What is Jihad?

The Arabic word ‘Jihad’ is derived from the verb ‘Jihada’ which means ‘he exerted’. Another derivative of the word is ‘Jahadun’ meaning ‘exertion’ or ‘striving’. So, literally jihad means exertion, striving or struggle. It means to exert one’s utmost or to make effort or struggle for the achievement of one’s aim or objective. In order to achieve an objective, Jihad is waged through different means such as through the use of physical force or with the help of one’s tongue or with the help of one’s wealth. The Holy Qur’an has used word Jihad in various ways:

·        Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but do not be aggressor. Verily, Allah does not like the aggressor.   (2:190)

·        March forward, light equipped or heavy equipped, and make Jihad with your wealth and your lives in the way of Allah. That is better for you if you understand.   (9:41)

·        And strive in the way of Allah as you ought to strive.   (22:78)

·        So do not obey the disbelievers but strive against them a mighty endeavour with it (i.e. the Qur’an).   (25:52)

·        And he who strives, strives only for (benefit of) his own self. Verily, Allah is Independent of all his creatures.   (29:6)

·        And for those who strive hard for us, We will surely guide them to Our paths.   (29:69)

Thus the word Jihad has been used by the Qur’an to signify different meanings in different situations, right from earning of livelihood to fighting against the enemy. But the keynote remains the same i.e. the exertion or striving undertaken to achieve an objective. In this way Jihad has a wider meaning than war because it includes every sort of effort, physical or non-physical, mental or spiritual, martial or non-martial, made in the way of Allah or for a just cause.

Jihad is of various types. With reference to means through which it can be waged, Jihad is of following types: 1) Jihad with physical force (Qitaal) i.e. through hand and sword; 2) Jihad with use of tongue i.e. with speeches, with propaganda, electronic media, etc; 3) Jihad through pen i.e. by books, pamphlets, articles, press media. Number 2 and 3 can be collectively called intellectual Jihad; 4) Jihad by use of wealth like donations to war fund, contribution to organisations engaged in Jihad, financial assistance to families of Mujahideen (warriors), weapons, food, and clothes for Mujahideen, etc.

With reference to enemy against whom Jihad is waged, it is of following types: 1) Jihad against one’s ownself or evil soul which has been called by Muhammad (PBUH) as the greatest Jihad; 2) Jihad against foreign enemy; 3) Jihad against rebels and terrorists; 4) Jihad against social evils such as drinking, gambling, obscenity, etc.; 5) Jihad to help the oppressed Muslims in non-Muslim lands; 6) Jihad against despotic rulers and tyrants; 7) Jihad against natural calamities like floods, earth quake, cyclone, epidemics by helping their victims; and 8) Constructive Jihad like nation-building activities-roads, bridges, canals, etc. 9) Jihad against ignorance, disease, poverty, misery.

However in this chapter, we will discuss only one aspect or type of Jihad which is Qitaal. Qitaal means fighting physically in the cause of Allah against the enemies of Islam. The Muslims donot call it a holy war as the critics of Islam have labelled it. 

The following Verses of the Qur’an and Traditions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) explain the nature of Jihad and highlight its types:

·        Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but do not be aggressor. Verily, Allah dos not like the aggressors. And kill them wherever you find them and drive them out of the places from which they have turned you out. (Although killing is bad, but) persecution (Fitnah) is even worse than killing. And fight not with them near the Sacred Mosque (Kaabah) until they attack you there. But if they attack you there, then kill them there. Such is the reward of disbelievers.   (2:190-191)

·        And why should you not fight in the way of Allah and (in the support) of the helpless among men and the women and the children who are crying: Our Lord! Rescue us from this town whose people are oppressors! Give us by Your Grace some protecting friend, and give us from Your Presence a helper.   (4:75)

·        Only those are the (true) believers who believe in Allah and His messenger and afterward they doubt not, and wage Jihad with their wealth and their lives for the cause of Allah.   (49:15)

·        O you who believe! Should I tell you of a commerce that will save you from a painful doom. You should believe in Allah and His messenger, and should strive (wage Jihad) for the cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives. This is better for you if you did but know.   (61:10-11)

·        Anas reported from the Holy Prophet who said: Fight against the polytheists with your properties, your lives and your tongue.   (Abu Daud, Nisai, Darimi)

·        Abdullah-b-Hubshi reported that the Prophet was asked: Which of the action is best? He said: Prolonged standing (in prayer). He was questioned: Which charity is best? He said; Strivings of a man of small means. He was questioned: Which migration is best? He said: He who flees away from what Allah has prohibited him. He was questioned: Which Jihad is best? He said: He who fights with the polytheists with his property and his life.   (Abu Daud)

·        Abu Musa reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Verily the doors of Paradise are under the shades of swords.   (Mishkat)

·        Sahl-b-Sa’ad reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Guarding for a day in the way of Allah is better than the world and what is therein.   (Bukhari, Muslim)

·        Ali, Abu Dard’a, Abu Hurairah, Abu Omamah, Abdullah-b-Umar, Jaber-b-Abdullah, Imran-b-Hussain (Allah be pleased with them all) reported from the Messenger of Allah that he said: Whoso sends contribution in the way of Allah and stays at his house, he will get 700 dirham for every dirham, and whoso fights with his ownself in the way of Allah and spends for that cause, he will get 70,000 dirham for every dirham. Afterwards he recited the verse: And Allah multiplies for whom he pleases.   (Ibn Majah)

