THE FOURTH YEAR OF HEGIRA

The Blessed Prophet (pbuh) used to send teachers to neighboring tribes for the purpose of communicating and teaching Islam. Some of these teachers, however, became subjected to callous plots of betrayal. One of the most tragic of these is known as the Raji Incident.

The Raji Incident (Safar, 4 / July, 625)

The Blessed Prophet (pbuh) used to send teachers to neighboring tribes for the purpose of communicating and teaching Islam. Some of these teachers, however, became subjected to callous plots of betrayal. One of the most tragic of these is known as the Raji Incident.

The nearby Adal and Qara tribes had asked the Noble Messenger (pbuh) for some knowledgeable Companions to teach them Islam. As a result, the Prophet of Allah (pbuh) sent a delegate of ten Companions lead by Asim ibn Thabit (r.a).

The envoy reached the place called Hudat, between Usfan and Mecca, and took a break by the Raji Well, which was at the time within the dominion of the Huzayl Tribe. Meanwhile, having been informed that the Muslim envoy had reached the area, the Lihyan Clan of the Huzayl Tribe, mobilized nearly a hundred archers and went in pursuit of the Companions. Realizing they were being pursued, Asim and the Companions took refuge in relatively high spot nearby, where they were subsequently surrounded.

“Come down from there. Drop your weapons and surrender. We assure you that none of you will be hurt!” they shouted from below.

“I will not come down relying on the word of an infidel!” said Asim, afterward praying, “O my Lord! Inform of our plight to the Messenger of Allah!”

The archers then showered Asim and the six Companions who remained with him, in arrows, martyring them all. Fatally wounded, Asim (r.a) prayed:

“Allah…Protect my corpse at sundown, just as I protected Your religion at sunup!”

After being informed of the martyring of Asim, some notables of Quraysh sent a few men to sever and return with a certain part of him that would assure them of his identity, in vengeance for a certain idolater Asim had killed on the field of Badr. But Allah, glory unto Him, sent a mass of bees to protect Asim’s corpse, and the idolaters could not even get within an arms length of his body, frustrated by a cloud of bees relentlessly hovering over it. (Bukhari, Jihad, 170; Maghazi, 10, 28; Waqidi, I, 354-363)

Waiting nonetheless until sundown for the bees to disperse, the idolaters were met with something they had least expected: a downpour of rain. The subsequent flood that swept across the valley took Asim’s corpse with it, out of sight. The idolaters thus could not even find a moment’s opportunity to obtain a piece of Asim’s corpse. Asim (r.a) was thereafter referred to as ‘the Martyr Protected by Bees.’ (Ibn Hisham, III, 163)

The three Companions, who removed the strings of their bows and came down from the hill to surrender, soon realized that their foes had no intention of keeping their words, when they made a move to tie them down by force. One of the three Companions then attempted to put up a fight, exclaiming, “Never have we been betrayed in such manner…By Allah, I will never surrender. The martyrs lying over there are a perfect example for me!” Though the enemy nevertheless wanted to drag him behind them, he violently resisted, and was consequently martyred.

Of the ten Companions only Hubayb and Zayd (r.huma) now remained. The Lihyan Clan took the two to Mecca and sold them to Quraysh. Hubayb (r.a) was purchased by the sons of Harith ibn Amir, whom he had put to the sword at Badr. Until the day they eventually decided to execute him, Hubayb (r.a) remained prisoner in their hands.

A woman from the household of the sons of Amir later testified to “…never before seeing a captive with greater virtue than Hubayb. I swear, I saw him eat fresh grapes, despite the fact that his hands were tied, and moreover on a day when nobody could find any fruits in Mecca. In hindsight, I now realize they were the blessings of Allah. Hubayb would recite the Quran and wake up for the tahajjud salat in the dark of night. Those who would hear him recite the Quran would soon begin to cry from bursting emotion. I once asked him whether he needed anything. ‘Nothing’, he said, ‘except for you to offer me fresh water, to withhold from me the meat of stock you slaughter in the name of your idols and to inform me of the time they will have me executed.’

After the Months of Truce came to an end, I went to Hubayb to inform him that they had decided to execute him. But, I swear, I did not see a trace of fear or anxiety. When Harith’s sons took him up to the spot outside of the vicinity of the Haram to execute him, Hubayb asked them to allow him for two rakahs of salat. They agreed. After offering the salat, Hubayb turned around and said, ‘By Allah, had I known that you would not be led into thinking I feared death, I would have surely performed this salat more lengthily!’ Hubayb (r.a) thus became the first to initiate two rakahs of salat for Muslims awaiting execution.

Hubayb then prayed, ‘Allah…Destroy all of them! Take each of their lives one by one…do not let a single one of them survive!’[1] He then recited the following piece of poetry:

‘So long as I die a Muslim, how I died, I could never care! This is all in the way of Allah, of that I am aware; for Whom is easy to grant me His Forgiveness, despite my body, scattered and bare!’

He then added one final prayer, pleading, ‘O my Lord! The only faces I can see here are those of the enemy! There is nobody around whom I can send to the Messenger of Allah, either. You deliver my greetings of peace to Him!’

Sitting with his Companions in Medina at the time, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh), said, in an audible tone, وَعَلَيْهِ السَّلاَمُ meaning, ‘Peace be upon him, too’.

‘To whom did you just return the greetings, Messenger of Allah?’ the astonished Companions wondered.

‘To your brother Hubayb’, answered the Blessed Prophet (pbuh). ‘There…Jibril has delivered his greetings of peace!’ The Noble Messenger (pbuh) thereby informed his Companions, on the spot, of the martyring of Hubayb (r.a).’” (Bukhari, Jihad, 170; Maghazi, 10, 28; Waqidi, I, 354-363)

Minutes before his execution, Hubayb was asked, “Would you have liked the Prophet to be in your place in return for your life?”

