Campaign of Tabuk and the Death of Ibrahim

Institution of Zakat and Kharaj

All the foregoing conflicts between the Prophet and his wives did not in the least affect the conduct of public affairs. After the conquest of Makkah and the conversion of its people, the cause of Islam confronted less danger than hitherto. The whole Peninsula had begun to feel the passing of inter-Arab war. The holy sanctuary held as sacred by the Arabs, to which they had performed pilgrimages for generations, had become an integral institution of the new religion. Its attendant functions of sidanah, rifadah, and siqayah [1] had been equally integrated into the order of Islam as Makkah passed under the control of Muhammad. The conquest of Makkah therefore led to a strengthening of public Muslim life and civil order, and the Muslims felt more confident as their power increased everywhere throughout the Peninsula. With the widening of Muslim society, public functions naturally demanded an increase in public expense. It was therefore inevitable that the Muslims be asked to pay zakat of al `ushr; [Le., "the tax of the tenth," levied on the Muslims' annual incomes at the rate of 10%. -Tr.] and that the Arabs who decided to maintain their pre-Islamic faith to pay whatever kharaj [Le., income tax levied on the annual incomes of non-Muslims at varying rates not exceeding 10%. -Tr.] was imposed upon them. Taxes are always uncomfortable, and taxpayers might always complain or even rebel against them. Nonetheless, the new order imposed by the new religion on the Peninsula necessitated a large public expense, impossible to meet without the additional incomes from zakat al `ushr and kharaj. For this purpose, soon after his return from Makkah, Muhammad sent his collectors to levy and collect a tenth of the income of the tribes now converted to Islam. He commanded the collectors explicitly to restrict themselves to the incomes, never to touch the people's capitals. These collectors went in different directions to fulfill their duty.

The tribes welcomed the collectors and remitted to them the amounts due wholeheartedly with the exceptions of a branch of the tribe of Banu Tamim and another of Banu al Mustaliq which refused to pay. While the collector, 'Uyaynah ibn Hisn, was in the neighborhood making collections, a branch of Banu Tamim, called Banu al 'Anbar, jumped upon him with their arrows and swords and threw him out of their territory even before he had asked them to remit their due. When 'Uyaynah ibn Hisn told the news to Muhammad, he was sent right back at, the head of fifty riders to reestablish order. 'Uyaynah launched a surprise attack against the Banu al 'Anbar, captured over fifty men, women, and children and seized some of their wealth. The Prophet received the captives and the seized properties and kept them in Madinah. Some of the Banu Tamim had been converted to Islam a long time before and had fought alongside the Prophet in the battles of Makkah and Hunayn while others were still unconverted. When these Muslims knew what their relatives, the Banu al 'Anbar, had done and what had happened to them, they sent a delegation of notables to seek the Prophet. They asked for an audience in the Mosque of Madinah calling out to the Prophet to come out to meet them. This impropriety disturbed the Prophet so much that he decided not to see them. Soon, however, the time of prayer arrived and 'Utarid ibn Hajib called the Prophet to lead the worship in the mosque as was his custom. After prayer, the delegation approached the Prophet and related to him what 'Uyaynah had done with their people. They took especial pains to remind him of his comradeship in arms with those of them who had joined Islam as well as of their high esteem among the Arabs. They then said to him, "We have come here in order to compete with your followers in poetic eloquence and rhetoric. Would you please permit our poet to recite some of his poems for you?" 'Utarid ibn Hajib, their orator, rose and delivered his speech. When he finished, the Prophet of God called Thabit ibn Qays to respond; when he finished, al Zabriqan ibn Badr, their other poet, rose and recited his eulogy in verse, whereupon Hassan ibn Thabit responded in verse also. When this contest was ended, al Aqra' ibn Habis said, "I swear that this man (i.e., Muhammad) is surely going to win, for his orator is more eloquent and his poet more poetic than ours. Indeed, the voices of the Muslims are higher than our voices." With this confession, the tribesmen converted to Islam, and the Prophet set the captives free and enabled them to return home.

