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Back to index   23 Years: Muhammad’s Prophetic Career
Chapter III: Politics

23 Years: A Study of Muhammad’s Prophetic Career
Chapter III: Politics

Professor Ali Dashti
1st Edition: December 12, 2008
2nd Edition: September 11, 2017

Muhammad orders the Muslim Invasion and Pillage of the Civilized World

A younger photo of Professor Ali Dashti

Chapter III: Politics
The Emigration
The Change in Muhammad’s Personality
The Establishment of a Sound Economy
The Advance to Power
Prophethood and Rulership
Women in Islam
Women and the Prophet

Chapter III: Politics

The Emigration

History always moves on, but here and there in its pages we find days which become fixed in our minds as starting points of great events or transformations. One of these is the day, recorded as the 12th of the third month {of Arabic Lunar month} (Rabi' ol-Awwal) corresponding to 24 September 662 in the Gregorian Christian calendar, on which the Prophet Mohammad arrived in the town then known as Yathreb.

Muhammad orders and Ali executes the Beheading Genocide of the Qurayzah Jews

The main reason why the early Moslems saw Mohammad's emigration (hejra) as marking an era was simple religious enthusiasm. The ancient Arabs did not really possess an era, though after the defeat of the Abyssinian force which threatened Mecca in the Year of the Elephant44 (probably 570 A.D.), some of them reckoned dates from that point.

Muhammad orders the Rape and Slavery of the Qurayzah Jewish women and children

Another reason for the identification of the new era with the hejra was that it enabled individuals to boast of the earliness and courageousness of their adherence to the Prophet's cause, and members of the Aws and Khazraj tribes to stress the importance of the protection which they had given to him.

The day from which the start of the era was reckoned was in fact not the twelfth day of the month of Rabi' ol-Awwal, but the first day of the first month, namely Moharram, of the same year, corresponding to the Gregorian date 16 July 622.

It certainly did not occur to the minds of Arabs living in that year that the twelfth day of  Rabi' ol-Awwal was the first link in a chain of events destined to cause unprecedented change in their way of life. Nobody in the contemporary world dreamed that a collection of desert-dwellers, who had played no significant part in the history of civilization and whose more advanced tribes had attached themselves to the Roman and Iranian empires and were {P# 74} proud of their vassalage to the Caesar and the Khosraw {Khosrow Anushirvan (Persian: “Khosrow of the Immortal Soul” , or  Khosrow the Just): Persian king who ruled the Sassanian empire from 531 to 579 and was remembered as a great reformer and patron of the arts and scholarship}, would soon become the masters of a great part of the lands of old civilization.

Migration from one region to another was not abnormal among the Arabs. The outstanding example had been the migration of South Arabian tribes to the northern borderlands of the peninsula after the bursting of the dam at Ma'reb45 in the Yaman. In comparison with this, the move of Mohammad and his companions from Mecca to Yathreb was an unimportant affair involving a small number of people - a few emigrants from oppression by Qorayshite polytheists.

Yet this seemingly unimportant affair led within a decade to a complete upheaval. Ten years later the few men who had left Mecca to join Mohammad, some clandestinely as fugitives, others openly as travellers, would be the masters of Mecca while all their opponents would be on bended knees. The idols would be smashed and the traditional cult of the Ka'ba, managed by the Qorayshites and providing the wealth and prestige of their chiefs, would be uprooted. Abu Sofyan, the successor to Abu Lahab and Abu Jahl, would surrender for fear of his life, and all the diehards would profess belief in One God.

The genesis of a great event from a chain of small events has not been uncommon in history. Good examples are the French revolution, the Russian revolution, and the Mongol invasion of Iran.

Mohammad had clashed with the chiefs of the Qoraysh ever since he began to preach. Perhaps he had not at first expected that his teachings, being basically rational and similar to those of the other two Semitic religions, would encounter such persistent opposition; perhaps he had overlooked the important point that widespread acceptance of his teachings would necessarily undermine the supremacy of the Qoraysh and the power and wealth of their chiefs. In any case their hostility was a fact, and he was obliged to start thinking of ways and means to overcome it. Already before his departure to Yathreb he had taken two steps to this end.

The first step was the dispatch of a number of Moslems to Abyssinia in two successive groups. Evidently these Moslems, who were poor and had no protectors, suffered persecution by the Qorayshites and received advice from the Prophet to go to Abyssinia; but it can be inferred from the identities of the members of the second, more numerous group, which included his cousin Ja'far b. {P# 75} Abi Taleb, and from the instructions given to them, that a political purpose underlay this move. Hope of support from the Negus must have arisen in Mohammad's searching and resourceful mind. The Negus, being a Christian ruler, would be naturally opposed to idolatry, and on being informed of the anti-polytheist revolt of a party of monotheists at Mecca and of the persecution inflicted on them, might well be ready to send a force to Mecca to protect them. This would explain the inclusion of Ja'far b. Abi Taleb, who being of a respected family had not personally suffered persecution. At the same time the Qorayshites sent Amr b. ol-As and Abdollah b. Abi Rabi'a to Abyssinia with presents for the Negus, hoping to dissuade him from any intervention which the Moslem emigrants might propose and if possible also to secure their extradition.

The second step was Mohammad's journey to Ta'ef46 in 620 A.D. Having lost his uncle and protector Abu Taleb and then his helpmate Khadija, he was exposed to more open hostility than before. He had hopes of support from the Banu Thaqif tribe, to whom he was related on his mother's side. At Ta'ef, which was the tribe's centre, the Banu Thaqif were held in high respect. All the people of Ta'ef were envious of Mecca's privileged position and of the Qoraysh tribe's prestige among the Bedouin; they naturally wanted to make their own town the meeting place of the Arabs and to avoid submission to Qorayshite hegemony. This was not wishful thinking but proven fact, because the Prophet could remember a visit from some Thaqif chiefs who had said that the people of Ta'ef would probably become Moslems if he would make it the sanctuary and holy city of the new religion. The Banu Amer tribe, also influential at Ta'ef, had earlier made a similar proposal to him, requesting that in the event of the success of his cause and the implantation of Islam through their help, he should make them the noblest Arab tribe instead of the Qoraysh. Clearly the purpose of the Prophet's journey to Ta'ef was to explore the ground. If the Banu Thaqif were really willing to support him, it might be possible to humble the Qoraysh. This was why he travelled to Ta'ef secretly with no companion except his manumitted {to release from slavery} slave and adopted son Zayd b. Haretha. His hopes were disappointed, however, because the Thaqif chiefs decided not to support him.

Bedouin Arabs have never taken much interest in spiritual matters. Even today, nearly fourteen centuries after Mohammad's mission, they tend to view religion as a means of worldly gain. The {P# 76} Banu Thaqif were too concerned about their livelihood to think of disregarding immediate material interests for the sake of promised future salvation. Ta'ef was the summer resort of Mecca, and its people made profits from Meccan visitors and business connections. The Qorayshites were taking action against Mohammad and would be antagonized by any support for him. It would therefore not be wise to rate his unproven promises higher than the practical requirements of Ta'ef's security and prosperity. On such a calculation of profit and loss, the chiefs of Ta'ef not only refused support but also showed malice to Mohammad. They assaulted him, insulted him, and even rejected his last request to them, which was that they should refrain from disclosing his unsuccessful journey and thereby emboldening the Qorayshites. As a result, the Meccan opposition to him became much more virulent after his return. Finally a number of leading polytheists met in the hall of the assembly (dar ol-nadwa) to discuss ways and means of putting an end to Mohammad's activity, which posed such a threat to their standing and wealth. Of the three suggested alternatives of deporting, imprisoning, or killing him, they decided on the last.

Besides Ta'ef, one other town in the Hejaz rivaled Mecca in economic and social importance. This was Yathreb, known also as ol-Madina (an Aramaic word, probably introduced by the local Jews, meaning "the city")47 Mecca, with its temple of the favourite idols of the Arabs, was certainly the religious centre most visited by the Bedouin tribes, and the Qorayshites, as custodians of the Ka'ba and purveyors of the needs of the visitors, could naturally claim to be the noblest Arab tribe; but the oasis town of Yathreb, with a flourishing agriculture, which Mecca wholly lacked, in addition to a substantial commerce, and with a relatively considerable degree of literacy in its population thanks to the presence of three Jewish tribes, had attained a higher cultural and social level. Nevertheless Yathreb was generally placed second among the Hejazi towns after Mecca.

The other element in Yathreb's population consisted of two feuding Arab tribes, the Aws and the Khazraj, each of which had friendly ties with one or two of the Jewish tribes. The Aws and Khazraj were Qahtani Arabs, i.e. of Yamani origin, and this was another source of rivalry with the Qoraysh tribe, which was Adnani, i.e. North Arabian.

On account of sloth and inexperience of agriculture and commerce, and Awsites and Khazrajites were not as prosperous as {P# 77} their Jewish neighbours, and they often worked for Jewish employers. Thus in spite of their alliances with particular Jewish tribes, they resented the economic superiority of the Jews in general, whom they saw as their masters.

News of Mohammad's emergence and preaching of Islam at Mecca, and of the Qorayshite opposition to him and the subsequent tension, had spread all over the Hejaz and been heard with interest at Madina. Reports by Yathrebi travellers to 'Mecca arid discussions held by some of them with Mohammad prompted a number of Awsite and Khazrajite chiefs to think of fishing in the troubled waters. If Mohammad and his companions could he brought to Madina and an alliance could be made with him, several difficulties might be overcome. The wall of Qorayshite solidarity would be breached, because Mohammad and his companions were themselves of the Qoraysh tribe. A joint alliance with Mohammad and his companions might help the Aws and Khazraj tribes to end the feud which had so long plagued them.

Furthermore Mohammad had brought a new religion. If this religion took hold, the Jews would no longer be able to claim superiority On the ground that they possessed scriptures and were God's chosen people.  Collaboration with Mohammad and his companions would therefore be likely to strengthen the Aws and the Khazraj in relation to the three Jewish tribes at Madina.

During the pilgrimage season of the year 620, six men from Yathreb met Mohammad and listened carefully to what he had to say. In the same season of 621, a twelve-man delegation met him at ol-Aqaba on the outskirts of Mecca. They found his teaching salutary and his requirements not over-exacting: the people must eschew fornication, adultery, usury, and lying, and instead of manmade idols must worship One God as the scripture-possessors did. The twelve men pledged allegiance to Mohammad, and after returning to Yathreb informed their kinsfolk that they had become Moslems and were in favour of a pact with Mohammad.  Their action and their proposal met with widespread approval. In the following year 622, a large delegation consisting of seventy three men and two women went to meet Mohammad at the same place and concluded the second pact of  ol-Aqaba with him.

The thought of emigration was not strange to Mohammad's mind. It is mentioned, evidently with reference to the Moslems who went to Abyssinia, in verse 13 of sura 39 (oz-Zomar): "Say, '0 worshippers who believe, fear your Lord! For those who do good {P# 78} in this world there will be a good (reward). And God's earth is wide.'" The pact of ol-Aqaba must have answered Mohammad's secret hopes. His mission at Mecca, now in its thirteenth year, had not won any shining success. There had even been some regrettable backslidings of converts who, with typical Arab fickleness, had wearied and renounced Islam when they saw that Mohammad's cause was not advancing, and above all when they found that being Moslem involved being humiliated and persecuted. They had also been prodded into desertion by rich, influential polytheists. His approach to the Banu Thaqif of Ta'ef had not only failed but had further exacerbated the Qorayshite hostility to him. Although his own clan, the Banu Hashem, continued to protect him, they only protected him against personal injury and could not be expected to join in his struggle against the Qoraysh.

The alliance with the Aws and the Khazraj would transform the prospect. With their support it would be possible to challenge the Qoraysh. While Islam had not taken firm root in Mecca, it might well do so in Yathreb, if only because of the Awsite and Khazrajite jealousy of the Qoraysh. .

A further consideration was the likelihood that at Yathreb, with its thriving trade and its agriculture, Moslem emigrants would be able to find work.

In the negotiations between the Prophet and the chiefs of the Aws and Khazraj at ol-Aqaba, Abbas b. Abdol-Mottaleb, who had apparently not yet become a Moslem but was a protector of his nephew, is reported to have been present and to have made a speech urging them to be frank about their intentions. He bluntly told the Yathrebi representatives that they and Mohammad would probably be attacked by the Qoraysh and that they ought to promise the same protection to Mohammad as they would give to their own wives and children. In any case they should not mislead him with empty promises. To this one of the Khazrajite delegates, ol-Bara b. ol-Ma'rur, replied heatedly that they were fighting men with no fear of war and would face up to all difficulties. An experienced and prudent Awsite delegate, Abu'l-Haytham b. Tayyehan, is reported to have said to Mohammad, "We have quite close relations with the Jews, which may be broken after the conclusion of a pact with you and your companions. Perhaps your cause will advance. In that case, would you make a compromise with your own tribe and forsake us?" According to Ebn Hesham's {P# 79} biography, the Prophet smiled and answered, "On the contrary. Blood, blood, destruction, destruction! I shall be yours and you shall be mine. I shall be at war with those at war with you and at peace with those at peace with you.”

The repetition of the words "blood" and "destruction" brings to mind the statement of the famous French revolutionary Jean Paul Marat, "I want blood." 

Also noteworthy is another phrase said to have been used by the Prophet Mohammad in his answer to Abu'l-Haytham: "war with the reds and the blacks among the people." Probably this meant war with people of all races, non-Arabs as well as Arabs.

These words must have expressed the Prophet's feelings, or in other words his inner desires.
The whole tenor of the answer to Abu'l-Haytham indicates that it was a cry from the heart concealed in the outward Mohammad, an articulation of a long dormant hope. The support of the Aws and the Khazraj would open the door to a brighter future; it would enable Mohammad to press on with the propagation of Islam, to strike at the Qorayshite intransigents, and to manifest his own hidden self. From chrysalis of the Mohammad who had preached with scant effect for thirteen years, the Mohammad who was to subdue all Arabia could now emerge.

Change in Muhammad’s Personality

Unimportant or seemingly unimportant events have often changed the course of history. They had decisive effects, for example, on the careers of Napoleon and Hitler.

The Prophet Mohammad's emigration to Yathreb was seemingly a minor local affair, but actually the start of a great transformation of Arab fortunes and world history. The ensuing developments provide a wide field of study for scholars seeking to ascertain the causes, correlations, and latent social factors.
Of all these problems, perhaps the most interesting and certainly the most striking is the change of the personality of one of the great makers of history. In this particular case, change of personality is an unsatisfactory term; emergence of Mohammad's inner self would be a more nearly accurate description. The hejra started a great historical transformation, but also followed from {P# 80} a transformation of Mohammad's personality which requires meticulous psychological and spiritual analysis.

Mohammad was devout and free from the vices of his time. He pictured the end of the world and the day of judgement as near at hand. With his thoughts fixed on the hereafter, he implored his Meccan compatriots to revere the Lord of the Universe, and condemned violence, injustice, hedonism, and neglect of the poor. Like Jesus, he was full of compassion. After the move to Madina, however, he became a relentless warrior, intent on spreading his religion by the sword, and a scheming founder of a state. A Messiah was transformed into a David. A man who had lived for more than twenty years with one wife became inordinately fond of women.

In the view of the English novelist H. G. Wells, human beings undergo constant change, but on account of the slowness and imperceptibility of the process we persist in imagining fifty-year olds to be the same persons as they were in their twenties when in fact they have gradually but thoroughly changed. In so far as the vital faculties decline while the mental faculties are brought to their peak through experience, study, and reflection, this theory is sound. Normally the main difference between a twenty-year-old and a fifty-year-old is that the former has strong physical and emotional desires while the latter has had time to gain experience and learn to think.

Useful though this theory may be, it is not always right, and in the case of Mohammad it is wrong. After the move to Madina at the age of 53, i.e. at an age when most men's physical and emotional faculties are on the wane, a new Mohammad emerged. During his last ten years, which he spent at Madina, he was not the same man as the Mohammad who for thirteen years had been preaching humane compassion at Mecca. The Prophet bidden by God "to warn your tribe, your nearest kin" (sura 26, verse 214) reappeared in the garb of the Prophet intent on subduing his own tribe and on humbling the kinsmen who for thirteen years had mocked him. Shedding the gown of the warner to "the mother town (Le. Mecca) and the people around it" (sura 42, verse 5), he donned the armour of the warrior who was to bring all Arabia from the Yaman to Syria under his flag.

The beauty and melody of the Meccan suras, so reminiscent of the preachings of Isaiah and Jeremiah and evocative of the fervour of a visionary soul, seldom reappear in the Madinan suras, where {P# 81} the poetic and musical tone tends to be silenced and replaced by the peremptory note of rules and regulations.

