The Invasion of Tabuk

The invasion and Conquest of Makkah was considered a decisive battle between truth and falsehood, which resulted in the Arabs no longer having any doubt in Muhammad’s mission. Thus we see that things went contrary to the expectations of the pagans. People began to embrace the religion of Allah, Islam, in great numbers. This will be clearly shown in the chapter: “The Delegations,” which will be found in later in the book. This can also be seen from the enormous number of people who shared in the Farewell Pilgrimage. All domestic problems came to an end and the Muslims finally began to feel at ease; began teaching of the laws of Allah and intensified the propagation of Islam.

The Underlying Reasons for the Expedition of Tabuk

The Byzantine power, which was considered the greatest military power on earth at that time, demonstrated an unjustifiable opposition towards the Muslims. As we have already mentioned, their opposition began with the killing of the ambassador of Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), Al-Harith bin `Umair Al-Azdi (May Allah be Pleased with him), by Shurahbil bin `Amr Al-Ghassani. The ambassador was carrying a message from the Prophet to the ruler of Busra. We have also stated that the Prophet consequently dispatched a brigade under the command of Zaid bin Harithah (May Allah be Pleased with him); the army fought fiercely against the Byzantines at Mu’tah. Although the Muslim force was unable to extract revenge on those arrogant and proud tyrants, the confrontation itself left a great impression on all the Arabs in Arabia.

Caesar could neither ignore the great benefit that the battle of Mu’tah brought for the Muslims nor could he disregard the expectation of the independence of the Arab tribes, who hoped to free themselves from his influence and reign. He also could not disregard their desire to seek alliance with the Muslims. Caesar realized that a progressive danger threatened his borders, especially in the areas of Greater Syria, which were neighboring Arab lands. He came to the conclusion that destruction of the Muslim power had become an urgent necessity. He believed that this should be achieved before the Muslims become too powerful, and create troubles and unrest in the adjacent Arab territories.

To fulfill this urgent matter, Caesar gathered a huge army that comprised of the Byzantines and pro-Roman Ghassanide tribes to launch a decisive and bloody battle against the Muslims.

General News About the Byzantines and Ghassanide Preparations for War

No sooner had the news regarding the Byzantine’s preparations for a decisive military invasion against Muslims reached Madinah that fear spread among the residents. They began to contemplate over the invasion of the Byzantines. This is clear from an event that took place with `Umar bin Al-Khattab.

In the 9th A.H., the Prophet took an oath to stay away from his wives for a month, so he left them and stayed in a private place. In the beginning, the Companions were puzzled and could not figure the reason for such behavior. They thought that the Prophet had divorced his wives and this was the cause of this grief, disturbance, and being upset. Regarding this event, `Umar relates: “I used to have a friend who was a Helper and he would often inform me of what events whenever I was not present for them, and in return I would inform him of events that would take place whenever he was absent. (They both lived in the outskirts of Madinah and both of them used to visit the Prophet alternatively during that time of suspense.) One day I heard my friend knocking at my door and saying: `Open up! Open up!’ I asked wondering, `What is the matter? Have the Ghassanides come?’ `No, it is more serious than that. Allah’s Messenger has deserted his wives.’”

In another version, `Umar said, “We spoke about the Ghassanide preparations to invade us. When it was his turn to convey the news to me, he went down and returned in the evening. He knocked at the door violently and said, `Is he sleeping?’ I was terrified but I went out to meet him. `Something serious has taken place.’ He said. `Have the Ghassanides arrived?’ I said. `No,’ he said, `it is greater and more serious. Allah’s Messenger has divorced his wives.’’’

This state of excessive paranoia clearly shows the seriousness of the situation that Muslims began to experience. The seriousness of the situation was confirmed to a large degree by the hypocrites’ behavior, when news about the Byzantines’ preparations reached Madinah. The fact that Allah’s Messenger won all the battles he fought, and that no power on earth could make him terrified, and that he had always proved to be able to overcome all the obstacles that stood in his way – did not prevent the hypocrites, who concealed evil in their hearts, from expecting an affliction to fall upon the Muslims and Islam.

