Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How Taqiyya Alters Islam's Rules of War

Defeating Jihadist Terrorism

Islam must seem a paradoxical religion to non-Muslims. On the one hand, it is constantly being portrayed as the religion of peace; on the other, its adherents are responsible for the majority of terror attacks around the world. Apologists for Islam emphasize that it is a faith built upon high ethical standards; others stress that it is a religion of the law. Islam's dual notions of truth and falsehood further reveal its paradoxical nature: While the Qur'an is against believers deceiving other believers—for "surely God guides not him who is prodigal and a liar"[1]—deception directed at non-Muslims, generally known in Arabic as taqiyya, also has Qur'anic support and falls within the legal category of things that are permissible for Muslims.

Taqiyya offers two basic uses. The better known revolves around dissembling over one's religious identity when in fear of persecution. Such has been the historical usage of taqiyya among Shi'i communities whenever and wherever their Sunni rivals have outnumbered and thus threatened them. Conversely, Sunni Muslims, far from suffering persecution have, whenever capability allowed, waged jihad against the realm of unbelief; and it is here that they have deployed taqiyya—not as dissimulation but as active deceit. In fact, deceit, which is doctrinally grounded in Islam, is often depicted as being equal—sometimes superior—to other universal military virtues, such as courage, fortitude, or self-sacrifice.

Yet if Muslims are exhorted to be truthful, how can deceit not only be prevalent but have divine sanction? What exactly istaqiyya? How is it justified by scholars and those who make use of it? How does it fit into a broader conception of Islam's code of ethics, especially in relation to the non-Muslim? More to the point, what ramifications does the doctrine of taqiyyahave for all interaction between Muslims and non-Muslims?

The Doctrine of Taqiyya

According to Shari'a—the body of legal rulings that defines how a Muslim should behave in all circumstances—deception is not only permitted in certain situations but may be deemed obligatory in others. Contrary to early Christian tradition, for instance, Muslims who were forced to choose between recanting Islam or suffering persecution were permitted to lie and feign apostasy. Other jurists have decreed that Muslims are obligated to lie in order to preserve themselves,[2] based on Qur'anic verses forbidding Muslims from being instrumental in their own deaths.[3]

This is the classic definition of the doctrine of taqiyya. Based on an Arabic word denoting fear, taqiyyahas long been understood, especially by Western academics, as something to resort to in times of religious persecution and, for the most part, used in this sense by minority Shi'i groups living among hostile Sunni majorities.[4] Taqiyya allowed the Shi'a to dissemble their religious affiliation in front of the Sunnis on a regular basis, not merely by keeping clandestine about their own beliefs but by actively praying and behaving as if they were Sunnis.

However, one of the few books devoted to the subject, At-Taqiyya fi'l-Islam (Dissimulation in Islam) makes it clear that taqiyya is not limited to Shi'a dissimulating in fear of 
persecution. Written by Sami Mukaram, a former Islamic studies professor at the American University of Beirut and author of some twenty-five books on Islam, the book clearly demonstrates the ubiquity and broad applicability oftaqiyya:
Taqiyya is of fundamental importance in Islam. Practically every Islamic sect agrees to it and practices it … We can go so far as to say that the practice of taqiyya is mainstream in Islam, and that those few sects not practicing it diverge from the mainstream … Taqiyya is very prevalent in Islamic politics, especially in the modern era.[5]
Taqiyya is, therefore, not, as is often supposed, an exclusively Shi'i phenomenon. Of course, as a minority group interspersed among their Sunni enemies, the Shi'a have historically had more reason to dissemble. Conversely, Sunni Islam rapidly dominated vast empires from Spain to China. As a result, its followers were beholden to no one, had nothing to apologize for, and had no need to hide from the infidel nonbeliever (rare exceptions include Spain and Portugal during the Reconquista when Sunnis did dissimulate over their religious identity[6]). Ironically, however, Sunnis living in the West today find themselves in the place of the Shi'a: Now they are the minority surrounded by their traditional enemies—Christian infidels—even if the latter, as opposed to their Reconquista predecessors, rarely act on, let alone acknowledge, this historic enmity. In short, Sunnis are currently experiencing the general circumstances that made taqiyya integral to Shi'ism although without the physical threat that had so necessitated it.

The Articulation of Taqiyya

Qur'anic verse 3:28 is often seen as the primary verse that sanctions deception towards non-Muslims: "Let believers [Muslims] not take infidels [non-Muslims] for friends and allies instead of believers. Whoever does this shall have no relationship left with God—unless you but guard yourselves against them, taking precautions."[7]

Muhammad ibn Jarir at-Tabari (d. 923), author of a standard and authoritative Qur'an commentary, explains verse 3:28 as follows:
If you [Muslims] are under their [non-Muslims'] authority, fearing for yourselves, behave loyally to them with your tongue while harboring inner animosity for them … [know that] God has forbidden believers from being friendly or on intimate terms with the infidels rather than other believers—except when infidels are above them [in authority]. Should that be the case, let them act friendly towards them while preserving their religion.[8]
Regarding Qur'an 3:28, Ibn Kathir (d. 1373), another prime authority on the Qur'an, writes, "Whoever at any time or place fears … evil [from non-Muslims] may protect himself through outward show." As proof of this, he quotes Muhammad's close companion Abu Darda, who said, "Let us grin in the face of some people while our hearts curse them." Another companion, simply known as Al-Hasan, said, "Doing taqiyya is acceptable till the Day of Judgment [i.e., in perpetuity]."[9]

Other prominent scholars, such as Abu 'Abdullah al-Qurtubi (1214-73) and Muhyi 'd-Din ibn al-Arabi (1165-1240), have extended taqiyya to cover deeds. In other words, Muslims can behave like infidels and worse—for example, by bowing down and worshiping idols and crosses, offering false testimony, and even exposing the weaknesses of their fellow Muslims to the infidel enemy—anything short of actually killing a Muslim: "Taqiyya, even if committed without duress, does not lead to a state of infidelity—even if it leads to sin deserving of hellfire."[10]

