In Medina the Muslims found themselves in a very precarious and unenviable situation. Their security was threatened not only by Quraish, who had put a price on the head of the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, and had followed this up by serving an ultimatum, through Abdullah bin Ubayy, that unless the Holy Prophet was expelled from Medina, they would invade Medina in full strength and slaughter all the men in it and enslave all the women; but they were not secure against the machinations of the disaffected in Medina, and had to be wary of the Jews. Quraish had declared war upon the Holy Prophet and the Muslims and all those who might support them. The state of war thus initiated continued over six years and was interrupted only by the Truce of Hudaibiyya in the sixth year. Less than two years later Quraish committed a glaring breach of the Truce and hostilities broke out again which were terminated only when the greater part of the peninsula had acknowledged the supremacy of the Islamic state and had submitted to it.
In view of the ultimatum of Quraish, the Muslims were accorded divine permission to take up arms in their defence and in the defence of their faith:
Permission to fight is granted to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged, and Allah indeed has the power to help them. They are those who have been driven out of their homes unjustly only because they affirmed: Our Lord is Allah. If Allah did not repel the aggression of some people by means of others, cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft commemorated, would surely be destroyed. Allah will surely help him who helps His cause; Allah is indeed Powerful, Mighty. If We establish these persecuted ones in the earth, they will observe Prayer and pay the Zakat, and enjoin good and forbid evil. With Allah rests the final issue of all affairs (22:40-2).
If Allah were not to repel a section of mankind by another, the earth would be filled with disorder, but Allah is full of bounty towards all peoples (2:252).
It must be appreciated, however, that Islam regards war as an abnormal and destructive activity, to which recourse can be had only in the last resort. The Holy Quran describes war as a conflagration, and declares that it is God’s purpose to put out such a conflagration whenever it erupts, meaning that when war becomes inevitable it should be so waged as to cause the least possible amount of damage to life and property; and that hostilities should be brought to a close as quickly as possible, as is said: ‘Whenever they kindle a fire for war, Allah extinguishes it. They strive to create disorder in the earth and Allah loves not those who create disorder’ (5:65).
Fighting is permissible only to repel or halt aggression. But even in the course of such fighting, Muslims are not permitted any transgression; as is said: ‘Fight in the cause of Allah against those who fight against you, but do not transgress. Surely Allah loves not the transgressors’ (2:191).
It is repeatedly stressed that the object of any fighting forced upon Muslims should be to put down aggression and persecution, for persecution is worse than killing. During the course of fighting, all customary restrictions and limitations must be observed except when the enemy fails to observe them; in which case Muslims may forego them also, but only to the extent to which the enemy dispenses with them (2:192). Should the enemy desist from the fighting, the Muslims should do likewise, for Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful (2:193). When freedom from persecution is secured, fighting should be brought to an end, as is said: ‘Fight them until there is no persecution, and religion is freely professed for the sake of Allah alone’; but even this is subject to the enemy continuing the fight, as is said: ‘if they desist, then remember that no hostility is permitted except against the aggressors’ (2:194).
Should war become unavoidable, every effort must be made to limit its mischief and horror and to bring hostilities to a close as early as possible. Savage practices like disfiguring the enemy dead and torturing prisoners of war, which were common in pre-Islamic Arabia, are prohibited altogether in Islam. With regard to customs and practices not in themselves barbaric or revolting, the principle laid down is that the Muslims might extend reciprocal treatment to the enemy, and might retaliate to the extent to which an injury or a wrong is inflicted upon them, but that the better part would be to endure and to forgive (16:127).
Permission to take up arms in defence was granted, but so far as numbers and material resources were concerned, the Muslims were at a fearful disadvantage vis-a-vis Quraish, who did not stand alone, but taking advantage of the prestige that they enjoyed as guardians of the Ka’aba and the influence that they exercised by virtue of their handling the trade between the east and the north and the north-west, constantly incited the tribes against Islam and the Muslims. The latter were only a small community in Medina, not more than a few hundreds, and of material resources they possessed none. They were in no position to take the field against an enemy as powerful as Quraish. Indeed, they shrank from the prospect, as is said (2:217):
Fighting is ordained for you, while it is repugnant to you. It may be that you dislike a thing, which is good for you, and it may also be that you prefer a thing and it may be the worse for you. Allah knows all and you know not;
and again (4:78):
Now that fighting has been prescribed for them, suddenly a section of them have begun to fear people as they should fear Allah or even more, and they say: Lord, why hast Thou prescribed fighting for us? Wouldst Thou not grant us respite yet awhile?
Fighting, under the conditions set out above, having been permitted to Muslims, the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, had recourse to certain measures which were designed to support and buttress the security of the Muslims.
