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A Critical Exposition of the Popular ‘Jihad’ – Part 9


By Moulavi Chirágh Ali

Six years had passed since the expulsion of Mohammad and his followers from Mecca. They had not since visited the Holy house, nor had they joined the yearly pilgrimage, which was an essential part of their social and religious life. Mohammad undertook to perform the lesser pilgrimage to Mecca in the month of Zalkada, in which war was unlawful throughout Arabia. Mohammad, with his followers, the pious and peaceful worshippers, fifteen hundred in number, set forth for Mecca. The pilgrims carried no arms, but such as were allowed by custom to travellers,--_namely_, each a sheathed sword. The Quraish, with their allies, the surrounding tribes, hearing of the approach of the pilgrims, took up arms. They pushed forward to obstruct the pilgrims. Mohammad encamped at Hodeibia, where a treaty of peace was concluded between the Quraish and Mohammad. The treaty was to the effect, that war should be suspended for ten years, neither party attacking the other. Whosoever wished to join Mohammad and enter into treaty with him should have liberty to do so. "If any one goeth over to Mohammad, without the permission of his guardian, he shall be sent back to his guardian. But if anyone from amongst the followers of Mohammad return to the Quraish, the same shall not be sent back, provided, on the part of the Quraish, that Mohammad and his followers retire from us this year without entering our city. In the coming year he may visit Mecca--he and his followers--for three days, when we shall retire therefrom. But they may not enter it with any weapons, save those of the travellers--_namely_, to each a sheathed sword." Bani Khozaá entered into the alliance of Mohammad, and Bani Bakr adhered to the Quraish.

[Sidenote: 15. Violation of the treaty by the Quraish, and their submission]

The peace remained unbroken until the Quraish violated the treaty of Hodeibia [161] and treacherously killed several men of the Bani Khozaá. Mohammad marched against them in the eighth year of the Hegira in defence of the injured and oppressed Bani Khozaá, and to chastise the Quraish for violation of the treaty. But the Quraish submitted to the authority of Mohammad before he arrived at Mecca, and the city was occupied without resistance.

[Sidenote: 16. Two other tribes assume the offensive.]

Soon after, the great and warlike tribe of Hawazin and Thakeef assumed the offensive. They assembled at Autas, and advanced upon Honain to attack Mohammad. He was obliged to leave Mecca and set out to disperse them, who were beaten back at Honain (S. ix, 26-28). Taif of the Thakeef was besieged, but in vain.

[Footnote 161: Unfortunately several missionary expeditious sent by Mohammad were met with unfavourable circumstances. The party sent to Bani Suleim, demanding their allegiance to the faith of Islam, was slain. Another party sent to Bani Leith was surprised, and its camels plundered. A small party sent by Mohammad to Fadak was cut to pieces by Bani Murra. Another party sent to Zat Atlah to call upon the people to embrace Islam, of which only one person escaped. Mohammad's messenger despatched to the Ghassanide Prince at Bostra was murdered by the chief of Muta. His army sent to avenge the treachery of the chief was defeated. All these mishaps and reverses dangerously affected the prestige of Mohammad, and encouraged the Meccans to violate the truce.]

The defensive character of the wars._

[Sidenote: 17. Verses from the Quran in support of the defensive character of the wars]

This brief sketch of the defensive wars of Mohammad with the Quraish will fully show that those who assert that Mohammad was aggressive or revengeful in his wars, or that he made war to force his religion upon the people, are altogether in the wrong.

I will now quote some verses of the Quran, showing that all the wars of Mohammad with the Quraish were defensive wars.

39. "Verily, God will ward off[162] _mischief_ from believers: lo, God loveth not the false, the unbeliever."

40. "A sanction is given to those who have been fought,[163] because they have suffered outrages, and verily, God is well able to succour them"--

41. "Those who have been driven forth from their homes wrongfully, only because they say, 'Our Lord is the God.' And if God had not repelled some men by others, cloisters and churches and oratories and mosques wherein the name of God is ever commemorated, would surely have been destroyed! And him who helpeth God will God surely help: Verily, God is Strong, Mighty."

42. "They who, if We established them in _this_ land, will observe prayer and pay the alms of obligation and enjoin what is recognized _as right_--and forbid what is unlawful. And the final issue of all things is unto God."--Sura, xxii.

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 find them, and eject them from whatever place they have ejected you, for (_Fitnah_)[164] persecution is worse than slaughter: yet 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 infidels!"--

188. "But if they desist,[165] then verily God is Gracious, Merciful!"