·        Zaid-b-Khalid reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Whoso supplies a warrior with arms in the way of Allah fights indeed in a Jihad; and whoso keeps behind a warrior in charge of his family fights indeed in a Jihad.   (Bukhari, Ahmad)

·        Jaber-b-Samorah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: This religion will never cease to exist. A party of the Muslims shall always fight for it till the Hour comes to pass.   (Muslim)

·        Abu Musa reported that a man came to Messenger of Allah and enquired: A man fights for booty, a man fights for fame, and a man fights that his position may be known – who then (fights) in the way of Allah? He said: Whoso fights to raise highest thereby the word of Allah, is in the way of Allah.  (Bukhari, Muslim)

Why is Jihad waged? Its justification

Why Jihad after all? Why does Islam permit Jihad? Why do the Muslims wage Jihad? These and alike are some of the questions which are generally raised by non-Muslim critics of Islamic doctrine of Jihad. It is perhaps due to misunderstanding of the concept of Jihad that Muslims are being labelled, in the world of today, as terrorists, extremists, fundamentalists, militants and harbingers of doom; while Islam is being perceived as threat to international peace and security, because in the view of the critics it preaches war and violence.

All the propaganda against Islam and Jihad is, however false if impartially examined in the light of justice and fairness. Islam literally means ‘peace’ and submission to the will of Allah, Who is Creator, the Sustainer and Sovereign of the universe. It is the first and final religion and its message is perfect and complete. Islam came to give peace and security to mankind and as a universal religion for humanity it teaches its followers to live in peace and follow the path of complete submission and obedience to the commands of God.

So peace is fundamental to Islam and Islam attaches great sanctity to human life. Of all the things of the world, human life is no doubt the most valuable one. The life in fact is a trust of Allah and it is the foremost duty of the followers of Islam to preserve and protect it under all circumstances. Al-Qur’an, the revealed book of Islam, highlights the importance of human life when it condemns the first human murder, by a son of Adam who killed his brother, in the following words which have achieved fame of a proverb on the sanctity of human life…. Whoever kills a human being unless it is for murder or for spreading mischief in the land, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and he who saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.   (5:32)

Despite glorifying sanctity of human life and holding life as a sacred trust, Islam permits war in which very many human lives are lost. Why? This is because Islam is a religion of peace and security and it is also a religion of nature and humanity. None understands human nature better than God Who has created the mankind. Human society is not composed of Angels who cannot do any wrong. Evil and good are ingrained in the instinct of a man. There are certain individuals and groups of people who are evil minded and who do not let others live in peace. They transgress all bounds of morality and laws of society and violate the rights of others. They attack other individuals and nations and deprive them of their homes, property and lives. They subjugate other people, occupy their lands and impose their own laws and values on the conquered people. Thus they create mischief in the earth (fesad-fil-arz) and persecute the oppressed nations and, therefore, disturb the peace and security of the world. Such mischief mongers and corrupt have to be kept under restraint. This is how the question of war against such anti-human elements comes in. That is why Islam allows retaliation in the case of murder because in the words of the Qur’an: “And there is life for you in retaliation, O men of understanding! That you may become God fearing”. (2:179). And that is why Islam permits war for repelling aggression.

“Permission to fight is given to those (i.e. the believers) against whom war is being fought because they have been wronged; and surely Allah is Abel to grant them victory. Those (are the ones) who have been unjustly expelled from their homes only because they said: “Our Lord is Allah.” And if Allah had not expelled some group of people by means of others, monasteries and churches and synagogues and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is often mentioned, would have been certainly demolished”…… Says the Qur’an (22:39-40). So these verses not only provide permission to the wronged believers to wage war against the aggressors but also explain the philosophy of Jihad.

Islam does not allow war for aggressive designs or with the motives of killing or conquering other human beings. War has been permitted in defence only. The Muslims are permitted to fight against those who have invaded them or who have invaded their faith or their country. In other words the Muslims are allowed to wage war in defence against the aggressors but they are not permitted to initiate aggression or hostilities against others. Al-Qur’an, the revealed book of Islam, clarifies this thing in its verse 190 of Chapter 2 which we have already reproduced in the previous pages.

Besides war in defence and against aggression, Islam also allows war against persecution i.e. against those who oppress and torture the Muslims and do not give them freedom of religion and worship (Al-Qur’an 8:39). Jihad is also allowed in favour of the oppressed Muslim minorities living in the non-Muslim lands provided such Muslim minorities ask for help (Al-Qur’an 4:75 and 8:72). But help cannot be given in violation of treaties, international obligations and conventions governing relations between the Islamic state and non-Muslim country against whom help is sought (Al-Qur’an 8:72). Jihad is allowed against internal enemies, rebels, disruptionists of peace, terrorists, robbers. It is also permitted against those who break treaties and indulge in hostile activities against Muslims.

Thus Islam sanctions war only in exceptional circumstances and that too in defence of Islamic faith, Islamic state, oppressed Muslims and for any other just cause against aggressors, persecutors, oppressors, terrorists and disturbers of peace and security. No wars with material designs to establish empires, to subjugate other notions, to occupy other countries, to expand Islamic state, to promote trade or commercial interests are allowed by Islam. Nor the use of sword or military power is permitted to forcibly convert the non-Muslims to Islam. There is no compulsion in religion, as stressed by the Holy Qur’an (2:256), and so no Jihad can be undertaken by the Muslims to bring others into the fold of Islam. In fact, Jihad is waged with very noble objectives, the first and foremost of which is pleasing God and earning His goodwill.


