Archive for March, 2011

Victims of Revenge | 4AH

Narrative

The Battle of Uhud enabled the non-Muslim elements of Madinah and its surroundings to become emboldened in their attitude towards the Muslims. Then came news that the Bani Asad, a powerful tribe from Najd, were planning a raid on Madinah. Thus, the Prophet  took care to remain abreast of any such developments and to demonstrate to the rest of Arabia that the Muslims derived strength from Uhud rather than weakness.

The Prophet swiftly dispatched a force of a hundred at fifty well armed warriors into their northern territory under the command of Abu Salamah with instructions to do all in his power to take the camp of Banu Asad by surprise. Abu Salamah found his enemy unprepared and shortly before dawn, he inspired his men to holy war, and they attacked. The Bedouin army quickly withdrew and scattered in all directions while the Muslims collected the booty returning to Madinah victorious.

About the same time news came of the danger of another projected raid from further south; but in this instance the Prophet judged that all the hostility was concentrated in one remarkably evil man, Khalid ibn Sufyan, the chief of the Lihyanite branch of Hudhayl. If they could rid themselves of him, the danger from that quarter would become negligible. He commanded Abdullah ibn Unais to seek out this man, describing to him some of his features. In the course of his mission, he unexpectedly found Khalid relaxing in the company of women. Having managed to separate Khalid from his men, on the pretext of joining his ranks, Abdullah swiftly assassinated him. This solitary campaign had the great effect of silencing the Banu Lihyan branch of the Hudhayl tribe.

All idea of the projected raid against Madinah was now abandoned, but it was no doubt in revenge for this death of one of their chiefs that in the following month some men of Hudhayl attacked six Muslims who were on their way to give religious instruction to two of the smaller neighbouring tribes. The encounter took place in Raji’, a watering place not far from Makkah. Three of the Prophet’s men died fighting, and three were taken captive, one of whom was subsequently killed when he tried to escape.

The first captive was Khubaib about whom it was unanimously decided to crucify him. Before his execution, he requested he be allowed some time in which he offered two units of prayer. Upon completion, he turned to his executioners and informed them that he would have prayed longer were it not that they would assume he was afraid of death. Abu Sufyan then asked him whether he wished Muhammad were here in his place, to which Khubaib answered that he would not even want a thorn to prick the Prophet that he might thereby be sitting with his family. Surprised with his response, the Quraysh ordered ‘Uqbah bin Al-Harith, whose father had been killed by Khubaib himself, to crucify him. During the ordeal Khubaib called upon God saying, “O Lord! Count them one by one, and exterminate them to the last one.”

The second captive was Zayd and was purchased by Safwan ibn Umayyah in order to be killed in revenge for his father, Umayyah ibn Khalaf.

Later this year the Prophet married Zainab, daughter of Khuzaymah of the Bedouin tribe of ‘Amir. A fourth apartment was made for her in his house adjoining the Mosque, and it was doubtless in connection with this new alliance that the Prophet now received a visit from Abu Bara, the ageing chief of Zaynab’s tribe. He appealed to him to accept Islam and though he did not convert, he was inclined to the message reaching his people.  Inevitably, the Prophet remained weary given what had just happened at Raji’ and therefore rejected Abu Bara’s request. Abu Bara replied stating that he would personally be their guardian and protector as chief of ‘Amir. Given his notable influence the Prophet chose forty from the foremost Muslim ranks, placing in command of them a man from Khazraj, Mundhir ibn ‘Amr.

It was not known in Madinah that Abu Bara’s leadership was disputed within the tribe, and his nephew, who aspired to be chief in his place, killed one of the Companions who had been sent ahead with a letter from the Prophet, and called upon his tribe to slaughter the others. His tribesmen refused to violate the protection already extended by Abu Bara, and so Amir summoned other tribes who had been in recent hostilities with the Muslims. They immediately sent out a detachment of horse and massacred the whole delegation of unsuspecting Muslims in their camp by the well of Ma’unah, except for two men who had been away to pasture the camels. They were dismayed to see vultures in great numbers circling low above their camp and found their Companions laying  dead in their own blood.

The fall of the Muslim martyrs at the well of Ma’unah deeply grieved the Prophet. His blaming Abu Bara’ incensed the latter given that he had given his word. So Abu Bara, for his part, was extremely wrathful against Amir ibn Tufayl for violating his protective covenant with the Muslims and sent his own son, al Raji’, to kill Amir in vengeance for the violated honour.

This persisting culture of treachery also afflicted the Jews of Banu al Nadir. The Prophet on seeking their assistance in the payment of blood-libel (in accordance with the clauses of the treaty that both parties had already signed), went to them near Quba along with ten of his prominent companions. The Jews, on their part, pretended to comply with the Prophet’s requirement, although their true intention was to assassinate the Prophet by dropping a large millstone on his head. However, the Prophet was informed of their iniquitous plot by Gabriel and he, along with his Companions, returned back to Madinah. The Prophet admonished the Jews of Banu al Nadir and commanded them to leave Madinah. They were given ten days to evacuate after which any Jew seen in Madinah would be killed. However, no Jew left the city, and instead they readied for a siege believing that they could easy outlive it. So the Muslims took up arms and began to fight the Jews. For twenty days and nights the hostilities ensued and in realising that they were overcome, the Jews requested the Prophet to guarantee their lives and properties and to give them safe passage out of Madinah. The Prophet mercifully complied and the Jews left for Tabuk.

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The Trench & the Siege | 5AH

Narrative

The exiled Jews of Banu Nadir who had settled in Khaybar were determined to recover the land they had lost. Their hopes were centred on the preparations of  Quraysh for a final attack on the Prophet; and towards the end of the fifth year of Islam these preparations were brought to a head by the secret visit to Makkah of Huyay and other Jewish leaders from Khaybar. Upon realising the intent behind the visit Abu Sufyan and other notables invited the Jews inside the Ka’bah, and together they swore a solemn oath to God that they would not fail one another until they had achieved their goal.

