by Sanderson Beck
This chapter has been published in the book Mideast & Africa to 1700.
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Yemen and the Hijaz region were settled with agriculture and commerce as early as 1000 BC while nomadic Bedouins lived in most of Arabia. The development of sea routes in the first century BC caused hardship for Yemeni trade as Bedouins moved in. After the Judean revolts were crushed by the Roman empire in the first and second centuries CE, many Jews fled to this region. Palmyra was destroyed in 271 CE, and Nabateans and northern Arabia were conquered by the Roman empire. Arab King Imru al-Qays ibn 'Amr gained control of Najran in 328 CE. Yemen managed to reestablish the Himyarite kingdom and in the fifth century related with the Bedouins through the Kinda tribal confederation. By the end of the fifth century the Arab Christian kingdom of Ghassan was able to defend the Sasanian Persian empire by keeping the Bedouins out of Syria and Palestine.
In southern Iraq the kingdom of Lakhm made of Aramaean Christian tribes was supported by Sasanian imperial control and competed with Arabs. The historian Tabari recorded that in 523 CE persecutions killed many Christians. In response to this, Abyssinia sent an army led by Aryat and Abraha that conquered Yemen in 525. Abraha killed his superior Aryat in a duel and founded a capital at San'a. That year the Kinda, led by al-Harith ibn 'Amr al-Kindi, drove out the Lakhmid Mundhir III, capturing Hira; but the Kinda confederation dissolved four years later, and the Sasanian ruler Khusrau I restored Mundhir in Hira. However, the Lakhmid Mundhir surrendered Hira to the attacking Ghassanids led by al-Harith ibn Jabala in 547. Mundhir was finally killed in battle by the Ghassanids in 554. Abyssinians invaded central Arabia in 535 and reached Hijaz in 570; but two years later the Sasanians drove them out of Yemen. Ghassan lost the support of the Roman empire in 584, and a Sasanian governor replaced the Lakhm kingdom in 602.
The ethics of the Arab tribes emphasized honor, independence, generosity, vendetta (th'ar), and manly courage (muruwa). Bereaved relatives from the violence affected the tribe, and often young men would often practice ascetic self-discipline until they gained revenge; then the retaliatory murders would be celebrated by drinking.
In 570 after a Kinana man defiled a cathedral in San'a that had been built to draw pilgrims away from Mecca, the Abyssinian ruler of Yemen, Abraha, attacked Mecca with an army. According to tradition the elephant at the head of that army refused to march on the holy city. That year Muhammad was born in Mecca, where his paternal grandfather 'Abd al-Muttalib had the honored position of providing water from the Zamzam well for the pilgrims to the Ka'ba, founded according to tradition by the Hebrew patriarch Abraham. Muhammad was the first child of his father 'Abd Allah, who died before his wife Amina had her child. 'Abd Allah left his son five camels, a flock of goats, and the slave-girl Baraka. Since Mecca was considered unhealthy for infants, his mother Amina took the baby out into the desert, where he was nursed by a Bedouin named Halima for two years until he was weaned. Thus Muhammad first learned the Arabic language of the Bani Sa'd. His foster brother saw two men in white put their hands into the heart of the child; concerned that he might be possessed by an evil spirit, Halima returned Muhammad to his mother at Mecca.
When he was six, Muhammad and the slave girl Baraka accompanied Amina on a visit to Medina; but on the return journey Muhammad's mother became ill and died. Baraka brought the boy back to his grandfather in Mecca; but two years later 'Abd al-Muttalib also died at the age of 80. Muhammad was then raised by his uncle Abu Talib and his wife Fatima. Later the prophet said that Fatima would have let her own children starve rather than him. 'Abd al-Muttalib's youngest son al 'Abbas took charge of the Zamzam well.
Muhammad spent his youth mostly pasturing sheep and goats. He once went on a caravan to Bostra in Syria and was noted by the Christian hermit Bahira. In Mecca a sacrilegious war occurred after a treacherous murder. In the earlier battles Muhammad was too young to fight, but he gathered enemy arrows and gave them to his Quraysh uncles to shoot back. In the last battle when he was about twenty, Muhammad did shoot arrows for the Hashim clan at the enemy and was praised for his valor. When a Sahmi refused to pay his debt to a Yemeni merchant, the Quraysh joined the Kinana and others in taking an oath at the Ka'ba to fight oppression for the sake of justice, and Muhammad swore with them; the Sahmi was compelled to pay the debt.
Muhammad began traveling for merchants, and he wished to marry his cousin; but his uncle Abu Talib informed him that she was promised to a poet of better means. Known for being trustworthy and honest, Muhammad was asked by the wealthy widow Khadija to sell her merchandise in Bostra. She doubled her money, and Muhammad was well paid. Although she was 40, Khadija proposed marriage to the 25-year-old Muhammad; he accepted and gave her a dowry of twenty camels. She was the mother of all his children except Ibrahim. Their sons died in infancy, but their four daughters would become Muslims. On his wedding day Muhammad freed his slave Baraka so that she could marry a man of Yathrib, and Khadija gave Muhammad her 15-year-old slave boy Zayd. When Zayd's father and uncle came to ransom him, Muhammad offered the youth his free choice. Zayd decided to live with Muhammad, who adopted him as his son and made him his heir. During a famine Muhammad adopted Abu Talib's son 'Ali when he was about five. When Muhammad was about 35, he was asked to mediate a dispute over which tribe should lift the sacred black meteorite when the Ka'ba temple was being rebuilt. The trusted sage suggested that each clan take hold of a garment and lift it together.
Every year Muhammad would pray in seclusion during the month of Ramadan. When he was forty in 610, he began to have visions during his spiritual retreat. While he was in a cave, a voice told Muhammad three times to recite. His first revelation spoke of the most beneficent Lord, who created humans and taught them what they did not know. As he was walking down the mountain, the voice identifying itself as Gabriel told Muhammad he was the messenger of God. He first told his wife Khadija, and she spoke to her cousin Waraqa, who confirmed his prophetic experience. Waraqa added that Muhammad would be called a liar, be ill-treated, banished, and made an enemy in war. According to tradition Khadija concluded Muhammad's vision must be an angel and not a Satan because when she exposed herself to her husband, Muhammad said he departed. Muhammad became distressed when he did not have any more revelations for a while; but then he was told that the Lord would give to him and reminded him that as an orphan he was given refuge; when he went astray, he was guided; when he was poor, he was made rich. Thus the message was revealed that the orphan should not be oppressed nor the beggar repelled. He should teach about the kindness of God.
Muhammad was ordered to pray, and he established the manner of praying and the times for daily prayer. God may be magnified by proclaiming, "God is the greatest," and the final greeting was "Peace be on you." Each revelation begins by affirming that God is gracious and loving. After his wife, the first to accept Islam were his adopted sons 'Ali and Zayd. Islam is the name of the religion of the Muslims, which means those who submit to God. Then the respected merchant Abu Bakr became a Muslim and began telling his trusted friends about Muhammad's teachings. Khalid, the son of a powerful Shamsite, consulted Abu Bakr about a dream with Muhammad and secretly joined. Khalid later was beaten and imprisoned without food by his father, who disowned him when he escaped. Muhammad now had many revelations, and he would share them with those present. Abu Bakr converted many people, and Muhammad was told to warn his family. About forty people of the Hashim clan were invited to a banquet; but his one suspicious uncle, Abu Lahab, dispersed them with fears of a spell. Another banquet was held the next day, and Muhammad told them what God commanded him, asking who would help him. When no one else spoke, the 13-year-old 'Ali said that he would be his helper. So Muhammad proclaimed 'Ali his successor.
Once when Muhammad and his companions were praying in a glen, some pagans interrupted them. In the disturbance Sa'd wounded one of the pagans with a camel's jawbone. Since the revelations told them to be patient, the Muslims decided to refrain from violence at that time. At first the Quraysh had tolerated the new religion until Muhammad began to criticize their gods and religion. Then some leading men went to the clan chief Abu Talib, asking him to restrain his nephew. When these men threatened to fight both of them, Abu Talib went to Muhammad and asked him not to give him a burden greater than he could bear. Muhammad swore that he would not abandon his course unless he died. His uncle tearfully promised not to forsake him. Next the influential Walid advised the pagans to accuse Muhammad of sorcery and warn people of that. After Muhammad converted Abu Dharr of the robbing Bani Ghifar tribe, he would give a caravan back their goods he had taken if they would acknowledge the oneness of God and the prophecy of Muhammad.
The Quraysh tried to stop Muhammad's movement by sending the intelligent Utba, who offered him wealth, honor, kingship, or a physician if he was possessed. Muhammad's response was that Utba should bow down and worship God. Utba was impressed by the prophet's words and advised the Quraysh not to interfere with his work. They sent nobles, and again Muhammad refused their offers. They asked him to prove that he was the messenger of God by doing something that would make their life easier. Muhammad replied that he was not sent for that but to warn and bring good news. So the Quraysh leaders declared that they would not leave him in peace until either he or they were destroyed. Muhammad preached that the lower life of gaining wealth in business or power in politics was a diverting game compared to the life of the hereafter. When some Quraysh consulted Jewish rabbis in Yathrib, they posed three difficult questions for the prophet to answer. Muhammad promised to tell them the next day but neglected to say, "If God wills it." Fifteen days went by before the anxious Muhammad was given an uncanny revelation that showed the Jews he had gained extraordinary knowledge not readily available. Muhammad and others also learned that he personally could not control the revelations.
The Quraysh began to persecute poor Muslims. When the slave Bilal had a large rock put on his chest, he repeated the word "One." Waraqa saw Bilal and said he would build a shrine for him if he died; but Abu Bakr traded one of his slaves in order to set Bilal free. Abu Bakr had already freed six slaves for the sake of Islam, and he also bought and freed a slave girl who was being beaten for her belief. Abu Jahl aroused Meccans against the Muslims. If a man of importance became a Muslim, he reprimanded him for forsaking his religion and threatened to ruin his reputation. If the convert was a merchant, he said he would make him poor by boycotting his goods. If the person was from a lower class, Abu Jahl would beat him and incite people against him. Many clans were now persecuting the Muslims in various ways by imprisonment and other torments to make them renounce their new religion.
Seeing these afflictions, Muhammad suggested that the Muslims would be better tolerated in Abyssinia, and 82 men with women and children migrated there. They were welcomed by the Negus and allowed to practice their religion. Then the Quraysh sent gifts to the generals of the Negus, asking him to give them up; but he said he would not surrender them until he had questioned them. Abu Talib's son Ja'far explained how a trustworthy apostle of God summoned them to acknowledge God's unity, renounce idols, speak the truth, be faithful, be kind, and refrain from crimes. After they were treated unjustly and oppressed, they decided to emigrate to Abyssinia. Ja'far quoted a recent revelation that Jesus was a slave and messenger of God. The Negus found their teachings similar to those of Jesus and declared he would never give them up but would protect them. He gave back the gifts, saying that he gave no bribe to God for his kingdom.
The Muslims gained a strong advocate when Abu Jahl's nephew 'Umar joined their faith. At first 'Umar was determined to kill Muhammad; but Nu'aym persuaded him to go first to the converts of his own house. 'Umar fought with them and even caused his sister Fatima to bleed. Then he was sorry and asked to borrow a surah from the Qur'an, which greatly impressed him. 'Umar and Hamza then insisted that the Muslims be allowed to pray in the Ka'ba. Now Abu Jahl and the Quraysh decided to boycott the Hashim clan because all of them except Abu Lahab were protecting Muhammad. They placed a document in the Ka'ba that no one should trade with or marry anyone in the Hashim or Muttalib clans since the Muttalib had refused to abandon their Hashimi cousins. Once when Abu Jahl was interfering with the trading of flour to Khadija's nephew Hakim, Abu l-Bakhatari clubbed Abu Jahl with a camel's jawbone even though neither he nor Hakim were Muslims.