Laws and rules of Jihad

Islam as religion of humanity, and of peace and security does not lose its cool even in war. Its law of war is very humane, generous and kind.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) gave following instructions to Abdul Rehman-bin-Awf at one occasion when he was deputed to lead an expedition: “O son of ‘Awf! take it. Fight ye all in the path of God and combat those who do not believe in God. Yet never commit breach of trust, nor treachery, nor mutilate anybody nor kill any minor or woman. This is the pact of God and the conduct of His Messenger for your guidance”.

Abu Bakr, the first caliph of Islam and successor of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as head of Islamic state, gave following instructions to Osama when the latter was nominated as commander of Jihad against Syrians: “I enjoin upon you the fear of God. Do not disobey, do not cheat, do not show cowardice, do not destroy churches, do not inundate palm-trees, do not burn cultivation, do not bleed animals, do not cutdown fruit-trees, do not kill old men or boys or children or women….”

Whenever Umar, the second caliph of Islam, dispatched armies, he used to give following instructions to the commanders: “Do not show cowardice in an encounter. Do not mutilate when you have power to do so. Do not commit excess when you triumph. Do not kill an old man or a woman or a minor, but try to avoid them at the time of the encounter of the two armies, and at the time of the heat of victory, and at the time of expected attacks. Do not cheat over booty. Purify jihad from worldly gain. Rejoice in the bargain of the contract that ye have made (with God), and that is the great success”.

In the light of the Qur’an and the Sunnah and in view of the conventions set by the Prophet and his successors, the jurists of Islam have formulated a long list of the rules of warfare in Islam with comprehensive details regarding acts allowed in war and acts forbidden in war. For knowing these details one may refer to books of Fiqh and Jiahd. Briefly the acts which have been forbidden by the humanistic Islamic law of war are:

1)     Killing of non-combatants such as women, minors, sick, servants and slaves, monks, hermits, insane, very old persons, etc is forbidden.

2)     The prisoners of war cannot be put to death except in very exceptional circumstances.

3)     The cruel and torturous ways of killing are not allowed even if some enemy has to be killed.

4)     Mutilation of men and animals is strictly disallowed.

5)     Destruction of crops, cutting of trees unnecessarily, slaughtering of animals more than what is necessary for food, and burning of houses is prohibited.

6)     Killing of enemy hostages is disallowed even in retaliation.

7)     Severing the head of some fallen enemy and presenting it to higher authority is highly disliked.

8)     General massacre is prohibited when the enemy is vanquished and his land is occupied.

9)     Killing peasants, traders, merchants, artisans, contractors is disallowed when they do not take part in actual fighting.

10)  Burning a captured man or animal to death is strictly forbidden.

Status of a Warrior (Mujahid)

The word “Jihad’ as we have already explained means struggle or exertion undertaken for a noble cause. In Islam, Jihad stands for a struggle or war undertaken by the Muslims in the path of God for a just cause and for the defence of Islam. A Muslim who participates in such struggle and wages jihad for the cause of Allah is called ‘Mujahid’. A Mujahid fights in the way of Allah for the defence of Islam or Islamic state. The sole objective of all of his efforts is to ensure that the word of God shall alone prevail. A Mujahid expends all of his abilities and powers in fighting in the path of Allah by means of life, property, tongue, pen and other than these. The slightest desire for worldly gains pollutes the purity and mars the nobleness of the cause of Jihad and thus deprives the Mujahid of reward of Paradise.

The Mujahid who survives in a battle field is called ‘Ghazi’. But if he falls or dies is called ‘Shaheed’.

The following verses of the Qur’an and traditions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) highlight status of a Mujahid (warrior) and a Shaheed (martyr) and the rewards due to them:

1)     And say not of those who are slain in the way of Allah that they are dead. Nay, they are living, but you perceive it not.   (2:154)

2)     Think not of those, who are slain in the way of Allah, that they are dead. Nay, they are living with their Lord and they have sustenance. They are jubilant with what Allah has bestowed upon them of His bounty.   (3:169-170)

3)     Therefore, let (only) those fight in the way of Allah who (are ready to) sell the life of this world for the Hereafter. And he who fights in the way of Allah, be he slain or be he victorious, unto him We shall give a great reward.   (4:74)

4)     Verily, Allah loves those who fight in His cause in ranks as if they were a solid structure.   (61:4)

5)     Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: The likeness of a fighter in the way of Allah is like the likeness of one who fasts, stands up (in prayer) and obeys the verses of Allah without any break of fast and prayer till the fighter returns to the way of Allah.   (Bukhari, Muslim)

6)     Abu Hurairah reported that once a companion of the Prophet expressed desire to retire and live in a valley, the Prophet said: Do (it) not, because the rank of one of you in the way of Allah is better than his prayer for 70 years in his house. Don’t you like that Allah should forgive you and admit you in Paradise? Fight in the way of Allah. Whoso fights in the way of Allah even for an interval between two milking of a she-camel, Paradise is sure for him.   (Tirmizi)

