THE PROCLAMATION OF JEHAD
THE inhabitants of Madina, it has already been remarked, were largely engaged in the cultivation of the date-palm. The people of Mecca, on the other hand, were essentially merchants, and their caravans were continually visiting Syria and other countries for the purpose of trade. Muhammad himself, in his younger days, had visited the latter country more than once, and every year at certain seasons the richly-laden caravans of the Quraish might be seen wending their way northwards to the great markets at Basra, Damascus and other cities. These bands of Meccan merchants generally passed along the great caravan route which led past and near Madina, but there was another route sometimes adopted by travellers which passed along the eastern shores of the Red Sea. Muhammad now conceived the idea of ameliorating the distress and poverty of himself and his companions by plundering the caravans of the Quraish, and with this object he furnished and sent forth several armed bands with instructions to intercept and plunder certain caravans of whose movements he had obtained information.
The primary motive for these expeditions was plunder for the purpose of relieving the pecuniary wants of the refugees in Madina. Later on the religious motive of proselytism made its influence felt, and wars were undertaken, not merely for plunder, but for the spread of Islam. The references to these expeditions of Muhammad found in Muslim history are so full that it is easy to arrive at definite conclusions regarding them. Thus the Mishkatu'l-Masabih has a long chapter devoted entirely to the subject of Jehad, and deals at length with the division of the spoils and other matters relating to such religious warfare. Statements of Muhammad are there recorded which make it clear that he not only initiated plundering expeditions against the Quraish and other tribes, but gave those thieving expeditions, which were not infrequently accompanied by murder, divine sanction by pretending that they had been authorized by God Himself! Thus there is a tradition preserved by Bukhari to the effect that,
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ عَنْ رَسْولِ اللهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ فلَمْ تَحِلَّ الْغَنَائِمُ لِأَحَدِ مِنْ قَبْلِنَا ذلِكَ بأن اللهَ رأى ضعْفَنَا وعَجزنا فيطيَّبها لنا.
‘Abu Huraira records that the apostle of God said, “Plunder was not made lawful for any before us. The reason that (it is now made lawful) is that God has looked upon our weakness and helplessness. Therefore He has made it proper for us"' (Mishkatu'l-Masabih, Kitabu'l-Jehad). These words of the prophet are clear, and leave no doubt that Muhammad intended to plunder and to claim divine sanction for so doing.
At first the Muslims were unsuccessful, and more than one band returned without any spoil. Such an expedition is recorded by one 'Abdu'llah bin Hawalah, who said,
بَعَثَنَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ لِنَغْنَمَ عَلَى أَقْدَامِنَا فَرَجَعْنَا فَلَمْ نَغْنَمْ شَيْئًا.
‘The apostle of God sent us to plunder on foot; but we returned without having looted anything’ (Mishkatu'l-Masabih, Kitabu'l-Fitan). At first Muhammad did not personally accompany these expeditions, but at length, being wearied of the ill-success of his followers, and realizing that something was needed to stir their enthusiasm, he placed himself at the head of a large band and sallied forth in search of prey. The historian Waqidi mentions no less than nineteen such expeditions which were led by the prophet in person.
The first occasion on which the Muslims were successful was connected with a small expedition at which Muhammad was not present. From ancient times it had been a custom of the Arabs to observe the month of the annual pilgrimage as sacred. In it all war was considered unlawful, and the lives and properly of all were safe from one end of Arabia to the other. This same custom had given Muhammad, when a persecuted and discredited man in Mecca, full liberty and opportunity to preach his doctrines to the crowds of pilgrims who were in the habit of visiting Mecca at the time of the great annual festivals. It is recorded however that on a certain occasion Muhammad despatched a small band of armed Muslims to a place called Nakla in order to intercept and loot a small caravan of the Quraish of whose movements he had information. This band of Muslims drew near the Quraish encampment during the sacred month, and by shaving their heads and feigning themselves pilgrims disarmed the suspicions of the latter. Then suddenly, without warning, the treacherous Muslims threw aside their disguise and fell upon the unsuspecting travellers. These they either killed or drove away, after which they pillaged the caravan and returned laden with the spoil to Madina. This is said by the Muslim historians to have been the first spoil taken by the followers of Muhammad, and, needless to say, it roused them to redoubled efforts to intercept and despoil the rich caravans which continually travelled to Syria and other lands.
