Undoubtedly, one barrier to improved Christian-Muslim relations is the prohibition on the existence of free and public Christian worship, especially with respect to religious buildings, in the Arabian Peninsula. The Saudi Government claims it enforces this ban in loyalty to several ahadith which demand the exclusion of the ahl-ul-Kitab – ‘People of the Book’ (or any other religious confession) – from the Jazirat al-Arabi (Arabian Peninsula). Islamic historians claim that Muhammad uttered this prohibition near the end of his life, and that it was enforced during the reign of the second Caliph, ‘Umar. Both from the standpoint of Christian-Muslim relations and from that of historical criticism, it is therefore an interesting and essential obligation to examine this policy and its historical origins.
To do so, it is essential to study earlier examples of Muhammad’s interaction with the ahl-ul-Kitab, and his political and religious policies with respect to them, especially if this reveals a tension with his later policy. This is problematic for Muslims, who, believing Muhammad to be the Great Exemplar, hold him to be both divinely-inspired and thus infallible. To a lesser extent this remains true, at least for Sunnis, with regard to Abu Bakr, the first Caliph. Since he was one of the Khulafah Rashidun, the Rightly-Guided caliphs, and as Muhammad’s immediate successor, his religious policy sheds great light on the historicity or otherwise of the event. Further, if there is objective historical evidence of a Christian presence remaining after the supposed ‘religious cleansing’, this raises further questions about the historical veracity of Islamic origins in other aspects.
A. Muhammad and the Jews
According to the traditional Muslim depiction of Islamic history, the principal interaction of Muhammad with Jews occurred after the Hijra to Medina (Yathrib). The city of Yathrib, two hundred miles north of Mecca was at that time experiencing civil conflict between two rival tribes, the Aws and the Khazraj. According to the hadithliterature, a major clash, the ‘Battle of Bu’ath’ in 617, was the occasion for the invitation to Muhammad. 1 In 622 seventy-five Medinans invited Muhammad and his followers to come to Medina, probably as a peacemaker and political leader. There were several Jewish tribes and individuals, albeit divided, in Yathrib who enjoyed influence, with the Banu Nadir and Banu Qurayza supporting the Aws, and the Banu Qaynuqa supporting the Khazraj. 2. According to the Hadith, the first man to witness the arrival of Muhammad in Medina on 12 Rabi (24 September) 622and to announce the news was a Jew. 3 In this regard, it is noteworthy what purportedly happened at the meeting with Muhammad.
…Allah had set them on the road to Islam, for there were Jews with them in their own country – people who had scriptures, and were endowed with knowledge, while they themselves were polytheists and idolaters The Jews had the upper hand of them in their country. Whenever there was a dispute among them, the Jews said to them: ‘Now a prophet will be sent, his time is almost come. We shall follow him and with his help we shall obliterate you as the ‘Ad and Iram were obliterated.’ When the Messenger of God spoke to them and called them to Allah, they said to one another: ‘People! Understand! By Allah, this is surely the prophet with whom the Jews threatened us. We must not let them get ahead of us with him.’ …they believed him and accepted the Muslim dogmas… They told him: ‘We renounce our people. No other is so divided by hatred and rivalry. It may be that with your help Allah will bring them together… if Allah unites them in this faith, there will be no man more powerful than you.’ 4
According to Watt, the Jewish tribes had previously dominated the political, economic and intellectual life of Medina. 5 Although the Sira may suggest that the references in the Qur’an to the Torah prophesying the coming of Muhammad may reflect these ideas, it is far more likely that the reverse is true, and the Sira simply attempts a polemical historical reconstruction to justify Muslim holy texts on the beliefs of Jews and Christians which are obviously lacking in factual basis.
After his accession to power, Muhammad purportedly issued the ‘Declaration of Medina’ addressing the issue of communal relations, effectively forming a tribal confederacy. 6 The basis of relationships was between individual tribes and the Muslims, rather than the Jews en masse. The Muslims were allied with each individual Jewish tribe, although the terms were the same for all. 7 Thus, when conflict arose between the Muslims and individual tribes such as the Banu Nadir, there was no collective punishment of the Jews as a whole. Watt suggests that at this stage Muhammad would have settled for a ‘broad church’ of Abrahamic monotheists that would not have obliged the conversion of the Jews. 8 He even suggests that this, rather than the Najran visit, may have been the origin of Surah 3 Al-i-Imran Ayah 64. However, his rejection by the Jews set the scene for conflict.
1) The Banu Qaynuqa
Relations between the Muslims and the Jewish tribe of Banu Qaynuqa had already deteriorated after some of the tribe had become Muslims, leading to hostility from their former co-religionists. 9 The tribe’s principal employment was as craftsmen, particularly as goldsmiths. 10 It was this that was to lead to the first major confrontation between Muslims and Jews in 624 A.D. On one occasion a Muslim woman visited their bazaar, in the course of which she sat down by a goldsmith’s stall. Some Jewish youths teased her by attempting to lift her veil, and the goldsmith, probably as a tasteless joke, somehow fastened her skirts to the floor, with the result that her lower body was exposed upon her rising. Rodinson comments that the bystanders
… hooted with joy while the victim swore vengeance on all and sundry. The honour of everyone connected with the woman, however remotely, was at stake. A Muslim… sprang forward and killed the goldsmith. The Jews fell on the Muslim and killed him. The quarrel was on. 11
In an oriental context, this would be perceived as an outrage against both personal and tribal honour warranting bloodshed. The Banu Qaynuqa, realising this, withdrew to their strongholds, but were attacked by the Muslims. Rodinson asserts that Muhammad wanted to kill them all, but demurred because of an ally of the Jews, the influential Medinan ibn Ubayy. 12 Rather, the Muhammad imposed upon them was exile, but they were permitted to take with them their families and possessions, with the exceptions of their arms and goldsmith tools. In the contemporary context, this gesture was generous. According to the traditional accounts, the Banu Qaynuqa could field 700 men, 400 armoured, and they possessed allies among the other tribes, even the Muslims. They were thus potentially a serious security risk to the emerging regime. Hence, according to the traditional scenario, it was security considerations and oriental traditions of ‘honour’, rather than sectarianism, which caused the expulsion.
Having noted this, it should be stated that traditional Muslim accounts are somewhat varied as to the cause of the conflict. According to a Muslim biography of Muhammad ibn Maslamah, the cause of the conflict was a rash, reckless military challenge to the prophet:
After the resounding victory of the Muslims over the Quraysh at the Battle of Badr, one of the three main Jewish groups in Madinah, the Banu Qaynuqa was especially furious and issued a petulant challenge to the Prophet. They said:
“O Muhammad! You really think that we are like your people (the Quraysh)? Don’t be deceived. You confronted a people who have no knowledge of war and you took the chance to rout them. If you were to fight against us you would indeed know that we arc men.”
They thus spurned their agreement with the Prophet and issued an open challenge to fight. The Qaynuqa however were goldsmiths who dominated the market in Madinah. They were depending on their allies, the Khazraj, to help them in their declared war. The Khazraj refused. The Prophet placed the Banu Qaynuqa’s quarters under a siege which lasted for fifteen nights. The fainthearted Qaynuqa finally decided to surrender and ask the Prophet for a free passage out of Madinah.
The Prophet allowed them to leave and the tribe – men, women and children – left unharmed. They had to leave behind them their arms and their goldsmith’s equipment. They settled down at Adhraat in Syria. 13
Mawdudi’s account combines both depictions, presenting the picture as being partly a matter of Jewish arrogance, and partly a result of the impugned honour of the Muslim woman:
The first Jewish tribe that, after the Battle of Badr, openly and collectively broke their covenant was the Bani Qainuqa. They lived in a locality inside the city of Madinah. As they practised the crafts of the goldsmith, blacksmith and vessel maker, the people of Madinah had to visit their shops fairly frequently. They were proud of their bravery and valour. Being blacksmiths by profession even their children were well armed, and they could instantly muster 700 fighting men from among themselves. They were also arrogantly aware that they enjoyed relations of confederacy with the Khazraj and Abdullah bin Ubbay, the chief of the, Khazraj, was their chief supporter. At the victory of Badr, they became so provoked that they began to trouble and harass the Muslims and their women in particular, who visited their shops. By and by things came to such a pass that one day a Muslim woman was stripped naked publicly in their bazaar. This led to a brawl in which a Muslim and a Jew were killed. Thereupon the Holy Prophet (upon whom be Allah’s peace) himself visited their locality, got them together and counselled them on decent conduct. But the reply that they gave was; “O Muhammad, you perhaps think we are like the Quraish; they did not know fighting; therefore, you overpowered them. But when you come in contact with us, you will see how men fight.” This was in clear words a declaration of war. Consequently, the Holy Prophet (upon whom be Allan’s peace) laid siege to their quarters towards the end of Shawwal (and according to some others, of Dhi Qa’dah) A.H. 2. The siege had hardly lasted for a fortnight when they surrendered and all their fighting men were tied and taken prisoners. Now Abdullah bin Ubayy came up in support of them and insisted that they should be pardoned. The Holy Prophet conceded his request and decided that the Bani Qainuqa would be exiled from Madinah leaving their properties, armour and tools of trade behind. (Ibn Sa’d, Ibn Hisham, Tarikh Tabari).
A surprising challenge to the historicity of the event is the lack of any clear reference in either the Qur’an or the Hadith to the event. The former only has an ambiguous statement in Surah Al-Hashr 59:15, usually applied to the Qaynuqah in relation to the expulsion of the Banu Nadir ‘Like those who lately preceded them they have tasted the evil result of their conduct and (in the Hereafter there is) for them a grievous Penalty’
Yusuf Ali comments on the verse:
The immediate reference was probably to the Jewish goldsmith tribe of the Qainuqa, who were also settled in a fortified township near Madinah. They were also punished and banished for their treachery, about a month after the battle of Badr, in which the Makkan Pagans had suffered a signal defeat, in Shawwal, A.H. 2. The Nadhir evidently did not take that lesson to heart…
Yet there is nothing explicit in either this text or elsewhere in the Qur’an about the incident. Whilst there are several ahadith mentioning the Banu Qunaiqa, only one refers to their expulsion, and that is in the context of mentioning the general exile of the Jews from Medina. 14 There is no specific historical outline in the hadith corpus of the alleged event and why it occurred. As Mawdudi’s quotes show, we have to rely on later Sira material, through which lens Muslim (and other) commentators interpret this verse. Even then, as we examine the supposed basis of the expulsion, there are grounds for suspicion that there were originally two distinct accounts involved – one involving Jewish recklessness, the other indicating a matter of honour, which Muslims like Mawdudi have redacted and merged, to reconcile their inconsistencies. For one thing, we have no objective evidence as to the actual military strength or otherwise of the Qunayqa, and have to rely on later Muslim accounts. We cannot say for sure if the Qunayqa indeed provoked an incident one way or another, or whether indeed the actual event occurred at all. Moreover, even in the actual accounts as they stand, we do not encounter any supposed divine revelation arising demanding the exile of this section of the ahl-ul-Kitab because of their ‘idolatrous’ practices, as indicated in the hadith where Muhammad indicated his intention to exile the People of the Book for turning the graves of the prophets into places of worship.
2) The Consequence of Badr
At the Battle of Badr in 624, the Meccans were beaten by the Muslims, but remained determined to avenge their defeat. Leadership of the Quraish had fallen to a young man called Abu Sufyan, who had the services of a brilliant Medinan poet-propagandist called Ka’b ibn al-Ashraf, of Pagan paternity but whose mother who came from the Jewish tribe of Banu Nadir, with whom he identified. He composed poetic verses against Muhammad, and poetry of this kind was linked to occult power – i.e. curses. Given the fact that everyone believed in the supernatural power of curses, Muhammad was not inclined to ignore this attack. It should be understood that as a Medinan, and a member of a confederate tribe, Ka’b ibn al-Ashraf was guilty of treason.
Abu Sufyan organised a raid on Medina during which he burned a few young palms as an act of economic sabotage, killed two Medinan field-workers and conversed with two Jews who debriefed him of the situation in the city. This in itself would have called into question the loyalty of the Jews. Ka’b ibn al-Ashraf returned to Medina under the protection of his tribe. Muhammad had him assassinated, the killers placing the head of Ka’b at the feet of Muhammad. The Jews were disturbed, and entered into a new treaty with Muhammad. Similarly, Abu Rafi, a leading Jew of the Banu Nadir, was assassinated on the orders by Muhammad for conspiring against the Prophet after the expulsion of the tribe from Medina. 15
3) The Banu Nadir
The exile of the Banu Nadir in 625 was a consequence of the treachery of a pagan tribe and the Arab obligation of blood-money, the details of which are not pertinent to our theme. Muhammad approached the council of the Jewish tribe Banu an-Nadir to request financial assistance. At first, they were reluctant, but eventually they agreed, and requested that he and his Companions wait while they prepared a meal in his honour. 16 However, Muhammad purportedly received a divine revelation that the Banu Nadir were about to kill him by dropping a millstone from the roof on his head. Commentators such as Rodinson and Watt agree that this scenario was quite possible. Ka’b ibn al-Ashraf was a member of the tribe, and honour demanded that his blood be avenged, and Muhammad’s death might also provide an opportunity for the renewal of Jewish influence in Medina. Further, they may have suspected that his request for financial assistance was a precedent for protracted requests of the same nature.
Muhammad reacted to the attempted assassination by sending Muhammad ibn Maslama, a Muslim member of a tribe allied to the Nadir, with an ultimatum: ‘Leave my city and live with me no longer after the treason which you have plotted against me’. They were given ten days to leave upon pain of death. They would still be regarded as proprietors of the palm trees, and would receive part of their produce. The tribal chief, Huyayy bin Akhtab, was reluctant to comply, and then made a catastrophic misjudgement by listening to ibn Ubayy, who, seeing a chance to topple Muhammad, promised the Banu Nadir his assistance, that of the Qurayzah and his nomad allies the Ghatafan if they resisted. On this basis, the Nadir retired to their fortresses and resisted the siege for a fortnight. Mawdudi refers to this event:
The day they [the Bani an-Nadir] plotted against the life of the Holy Prophet, and the secret was disclosed, the Holy Prophet ordered them to leave Madinah within ten days and warned that anyone who remained behind after that would be put to death. Abdullah bin Ubayy, the chief of the hypocrites of Madinah, encouraged them to defy the order and refuse to leave Madinah. He even promised to help them with 2,000 men, and assured them that the Bani Ghatafan from Najd also would come to their aid. Accordingly, the Bani an-Nadir sent word that they would not leave no matter what the Holy Prophet might do.
As soon as the time limit of ten days come to an end, the Holy Prophet laid siege to their quarters, but none of their supporters had the courage to come to their rescue. At last, they surrendered on condition that every three of them would be allowed to load a camel with whatever they could carry and go away leaving the rest of their possessions behind. Thus, the whole suburbs of the city which were inhabited by the Bani an-Nadir, and their gardens and their fortresses and other properties fell to the Muslims, and the people of this treacherous tribe became scattered in Khaiber, Wad il Qura and Syria. 17
However, the promises of ibn Ubayy proved empty; no-one in the proposed alliance came to the aid of the Banu Nadir. Muhammad then engaged in economic warfare by cutting down the palm trees, a move completely contrary to the Arab code. When the Banu Nadir protested, and some Muslims were uncertain, a divine revelation came in support of Muhammad’s action. 18 The sight of the livelihood of the Banu Nadir being destroyed broke their spirits and they surrendered. However, as a result of their obstinacy, Muhammad was not prepared to offer them the same terms as before. They were allowed to take with them whatever their camels could carry, their property, the doors of their houses, and their wood (many dismantled their houses) but they forfeited the palm trees and their armour. Some migrated to Khaybar, where they had property, others to Syria. Yusuf Ali comments on the event as follows:
They had played a double game. Originally they were sworn allies of the Madinah Muslims under the holy Prophet, but they secretly intrigued with the Makkah Pagans under Abu Sufyan and the Madinah Hypocrites. They even tried treacherously to take the life of the Prophet while he was on a visit to them, breaking both the laws of hospitality and their own sworn alliance. They thought the Pagan Quraish of Makkah and the Hypocrites of Madinah would help them, but they did not help them. On the contrary the eleven days siege showed them their own helplessness. Their supplies were cut off; the exigencies of the siege necessitated the destruction of their outlying palm trees; and the unexpected turn in their fortunes disheartened them. Their hearts were stack with terror and they capitulated. But they laid waste their homes before they left: Their lives were spared, and they were allowed ten days in which to remove themselves, their families, and such goods as they could carry. In order to leave no habitations for the Muslims they demolished their own houses and laid waste their property, to complete the destruction which the operations of war had already caused at the hands of the besieging force of the Muslims. The punishment of the Banu Nadhir was because in breaking their plighted word with the Messenger and in actively resisting Allah’s Message and supporting the enemies of that Message, they rebelled against him. For such treason and rebellion the punishment is severe, and yet in this case it was seasoned with Mercy. 19
However, the Qur’anic evidence is limited. Surah Al-Hashr 59:1ff is traditionally presented as the text referring to this incident. 20 Yusuf Ali comments on the passage as follows:
This refers to the Jewish tribe of the Banu Nadhir whose intrigues and treachery nearly undid the Muslim cause during the perilous days of the battle of Uhud in Shawwal, A.H. 3. Four months after, in Rabi, 1. A.H. 4, steps were taken against them. They were asked to leave the strategic position which they occupied, about three miles south of Madinah, endangering the very existence of the Ummat in Madinah. At first they demurred, relying on their fortresses and on their secret alliance with the Pagans of Makkah and the Hypocrites of Madinah. But when the Muslim army was gathered to punish them and actually besieged them for some days, their allies stirred not a finger in their aid, and they were wise enough to leave. Most of them joined their brethren in Syria, which they were permitted to do, after being disarmed. Some of them joined their brethren in Khaibar…
Their lives were spared, and they were allowed ten days in which to remove themselves, their families, and such goods as they could carry. In order to leave no habitations for the Muslims they demolished their own houses and laid waste their property, to complete the destruction which the operations of war had already caused at the hands of the besieging force of the Muslims. (59.2)…
The punishment of the Banu Nadhir was because in breaking their plighted word with the Messenger and in actively resisting Allah’s Message and supporting the enemies of that Message, they rebelled against him. For such treason and rebellion the punishment is severe, and yet in this case it was seasoned with Mercy. (59.4)…
“The people of the townships”: the townships were the Jewish settlements round Madinah, of the Banu Nadhir, and possibly of other tribes… The reference cannot be to the Wadi-ul-Qura (Valley of Towns), now Madain Salih, which was subjugated after Khaibar and Fadak in A.H. 7, unless this verse is later than the rest of the Sura. (59.7)
How the Jews managed to destroy their own homes when they had surrendered to the Muslims, and thus were effectively militarily occupied is difficult to imagine. What is even more surprising, indeed, crucially enigmatic, is that the Qur’anic text makes no explicit reference to the assassination attempt on the Prophet, merely mentioning that the People of the Book had ‘opposed’, or more accurately, ‘broke away’ from Muhammad and thus Allah. The nature of this ‘resistance’ or ‘breach’ is very ambiguous. It would be natural to interpret this as referring to a breach of the Constitution of Medina, but the problem is, once again, there is no definite, clear evidence in the Qur’anic text itself, or anywhere else for that matter. The Hadithcorpus, while referring to their expulsion, mentions nothing about assassination, nor about any breach of agreement. In Abu Dawood, an anonymous narration presents the conflict as a battle instigated by the Quraish. 21 Another text in the same collection contradicts the view that Muhammad let the Jews take all their property with them. 22
Of course, it should be remembered that Muslims themselves do not regard Abu Dawood’s collection as sound, reliable narrations. Other than various texts referring to the cutting-down of the palm-trees, 23 the only reference in a sound collection like Bukhari is to the identification of Surat Al-Hashr with Surat An-Nadir. 24 Even then, we should remember that Bukhari lived about two centuries after the supposed event, and it may be the case, as evidenced from the equation of Surat Al-Hashr and Surat An-Nadir, that the story was ‘enlarged’ in scope and detail to explain the passage. Moreover, Yusuf Ali’s comment on ‘the people of the townships’ suggest even the Qur’anic passage is composite. It may well be the case that the Nadir (or some of them) were exiled, though why exactly we do not know. The story may have provided a pattern for the saga of the general exile of the People of the Book from Arabia.
3) The Expulsion of the Banu Qurayza
The Battle of the Ditch/Trench in 627, when 10,000 Meccans and their allies unsuccessfully besieged Medina, was a decisive event in Muhammad’s career, preparing the way for the conquest of Mecca. It also consolidated his power in Medina. Where it becomes relevant to our theme concerns his action against the last remaining major Jewish tribe in Medina, the Banu Qurayza, and the purported involvement of Jews in the assault on Medina by the Quraish. Mawdudi claims that the Jews of the exiled Banu Nadir played a role in the assault upon Medina:
It had been instigated by the leaders of the Bani an-Nadir, who had settled in Khaiber after their banishment from Madinah. They went round to the Quraish and Ghatafan and Hudhail and many other tribes and induced them to gather all their forces together and attack Madinah jointly. Thus, in Shawwal, A.H. 5, an unprecedentedly large army of the Arab tribes marched against the small city of Madinah. From the north came Jews of Bani an-Nadir and Bani Qainuqa who after their banishment from Madinah, had settled in Khaiber and Wad il Qura. 25
However, this appears to contradict his picture of inter-Jewish relatons. In his introduction to S. Al-Hashr, he notes that the Jewish tribes were not on good relations with each other: ‘… the third tribe, Bani Qainuqa, was not on friendly terms with the other two tribes, it stayed inside the city as usual, but had to seek protection of the Khazraj tribe. As a counter measure to this Bani an-Nadir and Bani Quraizah took protection of the Aus tribe so that they could live in peace in the suburbs of Yathrib.’ This being so, the picture Mawdudi presents of a united Jewish attack upon Muhammad in alliance with the Quraish must be questioned.
It should be also noted that some Qurayza Jews assisted in constructing the defensive ditch along with the Muslims. Eventually the battle concluded with the withdrawal of the Quraish. However, during the siege, the Meccans had allegedly negotiated a plan with the Banu Qurayza whereby the defenders would be assaulted from the rear, massacring their women and children. Mawdudi writes:
They sent Huyayy bin Akhtab, the Jewish leader of the Bani an-Nadir, to the Bani Quraizah so as to induce them to break the treaty and join the war. In the beginning, they refused to oblige and said that they had a treaty with Muhammad (upon whom be Allah’s peace) who had faithfully abided by it and given them no cause for complaint. But when Ibn Akhtab said to them, “Look, I have summoned the united force of entire Arabia against him: this is a perfect opportunity to get rid of him. If you lose it, you will never have another opportunity,” the anti Islamic Jewish mind prevailed over every moral consideration and the Bani Quraizah were persuaded to break the treaty. 26
Watt gives credence to the purported role of the Banu Nadir from Khaybar in this. 27 Apparently the Banu Qurayza discussed the matter, and according to Muslim tradition, some actually joined the siege. They may have been obliged by treaty to assist Muhammad in conflict or at least stay neutral – judging from the terms of the Declaration of Medina, this would seem quite likely. 28 Clearly, by engaging in such intrigue they were guilty of an act of treachery, not to say war, against Muhammad. This was the final straw for Muhammad, whose mind was now set on conquering Mecca, and the last thing he would be willing to tolerate was a fifth column undermining his strategy. On the very day the siege ended he turned his troops on the Qurayzah. According to Islamic tradition, this was not a mere human strategic decision on the part of Muhammad; rather, it had been commanded by God through the agency of Gabriel:
…When the Prophet (peace be upon him) returned from (the battle of) al-Khandaq (i.e. trench) and laid down his arms and took a bath.
Gabriel came to him while he (i.e. Gabriel) was shaking the dust off his head, and said, “You have laid down your arms? By Allah, I have not laid them down. Go out to them (to attack them).”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Where?”
Gabriel pointed towards Banu Qurayzah… 29
The following tradition states why the Banu Qurayzah were to be assaulted – they had fought against Muhammad:
Abdullah ibn Umar
Banu An-Nadir and Banu Qurayzah fought (with the Prophet (peace be upon him) violating their peace treaty), so the Prophet (peace be upon him) exiled Banu An-Nadir and allowed Banu Qurayzah to remain in their homes (in Medina) taking nothing from them till they fought the Prophet (peace be upon him)… 30
Yusuf Ali comments on S. 33:26 in relation to the Battle of the Ditch:
The reference is to the Jewish tribe of the Banu Quraiza. They counted among the citizens of Madinah and were bound by solemn engagements to help in the defence of the City. But on the occasion of the Confederate siege by the Quraish and their allies they intrigued with the enemies and treacherously aided them. Immediately after the siege was raised and the Confederates had fled in hot haste, the Prophet turned his attention to these treacherous “friends” who had betrayed his City in the hour of danger. The Banu Quraiza … were filled with terror and dismay when Madinah was free from the Quraish danger. They shut themselves up in their castles about three or four miles to the east (or north east) of Madinah, and sustained a siege of 25 days, after which they surrendered, stipulating that they would abide by the decision of their fate at the hands of Sad ibn Muaz, chief of the Aus tribe, with which they had been in alliance.
Although the Jews protested their innocence of treachery, Muhammad, in obedience to the angelic instruction, attacked them by getting his poets to supernaturally abuse them. 31 After twenty-five days the Jews were disheartened. Some families escaped by converting to Islam. The tribe then asked to be set free on the same basis as the Qaynuqah, but Muhammad demanded unconditional surrender. Muhammad then allowed one of the Aws, Sa’d, an old friend of the Jews to pronounce judgement, which was to execute all the men and share–out all the women and children. 32
At this point, we return to Arafat’s critique of the Banu Qurayza story, and note his objections to its veracity, which are relevant to the Najran epic:
Now for the story. The reasons for rejecting the story are the following:
- As already stated above, the reference to the story in the Qur’an is extremely brief, and there is no indication whatever of the killing of a large number. In a battle context the reference is to those who were actually fighting. The Qur’an is the only authority which the historian would accept without hesitation or doubt. It is a contemporary text, and, for the most cogent reasons, what we have is the authentic version.
- The rule in Islam is to punish only those who were responsible for the sedition.
- To kill such a large number is diametrically opposed to the Islamic sense of justice and to the basic principles laid down in the Qur’an – particularly the verse. “No soul shall bear another’s burden.” It is obvious in the story that the leaders were numbered and were well known. They were named.
- It is also against the Qur’anic rule regarding prisoners of war, which is: either they are to be granted their freedom or else they are to be allowed to be ransomed.
- It is unlikely that the Banu Qurayza should be slaughtered when the other Jewish groups who surrendered before Banu Qurayza and after them were treated leniently and allowed to go. Indeed Abu ‘Ubayd b. Sallam relates in his Kitab al-amwal that when Khaybar felt [sic] to the Muslims there were among the residents a particular family or clan who had distinguished themselves by execesive [sic] unseemly abuse of the Prophet. Yet in that hour the Prophet addressed them in words which are no more than a rebuke: “Sons of Abu al-Huqayq (he said to them) I have known the extent of your hostility to God and to His apostle, yet that does not prevent me from treating you as I treated your brethren.” That was after the surrender of Banu Qurayza.
- If indeed so many hundreds of people had actually been put to death in the market-place, and trenches were dug for the operation, it is very strange that there should be no trace whatever of all that – no sign or word to point to the place, and no reference to a visible mark.
- Had this slaughter actually happened, jurists would have adopted it as a precedent. In fact exactly the opposite has been the case. The attitude of jurists, and their rulings, have been more according to the Qur’anic rule in the verse, “No soul shall bear another’s burden.”Indeed, Abu ‘Ubayd b. Sallam relates a very significant incident in his book Kifab al-amwal, which, it must be noted, is a book of jurisprudence, of law, not a sira or a biography. He tells us that in the time of the Imam al-Awza’i there was a case of trouble among a group of the People of the Book in the Lebanon when ‘Abdullab b. ‘Ali was regional governor. He put down the sedition and ordered the community in question to be moved elsewhere. Al-Awza’i in his capacity as the leading jurist immediately objected. His argument was that the incident was not the result of the community’s unanimous agreement. “At [sic] far as I know (he argued) it is not a rule of God that God should punish the many for the fault of the few but punish the few for the fault of the many.”Now, had the Imam al-Awza’i accepted the story of the slaughter of Banu Qurayza, he would have treated it as a precedent, and would not have come out with an argument against Authority, represented in ‘Abdullah b. ‘Ali. Al-Awza’i, it should be remembered, was a younger contemporary of Ibn Ishaq.
- In the story of Qurayza a few specific persons were named as having been put to death, some of whom were described as particularly active in their hostility. It is the reasonable conclusion that those were the ones who led the sedition and who were consequently punished – not the whole tribe.
- The details given in the story clearly and of necessity imply inside knowledge, i.e. from among the Jews themselves. Such are the details of their consultation when they were besieged, the harangue of Ka’b b. Asad as their leader; and the suggestion that they should kill their women and children and then make a last desperate attack against the Muslims.
- Just as the descendants of Qurayza would want to glorify their ancestors, so did the descendants of the Madanese connected with the event. One notices that that part of the story which concerned the judgement of Sa’d b. Mu’adh against Qurayza, was transmitted from one of his direct descendants. According to this part the Prophet said to Mu’adh: “You have pronounced God’s judgement upon them [as inspired] through Seven Veils.”Now it is well known that for the purposes of glorifying their ancestors or white washing those who were inimical to Islam at the beginning, many stories were invented by later generations and a vast amount of verse was forged, much of which was transmitted by Ibn Ishaq. The story and the statement concerning Sa’d are one such detail.
