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Were Muhammad's Conflicts Only Defensive?

A Muslim wrote, "He [Muhammad] only went to battle when he was fought against first, when the tribes struck him first, when he was hit first."

Response:  According to most respected Muslim historian, Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad's people, the Quraysh, did not attack him because he preached Islam. For three years, the Quraysh did not disturb Muhammad when he taught his doctrine to his disciples privately. Even after he began to preach Islam publicly, the Quraysh were tolerant. It was not until after Muhammad publicly disparaged their gods that they turned against him and his preaching.

When the apostle openly displayed Islam as God ordered him his people did not withdraw or turn against him, so far as I have heard, until he spoke disparagingly of their gods. 1

The Quraysh said, By God, we cannot endure that our fathers should be reviled, our customs mocked and our gods insulted. So naturally there was contention when Muhammad began attacking them and their gods. After a time, Muhammad claimed that he was given the right to fight them because of the persecution. In fact, Muhammad said that persecution was worse than slaughter or killing. Of course, this statement in the Qur'an is false. If this were true, then the Quraysh had every right to slaughter Muhammad rather than merely persecute him, because Muhammad persecuted them by reviling their gods.

    And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah. But if they cease, then lo! Allah is Seer of what they do. Sura 8:39
    And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter ... Sura 2:191.

The Quraysh understood that Muhammad had declared war against them because of declarations like Sura 8:39. So, the Quraysh began to consider methods of self-defense. However, it was at this point that Muhammad's companions emigrated (the Hijra) to Medina in September 622 AD.

When the Quraysh saw that the apostle had a party and companions not of their tribe and outside their territory, and that his companions had migrated to join them, and knew that they had settled in a new home and had gained protectors, they feared that the apostle might join them, since they knew that he had decided to fight them. So they assembled in their council chamber, the house of Qusayy b. Kilab where all their important business was conducted, to take counsel what they should do in regard to the apostle, for they were now in fear of him. 2

While most of the Quraysh argued that Muhammad should be jailed or banished from the tribe, Abu Jahl argued that he should be killed. However, while the Quraysh were plotting against Muhammad, he and Abu Bakr escaped to Medina. With Muhammad and his followers in Medina, the Quraysh thought that their difficulties were gone. So, the Quraysh returned to their normal daily life.

However, after a year or more, Muhammad began robbing their merchant caravans. The first raids were unsuccessful which is strange for a supposed prophet. However, it should never be forgotten that it was Muhammad who initiated the hostilities by robbing the Arab's merchant caravans for their wealth.

Then he went forth raiding in Safar at the beginning of the twelfth month from his coming to Medina (337). 3

A caravan of Quraysh carrying dry raisins and leather and other merchandise of Quraysh passed by them, 'Amr b. al-Hadrami (349), 'Uthman b. Abdullah b. al-Mughira and his brother Naufal the Makhzumites, and al-Hakam b. Kaysan, freedman of Hisham b. al-Mughira being among them. When the caravan saw them they were afraid of them because they had camped near them. 'Ukkasha, who had shaved his head, looked down on them, and when they saw him they felt safe and said, 'They are pilgrims, you have nothing to fear from them.' The raiders took council among themselves, for this was the last day of Rajab, and they said, 'If you leave them alone tonight they will get into the sacred area and will be safe from you; and if you kill them, you will kill them in the sacred month,' so they were hesitant and feared to attack them. Then they encouraged each other, and decided to kill as many as they could of them and take what they had. 4 February 624 A.H.

Then the apostle heard that Abu Sufyan b. Harb was coming from Syria with a large caravan of Quraysh, containing their money and merchandise, accompanied by some thirty or forty men, of whom were Makhrama b. Naufal b. Uhayb b. 'Abdu Manaf b. Zuhra, and 'Amr b. al-'As b. Wall b. Hisham (352). They said that when the apostle heard about Abu Sufyan coming from Syria , he summoned the Muslims and said, 'This is the Quraysh caravan containing their property. Go out to attack it, perhaps God will give it as a prey.' 5 [ March 8-13, 624 AD ]

So, the warfare and remarkable success of Islam began with the robbery of the caravans of Arabic merchant traders. In Mecca, Muhammad had little success making converts by the intellectual persuasiveness of his new religion. It was when he was able to show material booty, women slaves, and military prowess that Islam began its rapid rise to power. In the historical context, what follows were the attempts of the Quraysh and other Arab tribes to protect their business and livelihood from the marauding bands of Muslims who robbed their caravans and killed their fellow citizens. However, the Arab tribes were divided and incompetent. In the end Muhammad's power rose and the polytheists and Jews were slaughtered under various pretexts.

While Muhammad had the luxury of reviling the gods of the pagan Arabians, no one must say the slightest thing that might be negative about him. If a Muslim were to say something unfavorable about Muhammad, he is an apostate and must be executed! It is intellectual terrorism and religious idolatry.

Chapter One

CLARIFICATION ABOUT CURSING THE PROPHET
OR
SAYING THAT HE IS IMPERFECT BY ALLUSION OR CLEAR STATEMENT

SECTION 1

The Judgement of the Shari'a
regarding someone who curses or disparages the Prophet

Know that all who curse Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, or blame him or attribute imperfection to him in his person, his lineage, his deen or any of his qualities, or alludes to that or its like by any means whatsoever, whether in the form of a curse or contempt or belittling him or detracting from him or finding fault with him or maligning him, the judgement regarding such a person is the same as the judgement against anyone who curses him. He is killed as we shall make clear. This judgement extends to anything which amounts to a curse or disparagement. We have no hesitation concerning this matter, be it a clear statement or allusion.

The same applies to anyone who curses him, invokes against him, desires to harm him, ascribes to him what does not befit his position or jokes about his mighty affair with foolish talk, satire, disliked words or lies, or reviles him because of any affliction or trial which happened to him or disparages him, because of any of the permissible and well-known human events which happened to him. All of this is the consensus of the 'ulama' and the imams of fatwa from the time of the Companions until today.6

Incredibly, this quotation is from a book published in the fair land of Scotland and distributed around the world. This is a book that advocates killing anyone who dares to say anything negative about Muhammad. Is there an outcry against this book by Muslims? Are Muslims denouncing this book? Have they shown from the Qur'an, Sunnah, and Sira that this book's claims are erroneous?  

More could be written about the Wars of Apostasy immediately after the death of Muhammad, when many Arabs thought that the death of Muhammad meant that they could free themselves from Muslim control. And, it is beyond the purpose of this short article to pursue what could be written about the tragic history of the Islamic offensive conquests that spread out from Saudi Arabia to the surrounding nations.


1 Ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, Translated by A. Guillaume, Oxford University Press, Oxford, England, (Re-issued in Karachi, Pakistan, 1967, 13th impression, 1998) 1955, p. 118.
2 Ibn Ishaq, p. 221.
3 Ibn Ishaq, p. 281.
4 Ibn Ishaq, p. 287.
5 Ibn Ishaq, p. 289.
6 Qadi 'Iyad ibn Musa al-Yahsubi, Muhammad: Messenger of Allah (Ash-Shifa of Qadi 'Iyad) Translated by Aisha A. Bewley, Madinah Press Iverness, Scotland, 1991, p. 373. See pages 369-447.

Last edited 02/18/2004

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