Syed Ameer Ali.

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54 THE LIFE OF MOHAMMED i.

A mosque was soon built, in the erection of which Mohammed
assisted with his own hands ; and houses for the accom-
modation of the exiles rose apace. Two brothers, who owned
the land on which it was proposed to build the mosque, had
offered it as a free gift ; but as they were orphans, the Prophet
paid them its value.

The building was simple in form and structure, suited to the
unostentatious religion he taught. The walls were of brick
and earth, and the roof of palm leaves. A portion of the
mosque was set apart as a habitation for those who had no
home of their own.

Everything in this humble place of worship was conducted
with the greatest simplicity. Mohammed preached and
prayed standing on the bare ground or leaning against a
palm tree, and the devoted hearts around him beat in unison
with his soul-stirring words.

" He who is not affectionate to God's creatures and to his
own children," he would say, " God will not be affectionate to
him. Every Moslem who clothes the naked will be clothed by
God in the green robes of Paradise." 1

In one of his sermons he thus dwelt on the subject of charity :
" When God created the earth, it shook and trembled, until
He put mountains upon it to make it firm. Then the angels
asked, ' O God, is there anything in Thy creation stronger than
these mountains ? ' And God replied, ' Iron is stronger than
the mountains, for it breaks them.' ' And is there anything
in Thy creation stronger than iron ? ' ' Yes ; fire is stronger
than iron, for it melts it.' 'Is there anything in Thy creation
stronger than fire ? ' ' Yes, water, for it quenches fire.' ' O
Lord, is there anything in Thy creation stronger than water ? '
' Yes ; wind, for it overcomes water and puts it in motion.'
' Oh, our Sustainer, is there anything in Thy creation stronger
than wind ? ' ' Yes ; a good man giving alms ; if he give
with his right hand and conceal it from his left, he overcomes
all things.' "

His definition of charity embraced the wide circle of kindness :
" Every good act," he would say, " is charity. Your smiling
in your brother's face is charity ; an exhortation addressed to

1 From Abu Huraira, Mishkat, book xii. chap. iii. part i.



in. THE PROPHET AT MEDINA 55

your fellow-men to do virtuous deeds is equal to alms-giving.
Putting a wanderer in the right path is charity ; assisting the
blind is charity ; removing stones and thorns and other
obstructions from the road is charity ; giving water to the
thirsty is charity." l "A man's true wealth hereafter is the
good he does in this world to his fellow-men^ When he dies,
people will ask, What property has he left behind him ? But
the angels, who examine him in the grave, 2 will ask, What good
deeds hast thou sent before thee ? "

" Oh Prophet ! " said one of his disciples, " my mother,
Umm Sa'd, is dead ; what is the best alms I can give away
for the good of her soul ? " " Water ! " replied Mohammed,
bethinking himself of the panting heat of the desert. " Dig
a well for her, and give water to the thirsty." The man
dug a well in his mother's name, and said, " This is for my
mother, that its blessings may reach her soul."

" Charity of the tongue," says Irving, " that most important
and least cultivated of charities, was likewise earnestly incul-
cated by Mahomet." Abu Jariya, an inhabitant of Basra,
coming to Medina, and being convinced of the apostolic office
of Mohammed, begged of him some great rule of conduct.
" Speak evil of no one," answered the Prophet. " From that
time," says Abu Jariya, " I never abused any one, whether
freeman or slave."

The teachings of Islam extended to the courtesies of life.
Make a salutation to the dwellers of a house on entering and
leaving it. 3 Return the salute of friends and acquaintances,
and wayfarers on the road. He who rides must be the first to
make the salute to him who walks ; he who walks to him
who is sitting ; a small party to a large party, and the young
to the old." 4

1 From Abu Sa'id Khazri. 2 See post, pt. ii. chap. x.

3 Compare Koran, chap. xxiv. vers. 27, 28, 61 and 62.

4 From Abu Hurairah, Mishkat, Bk. xxii. chap. i. part 1. Besides the
references already given, consult the Kitab ul-Mnstatraf, chaps, iv. v. x. xiii.
xix. xxii. xxiii. and xxv The Mustatraf gives fully the references to Tirmizi,
Muslim, and Bukhari. Consult also the Majdlis ul-Abrdr, Majlis (seance), 84.



