Historical Background

The Egyptian Society for Spiritual and Cultural Research

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  This Section points to some events and/or some verses of the Holy Qur’an and prophetic Hadiths associated with them, in an attempt to more clarify the approach presented along the site. To mention all events and the entire holy sayings connected with them is beyond the target of that appendix. Rather, few examples are given inviting a seeker for truth to read the history of the Islamic Revelation, handled in hundreds of books, with deep insight and not to be lost in the ocean of seemingly contradictory episodes scattered here and there. There is a clear and well-defined line that put all events in a mosaic demonstrating the consistency of the way The Prophet was presenting and living the Islamic Call.
 

 

1.

The Islamic Call should be
free from any mundane aspirations

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The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) spelled out that principle in all his actions, in the very beginning and at the end, when he lacked all political and economic power and when he was a ruler of a state that was recognized by the whole of Arabia. His guidance to his followers was to keep that purity and not to mix up their struggle for spreading the word of truth with any mundane ambitions.



The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
stuck to moral means for spreading the word of truth

 

On seeing the number of Muslims increasing in Macca, and The Prophet (PBUH) gaining the support of his uncle Hamza, one of the most honorable characters, masters of Quraish got so alert, and tried to evacuate the Islamic call by suggesting to The Prophet what they thought a very strong offer. They said to him, “if the aim of all what you are coming up with is to gain much money, we shall gather enough and give it to you so that you will be the richest among us. If you are after tribal pride, we shall bestow upon you due esteem, and will never make a decision without your permission. If you seek being a king, we shall make you our king. If what happens to you is a kind of an obsessive vision that you cannot stop by yourself, we shall seek your cure saving no money for it until you are fully recovered.” The Prophet’s reaction was as such, “I am no one of what you are saying. What I am coming up with does not imply search for your money, tribal honor, or gaining authority over you. It is only that God sent me among you as His messenger. He revealed to me a Book, and commanded me to be a carrier of good tidings and a Warner. I have been conveying to you the messages of my Lord, and advising you (to the righteous path). If you accept what I have conveyed to you, it will be your reward in this life and in the coming one. If you repulsed it, I shall patiently submit to Allah’s determination until He judges between me and you.”

At the end of the dialogue they said, “We shall never let it go after all what you have done to us. We shall definitely either destroy you, or else you would destroy us”. (Ibn Hesham, P.1, pp. 268, 269).

The same purity is traced in an episode that took place following the death of the Prophet’s wife Khadiga and his uncle Abu Talib who were his great supporters since the start of the Revelation. It is well known that in the tribal life persons had to be under the protection of masters of a tribe or else they were subject to any aggression from a rival tribe with no way for protection since there were no laws except what masters of tribes decide. Thus, The Prophet (PBUH) searched for protection from some Arab tribes so that he might avoid Quraish’s successive aggressions against him and Muslims. Almost all the tribes of Macca resented him because they had no interest in arousing enmity with Quraish. However, a member of Bani Amer tribe named Baihara bin Feras could anticipate that The Prophet (PBUH) was gaining more and more power, and thought that in alliance with him there would be a possibility that his tribe Bani Amer would be reaching much more power over all the Arabs. So, Baihara told The Prophet (PBUH) that his tribe was ready to support him on condition that they would succeed him in authority if, with their support, he became a "king". The Prophet (PBUH) refused, and went on for searching for the support of other tribes, which might listen to the Call, believe it and back him. (Ibn Hesham, P. 2, p. 26)



The Path of Allah
is an inner struggle for Purification

 

Stressing the meaning of struggle Gihad as a human’s sincere and persistent attempts to be purified from the taints of the lower self, The Prophet (PBUH) guided his followers to stick to that high moral standard during the time they had no choice but to go into physical fights against aggressors. He clarified that to be on the Path of Allah, means that a Muslim is never ever preoccupied with what s/he will get out from any action s/he performs. Her/his prime and final preoccupation should be to practice devotion to Allah when performing it. Several Hadiths of The Prophet (PBUH) show that whenever a fighter is after any egoistic desires it is a sound sign that he is not on the Path of Allah. One of the Prophet's companions asked him, "some fighters might be after profiting from the spoils of war, gaining fame or a high status. Which of those is on the Path of Allah? The Prophet said, "only the one who fought for making the word of Allah most high."
Narrated by the five great scholars of Hadith

