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A Critical Exposition of the Popular ‘Jihád’—Part 10


By Moulavi Chirágh Ali

Some of the European biographers of Mohammad allege that the battle of Badr was brought by Mohammad himself. They appear to hesitate to justify Mohammad in defending himself against the superior numbers of the Quraish, who had advanced to attack him as far as Badr, three stages from Medina. It is alleged that Mohammad intended to attack the caravans returning from Syria, conducted by Abu Sofian, his arch-enemy; therefore he set out upon his march with eighty refugees and two hundred and twenty-five people of Medina, and halted at Safra to waylay the caravan. Abu Sofian, warned of Mohammad's intention, sent someone to Mecca for succour. The Quraish, with nine hundred and fifty strong, marched forth to rescue the caravan. In the meantime, the caravan had passed unmolested, but the Quraish held a council whether to return or go to war. On the one hand, the biographers say, it was argued that the object for which they had set out having been secured, the army should at once retrace its steps. Others demanded that the army should advance. Two tribes returned to Mecca, the rest marched onwards; but it is not fair to allege that Mohammad had set forth to attack the caravan. Had he any such intention, the people of Medina, who had pledged themselves only to defend him against personal attack, would not have accompanied him. The presence of a large number of the _Ansárs_, the people of Medina, more than double that of the _Mohajirins the refugees, is a strong proof that they had come out only in their defence.

Mohammad, on receiving intelligence of the advancing force of the Quraish, set out from Medina to check the advance of the Meccan force, and encountered it at Badr, three days' journey from Medina. The Meccan army had advanced nine days' journey from Mecca towards Medina. The forces met at Badr on the 17th of Ramzan (13th January 623), the Meccans had left Mecca on the 8th of Ramzan (4th January), and Mohammad started only on the 12th of Ramzan (8th January), about four days after the Meccan army had actually set out to attack him. Supposing Abu Sofian had some reason for apprehending an attack from Medina, and sent for succour from Mecca, but the object of the Meccan army of the Quraish for which they had set out having been secured, the caravan having passed unmolested, they ought at once to have retraced their steps. The fact that Mohammad left Medina four days after the Quraish had left Mecca with a large army advancing towards Medina, is strongly in his favour.

[Sidenote: 26. The first aggressions after the Hegira, if from Mohammad, might fairly be looked upon as retaliation.]

Even taking it for granted that the first aggressions after the Hegira were solely on the part of the Moslems, and that several of the caravans of the Quraish had been waylaid and plundered, and blood had been shed, it would be unfair to condemn Mohammad. Such attacks, had they been made, might fairly be looked upon as a retaliation for the ill-treatment of the Moslems before the flight from Mecca. "Public war is a state of armed hostility between sovereign nations or governments. It is a law and requisite of civilized existence that men live in political continuous societies, forming organized units called states or nations, whose constituents bear, enjoy and suffer, advance and retrograde together, in peace and in war. The citizen or native of hostile country is thus an enemy, as one of the constituents of the hostile state or nation, and as such is subjected to the hardships of war."[180] The almost universal rule of most remote times was, and continues to be with barbarous nations, that the private individual of a hostile country is destined to suffer every privation of liberty and protection, and every description of family ties. But Mohammad protected the inoffensive citizen or private individual of the hostile country. He even protected those who had actually come out of Mecca to fight at Badr, but were reluctant to do so. Mohammad had desired quarters to be given to several persons in the Quraish army at Badr. Abul Bakhtari, Zamaa, Hárith Ibn Amir, Abbás and other Bani Háshim were amongst those named.

[Footnote 162: Or defend, '_Yadafeo_' repel.]

[Footnote 163: _Yokâtaloona_, or who fight _Yokateloona_. The former reading is the authorized and general.]

[Footnote 164: The primary signification of _Fitnah_ is burning with fire. It signifies a _trial_ or _probation_ and affliction, distress or hardship; and particularly an _affliction whereby one is tried, proved, or tested_.--_Vide_ Lane's Arabic-English Lexicon, p. 2335.]

[Footnote 165: Desist from persecuting you and preventing you to enter your native city and prohibiting access to the sacred mosque and attacking you, and from religious intolerance.]

[Footnote 166: _i.e._, the religious persecution and intolerance and hindrance to visit the sacred mosque being suppressed; you may profess, preach and practice your religion freely.]

[Footnote 167: _Vide_ note 2 in p. 17.]

[Footnote 168: Shaw-wal, Zulkada, Zulhij, and Moharram, the 10th, 11th, 12th, and 1st months of the Arabian year.

