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Discover Islam


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In the fifth year of Hijra, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, had had a dream or a vision while awake that they would enter the Holy Mosque of Ka’ba in safety with their heads shaven or trimmed and without fear. As will be explained later in this book, they had not been allowed to enter Makka and made a treaty with the Quraysh at Hudaybiya, the conditions of which had, at first, appeared unpalatable to the Muslims. However, the verses revealed after the treaty described Hudaybiya as a clear victory.

The two years following the Treaty of Hudaybiya proved that Treaty to really be a victory. Some leading figures of the Quraysh such as Khalid ibn Walid and ‘Amr ibn al-‘As became Muslims and Islam had the opportunity to spread across Arabia. The Jewish conspiracy was put to an end and through the letters sent to neighbouring kings, Islam crossed the borders of Arabia into other lands in four directions.

It was two years after the treaty of Hudaybiya that Banu Bakr, allied to the Quraysh, attacked Banu Khuda’a, allied to the Muslims, and killed some among them. This meant the end of the truce between the Muslims and the Quraysh. No longer able to resist the Muslims, Abu Sufyan, the leader of the Quraysh, came to Madina to renew the treaty but was not admitted by God’s Messenger, upon be peace and blessings.1

God’s Messenger was making preparations for war. As always, he was keeping the affair quite secret and no one, including his wives and closest friends such as Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, knew where the campaign would be. When Abu Bakr asked his daughter ‘A’isha, the wife of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, where the Messenger intended to march, ‘A’isha, answered: ‘Father, I do not know either where he will go’.2 However, someone from the Emigrants, named Khatib ibn Abi Balta‘a, guessed the intention of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace, and sent a letter to the Quraysh, informing them of the preparations of the Messenger to come against them. Revelation about that came to the Messenger, who ordered ‘Ali and Zubayr to go and take the letter from the woman to whom Khatib had entrusted it. ‘Ali and Zubayr carried out the Prophet’s order successfully.3

God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, left Madina with 10,000 men. Two years before, he had been able to gather only 1,600 men when he had set out for a minor pilgrimage, which concluded in the signing of the peace treaty of Hudaybiya. The peaceful atmosphere brought about by this treaty enabled many to re-consider Islam and accept it.

The Companions did not know of the destination of the campaign until they were ordered to change their direction toward Makka. When they approached this holy city, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, ordered that each member of the army should light a fire. The Makkans used, when they camped somewhere while journeying in the desert, to light a fire for every tent,4 so they estimated the Muslim army to consist of about 30,000 men. They had been left nothing to do other than surrender. Abu Sufyan, who had been invited by God’s Messenger to see the Muslim army, also advised the Makkans to surrender without offering any resistance.

God’s Messenger, upon him be peace, did not desire any bloodshed. He divided his army into six columns, each of which was to enter Makka through a different route. He ordered the commanders to avoid bloodshed unless they were attacked. In order to prevent bloodshed and secure a peaceful conquest, he also made this announcement: Those who shelter in the Ka’ba are safe; those who shelter in the house of Abu Sufyan are safe, and those who remain confined to their houses are also safe.5

Being a Prophet of absolute mercy, one who came to secure the happiness of mankind both in this world and the next, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, entered Makka, bowing on the back of his mule, as a victorious conqueror. He displayed no hint of self-pride nor thought of either vengeance or retaliation. He proceeded toward the Ka’ba in utmost modesty and absolute gratitude to God, who had made him victorious in his sacred mission. He stopped at the Ka’ba and asked those who assembled there: How do you expect me to treat you? ‘You are a noble man, the son of a noble man’, they answered. God’s Messenger concluded:

This day no reproach shall be on you. God will forgive you; He is the Most Merciful of the Merciful. You can go away!6

This marked the end of polytheism in Makka. While he was toppling down the idols at the Ka’ba one after the other, he recited: Say: ‘Truth has come and falsehood has disappeared. Indeed falsehood is subject to disappearance’.7 And, almost all of the Makkans, who had been the enemies of Islam until one day before, acquired the honor of becoming Companions to God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings.

The Battle of Hunayn

The Arab tribes were awaiting the settlement of the conflict between the Quraysh and the Muslims, before accepting Islam, saying: ‘If Muhammad prevails over his people, he would indeed be a Prophet.’ Consequently, when that was accomplished, they began to enter Islam in throngs. This shocked the pagan idolaters, who organized a great gathering near Ta’if to concert plans for attacking God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. The Hawazin and the Thaqif tribes, who were famous for courage and throwing arrows, took the lead and prepared a great expedition for Makka. Informed of their movements through ‘Adbullah ibn Hadrad, whom he had sent to them, God’s Messenger left Makka with 12,000 Muslims, among whom there was a confident enthusiasm due to the new conversions numbering 2,000. In order to protect Makka from an attack and consolidate the belief of new Muslims by healing their wounded feelings, God’s Messenger did not want to meet the enemy within the confines of Makka.