In another Hadith another man asked The Prophet (PBUH) , "if some one joined a fight for the sake of profiting from the spoils of war or to gain fame, what would he attain (spiritually)? The Prophet said, "just nothing". The man repeated the question three times and The Prophet gave the same answer, "he would gain nothing because God accepts deeds only when they were motivated by purity and when one wants nothing but Allah's Face".
Narrated by Al Nisa'i and Abu Dawoud

Also The Prophet (PBUH) clarified that being a martyr is more an inner spiritual state than going into a physical fight. He said, he who prayed to God sincerely for attaining martyrdom (dying in the Path to Allah), God takes him up to the status of martyrs, even if he died in his bed.
Narrated by the five great scholars of Hadith

 

 

2.

A Muslim
never initiates an aggression

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History of the Islamic Revelation during the life of The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) shows it clearly that the opponent parties, not The Prophet (PBUH) , always initiated wars.



Quraish and other Arab tribes in Macca
chose hostility to The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

 

As soon as masters of Quraish were sure that The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was not to be tempted by money or tribal power to stop spreading the divine message he was charged with, they announced openly their enmity to him and his followers. They initiated fighting them by announcing that they aimed at assassinating The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) (Ibn Sa’d, P. 1, p, 188). They practiced pressures on other tribes by severing their relation with them if they allowed Muhammad (PBUH) or any of his followers to their homes. They also prevented them from receiving any goods from Macca or outside in an attempt to weaken their economic status and it reached a state of leading them to starvation. In the mean time they imposed physical torture to those who followed Muhammad (PBUH) . (Ibn Sa’d, P. 1, pp. 193, 194; Ibn Hesham, P. 1, pp. 287, 288, 317). That siege was imposed not only on Muslims but also on all members of Bani Hashem, (the family of The Prophet (PBUH) ) in an attempt from Quraish to force them submit Muhammad (PBUH) to them to kill him (A Selection of the Holy Qur’an Exegeses, pp. 43, 44). When a number of Muslims, about one hundred, immigrated to Ethiopia to escape the oppression practiced upon them, Quraish sent two envoys to the Negus of Ethiopia with the intention of convincing him to send them back to receive expected torture (Ibn Hesham, P. 1, p. 303). Muslims were commanded by the Divine to be patient, and to avoid the non-believers. God told them, forgive and overlook, till Allah accomplisheth His purpose: for Allah hath power over all things” (HQ: 2: 109).

When The Prophet (PBUH) wanted to immigrate to Yathrib, the town that was open to the Islamic Call, and leave Macca where the Call is rejected, heads of Quraish made a plot to assassinate him. When they failed, and he managed to quit Macca, they followed him along the road but, again, they failed. There was such a great support from the Divine until The Prophet reached Yathrib.

After a period of time, Muslims were given the permission to defend themselves against those who initiated enmity with them. The first verse that was revealed to allow Muslims to fight gives the reason:

To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight), because they are wronged; and verily, Allah is Most Powerful for their aid;(HQ: 22: 39)

The verse that follows details the kind of oppression and injustice that they were exposed to:

(They are) those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right, (for no cause) except that they say, "Our Lord is Allah
(HQ: 22: 40).

The second part of the verse shows another kind of injustice that oppressors were liable to practice:

"..there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure. (HQ: 22: 40).

These two verses give the general reasons for the fight: "Muslims were wronged and oppressed; and injustice against them was overwhelming".

The well to do and authoritative in Macca did not want the slaves to be liberated or given their rights. They did not want the poor to ask for fair rewarding for their work. Even when they wanted to immigrate, they tried to prevent them. (Heikal: p. 220).

