Syed Ameer Ali.

The spirit of Islâm : a history of the evolution and ideals of Islâm online

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attempted his life at Khaibar, and Ikrima, the son of Abu Jahl,
who was bitterly personal in his animosity towards the Prophet,
were freely forgiven.

A tribe of Christian Bedouins (the Bani-Kalb), settled about
Divmat ul-Jandal, had, in their depredations, appeared on the
Medinite territories. An expedition was now despatched to
summon them to embrace Islam and forego their lawless
practices. Whilst delivering his injunctions to the captain who
headed this small force, Mohammed used the memorable words,
" In no case shalt thou use deceit or perfidy, nor shalt thou kill
any child." 1

In his instructions to the leaders of the expeditions against
marauding and hostile tribes and people, he invariably enjoined
them in peremptory terms never to injure the weak. " In
avenging the injuries inflicted upon us," he said to his troops,
whom he despatched against the Byzantines, " molest not the
harmless inmates of domestic seclusion ; spare the weakness
of the female sex ; injure not the infant at the breast, or those
who are ill in bed. Abstain from demolishing the dwellings of
the unresisting inhabitants ; destroy not the means of their
subsistence, nor their fruit trees ; and touch not the palm."
Abu Bakr, following his master, thus enjoined his captain :
" O Yezid ! be sure you do not oppress your own people, nor
make them uneasy, but advise with them in all your affairs,
and take care to do that which is right and just ; for those that
do otherwise shall not prosper. When you meet your enemies
quit yourselves like men, and do not turn your backs ; and if
you gain the victory, kill not little children, nor old people, nor
women. Destroy no palm trees, nor burn any fields of corn.
Cut down no fruit trees, nor do any mischief to cattle, only such

1 Ibn-Hisham, p. 992. Compare these injunctions of the Arabian Prophet
as also the historic words of Abu Bakr (the first Caliph) to Yezid bin Abu
Sufian, when despatching him against the Byzantines, with the commands of
the Israelite Prophet : " Thus saith the Lord of Hosts . . . Now go and
smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not ;
but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and
ass," I. Sam. xv. 3 ; " Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little
children, and women." Ezek. ix. 6.


as you kill for the necessity of subsistence. When you make
any covenant or article, stand to it, and be as good as your
word. As you go on, you will find some religious persons that
live retired in monasteries, who propose to themselves to serve
God that way. Let them alone, and neither kill them nor
destroy their monasteries." 1 These injunctions contrast
strangely with the fearful denunciations of the Christians,
Catholic, Protestant and Greek, from the days of St. Lactantius
to those of the Covenanters. 2 The followers of the " Prince of
Peace " burnt and ravished, pillaged and murdered pro-
miscuously, old and young, male and female, without com-
punction, up to recent times. And his vicegerents on earth,
popes and patriarchs, bishops, priests, and presbyters, approved
of their crimes, and frequently granted plenary absolution for
the most heinous offences.

In the month of Sha'ban of this year (November-December,
627) an expedition was directed against the Bani-Mustalik.
These people had up to this time been on friendly terms with
the Moslems. But, recently, instigated by their chief Harith,
the son of Abu Zirar, 3 they had thrown off their allegiance,
and committed forays on the suburbs of Medina. The
expedition was entirely successful, and several prisoners were
taken, amongst whom was a daughter of Harith, called

Six years had now passed since the exiles of Mecca had left
their homes and their country for the sake of their faith, and
of him who had infused into them a new consciousness such as
they had never felt before, awakening in them the spirit of
union, love, and brotherhood. People flocked from every part
of Arabia to listen to the words of the wondrous man who had
achieved all this ; to ask his counsel in the affairs of everyday
life, even as the sons of Israel consulted of old the prophet
Samuel. 4

1 Compare Mill's History of Muhamtnedanism, pp. 45, 46 ; and Gagnier,
Vie de Mahomet, in loco.

2 The massacre of 5000 Chinese men, women and children at Blagovestchenk
in Manchuria in the twentieth century by the troops of a great Christian power
needs no mention.