These verses were promulgated in Ramzan, the 9th month of the year.]

[Footnote 169: And have violated the Hodeibia Truce. Compare verses 4, 8, and 12.]

[Footnote 170: It is not meant that they should be forced to observe prayer or pay obligatory alms, or in other words be converted to Islam; the context and general scope of the Quran would not allow such a meaning. The next verse clearly enjoins toleration.]

[Footnote 171: The Bani Kinana and Bani Zamara had not violated the truce of Hodeibia while the Quraish and Bani Bakr had done so.]

[Footnote 172: This is the same as verse 5. It only means, if meanwhile they become converts to Islam, they are to be treated as brethren in religion. But it cannot mean that it was the sole motive of making war with them to convert them. Such an interpretation is quite contrary to the general style of the Quran.]

[Footnote 173: The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon, Vol. VI, p. 245.]

[Footnote 174: Archbishop Secker's Works, III, p. 271.]

[Footnote 175: Sir W. Muir, II, p. 265.]

[Footnote 176: Life of Mahomet, Vol. III, p. 79.]

[Footnote 177: Remarks on the character of Mohammad (suggested by Voltaire's Tragedy of Mahomet) by Major Vans Kennedy. _Vide_ Transactions of the Literary Society of Bombay for 1821, Vol. III, p. 453, reprint Bombay, 1877.]

[Footnote 178: "Mahomet did not send the Medina converts on any hostile expedition against the Quraish, until they had warred with him at Badr, and the reason is, that they had pledged themselves to protect him only at their homes."--K. Wackidi, 48; Muir's Life of Mahomet, Vol. III, p. 64, _note_.]

[Footnote 179: "K. Wackidi, 98-1/2. The provisions are noted only generally, "that neither party would levy war against the other, nor help their enemies." The version quoted by Weil binding the Bani Dhumra to fight _for the faith_, &c., is evidently anticipatory and apocryphal. It is not given by the Secretary of Wackidi in his chapter of treaties."--Muir's Life of Mahomet, III, p. 67, _note_]

[Footnote 180: Contributions to Political Science by Francis Lieber, LL.D., Vol. II of his miscellaneous writings, p. 251, London, 1881.]

_The Jews._

[Sidenote: 27. The Jews broke treaties.]

Mohammad, on his first arrival at Medina, made a treaty of alliance with the Jews, by which the free exercise of their religion and the possession of their rights and property were guaranteed. It was stipulated in the treaty that either party, if attacked, should come to the assistance of the other. Medina should be sacred and inviolable for all who joined the treaty. But the Jews broke their treaty and rebelled. They assisted the enemy during the siege of Medina, and committed treason against the city.

[Sidenote: 28. Bani Kainúkaá, Bani Nazeer, Koreiza, Khyber, and Ghatafán]

The Bani Kainúkaá were the first among the Jews who broke the treaty and fought against Mohammad between the battles of Badr and Ohad.[181]

The Bani Nazeer broke their compact with Mohammad after his defeat at Ohad. They had also made a conspiracy to kill Mohammad. They were banished; some of them went over to Khyber. The Jewish tribe of Koreiza had defected from their allegiance to Mohammad, and entered into negotiations with the enemy, when Medina was besieged by the Quraish and Bedouin tribes at the battle of the Ditch. They were afterwards besieged by Mohammad. They surrendered at the discretion of Sád, who passed a bloody judgment against them. The Jews of Khyber (including those of Nazeer) and Bani Ghatafán, who had lately besieged Medina with the Quraish in the battle of the Ditch, made alliance against Mohammad,[182] and were making preparations for an attack on him. They had been inciting the Bani Fezára and other Bedouin tribes in their depredations, and had combined with Bani Sád-Ibn Bakr to attack upon Medina. They were subjected at Khyber, and made tributaries, paying _jizya_ in return of the protection guaranteed to them.

[Sidenote: 29. Notices of them in the Quran]

The treachery of the Bani Kainúkaá, Nazeer and Koreiza, and Khyber is noticed in the Quran in the following verses:--

58. "They with whom thou hadst leagued, but who ever afterwards break their league, and fear not God!"

59. "And if thou capture them in battle, then (_by the example of their fate_) put to flight those who are behind them--they will perhaps be warned:"--

60. "Or, if thou fear treachery from any people, throw back _their treaty_ to them in like manner: verily, God loveth not the treacherous."

61. "And think not that the infidels shall get the better of Us! Verily, they shall not find God to be weak."

