Laylat al-Qadr: Part II

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My family is incredibly mixed. Most of my ancestors were atheists or pagans and it was quite recently that my mother’s family converted to Islam. My grandmother and grandfather raised my mother in quite a scientific household, they were both academics and valued facts over anything else. But my grandmother was incredibly pious, which you would not believe at first glance. Despite not having or believing in the head scarf she has never missed a daily prayer throughout her life. Whatever she may do during the day or night, partying or studying, she would return back home and pray.

They never really categorised themselves into either Sunni or Shia but my grandfather declared himself Qurani for the first few years when he started practicing (which was like.. 20 years ago). Now he leans more heavily towards the Shia side but would never admit so to anyone. My aunts married Sunnis but retained their “non-denomination” religious views that they had grown up with. My uncles married Sunnis but became more Shia for some incredibly odd reason. My mother married my dad that came from a Shia background and “became” Shia, which she shared with her brothers. Although I was raised mainly Shia, I have come to realise that some traditions we carry out in our family are largely Sunni or paganistic (lol, isn’t that funny).

Coming to iftar (breaking your fast during Ramadan) at our place is the most exquisite look into most muslim families. We line up to pray side by side but in different ways. We all have our own traditions and understandings of Islam but celebrate Ramadan together. When we eat we argue, loudly and proudly, over different religious ideas. My mother and uncles are always the first to tap out and my lawyer aunt and psychologist grandfather go head to head over issues they actually agree on. Then we deflate over tea and laugh over biscuits, and whilst the adults discuss us children get to listen and learn.

It is important to remember that this is how most muslims live; side by side with people of different belief, if not within the family then with their neighbours or friends. To my Muslim readers I encourage you to try to understand your fellow Muslims of different schools of thoughts. To my non-Muslim readers I employ you to learn about the importance of such diversity within Islam and other religions?

Community is a corner stone in religion and accepting different views is a fundamental rule in Islam:

There is no compulsion in religion. Certainly, right has become clearly distinct from wrong. Whoever rejects the devil and believes in God has firmly taken hold of a strong handle that never breaks. God is All-hearing and knowing.

Excerpt from Quran 2:256 (translation by Muhammad Sarwar)

On this potential day of Qadr it is important not only to pray for yourself and your year but to reflect on your actions. Have you chosen right when the distinction become clear? Have you forced someone to adhere to your belief? Is your hand indeed clasped around the unbreakable handle of God’s mercy?

Laylat al-Qadr: Part I

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Laylat al-Qadr consists of prayers and traditions carried out throughout the night. It is commonly known as “The Night of Destiny” and commemorates the first night that the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It is uncertain when this night exactly is, but Shia believe it to fall on either the 19th, 21st, or 23rd of Ramadan whilst Sunni believe it is 27th of Ramadan.

It is believed that during Laylat al-Qadr the annual destiny for each person is determined by God. This is mentioned in the Quran as well:

Indeed, We sent it down during a blessed night. Indeed, We were to warn [mankind]. 4 On that night is made distinct every precise matter – 5 [Every] matter [proceeding] from Us. Indeed, We were to send [a messenger] 6 As mercy from your Lord. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Knowing.

Excerpt from the Quran 44:3-6

Some Muslims retreat for “Itikaf” where you stay in the Mosque for the last 10 days of Ramdan and spend the days praying and fasting and away from the materialism. To be able to perform Itikaf you must be able to fast, not have any physical or mental illnesses, and believe in the message of Islam.

Throughout Ramadan you are supposed to abstain from food, water, and sex but only during the day time. During the Itikaf, you are allowed to eat and drink when the sun has set, but the rules on sex and any form of physical pleasure still stand. You are not allowed to leave the mosque, talk ill of another person, harbour hate in your heart, carry out any business deals, or utilise money. Of course, if there is something that requires you to do any of these things you are allowed to do it as quickly and efficiently as possible and return to your Itikaf.

The reason for doing Itikaf or participating in the traditions of Laylat al-Qadr are many and mostly personal. It can either come from wanting to be closer to God, or sacrificing your time to God for help in some matter, or in thankfulness for the previous year.

Battle of Badr

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Every Muslim is acquainted with the Battle of Badr; if you were a participant in your mosque you might have done a play on it or been told about it by your parents. Historically, it is one of the most famous and most important Islamic battles in the religion.

