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A Critical Exposition of the Popular ‘Jihád’—Part 11


By Moulavi Chirágh Ali

It will appear from the foregoing statements that in each of the three distinct periods of Mohammad's sojourn in Medina, _i.e._, the first two years, the fifth year, and the eighth year, Sir W. Muir has himself admitted that Mohammad had no intention to impose his religion by force, and did not profess to force people to join Islam, or punish them for not embracing it, and that the conversion of the people at Medina was gradually accomplished without compulsion, and the same course he followed at his taking of Mecca. Then there is no room left for the uncalled for and self-contradictory remark of Sir W. Muir, that at Medina "Intolerance quickly took place of freedom; force, of persuasion." Up to the end of the eighth year when Mecca was captured, there was admittedly no persecution or constraint put in requisition to enforce religion. Mohammad breathed his last early in the eleventh year. During the two years that intervened, the din of war had ceased to sound, deputations continued to reach the Prophet from all quarters of Arabia, and not a single instance of intolerance or compulsory adoption of faith is found on record.[196]

Mohammad, neither sooner, nor later, in his stay at Medina, swerved from the policy of forbearance and persuasion he himself had chalked out for the success of his mission. At Medina, he always preached his liberal profession of respect for other creeds, and reiterated assurances to the people that he was merely a preacher, and expressly gave out that compulsion in religion was out of question with him.

These are his revelations during the Medina period. "Verily, they who believe (Moslems), and they who follow the Jewish religion, and the Christians, and the Sabeites,--whoever believeth in God and the last day, and doeth that which is right, shall have their reward with their Lord: and fear shall not _come_ upon them, neither shall they be grieved."

     _Sura II_, 59

"And say to those who have been given the Scripture, and to the common folk, Do you surrender yourselves unto God? Then, if they become Moslems, are they guided aright; but if they turn away, then thy duty is only preaching and God's eye is on his servants."

     _Sura III_, 19

"The Apostle is only bound to preach: and God knoweth what ye bring to light, and what ye conceal."

     _Sura V_, 99

"Say: Obey God and obey the Apostle. But if ye turn back, _still_ the burden of his duty is on him only, and the burden of your duty rests on you. And if ye obey him, ye shall have guidance; But plain preaching is all that devolves upon the Apostle."

     _Sura XXIV_, 53

"Let there be no compulsion in religion. Now is the right way made distinct from error; whoever therefore denieth Tâghoot,[197] and believeth in God, hath taken hold on a strong handle that hath no flaw therein: And God is He who Heareth, Knoweth."

     _Sura II_, 237

"Whoso obeyeth the Apostle, in so doing obeyeth God and _as to those_ who turn back _from thee_, We have not sent thee to be their keeper."

     _Sura IV_, 82

[Sidenote: 39. The object of Mohammad's wars]

"Slay the unbelievers wherever ye find them" was never the watchword of Islam. It was only said in self-preservation and war of defence, and concerned only those who had taken up arms against the Moslems.

The verses--Suras II, 189; and VIII, 40--have been quoted above in paras. 17 and 37 (pp. 18, 21, 44 and 45), and they fully show by their context and scope that they only enjoined war against the Meccans, who used to come to war upon the Moslems. The object of making war is precisely set forth in these verses, and appears to mean that civil feuds and persecutions be at an end. But Sir W. Muir wrongly translates _Fitnah_ as _opposition_. He himself has translated the meaning of the word in question as _persecution_, in Vol. II, p. 147, foot-note; in translating the tenth verse of the Sura LXXXV he writes: "Verily, they who persecute the believers, male and female, and repent themselves not." The original word there is _Fatanoo_,[198] from _Fitnah_. I do not know why he should put a twofold version on the same word occurring in the same book. (Suras II, 187; VIII, 40.)

[Footnote 185: Islam under the Arabs, by Major R.D. Osborne, London, 1876, p. 27.]

[Footnote 186: XVIII, 28.]

[Footnote 187: II, 257.]

[Footnote 188: V, 73.]

[Footnote 189: IX, 6.]

[Footnote 190: The Life of Mahomet, Vol. III, p. 79.]

[Footnote 191: From attacking and persecuting you and preventing you from entering your homes and visiting the sacred mosque.]

[Footnote 192: That is, if again attack you and commit aggressions.]