Now that Muhammad was well protected, the attacks of the Quraysh were mostly verbal. Abu Jahl told the apostle that if he did not stop cursing their gods, they would curse his God. So Muhammad was given a revelation not to curse those who don't pray to God lest they curse God out of ignorance. Muhammad tried to be more amenable to the Quraysh and their gods, and word reached Abyssinia that the Quraysh had accepted Islam. Gabriel then reprimanded his apostle for allowing Satan to interject something into his desires. God warned that some prophets allow Satan to cast suggestions into their longing; then God must annul what Satan suggested. However, when Muhammad corrected his statement about their gods, the polytheists became more hostile to the Muslims. Some in Abyssinia heard the rumor and returned to Mecca before they learned that it was false. The boycott diminished the resources of the two clans so much in two years that many Hashimis and Muttalibs faced starvation, and Abu Bakr's wealth had been depleted providing needed food and clothing. Finally Zuhayr made a speech at the Ka'ba, and the Quraysh voted to lift the punitive ban.
In 619 Muhammad's wife Khadija died; she had been his closest confidant. Then his uncle Abu Talib became ill and died, leaving the prophet and his clan with questionable protection since Abu Talib was succeeded by Abu Lahab. One day Abu Bakr and Talha were left roped together by a public highway. Abu Bakr was going to migrate to Abyssinia; but ibn ad-Dughunnah offered protection, though the Quraysh warned that Abu Bakr should not pray or recite in public. When someone threw a filthy sheep's uterus into his yard, Muhammad asked what kind of protection was that. Another threw dirt on his head as he walked home from the Ka'ba. So Muhammad turned to the people of Ta'if, but they insulted him so much he had to take refuge in a private orchard. For tribal reasons neither the Akhnas nor the Suhayl would protect him. However, the Nawfal chief Mut'im offered to do so, and armed men escorted Muhammad back into Mecca.
While visiting the family of Abu Talib's widow Fatima, Muhammad went out at night to pray at the Ka'ba. That night the prophet traveled with Gabriel to Jerusalem to pray in the temple with Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and others. He drank from a vessel of milk and rejected the wine. He was told this symbolized his right guidance of his people. He was instructed to pray fifty times a day; but at the urging of Moses he got this reduced to five times. From the heavenly realms they descended to the Rock in Jerusalem, and from there Gabriel and Muhammad returned to Mecca. His future wife 'A'isha said, "The apostle's body remained where it was, but God removed his spirit by night."1 His description of this experience was greeted with mockery by many, though Abu Bakr supported him and was given the name as-Siddiq, meaning "great confirmer of the truth."
The next year during the pilgrimage Muhammad went to the valley of Mina, and at 'Aqaba twelve men of Yathrib, expecting a prophet because of what their neighboring Jews told them, pledged to Muhammad they would keep God pure of associations, not steal, not commit adultery, not kill their children, not slander their neighbors, and not disobey him in what is right. If they fulfilled these, they would gain paradise; but sins would be punished or forgiven as God pleased. When the leader Sa'd accepted the new prophet, everyone in his clan became Muslims. Then 73 men and two women from Yathrib made the pilgrimage, hoping to meet Muhammad. With this group a second pact was made at 'Aqaba in which they pledged to protect each other by even going to war. After this the previous pledge was only used for women, who did not have the duty to fight in battle. Muhammad now received a revelation giving permission for those who have been wronged to fight, and God would help those who were being driven out of their homes only because they believed in one God.
Many Muslims began migrating from Mecca to Medina. When 'Ayyash returned to Islam after renouncing his new faith, 'Umar believed that no atonement was possible for this sin; but Muhammad received a revelation that God is all-forgiving and all-merciful and that everyone should repent and surrender to God before they are punished. After the prophet's protector Mut'im died, Abu Lahab did not attend the Quraysh meeting when Abu Jahl proposed that chosen men from every clan should murder Muhammad to spread the guilt and make revenge unlikely. Muhammad was warned, and 'Ali slept in his bed while the prophet and Abu Bakr hid in a cave for three days, a spider's web preventing their being found. The Quraysh offered a reward of one hundred camels for Muhammad's capture. The prophet bought a camel from Abu Bakr, and they rode to Medina. Muhammad arrived on September 27, 622 at the oasis of Quba, where he had the first mosque of Islam built from an old date store. In Medina Muhammad's camel led him to a house, which he bought even though it was offered as a gift. 'Ali stayed behind for three days to return property that had been entrusted to Muhammad; then he joined the prophet in Medina.
Muhammad praised God in his preaching as he urged people to take refuge in God from their evil actions. They should love God with all their hearts and love what God loves. God chooses and selects from everything created. The lawful must be distinguished from the unlawful. What they say they should carry out in action. They should love one another because God is angry when God's covenant is broken. Muhammad wrote a document affirming that the Muslims of Quraysh and Tathrib are one community against the rebellious and those who spread injustice. A believer should not kill a believer for the sake of an unbeliever. Jews who follow them shall be treated with equality and helped, and believers fighting for God should not make a separate peace. The apostle called on believers to avenge blood shed in the way of God. Anyone convicted of killing a believer shall be subject to retaliation or blood money for the next of kin. Believers should not help wrong-doers. Any differences should be submitted to God and Muhammad. Thus the Muslims and Jews became one community, respecting each other's religions. The wronged were to be helped, and the Jews were expected to contribute as long as the war lasted.
When the Aws and Khazraj were about to fight over differences concerned with their poetry, Muhammad was able to help them see their unity and embrace each other. The prophet named the Muslims of Medina Helpers and called the Quraysh Emigrants, and he suggested that each Emigrant have a Helper brother. In his own family, however, instead of choosing someone from Medina, he made 'Ali his brother and Hamza the brother of Zayd. Instead of using a wooden clapper to call Muslims to prayer, Muhammad accepted the guidance in a dream from a Khazraj man that a man in green should call, "God is the greatest" four times and then say twice, "I testify there is no deity but God and that Muhammad is the messenger of God. Come to prayer; come to salvation. God is the greatest. There is no deity but God." The former slave Bilal became the first to perform this call.
Muhammad became concerned that some Jews and those he called hypocrites opposed him. When rabbis and Christians asked if he expected them to worship him as the Christians worship Jesus, Muhammad forbade that anyone but God should be worshipped because no mortal, not even a prophet, should say to people, "Worship me instead of God."2 When Jews tested him to see if he would follow their law of stoning for adultery, Muhammad ordered a guilty couple stoned to death at the door of his mosque. When the mosque was finished, Muhammad had two dwellings built on its eastern wall - one for his wife Sawdah and one for 'A'isha, whom he then married when she was nine years old. Muhammad had been praying facing toward Jerusalem; but in Medina the Islamic practice of facing Mecca during prayer was established.
The fighting permitted by Muhammad's revelation began with a raid on Waddan. The apostle sent Hamza with thirty Emigrants to the seashore, where they met 300 riders from Mecca led by Abu Jahl; but the peacemaker Majdi intervened and prevented them from fighting. Muhammad himself led raids on Buwat and al-'Ushayra. He sent 'Abdullah ibn Jahsh, who attacked a Quraysh caravan on the last day of a sacred month; one man was killed with an arrow, and two were captured. At Medina they gave a fifth of the booty to the apostle; but he refused to accept it because he had not ordered them to fight in the sacred month. Muslims in Mecca, who opposed them, and Jews took this attack as a bad omen. Muhammad was told by a revelation that it was serious but that keeping people from believing and driving them out of their homes was even more serious, thus justifying it. The prophet then accepted a fifth of the spoils for the community.
In 624 a large Quraysh caravan led by Abu Sufyan returning from Syria was expected to stop at Badr. Muhammad with 77 Emigrants and 231 Helpers went to attack it. In response the Quraysh organized an army of about a thousand men. 'Utba tried to persuade the Quraysh not to fight Muhammad and their relatives; but Abu Jahl taunted him with cowardice and because one of 'Utba's sons was with their enemy. The two armies met at a cistern; Aswad went to drink from it and was killed by Hamza. 'Utba challenged the Muslims of their tribe to a single combat and was joined by his brother Shayba and his son Walid. Muhammad selected 'Ubayda, Hamza, and 'Ali, who killed the other three, though 'Ubayda died of his wound. Then two arrows from the Quraysh killed Muslims. Muhammad promised his warriors who died fighting that they would enter Paradise, and they charged shouting, "God's victors kill." The Quraysh soon began to flee. Only 14 Muslims were killed that day while about fifty Quraysh were slain, and about as many were taken captive. The apostle ordered a search for Abu Jahl; when he was found, he was beheaded. When Bilal saw his former owner, his shouting caused others to kill the man and his son. Two of their worst enemies were also put to death by the order of Muhammad. The rest of the captives and spoils were shared equally by everyone on the expedition.
In Mecca Abu Lahab became so angry at a Muslim slave, who said that angels fought against the Quraysh, that he beat him until his sister-in-law gashed his skull with a post. Abu Lahab died after this wound became infected. Abu Sufyan still brought the rich caravan safely into the city, and the assembly of Mecca used the profits to raise a large army. The apostle revealed that a woman Muslim could not be the wife of a pagan, and he expected a released captive to send his Muslim wife Zaynab from Mecca to Medina. Quraysh leaders stopped Zaynab from returning but let her go secretly after the controversy died down. 'Umayr went to the Medina mosque to kill the apostle, who allowed him to sit down and told him his intention, causing 'Umayr to believe in God and this messenger. Although God reproached him for taking prisoners and spoils, Muhammad's revelation indicated that he was the first prophet to be allowed this privilege.
A week after the battle at Badr Muhammad led a raid against the Sulaym, which was followed by raids on al-Sawiq, Najd, and Al-Firu. When a Muslim woman was insulted by a Jewish goldsmith, a Helper killed the Jew and was then killed by Jews. His family demanded vengeance instead of asking the apostle to settle the issue. With their allies they raised an army of 700 and besieged the Bani Qaynuqa Jews until they surrendered. The apostle granted the Jews their lives but forced them into exile and divided the rich weapons and armor of the metalworkers. Jews in Medina were no longer secure after Muhammad said, "Kill any Jew that falls into your power."3 Huwayissa complained when Muhayissa killed a wealthy Jewish merchant with whom they had business and social relations; but Muhayissa said he would even kill his friend Huwayissa if the apostle ordered it. Huwayissa was so awed by such a religion that he became a Muslim too. The apostle's youngest daughter Fatima was twenty when she married 'Ali. Muhammad married Hafsa, the young widowed daughter of 'Umar. At the mosque people with no means or place to live were allowed to stay on the bench, where food was provided for them from the apostle's household, which consequently barely had enough to eat.
In the next few months Muhammad sent out forces to stop threatened raids by the Sulaym and Ghatafan tribes. Once the prophet awoke to find a man standing over him with a sword; but with the help of the angel Gabriel he persuaded him to become a Muslim. Muhammad allowed his followers to use deception during war, and the poet Ka'b, who satirized the apostle, was lured out of his fortress under false pretenses and treacherously killed. Muhammad sent out a hundred horseman under Zayd, and they robbed a Meccan caravan of all its transport camels with much silver and a few captives.