It all started in year 624 AD when the Quraish tribe in Mecca started grand-scale preparations to attack the Prophet (PBUH) and Medina. All profits accrued by the Quraishi were planned to be spent on horses and other war tools to fight the Muslims in Medina.

A caravan from Abu Sufyan was travelling between Mecca and Syria with all the Quraishi treasures. The Muslims planned a raid on the caravan in revenge of the Quraishi abolishing them from their Meccan homes. The Prophet (PBUH) had initially no interest in engaging in battle but a revelation from God told him to proceed.

Meanwhile, the Quraishi were camping near Badr, 200 miles from Mecca and 80 miles from Medina. The caravan was never intercepted, which the Quraishi’s had planned to be their signal to start marching towards Medina. The army from Mecca had 1000 well equipped soldiers from Meccan houses such as the Quraishi and Umayyad’s. From Medina, an army of merely 313 persons, 70 camels, and two horses proceeded to meet the army from Mecca.

On the 17th of Ramadan, 624 AD, the Muslims had reached Badr and the Battle between the two armies commenced. Both sides fought bravely and there was a mix of individual combats between great names from both sides as well as massive clashes between the armies. On the tenth day of the battle, the Prophet (PBUH) prayed to God:

O, Allah; if this group of believers are defeated, You shall not be worshipped on earth anymore.

Ultimately, with holy zeal they prospered and defeated the opposition. The Muslims drove back the Meccans, there were many casualties and prisoners taken by the Muslims. William Muir writes:

In pursuance of Mahomet’s commands the citizens of Medina and such of the refugees as possessed houses received the prisoners and treated them with much consideration. ‘Blessings be on the men of Medina’, said one of these prisoners in later days, ‘they made us ride while they themselves walked; they gave us wheaten bread to eat when there was little of it, contenting themselves with dates’.

The war had many consequences, the main being the boost of morale the Muslims felt in their victory especially after the immense loss they had suffered since the beginning of Islam.

123 And already had Allah given you victory at [the battle of] Badr while you were few in number. Then fear Allah ; perhaps you will be grateful. 124 [Remember] when you said to the believers, “Is it not sufficient for you that your Lord should reinforce you with three thousand angels sent down? 125 Yes, if you remain patient and conscious of Allah and the enemy come upon you [attacking] in rage, your Lord will reinforce you with five thousand angels having marks [of distinction] 126 And Allah made it not except as [a sign of] good tidings for you and to reassure your hearts thereby. And victory is not except from Allah, the Exalted in Might, the Wise – 127 That He might cut down a section of the disbelievers or suppress them so that they turn back disappointed.

Excerpt from Quran 3:123-127 (Ali ‘Imran)


Sources:

Important Events: The Battle of Badr

On The Path of The Beloved – Battle of Badr

The Battle of Badr

Chapter 30: The Battle of Badr in The Message by Ayatullah Jafar Subhani

The Farewell Pilgrimage

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The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had left Mecca as a fugitive and returned eight years later as a conqueror. Instead of valour and exultation he spoke of his gratitude to God for their success. The Islamic government under the rule of the Prophet (PBUH) could not coexist with the pagan government in Mecca. After seeing the masses that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had drawn with him to Mecca for his pilgrimage they slowly started to change their minds.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) spent two weeks in Mecca to educate his newly converted subjects and began to organise a government like the one he had formed in Medina. He sent out emissaries to surrounding pagan tribes to leave their old ways and to be united under the One True God. Many pagan tribes voluntarily converted to Islam and accepted the doctrines set out by the Prophet (PBUH). The last journey with the word of Islam during the time of the Prophet (PBUH) was to Yemen, where the army of the Elephant first originated. The majority of Arab tribes now recognised Islam and Muslims as the paramount force of the Arabian peninsula.

An important account was that Islam was not to be reserved to one racial, tribal, linguistic, or geographical region. The Nation of Islam (Umma) was an acknowledgement of One God and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as his messenger.

 

 

On his way back to Medina, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) camped in a small town called Ghadir Khum where he ordered a pulpit to be made for him. Once the podium had been assembled he gave a sermon that was to become an important part of Islamic history. The sermon has been analysed and reported from two major perspectives that ultimately lead to the split of Islam into Shia and Sunni.