In 627, a massive army of ten thousand men-of Quraysh and their confederates-were on the March towards Madinah. Upon reaching its outskirts, they encamped. Word had reached the Prophet almost a week before the arrival and adopted a stratagem suggested to him by Salman Al-Farsi, a Persian companion. The Prophet mobilised the entire community to dig a huge trench around the most vulnerable parts of the city. Time was short and all efforts would have to be strained to the utmost if no dangerous gap were to be left in the defences. The Prophet worked alongside them, sometimes with a pickaxe, sometimes with a shovel and sometimes as a carrier. With tremendous effort, the whole trench was dug in six days.

The Prophet amassed three thousand Muslims on the side of Sal’ mountain in Madinah with only the trench separating the believers from the enemies.

When the Quraysh arrived with their army, they stared blankly at the trench; they were bewildered. The earth from the ditch had been used to build a high escarpment, which effectively shielded the Madinese in their camp. Khalid and Ikrimah examined the trench, albeit from a distance, to see where it might easily be crossed. “This is a piece of trickery!” they exclaimed in exasperation. Given the impossibility of crossing the trench, both sides maintained a simple exchange of javelins for a number of days.  The siege lasted only a month, but it seemed endless. Feeding and supplying the allies of Madinah as well as their own people, put a great strain on the city’s resources. The trench had to be manned day and night, so that each man would have to keep watch for long hours. On one occasion the time for noon prayer came and went without it being performed even by the Prophet. It was only when the last light had faded from the west that they moved back to their camps.

Abdullah Ibn Ubayy and his party of hypocrites, accused Muhammad of bringing ruin upon them, and the Jewish tribe of Madinah, Banu Qurayzah, openly began to support Quraysh, breaking their treaty with the Prophet and openly began to announce their renunciation of the pact. They now felt that the siege was too strong and the Quraysh would soon be victorious. Some of the companions adjured them to revert back to the treaty before it was too late, but they only answered: “Who is the Messenger of God? There is no pact between us and Muhammed not any agreement.”

Throughout the Battle of the Trench, as the siege became known, the Muslims were terrified. Faced with the prospect of extermination, some came close to despair. But even as those inside the city trembled, on the outside of the ditch,  Quraysh were becoming exhausted. Their resolve began to waiver and finally snapped when a violent rainstorm devastated their camp. Abu Sufyan recognised defeat. Horses and camels were dying, the Qurayzah had failed to deliver any real help. “Be off,” he announced to his men, “for I am going.” When the Muslims peered over the escarpment the next morning, the plain was completely deserted.

Lessons & Wisdoms

The exiled Jews of Bani Nadhir who had settled in Khaybar were determined to recover the land they had lost. Their elite visited Makkah in secret and within the Ka’bah walls they swore a solemn oath with the Qurashites to God that they would not fail one another in annihilating the Prophet and his community. Together they roused up all the nomads in the plain of Najd who had grievances against Madinah and in the fifth Hijri year an army of ten thousand marched out heading towards Madinah.

The fierce battle that took place was known as the ‘battle of the trench’, and it holds the following wisdoms:

1) The digging of the trench was nothing short of astonishing-even shocking-to Arab sensibilities. No self-respecting Arab warrior would dream of shovelling earth like a slave. But Muhammad worked alongside his Companions, laughing, joking, and singing with his men. Thus was the morale raised.

2) The digging of the trench was symbolic of the obedience and subservience the Muslim community had for the teachings of the Quran. God had ordered them to  “..muster up as much power as possible” and so they did, even when on the brink of starvation.

3) The participation of the Prophet in digging the trench teaches us the humbleness a leader should have as well as the attention to detail he should pay when executing a plan.

4) As was the regular practice of the Prophet, he consulted his disciples on formulating a peace treaty. One of the benefits of consultation is to engage ones team and instil in them a sense of purpose and loyalty.

5) The fact that the Prophet and his disciples offered the afternoon prayer after sunset shows us that missed prayers should be made up.

Edicts & Rulings

The Quranic verses 13-20 of Chapter al-Ahzab were revealed during this incident:

You who have faith! remember God’s blessing to you when forces came against you and We sent a wind against them and other forces you could not see. God sees what you do.When they came at you from above you and below you, when your eyes rolled and your hearts rose to your throats, and you thought unworthy thoughts about God,at that point the believers were tested and severely shaken. When the believers saw the Confederates they said: ‘This is what God and His Messenger promised us. God and His Messenger told us the truth.’ It only increased them in faith and in submission.

The treason of banu Qurayzah and their subsequent fate at the hands of the Muslims was mentioned further into the chapter al-Ahzaab:

And He drove down those of the followers of the Book who backed them (i.e. supported the Quraysh against the Muslims) from their fortresses and He cast awe into their hearts; some you killed and you took captive another part.


  • The Islamic injunction for women to don a particular attire, known as the hijab, was revealed in this year through the Quranic chapter al-Ahzab, verse 59:

O Prophet! say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers that they let down upon them their over-garments; this will be more proper, that they may be known, and thus they will not be given trouble; and God is Forgiving, Merciful.


  • A few weeks after the introduction of the Hijab came the incident of ‘Ifk’, slander against the honor of the Prophet’s wife Aisha. Concocted by the Hypocrites; the head of which was Ibn Ubayy, the scandal rocked Madinah, and the story seemed so plausible that some the sincere Muslims began to believe it. As tensions rose to a disturbing climax, the Prophet confronted Aisha, who has taken refuge in her parents’ home. She had wept for two days but her tears dried like magic as soon as her husband entered the house. Muhammad urged her to confess her sin honestly; if she repented, God would forgive her. But with great dignity, the fourteen-year-old girl stood her ground and replied. There seemed little point in her saying anything at all, she said. She could not admit to something she had not done, and if she protested her innocence, nobody-not even her own parents-would believe her. She could only repeat the words of Prophet Yusuf, as mentioned in the Quran: patience in adversity is most goodly in the sight of God; and it is to God [alone] that I pray to give me strength to bear the misfortune which you have described to me”. She then turned silently and lay down on her bed.

