MASTERY OF ARABIA
13.1 The Battle of Hunayn
Having conquered Mecca, Muhammad had only the remaining nomadic tribes to subdue. The Hawâzin and Thaqîf tribes had long been rivals of Mecca because they wanted to make their own town, at-Tâ’if, the centre of trade in the Hijâz. After the Muslims had fought and defeated the Me ccans, the nomadic tribes may have thought that both the old and the new masters of Mecca were exhausted from war and could easily be defeated. So they massed an army of nearly 20,000 men to attack. The leaders of the expedition forced all the cattle, women and children to come along “to make the men fight to death in their defense”.
When the Prophet of God heard about them, he sent `Abdallâh ibn-abî-Hadrad to them to stay among them until he found out what they knew and then bring him the news. He went and learned of their plans for war and came back to tell the Messenger of God...
When the Messenger of God had gathered his men to march against the Hawâzin, he was told that Safwân ibn-Umayya, who was then a polytheist, had armour and weapons. So he sent word to him saying, “Lend me your weapons so that we can fight our enemy tomorrow.” Safwân answered, “Are you seizing them, Muhammad?” He said, “No, I am only borrowing them and will return them to you.” He said, “That is not bad,” so gave him 100 coats of mail and weapons to go with them..
Then the Messenger of God marched with 2,000 Meccans and 10,000 of his companions who had helped him conquer Mecca... When we reached Wâdî Hunayn, we came down through a sloping pass in the morning twilight. The enemy was there before us, hiding in the bypaths and side tracks and narrow places. They were gathered and ready, and, by God, how we were terrified when they attacked us as one man while we were coming down! Our men broke and fled, none paying attention to the other. The Messenger of God withdrew to the right and said, “Where are you going, men? Come to me. I am the Messenger of God. I am Muhammad ibn-`Abdallâh!” It did no good. The camels were bumping one another and the men ran away except for a group of the Emigrants and Ansâr who stayed with the Messenger of God...
A man on a red horse road lead the Hawâzin with a black banner on the end of long spear. When he overtook anyone he speared him, and if they cleared away from in front of him he turned on those behind him.
When the rude men of Mecca saw the flight, some of them expressed the hatred they had inside them. Abű-Sufyân ibn-al-Harb, who had his divining arrows in his quiver, said, “The flight will not stop until it reaches the sea.” Jabala ibn-al-Hanbal, who was still a polytheist with his brother Safwân ibn-Umayya during the time allotted by the Messenger of God, shouted, “Divination is useless today.” Safwân answered, “Shut up. God smash your mouth’ By God, I would rather have a Quraysh man rule me than a Hawâzin man.
Al-`Abbâssays, “I was with the Messenger of God.. and when he saw the army in confusion said, ‘Where are you going men?’ None of them paid him any attention, and he said, ‘`Abbâs, cry loudly, “Ansâr..”’ and they answered, ‘At your service.’ Each one tried to turn his camel around even if he was not able. He would get off, throw his armour over the camel’s neck and go with his sword and shield in the direction of the voice until he came to the Messenger of God. Soon one hundred had gathered and they advanced and fought. At first the cry was ‘Ansâr’, then it became ‘Khazraj’. They fought courageously, and the Messenger of God looked over them from his stirrups as they were fighting and said, ‘Now the oven is hot.’”
While the Hawâzin holder of the standard was wrecking such havoc from his camel, `Alî went after him with an Ansâr man. `Alî cut the leg of the camel from behind and it fell down on its behind. The Ansâr man jumped the rider and hit him with a blow that cut of his leg at the thigh and he fell from the saddle. The men kept on fighting. By God, those who returned from fleeing found only prisoners tied up near the Messenger of God.
The Messenger of God turned to Abű-Sufyân ibn-al-Harb, one of those who stood by him that day and whose Islam was good when he accepted it. He was holding to the back of the saddle of his mule, and the Messenger of God asked who was there. He replied, “I am your grandmother’s son.” (2:443-6)
When the Hawâzin were put to flight, the killing of the Thaqîf clan was severe. Seventy were killed under their flag, including `Uthmân ibn-`Abdallâh. He had taken the flag from Dhű-l-Khimâr when the latter was killed, then fought until he was killed. When news of his death reached the Messenger of God, he said, “God expel him’ He used to hate the Meccans.”
