The Wisdom of God’s Messenger
In solving problems, you may resort to force and terror, or apply sanctions or punishments like exile, imprisonment or depriving the guilty of their rights of citizenship, or torture people, or spy into their affairs. However, none of these ways is of much use in the long term; rather, they will bring about a vicious circle, in which the more you struggle to solve problems by such means, the more you entangle yourself in them.
However, God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, solved all problems so skilfully and easily that no one disagreed with the issue of his decisions. Although he was sent to a people by nature and habit quarrelsome, ignorant, wild and rebellious, and sent with a mission so grave as 'to rend mountains asunder' – If We had sent down this Qur'an onto a mountain, you would have seen it humbled and rent asunder out of fear of God (al-Hashr, 59.21) – he made them into a harmonious community of peace, happiness, knowledge and good morals. Reflect closely upon the utopias imagined in the West, such as The Republic (Plato), Utopia (Thomas More), and Civitas Solis (T. Campanella), you will see that, in essence, they dreamed of the ideal society of Madina in the time of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. Mankind have not since then witnessed the equal of that society. However, if they desire to live a happy and peaceful life based on good morals and universal values such as love, mutual respect, compassion, and altruism, they have no way other than to follow the example of God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings.
We described in the first volume of The Infinite Light 1 (pp.143–4), how he prevented, through his wisdom, an imminent war between the clans of the Quraysh during the reconstruction of the Ka'ba. Each clan had claimed the honour of putting the sacred Black Stone in its place. However, the future Prophet of Islam spread his mantle on a piece of cloth on the ground and, putting the stone on it, invited the chieftains of the four major clans of the Quraysh involved in the rebuilding of the Ka'ba to each take one corner of the cloth. When the cloth with the Black Stone had been raised level with the spot where it was to be placed, he took the stone and placed it firmly in position. It was an ingenious plan and provided yet another proof of his wisdom or gift for problem-solving.
We also saw in the same book how he prevented a possible moment of sedition after the Battle of Hunayn. Also, he skilfully suppressed an impending conflict between a group of Emigrants and some of the Helpers during the return from the military campaign against the Banu Mustaliq. An internal clash nearly broke out when the army halted by the side of a well. When informed of the matter, God's Messenger immediately gave the order to march and nipped an imminent clash in the bud.
Emigration to Madina marks a turning point in the life of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, as well as in the history of Islam. Belief, emigration and holy struggle are the three pillars of a single, sacred truth. They are the three taps of a fountain from which the water of life flows for the soldiers of truth to drink from, so that they may convey their message without being wearied and, when the opposition is too formidable to overcome, set out for a new land without regard for their home, property and family. The Prophet's emigration to Madina is so significant in the history of Islam and so sanctified that the virtuous men and women around him were praised by God as the Emigrants, and those who welcomed them so warmly to Madina as the Helpers. In addition, the beginning of the era of this religious community was marked, not by the birth of the Prophet or by the first Revelation or such victories as Badr or the conquest of Makka, but by the emigration to Madina.
Despite its significance, emigration is, of course, not an easy thing to achieve. When the believers came to Madina to settle after years of persecution in Makka, they had neither any provisions with which to manage their families, nor any houses to live in. Moreover, some of them were extremely poor, and the others, who had earned their lives by trade, were left with no capital. The Muslims of Madina were mostly farmers, and the commercial life of the city was thoroughly controlled by the Jewish community. Another problem worthy of note is that the people of Madina had decided to make 'Abd Allah ibn Ubayy ibn Salul their chief, just before the arrival of God's Messenger. The settlement of the Messenger brought this plan, and the hopes of Ibn Ubayy ibn Salul, to nothing, and he consequently became a bitter enemy of God's Messenger and, as chief of the hypocrites, never refrained from making conspiracies to ruin him. In addition, the Makkan polytheists would certainly not leave the Prophet to himself in Madina; they had contacted Ibn Ubayy ibn Salul in order to prevent the spread of Islam in Madina. Ibn Ubayy sent them the news: It is not something to fear that he spreads his religion here. The main danger lies in the possibility that he may ally with the Christians and Jews against paganism. That is the real threat to you.
