The Campaign of Khaybar and Missions to Kings

Muhammad and the Muslims returned from al Hudaybiyah to Madinah three weeks after the signing of the treaty with Quraysh and the agreement that they would not enter Makkah that year but the following year. Many of them returned with wounded pride. They continued to feel dejected and despondent until arch "al Fath,"[1] revealed on the road to Madinah, alleviated their despondency. While in Hudaybiyah as well as after the return to Madinah, Muhammad thought about what he should do to strengthen the faith of his companions and to spread the message of Islam. He thought of sending messengers to Heraclius, Chosroes, the Archbishop of Alexandria, the Negus of Abyssinia, King al Harith of Ghassan, and the satrap of Chosroes in Yaman. He also pondered the necessity of eliminating Jewish influence in the Arabian Peninsula once and for all.

 

Crystallization of the Islamic Call

In fact, the Islamic message had by this time reached a high level of crystallization and comprehensiveness. The time was ripe for its dissemination among mankind. Besides the doctrine of the unity of God and its implications for worship and ethics, the Islamic message developed so widely as to include within its purview all aspects of social activity and human relations. These it sought to regulate and infuse with its ethos and spirit. It attached such importance to man's social relations that it put its precepts for social behavior on a level with the doctrine of the unity of God. The system of principles Islam elaborated came nearer than any other to enable man to attain perfection and to realize the absolute, or the highest ideals in space-time. Hence, a large number of specific proscriptions were revealed during this period to regulate man's social relationships.

 

The Proscription of Alcohol

Biographers of the Prophet have disagreed regarding the time of the prohibition of alcohol. Some assert that it took place in the fourth year A.H. Most of them; however, agree that it took place in the same year as the Hudaybiyah pact. The purpose of the prohibition of alcohol was purely a social one, unrelated to the unity of God as a purely theological doctrine. The evidence for this is the fact that the Qur'an remained silent on this problem for a period of approximately twenty years after Muhammad's commission to prophethood. Throughout this period, the Muslims continued to use alcohol. Further evidence to this effect comes from the fact that the prohibition itself was not categorically laid down all at once, but was revealed progressively and at intervals. There was a series of prohibitions, each prescribing a limitative measure of use. Total abstinence was not demanded until near the end of the Madinese period of the revelation. It is told that `Umar ibn al Khattab inquired about the drinking of wine and prayed for God to show the Muslims His will in this regard, and that it was in this connection that the verse was revealed saying, "When they ask you about drinking wine and gambling, answer that they constitute great evil as well as advantage to the people but that their evil is greater than their good." [Qur'an, 2:219] Despite the indication this verse gave, the Muslims who were in the habit of drinking did not stop. Some of them in a state of drunkenness would pray without knowing what they were reciting. Again `Umar prayed God to show more of His will in this matter. The common Arabic saying, "Alcohol causes the loss of both mind and money," is attributed by tradition to him. Later, another step toward prohibition was taken with the following revelation: "O Men who believe, do not hold the prayers while you are in a state of drunkenness. Recover yourselves first until you become fully conscious of what you are about to recite." [Qur'an, 4:43] From that day on, the town crier of the Prophet proclaimed at the times of prayer: "Let no drunken man come to prayer." Despite this new limitation upon alcohol, `Umar continued to pray to God to send down yet clearer revelation concerning it. Personally, `Umar was quite opposed to alcohol because the Arabs often drank to the point of losing decorum, pulling one another's beards and hitting one another. It so happened that at a banquet which included Muhajirun and Ansar, a member of the former group boasted of his peoples' superiority over the latter group. A member of al Ansar, equally intoxicated, wounded the former in the nose by hitting him with a skull bone. Under the influence of liquor, the two groups quarreled, fought, and generated all kinds of hatred toward one another until they almost destroyed their previous harmony and mutual esteem. On this occasion, God said in a special revelation

"O men who believe, alcohol, gambling, idols, and divination arrows are an abomination of Satan's handiwork. Avoid them, therefore, that you may be felicitous. Satan wishes to infuse enmity and hatred among you through alcohol and gambling. He wishes to keep you intoxicated that you may not remember God, and hence fail to hold prayer. Will you not listen and stop being his tools ?"[Qur'an, 5:90-91]

On the day this revelation was made and the prohibition of alcohol was instituted, Anas, the wine seller and server, spilled all the alcohol in his possession. Other men who were not pleased by the new legislation asked: "Could alcohol be a real abomination even though it was consumed by some of the martyrs of Uhud and Badr?" In response to them, the following verse was revealed: "Those who believed and did the good may not be blamed for what they consumed, inasmuch as they feared God, believed, and did good works. For God loves the virtuous. [Qur'an, 5:93]

By commanding mercy and compassion, the doing of good works, disciplining the soul and character by means of worship, and eliminating false pride by means of kneeling and prostration in prayer, Islam became the natural perfection of all previous religions, the religion to which all men are called.