3 With a zad ; Ibn-Hisham, p. 725 ; Ibn ul-Athir, vol. ii. p. 146.

4 Stanley's Lectures on the Jewish Church, vol. i. in loco.


But the hearts of these exiles still yearned sadly for the
place of their birth. Driven from their homes, they had found
refuge in a rival city ; expelled from the precincts of the sacred
Kaaba, which formed the glorious centre of all their associa-
tions, — the one spot round which gathered the history of their
nation, — for six years had they been denied the pilgrimage of
the holy shrine, a custom round which time, with its hoary
traditions, had cast the halo of sanctity. The Teacher himself
longed to see the place of his nativity with as great a yearning.
The temple of the Kaaba belonged to the whole Arab nation.
The Koreish were merely the custodians of this shrine, and
were not authorised by the public law of the country to interdict
the approach even of an enemy, if he presented himself without
any hostile design, and with the avowed object of fulfilling a
religious duty. 1

The season of the pilgrimage had approached ; the Prophet
accordingly announced his intention of visiting the holy places.
At once a thousand voices responded to the call. Preparations
were rapidly made, and, accompanied by seven hundred
Moslems, Ansar and Muhajirin, all perfectly unarmed, he set
out on the pilgrimage. 2 The animosity of the Koreish, how-
ever, was not yet extinguished. They posted themselves, with
a large army, some miles in advance of Mecca, to bar the way,
but soon after fell back on the city, in order to keep every
point of access closed to the Moslems. They swore solemnly
not to allow the followers of the Prophet to enter the shrine,
and maltreated the envoy who was sent to them to solicit
permission to visit the Kaaba. A body of the Meccans went
round the Prophet's encampment with the avowed object of
killing any unwary Moslem who might leave the camp. They
even attacked the Prophet with stones and arrows. 3 Finding

1 Tabari, vol. iii. p. 84 ; Caussin de Perceval, vol. iii. pp. 174, 175 et seq.

2 Ibn-Hisharn, p. 740; Tabari, vol. iii. p. 84 ; Ibn ul-Athir, vol. ii. p. 152.
Abulfeda, p. 60, mentions the number as 1400.

3 When some of these men were seized and brought before the Prophet, he
pardoned and released them, Ibn-Hisham, p. 745. It was on this occasion
that the Moslems took the pledge, called " The Agreeable Pledge " (Bai at-ur-
Rizwan), or " The Pledge of the Tree " (Bai'at-ush-Shajara). Osman being sent
to the Koreish to repeat the request for permission, they seized and detained
him. The Moslems, fearful of his murder, nocked round Mohammed, and
solemnly swore to avenge his death. Ibn-Hisham, p. 746 ; Koran, sura
xlviii. ver. 17; comp. also Muir, vol. iv. p. 32.


the idolaters immovable, and wishful himself to end the state
of warfare between the Moslems and the Koreish, Mohammed
expressed himself willing to agree to any terms the Meccans
might feel inclined to impose. After much difficulty a treaty
was concluded, by which it was agreed that all hostilities
should cease for ten years ; that anyone coming from the
Koreish to the Prophet without the permission of the guardian
or chief, should be re-delivered to the idolaters ; that any
individual from among the Moslems going over to the Meccans
should not be surrendered ; that any tribe desirous of entering
into alliance, either with the Koreish or with the Moslems,
should be at liberty to do so without hindrance ; that the
Moslems should retrace their steps on this occasion, without
advancing farther ; that they should be permitted in the
following year to visit Mecca and to remain there for three
days with their travelling arms, namely, their " scimitars in
sheaths." l

The moderation and magnanimity displayed by Mohammed
in concluding this treaty caused some discontent among the
more impulsive of his followers, in whose hearts the injuries
and cruelties inflicted by the Koreish yet rankled. In virtue
of the third stipulation of the treaty, by which the Moslems
bound themselves to surrender every idolater who came over
to their cause without the permission of their patron or chief,
the Koreish demanded the surrender of several of the Prophet's
disciples ; and their demand was immediately complied with
by Mohammed, in spite of the murmurs of some of the
Moslems. 2

On his return to Medina, Mohammed, in pursuance of the
catholic wish by which he was inspired, that his religion should

1 I.e. the Sildh-ur-rdkib ; Ibn-Hisham, p. 747 ; Ibn ul-Athir, vol. ii. p.
156 ; Mishkdt, bk xvii. chap. 10, part i. It was on the occasion of this peace
that a Koreishite envoy who was sent to the Moslem encampment, struck with
the profound reverence and love shown to the Prophet by his followers, on
his return to the Koreish, told them he had seen sovereigns like the Chosroes
(Kesra), the Caesar (Kaiser), and the Negus (Najashi), surrounded with all the
pomp and circumstance of royalty ; but he had never witnessed a sovereign
in the midst of his subjects receiving such veneration and obedience as was
paid to Mohammed by his people ; Ibn-Hisham, p. 745 ; Ibn ul-Athir, vol. ii.
p. 154 ; Tabari, vol. iii. p. 87 ; and Abulfeda, p. 61.

