Copyright
D. S. (David Samuel) Margoliouth.

Mohammed and the rise of Islam online

. (page 19 of 32)
Online LibraryD. S. (David Samuel) MargoliouthMohammed and the rise of Islam → online text (page 19 of 32)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


enjoyed by the pre-Mohammedan sovereigns. They
not only had a fourth of the plunder, but also cer-
tain other privileges which Mohammed abandoned.

The news of the defeat was brought to Meccah by
one Haisuman ; the scene which followed on the

* Musnad, i., 553.
\Ibid.,'\s. y 83.



The Battle of Badr 2 73

arrival of the defeated army is recorded in fragments
only. Some perhaps excused their flight on the
ground that they had been confronted by super-
natural antagonists; but the excuse was received
with derision and indignation. Hind, daughter of
'Utbah, demanded of the Hashimites her father,
brother, and uncles, whose faces were wont to shine
like beacons to the travellers in the dark night.*
An attempt was made to sequestrate the goods be-
longing to the Banu Zuhrah in the caravan which
Abu Sufyan had saved : but their leader pointed
out that Abu Sufyan himself had commanded the
Meccans to desist from the expedition against Mo-
hammed, and they had in returning obeyed his
orders. On this act of justice therefore he did not
insist, but the profit made by the expedition and
saved from the enemy was devoted to the equipment
of a force to be sent against Medinah.f All eyes
apparently now looked to Abu Sufyan : the battle
had taken off the stage all possible rivals to his in-
fluence, while inflicting on him losses which he was
bound as a man of honour to avenge. And indeed
it was evident that on the ability of the community
to avenge their losses depended not only their hon-
our but their very existence. The ransom money
would not last for ever; when it was near exhaustion
Mohammed would be ready for an attack on the
caravans, and find no difficulty in obtaining helpers
for so profitable a speculation.

Numerous verses on the battle of Badr are given

* Ghurar al-KhascCis % 200.

f Wakidi, 199.
18



2 74 Mohammed

by Ibn Ishak in his biography : to leave the fallen at
Badr unmourned would have doubtless been dis-
respectful*; yet the genuineness of most of the
dirges produced is disputed ; some may have really
been sung on the occasion. The note of all is the
same, — vengeance cannot be delayed. Another time
the Meccans will show to greater advantage. It will
be seen whether they did so. Meanwhile some
poetic talent was rising in Medinah also, since a war
of force in Arabia would have been incomplete
without a war of rhymes f ; and Abu Bakr's genea-
logical knowledge was once again found useful in the
Prophet's cause. % For the satirist, though not scru-
pulous in his statements, still had to be supplied with
material which he could adorn or expand. Just as
the Refugees were suffering from Meccan satire, so
versified retorts could now be taught the slave-girls
of Medinah. §



* Goldziher, W. Z. K. M., xvi., 307.
\Jd.,M. .£, i.,44-
\ Zahr al-adab^ i. , 26.
%Musnad, iv., 263.




CHAPTER VIII

PROGRESS AND A SETBACK

THE herald sent on by Mohammed to announce
his victory at Medinah, Abdallah, son of
Rawahah,* was at first treated as a liar— the
sole survivor of a routed host. The Jews, whose ill-
luck rarely failed them on such occasions, appear
especially to have enjoyed a short-lived triumph.
Many, many a man at Medinah utilised the day
that passed between the arrival of the herald and
the triumphal entry of Mohammed to curse the new
ruler; for after a few hours it would be unsafe. Near
the end of Ramadan he entered the city, preceded
by the prisoners. The triumphant rhapsody which
forms the 8th Surah was doubtless delivered at a
thanksgiving service. With the enthusiasm of one
who has performed a successful coup in a new ca-
reer, he dilated on the glories of fighting; and argu-
ing from the losses on either side declared that for
purposes of war, one Moslem was equal to ten
unbelievers.

