`Abdullah ibn Jahsh's Expedition

the proof of the foregoing contention may be found in the expedition of `abdullah ibn jahsh al asadi, who was sent by the prophet of god at the head of a number of muhajirun in the month of rajab of the second year a.h. the prophet gave him a document and asked him not to look at it until two days after the start of his journey. he was then supposed to follow its instructions without forcing any of his companions to comply with them. two days after he started off, `abdullah, having unsealed the document, read the following instructions: "as soon as you have read this document, proceed to nakhlah between makkah and ta'if, and there seek to learn for us the news of the quraysh and their movements." when his companions learned that they were under no compulsion to go along with him, they all decided to do so except for sa'd ibn abu waqqas al zuhri and `utbah ibn ghazwan, who preferred to look, on their own, for some of their camels which the quraysh had seized. `abdullah and his companions proceeded as instructed. at nakhlah, they saw a donkey caravan carrying trade goods for the quraysh which were guarded by `amr ibn al hadrami. the date was the end of the month of rajab. remembering the old persecutions of the quraysh and the latter's seizure of their wealth and property, `abdullah ibn jahsh, after consulting with his muhajirun companions, said: "surely, if you allow the caravan to pass through tonight unmolested, they will reach the holy territory tomorrow and will thereby become forbidden to you. and yet, if you kill them today, you will have killed them in the holy month when killing is forbidden." the hesitant muslims were afraid to attack the caravan; but, encouraging one another, they agreed to kill whomever they could and to seize the goods in his possession. one of them shot an arrow at `amr ibn al hadrami and killed him. the muslims captured two men from the quraysh.

sedition greater than murder

`abdullah ibn jahsh arrived in madinah together with the two quraysh captives and the donkey caravan loaded completely with goods. he had already earmarked one-fifth of the booty to the prophet. but when the prophet saw them, he said: "i have not instructed you to fight during the holy months." he stopped the caravan in its place as well as the two captives and refused to take any part of the booty. he castigated `abdullah ibn jahsh and his companions and, later on, they were further scolded and punished by their fellow muslims for what they had done. the quraysh seized the opportunity to spread the propaganda everywhere that muhammad and his companions had violated the sanctity of the holy month by having killed, robbed and captured. the muslims of makkah answered that the event had taken place not in the holy months but during the following month of sha'ban. the jew; immediately joined the chorus of quraysh propaganda with the hope of engaging the muslims in a war with the quraysh over a case in which the muslims were apparently in the wrong according to arabian custom. it was then that god revealed ' he judgment

002.217 يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الشَّهْرِ الْحَرَامِ قِتَالٍ فِيهِ قُلْ قِتَالٌ فِيهِ كَبِيرٌ وَصَدٌّ عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَكُفْرٌ بِهِ وَالْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ وَإِخْرَاجُ أَهْلِهِ مِنْهُ أَكْبَرُ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ وَالْفِتْنَةُ أَكْبَرُ مِنَ الْقَتْلِ وَلا يَزَالُونَ يُقَاتِلُونَكُمْ حَتَّى يَرُدُّوكُمْ عَنْ دِينِكُمْ إِنِ اسْتَطَاعُوا وَمَنْ يَرْتَدِدْ مِنْكُمْ عَنْ دِينِهِ فَيَمُتْ وَهُوَ كَافِرٌ فَأُولَئِكَ حَبِطَتْ أَعْمَالُهُمْ فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالآخِرَةِ وَأُولَئِكَ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ
al-qur'an, 002.217 (al-baqara [the cow])

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

this revelation brought the muslims relief, and the prophet accepted his share of the booty. when the quraysh sought to ransom the two captives, the prophet answered: "we shall not accept your ransom for the two captives unless you return our two men whom you have captured, namely sa'd ibn abu waqqas and `utbah ibn ghazwan. if you kill them we shall likewise kill your two men." sa'd and `utbah were returned and the two quraysh captives were released. one of them, al hakam ibn kaysan, was immediately converted to islam and spent the rest of his life in madinah. the other returned to makkah where he remained to the end.

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

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