62. "Make ready then against them what force ye can, and squadrons of horse whereby ye may strike terror into the enemy of God and your enemy, and into others beside them whom ye know not, _but_ whom God knoweth; And all that you expend for the cause of God shall be repaid you; and ye shall not be wronged."

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."

64. "But if they seek to betray thee, then verily God will be all-sufficient for thee. He it is who strengthened thee with his help and with the faithful and made their heart one. Hadst thou spent all the riches of the earth, thou wouldst not have united their hearts; but God hath united them: He verily is Mighty, Wise."

65. "O Prophet! God and such of the faithful as follow thee will be all-sufficient for thee!"

66. "O Prophet! stir up the faithful to the fight...."--Sura, viii.

26. "And He caused those of the people of the Book (the Jews) who had aided _the confederates_, to come down out of their fortresses, and cast dismay into their hearts: a part ye slew, a part ye took prisoners."--Sura, xxxiii.

29. "Make war upon such of those to whom the Scriptures have been given,[183] as believe not in God, or in the last day, and who forbid not that which God and his apostles 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.

[Sidenote: 30. The judgment of Sâd]

The Bani Koreiza had surrendered themselves to the judgment of _Sâd_, an _Awsite_ of their allies, Bani Aws. To this Mohammad agreed. Sâd decreed that the male captives should be slaughtered. Mohammad, disapproving the judgment, remarked to Sâd: "Thou hast decided like the decision of a king," meaning thereby a despotic monarch. The best authentic tradition in Bokhari (Kitáb-ul-Jihád) has the word '_Malik_,' monarch; but in other three places of Bokhari, Kitabul Monakib, Maghazi, and Istizan, the narrator has a doubt whether the word was _Allah_ or _Malik_. Moslim, in his collection, has also '_Malik_,' and in one place the sentence is not given at all. It was only to eulogize the memory of Sâd after his death, that some of the narrators of the story gave out that Mohammad had said that Sâd had decided like the decision of a _Malak_, angel; or some narrators interpreted the word _Malik_, king, as meaning God; and therefore put the word _Allah_ in their traditions. Mohammad never said _Malak_, meaning angel, or _Malik_, allegorically meaning _Allah_; he simply said _Malik_, literally meaning a king or monarch.

[Sidenote: 31. Defensive character of the expedition against the Jews of Khyber]

The expedition against the Jews of Khyber was purely defensive in its character. They had, since the Jews of the tribe of Nazeer and Koreiza being banished from Medina in consequence of their treason against the Moslem commonwealth, had joined them, been guilty of inciting the surrounding tribes to attack upon Medina, and had made alliance with the Bani Ghatafán, who had taken a prominent part among the confederates who had besieged Medina at the battle of the Ditch, to make a combined attack upon Medina. They, especially Abul Hukeik, the chief of Bani Nazeer, had excited the Bani Fezára and other Beduoin tribes to commit incursions on Medina. They had made a combination with the Bani Sád-Ibn Bakr to make inroads on the Moslims. Bani Sád, a branch of Hawazin, were among the confederates who had besieged Medina. Lately, Oseir Ibn Zárim, the chief of Nazeer at Khyber, maintained the same relations with Bani Ghatafán, as their former chief had, to make a combined attack on Medina. The Bani Ghatafán, with their branches of Bani Fezára and Bani Murra, in league with those of Khyber, were always plotting mischief in the vicinity of Fadak at Khyber. They (the Ghatafán) had continued for a long time to alarm Medina with threatened attacks. At the seventh year of the Hegira timely information was received by Mohammad of the combined preparation of Khyber and Ghatafán. He rapidly set forth in his defence, and marched to Khyber at once. He took up a position at Rají, between Khyber and Ghatafán, to cut off their mutual assistance. So it was not a sudden and unprovoked invasion, as Sir W. Muir calls it. He writes: "Mahomet probably waited for some act of aggression on the part of the Jews of Kheibar (it was the fertile lands and villages of that tribe which he had destined for his followers), or on the part of their allies, the Bani Ghatafán, to furnish the excuse for an attack. But no such opportunity offering, he resolved, in the autumn of this year, on a sudden and unprovoked invasion of their territory."[184] It will appear from what I have stated above, that the invasion of Khyber was purely defensive in its character.

[Footnote 181: Hishamee, p. 545. Gottengen, 1859; or, The Life of Muhammad, by Abd etl Malik Ibn Hishám London: Trübner and Co., 1867.]

[Footnote 182: Hishamee, p. 757.]