Without a moment’s hesitation, Hubayb, with a voice echoing a colossal courage and dignity, declared:

“Never…! I could not even bare the thought of him being spiked by a thorn in his foot in Medina, let alone hoping him to be in my place right now!”

Stunned with the response, Abu Sufyan could not help but confess, “I swear, I have never seen another person who is loved by his friends more than Muhammad!” (Waqidi, I, 360; Ibn Sad, II, 56)

When they were about to hang him, they turned his face towards Medina. Hubayb (r.a) then prayed, “O my Lord! If what I am going through is something of worth in Your Sight, then turn my face towards your qibla!” Allah, glory unto Him, accepted his prayer and turned his face towards his desired direction. No matter how much the idolaters tried in turning him back towards Medina, they were unsuccessful. The below ayah of the Quran were revealed in reference to this illustrious Companion:

يَا أَيَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَئِنَّةُ. ارْجِعِي إِلَى رَبِّكِ رَاضِيَةً
مَّرْضِيَّةً فَادْخُلِي فِي عِبَادِي وَادْخُلِي جَنَّتِي

“O soul that art at rest! Return to your Lord, well-pleased (with him), well-pleasing (Him). So enter among My servants. And enter into My garden.” (al-Fajr, 27-30) (Qurtubi, XX, 58; Alusi, XXX, 133)

Martyred following Hubayb (r.a), Zayd (r.a) was also in the same state of fortitude granted him by iman. During his days of captivity, he would make sure to wake up for the tahajjud salat and spend his days fasting. He would not touch the food offered him with meat, for being of stock slaughtered in the name of the idols. He preferred milk instead. On milk he would fast and with milk he would break it. He saw Hubayb on the way to Tanim, the place he was to be martyred, where the two Companions advised each other with patience. Zayd (r.a), too, offered two rakahs of salat before being hanged. Like Hubayb (r.a), he too was met with the question whether he would have wanted the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) to be in his place instead, to which he responded in a similar manner as Hubayb (r.a). (Waqidi, I, 361-362)

“Dying as a Muslim is preferable to living a thousand lives as idolater”, were the final words he posed the idolaters who promised him freedom on the condition that he would recant his faith. And in a dignity worthy of a Believer, he sipped from the goblet of martyrdom with pleasure.

The Maunah Well Incident (Safar, 4 / July, 625)

During the same days as the Raji Incident, Abu Bara, a notable of the region of Najd, requested from the Noble Prophet (pbuh) some Companions to teach them Islam. The Blessed Prophet (pbuh) did not want to comply with the request, saying, ‘I fear my friends might come under the betrayal of the people of Najd!’

Abu Bara then pledged on behalf of his tribe that the Companions would in no way be harmed. The Blessed Prophet (pbuh) further had a declaration written, which was sent to Abu Bara’s nephew Amir, governing the tribes of Najd in his uncle’s absence. Afterward, the Noble Messenger (pbuh) designated a group of seventy Companions from the Suffa known as the Qurra and sent them with Abu Bara.

But when the envoy reached the Maunah Well, four stations away from Medina, they encountered a horrific betrayal. Amir, Abu Bara’s nephew, made a raid with a crowded army, without even having read the Blessed Prophet’s (pbuh) letter. But when his tribe proved too hesitant to attack the Companions upon finding out that Abu Bara had declared his protection over them, Amir nonetheless lured the tribes of Usayya, Ri’l, Zakwan and Banu Lihyan into putting the Companions to the sword. Only Amr ibn Umayya was able to survive the massacre.[2]

Jabbar ibn Sulma, among the assailants during this tragic event, explains the following:

“I thrusted my spear into Amir ibn Fuhayrah who just moments before had invited me to Islam. I could see the blade of my spear come out from the other side of his chest. But still, he was jubilantly shouting, ‘By Allah, I have won!’

‘What could he have won?’ I asked myself. It was me, after all, who had killed him. In the meantime, his corpse ascended into the skies and disappeared from sight. What I saw then made me become a Muslim.” (Ibn Hisham, III, 187; Waqidi, I, 349)

Jibril (a.s) was the first to inform the Prophet of Allah (pbuh) that the envoy of Companions were now reunited their Lord as martyrs; that their Lord was pleased with them and had also made them pleased.[3]

The Prophet of Mercy (pbuh) became grief-stricken upon hearing this devastating incident. Lifting his hands aloft to the gates of the Divine, for a month after each fajr salat, he prayed, “O my Lord! Curse the tribes of Ril, Zakvan and Usayya who have rebelled against Allah and His Messenger!” (Bukhari, Jihad, 9, 19; Maghazi, 28; Muslim, Masajid, 297)

The tears of grief shed by the Believers were countered by the joyous frenzy of the hypocrites and Jews, who seemed more than content with what had unfolded since Uhud. Besides, their frustration over not having capitalized in the aftermath of Uhud and claimed ascendancy over the Muslims meant they were now giving full vent to their anti-Muslim malice. The hypocrites, especially, had begun glamorizing their betrayal of the Believers on the way to Uhud as a clever move, rebuking the Muslims, who had given many casualties during the Battle, with the smug comments:

“Had those who died listened to us in the first place, they would not have died.” The Quran’s response was stern:

الَّذِينَ قَالُواْ لإِخْوَانِهِمْ وَقَعَدُواْ لَوْ أَطَاعُونَا مَا قُتِلُوا قُلْ فَادْرَؤُوا عَنْ أَنفُسِكُمُ الْمَوْتَ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ

“Those who said of their brethren whilst they (themselves) held back: Had they obeyed us, they would not have been killed. Say: Then avert death from yourselves if you speak the truth.” (Al’i Imran, 168)

وَمَا كَانَ لِنَفْسٍ أَنْ تَمُوتَ إِلاَّ بِإِذْنِ اللّٰهِ كِتَابًا مُّؤَجَّلا

“And a soul will not die but with the permission of Allah the term is fixed…” (Al’i Imran, 145)

“I have never seen the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) grieve more over anything than the martyrs of the Maunah Well”, Anas (r.a) later said (Muslim, Masajid, 302). The martyrs of the Maunah Well massacre were entirely of the Suffa, devoted teachers of the Quran and Sunnah who were reared under the spiritual training of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh).