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

214. "They will ask thee concerning war in the Sacred Month. Say: The act of fighting therein is a grave crime; but the act of turning others aside from the path of God, and unbelief in Him, and to prevent access to the Sacred Mosque, and to drive out his people, is worse in the sight of God; and persecution[166] (_Fitnah_[167]) is worse than bloodshed. But they will not cease to war against you until they turn you from your religion, if they be able: but whoever of you shall turn from his religion, and die an infidel, their works shall be fruitless in this world and in the next: and they shall be consigned to the fire; therein to abide for aye."

215. "But they who believe, and who fly their country, and do their utmost in the cause of God, may hope for God's mercy: and God is Gracious, Merciful."

245. "And fight in the cause of God; and know that God is He who Heareth, Knoweth."

247. "Hast thou not considered the assembly of the children of Israel after _the death of_ Moses, when they said to a prophet of theirs,--'Raise up for us a king; we will do battle for the cause of God?' He said, 'May it not be that if to fight were ordained you, ye would not fight?' They said, 'And why should we not fight in the cause of God, since we are driven forth from our dwellings and our children?' But when fighting was commanded them they turned back, save a few of them: But God knew the offenders!"

252. "And by the will of God they routed them; and (Dâood) David slew Goliath; and God gave him the kingship and wisdom, and taught him according to his will: and were it not for the restraint of one by the means of the other imposed on men by God, verily the earth had assuredly gone to ruin, but God is bounteous to his creatures."--Sura, ii.

76. "Let those then fight in the cause of God who barter this present life for that which is to come; for whoever fighteth on God's path, whether he be slain or conquer, We will in the end give him a great reward."

77. "But what hath come to you that ye fight not on the path of God, and _for_ the weak among men, women and children, who say, 'O our Lord! bring us forth from this City whose inhabitants are oppressors; give us a champion from thy presence; and give us from thy presence a defender?'"

78. "They who believe, fight on the path of God; and they who believe not, fight on the path of Thâgoot: Fight then against the friends of Satan--Verily, the craft of Satan shall be powerless!"

86. "Fight then on the path of God: lay not burdens on any but thyself; and stir up the faithful. The prowess of the infidels, God will haply restrain; for God is the stronger in prowess, and the stronger to punish."

91. "They desire that ye should be unbelievers as they are unbelievers, and that ye should be alike. Take therefore none of them for friends, until they have fled their homes for the cause of God. If they turn back, then seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; but take none of them as friends or helpers."

92. "Except those who seek asylum among your allies, and those who come over to you--prevented by their own hearts by making war on you, or from making war on their own people. Had God pleased, He would certainly have given them power against you, and they would certainly have made war upon you! But, if they depart from you, and make not war against you and offer you peace, then God alloweth you no occasion against them."

93. "Ye will find others who seek to gain your confidence as well as that of their own people: So oft as they return to sedition, they shall be overthrown in it: But if they leave you not, nor propose terms of peace to you, nor withhold their hands, then seize them, and slay them wherever ye find them. Over these have We given you undoubted power."--Sura, iv.

19. "_O Meccans!_ If ye desired a decision, now hath the decision come to you. It will be better for you if ye give over _the struggle_ (_or attacking upon Medina or the Moslem_). If ye return _to it_ we will return; and your forces, though they may be many, shall by no means avail you aught, because God is with the faithful."

39. "Say to the infidels: If they desist (_from persecuting, obstructing, and attacking the Moslems_), what is now past shall be forgiven them; but if they return _to it_ (commit again the hostilities), they have already before them the doom of the ancients!"

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

41. "But if they turn their back, know ye that God is your protector: Excellent protector! and excellent helper!"

73. "... And they who have believed, but have not fled their homes, shall have no rights of kindred with you at all, until they too fly their country. Yet if they seek aid from you on account of the faith, your part it is to give them aid, except against a people between whom and yourselves there may be a treaty. And God beholdeth your actions."

74. "And the infidels have the _like_ relationships one with another. Unless ye do the same (_i.e, aid the oppressed and repel the oppressor_), there will be discord in the land and great corruption."--Sura, viii.

(When the Meccans broke the Hodeibia treaty mentioned in the above paragraph, the Quraish and Bani Bakr attacked Bani Khozaá, who were in alliance with Mohammad. It became incumbent on him to assist Bani Bakr and to chastise the aggressors. The following verses were published on that occasion, but happily, before the expiration of the fixed period, the Quraish submitted and Mecca was taken without bloodshed, and these verses were not acted upon :--)

1. "An immunity from God and His Apostle to those with whom ye are in league (_and they have violated the same--compare verses 4, 8 and 10_) among the polytheist Meccans."

