The Roman church did not welcome this new atmosphere.
The Roman church could not abide having a different opinion, regarding even minor issues, living by its side. How could it allow the existence of a religion that denied the authority of its men?
A religion that did not see any mediators between people and their Lord.
Islam also refuted the redemption creed upon which the religion of the church was founded. Islam based recompense on a person’s deeds alone.
That no bearer of burden (sins) shall bear the burden of another. That a human shall have nothing but what he strives for
(An-Najm 53: 38-39)
It also negated the concept of partnership with Godhead, for the universe has only One God, and to Him submitted ‘Isa (Jesus) and his mother (peace be upon them).
(Who then has the least power against Allah, if He were to destroy the Messiah, son of Maryam (Mary), his mother, and all those who are on the earth together? And to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them. He creates what He wills. And Allah is Able to do all things.)
(Al-Ma’idah 5: 17)
Therefore, the Romans judged that they must aim a fatal blow at Islam, to the north of the Peninsula, that would force it back to where it came from, and close against it the borders to prevent its spreading any further.1
It was amid this atmosphere of enmity and warfare against Islam that Ayat were revealed calling for fighting against those from the People of the Scripture who hindered people from the Path of Allah Almighty and warred against His Religion until they would yield and enter into a covenant with Muslims, by which they would be granted the rights of Dhimmis (covenanted or protected non-Muslims living under Islamic rule) after paying Jizyah (tribute):
(Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth among the People of the Scripture, until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
And the Jews say, ‘‘Uzair (Ezra) is the son of Allah,’ and the Christians say, ‘Messiah is the son of Allah.’ That is a saying from their mouths. They imitate the saying of the disbelievers of old. Allah’s Curse be on them, how they are deluded away from the truth!
They have taken their rabbis and monks as lords besides Allah4, and (also) the Messiah, the son of Maryam (Mary). And they were not commanded except to worship one God; there is no god except Him. Exalted is He above whatever they associate with Him.
They want to extinguish the Light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah will not allow except that His Light should be perfected even though the disbelievers hate it.
It is He Who has sent His Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth to make it superior over all religions, even though they who associate others with Allah hate it
(At-Tawbah 9: 29-33)
Other Ayat were revealed, encouraging and arousing the enthusiasm of the Muslims in their struggle against oppressive regimes that wanted to extinguish Islam and blockade the way to it:
O you who believe! What is the matter with you that, when you are asked to march forth in the Cause of Allah, you cling heavily to the earth? Are you pleased with the life of this world rather than the hereafter? But little is the enjoyment of the life of this world compared to the hereafter.
(At-Tawbah 9: 38)
Heraclius could not ignore the great success that the Battle of Mu’tah had brought to the Muslims, and the diverse Arab tribes that now aspired to break free from him, gain their independence, and ally with the Muslims.
It was a real danger marching towards his borders, threatening the Levantine borderlands adjacent to the Arabs. He decided that the power of the Muslims must be destroyed before it grew into an irrepressible danger.
Alarmed by these fears, barely a year had passed after the Battle of Mu’tah when Heraclius began to muster a huge army from the Romans and subordinate Arabs, like the Ghassanide and others, to launch a decisive bloody battle against the Muslims.
The news of a huge army that numbered forty thousand fighters which Heraclius was preparing (including Lukham, Judham, and other tribes allied to the Romans) reached the Muslims. An imminent danger was threatening them. The gravity of the situation was intensified by the adverse circumstances of torrid heat, straitened conditions, and drought, along with the long, rugged distance that Muslims would have to cover if they encountered this imminent danger.
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) knew that any delay or passivity in handling the situation might enable the Romans to pervade the Islamic territories and march to Al-Madinah, which would endanger the Islamic call and the Muslim State.
Despite all hardships, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) decided to undertake a decisive expedition, which the Muslims should carry on against the Romans inside their borders, to obstruct the invasion of the homeland of Islam.
No sooner had the Muslims heard the voice of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) calling them to fight the Romans than they rushed to comply with his call. They started getting ready for war with great speed. Tribes and clans from everywhere began pouring into Al-Madinah. Almost all the Muslims responded and none stayed behind, except those sick with doubt or hypocrisy, and three persons.
