Shajaa’ (Courage)

Shajaa’ has the meanings of valour, bravery, heroism, fortitude of the heart, and showing courage in the face of violence and danger. It is the moderate way between the emotions of anger and rage and cowardliness which is its opposite.

The essence of shajaa’ is acceptance of Allah’s decree and submission to it. This is why a Muslim who believes in destiny and relies upon Allah will never experience cowardice or humiliation.

According to a narration by Sawban (r.a), the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) has said:

“The time is near when foreign forces will attack you just like greedy animals call each other to eat at the table”

One of those present asked:

“Is it because we will be few in number o Messenger of Allah?” He replied:

“No, on the contrary you will be great in number. However you will be like the foam that accumulates after a flood, with no weight behind you. Allah will take the fear out of the heart of your enemies and place a weakness in your heart”

“What is that weakness o Messenger of Allah?” He replied:

“Love of this world and fear of death.”(Abu Dawud, Malahim, 5/4297).

Thus we can conclude from this that when courage and bravery are removed from the hearts and inclining towards the world and fear of death replace them, then the believers will be subject to humiliation and disgrace. In this state they will have no weight against the enemy.

Scenes of Virtue

It is not possible to conceive of a more courageous person than the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). He displayed patience and fortitude in the most exceptional of circumstances. Nor did he ever succumb to fear and anxiety or behave inappropriately.

When Almighty Allah commanded His Prophet to migrate to Madina, the polytheists of Quraysh who became aware of this, surrounded his house and drew their swords ready to kill him as soon as he exited his house. The Prophet Muhammad however showed no fear as he opened his door and threw dust over the heads of the pagans. Reciting the first verses of the chapter Yasin, he walked passed them with dignity and escaped. (Ibn Sa’d, I, 227-228).

***

Ali (r.a) has said:

“During the Battle of Badr, we took shelter behind the Messenger of Allah. That day he was the one closest to the enemy out of all of us, and the most brave and courageous” (Ahmad, I, 86).

Abdullah ibn Umar (r.a) narrates:

“I never saw a more munificent, brave and courageous person than the Messenger of Allah (pbuh)” (Ibn Sa’d, I, 373).

***

During the Battle of Uhud, a man from the pagans moved onto the battlefield on his camel and asked for a man to fight. When he saw that everyone stepped back and refrained from his challenge, he repeated his wish three more times. Then Zubayr ibn Awwam (r.a) moved towards him. He jumped onto his camel and went for the man’s throat and they began to fight. The Prophet said:

Bring him down, make him fall to the ground”. Before long the pagan was on the floor. Zubayr then kneeled upon him and finished him off. After this, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

If Zubayr had not done so, I would have fought him, since everyone else stood back”[1].

***

Ubayy ibn Halef, one of the pagans from Mecca was one of the most violent of the enemies of Islam. Before the migration to Madina he said to the Prophet:

“I have a horse which I am preparing with the best of food. One day I shall mount it and slay you with it”

Another time the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) responded to him:

God willing, it is I who shall slay you.

During the Battle of Uhud, this mindless pagan was looking for the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and saying:

“If he escapes today, then this is the end of me”

With these thoughts in mind, he approached the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) in order to assault him. The Companions wanted to cut off his head while he was still far away. However the Prophet said:

“No, let him come

When Ubayy ibn Halef came nearer the Prophet took a spear from one of the Companions. This time, Ubayy began to run away. However the Prophet said to him:

“O liar, where are you running to?” then he threw the spear at him. The spear lightly struck Ubayy on the neck. However even with this slight hit, he fell off his horse; he somersaulted a few times and harrowingly began to flee back to his own side. He was running and screaming at the same time, his eyes almost falling out of their sockets:

“I swear that Muhammad has slain me”

The pagans who came near him and saw his wound said:

“It is only a light scratch”. However he was not to be consoled and said:

“While still in Mecca Muhammad said to me: “I will slay you”. I swear that even if had spat upon me, it would have killed me…”

He continued to wail, sounding like a bellowing bull.

Abu Sufyan chided him, saying:

“How can you scream so much at such a little scratch?”

Ubayy responded to him:

“Do you know who it was that gave me this scratch? This is a wound opened up by Muhammad. I swear by Lat and Uzza that if they were to distribute throughout the Hijaz the pain that I am feeling from this wound then they would all be destroyed. Muhammad told me that he would definitely kill me. Even from that time I knew that I would die at his hands and I would not be able to escape him”.

