: CSIC, 1994), 11–12; ʿAlī b. Muḥammad ʿIzz al-Dīn b. al-Athīr, Kāmil fī’l-taʾrīkh, ed. ʿAbd Allāh al-Qāḍī (10 vols.; Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, 1987), 4.252.
    52. Between January 2 and December 20, 640. Curiously, this is one of the few pieces of information about the origins of Mūsā b. Nuṣayr upon which all chroniclers agree. Cf. Bakrī, Al-Masālik, ed. Ṭalbah, 2.387; Ḥimyarī, Al-Rawḍ al-miʿṭār, ed. ʿAbbās, 33; Maqqarī, Nafḥ al-ṭīb, ed. ʿAbbās, 1.283; ʿAbd al-Malik b. Ḥabīb, Taʾrīkh Ibn Ḥabīb, ed. Jorge Aguadé (Madrid: CSIC, 1981), 136, no. 391; Ibn ʿIdhārī, Al-Bayān al-mughrib fī akhbār al-Maghrib (I): Reinhardt P.A. Dozy (ed.), Histoire de l’Afrique et de l’Espagne, Al-Bayano ‘l-Mogrib et fragments de la chronique d’Aríb (de Cordove) (I) (Leiden: Brill, 1848), 46; idem, Bayān (II), ed. Colin and Levi-Provençal, 22; Ibn Khallikān, Wafayāt al-aʿyan, ed. ʿAbbās, 5.329; La conquista de al-Andalus, ed. Molina, 11; ʿAbd al-Malik b. Abī’l-Qāsim b. Muḥammad b. al-Kardabūs, Kitāb al-Iktifāʾ fī akhbār al-khulafāʾ, ed. Ṣāliḥ b. ʿAbd Allāh al-Ghāmidī (3 vols.; Medina: Al-Jāmiʿah al-Islamiyyah, 2008), 1002.
    53. Abū Muḥammad ʿAbd Allāh b. Muslim Ibn Qutaybah al-Dīnawarī, Al-Imāmah wa’l-siyāsah: wa-huwa al-maʿrūf bi-taʾrīkh al-khulafāʾ, ed. ʿAlī Shīrī (2 vols.; Beirut: Dār al-Aḍwāʾ, 1990), 2.69; Taqī al-Dīn Abū’l-ʿAbbās Aḥmad b. ʿAlī b. ʿAbd al-Qādir b. Muḥammad al-Maqrīzī, Kitāb al-Mawāʿiẓ wa’l-iʿtibār bi-dhikr al-khiṭaṭ wa’l-āthār, ed. Khalīl al-Manṣūr (4 vols.; Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, 1988), 1.387.
    54. Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh, ed. Bayḍūn, 2.524, 529–530.
    55. According to Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh, ed. Bayḍūn, 2.542, Bishr b. Marwān became governor of Basra in 73/692–693.
    56. Abū’l-Qāsim ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAbd al-Ḥakam, Futūḥ al-Miṣr: Charles C. Torrey (ed.), The History of the Conquest of Egypt, North Africa and Spain (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1922; repr. Piscataway: Gorgias Press, 2002), 203. Ibn Qutaybah, Al-Imāmah wa’l-siyāsah, ed. Shīrī, 2.69; Ibn ʿIdhārī, Histoire de l’Afrique et de l’Espagne, ed. Dozy, 1.24.
    57. Michael G. Morony, Iraq after the Muslim Conquest (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984; repr. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2005), 51–68.
    58. Ibn ʿIdhārī, Histoire de l’Afrique et de l’Espagne, ed. Dozy, 1.24–25.
    59. The historians disagree about the date of this event, ranging from 78/697–698 in Ibn ʿAbd al-Ḥakam (History of the Conquest of Egypt, North Africa and Spain, ed. Torrey, 87) to 89/707–708 in Balādhurī (Futūḥ al-buldān, ed. ʿAlī, 141). The most common date is 79/698–699: Ibn Qutaybah, Al-Imāmah wa’l-siyāsah, ed. Shīrī, 2.72; Aḥmad b. Yaḥyā al-Ḍabbī, Bughyat al-multamis fī taʾrīkh rijāl ahl al-Andalus, ed. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Sawifī (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, 1997), no. 1334; Ibn al-Abbār, Kitāb al-Ḥullah al-siyarāʾ li-Ibn al-Abbār, ed. Ḥusayn Muʾnis (2 vols.; Cairo: Dār al-Maʿārif, 1984), 2.332.
    60. Arnald Steiger, Contribución a la fonética del hispano-árabe y de los arabismos en el ibero-románico y el siciliano (Madrid: CSIC, 1991 [1932]).
