Islam, My Islam
In the aftermath of the Battle of
Bade, the Prophet ceased
dressing his hair in the Jewish manner and was advised by the archangel
to change the direction of the qibla (the prostrations in prayer) from
When one of the two remaining tribes, the Banu Nadhir, were also banished they “were permitted to take only their naked bodies and the ancient faith of their fathers into banishment.” In their case only two members of the entire numerous tribe professed Islam and were richly rewarded by the Prophet.
In November 624, Muhammad sent his adopted son, Zaid, into the desert together with one hundred soldiers in order that they might attack a caravan and secure its wealth. Zaid was singularly successful and at Qarada, not far from Mecca, he attacked the autumn caravan of the Koreish. The merchants fled and the entire caravan fell into the hands of the Muslims. Gold and silver in the amount of two hundred thousand dollars was secured by the pious and the sum, after one fifth had been given to the Prophet, was divided among the faithful.’
prestige among the tribes of the desert was unlimited. At first it had
feared that all
the expiration of five months after this robbery had occurred, a
through the streets of
Sofyan, accompanied by three thousand warriors, was on his way to
The great robbery was to be followed by a great revenge.
Three thousand warriors was, to say the least, an unheard-of size of force in the Arab world--—and the fact that they were led by Abu Sofyan, the undisputed leader of the Koreish (upon the death of Abu Djal) indicated the seriousness of the threat. The faithful gathered in the courtyard of the mosque, where Muhammad told them of his dream:
“I saw myself” he told them, “clad in an invulnerable coat of mail. My sword was broken at the hilt, but nevertheless I was able to kill a ram.” “What does this dream signify?” asked the faithful “We must remain in the city, “ replied the Prophet. “She is our coat of mail and though pooily armed we can defeat the enemy.”
the faithful, who were accustomed to success and victory, were not at
pleased with the plan. “Why should we allow our fields to be
asked. “Why should we not confront the enemy as is worthy of
men? Does not God
safeguard our weapons?” The enthusiasm of his men was so
great that the Prophet
was forced to accede to their demands. Having prayed, he put on his
mail and reviewed his army in the great
A thousand Muslim warriors departed
that night for
When the faithful saw the superior forces of the Koreish, they said, ‘The messenger of God war right, we would do better to defend ourselves within the city.” Then Muhammad arose and declared, “When the messenger of God has put on his coat of mail, he will not take it off”
the morning dawned, Abdallah ben Obajy, the leader of the munaflqun.
hundred of his hypocrites arose; ben Obayy said, “The Prophet
has acted upon
the advice of children; we cannot follow him. “And they left
the army and
the morning of the next day, three thousand Meccans confronted the
hundred faithful. On this occasion the army of
Their songs were to the effect that f the soldiers were this time to take refuge again in flight they would not be permitted to rest at the sides of their wives.
miracle happened. Instead of following the enemy with his victorious
instead of pressing on to
Meccan women fell upon the bodies of the fallen Muslims like a horde of
hyena. The Oriental intoxication of victory began. Lips, ears, noses
privates were cut off from the bodies. Hind, the wife ofAbu Sofyan,
the liver out of the corpse of Hamza and ate it before the eyes of the
astonished Meccans. Then she climbed on lop of
In the aftermath of the Battle of Mt.
Ohod, the Hypocrites
and the Banu Nadhir entered into a conspiracy against the Prophet which
nothing. It was at this point, as mentioned earlier, that the Banu
That left only the Banu Qoraidha, of
the original three
Jewish tribes in
Piety and a hunger for booty now
dominated life in
so it came about that a series of precepts which were born of the need
hour were established and were destined to place the minor
When, for example, one of the faithful was carried away by a suddenly awakened lust for gambling and lost his entire fortune, which he had earned on the battle fields, to some infidel, Muhammad assembled the faithful, told them of the sad incident and then forbade all gambling for the future. On another occasion, when one of the faithful appeared at prayer completely intoxicated and disturbed the Prophet in his sermon, Muhammad forbade the use of alcohol. In this manner Muhammad arranged the4fe of his city. The laws, which were to assure these regulations, remained for all times and ruled the life of the Muslims. Later they formed the entire spiritual picture of Islam. V
As for Muhammad…
Neither power nor wealth changed the Prophet True, each campaign and each battle brought him in one-fifth of the booty, for it was his prayers and not the courage of the soldiers which brought about victories, but even that one-fifth was distributed among the poor or used to reward the particularly pious and courageous.