The Prophet knew ‘Aisha through and through, and she must have convinced him, because as soon as she had finished speaking, he fell into the deep trance that was so often a prelude to revelation. He swooned and Abu Bakr put a leather cushion under his head, while he and his wife waited, terrified, for God’s judgement. “Good news, Aisha!” Muhammad cried at last: God had confirmed her innocence. Overcome with relief, her parent urged her to get up and come to her husband but ‘Aisha remained implacable. “By God, I will not stand up and go to him, and I will praise no one save God”.

The following verses from the Quranic chapter al-Nur  had been revealed in relation to her innocence, may God be pleased with her:

There is a group of you who propagated the lie. Do not suppose it to be bad for you; rather it is good for you. Every one of them will incur the evil he has earned and the one who took it on himself to amplify it will receive a terrible punishment.Why did not the believing men and the believing women, when you heard it, think well of their own people, and say: This is an evident falsehood?

A Clear Victory | 6AH

Narrative

Muhammad’s success over Quraysh at the Battle of the Trench was an impressive victory.  Five years earlier, he had arrived in the oasis as a weary, travel-worn migrant who had been hounded by the people of Makkah. Now he had reversed that state of affairs, proving before the whole of Arabia that his resolve, by the help of God, was neither weak nor indecisive.

One night towards the end of Ramadan the Prophet dreamed that with his head shaved, he entered the Holy Sanctuary of Makkah, unarmed, in a state of peace. As soon as the Muslims were told of this, they praised God and hastened to make preparations and gathered together seventy camels, which had to be sacrificed in the sacred precinct.

The Prophet had his clothes washed, mounted his camel and marched towards Makkah at the head of fifteen hundred Muslims. They carried no weapons with them except sheathed swords because they had no intention of fighting. As they approached Dhul Hulaifah, everybody donned the age-old traditional pilgrim’s dress of two pieces of unstitched cloth, one tied around the waist, and the other draped round the shoulders. The Prophet then uttered the ancient cry of the pilgrims as they approached the Ka’bah, Labbayk Allahumma Labayk! Which means ‘Here I am, O God, at your service!’

Khalid ibn Al Walid was sent with a troop of 200 cavalry to prevent the Muslims from entering the city and when the pilgrims had reached the well of Usfan, their scout brought them news the Khalid was only eight miles away. However, the Prophet after having received this intelligence, re-routed bringing them to the locality of Hudaybiyah; by-passing Khalid and his men. For his part, Khalid returned to Makkah to inform the leaders of the latest developments.

Quraysh sent Budayl ibn Warqa’ together with some tribesmen from Khuza’ah to the Muslim camp to dissuade Muhammad from executing his plan. However, they became convinced that the Prophet did not come to fight but to honour the sanctuary. The delegation returned advising that the Muslims be permitted to fulfil their pilgrimage but Quraysh remained unconvinced. They sent Urwah ibn Mas’ud who also concluded as Budayl did, and with negotiations between the Prophet and  Quraysh lasting a long time, the Muslims were beginning to become agitated.

The Prophet called upon Uthman ibn Affan and sent him to Abu Sufyan and the noblemen of Quraysh. The negotiations were lengthy during which Uthman was forced to stay in Makkah. Soon, the Muslims began to suspect that he had been treacherously killed. With tension rising in the Muslim camp, and everybody reaching for their swords, the Prophet assured them that he would not allow them to return without challenging their enemies. He called his companions to gather under a large acacia tree in the middle of the valley, and there they covenanted with him to fight to the last man. This covenant would later become known as the Bay’ah al Ridwan, the Pledge of Good Pleasure.

However, before long, news reached the Muslims that Uthman had not been murdered and he would soon be returned safe and sound. Upon his return he conveyed to the Prophet the message of Quraysh in that they believed that the Muslims had come merely for the purpose of pilgrimage, but at the same time, they could not let them enter Makkah as other tribes would conclude that Quraysh had been defeated. Thus they began a new round of negotiations whereby  Quraysh sent Suhayl ibn Amr to reconcile with the Prophet to return for the same purpose the following year wherein the Quraishites would leave Makkah for three days, allowing the Muslims to perform the pilgrimage.

In the Muslim camp the believers listened in on these negotiations and often became severely angered at the obstinacy with which Suhayl refused to make any concessions, and the leniency with which the Prophet made his. A peace treaty was agreed upon, which was to last for ten years. Any person from Quraysh emigrating to Muhammad’s camp without permission from his guardian would have to be returned to Makkah, whereas any Muslim emigrating from Muhammad’s camp to Makkah would not have to be returned. It also specified that any tribe was free to ally itself to Muhammad without incurring any guilt or censure from  Quraysh, and likewise, any tribe seeking an alliance with Quraysh could do so without let or hindrance from the Muslims. The pact stipulated that Muhammad and his companions would leave the area of Makkah that year without fulfilling their religious function but that they might return the next year. When the believers saw the negotiations for peace and a withdrawal going on and what the Prophet had taken on himself they felt saddened  and defeated. Umar despaired and complained to Abu Bakr, ‘Why should we agree to what is demeaning to our religion?’ Abu Bakr, though shaken himself, told Umar to have faith in Muhammad, for he could see further than anybody else at Hudaybiyah; even though the pilgrimage had not turned out as they expected, it had been an inspiration that had put them on the road to peace.

Lessons & Wisdoms

The arrival of the Prophet along with his disciples at Makkah threw the Qurashites into a huge dilemma. If they, the guardians of the sanctuary, were to hinder the approach of over a thousand Arab pilgrims to the Holy House, they would have committed a most flagrant violation of the laws on which all their own greatness was founded. On the other hand, if they allowed their enemies to enter Makkah in peace and comfort, it would be perceived by others as an immense moral triumph for Muhammad.

