The three principal Jewish tribes, Banu Qainuqa, Banu Nadhir and Banu Quraidha, had been settled in the oasis of Medina long before the Qayla (Aus and Khazraj) appeared on the scene. After their arrival the Jewish tribes continued for some time to occupy a position of dominance in the oasis. Even at the time of the Hijra their numbers exceeded those of the Arabs in the oasis. How the Jews came to be in Medina, and whether they were of Hebrew stock or were descendants of Arabs who had been converted to Judaism, is not clear. It is definite, however, that in course of time they had adopted many customs identical with those of their pagan Arab neighbours and intermarried with them, but they adhered to the Jewish religion and maintained their distinct existence.
The arrival of the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, in Medina was no more welcome to the Jews than it was to Abdullah bin Ubayy, Chief of Khazraj, who was shortly to be crowned King of Aus and Khazraj, a design that was frustrated by developments in Medina consequent on the arrival of the Holy Prophet. The Jews were expecting the advent of a Prophet, which had been foretold in Deuteronomy 18:18, but they believed firmly that the Prophet would be raised among the Jews and therefore could not reconcile themselves to the notion that he was raised among Arabs. They were thus both jealous and hostile and from the very beginning desired the discomfiture of the Holy Prophet. When Islam began to spread rapidly among Aus and Khazraj, the Jews were chagrined and became apprehensive that the stranger from Mecca might achieve a position of dominance in Medina. Nevertheless, they hoped that this tendency might soon be checked and arrested. When they received intimation that a strong, well-armed force was advancing from Mecca towards Medina, and that the Holy Prophet had gone out to meet and check it, the Jews flattered themselves with the hope that the Holy Prophet and the Muslims would meet their doom at the hands of Quraish. The utterly unexpected result of the battle came as a shock to them.
When, after the battle, the Holy Prophet perceived that Banu Qainuqa were taking up an aggressive attitude, he assembled them in their market and warned them in the following words: ‘Beware lest Allah bring you the vengeance that He brought upon Quraish, and embrace Islam. You know that I am a Prophet who has been sent – you will find that in your books and in Allah’s covenant with you.’ The Jewish response to this appeal was a challenge. They said, ‘Muhammad, you seem to think that we are like your people. Do not deceive yourself because you encountered a people with no knowledge of war and got the better of them; for, by God, if we fight you, you will find we are real men.’ This reply seemed to foreclose chances of a peaceful accord. There is not the least doubt that at that period the three Jewish tribes, singly as well as collectively, were much stronger in every respect than the Holy Prophet’s followers.
Subsequent developments have been set out in earlier chapters. It is clear that the Jews of Medina constantly incited Quraish, and later other tribes, towards aggressive action against the Muslims for the purpose of wiping out Islam altogether. The Holy Prophet bore patiently with them, but neither did his extreme clemency towards them, despite their misbehaviour, serve to persuade them to live at peace with the Muslims, nor did the harsh measure that he was compelled to adopt against Banu Quraidha serve as a warning. Khaibar, after the expulsion of Banu Nadhir from Medina, became the centre of Jewish intrigue. Leaders of Banu Nadhir were welcomed in Khaibar and Huyay bin Akhtab, chief of Banu Nadhir, became their principal leader. He was present with Banu Quraidha during their treasonable activities at the time of the siege of Medina and shared their fate after the siege was raised.
The Truce of Hudaibiyya deprived the Jews of their principal instrument, Quraish, whom they had so far employed as the spearhead of their nefarious designs against the Muslims. They also became apprehensive that unless they moved in adequate strength against the Muslims at an early date, the balance of strength might become adverse to them. They now relied upon the Ghatafan and other tribes of Nejd, with whom they had had friendly relations throughout, to carry out their purpose. When the Holy Prophet received intimation that the Jews of Khaibar and neighbouring Jewish settlements were actively planning aggression against the Muslims in concert with Ghatafan, he decided to move against Khaibar in the hope of coming to some settlement with them of the type that he had arrived at with Quraish. He assembled those who had accompanied him to Hudaibiyya and, taking precautions that their movement should not become known, accomplished the journey to Khaibar, distant less than a hundred miles, in three forced marches. So quick was the movement, and so complete the surprise, that the cultivators of Khaibar, issuing forth in the morning to their fields, suddenly found themselves confronted by a great force, and rushed back to the city in dismay. The rapidity of the approach cut off all hope of timely aid from Bani Ghatafan.
The vale of Khaibar was studded with villages and fortresses rudely built but posted strongly on the rocks and eminences which here and there rose from amidst date-groves and fields of corn. One by one, before any opposition could be organized, these forts were attacked and carried. From the villages first attacked, which were gained with little loss, the Muslims proceeded to the strong fortress of Qamus. Here the Jews, who now had time to rally round their chief, Kinana, posted themselves in front of the citadel, resolved on a desperate struggle. The first attempts to dislodge them having proved abortive, the next morning the Holy Prophet placed his standard in Ali’s hands and the troops advanced. At this moment, a Jewish warrior, Marhab, stepped forth from the Jewish line and challenged his adversaries to single combat. Ali advanced against him, the combatants closed, and Ali cleft the head of Marhab in two. His brother renewed the challenge, and Zubair went forth and slew him. The Muslim line now made a general advance, and, after a sharp conflict, drove back the enemy. In this battle, Ali performed great feats of valour. Having lost his shield, he seized the lintel of a door, which he wielded effectually in its stead. The victory was decisive, for the Jews lost 93 men; while of the Muslims, only 19 were killed throughout the whole campaign. The citadel of Qamus surrendered on condition that the inhabitants should be free to leave the country, but should give up all their property to the victors. With the rest came forth Kinana, chief of Khaibar, and his cousin. They were charged with breach of the compact because of holding back the greater part of the treasure, which had to be delivered. They protested that they had not held back anything and offered that if they were not telling the truth they would forfeit their lives. The treasure was discovered, on information supplied by a Jew, from a place where the two had concealed it. They paid the forfeit.