 

The Persian and Byzantine Empires

Heraclius and Chosroes were at the time the chiefs of the Roman and Persian empires, the greatest states of the age and the makers and arbiters of world policy and world destiny. Between them war was continual, as we have had occasion to see. The Persians were at first victorious and conquered Palestine and Egypt. They governed Jerusalem from where they moved away the cross of Christ. Later, the arm of destiny moved, and it was the Roman flag that flew over Egypt, Syria, and Palestine. Heraclius recovered the cross and put it back in its original place after a pilgrimage to Jerusalem on foot in fulfillment of a vow he had taken before victory. One can easily appreciate the position of the two empires if one remembers the tremendous fear which their very names inspired in any person who fell within their reach. Men were so awed by the two empires that no state or community could think of opposing them, and every man kept on good terms with their authorities and representatives as essential to survival. Since the world of the time was one divided between the spheres of influence of these two giants, it was natural for the Arabian Peninsula to fall within the one or the other. `Iraq was under Persia while Egypt and al Sham were under the influence of Rome. Hijaz and the entire remainder of the Arabian Peninsula were divided between the two. Whatever prosperity the Arabs enjoyed depended wholly upon trade between Yaman and al Sham. It was absolutely essential, therefore, that the Arabs enjoy the friendship of Khosrau as well as of Heraclius if their trade was to be successful. The Arab population consisted of tribes, sometimes mutually hostile, sometimes peaceful, but never related to one another by a bond constituting a political structure capable of counteracting the influence of either of the two great powers. It was hence amazing that Muhammad would think of sending his messengers to the two great kings, as well as to Ghassan and Yaman, to Egypt and Abyssinia, and to call them all to his religion without fear of the consequences of such deeds for the Arabian Peninsula as a whole, or without fear that Roman and Persian influence in Arabia might actually be transformed into a solid yoke of subjugation.

 

The Prophet's Delegates

Muhammad, however, did not hesitate to call all these men to the religion of truth. One day, addressing his companions, Muhammad said: "O men, God has sent me to be a Prophet of mercy to all mankind. Do not, therefore, disagree and divide as the disciples of Jesus, son of Mary, did after him." When his companions asked him to explain, he replied: "Jesus had called his disciples to the same truth to which I have called you. Those of them whom he sent to places close by accepted and observed the truth that Jesus had conveyed; those whom he sent to faraway places did not like that truth and could not accept it." Muhammad mentioned to them that he was planning to send messengers to Heraclius, the Archbishop of Alexandria; to al Harith of Ghassan, King of al Hirah; to al Harith of Himyar, King of Yaman; and to the Negus of Abyssinia, calling them all to Islam. The companions approved and made for him a seal out of silver which read "Muhammad, the Prophet of God." Muhammad sent letters to these chiefs, an example of which is the message sent to Heraclius. It read as follows: "In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. From Muhammad ibn `Abdullah to Heraclius, Emperor of Byzantium. Peace be upon the rightly guided. I call you to the religion of Islam. If you convert, you will be saved and God will double your reward. If you do not convert, responsibility for the salvation of your subjects rests with you. [Recognizing that there has been a large variety of views regarding the voweling and meaning of the term "al arisiyyin," the author appended a footnote in which he preferred its meaning as "subjects." This view was based on the Nihayat of Ibn al Athir and other dictionaries of the Arabic language, q.v. Rum. Another meaning of the term, which does not at all seem improbable, is "Arians." In this case the Prophet would seem to be giving Heraclius the alternative of accepting the monotheism of Islam or of remaining a trinitarian Christian. In the latter case, the emperor would fall under a new indictment of heresy regarding the truth of Jesus Christ which Islam was teaching in consonance with Arianism. -Tr.] `O People of the Book, come now to a fair principle, common to both of us, namely, that we worship only God, that we do not associate aught with Him and that we do not take one another as lords besides God. But if they refuse, then say, "Take note that we are Muslims." "' The Prophet gave this message to Dihyah ibn Khalifah al Kalb! and asked him to convey it to Heraclius. He dictated a similar letter to Chosroes and asked `Abdullah ibn Hudhafah al Sahmi to convey it to him. Another letter addressed to the Negus was handed to `Umar ibn Umayyah al Damri. A letter to the Archbishop of Alexandria was handed to Hatib ibn abu Balta'ah; to the King of Yamanah, to Salit ibn `Amr ; to the King of Bahrayn, to al `Ala' ibn al Hadrami ; to al Harith of Ghassan, King of the Approaches of al Sham, to Shuja` ibn Wahb al Asadi; to al Harith of Himyar, King of Yaman, to Ibn Umayyah al Makhzumi. All these men went out each to the destination assigned to him by the Prophet. Most historians affirm that they started their journeys in various directions at the same time. Some, however, assert that they were sent at different intervals.

