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Pre-Islamic Tribal Asabiyyah and Its Reflections Today

The last iftar programme of KURAMER was held on Wednesday, 16th July, 2014. The speaker of the programme was Prof. Dr. Adem Apak, an academician at Uludağ University’s Faculty of Theology and one of the center’s authors. He gave a lecture on “Pre-Islamic Tribal Asabiyyah and Its Reflections Today.”

Apak commenced his lecture by explaining the lexical meaning of asabiyyah. He expressed that asabiyyah was the spirit of unity and solidarity. As a result of an individual’s call for help from his relatives (from father’s side in particular), namely asabah; this spirit enables these people to cooperate with the person against his rivals and competing groups, whether they are right or wrong. Underlining that, “considering the fact that individuals of different ancestries were included in the kin of the tribe in the Arab tribal system, it would be insufficient to describe assabiyah as solidarity between individuals of the same ancestry.” Apak described assabiyah as “the feeling of spiritual might and solidarity which allow tribe members-whether of the same ancestry or not- to support each other under any condition when they believe that they are united under one single principle.” He then added that “the essential criterion in assabiyah is not biological but psychological, namely not blood kinship per se but the belief in being a kin.”

 In addition, he remarked that “the tribe is the most important social formation known and experienced by ancient people. Conversely, assabiyah is the main element that sustains the tribe as a whole. In short, it is the cornerstone of a social order.” According to Apak, tribal assabiyah reflects some aspects of present-day extreme nationalism (racism) since nationalism requires fanatic adherence to an individual’s own race, and the belief in superiority to other races. There is a similar belief in tribal assabiyah as well. The point of departure in assabiyah and racism is ancestry, namely blood kinship. Therefore, it is possible to regard assabiyah, in one aspect, as the first step of or a sort of racism despite certain differences between and even contradictions among them.”

 Stating that, “tribal assabiyah bases its existence on two elements. The first one is that the tribe members believe that they are of the same kin. The second, is on the other hand, the joint interest of the tribe. These two vital reasons cause tribe members to unite under any condition, abandon invidiualism and perform fanaticism in the name of their tribe”. Apak asserted that “the idea of assabiyah assumes a role that fills the power vacuum in political and legal spheres, and safeguards the tribe members inasmuch as the fact that tribal assabiyah gathers tribe members within a spiritual/ virtual circle and endows the members with membership consciousness, and thus a spirit of commitment. Every single member of the tribe reaches the consciousness that he/she is in charge of the community as a whole. In a similar vein, the tribe as a whole is aware of its responsibility for affiliated members.”

Before finishing his words, Apak highlighted that “tribal assabiyah has the feeling of a “we” rather than an “I.” This situation constitutes the basis for the consciousness of a commitment to an ideal. It is this characteristic of assabiyah that renders it sacred and advances it from knowledge to the level of belief. In the modern world, denominations, political parties, ideologies, commitment to the homeland-nation serve as examples for the sacred values that humans make sacrifices and can shed blood for.” He then provided an account of the ideas of Ibn Khaldun, İzzet Derveze and Jābirī on this matter. Apak finished his lecture by giving examples of different types of the present-day understanding of assabiyah and its reflections on the Arab and Islamic world. 

Prof. Dr. Adem Apak

1970 yılında Bursa-Orhaneli'de doğdu. 1988'de Bursa Îmam-Hatip Lisesi'nden, 1992'de Uludağ Üniversitesi ilahiyat Fakültesi'nden mezun oldu. Bir yıl sonra İslâm Tarihi ve Sanatları Anabilim Dalı'na Araştırma Görevlisi olarak atandı. 1995 yılında "Hz. Osman Dönemi Emevî İdareci­leri" isimli tez ile yüksek lisansını tamamladı. 1999 yılında "Amr b. el-As (Hayatı-Şahsiyeti-Devlet Adamlığı)" konulu araştırmasıyla doktor oldu. 2001-2002 ve 2004-2005 öğretim yıllarında Türkmenistan Mahdumku-li Devlet Üniversitesi İlahiyat Fakültesi'nde öğretim üyeliği görevinde bulundu. Mayıs 2005'te doçent, 2011 yılında profesör unvanı aldı. 2007-2008 eğitim öğretim döneminde Şam'da alanıyla ilgili araştırmalar yaptı. Halen Uludağ Üni­versitesi İlahiyat Fakültesi'nde öğretim üyeliği görevini sürdürmekte­dir. Evli ve iki çocuk babasıdır.

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Pre-Islamic Tribal Asabiyyah and Its Reflections Today