After he settled in Madina, God's Messenger ordered the building of a mosque, and himself took part in the work of building. The importance of the mosque for the collective life of Muslims is unquestionable. They come together there five times a day and, in the Presence of God, their Lord, Creator and Sustainer, they increase in belief and submission to their Lord, to the Prophet and to their religion, and strengthen their solidarity. Especially in the first centuries of Islam, mosques functioned, as well as being places of worship, as centres of learning. The Mosque of the Prophet in Madina was, in the time of the Prophet himself and his immediate successors, the centre of government as well.
Immediately after his settlement in Madina, God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, established brotherhood between Muslims, particularly between the Emigrants and the Helpers. They loved each other and were very close to each other. For example, Sa'd ibn Rabi' took his emigrant brother Abd al-Rahman ibn Awf to his house and said: Brother, you have left everything you have in Makka. So, this house, with everything in it, belongs to both of us. Besides, you do not have a wife here, while I have two. Whichever of them you like, I'll divorce her, so that you may marry her.
Abd al-Rahman ibn Awf answered him in tears: Brother, may God bless you with your wife! Please show me to the city bazaar so that I may do some business. (1)
The brotherhood between the Emigrants and the Helpers was so deep, so sincere and so strong that the Helpers shared everything they had with their emigrant brothers. This lasted for some time. However, when the Emigrants were accustomed to their new environment, one day they came to God's Messenger and said:
O Messenger of God! We emigrated here purely for the sake of God. But, our Helper brothers concern us to the extent that we are afraid we will consume up here in the world the reward of our good deeds, which we expect to get in the Hereafter. Also, we feel much indebted to them. Please, ask our brothers to allow us to earn our living ourselves.
God's Messenger sent for the Helpers and told them of the situation. The Helpers unanimously objected to the offer of the Emigrants, it was unbearable to them to be separated from their brothers. In the end, in order to save the Emigrants from the feeling of indebtedness, the Helpers agreed that the Emigrants would work in the Helpers' fields and gardens in return for wages until they could build their own houses. (2)
As a second step in solving the immediate problems which appeared after the Hijra, God's Messenger signed a pact with the Jewish community in Madina. According to this pact, which some scholars describe as a first constitution of the city-state of Madina, the Muslims and Jews were confederated as two separate, independent communities. (3) Since, however, God's Messenger had the initiative in making this pact and acted as an arbiter in all disputes and disagreements, the new city-state of Madina was under the overall control of the Muslims.
In order to guarantee the security of this state on the part of the Muslims, God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, ordered the establishment of a new bazaar. Until then the economic life of Madina had been under the control of the Jewish community. Shortly after the establishment of the new bazaar, Jewish domination of the economic life of the city declined as the Jews no longer monopolized commerce in the city.
No sooner had the Muslim community of Madina begun to become established and grow in strength than they had to respond to attacks from inside and outside. After the victory of Badr against the Makkan polytheists, the Muslims met them again, this time, at the foot of Mount Uhud. The easy victory won by the Muslims at the beginning of the battle was unfortunately followed by a reverse due to some neglect on the part of the archers. Seventy Muslims were martyred and the Messenger himself was wounded. The Muslim army took shelter on the mountain and were prepared to counter any further attack by the enemy. However, lacking enough courage for a further attack, the enemy forces left the battlefield for Makka. Nevertheless, they changed their mind half-away and again decided to march upon Madina. Informed of this decision, God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, gave the order to assemble and mobilize. A single order of his sufficed for the Companions to collect themselves, even though they were ill or wounded. His every call was a breath of life for their souls, a breath that could revive old, rotten bones. Busiri says:
Were his value and greatness to be demonstrated by miracles, The bones that have rotted away were revived by calling his name.