A young uncircumcised Christian slave was killed with `Uthmân. While an Ansâr man was plundering the Thaqîf dead he stripped the slave to plunder him and found him uncircumcised. So he shouted, “Arab people, God knows that the Thaqîf are uncircumcised.” But Mughîra ibn-Shu`ba took his hand, afraid that the report would spread among the Arabs. He said, “Do not say that; my father and mother be your ransom’ He is only a Christian boy.” He then began stripping the other dead and showed that they were circumcised. (2:449-50)
The Messenger of God sent Abű-`Âmir after those who had fled towards Awâs. He overtook some of them and they fought. Abű-`Âmir was killed by an arrow, but Abű-Műsâ al-Ash`arî took the standard and continued fighting. God gave him victory and he sent the enemy fleeing. (2:454-5)
That day the Messenger of God passed a woman whom Khâlid ibn-al-Walîd had killed while the troops had gathered around her. When told the story, he sent word to Khâlid forbidding him to kill any child or woman or hired slave. (2:407-8)
This prohibition was not observed by all. In a raid against the Fazâra clan Zayd ibn-al-Hâritha had an old woman, Umm-Qirfa, pulled apart by two camels. (2:617 & )
13.2 An attempt on at-Tâ’if
When the Thaqîf fugitives reached at-Tâ’if they locked the gates of their city and prepared for war.. When the Messenger of God finished at unayn he went to at-Tâ’if. (2:478) He journeyed.. along Bura ar-Rughâ’. There a mosque was built and he made salât in it.
That day the Messenger of God allowed blood to be shed for a homicide, the first such retaliation allowed in Islam. A man of the Layth clan had killed a Hudhayl man and was put to death for it.
In Liyya the Messenger of God ordered the fort of Mâlik ibn-`Awf to be destroyed.. Then he went by Nakhb.. and stopped near the property of a Thaqîf man. He sent word to him, “Either come out or we will destroy your wall.” He refused to come out; so the Messenger of God ordered his wall to be destroyed.
They went on and made camp near at-Tâ’if, but too near the walls, so that a number of his companions were killed by arrows. The Muslims could not penetrate the wall and the gate was locked. After these men were shot the camp was moved to where the mosque stands today. He besieged them for about 20 days... The fighting was hard, with arrows flying in both directions. The day the wall was stormed a group of companions of the Messenger of God went up under a protective shield to get through the wall. The Thaqîf dropped hot iron on them, driving them from their shield, and then shot arrows and killed some of them. Then the Messenger of God ordered his men to cut their vineyards. (2:482-3)
The Muslims soon realized that they could not take at-Tâ’if and Muhammad allowed `Umar to order a withdrawal.
13.3 The spoil of HawâzinA deputation of the Hawâzin came to the Messenger of God at al-Ja`râna, where he held captive 6,000 women and children and an uncountable number of camels and sheep.. They came after accepting Islam.. and said, “In the concentration camp are aunts on your father’s and mother’s side and women who nursed and looked after you.. If it were another man we could hope for his kindness and favour, and you are the most dependable of all men.”