- Other details are difficult to accept. How could so many hundreds of persons he incarcerated in the house belonging to a woman of Banu al-Najjar?
- The history of the Jewish tribes after the establishment of Islam is not really clear at all. The idea that they all departed on the spot seems to be in need of revision, as can be seen on examining the sources.
In other words, the story is a legend, rather than an historical event. It has an historical incident as its basis, but it has magnified the event out of all proportion to what in fact occurred. Of course, in the absence of even Qur’anic evidence for this scenario, we are entitled to ask how Muslim tradition, apart from purported divine revelation, is sure of this picture? What objective evidence is there for its veracity? What proof is there for Mawdudi’s assertion about the role of the Banu Nadir in the Quraish attack upon Medina? How does anyone know that the Qurayza and the Quraish were engaged in this supposed conspiracy? It would indeed have displayed a treacherous intention on their part, revealing them to be a genuine security risk, especially if they were willing to massacre innocents. Moreover, it would seem to present a picture of the climax of Jewish/ahl-ul-Kitabtreachery right from the beginning of Islam, giving concrete historical expression to the Qur’anic warnings about taking Jews or Christians as ‘friends, 33 and other texts implying that the People of the Book are treacherous. 34 Yusuf Ali comments on this verse, displaying how the historical events of Muhammad’s life demonstrate why Muslims should be suspicious of the ahl-ul-Kitab: ‘That is, look not to them for help and comfort. They are more likely to combine against you than to help you. And this happened more than once in the lifetime of the Prophet, and in after-ages again and again.’ Mawdudi states with regard to this theme:
The hypocrites, while living among the Muslims, wanted to keep good relations with the Jews and the Christians so that if the conflict ended in the defeat of the Muslims, they might safely take refuge with their enemies. Then there was also the economic factor; at that time the Jews and the Christians were economically the most powerful people in Arabia…. This also led the hypocrites to preserve their old relations with them… In short, they considered it very dangerous to break relations with these people because of the conflict between Islam and kufr, for they feared it might ruin them economically and politically. 35
4) The Jews of Khaybar, Fadak and Elsewhere
The last group of Jews to resist Muhammad were in Khaybar, where, according to Muslim tradition, they plotted with pagan tribes against him, as we have seen. This constituted an act of war, and in 628 he besieged them. Some Jews aided the Muslim ‘war effort’, attempting to secure their position after the conquest. The terms of surrender were quite merciful for the time. The Hadith tradition [see below] relates that ownership of the land passed to the Muslims, but the Jews were to cultivate it and keep half the produce for themselves. According to Muslim sources, Muhammad returned to the Jews copies of the Torah seized during the siege, as opposed to desecrating them. 36 The rest of the Jewish communities in the area soon fell to Muhammad. The Jews of Fadak submitted, handing over half their wealth to Muhammad. They may have been involved in the Khaybar campaign. The Jews of Wadi’l-Qura offered token resistance, and then capitulated on similar terms. The Jews of Tayma, however, who offered no resistance, merely had to pay the Jizya tax. The same thing happened to the Jews of Banu Ghaziyah and Banu ‘Arid. According to Haykal, the Jews of al Bahrayn were exempted from this tax. 37 The Khaybar conquest is allegedly celebrated in the Qur’an, S. 33:26ff. 38 Yusuf Ali comments with regard to v27:
This part of the Sura is considered a prophecy. It may refer to the conquest of Khaibar. Khaibar is a Harrat or volcanic tract, well-watered with many springs issuing from its basaltic rocks. It has a good irrigation system and produces good harvests of grain and dates in its wet valleys, while the outcrop of rocks in the high ground affords sites for numerous fortresses. In the holy Prophet’s time there were Jewish colonies settled here, but they were a source of constant trouble especially after Siege of Madinah. It became a nest of all the hostile Jewish elements expelled for their treachery from elsewhere. Its capital, Khaibar, is about 90 miles due north of Madinah. Its inhabitants offered some resistance, and Hadhrat ‘Ali, though he had just risen from a bed of illness, performed prodigies of valour. After its surrender, a land settlement was made, which retained the cultivators of the soil on the land, but brought them under control, so that no further focus of active hostility should remain near Madinah. The terms of the settlement will be found in Waqidi.
It can be seen, however, that there is some ambiguity attached to the passage, since Yusuf Ali is uncertain if it actually refers to the Khaybar expedition. Mawdudi, in his Surah introductions, holds that S. 62:1-8 relate to the Khaybar conquest, yet once again, there is an uncertainty about this hypothesis:
The period of the revelation of the first section (vv. 1-8) is A.H. 7, and probably it was sent down on the occasion of the conquest of Khaiber or soon after it. Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Nasa’i and Ibn Jarir have related on the authority of Hadrat Abu Hurairah that he and other Companions were sitting in the Holy Prophet’s assembly when these verses were revealed. About Abu Hurairah it is confirmed historically that he entered Islam after the truce of Hudaibiyah and before the conquest of Khaiber, and Khaiber was conquered, according to Ibn Hisham, in Muharram, and, according to Ibn Sa’d, in Jamadi al-Awwal, A.H. 7. Thus presumably Allah might have sent down these verses, addressing the Jews, when their last stronghold had fallen to the Muslims, or these might have been revealed when, seeing the fate of Khaiber, all the Jewish settlements of northern Hijaz had surrendered to the Islamic government…
The first section [of the Surah] was sent down at a time when all Jewish efforts to obstruct the message of Islam during the past six years had failed. First, in Madinah as many as three of their powerful tribes had done whatever they could to frustrate the mission of the Holy Prophet, with the result that one of the tribes was completely exterminated and the other two were exiled. Then by intrigue and conspiracy they brought many of the Arab tribes together to advance on Madinah, but in the Battle of the Trench they were all repulsed. After this, Khaiber had become their stronghold, where a large number of the Jews expelled from Madinah also had taken refuge. At the time these verses were revealed, that too was taken without any extraordinary effort, and the Jews at their own request agreed to live there as tenants of the Muslims. After this final defeat the Jewish power in Arabia came to an end. Then, Wad-il-Qura, Fadak Taima’, Tabuk, all surrendered one after the other, so much so that all Arabian Jews became subdued to the same Islam which they were not prepared to tolerate before.
The fact that the Qur’an fails to mention this event in detail is surprising, since it effectively sealed Muhammad’s control of much of Arabia, and crushed ‘the Jewish threat’ forever. This omission is even more surprising given the actions of a Jewess called Zaynab, who had lost her husband and father in the conflict. She attempted to assassinate Muhammad by food-poisoning, an event recorded in the Hadith, in which we encounter some ambiguity again, since one narration implies general complicity on the part of the Jews of Khaybar, rather than just individual guilt by Zaynab. 39 There is also uncertainty as the fate of Zaynab, some narrations indicating she was executed, others implying she was left alive. Yet the Qur’an, amazingly, fails to mention the incident. Commentators often ascribe Muhammad’s premature death to this incident. What is also significant is that the incident is so similar to the alleged assassination attempt by the Banu Nadir, and according to one of the narrations, the general body of the Jews of Khaybar were responsible for this action, which actually led to the death of one of Muhammad’s companions. Yet, unlike the alleged incident with the Nadir, Muhammad did not order their deportation, or even their general punishment.
This becomes essential in considering the question of the exile of the People of the Book from Arabia. An examination of the table, listing some narrations pertinent to Khaybar demonstrates that there is no agreement between the traditions with regard to the permanence of the Jewish presence there. In some traditions, their presence seems to be conditional on sharing the produce of the land. Al-Muwatta Hadith 33.1 ambiguously states that the Jews would remain there as long as Allah willed it. The narrations in the second row imply that the Jews were only permitted temporary presence, the arbiter being the Muslim Ummah, although no doubt this is equated with the will of Allah, and no reference to the issue of produce is made. The second row bears all the hall-marks of special pleading, an attempt to justify the expulsion by asserting the existence of a prior determination to deport the Jews. Moreover, none of this is to be found in the Qur’an.
Sunan of Abu-Dawood Hadith 3000Narrated by Abdullah Ibn UmarThe Prophet fought with the people of Khaybar, and captured their palm-trees and land, and forced them to remain confined to their fortresses. So they concluded a treaty of peace providing that gold, silver and weapons would go to the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him), and whatever they took away on their camels would belong to them, on condition that they would not hide and carry away anything. If they did (so), there would be no protection for them and no treaty (with Muslims). They carried away a purse of Huyayy ibn Akhtab who was killed before (the battle of) Khaybar. He took away the ornaments of Banu an-Nadir when they were expelled. The Prophet (peace be upon him) asked Sa’yah: Where is the purse of Huyayy ibn Akhtab. He replied: The contents of this purse were spent on battles and other expenses. (Later on) they found the purse. So he killed Ibn AbulHuqayq, captured their women and children, and intended to deport them. They said: Muhammad, leave us to work on this land; we shall have half (of the produce) as you wish, and you will have half. The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) used to make a contribution of eighty wasqs of dates and twenty wasqs of wheat to each of his wives.
|Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 5.550Narrated by AbdullahThe Prophet gave (the land of) Khaibar to the Jews (of Khaibar) on condition that they would work on it and cultivate it and they would have half of its yield.
Al-Muwatta Hadith 33.1Yahya related to me from Malik from Ibn Shihab from Said ibn al-Musayyab that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said to the Jews of Khaybar on the day of the conquest of Khaybar, “I confirm you in it as long as Allah, the Mighty, the Majestic, establishes you in it, provided that the fruits are divided between us and you.” Said continued, “The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, used to send Abdullah ibn Rawaha, to assess the division of the fruit crop between him and them, and he would say, ‘If you wish, you can buy it back, and if you wish, it is mine.’ They would take it.”
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 3.890Narrated by Ibn UmarWhen the people of Khaibar dislocated Abdullah bin Umar’s hands and feet, Umar got up delivering a sermon saying, “No doubt, Allah’s Apostle made a contract with the Jews concerning their properties, and said to them, ‘We allow you (to stand in your land) as long as Allah allows you.’ Now Abdullah bin Umar went to his land and was attacked at night, and his hands and feet were dislocated, and as we have no enemies there except those Jews, they are our enemies and the only people whom we suspect, I have made up my mind to exile them.” When Umar decided to carry out his decision, a son of Abu Al-Haqiq’s came and addressed ‘Umar, “O chief of the believers, will you exile us although Muhammad allowed us to stay at our places, and made a contract with us about our properties, and accepted the condition of our residence in our land?” ‘Umar said, “Do you think that I have forgotten the statement of Allah’s Apostle, i.e.: What will your condition be when you are expelled from Khaibar and your camel will be carrying you night after night?” The Jew replied, “That was joke from Abul-Qasim.” ‘Umar said, “O the enemy of Allah! You are telling a lie.” ‘Umar then drove them out and paid them the price of their properties in the form of fruits, money, camel saddles and ropes, etc.
|Sunan of Abu-Dawood Hadith 3001Narrated by Abdullah ibn UmarUmar said: The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) had transaction with the Jews of Khaybar on condition that we should expel them when we wish. If anyone has property (with them), he should take it back, for I am going to expel the Jews. So he expelled them.
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 3.485Narrated by Abdullah bin UmarAllah’s Apostle gave the land of Khaibar to the Jews to work on and cultivate and take half of its yield. Ibn ‘Umar added, “The land used to be rented for a certain portion (of its yield).” Nafi mentioned the amount of the portion but I forgot it. Rafi’ bin Khadij said, “The Prophet forbade renting farms.” Narrated ‘Ubaidullah Nafi’ said: Ibn ‘Umar said: (The contract of Khaibar continued) till ‘Umar evacuated the Jews (from Khaibar).
5) History or Muslim Propaganda?
This entire historical saga has been challenged in recent research. For example, a tradition unambiguously asserts that the exile of the Banu Qurayzah completed the expulsion of the Jews from Medina:
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 5.362
Narrated by Ibn Umar
Bani An-Nadir and Bani Quraiza fought (against the Prophet violating their peace treaty), so the Prophet exiled Bani An-Nadir and allowed Bani Quraiza to remain at their places (in Medina) taking nothing from them till they fought against the Prophet again). He then killed their men and distributed their women, children and property among the Muslims, but some of them came to the Prophet and he granted them safety, and they embraced Islam. He exiled all the Jews from Medina. They were the Jews of Bani Qainuqa’, the tribe of ‘Abdullah bin Salam and the Jews of Bani Haritha and all the other Jews of Medina.
Despite what this narration states, it is clear that Jews continued to live in Medina, ‘perhaps quite a number’ according to Watt. 40 One example was Abu sh’Shahm, a merchant, who actually bought some of the Qurayzah women and children. Haykal states that after the political/military collapse of the Jewish tribes, Jews began to return to Medina and resume their ordinary occupations. Muhammad guaranteed the religious rights of the returnees. 41 Rodinson reports that after the Battle of Hunain, that is, two to three years after the supposed total expulsion of the Jews from Medina, ‘Secret conclaves were held in the house of a Jewish resident of Medina and Muhammad had it burnt down.’, demonstrating that Jews were still resident in the city. 42 Watt asserts that there was no general campaign to ‘cleanse’ the Peninsula of Jews, but that Muhammad simply responded as and when the circumstances arose to attacks on his security. 43 This in itself raises questions about the traditional Muslim saga of the Jews of Medina, since the clear impression of the Hadith and Sira literature is generally that then expulsion was total. An important challenge is found in an article by W. N. Arafat. He echoes Haykal’s comment about Jews continuing to live in Medina:
For example, in his Jamharat al-ansab, Ibn Hazm occasionally refers to Jews still living in Medina. In two places al-Waqidi mentions Jews who were still in Medina when the Prophet prepared to march against Khaybar – i.e. after the supposed liquidation of all three tribes, including Qurayza. In one case ten Madanese Jews actually joined the Prophet in an excursion to Khaybar, and in the other the Jews who had made their peace with him in Medina were extremely worried when he prepared to attack Khaybar. Al-Waqadi explains that they tried to prevent the departure of any Muslim who owed them money. 44
What is so crucial both for an analysis of the historicity of the exile of the Jews from Medina and of the later more extensive expulsion of the People of the Book from Arabia is the reason for this scepticism – the unreliability of the Sira material:
The earliest work that we have, with the widest range of details, is Ibn Ishaq’s Sira, his biography of the Prophet. It is also the longest and the most widely quoted. Later historians draw, and in most cases depend on him. But Ibn Ishaq died in 151 A.H., i.e. 145 years after the event in question. Later historians simply take his version of the story, omitting more or less of the detail, and overlooking his uncertain list of authorities. They generally abbreviate the story, which appears just as one more event to report. In most cases their interest seems to end there. Some of them indicate that they are not really convinced, but they are not prepared to take further trouble. One authority, Ibn Hajar, however, denounces this story and the other related ones as “odd tales”. A contemporary of Ibn Ishaq, Malik, the jurist, denounces Ibn Ishaq outright as “a liar” and “an impostor” just for transmitting such stories.
It must be remembered that historians and authors of the Prophet’s biography did not apply the strict rules of the “traditionists”. They did not always provide a chain of authorities, each of whom had to be verified as trustworthy and as certain or likely to have transmitted his report directly from his informant, and so on. The attitude towards biographical details and towards the early events of Islam was far less meticulous than their attitude to the Prophet’s traditions, or indeed to any material relevant to jurisprudence. Indeed Ibn Ishaq’s account of the siege of Medina and the fall of the Banu Qurayza is pieced together by him from information given by a variety of persons he names, including Muslim descendants of the Jews of Qurayza.
Against these late and uncertain sources must be placed the only contemporary and entirely authentic source, the Qur’an. There, the reference in Sura XXXIII, 26 is very brief:
“He caused those of the People of the Book who helped them (i.e. the Quraysh) to come out of their forts. Some you killed, some you took prisoner.” There is no reference to numbers.
Ibn Ishaq sets out his direct sources as he opens the relevant chapter on the siege of Medina. These were: a client of the family of al-Zubayr and others whom he “did not suspect”. They told parts of the story on the authority of ‘Abdullah b. Ka’b b. Malik, al Zuhri, ‘Asim b. ‘Umar b. Qatada, ‘Abdullab b. Abi Bakr, Muhammad b. Ka’b of Qurayza, and “others among our men of learning”, as he put it. Each of these contributed to the story, so that Ibn Ishaq’s version is the sum total of the collective reports, pieced together. At a later stage Ibn Ishaq quotes another descendant of Qurayza, ‘Attiyya by name, who had been spared, and, directly, a certain descendant of al-Zabir b. Bata, a prominent member of the tribe of Qurayza who figures in the narrative. 45
Of course, we must question Arafat’s confident assertion of the reliability of the Qur’an, but he is right to assert preference for it as a purportedly earlier, possibly contemporary source as opposed to later Sira material. Hence, the consequence of this is that the Sira is not a dependable historical source. This is important, since so often scholars, especially Muslims, interpret the Qur’an and Hadith corpus in the light of the Sira literature. Simultaneously, having so interpreted the main authorities of Islamic belief in this way, they give credence to the presentation of history found in the works of Sira. Arafat continues his devastating critique as follows:
The attitude of scholars and historians to Ibn lshaq’s version of the story has been either one of complacency, sometimes mingled with uncertainty, or at least in two important cases, one of condemnatlon and outright rejection.
The complacent attitude is one of accepting the biography of the Prophet and the stories of the campaigns at they were received by later generations without the meticulous care or the application of the critical criteria which collectors of traditions or jurists employed. It was not necessary to check the veracity of authorities when transmitting or recording parts of the story of the Prophet’s life. It was not essential to provide a continuous chain of authorities or even to give authorities at all. That is obvious in Ibn Ishaq’s Sira. On the other hand reliable authority and a continuous line of transmission were essential when law was the issue. That is why Malik the jurist had no regard for Ibn Ishaq.
One finds, therefore, that later historians and even exegetes either repeat the very words of Ibn Ishaq or else abbreviate the whole story. Historians gave it, as it were, a cold reception. Even Tabari, nearly 150 years after Ibn Ishaq, does not try to find other versions of the story as he usually does. He casts doubt by his use of the words, “Waqidi alleged (za’ama) that the Prophet caused trenches to be dug.” Ibn ai-Qayyim in Zad al-ma’ad makes only the briefest reference and he ignores altogether the crucial question of numbers. Ibn Kathir even seems to have general doubt in his mind because he takes the trouble to point out that the story was told on such “good authority” as that of ‘A’isha.
Apart from mild complacency or doubtful acceptance of the story itself, Ibn Ishaq as an author was in fact subjected to devastating attacks by scholars, contemporary or later, on two particular accounts. One was his uncritical inclusion in his Sira of so much spurious or forged poetry; the other his unquestioning acceptance of just such a story as that of the slaughter of Banu Qurayza.
His contemporary, the early traditionist and jurist Malik, called him unequivocally “a liar” and “an impostor” “who transmits his stories from the Jews”. In other words, applying his own criteria, Malik impugned the veracity of Ibn Ishaq’s sources and rejected his approach. Indeed, neither Ibn Ishaq’s list of informants nor his method of collecting and piecing together such a story would he acceptable to Malik the jurist.
In a later age Ibn Hajar further explained the point of Malik’s condemnation of Ibn Ishaq. Malik, he said, condemned Ibn Ishaq because he made a point of seeking out descendants of the Jews of Medina in order to obtain from them accounts of the Prophet’s campaigns as handed down by their forefathers. Ibn Hajar then rejected the stories in question in the strongest terms: “such odd tales as the story of Qurayza and al-Nadir”. Nothing could be more damning than this outright rejection.
Against the late and uncertain sources on the one hand, and the condemning authorities on the other, must be set the only contemporary and entirely authentic source, the Qur’an. There the reference in Sura XXXIII, 26 is very brief: “He caused those of the People of the Book who helped them (i.e. the Quraysh) to come out of their forts. Some you killed, some you took prisoner.”
Exegetes and traditionists tend simply to repeat Ibn Ishaq’s tale, but in the Qur’an the reference can only be to those who were actually in the fighting. This is a statement about the battle. It concerns those who fought. Some of these were killed. others were taken prisoner.
One would think that if 600 or 900 people were killed in this manner the significance of the event would have been greater. There would have been a clearer reference in the Qur’an, a conclusion to be drawn, and a lesson to be learnt. But when only the guilty leaders were executed, it would be normal to expect only a brief reference. 46
It appears therefore, that there has been an escalation in the reporting of the story, and we must ask ourselves why this would be so. It is of course possible that ibn Ishaq (or ibn Hisham’s redaction of ibn Ishaq) was simply naïve, taking the word of supposed descendants of the Qurayzah or Nadir in Medina. It could also be the case that the story was attractive for polemical reasons. The revisionist school of Muslim history posits that much of the traditional presentation of the emergence of Islam is actually anachronistic reconstruction. Jay Smith, in a paper comparing the Bible and the Qur’an, argues that the cleavage between the Jews and Muslims was actually much later than the traditional Muslim depiction:
The Qur’an implies that Muhammad severed his relationship with the Jews in 624 AD (or soon after the Hijra in 622 AD), and thus moved the direction of prayer, the Qibla at that time from Jerusalem to Mecca (Sura 2:144, 149-150). The early non-Muslim sources, however, depict a good relationship between the Muslims and Jews at the time of the first conquests (late 620s AD), and even later. Yet the Doctrina Iacobi warns of the ‘Jews who mix with the Saracens,’ and the danger to ‘life and limb of falling into the hands of these Jews and Saracens‘ (Bonwetsch 1910:88; Cook 1983:75). In fact, this relationship seems to carry right on into the conquest as an early Armenian source mentions that the governor of Jerusalem in the aftermath of the conquest was a Jew (Patkanean 1879:111; Sebeos 1904:103).
What is significant here is the possibility that Jews and Arabs (Saracens) seem to be allies during the time of the conquest of Palestine and for a short time after (Crone-Cook 1977:6).
If these witnesses are correct than one must ask how it is that the Jews and Saracens (Arabs) are allies as late as 640 AD, when, according to the Qur’an, Muhammad severed his ties with the Jews as early as 624 AD, more than 15 years earlier?
To answer that we need to refer to the earliest connected account of the career of the ‘prophet,’ that given in an Armenian chronicle from around 660 AD, which is ascribed by some to Bishop Sebeos (Sebeos 1904:94-96; Crone-Cook 1977:6). The chronicler describes how Muhammad established a community which comprised both Ishmaelites (i.e. Arabs) and Jews, and that their common platform was their common descent from Abraham; the Arabs via Ishmael, and the Jews via Isaac (Sebeos 1904:94-96; Crone-Cook 1977:8; Cook 1983:75). The chronicler believed Muhammad had endowed both communities with a birthright to the Holy Land, while simultaneously providing them with a monotheist genealogy (Crone-Cook 1977:8). This is not without precedent as the idea of an Ishmaelite birthright to the Holy Land was discussed and rejected earlier in the Genesis Rabbah (61:7), in the Babylonian Talmud and in the Book of Jubilees (Crone-Cook 1977:159).
Here we find a number of non-Muslim documentary sources contradicting the Qur’an, maintaining that there was a good relationship between the Arabs and Jews for at least a further 15 years beyond that which the Qur’an asserts. 47
Hence, Smith, with others, is arguing that the Muslim-Jewish breach was actually much later than claimed by Islamic sources, and thus the traditional presentation is an historical anachronism. He then goes further, examining the work of Wansbrough, which suggests that this was even a politically motivated polemical reconstruction from the ninth century:
…John Wansbrough, from SOAS (University of London)… uses an historical analysis similar to that of biblical criticism to arrive at his conclusions (Wansbrough 1977:9). Wansbrough maintains that the Qur’an, as we know it with all its literal and structural problems, could not have come into existence until 800 A.D. (Wansbrough 1977:160-163). The Qur’an, he suggests, is not a text which was handed to the world via one individual, but involved the work of various writers from about the ninth century (Wansbrough 1977:51).
Wansbrough expands on this claim by maintaining that the entire corpus of early Islamic documentation must be viewed as ‘Salvation History’, a history which ‘is not an historical account of saving events open to the study of the historian, since salvation history did not happen, as it is a literary form which has its own historical context.’ (Thompson 1974:328) In other words it was written with an agenda in mind. Thus, literary records of salvation history, although they present themselves as being contemporary with the events they describe, as we have mentioned earlier, actually belong to a period well after such events, which suggests that they have been written according to a later interpretation in order to fit the ethos of that later time. The actual ‘history’ in the sense of ‘what really happened’ has, therefore, become subsumed within later interpretation and is virtually, if not completely, inextricable from it (Crone 1987:213-215; Rippin 1985:156).
…Wansbrough contends that the Qur’an, the Tafsir, and Sira are all components of Islamic salvation history, which he suggests were written to point to God’s role in directing the worldly affairs of humanity, especially during the time of Muhammad’s life (Rippin 1985:154).
He argues that we do not know, and probably will never know what really happened. All we can know is what later people believed happened, as has been recorded in salvation history. The point of Islamic salvation history, he suggests, was to formulate a specifically Arab religious identity. This was accomplished by adopting and adapting ideas and stories from a well-established pool of Judeo-Christian religious themes, the inception of which could then be placed in seventh-century Arabia. Wansbrough refers to evidences within the Qur’an which point to their extrapolation from a Judeo-Christian context: for example, the prophetic line ending in the Seal of the prophets, the sequence of scriptures, the notion of the destroyed communities, and the common narrative motifs (Rippin 1985:157).
Wansbrough’s point about ‘adapting ideas and stories from a well-established pool of Judeo-Christian religious themes, the inception of which could then be placed in seventh-century Arabia’ is vital here, because Arafat makes exactly the same point about the Qurayzah story:
However, the story, in my view, has its origins in earlier events. It can be shown that it reproduces similar stories which survived from the account of the Jewish rebellion against the Romans, which ended in the destruction of the temple in the year AD. 73, the night of the Jewish zealots and sicarii to the rock fortress of Masada, and the final liquidation of the besieged. Stories of their experience were naturally transmitted by Jewish survivors who fled south. Indeed one of the more plausible theories of the origin of the Jews of Medina is that they came after the Jewish wars. This was the theory preferred by the late Professor Guillaume.
As is well known, the source of the details of the Jewish wars is Flavius Josephus, himself a Jew and a contemporary witness who held office under the Romans, who disapproved of certain actions which some of the rebels committed, but who nevertheless never ceased to be a Jew at heart. It is in his writings that we read of details which are closely similar to those transmitted to us in the Sira about the actions and the resistance of the Jews, except that now we see the responsibility for the actions placed on the Muslims.
In considering details of the story of Banu Qurayza as told by the descendants of that tribe, we may note the following similar details in the account of Josephus:
- According to Josephus, Alexander, who ruled in Jerusalem before Herod the Great, hung upon crosses 800 Jewish captives, and slaughtered their wives and children before their eyes.
- Similarly, large numbers were killed by others.
- Important details of the two stories are remarkably similar, particularly the numbers of those killed. At Masada the number of those who died at the end was 960.35 The hot-headed sicarii who were eventually also killed numbered 600.36 We also read that when they reached the point of despair they were addressed by their leader Eleazar (precisely as Ka’b b. Asad addressed the Banu Qurayza), who suggested to them the killing of their women and children. At the ultimate point of complete despair the plan of killing each other to the last man was proposed.
Clearly the similarity of details is most striking. Not only are the suggestions of mass suicide similar but even the numbers are almost the same. Even the same names occur in both accounts. There is Phineas, and Azar b. Azar, just as Eleazar addressed the Jews besieged in Masada.
There is, indeed, more than a mere similarity. Here we have the prototype – indeed, I would suggest, the origin of the story of Banu Qurayza, preserved by descendants of the Jews who fled south to Arabia after the Jewish Wars, just as Josephus recorded the same story for the Classical world. A later generation of these descendants superimposed details of the siege of Masada on the story of the siege of Banu Qurayza, perhaps by confusing a tradition of their distant past with one from their less remote history. The mixture provided Ibn Ishaq’s story. When Muslim historians ignored it or transmitted it without comment or with cold lack of interest, they only expressed lack of enthusiasm for a strange tale, as Ibn Hajar called it.
This escalating adaptation of a prior Jewish tradition is important. If we want to find a parallel with the expulsion of the people of the Book from Arabia, we need only look at the Book of Joshua and the expulsion of the Canaanites. Although the violence is not comparable, the raison d’être has some analogy. The Torah commands the People of God in the Holy Land (though not elsewhere) to and ‘break down their altars, and dash in pieces their pillars, and burn their Asherim with fire; and you shall hew down the graven images of their gods; and you shall destroy their name out of that place.’ (Deuteronomy 12:3), ‘and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars (Judges 2:2). Similarly, no covenant could exist with the infidels in the new Muslim holy land, so they had to be expelled, although the motives may have been somewhat different, as we shall see. Jay Smith has argued on the basis of archaeological evidence that the change of the Qibla from Jerusalem to Mecca occurred much later than the traditional Muslim historical presentation:
According to the Qur’an, the direction of prayer (the Qibla), was canonized (or finalized) towards Mecca for all Muslims soon after the Hijra. The date 624 A.D. is an educated guess for this occurrance (see Sura 2:144, 149-150).