Some time after the events narrated above Muhammad received information that a large caravan belonging to the Quraish under the leadership of a man named Abu Sufyan was returning from Syria richly laden with merchandise. The opportunity was not to be lost, and Muhammad placed himself without delay at the head of a large band of followers and proceeded to intercept the caravan. Bukhari says very distinctly that the Muslims went out for the express purpose of plundering Abu Sufyan's caravan. The latter, however, was wide awake, and learning of the intended attack despatched a messenger on a swift camel to Mecca for help, and himself led his caravan by a different route than that intended, and escaped safely out of Muhammad's hands. In the meantime a large party from Mecca proceeded in search of the caravan, and at a place named Badr were confronted by the followers of Muhammad. Here a sanguinary conflict took place, and, though largely outnumbered, the latter proved the victors and carried off many prisoners and much booty. Many of the prisoners taken by the Muslims, were, in spite of their entreaties for mercy, cruelly put to death, and their bodies thrown into a well. This shocking outrage is thus related in the Mishkat, in the chapter on Jehad:
عَنْ قَتَادَةَ قَالَ: ذَكَرَ لَنَا أَنَسُ بْنُ مَالِكٍ، عَنْ أَبِي طَلْحَةَ، أَنَّ نّبي اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَمَرَ يَوْمَ بَدْرٍ بِأَرْبَعَةٍ وَعِشْرِينَ رَجُلًا مِنْ صَنَادِيدِ قُرَيْشٍ، فَقُذِفُوا فِي طَوِيٍّ مِنْ أَطْوَاءِ بَدْرٍ.
‘It is related from Qatada that he said, “Anas the son of Malik related to us from Abu Talha that verily the prophet of God on the day of Badr gave command (for the death of) twenty-four of the leaders of the Quraish, and they were thrown into one of the wells of Badr.”’ Amongst the men thus murdered was a man named ‘Uqba bin Abu Mu’ait. Ibn Mas’ud, who was himself present at the battle of Badr, has related a tradition with regard to him which has been collected in the Mishkatu'l-Masabih in the chapter on Jehad. It runs as follows:
وَعن ابْن مَسْعُودٍ إنّ رَسْولَ اللهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ لمّا أَراَدَ قَتْلِ عُقْبَة بن أَبيْ معيط قَالَ: مَنْ لِلصِّبْيَةِ يَا مُحَمَّدُ؟ قَالَ: النَّارُ.
‘It is related from Ibn Mas'ud that verily when the apostle of God wished to kill ‘Uqba bin Abu Mu'ait he, (‘Uqba) said, “Then who will take care of my children?” (Muhammad) replied, “Hell-fire”’ And thus saying the prophet ordered the unfortunate ‘Uqba to be despatched forthwith.
The records preserved to us—and they are very voluminous—of the battle of Badr and the events that followed it go to show that violent dissensions at once broke out amongst the Muslims as to the division of the spoil. These became so serious that Muhammad was constrained to call in the help of a ‘revelation’ in order to quell the tumult; and so the following passage was recited as coming from God Himself:
يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الأَنفَالِ قُلِ الأَنفَالُ لِلّهِ وَالرَّسُولِ.
‘They will question thee about the spoils. Say, “The spoils are God’s and the Apostle’s.”’ (+ Qur’an 8:1)
Those apologists for Islam who would have us believe that the early Muslims only fought in self-defence ignore the testimony of both the Qur'an and the traditions. The plain fact is, the word ‘plunder’ is writ large over the whole literature dealing with that period, and the Hidayah, the Mishkatu'l-Masabih and other works are full of minute directions for the proper division of the plunder taken in such marauding expeditions. Thus even in the time of Muhammad himself legislation was enacted for the regulation of those devastating wars, which, under the name of Jehad, were soon to drench the world in blood. Muhammad, however, was careful to protect himself from the charge of robbery and murder by pretending that these plundering forays were authorized by God himself. Thus we find him stating that,
إِنَّ اللَّهَ فَضَّلَنِي عَلَى الْأَنْبِيَاءِ أَوْ قَالَ فَضّل أُمَّتِي عَلَى الْأُمَمِ وَحَلَّ لنا الْغَنَائِمَ.
‘Verily God has given me precedence over the prophets.’ Or he said (according to another tradition) ‘He has given my followers precedence over other nations by the fact that He has made plunder lawful for us.’!! The prophet's own practice is thus described by Anas, whose tradition has been preserved by Muslim. He tells us that,
كَانَ النَّبيُ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يُغَيِّرُ إِذَا طَلَعَ الْفَجْرَ، وَكَانَ يَسْتَمِعُ الْأَذَانَ، فَإِنْ سَمِعَ أَذَانًا أَمْسَكَ وَإِلَّا أَغَارَ.
