An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Seminar Session: 2023.05.15: Youssef Ahmed Bani Yassin

“Reflections on the experiences of deliberative councils in al-Andalus during the era of the Mulûk al-Taïfa”

May 15, 2023. 16h00-18h00 (Berlin Time). Registration:

This presentation is an attempt to identify and analyse the characteristics of the systems of governance (Anzimât al-hukm) of Andalusian cities at the time of their integration into the Umayyad state (al-dawla al-umawiya) and precisely at the time when this state is described as entering a phase of weakness, or even disappearance, or described as marking the beginning of the establishment of Taifa governance (qiyâm al-dawla al-Ta’ifa). The study focuses in particular on the two cities of Sevilla, at the beginning of the tyrannical governance of the Banni Abbad family and the capital city of Cordoba just before the tyranny of the Bani Jahour family.

These two families sought, at the beginning of their reign, to follow a system of governance called shûra which is described as unique in Islamic history because it does not depend on a system of governance based on the individual, but rather on a governance based on the collective (shûra councils) dedicated to the public. These types of councils (majlis al-shûra) by the Jamâ’a dedicated to public affairs can be analized as seminal moments of institution of deliberative practices.This study will focus on deciphering the elements and motives that allowed this experiment to emerge and try to understand the causes of its failure.

This research paper aims to investigate the role of Jama’a al-mala’a / Ahl al-hall wa al-aqd in Andalusia (Sevilla and Cordoba) regarding the choice of the ruler/caliph: how that role was exercised, and how it resulted in the abolition of the caliphate institution and its replacement with the institution of the Council of the Nobles or the government of the community. 

This is explored in the paper by examining various episodes of the period of the Caliphate’s weakness, which occurred during the late Umayyad Caliphate in Al-Andalus (399-422 H/1008-1030 AD) and the post-Umayyad Caliphate period in Al-Andalus (the period of Taifa Kings). 

The Jama’a al-mala’a (Group of the Nobles)/ Ahl ash-shura (People of consultation) did not directly intervene in the selection of the supreme ruler, the caliph, in the Islamic state, except during the first era, the Rashidun. This was accomplished through the concept of Ahl al-hall wa al-aqd (decision makers) who became the “customary deputies” for the entire nation, and their role at that time was to activate the value of “consultation” as an important principle in building the political system. 

The role of Jama’a al-mala’a did not last long in Islamic history, as hereditary authority emerged with the beginning of the Umayyad state. It was replaced by the Crown Prince system, which restricted the idea of “choice” to the ruling caliph. The role of the group was eliminated and assumed by the ruling Umayyad clan through the hereditary transfer of power to one of its family members. This occurred in Damascus and Cordoba for the Umayyads, and in Baghdad for the Abbasids. 

Youssef Ahmed Bani Yassin is a professor in the History department at the University of Jordan and specializes in the history of Al-Andalus and the edition of Arabic and Islamic heritage books. Among his research works are the book “The Science of History in Al-Andalus until the End of the Fourth Hijri Century/Tenth AD Century,” the articles “Absolute Rule in the Umayyad State in Al-Andalus After the Death of Al-Hakam Al- Mustansir 366 AH/ 967 AD”, “Identity Differentiation: The Andalusian and the Non-Andalusian: A Reading of the Borders and Separating Boundaries between them through Early Andalusian Biographical Literature,” and “Deposition and Opposition: The State of Al-Mansur b.Abi Amir (366 – 392 H/ 976-1001 A.D) as an Example”. See also: Indexing Abu Muhammad Ibn Khazraj.

Cite this blog post
Nora Lafi (2023, May 9). Seminar Session: 2023.05.15: Youssef Ahmed Bani Yassin. The Historicity of Democracy. Retrieved June 19, 2024, from

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