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A Critical Exposition of the Popular ‘Jihad’—Part 2: The Struggle against the Quraish


 By Moulavi Chirágh Ali 

From my brief sketch of Mohammad's first six years' sojourn in Medina, it is evident that during this time Medina was constantly in a sort of military defence. The Moslems were every moment in the danger of an invasion, attack, or inroad from without, and treachery, conspiracy and treason from within. They either had to encounter superior numbers or to disperse hostile gathering or to chastise sometimes marauding tribes. So Mohammad could scarcely breathe freely at Medina, but much less could he find time and opportunity to mature a scheme of attacking the Quraish at Mecca in order to revenge himself and his refugees for the persecutions which the Quraish had inflicted on the Moslems, to redress their wrongs, and to re-establish their rights of civil and religious liberty, or to make converts of them or any other tribes at the point of sword.

[Footnote 11: Bani Ashja, Murra Fezárá, Suleim, Sád, Asad, and several clans of Ghatafán, the Jews of Wady-al-Koraa and Khyber.]

[Footnote 12: A party of Moslems at Zil Kassa was slain, and Dihya, sent by Mohammad to the Roman Emperor, on his return, was robbed of everything by the Bani Juzám beyond Wady-al-Kora.]

[Footnote 13: The Jews at Khyber were enticing the Bani Fezárá and Bani Sad-bin-Bakr and other Bedouin tribes to make depredations upon Medina.]

[Sidenote: Armed opposition of the Quraish to the Moslem pilgrims in the vicinity of Mecca.]

[Sidenote: Mohammad proclaimed war against the opposing Quraish to obtain the right of civil and religious liberty at Mecca.]

10. It was only when the Moslems, unarmed as they were in pilgrim's garb, were opposed by the armed Quraish, who had encamped at Zú Towa, clothed in panther's skin, or, in other words, with a firm resolution to fight to the last, and when Osman, the Moslem envoy to Mecca, was actually placed in confinement,[14] of whom the rumour was constantly rife that he was murdered at Mecca, and when a party of the Quraish had actually attacked the camp of Mohammad,[15] that excitement, alarm and anxiety prevailed in the Moslem camp, and Mohammad took a solemn oath from the Faithful to stand by their cause even unto death. (Sura XLVIII. [16]) In the meantime appeals were received from the Moslems detained in confinement at Mecca, and otherwise oppressed for deliverance. _Vide_ Sura IV, verses 77, 99, 100; Sura VIII, verses 72, 73. He, on this occasion, proclaimed a war with the Quraish in the event of their attacking first, and enjoining the believers to redress their earlier and later wrongs, to establish their civil and religious liberty, to have free access to their native city, to have the free exercise of their religion, and to make away with the oppressions of Quraish once for all.

The following verses were published on the occasion:--Sura II, verses 186-190, 212-215. The Sura XLVIII afterwards had reference to the occasion, specially verses 10, 22-27. They are quoted in pp. 17-19.

[Sidenote: The war thus proclaimed did not take place.]

But happily a truce was agreed upon, and not a drop of blood was shed on either side. Thus the injunctions contained in the verses referred to above were never carried out. Mohammad, in proclaiming this war, had all the laws and justice on his side. Even this war, had it been waged, would have been defensive, undertaken for the purpose of establishing the civil rights of the Moslems and their religious liberty, hitherto unjustly denied them.

[Footnote 14: Ibn Hisham, p. 746.]

[Footnote 15: _Ibid._ 745, see Sura XLVIII.]

[Footnote 16: Mohammad had gained over some of the Bedouin tribes in the direction of Mecca, and were on friendly terms with him. At this time they were summoned by Mohammad to join him if there be a war. They did not join him except a very few.]

[Sidenote: The Quraish again commit hostilities and violate their pledges.]

[Sidenote: War declared against those who had violated the truce.]

