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The Battle of Tabuk


category: History & Biographies


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K'ab took the letter to be a challenge to his integrity, but his conscience smote him to the point of tantalizing his love for God and His Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) and so he took the letter to an oven and burnt it.

Their test was over at last. None of the three was found wanting. Then came the revelation from God which illustrated their personal example to make it a general lesson, good for all times to come. They had demonstrated by their action that they could not flee from God, but could only find solace and refuge in coming back to Him. The spacious earth of God had become straightened for them; rather, in their own souls they had feeling of constraint, but they did not falter from the right path. Then it was that God forgave them and took them back to His grace. But, a noteworthy feature of the verse revealed on this occasion was that the Most Gracious God did not make mention of the repentance of these three persons or lest they might feel singled out and humiliated. Their penitence was spoken of after mentioning the contrition of the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) and other Muhaajirun and Ansaar who had been ready and willing to take part in the expedition. The revelation goes to show that whatever sufferings and hardships they had endured had raised their degree in the spiritual world.

"Allah hath turned in mercy to the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam), and to the Muhaajirun and the Ansaar who followed him in the hour of hardship. After the hearts of a party of them had almost swerved aside, then turned He unto them in mercy. Lo! He is Full of Pity, Merciful for them.

"And to the three also (did He turn in mercy) who were left behind, when the earth, vast as it is, was straitened for them, and their own souls were straitened for them till they bethought them that there is no refuge from Allah save toward Him. Then turned He unto them in mercy that they (too) might turn (repentant unto Him). Lo! Allah! He is the Relenting, the Merciful." [Qur'an 9:117-18]

The Expedition at a Glance

The Expedition of Tabuk, which took place in the month of Rajab, 9 A.H., was the last crusade during the lifetime of the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam). The actual number of battles fought was twenty-seven while he is reported to have sent out sixty forays and expeditions (75) although no fighting had taken place in many of them.

Never in the history of human conflict had any conqueror exhausted so little bloodshed yet achieved such a remarkable success. In all these clashes, only 1018 persons, (76) made up of Muslims as well as non-Muslims lost their lives. But, it would be to usurp the impossible to gamble any guess as to how much blood of the ferocious Arabs was saved from being spilled or how many souls escaped degradation and debasement because of this negligible loss to human life. Such was the public tranquillity and orderliness resulting from the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam)'s campaigns that a woman pilgrim would go from Hira to Mecca and return after circumambulating the K'aba without any fear in her heart save that of God. (77) Another report says that the women from Qadessia went alone on their dromedaries for pilgrimage to Mecca without the least anxiety or fear. (78) This was the country in which, from time immemorial, fights and forays, or battles between nomadic tribes and raids on one another's flocks and properties had been an acceptable part of the desert life. Even the caravans of neighbouring powerful kingdoms dared not cross the country in pre-Islamic days without powerful escorts and guides.

The missions of the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) were warranted by two universal truths as enunciated in the Qur'an, in which one of these says that 'is worse than slaughter' (Qur'an 2:191) and the other declared, 'There is life for you in retaliation, O men of understanding'. (Qur'an 2:179) These twin principles, which aimed at the refusal to acquiesce in wrongdoing and urged to strive for the defense of honor and justice, soon established its most sought-after peace and order. This is at the minimum cost of labour and time on the part of the Muslims under the benevolent and altruistic guidance of the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam). The Messenger of God (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) was ever vigilant to secure the well-being and enlightenment of the enemy instead of allowing the satisfaction of vindictive feelings to become the objective of his campaigns. Whenever the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) sent out any detachment for forays or declared battle to the enemy he invariably issued strict instructions to his men to be God-fearing and kind to the friends as well as foes. The directions he once gave to his troops were:

"I asked you to fear God and to be considerate to the Muslims with you. Fight in the name of God and slay those in his name who have disbelieved Him. Neither should you break your promise, nor pilfer the spoils, nor kill any child or woman nor man infirm and old or a priest who has withdrawn to seclusion. Never lay your hands on a date-palm, nor chop down a tree, nor yet pull down any building." (79)

And, as to how successful these campaigns of the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) were can be judged from the fact that within a brief period of ten years, more than a million square miles was won for Islam. Moreover, the Islamic state expanded at an average rate of some 274 square miles daily at the cost of one martyr a month." (80) This respect for human blood is unparalleled in the annals of man's history. The truth of this assertion is better understood if the losses of these crusades are placed beside the casualties of the last two world wars, the first of which was fought from 1914 to 1918 and the second from 1939 to 1945. According to the computation of the Encyclopedia Britannica, 6,400,000 persons lost their lives (81) in the first war and the number of casualties in the second ranged between 35 and 60 millions. (82)

Yet, none of these two blood-tainted wars can claim to have done any good to humanity nor did they solve any problem of the world at all.

The ecclesiastical tribunals known as Inquisitions established by the Roman Catholic Church in the Middle Ages for the trial and punishment of heretics are reported to have taken a toll of 12 million lives. (83)

The First Hajj

The Pilgrimage was enjoined in 9 A.H. (84) where the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) sent Abu Bakr (radiallahu 'anhu) in command of the pilgrims. The polytheists were, during the year, at their pilgrimage stations. (85) Abu Bakr (radiallahu 'anhu) then led a party of one hundred Muslims.

The opening of Surah at-Taubah (86) were revealed after the pilgrims had left for Mecca. The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) sent for 'Ali (radiallahu 'anhu) and charged him to proclaim the verse at Mina when all the pilgrims had assembled thereafter performing the sacrifice. It signified the end of idolatry in Arabia for no idolater was allowed to perform Hajj nor to circle round the K'aba in a nude state after that year. The divine revelation also commanded that if the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) was obliged to fulfill any obligation under a treaty with the polytheists it would be discharged up to a stipulated period after which the pact would then be deemed inutile and immaterial.

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