The Messenger of God said, “Which are dearer to you, your women and children or your possessions?” They replied, “.. Certainly our wives and children.” (2:488-9)
An intricate negotiation followed, in which Muhammad freed those who would have been his share of booty, and thereby persuaded the other Muslims to relinquish their own shares. Yet Muhammad could not pass up the chance of doing a little political patronage, giving `Ali, `Uthmân and `Umar each a slave girl. (2:490) He also gave 100 camels each to at least 15 chiefs “whose hearts were to be won over” (Q 9:60), and 50 camels to various other men. (492-3)
The Messenger of God asked the Hawâzin delegation about Mâlik ibn-`Awf, and was told that he was in at-Tâ’if with the Thaqîf people. He told them to tell Mâlik that if he came to him as a Muslim he would return his family and property to him and give him 100 camels. Mâlik agreed... and became an excellent Muslim... The Messenger of God put him in charge of those of his tribe who had become Muslims.. He fought the Thaqîf with them, raiding any of their flocks that came out until they were in a desperate situation. (2:491)
When the Messenger of God finished returning the captives of Hunayn to their people, he rode off and the men followed him demanding, “Divide for us our share of the camels and sheep. They forced him against a tree and tore his cloak off him. (2:492)
Muhammad had to rebuke them and shame them into better behaviour. One man who was dissatisfied with his share wrote poetry against Muhammad and had to be appeased with a greater number of camels. (493-4) Complaint was also made that two men were given 100 camels each while Ju`ayl ibn-Surâqa was left out. Muhammad answered, “By him in whose hands is the soul of Muhammad, Ju`ayl is better than the whole world full of men like those two, but I treated them generously so that they may become Muslims, but I entrusted Ju`ayl to his Islam.” (2:496)
A Tamîm man called Dhű-uwayira came and stood by the Messenger of God as he was distributing gifts to the men and said, “Muhammad, I have seen what you did today, and I don’t think you have been just.” The Prophet was angry and said, “Woe to you! If I am not just then who is? (2:496)
The Ansâr also began to grumble because the Meccans and bedouin tribes received so much and they little. Muhammad had to give them a long speech, praising their Islam and shaming them by explaining that he had to use gifts to win others to Islam. In the end the Ansâr “wept until tears ran down their beards as they said, ‘We are satisfied with the Messenger of God as our lot and portion.’ Then the Messenger of God went off and they dispersed.” (2:500)
13.4 Muhammad’s second `umra (February 630)
Then the Messenger of God left al-Ji`râna to make the `umra, and ordered the rest of the booty to be kept in Majanna.. When he finished with the `umra he returned to Medina, leaving `Attâb ibn-Asîd in charge of Mecca, and Mu`âdh ibn-Jabal to instruct the people in religion and teach them the Qur’ân. The rest of the spoil was then brought to Medina.
The people made the hajj that year the way the Arabs used to do. (2:500)
13.5 Ka`b ibn-Zuhayr and the poets
When the Messenger of God arrived in Medina after at-Tâ’if Bujayr ibn-Zuhayr wrote to his brother Ka`b ibn-Zuhayr telling him that the Messenger of God had killed men in Mecca who were mocking and insulting him, and that the remaining Quraysh poets, Ibn-az-Zabarâ and Hubayra ibn-abî-Wahb, had fled in every direction. “If you have any use for your life then fly to the Messenger of God, since he never kills anyone who comes to him repentant. If you don’t do that then flee out of this land.” (2:501)
When Ka`b got this letter he was very worried and anxious. His enemies spread reports that he was killed. When he saw no other way out he wrote a poem praising the Messenger of God and mentioning his fear and the slanderous reports of his enemies. Then he went to Medina and stayed with a Juhayna man whom he knew. He took him to the Messenger of God in the morning and did salât with him, then told him to ask the Messenger of God for safety. He went up to him and placed his hand in his, and the Messenger of God did not know him. He said, “Ka` b ibn-Zuhayr has come to you asking you for safety as a repentant Muslim. Will you accept him as such if I bring him to you.” When the Messenger of God said he would, he confessed that he was Ka`b ibn-Zuhayr. (2:502-3)
13.6 The raid on Tabűk (October 630)
Nine months after his `umra Muhammd ordered his men to prepare to raid the Byzantines. This was a great challenge because of the strength of the enemy, the distance and the heat of the season.
As preparations were in progress, some who were poor went begging for a camel to join the force, weeping if they were not fortunate enough to get one. But many others were not willing to face the Byzantines.
One man protested, “By God, my people know that there is no man more addicted to women than I, and I fear that when I see the Asfar (Byzantine) women that I will not have any more courage.” Muhammad let him stay back and promulgated the Qur’ân verse (9:49): “Some say, ‘Let me stay back so that I will not be seduced.’ Have they not already fallen into seduction? Hell surrounds the unbelievers.”
Others protested because of the heat, and Muhammad promulgated the Qur’ân verse (9:81): “They said, ‘Do not go out in the heat.’ Tell them, ‘The fire of Hell is worse’, if they only knew. Let them laugh a little, then cry much as a reward for what they are earning.”
Resistance also came from the bedouins and the Hypocrites. This group, led by `Abdallâh ibn-Ubayy, surprisingly even at this time is mentioned as an opposition group within the Muslim community. During the march others dropped behind.