CHAPTER IV

THE HOSTILITY OF THE KOREISH AND THE JEWS

i A.H. = igth April 622-yth May 623 A.C.

v-J^ yj** ^f ^- iJ

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AT this time there were three distinct parties in Medina.
The Muhajirin (the Exiles) and the Ansar (the Helpers)
L formed the kernel of Islam. Their devotion to the
Prophet was unbounded. The Exiles had forsaken their
1 A.H.=i9th homes, and abandoned, contrary to all Arab
April 622 to 7th traditions, the ties of kith and kin, in the
cause of the Faith. They had braved all
sufferings, withstood all temptations in the service of the
Lord. Many of them had come to the City of Safety
without means. They had been received with open arms
by the Medinite converts, who in many cases shared their
worldly goods with the poorer of the new-comers. The
brotherhood of Faith, so wisely established by the Prophet,
whilst it prevented the growth of jealousy, gave rise to a



iv. THE PROPHET IN MEDINA 57

generous emulation, both among the Ansar and the Muhajiiin,
as to who would bring the greatest sacrifice in the service of
God and His Prophet. The enthusiasm and earnestness with
which these men and women devoted themselves to the new
awakening, the zeal with which they laid down their lives,
was a manifestation such as had not been seen sincS the best
days of the Christian phase of religious development. The
second, and at first by no means an unimportant party, was
composed principally of lukewarm converts to the Faith,
who retained an ill-concealed predilection for idolatry ; and
was headed by Abdullah ibn-Ubayy, a chief of some position
in the city, who aspired to the kinghood of Medina. With
this object he had gathered round him, like Abu Sufian at
Mecca, a strong body of partizans. Everything was ripe
for him to seize the reins of power, when the arrival of the
Prophet upset his designs. The popular enthusiasm compelled
him and his followers to make a nominal profession of Islam ;
but, ever ready as they were to turn against the Moslems at the
least opportunity, they were a source of considerable danger
to the new-born commonwealth, and required unceasing
watchfulness on the part of the Prophet. Towards them he
always showed the greatest patience and forbearance, hoping
in the end to win them over to the Faith. And this expectation
was fully justified by the result. With the death of Abdullah
ibn-Ubayy his party, which has been stigmatised x as the party
of the Munafikin (the Disaffected), disappeared for a time
from view. /

But the Jews, who may be said to have formed the third
party, constituted the most serious element of danger. They
had close business relations with the Koreish, and their
ramifications extended into various parts hostile to the
Faith. At first they were inclined to look with some favour on
the preachings of Mohammed. He could not, of course, be
their promised Messiah, but perhaps a weak dreamer, a humble
preacher, dependent upon the hospitality of their old enemies,

1 Koran, sura xlii. ; Ibn-Hisham, pp. 363, 411. The Munafikin or the
Irreconcilables have never disappeared completely from the Islamic body
politic. Ever and anon they have exercised the most disastrous effects in
Islam. In later times they posed as the champions of orthodoxy ; note for
example, the Khurijis of Africa.



58 THE LIFE OF MOHAMMED I.

now their patrons, the Aus and the Khazraj, might become
their avenger, help them in conquering the Arabs, and found
for them a new kingdom of Judah. With this aim in view,
they had joined with the Medinites in a half-hearted welcome
to the Prophet. And for a time they maintained a pacific
attitude. But it was only for a time ; for barely a month had
gone by before the old spirit of rebellion, which had led them
to crucify their prophets, found vent in open seditions and
secret treachery. One of the first acts of Mohammed after
his arrival in Medina was to weld together the heterogeneous
and conflicting elements of which the city and its suburbs
were composed, into an orderly confederation. With this
object he had granted a charter to the people, by which the
rights and obligations of the Moslems inter se, and of the
Moslems and Jews, were clearly defined. And the Jews, borne
down for the moment by the irresistible character of the
movement, had gladly accepted the Pact. This document,
which has been carefully preserved in the pages of Ibn-Hisham,
reveals the Man in his real greatness — a master-mind, not only
of his own age, as Muir calls him, but of all ages. No wild
dreamer he, bent upon pulling down the existing fabrics of
society, but a statesman of unrivalled powers, who in an age
of utter and hopeless disintegration, with such materials and
such polity as God put ready to his hands, set himself to the
task of reconstructing a State, a commonwealth, a society,
upon the basis of universal humanity. " In the name of the
most merciful and compassionate God," says this first charter
of freedom of conscience, " given by Mohammed, the Prophet,
to the Believers, whether of the Koreish or of Yathrib, and all
individuals of whatever origin who have made common cause
with them, all these shall constitute one nation." Then,
after regulating the payment of the Diyat 1 by the various clans,
and fixing some wise rules regarding the private duties of
Moslems as between themselves, the document proceeds thus :
" The state of peace and war shall be common to all Moslems ;
no one among them shall have the right of concluding peace
with, or declaring war against, the enemies of his co-religionists.