[Footnote 183: The Jews of Khyber, if it does not relate to Tabook. Sir W. Muir calls this hostile declaration against Jews and Christians, and says,--"The exclusion and growingly intolerant position of Islam is sufficiently manifested by the ban issued against the Jews and Christians, as unfit for the sacred rites and holy precincts of the Meccan temple; and by the divine commands to war against them until, in confession of the superiority of Islam, they should consent to the payment of a tribute."--Life of Mahomet, Vol. II, p. 289. The command referred to by Sir W. Muir refers to the treatment of those who took up arms against the Mussalmans, rather than to their ordinary condition. No ban was issued against the Jews and Christians, as unfit for the sacred rites and holy precincts of the Meccan temple. On the contrary, the Christians of Najran, when arrived at Medina, were accommodated by the Prophet in his Mosque, and they used to say their prayers there.]

[Footnote 184: Life of Mahomet, Vol. IV, p. 61.]

_The Christians or Romans._

[Sidenote: 32. Tabúk, the last expedition]

The last expedition of Mohammad was that of Tabúk, and it was also purely defensive. The travellers and traders arriving from Syria brought news of the gathering of a large army on the borders of Syria. A year's pay, they said, had been advanced by the Greek or Roman Emperor, who was then at Hims, in order that the soldiers might be well-furnished for a long campaign; the tribes of the Syrian desert, the Bani Lakhm, Judzam, Amila, and Ghussan were flocking around the Roman Eagles, and the vanguard was already at Balcâ. Mohammad at once resolved to meet this danger. When he arrived in the vicinity of the Syrian border at Tabúk, he found no troops to oppose him. There were no signs of impending danger, and he therefore returned with his army to Medina. This was in the ninth year of the Hegira.

[Sidenote: 33. The conclusion]

This concludes the description of all the wars of the Prophet. I hope I have shown, on good and reasonable grounds, and from the surest and most authentic sources, that the wars were not of an offensive and aggressive character; but, on the contrary, they were wars of defence and protection. The early Moslems were wronged, because they believed in the faith of Mohammad; they were deprived of their civil and religious rights, were driven forth from their homes and their properties, and after all were attacked first, by the Quraish and their confederates, the Jews and other Arabian tribes. They fought neither for revenge, nor to impose the faith of Mohammad by force of arms, nor for the plunder of the caravans which passed in proximity to their city. The permission to fight was only given to the believers because they were fought against or were attacked first, and had been wronged and driven from their homes without just cause. They therefore took up arms against those who first compelled them to fly from their homes, and then attacked them. This was in full accordance, therefore, with the law of nations and the sacred law of nature. The people of Medina had only pledged themselves to protect Mohammad from his enemies. They could not, and would not, have gone forth or allowed Mohammad and his _Ansárs_ to go forth to plunder the caravan of the Quraish passing by Medina.

_The Intolerance._

[Sidenote: 34. Mohammad never taught intolerance.]

Those people are greatly mistaken who say, that "the one common duty laid upon the Faithful is to be the agents of God's vengeance on those who believe not. These are to be slaughtered until they pay tribute, when they are allowed to go to Hell in their own way without further molestation."[185] Mohammad did not wage war against the Quraish and the Jews because they did not believe in his mission, nor because he was to be the instrument of God's vengeance on them; on the contrary, he said, "He was no more than a warner."

"The truth is from your Lord, let him then who will, believe; and let him who will, be an unbeliever."[186]

"Let there be no compulsion in religion."[187] "Verily, they who believe, and the Jews, and the Sabeites, and the Christians, whoever of them believeth in God and in the last day, and doth what is right, on them shall come no fear, neither shall they be put to grief."[188] Even during active hostilities, those who did not believe were allowed to come and hear the preaching, and were then conveyed to their place of safety.[189] Nor were the wars of Mohammad to exact tribute from the unbelievers. The tribute was only imposed upon those who had sought his protection, and even then they were exempted from other regular taxes which the Moslems paid to their Commonwealth.

On the contrary, as has already been shown, Mohammad merely took up arms in the instances of self-preservation. Had he neglected to defend himself after his settlement at Medina against the continued attacks of the Quraish and their allies, he with his followers would, in all probability, have been exterminated. They fought in defence of their lives as well as their moral and religious liberties.

[Sidenote: 35. In what sense the wars were religious wars.]