7)     Abu Hurairah reported that the Holy Prophet said:….. By Him in Whose Hand is my life, how much do I Like that I should be martyred in the way of Allah and then be brought back to life, and then be martyred and then be brought back to life, and then be martyred and then be brought to life, and then be martyred.   (Bukhari, Muslim)

8)     Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah said: There will be none entering Paradise who will like to come back to this world and to have that is in the earth except a martyr. He will wish to return to the world and then be martyred ten times on account of the honour he sees.   (Bukhari, Muslim)

9)     Fuzalah-b-Obaid reported from the Messenger of Allah who said: A seal is put over the actions of every dead man except one who dies guarding in the way of Allah, and verily his actions will increase for him up to the Resurrection Day, and he is safe from the punishment of the grave.   (Tirmizi, Abu Daud)

Prisoners of war

Treatment given to the prisoners of war by Islam is unparalleled in kindness, nobility and magnanimity in the history of mankind. The Holy Book of Islam has laid down that the prisoners should be taken in the actual battlefield after completely crushing the fighting power of the enemy but before the war terminates. Once an enemy solider surrenders and is taken as prisoner of war he should not be put to sword save for exceptional reasons. The prisoners should be accorded kind and human treatment. They should be properly fed. The Qur’an considers it an act of great virtue and goodness to feed prisoners for love of Allah without wishing any reward or thanks (76:8-9). Regarding release of the prisoners of war, the Qur’an prescribes two options, namely: they should be set free either as a favour and grace, or they should be released for a ransom (47:4). Release of prisoners for ransom includes: that they should be set free after accepting ransom money; that they should be set free after taking some service from them or that they can be exchanged for the Muslim prisoners of war who are in the possession of the enemy.

The precedent set by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) about the treatment of prisoners of war is very inspiring:

1)     Seventy prisoners fell into the hands of the Muslims in the battle of Badr. The question arose how to treat these prisoners. The Prophet consulted his companions on this vital issue. The opinion of Abu Bakr was that the prisoners should be released on ransom while Umar suggested that the prisoners should be put to sword. The Prophet (PBUH) agreed with the views of Abu Bakr and decided to release the prisoners on receipt of ransom. Those prisoners who were poor were required to teach ten Muslim children each and thus get their liberty. The rich among the prisoners were obliged to pay ransom (generally four thousand Dirhams per head) for securing their freedom. The Prophet’s uncle Abbas and son-in-law Abu’al A’s had to pay ransom for their release. Those prisoners who were poor and also illiterate being unable to pay ransom or teach children were set free without ransom. Out of seventy prisoners only two were put to death, not for their participation in the war but for their past crimes against Islam and the Muslims.

2)     During their detention, the prisoners of Badr were distributed among the companions by the Prophet (PBUH) as there were no state prisons in Madinah in those days. Each companion got one or two prisoners with the condition that they should be treated kindly and food, clothing and lodging should be provided to them according to means. The companions of the Prophet treated the prisoners so kindly that one of the prisoners is reported to have remarked: “Blessings be to the people of Madinah! They made us ride while they themselves walked, they gave us bread to eat when there was little of it contenting themselves with dates”. Suhail-b-Amr, a prisoner of war, was a good orator who used to deliver speeches against Islam. Umar suggested that two of his teeth should be broken, but the suggestion was turned down by the Prophet who said: “I have not been sent to mutilate men”.


Spoils of war

“To the victor belongs the spoils” was a popular slogan not only among the heathen Arabs of the pre-Islamic period but also among many other nations of the world. So the common practice before the advent of Islam was that the entire booty obtained in a war was either divided by the victorious army or was usurped by the tribal chief or the king for his own benefit. Islam brought about a great change in this outlook. It restricted the claim of the conquering soldiers to four-fifth of the booty while one-fifth of it was reserved for the Islamic state to be used for the common benefit of the nation. During the reign of Caliph Umar this division of the spoils between the Islamic state and the conquering army was further restricted to chattels and movable assets. It was decided by consensus that the lands conquered from the enemy should be kept in the ownership of the state for the common benefit of the existing and future generations instead of dividing the same among the soldiers who took part in the fight.

Islam divides spoils or booty into two categories, namely ‘Ghanimah’ and ‘Fai’. If the spoils are obtained by actual fighting, the same are called Ghanimah. But if they are obtained without fighting i.e. the enemy surrenders or flees away, then they are called Fai. Different rules and regulations govern the treatment of Chanimah and Fai which one can see in a book of Fiqh.

            Following are the verses of the Qur’an, and the Traditions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) which lay down the law regarding spoils of war:

1)     And know that whatever of spoils of war you get, one fifth thereof is for Allah, and for the messenger, and for (his) near relatives and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer, if you indeed believe in Allah.   (Al-Qur’an 8:41)

2)     And that which Allah has bestowed as fai (spoils without fighting) on His messenger from them, for which you did not urge any cavalry or camelry; but Allah gives power to His messenger over whom He wills. And Allah is Able to do all things. That which Allah gives as spoil to His messenger from the people of the towns (without fighting) it is for Allah and for His messenger and for the relatives (of the messenger who are poor) and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer, that it may not make circuit between the rich among you.   (Al-Qur’an 59:6-7)

