Permission to Fight

Permission to Fight

The Muslims gradually amassed power and became strong enough to fight against their enemies. They were first told to resist aggression and then later on permitted to fight against the mischievous ones. But it was only a permission rather than an obligation to take-up arms against the enemies. (See Zad al-a’ad, Vol. I, p. 314)

“Sanction is given unto those who fight because they have been wronged; and Allah is indeed able to give them victory.” [Qur’an 22:39]

In pursuance of the command given by Allah, the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) started sending raiding parties for immediate deployment on hostile tribes. These raids were not meant to launch out against the enemy but simply to frighten people inimical to Islam by a show of force.

We shall mention here one of the earliest raids, led by ‘Abdullah b. Jahsh (radiallahu ‘anhu), for it embodied a revelation sent down by Allah which shows that Islam does not countenance the least excesses or highhandedness even by its own followers. Islam is always fair and impartial, without any regard to persons or parties, in bringing up its verdict on every affair.

The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) sent ‘Abdullah b. Jahsh (radiallahu ‘anhu) on an expedition with eight emigrants during the month of Rajab 2 A.H. He gave him a letter with the instruction that he was not to read it until he had journeyed for two days, and then act according to the directions contained therein by leaving his companions the decision to follow or not his orders at their own gusto.

So, `Abdullah b. Jahsh read the letter after having traveled for two days. The instruction contained in it was, “When you have read this letter, proceed to the oasis of Nakhlah between Makkah and Ta’if. Install your tents there to find out the movements of the Quraysh and send the information to us.” Having gone through the letter, ‘Abdullah b. Jahsh said. “We hear, and we obey;” and then he said to his companions. “The Prophet of Allah has ordered me to lie in waiting at the oasis on the road between Makkah and Ta’if and watch the movements of the Quraysh so as to deliver news for him, but he has also asked me not to compel anyone of you to follow me. If anyone wishes martyrdom, he may come with me, and whoever wishes against it may go back, for I have abide by the instructions of the Prophet.” Then he went ahead, and so did all of his comrades, with none of them falling out.

The party moved on to the particular oasis where they bivouacked. In a short while a caravan of the Quraysh that included Amir B. Al-Hadrami passed by them. When the Qurayshites saw the party encamped near them they got frightened but after seeing ‘Ukkasha whose head was shaved, their suspicions vanished for they regarded the party as pilgrims. They said: “Nothing to fear from them, they are pilgrims.”(45) That was the last day of Rajab.(46) The raiding party on the other hand deliberated among themselves and decided that if they left the Qurayshites alone that night, they would get into the sacred area and obstruct their entry there; but if they fight them, they would be devaluing the sacred month by instituting a bloody confrontation. At first they felt hesitant as well as dismayed but ultimately made up their mind to kill as many of the Quraysh as possible and plunder as much of their good too. Waqid b. ‘Abdullah at-Tamimi shot the first arrow killing ‘Amr b. al-Hadrami while his companions captured two of the Qurayshites. ‘Abdullah b. Jahsh (radiallahu ‘anhu) and his companions returned to Madina with their captives.

When ‘Abdullah b. Jahsh and his companions (radiallahu ‘anhum) reported the incident to the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam), he said: “I did not ask you to fight in the sacred month, nor seize the caravans and take captives.” The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) also refused to accept the spoils brought by the aggregate group.

The campaigners were worried and fearfully apprehensive of being doomed. Besides, the other Muslims also reproached them. On the other hand, Quraysh laid a charge, saying, “Lo! Muhammad has allowed war and bloodshed in the sacred months!” It was on this occasion that Allah sent down the revelation to the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam).

“They question thee (O Muhammad) with regard to warfare in the sacred month. Say: warfare therein is a great (transgression), but turn (men) from a way of Allah, and to expel the people thence, is greater (sin) with Allah; for persecution is worse than killing.” (Ibn Hisham, Vol. I, pp. 601-2) [Qur’an 2:217]

“Allah has given a fair deal to His friends as well as foes.”