‘The prophet of God used to plunder in the early morning; and he used to listen for the call to prayer. If he heard the call to prayer he withheld (from plundering); otherwise he plundered.’ The plunder of villages was sometimes accompanied by the total destruction by fire of what property the ruthless bands could not carry away with them. Thus a tradition from Abu Da’ud relates that,
عَنْ عُرْوَةَ قَالَ: حَدَّثَنِي أُسَامَةُ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ كَانَ عَهِدَ إِلَيْهِ قَالَ: أَغِرْ عَلَى أُبْنَى صَبَاحًا وَحَرِّقْ.
It is recorded from ‘Urwa that he said, “Usama informed me that the apostle of God ordered him to raid (the village of) Ubna in the morning, and then burn it”’ (Mishkatu'l-Masabih, Kitabu'l-Jehad). The Urdu commentator of the Mishkat significantly remarks with regard to the tradition just quoted that,
اس سے معلوم ہوا کہ جائز ہے غارت کرنا اور جلانا کافر کے شہروں کا
‘From this it is known that it is lawful to raid and burn the cities of infidels.’
The history of Islam after the battle of Badr till the death of the prophet is largely a history of such crimes. Many of the plundering bands were led by Muhammad in person; others were despatched under the leadership of his trusted followers. Not all were successful, but the news of the ill-gotten wealth which now began to flow into the laps of the Muslims fired the cupidity of the Arabs, and, attracted by the lust of plunder, large numbers now began to flock to the prophet's standard. The Quraish at Mecca were now thoroughly alarmed, and the plunder by the Muslims of a rich caravan which attempted to reach Syria by a route lying to the east of Madina roused them to the danger which threatened them. They resolved therefore to take drastic steps to secure to themselves an open road to the great markets of the north, and for this purpose an attack in force on the Muslims at Madina was determined upon. An army of some 3,000 men was collected together, and at a place called Uhud near Madina the Muslims were badly defeated and Muhammad himself wounded.
The Muslim defeat at Uhud occasioned no little searching of heart amongst the Muslims who not unnaturally asked how it was that the prophet who had declared that he had won the battle of Badr by the help of thousands of angels, should now be beaten and wounded. To answer these questionings numerous ‘revelations’ were produced, and the friends of those who had fallen in the battle were comforted by the assurance that the ‘Martyrs’ who had thus died ‘in the way of God’ were now enjoying the voluptuous joys of a material paradise. From a wealth of such passages we select one by way of illustration.
لِلشَّهِيدِ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ سِتُّ خِصَالٍ: يُغْفَرُ لَهُ فِي أَوَّلِ دَفْعَةٍ، وَيَرَى مَقْعَدَهُ مِنَ الْجَنَّةِ، وَيُجَارُ مِنْ عَذَابِ الْقَبْرِ، وَيُؤَمَّنُ يَوْمَ الْفَزَعِ الأَكْبَرِ، وَيَضَعُ اللَّهُ عَلَى رَأْسِهِ تَاجُ الْوَقَارِ، الْيَاقُوتَةُ منها خَيْرٌ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا وَمَا فِيهَا، وَيُزَوَّجُ ثِنْتَيْنِ وَسَبْعِينَ مِنْ حُورِ الْعِينِ، وَيُشَفَّعُ فِي سَبْعِينَ مِنْ أَقَارِبِهِ.
‘A martyr has six privileges with God. His sins are forgiven with (the shedding of) the first drop of blood; he is shown his reclining-place in paradise; he is delivered from the tortures of the grave; he is preserved safe from the great fear (of hell); a golden crown is placed upon his head, one of the pearls of which is better than the world and all therein; he is married to seventy-two of the houris (of paradise), and his intercession is accepted for seventy of his relations.’
The battles of Badr and Uhud brought about a striking change in the tone of the prophet's teaching. Before the battle of Badr, and when the number of his followers was comparatively small so that he had cause to fear the enmity of his neighbours, he consistently adopted a tone of humility and conciliation. There was to be ‘no compulsion in religion’ and his followers were enjoined to ‘speak kindly’ with those who differed from them in religious matters. Later, however, when he found himself surrounded by an ever-growing band of warlike Arabs, the call to fight for the Faith grew louder and more insistent. Hereafter Jehad, as this religious warfare was called, occupied one of the chief places in the prophet's teaching. There is a tradition, preserved by both Muslim and Bukhari to the effect that Abu Dharri
قال سألت النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم أي العمل أفضل قال إيمان بالله وجهاد في سبيله.
