ZuBaYRids and PRotosunnis

Just as Umayyad rule had provoked the emergence of Shi'ite and Khaarijite movements during the Second Civil War, so it galvanised the party of Qurashis descended from the followers of Talha, Zubayr, and 'A'isha, now led by 'Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr (624-692). Centred in Mecca, the Zubayrid party failed to offer the ideological force that propelled the Kharijites and the Shi'a, and was readily dealt with by the Umayyad caliphs. Its political significance collapsed, but its erstwhile followers, descended from many of the Companions of the Prophet who had remained in Arabia, and who constituted the largest reservoir of substantial tradition about the earliest period of Islam, appear to have been particularly active in preserving and transmitting information about that period. They were encouraged in this by the growing thirst of many Muslims from the great cities of the Fertile Crescent and beyond for authentic information about earlier times. Muslims from outside Arabia would frequently encounter these traditionists while fulfilling their pilgrimage obligations. The people of Medina, in particular, began to think of themselves as representing the epitome of Muslim authenticity, an oasis of correct memory and practice in a confused and divided world.

Led mostly by descendants of the Companions, some of whom were descended from Abua Bakr and 'Umar I, the Medinans kept alive the memory of those men as exemplary rulers, against the opinions of the Shai'a and others. They also perpetuated a simple and literal-minded understanding of the verses describing God in the Qur'an. Thus, in interpreting Qur'an 20:5: ''The All-Compassionate is established (istawa) on the throne,'' Malik ibn Anas (d. 795), the eventual systematiser of Medinan legal thought, is said to have commented: ''This establishment is known; but its mode is unknown; belief in it is a duty; but inquiring about it is a [reproved] innovation.''1 Too much metaphysics, for Maalik, was clearly a bad thing. As is indicated by the many deterministic traditions that came to be circulated, even in the earliest major work of such traditions, the Muwatta' of Malik, the Medinans also tended to uphold the predestinarian view that was being endorsed by the Umayyad caliphs.

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