on the Early History of Islam
(A Refreshing Look at the Sirah)
By Faysal Burhan
The "Focus on Early History of Islam “(A Refreshing Look at the Sirah), uniquely views the birth of Islam and its expansion, placing more emphasis on issues relevant to Christianity and Judaism. The extent of common ground among the three monotheistic religions is far more than what is commonly known. This commonality is crucial to the fraternity and peace of the entire human race. In the 21st century, we would like to see coalition and comradeship rather than animosity and collision as were experienced previously. This article is intended to explore facts of history, as they were and interpret them in the light of the culture of those societies. Even though Islam was revealed to Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him (p), in the light of history in the early period of the seventh century CE, it is one of the most misunderstood religions in the West. A rational fresh look into the faith of Islam from its inception and understanding its principles and beliefs is timely and essential in this fast-merging world. The "vast" world we knew decades ago is becoming a small village. Thanks to the advances in technological communication and transportation and exemplary writing intending to remove misinformation and clarify misunderstanding. Learning about the cultures of nearly a fifth of the population of this world is essential to a peaceful survival.
Beginning our study of the rise and contribution of Islam to our civilization, we will first explore certain terminologies and the effects of cultural differences on people's behavior.
Terms and Definitions
and Linguistic Terms
The culture within a group is directly linked to their language. The usage of some equivalent linguistic terms in one culture, however, can mean different things in another. The vast geographical distances separating people and nations on earth are prime contributors to the makeup of localized customs and linguistic terms. The possible difference in meaning of like-terms by each culture often leads to misunderstanding and mistakes. In this respect, Islam in the west suffers considerably. Theological terms of a typical western understanding are thought to have the same equivalent understanding in the eastern cultures. Nevertheless, when the issues are deeply explored, it is found that both sides are actually in agreement but the local usage of terms made them look far apart.
Examples of this are the terms "jihad" and "Islamic fundamentalist." The term "jihad" interpreted by western writers is "Holy War." In Arabic the term "jihad" means to strive and exert effort. This meaning is not equivalent to "Holy War." The term "Holy War" is often used in association with the Crusades wars, while the term jihad is not limited to actual war and is certainly no substitution for "Holy War." We have dedicated the section "The Term Jihad" below for a full account and explanation of this term. In a similar manner, the term "Islamic fundamentalist" is often used by the western media for stereotyping Muslims as the "bad guys" or "bad."
In the Islamic teachings however, Islam is defined as the "middle of all roads." Therefore, a typical Muslim who takes the middle of all roads, which is the most accepted way for both eastern and western cultures, becomes a "fundamentalist" or a "bad guy." Thus, the middle of the road or "good guy" has been misread to be the "bad guy." Inaccurate and improper usage of terms is at best misleading. Better yet, Islam denounces extremism, which is what really is intended by the media in the term "Islamic fundamentalist." This example illustrates an actual reality that we must be aware of. If "knowing the problem is half the solution," in our case, knowing the problem is very much its cure.
Frequent usage of the terms "Islamic fundamentalist" and "jihad" in the western media and literature have induced an unnecessary animosity between Muslims and the west, especially Christians and Jews. This type of misunderstanding, which was raised by ignorance, must have no place in today's intellectual societies. Based on this understanding, exploring the meaning of the terms, Allah, Islam, jihad and Prophet within the Islamic culture and Arabic Language will be done to further eliminate what may have been construed as different or foreign to this western culture.
1. The Term Allah
The Arabic word Allah is the proper name of God, Lord of the creation, Maker and Sustainer of this universe and beyond. Allah is the same God that Prophets Abraham, Moses and Jesus worshipped and submitted to. The name Allah is unique, given to no one else other than Allah. Furthermore, the word Allah cannot be made plural or gender based. Muslims believe that Allah is a limitless and boundless entity. Allah cannot be defined by shape or form. Shapes or forms constitute limitation that contradicts the basic definition of the limitless. I equate Dr. Hassan Hathout, author of "Reading the Muslim Mind" who said: "God is infinite, but human beings are finite and the finite cannot comprehend the infinite." All Glory be to Allah, God. He is the Wise and Merciful.
Allah has many names or attributes. Some of the ninety nine attributes common to Muslims are: Most-Loving, Most-Caring, All-Knowing, Clement, the Pure, the Forgiver, the Compassionate, the Grantor of Mercy, the Tender, the Full-of-Pity, the Subtle, the Aware, the Peace, the Lord of the Throne of Glory, the Judge, the Just, the King, the Owner, and the Most Powerful. A believer is one who honors these attributes, then sincerely applies and practices them in spirit and in action. For a better feel for some of God's attributes, the following Qur'anic verses are related.
Note: In the section entitled "The Holy Qur'an," you will learn that the Holy Qur'an is the book of guidance for Muslims, revealed to Prophet Muhammad. The Holy Qur'an is composed of 114 Surahs, closely translated as chapters and that each Surah is made of Ayaat, closely translated as verses. The designation used here will be two numbers separated by a colon (:). The first number is the chapter number and the second is the verse number. God said in the Holy Qur'an:
"But ask forgiveness of your Lord and turn unto Him (in repentance): for my Lord is indeed full of mercy and Loving-kindness (wadood)." Qur'an,
The Arabic term wadood has no English equivalent. The closest English word is loving. However, loving does not convey the hearty meaning of the term wadood, which implicates deep and cheerful affection, most caring, most cuddling with full and deep kindness. Those who are familiar with the Arabic language can appreciate the difficulty the translators are having in translating this term. Yusuf Ali, for example translates it as "Most loving-kindness," Daryabadi as "Full of loving-kindness," and Pickthall, settled for only "loving."
Similarly, the Arabic terms lateef comes from lutf and ra'oof comes from ru'f. Again, these terms have no English equivalents. Lateef is an attribute of Allah describing His ability to guard with care and protect with love, especially during catastrophes. In much of the Muslim world, it is customary to hear the word lateef or any of its forms surrounding accidents and catastrophes. Lateef is often associated with the attribute Khabeer, meaning the Aware (of the unexpected, hidden or upcoming). Let us read the following verse
"Vision comprehendeth Him not, but
He comprehendeth (all) vision. He is the Subtle, the Aware
(Who masters tenderness and pitifulness on His creation)."
2. The Term Islam
The word Islam is the name of the religion revealed to Prophet Mohammad (p) in the early part of the 7th century Common Era. God gives this name to Prophet Muhammad (p) as seen from the following Revelations:
"This day have I perfected your religion
for you and completed My favor unto you, and have chosen for
you Islam as your religion."
"Lo! Religion with Allah is (Islam),
the Surrender (to His will and guidance)."
The linguistic meaning of the word
The Arabic word Islam is a derivative of the word Silm. Silm
can take three meanings:
1) To remove, cure or purify from
external and internal harmful matter.
2) Peace or serenity.
The religious meaning of the word Islam
The religious meaning of the term Islam is total submission and surrender to the Will of God through conviction. Therefore, a Muslim is one who submits and obeys wholeheartedly the commands of God. From this belief, one can easily establish why Muslims consider Abraham, Moses, Jesus as well as the rest of the prophets as Muslims. A total submission of all creatures to the Sustainer and Originator of this universe is beautifully illustrated in Chapter, Al.'Imran, 3: 83.
"Seek they other than the religion
of Allah, when unto Him (aslama) submitteth whosoever is in
the heavens and the earth, willingly, or unwillingly, and
unto Him they will be returned."
The Holy Qur'an interpreters explain that people, whether believers or unbelievers, willingly or unwillingly, submit to God by means of His natural and physical laws, such as the wind, oceans, illness, health, gravity, life and death, and the Day of Resurrection. Thus, those who choose to submit to God willingly, their submission comes in harmony with nature but those who repulse the guidance of God will be returned to His Will in submission, despite their unwillingness.
Muhammadism and like names are thus misnomers for Islam. Writers who related Islam to Muhamadanism copying the convention: Christianity for Christ erred when they applied it to Islam. In fact, the usage of the term Muhammadnisim cannot be found anywhere in Islamic literature.
3. The Term Jihad
Many people in the west are wrongly accustomed to the term jihad to mean "Holy War." This assumption implicates terror and bloodshed incurred by Muslims to Christians, since the term "Holy War" is mainly the result of the 250 years long Crusade wars. Under no circumstance is "war" in Islam "Holy." Investigating the nature of the term jihad we discover that people in the west have been misinformed about its meaning. The word jihad came from the Arabic root-word juhd, which means: exertion of effort, strive or struggle. See Al Munjid Dictionary, page 106. Furthermore, its usage in the Holy Qur'an does not reflect the Western meaning of "Holy War." Surah: 29, Verse, 69 says:
for those who strive in Us (jahadu), We surely guide them
to Our paths, and lo! Allah is with these who do good."
Interpreters of the Holy Qur'an explain this passage to be saying: those who strive with might and main, with constancy and determination, the light of guidance and mercy of God will come to assist them and cure their defects and shortcomings. Striving to be closer to God, to cure an illness of the heart or to do good for others cannot be construed in any way as "Holy War." Another example, Allah says:
"And (jahidu) strive for Allah with
the endeavor which is His right. He hath chosen you and hath
not laid upon you in religion any hardship; the faith of your
father Abraham (is yours). He hath named you Muslims of old
time and in this (Scripture), that the messenger may be a
witness against you, and that you may be witnesses against
mankind. So establish worship, pay the poor due, and hold
fast to Allah. He is your Protecting Friend, a blessed Patron
and a blessed Helper!" Qur'an,
In these verses, striving is certainly called out for spiritual gain. As the Prophet (p) is a guide and exemplar among Muslims, they ought to be exemplars for mankind; they must strive to do good, to pay charity, to establish formal prayer and to hold on tight and be closer to God. Again, there is no direct implication to "Holy War" against Christians or Jews. In fact, one might even be surprised to learn that Allah used the word jihad in association with the disbelievers against the believers. Stated below:
"We have enjoined on man kindness
to parents; but if they strive (jahadu) to make you join with
Me that of which thou hast no knowledge, then obey them not.
Unto Me is your return and I shall tell you what you used
to do." Qur'an,
In this verse the word jihad is used for an un-Godly purpose. Unbelieving parents are striving to force (by the act of jihad) their offspring to make associates with God. One just cannot see how the word jihad can be interpreted as "Holy War," even when used for something unholy.
During the Crusades, Muslims defended themselves against the invading Christian Crusades that marched all the way from England and France to Palestine, Syria and Egypt to "liberate" Jerusalem. The Muslims act of defense was certainly jihad but still could not be taken to mean "Holy War." The term "Holy War" translated to Arabic is "al Harb al Muqadasah." This term does not exist in the Arabic culture or literature. Islamic philosophy regarding the soul is to safeguard it and to prevent bloodshed. See the posted article, "Islam: Legacy of Peace."
It is important to note that the policy of Islam regarding the declaration of any war is to defend freedom of belief and for justice against evil and tyranny. Such principles many of us in the west hold in high esteem. See the upcoming topic: "Islam's Policy for Initiating a War." False understanding of the word jihad as a "Holy War" declared by Muslims against Christians and Jews is only a myth. In fact, no rational mind can find a good reason for the 250 years Crusade war that left scars of ill feeling on millions upon millions of people from both Islamic and Christian faiths.
3. The Term Prophet
The usage of the term prophet in the Islamic and Judeo-Christian cultures is frequent and common but the definition of "prophet" is quite different in the two cultures. In the Islamic culture the word prophet is given only to people who are appointed by God to receive and deliver His Message. To a Muslim, a prophet is one who is divinely inspired, close to God and exhibits the highest moral standards and ethical values. Characteristics such as purity of the heart, dignity, honesty, and clarity of the mind are viewed by Muslims as primary elements of a prophet of God. Hence a prophet is respected, reverenced and is taken as a beautiful and sacred model for Muslims. Since prophets represent the highest level of moralities to a Muslim, they cannot commit major sins that would incur the wrath of God. Hence a Muslim may be offended if he or she learns of lower standards associated with prophets.
In the western culture however, the word "prophet" can be given to any person gifted with more insights than the ordinary people as well as holy prophets of God. For example, the word "prophet" is given to the Prophets of the Old and New Testament and in the meantime the word "prophet" is given to poets, philosophers and scholars throughout western literature.
Thus, according to the western standards, holiness criteria can no longer be a stature of the word "prophet," since any imperfect human being can be called a prophet. Broadening the usage of "prophet" beyond the sacred dimension can damage the perfect model standard for Muslims. For example, the Judeo-Christian literature describes Prophet Solomon as committing a major sin. See (TBA). To a Muslim, Solomon is an example to ensue. This creates a conflict -- a person of mischief is not an example of inspiration.
Furthermore, to a Muslim, committing major sins by common people is considered an extremely offensive act, moreover, a Prophet, the foundation of spiritual and moral behavior, is absolutely offensive.
Un-disclosing the differences of the meaning of the word "prophet" in both western and eastern cultures has significantly contributed to the agitation between Muslims and Christians. It is shameful for such an advanced world to have this kind of flaw.
The Holy Qur'an
The Glorious Qur'an is the word of God revealed to Prophet Muhammad (p) over a period of 23 years and remains today as it has been since it was revealed. The Qur'an is a complete code of guidance for Muslims and the source of spiritual nourishment. Muslims base their civil laws on the guidance given to them in this Holy Book.
As a sign of its miraculous power, the Holy Qur'an attracts people of all faiths to God. People find an inward joy of its surface as well as the in-depth meanings of its passages. The deeper the study and the discovery of its refreshing and wonderful meanings, the greater the joy and attraction to God. Here is an example of the story of Noah and the Ark: Surah, Huud, 11: 40-45.
