By Ibraheem Sulaiman
The scared month of Ramadan has arrived. We take a break from our
ongoing discourse to welcome the month in which Muslims fast, doing so in obedience and devotion to God Alone. We welcome Ramadan which in very significant ways embodies the highest spirit of Islam, the month in which many of the most momentous events affecting the course of
Islam and the destiny of humanly have taken place. We celebrate
Ramadan by remembering one of the decisive moments in the history of Mankind, that is, the Conquest of Mecca.
Just before the events, an encounter had taken place which exposed to the wider world for the first time a glimpse of the spirit of the new Faith emerging under the leadership of Prophet Muhammad. The Prophet had sent a group of missionaries numbering fifteen to the borders of Syria. All but one were killed in a premeditated massacre by an Arab
tribe allied to the Byzantine Empire. The Prophet shortly after sent an envoy to the chief of a tribe in the same area, he also was brutally murdered. He then decided to put an end to such bloody provocations. What follows is an account of an event, not far away from the Dead Sea, of a transcendental nature, which only a Prophet of God can inspire, which only Muslims can accomplish, an event of true
majesty and sublimity. Martin Lings writes:
The Prophet mustered an army of three thousand men and put Zayd in command of them, with instructions that if Zayd should be killed Ja’afar should take his place. Abdullah ibn Rawahah was named as third in order of precedence. If these three should all be incapacitated,
the men were to follow a commander of their own choosing. When the army reached the Syrian border the heard that not only had the northern tribes come out in considerable strength, but the (Byzantine Emperor) Caesar’s representative had gristly reinforce the with imperial troops. Altogether the enemy were said to be a hundred
thousand strong. Whatever the exact number of the combine Arab and Byzantine forces, the Muslim could see at a glance that they
themselves were vastly outnumbered, on a scale which they had never yet experienced. Nor had any of them witnessed before such military
splendor as that of the spherical squadrons which formed the center of the host, with the Arabs on either flank. Their approach moreover had been anticipated, and the legions were ready for them, drawn up in battle formation. Wishing to avoid an immediate engagement, for the
slope of the land was against them, Zayd gave orders to withdraw southwards to Mu’tah, where they would have the advantage and there
they consolidation their position.
The enemy, conscious of the great superiority of the numbers and bent on making it an altogether deceive day, followed to Mu’tah. As they drew near, instead of retreating further as they had expected, Zayd gave the order to attack. At that moment the space between Mu’tah and Medina was folded up for the Prophet and he saw Zayd with the white
standard leading his men into battle. He saw him many times mortally wounded until finally he fell to the ground, and Ja’far took the standard and fought until his life also flowed out from his wound. Then ‘Abd Allah took the standard and the attack which he led against the enemy was repulsed with a vigorous onslaught in which he too was
killed and his men driven back in disarray. Thabit ibn Arqam seized, the standard and the Muslim rallied, whereupon he gave to Khalid who at first refused the honor saying that Thabit had more right to it. “Take it man,” said thabit; “I did but take it to give it to thee,”
So Khalid took command and knit the ranks together, and the enemy
advance was so firmly checked that they drew back enough to enable the Muslims to back an orderly retreat. It was a victory for the other side, but they gained no advantage from It; an of the Muslims, apart from their three leaders, only five were killed. It was thus something
a victory for Khalid; and when the prophet told his companions of the battle and of the deaths of Zayd and ja’far and ‘Abd Allah he said: “Then one of good’s swords took the Standard, and God opened up the way for them” –that is, for the Muslims to reach safety; and thus it
was that Khalid came to be called “the sword of God”.