It is also noticed that in every verse that contains a commandment for Muslims to go into fight, the objective is explicitly mentioned, and the limit is clarified:

And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevails justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere; but if they cease, verily Allah doth see all that they do (HQ: 8: 39)

Nor will they cease fighting you until they turn you back from your faith if they can. (HQ: 2: 217)

It is safely concluded that fights were never aiming at imposing the faith in Islam on others, but rather for stopping an aggression. A clear commandment was given: once aggression and oppression were over, Muslims should stop the fight.



Quraish extended its war against Muslims
following their immigration to Madina

 

The Prophet Muhammad's enemies in Quraish thought of putting some kind of economic pressures in order to weaken Muslims’ position in Madina, then attack them there. In order to do that, they collaborated with some Bedouins' gangs who were located near Madina to attack the pastures in the city, and to stand in the way of trade that was coming from Al Sham to Arabia and vise versa or by attacking the pastures in Madina and steel the sheep. Quraish used to give those Bedouins tributes in order to have full control over the route of the trade. The Prophet (PBUH) tried to neutralize the situation of those gangs and avoid their attacks. He succeeded in that direction, and Muslims could also control the route of the trade (Mo'nes pp 137-139). The Muslim immigrants, who left their homes and fortunes behind when they were enforced to leave Macca to Madina, had at last the chance to take part of their fortunes and be compensated for what they had left behind in Macca. Being in control of the trade route, the Muslim immigrants went there while the commercial troops of Abu Sufian, head of Quraish were returning to Macca. Muslims wanted to stop them and declare their rights; they did not want to enter into fights, being committed to strict commandments from The Prophet (PBUH) never to initiate a war. Masters of Quraish did not like such an arrangement and decided to fight Muhammad (PBUH) and his followers and destroy that newly born power. They prepared a troop of one thousand soldiers and the number of Muslims who could fight was a little bit more than 300 hundred. Knowing about that preparation, Muslims had no choice but to defend themselves. Both troops met near a well called Badr. Unexpectedly, Muslims conquered the troops of Quraish. They returned to Madina with a miraculous victory. It all happened after the second year of migration al-hijra. The defeat made Quraish's tribes determined to conquer Muhammad (PBUH) and his followers as soon as possible. Following their defeat in Badr, and before departing towards Macca, their head told the Prophet, “O Muhammad, war is to be going on. See you next year in Ohud” (A Selection of the Holy Qur’an Exegeses, pp. 43, 44).

It was Quraish, hence who also initiated Ohud, the second battle, the following year when troops of 3000 went out from Macca to invade Muslims in Madina. So were second Badr and Al Sowaiq. Al Ahzab battle (in the fifth year of al Hijra) was again initiated by Quraish allied with Ghatafan (another Arab tribe), the Jews and some Muslim "hypocrites". They went in ten thousand troops to invade Madina and Muslims were only 3000. However, they could not achieve their goal and again were defeated.



The Prophet (PBUH)
accepted a peace treaty with Quraish

 

Now that Muslims were aware of how dear to them was the Holy Shrine of Ka’ba, they were longing for going to Macca to perform a small pilgrimage Omra. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) sent an envoy to Quraish, asking them to allow some of the Muslims to go to Macca assuring its masters that Muslims had no intention to cause any troubles or to attack any one and that because they did not want to shed blood in the holy city, they will come unarmed. Quraish's masters did not believe Muhammad (PBUH) , and instead of just turning him down by refusing his quest, they were provoked and tried once more to attack him. That was the battle of Al Houdaibyi, which is a name of a place where the fight occurred. In spite of the fact that The Prophet achieved great victory in that battle, he suggested signing a ten-year peace truce with Quraish, and accepted the conditions that were oppressive to Muslims because he would not evacuate any chance for spreading peace, and avoiding more blood shed. Those conditions were: First, Muslims should go back to Madina without performing Omra (small pilgrimage) that year. However, they could come the following year to perform their pilgrimage, and Quraish then would leave Macca for them for three days. Second, fights were to stop for ten years, and the two parties were committed not to make any act of treason or robbery. Third, if anyone emigrated from Macca to Madina, Muhammad should send him back to Macca; while if anyone who lived in Madina decided to abandon Islam and go back to Macca, Muhammad should not stop him. Fourth, each of the Arabia’s tribes should choose to be under the protection of either Muhammad (PBUH) or Quraish. And, accordingly it should abide by the commitment of the party it chose (Abu Zahra, pp. 749-751).