He did not change his own manner of living. As in the earlier times of his poverty, deprivations and persecution, the Prophet arose at the break of day, cleaned the courtyard, mended his own clothes and said his morning prayers. When pious students arrived, he spoke to them about the faith, alms were distributed and future campaign discussed. Daily the Prophet in his worn-out clothes held court in the yard of the mosque and rendered his decisions as the, highest authority in matters both worldly and spiritual.
It is worth noting, I think, particularly in this day and age when so much is made—by bloodthirsty Arabs and deluded “Muslims”—of the more militant suras in the Koran that, by this point, the characteristics of the sums changed dramatically. At this point the Koran…
longer contained flaming threats and avowals, now it merely revealed
wind of the law was clear and objective. Unchanged were the power of
expression, the force of the iron sentences, unchanged the visits of
Meanwhile, the newly-exiled Banu Nadhir tribe had sought and found asylum and protection in the prosperous colony of Khaibar, a group of oases owned and controlled by Jews who were described as noble and courageous warriors. By all accounts, they were more than glad to have the Banu Nadhir as guests and gave them land and palms, built houses for them and promised them protection. For, as first emerges at this point in the biography of Muhammad, the Banu Nadhir were direct descendants of Aaron, the older brother of Moses and the first High Priest of the Jewish people.
(I think it worth noting, as an aside, that DNA “imaging” has proven that the genuine descendants of Aaron—those with ancient links to the Aaronic priesthood—even today, have the “purest” DNA of any yet discovered, more points of commonality, etc.)
Needless to say, if you want to
really irritate a colony of
noble and courageous Jewish warriors in seventh century
The inhabitants of Khaibar sent out messengers in all directions, to all the Jewish tribes as well as to others with whom they were friendly. They spread the news of the treacherous master of Medina, who had come to the city as a guest, had begged shelter and protection and had then exiled his hosts, robbed them of their possessions, and broken the pacts which he himself had proposed to them.
When you just, you know, write it out cold, like that, the Jews have a point, no?
The Arabs, Bedouins and Jews listened attentively, nodded their heads, and blamed the Prophet for his conduct. But when the messengers began to speak of revenge and war they shrugged their shoulders and said: “We are poor simple Bedouins. Why should we be concerned with your trouble? If 1ve are to risk our lives, our camels and our horses, then promise us a portion of the booty and pay us a part of that portion in advance.” The hatred of the pious people of Khaibar was so great that they pledged their ‘date crops and sacrificed their money in order, to secure the aid of the people of the desert.
But the Khaibar weren’t content with just themselves and their Jewish allies and the Bedouins of neighbouring tribes. And so it was
holy Jew, Khoyray, and with him Kinana ben Khakayk, Handja ibn Kais and
hanif Abu Amir, mounted their horses and rode to
gods that they would destroy Muhammad.
was an enormous army that set forth for
heard of the approach of the large army through his followers who were
distributed throughout the desert. The news struck terror in the hearts
The “tree” to
which Medina’s “camel” needed to be tied
the unexpected form of a Persian slave named Selman who had lived both
Persia and in Byzantium, and who had seen, first-hand, the army of the
of Byzantium march in Iran, had watched the Zoroasirians besiege the
of the Roman Empire. As he listened to Muhammad’s plan for
the defence of
Slowly and confidently the army often thousand made its approach. Soon it saw the fortresses of Medina and began to tremble with delight at the thought of victory and plunder Abu Sofj’an rode ahead and examined the ground, when suddenly, from a distance, he saw something strange and confusing When he had come closer he saw a wide ditch.
As if petrified he stood in front of the ditch. He was obviously shaken by the enemy move. Behind its leader, the army often thousand stared as well and was equally puzzled How was one to cross the ditch?