Yet, the earliest evidence from outside Muslim tradition regarding the direction in which Muslims prayed, and by implication the location of their sanctuary, points to an area much further north than Mecca, in fact somewhere in north-west Arabia (Crone-Cook 1977:23)…
After giving examples from Iraq and Egypt, Smith concludes that the early mosques outside Arabia were still oriented towards Jerusalem:
If you take a map you will find where it is that these mosques were pointing. All four of the above instances position the Qibla not towards Mecca, but much further north, in fact closer to the vicinity of Jerusalem… We find further corroboration for this direction of prayer by the Christian writer and traveller Jacob of Edessa, who, writing as late as 705 A.D. was a contemporary eye-witness in Egypt. He maintained that the Mahgraye in Egypt prayed facing east which was towards the Ka’ba (Crone-Cook 1977:24). His letter (which can be found in the British Museum) is indeed revealing. Writing in Syriac, he refers to the Mahgraye, saying, “So from all this it is clear that it is not to the south that the Jews and the Mahgraye here in the regions of Syria pray, but towards Jerusalem or the Ka’ba, the patriarchal places of their races.” (Wright 1870:604)… Both the Jews and Arabs (Mahgraye) maintained a common descent from Abraham who was known to have lived and died in Palestine… This common descent from Abraham is also corroborated by an Armenian Chronicler as early as 660 A.D. (Sebeos 1904:94-96; Crone-Cook 1977:8; Cook 1983:75)… Therefore, according to Jacob of Edessa, as late as 705 A.D. the direction of prayer towards Mecca had not yet been canonized.
Smith argues that this demonstrates that Jews and Muslims were still enjoying both good relations and a common sanctuary (and thus a common ‘holy land’) outside the Arabian Peninsula:
there was still a good relationship between the Muslims (referred to as Haggarenes, Saracens or Mahgrayes) and the Jews, and, consequently, there was no need to change the Qibla (which even the Qur’an admits was originally towards Jerusalem: sura 2)
The point relevant to our consideration is that if the Qibla has been changed, the identity of ‘the holy land’ has been changed as well, from Palestine to Arabia, and linked to the breach with the Jews we have just examined, this indicates a later date for the expulsion of the Jews from the Hejaz. The ‘ahadith of expulsion’ only make any sense on the basis of the special position of Jazirat al-Arabi as the holy land of Islam; after all, the supposed ‘idolatrous’ practices of Jews and Christians were scarcely limited to the Arabian Peninsula, and neither do the ahadith in question make such a claim. The purported point is that the presence of mushrikun (idolaters/infidels) is inappropriate in the Islamic Holy Land, especially in and around the Qibla. Hence, if the Qibla and the Holy Land remained Jerusalem and Palestine for much longer than is claimed by traditional Muslim history, the likelihood is that the exile of the People of the Book from Arabia was likewise later than is presented in the Islamic sources. Conversely, historical evidence for the presence of the ahl-ul-Kitab two to three centuries after the supposed change of Qibla and exile under ‘Umar calls into question the time of the change of Qibla.
Hence, if Palestine remained the Holy Land, and Muslims were still inclined to make use of Jewish traditions, the ‘escalating adaptation of a prior Jewish tradition’ which we examined becomes relevant for the whole issue about the exile of the Jews and Christians. A Qur’anic passage looks at the history of Bani Israil (note: not the Jews in Medina or the Arabian Peninsula) and states the following:
Surah Al-Maida 5:3030 The (selfish) soul of the other led him to the murder of his brother: he murdered him and became (himself) one of the lost ones. 31 Then Allah sent a raven who scratched the ground to show him how to hide the shame of his brother. “Woe is me!” said he: “Was I not even able to be as this raven and to hide the shame of my brother?” Then he became full of regrets. 32 On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone slew a person unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if anyone saved a life it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our apostles with clear Signs yet even after that many of them continued to commit excesses in the land. 33 The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Apostle and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution or crucifixion or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter.
Yusuf Ali comments on this passage as follows:
The story of Cain is referred to in a few graphic details in order to tell the story of Israel. Israel rebelled against Allah, slew and insulted righteous men who did them no harm but on the contrary came in all humility. When Allah withdrew His favour from Israel because of its sins and bestowed it on brother nation, the jealousy of Israel plunged it deeper into sin… For the double crime of treason against the State, combined with treason against Allah, as shown by overt crimes, four alternative punishments are mentioned, any one of which is to be applied according to the crime committed, viz., execution (cutting off of the head), crucifixion, maiming, or exile.
The references to the punishments of ‘execution’ or ‘exile from the land’ are related in some way to the prior history of Israel. However, it is significant that no reference is made in the passage to the Jewish tribes resident in the Hejaz at the time of Muhammad, still less about Christian Arabs such as those at Najran. Yusuf Ali obviously draws lessons from the passage with respect to the behaviour of the Jews of Arabia, but does ascribe the setting of the passage to those Jews and their specific situation. Clearly, though, the fact that Yusuf Ali was able to draw this analogy is significant, and indicates that other Muslims could do likewise. When we relate this to Wansbrough’s claims, we see an analogy with his idea of ‘salvation history’, especially that of ‘the notion of the destroyed communities’. Such passages allowed the authors of Hadith and Sira literature to create narrations justifying the exile of the ahl-ul-Kitab. Even then, Sira literature does not present a united front. About Khaybar, Arafat states the following:
Indeed Ibn Kathir takes the trouble to point out that ‘Umar expelled only those Jews of Khaybar who had not made a peace agreement with the Prophet. Ibn Kathir then proceeds to explain that at a much later date, i.e. after the year 300 A.H., the Jews of Khaybar claimed that they had in their possession a document allegedly given them by the Prophet which exempted them from poll-tax. He said that some scholars were taken in by this document so that they ruled that the Jews of Khaybar should be exempted. However, that was a forged letter and had been refuted in detail. It quoted persons who were already dead, it used technical terms which came into being at a later time, it claimed that Mu’awiya b. Abi Sufyan witnessed it, when in fact he had not even been converted to Islam at that time, and so on. 48
This point is crucial with regard to our theme. Arafat quotes ibn Kathir as holding that the Khaybar Jews were still in residence about three hundred years after their supposed general expulsion. The Encyclopaedia of Islam also holds that Jews were still present in Khaybar at this time. 49 If this is the case, the ahadith that claim that all Jews were ‘cleansed’ from the region at the time of ‘Umar are historically inaccurate, and represent a politically motivated innovation centuries later. If ‘Umar only expelled a minority of Jews lacking a peace treaty with Muhammad, then later regimes and their apologists manufactured these narrations to justify a contemporary policy of sectarian exclusion. Further, we see a common patter – the later ‘magnification’ of a policy based upon an earlier event – ‘Umar expels a few Jews in his time, later regimes expel them all. Moreover, this calls into question the veracity of the supposed narration about ‘two religions not co-existing in the Arabian Peninsula’, since if ‘Umar only expelled those Jews not enjoying dhimmah status, it must mean that either he disobeyed the Prophet’s last injunction, or that this supposed imperative did not actually exist. The evidence points to the latter. As we shall see, there is also evidence that the purported evacuation of the Christians from the Arabian Peninsula, especially Najran, bears uncanny resemblance to this historical reconstruction.
B. Muhammad and the Christians
1) The Najran Treaty
According to Muslim sources, as the power of Islam increased in Arabia, the political entities within the Peninsula, essentially tribal zones or city-states, naturally oriented their foreign policy towards the new power in the region. There is no reason to doubt this, and indeed, it is quite likely that this occurred. One of these entities was Najran, where the majority of the people were Christians, and which was famous for its cathedral-like building. Mawdudi, in his introduction to the surahs in Yusuf Ali’s translation, observes that a number of the ayat (verses) of Surah Al-i-Imran, were purportedly revealed to Muhammad at this time: ‘The second discourse (vv. 33-63) was revealed in 9 A.H. on the occasion of the visit of the deputation from the Christians of Najran’ He repeats this in his commentary. 50 Like others, he also claims that Najran was fabulously rich, event to the point of being able to raise an army 100,000 strong, which is almost certainly an exaggeration. 51 An entity so rich would be a tempting goal for conquest. Further, if it were somehow allied to the Byzantines, Muhammad would naturally be concerned about having a potential threat as neighbours. On this basis, it can be understood that Najran would be concerned about the intentions of the new Islamic political entity arising in Arabia.
According to Muslim traditional history, concerned both for religious dialogue with a faith professing Abrahamic origins like itself, and also for regular diplomatic relations, a delegation of Najrani Christians visited Muhammad. Yusuf Ali refers to this visit:
In the year of Deputations, 10th of the Hijra, came a Christian embassy from Najran (towards Yaman, about 150 miles north of Sanaa). They were much impressed on hearing this passage of the Qur’an explaining the true position of Christ, and they entered into tributary relations with the new Muslim State. But ingrained habits and customs prevented them from accepting Islam as a body. The Holy Prophet, firm in his faith, proposed a Mubahala, i.e., a solemn meeting, in which both sides should summon not only their men, but their women and children, earnestly pray to Allah, and invoke the curse of Allah on those who should lie. Those who had a pure and sincere faith would not hesitate. The Christians declined, and they were dismissed in a spirit of tolerance with a promise of protection from the State in return for tribute. 52
This event is recorded in the Hadith. The latter presents the aim of the visit as an attempt to curse Muhammad, although how any Muslim would know this is not revealed. 53 More likely as an explanation is an attempt by Muslim sources to make the supposed history conform to the Qur’anic reference to cursing. 54 The Sira of Ibn Ishaq states that the group was sixty strong, and included the political leader of Najran, Abdu’l-Masih, an administrator called al-Ayham, and a distinguished bishop-theologian, Abu Haritha. It is claimed that Abu Haritha was funded by the Byzantine Emperor, and the delegation were said to be ‘…Christians according to the Byzantine rite…’ 55 A modern Christian writer suggests that they were Nestorians. 56 The Syrian Orthodox Church (‘Monophysite’), perhaps implausibly, claims they belonged to their confession. 57 It is much more likely that they were Abyssinian-influenced Monophysites, rather than Chalcedonian Orthodox of Byzantium. 58 The Encyclopaedia of Islam holds that Monophysitism was the dominant sect in Najran. 59 It is not impossible that if the bishop restricted his oversight to the Monophysite Christians of the Arabian Peninsula, he may have had some sort of political arrangement with the Byzantine ruler 60. Mawdudi, in his introduction to S. 105, refers to Abyssinian-Byzantine collaboration against Dhu Nuwas, the fanatical anti-Christian Jewish King of Yemen, but which implies that the primary religious influence was indeed Abyssinian:
… in retaliation for the persecution of the followers of the Prophet Jesus Christ (peace be on him) in Najran by the Jewish ruler Dhu-Nuwas of Yaman, the Christian kingdom of Abyssinia invaded Yaman and put an end to the Himyarite rule there, and in 525 A.D. this whole land passed under Abyssinian control. This happened, in fact, through collaboration between the Byzantine empire of Constantinople and the Abyssinian kingdom, for the Abyssinians at that time had no naval fleet. The fleet was provided by Byzantium and Abyssinia sent 70,000 of its troops by it across the Red Sea to Yaman.
It is interesting in this regard that Yusuf Ali suggests Abyssinia as responsible the origins of Christianity in Najran:
Yemen had easy access to Mesopotamia and the Persian Gulf by way of the sea, as well as with Abyssinia. That accounts for the Christians of Najran and the Jewish dynasty of kings (e.g. Zu-Nuwas, d. 525 A.D.) who persecuted them in the century before Islam, – also for the Christian Abyssinian Governor Abraha and his discomfiture in the year of the Prophet’s birth (S.cv.), say 570 A.D. Jewish-Christian influences were powerful in Arabia in the sixth century of the Christian era. 61
However, a probable resolution to the problem is that Muslim writers like ibn Hisham and ibn Ishaq, who often found it difficult to distinguish the various Christian sects (as often remains true today), and writing years after the event, were guilty of an inaccurate anachronism. Another unlikely point is Mawdudi’s claim, referring to a tradition by Ibn Abbas, that the Christian delegation, like pagan questioners, asked about the ‘substance’ of Allah, something that Christians, believing in the spirituality of God, were unlikely to raise, and it should be remembered that the delegation included a theologian, raising questions about the historicity of the tradition:
Ibn Abbas has reported that a deputation of the Christians of Najran along with seven priests visited the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace), and they said: “O Muhammad, tell us what is your Lord like and of what substance He is made.” The Holy Prophet replied: “My Lord is not made from any substance: He is unique and exalted above everything.” Thereupon Allah sent down this Surah. 62
This question is more likely to be the anachronistic reading of a later anti-Trinitarian Muslim polemic than any genuine query. Interestingly, according to the Sira, when the delegation reached Medina, Muhammad allowed them to pray in his mosque. Even today the Saudis forbid non-Muslims access to the Two Holy Cities because of ‘Umar’s action, yet the latter clearly violates Muhammad’s own practice as presented here. This in itself raises questions about the exile. If the issue is that the ahl-ul-Kitab, because of their supposed ‘idolatrous’ practices, should not be resident in the Holy Land of Islam, especially in the Holy Cities of the Hejaz, why did Muhammad allow such ‘idolatrous’ practices in his own mosque?
According to ibn Ishaq/ibn Hisham, the Christians informed the Muslims that Jesus was God; the son of God; the third person of the Trinity ‘…which is the doctrine of Christianity.’ Specifically, they argued that Jesus is ‘…the third of three in that God says: We have done, We have commanded… if He were one he would have said I have done… but He is He and Jesus and Mary.’ 63 The Christian delegation supported their claims by pointing to his miracles. These apparently included making ‘..clay birds and breathe into them so that they flew away; and all this was by the command of God Almighty, “We will make him a sign unto men.”‘ 64 The delegation pointed out Jesus had no human father, and that He ‘…spoke in the cradle…’ The text goes on to say that the Qur’an (i.e. Surah 3 Al-i-Imran) came down in answer to these assertions. Muhammad replied by reciting S. 3:64:
Say: “O People of the Book! Come to common terms as between us and you: that we worship none but Allah; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not from among ourselves Lords and patrons other than Allah.” If then they turn back say: “Bear witness that we (at least) are Muslims (bowing to Allah’s will).”
At this point Muhammad proposed, in similar terms to those of Elijah on Mount Carmel, that both sides invoke the curse of God on the other, and the identity of the victim of divine judgement would demonstrate the veracity of the claims of the contesting parties. 65 According to ibn Ishaq, the Christians hesitated at this point, and retired for mutual consultation. The ‘Aqib, the Najran political leader, purportedly affirmed that Muhammad was indeed a Prophet and cautioned about the potential consequences of cursing such a divine emissary – namely, the death of the elders and the youth – i.e. the destruction of the society and its people. How the Muslims would know this is not revealed, still less is it clear how someone writing generations after the event would be aware of it in the absence of any reference in the Qur’an or Hadith. It is often the case that a story loses nothing in the telling, and it is likely this should be understood as an anachronistic reconstruction to serve a contemporary anti-Christian polemic.
There is further evidence of historical anachronism and even fabrication in the Sira material. It is well-known that Christians object to the picture of Jesus and the Trinity in the Qur’an as being unrepresentative of orthodox, Biblical Christianity. 66 The references to ‘clay birds’ and speaking while still in the cradle are not found in the canonical gospels, a point Yusuf Ali recognises. 67 Rather, the story derives from the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas and the ‘cradle’ story is taken from the so-called Gospel of the Infancy which itself derives from the Gospel of Thomas:
Gospel of Thomas the IsraeliteFirst Greek Form
Gospel of the Infancy
|And having made some soft clay, He fashioned out of it twelve sparrows… And Jesus clapped His hands, and cried out to the sparrows, and said to them: Off you go! And the sparrows flew, and went off crying.Gospel of Thomas the IsraeliteSecond Greek Form
And Jesus made of that clay twelve sparrows, and …looked upon the sparrows, and said: Go away, fly, and live, and remember me. And at this word they flew, and went up into the air…
|1. We find (1) what follows in the book of Joseph the high priest, who lived in the time of Christ. Some say that he is Caiaphas. (2) He has said that Jesus spoke, and, indeed, when He was lying in His cradle said to Mary His mother: I am Jesus, the Son of God, the Logos, whom thou hast brought forth, as the Angel Gabriel announced to thee; and my Father has sent me for the salvation of the world.
36. Now, when the Lord Jesus had completed seven years from His birth, on a certain day He was occupied with boys of His own age. For they were playing among clay, from which they were making images of asses, oxen, birds, and other animals; and each one boasting of his skill, was praising his own work. Then the Lord Jesus said to the boys: The images that I have made I will order to walk. The boys asked Him whether then he were the son of the Creator; and the Lord Jesus bade them walk. And they immediately began to leap; and then, when He had given them leave, they again stood still. And He had made figures of birds and sparrows, which flew when He told them to fly, and stood still when He told them to stand, and ate and drank when He handed them food and drink.
Apart from Muslims, few would seriously doubt that these apocryphal pseudo-gospels were the sources for the heterodox Christology of the Qur’an, but many Christians and Orientalists have assumed that Muhammad must have encountered a group of heretical Christians from where he gained these ideas, and because of the Sira and Hadith material, put the blame on the Najran Christians. 68 .However, whether the Najran Christians were Byzantine Chalcedonians, Nestorians, or more likely Abyssinian-linked Monophysites, they would not have held to such a Christology. A cursory examination of J.N.D Kelly’s Early Christian Doctrines reveals that much of the dispute between these groups was based on semantics, rather than substantial issues. 69 None of them, however, believed that Jesus was the ‘third of three’, as presented in the Qur’an and Sira. Based on Matthew 28:19, the historic formula has always been that Jesus was the Second Person of the Trinity; still less did they believe in three gods. All groups agreed on the presentation about the Trinity in the Creed of the Council of Nicaea (325):
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of his Father, of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father. By whom all things were made, both which be in heaven and in earth. Who for us men and for our salvation came down and was incarnate and was made man. He suffered and the third day he rose again, and ascended into heaven. And he shall come again to judge both the living and the dead. And in the Holy Spirt.
There is no evidence that Monophysites diverged from this position. 70 In fact the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, whose liturgy remains in its ancient Geez language, asserts its Biblical orthodoxy on the question of the Trinity, and this is important since it is likely that Najran Christians were linked to Abyssinia:
The formula for the Trinity is this, “Worship we the Father, worship we the Son, worship we the Holy Spirit, three in one and one in three”.
God is one in Godhead, Three in Persons, in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Holy Trinity has no beginning and will exist for ever without end. In the Trinity there is none that precedes and none that follows; none that is elder and none that is younger, none that is ruler and none that is subject; the Three are One, in all things equal (Jn. 10: 30; 1 Jn. 5: 7.). In nature, in authority, in Lordship, in Godhead, in Divinity, in creating, in saving, in giving, in taking away, in breadth, in fulness, in length, They are One.
The eternal and immutable God has been revealed in three co-eternal Persons. The Father is the first Person, i.e. the first hypostasis of the one God, the Son is the second Person begotten of the only Father, the Spirit is the third hypostasis who proceeds from the only Father whom He has as the cause of his own eternal existence. The Spirit is called Spirit because he breathes and is moved of the Father and rests in the Son. He is wholly pure, shining, undefiled, holy, purifying and illuminating and sanctifying the other intellectual and spiritual beings. The dogma of the three separate Persons is inseparable from the dogma of the one God. “There are three that bear witness in the Heaven, the Father, the Logos, and the Holy Spirit, and these three agree in one.” (1 John 5:7). “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all, Amen”, (2 Cor. 13:13). 71
The position of the Eastern (‘Byzantine’) Orthodox Church on the Trinity is well-represented by John of Damascus, who engaged in debates with Muslims:
(We believe) in Father and Son and Holy Spirit whereinto also we have been baptized. For so our Lord commanded the Apostles to baptize, saying, Baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… Further we say that each of the three has a perfect subsistence, that we may understand not one compound perfect nature made up of three imperfect elements, but one simple essence, surpassing and preceding perfection, existing in three perfect subsistences. 72
The Greek Orthodox Church presents its position as follows:
Still another wrong doctrine is that the Father is one God, the Son is another God, and the Holy Spirit still another God. There cannot be “three gods,” says the Church, and certainly not “gods” who are created or made. Still less can there be “three gods” of whom the Father is “higher” and the others “lower.” For there to be more than one God, or “degrees of divinity” are both contradictions which cannot be defended, either by divine revelation or by logical thinking.
Thus, the Church teaches that while there is only One God, yet there are Three who are God — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – perfectly united and never divided yet not merged into one with no proper distinction. 73
As for the so-called Nestorian position, the Assyrian Church of the East makes clear its position by referring to an early Confession of Faith:
Synod of Mar Sabrisho AD 596
It seemed good to his fatherhood and to all the metropolitans and bishops to write this composition of the faith… which accurately and plainly teaches us the confession which is in one glorious nature of the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, …by which the heathen are conquered who acknowledge a multitude of gods, and Judaism is judged which does not acknowledge a Trinity of qnome, and all heresy is convicted and condemned which denies the Godhead and manhood of our Life-giver, Jesus Christ, accepting it with the exact meaning of the holy fathers, which the illustrious among the orthodox, the blessed Theodore the Antiochian, bishop of the city of Mopsuestia, “the Interpreter of the Divine Scriptures,” explained, with which all the orthodox in all regions have agreed and do agree, as also all the venerable fathers who have governed this apostolic and patriarchal see of our administration have held, while we anathematize and alienate from all contact with us everyone who denies the nature of the Godhead and the nature of the manhood of our Lord Jesus Christ, whether through mixture and commingling, or compounding or confusing, introducing, with regard to the union of the Son of God …He is, in his eternal Godhead and in his manhood from Mary, one true Son of God… 74
Hence, the Christological/Theological presentation of Christian doctrine in ibn Ishaq/ibn Hisham cannot have originated either with ‘Byzantine’, Monophysite or Nestorian Christians. None would have presented Jesus as ‘third of three’ whether in terms of the Biblical Trinity or in the Qur’anic misconception of three gods. Neither would they have presented the Trinity implied by ibn Ishaq/ibn Hisham, God, Mary and Jesus (presenting the Trinity in this way would explain Jesus being portrayed as ‘third of three’); they clearly would have believed in a Trinity of Father, Son and Spirit. 75 Nor is there any evidence in either the canonical gospels or even in the pseudo-gospels of Thomas and Infancy for the reference to the use of the first person plural by God, and also absent is any reference to God making Jesus a ‘sign unto men’. 76
Moreover, it can be seen from the quotes given from the three Eastern Orthodox strands we have examined that they all used essentially the same canon as the Church in the West. One of the greatest academic Biblical scholars of the modern era was Professor F. F. Bruce of Manchester University, among whose many works was one entitled The Canon of Scripture. He notes that by 508 A.D. the Syrian Jacobite (Monophysite) Church held the same canon as found in the West, whilst the Nestorians accepted a canon of only twenty-two books. 77 The Greek Orthodox Church accepts all twenty-seven books. 78 The Ethiopian Orthodox canon is slightly different, accepting the same canon as the wider Church plus eight books addressing Church order. 79 However – and this point is crucial – no canon whatsoever includes either the pseudo-gospel of Thomas or that of the Infancy, nor any supposed ‘gospel’ teaching these ideas. This being the case, the Najran delegation, whether they were indeed ‘Byzantine-rite’, Monophysites or Nestorians, could not have quoted the material about ‘clay birds’ and Jesus ‘speaking in the cradle’, since the material appears in literature regarded by all as non-canonical. The heterodox Trinitarian/Christological picture that ibn Ishaq/ibn Hisham records as presented by the Najran Christians to Muhammad cannot be genuine, which means the incident itself – or at least the particulars presented in the Sira – cannot be authentic.
The Sira material is therefore unreliable and unsound – to put it in Muslim terms, it is not sahih. From whence then did ibn Ishaq/ibn Hisham derive this story? It is noteworthy that it is not even present in the Hadith. Rather than speculating about the possible existence of supposed heretical Christians using apocryphal gospels, the obvious place to look for the origin of this material is the very source ibn Ishaq/ibn Hisham and Muslims of the period would want to defend – the Qur’an. In other words, we must reverse ibn Ishaq’s picture; rather than the verses in Al-i-Imran descending at the time of the Najran visit to answer Christian apologetic, the Sira of ibn Ishaq/ibn Hisham has invented a myth of Christians upholding the heterodox Christology that the Qur’an attacks, in order to justify the Qur’an’s polemic against such teaching, and protect the Qur’an from accusations of inaccuracy, which undermined its claim to be divine revelation. We can establish this by examining relevant Qur’anic material.
For example, the reference to Jesus being ‘…the third of three’ is found in Surah 5:73. Maida ‘They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the third of three; when there is no God save the One God.’ Even the comments about Jesus being God and the son of God should be understood, not as in their Biblical concepts, but rather as the Qur’an understands those terms – that God could be ‘lowered’ by being metamorphosed into a man, and that God could have physical offspring, and in the words of Watt, that ‘…Jesus is a deity apart from God…’ 80. For example, Surah Maida 5:17 states ‘In blasphemy indeed are those that say that Allah is Christ the son of Mary’. Again, Watt comments that ‘What is denied here is the assertion of complete identity between Jesus and God… generally regarded as the heresy of confusing the hypostases.’ 81. Surah. Maryam 19:88ff states ‘They say: “(Allah) Most Gracious has begotten a son!” …92 For it is not consonant with the majesty of (Allah) Most Gracious that He should beget a son.’ Surah Tauba 9:30 ‘…the Christians call Christ the son of Allah. …Allah’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the truth! 9:31 They take their priests and their anchorites to be their lords in derogation of Allah and (they take as their Lord) Christ the son of Mary; Yet they were commanded to worship but one Allah: there is no god but He. Praise and glory to him: (far is He) from having the parents they associate (with him).’ Watt comments:
In the light of the Qur’anic attack on tritheism, it seems certain that the denial that the Messiah was the son of God was a denial that he was a deity separate from God; and this is confirmed by the later part of 9:30 which identifies what is denied with the views of ‘former unbelievers’… that is presumably of the pagans. 82.
The use of the first person plural for God, and of Jesus being made a ‘sign’ is found in Surah 23 Al-Muminun 50 – ‘And We made the son of Mary and his mother as a Sign’. The claim that Jesus spoke in the cradle is present in Surah 19 Maryam 29 But she pointed to the babe. They said: “How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?”; S. Ali-i-Imran 3:46 ‘He will speak unto mankind in his cradle…’ The reference to clay birds is discovered in Surah Al-i-Imran 3:45ff: ‘”He shall speak to the people in childhood… I make for you out of clay as it were the figure of a bird and breathe into it and it becomes a bird by Allah’s leave’ The same text also deals with the issue of Christ performing miracles by ‘the command of God’. Verse 59 addresses the point about Jesus having no human father ‘This similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam: He created him from dust then said to him: “Be” and he was.’ Yusuf Ali comments in this regard:
After a description of the high position which Jesus occupies as a prophet, we have a repudiation of the dogma that he was Allah, or the son of Allah, or anything more than a man. If it is said that he was born without a human father, Adam was also so born. Indeed Adam was born without either a human father or mother. As far as our physical bodies are concerned they are mere dust. In Allah’s sight Jesus was as dust just as Adam was or humanity is. The greatness of Jesus arose from the divine command “Be”: for after that he was-more than dust – a great Prophet and teacher. (3.59)
It can be seen that ibn Ishaq/ibn Hisham have placed the Christology attacked in the Qur’an into the mouths of the Najran Deputation. The question is why? The answer to this is essential for understanding the actual reason for the expulsion of the ahl-ul-Kitab from the Jazirat-al-Arabi, and also its genuine dating. According to the picture presented by the revisionist school of Islamic origins as represented by people such as Cook, Crone and Wansbrough, etc., Islam did not really emerge as the settled religious entity we now understand until about two centuries after the death of Muhammad. Jay Smith
The sources also seem to suggest that the Qur’an was put together rather hurriedly “the book is strikingly lacking in overall structure, frequently obscure and inconsequential in both language and content, perfunctory in its linking of disparate materials, and given to the repetition of whole passages in variant versions. On this basis it can plausibly be argued that the book is the product of the belated and imperfect editing of materials from a plurality of traditions.” (quoted in Hagarism, Crone-Cook 1977:18,167) Thus Crone and Cook believe that because of the imperfection of the editing, the emergence of the Qur’an must have been a sudden and late event (Crone-Cook 1977:18,167).
As to when that event took place we are not altogether sure, but we can make an educated guess. From the earlier discussion concerning the dating of the earliest manuscripts we can conclude that there was no Qur’anic documentation in existence in the mid-late seventh century. The earliest reference from outside Islamic literary traditions to the book called the ‘Qur’an’ occurs in the mid-eighth century between an Arab and a monk of Bet Hale (Nau 1915:6f), but no-one knows whether it may have differed considerably in content from the Qur’an which we have today. Both Crone and Cook conclude that except for this small reference there is no indication of the existence of the Qur’an before the end of the seventh century (Crone-Cook 1977:18).
Crone and Cook in their research go on to maintain that it was under the governor Hajjaj of Iraq in 705 A.D. that we have a logical historical context in which the ‘Qur’an’ (or a nascent body of literature which would later become the Qur’an) was first compiled as Muhammad’s scripture (Crone-Cook 1977:18). In an account attributed to Leo by Levond, the governor Hajjaj is shown to have collected all the old Hagarene writings and replaced them with others ‘according to his own taste, and disseminated them everywhere among [his] nation.’ (Jeffrey 1944:298) The natural conclusion is that it was during this period that the Qur’an began its evolution, possibly beginning to be written down, until it was finally canonized in the mid to late eighth century as the Qur’an which we now know. 83
In the same paper, Smith points out this late dating is also true of other source material for Islam:
- The Sira are accounts concerning the traditional life of the prophet (including his battles). The most comprehensive Sira was written by Ibn Ishaq (died 765 A.D.), though none of his manuscripts exist today. Consequently, we are dependent on the Sira of Ibn Hisham (died 833 A.D.), which was supposedly taken from that of Ibn Ishaq, though, by his own admission (according to the research of Patricia Crone) he omitted those areas which might have caused offense (such as anything which he felt was repugnant, poems not attested elsewhere, as well as matters which he could not accept as trustworthy) (Crone 1980:6).
