Tuesday, May 22, 2007

History of the Muslims in the Philippines
2nd Edition, By Salah Jubair

Pre-Islamic Society

As mentioned earlier, the Moros belonged to the third wave of migrants in Beyer's Wave Migration Theory and second or last in the other theory. In either case, they were estimated to have arrived about two centuries before the birth of Prophet Jesus Christ (Peace be upon him) and they already exhibited a higher stage of development, especially in the art of warfare. They inhabited the plains, valleys, coastal lands, and riverside areas. They formed settlements or communities with political organizations along family or blood lines.

The Pre-Islamic Moro social structure had three classes: the datus or chiefs, the commoners or citizens and the slaves. The word datu was both a political function and social status and extended to the incumbent ruler and all members of the ruling elite. Generally, the right to rule hinged on direct descent from the ruling class. In some instances, like exceptional bravery or victory in war, a commoner could become a datu, or in the case of the slave, could buy off his liberty by paying a stipulated amount. The system was not as rigid as that of the caste system of India where no one was allowed to leave the caste into which he was born.

The realm of the datu was more or less equal to that of a village or the Spanish barrio today. However, there was no common term for this political unit for the Moros spoke at least thirteen languages or dialects, most of which were mutually unintelligible. Some say this political unit was called banua4. But this term is clearly Visayan, and therefore, leaves the claim in doubt. Among the Moro dialects and languages, only the Tausog exhibited a commonality with Visayan. Both belong to the central branch of the Australoid language being spoken in this country. In its political connotation, banua means natural environment or a country, a homeland. The banua covered island to island, including the seas thereat, as well as the vegetation. Sometimes one datu allied himself with another to form a confederation of settlements for purposes of constituting a more formidable alliance against a rival datu or datus or for commercial purposes. Generally, datus were of equal status or footing. However, one could emerge superior to the other by force of arms, bravery in war or by physical prowess.

In the beginning, the prevalent method of settling conflicts was by use of force, but later on a code of laws evolved to provide for a more practical way of resolving disputes since warfare was a costly and losing enterprise, especially to the vanquished.

The economy was based primarily on agriculture, although weaving, pottery-making, blacksmithing and fishing were also prevalent. Lands were fertile and vast. However, cultivation was mainly along, the rivers, lakes, coastal areas, plains and valleys. The use of irrigation ditches was extensive. "Slash-and-burn" or swidden farming was popular in the uplands, especially in the dry season.. In commerce, the barter system was in use for money was not yet invented.

The foregoing sketch should be regarded only as an area of the bigger picture. Part of it has basis in history; the rest results from hypothesis about the complex process whereby our ancestors were subjected to or interacted, involving various components such as individuals, goods, ideas, and other factors.

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