Writes Ibn Qayyim in the Zad al-Ma’ad, “For He has not commended the sin of fighting in the sacred month, committed by His pious and devout servants. Allah has held it to be a serious act of transgression but He also reminds that the idolaters have been guilty of even greater sins through their acts of persecution in the sacred city of Makkah, and thus they still deserve more condemnation and punishment. Since, however, the believing servants of Allah had been guilty of indiscretion or that they had committed a mistake, Allah has lent them a hope. He had given them hope that they might be forgiven on account of their faith in the Unity of Allah, submission to Him, migration with the Prophet and their sacrifices towards His way.” (Zad al-Ma’ad, Vol. I, p. 341)

The expedition of Abwa, also known as that of Buwat, was the first crusade, which elicited no fighting. Thereafter, the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) sent out several raiding parties.

When the Muslims had taken prayer as a mark and symbol of their faith it had been indelibly ingrained in their hearts and souls. Then it was, in the second year of Hijrah, that Allah commanded them to also observe fasting, hence:(47)

“O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, even as it was prescribed for those before you, that ye may ward off (evil).” [Qur’an 2:183]

In another verse, the Qur’an said: “The month of Ramadhan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the Criterion (of right and wrong). And whosoever of you sights the crescent, let him fast the month.” [Qur’an 2:185]

The reason for this battle was the news received by the Prophet that Abu Sufyan was leading a great caravan with lots of money and merchandise, on its way back to Mecca from Syria. As we may know that the Muhajirun has left all their houses and most of their wealth back in Makkah and as a result of that this was a good reason to capture this caravan. The Prophet asked the Muslims to get ready to intercept the caravan. However, since it was a commercial caravan the Prophet did not make any elaborate arrangements for fighting, but merely positioned himself in order to catch it flat-footed.

The battle took place on the 17th of Ramadhan, 2nd year of Hijrah. Badr is situated 160-km southwest of Madeenah. The battle was between the Muslims as one side and Quraysh idolaters, where the Muslims army were consisting of 313 to 317 men with two horses and 70 camels, on the contrary Quraysh army were consisting of 1000 men with 100 horses, 6oo armors, and many camels.

70 men were killed among the Quraishities army, and 70 were captured, where only 14 of the Muslims were killed.

The result of the battle was a great victory for the Muslims over their enemy.

The ironclad oath of Abu Sufyan, as mentioned earlier, bound him to refrain from even splashing water over his head until he had wreaked havoc on the Muslims. The chief of the Jewish tribe of Bani an-Nadir, who offered the information he desired about Madeenah.Thereupon Abu Sufyan succeeded in getting away after killing two of the Ansaars.

The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) got a warning of the evil raiders and went out in their pursuit. Abu Sufyan eluded the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) but was obliged to throw away a good deal of his provisions consisting of foodgrains, especially parched corn or al-sawiq, and hence the expedition goes by such a name. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, pp. 144-45).

The Jews of Madeenah who first broke their convenant with the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) were Banu Qaynuqa. They contended with the Muslims and spoke scornfully of the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam). Ultimately, the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) besieged them – the siege lasting for fifteen nights – until Banu Qaynuqa surrendered unconditionally. The attack was raised on the recommendation of ‘Abdallah b. Ubayy, the leader of the hypocrites. (Ibn Hisham Vol. II, pp. 47-49)

Banu Qaynuqa operated a market in Madeenah and practised crafts such as that of the Goldsmith. (Zad al-Ma’ad, Vol. p. 348) They were forced to abandon the city although the number of people who could bear arms among them was seven hundred.