The battle was joined at Hunayn, a valley between Makka and Ta’if. The new converts in the Muslim ranks had more enthusiasm than wisdom, more a spirit of elation than of faith and confidence in the righteousness of their cause. The enemy had the advantage of knowing the ground thoroughly. They laid an ambush in which the advance guard of the Muslim forces was caught or intentionally pushed by God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, who might have planned to draw the enemy in under the guise of retreat. However, the retreat was in confusion, under a shower of enemy arrows. The Prophet, as ever, was calm in his faith and wisdom in that hour of danger and spurred his horse forward. His uncle ‘Abbas was on his right and Fadl, the son of ‘Abbas, on his left. While Abu Sufyan ibn al-Harith was trying to stop him, he was crying: Now war has been kindled. I am the Prophet, that is no lie. I am the descendant of ‘Abd al-Muttalib.8

‘Abbas called out at the top of his voice: ‘Companions who made the pledge of allegiance under the acacia tree!’9 Thereupon, from all sides the Companions responded ‘Labbayk’ (at your service!), and rallied to the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings. The enemy, who had pushed themselves into the center of the Muslim army, were surrounded from all sides. The courage, wisdom and steadfastness of God’s Messenger changed a seeming defeat into a decisive victory. It was by God’s help that the Muslims won the day. They completed the victory with an energetic pursuit of the enemies, capturing their camps, their flocks and herds, and their families, whom they had boastfully brought with them in expectation of an easy victory.

The routed enemy took refuge in Ta’if. The Muslim victory persuaded the desert tribes to accept Islam and shortly thereafter the rebel tribes and Ta’if also surrendered and entered Islam.

The Expedition to Tabuk

The outcome of the encounter between the Muslims and Byzantines at Mu’ta had came as a shock to the whole of Arabia and the Middle East that the Romans failed to gain the upper hand even though they had outnumbered the Muslims by thirty-three to one. Ultimately, thousands of people from the semi-independent Arab tribes living in Syria and its adjoining areas converted to Islam. To avenge himself for the Battle of Mu’ta and prevent the advance of Islam, Caesar (the Emperor of the Byzantines) ordered military preparations to invade Arabia. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, who always kept himself abreast of all developments which had any bearing on his mission, promptly decided to challenge the Byzantine army on the battlefield. Any show of weakness on the part of Muslims might have given a fresh release to the dying forces of Arabian Jahiliya which had received a crushing blow at Hunayn, and also encouraged the hypocrites in and around Madina to cause serious damage to Islam from within. For the hypocrites were in touch with the Ghassanid Christian prince and with Caesar (the Byzantine Emperor) himself and had even built a mosque - the Mosque of Dirar (Dissension) - in the vicinity of Madina which served as their operational base.

Realizing the gravity of the situation, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, publicly appealed to the Muslims to prepare for war and, as against his usual practice, declared that the Romans were his target.

It was in mid-summer. The scorching heat of the season was at its peak, the harvest season had just arrived, and there was a shortage of material resources needed to wage a war. What was more, the enemy was one of the two super powers of the time. Despite all, the Companions responded ardently to the Prophet’s call and commenced their war preparations, each Muslim contributing much more than his financial means warranted. Huge amounts of money were donated by the wealthy Companions such as ‘Uthman and ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn al-‘Awf,10 and those who could not be included in the Muslim army because of the acute paucity of cavalry and other war provisions wept bitterly, and lamented their exclusion so pathetically that God’s Messenger was moved and God praised them in the verse He revealed (al-Tawbah, 9.92). The occasion, in fact, served as a touchstone for distinguishing the sincere from the insincere, the true men of faith from the hypocrites.

In the month of Rajab 9 A.H./631 C.E. God’s Messenger, along with 30,000 soldiers, left Madina and marched as far as Tabuk, quite close to what was then Byzantine territory in the province of Syria. The Roman Emperor, who had indeed begun amassing a huge army, had to abandon the idea of an encounter with God’s Messenger and withdrew his army because the Messenger arrived ahead of the anticipated time and well before the planned concentration of troops had been completed.11

The Messenger stayed in Tabuk for 20 days and forced several buffer states under the hegemony of the Byzantine Empire to pay the poll tax and live under his rule, and many Christian tribes chose Islam willingly.12 This bloodless victory also enabled the Muslims to consolidate their position before launching a prolonged conflict with the Romans and altogether shattered the power of both unbelievers and the hypocrites in Arabia.

1. I. Hisham, 4.31.
2. I. Hisham, 4.39.
3. I. Hisham, 4.41.
4. I. Kathir, al-Bidaya, 4.330; I. Hisham, 6.41-5.
5. I. Kathir, ibid., 4.331-2.
6. I. Sa‘d, 2.142; I. Hisham, 4.55; Tabari, 3.120; Balazuri, Futuh al-Buldan, 1.47.
7. Bukhari, 5.93; Muslim, 3.1408; I. Hisham, 4.59; I. Sa‘d, 2.136.
8. Bukhari, “Jihad,” 52; Muslim, “Jihad,” 78.
9. I. Kathir, 4.373.
10. Bukhari, “Tafsir,” 18; I. Hisham, 4.161; Tabari, Tarikh, 3.143; “Tafsir,” 10.161.
11. I. Sa‘d, 2.165-8; Tabari, Tarikh, 3.100-11.
12. I. Kathir, al-Bidaya, 5.13.

Recommended Reading:
A general evaluation of the military achievements of God's messenger

Last Updated on October 09, 2000

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