Zainab, sister of Marhab, had lost her husband as well as her father and brothers in the battle and felt very bitter against the Holy Prophet. Having ascertained that he fancied shoulder of lamb, she dressed a kid with dainty garnishing and, having steeped the shoulder in poison, sent the dish to the Holy Prophet for his evening repast. Graciously accepting the gift, he took a piece of the shoulder for himself and distributed portions to Abu Bakr and other friends, including Bishr, who sat next to him. As he swallowed the first morsel, the Holy Prophet called out, ‘Surely, this shoulder has been poisoned,’ and he spat forth the mouthful. Bishr, who had eaten a portion, at once changed colour and stirred neither hand nor foot until he died. The Holy Prophet suffered excruciating pains and caused himself and all those who had partaken of the dish with him to be freely cupped between the shoulders. Zainab, put upon her defence, answered, ‘Thou hast inflicted grievous injuries upon my people; thou hast slain my father, my brothers and my husband. Therefore, I said within myself, if he be a Prophet, he will reject the gift knowing that the kid is poisoned; but if he is a mere pretender, then we shall be rid of him, and the Jews will prosper again.’ Her exculpatory statement was accepted and she was set free.
After the victory of Qamus the only remaining strongholds, Watih and Sulalim, were invested and, seeing no prospect of relief, capitulated, on condition that they would pay half the produce of their lands as a tax. They retained all their properties. Fadak, a Jewish settlement not far from Khaibar, profited by the example, and, having tendered a timely submission, was admitted to the same terms. On their march homeward the Muslims laid siege to the Jewish settlement Wadil Qura, which, after a resistance of one or two days, surrendered upon like conditions.
Of the spoils of Khaibar, a fifth was, as usual, set apart for the Holy Prophet’s use and for distribution at will among his family and the destitute poor. The remaining four-fifths were sold by auction, and the proceeds, according to the prescribed rule, divided into shares, one for a foot soldier, and three for a horseman.
The villages and lands were disposed of in another way. One half, embracing all the places which surrendered without fighting, were reserved for the Holy Prophet, and constituted thereafter a species of Crown domain; the other half were allotted in freehold plots by the same rule as the personal booty. Even where the lands having been gained by fighting were apportioned as private property it was found expedient to leave the Jews in possession, on the same condition as with the public lands, namely surrendering half the produce. An appraiser was deputed yearly to assess the amount, to realize the rents, and bring them to Medina. So long as he was alive Abdullah bin Rawaha was charged with the performance of this duty. The Jews greatly esteemed his justice and impartiality in making the assessment.
On the way home the Holy Prophet had the pleasure of welcoming his cousin, Jafar, who, with some of the Migrants, had just returned from Abyssinia and had gone out to meet him. The Holy Prophet expressed great joy on meeting them; and the army, no less pleased, acceded cheerfully to his proposal that Jafar and his companions should share equally with them in the spoils of Khaibar.
During the autumn and winter of the seventh year of the Hijra several expeditions were dispatched, under different leaders, in various directions. They were not attended by any important results, but served to extend the influence of the Holy Prophet and to bring him into relations with surrounding and even distant tribes.
The time came round when the Holy Prophet, according to treaty, might visit Mecca and perform Umra. Besides those who had accompanied him the previous year to Hudaibiyya, many others joined the cavalcade which now numbered about 2,000 men. Muhammad bin Maslamah, with 100 horses, marched in advance of the pilgrims. The sacrificial animals were sent forward to a spot in the immediate vicinity of Mecca. Meanwhile Quraish, apprised of the approach of the Muslims, according to agreement evacuated the city in a body and, ascending the adjacent hills, watched for the coming of the pilgrims. At last the cavalcade was seen emerging from the northern valley. At its head was the Holy Prophet, seated on Qaswa; Abdullah bin Rawaha, on foot in front, held the bridle; around on every side were the chief Companions; and behind, in a long extended line, came the rest of the pilgrims on camels and on foot. Seven years had passed since the Emigrants last saw their native valley, and now with quickened steps and long-repressed desire, they hastened forward, and, as the Holy House came in view, raised high the Talbeeh: ‘Here am I ,O Allah; here am I.’ Still mounted on his camel, the pilgrim mantle drawn under his right arm and thrown over the left shoulder, the Holy Prophet approached the Ka’aba, touched the Black Stone with his staff and made the seven circuits of the sacred spot, with the people following. Just then Abdullah, as he led the Holy Prophet’s camel, recited, at the pitch of his voice, warlike and defiant verses. He was admonished: ‘Gently, son of Rawaha! Recite not this. Say rather: “There is no god but the Lord alone! It is He that hath upholding His Servant, and exalted His people! Alone hath He put to flight the hosts of the Confederates.”’ Abdullah proclaimed the words accordingly, and people taking them up shouted them aloud as they encircled the Ka’aba, till the mighty sound rang round the valley.