3)     Abudllah-bin-Amr reported that when the Holy Prophet gained a booty, he used to order Bilal who proclaimed among men. Then they used to come with their booties. He used then to take out the one-fifth share therefrom, and divide them (the rest). One day a man arrived after that with a reign of hair and said: O Messenger of Allah! This is what we acquired from the booty. He asked: Have you heard Bilal proclaim thrice? ‘Yes’, said he. Then he said: What prevented you to come therewith? He offered an excuse. He said: Be (so); you will thus come therewith on the Resurrection Day but I shall never accept it from you.   (Abu Daud)

4)     Abu Syeed reported that the Messenger of Allah prohibited the purchase of booties till they were divided.   (Tirmizi)

5)     Auf-bin-Malik and Khalid-b-Walid reported that the Messenger of Allah gave decision of the goods of the killed for one who killed. He did not include the goods for charging fifth share.   (Abu Daud)

6)     Mujamme-bin-Jariyah reported: The booty of Khaiber was divided by the Messenger of Allah…….. He gave two shares to each horseman and one share to each footman.   (Abu Daud)

7)     Ibn Umar reported. We used to take honey and grapes in our fights and eat them, but we did not take them (for division).   (Bukhari)

8)     Malik-bin-Aus reported from Umar that there were the properties of Banu Nazir out of Fai which Allah gave to His Messenger on the ground that the Muslims did not acquire them on horse-back or any conveyance, so it was special for the Holy Prophet who was to spend it over his family maintenance of a year and then to spend what remained for armours and conveyances and ammunitions in the way of Allah.   (Bukhari and Muslim)

9)     Malik-b-Aus reported that the matter about which Umar procured proof was this: The Holy Prophet had three special properties Banu Nazir, Khaiber and Fedak. As for Banu Nazir, it was reserved for his adverse turns, and as for Fedak it was dedicated for the travellers; and as for Khaiber, the Holy Prophet divided it into three shares-two shares for the Muslims and one share for the expenses of his family. What remained in excess after expenses of his family, he distributed among the poor refugees.   (Abu Daud)

Jihad and Prophet Muhammad

For the defence of Islam and for the protection of his and his follower’s lives, honour and property, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) organized 78 military expeditions in all during 10 years he lived at Madinah – 76 against the Quraish, the other pagan Arab tribes and the Jews, while 2 against the Romans. Out of these he himself commanded 28 including 11 major battles while the rest 58 were sent under the command of various companions. The Holy Qur’an has mentioned only a few of these expeditions and battles directly such as the battle of Badr, battle of Uhud, battle of Allies or Trench, the expedition of Hudeybiah which resulted in truce, conquest of Makkah, war of Huneyn and expedition of Tabuk. The Qur’an has, however, not described details of the events of these battles (for which we have to look at the books of history) but it has only discussed the said battles with the view-point of their objectives, their consequences and the lessons which are to be drawn from them. Moreover the weaknesses of the Muslims, the attitude of the hypocrites and the evil designs of the enemy have also been highlighted.

Let us briefly discuss the battles and the campaigns of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in the light of the verses of the Qur’an and in the light of the historical events as under:

Battle of Badr

In the second year of Hijrah, a trade caravan of the Quraish under the leadership of Abu Sufyan bin Harb was returning from Syria carrying merchandise worth $50,000 or so by a road which passed not far from Al-Madinah. Fearing an attack from the Muslims, Abu Sufyan quickly dispatched a camel-rider to Makkah with a frantic appeal for help. The Makkans immediately raised a force of 1000 armed men which set out towards Al-Madinah. Hearing of this force, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) held a conference with his companions. There were two options – either to attack the trade caravan coming from the north or to face the army of the Quraish marching from the south. A good number of companions suggested that trade caravan should be attacked being an easy and paying target. However, Allah had a different design. He wanted to test the Muslims and to discriminate the truth from the falsehood. Therefore, the Prophet did not accept the suggestion of attacking the trade caravan. Ultimately it was decided that Makkan army should be confronted. So a little Muslim army of three hundred and thirteen men, ill-armed and roughly equipped, advanced from Madinah towards Badr to confront the well-armed Quraish army three times superior in numbers. When they halted near the water of Badr, they received the news that the army of Quraish was approaching on the other side of the valley. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) prayed to God to help him against the heavy odds in these words: “O Allah! Here are Quraish with all their chivalry and pomp, who oppose Thee and deny Thy messenger. O Allah! Give me Thy help which Thou hast promised me! O Allah! Make them bow this day!” Allah heard the prayer of His messenger and promised to help him with a thousand angels. Another favour which Allah bestowed on Muhammad (PBUH) was in the form of rain which fell heavily on Quraish and made the ground muddy to check their advance, but lightly on Muslims who were able to advance to the water and secure it.

The Muslims were successful in the single combat but the open battle at first went hard against them. So the Prophet stood and prayed under the shelter crying: O Allah! If this little force is destroyed today, there would be none left in the land to worship Thee.” God’s help came and then he went out to encourage his men. Taking a handful of gravel he threw it at Quraish and said: “The faces are confounded,” on which the tide of battle turned in favour of his followers. Seventy men of Quraish including their leaders like Abu Jahl, Utbah, Shaibah, Walid were killed and seventy others were taken prisoners. Their baggage and camels fell into the hands of the Muslims.

The aims of the war, the designs of the enemy, the help of Allah, consequences of the battle, the treatment of the prisoners of war and the division of the spoils of war have been discussed by the Qur’an in its chapter 3 and 8. Now let us see what the Qur’an says about the Battle of Badr.