When the Messenger of God reached Tabűk, John ibn-Ru’ba, governor of Ayla, came and made a treaty with him, paying him the jizya. The people of Jarbâ’ and Adhru did the same. The Messenger of God wrote this letter to them: “In the name of God the merciful and compassionate. This is a guarantee of safety from God and Muhammad the Prophet and Messenger of God to John ibn-Ru’ba and the people of Ayla, for their ships and caravans on land and at sea. They have the protection of God and of Muhammad the Prophet. This applies to all who are with them from Syria, Yaman and overseas. If anyone of them changes the treaty his wealth will not save him. Anyone may freely take it. They shall not prevent (Muslims) from drawing water or from crossing their territory by land or by sea.”
Then the Messenger of God called Khâlid ibn-al-Walîd and sent him to Ukaydir, king of Dűma, who was a Christian. “You will find him hunting wild cows.” Khâlid came to his fort on a summer night with a bright moon while he was on the roof with his wife. The cows were rubbing their horns on the gate of the fort and his wife said, “Have you seen anything like that before? Why not go after them?” So he called for his horse and a number of his family joined him, including his brother Hassân, for the hunt. When they came out the cavalry of the Messenger of God met them, captured Ukaydir and killed his brother. Khâlid stripped Ukaydir of his gold embroidered gown and sent it with Ukaydir to the Messenger of God, who spared his life and made a treaty that he should pay the jizya.
The Messenger of God stayed no more than ten nights in Tabűk, then returned to Medina. (2:525-6)
13.7 The opposition mosque
The Messenger of God went on to Dhű-Awân, an hour’s distance from Medina. The owners of the opposition mosque had come to him while he was preparing for the Tabűk expedition and said, “Messenger of God, we have built a mosque for the sick and needy and as a refuge for rainy and wintery nights. Please come and do alât in it for us.” He said he was about to travel and was busy, but would do so when he returned.
When he came back to Dhű-Awân he got news of the mosque and summoned Mâlik ibn-ad-Dukhshum and Ma`n ibn-`Adî or his brother and said, “Go, destroy and burn this mosque of unjust people.” They went quickly to the Mâlik’s Sâlim clan to get fire. He took a palm branch, lighted it, then the two ran into the mosque while its people were inside and burned and destroyed it, while the people fled. (2:529-30)
A Qur’ân verse (9:107) was promulgated about the incident: “Those who chose a mosque in opposition and disbelief to cause division among the believers...”
It is not clear concretely what was objectionable about this mosque. Perhaps some practices that deviated from what was accepted, or it was a gathering place of critical “hypocrites”. What is clear is that Muhammad would not tolerate a run-away Islam that would take any exception to his authority.
On his return to Medina, Muhammad had to deal with those who had dodged military service at Tabűk. According to Ibn-Ishâq, he summoned all who had dropped out from the campaign and listened to their excuses. He acquitted them all except three who offered no excuse. These he put under social ostracism, forbidding anyone to speak with them. After 50 days came a Qur’ân revelation (9:117) forgiving them. Much of Sűra 9 has to do with the expedition to Tabűk. In fact most of Ibn-Isâq’s account of the expedition seems little more than an exegesis of this sűra with some interpretations that fill in the facts by guesswork and by repeating the allegations of who was to be blamed and who was to be praised in the episode. This was an important question in Ibn-Isâq’s time, when Muslims vied for prominence on the basis of the role their forefathers played in Muhammad’s expeditions.
13.8 The Thaqîf Arabs submit
The Messenger of God returned from Tabűk to Medina in Ramadân and in that month the Thaqîf deputation came to him.
Previously `Urwa ibn-Mas`űd had fled the Thaqîf, come to Muhammad to become a Muslim, and asked him to let him return to convert his people. The Messenger of God objected that they would kill him, since he knew how stubborn they were, but `Urwa said, “I am dearer to them than their firstborn.”.. When he met them in an upstairs room and called them to Islam they shot him with arrows and killed him... The Thaqîf waited a few months after killing `Urwa, then held a meeting and decided they could not fight the Arabs around them; so they pledged allegiance to Muhammad and became Muslims. (2:537-8)
The Thaqîf then sent a delegation to Medina, but in great trepidation that they might be put to death in retaliation for their killing of `Urwa. Abű-Bakr was the first to meet them. He went and told Muhammad, who made them wait until a written document of submission was drawn up.