When the Band al Mustaliq saw the tax collectors run away, they feared the consequences and immediately sent word to the Prophet explaining to him that the zakat collector has nothing to fear from their quarter and that the whole affair with Banu al `Anbar was a regrettable misunderstanding.

Indeed, not one of the provinces of the Arabian Peninsula failed to feel the power of Muhammad. Every tribe or clan that attempted to resist faced the Prophet's overwhelming power and was compelled either to convert to Islam and pay the zakat or submit to Muslim political power and pay the kharaj.

 

The Threat of Byzantine Invasion and Muslim Reaction

While still engaged in bringing security and order to the distant regions of the Peninsula, the news reached Muhammad that Byzantium was mobilizing an army to invade the northern approaches of Arabia to avenge the last engagement at Mu'tah. It was also rumored that this imperial army would seek to stamp out the nascent power of the Muslims who now stood at the frontier of both the Byzantine and Persian empires. At once and without hesitation, the Prophet decided that the imperial army must be met and destroyed so completely that the Byzantines would not think again of attacking Arabia or interfering in its affairs. It was autumn, but the desert heat, being greater in the beginning of autumn than in summer, was all the more deadly. Moreover, a long distance separated Madinah from al Sham. Any venture to cross it required great amounts of water and provisions. Inevitably, therefore, Muhammad had to tell the people of his plan if they were to prepare themselves adequately. Equally, it was necessary this time to alter his old diversionary strategy of ordering the army to march in the opposite direction, for no such expedition as he was preparing for could be kept a secret. Indeed, Muhammad sent messengers to all the tribes asking them to mobilize the greatest army ever, and to the Muslims of large means everywhere to give liberally for the equipment of the army. The Muslim force, the Prophet decided, should be so large and preponderous as to overwhelm an enemy long known for their numbers and military equipment.

 

The Muslim's Response to Muhammad's Call to Arms

How were the Muslims to receive this new call to leave their families and properties in the height of summer heat, to venture in desolate and waterless deserts, and to confront an enemy powerful enough to defeat Persia and even too mighty to be defeated by the Muslims? Would their Islamic conviction, love for the Prophet, and loyalty to God's religion inspire them to give up wealth, armour, and life, and to do so in such proportion as to instill terror in the heart of such an enemy? Or, would the discomforts of desert and summer heat, of thirst and hunger, force them to sit back and refuse to move? In those days, Muslim ranks included two kinds of people: those who entered Islam with hearts full of guidance and light and minds certain of their convictions, and those who did so in search of material gain or out of fear of Muslim arms. Those who belonged to the former group volunteered their own persons and offered all the equipment they could muster. They put themselves and their wealth entirely at the Prophet's disposal. Among them were the poor who walked on foot and the wealthy who provided for themselves and others, All hoped for martyrdom and closeness to God. The other group complained and looked for excuses to justify their recalcitrance. Secretly, they derided Muhammad's call to arms and ridiculed its timing and strategy. These were the munafiqun about whom Surah "Al Tawbah" had spoken. How great was its call to jihad! And how terrible the punishment it promised to he who failed to answer the Prophet's call!

 

Al Munafiqun

Some of the munafiqun counseled one another not to venture out in the desert at that time. In response to them, God said

"They counseled against venturing out in the desert heat. Answer: `The fire of hell is hotter, if only they knew.' They laugh now, but their pleasure is short lived. They shall weep far more, and they will have deserved every bit of it." [Qur'an, 9:81-82]

The Prophet asked an older tribesman of Banu Salamah: "Uncle, will you fight the Byzantines?" The man answered: "O Prophet of God, permit me to stay behind and do not tempt me. For I am known to be a ladies' man and I am especially weak in front of Byzantine women." Commenting upon him, the Qur'an said "Among the munafiqun some impertinently begged to be permitted to stay behind so as not to be exposed to temptation. In temptation shall be their undoing. Then will they be cast into hell." [Qur'an, 9:49] Those who in secret hated Muhammad and resented his leadership seized the opportunity to strengthen the munafiqun's suspicion and disobedience. Fearing that they might get bolder unless they were shown some firmness, and learning that they were meeting in the house of a Jew called Suwaylim, the Prophet angrily sent Talhah ibn `Ubaydullah to deal with them. Talhah and his companions put Suwaylim's house on fire while the munafiqun were meeting inside. As the flames engulfed the house, one of them jumped from the roof and broke his leg. The others escaped without injury, but they never dared to meet again in Madinah.