- The Hadith are thousands of short reports or narratives (akhbar) on the sayings and deeds of the prophet which were collected by Muslims in the ninth and tenth centuries. Of the six most famous collections of Hadith, those of al-Bukhari (died 870 A.D.) are considered by many Muslims as the most authoritative.
- The Ta’rikh are histories or chronologies of the prophet’s life, the most famous written by al-Tabari (died 923 A.D.) early in the tenth century.
- The Tafsir are commentaries and exegesis on the Qur’an, its grammar and its context; the best known also written by al-Tabari (died 923 A.D.). 84
It can be seen that the dating for all these sources is quite late, and very late in some cases. This being so, we cannot rely on any of them for concrete evidence in regard to historical events in the early years of Islam, a point to which we will return later, but that is not our primary concern at this juncture. The point I wish to make is to examine what occurred after the conquest of the Levant and Iraq, and later Egypt. The Arabs came into contact with more advanced cultures which were predominantly Christian. Although the Qur’an was not yet codified, the ‘Hagarenes’ would have brought certain religious traditions with them which found their way into their later holy scripture. Among these were several assertions about Jews and Christians. These are the same issues which have proved embarrassing to Muslims today – the idea that Jews hold that Ezra was the son of God, that Mary was the sister of Aaron, and the very points about Christian doctrine we have examined – such as Jesus creating clay birds, and the Trinity being God, Mary and Jesus. Watt notes in connection with the traditional Muslim charge of tahrif, ‘corruption’, against the Bible, that the idea does not occur in the Qur’an itself, but ‘after the conquest of Iraq, Syria and Egypt, however, the doctrine of tahrif, of “corruption” was elaborated in various ways to give the Muslim Arabs a defence against the better-educated Christians with whom they were now mixing.’ 85
Once the Arabs began to be literate, and especially after they began to proselytise, these gaffes became obvious obstacles, both to the consolidation of the Ummah and the conversion of the Christian masses. After all, the Christians would immediately object that Islam’s presentation of Christian doctrine was not commensurate with the facts, and if this was the case, it naturally followed that the Qur’an could not be a genuine divine revelation. Hence, the Muslims were faced with a major problem – how to explain away these problems? The most obvious way was to assert that the Qur’an was responding to what Christians who encountered Muhammad presented as Christian doctrine, and this is what ibn Ishaq/ibn Hisham did – to argue that, at least as far as the Najran delegation were concerned, these ideas were indeed genuine Christian dogmas. Hence, it would not matter what Christians elsewhere objected. This would not only answer the Christians, but also any Muslim troubled by Christian objections to the Qur’anic depiction of Christian doctrine. The cat is somewhat let out of the bag by the Sira’s ‘report’ of the Najran Christians asserting that Christ is Allah, ‘the third of three’, and then stating the redundant (and false) comment ‘which is the doctrine of Christianity’. The Sira adds this point because it is patently untrue – such a Christology was not ‘the doctrine of Christianity’, as the Christians of Syria and Iraq would have emphasised. In this respect, Sira material such as that of ibn Ishaq/ibn Hisham is not history, but rather propaganda, seeking to defend Islam against Christian detractors and Muslim doubters, whose concerns could have been raised by the Christians emphasising that the Qur’an’s presentation of Christian Trinitarianism and Christology was inaccurate.
In this respect, the Sira material was a product of its time. It is well-known that at the time of Bukhari there were literally thousands of false ahadith, and that he sifted through 600,000 of them, reducing them to about 7000, many of these parallel narrations, reducing the actual number to about 3000. 86 Hence, fabricated historical records of the Prophet and his Companions were a feature of the era, the same epoch in which, according to the revisionist school, Islam actually became established as a settled religious system. Many of these narrations served a definite polemical purpose, and not always against Jews and Christians. For example, the Sunni-Shi’ite breach partly revolves around competing claims about the Qur’an and Hadith. The Shi’ite Encyclopedia states the following about their difference with the Sunnis:
“We say that so much of revelation has come down which is not embodied in the present Quran that if it were to be collected, its extent would undoubtedly be 17000 verses … Although all of them were revelation but they (the extra ones) are NOT a part of Quran. If they would be a part of Quran, it would surely have been included in the Quran we have.” Shi’i reference: Shi’ite Creed (al-I’tiqadat al-Imamiyyah), by Shaykh Saduq, English version, pp 78-79.
The transcript of the Quran that Imam Ali wrote contained commentary and hermeneutic interpretation (Tafsir and Ta’wil) from the Holy Prophet some of which had been sent down as revelation but NOT as a part of the text of Quran. A small amount of such texts can be found in some traditions in Usul al-Kafi and else. These pieces of information were Divine commentary of the text of Quran which was revealed along with Quranic verses but were NOT parts of Quran. Thus the commentary verses and Quranic verses could sum up to 17000 verses. As Sunnis know, Hadith Qudsi is also revelation, but they are not a part of Quran. 87
Hence, the Shi’ite position is that there was extra divine revelation apart from the Qur’an, and this remains a major distinction from the Sunnis, since the Shi’ite Hadith collections are believed to derive from this literature, via their Twelve Imams. Thus, the Sunnis and Shi’ites do not have an identical Hadith corpus, which in itself raises questions about the reliability of such material. A clear example of a polemical Sunni hadith, in which the narration is actually placed on the lips of Ali, revered as the first Imam by Shi’ites, denies the existence of this special addition to the Qur’an:
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 4.283
Narrated by Abu Juhaifa
I asked Ali, “Do you have the knowledge of any Divine Inspiration besides what is in Allah’s Book?” ‘Ali replied, “No …I don’t think we have such knowledge, but we have the ability of understanding which Allah may endow a person with, so that he may understand the Qur’an, and we have what is written in this paper as well.” I asked, “What is written in this paper?” He replied, “(The regulations of) blood-money, the freeing of captives, and the judgment that no Muslim should be killed for killing an infidel.” 88
A similar idea is put forward in another narration:
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 8.747
Narrated by Ali
We have no Book to recite except the Book of Allah (Qur’an) and this paper. Then ‘Ali took out the paper, and behold! There was written in it, legal verdicts about the retaliation for wounds, the ages of the camels (to be paid as Zakat or as blood money). In it was also written: -Medina is a sanctuary from Air (mountain) to Thaur (mountain)…”
However, another narration presents a similar notion about literature apart from the Qur’an but does not mention Ali:
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 6.537
Narrated by Abdul Aziz bin Rufai
Shaddad bin Ma’qil and I entered upon Ibn ‘Abbas. Shaddad bin Ma’qil asked him, “Did the Prophet leave anything (besides the Qur’an)?” He replied. “He did not leave anything except what is between the two bindings (of the Qur’an).” Then we visited Muhammad bin Al-Hanafiyya and asked him (the same question). He replied, “The Prophet did not leave except what is between the bindings (of the Qur’an).”
It can be seen, not least from the divergence within these narrations, that the Sunni ahadith served a polemical, propagandistic purpose. The aim was to refute Shi’ite theology, and accusations against Sunni distinctives, and for this purpose, ‘history’ was reconstructed, a ‘history’ that obviously the Shi’ites could not accept, anymore than Sunnis could accept Shi’ite narrations which undermined Sunni distinctives. If this occurred within Islam, we should not be surprised that the more substantial objections of Jews and especially Christians demanded similar and even more far-reaching historical reconstruction. This can be seen in various narrations. For example, one hadith, regarded as sahih, insists that Jews do indeed regard Ezra as the son of Allah, as do Christians with regard to Jesus, according to the Muslim idea of what is involved in divine sonship. 89 More substantially, the famous gaffe about Mary being the ‘sister’ of Aaron is anachronistically placed on the lips of Muhammad specifically in answer to the query of Najran Christians:
Sahih Muslim Hadith 5326
Narrated by Mughirah ibn Shu’bah
When I came to Najran, they (the Christians of Najran) asked me: You read “O sister of Harun” (i.e. Maryam) in the Qur’an, whereas Moses was born much before Jesus. When I came back to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) I asked him about that, whereupon he said: The (people of the old age) used to give names (to their persons) after the names of Apostle and pious persons who had gone before them.
Clearly, the answer given is not supported by either the Bible or by Hebrew history in general, a point that would have been made by both Jews and especially Christians, the biggest community in the conquered territories of the Fertile Crescent and North Africa. It is significant that the answer is supposedly given in response to the question of the Christians of Najran, as we shall see. Essentially, what we witness in the Sira and Hadith literature is a polemical creation of national myth. Many nations possess such myths, seeing their origins often in some special divine act. Even when religion is absent, national mythologies abound, and in many cases, conscious fabrication is a feature. We need only consider Stalin’s famous fabricated photographs, removing Bolshevik rivals like Trotsky from revolutionary prints and thereafter doctoring the history of the Russian Revolution to enhance Stalin’s rather secondary role therein. After all, this is the mutual accusation Sunnis and Shi’ites hurl against each other in regard to both Hadith and Sira, especially with respect to the succession to Muhammad. Shi’ites hold it should have gone to Ali, as, they believe, divinely revealed to Muhammad, whereas it actually went to Abu Bakr, and Sunni ahadithattempt to present history in accord with their distinctives. 90 For example, the following narration, supposedly from Ali himself, the hero of the Shi’ites, presents Muhammad as indicating that it was unlikely that Ali would be appointed by the people as Amir:
Al-Tirmidhi Hadith 6124
Narrated by Ali ibn AbuTalib
When Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) was asked whom they should appoint commander after he had gone, he replied, “If you appoint AbuBakr as commander you will find him trustworthy, with little desire for worldly goods but eager for the next world; if you appoint Umar as commander you will find him trustworthy and strong, fearing for Allah’s sake no one’s blame; and if you appoint Ali as commander, but I cannot see you doing so, you will find him a guide who is rightly guided who will lead you in the straight way.”
Ahmad transmitted it. 91
This is clearly an anachronistic narration from a later time, serving an anti-Shi’ite polemic. These examples demonstrate that the historical picture presented by the Hadith literature is essentially subjective propaganda serving a political/theological polemicalpurpose, and thus unreliable as an historical source. This can also be seen in Sira and Hadith material emphasising the prophethood of Muhammad observable from an early age. According to Islamic history, Muhammad as a child once accompanied his uncle Abu Talib and grandfather during a trading journey to the Syrian town of Bostra. This was an important Christian centre, being the official residence of the Bishop of the Monophysite Christians, and possessing a Cathedral. The caravan passed the cell of a hermit monk called Bahira who usually paid such caravans no attention. 92 However, on this occasion he invited the party to a meal. They left the camels in the care of the youngest member of the group, but then Bahira demanded the attendance of everyone in the party. According to the story, Bahira possessed an ancient book predicting the advent of a great prophet. It was supernaturally revealed to him that this person was in the caravan, seeing a cloud and a tree protecting him from the glaring sun. 93 When the boy was brought to him, he saw a mark between his shoulders, a definite sign of prophethood. Of course, the boy was Muhammad. The monk warned Abu Talib to take special care of him since the Jews would seek to harm him. 94 Sira material, such as that dealing with the Companions, refers to this monk. 95 There is also a narration in the Hadith. 96 However, despite a feeble attempt by Yusuf Ali to relate S. 10:94 to the incident, there is nothing about this supposed grand supernatural event in the Qur’an, an incredible omission. 97 Neither are we are informed as to the identity of this ‘ancient book’ Bahira possessed.
As to the cause of the invention of the story, there is an obvious and ironic parallel in the ‘childhood miracle’ stories about Jesus found in Thomas and Infancy. However, there is a deeper, theological/political reason for its genesis. The Qur’an, as it is well known, claims that the advent of Muhammad was predicted in the Torah and the Gospel. 98 Obviously, this was not the case. There is nothing in Biblical Eschatology to suggest the advent of a new prophet, and it is clear from what we have examined about the canon of Scripture that the latter was considered firmly closed by the time of Muhammad. Therefore, especially after the Muslim conquests of Christian lands like Iraq and Syria, it was important for Muslims to demonstrate that some Christians at least, perhaps from some ancient literature now lost, were looking for a new prophet. A comment from von Denffer helps to demonstrate this:
…some sort of authentication of the future prophet’s message is here given by a Christian authority in religious matters… this episode lends support to the view that some earlier Christians understood the role and message of Muhammad differently from their contemporaries… This view is also met with in the Qur’an… 99
The narration also betrays its polemical nature by its reference to the Jewish opposition to Muhammad. Interestingly, von Denffer indicates some reserve in his regard of the story’s authenticity. 100 We should also view the story of Waraqa, the Christian relative of Khadijah, who, according to the Muslim tradition, translated the gospels and authenticated the prophethood of Muhammad, again a story found in the Sira and Hadith. 101 Again, we find an example of a vaticinia ex eventu (prophecy after the event), in this case predicting the effective exile of Muhammad from his home. von Denffer repeats the important aspect of this story: ‘Once again a learned Christian recognizes the prophet in Muhammad and gives some kind of authentication on the basis of the previously-revealed scriptures.’ 102 Another link in the chain is found in the treatment of the Messages to the Rulers, 628-9, found in the Sira and Hadith. 103 This story betrays an anachronism even by traditional Muslim dating, since Muslim scholars such as Mawdudi and von Denffer hold that verses 33-120 of Al-i-Imran were revealed at the time of the Najran delegation in 631, yet the letter to the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, sent two or three years previously, actually quotes from these verses! 104 This demonstrates yet again why the traditional sources are unreliable. Both the Sira and Hadith implausibly imply that Heraclius was inclined to accept Islam, but held back because of public opposition, which would have course have cost him his throne, and with it power and luxury. 105 von Denffer notes an even more unlikely story, from ibn Hisham that one Byzantine bishop who actually ‘pleaded for accepting Muhammad as the expected prophet, was beaten to death.’ 106 It is noteworthy that both these stories are absent from the Qur’an, and there seems to be no objective historical evidence for them 107 We find similar implications in the story of the letter to the Coptic leader. 108 In this respect, the story of the Najran delegation is the last link in the chain. As can be seen from Bukhari 5:663, there is the implication that one of the delegation may have recognised Muhammad as a prophet, and ibn Ishaq/ibn Hisham present the bishop confiding his belief in Muhammad’s prophethood to a colleague who later became a Muslim:
Abu Haritha’s mule stumbled and Kùz said, ‘May So-and-so stumble [i.e. Curse him!], meaning the apostle. Abu Haritha said ‘Nay but may you stumble.’ ‘But why, brother?’ he asked. ‘Because by God he is the prophet we have been waiting for.’ Kùz said, ‘Then if you know that, what stops you from accepting him?’ He replied, ‘The way these people have treated us. They have given us titles, paid us subsidies, and honoured us. But they are absolutely opposed to him, and if I were to accept him they would take from us all that you see.’ Kùz pondered over the matter until later he adopted Islam, and used to tell this story, so I have heard. 109
In other words, love of position and luxury, rather than genuine conviction, prevented the bishop from converting, as with Heraclius. The origin of this story should be found in the accusation in the Qur’an, Surah Tauba 9:34, against priests and monks that they are financially avaricious. 110 Again, the Qur’an was validated by a story which presents the priests as possessing the character of which the Qur’an accuses them. 111 Similarly, we should read these texts in the light of the situation the Arabs faced in the conquered lands; they had to prove that the Christians were indeed expecting another prophet, and the objections of Christian leaders to this were met in part by accusing them of ulterior motives for rejecting the prophethood of Muhammad. It is perhaps in this light we should understand the narrations about Najran needing an ‘honest man’. 112 von Denffer refers to ibn Hisham, and states that ‘there were certain financial matters in dispute among the people from Najran, and they therefore wanted the prophet to nominate a trustworthy person as arbitrator for them.’ 113 This should perhaps be linked to the narration forbidding the Najran Christians from charging usury. The message of the Qur’an, Hadith and Sira is the same – the Christian leaders are dishonest, and thus should not be believed, the Muslims are honest, and are reliable, and therefore so is their message. 114 Essentially, this is a polemical message to potential Muslim doubters and to Christian objectors.
This issue of deceit is further emphasised with regard to the Najran delegation. von Denffer also quotes the Muslim commentator Nisaburi, who presents Muhammad as urging the Najran monks ‘Surrender (to Islam)!’, to which they reply that they have surrendered. 115 Muhammad accuses them of lying, on the basis of their ‘calling Allah a son, your worshipping the cross, and your eating pork.’ They then argue about Christological matters, with Muhammad pointing to human characteristics of Jesus, which silence the Christians, surely a most unlikely event, and at this point the verses from Al-i-Imran are revealed. Another commentary from Nisaburi substitutes ‘drinking wine’ for ‘eating pork’. 116 Again, these are actually words from the Qur’an, from the text which supposedly came into existence with respect to the Najran visit, and which is here anachronistically placed on the lips of the Najran Christians to serve a polemical purpose:
19 Lo! religion with Allah (is) The Surrender (to His will and guidance). Those who (formerly) received the Scripture differed only after knowledge came unto them, through transgression among themselves. Whoso disbelieveth the revelations of Allah (will find that) Lo! Allah is swift at reckoning.
20 And if they argue with thee, (O Muhammad), say: I have surrendered my purpose to Allah and (so have) those who follow me. And say unto those who have received the Scripture and those who read not: Have ye (too) surrendered? If they surrender, then truly they are rightly guided, and if they turn away, then it is thy duty only to convey the message (unto them). Allah is Seer of (His) bondmen. (Pickthall Translation)
Hence, when we come to consider ahadith relating to the exclusion of the People of the Book from Arabia, we cannot regard such traditions as possessing historical credence. Rather, they serve a political/propaganda purpose, reminding us of Wansbrough’s assertion that the literary authorities and traditions of Islam were created years after their supposed time-setting to serve a contemporary agenda. This is not simply true of the Hadith, it is also true of the Sira. Even Watt, considering the issue of conversion to Islam, mentions that the Sira of ibn Hisham contains some stories of such, ‘but these, even though true in general, may have had details modified to bring them into line with later ideas.’ 117 This is, we suggest, what has occurred with the Sira’s treatment of the Najran deputation. Jay Smith, in an article examining biographies of Muhammad, notes the late dating of source material:
The majority of these titles no doubt, especially those written by Muslims, will reiterate much of the material passed down through the centuries about Muhammad, which had their “origins” in the classical period of Islam; between 750-950 A.D. (the approximate dates attributed to the four genres of compilations concerning the prophet’s life and teachings, compiled by notable individuals such as Ibn Ishaq=d.765, Ibn Hisham=d.833, al-Bukhari=d.870, and al-Tabari=d.923).
Yet because of their late dates, there is a growing concern in the West that much of the data which we possess on the life of Muhammad is perhaps erroneous, or has at least been embellished (Cook 1983:63). There simply are no documents which were written from the period of the prophet himself with which we can corroborate the historicity of the classical compilations. In fact the “oldest texts we have concerning the life of the Prophet go back to about 125 years after his death” (Rodinson 1996:xi). 118
Smith later examines Rodinson’s approach to historical sources about Muhammad:
Of concern to him was what actually happened, rather than what the later compilers would like us to believe happened. He made it quite plain in his foreword that the biography of Muhammad would always be built on speculation, that the information we possessed on Muhammad “are far from being certain historical fact…that there is nothing of which we can say for certain that it incontestably dates back to the time of the Prophet” (Rodinson 1996:xi). And so, to accentuate this concern Rodinson would commence almost every story with phrases like, “seemingly,” or “it was said,” or “as was recounted later,” and so on (Rodinson 1996:xii). 119
Having recognised the unreliability of Hadith and Sira material, we can approach the story of the Najran delegation with proper scepticism. According to the traditional presentation, the following hadith established the nature of the political relationship of the Najran Christians to Muhammad:
Abdullah ibn Abbas
The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) concluded peace with the people of Najran on condition that they would pay to Muslims two thousand suits of garments, half of Safar, and the rest in Rajab, and they would lend (Muslims) thirty coats of mail, thirty horses, thirty camels, and thirty weapons of each type used in battle. Muslims will stand surely for them until they return them in case there is any plot or treachery in the Yemen. No church of theirs will be demolished and no clergyman of theirs will be turned out. There will be no interruption in their religion until they bring something new or take usury. Isma’il said: They took usury.
The full text of this treaty assures the Najran Christians of their lives, properties, lands, creed, etc.
No hardships or humiliation shall be imposed on them nor shall their land be occupied by [our] army…there will be no oppressors or oppressed. Those who practice usury shall seek no protection from me. No one shall be taken as responsible for the fault of another. 120
A Muslim site presents the story as follows, although one should question whether in fact the leader of the Najran Christians actually described himself as ‘Pope’, in the absolute sense that later characterised the leader of the Copts and Roman Catholics: 121
…The letter that the Prophet …wrote to the Pope of Najran, Abul Harith, clearly outlines the contours of Christian religious freedom. …The Prophet’s letter to the Pope of Najran stated:
“In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful”. From Muhammad …the Apostle of Allah To the Pope of Najran and other Bishops,
“Be it known to the Pope and other Christian elders that to run the administration of the Churches is their own responsibility; Allah and his Apostle bestow kindness to these people. Through this letter the Apostle of Allah announces that no bishop or religious head would be removed from his status, nor would his powers be curtailed. In addition, no interference would be made in their religious rites as long as the scholars of Christianity would execute their religious obligations with honesty and devotion, their dignity would be preserved, they (the Christians) as well should not raise difficulties for others”.
…In the Ninth Hijrah year, a party representing the Christians of Najran reached Medina to meet the Prophet… This delegation included the leading people of Christianity. It included among the notables Pope of Najran – Abul Harith, the Bishop Abdul Maseih the leader of the party Ileahm… 122
Khadduri’s version of the text guarantees protection until the Najran Christians breach the terms ‘…by giving support to oppression’ (the nature of which is undefined). Watt’s version states that the first reference to usury is associated with blood-revenge and concerns the pre-Islamic period. 123 This indicates that Muhammad was cancelling debts that led to strife. The next reference to usury clearly concerns individuals who violate the treaty, and should any do so, the dhimmah (protection) of the Prophet is withdrawn from that particular person. In other words, the offending individual becomes liable to punishment. It should be noted that Muhammad’s farewell sermon made similar points. 124 von Denffer comments on the treaty ‘In the time of ‘Umar the people of Najran started charging interest, which, according to ibn Sa’d, gave ‘Umar the right to expel them…’ 125 On this basis, it is obvious that the purported statement of Ismail concerning usury was a later gloss, even by traditional standards. If the Najran Christians only violated the treaty during the reign of ‘Umar (634-644), the alleged comment of Ismail could only have come years after the treaty, so either this tradition is composite, or it is totally anachronistic. Most likely, this accusation was invented to justify the policy of exile, and it is noteworthy that the hadith is found in Abu Dawud, a less reliable corpus even by Islamic standards, and one of the latest at that. Moreover, it is found nowhere else.
In fact, it can be seen that the purported historical accounts are mutually contradictory on several counts. The hadith claims the Najran Christians were expelled because they violated the prohibition on usury. In fact, the Abu Dawud text is even self-contradictory, since it affirms that the Najran Christians were given a compact of security dependent upon tribute, essentially in the sense of military aid. This in itself makes it likely that the reference to usury is an interpolation. The second text does not make usury the basis of transgression, but rather ‘oppression’. The final text simply insists upon ‘honesty and devotion’ and respect for others. The various texts about the sectarian cleansing by ‘Umar justify the exclusion not because of transgression of any kind, but simply because the Prophet ordered the expulsion on the grounds of their faith. In other words, the command was absolute, rather than conditional, yet the reference to usury implies that the fate of the Najran Christians was indeed conditional. The three positions cannot be reconciled.
2) The Consequence of the Tabuk Expedition
After performing the final pilgrimage, Muhammad purposed to attack the Byzantine Empire. Watt holds that it was probably after the conquest of Mecca at the beginning of 630 and especially after the expedition to Tabuk towards the end of that year that Muhammad recognised that he would face military opposition from the Christian tribes on the periphery of the Byzantine Empire. 126 He claims that at the time of Tabuk expedition the ‘sword verse’ concerning the killing of infidels, the original reference being to Jews and Pagans, was expanded to include the Christians, clearly an explicit reference to the Byzantines and the satellite entities on the periphery:
Surah 9. Tauba
Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His apostle nor acknowledge the religion of truth (even if they are) of the People of the Book until they pay the Jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued. 127
The subsequent verse explicitly includes Christians in its denunciation:
The Jews call Uzair a son of Allah and the Christians call Christ the son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouths; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. Allah’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the truth!
This verse is interesting as much for what it does not say as what it does enjoin. Although ordering war against the People of the Book unless they pay Jizya, it nowhere demands their exile. Likewise, although it imprecates a curse on the ahl-ul-Kitab, it is not for turning the graves of the prophets into places of worship, but for holding to the divine sonship of respectively, Ezra and Christ, however misconceived the Qur’anic notion may be.
At the time of the Tabuk expedition against the Byzantines a similar arrangement to that imposed upon the Christian state of Najran was made with the Christian kingdom of Aila (modern Aqaba in Jordan), after Muhammad wrote them an invitation to accept Islam or pay the Jizya, and pledging their security. 128 Similar pacts were made with Jewish communities in the region. 129 Likewise, the pact with the Zoroastrian entity of Bahrain, the dhimmah extended to them assumes some people will retain their old religion, whether they be Jews or ‘Magians’ (Zoroastrians), and those choosing to do so will pay the Jizya tax. 130 The timing of the pact with Aila is important for our theme, for it was after the Tabuk expedition against the Byzantine Christians that Muhammad is held to have made the statement of expulsion, as found in parallel ahadith:
Sahih Muslim Hadith 4366Narrated by Umar ibn al-KhattabUmar heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) say: I will expel the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula and will not leave any but Muslims…
|Al-Muwatta HadithHadith 45.17The Expulsion of the Jews from Madina
Yahya related to me from Malik from Ismail ibn Abi Hakim that he heard Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz say, “One of the last things that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said was, ‘May Allah fight the Jews and the Christians. They took the graves of their Prophets as places of prostration . Two deens shall not co-exist in the land of the Arabs.'”
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 1.427Narrated byAisha and Abdullah bin AbbasWhen the last moment of the life of Allah’s Apostle came he started putting his ‘Khamisa’ on his face and when he felt hot and short of breath he took it off his face and said, “May Allah curse the Jews and Christians for they built the places of worship at the graves of their Prophets.” The Prophet was warning (Muslims) of what those had done.
Hadith 45.18The Expulsion of the Jews from MadinaYahya related to me from Malik from Ibn Shihab that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Two deens shall not co-exist in the Arabian Peninsula.”
Malik said that Ibn Shihab said, ” ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab searched for information about that until he was absolutely convinced that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, had said, ‘Two deens shall not co-exist in the Arabian Peninsula,’ and he therefore expelled the Jews from Khaybar.”
It is by no means clear even among Muslims that the exile of the People of the Book was the last words of Muhammad. A Shi’ite narration, for example, holds that Muhammad’s last words were on a completely different subject to any supposed intent to expel the People of the Book. 131 According to the Hadith, a large number of revelations ‘descended’ upon Muhammad immediately prior his death. 132 The Hadith states that Surah 9 Tauba was the last Surah revealed in full, and the last verse was S. 4:176. 133 There is some ambiguity as to the identity of the last revelation, and von Denffer writes about this uncertainty:
The Last Revelation Many Muslim scholars agree that the last revelation was Sura 2, verse 281: ‘And fear the day when ye shall be brought back to God. Then shall every soul be paid what it earned and none shall be dealt with unjustly.’ Some also say that it was 2:282 or 2:278. (22) It has also been suggested that all three verses were revealed on one occasion. The Prophet died nine nights after the last revelation. Others hold that Sura 5:4 was the last to be revealed: ‘This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.’ The opinion that this verse was the last revelation is not sound according to many scholars, since it was revealed during the last pilgrimage of the Prophet. This information is based upon a hadith from ‘Umar. Suyuti explains concerning the verse in Sura 5 that after it nothing concerning ahkam and hal’al and haram was revealed, and in this sense it is the ‘completion’ of religion. However, revelation reminding man of the coming day of judgement continued and the last such revelation is the above verse. 134
Moreover, there are narrations which state that Muhammad’s last words, and indeed the threat of exile, concerned not the ahl-ul-Kitab, but rather the pagans. In some ways, this would be more in keeping with Muhammad’s religious policy, although there appears to be no evidence for such an expulsion; the pagans either converted naturally, or under pressure after the victory of Muhammad in Mecca. 135 At any rate, they were subjugated. There is some parallel in the Qur’an itself for spatial restrictions on pagans; the last revealed surah says nothing about restricting the Jews or Christians, but forbids entry to the Sacred Mosque to the pagans. 136
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 4.288Narrated by Said bin JubairIbn ‘Abbas said, “Thursday! What (great thing) took place on Thursday!” Then he started weeping till his tears wetted the gravels of the ground. Then he said, “On Thursday the illness of Allah’s Apostle was aggravated and he said, ‘Fetch me writing materials so that I may have something written to you after which you will never go astray.’ The people (present there) differed in this matter and people should not differ before a prophet. They said, ‘Allah’s Apostle is seriously sick.’ The Prophet said, ‘Let me alone, as the state in which I am now, is better than what you are calling me for.’ The Prophet on his death-bed, gave three orders saying, ‘Expel the pagans from the Arabian Peninsula, respect and give gifts to the foreign delegates as you have seen me dealing with them.’ I forgot the third (order).” (Ya’qub bin Muhammad said, “I asked Al-Mughira bin ‘Abdur-Rahman about the Arabian Peninsula and he said, ‘It comprises Mecca, Medina, Al-Yama-ma and Yemen.” Ya’qub added, “And Al-Arj, the beginning of Tihama.”)
