The divinity of the state

Archaeologists who speculate about the origins of politics tend to be biased in favour of materialistic explanations like environment and level of technology, rather than cultural factors like religion, simply because we owe more about the material environment of early societies. But it seems extremely likely that religious ideas were critical to early state formation, since economic motives alone could not legitimate the transition to hierarchy and loss of freedom enjoyed by tribal societies.
Religious authority and military prowess go hand in hand. Religious authority allows a particular tribal leader to solve the large-scale collective action problem of uniting a group of autonomous tribes. To a much larger degree than economic benefits, religious authority can explain why a tribal people would be willing to make a permanent delegation of authority to a single individual and that individual's kin group. The leader can then use that authority to create a centralised military machine that can conquer enemy tribes as well as ensure domestic peace and security, which then reinforces the leader's religious authority in a positive-feedback loop.
The only concrete historical case of this process unfolding, which was the rise of the first Arab state under the Patriarchal and Umayyad caliphates. Tribal peoples inhabited the Arabian peninsula for many centuries, living on the borders of state-level societies like Egypt, Persia, and Rome/ Byzantium. The harshness of their environment and its unsuitability for agriculture explained why they were never conquered, and thus why they never felt military pressure to arrange themselves into a centralised state to mobilise massive force against a common enemy. They operated as merchants and intermediaries between nearby settled societies but were incapable of producing a substantial surplus on their own.
Things changed dramatically, however, with the birth of the Prophet Muhammad in A.D. 570 in the Arabian town of Mecca. According to Muslim tradition, Muhammad received his first revelation from God in his fortieth year and began preaching to the Meccan tribes. He and his followers were persecuted in Mecca, so they moved to Medina in 622. He was asked to mediate among the squabbling Medinan tribes, and did so by drawing up the so-called Constitution of Medina that created a universal umma, or community of believers, that transcended tribal loyalties. Muhammad's polity did not yet have the characteristics of a true state, but it made a break with kinship-based systems not on the basis of conquest, but through the writing of a social contract underpinned by  the prophet’s charismatic authority. After several years of fighting, the new Muslim polity gained adherents and conquered Mecca, uniting central Arabia into a single state-level society.
Depiction of the Prophet

Normally in conquest, the lineage of the victorious tribal leader evolves into the ruling dynasty. This didn't happen in Muhammad's case because he had only a daughter, Fatima, and no sons. Leadership of the new state thus passed to one of Muhammad's companions in the Umaad clan, a parallel segment in Muhammad's Quraysh tribe. The Umayyads did evolve into a dynasty, and the Umayyad state under Uthman and Mu'awiya quickly went on to conquer Syria, Egypt, and Iraq, imposing Arab rule over these preexisting state-level societies.
Furthest extent of the Arabic/ Ottoman Empire
There is no clearer illustration of the importance of ideas to politics than the emergence of an Arab state under the Prophet Muhammad. The Arab tribes played an utterly marginal role in world history until that point; it was only Muhammad's charismatic authority that allowed them to unite and project their power throughout the Middle East and North Africa. The tribes had no economic base to speak of; they gained economic power through the interaction of religious ideas and military organisation, and then were able to take over agricultural societies that did produce surpluses.

While the founding of the first Arab state is a particularly striking illustration of the political power of religious ideas, virtually every other state has relied on religion to legitimate itself. The founding myths of the Greek, Roman, Hindu, and Chinese states all trace the regime's ancestry back to a divinity, or at least to a semi-divine hero. Political power in early states cannot be understood apart from the religious rituals that the ruler controlled and used to legitimate his power.


'The Origins of Political Order' - Francis Fukuyama 


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