2 As women were not included in the treaty, the demand of the idolaters
for the surrender of the female Moslems was peremptorily declined.


embrace all humanity, 1 despatched several envoys to invite
the neighbouring sovereigns and their subjects to drink of the
cup of life offered to them by the Preacher of Islam. Two of
the most noted embassies were to Heraclius, the Emperor of
the Greeks, and to Khusru Parviz, the Kesra of Persia. The
King of Kings was amazed at the audacity of the fugitive of
Mecca in addressing him, the great Chosroes, on terms of
equality, and enraged at what he considered the insolence of
the letter, tore it to pieces, and drove the envoy from his
presence with contumely. When the news of this treatment
was brought to the Prophet, he quietly observed, " Thus will
the empire of Kesra. be torn to pieces." 2 The fulfilment of
the prophecy is engraved on the pages of history. Heraclius,
more polite or more reverential, treated the messenger with
great respect, and returned a gracious and careful reply.
Before, however, leaving Syria he tried to acquaint himself
better with the character of the man who had sent him the
message. With this object he is said to have summoned to
his presence some Arab merchants who had arrived at Gaza
with a caravan from Arabia. Among them was the notorious
Abu Sufian, still one of the bitterest enemies of the Prophet.
The Greek emperor appears to have questioned him with
regard to Mohammed, and his replies, as preserved in the
traditions, are almost identical with the summary which
Ja'far gave to the Negus of the teachings of Mohammed.
" What are the doctrines Mohammed advances ? " asked
Heraclius of Abu Sufian. " He bids us abandon the worship
of our ancient idols and to adore one God ; to bestow alms ;
to observe truth and purity ; to abstain from fornication and
vice, and to flee abominations." Asked if his followers were
increasing in number, or if they were falling off, the reply was,
" his adherents are increasing incessantly, and there has not
been one who has forsaken him."

Another ambassador sent soon afterwards to the Ghassanide
prince, a feudatory of Heraclius, residing at Busra, near
Damascus, instead of receiving the reverence and respect due
to an envoy, was cruelly murdered by another chief of the

1 Koran, sura vii. vers. 157, 158.

2 Ibn ul-Athir, vol. ii. pp. 163, 164.


same family, and Ameer of a Christian tribe subject to Byzan-
tium. This wanton outrage on international obligations
became eventually the cause of that war which placed Islam
in conflict with the whole of Christendom. But of this we
shall treat later.


fi .l))\ juyi fji 0* **» u - ^ji jjlj] jul j'i; d

THE Jewish tribes, in spite of the reverses they had
already suffered were still formidable, — still busy with
their machinations to work the destruction of the
Moslems. They possessed, at the distance of three or four
7 ah =i2th days' journey to the north-east of Medina, a
April 628 to 1st strongly fortified territory, studded with castles,
May 629 a.c. the principal f which) called a l-Kamus, was

situated on an almost inaccessible hill. This group of fortresses
was called Khaibar, a word signifying a fortified place. The
population of Khaibar included several branches of the Bani-
Nazir and the Kuraizha, who had taken refuge there. The
Jews of Khaibar had shown an active and implacable hatred
towards Mohammed and his followers, and since the arrival of
their brethren among them, this feeling had acquired greater
force. The Jews of Khaibar united by an ancient alliance with
the Bedouin horde of the Bani-Ghatafan, and other cognate
tribes, worked incessantly for the formation of another coalition
against the Moslems. 1 These latter were alive to the power
possessed by the desert-races to injure them, and prompt
measures were needed to avert the evils of another league
against Medina. Accordingly, early in the month of Muharram
of this year, an expedition, consisting of about 1400 men, was
despatched against Khaibar. The Jews now solicited the
assistance of their allies. The Bani-Fizara hastened to their

1 Caussin de Perceval, vol. iii. pp. 193, 194.


support, but afraid of the Moslems turning their flank, and
surprising their flocks and herds in their absence, speedily
retreated. The Jews were thus left alone to bear the brunt of
the war. Terms were offered to them by the Moslems, but
were refused. In spite of the most determined resistance on
the part of the Jews, fortress after fortress opened its gate. At
last came the turn of the most formidable castle, al-Kamus.
After a spirited defence, it also fell into the hands of the Moslems.
The fate of this, their principal fortress, brought the remaining
Jewish townships to see the utter futility of further resistance.
They sued for forgiveness, which was accorded. Their lands and
immovable property were guaranteed to them (on condition
of good conduct), together with the free practice of their
religion ; and, as they were exempt from the regular taxes, the
Prophet imposed upon them the duty of paying to the Common-
wealth, in return for the protection they would thenceforth
enjoy, half the produce of their lands. The movable property
found in the fortress which the Moslems reduced by regular
sieges and battles, was forfeited to the army, and distributed
among the men according to the character of their arms ; thus,
for instance, three shares were given to a horseman, whilst a
foot-soldier received only one. 1

