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Prelude to the Great War in Islam

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Previously we spoke about the Jews of Medina and how they fraternized with the Muslims, even to the extent of following some of their doctrines, in the hope of winning Muhammed (pbuh) over to their side—to help them against the Christians whom they hated for having expelled them from Palestine.

We spoke about how these Jews enjoyed countless privileges alongside the Muslims, especially the fulfillment of huge trade benefits that Muhammed’s (pbuh) emergence on the political scene effected.

We looked at how many of the Jews accepted Islam and what turmoil this caused amongst the ‘Jewish Council’—mainly because some of their respected clergy were abjuring the exclusivity of their own Faith.

We then saw what happened to Abdullah ibn Salam, a respected Rabbi, who had converted to Islam, and who had approached the Prophet (pbuh) for help.

We found that he was jeered at, mocked incessantly, and even physically abused by those who had previously held him in great esteem, when they learnt about his conversion to Islam—and, as the Council had decreed, blasphemed against Judaism.

This in itself may or may not have caused the Jews’ mistrust of Muhammed (pbuh), as well as their disillusionment with Islam. But their ambitions of winning him over to their side to bolster their aspirations against the Christians was taking a serious knock and they gradually began to deny any legitimate claims he laid to prophet-hood.

So much so that we now saw many of the followers of Judaism consorting with the enemies of Islam—the tribesmen of Qureish in Medina; the Aws and Al Khazraj (those who were not Muslim); the Jews of Khaybar and many other tribes who could not wait to see the back of Muhammed (pbuh).

The situation was becoming so serious that many of the Jews who had accepted Islam previously had to be turned out of the mosques—some violently—because of their collusion with the ‘mischief-makers’, and they were then classified alongside those (the ‘inbetweeners’) who became known as the ‘Munafiqun’ (Hypocrites) that Al-Quran describes.

Medinah was fast becoming a threatening powder-keg of political upheaval.

One other point of note, though, was that many of the Muhajireen (Muslims who came from Mecca) were seriously starting to rethink their situation concerning their forced migration from the ‘Holy City’.

These Arabs (as has been amply recorded) had left behind most of their possessions, their properties—houses and businesses—even, in some cases, wives and children! And it was high time to do something about it.

One can then imagine Muhammed’s (pbuh) dilemma in keeping vigil on different fronts, all at the same time. On the one side there were the Jews and ‘Hypocrites’ who were going out of their way to stir up trouble between the various Arab tribes (those who were Muslim, of course) and, on the other, there were the Muhajireen who wanted to wage war on the Qureish in Mecca.

Muhammed (pbuh), albeit, an astute leader and statesman, was not at liberty to follow his own desires. Up until now his constitution had primarily been the ‘Injunctions and Guidelines of Al-Quran’. And, according to one particular verse revealed in the ‘Holy Book’, Muhammed (pbuh) is actually cautioned against ‘the act of aggression…’

However, on further consideration, The Quran also states that even though God does not love ‘aggression, and, neither the Aggressor’, to keep men away from the Commands of God, to deny Allah and to violate the sanctity of the ‘Holy Mosque’ by turning its people away from its precincts, is an even greater sin than fighting, even if it be during the ‘Holy Months’ of Islam.

We then found that Muhammed (pbuh) and his followers adopted a new line of thinking when confronted by those intent on destroying Islam. No more was there the ‘turning of the other cheek’—and no more were there the compromises that were being struck in order to keep the peace. Muslims were now engaging the ‘mischief-makers’ head-on!

We find that coupled with the forceful removal of ‘mischief-makers’ from the mosques, Muhammed (pbuh) instructed strong men like his uncle, Hamza (the lion hunter), to lead raids on Qureish’s caravans which, in those days, were packed to the brim with merchandise—moving through the desert towards destinations like Al Abwa and Buwa, on the outskirts of Medina.

The Prophet (pbuh) himself, together with 200 men from the Muhajireen as well as Ansars, also led raids deep into enemy territory—and although they never engaged the enemy physically (at that time) this mere show of force drastically changed the perception the Qureish had of the Muslims.

Qureishi caravans travelling in near proximity to Medina were considerably beefed up with more camels and escorts. Seasoned warriors, armed to the hilt, kept careful watch over their precious cargo as it braved, not only the dangers of attackers, but the elements as well. Sandstorms and the murderous desert sun were known to decimate many an unsuspecting caravan.

All in all, Muhammed (pbuh) only sought to claim what was rightly theirs (the Muhajireen) as fair retribution for the belongings and properties they left behind in Mecca, or strike an agreement with Qureish to allow the Muslims (those who had families in the ‘Holy City’) free access into Mecca and to reclaim whatever belonged to them.

Qureish, on hearing this, did not only refuse outright, but spread malicious rumors about Muhammed’s (pbuh) violation of the sanctity of the ‘Holy Months’ that all Meccans had to abide by, as well as his manifest evil in attacking their bread and butter.

And, as fate would have it, Abu Sufyan, the leader of Qureish at that time, was bringing a caravan through the desert that boasted an almighty amount of 2000 camels! The estimated value of merchandise it carried was 50,000 dinars! (1 dinar = 1 gold coin.)

So one can imagine, in today’s terms, how much money that is!

Muhammed (pbuh) then gathered all his followers in Medina and prepared to attack the caravan while it was still near to the city. He knew that he would never get such an opportunity to strike at Qureish, where it would hurt them severely. He knew that the time was right for the first real confrontation of Islam!

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  • Baronius

    So, Muhammed started stealing from people he didn’t like, and it was the Jews’ fault. Are you sure you’re telling this story right? Because I’d be embarrassed if my religion was founded by a thief.

  • Asim