The institution, which the Greeks called tyranny,



♦According to Ibn Sa'J, iii., 38, Zaid Ibn Harithah.
2?5



276 Mohammed

seems everywhere to produce similar effects. Let
one man be given absolute and uncontrolled au-
thority in a community, a number of parasites are
sure to arise, ready to plunge into any sort of mire
in the hope of gaining a smile from their mas-
ter. Ramadan was not over before this breed began
to show itself. If any one had incurred the Prophet's
displeasure, the Prophet could be served by that
person's assassination. There were people at Me-
dinah who gave trouble to the Prophet ; the sort
whose misfortune it is that they are unable to share
the aspirations of their neighbours. To these per-
sons the victory of Badr was not so much a triumph
as an outrage. The slain whom the conquerors had
left on the field were their fathers and brothers;
those whom they were bringing back with their
hands bound and tied to their camels were their
nearest kin. This sort of triumph shocked those in
whom the old humanity had not been killed by the
new religion. Even the Prophet's wife, Saudah,
asked the Kurashite Sulaim, when he was brought in,
tied and bound, why he could not have died like a
man? The wives and children of the victors are
likely to have re-echoed these sentiments, and a
warning was revealed against them, with a request,
however, not to punish them too severely.* In the
tribes resident at Medinah there were satirists who
expressed their opinions freely on public affairs. The
race did not die out even late in the Caliphate ; but in
the great cities of later times they were not detected
quite so easily and their satires circulated in writing.

* Surah lxiv., 14.



Progress and a Setback 277

At Medinah satires may indeed have been written,*
but are more likely to have been declaimed with the
normal formalities ; the satirist anointed one side of
his hair, let his mantle droop, and wore only one shoe.f
'Asma, daughter of Marwan, the wife of a member
of the tribe Khatmah, mother of five sons, had the
poetical gift ; she taunted the people of Medinah
with obeying a stranger, who was waiting for the
city " to be done brown," when he might enjoy the
gravy ; and invited some one to nip these hopes in
the bud. Abu 'Afak, a member of the tribe 'Amr
Ibn 'Auf, failed to see that the Prophet's arrival had
united the people of Medinah, and taunted them
with being divided by this stranger whose notions of
right and wrong were quite different from theirs.
He thought that if they believed in force and
tyranny, they had better have obeyed the old Kings
of Yemen. Mohammed expressed a wish to be de-
livered from these satirists, and a couple of assassins
readily offered their services. Both were run through
at dead of night, when sleeping peacefully in their
homes, and the assassins publicly applauded and
held up as patterns of conduct. % These executions
were perpetrated in the week immediately following
Badr.g And perhaps about the same time 'Umair,
son of Umayyah, finding his sister by the seashore,
killed her for a similar offence. |

Before the arrival of the Prophet there would have

* Goldziher, Z. D. At. £., xlvi., 18.

f Ibid., 5 ; Abhandlungen, i.

\Ibn Ishak (pp. 995, 996) puts these events after Uhud. Ibn
Duraid gives the name of 'Asma's murderer as Ghishmir, son of
Kharshah (p. 265). § Wakidi. | Isabah, iii. , 56.



278 Mohammed

been no doubt about the effect of these acts. The
murderer's life would have been forfeit without
question. The son of the murdered mother would
have been as much in duty bound to avenge her
death as ever was Orestes to avenge his father.
The tribesmen of the old poet would have fallen on
the first member of the murderer's tribe who came
in their way. It appears that in ordinary cases,
even apart from the superstitions connected with
blood, the filial feeling was not less keen among the
Arabs than among other races. But the result of
these executions shows how well Mohammed under-
stood the people among whom he sojourned. When
the slayer of the woman 'Asma asked whether he
need fear the consequences of what he had done,
the Prophet, coining a new proverb, told him that
there would not be as much disturbance about it as
two goats can make. The historians tell us that the
tribes of the murdered persons adopted Islam in con-
sequence. Translating the scene into modern lan-
guage, we might say that they treated the acts as
legitimate executions ordered by the sovereign
power ; which they found it beyond their power to
resist, and whose protection they thought it expedi-
ent to enjoy. Since, if the verses ascribed to 'Asma
be genuine, she had deliberately incited the people
of Medinah to a murderous attack on the Prophet,
her execution would not have been an inexcusably
ruthless measure, judged by any standard ; and it
must not be forgotten that satire was a far more
effective weapon in Arabia than elsewhere * ; and

* Goldziher, Abhandlungen y i.



Progress and a Setback 279

that during the Caliphate it was at times penalised.*
The employment of the assassin where the execu-
tioner might reasonably have been employed is what
excites horror, f Mohammed could urge that in
dealing with tribes which had not adopted Islam he
had no executioners at his disposal ; that discipline
is to be maintained by the exhibition of power
rather than of authority. Hente the dexterity
manifested in the selection of the right time and
the right agent for effecting a result was, in a partly
organised state, the only possible substitute for the
legal and judicial procedure which would suit a com-
pletely organised state ; and from the fact that only
the culprit suffered, it was a decided improvement
on the existing system, by which satire on an indi-
vidual meant war between whole tribes. The prin-
ciple that each person shall suffer for his own fault
was introduced instead. If any people felt horri-
fied by these assassinations, they either left Medinah,
or kept their horror for private conversations ; but
presently criticism of the Prophet in private was
condemned in a revelation, :f and True Believers who
heard such communications felt it their duty to
inform their master.