 

Persia and Byzantium

That Muhammad sent such missions to the kings of the world is truly surprising. More surprising still is the fact that within barely thirty years of the time he sent those missions, the kingdoms of these kings were conquered by the Muslims and most of their inhabitants converted to Islam. The surprise, however, is dissipated when one remembers that the two great empires disputing the leadership of the world and dividing it between their two civilizations were really disputing only the material possessions of the world. In both of them, spiritual power had long been decaying. Persia, for its part, was divided between paganism and Zoroastrianism. The Christianity of Byzantium, on the other hand, was rife with dispute and controversy between various sects. There was no single conviction, neither faith nor world view, to inspire the hearts and satisfy the minds of the people. Rather, religion had become a series of rites and superstitions by which the Church was exercising its control and exploitation of the masses of mankind. As for the new call of Muhammad, it was purely spiritual, raising man to the highest levels of his humanity. Wherever matter contends with spirit, wherever care for the present contends with the hope for eternity, matter and concern for the present are sure to lose.

Furthermore, despite their greatness, both Persia and Byzantium had lost the power of initiative, creativity, and culture-building. In thought, feeling and action, the two empires had declined to the level of ancestor-imitation where every novelty was looked upon as misguidance and abomination. But human society, like individual men and all living organisms, must renew itself every day. Either it remains youthful renewing itself, recreating, reconstructing, and always adding to its life, or it reaches old age and, being incapable of recreation and reconstruction, spends its own life-capital. Its ensuing history is a continuing reduction and downfall toward a tragic end. Any human society which has thus fallen is susceptible to renewal and recreation by another society youthful enough to instill new life into anything it touches. Such a new element, full of life power and youth and growing in close proximity to Persia and Byzantium was Muhammad. His mission was so new and vigorous that it breathed new life into the masses of mankind whose spirit had been destroyed internally by the vacuitous rites and superstitions of the decaying societies in the great empires. The fire of the new faith which illumined the soul of the Prophet and the indomitable power of his soul explain the fact of his calling the kings of the earth to Islam, the religion of truth and perfection, the religion of God-May He be revered! The great kings were called to the religion which liberated the mind to reason and the heart to see for itself. Islam was the religion which gave man, whether in the life of worship or in the ordering of society, general principles which harmonized the powers of spirit and matter and made possible the highest levels of life on earth. Where such harmony prevails, there is neither weakness nor false pride. After going through all the stages of necessary development, human society can reach the highest possible level of existence designed for it.

 

Elimination of Jewish Influence in Arabia

But would Muhammad send his missions to the foreign kings while his own domain was threatened by the treacherous Jews who were still living to the north of Madinah? It is true that the Treaty of Hudaybiyah had secured his southern flank, especially from Quraysh. But what about the north, where both Heraclius and Chosroes might attack Madinah in cooperation with the Jews of Khaybar who were anxious for an opportunity to take revenge upon Muhammad? It would be relatively easy for either emperor to remind the Jews of the fate of their co-religionists, the Banu Qurayzah, Banu al Nadir, and Banu Qaynuqa`, who had previously been expelled from their dwellings after blockade, fighting, and war, and to incite them to new ventures against Muhammad. For their enmity and bitterness surpassed that of Quraysh. They were more attached to their religion, more intelligent, and more learned. On the other hand, it was n6t possible to reconcile them with a peace treaty like that of Hudaybiyah since the covenant of Madinah had been violated by them much to their own detriment. Were help to come to them from the side of Byzantium, their natural inclination to rise again against Muhammad could not be contained. Hence, it was thought necessary to put a final end to their influence in the Arabian Peninsula, and to do so quickly without giving them the time to forge any new alliances with Ghatafan or any of other tribe hostile to Muhammad.

And such Muhammad did. He had hardly spent fifteen days after his return from al Hudaybiyah-a month according to another version-when he commanded the people to prepare for the campaign of Khaybar, restricting the call to arms to those who had accompanied him to al Hudaybiyah. His purpose was to leave behind all those interested in booty, and to go out with the truly loyal followers who sought service for the sake of God. The Muslims marched forth one thousand and six hundred strong, including a cavalry of one hundred. They were confident of God's assistance and victory, and recalled surah "al Fath" which was revealed shortly after the signing of the Hudaybiyah treaty; "When you go forth and booty lies ahead of you, those who remained behind and did not participate in the previous campaign will ask to accompany you that they might share in the spoils. Thus they seek to change the decrees of God. Say to them, `It is not given to you to accompany us, for that is the decree of God which has been given.' They will accuse you of jealousy and envy, but their understanding is meager and their intelligence is dim." [Qur'an, 48:15]

 

The March against Khaybar

Muhammad and his men crossed the distance between Khaybar and Madinah in three days. Khaybar did not learn of their move until the Muslims' forces stood in front of their fortifications. In the morning, when the Khaybar workmen went out of their homes to go to their plantations, they saw the Muslim army for the first time and ran away shouting to one another, "There is Muhammad and his army." When Muhammad heard them, he said: "Khaybar is doomed; whenever we enter the enemy's land, the fate of that enemy is sealed."