2. "Go ye therefore at large in the land four months (_i.e. four sacred months from Shaw-wal. The treaty was violated by the Quraish in Ramzan, a month immediately previous to the sacred months. It is announced here that four months' time is given to the aggressors, who violated the treaty of Hodeibia, to make terms. After the time is over (verse 5) the Moslems will commence hostilities to defend their allies, the Bani Khozaá_), but know that ye shall not find God feeble, and that those who believe not, God will put to shame."

3. "And a proclamation on the part of God and His Apostle to the people on the day of the greater pilgrimage, that God is free from _any engagement with_ those who worship other gods with God, as is his Apostle. If then, ye turn to God, it will be better for you; but if ye turn back, then know that ye shall not find God feeble: and to those who believe not, announce thou a grievous punishment."

4. "But this concerneth not those Polytheists with whom ye are in league, and who have afterwards in no way failed you, and not yet aided any one against you. Observe, therefore, your engagement with them through the whole time _of their treaty_. Verily, God loveth those who fear Him."

5. "And when the sacred months are passed [168] kill those who join other gods with God[169] wherever ye find them; and seize them, and besiege them, and lay wait for them with every kind of ambush; but if they repent and observe prayer and pay the obligatory alms, then let them go their way.[170] Verily, God is Gracious, Merciful."

6. "If any one of those who join gods with God ask an asylum of thee, grant him an asylum, in order that he hear the Word of God; then let him reach his place of safety. This, for that they are people devoid of knowledge."

7. "How can they who add gods to God be in league with God and His Apostle, save those with whom ye made a league at the sacred temple? So long as they are true to you,[171] be ye true to them: verily, God loveth those who fear Him."

8. "How _can they_? since if they prevail against you, they will not regard in their dealing with you, either ties of blood or good faith: With their mouths they content you, but their hearts are averse, and most of them are perverse doers."

9. "They sell the signs of God for a mean price, and turn others aside from his way; of a truth, evil is it that they do!"

10. "They respect not with a believer either ties of blood or good faith; or these are the transgressors!"

11. "Yet if they turn to God and observe prayer, and pay the impost, then are they your brethren in religion: and We make clear the signs for men of knowledge."[172]

12. "But if, after alliance made, they violate their covenant and revile your religion, then do battle with the ringleaders of infidelity—verily there is no faith in them! Haply they will desist."

13. "Will ye not do battle with a people (_the Meccans_) who have broken their covenant and aimed to expel your Apostle and attacked you first? Will ye dread them? God truly is more worthy of your fear if ye are believers!"

14. "Make war on them: By your hands will God chastize them and put them to shame, and give victory over them, and heal the bosom of a people who believe."

36. "... and attack those who join gods with God one and all, as they attack you one and all."--Sura, ix.

[Sidenote: 18. What the above-quoted verses show.]

I need not repeat here what these verses and the facts related above show, that the wars of Mohammad with the Quraish were merely defensive, and the Quraish were the aggressors, and that Mohammad was quite justified in taking up arms against them.

"In the state of nature every man has a right to defend," writes Mr. Edward Gibbon,[173] "by force of arms, his person and his possessions; to repel, or even to repeat, the violence of his enemies, and to extend his hostilities to a reasonable measure of satisfaction and retaliation. In the free society of the Arabs, the duties of subject and citizen imposed a feeble restraint; and Mahommed, in the exercise of a peaceful and benevolent mission, had been despoiled and banished by the injustice of his countrymen." It has been fully shown in the foregoing paragraphs that the Moslems in Mecca enjoyed neither safety nor security. Religious freedom was denied to them, though they were harmless and peaceful members of the community. Besides this they were expelled from their homes, leaving their families and their property in the hands of their persecutors, and were prevented from returning to Mecca, and were refused access to the Sacred Mosque; and, above all, they were attacked by the Meccans in force at Medina.

[Sidenote: 19. Justification of the Moslems in taking up arms against their aggressors]

The persecution of the early Moslems by the Quraish was on religious grounds. They would not allow the believers to renounce the religion of their forefathers and profess Islam. Their intolerance was so strong and harsh that they tortured some of the professors of the new faith to renounce the same and to rejoin their former idolatry. "Taking away the lives, the fortune, the liberty, any of the rights of our brethren, merely for serving their Maker in such manner as they are persuaded they ought, when by so doing they hurt not human society, or any member of it, materially, is evidently inconsistent with all justice and humanity: for it is punishing those who have not injured us, and who, if they mistake, deserve only pity from us."[174] The early Moslems had had every international right to resent persecution and intolerance of the Meccans and to establish themselves by force of arms, to enjoy their religious liberty and to practise their religion freely.