The circuits completed, the Holy Prophet, still upon his camel, proceeded to the adjoining eminences of Safa and Marwa, and rode seven times from one to the other, according to ancient custom. The animals were sacrificed, and thus the ceremonies of Umra were completed. On the morrow the Holy Prophet ascended into the inner chamber of the Ka’aba and remained there till the hour of Prayer. Bilal, mounting to the roof of the Ka’aba, summoned the pilgrims with the usual call to midday Prayer. They gathered from every quarter; and so, under the shadow of the Holy House, the Service was led by the Holy Prophet in the same form as in the mosque of Medina. Sir William Muir has observed (Life of Muhammad, p. 388):
It was surely a strange sight, which at this time presented itself in the vale of Mecca – a sight, one might almost say, unique in history. The ancient city is for three days evacuated altogether by its inhabitants, and every house deserted. As they retire, the Exiles, many years banished from their birthplace, accompanied by their allies, fill the valley, revisit the empty homes of their childhood, and within the short allotted period fulfil the rites of pilgrimage. The ousted citizens, with their families, climbing the heights around, take refuge under tents or rocks amongst the hills and glens; and, clustering on the overhanging peak of Abu Qobais, thence watch the movements of the visitors beneath, as with the Prophet at their head they perform the sacred rites – anxiously scanning every figure, if perchance to recognize among the worshippers some long-lost friend or relative. It was a scene rendered possible only by the throes that gave birth to Islam.
While at Mecca, the Holy Prophet lived in a tent of leather pitched for him near the Ka’aba. Yet he held friendly converse with several of the citizens and endeavoured to turn the present opportunity for conciliating the citizens of Mecca to the best effect, and not without success. But the time was short. Already the stipulated three days were ended, and he had entered on a fourth, when Suhail and Huweitib, chief men of Quraish, appeared and insisted that he and his followers withdraw from the city. The Holy Prophet gave immediate orders for departure and by nightfall not one of the pilgrims was left behind.
Not long after, Khalid bin Waleed, the Quraish commander who had turned the rear of the Muslims in the battle of Uhud, repaired to Medina, and gave in his adhesion to the cause of Islam. Two others followed him. One, his friend, the equally famous Amr, of versatile ability and weighty in counsel, who had been employed by Quraish in their embassy to Abyssinia. The other was Uthman, son of Talha, a chief of some note, and custodian of the Ka’aba. He had no doubt, in that capacity, attended with the keys of office to give the Holy Prophet admittance to the Holy House; and, perhaps, like many others who gazed from a respectful distance on that memorable scene, was won over by the devotion of the Holy Prophet to the Ka’aba and the elevation and beauty of the service then performed. The position of the Holy Prophet at Mecca was greatly strengthened by the accession of such leading men. There can be no doubt that the movement in his favour was not confined to those just mentioned, but was wide and general; and that the cause of Islam was gaining popularity in Mecca day by day.
During the spring and summer of the eighth year of the Hijra several military excursions were undertaken, with varied fortunes. A party of fifteen men was sent to Dhat Atlah, on the border of Syria. There they found a great multitude assembled who were called upon to embrace Islam. A shower of arrows was the answer. The Muslims fought desperately; one man alone survived to tell the tale. This disaster probably paved the way for the grand attack directed shortly after against the border-districts of Syria. The immediate cause was the murder by the Chieftain Shurahbil at Muta, of a messenger on his way with a despatch from the Holy Prophet to the Ghassanid prince at Bosra. It was immediately resolved to punish the offending chief. A general call of all the fighting men was made, and a camp of 3,000 soldiers was formed outside Medina. A white banner was mounted, and the Holy Prophet, placing it in the hands of Zaid, bade him march to the spot where the messenger had been slain, summon the inhabitants to embrace Islam, and, should they refuse, to draw the sword against them. In case Zaid was cut down, Jafar was to command; if Jafar, then Abdullah bin Rawaha; and if he too were disabled, the army should choose their own commander. Tidings of the coming army reached Shurahbil, who forthwith summoned to his aid the tribes of the vicinity. Thus, upon the alarm of invasion, there quickly rallied round Shurahbil a large well appointed army. Zaid received the startling intelligence on reaching Maan. The enemy, he heard, was encamped at Maab; his apprehension was increased by the rumour that Byzantine cohorts were with the host, and that the Emperor was at their head. He halted; a council of war was called; and for two days the Muslim chiefs discussed the difficulties of their position. Many advised that the Holy Prophet should be apprised of the new aspect of affairs and fresh instructions requested. Abdullah, on the contrary, urged an immediate advance in such passionate terms that everyone responded to it. So the camp advanced.
On entering the Belka by the southern shore of the Dead Sea, they suddenly found themselves confronted by an enemy in numbers and equipment surpassing anything they had ever seen before. Alarmed at the glittering array, they fell back on the village of Muta. There, finding advantageous ground, they halted and, forming front, resolved to offer battle. The Byzantine phalanx, with its cloud of Arabs on either flank, moved steadily down upon them. In the battle that ensued, Zaid, Jafar and Abdullah fell in that order. The leadership being now vacant, a council hastily called together fixed their choice on Khalid who forthwith assumed the command. But the chance of victory had passed away. It remained for Khalid but to save the dispersed columns from destruction, and even this taxed his skill and prowess to the utmost. By a series of ingenious rapid movements he drew off the remains of the army to a safe retreat. But he dared not linger longer in the dangerous vicinity and so, without further attempt to retrieve the day, he marched back straightway to Medina.