    61. Mercé Viladrich, “La transferencia de términos fiscales islámicos de oriente a occidente: Ṭasq y tascha/tasca en Catalunya Vella y Septimania durante la primera organización emiral omeya,” in Xavier Ballestín and Ernesto Pastor (eds.), Lo que vino de Oriente. Horizontes, praxis y dimensión material de los sistemas de dominación fiscal en Al-Andalus (VII-IX) (Oxford: Archeopress, 2013), 46.
    62. Qudāmah b. Jaʿfar, Kitāb al-Kharāj wa-ṣināʿat al-kitābah, ed. Muḥammad al-Zubaydī (Baghdad: Dār al-Rashīd, 1981), 202.
    63. Ibid., Kitāb al-Kharāj, 221.
    64. Q Muʾminūn 23:72, “Or dost thou ask of them any reward? But the reward of thy Lord is best; and He is the Best of providers (am tasʾaluhum kharjan fa-kharāj rabbika khayrun wa-huwa khayru’l-rāziqīn)”;The Noble Qur’an. English Translation of the Meanings and Commentary, trans. Muhammad Taqî-ud-Dîn Al-Hilâlî and Muhammad Muhsin Khân (Medina: King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qurʾān, 1419/1999). Cf. Viladrich, “La transferencia de términos fiscales,” 47. About the origin and evolution of the term kharāj, see Ghaida Khazna Katbi, Islamic Land Tax – Al-Kharaj. From the Islamic Conquest to the ʿAbbasid Period (London: I. B. Tauris, 2010), 14–19.
    65. Claude Devic and Joseph Vaissete (eds.), Histoire Générale de Languedoc avec des notes et les pièces justificatives. Tome deuxième (Toulouse: J.-B. Paya, 1875), 597–598, doc. XI: ibidem vobis exinde tascas et decimas persolvere debuissemus.
    66. Cf. numerous examples in Viladrich, “La transferencia de términos fiscales,” 48–52.
    67. Ibid., 50.
    68. Xenophon, Anabasis, trans. and ed. Carlos Varias (Madrid: Cátedra, 1999), 1.5.6. In the text we find kapithē, the Greek transcription of Parthian kapīč. Cf. Adrian David Hugh Bivar, “Achaemenid Coins, Weights and Measures,” in Ilya Gershevitch (ed.), The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. 2: The Median and Achaemenian Periods (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 610–639, 633–634.
    69. Abū Yūsuf Yaʿqūb b. Ibrāhīm al-Anṣārī, Kitāb al-Kharāj, ed. Ṭāhā ʿAbd al-Raʾūf Saʿd and Saʿd Ḥasan Muḥammad (Cairo: Al-Maktabah al-Azhariyyah li’l-Turāth, 1999), 46; idem, Taxation in Islām (Vol. III): Abū Yūsuf’s Kitāb al-Kharāj, trans. Aharon Ben Shemesh (Leiden; London: Brill, 1969), 96.
    70. Cf. the equivalences in Walther Hinz, Islamische Masse und Gewichte (Leiden: Brill, 1970), 48–50.
    71. Angel Fabrega i Grau (ed.), Diplomatari de la catedral de Barcelona, documents dels anys 844–1260, t. I: Documents dels anys 844–1000 (Barcelona: Arxiu capitular de la catedral de Barcelona, 1995), 193–194: in ipsa uinea, ipsa quarta parte, kaficadas duas (March 23, 894).
    72. Ramón d’Abadal i de Vinyals, Catalunya Carolíngia, vol: 3/2: Els Comtats de Pallars i Ribagorça (Barcelona: Institut dʿEstudis Catalans, 2007), 354: terra juris meis quem abeo de ruptura parentum meorum in castro Avileto, ubi dicitur cubile… et est ad seminandum I k(afiz) (May 925).
    73. Antonio Ubieto Arteta (ed.), Cartulario de Albelda (Valencia: Anubar, 1981), 6: ut commutaremus (omines de ciuitate quod dicitur Vecaria) tecum (el abad Auriolo) terras in loco quod dicitur Loreto iuxta Sancti Pantaleonis. Contulistis nobis in parte nostra agrum quod situm est iusta Fastigia Sanctarum ecclesiarum in seminatura terra kafiz et medio (January 11, 931).
    74. Jesús Lorenzo Jiménez and Ernesto Pastor, “Dominando territorios, imponiendo medidas: de Banbalūna a Barsilūna,” in Ballestín and Pastor (eds.), Lo que vino de Oriente, 61.