During the ordeal the disciples were tested with a whole plethora of emotions and feelings and the journey to Hudaybiyah as well as the peace treaty made there held countless lessons and wisdoms. Some of them are as follows:

1) Muhammad knew perfectly well that he had put the Quraysh in an extremely difficult position. As the guardians of the Mecca, it would have been scandalous if they forbade a thousand Arab pilgrims to enter the city, but it would be an enormous moral triumph for Muhammad if he did enter the holy city in their way and would simply confirm their humiliation at his hands. Though many Meccan notables raged over the idea of Muhammad’s visit Abu Sufyan remained curiously silent. He was a man of intelligence and he probably realized the game was up and that Muhammad could no longer be dealt with by conventional methods.

2) Once the treaty was agreed, the Prophet told his disciples to exit from the inviolable state of being a pilgrim and prepare themselves for the return home. However, they hesitated and reacted with indifference. The Prophet returned to his tent and sought the advice of his wife, Umm Salamah. She was a wise woman much like Khadijah and understood why the people responded in such a way. She presented to him a solution which the Prophet acted on with success. This incident illustrates to us how the Prophet appreciated sound advice, regardless of whether it was from a man or woman. In this case he accepted it with complete humility. It also shows us that in certain circumstances the best way to lead is by executing ones own command in full view of others. Upon seeing the Prophet slaughter his camel and shave his head to exit from the state of ihram, the companions leapt to their feet and raced to make their sacrifices, falling over each other in their eagerness to obey. Tradition has it that just as they started to leave Hudaybiyah a sudden wind lifted the mound of black hair and carried it into Mecca as a sign that God had accepted their sacrifice.

3) Though many of the disciples were frustrated at the treaty and having to prematurely end their Umrah, they were also instantly elated when they heard the verses of victory that came down to the Prophet on their journey home. They realized that they could not foresee what was in their best interests. This teaches us that regardless of ones perception and foresight, obedience and subservience to a clear command of God or His Prophet should always take precedence. And so revelation was revealed to this effect [see Edicts & Rulings]. It is by implementing the guidance received through revelation that human beings achieve the loftiest goals of benefit and well-being. It is also the sole means of avoiding the greatest harm and evil.

4) The incident only served to increase the level of trust the companions had in the messenger.

5) After the signing of the treaty, the polytheists began to see the Muslims as a superpower of Arabia and they now predicted that they would soon acquire reign over all of Arabia. Hence the Prophet began writing letters to the kings, rulers and dignitaries of his era, inviting them to Islam. This shows us that the Prophetic call was entirely universal; for all ages.

6) The truce between the Muslims and the Quraysh had a particularly wonderful effect: It paved the way for unrestricted propagation of Islam; for in the two years that followed [628-630], more and more people had the opportunity to learn about the religion. And as a result many new tribes entered into the fold of Islam and became part of a growing vibrant Muslim community. The Prophet had initially gone to Hudaybiyah with 1400 followers but after only two years he would conquer Makkah with over 10,000 followers. Ibn Hisham records in his biography of the Prophet that almost as many people became Muslim in the following two years as had become Muslim in the previous nineteen years since Muhammad began his call. And so it was for this reason that the Companions would later relate the story of HUdaybiyyah to others by saying, “You consider the fath, victory, to be the fath of Makkah, but we consider it to be the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah.

7) One of the deeper meanings behind God naming the Treaty of Hudaybiyya the Fath, or victory, was because of the fact that it was the key which opened the door to unrestricted propagation of Islam. The truce, created an environment of security and quashed the air of hostility the Muslims previously faced when preaching Islam, and thereby allowed the Companions to approach neighbouring communities and tribes to discuss and debate with them openly about their religion. It was said that after the truce, no sensible person listened to the Call except that they accepted Islam and became Muslim. With huge numbers of people entering the fold Islam, the subservience and worship of God increased exponentially; essentially saving more people from the punishment of Hellfire and admitting them into the ranks of Paradise. And hereto lies the meaning of Victory, the true success- earning the Pleasure of God, salvation from an eternal punishment and admittance into Paradise.

Edicts & Rulings

The messenger of God left Hudaybiyah for Madinah and it was approximately halfway in the journey that the God revealed to him the Quranic chapter ‘The Victory’ (al-Fath) which disclosed the full significance of the event at Hudaybiyah. The chapter begins with luminous assurance that Muhammad had not been defeated, despite appearances to the contrary:

Truly We have granted you a clear victory, so that God may forgive you your earlier errors and any later ones and complete His blessing upon you, and guide you on a Straight Path. And so that God may help you with a mighty help…

God was not unaware of the feelings in the hearts of the believers as they perceived humiliation. At that moment did He send down peace and tranquility to strengthen their resolve and obedience to the Prophet:

It is He who sent down serenity into the hearts of the believers thereby increasing their faith with more faith- the legions of the heavens and the earth belong to God. God is All-Knowing, All-Wise

Though the Quraysh had stipulated in the treaty that if someone from their side came to Madinah to accept Islam they would have to be returned, Qur’anic revelation made it clear that this stipulation would only apply to men and so excluded women. The following verse from the chapter al-Mumtahana was revealed:

You who have faith! When women who have believed come to you as migrants, submit them to a test. God has best knowledge of their faith. If you know they are believers, do not return them to the disbelievers. They are not permissible for the disbelievers nor are the disbelievers permissible for them. Give the disbelievers whatever dowry they paid. And there is nothing wrong in your marrying them provided you pay them their due. Do not hold to any marriage ties with women who are disbelievers. Ask for what you paid and let them ask for what they paid. That is God’s judgement. God will judge between them. God is All-Knowing, All-Wise.

The Jews of Khaybar | 7AH

Narrative

Shortly after Hudaybiyah, the Prophet sent a message to Abysinnia, inviting the Muslims there to join him in Madinah to help with the struggle. Then he turned his attention to the north again. The Jewish settlement of Khaybar, which had played such a divisive role during the siege of Madinah, had been chastened by the fate of Banu Qurayzah but it was still stirring up hostility among the northern tribes. Muhammad wanted to make sure that they would never threaten the security of the Muslim community again, so not long after his return from Hudaybiyah he set off with a force of around fifteen-hundred men.

