The Hindu revivalist movements took an aggressive turn in the early 1920s after the failure of the joint Hindu-Muslim khilafat movement. The Hindu Mahasabha, founded at Hardwar in 1914 by Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya (1861–1946), joined the Arya Samaj in its campaign of shuddi (reconversion and purification of Muslims, initially in the Punjab, the United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh), the Deccan and other parts of India. By forcing Muslims to ‘wash away their pollution’ with total immersion in a river or water-tank, Hindu gangs provoked communal rioting. Between 1922 and 1926 over 200 Hindu-Muslim clashes were reported. Verbal and written attacks on Islam and Islam’s Prophetsa became widespread. In their religious zeal, the writers of shuddi literature made scurrilous attacks on the Holy Prophetsa. An Arya Samaj preacher, Pandit Kalicharan Sharma, wrote his own account. He emphasized the Prophet’ssa alleged immorality and the fact that he married to ‘correct’ the view of history. His book, Vichitra fiwan (Strange Life), also stressed ‘the spread of Islam by the sword’. All Muslims, according to Pandit Sharma, were intent on looting, arson and rape. In May 1924, a Lahore book-seller, Rajpal, published an Urdu tract by an anonymous author criticizing the Holy Prophetsa. The tract, Rangila Rasul (Playboy Prophet) suggests that all great religious leaders are associated with sets of ideas and symbols. For instance, the founder of Arya Samaj, Swami Dayanand, had glorified celibacy and closely identified his reforms with the Vedas. Similarly, the life and faith of the Prophet of Islamsa were linked closely with relationships with women. Rajpal was later murdered by two Muslim youths, which led to Hindu-Muslim rioting. Another Hindu wrote an article, ‘A trip to hell’, in Risala-i-Vartman describing the Prophetsa in hell and elaborating on his sufferings and ‘sins’.
The Ahmadis of undivided India immediately got themselves together and defeated the reconversion movement on its own ground. The Imam of the Ahmadiyyah Movement in Islam at the time, Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, also took a positive step. He decided that there should be inter-faith conferences where the leaders of different faiths should meet and explain their beliefs in order to pull down the walls of ignorance and prejudice. He set up an annual conference for just this purpose. It was called Yaum-i-Paishwayan-i-Madhahib (The Day of Religious Founders). On that day, for instance, a Muslim would speak of the greatness of Krishnaas or Buddhaas, while a Hindu would talk of Islam’s Holy Prophetsa, putting right misunderstandings about him which were being spread by propagandists. The Ahmadi attitude during this unfortunate time of calumny and hatred was that non-Muslims should be educated and given the message of love and peace which the Prophet of Islamsa gave the world. Accusations and sectarian diatribes do not help a missionary preach his faith. He should instead emphasize the good points of his religion. The Imam of the Ahmadiyyah Movement also persuaded the government of India—then British—to strengthen the law to protect the honor of religious leaders. The Punjab governor, William Hailey, who was briefed by Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, recommended that the government of India change the law by banning material blatantly offensive to religious feeling1. The government accepted this recommendation. A bill was accordingly drafted to add a new section to the Indian Penal Code, 295A, which made it an offence to insult or to attempt to insult the religious beliefs of any class of people. The bill was passed in 1927 by the Legislative Assembly.
But Indian Muslims were very upset and indignant at this time. A Muslim calligrapher, Abdul Rashid, outraged by such malicious attacks on the Holy Prophet’ssa life, murdered Swami Shraddhanand, a shuddi leader. Rashid was tried and hanged. Thousands of Delhi Muslims went to the Delhi District jail to collect his body and he was buried as a martyr. This glorification of murder enraged the Hindus, who called Islam a religion of violence and force which relied on jihad and not reason or virtue2. A young journalist, Abul Ala Maududi, answered these accusations in a series of articles in Al-Jamiyat, the newspaper of the Jamiyat Ulama-i-Hind. These articles were subsequently published in book form as Al-Jihad fil Islam.
In the first part of this book, Maududi convincingly proved that the wars fought by the Prophet of Islamsa were defensive. He fought to establish freedom of conscience and opposed all attempts to suppress the peaceful work of preaching Islam. Having convinced the reader that Islam did indeed establish the freedom of conscience, the Maulana himself seems to cast doubt on his own argument by adding this rider:
That freedom of conscience is limited to faith and religion only. It does not mean that people have freedom to commit sin. Islam does not permit the use of force for conversion, but force maybe used—in fact, should be used—to prevent people from doing wrong. Non-Muslim countries and cultures cannot be allowed to practice immoral deeds and force used to keep these countries free of vice should be clearly distinguished from that used to convert people to Islam.
Thus, the Maulana evolved a tortuous method of interpreting the Quran and the tradition (hadith) of the Prophetsa to prove his point.
Maulana Maududi goes a little deeper in discussing the use of force and explains the purpose of verse 29 of Chapter 9 in the Quran. Quoting it out of context, he says:
The words: ‘Until they pay the jizya’ fully explain the purpose of war [prevention of vice]. If the words were: ‘until they accept Islam’ then, of course, one could say that Islam uses force to spread its faith. But the words, ‘until they pay the jizya’ are clear. Consent to pay the jizya ends the war. After this, the life and properly of non-Muslims are inviolable, whether or not they accept Islam.