- He undertook visits to neighbouring tribes in order to establish treaty relations with them, which should make Medina secure against attacks by them. In this connection, he paid particular attention to tribes which were settled along or near the caravan route to the north. These were the tribes whose help to Quraish and whose hostility towards the Muslims could spell great danger to the latter.
- He started sending small scouting parties in different directions from Medina so that information should be procured on the movements and designs of Quraish and their allies, and Muslims might not be taken by surprise by them. Another purpose in dispatching these parties was that there still were in and around Mecca several persons who believed in Islam but could not profess it openly out of fear of Quraish, nor could they migrate to Medina, either because they were too poor or because Quraish would not let them. It is with regard to such persons that it is said in the Holy Quran (4:76):
What keeps you from fighting in the cause of Allah and of the weak from among men, women and children who supplicate: Lord, deliver us from this town whose people are oppressors, and appoint for us from Thyself some friend, and appoint for us from Thyself some helper?
These persons could take advantage of the proximity of a scouting party and slip out of Mecca and join the scouting party, and thus be delivered from persecution. They could also travel among parties of Quraish to the north and finding a suitable opportunity could join a Muslim scouting party. For instance, the very first party that the Holy Prophet dispatched under the leadership of Ubaidah bin Harith was confronted by a party of Quraish under the leadership of Ikramah bin Abu Jahl, out of whom Miqdad bin Amr and Utba bin Ghazwan, both Muslims, who had accompanied the party of Ikramah, left it and joined the Muslim scouting party.
- One of the principal instruments that Quraish employed for the purpose of inciting tribes against Muslims was their trade caravans which proceeded to the north and then returned to Mecca and in the course of their journeys up and down set the tribes in the neighbourhood of Medina against the Muslims. This constituted a great danger for the Muslims. These caravans were accompanied by armed guards and their passing close to Medina in itself constituted a threat to the security of Medina. Besides, trade was the principal source of livelihood of Quraish and the most effective way of persuading Quraish to abandon their hostility towards Islam and the Muslims was to disrupt their trade and to deprive them of the benefits thereof.
This has always been recognized as a legitimate war activity. Everyone is familiar with the capture or destruction of enemy vessels, and of captured vessels and their cargo being treated as prize. Quraish were well aware that in the situation that they had themselves created, the obstruction of their caravans and the seizure of their goods by the Muslims was a legitimate and expected activity to which no objection could be taken. They never let any occasion pass without protest in which they felt they had been afforded a ground for grievance. Their failure to make any protest against the disruption of their trade confirms that this activity on the part of the Muslims was considered by them as legitimate.
Nevertheless, the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, insisted that the sole motive of anyone who joined in any expedition must be to uphold the Word of God and that everything else was incidental, pursuit of which should not influence anyone to participate in an expedition. Bokhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi and Nasai have reported that the Holy Prophet was asked: ‘One person fights in order to display his bravery, another one fights out of a sense of family or tribal prestige, and a third one fights in order to show off; which of these can be considered as fighting in the cause of Allah?’ He responded: ‘None of them. Only that one can be deemed to be fighting in the cause of Allah who is inspired by the motive to put an end to the efforts of the disbelievers which they put forth for the suppression of Islam, and so that Islam should overcome these efforts of its enemies.’
Bokhari, Muslim and Abu Dawood have reported that the Holy Prophet directed: Do not be eager for confrontation with the enemy and seek peace and security from Allah. But when you happen to be confronted by the enemy, be steadfast.
- When the Holy Prophet learnt that any tribe or clan was preparing to invade Medina, he would lead a force against it or dispatch a force under the leadership of someone else to take suitable action to put an end to their intended aggression. Muslim, Abu Dawood and Tirmidhi have reported on the authority of Bareedah: ‘The Holy Prophet’s directions to the leader of an expedition used to be: “When you are confronted with the enemy, offer them the choice of three conditions. If they accept, then refrain from taking any action against them. First, call on them to embrace Islam. Should they agree, accept their offer and hold your hand from them. Next, invite them to migrate to Medina and tell them that if they do so they shall enjoy the same rights as the Emigrants and will have the same obligations as those of the Emigrants. Should they not be willing to migrate, tell them that they would be treated as Muslims but would not have the rights of the Emigrants as those can be acquired only by striving in the cause of Allah. If they reject your invitation to embrace Islam, call on them to submit to the Islamic state and agree to pay the tax. Should they accept, hold your hand and do not fight them. If they reject all your offers, then fight them in the name of Allah.”’
Abu Dawood has reported on the authority of the father of Harith bin Muslim: ‘The Holy Prophet, peace be on him, sent us on an expedition and when we arrived near our objective, I spurred my horse and went ahead of my companions. I encountered some men belonging to the tribe against whom we were marching and they adopted an attitude of humility, whereupon I invited them to accept Islam and they became Muslims. Some of my weak companions rebuked me that I had by my action deprived them of the expected spoils. On our return to Medina, the incident was reported to the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, and he sent for me and expressed his approval of what I had done, and said: “You have done extremely well. Allah has appointed such and such reward for you in respect of every one of that tribe. I shall dictate a certificate expressing my pleasure at your good action.” He then dictated the certificate and put his seal to it.’