The believers were certain that that the near victory promised in the recent revelation– a victory which would moreover be rich in spoils– could be nothing other than the conquest of Khaybar. But this was not to be shared with all those who professed Islam. The revelation made it clear that those bedouin who had failed to respond to his summons to make the lesser pilgrimage had been largely prompted by mercenary motives. They were therefore not to be allowed to take part in the conquest of what was, without doubt, one of the richest communities in all Arabia.

This meant setting off with a smaller force, though it had the advantage that their plans could be kept secret until the last moment. When Quraysh heard of the news, they were jubilant, certain that the Muslims would be defeated. Surrounded, like Madinah, with plains of volcanic rock and defended by seven large fortresses, Khaybar was thought to be impregnable. The Prophet and his men reached Khaybar in three days with the Jews caught extremely by surprise. The Jews sent for help from the tribe of Ghatafan but the Muslim army prevented any such assistance from reaching Khaybar. Moreover, they were able to benefit from the internal strife within the Khabarite ranks as each tribe was autonomous and they found it difficult to unite against a common enemy.

The siege lasted a month with the Muslims systematically surrounding each fort in turn, bombarding it with arrows until it surrendered. And so each fort fell one after the other. Eventually the Jews approached Muhammad with an offer of peace when it was quite clear that they could not possibly win. The Prophet mercifully accepted their plea and permitted them to stay on their land whose title now passed to him by right of conquest. The terms of their surrender were that Muhammad would give the Jews of Khaybar military protection in return for half their date-crop. Thus, all the Jews of the Peninsula submitted to the authority of the Holy Prophet and the northern flank of Muslim power, namely the whole area north of Madinah, was now as secure as the south had become through the treaty of Hudaybiyah. When they returned to Madinah, the believers from Abyssinia had arrived and Muhammad embraced his cousin Ja’far, whom he had last seen as a young man of twenty-seven thirteen years earlier. He kissed him on the forehead, saying that he did not know which delighted him more, the victory of Khaybar or this reunion.

Lessons & Wisdoms

The truce with Makkah made it possible for the Prophet to focus on the dangers that lay to the north; the greatest of which was the hostile Jewish town of Khaybar. The situation was such that the Muslim could never know any fullness of peace while Khaybar remained as it was. Thus the Prophet decided upon military engagement and lead an army to Khaybar; after a series of fierce yet complicated encounters the Jews surrendered, ending the campaign with a peace treaty with the terms heavily in favor of the Muslims.

The following lessons can be gained from the incident:

1) The Jews of Khaybar were not known for showing hostility to the Muslims; even within the early Madinan years of migration when the Muslims were most vulnerable. However, tension and hostility began to rise soon after the migration of the Jews of Banu Nadheer into Khaybar. They had arrived there after being banished from Madinah. It was the Jews of Banu Nadheer who instilled within the community hatred and aggression towards the Muslims which ultimately led to the downfall of the whole community as they dragged them into a war with the Prophet. The Prophet, having made this observation, chose an appropriate time to attack Kayber, as after the treaty of Hudaybiyyah the Jews there could no longer rely on support from the Quraysh.

2) One of the most important achievements from the Khaybar expedition was that the Qurashites had now become isolated with the Jewish threat now neutralised. They had failed in securing an alliance of tribes and clans against the Muslims and now they themselves were facing isolation. This acted as a catalyst for further expansion of the Prophetic Call.

3) The Companions were motivated to attack Khaybar due to a promise God had made earlier in the Quranic chapter al-Fath. They understood from the revelation that victory was certain along with abundant riches and spoils of war. From God’s address to them, we learn that being driven by worldly success is not irreligious or impious so long as one resists sacrificing the ultimate success of the hereafter for a worldly gain. In this instance some of the disciples of the Prophet were motivated by the worldly gains and at the same time sought the greater success of the hereafter and pleasure of God. This is like the famous supplication the Prophet instructed his followers to make: “O our Lord, we ask thee for good in this world and good in the hereafter”- In essence Islam teaches one to live in this world and seek its bounty but to be weary of worldliness.

It should be noted that the purest of intentions is to seek out God’s pleasure and reward in the Hereafter and be oblivious to the worldly gains that can result from acts of worship and Godly deeds.

4) It was from the Prophet’s ingenuity that he allowed the Jews to remain working in their land as long as they kept to the contract by sharing half of the harvest with them. This deal provided an excellent incentive for the Jews and more importantly ensured they maintained their agricultural assets. Also, the Prophet desired that the Muslims busy themselves in spreading Islam and not tending to agriculture.

Edicts & Rulings

1) Ibn ‘Umar related that, on the day of Khaybar, the Prophet prohibited eating the meat of domesticated donkeys.
He also prohibited the meat of every wild beast that preyed on other animals as well as every bird that holds it prey with talons.

2) The Islamic business model known as Mudarabah was the type of transaction used by the Prophet in the peace treaty with the Jews of Khaybar. This partnership model is essentially equity from one party and labour by another with shared profits. The Prophet allowed the Jews to use the land of Khaybar, now owned by the Muslims, to grow crops and share the profits upon harvest.

3) The prohibition of al-Fadl usury was made after Khaybar. This type of interest is when a loan is given with a stipulation of increase upon return. The second type of interest is known as al-Nasi’a.

The Conquest of Makkah | Year 8AH

Narrative

In November 629, the situation in Arabia changed dramatically: the Quraysh broke the Treaty of Hudaybiyah. Aided and abetted by some Quraysh, the tribe of Bakr, one of their bedouin allies, made a surprise attack on the tribe of Khuza’ah, which had joined Muhammad’s confederacy. Khuza’ah promptly asked Muhammad for help and the Quraysh woke up to the fact that they had given Muhammad a perfect excuse to attack Makkah. In the meantime they became exceedingly troubled as to the possible consequences of what had happened, and so they sent Abu Sufyan to pacify the Prophet. The Prophet parried his request and maintained that he was in no way interested in making any new deal with the Makkans. After his departure, Muhammad began to plan a new campaign.