K’ab b. Ashraf was a prominent leader of the Jews. An implacable enemy of Islam, he always did his utmost to get the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) into trouble. He was also a poet of considerable standing, availing his talents to compose and recite deregatory verse against the honour of Muslim women – an act intolerable enough to thwart one’s patience. Immediately after the battle of Badr he went all the way to Mecca to cry out for vengeance with inflammatory verses and stirred up the Quraish to even out the score of their defeat at Badr. Nevertheless, he returned to Madeenah where, in indomitable conceit, he continued his tirades against Islam. When the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) heard about his return to Madeenah, he said to his companions, “K’ab b. Ashraf had offended God and His Prophet. Who will rid me of him?” A few persons (Muhammad b. Maslamah accompanied by four of his friends) belonging to the Ansaars immediately offered their services and killed the enemy of God in K’ab b. Asraf. (Zad al-Ma’ad, Vol. p. 348).

The reason for this battle was that Quraysh wanted to avenge their tribesmen who were killed in the battle of Badr.

It was in the middle of Shawwal, 3 A.H. near mount Uhud, which were few kilometers to the north of Madeenah. The Muslim force was 700 men, two horses, and 100 armor. 50 men of the Muslim army were archers. Quraysh force was 3000 men, 200 horses, and 700 armor.

In the beginning the polytheists had suffered an obvious rout. The ignominious retreat of the enemy troops and their women accompanying them taking to their heels made the archers certain of their victory. Uttering shouts of glee, they deserted their posts to despoil the enemy camp. That was the main reason for the Muslim’s defeat, causing them to loose 70 men, where Quraysh lost 22 only.

In the third year after Hijrah, the tribes of ‘Adal and Qara sent an embassador to the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) asking for scholars who could be sent to teach them the rudiments of faith. The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) sent six of his companions who included ‘Asim b. Thabith, Khubayb b. ‘Adiy and Zayd b. Dathinna. When this party reached Ar-Raji,a place between ‘Usfan and Mecca, the two tribes treacherously fell on them. The Muslims took out their swords to fight against them but the assailants swore by God that they would not kill them. Three of the six Muslims replied that they could not accept any undertaking given by the pagans; so they fought and were killed. The remaining three, Zayd, Khubayb and ‘Abdallah b. Tariq surrendered. The last companion temporarily escaped during the return trip, but was later killed by one of the polytheists, while the remaining two were sold to the Quraish. Hujayr b. Abu Ihab bought Khubayb to vindicate his father Ihab and Zayd was purchased by Safawan b. Umayya to avenge the loss of Umayya b. Khalaf.

When Zayd was taken out for execution, a number of the Quraish including Abu Sufyan gathered to witness the barbaric spectacle. Abu Sufyan asked Zayd, “Verily, for God’s sake, O Zayd, don’t you wish that Muhammad (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) had now been in your place and you with your family?” “By God,” replied Zayd, “I don’t wish Muhammad (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) to be hurt even by a thorn while I should be in sweet repose with my family.” Thereupon Abu Sufyan remarked: “I have never seen any man so much adored as Muhammad (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) is held by his companions.” Zayd was killed after that. (Ibn Hisham Vol. II, pp. 169-76, Bukhari, Kitab Ul-Maghazi).

Then they brought Khubayb to crucify him. He asked his executioners to allow him to offer two rak’ats of prayer. Having performed the prayers in complete tranquility, Khubayb said to them, “Were it not that you would think I only extended my prayer out of fear of death, I would have prolonged my prayer.” Then he recited these verses:

“I fear not which side I fall apart; It’s all for God who will bless the limbs that had taken part.” Khubayb was striken dead with the song of love on his lips. (Ibn Hisham Vol. II, pp. 174, Ibn Kathir, Vol. III, p. 123-25).

Another act of treachery took place shortly thereafter. A tribal chief, ‘Amir b. Malik, was interested to have the doctrines of Islam explained to his people. The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) sent 70 persons, some of whom were his eminent companions, but when they reached the place called Bi’r Ma’una, the tribesmen of Banu Sulayman, Usayya, Ri’l and Dhakwan ambushed the delegation. The Muslims fought bravely and all but one was killed. K’ab b. Zayd returned to tell the story. He died in the Battle of the Trenches. (Al-Bukhaari, Muslim and Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, p. 186).