The Prophet (PBUH) was fully committed to the signed treaty. When Abu Baseer, an inhabitant of Macca converted to Islam, and managed to escape to Madina professing his faith in front of The Prophet (PBUH) , Quraish sent two envoys to bring him back. The Prophet (PBUH) agreed to send him back telling him, “O Abu Baseer, we have given those people the promise you know, and according to our religion we should not be treacherous. Be sure that Allah will prepare for you and all the weak a way out.” Abu Baseer said, “Messenger of God, would you give me back to those non believers who will force me to quit my faith!” Again The Prophet (PBUH) responded, “go ahead Abu Baseer, God Almighty will prepare for you and the other oppressed a way out.” However, Abu Baseer and some others who converted to Islam but were sent back to Macca according to orders from The Prophet (PBUH) , announced their rejections to Quraish and caused it many problems. So Quraish asked The Prophet (PBUH) to take them back and announced from its side the deletion of the item in the Hudaibya treaty that committed The Prophet (PBUH) to send back to Macca anyone who would immigrate to Madina. (Ibn Hesham, P. 3, pp. 158-169. Also, Abu Zahra, 760-762).



Opening Macca
was a spread of peace

 

Some events followed the signing of Al Hudaibya treaty so fast and led to the opening of Macca, just before the end of the year. According to one item in the treaty Bani Khoza’a tribe chose to be under the protection of The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) , and Bani Bakr chose to be under the protection of Quraish. Those two Arab tribes used to be hostile to each other, and Quraish used to be supportive to Bani Bakr. So, Bani Khoza’a sought the protection of The Prophet (PBUH) . Accordingly, the two tribes had to abide by the item that said that fights were to stop for ten years. In the meantime both Quraish and The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), also according to the treaty, were responsible for observing the tribes under their protection. Nevertheless, Bani Bakr initiated fights against Bani Khoza’a. Quraish supplied Bani Bakr with weapons, and some of its members shared secretly in the fight. That was a direct violation of the Hudaibya treaty. When the news reached The Prophet (PBUH) , he was sure that Quraish defiled the truce. He took the decision of invading Quraish in its homeland making it clear for his companions and followers that he did not aim for war and blood shedding but for putting an end to fights that were taking place in the holy Macca.

In about ten thousand troops, The Prophet (PBUH) departed for Macca giving strict orders to Muslims not to kill anyone, but only defend themselves when exposed to aggression. However, the holy city of Macca was opened peacefully. Seeing the Muslim coming in such a huge number, Quraishi People feared that they would be crashed, so they opened the city for them, and surrendered. The Prophet (PBUH) entered his homeland once more victoriously without any resistance, and did not revenge from those who wished to destroy him completely, neither did he force them to join his beliefs. As soon as he entered, he relieved people of the great fear they had saying, “everyone is safe if he just goes into Abu Sufian’s house, into his house, or into the holy mosque” (Ibn Hesham, P. 3, pp. 223-238. Also, Abu Zahra, pp. 878-889). Few moments later, The Prophet (PBUH) went directly to the Holy Ka’ba where he circumambulated the Holy Shrine while tens of people were gathering to see what was going on. He directed his face to the masses and said, " O people of Quraish, what , do you think, shall I do with you?" They told him, "We have not known you but as a generous brother and cousin". In his full power he told them, "Go, you are set free." That was a kind of an announcement of amnesty granted to all inhabitants of Macca (Heikal, p. 426). Even though Quraish, the most powerful tribe in Arabia surrendered, some other small tribes around Macca initiated fights with Muslims in several battles such as Bani Al Moustaleq, Najran, Hounain, Ghatafan, Al Taif, Dawmat Al Gandal but they lost the war successively (Al Abed, pp. 588-603).