Abu Dawood and Tirmidhi have reported on the authority of Aasim bin Kaleeb who heard his father say that a man of Ansar stated: ‘We were on a journey with the Messenger of Allah, peace be on him, when he set forth on a campaign and during the course of the journey we felt severe hunger and were much distressed as we had no provision with us. We caught some goats out of a flock and slaughtered them and started cooking the meat. Our cooking pots were bubbling when the Holy Prophet came up, and on learning what we had done, he upset our cooking pots with his bow and in anger, started to grind the pieces of meat into the dust under his feet, and exclaimed: “Plunder is no better than carrion.”’
Dawood and Nasai have reported on the authority of Abu Hurairah that a person enquired from the Holy Prophet, peace be on him: ‘What about one who goes forth in the cause of Allah, but also thinks that he will derive some worldly benefit too?’ He said: ‘Such a one will earn no merit,’ and repeated this three times.
Muslim, Abu Dawood and Nasai have reported that the Holy Prophet said: ‘Those who go forth in the cause of Allah and in consequence are awarded their share of the spoils, anticipate two-thirds of the reward which they would have been given in the hereafter, and only one-third remains for them in the hereafter. If there are no spoils, their reward in the hereafter remains entire.’
Abu Dawood relates: ‘On one occasion when the Holy Prophet set forth on a campaign, an old Ansari, Ka’ab bin Ujra, provided a mount for a poor Companion, Wasilah bin Asq’a. After the campaign, Wasilah bin Asq’a came to Ka’ab bin Ujra and said to him: “God Almighty has bestowed these camels on me as my share of the spoils. Of these, you can take your share.” Ka’ab replied: “May God bless these spoils for you. I did not provide you with a mount in order to share in the spoils. My motive was only to earn spiritual merit,” and he refused to accept his share, which would have amounted to two-thirds.’
Nasai relates that one of the desert Arabs embraced Islam and accompanied the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, on a campaign. When some spoils were gained, the Holy Prophet set aside his share also. When he was told of this, he came to the Holy Prophet and submitted: ‘Messenger of Allah, you have set aside a portion of the spoils as my share. I call God to witness that I had not become a Muslim for the sake of spoils. I had hoped that fighting in the cause of Allah an arrow might pierce my throat and I may be admitted to heaven,’ on which the Holy Prophet observed: ‘If this one truly desires such an end, God will bestow upon him what he seeks.’ A short while later, there was some more fighting and he died as he had wished. The Holy Prophet observed, ‘Allah has granted him his wish,’ and he bestowed his cloak to serve as his shroud and prayed for him specially.
These incidents leave no room for any suspicion that the Companions of the Holy Prophet took part in fighting for the sake of spoils. It must be remembered that in those days there were no regular armies and no salaried soldiers. All were volunteers who provided their own arms and mounts and laid aside their normal occupations and activities during the period of a campaign. The only way of compensating them was by apportioning the spoils, if any, between them and allotting a share of the ransom of the prisoners of war to each of them.
It will be appreciated that with the Holy Prophet’s advent in Medina, and in consequence of the pact that he entered into with the Arab and Jewish inhabitants of Medina, his responsibilities had been enormously increased, and though he did not in the least neglect his primary obligations as a Prophet in respect of the propagation of Islam and the instruction and training of the Muslims in the values of Islam, a great part of his time and attention was taken up by the multiplicity of the problems that bore upon the security of Medina. Indeed, the security of Medina was itself essential for the purpose of the propagation of Islam and the proper instruction and training of the Muslims. Quraish had within a very short time after his arrival in Medina started their hostile activities against the Muslims. A chief of Mecca, Karz bin Jabir Fahri, led a party of Quraish to within three miles of Medina and captured a number of camels belonging to the Muslims which were grazing in a pasture. When the Holy Prophet learnt of this foray he issued forth with a party of Emigrants in pursuit of the raiders, but they managed to make good their escape.
As soon as permission to take up arms against the aggression of Quraish had been received, the Holy Prophet set forth from Medina with a party of Emigrants in the direction of Mecca and arrived at Waddan where Banu Dhamarah, a clan of Banu Kananah, were settled. These people were thus collaterals of Quraish. The Holy Prophet spoke to the chief of Banu Dhamarah and settled the terms of a pact with him. The pact provided that Banu Dhamarah would maintain friendly relations with the Muslims, and would not aid or abet their enemies and would go to their help when called upon to do so. He undertook corresponding obligations on behalf of the Muslims in respect of Banu Dhamarah. The terms of the pact were reduced to writing and were subscribed to by both sides. After an absence of a fortnight, the Holy Prophet returned to Medina.