Shia Account

Sunni Account

 

Some excerpts of the sermon are:

I have left among you the Book of God, and if you hold fast to it you would never go astray. And you would be asked about me (on the day of resurrection), (now tell me) what would you say? They (the audience) said: ‘We bear witness that you have conveyed (the message,) discharged (the ministry of Prophethood) and given wise (sincere) counsel.’ He (the narrator) said: He then raised his forefinger towards the sky and pointed it at the people (and said): ‘O God, bear witness, O God, bear witness.’ [Muslim]

He delivered another sermon at Mina, where he said, “Do not return to disbelief, killing one another, after I am gone.” [Bukhari]

While some report that Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) ailments began after he visited the graves of Al-Baqi’. He is said to have suffered an immense headache that ultimately resulted in a fever that caused his death. Others also believe a Jewess poisoned a sheep that was offered to the Prophet (PBUH) after the Battle of Khaybar and ultimately let to his demise. The information surrounding the Prophet’s (PBUH) death is minimal and not many reliable accounts exist. Even within Islamic denomination there is disagreement on whether the death of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was natural or an assassination. Before his death, it is important to note, that he said the following about the Ansar(previously Jewish and pagan tribe in Yathrib/Medina):

Do not ever for a moment forget what the Ansar have done for you. They gave you shelter and sanctuary. They shared their homes and their bread with you. Though they were not rich, they put your needs ahead of their own needs. They are my ‘legacy’ to you. Other people will grow in number but they will only diminish. Whatever were the obligations of the Ansar, they have faithfully fulfilled them, and now it is your turn to fulfill your obligations toward them.


Sources:

Prophet Muhammad – A Brief Biography by Al-Balagh Foundation

The Holy Prophet by Sayyid Saeed Akhtar Rizvi

A Restatement of the History of Islam and Muslims by Sayyid Ali Ashgar Razwy

AskTheSheikh

The Death Of Prophet Muhammad by Daryl Worthington

The Battle of Khaybar

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In the beginning, the Jews of Medina lived in peace alongside the Muslims after the siege of Medina. The Qurayshi from Mecca besieged Medina from the north whilst the Prophet (PBUH) lived in it but the Muslim’s quickly dug trenches and caused a headlock and standstill. The Jews in the south of Medina were not inclined to attack the Muslims, especially because of the treaty they had made between them and the Muslims, but after the Qurayshi accused them of treachery they changed their minds. Ultimately, the army against Medina broke up and they drafted the Treaty of Hudaybiyah that would allow the inhabitants of Medina to travel to Mecca for their pilgrimage once a year.

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Muslims invented trenches before WWI

In the aftermath, the Jews on the south of Medina locked themselves up in their forts but the Muslims besieged them shortly after the Qurayshi had retreated. The Prophet (PBUH) suggested to solve their issues with an arbitrator of their own choosing. They chose Sa’ad ibn Muadh who decreed to banish the remaining women and children and sentenced all men to death in accordance with the Torah:

10 When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. 11 If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced laborand shall work for you. 12 If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. 13 When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. 14 As for the women, the children, the livestockand everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies.

Deutoronomy 20:10-14

It is reflected later by Muslim scholars that had they chosen Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as their arbitrator their sentence would have been more lenient. In fact, not all Jews were sentenced to die or banishment but were sent to Khaybar, an oasis north of Medina.

 

After returning to routines and their normal lives, the Jews felt like they had surrendered to the Muslims and did not like the shit of power that had occurred. Therefore, many of the Jewish tribes around Medina attacked the Prophet’s (PBUH) city and its inhabitants. Jewish marauders carried out raiding expeditions and many on their way to or from Medina were intercepted and killed. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) decided to put an end to the abuse and set out for Khaybar with 1600 men and women soldiers and 100 horses.

The conquest of Khyber conferred unlimited benefits upon the Muslims; some of them were:

1.Immense quantities of gold and silver that the Jews had been accumulating for many generations.

2.The finest arsenals of Arabia containing the newest weapons of the times such as swords, spears, lances, maces, shields, armor, bows and arrows.

3.Vast herds of horses, camels and cattle, and flocks of sheep and goats.

4.Rich arable lands with palm groves.