[Footnote 193: Meaning those who were defeated at Badr.]

[Footnote 194: The Life of Mahomet, Vol. IV, p. 319.]

[Footnote 195: The Life of Mahomet, Vol. III, p. 282.]

[Footnote 196: There is only one instance of intolerance, _i.e._, making converts at the point of sword, which Sir W. Muir, so zealous in accusing Mohammad of religious persecution during the Medina period, has succeeded in finding out during the ten eventful years of Mohammad's sojourn in Medina. I refer to the story of Khalid's mission in the beginning of the tenth year A.H., to Bani Haris, a Christian tribe at Najran, whose people had entered into a covenant of peace with Mohammad, and to whom an ample pledge had been guaranteed to follow their own faith. According to Sir W. Muir, Khalid was instructed to call on the people to embrace Islam, and if they declined, he was, after three days, to attack and force them to submit (Muir's Life of Mahomet, Vol. IV, p. 224). The version of the story thus given by the Biographers of Mohammad is too absurd to be believed; because it is a well-established fact that the Bani Haris, or the Christians of Najran, had sent a deputation to Mohammad only a year ago, _i.e._, in A.H. 9, and obtained terms of security from him (Muir's Life of Mahomet, Vol. II, p. 299; Ibn Hisham, p. 401). It is quite an unfounded, though a very ingenious, excuse of Sir W. Muir to make the Bani Haris consist of two sects,--one of Christians, and the other of idolaters,--and to say that the operations of Khalid were directed against the portion of Bani Haris still benighted with paganism; thus reconciling the apocryphal tradition with the fact of the Bani Haris being at a treaty of security, toleration and freedom, with Mohammad.

"I conclude," he writes in a note, "the operations of Khâlid were directed against the portion of Bani Hârith still idolaters:--at all events not against the Christian portion already under treaty" (The Life of Mahomet, Vol. IV, foot-note, p. 224). See the account of the conversion of Bani Hárith to Christianity long before Islam in Hishamee, pp. 20-22. Gibbon, Chapter XLII, Vol. V, p. 207, foot-note; and Muir's Vol. I, p. ccxxviii]

[Footnote 197: A name applied to an idol or idols--especially Allat and Ozza, the ancient idols of the Meccans.]

[Footnote 198: The past tense, third person plural, of the infinitive _Fitnah_.]

_The Ninth Chapter, or Sura Barat._

[Sidenote 40. The opening portion of the IXth Sura of the Koran only relates to the Quraish who had violated the truce.]

[Sidenote: The injunctions contained in it were not carried out owing to the compromise.]

Sir William Muir, while relating the publication of some verses of the ninth chapter of the Koran on the occasion of the great pilgrimage A.H. 9, and referring to the opening verses of the Sura (from 1st to 7th inclusive) writes: "The passages just quoted completed the system of Mahomet so far as its relations with idolatrous tribes and races were concerned. The few cases of truce excepted, uncompromising warfare was declared against them all."[199].  This is not correct. The mistake, he as well as others who follow him commit, lies in their taking the incipient verses of Chapter IX, as originally published at the end of the ninth year of the Hegira, after the conquest of Mecca, in order to set aside every obligation or league with the idolaters to wage war with them, either within or without the sacred territory, and "they were to be killed, besieged, and laid in wait for _wheresoever found_."[200] In fact it has no such bearing of generally setting aside the treaties, and declaring _uncompromising warfare_, and was not published for the first time on the occasion stated above. The opening verses of the ninth Sura of the Koran, which I have quoted in full together with necessary notes in Para. 17 (pp. 22-25), revealed for the first time, were before the conquest of Mecca, when the idolaters thereof had broken the truce of Hodeibia. Their violation of the treaty is expressly mentioned in verses 4, 8, 10 and 13, and the same verses also enjoin to respect and fulfil the treaties of those idolaters who had not broken theirs. Therefore only those aggressors who had been guilty of a breach of faith, and instigated others to take up arms against the Moslems in the attack of Bani Bakr, on Khozáa, were to be waged war against, besieged, and taken captives after the expiration of four months from the date of the publication of the verses in question. But fortunately Abu Sofian compromised before the commencement of the sacred months, and before the period of the four months had elapsed. The people of Mecca submitted without bloodshed, and hence it is obvious that the injunctions contained in the commencement of the ninth chapter of the Koran were never carried out. They remained as dead letter, and will, I think, so remain perpetually. Almost all European writers, as far as I know, labour under the delusion that at the end of the ninth year Mohammad published the opening verses of the ninth Sura, commonly designated _Súra Barát_. But the fact is that it was published in the eighth year of the Hegira before the commencement of the sacred months, probably in the month of Shabán, while Mohammad marched in Ramzán against Mecca, not with the intention of prosecuting war, for it was to take place after the lapse of Zikad, Zelhaj and Moharram, but of taking Mecca by compromise and pre concerted understanding between himself and Abu Sofian. If it be admitted that the preliminary verses of Sura IX of the Koran were revealed or published for the first time in the last month of the ninth year of the Hegira, then they--the verses--become aimless, without being pregnant of any object in view. They contain injunctions for carrying hostile operations against those who had broken certain treaties, had helped others against the Moslems, and themselves had also attacked them. They proclaimed war against certain tribes, whose people did not regard ties of blood and good faith, and had been the first aggressors against the Moslems. Not many such persons were in the whole of Arabia at and after the time alleged for the promulgation of these verses, _i.e._, at the last month of the ninth and the whole tenth year. By this time, almost all Arabia had tendered voluntary submission to the authority of Mohammad.

