The First Raids and Skirmishes

Muslim Policy in Madinah

The Muslims were all well settled in Madinah only months after the Hijrah. Their longing for Makkah increased with every new day, as they thought of their loved ones whom they had left behind, of their property and wealth which they had forsaken, and of the injuries which the Quraysh had inflicted upon them in the past. What they would now do was for them a constant question. The majority of historians think that the Muslims, led by Muhammad, thought of avenging themselves on the Quraysh and of declaring war against them. Some even claim that the Muslims had thought of declaring this war ever since they arrived in Madinah, and that if they had not opened hostilities at that time it was because they were preoccupied with the business of settling down and organizing their own lives. They reasoned that Muhammad had concluded the great covenant of al `Aqabah precisely in order to wage war against all opponents and that it was natural for his and his companions’ attention first to fall upon the Quraysh-a fact proven by Quraysh’s own mobilization upon hearing of the conclusion of the said pact.

 

The First Raids

This general hypothesis of the historians is supposedly proved by events which took place eight months after the Hijrah of Muhammad. The Prophet then sent his uncle Hamzah ibn `Abd al Muttalib with forty riders from the Muhajirun, rather than the Ansar, to the seacoast near al `Is where Abu Jahl ibn Hisham was camping with three hundred Makkan riders. Hamzah was just about to enter into battle with the Quraysh force when Majdiy ibn `Amr al Juhani, who was in peaceful relation with both parties, interfered to separate them before the battle had begun. At the same time, Muhammad sent `Ubaydah ibn al Harith with sixty riders from the Muhajirun to go to a well in the valley of Rabigh in Hijaz where they met more than two hundred riders led by Abu Sufyan. The Muslim forces withdrew without engaging the enemy, except for the report that Sa'd ibn Abu Waqqas shot one single arrow, later to be called, `the first arrow shot in the cause of Islam.' It is also reported that Muhammad had sent Sa'd ibn Abu Waqqas to lead a number of Muhajirun riders (eight according to one version and twenty according to another) into the Hijaz, but he returned without engaging the enemy.

 

Raids Led by the Prophet

As further evidence to all the foregoing it is said that the Prophet himself had undertaken the leadership of the raids on al Abwa' twelve months after the Hijrah and appointed Sa`d ibn `Ubadah as his vice-regent in Madinah during his absence. In their search for the Quraysh as well as the Banu Damrah, the Muslims reached Waddan. They did not meet any man from Quraysh on that expedition, but they did succeed in winning Banu Damrah as allies. A month later, Muhammad led a force of two hundred riders from both the Muhajirun and Ansar camps with Buwat as their objective, where a caravan of 1,500 camels accompanied by one hundred riders under the leadership of Umayyah ibn Khalaf was reported to be passing. No engagement took place because the caravan had taken an untrodden, unknown route. Two or three months after Muhammad's return from Buwat by way of Radwa, he appointed Abu Salamah ibn `Abd al Asad to take his place in Madinah while he and more than two hundred Muslim riders went on an expedition to `Ushayrah in the district of Yanbu`. There he spent the whole month of First Jumada and a few days of Second Jumada of the second year .A.H. (October 623 C.E) waiting for a Quraysh caravan headed by Abu Sufyan to pass, without success, for it had already gone earlier. During his stay in the area, he concluded a pact of friendship with the tribe of Banu Mudlaj and their allies from Banu Damrah. He had hardly spent ten days in Madinah after his return when Kurz ibn Jabir al Fihri, an ally of Quraysh, raided the camels and cattle of Madinah. The Prophet immediately led a force after him, appointing Zayd ibn Harithah as his representative during his absence. The force marched until it reached a valley called Safawan in the district of Badr and again missed their objective, the said Kurz ibn Jabir al Fihri. It is to this raid that biographers refer as the first raid of Badr.

