THE LIFE OF MOHAMMAD (PBUH) THE PROPHET OF ALLAH
BY E. DINET and SLIMAN BEN IBRAHIM
“As Sidjah,” or Prostration.
My reason of admirable devotion, indomitable courage and the absolute purity of his way of living, Ali had become one of the most popular heroes of Islam, but his extreme poverty forced him to hire himself out to an Ansar, a garden landlord. When Ali was not engaged in prayer, he passed the hours in watering date-trees. He deserved that this lowly situation, bearing no comparison with his exploits, should have been changed so as to give him new lustre in the eyes of the people.
Abu Bakr and Usman, finding him one day busily engaged in drawing water from a well, bade him halt in his work, and reminded him of a former desire of his, when he had thought of marrying Fatimah, the Prophet’s daughter. Ali got out of temper. ‘Ye know how poor I am,’ he told them. ‘It’s cruel of you to bring up a dream that can never come true!’
But they were so persistent, affirming that he could count upon their good offices, that Ali repressed his timidity, and carrying his sword, armour and sandals, that constituted his sole wealth, went and knocked at the Prophet’s door. Mohammad welcomed him with these words: ‘Here stands a man more dear to me than any other.’ Ali remained silent, with bowed head. ‘Speak!’ commanded Mohammad.—’O Prophet!’ Ali made up his mind to reply at last, ‘thou didst bring me up, an orphan boy, with a father’s love. This day have I arrived at an age when a man should have a home of his own. Once more I seek thine aid. I come to ask thee to give me thy daughter Fatimah in marriage.’—What dower bringest thou?’—’Thou knowest my poverty. I bring thee all I possess: my sword, armour and sandals.’—’Thy sword belongeth to thy religion, I cannot accept it. But thy good right arm is strong enough to defend thy breast better than any cuirass. Go sell thine armour and bring me the price thereof to serve as my daughter’s dower.’
Ali, all his wishes gratified, sought out a buyer. Usman offered him a good price and then gave him back his armour, begging him to accept it as a wedding-present.
The marriage was soon arranged; ratified by Mohammad saying to Ali: ‘Verily, Allah gave thee my daughter in Heaven before I gave her to thee in this world.’
A great number of the Faithful, summoned by Bilal, were present to listen to the “khutbah” (sermon) of their chief, who wished to apprise them of the betrothal of his daughter to Ali. Bilal was charged to procure the few simple things indispensable in a household. Half the dowry served to buy a mattress and a pillow of palm-fibre, a goat-skin for water and a few earthenware platters. With the other half, were purchased butter, dates, and flour, forming the frugal betrothal repast.
When, according to custom, a group of women came to fetch the bride and lead her into her husband’s room, the Prophet, in memory of her on whom this duty would have devolved, namely Khadijah, Fatimah’s mother, was overtaken by a profound fit of sadness. Showers of tears coursed down his cheeks. When he had mastered his emotion, he placed Ali at his right hand, with Fatimah at his left, saying to them: ‘May Allah cause to be born to you noble descendants, who shall be an honour to our race!’
For three days and three nights, the newly-married couple remained absorbed in prayer. It was only on the fourth night that chaste Ali, to whom Mohammad declared that he hoped a long line of male children would spring from this marriage, dared to approach his wife in whose veins coursed the blood of the Prophet.
Nine months later, Fatimah brought into the world a son who was named Hasan. A year after the birth of Hasan, his brother Husain was born. The offspring of Hasan and Husain, called Sharifs, are the sole descendants of the Prophet.
THE PROPHET’S MARRIAGE WITH HAFSAH AND UMMU’L-MASAKIN.
Hafsah, daughter of Umar and widow of Khunes, wished to marry again, but she was of such a haughty disposition that no one came forward to offer to be her husband. Abu Bakr, and Usman after him, to whom her hand had been proposed, both declined. Umar, greatly annoyed at his daughter’s humiliation, opened his heart to the Prophet who replied: ‘Usman will marry a better woman than Hafsah; and Hafsah will marry a better man than Usman.’ Mohammad gave his daughter Ummi-Kulsum in marriage to Usman, whilst, to honour Umar, the Prophet took haughty Hafsah to wife.
Shortly afterwards, Mohammad also espoused the widow of Ubaidah, the martyr of Badr. She was a woman whose charity was inexhaustible and earned the surname of “Ummu’l-Masakin,” (the Mother of the Poor).
THE BATTLE OF UHUD
(Year III of the Hegira, A.D. 625)
The inhabitants of Makkah could not console themselves for the defeat at Badr. The future seemed to them black indeed. Their caravans dared not venture on the Syrian road, blocked by the Prophet’s bold stroke. Ruin and famine were inevitable at an early date. To guard against such impending disaster, they decided to devote the large profits made by their great caravan to arming an expedition which would avenge their dead and grant them commercial security. Allured by offers of money, numerous Bedouins of the vicinity came forward to proffer assistance. Already worked up by the inflammatory satires of the poets Kab ibn Ashraf and Abu Uzd, these tribesmen, called “Habash,” or Confederates, were enrolled in the ranks of the army raised by Abu Sufyan.
At the head of these troops, three thousand strong, were Safunah and Ikrimah, sons of Ibn-i-Khalaf and Abu Jahal, two of the mighty dead of Badr, and Khalid ibn Walid, the unconquerable soldier. The women’s thirst for revenge was equally ardent; and Hind, the wife of Abu Sufyan, bore along behind her a horde of her companions resolved to stop any warrior who might be tempted to run away.
In the fertile plains, north of Al-Madinah, the fellahs were peacefully engaged in their work of agriculture, or watching over their grazing flocks, when all of a sudden, the soldiers of Abu Sufyan, who had taken the greatest precautions to hide their rapid advance, debouched from the ravines of the western mountains. All resistance being impossible, the ill-fated peasants fled in great haste to escape being massacred, and to warn their fellow-citizens of the invasion of Allah’s enemies.
From the top of their ramparts, the dwellers in Al-Madinah looked down on a sight that made their agriculturists’ hearts bleed. Like a swarm of gigantic locusts, the camels of the idolatrous army ravaged the verdant meadows, whilst horsemen slaughtered cattle and, madly rushing, the riders trampled down and scattered the golden harvest, with all the disdain of traders for the work of husbandmen.
In the face of this havoc wrought before their eyes, the Faithful found themselves in a state of most irritating powerlessness. The plain afforded commodious space for the man[oe]uvres of their enemies’ countless cavalry, and the Believers had no mounted men to put in the field…. Their sole resource was the wisdom of Allah’s Apostle; so, ready for any sacrifice, they gathered round him.
Now Mohammad had dreamed that he saw his sword-blade notched; his foes slaughtering his flocks, whilst a breastplate was close to his hand. The Prophet told his followers of his dream and explained what it signified. ‘The notched blade means that I shall be wounded. The slaughtered flocks show that a great number of my disciples will die; and the breastplate near me symbolizes the ramparts of Al-Madinah which alone can save us from disaster. Let us shut ourselves up in the city and we shall have nothing to fear from our adversaries. Should they attack, they can easily be repulsed and made to suffer cruel losses; and if they fall back without attacking, they will be crushed in their retreat by the shame of not having dared to fight us.’
Such had always been the tactics of the people of Al-Madinah from time immemorial; but their quality of Mussulmans and their victory at the battle of Badr had changed all their ideas. Thinking that they were now and for ever invincible, they no longer had the patience to remain impassible while their gardens were laid waste. Furthermore, those who had not fought at Badr were burning with desire to show that they too were full of courage. The worst that could befall them was martyrdom to which they sincerely aspired.
Abdullah ibn Abi Salul, chief of the “Hypocrites,” was alone opposed to an advance. For once in a way, the Prophet agreed with him. Nevertheless, in the face of the unanimity and the enthusiasm of the true Believers, Mohammad considered that he ought to give way, and resolved to order the march out that he disapproved in his foresight. After having recited the afternoon prayer, Asr, he went back into his house to buckle on his armour.
The warriors, too, were ready. A compact crowd surrounded the dwelling of the Prophet who soon appeared, girt with his coat of mail, helmet on head, sword by his side, shield on his shoulders, and spear in hand….
Whilst waiting, the Faithful had had time to reflect. They began to regret their hasty decision, and their chiefs, ashamed at having upheld different ideas to those of Allah’s Chosen One, said to him: ‘We ought to have bowed down to thy judgment. We feel inclined to remain where we are. Thou canst put aside thine armour.’—’When a Prophet hath buckled on his breastplate,’ replied Mohammad, ‘he forfeits the right to take it off until the fight is finished.’
The army of the Believers numbered a thousand foot-soldiers, but possessed only two horses. The standard of the Mohadjirun was confided to Musab ibn Amir; that of the Aus to Uqaid; the banner of the Khazraj being borne by Habbab. Just before sunset, the column went forward, taking a northerly direction.
Scarcely had they passed the ramparts, when they were rejoined by a troop of six hundred men, all well-armed. They were Jews; allies of Abdullah, the “Hypocrite,” and it was thanks to his counsel that they offered their assistance to the Prophet. ‘Allah’s aid sufficeth,’ he answered, as he sent them away, for knowing their secret sympathies, he feared they might betray him.
Abdullah, belittled by the rejection of his allies, lost no time in trying to spread anxiety in the soldiers’ ranks by perfidious remarks such as these: ‘Mohammad listens to the chatter of good-for-nothing folks, and spurns the good advice I give him. Why go to face certain death?’ In this way, he succeeded in decoying a third of the little army, thus reduced to about seven hundred men and, at the head of the deserters, he turned back on the road to Al-Madinah, followed by the hooting of the true Believers.
The next morning, on a Saturday, the eleventh day of the month of Shawwal, before daybreak, the Prophet ordered the tents to be folded. He asked for a guide clever enough to lead his troops, unseen by the enemy, to the Jabl-ul-Uhud, a mountain rising isolated in the plain. Abu Haythama came forward and led them through the orchards and palm-tree plantations of the Banu Harith.