Deceit in Muhammad's Military Exploits

Muhammad—whose example as the "most perfect human" is to be followed in every detail—took an expedient view on lying. It is well known, for instance, that he permitted lying in three situations: to reconcile two or more quarreling parties, to placate one's wife, and in war.[11] According to one Arabic legal manual devoted to jihad as defined by the four schools of law, "The ulema agree that deception during warfare is legitimate … deception is a form of art in war."[12] Moreover, according to Mukaram, this deception is classified as taqiyya: "Taqiyya in order to dupe the enemy is permissible."[13]

Several ulema believe deceit is integral to the waging of war: Ibn al-'Arabi declares that "in the Hadith [sayings and actions of Muhammad], practicing deceit in war is well demonstrated. Indeed, its need is more stressed than the need for courage." Ibn al-Munir (d. 1333) writes, "War is deceit, i.e., the most complete and perfect war waged by a holy warrior is a war of deception, not confrontation, due to the latter's inherent danger, and the fact that one can attain victory through treachery without harm [to oneself]." And Ibn Hajar (d. 1448) counsels Muslims "to take great caution in war, while [publicly] lamenting and mourning in order to dupe the infidels."[14]

This Muslim notion that war is deceit goes back to the Battle of the Trench (627), which pitted Muhammad and his followers against several non-Muslim tribes known as Al-Ahzab. One of the Ahzab, Na'im ibn Mas'ud, went to the Muslim camp and converted to Islam. When Muhammad discovered that the Ahzab were unaware of their co-tribalist's conversion, he counseled Mas'ud to return and try to get the pagan forces to abandon the siege. It was then that Muhammad memorably declared, "For war is deceit." Mas'ud returned to the Ahzab without their knowing that he had switched sides and intentionally began to give his former kin and allies bad advice. He also went to great lengths to instigate quarrels between the various tribes until, thoroughly distrusting each other, they disbanded, lifted the siege from the Muslims, and saved Islam from destruction in an embryonic period.[15] Most recently, 9/11 accomplices, such as Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, rationalized their conspiratorial role in their defendant response by evoking their prophet's assertion that "war is deceit."

A more compelling expression of the legitimacy of deceiving infidels is the following anecdote. A poet, Ka'b ibn Ashraf, offended Muhammad, prompting the latter to exclaim, "Who will kill this man who has hurt God and his prophet?" A young Muslim named Muhammad ibn Maslama volunteered on condition that in order to get close enough to Ka'b to assassinate him, he be allowed to lie to the poet. Muhammad agreed. Ibn Maslama traveled to Ka'b and began to denigrate Islam and Muhammad. He carried on in this way till his disaffection became so convincing that Ka'b took him into his confidence. Soon thereafter, Ibn Maslama appeared with another Muslim and, while Ka'b's guard was down, killed him.[16]

Muhammad said other things that cast deception in a positive light, such as "God has commanded me to equivocate among the people just as he has commanded me to establish [religious] obligations"; and "I have been sent with obfuscation"; and "whoever lives his life in dissimulation dies a martyr."[17]

In short, the earliest historical records of Islam clearly attest to the prevalence of taqiyya as a form of Islamic warfare. Furthermore, early Muslims are often depicted as lying their way out of binds—usually by denying or insulting Islam or Muhammad—often to the approval of the latter, his only criterion being that their intentions (niya) be pure.[18] During wars with Christians, whenever the latter were in authority, the practice of taqiyya became even more integral. Mukaram states, "Taqiyya was used as a way to fend off danger from the Muslims, especially in critical times and when their borders were exposed to wars with the Byzantines and, afterwards, to the raids [crusades] of the Franks and others."[19]

Taqiyya in Qur'anic Revelation

The Qur'an itself is further testimony to taqiyya. Since God is believed to be the revealer of these verses, he is by default seen as the ultimate perpetrator of deceit—which is not surprising since he is described in the Qur'an as the best makar, that is, the best deceiver or schemer (e.g., 3:54, 8:30, 10:21).

While other scriptures contain contradictions, the Qur'an is the only holy book whose commentators have evolved a doctrine to account for the very visible shifts which occur from one injunction to another. No careful reader will remain unaware of the many contradictory verses in the Qur'an, most specifically the way in which peaceful and tolerant verses lie almost side by side with violent and intolerant ones. The ulema were initially baffled as to which verses to codify into the Shari'a worldview—the one that states there is no coercion in religion (2:256), or the ones that command believers to fight all non-Muslims till they either convert, or at least submit, to Islam (8:39, 9:5, 9:29). To get out of this quandary, the commentators developed the doctrine of abrogation, which essentially maintains that verses revealed later in Muhammad's career take precedence over earlier ones whenever there is a discrepancy. In order to document which verses abrogated which, a religious science devoted to the chronology of the Qur'an's verses evolved (known as an-Nasikh wa'l Mansukh, the abrogater and the abrogated).

But why the contradiction in the first place? The standard view is that in the early years of Islam, since Muhammad and his community were far outnumbered by their infidel competitors while living next to them in Mecca, a message of peace and coexistence was in order. However, after the Muslims migrated to Medina in 622 and grew in military strength, verses inciting them to go on the offensive were slowly "revealed"—in principle, sent down from God—always commensurate with Islam's growing capabilities. In juridical texts, these are categorized in stages: passivity vis-á-vis aggression; permission to fight back against aggressors; commands to fight aggressors; commands to fight all non-Muslims, whether the latter begin aggressions or not.[20] Growing Muslim might is the only variable that explains this progressive change in policy.