The apostle's uncle 'Abbas warned him that Abu Sufyan was leading an army of 3,000 toward Medina. Their forces included 700 warriors in mail armor and 200 cavalry led by Khalid ibn al-Walid. Although Medinans advised that they were usually more victorious when they defended their city instead of attacking, the youthful enthusiasm of his warriors and those who wanted their crops protected urged the apostle to order an attack with their 700 men on the large Quraysh army at Uhud. The Meccan Talha challenged the Muslims in single combat, and he was killed by 'Ali. Hamza then killed Talhah's brother, and another brother and his four sons were cut down by 'Ali and two others. The Muslims charged with ferocity and were winning, though Hamza was killed by a javelin. After Muslim archers advanced from their defensive position, the larger army re-grouped, charged the Muslim forces, and pushed them back. The prophet was wounded in the mouth by a sharp stone, and then a sword blow drove two helmet rings into his cheek. A voice shouted, "Muhammad is slain!" The Quraysh, believing they had gained their objective, began to celebrate their victory; they had lost only 22 dead but counted 65 Muslim corpses. Afterward they learned that the prophet was alive; Abu Sufyan promised to meet him again the next year, and Muhammad accepted the engagement.
After this defeat the revelations of Muhammad blamed it on the archers, who gave up their position contrary to the prophet's orders, and on those who fled while the apostle was calling on them to stay and fight. Those who ran away must have been seduced by Satan for some evil they had done. God had allowed them to be defeated in order to test them, and now God forgave them. The bodies of Hamza and other Muslims had been mutilated, and the angry apostle said he would mutilate thirty Quraysh; but a revelation warned him not to inflict more punishment than they had suffered and suggested that enduring patiently was even better. So instead Muhammad forbade mutilation after every battle, especially to the face, the most godlike part of the human body. A few months later warning came of a possible raid. So to show their continued determination to fight, the apostle sent his cousin Abu Salamah with 150 armed men to attack a Bedouin camp, and they returned with a herd of camels and three herdsmen. The apostle sent a Khazraj man to assassinate a hostile Hudhayl chief. In reaction some Hudhayl men attacked six Muslims on a teaching mission, killing four and executing the other two after they refused to renounce their religion.
After Muhammad married the widow Zaynab, the chief of her tribe, Abu Bara, asked him for instructors; the apostle sent forty Muslims led by Mundhir ibn 'Amr. Abu Bara's nephew challenged his leadership and killed the first Muslim messenger. Most of the tribe supported Abu Bara; but the nephew called in two clans of Sulaym, who massacred the entire delegation of Muslim teachers in their camp except for two men pasturing camels. These two killed two of the Bani 'Amir, who turned out to have been loyal to Abu Bara. So the prophet paid blood-wite to their nearest relatives, and he asked the related Bani Nadir Jews to contribute. When the apostle learned that these Jews were plotting against him, he marched an army against their forts and cut down their palm trees; but they asked him why he did so since he prohibited wanton destruction. He argued that it was vengeance from God to humble their evil-doers. The apostle allowed the Bani Nadir to leave their land with all their rich possessions except their arms and armor.
In the first year of their marriage Zaynab died of an illness, and so the apostle married the beautiful widow Umm Salamah, stimulating some jealousy in 'A'isha, who was now 14. Although previous revelation had limited a Muslim to four wives, which Muhammad already had (counting the two who died), after another Zaynab was divorced from the apostle's adopted son Zayd, Muhammad said that God had married her to him. Only the prophet was allowed to have more than four wives; they were called mothers of the faithful, could not marry anyone else after the prophet, and requests made to them must be from behind a curtain. The prophet recommended spending the day in three equal parts in worship, work, and family. The family time included sleeping and meals. Much of his praying was done at night. Muhammad kept his appointment at Badr, traveling there with 1,500 men; but Abu Sufyan did not want to fight in a dry year and did not come.
In 627 the Bani Nadir Jews exiled in Khaybar went to the Quraysh to join them in their fight against Muhammad. The Jews got the Bani Asad to help and promised the Bani Ghatafan half their date harvest at Khaybar if they would join the alliance. The Ghatafan clans brought about 2,000 men including 300 on horses. With 4,000 Quraysh and the other allies the total neared 10,000 with 600 cavalry. Salman, based on his experience in Persia, advised a trench as a defense against a cavalry attack, and so the apostle oversaw and worked with the others in building a trench around Medina. The Muslims had an army of about 3,000 and were besieged by the larger force for nearly a month. 'Ali accepted a challenge and killed 'Amr. The apostle offered the Ghatafan chiefs half of Medina's date harvest if they would withdraw from the siege; but he was persuaded to change his mind by the wounded Sa'd.
The Ghatafan Nu'aym came and told the apostle he had secretly become a Muslim. Muhammad asked him to draw off the enemy and gave him permission to lie, "for war is deception."4 Nu'aym told the Qurayza that their allies would abandon them to the Muslims after the battle, suggesting they ask for hostages. Then he went to the Quraysh leaders and told them that the Qurayza were planning on asking for hostages so that they could kill them and be on the Muslims' side. When the Quraysh asked the Qurayza to fight, they said it was the Sabbath and asked for hostages. After a miserable wind storm Abu Sufyan led the Quraysh away because the Qurayza had broken their word. When the Ghatafans saw the Quraysh leaving, they went home too.
Muhammad was immediately commanded by Gabriel to march against the Qurayza because they broke the treaty; within a few hours 'Ali was leading the Muslim army of 3,000 in the hot sun. The Qurayza were then besieged for 25 days before they submitted to the prophet and opened the gates. Men were bound; women and children were gathered; arms, armor, and household goods were collected; and wine and alcoholic date juice were poured out by the abstinent Muslims. The Qurayza agreed to be judged by Sa'd, an Aws chief, who ordered the men executed, the women and children made captives, and the property divided. About 700 Qurayza men were beheaded with swords and buried in a trench. From the captive women the apostle selected the beautiful Rayhana as his slave.
A few months later the Muslims made two successful raids on Quraysh caravans, capturing about 200 families, 2,000 camels, and 5,000 sheep and goats. After the raid on Mustaliq the apostle married the captured Juwayriya and released a hundred families in honor of the wedding. When his young wife 'A'isha lost her necklace and did not ride on her camel, gossip spread among the Muslims. Eventually the prophet received a revelation that she was innocent; flogging was prescribed for adultery and slander. In this case the three who had spread the false rumor were given eighty lashes each.
After spending Ramadan in Medina fasting, the apostle dreamed he entered the Ka'ba with his head shaved. He decided to make a pilgrimage in March 628, and with his companions they bought seventy camels for sacrifice. He went unarmed, relying on the sacred hospitality of Mecca. The Quraysh sent Khalid with 200 horsemen to confront the Muslims; but their guide took them on a different route to Hudaybiya on the border of the sacred territory. Negotiations resulted in a treaty calling for a ten-year truce; but the Muslims could not enter Mecca until the next year. The apostle ordered his companions to sacrifice the camels and shave their heads, which they eagerly did after Muhammad was the first to do so. A revelation pronounced the truce a clear victory, and in the next two years the community of Islam more than doubled. The apostle married Umm Habiba, a widow whose husband had migrated to Abyssinia and then reverted to Christianity while she remained a Muslim. The apostle sent messages to Badhan, the Persian viceroy in Yemen, to the Persian Emperor Khusrau, to Emperor Heraclius by way of the Syrian governor, and to the Egyptian patriarch in Alexandria. Gabriel informed the prophet that Khusrau had been killed in an uprising and that his son now ruled; the prophet sent this information to Badhan, who accepted Islam when he discovered it was true.
The truce with Mecca enabled Muhammad to march against the powerful Khaybar Jews in the north. Khaybar leader Kinana promised the Ghatafan half their date harvest for the year, and they agreed to send 4,000 men. This with the 10,000 Jews armed for Khaybar gave them a large army against 1,600 invading Muslims; but the apostle attacked their forts one by one, gaining weapons from one fort recommended by a spy they caught. The Bani Ghatafan were said to have heard a strange voice and returned to their homes. The last stronghold of the Kinana family at Qamus held out for two weeks before negotiating an agreement that none would be put to death or made captive. The prophet agreed as long as they did not conceal their possessions. Families that did hide treasure were later made captives. The apostle prohibited carnal intercourse with pregnant women, eating domestic donkeys or any carnivorous animal, and selling spoils before they were duly distributed.
Most of the spoils of Khaybar were equally divided among the 1,400 Muslims except that 200 horsemen got double; but Katiba went in five parts to God, the prophet, the prophet's wives, the diplomats to Fadak, and one-fifth to relatives, orphans, and the poor. Muhammad gained the slave Safiyah and set her free when she converted to Islam and married him. The Jews of Khaybar were permitted to work their lands in exchange for surrendering half their crops to the Muslims; the Jews of Fadak and Wadi l-Qura made similar terms. Fadak became the private property of Muhammad because it was gained without attack. A woman tried to poison the apostle with roast lamb; but he spit it out, though a companion died. Now the Muslims had to protect the Jews from the Bedouins. After most of thirty Muslims were killed, the apostle had to send a force of 200.
The patriarch of Alexandria responded to the apostle's letter by sending him treasure and two slave girls. Muhammad kept Mariya, and his frequent visits to her made his wives jealous. The Muslims based their right to take concubines on the tradition that they were descended from Abraham and his bond-maid Hagar. Muhammad gave in to pressure and swore he would not see Mariya anymore; but a revelation defended his right and warned his wives he could divorce and replace them all if they were not submissive. In 629 the apostle went on pilgrimage, encircling the Ka'ba seven times, sacrificing a camel, and shaving his head. Then Bilal made the Muslim call to prayer, proclaiming Muhammad the messenger of God. After three days the apostle departed when the Meccans refused to let him wed his wife's sister Maymuna there. Later Mecca leaders 'Amr, Khalid, and 'Uthman traveled to Medina to pledge their allegiance to the apostle. After 14 peaceful messengers of Islam were killed on the border of Syria, the apostle sent an army of 3,000 led by Zayd, Ja'far, and 'Abd Allah ibn Rawaha. At Mu'tah all three leaders were killed; but only five other Muslims died as Khalid took command. When 'Amr was sent with 500 reinforcements and crossed the Syrian border, the Syrians dispersed.
When a Bakr clan made a raid against Khuza'a, the Bani Ka'b informed the apostle that one or two Quraysh had fought against them. Meccans sent Abu Sufyan to the apostle to try to strengthen or renew the truce; but Muhammad merely said the Muslims were keeping the truce. Yet he told Abu Bakr that the Quraysh had broken the pact, and they secretly prepared to march against Mecca. Seven hundred Emigrants, 4,000 Helpers, and other tribes bringing the total army to 10,000 including 900 cavalry of the Bani Sulaym marched with the apostle without knowing their objective. When they camped near Mecca, Abu Sufyan came out and acknowledged the apostle as a prophet, asking for mercy on the Meccans. The apostle declared that whoever entered the house of Abu Sufyan would be safe as would those who stayed indoors or entered the Mosque. When Abu Sufyan told the Meccans this, most stayed inside; but 'Ikrima, Safwan, and Suhayl gathered a small force on a mountain. They were defeated by Khalid's troops; 'Ikrima and Safwan fled on horses while Suhayl went into his house.