A more serious step had to be taken against the
Jews (Banu Kainuka) who inhabited the chief market
of Medinah ; said to be three hundred men capable
of bearing arms, and four hundred unarmed. They



*Goldziher y Z. D. M. G., xlvi., 19.

f Both Muir and Sprenger treat these acts as cold-blooded and
treacherous murders.
\ Surah lviii., 9.



280 Mohammed

were goldsmiths, and doubtless the wealthiest of the
inhabitants of Medinah. They had pursued the
policy of aimless irritation which has already been
noticed. Before acknowledging Mohammed as a
prophet, they had desired a miracle in the style of
Elijah on Carmel. The Prophet, in the pride of the
victory at Badr, had stalked into their market, ask-
ing if they were satisfied ; whether the miraculous
multiplication of their numbers on that battle-field
was not as good in its way as a sacrifice devoured by
heavenly fire? The reply is stated to have been
a good-humoured sneer at the cowardice of Mo-
hammed's countrymen, and a boast of what they
themselves would do should Mohammed ever fight
with them. What they actually did was to shut
their doors for a fortnight and then surrender at
discretion. Mohammed, however, probably about
this time began to challenge the Jews to be eager
for death if they believed themselves to be the
chosen of God, and to guarantee that they would
show no such eagerness. *

About a month after the Prophet's return from
Badr, f a dispute broke out between him and the
Banu Kainuka. It appears to have commenced
thus. Ali's share of the booty at Badr had been
two camels. Since he was anxious to make money
in order to marry his master's daughter, Fatimah,
he bethought him of employing his camels in the
export trade, and some of the Kainuka Jews agreed
to start him. They were to supply the goods which

* Surah lxii., 6.
\Halabi, ii., 274.



Progress and a Setback 28 1

Ali was to sell abroad, bringing back others. The
camels were left in the street awaiting their load ;
when the other hero of Badr, Hamzah, passing by,
like an old Arab chieftain, slaughtered the beasts,
and proceeded to give a banquet off them to his
friends. When Ali, arriving on the scene, perceived
that his prospects of merchandise and marriage were
ruined, he went to Mohammed to complain. The
Prophet came to the carousers, intending to remon-
strate with his uncle, who by this time was so drunk
that he even forgot the reverence due to God's Mes-
senger. Surveying the Prophet from foot to head
and head to foot, he asked him, " Are you not my
father's slave?" To this point the anecdote rests
on unimpeachable authority.* A few more steps we
must ourselves supply. When the Jews who had
promised to furnish Ali with goods for exportation
arrived, they found the beasts that should have been
laden, killed and eaten, the Lion of God danger-
ously intoxicated, Ali whining, and the Prophet
himself seriously ruffled. Being flesh and blood,
they expressed, or at any rate looked, contempt and
abhorrence at the Holy Family.

The complication was one of those which at the
time are exceedingly serious, though afterwards
they appear trifling. Ali and Hamzah were both
heroes of the late triumph of Badr ; it was impossi-
ble to recoup Ali for the loss of his booty at Ham-
zah's expense, and yet most undesirable that Ali
should lose his capital ; it was also undesirable that
Ali should go on commercial travels when his strong

* Bokhari (A'.), ii., 270; Muslim, ii., 123.



282 Mohammed

arm might soon be again needed. The marriage of
AH and Fatimah was also desired by the Prophet
both for domestic and economic reasons; probably,
too, desired by Fatimah herself, whom the additions
to her father's harem vexed. The revelations de-
nouncing the Jews had by this time prepared the
Moslems for an attack on the former; and, there-
fore, the plunder of their shops would furnish an
easy and satisfactory way out of the inconvenience
occasioned by Hamzah's excesses. There was no
difficulty in finding in their conduct on the occasion
that has been described something that would form
a plausible pretext for an attack. Nor need we
doubt that the Jews had been excommunicating
those of their number who had embraced Moham-
med's creed, and passing ridicule on the religious
performances of the Moslems.*

The disgraceful conduct of Hamzah suggested one
important innovation to the Prophet — the abolition
of the use of wine and other intoxicating liquors.
Questions on this subject had apparently been ad-
dressed him by persons who were aware that the
practice of some ascetics forbade their use, and his
first answer was a compromise, in which he declared
that the uses of wine (which he couples with the
arrow-game) were considerable, though the injury
produced thereby was great, and indeed greater
than the profit. Apparently the disorderly scene
in which Hamzah and Ali figured, and in which it is
likely that the arrow-game was not wanting, led him



* Wahidi % 148, 149.