"(Thus it was) till, when Our commandment came to pass and the oven gushed forth water, We said: Load therein two of every kind, a pair (the male and female) and thy household, save him against whom the word hath gone forth already and those who believe. And but a few were they who believed with him. So he said: Embark ye on the Ark in the name of Allah whether it move or be at rest! For my Lord is be sure Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful!
And it sailed with them amid waves like mountains and Noah cried unto his son and he was standing aloof: O my son! Come ride with us and be not with the disbelievers. He said: 'I shall betake me to some mountain that will save me from the water. (Noah) said: This day there is none that saveth from the commandment of Allah save him on whom He hath had mercy. And the wave came in between them, so he was among the drowned. And it was said: 'O earth! Swallow thy water and O sky! withhold (thy rain)!' and the water abated And the commandment was fulfilled. And it (the ship) came to rest upon (the mount) Al-Judo and it was said: A far removal for wrongdoing folk!"
The verses of the Holy Qur'an cannot be translated from Arabic into other languages but the meanings of these verses can be. The composition of the verses are not mere letters and words in a sentence. As the verses of the Qur'an are read, a heart tranquilizing tone is also transmitted. Anyone who hears the recited words is affected by it regardless of the language they speak. In addition, the style of reading and rhythm associated with each passage gives its words a more meaningful sense of the case or situation it is relating. To explain to the reader the type of inspiration Muslims take from the Qur'an and its stories of the Prophets, we dedicated the section: The Prophets of God: Source of Inspiration, in Part II, A Few Basic Concepts, next.
A Few Basic Concepts
Acceptance of Christians and Jews
Contrary to the popular understanding of Muslim's intolerance to Christians and Jews, known to Muslims as People of the Book, the Islamic culture holds a special status for Christians and Jews. Muslims believe that People of the Book, who are like them, believe in the unity of God, the Day of Reckoning and do righteously, are favored and rewarded by Allah. This belief establishes the base for cooperation and fraternity by the Muslims towards the Judeo-Christian, as well as members of other faiths. Confirming this understanding, Allah says:
"Lo! those who believe (in that which
is revealed unto you, Muhammad), and those who are Jews, and
Christians, and Sabaeans whoever believe in Allah and the
Last Day and does right surely their reward is with their
Lord, and there shall no fear come upon them neither shall
they grieve." Qur'an,
Prevalent in the passage is Islam's universality and acceptance of the good work of all people. Much more prevalent is Muslim's acceptance and respect of the believing Christians and Jews. As we will see later, Prophet Muhammad sought out the help of the Christian monarch of Abyssinia to protect his followers from the tortures and execution of the Pagans and made an alliance with the eleven Jewish tribes to protect the city of Medina from the attacks of the disbelievers. Another remarkable fact of the extent of close relations Muslims believe towards other believers is shown in the next verse. Here Allah commands:
"Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah
and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed
unto Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob. And the tribes,
and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the
Prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction
between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered."
Thus, a strong common ground exists between Muslims and the People of the Book. This can be construed as a bond for peace among the followers of the three religions. In fact, the Qur'an considers the People of the Book "witness" along with God Himself against those who disbelieved in Muhammad's Prophethood. The following speaks about that:
"(They who disbelieved say): 'Thou art no messenger (of Allah).' Say: Allah and whosoever hath true knowledge of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), is sufficient witness between me (Muhammad) and you (disbelievers)." Qur'an, 13:43.
Furthermore, as a sign of peace and intimate relations, Islam admits Christian and Jewish women into the Muslim family by sanctioning marriage with them. The intimacy and love that Allah made between a Muslim husband and a Muslim wife can be no less when it is made between a Christian wife and a Muslim husband. Eating the foods of the People of the Book is yet another indication in the bond for peace making. The following are reflections of the verses:
"And among His signs is this that
He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may
dwell in tranquility with them and He has put love and mercy
between your (hearts); verily in that are signs for those
who reflect." Qur'an,
"This day are (all) things good and
pure made lawful unto you. The food of the People of the Book
is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them. (Lawful
unto you in marriage) are (not only) chaste women who are
believers but chaste women among the People of the Book revealed
before your time when ye give them their due dowers and desire
chastity not lewdness nor secret intrigues. If anyone rejects
faith fruitless is his work and in the Hereafter he will be
in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good)."
Allah Commands Building Good Relationships with the People
of the Book
Contrary to expectation, Muslims are commanded with compassion
in calling the People of the Book for better relationships.
This is illustrated in the next verses:
"Say: O people of the Book! Come
to common terms as between us and you that we worship none
but God; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect
not, from among ourselves, lords and patrons other than God.
If then they turn back, say: Bear witness that we (at least)
are Muslims (bowing to God's Will)."
The above verse is indeed a noble one. In reference to the opening of the verses, the great Qur’anic interpreter al-Fakhr al-Razi stated: The name “Ahl al-Kitab,” People of the Book is one of the best names and bestows integrity and perfection on its subjects (Christian and Jews) because they are worthy of carrying the Words of Allah. The carriers of the Books of Allah deserve to be honored and be loved.
The origin of the word “ta’alau,” from the root word “ta’ala,” meaning come or draw closer is calling someone to come from low to high. The word ta’ala is often uttered with kindness and compassion. When a mother says “ta’ala” to her child, the call also implies kindness and warmth. In this connotation, Allah commands the Muslims to call upon the Jews and Christians to join them. What is more outstanding about these verses is that if the People of the Book did not accept the call to the commonality between us and them, which is to worship only Allah alone, the Muslims response is not to get violent or use force but to simply state: "Bear witness that we are bowing to Allah's Will (Muslims).”
When it comes to building relationships with all people, Allah commands:
“O humankind! We created you from
a single pair of a male and female, and made you into nations
and tribes, that you may know and deal with each other in
kindness (not that you may despise each other). Verily the
most honored of you in the sight of God (is he who is) the
most righteous of you, and God is Knower, Aware.”
“And when you judge between people,
that you judge with justice.” Qur’an
However, when it comes to the Christians and
Jews, Allah is more specific for commanding the Muslims for
extra care, He says:
"And dispute not
with People of the Book, except with means better (than mere
disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict
wrong and injury." Qur'an,
Allah also said in Surah 60, verse 7:
“Allah does not
forbid you from those who do not fight you because of your
religion and do not expel you from your homes, from being righteous
toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed Allah loves
those who act justly.”
After this understanding of some Islamic fundaments
about the Muslims' relation with the People of the Book, one
may question whether is it the religion that is the cause
of animosity between Muslims and Christians or is it greed,
hoarding the wealth of others and personal agendas of the
radicals, half believers and hypocrites.
Origin of Islam
It is Muslims belief that Islam is not a new religion. Islam started with the creation of Prophet Adam (p). The form of Islam at the time of the first human creation, however, was not the same as it is today. The n and subsequently, Islam was partially revealed to various prophets, addressing the current needs for guidance. The people of Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses and Jesus are a few of the nations that were related in the Holy Qur'an. Thus, Muslims are spiritually inspired by the stories and teachings of Prophet Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Josef, Moses and Jesus.
In the view of the late Grand Mufti of Syria, Sheikh Ahmad Kuftaro, all people are brothers and sisters and had all been receiving the one message of submission. When mankind got more sophisticated, so did the religion. He further said: "The similitude of Torah, Bible and Qur'an is like elementary, secondary and graduate schools. Graduation from one school to the higher one is only normal and natural." Thus, Christianity and Judaism in their original forms, to a Muslim, are no different than Islam. The Holy Qur'an explains as follows:
"Say: "We believe in God, and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in (the Books) given to Moses, Jesus, and the Prophets from their Lord: We make no distinction between them." Qur'an,
The teachings of Prophets Muhammad, Moses
and Jesus as well as other prophets, to a Muslim, are of equal
Prophets of God: Source of Inspiration
The Holy Qur'an speaks about the stories and experiences of
many prophets of God throughout the Holy Qur'an. Selected
prophets and selected verses are represented here to familiarize
the reader of the extent of how Muslims regard the prophets
Prophet Abraham (p)
Several stories in different chapters of the Qur'an speak
about Prophet Abraham. Following, are few examples:
"And who forsaketh the religion of
Abraham save him who befooleth himself? Verily, We chose him
in the world, and lo! in the Hereafter he is among the righteous." Qur'an, 2:131.
"But We had already given the people of Abraham the Book and
Wisdom and conferred upon them a great kingdom."
Moses, Jesus and the Disciples (p)
"And Moses said: O my people! If
you have believed in Allah then put trust in Him, if you have
indeed surrendered (unto Him)!" Qur'an,
"But when Jesus became conscious
of their disbelief, he cried: Who will be my helpers in the
cause of Allah? The Disciples said: We are Allah's helpers.
We believe in Allah, and bear thou witness that we are (muslimoon)
Muslims." Qur'an, 3:52.
"And God will teach him (Jesus) the
Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel, and (appoint him)
an Apostle to the Children of Israel." Qur'an,
3:48 and 49.
With respect to Prophet Jacob and his sons (p), Allah Said
in Surah: 2:133:
"Or were you present when death came
to Jacob, when he said unto his sons: What will you worship
after me? They said: We shall worship your God, the God of
your fathers, Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac, One God, and
unto Him we have surrendered (aslamna)."
This passage clearly identifies and establishes the unity
and continuity of all religions and the relevance of Islam
to all people.
Prophet Yusuf (Joseph)
The supplication of Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) (p) is related
in Surah: Yusuf, 12, Verse: 101. It says:
"O my Lord! Thou hast given me (something)
of sovereignty and hast taught me (something) of the interpretation
of events, Creator of the heavens and the earth! Thou art
my Protector in the world and the Hereafter. Make me to die
submissive, musliman (unto Thee), and join me to the righteous."
Solomon with Queen Balqees
of the story of Prophet Solomon with Queen Balqees is related
in Surah: Naml, 27, Ayah: 44.
"It was said unto her: Enter the
hall. And when she saw it she deemed it a pool and bared her
legs. (Solomon) said: Lo! it is a hall, made smooth, of glass.
She said: My Lord! Lo! I have wronged myself, and I (aslamtu)
submit in Islam with Solomon unto Allah, the Lord of the Worlds."
Prophet Noah and his People
As far as Prophet Noah responding to his people rejection
"But if you turn back, (consider):
No reward have I asked of you. My wage is the concern of Allah
only, and I am commanded to be of those who (aslama) surrender
(unto Him)." Qur'an, 10:72.
Prophet Muhammad (P)
Finally, we see Islam in its complete form revealed to Prophet
Muhammad as seen in the following Ayah:
"Say (O Muhammad): Shall I take for
my protector any other than Allah the Maker (Originator) of
the heavens and the earth? And He is that feedeth but is not
fed. Say: 'Nay! but I am commanded to be the first of those
who (aslama) surrender to Allah (in Islam) And be not thou
(O Muhammad) of the idolaters.'" Qur'an,
Islam Spread by Force
Understanding certain principles of Islam enable the reader to judge the events that took place during the time of the Prophet and beyond. The size of the Islamic Empire during the rule of Caliph Haroon al Rashid extended from China and the Indonesian Islands in the east, to North Africa, Spain and France in the west and much of that in between. This unexpected rapid spread, which still puzzles many contemporary historians, would not be so surprising when one discovers Islam's social, political and moral principles. These principles were and still are the elements that enabled Islam to flourish in the past and in our modern days. The birth of Islam in the early 600 CE was indeed a world of social, political and intellectual reforms that swiped throughout the Arabian Peninsula and much of the old world. The Holy Qur'an and the guidance of Prophet Muhammad are the fountains of this intellectual and social reform. Studying old world history, there is evidence of the drastic change that followed.
The event of Islam and the coming of Prophet Muhammad uplifted the human race from the disgrace of worshipping stones and self interest into worshipping the Creator of the universe; from exploiting slaves, orphans, women and the weak into the justice of equality, resuscitation and freedom; from vice and corruption to order and law; from tyrannical political systems to pluralistic democracy-like systems; from anxiety to security and peace. Slaves and masters became equal before the law. Education was no longer for the privileged. Only under the leadership of Islam, slaves, women and the poor were able to find dignity and become an integral part of the political and social processes. Many poor, slaves and women, such as Bilal, the Ethiopian, Salman the Persian, Sunhayb the Roman, Aishah, Abu Hurarah, Khadijah ranked in history among the saints, leaders of communities and are today inspirational figures for all generations of Muslims.
It was not war that opened up the hearts of people who lived in this vast land; it was human beings core values of Islam that conquered their hearts. The following are a few topics on Islamic values that helped shape the old world.
1. Equality of Gender
Islam revolutionized the status of woman from being a second-class citizen and as a commodity for profit into a respected and equal partner to man in status, duties and rewards. Islam did not stop at the equality level, but further gave women special honor for their role of motherhood, education, physical protection and unburdened them from financial responsibility of the family.
Before Islam, the status of women was extremely undermined. Widowed and divorced women were not permitted to remarry. Daughters were buried alive at birth. Pride and fear of disgrace intruded this criminal attitude toward female babies. In the following verse, it cannot be mistaken that women are equal partners to men.
"For Muslim men and women, for believing
men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and
women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for
men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who
give in charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves),
for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and
women who engage much in Allah's praise, for them has Allah
prepared forgiveness and great reward."