 

The Historians' View of the First Raid

Does not all this constitute evidence that the Muhajirun as well as Muhammad sought first of all to avenge themselves on the Quraysh and to open hostilities against them? There is full evidence, according to these historians, that for these expeditions and raids the Muslims had two objectives: first to seize the caravans of the Quraysh, on their way to or from al Sham during the summer, in order to take possession of the goods which they carried; second to cut off the Quraysh caravan routes to al Sham. This latter goal was to be achieved by concluding covenants and pacts with the various tribes settled along these routes. Thus, it would be all the easier and safer for the Muhajirun to attack these caravans without fear of detection or attack from the local inhabitants, and the caravans themselves would then be at the total mercy of the Muslims. The raids which the Prophet sent out under the leadership of Hamzah, `Ubaydah ibn al Harith, and Sa'd ibn Abu Waqqas, as well as the pacts of friendship and peace which he concluded with Banu Damrah, Banu Mudlaj, and others, confirmed this second objective and proved that the Muslims had definitely aimed at cutting the road to al Sham for the Quraysh and Makkah.

 

Our View of These Raids

That by means of these raids, begun six months after their settlement in Madinah and undertaken by the Muhajirun alone, the Muslims sought to wage war against Quraysh and to attack its caravans is an opinion which cannot be accepted without hesitation and scrutiny. The expedition of Hamzah did not consist of more than thirty men, that of `Ubaydah, sixty, that of Sa'd eight, according to one version, and twenty according to another. The number of fighters assigned by the Quraysh to the protection of their caravan was in each case many times the number of riders the Muslims had sent out. Moreover, ever since Muhammad emigrated to Madinah and began to forge a chain of alliances around the city, the Quraysh multiplied the number of escorts for their caravans and improved their weapons. Whatever the personal courage of Hamzah, `Ubaydah, and Sa'd among the leaders of those expeditionary forces of the Muhajirun, their military equipment was not such as would encourage them to make war. They were satisfied with threatening the Quraysh rather than engaging them in battle. The only exception to this was the single arrow shot by Sa'd, as reported above.

 

Exposure of Quraysh's Trade to Danger

The caravans of Quraysh were protected by escorts of the people of Makkah who were related to many Muhajirun as members of the same tribe, the same house and clan, and often the same family. It was not easy, therefore, for them to decide to enter into an engagement in which members of the same tribe, clan, and family would kill one another and then expose to retaliation all their fellow tribesmen on each side, in fact to expose the whole of Makkah and Madinah at once to the lex talionis of the desert. Hardly any change affected the inability and unwillingness of Muslims and others to launch a civil war which both parties had ably struggled to avert for thirteen long years, from the commission of Muhammad to prophethood to the day of his emigration to Madinah. The Muslims knew too well that the covenant of al `Aqabah was a defensive one which both al Aws and al Khazraj had undertaken to protect Muhammad. These tribes of Madinah have never agreed either with Muhammad nor with anyone else to commit aggression on anyone. It is not possible, therefore, to accept the view of the earliest historians, who did not begin to write the history of the Prophet until two centuries or so after his death, that the first raids and expeditions had actually been intended for fighting. Hence, we must understand these events in a more reasonable way to harmonize with what we know to have been the policy of the Muslims in this early period of Madinah, and to be consistent with the Prophet's policy of common understanding, mutual friendship, and co-operation to obtain religious freedom for all.