The soldiers looked at one another, shook their heads and were speechless. A ditch had never before been provided for in Arabian warfare. The army was hypnotized by the ditch just like a chicken by a chalk line.
Still indecisive, the tents were put up... what were ten thousand to do against a ditch? For them war meant fighting in an open field. Anything else was incomprehensible.
Day after day, Jews, Meccans and Bedouins appeared at the edge of the ditch. They hurled insults at the army of the pious with all their might “What sort of warriors are you, “ they thundered, “if you hide behind a ditch? Is this a war worthy of the Arabs? Did our fathers or our grandfathers fight like this? You are cowardly dogs and no Arabs! Come over here and show us what you can do!”
The Muslims didn’t budge.
and again, a daring pagan attempted to climb over the ditch. They
to cross only to kill him with much pride and ceremony. The days passed
insults and the exchange of an occasional arrow. It was soon obvious
huge army was filled with discontent, and there were good reasons for
Confident of a swift and certain victory, Abu Sofyan had not hurried
He had waited until the pilgrims had left
Abu Sof’an, facing a debacle.
to ally himself with the last of the Jewish tribes in
One day, heavy clouds covered the heavens, rain began to fall in torrents and a violent hurricane from the desert upset the tents of the nomads. The Bedouins attributed this to Muhammad’s magical power They had no desire to, nor could they, fight against magic, particularly the magic of a coward. There was nothing for Abu Sofyan to do but withdraw with honour. He wrote a letter to Muhammad; accused him of cowardice and treachery against the old established traditions of war and swore that at the proper time he would return to take bloody vengeance. Then he got. On his camel and gave orders for the return march.
This took place on 15 April 627.
If the fate of the Banu Nadhir had seemed more arduous than that of the Banu Qainoqa, the fate of the Banu Qorhaida—now abandoned by Abu Sofyan and his army often thousand—would make the fate of both their former tribes-mates seem like a tea party by comparison. Muhammad the bloodthirsty Arab was about to supersede Muhammad the Messenger of God for the last time:
the hour had come for the last Jewish tribe in
The Jews were unable to make any armed resistance. They had retreated to their stronghold and waited for what was to come. At the end of twenty-five days they surrendered unconditionally to the Prophet. They had hoped that they would be permitted to leave the city, as in the case of their brother tribes. But the Prophet was not at all inclined to be merciful. It was only upon the request of the Aws, who had long been friendly with the Qoraidha, that he decided to place the decision in the hands of an arbiter The role was entrusted to a pious member of the Aws tribe, Sad ben Moadh.
Sad ben Moadh was a fat, full-blooded man given to choleric outbursts He passed for a friend of the Jews. He had been injured in a skirmish which had taken place behind the ditch and now lay gravely wounded. The wound pained him and Sad knew that his days were numbered. Because of their alliance with the Koreish, he felt that the Jews alone were responsible for his death. With great care, the heavy, mortally wounded Sad was carried out of his tent, placed upon a donkey and surrounded with pillows. In this fashion he was led to the place where the decision was to be given. When he arrived, he demanded that the parties concerned agree unconditionally to his terms. The Jews were the first to swear and they did so gladly. Sad was an old friend upon whom they could
The dying man propped himself up in his saddle and delivered his judgment: “All the men of the Banu Qoraidha are to be executed and the women and children sold into slavery. “Muhammad did not protest against the verdict. It was exactly in accordance with his wishes. On the other hand he promised mercy to those who would become converted to Islam.
the morning of the next day a deep grave was dug in the marketplace.
cruel Orient was to intoxicate itself with blood in the center of the
Soon the grave was full. Blood ran over the marketplace. The Prophet and the leaders of Islam stood at one side. They watched the executions and said nothing. Worlds are born in blood. The day drew to a close and still Jews were brought to the place in chains. Soon it was night and the Prophet gave orders for torches to be brought so that the faithful could see the blood of the enemy being shed on the marketplace. In the middle of the blood-covered city, his face strangely lighted by the burning torches, stood Muhammad, the master, the messenger of God.