The owner of one of these gardens, a “Hypocrite,” named Mirba, his eyes eaten away by ophthalmia, rose up as he heard Mohammad’s footsteps at the head of his troops, and shouted to him: ‘If even it were true that thou art the Prophet of Allah, I would not authorise thee to go through my garden!’ Picking up a clod, he added: ‘By Allah! if I did not fear to strike someone else, I would hurl this earth in thy face.’ The Believers wished to punish the insolence of the “Hypocrite” by taking his life, but Mohammad restrained them, saying: ‘Kill him not, for he is blind. His heart is as blind as his eyes.’
Along this by-path, and concealed behind the thick foliage of the orchards, the Mussulmans reached the mountain of Uhud before sunrise, without having been caught sight of by their foes.
The Prophet arranged his forces for the fight. They had the mountain behind them; their left wing being covered by the pass of Ainin, so that there was no fear of being turned. To be more sure, he posted Ibn Jubayr above this defile, with fifty of his most skilful archers, to whom Mohammad gave the following strict order: ‘If the idolaters’ cavalry attempt to outflank us, by slipping through the ravine, repulse them with showers of arrows. But whether the enemy should be above or below us, remain steadfast at your post, and whatever befalls, take care not to go forward!’
At this juncture, a loud outcry was heard resounding in the direction of the plain. The Makkans had just perceived the Believers who, with the oblique rays of the sun playing on their spears, stood out in glowing relief on the rocky slopes of the Jabal-ul-Uhud. Exactly as the Prophet had foreseen, the enemy’s army, its right wing directed by Khalid ibn Walid, the terrible, and its left wing commanded by Ikrimah, son of Abu Jahal, spread itself out in a semi-circle, so as to surround and turn the Mussulmans.
Abu Sufyan, chieftain of the Infidels, trying to wound the vanity of the Banu Abdi’d-Dar, guarding the flag, called to them thus: ‘O ye who carried our standard at Badr, remember the disaster of which the blame must be laid on you. A soldier should follow the flag, but ye fled with it. If this day ye fear to be unable to defend it, let me confide it to other hands.’ Stung to the quick by such an insult, the Banu Abdi’d-Dar threw up their heads boldly. ‘We shall know how to guard our flag,’ said they; ‘and if we are alive to-morrow, thou shalt do justice to our valour.’
Hind now came forward, leading her companions to take their stand behind the guardians of the flag. And the women sang:
“Courage! O sons of the Abdi’d-Dar!—Courage! O defenders of the women at your heels!—Strike with every blade!—We are daughters of the star of Tariq—Our feet glide on soft carpets.—Pearls glisten in our necklaces—And musk perfumeth our tresses.—If ye show a bold front to the enemy, we will embrace you!—Should you flee from the foe, we shall repulse you—And you will be dishonoured eternally by our scorn!”
On the side of the Believers, the Prophet was not sparing of encouragement. ‘Who among you,’ he exclaimed, offering a glistening sword, ‘is capable of giving this weapon its due?’—’And what is its due, prithee?’ asked Abu Dujana, coming forward.—’Its due is to strike with its blade till it be twisted!’—’Well then, I swear to give it its due!’
Abu Dujana was a redoubtable warrior. He received the sabre from Mohammad’s hands and, rolling round his head a red turban that he never wore, except on great occasions when death was nigh, he strode superbly up and down in front of the ranks. ‘Such defiant bearing would give rise to Allah’s wrath,’ the Prophet declared, ‘on any other occasion but this.’
Among the enemy was an inhabitant of Medinah, Abu Amir, converted to Christianity and nicknamed “Ar Rahib,” which means “the Monk.” Having got into his head that he could lead a few of his fellow-countrymen in the Aus tribe astray from the cause of Islam, he went and stood before them, saying: ‘O “qawm” of the Aus! ’tis I, Abu Amir, a son of your soul. Will ye not hear me out?’—’May Allah refuse thee all favour, O scoundrel!’ they replied. Choking with shame and rancour, “the Monk” went away, after picking up a pebble which he threw in fury at them.
When “the Monk” had retired, an idolater of terrible appearance, bestriding a gigantic camel, advances; challenging the Believers thrice. At the third provocation, Zubayr stepped out of the ranks. With the leap of a panther, he sprang on to the camel’s rump, threw his arms round his adversary, and rolling with him on the ground, never let go his hold until he had torn his throat open.
Seeing the combat beginning, Abu Dujana could restrain himself no longer. He drew his sword. ‘There is no good fortune in the ranks of cowards!’ he exclaimed. ‘I strike with the sword of Allah and His Prophet!’ The scarlet turban was seen digging into the very centre of the enemy’s massed troops like a glowing brand.
By dint of prodigies of audacity, he struck down all those he met on his way, when suddenly he found himself facing a strange being who, vomiting forth the vilest blasphemy, was followed by a crowd of girls playing on tabors. Abu Dujana brandished his blade over his adversary’s head, but on hearing the piercing shrieks uttered by Hind, he recognised her. The sword of the Prophet was rendered generous by him, for he knew it ought not to strike a woman.
Following Abu Dujana’s onslaught, the battle raged furiously and all the combatants were at grips. Arshah, the Quraish standard-bearer, was struck down by Hamzah, and showed all his teeth in the snarling grin of death. Siba-al-Ghassani picked up the flag, and challenged his companion’s conqueror. ‘Come a little nearer, O son of the procuress!’ replied Hamzah; and at a single stroke, he made him share the fate of Arshah.
Wishing to avenge his uncle Tahaimah, slain at Badr by Hamzah, Zubayr ibn Mutam promised to free his Abyssininan slave, Al-Uhayha, if he succeeded in killing Hamzah.
Thus spoke Al-Uhayha: “During the battle, I had no eyes but for Hamzah. When I caught sight of him, he was like a rutting grey camel, throwing down all he met with such terrible blows that none of them rose again. Not daring to face him, I dogged his footsteps, skulking behind bushes or rocks. At last, he neared the spot where I was hidden. I am skilled at throwing the Abyssinian javelin and rarely miss my mark. Just as Hamzah cut Siba down with a blow on the head, I balanced my spear and sent it hissing at him. It stuck in his groin, coming out between his thighs. Terrible in his wrath, Hamzah turned to attack me, but his strength failing him, he fell down in a huddled heap and died on the spot. I then came out of my place of concealment, tore my spear from his dead body and left the battlefield. I only struck at Hamzah to gain my freedom.”
The standard-bearer of the Mohadjirun, Musab ibn Amir, was slain at the Prophet’s side. His murderer, Qaumiah-al-Lissi, thinking that he had killed Mohammad himself, returned to his comrades. ‘I’ve slain Mohammad!’ he bawled, puffed up with pride.
Ali seized the standard that had slipped from Musab’s grasp, and accepted the challenge of Abu Sad ibn Abi Talhah, the idolaters’ standard-bearer, who uttered these jeering words:
‘O companions of Mohammad! ye maintain that our swords send you to Paradise whilst yours despatch us to hell! By Lat and Uzza! ye lie in your teeth, for ye take good care not to rush on our blades!’
Ali did not allow him to say anything else. No sooner did the two men meet, than the mocking idol-worshipper was sent rolling in agony to earth. Ali’s arm was lifted to finish him off when suddenly the young man averted his head and turned away: Abu Sad, in falling, had exposed his nakedness to his conqueror.
A furious fight took place round the flag of the Quraish, and, many other Infidels passed from life to death. Two defenders of this banner, Mishfah and his brother, Al Zulas, both pierced through and through by arrows, dragged themselves along to their mother, Sulafa, one of Hind’s companions. The two lads, vomiting streams of blood, rested their heads in the lap of the woman who had brought them into the world. ‘O my poor boys!’ she cried, her voice choked with sobs, ‘who dealt you these terrible blows?’—’When we fell,’ her sons replied, ‘we heard a voice saying: “Take these darts from me. I am Asim, son of Allah.”‘ And Sulafa swore that Asim’s skull should be fashioned by her into a cup from which she would drink vinous liquors.
The balance of victory was clearly in favour of the Believers. The Quraish flag was laid out on the ground, close to a heap of dead bodies, and no idolater dared to lift the banner. The rout of Allah’s foes had begun. The fury of Hind, her serving-girls, and her female friends was changed to terror. They lifted their draperies, showing their legs, in order to flee more easily in wild haste. The archers, posted near the ravine on the slopes of the Uhud, could see all this better than anyone else, and they stamped with hot impatience, fearing that they would not be able to take a hand in plundering the vanquished.
In vain their chieftain, Ibn Jubayr, tried to retrain them by bidding them remember the Prophet’s strict orders, and their duty which was to cover the army’s flank by guarding the mountain pass. ‘The fight is finished,’ they answered in ill-humour. ‘Victory is ours! We mean to have our share of the booty, or deserve the crown of martyrdom.’ Like a living torrent, they rushed down the declivity of the ravine, disobeying Allah and His Messenger.
“Already had Allah made good to you His promise, when by His permission ye destroyed your foes, until your courage failed you, and ye disputed together about the order, and disobeyed, after that the Prophet had brought you within view of that for which ye longed.” (The Qur’an, iii, 145.)
Khalid, the valiant, farseeing warrior commanding the Quraish left wing and who, till then, recognised that it was impossible to turn the position, perceived the fault of the archers. At the head of his cavalry, he charged Ibn Jubayr, surrounded by a handful of men remaining faithful to him, and after they were crushed beneath the hoofs of the horses, Khalid took the Mussulmans in the rear while they were engrossed with the thoughts of plunder.