V*



Progress and a Setback 283

presently * to forbid both without exception ; and
Ayeshah remembered how, when the revelation
which dealt with them was delivered, the Prophet
went to the Mosque, and forbade the sale of liquor.
According to one account f due notice had been
given to the owners of liquor that such a text would
be revealed and they were advised to sell it while they
could ; but when the revelation came, zealous fol-
lowers went the round of the houses of the Moslems
and emptied their vessels of all liquor which was
supposed to be intoxicating, in many cases breaking
the vessels themselves ; and trading Moslems who
brought wine home from Syria after this event were
compelled to pour their earnings away:):; nor was
milder treatment meted out to those orphans whose
property had been invested by their guardians in
wine. The prohibition was extended to vinegar
made of wine, and a categorical denial was given to
the suggestion that wine had medicinal value ; there
was (he was by this time convinced) no good in it at
all. "All possible mischief is gathered into one
chamber and locked there ; the key of that chamber
is drunkenness." § This prohibition probably did
the Jewish trade some harm, since the making of
wine (ordinarily got from dates) is likely to have
been largely in their hands. It was also a trial to
the faith of the Moslems, under which many of them

* The date is uncertain. An account represents the Prophet drink-
ing wine just before the battle of Uhud — Ibn Sa'd, iii., 63. So too
four months before Uhud — Wakidi ( W.), 101.

f Jauzi, Adhkiya, 14.

\Musnad, iv., 336.

§ Jahiz Misers^ 39,



284 Mohammed

sooner or later broke down. But the Prophet ap-
pears at no other time to have been the victim of
drunken insolence.

The altercation with the Kainuka probably led
directly to the denunciation of the treaty and an
attack on the dwellings of the goldsmiths. They
appear to have had no lands or fields; but their
houses, like the rest of those in Medinah, were so
built as to be able to stand a siege. The Moham-
medans declare that they had the reputation of
being the most courageous of the- Jews, and their
shops were filled with excellent armour.

At the blindness of the other Jewish tribes, who
failed to help their brethren at this crisis, we should
marvel, did not the rest of the history of those
tribes make us marvel more. The chronicles tell us
that about this very time members of the Banu
Nadir bethought themselves of scheming with the
Meccans, but of any attempt at aiding the Kainuka
on the part of the Jewish tribes there is no sugges-
tion, nor does any appear to have been made. Cer-
tainly the Kainuka ought by themselves to have
been sufficient in numbers to deal with Mohammed
and his three hundred followers, but their brethren
could without difficulty have brought into the field
a force four times in number that with which he was
attacking. The Prophet came to the conclusion
that the fear of death was with these people an over-
powering motive ; not, it would seem, more over-
powering than the attachment to that religion which
has brought them so much suffering; but one which
made them seek peace at any price, except that of



Progress and a Setback 285

acknowledging the Prophet. This explanation of
the conduct of the Jews is probably correct ; yet, as
the Israelites of Medinah left no Josephus, posterity
knows very little of the causes which determined
their fate. The Koran suggests* in one place that
there were serious internal dissensions in the Jewish
colonies ; and this is highly probable. Against each
other they were courageous enough, but they could
form no united front.

Of their two allies, 'Ubadah Ibn Al-Samit, the
Ausite, washed his hands of them so soon as the
dispute commenced. The other, Abdallah, son of
Ubayy, leader of the " Hypocrites," was more loyal.
He remembered (according to the chroniclers) that
at the battles which preceded the coming of the
Prophet these Jews had caused his life to be spared.
Had he had any policy, this was certainly the time
to come forward with it. His strong objection to
bloodshed prevented him from attempting a diver-
sion, but when the Jews, being starved out, were in
danger of being massacred by the Prophet's order,
he is said to have seized the Prophet bodily and
refused to leave hold till their lives had been guar-
anteed. They marched off, leaving all their posses-
sions, except, it would appear, their mounts, in the
direction of Syria, being kindly treated by their
kinsmen in Wadi Al-Kura. They do not appear to
have found permanent work at Adhri'at, and dis-
persed or perished, f Their goods were treated by



* Surah lix., 14.

f One or two seem to have contrived to stay in Medinah, since
we hear of Rafa'ah, son of Zaid, a member of this tribe, being the



286 Mohammed

the Prophet as the spoils of war. He took his fifth,
and divided the rest among his followers. The
houses and property of seven hundred of the wealth-
iest of the community doubtless made the Moslems
comparatively opulent. AH could now provide the
necessary wedding-gift for his bride Fatimah, and
the auspicious ceremony was performed.