11. This truce did not last long. The last act of hostility on the part of the aggressive Quraish was the violation of the truce within two years of its being concluded. This resulted in the submission of Mecca. The tribe of Bani Khozáa,[17] who were now converts to Islam since the truce, and who had entered into an open alliance with Mohammad at the treaty, were attacked by the Quraish and their allies, the Bani Bakr.[18] The aggressed Moslems appealed for aid to Mohammad through a deputation, that displayed their wrongs to Mohammad and his followers in very touching terms, urging in a plaintive tone to avenge them upon the treacherous murderers. War was declared by Mohammad against the aggressors, who had violated the truce, and attacked the Bani Khozáa, to redress their wrongs. A proclamation was issued declaring immunity from God and his Apostle to those who had broken the league and aided the Bani Bakr against the Khozáa. Four months' time was allowed them to make terms, in default of which they were to be warned against, seized, and besieged, in short, to suffer all the hardships of war. Sura IX, verses 1-15, was published declaring the war. It has been copied at pages 22-25 of the book.

[Sidenote: War not carried out.]

But the threatened war did not actually take place, and Mecca surrendered by a compromise. Thus Mohammad obtained his object of civil and religious liberty of the Moslems at Mecca and Medina, and averted the (_Fitnah_) persecutions and oppressions of the Quraish without actual war or bloodshed, and also secured peace for his followers in exchange of the constant fear and agitation impending over them. This was promised some years ago in Sura XXIV, verse 54, which runs as follows:--

     "God hath promised to those of you who believe and do the things that are right, that He will cause them to succeed other in the land, as He gave succession to those who went before them, and that He will establish for them their religion in which they delight, and that after their fears He will give them security in exchange. They shall worship Me: nought shall they join with Me: And whoso after this believe not, they will be the impious."

[Footnote 17: The Bani Khozáa are also taken notice of in Sura VIII, verses 73-74.]

[Footnote 18: The Bani Bakr, son of Abd Monát, were a branch of Kinána of the Moaddite stock.]

[Sidenote: War with foes other than the Quraish.]

12. Now I shall dispense with the Quraish and refer to the wars of other enemies of the early Moslems. There is only one war of the Arab tribes other than the Quraish noticed in the Koran, and that is the battle of Honain. In this war the Sakifites were the aggressors. The battle of Muraisia is not noticed in the Koran, but it is stated by biographers that information of a new project against him after the defeat at Ohad in the direction of Mecca, and the Bani Mustalik's raising fresh forces with a view of joining the Quraish in the threatened attack of Medina having reached Mohammad, he resolved by a bold attempt to prevent their design. I have shown in the book that the expedition of Mohammad against Khyber was purely in self-defence. A war undertaken to protect ourselves from the impending danger of an attack from the enemy and with the purpose of checking its advance, is a defensive war under the Law. I am not going to treat of expedition of the Bani Koreizá separately, but this much is necessary to say here, that they had treacherously defected from the Moslem with whom they had entered into a defensive alliance, and had joined the confederate army against the Moslems. For a detail account of them, the reader is referred to pages 87-91 of this book.

[Sidenote: Expedition to Tabúk to check the advancing enemy. No war took place.]

13. The expedition of Mecca, already described, ended in a submission and compromise without any resort to arms; that against Tabúk was undertaken, as it is admitted by all writers, Moslem and European, for purely defensive purposes. Mohammad was much alarmed on this occasion owing to the threatening news of a foreign invasion against the Moslem commonwealth. The following verses of the Ninth Sura are most probably directed towards the Romans and their Jewish and Christian allies,[19] if not towards the Jews of Khyber:--

     29. "Make war upon such of those to whom the Scriptures have been given as believe not in God or in the last day, and who forbid not      that which God and His Apostle have forbidden, and who profess not  the profession of the Truth, until they pay tribute out of hand, and they be humbled."

     124. "Believers wage war against such of the unbelievers as are      your neighbours, and let them assuredly find rigour in you, and know that God is with those who fear him."--_Sura IX._

Mohammad returned without any war, and there was no occasion to carry out the injunctions contained in these verses.

Mohammad had taken great pains, according to the severity of the impending danger, to induce the Moslems to go to war in their own defence but as the season was hot, and the journey a long one, some of them were very backward in doing so.

There is a very violent denunciation against those who on various false pretences held back on the occasion.

[Footnote 19: The Jews of Macna Azrúh and Jabra, and the Christian Chiefs of Ayla and Dúma.]