1 Diyat, Wehrgeld, price which a homicide had to pay to the family of the
victim, if they consented to it.



iv. THE CHARTER OF MOHAMMED 59

The Jews who attach themselves to our commonwealth shall
be protected from all insults and vexations ; they shall have
an equal right with our own people to our assistance and good
offices : the Jews of the various branches of 'Auf, Najjar,
Harith, Jashm, Th'alaba, Aus, and all others domiciled in
Yathrib, shall form with the Moslems one composite nation ;
they shall practise their religion as freely as the Moslems ;
the clients 1 and allies of the Jews shall enjoy the same security
and freedom ; the guilty shall be pursued and punished ; the
Jews shall join the Moslems in defending Yathrib (Medina)
against all enemies ; the interior of Yathrib shall be a sacred
place for all who accept this Charter ; the clients and allies
of the Moslems and the Jews shall be as respected as the
patrons ; all true Moslems shall hold in abhorrence every man
guilty of crime, injustice, or disorder : no one shall uphold the
culpable, though he were his nearest kin." Then, after some
other provisions regarding the internal management of the
State, this extraordinary document concluded thus : " All
future disputes between those who accept this Charter shall
be referred, under God, to the Prophet." 2

A death-blow was thus given to that anarchic custom of the
Arabs, which had hitherto obliged the aggrieved and the injured
to rely upon his own or his kinsmen's power in order to exact
vengeance, or satisfy the requirements of justice. It constituted
Mohammed the chief magistrate of the nation, as much by his
prophetic function as by a virtual compact between himself
and the people.

The Jewish tribes of the Bani-un-Nazir, 3 Bani-Kuraizha,
and Bani-Kainuka'a settled in the vicinity of
Medina, were not at first included in this J 2 A - H - 7th May

-».,.- , . , 623 to 26th April

Charter ; but after a short time they, too, 624 a.c.
gratefully accepted its terms.

No kindness or generosity, however, on the part of the
Prophet would satisfy the Jews ; nothing could conciliate the
bitter feelings with which they were animated. Enraged that
they could not use him as their instrument for the conversion

1 I.e. the protected.

2 Ibn-Hisham, pp. 341-343. This is a paraphrase of an important historical
document.

3 With a zad.



60 THE LIFE OF MOHAMMED I.

of Arabia to Judaism, and that his belief was so much simpler
than their Talmudic legends, they soon broke off, and ranged
themselves on the side of the enemies of the new Faith. And
when asked which they preferred, idolatry or Islam, they,
like many Christian controversialists, declared they preferred
idolatry, with all its attendant evils, to the creed of Mohammed.
They reviled him; they "twisted their tongues" and mis-
pronounced the Koranic words and the daily prayers and
formulae of Islam, rendering them meaningless, absurd, or
blasphemous ; and the Jewish poets and poetesses, of whom
there existed many at the time, outraged all common decency
and the recognised code of Arab honour and chivalry by
lampooning in obscene verse the Moslem women. But these
were minor offences. Not satisfied with insulting the women
of the Believers and reviling the Prophet, they sent out
emissaries to the enemies of the State, the protection of which
they had formally accepted. The Koreish, who had sworn
Mohammed's death, were well acquainted, thanks to the
party of Abdullah-ibn-Ubayy and the faithless Israelites, with
the exact strength of the Moslems. They also knew that the
Jews had accepted Mohammed's alliance only from motives
of temporary expediency, and that the moment they showed
themselves in the vicinity of Medina the worshippers of
Jehovah would break away from him and join the idolaters.
And now came the moment of severest trial to Islam
Barely had the Prophet time to put the city in a state of
defence and organise the Believers, before the blow descended
upon him. 1 Medina itself was honeycombed by sedition
and treachery. And it became the duty of Mohammed to
take serious measures to guard against that dreaded catastrophe
which a rising within, or a sudden attack from without, would
have entailed upon his followers. He was not simply a preacher
of Islam ; he was also the guardian of the lives and liberties
of his people. As a Prophet, he could afford to ignore the
revilings and the gibes of his enemies ; but as the head of the
State, " the general in a time of almost continual warfare,"
when Medina was kept in a state of military defence and under

1 Koran, sura ix. ver. 13 ; Zamakhshari (the Kashshdf), Egypt, ed., pp.
314, 315 ; al-Halabi, Insdn-nl-'Uyiln, vol. ii.



iv. THE BATTLE OF BADR 61

a sort of military discipline, he could not overlook treachery.
He was bound by his duty to his subjects to suppress a party
that might have led, and almost did lead to the sack of the
city by investing armies. The safety of the State required the
proscription of the traitors, who were either sowing the seeds
of sedition within Medina or carrying information to the
common enemy. Some half a dozen were placed under the
ban, outlawed, and executed. We are, however, anticipating
the course of events in referring to these executions.