At Madina orders and rules were issued on the authority of a commander who could allow no infringement or deviation. The penalties prescribed for violation or negligence were very severe.

Ignaz Goldziher48 attributed this abrupt metamorphosis to an inner drive which Adolf Harnack had described as at once the affliction of supermen and the source of their extraordinary energy. Such a drive makes great men immune to hesitancy, fatigue, and despair, and fearless of obstacles however grave. Nothing else can explain their achievement of feats beyond the power of normal men.

The following quotations will suffice to show that Mohammad's metamorphosis after the hejra is not only attested by the record of events but is also echoed in the different tones of the Meccan and Madinan suras. In verses 10-12 of the Meccan sura 73 (ol-Mozzamel), the Prophet is bidden, "Be patient with what they say, and part from them courteously! Leave the deniers, the possessors of wealth, to Me, and give them a little respite! Fetters and hellfire are in Our hands." In the Tafsir ol-Jalalayn it is stated that this command to part from believers courteously was given before the command to fight and try to kill them; it would have been more fully true to say that the earlier command was given before the Prophet's rise to power with Awsite and Khazrajite help. Only when he could rely on the support of men of the sword was the command to fight unbelievers sent down to him in the Madinan verse 187 of sura 2 (ol-Baqara): "Kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from wherever they drove you out, for persecution is worse than killing!"

In sura 6 (ol-An'am), the text of verse 108, which was revealed at Mecca, is as follows: "Do not curse those other than God to whom they pray! They will then resentfully curse God from lack of knowledge. It will be like that because We make every community's practice (seem) fair to it. Later their return to their Lord (will take place), and He will explain to them what they have been doing." It is not clear whether this advice (with its plural verb) is addressed to the Prophet or to sharp-tongued zealots among his Companions such as Omar b. ol-Khattab or Hamza b. Abd ol-Mottaleb. At Madina, however, particularly after the expansion of Moslem power, the mere cursing of the deities of the Qoraysh was no longer at issue; peaceful and affable contact with {P# 82} unbelievers was categorically forbidden. In the words of the Madinan sura 47 (Mohammad), verse 37, "So do not be weak and call for peace when you are uppermost! God is with you and will not deprive you of (the proceeds of) your deeds.”

Sometimes two contradictory commands appear in the same sura. Although sura 2 (ot-Baqara) is considered to be the first in order of revelation after the hejra, it is likely in view of its length to have been sent down in parts over a period of one or two years. In its 257th verse, which evidently dates from the beginning of the period, comes the explicit statement: "There is no compulsion in religion. Right has been distinguished from wrong. Those who reject false deities and believe in God have grasped the firmest handle, which will never break." On the other hand in the 189th verse, which perhaps came down when the Moslem community was stronger or on the occasion of some incident, use of force is enjoined: "Fight them until there is no persecution and the religion is God's! And if they give up, let there be no enmity except to evil-doers!" - In sura 9 (ot-Tawba, also known as ol-Bara’a), which is chronologically the last sura of the Qur’an, the command to use force is unqualified and peremptory:

(1) "Fight those who do not believe in God and the last day. . .. . . !" (verse 29).

(2) "It is not for the Prophet and the believers to pray for forgiveness of the polytheists . . . . . !" (verse 114).

(3) "O Prophet, struggle against the unbelievers and the hypocrites, and be harsh with them! Their refuge is hell. What a wretched destination!" (verse 74).

(4) “O believers, fight the unbelievers who are near (kin) to you, and let them find harshness in you. . . . . . !" (verse 124).

 The same command to use force comes with identical wording in the late Madinan sura 66 (ot-Tahrim), verse 9: “O Prophet, struggle against the unbelievers and the hypocrites, and be harsh with them. Their refuge is hell. What a wretched destination!" Initially there had been no sanction for the use of force and harshness. Even in verse 40 of the Madinan sura 22 (ol-Hajj), in which holy war against the unbelievers was first authorized, the verb is not in the imperative mood: "Permission is given to those who fight because they have been wronged." In verse 41 the wrong {P# 83} done to the Moslems is specified: "Those who have been unjustly driven from their homes on the sole ground that they say, Our Lord is God.'" Zamakhshari commented that this first authorization of war on the polytheists came after more than seventy Qur’anic verses in which violence is forbidden.

In justification of the license to wage war, the Prophet Mohammad put to use his innate understanding of human nature. The eloquent reminder of the forced departure of the Moslems from Mecca would stir them to seek vengeance on the Qoraysh. The same cogent {convincing} rhetoric is used in another context, where the words are spoken by the Children of Israel but the lesson is for the Moslems: "Why should not we fight in God's cause when we have been driven out of our homes and away from our children?" (sura 2, part of verse 247). Although the war was for God's cause, remembrance of personal loss would stir the Moslems to fight for revenge.

There had been no question of war while the Prophet remained at Mecca. Verse 67 of sura 6 (ol-An'am) shows that the Prophet then used to meet and talk with polytheists and that they sometimes treated him discourteously and mocked him: "And when you see them launch out against Our signs (i.e. Qur’anic verses), turn away from them until they launch out on some other subject! And in case the Satan may make you forget, do not, after (this) reminder, sit with evil-doing people!"

As regards the possessors of scriptures, in verse 45 of the Meccan sura 29 (ol-Ankabut) God instructs not only the Prophet but also, since the verb is plural, the Moslems, as follows: "Argue with possessors of scriptures, other than evil-doers, only by means of (arguments) that are better! And say, 'We believe in what has been sent down to us and sent down to you. Our God is the same as your God, and we have surrendered to Him.'"

Amicable behavior toward possessors of scriptures is recommended in several other Meccan and early Madinan verses. "Say to those who have been given scripture and to the common people49 'Have you surrendered (to God)?' If they have surrendered, they are rightly guided, and if they have turned away, your duty is only to convey the message" (sura 3, al- Emran, part of verse 19). "Those who believe, and those who are Jewish, Christian, and Sabaean {member of a people of South Arabia in pre-Islamic times, founders of the kingdom of Saba’, the biblical Sheba}, all who believe in God and the last day and who do right, will have their reward from their Lord. They need not fear or grieve" (sura 2, ol-Baqara, verse 59, and almost identical {P# 84} words in sura 5, ol-Ma'eda, verse  73. The contexts indicate that these verses were revealed in the first or second year after the hejra.

In the course of the Madinan decade, however, and especially after the conquest of Mecca, changes occurred, and finally sura 9 (ot-Tawba) came down like a thunderbolt onto the heads of the scripture-possessors. These people, who at Mecca had on God's advice been politely answered and not threatened (any more than the common people) with future punishment for failure to embrace Islam, because the Prophet's function was solely to convey the message to them, were ordered in the year 10 A.H. to choose between the alternatives of conversion, payment of tribute and acceptance of inferior status, or condemnation to death. The edict comes in verse 29 of sura 9: "fight those who do not believe in God and the last day and do not prohibit the things which God and His apostle have prohibited! And (fight) possessors of scriptures who do not accept the religion of truth (i.e. Islam) until they pay tribute by hand, being inferior!" With the passage of the years, these scripture-possessors had become the "worst creatures" (sura 98, verse 5).

Mohammad's announcement of this edict after the elimination of the Madinan Jews, the seizure of the Jewish villages of Khaybar and Fadak, and the conquest of Mecca, indicates that with Islam in power, polite and rational discussion with dissentients was no longer deemed necessary. The language of future discourse with them was to be the language of the sword.

The Establishment of a Sound Economy

After the move to Yathreb, the Prophet Mohammad arranged covenants of brotherhood between his local supporters (Ansar) and the gradually arriving Meccan Moslem emigrants (Mohajerun), whereby the former lodged the latter in their homes as adoptive brothers. Although the Mohajerun intended to work and did in fact open shops in the bazaar and find jobs as agricultural labourers, their position was neither easy nor secure. Being committed to struggle against the Qorayshites, they needed more dependable livelihoods which would enable them to stand on their own feet. The Prophet, who did not himself take an employment but subsisted on the generosity of the Mohajerun and the Ansar, {P# 85} went through a hard time, often having to retire to bed with no supper or to assuage his hunger with no more than a few dates.
Thus the small Moslem community faced a vital problem: how to acquire a less precarious and more self-sufficient economic base. The steps taken to solve this problem are discussed below.

Among the contemporary Arab tribes, the traditional method of self-enrichment was attack on another tribe and seizure of its animals and other possessions. For the Moslems then living at Madina no alternative was discernible. They therefore took up raiding. The Arabic word ghazwa (raid) meant a sudden attack on a caravan or another tribe for the purpose of seizing property and women and thereby easing the hard task of survival in Arabia.

News reached the Prophet that a Qorayshite caravan led by Amr b. ol-Hadrami was proceeding from Syria to Mecca with a large cargo of goods. He sent a band of Mohajerun under the command of Abdollah b. Jahsh to attack the caravan. They lay in ambush near a stopping place called on-Nakhla and took the approaching caravan by surprise, killing its leader and capturing two other men before their safe return to Madina with the entire cargo in their possession. The successful venture is known in Islamic history as the Nakhla raid.

This action caused a great stir, because it was the first Moslem raid and because it took place on the first day of the month of Rajab, one of the four months (Moharram, Rajab, Dhu'l-Qa'da, and Dhu'-l-Hejja) in which fighting was forbidden by ancient Arab custom. Cries of indignation against the breach of the ban rang out from the Qoraysh and not unnaturally were echoed by other tribes. This unfavourable aspect of the matter seems to have worried the Prophet, who showed some coolness to Abdollah b. Jahsh and his men, and some uncertainty about the future course to be followed. Abdollah b. Jahsh claimed that the attack had taken place on the last day of the month of Jomada oth-Thaniya, in which case a solution might be found; but there was also the problem of the booty, which would provide needed financial resources for the Prophet's followers and therefore ought not to be relinquished in response to hollow Qorayshite protests. Probably some of his companions pointed out to him that the accomplished fact could not be undone and that any sort of disavowal would be tantamount to acknowledgement of Moslem guilt and enemy innocence. The importance of the booty for improving the situation of the Mohajerun must also have been present to their minds. {P# 86}

A definite and precedent-setting solution came to hand when verse 214 of sura 2 (ol-Baqara) was sent down: "They are asking you about the forbidden month, (about) fighting in it. Say, 'Fighting in it is a great (evil), but turning (men) away from God's path, disbelieving in Him and the Mosque of the Sanctuary, and expelling its people from it are greater (evils) in God's sight. Persecution50 is a greater (sin) than killing. They will not stop fighting you until they estrange you from your religion, if they can."

After the Nakhla raid, further attacks on Qorayshite caravans and unfriendly tribes met with success and helped to make the financial position of the Moslems more secure. This raiding opened the way for the acquisition of power by the Prophet Mohammad and his companions and for their eventual domination of all Arabia; but the immediate step which secured the economic base and strengthened the prestige of the Moslems was their seizure of the property of the Jews of Yathreb.

Three Jewish tribes, the Banu Qaynoqa', the Banu'n-Nadir, and the Banu Qorayza, lived at Yathreb. They had prospered in both their agricultural and their commercial and craft-industrial pursuits, and thanks to their religious schooling and relative literacy had attained a higher cultural level than the two other local tribes, the Aws and the Khazraj. Many Awsites and Khazrajites were employed by Jews as agricultural labourers and as watchmen of shops and warehouses. These two tribes consequently had feelings of inferiority and jealousy toward the Jewish tribes. As already mentioned, the main reason why the Aws and Khazraj approached Mohammad and concluded the pact of ol-Aqaba with him was their desire to overcome the Jewish dominance and get rid of their own inferiority complex. The Prophet, after his arrival at Madina, at first maintained a prudent discretion. He not only avoided controversy with the Jews, who were powerful as well as rich; he also made a sort of non-aggression pact (the Ahd o1- Mowada'a) with them which further provided for mutual cooperation in certain circumstances. It laid down that individual Moslems and Jews should continue to belong to their respective religious communities; that in the event of aggression by the Qoraysh or any other tribe, the Moslems and the Jews should jointly defend Madina; and that each party should bear the cost of its own military operations against hostile tribes.
In addition to this, there was a bond of common feeling between {P# 87} the Moslems and the Jews. Both (groups) abhorred polytheism and idolatry.  Both bowed their heads in the same direction when they prayed.

As long as the Moslems were weak, no incidents arose. Not until a year and a half after the hejra did the Prophet Mohammed change the direction of the Islamic prayer from the Furtherest Mosque (at Jerusalem) to the Kaba (at Mecca).  This step evoked protests from the Jews, and in answer to them verse 172 of sura 2 was sent down: “Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east and the west, but the righteous man is he who believes in God and the Last Day and in angels, scripture, and prophets, and gives wealth, however cherished, to kinsfolk, and orphans, to the poor and homeless, to beggar, and for the manumission {formal emancipation from slavery} of slaves.”

For the Jew this decision was in alarm signal.  The anxiety was sharpened by a succession of small raids and by the attacks on Meccan trading caravans, which culminated in the victory of Mohammad’s followers at the battle of Badr (in March 624). They faced Awsites and Khazrajites who were no longer impecunious {having very little or no money usually habitually: PENNILESS} and generally glad to work for them, but had now combined under Mohammad's flag to form a strong, united front called Islam. For this reason certain leaders of the Jews such as Ka'b b. ol-Ashraf betook themselves after the battle of Badr to Mecca, where they expressed sympathy with the defeated Qorayshites and urged them to make war against Mohammad and his followers. There is a reference to the matter in verse 54of sura 4 (on-Nesa): "Have not you seen how those who have been given a share of scripture place their trust in demons and false deities and say to the unbelievers, 'These are better guided than the believers'?" The verse is a clear rebuke to people claiming to possess scriptures which condemn polytheism and idolatry, yet willing to fraternize with polytheists and to deem them better than Mohammad's monotheistic followers.

At this juncture a trivial incident in the bazaar of Madina led to a fight with the Banu Qaynoqa' and a siege of their street. A woman of the Ansar went to the shop of a goldsmith of the Qaynoqa' tribe. He started to flirt with her, and she spurned him. In order to hit back and demean her, he surreptitiously pinned the back of her skirt to her blouse with a thorn, so that when she stood up the lower part of her body was exposed and the people burst out laughing. Her shrieks of protest about this indecent act prompted a Moslem man to go to her rescue. This man killed the goldsmith, and the Jews then rushed to the help of their coreligionists and killed the Moslem. A riot ensued, and the Moslems complained to the Prophet. With his authorization they besieged the street of the Banu Qaynoqa', blocking their access to food supplies. After fifteen days the Banu Qaynoqa' surrendered on the offered terms, which were that their lives would be spared, that they must emigrate from Yathreb, and that they must deposit all their belongings except things portable by beasts of burden at a certain place for distribution among indigent, homeless Mohajerun.

This event strengthened the economic position of the Moslems and dismayed the other Jewish tribes. The turn of the Banu'n-Nadir came next. They were in an angry mood because one of their chiefs, the already mentioned Ka'b b. ol-Ashraf, had been assassinated on Mohammad's order. When the Prophet, accompanied by some of his followers, went to the street of the Banu'n-Nadir to judge a dispute about blood money, they plotted to revolt and kill him. He gave orders to fight them, and the Moslems blockaded their street, preventing any delivery of food to them. The Banu'n-Nadir, however, were better armed than the Banu Qaynoqa', and perhaps with the latter's fate in mind had taken more precautions. They fought back stubbornly and valiantly. The siege lasted so long that the Prophet began to fear that the Moslems might succumb to the usual Arab inconstancy and wearily go back to their homes. He therefore ordered that the palm grove belonging to the Banu'n-Nadir should be burned down.

Since date palms, like camels and sheep, are a basic source of food and wealth in Arabia, the protests of the Banu'n-Nadir did not pass unheard. "How is it", they asked the Prophet Mohammad, "that when you claim to be a doer of good, an opponent of evil and destruction, you cruelly destroy a productive resource?"

Nevertheless Mohammad did not flinch. In reply to the clamor and in justification of the deed, he cited verses 3, 4, and 5of sura 59 (ol-Hashr) which was sent down on this occasion: "If God had not prescribed eviction for them, He would have punished them in this lower world. And they will have the punishment of fire in the world to come. That is because they broke away from God and His Apostle, and if people break away from God, then God is stern in retribution. When you cut down some palms and left others standing on their roots, it was with God's permission and in order that He might disgrace the sinners.”