1.      There was token for you in two hosts which met: one army fighting in the way of Allah, and another disbelieving, whom they saw as twice their number, clearly, with their very eyes. Thus Allah strengtheneth with His succour whom He will. Lo! herein verily is a lesson for those who have eyes.   (3:Al-Imran:13)

2.      Allah had already given you victory at Badr, when ye were contemptible. So observe your duty to Allah in order that ye may be thankful.   (3:Al-Imran:123)

3.      Even as thy Lord caused thee (Muhammad) to go forth from thy home with the Truth, and lo! a party of the believers were averse (to it).

Disputing with thee of the Truth after it had been made manifest, as if they were being driven to death visible.

And when Allah promised you one of the two bands (of the enemy) that it should be yours, and ye longed that other than the armed one might be yours. And Allah willed that He should cause the Truth to triumph by His words, and cut the root of the disbelievers.   (8:Al-Anfal:5-8) 

4.      When ye saught help of your Lord and He answered you (saying): I will help you with a thousand of the angels, rank on rank. Allah appointed it only as good tidings, and that your hearts thereby might be at rest. Victory cometh only by the help of Allah. Lo! Allah is Mighty, Wise.   (8:Al-Anfal:9-10).

5.      Please also refer to verses 11 to 19, verses 39 to 52 and verses 65 to 70 of Chapter 8 of the Qur’an.

Battle of Uhud

In the third year of the Hijrah, an army of 3000 fully equipped Makkans came against the Muslims to avenge their previous year’s defeat at Badr and wipe out the Muslims for good. The Prophet’s first idea was to defend Madinah while remaining in the city, but later on he changed his idea at the instance of some of the zealous Muslims who thought it a shame to stay behind the walls instead of boldly confronting the enemy in the open. The Prophet thus set out with an army of 1000 men toward mount Uhud where the invading army of the Quraish was encamped. However, out of Prophet’s army, 300 men deserted under Abdullah bin Ubeyy, the leader of the lukewarm Muslims or hypocrites, who said afterwards that they did not think that there would be any fighting that day.

The Prophet himself posted his men at proper places in the battlefield. A band of fifty archers was appointed to look after a pass in the Mountain Uhud to defend the Muslims from any possible attack by the enemy from behind. They were given the instructions not to leave their position under any circumstances, victory or defeat.

Despite the heavy odds, the battle began well for the Muslims. But seeing the enemy retreating and their comrades victorious, the archers left their post fearing to lose their share of the spoils. The cavalry of Quraish under Khalid bin Walid took advantage of the situation and riding through the pass attacked the exultant Muslims from behind. Thus the victory was turned into something near defeat due to disobedience of some greedy Muslims. The Prophet himself was seriously wounded and lost four of his teeth. A cry among the Muslim army arose that Prophet was slain, till someone recognized him and shouted that he was living. So the Muslims immediately rallied round him and then retired in some sort of order. The enemy also retired after the battle.

In this battle the losses of the Muslims were heavy. Some seventy of them got martyred while forty were injured. But the enemy lost only thirty men. The wives of the leaders of the Quraish, who had been brought with the army to give courage by their presence, mutilated the Muslim slain, making necklaces and bracelets of ears and noses. Hind, the wife of Abu Sufyan, plucked out the liver of the Prophet’s uncle, Hamzah, publicly and tried to eat it. The Prophet, seeing the condition of the Muslim slain, was moved to vow reprisals, but was restrained by a revelation which forbade mutilation to the Muslims.

The Qur’an in its Surah 3 has discussed at length the causes of Muslim defeat in this battle, the major ones being the failure of the archers to abide by the orders of the Prophet, greed of some Muslims for spoils of war, and attitude of the lukewarm (or hypocrite) Muslims towards war. The Qur’an, besides criticizing their conduct of war and their failure despite Allah’s support, has consoled and encouraged them to draw lessons from the set back, mend their ways, have faith in Allah, treat the defeat as a trial from Allah, and come out of the grief as a strong people. Please refer to verses 121 to 129, 139 to 157 and 165 to 179 of Surah 3.

Battle of the Trench

This battle is also called the “battle of clans” or “the battle of the confederates” as in this battle the Quraish with all its clans and the great desert tribe of Ghatafan with all its clans, helped by the Jews of Banu Nadir, invaded Madinah to destroy Islam and the Muslims for ever. Some chiefs of Bani Nadir, a Jewish tribe who had been expelled by the Muslims from Madinah on account of treason, went to Makkah and then to the chiefs of tribe of Ghatafan urging them to invade the Muslims and promising them support from the Jews of Bani Nadir and from the Jews of Madinah. As a result of their efforts, the Quraish with their allies and Ghatafan with their clans arranged an armed force of 10,000 men and marched towards Madinah in the fifth year of Hijrah.

Since the Prophet received the news of their design, he held conference of the companions to decide how to defend Madinah. On the advice of Salman the Persian, he ordered trench to be dug before the city and himself joined the work of digging it. The trench was completed when the allied forces of the enemy arrived and they were stopped by it as the trench was a novelty hitherto unheard of in Arab wars. It was impassable for the cavalry which formed their strength. The Prophet went out against them with an army of 3000, the trench being between the two armies. For nearly a month the Muslims were exposed to the showers of arrows and were in constant danger of enemy attack. To make the things worse, news came that the Jewish tribe of Banu Qureyzah in Madinah had broken their treaty and had joined the enemy. This news was indeed worrying as the Muslims had put their women and children in strongholds near the Jewish settlements. Since these strongholds were practically unguarded, some of the Muslims sought permission of the Prophet to leave the battle front for guarding the towers, though they were not in immediate danger at the moment because the Jews of Banu Qureyzah were not likely to attack until the victory of the allies was not certain.