 

Jewish Reaction

Nonetheless, the Jews of Khaybar did in fact anticipate Muhammad's move and thought of ways and means of escape. Some leaders advised Khaybar to form a block with the Jews of Wadi al Qura and Tayma' and to take the initiative in attacking Madinah first. This group saw no point in depending upon Arab tribes. Other leaders advised that it was more salutary for them to enter into a new pact with the Prophet in order to mitigate Muslim hatred and hostility, especially among al Ansar. This suggestion was particularly appealing after the experience in Madinah, when Huyayy ibn Akhtab and his party had instigated the Arab tribes to attack Madinah and sack its fortification in the Campaign of al Khandaq. The truth is, however, that neither Jews nor Muslims were ready for any conciliation, especially since the Muslims had killed Sallam ibn Abu al Huqayq and al Yasir ibn Razzam, two Khaybar chieftains, before venturing out on their present expedition against Khaybar. As a consequence, the Jews were constantly in touch with the tribe of Ghatafan and sent to them for help as soon as they discovered Muhammad's army in their domain. Historians differ regarding Ghatafan's answer to Khaybar's call, whether they actually did come to Khaybar's rescue or whether the Muslim army prevented any such assistance from reaching Khaybar.

 

The Two Armies

Regardless of whether Ghatafan had actually helped the Jews or not, it soon renounced its attachment to them and became neutral as early as Muhammad promised it a share in the spoils of war. The campaign of Khaybar was one of the greatest. The masses of Jews living in Khaybar were the strongest, the richest, and the best equipped for war of all the peoples of Arabia. The Muslims, for their part, were certain that as long as the Jews held any power in the Peninsula, the two religions would have to compete with each other endlessly. That is why they advanced so resolutely and fought so valiantly. The Quraysh as well as the whole Arabian Peninsula watched the campaign and awaited its results. Some Quraysh tribesmen wagered with one another concerning its outcome; many believed that the tables would now be turned against the Muslims, knowing how fortified were the dwellings, how impregnable the city stood perched over rocks and mountains, and how experienced its people were in the arts of war.

 

The Muslims' Blockade

The Muslims, on the other hand, brought to Khaybar all the equipment and preparation they could muster. After consulting one another and listening to Sallam ibn Miskham, their chief, the Jews decided to assemble their wealth and children in the fortified quarters of al Watih and al Sulalim, to place their ammunition at Na'im, and to deploy their fighting men at Natat where Sallam ibn Mishkam would lead them in battle to the bitter end. The two armies met at Natat and fought each other strongly. The encounter, however, was not decisive. There were fifty wounded among the Muslims on the first day and probably many more than this among the Jews. When Sallam ibn Mishkam was killed, al Harith ibn Abu Zaynab took over the leadership of the Jewish forces. Charging from the fortress of Na'im, the new leader attacked the Muslim army at the flank, but he was soon repulsed by Banu al Khazraj, who were deployed in that area. As a result of this engagement, the Muslims tightened their encirclement of Khaybar. Realizing that this was their last stand in Arabia, the Jews fought desperately. As the days went by, the Prophet sent Abu Bakr with a contingent and a flag to the fortress of Na'im ; but he was not able to conquer it despite heavy fighting. The Prophet then sent `Umar ibn al Khattab on the following day, but he fared no better than Abu Bakr. On the third day, the Prophet called `Ali ibn Abu Talib and, blessing him, commanded him to storm the fortress. `Ali led his force and fought valiantly. In the engagement, he lost his armor and, shielding himself with a portal he had seized, he continued to fight until the fortress was stormed by his troops. The same portal was used by `Ali as a little bridge to enable the Muslim soldiers to enter the houses within the fortress. The fortress of Na'im fell after the Jewish leader, al Harith ibn Abu Zaynab, was killed in battle. Evidently, both Jews and Muslims were determined to fight it out to the end.

Having stormed the fortress of Na'im, the Muslims then directed their attention to the fortress of al Qamus which they stormed after equally strenuous fighting. Provisions were becoming rather scarce within the Muslim army, and many began to approach Muhammad personally to ask him for something with which to stave off their hunger. Unable to find provisions, Muhammad permitted them to eat horse meat. Later on, a Muslim soldier noticed a herd of goats entering one of the fortifications of the Jews, launched an immediate attack, and seized two animals which were immediately killed and consumed. Not until after they had conquered the fortress of al Sa'b ibn Mu'adh was their shortage relieved. For within that fortress, they found large stores of food that enabled them to continue the blockade of other fortresses. Throughout this campaign, the Jews would not give up a single inch of territory without putting up a heroic struggle for it. Whenever they retreated, it was only before preponderant Muslim forces. At one stage in the campaign, Marhab came out of one of the fortresses fully covered with his military attire and singing the following verses