[Sidenote: Number of the wars of Mohammad.]

14. The above sketch of the hostilities will show that there were only five battles in which actual fighting took place. The biographers of Mohammad and the narrators of his campaigns are too lax in enumerating the expeditions led by Mohammad. They have noted down the names and accounts of various expeditions without having due regard to a rational criticism, or without being bound by the stringent laws of the technical requirements of traditionary evidence. Consequently, they give us romances of the expeditions without specifying which of them are true and which fictitious. There are many expeditions enumerated by the biographers [20] which have, in fact, no trustworthy evidence for their support; some are altogether without foundation, and some of them are wrongly termed as expeditions for warring purposes. _Ghazávát_ is wrongly understood by European writers as meaning "plundering expeditions." Deputations to conclude friendly treaties, missions to teach Islam, embassies to foreign chiefs, mercantile expeditions, pilgrims' processions, parties sent to disperse or chastise a band of robbers, or to watch the movements of an enemy, spies sent to bring information, and forces dispatched or led to fight with or check an enemy are all called "_Ghazavát_" (expeditions,) "_Saráya_" and "_Baús_" (enterprises and despatches). Thus the number of Mohammad's expeditions has been unduly exaggerated, first by biographers, who noted down every expedition or warlike enterprise reported in the several authentic and unauthentic traditions long after their occurrences, and did not at all trouble their heads by criticising them; and secondly by giving all missions, deputations, embassies, pilgrims' journies, and mercantile enterprises under the category of "_Ghazavát_" and "_Saráya_," lately construed by European writers as "plundering expeditions," or "a despatch of body of men with hostile intents." The biographers, both Arabian and European, have gone so far as to assert that there were 27 expeditions led by Mohammad in person, and 74 others headed by persons nominated by himself, making in all 101. This number is given by Ibn Sád Kátib Wákidi (vide _Kustaláni_, Vol. VI, page 386). Ibn Is-hak also gives the number of Mohammad's expeditions to be 27, while others led at his order are put down at 38 only (vide _Ibn Hishám_, pp. 972 and 973). Abú Yola has a tradition from Jabir, a contemporary of Mohammad, who mentions only 21 expeditions. But the best authority, Zeid-bin-Arqam, in the earliest traditions collected by Bokhári, _Kitábul Maghazi_, in two places in his book, reduces the number to 19, including all sorts of expeditions and the number in which he was with Mohammad. Out of these alleged 27, 21, 19 and 17 expeditions, there were only 8[21] or 9,[22] in which an actual fighting took place. Even the latter minimized numbers are not deserving of confidence. The actual expeditions are as follow:--

     1. Badr.

     2. Ohad.

     * Muraisi.

     3. Ahazáb.

     * Koreiza.

     4. Khyber.

     * Mecca.

     5. Honain.

     * Táyif.

There are no good authorities for the war at Muraisi with the Bani Mustalik. There were no fighting with the Koreiza, as their affair was but a continuation of the war of Ahzab, and therefore does not require a separate number. At Mecca there was no action, and it surrendered by a compromise. As for Táyif it was a part of the battle of Honain like Autás. It was besieged to lay hold of the fugitives who had sought there a shelter, and subsequently the siege was raised. Thus, there remain only five expeditions, which I have numbered out of nine, in which Mohammad fought against his enemies in his and his followers' defence. Even these five scarcely deserve the name of battle. From a military point of view, they were but petty skirmishes in their results. The enemy's loss at Badr was 49, at Ohad 20, at Ahzáb 3, at Khyber 93, and at Honain 93; but the last two numbers are open to doubt, and seem to be exaggerated. The loss on the Moslem side was 14, 74, 5, 19, and 17 respectively. The whole casualties in these wars on the side of the Moslems were 129, and on that of the enemies 258, which is exactly double those of the Moslems, and looks suspicious; hence it must be accepted with caution.

[Footnote 20: The biographers have only compiled or arranged the mass of popular romances and favourite tales of campaigns, which had become stereotyped in their time, but were for the most part the inventions of a playful fantasy.]

[Footnote 21: Musa-bin-Akba (died 141 A.H.)]