At the same time, a woman of the idolaters, Amr bint Alqamah, lifted the standard abandoned by the Makkans who, ashamed at their own cowardice when they saw what this courageous woman had done, went back and fought again. In triumphant tones, dominating all clamour and clash of arms, the voice of Qumiah, slayer of Musab, rang out: ‘Verily, Mohammad hath just been killed!’
The current of the combat deviated. The day, that had begun so favourably, became a day of calamity. Attacked in the rear, maddened by the fatal news, the Mussulmans gave way, and a number fled to Al-Madinah. Even Usman, in despair, allowed himself to be led away.
A great many of the most noble combatants fell martyrs in the fight, and Allah’s enemies rained showers of arrows and stones on a small group of the Faithful surrounding the Prophet. One stone, thrown by the son of Abu Waqas, struck Mohammad, splitting his lip, breaking a front tooth, on the right. Another projectile smashed the rings of his helmet, driving them into his cheek.
Abu Ubaidah, by biting the rings forced into the flesh, managed to drag them out. Little he recked when he broke a tooth on each; and he sucked in ecstasy the blood flowing from the wounds of Allah’s Chosen One. Moved by such fierce devotion, Mohammad said to him: ‘He who hath sucked my blood hath naught to fear from the flames of Hell; but how can those men prosper who have shed the blood of their Prophet?’
Meanwhile, the situation became more and more critical. During the thick of the fight, Mohammad was knocked down, and thrown into a deep hole that he had not noticed behind him. Ali and Talha helped him out at once.
Then Ali, together with Abu Bakr and Umar, both wounded, hurled themselves on the assailants whose forces increased unceasingly, threatening to encircle the Believers. There were moments when the Prophet had no one with him except Abu Dujana, shielding him with his body riddled by arrows, and Abu Talha who protected Mohammad by means of a leather buckler.
Abu Talha was an archer so strong that he broke three bows by bending them. He said to Mohammad who rose up to see the result of the fighting and give directions: ‘O thou for whom I would give father and mother in ransom, lie down, I beg of thee. Thou might be struck by an arrow. Let my breast protect thy breast.’ At that moment, a foeman’s dart, that he dashed aside, mutilated his hand. No longer able to use his bow, he unsheathed his sabre, but was so greatly exhausted by fatigue that, overcome by sleep, he closed his eyes and his weapon fell from his grasp.
Umm-i-Amr, a heroine of the Ansars, a goat-skin on her back, flew along the ranks of the Believers, pouring water in their mouths to refresh them. She seized a sword and fought with manly vigour near Mohammad, until she fell, badly wounded.
Ali Abu Aakr and Umar had been separated from the Prophet in the ebb and flow of the fight; and the shouts of the Infidels announcing his death deprived them of all courage. The three Believers were like soulless bodies and they did not even think of defending themselves. Seeing them in this state, Anas ibn Nazir shamed them: ‘What aileth you that ye are so downcast?’—’The Prophet is dead.’—’Well then what have ye to do with life, now he is gone? Die as he died.’ Setting the example, he dashed forward, and fell covered with so many wounds that only his sister was able to recognise his dead body, and that by a peculiarity of his fingers.
This was a rallying signal. Abashed by their own despondency, Ali, Abu Bakr and Umar, followed by a few of the Faithful, copying Umar, rushed to a part of the battlefield where the enemy masses were furiously attacking a few men still standing.
Suddenly, among these heroes resisting with superhuman energy, Kab ibn Malik recognised the Prophet in person whose eyes sparkled under his helmet. ‘O Mussulmans! O brothers!’ shouted Kab, in stentorian accents. ‘Good news! Look at the Prophet of Allah! He is safe and sound!’
This cry awakened fresh courage in the heart of every man. On all sides, the Mussulmans rushed recklessly to the spot whence the glad cry proceeded. After having disengaged the Prophet, they were afire with irresistible ardour and cut a bloody path through the overthrown enemy’s ranks as far as the ravine of Ainin, which they never ought to have abandoned. The effort of the idolaters to storm this impregnable position was unavailing. Ubi ibn Khalaf cried out in his fury: ‘O Mohammad! where art thou? Shouldst thou be still alive, I swear thou shalt not escape me!’
The Prophet would not allow his partisans to tear Ubi limb from limb as they wished to do, but dragging a spear from the grasp of Al Haris, Mohammad drove its steel into Ubi’s throat. He dropped forward on his horse’s neck and, after vainly trying to save himself by clutching at the mane, fell heavily to the ground. The idolaters, exhausted, gave up the idea of avenging his death. The fight was finished….
Finding a little water in the hollow of a rock, Ali filled his shield and offered it to the Prophet. But he turned against the smell of this water and refused to drink it. So Ali then used it to wash the wounds of Allah’s Chosen One, but in vain, his blood continuing to flow so freely as to give rise to great uneasiness. Fatimah, who in a state of great anxiety, had arrived at the scene of battle with a few of her companions, caused some fragments of a rush-mat to be set on fire and covered her father’s wounds with the ashes. This dressing put a stop to the hemorrhage.
The Prophet recited the midday prayer, but remained seated, in consequence of extreme fatigue and the suffering brought on by his wounds. Behind him, also seated for the same reason, all the combatants prayed with him, and gave thanks to the Almighty for having saved them despite their disobedience.
The death-roll numbered three score and ten, equalling the count of the idolatrous prisoners of Badr. Many of the Believers considered that this coincidence formed a punishment for having accepted a ransom in their greed for worldly profit.
The bodies of the martyrs of Uhud were in a parlous state. Athirst for vengeance, the women of the Quraish had thrown away their tabors in order to hurl themselves on the corpses and mutilate them odiously. Hind, their mistress, was the most ferocious of them all. Taking out her earrings, pulling off necklaces, bracelets and ankle-rings, she handed them all to Al-Uhayha, the slayer of Hamzah; and, in place of her gewgaws, adorned herself with necklaces and bangles fashioned with noses and ears sliced from the heads of her foes. Like a filthy hyena, she squatted on Hamzah’s remains. With ensanguined finger-nails, she tore his body open and dragged out the liver with fury, making her teeth meet in it. She then climbed to the top of a lofty rock and turning towards the soldiers of Islam, howled with all the strength of her lungs:
“We have paid you back for the day of Badr!—I was tortured by the remembrance of my father—Of my son, and of my uncle, murdered by you!—My soul is now at rest and my vengeance is glutted.—My “uhayha” (grief) hath been softened by thee—O Uhayha! O conqueror of Hamzah! I’ll sing thy praises—Until my bones crumble into dust in my grave!”
Setting out for Al Jihad, or Holy War.
Abu Sufyan, searching every nook and corner of the field of battle in the hope of finding Mohammad’s lifeless body, stopped short in front of Hamzah’s corpse at the same time as Jalis, chief of the Arab Confederates. Abu Sufyan amused himself by striking the corners of the dead man’s mouth with the point of a spear. ‘Take a good taste of the bitterness of rebellion,’ he said.
Seeing this, Jalis, although an idolater, was greatly shocked. ‘O Banu Kinana!’ cried he to his partisans, ‘admire the behaviour of the Lord of the Quraish towards his cousin now that he is lifeless!’ Abu Sufyan, alive to the fact that his conduct was vile, drew Jalis on one side and supplicated him. ‘Keep all this a secret, O Jalis, for I am ashamed of what I did just now in thy presence.’
He then drew near to a spot within hail of the Faithful, entrenched on the slopes of the Uhud, and called out to them: ‘Is Mohammad with you?’ There being no answer, he joyfully concluded that the Prophet was dead. Before going away, he bawled as loudly as he could: ‘Assuredly, war is a game of chance. This day avengeth the day of Badr; Hubal, our god, is victorious. He is the All-Highest!’
At this blasphemy, the Prophet ordered Umar to reply. He cried out: ‘Allah is the Most High; the Most Majestic!’ Recognising Umar’s voice, Abu Sufyan asked him: ‘O Umar! I conjure thee, inform me if we have killed Mohammad.’—’No, by my faith! He is even now listening to thee.’ Abu Sufyan, disappointed, rejoined: ‘Evidently, I am bound to believe thee in preference to Ibn Qamiah who boasts of having killed him. But I swear to meet you next year at Badr.’—’That is understood!’ replied Umar. ‘We pledge our word to meet thee there.’
The Prophet despatched Ali to track the Infidels. ‘Take heed how they carry themselves,’ Mohammad impressed upon his scout. ‘See if they ride their camels and lead their horses by the bridle. That will certainly denote that they give up all hope of battle and are going to Makkah. If, on the contrary, they mount their steeds and drive their camels before them, it is a sure sign that they are bound for Al-Madinah with the intention of cutting us off. In that case, there is but one thing to be done: to hurl ourselves upon them without loss of time, so as to attack them and hack our way through.’
A few minutes later, Ali returned. He had seen the Quraish alight from their horses, bestride their camels and set out in the direction of Makkah.
Reassured as to the enemy’s intentions, the Believers busied themselves with the burial of the martyrs. First of all, the Prophet sought to find the body of his uncle Hamzah. Mohammad discovered it in a hollow of the Wadi, the belly ripped open; and with ears and nose cut off. ‘Were it not that I feared to grieve Safiyah (Hamzah’s sister), and to set an example which perhaps would become law, I would leave these remains unburied, until they should disappear in the entrails of jackals and vultures; thus keeping alive the hope of revenge. If the Almighty should ever deliver into our hands the wretches who have thus treated thee, I swear to exercise most terrible reprisals.’
The Prophet then received this Revelation: “If ye make reprisals, then make them to the same extent that ye were injured: but if ye can endure patiently, best will it surely be for the patiently enduring.” (The Qur’an, xvi, 127.) Thus warned, Mohammad relinquished his ideas of retaliation, and earnestly urged the Faithful to abstain from mutilating their enemies.