There is no moral to be drawn from the fate of
the Kainuka except the uselessness of superior
knowledge unless it produce the means of self-de-
fence, and be combined with courage. At a later
period of Islam the banishment and plunder of
an industrious section of the community would
have been highly impolitic besides being criminal.
At this period it is not clear that it was impolitic.
Many towns and countries remained to be plundered
before the Moslems could be compelled to work. -

The banishment of the Banu Kainuka apparently
led the other Jewish tribes to reflect on the fate
that was in store for them. It did not move them
to any act of courage, but one of their number,
Ka'b, son of Al-Ashraf, a Nadirite, went to Meccah
to urge on the Meccans to come quickly. This man
had a high reputation as a poet. The critic Kuda-
mah* quotes some of his verses as models of style.
What passed between Ka'b and the Meccans is not
known ; we can only imagine that his purpose was
to arrange for some united action between the dis-



rallying-point of the disaffected party as late as the year 5, and of
another, Zaid Ibn Al-Lukaib, taking part in an expedition in the
year 9 . Wakidi (fV.), 398 .
* Nakdal-ShVr, 11.



Progress and a Setback 287

affected in Medinah and the Meccans when the in-
vasion should take place. But Mohammed, as we
have seen, had ways of learning what took place in
Meccah ; by employing his court poet Hassan, son
of Thabit, to satirise Ka'b's hosts at Meccah, he rend-
ered the place too hot to hold him*; and when the
man returned, Mohammed determined that he should
be slain.

If there be any truth in the story of his assassina-
tion, it must have happened somewhat differently
from the mode described. The biographers make Mo-
hammed publicly demand to be relieved of Ka'b, son
of Al-Ashraf; whereat Mohammed, son of Maslamah,
otherwise known as a libertine, f having ascertained
that the Prophet desired his assassination, undertakes
to do the deed ; four other Medinese join him, and ob-
tain permission from the Prophet to lie to the victim.
The five Medinese come and complain to Ka'b of
the poverty in which Mohammed's enterprise had
landed them, and request from him a loan of food
for which they offer to pledge their arms. They
return at night, at an appointed time, which however
Ka'b has so far forgotten as to be asleep with his
bride. Instead of depositing their arms and taking
the food, they take him out with them on the pre-
text of wishing to hold a nightly conversation : and
when they have got some distance fall upon him and
murder him. One account increases the horror by
making two of the assassins Ka'b's foster-brothers,
which occasions the question to be asked, How came

*iVakidi(lV.), 96.
f Musnady iv., 225.



288 Mohammed

a Jew to be foster-brother of two of the Medinese ?
But we cannot believe that the purchasing of food
against a deposit would be an act requiring any
secrecy, and unless the story of the night attack
be an invention, must suppose that Ka'b had been
summoned out with the ostensible view of making a
night attack on Mohammed : an enterprise to which
the perfidy of his companions gave an unexpected
direction.

Our authors proceed to make the Prophet declare
the Jews outlawed, giving any Moslem who found one
the right to kill him. Of this right a certain Khaz-
rajite, Mahisah, is supposed to have availed himself,
to kill a Jew named Ibn Subainah, from whom he
had experienced much kindness ; an act which so
impressed his brother with the sublimity of Islam
that he immediately became a Moslem : — we might
rather see in this conversion the feeling of the
futility of resistance to a system which recognised
no moral obligations when they opposed its progress.
But if the Jews were really declared outlawed, some
ostensible reason must have been given for such an
order : and the conspiracy of Ka'b would furnish an
adequate ground for it. Without fresh orders from
the Prophet the Jews could not have continued to
remain in Medinah.*

For a whole year after the battle of Badr the Pro-
phet's power kept on increasing and fortune con-
tinued favourable. Partly by conquest and partly



* The " Sawik expedition" which is put here is omitted, because
the name is given to another expedition, and there are other improb-
abilities connected with the story.



Online LibraryD. S. (David Samuel) MargoliouthMohammed and the rise of Islam → online text (page 19 of 32)