The Koreish army was afield before Mohammed received
God's command to do battle to His enemies.

He who never in his life had wielded a weapon, to whom the
sight of human suffering caused intense pain and pity, and who,
against all the canons of Arab manliness, wept bitterly at the
loss of his children or disciples, whose character ever remained
so tender and so pathetic as to cause his enemies to call him
womanish, 1 — this man was now compelled, from the necessities
of the situation, and against his own inclination, to repel the
attacks of the enemy by force of arms, to organise his followers
for purposes of self-defence, and often to send out expeditions
to anticipate treacherous and sudden onslaughts. Hitherto,
Arab warfare consisted of sudden and murderous forays, often
made in the night or in the early morn ; isolated combats or a
general melee, when the attacked were aware of the designs
of the attacking party. Mohammed, with a thorough know-
ledge of the habits of his people, had frequently to guard
against these sudden onslaughts by sending forth reconnoitring
parties.

The Meccans and their allies commenced raiding up to the
very vicinity of Medina, destroying the fruit-trees of the
Moslems, and carrying away their flocks. A force, consisting
of a thousand well-equipped men, marched under the noted
Abu Jahl, " the Father of Ignorance," towards Medina to
destroy the Moslems, and to protect one of their caravans
bringing munitions of war. The Moslems received timely
notice of the movement, and a body of three hundred disciples
proceeded at once to forestall the heathens by occupying the
valley of Badr, upon which Abu Jahl was moving. When

1 Compare Dozy, Histoire des Musalmans d'Espagne, vol. i. p. 32.



62 THE LIFE OF MOHAMMED i.

Mohammed saw the infidel army arrogantly advancing into
the valley, raising his hands towards heaven, like the prophets
of Israel, he prayed that the little band of the Faithful might
not be destroyed : " O Lord, forget not Thy promise of assist-
ance. O Lord, if this little band were to perish, there will be
none to offer unto Thee pure worship." x

Three of the Koreish advanced into the open space which
divided the Moslems from the idolaters, and, according to
Arab usage, challenged three champions from the Moslem
ranks to single combat. Hamza, Ah, and Obaidah accepted
the challenge, and came out conquerors. The engagement
then became general. At one time the fortunes of the field
wavered, but Mohammed's appeal to his people decided the
fate of the battle. " It was a stormy winter day. A piercing
blast swept across the valley." It seemed as if the angels
of heaven were warring for the Moslems. Indeed, to the
earnest minds of Mohammed and his followers, who, like the
early Christians, saw God's providence " in all the gifts of
nature, in every relation of life, at each turn of their affairs,
individual or public," — to them those blasts of wind and
sand, the elements warring against the enemies of God, at that
critical moment appeared veritable succour sent from heaven ;
as angels riding on the wings of the wind, and driving the
faithless idolaters before them in confusion. 2 The Meccans
were driven back with great loss ; many of their chiefs were
slain ; and Abu Jahl fell a victim to his unruly pride. 3

A large number remained prisoners in the hands of the
Moslems, but only two of them were executed. They had
been noted for their virulent animosity towards the followers
of the new Faith, and by the laws of war among the Arabs
they now paid the penalty of their conduct. 4

1 Ibn-Hisham, p. 444 ; Ibn ul-Athir, vol. ii. p. 97.

2 Koran, Sura viii. ver. 9, and Sura iii. vers. 11, 121-128. Comp. also Muir,
vol. iii. p. 106.

3 Ibn-Hisham, p. 443 et seq. ; Ibn ul-Athir, vol. ii. p. 26 et seq. Sir W.
Muir mentions that when the head of Abu Jahl was brought to Mohammed,
he said, "It is more acceptable to me than the choicest camel in Arabia."
This passage, which is not to be found either in Ibn-Hisham, Ibn ul-Athir,
Abulfeda. or Tabari, is apocryphal