They would hide evil and ill-intentions against the entire aspect of Islam and the Muslims. They erected a Mosque called Masjid al-Dirar (The Mosque of Harm) with the belief of creating false hopes and destroying the great religious structure of Islam. They approached the Prophet with the request to come and bless the place by praying in it. However, he was at that moment about to depart for Tabuk, so he delayed the fulfillment of their request until his return. Meanwhile, he came to know through Divine Revelation that it was not a Masjid for devotion and prayer, but a meeting place for anti-Islamic elements. So on his return, the Prophet sent a party to demolish this new structure.

Particular News About the Byzantine and Ghassanide Preparations for War

The immense danger that was threatening the life of the Muslims was related to them by the Nabateans, who brought cooking oil from Ash-Sham to Madinah. They related to them the news about Heraclius’ preparations and the equipment of an enormous army that numbered in excess of forty thousand fighters, along with them were their allied tribes of Lakhm, Judham and other tribes. They also related to them that the advance force had already reached Al-Balqa’. Thus, this was the grave situation that the Muslims faced. This situation was aggravated by other serious factors such as hot weather, drought, and the rough and rugged distance they had to cover in case they decided to encounter the imminent danger.

The understanding and estimation of Allah’s Messenger regarding the situation and its development was more precise and accurate than any others. He believed that if he delayed or remained passive concerning the situation then it might enable the Byzantines to pass through the Islamic controlled provinces or to reach as far as Madinah. This would leave the most negative impression of Islam as well as their military credibility.

The pre-Islamic beliefs and traditions (Al-Jahiliyah) which were dying at that time due to the strong decisive blow that had been inflicted on it at Hunain, could have returned once again in such an environment. The hypocrites were conspiring against the Muslims so that they might stab them in the back whereas the Byzantines would attack them from the front. If such a thing came to light and they succeeded in their evil attempts, then the efforts of the Prophet and his Companions to spread Islam would collapse and their gains, which were the consequences of successive and constant fights and invasions, would be invalidated. Allah’s Messenger realized all that too well, so, in spite of the hardships and drought that Muslims were suffering from, the Prophet was determined to have the Muslims invade the Byzantines and fight a decisive battle on their own borders. He was determined not to delay the march at all, so as to spoil any Roman attempt to approach the Islamic lands.

When Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) made his final decision, he ordered his Companions to begin preparations for war and sent word to the Makkans and the other Arab tribes to do the same.

It was always the habit of the Prophet to conceal his intention from the people whenever he had to go on a military expedition, however this time he openly declared his intention of meeting the Byzantines and fighting them. He related the situation to his people so that they would be ready, urging them to fight in the cause of Allah. It was on this occasion that a part of Surat Bara’ah (Chapter 9: The Repentance) was sent down by Allah, urging them to be steadfastness.

Allah’s Messenger also urged them to give charity and to spend the best from their fortunes for the cause of Allah.

No sooner did the Muslims hear the voice of Allah’s Messenger urging them to fight against the Byzantines that they rushed to comply with his orders. With great speed they began to prepare for war. Tribes and groups from everywhere began to pour in Madinah, as all the Muslims responded positively to invite. Only those who had weakness in their hearts desired to stay behind; except for three people who had true faith but did not participate in the invasion. Even the needy and the poor who could not afford a riding animal came to Allah’s Messenger asking for one so that they would be able to participate in the fight against the Byzantines. However, he said:

``’I can find no mounts for you,’ they turned back with their eyes overflowing with tears of grief that they could not find anything to spend (for Jihad).’’ [9:92]

The Muslims raced to donate from their wealth and property in support of the expedition. For example, `Uthman (May Allah be Pleased with him) had prepared two hundred saddled camels to travel to Ash-Sham, but he presented them all with two hundred ounces (of gold) as charity. Then he brought an additional hundred saddled camels and a thousand dinars, and gave them all to Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), who turned over the dinars and said: “From this day forth nothing will harm `Uthman regardless of what he does.’’ Again and again `Uthman (May Allah be Pleased with him) gave until his charity reached nine hundred camels and a hundred horses, in addition to the money he gave as charity.