Underlying these verses is the principle that the end justifies the means. Inhumane though it is, this principle was taken for granted by the contemporary Arab tribes. The Prophet again acted on it in the war with the Banu Thaqif and siege of Ta'ef in 8 A.H./630, when he ordered the burning of their vineyard. There was thus no lack of precedent for the action of the Omayyad troops who in 61/680 cut off the supply of water, even for the women and children, in order to force the Prophet's grandson Hosayn b. Ali into surrender.

Eventually the Banu'n-Nadir surrendered after twenty days. Through the intercession of some chiefs of the Khazraj, it was agreed that they should quit Madina with a safe conduct. after depositing all their moveable property in a certain place for distribution among the Prophet's followers.

The only remaining Jewish group of any importance at Yathreb was the Qorayza tribe. After the war of the trench in 5 A.H./627, they too came to a bad end. It was alleged that they had agreed to provide help from within the town to the Qorayshite besiegers; but the Prophet had skilfully sown dissension among them, and they had not in fact helped Abu Sofyan's force. As soon as Abu Sofyan lost hope of taking Madina and abandoned the siege, the Moslems turned against the Banu Qorayza and blockaded their street for twenty five days. They then expressed readiness to accept the surrender terms which had been conceded to the two other Jewish tribes, namely cession of their, belongings and departure with a safe conduct. The Prophet, however, being deeply aggrieved with them because they had been in touch with Abu Scifyan, would not consent. He may also have thought that their destruction would enhance the awesomeness of Islam and serve as a grim warning to others.

Fearing such a decision, and remembering how the intercession of Khazraj chiefs had saved the lives of the other two Jewish tribes, the Banu Qorayza sought the help of Aws chiefs. In response to pleas by the latter on their behalf, the Prophet Mohammad undertook to appoint an Awsite arbiter and to implement whatever sentence this arbiter might pronounce. He then appointed Sa'd b. Mo'adh whom he knew to be on bad terms with the Banu Qorayza. His expectations of Sa'd were not disappointed. Sa'd ruled that all the Qorayza men should be beheaded, that the women and children should be sold as slaves, and that all their property should be divided among the Moslems.

These sentences were unjust, but could not be changed because both sides had sworn to accept Sa'd b. Mo'adh's ruling. The primary consideration, however, was the need for drastic action, however cruel it might be, in order to establish a viable state. Trenches were dug in the bazaar of Madina for disposal of the decapitated bodies of the seven hundred (or according to some sources nearly one thousand) Jewish prisoners, who had surrendered in expectation of a safe conduct to leave the town.

In contravention of Sa'd's ruling, a Jewish woman, the wife of Hasan ol-Qorazi, was also beheaded. She was friendly with A'esha, with whom she sat and talked until the time came for her to go to her death. When her name was called out, she walked smilingly and cheerfully to the execution ground. Her offence was throwing a stone during the blockade of the Banu Qorayza's street. A'esha said of her, "I have never met a more beautiful, good-tempered, and kind-hearted woman. When she rose to walk to the execution ground and I told her that they would certainly kill her, she answered with a smile that staying alive did not matter to her.”

The Advance to Power

The record of the first decade after the Hejra presents a picture of the genesis of a state. At Mecca the Prophet Mohammad's mission had for thirteen years been devoted to preaching, counselling, warning people about the judgement day, and exhorting them to righteousness. At Madina the prophetic mission became institutionalized and was perforce devoted mainly to governing people and making them accept the new dispensation.

To this end every sort of expedient was considered permissible, regardless of consistency with the spiritual and moral precepts which were being taught.

Among the events of the period were political assassinations, raids which were manifestly unprovoked, and attacks on tribes who had not acted aggressively but were reported by spies to be restless or unsympathetic to the Moslems. All these steps were taken for reasons of state. The raids on Qorayshite trading caravans served the purposes of injuring the Qoraysh, acquiring booty, enhancing the military prestige of the Moslems, and intimidating potential opponents.

During the same relatively short period, most of the laws of Islam were revealed and Islamic financial and governmental institutions were established.

No laws had been enacted in the course of the Prophet's mission at Mecca. This was noted by Goldziher, who wrote: "The Meccan revelations do not announce the introduction of a new religion. Most of the Meccan verses of the Qur'an are exhortations to piety, to worship and praise of the One God, to charitable concern for others, and to moderation in eating and drinking.”

Only the following five principles had been ordained at Mecca:

(1) Belief in one God and in the appointment of prophets.
(2) Prayer.
(3) Alms giving, at that time in the form of voluntary donation.
(4) Fasting, at that time in the same manner as the Jews.
(5) Pilgrimage, in the sense of visiting the Arab national shrine.

Soyuti remarked that there were no Islamic legal penalties in the Meccan period for the simple reason that no laws had yet been enacted. Ja'bari considered every sura which imposes an obligation to be unquestionably Madinan. A'esha is reported to have said:

"In the Meccan Qur’an, heaven and hell are the only subjects.
Permission and prohibition entered after the spread of Islam.”

At Madina the times were different. Laws and regulations enacted in the last decade of the Prophet's career not only gave Islam a new legal stamp but also paved the way for the formation of an Arab state.
The opening move was the change of the direction of the prayer from the Furthest Mosque (ol-Masjed ol-Aqsa) at Jerusalem to the Ka'ba at Mecca. One result was that the Jews were thereafter taxed separately from the Moslems. Another was that the Arabs of Madina cast off their inferiority complex and that the Arabs in general were stirred to a sort of national fervour; for all the tribes revered the Ka'ba, which from being an idol-temple became the house of Abraham and Ishmael, common ancestors of every Arab. Similarly in the matter of fasting, Islam's legislator ceased to follow the example of the Jews and changed the duration of the fast from the tenth day of the month of Moharram, which was their practice, to a number of days in the month of Ramadan and later to the whole of Ramadan.

Also dating entirely from the Madinan period are the rules on marriage, kindred and affinity, polygamy, divorce, menstruation, inheritance, punishment of adultery and theft, retaliation and compensation for murder and injury, and other civil and penal matters, together with the rules on matters such as defilement, circumcision, and food and drink bans. Although these rules were for the most part derived from either Jewish laws or pagan Arab customs, various changes and adaptations were made.

Irrespective of their Jewish and pagan colouring, their purpose was unquestionably to establish order in the community and in the mutual relations of its members. The civilization of every community or nation is coloured by elements from the civilizations of others.

In every religion there are rites which require some sort of organization and training. The details of their content and form are generally of little intrinsic importance. No thoughtful person, however, can discern any philosophical reason for pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca and for the useless and meaningless rites which the pilgrims perform.

The Prophet Mohammad's decision to set out on a visit to the Ka'ba in 6 A.H./628 is puzzling. Did he really believe the Ka'ba to be God's abode? Or did he make this move in order to placate followers for whom Ka'ba-visitation was an ancestral tradition? Was his decision, which came unexpectedly in view of the resolve of the hostile Qorayshites to prevent Moslems from entering Mecca, and which led to the disappointing truce of Hodaybiya, a political stratagem designed to impress the Qoraysh chiefs with Moslem numerical and military strength and to draw ordinary, un-fanatical Meccans to the new religion?

How could the man who had introduced the new religion and laws and had repudiated all the beliefs and superstitions of his own people now revive the main component of the old tradition in a new form? Islam's zealous founder and legislator had above all insisted on pure monotheism, telling the people that belief in the One God is the only road to happiness and proclaiming that "the noblest among you in God's sight are the most pious among you" (sura 49, verse 13). Had he now succumbed to national or racial feeling? Did he want to make veneration of Ishmael's house a symbol of Arab national identity?

However that may be, the decision was so surprising and so inconsistent with Islamic principles that many Moslems were upset. Several believers objected to the running between Safa and Marwa because it had been a pagan Arab rite; but its retention was imposed by verse 153 of sura 2, "Safa and Marwa are among God's waymarks." According to well authenticated reports, Omar b. ol-Khattab, who was one of Mohammad's greatest and wisest companions, said that he would never have kissed the black stone if he had not personally seen the Prophet kiss it. Ghazzali51 whose authority in Islamic matters deserves respect, wrote frankly that he could find no explanation of the hajj ritual but obeyed because it was an accomplished fact.

There is one verse in the Qur’an which sheds some light on the matter and is perhaps an answer to questions about it. This is verse 28 of sura 9 (ot-Tawba): “O believers, it is a fact that the polytheists are unclean. Therefore they shall not approach the Mosque of the Sanctuary (i.e. the Ka'ba) after this year of theirs. If you fear poverty, God will enrich you from His bounty." According to the Tafsir ol-Jaltilayn, this meant that God would compensate the Arabs with victories and receipts of tribute. The sura of Repentance (ot-Tawba) is chronologically the last in the Qur’an, having been sent down in 10 A.H./631, well after the Moslem conquest of Mecca. The ban on visitation of the Ka'ba by non-Moslem tribes was likely to disquiet the people of Mecca, whose livelihood and flourishing trade depended on the coming and going of Arab tribes and groups. Although the Meccans were of the same tribe as the Prophet, most of them had only become Moslem under duress. If Mecca should lose its prosperity, there might be a risk of widespread apostasy. That risk would be averted by making pilgrimage to Mecca incumbent on Moslems.

This explanation is of course a mere hypothesis; to what extent it corresponds to the reality can never be known. In any case no rational or religious justification can be found for the retention of ancient pagan practices in the ritual of the Islamic hajj. This prompted the great and universally admired philosopher-poet of the Arabs, Abu'l-Ala o1-Ma'arri52 to exclaim:

People come from far corners of the land
to throw pebbles (at the Satan) and to kiss the (black) stone.
How strange are the things they say!
Is all mankind becoming blind to truth?

The bans on wine-drinking and gambling, which were proclaimed at Madina and are peculiar to Islamic law, can readily be attributed to contemporary social conditions. Nor is it difficult to understand why at Madina the zaktat ceased to be voluntary alms-giving and was transformed into a system of income and property taxation appropriate for the fiscal needs of the newly founded state. At the same time, however, legal form was given to an obligation which has no parallel in other canons or statutes, namely the obligation of holy war (jehad).

At first war was only permitted; in the words of sura 22, verse 40, "Permission is given to those who fight because they have been wronged." Subsequently it was made obligatory through verbs in the imperative and emphatic moods. Many passages in suras 2 (oI-Baqara), 8 (ol-Anfal), 9 (ot-Tawba), and other Madinan revelations enjoin use of force. It is a remarkable and significant fact that the Meccan suras contain no mentions of holy war or fighting polytheists, whereas the Madinan suras are so full of verses on the subject that this obligation appears to be more heavily stressed than any other. Two comments spring to the mind in this connection. One is that the Prophet Mohammad, being aware of the difficulty of controlling unruly Arabs and forming an Islamic state and society without recourse to the sword, probably chose that method because it was rooted in Arab custom and capable of influencing the Arab mind. The other is that the method necessarily involves trampling on the most precious of human rights, namely the right to freedom of thought and belief. This has evoked widespread criticism, which is not easily answerable. Is use of the sword to force people into profession of a doctrine or a religion meritorious? Is it compatible with ideals of justice and humanity?

Obviously injustice and evil have in varying degrees permeated many communities in different times and places; but to discerning minds there is no tyranny more cruel, irrational, and pernicious than a ruler's or a ruling group's denial of the people's freedom to think and to believe. Attempts by a ruler or government to suppress opposition, though inconsistent with humane principles, may be presented as moves in the struggle for political survival; but attempts to compel all the people to think and feel in the same way as the power-holders cannot in any circumstances be excused. History shows, however, that all nations have at times experienced oppression of this type. Disregard for human rights and individual personality is a very widespread and multiform phenomenon, by no means confined to ruling groups; it is also found among the masses, who can be as opinionated as any tyrant and equally intolerant of ideas and beliefs other than their own. Such fanaticism has been the source of dark phases in the life of mankind. It has impelled men to burn, behead, hang, mutilate, and immure their fellows, and not only this, but also to perpetrate wholesale massacres. In our own age there are the examples of Nazi and communist bloodshed on a vast scale.

The fact that freedom of thought and belief has been violated in many countries around the world is not in dispute. The question requiring study is whether such violation was consistent with the duty of the spiritual guide who had made known that "there is no compulsion in religion" (sura 2, verse 257), and that God had decided that "those who perished should perish by a clear sign, and those who survived should survive by a clear sign" (sura 8, verse 44). Had not God said to His Apostle, "We sent you only as a mercy to the world's peoples" (sura 21, verse 107), and "You have moral strength" (sura 68, verse 4)?

The occasion of the revelation of the Meccan sura90 (ol-Balad) is said to have been the boastful behaviour of a man named Abu'l- Ashadd, who possessed great bodily strength as well as great wealth. According to a report which has come down, he used to stand on a carpet at the Okaz fair and offer a huge reward to anyone who could pull it from under his feet; young men. used to rush up and pull the carpet from all sides until it tore, but could never shift him from where he stood. Over against such vanity, the sura ol-Balad movingly expresses the Prophet Mohammad's faith. Unfortunately its eloquence and euphony cannot be conveyed in another language. The following translation is an attempt to give the meaning of verses 4-18:

"We created mankind in trouble (i.e. helpless). Does he think that no one is stronger than he is? He says, 'I have spent vast wealth Does he think that no one has seen him? Have not we given him eyes and a tongue and lips, and shown him the two ways? Yet he has not scaled the pass. And do you know what the pass is? It is freeing a slave, or giving food in a day of famine to a kindred orphan or to a poor person in need. Then he would be one of those who believe and urge each other to forbearance and urge each other to mercy.”

The apostle who had so movingly preached faith and compassion at Mecca gradually changed course at Madina and began to issue orders for war: "Fighting is prescribed for you" (sura 2, verse 212); "Fight those who do not believe….!" (sura 9, verse 29); "If anyone desires a religion other than Islam, it will not be accepted from him" (sura 3, verse 79); "When you meet unbelievers, it is (a matter of) smiting necks. Then, after you have cowed them with much slaughter, fasten the bonds tight!" (sura 47, verse4)

Dozens of equally stern verses were revealed at Madina. The value of iron, unmentioned at Mecca, is appraised as follows in verse 25 of the Madinan sura 57 (ol-Hadid): "And We sent down iron, (because) in it lie great power and benefits for the people, and so that God in the unseen world may know who support Him and His Apostles." At Mecca, so it seems, either iron had not existed or God in His omniscience had not given thought to means of identifying His and His Prophets' adversaries; for at Mecca God had commanded Mohammad to "summon (people) to your Lord's path with wisdom and good preaching, and argue with them by (using arguments) that are better! Your Lord knows well who have erred from His path, and He knows well who have been (rightly) guided" (sura 16, on-Nahl, verse 126).

Thus Islam was gradually transformed from a purely spiritual mission into a militant and punitive organization whose progress depended on booty from raids and revenue from the zakat tax.

The Prophet's steps in the decade after the hejra were directed to the end of establishing and consolidating a religion-based state. Some of the deeds which were done on his command, such as killings of prisoners and political assassinations, have been adversely judged by foreign critics.

After the battle of Badr, the Prophet was uncertain what to do with the prisoners whom the Moslems had captured. Should he release them in return for ransoms which would be useful as pay for the warriors of Islam? Should he keep them as slaves? Or should he intern them? His realistic and far-sighted companion Omar, who must be regarded as one of the founders of the Islamic state, advised that they should be killed. In Omar's reckoning, release of the prisoners for ransoms would be unwise because they would rejoin the enemy and fight more bitterly, while enslavement or internment of them would involve too much expense on guarding because of the risk of their escape; but killing them would cow the tribes and enhance Islam's military prestige. The decision came when verse 68 of sura 8 (ol-Anfal) was revealed: "It is not for a Prophet to have prisoners until he has spread fear of slaughter in the land. You people want casual gain (i.e. ransom payments) in this lower world, while God wants (happiness in) the next world (for you).”

Among the prisoners taken at Badr were two men named Oqba b. Abi Mo'ayt and on-Nadr b. ol-Hareth.

The Prophet, on seeing them, remembered their hostility and malice at Mecca and ordered that they should be beheaded. Nadr was the captive of ol-Meqdad b. Amr, who very much wanted some ransom money. Meqdad said to the Prophet, "This man is my prisoner, so I am entitled to him as my share of the booty." The Prophet asked Meqdad whether he had forgotten what this vile man had said about the Qur’anic revelations. It was Nadr who had said at Mecca, "We have already heard (such things). If we wished, we could say (things) like this. They are only fables of the ancients." (sura 8, verse 31). Death was the penalty which Nadr finally paid for that utterance. Meqdad withdrew his claim, and Nadr was beheaded. At the next halt, Oqba was brought before the Prophet, and Asem b. Thabet was ordered to put him to death. Oqba cried out, "What is to happen to my children?" The Prophet answered "Hellfire".

