German and International Research on Oman 1998

The Ya'ariba Dynasty in Oman, 1624-1744: a Khaldunian Perspective

by Abdulmalik A. al-Hinai [abstract]

Ibn Khaldun, the great Arab scholar of the fourteenth century, and the author of al-Muqaddimah, developed a theory on the rise and fall of the state. Although his book describes the history of the states that emerged in the Maghrib region, he stresses that his theory has equal relevance to the Arabs, the Berbers, the Turks, and the Kurds.
The main theme of the Khaldunian theory is the asabiya, which simply means the social solidarity among specific group of people. It argues that while the strength of the asabiya is the driving force behind the rise of the state, its weakness could bring the state to its downfall. The theory also asserts that all states develop through five stages before they enter into senility leaving them vulnerable to conquest by another asabiya.
This paper is an attempt to give a Khaldunian interpretation to the Ya'ariba dynasty that emerged in Oman in 1624, and became an extended and prosperous empire. Like all states described by Ibn Khaldun, the driving force behind the rise of the Ya'ariba dynasty was the asabiya, but in its religious form. It also passed through five stages before its final collapse in the mid-1740s. The first stage, which started with the election of the first Ya'arubi Imam, has many of the features described in the al-Muqaddima for the stage of zafar (success), and lasted until the mid-1650s shortly after the expulsion of the Portuguese from the Omani coast. At that period of history, the Ya'ariba dynasty started the second stage, which ibn Khaldun terms as the istibdad (complete control), and it lasted until the early 1680s. During this stage the dynasty established several institutions, that helped her to expand outside the Omani territories. When the Omanis started to enjoy the benefits of that expansion, the Ya'ariba dynasty entered the third stage known as the feragh wa de'ah (leisure and tranquillity), which ended at the beginning of the first decade of the eighteenth century. Towards the middle of the decade, the dynasty began to experience the beginning of the decline of the asabiya, and it entered the qunoo wa musalama (contentment and peacefulness) stage. By then the dynasty drifted into the final stage, which is the israf wa tabthir (waste and squander). Having reached that stage, the asabiya among the Ya'ariba was at its lowest level, and a civil war raged the country for more than twenty years. By then the Ya'ariba dynasty has come to senility, where the country became under foreign invasion, and the dynasty finally collapsed to be replaced by a new asabiya by the end of the 1740s.

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Last updated on 20 May 1998.