‘Said, “I asked the prophet what is the best action? He said, Belief in God and Jehad in the way of God.”’ Those chapters of the Qur'an which were revealed at this time and later are full of the same subject, and the faithful are again and again exhorted to fight until Islam be established as the one and only faith. Thus we read:
فَإِذَا انسَلَخَ الأَشْهُرُ الْحُرُمُ فَاقْتُلُواْ الْمُشْرِكِينَ حَيْثُ وَجَدتُّمُوهُمْ وَخُذُوهُمْ وَاحْصُرُوهُمْ وَاقْعُدُواْ لَهُمْ كُلَّ مَرْصَدٍ فَإِن تَابُواْ وَأَقَامُواْ الصَّلاَةَ وَآتَوُاْ الزَّكَاةَ فَخَلُّواْ سَبِيلَهُمْ إِنَّ اللّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ.
‘And when the sacred months are past, kill those who join other gods with God wherever ye shall find them, and seize them and besiege them and lay wait for them with every kind of ambush; but if they shall convert and observe prayer and pay the obligatory alms; then let them go their way for God is gracious, merciful’ Qur’an At-Taubah 9:5.
Even for Jews and Christians there was no escape; and exemption from the death of the sword could only be purchased by embracing Islam or paying a yearly tax. This intolerant law is stated thus in Qur’an At-Taubah 9:29:
قَاتِلُواْ الَّذِينَ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللّهِ وَلاَ بِالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ وَلاَ يُحَرِّمُونَ مَا حَرَّمَ اللّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ وَلاَ يَدِينُونَ دِينَ الْحَقِّ مِنَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُواْ الْكِتَابَ حَتَّى يُعْطُواْ الْجِزْيَةَ عَن يَدٍ وَهُمْ صَاغِرُونَ.
‘Make war upon such of those to whom the Scriptures have been given as believe not in God, or in the last day, and who forbid not that which God and His apostle have forbidden, and who profess not the profession of the truth, until they pay tribute out of hand, and they be humbled.’
Jehad, the prophet declared, was an eternal obligation, for, said he:
الجهاد ماض إلى يوم القيامة.
‘Jehad will continue until the day of resurrection;’ 24 and he encouraged his followers to fight with the certain hope of heaven as its reward. Thus he is reported as saying:
من جاهد في سبيل الله وجبت له الجنة.
‘Whoever makes Jehad in the way of God, paradise is his necessary reward.’ The motive for fighting quickly changed. At first it was purely the desire for spoil which animated the Muslims, and which was held out as the great inducement to them to fight; but later the spread of Islam became the dominating motive. They were to fight ‘until the religion was all of God.’
Apostasy from the faith was to be rewarded with death, and at times Muhammad allowed his baser passions to lead him to the most inhuman mutilation of the victims of his anger. Thus it is recorded in the Mishkatu'l-Masabih, in the chapter upon Retaliation, that on a certain occasion some Muslims renounced the faith, and when fleeing from Madina took with them some camels belonging to the prophet. They even went so far as to kill one of the herdsmen who were minding the camels. They were eventually caught and brought before Muhammad for sentence. The crime was a serious one, and merited a severe punishment, but that meted out to the unfortunate culprits must have shocked even the most hardened of Muhammad's followers, for it is recorded that he
فَقَطَعَ أَيْدِيَهُمْ وَأَرْجُلَهُمْ وَسَمَلَ أَعْيُنَهُمْ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَحْسِمْهُمْ حَتَّى مَاتُوا.
‘Cut off their hands and feet, and put out their eyes. Afterwards he did not staunch the blood until they died.’ Another tradition describing this terrible atrocity records that hot irons were driven into their eyes, after which they were cast out upon the stony plain in the burning sun. And when they begged for water it was not given them until finally they died.
In the face of what has been quoted in this chapter from purely Muslim sources, and these sources of the very highest authority, it is futile for modern apologists for Islam to say, as they still do, that Islam is a religion of toleration, and that Muhammad never sanctioned the use of force in the propagation of his religion. The facts are against them; and though a partial quotation of Meccan and early Madina ‘revelations’ may appear to support their contention, a careful study of the later portions of the Qur'an, and of the utterances of Muhammad as preserved in the traditions, leaves no possible room for doubt that he both taught and practised the spread of his religion by physical force.
24. Sahih Bukhari, Jihad is to be carried on whether the Muslim ruler is good or bad, No. 2852, See also, Sunan Abi Dawud, Book of Jihad, No. 2532, Jihad will continue until the day when the Dajjal (Anti-Christ) is fought.