From Rentier Economy to Rentier Mentality in the Arab World, part 2

Tribute was usually associated with supplication and was channelled through a gift-exchange cultural model. Individuals and tribes took their gifts to a particular zawiya in the hope that its saint would endow them in return with his baraka, either by chasing away a sickness and malediction or by solving a social problem. De Foucauld wrote in 1883 that the zawiya Sharqawiya in Bja‘d (Tadla) received annual tributes each year from all the nearby tribes. Other tribes from Shawiya and the Great Atlas also used to give their own annual tributes. The value of those tributes was 1/10 of the harvest. In 1905, Ait ‘Atta in Wad Dar‘a gave a tribute to the shurfa of Tamsluht in the sum total of 1 sheep per flock of 100 heads, 1/30 of corn harvest amount, 1/8 of henna amount being the main commercial produce of the oasis, and 0.5 franc per new-born and newly-purchased horse. (cit. in Michel, 2001, p. 103).

Another historical example is the shrif Mulay Ali l-Wazani who received gifts from different parts of Morocco and beyond. He received henna and dates from visitors from Tafilalt, male and female slaves from visitors from the Sahara, fabric and mules from visitors from the Orient, iron equipments from mountaineers and olive crops from visitors from Demnat – needless to mention the gold (from 10 to 500 drachmas) and money he received from his followers (1989, pp. 198-9).

In nineteenth century, Sufi lodges received, within a gift-exchange cultural model of cooptation, donations in the form of land property offered to them by Sultans to exploit in return for the support they might offer them in pacifying dissident tribes, seizing power, or combating crusaders. Such donations (in‘am / hibat) usually reinforced zawiyas’ allegiance to the Sultan and polished the latter’s symbolic image of guardianship (ri‘aya/ himaya) and charity (ni‘ma) (Hammoudi 2000, 76-7). Thus, zawiyas amassed capital through the donations they received from Sultans in the form of mortmain land (aradi l-waqf) like the Zawiya Nasirya which benefited from mortmain land, mortmain salves and houses (Shadili, 1989, p. 206). Also, there were zawiyas that benefited from charity (sadaqat) and alms (zakawat) given to them by nearby adherent tribes.

Zawiyas also gained more land by virtue of giving protection and subterfuge to fugitive peasants overwhelmed by heavy taxation and persecuted by the Makhzen. Those who fled qaids’ oppression, or were unable to work or join combats, all sought the protection and immunity of saints and offered their land to the shurfa (the descendents from the noble lineage of the prophet) in return for being sheltered, fed and protected for life. Zawiyas also benefited from volunteer workforce; men who zealously offered their hand labor to shurfa by working in their fields unpaid, and by giving harvest tributes to the Seigneur (Halim, 2000). The Makhzen was aware of those conditions and sustained their reproduction to keep manpower under saints’ social control and derive profit from honorary service (Laroui 2001, 19).

Hammoudi (1997) in Master and Disciple framed this maraboutic mechanisms of sultan-subject relationship within a gift-exchange model characterized by complex dynamic power relations though the author seems to neglect the rentier dimension of the transaction. The sultan’s acceptance of the gift from his loyal servants and his presence in front of them are expressions of gift-return. The presence of the sultan fulfills the compulsion culture dictates when one is given a gift. When the sultan offers gifts to loyal subjects, it is staged as an act of benevolence that expresses his satisfaction (rida) with his loyal servants; when he does it to win his adversaries, it is regarded as an act of condescension to pardon miscreants.

We have argued in previous research that this gift-exchange model rooted in maraboutism may be transferred to other social arenas like the domain of education, labour, family or administration. But like our predecessors, we skimped over the rentier basis of the maraboutic model that seems to be a latent strong indicator affecting the formation of loyal political alliances in Morocco. It is obvious that maraboutism, sultanism, and broadly political culture appear to be structured by the rentier economic system the Arab States have generally inherited for centuries and which has extensively affected both the state and citizen in the Arab World.

*Dr. Mohammed Maarouf, Chouaib Doukkali University, Morocco