The Raji and Maunah Well incidents attest to the importance, for Muslims, of the duty of communicating Islam and offering guidance. The Blessed Prophet (pbuh) chose the most elite of his Companions as teachers of Islam, despite the perils that would come with it. Allah, glory unto Him, has praised the eminent Companions who were martyred in this cause, declaring His satisfaction with them, and in turn, their satisfaction with their Lord.[4]

Banu Nadir’s Treacherous Plot

Able to survive the Maunah Well massacre, Amir ibn Umayyah (r.a) killed two people from the tribe that attacked them, in their sleep, whom he happened to stumble upon on his way back to Medina. But little did he know at the time that the two were under the amnesty of the Prophet of Allah (pbuh) and were in fact returning from Medina. A part of the blood money that had to be paid in compensation, according to their prior pact, had to be provided by Banu Nadir; and to obtain part of the due payment, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh), accompanied by a group of Companions, went to their quarters.

The fact that the Noble Messenger (pbuh) was visiting them with only a handful of Companions, thought the Jews of Banu Nadir, was a golden opportunity; so they swiftly plotted a plan of assassination. Telling the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) they were more than happy to recompense the amount of blood money that fell to their lot, they invited him to sit under a shade while they prepared the money and, at the same time, a few treats. At the same time, they made a fast but stealthy move to get their plot under way. They were supposedly to throw a massive rock from the roof of the house, under the shade of which the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) was sitting, and thereby take his life. They did, after all, have plenty of experience under their belts, from having perpetrated similar crimes against many prophets before.

In the meantime, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) quickly got up from where he was sitting and hurriedly moved away from and out of the quarters. Allah, glory unto Him, had informed His Messenger of the plot and protected him, a blessing upon Muslims of which He reminds in the following ayah:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ اذْكُرُواْ نِعْمَتَ اللّٰهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ هَمَّ قَوْمٌ أَن يَبْسُطُواْ إِلَيْكُمْ أَيْدِيَهُمْ فَكَفَّ أَيْدِيَهُمْ عَنكُمْ وَاتَّقُواْ اللّٰهَ
وَعَلَى اللّٰهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ

 “O you who believe! remember Allah’s favor on you when a people had determined to stretch forth their hands towards you, but He withheld their hands from you, and be careful of (your duty to) Allah; and on Allah let the believers rely.” (al-Maida, 11)

That the above ayah addresses the Believers in general, even though the assassination had only the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) in mind, goes to show that the Prophet of Allah (pbuh) is the life and soul of Muslims and that his life ought to be more precious than their own.

The Almighty revealed the following regarding the attempted assassination:

وَإِمَّا تَخَافَنَّ مِن قَوْمٍ خِيَانَةً فَانبِذْ إِلَيْهِمْ
عَلَى سَوَاء إِنَّ اللّٰهَ لاَ يُحِبُّ الخَائِنِينَ

“And if you fear treachery on the part of a people, then throw back to them on terms of equality; surely Allah does not love the treacherous.” (al-Anfal, 58)

وَإِن جَنَحُواْ لِلسَّلْمِ فَاجْنَحْ لَهَا وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللّٰهِ إِنَّهُ
هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ وَإِن يُرِيدُواْ أَن يَخْدَعُوكَ فَإِنَّ
حَسْبَكَ اللّٰهُ هُوَ الَّذِيَ أَيَّدَكَ بِنَصْرِهِ وَبِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ

“And if they incline to peace, then incline to it and trust in Allah; surely He is the Hearing, the Knowing. And if they intend to deceive you- then surely Allah is sufficient for you; He it is Who strengthened you with His help and with the Believers.” (al-Anfal, 61-62)

The Blessed Prophet (pbuh) thereupon sent an ambassador to Banu Nadir telling them to either renew their pact or pack up and leave Medina within ten days. Unable to keep still, the hypocrites, in the meantime, sent Banu Nadir, who had now gotten their preparations to leave Medina under way, the message that they ought not to leave the town and assured the Jews that they would help them in masses should the Muslims threaten their existence. The secret correspondence between the Jews and the hypocrites was exposed by the Almighty in the Quran:

أَلَمْ تَر إِلَى الَّذِينَ نَافَقُوا يَقُولُونَ لِإِخْوَانِهِمُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ لَئِنْ أُخْرِجْتُمْ لَنَخْرُجَنَّ مَعَكُمْ وَلَا نُطِيعُ فِيكُمْ أَحَدًا أَبَدًا وَإِن قُوتِلْتُمْ لَنَنصُرَنَّكُمْ وَاللّٰهُ يَشْهَدُ إِنَّهُمْ لَكَاذِبُونَ

“Have you not seen those who have become hypocrites? They say to those of their brethren who disbelieve from among the followers of the Book: If you are driven forth, we shall certainly go forth with you, and we will never obey any one concerning you, and if you are fought against, we will certainly help you, and Allah bears witness that they are most surely liars.” (al-Hashr, 11)

For, in spite of all the traps they were secretly setting behind Muslim backs, deep down, they were terrified of the Believers; a state of mind illustrated by the Quran:

لَأَنتُمْ أَشَدُّ رَهْبَةً فِي صُدُورِهِم مِّنَ اللّٰهِ
ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ قَوْمٌ لَّا يَفْقَهُونَ

“You are certainly greater in being feared in their hearts than Allah; that is because they are a people who do not understand.” (al-Hashr, 13)

After Banu Nadir had a change of heart and decided to hold their ground after all, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) was left with no other option than to lay siege to their quarters. Banu Qurayza, the other Jewish tribe of Medina, came to the aid of the besieged Banu Nadir, at the expense of violating their own pact with the Muslims.[5]

The Jews, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) saw, were making full use of their homes in their fight; ascending their rooftops to show resistance and taking refuge behind their houses during their retreat. Thus, beginning with the most nearby house, the Prophet of Allah (pbuh) commanded the demolishing of each Jewish house and the chopping or burning down of some of their date trees.