"Khaybar knows that I am Marhab, that I am an experienced hero fully prepared for war. I deal blows to my enemies and I strike them. Even the lions I face with drawn sword. The ground I hold is unassailable. Even the most experienced in war dares not approach it." Muhammad asked his companions, "Who will rise to meet him?" Muhammad ibn Maslamah rose and said, "Send me, 0 Prophet of God. For I am the angry bereaved who lost his brother yesterday." The Prophet permitted him and he sprang to meet Marhab. The pair fought valiantly and, at one stage, Marhab almost killed the Muslim. Ibn Maslamah, however, intercepted the falling sword with his shield which bent under its weight and was cut so that the sword could not be pulled out and disengaged. Muhammad ibn Maslamah seized the opportunity and gave Marhab a fatal blow. This war between Muslim and Jew was a hard and savage struggle, and the fortifications of the Jews made it even more so.

 

Jewish Despair and Collapse

The Muslims then directed their attention to the fortress of al Zubayr and surrounded it for a long time, waging a number of harsh attacks without being able to storm it. At one stage, they seized the water supply of the fortress and stopped its flow. The Jews were forced to come out and engage the Muslims in battle but, faced with preponderant Muslim forces, they fled. Their fortresses fell one after another into Muslim hands, the last of them being those of al Watih and al Sulalim in the al Katibah area. Only then did the Jews become truly desperate, and they begged for peace. The Prophet had already seized most of their possessions at the fortresses of al Shaqq, Natat, and al Katibah. In the circumstances, they had only their own skins to seek to save. Muhammad accepted their plea and permitted them to stay on their land whose title now passed to him by right of conquest. The terms of their surrender provided that they would be given half their crops in compensation for their labor.

The Jews of Khaybar were thus treated differently from those of Banu Qaynuqa` and Banu al Nadir who were forced to evacuate their lands altogether. With the fall of Khaybar, Jewish power no more threatened Islam or the Muslims. Moreover, Khaybar had large areas of orchards and groves of date trees whose maintenance needed an experienced labor force. Although al Ansar, the Muslims of Madinah, were agriculturalists, they were needed back home to tend their own gardens and orchards. The Prophet also needed his men for the purpose of war and could not afford to demobilize his army for the sake of agriculture. The Jews of Khaybar were hence allowed to continue to work their own groves after their political dominion had been destroyed. Despite Muhammad's sharecropping arrangement, the agricultural economy of Khaybar retrogressed after the destruction of Jewish political power. `Abdullah ibn Rawahah, Muhammad's deputy for the division of the Khaybar crops, dealt justly with the Jews, following in this regard the instructions of the Prophet himself. So honorable was his conduct that he returned to them copies of the Torah seized by the Muslims in the course of the hostilities. This is in direct contrast to the manner in which the Romans treated the Jews when they conquered Jerusalem and burned all the sacred writings they found in the temple and trampled them under foot. It is also far from the Christian persecution of the Jews in Spain where every Torah seized was put to the torch.

As the Jews of Khaybar pleaded for peace while the Muslims blockaded al Watih and al Sulalim at Khaybar, the Prophet sent a message to the Jews of Fadak asking them to surrender their properties and wealth or accept his terms. The people of Fadak were so panic-stricken at the news of Khaybar that they agreed to give up half their wealth without fighting. The wealth of Khaybar was to be distributed among the members of the Muslim armed forces according to rule because they had fought to secure it. The wealth of Fadak, on the other hand, fell to Muhammad, [Not personally, but as chief of state. -Tr.] as no Muslims and no fighting were involved in its acquisition.

The Prophet prepared to return to Madinah by way of Wadi al Qura where the Jews of that area prepared to fight the Muslims. Some fighting did indeed take place, but the Jews realized the futility of their resistance and pleaded for peace as Khaybar and Fadak had done before. As for the Jews of Tayma', they accepted to pay the jizyah without fighting. Thus, all the Jews of the Peninsula submitted to the authority of the Prophet and their political influence was brought to an end. The northern flank of Muslim power, namely the whole area north of Madinah, was now as secure as the south had become through the Treaty of al Hudaybiyah. With the collapse of Jewish political power, Muslim hatred of the Jews mellowed, and this was especially true of the Ansar of Madinah who even closed their eyes when a number of Jews returned to Madinah to resume their normal trades and professions. Indeed, the Prophet himself sympathized with such Jewish returnees and joined with them in mourning `Abdullah ibn Ubayy by presenting condolences to his son. Moreover, the Prophet took especial care to instruct Mu'a,dh ibn Jabal not to sway the Jews from their religion but to allow them to practice it as they had done before. He did not impose any jizyah on the Jews of al Bahrayn despite the conservatism of the latter and their attachment to the faith of their forefathers. The Prophet also reconciled the Jews of Banu Ghaziyah and Banu `Arid and offered them his covenant and protection provided they agree to pay jizyah. On the whole, the Jews of the Peninsula lost their political power and fell under that of the Muslims. So much had their prestige deteriorated, however, that they soon found themselves having to emigrate from a land which once felt their influence. According to some versions, this Jewish emigration took place during the lifetime of the Prophet; according to others, shortly after his death.