Among the Qoraidha there was a Jew named Zobayr who had once saved the life of the great Moslem warrior Thabit. Thabit recognized him among those condemned to death. “You were good to me and saved my life, 0 Zobayr,” Thabit said to the Jew. “I will now reward the good which you did tome. “He went to the Prophet and begged for Zobayr’s life and asked that his family be permitted to retain their possessions. Since Thabit belonged to the tribe of the Aws and was a mighty warrior as well as a pious Muslim, Muhammad granted his request. Overjoyed, the warrior ran to Zobayr and brought him the good news. But the Jew said, “Lead me to the place of execution for I would like to follow my brothers who died there and those who are about to die. I do not wish to have my life spared by the blood-thirsty man who has slain all around me. The pail of my life has run empty and I am impatient to be reunited with my friends. “Having spoken, the old Jew went to the place of execution where he was decapitated by Au, for the cousin and the son- in-law of the Prophet acted as executioner on that bloody day. Zobayr the Jew was not forgotten by later generations. His actions were considered as exemplary of martyrdom by the Arab people and all the faithful. Among the people of the desert his memory its’ honoured to this day for Islam was the first faith in which theologians and the church fathers were permitted to praise and admire the heroism of people not of their own faith.
was the end of the Jews of
Medina, the city of the Prophet, was now the unified city of the faith where, no longer touched by the rude ridicule of the unbelievers, Muhammad could govern the great community of the Moslems.
In the aftermath of the Battle of The Ditch and the subsequent slaughter of the Banu Qoraidha—with the last of the immediate impediments to his absolute rule over Medina-now removed, Muhammad came recognize what he—evidently-—saw as the largest impediment to the wider acceptance of Islam.
lay between the hearts of the people and the words of the Prophet. This
was Muhammad for
the opinions of the Bedouins, the opinion of the simple people of the
was even worse. For them, Muhammad was covered with a dark and
stain. He was a pariah, a man from whom his own tribe, his own city,
family, had turned away. And the city was not an urimportan1 colony,
was not an unimportant, unknown tribe; the city was
It was at this point that, either on his own or through the inspiration of God or the archangel Gabriel (the distinction, to me, is an important one upon which—again, to me—the future of Islam as it is practiced in the present day would hinge), Muhammad made a conscious choice to fuse Mecca and Islam into one entity insofar as he was capable of doing so, by announcing to the faithful of Medina—in the year 628—that he and fifteen hundred of his most devout followers would make the haij from Medina to
‘It was a master stroke. The heretic who had violated the sacred months, who had fought the holiest of cities for years, now appeared as a contrite penitent and directed his steps towards the gates of the proud city which had once expelled him,
the holiest, the most fanatic of his followers, accompanied him. The
adventurous, the war-like robbers, remained in
When word arrived in Mecca that
Muhammad and fifteen hundred
men were on their way from
Permission was denied and—to the amazement of his followers—the Prophet accepted this. He remained at the oasis of Hodaibiya (appropriately lying half inside and half outside the sacred precincts) ‘requesting only that a representative of the Koreish be sent to negotiate peace. After some delay, Soheil bin Arm, a minor Koreish functionary, was sent. The treaty they negotiated—between the Koreish and “Muhammad bin Abdallah (Soheil wouldn’t permit him to describe himself in the document as “the Messenger of God”)—specified:
shall not be waged for ten years between them. During this time the
both parties are not to be endangered by each other. They may not fight
another If any member of the Koreish goes over to Muhammad, then
obligated to return him to the Koreish. On the other hand, f one of
followers goes over to the Koreish, then these are not obligated to
An honest understanding is to exist between both parties which excludes
and thief. The tribes of the country are to be permitted to join
the Koreish at their own discretion. This year Muhammad may neither
sanctuary nor the holy’ city of
The pilgrims, as a compromise,
sacrificed their animals at
the oasis and then turned back to
Muhammad alone knew that the signing
of the treaty spelled
the end of the Koreish’s hold over
In the two years which followed the signing of the treaty, more men were converted to Islam than had been, the case since the beginning of the Prophet’s mission.