The half-crushed army set out to counter the enemy. Almost all of them were wounded in different degrees, but no one desired to remain behind. In describing the situation, one Companion said:
Some of the Companions were unable to walk. They said: We desire to be present at the front where God's Messenger has ordered us to go. Even if we are unable to fight, we will stand there with spears in hand. They were carried either on shoulders or on backs.
2. Bukhari, Hibah, 35; Muslim, Jihad, 70
3. I. Hisham, 2.147
The sagacity or wisdom of God's Messenger also demonstrated itself in the counsels he made with his Companions. Counsel or consultation is so important in Islam that God's Messenger did not take a decision, especially in public affairs, without consultation. He sometimes held counsel even in his personal affairs. To cite only a few examples:
1. During the campaign against the Banu Mustaliq, 'A'isha, the Prophet's wife, was accompanying the Prophet, riding in a litter. At one halt she lost her necklace; she set off alone to find it only to return and discover that the army had left without her, the camel drivers thinking she was in her litter. She was later found by Safwan, who was charged with collecting what was lost or left behind caravans. There followed a scandal and 'A'isha's fidelity was questioned, mostly by hypocrites.
God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was sure of the fidelity of his wife. However, since hypocrites made this into a pretext to defame God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, he consulted with some of his Companions like 'Umar and 'Ali. 'Umar said that 'A'isha was undoubtedly chaste and pure, and that she had been slandered. When asked how he knew, 'Umar answered:
O God's Messenger! You were once praying. You stopped and explained that the Archangel Gabriel had come and informed you that there was some dirt in your slippers. If there were some impurity in 'A'isha, your wife, God would certainly have informed you of it. (4)
God's Messenger, who said, Whoever takes counsel, does not regret in the end, (5) never neglected to consult those who could give informed advice on a particular matter.
2. He also consulted with his Companions before the Battle of Badr, which was the first major encounter between the Muslims and the Makkan polytheists after the Emigration, whether to fight against the Makkan army approaching. The Muslim force numbered 305 or 313, while the Makkans numbered around one thousand.
Miqdad ibn 'Amr stood up on behalf of the Emigrants and said: 'Spur your horse forward even to Bark al- Ghimad; we will follow you, with no one left behind.' (6) When the Messenger turned to the Helpers in order to learn their views, Sa'd ibn Mu'adh stood up and said:
O God's Messenger! I think you are waiting for the opinion we will give. This is our opinion: Here we are, at your command, with our souls and possessions. Take from our goods whatever amount you wish; and as many people as you desire are ready to sacrifice themselves in your way! (7)
All of his Companions, including both the Emigrants and the Helpers, promised to follow him in every step he took, and to carry out all of his orders. Despite this, God's Messenger took counsel with them about almost every matter concerning the community as a whole so that doing so should be adopted or appropriated by everyone as a Sunnah.
3. Again, in the Battle of Badr, the Muslim army was positioned somewhere on the battlefield. Hubab ibn Mundhir, who was not a leading personality among the Companions, stood up and gave this opinion:
O God's Messenger! If you were not ordered by God to be positioned here, let us be positioned around the wells and close up all but one of them in order to prevent the supply of water to the enemy. You set up your camp at the side of that one well (from which we will take water), and we will encircle you.
The Messenger adopted this view. (8)
4. In the fifth year of Hijra, the Quraysh made an alliance with certain desert tribes and Jews of the Banu Nadir, who had emigrated from Madina to Khaybar. However, the Prophet, forewarned of their plans, consulted with his Companions about what to do in order to defeat the enemy offensive. Salman al-Farisi gave him the idea that they should dig a defensive trench around Madina, a stratagem hitherto completely unknown among the Arabs.