The loss of his cousin Jafar, and Zaid the faithful and beloved friend of five and thirty years, affected the Holy Prophet deeply. On the first intelligence of the reverse and of their death, which he received early in the day through a confidential messenger, he went to the house of Jafar. His widow, Asmaa, had just bathed and dressed her little ones when the Holy Prophet entered, embraced the children tenderly, and burst into tears. Asmaa guessed the truth and sobbed aloud. A crowd of women were gathering round her; the Holy Prophet silently left the place and, returning home, desired that provisions be sent to Jafar’s house, observing, ‘No food will be prepared there this day, for they are sunk in grief at the loss of their master.’ He then went to the house of Zaid and Zaid’s little daughter rushed into his arms, crying bitterly. The Holy Prophet was overcome and wept with her. A bystander, thinking to check his grief, said to him, ‘Why thus, O Prophet?’ ‘This,’ he replied, ‘is not forbidden grief; it is but the fond yearning in the heart of friend for friend.’
About that time the Arab governor of Maan, Farwa, a Christian, sent a dispatch to the Holy Prophet, announcing his adherence to Islam, with several presents – a white mule, a horse, an ass, and raiment inwrought with gold. The presents were graciously acknowledged in a letter from the Holy Prophet who contained directions for the spiritual guidance of the convert. The Byzantine government, hearing of his defection, sought, by offers of promotion, to secure his return to the Christian faith. He refused, and was put to death.
The repulse at Muta affected the prestige of the Holy Prophet among the northern tribes. There were rumours that the Bedouins of the neighbourhood had assembled in great force, and even threatened a descent upon Medina. Amr, recent adherent to Islam, was therefore placed at the head of 300 men, including 30 horses, with instructions to restore the prestige of Islam on the Syrian border. The selection of Amr was justified on the basis of his personal qualities, and also because he was connected with Bani Bali, a powerful tribe in the vicinity, and was possessed of personal influence which might aid in effecting the object of the campaign. In the event of serious opposition, he was to call upon the Arabs in that quarter who had already tendered their submission to come to his aid. After a ten days’ march he encamped at a spring near the Syrian confines. There he found that the enemy were assembled in great numbers, and that he could look for little aid from the local tribes. He halted and dispatched a messenger for reinforcements. The Holy Prophet at once sent 200 men, among whom were both Abu Bakr and Umar, under the command of Abu Obadiah. Thus strengthened, Amr assumed command of the united troops, advanced, dispersed the hostile gatherings, and confirmed the friendly tribes. Having accomplished his objective, he returned to Medina.
Besides the Syrian tribes gained over by the success of Amr, several others, as Bani Abs, Murra, and Dhubyan now gave in their adhesion; and the Fezara with their chief, Oyeina, who had so long caused anxiety at Medina, at last tendered submission. Suleim also, who had taken part in the siege of Medina, joined the cause of Islam about this time. Most of the tribes in the vicinity of Medina had already recognized the supremacy of Islam.
Sir William Muir has commented (The Life of Muhammad, p. 399):
The courteous treatment which the deputations which now began to come in from all directions experienced from the Prophet, his ready attention to their grievances, the wisdom with which he composed their disputes, and the politic assignments of territory by which he rewarded early declaration in favour of Islam, made his name to be popular, and his fame as a great and generous Prince to spread throughout the peninsula.
The Truce of Hudaibiyya had been now nearly two years in force. Acting on the discretion allowed by the treaty, Khuzaa and Bani Bakr, inhabiting Mecca and its neighbourhood, declared their adhesion, the former to the Holy Prophet, the latter to Quraish. There had been sanguinary feuds of old standing between them, and, though these paled before the excitement of the war with the Muslims, the blood which had been shed on either side caused hatred still to rankle in their breasts. The Truce of Hudaibiyya allowed Bani Bakr again to brood over their wrongs, and they sought opportunity to make reprisals. Aided by a party of Quraish, they attacked by night an unsuspecting encampment of Khuzaa, and slew several of them. A deputation of forty men from the injured tribe, mounted on camels, hastened to Medina, spread their wrongs before the Holy Prophet, and pleaded that the treacherous murders be avenged.
Quraish, hearing of this deputation, were thrown into great alarm. They dispatched Abu Sufyan to Medina to procure a reconfirmation of the compact of peace. On his way he met Budail, chief of Khuzaa, returning from Medina after his interview with the Holy Prophet. Abu Sufyan was not able to procure any reassurance from the Holy Prophet. He departed home and reported his failure to Quraish, but assured them that he had observed no hostile preparations in Medina.
In response to the appeal of Khuzaa, the Holy Prophet resolved to march against Quraish, but the design was kept secret as long as it was possible. Meanwhile, he summoned his allies from amongst the Bedouins to join him at Medina, or at certain convenient points on the road, but he did not disclose their destination. At the last moment he ordered the Muslims in the city to arm themselves, announced his project, and enjoined on all that no hint regarding it should, by any possible way, reach Mecca. Notwithstanding this injunction, Hatib, a devoted Muslim, secretly despatched a female messenger with a letter to Mecca containing intimation of the intended project. Information of this reaching the Holy Prophet, he sent Ali and Zubair in pursuit. They overtook the messenger and recovered the letter from her. Hatib excused himself by his natural desire to safeguard his unprotected family in Mecca; and the plea, in view of his former services, including his participation with the Muslims in the battle of Badr, was graciously accepted.