[Footnote 22: Ibn Sád and Ibn Is-hak as already alluded to.]

[Sidenote: Mr. Green quoted.]

15. The Rev. Samuel Green writes:--

     "It has been insinuated that Mahomet first took up arms in his own defence, and by more than one historian he has been justified in seeking to repel or prevent the hostilities of his enemies, and to exact a reasonable measure of retaliation. 'The choice of an independent people,' says Gibbon, 'had exalted the fugitive of Mecca to the rank of a sovereign, and he was invested with the just prerogative of forming alliances, and of waging offensive or defensive war.'[23] That such a sentiment was entertained by a Mahomet an does not at all surprise us, nor is it marvellous that it should be justified by an infidel; if it be true, war needs nothing to render laudable but the pretext of former injuries and the possession of power. The defence set up for Mahomet is equally availing for every sanguinary and revengeful tyrant; and men, instead of being bound together by the ties of clemency and mutual forgiveness of injuries, are transformed into fiends, watching for the opportunity of destroying each other."[24]

There was no pretence of former injuries on the part of the Moslems to make war on the Quraish. They were actually attacked by the Quraish and were several times threatened with inroads by them and their allies. So it was not until they were attacked by the enemy that they took up arms in their own defence, and sought to repel and prevent hostilities of their enemies. The defence set up for Mohammad is not equally availing of every sanguinary and revengeful tyrant. It was not only that Mohammad was wronged or attacked, but all the Moslems suffered injuries and outrages at Mecca, and when expelled there from, they were attacked upon, were not allowed to return to their homes, and to perform the pilgrimage there. The social and religious liberty, a natural right of every individual and nation, was denied them. A cruel or revengeful tyrant may not be justified in taking up arms in his own defence, or in seeking to redress his personal wrongs and private injuries; but the whole Moslem community at Mecca was outraged, persecuted and expelled,--and the entire Mohammad an commonwealth at Medina was attacked, injured and wronged,--their natural rights and privileges were disregarded—after such miseries the Moslems took up arms to protect themselves from the hostilities of their enemies and to repel force by force; and were justified by every law and justice.

The right of self-defence is a part of the law of nature, and it is the indispensable duty of civil society to protect its members. Even if a sanguinary and revengeful tyrant were to do so in his own behalf, he would be quite justified in this particular act. A just war, that is one undertaken for just causes to repel or revert wrongful force, or to establish a right, cannot be impeached on any ground, religious, moral, or political. But the Moslems had tried every possible means of obtaining a pacific solution of the difficulty which had arisen between them and their enemies, the Quraish and the Jews, to avert war and its horrors. Mohammad had repeatedly informed the Quraish that if they desist they will be forgiven.

     88. "But if they desist, then verily God is gracious, merciful."

     189. "But if they desist, then let there be no hostility, save against wrong-doers."--_Sura II._

     19. "_O Meccans! _ if ye desired a decision, now hath the decision come to you. It will be better for you to give over _the struggle_. be many, shall by no means avail you aught, because God is with the faithful."

     39. "Say to the infidels: If they desist what is now past shall be forgiven them; but if they turn _to it_, they have already before them the doom of the former."--_Sura VIII._

   And the same was the case regarding the Jews.

     104. "Many of those who have Scripture would like to bring you back to unbelief after you have believed, out of selfish envy, even after the truth hath been shown to them. Forgive them then, and shun them till God shall come with his decree. Truly God hath power over all things."--_Sura II._

     63. "But if they lean to peace, lean thou also to it; and put thy trust in God. He verily is the hearing, the knowing."--_Sura VIII._

     16.... "Thou wilt not cease to discover the treacherous ones among  them, except a few of them. But forgive them and pass it over.

     Verily God loveth those who act generously."--_Sura V._

But there could be no peace or mutual agreement on the part of the enemy until the truce of Hodeibia, which was also violated by them in a short time.