Maulana Maududi began writing his book to prove that Islam gives complete freedom of conscience and that the Holy Prophetsa went to war because his opponents were suppressing that very freedom. This was in answer to non-Muslim claims that Islam is based on two main principles: the forcing of people to do good and the prevention of them from indulging in vice. Since forcing people to do good is against the freedom of conscience, Islam refrains from it. But the Maulana is a little forgetful, for he quotes the Quranic words which say that a war should be stopped after non-Muslims have agreed to pay the jizya. How could a war, begun purely to prevent vice, ever be won if the enemy pays the jizya without promising to wipe out vice? The Maulana’s aim was to impose the poll tax. Since an agreement had been reached for its payment, the second principle of Islam, prevention of vice, had been conveniently forgotten. The final part of Maulana Maududi’s logic, however, nullifies the very purpose for which he wrote this book. He says:
When all methods of persuasion failed, the Prophetsa took to the sword. That sword removed mischief, the impurities of evil and the filth of the soul. The sword did something more—it removed their blindness so they could see the light of truth—and it also cured them of their arrogance: arrogance which prevents people from accepting the truth, stiff necks and proud heads bowed with humility.
As in Arabia, so in other countries, Islam’s expansion was so fast that within a century a quarter of the world accepted Islam. This conversion took place because the sword of Islam cut away the veils which had covered men’s hearts?3
This portion of the Maulana’s reasoning defeats his promise that Islam establishes freedom of conscience. It also is repugnant to the spirit of Islam. One mistake leads to another. Finally, after 137 pages of sophistry, the Maulana declares: ‘While it is incorrect to say that Islam converts with the sword, it is also wrong to say that the sword did not play any role in conversion’.4
The Maulana began his book with the declared intention of proving that the wars fought by the Holy Prophet were ‘defensive’. He fought to establish freedom of conscience, yet ends up joining hands with Islam’s enemies. In doing so, the Maulana opens the doors for an orientalist onslaught. The prestige he enjoys among a small, but vocal, minority of Western-educated Muslims helps the orientalists, who bolster their anti-jihad arguments with the Maulana’s brandished sword to ‘play a role in The Preaching of Islam’.
Less than two years after the Hijrah (the Prophet’ssa migration from Mecca to Medina), his companions were confronted by a thousand Meccans, determined to blot out Islam, its Prophetsa and his followers. It was dawn on Friday, 17th March AD 623 (17 Ramadan, 2 AH) when the Meccans with 700 camels and a cavalry of 100 horses began descending towards the valley of Badr from the slope of Aqanqal, twenty miles south of Medina. There were just 313 Muslims there to defend Islam. They had only two horses and were so short of arms that when Ukkashah’s sword was broken during the fighting, the Prophetsa could only replace it with a wooden club, which he used instead. Their situation became so desperate that the Prophetsa cried out: ‘Allah! If this small band of Muslims is annihilated today, no one will be left to worship Thee!’
As Montgomery Watt puts it, Abu Jahl was ‘presumably hoping to get rid of Muhammad once and for all’5 Will Durant agrees with Watt: ‘If Mohammed had been defeated his career might have ended there and then6. Abu Jahl’s hopes were, however, not fulfilled and the Muslims successfully defended themselves against the well-equipped and far superior Meccan forces.
Islamic history has preserved the names of all 313 Companions of the Prophet who defended Islam in the valley of Badr. One wonders what role the sword played in converting these 300-odd Muslims. Among them were Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali, who succeeded the Prophetsa as his caliphs. Was it the sword which removed the ‘dross’ from their hearts? Then there were Awf b. Harith, Umar b. Salimah, Muawwidh and many others who fell that day. The exact details of their conversion are not unknown. Can anyone say that the filth of their souls and the evil of their hearts were cleansed by the blade of a sword?
The three great Companions who later fought so valiantly to defend the faith were Sad b. Abi Waqqas, Abu Ubaydah b. al-Jarrah and Khalid b. Walid. None was converted to Islam by force. Hundreds of Emigrants (Muhajirun) and thousands of Helpers (Ansar) were converted and gave the persecuted Prophetsa sanctuary. No sword was involved in their conversion. These converts were the fruits of Islam, the pride of mankind, the signposts on the path to ultimate truth. What greater insult to them than to say their hearts were purified by the sword, or to suggest that it was ‘fallacious to say that the sword did not play any role in [their] conversion’?
What were these people before the advent of Islam? Before Muhammadsa, Arabia existed as a political unit only, as Will Durant pointed out. He said: ‘In the careless nomenclature of the Greeks, who called all the population of the peninsula Sarakenoi (‘Saracens), apparently from the Arabic sharqiun, “easterners”7. Previously they were called ‘Scenite Arabs’—Arabs who lived in tents (from the Greek word skene, a tent. They lived in an arid land and communication problems meant there was tribal self-sufficiency. During the second millennium before the Christian era, the Arabs domesticated the camel, an animal perfectly suited to the desert. It provided milk for sustenance and urine for medicinal use. Its meat was tender and its hide and hair made tents and clothing. Ever its dung could be used for fuel. It could go for twenty-five days in winter without water and five in summer. Small groups of nomads followed the camels, the camels being their most important resource. Aloy Sprenger summed up the whole pre-Islamic Saracen history by describing the Arabs as the ‘camel’s parasites’.
The Arab felt no duty of loyalty to any group larger than his own tribe, but the intensity of his devotion varied inversely to its extent; for his tribe, he would do with conscience what civilized people do only for their country, religion or race—i.e., lie, steal, kill and dies8.
He was bound by no written laws and no state existed to enforce the law.
Arabs mourned the birth of daughters and hid their faces in shame. Sometimes daughters were killed at birth. If they survived, their natural charm might earn them a few years of love from husbands and lovers who would go to the ends of the earth to defend their honor. But they were no more than pieces of property. They were part of the estate of their fathers, husbands or sons and were bequeathed with other belongings. They were also slaves, rarely friends of their fathers, husbands or brothers.
The Arab gave scant thought to life after death. He offered human sacrifice; he worshipped ‘sacred’ stones. The centre of this stone worship was Mecca. In pre-Muslim days, within the Kaba, were several idols supposed to represent gods. The great god of Mecca was Hubal, an idol made of cornelian. But in the Hijaz, three goddesses—Lat, Manat and Uzza—had pride of place as the daughters of God.