‘Abdur-Rahman bin `Awf (May Allah be Pleased with him), for his part, donated two hundred ounces of silver, whereas Abu Bakr (May Allah be Pleased with him) donated all his wealth, leaving for himself and his family nothing but Allah and His Messenger. `Umar donated half his wealth, while al-`Abbas donated a lot of money. Talhah, Sa`d bin `Ubadah, and Muhammad bin Maslamah (May Allah be Pleased with all of them) also donated money for the expedition. `Asim bin `Adi (May Allah be Pleased with him) offered ninety camel-burdens of dates. People raced to donate as little or as much as they could. One of them gave the only a half a kilo of dates (or the only kilo) he owned. Women also competed by giving the things they owned, such as musk, armlets, anklets, earrings and rings. No one abstained from spending except the hypocrites:

``Those who defame such of the believers who give charity (in Allah’s cause) voluntarily, and those who could not find to give charity (in Allah’s cause) except what is available to them, so they mock at them (believers).’’ [9:79]

The Muslim Army Leaves for Tabuk

After the completion of the equipment of the army, Allah’s Messenger appointed Muhammad bin Maslamah Al-Ansari (May Allah be Pleased with him) over Madinah, in another version it was Siba’ bin `Urfutah (May Allah be Pleased with him). He entrusted the affairs of the family and their safety to `Ali bin Abu Talib (May Allah be Pleased with him), ordering him to stay with them. This move made the hypocrites undervalue `Ali (May Allah be Pleased with him), so he followed Allah’s Messenger and caught up with him.

But the Prophet made `Ali (May Allah be Pleased with him) return to Madinah saying: “Would it not suffice you to be my successor in the way that Aaron (Harun) was to Moses?’’ Then he said: “But no Prophet will succeed me.”

Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) marched northwards to Tabuk on a Thursday. The army numbered thirty thousand fighters, which was a great one when compared to the previous Islamic armies. The Muslims had never marched out in such great numbers before.

Despite all the donations of wealth and mounts, the army was still not perfectly equipped. The shortage of provisions and mounts was so serious that eighteen men would alternatively ride one mount.

Concerning provisions, at times members of the army had to eat the leaves of trees until their lips became swollen. Others slaughtered their camels, though they were dear to them. This is why the army was called `The Army of Distress’.

On their way to Tabuk, the Islamic army passed by Al-Hijr, which was where the people of Thamud, who cut out (huge) rocks in the valley, had dwelled. Today it is called the valley of Al-Qura.

They took water from its well but Allah’s Messenger forbade them to drink or perform ablution with it. Concerning the dough they knead with it, he told them to feed their camels with. He forbade them to eat anything whatsoever of it. As an alternative, he told them to obtain water from the well which the She-Camel of Prophet Salih would drink from.

On the authority of Ibn `Umar who said that, upon passing by Al-Hijr the Prophet said:

``Do not enter the houses of those who wronged themselves lest what had happened to them would afflict you, but if you had to do such a thing, let it be associated with weeping.’’

Then he raised his head up and accelerated his strides till he passed the valley out.

A Shortage of water and the army’s need for it caused them to complain to Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) about it, so he supplicated to Allah, who sent a rain cloud. It rained and so all people drank and fulfilled their need for water.