Jewish acquiescence in their fate under the dominion of Islam did not take place at one and the same time or immediately after their military defeat, for they were exceedingly resentful and full of hatred for their Muslim fellows. Zaynab, daughter of al Harith, and wife of Sallam ibn Mishkam, cooked a goat and presented it to Muhammad after the peace treaty with Khaybar and Jewish-Muslim relations returned to normal. Muhammad sat down at the table with his companions to eat of this Jewish prepared food. Taking the first mouthful, he realized that the taste was strange. Bishr ibn al Bar&' likewise had the same realization and could hardly swallow the first mouthful. As he threw his away, the Prophet said: "I have a premonition that this dish is poisoned." He then called Zaynab and questioned her, and she confessed. In defense of herself, she said to the Prophet: "You know what has befallen my people at your hand, and you can appreciate my resentment and hatred. In pondering the whole event, I arrived at the conclusion that if you, the source of all the evil, were a king like other kings, then to put an end to your life would bring peace to me and my people. If, on the other hand, you are a true prophet, then surely you would find out that the food was poisoned and you would not eat." The one mouthful which Bishr ate was fatal to him. The chroniclers disagree regarding the fate of Zaynab. Most of them agree that the Prophet appreciated her defense, forgave her, and sympathized with her loss of father and husband. Others relate that she was killed in revenge for the life of Bishr.

 

Muhammad's Marriage to Safiyyah

This treacherous deed of Zaynab adversely affected the attitudes of the Muslims. It destroyed whatever confidence they still had in the Jews. Indeed, it confirmed their presentiment that there could be no peace with the Jews as long as they were not finally destroyed. Safiyyah, daughter of Huyayy ibn Akhtab of Banu al Nadir, was one of the captives the Muslims had seized inside the fortresses of Khaybar. Her husband, Kinanah ibn al Rabi`, was known by the Muslims to have been the guardian of all the wealth of Banu al Nadir. When the Prophet had asked Kinanah about his treasure, the latter solemnly declared that he did not know where it was hidden. Muhammad threatened him that in case the treasure was found hidden in his place he would be put to death. Kinanah agreed. One day when Kinanah was seen moving about an uninhabited house in the outskirts, his movement was reported to the Prophet. After the Prophet ordered the inside of the house be dug out, part of the treasure was revealed. Kinanah was killed as a result. When a companion learned of Safiyyah's captivity, he approached the Prophet with the suggestion that, since she was the lady of Banu Qurayzah and Banu al Nadir, she was fit to become the wife of the Prophet alone. The Prophet granted her her freedom and then married her, following the example of the great conquerors who married the daughters and wives of the kings whom they had conquered, partly in order to alleviate their tragedy and partly to preserve their dignity. Abu Ayyub Khalid al Ansari, however, feared that Safiyyah's tragic loss of father, husband, and people might incite her to avenge herself against the Prophet. He therefore spent the night near Muhammad's tent where the wedding had taken place, with sword drawn. When the morning came and the Prophet saw him in that state, he asked him for an explanation. Abu Ayyub answered that he feared for the Prophet that this woman, who until very recently had been a non-Muslim, might attack him. The truth, however, was otherwise. Safiyyah remained loyal to Muhammad throughout his life. In his last illness, when the Prophet was surrounded by his wives, Safiyyah came forward and said: "O Prophet of God, I surely wish that that from which you suffer might be in me rather than in you." Muhammad's wives winked at one another and the Prophet, observing their reaction, said: "Go on and wink at one another! By God, I know that Safiyyah is truthful and loyal." Safiyyah, who survived Muhammad, lived until the time of the caliphate of Mu'awiyah. She was buried at al Baqi`.

 