Shortly thereafter, the Holy Prophet dispatched a scouting party of 60 camel-riding Emigrants under the leadership of Ubaidah bin Harith Matlabi. When this party arrived near Thaniyyatal Marrah, they suddenly found themselves in confrontation with 200 armed Quraish youths under the command of Ikramah bin Abu Jahl. A few arrows were shot by each party against the other and then the party of Quraish withdrew and the Muslims did not pursue them. It was on this occasion that Miqdad bin Amr and Utba bin Ghazwan, two Muslims, left the party of Ikramah and joined the Muslims.
In the same month, the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, dispatched a party of 30 camel-rider Emigrants under the leadership of his uncle, Hamzah bin Abdul Muttalib, to the coastal district due east of Medina. Hamzah and his party marched quickly, and, arriving in the territory called Ees, discovered Abu Jahl at the head of 300 mounted men ready to oppose them. Both sides arrayed themselves in battle order and hostilities were about to commence when the chief of the territory, Majdi bin Amr Juhni, who had good relations with both sides, intervened and a confrontation was avoided.
A few days later the Holy Prophet received some intimation of the movements of Quraish and set forth from Medina at the head of a party of Emigrants. He proceeded as far as Buat but not finding any party of Quraish returned to Medina.
Sometime later, again receiving some intimation of the movements of Quraish, the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, set forth with a party of Emigrants and, making several detours, arrived in the neighbourhood of Yenbo, on the coast. Again, there was no confrontation with Quraish, but the Holy Prophet made a pact with Banu Madlaj on the same terms, which had been settled with Banu Dhamarah, and thereafter returned to Medina. In the course of that journey he dispatched S’ad bin Abi Waqqas at the head of a party of eight Emigrants towards Khara to reconnoitre.
On one occasion the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, organized a scouting party of eight Emigrants drawn from various tribes of Quraish and appointed Abdullah bin Jahsh as their leader. In order to keep their objective secret, lest knowledge of it should reach Quraish, he did not disclose it even to the leader of the party, who was given his directions in a sealed cover, which he was instructed to open and read after having travelled for two days in the direction of Mecca. When Abdullah opened the cover in accordance with his instructions, he found that the Holy Prophet had directed: ‘Proceed to Nakhlah, between Mecca and Taif, and there keep track of the movements of Quraish and inform me of them.’ He was also directed that if any of his companions, on discovering the objective of the party, should be reluctant to continue with it, he should be permitted to return. Abdullah announced these directions to his companions and they all expressed their willingness cheerfully to carry out the directions. The party then proceeded towards Nakhlah. In the course of the journey the camel that S’ad bin Abi Waqqas and Utba bin Ghazwan had been riding strayed away and they went in search of it and were thus separated from their companions and were not able to rejoin them. The party arrived at Nakhlah and busied themselves as they had been directed. A few days later they encountered a small caravan of Quraish on its way from Taif to Mecca. The party consulted among themselves what course of action they should follow. One element in the situation was that the time was the end of one of the sacred months and they were not sure whether the month had ended or whether it was the last day of the month. If they let the caravan escape, it would soon enter within the boundary of the sanctuary around Mecca, where no action could be taken against it. In this situation, they attacked the four persons who were in charge of the caravan, of whom one, Amr bin Hadhrami, was killed, two were captured and the fourth escaped. The scouting party took over the merchandise of the caravan and made haste to return to Medina. When the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, was given an account of the incident, he was greatly displeased and observed, ‘I had not directed you to fight in the sacred month,’ and he refused to take his share of the spoils. Abdullah and his companions were much abashed and experienced deep remorse over their action. On their side, Quraish raised an outcry that the Muslims had dishonoured a sacred month. The man who was killed was a protege of Utba bin Rabi’a, one of the chiefs of Mecca, and his death greatly provoked Quraish and still further stimulated their hostile designs against the Muslims. They sent two emissaries to Medina to secure the release of the two men who had been taken captive, but as S’ad bin Abi Waqqas and his companion Utba had not yet returned to Medina and the Holy Prophet was apprehensive that if they fell into the hands of Quraish they would not be spared, he refused the release of the captives, awaiting the return of S’ad and Utba. They arrived in Medina within a few days and the two captives were released on payment of ransom. But one of them, Hakam bin Kayan, had in the meantime embraced Islam and stayed on in Medina. The other returned to Mecca. A short while after this event the Holy Prophet received the revelation (2:218):
They inquire from thee about fighting in the Sacred Month. Tell them: Fighting in it is a great evil; but to hinder people from the way of Allah and to deny Him, and to profane the Sanctity of the Sacred Mosque, and to expel its people there-from, is a much greater evil in the estimation of Allah; and persecution is a worse evil than killing. They will not stop fighting you until they turn you back from your faith, if they can.