Other scholars put a gloss on this by arguing that over a twenty-two year period, the Qur'an was revealed piecemeal, from passive and spiritual verses to legal prescriptions and injunctions to spread the faith through jihad and conquest, simply to acclimate early Muslim converts to the duties of Islam, lest they be discouraged at the outset by the dramatic obligations that would appear in later verses.[21] Verses revealed towards the end of Muhammad's career—such as, "Warfare is prescribed for you though you hate it"[22]—would have been out of place when warfare was actually out of the question.

However interpreted, the standard view on Qur'anic abrogation concerning war and peace verses is that when Muslims are weak and in a minority position, they should preach and behave according to the ethos of the Meccan verses (peace and tolerance); when strong, however, they should go on the offensive on the basis of what is commanded in the Medinan verses (war and conquest). The vicissitudes of Islamic history are a testimony to this dichotomy, best captured by the popular Muslim notion, based on a hadith, that, if possible, jihad should be performed by the hand (force), if not, then by the tongue (through preaching); and, if that is not possible, then with the heart or one's intentions.[23]

War Is Eternal

That Islam legitimizes deceit during war is, of course, not all that astonishing; after all, as the Elizabethan writer John Lyly put it, "All's fair in love and war."[24] Other non-Muslim philosophers and strategists—such as Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, and Thomas Hobbes—justified deceit in warfare. Deception of the enemy during war is only common sense. The crucial difference in Islam, however, is that war against the infidel is a perpetual affair—until, in the words of the Qur'an, "all chaos ceases, and all religion belongs to God."[25] In his entry on jihad from the Encyclopaedia of Islam, Emile Tyan states: "The duty of the jihad exists as long as the universal domination of Islam has not been attained. Peace with non-Muslim nations is, therefore, a provisional state of affairs only; the chance of circumstances alone can justify it temporarily."[26]

Moreover, going back to the doctrine of abrogation, Muslim scholars such as Ibn Salama (d. 1020) agree that Qur'an 9:5, known as ayat as-sayf or the sword verse, has abrogated some 124 of the more peaceful Meccan verses, including "every other verse in the Qur'an, which commands or implies anything less than a total offensive against the nonbelievers."[27] In fact, all four schools of Sunni jurisprudence agree that "jihad is when Muslims wage war on infidels, after having called on them to embrace Islam or at least pay tribute [jizya] and live in submission, and the infidels refuse."[28]

Obligatory jihad is best expressed by Islam's dichotomized worldview that pits the realm of Islam against the realm of war. The first, dar al-Islam, is the "realm of submission," the world where Shari'a governs; the second, dar al-Harb (the realm of war), is the non-Islamic world. A struggle continues until the realm of Islam subsumes the non-Islamic world—a perpetual affair that continues to the present day. The renowned Muslim historian and philosopher Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406) clearly articulates this division:
In the Muslim community, jihad is a religious duty because of the universalism of the Muslim mission and the obligation to convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force. The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the jihad was not a religious duty for them, save only for purposes of defense. But Islam is under obligation to gain power over other nations.[29]
Finally and all evidence aside, lest it still appear unreasonable for a faith with over one billion adherents to obligate unprovoked warfare in its name, it is worth noting that the expansionist jihad is seen as an altruistic endeavor, not unlike the nineteenth century ideology of "the white man's burden." The logic is that the world, whether under democracy, socialism, communism, or any other system of governance, is inevitably living in bondage—a great sin, since the good of all humanity is found in living in accordance to God's law. In this context, Muslim deception can be viewed as a slightly less than noble means to a glorious end—Islamic hegemony under Shari'a rule, which is seen as good for both Muslims and non-Muslims.

This view has an ancient pedigree: Soon after the death of Muhammad (634), as the jihad fighters burst out of the Arabian peninsula, a soon-to-be conquered Persian commander asked the invading Muslims what they wanted. They memorably replied as follows:
God has sent us and brought us here so that we may free those who desire from servitude to earthly rulers and make them servants of God, that we may change their poverty into wealth and free them from the tyranny and chaos of [false] religions and bring them to the justice of Islam. He has sent us to bring his religion to all his creatures and call them to Islam. Whoever accepts it from us will be safe, and we shall leave him alone; but whoever refuses, we shall fight until we fulfill the promise of God.[30]
Fourteen hundred years later— in March 2009—Saudi legal expert Basem Alem publicly echoed this view:
As a member of the true religion, I have a greater right to invade [others] in order to impose a certain way of life [according to Shari'a], which history has proven to be the best and most just of all civilizations. This is the true meaning of offensive jihad. When we wage jihad, it is not in order to convert people to Islam, but in order to liberate them from the dark slavery in which they live.[31]
And it should go without saying that taqiyya in the service of altruism is permissible. For example, only recently, after publicly recounting a story where a Muslim tricked a Jew into converting to Islam—warning him that if he tried to abandon Islam, Muslims would kill him as an apostate—Muslim cleric Mahmoud al-Masri called it a "beautiful trick."[32] After all, from an Islamic point of view, it was the Jew who, in the end, benefitted from the deception, which brought him to Islam.

