In response to a question I received, “ If Islam is a peaceful religion, why did the Prophet Muhammad (saw) engage in so many military campaigns?”
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم
Fighting becomes necessary when the persecution becomes so much that the people being persecuted are close to being annihilated. It is a means of protection of life. The Muslims were being persecuted in Makkah just for them believing in the oneness of their Lord. Some were tortured. Others were killed. Many had to leave their homes and families. Even business was cut off from them. They were put under a boycott for years. Some eventually dying from the starvation they suffered at the hands of Quraysh. Marriages were severed separating families. They were being forced out of their homes in order to look for safety without having harmed anyone. They needed a place to practice their religion peacefully as they were not allowed to worship Allah in Makkah. The Muslims were being faced with injustice left and right. Is it not fair for these people to fight back in self-defense? It is wrong for them to fight for their rights?
Allah say in Surah Al-Hajj,
|أُذِنَ لِلَّذِينَ يُقَاتَلُونَ بِأَنَّهُمْ ظُلِمُوا ۚ وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ نَصْرِهِمْ لَقَدِيرٌ|
|الَّذِينَ أُخْرِجُوا مِنْ دِيَارِهِمْ بِغَيْرِ حَقٍّ إِلَّا أَنْ يَقُولُوا رَبُّنَا اللَّهُ ۗ وَلَوْلَا دَفْعُ اللَّهِ النَّاسَ بَعْضَهُمْ بِبَعْضٍ لَهُدِّمَتْ صَوَامِعُ وَبِيَعٌ وَصَلَوَاتٌ وَمَسَاجِدُ يُذْكَرُ فِيهَا اسْمُ اللَّهِ كَثِيرًا ۗ وَلَيَنْصُرَنَّ اللَّهُ مَنْ يَنْصُرُهُ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَقَوِيٌّ عَزِيزٌ|
“Permission to fight is given to those who are fought against because they have been wronged -truly Allah has the power to come to their support- those who were expelled from their homes without any right, merely for saying, ‘Our Lord is Allah.” Did not Allah check one set of people by means of another there would surely have been pulled down monasteries churches synagogues and mosques in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure. Allah will certainly aid those who aid His (cause); for verily Allah is Full of Strength Exalted in Might (Able to enforce His Will).
At the time the Muslims were small in number. Imagine if the persecution continued. What would be left of the followers of Rasulullah (s)? Who would keep on spreading the noble message? Since the beginning of the call to Islam, many Muslims were being killed. The fighting was needed to preserve the religion of Islam. A religion that would reach the corners of the earth. In order for this to happen its people could not be wrongfully persecuted and killed. The Muslims must be protected. And the fighting helped preserve the lives of the Muslims.
In the beginning, fighting was not permitted. At this time, the Muslims were ordered to remain patient and steadfast. So for some years, they withstood the suffering. Islam is a peaceful religion, and fighting is allowed when there is a need for it. The Muslims had to peacefully live with the Makkans although they caused a lot of suffering. However, when things intensified, the situation became different. It was time to take action and preventive measure starting with them having to migrate and leave their land for their own safety.
Fighting was needed to stop further aggression. Fighting was not meant to be oppressive and unjust because even in jihad, if the non-Muslims wanted to reconcile and become Muslim, he would not be killed. He would be accepted as a brother and he would not be fought. The fighting is there to preserve the message of Islam, a noble religion, and to protect its people. The people are fighting for the word, “Laa ilaaha illallaah” to prevail, for the truth to be known. The Muslims are fighting because they are being killed for worshiping Allah, and they have no right to be killed for such reason. So in self-defense they fight. For their own protection they fight.
Yes, Rasulullah (s) was involved in military campaigns. One of the reasons these campaigns were sought out was for justice and self-defense. For example in the Battle of Badr, the community of Muslims came out to intercept the caravan because their goods were being taken by the Quraysh unjustly. It was the Muslims’ right to retrieve their property. When they left Mecca, a lot of the Muslims left behind their homes and wealth. Now the Quraysh people thought they could take their money unfairly. When they knew a caravan, generous with their goods was travelling from Syria to Mecca led by Abu Sufyan the Muslims didn’t like this because it was their wealth that was taken. And perhaps intercepting the Caravan would be an excellent compensation for what they previously suffered. It was only fair. In the attempt to intercept the caravan no one was forced to go. The intention in intercepting was not to fight, and one could see this because many approached this affair very lightly.
If they had known there was going to be severe fighting, better preparation would have been made to not be defeated. They would have prepared, and the majority of people would have come to intercept the caravan, but many not knowing the historical moment about to happen stayed behind later wishing they had taken part in this glorious battle.
Also, many military expeditions did not involve fighting. In Ramadan, in the 1st year, a caravan led by Hamzah who was driving 30 Muslims encountered Abu Jahl. However, Majdi Al-Juhani came in between them, and there was no fighting at all.
Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqaas, in the month of Dhul-Qa’da, was responsible for intercepting a caravan. There was no fighting.
Some military expeditions resulted in peaceful alliances actually. For example, in the second year in the month of Safar, Rasulallah (s) himself went on a mission traveling to Waddan hoping to meet the Quraysh and Banu Damrah. He did not meet the Quraysh. Instead, an alliance was settled between Banu Damrah.
In Jumaada, he went to Ashiirah spending one month and in the end concluding a peace treaty with Banu Madlaj
The military campaigns were also necessary for the Muslims to establish a respectable presence in the Arabian Peninsula. These expeditions increased them in respect and strength, which is needed when seen as a target by the many tribes in Arabia including the Quraysh. It gave the Muslims a look of force so that the Arabs can know that these are people that cannot be toyed with. For example, The battle of Tabuk, an army of 30, 000 marched northwards to Tabuk. It was a large number. The Muslims were prepared for battle and were ready to face the Byzantines. However, there was no fighting because the Byzantian amry never showed up. The army spent many days in wait for the opposing army. Fortunately, this brought great honor to the Muslims in the land. Their military might only grew now being known as the mighty army that doesn’t back down. One of the unexpected things that happened, but great, was that many Arab tribes now abandoned the Byzantines to join the Muslims. This increased the Muslims in number, size and glory.
These military campaigns were also something that the Quraysh would have to be cautious about. Perhaps the Quraysh would know that the people they once persecuted are no longer the small numbered vulnerable people they once held in their grips. And that maybe, justice will be served. It’s only expected that with this vast growing powerful army, the days of persecuting the Muslims would be over.
Islam is a very peaceful religion. The many military campaigns were only a means to strengthen the growing Islamic State and to protect its people, the ones who were wrongfully persecuted only for saying, “Our lord is Allah.” This campaign had no other purpose but to establish the religion of Allah on earth, calling people to the truth, to the message of “Laa ilaaha illallah, Muhammadar-Rasuulallah.”
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Baarakallah Feekum! 🙂