The Muslims raced with one another to help equip and finance the expedition. Even the poor people who could not afford a mount came to the Messenger of Allah(pbuh) asking to be provided with one to enable them to participate in Jihad (striving) against the Romans. When the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) told them:
I can find nothing for you to ride upon,” they turned back, their eyes overflowed with tears out of grief that they could not find anything to spend (for the Cause of Allah)
(At-Tawbah 9: 92)
A great army of thirty thousand fighters was mustered, and with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) marched northwards to Tabuk. Yet despite all the money generously offered, the army was not adequately equipped.
The shortage in provisions and mounts was so serious that eighteen men had to alternately mount one camel. As for provisions, members of the army at times had to eat tree leaves to the extent that their lips got swollen. Some others had to slaughter camels, though they were so dear, to drink the water stored in their stomach. The army was therefore called “The Army of Hardship.”
On their way to Tabuk, the Muslim army passed by the rocky tract called Al-Hijr, which was the land of Thamud who were a people shown the path of truth, but they preferred blindness to guidance. They denied the messengers and insolently defied the Command of their Lord.
So the earthquake seized them, and they lay (dead), prostrate in their homes
(Al-A‘raf 7: 78)
Their houses remained an admonitory sign for people to remember. (Then see how was the end of their plot. Verily, We destroyed them and their nation all together. These are their houses desolate, for they did wrong. Verily, in this is indeed an Ayah
a lesson or a sign) for people who know
(An-Naml 27: 51-52)
The Prophet (pbuh) said to his Companions, “Do not enter the dwellings of those who received punishment, unless you are (enter them) weeping, lest you should be afflicted with what they were afflicted with.”3
He (pbuh) then covered his head and proceeded quickly until he crossed the valley. When the Muslim army reached Tabuk, the Prophet (pbuh) commanded, saying, “A strong wind shall blow tonight, so no one should stand up. Whoever has a camel should hobble it.” A wind blew at night so strong, as they were told, that a man who did not heed the warning and stood up was carried away to Mount Taiy’.4
The Muslim army camped at Tabuk, ready to face the enemy. Upon learning of the advance of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), terror was cast by Allah into the hearts of the Romans and their allies. “I have been granted victory with awe (cast into the hearts of my enemies),” said the Prophet.12 None of them dared set out to fight. Rather, they scattered inside their territory.
The Prophet’s “Divine Victory” earned the Muslims a grand reputation that traveled to the furthest ends of Arabia. The great and important political profits achieved were far better than any the Muslims could have procured if the two armies had engaged in military confrontations.
The King of Ailah, Yahna bin Rawbah, and the people of Jarba’ and Adhruh came to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and concluded peace treaties with him.
The tribes, who used to ally with the Romans, became quite certain that their dependence on their former masters had come to an end. All this turned to the advantage of the Muslims and the Muslim State, which expanded until it directly adjoined the Roman borders. 6
With the downfall of oppressive forces and the new breath of freedom, people started entering into the Religion of Allah in multitudes.
- Excerpted from Muhammad Al-Ghazali, Fiqh As-Sirah, Tabuk.
- Ibn Kathir reported in his interpretation of this Ayah that ‘Ady t, who was a Christian before Islam. said, “They did not worship them (rabbis and monks).” The Prophet r said, “Yes (they did). They (rabbis and monks) forbade them what is lawful and allowed them what is unlawful and they followed them. This is how they worshiped them.”
- Narrated by ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab: Sahih Al-Bukhary, Book of Al-Magazi, Hadith no. 4068; similar versions of the Hadith are also reported by Al-Bukhary (415), Muslim (5292, 5293), and Ahmad (4333).
- Narrated by Abu Humaid As-Sa‘idi: Sahih Al-Bukhary, Book of Zakah, Hadith no. 1387; similar versions by Muslim (4230) and Ahmad (22498).
- Narrated by Abu Hurairah: Sahih Muslim, Book of Masjids wa Mawadi‘ As-Salah, Hadith no. 815; similar versions of the Hadith are also reported by Muslim (812), Al-Bukhary (2755), An-Nasa’y (3037), and Ahmad (7269).
- Details of Tabuk: Safi-ur-Rahman Mubarakpuri, Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum, Tabuk Expedition; and Ibn Hisham, As-Sirah An-Nabawiyyah, Tabuk Expedition, vol. 4.