The news of the disaster having reached Al-Madinah, all the women, and Safiyah among them, came in crowds to attend to the wounded and mourn for the dead. The Prophet charged Safiyah’s son, Zubayr ibn Awam, to send his mother away, to prevent her seeing her brother’s corpse, so atrociously disfigured. ‘I have been told that my brother was mutilated for the cause of Islam,’ she replied, ‘and I shall be resigned no matter how horrible the sight, please Allah!’ She went straightway to where Hamzah was lying and after having prayed over him with fervent firmness, she departed.
Funerals then began. After having led that of his uncle Hamzah, the Prophet, so as not to fatigue the Believers who were already exhausted, had the dead bodies buried two by two, or three by three, in the same grave, and without being washed according to custom. ‘For I bear witness for these martyrs,’ he declared. ‘Those who have been struck down on Allah’s Road will be resuscitated on the Day of Resurrection when their wounds will appear fresh and bloody; smelling sweetly of musk.’ When it came to his ears that several families had carried their dead to Al-Madinah to bury them there, he upbraided them and ordained: ‘Henceforward, ye shall bury your dead where they fall.’
The battle of Uhud did not result fatally for Islam as might reasonably have been feared. There were grievous losses; but several advantages accrued from the fight. The defeat was due to having disregarded the Prophet’s first idea, and to disobeying his orders on the field. In future, the Believers submitted entirely to him; they were resolved to carry out his commands to the letter even in case he should be killed, according to the verse alluding to the momentary despondency of Ali, Abu Bakr, and Umar: “Mohammad is no more than an Apostle; other Apostles have already passed away before him; if then he die, or be slain, will ye turn upon your heels?” (The Qur’an, iii, 138.)
Moreover, defeats, when faith is fervent, serve only to sharpen energy: “And how many a Prophet hath combated an enemy on whose side were many myriads? Yet were they not daunted at what befell them on the path of Allah, nor were they weakened, nor did they basely submit! And Allah loveth those who endure with steadfastness.” (The Qur’an, iii, 140.)
Clemency henceforward was not to be shown to the idolaters: the savage mutilation of the seventy martyrs proved that compassion was inadmissible.
A distinction was also clearly established between the true Believers and the “Hypocrites,” such as Abdullah ibn Salul and his partisans. The Prophet knew what they were, but the majority of his disciples were ignorant of these double-faced men’s perfidy, as demonstrated by their cowardly desertion in the hour of danger. Concerning the Uhud, quoth Mohammad: “That mountain loveth us and we return its affection! O Allah! Abraham declared the territory of Makkah to be sacred. I declare the territory of Al-Madinah, situated between the two Harrah, to be sacred also.”
THE MARRIAGE OF MOHAMMAD AND ZAINAB
Zayd, the enfranchised slave and adopted son of the Prophet, had taken Zainab bint Jahsh to wife, but the marriage had not been concluded easily. Zainab was of noble birth. Ali, sent to make the matrimonial demand, found it rejected by her and her brothers. The union was only brought about when the Prophet came forward in person, and Zainab continued to behave most haughtily towards the freed man now her husband.
Having gone one day to Zayd’s dwelling to speak to him, Mohammad was received by Zainab who, hidden behind a curtain, said: ‘Zayd hath gone out; but come in and wait awhile.’ The Prophet refused, and was about to depart, when a gust of air having lifted the hanging, he involuntarily caught sight of Zainab. She made a great impression on him; so much so that as he turned to go, he could not help exclaiming: ‘Glory to Him who inclineth all hearts!’
This cry filled Zainab with boundless pride. When poor Zayd returned, he was received with more scornful haughtiness than ever, and she hastened to let him know the effect produced upon Allah’s Apostle by her radiant beauty. Zayd began to feel that life with his spouse, already hard to please, would soon be unbearable. He made up his mind to see Mohammad; and then he told him: ‘Maybe Zainab pleaseth thee? If so, I’ll get rid of her.’—’Go back to thy wife and keep her to thyself,’ replied the Prophet.
But Zayd had had enough of her. Ever since the sight of Zainab had forced a cry of admiration from the Prophet, her husband did not dare to approach her and considered that he would have no peace until after he had divorced her. So he went back to Mohammad. ‘O Prophet!’ said he, ‘the way Zainab talketh to me is worse than ever. I wish to repudiate her.’—’Fear Allah,’ replied Mohammad, ‘and keep thy wife to thyself.’—’But I’m no longer master in my own house!’—’If that is so, put her away from thee.’
As soon as she was repudiated, Zainab had but a single thought: to become the wife of the Prophet; and she never ceased intriguing to gain her ends. At last a Revelation came down to Mohammad: “And when Zayd had settled the necessary matter of her divorce, We married her to thee.” (The Qur’an, xxxiii, 37.) So he resolved to be wedded to Zainab.
The Jews and the “Hypocrites” declared this was scandalous. ‘Mohammad marries his son’s wife!’ was their cry, and they worked with a will to make capital out of the incident and bring him into disrepute. The following verses, however, stopped every true Believer from listening to the discreditable group: “Name your adopted sons after their fathers: this will be more right before Allah. But if ye know not who their fathers are, still let them be your brethren in the faith, and your comrades * Mohammad is not the father of any man among you.” (The Qur’an, xxxiii, 5, 40.)
The adoption of Zayd, dating from before the birth of Islam, and which might have proved a serious stumbling-block in the political career of its chief, was thus annulled, and the freed man, called Zayd ibn Mohammad, now went by his real name: Zayd ibn al-Haris. But the affection that Mohammad had for Zayd and his son Usamah, was strengthened by this solution which put an end to all feelings of restraint.
Such is the adventure of Zainab, which all the historians who are enemies of Islam have passionately exploited in order to sully the Prophet’s memory. We shall not discuss the subject, because, in our opinion, the details of the life of a man like Mohammad cannot be isolated from the whole of his work and judged separately. In common with all the Prophets, without exception, Mohammad doubtless had what some call “moments of weakness;” but they have nothing to do with his inspiration. Moreover, the historians of Mohammad enjoy the unusual honour of having felt such great respect for his memory, that they refused to discuss his conduct.
When the historians of other Prophets cut out of their lives all that they consider may belittle them in the eyes of posterity, the writers set themselves up, in reality, as critics of their heroes’ acts. In the foregoing narrative, which has served as a pretext for so many pamphlets, we find the most incontestable proof of the sincerity of the Arab Prophet’s biographers. Following their example, and as a token of our impartiality, we thought it our duty to relate this episode, although of secondary interest, and greatly inferior to other events for which we have not found space in this work.
THE GHAZWAH, OR EXPEDITION OF ZAT-IR-RIQUA
(Year IV of the Hegira, A.D. 626)
Having heard that the Banu Muharib and the Banu Saliba of the Najd were preparing an expedition against him, the Prophet decided to be beforehand with them, and set out to meet his foes. In his haste, he had only been able to get together a small number of camels; one for six men who took it in turns to ride. The Believers were compelled to bind up their cruelly wounded feet, from which the nails were torn by the sharp stones of the Hammadas, with “ruqqah”: fragments of their apparel. Hence the name of Zat-ir-Riga bestowed on this expedition.
After having camped at Nakhl, Mohammad’s soldiers came in sight of the assembled enemy. The two armies remained motionless, face to face, neither making up its mind to begin the hostilities; the Mussulmans, because of their numerical inferiority out of all proportion; and the Infidels, in consequence of their terror arising from the influence of the recent victories of Islam. It was in these circumstances that the Prophet instituted the “Salatu’l-Khauf,” the Prayer of Peril. He divided the Believers into two groups; one saying the prayer, and the other keeping a vigilant eye on the enemy.
Greatly impressed by the resolute bearing of the Mussulmans, whom their foes hoped to surprise, but who had come out and showed fight, the allies began to retreat, one after the other, so that, passing from extreme vigilance, as shown at first, the Believers became a prey to exaggerated confidence.
During the torrid heat of the middle of the day, they were scattered here and there enjoying their “siesta” in the shade of the numerous “talhah” (gum-trees), growing in the valley, and had posted no sentinels to keep watch and ward. A Bedouin of the Banu Mustaliq perceived this lack of precaution. By crawling along on hands and knees, he succeeded in approaching the Prophet and lifting the silver-hilted sabre hanging to the branches under which the Apostle was resting, the tribesman said: ‘O Mohammad, let me look at thy sword-blade.’ After having run his thumb along the edge of the steel as if to try it, he brandished it over the Prophet’s head and cried out: ‘O Mohammad! dost thou not fear me?’—’No! Why should I fear thee?’—’Art thou not afraid of the weapon I hold?’—’No, for Allah protecteth me,’ replied the Prophet, with the greatest calm, gazing boldly at his agressor.
Petrified at such indifference in the face of danger, the Bedouin was overwhelmed with supernatural emotion which paralysed his heart’s action. Cold sweat bathed his brow; his fingers, gripping the sword-hilt, opened out involuntarily, and the sabre fell at Mohammad’s feet. He picked it up quietly. ‘And now, what will save thee from my blows?’ he asked.—’Thy generosity!’ replied the downcast brigand.
He was right. The Prophet let him depart without compelling him to embrace the Mohammedan faith, for he wished to accustom idolaters to the generosity of Islam, so that they should come to it of their own accord. The Bedouin, who before leaving his own bivouac, had boasted that he would bring in Mohammad’s head, declared to his people: ‘I have just met the best of men.’ And he went back to the Prophet and became a convert to Islam.
THE GHAZWAH, OR EXPEDITION OF THE BANU MUSTALIQ
(Year V of the Hegira, A.D. 627)
Now it was the turn of the Banu Mustaliq to get restless and conspire against Islam. The Prophet resolved to punish them, and, at the head of his troops, he came upon them on their own territory at Qudid, near the wells of Al Mirisiyah. The two armies crashed together in their shock, and many were slain on both sides. Allah routed the Banu Mustaliq; and an enormous amount of booty: camels, sheep and captives, fell into the hands of his warriors.