Excerpt from A Restatement of the History of Islam and Muslims by Sayyid Ali Ashgar Razwy

Another Jewish settlement near Khaybar, called Fadak, surrendered voluntarily and sent envoys to negotiates terms of peace. The Prophet (PBUH) accepted their surrendered and allowed them to retain the right of their land as long as they became subjects of the Islamic State (NOT convert).


Sources:

TBA

Yathrib becomes Medina

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The Prophet (PBUH) was 53 years of age at the time of the Hijra that marks the first day and year of the Islamic calendar. The migration lead him to Yathrib where he spent the remaining 10 years of his life. In Yathrib the divine message entered its last and decisive stage that would lay the foundation for Islam spreading throughout the world.

The Romans had expelled the Jews from Syria and Palestine in the 2nd Century B.C. Some of these Jews had migrated to Yathrib where they built strong fortresses. Yathrib was therefore a mix of mainly Jews and other culturally and religiously diverse tribes that lived together in peace that provided a open atmosphere for freedom of religion.

The Yathribites were not foreign to the idea of unity under one God, a message that had been previously put forward by the Jews. The Judaic religion also taught that a Prophet was to come that was also believed by the Christian monks, most famously Buhaira that met the Prophet (PBUH) when he was 12 years old. Yathrib therefore changed its name to Medinat-Al-Nabi (City of the Prophet) or Al-Medina Al-Munawara (The Illuminated City), or Medina for short.

The Jew could not help shouting at the top of his voice: ‘O you Arabs! Here is your great man whom you have been waiting for!’ So all the Muslims rushed to their arms and received Allah’s Messenger on the summit of Harra. The Prophet turned with them to the right and alighted at the quarters of Bani Amr Ibn ‘Auf, and this was on Monday in the month of Rabi-ul-Awal.

Excerpt from Muhammad by Alim.org

The Muhajireen (the emigrants) were the Muslims that took flight alongside the Prophet (PBUH) towards Medina. They had become muslims in its formative years when it was contained within Mecca. The inhabitants of Medina, the Ansar, believed in the message of Islam and that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was truly a messenger from God. To ensure continued cooperation between the Muhajireen and the Anser, the Prophet (PBUH) joined one of each together in a tie of “Brotherhood”.

And the first forerunners [in the faith] among the Muhajireen and the Ansar and those who followed then with good conduct – Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him, and He has prepared for them gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever. That is the great attainment.

9:100 The Holy Quran from Quran.org translation by Sahih International

The Prophet (PBUH) also drafted a treaty between the Muslims and Jews of Medina to ensure safety for both parties. The Document read something like this:

The state of peace and war shall be common to all Muslims; none among them shall have the right of concluding peace with, or declaring war against, the enemies of his co-religionists. The Jews who enter into this covenant shall be protected from all insults and vexations; they shall have an equal right with our own people to our assistance and good offices. The Jews of the various branches of ‘Awf, Najjar, al-Harith, Jashm, Tha’labah, Aws, and all others domiciled in Yathrib shall form with the Muslims one composite nation. They shall practice their religion as freely as the Muslims.

The clients and allies of the Jews shall enjoy the same security and freedom. The guilty shall be pursued and punished. The Jews shall join the Muslims in defending Yathrib against all enemies. The interior of Yathrib shall be a sacred place for all those who accept this Charter. The clients and allies of the Muslims and of the Jews shall be as respected as the principals. All Muslims shall hold in abhorrence anyone found guilty of a crime, injustice, or disorder. None shall uphold the culpable, even if he may be his nearest in kinship.

Excerpt from The Holy Prophet by Sayyid Saeed Akhtar Rizvi

Not long after the flight to Medina, the first mosque was built by the Muslims who had just emerged from the Meccan oppressive regime. The mosque became a centre for gatherings, praying, learning the Quran, and a headquarter disputes were settled and problems were solved according to Islamic law. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) utilised the new mosque to lead daily prayers, deliver sermons, and teach the Quran and the divine laws within it, as well as discourse with his companions about the meaning and future of Islam.

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There were still some agitation from some Jewish Yathribites that colluded with the polytheist Quraish tribe in Mecca to stamp out Islam. The Quraishites were furious after the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had slipped away from them the same night he was to be assassinated. The news that Islam was growing steadfast in Medina further ignited their hate and rage against the Prophet (PBUH) and his followers.