It is more likely, therefore, that these early expeditions had only psychic objectives, and were meant to press home to the Quraysh the realization that their own interest demanded that they come into some kind of understanding with the Muslims. The Muslims were, after all, their own people, compelled to migrate from their own city to escape the persecution so far inflicted. Rather than to bring war and hostility, these expeditions were intended to put an end to the old hostility, to guarantee to the Muslims the freedom they sought for calling men to their religion, and to ensure for Makkah the security it needed for its caravans to al Sham. This trade, in which both Makkah and Ta'if were involved and which Makkah used to carry on with the south as well as with the north, had built up large interests and businesses. Some caravans consisted of two thousand camels or more, and carried a load whose value amounted to fifty thousand Dinars.[A dinar is a golden coin, equivalent to twenty silver dirhims. -Tr.]. According to the estimates of the Orientalist, Sprenger, the annual exports of Makkah amounted to 250,000 Dinars or 160,000 gold pounds. If the Quraysh could be made to realize that this precious trade and wealth were exposed to danger by their own sons who had migrated to Madinah, perhaps they might be inclined to reach an understanding with the Muslims in order to grant them the freedom to preach their faith, visit Makkah, and perform the pilgrimage, which was all they really sought. Such an understanding was not possible, however, unless the Quraysh were brought to realize that their emigrant sons were capable of impeding that trade and inflicting some material harm. To my mind, this explains the return of Hamzah and his riders without battle after their encounter with Abu Jahl ibn Hisham on the seacoast when Majdiy ibn `Amr al Juhani intervened between him and the Quraysh. It also explains the fact of the small numbers of riders which the Muslims sent on these expeditions in the direction of the trade routes of Makkah. Otherwise, it would be unreasonable that the Muslims go out to war in such small numbers. This also explains Muhammad's alliances of peace which he concluded with the tribes settled along the routes of these caravans while Quraysh persisted in its hostility toward the Muhajirun. Apparently, Muhammad had hoped that the news of these alliances would reach the Quraysh and cause them to reconsider their position and, perhaps, open the road to some understanding.

 

Al Ansar and Offensive Attack

The foregoing hypothesis is corroborated by a very reliable tradition to the effect that when the Prophet, may God's blessing be upon him, went with his men to Buwat and to al `Ushayrah, a great number of Ansar from Madinah accompanied him. These Ansar had covenanted with him for his protection, not in order to launch any offensive attack against anyone. This point will become clear when we study the great battle of Badr. There, Muhammad hesitated whether or not to permit the fighting to take place until the people of Madinah had clearly agreed to join that specific sortie. Although the Ansar saw no violation of their covenant with Muhammad if the latter entered into other covenants of peace and friendship, they were not thereby committed to join him in a war against Makkah which no Arab morality or custom would approve. The effect of the alliances which Muhammad concluded with the tribes settled along the trade route was surely that of endangering Makkan trade. But how far removed is such an attempt from declaring and entering into a full scale war! We may conclude, therefore, that the views that Hamzah, `Ubaydah ibn al Harith, and Sa'd ibn Abu Waqqas were sent to fight the Quraysh, and that their expeditions should be called military raids, are unsound and unacceptable. Likewise, the view that Muhammad had gone to al Abwa, Buwat, and al `Ushayrah for purposes of war is refuted by the considerations we have just given. The fact that such a view is held by the historians of Muhammad does not constitute a sound argument because the said historians did not write until toward the end of the second century A.H. Furthermore, the said historians were looking at these events as they occurred after the great battle of Badr. Hence, they looked upon them as preliminary skirmishes preceding that great battle and leading toward it. It was a natural mistake for them to add these sorties to the list of battles the Muslims fought during the Prophet's lifetime.

 

Nature of the Madinese

A large number of Orientalists have perceived these facts and realized their opposition to the said claim, although they did not expressly say so in their works. We are moved to accredit them with this realization despite their following the Muslim historians in their general attribution to Muhammad and the Muhajirun of the intention to make war against Makkah from the first days of residence in Madinah. They point out that these early expeditions were, rather, intended as raids on the caravans to rob their goods, and they argue that this kind of robbery was embedded in the nature of the people of the desert and that the Madinese were attracted by prospective booty to cooperate in violation of their pledge at al `Aqabah. This is spurious reasoning, of course, and to be rejected outright. The people of Madinah were not people of the desert living on robbery and raids. Rather, like the people of Makkah, they had other sources of income and were motivated the same way as all settled people who live on agriculture and trade. Such people do not make war except for an extraordinary and stirring purpose. On the other hand, the Muhajirun were entitled to seize Quraysh goods in retaliation for the goods which the Quraysh had seized from them. But they did not have recourse to such action before the battle of Badr. This was not, therefore, the reason for those expeditions. Besides, fighting had not yet been permitted in Islam. Neither Muhammad nor his companions could have indulged in it for the nomadic purpose erroneously explained by the Orientalists. Fighting was permitted in Islam, and carried out by Muhammad and his companions, in order to stop their being persecuted for their faith and to have all the freedom they needed to call men to it. Later, when we see the details and the proofs of this, it will become clear that in all these alliances Muhammad's purpose was the consolidation of the defense of Madinah. The objective was to remove Madinah beyond any design the Quraysh might have against its Muslim inhabitants. Muhammad could not have forgotten that the Makkans once sought to extradite the Muslims from Abyssinia. At that time, Muhammad did not see any objection at all to entering into a treaty of peace with Quraysh. Such a treaty would have stopped persecution, given him the freedom to call unto the new faith, and to witness for God unto all men.

