The Opening of Mecca
Not until 630 CE did Muhammad re-enter his native city Mecca, leading ten thousand people. Before entering the city, the Prophet reached Quraysh’s leader Abu Sufyan, who submitted to the Prophet’s requests to engage in no war, accept Islam, and allow this massive army to enter the city peacefully. Thus, without a fight, the Muslims re-entered Mecca. Instead of slaughtering the inhabitants of the town as the custom then was, the Prophet pardoned the Meccans with his famous words: “Go about where you please, you are free.” Soon, many of the city’s people accepted Islam. Muhammad’s act of mercy in pardoning Quraysh of no weakness or fear, but rather when he was able and powerful. This gracious and magnanimous act endures Islam’s principles of peace and security for all people. The Book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 33, Verses 1-3 states:
Sinai, Mount Paran, Seir from his right hand went a fiery law ‘A complete code of law. ‘ With him are ten thousand saints.
On June 8, 632 CE, in his wife Ayisha, Muhammad whispered his last devotions and then peacefully surrendered to Allah’s will.
The End of Idolatry in the Sacred City of Mecca
Worshipping objects such as idols and sculptures is doing injustice to God, the Creator, the Sustainer, and the Lord of all worlds. Also, praying to stones with no sense and cannot talk or hear is an insult to human dignity and intelligence. Seeking the advice and the help of idols that cannot help their selves is even insane. The stage to stop this offending practice of idol worship from the Sacred House of Ka’ba was coming to an end.
As stated in the previous paragraph, “The Opening of Mecca,” the Prophet pardoned the Meccans, who, at large, entered Islam and the 360 idols around the Ka’ba destroyed. The gods’ destruction was a big step, but not enough to eliminate idol worship in Mecca. Some of the tribes residing around Mecca, who did not embrace Islam, would bring their idols along with them to the Sacred Mosque for worship during the Pilgrimage season. There were other idol worship traditions, such as the total removal of clothing during the ritual fulfillment.
An idol-worshipping Pilgrimage tradition was to remove all the clothes they had worn during committing sins for their Pilgrimage to be accepted by God. These traditions conflicted with the Islamic standards of decency and spirituality and the purpose of the pilgrimage. Prophet Muhammad did not attend the Pilgrimage for two years after he opened Mecca. Perhaps, the reasons for this are that he did not want to perform Pilgrimage rituals mixed with Idol worshippers. In staying away, he would give time to those who did not accept Islam to re-evaluate their situation and recognize Islam’s value and enter-dimensions. The process of changing customs and habits takes time. If this natural process violated, problems and violence could occur. Therefore the Prophet managed accordingly to give peace a chance, proving once more Islam’s ever quest for peace.
Nevertheless, two years after Mecca’s opening and during the second Pilgrimage season, God revealed the Disassociation chapter’s Declaration of Disassociation. This Chapter, among other things, addressed the total termination of idol worship in and around Mecca. Mecca, which holds the primordial faith of Abraham and the whole of humanity, is to be the sacred center of the orientation of all Muslims. The process of returning Mecca to its original sanctuary was made in several steps; one of these steps is misrepresented by some westerners for accusing Islam of being a religion that teaches violence. Below are the verses and the story of this process of cleansing Mecca of Idol worshippers:
(This is a declaration of) Disassociation, from Allah and His Messenger to those you had made a treaty among the Idolaters (Mushrikeen). So travel safely and freely, (O disbelieving Idolaters), throughout the land (during) four months but know that you cannot cause failure to God and that Allah will disgrace the disbelievers. And (it is) an announcement from God and His Messenger to the people on the day of the Greater Pilgrimage (Hajj) that God does disassociate from the disbelievers, and (so is) His Messenger. So if you repent, that is best for you; but if you turn away, then know that you will not cause failure to God. And give tidings to those who disbelieve in a painful punishment. Excepted are those with whom you made a treaty (limited by an appointed time or condition) among the Idolaters, and then they have not been deficient toward you in anything or supported anyone against you; so complete for them their treaty until their term (has ended). Indeed God loves the righteous (who are fully aware of Him). And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the Idolaters (mushrikeen) wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give charity (zakah), let them go on their way. Indeed Allah is the Forgiving the Merciful. Qur’an, 9:1-5
The steps below further explain the process of returning Mecca to its original sanctity:
1) During this Pilgrimage, announcement to be made that God and His Prophet disassociate themselves from the Idolaters, who violated the agreements of peace (a reference to the violation of the peace agreement of Hudaybiya) and that there will be no more agreements made between the Muslims and the Idolaters in the future. Note: Some Qur’anic interpreters illustrated that several Quraysh tribes, not to include the tribes of Nadheer and Kenanah, broke the peace treaty of Hudaybiyah with the Muslims. Because Quraysh breached the agreement, God disassociated Himself and His Prophet from any more commitment to this particular treaty (except for the two tribes) as well as other informal and customary agreements that are not bound by conditions or time and ordered the believers to execute the order. See al Tafseer al Muneer, Volume 10, Page 99.