“You were forbidding mischief and reproaching mischief makers, Muhammad!” the Jews begun to shout behind their homes. “And now you chop and burn down trees?” This was cause for anxiety for some Muslims, as they suddenly felt a hesitancy coming over them. Then the Almighty removed all doubts:

مَا قَطَعْتُم مِّن لِّينَةٍ أَوْ تَرَكْتُمُوهَا قَائِمَةً عَلَى
أُصُولِهَا فَبِإِذْنِ اللّٰهِ وَلِيُخْزِيَ الْفَاسِقِينَ

“Whatever palm-tree you cut down or leave standing upon its roots, It is by Allah’s command, and that He may abase the transgressors.” (al-Hashr, 5)[6] The ayah also hinted at the need to be wary of the mind games of Jews.

After a nearly twenty day siege, consequent upon the immaculate strategy carried out by the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) and the promised aid of the hypocrites that never came, Banu Nadir surrendered and were subsequently expelled from Medina by the Noble Prophet (pbuh). Banu Qurayza, on the other hand, for acquiescing in a renewed pact, was allowed to remain in the town.[7]

Before their migration, Banu Nadir razed to the ground with their own hands what remained of their houses, so that the Muslims could not seize possession of them. Some then ultimately relocated to Khaybar, while others headed to the direction of Syria.[8]

Allah, glory unto Him, pronounces His backing and support of the Believers in their fight against Banu Nadir, in the Quran as follows:

هُوَ الَّذِي أَخْرَجَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ مِن دِيَارِهِمْ لِأَوَّلِ الْحَشْرِ مَا ظَنَنتُمْ أَن يَخْرُجُوا وَظَنُّوا أَنَّهُم مَّانِعَتُهُمْ حُصُونُهُم مِّنَ اللّٰهِ فَأَتَاهُمُ اللّٰهُ مِنْ حَيْثُ لَمْ يَحْتَسِبُوا وَقَذَفَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمُ الرُّعْبَ يُخْرِبُونَ بُيُوتَهُم بِأَيْدِيهِمْ وَأَيْدِي الْمُؤْمِنِينَ فَاعْتَبِرُوا يَا أُولِي الْأَبْصَارِ

“He it is Who caused those who disbelieved of the followers of the Book to go forth from their homes at the first banishment you did not think that they would go forth, while they were certain that their fortresses would defend them against Allah; but Allah came to them whence they did not expect, and cast terror into their hearts; they demolished their houses with their own hands and the hands of the believers; therefore take a lesson, O you who have eyes!” (al-Hashr, 2)

For having been acquired without the use of force, properties left behind by Banu Nadir were called fay’, and were given a status different from spoils acquired through the use of force:

مَّا أَفَاء اللّٰهُ عَلَى رَسُولِهِ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْقُرَى فَلِلّٰهِ وَلِلرَّسُولِ وَلِذِي الْقُرْبَى وَالْيَتَامَى وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ كَيْ لَا يَكُونَ دُولَةً بَيْنَ الْأَغْنِيَاء مِنكُمْ وَمَا آتَاكُمُ الرَّسُولُ فَخُذُوهُ وَمَا نَهَاكُمْ عَنْهُ فَانتَهُوا وَاتَّقُوا اللّٰهَ إِنَّ اللّٰهَ شَدِيدُ الْعِقَابِ. لِلْفُقَرَاء الْمُهَاجِرِينَ الَّذِينَ أُخْرِجُوا مِن دِيارِهِمْ وَأَمْوَالِهِمْ يَبْتَغُونَ فَضْلًا مِّنَ اللّٰهِ وَرِضْوَانًا وَيَنصُرُونَ اللّٰهَ وَرَسُولَهُ أُوْلَئِكَ هُمُ الصَّادِقُونَ

“Whatever Allah has restored to His Messenger from the people of the towns, it is for Allah and for the Messenger, and for the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer, so that it may not be a thing taken by turns among the rich of you, and whatever the Messenger gives you, accept it, and from whatever he forbids you, keep back, and be careful of (your duty to) Allah; surely Allah is severe in retributing (evil). It is) for the poor who fled their homes and their possessions, seeking grace of Allah and (His) pleasure, and assisting Allah and His Messenger: these it is that are the truthful.” (al-Hashr, 7-8)

The fay’ reserved for Allah and His Messenger, as stated by the ayah, is for the repairing and renovation of Kaabah and other mosques. In any case the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) used to distribute the fay’ that fell to his lot among the poor Companions. The wisdom beneath the distribution of the fay’ in this specific manner is, as indicated by the ayah, to prevent wealth from circulating only among the rich and becoming stockpiled. The ethos of Islam in financial affairs requires the maintenance of mutual aid among members of society, to ensure both the rich and the poor receive their entitlements of benefits. This carried out to the end will bring about a just social balance that brings different spectrums of society together, where there will no longer exist groups that exploit one another.

For that reason, the Prophet of Allah (pbuh) distributed the spoils of Banu Nadir among the Muhajirun, and withheld it from the Ansar, apart from three needy Companions from among them. Before the distribution, he addressed the Ansar:

“If you wish”, he said, “what you previously provided the Muhajirun with will remain with them and you can receive a share of the spoils. But if you want, you can ask back what you gave them, and cede the entirety of these spoils to them.”

The Ansar thereupon gave a magnificent and heart rending response, stating, “Neither will we ask back what we gave of our properties and houses, nor will we have anything to do with the spoils!”