 

Threat to the Jews

Perhaps, too, by these expeditions and armed sorties, Muhammad sought to warn the Jews of Madinah and the neighboring area. We have already seen how, upon Muhammad's arrival at Madinah, the Jews hoped to bring him into alliance with them and how, after befriending him and pledging to honor his freedom to practice and preach the new religion, they had begun to oppose and plot against him. In fact, no sooner had Muhammad settled down and the prospects of Islam had begun to improve, than the Jews, for their part, began their undeclared war against him. Their opposition and hostility were never open. Above all, they feared lest any harm might befall their trade; and, although they had fanned and fueled the fires of civil war in the past, they adeptly avoided every possible involvement. Henceforth, their covenant with Muhammad at least prevented them from any such open involvement; and they recoursed to every hidden way to instigate enmity and hostility between the Muhajirun and Ansar so as to revive the old hatreds between al Aws and al Khazraj by reminding them of the day of Bu'ath in reciting the war poetry which had been composed on that occasion.

 

Jewish Plots

The Muslims realized what the Jews were about, for the latter were neither gentle nor discrete. Their instigation was always overdone. The Muslims accused those who entered into the Covenant of Madinah of hypocrisy, and classified them with the munafiqun.[Munafiqun, literally, the pretenders; applied to the insincere idolaters who joined the ranks of Islam for ulterior motives. -Tr.]. Some Jews were once violently expelled from the mosque, and were later isolated and boycotted. After failing to convince them of the truth of Islam, the Prophet, may God's blessing be upon him, let them alone. But to let them alone religiously did not mean that they should be allowed to instigate the Muslims to a civil internecine war. Politically speaking, it was not enough to warn them and to warn the Muslims of their instigation. It was necessary to impress them with the fact that the Muslims were sufficiently strong to stamp out any such war as the Jews were instigating as well as to uproot its causes. A good way for pressing this realization upon them was the sending out of Muslim forces on military expeditions in all directions on condition that such sorties entail no actual fighting and no military setback. This account seems to be factual, for men like Hamzah, whom we know to have been quick to fly into a rage, turned around in front of the enemy without engagement. The appearance of an honored friend asking for peace is not enough to separate two parties either of which is bent upon fighting. Rather, non-engagement was a deliberate and carefully laid out plan. Its specific purpose was on one side to threaten and warn the Jews, and, on the other, to seek an understanding with the Quraysh to let the religious call take its course freely, without impediment or recourse to war or fighting.

 

Islam and Fighting

This peaceful show of strength by Islam does not at all mean that Islam, at that time, forbade fighting in defense of personal life and of religion, or to put a stop to persecution. Indeed, Islam did not. Rather, it imposed such defense as a sacred duty. What it did really mean at that time, as it does today or will ever do, was to condemn any war of aggression. "Do not commit any aggression," God commands. He counsels, "God does not love the aggressors."[Qur'an, 2:190] If, at that time, the Muhajirun felt justified in seizing the property of the Quraysh in retaliation for the latter's confiscation of their property when they emigrated, they certainly realized that to protect the Muslims against apostasy from their faith was a greater duty in the eyes of God and His Prophet. The latter was the main purpose for the sake of which God had permitted the Muslims to fight at all.