2. Any existing agreement (or part thereof) with the Idolaters, such as that with the tribes of Nadheer and Kenanah, shall be honored until its appointed time or until they breach the agreement. We must pause here to understand Islam’s broad quest for keeping the peace by continuing to accept the deal of Hudaybiyah with the tribes of Nadheer and Kenanah, who did not collaborate with Quraysh in breaching the peace treaty.
3. There will be no more idol worshiping in the Sacred places (Mecca and the Sacred Mosque). Note: Mecca’s sanctity concerning Muslims is much like the Vatican City concerning Catholics.
4. A period of four months was given as a respite to those who chose to keep worshipping idols, either leave the Sacred places or embrace Islam.
5. A severe warning of actual war, after the respite period against idolaters who insisted that they would stay in the Sacred places and refused to accept Islam.
With its severe warning to the idolaters, who refused to leave Mecca, some Westerners misused this verse to accuse Islam of teaching violence by killing disbelievers, Christians, and Jews. Correcting the misunderstanding of the verse, consider the two following points:
First, the multiple meaning of the Arabic word “mushrikeen,” and second, illustrating the Islamic mechanism for preventing war employing severe threat. First, the multiple meaning of the Arabic word “mushrikeen.”
The word musrikeen we encountered in the above verses is the word mushrik, from the base verb shirk. Shirk in the religious sense is worshipping “other things” with God. “Other things” can be idols, people, materialistic things such as money and wealth, and can even be position and power. The standard English word for shirk is polytheism. In the above verse, however, the word mushrikeen applies to Mecca’s Idolaters and cannot be interpreted as the Christians and the Jews.
To assert the interpretation’s contextual aspects of the place, time, and subject matter, mushrikeen in this case should only be translated as “Idolaters of Quraysh,” who are the subject matter of the above verses and to whom the declaration of disassociation addressed. Unfortunately, some English translations of the Holy Qur’an inaccurately translated the above word ‘mushrikeen,’ into its generic form as ‘polytheists,’ thus creating a major problem, especially for the non-Arabic reading audience. It is good to note that Yusuf Ali, Pickthall, and M. H. Shakir’s translations, which are among the most trusted translations, accurately gave the meaning of mushrikeen as ‘idolaters’ in this verse.
Second, the mechanism for the prevention of war employing severe threat. Similar to the Islamic philosophy of strict punishment for the prevention of vice and corruption, the Qur’an uses the belief of grave danger of war to prevent an actual fight. The psychological effect of harsh war on people is a change or compromise in behavior that would lead to the war’s deterrence. This policy of avoiding conflict by the mere fact of its threat is very much like preventing a traffic citation because of its severe penalty. This technique seems to work well, and in our case, it averted war, and consequently, no one left Mecca. For more information on this subject of harsh threat for good reasons, see our posted article: “Reflections on the Islamic Penal Law.”