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 4.393Narrated by Said bin Jubairthat he heard Ibn ‘Abbas saying, “Thursday! And you know not what Thursday is? After that Ibn ‘Abbas wept till the stones on the ground were soaked with his tears. On that I asked Ibn ‘Abbas, “What is (about) Thursday?” He said, “When the condition (i.e. health) of Allah’s Apostle deteriorated, he said, ‘Bring me a bone of scapula, so that I may write something for you after which you will never go astray. The people differed in their opinions although it was improper to differ in front of a prophet. They said, ‘What is wrong with him? Do you think he is delirious? Ask him (to understand).’ The Prophet replied, ‘Leave me as I am in a better state than what you are asking me to do.’ Then the Prophet ordered them to do three things saying, ‘Turn out all the pagans from the Arabian Peninsula, show respect to all foreign delegates by giving them gifts as I used to do.'” The sub-narrator added, “The third order was something beneficial which either Ibn ‘Abbas did not mention or he mentioned but I forgot.”
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 5.716
Narrated by Ibn Abbas
Thursday! And how great that Thursday was! The ailment of Allah’s Apostle became worse (on Thursday) and he said, fetch me something so that I may write to you something after which you will never go astray.” The people (present there) differed in this matter, and it was not right to differ before a prophet. Some said, “What is wrong with him? (Do you think) he is delirious (seriously ill)? Ask him (to understand his state).” So they went to the Prophet and asked him again. The Prophet said, “Leave me, for my present state is better than what you call me for.” Then he ordered them to do three things. He said, “Turn the pagans out of the Arabian Peninsula; respect and give gifts to the foreign delegations as you have seen me dealing with them.” (Said bin Jubair, the sub-narrator said that Ibn Abbas kept quiet as rewards the third order, or he said, “I forgot it.”) (See Hadith No. 116 Vol. 1)
In the Qur’an, there is no call for the general expulsion of the pagans, anymore than there is with respect to the People of the Book. 137 The specific texts pertinent to our theme are:
Surah 2 Al-Baqara
191 And slay them wherever ye catch them and turn them out from where they have turned you out…
Surah 5 Al-Maida
33 The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land…
34 Save those who repent before ye overpower them. For know that Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
S. 2:191 has reference to the pagans at Mecca who had caused the migration of the Muslims through persecution. However, it only applies to those pagans individually guilty of such oppression. Similarly, S. 5:33-34 prescribes banishment as one possible punishment for engaging in war against the Muslims, clearly in regard to those offending against the law. It applies to no specific religious confession, and neither is it justification for the exile of a religious community simply because of their theological differences with Islam.
There seems a certain incongruity about Muhammad giving pledges to Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians in the region and then immediately overturning them by ordering their expulsion, in the case of Najran only about two years after issuing the dhimmah. Is it likely he would utter such a command so soon after negotiating arrangements with the Najran Christians? Another very revealing problem concerns the purported justification for the expulsion – namely, that Jews and Christians turned the graves of the prophets into places of worship. Leaving aside the fact that many Muslims around the world have done exactly this with their own saints, and also ignoring the question as to whether the accusation against ‘the People of the Book’ was accurate (cf. Qur’anic gaffes on Mary’s deity or Ezra’s divine sonship), and whether even if it were true of some, was it general, one obvious query arises: why did Muhammad only invoke this prohibition at the end of his life? Why not sooner, if the same conditions prevailed? Why was this command not found in the Qur’an, nor even in Hadith Qudsi? Why is there no hint of it in Muhammad’s Last Sermon?
According to traditional Muslim history, caliph Umar later justified the exile of the ahl-ul-Kitab from the Arabian Peninsula in 640 on the basis of Muhammad’s last command. However, the reference in the narration to his investigations about the subject questions about its authenticity, since it demonstrates that there was at least some uncertainty about it. Surely, as these were the last words of Muhammad, everyone would have been both hanging on his every word and repeating it? Why then the uncertainty? Further, since there are a number of parallel ahadith on the subject, why the need to investigate the narration, since it was so well attested? Moreover, it should be noted that there is no agreement about the particulars in the various parallel ahadith about the subject, which surely raises further questions about authenticity.
3) The Reign of Abu Bakr
One of the most telling arguments against the authenticity of the narrations of expulsion is the failure of the first caliph, Abu Bakr, to implement the supposed command of the Prophet to exile the People of the Book from the Arabian Peninsula. In fact, von Denffer notes that the treaty guaranteeing the security of the Najran Christians was upheld by Abu Bakr. 138 Indeed, he not only upheld the treaty, he renewed it, impressed by the loyalty of the Najran Christians during the Riddah (apostasy) rebellions, when some tribes refused to pay zakat and apparently reverted to paganism. 139 Why did he not take action against the Jews of the Hijaz at this time? If Muhammad had indeed actually intended to exile the People of the Book from the Peninsula, why did not the first Caliph implement the dying command of the Prophet?
Courbage and Fargues make this very point about Umar’s violation of Muhammad’s treaties with the Jews of Hijaz and Christians of Najran on the basis of Muhammad’s supposed death-bed command: ‘If the Prophet had actually ordered the expulsion of the Christians and the Jews, why was it not implemented by Abu Bakr, his immediate successor, and why did Umar wait until the end of his caliphate to execute it?’ 140 Equally, John Bagot Glubb observes about the supposed death-bed order by Muhammad: ‘Had he really given such an order, it was curious that Abu Bekr made no attempt to enforce it… he was conscientious… in executing, to the least detail, everything which Muhammad during his lifetime had enjoined.’ 141 Indeed, this omission is completely incongruous, especially if Abu Bakr was conscientious enough to collate the Qur’an, as Muslim history holds. Such disobedience would be quite out of character and totally inexplicable in any of the Khulafah Rashidoon, unless it was never actually ordered in the first place.
4] The Reign of Umar
As we have seen, it was caliph Umar who was credited with enacting the exile of the People of Book in obedience to the supposed last words of Muhammad. Perhaps because Muslim sources are often characterised by confusion and variant traditions, Umar emerges as a complicated personality in such sources. For example, in the Hadith, he is shown to be concerned for the welfare of the dhimmis (Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians). He advised whoever would be his successor to treat them kindly:
Amr ibn Maimun
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 5:50
… I also recommend him concerning Allah’s and His Apostle’s protectees (i.e. Dhimmis) to fulfill their contracts and to fight for them and not to overburden them with what is beyond their ability… 142
Equally, he was insistent that when a Christian or Jew died, the relative holding to that faith were his or her heirs. 143 He was not antagonistic to Muslims praying in church buildings according to one tradition. 144 The Christian Arabs of the Taghlib tribe objected to paying the Jizya on the basis of their being Arabs and because of its humiliating nature. On these grounds, they threatened to emigrate unless they were released from this, and to avert this, Umar substituted the sadaqah tax paid by Muslims. 145 He did the same for the Christians of Tanukh. Umar’s terms for the surrender of Damascus were generous. He ordered that the people should keep possessions of their lands, and that they should only pay Jizya in accordance with their ability. If they were too poor to pay this, his policy was again generous:
…require no more of them… never to take them as prisoners, nor to do any injustice or harm to them or to take any of their property unless you have a claim to it. You must fulfil the obligations you accepted in accordance with your agreement with them.
As to the request of taking out their crosses during their holidays once a year, you should not prevent them from so doing outside the city, provided they agree not to take with them their banners and standards. 146
This good-will to the People of the Book is further indicated by the text of Umar’s treaty with the Palestinians, after the conquest of Jerusalem by the Arabs in 637 A.D. The Orthodox Christian Patriarch of the city, Sophronius, ceremonially handed the keys of the city to Umar, recognising his rule. 147 The Caliph pledged freedom of religion and access to the holy places, and gave assurance to the Christians of
…the safety of their persons, their goods, their churches, their crosses – whether they be in good or bad shape – and their worship in general. Their churches will neither be touched nor destroyed; they and their dependants will not undergo any damage and it will be the same for their crosses and their processions.
Palestinian Christians were exempted from paying the head-tax. 148 Further, Umar, rejecting the objections of the Palestinian Christians, guaranteed the same rights to the Jews of Palestine. 149 At one point, during the time for salat, Umar was strolling with Sophronius in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The latter invited him to pray on the premises, but the Caliph declined, on the grounds that later Muslims would transform the Church into a mosque. He went outside to pray, and Muslims later did build a Mosque on the place where he performed salat. These examples do not sit well with the traditional picture of the man who ‘cleansed’ the Arabian Peninsula of Jews and Christians.
As we have stated, the problem is that the sources dealing with Umar often reveal contradictory tendencies. For example, the purported ‘Code of Umar’, allegedly imposed by the Muslim commander Abu Ubaid, is extremely sectarian and repressive. It is often alleged that this pact has been subjected to later emendations. 150 It is noteworthy that there are several versions of the text. One version, from a Muslim source, renders it as follows:
When thou camest into our land we asked of thee safety for our lives and the people of our religion, and we imposed these terms on ourselves: not to build in Damascus and its environs church, convent, chapel, monk’s hermitage; not to repair what is dilapidated of our churches nor any of them that are in Muslim quarters; not to withhold our churches from Muslims stopping there by night or day; to open their doors to the traveller and wayfarer; not to shelter there nor in our houses a spy, not to hide one who is a traitor to the Muslims; to beat the naqus only gently in our churches; not to display a cross on them; not to raise our voices in prayer or chanting in our churches; not to carry in procession a cross or our book; not to take out Easter or Palm Sunday processions; not to raise our voices over our dead…not to sell wine nor parade idolatry in companies of Muslims; not to entice a Muslim to our religion not to invite him to it; …to keep our religion wherever we are; not to resemble the Muslims in wearing the Qalansuwa, the turban, shoes, nor in the parting of the hair, nor in their way of riding, not to use their language nor be called by their names; to cut the hair in front and divide our forelock; to tie the zunnar round our waists; not to engrave Arabic on our seals; not to ride on saddles; not to keep arms nor put them in our houses nor wear swords to honour Muslims in their gatherings; to guide them on the road, to stand up in public meetings when they wish it; not to make our houses higher than theirs; not to teach our children the Koran; not to be partners with a Muslim except in business; to entertain every Muslim traveller in our customary style and feed him in it three days. We will not abuse a Muslim, and he who strikes a Muslim has forfeited his rights. 151
The text contains clear anachronisms revealing its emended character. For example, at the time of the conquest of Syria, there were clearly no ‘Muslim quarters’. The servile tone of the code as well as its questionable declaration that its conditions were self-imposed undermine its authenticity. What is significant is the actual dating of the code. It is usually held that it emerged in the ninth century, two centuries after the reign of Umar. We will see the significance of this dating in our next section.
According to traditional Islamic history, the exile of the Jews from Khaybar took place on the basis of the following traditions:
|Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 3.890Narrated by Ibn UmarWhen the people of Khaibar dislocated Abdullah bin Umar’s hands and feet, ‘Umar got up delivering a sermon saying, “No doubt, Allah’s Apostle made a contract with the Jews concerning their properties, and said to them, ‘We allow you (to stand in your land) as long as Allah allows you.’ Now Abdullah bin Umar went to his land and was attacked at night, and his hands and feet were dislocated, and as we have no enemies there except those Jews, they are our enemies and the only people whom we suspect, I have made up my mind to exile them.” When ‘Umar decided to carry out his decision, a son of Abu Al-Haqiq’s came and addressed ‘Umar, “O chief of the believers, will you exile us although Muhammad allowed us to stay at our places, and made a contract with us about our properties, and accepted the condition of our residence in our land?” ‘Umar said, “Do you think that I have forgotten the statement of Allah’s Apostle, i.e.: What will your condition be when you are expelled from Khaibar and your camel will be carrying you night after night?” The Jew replied, “That was joke from Abul-Qasim.” ‘Umar said, “O the enemy of Allah! You are telling a lie.” ‘Umar then drove them out and paid them the price of their properties in the form of fruits, money, camel saddles and ropes, etc.
Sunan of Abu-Dawood Hadith 3001Narrated by Abdullah ibn UmarUmar said: The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) had transaction with the Jews of Khaybar on condition that we should expel them when we wish. If anyone has property (with them), he should take it back, for I am going to expel the Jews. So he expelled them.
|Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 3.531Narrated by Ibn UmarUmar expelled the Jews and the Christians from Hijaz. When Allah’s Apostle had conquered Khaibar, he wanted to expel the Jews from it as its land became the property of Allah, His Apostle, and the Muslims. Allah’s Apostle intended to expel the Jews but they requested him to let them stay there on the condition that they would do the labour and get half of the fruits. Allah’s Apostle told them, “We will let you stay on thus condition, as long as we wish.” So, they (i.e. Jews) kept on living there until ‘Umar forced them to go towards Taima’ and Ariha’.Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 4.380Narrated by Ibn Umar
Umar bin Al-Khattab expelled all the Jews and Christians from the land of Hijaz. Allah’s Apostle after conquering Khaibar, thought of expelling the Jews from the land which, after he conquered it belonged to Allah, Allah’s Apostle and the Muslims. But the Jews requested Allah’s Apostle to leave them there on the condition that they would do the labour and get half of the fruits (the land would yield). Allah’s Apostle said, “We shall keep you on these terms as long as we wish.” Thus they stayed till the time of ‘Umar’s Caliphate when he expelled them to Taima and Ariha.
Malik ibn Anas
The Expulsion of the Jews from Madina
Malik said, “Umar ibn al-Khattab expelled the Jews from Najran (a Jewish settlement in the Yemen) and Fadak (a Jewish settlement thirty miles from Madina). When the Jews of Khaybar left, they did not take any fruit or land. The Jews of Fadak took half the fruit and half the land, because the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, had made a settlement with them for that. So Umar entrusted to them the value in gold, silver, camels, ropes and saddle bags of half the fruit and half the land, and handed the value over to them and expelled them.”
The tone of the traditions sounds like special pleading, reflecting the nature of an anachronistic vaticinia ex eventu (prophecy after the fact). Probably Muhammad did indeed guarantee the permanent presence of the Jews, but later traditions emended the edicts. Hence the invention of the gloss that the Jews could stay for as long as the Muslims wished, to justify the violation of the rights of the Jews of Hijaz. If Muhammad ordered the expulsion of the ahl-ul-Kitab despite his previous guarantees, why the need to establish that either the Jews or Christians had violated their compacts (e.g. by taking usury)? Again, the Muslim historical sources cannot reconcile the absolute imperative in the narration of Muhammad’s last command with the conditional nature of the reports of ‘Umar’s actions. The conditional element attached to these ahadith contradicting the absolute character of Muhammad’s command suggests that both Jews and Christians were originally given absolute guarantees, conditional only on loyalty to the state, i.e. not aiding the enemies of the state. We have seen that whilst some Muslim tribes rebelled during the reign of Abu Bakr, the Najran Christians remained loyal, and no-one suggests that the Jews of the Hijaz rebelled. Hence, new ‘conditions’ had to be invented to circumvent the guarantees Muhammad gave. The tone of Bukhari Hadith 3.890 suggests this was the case, and that the People of the Book protested their rights according to the dhimmah Muhammad gave them.
5) When Did the Exile Occur and Why?
As well as exiling the Jews, both secular historians and Islamic sources assert that Umar also expelled the Najran Christians to Kufa in Iraq. 152 On the other hand, Trimingham claims that it may have been only some doctrinally aberrant Christians who were expelled, and states that there is evidence of the Najran Christians in Arabia as late as 897 AD. 153 The Encyclopaedia of Islam records the presence of a bishop in Najran as late as the ninth and tenth centuries. 154 It also notes the existence of Christians in Yamama and Bahrain in 893 and 899, and in Sana and Yemen in 837 and 850. 155 Equally, Courbage and Fargues state about the supposed dating of the exile in the time of Umar:
Two centuries later, the great chroniclers of Islam believed that the whole of Central Arabia was emptied of Christians and Jews in the wake of Umar’s action. But there are pieces of evidence to suggest that this was not quite the case. For example, it was a Christian of Medina, admittedly a slave, who assassinated Umar. During the reign of Mu’awiya, the founder of the Umayyad dynasty, a force of 200 Christians formed the police of Medina and in Mecca a’cemetery for the infidels’ existed for a long time.
Yet if non-Muslims did remain in the peninsula their numbers in the central region were small. It is almost certain that, three centuries after the revelation, only a tiny group of Christians remained in Najran. The Jews were confined to the periphery. 156
Small numbers or no, the very fact that Christians remained in central Arabia surely questions the authenticity of the ahadith in question, since the narrations of expulsion indicate no exceptions. For example, according to Bukhari Hadith 4.288, identifying the borders of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen is included in its bounds. 157 Yet even today, there are still Jews living in Yemen, which at least points to some tensions and confusion among the traditions, if not outright contradictions. Of course, it is quite likely by the ninth and tenth centuries, the number of Christians in central Arabia was indeed small, as the process observable elsewhere in Muslim-ruled lands would have prevailed – gradual conversion to Islam.
It is the dating that is so significant. The actual exile probably happened in the ninth century. Up to the ninth century, a number of Transjordanian Christian towns remained self-governing. 158 It was also when the so-called ‘Pact of Umar’ emerged, anachronistically read back into the time of the second caliph, just as, we suggest, was the general evacuation of the ahl-ul-Kitab. Jay Smith notes ‘… the earliest documents which we can refer to today are those compiled by Ibn Hisham (the Sira of the prophet), and the large Hadith compilations of al-Bukhari, Muslim and others, all written in the ninth century, and thus 200 to 250 years after the fact.’ 159 When we consider the suggestions of historical revisionists like Crone, etc., and what Jay Smith has advocated, a common theme arises: that the real origins of Islam, as the faith is now understood, only occurred in some two hundred years after Muhammad. It is then that both the Qur’an and the Hadith receive their final redactions, and only thereafter that Sira literature emerges in its final redaction. In short, what occurs is the construction of a historical national mythology, in this case, as has occurred in so many cases of the formation of a national identity down the centuries, a polemical assertion against a rival ideology – in this case, Judaism and Christianity.
To return to Watt’s comments about the consequence of Muslim conquest of Iraq, Syria and Egypt with their ‘better-educated Christians’, he notes that ‘From this period onwards Islam and Christianity have been rivals…’ 160 Naturally, the presence of Jews and Christians in the Muslim heartland with historical traditions of what actually occurred could have ‘blown the whistle’ on this propagandistic historical revision. This would be especially true of the Jews near Mecca and Medina which had only lately been transformed into the leading shrines of Islam in place of Jerusalem. Hence the evacuation of the People of the Book at this time, which would naturally entail their eventual assimilation by the larger Christian and Jewish communities to which they were forcibly removed, or their eventual conversion to Islam. The timing of the exile is significant in this regard. It is also significant that the Najran Christians were exiled to a place near Kufa, a leading city of the Muslims by this time, and a garrison settlement at that. 161 Kufa had only been founded in 638, and the Christians were purportedly evacuated to this garrison city in 642, only four years later. Why were the Christians exiled to this place, where they would be isolated from other Christians, rather to the major centres of Christian presence in the Levant, like the Jews, who were removed to Jericho (Ariha)?
The answer to that is to examine the nature of forced evacuations. This was not an act of chauvinism, such as the ethnic cleansing of people from the former Yugoslavia; nor was it a supposed ‘security’ act, such as Stalin’s uprooting of Caucasus peoples at the Second World War because of supposed collaboration with the Germans. Rather, it should be compared to the story of Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli scientist and Christian convert who blew the whistle on the Israeli nuclear programme. He was not a traitor – he did not spy for Syria, etc. He simply opposed nuclear weapons. He was not only imprisoned, but also isolated from all contact. The reason for this draconian, repressive treatment can be found in the argument of the trial prosecutor – ‘the security damage already done by Vanunu’s disclosures, and the further damage threatened by allowing Vanunu access to the media.’ 162 This single individual had revelations damaging to the regime. Obviously, he was no military threat to them.
Similarly, the Muslims, defending their beliefs about Qur’anic Christology, would be concerned to protect the integrity of their beliefs. The Najran Christians, being blamed for holding the heretical Christology that the Qur’an attacks, would have to be isolated and removed, to prevent the truth from being known. Their position was worse than that of the Jews, since the latter were a minority, and were disliked by the Christians because of the Crucifixion and because of the persecutions recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, for the massacre of Palestinian Christians during the Persian occupation of Jerusalem in the seventh century, and for the earlier persecution of Arab Christians by the Jewish king of Yemen Dhu Nuwas. No Christian would take seriously their comments. Moreover, their objections, apart from the gaffe about Ezra, would be merely theological in the sense of objecting to a Gentile prophet, rather than objections to the presentation of their historical religion in the Qur’an. The Christians, however, were the majority in the conquered territories, and their objections to Qur’anic Christology were more far-reaching and dangerous. If the Najran Christians were blamed for the presentation of the distorted Christology of the Qur’an, as in the Sira, measures would have to be taken to prevent them from objecting. Isolated, they would either eventually convert to Islam, because of the Jizya, or individuals would, if possible, migrate to other Christian communities where their offspring would inter-marry. Either way, the truth would die out.
The point Arafat made about the magnification of Biblical and Qur’anic stories is relevant here. The Qur’anic texts referring to ‘expelling the pagans’ who had previously expelled Muslims, and of banishing those People of the Book who engaged in conflict with the Muslims, were ‘magnified’ by the Hadith and Sira stories about the Jews of Arabia, and by reference to the Biblical traditions of the slaughter of the Canaanites, and applied to the ‘infidels’ in the new Islamic Holy Land. After all, even a conservative Orientalist commentator like Watt accepts that both Hadith and Sira are, to some degree, ‘expansions’ of the Qur’anic material. 163 No doubt, as Trimingham accepts, Umar did indeed remove some Christians from Najran for some reason, and probably did the same to some Jews, as Arafat suggests. Later Muslim commentators would then magnify the story to conceal what actually occurred to the People of the Book in Arabia in the ninth century. It would be anachronistically read back to suggest that the exile was total, rather than individual. The fact that objective historical sources contradict the traditional Muslim presentation of the exile of the People of the Book from Arabia is the greatest clue to the inauthentic nature of the entirety of Islamic claims.
Both Christianity and Islam claim to be revealed religions based in historical events. One cannot be a Christian and deny the historical event of the Crucifixion, even if one would wish to preserve elements of the theology associated with the event. Equally, Islam demands belief in the historicity of what supposedly occurred in the cave at Hira; denying it renders one apostate. Either these events actually happened, or, except in some Feuerbachian sense, the religions are not true. Denying or disproving any of the historical events in the Bible for any conservative believer would demolish his faith. This is also true of Muslims. After all, the Sunni-Shia split partly revolves around competing views of early Islamic history. Likewise, if the narrations of exile only existed in the collection of Abu Dawud, they would have little import, but they also occur in sahih material. The same is also true of the story of the Najran deputation. What makes it especially important is that many verses of the Qur’an are supposedly based on the visit of this delegation; if the Najran Christians did not, and could not have said what the Sira claims they stated, then the accusations of Qur’anic Christology are disproved, and Muslims are left explaining their origin. The authenticity of the Qur’an would be demolished.
Were the Najran Christians still around we could settle the issue once for all, and possibly still could if Saudi Arabia allowed free archaeological access to investigate. However, all reports from that country about archaeology suggest that this will not be forthcoming, since the authorities are notorious for covering-up evidence of the former Jewish and Christian presence in the country. Since the Saudi regime employs Islam, rather than ethnic identity, nationalism or ideology as its basis, it cannot allow the foundations of the religion to be challenged. In that respect, the Saudi regime has much in common with the Muslims who actually fabricated the story of Umar’s ejection of the ahl-ul-Kitab, and indeed implemented the exile, over two hundred years after it supposedly occurred.
SAHIH AL-BUKHARI 5.121
The day of Bu’ath (i.e. day of fighting between the two tribes of the Ansar, the Aws and Khazraj was brought about by Allah for the good of His Messenger (peace be upon him) so that when Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) reached (Medina), the tribes of Medina had already divided and their chiefs had been killed and wounded.
So Allah had brought about the battle for the good of His Messenger (peace be upon him) in order that they (i.e. the Ansar) might embrace Islam. ↩
- Guillaume, Alfred, Islam, (Penguin, Harmondsworth, Second Edition 1956, 1978 printing), p. 38. ↩
SAHIH AL-BUKHARI 5.245aa
…a Jew climbed up the roof of one of the forts of his people to look for some things, and he saw Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) and his companions dressed in white clothes, emerging out of the desert mirage.
The Jew could not help shouting at the top of his voice, “O you Arabs! Here is your great man whom you have been waiting for!” So all the Muslims rushed to their arms and received Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) on the summit of Harrah… ↩
- Rodinson, Maxime, Mohammed, (Pelican, London, 1973), p.143, quoting the Sira of Ibn Hisham. ↩
- Watt, Montgomery, Muhammad in Medina, (OUP, 1988 impression), p. 192. ↩
- Khadduri, Mmajid, War and Peace in the Law of Islam, (Unversity Press of America, Lanhan, MD, USA, 1981), p. 209:
The Jews who may follow us will have our support equally, without suppression, nor do we intend to combine (and turn) against them.
The Jews shall contribute to the expenditure of battle as long as they fight with the believers;The Jews of Banu ‘Awf form a nation with the believers. The Jews shall have their own religion, and the Muslims shall have their own religion; each with their own mawalis (slaves) and persons, except those criminals and sinners who will do harm to themselves and to their families;
The Jews of Banu al-Najar, of Banu Harth, of Banu Sa’ida, of Banu Jusham, of Banu ‘Aws, and of Banu Tha’laba will have the same rights and obligations as those of Banu ‘Awf. except the criminals and sinners who do harm to themselves and to their families;
The Jews of Banu al-Shutayba shall have the same rights and obligations as those of Banu ‘Awf;
The Bitana (adherents) of the Jews are considered as the Jews themselves;
No Jew is allowed to join (the Muslims in battle)without the authorization of Muhammad;
The Jews shall contribute to the cost of battle with the believers as long as they fight;
They (the Muslims and the Jews) will have victory over those who may attack Yathrib;
If they (the Jews) were invited to conclude peace, they must adhere to peace (with the Muslims)
If they were invited (by the Muslims) to do the same, they will have the same obligations, save those who fight for religion;
The Jews of al-’Aws, their slaves and themselves, shall have the same rights and obligations, as stated in this agreement, with the best benevolence of the parties of the agreement… ↩
- Guillaume, Islam, p. 41. ↩
- Watt, Muhammad in Medina, p.200. ↩
- Watt, Muhammad in Medina, p. 197, asserts that this was the basis of Surah 3. Al-i-Imran Ayah: 199And there are certainly among the People of the Book those who believe in Allah in the revelation to you and in the revelation to them bowing in humility to Allah: they will not sell the signs of Allah for a miserable gain! for them is a reward with their Lord and Allah is swift in account. ↩
- Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 3.302
Narrated by Ali
I got an old she-camel as my share from the booty, and the Prophet had given me another from Al-Khumus. And when I intended to marry Fatima (daughter of the Prophet), I arranged that a goldsmith from the tribe of Bani Qainuqa’ would accompany me in order to bring Idhkhir and then sell it to the goldsmiths and use its price for my marriage banquet. ↩
- Watt, Muhammad in Medina, pp. 172-173. ↩
- Watt, Muhammad in Medina, p. 173. ↩
- Alim CD-Rom, (1986-96 ISL Software, USA). ↩
- Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 5.362 ↩
- Al-Bara’ ibn AzibSAHIH AL-BUKHARI 5.370
Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) sent a group of persons to AbuRafi’. Abdullah ibn Atik entered his house at night, while he was sleeping, and killed him ↩
- Watt, Muhammad in Medina, p. 211. ↩
- Mawdudi, introductions to the surahs in Yusuf Ali’s translation S. 33 Al-Azhab. ↩
- Abdullah ibn Umar
SAHIH AL-BUKHARI 6.406
Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) burnt and cut down the palm-trees of Banu An-Nadir which were at al-Buwayrah (a place near Medina). Thereupon Allah revealed:
‘Whatever you (O Muslims) cut down of the palm-trees (of the enemy) or you left them standing on their stems, it was by the leave of Allah, so that He might humiliate the rebels.’ (59:5) ↩
- Surah Al-Hashr 59:2. ↩
- 2 It is He who got out the Unbelievers among the People of the Book from their homes at the first gathering (of the forces). Little did ye think that they would get out: and they thought that their fortresses would defend them from Allah! but the (wrath of) Allah came to them from quarters from which they little expected (it) and cast terror into their hearts so that they destroyed their dwellings by their own hands and the hands of the Believers. Take warning then O ye with eyes (to see)!3 And had it not been that Allah has decreed banishment for them He would certainly have punished them in this world: and in the Hereafter they shall (certainly) have the Punishment of the Fire.