 

Recruitment of Jaysh al `Usrah

This firmness in dealing with the munafiqun was not devoid of effects on all fronts. Even the wealthy Muslims came out to spend more liberally of their wealth in equipping the army. `Uthman ibn `Affan alone spent one thousand Dinars. Many others spent of their wealth each according to his means. Those who were capable of equipping themselves did so on their own. But there were many others who offered all they had: their energies and their lives. The Prophet took as many of them as he could equip and apologized to the rest. These wept in sorrow at their poverty and were for this reason called al bakkda’un, or "the weepers." The army was finally assembled and counted thirty thousand men. Because of the difficulties encountered in its mobilization, this army was given the name Jaysh al 'Usrah, or the "hardship army."

 

The Muslims' March

While Muhammad was busy settling the affairs of Madinah-handing over the reins of government to Muhammad ibn Maslamah, appointing `Ali ibn Abu Talib as guardian of his household and giving to each the necessary instructions-he left the army under the command of Abu Bakr. The latter led the assembled men in prayer, and when the Prophet returned, he handed the command back to him. Responding to Muhammad's call, `Abdullah ibn Ubayy came out at the head of a little band of soldiers and asked for permission to march alongside the Muslim army. The Prophet, however, preferred that `Abdullah stay in Madinah, for he was not quite sure of his good faith. At Muhammad's command, the army began its march, raising great dust and making a tremendous roar. The people of Madinah hurried to the rooftops to see this great mass of men, animals, and equipment move toward al Sham. They were anxious to catch a glimpse of this large mass of humanity venturing out against heat, thirst, and all kinds of hardship in order to fulfill their duty to God and to win His pleasure, the pleasure which they had deemed worthier than all the good things they had left behind. Indeed, the sight of this army on the march pioneered by ten thousand cavalrymen and the stupefied people of Madinah watching it, moved to action those whom the very command of the Prophet failed to stir. Such was the case of Abu Khaythamah who, after seeing the Muslim army, went straight to his house where each of his two wives had cooked for him a delicious meal, drew some fresh water to drink, and sprinkled the tent and surroundings to cool off the place. Abu Khaythamah could not advance into his own house a single step before exclaiming, "The Prophet of God is battling the heat, sand, and thirst of the desert and I, Abu Khaythamah, languish in the cool, eat delicious food, and enjoy the company of beautiful women? No, by God, that cannot be! Prepare for me quickly some provisions that I may join him." He shot off like an arrow. There were probably many more who did likewise after realizing the shame that would befall them if they remained in the city.

 

Encampment at Al Hijr

The army arrived at al Hijr where the rock-hewn remains of Thamud stood, and the Prophet commanded the army to dismount for a watering and a brief rest. When it was time to leave, he ordered against drinking the water or using it for ablutions. "If you have used any of it to knead bread," he said, "give your dough to the camels and do not eat it. Let no one go out into the open desert alone." Muhammad knew that the place was desolate and often struck by blinding sandstorms. Two men disobeyed and went out of camp. One was carried away by the wind and the other buried in the sand. When morning came and the people saw that the sandstorm had filled the well with sand, they panicked. Soon rain fell upon them from a passing cloud. They drank, filled their skins, and felt reassured. Some of them thought this was a miracle. Others thought it was only a passing cloud.