 

`Abdullah ibn Jahsh's Expedition

The proof of the foregoing contention may be found in the expedition of `Abdullah ibn Jahsh al Asadi, who was sent by the Prophet of God at the head of a number of Muhajirun in the month of Rajab of the second year A.H. The Prophet gave him a document and asked him not to look at it until two days after the start of his journey. He was then supposed to follow its instructions without forcing any of his companions to comply with them. Two days after he started off, `Abdullah, having unsealed the document, read the following instructions: "As soon as you have read this document, proceed to Nakhlah between Makkah and Ta'if, and there seek to learn for us the news of the Quraysh and their movements." When his companions learned that they were under no compulsion to go along with him, they all decided to do so except for Sa'd ibn Abu Waqqas al Zuhri and `Utbah ibn Ghazwan, who preferred to look, on their own, for some of their camels which the Quraysh had seized. `Abdullah and his companions proceeded as instructed. At Nakhlah, they saw a donkey caravan carrying trade goods for the Quraysh which were guarded by `Amr ibn al Hadrami. The date was the end of the month of Rajab. Remembering the old persecutions of the Quraysh and the latter's seizure of their wealth and property, `Abdullah ibn Jahsh, after consulting with his Muhajirun companions, said: "Surely, if you allow the caravan to pass through tonight unmolested, they will reach the holy territory tomorrow and will thereby become forbidden to you. And yet, if you kill them today, you will have killed them in the holy month when killing is forbidden." The hesitant Muslims were afraid to attack the caravan; but, encouraging one another, they agreed to kill whomever they could and to seize the goods in his possession. One of them shot an arrow at `Amr ibn al Hadrami and killed him. The Muslims captured two men from the Quraysh.

 

Sedition Greater Than Murder

`Abdullah ibn Jahsh arrived in Madinah together with the two Quraysh captives and the donkey caravan loaded completely with goods. He had already earmarked one-fifth of the booty to the Prophet. But when the Prophet saw them, he said: "I have not instructed you to fight during the holy months." He stopped the caravan in its place as well as the two captives and refused to take any part of the booty. He castigated `Abdullah ibn Jahsh and his companions and, later on, they were further scolded and punished by their fellow Muslims for what they had done. The Quraysh seized the opportunity to spread the propaganda everywhere that Muhammad and his companions had violated the sanctity of the holy month by having killed, robbed and captured. The Muslims of Makkah answered that the event had taken place not in the holy months but during the following month of Sha'ban. The Jew; immediately joined the chorus of Quraysh propaganda with the hope of engaging the Muslims in a war with the Quraysh over a case in which the Muslims were apparently in the wrong according to Arabian custom. It was then that God revealed ' he judgment

"They ask you concerning the holy month whether or not fighting is permitted therein. Answer: `to fight therein is a grave misdeed. But to impede men from following the cause of God, to deny God, to violate the sanctity of the holy mosque, to expel its people from its precincts is with God a greater wrong than fighting in the holy month. Moreover, to divide the community of Muslims against itself is greater yet. Your enemies continue to fight you by all these means in order to compel you to abjure your religion."[Qur'an, 2:217]

This revelation brought the Muslims relief, and the Prophet accepted his share of the booty. When the Quraysh sought to ransom the two captives, the Prophet answered: "We shall not accept your ransom for the two captives unless you return our two men whom you have captured, namely Sa'd ibn Abu Waqqas and `Utbah ibn Ghazwan. If you kill them we shall likewise kill your two men." Sa'd and `Utbah were returned and the two Quraysh captives were released. One of them, al Hakam ibn Kaysan, was immediately converted to Islam and spent the rest of his life in Madinah. The other returned to Makkah where he remained to the end.

It is well worth our while to pause here for further consideration of the evidence which this expedition of `Abdullah ibn Jahsh and the Qur'anic verse, which was revealed in that connection, furnish for our generalization concerning the political theory of Islam. The event occurs as it were at the very crossroads of the development of Islamic policy. In kind, it is new. It points to a spirit strong in its nobility, human in its strength, a spirit which orders the material, moral, and spiritual aspects of life very strictly while enhancing man's quest of perfection. The Qur'an answered the question of the idolaters concerning whether or not fighting is permissible in the holy months and approved their view that it is a grave misdeed. But it also warned against something yet greater in its evil and immorality: that is to impede men from following the path of God and to deny Him, to stop men from entering the holy mosque, to expel the worshipers therefrom, or to sway and lure man away from his religion by promise, threat, bribery, and persecution. All these are greater misdeeds than fighting during the holy months or any months. The Quraysh and the idolaters who blamed the Muslims for killing during the holy months were themselves still fighting the Muslims by these means in order to compel them to renounce their religion. If the Quraysh and the idolators perpetrated all these misdeeds together, the victims of their misdeeds cannot be blamed for fighting during the holy months. Rather, the real misdeed is that of perpetrating these evils during the holy month against the innocent and the peaceful.