God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, adopted the idea and ordered the digging of the trench. This war was therefore called, after the trench, the Battle of the Trench or Ditch. (9)
5. The Muslims found the terms of the Treaty of Hudaybiya unpalatable, and showed some reluctance to perform the Prophet's order to sacrifice the animals they had brought to sacrifice in Makka during the rites which the Treaty prevented them from observing. God's Messenger consulted with his wife Umm Salama about how to respond. She gave this opinion:
O God's Messenger! Do not repeat your order lest they should disobey you and perish. Sacrifice your own animals and take off your pilgrim dress (ihram). When they understand the order is decisive, they will perform it unhesitatingly.
God's Messenger acted according to the counsel of his wife. (10)
5. Maythami, Majma' al-Zawa'id, 2.280.
6. I. Sa'd, Tabaqat, 3.162.
7. Muslim, Jihad, 83; I. Hisham, 2.266–7.
8. I. Hisham, 2.272.
9. I.Hisham, 3.235; I. Sa'd, 2.66.
10. Bukhari, Shurut, 15.
A man of deliberate action
God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was a man of action. He never hung back in putting his plans or decisions into action. Any hesitation in the leader causes his followers to falter. God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, always acted with deliberation, never neglected to consult, but once he had come to a decision or planned something, he did not show any hesitation in carrying it out.
God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, never repented of what he had, or had not, done, nor regretted any lost opportunity for doing something. Before starting something, he used to take all the necessary precautions, consider all the probabilities, and take counsel with those who could give expert advice on the matter, and once he made up his mind, he never faltered in carrying out his decision. This is one of the important reasons why he carried all his attempts to victory and why his Companions followed him in every step he took.
One of the events worthy of elaboration to understand how God's Messenger solved problems easily is the Treaty of Hudaybiya.
In the sixth year of the Hijra, God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, informed his Companions that he had had a dream that they would shortly enter the Holy Mosque in Makka in security, with their heads shaved or their hair cut short. This delighted the Companions, particularly the Emigrants, very much. In March of 628, the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, set out to perform pilgrimage at Makka with a party of about fifteen hundred men, unarmed and in pilgrim dress (ihram).
Informed of the coming of God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, the Quraysh armed themselves and the neighbouring tribes. They were determined not to allow the Muslims to enter Makka. They despatched troops of two hundred men under the command of Khalid ibn Walid and Ikrima ibn Abu Jahl, who marched as far as Qura'u l-Ghamim and, seeing that Muslims were coming towards them, returned to Makka in order to inform the Makkans. When the Muslims reached Hudaybiya, a place on the road from Jeddah, about twelve miles from Makka, God's Messenger gave the order to stop.
When the Muslims suffered from shortage of water, God's Messenger threw an arrow down the only well at Hudaybiya. Water began to gush and rose to fill the well. This was a manifest miracle. Everyone drank from that water, did wudu' with it, and filled their bags. (11)
In the face of the Makkans' refusal to allow the Muslims to enter Makka, God's Messenger sent Budayl ibn Warqa, a man from the tribe of Khuda'a, with whom the Muslims were in alliance, to the Quraysh to inform them that they had come with the intention of pilgrimage and therefore bore no arms. The Quraysh listened to Budayl, and reciprocated by sending 'Urwa ibn Mas'ud al-Thaqafi. While talking to God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, 'Urwa attempted to take the beard of God's Messenger by way of jesting. However, Mughira ibn Shu'ba struck his hand, saying: 'Do not touch the pure beard of God's Messenger with your impure hand! If you repeat your attempt, I will cut off your hand!'