As the prophet described the battle the tears were flowing down his cheeks, and when the time came for the prayer he led it and immediately withdrew from the mosque instead of turning to face the congregation as was his wont. He did the same again at sunset, and yet
again after the night prayer. Meantime he had been to the house of Ja’far. “O Asma’. “he said, “bring me Ja’far’s sons. “With some misgivings at the gravity of his face she fetched the three boys. The
prophet kissed them, and then again his eyes filled with tears and he wept. “o Messenger of God, “she said, dearer than my father and my mother, what maketh thee weep? Hath news reached these of Ja’far and his companions?” “Even so, “ he said. “They were struck down this day.” She uttered a cry of lamentation, and women hastened to her
Umm Ayman and Usamah and the rest of Zayd’s family were in his house. He had already condoled with them; and as he returned, Zayd’s little daughter came out into the street in tears, and seeing him she ran
into his arms. He now wept unrestrainedly, and as he clasped the child to him his body shook with sobs, Sa’d ibn Ubadah happened to pass by at that moment and searching in himself for words of comfort, he
murmured: “o messenger of God, what is this?” “This,” said the
Prophet, “is one who loveth yearning for his beloved”!
Muhammad Husayn Haykal recounts the extraordinary chivalry displayed by the three commanders appointed by the Prophet. Zayd, the first commander, had raised the white banner of the Prophet and marched forward towards the Roman and Arab forces, plunging deep into their ranks, fully conscious of the likely outcome. He died in the cause of
God, and that is the supreme desire of every Muslim. ‘Martyrdom,’ note
Heykal, “is not one whit lesser a blessed fate than victory.’ The next commander Ja’far raise up the Prophet’s banner, and fought valiantly until his horse was completely surrounded by the enemy. He pressed forward on foot to cut the enemy ranks down, the banner in his right
hand, the hand was cut off. He picked the banner in his left hand, it too was cut off. He the kept the banner high by pressing it between his legs until he died, having been cut into two by a Byzantine soldier. The third commander, Ibn Rawahah, picked up the Prophet’s banner, and plunged into the thick of the battle until God graced him
with martyrdom. ‘We have before us the certainty of one of two good things,’ he had declared earlier to his fellow fighters, either victory or martyrdom – to join our brethren and be their companions in the gardens of Paradise. On then to the attack! In martyrdom lies a final and lasting memory that one has deemed the value of life to be
wholly in that for which the sacrifice had taken place; that tenacity to life in humiliation and subjection is indeed a betrayal and distraction of life. To hold otherwise is, in fact, to lose the right to be counted among the living; Heykal concludes his observation.
‘likewise, the man who exposes himself to death but does for so for a mean cause; or serves his life from the danger of death when God, the lord of majesty, calls upon him to lay down his life in the cause of truth, has already met his death –but in ignominy. Is man capable of
any nobler fate than that of martyrdom in the cause of truth?’ Indeed, if we may add a point to Heykal’s, people are martyrs for numerous causes, some die in the course of aggression, or corruption or plunder, some in the promotion of falsehood, some even die by stealing
too much, eating too much, drinking too much.
The Muslims had put the entire world on notice that they were not like any power it has ever encountered before. Islam can never be destroyed by material forces, nor by any power may humans muster. After the
battle one of the Roman commanders embraced Islam, but was promptly executed for treason. His death encouraged many others to embrace Islam and Islam began to spread in the territories under the authority
of the Empire. And, according to Martin lings: That influence was now rapidly growing throughout the tribes on all sides of the Yathrib oasis. The reasons were not purely spiritual: the prophet was now known as a dangerous and incalculable enemy and as a powerful, reliable and generous ally; by comparison, other alliances were
beginning to seem less attractive and more hazardous. In many cases the political and religious motives were inextricably connected; but there was also a factor, slow-working yet powerful and profound, which
had nothing whatsoever to do with politics, with and which has also
largely independent of the deliberate efforts made by the believers to spread the message of Islam. This was the remarkable serenity which
characterized those who practiced the new religion. The Koran, the
book of God’s oneness, was also the Book of Mercy and the Book of
paradise. The recitation of its verses, combined with the teaching of the Messenger, imbued the believers with the certainty that they had within easy reach, that is through the fulfillment of certain conditions well within their capacity, the eternal satisfaction of every possible desire. The resulting happiness was a criterion of faith. The prophet insisted: “All is well with the faithful, whatever the circumstances.”!