Thus it was that Ubayy, the fiercest of enemies of Allah’s Messenger, died a day before the pagans reached Mecca. (Ibn Ishaq, p 89; Ibn Sa’d, II, 4; Hakim, II, 357)

***

Muhammad ibn Maslama has the following to say:

I heard with my own ears and I saw with my own eyes the Muslims running back to the mountain after they had dispersed at Uhud. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was calling out to them:

Hey so and so. Come back to me. Hey so and so. Come here to me. I am the Messenger of Allah” (Wakidi, I, 237).

Almighty Allah reveals this truth in the Qur’an as follows:

‘Remember when you were scrambling up the slope, refusing to turn back for anyone, and the Messenger was calling to you from the rear’(Al’i Imran, 3:153)

***

According to the treaty made on the day of Uhud, the Muslims were to again fight with the pagans after a year had passed. As a result of this treaty, Abu Sufyan came to the region of Marru’z Zahran at the head of his army. However fear soon enveloped his heart and he was forced to turn back. Since he did not wish his pride to be hurt, he sent a man to Madina to tell the Muslims that a great army had gathered against them in the hope of frightening the believers and preventing them from entering upon battle.

When this news reached Madina, the Messenger of Allah had long completed their preparations for battle and he had given the command to embark. The man who had brought news from Abu Sufyan knew of his fear and his turning back and he tried as hard as he could to make the Muslims nervous and prevent them from heading off for battle. He added lies to the lies he had been told to tell and told them that if the Muslims were to fight outside the bounds of the city with the Meccans, their end would be terrible. As a result of his and the other hypocrites efforts some Muslims began to feel fear and hesitated to enter upon battle. Upon this, the Prophet said to them:

I swear by Allah who holds my existence in His hands that even if no one comes with me, I will go to Badr all by myself”. After that Allah Most High helped the Muslims and made their hearts firm” (Ibn Sa’d, II, 59; Wakidi, I, 386-387).

***

Another place that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) displayed heroism was Hunayn. That day everyone was fleeing from the enemy while the Prophet of Allah was constantly heading towards them on his horse, paying no heed to his Companions who were trying to prevent him. (Muslim, Jihad, 76)

Anas (r.a) narrates:

On the day of Hunayn the tribes of Hawazin, Ghatafan and others came to the battlefield with their children and their camels. That day there were ten thousand men in the army of Allah’s Messenger (pbuh). The Meccans who had been forgiven after the conquest of Mecca were also in the ranks of the Prophet. As soon as the battle began however they began to move back. The Prophet was left alone. That day, the Prophet made two calls and he did not speak any other words between them. The first time he turned to his right and called:

O people of Ansar”. They responded:

“Yes o Messenger of Allah. Good news, we are with you”.

Then he turned to his left and called out again:

“O people of Ansar”. Those on that side responded:

“Yes o Messenger of Allah. We are with you”.

The Prophet was mounted on a white mule. He descended from it and said:

“I am Allah’s slave and His Messenger”. Upon this the Muslims collected themselves and began to attack and the pagans were completely defeated. (Bukhari, Magazi 56, Humus 19, Manakib 14, Manakibu al-Ansar 1; Muslim, Zakat 135).

One man came to Bara Ibn Azib (r.a) and said:

“O Abu Umara! Did all of you flee on the day of Hunayn?”

Bara (r.a) responded:

“I bear witness that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) did not flee. However the soldiers in front whose burden was light and those who were not wearing any armour walked towards a wing of the Hawazin. However waiting for them were archers and they sent arrows against them. Thus they had to disperse. This made the enemy turn towards the Messenger of Allah. Abu Sufyan ibn Haris  was pulling the mule of Allah’s Messenger (pbuh). The Prophet got down from his mule and began to pray and plea to Allah. He was saying:

“I am a prophet, it is no lie. I am the son of Abdulmuttalib. O Allah, rain down your help upon us”.

Then he ordered his soldiers. Bara continued:

“By Allah when the battle reached its most intense state we took shelter behind the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). The bravest amongst us was the one who could stand in line with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh)” (Muslim, Jihad 79; Bukhari, Magazi 54, Jihad 52, 61, 97, 167)

***

Anas ibn Malik (r.a) narrates:

“The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was the most beautiful, the most generous and the bravest of people. Whenever there was a cry of danger in Madina or a state of fear, the Prophet would immediately borrow Abu Talha’s horse, whose name was Mandub, and go to the place where the cry had come from. We never heard any cry or call for help except that we would see Mandub there like the wind. One night the people of Madina heard a cry and were frightened and went towards the direction in which the cry had come from. However the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) had already gone there and encountered the others on returning after he had gone to investigate. He was saying to his Companions, whilst on Abu Talha’s horse and with his sword around his neck:

“Do not fear! Do not fear!” And he said about Mandub: “I have found him to be as fast as a wild flood”. (Ibn Sa’d, I, 373; Bukhari, Adab, 39).