The case of the Muslims was desperate and hopeless, but God’s help came in two forms. Firstly that one of the notables among an enemy tribe accepted Islam and this fact was not known to the enemy. He skillfully managed to sow distrust between the allies making all the clans uneasy with each other. The second form in which God’s help came was a fierce, bitter wind from the sea which blew for three days and nights so terribly that the enemy could not keep a shelter up, or light a fire, or boil a pot. So in despair, Abu Sufyan the leader of the Quraish raised the siege and left for Makkah. When the forces of Ghatafan found next morning that the Quraish had gone, they also departed for their homes.

The Qur’an has named its Chapter 33 as Surah Al-Ahzab, which means the clans or the confederates. In verses 9 to 25 of this Chapter the Qur’an has discussed the dangers to the Muslim survival posed by the allied forces, the behaviour of the hypocrites, the conspiracies of the Jews and ultimate help of Allah which saved the Muslims.


Truce of Hudeybiyah

In the sixth year of Hijrah, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) set out to Makkah with his 1400 companions to perform Umrah as he had found himself, in a vision, visiting the Holy Ka’abah. Before proceeding from Madinah, he had called upon the friendly Arabs living in the villages around Madinah to accompany him, but most of them failed to respond. Attired as pilgrims and taking with them the customary offerings, when they drew near Makkah, they were warned that the Quraish had gathered allies and their cavalry under Khalid bin Walid was in their way. So the Muslims changed their route and escaping the cavalry they entered into the valley and encamped at Al-Hudeybiyah below the city. The Prophet resolutely avoided battle and persisted in attempts to negotiate peach with Quraish who had sworn not to let the Muslims visit the Ka’abah. He sent Usman bin Affan to Makkah as an emissary as Usman was likely to be well received there because of his relationship with Bani Ommayids. But Usman was detained by the Makkans and news reached the Prophet that he had been assassinated.

It was at this critical moment that the Prophet sat under a tree and took from his companions the famous oath (referred to in verse 18 of Chapter 48 of the Qur’an) that they would hold together and fight to death. This is known in history as Baiat-e-Ridhwan as Almighty Allah was much pleased with the Muslims who had pledged to support His messenger and fight for the cause of His religion.

Later on the news of Usman’s murder proved false and the Quraish sent their envoy to negotiate peace with Muhammad. At last the famous Treaty of Hudeybiyah was concluded on the following terms:

1.      The Prophet and his companions would return to Madinah without performing Umrah that year, but in the next year they might come without arms and stay in Makkah only for three days during which the Quraish would evacuate the city.

2.      There would be truce for ten years between the Quraish and the Muslims and they would not attack each other nor support enemy of each other to attack.

3.      Deserters from Quraish to the Muslims during the period of truce were to be returned, whereas deserters from the Muslims to the Quraish would not be returned.

4.      Any tribe or clan who wished to join the treaty as ally of the Quraish or as ally of the Muslims might do so.

The terms of the treaty, especially those at serial number 3 above, were so harsh and contrary to the interests of the Muslims apparently that most of the companions of Muhammad (PBUH) including person like Umar were angry as they felt humiliated. So, during the return journey from Al-Hudeybiyah, 48th Surah of the Qur’an, called al-Fath (the victory) was revealed with the glad tidings that the treaty which some among the Muslims were considering as a great humiliation is in fact a great “manifest victory.” It indeed proved the greatest of the victories which the Muslims had till then achieved. When the barrier of war was removed and the Muslims and the idolaters met each other Islam spread more rapidly. In the two years which elapsed between the signing of the truce and fall of Makkah, the number of converts to Islam was greater than the total number of all converts in the preceding many years. Moreover, during this period, the Muslims conquered al-Khaiber, the stronghold of the Jews, which had become a hub of conspiracies against Islam.

Please refer to verses 1 to 4, 10, 18 to 27 of Chapter 48 of the Qur’an to see what the Qur’an says about this Treaty and how it provides good tidings about the likely benefits of this Truce.

Conquest of Makkah

In the year 8, A.H. (630 A.D.) the Prophet marched with ten thousand men against the Quraish who had broken the truce of Hudaibiyah, and entered Makkah almost unopposed. “Thus Muhammad entered the city which had so cruelly ill-treated him. It lay now completely at his mercy. The chiefs of Quraish had committed so many crimes against him and his companions for thirteen years in Makkah and then waged wars against them for eight years when they sought refuge in Madinah. But in the hour of triumph every evil suffered was forgotten, every injury inflicted was forgiven and a general amnesty was declared; “He who takes refuge in the house of Abu Sufyan is safe: Whosoever closes the door of his house, the inmates thereof shall be in safety, and he who enters Kaabah is safe.” (Syed Ameer Ali). Ikrimah, son of Abu Jahil and Prophet’s longtime enemy was forgiven. Wahshi, the murderer of Prophet’s uncle Hamzah and Hind, wife of Abu Sufyan who had chewed liver of Hamzah in the battle of Uhud, were extended clemency. Habbar who had attacked Prophet’s daughter Zainab with a spear on her way from Makkah to Madinah when she was pregnant and almost killed her was pardoned. Abu Sufyan who had been leading the forces of Quraish in attacks against Madinah and was the bitterest enemy of the Prophet and of Islam was not only forgiven but his house was declared a place of safety for those who entered into it. Thus every enemy was forgiven. Out of the whole population of Makkah only four persons who were guilty of crimes like murder and apostasy and whom justice condemned were executed.