The unrivalled instance of brotherhood displayed by the Ansar was among the reasons that occasioned the revelation of the below ayah:

وَالَّذِينَ تَبَوَّؤُوا الدَّارَ وَالْإِيمَانَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ يُحِبُّونَ مَنْ هَاجَرَ إِلَيْهِمْ وَلَا يَجِدُونَ فِي صُدُورِهِمْ حَاجَةً مِّمَّا أُوتُوا وَيُؤْثِرُونَ عَلَى أَنفُسِهِمْ وَلَوْ كَانَ بِهِمْ خَصَاصَةٌ

“And those who made their abode in the city and in the faith before them love those who have fled to them, and do not find in their hearts a need of what they are given, and prefer (them) before themselves though poverty may afflict them, and whoever is preserved from the avarice of his soul, these it is that are the successful ones.” (al-Hashr, 9) (Razi, XXIX, 250; Qurtubi, XVIII, 25)

The Prohibition of Intoxicants and Gambling

The Divine verdicts on intoxicants and gambling, as known, were not given during the first years of Islam but, motivated with specific concerns, were delayed. The ban of intoxicants followed the below sequence:

1. In Mecca, the ayah,

وَمِن ثَمَرَاتِ النَّخِيلِ وَالأَعْنَابِ تَتَّخِذُونَ مِنْهُ سَكَرًا
وَرِزْقًا حَسَنًا إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لآيَةً لِّقَوْمٍ يَعْقِلُون

“And of the fruits of the palms and the grapes– you obtain from them intoxication and good nourishment; most surely there is a sign in this for a people who ponder.” (an-Nahl, 67) was revealed. The ayah explains how grapes and dates, apart from goodnourishment, offer beverages of an intoxicating nature. This imparts a feeling that intoxicants are not counted among good sources of nourishment and therefore hints at their future prohibition. This was the only ayah revealed with regard to intoxicants during the Meccan period.

2. The Blessed Prophet (pbuh) was on the receiving end of many questions pertaining to these issues after the Hegira, with respect to which the Almighty declared:

يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْخَمْرِ وَالْمَيْسِرِ قُلْ فِيهِمَا إِثْمٌ كَبِيرٌ
وَمَنَافِعُ لِلنَّاسِ وَإِثْمُهُمَا أَكْبَرُ مِن نَّفْعِهِمَا

“They ask you concerning wine and gambling. Say: In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit…” (al-Baqara, 219)

A majority of the Believers quit drinking intoxicants, while others continued regardless.

3. While leading the maghrib salat, an intoxicated Companion jumbled the words of an ayah to the point of distorting the meaning, which occasioned the following Revelation:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ لاَ تَقْرَبُواْ الصَّلاَةَ وَأَنتُمْ
سُكَارَى حَتَّىَ تَعْلَمُواْ مَا تَقُولُونَ

“O you who believe! Do not go near prayer when you are Intoxicated until you know (well) what you say…” (an-Nisa, 43)

The number of Muslim drinkers after the above Revelation diminished drastically. Still, before each salat, there would be a Companion who would call out, ‘The intoxicated ought not to approach salat!’ Muslims were nonetheless beginning to fully realize that it would only be a matter of time before the consumption of intoxicants would be prohibited for good and they were getting themselves prepared in regard.

4. An overwhelming majority of Muslims had now quit drinking. A few, on the other hand, were in distress over the unpleasant scenes fuelled by drunkenness they would more often than not encounter. Omar (r.a), for instance, was praying for Allah, glory unto Him, to ‘…provide a clear and indisputable declaration regarding drinking!’ A clash following a feast between a few Companions under the influence of alcohol, which left no room for doubting the benefit of a likely prohibition, provided the proper underpinning; a concrete reason for the ban to be instated:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ إِنَّمَا الْخَمْرُ وَالْمَيْسِرُ وَالأَنصَابُ وَالأَزْلاَمُ رِجْسٌ مِّنْ عَمَلِ الشَّيْطَانِ فَاجْتَنِبُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ. إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ الشَّيْطَانُ أَن يُوقِعَ بَيْنَكُمُ الْعَدَاوَةَ وَالْبَغْضَاء فِي الْخَمْرِ وَالْمَيْسِرِ وَيَصُدَّكُمْ عَن ذِكْرِ اللّٰهِ وَعَنِ الصَّلاَةِ فَهَلْ أَنتُم مُّنتَهُون

“O you who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination,- of Satan’s handwork: eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper. Satan’s plan is (but) to excite enmity and hatred between you, with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah, and from prayer: will you not then abstain?” (al-Maida, 90-91)

The Blessed Prophet (pbuh) sent for Omar (r.a) and recited to him the Revelation. When he came to reciting the part ‘will you not then abstain…?’ Omar (r.a) declared:

“Yes, we will abstain Allah; we will abstain!” The exact words reverberated among the entire Companions.

Following this Revelation, with the order of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh), a Companion called out through the streets of Mecca, the news that:

“Intoxicants are forbidden from here on!”

Rivers of wine flowed through the streets of Medina from what poured out from the broken earthenware and the punctured leather bottles that once contained the now forbidden beverages.

Muslims, who once drank, were now fervently destroying all the stock of wine they had following this indisputable declaration. They were to never drink again. In further emphasis of the ban, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) stated:

“Surely Allah has cursed intoxicants, he who prepares it and the place where it is prepared; its consumer and he who encourages its consumption; its carrier, seller, purchaser and he who lives off its revenue!” (Ahmad, I, 53; II, 351; Nasai, Ashribah, 1-2; Hakim, II, 305/3101)

Anas (r.a) recounts:

“Alcohol was forbidden just when I was serving people wine at Abu Talha’s house. Upon the orders of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), a Companion spread the news around. We heard his voice while inside. Abu Talha told me to, ‘Go outside to see what it is all about!’ So I stepped outside and heard him announce that alcohol was henceforth forbidden. I told Abu Talha just what I heard. ‘If that’s the case’, Abu Talha said, ‘then go and pour that out!’ Soon, wine was flowing through the streets of Medina.” (Bukhari, Tafsir, 5/11)

The incident highlights the Companions’ precision in adhering to the command of Allah, glory unto Him. Without putting forth any excuses or waiting for even a minute, they immediately spilled out what they had of intoxicants, enthusiastically seeking the pleasure of Allah, glory unto Him, by not only surrendering to the Divine Command, but also genuinely obeying it from the bottom of their hearts.