 

Byzantine Withdrawal, Covenants of Peace with the North

The army then marched in the direction of Tabuk. News of its approach had already reached the Byzantines who immediately withdrew to the safety of their hinterland. When Muhammad learned of their fear and withdrawal, he saw no reason to pursue them within their territory. Instead, he roamed over the border inviting all either to fight or befriend him. His purpose was to secure the frontiers of Arabia. Yuhanna ibn Ru'bah, Governor of Aylah, received such an invitation. He came in person carrying a golden cross, presented gifts, declared his submission, and handed over the keys of his island to the Prophet. So did the people of al Jarba' and Adhruh, and they all paid the jizyah. The Prophet gave each of them a covenant which read as the following document given to Yuhanna. "In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. This is a covenant of security granted under God by Muhammad, the Prophet of God, to Yuhanna ibn Ru'bah and the people of Aylah. Their ships, vehicles, and routes on land and on sea are secure under God's guaranty and Muhammad's. So are all those who accompany them whether of the peoples of al Sham, Yaman, or beyond the seas. Whoever among them perpetrates a crime shall be liable for it in his own person, and it shall be legitimate for Muhammad to confiscate his wealth. It shall not be legitimate to prevent any one of them from using a well or a road on land or sea which they have been in the habit of using." When the Prophet applied his seal to the document, he presented Yuhanna with a mantle woven in Yaman and showed him every courtesy, respect, and friendship. It was further agreed that Aylah would remit a yearly jizyah of three hundred Dinars.

 

Ibn al Walid's Campaign against Dumah

With the withdrawal of the Byzantines and the binding of the frontier provinces with treaties and covenants of peace, Muhammad had no reason to march any further. The only one he feared was Ukaydir ibn 'Abd al Malik al Kind!, the Christian prince of Dumah. This prince was suspected of preparing to launch a treacherous attack as soon as the Byzantine forces could return. Taking no chances, Muhammad sent Khalid ibn al Walid with five hundred cavalrymen to deal with this threat and commanded the army to return to Madinah. Khalid hurried to Dumah and, discovering that its king was out on a hunting trip with his brother Hassan, attacked it without finding any appreciable resistance outside the city; its gates, however, remained tightly closed. Khalid seized Ukaydir and his brother Hassan as they returned home. He killed Hassan and threatened to kill Ukaydir unless the gates of the city were opened. Ukaydir and his city yielded. After seizing two thousand camels, eight hundred goats, four hundred loads of grain, and four hundred coats of arms, Khalid carried them, together with his captive, Prince Ukaydir, to Madinah. Muhammad offered Islam to Ukaydir, and the latter converted. He was then reinstated on his throne and became the Prophet's ally.

 

The Muslims' Return

Leading all these thousands of troops back to Madinah across the wide wastes which separate it from al Sham required no little feat of leadership on the part of Muhammad. Not many of them understood the Prophet's purpose or saw the value of the treaties he concluded with Aylah and other northern states. Evidently they could not appreciate the fact that Muhammad has thereby guaranteed the frontiers of Arabia and created buffer zones between it and Byzantium. All they saw was the plain fact that they had crossed long desert wastes full of hardships, lingered in the vicinity of Tabuk some twenty days, and returned without a fight, without capturing anyone, or seizing anything. Was this reason enough to justify their leaving Madinah at harvest time? Some of them began to whisper to one another derisive remarks about the whole expedition. Others, more faithful, reported the rumors to the Prophet. Muhammad dealt with the guilty, sometimes harshly and sometimes with leniency, his purpose being to maintain discipline in the body of the army. When the army was just about to enter Madinah, Khalid ibn al Walid caught up with and joined them, together with his captive Ukaydir and the booty he seized from Dumah. Ukaydir wore a golden, brocaded garment which caught the attention of everyone in Madinah.

 

The Recalcitrants

Upon the Muslims' return, those who failed to answer the call to mobilize and remained behind came to give account of their failure. They were given such harsh judgment that all those of questionable faith, including those soldiers who derided the outcome of the campaign just concluded, trembled in fear or changed their minds. The recalcitrants presented their reasons which were anything but spurious. The Prophet listened and, for the most part, let them go free pending God's final judgment. Three others told the truth frankly but repentantly. They were Ka'b ibn Malik, Murarah ibn al Rabi`, and Hilal ibn Umayyah. Muhammad ordered them to be boycotted by the Muslims for fifty days, after which they were forgiven and rehabilitated within the community. In this regard the following verses of the Qur'an were revealed: "God has forgiven the Prophet, and the Muhajirun and Ansar who followed him on the `hardship expedition.' Some of them had almost swerved away from faith. But they repented and God has forgiven them. He is the Merciful, the Compassionate. The three men who remained behind were accused, indicted, and castigated by their own consciences; they came forth repentant, however, as they realized that there is no escape from Him except by His judgment and mercy. God has accepted their repentance and forgiven them, that they may lead a new life. God is the Forgiver, the Merciful." [Qur'an, 9:117-118]