Muhammad had ordered his men not to fight anyone except those who resisted. When the apostle entered Mecca, 'Abbas gave him a drink from the Zamzam well. He confirmed the traditional right of the Hashim sons to give water to pilgrims, but he gave right over the key to another family. The idols in the temple were broken, and the icons were defaced except for one of the Virgin Mary and the child Jesus and another of Abraham. At the noon prayer the idols around the Ka'ba were burned, and everyone in Mecca was ordered to destroy the idols in their houses. Khalid was sent to destroy the pagan temple at nearby Nakhla. Almost all the Meccans entered Islam except Suhayl. Safwan was given four months to decide, and Ikrima became a Muslim upon entering a ship and returned. Muhammad ordered put to death one apostate and two girls who used to sing songs satirizing the apostle.
The apostle sent out troops around Mecca as missionaries, not to fight; but Khalid conquered the Bani Jadhima and killed some of them. After the Muslims had been in Mecca two weeks, the Hawazin had gathered an army of 20,000 in the valley north of Ta'if. The apostle added 2,000 Meccans to his army of 10,000 and borrowed a hundred coats of mail from Safwan. The Nasr Malik led the Hawazin and brought their women, children, and cattle in the rear of their army so that his warriors would fight with more determination. In the battle the Bani Sulaym cavalry began to flee, scattering the Meccans; but Muhammad rallied his warriors, and the Muslims were victorious. Many of the Hawazin were killed, and the rest fled to the hills; 6,000 of their women and children were captured along with 24,000 camels and countless sheep and goats.
The apostle's army besieged Thaqif with engines of war to no avail. After Muhammad started destroying their vineyards, he announced that slaves who joined the Muslims would be freed; twenty slaves escaped from Thaqif, telling the Muslims the Ta'if had food for a year. After a month the holy months would begin, and so the siege was abandoned. The Muslims went to Ji'rana, where the Hawazin spoils were divided. From a fifth the apostle had to provide for the poor, set free slaves and captives, relieve debtors, and help those whose hearts needed reconciling. The apostle had waited and had not heard from the Hawazin leaders until after the division; then he asked the Muslims to return the women and children to their men. The Helpers criticized the apostle for giving generous grants to sixteen influential Quraysh leaders and four chiefs of other tribes because they were already wealthy. When Muhammad told the Helpers that he would choose them over all others, they wept and accepted the prophet as the best portion. The apostle suggested that whoever killed the poet Ka'b ibn Malik would be serving God; but he relented when the poet converted and turned his verse to the worship of God. Mariya bore Muhammad his only child since his first wife Khadija died.
In October 630 the apostle told his warriors to prepare for a campaign against the Byzantine Syrians. With the Bedouins his army now had 30,000 with 10,000 horses. He left 'Ali behind with his family and reassured him that he would be as Aaron to Moses. The apostle did not find many enemies at Tabuk and made peace treaties with Christian and Jewish communities along the east coast of the Gulf of 'Aqaba. The last pagan stronghold was the Bani Thaqif at Ta'if; but as they were now surrounded by Muslims, they sent envoys to ask the apostle to let them keep their goddess al-Lat for a time. The apostle would only let them off from destroying the shrine themselves and insisted they offer the Muslim prayers, for no good religion can exist without prayer. During this year many other tribes sent delegations to the prophet, and agreements were made for collecting taxes for their protection by the emerging Islamic state. Once the prophet asked Thabit of Khazraj, a Helper, to respond to a deputation, and he said,
We are God's helpers and the assistants of His apostle
and will fight men until they believe in God;
and he who believes in God and His apostle
has protected his life and property from us;
and he who disbelieves we will fight in God unceasingly,
and killing him will be a small matter to us."5
The apostle sent out his officials to collect the poor tax in every district subject to Islam.
At the next pilgrimage the apostle announced that this would be the last year that would allow naked and idolatrous pilgrims going around the Holy House. After four months there would be war against any remaining idolaters, though treaties with the apostle would be honored until they expired. The apostle preached that they should not wrong, and they shall not be wronged. He said that God decreed there shall be no usury, and he abolished all the usury of his uncle 'Abbas. All blood shed in the pagan period was to be left unavenged. He said that husbands have the right to beat their wives, but not severely, if they defile their bed or behave in an unseemly manner. Wives have the right to food and clothing with kindness. Wives should be treated kindly because they are prisoners given in trust by God. Adulterers are to be stoned. The apostle's son Ibrahim died when he was about two years old. The prophet was reminded that we are only passing strangers in this world. 'Ali summed it up by saying that we should act in this world as though we are going to live forever but for the next as though we are going to die tomorrow. Tabuk was the last battle in which Muhammad participated; but he continued to send out his forces on raids.
Many of the sayings from Muhammad's informal conversations were later written down. He admonished his friends to feed the hungry, visit the sick, and free the captives who are unjustly bound. He considered anyone holding a monopoly an offender and cursed those who kept back grain in order to sell it at a higher price. In war he warned his men not to kill women, children, nor old men who cannot fight. He advised judges not to make decisions when they are angry. One who controls anger is stronger than one who throws people down. The apostle once said that a virtuous woman is the most valuable thing in the world; yet he also said that no calamity can be more hurtful to a man than a woman. He believed the best women were content with little. Divorce was lawful; but it was disliked by God. A widow should not be married without consulting her, and a virgin must give her silent consent. The apostle said that slavery was ordained by God; but one must give these brothers and sisters the same food one eats oneself and the same clothes one wears; if one orders a slave to do something beyond his power, one must help him in doing it.
Muhammad opposed paintings except those of trees and things without souls. He advised against speaking of the dead because they have gone to the reward of their actions. He considered obedience a Muslim duty unless one is ordered to commit a sin. Al-Muttaqi also reported that Muhammad said,
The nearer a man is to government, the further he is from God;
the more followers he has, the more devils;
the greater his wealth, the more exacting his reckoning.6
Assassination attempts on the life of the prophet failed. Abu Bakr taught new Muslims to proclaim the unity of God, perform prayer, pay the poor-tax, fast during Ramadan, go on a pilgrimage, wash after impurity, and never assume authority over two Muslims. The prophet advised his followers not to obey anyone who orders them to do something wrong. The apostle sometimes differentiated degrees of holiness, and he said that the one remembering God is more excellent than the one who wields his sword against the infidels until it is broken and bloody. The first pilgrimage in which no pagans would be allowed to participate was the last pilgrimage to Mecca for the apostle. From Medina came 30,000 men and women. He exhorted them to treat each other well. He had given them the book of God called the Qur'an, and the prophet now recited his last revelation to be added to that book, telling them not to fear the disbelievers but God because their religion has prevailed. Other prophets began to proclaim themselves. When one wrote to the apostle as Musaylima the messenger of God, Muhammad wrote back calling him Musaylima the Liar. After a few months the pride of Aswad ibn Ka'b of Yemen caused his own followers to assassinate him, and Asad chief Tulayha was defeated by Khalid, renounced his claim, and surrendered to Islam.
As he neared death from illness the apostle sent Zayd's son Usamah with an army of 3,000 against the Arabs who had fought with the Syrians against them. In the mosque the apostle announced that a prophet is given a choice between this world and the next, and Abu Bakr realized that Muhammad had chosen the next life. The apostle affirmed Abu Bakr as his closest friend, and he ordered all the doors to the mosque walled up except the door of Abu Bakr. The prophet was no longer afraid that they would set up other gods, but he did fear that they would seek to rival one another in worldly gains. Muhammad now had eleven wives; but he spent his last days in 'A'ishah's apartment, and he instructed Abu Bakr to lead the prayers. On June 8, 632 the apostle's last words before he died referred to supreme communion with God. In the mosque Abu Bakr announced that Muhammad was dead; but for those who wanted to worship God, truly God is living and immortal.
Some Muslims, mostly Helpers, wanted to make the Sa'ida chief Sa'd the new authority; but Emigrants led by 'Umar and Abu 'Ubayda pledged their allegiance to Abu Bakr, who thanked God and asked their help if he did well and their correction if he did wrong. He promised to strengthen the rights of the weak against the strong. He asked them to obey him as long he obeyed God and his messenger, and they prayed.
The sacred book of Islam is the Qur'an, which means The Recital. Although Muhammad was probably illiterate himself, this scripture is considered one of the finest works of literature. Muhammad would recite the verses; they were memorized and written down. The final text was completed within a generation of his death. For the most part God is speaking to Muhammad and humanity, though occasionally the messengers Gabriel and Muhammad speak. There are 114 chapters, placed in order of decreasing length, and each begins with the words "In the name of God, the gracious, the loving." The exordium at the beginning praises and worships God alone, asking for guidance on a straight and blessed path. God is recording all of everyone's deeds and will judge them. Many verses warn against the fires of hell or give metaphorical descriptions of the paradise that will reward belief in God and good deeds. Those who give charity and guard against evil and believe in goodness will have a smooth path to salvation; but the opposite will find affliction, and their riches will not help them. God warns those who do not show kindness to orphans or feed the poor, who greedily grab the inheritance of the weak and love riches in their hearts.
Muhammad retold in his own way several stories from the Old and New Testaments of the Judeo-Christian Bible, "the people of the book." These include Adam, Noah, Abraham, Lot, Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon, Elijah, Jonah, Job, Zacharias, Mary, and Jesus, and are recounted to encourage the believers with true precepts and admonitions. The 74th chapter warns that every soul will be pledged for what it has earned except for the companions on the right who will ask the sinners what brought them to hell; they shall reply that they did not pray nor feed the hungry, and they engaged in vain disputes while denying a day of reckoning. Use of plural probably implies that God and Gabriel are speaking together, such as when they declare that they know everything that humans do and think, and it is all recorded in a book.
According to chapter 61 of the Qur'an God loves those who fight for His cause, and listeners are encouraged to fight with their wealth and persons for God and His apostle. Those who participate in the fighting or give their wealth before the victory will have greater honor than those who do so afterwards. This life is referred to as a sport or pastime, questing for greater riches and children; but in the life to come await woeful punishments or a vast paradise for those who gain the pardon and grace of God. The speakers in the Qur'an claim they gave Jesus his Gospel and put mercy and compassion in the hearts of his followers; but they did not enjoin monasticism, which was instituted by people seeking to please God; many of them are called wrong-doers. In chapter 47 called "Muhammad," people are instructed,
When you meet the unbelievers in the battlefield,
strike off their heads, and,
when you have laid them low, bind your captives firmly.
Then grant them their freedom or take ransom from them,
until War shall lay down her armor.
Thus shall you do.
Had God willed, He could Himself have punished them;
but He has ordained it thus that He might test you, the one by the other.
As for those who are slain in the cause of God,
He will not allow their works to perish.
He will vouchsafe them guidance and ennoble their state;
He will admit them to the Paradise He has made known to them.
Believers, if you help God, God will help you and make you strong.
But the unbelievers shall be consigned to perdition.7
Those who disbelieve and bar others from God's path and die unbelievers shall not be forgiven by God. Thus believers are told not to sue for peace when they have the upper hand because God is on their side and will reward them. Another chapter states that God created the heavens and the Earth to reveal the truth and reward each soul according to its deeds, and none shall be wronged.
In this world lighter punishments are inflicted so that people may return to the right path; but the world to come brings supreme punishment according to the Qur'an. Warnings of punishments at the Day of Judgment are repeated over and over. The listener is advised to give their due to relatives, to the needy, and to wayfarers. Those who seek to gain by usury will not be blessed by God; but charity will be multiplied and repaid. Prayer fends off indecency and evil, and one's foremost duty is to remember God. Muslims are admonished to be courteous when arguing with the people of the Bible (Jews and Christians). The golden mean between being extravagant or niggardly is recommended. One must not kill humans, though exception is made for a just cause. Adultery may double one's punishment on the Day of Judgment. Those who repent and do good works may have their sins changed to good actions by God, who is forgiving and merciful. One must not give false testimony, and believers are advised not to lose their dignity when listening to profane abuse.