When Mecca was conquered, a general amnesty was proclaimed, but certain exceptions were made. The Prophet gave orders for the killing of six persons wherever they might be found, even in the sanctuary of the Ka'ba. They were Safwan b. Omayya, Abdollah b. ol-Khatal, Meqyas b. Sobaba, Ekrema b. Abi Jahl, ol-Howayreth b. Noqaydh b. Wahb, and Abdollah b. Sa'd b. Abi Sarh.

The last-named had for some time been one of the scribes employed at Madina to write down the revelations. On a number of occasions he had, with the Prophet's consent, changed the closing words of verses. For example, when the Prophet had said "And God is mighty and wise" (aziz, hakim), Abdollah b. Abi Sarh suggested writing down "knowing and wise" (alim, hakim), and the Prophet answered that there was no objection. Having observed a succession of changes of this type, Abdollah renounced Islam on the ground that the revelations, if from God, could not be changed at the prompting of a scribe such as himself. After his apostasy he went to Mecca and joined the Qorayshites.

Abdollah b. ol-Khatal owned two slave-girls, named Fartana and Qariba, who had sung satirical songs about the Prophet; both of them, as well as he, were put to death. Two more women, Hend b. Otba and Sara, a freed slave of Amr b. Hashem of the Banu Abd ol-Mottaleb, who had also caused great annoyance to the Prophet, were condemned to death; but Hend b. Otba, who was the wife of Abu Sofyan, finally professed allegiance and was spared.

Abdollah b. Abi Sarh was a foster-brother of Othman. He took refuge with Othman, who kept him hidden for several days until the commotion subsided, and then brought him to the Prophet and requested pardon for him. After a long silence, the Prophet said "Yes", meaning that he reluctantly accepted Othman's intercession. Thereupon Abdollah b. Abi Sarh professed Islam again, and Othman and he departed. The Prophet, when asked the reason for the long silence, replied, "His Islam was not voluntary but from fear, so I was reluctant to accept it. I was expecting one of you to stand up and behead him." (This was because it had been proclaimed that his blood might be lawfully shed in any place where he might be found, "even if clinging to the covering of the Ka'ba"). One of the Ansar from Madina asked the Prophet why he had not winked, and received the answer that "God's Apostle cannot have false eyes", meaning that he could not falsely pretend silence while giving a sign with the eyes to kill. This same Abdollah b. Abi Sarh was chosen during Othman's caliphate to command the Arab invading force in North Africa; he acquitted himself so well that Othman dismissed Amr b. ol-As, the conqueror of Egypt, and appointed Abdollah to the governorship.

The assassination of Ka'b b. ol-Ashraf of the Jewish tribe of the Banu'n-Nadir has already been briefly mentioned. After the battle of Badr, being alarmed by the growth of the Prophet's power, Ka'b went to Mecca where he expressed sympathy for the Qorayshites and urged them to keep up the fight. Later he returned to Madina and addressed amatory {of, relating to, or expressing sexual love} verses to Moslem women. This gave a pretext to the Prophet, who asked his followers, "Who will deal with Ebn ol-Ashraf for me?" A man named Mohammad b. Maslama stood up and volunteered. The Prophet said to him, "Do it if you can!" He then sent Mohammad b. Maslama on the task together with four other Awsites. One of them was Ka'b's foster-brother Abu Na'ela, whose presence would ensure that Ka'b would not become suspicious and unwilling to step out of his fortified house on the outskirts of Madina. The Prophet accompanied them to the edge of the town, where he bade them farewell and prayed God to help them. The five men made their way by night to Ka'b's house. Ka'b, seeing Abu Na'ela among them, stepped unsuspectingly out of his house to talk with them, and then set out with these glib friends toward the town.

They kept him talking until, at a safe distance from the house, they pounced on him and, after a struggle, killed him. When they reached Madina, they found the Prophet awake and waiting for good news.
Sallam b. Abi'l-Hoqayq, another influential Jew and an old friend of the Awsites, had moved from Madina to Khaybar. Some Khazrajites asked the Prophet for permission to go and kill this leader of the Jews and ally of the Aws tribe. The Prophet gave permission and appointed Abdollah b. Atik to lead the squad. They accomplished the task, and on their return informed the Prophet of this success, shouting joyfully "God is great.”

After the elimination of Ka'b and Sallam, a squad under the leadership of Abdollah b. Rawaha was sent to kill Yosayr b. Rezam, another Madinan Jew who had gone to Khaybar and was inciting the Banu Ghatafan, a big Bedouin tribe, to fight Mohammad.

At Nakhla, Khaled b. Sofyan, a chief of the Hodhayl tribe, was provoking hostility to Mohammad among its people. The Prophet appointed Abdollah b. Onays to go and deal with him. He too was successfully eliminated.

When Refa'a b. Qays started an anti-Moslem agitation in his tribe, the Prophet ordered Abdollah b. Abi Hadrad to go and bring back his head. The killer fulfilled the task by first ambushing Refa'a and shooting him with an arrow, then knocking him down with an axe, and then cutting off his head, which he brought to the Prophet.

Amr b. Omayya was commissioned to kill Abu Sofyan, but Abu Sofyan got word and eluded him. Instead, Amr killed a harmless Qorayshite and another man on his way back to Madina. .

Abu' Afak, a man of great age (reputedly 120 years), was killed because he had lampooned Mohammad. The deed was done by Salem b. Omayr at the behest of the Prophet, who had asked, "Who will deal with this rascal for me?" The killing of such an old man moved a poetess, Asma b. Marwan, to compose disrespectful verses about the Prophet, and she too was assassinated.

Two prisoners taken at Badr, Abu Azza ol-Jomahi and Mo'awiya b. Moghira, had been freed on parole and allowed to live at Madina. After the Moslem defeat at the battle of Ohod, Mo'awiya b. Moghira absconded and Abu Azza ol-Jomahi petitioned Mohammad for release. The Prophet ordered the immediate execution of Abu Azza and the capture and execution of Mo'awiya b. Moghira. Both orders were carried out. Abu Azza's executioner was Zobayr b. ol.Awwam.

One of the leading men of Madina was a Khazrajite chief, Abdollah b. Obarr. He had professed Islam, but when the situation changed and he saw the growth of Mohammad's social and political influence, he became alarmed and ceased to manifest sincere faith. He was reckoned to be the chief of the hypocrites (monafequn). Various intrigues took place and were disclosed to the Prophet. Omar eventually came to the conclusion that Abdollah b. Obarr would have to be killed. On the other hand Sa'd b. Obada, a Khazrajite and a leader of the Ansar, advised the Prophet to be lenient with him because "God, by sending you to us, saved us from his ambition to be our ruler. Otherwise we should have been on the point of giving him a crown and a signet."

Mohammad Hosayn Haykal53 the modern biographer of Mohammad, has written that the Prophet said to Omar at that time, "If I had acted on your advice and killed Abdollah b. Obayy, his kinsmen would have retaliated to avenge him; but his conduct has been so objectionable that if I now give the order, even his kinsmen will carry it out." According to Haykal, Abdollah b. Obarr's own son offered to kill him, if the Prophet so ordered, rather than let other men carry out the order, in which case the son would be obliged by Arab custom to take vengeance on the killers. Soyuti states that Abdollah b. Obarr's conduct was the occasion of the revelation of verse 90 of sura 4 (on-Nesa): "What is the matter with you people that, in regard to the hypocrites, you are two parties? God has set them back as they deserved. Do you people wish to guide a man whom God has led astray?" According to Soyuti, the Prophet in his exasperation with Abdollah b. Obarr had asked the people whether anyone was willing to rid him of this man who was always gathering opponents in his house and trying to cause trouble.

In the event, Abdollah b. Obarr was spared. He died in 9 A.H./631, and the Prophet conducted his funeral. Sometimes killings which were really motivated either by desire to make a show of valour or by personal grudge were passed off as services to Islam. For example there was a Jewish shopkeeper at Madina who had Moslem customers and was on good terms with them. On the day when the Prophet gave the order to "kill every Jew whom you have captured," Mohayyesa b. Mas'ud ran out and killed the harmless shopkeeper, whose name was Ebn Sonayna. The only person who reproached Mohayyesa was his own brother.

When the campaign of 8 A.H./639 against the Romans was being planned, news reached the Prophet that some men were gathering in the house of a Jew named Showaylem to discuss ways of opposing the enterprise. The Prophet ordered Talha b. Obaydollah and some others to besiege and set fire to the house. Only one man was able to get out, and in doing so he broke his leg. There is a reference in verse 82 of sura 9 (ot-Tawba) to persons who did not wish to join in the campaign because of the heat: "And they have said, 'Do not march out in the heat!' Say, 'The fire of hell is hotter' "

Prophethood and Rulership

To form a picture of Mohammad in the role of Prophet, we must study the Meccan suras, particularly those such as 23 (01- Mo'menin) and 53 (on-Najm) which radiate a Christ-like spirituality. To see him in the role of ruler, statesman, and legislator, we must turn to the Madinan suras such as 2 (01-Baqara), 4 (on-Nesa), 47 (Mohammad), and above all 9 (ot-Tawba).

Three or four years after the {emigration to Madina} hejra, and especially after the elimination of the Madinan Jews and the defeat of the Banu Mostaleq (a Bedouin tribe occupying land to the west of the town), signs of rulers hip began to appear in Mohammad's conduct as well as his decrees.

There is a story in Ebn Hesham's biography of the Prophet that Safiya, the daughter of Hoyayy b. Akhtab of the Jewish Nadir tribe, dreamed that the moon came down onto her lap. When she told her husband, Kenana b. Abi Rabi'a, about her dream, he angrily slapped her face, so hard that her eyes went dim, and shouted, "You hope to become the wife of the king of the Hejaz.” As it happened, the Prophet, after conquering Khaybar, added this woman to the number of his wives.

Another report states that when a Jewish notable, Abdol Hih b. Sallam of the Banu Qaynoqa', accepted Islam, the Jews said to him, "You know perfectly well that the prophethood belongs to the Children of Israel, not to the Arabs. Your new master is not a prophet. He is a king.”

When Abu Sofyan accepted Islam under duress, he is reported to have said to Abbas b. Abd ol-Mottaleb, "Your nephew has a huge territory." Abbas answered him, "Yes. It is the realm of the prophethood." Omar b. ol-Khattab, soon to become a great figure in the history of Islam, was a man whom the Prophet trusted and respected. It was because of Omar's sincerity and strength of character that Mohammad at the start of the prophetic mission was keenly anxious to bring him into the Moslem inner circle. The Prophet's assent to the truce of Hodaybiya in 6 A.H./628 was a bitter disappointment to Omar, who saw it as a humiliating reverse. What happened was that the Prophet with a large number of followers and Bedouin set out for Mecca with the announced intention of performing the pilgrimage. The Qorayshites, on hearing the news, made military preparations to prevent their entry into Mecca. The Moslems then halted at Hodaybiya, about 6 km. from Mecca, and sent representatives to parley with the Qorayshite chiefs. Finally agreement was reached on a truce whereby the Moslems were to withdraw but would be permitted to visit the Ka'ba in the following year. Omar thought that the Qoraysh had made Mohammad accept all their demands, and told him so in such vehement words that the Prophet lost his temper and shouted "May your mother mourn for you!" Faced with the Prophet's wrath, Omar held his tongue.

The Mohammad who assented to the truce of Hodaybiya was no longer the Mohammad who ten or twelve years earlier had been so anxious to bring men like tamar and Hamza into Islam. The withdrawal and surrender to the Qorayshite demands were presented in a different light with the timely revelation of verse 1 of sura 48 (o/-Fat-h): "We have given you a manifest victory.”  Everyone now approved, and even Omar's indignation was soothed by the tactful Abu Bakr.

Although the truce of Hodaybiya was in some respects a reverse and therefore an occasion for protest by Omar, events proved it to have been an example of the Prophet's political sagacity. In all probability he agreed to it because he was not sure that the Moslems could beat the Qoraysh if fighting broke out. A temporary compromise and truce would be safer than a battle of uncertain outcome. A Moslem defeat would embolden the Qoraysh and bring to their side Bedouin tribes resentful of his growing influence, as well as aggrieved Jews. The position of the Moslems would then be precarious. Prudent considerations such as these are likely to have passed through the Prophet's mind. In any case he was now less concerned with posing a challenge than with establishing a state. He probably accepted the Qorayshite terms in confident expectation of sufficient growth of his power and prestige to ensure that he and his followers could perform the pilgrimage a year later without risk of trouble or defeat.

The hypothesis that the truce of Hodaybiya was an act of prudent statesmanship is supported by analysis of the Prophet's next enterprise. One of the risks of war with the Qoraysh was that many Mohajerun, having kinsmen in Mecca or being susceptible to Qorayshite influence, might not fight wholeheartedly. An attack on the last stronghold of the Jews, namely the oasis of Khaybar, would involve no such risk and would also offer morale-raising prospects of booty.

Some sentences in sura 48 (ol-Fat-h) throw light on the matter:

"God was well pleased with the believers when they were swearing loyalty to you under the tree, and He knew what was in their hearts" (verse 18).

At Hodaybiya, at a time when a battle with the Qoraysh seemed likely, the Prophet had assembled the Moslems under a tree and obtained their solemn promise to fight if the Qoraysh proved obdurate. In Islamic history this is known as the Oath of Good Pleasure (Bay'at or-Redwan), i.e. the oath with which God was well pleased.

"And He made them worthy of an imminent victory" (verse18),

"and much booty which they will take" (verse 19).

"God promises you men much booty which you will take, and He will hasten it for you. And He kept the people's hands off you" (verse 20).

After concluding the truce, Mohammad hastened back from Hodaybiya to Madina and stayed only a fortnight in the town to mobilize troops before marching against Khaybar. He feared that the Moslems might quarrel over the Hodaybiya truce terms, and knew that at Khaybar they would be too busy taking booty to worry any more about the alleged surrender to the Qorayshites.

It is clear from verse 15 of sura 48 that hope of booty from Khaybar thrilled the Bedouin so much that those who had shown reluctance to confront the Qoraysh sought eagerly to join the Moslem warriors in the attack on the rich oasis: "Those who lagged behind will say, when you set out to take booty, let us accompany you!" After this, in verse 16, God commands the Prophet, "Say to the laggards among the Bedouin, 'You will be summoned against a people possessing great strength, to fight them unless they surrender. If you obey, God will reward you well. If you turn back, as you turned back before, He will punish you painfully.'"

The Khaybar oasis contained a number of castles. On the first day the Moslems attacked the castle of Sallam b. Meshkam and lost nearly fifty men before they took it. Abu Bakr led another detachment against the castle of Na'om, but achieved nothing and was replaced by Omar, whose assault also failed; it was Ali b. Abi Taleb who finally broke into this castle. Later the water-supply of the castle of Zabir was cut, and its occupants had to come out; they fought but eventually fled. Several more castles fell, one after the other, to the Moslems. Finally the Moslems reached the castles of os-Salalem and ol-Watih where the women and children had been concentrated. The Jews had to ask for a cease-fire, and the Prophet decided that their lives should be spared and that the cultivated lands of Khaybar should become the property of the Moslems but be left in the occupation of the Jews on condition that they should cede half of the annual produce to the Moslems.

Included in the Prophet's share of the booty was the Jewish woman Safiya, the daughter of Hoyayy b. Akhtab - the same woman who had been slapped by her husband for mentioning her dream of the moon's descent onto her lap. The Prophet married her on his way back to Madina.

The oasis of Fadak, east of Khaybar, was also inhabited by Jews. Warned by the example of Khaybar, they surrendered without fighting and agreed to cede half of their property. Not having been taken by force, this property was assigned to the Prophet.

The Jewish tribes living in the Wadi ol-Qora and at Tayma, to the north of Madina, also surrendered. The terms required them to pay tribute in the form of a poll-tax (jezya).

These victories brought the whole of the northern part of the Hejaz under Mohammad's rule.

It must be added that in the Khaybar campaign Mohammad made good use of diplomacy. He first took care to win over the neighbouring Bedouin tribe of the Banu Ghatafan, who might otherwise have helped the Jews and greatly impeded the Moslems. He decided that half of the booty of Khaybar should go to the Banu Ghatafan.

These and other actions show that after the hejra the Prophet Mohammad was more occupied with politics than with preaching.

In the Moslem raids, the usual tactic was the ambush, which in many cases was mounted after a reconnaissance by carefully chosen spies. Several Qorayshite trading caravans were successfully spotted and attacked in this way. The raids served the dual purpose of inflicting financial damage on opponents and providing booty and encouragement for supporters.

