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The Battle of Tabuk


category: History & Biographies


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Some of the Muslims who had stayed behind in the expedition of Tabuk, not for any doubt or disaffection, were K'ab b. Malik and Hilal b. Umayya. All of them had accepted Islam in the earlier stage of the Prophet's (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) mission and had undergone hardships for the sake of their faith. Murara b. al-Rabi and Hilal b. Umayya had also taken part in the battle of Badr. Actually, none of them had ever been languid in accompanying the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) in the previous battles. Therefore, their failure to do so in the expedition of Tabuk could have been brought about by the will of the providence which perhaps wanted to set another example of severe trial to test the strength of their faith for the benefit of the coming generations. They had been held back on this occasion partly on account of indolence and indecision and partly because of their reliance on worldly means and objects, or, perhaps, they had not given thought to the urgency of the matter as it deserved. These are common human shortcomings which have very often frustrated those who have been second to none in the sincerity of their faith in God and the love of His Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam). In fact, this is the moral so pointedly illustrated by these words of K'ab b. Malik (radiallahu 'anhu).

"Every day I would go out to get ready for the journey so that I might leave with them, but I would come back not having done anything. I would say to my self, 'I can do that whenever I want to', but continued procrastinating until the time for departure came and the Prophet of God (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) left with the Muslims. And, I had still not made necessary preparations. I thought that I could go after a day or two and then join them. I went to make the preparations after they had left but again returned without having done what was necessary. Day after day passed until I became sluggish while the army had gone far ahead at full speed. I still thought of leaving Madeenah to overtake them and I wish that I had done so, but I did not. (Bukhari, Kitab-ul-Magazi)

All the three companions were called upon to prove, in a way unknown to the annals of any religion, the sincerity of their faith in God and their love for the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam). It was undoubtedly an excruciating trial of their loyalty to Islam, of their perseverance and tenacity in times of serenity as well as in difficulty, in cheer as well as despondency.

There is also no doubt that all these true-spirited companions spoke the truth when the hypocrites had offered excuses for justifying their absence from the expedition.

The incidents as related in the Traditions, on the authority of K'ab b. Malik (radiallahu 'anhu), goes on with the narrative which speaks of his sincerity:

"Those who had stayed behind came and began to make excuses with oaths - there were about eighty of them - and the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) accepted their pleas, administered oaths to them and asked divine forgiveness for them, leaving what they had concealed in their hearts to God. Then I came and saluted him and he smiled as one who is angry. He said, 'Come nearer.' I went and sat before him. Then he asked, 'What had kept you back? Did you not purchase a mount? I replied, 'True to God, it was exactly so. O Prophet of God (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam), were I sitting with anyone else in the world I would have thought of offering some excuses for saving myself from His anger as I know how to defend and justify myself. But, true to God, I know that if I were to satisfy you by telling a lie, God will soon make you angry with me. And if I displease you now by telling the truth, I have hopes that God would excuse me in the end. Honest to God, I have no excuse at all and I was never stronger and richer than when I stayed behind."

The hour of trial came at last. The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) forbade everyone to speak to the three who had made a clean breast. Such were those Muslims, who knew nothing but to listen and obey the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam), that not even the members of their own families would address a word to these men. All the three felt forsaken and abandoned, and were confronted with loneliness that strikes one who's in a foreign land, for they themselves were treated as aliens in their own country. They endured it for fifty nights. Murara b. al-Rab'i and Hilal b. Umayya (radiallahu 'anhumaa) shut themselves up in their house, lamenting and shedding tears all the while. K'ab b. Malik (radiallahu 'anhu) on the other hand, being young and sturdy, used to go out and join the prayer with others, then roam around in the market, but nobody seemed eager to keep him company or accost him.

But such indifference did not cause to increase the distance between them and the Prophet of God (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam); nor was there any diminution in the loving regard that the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) had for them. The admonition by the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) rather gave rise to a still acute longing in them to regain the affection of the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam). The narration of K'ab b. Malik (radiallahu 'anhu), which bears freshness of the plain truth, goes on to say:

"And I would go to the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) and salute him when he sat with others after the prayer, thinking whether his lips had moved in returning my salutation or not; then I would pray near him and see him with half an eye. I am sure that he fastened his eyes on me when I was busy in prayers but then turned away from me as soon as I tried to take a look at him."

The wide world seemed to have closed in on these men. K'ab b. Malik (radiallahu 'anhu) relates about the behavior of one whom he considered to be his inseparable friend.

When the harshness of the people became unbearable, I scaled the wall of Abu Qatada's orchard and went to him. He was my cousin and held dearest by me. I greeted him, but, by God, he did not even return my salutation. I said: "O Abu Qatada, I adjure you by God, do you not know that I love God and His Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam)?" But he still kept quite, so I repeated my question again. He remained silent for a while and then said: "God and His Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) know best!" At that juncture, my eyes gave way to tears and I jumped over the wall to go back." (Buhkari)

The ordeal, however, did not come to a close just like that. The ban was extended to their wives such that the three were ordered to separate themselves from their respective spouses through divorce. All of them obediently yielded to the command.

The faith and loyalty as well as firmness of K'ab b. Malik (radiallahu 'anhu) was brought to a yet more delicate and crucial test when the King of Ghassan tried to angle him with a silver hook. He was the ruler of a kingdom which had exercised a deep influence upon the Arabs. In fact, the Arab nobles and chieftains vied with one another to be among the circle of his entourage or even to be invited to attend his court, in the same way that even eminent poets composed splendid eulogies in honor of the Ghassanid kings. (74) A Nabataean courier of the King contacted K'ab b. Malik (radiallahu 'anhu) when the Prophet's (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) aloofness and the coolness of the people to him had become agonizing enough to drive him mad. The courier delivered him a letter from the King in which he had written: "We have learnt that your master has treated you badly. God has not destined you to be humiliated and wasted, so come to us and we shall deal kindly with you."

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