We are now approaching the time when the first pitched battle between the Muslims and Quraish was fought at Badr. Before entering upon an account of that famous battle, it might be helpful to set out briefly the policies, principles and tactics that the Holy Prophet followed in respect of his military and paramilitary activities, and which he directed the Muslims to observe:-
- Where he had a choice, he preferred to set out on a Thursday, in the morning hours.
- Before setting out, it was his practice to make suitable supplications to the Divine, along with the whole of his company.
- He had established a fairly effective system of intelligence concerning the movements of the enemy. Those entrusted with this duty were instructed that they should not report to him when he was among company. If he received some intelligence, which occasioned anxiety, he did not make it public, and communicated it to only selected individuals.
- When he set out on an expedition he did not normally announce his goal. On some occasions he would proceed for a few miles in a direction different from the direction of his goal and would then veer round to the direction of his goal.
- At a short distance from Medina, he would make a halt and check up on everything. He set out finally after being satisfied that everything was in order.
- On the occasion of important campaigns, the Holy Prophet called for volunteers and those who were prepared to accompany him arranged their own equipment and mounts. Anyone who was himself well-off might help another less favoured one in this respect. The Holy Prophet urged such aid and assistance and rendered it himself when he was able to do so.
- Boys below fifteen years of age were not permitted to go to battle. Those who, out of their eagerness, sometimes slipped into the ranks of the volunteers were, if detected at the time of checking up, sent back.
- A number of women generally accompanied the volunteers to help in arranging for food and to nurse the wounded and to take care of them. They also distributed water among the fighting men in the course of the battle. On certain occasions, women are known to have taken part in the fighting also.
- The Holy Prophet took one or more of his wives with him on such journeys. They were selected by lot.
- When the Holy Prophet received intimation that an enemy tribe was preparing to attack the Muslims, he forestalled their design in order to frustrate it. On such occasions he so contrived that the Muslim force should arrive unexpectedly at the enemy encampment or settlement. This method safeguarded the Muslims to a large degree, and, in many cases, it rendered fighting unnecessary and thus safeguarded the enemy also.
- Whenever he dispatched a force on such a campaign, he directed the commander that when the enemy were encountered, they should be invited to embrace Islam, and if they agreed they should be urged to migrate to Medina. If they became Muslims, but could not migrate, they were permitted to stay at home in peace. If the enemy rejected the invitation to accept Islam, they were invited to stop fighting the Muslims and to submit to the Islamic state. If they rejected all these offers, they should be fought.
- When he dispatched a force on a campaign, he admonished them: ‘Muslims, go forth in the name of Allah, and fight in the cause of Allah. Do not defraud in the matter of the spoils, nor cheat the enemy. Do not mutilate the enemy dead nor kill women or children or monks or priests, nor those who have arrived at extreme old age. Always try to improve people’s condition and behave benevolently towards them. Allah loves the benevolent.’ In his time, Hazrat Abu Bakr used to add: ‘Leave alone those who have dedicated their lives to the service of God and also that to which they are dedicated; do not cut down fruit trees, nor ruin an inhabited place.’ All this was designed towards making war humane and to put an end to the inhuman practices that were current in Arabia before the advent of Islam.
- Whenever the Holy Prophet dispatched a party or a force, he appointed anemir(commander, or leader) over them. He directed that even if as few as three persons should set out on an errand, they should appoint one of themselves as their leader. He insisted on the rendering of full obedience to the emir. He said, ‘Even if a stupid Negro slave is appointed emir over you, render him full obedience,’ though he added that if the emir should require something to be done which was clearly opposed to a divine command or to a direction of his own, he should not be obeyed in that respect, but his authority must be upheld at all times.
- In the course of a journey, when the Holy Prophet and his Companions had to ascend a height they glorified Allah in the words ‘Allah is Most Great’ and when they had to descend from a height, they glorified Allah in the words ‘Holy is Allah’.
- The Muslims were directed that during the course of a march, they should not make camp in a manner that might prove inconvenient for other people, nor should they march in a manner so as to block the way. He said in the course of a journey: He who does not safeguard the comfort of others in marching or camping would be deprived of his reward in respect of hisjihad.
- When the Holy Prophet encountered the enemy in the field of battle, he always supplicated the Divine before the commencement of the fighting.
- He preferred fighting during the forenoon, and stopped fighting during the heat of the day and resumed it in the late afternoon.
- Before a battle, he himself arranged his forces in battle order and resented any kind of irregularity or confusion.
- An Islamic force generally carried two standards, one white which was rolled around a staff and was called Liwa; the second was generally black which floated from a staff and was called Raya. In battle, these standards were committed to the care of selected individuals.
