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AFTER TABUK

As they return from Badr, the return from Tabuk was fraught with sadness: another daughter of the Prophet, Umm Kulthum, had died during his absence; and this time her husband also had been absent.  The Prophet prayed at her grave, and he said to ‘Uthman that if he had had another unwedded daughter he would have given her to him in marriage. Those of the hypocrites who had not taken part in the expedition now went to the Prophet and made their excuses, which he accepted while reminding them that God knew their most secret thoughts. But he told the three believers who had stayed behind to depart from him until God should decide their case, and he gave orders that no one should speak to them. For fifty days they lived as outcasts; but after the dawn prayer on the fiftieth day, the Prophet announced in the Mosque that God had relented to them. In the words of the Revelation which had just come: When the earth for all its vastness was straitened for them and when their souls were straightened, and they had come to think there is no refuge from God except in Him, then turned He unto them that they might turn in repentance unto Him. Verily, God, He is the Ever-Relenting, the Merciful.

The congregation rejoiced, and many of them hastened from the Mosque to inform the three men of the good news. The youngest of them, Ka’b ibn Malik, had pitched a solitary tent for himself outside the town, and he told in after years how he had heard a horse galloping towards him and a voice that shouted “Good tidings, Ka’b,” whereupon he had thrown himself down in prostration to God, for there could be no good tiding except one. Then he went to the Mosque. “When I greeted the Prophet,” he said, “his face shone with gladness as he said to me: ‘Rejoice in the best day that hath  come upon thee since thy mother bore thee.’ I said: ‘Is this from thee, O Messenger of God, or is it from God?’ ‘Nay, it is from God,’ he answered. When the Messenger was glad on account of good tidings, his face would ever have the brightness of a moon.”

Since his entry into Islam, Malik, the leader of Hawazin, had not been idle. The Bani Thaqif might still pride themselves on the impregnability of Ta’if; but they were now surrounded on all sides, far and wide, by Muslim communities, and any caravan they sent out was liable to be attacked and despoiled. They could not even send camels and sheep out to pasture without the risk that they would be captured by Malik’s men, who moreover let it be known that they would put to death any man of Thaqif who fell into their hands unless he abandoned his polytheism. After some months they decided that they had no option but to send a delegation to the Prophet saying that they would accept Islam, and asking for a document that would guarantee the safety of their people and their animals and their land.

The return from Tabuk had been at the beginning of Ramadan, and in that same month, the delegation arrived from Ta’if. They were hospitably received and a tent was pitched for them not far from the Mosque. It followed as a matter of course that if they entered Islam their territory would be under the protection of the Islamic state. But the Prophet did not agree to some of their secondary requests. They asked him to let them keep al-Lat undestroyed for three years, and when he refused they asked for two years and then one until finally they were reduced to asking for a month’s respite, which also met with a refusal. They then begged him not to make them destroy their idols with their own hands, and to give them a dispensation not to say the five daily prayers. He insisted that they should pray, saying: “There is no good in a religion that hath no canonical prayer.” But he agreed to excuse them from destroying their idols with their own hands, and he ordered Mughirah, ‘Urwah’s nephew, to return with the delegation and to destroy al-Lat, taking with him Abu Sufyan from Mecca to assist him.

After their entry into Islam, the delegates fasted the remainder of Ramadan in Medina, and then returned to Ta’if. Abu Sufyan joined the party in Mecca, but it was Mughirah single-handed who destroyed the idol. His clan took certain measures to protect him, fearing that he might suffer the same fate as ‘Urwah; but no one sought to avenge the goddess, despite the lamentations of a multitude of women who bewailed her loss. Two of the men who most deplored the surrender of the city were neither citizens nor devotees of its “lady”. When the Prophet had marched on Mecca, Abu ‘Amir, the father of Hanzalah, and Waoshithe javelineer had both taken refuge in Ta’if, which seemed an impregnable fortress. But where could they now take refuge? Abu ‘Amir fled to Syria, and it was there that he died, “a fugitive, lonely and homeless”, thus fulfilling the curse he had unwittingly laid upon himself.’ Wahshi was still hesitating where to go when a man of Thaqif assured him that the Prophet would put no man to death who entered Islam. So he went to Medina, and going to the Prophet, he made his formal attestation. Even as he did so one of the believers who were presently recognized the slayer of Hamzah and said: “O Messenger of God, this is Wahshi.” “Let him be,” said the Prophet, “for one man’s Islam is dearer to me than the slaying of a thousand disbelievers.”

Then his eyes rested on the black face in front of him. “Art thou indeed Wahshl?” he said, adding at the man’s assent: “Be seated, and tell me how thou slewest Hamzah,” When the javelineer had finished, the Prophet said: “Alas, take thou thy face from me, let me not look upon thee again.”? As to the cousin of Abu ‘Amir, Ibn Ubayy, in the month after Tabuk, he fell seriously ill, and after a few weeks, it was clear that he was dying. The traditional accounts differ as to the state of soul in which he died, but all are unanimous that the Prophet led the funeral prayer for him, and prayed beside his grave when he had been buried. According to one tradition, when the Prophet had already taken his stand for the prayer, ‘Umar went to him and protested against the bestowal of such grace upon a hypocrite, but the Prophet answered him, saying with a smile: “Stand thou behind me, ‘Umar. I have been given the choice, and I have chosen. It hath been said unto me: Ask forgiveness for them, or ask it not, though thou ask forgiveness for them seventy times, yet will not God forgive them. And did I know that God would forgive him if I prayed more than seventy times, I would increase the number of my supplications.'”