Delegation to Heraclius

Whatever happened to the messengers whom Muhammad sent to Heraclius, Chosroes, the Negus, and other kings and men of power surrounding Arabia? Did they go forth before the Campaign of Khaybar, or did they participate in that Campaign until Muslim victory had been achieved and traveled thereafter? Historians differ so widely in this respect that it is very difficult to reach a conclusion. We are inclined to think that they did not all go forth at the same time, that some of them began their travel before the campaign of Khaybar and others thereafter. More than one chronicler has asserted that Dihyah ibn Khalifah al Kalbi participated in the operations at Khaybar. Yet it was he who was commissioned by the Prophet to go to Heraclius. The Prophet's messenger met Heraclius at the time of the latter's victorious return from the war with Persia and his recapture of the cross which had been taken by the Persians when they occupied Jerusalem. The vow which Herachus had made, namely, to perform a pilgrimage to Jerusalem on foot and return the cross to its original place, could now be fulfilled. It was on this pilgrimage of Heraclius, specifically when the imperial procession had reached the city of Hims [The old city of Emessa in Syria.] that the message of Muhammad was received. Whether Muhammad's letter was handed to the Emperor by one of the latter's employees after Dihyah surrendered it to the Byzantine governor of Bosra, or whether the group of Muslims headed by Dihyah was granted a court audience at which Dihyah submitted the Prophet's letter in person, is not known for certain. At any rate, it is known that the Prophet's letter did reach Heraclius, and that the Emperor was not irritated by it. Instead of sending an army to conquer Arabia, Heraclius did in fact send a gentle letter in reply to Muhammad's message. It was this gentle response to Muhammad's message that a number of historians mistook as meaning that Heraclius had joined the ranks of Islam.

At the same time, al Harith of Ghassan sent to Heraclius a message to the effect that he had just received a letter from Muhammad, a message which Heraclius thought was similar to what he himself had received from the same source calling him to Islam. Al Harith applied for permission to send an expeditionary force against this new "pretender." Heraclius saw otherwise and instructed al Harith to come to Jerusalem and attend with him the ceremonies at which the cross would be reinstated. Heraclius was apparently more interested in the pomp and circumstance of those ceremonies than in the call of a new religion. He could not imagine that only a few years would pass before Jerusalem, as well as the whole of al Sham, would fall under Islamic dominion; that the Islamic capital would move to Damascus; that the struggle between the Islamic state and the Byzantine Empire would not subside until the Muslims had conquered Constantinople in 1.453 and converted its great church [That is, Hagia Sophia. -Tr.] into a mosque in which the name of that Prophet would be inscribed in honor; and that that same church would remain a mosque for many centuries until the Muslim Turks would change it into a museum of Byzantine art in modern times. Such was to be the influence of this Prophet whose message Heraclius did not think sufficiently worthy to deserve attention.

 

Delegation to Chosroes

As soon as the message of Muhammad was read out to Chosroes, the Emperor of Persia, he went into a rage, destroyed the letter, and dictated an order to his satrap in Yaman commanding him to send forth to the capital the head of his Prophet-pretender in al Hijaz. Perhaps he was moved to such a decision out of a need for self-assertion following his defeat by Heraclius. When the Prophet heard of Chosroes's response, he cursed him as well as his empire. Bazan, the satrap of Yaman, sent his messengers in search of Muhammad, in compliance with the command of his emperor. In the meanwhile, however, Chosroes passed away, and his son, Cyrus, ascended the throne. Knowing the news of the accession, the Prophet informed the messengers of Bazan and asked them to carry his call to Islam to Bazan rather than carry out Bazan's instructions. The people of Yaman had learned of the defeat of Persia and realized that Persian dominion was on the decline and would soon pass away. They had heard, also, of the victories Muhammad had scored over Quraysh and of his total destruction of Jewish power and dominion. When BAzan's messengers returned and told their master of Muhammad's response, he immediately converted to Islam and accepted Muhammad's appointment as governor of Yaman. But what would Muhammad require of Bazan, as long as enemy Makkah separated the two? Since he did not have much to fear, but rather everything to gain because Persian dominion was on the wane, and because the new power rising on the horizon of the Peninsula could, in fact, demand of him no price in return, Bazan preferred to enter into friendly relations with Muhammad. Possibly, Bazan did not quite appreciate the fact that his joining the ranks of Islam gave the latter a very viable point d'appui in the south corner of the Peninsula, as events were to show two years later.

 

Delegation to the Archbishop of Egypt

The Coptic Archbishop of Egypt answered in a radically different way from his superior Herachus, or from Chosroes. He informed Muhammad of his belief that a Prophet was indeed to appear in the world, but in al Sham. He accorded to Muhammad's messenger a good reception and sent with him a gift to the Prophet consisting of two slave girls, a white mule, a donkey, some money, and a variety of Egyptian products. The two slave girls were Mariyyah, whom Muhammad took in marriage and who gave birth to Ibrahim, and Sirin, who was given in marriage to Hassan ibn Thabit. The mule was given by the Prophet the name of Duldul, for its unique whiteness of skin which the Arabian Peninsula had never seen before. The donkey was called `Ufayr or Ya'fur. The Archbishop explained that he did not convert to Islam because of his fear of discharge by his superior, and that were he not a man of authority and power, he would have been rightly guided to the true faith.