- The Holy Prophet appointed a password for his forces before a battle, which helped to distinguish between friend and foe.
- He disliked noise or confusion among the ranks and called for silent and diligent performance of duty.
- Before a battle the Holy Prophet appointedemirsover different groups of his forces who were clearly instructed in their duties. In selecting these company commanders he kept in mind the consideration that the person selected for the command should be one esteemed among his group or company.
- On special occasions, the Holy Prophet invited his Companions to take a special oath of allegiance and loyalty, as was done at Hudaibiyya, of which mention is made in the Holy Quran (48:19).
- When the Holy Prophet was himself present, battle was not joined till he gave permission.
- During the course of battle he issued special directions from time to time and announced them himself or directed someone with a powerful voice to go on announcing them.
- Muslims were not permitted to run away from battle or to lay down their arms. They were commanded to prevail or to become martyrs. There was, however, permission to retreat as a manoeuvre (8:16,17). If due to some weakness anyone contravened this injunction the Holy Prophet was not wroth with any such, and gave them the benefit of the doubt that they might have retreated as a manoeuvre and encouraged them to be steadfast in future.
- Muslims were forbidden to inflict an injury upon anyone’s face. The Holy Prophet, peace be on him, observed that a Muslim should be most careful in inflicting an injury.
- Muslims were under a strict injunction to take no prisoners, except in the course of regular fighting (8:28).
- Prisoners of war were either released after the battle as an act of benevolence, or in return for ransom (47:5). Or else, they could ask for their ransom to be fixed which they could pay out of their earnings, in which case they were set at liberty so that they could earn their wages freely. Indeed, those to whom they were allotted were themselves urged to contribute towards the payment of their ransom, as an act of benevolence, as is said: ‘Write out a deed of manumission for such of those under your control as desire it, if you see some good in them, and help them to secure their freedom with a portion of the wealth of Allah which He has bestowed upon you’ (24:34).
- Prisoners of war must be dealt with compassionately. Those taken prisoners in the battle of Badr testified to the extreme kindness with which their captors treated them.
- Ransom was not insisted upon to be paid in cash. For instance, those of the prisoners taken in the battle of Badr who were literate were told that their ransom would be to teach a certain number of Muslim children to read and write.
- Muslims were forbidden to pillage or plunder.
- If anyone of the enemy declared his acceptance of Islam, even in the course of fighting, he was to be spared as no danger was apprehended any longer from him. In the course of fighting on one occasion an enemy combatant, when confronted with Usama bin Zaid, who was about to kill him, declared that he embraced Islam, but Usama killed him nevertheless. When this was reported to the Holy Prophet, he was greatly displeased and inquired from Usama, ‘Why did you kill him after he had declared his acceptance of Islam?’ Usama submitted, ‘Messenger of Allah, he merely said so out of fear. He was not sincere.’ The Holy Prophet retorted, ‘Had you cut open his heart to make sure whether he was sincere or not?’ The Holy Prophet went on repeating, ‘How will you justify your action before Allah on the Day of Judgment?’ Usama was so unhappy over the Holy Prophet’s severe displeasure, that in relating the incident afterwards, he said, ‘I wished that I had not been a Muslim before this event and had embraced Islam only after it, so that I should not have been the cause of such severe displeasure on the part of the Holy Prophet.’ On the other hand, there are also instances in which the Holy Prophet himself did not accept the declaration of a person’s embracing Islam if he was satisfied that he was making it only out of fear or temptation. A case is mentioned in Muslim that in a battle a prisoner was taken who belonged to a tribe who were allies of Banu Thaqeef. When the Holy Prophet passed near him he sought release by addressing him in the words, ‘Muhammad, why am I being kept a prisoner? I accept Islam.’ The Holy Prophet responded to him, ‘Had you embraced Islam before you were taken captive, God would have accepted it of you and you would have achieved salvation, but not now.’ In the end, he was exchanged in return for two Muslims who had been taken prisoners by Banu Thaqeef. There is not a single instance that any one was converted to Islam by being put in fear of death.
- Muslims were enjoined strict fulfilment of their covenants and pledges. The Holy Prophet himself was most particular in this regard. On the occasion of the battle of Badr, Hudhaifah bin Yaman, having migrated from Mecca, joined the Holy Prophet and the Muslims just at the time when fighting was about to start. He submitted to the Holy Prophet that when he was about to leave Mecca, Quraish had made him promise that he would not take part in fighting against them. On learning this, the Holy Prophet directed him to fulfil his promise and to refrain from joining in the battle. This is an illustration of the extreme strictness of the Holy Prophet in such matters, for a promise given under coercion would not legally be construed as binding. Hazrat Umar was so strict in these matters that in his time he announced that if a Muslim were guilty of cheating the enemy or of failing to carry out his pledged word to the enemy, he would be executed.