The defeat of the Moslems at the battle of Mount Ohod near Madina in 3 A.H.l625 was a severe shock but not a decisive blow. Instead of pushing on to Madina, the Qorayshite force under Abu Sofyan went back to Mecca after the battle. The Moslems would not have been beaten if they had adhered to the Prophet's strategy and stayed in their positions on the slopes of the mountain; but some of them greedily rushed down in the hope of seizing booty and suffered considerable losses.

Danger again faced the Moslems in 5 A.H./627 when allied Qorayshite and Bedouin forces besieged Madina. This event is known in Islamic history as the war of the trench, because the Moslems, in anticipation of the siege, had with great effort dug a trench around the town. The use of trenches, hitherto unknown in Arab warfare, is said in some of the sources to have been suggested by Salman ol-Farsi, the first Iranian convert to Islam. The Qorayshites were again led by Abu Sofyan. None of the besiegers were able to cross the trench, but there was a risk that the Jewish Qorayza tribe inside the town might combine with them. If that had occurred, the Moslems might have been decisively beaten and the rise of Islam might have been cut short. Thanks to Mohammad's cunning, however, the danger was averted, and within a fortnight the Bedouin and the Meccans retired. During the conflict, the Prophet employed a man of the Ghataian tribe who had secretly become a Moslem to sow dissension between the Banu Qorayza and the besiegers. Since this man, named No'aymb. Mas'ud, had a long record of friendship with the Jews and was also on good terms with the Qorayshites, all the parties supposed him to be an opponent of Mohammad, and each was persuaded by him to suspect the other. After losing hope of any collaboration with the Banu Qorayza, the Qorayshite troops suffered hardship in a sudden tempest of cold wind and decided to return to Mecca.

It has already been mentioned that as soon as the siege and the Qorayshite threat to Madina were over, the Prophet Mohammad sent an armed band to the street of the Banu Qorayza. Since their refusal to collaborate with Abu Sofyan had been the main reason for the outcome of the war to the Moslem advantage, they might have been thought to deserve at least the Prophet's lenience. Nevertheless Mohammad decided to eliminate them because their continued presence within Madina would present a potential danger. Their destruction would spread fear of the power of Islam, provide booty for the Moslems, and make the Awsites and Khazrajites more firmly loyal to his flag.

The burning of the palm grove of the Banu -Nadir in 4 A.H./625 had been a dishonourable act by contemporary standards. It was done, regardless of protests, because it was the necessary means to the end of overcoming them. Qur’anic verses (sura 59, ol-Hashr, 2-17) were sent down to justify the Prophet's conduct.

The same destructive expedient was used in the Moslem blockade of the vineyard of the Banu Thaqif at Ta'efin 8 A.H./630. First the delivery of food to the encamped occupants was stopped, but soon it became clear that they had a large stock of food and that a long siege would be necessary. For fear that the Moslem troops, in keeping with the fickle character of the Arabs, might then become tired or bored, the Prophet ordered them to burn down the vineyard. The vines were such an important source of income that the Banu Thaqif sent a messenger to the Prophet, begging him to desist from the destruction and offering the ownership of the entire vineyard to the Moslems.

Later in the same campaign, the Prophet abandoned the siege of Ta'ef and went to Mecca to distribute booty taken from the Hawazen tribe. He then sent a message to Malek b. Awf, one of the chiefs of the Banu Thaqif, offering to release his wife and children and give him a hundred camels if he would become a Moslem. Malek b. Awf secretly left Ta'ef and professed Islam in the Prophet's presence.

All these reports come in early source-books and are well authenticated. The record of events in the first years of Islam gives ample evidence of the contemporary mentality and of the reasons for the progress of Mohammad's cause and the spread of the new religion.

The defeat of the Hawazen, which took place soon after the conquest of Mecca and before the siege of Ta'ef, yielded a large amount of booty. When the time for its distribution came, the Moslems were overwhelmed by greed. They feared that their shares of it would be reduced by the Prophet's generosity to new converts; for he had given a hundred camels each to Abu Sofyan and his son Mo'awiya, to ol-Hareth b. ol-Hareth, ol-Hareth b. Hesham, Sohayl b. Amr, and Howayteb b. Abd ol-Ozza, and smaller presents to lesser Qorayshite notables, all of whom had only professed Islam under duress after the conquest of Mecca. The Prophet's Madinan supporters (Ansar) were particularly discontented, and their leader, Sa'd b. Obada, informed the Prophet of their feelings. The Prophet then summoned the Ansar and reassured them with a speech which gives some idea of his diplomacy and skill in handling people. At the end of it he asked, “O men of my Ansar, is it not better that other men should take away camels and you should take back God's Apostle with you?"

The reports of Mohammad's deeds and words in the decade which he spent at Madina give plenty of evidence of his statesmanship. A percipient reader of the biographies of the Prophet will find perhaps a hundred times more examples than those chosen for mention here.

According to the Tafsir ol-Jalalayn, verses 106-108 of sura 4 (on-Nesa) were revealed on the occasion of the following incident. A man named To'ma b. Ebriq stole a suit of armour and hid it in the house of a Jew. The owner of the armour found it there, and To'ma, when suspicion fell on him, swore that he was not guilty of the theft and accused a Jew. To'ma's relatives laid the case before the Prophet, hoping to exonerate him and of course expecting that Mohammad would favour him against a Jew. Mohammad did nothing of the sort. In the award of justice, he put truth before partisanship, as verse 106 of the sura shows: "We have sent down the Book to you with the truth, so that you may judge between people by what God has manifested to you. Do not be an advocate for perjurers!"

Verse 9 of sura 49 (ol-Hojorat) has a similar import and gives an indication not only of the Prophet's statesmanship but also of the contemporary social conditions and the beginnings of factionalism in Islam: "If two parties of the believers have started to fight each other, make peace between them! If one of them wrongs the other, fight against the one that is doing the wrong until it returns to God's authority! Then, if it returns, make peace equitably between them!" The verse is both clear and wise.

In the Tafsir Ol-Jalalayn there is a report of an incident said to have been the occasion of the revelation of this verse. The story is quoted here as an illustration of the social conditions and the incipient fanaticism of some of Mohammad's supporters. "The Prophet was riding an ass and he passed Abdollah b. Obayy. Just at that moment the ass staled. Ebn Obayy gripped his nose to avoid inhaling the smell. Abdollah b. Rawaha (a leader of the Ansar), who happened to be there, said to Ebn Obayy, 'By God, the smell of the ass's stale is less displeasing to the Prophet than the smell of the scent you use.' These words provoked a brawl, with sticks and shoes as weapons, between Ebn Obayy's men and Ebn Rawaha's men."

In the conditions of the time, fear of the Prophet spread as his cause advanced.

After the conquest of Mecca, a poet named Bojayr b. Zohayr b. Abi Solma wrote to his brother Ka'b, also a poet, that the Prophet was executing people at Mecca who had lampooned him or otherwise offended him, and that every poet who had done any such thing had now fled from Mecca. If Ka'b wanted to be safe, he had better go to the Prophet and apologize, because the Prophet was not killing those who repented of their past deeds. Otherwise Ka'b ought to get out and not let himself be seen anywhere around.

Ka'b b. Zohayr decided to profess Islam and save his life. He composed an ode in praise of the Prophet, known as the Ode of the Cloak (Borda) because the Prophet was so pleased when Ka'b recited it to him that he gave Ka'b his cloak.54

The people, being simple and unaccustomed to formality, at first behaved toward their leader in a familiar and unconstrained way. They thought that their only obligation was to obey the Qur’anic commands and prohibitions. Otherwise they treated Mohammad as one of themselves. This state of affairs could not last. Orderly procedure and observance of something like the respect due to a head of a state became necessary. A number of rules for the believers, almost amounting to a code of etiquette, were set out in the first five verses of sura 49 (ol-Hojoral) and some other Qur’anic passages.

“O believers, do not push yourselves forward (i.e. speak or act first) in the presence of God and His Apostle!" (49, 1). Since nobody can speak or act first in God's presence, the rule can only mean "Do not voice an opinion or take an action without the Prophet's leave!" “O believers, do not raise your voices above the Prophet's voice or shout in speaking to him, as some of you shout at each other!" (49,2). They should not behave as Omar, for example, had done when he loudly and publicly contradicted the Prophet over the Hodaybiya truce terms and addressed him as "Mohammad" instead of "God's Apostle.”

"Those who lower their voices before God's Apostle are those whose hearts God has tested for piety. They will receive forgiveness and great reward" (49, 3). Clearly this form of courtesy had not been practiced by the Arabs but became appropriate after Mohammad's rise to power.

"Those who call you from the back of the apartments - most of them do not understand" (49, 4). The Arabs used to walk to the back of the Prophet's house, where the private apartments of his wives were situated, and shout "Mohammad" to summon him.

The Prophet disliked this behaviour, but rightly attributed it to their ignorance (or strictly speaking, God did, because the words are God's words). It had been natural and normal in the days when he joined his companions and supporters in tasks such as shovelling earth from the trench, but was unbecoming after his cause had triumphed.

"If they would wait until you come out to them, it would be better for them" (49,5).

The most precise rule of etiquette for the believers came in verse 13 of sura 58 (ol-Mojadela): “O believers, if you wish to talk privately with the Apostle, offer a charitable gift before your private talk!" The Moslems must have found this burdensome, because the rule is relaxed later in the same verse: "If you cannot afford, God is forgiving and merciful.”

The matter of access to the Prophet recurs in verse 53 of sura 33 (ol-Ahzab): “O believers, do not walk into the Prophet's houses unless you are admitted for a meal! (And) without looking at its cooking pot!55 But if you have been invited, walk in, and when you have eaten, disperse without lingering for conversation! That would cause inconvenience to the Prophet, and he would be too shy (to tell) you. But God is not shy of the truth." The verse needs no comment and gives evidence of what used to happen. The Prophet's friends treated him with familiarity, dropped in without notice, waited for a meal to be brought for them, and stayed after the meal to chat with one another. Such things were unseemly when the Prophet was the head of a state. He needed a measure of seclusion from the people. To tell them would be embarrassing for him, but not for God who is above embarrassment. In other words, God through the voice of His Apostle would teach the people correct behaviour toward the head of the state.

This interpretation is supported by the next sentence of the same verse, though the subject is different:

"And when you ask the women (i.e. the Prophet's wives) for a thing, ask them from behind a curtain!56 That is purer for their hearts and yours.”

A story which appears in the Hadith compilations and is attributed to A'esha explains the sentence as follows: "The Prophet and I were eating a meal from a dish when Omar passed by. The Prophet invited him to join in the meal. While we were eating, Omar's finger touched my finger. Omar said, 'If only my advice had been heeded! No eye would then have seen you.' After that, the verse of the curtain was sent down.”

According to a reported statement of Abdollah b. ol-Abbas, the reason for the revelation of verse 53 was that Omar had said to the Prophet, "Your wives are not like the wives of other men.”  Verse 32 of sura 33 begins with the words “O wives of the Prophet, you are not like any other women.”

Why did the Prophet's wives differ from other women? Evidently because Mohammad was not in the same category as other men. Maintenance of his dignity required maintenance of the dignity of his wives. They would have to be secluded like oriental princesses. Verse 53 of sura 33 (parts of which have already been quoted) goes on to state in the last sentence: "It would not be (right) for you to offend God's Apostle by marrying his wives after him at any future time. That would be an enormity in God's sight." The reason why this sin would be such a major one was that Mohammad was sensitive about the matter. His wives, like those of ancient Israelite kings, must not be touched by other men even after his death.

A similar assumption of superiority over other people and lack of consideration for them is apparent in a different context. Verse 14 of sura 49, referring to events after the conquest of Mecca, states: "The Bedouin have said, 'We believed.' Say (to them), 'You did not believe. Rather you should say, "We surrendered.'" Belief has not entered their hearts at all.”

When the new converts protested that their acceptance of Islam had not been forced on them by coercion or war but was voluntary, verse 17 of sura 49 came down: "They count it as a favour to you that they have surrendered. Say, 'Do not count your surrender as a favour to me! On the contrary, God is conferring a favour on you, as He has guided you to the faith. "

What a contrast there is between this cold, haughty tone and the glowing zeal, like that of Jeremiah, with which Mohammad had earlier condemned arrogance and enjoined charity! A good example is the Meccan sura89 (ol-Fajr), which he is said to have recited to the people as he stood by the wall of the Ka'ba. Unfortunately this sura cannot be literally translated and its melodious assonances cannot be reproduced. Below is an inadequate rendering of verses 5-13 and 18-21:

"Have you not seen how your Lord dealt with ‘Ad,
Eram of the pillars,57
the like of which wasnever created in the land,
and Thamud,58 who carved the rocks in the valley,
and Pharaoh, the owner of the pegs,59
who were all arrogant in the land
and caused much corruption in it?
Your Lord inflicted a scourge of punishment on them.
Certainly your Lord is always watching.”
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
"No indeed! But you do not honour the orphan,
you do not bestir yourselves to feed the poor,
you eat (i.e. embezzle) inheritances greedily,
and you love wealth dearly.”

At Madina the rules which were laid down had practical and disciplinary aspects. The waywardness of the Arabs needed to be curbed. This is very clearly shown by verse 96 of sura 4 (on-Nesa): “O believers, when you march forth (to war) in God's cause, make sure (of the facts) and do not say to anyone who gives you a peaceful greeting 'You are not a believer' (merely because) you desire casual gain in this lower world! God disposes of abundant booty. You were like that before, but God favoured you. So make sure! God is aware of everything that you do." The occasion of the revelation of this verse is said to have been as follows. On a march, some of the Prophet's supporters encountered a shepherd of the Solaym tribe with his sheep. He greeted them by saying salam (peace), which was the password of the Moslems. Supposing that he had said it out of fear, they killed him and took his sheep as booty.

Some references to contemporary ways of behaviour in sura 49 (ol-Hojorat) have already been quoted. There is another in verse 11: “O believers, let no group of people deride (another) group who may perhaps be better than they are, nor women (other) women who may perhaps be better than they are! Do not find fault with each other, and do not call each other names! Rude names are sins after profession of the faith." This verse is said to have been sent down after members of the Tamim tribe had mocked some impecunious Moslems such as Ammar and Sohayb for being poor.

Dozens of Qur’anic verses give instruction on morals and manners: what to do and what not to do, how to speak and when to be silent. They also give glimpses of Arab society as it was in the days of the Prophet.

Women in Islam

"Look after women kindly! They are prisoners 60 not having control of themselves at all." These words are reported to have been said by the Prophet Mohammad in a speech which he made at Mecca during his farewell pilgrimage in 9 A.H./631.

In pre- Islamic Arab society, the women did not have the status of independent persons, but were considered to be possessions of the men. All sorts of inhumane treatment of the women were permissible and customary.

Like any other chattel {slave} in a deceased man's estate, a woman was transferred to his heir, who could then make her his wife without settling any dower on her. If she was unwilling to become his wife, he could prevent her remarriage under she ceded to him whatever property she might have inherited; and if she refused to do so, he could detain her until her death when her property would pass to him. This cruel injustice was abolished by the revelation of verse 23 of sura 4 (on-Nesa): “O believers! It is not permissible for you to inherit women against their will. And do not detain them so that you may get some of what you have given them! (That is) unless they do something manifestly unchaste. And treat them properly!”

The statement that "men are the guardians of women" in verse 38 of sura 4 postulates inequality of men and women in civil rights. The words are followed by two brief explanations of men's superiority over women: "because of the ways in which God has favoured the ones over the others, and because of what men have spent out of their wealth." The ways in which God has favoured men over women are not specified.

According to the Tafsirol-Jalalayn, the superiority of men lies in their greater intelligence, knowledge and administrative ability. Zamakhshari 61 Baydawi 62 and several other commentators go into more detail and construct metaphysical theories; they liken men's authority over women to that of rulers over subjects, and maintain that prophethood, prayer-leadership, and rulership are reserved for men because men are stronger, more intelligent, and more prudent.

In Islamic law, male heirs get more than female heirs, and men's evidence is more reliable than women's; to be exact, a man's inheritance share is twice a woman's share, and his evidence carries twice the weight of hers in the courts. The religious duties of holy war and of congregational prayer on Fridays are not incumbent on women. The right to divorce belongs to husbands but not to wives. Many functions, including utterance of the call to prayer, leadership of the congregational prayer, delivery of the Friday sermon, horse-riding, archery, and giving evidence in penal cases, are specifically reserved for men.
Readers will have observed the logical weakness of the arguments for male dominance. Nearly always the effect is misread for the cause. In reality, social conditions and customs were the cause of the reservation of many functions for men and the consequent low status of women. In contemporary opinion, however, the non-participation of women in those functions appeared to be the effect of female inferiority and incompetence. It is because Islamic law regards women as weak that female heirs and witnesses have half the worth of male ones. This lower worth is not a cause, but an effect, of the attribution of inferior status to women.