One of the Muslims who was killed treacherously on this occasion was Haram b. Milhan. The words uttered by him at the time of his death brought about the conversion of his killer Jabbar b. Salma to Islam. Jabbar used to relate later on that what led him to accept Islam was that he attacked a man with his spear and when the man saw the tip of his spear coming out if his chest, he heard him crying, “By the Lord of K’abah, I have succeeded!” Jabbar further says that he wondered what sort of success it was. Had he not killed the man? Jabbar enquired from others who told him that the man had meant martyrdom and thus he was convinced that his victim had truly been successful. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, p. 187)

The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) approached Banu an-Nadir to demand a contribution to be paid as blood money to Bani ‘Amir since two men had been killed invadvertently by the lone survivor of Bi’r Man’ua. Banu An-Nadir, being one of the two influential tribes of the Jews that settled in Madeenah was in alliance with Bani ‘Amir and was thus liable to pay such. They feigned willingness to accept the demand with pleasure, but busied themselves plotting against the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam). While the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) was asked to make himself comfortable by the side of a wall in one of their houses, they couselled one another, saying; “Never would we get such a golden chance. If one of us drops a rock on him from the top of the house, we shall all get rid of him.” Abu Bakr, ‘Ali and ‘Umar and a few more companions were with the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) on this occasion.

God informed the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) of the treacherous plan of the Jews. He went back to Madeenah and ordered to make preparations for war against the Banu an-Nadir. Thus, the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) came upon them in Rabi’ul-Awwal, 4 A.H. the siege of Banu an-Nadir lasted for six nights whilst God cast terror in the hearts of the Jews. They requested the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) that if he agreed to spare their lives, they would abandon the city with their belongings except their war implements. The offer was accepted and Banu an-Nadir departed from Madina after destroying their houses and loading all that they could on their camels. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, pp. 190-91)

The Suratul-Hashr (Surah of Exile) in the Qur’an calls attention to the banishment of Banuan-Nadir.

“He it is Who hath cause those of the People of the Scripture who disbelieved to go forth from their homes unto the first exile. Ye deemed not that they would go forth, while they deemed that their strongholds would protect them from Allah. But Allah reached them from a place whereof they reckoned not and cast terror in their hearts so that they ruined their house with their own hands and the hands of the believers. So learn a lesson. O ye who have eyes!” [Qur’an 59:2]

Many of these exiles settled in Khaybar, the Jewish centre in the north of Hijaz, whereas others went away to the far-off Syria. And the Muslims got rid of that sneaky dark corner of deception in their midst without having to meet the Jews in an open fight. The lands and groves left by the Jews were divided up among the first Meccan emigrants.

In the fourth year of the Hijrah, the Prophet of God (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) decided to administer a raid into Najd. Together with six companions that included Abu Musa al-Ash’ari, he took refuge from an oasis in that area. The group had to cover the distance mostly on foot, as only one camel was at their service. The incursion was called Dhat-ur-Riq’a as the companions taking part in the expedition had to bandage their injured feet and toes. (Al-Bukhaari, Chap. Expedition of Dhat’ur-Riq’a).

The Prophet’s (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) party approached the enemy, but there was no fighting for each feared the other. The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) led the prayer of fear in this expedition. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, p. 204).

While the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) was on his way back to Madeenah, he stopped and leaned back to take rest under the shade of a thicket of acacia trees after hanging his sword to a branch.

Jabir relates that he was taking a nap along with his friends when they heard the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) calling them. They saw a Bedouin sitting by the side of the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) and when they went to him, he said, “I was sleeping when this man came and took hold of my sword. As I woke-up, I saw him with the sword drawn over my head and he was asking me, ‘Who can now save you from me?” I replied Allah, Now he is sitting before you.” The Prophet did not, however, punish the Bedouin. (Al-Bukhaari, Chap. Expedition of Dhatur-Riq’a)

The same year, in Sh’aban, the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) went forth to Badr to keep his appointment with Abu Sufyan at Uhud. He remained at Badr for eight days with a large force waiting arrival of the Meccan army. Abu Sufyan did come out of Mecca to honor his call, but he did not venture to advance more than a few miles in the desert. He pursuaded his men to return since it was a season of drought in which his people were in a bad shape. There was thus no fighting and the Muslims returned with their prestige and morale bolstered higher than before.