4 That is because they resisted Allah and His Apostle: and if anyone resists Allah verily Allah is severe in Punishment.
5 Whether ye cut down (o ye Muslims!) the tender palm-trees or ye left them standing on their roots it was by leave of Allah and in order that He might cover with shame the rebellious transgressors. ↩
- Sunan of Abu-Dawood Hadith 2998
Narrated by a man from the companions of the Prophet
AbdurRahman ibn Ka’b ibn Malik reported on the authority of a man from among the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him): …The infidels of the Quraysh again wrote (a letter) to the Jews after the battle of Badr: You are men of weapons and fortresses. You should fight our companion or we shall deal with you in a certain way… When their letter reached the Prophet (peace be upon him), they gathered Banu an-Nadir to violate the treaty. They sent a message to the Prophet (peace be upon him): Come out to us with thirty men from your companions, and thirty rabbis will come out from us till we meet at a central place where they will hear you. If they testify to you and believe in you, we shall believe in you. The narrator then narrated the whole story. When the next day came, the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) went out in the morning with an army, and surrounded them. He told them: I swear by Allah, you will have no peace from me until you conclude a treaty with me. But they refused to conclude a treaty with him. He therefore fought them the same day. Next he attacked Banu Quraysh with an army in the morning, and left Banu an-Nadir. He asked them to sign a treaty and they signed it. He turned away from them and attacked Banu an-Nadir with an army. He fought with them until they agreed to expulsion. Banu an-Nadir were deported, and they took with them whatever their camels could carry, that is, their property, the doors of their houses, and their wood…. ↩
- Sunan of Abu-Dawood Hadith 3000
Narrated by Abdullah Ibn Umar
The Prophet …took away the ornaments of Banu an-Nadir when they were expelled… ↩
- Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 4.263
Narrated by Ibn Umar
The Prophet burnt the date-palms of Bani An-Nadir. ↩
- Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 6.405
Narrated by Said
I asked Ibn ‘Abbas about Surat Al-Hashr. He replied, “Say Surat An-Nadir.”
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 6.404
Narrated by Said bin Jubair
I asked Ibn Abbas about …Surat Al-Hashr? He replied, “It was revealed in connection with Bani an-Nadir.” ↩
- Mawdudi, introductions to the surahs in Yusuf Ali’s translation S. 33 Al-Azhab. ↩
- Mawdudi, introductions to the surahs in Yusuf Ali’s translation S. 33 Al-Azhab. ↩
- Watt, W. Montgomery, Muhammad, Prophet and Statesman, (O.U.P., 1974 edition), p. 170. ↩
- Watt, Muhammad, Prophet and Statesman, p. 170. Mawdudi writes in his surah introductions to Yusuf Ali that ‘the Muslims had entered a treaty with them that in case of an attack on Madinah they would defend the city along with them’. ↩
- Parallel traditions state the same:
When Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) returned on the day (of the battle) of al-Khandaq (i.e. Trench), he put down his arms and took a bath.
Then Gabriel whose head was covered with dust, came to him saying, “You have put down your arms! By Allah, I have not put down my arms yet.”
Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “Where (to go now)?” Gabriel said, “This way,” pointing towards the tribe of Banu Qurayzah. So Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) went out towards them.
It seem that I am just now looking at the dust rising in the street of Banu Ghanm (in Medina) because of the marching of Gabriel’s regiment when Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) set out to Banu Qurayzah (to attack them).
Aisha, Ummul Mu’minin
No woman of Banu Qurayzah was killed except one. She was with me, talking and laughing on her back and belly (extremely), while the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) was killing her people with the swords. Suddenly a man called her name: Where is so-and-so? She said: I I asked: What is the matter with you? She said: I did a new act. She said: The man took her and beheaded her. She said: I will not forget that she was laughing extremely although she knew that she would be killed. ↩
- This is how the Qur’an presents the Battle of the Ditch and the Qurayzah event:
Surah: 33. Ahzab Ayah: 26
26. And those of the People of the Book who aided them Allah did take themdown from their strongholds and cast terror into their hearts (so that) some ye slew and some ye made prisoners.
27. And He made you heirs of their lands their houses and their goods and of a land which ye had not frequented (before). And Allah has power over all things. ↩
- Al-Bara’ ibn Azib
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said to Hassan, “Abuse them (with your poems), and Gabriel is with you (i.e. supports you).”
Through another group of sub-narrators, al-Bara’ ibn Azib said, “On the day of Qurayzah, Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said to Hassan ibn Thabit, ‘Abuse them (with your poems), and Gabriel is with you (i.e. supports you).’”
q.v. for the cosmological-supernatural significance of poetry as a form of spiritual warfare. ↩
- Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 5.448
Narrated by Aisha
Sad was wounded on the day of Khandaq (i.e. Trench) when a man from Quraish, called Hibban bin Al-’Araqa hit him (with an arrow). The man was Hibban bin Qais from (the tribe of) Bani Mais bin ‘Amir bin Lu’ai who shot an arrow at Sad’s medial arm vein (or main artery of the arm). The Prophet pitched a tent (for Sad) in the mosque so that he might be near to the Prophet to visit. When the Prophet returned from the (battle) of Al-Khandaq (i.e. Trench) and laid down his arms and took a bath Gabriel came to him while he (i.e. Gabriel) was shaking the dust off his head, and said, “You have laid down the arms?” By Allah, I have not laid them down. Go out to them (to attack them).” The Prophet said, “Where?” Gabriel pointed towards Bani Quraiza. So Allah’s Apostle went to them (i.e. Banu Quraiza) (i.e. besieged them). They then surrendered to the Prophet’s judgment but he directed them to Sad to give his verdict concerning them. Sad said, “I give my judgment that their warriors should be killed, their women and children should be taken as captives, and their properties distributed.”….
The following tradition indicates that the children were spared:
I was among the captives of Banu Qurayzah. They (the Companions) examined us, and those who had begun to grow hair (pubes) were killed, and those who had not were not killed. I was among those who had not grown hair. ↩
- Surah Al-Maida 5:5151 O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: they are but friends and protectors to each other. ↩
- Surah Al-Maida 5: 13 – 14
13.But because of their breach of their Covenant We cursed them and made their hearts grow hard: they change the words from their (right) places and forget a good part of the Message that was sent them nor wilt thou cease to find them barring a few ever bent on (new) deceits: but forgive them and overlook (their misdeeds): for Allah loveth those who are kind.
14. From those too who call themselves Christians We did take a Covenant but they forgot a good part of the Message that was sent them: so We estranged them with enmity and hatred between the one and the other to the Day of Judgment. And soon will Allah show them what it is they have done. ↩
- Mawdudi, Abul A’la, The Meaning of the Qur’an, volume 1 Surah Al-Maidah, pp. 52-53. ↩
- Haykal, Muhammad Hussein, The Life of Muhammad, (Shorouk International, London, 1983 edition), p. 371. ↩
- Haykal, The Life of Muhammad, p. 372. ↩
- Surah 33. Ahzab
26. And those of the People of the Book who aided them Allah did take them down from their strongholds and cast terror into their hearts (so that) some ye slew and some ye made prisoners.
27. And He made you heirs of their lands their houses and their goods and of a land which ye had not frequented (before). And Allah has power over all things. ↩
- Anas ibn Malik
A Jewess brought a poisoned (cooked) sheep for the Prophet (peace be upon him) who ate from it.
She was brought to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and he was asked, “Shall we kill her?” He said, “No.”…
When Khaybar was conquered, a roasted poisoned sheep was presented to the Prophet (peace be upon him) as a gift (by the Jews). The Prophet (peace be upon him) ordered, “Let all the Jews who have been here, be assembled before me.”
The Jews were collected and the Prophet (peace be upon him) said (to them), “I am going to ask you a question, will you tell the truth?” They said, “Yes.” The Prophet (peace be upon him) asked, “Who is your father?” They replied, So-and-so.” He said, “You have told a lie; your father is so-and-so.” They said, “You are right.”
He said, “Will you now tell me the truth, if I ask you about something?” They replied, “Yes, O AbulQasim; and if we should tell a lie, you will perceive our lie as you have done regarding our father.” On that he asked, “Who are the people of the (Hell) Fire?” They said, “We shall remain in the (Hell) Fire for a short period, and after that you will replace us.” The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “You may be cursed and humiliated in it! By Allah, we shall never replace you in it.”
Then he asked, “Will you now tell me the truth if I ask you a question?” They said, “Yes, O AbulQasim.” He asked, “Have you poisoned this sheep?” They said, “Yes.” He asked, “What made you do so?” They said, “We wanted to know if you were a liar, in which case we should be rid of you, and if you were a prophet then the poison would not harm you.”
Muhammad ibn Amr said on the authority of AbuSalamah, and he did not mention the name of AbuHurayrah: The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) used to accept presents but not alms (sadaqah).
This version adds: So a Jewess presented him at Khaybar with a roasted sheep which she had poisoned. The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) ate of it and the people also ate.
He then said: Take away your hands (from the food), for it has informed me that it is poisoned. Bishr ibn al-Bara’ ibn Ma’rur al-Ansari died.
So he (the Prophet) sent for the Jewess (and said to her): What motivated you to do the work you have done?
She said: If you were a prophet, it would not harm you; but if you were a king, I should rid the people of you. The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) then ordered regarding her and she was killed. He then said about the pain of which he died: I continued to feel pain from the morsel which I had eaten at Khaybar. This is the time when it has cut off my aorta. ↩
- Watt, Muhammad in Medina, p. 216. ↩
- Haykal, The Life of Muhammad, p. 372. ↩
- Rodinson, Mohammed, p .277. ↩
- Watt, Muhammad in Medina, p. 217. ↩
- Arafat, W.N., New Light on the Story of Banu Qurayza and the Jews of Medina, (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 1976), pp. 100-107, posted on the World Wide Web at http://homepages.haqq.com.au/salam/misc/qurayza.html, 1999. ↩
- Arafat, New Light on the Story of Banu Qurayza and the Jews of Medina. ↩
- Arafat, New Light on the Story of Banu Qurayza and the Jews of Medina. ↩
- Smith, Jay, The Bible and the Qur’an: A Historical Comparison, http://www.debate.org.uk/, (January, 1998). ↩
- Arafat, New Light on the Story of Banu Qurayza and the Jews of Medina. ↩
- The Encyclopaedia of Islam, vol. IV, p. 1142. ↩
- The Meaning of the Quran vol. 1, Surah Al-i-Imran, p. 3 ↩
- The Meaning of the Quran vol. 1, Surah Al-i-Imran, p. 24 ↩
- Commentary on S. 3:61. ↩
Al-Aqib and Sayyid, the rulers of Najran, came to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) with the intention of doing Li’an. One of them said to the other, “Do not do (this Li’an) for, by Allah, if he is a Prophet and we do this Li’an, neither we, nor our offspring after us will be successful.” Then both of them said (to the Prophet (peace be upon him), “We will give what you should ask but you should send a trustworthy man with us, and do not send any person with us but an honest one.”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “I will send an honest man who is really trustworthy.” Then every one of the companions of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) wished to be that one.
Then the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Stand up, o AbuUbaydah ibn al-Jarrah.” When he stand up, Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “This is the trustworthy (Amin) man of this (Muslim) nation (Ummah).” ↩
- At any rate, it is inconceivable that the Christians came to engage in cursing, since the Christian Scriptures explicitly forbid cursing – Luke 6:28 and Romans 12:14. ↩
- Guillaume, A., The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, (Oxford University Press, Pakistan, 1955, 9th impression 1987), p. 271. ↩
- Betts, Robert Brenton, Christians in the Arab East, (SPCK, London, 1979), p. 12. ↩
- …At the end of the 6th and the beginning of the 7th century, Qas Ibn-Sa-ida Al-Ayadi, bishop of Najran, was praised for his wisdom, poetry and the art of speech. Another famous man is named Waraqa Ibn Naufal Ibn Assad (who died about the year 611). He was the bishop of Mekka that was full of Christians. He was the cousin of Khadidga, daughter of Khuailid, the wife of Muhammad, the prophet. Most of the Christians of Mecca, Yemen and Najran were members of the Syrian Orthodox Church. The majority of Qurash was Christian. (The Christians were called ‘Nazarians’ after Jesus.) As manifold as the different dogma of the Christians of the Arab peninsula might have been, they exercised a great influence upon their Arab Muslims there….http://www.syrianorthodoxchurch.org/cgi-bin/library/libdisplay.cgi?l-008.txt 1997, 1999. ↩
- Trimingham, J. Spencer, Christianity among the Arabs in Pre-Islamic Times, (Longman, London, 1979), pp. 294, 298. The traditional association with Abyssinia would suggest that they were Monophysite Christians. ↩
- The Encyclopaedia of Islam, vol. VII, p. 872. ↩
- Trimingham, Christianity among the Arabs in Pre-Islamic Times, p. 306. ↩
- Commentary on S. 27.24. ↩
- Introduction to S. 112 in Yusuf Ali’s translation. ↩
- Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad, pp. 271-272. ↩
- Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad, p. 271. ↩
- S. 3:61 ↩
- Watt, William Montgomery, Early Islam: Collected Articles, (Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 1990), p. 67, refers to S. 5:73/77 and S. 4:171-69 and states that ‘…if these passages are examined without parti pris, it is clear that they are not attacking the orthodox Christian doctrine of the Trinity, but the misinterpretation of that doctrine sometimes called “tritheism”. The great body of Christians officially deny that they believe in three gods, and in their creeds profess their belief in God who is one.’ ↩
- ‘This miracle of the clay birds is found in some of the apocryphal Gospels; those of curing the blind and the lepers and raising the dead are in the canonical Gospels…’ ↩
- For example, Watt, Early Islam, p. 68, although not identifying the Najran Christians as being at fault, states of S. 5:116 with its implication that Christians believe Mary to be ‘the third hypostasis of the Trinity’, that ‘the view may have been held by badly instructed Christians.’ ↩
- Kelly, J.N.D, Early Christian Doctrines, (Harper & Row, New York, 1959). ↩
- For example, the Monophysite Antiochian Orthodox Church holds to the following creed:
THE NICENE – CONSTANTINOPOLITAN CREED
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible; And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, Begotten of the Father before all ages, Light of Light, True God of True God, Begotten, not made, of one essence with the Father, by Whom all things were made: Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man; And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried; And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures;
And ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father; And He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, Whose kingdom shall have no end. And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, and Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spoke by the Prophets; And I believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the Resurrection of the dead,
And the Life of the age to come. Amen
http://www.antiochian.org/. 1999. ↩
- The Church also states the following about the Creed of Nicaea: ‘Our Church has received and teaches the faith which was formulated at Nicaea.’, http://www.students.uiuc.edu/~moges/orth.html, 1999. ↩
- http://www.orthodox.net/fathers/exacti.htm 1999. ↩
- http://oca-org/Orthodox-Faith/ 1999. ↩
- http://www.cired.org/. 1999. ↩
- Nor do we even find this ‘trinity’ of gods – God, Mary and Jesus – in the pseudo-gospels of Thomas and Infancy. ↩
- Of course, the plural ‘Our’ is used of God in Genesis 1:26 and 3:22, but the specific phrase and usage found in ibn Ishaq is absent. ↩
- Bruce, F. F., The Canon of Scripture, (Chapel House Ltd., Glasgow, 1988), p. 215. ↩
- Bruce, The Canon of Scripture, p. 215. ↩
- Dunbar, David G., The Biblical Canon, in Carson, D. A., and Woodbridge, John D., (eds.), Hermeneutics, Authority and Canon, (IVP, Leicester, 1986), p. 317. M. James Sawyer writes in Evangelicals and the Canon of the New Testament (Grace Theological Journal V11 #1:29-52, Spr 90-29), ‘the Ethiopic Church recognized the twenty-seven books of the New Testament plus The Shepherd of Hermas, 1 & 2 Clement and eight books of the Apostolic Constitutions.’ He mentions further ‘The Ethiopic version is dated as early as the fourth century by some. Others would attribute it to the seventh century’. ↩
- Watt, Early Islam, p. 68. ↩
- Watt, Early Islam, p. 68. ↩
- Watt, Early Islam, p. 68. ↩
- Smith, Jay, Is the Qur’an the word of God?, http://www.debate.org.uk/ 1996. ↩
- Smith, Jay, Is the Qur’an the word of God?, http://www.debate.org.uk/ 1996. ↩
- Watt, Early Islam, p. 67. ↩
- Guillaume, Islam, p. 91. ↩
- Shi’ite Encyclopedia, Chapter 8, Belief of Shia in the Completeness of Quran, http://www-leland.stanford.edu/-yusufali/islam/encyclopedia/chapter8/1.html 1999. ↩
- Parallel traditions include the following:
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 9.40
Narrated by Ash Shabi
I heard Abu Juhaifa saying, “I asked ‘Ali, ‘Have you got any Divine literature apart from the Qur’an?’ (Once he said…apart from what the people have?) ‘Ali replied, ‘By Him Who made the grain split (germinate) and created the soul, we have nothing except what is in the Qur’an and the ability (gift) of understanding Allah’s Book which He may endow a man with and we have what is written in this paper.’ I asked, ‘What is written in this paper?’ He replied, ‘Al-’Aql (the regulation of Diya), about the ransom of captives, and the Judgment that a Muslim should not be killed in Qisas (equality in punishment) for killing a disbeliever.”
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 9.50
Narrated by Abu Juhaifa
I asked ‘Ali “Do you have anything Divine literature besides what is in the Qur’an?” Or, as Uyaina once said, “Apart from what the people have?” ‘Ali said, “By Him Who made the grain split (germinate) and created the soul, we have nothing except what is in the Qur’an and the ability (gift) of understanding Allah’s Book which He may endow a man with, and what is written in this sheet of paper.” I asked, “What is on this paper?” He replied, “The legal regulations of Diya (Blood-money) and the (ransom for) releasing of the captives, and the judgment that no Muslim should be killed in Qisas (equality in punishment) for killing a Kafir (disbeliever).” ↩
- Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 6.105
Narrated by Abu Said Al Khudri
During the lifetime of the Prophet some people said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Shall we see our Lord on the Day of Resurrection?” The Prophet said, “Yes; do you have any difficulty in seeing the sun at midday when it is bright and there is no cloud in the sky?” They replied, “No.” He said, “Do you have any difficulty in seeing the moon on a full moon night when it is bright and there is no cloud in the sky?” They replied, “No.” The Prophet said, “(Similarly) you will have no difficulty in seeing Allah on the Day of Resurrection as you have no difficulty in seeing either of them. On the Day of Resurrection, a call-maker will announce, ‘Let every nation follow that which they used to worship.’ Then none of those who used to worship anything other than Allah like idols and other deities but will fall in Hell (Fire), till there will remain none but those who used to worship Allah, both those who were obedient (i.e. good) and those who were disobedient (i.e. bad) and the remaining party of the people of the Scripture. Then the Jews will be called upon and it will be said to them, ‘Who did you use to worship?’ They will say, ‘We used to worship Ezra, the son of Allah.’ It will be said to them, ‘You are liars, for Allah has never taken anyone as a wife or a son. What do you want now?’ They will say, ‘O our Lord! We are thirsty, so give us something to drink.’ They will be directed and addressed thus, ‘Will you drink,’ whereupon they will be gathered unto Hell (Fire) which will look like a mirage whose different sides will be destroying each other. Then they will fall into the Fire. Afterwards the Christians will be called upon and it will be said to them, ‘Who did you use to worship?’ They will say, ‘We used to worship Jesus, the son of Allah.’ It will be said to them, ‘You are liars, for Allah has never taken anyone as a wife or a son,’ Then it will be said to them, ‘What do you want?’ They will say what the former people have said. Then, when there remain (in the gathering) none but those who used to worship Allah (Alone, the real Lord of the Worlds) whether they were obedient or disobedient. Then (Allah) the Lord of the worlds will come to them in a shape nearest to the picture they had in their minds about Him. It will be said, ‘What are you waiting for?’ Every nation have followed what they used to worship.’ They will reply, ‘We left the people in the world when we were in great need of them and we did not take them as friends. Now we are waiting for our Lord Whom we used to worship.’ Allah will say, ‘I am your Lord.’ They will say twice or thrice, ‘We do not worship any besides Allah.’ ” ↩
- Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 9.314
Narrated by Al Miswar bin Makhrama
The group of people whom ‘Umar had selected as candidates for the Caliphate gathered and consulted each other. Abdur-Rahman said to them, “I am not going to compete with you in this matter, but if you wish, I would select for you a caliph from among you.” So all of them agreed to let ‘Abdur-Rahman decide the case. So when the candidates placed the case in the hands of ‘Abdur-Rahman, the people went towards him and nobody followed the rest of the group nor obeyed any after him. So the people followed ‘Abdur-Rahman and consulted him all those nights till there came the night we gave the oath of allegiance to ‘Uthman. Al-Miswar (bin Makhrama) added: ‘Abdur-Rahman called on me after a portion of the night had passed and knocked on my door till I got up, and he said to me, “I see you have been sleeping! By Allah, during the last three nights I have not slept enough. Go and call Az-Zubair and Sa’d.’ So I called them for him and he consulted them and then called me saying, “Call ‘Ali for me.” I called ‘Ali and he held a private talk with him till very late at night, and then ‘Ali got up to leave having had much hope (to be chosen as a Caliph) but ‘Abdur-Rahman was afraid of something concerning ‘Ali. ‘Abdur-Rahman then said to me, “Call ‘Uthman for me.” I called him and he kept on speaking to him privately till the Mu’adhdhin put an end to their talk by announcing the Adhan for the Fajr prayer. When the people finished their morning prayer and that (six men) group gathered near the pulpit, ‘Abdur-Rahman sent for all the Muhajirin (emigrants) and the Ansar present there and sent for the army chief who had performed the Hajj with ‘Umar that year. When all of them had gathered, ‘Abdur-Rahman said, “None has the right to be worshipped but Allah,” and added, “Now then, O ‘Ali, I have looked at the people’s tendencies and noticed that they do not consider anybody equal to ‘Uthman, so you should not incur blame (by disagreeing).” Then ‘Abdur-Rahman said (to ‘Uthman), “I gave the oath of allegiance to you on condition that you will follow Allah’s Laws and the traditions of Allah’s Apostle and the traditions of the two Caliphs after him.” So ‘Abdur-Rahman gave the oath of allegiance to him, and so did the people including the Muhajirin (emigrants) and the Ansar and the chiefs of the army staff and all the Muslims.
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 9.324
Narrated by Al Qasim bin Muhammad
‘Aisha said, “O my head!” Allah’s Apostle said, “If that (i.e., your death) should happen while I am still alive, I would ask Allah to forgive you and would invoke Allah for you.” ‘Aisha said, “O my life which is going to be lost! By Allah, I think that you wish for my death, and if that should happen then you would be busy enjoying the company of one of your wives in the last part of that day.” The Prophet said, “But I should say, ‘O my head!’ I feel like calling Abu Bakr and his son and appoint (the former as my successors lest people should say something or wish for something. Allah will insist (on Abu Bakr becoming a Caliph) and the believers will prevent (anyone else from claiming the Caliphate),” or “…Allah will prevent (anyone else from claiming the Caliphate) and the believers will insist (on Abu Bakr becoming the Caliph).”
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 5.546
Narrated by Aisha
Fatima the daughter of the Prophet sent someone to Abu Bakr (when he was a caliph), asking for her inheritance of what Allah’s Apostle had left of the property bestowed on him by Allah from the Fai (i.e. booty gained without fighting) in Medina, and Fadak, and what remained of the Khumus of the Khaibar booty. On that, Abu Bakr said, “Allah’s Apostle said, ‘Our property is not inherited. Whatever we leave, is Sadaqa, but the family of (the Prophet) Muhammad can eat of this property.’ By Allah, I will not make any change in the state of the Sadaqa of Allah’s Apostle and will leave it as it was during the lifetime of Allah’s Apostle, and will dispose of it as Allah’s Apostle used to do.” So Abu Bakr refused to give anything of that to Fatima. So she became angry with Abu Bakr and kept away from him, and did not talk to him till she died. She remained alive for six months after the death of the Prophet. When she died, her husband ‘Ali, buried her at night without informing Abu Bakr and he said the funeral prayer by himself. When Fatima was alive, the people used to respect ‘Ali much, but after her death, ‘Ali noticed a change in the people’s attitude towards him. So Ali sought reconciliation with Abu Bakr and gave him an oath of allegiance. ‘Ali had not given the oath of allegiance during those months (i.e. the period between the Prophet’s death and Fatima’s death). ‘Ali sent someone to Abu Bakr saying, “Come to us, but let nobody come with you,” as he disliked that ‘Umar should come. ‘Umar said (to Abu Bakr), “No, by Allah, you shall not enter upon them alone.” Abu Bakr said, “What do you think they will do to me? By Allah, I will go to them.” So Abu Bakr entered upon them, and then ‘Ali uttered Tashah-hud and said (to Abu Bakr), “We know well your superiority and what Allah has given you, and we are not jealous of the good what Allah has bestowed upon you, but you did not consult us in the question of the rule and we thought that we have got a right in it because of our near relationship to Allah’s Apostle.”
Thereupon Abu Bakr’s eyes flowed with tears. And when Abu Bakr spoke, he said, “By Him in Whose Hand my soul is to keep good relations with the relatives of Allah’s Apostle is dearer to me than to keep good relations with my own relatives. But as for the trouble which arose between me and you about his property, I will do my best to spend it according to what is good, and will not leave any rule or regulation which I saw Allah’s Apostle following, in disposing of it, but I will follow.” On that ‘Ali said to Abu Bakr, “I promise to give you the oath of allegiance in this afternoon.” So when Abu Bakr had offered the Zuhr prayer, he ascended the pulpit and uttered the Tashah-hud and then mentioned the story of ‘Ali and his failure to give the oath of allegiance, and excused him, accepting what excuses he had offered. Then ‘Ali (got up) and praying (to Allah) for forgiveness, he uttered Tashah-hud, praised Abu Bakr’s right, and said, that he had not done what he had done because of jealousy of Abu Bakr or as a protest of that Allah had favored him with. ‘Ali added, “But we used to consider that we too had some right in this affair (of rulership) and that he (i.e. Abu Bakr) did not consult us in this matter, and therefore caused us to feel sorry.” On that all the Muslims became happy and said, “You have done the right thing.” The Muslims then became friendly with ‘Ali as he returned to what the people had done (i.e. giving the oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr). ↩
- The following tradition praises the first three caliphs but omits Ali:
Abdullah ibn Umar
When Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) was alive we used to say, “AbuBakr, Umar and Uthman, Allah be pleased with them!”
Tirmidhi transmitted it. ↩
- This is how some Muslim sites present the story:… Like other nobles of Makkah, Abu Talib too was a trader by profession. It was customary with Quraysh to undertake a trade journey to Syria once a year. The caravan of Abu Talib landed near the city of Basra in Syria close to the monastery of a hermit named Bahira.
Bahira had never stepped out of his monastery. He had also never indulged in conversation to any traveller of caravans, but that day, he stepped out of his hermitage. He saw caravan approaching near his hermitage. He particularly observed, a small low-hanging cloud moving slowly above the heads of caravan people. The cloud was always between the sun and one or two of the travellers. As soon as they halted the cloud ceased to move, remaining stationary over the tree beneath which they took shelter, while the tree itself lowered its branches over them. They were doubly in the shade. Bahira sent a word to the caravan: “Men of Quraysh, I have prepared food for you”.
“Men of Quraysh,” He said, “Let none of you stay behind”. Despite what Bahira had said they left Muhammad B.A.P.U.H behind to look after their camels and baggage. “There is not one that hath been left behind,” They answered, “Only a boy, the youngest of us all has been left behind”. “Treat him not so” said Bahira, “But call him to come, and let him be present with us at this meal. One glance at the boy’s face was enough to explain the miracles to Bahira. There between his shoulders, was the very mark he expected to see, the seal of Prophethood as it was described in his book.
He told Abu Talib about his dream that, “A caravan would come with a boy who would be commissioned by God for Prophecy among the Arab and would instruct them in Arabic”. “Henceforth you would not be compelled to adopt Judaism or Christianity as God is going to appoint a Prophet for you”. Bahira also warned Abu Talib”. Take your nephew back to Makkah immediately and protect him from the Jews. By God if they recognised those signs in him which I have seen, they might do some mischief to him, for your nephew has all the signs of the “Awaited Prophet” as given in our religious books”. The prophet would communicate to that nation in their native language and would spread his message among them.
Abu Talib took Bahira’s warning seriously and completing his business quickly took the Prophet B.A.P.U.H back to Makkah.
In Syria, ‘Bahira’ means a paragon of beauty or genius or the old sage. Bahira was stated to be the embodiment of Christianity. An Arab biographer ‘Ibn-Hasham’ however writes that contrary to the common belief, Bahira was not a Christian but a Manichaean priest. He followed a person called “Mani” who claimed prophesy during the ‘Sasanid’ period. The Sasanid King Bahram (I) had him crucified at the door of a city “Jindy Shapur” of the Iranian Province ‘Khostan’ in the year 376 AD. Christians recall him as a heretic because of the introduction of preferment ideas in religion. Mani, and his followers including Bahira believed that God is not constrained to a particular nation, rather He is for every nation of the world which, in turn, is His creation. He may send his prophets to any nation as He pleases. http://brain.brain.net.pk/~sunnah/webch-03.html 1999.