Treaties and Truces

The perpetual nature of jihad is highlighted by the fact that, based on the 10-year treaty of Hudaybiya (628), ratified between Muhammad and his Quraysh opponents in Mecca, most jurists are agreed that ten years is the maximum amount of time Muslims can be at peace with infidels; once the treaty has expired, the situation needs to be reappraised. Based on Muhammad's example of breaking the treaty after two years (by claiming a Quraysh infraction), the sole function of the truce is to buy weakened Muslims time to regroup before renewing the offensive:[33] "By their very nature, treaties must be of temporary duration, for in Muslim legal theory, the normal relations between Muslim and non-Muslim territories are not peaceful, but warlike."[34] Hence "the fuqaha [jurists] are agreed that open-ended truces are illegitimate if Muslims have the strength to renew the war against them [non-Muslims]."[35]

Even though Shari'a mandates Muslims to abide by treaties, they have a way out, one open to abuse: If Muslims believe—even without solid evidence—that their opponents are about to break the treaty, they can preempt by breaking it first. Moreover, some Islamic schools of law, such as the Hanafi, assert that Muslim leaders may abrogate treaties merely if it seems advantageous for Islam.[36] This is reminiscent of the following canonical hadith: "If you ever take an oath to do something and later on you find that something else is better, then you should expiate your oath and do what is better."[37]And what is better, what is more altruistic, than to make God's word supreme by launching the jihad anew whenever possible? Traditionally, Muslim rulers held to a commitment to launch a jihad at least once every year. This ritual is most noted with the Ottoman sultans, who spent half their lives in the field.[38] So important was the duty of jihad that the sultans were not permitted to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca, an individual duty for each Muslim. Their leadership of the jihad allowed this communal duty to continue; without them, it would have fallen into desuetude.[39]

In short, the prerequisite for peace or reconciliation is Muslim advantage. This is made clear in an authoritative Sunni legal text, Umdat as-Salik, written by a fourteenth-century Egyptian scholar, Ahmad Ibn Naqib al-Misri: "There must be some benefit [maslaha] served in making a truce other than the status quo: 'So do not be fainthearted and call for peace when it is you who are uppermost [Qur'an 47:35].'"[40]

More recently, and of great significance for Western leaders advocating cooperation with Islamists, Yasser Arafat, soon after negotiating a peace treaty criticized as conceding too much to Israel, addressed an assembly of Muslims in a mosque in Johannesburg where he justified his actions: "I see this agreement as being no more than the agreement signed between our Prophet Muhammad and the Quraysh in Mecca."[41] In other words, like Muhammad, Arafat gave his word only to annul it once "something better" came along—that is, once the Palestinians became strong enough to renew the offensive and continue on the road to Jerusalem. Elsewhere, Hudaybiya has appeared as a keyword for radical Islamists. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front had three training camps within the Camp Abu Bakar complex in the Philippines, one of which was named Camp Hudaybiya.[42]

Hostility Disguised As Grievance

In their statements directed at European or American audiences, Islamists maintain that the terrorism they direct against the West is merely reciprocal treatment for decades of Western and Israeli oppression. Yet in writings directed to their fellow Muslims, this animus is presented, not as a reaction to military or political provocation but as a product of religious obligation.

For instance, when addressing Western audiences, Osama bin Laden lists any number of grievances as motivating his war on the West—from the oppression of the Palestinians to the Western exploitation of women, and even U.S. failure to sign the environmental Kyoto protocol—all things intelligible from a Western perspective. Never once, however, does he justify Al-Qaeda's attacks on Western targets simply because non-Muslim countries are infidel entities that must be subjugated. Indeed, he often initiates his messages to the West by saying, "Reciprocal treatment is part of justice" or "Peace to whoever follows guidance"[43]—though he means something entirely different than what his Western listeners understand by words such as "peace," "justice," or "guidance."

It is when bin Laden speaks to fellow Muslims that the truth comes out. When a group of prominent Muslims wrote an open letter to the American people soon after the strikes of 9/11, saying that Islam seeks to peacefully coexist,[44] bin Laden wrote to castigate them:
As to the relationship between Muslims and infidels, this is summarized by the Most High's Word: "We [Muslims] renounce you [non-Muslims]. Enmity and hate shall forever reign between us—till you believe in God alone" [Qur'an 60:4]. So there is an enmity, evidenced by fierce hostility from the heart. And this fierce hostility—that is, battle—ceases only if the infidel submits to the authority of Islam, or if his blood is forbidden from being shed [i.e., a dhimmi, or protected minority], or if Muslims are at that point in time weak and incapable. But if the hate at any time extinguishes from the heart, this is great apostasy! ... Such then is the basis and foundation of the relationship between the infidel and the Muslim. Battle, animosity, and hatred—directed from the Muslim to the infidel—is the foundation of our religion. And we consider this a justice and kindness to them.[45]
Mainstream Islam's four schools of jurisprudence lend their support to this hostile Weltanschauung by speaking of the infidel in similar terms. Bin Laden's addresses to the West with his talk of justice and peace are clear instances of taqiyya. He is not only waging a physical jihad but a propaganda war, that is, a war of deceit. If he can convince the West that the current conflict is entirely its fault, he garners greater sympathy for his cause. At the same time, he knows that if Americans were to realize that nothing short of their submission can ever bring peace, his propaganda campaign would be quickly compromised. Hence the constant need to dissemble and to cite grievances, for, as bin Laden's prophet asserted, "War is deceit."


Taqiyya presents a range of ethical dilemmas. Anyone who truly believes that God justifies and, through his prophet's example, even encourages deception will not experience any ethical qualms over lying. Consider the case of 'Ali Mohammad, bin Laden's first "trainer" and long-time Al-Qaeda operative. An Egyptian, he was initially a member of Islamic Jihad and had served in the Egyptian army's military intelligence unit. After 1984, he worked for a time with the CIA in Germany. Though considered untrustworthy, he managed to get to California where he enlisted in the U.S. Army. It seems likely that he continued to work in some capacity for the CIA. He later trained jihadists in the United States and Afghanistan and was behind several terror attacks in Africa. People who knew him regarded him with "fear and awe for his incredible self-confidence, his inability to be intimidated, absolute ruthless determination to destroy the enemies of Islam, and his zealous belief in the tenets of militant Islamic fundamentalism."[46] Indeed, this sentence sums it all up: For a zealous belief in Islam's tenets, which legitimize deception in order to make God's word supreme, will certainly go a long way in creating "incredible self-confidence" when lying.[47]

Yet most Westerners continue to think that Muslim mores, laws, and ethical constraints are near identical to those of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Naively or arrogantly, today's multiculturalist leaders project their own worldview onto Islamists, thinking a handshake and smiles across a cup of coffee, as well as numerous concessions, are enough to dismantle the power of God's word and centuries of unchanging tradition. The fact remains: Right and wrong in Islam have little to do with universal standards but only with what Islam itself teaches—much of which is antithetical to Western norms.