The facts are perfectly clear and cannot be explained away by specious arguments. In all primitive societies since the dawn of history, the men have borne the brunt of the struggle for means of living, and the women have therefore been relegated to the second rank or, in the words of the German philosopher F. W. Nietzsche, have been treated as second-class humans.

Among the ancient Arabs, the treatment of women as second-class humans had some more than ordinarily barbaric aspects. Through the Qur’anic legislation, and by exhortation and admonition, the Prophet Mohammad blunted the edge of this savagery and endowed the women with a number of legal rights (specified for the most part in sura 4).

The arguments and theories of the Qur’an-commentators have little or no value from a rational viewpoint, being basically attempts to justify Arab practices. For this the commentators can hardly be blamed, because they needed to show how God "has favoured the ones over the others.”

The second explanation of men's superiority in verse 38 of sura 4, namely that men spend some of their wealth on women, is logically sounder. The man shoulders the burden of the woman's expenses; therefore she is dependent on him; therefore she ought to comply with his commands and prohibitions. This is the reason why Zamakhshari, Baydawi, and many other commentators think that the husband is the ruler or master and the wife is the subject or servant. The same conclusion can be drawn from the next sentence of verse 38 of sura 4: "Good women are submissive and keep secret that which God has kept secret." This means that a good wife is one who obeys her husband and keeps herself for him whenever he is absent. There is an implication that wives belong to husbands and should not forget it. Sura 4, however, prescribes rights and duties for both men and women; it shows how Islam's legislator helped the female sex by changing ancient Arab practices.

One example is the commandment to men in verses 24 and 25: "If you wish to replace a wife with another and have given a hundred-weight to one of them, do not take anything from it! Will you take it through slander and plain crime? How shall you take it when you have been intimate with each other and they got a concrete pledge from you?" A man wishing to divorce and remarry after enjoying his wife's services is forbidden to withhold any part of the dower, however large, which had been an agreed condition of their marriage. It can be inferred from the verse that an ancient Arab husband who repudiated his wife normally took back much or all of whatever dower he had given to her.

There is one passage, however, which apparently endorses a pre-Islamic Arab custom. This is the sentence at the end of verse 38 permitting a husband to beat his wife: "And those women whose insubordination you fear, admonish them, then leave them alone in the beds, then beat them!" Men with their greater bodily strength have certainly resorted to this unjust and un-chivalrous expedient since the earliest times, and they still do so in the twentieth century. Nevertheless its authorization by the law of Islam provides ammunition for critics.

Every community's laws reflect its life-style, customs, and morals. In addition to the testimony of verse 38 of sura 4, there is historical evidence that the ancient Arabs considered the husband to be the owner of his wife and fully entitled to inflict pain on her. Abu Bakr's daughter Asma, who was the fourth wife of Zobayr b. ol-Awwam (one of the Prophet's first ten converts and principal companions), is reported to have said, "Whenever Zobayr was angry with one of us, he used to beat her until the stick broke.”

The Islamic law on this subject has at least the merit of gradation. First admonition, next cessation of intercourse, and only in the last resort violence should be used to make the wife obey. In the opinion of several commentators and lawyers, the beating should not be so severe as to break a bone, because in that case the legal right to retaliation in kind and degree might be invoked. Zamakhshari, however, writes in his comment on the verse that "some authorities do not accept gradation of the punishment of the insubordinate wife but consider infliction of any of the three penalties to be permissible." This was of course the interpretation given to the words by fanatical Arab theologians such as Ebn Hanbal and Ebn Taymiya.63 Nevertheless, the meaning of the words is clear and moreover confirmed by what follows in verse 39:  "And if you fear a breach between the two, send an arbiter from his kinsfolk and an arbiter from her kinsfolk in case they desire reconciliation. “

The forbidden degrees of kindred and affinity in marriage, specified in verse 27 of sura 4, are for the most part found in Jewish law and were also observed by the pagan Arabs, though with some exceptions. Verse 26 states, "Do not marry women whom your fathers married, unless it has already been done!" The ordinance and in particular the qualification indicate that this vile practice was current among the Arabs before Islam.

The prohibition of marriage to already married women in verse 28 of this sura is not novel. What is remarkable is the exception which the verse makes in favour of owners of female slaves. A female slave acquired by purchase or captured in war may be taken in marriage without moral compunction or legal impediment even though she already has a husband. An explanation is given in a report quoted by Ebn Sa'd 64 "Some female captives fell into our hands in the fighting at Awtas (near Honayn), and as they had husbands, we refrained from intercourse with them and consulted the Prophet. Then came the revelation of the words (in verse 28), Also (forbidden to you) are married women, except any that your right hands have acquired.' Possession of those captives was thus made lawful for us.”

Yet the same verse 28 gives evidence both of the Prophet's concern for women's rights and of the contemporary malpractices. The last three sentences state: "It is lawful for you, apart from that (i.e. that which is forbidden), to seek them with your wealth, taking them in marriage, not in prostitution. And to such women as you (thus) enjoy, pay them their rewards, an obligatory portion! There will be no sin for you in what you mutually agree after (payment of) the obligatory portion.”

On the words "to such women as you (thus) enjoy, pay them their rewards" (i.e. dower) hangs the question whether temporary marriage 65 is permissible in Islamic law. The Sonnite scholars consider it impermissible because they think that the revelation of these words occurred after the Moslem conquest of Mecca and was valid for three days only, after which it expired. The Shi'ites, however, hold this form of marriage to be religiously sanctioned.

The social conditions and the importance of the pecuniary factor in the relations between men and women in those days are made plain in another Qur’anic ordinance, which comes in verse 10 of sura 60 (ol-Momtahana): “O believers, when women who have professed the faith come to you as emigrants, test them! God will know about their faith. And if you find them to be believers, do not send them back to the unbelievers! They will be illicit for the unbelievers, and the unbelievers will be illicit for them. But repay them (i.e. the unbelievers) what they have spent (i.e. on those women)! Then there will be no sin for you in marrying them if you pay them their rewards. And do not hold fast to (marital) ties with un believing women! Ask for what you have spent, and let them ask for what they have spent!" Thus if a married woman became a Moslem and fled, her unbelieving husband lost his right to her; the Moslems must not send her back to him if he requested them to do so, but they ought to compensate him for his expenditure on her. Likewise if a Moslem's wife remained stubbornly polytheist and was thus a potential fifth columnist, he should not insist on keeping her but ought to return her to her kinsfolk conditionally on getting his expenditure on her back from them.

Further evidence of the Prophet Mohammad's humane concern to dissuade the Arabs from ill-treating their women is to be found in several passages in sura 2. One is in verse 231: "When you have divorced women and they have reached their term (Le. the end of their waiting period 66), retain them honourably or dismiss them honourably, but do not retain them by force in order to violate their rights)!" This means that when a husband has pronounced the divorce of a wife, and when the end of the waiting period after which she can be remarried approaches, he must not try to force her into remarrying him. The decision for or against resumption of their marriage must be made honourably and amicably, and her rights must not be violated by threats such as to make her pay ransom money or to keep her locked up for a long time.

A further command on this subject comes in the following verse 232: "And when you have divorced women and they have reached their term, do not try to prevent them from remarrying their husbands if they have agreed together honourably!" The verse is said to have been sent down because of the violent behaviour of Ma'qil b. Yasar who wanted to prevent his sister from remarrying the husband who had divorced her.

Another topic in sura 2 is seldom discussed and is not strictly relevant to the present subject, but will be mentioned here because it gives another glimpse of social conditions in the Prophet Mohammad's time and the sort of inquiry that was referred to him. Verse 222 prohibits intercourse with menstruating women and continues: "When they have become pure, approach them from the direction that God prescribed for you!" According to the Tafsir ol-Jalalayn, this means the same direction from which they had been approached when not menstruating, but a different and almost contradictory meaning seems to be conveyed by the immediately following words in verse 223: "Your women are a field for you. Approach your field by whatever way you wish!" The Tafsir ol-Jalalayn gives the meaning of "by whatever way you wish" as either "standing, sitting, or lying, from the side, from the front, or from behind", and states that the purpose of the revelation is to dispel a Jewish notion that when the woman has been approached from behind, the child is born left-handed or squint eyed. In Soyuti's opinion, the words "from the direction that God prescribed for you" in verse 222 were abrogated {annulled} by verse 223, and the abrogation occurred after a protest by Omar and a number of the Prophet's other companions. The possessors of scripture (i.e. Jews and Christians) lay on their sides with their women, and the Prophet's Madinan supporters (Ansar) had adopted this custom, which was more in accord with the concept of female modesty and seclusion. The Moslem emigrants (Mohajenln) adhered to the customs of the Qorayshites and other Meccans, who liked to handle their women in different ways, such as throwing them onto their backs or their chests and approaching them from in front or from behind. When a Mohajer who had married a woman of the Ansar wished to handle her in this way, she refused, saying "We lie on our sides." The case was reported to the Prophet, and the verse giving discretion to men in this matter was sent down.

According to Ebn Hanbal and Termedhi 67 the meaning of the verse is "from in front or from behind, supine or prone", and its revelation took place after Omar had said to the Prophet one morning "I am done for", and in reply to the Prophet's question "How so?" had answered "I changed my approach last night but it did not work.”

It can be seen from the verses of the Qur'an and the teachings of Islam that the women had a very low status in ancient Arab society and were very cruelly treated by the men. For example, in verse 33 of sura 24 (on-Nur) owners of female slaves are forbidden to make pecuniary profit by hiring them out as prostitutes against their will: "And do not force your slave-girls into prostitution if they wish to keep themselves chaste, so that you may seek casual gain in this life below!" The verse is said to have been sent down because Abdollah b. Obayy engaged in the vile business. There is evidence that he was not the only offender and that this cruel exploitation of female slaves by forcing them into prostitution and pocketing their receipts was quite a big industry at the time.

After the Moslem conquest of Mecca, a large delegation of Meccan women went to the Prophet to swear allegiance and profess Islam. This was the occasion of the revelation of verse 12of sura 60 (ol-Momtahana), which made their admittance to Islam conditional on their belief and behaviour: “O Prophet, when believing women come to you swearing allegiance to you, (it must be) on condition that they shall not ascribe any partner to God, shall not steal, shall not engage in adultery and prostitution, shall not kill their children, shall not tell the slanderous tales which they invent about what is between their arms and their legs (i.e. make false allegations about the paternity of expected children), and shall not disobey you on any matter of right custom. Then accept their oaths of allegiance, and pray for God's forgiveness of them!”

The importance of these conditions for admittance into Islam is self-evident. Among the wrong customs which the women were to drop were lamentations such as wailing, tearing the collar, plucking the hair, and scratching the face.

After the revelation of the list of conditions, Hend b. Otba, the wife of Abu Sofyan and mother of the future caliph Mo'awiya, is reported to have said that free women of noble birth never engaged in adultery and prostitution.

One of the evil practices forbidden by Islamic teachings was female infanticide. In the words of verses 8 and 9 of sura 81 (ot-Takwir), "the infant girl who was buried alive, for what crime was she slain?”

The ancient Arabs valued sons and boasted of having them, but reckoned daughters to be an encumbrance and a disgrace. They were too ignorant to see that continuance of the human race depends on the birth of girls. Their attitude is vividly depicted in verses 60 and 61 of sura 16 (on-Nahl): "And when one of them receives news of (the birth of) a female (child), his face goes black as he chokes down his anger. He hides himself from people because of the badness of the news that has been given to him, (wondering) whether to keep it in disgrace or to bury it in the ground.“

Women and the Prophet

Ignaz Goldziher remarked that no other religion's scriptures and records contain anything like the frank and detailed information which the Qur’an, the Hadith, and the biographies give about the career and private life of Islam's founder. The remark is made appreciatively in Goldziher's valuable book Le dogme et la loi de 1'1slam, in the course of a chapter in which the historical and well documented fact of the Prophet Mohammad's growing appetite for women is mentioned. About the lives of Jesus and Moses, let alone Abraham and Noah, whatever information we possess is clouded by dusts of popular mythology and religious and racial prejudice. About the life of Mohammad, hundreds of reports which have not undergone tendentious deformation are available to us in Qur’anic verses, reliable Hadiths, and early biographies. The most important of these sources is the Qur’an, through which knowledge of many contemporary events can be obtained both directly, from certain verses, and indirectly, from the accounts of occasions of revelations given by commentators. The number of verses concerning the Prophet's private life is quite large.

All the commentators agree that verse 57 of sura 4 (on-Nesa) was sent down after the Jews had criticized Mohammad's appetite for women, alleging that he had nothing to do except to take wives. The verse says, "Or do they envy the people for what God in His bounty has given them? We gave scripture and wisdom to Abraham's descendants, and We gave them a great realm." The Jews were jealous of Mohammad for God's gifts of prophethood and many wives to him. The second sentence replies to their argument that a genuine prophet would not take so many wives, and obviously refers to the prophets David and Solomon, who were supposed to have had ninety nine wives and a harem of one thousand women respectively, but had not suffered any consequent loss of prophetic status. These suppositions, like other stories of the kings of the children of Israel, were of course embroidered with the exaggerations of fable.

European critics have viewed this appetite for women as excessive and irreconcilable with the spiritual role of a man who preached moderation and renunciation. Some have surmised that Mohammad's fondness for women prompted those elements of the Islamic legislation which improved women's status and rights.

Such objections lose weight when the matter is considered from a purely rational, and not emotional, viewpoint. Mohammad was a human, and no human is without weak points. The sexual appetite is a necessary human instinct and an important factor in any person's thinking and behaviour toward others; it is only reprehensible when it induces socially harmful behaviour. Otherwise there is no point in discussing merits and demerits, or strengths and weaknesses, of a person's private life. The ideas of Socrates radiated from Athens to all of Greece and to all of mankind; the question whether he led a perverted private life is irrelevant unless he thereby did harm to society. Adolf Hitler could be called chaste because he either lacked or had only a feeble sexual instinct, but instead he had pernicious notions which plunged the world into bloodshed and ruin.

The Prophet Mohammad saw himself as a human who had submitted to God and undertaken to rescue his people from the sink of idolatry. His fondness for women and his marriages to many wives did not impair the validity of his mission or infringe the rights of other persons. The actions and ideas of great leaders of communities should be assessed in the context of the social environment and by the criteria of their benefit to the community and to mankind. Seen in this light, the denial of intellectual and religious freedom to others, which results from giving them only the choice between acceptance of Islam and payment of tribute on humiliating terms, is much more open to question.

Moslems also have made misappraisals, but of a very different kind. In order to glorify Islam's founder, they have said and written things which contradict clear verses in the Qur’an and reports in the reliable early sources. The learned modern Egyptian author Mohammad Hosayn Haykal, who in his Life of Mohammad set out to examine matters with the methods of twentieth century scholarship, took such umbrage at the Western criticisms that in one chapter he even tried to defend the Prophet by denying that he had any great fondness for women at all. A passage from the chapter is quoted below:

"Mohammad had twenty years of conjugal life with Khadija and did not then desire to take another wife. . . . . . This was natural and inevitable. Khadija was a wealthy and distinguished woman who had married a poor, but hard-working and honest, employee. She had taken him into her house because, either by nature or by dint of his straitened circumstances, he was free from the frivolous and licentious proclivities of other Qorayshite youths. It was for these reasons that the mature and experienced Khadija devotedly cared for her husband, who was fifteen years younger than herself, and from her own resources helped him to achieve a prosperity in which he could forget his childhood experiences of hardship and dependence on his uncle. The peace and comfort of Khadija's house enabled him to ripen the thoughts which he had been nurturing for ten or twelve years. Khadija herself certainly concurred with his austere ideas, because as a cousin of Waraqa b. Nawfal she sympathized with ascetics (hanifs) 68 After Mohammad's appointment to the prophethood, she believed in the truth and divine inspiration of his vision, and became the first convert to Islam. Furthermore Khadija was the mother of the Prophet's four daughters, Zaynab, Roqayya, Omm Kolthum, and Fatema.69 In such a situation, how could Mohammad take another wife while Khadija was living? Only after her death did he proceed to ask for the hand of A'esha, and as A'esha was then a seven-year-old child, to marry Sawda, the widow of os-Sakran b. Amr." Haykal then states, in an evident attempt to absolve Mohammad of desire for women, that "Sawda possessed neither beauty nor wealth. The Prophet's marriage to her was an act of charity and helpfulness to the lonely widow of one of the Moslem emigrants to Abyssinia.”