The Farewell Pilgrimage and Farewell Speech of the Prophet
The following Pilgrimage season after Mecca’s cleansing from Idol worshippers, the Prophet Muhammad made his last Pilgrimage to Mecca. He led over 110,000 people during this pilgrimage and gave his famous farewell speech at Mount Arafat. Among his farewell speech topics were human rights issues, economic justice, and women’s rights and treatment.
O, People, lend me an attentive ear, for I know not whether, after this year, I shall ever be amongst you again. Therefore listen to what I am saying to you very carefully and take these words to those who could not be present today.
O People, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as sacred, so consider the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no-one so that no-one may hurt you. Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord and that He will indeed reckon your deeds. Allah has forbidden you to take usury. Therefore all interest obligations shall henceforth be waived. Your capital, however, is yours to keep. You will neither inflict nor suffer any inequity. Allah has judged that there shall be no interest and that all the interest money due to Abbas ibn Abd al Muttalib [Muhammad’s uncle] shall henceforth be dropped…
Beware of Satan, for the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope that he will ever be able to lead you astray in big things, so beware of following him in small things.
O People, it is true that you have individual rights about your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your power, they belong to the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them, for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with any one of whom you disapprove, as well as never to be unchaste.
O People, listen to me in earnest, worship Allah, say your five daily prayers, fast during the month of Ramadan, and give your wealth in zakah or poor-due. Perform pilgrimage if you can afford to.
All humanity is from Adam and Eve; an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also, a white has no advantage over black, nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing should be legitimate to a Muslim who belongs to a fellow Muslim unless given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.
Remember, one day, you will appear before Allah and answer your deeds. So beware, do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.
O People, no prophet or apostle will come after me, and no new faith will be born. Reason well, therefore, O People, and understand words which I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the Qur’an and my example, the Sunnah, and if you follow these, you will never go astray. All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words in the same way as those who attend to me directly. Be my witness,
O Allah that I have conveyed your message to your people.
When the Prophet returned to Medina, he discussed the imminent threat of the Romans to his community. During his final sickness, he appointed Usamah ibn Zaid as the head of an expedition to the Romans and their alliances at the Syrian border. Still, the team did not go until after he passed away.
On June 8, 632 CE, in the arms of his wife Ayisha, Muhammad whispered his last devotions and then peacefully surrendered to Allah’s will.
Muhammad died, but his legacy did not. How could his legacy die when it calls for worshipping the One True God, the Fashioner and Sustainer of the universe, and all that is in it? Why would Muhammad’s legacy die when he left vast spiritual teachings and a Scripture that endlessly nourishes spirituality and tranquility to the dry and hardened hearts? How could a Prophet’s legacy die as he calls for the liberation of slaves and women from ages of superstition and suppression?
Why would Muhammad’s legacy die for he had outlawed economic injustice and man’s exploitation of the land? Why would his legacy die when he transformed a tyrannical world into a charitable and just one? How could his legacy die when he converted a war-torn nation into a peaceful, secure, and brotherly one? All these questions are legitimate for all humankind to ask one another. Muhammad’s legacy will never die, for it calls for literacy, observation, and ever-learning mechanisms to improve human life spiritually and morally. These qualities and values, not the sword that helped the early Muslims conquer, even better said, liberate much of the old world.
Period of the Guided Caliphs
Shortly after the Prophet died, Abu Bakr was chosen to be his successor (Caliph). The first significant action he conducted was to send Usamah ibn Zaid with 3000 people to the Roman borders where his father and many other Muslims were killed. His second significant move was to stop and silence the tribes who reversed their Islam position to the Pre-Ignorance Era. The third issue was to send armies to liberate northern Arabia, Syria, and Iraq from the Roman and Persian invaders. His rule lasted for only two years.