Mughira was the cousin of 'Urwa and it was hardly two months since he had accepted Islam. Indeed, it was 'Urwa himself who had paid, a few months before, the blood money for a crime Mughira had committed. How Islam had changed Mughira! The commitment of the Companions to their cause and their devotion to God's Messenger shocked 'Urwa, who returned to the Quraysh and said to them:
I have visited Chosroes, Caesar and the Negus. None of their subjects are so devoted to their rulers as his Companions are to Muhammad. So, I advise you not to struggle with that man. (12)
The Quraysh did not heed the advice of 'Urwa. Nor did they give a warm welcome to Kharash ibn Umayya, whom God's Messenger sent after 'Urwa. Kharash was followed by 'Uthman ibn 'Affan, who had powerful relatives among the Quraysh. 'Uthman came to negotiate with the Makkans. However, the Makkans imprisoned 'Uthman. When he did not return at the expected time, rumours had it that 'Uthman had been killed. It was then that the Prophet, sitting under a tree, took from his Companions the oath that they would hold together and fight to the death. The Prophet himself represented the absent 'Uthman by proxy in this oath; (13) one man, Jadd ibn Qays refrained from taking it, hiding behind a camel. The revelation which came on this occasion reads:
God was well pleased with the believers when they were swearing allegiance to you under the tree, and He knew what was in their hearts, so He sent down peace of reassurance on them and has rewarded them with a near victory. (al-Fath, 48.18)
In that moment of tension, a cloud of dust appeared from afar.
The Makkans had sent a delegation headed by Suhayl ibn 'Amr. When God's Messenger learned that the Makkan delegation was headed by Suhayl, he took a good omen from his name, which means easiness, and told his Companions: The situation has eased off.
The Quraysh agreed to a truce, and the Treaty of Hudaybiya was drawn up.
Under the terms of this treaty the Prophet would be allowed to make the pilgrimage, not then, but in the following year. Makka would be emptied for three days for the Muslim pilgrims. The treaty also stipulated a truce for ten years; that any tribe or person would be free to join either party or make an alliance with it; and that those who were not free but subjects or dependents of the Quraysh and who defected from paganism to Islam would be returned to the Quraysh by the Muslims.
This last condition was not reciprocal. It was objected to in the Muslim camp. It shocked some among them such as 'Umar, who went so far as to question God's Messenger about it. However, it really was of little importance. Muslims, sent back to Makka, were not likely to renounce the blessings of Islam; on the contrary, they would be a focus of influence in Makka for Islam.
It was just before the treaty was signed that Abu Jandal, the son of Suhayl, the head of the Makkan delegation, came, trailing his chains, in order to join the Muslims. God's Messenger had to return him to his father in tears. However, he whispered to him: God will shortly save you and those of your like. (14)
Shortly after the Treaty of Hudaybiya was signed, 'Utba ibn Asid, known as Abu Basir, defected to Madina. However, the Quraysh sent two men to demand his return. On their way back to Makka, Abu Basir escaped, killing one of the two men, and wounding the other. God's Messenger did not admit him to Madina, in observing the terms of the Treaty. Abu Basir chose to settle at Iyss, a place on the road from Makka to Syria.
The Muslims held in Makka began to escape and join Abu Basir. The trade route of the Makkans was now under threat. This forced the Quraysh to apply to God's Messenger to annul the relevant term of the Treaty and requested him to admit the defecting Makkans to Madina. (15)
The Qur'an called the Treaty of Hudaybiya 'a manifest victory':
Surely We have given you a manifest victory. (al-Fath, 48.1)
12. Bukhari, 3.180; I. Hanbal, 4.324; Tabari, 3.75.
13. I. Hisham, 3.330.
14. I. Hisham, 3.321–333; I. Kathir, al-Bidayah, 4.188-193.
15. I. Hisham, 3.337–8.
It proved to be indeed a victory because:
1. By this Treaty, the Quraysh, after many years of unrelenting conflict with Islam, at length recognized Islam as (what they thought) an equal power with themselves. In effect, they had given up their struggle without admitting it to themselves. Having seen the Makkans dealing with the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, as an equal, and as a ruler, a rising tide of converts flowed towards Madina from all quarters of Arabia.