On 1 January 630 the army commenced its march. It was the largest force Medina had ever seen. The tents of the auxiliaries darkened the plain for miles around, and heavy contingents joined the Holy Prophet on the line of march. Two of these, Muzeina and Suleim, contributed as many as 1,000 men each. The Holy Prophet now found himself at the head of 10,000 men. Zubair with 200 men led the van. The march was made with such rapidity that within a week the army encamped at Marraz Zahran, but a single stage from Mecca. The Holy Prophet’s uncle, Abbas, joined the Muslims on the road and was welcomed by the Holy Prophet with favour and affection.
The Holy Prophet commanded everyone to kindle a fire that night on the heights above the camp. No certain information of the march from Medina had yet reached Quraish, and uneasy at the portentous calm, broken only by vague reports, they sent forth Abu Sufyan to reconnoitre. In the evening, accompanied by Hakim bin Hizam, Khadija’s nephew, and Budail, the Khuzaa chief, Abu Sufyan sallied forth on the Medina road. Ten thousand fires were by this time blazing on the mountain tops and appearing in full sight engaged their speculations, when suddenly in the dark Abu Sufyan was accosted by Abbas, who pointed out to him the wisdom of casting in his lot with the Muslims. ‘Seat thee upon the mule behind me,’ Abbas told him, ‘and I will conduct thee to the Holy Prophet, and thou shalt seek quarter from him.’ They were soon at the tent of the Holy Prophet, who, when Abbas apprised him of the arrival of Abu Sufyan, told him to take him to his tent, treat him well and to bring him up in the morning. At dawn Abu Sufyan was deeply impressed by the serried ranks of the Muslims following the Holy Prophet in Prayer. He realised that the Meccans had no means of withstanding such a formidable host. When he was received by the Holy Prophet, he enquired, ‘If we do not oppose you by the sword, will you still employ the sword against us?’ He was assured that if they did not resist with force, no force would be employed against them. The Holy Prophet then enquired from Abu Sufyan, ‘Have you not yet discovered that there is no god but the Lord alone?’ ‘Had there been any god beside,’ replied Abu Sufyan, ‘surely, he would have been of some avail to us.’ ‘Then do you acknowledge,’ enquired the Holy Prophet, ‘that I am the Messenger of the Lord?’ ‘As to this,’ countered Abu Sufyan, ‘there is yet in my heart some hesitancy.’ ‘Woe is thee,’ exclaimed Abbas, ‘this is no time for hesitancy.’ It was, indeed, no time for idle pride or scruple, and so Abu Sufyan, finding no alternative, repeated the formula of belief in God and in Muhammad as His Messenger. He then urged that as he was Chief of Quraish, some sign of honour may be appointed for him. He was told that whoever took refuge in his house would be safe. The Holy Prophet directed him to hasten back to the city and to announce that whoever closed the door of his house would be safe, and so also whoever entered the Holy House.
Before Abu Sufyan could quit the camp, the forces were already under arms, and were being marshalled in their respective columns. Standing by Abbas, he watched, in rising amazement, the various tribes, each defiling with its banner into its proper place. One by one, the different clans were pointed out by name and recognised. ‘What is that black mass,’ asked Abu Sufyan, ‘with dark mail and shining lances?’ ‘It is the chivalry of Mecca and Medina,’ replied Abbas, ‘the honoured band that guards the person of the Holy Prophet.’ ‘Truly,’ exclaimed the astonished chief, ‘this kingdom of thy nephew is a mighty kingdom.’ ‘Nay, Abu Sufyan, he is more than a king, he is a mighty Prophet.’ Abu Sufyan then hurried back to Mecca, and as he entered, shouted at the pitch of his voice, ‘Ye Quraish, Muhammad is close upon us! He has an army which ye are not able to withstand. Whoever enters the house of Abu Sufyan shall be safe this day; and whoever shuts his door upon him shall be safe; and whoever enters the Holy House, he shall be safe.’ So the people fled in all directions, to their homes and to the Ka’aba.
The army was now in full march on Mecca. The anxieties of a lifetime crowded into the moment. As the city was approached it was evident that there would be no opposition. Had any general opposition been organised it was here that a stand would have been made, yet no army appeared in sight. In token of his gratitude the Holy Prophet bowed his head low upon his camel and offered up thanksgiving to the Lord. The troops were told off in four divisions, and each was assigned a different road by which simultaneously to advance, with strict injunctions not to fight except in the last extremity, nor offer violence to anyone. Zubair, leading the left battalion, was to enter from the north, Khalid from the south, the men of Medina under S’ad bin Ubadah from the west, while the mild but vigilant Abu Obaidah, commanding the Emigrants and followed by the Holy Prophet himself, took the nearest road skirting Jebel Hind. This disposition was wisely made; if opposition was offered anywhere, one of the other divisions would be at hand to take the enemy in the rear. As S’ad led on the citizens of Medina, he sang, ‘Today is the day of slaughter; there is no safety this day for Mecca.’ When this was reported to the Holy Prophet, he took the Medina banner from S’ad and gave it to his son Qais, a man of towering stature but of gentler disposition than his father.