Bahira, the Monk:
When the Messenger of Allâh …was twelve years old, he went with his uncle Abu Talib on a business journey to Syria. When they reached Busra (which was a part of Syria, in the vicinity of Howran under the Roman domain) they met a monk called Bahira (his real name was Georges), who showed great kindness, and entertained them lavishly. He had never been in the habit of receiving or entertaining them before. He readily enough recognized the Prophet ….and said while taking his hand: “This is the master of all humans. Allâh will send him with a Message which will be a mercy to all beings.” Abu Talib asked: “How do you know that?” He replied: “When you appeared from the direction of ‘Aqabah, all stones and trees prostrated themselves, which they never do except for a Prophet. I can recognize him also by the seal of Prophethood which is below his shoulder, like an apple. We have got to learn this from our books.” He also asked Abu Talib to send the boy back to Makkah and not to take him to Syria for fear of the Jews. Abu Talib obeyed and sent him back to Makkah with some of his men servants… http://users.erols.com/ibrahimshafi/NECTAR2.html#6.5 1999. ↩
- Watt, Muhammad, Prophet and Statesman, p. 1. ↩
- von Denffer, Christians in the Qur’an and the Sunna, p. 10. ↩
- Biographies of Companions
Said ibn Zayd
Zayd the son of Amr… To his friends, Zayd spoke thus: “Certainly, by God, you know that your people have no valid grounds for their beliefs and that they have distorted and transgressed from the religion of Ibrahim. Adopt a religion which you can follow and which can bring you salvation.”
Zayd and his companions then went to Jewish rabbis and Christian scholars and people of other communities in an attempt to learn more and go back to the pure religion of Ibrahim.
Of the four persons mentioned, Waraqah ibn Nawfal became a Christian. Abdullah ibn Jahsh and Uthman ibn al-Harith did not arrive at any definite conclusion. Zayd ibn Amr however had quite a different story. Finding it impossible to stay in Makkah, he left the Hijaz and went as far as Mosul in the north of Iraq and from there southwest into Syria. Throughout his journeys, he always questioned monks and rabbis about the religion of Ibrahim. He found no satisfaction until he came upon a monk in Syria who told him that the religion he was seeking did not exist any longer but the time was now near when God would send forth, from his own people whom he had left, a Prophet who would revive the religion of Ibrahim. The monk advised him that should he see this Prophet he should have no hesitation in recognizing and following him.
Zayd retraced his steps and headed for Makkah intending to meet the expected Prophet. As he was passing through the territory of Lakhm on the southern border of Syria he was attacked by a group of nomad Arabs and killed before he could set eyes on the Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace. However, before he breathed his last, he raised his eyes to the heavens and said:
“O Lord, if You have prevented me from attaining this good, do not prevent my son from doing so.”
When Waraqah heard of Zayd’s death, he is said to have written an elegy in praise of him. The Prophet also commended him and said that on the day of Resurrection “he will be raised as having, in himself alone, the worth of a whole people”.
God, may He be glorified, heard the prayer of Zayd. When Muhammad the Messenger of God rose up inviting people to Islam, his son Said was in the forefront of those who believed in the oneness of God and who affirmed their faith in the prophethood of Muhammad…
Biographies of Companions
Talhah ibn Ubaydullah
Returning to Makkah in haste after a trading trip to Syria, Talhah asked his family: “Did anything happen in Makkah since we left?” “Yes,” they replied. “Muhammad ibn Abdullah emerged alleging that he is a Prophet and Abu Quhafah (Abu Bakr) has followed him.” …Later, Talhah went to Abu Bakr and asked: “Is it true what they say, that Muhammad ibn Abdullah has appeared as a Prophet and that you follow him.” “Yes,” replied Abu Bakr and went on to tell Talhah about Muhammad and what a good thing it would be if he too followed him. Talhah in turn told Abu Bakr the story of his strange recent encounter with an ascetic in the market-place of Busra in Syria. The ascetic is said to have told Talhah that someone called “Ahmad” would appear in Makkah about that time and that he would be the last of the Prophets. He also told Talhah, so the story goes, that the Prophet would leave the sacred precincts of Makkah and migrate to a land of black soil, water and palm trees… Abu Bakr was astonished by the story and took Talhah to Muhammad. The Prophet, peace be on him, explained Islam to Talhah and recited some portions of the Quran to him. Talhah was enthusiastic. He related to the Prophet his conversation with the ascetic of Busra. There and then, Talhah pronounced the Shahadah – that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. He was the fourth person who had been introduced to Islam by Abu Bakr. ↩
- Al-Tirmidhi Hadith 5918
Narrated by AbuMusa
AbuTalib went to ash-Sham (Syria) accompanied by the Prophet (may Allah bless him) along with some shaykhs of Quraysh. When they came near where the monk was they alighted and loosened their baggage, and the monk came out to them although when they had passed that way previously he had not done so. While they were loosening their baggage the monk began to go about among them till he came and, taking Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) by the hand, said, “This is the chief of the universe; this is the messenger of the the Lord of the universe whom Allah is commissioning as a mercy to the universe.” Some shaykhs of Quraysh asked him how he knew, and he replied, “When you came over the hill not a tree or a stone failed to bow in prostration, and they prostrate themselves only before a prophet. I recognize him by the seal of prophecy, like an apple, below the end of his shoulder-blade.” He then went and prepared food for them, and when he brought it to them the Prophet (peace be upon him) was looking after the camels, so he told them to send for him. He came with a cloud above him shading him and when he approached the people he found they had gone before him into the shade of a tree. Then when he sat down the shade of the tree inclined over him, and the monk said, “Look how the shade of the tree has inclined over him. I adjure you by Allah to tell me which of you is his guardian.” On being told that it was AbuTalib he kept adjuring him to send him back until he did so. AbuBakr sent Bilal along with him and the monk gave him provisions of a bread and olive-oil.
Tirmidhi transmitted it. ↩
- Yusuf Ali – ‘Allah’s Truth is all one, and even in different forms men sincere in Religion recognise the oneness. So sincere Jews like ‘Abdullah ibn Salam, and sincere Christians like Waraqa or the Nestorian monk Bahira, were ready to recognise the mission of Muhammad Al-Mustafa. “The Book” in this connection is Revelation generally, including pre-Islamic revelations. (10.94)’ ↩
- S. 7:157; cf. S. 61:6. ↩
- von Denffer, Christians in the Qur’an and the Sunna, p. 12. ↩
- von Denffer, Christians in the Qur’an and the Sunna, p. 10. ↩
- Maududi Sura Introductions Surah 96. Al-Alaq
Period of Revelation
This Surah has two parts: the first part consists of vv. 1-5, and the second of vv. 6-19. About the first part a great majority of the Islamic scholars are agreed that it forms the very first Revelation to be sent down to the Holy Prophet (upon whom be Allah’s peace and blessings). In this regard, the Hadith from Hadrat Aishah, which Imam Ahmad, Bukhari, Muslim, and other traditionists have related with several chains of authorities, is one of the most authentic Ahadith on the subject. In it Hadrat Aishah has narrated the full story of the beginning of revelation as she herself heard it from the Holy Messenger of Allah. Besides, Ibn Abbas, Abu Musa al-Ashari and a group of the Companions also are reported to have stated that these were the very first verses of the Quran to be revealed to the Holy Prophet. The second part was sent down afterwards when the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) began to perform the prescribed Prayer in the precincts of the Kabah and Abu Jahl tried to prevent him from this with threats.
Beginning of Revelation
The traditionists have related on the strength of their respective authorities the story of the beginning of revelation from Iman Az-Zuhri, who had it from Hadrat Urwah bin Zubair, who had it from Hadrat Aishah, his aunt. She states that revelations to the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) began in the form of true (according to other traditions, good) visions. Whichever vision he saw it seemed as though he saw it in broad daylight. Afterwards solitude became dear to him and he would go to the Cave of Hira to engage in worship there for several days and nights (Hadrat Aishah has used the word tahannuth, which Imam Zuhri has explained as ta’abbud: devotional exercises. This was some kind of worship which he performed, for until then he had not been taught the method of performing the Prayer by Allah). He would take provisions with him and stay there for several days, then would return to Hadrat Khadijah who would again provide for him for a few more days. One day when he was in the Cave of Hira, Revelation came down to him unexpectedly and the Angel said, to him: “Read”. After this Hadrat Aishah reports the words of the Holy Prophet himself, to the effect, “I said: I cannot read! Thereupon the Angel took me and pressed me until I could bear it no more. Then he left me and said: Read. I said: I cannot read! He pressed me a second time until I could bear it no more. Then he left me and said: Read. I again said: I cannot read! He pressed me for the third time until I could bear it no more. Then he left me and said: Iqra bismi Rabbi kal- ladhi khalaqa: (Read in the name of your Lord Who created) till he reached ma lam ya lam (what he did not know).” Hadrat Aishah says: “Then the Holy Messenger (upon whom be peace) returned home to Hadrat Khadijah trembling with fear, and said to her: `Cover me, cover me’, and he was covered. When terror left him, he said: `O Khadijah, what has happened to me?’ Then he narrated to her whatever had happened, and said: `I fear for my life’. She said; `No never! Be of good cheer. By God, never will God debase you: you treat the kindred well, you speak the truth, (one tradition adds: you restore what is entrusted to you), you bear the burden of the helpless, you help the poor, you entertain the guests, and you cooperate in good works.’ Then she took him to Waraqah bin Naufal, who was her cousin. He had become a Christian in pre-Islamic days, wrote the Gospel in Arabic and Hebrew, and had become very old and blind. Hadrat Khadijah said: `Brother, listen to the son of your brother.’ Waraqah said to the Holy Prophet: `What have you seen, nephew?’ The Holy Prophet described what he had seen. Waraqah said; `This is the same Namus (the Angel of Revelation) which Allah had sent down to Moses. Would that I were a young man during your Prophethood! Would that I were alive when your tribe would expel you!’ The Holy Prophet said: `Will they expel me?’ Waraqah said; `Yes, never has it so happened that a person brought what you have brought and was not treated as an enemy. If I live till then I would help you with all the power at my command.’ But not very long after this Waraqah died.”
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 6.478
Narrated by Aisha (the wife of the Prophet)
The commencement (of the Divine Inspiration) to Allah’s Apostle was in the form of true dreams in his sleep, for he never had a dream but it turned out to be true and clear as the bright daylight. Then he began to like seclusions, so he used to go in seclusion in the cave of Hira where he used to worship Allah continuously for many nights before going back to his family to take the necessary provision (of food) for the stay. He come back to (his wife) Khadija again to take his provision (of food) likewise, till one day he received the Guidance while he was in the cave of Hira. An Angel came to him and asked him to read. Allah’s Apostle replied, “I do not know how to read.” The Prophet added, “Then the Angel held me (forcibly) and pressed me so hard that I felt distressed. Then he released me and again asked me to read, and I replied, ‘I do not know how to read.’ Thereupon he held me again and pressed me for the second time till I felt distressed. He then released me and asked me to read, but again I replied. ‘I do not know how to read.’ Thereupon he held me for the third time and pressed me till I got distressed, and then he released me and said, ‘Read, in the Name of your Lord Who has created (all that exists), has created man out of a clot, Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous. Who has taught (the writing) by the pen, has taught man that which he knew not.’ ” (96.1-5).
Then Allah’s Apostle returned with that experience; and the muscles between his neck and shoulders were trembling till he came upon Khadija (his wife) and said, “Cover me!” They covered him, and when the state of fear was over, he said to Khadija, “O Khadija! What is wrong with me? I was afraid that something bad might happen to me.” Then he told her the story. Khadija said, “Nay! But receive the good tidings! By Allah, Allah will never disgrace you, for by Allah, you keep good relations with your kith and kin, speak the truth, help the poor and the destitute, entertain your guests generously and assist those who are stricken with calamities.” Khadija then took him to Waraqa bin Naufil, the son of Khadija’s paternal uncle. Waraqa had been converted to Christianity in the Pre-Islamic Period and used to write Arabic and write of the Gospel in Arabic as much as Allah wished him to write. He was an old man and had lost his eyesight. Khadija said (to Waraqa), “O my cousin! Listen to what your nephew is going to say.” Waraqa said, “O my nephew! What have you seen?” The Prophet then described whatever he had seen. Waraqa said, “This is the same Angel (Gabriel) who was sent to Moses. I wish I were young.” He added some other statement. Allah’s Apostle asked, “Will these people drive me out?” Waraqa said, “Yes, for nobody brought the like of what you have brought, but was treated with hostility. If I were to remain alive till your day (when you start preaching), then I would support you strongly.” But a short while later Waraqa died and the Divine Inspiration was paused (stopped) for a while so that Allah’s Apostle was very much grieved.
Narrated Jabir bin ‘Abdullah: While Allah’s Apostle was talking about the period of pause in revelation, he said in his narration: “Once while I was walking, all of a sudden I heard a voice from the sky. I looked up and saw to my surprise, the same Angel as had visited me in the cave of Hira.’ He was sitting on a chair between the sky and the earth. I got afraid of him and came back home and said, Wrap me! Wrap me!” So they covered him and then Allah revealed:
‘O you, wrapped up! Arise and warn and your Lord magnify, and your garments purify and desert the idols.’ ” (74.1-5)
Abu Salama said, “(Rijz) are the idols which the people of the Pre-Islamic period used to worship.” After this the revelation started coming frequently and regularly.
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 1.3
Narrated by Aisha (the mother of the faithful believers)
The commencement of the Divine Inspiration to Allah’s Apostle was in the form of good dreams which came true like bright daylight, and then the love of seclusion was bestowed upon him. He used to go in seclusion in the cave of Hira where he used to worship (Allah alone) continuously for many days before his desire to see his family. He used to take with him the journey food for the stay and then come back to (his wife) Khadija to take his food likewise again till suddenly the Truth descended upon him while he was in the cave of Hira. The angel came to him and asked him to read. The Prophet replied, “I do not know how to read.”
The Prophet added, “The angel caught me (forcefully) and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read and I replied, ‘I do not know how to read.’ Thereupon he caught me again and pressed me a second time till I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read but again I replied, ‘I do not know how to read (or what shall I read)?’ Thereupon he caught me for the third time and pressed me, and then released me and said, ‘Read in the name of your Lord, who has created (all that exists) has created man from a clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous.” (96.1, 96.2, 96.3) Then Allah’s Apostle returned with the Inspiration and with his heart beating severely. Then he went to Khadija bint Khuwailid and said, “Cover me! Cover me!” They covered him till his fear was over and after that he told her everything that had happened and said, “I fear that something may happen to me.” Khadija replied, “Never! By Allah, Allah will never disgrace you. You keep good relations with your kith and kin, help the poor and the destitute, serve your guests generously and assist the deserving calamity-afflicted ones.”
Khadija then accompanied him to her cousin Waraqa bin Naufal bin Asad bin ‘Abdul ‘Uzza, who, during the Pre-Islamic Period became a Christian and used to write the writing with Hebrew letters. He would write from the Gospel in Hebrew as much as Allah wished him to write. He was an old man and had lost his eyesight. Khadija said to Waraqa, “Listen to the story of your nephew, O my cousin!” Waraqa asked, “O my nephew! What have you seen?” Allah’s Apostle described whatever he had seen. Waraqa said, “This is the same one who keeps the secrets (angel Gabriel) whom Allah had sent to Moses. I wish I were young and could live up to the time when your people would turn you out.” Allah’s Apostle asked, “Will they drive me out?” Waraqa replied in the affirmative and said, “Anyone (man) who came with something similar to what you have brought was treated with hostility; and if I should remain alive till the day when you will be turned out then I would support you strongly.” But after a few days Waraqa died and the Divine Inspiration was also paused for a while.
Jabir bin ‘Abdullah Al-Ansari narrated while talking about the period of pause in revelation reporting the speech of the Prophet “While I was walking, all of a sudden I heard a voice from the sky. I looked up and saw the same angel who had visited me at the cave of Hira sitting on a chair between the sky and the earth. I got afraid of him and came back home and said, ‘Wrap me (in blankets).’ And then Allah revealed the following Holy Verses (of Quran):
‘O you (i.e. Muhammad)! wrapped up in garments! Arise and warn (the people against Allah’s Punishment),…’ up to ‘and desert the idols.’ (74.1-5) After this the revelation started coming strongly, frequently and regularly.”
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 9.111
Narrated by Aisha
The commencement of the Divine Inspiration to Allah’s Apostle was in the form of good righteous (true) dreams in his sleep. He never had a dream but that it came true like bright day light. He used to go in seclusion (the cave of) Hira where he used to worship (Allah Alone) continuously for many (days) nights. He used to take with him the journey food for that (stay) and then come back to (his wife) Khadija to take his food like-wise again for another period to stay, till suddenly the Truth descended upon him while he was in the cave of Hira. The angel came to him in it and asked him to read. The Prophet replied, “I do not know how to read.” (The Prophet added), “The angel caught me (forcefully) and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it anymore. He then released me and again asked me to read, and I replied, “I do not know how to read,” whereupon he caught me again and pressed me a second time till I could not bear it anymore. He then released me and asked me again to read, but again I replied, “I do not know how to read (or, what shall I read?).” Thereupon he caught me for the third time and pressed me and then released me and said, “Read: In the Name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists). Has created man from a clot. Read and Your Lord is Most Generous…up to…that which he knew not.” (96.15)
Then Allah’s Apostle returned with the Inspiration, his neck muscles twitching with terror till he entered upon Khadija and said, “Cover me! Cover me!” They covered him till his fear was over and then he said, “O Khadija, what is wrong with me?” Then he told her everything that had happened and said, ‘I fear that something may happen to me.” Khadija said, ‘Never! But have the glad tidings, for by Allah, Allah will never disgrace you as you keep good relations with your kith and kin, speak the truth, help the poor and the destitute, serve your guest generously and assist the deserving, calamity-afflicted ones.” Khadija then accompanied him to (her cousin) Waraqa bin Naufal bin Asad bin ‘Abdul ‘Uzza bin Qusai. Waraqa was the son of her paternal uncle, i.e., her father’s brother, who during the Pre-Islamic Period became a Christian and used to write the Arabic writing and used to write of the Gospels in Arabic as much as Allah wished him to write. He was an old man and had lost his eyesight. Khadija said to him, “O my cousin! Listen to the story of your nephew.” Waraqa asked, “O my nephew! What have you seen?” The Prophet described whatever he had seen.
Waraqa said, “This is the same Namus (i.e., Gabriel, the Angel who keeps the secrets) whom Allah had sent to Moses. I wish I were young and could live up to the time when your people would turn you out.” Allah’s Apostle asked, “Will they turn me out?” Waraqa replied in the affirmative and said: “Never did a man come with something similar to what you have brought but was treated with hostility. If I should remain alive till the day when you will be turned out then I would support you strongly.” But after a few days Waraqa died and the Divine Inspiration was also paused for a while and the Prophet became so sad as we have heard that he intended several times to throw himself from the tops of high mountains and every time he went up the top of a mountain in order to throw himself down, Gabriel would appear before him and say, “O Muhammad! You are indeed Allah’s Apostle in truth” whereupon his heart would become quiet and he would calm down and would return home. And whenever the period of the coming of the inspiration used to become long, he would do as before, but when he used to reach the top of a mountain, Gabriel would appear before him and say to him what he had said before. (Ibn ‘Abbas said regarding the meaning of: “He it is that Cleaves the daybreak (from the darkness)” (6.96) that Al-Asbah. means the light of the sun during the day and the light of the moon at night).
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 4.605
Narrated by Aisha
The Prophet returned to Khadija while his heart was beating rapidly. She took him to Waraqa bin Naufal who was a Christian convert and used to read the Gospels in Arabic. Waraqa asked (the Prophet), “What do you see?” When he told him, Waraqa said, “That is the same angel whom Allah sent to the Prophet Moses. Should I live till you receive the Divine Message, I will support you strongly.” ↩
- von Denffer, Christians in the Qur’an and the Sunna, p. 12. ↩
- The message purportedly sent to Heraclius, is found in the Hadith, and was in the form of a general epistle to the rulers, according to http://salam.muslimsonline.com/~azahoor/letters.html
The wording of the Prophet’s letters was similar. The text of the letter sent to Heraclius was as follows:
“In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. This letter is from Muhammad the slave of Allah and his Apostle to Heraclius, the ruler of the Byzantines. Peace be upon him who follows the right path. Furthermore, I invite you to Islam and if you become a Muslim you will be safe, and Allah will double your reward, and if you reject this invitation of Islam you will be committing a sin by misguiding your subjects. And I recite to you Allah’s statement:
“O People of the Scriptures! Come to a word common to you and us that we worship none but Allah and that we associate nothing in worship with Him, and that none of us shall take others as Lords beside Allah. Then if they turn away, say: Bear witness that we are Muslims (those who have surrendered to Allah). (Qur’an: Surah 3, Ayah 64).”
All the Prophet’s letters were stamped with the words: “Muhammad Rasul-ullah” (Muhammad the Messenger of Allah). Three of the Prophet’s letters have been preserved. ↩
- Maududi, Surah Introductions to Yusuf Ali translation S. 3 Al-i-Imran:The second discourse (vv. 33-63) was revealed in 9 A.H. on the occasion of the visit of the deputation from the Christians of Najran. The third discourse (vv. 64-120) appears to have been revealed immediately after the first one. ↩
- Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 6.75
Narrated by Ibn Abbas
Abu Sufyan narrated to me personally, saying, “I set out during the Truce that had been concluded between me and Allah’s Apostle. While I was in Sham, a letter sent by the Prophet was brought to Heraclius. Dihya Al-Kalbi had brought and given it to the governor of Busra, and the latter forwarded it to Heraclius. Heraclius said, ‘Is there anyone from the people of this man who claims to be a prophet?’ The people replied, ‘Yes.’ So I along with some of Quraishi men were called and we entered upon Heraclius, and we were seated in front of him. Then he said, ‘Who amongst you is the nearest relative to the man who claims to be a prophet?’ So they made me sit in front of him and made my companions sit behind me. Then he called upon his translator and said (to him), ‘Tell them ( i.e. Abu Sufyan’s companions) that I am going to ask him (i.e. Abu Sufyan) regarding that man who claims to be a prophet. So, if he tell me a lie, they should contradict him (instantly).’ By Allah, had I not been afraid that my companions would consider me a liar, I would have told lies. Heraclius then said to his translator, ‘Ask him: What is his (i.e. the Prophet’s) family status amongst you?’ I said, ‘He belongs to a noble family amongst us.’ Heraclius said, ‘Was any of his ancestors a king?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Did you ever accuse him of telling lies before his saying what he has said?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Do the nobles follow him or the poor people?’ I said, ‘It is the poor who followed him.’ He said, ‘Is the number of his followers increasing or decreasing?’ I said, ‘They are increasing.’ He said, ‘Does anyone renounce his religion (i.e. Islam) after embracing it, being displeased with it?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Did you fight with him?’ I replied, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘How was your fighting with him?’ I said, ‘The fighting between us was undecided and victory was shared by him and us by turns. He inflicts casualties upon us and we inflict casualties upon him.’ He said, ‘Did he ever betray?’ I said, ‘No, but now we are away from him in this truce and we do not know what he will do in it.’ ” Abu Sufyan added, “By Allah, I was not able to insert in my speech a word (against him) except that. Heraclius said, ‘Did anybody else (amongst you) ever claim the same (i.e. Islam) before him? I said, ‘No.’ Then Heraclius told his translator to tell me (i.e. Abu Sufyan), ‘I asked you about his family status amongst you, and you told me that he comes from a noble family amongst you. Verily, all Apostles come from the noblest family among their people. Then I asked you whether any of his ancestors was a king, and you denied that. Thereupon I thought that had one of his fore-fathers been a king, I would have said that he (i.e. Muhammad) was seeking to rule the kingdom of his fore-fathers. Then I asked you regarding his followers, whether they were the noble or the poor among the people, and you said that they were only the poor (who follow him). In fact, such are the followers of the Apostles. Then I asked you whether you have ever accused him of telling lies before saying what he said, and your reply was in the negative. Therefore, I took for granted that a man who did not tell a lie about others, could ever tell a lie about Allah. Then I asked you whether anyone of his followers had renounced his religion (i.e. Islam) after embracing it, being displeased with it, and you denied that. And such is Faith when it mixes with the cheerfulness of the hearts. Then I asked you whether his followers were increasing or decreasing. You claimed that they were increasing. That is the way of true faith till it is complete. Then I asked you whether you had ever fought with him, and you claimed that you had fought with him and the battle between you and him was undecided and the victory was shared by you and him in turns; he inflicted casualties upon you and you inflicted casualties upon them. Such is the case with the Apostles; they are out to test and the final victory is for them. Then I asked you whether he had ever betrayed; you claimed that he had never betrayed. Indeed, Apostles never betray. Then I asked you whether anyone had said this statement before him; and you denied that. Thereupon I thought if somebody had said that statement before him, then I would have said that he was but a man copying some sayings said before him.” Abu Safyan said, “Heraclius then asked me, ‘What does he order you to do?’ I said, ‘He orders us (to offer) prayers and (to pay) Zakat and to keep good relationship with the kith and kin and to be chaste.’ Then Heraclius said, ‘If whatever you have said, is true, he is really a prophet, and I knew that he ( i.e. the Prophet ) was going to appear, but I never thought that he would be from amongst you. If I were certain that I can reach him, I would like to meet him and if I were with him, I would wash his feet; and his kingdom will expand (surely) to what is under my feet.’ Then Heraclius asked for the letter of Allah’s Apostle and read it wherein was written:
‘In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. (This letter is) from Muhammad, Apostle of Allah, to Heraclius, the sovereign of Byzantine…Peace be upon him who follows the Right Path. Now then, I call you to embrace Islam. Embrace Islam and you will be saved (from Allah’s Punishment); embrace Islam, and Allah will give you a double reward, but if you reject this, you will be responsible for the sins of all the people of your kingdom (Allah’s Statement): “O the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians)! Come to a word common to you and us that we worship None but Allah…bear witness that we are Muslims.’ (3.64)
When he finished reading the letter, voices grew louder near him and there was a great hue and cry, and we were ordered to go out.” Abu Sufyan added, “While coming out, I said to my companions, ‘The situation of Ibn Abu Kabsha (i.e. Muhammad) has become strong; even the king of Banu Al-Asfar is afraid of him.’ So I continued to believe that Allah’s Apostle would be victorious, till Allah made me embrace Islam.” Az-Zuhri said, “Heraclius then invited all the chiefs of the Byzantines and had them assembled in his house and said, ‘O group of Byzantines! Do you wish to have a permanent success and guidance and that your kingdom should remain with you?’ (Immediately after hearing that), they rushed towards the gate like onagers, but they found them closed. Heraclius then said, ‘Bring them back to me.’ So he called them and said, ‘I just wanted to test the strength of your adherence to your religion. Now I have observed of you that which I like.’ Then the people fell in prostration before him and became pleased with him.”
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 1.6
Narrated by Abdullah bin Abbas
Abu Sufyan bin Harb informed me that Heraclius had sent a messenger to him while he had been accompanying a caravan from Quraish. They were merchants doing business in Sham (Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan), at the time when Allah’s Apostle had truce with Abu Sufyan and Quraish infidels. So Abu Sufyan and his companions went to Heraclius at Ilya (Jerusalem). Heraclius called them in the court and he had all the senior Roman dignitaries around him. He called for his translator who, translating Heraclius’s question said to them, “Who amongst you is closely related to that man who claims to be a Prophet?” Abu Sufyan replied, “I am the nearest relative to him (amongst the group).”
Heraclius said, “Bring him (Abu Sufyan) close to me and make his companions stand behind him.” Abu Sufyan added, Heraclius told his translator to tell my companions that he wanted to put some questions to me regarding that man (The Prophet) and that if I told a lie they (my companions) should contradict me.” Abu Sufyan added, “By Allah! Had I not been afraid of my companions labeling me a liar, I would not have spoken the truth about the Prophet. The first question he asked me about him was:
‘What is his family status amongst you?’
I replied, ‘He belongs to a good (noble) family amongst us.’
Heraclius further asked, ‘Has anybody amongst you ever claimed the same (i.e. to be a Prophet) before him?’
I replied, ‘No.’
He said, ‘Was anybody amongst his ancestors a king?’
I replied, ‘No.’
Heraclius asked, ‘Do the nobles or the poor follow him?’
I replied, ‘It is the poor who follow him.’
He said, ‘Are his followers increasing decreasing (day by day)?’
I replied, ‘They are increasing.’
He then asked, ‘Does anybody amongst those who embrace his religion become displeased and renounce the religion afterwards?’
I replied, ‘No.’
Heraclius said, ‘Have you ever accused him of telling lies before his claim (to be a Prophet)?’
I replied, ‘No. ‘
Heraclius said, ‘Does he break his promises?’
I replied, ‘No. We are at truce with him but we do not know what he will do in it.’ I could not find opportunity to say anything against him except that.
Heraclius asked, ‘Have you ever had a war with him?’
I replied, ‘Yes.’
Then he said, ‘What was the outcome of the battles?’
I replied, ‘Sometimes he was victorious and sometimes we.’
Heraclius said, ‘What does he order you to do?’
I said, ‘He tells us to worship Allah and Allah alone and not to worship anything along with Him, and to renounce all that our ancestors had said. He orders us to pray, to speak the truth, to be chaste and to keep good relations with our kith and kin.’
Heraclius asked the translator to convey to me the following, I asked you about his family and your reply was that he belonged to a very noble family. In fact all the Apostles come from noble families amongst their respective peoples. I questioned you whether anybody else amongst you claimed such a thing, your reply was in the negative. If the answer had been in the affirmative, I would have thought that this man was following the previous man’s statement. Then I asked you whether anyone of his ancestors was a king. Your reply was in the negative, and if it had been in the affirmative, I would have thought that this man wanted to take back his ancestral kingdom.