During Umar Ibn al Khattab’s rule, the second Caliph in which Jerusalem, Basra, Ibilla, Damascus, Hums, and the rest of old Syria were easily opened. For example, Ibilla and Basra were pockets of resistance. The peaceful opening of Jerusalem took place when the Greek Orthodox patriarch, Sophronius, requested the Caliph Umar to come to Jerusalem to turn the city’s keys personally. When Umar arrived, he entered Jerusalem in humility, walking, not riding on a camel, but his servant was comfortably riding. They had been taking turns walking and riding. The two signed a peace treaty as follows:
From Allah’s servant and the Commander of the Faithful, Umar: The inhabitants of Jerusalem are granted security of life and property. Their churches and crosses shall be secure. This treaty applies to all people of the city. Their places of worship shall remain intact. These shall neither be taken over nor pulled down. People shall be free to follow their religion. They shall not be troubled…
The third caliph chosen was Uthman Ibn Affan. The rule of Uthman was for 12 years. Like the previous caliphs, Uthman’s armies continued expanding the Muslim land into central Asia in the east and northern Africa, then into Spain and France in the west. Again, pockets of resistance met during this vast conquered land. The Muslim armies were not just soldiers of war but messengers of liberation from inequality, injustice, and ignorance into the light of freedom and learning of knowledge. Local populations in Syria and Egypt regarded Byzantine rule as oppressive and preferred Muslim conquest instead.
The Arab Muslims also had significant economic, cultural, and familial ties with predominantly Arab citizens of the Fertile Crescent. Here is a quotation from Ahmad ibn Yahya al-Baladhuri in Kitab Futuh al-Buldan “Book of the Conquests of Lands,”: “The people of Homs replied [to the Muslims],
We like your rule and justice far better than the state of oppression and tyranny in which we were. The army of Heraclius we shall indeed, with your ‘family’s’ help, repulse from the city.” The Jews rose and said, “We swear by the Torah, no governor of Heraclius shall enter the city of Homs unless we are first vanquished and exhausted!” The inhabitants of the other cities—Christian and Jews—that had capitulated to the Muslims did the same. When by Allah’s help the “unbelievers” were defeated. The Muslims won; they opened the gates of their cities, went out with the singers and music players who began to play, and paid the kharaj [tax].
Another example of the welcome of Islam by early Christians is Michael the Elder (Great). ‘Michael the Elder, Chronique de Michael Syrien, Patriarche Jacobite d’ Antioche,’ J.B. Chabot, Editor, Vol. II, Paris, 1901.
This is why the God of vengeance, who alone is all-powerful, and changes the empire of mortals as He will, giving it to whomsoever He will, and uplifting the humble beholding the wickedness of the Romans who throughout their dominions, cruelly plundered our churches and our monasteries and condemned us without pity, brought from the region of the south the sons of Ishmael, to deliver us through them from the hands of the Romans. And if in truth we have suffered some loss, because the Catholic churches that had been taken away from us and given to the Chalcedonians remained in their possession; for when the cities submitted to the Arabs, they assigned to each denomination the churches which they found it to own (and at that time the great churches of Emessa and that of Harran had been taken away from us); nevertheless it was no slight advantage for us to be delivered from the cruelty of the Romans, their wickedness, their wrath and cruel zeal against us, and to find ourselves at people.
Michael the Elder, Jacobite Patriarch of Antioch, wrote this text in the latter part of the twelfth century, after five centuries of Muslim rule in that region. Concerning the Muslims conquered Egypt, Edward Gibbon, in his book, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, stated:
According to Arab historians, the local Christian Copts welcomed the Arabs just as the Monophysites did in Jerusalem.
The fourth and final guided caliph was Ali Ibn Abi Talib. His rule witnessed many setbacks and commotion that the quest for the land had discontinued.
This recap of the history of Islam’s early period is only a small glimpse of this faith’s purity, integrity, and traits. The author intends that all people, Muslims, and non-Muslims should have the opportunity to confront Islam face to face.
By Faysal Burhan