The many tribes of
Busir of the tribe of the Taqif who lived in
slaves and the poor of the city of
Now certain that he was fated to be the absolute ruler of the entire Arabian Peninsula, Muhammad set his sights on the countries and empires in his immediate vicinity, dispatching six messengers to the six greatest rulers of the neighbouring lands: The Emperor of Byzantium, the Emperor of Iran, the King of Abyssinia, the Governor of Egypt, the King of Hira and the Duke of Yamana. The new sense of inevitability which accompanied this awareness of his imminent preeminence over alt he surveyed brought about a resurgence of statesmanlike softening in the prophet’s approach to warfare. He publicly declared:
“Do not use trickery or treachery in the field. Do not kill children.” “When in combat with the army of the enemy, do not oppress the peaceful inhabitants of the enemy country. Spare the feeble among the women and be compassionate to the sucklings and the sick Do not destroy the houses of the inhabitants and do not damage their gardens, fields, and palm trees.”
If I wasn’t certain that it was a waste of time, I’d like to send an engraved copy of that to Yasser Arafat, along with a copy of Abu Bakr’s instructions to the Muslim commander of the faithful when, during his reign as Caliph, he sent them against the Christian Empire of Byzantium:
“Do not oppress the people and do not excite them unnecessarily. Only do that which is good and right and success will reward you. When you meet an enemy, then fight him courageously, but if you win the battle do not kill women or children, spare the fields and the houses for men have erected them. If you conclude a treaty, then keep it. In the land of the Christians you will meet pious men on your way, who serve God in the churches and convents. Do not harm them and do not destroy the churches and convents.”
Even when settling his score against
the Khaibar, the colony
which had united Jews and the Koreish in the Battle of The Ditch,
time—only conquered them militarily, seized their lands and
from them a promise of half their income for the Muslim State treasury)
them back all of their property. A Draconian measure, to be sure, but
of the fate of the Banu Qoraidha, the Jews of Khaibar probably figured
half of their income wasn’t such a bad deal, all things
universal (universal in the Arabian Peninsula, anyway)
On the one hand, they paid a lot more tax, on the other hand they weren’t required to serve in the army of the faithful. You know: take it or take it (nothing new for the Jews there). “I guess we’ll take it.”
There still remained the (now) minor problem of the Koreish, which Muhammad addressed in three stages. First, after his treaty-protected hajj in the year 629 (he and his followers were granted three days within the Sanctuary on their own), the Prophet married Maimuna bint Hares, the favourite aunt of Khalid ben al Walid, the brilliant Koreish cavalry commander who had handed Muhammad Islam’s Only military defeat at Badr. Khalid’s best friend, in turn, was Amr ben el Asi, the only other military commander who posed a threat to Muhammad and Islam.
Together with his new Uncle-in-Law,
Muhammad, Khalid and his
friend Amr rode out of the city of
Second, Muhammad waited for a pretext
to break the Treaty of
Hodaibiya, which came when a handful of Meccans attacked some Muslim
the desert. Insignificant in itself, but it allowed Muhammad to
military campaign against
Now it was the Koreish who were isolated, the historical tide and momentum having turned against them. Small wonder that the Koreish decided to send someone higher than a mere functionary for this particular set of negotiations. Or, rather, “negotiations”. The Koreish elected to send their leader this time: Abu Sofyan.
rich banker thought that his peaceful appearance in
Sofyan began to make a long speech, suggested that the friendship between Medina and Mecca be augmented, excused himself in the name of the city for the painful hostile occurrence and declared himself ready to revise the treaty of Hodaibiya, or what was more, even to accede to some of the Prophet’s demands.
The Prophet looked at Abu Sofran for a time, slowly arose and, without saying a word, left the mosque.
Sofyan began to realize that the name of the Ommaya was not a welcome
at heart, Abu Sofyan decided to continue his labours. He had enough
blood relatives in
Sofyan now ran from one person to another, knocked on every door
friendships and relationships, but on all sides he met with a cool
His own daughter, who now belonged to the harem of the Prophet, showed
“the unclean idolater “the door Abu Bakr his
one-time friend and equal, had no
word left for him. But Omar told him abruptly and frankly:
“By God, f I had
nothing but a few ants to command, I would never cease fighting you.
who could never deny anyone anything, rejected him, saying:
“Muhammad has come
to a decision and we can do nothing about it.” There was no
room for doubt in
Abu Sofyan’s mind as to what that decision might be. He
saddled his camel and
and confusion reigned in
Ten thousand marched through the desert and their leader was the messenger of God.