The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) undertook another expedition of Dumatul-Jandal a few months later. But the Muslims returned to Madeenah once more without any fighting. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, pp. 209-213)

The reason for this battle was to eliminate the Muslims once and for all. The Jews were the real instigators of hostilities leading to the composing of this alliance.

The battle of the Trenches, or, of Al-Ahza’b (confederates) as it is sometimes called, took place in the month of Shawwal, 5 A.H. The location was Madeenah itself.

The Muslim force was 3,000 soldiers, where the alliance force were 10 thousand soldiers

Seven Muslims laid down their lives in the battle of the Trenches while they killed four of the infidels, and In a cold and cloudy night, a violent hurricane from the desert uprooted the tents of the nomads and overthrew their cooking pots. The severe weather, sent by Allah, disheartened the enemy.

The battle resulted in utter defeat for the Quraysh-led alliance under Abu Sufyan and a complete triumph for the Muslims under the Great Prophet.

“O ye who believe! Remember Allah’s favor unto you when there came against you hosts and we sent against them a great wind and hosts ye could not see. And Allah is ever Seer of what ye do,” [Qur’an 33:9]

“And Allah repulsed the disbelievers in their wrath; they gained no good. Allah averted their back from the believers. Allah is strong, Mighty.” [Qur’an 33:25]

The reason for this battle was the braking of Bani Qurayda for their word they have given to the Prophet and giving-up their commitment in order to help the Quraysh.

It took place on the end thul-Qidah 5 A. H., few kilometers to the southeast Madeenah. The Muslim force was 3000 soldiers, and 36 horses.

The Prophet and his people surrounded and occupied the district inhabited by the Jewish clan of Bani Qurayda, whereupon the beleaguered Jews defied the siege for twenty-five days, finally succumbing up to the pressure and then offered to surrender. Bani Qurayda submitted to the Prophet’s decision.

The decision was made in the hands of an arbitrator which was the chief of Al-Aus (one of the Al-Ansaar clans), S’ad Ibn. Mu’adh, who gave his decision: “I decided that the men should be killed, the property divided and the women and children taken as captives.” Around 400 soldiers were killed.

The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) sent some of his men on an expedition to Najd who captured Thumama b. Uthal, the chieftain of Banu Hanifa. When the cavaliers returned to Madeenah, they tied him to a stump in the Prophet’s Mosque. God’s Messenger (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) approached him and asked, “What do you expect, Thumama?” He replied, “If you kill me, Muhammad you will kill one whose blood will be avenged; if you show me a favor, you will show it to one who is grateful; and if you want property, you will be given as much as you wish.” The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) left him and when he passed by him the next time, he asked him the same question. Thumama repeated his earlier reply and the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) left him again. When the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) passed by him for the third time, he ordered Thumama to be set free.

Thumama went away to a grove of palm-dates and returned to the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) after taking a bath. He accepted Islam and said to the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam), “I swear to God, Muhammad that there was no face on earth more detested by me than yours, but now your face is the dearest of all to me. And, I swear to God that there was no religion more hateful to me than yours in the entire world, but now the dearest of all to me. What happened to me is that your cavalry seized me when I was going to perform ‘Umra.” The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) congratulated him and bade him for it. When Thumama reached Mecca, someone asked him if he had turned a disbeliever. He replied, “No, by God, I swore that not a grain of corn will reach you from Al-Yamamah until God’s Messenger accords permission to it.”