It must, therefore, be accepted that, contrary to long-held academic assumptions, the doctrine oftaqiyya goes far beyond Muslims engaging in religious dissimulation in the interest of self-preservation and encompasses deception of the infidel enemy in general. This phenomenon should provide a context for Shi'i Iran's zeal—taqiyya being especially second nature to Shi'ism—to acquire nuclear power while insisting that its motives are entirely peaceful.

Nor is taqiyya confined to overseas affairs. Walid Phares of the National Defense University has lamented that homegrown Islamists are operating unfettered on American soil due to their use oftaqiyya: "Does our government know what this doctrine is all about and, more importantly, are authorities educating the body of our defense apparatus regarding this stealthy threat dormant among us?"[48] After the Fort Hood massacre, when Nidal Malik Hasan, an American-Muslim who exhibited numerous Islamist signs which were ignored, killed thirteen fellow servicemen and women, one is compelled to respond in the negative.

This, then, is the dilemma: Islamic law unambiguously splits the world into two perpetually warring halves—the Islamic world versus the non-Islamic—and holds it to be God's will for the former to subsume the latter. Yet if war with the infidel is a perpetual affair, if war is deceit, and if deeds are justified by intentions—any number of Muslims will naturally conclude that they have a divinely sanctioned right to deceive, so long as they believe their deception serves to aid Islam "until all chaos ceases, and all religion belongs to God."[49] Such deception will further be seen as a means to an altruistic end. Muslim overtures for peace, dialogue, or even temporary truces must be seen in this light, evoking the practical observations of philosopher James Lorimer, uttered over a century ago: "So long as Islam endures, the reconciliation of its adherents, even with Jews and Christians, and still more with the rest of mankind, must continue to be an insoluble problem."[50]