Even in the wars which were waged for self-preservation, the Prophet had very much mitigated the evils which are necessarily inflicted in the progress of wars. Fraud, perfidy, cruelty, killing women, children and aged persons were forbidden by Mohammad; [25] and a kind treatment of the prisoners of war enjoined. But foremost of these all--slavery and domestication of concubinary slaves, the concomitant evils of war—were abolished by him, ordering at the same time that prisoners of war should be either liberated gratis or ransomed. Neither they were to be enslaved nor killed. (_Vide_ Sura XLVII, verses 4 and 5; and Appendix B of this work.) Attacking offensively was forbidden by the Koran (II, 186 _La Taatadú_, _i.e._ 'Do not attack first'). Mohammad had taken oaths from the Moslems to refrain from plundering (_vide_ page 58 of this book).

     "All hostilities and plundering excursions between neighbouring tribes that had become Musalman he forbade on pain of death; and this among those who had hitherto lived by plunder or by war, and who he knew might be deterred by such prohibition from joining him.  'Let us make one more expedition against the Temim,' said a tribe that was almost, but not altogether, persuaded to embrace the faith, 'and then we will become Musalmans.'"[26]

  "In avenging my injuries," said he (Mohammad), "molests not the harmless votaries of domestic seclusion; spare the weakness of the softer sex, the infant at the breast, and those who in the course of nature are hastening from this scene of mortality. Abstain from      demolishing the dwellings of the unresisting inhabitants; destroy not their means of subsistence, respect their fruit trees, and touch not the palm, so useful to the Syrians for its shade, and delightful for its verdure."[27]

"The Bani Bakr," writes Sir W. Muir, "meanwhile, foreseeing from the practice of the Prophet that, under the new faith, their mutual enmities would be stifled, resolved upon a last passage of arms with their foes. The battle of _Shaitain_ fought at the close of 630 A.D. was a bloody and fatal one to the Bani Tamím."[28]

[Footnote 23: "Decline and Fall, Chap. 1."]

[Footnote 24: The Life of Mahomet, founder of the religion of Islamism and of the Empire of the Saracens, by the Rev. Samuel Green, page 126: London, 1877.]

[Footnote 25: Mohammad's instruction to Abdal-Rahman was--"In no case shalt thou use deceit or perfidy, nor shalt thou kill any child."--Muir, Vol. IV, p. 11.]

[Footnote 26: 'Quoted by Dr. Cazenove,' "Christian Remembrancer," January, 1855, page 71, from Caussin de Perceval. Mohammed & Mohammedanism. By R. Bosworth Smith, Second Edn. pp. 257 & 258. London, 1876]

[Footnote 27: An History of Mohammedanism; comprising the Life and Character of the Arabian Prophet; by Charles Mills, page 27. London 1818.]

[Footnote 28: The Life of Mahomet, Vol. I, Intro., p. ccxxvii. London, 1861]

[Sidenote: Another view of the wars of Mohammad.]

16. There is another view of the wars of Mohammad held by some of the European and American writers that he commenced hostilities on the caravans of the Quraish which passed from Medina by way of reprisal and retaliation,[29] and that he at first took up arms in his self-defence, but at last he proclaimed, and waged, offensive wars against the Quraish.[30] I have already shown how improbable the line of action was on the part of Mohammad under the circumstances at Medina; and this line of policy is quite contrary to the several verses of the Koran on the subject, all enjoining the waging of wars in self-defence. But supposing that hostilities were first commenced by Mohammad after the Hegira, the state of war having commenced at the expulsion of the Moslems from Mecca, it was lawful for him to take up arms to redress the wrongs of the Moslems and to establish their lawful right by force of arms. A war commenced on these grounds is a defensive war, though from a military point of view it may be an offensive zone. [31]

 "The right of self-defence," writes Kent, a great authority on the International Law, "is part of the law of our nature, and it is the indispensable duty of civil society to protect its members in the enjoyment of their rights, both of person and property. This is the fundamental principle of the social compact.... The injury may consist, not only in the direct violation of personal or political rights, but in wrongfully withholding what is due, or in the refusal of a reasonable reparation for injuries committed, or of adequate explanation or security in respect to manifest and impending danger."[32]

[Footnote 29: Sir W. Muir doubts the intense hatred and bitter cruelty attributed by tradition to the Quraish, and says: "In accordance with this view is the fact that the first aggressions, after the Hegira, were solely on the part of Mahomet and his followers. It was not until several of their caravans had been waylaid and plundered and blood had thus been shed that the people of Mecca were forced in self-defence to resort to arms." The Life of Mahomet, Vol. II, page 265, foot-note. London, 1861. This note disappears in the new edition of 1877. In his work "The Quran," page 24, London, 1878, Sir W. Muir says: "The caravans of Mecca offered a tempting opportunity for reprisals, and several expeditions were organized against them."]