On the 10th of Ramadan, Muhammad set out at the head of the largest force ever to leave Madinah. Nearly all the men in the Muslim lands had volunteered to be part of the army and along the road their bedouin allies joined forces with the Muslims. However, only the closest of the disciples were informed of the plan to conquer Makkah as the Prophet wanted to keep the mission a secret for as long as possible.

In Makkah, the Quraishite leaders feared the worst. Abbas, Abu Sufyan, and Budayl, chief of Khuza’ah, all made their way under the cover of night to the Muslim camp. They were escorted to Muhammad who received them and prompted Abu Sufyan and Budayl to accept Islam. After some hesitation the two submitted and testified “There is no deity worthy of worship except God and Muhammad is His messenger”.  The conversion of Abu Sufyan did not inhibit the Prophet from his plan rather he ordered that Abu Sufyan be held at the gate of the valley in the outskirts of Makkah. The Prophet advanced with the army until he reached Dhu Tuwa with the city in sight. He stopped his forces and busied himself in prayer, supplication, and praising the Most High and and beseeching Him for victory.

The army was divided into four groups and they were commanded not to engage in any fighting or bloodshed except in critical situations. The armies entered and occupied the city without opposition, with the little resistance being dealt with by Khalid ibn al Walid.

The Prophet mounted his she camel, al Qaswa, and rode down towards the Ka’bah with his head lowered in humility to God. Upon reaching the Ka’bah he endeavoured, in full view of the Quraysh, to smash the idols scattered around it while he recited the Quranic verse:

The truth has come, and falsehood has vanished away; surely falsehood is certain to vanish

He  then circumambulated the sacred house on his camel and then alighted and called upon Uthman bin Talhah to open the Ka’bah for him. Inside he found pictures of Abraham and Ismael holding divination arrows which he promptly destroyed. Upon exiting the Ka’bah he stood at the door surrounded by his people and granted a general amnesty to all the people of Quraysh and Makkans, save ten people who were put on a black list. After his speech beside the Ka’bah, Muhammad withdrew to Mount Safa and invited the people of Makkah to swear fealty. One by one, the Quraysh filed up to the Prophet, who sat flanked by ‘Umar and Abu Bakr, and gave their pledges of allegiance.

Lessons & Wisdoms

The conquest of Makkah has many untold wisdoms and lessons to learn, of them:

1) The manner in which Umm Habeebah conducted herself with Abu Sufyan, her father, is indicative of the Islamic concept of loving and hating for the sake of God. Her father had been at war with the Muslims for many years and stood for all that which opposed Islam. When he visited her she invited him into the apartment but did not allow him to sit on the cushion of the Prophet stating that it not befitting for an idol worshipper to sit upon the cushion of the Prophet.

2) The story of the conversion of Abu Sufyan shows us the tremendous forgiving nature of the Prophet. Instead of calling for his execution, as in accordance with the rules of warfare, he invited him to Islam. Moreover, after he accepted Islam, he enticed him into working for the Islamic call by granting him a position of honor by singling out his house as a place for refuge. In this way the Prophet took into consideration his social status and used it in a positive manner.

3) The manner in which the Prophet entered Makkah, his once beloved home town, shows us the perfect display of humbleness- a balance between humility to God and not belittling oneself in front of the creation of God. He entered as a conquerer, mounted on his camel with his head bowed until his beard almost touched the saddle, in gratitude to God. In this way the Prophet was continually seeking to cultivate the spirituality of his followers, be it even on a military campaign.

4) The fact that the Prophet chose to have Usamah Ibn Zaid, the son of a freed slave and not of noble lineage, was symbolic display of the justice and equality Islam would now bring to Makkah. It is said that the lowering of the Prophet’s head was to show that the conquest was not intended to place the Prophet on a throne but rather raise the Command of God above all else.

5) The Prophet had the heart of a true visionary leader. He did not allow any for personal grudges to dictate his strategy and when he entered Makkah, home to his bitterest enemies who had spared no effort in trying to malign and abuse him, he did so whilst asking God to forgive them and without desiring bloodshed- for the ultimate goal was to guide mankind. Conquering Makkah in this way made the incident that much more monumental and unique.

6) The Prophet took all the necessary means to overtake the Quraysh with meticulous precision and then he relied upon God for a positive outcome. Though he was now in a position of strength he did not fail in making supplications to God, beseeching His help and aid in the campaign. This shows us that a Muslim should not become complacent with the blessing of God and that having plenty should not make one less reliant upon God.

7) The Prophet delivered a speech of universal pardon (with some exceptions), asking Bilal to pronounce the Athan and so he did by climbing on top of the Ka’bah. Such an act clearly demonstrates that Muslims do not believe that the Ka’bah building to be an idol that they prostrate to. Praying in it’s direction is a symbolic act of unity for the Muslim nation epitomising the essence of Islam- worshiping the One and only God.

The exceptions to the pardon clearly show us the limits of mercy beyond which is the realm of negligence and injustice.

Edicts & Rulings

The following rulings were established through the Prophetic tradition during this year:

1) The Permissibility of breaking the fast of Ramadan due to travel, as the Prophet broke his own fast at a location close to Makkah. The Companion J√¢bir relates in Sah√Æh Muslim, “We had gone forth with the Prophet (peace be upon him) to Mecca in the year of its conquest. The Prophet (peace be upon him) fasted until he arrived at the valley of Kura. Then he called for water, raised it up, and then broke his fast. He then received word that some of his Companions had completed their fasts, so he said: “They are the disobedient ones. They are the disobedient ones.”

2) A concession was granted of shortening the prayers due to travel. It was reported that the Prophet shortened his prayers for the during of his nineteen days stay during in Makkah, as reported by Bukhari in his Saheeh.
3) The prohibition of Mu’tah type of marriage, a pre-determined period of wedlock, was made during the conquest of Makkah.

4) The permissibility to enter Makkah without Ihram if one who does not intend to perform Umrah or Hajj.