Among the prisoners was the daughter of the Lord of the Mustaliqs, beautiful Juwairiyah. As a result of the drawing by lot, she fell to Sabit ibn Qais, but promised her master a heavy ransom in exchange for liberty. She then sought out the Prophet and told him: ‘I am Juwairiyah, daughter of Haris, Lord of the Mustaliqs. Thou knowest my unlucky fate. I know thy magnanimity and I come to implore thy help to pay my ransom.’—’I will settle thy ransom,’ he replied; ‘and I’ll marry thee, if so be thou art willing.’ She accepted, and despite Ayishah’s jealousy, aroused by the charm and grace of Juwairiyah, the marriage was decided.
In the meantime, Haris had arrived, bringing his daughter’s ransom. Mohammad gave him back Juwairiyah, but only to ask him immediately for her hand, offering as dower the sum of four hundred drachmas. As soon as the news of this union was noised abroad, the Believers said: ‘The Prophet hath allied himself to the Banu Mustaliq. We must therefore look upon them as our allies.’ The Faithful gave back all the booty; together with all the captives who had just been shared among them. Few women ever brought such a blessing to her tribe as this Juwairiyah.
After the severe fighting, whilst the soldiers were watering their panting camels at the well Al Mirisiyah, a violent quarrel was nigh bringing Ansars and Mohadjirun to blows.
Jajjah, leading Umar’s horse by the bridle, hustled Simana ibn Ubair, an ally of the Banu Auf ibn Khazraj, in order to deprive him of his turn at the well. Simana turned upon him, and the two adversaries, locked in murderous embrace, rolled on the ground, Simana shouting: ‘Help! O comrades of the Ansars!’ and Jajjah: ‘Help! O comrades of the Mohadjirun!’
They were hauled apart, and for the moment the quarrel came to nothing. But on both sides, great effervescence reigned in the minds of the tribesmen. The “Hypocrite,” Abdullah ibn Abi Salul, an eye-witness of the scuffle, worked up the men’s exasperation to the highest pitch by these words: ‘O citizens of Al-Madinah! have ye seen the impudence of all these Quraish? They pick a quarrel with us in our own country, abusing our hospitality and relying on their numbers. Such is the result of your candour, when ye opened your doors to them and shared your property with them. How true is the saying of our ancestors: ‘Feed thy dog and he will devour thee!’ Once back in Al-Madinah, will not the strong make up their minds to drive out the weak?’
Zayd, son of Arquam, reported these wicked remarks to Mohammad. By his side stood Umar who flew into a violent passion. ‘O Prophet!’ he cried. ‘Wilt thou not order Abbad ibn Bashir to put this impostor to death?’—’How cometh it, Umar, that thou canst give such a piece of advice?’ rejoined the Prophet. ‘If people are able to say: ‘Mohammad cutteth his companions’ throats,’ what a fine stir there would be in Al-Madinah. No, no!’ he went on, turning to Abbad; ‘but give out orders to depart at once.’
The sun was at its zenith; the heat overpowering. It was not a favourable moment for folding the tents. Nevertheless, the Prophet, lashing his she-camel on the tender skin of her belly, to increase her speed, led his soldiers in a forced march lasting all day, all night, and all through the morning of the next day till noon.
It was then, seeing his brave warriors beginning to stagger, that he called a halt. All his men, worn out by fatigue, dropped on the ground, overcome by deep sleep where they fell, without having been able to give vent to the feelings of fury seething in their hearts and which might have caused most sanguinary conflicts among them.
The “Hypocrite” Abdullah had a son who was also called Abdullah. He was a sincere Believer and he went to the Prophet. ‘They tell me,’ quoth the young man, ‘that thou didst intend to kill Abdullah, my father. In that case, charge me to bring thee his head, for by Allah! thou shalt know that among the Khazraj, there is no son more devoted to his father than I. If thou shouldst charge any other to execute him, I should not be able to bear the sight of his murderer going unpunished and I should kill him. Therefore I should be slaying a true Mussulman in order to avenge a Mussulman “Hypocrite,” and render myself deserving of hell-fire.’
The Prophet tranquilised the stoical Believer by these words: ‘Give no credit to what thou didst hear. On the contrary, we look upon thy father as our friend and comrade, so long as he remaineth with us.’
THE TAYANNUM, OR THE CEREMONY OF ABLUTION PERFORMED WITH SAND
It was during this expedition that the following Revelation came down: “But if ye are sick, or on a journey, or if one of you come from the place of retirement, or if ye have touched women and find no water, then take clean sand and rub your faces and your hands with it.” (The Qur’an, v, 9.)
Thus was established the Tayammum, or purification by sand, destined to prevent the Believers from ever forgetting their salutary duty; for this did away with the pretext, so frequent in their deserts, that lack of water hindered the performance of ablutions.
THE BATTLE OF THE DITCH
(Year V of the Hegira, A.D. 627)
A deputation of Jews from the tribe of the Banu Nazir, and a few malcontents of the Wayls journeyed to Makkah to offer the Quraish an alliance. The Ghatafans, a tribe hailing from the north of the Hijaz, and the “Habash,” or Arab Confederates, joined them. Thus was organised a vast conspiracy, threatening Al-Madinah on all sides.
This time, when the Prophet got to hear of the importance of this expedition, he had no difficulty in persuading the Believers that the only way to save themselves was by entrenchment in the town and there awaiting the advent of the enemy.
Al-Madinah was protected in almost every direction, either by ramparts, fortlets, or gardens. At the north only would it have been possible for the enemy to arrange a formidable assault. A learned Persian, Salman-i-Farisi, recently converted, explained to the Prophet a system of efficacious protection. It was by means of a ditch, and Salman had seen it practised in his own country. Mohammad was so struck by the Persian’s arguments that this ditch was ordered to be dug immediately. All the Believers, confiding in their chief’s farsightedness, set ardently to work.
Nevertheless, they were in a state of extreme distress. An icy north wind, such as blows frequently in winter on these table-lands of the desert where there is intense radiation, benumbed their shivering bodies. Roads where the work of revictualling was carried on were blocked by the enemy; provisions were lacking. The pangs of hunger would have paralysed their strength if it had not been kept up and rekindled by faith, for all they had to eat were a few grains of barley cooked in rancid, nauseous mutton-fat.
Meanwhile, the shovelfuls of earth accumulated, thrown up with great spirit by the workers, and the ditch had reached a good depth, when suddenly the pickaxes struck against a rock which they were powerless to uproot. Mohammad filled his mouth with water and spat it out on the stone, at the same time as he implored the help of the Almighty. The diggers again applied themselves to their task and the vigour of their arms, increased tenfold by the certainty of success which the Prophet’s action had instilled into their hearts, met with no further obstacles. It seemed to them that the hard stone had become as friable as the sand; the rock splitting into countless fragments under the attack of their tools.
Scarcely was the ditch ready, when the entire plain was covered by the tents of the enemy’s army, ten thousand strong: the Quraish, Banu Kamanah, Ghatafans, Arabs of the Tuhamah and of the Najd, etc. Despite their great superiority of numbers, the Infidels were not sanguine as to the result of their conflict with the Prince of Apostles, and they cast about for new allies. Huwai ibn Akhtab, an enemy of Allah, approached Kab ibn Asad, Prince of the Jewish tribe of the Banu Quraizah who, although deeply hostile to the Prophet, had signed a treaty with him. Ill at ease, Kab repulsed his visitor in these terms: ‘O Huwai! the step thou dost take is fraught with great danger for my tribe. I have signed a treaty with strict fidelity.’—’Open thy door to me, O Kab, for I only wish to partake of thy “Shishah,” a kind of soup. Kab let him in, and Huwai immediately broached the subject that brought him there. He vaunted the power of the ten thousand Confederates encamped near the Uhud, and demonstrated how he was certain of ridding the world of Mohammad. ‘Thou bringest me ugly business, O Huwai!’ replied Kab, still hesitating. ”Tis an empty raincloud in which only thunder and lightning remain. I see no advantage for me. What have I to do with all this?’
His interlocutor never left off until he had coaxed Kab into cancelling his contract with Mohammad and forming an alliance with the Infidels.
The rumour of this defection coming to the Prophet’s ears, he sent Sad ibn Muaz, Sad ibn Ubaidah and Chuat ibn Zubayr to see if it was true. When these envoys reminded the Banu Quraizah of their pledge, the following reply was made: ‘Who is this Prophet of Allah of whom ye speak? There exists no treaty between him and us.’
This was downright treachery, for the Banu Quraizah were marvellously well-informed as to the Believers’ secrets and weak points of the town. To guard against the anxiety that such treason might create among his disciples, Mohammad, when his envoys returned, exclaimed: ‘Allah is Great! Here have we good news! Hearken, O Moslem comrades!’ In this way he predicted that the spoils accruing from the overthrow of the Banu Quraizah would soon enrich the Believers, thus brazenly betrayed.
The sight of the ten thousand sparkling spears that made the plain look like a field of darts, produced, nevertheless, a great impression on the Believers lining the ramparts. The “Hypocrites,” as was their wont, instead of exhorting the citizens to pluck up courage, tried to sow the seeds of panic. ‘Admire Mohammad,’ they would say. ‘He promised us the treasures of Chosroes and of Cæsar; and yet, this very day, he himself is not certain of having a roof over his head!’
To put an end to these gloomy forebodings, the Prophet made his troops sally forth and posted them behind the ditch. They were covered in the rear by the Sala hill. At that juncture, some of the soldiers whose courage was on the wane asked the permission of the Prophet to return, saying: ‘Of a truth, our houses are left defenceless.’ “But they were not left defenceless: verily their sole wish was to flee away * If the enemy had effected an entry at all points, and they had been asked to promote rebellion among the Believers, they would certainly have done so; but only a short time would they have remained in.” (The Qur’an, xxxiii, 13, 14.)