Then he led the prayer and walked beside the bier to the cemetery and stood beside his grave. Not long afterward the verse was revealed, with reference to the hypocrites: And never pray the funeral prayer over one of them who dieth, nor stand beside his grave, for verily they disbelieved in God and His Messenger, and died in their iniquity? But according to other traditions,’ this verse had been already revealed as part of the Revelation which came immediately after the return from Tabuk. Nor was it any longer applicable to Ibn Ubayy, for the Prophet visited him in his illness and found that the imminence of death had changed him. He asked the Prophet to give him a garment of his own in which he could be shrouded and to accompany his body to the grave, which the Prophet agreed to do. Then again he spoke, saying: “O Messenger of God, I hope that thou wilt prays beside my bier, and ask forgiveness of God for my sins.” Again the Prophet assented, and after his death, he did as he had promised. The dead man’s son ‘Abd Allah was present on all these occasions.

Thaqif were not the only tribe to send envoys to the Prophet. Many other envoys came to Medina from all over Arabia in this “year of deputations”, as the ninth year of the Hijrah is called. Amongst others were those who came from different parts of Yemen, including letters from four Himyarite princes who announced their acceptance of Islam and their repudiation of polytheism and its adherents. The Prophet replied cordially; he stressed the obligations of Islam, bidding them treat well his messengers whom he would send to collect the taxes incumbent upon Muslims, Christians, and Jews, and specifying that “a Jew or a Christian who keepeth his religion shall nor be turned away from it but shall pay the poll tax … and shall have the protection of God and His Messenger”.’ A recent Revelation had said, with regard to religious differences: For each We have appointed a taw and a path; and if God” had wished He could have made you one people . . . So vie with one another in good works. Unto God, ye will all be brought back and He will then inform you of those things wherein ye differed.

Not all the deputations were conclusive. ‘Amir ibn Tufayl, the man responsible for the massacre at Bi’r, was now chief of the Bani ‘Amir, and under pressure from his tribe, he came to Medina. But he himself was an arrogant man, and in return for his Islam, he asked the Prophet to name him as his successor. “It is not for thee nor thy people,” said the Prophet. “Then give me the tent-dwellers and keep thou the villagers,” said ‘Amir. “Not so,” said the Prophet, “but into thy hand will I put the reins of the cavalry, for thou art an excellent horseman.” This was not enough for the Bedouin chief. “Am I to have naught?” he said disdainfully, adding as he turned away: “I will fill all the land with horsemen and footmen against thee.” When he had gone, the Prophet prayed: “O God, guide the Bani ‘Amir, and rid Islam of ‘Amir the son of Tufayl”; and ‘Amir was smitten with an abscess and died before he reached home. His tribe sent another deputation, and a pact was at last concluded. The poet Labid was one of the envoys, and he now entered Islam. He is reported to have had some intention of abjuring poetry thereafter. “In exchange, God hath given me the Qur’an,” he said. But he nonetheless continued to compose poems until his death, placing his gifts at the service of his religion.

The time of the Pilgrimage was approaching, and the Prophet appointed Abu Bakr to take charge of it. He set off from Medina with three hundred men, but not long after they had gone there came a Revelation which it was important that all the pilgrims to Mecca, both Muslims, and polytheists, should hear. “None shall be a transmitter from me but a man of the people of my house,” said the Prophet, and he told ‘Ali to set out with all speed and overtake the pilgrims. He was to recite the revealed verses in the valley of Mina and he was also to make it clear that no one after that year would be allowed to go round the Holy House naked, and that idolaters were making the Pilgrimage for the last time. When ‘Ali overtook the others, Abu Bakr asked him if he had come to command the expedition, but he replied that he was under his command, so they went on together and Abu Bakr led the prayers and preached the sermons.

On the day of the Feast, when all the pilgrims were assembled in the valley of Mina to sacrifice their animals, ‘All proclaimed the Divine Message. The gist of it was that the idolaters were given four months’ respite to come and go as they pleased in safety, but after that God and His, Messenger would be free from any obligation towards them. War was declared upon them, and they were to be slain or taken captive wherever they were found. Two exceptions were made: as regards those idolaters who had a special treaty with the Prophet and had kept it faithfully, the treaty was to be held as valid until its term ran out; and if any individual idolater sought protection he was to be granted it and conveyed to a place of safety, having first been instructed in Islam. There was also a revealed verse which seemed to be addressed especially to the recent converts of Mecca who might fear that the exclusion of idolaters would not only deprive them of opportunities for trade but also of many rich gifts: O ye who believe, the idolaters are unclean. Therefore let them not come nigh unto the inviolable mosque after this their year. And if ye fear poverty, God will enrich you of His Bounty. Verily God is All-Knowing, Infinitely Wise.’

