This contribution aims to bring a tribal and provincial perspective to the study of the early Islamic Empire. It begins with an exploration of the boundaries, functions and possible deployment of interpersonal networks formulated in the terminology of common tribal affiliation during that period, building on the author’s prosopographical study of the Arabic tribe (qabīla) of Kinda during the first three generations of Islamic history. It then considers the perspective of tribally founded elites, demonstrating and addressing their mainly local areas of authority as compared to administrative structures founded on visions of centralized power. In its last part, this paper moves from a longue durée comparison of the trajectories of families of different Kinda-affiliated tribal notables towards an assessment of the sources of authority at the disposal of a tribally-based leader, especially one in conflict with the central powers. On these three levels, this paper aims to determine the amount of independence available to tribal elites negotiating multiple roles. These roles included those of loyal provincial administrators, equal peers of global rulers and rebels contesting the legitimacy of the early Islamic Empire’s ruling elites on a potentially apocalyptic scale.