Al-Yamamah was the chief market of food grains in Arabia from where the Meccans used to import their requirements. When Thumama went back to Al-Yamamah, he prevented the caravans from bringing wheat to Mecca. So the people of Mecca wrote to the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) requesting him to get the ban lifted. The kind-hearted Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam)asked Thumama to repeal the ban and allow the rationing and supply of food grains back to them. (Zad al-Ma’ad, Vol. I, p. 377, Sahi Muslim, Kitab-ul-Jihad was Siyar)

After sometime, the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam)led an expedition against Banu Lihyan and went up to the hills of Dhu Qarad in pursuit of some raiders, but there was no fighting. In Sha’ban, 6 A.H., he was informed that Banu Al-Mustaliq were plotting for an attack on him. He went out with a group to face the enemy. A large party of the hypocrites, still skeptical and reticent, accompanied the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) with their leader ‘Abdullah b. Ubayy b. Salul. The Hypocrites had never before gone out with the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) in such large numbers in any earlier expedition.(Ibn S’ad, Kitab ut-Tabaqat al-Kabirat, Vol. II, Part I, p. 45).

The failure of the Quraysh in the battle of the Trench despite having mustered all the warriors of their confederate clans for the destruction of Islam, had made the hypocrites bitter and sour, indeed burning with hostility in their souls. The Muslims were gaining victory after victory, the star of their fortune was on the rise, and this had sent the Quraysh, the Jews and their allies in distress. They knew that they could not humble the Muslims in an open combat and hence the only way to defeat them was by sowing dissension within their ranks and pitting them against one another. They also knew that the only way they could undermine the confidence of the Muslims in Islam and its Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) as well as trigger a rift between them were debasement of the noble Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) and arousing pre-Islamic sentiments of tribal pride. With this view in mind, the hypocrites started a clandestine campaign of casting doubts upon the honor of the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam). An entirely new type of society had, however, evolved and had been in existence in Madeenah at such time, whose members loved and respected every other man bound by the common ideal. These pretenders had, therefore, arrived at the conclusion that nothing could sap the foundations of this ideological fraternity more effectively than a slanderous campaign aimed at creating misgivings against the leader of such sector and his family.

Undoubtedly, this was a well-maneuvered conspiracy of the hypocrites, which was vigorously pursued during the expedition of Banu al-Mustaliq, when, for the first time, as stated earlier, a large number of them accompanied the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam). The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) met the enemy at a watering place of Banu al-Mustaliq, in the direction of Qudayd towards the shore, known as al-Muraysri(48), where the battle brought Banu al-Mustaliq to defeat and exodus from the area. While the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) was still at this place, a hired servant of Banu Ghifar, belonging to the Muhaajirun got into a row with another man coming from the tribe of Juhinah, which was an ally of al-Khazraj. The Juhini called out, “O ye Ansaar!” and the hired servant shouted, “O ye Muhaajirun.” ‘Abdullah b. Ubayy b. Salul at once flared up and said to his friends who happened to be present with him, “Didn’t they dare it? They set themselves against us in our own country and tried to outnumber us. By God, it is just the same as the ancient saying: Feed the dog and it will bite you. I swear by God that when we return to Madeenah those who are worthy and noble will drive out the unworthy wretches.” Then, admonishing his men, ‘Abdullah continued, “You have yourselves to blame for it. You allowed them to settle in your country and shared your property with them. By God, had you held back and not been so generous, they would have certainly gone elsewhere.”

The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) came to know about the incident and he at once gave orders to break the camp and then set off, although he was not accustomed to travelling at an abominable hour. He wanted the people to get rid of the vain disputations and provocations of the devil. The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) continued to move all daylong and braved the night till dawn extending up to the following day till the sun became annoying. He finally made a halt when the people had become so exhausted that they readily fell asleep as soon as they laid themselves over the ground.