 

 

3.

The Prophet (PBUH)
extended his love to the surrounding world

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It was always love and care that filled the heart of The Prophet (PBUH) when he was carrying the message that the Divine commanded him to convey.



The Jews in Madina refrained from living in peace
with The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

 

Jewish tribes could have lived peacefully with Muslims enjoying full guarantee of rights and duties equal to Muslims. According to treaties they signed with The Prophet (PBUH) they had to cooperate with Muslims in confronting any outside aggressions directed to any of them. Yet, the Jews, one tribe after another, violated the treaties they signed. Bani Al Nadhir, one of the Jewish tribes had secret agreements with people of Quraish who were planning to attack Muslims and kill The Prophet (in year 2 after the Hijra). Their leader not only refrained from supporting Muslims as written in the signed treaty but also told Quraish about the points of weaknesses in the Muslim army. In the following year when Muslims met Quraish in Ohud the Jews were exerting efforts to discourage Muslims and stop them from joining the army. They also tried to assassinate The Prophet (Al Abed, pp. 244-246). So Muslims fought Bani Al Nadhir in the fourth year of Al Hijra. When Bani Al Nadhir were conquered, they asked The Prophet (PBUH) to let them go out of Madina safely. He allowed them to go with all their properties except the armors (Al Abed, p. 257). Within those historical facts some verses of Qur’an were revealed:

It is He Who got out the Unbelievers among the People of the Book from their homes at the first gathering (of the forces). Little did ye think that they would get out: and they thought that their fortresses would defend them from Allah! But the (Wrath of) Allah came to them from quarters from which they little expected (it), and cast terror into their hearts, so that they destroyed their dwellings by their own hands and the hands of the Believers. Take warning, then, O ye with eyes (to see)!
(HQ: 59: 2).

Jews are termed in that context as Unbelievers among the People of the Book not as a generalization for People of the Book but rather highlighting the fact that among them there existed a number of Unbelievers. Otherwise they would not have to kill the word of Truth and combine with its enemies in fighting it.

When Bani Al Nadhir went out from Madina to Khaibar, they wanted to revenge from The Prophet (PBUH) and Muslims. So, they started to urge the Arab tribes to come and fight Muslims. They succeeded in bringing together the troops of Quraish, and another Arab tribe named Ghatafan, and their ten thousand troops camped near Madina directing their threats to Muslims. They initiated the war in a battle called Al Ahzab (the calns) pointing to the different tribes collaborating in fighting Muslims. During that battle which took place in the 5th year of Al Hijra, Bani Kouraiz, another Jewish tribe, were committed to the treaty they signed with The Prophet (PBUH) . But the leader of Bani Al Nadhir tempted them to join Al Ahzab. After some negotiations they agreed, and their leader Ka’b Ibn Asad tore the treaty they signed with The Prophet (PBUH) into peaces. (Al Abed, pp. 404-417). About that collaboration the Holy Qur’an says:

Hast thou not observed the Hypocrites say to their misbelieving brethren among the People of the Book? "If ye are expelled, we too will go out with you, and we will never hearken to any one in your affair; and if ye are attacked (in fight) we will help you." But Allah is witness that they are indeed liars. (HQ: 59: 11).

The verse uncovers part of a dialogue between some Jews and Muslim hypocrite before the battle of Al Ahzab. It clarifies the one and the same direction of all parties in the ally they formed; some Arab tribes, Jewish tribes, hypocrite Muslims agreed to be together when attacking Muslims.

It is worth mentioning that whenever a Jewish tribe violated its treaty with The Prophet (PBUH) , he confronted it without extending the fight to another tribe for the mere sake of being Jewish. He kept his promises to all of them unless one broke its oath and initiated enmity.