Chapter 24 called "Light," given after the 'A'isha scandal, set the penalty for adultery at 100 lashes, and believers are forbidden from marrying adulterers or idolaters. False testimony was to be punished with 80 lashes. Women are to be chaste and cover their adornments, drawing a veil over their bosoms and finery except to their husbands, close relatives, and servants. Slave-girls who choose to be chaste are not to be forced into prostitution to make money. The Authors of the Qur'an charge no one with more than they can bear, and they state that none shall be wronged.
Chapter 17 on "The Night Journey" to Jerusalem gives the Qur'an's version of commandments found in the Torah. First one must serve no other gods but God. One should show kindness to parents. If one is neither miserly nor prodigal, then one will not be reproached nor reduced to penury. Baby girls are not to be killed out of fear of poverty because God will provide for them. Adultery is foul and indecent. If a person is slain unjustly, his heir is entitled to satisfaction. No one should interfere with the property of orphans until they are mature. Everyone is accountable for what they promise. Give full measure and weigh on fair scales. Do not follow what you do not understand; question the eyes, ears, and heart. Do not walk proudly on Earth, for you cannot rival the mountains in stature. Be courteous in speech. God has exalted some prophets above others; David was given the Psalms.
In chapter 60 of the Qur'an God forbids Muslims to make friends with those who have fought against their religion. Marriages with unbelieving women should be dissolved. Believers are to avoid immoderate suspicion, spying, and backbiting. In chapter 48 on "Victory" Muhammad is told that those who swear fealty to him swear fealty to God. No soul shall bear another's burden, and all souls return to God, who knows their inmost thoughts. Unintentional mistakes shall be forgiven but not deliberate errors. When humans punish, the punishment should be proportional to the wrong that has been done to them. Yet enduring wrongs with patience is best. Be patient, and God will be patient with you. Do not grieve for the unbelievers nor be distressed by their intrigues. God is with those who refrain from evil and do good works. In the chapter on "The Spoils" the prophet is told to arouse the faithful to arms; they are told that twenty determined men will conquer a hundred, and a hundred will rout a thousand unbelievers who lack understanding. A woeful punishment is proclaimed for those who hoard gold and silver and do not spend it in God's cause.
The longest chapter in the Qur'an is "The Cow." Believers are reminded to pray facing Mecca, give charity to the poor, and fast (until sunset) during the month of Ramadan. God has forbidden the eating of flesh from animals that die a natural death, blood, and pork. One must not usurp the property of others by unjust means nor bribe judges. Although one should fight for God against those who fight against them, one should not attack first because God does not like aggressors. Yet those are to be killed where they are found because idolatry is worse than bloodshed. Unbelievers who attack should be put to the sword; but if they mend their ways, God is forgiving and merciful. The Qur'an reminds its listeners that fighting is obligatory even though they do not like it. Women deserve similar rights as men, though men have a higher status.
In the 4th chapter called "Women" listeners are told that if they cannot treat orphan girls fairly, they may marry other women—two, three, or four. Yet if they are afraid they cannot treat them equally, they should marry only one or slave-girls they own so as to avoid injustice. A male is to inherit twice as much as a female. Disobedient women may be admonished, sent to beds apart, and even beat. In "The Table" God suggests the penalty for a broken oath is to feed or clothe ten needy people or free one slave. Those who cannot afford these may fast for three days. Satan stirs up hatred and trouble by means of wine and gambling; believers are asked to abstain from them. Those who have faith and do not taint their faith with wrong-doing shall find salvation.
The conversations of Muhammad and his companions were also written down and collected as Hadith (Traditions) so that they could be used as counsel for Muslim morals and manners. Muhammad ibn Isma'il al Bukhari (810-70) gathered 600,000 traditions, from which he selected 7,225 he considered authentic. Although not considered as sacred as the Qur'an itself, these provided another compendium of teachings that became central to Muslim culture. These traditions recommend being good to one's mother, obeying parents, not cursing, doing good and maintaining good relations, taking care of family first and neighbors next, caring for orphans, treating servants well, controlling anger, being friendly, generous, forgiving, and patient, not lying, visiting the sick, praying sincerely, and even specific manners such as covering your mouth when yawning or saying "God bless you" after someone sneezes. Al-Bukhari and Muslims also recorded the tradition that actions are the results of intention, which comes from the heart. God will not look at people's bodies or forms but at their hearts.
After the Emigrants and the Helpers pledged their loyalty to Abu Bakr as Muhammad's successor (Caliph), 'Umar proposed that anyone else who presumed to take on the sovereign power should be put to death along with those who support him; the assembly passed this resolution. This and 'Umar's threat to set his house on fire was enough to discourage 'Ali from making his claim as successor. Abu Bakr's name means "father of the virgin," and his daughter 'A'isha was the only wife that came to the apostle as a virgin; all the others were widows, and many probably were married for political reasons. Abu Bakr, like Muhammad, lived fairly ascetically without pomp. Every Friday he distributed surplus funds to the meritorious and needy. At first many of the Arabian tribes refused to pay the required alms to the Caliph, and the new state consisted primarily of Medina, Mecca, and Ta'if. Some Bedouin rebels led by Malik ibn Nuwirah even marched on Medina. Abu Bakr sent out Khalid ibn al-Walid with 4,500 men and instructions to be lenient; but the zealous general allowed his warriors to seize herds and enslave children. The beauty of Malik's wife was given as the reason Khalid had the rebel beheaded by Derar even though Malik professed Islam.
A larger force was led by Musaylima, who claimed to be a prophet also. His forces were joined by those of Saja, a woman who headed the Banu Tamim, when Musaylima married her. Their ten thousand followers were defeated at Akreba by Khalid's warriors, who had 1,200 Muslims killed. Musaylima also fought and was killed. Abu Bakr dubbed Khalid "the sword of God." Since two of the six Muslims who had memorized the entire Qur'an were killed, after this battle Abu Bakr ordered Muhammad's former secretary Zayd ibn Thabit to collect the written and oral revelations. Qur'an reciters were sent out to teach the Arabs Islam.
After Bahrain, Uman, and Yemen had submitted, Abu Bakr sent out an appeal to all Arabs to join the Muslim army marching into Syria. He appointed Abu Sufyan governor of Nadj and Hijaz. His son Yazid ibn Abu Sufyan commanded one of three armies sent east of the Jordan; the other generals were Abu 'Ubayda and Shurahbil ibn Hasana; and 'Amr ibn al-'As was sent to invade Palestine. They were told not to destroy fruit trees or grain fields nor to kill cattle except for food. Religious people and their buildings were to be respected; but unbelievers who did not embrace Islam or pay tribute were to be killed. Yazid's army defeated and killed a force of 1200 sent by Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, and spoils were sent back to Medina. Abu Bakr sent several forces to Syria commanded by Abu 'Ubayda.
The outstanding General Khalid went with a force of 10,000 into Iraq. Khalid gave the people of Hira a choice of three options that became the standard policy of the Muslim conquerors - either accept Islam, agree to pay the jizya tribute, or fight. Then he besieged and captured the former Lakhmid capital of Hira, imposing an annual tribute of 70,000 pieces of gold. Khalid sent a letter to the Persians warning them if they did not become Muslims or pay protection, he would come upon them with men who love death as much as they love life or wine. Next Khalid's forces defeated the Persian governor at Aila, and one-fifth of the spoils was sent to the Caliph.
Abu Bakr ordered Khalid to leave Muthana in charge in Iraq and to take command of Muslim forces in Syria. Khalid with an army of 40,000 Muslims marched toward Damascus. Not knowing their numbers, Emperor Heraclius at Antioch sent 5,000 men led by Calous, who was defeated and beheaded when he refused to renounce Christianity for Islam. Damascus was besieged, and Heraclius sent an army of 100,000 commanded by Emessa prefect Werdan. The bold Muslim Derar attacked them with a small force and was captured. The fanatical Muslims defeated the larger Byzantine army, and Derar was rescued. Thousands of fleeing Greeks were killed. Khalid learned of a treacherous ambush and turned the tables on Werdan, allowing Derar to behead him. Abu Sufyan persuaded Abu Bakr to send Quraysh warriors to reinforce Khalid. The Muslim army defeated the Byzantine forces of Heraclius in southern Palestine at the battle of Ajnadayn.
After a siege of six months the Damascenes negotiated their capitulation with Abu 'Ubayda, knowing he was more conciliatory; at the same time Khalid's forces were storming the city. To maintain Muslim credibility Khalid agreed to honor the terms Abu 'Ubayda granted; but after three days he pursued those who were allowed to leave with minimal weapons for self-defense and was aided in catching them by the traitor Jonas, who sought the woman Eudocea. After their capture Eudocea committed suicide, and the Christians were killed or made prisoners. Khalid returned to Damascus and sent one-fifth of the spoils to Caliph Abu Bakr, who had died in 634 when Damascus was taken. Abu Bakr had nominated 'Umar as his successor, and he was elected the second Caliph.
'Umar also lived frugally and abstinently, drinking only water and eating mostly dates and barley bread, sometimes even refraining from the luxury of salt. He noted that four things do not come back - spoken words, arrows shot, past actions, and neglected opportunity. During the decade of his reign many mosques were constructed; prisons were also built as a police force was organized. 'Umar devised a twisted whip for minor offenses which was more feared than his sword. Drunkenness was punished with eighty lashes, and 'Umar did not even spare his own son, who died from the whipping. Instead of the long title, successor of the successor of the prophet, he took the title Commander of the Faithful. Although the prophet Muhammad had promised protection to the Jews in Khaybar, 'Umar expelled Jews from Arabia to Syria. No Muslim was allowed to cultivate land outside of the Arabian peninsula. In conquered territory Muslim men were always armed, and non-Muslims were not allowed arms. Some were upset when 'Umar replaced the aggressive Khalid as his top general with Abu 'Ubayda, whom he favored for his moderation and piety. The concern increased, because Abu 'Ubayda withheld the report of Abu Bakr's death and the replacement until after Khalid had wiped out the exiles fleeing Damascus, which 'Umar also criticized.
Abu Bakr's stepson Abd-Allah volunteered to lead 500 men to an Easter fair at the Abyla convent but found they were guarded by 5,000 horsemen. The Muslims nonetheless attacked, but one rode to Damascus for reinforcements. Khalid and Derar led a band and turned the battle into a Muslim victory, taking rich spoils. The hermit, who attracted the crowd, warned Khalid of heaven's vengeance for his having slaughtered Christians. The Muslim general replied that he was obeying God in killing unbelievers.
Abu 'Ubaydah's Muslim forces met a Persian army led by Bahman Jaduya on the banks of the Euphrates. About 4,000 Muslims were killed, and Muthana was wounded. In the next battle in 635 Muthana's brother Mas'ud was killed, but the Persians fled. After Muthana died of his wound, Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas was named commander. Persian King Yazdgard III complained that the Muslims came to rob their land and offered to load their camels with dates and grain if they would depart. The opposing armies camped at Qadisyah next to a Euphrates canal. During the battle of Qadisyah in 637 about 10,000 Arab Muslims were reinforced with 6,000 warriors from Syria; but they faced about 80,000 Persians led by Rustam, who had the canal filled in so that he could use his elephants. The Persian army was defeated, as Rustam was killed, and the sacred standard of Persia was captured. The Arabs also lost a third of their men but obtained spoils and the fertile Sawad of Iraq. 'Umar had a city called Basra founded where the Euphrates and Tigris flow into the Persian Gulf.