Khalid’s column encountered some violent opposition, in consequence of which a small number of Quraish and two of Khalid’s men were killed, which saddened the Holy Prophet. He descended into the valley at a spot not far from the tombs of Abu Talib and Khadija. He was there joined by the division of Zubair and directed his tent to be pitched in the open space to the north of the city. ‘Wilt thou not alight at thine own house?’ inquired a follower. ‘Not so,’ he said, ‘for have they yet left me any house in the city?’ The great banner was planted at the door of his tent and he retired to repose therein but did not tarry for long. Again mounting Qaswa he proceeded to the Ka’aba and performed the circuits of the House. He then directed the demolition of the idols that were installed inside and around the Ka’aba. As each idol fell, he recited the verse: ‘Truth has come and falsehood has vanished away. Falsehood does indeed vanish fast’ (17:82). Thus was the Ka’aba restored to its true purpose, the worship of the One God, for which it was originally designed.
He then desired Bilal to make the Call for Prayer from the top of the Ka’aba, and worship was performed by the surrounding multitude, as it has been ever since, according to the ritual of the mosque of Medina. A crier was then sent through the city with the proclamation ‘Whoever believeth in God, and in the Last Day, let him not leave in his house any image whatever that he doth not break in pieces.’ He likewise deputed a party of Khuzaa to repair the boundary pillars around the sacred territory. Thus he gave practical proof that while determined to uproot idolatry from the land, he was equally resolved to uphold the sanctity of Mecca. He won the hearts of the inhabitants by his ardent declaration of attachment to the city. ‘Thou art the choicest spot on earth unto me,’ he said, ‘and the most delectable. If thy people had not cast me forth, I would never have forsaken thee.’ Ansar now began to express their fear that, as the Lord had given him victory over his native city, he would not return to Medina as his home. He overheard it and, calling them around him, assured them he would never quit Medina. ‘God forbid it,’ he said. ‘Where ye live, there will I live, and there too shall I die.’
Having performed these immediate and necessary tasks, the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, sent for the leaders of Quraish and asked them how he should deal with them. They replied that they fully merited whatever punishment he might choose to inflict upon them, but that they knew he was a generous brother and would deal with them as such. The Holy Prophet pronounced judgment in the words addressed by Joseph to his brethren: ‘No retribution shall be exacted from you this day’ (12:93). He told them they were free.
All the scorn and ridicule poured on him by the Meccans; their implacable hatred and enmity; the long years of bitter, cruel and sustained persecution; all the fighting, the hardship and suffering; the loss of dear and devoted Companions, all – all was in the moment of triumph laid aside, banished from the mind and forgiven in the name of the Lord On High, the Gracious, the Merciful, the Creator and Master of all. God’s glorious command was carried out to the utmost (41:35, 36):
Good and evil are not alike. Repel evil with that which is best and lo, he between whom and thyself was enmity is as though he were a warm friend. But none attains to it save those who are steadfast, and none attains to it save those who possess abundant good.
The gates of love and mercy were opened wide. Bitter enemies of the morning became warm friends by midday. Some hearts were still sullen; the humiliation, though softened by magnanimity, was hard to endure, but even these could not long withstand the healing effect of the balm so generously and beneficently applied by the Prophet of God. History furnishes no parallel instance of such complete forgiveness, such utter beneficence, on so large a scale.
A dozen individuals were exempted from this amnesty on account of the atrocities of which they, individually, had been guilty, but of these also all were eventually forgiven, except four who suffered the extreme penalty.
Abu Jahl, commander of the Meccan army killed during the battle of Badr, had been the Holy Prophet’s bitterest enemy in Mecca. His son, Ikramah, was one of the Meccan commanders in the battle of Uhud who had spotted the inadequately guarded rear pass and had led the attack, which ended in near disaster for the Muslims. When Mecca fell Ikramah left the town and proceeded to the coast, intending to cross over to Abyssinia, being convinced that he could have no security in Mecca or anywhere near it. His wife approached the Holy Prophet and asked whether Ikramah could return to Mecca while professing his idolatrous beliefs. He replied that faith was a matter of conscience and conscience was free. If Ikramah returned to Mecca he would not be molested, and could live there in security professing whatever he chose to believe in. On this assurance, she followed Ikramah and persuaded him to return to Mecca. On arrival there he repaired to the Holy Prophet and received the assurance which he had already given to his wife. Thereupon he announced his acceptance of Islam and the Holy Prophet asked him if there was anything he wished for. He replied that he could wish for no greater bounty than God had already bestowed upon him in opening his heart to the acceptance of Islam, but he did desire that the Holy Prophet should pray to God to forgive him all the enmity that he had borne towards the Prophet and the Muslims. The Holy Prophet prayed accordingly and then bestowed his own mantle on Ikramah, saying, ‘He who comes to me believing in God can claim my house as his.’ Ikramah proved himself a sincere and zealous believer and set the seal on his faith by laying down his life in defence of it on one of the Syrian battlefields some years later.
At last the Holy Prophet bethought himself of procuring some nourishment. He went to the house of his cousin, Um Hany, daughter of Abu Talib, who was delighted to welcome him but was distressed that she had nothing in the house which she could offer him except a piece of very stale bread, too hard to be swallowed. When she mentioned this to the Holy Prophet, he smiled and said, ‘Surely, Um Hany, it can be softened by being soaked in water. And have you anything which might make it more palatable?’ She replied, ‘There is a little of the dregs of some vinegar left from long ago.’ The Holy Prophet observed, ‘That would be excellent.’ He then proceeded to soak the piece of bread in water and when it was softened he ate it with the few drops of black vinegar, first pronouncing the name of God over the meal and rendering thanks to Him when he finished, as if it had been a banquet. He thanked his cousin and observed, ‘Um Hany, what a bounty bread and vinegar is!’