Confrontation with the Romans
was unavoidable

 

Persia and Rome were the two Super Powers competing for political influence over Arabia, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Egypt and all countries of that Region. Yemen and Iraq were under the influence of Persia. Egypt and Al Sham (now Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Lebanon) were under the Roman rule. So the whole region was stuck between the influence of either the Romans or the Persians. The Arabs depended economically mainly on the trade with Yemen and Al Sham. The Arabs were mere scattered tribes who spent their days in disputes that calm sometimes and ignited some other times. They did not have any bonds that would make of them, by any means, one political block. The Arabs would never think of any kind of confrontation with any of the Super Powers. The tribes on the borders of Arabia and Al Sham had to submit to the authority of the Romans just to avoid their attacks on them (Heikal, pp. 389, 290). Nevertheless, Islam was slowly spreading in lands surrounding Arabia that were under the influence of the Romans. In the meantime, The Prophet sent his envoys to their King Heraclius who, after some investigations about The Prophet (PBUH) , seemed to believe that Muhammad (PBUH) was a true prophet but he was not ready to accept the Revelation thinking "he (Muhammad) will, for sure replace me in power" (Abu Zahra, pp. 858- 860). So, he wanted to cut it short and not to allow Islam to spread among his people. He gave orders to kill a number of Muslims in Syria who happened to have heard about Islam during the trading groups who used to go to and fro from Arabia to Al Sham Also, one of The prophet Muhammad's envoys to the ruler of Bosra, a governorate of the Roman Empire then, was killed according to orders from Heraclius (Abu Zahra qouting Ibn Taimya p. 846). When The Prophet (PBUH) heard of that, he was so sad for the killings and dead sure that the Romans were trying hard to prevent the mission from penetrating into the area under their influence. He had to do some just measurements against the killers and find a way for protecting other Muslims there. He also had to break the barriers that the Roman Empire put for curbing the Islamic Mission. Those were the reasons behind the first battle that Muslims under the rule of The Prophet (PBUH) had gone through with the Romans. It is named Mu'ta battle according to the name of the town where the battle took place in Syria south to Damascus. In the 8th year after Hijra Muslim troops of about three thousand went to meet the Romans who amounted to one hundred thousand and were supported by another one hundred thousand of the Arab Christian troops (Abu Zahra p. 847). Muslims were only supported by their faith that "How oft, by Allah's will, hath a small force vanquished a big one? Allah is with those who steadfastly persevere."(HQ: 2: 249).

The three leaders that The Prophet (PBUH) nominated were courageous enough not to be frightened by the huge number of the Romans and their allies. They stood very firm and courageously until they were killed one after another. The surviving troops gave their leadership to one of them they elected without trying to submit or withdraw. The fourth leader Khaled Ibn Al Walid wanted to save the rest of the Muslim troops honorably, so he arranged the troops in a way that the Romans thought that they were supplied by new soldiers. Even though their numbers were much greater, the Romans felt great fear in their hearts and could not follow the Muslim troops who were trying to withdraw honorably.

The second battle directed to the Romans and the last during the life of The Prophet (PBUH) was a kind of extension to the first one. The Prophet (PBUH) knew that the Romans were preparing themselves to invade Madina and destroy it. What accelerated their anger was that many tribes that were under their influence sought the protection of The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) . Namely their power was decreasing and that of Muslims was increasing. The Prophet (PBUH) knew that they would start their invasion from Tabuk, a town south of Al Sham near the north borders of Arabia. So he decided to confront them and not to wait until they reach Madina. However, when he reached there with his troops he found no Roman troops. Consequently he decided to go back and not to penetrate into Al Sham, which clarifies that his target was not to invade any land with the target of occupying it. The Prophet (PBUH) was applying the general principle (O Unbelievers!) …if ye desist (from wrong), it will be best for you: if ye return (to the attack), so shall We.(HQ: 8: 19).

During the period in which Muslim troops were camping in Tabuk, more Arab Christian tribes who were allied with the Romans when fighting the Muslims in Mu'ta came to The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and suggested to be under his Dhimma, (protection) (Abu Zahra pp. 958-960). So he signed treaties with them in which they promised not to support the Romans against Muslims, and The Prophet (PBUH) gave them his word to protect them against any Roman aggression.


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