Prophet Muhammad (p) teaches that: "Women are the siblings of men." He also said: "Heaven lies beneath the feet of mothers." Taking care of mothers and listening to their advices is one way to attain Heaven. Furthermore, we find that one of the longest chapters in the Holy Qur'an is named, al Nisaa, (women). The usage of this name by the Qur'an is a way to remind the believers to always honor, treat well and respect women. This type of equality and special status given to women in the early world cultures, which was laced with denial of women's rights and human values, was in part the cause of the wide acceptance of Islam by many nations of the world. For more on the reform of the status of women, see our posted article: "Woman's Status Reform Begins with Islam."
2. Haven of Social
Social injustice is against God's will. Discrimination in
color, origin, religion or nationality is considered an act
of evil in Islam.
"O humankind! We created you from
a single pair of a male and a female, and made you into nations
and tribes, that you might come to know and cherish one another
(not that you may despise each other). Verily the most honorable
of you in the sight of God are the most righteous." Qur'an
Justice is at the top of every agenda in Islam.
Islam does not only call for justice, but it seeks something
warmer and more human, (ihssan). Ihssan is the doing of good
over and above justice. Actions such as returning good for
ill and forgive for infliction of harm, are acts of faith
that Islam inspires its followers to embrace, as seen in the
"God commands justice, the doing of good beyond justice
(ihssan), and liberality to kith and kin, and He forbids all
harmful deeds, injustice and rebellion." Qur'an,
of Intellect and Observation
Intellect and observation are the grounds of every flourishing
civilization. Thousands of verses of the noble Qur'an are
stimulus for expanding the mind through observation, study
of nature and contemplation. The first word revealed to Prophet
Muhammad was "read". This word helps open the eyes
of the believers for examination and study in all fields of
matter and knowledge. Furthermore, one comes across hundreds
of verses in the Qur'an with inquisitive style enticing people
to enlarge their scope to think, calculate and come up with
better ways to improve the quality of life. Here are some
"Are the blind equal with those who see? Or is the depth of the darkness equal with the light?" Qur'an, 6:50.
"Say: go through the earth and see what has been the end of those guilty of sin." Qur'an, 27:69.
"Say: travel through the earth and see how God did originate creation." Qur'an, 29:20.
"Say: wonder in the heavens and earth for the signs of God." Qur'an, 10:101.
"It is He Who gives life and death, and to Him is due the alteration of night and day: Will you not then understand." Qur'an, 23:80.
direct result of this inquisitive approach widens the horizon
of exploration and the expansion of thinking and vision. This
open observation phenomenon led to the making of the Golden
Age and was the cradle to the scientific and academic revolution
that led to the Renaissance.
4. Purity and
Human nature easily identifies with things that it likes and
sets itself apart from things that it does not like. Flowers
and dead corpse are an example. It is common for people to
enjoy seeing flowers and smelling their fragrance, while the
opposite is true for seeing or smelling corpses. This fact
was and still is a major factor in the fast spread of Islam.
The logic and rational fabric of the makeup of Islam, such
as the unity of God, people and the universe, promotion of
ethics, economic growth, establishing law and order, are contributors
to its appeal and acceptance. Furthermore, the holy Qur'an's
original words have not been improvised or contaminated by
the imperfection of people rewriting their scriptures. It
is an integral part of Muslim's faith to insure that the script
of the Qur'an could not be rewritten by man or changed in
Since God is the Creator of mankind, He is best
fit to know the needs of His creation. The clarity and purity
of the Holy Qur'an makes it possible for a perfect harmony
between the Holy Qur'an, its principles and fundaments and
people. This harmony played a major role in the spread and
expansion of Islam.
Focus on Early History of Islam (A Refreshing Look at
I Focus on Arabia
Arabs before Islam were people who possessed certain distinguished virtues, such as loyalty, boldness and generosity. Arabia had tribal organizations and literary clubs. They were highly eloquent in the Arabic language, making poetry an integrated part their lifestyle. Much of the social, political, and tribal life affairs of Arabia are still delivered in poetic forms. Poetry was the broadcasting media at that time.
The status of women was also extremely undermined, so much was the case that widowed and divorced women were not permitted to remarry. Certain tribes used to bury their daughters alive at birth. Pride and disgrace intruded this criminal attitude toward female babies. Addressing this odd behavior, God in the Holy Qur'an questioned the killers saying:
"When the female (infant), buried
alive, is questioned for what crime she was killed."
In Arabia tribal prejudice was very strong. Everyone firmly believed that each came from the noblest stock. Religion was in a state of pluralism. Each tribe had its own god. The Jews and Christians, on the other hand, were having a waiting match. Each was expecting the awaited prophet "that Prophet," to come from amongst their people. Jewish and Christian tribes had settled in the Arabian Peninsula in the locations matching the Old Testament's description of where the awaited prophet shall be coming from. For example, eleven Jewish tribes settled around the city of Medina, as well as the Christian tribe of Najran. The Old Testament, Book of Habakkuk, Chapter 3, Verse 3, prophesied:
"God came from Teman and the holy one from mount Paran, Sila, his glory cover the heaven and earth and the earth was full with his praise."
According to the Dictionary of the Bible, under the word Teman, page 961, it states: Teman is a large oasis in the north of Medina. Arabia's social, political and moral aspects demanded a reformer.
II. Focus on Early
History of Islam (A Refreshing Look at the Sirah)
In the beginning of 600 CE, when the elders of Mecca renovated the shrine of the Ka'ba, they fell into an argument: Who would have the honor of resetting the sacred divine black stone (a stone from heaven) into the masonry? It was agreed that the next man to enter the sacred precincts would judge the dispute. First to appear was a young Meccan merchant whose wisdom and honesty had earned him the name Al-Amin or the "Trustworthy." He was a thin man, strong of bone and muscle and had dark eyes and a lightened face. He called for a cloak to be spread on the ground and with his own hands he placed the black stone on it. With a noble man from each of Mecca's leading tribes pulling a corner of the robe, the sacred stone was raised. Then with his hands, the young man sat the stone into its niche where it remains till this day. The man's name was Muhammad.
Muhammad was born in Mecca in the Arabian Peninsula, into the prominent Quraysh tribe about 570 C.E., both of his parents died young; first his father, Abdu-Allah and then his mother Amina shortly after. He was about six years old at the time of his mother's death. His father died when he was still in his mother’s womb. His grandfather Abd-al Muttalib, a prominent leader in Mecca, took charge of him. Upon the death of his grandfather, Muhammad's guardianship passed to his uncle Abu-Talib, who never converted to Islam but continued to show love and protection for his nephew despite extreme hardships and dangers. Muhammad, like the rest of the young men in Abu-Talib's family, had to work. At first he was a shepherd but later he gained respect as a businessman. At 25 he married Khadijah, a 40 year old widow. They lived 23 years together and had four daughters and two sons. All his sons died during early childhood but his daughters lived and got married, only Fatima had descendants.
Muhammad’s Humanistic Character
Muhammad exhibited a trait of kindness and compassion for all people. Regarding this, historians relate to us a revealing story about Muhammad and his servant Zaid ibn Harithah, who was known as the son of Muhammad.
As revealed earlier, Arabia was not civilized and individuals or tribes often raided or robbed others for food and gains, due to droughts and famine. It happened that the young boy, Zaid ibn Harithah was in route with his mother for some business when he was snatched from his mother by muggers, who later sold him in Mecca as a slave. Zaid was purchased and given to Khadijah by her nephew. Khadijah gave Zaid to Muhammad as a marriage gift. Meantime, Zaid’s family was in agony as a result of the loss of their son. His father, Harithah, had composed poetry revealing the agony and sadness without their son, wondering his fate.
One day, al Harithah learned the good news that his son was with Muhammad. Soon he collected a large sum of money from his clan and went to Muhammad to buy back his son. When Harithah met Muhammad, he told him the story of Zaid and that he had collected a large sum of money as a ransom to get him back.
Possibly not to hurt Zaid’s feelings, Muhammad said, what if I offer you a better solution? Sure, but what could be better than this sum of money, Harithah replied? Muhammad then said, “We will give Zaid the choice to either go with you or stay with me. If he chooses to go with you, you can take him and I will take no money but if he chooses to stay with me, I would not turn him down.” Harithah said that this is indeed a better solution.
So Muhammad calls upon Zaid, who greeted his father and later was given the choice to go back to his family or stay with Muhammad. Realizing Muhammad’s decency and treatment, Zaid had no difficulty choosing Muhammad over his own family. This was a surprise for his father. To comfort Harithah, Muhammad took Zaid by the hand to the Ka’ba and announced to Quraysh that Zaid was to be from here on called “Zaid the son of Muhammad.”
Thus, Muhammad’s kind heartedness did not impose on Zaid a mastership order to go back to his family, yet at the same time, assured his biological father that Zaid will be treated by Muhammad like a son, not a servant. Such was Muhammad’s pristine nature. In fact, during his Prophethood, Muhammad taught that religion is “the way to treat others.”
With the First Revelation “Read”
During the next several years Muhammad devoted much of his time to contemplation. Often he climbed to a small cave among the rocks of Mount Noor called Hira, just north of Mecca, to spend time in fasting and meditation. There, in the year 610, at 40 years of age and although unlettered, a revelation overwhelmed him, a blinding vision that frightened him to his knees. A voice from the sky said: "O Muhammad, Read!" He said: "I cannot read." The voice again said: "Read!" He said: "I cannot read." The third time the voice was more frightening than the previous. It commanded: "Read!" He said: "What shall I read?" Then the archangel replied:
"Read, in the name of the Lord who createth, created man from a clot, read and it is thy Lord, the most Bountiful Who teacheth by pen, teacheth man that which he knew not." Qur'an, 96:1-5.
Troubled, Muhammad returned home to Khadijah. Is it that God has spoken to him and had appointed him His messenger? Or is it that he is losing his senses? It is an undisputed fact that Khadijah was the first to believe in his appointment as a Prophet, before anyone, even the disturbed Muhammad himself, for he returned to her saying: "Wrap me, wrap me," and right after he told her what he had experienced and what was said to him, Kadijah responded by saying: "Allah will not disappoint you, you feed the poor, you cloth the needy..."
"Read, in the name of the Lord
who createth, created man from a clot, read and it is thy
Lord, the most Bountiful Who teacheth by pen, teacheth man
that which he knew not." Qur'an,
Troubled, Muhammad returned home to Khadija. Is it that God
has spoken to him and had appointed him His messenger? Or
is it that he is losing his senses? It is an undisputed fact
that Khadija was the first to believe in his appointment as
a Prophet, before anyone, even the disturbed Muhammad himself,
for he returned to her saying: "Wrap
me, wrap me," and right after he told her what
he had experienced and what was said to him, Kadijah responded
by saying: "Allah will not disappoint
you, you feed the poor, you cloth the needy..."
Meeting With the
Soon after, Khadijah took Muhammad and hastened to her cousin, Waraqah Ibn-Nowfal, who refused to worship idols and had become a Christian and who had also translated part of the Old Testament into Arabic. When Muhammad told him what he had seen and heard, he broke into these words: "Holy,
Holy! By Him Who dominated Waraqah's soul, O Khadijah, this
must be the great spirit that spoke to Moses. Muhammad must
be the Prophet of this nation."
The next call for Muhammad was:
"O you who lie wrapped in your mantle,
arise and Warn. Glorify your Lord. Purify your garments."
Qur'an, 74: 1-3.
Thus, Muhammad became the Prophet who would later transform the face of this globe.
Muslims believe that Prophet Muhammad was prophesied in the judo-Christian scripture. In this writing, the author selected several points of prophesies quoted from the teachings of the modern Muslim scholar, Dr. Jamal Badawi. According to Dr. Badawi, the event of the First Revelation was prophesied in the Old Testament in great detail. The following is from the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 29, Verse 12:
"And the Book is delivered
to him that is not learned saying read this I pray thee and
he says I am not learned."
This astounding similarity between what took place during Muhammad's appointment and what was prophesied in the Old Testament cannot be attributed to anyone else other than Muhammad. It is incredible how precise this prophecy is. Why is it that Muslims, Jews nor Christians have recognized this fact as a common heritage to all their respective religions? It would seem that we have an opportunity to construct a bridge for better understanding and closer ties amongst the Judeo-Christian-Islamic faiths.
Thus, the revelation started by an enlightenment expressing word, "Read" and the revelation that formed the Holy Qur'an continued for the next twenty-three years. During this time, the Holy Qur'an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad in stages and as demanded by the relevant events and circumstances happening. At times he received only a single small Surah and at others, Surahs (chapters) of one or more verses. The Holy Qur'an expressed this as:
is) a Qur'an which We have divided (into parts from time to
time) in order that thou mightest recite it to men at intervals:
We have revealed it by stages." Qur'an,
Again, looking at the Old Testament, there is similarly another perfectly fit prophecy of the description above for the awaited "Prophet". In the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 28, verse 10, which says:
"For precept must be upon precept,
line upon line, here a little and there a little."
During the time the Revelation was actually delivered to Prophet
Muhammad, he used to utter the words that are being revealed
to him, and he was worried about losing or forgetting part
"Move not your tongue concerning
the (Qur'an) to make haste therewith." Qur'an
For a matching description to this Qur’anic verse from
the scripture, we read in the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 28,
"From for with a stammering lips
and another tongue will he speak to his people."
Stammering is to speak or say with involvement, pauses and rapid repetition of syllables and sounds, as from excitement. It is amazing how accurate and meticulous this description is and to be told hundreds of years before it actually took place.