Well-built and strong, the Arab could live on just a few dates and some camel’s milk. From the date palm he made a wine which raised him up into poetic flights of imagination and romance. His life alternated between loving and fighting and he was quick to avenge insult and injury, not only for himself but also on his tribe’s behalf.
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth was the law. Never-ending shame awaited an avenger if he could not kill his tormentor. A large part of his life was spent in tribal vendetta (Arabic tha’r). In the pre-Islamic Arab history Ayyam ul-Arab, (Days of the Arabs), was the name applied to the battles the Arabs fought among themselves. Particular days were called, for example, Day of Buath or Days of al-Fijar. These inter-tribal hostilities generally sprang from disputes over cattle, land or springs. One of the most famous was fought between the Banu-Bakr and their kinsmen the Banu-Taghlib over a she-camel, owned by an old woman from Bakr called Basus. A Taghlib chief had wounded the camel… the resulting war lasted forty years! It ended only when both tribes had exhausted each other. Another famous war was the Day of Dahis and AlGhabra, which erupted over the unfair conduct of two chieftains in a race between a horse (named Dahis) and a mare (called Al-Ghabra). War broke out soon after the Basus conflict ended and continued at intervals for several decades.
This was the social background in which Muhammadsa was brought up and these were the people whom God gave the first opportunity of embracing a persecuted prophet’s faith.
To suggest that these fierce and warlike people—who would sound the battle cry at the drop of a hat—could have been converted by force is to contradict history. Moreover, it demeans the faith of those pioneers who put their lives at stake to defend Islam at the battle of Badr.
Usayd b. Hudayr, Sad b. Khaythamah, Asd b. Zurahah, Abdullah b. Rawahah, Sad b. Ubadah, Mundhir b. Amir, Bara b. Marur, Ubadah b. as-Sami, Rafi b. Malik and many other Helpers traveled all the way from Medina to Mecca to embrace Islam. Even to hint that the sword played a part in their conversion is also to deny historical fact.
While in Christian history it is religion which converts swords into ploughshares,(9)Maulana Maududi’s interpretation of Islamic history asks us to believe it is the sword which prepares the soil of the soul to receive religion’s seed.‘(10) Was it the Holy Prophet’ssa sword or a few verses of the Holy Quran which turned Umar b. Khattab—a sworn enemy of Islam into Islam’s devoted servant?
In the early days of the Prophet’s persecution, Umar, a headstrong young man of 26, decided to kill the Prophetsa, thus wiping out the main cause of division among the Quraysh. On his way to the Prophet’s house, he met Nuaim b. Abdullah, who sensed his evil intentions and said: ‘O Umar! Go back to the people of thy house! Thy sister, Fatima, and thy brother-in-law, Saeed, have embraced the religion of Muhammad.’ And, without a single word, Umar went straight to his sister’s house, where a Companion, Khabbab, was reciting the opening verses of the Surah, Ta-Ha (XX). As soon as Umar went in, Khabbab hid in a comer and Fatima hid the pages of the Quran in her clothing. But Umar had overheard Khabbab’s recital and attacked both Saeed and Fatima. When Fatima was covered in blood, he softened and asked to see the verses. He read them and exclaimed: ‘How beautiful and how noble these words are!’ And he went straight to Arqam’s house, where the Prophetsa was sitting with his Companions. He cried out: ‘O Messenger of Allah! I have come to thee that I may declare my faith in Allah and His Messenger and in what he hath brought from Allah.’
Why is Maulana Maududi so determined to paint a violent picture of Islam? Why are there contradictions in his theory of jihad? A glance at the Maulana’s background and the conditions under which he wrote his book, Al Jihadfil Islam, can help us answer these questions.
Syed Abu Ala-Maududi spent his childhood and early youth in Hyderabad (Deccan) where the Nizam still ruled in the style of the great Mughal and where his Hindu prime minister sang the praises of the Holy Prophetsa11. At the crossroads, from north to south and east to west, it was the last stronghold of Mughal—predominantly Muslim—culture in India. In a state where the population was overwhelmingly Hindu (more than 80 per cent) and Muslims were a small minority (just 10 per cent), the ruler though without effective power, still recalled the past glory of Mughal rule. It was an unreal world. The court, with its Paigah nobility, chamberlains, household troops, brocade sherwanis, ceremonial dastar (turban), bugloos (buckle) and gorgeous jewelry, was a reminder of the Delhi Court before it was ravaged by Nadir Shah (1739). There were Arab mercenaries with gilded daggers and long muskets and the regular army with all the paraphernalia of modem warfare. The rajas and maharajahs—some of them reigning over areas larger than the Hindu states of British India—occupied the highest places of honor in the Nizam’s government and were part of a surreal picture of Muslim tolerance and Hindu loyalty.
Though the Hyderabadi culture was recognizably Indian based, it was largely Muslim in shape. ‘Social organization was still feudal, but not in any sense primitive. It was highly cultivated with a grace of manner, and, above all, a tolerance and mutual respect which could speak volumes to our generation if we could listen.12
It was in this Hyderabad that the young Maududi’s personality was formed.13 Sensitive and impressionable, he started his journalistic career in 1918 by joining the editorial staff of the Medina (Bijnore). After working as editor of the Taj (Jabalpur) he took over the editorship of Al Jamiyat (Delhi) in 1925. The shuddi movement was at its height and, as mentioned earlier, at this time the young editor of Al-Jamiyat started writing his articles. They were obviously written under the pressure of his day-to-day work and they were all completed within six months14. Maududi began to write these articles ‘more as a nationalist than a religious zealot’, but on further study of Islamic literature—as much as he could read in six months and without Islamic schooling he became a religious revivalist15 Both his articles in AL-Jihad fil Islam and the overall evolution of his own thought were very much peacemeal. He started writing the book as a nationalist Indian 16 and, as such, his aim was to prove to the Indian Hindus, and especially to Gandhi ji, that Islam was not a religion of violence. In a speech at Jami Masjid, Delhi, the great Indian Muslim leader, Maulana Muhammad Ali Jowhar, said he wished that a Muslim would write a book pointing out that Islam had nothing to do with violence. Young Maududi was among the audience and decided to take up the task17. So, in the first installment of his articles, he pointed out to Hindus that Islam was not a religion of the sword. But our author was born and bred in a Muslim kingdom where the Hindu majority was under a Muslim leader.