When they drew near Tabuk, the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “If Allah wills, tomorrow you will arrive at the spring of Tabuk. You will not get there before daytime. So whoever reaches it should not touch its water, but should wait until I arrive.’’ Mu`adh (May Allah be Pleased with him) said: “When we reached the spring, it gushed forth some water. We found that two men had already preceded us to it. Allah’s Messenger asked them: `Did you touch its water?’ They replied: `Yes’. He said what Allah inspired him to say, then he scooped up a little water of that spring, a thin stream which gathered together, he washed his face and hand with it and poured it back into it; consequently plenty of water spouted out of it so that the people could have water. The Messenger of Allah said, ` Mu`adh, if you live long life, you will see fields of vegetation here.’’’

On the way to Tabuk, or as soon as they reached Tabuk, Allah’s Messenger said: “Severe wind will blow tonight, so none of you should stand up. Whoever has a camel should tie it.’’ Later on when the strong wind blew, one of the men stood up and the wind carried him away to the Mountain of Tai’ Mountain.

During the entire journey Allah’s Messenger combined the Dhuhr and Asr prayers, as well as the Maghrib and Isha prayers.

The Army of Islam at Tabuk

Upon arriving at Tabuk, the Muslim army camped there, ready to face the enemy. There, Allah’s Messenger delivered an eloquent speech that included the best words.

In his speech he urged the Muslims to seek the welfare of this world and the world to come. He warned them and gave them good tidings. By doing so, he encouraged those whose spirits were broken, and blocked any means of suffering from a lack of supplies, food, and other substances.

Upon learning of the march of the Muslim army, the Byzantines and their allies became so terrified that they dared set out to fight against them. On the contrary they scattered within their territory. This gave a good reputation to the Muslim force, which gained a strong military reputation in the mid and remote areas of the Arabian Peninsula.

The political gains that the Muslim forces obtained far exceeded anything that they could have acquired if the two armies had engaged in military confrontation.

The head of the tribe of Ailah, Yuhannah bin Ru’bah, came to Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and made peace with him, and paid him the head tax (Al-Jizyah). Both the people from Jarba’ and Adhruh also paid him head tax. Allah’s Messenger gave each a letter of guarantee, similar to the one given to Yuhannah:

“In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

This is a guarantee of protection from Allah and Prophet Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, to Yuhannah bin Rubah and the people of Ailah; their ships and their caravans on land and sea will have the full custody of Allah and the Prophet Muhammad, he and whosoever are with him of the people of Ash-Sham and those of the sea. Whosoever contravenes this treaty, his wealth shall not save him; it shall be the fair prize of him that takes it. It is unlawful to hinder any of their people from any spring which they have been in the habit of frequenting, or from any journeys they desire to make, whether by sea or by land.”

Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) dispatched Khalid bin Al-Walid (May Allah be Pleased with him) at the head of four hundred and fifty horsemen to `Ukaidir, the Chief of DumatulJandal, saying to him: “You will see him hunting wild cattle.”

When Khalid (May Allah be Pleased with him) drew within sight of his castle, he saw the wild cattle coming out rubbing their horns against the castle gate. As it was a moonlit night, Khalid (May Allah be Pleased with him) could see Ukaidir coming out to hunt them. He captured him, even though he was surrounded by his men, and brought him back to Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), who spared his life and made peace with him for the payment of two thousand camels, eight hundred heads of cattle, four hundred coats of armor and four hundred lances. He obliged him to recognize the duty of paying the tribute and charged him with collecting it from Dumat, Tabuk, Ailah and Taima’.

The tribes, who were previously allied with the Byzantines, became quite certain that their dependence on their former masters was coming to an end. Therefore they turned to becoming supporters of the Muslims. The Islamic State therefore expanded its borders to such an extent that it now touched the Byzantines’ borders. So we see that the Byzantine agents’ role was over.

Returning to Madinah

The Muslim army returned from Tabuk victorious, without being deceived or wronged, because Allah had sufficed them from the evils of fighting.