In closing, whereas it may be more appropriate to talk of "war and peace" as natural corollaries in a Western context, when discussing Islam, it is more accurate to talk of "war and deceit." For, from an Islamic point of view, times of peace—that is, whenever Islam is significantly weaker than its infidel rivals—are times of feigned peace and pretense, in a word, taqiyya.
Raymond Ibrahim is associate director of the Middle East Forum.
[1] Qur'an 40:28.
[2] Fakhr ad-Din ar-Razi, At-Tafsir al-Kabir (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiya, 2000), vol. 10, p. 98.
[3] Qur'an 2:195, 4:29.
[4] Paul E. Walker, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam in the Modern World, John Esposito, ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), vol. 4, s.v. "Taqiyah," pp. 186-7; Ibn Babuyah, A Shi'ite Creed, A. A. A. Fyzee, trans. (London: n.p., 1942), pp. 110-2; Etan Kohlberg, "Some Imami-Shi'i Views on Taqiyya,"Journal of the American Oriental Society, 95 (1975): 395-402.
[5] Sami Mukaram, At-Taqiyya fi 'l-Islam (London: Mu'assisat at-Turath ad-Druzi, 2004), p. 7, author's translation.
[6] Devin Stewart, "Islam in Spain after the Reconquista," Emory University, p. 2, accessed Nov. 27, 2009.
[7] See also Quran 2:173, 2:185, 4:29, 16:106, 22:78, 40:28, verses cited by Muslim jurisprudents as legitimating taqiyya.
[8] Abu Ja'far Muhammad at-Tabari, Jami' al-Bayan 'an ta'wil ayi'l-Qur'an al-Ma'ruf: Tafsir at-Tabari(Beirut: Dar Ihya' at-Turath al-'Arabi, 2001), vol. 3, p. 267, author's translation.
[9] 'Imad ad-Din Isma'il Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur'an al-Karim (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiya, 2001), vol. 1, p. 350, author's translation.
[10] Mukaram, At-Taqiyya fi 'l-Islam, pp. 30-7.
[11] Imam Muslim, "Kitab al-Birr wa's-Salat, Bab Tahrim al-Kidhb wa Bayan al-Mubih Minhu," Sahih Muslim, rev. ed., Abdul Hamid Siddiqi, trans. (New Delhi: Kitab Bhavan, 2000).
[12] Ahmad Mahmud Karima, Al-Jihad fi'l Islam: Dirasa Fiqhiya Muqarina (Cairo: Al-Azhar, 2003), p. 304, author's translation.
[13] Mukaram, At-Taqiyya fi 'l-Islam, p. 32.
[14] Raymond Ibrahim, The Al Qaeda Reader (New York: Doubleday, 2007), pp. 142-3.
[15] Mukaram, At-Taqiyya fi 'l-Islam, pp. 32-3.
[16] Ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 367-8.
[17] Shihab ad-Din Muhammad al-Alusi al-Baghdadi, Ruh al-Ma'ani fi Tafsir al-Qur'an al-'Azim wa' l-Saba' al-Mithani (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiya, 2001), vol. 2, p. 118, author's translation.
[18] Mukaram, At-Taqiyya fi 'l-Islam, pp. 11-2.
[19] Ibid., pp. 41-2.
[20] Ibn Qayyim, Tafsir, in Abd al-'Aziz bin Nasir al-Jalil, At-Tarbiya al-Jihadiya fi Daw' al-Kitab wa 's-Sunna(Riyahd: n.p., 2003), pp. 36-43.
[21] Mukaram, At-Taqiyya fi 'l-Islam, p. 20.
[22] Qur'an 2: 216.
[23] Yahya bin Sharaf ad-Din an-Nawawi, An-Nawawi's Forty Hadiths, p. 16, accessed Aug. 1, 2009.
[24] John Lyly, Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit (London, 1578), p. 236.
[25] Qur'an 8:39.
[26] Emile Tyan, The Encyclopedia of Islam (Leiden: Brill, 1960), vol. 2, s.v. "Djihad," pp. 538-40.
[27] David Bukay, "Peace or Jihad? Abrogation in Islam," Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2007, pp. 3-11, f.n. 58; David S. Powers, "The Exegetical Genre nasikh al-Qur'an wa-mansukhuhu," in Approaches to the History of the Interpretation of the Qur'an, Andrew Rippin, ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), pp. 130-1.
[28] Jalil, At-Tarbiya al-Jihadiya fi Daw' al-Kitab wa ' s-Sunna, p. 7.
[29] Ibn Khaldun, The Muqadimmah. An Introduction to History, Franz Rosenthal, trans. (New York: Pantheon, 1958), vol. 1, p. 473.
[30] Hugh Kennedy, The Great Arab Conquests (Philadelphia: Da Capo, 2007), p. 112.
[31] "Saudi Legal Expert Basem Alem: We Have the Right to Wage Offensive Jihad to Impose Our Way of Life," TV Monitor, clip 2108, Middle East Media Research Institute, trans., Mar. 26, 2009.
[32] "Egyptian Cleric Mahmoud Al-Masri Recommends Tricking Jews into Becoming Muslims," TV Monitor, clip 2268, Middle East Media Research Institute, trans., Aug. 10, 2009.
[33] Denis MacEoin, "Tactical Hudna and Islamist Intolerance," Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2008, pp. 39-48.
[34] Majid Khadduri, War and Peace in the Law of Islam (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1955), p. 220.
[35] Ahmad Mahmud Karima, Al-Jihad fi'l Islam: Dirasa Fiqhiya Muqarina, p. 461, author's translation.
[36] Ibid., p. 469.
[37] Muhammad al-Bukhari, "Judgements (Ahkaam)," Sahih al-Bukhari, book 89, M. Muhsin Khan, trans., accessed July 22, 2009.
[38] Michael Bonner, Jihad in Islamic History: Doctrines and Practice (Princeton: Woodstock Publishers, 2006), p. 148.
[39] Ahmed Akgündüz, "Why Did the Ottoman Sultans Not Make Hajj (Pilgrimage)?" accessed Nov. 9, 2009.
[40] Ahmad Ibn Naqib al-Misri, Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law(Beltsville: Amana Publications, 1994), p. 605.
[41] Daniel Pipes, "Lessons from the Prophet Muhammad's Diplomacy," Middle East Quarterly, Sept. 1999, pp. 65-72.
[42] Arabinda Acharya, "Training in Terror," IDSS Commentaries, Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, May 2, 2003.
[43] "Does hypocrite have a past tense?" for clip of Osama bin Laden, accessed Aug. 1, 2009.
[44] Ibrahim b. Muhammad al-Shahwan, et al, "Correspondence with Saudis: How We Can Coexist,", accessed July 28, 2009.
[45] Ibrahim, The Al Qaeda Reader, p. 43.
[46] Steven Emerson, "Osama bin Laden's Special Operations Man," Journal of Counterterrorism and Security International, Sept. 1, 1998.
[47] For lists of other infiltrators of U. S. organizations, see Daniel Pipes, "Islamists Penetrate Western Security," Mar. 9, 2008.
[48] Walid Phares, "North Carolina: Meet Taqiyya Jihad," International Analyst Network, July 30, 2009.
[49] Qur'an 8:39.
[50] James Lorimer, The Institutes of the Law of Nations: A Treatise of the Jural Relations of Separate Political Communities (Clark, N.J.: The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd., 2005), p. 124.

Islam Permits Lying

To Deceive Unbelievers and Bring World Domination
t is impossible to understand Islam and Muslims by listening to their protestations against terror and their proclamations of patriotism for America. Usually, it is wise and fair to give people the benefit of the doubt but when it comes to national safety and the future of America, we had better look twice, even thrice at Muslim patriotism. Why? Because Islam permits lying! It is called “Al-taqiyya.” One Muslim said that Al-taqiyya means dissimulation then he expanded it to diplomacy but he should have gone further to deception. Now some Muslims who do not follow the Koran are as faithful Americans as any of us, but the problem is, we cannot know.