Deputations from each tribe of the Arabs continued to reach Medina during the whole of this period, and were pledged protection and friendship by the founder of the Islamic faith. From Medina the sound of drums and the bray of clarions had now died away. Hereupon we are able to speak with certainty that these verses could not be, and were not, revealed at the end of the ninth year as it has been asserted by several writers, both Mohammadan and European. And for the above reasons the most suitable occasion for the revelation of these verses is the breach of the truce of Hodeibia by the Quraish and their allies during the eighth year of the Hegira which caused the reduction of Mecca by compromise. Several Mohammadan commentators are unanimous in their opinion as to this point. Consequently the verses, ordaining the manifestation of arms against the treaty-breakers and aggressors, as well as putting them to the sword wherever they were to be found, _i.e._, within or without the harem, or the precincts of the Sacred Mosque, were not complied with owing to the compromise by the Quraish.

[Footnote 199: The Life of Mahomet, Vol. IV, p. 211]

[Footnote 200: "Islam and its Founder," by J.W.H. Stobart, B.A., p. 179. London, 1878.]

_The alleged Interception of the Quraishite Caravans._

[Sidenote: 41. The nine alleged interceptions of the Quraish caravans.]

It has been asserted by European biographers of Mohammad that several caravans of the Quraish going to and from Syria were intercepted and waylaid by the Moslems soon after the Hegira. The alleged incursions are as follow:

(1.) Seven months after Mohammad's arrival at Medina, an expedition headed by Hamza surprised a caravan under the conduct of Abu Jahl.

(2.) A month later a party led by Obeida was dispatched in the pursuit of another caravan guided by Abu Sofian.

(3.) After the expiration of another month, a third inroad headed by Sad proceeded to lie in ambush for the Quraish caravan on the way it was expected to pass.

(4.) Nearly twelve months after the Hegira, a fourth attempt was undertaken to plunder a caravan of the Quraishites by Mohammad himself at Abwa.

(5.) In the succeeding month Mohammad again marched to Bowat with the sole aim of despoiling a caravan composed of precious freight under the immediate escort of Omeya-bin Khalf.

(6.) After the lapse of two or three months Mohammad set out to Osheira to make aggression on another rich caravan proceeding to Syria led by Abu Sofian.

All these expeditions are said to have been not attended by any success on the part of the Moslems, the vigilance of the caravans in all cases eluding the pursuit made after them.[201]

(7.) In Rajab A.H. 2, a small band composed of some six persons was ordered to march to Nakhla to lie in wait there for the caravan of the Quraish. The party had a scuffle at Nakhla, in which a man of the convoy was killed; while two prisoners and the pilfered goods were taken to Medina. Hereupon Mohammad was much displeased, and told Abdallah-bin Jahsh, "I never commanded thee to fight in the sacred month."