‘Abdullah was the worthy son of the unworthy ‘Abdullah b. Ubayy. He rushed to Madeenah ahead of the troops and waited for his father’s arrival. When ‘Abdullah b. Ubayy came, his son brought his camel to its knees, thereby obstructing the passage of his father whom he ordered not to enter Madeenah until he had acknowledged that he was indeed an unworthy wretch while the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) was commendable and noble. In the meanwhile, the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) also showed up. He said to ‘Abdullah, “Nay, let us deal kindly with him while he is with us.” (Tabaqat Ibn S’ad, Vol. II, p. 46)

The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) used to cast lots, whenever he intended to go on an expedition, to decide who among his wives should accompany him. In the expedition of Banu al-Mustaliq the lot had fallen on ‘Aisha (radiallahu ‘anhaa) and she had accordingly accompanied the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam). At one of the stopovers in their journey back to Madeenah, the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) spent a part of the night before he ordered to break the camp. ‘Aisha (radiallahu ‘anhaa) for her part had gone to answer the call of nature, and when she came back she discovered that she had dropped her necklace. She went back to hopefully recover it, but by the time she returned the army had already left. Then the camel drivers in charge of ‘Aisha’s (radiallahu ‘anhaa) transport saddled her couch thinking that she would be in it as usual. However, ‘Aisha (radiallahu ‘anhaa) was small and very light, so none could notice if she was in the litter or not. When ‘Aisha (radiallahu ‘anhaa) came back she found no trace of the army so she wrapped herself in her smock and laid down in the hope that as soon as they would discover the realsituation, someone would come to fetch her.

Safwan b. al-Mu’attal al-Salam (radiallahu ‘anhu) had earlier followed behind the army for a purpose. He happened to pass by ‘Aisha (radiallahu ‘anhaa) and stopped at her. He saw her. “Inna Lillah”, he called out, “The Prophet’s wife!” Then he brought his camel near her and turned back a few paces. After ‘Aisha (radiallahu ‘anhaa) rode the dromedary, Safwan (radiallahu ‘anhu) took hold of the camel’s halter and went ahead quickly in search of the army. Safwan (radiallahu ‘anhu) overtook the army when it had again rested. Nobody noticed the incident, for such mishaps were not unusual in the caravans trekking the vast emptiness of the Arabian wilderness. To wayfaring Arabs, it was just a familiar misfortune and their code of honor, even in the days of pagan past, never tolerated the disgrace of their daughters. The Arabs, both pagans as well as after embracing Islam, were chivalrous enough to lay down their lives defending the honor of their women rather than to support any disgrace.

A poet of pre-Islamic days expresses the Arab sentiment of chastity and virtuousness in a couplet, which depicts a lovely picture of Arab womanhood. “If my glance meets the looks of a neighbouring maiden, I cast my eyes low until her abode takes her in.”(49)

The companions held the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) in the same esteem and reverence as one has for one’s father while the wives of the Prophet (radiallahu ‘anhum) all served as ‘Mothers of the Faithful’ to every Muslim. In fact, never had any people loved anyone so dearly than how the companions cherished the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam). Safwan b. al-Mu’attal was, as they say, a man of sterling qualities – noble, true-souled and God-fearing who had the reputation of being least interested in women.

In short, nobody paid any attention to the incident and the matter would have been forgotten had not ‘Abdullah b. Ubbay walked into the picture. On coming back to Madeenah, ‘Abdullah b.Ubayy thought it proper for their plans to succeed to capitalize on the adversity. He had found out, as he would though, something that he could bank upon to humiliate the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) and his household and thus weaken Muslims’ sentiments of love and admiration for him and his family. His treacherous disposition was ample enough to assure him that his shameless attack on the Prophet’s honor would create sufficient misgivings to destroy even the mutual trust among the Muslims. And true enough, the crafty conspirator, had thus convinced a few circumspect Muslims who were accustomed to jumping into conclusions without verification.

‘Aisha (radiallahu ‘anhaa) had no idea of the defamation against her. As it normally happens in such cases, she came to know of it very late, and when she did, she was bewildered. Plunged into sorrow, her anguish had kept her sobbing until tears overflowed her eyes.