On his way back, while traveling on a mountain pass, twelve hypocrites tried to assassinate the Prophet and the only ones with him at that time were `Ammar (May Allah be Pleased with him), who was holding the reins of his she-camel, and Hudhaifah bin Al-Yaman (May Allah be Pleased with him), who was driving it. The remaining people at that time had already gone down to the bottom of the valley.

The hypocrites seized on that opportunity to assassinate the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). As Allah’s Messenger and his two Companions were moving along, they heard thrusts of people coming towards them from behind with their faces covered. Hudhaifah (May Allah be Pleased with him), was sent by the Prophet to see what was going on; he saw them and stroked the faces of their mounts with a crook in his hand, and Allah cast fear into their hearts. They fled away and caught up with their people.

However, Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) informed him of their names and intentions. So that was why Hudhaifah (May Allah be Pleased with him) was called the “confidant’’ of Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). About this event Allah the Exalted says:

``And they resolved that (plot to murder Prophet Muhammad) which they were unable to carry out.’’ [9:74]

When Madinah began to appear in the horizon, the Prophet said: “This is a cheerful sight. This is Uhud, which is a mountain, we love it and it loves us.’’ When the people of Madinah learnt of their arrival, they set out to meet the army. Women, youth, and small children came out of the town to celebrate their return wholeheartedly, singing:

``O the white moon rose over us, through the valley of al-Wada’. And we owe all our gratefulness, when the call is to Allah.”

The march of Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to Tabuk occurred in Rajab and his return occurred in Ramadan. So we see that this expedition took fifty days, twenty days of which were spent in Tabuk and the others journeying to and from it. The Tabuk Invasion was the last one in which the Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) personally attended.

The People Who Lagged Behind

Due to its particular circumstances, this invasion was a severe trial sent by Allah to test the faith of the believers and to separate them from the hypocrites. This is Allah’s permanent Will in such circumstances. In this respect He says:

``Allah will not leave the believers in the state in which you are now, until He distinguishes the wicked from the good.’’ [3:179]

Lagging or remaining behind from full participation in that invasion amounted to hypocrisy. Whenever Allah’s Messenger was informed of a man lingering behind he would say:

“Leave him alone! If Allah knows him to be good He will enable him to follow you; but if he is not so, then Allah will relieve us of him.’’

No one remained behind from the expedition except those who were either hindered by a serious excuse or the hypocrites who used lies against Allah and His Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

Some of those hypocrites lingered behind due to false excuses while others remained behind without any permission. However, three believers unjustifiably also lingered behind. Their faith was tried by Allah, and He later turned to them in mercy and accepted their repentance.

As soon as Allah’s Messenger (May Allah be Pleased with him) entered Madinah, he prayed two Rak’ah (units) in the Masjid and then sat and began to receive his people. The hypocrites, who comprised of more than eighty men, came and offered various excuses and started swearing. The Prophet acknowledged their excuses and invoked Allah’s forgiveness for them, entrusting their inner intentions and faith to Allah.

As for the three faithful believers – Ka`b bin Malik, Murarah bin Ar-Rabi’, and Hilal bin Umaiyah – who favored speaking the truth, Allah’s Messenger directed his Companions to verbally boycott them [until Allah judged in their affair].

Consequently, they were boycotted and excluded from the life of the community. Having everyone turn their backs to them, they felt as if the entire earth had become constrained for them in spite of its vastness, and they felt awkward and uneasy on it. These hard times lasted for over forty days and were made even more severe when they were order to them to stay away from their wives. After being boycotted for fifty days, Allah forgave them through the Revelation:

``And (He did forgive also) the three (whom the Prophet) left (i.e., he did not give his judgment in their case, and their case was suspended for Allah’s Decision) till for them the earth, vast as it is, was straitened and their own selves were straitened to them, and they perceived that there is no fleeing from Allah, and no refuge but with Him. Then, He accepted their repentance that they might repent (unto Him). Verily, Allah is the One Who accepts repentance, Most Merciful.’’ [9:118]