 

The Qur'an and Fighting

Fitnah, or sedition, is a greater crime than murder. It is a right, nay a duty, of whosoever witnesses it, whether perpetrated against an individual or a whole community, to take up arms and fight for the sake of God and thus put an immediate end to it. It is here that the Orientalists and the missionaries raise their eyebrows and voices, shouting: "Do you see? Here is Muhammad agreeing that his religion actually calls to war, to jihad in the cause of God, that is, to compel man by the sword to enter into Islam. Isn't this precisely what is meant by fanaticism? Now contrast this with Christianity, which denies fighting and condemns war, which calls for peace and advocates tolerance, which binds men in bonds of brotherhood in God and in Christ . . . ." In arguing this point I do not wish to mention the statement of the New Testament, "I have not come to send peace but a sword . . . ."[Matthew, 10:34] Nor do I want to analyze the meanings implicit in such statements. The Muslims understand the religion of Jesus only as interpreted by the Qur'an. Rather, I want to begin by refuting the claim that Muhammad's religion calls for fighting and coercion of men into Islam. That is a false accusation denied by the Qur'anic judgment:

"There is no compulsion in religion-the truth is now distinct from error;" as well as by the command, "Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not commit any aggression. God does not love the aggressor."[Qur'an, 2:256, 190]

The same directives are contained in a number of other verses.

 

War in the Cause of God

Jihad, or war for the sake of God, is clearly defined in the verses which we have mentioned and which were revealed in connection with the expedition of `Abdullah ibn Jahsh. Its definite meaning is to fight those who sway the Muslim away from his religion and prevent him from walking in the path of God. This fight is waged solely for the freedom to call men unto God and unto His religion. To use a modern expression consonant with the usage of the present age, we may say that war in Islam is permitted-nay, it is rather a duty-when undertaken in defense of freedom of thought and opinion. All weapons used by the aggressors may be used against them. If somebody seeks to sway a man from conviction or opinion, and he effectively uses propaganda and logic without physical coercion, persecution, discrimination, or use of illicit means such as bribery, no man may stop him except by answering his argument and analyzing and exposing his logic. However, if he resorts to armed force to prevent a man from holding a certain opinion, then it becomes necessary to answer his armed power with equal armed power wherever practical. Man has no dignity if his convictions have none. Convictions are far more precious than wealth, position, power or life itself. To those who appreciate the meaning of humanity, convictions are far more precious than the material life which man shares with the animals. If man's humanity consists of no more than eating and drinking, growing and struggling for survival, he is one with the animals. Man's spiritual and moral convictions constitute the moral bond which unites him to his fellowmen, the spiritual link between him and God. The life of conviction is man's great distinction from the animal kingdom. By it, man wills for his brother that which he wills for himself; by it, he inclines to share his wealth with the poor, the destitute, and the miserable, though such sharing may imply some deprivation to his near relatives; by it, man enters into communion with the universe to perform that which enables the universe to realize the perfection which God has prescribed and established for it.

Should conviction take possession of a man and should another man attempt to make him renounce it under conditions in which self-protection or defense are impossible, such a man would do what the Muslims did before their emigration from Madinah, namely, to bear patiently all injury, persecution, and injustice. Neither hunger nor deprivation of any kind would cause him to succumb to ignoble desires; patient forbearance was precisely what the Muslims practiced in Makkah as well as what the early Christians had practiced. But those who suffer in patience for the sake of their convictions are not the majority of mankind nor the plebians among them. They are, however, the select and chosen few whom God has endowed with such moral strength that they are capable of standing up against any injury or injustice, however great. It was precisely this kind of conviction which the New Testament has associated with the judgment that whoever is endowed therewith "shall say unto this mountain, remove hence to yonder place, and it shall remove."[Matthew, 17:20]. But if it is possible for man to defend himself against aggression with the same arms as the aggressor, to fight the man who blocks the path of God by use of his own means, then it is his duty to do so. Otherwise, one would be weak of faith and doubtful in conviction. That is what Muhammad and his companions did after they had achieved a measure of security for themselves in Madinah. That is equally what the Christians did after they had achieved power in Rome and Byzantium, after the conversion of the Roman emperors.