***

The Blessed Companions of the Prophet Muhammad displayed great sacrifice and heroism during the Battle of Badr. In particular, Hamza (r.a), the ‘lion of Allah’ was a model of bravery and courage. He caused one of the leading men of the pagans Umayya ibn Halef to ask Abdurrahman ibn Awf of the Companions:

“Who was that man who had an ostrich feather attached to his chest?”

When he received the reply “That is Hamza ibn Abdulmuttalib”, he said:

“Whatever was done to us was done by him” (Ibn Hisham, II, 272).

***

When the fighting during the Battle of Uhud intensified, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) took up a sword and said:

Who will take this sword from me?” The Companions responded:

“I will, I will” and they reached out their hands to take it from him. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) then asked once more:

“Who will take this sword and give it its right?” The Companions were then hesitant to take it.

Abu Dujana (r.a) from the Ansar rose and said:

“I will take it and give it its right”. (Muslim, Fadailu as-Sahaba, 128).

When Abu Dujana took up the sword he asked:

“What is the right of this sword o Messenger of Allah?”

The Prophet replied:

“Its right is that you use it against the enemy until it is bent and broken.”

Abu Dujana (r.a) took up the sword, took his red turban and wrapped it around his head and then began to walk between the ranks of the Muslim and pagan soldiers in a swaggering and proud manner.

When the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) saw him walk in such a proud and swaggering way he said to him:

“This is such a walk that Allah loathes it (when one walks like this out of arrogance for his own self) except in cases such as these”.(Ibn Hisham, III, 11-12).

***

The aunt of Allah’s Messenger (pbuh), Safiyya (r.ha) was present at the Battle of Hendek with other women and children. They were in the large wooden house named Fari which belonged to Hassan ibn Sabit. A group of ten Jews came and began to shoot arrows at the house and attempted to enter it. One of them was wandering around outside trying to find a way in. At that point, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and his companions were fighting the enemy at Hendek.

When Safiyya (r.ha) realised that they were helpless and there was no one else who could help them against this threat, she tied her head tightly with a scarf and took a stake in her hand. She opened the door and silently crept up behind the Jew who was wandering around. She hit him on the head with the stake and killed him. When the Jews saw their dead friend, they were enveloped by fear and said:

“They told us that there were only women here with no protectors”. Then they dispersed and left (Haysami, VI, 133-134; Wakidi, II, 462)

***

Khalid ibn Walid (r.a) has said:

“On the day that the Battle of Muta took place I broke nine swords with my hands. Only one thick and broad sword made in Yemen was able to resist” (Bukhari, Maghazi, 44).

***

Harezm, the hometown of the great Sufi, Najmaddin-i Kubra was once attacked by the Mongols. Najmaddin Kubra was a man who walked in the footsteps of Allah’s Messenger and his Companions. Together with his students he put up a brave stand but they were eventually martyred. These people were known as alperen. The alperen are those heroes who live on the borders in order to protect them, and who constantly long for martyrdom which has an important place in the culture of tasawwuf. They are the most important representatives of courage and bravery.

***

When the united Crusader army entered the Ottoman lands with the aim of destroying the Ottomans, rescuing Byzantine and taking back Jerusalem which was in the hands of the Muslims, they laid siege to the fortress of Nigbolu on the shore of the Tuna River.

When Yildirim Bayazid was informed of this, he immediately went to Nigbolu as fast as lightning as befitting his name[2]. In fact in order to command the Muslims not to cede the fortress he mounted his horse in the middle of the night and stealthily rode through the enemy forces to reach the fortress where he called out to the commander of the fortress:

“Look here Dogan!”

Dogan Bey who recognised the voice of the Sultan immediately, answered in great surprise:

“At your service your Majesty”

Sultan Yildirim Bayazid gave his commands briefly:

“Dogan! I have come here with my army. Under no circumstances are you to surrender this fortress”. And then he quickly returned amongst the darkness and disappeared. The next day the bloody battle that took place between the large crusader army ended with the clear victory of Yildirim Bayazid. All of the European nations, large and small, had sent soldiers to this army of Crusaders. Amongst them were ten thousand French knights who had boasted: “If the skies come crashing down we will hold them up with our spears”. But it was not to be for the Crusaders melted away in the face of the manoeuvres of the Ottomans, kneaded by their faith.

That day Yildirim Bayazid was wounded in many different parts of his body and when his horse was also wounded he fell to the ground. However he took no heed of this and mounted another horse and commanded the battle with all his strength until they were bestowed with victory.