Allah’s forgiving of them was a great joy moment for both the Muslims and the three concerned; however, the joy of those who had remained behind and eventually boycotted was immense. It was the happiest day in their lives. The good tiding encouraged them and filled their hearts with delight. As for those who lingered due to a disability or sickness, or any other serious excuse, concerning them Allah, the Exalted, says,

``There is no blame on those who are weak or ill or who find no resources to spend [in holy warfare (Jihad)], if they are sincere (in duty) to Allah and His Messenger.’’ [9:91]

When he approached Madinah, Allah’s Messenger said:

``Inside Madinah, there are certain men, though they were kept back due to serious excuses, have been with you continuously. Though they remained behind, they have been with you when you were passed through a valley or walked on the road.’’ They asked, ``Do you mean that they have done all that while remaining in Madinah?’’ The Prophet said, ``Yes, though they were in Madinah.’’

The Invasion of Tabuk and its Far-Reaching Consequences

The effect of this invasion was great in regards to extending and confirming the influence and domination of the Muslims on the Arabian Peninsula. It was quite obvious to all that no power other than Islam would live long among the Arabs.

The ignorant Arabs and the hypocrites, who steadily conspired against the Muslims and continuously relied on the power of Byzantine for support and help, had lost their expectations and desires of ever reclaiming their influence.

Realizing that there was no way out and that they would eventually have to submit to the fact, they gave up their attempts.

From that time onwards, the hypocrites were no longer treated leniently by the Muslims. Allah not only ordered the Muslims to treat them severely but also forbade the Muslims from taking their charity, performing the funeral prayer on their dead, asking Allah’s forgiveness for them, or even visiting their graves. Allah also ordered the Muslims to demolish the mosque that they had erected and used as a place to practice their plots, conspiracy and deceit. Some Qur’anic Verses were sent down disclosing them publicly so that all in Madinah would come to know of their reality. The great impact that this invasion produced could also be seen in the great number of delegations that came successively to meet Allah’s Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Naturally, delegations would come and meet the Prophet at the end of an invasion, particularly after the conquest of Makkah, but they were neither as many as those after Tabuk, nor were they as frequent. It was certainly the greatest.

The Qur’anic Verses About the Invasion

Many verses of Chapter Bara’ah (Taubah), concerning the events of Tabuk, were revealed. Some Verses were revealed before the march of the army, while others were revealed when the army set out for Tabuk, i.e., in the context of the battle. Other verses were revealed to the Prophet after his return to Madinah. All these Verses covered the themes: the circumstances of the battle, exposure of the hypocrites, the privileges and special rank earmarked for the strivers in the cause of Allah, acceptance of the repentance of the truthful believers who slackened and those who remained behind, and other themes

Some Important Events of That Year

During this year many significant events took place. They were:

  1. After the Messenger’s return from Tabuk, the sworn allegation of infidelity between `Uwaimir al-’Ajlani and his wife took place.
  2. Pelting with stones the Ghamidiyah woman who confessed to committingadultery. She was pelted with stones only after weaning her child off her breast milk.
  3. Negus Ashamah, the king of Abyssinia (Ethiopia), died; the Prophet performed the funeral prayer in absentia for him.
  4. The death of the daughter of the Prophet (May the peace and blessings ofAllah be upon him), Umm Kulthum(May Allah be Pleased with her). The Prophet felt extremely sad at her death. He said to her husband Uthman (May Allah be Pleased with him), “If I had a third daughter, I would marry her to him.’’
  5. The death of `Abdullah bin Ubai Ibn Salul, the head of hypocrites, afterthe Prophet’s return from Tabuk. Allah’s Messenger asked Allah’s forgiveness for him.

He prayed for him in spite of the disapproval of `Umar (May Allah be Pleased with him) and his attempt to prevent him from doing so. Later, a Qur’anic Verse was revealed attesting to the opinion of `Umar (May Allah be Pleased with him).

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