The writer of two books on the history of Hyderabad18 was steeped in the power of political authority. He soon contradicted his own arguments against the jihad of the sword. This Hyderabadi Muslim was to assert: ‘It is fallacious to say that the sword did not play any role in conversion.’ The young journalist was neither a historian nor a scholar of religion. He could not understand that though Muslim dynasties ruled the Deccan for 600 years, the overwhelming majority of that area remained Hindu. Political power in Muslim hands has never helped conversion to Islam. The author of Jihad fil Islam was just 24 years old. And the Maulana, even at the age of 65, remained ‘superficial’. As Prof. Fazlur Rahman observed:
Maududi, though not an alim, was nevertheless a self-taught man of considerable intelligence and sufficient knowledge… He was by no means an accurate or profound scholar, but he was undoubtedly like a fresh wind in the stifling Islamic atmosphere created by the traditional madrasas … But Maududi displays nowhere the larger and more profound vision of Islam’s role in the world. Being a journalist rather than a serious scholar he wrote at great speed and with resultant superficiality in order to feed his eager young readers—and he wrote incessantly… Not one of Maududi’s followers ever became a serious student of Islam, the result being that, for the faithful, Maududi’s statements represented the last word on Islam-no matter how much and how blatantly he contradicted himself from time to time on such basic issues as economic policy and political theory.19
The late Mufti Kifayatullah of Delhi held the same opinion. He said: ‘I know Maulana Abu Ala Maududi. He has neither learned from nor been disciplined by a scholar of repute. He is very well read but his understanding of religion is weak.20
The late Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani foresaw the danger very clearly and said:
His pamphlets and books contain opinions which are anti-religious and heretic, though written with theological trappings. Lay readers cannot see through these trappings. As a result they find the Islam brought by the Holy Prophet repugnant; the Islam which has been followed by the Ummat-i-Muhammadiya for the last 1350 years.21
In one of his letters, Maualana Qari Muhammad Tayyab wrote:
Having read Maududi Sahib’s writings I have concluded that he did not acquire the disciplines of Muslim legal philosophy and mysticism. He cannot write on them with authority.22
The late Maulana Ahmad Ali Lahauri also wrote in the same vein:
Maududi Sahib wants to present a ‘New Islam’ to the Muslims. And Muslims will not accept a New Islam’ unless the old Islam, which they have followed for the last 1,350 years, is not fully destroyed and it is proved that Islam has become irrelevant and impractical.23
Maulana Maududi, as we have seen, was neither an historian nor a religious scholar. He was essentially a journalist and he had the two basic qualities of a journalist: a good command of the Urdu language and the ability to write quickly. The Al-Jamiyat was a bi-weekly at that time and he had to write his column on jihad within two or three days, in addition to editing his newspaper. Having no background in research and no time for it then, he mistook the battle of Hunayn (30 January 630), which came soon after the submission of Mecca (11 January), as a turning-point in Islamic history. Since Islam’s enemies were decisively beaten at Hunayn, the Maulana concluded that it was this victory and the political power gained through it which helped the conversion of the whole of Arabia to Islam. Maulana Maududi is not alone in drawing this conclusion. The orientalists, who see no moral or spiritual force in Islamic teachings and are unable to understand the great miracles performed by our Holy Prophet, have always put Muslim expansion down to force. The orientalists divided the life of the Prophetsa into two sections, the first the period of Meccan persecution and second the period of conquest after his migration to Medina. Our young journalist, Abu Ala Maududi, with his superficial knowledge of Islamic history, accepted this apparently simplistic but, in reality, very clever division of the Holy Prophet’ssa life.
Armed conflict, war and threats of war were forced constantly on the Prophetsa. After he migrated to Medina, the pagans of Mecca and the Jews of Medina, encouraged by the hypocrites, busily plotted against Islam. They inspired hatred against Muslims and worked pagan Arabs up to a fever pitch against the Holy Prophetsa. All the defensive actions the Muslims were forced to take obstructed the Prophet’ssa basic mission. Muslims needed peace but, as our examination will show, that peace was deliberately disturbed to prevent them from spreading the new faith.
1 Islam’s enemies used every means of communication against Islam. For the Arabs, poets were historians, genealogists, satirists, moralists and founts of wisdom.24 The poet was the ‘kindler of battle’25 and ‘the journalist of the time’.26 The Ansar (the Muslims of Medina) were accused of dishonoring themselves by submitting to an outsider. Asma hint Marwan of Umayyah b. Zayd composed verses taunting and insulting Medinite Muslims. She said:
Malik and Nabit
And cowards of Awl and Khazraj
You obey a stranger who does not belong to you
Who is neither a Murad nor a Mad’hij28
Do you—when your own chiefs have been murdered—hope in him
Like the greedy people looking towards
a cooking pot of meat soup?
Is there no man of honor among you who will
take advantage of an unguarded moment
And cut off the gulls’ hopes?29
The centenarian poet of Khazrajite class, Abu Afak, taunted the Medinites with the following verses:
I have lived a long time, but I have never seen
Either a house or gathering of people
More loyal and faithful to
Its allies, when they call on them,
Than those of the Children of Qayla30
as a whole.