Among the things they asked was that their idol, al-Lât, should not be destroyed for three years. The Messenger of God refused even one year or one month. They wanted that to avoid trouble from their fanatics and women and children and to avoid frightening the people before Islam was introduced. The Messenger of God refused and sent Abű-Sufyân ibn-Harb to destroy it. They also asked to be dispensed from doing salât and from destroying the idol with their own hands. The Messenger of God allowed the latter request, but “as for salât, there is no good in religion if it has no salât.” They agreed to do it even though it was demeaning.
When they accepted Islam and the Messenger of God wrote their document, he placed `Uthmân ibn-abî-l-`Âs in charge of them, even though he was one of their youngest men. That was because he was zealous in teaching them Islam and the Qur’ân... The latter said, “The last instruction the Messenger of God gave me before sending me was that I should be brief in doing salât and to measure people by their weakest members; for there were old and young, sick and needy among them. (2:540-1)
The delegation returned, smashed the idol and pillaged the jewels and gold of the shrine.
13.9 Abű-Bakr leads the hajj
The Messenger of God stayed in Medina for the rest of Ramadân, Shawwâl and Dhű-l-Qa`da. Then he sent Abű-Bakr as leader of the hajj in the year 9 (March 631) to supervise the hajj of the Muslims while the polytheists were at their pilgrimage stations.
A Qur’ânic revelation came clearing the Muslims of their treaty obligations to the polytheists, namely that none should be kept away from the shrine and that no one should have to fear during the sacred month. This was the general agreement with the polytheists, but with the Arab tribes there were special agreements with a fixed term... So God revealed (9:1ff.): “God and his Messenger have cleared you of your engagements to the polytheists. Travel on the earth for four months, and be aware that you cannot stop God, but God can stop the unbelievers. God and his Messenger declare to you that during the great pilgrimage God and his Messenger are clear of any obligation to the polytheists”, i.e. after this pilgrimage. “Announce a painful punishment to those who disbelieve, except those polytheists with whom you have made a pact,” i.e. the special treaty for a fixed time, “and have not broken it in any way or shown you any hostility. Fulfil your treaty obligations to these...” (2:543-4)
This sűra goes on to denounce alliance with unbelievers and even Christians and Jews, and is one of the major negative passages with regard to non-Muslims.
On the day of slaughtering, `Alî proclaimed what the Messenger of God told him: that no unbeliever will enter paradise, no polytheist will make the ajj after this year, and that no one will make the rounds of the shrine naked, but those who have a treaty with the Messenger of God could continue for the duration of the treaty. (2:546)
13.10 Deputations from around Arabia
When the Messenger of God had taken Mecca and finished the expedition to Tabűk and the Thaqîf had pledged allegiance to him as Muslims, deputations of Arabs came to him from every side.
The Arabs were just waiting to see if the Messenger of God or the Quraysh would succeed, since the Quraysh were the leaders and guides of men and the keepers of the sacred shrine and the pure stock of Ishmael, and the leading Arabs did not deny this. Quraysh had declared war on the Messenger of God and opposed him. But when he conquered Mecca and the Quraysh were subject to him and had accepted Islam, the Arabs knew that they could no longer fight the Messenger of God or show him hostility. So they entered the religion of God, as the Qur’ân says (110:2), “in droves”. (2:559-60)
Ibn-Ishâq describes at least 10 different delegations of Arabs who came to Muhammad at Medina to accept Islam. The description of these delegations often seems apocryphal, but it may be true that they often concluded with a formal pact, such as the following letter written by Muhammad to the kings of Himyar outlining details of zakât and religious freedom:
In the name of God the merciful and compassionate: From Muhammad the Messenger of God and Prophet to al-Hârith ibn-`Abd-Kulâb and to Nu`aym ibn-`Abd-Kulâb and to an-Nu`mân prince of Dhű-Ru`ayn and Ma`âfir and Hamdân.
I praise the one and only God before you. Your messenger reached us in Median as we came back from the land of the Byzantines. I have received your message with the news that you accepted Islam and killed the polytheists, and that God has guided you. If you do good, obey God and his Messenger, do salât, pay the zakât and give of the spoils you take God’s fifth and his Messenger’s share and the choice part of it and the land sadaqa which believers must give, namely a tenth of crops on land watered by springs and rain or a twentieth on land watered by a bucket; for every forty camels a milk camel, for every thirty camels a young male, for every five camels a sheep, for every ten camels two sheep, for every forty cows one cow, for every thirty cows a male or female calf, for every forty sheep one sheep.