Muhammad's Prophethood came as a result of a divine plan to bless the nations of the world by raising a Prophet through the descendants of Prophet Ishmael, son of Abraham, patriarch of the monolithic religions. According to the Old Testament, God promised Prophet Abraham he would bless his nation. Read below Verse 18, Chapter 18, Book of Deuteronomy:
"I will raise them up a prophet from
among their brethren, like unto thee, and I will put my words
in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall
command him." The Bible's
Last Prophet, page 12.
the Muslim Migration to Abyssinia
The laws and injunctions brought by the Prophet had angered the leaders of Mecca who feared losing their businesses, leaderships and influences. In 12 years, Muhammad was able to convert a few hundred people to Islam with extraordinary patience and despite Quraysh's insults and ill-treatment. During these years Muslims were harassed, tortured and killed in Mecca. Muhammad gave orders for some of his followers to migrate secretly to Yathrib, a city north of Mecca and for others to go to Ethiopia, where there was news of a just Christian king, King Negus. Others, including the Prophet and his clan, were driven out of their homes into the desert where they suffered hunger and hardship for almost three years.
Dialogue With the Christian King of Abyssinia
Quraysh was so upset about the migration of the Muslims that they confiscated their homes, wealth and belongings in retaliation. Furthermore, Quraysh sent a delegation to King Negus of Abyssinia carrying precious gifts with hopes of extraditing the Muslims back to Mecca for punishment and humiliation. The two appointed ambassadors, Amr Ibn Al-As and Abdullah Ibn Abu-Rabiah presented the King Negus and his patriarchs their gifts and said:
"O King! A number of ignoble plebeians from Mecca have taken refuge in your country. They have turned away from the religion of their people and have not joined your religion. They follow a new religion known neither to us nor to you, which they have created. The leading noblemen of Mecca, who are their parents, uncles and relatives, have sent us to you to ask for their return." Negus then sent for the refugees to hear their plea. When the refugees came before the king, he said: "What is this new religion which caused you to separate from your people?"
Jafar Ibn Abu-Talib, the Prophet's cousin rose and said:
"O King, we were in a state of ignorance and immorality, worshiping idols, eating carrion and committing injustices, the strong amongst us exploited the weak. Then God sent us a Prophet, one of our own people, whose lineage, truthfulness, loyalty and purity are well known to us. He called us to worship God alone, he commanded us always to speak the truth, to remain true to trust and to keep the promise to avoid fornication, perjury and false witness."
Thereupon, the king asked, "Will you show me some of the revelation which your Prophet claims?" Jafar Ibn-Abu Talib said yes and began to recite the verses from Chapter Mary where the infant Jesus spoke from the cradle.
verses on the birth of Prophet Jesus are:
"Relate in the Book (the story of) Mary when she withdrew from her family to a place in the East. She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them: Then we sent to her Our angel and he appeared before her as a man in all respects. She said: "I seek refuge from thee to (Allah) Most Gracious: (come not near) if thou dost fear Allah." He said: "Nay I am only a messenger from thy Lord (to announce) to thee the gift of a holy son. She said: "How shall I have a son seeing that no man has touched me and I am not unchaste?" He said: "So (it will be) thy Lord said,`That is easy for Me and (We wish) to appoint him as a Sign unto men and a Mercy from Us' it is a matter (so) decreed." So she conceived him and she retired with him to a remote place. And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree, she cried (in her anguish): "Ah! Would that I had died before this! Would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight!" But (a voice) cried to her from beneath the (palm-free): "Grieve not! For thy Lord hath provided a rivulet beneath thee; "And shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree, it will let fall fresh ripe dates upon thee. "So eat and drink and cool (thine) eye. And if thou dost see any man say, `I have vowed a fast to (Allah) Most Gracious and this day will I enter into no talk with any human being.' "At length she brought the (babe) to her people carrying him (in her arms). They said: "O Mary! Truly an amazing thing hast thou brought! "O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a man of evil or thy mother a woman unchaste!" But she pointed to the babe. They said, "How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?" He said, "I am indeed a servant of Allah: He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet, "And He hath made me blessed where so ever I be and hath enjoined on me prayer and charity as long as I live; "(He) hath made me kind to my mother and not overbearing or miserable; "So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)"! Such (was) Jesus the son of Mary, (it is) a statement of truth about which they (vainly) dispute. It is not befitting to (the majesty of) Allah that He should beget a son. Glory be to Him! When He determines a matter He only says to it "Be" and it is." Qur'an, 16:35.
When the patriarchs heard these words, they were pleasantly
surprised and told the King:
"These words must have sprung from
the same fountainhead as the words from which our master Jesus
Christ's have sprung." Negus then said: "Go fourth
in my kingdom, I shall not extradite you."
This collaboration of the Christian king with the Muslims was not only a cause for victory for them, but a sign of the true and actual relationship between Muslims and Christians during the life of the Prophet of Islam. What is more revealing about the Christian/Muslim relationship during this time is that some of those Muslims who were under the protection of the Christian king, had fought along with his Christian solders against certain rebellions within the king's land. It behooves us, Muslims, Christians and Jews, to come forth and rediscover such bonds for mutual and peaceful co-existence.
The Siege on the
Prophet and His Clan
In its campaign of violence against Muslims, the Quraysh tribe imposed a boycott on the Prophet and his clan and forced them out to an arid and dry valley known as the Abu-Taleb Valley. This was in the eighth year after Muhammad's first revelation. The siege went on for twenty-eight long months. During this time the family of the Prophet or members of his clan were not allowed to deal, trade, buy, sell, or socialize with the Quraysh tribe. The siege took its toll on the Prophet and his family. As a result, they had to eat grass, insects, roots and shrubbery. Due to the harsh conditions imposed on them some of his family became ill. The Prophet’s Uncle, Abu Taleb died as a result shortly after the boycott was removed and shortly after that, his wife Khadeejah also perished. Their deaths were a direct result of the long years suffering malnutrition and the hardship being in exile brought.
A significant Christian/Muslim alliance took place when Prophet Muhammad was in exile. In coordination with Ja’ffar ibn Abi Talib, the cousin of the Prophet, and King Negus of Abyssinia, a Christian/Muslim delegation of thirty-three people was sent to visit the Prophet in exile and investigate the condition of the Muslims and the ill treatment they were exposed to by Quraysh. When the delegation met the Prophet they were overwhelmed with the wisdom and the verses of the Qur’an he recited to them. Quraysh leaders insulted the Christian delegation for showing sympathy to the Prophet and his family. However, the delegation abstained from returning Quraysh’s insult and for this occasion, Allah revealed this verse in Surah 28, Verses 52-55 which states:
“Those to whom We sent the Book
before this, --they do believe in this (Revelation); and when
it is recited to them, they say: We believe therein, for it
is the truth from our Lord: Indeed we have been Muslims (bowing
to God’s Will) from before this. Twice will they be
given their rewards, for that they have preserved, that they
avert evil with good, and that they spend in charity out of
what We have given them. And when they hear vain talk, they
turn away therefrom and say: To us our deeds, and to you yours.”
Although Quraysh showed anger towards the Christian delegation on the outside, the act of a foreign investigation into their internal affairs and exposing their inhumane treatment of their own people, was a hidden concern that possibly led to the removal of the siege. Moved either by the fear of an intervention of a foreign power or by the awakening of their conscientious, several leaders of Quraysh, Hisham bin Amr, Zuhair bin Umayah, Mut’im ibn ‘Addi, and Buhtury ibn Hihsam agreed amongst themselves to “stop the fool act of the boycott” and planned to call the rest of Quraysh leaders into a public meeting at the Ka’ba for the purpose of ending the boycott. The meeting was a success and the removal of the boycott was achieved.
Indeed, the act of the Christian delegation of Abyssinia in visiting the Prophet cannot be perceived as anything other than an act of alliance with the prophet and Muslims, in times of hardship and oppression.
Journey to al Ta’if
Having lost his wife and uncle, Muhammad's exposure to Quraysh’s harassment and assaults grew greater. In old Arabia, the governing law was that everyone is protected by belonging to a clan, the stronger the clan the better the protection. For Muhammad, both of his parents died when he was young and his guardianship was moved to his grandfather, at first, then when his grandfather died it moved on to his uncle Abu Taleb. Now that he lost his uncle and wife, he lost most of the protection of his clan.
Being tired of Quraysh's assaults and rejection, Muhammad started looking for another chance to spread his cause outside of Mecca. The Prophet made a decision to go to al Ta-'if, 93 miles southwest of Mecca in the hope of finding a stronger collaboration from its people.
It must have been horribly painful for Muhammad to have made such a decision. He knew that if he left the city his life would be endangered by the lawless Arabia, and that if he had to return to Mecca he would have to find a new clan to protect him, which might not be possible.
In al Ta-'if, the Prophet was turned down by the city's three leaders. One leader said to him: "If God sent you, I will tear down the hangings of the Ka'ba." The second leader told him: "Couldn't God find anyone else other than you to send?" The third leader refused to meet with the Prophet but sent his servant with this message: "I do not need to speak to you, for if you are a messenger from God as you claim, then you are too great of a person for me to address and if you are a liar, it is not befitting for me to speak to you."
Knowing the consequences if he returned to Mecca, Muhammad appealed to them to conceal the news of rejection from Quraysh or to allow him to stay amongst them. His plea was also rejected. Instead of expected kindness, they turned loose their children to follow him and threw stones at him until his head was severely cut. He bled until blood came out of his shoes.
Just outside town in a vineyard, he and his servant rested and prayed these words:
"O my God, unto You I complain of my weakness, of my helplessness and of my lowliness before men. O Most Merciful of the merciful, You are Lord of the weak. And You are my Lord. Into whose hands will You entrust me? Unto some far off stranger who will ill-treat me? Or unto a foe whom You have empowered against me? I care not if Your wrath is not on me…"
Upon this supplication, the Angel of Mountains came to Prophet Muhammad asking his permission to close the two mountains on the people of Ta-'if but despite his deepest wounds of rejection, Muhammad replied: "No, God may bring from their offspring people who may testify to the oneness of God and worship Him."
The Prophet was magnanimous. His zeal for peace and forgiveness indeed overpowered his personal anger and self-wounds. Testifying to this fact, God revealed:
"And indeed you are of a great moral character." Qur'an, 68:4.
The Qur'an also said:
“And We have not sent you (O Muhammad), but as a mercy to the worlds.” Qur’an, 21:107.
Now, Muhammad had no other choice but bear the pain of rejection and humiliation and to return to Mecca. The next task for him was to find protection in Mecca. He sent his servant Za-id with the names of several tribal leaders in the hope that one of them will accept the request. Only one, al Mufti Ibn 'Addi, who was an Idolater accepted the protection of the Prophet.
For the next three years Muhammad was under the protection of a disbeliever.
As expected from the Prophet, who was sent to teach wisdom and rationality, he had to deal with the new circumstances differently. Now he would no longer speak low of their idols, nor would he introduce himself to Quraysh in the way and frequency he used to. Instead, he channeled his efforts to the people who visit Mecca, especially during the pilgrimage season. And this flexibility in approach seemed to be fruitful.
For example, he met with some people from the city of Yathrib who were favorable to his call and accepted Islam. The few converted Yathribian Muslims went back to their people and converted more. In the next pilgrimage season, twelve of them met secretly with the Prophet and made a covenant with him to act and live up to the highest of standards. He asked his companion Mess-'b ibn Umair to go with them and be his Ambassador in Yathrib.
In Yathrib, the Prophet's ambassador and the twelve Yathribian Muslims were successful in introducing Islam in the city. In the next year's pilgrimage to Mecca seventy Yathribian Muslims met again, secretly with the Prophet and made a pact with him to live morally and honestly and give him protection. The Prophet had them select twelve representatives from amongst themselves, possibly reflecting their corresponding tribes, to report to Miss-'ab. Under this leadership, the Yathribian Muslim community soon became a significant power. Now the scale of the relative power between the Quraysh tribe and the Muslims had begun to shift in favor of the Muslims.
Miraculous Journey into Heaven (Isra’ and Mi’raj)
Eleven years after the first revelation, the miraculous Journey of the Prophet to Jerusalem and his ascension to the seven heavens took place. In this remarkable journey, Muhammad met with his brother prophets; Abraham, Moses, Jesus and all other prophets sent by God and led them in a prayer in Jerusalem. From Jerusalem he ascended to the seven heavens, again meeting with the Prophets. It was here he received the Muslim duties of the five daily prayers. Muhammad's meeting with all the prophets demonstrates the close ties and common grounds between Islam, Christianity and Judaism as well as other revealed religions.
of the Prophet: Masterpiece of Thoughtful Planning
On at least two occasions, the tribe of Quraysh planned to kill the Prophet but did not because of the fear of new bloodshed between them. Quraysh tribes, however, drew up a plan to kill the Prophet without the fear of reprisal. This plan called for the murder to be carried out by one representative from each clan of Quraysh, with each one plunging his sword into the victim. In this way, the tribe of the Prophet, Benu Hashim, would not be able to fight all of the Quraysh tribes combined.
Allah informed the Prophet of their plan and gave him the permission to migrate to Yathrib with his close friend Abu Bakr. Abu Bakr prepared two camels for the trip to where some of his followers had already migrated and had converted others while there.
On the night that the murderers surrounded the Prophet's house, his faithful son-in-law, Ali Ibn Abu-Talib, a youth of twenty, was instructed to wrap himself with Muhammad's clock and lie in Muhammad's bed. By midnight Muhammad slipped away through the sleeping armed members of the plot, waiting to murder the Prophet (p).
In order to mislead the enemy, Muhammad and his close friend Abu Bakr, headed south to cave Thawr, instead of traveling North in the direction of Yathrib. In cave Thawr, they spent three days until the hue and cry of Quraysh had subsided.