Frankly, great anxiety reigned; but the faith of the sincere Mussulmans and the unchanging serenity of the Apostle got the best of it. On the other hand, the Confederates, despite all their advantage, were still smitten with terror at the thought of the mysterious forces that they always found facing them each time they fought against Allah’s warriors; and dared not risk an attack before making sure that it would not turn out to be another miserable, humiliating failure. So they were contented with drawing near to the walls.
For twenty days and twenty nights, hostilities were limited to encircling the city and a few flights of arrows, without any result. Ashamed, at last, of their inaction, several horsemen of the Quraizah and Kinanas, got ready for the fray. In close rank, they broke away from the enemy front. Their breasts pressed to the necks of their steeds, they dashed forward in a frenzied charge, swallowed up in the orange-tinted whirlwind of dust…. Then suddenly, the living hurricane stopped dead, and when the clouds of sand enfolding the idolatrous riders lifted, they were seen petrified with affright in front of the deep ditch in which they had nearly been engulphed; whilst the horses, with twitching nostrils, their mouths twisted and bleeding by reason of the sudden jerk of the bit, stopping them in their forward bound, remained with stiffened, trembling legs on the edge of the trench….
‘By our gods!’ swore the Infidels, ‘this is a trick that Arabs never play!’ They sought for a spot where the moat was the most narrow, and savagely spurring on their steeds, they lifted them in fantastic jumping efforts and so reached the other side. Ali, followed by a few soldiers, went out to meet them. Getting between them and the ditch, he cut off their retreat. One of the men on horseback, Amr ibn Abd-i-Aud, of frightful aspect and gigantic stature, howled the vilest curses and challenged the Believers to single combat. With the permission of the Prophet who buckled on his own breastplate, rolled his turban round his head and placed his sword in his hand, Ali stood face to face with the giant. At the sight of his assailant, only a boy, Amr, the terrible, made a gesture of scorn and pity. ‘I am loth to shed thy blood,’ he said, ‘for thy father was my friend ‘—’As for me,’ retorted Ali, ‘I shall have no compunction in shedding thine.’
At these words, Amr foamed with rage, and Ali bade him remark that if he despised his young adversary, he did not disdain to profit by remaining on horseback to defend himself against an enemy on foot. Amr jumped off his horse and hamstrung it; thereby showing that he did not wish to use it for fight or flight. Mad with rage at the mocking challenge of so youthful a foe, he beat his own face with his clenched fists…. Then he rushed at Ali, aiming a fierce blow which glanced lightly off the lad’s forehead, after having smashed his shield to pieces.
As quick as lightning, Ali sprung on one side and, by an unexpected bound, got behind his adversary. Carried forward by the violence of his advance, the monster was bewildered and staggered when he tried to turn round. Ali seized the opportunity at once and made a skilful thrust. The blade pierced Amr’s throat, through and through, cutting the carotid artery. An enormous gush of blood spurted from the gaping wound; like a drunken man, the colossus, with hoarse hiccoughs proceeding from his severed throat, made a few faltering steps and fell in a heap at the feet of Islam’s champion.
At this sight, the Mussulmans sang the “Takbir,” and the other Infidels, overwhelmed by consternation, fled at a wild gallop. One of them, Nuhfil ibn Abdullah, having miscalculated his jump, rolled with his mount down into the ditch, where he was slowly being killed by showers of stones, when Zubayr put an end to the torture by a cut from his scimitar, which after having cleft his body in twain, was stopped by the saddle.
Safiyah, the Prophet’s aunt on his mother’s side, kept an eye on the foe from the top of a fortlet belonging to Hasan ibn Sabit, who remained by her side. She caught sight of a Jew wandering round the ramparts and said to Hasan: ‘Seest thou that Jew prowler? Without a doubt, he seeketh to find a weak point in our walls, and whilst the Prophet and his soldiers are busy on the front facing the enemy, other Jews will be fetched to follow the spy and capture our fortlet. Go down and kill him!’—’May Allah pardon thee! O daughter of Abdul Muttalib, I am not a warrior accustomed to the use of arms. I am a poet.’
Shrugging her shoulders, masculine-minded Safiyah seized a mace and went down. Gliding behind the Jew, she felled him by dint of dealing repeated blows on his head; and then went back to Hasan. ‘Now thou canst go down and strip the Jew of all he possesseth, for it is not seemly for a woman to undress a man.’
Several skirmishes of slight importance took place at long intervals; but if an attack was not to be feared, thanks to the precautionary moat which had upset the Confederates’ calculations, the garrison might have been mastered by famine. Great uneasiness prevailed in their ranks.
Meanwhile, Naim, Prince of the Ghatafans, sought out Mohammad, saying: ‘O Prophet! I have become a Mussulman and my people know it not. I am entirely at thy disposal.’—’Of what use is all thy courage? Thou art alone! But couldst thou not help us by provoking relinquishment among the Confederates? In all wars, there are tricks which are licit.’
Naim understood at once the part he had to play. He went to the Banu Quraizah, having often broken bread among them when he was an idolater.
‘O Banu Quraizah!’ said he, ‘ye know how I feel towards you all?’—’Verily, and we have entire confidence in thee.’—’Being so, listen to me. The Quraish and the Ghatafans, your allies, are not in the same position as you. This part of the country is yours: here is your property; here dwell your families. Ye cannot abandon your land for another. They, on the contrary, are only here to fight Mohammad and his companions; their belongings and their families are beyond their enemies’ reach. If the fortune of war turneth against them, they will return in tranquility to their own country and leave you in yours, to do the best you can with this man. Will ye be able to resist him, once ye face him alone? Fight therefore no more with these “qawms” without claiming hostages chosen from their noblemen, so as to make sure that you will never be left in the lurch before ye have brought Mohammad to his knees.’—’Of a truth, thy advice is good!’ they declared unanimously. Nai then went to the Quraish idol-worshippers and talked to them. ‘Ye know how I feel towards you all.’—’Aye.’—’I have been able to ascertain something that I consider is only right that you should be told at once. But swear to keep it secret.’—’We swear!’—’This is it,’ he went on. ‘Know that the Jews regret having annulled their compact with Mohammad and consequently have sent him this message: “Most certainly do we regret what we did, but if thou dost consent to pardon us, we will give up to thee several hostages chosen amongst the most noble of the Quraish or the Ghatafans we have seized; and we will remain thy faithful allies until thine enemies are exterminated.” Mohammad having accepted, the Jews therefore will come and claim hostages, pretexting that they are certain of never being thrown over whilst holding these sureties. Take care never to give them a single hostage!’
He said the same thing to the Ghatafans, his fellow-countrymen, and was just as successful with them. The Quraish and the Ghatafans swore they would be on their guard.
One night, on the eve of a Saturday in the month of Shawwal, Abu Sufyan and the chieftains of the Ghatafans sent Ikrimah to the Banu Quraizah, charging him to say to them: ‘We can no longer sojourn in these parts, so unsuitable to our horses and camels. Be ready to fight Mohammad to-morrow. We must get done with him!’ They made answer: ‘To-morrow is a Saturday, the Sabbath day, which means obligatory repose in our religion. But, at any rate, we cannot fight by your side unless ye grant us hostages chosen from the most noble among you, as a guarantee that ye will not abandon us before having crushed our common enemy.’ When Ikrimah repeated these words, the Quraish and the Ghatafans cried out: ‘By all our gods, what Naim told us concerning the Banu Quraizah was perfect truth!’ The Confederates immediately sent another message, declaring plainly: ‘By our gods, we’ll not give you a single hostage!’
It was now the turn of the Banu Quraizah to find out how correct was the information vouchsafed by Naim and they came to a rupture with the Confederates. This piece of news, reported by Naim, made the Prophet rejoice exceedingly; but being desirous of knowing the effect produced by this rupture in the ranks of the Quraish and the Ghatafans, he said to Huzaifah: ‘Make thy way, this very night, into the enemy’s camp and find out what they may be planning. Come back and tell me without letting anyone know.’
Thanks to the pitchy darkness of that wintry night, Huzaifah glided among the enemies’ tents. A high, icy wind had put out all the fires and blown down all the cooking-pots. The whistling gusts deafened all ears; and the shivering idolaters huddled together, wrapped up in the folds of their mantles. ‘Keep an eye on your companions!’ was the watchword shouted by Abu Sufyan, meaning: ‘Beware of spies!’ Huzaifah, with great presence of mind, seized the hand of an Infidel standing close to him and demanded in threatening accents: ‘Who art thou?’—’Such an one; son of such an one.’ Huzaifah let him go, and the Infidel, forced to exonerate himself, never thought of putting questions as well.
The relinquishment of the Banu Quraizah; the difficulties with regard to feeding camels and horses; and, above all, the disorder arising from that calamitous night, caused Abu Sufyan to be discouraged. After a short discussion between him and the other Quraish chieftains, in the hearing of invisible Huzaifah, the return of the besiegers to their dwellings was decided.
Having got to know all he wanted, Huzaifah went back to his camp. He found the Prophet praying and he beckoned to his disciple to approach. When Huzaifah was close to him, to warm his messenger, he covered him with part of the mantle spread out on the ground in lieu of a praying carpet. When Mohammad had finished his devotions, he listened to the intrepid scout and congratulated him on the success of his mission.
Next day, the plain was clear of the enemy; and the Prophet, leaving the ditch, led his troops back to Al-Madinah. ‘The Quraish came here to attack us for the last time,’ he declared. ‘Henceforward it will be for us to go and beard them in their dens.’
THE TREATY OF AL-HUDAIBIYAH
(Year VI of the Hegira A.D. 628)
The Prophet dreamt that he entered Makkah in the midst of his companions and then marched to Mina, in the Valley of Sacrifices. This vision embodied the greatest desire of his heart; and all the Believers felt the same, as they suffered from not being able to visit the Holy Places since the Hegira. So Mohammad determined to satisfy their craving.