(8.) The caravan of the Quraish, which on its passage had safely escaped the chase of the Moslems, as already described in No. 6, was on its way back to Mecca. Mohammad anticipated their return, and prepared an attack, which terminated in the famous battle of Badr.

(9.) All these predatory inroads to intercept the caravans of Mecca are said to have happened during the first and the second year of the Hegira, or before the battle of Badr. It remains for me now to mention the only remaining instance of Moslem's foray upon the Quraishite caravan, which took place in the sixth year A.H. at _Al-Is_. The attack was completely successful.

[Sidenote: 42. The interceptions were impossible under the circumstances in which Mohammad was placed.]

I have already explained (from paras. 21-24) that these early expeditions, numbered 1 to 8, are not corroborated by authentic and trustworthy traditions, and I have also given the probable nature of those marked 4, 5 and 6.

It was impossible for Mohammad and his adherents, situated as they were, to make any hostile demonstrations or undertake a pillaging enterprise. The inhabitants of Medina, where the Prophet with his followers had sought a safe asylum, and at whose invitation he had entered their city, had solemnly bound themselves on sacred oaths to defend Mohammad, so long as he was not himself the aggressor, from his enemies as they would their wives and their children.[202] Mohammad, on his own part, had entered into a holy compact with them not to plunder or commit depredations.[203]

Upon these considerations it was impossible that the people of Medina would have permitted or overlooked the irruptions so often committed by Mohammad upon the caravans of the Quraish: much less would they have joined with their Prophet, had he or any of his colleagues ventured to do so. But granting that the Medinites allowed Mohammad to manifest enmity towards the Quraish by a display of arms, or that no restraint was put by them upon him when he encroached upon the territories of the neighbouring tribes, and that the caravans were molested without any grounds of justice, was it possible, I ask, for the people of Medina to avoid the troubles they would be necessarily involved in by the refuge they had given to their Prophet? They had long suffered from internal feuds, and the sanguinary conflict of Boás, a few years ago, which had paralyzed their country, and humiliat Ed its citizens, was but too fresh in their memory yet.

[Sidenote: 43. The interceptions, if occurred, were justified by way of reprisals.]

Let us suppose that these alleged interceptions of the Meccan caravans by the Moslems did actually take place, as related by the biographers of Mohammad, were they not all justified by the International Code of the Arabs, or the ancient usage and military law of nations. It has been proved beyond all disputes that the Meccans were the first aggressors in persecuting the Moslems, and expelling them from their dear homes at Mecca with the unbearable annoyance, they caused the converts of the new faith in the peaceful prosecution of their religion; taking all these causes of offence into consideration, as well as the International law and the law of Nature, the Moslems might be said to have law and justice both on their sides in waging war with their harassers for the restoration of their property and homes, and even in retaliating and making reprisals until they attained the object long sought by them. When the Meccans, on their own part, had first trumpeted hostility against the Moslems, the right of self-defence, as well as military necessity, compelled the latter to destroy their property, and obstruct the ways and channels of communication by which their traffic was prospering; for, "from the moment one State is at war with another, it has, on general principles, a right to seize on all the enemy's property of whatsoever kind and wheresoever found, and to appropriate the property thus taken to its own use, or to that of the captors."[204]

[Footnote 201: I have closely followed Sir W. Muir in these expeditions; _vide_ The Life of Mahomet, Vol. III, pp. 64-69.]

[Footnote 202: "The people of Medîna were pledged only to defend the Prophet from attack, not to join him in any aggressive steps against the Coreish." Muir's Life of Mahomet, Vol. III, p. 64.]

[Footnote 203: Bokharee relates from Obada-bin Sámat with the usual chain of narrators, that "I am one of the _Nakeebs_ who pledged to the Prophet. We pledged that we will not join any other god with the God, and will not commit theft, and will not commit fornication, and will not commit murder, and will not plunder." Saheeh of Bokharee, Book of Campaigns, chapter on Deputations from Ansárs.]

[Footnote 204: Wheaton's Elements of International Law, p. 419, Boston, 1855; Lieber's Miscellaneous Writings; Political science, Vol. II, p. 250, Philadelphia, 1881.]

_The alleged Assassinations._

[Sidenote: 44. Instances of alleged assassinations cited.]

URL of Part 10:ágh-ali/a-critical-exposition-of-the-popular-‘jihád’—part-10/d/11372