 

Severe Treatment of the Munafiqun

From then on, Muhammad dealt more and more severely with the munafiqun, whose presence and influence among the Muslims became increasingly grave and demanded decisive solution. Muhammad did not doubt God’s promise to give His religion victory and His word power, or that the Muslims would soon increase in very large numbers. Previously when Islam was limited to the confines of Madinah and its vicinity, it was possible for him personally to supervise all Muslim affairs. Now that Islam had spread to the farthest reaches of Arabia and stood ready to cross its frontiers, any leniency toward the munafiqun might lead to grave consequences. Hence, there was all the more reason for the Prophet to eradicate this source of potential disruption. A group of munafiqun built a mosque at Dhu Awan, an hour’s ride from Madinah, wherein to meet to concoct and plan their divisive strategy and misinterpret and misrepresent the words of God to the people. Before he left for the campaign of Tabuk, the Prophet was even asked by them to dedicate their mosque. The time, however, was pressing and the Prophet asked to be excused. After his return, the Prophet learned more about this group and their purposes, and hence ordered their mosque assigned to the flames. The munafiqun shook with fear and went into hiding. Henceforth, there remained only their elder, `Abdullah ibn Ubayy, to lead and protect them.

`Abdullah, however, did not live long after Tabuk. He fell ill two months later and died. To the knowledge of everyone, `Abdullah nursed the strongest hatred and resentment for the Prophet ever since the Hijrah. This notwithstanding, Muhammad was careful enough to let no Muslim inflict any harm upon him. Indeed, more. When he learned of `Abdullah's death, Muhammad was quick to conduct a funeral service for him, to pray for him, and to see to it that he was given proper burial. With `Abdullah's passing, however, the munafiqun lost their strongest pillar, and most of them hurried thereafter to repentance and genuine faith.

 

The Prophet's Last Campaign

With the campaign of Tabuk, the word of God became supreme throughout the whole Peninsula. Arab frontiers became secure and the peoples of Arabia began to enter Islam en masse and to merge into greater unity under Muhammad. The campaign of Tabuk was the last one the Prophet conducted. Henceforth, he remained in Madinah contented with what God had done for him. His son, Ibrahim, who was then sixteen or eighteen months old, was to him a source of constant joy. Whenever he finished with the day's official engagements and receptions, and satisfied himself that his duties to God, family, and friends were fulfilled, he would sit with his son, fondling and playing with him. He watched his son grow, become daily more resembling his father and, like any other father, Muhammad became more and more attached to him. Throughout these months the child was in the care of his nurse Umm Sayf, to whom Muhammad gave some goats to complement her milk supply.

 

Illness and Death of Ibrahim

Muhammad's attachment to his son had nothing to do with either his faith or with his mission. Repeatedly, he used to say: "We, the prophets, have nothing to pass on as inheritance to anyone. Any wealth we may leave behind must go for charity." Muhammad's case was purely one of a common human emotion, though in him, it has reached its highest and noblest expression. In the Arab, this human emotion expressed itself in causing him to see in his male progeny a form of eternity. It explains fully Muhammad's love for his son, however strong it may have been. Indeed, Muhammad had more reason for such strong attachment since he had lost his two sons, al Qasim and a1 Tahir, at a tender age, and his daughters-even after they grew to maturity, married, and bore children-so that only Fatimah remained of all his progeny. Naturally, these sons and daughters who passed away one after the other and were buried by Muhammad's own hand left their father with a severe sense of bereavement. It was natural that a father so bereaved would feel excessive joy and the strongest personal pride and hope at the birth and growing of a son.

