The Orientalist Arnold Thomas Walker _ The Suspicion that the Islamic Conquests were Made for Obtaining Materials Gains and Profits
sir thomas walker arnold (1864-1930 a.d.)
he began his scientific life in cambridge university and was obsessed with learning foreign languages. he learnt the arabic language and worked as a researcher in aligarh university in india and spent ten years there. during that period he wrote his famous book 'propagation to islam' , then he worked as professor of philosophy in lahore university . in 1904 a.d. he returned to london and worked as assistant secretary in the library of the indian government department, attached to the uk ministry of foreign affairs. during the same period, he worked as part time professor in london university . in 1909 a.d. he was nominated as a general supervisor for indian students in the uk . he participated as a member in writing the islamic encyclopedia, the first version of which was issued in leiden , holland . then, he joined the orient and african studies faculty, london university , in 1916 a.d. and also worked as a visiting professor in the egyptian university on 1930 a.d. he wrote several other books apart from propagation to islam , such as: 'caliphate' , and a book about islamic beliefs. he participated in writing the first version of the book islamic heritage , in addition to several researches in the islamic arts.
islamic conquests were for the sake of obtaining material gains and profits?
when some people speak about the islamic conquests, they understand it according to european history and their materialistic point of view. sir thomas walker arnold was no different in this respect. according to his point of view, the islamic conquests were simply a means to obtain material gain and profits. he, and others who thought like him, depicted the islamic conquests as the last wave of immigration from the arabian peninsula which had previously witnessed similar immigrations when they were suffering from lack of resources.
refuting this suspicion
such people failed to search for the true motives of the muslims behind these conquests i.e. the motive of propagating the message of islam which aims at freeing people from the slavery that dominated the previous empires, as well as many other forms of slavery, and to guide them to the straight path of islam. the islamic conquests proved that most of the islamic army was not thinking about gain or profits; they were fighting for a noble aim i.e. islam and monotheism, and so they did not seek the transient things of this world. when the muslims defeated chosroe (kisra), the persian emperor, one of the muslim soldiers brought the treasures of kisra to medina and handed them to the caliph, omar bin al khattab (may allah be pleased with him). seeing that, omar was surprised at his trustworthiness and honesty, then ali (may allah be pleased with him) commented: "you have retained your virtue, that is why your people have retained theirs; otherwise, they would not be like this." the muslim soldiers used to worship with humility and submission during the dark hours of the night, and during the day they were gallant and fearless warriors.
it is important to note that the arabs had been living in solitude and defeatism in their peninsula for several centuries and were surrounded with wealth and fertility. before islam, they did not think to take over the wealth of either the persians or the romans; therefore, their motive for engaging in the conquests was not poverty. the actual motive behind these conquests was to spread the religion of allah the almighty. it should also be kept in mind that the idea of combining the propagation of islam and the desire to gain material wealth is a very old idea. it was first raised at the dawn of islam when the non-believers accused the prophet (peace be upon him)of seeking material gain through his propagation; for this reason , they offered him money hoping that he would refrain from propagating islam; however, the prophet (peace be upon him) replied: even if they put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left hand, i swear by allah the almighty that i will not refrain from propagating islam until allah the almighty makes it victorious."
prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) led an ascetic life even though he was wealthy before his prophethood. abu bakr (may allah be pleased with him) led an ascetic life even though he too was rich before islam. omar (may allah be pleased with him) led an ascetic life despite the fact that he controlled the two great empires; the romans and the persians. moreover, othman (may allah be pleased with him) also led an ascetic life even though he used to be very wealthy. however, there are people who still accuse the muslims of looking for wealth. when the muslims started the war against the persians this accusation was raised by rostom, their leader. he thought that he could please the muslims by offering them persian gold and wealth; therefore, he requested sa'ad bin abi waqqas (may allah be pleased with him) the leader of the muslim army, to send him a delegation from the companions. hearing that, sa'ad delegated al mughera bin sho'ba to go to rostom. when he arrived, rostom told him: i know that your motive for this war is poverty; so, we will give you something to fulfill your needs and will give you what you like. hearing that, al mughera bin sho'ba shouted: you have only three options: islam, paying tribute or fighting. after that, the battle took place and the muslims achieved victory. the guards of rostom were the first to embrace islam.
following the thoughts of rostom, the emperor of china adopted the same thinking when the muslim army, under the leadership of qutaiba bin muslim, reached this region. the chinese emperor requested a representative from the muslims for negotiations; so, qutaiba delegated habira al kilabi to represent them. reaching there, the emperor told him: tell your friend (i.e. the leader qutaiba) that i know he is looking for wealth and has a small number of companions; therefore, i am ready to give you some money to fulfill your needs and then you can return. hearing that, habira replied: how can our leader have a small number of companions while he has a huge army extending from your country to the lands of olives ( palestine )? and, how can he be looking for wealth when he has deserted this worldly life after being under his control and come here to fight you?
an orientalist, named stanlay lone poole, came close to the truth when he said: the enthusiasm of muslims for making their conquests was motivated by their love for religion and their desire to spread it, they fought because they knew the reward and paradise was awaiting the martyrs who were killed for supporting the religion of allah the almighty.
moreover, how could muslims be looking for wealth when they knew that the way for that was full of dangers and risks? the muslims were leading an ascetic and modest life. when they blockaded the papillion fortification in egypt after achieving victory in persia and al-sham, they were still leading a simple and pure life. then, al muqawqas, sent his messengers to inquire about the circumstances of the muslims. they returned and told al muqawqas: we saw people who love death more than life, and who love modesty more than prestige. they do not have any passion toward the worldly life, they like to sit on the ground, their leader is just like any of them, and they do not discriminate between the old or the young, or the master or the slave; all are equal.
later on, the muslims fought long term wars in north africa more than 60 years and a large number of people were killed and most of the places in north africa were deserts. so, if muslims were looking for wealth why would they go to north africa where there is no wealth or money, just desert? the wars between the persians and the romans lasted for hundreds of years and it was fought for land and worldly gains and benefits but they did not achieve any clear victory because they did not have belief. accordingly, when the muslims fought because of their strong belief they defeated all the armies of the persians and the romans. the muslims conquered countries to free them from slavery and then they left those countries for its people, as they did in al sham,