 

Delegation to Abyssinia

It was natural that the answer of the Negus of Abyssinia was favorable, for his country had always been on good terms with the Muslims. Indeed, some historians assert that the Negus was converted to Islam-a claim which the Orientalists suspect very strongly. The Prophet sent to the Negus a second letter asking him to send back the Muslims who had been living in Abyssinia under his protection. The Negus provided these Muslims with two ships that carried them to the shore of Arabia. They were led by Ja'far ibn Abu Talib, and the group included Umm Habibah, Ramlah, daughter of Abu Sufyan and wife of `Abdullah ibn Jahsh who went to Abyssinia as a Muslim, converted to Christianity and died there a Christian. Following her return from Abyssinia, the same Umm Habibah became one of the wives of the Prophet, a "Mother of the Believers." Some historians asserted that the Prophet married her in order to forge a blood relation with the house of Abu Sufyan and to confirm thereby the Treaty of al Hudaybiyah. Other historians saw in the marriage of Umm Habibah to Muhammad an attempt on the part of the latter to punish and annoy Abu Sufyan who was still a pagan.

 

Explanation to the Kings' Replies

Finally, as for the princes of Arab tribes and regions, it should be recorded that the Amir of Yaman and `Uman sent the Prophet a very antagonistic answer. The Amir of al Bahrayn sent a favorable reply and became a Muslim. The Amir of al Yamamah declared his preparation to enter into Islam if his chair and office could be secured. The Prophet cursed him for laying down conditions to his conversion, and the historians assert that the man lived but one year after the event.

The reader might well pause to consider the preponderant friendliness and appreciation which most of the kings and princes showed in response to Muhammad's call. None of Muhammad's messengers was killed or imprisoned. Every one of them returned to Madinah with the response with which he had been entrusted. Some of these messages were coarse and harsh, but most of them were gentle and sweet. Two questions naturally arise: Why did all these kings receive the new religion without seeking to destroy the man who called them to it, and why did they not unite to destroy him? The answer to these questions lies in the fact that the world of those days was, like the world of today, one in which matter had come to dominate everything, affluence and luxury had become the summum bonum, and nations fought and destroyed one another for the sake of power and in satisfaction of the ambitions of its king and ruling circles, or in order to increase their affluence and luxury. In such a world, faith deteriorates to mere ritual, and men perform these rituals without believing any of the truths which the rituals were meant to express. In such kingdoms, the masses seldom care but to belong to such regimes as will provide them with panem et, circencis, with wealth and luxury. Under such circumstances, a religion is adhered to only in proportion to the material advantage its practice promises. When such advantage is not in sight, the masses of people quickly lose their attachment, and their power of resistance to another religion evaporates. That is why as soon as these masses heard the voice of the new religion with its strength and simplicity, its call to equality before the one God, the only Being worthy of worship and prayer, and the only One capable of giving true good to man, they began to thirst after the new faith and the spiritual satisfactions it provides. Verily, a ray of God's blessing dissipates the fury of all the kings of the earth combined! The fear of His wrath shakes the human soul to its very depths even though the kings of the earth might have smothered that soul in blessings and favors. The hope of God's forgiveness moves every man deprived of grace to repent, to believe and to do good works. When the people heard that the author of this new call was capable of vanquishing the enemies who persecuted him and who inflicted upon him and his followers all sorts of injustice and suffering, it was not surprising that they stretched out their necks and lent their ears to see him and hear him. For them to witness Muhammad's victory over all the material forces assembled against him and to see his power grow despite his original weakness, poverty, and deprivation, for them to see this Prophet achieve that which no one else had ever dreamt of achieving-be it in his own town or throughout the Arabian Peninsula-all this was enough to incite them to examine this faith and to want to belong to it. Were it not for their fear of the immediate consequences, most of them would not have kept themselves separated from the truth. Hence, the majority of the sovereigns answered with a consideration and sympathy which reinforced the Muslims' faith and conviction.

 

Muslim Return from Abyssinia

Muhammad returned from Khaybar, and Ja'far and the Muslims returned from Abyssinia. The messengers of Muhammad returned from those lands whither Muhammad had sent them. All of them met again and were reunited in Madinah. Inspiring each of them was the longing to go to Makkah in the following year and to do so in security, with shaven heads or short hair, and to perform their pilgrimage without fear. Muhammad was so pleased to be reunited with Ja'far that he said he could not tell which was the greater: victory over Khaybar or reunion with Ja'far. It was in this period that, according to a certain report, a Jew called Labid charmed Muhammad and put him under a spell. The report is self-contradictory and highly questionable. The claim that Muhammad did anything at any time without consciousness or under a spell is a sheer fabrication and hence devoid of truth.

The Muslims were safe in Madinah where they led a prosperous and affluent life. During this period they thought neither of war nor of fighting despite the fact that they had to send some expeditionary forces to punish those who aggressed upon their lands or seized any of their property. As the year [The year in question was 7 A.H./629 C.E. -Tr.] came to a close, in the month of Dhu al Qi'dah, the Prophet set out with two thousand men to perform the lesser pilgrimage, in accordance with the provisions of the Hudaybiyah Treaty, and to satisfy the Muslim longing to visit the holy sanctuary and to perform the holy ritual.