The plan of escape drawn by the Prophet illustrates the extent of dependence on the individual efforts to bring about the plan to success. Prior to his migration he had hired Abdullah Ibn Uraqith as a travel guide for his convoy and he instructed Asma, Abu-Bakr's daughter along with her brother, Abdullah, to provide them with food and news. Abu Bakr's servant, 'Aamir Ibn Faheerah was to graze the heard of sheep where Asma' or her brother walked to destroy their foot prints so that Quraysh would not be able to trace them. Abdullah stayed in Mecca during the day to collect the news and delivered it to the Prophet during the night. The Prophet was informed of all the news, as if he was in Mecca. Asma was instructed to provide two camels and food for their journey to Yathrib. The convoy did not take the normal route to the city, but rather the Red Sea route which goes north along the shores of the Red Sea then east to ensure a successful escape.
Part of the blessing of being a believer in God, is that God is always with you. For example, when Allah sees that you have done all that you can do to accomplish your mission, He, in return will show His assistance to you. In this case, to mislead the enemy from comprehending the whereabouts of the Prophet and his Companion, He sent a spider to build its web at the entry of the cave. When Quraysh's men reached the opening of the cave, they saw an unbroken web of a spider and felt that no one can enter the cave without breaking the spider's web and therefore left the site without searching the cave. In this regard, Allah said:
"If ye help him not, still Allah
helped him when those who disbelieve drove him forth, the
second of two; when they two were in the cave, when he said
unto his comrade: Grieve not. Lo! Allah is with us. Then Allah
caused His peace of reassurance to descend upon him and supported
him with hosts ye cannot see, and made the word of those who
disbelieved the nethermost, while Allah's word it was that
became the uppermost. Allah is Mighty, Wise."
The leaders of Mecca offered one hundred camels as a reward to the one who apprehended Muhammad but all plans failed to find him.
It was in June, 622 CE, when the travelers migrated north to Yathrib. That day marked the beginning of the Islamic calendar. After a ten day journey, Muhammad arrived at the Oasis. Having learned of his migration, the small band of Muslims waited for days at the southernmost fringe of palms. "He has come! He has come!" They started singing and rejoicing. Nearby was a Jew, Abdullah Bin Salaam, picking dates off a palm tree with his aunt on the ground assisting. Abdullah was in a better position to spot the incoming from a far distance. Therefore, he was the first to see the Prophet and his companion coming.
Upon this, he became overwhelmed with excitement, calling loudly, "Muhammad has arrived, God is great!"
At this point, his aunt told him to quiet down saying, "If he was Moses son of Imran, you would not have shouted as loud." Abdullah responded, "Oh my aunt by Allah, he is (only) the brother of Moses, son of Imran and is on his faith." She asked, "Is he the expected Prophet we have been told about (in the Torah)? “ He answered, "Yes."
This historical event is a natural reaction of what is in the inner-hearts of many of the true believers in God. Abdullah and other Jewish leaders and individuals accepted Islam along with many Arabian tribes residing in the city of Medina. (see A. Alhalabi, Alsirah Alhalabiyah, Volume 2, page 121.)
After his arrival to Yathrib, many people opened their homes for him to stay. However, the Prophet started building the world's first mosque. The mosque became the base from which the city received several major development projects in the social, agriculture, political and spiritual aspects that gave the city a whole new outlook. From then on, the oasis of Yathrib became known as "al Medinah al-Munawarah" or, simply "Medina," (The City of the Prophet)
Incidentally, the Prophet's emigration and the events of his arrival were beautifully prophesied in the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 21, verse 14.
"The inhabitants of the land of Teman brought water to him that was thirsty, they presented him with their bread him that fled, for they fled from the drawn swords and from the bent bow and from the grievousness of war."
During the course of construction on a typical project, there may be a need to go through temporary steps to pass an obstacle or a particular stage. In the early days in Medina, Muslims faced a crisis. There were many Muslim immigrants but few jobs and housing to accommodate them. Here the Prophet (p), remarkably, established a way to overcome the difficulties. He called on a “full brotherhood” union between the Ansar believers (people of Medina) and the immigrant Muslims from Mecca. Each Ansari Muslim shared his home, food and wealth with an immigrant believer. Allah praised this remarkable step in the Holy Qur'an when He said:
who entered the city and the faith before them love those
who flee unto them for refuge, and find in their breasts no
need for that which hath been given them, but prefer (the
fugitives) above themselves though poverty become their lot.
And whose is saved from his own avarice such are they who
are successful." Qur'an,
Later, as the crisis subsided, this transitory of “full brotherhood” union ended. This Mosque of the Prophet became the first institution of Islam in which the desert people became messengers of peace, justice, and enlightenment for many nations of the world. Their belief was the sayings of the Prophet (p):
"The ink of scholars is more precious
than the blood of the martyrs." "Lo! The angels
offer their wings to the seeker of knowledge."
In the next few years, major social development projects were undertaken in addition to the teachings of the spiritualities and beliefs of Islam. The city was about to take on a whole new look. Some of the projects were urban development, law and constitutionality.
1- Cleaning the City
As the new immigrants arrived into Yathrib (Medina), many
of them had fallen sick, having no immunity against the kind
of diseases existing there. Supporting the sick and raising
their morale, the Prophet (p) started ridding the causes of
disease and made a prayer of encouragement and hope, saying:
"Oh Allah purify Medina and help
us move its disposable to al Juhfa and cure our sick and make
us love it in the same way You made us love Mecca." Bukhari,
Tradition Number, 1756.
Unlike many of today's Muslims, the Prophet (p) did not just stop at saying the prayer as a way to cure the illness of the immigrant Muslims, but further established a task force to haul away the garbage that had accumulated in the city streets to a place called "al-Jahfah," away from the city. As a result of this operation a healthier environment for all citizens was accomplished. See al Hafith, al Bidayah we al Nihayah, Volume 3, Page 147.
the Water and Irrigation Systems
Another basic area of improvement was the city's agriculture and water systems. It was determined that these were insufficient and that more water resources must be found. At this point, the Prophet (p) drew up and executed a plan for drilling 54 water wells in and around the city. This project was completed under the supervision of the companion Talhah Ibn Ubaidellah. Upon its completion, water for the city and irrigation of existing and new land was plentiful and was made through channels versus the old streams of a few water wells.
The Prophet (p) had issued a land deed for those who improved a dead land. He said:
"Any who improves a dead land, he will have the right to own it." Buhkari, the Book of Muzara'ah (agriculture).
As a result of this outstanding work, the agriculture of the city grew and prospered. In a few years the city turned into a green valley of palm trees and other vegetation. The factors that led to this clean up of water and agricultural reforms are an integral part of the Muslim's faith. It is clear in this example that faith does not stop at the offering of prayers but it goes beyond utterance into physical work and actions to accomplish its goals.
It has been reported that Tamem Ben al-Aus al-Darie, had set lamps in the Mosque of the Prophet to illuminate it. The Prophet (p) was so pleased with the idea that he provided Tamem with a few young companions and supplies, and assigned the task of providing lamps for all the city streets. Upon the completion of this task, in an inaugurating celebration of lighting the city streets, the Prophet (p) encouraged developments for such standards of living improvements. He said:
Allah enlighten the heart of Tamem al Darie, if I had a daughter
I would have asked her to marry him."
During the night, the city was like a pearl in the surrounding desert. After it was dressed with lights, the city took on the name" al Medina al Munawarah," meaning the enlightened city. The city is also known as "Madinat al Nabi," the "City of the Prophet," or simply Medina. Thus, Yathrib took on a new name and many developments.
"The Messenger of God wrote documents (stipulating the relationship) between Immigrants and Helpers, in which he made peace with the Jews and pledged himself to them that they will be established in security regarding their religion, wealth and property. He pledged to honor certain rights for them and demanded that they fulfill certain obligations."
Constitution of Medina - Peaceful Coexistence of Muslims and
Along with the urban changes, Medina witnessed social and political developments. An historical manifestation was written that established the constitutionality of a pluralism society. "Sahifatu al Medina," better known as The Constitution of Medina was dictated by Prophet Muhammad and signed by the leaders of various tribes of the city of Medina and its suburbs. Among the Jewish tribes which signed the documents were: Banu Najjar, Banu Harith, Banu Sa'dah, Banu Jushum, Banu Awus, Banu Tha'labah, Banu Lujnah, Banu Shatheebah, and Banu Awuf. The Constitution of Medina among other things, protected the freedom of speech and belief; the sanctity of life; criminal laws, municipalities and justice. Following is the language of this Constitution.
Note: The text of the translation of Medina Constitution is copied as a whole from the book, Sunshine at Madinah, published by Islamic Publication International. Also, see Minhaj Alsaliheen, Page 777, and Albidayah wa Alnihayah, Volume 3, Page 177 for the original Arabic version. Said Ibn Ishaq:
The Constitution of Medina reads:
1. In the name of Allah the Compassionate
the Most Merciful. This is a document dictated by Muhammad
the Prophet (p) (governing the relations) between the believers
and Muslims from Quraysh and Yathrib (Medina), and those who
followed and joined them and strove with them. They are one
nation, distinct from all nations. The Immigrants from Quraysh,
according to their established customs are bound together
and shall ransom their prisoners in the kindness and justice
common among believers.
2. The Banu 'Awf (a Jewish tribe), according to their established
customs, are bound together as before, each group shall ransom
their prisoners in the kindness and justice common among believers.
The Banu Sa'idah, the Banu al-Harith, The Banu Jushm and the
Banu an-Najjar (Jewish tribes) are likewise.
3. The Banu 'Amr ibn 'Awf, the Banu an-Nabeet, and the Banu
al-Aws (Jewish tribes) likewise.
4. Believers shall not leave anyone among them in destitution
by failing to give for him redemption money or blood-wit in
5. A believer shall not take as an ally a freed man of another
believer against him.
6. The God-fearing believers shall be against who ever rebels
or him who seeks to spread injustice, or sin or aggression
or spread enmity between believers; the hands of everyone
of them shall be together against him, even if he be a son
of one of them.
7. A believer shall not slay a believer for the sake of an
unbeliever nor shall he aid an unbeliever against a believer.
8. The bond of God is one; the least of them (believers) may
give protection (to a stranger) on behalf of them. Believers
are protectors one of another, to the exclusion of outsiders.
9. The Jew who follows us is surely entitled to our support
and the same equal rights as any one of us. He shall not be
wronged nor his enemy be assisted.
10. The peace of believers is one and indivisible; no believer
shall make a separate peace without other believers, when
they are engaged in war in the way of God, except when conditions
are deemed fair and equitable to all.
11. In every foray, a rider must take another behind him.
The believers must avenge the blood of one another, if anyone
of them fails fighting in the cause of God. The God-fearing
believers follow the best and most upright guidance.
12. No polytheist shall take the property or person of Quraysh
under his protection nor shall he intervene on their behalf
against a believer.
13. Who ever is convicted of deliberately killing a believer
without legitimate cause, shall be liable to retaliation,
unless the next of kin is satisfied (with blood money). The
believers shall all be against him, and they are bound to
keep him under their custody (until either the next of kin
is satisfied or retaliation takes place).
14. It shall not be lawful to a believer who has accepted
this document as binding, and who believes in God and the
last day, to help an evil-doer or to shelter him. The curse
of God and His anger on the Day of Resurrection will be upon
him if he does, and neither repentance nor ransom will be
received from him.
15. Whenever you have a disagreement amongst you, it must
be referred to God and Muhammad.
16. The Jews shall contribute to the cost of war, so long
as they are fighting alongside the believers.
17. The Jews of Banu 'Awf are one nation with the Muslims;
the Jews have their religion and the Muslims have theirs,
their freedmen and their persons shall be protected except
those who behave unjustly or sinfully, for they hurt but themselves
and their families. The same applies to the Jews of Banu an-Najjar,
Banu al-Harith, Banu Sa'idah, Banu Jusham, Banu al-Aws, Banu
Tha'labah, and the Jafnah, clan of the Tha'labah and Banu
al-Shua'ibah. Doing good deeds is a protection against sinfulness.
The freedmen of Tha'labah are as themselves. The close friends
of the Jews are as themselves.
18. None of them shall go out to war, save with the permission
of Muhammad. But none shall be prevented from taking revenge
for a wound inflicted upon him. Whoever kills a man, kills
himself and his household, unless it be one who has wronged
him, for God would accept that.
19. The Jews must bear their expenses and the Muslims bear
theirs. Each must help the other against anyone who attacks
the people of this document. Their condition must be one of
mutual advice, consultation and charity rather than harm and
20. No man is liable for a crime committed by his ally. Support
must be given to him who is wronged. The Jews must spend of
their wealth, along with the believers, so long as fighting
21. Yathrib (Medina) shall be a sanctuary for the people of
this document. A stranger under protection shall be as his
protecting host, unharmed and committing no crime. A woman
shall not be given protection without the consent of her family.
22. If any dispute likely to cause trouble should arise among
the people of this document, it must be referred to God, and
23. God approves and is pleased with the piety and goodness
in this document.
24. Quraysh and their helpers shall not be given protection.
25. The people of this document are bound to help one another
against any attack on Yathrib. If they are called to make
peace and maintain it, they must do so; and if they make a
similar demand on the Muslims, it must be carried out except
with one who insists on fighting against their religion.
26. To every small group belongs the share which is their
due as members of the larger group which is party to this
covenant. The Jews of the Aws and their clients, are entitled
to the same rights as any other party to this document, together
with the goodness and charity from all parties to it. Charity
and good deeds exclude sinfulness and wrongdoing.