4 Nazr, son of Harith, referred to in ver. 32 of Sura viii. of the Koran, was
one of these men.



iv. THE VICTORY OF THE MOSLEMS 63

The rest of the prisoners, contrary to all the usages and
traditions of the Arabs, were treated with the greatest human-
ity. The Prophet gave strict orders that respect should be
paid to their misfortunes, and that they should be treated
with kindness. The Moslems, to whose care he confided them,
faithfully obeyed his instructions. They shared their own
food with the prisoners, giving them the bread which forms the
best part of their repast, and contenting themselves with
dates alone. 1

The division of the spoil gave rise to sharp dissensions among
the Moslem soldiery. For the present, Mohammed calmed
their disputes by dividing it equally amongst all. 2 But as
such dissensions among an unruly people were likely to lead
to mischief, the Prophet, with a view to prevent all future
quarrels over spoil acquired in war, promulgated a special
ordinance, which is incorporated in the chapter of the Koran
entitled al-Anfdl (the Spoils). By this law the division of the
spoils was left to the discretion of the chief of the common-
wealth ; a fifth being reserved for the public treasury for the
support of the poor and indigent. 3

The remarkable circumstances which led to the victory of
Badr, and the results which followed from it, made a deep
impression on the minds of the Moslems. They firmly believed
that the angels of heaven had battled on their side against the
unbelieving host.

1 Ibn-Hisham, pp. 459, 460 ; Caussin de Perceval, vol. iii. p. 79. Muir
speaks thus : " In pursuance of Mahomet's commands, the citizens of Medina,
and such of the refugees as possessed houses, received the prisoners, and
treated them with much consideration. ' Blessings be on the men of Medina !
said one of these prisoners in later days ; ' they made us ride, while they
themselves walked ; they gave us wheaten bread to eat when there was little
of it ; contenting themselves with dates,' " vol. iii. p. 122.

2 " It is remarkable," says Sale, " that the dispute among Mohammed's
men about sharing the booty at Badr arose on the same occasion as did that
among David's soldiers in relation to the spoils taken from the Amalekites ;
those who had been in the action insisting that they who tarried by the stuff
should have no part of the spoil ; and that the same decision was given in
both cases, which became a law for the future, to wit, that they should part
alike." Prel. Disc. sec. vi.

1 Koran, chap. viii. ver. 41. Though the distribution was left to the dis-
cretion of the chief of the State, certain customs were invariably observed
which under the Caliphs became precedents, and thus gave a more definite
shape to the law. Compare M. Querry's splendid work, entitled Droit Mussul-
man (Paris 1871), tome i. p. 335.



64 THE LIFE OF MOHAMMED i.

The few simple touches in the Koran which bring into vivid
prominence the poetic element involved in the conception of
the angels fighting the battle of the Lord, will not yield in
beauty or sublimity to the most eloquent words of the Psalmist.
Indeed, the same poetic character is perceptible in both. 1

Probably Mohammed, like Jesus and other teachers, believed
in the existence of intermediate beings, celestial messengers
from God to man. The modern disbelief in angels furnishes
no reason for ridiculing the notions of our forefathers. Our
disbelief is as much open to the name of superstition as their
belief ; only one is negative, the other positive. What we,
in modern times, look upon as the principles of nature, they
looked upon as angels, ministrants of heaven. Whether there
exist intermediate beings, as Locke thinks, between God and
man, just as there are intermediate beings between man and
the lowest form of animal creation, is a question too deep to be
fathomed by the reason of man.

Mohammed also, like Jesus, probably believed in the existence
of the Principle of Evil as a personal entity. But an analysis
of his words reveals a more rationalistic element, a subjective
conception clothed in language suited for the apprehension
of his followers. When somebody asked him where Satan
lived, he replied " In the heart of man," whilst Christian
tradition converts the Pharisee who tempted Jesus, into the
veritable Prince of Hell. 2

The belief in angels and devils has given rise to an extra-
ordinary number of legends both in Islam and in Christianity.
The saints of heaven and angels fight for the Christian. The
Moslem only accepts the assistance of angels in the battles of
life.

1 Ps. xviii.

2 All the Schleicrmacher school believe the tempter to have been the head
priest. Milman mentions this view as well as the patristic and orthodox one,
but dexterously leaves for the reader to choose which he likes. The chapter
of Reuss on Angels (History of Christian Theology in the Apostolic Age, English
translation, note i, pp. 401-404), with the mass of references arrayed therein,
distinctly proves that the early Christians, the immediate disciples of Jesus,
firmly believed the angels and devils to be personal entities, beings slightly
ethereal, but in every way human-like ; and this belief those disciples of Jesus



Online LibrarySyed Ameer AliThe spirit of Islâm : a history of the evolution and ideals of Islâm → online text (page 12 of 55)