The mountains will crumble before they submit.
Yet here is a rider come among them
who has divided them.
(He says) ‘This is permitted, this is forbidden’
To all kinds of things
But if you had believed in power
And in might, why did you not follow
Tubbas were south Arabian kings of great reputation. Abu Afak, in effect, asked the Ansar, ‘Once you resisted Tubba, now what has happened to you that you have accepted the claims of a Meccan refugee?’ While Asma and Abu Afak were putting the Ansar to shame, the Jewish poet Kab b. al-Ashraf32, enraged by the Muslim victory at Badr, went all the way to Mecca to rouse the Quraish against the Holy Prophetsa. He played on the Arab weakness for vengeance:
Badr’smill ground out the blood of its people.
At events like Badr you should weep and cry.
The best people were killed round their cisterns.
Don’t think it strange that princes were left lying
How many noble, handsome men,
The refuge of the homeless, were slain,
Liberal when the stars gave no rain.33
2 The vendetta, as we have observed earlier, was one of the pillars of pre Islamic Arab society. So, whenever a pagan combatant was killed by a Muslim in armed conflict, his heirs took an oath to avenge his death and the whole tribe accused Islam of his death. The fact that conflicts were initiated by pagans themselves was conveniently forgotten.
3 The Holy Prophet’ssa mission was restricted to a small area of Arabia because of the general hostility to him. Missionaries could not take the message of Islam to the whole of the peninsula.
4 Many Arabs had accepted Islam, but fear of war made them afraid to declare their new faith.
5 Conversion to a new religion requires commitment and courage, even when honor and life itself are not at risk. Here, acceptance of Islam demanded more than the joining of a religious society: it meant taking up arms in its defense. Since Muslims at this time were unarmed and weak, it was suicide to join them.
6. Self-defense kept the Muslims so busy that very little time was left for spreading the faith.
If our premise is correct, the ending of hostilities should have immediately boosted the spread of Islam. As we shall see, this is exactly what happened. Mecca was conquered in January 630. That, according to the orientalists and enemies of Islam, was the turning-point in Islamic history. If that were true, one could indeed say that the sword had played a role in the spread of Islam. But history tells a rather different story. Hostilities between the Muslims and the pagan Arabs ended with the truce of Al-Hudaybiah34 (March 628). The terms of the truce appeared to be so degrading that ‘Umar could not contain himself, and asked the Prophetsa: ‘Why yield we in such lowly wise against the honor of our religion?’ The Meccans thought it was a victory. But it was this respite from armed conflict which gave the Holy Prophet much more time to spread the faith. The extent of his success can be gauged by the 10,000 Muslims who marched to Mecca with him in January 630. Previously, his largest force had been 3000 men. This was the strength of the Muslim army which defended Medina when it was besieged by an army of 10,000 pagan Arabs.35 The additional 7000 men were obviously converted to Islam during the two-year truce. People like Amr b. al-As and Khalid b. Walid were converted at this time. The success of this peaceful penetration by Islam was so great that a puzzled Montgomery Watt counts it ‘among the imponderabilia’ and adds: ‘Foremost among the reasons for this success of Muhammad’s was the attractiveness of Islam and its relevance as a religious and social system to the religious and social needs of the Arabs.’36 Watt also says, as if directly addressing Maulana Maududi himself:
Had Muhammad not been able to maintain and strengthen his hold on the Muslims by the sway of religious ideas of Islam over their imaginations, and had he not been able to attract fresh converts to Islam, the treaty of Al-Hudaybiah would not have worked in his favor… Any historian who is not biased in favor of materialism must also allow as factors of supreme importance Muhammad’s belief in the message of the Quran, his belief in the structure of Islam as a religious and political system, and his unflinching devotion to the task to which, as he believed, God had called him… This expedition and treaty mark a new initiative on the part of Muhammad.37
It is sad to note that while an orientalist puts the Holy Prophet’ssa success down to ‘the sway of the religious ideas of Islam’, a leading Muslim of Maulana Maududi’s stature insists that it was through the sway of the sword after the battle of Hunayn that teeming thousands of Arabs accepted Islam. If these were the people whose souls were cleansed with the blade of the sword, then these were also the people who were the first to revolt after the Prophet’s death. That answer to the Maulana’s argument, however, does not explain the revolt.
In the past travel was difficult. There were no roads and therefore one’s safety could not be guaranteed. It was, therefore, impossible for every Arab to come to the Prophetsa learn about Islam at first hand, nor for the Prophetsa to visit every region of the peninsula. The Arab custom was that either a tribal delegation would be sent to the Prophetsa or a Muslim delegation would be sent to the tribes to deliver the message of Islam. There were discussions and debates, and after every question had been asked the tribe accepted whatever the members of the delegation or the elders of the tribe decided. So there was a large number of converts who had no opportunity of benefiting directly from the Prophet’ssa teaching; they had never even seen him. They did not even have the chance to spend time with the Prophet’ssa Companions. Religion is a personal experience and is learned especially by example and inspiration, things not available to the new converts. Misfortune was compounded by the death of the Holy Prophetsa soon after their conversion. The Arab horizon was more than a little darkened by the passing away of Muhammadsa. We can learn a great deal from that period of history. When people reject the prophet of their time and extinguish his light by force, they are severely punished for it.
One result of that punishment is that most people see the light of iman (belief) when the source of that light is about to be extinguished. Sometimes people only recognize a prophet long after his death. What a punishment! To persecute a prophet while he is alive; to accept him only after he has gone.
Since Maulana Maududi joined the worst enemies of Islam by arguing that the sword played a part in The Preaching of Islam, let us reexamine the Prophet’ssa life to see if at any stage people were converted against their will.