27. There is no responsibility except for one's own deeds.
28. God approves of such truth and goodness as is included
in this document.
29. This document shall not constitute any protection for
the unjust or the wrongdoers.
30. Whoever goes out to fight or stays at home is safe in
the city, unless he has committed an injustice or a crime.
God is the protector of whoever honors his commitment to this
document, and is God-fearing and so is Muhammad, the Messenger
True believers are those who work toward the reconstruction
of the distorted bridges connecting the three great faiths.
Soon after this agreement was signed, the Jewish tribes of
Banu Quraithah, Nadheer, and Qunaiqa' who did not sign this
agreement signed a similar agreement with the Prophet Muhammad.
Islam: A Faith
Islam is faith that promotes peace and justice. Throughout
the early days of Islam, it is quite clear that Muslims engagements
with the Idolaters were either in self defense or for defending
the freedom of belief. Insuring no violence and commotion,
Muslims hid their faith, worked discretely, and even modified
the form of prayer (silent from loud) as not to aggravate
the disbelievers of Mecca; they sustained torture and execution;
they left their homes, properties, loved ones and migrated
away to safe places, such as Abyssinia and Medina. Muslims
endured hardship with no retaliation or revenge. Please see
our article. Islam: Legacy of Peace.
Muslims’ Strategy of Survival
In their new city of Medina, Muslims were being watched by
a host of hostile tribes and nations; Quraysh and its pact,
the Roman and Persian empires were closely watching, just
beyond Arabia’s borders. This hostile environment dictates
that one must be strong to be able to survive.
Since Muslims were weak and fewer in numbers
than any of their adversaries, they implemented the method
of “prevention” to “terminate” the
danger. Elaborating on this fact, Karen Armstrong in her book,
Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet, stated.
"It was essential that the Muslims
display an image of strength and decisiveness, if they were
to survive the lawless state of Arabia, seventh-century. In
Medina whenever the Prophet heard that one tribe, urged by
Mecca propaganda, was preparing to invade Medinan territory,
he would march aggressively to forestall the attack and the
opposition tended to melt away as soon as the Muslims arrived."
As far as showing strength and decisiveness, the Roman and
Persian empires were considered no less than the surrounding
tribes of Medina and Arabia. In fact, the Ghassan (the kingdom
of Arab Ghassanids), who were the Roman allies in Syria, had
already crucified and killed the messenger of the Prophet
to the Ghassan ruler, Sharhabil. The act of killing a messenger
was considered a declaration of war, since messengers and
ambassadors then were traditionally protected. For this irresponsible
act of killing the messenger, the Prophet dispatched an expedition
to the Syrian border to punish the killers, as is discussed
later in “The War with Byzantine” section.
The Turning Phase
As was discussed earlier, Muslims had been oppressed, humiliated,
tortured, persecuted and driven into exile. During this 13 year
time period, Muslims did not retaliate against the ill treatment
of Quraysh. The following important incident, however, where
Muslims actually attacked a caravan belonging to Quraysh,
was a turning point in which a policy regarding war was established.
This policy sets a new phase for dealing with the Idolaters.
Below are the details of this incident.
Policy for Initiating a War
In the latter part of 623 CE. (the beginning of second year
in Medina), the Prophet (p) sent his companion Abdullah Ibn-Jahsh
as the head of a number of his companions with a sealed document
and asked him to unseal it after two days of travel in the
direction of Mecca. He was also directed to follow its instructions
without forcing any member of his companions to comply with
the instructions. Two days after embarking on the mission,
Abdullah unsealed the Prophet's document which read:
"As soon as you have read this document,
proceed to Nakhlah (a place between Mecca and Taif), observe
and learn Quraysh news and return."
All members of the mission decided to proceed to Nakhlah. On their way two people, Al-Zuhi and Urban Ibn-Gazwan, lost their camel and went to look for it. Later, they were taken by the Quraysh and kept as hostages. At Nakhlah, the Muslims saw a caravan carrying trade goods for Quraysh. The group felt the eagerness to seize the caravan in return for Quraysh's confiscation of their goods earlier. Some of them, including their leader, did not want to attack the caravan because he was not commanded by the Prophet to do so and he did not want to kill in the Sacred Months. Arabs, before Islam, had established the tradition of stopping war among themselves for four Sacred Months. Finally the decision was made to attack the caravan.
After the attack was carried out, Amr Ibn al-Hadrami, the caravan’s guardian, was killed, two others were captured, and the goods were seized. When Abdullah arrived in Medina, before the Prophet, together with the goods and the two captured men, the Prophet (p) refused to accept the goods and receive the hostages. He said: "I have not instructed you to fight in the holy months." Abdullah and his companions were under a lot of pressure until the Prophet received the following revelation that outlined the policy of Islam regarding their action and the act of war. The revelation states:
"They ask you concerning the Holy
Months whether or not fighting is permitted therein. Say (oh
Muhammad), fighting therein is a grave (offense). But graver
is it in the sight of God to prevent access to the path of
God, to deny Him, to prevent access to the sacred Mosque and
drive out its people, thumult and oppression are worse than
fighting in the Holy Months."
This verse approved the view that it is indeed a grave offense to fight in the Sacred Months, but it warns of something far graver in its evil and immorality, which are: 1) Preventing man's freedom of belief and obeying God, 2) Denying people access to the House of God and driving people out of their homes, and 3) Religious persecution, forcing Muslims to disbelieve. These actions of injustice are greater offenses than killing. This incident has set the basic philosophy of what may constitute war in Islam.
It can easily be seen that defending freedom of belief and truth, and protecting the weak and justice against oppression and incitement to rebellion are the factors permitting a Muslim state to fight. If one does not fight for the right but rather passively chooses not to get involved then this action directly or indirectly would be actually helping the wrong. Shortly after this incident, God sent His Prophet a revelation permitting the Muslims to defend themselves.
(to fight) has been given to those who are being fought (the
Muslims), because they were wronged." Qur'an, 22:39.
All the major battles during the early period of Islam were deliberately made by the Pagans to attack the Muslims. For example, the battle of Badr (discussed below), which was the first major battle that was not planned nor expected by the Muslims. The Muslims were out intercepting a caravan belonging to Quraysh, a move that appeared to be designed to pressure Quraysh to allow the Muslims to go about their businesses in practicing their faith. Even when the caravan in question escaped the Muslims and was safe in Mecca, Quraysh insisted to fight the Muslims at the well of Badr.
The battle of Uhud, which took place a year after the battle of Badr, was an attack on the Muslims in revenge for Quraysh’s death in the battle of Badr. The last battle, (battle of the Ditch or the Pac), which took place a year after Uhud, was an attack by Quraysh and its confederacies on the Muslims in their own city of Medina designed to finish them out. To prevent a major bloodshed and war, this battle was diffused by the Muslims as will be seen in the section: The Battle of the Pact or the Ditch.
The Battle of Badr
During the first year after migration to Medina, the Muslims were attempting to intercept a caravan of goods belonging to Quraysh. For fourteen years Quraysh had been confiscating the Muslims homes and wealth and had driven them into exile. The caravan however, was able to escape from the Muslims into Mecca unharmed. Having learned about the Muslims attempt to intercept the caravan, Quryash called its alliance and prepared an army of 1000 fighters for its rescue.
The news of the caravans safe arrival into Mecca reached the army, but Quraysh insisted on attacking the 314 Muslims, who were not equipped to fight. Attempts from the elder leaders of Quraysh, such as Utbah ibn Rabee'ah advising Quraysh not to attack the Muslims and return back were denied by Abu Jahl, Quraysh leader, who insisted to "perish the Muslims." On January 8, 624 CE, at the wells of Badr, the Meccans attacked the 314 Muslims. Quraysh outnumbered the Muslims three to one.
"O God! Fulfill thy promise to me.
If this little band of believers perishes, there will be none
on earth to worship Thee," Muhammad stretched
out his hands as he called. Just as the forces were about
to engage, a violent squall whipped up sand in the faces of
the Meccans. "Gabriel,"
the Prophet cried ecstatically, "with
a thousand angels is falling upon the enemies."
A wild melee ensured. Over the slash of swords and the whistle
of arrows, Muhammad cried: "All who
die today will enter Paradise!" Even though, the
Muslims fought boldly and routed the Pagans, Allah told them:
"It was not ye who slew them; it
was God." Qur'an, 9:17.
The total dead from the Muslims and the non-believers were
fourteen and seventy respectively. Several of Quraysh leaders
were killed. Over seventy other disbelievers were taken as
prisoners of war. Later, each prisoner of war had to pay a
ransom, and those who were unable to pay had to teach ten children
how to read and write. Remarkably, the following Biblical
verse, in a great detail, expressed the event of the arrival
of the Prophet to Medina and his victory at Badr.
"The burden upon Arabia, in the forest
of Arabia ye shall lodge, O you traveling companions of Dedanites.
The inhabitants of the land of Tema brought water to him that
was thirsty, with their bread they met him who fled. For they
fled from the swords, the drawn swords, and from the bent
bow, and from the grievousness of war. For thus hath the Lord
said unto me, within a year, according to the years of a hierling,
all the glory of kedar shall fail: and the residue of the
number of archers, the mighty men of the children of Kedar
shall be diminished: for the Lord God of Israel hath spoken
it." Isaiah, 21:13-17.
The Myth: A Muslim
Enters Paradise by Killing a Christian or a Jew
In the previous section, we related the Prophet's call: "All who die today will enter Paradise!" We must take a deeper examination of the circumstances surrounding this call because it has been misused to mean, "by killing Christians or Jews, Muslims go to Paradise." This interpretation does not stand ground or truth of any kind. First, the Prophet was facing the Pagans of Mecca, not Christians, Jews or westerners. Second, the Prophet's word "today" limits the act of entering Paradise to those who die that day only. Thirdly, the word of the Prophet "die" implies dyeing in self-defense, since the entire battle of Badr was made in self-defense.
Defending one's self is considered a duty whether it be in the west or the east. There is no rule in Islam that call Muslims to maliciously attack Christians and Jews, which is advertised by some western media and writers. In fact, Islam's philosophy with respect to the act of war is to prevent it and bloodshed. (Click on the article, "Islam: Legacy of Peace" to learn more about this philosophy. Why is this quotation of the Prophet twisted to mean the killing of westerners, Jews or Christians? On the contrary, the Muslims and the Jews joined each other a few months prior to this battle of Badr and formed an alliance to defend the city of Medina against the Pagan Quraysh as stated above under the subtitle, Peaceful Coexistence of Muslims and Jews.
Furthermore, prior to this alliance with the Jews, Prophet Muhammad had sent his followers to Abyssinia, escaping Quraysh's execution and to be protected by its Christian King, Negus. This event took place nine years before this battle and the Muslim/Christian cooperative relationship lasted for centuries. For more information on this subject, see "The Muslim's Alliance with the Christians and Jews."
Finally, the Islamic philosophy of martyrdom entering Paradise is no different than the concept of martyrdom in Christianity. This philosophy too cannot be interpreted as permission to kill Christians, Jews, westerners or any human being. The human soul in Islam is considered sacred and therefore must be protected. Islam's philosophy regarding living with non-Muslims is not based on destructing, but rather on building good relations and friendships. To learn about this philosophy, click on the posted article, "Islam: Legacy of Peace."
The Battle of Uhud
In 625 CE, Quraysh assembled an army of three thousand people to attack the Muslims and revenge for the death of their people in the battle of Badr the previous year. The Prophet consulted his people regarding where to meet Quraysh. The choices were either to stay in the City (Medina) or to fight Quraysh at mount Uhud, north of the city. The majority of the Muslims chose the later alternative. This ‘majority’ or democratic approach was uneasy for people living for ages under tribal monarchy systems. On the way to the battlefield, one third of the Muslim army split and returned back to Medina, led by the head of the hypocrites, as a result of the majority choice. See Section: Towards Democracy (shura) below for more details.
At Mount Uhud, the Muslims were defeated. The Prophet and many of his companions were injured. The number of Muslims dead was seventy-three; most of them were Medinan Muslims. The number of disbelievers dead was 35. The large number of deaths from Medina led to an orphanage crisis, as explained below. Quraysh’s victory was distinguished by the mutilation of the Muslim’s dead.
This defeat of the Muslims and their weak position was an opportunity for Quraysh to mobilize its confederate tribes surrounding Medina and launching more attacks on the city. Knowing this, the Muslims took several measures insuring no further attacks by the Pagan or their confederates. The Prophet ordered the Muslims to chase Quraysh’s army or meet them if the situation called for it. At Hamrau al-Asad, the Muslims camped for three days, facing the army of Quraysh, insuring that they do not return to attack Medina.
Elsewhere around Medina, tribes took the opportunity of the Muslims weakness and started preparing to attack the city. Upon learning of the locations of the massing, the Prophet quickly dispatched several units to stall the attackers. An example is dispatching Aba Salamah bin Abd al-Asad with 150 of his companions to stall Banu Asad’s forces, and Abdu Allah ibn Anees to Khaled al Huzally to terminate the massing of Banu Huzail. By taking such war-preventive measures, the Muslims were able to prevent further violence and bloodshed.
Crisis of Orphanages and Polygamy
The loss of seventy three Muslims, mostly Medinans, in the
Battle of Uhud created a new problem for Muslims, how to deal
with the families of the dead? Widows and children were left
with no financial and social-psychological support. Moreover,
some of these families have property and businesses that required
management and care. This crisis was addressed by God in the
"And give the orphans
their property, and do not substitute worthless (things) for
(their) good (ones), and do not devour their property (as
an addition) to your own property; this is surely a great
crime. And if you fear that you cannot act equitably towards
orphans, then marry such women as seem good to you, two and
three and four; but if you fear that you will not do justice
(between them) then (marry) only one or what your right hands
possess; this is more proper, that that you may not deviate
from the right course." Qur'an,
4:2 and 3.