During the succeeding fortnight, while occupied in the arrangement of public affairs at Mecca, the Holy Prophet sent forth several armed parties to destroy the idolatrous shrines in the vicinity and secure the submission of the surrounding tribes. In the course of one of these operations Khalid put to death some members of a tribe who had tendered submission and laid down their arms. The Holy Prophet was grieved at the intelligence, raised his hands to heaven, and adjured, ‘Lord, I am innocent in Thy sight of that which Khalid has done.’ To prove the sincerity of his displeasure, he sent Ali with money to make compensation for the slain.
Mecca had fallen, but this did not bring peace. The Holy Prophet’s march against Mecca had been so sudden that the first intimation of it that reached the surrounding tribes was the fall of the town. They were greatly agitated by the news, and felt that the time had come for the last effort to be put forth against Islam. The great Hawazin tribe occupied the ranges and slopes of the hilly country south-east of Mecca, and with their numerous branches and affiliated clans spread themselves over the wide steppes beyond Taif. That city inhabited by Bani Thaqeef of the same descent was their centre, and its inhabitants, devoted to idol-worship and closely connected with Mecca, feared the rapidly growing power of Islam. Accordingly they sent an urgent summons to all the branches of Hawazin stock to assemble, with a view to checking effectively the further spread of Islam. Having appointed a rendezvous at Autas, a valley in the mountain range north-east of Taif, they began rapidly to assemble there.
This movement compelled the Holy Prophet to cut short his stay at Mecca. Although the city had cheerfully accepted his authority, all its inhabitants had not yet embraced Islam. The Holy Prophet intended to leave their conversion to be accomplished gradually without compulsion. He left Muaz bin Jabal, well skilled in the Holy Quran and all questions of religious practice, to instruct the people of Mecca in the tenets and requirements of Islam, and appointed a Quraish youth, Attab, of the house of Abd Shams, over the secular administration of the city.
Four weeks had just elapsed since quitting Medina when the Holy Prophet marched forth from Mecca at the head of all his forces, swelled now by the addition of 2,000 auxiliaries from Quraish to the number of 12,000 men. Safwan, at his request, lent him 100 suits of mail and stands of arms complete, and as many camels. The array of tribes, each with a banner waving at its head, was impressive. In three or four marches the army arrived near the entrance of the valley of Hunain. On their side Hawazin, gathered in great force at Autas under their chief Malik, numbering at least 30,000, had meanwhile also been advancing upon the same valley. The women and children of the tribe with their herds and their flocks followed in the rear. Malik hoped thus to nerve his troops to victory. During the night of the arrival of the Muslims at Hunain Malik drew up his men in a masked recess commanding the steep and narrow defile, which formed the entrance to the valley and awaited there in silence the enemy’s approach.
At early dawn, while it was yet dark, the sky being overcast with clouds, the Muslim army was in motion. The Holy Prophet, mounted on his white mule, followed in the rear. The vanguard of Banu Suleim, led by Khalid, were defiling leisurely up the steep and narrow pass when on a sudden Hawazin sprang from their ambuscade and charged impetuously down upon them. Staggered by the unexpected onslaught, column after column fell back and choked the narrow pass. Aggravated by the obscurity of the hour and the straitness of the rugged road, panic seized the army and they turned and fled. The rallying calls of the Holy Prophet had no effect, except that a band of devoted followers, including Abbas, his son Fadhl, Ali, Abu Bakr, Umar, Usama and Aiman, gathered round him. The confusion increased, the multitude of camels jostling wildly one against the other; all was noise and clamour and the Holy Prophet’s voice was lost amid the din. He bade Abbas, who held his mule, to call aloud, ‘Ye Ansar! Ye men of the Pledge of the Tree!’ Abbas forthwith shouted these words over and over again at the pitch of his stentorian voice, till they reached far and near. At once they touched a chord in the hearts of Ansar; arrested in their flight, they flew to the Holy Prophet, crying aloud, ‘Here we are; here we are.’ A hundred of these devoted followers, disengaged with difficulty from the camels that jammed the road, threw themselves across the gorge and stayed the downward rush. Relieved from the pressure from above, the army rallied and returned to the battle. The Holy Prophet spurred forward his mule, calling out, ‘I am the Prophet, no impostor; I am the son of Abdul Muttalib.’ The conflict was severe, and the issue, from the nature of the ground and the impetuosity of the foe, for some time doubtful. The moment was critical, but in the end, the steadiness of Ansar and the enthusiasm of the rest when once recalled, won the day. The enemy fled and the rout was complete.