The division of the Holy Prophet’ssa life into two periods, the Meccan and the Medinite, seems logical, but it is in reality an over-simplification. After the Hijrah, the Prophetsa and the Emigrants had escaped persecution, but the struggle for survival was not over. It would be more logical to divide the Prophet’ssa life into three phases: the first being the time up to his migration to Medina, and the second the time from his migration to the truce of Hudaybiyah, which was also a period of persecution; the third from the truce to the surrender of Mecca. (Though the Muslims were allowed to fight back, they were no match for the pagan opposition. Medina was the only town where Muslims lived, but they did not control it. The three Jewish tribes and the non-Muslim members of the Aws and the Khazraj dominated the town. The size of the opposing armies at the battle of Badr (38) represented their actual strength. Therefore, this period should be considered an extension of the Meccan period of bitter struggle.) The third period begins with the truce of Hudaybiyah and ends with the surrender of Mecca. It was a period of peace. The Meccan pagans did not attack the Muslims, though a few skirmishes took place with the Jews and some Arab tribes who broke their agreements with the Muslims.
The first period of persecution lasted thirteen years. During that time there was no question of conversion by force. Even the orientalists agree with that. In fact, people accepted Islam in spite of Meccan persecution. Muslims who accepted Islam in Mecca at that time are known as Muhajirs (Emigrants) and it is an historical fact that no Emigrant was unwillingly converted.
The Muslims offered armed resistance during the second period of their persecution. A critic might think that during that armed conflict at least some might have been forced into accepting Islam. But the history of the period is fully documented. The majority of Muslims in Medina belonged to two Arab tribes, the Aws and the Khazraj. These were the people who had invited the Holy Prophetsa to Medina. When they met him at Aqbah, he said: ‘I make with you this pact on condition that the allegiance you pledge me shall bind you to protect me even as you protect your women and children.’ The Khazrajite chief, Bara, who rose to reply, took the Prophet’ssa hand and said:
By Him who sent thee with the truth, we will protect thee as we protect them. So accept the pledge of our allegiance, O Messenger of God, for we are men of war, possessed of arms that have been handed down from father to son.
These were the people who traveled all the way from Yathrib (Medina) to Mecca to offer their swords to the Prophet and who are now known as Ansar (Helpers).
A few Jews in Medina and a small number of Arabs from outlying towns also became Muslims, but none of them accepted their new faith under duress or as a result of armed conflict. During this period the spread of Islam in Mecca was relentless and, despite greater persecution, the Meccan Arabs continued to accept Islam. Again, force did not enter into it.
The conversion of prisoners-of-war is the only remotely possible exception. Before we look at it, let us clear up one misunderstanding. The words ghazwah and sariyah do not mean ‘war’ or even ‘armed conflict’. They only mean ‘an expedition’. Scouts, patrols, embassies, rescue parties, the chasing of highwaymen—even a single Companion’s journey to preach—are grouped under these titles. Expeditions were known as sariyah; if the Prophetsa himself led them, as ghazwah. For instance, the first expedition the Prophet’ssa led was to Al-Abwa, where his mother was buried. He was accompanied by sixty Muhajirs. The Holy Prophetsa stayed there for a few days and signed a treaty of friendship with the chief of the Bunu Damrab. Soon after, the Prophetsa had to follow Kurz al-Fihri. As Watt points out, ‘It was an attempt to punish a freebooter of the neighboring region for stealing some of the Medinite pasturing camels.’39 The expedition, again in the words of Watt, ‘Illustrates the dangers against which he [the Holy Prophet‘sa] had to be constantly on guard.’40 There were about fifty such expeditions between Hijrah and the truce of Hudaybiyah. Of them, three conflicts assumed the dimensions of full-scale war: Badr, Uhud and Ahzab. In the armed conflict with B. Mustaliq over 100 prisoners were taken, but all of them were freed without ransom. In some minor expeditions where one or two prisoners were seized, they too were released without any conditions. It was at the battle of Badr that seventy-two prisoners-of-war were taken. Two of them were executed for past crimes; the rest were freed after a ransom was paid. That, in some cases, was limited only to teaching the children of Ansar how to read and write.
The third period began with the truce of Hudaybiyah and ended with the surrender of Mecca. Twenty-two expeditions were made during this period. Of them, only three conflicts saw any prisoners-of-war being taken. The Prophetsa had sent Dihyah b. Khalifah al-Kalbi as an envoy to Caesar. On his return journey, Dihyah was robbed of Byzantine presents he was carrying for the Holy Prophetsa, by Al-Hunayd and other members of the tribe of Jurham. The Prophetsa sent an expedition under Zayd b. Haritha to punish Al-Hunayd and his allies. The prisoners taken in the resulting skirmish were freed after they repented. Bashir b. Sad successfully led an expedition against the Ghatfan, who were in alliance with the Jews of Medina and the pagans of Mecca. A small number of prisoners were taken, but it is not known what happened to them. Similarly, an expedition was sent to punish B. Banff Kilab. A group of B. Uraynah, who lived among the B. Kilab, came in distress to Medina and accepted Islam. As they were suffering from a fever, they were sent to the Prophet’ssa pasture grounds to enjoy good food and milk. But, when they recovered their strength, they cruelly killed the herdsmen and stole fifteen camels. They were punished. There was probably a small number of prisoners, but the details are not known.
This rather detailed examination shows that from the Hijrah to the surrender of Mecca, not a single prisoner-of-war was forced to convert. There is no evidence to suggest that the filth of their soul was removed by the blade of the sword. Rather, these prisoners were allowed to return to their paganism.
The final period of the Holy Prophet’ssa life began with Mecca’s surrender—or the day of the conquering of hearts. That Islamic victory over the Meccans conclusively proved that the spreading of Islam was not even remotely connected with violence. Not one person was converted by force.