 

Christianity and Fighting

The missionaries say, "But the spirit of Christianity condemns fighting altogether." I do not wish to pause here for investigating the truth, or lack of it, of such a claim. The history of Christianity, however, is a legitimate witness in this matter and so is the history of Islam. From the dawn of Christianity until today every country of the world has been soaked with blood in the name of Jesus Christ. The Romans and the Byzantines of old as well as the European peoples of modern times are guilty of shedding blood in religious causes. The Crusades were launched and their fires fanned by Christians, not by Muslims. For hundreds of years, one army after another rolled out of Europe in the direction of the Muslim Orient to fight, to destroy, and to shed blood. In every case, the popes who claimed to be the vicars of Jesus Christ, blessed and encouraged these armies and hurried them to Jerusalem and other destinations. Were all these popes heretics? Was their Christianity spurious? Or was every one of them a pretender, an ignoramus, unaware that Christianity absolutely condemns fighting? The missionaries rejoin, "Those were the Middle Ages, ages of darkness, unfit as evidence against Christianity." If this is an argument on which they pin some hope, let us then turn to the twentieth century in which we now live and which they call "the century of the highest human civilization." This century has indeed seen the same darkness as did the Middle Ages. Lord Allenby, representing the allied forces of England, France, Italy, Rumania, and America, stopped in Jerusalem in 1918 after his conquest of that city toward the end of the first World War and said: "Today the Crusades have come to an end."

 

The Saints in Islam and Christianity

If in every age and period, there have been Christian saints who have condemned fighting and who rose to the pinnacles of human brotherhood-indeed, of brotherhood among all element of the universe-so there were among the Muslims saints who have reached these very pinnacles and related themselves to all existence and being in a bond of brotherhood, love, and illumination and who realized within their souls the very unity of being. These saints, however, whether Muslim or Christian, do not represent human life in its constant development and struggle toward perfection. Rather they represent the highest example of the realization of that perfection. The general run of men, however, seek to understand and realize such perfection, but neither their reason nor their imagination succeeds in doing so with any amount of precision or completeness. Their attempts to realize it are understandable as preliminaries and trials. One thousand three hundred and fifty-seven years have so far passed since the emigration of the Arab Prophet from Makkah to Madinah. Throughout these years men have increased their capacities to fight, improved their devilish art of war, and made its weapons more destructive than ever. However, disarmament and the cessation of war are still words of mere propaganda spread before the eyes of the credulous in war after war, each more devastating than the preceding. These noble ideals have hardly been more than propaganda claims made by people thus far incapable-and who knows, perhaps never capable of realizing any such desiderata, of bringing true peace into the world, a peace of brotherhood and justice instead of an armed peace which is only a preliminary to another war.

 

Islam, the Natural Religion

The religion of Islam is not one of illusion and fantasy. Neither is it a religion which addresses only the individual as such and urges him to rise to perfection. Rather, Islam is the natural religion, the religion which naturally belongs to all men, individuals as well as groups. It is the religion of truth, of freedom, and of order. As long as it is also the nature of man to fight and to make war, to discipline that nature and to limit this inclination within the narrowest frontier is all that is possible for men to bear and abide by; it is all that humanity can hope to achieve in its struggle toward goodness and perfection. By far the best disciplining of this inclination to war is to limit it to pure defense of one's person, one's faith, one's freedom of opinion, and one's freedom to preach. The greatest wisdom is to regulate the making of war so that all the rights and dignities of man may be respected and observed to the utmost. And this is precisely what Islam has sought to do, as we have seen and as we shall have occasion to see later. That is precisely what the Qur'an has commanded, as we have seen, and shall have occasion to see in the sequel