The Prophet remained at home for nearly the whole of the following year, which was the tenth since his emigration. Ibrahim could already walk and was beginning to talk. Hasan and Husayn had now a small sister named after her aunt Zaynab, and Fatimah was expecting a fourth child. Other intimates of the household were the three sons of Ja’far. They were now the stepsons of Abu Bakr, who had married their mother Asrna’, and she also was expecting a child. Particularly dear to the Prophet was her sister Umm al-Fadl, In Mecca, it had been his custom to visit her often, and since ‘Abbas’s move to Medina he was once more a frequent visitor at their house. Their eldest son, after whom she was named, had now grown to manhood and received many signs of favor. On at least one occasion,  when it was Maymunah’s turn to house the Prophet, she invited her nephew Fadl to stay with her.  Deputations still continued to come as in the previous year, and one of these was from the Christians of Najran, who sought to make a pact with the Prophet. They were of the Byzantine rite, and in the past had received rich subsidies from Constantinople. The delegates, sixty in number, were received by the Prophet in the Mosque, and when the time for their prayer came he allowed them to pray it there, which they did, facing towards the east.

At the audiences which they had with him during their stay, many points of doctrine were touched on, and there were some disagreements between him and them concerning the person of Jesus. Then came the Revelation: Verily the likeness of Jesus with God is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, then said to him “Be!”, and he was. This is the truth from thy Lord, so be not of the doubters. And whoso contendeth with thee about him after the knowledge that hath reached thee, say: Come ye, and let us summon our sons and your sons and our women and your women and ourselves and yourselves. Then we will imprecate, putting God’s curse on those who lie.’ The Prophet recited this Revelation to the Christians and invited them to meet with him and his family and to settle their dispute in the way here suggested. They said they would think about it, and the next day when they came to the Prophet they saw that ‘Ali was with him, and behind them were Fatimah and her two sons. The Prophet was wearing a large cloak and he now spread it wide enough to enfold them all in it,  including himself. For this reason, the five of them are reverently known as “the People of the Cloak”.

As to the Christians, they said they were not prepared to carry their disagreement so far as imprecation; and the Prophet made with them a favorable treaty according to which, in return for the payment of taxes, they were to have the full protection of the Islamic state for themselves and their churches and other possessions. The untroubled happiness of the early months of this year came to an end with the illness of Ibrahim. It was soon clear that he would not survive. He was tended by his mother and her sister Sirin, The Prophet visited him continually, and was with him when he was dying. As the child breathed his last, he took him in his arms, and tears flowed from his eyes. His forbidding of vociferous lamentation had made prevalent the notion that all expressions of woe at bereavement were to be discouraged, and the mistaken idea still lingered on in many minds. “O Messenger of God,” said ‘Abd ar-Rahman ibn ‘Awf, who was present, “this is what thou hast forbidden. When the Muslims see thee weeping, they too will weep.” The Prophet continued to weep, and when he could find his voice he said: “Not this do I forbid. These are the promptings of tenderness and mercy, and he that is not merciful, unto him shall no mercy be shown. O Ibrahim, if it were not that the promise of reunion is sure, and that this is a path which all must tread, and that the last of us shall overtake the first, verily we should grieve for thee with a yet greater sorrow. Yet are we stricken indeed with sorrow for thee, O Ibrahim, The eye weepeth, and the heart grieveth, nor say we aught that would offend the Lord.”

He spoke words of comfort now to Mariyah and Sirin, assuring them that Ibrahim was in Paradise. Then, having left them for a brief while, he returned with ‘Abbas and Fadl. The young man washed the body and laid it out, while the two older men sat and watched him. Then it was borne forth to the cemetery on its little bier. The Prophet led the funeral prayer and prayed again for his son at the edge of the grave after Usamah and Fadl had laid in it the body. When the earth had been heaped over it, he still lingered at the graveside and calling for a skin of water he bade them sprinkle it over the grave. Some unevenness had been left in the earth, and noticing this he said: “When one of you doeth aught, let him do it to perfection.” And smoothing it over with his hand, he said of his own  particular action: “No harm it doth nor good, but it giveth relief unto the soul of the afflicted.” He had already stressed more than once the need to make perfection one’s aim in every earthly act, and many of his sayings indicate that this aim must be unworldly and detached. ‘Ali is said to have summed up the Prophet’s guidance in this respect as follows: “Do for this world as if to live forever and for the next as if to die upon the morrow.” To be always ready to depart is to be detached. “Be in this world as a stranger or as a passer-by,” ‘ the Prophet said.  On the day of Ibrahim’s death, not long after his burial, there was an eclipse of the sun; but when some of the people attributed it to the Prophet’s bereavement he said: “The sun and the moon are two signs of the signs of God. Their light is not dimmed for any man’s death. If ye see them eclipsed, ye should pray until they be clear.”

President

The divine scriptures are God’s beacons to the world. Surely God offered His trust to the heavens and the earth, and the hills, but they shrank from bearing it and were afraid of it. And man undertook it.
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