Malik, taking his stand with the flower of his army at the upper end of the valley, covered the escape of his broken forces; but he was unable to rescue the women and children who fell into the hands of the Muslims, with the camp and all that it contained. The spoils included 24,000 camels, 40,000 sheep and goats, and 4,000 ounces of silver. The prisoners, 6,000 in number, with the booty, were removed to the neighbouring valley of Jirana, and sheltered there awaiting the return of the army from Taif. The Holy Prophet knew that Hawazin would seek to regain their families, and an opportunity was thus skilfully left open for negotiation. The fugitive army was pursued as far as Nakhla; from thence part fled back to Autas, and part to Taif. The former entrenched themselves in their previous camp. A strong detachment was sent to dislodge them, which was accomplished after severe fighting. The dispersed fragments took refuge in the surrounding hills. As soon as the detachment returned from Autas the Holy Prophet led the army by way of Nakhla and laid siege to Taif, which had been the centre of all the trouble. But the battlements were strong, the city well provisioned, and there was a plentiful supply of water within the walls. Despite all efforts, the siege was successfully withstood for half a month when the Holy Prophet decided to raise the siege and the army marched back to Jirana. Here it was brought to the notice of the Holy Prophet that his foster-sister, daughter of Halima of Bani S’ad, was among the prisoners. He sent for her, seated her affectionately beside him, and offered to take her to Medina. But as she preferred remaining with her tribe he let her return to them with a handsome present.
Encouraged by the kind treatment of their kinswoman, a deputation from the various tribes of Hawazin presented themselves before the Holy Prophet. They professed submission to him, recounted the calamities that had befallen them, and urged, ‘In these huts among the prisoners, are thy foster-mothers and foster-sisters who have nursed thee and fondled thee in their bosoms. We have known thee thou hast risen to this dignity. Be gracious, therefore, unto us, even as the Lord has been gracious unto thee.’ The Holy Prophet was deeply touched, and turning kindly to them told them that if they had approached him earlier he would have released all their prisoners without ransom. He then inquired, ‘Which of the two, your families or your properties, is the dearer to you?’ ‘Our women and our children, they replied, ‘we would not take anything in exchange for them. ‘Then,’ continued the Holy Prophet, ‘whatsoever prisoners fall to my portion and that of my family, I give them up unto you. With regard to the rest, come again at the midday Prayer when the congregation is assembled, and ask of me to make intercession with them for you. They appeared at the appointed time and made their petition. Ansar; and Emigrants cheerfully followed the example of the Holy Prophet but some of the allied tribes, as Fezara, with Oyeina at their head, declined to do so. The Holy Prophet offered to recompense them the rate of six camels for every captive, to which they agreed, and the prisoners were all released.
At the time of the division of the spoils, 44 camels and 40 sheep or goats fell to the lot of each soldier, and three times that number to every horseman. Out of the one-fifth that fell to the share of the Holy Prophet he took the opportunity of gaining, by a princely liberality; the hearts of the leading chiefs of Mecca and of the Bedouin tribes. To the most powerful he presented each 100 camels. Among them were Abu Sufyan, his two sons, Yazeed and Muawiya, Hakim bin Hizam, Safwan, Suhail, Huweitib, Oyeina, and others who but a few weeks before were his deadly enemies. To the lesser chiefs, he gave 50 camels each. So liberal was he that in some cases where discontent was expressed the gift was without hesitation doubled. His merciful dealing with the Meccans when the city fell had secured him their submission; his large-hearted liberality towards them now won him their hearts. It was an even greater victory than the fall of Mecca. Even Malik, the chief who had led Hawazin and who was still at Taif, came when sent for, made his submission and was treated with the same generosity. He soon joined the Holy Prophet and became an exemplary believer. Confirmed in his chiefship, he entered upon a constant warfare with the citizens of Taif and reduced them to great straits.
It was conveyed to the Holy Prophet that his unprecedented liberality towards his erstwhile enemies had occasioned some murmurs of discontent among younger Ansar. He called Ansar together and addressed them thus: ‘Ansar, it has been reported to me that you are disconcerted because I have given large portions to these chiefs out of the one-fifth, and have given nothing to you.’ Leading Ansar assured him that the discontent had been given expression to by some of their younger irresponsible men, and that the bulk of them had no grievance whatever. The Holy Prophet said, ‘Now tell me, did I not come unto you whilst you were wandering, and the Lord gave you the right direction; needy, and He enriched you; at enmity amongst yourselves, and He filled your hearts with love and unity?’ ‘Indeed, it is even as you say,’ they answered, ‘to the Lord and to His Prophet belong benevolence and grace.’ ‘Nay,’ continued the Holy Prophet, ‘but ye might have answered, and answered truly – for I would have vouched for it myself – thou camest to Medina rejected, and we bore thee witness; a fugitive, and we took thee in; an outcast, and we gave thee asylum; destitute, and we fed thee. Why are you disturbed in mind because of the things of this life wherewith I have sought to incline these men unto the faith in which you are already established? Are you not satisfied that others should have the flocks and herds, while you carry back with you the Prophet of the Lord? Nay, I will never leave you. If all mankind went one way, and Ansar went another way, I would go the way of Ansar. The Lord be favourable unto them and bless them, and their sons and their sons’ sons forever.’ At these words they wept, till the tears ran down upon their beards, and they cried with one voice, ‘Yea, we are well satisfied, O Prophet, with our good fortune.’
The Holy Prophet spent about a fortnight at Jirana, during which period the booty captured at Hunain was all distributed. When everything was ended he started for Mecca, where he performed the Umra, and returned to Jirana the same night; and thence, striking through the valleys, took the direct route homewards to Medina.
The youthful Attab was confirmed in the government of Mecca and an allowance assigned him of one dirhem a day. He was content with this moderate allowance. He said, ‘Let the Lord make hungry that man’s liver, who is hungry upon a dirhem a day. The Prophet hath appointed that as my sustenance. I have no further claim upon anyone.’ Muaz was left behind to complete the spiritual instruction of the city. The annual pilgrimage followed shortly afterwards; Attab presided.