Abu Sufyan, the arch-enemy of Islam, who became a Muslim on the eve of the Prophet’s sa triumphant entry into Mecca, watched the Muslim army from a vantage point near the city. The Holy Prophet’ssa uncle, Abbas, was with him. What Abu Sufyan saw there has been vividly described by Martin Lings:
Troop after troop went by, and, at the passing of each, Abu Sufyan asked who they were, and each time he marveled, either because the tribe in question had hitherto been far beyond the range of influence of Quraish, or because it had recently been hostile to the Prophet, as was the case with the Ghatafanite clan of Ashja, one of whose ensigns was borne by Nuaym, the former friend of himself and Suhayl.
‘Of all the Arabs,’ said Abu Sufayn, ‘These were Muhammad’s bitterest foes.’
‘God caused Islam to enter their hearts,’ said Abbas. ‘All this is by the grace of God.’41
Was it the sword which converted them? And when the Prophetsa entered Mecca with his 10,000 men, did he avenge the thirteen-year persecution? The idea of settling scores was certainly in the minds of some. When Sad ibn Ubada saw Abu Sufyan he said: ‘O Abu Sufyan, this is the day of slaughter: the day when the inviolable shall be violated: the day of God’s abasement of Quraish.’ When Abu Sufyan repeated to the Holy Prophetsa what Sad had said, the Prophetsa replied: ‘This is the day of mercy, the day on which God has exalted Quraish.’ A general amnesty was proclaimed. Using the words of Josephas, as reported in the Quran, Muhammadsa said: ‘Verily I say as my brother Josephas said, this day there shall be no reproach on you. May Allah forgive you. He is the Most Merciful of all those who show mercy.’ (12.93)
Washington Irving, by no means a sympathetic observer of Islam, describes the Holy Prophetsa entry into Mecca in the following way:
The sun was just rising as he entered the gates of his native city, with the glory of a conqueror, but the garb and humility of a pilgrim. He entered, repeating verses of the Koran, which he said had been revealed to him at Medina, and were prophetic of the event. He triumphed in the spirit of a religious zealot, not a warrior.42
Meccan leaders who opposed the Prophetsa with every means at their disposal were not only magnanimously pardoned but also, as even Montgomery Watt admits: ‘Were not forced to become Muslims; they and doubtless many others remained pagan, at least till after Al-Jiranah’.43 Maxime Rodinson agrees with Watt: ‘No man seems to have felt under constraint to embrace Islam.’44
Had there been even the remotest hint of conversion by force in our primary sources of hadith or sunnah, the critics of Islam would have had a field day. Now compare again the opinions of Irving, Watt and Rodinson with what Maulana Maududi said on the subject: ‘When every method of persuasion failed, the Prophetsa took to the sword. That sword removed evil and mischief and the filth of the soul.’
The conquest of Mecca will be engraved on the pages of history for ever. That day will continue to absolve the Prophetsa—the Mercy for Mankind—from charges of violence and force which Maulana Maududi has imputed to him. That a non-Muslim orientalist, Stanley Lane-Poole, should have to put right Maududi’s mistake is a tragedy of great magnitude which should sadden the heart of every Muslim. Lane-Poole says:
The day of Muhammad’s greatest triumph over his enemies was also the day of his grandest victory over himself. He freely forgave the Quraish all the years of sorrow and cruel scorn to which they had inflicted him, and gave an amnesty to the whole population of Mecca.45
The last phase of the Prophet’ssa life begins with Mecca’s conquest and ends with his death. There were seven expeditions during this time. There was no fighting at all in three of them and no prisoners were taken. In the remaining four, more than 6000 prisoners were seized. And just what happened to these prisoners? Maududi’s logic would lead us to believe that this would have been the perfect occasion for removing filth from prisoners’ souls and converting them to Islam. History tells us something different.
At the battle of Hunayn, 6000 prisoners were taken. The Holy Prophetsa had spent his infancy with one of the clans of this tribe as a foster-child. Among the prisoners, an old woman protested to her captor saying, ‘By God, I am the sister of your chief!’ The woman was produced before the Holy Prophetsa, who realized it was indeed one of his foster-sisters, Shayma’. The Prophetsa spread his rug and bade her be seated. With tears in his eyes he asked about Halimah, his foster-mother. There was no word of reproach. The Prophet did not ask why the tribe had not thought of its foster-son before going to war. Instead, he said: ‘So far those who have fallen unto me and unto the sons of Abd ul-Muttalib, they are yours; and I will plead with other men on your behalf.’ When other Muslims heard about this they said: ‘What belongs to us, belongs to the Holy Prophet’sa, and they immediately presented their captives to him. Thus all 6000 prisoners were freed. The sword played no part in their conversion. The Holy Prophetsa gave his foster-sister camels, sheep and goats as presents. Harith, the brother of the Holy Prophet’ssa foster-father, insisted that the whole tribe of Hawazin be considered his foster-kinsmen. Their leader, Malik, who had escaped to Taif, was recalled and given 100 camels. The Holy Prophetsa also put him in command of the already increasing Muslim community in Hawazin. Many others also received gifts.
Similarly, sixty-two prisoners were brought to Medina from the expedition of Uyaynahb. Hisn. They asked for mercy and were released.
In the expedition to Fuls, a centre of idol worship, Adi, the leader of the opposing tribe, Tayy, escaped but one of his sisters was captured. When she was brought to Medina she threw herself at the Prophet’ssa feet and begged for mercy. She said: ‘My father freed the prisoners, provided hospitality for guests, fed the hungry and gave comfort to those in distress. He never turned away anyone who came to his door seeking help. I am the daughter of Hatim.’