The army traveled through uninhabited, empty places and yet the Prophet would not permit them to light afire, to beat a drum or to sing pious songs. Noiselessly, silently, like a train of shadows, the ten thousand moved through the desert.
Halfway, Muhammad spied a rider behind a hilltop. Filled with amazement, Muhammad recognized his uncle, El Abbas [who] knelt down and became converted to Islam. El Abbas had delayed long enough until God had finally made him see clearly as to his nephew mission. For this reason Muhammad despised him thoroughly. “You are the last of the emigrants, “he said ironically.
he marched forward until he could finally see the square sanctuary of
in the distance. For the first time, the army of the Prophet came to a
bivouac fires were lighted, for now everyone in
Humbly Abu Sofyan rode to the camp of the prophet. The first to recognize him was Omar. Omar took hold of him by the collar dragged him into the presence of Muhammad and cried: “Q messenger of God, here is Abu Sofyan who, not protected by any treaty has fallen into our hands through the help of God. Permit me to slit his throat.” Muhammad gave orders that Abu Sofyan was to be kept safely and brought before him again on the next day.
When he had again appeared before the Prophet, he was received with the words: “Woe to you, Abu Soj5’an, do you not realize that there is no god but God?” The proud member of the Ommaya fell at the feet of Muhammad and said: “0 Muhammad, you are dearer to me than father and mother. How mild, how gentle, how noble you are! I really believe that God is the only god for otherwise the others might have been of some help.” “Woe to you, Abu Sofyan,” Muhammad replied, “do you not acknowledge that lam the messenger of God?” This was decidedly too much for old Abu Sofyan: to be called upon to acknowledge Muhammad publicly. Again the Ommaya fell on his knees and spoke: “0 Muhammad, you are dearer to me than all which I possess, I love you more than father and mother but as far as your being a prophet is concerned, my spirit is not convinced of that.”
Omar who stood next to the Prophet, cried out: “There is no better argument than the sword to convince stubborn unbelievers. “ Thereupon he drew his sword form its sheath, turned to Abu Sofyan and said: “Accept the truth or I will sever your head from your body.” Then Abu Sofyan knelt down, became converted to Islam, and recited the act offaith: “Achadou an Ia illah ii Allah, achadou anna Muhammadon Rasul Allah” (I believe that there is no god but God, I believe that Muhammad is His Messenger).
Sofran hurried back to
rest joyfully accepted the terms of peace which Abu Sofyan had brought
from Muhammad. The terms were: “Muhammad will occupy the city
the next day, the triumphal march into
one doubted but that the day of the great revenge had come, that the
among the cities of Arabia was to be pillaged, that the enemies of the
were to be destroyed, and that with this, the great act of the
combining of all
Arabia would be complete. But Muhammad and the oldest among the
thought dy7erently. They themselves had come from
to the city. Every stone, every street, every corner of
With wise forethought, Muhammad had only permitted the mohajirun, Meccans by birth, to lead the army on that day. On the day following that in which the enemy had been conquered the messenger of God put on the robes of a pilgrim, mounted a snow-white camel and, accompanied by Abu Bakr rode towards Mecca. When he had reached the outskirts of the city, the first rays of
sun began to appear. They surrounded Muhammad’s head like a
halo. The streets
rode through the streets of
is usual, the newly made converts were the most active against the old
Khalid ben el Walid and Amr ben el Asi raced with their riders through
entire sanctuary. They forced their way into the temples and the sacred
of the Arabs, smashed the statues of the gods, and killed the few
still resisted. Soon nowhere in
signal to commence the pillage did not follow the destruction of the
had been expected. Their property was not taken from the Koreish, afact
displeased even some of the mohajirun. When they had been driven out of