In the month of Zu’l-Qa’dah, he went out of Al-Madinah, and took the road to Makkah at the head of fourteen hundred pilgrims, driving seventy camels for sacrificial purposes. To show that his intentions were peaceful, he caused garlands to be hung round the victims’ necks. Furthermore, at Zu’l Halifah, he solemnly put himself in the state of “Ihram,” which consists in assuming the pilgrim’s garb of double cloths without seams, and abstaining from all that is forbidden during the visit to the holy places: approaching women; the use of perfumes; cutting the beard, hair or nails; fighting or quarrelling; and the slaying of animals others than those sacrificed. His disciples followed his example and he gave out the “Talbiyah”: “I stand up for Thy service, O Allah!” which they all repeated in chorus.
At Osfan, he met with Bishr ibn Al-Kâab on his return from Makkah whither he had been sent to glean information, and who told him: ‘O Prophet! the Quraish know that thou art on the way. They have called upon the Saquifs and the Habash who are coming to face thee, bringing with them their wives and children, to stop themselves from even thinking of flight. They also lead their she-camels and the young camels, so as to be certain not to suffer from lack of meat or milk; and the warriors have covered their bodies with skins of panthers as a token that they will never give in, but fight to the last gasp. At this moment, they are encamped at Zu Sua. Khalid ibn Walid, at the head of their cavalry, is in ambush at Kurrat-ul-Ghamin.’
‘Who can guide us along some other road than that by which they expect us?’ asked the Prophet. A guide of the Aslams proffered his services and led the army of the Believers through an unknown path, but it was frightful to look upon. It meandered through an inextricable chaos of wild ravines, jagged rocky heights, abrupt ascents and descents, strewn with pointed pebbles that cut the feet of men and animals.
After having mastered exhaustion and fatigue, the Believers debouched in the sandy bed of a broad wadi which seemed to their bruised and bleeding feet like a carpet of the richest pile. They offered up thanksgivings to the Compassionate, and obeying the commands of their inspired leader, they cried out: “We implore the forgiveness of Allah and we repent in His Presence!“
Then they went through the pass of Al Morar, and arrived at the foot of the hill of Al-Hudaibiyah, situated partly on holy ground and partly in ordinary territory, a day’s journey from Makkah. At this spot, Qaswa, the Prophet’s she-camel, suddenly knelt and refused to get up. ‘Is she restive?’ asked his companions.—’No, she is not restive,’ replied Mohammad; ‘but she is stopped by Him who formerly stopped the elephant of the Negus Abrah, and prevented him entering Makkah.’ And the Apostle gave orders to pitch the tents.
The enemy, surprised at not having met Mohammad, and knowing he was not far off, soon found out that he had taken a new road. They turned back in the greatest haste, sending their horsemen on in front to bar the way to their city. They despatched Budail and several Arabs of the Khuzzah tribe, to sound the Prophet as to his intentions.
Budail, having heard from the Prophet’s own lips that all he wanted was to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Places and not to wage war against his fellow-countrymen, returned to inform the Quraish. But they had no faith in the Khuzza men whose secret sympathy for Mohammad was known, so they sent him another messenger, Al Halis ibn Alqamah.
‘Let the victims be paraded in front of him,’ ordered the Prophet when he saw him arrive. When Al Halis had seen the long rows of victims going by with garlands round their necks which were shorn at the parts where their throats would be cut, he thought it would be useless to continue and went back to the Quraish to give them an account of his observations.
‘Sit down,’ they told him. ‘Thou art naught else but a simpleton of the Bedouin tribes and thou dost not understand the cunning of Mohammad who haileth from our part of the country.’ Al-Halis got out of temper. ‘O Assembly of the Quraish! Ye do not respect the terms of our compact. No one hath a right to drive away from the Temple of Allah the man who cometh to glorify the Most High! By Him who holdeth in His hands the soul of Al-Halis, ye will let Mohammad finish his pious visit in peace; or else we Confederates will break off with you—and at once!’ They shrugged their shoulders. ‘Pshaw! Let us be until we have achieved what we have planned.’ And they charged Ora ibn Masud, a chieftain of the Saquifs, with the mission which, in their judgment, had been badly carried out by the previous messengers. ‘O Assembly of the Quraish!’ he objected; ‘I have hearkened to the bitter words with which ye welcomed the return of your men sent to the enemy. Ye know me by my mother; I am on your side, for I belong to the folks dwelling in the Makkan valley. If ye suspect me in the least, lay your hearts bare ere I depart.’—’Thou art in the right. We know thee. We are not at all distrustful of thee.’
Ora came into the presence of the Prophet and bowed down to him. ‘O Mohammad,’ he said, ‘thou hast gathered together a horde of people of all countries and thou dost come back to thy egg (birthplace) to smash it with their assistance! Now the Quraish have sworn a most solemn oath, to the effect that never, so long as their eyelashes quiver on their eyelids, shalt thou set foot again in Makkah, unless by force of arms. And, by our gods! the scum surrounding thee must flee from thy side, before the sun setteth on another day!’
At these words, a flame of indignation lit up the eyes of the companions standing, the lower half of their faces veiled, behind the Prophet. From out of the group, strode Abu Bakr. He went up to the Infidel and shouted to him: ‘Begone and bite the belly of Lat, thine idol! Dost thou think for a moment that we could abandon Allah’s Messenger?’—’Who is this man, O Mohammad?’ queried Ora.—’The son of Abu Kuhafah.’—’By our gods!’ Ora went on, turning to Abu Bakr, ‘if I were not bound to thee by a debt of gratitude, I would have rewarded thee according to thy deserts. But, by thine insult, we are quits for the future.’
The messenger now went up to Mohammad, and while speaking to him, plucked familiarly at his beard, as was the custom in those days between people engaged in discussion. ‘Take thy hand away from the Prophet’s face before I come to rid thee of thine arm!’ cried another of the companions. ‘Who is this boor?’ asked Ora.—’Dost thou not know him?’ replied the Prophet with a smile. ‘He is thy brother’s son, Al Mughairah Shuba.’—’O traitor!’ exclaimed Ora to his nephew, ‘hast thou so soon forgotten thy crimes that were pardoned thanks to my intervention?’ He then continued his conversation with Mohammad who treated him with the respect due to his rank. The Prophet reiterated his statement that his intentions were purely pacific. During his sojourn in the camp of the Believers, Ora was able to see how boundless was their veneration for their chieftain. When the Prophet performed his ablutions, his companions rushed to share the water he had used. If he had his head shaved, not a hair fell to the ground without being picked up and treasured. So Ora, on his return, said to those who had sent him forth: ‘I have seen Chosroes in the midst of his sumptuous Persian court; Cæsar, in the proud Senate of Roman patricians; the Negus, at the head of his formidable bodyguard of Abyssinian warriors. Well then, I swear that I have never met with a monarch who, surrounded by the noblemen of his court, held the same position as Mohammad among his companions. And what is more remarkable, contrary to what taketh place round about the mighty, Mohammad’s followers expect nothing from him; neither favours, riches, nor honours! That is what I have ascertained. Now act as it pleaseth you.’
Although the Quraish were deeply affected by his declaration, they persisted in their delusion and sent forty or fifty of their partisans to prowl round the Believers’ army, with the idea of surprising and capturing a few soldiers of Islam. The Believers were on their guard and it was they who took a certain number of the Infidels prisoners. They were led before the Prophet, but resolved not to belie his own words of peace, he pardoned and freed them, although by having been caught attacking perfidiously, they deserved death.
Just then, Mohammad wanted to send Umar with a message to the noblemen of Makkah, but he made the following reply: ‘O Prophet! the Quraish know my feelings towards them as manifested by many inimical acts of mine. I have everything to fear from them, because there is no longer any member of my family in Makkah. But I can show you a man whose influence will be much more efficacious than mine. I mean Usman ibn Affan.’
Mohammad, recognising this to be sound advice, despatched Usman to Abu Sufyan and the noblemen of the city, to assure them that he was actuated by pacific sentiments, and to inform them of his wish to do honour to the “House of Allah” by a pilgrimage. When the Prophet’s envoy had finished explaining the object of his mission to the men of Makkah, they replied: ‘O Usman! if thou dost desire to perform the ritual circuits of the “Tawaf,” we authorise thee to do so.’—’I will not accomplish them unless following in the footsteps of Allah’s Messenger.’ This answer exasperated the citizens of Makkah who threw Usman into a prison, despite his quality of ambassador. Finding that Usman did not return, the Believers concluded that he had been murdered and they were overwhelmed with the most profound indignation. Mohammad hesitated no longer and proclaimed: ‘We will not go away until we have punished the “qawm” of the Infidels for the abominable crime they have just committed!’ Umar, acting under the Prophet’s orders, cried out with all the strength of his lungs: ‘O Believers! come and take the Oath—the Oath! Come while ye invoke the name of Allah!’
The Prophet, seated in the shade of a gum-tree, awaited the coming of the Faithful who went in haste to him. They quivered with enthusiasm, and resolved to follow him blindly even if they had to make war in holy territory. They struck their palms against his to swear fidelity till death. Just then, the news of Usman’s murder being denied on the best authority, the Prophet clapped his hands together, so as to take the oath in place of Usman and acknowledge it.
Meanwhile, the intense agitation manifested on this occasion, in the ranks of the Believers, was notified by spies to the Quraish. They grew uneasy and sent Sohail ibn Amr with a flag of truce, giving him the following instructions: ‘Offer peace to Mohammad, but claim as condition that he turneth back this year, for never could we put up with the sarcasms of the Arabs who will maintain that he came into our city in spite of all we said or did. Next year, at the same epoch, he may accomplish his pilgrimage to the Holy Places, and it pleaseth him.’