It is said when the Quraish came before him, the Prophet asked: “O Quraish what do you think, of the treatment which I am going to accord you?” They replied: “O noble brother and son of a noble brother! We expect nothing but good from you.” Upon this the Prophet said: I speak to you in the same words as Joseph spoke unto his brothers: This day, there is no reproach against you; go your way, you are free.”

Can history offer such an instance of a peaceful conquest of city which had been for years hub of tyranny and oppression against the conquerors and had left no stone unturned in harming the conquerors in person and their Faith? According to Syed Ameer Ali, most truly has it been said that through all the annals of conquest, there has been no triumphant entry like unto this one.” Historian Lane-Poole writes: “Facts are hard things, and it is a fact that the day of Muhammad’s greatest triumph over his enemies was also the day of his grandest victory over himself.”

Chapter 110 (Surah An-Nasr) of the Holy Qur’an, according to some scholars, refers to the conquest of Makkah which established supremacy of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula and the Prophet saw thousands of the people entering into Islam. Verse 10 of Surah 57 also refers to this victory.

Battle of Huneyn

After the conquest of Makkah and purging of Ka’abah of the filth of idols in the 8th year of Hijrah, Prophet Muhammad (PUBH) received the news that many pagan tribes including the tribes of Hawazin and Thaqif were gathering to march on Makkah to regain Ka’abah. The Prophet immediately set out to Huneyn, a place between Makkah and Taif about six kilometers from the plain of Arafat, with 12, 000 men. The tribesmen of Hawazin were very skilled in archery and had already occupied very suitable places on the hills on both sides of a narrow valley. When the Muslims reached the deep ravine, they were ambushed by the enemy and sudden and unexpected showers of arrows put them to flight.

However, in all this situation of confusion and panic, the Prophet remained calm and steadfast. He courageously called out his companions who immediately rallied to him. Gradually many of the fleeing soldiers came back and fought with true spirit. Thus the tide of war turned in favour of the Muslims and God blessed them with a complete victory and enormous booty.

It was a lesson for the Muslims that victory does not depend on the numerical strength of an army alone. Rather it depends on trust in God, nobility of cause, and courage to fight and obedience to the commander. For the first time the Muslims had a large army which outnumbered the enemy in material and men. But they were put to flight as the new converts from Makkah had placed too much confidence on their material strength and had not placed that much trust in God which is required of a true believer.

The Holy Qur’an, in its following verses, draws a vivid picture of the situation how the Muslims exulted in their numerical strength which proved of no avail, and how they were blessed with victory when God’s help came.

The Qur’an says: “Allah hath given you victory on many fields and on the day of Huneyn, when ye exulted in your multitude but it availed you naught, and the earth, vast as it is, was straitened for you; then ye turned back in flight; Then Allah sent His peace of reassurance down upon His messenger and upon the believers, and sent down hosts ye could not see, and punished those who disbelieved. Such is the reward of disbelievers.”   (9:At-Taubah:25-26)

The Tabuk Expedition

In the 9th year of the Hijrah, Prophet Muhammad heard that the Romans were gathering an army and were planning to attack Madinah with the assistance of certain tribes like Ghassan, Lakham and Jazam. As a precautionary measure, the Prophet decided to march towards the Syrian border and called upon his followers to support him in this great campaign. The response of the faithful believers was very heartening as expected. They made large contributions to war fund while some of the faithful women sold their jewelleries to give financial assistance in the cause. Abu Bakr gave all his belongings, Umar brought half of his wealth, Usman, Abdul Rahman bin Auf and Zubair made big donations for the cause of Jihad. However, the lukewarm Muslims called hypocrites as usual showed cold response to the Prophet’s call. Many of them asked the Prophet to excuse them from joining the campaign on one pretext or the other such as hot season, far distance, harvest time, etc. And some of them stayed behind without excuse and even without getting Prophet’s leave. These defaulters have been denounced in the Qur’an. However, the Prophet marched with an army of 30,000 men although they were ill-equipped materially. The army advanced to Tabuk, a place about 500 kilometers to the north of Madinah on the confines of Syria, and there learnt that the enemy had not yet arrived. The Prophet stayed there for about 20 days and concluded treaties with many tribes of that region.

The Qur’an has devoted considerable portion of its Chapter 9 (Surah At-Taubah) towards the discussion of the Prophet’s Tabuk expedition. The behaviour of the hypocrites of Madinah and the desert Arabs (Bedouins) who lived around Madinah has been specially brought under focuss. The Prophet and the Muslims have been given very useful guidelines how to beware of the hypocrites “the fifth columnists” who live among the Muslims and pose themselves to be Muslims but leave no opportunity to cause harm to them. Please see verses 38 to 39, verses 40 to 59, verses 60 to 129 of Surah 9.


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