Khalid's Muslims besieged Emessa, and Abu 'Ubayda accepted their tribute for a one-year truce. He also tried to limit the marauding in Alhadir and Kennesrin by making similar arrangements, frustrating some of the warriors wanting to plunder. At Aleppo the chief general Abu 'Ubayda demanded double the tribute offered and one thousand swords. The Muslims spent their profits so freely that Aleppo’s Governor Herbis was trying to get his money back by collecting ten percent; when he tried to increase this to one-fourth, his people killed him. In 636 after the truce Abu 'Ubayda went back to besieging Emessa, which along with other towns eventually surrendered.
The Muslim army of 40,000 camped at Yarmuk between Palestine and Arabia. Emperor Heraclius sent Manuel with a Byzantine army reported to be 80,000. They were joined by 60,000 Arabs of Ghassanid chief Jabalah, who had once been a Muslim; but he renounced his faith after a pilgrimage in which an argument led him to knock out a peasant's teeth, and he would not agree to a "tooth for a tooth." Khalid boldly attacked the Ghassanids, who retreated, though Yazid, Rafi, and Derar were captured. The Caliph sent ibn 'Amir with 8,000 reinforcements, and on the way they defeated 5,000 men led by the Ammon prefect. At a conference Manuel complained that the Muslims were invading their territories to steal their wives and property while Khalid replied that they were obstinate in not accepting the one God Allah and his prophet Muhammad. At the battle of Yarmuk in 636 Muslims were kept from retreating by their women, who drove their men back to the front with reproaches and blows. Seven hundred Muslims were said to have lost an eye from Christian arrows. After several days of fierce fighting, the Christians fled in various directions. One-fifth of the spoils were sent to the Caliph, and cavalry with pure Arabian horses received a double share.
'Ali advised Caliph 'Umar to aim for Jerusalem, and the holy city was besieged by Abu 'Ubaydah's army. The Christian patriarch Sophronius said this offended God. The patriarch agreed to surrender the city if the Caliph would come in person. 'Umar left 'Ali in charge at Medina and made the journey by camel. At one stop a Christian objected to 'Umar's statement that God leads some into error. When the Caliph threatened to have his head cut off, the Christian kept silent. In 637 Jerusalem capitulated to 'Umar's terms that promised safe conduct to their persons, property, and churches, but those who did not emigrate must pay the jizya tax. They could not sell wine, bear arms, or even ride a horse with a saddle and had to show respect to all Muslims. 'Umar appointed Yazid Abu Sufyan governor in southern Syria and sent Abu 'Ubaydah's larger army into northern Syria.
Aleppo was now governed by two brothers of opposite temperaments - the aggressive Youkinna and the monkish Johannas. Youkinna led 12,000 men against the Muslims while the merchants agreed to pay Abu 'Ubayda. After a battle Youkinna returned to Aleppo, demanded they renounce the treaty, and cut off the head of his peaceful brother. Just then Khalid's forces appeared and killed 3,000 of Youkinna's troops. The Muslim warrior Damas led a stealthy night attack and opened the gates; the Christians soon surrendered, and Youkinna accepted Islam. Youkinna then treacherously used his former reputation to help the Muslims take the cities of Azaz and Antioch, where Emperor Heraclius actually put Youkinna in charge of his army. Caliph 'Umar was described to the Byzantine Emperor as living in a house of mud, attended by beggars and the poor, decorated by justice and equity on a throne of abstinence and true knowledge with faith in God as his treasure, and with the bravest Unitarians as his guards. Jabalah proposed they send a man to assassinate 'Umar to no avail. Antioch's iron bridge was surrendered, and Youkinna freed Derar and the other Muslim prisoners. Heraclius fled to Constantinople, and Antioch bought safety for 300,000 gold coins on August 21, 638.
Abu 'Ubayda wrote to the Caliph that his men were marrying Greek women; but 'Umar replied that men without wives at home could do so and purchase as many female slaves as they wished. Muslim General 'Amr ibn al-'As led a siege of Caesarea; when he sent the former slave and announcer Bilal as an envoy, he was rejected by prince Constantine for being a black Ethiopian. Constantine would not pay tribute or give up religious freedom, and so 'Amr said the only alternative was the sword. This time Youkinna and his men were discovered and imprisoned. Tyre troops sallied forth to meet 2,000 Muslims led by Yazid ibn Abu Sufyan while Youkinna and 900 men were freed by an apostate, found weapons, and fought too. Most in Tripoli and Tyre accepted Islam, and those who did not were plundered and enslaved. Constantine fled by ship to join his father at Constantinople, and Caesarea gave up the imperial family's wealth and paid a large ransom in 639. The conquest of Syria was followed by famine and pestilence. In addition to uncounted Syrians 25,000 invading Muslims died including Abu 'Ubayda, Yazid ibn Abu Sufyan, and other generals. 'Umar complained that Khalid paid 30,000 silver coins to a poet praising his victories; the General was fined although it was found he had not embezzled money. Khalid died leaving only his arms, his war-horse, and one slave.
A Muslim army of perhaps 60,000 marched on the Persian capital called Mada'in, which included the cities of Ctesiphon and Seleucia on the banks of the Tigris. King Yazdgard left Ctesiphon before their arrival, and the forces that remained soon fled. So much treasure was obtained that after one-fifth was sent to Medina, each Muslim received 12,000 silver dirhams. Fourteen months later the garrison city of Kufa was founded. Sa'd built such an elaborate palace there that Caliph 'Umar sent an envoy to burn it down. Forces led by Persian General Hurmuzan were defeated at Arbuq and fled, pursued by Nu'man and his Muslims. After a siege at Shustar, Hurmuzan agreed to surrender if he were sent to the Caliph.
City after city fell in Khuzistan, and Fars was raided. Caliph 'Umar appointed Nu'man to replace Sa'd at Kufa, but he was killed during the Muslims' "victory of victories" at Nihavand which was reported to have killed 100,000 Persians and finally defeated the Sassanian empire in 641. The Persian aristocracy had over-taxed the people for too long. The Arabs collected less taxes, and the Muslims certainly fought with more zeal for their religion. While pursuing Yazdgard, Muslim forces led by Jarir captured prosperous Hulwan peacefully; the ancient Ecbatana called Hamadan was taken; and Nu'aim took Ray. Tabaristan agreed to pay an annual tribute of 500,000 dirhams. Zarathustran temples were destroyed in Azerbaijan, and Qazvin surrendered in 644. The capitulation terms of Jurjan, Tabaristan, Jil Jilan, and Azerbaijan also provided safe conduct in exchange for the jizya tax and required them to provide hospitality to traveling Muslims. Many treaties threatened severe punishments for striking or insulting a Muslim.
'Amr led the Muslim invasion of Egypt in 640, besieging Misrah (Memphis) for seven months. Egyptian Governor Muqawqis disagreed with the Greek orthodox theology anyway and agreed to pay two gold pieces for every man, not counting old men and monks. Alexandria was besieged for fourteen months and succumbed in 642; but leaving it without an adequate garrison, the Muslims had to conquer the metropolis again in 645. The city was said to contain 4,000 palaces, 4,000 baths, 400 theaters, 12,000 vegetable gardeners, and 40,000 tributary Jews. The Muslim warriors were prevented from pillaging and wasting the wealth so that it could be used to pay for the expenses of the war. The annual taxes imposed were estimated at 12,000,000 dirhams. The grain of Egypt was sent by caravan to Arabia to alleviate the famine. John the Grammarian asked for the valuable books in the library. 'Amr sent his request to Caliph 'Umar, who reasoned that the Qur'an is sufficient because those books agreeing with it are useless and those disagreeing are pernicious; thus they should be destroyed. The precious manuscripts supplied the fuel to heat the city's baths for the next six months. Since no contemporary account of the library being destroyed at this time exists, this story may have been fabricated by the Baghdad historian Abdul Latif several centuries later.
Caliph 'Umar had warned against Persian luxuries, and he prohibited female captives who had borne a child from being sold as slaves. In his weekly distribution of funds he paid more attention to need than merit, believing worldly things are to relieve necessities while God rewards virtue in heaven. He assigned pensions to companions of Muhammad and to those who had served in the army. Those who served the Muslim cause in earlier campaigns received much larger amounts, and the inequality led to significant resentment. During his reign it was reported that 36,000 towns, castles, and strongholds fell to the Muslims. In 644 'Umar was assassinated by a Persian slave named Firuz while praying in a mosque. 'Umar's son 'Ubayd-Allah in revenge killed the prisoner Hurmuzan and two others; but he escaped punishment by the next Caliph.
While dying 'Umar had left the election to six men including 'Ali; but 'Uthman was elected after 'Ali insisted on following only the Qur'an and his own judgment rather than the Qur'an and precedents of the previous caliphs. 'Uthman had been a secretary of Muhammad, and during his reign the Qur'an was edited into its final form. All other versions were ordered burned, though many reciters in Kufa resisted complying for a while. 'Abd Allah ibn Mas'ud, who also had been a secretary to Muhammad, charged that 'Uthman's version of the Qur'an was falsified. 'Uthman was seventy when he took office and relied on his secretary of state Marwan ibn Hakam, who received 504,000 gold dinars from the public treasury. 'Uthman also aroused resentment by appointing many of his Umayyad relatives to important positions. He deposed Persia conqueror Sa'd ibn Abi-Waqqas in Kufa with a relative, who got so drunk he was flogged and replaced by a younger relative, who allowed ruffians to run wild and also had to be dismissed. Egypt's experienced conqueror 'Amr ibn al-'As was replaced by 'Uthman's foster brother Abd-Allah ibn Sa'd. Soon Umayyads controlled the treasury, the police, the pilgrimage, the inspectors, and the army in Arabia as well as in the conquered territories.
In 647 'Abd-Allah ibn Sa'd led an army of 40,000 west of Egypt across North Africa. Tripoli's prefect Gregory rejected the usual options of converting to Islam or paying tribute, choosing to fight. After a few days Gregory offered his daughter's hand in marriage and 100,000 gold coins to anyone who killed the Muslim commander. 'Abd-Allah withdrew from the combat but was reprimanded upon the arrival of Zubayr, who suggested they offer the same daughter to anyone who killed Gregory. Zubayr himself killed Gregory but gave up his daughter for the right to tell his story of conquest in the mosque at Medina. Abu Sufyan's son Mu'awiya persuaded the Caliph to let him organize a navy. Cyprus was raided in 649, and the Muslim navy won a decisive victory over the Byzantines in 655 to make Cyprus pay tribute.
Many regions in Persia reverted after having submitted to Islam, and Sa'd ibn al-'As had to invade Tabaristan, and others campaigned against insurrection in Azerbaijan. The fleeing King Yazdgard instigated the Persians in Fars, and the young cousin of the Caliph, 'Abd-Allah ibn 'Amir led an army in a protracted war that by 649 had killed a reported 40,000 or more. Then Firuzabad agreed to pay 33,000,000 dirhams annually. Yazdgard retreated to Kirman, and 'Abd-Allah ibn 'Amir, now Governor of Basra, sent an army led by Muja Shi' to pursue him, though many perished in the snow. 'Amir then sent General Rabi' into Sistan, and he settled in its main city of Zarang for several years. 'Amir himself led expeditions into Khurasan, taking Nishapur, Abivard, Nisa, and Sarakhs. Yazdgard was finally killed in 651 at Marv.