The Holy Prophetsa spoke kindly to her and ordered her release, saying: ‘Her father loved noble ways, and Allah likewise loves them.’ The Prophet gave her a camel and fine garments. Since she did not want to be released alone, all other captives taken with her were also freed. All this was done because she was the daughter of a great poet, whose hospitality and generosity made Arabs proud. When Adi heard of his sister’s treatment he entered Islam and the Holy Prophetsa confirmed his chieftaincy of Tayy.
Surveying the orientalists’ conflicting opinions about the Prophet’ssa personality, Maxime Rodinson has observed: ‘Everyone has shaped him after their own passions, ideas or fantasies.’46 This observation applies more to Maulana Maududi, a Muslim, than it does to non-Muslim orientalists. His passion for political authority was fed on his childhood impressions of fading Hyderabadi glory and strengthened by the political struggle of his younger days, when he first admired Gandhi ji and then opposed Hindu communalism. This so dominated his thinking that in his account he converted the life of the Holy Prophetsa—a blessing for all mankind—into that of a warrior… a warrior putting the world to rights with the blade of a sword.
- William Hailey, to the government of India, 25 July and
12 August 1927, Government of India Home Political
Proceedings 1927, 132.
fi’I Islam , 93. In the second of the subsequent quotations,
the words in square brackets have been added. The Arabic words are: ‘an
yadhn wahum saghirun’.
- W. Montgomery Watt, Muhammad
at Medina (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1981),15.
- Will Durant, The
Story of Civilisation , 1 I vols. (New York: Simon & Schuster,
1950); vol. IV, The Age of Faith, 168.
- ‘They shall beat their
swords into ploughshares and their spears into
pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall
they learn war any more.’ The
Book of the Prophet lsaiah , 2:4.
- Maulana Maududi’s original
Urdu word is qalbarani ,
- Maharaja Kishen Perhad Shad
was a Persian and Urdu poet and was known
for his Nati-i-Rasul
(Hymns honoring the Holy Prophet) .
- Harriet Rouken Lynton and
Mohini Rajan, The Days of the Beloved (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1974), ix.
The book describes the life and times of
Muhbub Pasha (1869–1911), the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad.)
- He was born on 25 September
1903 in Aurangabad; Arif Batalwi, Aik Maududi Das
- Mu Inuddin Aqil, Tahrik-i-Pakistan
our Maulana Maududi , (Karachi:
Khayal-Nau, 1971), 27. Most of the biographical
details in this book are taken from Muhammad
Maududi Apni our Dusron ki NazarMain (Lahore:
Maktaba At-Habib, n.d.).
- Muhammad Yusuf, op.cit .,
363–4; and Mu Inuddin Aqil, op.cit .,
- Maulana Mandudi had earlier
written a book on Gendhi ji’s
biography but it was banned before
its publication. Arif Bwalvi, Aik Maududi Dos Islam, op.cit .,
10; see Mumtaz Ali Asi, Maulana Maududi aur Jamaati
Islam, Aik Jaizah .
- Mu Inuddin Aqil, op.cit .,
26; see Muhammad Yusuf, op.cir, 362–3.
ki Siyasi Tarikh and Daulat-i-Asifiyah our Hukumat-i-Bartaniya .
- Fazlur Rahman, Islam
and Modernity—Transformation of an Intellectual Tradition (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1982), 116; emphasis added.
- Maktube-i-Hidayat (Deoband:
Kutub Khana Izaziyah),
21; see Maulana Muhammad Akhtar, Maudadi
Sahib Akabir-i-Ummat-ki Nazar Main (Bombay).
- Maulana Muhammad Akhtar, Maududi
Sahib Akabir-i-Ummat-ki Nazar Main, op.cit .,
- Will Durant, The
Age offaith, op.cit .,
- Joel Carmichael, The
Shaping of the Arabs, a Study In Ethnic Identity (New
- Maxime Rodinson, Mohammed ,
trans. Anne Carter (New York, 1971), 194.
- The word used by Asma is
much more abusive.
- Two Yemenite tribes.
- Ibn Hisham, Kitab
Sirat Rasul Allah , ed. F. Wustenfeld, 2 vols.
- The two Ansar tribes, the
Aws and Khazraj.
- Ibn Hisham, op.cit .,
The translation is by Anne Carter, in Maxime Rodinson, Mohammed , op.cit .,
Like ‘Pharaoh’ (Egypt) and ‘Caesar’ (Rome), ‘Tubba’ was
the name given to the ancient kings of south Arabia.
- Kab’s mother belonged
to the Jewish tribe an-Nadir. Though his father was an Arab, he was accepted
as a member of Banu an-Nadir.
- Ibn Hisham, op.cit .,
548–9; trans. A. Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad (London:
Oxford University Press, 1970).
- As the result of a dream,
the Holy Prophet decided to go on umrah (pilgrimage)
to Mecca with 1400 to 1600 men. He camped at the edge
of the sacred territory of Mecca, at Al-Hudaybiyah,
where envoys between Muslims and Meccans came and
went. Finally, a truce
was signed, forcing the Muslims to retreat that year
on condition that they would be allowed to return to
Mecca for hajj the
- The battle of Ahzab or the
Trench on 30 March 627.
- W. Montgomery Watt, Muhammad
at Medina , op.cit .,
- See p. 22 above.
- W. Montgomery Watt, Muhammad
at Medina, op.cit .,
- Martin Lings, Muhammad,
his Life Based on the Earliest Sources (London:
George Allen & Unwin,
- Washington Irving, Mahomet
and His Successors ,
2 vols. (New
vol. 1, 253.
- W. Montgomery Watt, Muhammad
at Medina ,
- Maxime Rodinson, Mohammed, op.cit .,
- Stanley Lane-Poole, Selections
from the Quran and hadith ,
(Lahore: Sind Sagar Academy, n.d.), 28.
- Maxime Rodinson, Mohammed , op.cit .,