Sources:

Prophet Muhammad – A Brief Biography by Al-Balagh Foundation

Muhammad, Messenger of Peace and Tolerance by Yasin T. Al-Jibouri

 

Proclamation & Consequent Persecution

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Mecca was a metropolis for trading and Muhammad and his wife, Khadija, were large investors in the business. It is stated by various historians that Muhammad was known to utilise the trading scene both for business and to discuss and debate religion and tradition with the visitors of Mecca. Whether they were atheist, monotheist, or polytheist, Muhammad engaged them in many debates.

Towards his forties, he would spend days and weeks in a cave in Mount Hira where he meditated and prayed. No one was allowed into his solace except his wife, Khadija, and cousin, Ali. Whoever you believe was the first muslim – Ali, Zayd ibn Harith, or Abu Bakr – Khadija was among them. When he reached 40, he was visited by the angel Gabriel whilst he was in the cave of Mount Hira.

The first message from God was;

“Recite in the name of your Lord who created”

Excerpt From: Sahih International Quran.com

Afterwards, there was a three year period of silence where no more messages from God came. In this period, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) gathered a small following of thirty or so people. It was a small and poor group that was of no concern for the governors of Mecca and were therefore not payed any mind during this time.

It is strongly corroborative of Mohammed’s sincerity that the earliest converts to Islam were his bosom friends and the people of his household, who, all intimately acquainted with his private life, could not fail to have detected those discrepancies which more or less invariably exist between the pretensions of the hypocritical deceiver and his actions at home.

Excerpt From: John Davenport. “Apology for Mohammed and the Koran.”

Three years passed before God decided it was time for the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) proclamation of his Prophethood. Here, there is a sharp degree of variation between different interpretations and I advise people to look into it themselves. Some sources are 1. Heroes and Hero Worship by Thomas Carlyle, 2. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon, 3. Apology for Muhammad and The Koran by John Davenport, 4. Muhammad At Mecca by William Montgomery Watt.

“And warn thy tribe, thy nearest kin”

It is reported that when this verse was revealed, the Prophet addressed his kin directly by name, including his daughter Fāṭimah, his uncle ʿAbbās, and his aunt Ṣafiyyah, and his tribe, the Quraysh, in more general terms, saying, “Purchase your souls from God! I can avail thee naught against God”. In a version of the story favored by Shiite sources, the Prophet asked a gathering of his nearest relatives who among them would be his supporter, helper, and trustee; only his young cousin ʿAlī, who was still a boy, rose to respond. In some accounts, the Prophet’s words to his family and relatives come over the course of three consecutive nights during which he invited them to partake of a meal. In other accounts, the Prophet ascends the hill Ṣafā to deliver his warning, asking his kin (usually the number given is approximately forty) if they would believe him if he told them that an army was just about to come from around the mountain; when they reply in the affirmative, he then warns them of the coming of the Hereafter.

Excerpt From: Seyyed Hossein Nasr. “The Study Quran.” iBooks.

During this time as well, the ascension of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) occurred. Whether it was a physical or spiritual journey is disputed but it is accepted that one night the Prophet was transported on a heavenly creature called Al-Buraq to Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. There he led all the prophets that had been before him in prayer before he ascended to heaven where he saw the seven heavens and spoke to God.

Within this period both Abu Talib and Khadija died, afterwards the Prophet (PBUH) married his friend’s daughter Aisha. She is said to have been a strong woman that held speeches in public and participated in wars.

Not long after, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) proclaimed his prophethood and the new religion of the true one God. Now the Qurayshi started to take notice of him and thus began the persecution. Although they dared not harm his body because he was the nephew of the great Abu Talib and Hamza The Valiant, they tormented him in other ways. They would disrupt his prayers at the Ka’ba and Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) followers were severely physically abused to denounce their new God. Worst was the abuse of slaves, the poor, and people without ties to great and known families in the city. But even Abu Bakr was reported to have suffered humiliation and torture. A limit was reached and the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) advised his followers to migrate to Abyssinia.

Fifteen or so of his followers migrated to Abyssinia where a kind Christian king ruled, this was to be the first Hijra (flight). The second Hijra was five years later and with the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who fled the city of Mecca on the same night his assassination had been planned.

This marks the first day of our calendar, Rabi’ Al Awal (The First Spring), and on the 26th day it is believed that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) reached Yathrib (modern day Medina).


Sources:

Prophet Muhammad – A Brief Biography by Al-Balagh Foundation