[Footnote 30: Mr. G. Sale writes: "He gave out that God had allowed him and his followers to defend themselves against the infidels; and at length, as his forces increased, he pretended to have the divine leave even to attack them." _The Prelim. Dis. Sect. 11._ Mr. Henry Coppée writes regarding Mohammad: "But he soon found that he must take up arms in self defence, and in the thirteenth year of his mission, he announced that God permitted him not only to fight in his self-defence, but to propagate his religion by the sword." History of the Conquest of Spain by the Arab-Moors, by Henry Coppée. Vol. I, page 39. Boston, 1881 But Dr. A. Sprenger makes the object of the wars of Mohammad purely defensive. He writes:--"The Prophet now promulgated, in the name of God, the law to fight their enemies, in order to put a stop to persecutions; and this became henceforth the watchword of his bloody religion." The Life of Mohammad, p. 207: Allahabad, 1851.]

[Footnote 31: M. Bluntschili, a modern authority on the International Law, holds: "A war undertaken for defensive motives are a defensive war, notwithstanding that it may be militarily offensive." The International Law, by William Edward Hall, M.A., Oxford, 1880, page 320.]

[Footnote 32: Kent's Commentary on International Law. Edited by J.T. Abdy, LL.D., Second Edition, page 144]

[Sidenote: Caravans, if waylaid, were by reprisal.]

17. As regards the threatened attack on the caravans or capturing of it, there are not any satisfactory grounds of proof; but if they were attacked and captured, I do not see any reason why they should be objected to. When hostilities commence, the first objects that naturally present themselves for detection and seizure are the person and property of the enemy. Even under the International Law of most civilized countries, the legitimacy of appropriating the enemy's property rests on the commencement of the state of war. Under the old customs of war a belligerent possessed the right to seize and appropriate all the property belonging to an enemy's state or its subjects, of whatever kind they be or in whatsoever place where the acts of war are permissible. So those who object to the early Moslems' threatening, or capturing, or appropriating the person or property of the enemy, and call them robbery, rapine or brigandage, show their complete ignorance of the International Law, ancient or modern.

[Sidenote: Intolerance--no compulsory conversion enjoined, or took place during Mohammad's life-time.]

18. The subject of the alleged intolerance on the part of Mohammad, the Prophet, towards the unbelievers has been fully discussed in paragraphs 34-39 (pp. 41-51). It is altogether a wrong assumption of European writers that the Koran enjoins compulsory conversion of the unbeliever, or that Mohammad proselytized at the point of the sword. Sir W. Muir writes:--

[Sidenote: Sir W. Muir quoted.]

"Persecution, though it may sometimes have deterred the timid from joining his ranks, was eventually of unquestionable service to Mahomet. It furnished a plausible excuse for casting aside the garb of toleration; for opposing force to force against those who obstructed the ways of the Lord; and last of all for the compulsory conversion of unbelievers."[33]

Opposing force to force and even redressing our wrongs and re-establishing our imperilled rights is not 'intolerance.' Mohammad did repel the force of his enemies when it was quite necessary for the Moslem self-preservation and protection, but he never compelled any of his enemies or unbelievers, whether a single individual, or a body of men, or a whole tribe, to believe in him. The Koran and history contradict such an allegation. The Koran everywhere in the Meccan and Medinite Suras preaches complete toleration of every religion. History nowhere authentically records any instance of Mohammad's enforcing conversion by means of the sword.

[Footnote 33: The Life of Mahomet from original sources, by Sir W. Muir, LL.D. New Edition, page 68, London, 1877 See also page 57 of the same.]

[Sidenote: A brief sketch of the propagation of Islam at Mecca.]

[Sidenote: Conversion at Nakhla]

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