Sohail went back with these proposals and the Prophet accepted, despite Umar’s vehement protestations. ‘I am the servant of Allah,’ Mohammad told him. ‘He leadeth me not astray, and I cannot disobey the orders He sendeth me. How now, O Umar? I decide; and thou must perforce oppose my decision?’ Umar, hearing these words, was overtaken by such confusion that he trembled in every limb, and icy sweat poured off him….
Quoth Umar: “From that day forth, I have never ceased praying, fasting, giving alms, and freeing slaves, so as to be granted pardon for my error.”
‘O Ali!’ said the Prophet, at this juncture, ‘write: in the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate!’—’I cannot accept that wording,’ protested Sohail. ‘Write simply: in Thy name, O Allah!’—’So be it! Write: in Thy name, O Allah! It hath been agreed between the undersigned, Mohammad, Prophet of Allah, and—’—’If I acknowledged that thou art the Prophet of Allah,’ interrupted Sohail. ‘I should not be at war with thee!’—’Well then, write: between Mohammad ibn Abdullah and Sohail ibn Amr: Hostilities shall be suspended for a period of ten years. Anyone escaping from Makkah and taking refuge with Mohammad shall be given up to the Quraish. Mohammad and his followers will turn back, and not attempt to enter into Makkah this year, against the will of the Quraish. Next year, the Quraish will cease all opposition to the visit of the Mussulmans to the Holy Places where they may sojourn for three days, but only carrying the arms permitted to pilgrims: sheathed sabres.’ Hearing these clauses, seemingly so disadvantageous for them, the Mussulmans were roused and shouted: ‘O Prophet! is it thou who signeth such a compact?’—’Assuredly!’ replied Mohammad with a smile. ‘Those among us who take refuge with the idolaters being insincere, we need not regret them; and Allah will have rid us of them. As for those of the Makkan Mussulmans who take refuge with us, if we give them up, Allah will not abandon them, for He will know how to succour them.’
The treaty had scarcely been signed by the leading Believers and principals among the idolaters, when Abu Jindal, son of Sohail, who had become converted and kept a prisoner, suddenly made his appearance, still dragging round his ankles the links of his broken chains. He rushed into the midst of his Moslem brethren who welcomed him with transports of joy.
Sohail flew into a passion at this sight. He lashed his son’s face with a thorny twig; and, seizing him by his garments, drove him into the Prophet’s presence, saying: ‘O Mohammad! here is the first fugitive: I call upon thee to give him up to me; the treaty having been concluded before he arrived.’—’Thou hast right on thy side.’—’O my Mussulman brethren!’ cried Abu Jindal, ‘am I thus given back to the idolaters who persecute me on account of my religion? See to what state they have reduced me!’ The whole of the stoical Believer’s body was indeed covered with traces of the ill-usage from which he had suffered. ‘Be resigned, O Abu Jindal,’ said the Prophet; ‘and put thy trust in Allah. He will not abandon thee; nor you; nor the “Mustazifin” (those who are oppressed like thee); and He will deliver thee when the time cometh…. But we have concluded a treaty on these terms, with the “qawm” of the Quraish, and on no account can we break our word.’
Nevertheless, the Prophet made overtures to Sohail, asking him to give up Abu Jindal in exchange for a ransom; but Sohail refused unmercifully. Umar, in his turn, approached the ill-fated Mussulman, saying: ‘Patience, O Abu Jindal! Thou art in the power of infidels whose blood hath no more value than that of dogs,’ and he showed him his sword, hoping thereby to incite him to murder his father. Despite everything, the son loved his father tenderly and thus did he reply: ‘Why dost thou not slay him thyself?’—’The Prophet hath forbidden us to do so.’—’Well then, must not I also observe the conditions imposed by Mohammad?’
When Muqirris ibn Hafz, one of the Makkans who had accompanied Sohail, witnessed this distressing scene, he was overcome with pity, and swore to protect Abu Jindal against his father and all his persecutors.
But whilst their companion was dragged away in the direction of Makkah, the Believers were heartbroken…. Their sanguine enthusiasm, arising from the fact of their expedition, gave place to gloomy discouragement; and when the Prophet, to show them that all was finished, sent forth his order: ‘Sacrifice the victims and shave your heads!’ it seemed as if they had suddenly lost their hearing.
Loudly invoking the name of Allah, Mohammad slew the first victim with his own hand. He then sat down and was shaved by Khurash ibn Umaiyah. Recovering from their state of prostration by this example, the Believers repented, and ashamed at having shown such little eagerness in obeying their leader, they imitated him at once by sacrificing the victims and cutting off their own hair. Allah (Glory be to Him!) sent a high wind that whirled away the shorn locks and carried them within the precincts of the Holy Temple….
The sojourn of Mohammad at Al-Hudaibiyah extended over nineteen or twenty days. He gave the signal to return; and his soldiers who, until the last moment, secretly hoped to march on the enemy, obeyed him without murmuring, despite their deep disappointment. On arriving at Al-Madinah, fresh scenes of the kind they had just witnessed, produced a heartbreaking effect. Nothwithstanding, they were much gratified to find that the Prophet refused to give up to the idolaters several Moslem women who had fled from Makkah, such as: Ummi-i-Kulsum bint Ogbah, Sabiyah bint Al-Haris, etc., a Revelation having taught him that women were not to be included in the treaty: “O Believers! when believing women, fleeing from idolatry, come over to you as refugees, then make trial of them … and if ye have ascertained them to be Believers, let them not go back to the unbelievers; they are not lawful for them, nor are the unbelievers lawful for these women. But give the husbands back what they have spent for their dowers.” (The Qur’an, lx, 10.) By way of compensation, the clauses of the treaty concerning men were scrupulously respected.
Like Abu Jindal, there was a Believer named Abu Basir who had escaped from his persecutors and he was given back to a tribesman of the Banu Amar, accompanied by a slave; these two having been sent to Al-Madinah to claim the refugee. They took him away in full view of the Believers who would have preferred to sink into the earth sooner than be forced to remain powerless and witness such a sight. Alone, among them all, the Prophet who saw what they could not see, remained unmoved and promised freedom by the aid of the Almighty to his ill-fated disciples.
At Zu’l Holifah, the three men sat down in the shade of a wall to rest awhile. The tribesman of the Banu Amar, priding himself on the success of his mission, thought he would act the part of an invincible hero and, unsheathing his sabre, he flourished it, bawling: ‘With this good sword, I could cut down Ansars from daybreak to nightfall and never feel tired!’—’Is thy blade really so sharp as all that?’ asked Abu Basir. ‘Let me see if it is, O my brother!’
Blinded by pride, the man of the Banu Amar cast all distrust from his mind. He allowed the edge of the steel to be examined by Abu Basir who, suddenly pulling it out of the conceited wretch’s hands, brandished it over the Infidel’s head and with a single blow, stretched him dead at his feet. Seeing this, the slave, overcome by terror, fled to Al-Madinah where he implored Mohammad’s protection. At the same moment, Abu Basir arrived, bestriding his victim’s she-camel which he had captured. He made the animal kneel before the Mosque and, with the sabre in his grasp, he went and addressed the Prophet, saying: ‘Thou canst not be blamed for what hath occurred, for thou didst remain true to thy word in giving me into the hands of my enemies. But Allah hath delivered me from their persecution! Here are the spoils. A fifth part is due to thee, Take it!’—’I can touch no plunder coming from that foe without being false to my oath. Away with thy booty; and now, go whither it pleaseth thee.’ When Abu Basir was gone, after taking leave of him, the Prophet added: ‘Woe to his people! That man is a brand of war! Would that he were accompanied by a few comrades as determined as he!’
Abu Basir went to Al-Aish, near the seashore, on the road to Syria trodden by the Quraish caravans. Once there, he was met by Abu Jindal and seventy other Mussulmans who, having heard that the Prophet could not be held responsible for those who freed themselves without his assistance, had made good their escape from the idolaters. These refugees were quite as determined as Abu Basir. They elected to remain in that part of the country because it was very woody and well suited to the irregular warfare of partisans in ambush. They captured all the convoys venturing in those regions and their success and the enticement of booty caused them to be joined by many Arabs of the Ghifar, Aslams, and Buhaunah tribes, etc., who became converts to Islam and formed a “jihsh” of more then three hundred highwaymen.
It was then that the Believers began to fathom the reasons for the Prophet’s placidness when he accepted the paragraph, seemingly so unfavourable, concerning the restitution of fugitives. Hungered by the stoppage of all revictualling caravans, the Quraish finished by sending written entreaties, begging him to suppress the very clause which at first pleased them so much. They informed Mohammad that all Mussulmans who should get out of Makkah to join him, could remain under his protection; and he was begged to recall Abu Basir and his fellow-raiders. So it turned out that when Mohammad gave the Quraish satisfaction, he had the advantage of doing a generous act at the same time as he increased his fighting strength to a most appreciable extent.
The results, therefore, of the expedition of Al-Hudaibiyah, to all appearances so poor, were of great importance. In the Qur’an, it is set down as being almost equal to the battle of Badr. In fact, at the moment when the Mussulmans thought they ought to attack the Holy City, all of them, whether Makkan Mohadjirun, or Ansars of Al-Madinah, took the oath of fealty without hesitation. After the Prophet’s death, the tree under which he accepted the pledge was so celebrated that numerous were the Faithful who came to pray in its shade; and Umar was obliged to have it felled, because he feared lest it became the object of a cult tainted with fetichism.
To crown all and complete these results, the following verses came down: “Well pleased now hath Allah been with the Believers when they plighted fealty to thee under the tree; and He knew what was in their hearts: therefore did He send down upon them a spirit of secure repose, and rewarded them with a speedy victory. * And with the rich booty which they took.” (The Qur’an, xlviii, 18, 19.)
Nay rather Allah is your liege lord, and He is the best of helpers.