Surely Haykal would have done better to write that the Prophet married Sawda because, being a mature person, she was well fitted to do his housekeeping and look after his four young daughters; though this theory is open to the objection that the Prophet first thought of A'esha, a child whom he could not marry until two years later because she was so young, and then married Sawda because he could not live without a wife- a reason which is in no way blameworthy. Perhaps a further reason was the lack of any other available women at that time, when the Qorayshites would have been unwilling to give a daughter to Mohammad and the Moslems probably did not have any marriageable daughters. The time was the period of two or three years in which the Prophet remained at Mecca after Khadija's death.

After the move to Madina, however, opportunities arose and the Prophet Mohammad's strong appetite for women found ample scope. This fact cannot be denied and is sufficiently demonstrated by the following more or less, complete list of his wives:

Prophet Muhammad's Wives

1 Khadija, daughter of Khowayled. She was a distinguished and wealthy woman, and Mohammad was her third husband. She bore him four daughters as well as two sons, named (ol-) Qasem and (ot- )Taher, both of whom died in infancy.

2 Sawda, daughter of Zam'a. She was the widow of a Meccan Moslem emigrant who had died in Abyssinia. M. H. Haykal's opinion that the Prophet married her out of compassion for a lonely Moslem widow has been discussed above.

3 A'esha, daughter of Abu Bakr os-Seddiq. She was seven years old when she was betrothed and nine years old when she was married to the Prophet, the gap between them being more than forty years. Her age when he died in 11 A.H./632 was sixteen or seventeen years. She was the Prophet's favourite wife. She was also one of the persons who learned the Qur’an by heart. She was considered an important source of information on words and deeds of the Prophet (Hadith) and customs of the Moslems (Sanna). After the assassination of Othman, she opposed the accession of Ali b. Abi Taleb to the caliphate and was one of the prime movers of the force which unsuccessfully challenged Ali at the battle of the camel in 36/656.

4 Omm Salama, the widow of a Meccan Moslem emigrant to Madina who had died of wounds suffered in the battle of Ohod.

5 Hafsa, daughter of Omar b. al-Khattab. She too was married to the Prophet after she had been left 3 widow. There is evidence that this marriage had a pragmatic aspect.

6 Zaynab, daughter of Jahsh and former wifeof the Prophet's adopted son Zayd b. Haretha. This marriage can be counted as one of the Prophet's love-matches. There is a long narrative poem about Zayd and Zaynab. The Prophet's affection and care for Zaynab were such as to make her a rival of A'esha.

7 Jowayriya, daughter of ol-Hareth b. Abi Derar, the chief of the Mostaleq tribe, and former wife of Mosafe' b. Safwan. She had been taken prisoner at the time of the defeat of the Banu'l- Mostaleq in 5A.H./627 and given to one of the Moslem warriors as his share of the booty. Her owner wanted to ransom her for a certain price, but she found the price too high and beyond her means. She therefore went to the Prophet's house to plead for his intercession to get the price lowered. What happened next has been told by A'esha: "Jowayriya was so beautiful and charming that anyone who caught sight of her was captivated. When I saw Jowayriya outside the door of my room, I felt worried because I was sure that God's Apostle would be carried awayas soon as his eye fell on her. And so he was. After she had gained admission to the Prophet's presence and made her plea, he said that he would do something better for her; he would pay for her ransom himself and then ask her to marry him. Jowayriya was pleased, and she consented. Asa result of her marriage to the Prophet, the Moslems freed many of the Mostaleq captives because they had become the Prophet's brothers and sisters in law. I can think of no other woman who did so much good and caused so many blessings for her own kinsfolk.”

8 Omm Habiba, daughter of Abu Sofyan. She had been left a widow when her first husband Obaydollah b. Jahsh died in Abyssinia.

9 Safiya, daughter of Hoyayy b. Akhtab and former wife of Kenana b. Abi Rabi', one of the leaders of the Jews at Khaybar. After being taken prisoner, she was selected by the Prophet as his share of the booty. He married her on the eve of his return from Khaybar to Madina.

10 Maymuna, daughter of ol-Hareth of the Helal tribe. One sister of hers was married to Abu Sofyan, and another to Abbas b. Abd ol-Mottaleb. Maymuna was the maternal aunt of Khaled b. ol-Walid (the future conqueror of Syria); reportedly it was after her marriage to the Prophet that Khaled walked into the Moslem camp and professed Islam, and the Prophet made a gift of horses to Khaled.

11 Fatema, daughter of Shorayh.

12 Hend, daughter of Yazid.

13 Asma, daughter of Saba.

14 Zaynab, daughter of Khozayma.

15 Habla, daughter of Qays and sister of ol-Ash'ath b. Qays (a South Arabian chief, subsequently prominent in the conquest of Iran).70

16 Asma, daughter of No' man. The Prophet did not consummate this marriage.

17 Fatema, daughter of od-Dahhak. This marriage was also left unconsummated.

18 Mariya the Copt, a slave-girl who was sent from Egypt as a gift to the Prophet. 71She bore him a son, Ebrahim, who died in infancy.

19 Rayhana, like Mariya the Copt, fell into the Qur’anic category of "those whom your right hands have acquired", i.e. she was a slave-girl with whom contractual marriage was unnecessary but concubinage was permissible. She was one of the captives from the Jewish Banu Qorayza and the Prophet's share of the booty taken from that tribe. She was unwilling to profess Islam and enter into a contractual marriage with the Prophet, preferring to retain the status of a slave in his house.

20 Omm Sharik, of the Daws tribe, was one of four women who gave themselves to the Prophet.

In addition to contractual wives and concubines, there were some women in the Prophet's harem who fell into this third category. Marriage to contractual wives, up to the limit of four, requires formalities such as the provision of dower, the presence of witnesses, and the approval of the woman's father or other guardian. Concubinage with slave-women is permissible to Moslems if the woman's husband was a polytheist or other unbeliever. For the Prophet only, marriage to a woman who gave herself was permitted by the last part of verse 49 of sura 33 (ol-Ahztib). The other three women who gave themselves to the Prophet were Maymuna, Zaynab, and Khawla.

Omm Sharik's gift of herself disturbed A'esha, because Omm Sharik was so beautiful that the Prophet immediately accepted the gift. In extreme jealousy and indignation, A'esha reportedly said, "I wonder what a woman who gives herself to a man is worth.” The incident is cited as the occasion of the revelation of the last part of verse 49, which sanctioned Omm Sharik's gift and the Prophet's acceptance. On hearing this, A'esha was reportedly so impertinent as to say, "I see that your Lord is quick to grant your wishes. “

Another well authenticated report, quoted by the "Two Shaykhs" Jalal od-Din ol-Mahalli and Jalal od-Din os-Soyuti) in the Tafsir ol-Jalalayn, gives a different version of A'esha's row with the Prophet. According to this, it was after the affair of Omm Sharik and the revelation of verse 49 that A'esha indignantly said, "I wonder what a woman who gives herself to a man is worth.” Verse 51 was then sent down to rebuke her, and it was after the revelation of verse 51 that she made her remark about the Lord's quickness to grant the Prophet's wishes.

Verse 49 of sura 33 defines the Prophet's rights in the acquisition of wives and concubines: “O Prophet, We have made lawful for you your wives to whom you have paid their rewards, those whom your right hand has acquired out of the booty which God gave you, daughters of your paternal uncles and aunts and daughters of your maternal uncles and aunts who emigrated with you, and (any) female believer if she gives herself to the Prophet (and) if the Prophet wishes to enter into marriage with her - for you only, not for (other) believers.”

Verse 50 continues: "We know well what duties We have imposed on them in the matter of their wives and those whom their right hands have acquired. (This exemption is) in order that no blame shall fall on you. And God is forgiving, merciful.”

A'esha's protest against the last part of verse 49 brought down the warning in verse 51, which sets forth, or rather sets no limits on, the Prophet's powers over his wives, depriving them of any sort of right or redress against him: "You may postpone (the turns) of whomsoever of them you will, and you may take to bed whomsoever you will. And if you want (back) any of those whom you have laid off, it will not be a sin (held) against you. That is more likely to make them happy, not sad, and to make all of them content with what you give them. God knows what is in your hearts, and God is knowing, forbearing.”

Zamakhshari, in his Qur’an-commentary entitled ol-Kashshaf, explains the revelation of verse 51 as follows. The Prophet's wives, who were jealous rivals of each other, began to demand higher subsistence allowances. (This was after the massacre of the men of the Qorayza tribe, when the Moslems had acquired much booty and the Prophet's wives naturally hoped that part of his one fifth share of this booty might be spent on them). According to A'esha's account, which Zamakhshari quotes, the Prophet then boycotted his wives for one month until the revelation of verse 5I gave him a free hand in his relations with them. The wives became apprehensive and asked him to give them whatever personal attention and financial help he pleased.

This means that the wives acknowledged the Prophet's absolute discretion to deal with each of them in any way that he might choose. Zamakhshari in his detailed study interprets verse 5I as giving the Prophet freedom to approach, shun, retain, or divorce each or all of his wives and to marry other women of his community whenever he pleased. Furthermore, according to a statement by Hasan b. Ali which Zamakhshari quotes, if the Prophet wanted a woman's hand, no other man would have the right to pay court to that woman unless the Prophet changed his mind. Zamakhshari adds that at that time the Prophet had nine wives and was not taking turns regularly or at all with five of them, namely Sawda, Jowayriya, Safiya, Maymuna, and Omm Habiba, but was granting favour and regular turns to the other four, namely A'esha, Hafsa, Omm Salama, and Zaynab. A'esha is again quoted as saying, "There were few days when the Prophet did not call on each of us, but he showed special consideration to the one whose turn had come and with whom he would be spending the night. Sawda b. Zam'a feared that the Prophet might divorce her and therefore said to him, 'Do not keep my turn! I have given up hope of conjugal relations with you, and I cede my night to A'esha. But do not divorce me, because I would like to be counted as a wife of yours on the Judgement Day!'“

The point of the last part of verse 51 is that deprivation of conjugal rights would make the Prophet's wives happier. Even though the divine command had endowed him with absolute discretion and deprived them of any right to claim their due from him, the new dispensation was better for them because it would end their rivalry and make them contented in future.

Perhaps it was to soothe the hurt feelings and wounded pride of the wives that verse 52 of sura 33 was sent down, as the words certainly seem to be a message of consolation and reassurance to them: "It is not permissible for you (to marry) women hereafter, nor to replace them with (other) wives even if their beauty pleases you, with the exception of those whom your right hand has acquired. And God is watchful over everything.”

This verse presents a problem, because in the words of A'esha, which every Hadith compiler quotes and deems authentic, "the Prophet did not die without all his wives being permissible for him" (i.e. all his marriages were permissible for him). In Zamakhshari's opinion, A'esha's words show that verse 52 was abrogated by custom and by verse 49 (“O Prophet, We have made lawful for you. . . . . . "). But an abrogating verse ought to come after the abrogated one. Nevertheless Soyuti, in his treatise on Qur’anic problems entitled ol-Etqan, maintains that in this case the earlier verse abrogated the later one.

When the Prophet's marital privileges, specified in numerous verses of sura 33, are added up, their astonishing range becomes apparent. He could have more than four wives, the maximum allowed to other believers; he was permitted to marry first cousins who had emigrated to Madina with him; he could take as a wife, without payment of dower and presence of witnesses, any female believer who gave herself to him; he was exempt from the obligation of respect for the equal rights of co-wives; he might postpone or terminate the turns of any of his wives; if he sought a woman's hand, any other suitor must desist; and after his death, no other men might marry his widows. Moreover the Prophet's wives had no right to demand higher subsistence allowances.

In contrast with the privileges and freedoms given to the Prophet, exceptional restrictions were imposed on his wives. They were not like other women; they must not let themselves be seen by the people; they must speak to men from behind curtains; they must abstain from wearing ornaments customary in pagan times; they must be content with whatever subsistence allowances might be granted to them; they must not complain if their turns were not kept; and they must never remarry. The last sentence of verse 53, which is addressed to male believers, states categorically: "It would not be (right) for you to offend God's Apostle by marrying his wives after him at any future time. That would be an enormity in God's sight." In the Talmud there is a similar ban on remarriage of widows of Jewish kings.

Abdolah b. ol-Abbas72 is reported to have said that a man went to see one of the Prophet's wives, and the Prophet ordered him not to do so again. The man protested that she was the daughter of his paternal uncle and that he and she had no wrong intentions. The Prophet replied, "I am well aware of that, but there are none so jealous as the Lord and myself." The man took umbrage and walked out, muttering "He forbids me to speak to my cousin. Anyway I shall marry her after his death." It was then that the revelation of verse 53 of sura 33 took place.

A point which should be borne in mind is that at no time were all the prophet's twenty wives living together in his harem. The loss of his revered first wife, Khadija, has already been mentioned. At least one of his later wives, Zaynab b. Khozayma, died in his lifetime, and so too did his slave-concubine Rayhana. He did not consummate two of his marriages. At the time of his death he did not have more than nine contractual wives.

Two rival factions arose among the Prophet's wives: on one side A'esha, Hafsa, Sawda, and Safiya, on the other side Zaynab b. Jahsh, Omm Salama, and three more.

Some of the wives were involved in incidents which have entered into Islamic history and literature. Best known is the story of the lie concerning A'esha and Safwan b. ol-Mo'attal.

After the Moslem raid on the tribe of the Banu'l-Mostaleq in 5 A.H./627, a quarrel between one of Omar's servants and a Khazrajite from Madina broke out. Abdollah b. Obayy, the Khazrajite chief notorious in early Islamic history as leader of the hypocrites, took offence and said to his people, "We brought this misfortune (i.e. the presence of the Meccan Mohajerun) onto our own heads. The saying that if you feed a dog it will bite you is true of us. Let us return to Yathreb, where the majority of the people are our friends, and throw out this unwelcome minority!" The Prophet heard about this utterance and hurried back with his caravan to Madina to forestall any agitation or intrigue that Abdollah b. Obayy might launch. He rode continually, with few halts on the way for rest. A'esha had been chosen by lot to accompany the Prophet on this raid. During a halt on the return journey, she walked into the desert to perform a natural function and then noticed that she had lost her beads. She searched and found them, but missed the caravan. The camel carrying her howdah {a seat or covered pavilion on the back of an elephant or camel} had departed with the other camels. Thus A'esha was left alone in the desert, until Safwan b. ol-Mo'attal, who had been instructed to follow the caravan and collect any things that might be dropped, rode up and saw her. He mounted her behind himself on his camel and brought her to Madina. The adventure could not be hushed up. When Hamna, the sister of Zaynab b. Jahsh who was A'esha's rival, heard about it, she seized the opportunity to harm A'esha and accused her of adultery with Safwan. The famous poet Hassan b. Thabet and a Mohajer named Mestah b. Othatha added their voices to Hammi's, and the disaffected Abdollah b. Obayy was not slow to spread the rumour around the town. The circumstances were certainly not favourable for A'esha. After accompanying the Prophet on the raid, this very young and beautiful girl found herself up against two new and equally beautiful rivals, Zaynab b. Jahsh, whom the Prophet had recently been empowered by special Qur’anic revelation to marry, and Jowayriya b. ol-Hareth, the former wife of a Mostaleq tribes” man named Mosafe', who as already mentioned had been taken prisoner in the raid and was married to the Prophet not long afterward when he ransomed her from her captor for four hundred derhams.

It is of course possible that A'esha's womanly feelings had been so hurt and incensed by the appearance of a rival that she deliberately either sinned or staged the adventure as a warning to her husband. Certainly there is difficulty in believing that when her howdah was lifted onto the camel, nobody noticed that it was too light. Several more questions also spring to the mind. Why did not Mohammad, who was so fond of A'esha, ask whether she was all right before the caravan set off? How could A'esha have been so unaware of the departure preparations of several hundred Moslem warriors that she failed to get herself back to the caravan on time and was left stranded in the desert until Safwan found her? Although Safwan's task was to ride some way behind when the caravan was in motion, would not he have caught up with it when it next had to halt to rest the men and the animals? The story of Safwan's sudden appearance and rescue of A'esha quite a long time after the caravan's departure does not seem true to fact and logically coherent. Prima facie the evidence suggests that A'esha stayed behind in collusion with Safwan.