The solution to this social problem was the
multiple marriages of more than one woman for a man. This
solution was not only a humanitarian one, but it solved the
question of property management of the newer and possibly
bigger families with fairness and equity. As a result of these
revelations, several new marriages to the widows were made.
Thus, some happiness, tranquility and security was restored
to many helpless women and orphans. While the solution permitted
the Muslim man to marry up to four women, indirectly, it limited
the old custom which allowed unrestricted number of wives
for a man, which was commonly practiced in the pre-Islamic
times by Arabs as well as other People of the Book.
Shura Principle Parallels Today’s Democracy
An interesting point to be made here is the indirect way of introducing what constitutes a portion of today’s democracy to people, who for centuries were under tribal monarchy systems. The details of this approach occurred preceding the battle of Uhud as explained above. Although Muslims are not supposed to out vote the commands of Allah, such as prohibitions or permissions, but are allowed to cast votes and opinions on many issues pertaining to the health and well being of the Ummah.
Historically, a good example is the decision made on location to meet the army of Quraysh before Uhud was selected. As the Medinan learned of news of the Meccans intent to attack Medina, the Prophet called upon his companions and the tribal leaders of the city, including the head of the hypocrites, Abdullah Ibn Abi Salul to discuss the alternative locations for meeting the Quraysh army. Two locations were discussed: The first states that the Muslims stay in the city as they defend it. This was the approach of the elders (tribal leaders). The second approach was meeting the Meccans outside the city by Mount Uhud. This approach was driven by the majority and younger groups of Muslims.
At first, the Prophet (p) sided with the first approach, that of the elders. The majority of the Muslims however kept asking the Prophet to take their approach and to meet the Meccans at Mount Uhud. Before long, the Prophet (p) changed his mind for the majority opinion. This step was giant and risky for the Prophet, since the traditions in Arabia are such that “no one go against the opinion or order of a tribal leader and that “what the tribal leader says goes unquestioned, right or wrong.” And as is expected, selecting the approach of the young majority did not go free, but the Prophet and Muslims had to pay for it. As mentioned above 300 people spilt away from the Muslim army and left them more vulnerable for defeat in the battle ahead.
After the battle and the Muslims defeat, Allah revealed verses re-enforcing the Prophet’s decision for consulting his people and siding with the majority saying:
“So (Muhammad) pardon them (the companions who disobeyed
your orders by leaving their positions during the battle of
Uhud and essentially causing the defeat) and ask forgiveness
for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have
decided, then rely upon Allah (as you carry out the plans).
Indeed, Allah loves those who rely (upon Him).”
and Priority - Guidance for Muslims
Halfway into the battlefield in meeting Quraysh’s army, about one third of the Muslim army, 300 people, split from the Muslim army and returned home. This was orchestrated by the head of the hypocrites, Abdullah Ibn Abi Salul, who said: “He (Muhammad) obeyed the young and disobeyed me.” He was referring to the Prophet’s decision about siding with the young majority. This act of betrayal created havoc for the Muslims. It broke their strength and lowered their moral; two groups of the Muslims lost course and vision and got into tangential issues of how to deal with the hypocrites, forgetting that dealing with such matter at this point takes away from the more crucial issue which was facing Quraysh in the battle ahead. What to do about the hypocrites can be dealt with later. Furthermore, such a matter requires a whole different setting to deal with effectively.
Before Muslims condition deteriorates any further, Allah (SWT) sent Gabriel with a revelation that questioned the moral and even discussing the issue of the hypocrites. The Muslim’s priorities must be calculated with wisdom and vision. Vision, must be based on the best option that would carry the vehicle of Islam further. Below is the revelation:
“What is [the matter]
with you [that you are] two groups concerning the hypocrites,
while Allah has made them fall back [into error and disbelief]
for what they earned. Do you wish to guide those whom Allah
has sent astray? And he whom Allah sends astray - never will
you find for him a way [of guidance].” Qur’an
The Battle of the
Pact or the Ditch
After the Battle of Uhud, Quraysh continued on carrying its campaign against the Muslims. It called upon all the Arabian tribes around Mecca and Medina to carry out an attack on the Muslims and finish them off. A year after the battle of Uhud, Quraysh and its confederacies summed up ten thousand people and set off to attack the Muslims in the city of Medina.
What would be the fate of about 2,500 Muslims as they meet an army of 10,000 people in a battle? Could this mean their end? Here again the Prophet called his people for suggestions and opinions and again it was shura that saved the situation. Salman al Farsi (Salman the Persian) suggested to the Prophet that he dig a ditch, “similar to what the Persians do in similar cases.” The ditch would be in the flat part bordering the city from the north, since the city is naturally surrounded by mountains and protruding rock on the other sides. Besides, this solution can mean a prevention of war and bloodshed altogether.
The Prophet simply accepted Salman’s suggestion and organized his people for the operation to begin digging the ditch. Within 25 days and just in time before the arrival of the Pac, diligently, the Muslims dug a massive trench, approximately 4 meters wide, 4 to 6 meters deep and about 2000 meters long. (again, should this be in feet?)This trench completed the city’s isolation from the Meccans. No one on a horse or otherwise could easily cross the ditch or enter the city.
When the Pact approached the city, they were taken by surprise as they faced the ditch and were unable to cross it or carry off an offense. Quraysh camped before the trench for forty days while attempting to cross it or working a strategy to engage in a battle. During this time, Quraysh’s knights over and over again challenged and intimidated the Muslims to start a fight. Quraysh’s poets (Amr ibn Wed al Ameri and Dherar Merdas) composed poems insulting, instigating, humiliating and challenging the Muslims to step outside the ditch and begin a battle. The wise Muslims, however, contained the intimidations and controlled themselves from preventing violence and bloodshed. Also during this time Quraysh made contact with one of the Jewish tribes, Qurathah, and was able to get the tribe to breach its covenant with the Muslims and join Quraysh.
As for the Muslims, the Prophet attempted to make peace with the tribe of Ghatafan (one of the Pac major tribes) and convinced them to break away from Quraysh. In a similar way, the Muslims were able to break the ties between Quraysh and the Jewish tribe of Quraythah, who betrayed them. Quraysh’s plans were that the tribe of Quraythah, which was inside the city with the Muslims, to attack the Muslims from behind, while Quraysh works from the front. The situation for Quraysh and the Pac in this long stand began to show that it was unwise to continue to engage in a battle that was not going to materialize. These developments along with God's acts of severe winds that blew away Quraysh’s tents and belongings and exposed them to cold weather, drove Quraysh to withdraw and return to Mecca.
The withdrawal of the Pac constitutes a major victory for the Muslims. Quraysh is now exhausted. The Pac was their last straw. In fact, after the Pac’s diffusion, the Prophet (p) said: “Today we can conquer them and they cannot conquer us,” pointing out to their exhaustion from war. Soon after the Pac withdraws, the prophet moved on to punished the Jewish tribe of Qurathah who betrayed him and the Muslims in the stance.
Should the diffusion and elimination of this major war be another example of Islam's quest for peace and a proof that Islam was not a religion that was "spread by the sword?", and a proof of Islam's philosophy in preventing wars and changing enemies into friends? This is exactly what happened as will be seen in the next section, The Agreement of Hudaybiyah.
A year after the battle of the Ditch, the Prophet and the Muslims attempted to conduct the ritual of the Lesser Pilgrimage to Mecca, but Quraysh did not allow them to fulfill their duty. Then, the Prophet was able to negotiate an agreement with Quraysh called, "The Treaty of Hudaybiyah." The treaty, among other things called for peace between Quraysh and the Muslims for the following ten years and gave the freedom of choice for all Arab tribes to join either Muhammad or Quraysh’s camp. The agreement also called for the Muslims to make a Lesser Pilgrimage in the following year.
This agreement gave the Prophet and the Muslims the chance they had been after for the longest time: peacefully reaching out to members of Quraysh as well as the rest of Arabia, for which Quraysh had for the longest time been diligently keeping them away. Now, Muslims can freely contact people, practice and display the quality and virtues of their faith, which will clear the air and bring the truth out for others to see and judge. Ultimately, for the next two years, the number of people who embraced Islam exceeded many folds the number of those who entered it during the twelve year Meccan period.
and Christians Dialog
In the next two years, most of Arabia embraced Islam. The Prophet sent emissaries and wrote letters to the tribes residing in the Arabian Peninsula introducing Islam and inviting them to accept it. Hundreds of tribe delegations, as a result, came to Medina to give their allegiance to the Prophet and embrace Islam. Many Christian tribes accepted Islam, others however, did not and chose to stay Christian. For example, a delegation of the tribes of Najran (located between Yemen and Mecca) visited the Prophet in his mosque for two weeks. While the dialog was taking place, the Prophet gave the Christian delegation the right to practice their faith freely in his own mosque during their stay. At the end of the dialogue, the Christian delegation chose to stay Christians.
The Prophet accepted their decision and gave them a letter assuring their freedom of worship and the safety of their homes, churches and towns. Below is part of this letter :
"Our covenant with Najran is that they are under the protection of God and his Prophet. Najran's homes, churches, monks, priests, their present and absent and alliance shall be safe..."
The War with
The Muslims had to go to war with Byzantine and here are the details of why the war was started.
The Prophet sent Harith Ibn-Umair al Azdi with a letter to the Governor of Bostra, Sharhabeel al Ghassani, who was the Arab Governor of Sham (Syria), appointed by the Roman King Hercules. Sharhabeel tortured and killed the emissary as he learned that he was the messenger of the Prophert. The act in killing emissaries was considered an act of war; otherwise emissaries were given protection by all nations.
n July 629 CE, the Prophet sent a group of men numbering fifteen to learn about Harith. This group was in turn attacked at al Kara, bordering Syria. They were met with a shower of arrows and all were killed except one. The moment Prophet Muhammad learned of the fate of his messengers, he set out to punish the killers. If Prophet Muhammad (p) was to let this criminal act slide, the Arabs, the Romans, or the Persians would assume the door was open to finish off Muhammad and his followers.
In September, 629 CE, under Ziad Ibn-Harith a force of 3000 were dispatched to Syria. At Mu'tah, the Muslims appointed rank of leaders were killed. Khalid Ibn-Alwalid, took over the leadership of the army and withdrew back to Medina. The withdrawal at Mu'tah can be taken as a defeat, which encouraged the Romans and its Arab alliance to step up their aggression against the Muslims.
In the following months news came to the Prophet that the tribes of Bali and Qudaha were massing in considerable numbers on the Syrian border, with alleged intentions of invading Arabia. The Prophet sent Amr Ibn Alass as the head of 300 people to disseminate the massing. When the expedition arrived at the borders of Syria they quickly realized that their enemy was in a greater number than had been anticipated. Amr then sent back a man of Juhaynah tribe to the Prophet asking for reinforcement. Abu Ubaydah ibn al Jarrah was immediately dispatched with an additional two hundred men. Amr marched with the five hundred men across the Syrian border and as they advanced, the enemy dispersed. There was only one brief exchange of arrows, but the rest of the march was a matter of coming upon deserted camps, whose very recent occupants had vanished. Amr returned without meeting the Arab Roman alliance. This expedition is known as Thatu al Riqa’.
The Opening of Mecca
Not until 630 CE did Muhammad re-enter his native city Mecca, leading ten thousand people. Prior to entering the city, the Prophet reached Quraysh’s leader Abu Sufian, who submitted to the Prophet’s requests to engage in no war, accept Islam and allow this massive army to enter the city peacefully. Thus, without fight, the Muslims re-entered Mecca. Instead of slaughtering the inhabitants of the city as the custom then was, the Prophet pardoned the Meccans with his famous words: “Go about where you please, you are free.” Soon, many of the city’s people accepted Islam. Muhammad’s act of mercy in pardoning Quraysh was not made as a result of weakness or fear, but rather when he was able and strong. This gracious and magnanimous act, endures Islam's principles of peace and security for all people. The Book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 33, Verses 1-3 states:
"Sinai, Mount Paran, Seir from his
right hand there went a fiery law 'A complete code of law.
' With him are ten thousand saints."
On June 8, 632 CE, in the arms of his wife Ayisha, Muhammad
whispered his last devotions, and then peacefully surrendered
to Allah's will.
End of Idolatry in the Sacred City of Mecca
Worshipping objects such as idols and sculptures is dong injustice to God, the Creator, the Sustainer and the Lord of all worlds. Also, praying to stones that have no sense and cannot talk, or hear is an insult to human beings dignity and intelligence. Seeking the advice and the help of idols that cannot help their own selves is even insane. The stage to stop this offending practice of idol worship from the Sacred House of Ka'ba was coming to an end.
As stated in the previous paragraph, “The Opening of Mecca,” the Prophet pardoned the Meccans, whom, at large, entered Islam and the 360 idols around the Ka’ba were destroyed. The destruction of the idols was a big step, but not enough to eliminate idol worshipping in Mecca. Some of the tribes residing around Mecca, who did not embrace Islam, would bring their idols along with them to the Sacred Mosque for worship during the Pilgrimage season. There were other idol worship traditions, such as the total removal of clothing during the ritual fulfillment.