- The bodies of those Muslims who became martyrs in battle were neither washed nor wrapped in a shroud. They were buried just as they had fallen.
- In case of an emergency a number of martyrs were interred in a single grave. On such occasions, their bodies were lowered into the grave in the order of their degree of knowledge of the Holy Quran. Martyrs were buried on the field of battle.
- The funeral service for martyrs was either held immediately after the battle, or if circumstances were not propitious, at some later time.
- The Holy Prophet generally arranged that the enemy dead should be given decent burial by the Muslims.
- In the time of the Holy Prophet, Muslim fighters were paid no salary.
- On the occasion of the division of spoils, the commander first selected some article for himself as a memento, and thereafter, one fifth of the spoils was set aside as the share of Allah and His Messenger. The rest was divided equally between the fighters, those who were mounted receiving three times as much as those on foot. The personal belongings of an enemy who had been killed went to the Muslim fighter who killed him.
- The one-filth that was set-aside for Allah and the Holy Prophet was administered at the discretion of the Holy Prophet. Part of it he distributed among his family and kindred, but the greater part was devoted towards fulfilling the collective needs of the community. The Holy Prophet observed on one occasion, ‘I am forbidden to take even the equivalent of a single hair of a camel in excess of the one-fifth; the greater part of the one-fifth is also returned to you.’
- In the field of battle the order of Salat was modified so that while the Imam led the service throughout, part of the fighting force joined in the service and then withdrew to make room for other parts, one after the other. In this manner, the greater part of the battle force continued to confront the enemy during the service (4:103).
- After fasting had been prescribed, some of the Muslims observed the fast when they were on a journey and some did not. Eventually, the Holy Prophet forbade the observing of the fast in the course of a journey.
- By ancient custom among the Arabs, a spy was liable to be executed. The Holy Prophet maintained the penalty.
- The Holy Prophet, peace be on him, forbade severely any interference with the emissary of the enemy or doing him any harm or inflicting any injury upon him. On one occasion, some emissaries of disbelievers came to him and spoke very impertinently to him. He was provoked, but observed, ‘You are emissaries, and I am, therefore, not permitted to make a harsh retort to you.’ On another occasion, an emissary came to him and after talking to him, he embraced Islam and submitted that he did not now wish to return to his people. The Holy Prophet observed, ‘You are an emissary and must return to your people. I will be no party to any disloyalty. After you return to your people, you can come back if you so wish.’ So he went back and after some time found the opportunity of coming back.
- After the Hedjaz had been purified of all paganism, the Holy Prophet announced that if a pagan should wish to come to Medina as a seeker after truth, he would guarantee his security and safe return (9:6).
- The Holy Prophet, peace be on him, was most particular with regard to the security and the rights of the pagans who established treaty relations with the Muslims. He observed, ‘A Muslim who kills any covenanting pagan will not be permitted to perceive the breeze of paradise.’ He also directed that a Muslim who should be guilty of killing a covenanting pagan by mistake must, in addition to paying his blood money to his heirs, also arrange to procure the freedom of a slave.
- He also observed, ‘I shall on the Day of Judgment seek justice on behalf of a covenanting pagan who is wronged or harmed in any way or is burdened beyond his capacity, or is deprived of something against his will.’
- When the Holy Prophet went forth to battle, he did not stop for more than three days at the place of the fighting after he had achieved victory, so that the presence of the Muslim forces should not become a source of inconvenience or a burden for the local people.
- Any motive other than the safeguarding of the faith and putting down any mischief against it was regarded as inconsistent with the purpose ofjihadThe Holy Prophet, peace be on him, had announced that anyone who went forth to battle for the sake of spoils, or for the display of his bravery, or for any other worldly motive, disentitled himself to any spiritual reward.
In the time of the Holy Prophet, the Arab method of fighting a battle was that when the opposing forces had been drawn up in battle array, individual champions challenged their opposite numbers from among the enemy to single combat. After these combats, battle was joined on a large scale. Fighting was carried on on foot or on horseback, the latter was preferred on account of greater manoeuvrability. Camels were used as a facility for journeying or for the carriage of equipment and provisions. The weapons normally used were swords, spears and bows and arrows. Shields and armour and helmets were used for protection. Some tribes also employed a catapult for shooting stones at the enemy. The Holy Prophet also employed it during the siege of Taif.