Malicious gossip began on the morning when Safwan rode into Madina with A'esha at his back, and became more and more scurrilous as it spread through the town. Since Madina was such a small place that even the most trivial matters quickly became common knowledge, the question arises whether credence can be given to the statement that no mention of this dangerous gossip reached A'esha's ear for twenty days, and that when it did, she fell ill. She may, of course, have feigned sickness. As a result of her indisposition, she was allowed to return to her father's house. The natural inference is that she had really known about the gossip from the start, and that she only feigned sickness and went back to her father when the Prophet had heard about the gossip and shown signs of aloofness and estrangement from her.

Yet despite all the outward appearances and unfavourable circumstances, A'esha's innocence is by no means improbable. The whole incident can arguably be taken for a childish and feminine charade. This seems all the more likely because Safwan b. ol- Mo'attal is said to have been a notorious misogynist.

In any case, reports of the rumours spreading among the people greatly distressed the Prophet and prompted him to consult two of his confidants, Osama b. Zayd and Ali b. Abi Taleb. Osama held for certain that A'esha was innocent and, being Abu Bakr's daughter, would never have stooped to any impropriety.

Ali, on the other hand, argued that there was no shortage of women for the Prophet to marry, and that the truth about the affair could probably be obtained from A'esha's maid. Afterwards Ali gave the unfortunate maid a beating to make her disclose the truth, but she knew nothing and swore that A'esha was innocent.

The Prophet, however, was still nagged by doubts. He therefore went himself to interrogate A'esha at Abu Bakr's house, where he encountered scenes of weeping and protestations of innocence. While he was there, an inspirational trance came over him. They wrapped him up and put a leather pillow under his head. He perspired so much that sweat poured from underneath his cloak. After a while he recovered, and sura 24 (on-Nur) was revealed. This sura begins with a lengthy section (almost the whole of verses 2- 26) about penalties for adultery and false accusations of adultery and about the story of the lie. It exculpates {absolve, exonerate} A'esha.

Zamakhshari remarks that no other subject in the Qur’an is pursued with such intensity. Verse 23 of the sura is the best example: "Those who cast aspersions on careless but believing married women will be accursed in this lower world and in the after-life. And they will get great torment.”

The affair of the lie was concluded with the punishment of three of the scandal-mongers, namely Hamna, Hassan b. Thabet, and Mestah b. Othatha. They were punished with floggings (of eighty stripes) as enacted by verse 4 of sura 24. The penalty was applied retrospectively, because it had not been enacted at the time when they committed the offence.

Also recorded in the biographies and echoed in Qur’anic verses are the Prophet's enamorment and marriage to Zaynab b. Jahsh, the wife of Zayd b. Haretha who was his adopted son.

Zayd had been an enslaved captive, and Khadija had bought him and presented him to Mohammad. Later the Prophet freed him and, in accordance with a contemporary Arab practice, adopted him as a son. In pre-Islamic Arab custom, exactly the same rights and restrictions pertained to an adopted son as to a natural son, for instance with respect to inheritance and to kindred and affinity disqualifications in marriage. The Moslems maintained the old practices until they were prohibited by the revelation of verses 4-6 of sura 33 (ol-Ahzab). On this subject, Abdolhih b. Omar73 is reported to have said: "We who were close to the Prophet used to speak of Zayd as Zay d ben Mohammad. He was not only the Prophet's son, but also one of his most devoted and steadfast companions.”

Zaynab's mother was Omayma, daughter of Abd ol-Mottaleb, and Zaynab was thus the daughter of Mohammad's paternal aunt. It was the Prophet himself who requested that she should be given in marriage to Zayd. At first she and her brother Abdollah were reluctant to agree, because Zayd was a freed slave, but they withdrew their objection when verse 36 of sura 33 (ol-Ahzab) was sent down: "When God and His Apostle have decided a matter, neither a believing man nor a believing woman has any choice in their matter. Anyone who disobeys God and His Apostle is in manifest error." After this revelation, Zaynab was given in marriage toZayd.

The Prophet's love for Zaynab arose later, and the time and circumstances of its incidence are diversely reported. The account in the Ta/sir ol-J alalayn suggests that his attitude began to change soon after her marriage to Zayd: "After a time (probably meaning a short time) his eye fell on her, and love for Zaynab budded in his heart. “

Zamakhshari, in his comment on verse 37 of sura 33, states that it was after Zaynab's marriage to Zayd that the Prophet's eye fell on her. She pleased him so much that he could not help saying, "Praise be to God who makes hearts beat!" The Prophet had seen Zaynab before, but she had not then pleased him; otherwise he would have asked for her hand. Zaynab heard the Prophet's exclamation and told Zayd about it. Zayd knew intuitively that God had cast an unease with Zaynab into his heart. He therefore went in haste to the Prophet and asked whether he might divorce his wife. The Prophet asked what had happened and whether he suspected her. Zayd replied that he had met with nothing but kindness from her, but was distressed because she considered her nobler than himself and more suitable for the Prophet. It was then that the words "Keep your wife for yourself and fear God" in verse 37 came down.

This meaningful verse is an impressive example of the Prophet Mohammad's honesty and candour. A translation of the whole of it is given below:

"When you were saying to the person whom God had helped and you had helped, 'Keep your wife for yourself and fear God', you were concealing something in your heart that God always discloses and were fearing the people, whereas it is God whom you should rightly fear. Now that Zayd has fulfilled a wish concerning her, We make her your wife so that there shall be no impediment for believers with respect to wives of their adopted sons, provided that they (i.e. the adopted sons) shall have fulfilled a wish concerning them (i.e. shall have divorced them). And what God has commanded must be done.”

The verse is sufficiently clear and does not need exegesis. The Prophet had taken a liking to Zaynab, but when Zayd had come to ask him for permission to divorce her, he had advised Zayd not to do so but to keep her. In giving this advice to Zayd, he had concealed his inner wish. But God told him that he had suppressed his inner wish for Zaynab's divorce because he feared that the people would speak ill of him, whereas he ought to fear God alone. When in spite of his advice, Zayd finalized the divorce, God authorized him to marry Zaynab so that the Moslems should no longer be debarred from marrying former wives of their adopted sons.

While the Prophet's change of attitude and amorous feeling toward Zaynab had probably started at the ceremony of her marriage to Zayd, the fact that Zayd went to ask for the Prophet's approval of her divorce on the ground of her estrangement suggests that Zayd and Zaynab had lived together in a normal conjugal relationship for some time, even if not for very long. In that case, the sequence of events given by Zamakhshari may be visualized as follows: the Prophet's exclamation "Praise be to God who makes hearts beat" occurred immediately after his glimpse of Zaynab at her marriage ceremony; the hearing of these words and perhaps the sight of a glint in Mohammad's eye made her aware of the true nature of his feelings; this awareness kindled in her mind an ambition to catch Mohammad and become the wife of the most eminent man of the Qoraysh tribe; with this motive, and on the pretext that she had never desired to be married to Zayd, she began to behave coldly toward Zayd, going so far as to boast of her more noble origin and even of the Prophet's feelings for her; Zayd, in his devotion to his patron and liberator, then decided to release her, and notwithstanding contrary advice proceeded with the divorce.

The unknown author of the Cambridge Tafsir74gives a different account: "One day when God's Apostle, blessings be upon him, went to Zaynab's house to look for Zayd, he saw Zaynab standing by a bowl in which she was pounding a fragrant perfume. She pleased him, and a wish that she might be his wife arose in his heart. When Zaynab saw the Prophet, she laid her hand on him. Then the Prophet said, 'Grace and beauty! O Zaynab, praise be to God who makes hearts beat!'  He said this twice and went away. When Zayd arrived, she told him what had happened and said, 'You cannot have me any more. Go and ask for permission to divorce me!' Zayd then took such a dislike to Zaynab that he could not bear to see her face. After the finalization of the divorce, the Prophet requested Zayd to go and tell Zaynab that God on High had given her to him as a wife. Zayd went to Zaynab's door and knocked. She asked what he wanted of her now that he had divorced her. He answered that he had brought a message from God's Apostle. Zaynab said All hail to God's Apostle' and opened the door. Zayd walked in, and she wept. Zayd said, 'It is not a time for tears. God has given you a better husband than I was.' She answered, 'Never mind about you! Who is that husband?' He told her that it was God's Apostle, and she bowed to the ground in prayer. “

This account accords with another report according to which Zayd said: "I went to Zaynab's abode and found her kneading dough. Since I knew that she was soon to become a wife of the Prophet, my reverence for him did not permit me to look her in the face. I kept my back turned to her while I gave her the news that the Prophet was seeking her hand.”

According to the Tafsir ol-Jaltilayn, the Prophet counted the days, and as soon as the waiting period before the divorced Zaynab could be remarried was over, went without any prior ceremony to her house where a sheep was killed and a wedding feast was prepared. The feast and the distribUtion of bread and meat to the people went on long into the night.

Both Omar and A'esha are reported to have said that verse 37 of the Sural ol-Azhab gives proof of the Prophet's honesty and truthfulness. A'esha said that if the Prophet had been disposed to conceal things, his inner feelings for Zaynab would not have been mentioned in the Qur’an (i.e. the words "you were concealing something in your heart that God always discloses" would not have been revealed).

Not only verse 37 of sura 33, but also many other Qur’anic verses, give proof of the Prophet's honesty and truthfulness. Mohammad was not afraid to admit his human weakness. This fact, however, has never been appreciated by Moslem zealots wanting to be more royalist than the king and hungering for miracles with an avidity which has been described in an earlier chapter. Notwithstanding the clear evidence of the Hadith and the clear meaning of verse 37, the great early scholar Tabari could not accept that the subject of the verb in the sentence "you were concealing something in your heart" is Mohammad; he therefore argues that the sentence is addressed to Zayd and that it was Zayd who was concealing something in his heart. To justify this baseless interpretation, Tabari alleges that "Zayd had a disease which he was concealing, and because of that disease he decided to divorce Zaynab, his motive being to keep the illness from public knowledge. 76

The modern biographer, Mohammad Hosayn Haykal, is another writer more royalist than the king, or in the Persian phrase, "a nurse more caring than the absent mother". In his Life of Mohammad, he states:

"Zaynab was the daughter of the Prophet's paternal aunt. He had seen her before and felt no desire to marry her. He therefore urged Zayd not to divorce his wife. But Zayd disregarded his patron's advice and did divorce his wife. The Prophet then married Zaynab in order to break pagan Arab custom in the matter of consequences of adoption by showing the believers that marriage to wives of their adopted sons was permissible. That was the only reason why he married Zaynab and probably why he went to her house for the wedding feast so soon after the end of her waiting period.”

Mohammad Hosayn Haykal thinks that most of the Prophet's marriages were political or for the good of his religious cause. In support of this view he quotes a report about the Prophet's marriage to Hafsa, the daughter of Omar b. ol-Khattab:

"One day Omar was discussing a matter with his wife. She was very argumentative and cantankerous. He grew angry and said, 'Women are not fit to discuss life's affairs with men and to have opinions of their own.' His wife replied, 'Your daughter sometimes argues with God's Apostle so much that the Apostle is left angry for the rest of the day.' After hearing his wife say this, Omar went straightaway to Hafsa's house to question her. He told her to beware of God's punishment and the Prophet's wrath, and added, 'Do not worry about this young girl (meaning A'esha) who is so proud of her beauty and of the Prophet's fondness for her! The Prophet married you because of me, not because he loves you.'“

Obviously some of the Prophet's marriages were contracted for the purpose of establishing bonds of kinship which would strengthen the cause of Islam. In Haykal's view, this purpose determined the Prophet's choice of Ali and Othman to be his sons-in-law. It is well known that Khaled b. ol-Walid accepted Islam when the Prophet, on his visit to Mecca in 7 A.H./629 to perform the lesser pilgrimage, married his last wife Maymuna, who was Khaled's maternal aunt and a sister of the wives of the Prophet's uncles Abbas and Hamza b. Abd ol-Mottaleb.

Another conjugal matter which must be mentioned, because it caused a stir at the time and is the subject of Qur'anic verses, is the Prophet's boycott of Mariya the Copt. One day Mariya went to see the Prophet at Hafsa's house. Hafsa was not at home. He took Mariya into the bedroom and lay down with her. Hafsa came back. In great indignation she shouted at him, "Why are you lying with your slave-girl on my bed?" In order to placate Hafsa, the Prophet swore that he would never touch Mariya again. When the storm abated, and perhaps because he was fond of Mariya or affected by her hurt feelings and complaints about the interdict, he changed his mind. His conduct was justified by the revelation of the first five verses of sura 66 (ot-Tahrim):

“O Prophet, why do you lay an interdict on something that God has made permissible for you, seeking to placate your wives? God is forgiving, merciful." (Verse 1)

"God has imposed on you people the duty of making amends to expiate your oaths. And God is your protector. He is knowing, wise." (Verse 2)

This is evidently a reference to verse 91 of sura5 (ol-Ma'eda), which authorizes expiation of ill-considered oaths through compensatory good deeds such as feeding or clothing ten poor persons, freeing a slave, or fasting for three days. According to one account, which is attributed to Moqatel b. Solayman77 the Prophet expiated his oath about Madya by manumitting a slave, but Hasan b. Ali is reported to have said that the words "God is forgiving, merciful" in verse 1 mean that God forgave the Prophet.

"When the Prophet said something secret to one of his wives, and when she talked about it and God informed him thereof, he made part of it known and refrained from (making known) part of it. And when he spoke to her about it, she asked, 'Who told you this?' He answered, 'The One who knows all and is informed of everything told me.'" (Verse 3)

What had happened was evidently as follows. The Prophet had let Hafsa know in strict confidence that he undertook to have no more relations with Madya, and had asked Hafsa not to tell anyone else; but Hafsa told A'esha, and God informed the Prophet that she had done so. He then spoke to Hafsa, mentioning part of what he had been informed but refraining from mention of part of it. Hafsa, thinking that A'esha had told the Prophet, asked him how he knew, and he answered that God had told him.

Every reader of the Qur’an must be amazed to encounter these private matters in a scripture and moral code valid for all mankind and for all time.

Even more amazing are the explanations given by the Qur’an commentators. One example is the following statement in the Cambridge Tafsir: "When Hafsa told A'esha about the Prophet's secret and when God informed His Apostle that Hafsa had told his secret to A'esha, the Prophet reminded Hafsa of part of what she had said to A'esha.”

Is such women's talk, which may occur at any time and in any corner of the world, a fit matter for inclusion in the text of the Qur’an? Do not the commentators degrade God, the Creator of the Universe, to the level of a tale-bearer reporting on Hafsa's conversation with A'esha? In any case, the subject of the first three verses of the Sural ol-Tahrim is a commonplace dispute between a husband and a wife.

The next two verses give warnings to Hafsa and A'esha. If they persisted in grumbling and showing wifely jealousy, they would incur the Prophet's displeasure. God was the Prophet's protector, and the Prophet could in the last resort divorce them.

"If you two women repent to God, and your hearts have indeed become (so) inclined, (all will be well). If you support each other against him (i.e. against the Prophet), God is his protector. And Gabriel, and the righteous among the believers, and the angels are his supporters as well." (Verse 4)

"Maybe if he divorces you, his Lord will give him better wives than you instead - women who are Moslem, believing, submissive, penitent, devout and ready to fast, widows or divorcees, and virgins." (Verse 5)

Although both the meaning and the occasion of the revelation of this verse are clear, commentators have tried to explain it in ways which can only make the reader smile at their naivety. According to the Cambridge Tafsir, the word lhayyebal (widows or divorcees) refers to Pharaoh's wife Asiya, and the word virgins (abkar) refers to Jesus's mother Mary, both of whom are waiting to be married to the Prophet Mohammad in heaven.

A quite different account of the occasion of the revelation of the first five verses of sura 66 should perhaps also be mentioned. According to it, the Prophet had eaten some honey at Zaynab's house, and after he had left, A'esha and Hafsa, being jealous of Zaynab, said to him, "Your breath smells bad." On hearing this, the prophet swore that he would never eat honey again. Afterwards (presumably after he had regretted his oath), the verse of rebuke (Le. verse 1) in the Sural ol-Tahrim was sent down, and then the principle of compensatory expiation for breach of an oath was instituted and the Prophet's wives were threatened with divorce in the event of persistence in their jealousy and rivalry. This report is unlikely, however, to be an authentic Hadith because it omits the matter of Hafsa's knowledge and disclosure of the Prophet's secret. Continued next page

Chapter I: Muhammad
Chapter II: Religion of Islam
Chapter III: Politics
Chapter IV: Metaphysics
Chapter V: After Muhammad
Chapter VI: Summary
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