Towards the end of the seventh year of the Hegira, Moham-
med and his disciples availed themselves of their truce with
the Koreish to accomplish the desire of their hearts 2 — the
pilgrimage to the holy places. This journey, in Moslem history,
is reverently styled " the Pilgrimage, or Visit of Accomplish-
ment." 3 It was in March 629 that the Prophet, accompanied
by 2000 Moslems, proceeded to Mecca to perform the rites of the

1 Ibn-Hisham, pp. 764 and 773 ; Ibn ul-Athir, vol. ii. p. 169. The story
of Kinana being tortured for the sake of disclosing the concealed treasures is

Frequent attempts were made about this time to assassinate the Prophet.
On his entry into Khaibar, a Jewess, animated with the same vengeful feeling
as the Judith of old, spread a poisoned repast for him and some of his followers.
One of them died immediately after he had taken a few mouthfuls. The life
of the Prophet was saved, but the poison permeated his system, and in after-
life he suffered severely from its effects, and eventually died thereof. In
spite of this crime, Mohammed forgave the woman, and she was allowed to
remain among her people unharmed ; Tabari, vol. iii. p. 104 ; Ibn ul-Athir,
vol. ii. p. 170.

2 See Koran, sura xlviii. ver. 27. 3 'Umrat-ul-Kazd.


Lesser Pilgrimage — rites which every pilgrim of Islam has now
to observe. The Koreish would, however, have nothing to say
to the pilgrims, and hold no converse with them. For the three
days during which the ceremonies lasted, they evacuated the
city, and from the summits of the neighbouring heights watched
the Moslems performing the rites. " It was surely a strange
sight," says Muir, with an unconscious thrill, " which at this
time presented itself in the vale of Mekka, — a sight unique in
the history of the world. The ancient city is for three days
evacuated by all its inhabitants, high and low, every house
deserted ; and, as they retire, the exiled converts, many years
banished from their birthplace, approach in a great body,
accompanied by their allies, revisit the empty homes of their
childhood, and within the short allotted space, fulfil the rites
of pilgrimage. The outside inhabitants, climbing the heights
around, take refuge under tents, or other shelter among the
hills and glens ; and, clustering on the overhanging peak of
Aboo-Kubeys, thence watch the movements of the visitors
beneath, as with the Prophet at their head they make the
circuit of the Kaabeh, and the rapid procession between
Es-Safa and Marwah ; and anxiously scan every figure if
perchance they may recognise among the worshippers some
long-lost friend or relative. It was a scene rendered possible
only by the throes which gave birth to Islam." * In strict
conformity with the terms of the treaty, they left Mecca after
a sojourn of three days. This peaceful fulfilment of the day-
dream of the Moslems was followed by important conversions
among the Koreish. The self-restraint and scrupulous
regard for their pledged word displayed by the Believers
created a visible impression among the enemies of Islam.
Many of those who were most violent among the Koreish
in their opposition to the Prophet, men of position and
influence, who had warred against him, and reviled him,
struck by Mohammed's kindness of heart and nobility of
nature, which overlooked all crimes against himself, adopted
the Faith. 2

1 Muir, Life of Mohammed, vol. iii. 402.

2 For instance, Khalid bin-Walid, who commanded the Koreish cavalry at
Ohod, and 'Amr(u) ibn al-'Asi, famous as Amru.


The murder of the Moslem envoy by a feudatory l of the
Greek emperor was an outrage which could not be passed over
in silence, and unpunished. An expedition, consisting of three
thousand men, was despatched to exact reparation from the
Ghassanide prince. The lieutenants of the Byzantine emperor,
instead of disavowing the crime, adopted it, and thus made the
quarrel an imperial one. Uniting their forces, they attacked
the Moslems near Muta, a village not far from Balka in Syria,
the scene of the murder. The Byzantines and their allies were
repulsed, but the disparity of numbers was too great, and the
Moslems retreated to Medina.' 2

It was about this time that the Koreish and their allies the
Bani-Bakr, in violation of the terms of peace concluded at
Hudaibiya, attacked the Bani-Khuza'a, who were under the
protection of, and in alliance with, the Moslems. They
massacred a number of the Khuza'a, and dispersed the rest.
The Banu-Khuza'a brought their complaints to Mohammed,
and asked for justice. The reign of iniquity and oppression
had lasted long at Mecca. The Meccans had themselves
violated the peace, and some of their chief men had taken part
in the massacre of the Khuza'a. The Prophet immediately
marched ten thousand men against the idolaters. With the
exception of a slight resistance by Ikrima, 3 and Safwan 4 at
the head of their respective clans, in which several Moslems
were killed, Mohammed entered Mecca almost unopposed.