2. There were many among the Quraysh themselves, who would benefit from reflecting on the call of God's Messenger in a peaceful atmosphere. The Treaty of Hudaybiya gave them this opportunity and, as a result, some leading figures of the Quraysh such as Khalid ibn Walid, 'Amr ibn al-'As and 'Uthman ibn Talha, who were famous for their military and political skills, accepted Islam. 'Uthman ibn Talha used to keep the keys of the Ka'ba, and after the conquest of Makka, God's Messenger honoured him with the same task.
3. The Quraysh used to regard the Ka'ba as belonging to themselves exclusively and no one except them was allowed to visit it without paying tribute. By not stipulating that the Muslims must pay tribute for their deferred pilgrimage the following year, the Quraysh unwittingly breached their monopoly of the Ka'ba. This awakened desert tribes to the fact that the Quraysh had no right to claim the exclusive ownership of the Ka'ba.
4. There were at the time in Makka believing Muslims, men and women, and the faith of some of them was unknown to their brothers from Madina. Some of them were employed by God's Messenger as spies. Had a fight taken place in Makka, even though the Muslims had been successful, they might unwittingly have killed some of those Muslims, not known to them as Muslims, and thus suffered the anguish of shedding Muslim blood, and caused either the martyrdom or disclosure of the Prophet's spies. This was prevented by the Treaty. The Qur'an points to this fact:
It is He who restrained their hands from you, and your hands from them, in the hollow of Makka, after He made you victors over them. God sees the things you do. They are the ones who unbelieved, and banned you from the Holy Mosque, and hindered the sacrificial animals from reaching their place of sacrifice. If it had not been for certain believing men and believing women (in Makka) whom you knew not – lest you should trample them and thus incur guilt for them unknowingly; that God may admit into His Mercy whom He will – (if the believers and unblievers) had been clearly separated, then We would have chastised the unbelievers among them with a painful chastisement. (Al-Fath, 48.24–5)
5. The Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, performed the minor pilgrimage the following year. The testimony of faith, declaring that there is no god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God, rang out in the valley of Makka. The Quraysh, camped on the Hill of Abu Qubays, heard it, a portent of the coming triumph of Islam. This was, in fact, God's fulfilling of the vision He vouchsafed to His Messenger, as pointed out in the Qur'an:
God has indeed fulfilled the vision He vouchsafed to His Messenger truly: You shall enter the Holy Mosque, if God wills, in security, your heads shaved, your hair cut short, not fearing. He knew what you knew not, and, granted, besides this, a nigh victory. (al-Fath, 48.27)
6. The Treaty of Hudaybiya freed God's Messenger to deal with others. In the expeditions which followed the Treaty, the Muslims conquered the redoubtable citadels of the Jews of Khaybar, giving the Jews the choice of entering Islam or accepting the rule of Islam by paying a tribute in lieu of protection (jizya), thereby impressing their neighbours and the Arabs of the Peninsula with the growing strength of the Islamic state.
The Muslims faithfully observed the terms of the Treaty. But the Makkans later on broke the terms in the attack which one of their allied tribes (the Banu Bakr) made on the Banu Khuda'a (who were in alliance with the Prophet). So, in January 630, two years after the Treaty of Hudaybiya, at the head of an army of 10,000, God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, marched upon Makka and conquered it, meeting almost no resistance. The Ka'ba was purified of idols and in the course of the following days, the Makkans accepted Islam. This was due to happen because,
It is He who has sent His Messenger with the guidance and the religion of truth, that He may uplift it above every religion. God suffices as a witness. Muhammad is the Messenger of God, and those who are with him are hard against the unbelievers, merciful to one another. You see them bowing, prostrating, seeking grace from God and (His) good pleasure. Their mark is on their faces, the trace of prostration. That is their likeness in the Torah, and their likeliness in the Gospel: as a seed that puts forth its shoot, and strengthens it, and it grows stout and rises straight upon its stalk, pleasing the sowers, that through them He may enrage the unbelievers. God has promised those of them who believe and do deeds of righteousness forgiveness and a mighty wage. (al-Fath, 48.28–9)
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