In the midst of all these disturbances, the principal purpose of the advent of the Holy Prophet was not neglected. The Muslims were being instructed and trained progressively in all Islamic values. The five daily Prayers had been instituted in Mecca. In these Prayers, the Holy Prophet and the Muslims faced in the direction of Jerusalem. This practice continued for about eighteen months after the arrival of the Holy Prophet in Medina. He had from the beginning hoped that the Ka’aba might be appointed the Qibla (direction to be faced during Prayer), inasmuch as it was the first House that had been built for the worship of God, and the memories of Abraham and Ishmael were also attached to the Ka’aba. Mecca was also the birthplace and the home of the Holy Prophet and the birthplace of Islam. About a year and a half after the Holy Prophet’s arrival in Medina, he received the revelation (2:143-5):
Foolish people will say: What has caused the Muslims to turn away from the Qibla towards which they faced when in Prayer? Tell them: To Allah belongs the East and the West; He guides whom He pleases to the right path …. We did not appoint the Qibla which thou didst follow, except that We might distinguish him who follows the Messenger from him who turns away upon his heels, though this was indeed hard, save for those whom Allah had guided …. Surely, We see thy mind turning frequently to heaven in the matter of the Qibla; so We shall certainly make thee turn to the Qibla thou likest. Then turn thy face now towards the Sacred Mosque; and wheresoever you be, turn your faces towards it.
These verses directed the change of Qibla from Jerusalem to the Ka’aba in Mecca. They also explain the wisdom of Jerusalem having been appointed the Qibla for the Muslims in the beginning and its subsequent change to the Ka’aba. Jerusalem being the Qibla was a challenge to the pagans of Mecca, and in the early months after the Hijra, it continued to be a challenge to the pagans of Medina. When the latter had been absorbed among the Muslims, the need of that challenge came to an end and the Ka’aba was appointed the Qibla as a challenge to the Jews of Medina. Also, the change was a prophecy that Mecca would soon fall under the domination of the Muslims and the Ka’aba, being purified of idols, would be restored to the worship of the One True God. The Muslims were directed to concentrate their attention on the achievement of that purpose.
Of the forms of worship instituted by Islam for the purification and spiritual fulfilment of the Muslims, the Salat was instituted first and was followed by the observance of the fast during the month of Ramadhan, a short while after the arrival of the Holy Prophet in Medina, when he received the revelation (2:184-5):
O ye who believe, fasting is prescribed for you during a fixed number of days, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may safeguard yourselves against moral and spiritual ills. But whoso from among you should be ailing, not being permanently incapacitated, or should be on a journey, shall complete the reckoning by observing the fast on a corresponding number of other days; and for those who find fasting a strain hard to bear as an expiation, the feeding of a poor person, if they can afford it. Whoso performs a good work with eager obedience, it is the better for him. If you had knowledge you would realize that it is better for you that you should fast.
The fast involves abstention from food and drink between the first flush of dawn till after sunset and abstention from marital intercourse during that period, throughout the month of Ramadhan. Though normal occupations and pursuits may be carried on during the month of Ramadhan, the emphasis should be on spiritual and moral exercises, like prayer, the remembrance of God, study of the Holy Quran and all forms of charity. The Holy Prophet laid emphasis on absolute purity, physical, moral and spiritual, throughout Ramadhan. He is reported as having said: ‘Most unfortunate is the person who should be afforded the opportunity of observing the fast in its true spirit throughout the month of Ramadhan and should not thereby win forgiveness for all his previous sins and defaults. If a person who is observing the fast does not discard falsehood and chicane, he starves himself in vain as God sets no value on his going hungry and thirsty.’
He also warned against carrying anything to excess, even worship. He forbade people forming a habit of fasting continuously or for long periods. He admonished: ‘You owe obligations to yourselves, to your wives and children, to your friends and neighbours, and should not neglect any of those obligations. The performing of those obligations according to the will and pleasure of God is also worship.’
The Holy Prophet directed that towards the end of Ramadhan every Muslim who can afford it should contribute seven pounds of wheat or barley or dates or grapes, to a collective charitable fund which should be distributed to the needy, the orphans, the widows, etc., so that it should be an atonement for any default which may have occurred in the observance of the fast, and should enable the poorer and needy sections of the community to participate cheerfully in the festival of the breaking of the fast at the end of the month of fasting. This festival was also instituted at the same time when the observation of the fast was made obligatory. This festival is celebrated joyously as an expression of gratitude to God for His having enabled His servants to observe the fast as prescribed by Him. On the day of the festival the Muslims, men and women, gather together in some open space and join together in an extra Prayer service so that both the body and the soul should participate in the celebration of the festival. There are two festivals, which have been instituted in Islam. The second of them is celebrated on the day after the pilgrimage, when those who can afford it also sacrifice an animal to win the pleasure of Allah. With regard to these sacrifices, the Holy Quran has laid down (22:38):
Their flesh reaches not Allah, nor their blood, but it is your righteousness that reaches Him. Thus has He subjected these animals to you that you may glorify Allah for guiding you; and give glad tidings to those who carry out all commandments to the full.