5) This year the Prophet instructed Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas that he could leave a maximum of a third of his wealth in charity as part of his will.

6) The Prophet permitted Abu Quhafah, Abu Bakr’s father, to dye his white hair any colour besides pure black.

The Campaign of Tabuk | Year 9AH

Narrative

 

A short while after the conquest of Makkah growing rumours began to spread in Madinah that Heraclius had advanced a year’s salary to his army in view of a lengthy campaign against Madinah. However, the Prophet was also expecting his armies to open up Syria to Islam and so he too set about mustering by far the largest and best equipped army which he had led.

This time there was no attempt at secrecy with Muhammad ordering even the Makkans and the allied tribes to send at once to Madinah all their available armed and mounted men for the Syrian campaign.

The season was always a hot one, but that year there was a drought and the heat was more oppressive than usual. These were testing times for the believers with many of the hypocrites approaching the Prophet with various excuses to stay behind. There were however three men of good faith, Ka’b ibn Malik and two other, who did not deliberately decide to remain home, nor did they proffer excuses; but it seemed to them so undesirable to leave Madinah with the rest of the army that they put off preparations until the last minute when it dawned on them that it was too late.

The army arrived at al Hijr where the rock-hewn remains of Thamud stood, and the Prophet commanded the army to dismount for watering and a brief rest. Then, when the army reached the spring of Tabuk they encamped for twenty days. It was evident that the rumours of danger from the Byzantines had been unfounded; perhaps the news of the Muslim army’s approach had already reached the Byzantines who had withdrawn to the safety of their vicinity. The Prophet chose not to pursue the Byzantines, but instead invited all of the tribes to join in allegiance to the Muslims.

Before the Muslim army was to return, the Prophet intended to put to a stop any future attack, and so, he sent Khalid ibn al Walid with five hundred cavalrymen to deal with Ukaydir, the Christian king of Dumah who was suspected of preparing to launch an attack as soon as the Byzantine forces could return. The rest of the army was commanded to return to Madinah.

Khalid hurried to Dumah and, discovering that the king was out on a hunting trip with his brother, sought to attack them decisively, and killed Hassan, the king’s brother, while capturing Ukaydir. However, Khalid was unable to penetrate the city, but by threatening to kill Ukaydir the city yielded. After seizing two thousand camels, eight hundred goats, four hundred loads of grain, and four hundred coats of arms, Khalid brought them, together with his captive, King Ukaydir, to Madinah. In Madinah Ukaydir was offered Islam to which he converted. Upon his submission to God, he was reinstated as the king of his people and an ally of the Prophet. Upon the army’s return, those who failed to enlist came forth to offer their excuses. Many a Hypocrite presented his excuse; the Prophet listened and let them go free pending God’s final judgment. However, there were three believers who truthfully stated their reasons; Ka’b ibn Malik, Murarah, and Hilal. The Muslims were ordered to boycott them for fifty days after which they were forgiven by divine decree and reintegrated within the community to the joy of the Muslims.

 

Lessons & Wisdoms

 

After the recent conquest of Makkah the Prophet was certain that God would open up Syria to his armies; and whether because he thought the time had come or whether because he wished to give his troops some training for the inevitable northern campaign, he now announced an expedition against the Byzantines, and set about mustering by far the largest and best equipped army which he had led.

The Quran discusses the Battle of Tabuk in more detail than any other conflict of the prophet’s life. In many respects the battle was quiet unique to any other. The season was always a hot one, but that year there was a drought and the heat was more oppressive than usual. It was also the time when much ripe fruit was to be eaten, so that there were two reasons for not wanting to take part in the expedition; and a third reason was the formidable reputation of the imperial army. The Quranic narrative concerning the battle contains the following themes:

1. The great error on the part of those who stayed behind from the expedition. God not only obliged the Muslim community to participate in the battle but also reproached those who did not. Even the prophet was warned of being overly forgiving to those who had stayed behind.

2. God spoke of the difficult nature of the battle and the severe hardship it entailed calling the battle “The time of Distress”.

3. God reproached the hypocrites for mocking those who gave seemingly little in charity. In the eyes of God what is great is not the amount but rather the sincerity and giving according to ones means.

4. Part of the revelation spoke of the “seven weepers’ – five needy Helpers and two bedouins – whom the prophet turned reluctantly away because he was not able to provide military equipment to them and so they parted with tears filling theirs eyes.

5. Though no fighting actually took place the Romans perception of the Arabs had now changed drastically. They were previously looked upon as insignificant and unworthy of a challenge. Conversely the Arabs had always feared the Romans as a mighty superpower. But all that changed with the battle of Tabook, when Roman forces fled from the Muslim army, the Arabs began to realize that it would be the Muslims that would soon defeat them. As a result many of the christian tribes around the Tabook area broke off their alliances with the Romans and formed treaties with the Muslims.

6. The strategy of the prophet in seeking out a non-Arab military target reinforces the notion of the universality of his message- The goal of the prophet and his followers is to spread Islam to the furthest parts of the world.

The heart-rending story of Ka’b Ibn Malik was narrated by none other than himself in a lengthy, though wholly eloquent narrative. It is full of great wisdoms and lessons:

1. The greatest lesson Ka’b learnt was mentioned at the end of his narration, “By God, after He guided me to Islam, He never bestowed on me a blessing as immense as guiding me to be truthful to the messenger; for by not lying, I was saved from being destroyed…”. He learnt that the only path to safety in this life and the next was through honesty; regardless of the possible dire consequences. For this reason it makes a telling tale for educating children.

2. In accepting the excuses of the hypocrites, although they were nothing but lies, the prophet taught us to only judge by what is visible to us on the outside. As for what is in the hearts, Allah is the only Judge. The rulings of this life are based on what appears to us, as for the reward or punishment of the hereafter, it is the result of what lies in the hearts.