The promise and hope which Ibrahim represented were not to last long. Soon, the child fell seriously ill. He was moved to a date orchard near Mashrabat Umm Ibrahim, where his mother and Sirin, her sister, looked after him. When his state worsened and it became apparent that he will not live long, Muhammad was called. He was so shocked at the news that he felt his knees could no more carry him, and asked `Abd al Rahman ibn `Awf to give him his hand to lean upon. He proceeded immediately to the orchard and arrived in time to bid farewell to an infant dying in his mother's lap. Muhammad took the child and laid him in his own lap with shaking hand. His heart was torn apart by the new tragedy, and his face mirrored his inner pain. Choking with sorrow, he said to his son, "O Ibrahim, against the judgment of God, we cannot avail you a thing," and then fell silent. Tears flowed from his eyes. The child lapsed gradually, and his mother and aunt watched and cried loudly and incessantly, but the Prophet never ordered them to stop. As Ibrahim surrendered to death, Muhammad's hope which had consoled him for a brief while completely crumbled. With tears in his eyes he talked once more to the dead child: "O Ibrahim, were the truth not certain that the last of us will join the first, .we would have mourned you even more than we do now." A moment later he said: "The eyes send their tears and the heart is saddened, but we do not say anything except that which pleases our Lord. Indeed, O Ibrahim, we are bereaved by your departure from us."

Aware of Muhammad's sorrow, the wise among the Muslim sought to remind the Prophet that he himself had commanded against indulgence in self-pity after a bereavement. Muhammad, however, answered: "I have not commanded against sadness, but against raising one's voice in lamentation. What you see in me is the effect of the love and compassion in my heart for my lost one. Remember that whoever feels no compassion toward others will not receive any compassion." These may not have been his exact words, but the meaning remains the same. Muhammad tried to sublimate his sadness and lighten his sorrow, and, looking toward Mariyah and Sirin, he said to them in appeasement that Ibrahim would have his own nurse in Paradise. Umm Burdah, or according to another version, al Fadl ibn `Abbas, washed the body of the child in preparation for burial. He was carried on a little bed by the Prophet, his uncle al `Abbas, and a number of Muslims to the cemetery of Abu Bakr where, after a funeral prayer recited by the Prophet, he was laid down to rest. As Muhammad ordered the grave closed, he filled it with sand, sprinkled some water, and placed a landmark on it. He then said "Tombstones do neither good nor ill, but they help appease the living. Anything that man does, God wishes him to do well."

The death of Ibrahim coincided with the eclipse of the sun, a phenomenon the Muslims saw as a miracle. They went about saying that the sun was eclipsed in sadness over the death of Ibrahim. The Prophet heard them. Would his exceeding love for Ibrahim and deep sorrow over his loss not enable him to find in such rumors a measure of consolation? Would he not at least keep his silence and thus allow the people to believe what they had taken to be a miracle? Certainly not. Such an attitude surely belongs to those who exploit the ignorance and credulity of the people; for those whom suffering and sorrow push beyond reason and common sense. It does not belong to the man of genuine wisdom, nor a fortiori, to the great Prophet. Hence, looking to those who claimed the sun was in eclipse because of the death of Ibrahim, Muhammad said, "The sun and the moon are signs of God. They are eclipsed neither for the death nor birth of any man. On beholding an eclipse, therefore, remember God and turn to Him in prayer." What greatness! Even in his moment of greatest personal disaster this Prophet preserved his cool presence of mind. He remained fully conscious of his message and most serious in his commitment to it. And even the Orientalists could not hide their admiration and wonder when they came across this fact in the life of Muhammad. Even they could not fail to acknowledge the genuineness of the man who insisted on truth even in face of the greatest personal adversity.

One wonders what the attitude of the wives of the Prophet was toward the loss of Ibrahim and Muhammad's strong sense of bereavement. Muhammad himself found consolation in God, in the divine assistance he received in the fulfillment of His message, and in the successful spread of Islam that was shown by all the delegations that appeared in Madinah from every direction with the rise of each new day. So wide was the spread of the religion of God and so many peoples entered its ranks that this year, the 10th of the Hijrah, was called "the Year of Deputations." It is also the year in which Abu Bakr made the pilgrimage to Makkah.