Resentment throughout the Islamic empire increased after 'Uthman lost the prophet's ring in a stream in 650. The spoils of conquest were decreasing, and many government and military officials had to be paid. His request that tribute be sent to Medina caused Sawad treasurer 'Abd-Allah ibn Mas'ud to resign in protest; the respected companion of the prophet was even beaten at a Medina mosque. The aristocratic privileges of the earlier Muslims were also resented. Abu Dharr criticized the great wealth of the Umayyads and quoted the Qur'an statement that those who hoard gold and silver will face a fearful punishment. Although Abu Dharr had been a close companion of the prophet, Mu'awiya sent him to Medina for trial, and he was banished for continuing to criticize the regime.
In 655 after Governor Sa'd ibn al-As conferred with the Caliph at Medina, 3,000 prominent Kufans chose Abu Musa al-Ash'ari to replace him. From Egypt about 500 Muslims led by Abu Bakr's son Muhammad marched to Medina to complain. When they discovered a secret message on their return that the leaders were to be killed, they went back to Medina and demanded that 'Uthman abdicate. He denied sending the message and refused; after rocks were thrown at him, he stayed in his house. Although 'Ali, Zubayr, and Talha sent their sons to protect the Caliph's house, the conspirators got in on June 17, 656 and killed 'Uthman with swords while he was reading the Qur'an; his wife Naila lost three fingers trying to protect him. 'Ali waited five days before he accepted election as Caliph.
'Ali sent replacements for five major governors 'Uthman had appointed; but only 'Abd-Allah ibn Abbas was able to take office in Arabia, while that retiring Governor Jaali took the public treasury to Mecca. There the resentful 'A'isha persuaded Talha and Zubayr to lead 3,000 Meccans and march on Basra. That city was divided, and 'Uthman ibn Hanif, whom 'Ali had sent to govern Kufa, commanded some forces in Basra. Efforts to resolve the differences of the two factions resulted in their throwing dirt in each other's faces. A truce was agreed upon while deputies were sent to Medina, and 'A'isha, Zubayr, and Talha entered Basra. 'Ali raised a force of 900 men and marched toward Basra. In Kufa 'Ali's son Hasan persuaded nearly 9,000 to follow him, and by the time 'Ali's army reached Basra it had about 30,000 experienced troops. In the Battle of the Camel 'A'isha stayed on her camel protected by warriors as her howdah was covered with arrows. In this first battle of a civil war 13,000 Muslims were slain. Zubayr and Talha were killed, and 'A'isha was forced to retire at Medina. 'Ali moved the capital to the growing city of Kufa in Iraq while 'Uthman's bloody shirt had been sent to Damascus to arouse people in Syria.
'Ali also governed Arabia, Persia, and Egypt, but Mu'awiya ruled Syria and Palestine. A tribal conflict between the Umayyads and 'Ali's house of Hashim now became an imperial struggle. In 567 their large armies met for four months at Siffin; but both sides were reluctant to engage in full warfare against fellow Muslims, though some reported that tens of thousands were killed. When 'Ali's side seemed to be winning, Mu'awiyah's army began holding up the Qur'an on their spears, bringing about an armistice. An arbitration by two judges was to decide; but Mu'awiyah's capable 'Amr ibn al-'As got Musa al-Ashari to agree that neither Mu'awiya nor 'Ali should be Caliph. A third tribe of Bani Tamim believed that 'Ali was wrong in submitting to human arbitration instead of to God, and these seceders (Kharijis) organized their own forces.
The Kharijis believed the Caliph does not need to be selected from either the Umayyad or 'Ali families but should be elected by Muslims and that those guilty of a grave sin should be treated as unbelievers. Mu‘awiya’s followers believed that any Muslim is morally qualified to be Caliph. The Mu‘tazila held the neutral position that sinners are not true Muslims but may be part of the Muslim community. The Murji’a believed that faith and intention are more important than good or bad actions. The Kharijis, the Mu‘tazila and the Murji’a believe in free will. The Mu‘tazila emphasize the unity and transcendence of God along with human freedom and moral responsibility and came to believe that the Qur’an is created.
Mu'awiya sent an army to take control of Egypt. 'Ali's governor Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr was personally executed by Mu'awiya for his part in murdering 'Uthman, and 'Amr ibn al-'As became governor of Egypt again. Mu'awiya demanded that 'Ali punish the other murderers of the Caliph; but this would include 'Ali's main assistant at Kufa, Malik al-Astar, and other supporters.
Dissenting Kharijis opposed to the authority of 'Ali as well as that of Mu'awiya, attacked Ctesiphon with 4,000 men. 'Ali's army slaughtered most of them at the small village of Baghdad; but those who escaped spread their independent message. 'Ali no longer had enough support to march against Syria, and in 660 Mu'awiya was proclaimed Caliph at Jerusalem. Many believe that the Kharijis conspired to assassinate 'Ali, Mu'awiya, and 'Amr ibn al-'As at the same time. Mu'awiya was wounded but recovered; in Egypt the Imam officiating at the mosque in place of 'Amr ibn al-'As was murdered by mistake; but in Kufa 'Ali died after three days from a wound by a poisoned sword. 'Ali nominated his oldest son Hasan, but in 661 Mu'awiya persuaded the peace-loving Hasan to retire at Medina on a generous pension.
Although Mu'awiya was an Umayyad and kept his relatives in place, his main goal as Caliph was Muslim unity. He took measures to control revenue although he granted local governors much autonomy. However, when 'Ali-partisan Hujr ibn 'Adi in Kufa refused allegiance to Mu'awiya's governor and threatened rebellion, Mu'awiya had him brought to Damascus and executed him for continuing to refuse. Al-Maghira of Ta'if governed Kufa for a decade and gained Kufans' cooperation by allowing them to keep some of the revenues and by paying salaries regularly. Mu'awiya's governor in Basra, the Umayyad 'Abd Allah, reconquered Khurasan and entered Transoxiana as far as Kabul; but disorders in Basra caused him to be replaced in 664 by Ziyad ibn Abihi of Ta'if; he promised the people access to himself and strictly enforced the laws, including a curfew. He also sent armies to Khurasan. When al-Maghira died in 670, Ziyad became governor of Kufa too. The next year Ziyad sent 50,000 troops from Basra and Kufa to settle in the Marv oasis. He died in 673 and was succeeded by his son 'Ubayd Allah.
In Syria Mu'awiya's armies invaded Armenia and garrisoned parts of Anatolia. His navy captured Rhodes in 672 and Crete two years later. Muslims even attacked Constantinople in 669 and began a four-year siege of the Byzantine capital in 674, but they were driven back by the use of Greek fire containing a secret phosphorous compound. 'Amr's nephew Uqbah ibn Nafi led the campaigns in North Africa against the Berbers about 670 until he reached the Atlantic Ocean.
When Mu'awiya nominated his son Yazid as his successor, some complained that election was being replaced by a hereditary monarchy. Yazid's mother was a Christian poet, and he spent much time drinking with women and hunting. 'Ali's son Hasan had died in 669, and some suspected he was poisoned by Yazid's order. 'Ali's second son Husain was urged to go to Kufa; but on October 10, 680 he, the women and children of his family, and about a hundred supporters were massacred by an army of 4,000 after a valiant battle at Karbala. As the grandson of the prophet Muhammad, Husain's heroic martyrdom became a rallying point for followers of 'Ali who wanted a spiritual leader or Imam rather than a political monarch from the family of Abu Sufyan, who had so strongly opposed the apostle in Mecca. 'Abd-Allah ibn-al'Zubayr had encouraged Husain to go to Kufa, and he now proclaimed himself Caliph and managed to replace some of the Umayyad governors from his capital at Mecca. In 683 Yazid sent 12,000 men under Muslim ibn-Uqba, who destroyed Medina and attacked Mecca, where the Ka'ba was burned. The siege of Mecca was lifted when they heard that Yazid had died.
Yazid was succeeded by his young son Mu'awiya II; but he died of a plague about two months later. 'Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad had to flee Basra for Syria, where he persuaded Marwan not to accept Zubayr. The Umayyads and the southern Yemeni tribes that included the Kalb then overcame the Qays and Zubayrids to make Marwan caliph. However, this tribal feud would go on for generations. Kharijis in Arabia set up Najdah ibn 'Amir in Najd while Azraqi Kharijis mostly from Basra established another regime in Iran. Marwan ibn-Hakam had been 'Uthman's powerful secretary and was head of the Umayyad house. He defeated a rebellion led by Dahlak at Marj Rahit near Damascus and extended his power into Egypt. Marwan died in 685 and was succeeded by his son 'Abd-al-Malik.
Called the Avenger, Mukhtar ibn Abi-'Ubayd supported 'Ali's sons Hasan and Husain. Kufa’s Governor 'Ubayd Allah had knocked out one of his eyes and put Mukhtar in prison before the Husain massacre. Mukhtar was released by Yazid, and he argued against the fanatical effort of the "penitents" led by Sulayman that failed with only 4,000 men. Imprisoned again, after Marwan died, Mukhtar, crying "Vengeance for Husain," freed members of 'Ali's family from prison and then defeated and killed 'Ubayd Allah in a bloody battle near Mosul in 686. Mukhtar led a group to be called Shi'ah, who gave non-Arab converts an equal share of Muslims' financial advantages. Mukhtar at Kufa proclaimed 'Ali's son ibn-al-Hanafiyyah not only Caliph but the Messianic mahdi. The defeated sharifs (leaders) of Kufa gathered 10,000 men and joined Zubayr's brother Mus'ab, governor in Basra, who had been fighting the Kharijis. Together they returned to Kufa and defeated Mukhtar in 687, killing a reported 7,000 Kufans.
'Abd al-Malik consolidated his power in Syria when the Qaysi following Zufar ibn al-Harith al Kilabi abandoned Zubayr in exchange for privileges in the Umayyad court and army. In 691 Mus'ab ibn al-Zubayr was ruling in Kufa, and 'Abd-al-Malik led an army to attack him, leaving 'Amr ibn Sa'd in charge at Damascus. Learning 'Amr had usurped power, the Caliph returned; but women intervened between the forces with their children to prevent violence. 'Amr laid down his arms; but 'Abd-al-Malik went back on his agreement and beheaded 'Amr, put to death his main supporters, and banished his family. Then the Caliph led the army that defeated Mus'ab at Dayr al-Jathaliq. Syrian forces led by al-Hajjaj eventually captured Mecca in 692, killing 'Abd-Allah ibn-al'Zubayr and wrecking the Ka'ba. An old Arab commented that he had seen the head of Husain taken by 'Ubayd Allah, whose head was taken by Mukhtar, whose head was taken by Mus'ab, whose head was taken by the Caliph.
After these civil wars 'Abd al-Malik helped to unify the Islamic empire by issuing Arabic coins and requiring the Arabic language in all government administration. Judges called qadis were appointed to settle disputes according to Islamic law, and the use of a more exact script assured the Qur'an would not change. This Caliph also established a postal service. Many were encouraged to convert because Muslims paid less taxes. By joining the army they even got a salary, providing the soldiers needed for the imperial conquests. To establish a religious alternative to the Ka'ba of Mecca, 'Abd al-Malik had the impressive Dome of the Rock constructed in Jerusalem.
The Caliph's brother 'Abd al-Aziz governed Egypt from 685 to 704, and another brother Muhammad ibn Marwan governed Jazira (692-709). The Caliph sent Zubair to quell opposition by Berbers and Byzantines in North Africa. After their garrison at Qairawan was massacred by Berbers, he sent Hassan ibn al-Naaman in 693, and in seven years his forces reconquered Qairawan and, aided by the Muslim navy, captured Carthage, which they destroyed. When Hassan went to Damascus and was made governor of Barca, 'Abd al-Aziz replaced him with Musa ibn Nusayr. Caliph 'Abd al-Malik objected; but Musa sent so much captured treasure to him that he changed his mind and made Musa governor of Africa. Musa founded dock-yards and by 703 had built up the Muslim fleet at Tunis.