3. The powerful effect a publicly orchestrated boycott has in reforming individuals. The prophet would employ every allowable means to help cultivate and reform his society, even if it meant temporarily severing ties of kinship. It should be dully noted that large scale boycotting of this nature can only be employed in communities with similar grounding in Islam as that of the Muslim community in Madinah at the time of the prophet.

4. The joyful manner in which the Muslims received their three brethren illustrates the difficulty and discomfort they endured in having to censure their fellow companions. Yet they all obeyed the prophetic command, even the wife of Ka’b ibn Malik and his dearest friend Abu Qataadah would show animosity towards him. It was the strong ties of brotherhood, a faith-based bond, upon which the fabric of society was made.

5. Ka’b’s reaction upon receiving the letter from the Christian king Gassaan bears testimony to his faith and loyalty to the prophet.

The day a believer receives glad tidings of forgiveness from God is a day of immense joy; for Ka’b it was the best day of his life and he fell into prostration when he first heard it. The entire community participated in congratulating ‘The Three’, because such a blessing from God outweighs any other worldly blessing and the disciples of the prophet understood this best. The prophet’s statement to Ka’b, “Rejoice for this is the best day you have had since the day your mother gave birth to you” indicates that it was even better than the day on which he converted to Islam.

We learn from the story three ways in which a Muslim can offer thanks to God upon receiving a favour from Him.

 

1) To perform the prostration of thankfulness (which can also be done when one is saved from a calamity 2) Rewarding the bearer of glad tidings, as Ka’b gave him his set of clothes

3) To give money in charity.

 

Edicts & Ruling

In the year 630, the ninth year of the Islamic calendar, Hajj was made obligatory upon the muslims.

The prophet ordered that no polytheist would ever enter Makkah again, nor could a male or female undress and circumambulate the Ka’bah.

In this year there was an incident in which the prophet prayed behind ‘Abdur Rahman bin ‘Awf as a way of honoring him. The scholars derive from this the permissibility of a more qualified person opting to be led by one of a lesser standing for a certain reason.

The prophet sent out his first ever zakat collectors in this year. The following verse was revealed in the Quranic chapter al-Hujarat relating to an incident that took place between one of the collectors and the tribe of banu al-mustaliq:

You who have faith! if a deviator brings you a report, scrutinize it carefully in case you attack people in ignorance and so come to greatly regret what you have done.

The ‘Problematic Age’ of Aisha ra

The age of Aisha, daughter of Abu Bakr, when she married the Prophet Muhammad is something that has only recently become controversial. The traditional account is that the marriage was consummated when she was nine years old, which naturally appears strange, if not uncomfortable, to many in a modern, western context. Many have gone so far as to stir up despicable sexual misconduct charges against the Prophet, with even some recent Muslims (of varying levels of intellectuality, motivations and scholarly qualifications) revisiting the sources and reinterpreting the traditionally adduced narrations, to suggest that Aisha may actually have been older, even though there are four Ahadith in al-Bukhari and three in Muslim clearly stating that Aisha reached puberty at nine years old when her marriage was subsequently consummated with the Prophet.

The first most important point to note is that the controversy is a relatively recent one. The Prophet’s own contemporaries took no issue with the Prophet’s marriage to Aisha; it was not problematic in their eyes as puberty indicated maturity and maturity meant readiness for marriage. This includes both his disbeliever antagonists and his believing followers. Certainly, his antagonists were ever eager to discredit him, and the Qur’an itself records details of this. They accused him of being a sorcerer, a madman or a soothsayer. They objected to his marriage to Zaynab, remonstrating that (according to pre-Islamic Arab culture) a man may not marry the divorcee of his adopted son just as he may not marry the divorcee of his biological son. Yet they did not attempt to discredit him on the basis of his marrying a girl much younger than him. Neither in the Qur’an nor in any historical source is there any mention of such an objection having been raised, despite the fact that these sources do mention numerous other strategies used by the Prophet’s opponents.

The reaction of Muhammad’s hostile contemporaries implies that it was acceptable, in 7th century Arab culture, for older men to marry younger girls (even as young as 9), and moreover that it was a practiced norm of the society at that time. Instead of sexual promiscuity such as ‘dating’, honorable families instead chose the more respectable avenue of marrying their children off at a young age.

The general character of the Prophet, and his marital history, speaks clearly against claims of sexual misconduct. His first marriage, at age 25, was to a widowed woman (Khadijah) who was 15 years his senior, and he remained in a happy and solid monogamous marriage to her for a quarter-century; the marriage ending only with Khadijah’s death, aged 65. It was only subsequent to her passing away, and often under specific circumstances that he married other women; with all of them being either widows or divorcees. Aisha was the third wife of the Prophet and the only virgin that he ever married.

Muhammad’s marriage to Aisha must be read in context to early Arab culture, and to avoid viewing the veritable tapestry of human culture, across space and time, through the colored lenses of contemporary, western culture. A slight familiarity with anthropology is sufficient to convince one that there has been, and still is, remarkable variety in human cultural practices and norms. For instance the Catholic Encyclopedia observes about the Virgin Mary that, “it is possible that Mary gave birth to her Son when she was about thirteen or fourteen years of age.” In Shakespeare’s classic play Romeo and Juliet, Juliet was only thirteen, yet her mother tells her that “ladies of esteem” younger than her are already mothers. According to the Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society, both Christian Canon law and European civil law considered seven years as the age of consent, but judges in medieval England would approve marriages based on mutual consent at ages even lower than 7. As recently as the nineteenth century, ages of consent of 13 to 14 were common in Western countries.

To conclude, Aisha’s biography attests to the fact that she had a wholesome upbringing and then blossomed to become a woman of high intellectual calibre, a poetess and a medical advisor. She had a sharp inquisitive mind and at times, as the Prophetic narrations show, would often daringly question the Noble Messenger.

She is one of the fore-ranking specialists in narrating from the Prophet.  She was also a commentator on the Qur’an and knowledgeable in Islamic law. Much of this was due to her early marriage to Muhammad, which made her an eye witness to the personal details of his life. She became a beacon of knowledge for the succeeding generations and a role model for women for all times.