The Prophet of Mercy (pbuh) declares:

“All intoxicatants are impermissible. A little of what intoxicates when consumed more, is also impermissible.” (Ibn Majah, Ashriba, 10; Nasai, Ashribah, 24, 48)

“Alcohol is the mother of all evil.” (Ahmad, V, 238)

“He who believes in Allah and the Last Day ought not to sit down at a table that has intoxicants.” (Tirmidhi, Adab, 43/2801)

“Certain people from among my ummah will drink alcohol by giving it different names.” (Ahmad, IV, 237)

The gradual process, stemming from a concern for the maslahah, or common good, that we see implemented in the prohibition of the consumption of alcohol and gambling, provides a handy clue to the method Islam espouses in its call and struggle against iniquities. Even though Allah, glory unto Him, knows eternally and universally in an absolute manner when passing judgment in determining the rulings of Islam, He considers the capacities of human beings, the direct subjects of these rulings, and their levels of competence in accustoming themselves to them. Perhaps the most important manifestation of this can be found in the fact that the ayat pertaining to the creed of Islam were given precedence and revealed in the Meccan era, contrary to the general manner in which the sequence of the Quran is arranged today. Since the Quran existed in the Lawh’ul-Mahfuz prior to its revelation on Earth, it is not difficult to see that the specific concern underlying the precedence given to the revelation of some sections of the Quran over others is strictly maslahah, the benefit of Believers.

What this concern for the common good consists of is the observing of the aptitude and power human beings have in following the Quran and its development; just like how the obligations increase in tandem with the age of a child.

The principle of graduality, best implemented during the blissful time of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh), is part of sunnatullah, the Way of Allah, underpinned with great wisdom of the Almighty, effectively a manifestation of His Mercy. Applicable at all times in communicating Islam, it is, at the same time, the most agreeable to human nature. Indeed, the initial thing one is required to do after entering Islam is to rectify his faith; only after that phase is digested does one then proceed to deeds. Graduality comes into play once again when carrying out the deeds, this time regulating them according to human capacity. Not only is this applicable in inviting people to Islam, but also in all other forms of teaching. Therefore, with the Divine Call that began with Adem (a.s), there has been an observable development in the Message –the fundamental articles of faith have of course remained the same-, parallel with the social development of humankind; a development that has culminated in the religion of Islam.

Dhat’ur-Riqah[9]

The Clans of Muharib and Salabah, of the Ghatafan tribe, joined forces to wage an attack on the Muslims, in response to which the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) marched out to meet them with a force of four-hundred Companions.

Seeing the Believers right in front of them in the flesh, the enemy lost its nerve and retreated. Soon after, the Believers communally offered the zuhr salat, whose time had come. Observing the Believers from a distance until the completion of the salat, the enemy afterwards began bemoaning the missed opportunity of not having ambushed them during those minutes. One of the clansmen, however, consoled his comrades.

“Don’t you worry,” he assured. “Their upcoming salat of asr is dearer to them than their fathers and sons.” They heeded and decided to wait until asr time.

Right at that moment, the Almighty sent Jibril (a.s) with the below Revelation that was to ruin their plans of attack.

وَإِذَا كُنتَ فِيهِمْ فَأَقَمْتَ لَهُمُ الصَّلاَةَ فَلْتَقُمْ طَآئِفَةٌ مِّنْهُم مَّعَكَ وَلْيَأْخُذُواْ أَسْلِحَتَهُمْ فَإِذَا سَجَدُواْ فَلْيَكُونُواْ مِن وَرَآئِكُمْ وَلْتَأْتِ طَآئِفَةٌ أُخْرَى لَمْ يُصَلُّواْ فَلْيُصَلُّواْ مَعَكَ وَلْيَأْخُذُواْ حِذْرَهُمْ وَأَسْلِحَتَهُمْ وَدَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ لَوْ تَغْفُلُونَ عَنْ أَسْلِحَتِكُمْ
وَأَمْتِعَتِكُمْ فَيَمِيلُونَ عَلَيْكُم مَّيْلَةً وَاحِدَةً

“And when you are among them and keep up the prayer for them, let a party of them stand up with you, and let them take their arms; then when they have prostrated themselves let them go to your rear, and let another party who have not prayed come forward and pray with you, and let them take their precautions and their arms; (for) those who disbelieve desire that you may be careless of your arms and your luggage, so that they may then turn upon you with a sudden united attack, and there is no blame on you, if you are annoyed with rain or if you are sick, that you lay down your arms, and take your precautions; surely Allah has prepared a disgraceful chastisement for the unbelievers.” (an-Nisa, 102) (Tirmidhi, Tafsir, 4/3035)

This specific type of salat has come to be known as salat’ul-khawf, or of fear.[10] Jibril (a.s) personally taught the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) how to offer it. The asr salat, that day, was offered in this manner and the wait of the enemy, whose sole hopes had rested on those few moments of salat, proved futile. The campaign, which all up lasted fifteen days, concluded with the complete retreat of the terrified clansmen.[11]

The account given by Abu Musa al-Ashari (r.a) is in reference to the campaign. “We had set out on a campaign with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). Six of us were taking turns in riding a camel. Our feet had become blistered from walking. So were mine; my nails had even fallen off. We were wrapping pieces of cloth around our feet and hence the name of the campaign, Dhat’ur-Riqa.”