In this sense the contest might be called a religious war, as the hostilities were commenced on religious grounds. Because the Quraish persecuted the Moslems, and expelled them for the reason that they had forsaken the religion of their forefathers, _i.e._, idolatry, and embraced the faith of Islam, the worship of One True God; but it was never a religious war in the sense of attacking the unbelievers aggressively to impose his own religion forcibly on them. How much is Sir W. Muir in the wrong, who says, that fighting was prescribed on religious grounds? "Hostilities," he says, "indeed, were justified by the 'expulsion' of the believers from Mecca. But the main and true issue of the warfare was not disguised to be the victory of Islam. They were to fight '_until the religion became the Lord's alone_.'"[190]

[Sidenote: 36. The alleged verses of intolerance explained.]

The verses of the Quran referred to above are as follows:

186. "And fight for the cause of God against those who fight against you: but commit not the injustice of _attacking them first_: verily God loveth not the unjust."

187. "And kill them wherever ye shall find them, and eject them from whatever place they have ejected you; for (_Fitnah_) persecution or civil discord is worse than slaughter but attack them not at the sacred Mosque, until they attack you therein, but if they attack you, then slay them--Such is the recompense of the infidel!"

188. "But if they desist, then verily God is Gracious, Merciful."

189. "And do battle against them until there be no more (_Fitnah_) persecution or civil discord and the only worship be that of God: but if they desist, then let there be no hostility, save against wrong-doers."--Sura, ii.

These verses generally, and the last one especially, show that the warfare was prescribed on the ground of self-preservation, and to secure peace, safety and religious liberty, to prevent (_Fitnah_) persecution.

By preventing or removing the persecution (_Fitnah_), the religion of the Moslems was to be free and pure from intolerance and compulsion to revert to idolatry, or in other words, to be the only or wholly of God. That is, when you are free and unpersecuted in your religion, and not forced to worship idols and renounce Islam, then your religion will be pure and free. You shall have no fear of being forced to join other gods with God.

The same verse is repeated in Chapter VIII.

39. "Say to the unbelievers: If they desist,[191] what is now past shall be forgiven them, but if they return _to it_,[192] they have already before them the doom of the former."[193]

40. "Fight then against them till _Fitnah_ (civil strife or persecution) be at an end, and the religion be all of it God's, and if they desist, verily God beholdeth what they do."

This shows that the fighting prescribed here against the Quraish was only in the case of their not desisting, and it was only to prevent and suppress their _Fitnah_, and when their intolerance and persecution was suppressed, or was no more, then the Moslem religion was to become all of it God's. They were not forced to join any god with the true God.

[Sidenote: 37. Sir W. Muir quoted.]

Sir W. Muir, in his last chapter on the person and character of Mohammad, observes in reviewing the Medina period: "Intolerance quickly took the place of freedom; force, of persuasion." ... "Slay the unbelievers wheresoever ye find them" was now the watchword of Islam:--"Fight in the ways of God until opposition be crushed, and the Religion becometh the Lord's alone!"[194] Here, Sir W. Muir plainly contradicts himself. He has already admitted at the 136th page of the fourth volume of his work that the course pursued by Mohammad at Medina was to leave the conversion of the people to be gradually accomplished without compulsion, and the same measure he intended to adopt at his triumphal entry into Mecca. His words are: "This movement obliged Mahomet to cut short of his stay at Mecca. Although the city had cheerfully accepted his supremacy, all its inhabitants had not yet embraced the new religion, or formally acknowledged his prophetic claim. Perhaps, he intended to follow the course he had pursued at Medina, and leave the conversion of the people to be gradually accomplished without compulsion." This was at the end of the eighth year after the Hegira.

Mohammad died at the beginning of the eleventh year, then the question naturally comes up, when was that alleged change to intolerance, and how Sir W. Muir says, this change is traced from the period of Mohammad's arrival at Medina? In the action taken in the fifth year of the Hegira against the Jewish tribe of Koreiza, who had treasoned against the city, Sir W. Muir admits that up to that period Mohammad did not profess to force men to join Islam, or to punish them for not embracing it. His words are: "The ostensible grounds upon which Mahomet proceeded were purely political, for as yet he did not profess _to force_ men to join Islam, or to punish them for not embracing it."[195] In a foot-note he remarks: "He still continued to reiterate in his Revelations the axiom used at Mecca, 'I am only a public preacher,' as will be shown in the next chapter." Further, Sir W. Muir, in his account of the first two years after Mohammad's arrival at Medina, admits in a foot-note (p. 32, Vol. III), that "as yet we have no distinct development of the intention of Mahomet to impose his religion on others by force: it would have been dangerous in the present state of parties to advance this principle."

[Sidenote: 38. Comment on the above quotation.]

URL of Part 9:ágh-ali/a-critical-exposition-of-the-popular-‘jihad’-–-part-9/d/11357