I further asked whether he was ever accused of telling lies before he said what he said, and your reply was in the negative. So I wondered how a person who does not tell a lie about others could ever tell a lie about Allah. I, then asked you whether the rich people followed him or the poor. You replied that it was the poor who followed him. And in fact all the Apostle have been followed by this very class of people. Then I asked you whether his followers were increasing or decreasing. You replied that they were increasing, and in fact this is the way of true faith, till it is complete in all respects. I further asked you whether there was anybody, who, after embracing his religion, became displeased and discarded his religion. Your reply was in the negative, and in fact this is (the sign of) true faith, when its delight enters the hearts and mixes with them completely. I asked you whether he had ever betrayed. You replied in the negative and likewise the Apostles never betray. Then I asked you what he ordered you to do. You replied that he ordered you to worship Allah and Allah alone and not to worship any thing along with Him and forbade you to worship idols and ordered you to pray, to speak the truth and to be chaste. If what you have said is true, he will very soon occupy this place underneath my feet and I knew it (from the scriptures) that he was going to appear but I did not know that he would be from you, and if I could reach him definitely, I would go immediately to meet him and if I were with him, I would certainly wash his feet.’ Heraclius then asked for the letter addressed by Allah’s Apostle which was delivered by Dihya to the Governor of Busra, who forwarded it to Heraclius to read. The contents of the letter were as follows: “In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the Merciful (This letter is) from Muhammad the slave of Allah and His Apostle to Heraclius the ruler of Byzantine. Peace be upon him, who follows the right path. Furthermore I invite you to Islam, and if you become a Muslim you will be safe, and Allah will double your reward, and if you reject this invitation of Islam you will be committing a sin by misguiding your Arisiyin (peasants). (And I recite to you Allah’s Statement:)
‘O people of the scripture! Come to a word common to you and us that we worship none but Allah and that we associate nothing in worship with Him, and that none of us shall take others as Lords beside Allah. Then, if they turn away, say: Bear witness that we are Muslims (those who have surrendered to Allah).’ (3.64).
Abu Sufyan then added, “When Heraclius had finished his speech and had read the letter, there was a great hue and cry in the Royal Court. So we were turned out of the court. I told my companions that the question of Ibn-Abi-Kabsha) (the Prophet Muhammad) has become so prominent that even the King of Bani Al-Asfar (Byzantine) is afraid of him. Then I started to become sure that he (the Prophet) would be the conqueror in the near future till I embraced Islam (i.e. Allah guided me to it).”
The sub narrator adds, “Ibn An-Natur was the Governor of Ilya’ (Jerusalem) and Heraclius was the head of the Christians of Sham. Ibn An-Natur narrates that once while Heraclius was visiting Ilya’ (Jerusalem), he got up in the morning with a sad mood. Some of his priests asked him why he was in that mood? Heraclius was a foreteller and an astrologer. He replied, ‘At night when I looked at the stars, I saw that the leader of those who practice circumcision had appeared (become the conqueror). Who are they who practice circumcision?’ The people replied, ‘Except the Jews nobody practices circumcision, so you should not be afraid of them (Jews).
‘Just Issue orders to kill every Jew present in the country.’
While they were discussing it, a messenger sent by the king of Ghassan to convey the news of Allah’s Apostle to Heraclius was brought in. Having heard the news, he (Heraclius) ordered the people to go and see whether the messenger of Ghassan was circumcised. The people, after seeing him, told Heraclius that he was circumcised. Heraclius then asked him about the Arabs. The messenger replied, ‘Arabs also practice circumcision.’
(After hearing that) Heraclius remarked that sovereignty of the Arabs had appeared. Heraclius then wrote a letter to his friend in Rome who was as good as Heraclius in knowledge. Heraclius then left for Homs (a town in Syria) and stayed there till he received the reply of his letter from his friend who agreed with him in his opinion about the emergence of the Prophet and the fact that he was a Prophet. On that Heraclius invited all the heads of the Byzantines to assemble in his palace at Homs. When they assembled, he ordered that all the doors of his palace be closed. Then he came out and said, ‘O Byzantines! If success is your desire and if you seek right guidance and want your empire to remain then give a pledge of allegiance to this Prophet (i.e. embrace Islam).’
(On hearing the views of Heraclius) the people ran towards the gates of the palace like onagers but found the doors closed. Heraclius realized their hatred towards Islam and when he lost the hope of their embracing Islam, he ordered that they should be brought back in audience.
(When they returned) he said, ‘What already said was just to test the strength of your conviction and I have seen it.’ The people prostrated before him and became pleased with him, and this was the end of Heraclius’s story (in connection with his faith). ↩
- von Denffer, Christians in the Qur’an and the Sunna, p. 20n. ↩
- For example, An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors, http://orb.rhodes.edu/encyclop/early/De_Imp/heraclis.htm mentions nothing about it (see its bibliography). Of course, Muslims may claim that the ahadith in question know about the incident through divine revelation, which they would have to hold, since otherwise it is inconceivable that they would be aware of the incident by any other means. Even so, such an argument essentially admits there is no objective historical evidence to support this highly implausible myth. ↩
2. Letter to the Vicegerent of Egypt, called Muqawqas:
The Prophet …wrote to Juraij bin Matta, called Muqawqas, vicegerent of Egypt and Alexandria saying:
“In the Name of Allâh,
the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.
From Muhammad slave of Allâh and His Messenger to Muqawqas, vicegerent of Egypt.
Peace be upon him who follows true guidance. Thereafter, I invite you to accept Islam. Therefore, if you want security, accept Islam. If you accept Islam, Allâh, the Sublime, shall reward you doubly. But if you refuse to do so, you will bear the burden of the transgression of all the Copts.
“Say (O Muhammad …’O people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), come to a word that is just between us and you, that we worship none but Allâh, and that we associate no partners with Him, and that none of us shall take others as lords besides Allâh.’ Then, if they turn away, say: ‘Bear witness that we are Muslims.’ ” (3:64)
Hatib bin Abi Balta’a, who was chosen to communicate the message, requested an audience with Muqawqas before imparting the contents of the letter. He addressed Egypt’s vicegerent saying: “There used to be someone before you who had arrogated the status of the Supreme Lord, so Allâh punished him and made an example of him in the Hereafter, and in this life; therefore, take warning and never set a bad example to others.” Muqawqas answered: “We are in no position to relinquish our religion except for a better one.” Hatib resumed: “We invite you to embrace Islam, which will suffice you all what you may lose. Our Prophet has called people to profess this Faith, Quraish and the Jews stood against him as bitter enemies, whereas Christians stood closest to his Call. Upon my life, Moses’s news about Christ is identical to the latter’s good tidings about the advent of Muhammad; likewise, this invitation of ours to you to embrace Islam is similar to your invitation to the people of Torah to accept the New Testament. Once a Prophet rises in a nation, he is eligible for positive response, hence you are subject to the same Divine Law. Bear in mind that we have not come to dissuade you from religion of Christ but rather bidding you to adhere to its tenets.” Muqawqas meditated over the contents of the letter deeply and said: “I have come to the conviction that this Prophet bids nothing abominable; he is neither a straying magician nor a lying soothsayer. He bears the true manifest seeds of Prophethood, and so I will consider the affair deeply.” He took the parchment and ordered that it be kept in an ivory casket. He called a scribe to write the following reply in Arabic:
“In the Name of Allâh,
the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.
From Muqawqas to Muhammad bin ‘Abdullah.
Peace be upon you. I have read your letter and understood its contents, and what you are calling for. I already know that the coming of a Prophet is still due, but I used to believe he would be born in Syria. I am sending you as presents two maids, who come from noble Coptic families; clothing and a steed for riding on. Peace be upon you.”
It is noteworthy that Muqawqas did not avail himself of this priceless opportunity and he did not embrace Islam. The presents were accepted; Maria, the first maid, stayed with the Prophet… and gave birth to his son Ibrahîm; the other Sirin, was given to Hassan bin Thabit Al-Ansari. ↩
- Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad, p. 271. ↩
- S. 9:34:O ye, who believe! Lo! many of the (Jewish) rabbis and the (Christian) monks devour the wealth of mankind wantonly and debar (men) from the way of Allah. They who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah, unto them give tidings (O Muhammad) of a painful doom. ↩
- Similarly, the biography of Salman al-Farsi, a prominent Companion, weaves together these ideas both of Christian expectancy of a Prophet and Christian financial corruption:
Biographies of Companions
This is a story of a seeker of Truth, the story of Salman the Persian, gleaned, to begin with, from his own words:
… I passed a Christian church and the voices at prayer attracted my attention. I did not know anything about Christianity or about the followers of any other religion throughout the time my father kept me in the house away from people. When I heard the voices of the Christians I entered the church to see what they were doing. I was impressed by their manner of praying and felt drawn to their religion. “By God,” I said, “this is better than ours. I shall not leave them until the sun sets.”
I asked and was told that the Christian religion originated in Ash-Sham (Greater Syria). …I … accompanied the caravan to Syria. There, I asked who was the leading person in the Christian religion and was directed to the bishop of the church. I went up to him and said:
“I want to become a Christian and would like to attach myself to your service, learn from you and pray with you.”
The bishop agreed and I entered the church in his service. I soon found out, however, that the man was corrupt. He would order his followers to give money in charity while holding out the promise of blessings to them. When they gave anything to spend in the way of God, however, he would hoard it for himself and not give anything to the poor or needy. In this way he amassed a vast quantity of gold. When the bishop died and the Christians gathered to bury him, I told them of his corrupt practices and, at their request, showed them where he kept their donations. When they saw the large jars filled with gold and silver they said.
“By God, we shall not bury him.” They nailed him on a cross and threw stones at him. I continued in the service of the person who replaced him. The new bishop was an ascetic who longed for the Hereafter and engaged in worship day and night. I was greatly devoted to him and spent a long time in his company.
(After his death, Salman attached himself to various Christian religious figures, in Mosul, Nisibis and elsewhere. The last one had told him about the appearance of a Prophet in the land of the Arabs who would have a reputation for strict honesty, one who would accept a gift but would never consume charity (sadaqah) for himself. Salman continues his story.)
… At that time the Prophet was inviting his people in Makkah to Islam …That evening, I took some dates that I had gathered and went to the place where the Prophet had alighted. I went up to him and said:
“I have heard that you are a righteous man and that you have companions with you who are strangers and are in need. Here is something from me as sadaqah. I see that you are more deserving of it than others.”
The Prophet ordered his companions to eat but he himself did not eat of it. I gathered some more dates and when the Prophet left Quba for Madinah I went to him and said: “I noticed that you did not eat of the sadaqah I gave. This however is a gift for you.” Of this gift of dates, both he and his companions ate.
The strict honesty of the Prophet was one of the characteristics that led Salman to believe in him and accept Islam…
- Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 5.664
Narrated by Hudhaifa
The people of Najran came to the Prophet and said, “Send an honest man to us.” The Prophet said, “I will send to you an honest man who is really trustworthy.” Everyone of the (Muslim) people hoped to be that one. The Prophet then sent Abu Ubaida bin Al-Jarrah.
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 9.360
Narrated by Hudhaifa
The Prophet said to the people of Najran, “I will send to you an honest person who is really trustworthy.” The Companions of the Prophet each desired to be that person, but the Prophet sent Abu ‘Ubaida. ↩
- von Denffer, Christians in the Qur’an and the Sunna, p. 27. ↩
- Surah Al-Baqarah 2:146
The people of the Book know this as they know their own sons; but some of them conceal the truth which they themselves know.
Yusuf Ali comments on this verse:
The People of the Book should have known all this as well as “they knew their own sons”, as their past traditions and teaching should have made them receptive of the new message. Some commentators construe the demonstrative pronoun “this” to refer to the Apostle. In that case the interpretation would be: The People of the Book know Muhammad as well as they know their own sons; they know him to be true and upright; they know him to be in the line of Abraham; they know him to correspond to the description of the prophet foretold among themselves; but selfishness induces some of them to act against their own knowledge and conceal the truth. ↩
- von Denffer, Christians in the Qur’an and the Sunna, pp. 24-26. ↩
- von Denffer, Christians in the Qur’an and the Sunna, pp. 26-27. ↩
- Watt, Early Islam, p. 40. ↩
- Smith, Jay, Trends in Biographies of Muhammad, http://www.debate.org.uk/ 1996. ↩
- Smith, Jay, Trends in Biographies of Muhammad, http://www.debate.org.uk/ 1996. ↩
- Khadduri, Majid, War and Peace in the Law of Islam, p. 179. ↩
- It is true that priests in general were often honoured with the title of papa, though whether this was true of Najran is a different matter. However, the text here is definitely presenting the title in its absolute honorific sense. ↩
- http://brain.brain.net.pk/~sunnah/Webch-40.html 1999. ↩
- Watt, Muhammad in Medina, p. 360. ↩
- Prophet Muhammad’s Last Sermon
This Sermon was delivered on the Ninth Day of Dhul Hijjah 10 A.H in the Uranah Valley of mount Arafat:
“O People, lend me an attentive ear, for I don’t know whether, after this year, I shall ever be amongst you again…. Allah has forbidden you to take usury (Interest), therefore all interest obligation shall henceforth be waived….” Alim CD-ROM. ↩
- von Denffer, Christians in the Qur’an and the Sunna, p. 28. ↩
- Watt, Early Islam, p. 66. ↩
- Watt, Muhammad in Medina, p. 319. ↩
- Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 2.559
Narrated by Abu Humaid As Saidi
… The King of Aila sent a white mule and a sheet for wearing to the Prophet as a present, and wrote to the Prophet that his people would stay in their place (and will pay Jizya taxation.) …
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 4.387
Narrated by Abu Humaid As Saidi
We accompanied the Prophet in the Ghazwa of Tabuk and the king of ‘Aila presented a white mule and a cloak as a gift to the Prophet. And the Prophet wrote to him a peace treaty allowing him to keep authority over his country. ↩
- Watt, Muhammad in Medina, p. 358. ↩
- Watt, Muhammad in Medina, p. 361. ↩
1999:…In his last hours, the Prophet of Allah (s.a.w.) said to his companions who gathered in his house:
“Bring me an inkwell and a shoulder-blade so that I will write for you a letter with which you will never go astray…”
Then owing to the heaviness of his sickness, he fainted. One of those who were sitting by his bed noticed that and said: “The man speaks deliriously”. “Shall we bring you an inkwell and a shoulder-blade?,” they asked him shortly after he came around. The Prophet (s.a.w.) turned down their offer saying: “After what you have said? But I would like you to behave kindly to my family…”
When he felt he would presently depart he confided to Imam Ali (a.s.) all his personal affairs and those related to the ummah, as his last will. Then he calmly and serenely closed his eyes and died, with his head was in the lap of Imam Ali (a.s.).(l08)… ↩
- Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 6.505
Narrated by Anas bin Malik
Allah sent down His Divine Inspiration to His Apostle continuously and abundantly during the period preceding his death till He took him unto Him. That was the period of the greatest part of revelation; and Allah’s Apostle died after that. ↩
- Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 5.650
Narrated by Al Bara
The last Sura which was revealed in full was Baraa (i.e. Sura-at-Tauba), and the last Sura (i.e. part of a Sura) which was revealed was the last Verses of Sura-an-Nisa’: “They ask you for a legal decision. Say: Allah directs (thus) About those who have No descendants or ascendants As heirs.” (4.177)
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 6.177
Narrated by Al Bara
The last Verse that was revealed was:
“They ask you for a legal verdict: Say: Allah directs (thus) about Al-Kalalah (those who leave no descendants or ascendants as heirs).” And the last Sura which was revealed was Baraatun (9) .
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 8.736
Narrated by Al Bara
The last Quranic Verse that was revealed (to the Prophet) was the final Verse of Surat-an-Nisa, i.e., “They ask you for a legal verdict. Say: Allah directs (thus) About those who leave No descendants or ascendants as heirs…” (4.176) ↩
- von Denffer, Ahmad, ‘Ulum al-Qur’an, (Islamic Foundation, Leicester, 1983), p. 28. ↩
- Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 6.89
Narrated by Usama bin Zaid
Allah’s Apostle rode a donkey, equipped with a thick cloth-covering made in Fadak and was riding behind him. He was going to pay visit to Sad bin Ubada in Banu Al-Harith bin Al-Khazraj; and this incident happened before the battle of Badr. The Prophet passed by a gathering in which ‘Abdullah bin Ubai bin Salul was present, and that was before ‘Abdullah bin Ubai embraced Islam. Behold in that gathering there were people of different religions: there were Muslims, pagans, idol-worshippers and Jews, and in that gathering ‘Abdullah bin Rawaha was also present. When a cloud of dust raised by the donkey reached that gathering, ‘Abdullah bin Ubai covered his nose with his garment and then said, “Do not cover us with dust.” Then Allah’s Apostle greeted them and stopped and dismounted and invited them to Allah (i.e. to embrace Islam) and recited to them the Holy Qur’an. On that, ‘Abdullah bin Ubai bin Saluil said, “O man ! There is nothing better than that what you say. If it is the truth, then do not trouble us with it in our gatherings. Return to your mount (or residence) and if somebody comes to you, relate (your tales) to him.” On that ‘Abdullah bin Rawaha said, “Yes, O Allah’s Apostle! Bring it (i.e. what you want to say) to us in our gathering, for we love that.”
So the Muslims, the pagans and the Jews started abusing one another till they were on the point of fighting with one another. The Prophet kept on quietening them till they became quiet, whereupon the Prophet rode his animal (mount) and proceeded till he entered upon Sad bin Ubada. The Prophet said to Sad, “Did you not hear what ‘Abu Hubab said?” He meant ‘Abdullah bin Ubai. “He said so-and-so.” On that Sad bin Ubada said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Excuse and forgive him, for by Him Who revealed the Book to you, Allah brought the Truth which was sent to you at the time when the people of this town (i.e. Medina) had decided unanimously to crown him and tie a turban on his head (electing him as chief). But when Allah opposed that (decision) through the Truth which Allah gave to you, he (i.e. ‘Abdullah bin Ubai) was grieved with jealously, and that caused him to do what you have seen.” So Allah’s Apostle excused him, for the Prophet and his companions used to forgive the pagans and the people of Scripture as Allah had ordered them, and they used to put up with their mischief with patience. Allah said: “And you shall certainly hear much that will grieve you from those who received the Scripture before you and from the pagans…’ (3.186) And Allah also said: “Many of the people of the Scripture wish if they could turn you away as disbelievers after you have believed, from selfish envy…” (2.109)
So the Prophet used to stick to the principle of forgiveness for them as long as Allah ordered him to do so till Allah permitted fighting them. So when Allah’s Apostle fought the battle of Badr and Allah killed the nobles of Quraish infidels through him, Ibn Ubai bin Salul and the pagans and idolaters who were with him, said, “This matter (i.e. Islam) has appeared (i.e. became victorious).” So they gave the pledge of allegiance (for embracing Islam) to Allah’s Apostle and became Muslims. ↩
- S. 9:28O ye who believe! Truly the pagans are unclean; so let them not after this year of theirs approach the Sacred Mosque… ↩
- The relevant texts are as follows:
Surah 2 Al-Baqara
246 Hast thou not turned thy vision to the chiefs of the children of Israel after (the time of) Moses? They said to a Prophet (that was) among them: “Appoint for us a king that we may fight in the cause of Allah.” He said: “Is it not possible if ye were commanded to fight that ye will not fight?” They said: “How could we refuse to fight in the cause of Allah seeing that we were turned out of our homes and our families?”…
Surah 60 Al-Mumtahana
1 O ye who believe! take not My enemies and yours as friends (or protectors) offering them (your) love even though they have rejected the Truth that has come to you and have (on the contrary) driven out the Prophet and yourselves (from your homes…
8 Allah forbids you not with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just.
9 Allah only forbids you with regard to those who fight you for (your) Faith and drive you out of your homes and support (others) in driving you out from turning to them (for friendship and protection)…
Surah 22 Al-Haqq
40 (They are) those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right (for no cause) except that they say “Our Lord is Allah.” Did not Allah check one set of people by means of another there would surely have been pulled down monasteries churches synagogues and mosques in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure… ↩
- von Denffer, Ahmed, Christians in the Qur’an and the Sunna, (Islamic Foundaiton, Leicester, 1979, 1987 edition), p. 28. ↩
- Muir, Sir William, The Life of Mohammad, (Darf, London, 1891, 1984 impression), p. 155. ↩
- Courbage, Youssef, and Fargues, Philippe, Christians and Jews under Islam, (I. B. Tauris, London & New York, 1998), p. 7. ↩
- Glubb, John Bagot, The Great Arab Conquests, (Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1963; Quartet Books edition, 1980), p. 219. ↩
- Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 4.388
Narrated by Juwairiya bin Qudama At Tamimi
We said to ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab, “O Chief of the Believers! Advise us.” He said, “I advise you to fulfill Allah’s convention (made with the Dhimmis) as it is the convention of your Prophet and the source of the livelihood of your dependents (i.e. the taxes from the Dhimmis.)” (cf. 2:475) ↩
- Al-Muwatta Hadith
Inheritance from People of Other Religions
Yahya related to me from Malik from Yahya ibn Said from Sulayman ibn Yasar that Muhammad ibn al-Ashath told him that he had a Christian or Jewish paternal aunt who died. Muhammad ibn al-Ashath mentioned that to Umar ibn al-Khattab and said to him, “Who inherits from her?” Umar ibn al-Khattab said to him, “The people of her deen inherit from her.” Then he went to Uthman ibn Affan, and asked him about that. Uthman said to him, “Do you think that I have forgotten what Umar ibn al-Khattab said to you? The people.of her deen inherit from her.” ↩
Churches and synagogues
Abu Musa al-Ash’ari and ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdulaziz prayed in a church. Ash-Sh’abiy, ‘Ata, and Ibn Sireen did not see anything wrong with praying in a church (if one happened to be in a church at the time of salah). Al-Bukhari says: “Ibn ‘Abbas would pray in churches (under unusual circumstances) except for those with statues or sculptures.” The Muslims of Najran wrote to ‘Umar saying that they found no place cleaner or better to pray in than a church. ‘Umar wrote to them: “Sprinkle it with water and leaves and pray therein.” According to the Hanafi and Shaf’i schools, it is disliked to pray in such places in general. ↩
AL-HEDAYA Vol. II (Hanafi Manual)
(Christians of the Toghlib tribe subject to double Zakat)
Of Zakat twice as much is levied upon the property of Christians of the Binney Toghib tribe as is levied upon the property of Muslims, because Omar made peace with them upon this condition, and this in the presence of the other companions, none of whom disputed it… ↩
- Khadduri, War and Peace in the Law of Islam, p. 186. ↩
- Aghazarian, Albert, The Significance of Jerusalem to Christians, in Christians in the Holy Land, ed. Michael Prior and William Taylor, (World of Islam Festival Trust, UK, 1994), pp. 101-102. ↩
- al-Sarraf, Faraj, Christianity in Gaza, in Christians in the Holy Land, p. 9. ↩
- Aghazarian, The Significance of Jerusalem to Christians. ↩
- Khadduri, War and Peace in the law of Islam, p. 194; Muir, The Life of Mahomet, pp. 146-147. ↩
- Khadduri, War and Peace in the law of Islam, pp. 193-194.
A variant reading is as follows:
We heard from ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Ghanam (died 78/697) as follows: When Umar ibn al-Khattab, may God be pleased with him, accorded a peace to the Christians of Syria, we wrote to him as follows:
In the name of God, the Merciful and Compassionate. This is a letter to the servant of God Umar (ibn al-Khattab), Commander of the Faithful, from the Christians of such-and-such a city. When you came against us, we asked you for safe-conduct (aman) for ourselves, our descendants, our property, and the people of our community, and we undertook the following obligations toward you:
We shall not build, in our cities or in their neighbourhood, new monasteries, Churches, convents, or monks’ cells, nor shall we repair, by day or by night, such of them as fall in ruins or are situated in the quarters of the Muslims.
We shall keep our gates wide open for passers by and travellers. We shall give board and lodging to all Muslims who pass our way for three days.
We shall not give shelter in our churches or in our dwellings to any spy, nor bide him from the Muslims.
We shall not teach the Qur’an to our children.
We shall not manifest our religion publicly nor convert anyone to it. We shall not prevent any of our kin from entering Islam if they wish it.
We shall show respect toward the Muslims, and we shall rise from our seats when they wish to sit.
We shall not seek to resemble the Muslims by imitating any of their garments, the qalansuwa, the turban, footwear, or the parting of the hair. We shall not speak as they do, nor shall we adopt their kunyas.
We shall not mount on saddles, nor shall we gird swords nor bear any kind of arms nor carry them on our- persons.
We shall not engrave Arabic inscriptions on our seals.
We shall not sell fermented drinks.
We shall clip the fronts of our heads.
We shall always dress in the same way wherever we may be, and we shall bind the zunar round our waists
We shall not display our crosses or our books in the roads or markets of the Muslims. We shall use only clappers in our churches very softly. We shall not raise our voices when following our dead. We shall not show lights on any of the roads of the Muslims or in their markets. We shall not bury our dead near the Muslims.
We shall not take slaves who have been allotted to Muslims.
We shall not build houses overtopping the houses of the Muslims.
(When I brought the letter to Umar, may God be pleased with him, he added, “We shall not strike a Muslim.”)
We accept these conditions for ourselves and for the people of our community, and in return we receive safe-conduct.
If we in any way violate these undertakings for which we ourselves stand surety, we forfeit our covenant (dhimma), and we become liable to the penalties for contumacy and sedition.
Umar ibn al-Khittab replied: Sign what they ask, but add two clauses and impose them in addition to those which they have undertaken. They are: “They shall not buy anyone made prisoner by the Muslims,” and “Whoever strikes a Muslim with deliberate intent shall forfeit the protection of this pact.”
from Al-Turtushi, Siraj al-Muluk, pp. 229-230.
Another variant reads as follows:
In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate!
This is a writing to Umar from the Christians of such and such a city. When You (Muslims) marched against us (Christians),: we asked of you protection for ourselves, our posterity, our possessions, and our co-religionists; and we made this stipulation with you, that we will not erect in our city or the suburbs any new monastery, church, cell or hermitage; that we will not repair any of such buildings that may fall into ruins, or renew those that may be situated in the Muslim quarters of the town; that we will not refuse the Muslims entry into our churches either by night or by day; that we will open the gates wide to passengers and travellers; that we will receive any Muslim traveller into our houses and give him food and lodging for three nights; that we will not harbor any spy in our churches or houses, or conceal any enemy of the Muslims. (At least six of these laws were taken over from earlier Christian laws against infidels.)
That we will not teach our children the Qu’ran (some nationalist Arabs feared the infidels would ridicule the Qu’ran; others did not want infidels even to learn the language); that we will not make a show of the Christian religion nor invite any one to embrace it; that we will not prevent any of our kinsmen from embracing Islam, if they so desire. That we will honor the Muslims and rise up in our assemblies when they wish to take their seats; that we will not imitate them in our dress, either in the cap, turban, sandals, or parting of the hair; that we will not make use of their expressions of speech, nor adopt their surnames (infidels must not use greetings and special phrases employed only by Muslims); that we will not ride on saddles, or gird on swords, or take to ourselves arms or wear them, or engrave Arabic inscriptions on our rings; that we will not sell wine (forbidden to Muslims); that we will shave the front of our heads; that we will keep to our own style of dress, wherever we may be; that we will wear girdles round our waists (infidels wore leather or cord girdles; Muslims, cloth and silk).
That we will not display the cross upon our churches or display our crosses or our sacred books in the streets of the Muslims, or in their market-places; that we will strike the clappers in our churches lightly (wooden rattles or bells summoned the people to church or synagogue); that we will not recite our services in a loud voice when a Muslim is present; that we will not carry Palm branches (on Palm Sunday) or our images in procession in the streets; that at the burial of our dead we will not chant loudly or carry lighted candles in the streets of the Muslims or their market places; that we will not take any slaves that have already been in the possession of Muslims, nor spy into their houses; and that we will not strike any Muslim.
All this we promise to observe, on behalf of ourselves and our co-religionists, and receive protection from you in exchange; and if we violate any of the conditions of this agreement, then we forfeit your protection and you are at liberty to treat us as enemies and rebels.
Jacob Marcus, The Jew in the Medieval World: A Sourcebook, 315-1791, (New York: JPS, 1938), 13-15
Later printings of this text (e.g. by Atheneum, 1969, 1972, 1978) do not indicate that the copyright was renewed) http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/jewish/jews-umar.html 1999. ↩
- Muir The Life of Mahomet, p. 155; von Denffer, Christians in the Qur’an and the Sunna, p. 29. Glubb, The Great Arab Conquests, p. 219; http://www.world-federation.org/islamic_resources/smkufa.htm 1999. ↩
- Trimingham, Christianity among the Arabs in Pre-Islamic Times, p. 307. ↩
- Enyclopaedia of Islam, vol. VII, p. 872. ↩
- Enyclopaedia of Islam, vol. VII, p. 97. ↩
- Courbage, and Fargues, Christians and Jews under Islam, p. 7. ↩
- Ya’qub bin Muhammad said, “I asked Al-Mughira bin ‘Abdur-Rahman about the Arabian Peninsula and he said, ‘It comprises Mecca, Medina, Al-Yama-ma and Yemen.” Ya’qub added, “And Al-Arj, the beginning of Tihama.” ↩
- Salibi, Kamal, The Modern History of Jordan, (London, Tauris, 1993), p. 18. ↩
- Smith, Jay, The Bible and the Qur’an: A Historical Comparison, http://www.debate.org.uk/ (January 1998). ↩
- Watt, Early Islam, p. 67. ↩
- Encyclopaedia of Islam, vol. VII, pp. 871ff on Najran, states that a place near Kufa called al-Nadjraniyya was founded for the Najran Christians. ↩
- Gilling, Tom, and McKnight, John, Trial and Error: Mordechai Vanunu and Israel’s nuclear bomb, (Monarch, Eastbourne, 1991), p. 159. ↩
- Watt, Early Islam, pp. 17-19. ↩