Abu Burdah, who narrated these words from Abu Musa (r.a), then added, “After having explained all that, Abu Musa felt a sudden regret, saying, ‘I did not do the right thing by telling you this’, to express his remorse. What worried him was perhaps that he revealed a feat of bravery he had undergone for the sake of Allah only.” (Bukhari, Maghazi, 31)

Neither poverty nor lack of opportunity prevented the Companions from fulfilling their duties and going on jihad in the way of Allah, glory unto Him. Regardless, they would be utterly sensitive not to expose even a clue of the hardships that they endured in the way of obeying the Almighty, unless it became really necessary in realizing a positive purpose, like providing a lesson for others or solace for the oppressed.

During the campaign, the Seal of the Prophets (pbuh) asked some water to take wudu. Yet, there was no water around. The Blessed Messenger (pbuh) thereupon dipped his hands into a bucket with very little water at its base, after which each of his fingers miraculously turned into fonts springing forth plenty of water. The entire Companions were able to quench their thirst. The bucket, even after the Prophet of Allah (pbuh) removed his hands from out of it, was still full with water.[12]

The Muslim army reached a wooded valley, around noon, while returning from the Dhat’ur-Riqa Campaign where the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) decided to take a break. The Companions, too, went their own ways to take some rest under the cool shades of trees. The Prophet of Allah (pbuh) had also withdrawn under a samurah, a densely leafed tree, hanging his sword on a branch. The Companions had just snoozed off when they heard the Prophet of Allah (pbuh) call them. They immediately ran next to the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) where they saw a Bedouin standing next to him.

“This man took hold of my sword while I was sleeping”, explained the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). “When I woke up, the sword was in his hand, removed from its scabbard. ‘Who will save you from my hands now?’ he asked; ‘Allah!’ I replied, three times.” (Bukhari, Jihad, 84, 87; Muslim, Fadail, 13)

The Noble Prophet (pbuh) did not resort to punishing the Bedouin who had attempted to take his life and instead invited him to Islam. Virtually melting at the face of this magnanimous behavior, upon returning to his tribesmen, the Bedouin could not help but say, “I have just returned from the best of mankind!” (Hakim, III, 31/4322)

On the return to Medina towards evening, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) decided on another stopover and asked for volunteers from among the Companions to keep watch while the others rested. Volunteering without giving it a second thought were Ammar ibn Yasir (r.a) of the Muhajirun, and Abbad ibn Bishr (r.a) of the Ansar. Abbad then asked Ammar which part of the night he preferred to stand and keep guard.

“The latter half of the night,” said Ammar (r.a). He then lied down, falling asleep not long after. Abbad (r.a) then began offering salat, which was when an idolater clandestinely approached from a distance; and noticing Abbad’s shadow as he stood, shot an arrow which pierced through Abbad. But Abbad gathered his strength, removed the arrow and continued his salat regardless. This did nothing to dissuade the enemy archer, who shot a second, even a third arrow, both of which hit Abbad, who, each time, was standing his ground, removing the arrows as they struck him and continuing his salat from where had left off. Abbad then eventually bowed for ruku, went down for sajdah and completed his salat by giving salam. Only then did he inform his comrade:

“Wake up Ammar; I have been wounded”, he said in a soft voice. Ammar woke up at the instant. The archer, sensing he was now noticed by the Companions, made tracks. But by now, Abbad lay heavily wounded.

Subhanallah”, exclaimed Ammar. “Why did you not wake me up when you were first shot?”

Poised, Abbad gave the following response, vividly elucidating his enthusiastic love for salat:

“I was reciting a surah of the Quran and I did not want to break my salat before having completed its recital. But when the arrows hit me one after another I stopped reciting and bowed to ruqu. But by Allah, had there not been a fear of losing this spot whose protection the Messenger of Allah ordered, I would have preferred death over cutting my recital of the surah short.” (Abu Dawud, Taharat, 78/198; Ahmad, III, 344; Ibn Hisham, III, 219; Waqidi, I, 397)

Riding a frail camel, Jabir (r.a) was continuously falling behind his friends during the return. The Blessed Prophet (pbuh) went next to him to inquire why he was falling behind. As soon as Jabir (r.a) explained the reason, the Prophet of Mercy (pbuh) gently poked the camel a few times with a stick. The camel picked up so great a pace that it even began going head to head with the Prophet’s own camel.

The Blessed Prophet (pbuh) then began talking to Jabir (r.a), finding out that he had just been married and was therefore burdened with some debt. The Prophet of Allah (pbuh) then asked Jabir what he owned.

“Only a camel”, replied Jabir (r.a). The Prophet of Mercy (pbuh) then asked Jabir to sell his camel to him, as a means to help him pay off his debt. Jabir agreed, on the condition that the he was allowed to ride it until they reached Medina. After they stepped foot on Medinan soil, holding the camel by the halter, Jabir (r.a) arrived at the door of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) to hand over the camel. He was met, however, with a pleasant surprise. Not only did the Noble Messenger (pbuh) pay the price of the camel he also returned it back to Jabir as present. (Bukhari, Jihad, 49; Buyu’, 34; Muslim, Musaqat, 109)

Jabir (r.a) himself recounts:

“While returning with the camel after the Messenger of Allah’s (pbuh) generous gesture, I saw a Jewish acquaintance of mine. I told him what had just happened. Astonished, the Jew kept on repeating, ‘so he paid for the camel then returned it, ha?’ I had to assure him each time.” (Ahmad, III, 303)

So moved were the Believers after hearing the Blessed Prophet’s (pbuh) extreme act of benevolence, they remembered this night as Laylat’ul-Bair, the Night of the Camel.

The Battle of Badr Minor (Dhilqadah, 4/ April, 626)

Compliant with their verbal agreement just before they parted ways at Uhud, the Muslims and the idolaters were to meet again at Badr in a year’s time to fight. Tentative yet feeling compelled to stand by his word, Abu Sufyan led an army of idolaters upto the point of Marr’uz-Zahran, where overcome with fear, he felt an equal compulsion to return to Mecca. Still, not wanting to swallow his pride, he sent an emissary to Medina, to inform the Believers that they had set out from Mecca with a huge army. By scaring them, Abu Sufyan wanted to ensure that the Believers remained still in Medina and thereby return with a supposed upper hand.

