By Dr. Javid Iqbal
June 12, 2019
As Islam dawned, the Arabs of Hejaz were taken to be savages by the civilized world dominated by Persians and Romans, the superpowers of 7th century. The Arabs were left to their own fate of generations’ long blood feuds. Only interaction remained the Arab caravans exchanging their produce in the markets of Damascus. Damascus constituted the global nerve centre of trade and commerce. It was the provincial capital of Syria; the prized province of Constantinople based Roman Empire, also called Byzantine Empire. Romans or precisely Greco-Romans had moved east, after the collapse of Rome based Western Roman Empire. Christianity was the official religion of Byzantines. The other superpower of 7th century was Persia. They were Zoroastrians, worshipping fire, however with faith in Kirdar-e-Naik (nobility in character) Pindar-e-Naik (nobility of thought) and Raftar-e-Naik (nobility of demeanour).
Islamic republic of Medina with Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) heading it in his temporal role, apart from his spiritual role of Prophet, started its foreign policy with a peace offensive. Envoys were dispatched to Roman and Persian Emperors, inviting them to the fold of Islam. Persian Emperor-Khosrow Parvez treated the envoy with contempt, calling Arabs savages of the desert, fed on camel milk and clad in rags. Caesar Heracles (Harkal) of the Roman Empire on the contrary treated the envoy with respect. Heracles wanted to understand the phenomenon that had overtaken Arabs–hitherto unknown players of international power dynamics. He asked for a respected Arab leader of a caravan to be presented in the royal court. Incidentally Abu Sufian-nemesis of Islamic march in its earliest phases was present in Damascus.. Abu Sufian conceded that the Prophet Mohammad [pbuh] was truthful, never ever did he lie, however they were disinclined to accept his Prophethood. This set Heracles thinking–truthful yet unacceptable, an Arab of some standing claiming to be a Prophet (PBUH). However, he couldn’t reach a conclusion.
This was one of the earliest interactions between Islam and Christendom. We might as well recall the interaction with Ethiopian monarch [Najashi of Habash] who was benevolent in accommodating the early Muslims seeking refuge from the tortuous life in Mecca. There is also a record of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) of interacting with Christian monks on his travels to Damascus with Arab Caravans, while he was still to be invested with Prophethood. Those were early days; however he was investing his intellect, his vision, his foresight to get to the truth–the ultimate truth.
While as Caesar Heracles accorded respect to the envoy carrying peace tides, the prince of a Byzantine vassal state near Hejaz—Syria border murdered the Muslim envoy. This led to the punitive expedition led by Hazrat Zaid (RA). In the campaign at border area called Mota, Hazrat Zaid (RA) achieved martyrdom. On return of the forces under his command, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) immediately appointed seventeen years old Hazrat Osama ibn Zaid [RA] to succeed his illustrious father. He had the eminent associates [Sahaba-e-Karam] serve in his command. None demurred; such was the discipline Prophet (PBUH) had worked out by his incomparable management of men and matters.
Arabs for the first time in history were venturing beyond Najd. Najd constituted desert of Arabia, while as Hejaz formed the urban part, with cities of Mecca and Medina. People originally belonging to Arabia were called Modharites [Modhari] and the Yemeni migrants were called Himarytes [Hamhari]. While as the Meccan population was mainly composed of Modharites, people of Yathrib/Yasrub, Madinat-ul-Nabi after the advent of Islam were mainly Himarytes. There were Jewish tribes in the suburbs of Medina and also in the nearby city of Khyber. Mecca remained the central city holding temporal sway and spiritual authority. Kabaa was the prime place of worship, the holy site of yearly pilgrimage, attended by people from all over Arabia. Kabaa though the spiritual centre had limited temporal authority. Arab tribes were fiercely independent, without an effective central authority to regulate Arabia. Though lost in blood feuds that extended over generations, a period of peace was the norm during the days of pilgrimage.
As the Islamic republic of Medina extended its sway gradually over Arabia, the centralized authority sued for peace between tribes. The message of Islam enshrined in Holy Quran ensured obedience to the central command exercised by Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and subsequently by caliphs. Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) was the first in the order. He ordered continuation of Syrian campaign, as Romans were already alerted following Mota. As Osama ibn Zaid (RA) was leaving Medina with forces in his command, the Caliph Abu Bakr (RA) was seen walking while holding the bridle of his horse, advising him to remain seated and listen to what he has to say on the guidelines of his command.
These are the words worth weighing in gold, as quoted in Ameer Ali’s famous History of Saracens, “See that thou avoidest treachery. Depart not in any wise from the right. Thou shalt mutilate none; neither shalt thou kill child or aged man, nor any woman. Injure not the date palm, neither burn it with fire, and cut not down any tree wherein food for man or beast is. Slay not the flocks or herds or camels, saving for needful sustenance. You may eat of the meat which the men of the land shall bring unto you in their vessels, making mention thereon of the name of the Lord. And the monks with shaven heads, if they submit, leave them unmolested. Now march forward in the name of the Lord, and may He protect you from sword and pestilence”
In 7th century, it looks a word and world above, what was adopted in Geneva Convention in the conduct of war in 20th century.
Source: The Greater Kashmir.com