Thus, at length, Mohammed entered Mecca as a conqueror.
He, who was once a fugitive and persecuted, now came to prove
his mission by deeds of mercy. The city which had treated
him so cruelly, driven him and his faithful band for refuge
amongst strangers, which had sworn his life and the lives of his
devoted disciples, lay at his feet. His old persecuters, relentless
and ruthless, who had disgraced humanity by inflicting cruel

1 According to Caussin de Perceval, the name of this chieftain was
Shurahbil, son of 'Amr (and not, as Abulfeda mentions it, 'Amr, son of
Shurahbil). — Vol. ii. p. 253, and vol. hi. p. 211.

2 Caussin de Perceval, vol. iii. p. 211 et seq. ; Ibn ul-Athir, vol. ii. pp. 178-
180. In this battle, Zaid, the son of Harith, who commanded the Moslem
troops, Ja'far, the cousin of Mohammed, and several other notables were killed.

3 The son of Abu Jahl, who fell at Badr.
5 The son of Ommeyya.


outrages upon inoffensive men and women, and even upon the
lifeless dead, were now completely at his mercy. But in the
hour of triumph every evil suffered was forgotten, every
injury inflicted was forgiven, and a general amnesty was
extended to the population of Mecca. Only four criminals,
" whom justice condemned," made up Mohammed's proscrip-
tion list when he entered as a conqueror the city of his bitterest
enemies. The army followed his example, and entered gently
and peaceably ; no house was robbed, no woman was insulted.
Most truly has it been said that through all the annals of
conquest, there has been no triumphant entry like unto this
one. But the idols of the nation were unrelentingly struck
down. Sorrowfully the idolaters stood round and watched the
downfall of the images they worshipped. And then dawned
upon them the truth, when they heard the old voice, at which
they were wont to scoff and jeer, cry, as he struck down the
idols, " Truth has come, and falsehood vanisheth ; verily
falsehood is evanescent," J how utterly powerless were their

After destroying these ancient idols and abolishing every
pagan rite, Mohammed delivered a sermon to the assembled
people. He dwelt first upon the natural equality and brother-
hood of mankind, in the words of the Koran, 2 and then pro-
ceeded as follows : " Descendants of Koreish, how do you
think I should act towards you ? " " With kindness and pity,
gracious brother and nephew," replied they. 3 At these words,
says Tabari, tears came into the eyes of the Prophet, and he
said, " I shall speak to you as Joseph spake unto his brothers,
' I shall not reproach you to-day ; God will forgive,' He is the
most merciful and compassionate." i

And now was enacted a scene of which there is no parallel
in the history of the world. Hosts upon hosts came and
adopted the religion of Mohammed. Seated on the hill of
Safa, he received the old pledge, exacted before from the
Medinites : " They would not adore anything ; they would not

1 Koran, sura xvii. ver. 83 ; Ibn ul-Athir, vol. ii. p. 192.

2 Koran, sura xlix. ver. 10.

3 Ibn-Hisham, p. 821 ; Tabari, vol. iii. p. 134.

4 Koran, sura xii. ver. 31.


commit larceny, adultery, or infanticide ; they would not utter
falsehood, nor speak evil of women." x

Thus were the words of the Koranic prophecy fulfilled,
" When arrives victory and assistance from God, and seest
thou men enter in hosts the religion of God, then utter the
praise of thy Lord, and implore His pardon ; for He loveth to
turn in mercy (to those who seek Him)." 2 Mohammed now
saw his Mission all but completed. His principal disciples
were despatched in every direction to call the wild tribes of
the desert to Islam, and with strict injunctions to preach peace
and good-will. Only in case of violence were they to defend
themselves. These injunctions were loyally obeyed with one
exception. The men of Khalid bin-Walid, under the orders of
this fierce and newly-converted warrior, killed a few of the
Bani Jazima 3 Bedouins, apparently mistaking them for hostile
soldiers ; but the other Moslems interfering, prevented further
massacre. The news of this wanton bloodshed deeply grieved

Online LibrarySyed Ameer AliThe spirit of Islâm : a history of the evolution and ideals of Islâm → online text (page 15 of 55)