It seems our President and his advisors are clueless as to the desires, doctrines, and distinctives of Islam. While I feel a little audacious in giving advice to national leaders, it is necessary since no one else is doing it. Muslims lie not because they are liars by nature but by choice. Systematic lying as a religious policy is deadly, and if our politicians do not understand this, thousands could die.
Muslims lie when it is in their interest to do so and “Allah” will not hold them accountable for lying when it is beneficial to the cause of Islam. They can lie without any guilt or fear of accountability or retribution. A lie in the defense of Islam is approved even applauded in their “holy” books.
Muslims are permitted to lie: (1) to save their lives, (2) to reconcile a husband and wife, (3) to persuade a woman into a bedroom and (4) to facilitate one on his journey. Muslims are even permitted to disavow Islam and Mohammed if it is not a genuine heart-felt rejection. Muslims will tell you that concealment of a truth is not an abandonment of that truth if it benefits Islam.
Mohammed gave permission for a follower to lie in order to kill a Jewish poet who had offended Mohammed. I could provide many examples of permissible lying from the Koran and Hadith and will do so when my critics accuse me of hatred and bigotry because of this column. My motives are not important but the truth is. However, many unprincipled people do not consider truth important. It is political correctness that sits on the throne to be worshiped.
Muslims may appear very sincere; in fact, they are sincere, when they lie for their own protection or in the cause of Islam. They have permission to lie. Yes, Christians have also lied but never are they given permission to lie. However, a Muslim has no guilt since the Koran and Hadith permit his deception.
They will lie to make Islam more attractive to potential converts as they speak of “no compulsion in religion” while all of them know that verse was abrogated by later verses. They will quote verses that speak of tolerance and kindness knowing that those verses were written when Mohammed was desirous of “tolerance and kindness,” but when he climbed into the catbird seat, everything changed and he became a terrorist.
Muslims have no hope for eternal salvation without their good works, so they must keep working to advance Islam. If a few lies will accomplish that goal, then lying is not bad but good. If they can get good publicity for Islam by lying, then lying is acceptable, even desirable. The Muslim is earning his way to heaven by lying to a non-Muslim.
Unlike Christians who are saved once for all by the grace of God through faith in Christ’s propitiatory death, no Muslim knows for sure if his works are good enough for Heaven. The only Muslim who knows for sure that his eternal destiny is secure and he will drop into a delightful garden filled with 72 virgins on soft green cushions is the one who dies while “taking out” unbelievers in Islam.
Most Muslims will not have the “opportunity” to become a martyr in this war between Islam and the rest of the world and make no mistake every true Muslim must be involved in making America (or the nation where he lives) a Muslim nation. Since Muslims are limited in their ability to die for the cause, they can help the cause by supporting terrorists with money, succor, and cover. Sure, they are aiding terror against the U.S. but since they believe they are doing Allah’s will, then any deception is acceptable.
How should this affect America’s war on terror? Officials must look closely at every Muslim chaplain in the military and in our prisons; also look at those involved in the CIA, FBI, and other sensitive areas; look at all Arabic translators, military or civilian; look at all Muslim employees at the Pentagon, White House, atomic power plants, and in Congress; look at all civilian Muslim pilots; look at Muslim clerics in all U.S. mosques. In other words, get serious about this war before our cities are rubble.
Our President must stop playing the game of “Let’s Stop the Terrorists” and get serious by going to the heart of the matter. This war on terror is a religious matter and could become a Hundred Years’ War. To resurrect an old slogan: You can trust the Muslims to be Muslims. They are lying their way to world domination!
Qur'an (16:106) - Establishes that there are circumstances that can “compel” a Muslim to tell a lie.
Qur'an (3:28) - This verse tells Muslims not to take those outside the faith as friends, unless it is to “guard themselves.” 
Qur'an (9:3) - “…Allah and His Messenger are free from liability to the idolaters…”  The dissolution of oaths with the pagans who remained at Mecca following its capture.  They did nothing wrong, but were evicted anyway.

Qur'an (2:225) - “Allah will not call you to account for thoughtlessness in your oaths, but for the intention in your hearts”
Qur'an (66:2) - “Allah has already ordained for you, (O men), the dissolution of your oaths”
Qur'an (3:54) - “And they (the disbelievers) schemed, and Allah schemed (against them): and Allah is the best of schemers.”  The Arabic word used here for scheme (or plot) is makara, which literally means deceit.  If Allah is deceitful toward unbelievers, then there is little basis for denying that Muslims are allowed to do the same. (See also 8:30 and 10:21)
Taken collectively these verses are interpreted to mean that there are circumstances when a Muslim may be “compelled” to deceive others for a greater purpose.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

History of Jihad

How Ramadan and Eid Became Noble Rituals in Islam?

The holy month of Ramadan of the Islamic lunar calendar starts today. Muslims, throughout this month, will observe a dawn-to-dusk fast by abstaining from all kind of food, drink and even smoking.

The month-long fasting culminates in the celebration of what is called Eid on the first day of the following month. Eid is a day of great feasting and fun. 

The fasting of Ramadan and the celebration of Eid are the two most important religious events in the life of Muslims. Here is an account for the curious and uninitiated readers find out the origin and significance of these two major Muslim rituals.

Muhammad's childhood

Muhammad, the noble Prophet of Islam, was born in the Arabian city of Mecca in 570 AD in a community of Koreish, who were mainly pagan and devoted to the worshipping of idols. 

Mecca also housed the most sacred temple of Arabia, called the Ka'ba, which allegedly housed 360 idols and was the center for worship and pilgrimage for people of many beliefs in the entire Arabian Peninsula. 

The Prophet of Islam, had lost both his parents by the age of five and grew up as an orphan under the the care of his grandfather Abd al-Muttalib, and later his uncle Abu Taleb. Like all people of the city, young Muhammad followed the religious customs prevalent there until adulthood.

Muhammad married Khadija

Muhammad got married to a merchant lady, named Khadija, at the age of 25. Khadija is known to have been influenced by Judeo-Christian messages because of her cousin Nofal, who was a Christian and is said to have translated a few chapters of the Bible into Arabic. 

Although Muhammad had come into contact with Judaic and Christian theology and customs from the business trips to Syria with his uncle and from Christian and Jewish monks' sermons in nearby fairs, marriage with Khadija brought him into close personal contact with monotheistic religious thoughts.

Soon after his marriage to Khadija, Prophet Muhammad stopped worshipping idols and started retiring to a nearby cave in the mount of Hira for meditation, sometimes in the company of his wife and her male cousin Nofal. 

Muhammad receives revelations from Allah and begins preaching

In 609 CE, at the age of 40, Prophet Muhammad claimed to have received revelations from God. His claim was readily affirmed by his wife Khadija and her cousin Nofal. Yet Nofal did not convert to Islam during the few more years he lived, and died a Christian.

Following his claim to Prophethood, Muhammad started preaching his new religion, initially secretly amongst close relatives, family members and friends. 

In about two to three years, he had about 15-20 converts. Then he started preaching openly. From the beginning his messages started denigrating the centuries-old indigenous religion of idol-worship. 