The scandal was even more distressing to the Prophet of God (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam). When he found out the architect of this intrigue, he proceeded to the mosque and ascending the pulpit he said, “O ye believers, who would allow me to say something about the man, who I have come to know, has caused trouble to my family? What I know of my family is naught but good and what they say concerning a man, I have known only good about him. Whenever he enters my house, he enters with me.” The people of Aus were filled with indignation at the grief of the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam). They said, “We are prepared to behead the man, whether he belongs to Aus or Khazraj, who has given tongue to this calumny.” ‘Abdullah b. Ubayy belonged to Khazraj, and hence his tribesmen took the remark as an affront to tribal honor. Pent up emotions reigned until the two tribes were about to grapple with one another, but the presence of the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) calmed them down finally preventing the outbreak.

‘Aisha was convinced of her innocence. She was distressed, but was also confident and composed, so typical of the one who knows that the truth ultimately prevails in the end. She knew in the abyss of her heart that God would ultimately protect her honor and bring shame to the slanderers. But it had never crossed her mind that God would send down a revelation concerning her, which would be read in the mosques during prayers, a reality that will abide ‘till the end of time. She had not waited for long when the verses attesting her innocence were sent down by God, hence:

“Lo! They who spread the slander are a gang among you. Deem is not a bad thing for you: nay, it is good for you. Unto every man of them (will be paid) that which he hath earned of the sin; and for him among them who had the greater share therein, his will be an awful doom. “Why did not the believers, men and women, when ye heard it, think good their own folk, and say: it is a manifested untruth?” [Qur’an 24:11-12]

And thus ended the frightful menace which was forgotten completely by the Muslims of Madeenah who devoted themselves once again to a great task which determines not only their own success, but that of the salvation of the entire humanity as well. (Ibn Hisham, Vol. II, pp. 289-302 and Al-Bukhari)

[45] Arabs preferred to perform ‘Umra during the month of Rajab.

[46] Rajab was the first of the four months held to be sacred when it was not lawful to fight. The remaining three months where Dhul Q’adah, Dhil Hijjah and Muharram. Arabs observed this custom during the pre-Islamic and in the initial period of Islamic era, and this also finds a mention in the Qur’an (9:36). But the consensus of the doctors of law is that the interdiction in this regard has been repealed by later revelations which say, “slay the idolaters wherever ye find the (9:5)” and “wage war on all the idolaters as they are waging war on all of you (9:36)”. Said b. Al-Musayyab was asked if the Muslims were permitted to fight the disbelievers during the sacred months. He replied, ‘Yes. This was so during the wars waged by the earlier Muslims for there is not one instance in the history when the battles were suspended during the month of Rajab or for three months of Dhul Q’adah. Dhil Hijjah and Muharram or when Muslim force left the battlefield for their cantonments during the these months.’

[47] Ibn Hisham, Vol. I, pp. 591-606. Also see the chapter dealing with ‘Feasts in the Four Pillars of Islam by the author.

[48] The expedition is therefore also called as the expedition of Murays’i. See tabaqat Ibn S’ad.

[49] An illustration of the Arabs’ conduct towards women is provided by the incident relating to the migration of Umm Salma. When she was not allowed to migrate to Medina with her husband, she used to go every morning and sit in the valley weeping till the night fall. So it continued until a year or so had passed when her clan took pity on her and allowed her to join her husband. She saddled her camel and set forth Medina. ‘Uthman b. Talha met her in way and on coming to know her plight decided to escort her. He took hold of her camel’s halter and went with her to Medina. Umm Salma says that she never met an Arab nobler than ‘Uthman. When she had to halt, ‘Uthman used to kneel her camel and then withdrew. After she had alighted, he unload the camel and tied it to a tree. This, ‘Uthman did all the way to Medina. (Ibn Kathir, Vol. II, pp. 215-17) This was the conduct of ‘Uthman when he had accepted Islam. Safwan b. al-Mu’attal al-Salami was a had the benefit of the Prophet’s guidance.

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