***

After the victory at Nigbolu, Yildirim Bayazid Han took many knights and noblemen as prisoners of war. Amongst the prisoners was the famous French knight, Fearless Jean. Yildirim Bayazid Han let them go free in return for a ransom. In addition the day they were to return to their homelands he gave them a feast. When they reflected on the humane behaviour of the Sultan and then considered their own torturous and vile treatment of their own prisoners, all of the knights felt very ashamed and said:

“From this moment on we swear on our honour that we will never again stand against the Sultan of Anatolia and Rumelia nor use our swords against him…”

Upon these words which they had spoken out of gratitude, the great Sultan Yildirim Bayazid Han, a model of courage against the unbelievers, addressed the knights with his strong voice:

“I am returning the oath made by Fearless Jean and his friends that they will never again take up arms against me. No, indeed! I say go back, gather up new armies and come back against me. Know that this act of yours will bring another opportunity for victory for me. For I am a Sultan conscious of the fact that I have come to this world in order to gain the pleasure of Almighty Allah by exalting His religion. So from this aspect the help and providence of Allah is with us. And whoever’s helper is Allah there is no force or might who can defeat them!…”

***

When Timurlane besieged the Fortress of Sivas with elephants, the tanks of those times, the son of Yildirim Bayazid Han, Shahzade Ertugrul gathered up the noblemen of the city and addressed them:

“My duty is to try with all my might to protect you. The forces of Timur may be stronger and beyond comparison to ours. This is the destiny of Allah. What befalls me is to bravely withstand their attack and defend you and this fortress in a manner which befits our glory. Know that Timur can never enter this city without first stepping over our dead bodies…”

Having spoken these words, Shahzade Ertugrul then took action and with a handful of brave men he put up an incredible resistance and fought bravely against Timur’s army. However he and his heroes were eventually martyred in the face of the enemy army which attacked them like a wild deluge.

Timur who had eliminated the shahzade sent news to those in the fortress that if they surrendered he would not harm any of them. However he savagely murdered all of the defenders of the fortress who came out having trusted his word.

***

The following event is another example of the bravery of the Ottoman soldiers:

“The lad that brought the news at full speed of the victory at Preveze entered the Topkapi Palace. When he pulled the reins of his horse, it remained for a while on his two feet. Sultan Sulayman who was watching this scene, said to him:

“What a wild horse you have come here with!” The lad replied:

“My Sultan! The Mediterranean was a wild horse. And we were even able to tame that”, displaying a manifestation of self-confidence that resulted from being reared with the courage of faith.

***

During the Battle for the Dardanelles it was decided to move the Sultan and his government to Eskisehir as a precaution and out of fear that the enemy fleet would be able to enter the Sea of Marmara. When Abdulhamid Han, who had been removed from his throne and imprisoned in the Palace of Beylerbeyi, was informed of the events he rejected this decision and with great courage and bravery he said:

“I am the grandson of Fatih Sultan Mehmed…! I shall never fall short of Constantine, the emperor of Byzantine, who even when Fatih was taking Istanbul, fought to the death at the head of his army. If the enemy really does enter the Dardanelles – may Allah forbid it – I will take my gun and fight as a soldier and die if need be. The enemy will only be able to enter Istanbul by stepping over my dead body. Tell my brother, Rashad, who is at the head of the government that he too is not to go anywhere. If he and the government move from Istanbul, they will never be able to return…

As a result of his firm stand the Sultan and his government remained in Istanbul. In this way the abolition of the government was prevented.

***

The French traveller, A.L. Castellan, has described the bravery of the Ottoman as follows:

“The belief in fate and destiny is firmly established in the mind of the Ottoman. This belief leads to their bravery; and it increases their fortitude and steadfastness. With their reliance upon Allah, it becomes a means for them to risk death even. This is why evident danger that they see with their own eyes does not deter them.

They throw themselves upon the bayonets of the enemy and upon their fire and even if their bodies are mutilated and defiled, if they are not convinced that the time of their death has come they do not lose hope of living”

***

In conclusion, the believers fear Allah only and due to their reliance upon Him they do not fear anything else. They apply the commands of Allah with courage and fortitude. Using their courage with foresight and discernment they act however the situation requires. Almighty Allah praises them in the Qur’an as follows:

‘…those who conveyed Allah’s Message and had taqwa of Him, fearing no one except Allah’ (Al-Ahzab, 33:39)

[1].     Halabi, Insanu al-Uyun, Egypt 1964, Ii, 235

[2].     ‘yildirim’ means lightning in Turkish (translator’s note)