This is the sadaqa God has made obligatory on believers. If anyone gives more that is good for him. Anyone who pays the sadaqa, testifies to his Islam and helps the believers fight the polytheists is one of the believers and shares their rights and obligations. He has the protection of God and of his Messenger.
If a Jew or a Christian becomes a Muslim he is one of the believers with the same rights and obligations. If a Jew or a Christian keeps his religion he is not to be turned from it but, whether male or female, free or slave, will have to pay the jizya, a full dînâr.. or its equivalent in clothes. One who pays this to the Messenger of God will have the protection of God and of his Messenger. Anyone who refuses it is the enemy of God and of this Messenger... (2:589)
At the same time expeditions continued to be sent against tribes which had not yet submitted. Since these were neither Jewish nor Christian, they were forced to accept Islam, as in the case of the Hârith tribe:
Then the Messenger of God sent Khâlid ibn-al-Walîd in July 631 to the Hârith tribe in Najrân, telling them to call them to Islam three times before fighting them. He should accept their Islam if they comply but if not he should fight them. Khâlid sent riders to them on every side, calling them to Islam. “Become Muslims and you will be safe.” They accepted Islam as they were called to. Khâlid stayed with them, teaching them about Islam and the Book of God and the Sunna of his Prophet, as the Messenger of God had ordered him to do. (2:592)
13.11 A Christian delegation from Najrân
This is the likely time that a delegation Christians from Najrân, in Yemen, came to negotiate with Muhammad, although Ibn-Ishâq places the event at the beginning of the Medinan period. While Muhammad was yet in Mecca a group of twenty Najrân Christians are said to have come to him and become Muslims. (1:391-2; cf. Q 5:82)
This time sixty men came, including `Abdalmasîh, their head of state, his chief administrator, called al-Ayham, and their bishop Abű-Hâritha ibn-`Alqama. Ibn-Ishâq makes as if the learned bishop were convinced that Muhammad was the prophet the Christians were supposedly waiting for, but did not become a Muslim because he would loose the honour and support that the Byzantines gave him. His brother, however, hearing this, did become a Muslim.
When they came to the Messenger of God in Medina, they went to him in his mosque while he was doing the `asr prayer... The time for their own prayer came and they stood in the mosque of the Messenger of God and did their prayers. The Messenger of God said, “Allow them.” They prayed facing the East. (1:574)
Ibn-Ishâq digresses into a discussion about Christology and Muhammad’s arguments to persuade the Christians to accept Islam. Most of this reflects Muslim-Christian debate at the time of Ibn-Ishâq, but some of the more explicit Qur’ânic denials of Jesus’ divinity (43:59,81; 5:17,72-3,116; 4:171; 19:35) may have been consequent upon this visit, rather than from the stay of some Muslims in Ethiopia.
When Muhammad dispaired of convincing the Najrân Christians, he challenged them to join him in calling down God’s curse on the party in error. This episode is reflected in Qur’ân 3:61:
If any people dispute with you with regard to him [Jesus] after knowledge has come to you, tell them, “Come, let us call our children and yours, our wives and yours, ourselves and yourselves and let us curse one another, placing God’s curse on those who are lying.”
The Christians refused this procedure and said, “We have decided not to curse you, but to leave you with your religion, while we keep to ours.” Muhammad then sent them away with an overseer, at their request according to Ibn-Ishâq, “to judge with justice in their disputes.” (1:583-4) This Christian community remained in Najrân until they were expelled from Arabia during the reign of `Umar ibn-al-Khattâb.
13.12 Repudiation of rival prophets
Just as Muhammad would not tolerate any questioning of his authority among the Muslims, so he would not tolerate any pretension to the same authority among outsiders, as in the case of Musaylima:
Two liars spoke during the lifetime of the Messengers of God. They were Musaylima ibn-Habîb who spoke in al-Yamâma among the Hanîfa tribe, and al-Aswad ibn-Ka`b who spoke in San`â’. (2:599)
Musaylima had written this letter to the Messenger of God: “From Musaylima, the Messenger of God, to Muhammad, the Messenger of God: Peace be with you. I have been made your partner. Half the land is ours and half belongs to the Quraysh, but the Quraysh are a hostile people.” Two messengers brought this letter..