Much to Abu Sufyan’s despair however, by the time his emissary reached Medina, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) had long completed his preparations for battle and had even commanded the Companions to set out. The emissary knew that, the terrified Abu Sufyan would have just about led the idolaters back to Mecca; he was thus doing all he could to frighten and thereby discourage the Believers from leaving. Coming up with unthinkable lies, he was claiming that meeting the idolaters at Badr would only spell a tragic end for the Believers. His efforts, aided by hypocrite propagations, did not entirely fall on deaf ears, as some Companions did begin to feel a little doubt come over their hearts whether setting out for battle was the right thing to do. The Blessed Prophet (pbuh) then declared:

“By Allah, in Whose Hand of Might my life resides, even if nobody follows me, I will go to Badr by myself!” Allah, glory unto Him, then aided the Believers by reinforcing their hearts. (Ibn Sad, II, 59; Waqidi, I, 386-387)

The Muslim Army ultimately reached Badr. There was not even trace of the enemy. There was only a little trade fair near the field. Thus, there was nothing left for the Muslims to do than to engage in some trade. Nonetheless, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) and the Companions waited for eight days at Badr in case the enemy might show; though the situation remained unchanged, and the Believers returned to Medina with the profit they made from their trade at the fair.[13]

The courage and fortitude shown by the Believers on the occasion has been praised in the Quran in the following:

الَّذِينَ قَالَ لَهُمُ النَّاسُ إِنَّ النَّاسَ قَدْ جَمَعُواْ لَكُمْ فَاخْشَوْهُمْ فَزَادَهُمْ إِيمَاناً وَقَالُواْ حَسْبُنَا اللّٰهُ وَنِعْمَ الْوَكِيلُ. فَانقَلَبُواْ بِنِعْمَةٍ مِّنَ اللّٰهِ وَفَضْلٍ لَّمْ يَمْسَسْهُمْ سُوءٌ وَاتَّبَعُواْ رِضْوَانَ اللّٰهِ وَاللّٰهُ ذُو فَضْلٍ عَظِيمٍ

“Those unto whom men said: The people have gathered against you, therefore fear them. (The threat of danger) but increased the faith of them and they cried: Allah is Sufficient for us, and the Most Excellent Protector! So they returned with grace and favour from Allah, and no harm touched them. They followed the good pleasure of Allah, and Allah is of Infinite Bounty.” (Al’i Imran, 173-174)

According to the report of Abdullah ibn Abbas (r.a), it was Ibrahim (a.s) who originally said, ‘Allah is Sufficient for us, and the Most Excellent Protector’ right before being thrown into fire. The Blessed Prophet (pbuh) repeated these words, when he was told that the idolaters had gathered against them in great numbers. The iman of the entire Companions had thereupon increased, as they repeated the words of the Prophet of Allah (pbuh), displaying a perfect example of trust in the Almighty.[14]

[1].      As Hubayb prayed, fear took hold of everyone present. To protect themselves from the affect of the prayer, they began running to and fro in search of somewhere to hide, thinking they would not survive the blight of the prayer. Even for over a month following the execution, Hubayb’s prayer remained the major talking point among Quraysh. Said ibn Amir, reportedly, began to pass out, from time to time, whenever reminded of the prayer. During his days as caliph, Omar t heard about Said’s condition and asked him whether he was suffering from any illness. “From no illness do I suffer”, said Said; “except I was present during Hubayb’s execution and happened to hear his prayer. And by Allah, whenever I hark back on it, I suddenly begin to lose all consciousness!” (Waqidi, I, 359-360)

[2].      Ibn Hisham, III, 184; Haythami, VI, 125-130.

[3].      Bukhari, Jihad, 9.

[4].      Bukhari, Maghazi 28, Jihad 9; Muslim, Masajid, 297.

[5].      Bukhari, Maghazi, 14.

[6].      Bukhari, Tafsir, 59/2; Ibn Hisham, III, 192.

[7].      Bukhari, Maghazi, 14; Muslim, Jihad, 62.

[8].      Ibn Hisham, III, 191-194; Waqidi, I, 363-380.

[9].      There are also reports that suggest that the campaign took place after Handak or Khaybar. We have, however, preferred to follow this sequence, in accordance with the opinions of the majority of scholars of the life and the times of the Prophet r.

[10].     The salat’ul-khawf or the salat of fear is where a group takes turns to perform a given salat behind a single imam, when threatened with a serious danger like an impending enemy attack. The first group, which performs the first rakah of a two rakah salat, or the first two of a four rakah salat, leaves the salat to watch guard over the group, after the second sajdah –in a two rakah salat- or the first qaadah –in a four rakah salat. The second group in line then comes and completes the remainder of the rakahs of the salat behind the imam, after which they leave to take over the duty of keeping guard. The imam gives salam to end the salat, by himself. That is when the members first group return once again to complete their salat, without any qiraah, that is, recitation of the Quran, however, for they are considered as lahiq, i.e. a person who leaves the salat owing to an excuse although having joined the imam right at the start. After their completion, the members of the second group follow, who however, complete their salat with qiraah, as they are considered masbuk, i.e. a person who joins the imam after the first rakah of a given salat. Thereby, neither the salat, nor the duty is neglected. (Komisyon, Diyânet İlmihâli, I, 334; Hamdi Döndüren, Delilleriyle İslâm İlmihâli, p.377-378)

[11].     Ibn Hisham, III, 214-221; Ibn Saad, II, 61.

[12].     Bukhari, Wudu, 32; Manakib, 25; Muslim, Fadail, 5.

[13].     Ibn Hisham, III, 221; Ibn Saad, II, 59; Waqidi, I, 384-389.

[14].     See, Bukhari, Tafsir, 3/13.