An idol-worshipping Pilgrimage tradition was to remove all their clothes that they had worn during committing sins in order for their Pilgrimage to be accepted by God. These traditions conflicted with the Islamic standards of decency and spirituality and the purpose of the pilgrimage. Prophet Muhammad did not attend the Pilgrimage for two years after the he opened Mecca. Perhaps, the reasons for this are the fact that he did not want to perform Pilgrimage rituals mixed with Idol worshippers, and that in staying away he would give time to those who did not accept Islam to re-evaluate their situation and to recognize the value and enter-dimensions of Islam. The process of changing customs and habits takes time. If this natural process was violated, problems and violence could occur, therefore the Prophet managed accordingly to give peace a chance, proving once more Islam’s ever quest for peace.
Nevertheless, two years after the opening of Mecca and during the second Pilgrimage season, God revealed the chapter of Declaration of Disassociation. This, among other things, addressed the total termination of idol worshipping in and around the city of Mecca. Mecca, which holds the primordial faith of Abraham and the whole humanity, is to be the sacred center of orientation of all Muslims. The process of returning Mecca to its original sanctuary was made in several steps; one of these steps is misrepresented by some westerners for accusing Islam to be a religion that teaches violence. Below are the verses and the story of this process of cleansing Mecca of Idol worshippers:
“(This is a declaration of) disassociation, from Allah and His Messenger to those whom you had made a treaty among the Idolaters (mushrikeen). So travel safely and freely, (O disbelieving Idolaters), throughout the land (during) four months but know that you cannot cause failure to God and that Allah will disgrace the disbelievers. And (it is) an announcement from God and His Messenger to the people on the day of the greater Pilgrimage (Hajj) that God is disassociated from the disbelievers, and (so is) His Messenger. So if you repent, that is best for you; but if you turn away, then know that you will not cause failure to God. And give tidings to those who disbelieve of painful punishment. Excepted are those with whom you made a treaty (limited by an appointed time or condition) among the Idolaters and then they have not been deficient toward you in anything or supported any one against you; so complete for them their treaty until their term (has ended). Indeed God loves the righteous (who are fully aware of Him). And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the Idolaters (mushrikeen) wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give charity (zakah), let them go on their way. Indeed Allah is Forgiving Merciful.”
The steps below are to further explain the process of returning Mecca to its original sanctity.
1) During this Pilgrimage, announcement was to be made that God and His Prophet disassociate themselves from the Idolaters, who violated the agreements of peace (reference to the violation of the peaceful agreement of Hudaybiya) and that there will be no more agreements made between the Muslims and the Idolaters in the future. Note: Some Qur’anic interpreters illustrated that several of Quraysh tribes, not to include the tribes of Nadheer and Kenanah, broke the peace treaty of Hudaybiyah with the Muslims. Because of Quraysh’s breach of the agreement, God disassociated Himself and His Prophet from any more commitment to this particular treaty (with the exception of the two tribes) as well as other informal and customary treaties that were not bound by conditions or time, and ordered the believers to execute the order. See al Tafseer al Muneer, Volume 10, Page 99.
2. Any existing agreement (or part thereof) with the Idolaters, such as that with the tribes of Nadheer and Kenanah, shall be honored until its appointed time or until they breach the agreement. We must pause here to understand Islam’s deep quest for keeping peace by continuing to honor the agreement of Hudaybiyah with the tribes of Nadheer and Kenanah, who did not collaborate with Quraysh in breaching the peace treaty.
3.There will be no more idol worshiping in the Sacred places (Mecca and the Sacred Mosque). Note: the sanctity of Mecca with respect to Muslims is much like the Vatican City with respect to Catholics.
4. A period of four months was to be given as a respite to those who chose to keep worshipping idols, to either leave the Sacred places or embrace Islam.
5. A severe warning of actual war, after the respite period against idolaters who insisted that they would stay in the Sacred places and refused to accept Islam.
It is this verse with its severe warning to the idolaters, who refused to leave Mecca, is what is misused today by some westerners to accuse Islam of teaching violence by killing disbelievers, Christians and Jews.
To remove the misunderstanding, two basic points must be addressed.
First, the multiple meaning of the Arabic word “mushrikeen,” and second, illustrating the Islamic mechanism for the prevention of war by means of severe threat. First, the multiple meaning of the Arabic word “mushrikeen.” The word musrikeen we encountered in the above verses is the plural of the word mushrik, from the base verb shirk. Shirk in the religious sense is worshipping “other things” with God. “Other things” can be idols, people, materialistic things such as money and wealth and can even be position and power. The common English word for shirk is polytheism. In the above verse, however, the word mushrikeen applies to the Idolaters of Mecca and cannot be interpreted as the Christians and the Jews.
To assert the interpretation’s contextual aspects of place, time and subject matter, mushrikeen in this case should only be translated as “Idolaters of Quraysh,” who are the subject matter of the above verses and to whom the declaration of disassociation was addressed to.
Unfortunately some English translations of the Holy Qur’an inaccurately translated the above word ‘mushrikeen,’ into its generic form as ‘polytheists,’ thus creating a major problem, especially among the non-Arabic reading audience. It is good to note that Yusuf Ali, Pickthall and M. H. Shakir’s translations, which are among the most trusted translations, accurately gave the meaning of mushrikeen as ‘idolaters' in this verse.
Second, the mechanism for the prevention of war by means of severe threat. Similar to the Islamic philosophy of severe punishment for prevention of vice and corruption, the Qur’an uses the belief of severe threat of war to prevent an actual war. The psychological effect of severe war on people is a change or compromise in behavior that would lead to deterrence of the war. This policy of avoiding war by the mere fact of its threat is very much like avoiding a traffic citation because of its severe penalty. This technique seems to work well and in our case it averted war, and consequently no one left Mecca. For more information on this subject of harsh threat for good reasons, see our posted article: "Reflections
on the Islamic Penal Law.”
Farewell Pilgrimage and Farewell Speech of the Prophet
The following Pilgrimage season after the cleansing of Mecca
from Idol worshippers, the Prophet Muhammad made his last
Pilgrimage to Mecca. He led over 110,000 people during this
pilgrimage and gave his famous farewell speech at Mount Arafat.
Among the topics in his farewell speech were human rights issues,
economic justice and women’s rights and treatment.
“O People, lend me an attentive
ear, for I know not whether after this year, I shall ever
be amongst you again. Therefore listen to what I am saying
to you very carefully and take these words to those who could
not be present today.
O People, just as you regard this month, this day, this city
as sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim
as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their
rightful owners. Hurt no-one, so that no-one may hurt you.
Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord, and that He
will indeed reckon your deeds. Allah has forbidden you to
take usury, therefore all interest obligation shall henceforth
be waived. Your capital, however, is yours to keep. You will
neither inflict nor suffer any inequity. Allah has judged
that there shall be no interest and that all the interest
due to Abbas ibn Abd al Muttalib [Muhammad's uncle] shall
henceforth be waived...
Beware of Satan, for the safety of your religion. He has lost
all hope that he will ever be able to lead you astray in big
things, so beware of following him in small things.
O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard
to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember
that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah's
trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right
then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness.
Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are
your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right
that they do not make friends with any one of whom you do
not approve, as well as never to be unchaste.
O People, listen to me in earnest, worship Allah, say your
five daily prayers, fast during the month of Ramadan, and
give your wealth in zakah or poor due. Perform pilgrimage
if you can afford to.
All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority
over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an
Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black
has any superiority over white except by piety and good action.
Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that
the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate
to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was
given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice
Remember, one day you will appear before Allah and answer
your deeds. So beware, do not stray from the path of righteousness
after I am gone.
O People, no prophet or apostle will come after me and no
new faith will be born. Reason well, therefore, O People,
and understand words which I convey to you. I leave behind
me two things, the Qur’an and my example, the Sunnah
and if you follow these you will never go astray.
All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others
and those to others again; and may the last ones understand
my words better than those who listen to me directly. Be my
witness, O Allah, that I have conveyed your message to your
When the Prophet returned to Medina, one issue of concern was still on his mind: the imminent threat of the Romans to his community. During his final sickness, he appointed Usamah ibn Zaid as the head of an expedition to the Romans and their alliances at the Syrian border, but the expedition did not go until after he passed away.
On June 8, 632 CE, in the arms of his wife Ayisha, Muhammad whispered his last devotions and then peacefully surrendered to Allah's will.
Muhammad died, but his legacy did not. How could his legacy die when it calls for worshipping the One True God, the Fashioner and Sustainer of the universe and all that is in it? Why would Muhammad’s legacy die when he left a vast spiritual teachings and a Scripture that endlessly nourishes spirituality and tranquility to the dry and hardened hearts? How could a Prophet’s legacy die as he calls for the liberation of slaves and women from ages of superstition and suppression?
Why would Muhammad’s legacy die for he had outlawed economic injustice and man’s exploitation in the land? Why would his legacy die when he transformed a tyrannical world into a charitable and just one? How could his legacy die when he converted a war-torn nation into a peaceful, secure and brotherly one? All these questions are legitimate for all mankind to ask one another. Muhammad’s legacy will never die for it calls for literacy, observation and ever learning mechanisms to improve human life spiritually and mortally. It is qualities and values like these, not the sword, that helped the early Muslims conquer, even better said liberate much of the old world.
Period of the Guided Caliphs
Shortly after the Prophet died, Abu Bakr was chosen to be his successor (Caliph). The first major action he conducted was to send Usamah ibn Zaid with 3000 people to the Roman borders where his father and many other Muslims were killed. His second major move was to stop and silence the tribes who reversed their position from Islam to the Pre-Ignorance Era. The third issue was to send armies to liberate northern Arabia, Syria and Iraq from the Roman and Persian invaders. His rule lasted for only two years.
It was during the rule of Umar Ibn al Khattab, the second Caliph in which Jerusalem, Basra, Ibilla, Damascus, Hums and the rest of old Syria where opened with occasional resistance. For example, Ibilla and Basra were pockets of resistance. The peaceful opening of Jerusalem took place when the Greek Orthodox patriarch, Sophronius requested the Caliph Umar to come to Jerusalem so he can turn the city’s keys to him personally. When Umar arrived, he entered Jerusalem in humility, walking, not riding on a camel, but his servant was comfortably riding. They had been taking turns walking and riding. The two signed a peace treaty as follows:
“From the servant of Allah and the Commander of the Faithful, Umar: The inhabitants of Jerusalem are granted security of life and property. Their churches and crosses shall be secure. This treaty applies to all people of the city. Their places of worship shall remain intact. These shall neither be taken over nor pulled down. People shall be free to follow their religion. They shall not be put to any trouble...”
The third caliph chosen was Uthman Ibn Affan. The rule of Uthman was for 12 years. Similar to the previous caliphs, Uthman’s armies continued expanding the Muslim land into central Asia in the east and northern Africa, then into Spain and France in the west. Again, pockets of resistance were met during this vast conquered land. The Muslim armies were not just soldiers of war, but messengers of liberation from inequality, injustice and ignorance into the light of freedom and learning of knowledge. Local populations in Syria and Egypt regarded Byzantine rule as oppressive and preferred Muslim conquest instead.
The Arab Muslims also had significant economic, cultural and familial ties with predominantly Arab citizens of the Fertile Crescent. Here is a quotation from Ahmad ibn Yahya al-Baladhuri in Kitab Futuh al-Buldan "Book of the Conquests of Lands,":
"The people of Homs replied [to the Muslims], "We like your rule and justice far better than the state of oppression and tyranny in which we were. The army of Heraclius we shall indeed, with your 'amil's' help, repulse from the city." The Jews rose and said, "We swear by the Torah, no governor of Heraclius shall enter the city of Homs unless we are first vanquished and exhausted!" The inhabitants of the other cities—Christian and Jews—that had capitulated to the Muslims, did the same. When by Allah's help the "unbelievers" were defeated and the Muslims won, they opened the gates of their cities, went out with the singers and music players who began to play, and paid the kharaj [tax]."
Another example of the welcome of Islam by early Christians is stated by Michael the Elder (Great). This is found in 'Michael the Elder, Chronique de Michael Syrien, Patriarche Jacobite d’ Antioche,' J.B. Chabot, Editor, Vol. II, Paris, 1901.
"This is why the God
of vengeance, who alone is all-powerful, and changes the empire
of mortals as He will, giving it to whomsoever He will, and
uplifting the humble beholding the wickedness of the Romans
who throughout their dominions, cruelly plundered our churches
and our monasteries and condemned us without pity, brought
from the region of the south the sons of Ishmael, to deliver
us through them from the hands of the Romans. And if in truth
we have suffered some loss, because the Catholic churches,
that had been taken away from us and given to the Chalcedonians,
remained in their possession; for when the cities submitted
to the Arabs, they assigned to each denomination the churches
which they found it to be in possession of (and at that time
the great churches of Emessa and that of Harran had been taken
away from us); nevertheless it was no slight advantage for
us to be delivered from the cruelty of the Romans, their wickedness,
their wrath and cruel zeal against us, and to find ourselves
at people. (Michael the Elder, Jacobite Patriarch of Antioch
wrote this text in the latter part of the twelfth century,
after five centuries of Muslim rule in that region."
With reference to the Muslims conquering Egypt, Edward Gibbon in his book, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, stated: “According to Arab historians, the local Christian Copts welcomed the Arabs just as the Monophysites did in Jerusalem.”
The fourth and final guided caliph was Ali Ibn Abi Talib. His rule witnessed many setbacks and commotion that the quest of land had discontinued.
This recap of history of the early period of Islam is only a small glimpse of the purity, integrity and traits of this faith. The author intends that all people, Muslims and non Muslims should have the opportunity to confront Islam face to face.