When the Messenger of God read it he asked the messengers, “What do you say about it?” They answered, “We agree with it.” He said, “By God, if you were not envoys who may not be killed I would cut your heads off.”
Then he wrote to Musaylima, “In the name of God the merciful and compassionate. From Muhammad the Messenger of God to Musaylima the liar. Peace to anyone who follows guidance. God chooses his own servants to inherit the land, and in the end the pious will succeed.”
13.13 Muhammad’s threat to dismiss his wives
Around this time a crisis developed among Muhammad’s wives which made him stay away from them for a month, after which he gave them the choice of shaping up or shipping out. The ultimatum is contained in Qur’ân 33:28-34:
Prophet, tell your wives, “If you wish this life and its attractions then come and I will give you an award and set you free with dignity.
“But if you desire God and his Messenger and the Last Home, then God has prepared a mighty reward for those of you who do good.
“Wives of the Prophet, if any of you openly commit adultery your punishment will be doubled; that is easy for God.
“But whoever of you fears God and his Messenger and does good, we will give her a double reward; we have prepared for her a rich provision.
“Wives of the Prophet, you are not like other women. If you fear God do not be timid in your speech so that the unstable may not lust after you, but speak honourable words.
“Remain in your apartments and do not display your finery as the pagans of old did. Perform salât, give zakât and obey God and his Messenger.”
Ibn-Sa`d gives different traditions to explain the occasion of this warning. One version is that they were simply demanding more clothes and an increase in their monthly allowance. (IS 8:129ff. - Abbott 49, & al-Bayâwî on this passage)
Another version is that `Â’isha was given meat to divide among the wives. Zaynab bint-Jahsh returned her share as being inadequate, and Muhammad told `Â’isha to add more. This happened three times and `Â’isha remarked, “This contemptuous woman is causing you to lose face.” (IS 8:136ff.)
Another version is that Hafa caught Muhammad with Mâriya the Copt in her own apartment on `Â’isha’s day. Muhammad swore to keep away from Mâriya altogether if Hafsa would keep the incident quiet. But Hafsa went and told `Â’isha the good news that Muhammad had sworn to keep away from Mâriya. (IS 8:134, and the Tafsîr of at-Tabarî on this passage and on 66:1-6- Abbott 50) In another version of this story the roles of `Â’isha and Hafsa are reversed. (IS 8:133ff.) The incident underlies Qur’ân 66:1-5:
Prophet, why do you make forbidden what God has made licit for you, trying to please your wives.. God has absolved you from your oaths.. When the Prophet told one of his wives a secret and she disclosed it, God let him know this. He then told her part of what he knew, keeping silence about the rest. She asked “Who told you of this?” He answered, “The Knowing and Informed told me.”
If you two repent to God, all right, since your hearts are bent. But if you support one another against him, God is his protector with Gabriel and the good believers, as well as the angels.
If he divorces you, maybe his Lord will give him in exchange better wives than you, committed, believing, obedient, repentant, devout and praising the Lord, whether married before or virgins.
Both `Umar and Abű-Bakr intervened in the crisis to urge their daughters to reconcile with Muhammad. At the end of the month all of the wives, beginning with `Â’isha, accepted the terms of the ultimatum and returned to normal life with him.
Further developments of Muhammad’s relationship with his wives are indicated in other verses of Sűra 33. Muhammad’s freedom with them is assured (33:51): “You may put off any of them you like and bring close to you any you like or any you desire among those you separated from. That is all right for you. It will keep them from being sad and make them happy with what you give them..”
The wives, in turn, are honoured with the title “mothers of the believers” (ummahât al-mu’minîn, 33:6): “The Prophet is more closely related to the believers than they are to themselves, and his wives are their mothers.”
Probably very late is a verses restricting Muhammad’s freedom to marry (33:52): “You may not take any more wives after this, and may not exchange them for other wives even if you are struck by their beauty, except for slave girls..” Also late must be the next verse which prohibits his widows from ever remarrying after his death. (This prohibition, however, occurs in the same verse as the law of seclusion which came earlier. See ch. 9.) Possibly Muhammad realized that if his widows did remarry disunity could result in the community.