[Sidenote 20. The first aggression after the Hegira was not on the part of Mohammad.]

Some of the European biographers of Mohammad say, "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."[175]

This is not correct. The aggressors, in the first instance, were the Quraish, who, as already shown, followed up their persecution of the Moslems by an attack upon the city in which the Prophet and his followers had taken refuge. Even taking it for granted that the Moslems were the first aggressors after the Hegira, was not the Hegira, or expulsion itself (leaving aside the previous persecutions and oppressions at Mecca), a sufficient reason for the commencement of hostilities by the Moslems, who were anxious to secure their moral and religious freedom, and to protect themselves and their relatives from further aggressions?

Sir William Muir admits, that "hostilities, indeed, were justified by the 'expulsion' of the believers from Mecca."[176] "It may be said," says Major Vans Kennedy, "that, in these wars, Mohammad was the aggressor by his having, soon after his flight, attempted to intercept the caravans of Mecca. But the first aggression was, undoubtedly, the conspiracy of the Quraish to assassinate Mohammad, and when to save his life he fled from Mecca, himself and his followers were thus deprived of their property, and obliged to depend for their subsistence on the hospitality of the men of Medina, it could not be reasonably expected that they would allow the caravans of their enemies to pass unmolested."[177]

[Sidenote: 21. The alleged instances examined.]

There is no proof that Mohammad, after the Hegira, commenced hostilities against the Quraish by intercepting their caravans. The alleged instances of the caravans being waylaid by the Moslems at Medina are not corroborated by authentic and trustworthy traditions. They have also internal evidences of their improbability. The Medina people had pledged themselves only to defend the Prophet from attack, and not to join him in any aggressive steps against the Quraish.[178] Therefore, it seems impossible that they should have allowed Mohammad to take any aggressive steps against the Quraish which would have involved them in great trouble.

[Sidenote: 22. Hamza and Obeida expedition]

The alleged expeditions against the Quraish caravans by Hamza and the other by Obeida in pursuit of caravans which escaped are in themselves improbable. Mohammad would not send fifty or sixty persons to waylay a caravan guarded by two or three hundred armed men.

[Sidenote: 23. The Abwa, Bowat, & Osheira expeditions]

The alleged expeditions of Abwa, Bowat, and Osheira, said to have been led by Mohammad himself to intercept the Mecca caravans, but in vain, are altogether without foundation. He might have gone, if he had gone at all, to Abwa, and Osheira to negotiate friendly terms with Bani Dhumra [179] and Bani Mudlij, as his biographers say, he did.

[Sidenote: 24. The affair at Nakhla]

The affair of the _Nakhla_ marauding party, as related in the traditions, is full of discrepancies, and is altogether inconsistent and untrustworthy. The very verse (Sura, ii, verse 214) which the biographers say was revealed on the occasion, and which I have quoted above (para. 16), contains a reference to the Meccans' fighting against the Moslems, which runs counter to the assumption of the European biographers, who make it an aggressive attack on the part of Mohammad. It is probable that Mohammad might have sent some six or eight scouts to bring in news of the movements and condition of the Quraish, whose attitude towards Mohammad had become more hostile since his flight to Medina. As the Quraish had a regular and uninterrupted route to Syria for traffic, it was only reasonable on the part of Mohammad to take precautions, and he was always on his guard. The biographers _Ibn Is-hak_, _Ibn Hisham_ (p. 424), _Tabri_ (Vol. II, p. 422), _Ibnal Athir_ in _Kamil_ (Vol. II, p. 87), _Halabi_ in _Insanul Oyoon_ (Vol. III, p. 318), say, that Mohammad had given written instructions to Abdoollah-bin-Jahsh, which was to the effect "bring me intelligence of their affairs." They also say that Mohammad was displeased with Abdoollah's affair at Nakhla, and said, "I never commanded thee to fight in the Sacred Month." The biographers also relate that Mohammad even paid blood-money for the slain.

[Sidenote: 25. At Badr Mohammad had come only in his defence.]

URL of Part 8: URL:ágh-ali/a-critical-exposition-of-the-popular-‘jihad’—part-8/d/11330