'Abd al-Malik in 691 had appointed his brother Bishr ibn Marwan to govern Iraq; but he was replaced by al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf in 694, who took charge of both Kufa and Basra. Al-Hajjaj extended his control to the east in 697 when Khurasan and Sistan became his responsibility. Soldiers from Kufa and Basra tired of long campaigns in the east. In 699 the greatest sharif of Iraq, ibn al-Ash'ath, was sent on an expedition to Sistan, where he revolted and led his army back through Fars, defeating al-Hajjaj's forces at Tustar in 701. Ibn al-Ash'ath took control of Kufa while al-Hajjaj retreated to Basra. The Caliph offered to confirm ibn al-Ash'ath's position and raise the pay of Iraqi soldiers to equal that of the Syrians; but his soldiers would not agree, and ibn al-Ash'ath was defeated by al-Hajjaj and the Syrians the same year. Ibn al-Ash'ath fled east and took refuge with the Zabulistan prince he had originally been sent to fight; but his men dispersed, and he died. Al-Hajjaj then established a permanent garrison of Syrian troops between Kufa and Basra at Wasit, and the Iraqis were effectively subjugated. Canals were built and land was reclaimed with most of the profits going to Syria. Although the Muhallab family had not joined the rebellion of ibn al-Ash'ath, they were replaced in 704 because al-Hajjaj could not tolerate their independence. Al-Hajjaj sent an army commanded by Abdul Rahman all the way to Kabul, where a Turkish king refusing to pay tribute was defeated.
Caliph 'Abd al-Malik died in 705 and was succeeded by his son al-Walid. He systematized public charity in Syria by founding orphanages, schools, and hospitals; he granted pensions to the poor and aged, built roads, canals, and frontier posts, and kept an eye on prices by visiting the marketplace himself. Al-Walid established the first asylums for the mentally ill and hospices for the blind. The many building projects he sponsored included the Great Umayyad Mosque in Damascus. This project alone was said to have cost all of Syria's revenue of seven years, plus eighteen shiploads of gold and silver from Cyprus. The Caliph was especially kind to women and was never seen losing his temper. Al-Walid's mother was a Qaysi, and he gave that tribe privileges; but his brother and heir Sulayman, who governed Palestine, was allied to the Yemeni tribe, as was his cousin 'Umar, the son of 'Abd al-'Aziz ibn Marwan, who had connections in Egypt and was appointed to rule the Hijaz (Arabia).
In the ten-year reign of al-Walid the Islamic empire was greatly expanded. Although his wife called Hajjaj a blood-thirsty murderer, the Caliph kept him in charge of the east. Hajjaj sent his governor of Khurasan, Qutaybah, across the Oxus in 705 to conquer Balkh and Bukhara by 709, Khwarazm and Samarqand by 712, and Farghana by 713. The Sind was conquered in India and ruled by Muhammad ibn al-Qasim; this area would become Muslim Pakistan in the 20th century. According to the historian Masudi, the armies of al-Hajjaj in addition to those men they lost had killed 120,000 men and women, and 80,000 people were in prison when he died in 714. Qasim was recalled by the Caliph and executed for a charge that later was proved false. In the north the Muslims had invaded Byzantine Cilicia for a decade since 700 and entered Galatia in 714.
In the west Spain fell quickly into the hands of Muslim invaders. In 709 when Roderick usurped the Spanish crown. According to legend repeated by Arabic and Spanish historians, Roderick raped Florinda, the virgin daughter of Count Julian, who ruled Ceuta across the strait on the northwest tip of Africa. For revenge Julian betrayed his religion and country by assisting the Muslim general Jebel Tariq, who sent 500 Berbers the next year. In 711 Jebel Tariq landed with 7,000 men across the straits of Gibraltar named after him. The Muslims conquered Andalusia, taking Malaga, Granada, and Cordoba. Toledo was betrayed by Jews, who had been unfairly treated by the Christians, and Tariq's forces defeated Roderick's army in July. African governor Musa ibn Nusayr became jealous and crossed over with an army of 10,000 Arabs the following year and conquered Medina Sidonia, Seville, and Merida. By the end of 713 all of Spain was controlled by the Muslims, as the Gothic rulers fled across the Pyrenees to their provinces in Gaul. The Caliph accused Musa of exceeding orders, just as Musa had reprimanded Tariq. Musa was summoned to Damascus and brought with him tremendous spoils, including 18,000 of the finest men and women captured.
When Sulayman became Caliph in 715, he stayed in Palestine and ruled from his capital at Ramla. He removed the conquering Musa from his office and took away all his wealth. Musa's son 'Abd al-'Aziz married the late Roderick’s Queen Exilona, an ex-Muslim who now preferred Christianity; but he was suspected of coveting a crown and was executed along with his bride, and his two brothers in Africa were also killed. Sulayman opposed the policies of Hajjaj and had given refuge to the deposed Governor of Khurasan, Yazid ibn al-Muhallab; he dismissed Qutayba from the same province. Sulayman's first official act was to release all those imprisoned in the east by Hajjaj. His Yemeni party believed that non-Arab converts should have the same rights and status as the Arabs. Yazid led the large Azd tribe that had migrated to Basra; he was put in charge of Iraq and Khurasan in the east, and he led the invasions of Tabaristan. Sulayman was known for his luxurious living; he launched a costly attack on Constantinople led by 'Abd al-Malik's son Maslama with a reported 80,000 men in which the Muslim navy of 1,800 ships was devastated by Greek fire. Sulayman died of illness on the way to a campaign against the Byzantines in 717. During his reign Muslims crossed the Pyrenees and settled in the Garonne valley of southern France.
'Umar was Caliph for only three years (717-720), but he was the only Umayyad Caliph singled out by Abbasid historians for his Islamic virtue. He deposed Yazid ibn al-Muhallab and appointed various people, both Yemenis and Qaysis, to govern the eastern provinces. He attempted to reduce taxes and resolve the complaints of the malawi converts, who were taxed as if they were not Muslims. Only unbelievers were required the pay the jizya (poll tax). The malawi land was not sold to Muslims but was turned over to local villages, which paid the kharaj (land tax). 'Umar II tried to improve religious tolerance by restoring churches to Christians, synagogues to Jews, and the oasis of Fardak to the followers of 'Ali, and he abolished the despicable practice that Mu'awiya had started of cursing 'Ali after the Juma (community) prayers. Yet 'Umar may also have discriminated against Christians and Jews by enacting laws such as the one prohibiting them from riding a horse. (There is confusion as to whether these were instituted by 'Umar I or 'Umar II.) The ascetic 'Umar stopped the foreign wars and conquests. To his son, who asked for stern measures to root out evil, he replied, "That means the sword, and there are no good reforms that can be accomplished by the sword."8
Unfortunately most of 'Umar's reforms seem to have been reversed by his successor Yazid II (r. 720-724), who indulged himself while his Qaysi advisors governed. Yazid ibn al-Muhallab escaped from prison and raised a rebellion against Syrian rule. His jihad (holy war) was organized at Basra; they took the garrison town of Wasit and marched on Kufa. The Basra judge al-Hasan al-Basri (d. 728) spoke against violent revolution even against rulers he disapproved, disagreeing with many Qadaris, whose doctrine of human free will he shared. Al-Hasan noted the verse in the Qur'an stating that God only sends astray evil-doers. Troops led by the skilled General Maslama ibn 'Abd al-Malik defeated the rebels and killed Yazid in August 720. Maslama later was removed from his governorship for not sending surplus revenues to Damascus. His replacement 'Umar ibn Hubayra was a Qaysi and pursued the Muhallabis and Yemeni leaders. Yazid II increased taxes and tried to reform the administration of Egypt. The Muslims' first major defeat in Europe came at Toulouse in 721.
Caliph Hisham (r. 724-43) was born at Damascus in 691, and he appointed the loyal Khalid ibn 'Abd Allah al-Qasri to govern the east that included Iraq, Iran, and Khurasan. Khalid promoted agricultural development and was said to have made 20 million dirhams from his lands. Maslama had similar holdings, and he was ordered to mobilize the Qaysis of Jazira to defend against an invasion by the Khazar Turks from southern Russia in 732. He was relieved by another Umayyad, Marwan ibn Muhammad ibn Marwan, who drove the Khazars back to their capital on the Volga in 738. Khalid sent his brother Asad with 20,000 men from Iraq in 732 against Turgesh nomads in Khurasan; but the Turgesh were not defeated until 737 when Asad organized a combined force of Arabs and Iranians. In France a Frank army led by Charles Martel defeated the invading Muslims, killing Spain's governor Abdul Rahman in 732. The Arabs continued to attack French cities, seizing Avignon two years later and looting Lyons in 743; but the tide had turned, and the Franks gradually pushed most of the Muslims back across the Pyrenees into Spain by 759. Berbers rebelled in 740 and drove Arabs out of North Africa to Spain.
After Hisham the succession was to go to Yazid II's son al-Walid, who was another drinker indulging in women and the arts. When Hisham tried to get his son nominated, in 738 Khalid was replaced by Hajjaj protégé Yusuf ibn 'Umar in Iraq and by the Qaysi general Nar ibn Sayyar in Khurasan. Hisham was unpopular for raising taxes and being stingy with government funds. A major revolt broke out in Kufa in 740 led by Husain's grandson Zayd ibn 'Ali, who demanded major reforms; but he was defeated and killed when the Kufans abandoned him.
Al-Walid became Caliph in 743 and was so partisan toward the Qaysi and negligent of religion that he was murdered by a Syrian uprising the following year. Yazid III promised reforms but died after five months. His brother Ibrahim was replaced after two months when the Governor of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Marwan ibn Muhammad, was proclaimed Caliph at the Damascus mosque in December 744. He had seized the capital by driving the Yemeni leaders out of Syria, but he established his court in the north at Harran in Jazira. Rebellions by Yemeni Kalbis were quelled by 746. Military means were also used to put down an uprising by Kharijis in Jazira, and the 'Alid movement in Kufa was crushed by general ibn Dubara in 748. The wars resulted in plague and famine in Syria.
The revolt that would finally overthrow the Umayyad dynasty began in the east. By 748 Abu Muslim had driven out Umayyad Governor Nasr ibn Sayyar from the Khurasan capital at Marv and began sending armies west under the black flag of the 'Abbasids. Marwan's Qaysi army was now defeated in the Iranian plateau. Kufa was taken by the rebels, and in October 749 the 'Abbasids proclaimed Abu'l-'Abbas al-Saffa Caliph, while Umayyad Governor ibn Hubayra held out at Wasit. Ibn Huobayra was promised safe conduct; but when he surrendered, he was executed. The 'Abbassids defeated the last Umayyad Caliph Marwan four months later in a battle by the river Zab near the Tigris. Marwan retreated to Syria; but finding little support there, he fled to Egypt, where he was killed when his remaining forces were defeated in August 750.
1. Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasul Allah tr. A. Guillaume, The
Life of Muhammad, p. 183.
2. Ibid., p. 261.
3. Ibid., p. 369.
4. Ibid., p. 458.
5. Ibid., p. 629.
6. Quoted in Islam from the Prophet Muhammad to the Capture of Constantinople, Vol. 1 tr. Bernard Lewis, p. 151.
7. The Qur'an tr. N. J. Dawood, p. 121-122.
8. The History of Islam by Robert Payne, p. 140.
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