He called himself and followers of his creed the righteous and those who rejected it were liars, wrong-doers, inventor of falsehood and he consigned the idolaters to the eternal fire of hell. Some of the initial verses read as follows:

"Then will he be of those who believe, and enjoin patience, (constancy, and self-restraint), and enjoin deeds of kindness and compassion. Such are the Companions of the Right Hand (of God). But those who reject Our Signs, they are the (unhappy) Companions of the Left Hand. On them will be Fire vaulted over (all round)." [Quran 90: 17-20]

"Those who believe not in the Signs of Allah,- Allah will not guide them, and theirs will be a grievous Penalty. It is those who believe not in the Signs of Allah, that forge falsehood: it is they who lie!" [Quran: 16.104-105]
Despite expressing his message of revelations in such strict language, the idolater pagans of Mecca never protested or molested him. 

The citizens converted to his religion freely. During the first five years of his preaching, he could master about 50 or so converts. They never faced any persecution from their family and other citizens, except in the cases of a few slaves, belonging to the pagan masters, who had converted. 

Islamic scholar and historian Al-Zuhri records:

"The unbelievers of the Qureish tribe did not oppose what he (Muhammad) said. If he passed the place where they sat together, they pointed to him and said: 'This young man of the tribe of Abd al-Muttalib proclaims a message from heaven'" [1, 2]

In another case, Muhammad's uncle and protector, Abu Talib, one day while passing by a place found his son Ali (later the Prophet's son-in-law and 4th caliph in Islam) praying with the Prophet. 

When he inquired his son what they were doing, the Prophet replied, "he was following the teaching revealed to him by God" and invited Abu Talib to join his creed as well. 

According to Prophet's wife Aisha, the old man replied that he could not give up the faith of his fathers, nor could he join in devotions which required "placing his backside above his head" (prostration while praying). [3]

Sanctions are imposed against Muhammad and the converts

At a later time, Mecca citizens' annoyance at Muhammad's creed, which was hateful, insulting and demeaning towards their religion and ancestors, was recorded by another Islamic scholar and historian Baihaki in his book, Proof of Prophecy, as a recollection of a Muslim, named Amru ibn al-Aas, of Muhammad's time:

"I was once present when the chief among the idolaters assembled at the Ka'ba. They were discussing about Allah's apostles (Muhammad) and said: 'Nether have we had to tolerate from anyone what we have had to from this man. He slanders our fathers, criticizes our religion, divides our people, and blasphemes our gods. Such grievous things have we tolerated from this man.'" 

Hearing this discussion, the Prophet, who happened to be nearby, said: "Men of Qureish! I will repay you for this with interest." [4]

Such events led the Qureish and other citizens of the city to impose sanctions against Muhammad and his community in 617 AD. 

Abu Talib, his protector and uncle stood by him, and his family was also included. They were excommunicated from contacts and trades with other members of the city. This period brought hardship to Muhammad and his supporters and yet, he remained steadfast in his belief and continued his preaching in his usual style and language. The sanction was withdrawn after two years in 619 AD.

Muslims go to Medina

During this time, Muhammad's religion became stagnant as the idolaters of Mecca remained steadfast in their rejection of his faith. 

About this time, Muhammad attempted to preach his creed to a group of citizens from Medina, who came to Mecca for pilgrimage and made a few converts. After returning to Medina, these converts were able to draw many other citizens to Muhammad's new creed. 

Soon afterwards, the Prophet started sending his converts to Medina secretly in small batches. Finally, he himself with a handful of male and a few female were left behind. One day, he disappeared with his closest friend Abu Bekr. It is alleged that the Mecca Qureish were pursuing him to kill him and he ran away to save his life. 

However, his another closest convert Ali and Abu Bakr's family were left behind. They faced no intimidation, threats, persecution or even questioning and they left for Medina a few days later. Muslims completed emigration to Medina in June 622 CE. [5]

The Prophet adopts a number of Jewish rituals

During these first 13 years of Islam in Mecca, there was no fasting ritual prescribed by God or Muhammad for the Muslims. 

After arriving at Medina, a Jewish strong-hold, in June 622 CE, the Prophet adopted a number of rituals of the Jews including fasting of Ashor, circumcision and praying towards Jerusalem as did the Jews. 

When the Prophet asked the Jews about their reason for fasting, the Jews said, "it was in memory of Prophet Moses' escape from the hands of the Pharaoh and latter's destruction in the Red sea."

Thereupon, Allah's apostle said to the Muslim converts: "We have greater rights in Moses than they (Jews)." So he fasted like the Jews and commanded the Muslim followers to so. 

God also revealed more and more verses affirming the Jewish and Christian scriptures during the first 1.5 years in Medina. New verses also demanded that the Jews accept God's apostle, Muhammad, as their new Prophet, who was predicted to come in their holy book (Torah/Old Testament).

The Jews allegedly found many inconsistencies in the apostle's revelations. His ancestral lineage was also not in accordance with the lineage of the new Jewish Prophet to come, as predicted in the Torah. 

Hence, they stubbornly stayed away from his religion with few exceptions. The polytheists of Medina, however, accepted his creed in greater number. 

Instead of accepting Islam, the Jews started pointing out various inconsistencies, inaccuracies and logical fallacies in Islamic revelations in their gossips and poetry, which badly angered the merciful Prophet. 

Now he started proscribing all the Jewish customs he had adopted and ordered assassinations of those critics and poets who mocked his creed. Seeing no hope of drawing the Jews and Christians to the path of Islam, the Muslim God also decided to part ways with them as follows:

"And the Jews will not be pleased with you, nor the Christians until you follow their religion. Say: Surely Allah's guidance, that is the (true) guidance. And if you follow their desires after the knowledge that has come to you, you shall have no guardian from Allah, nor any helper" [Quran 2:120].

The first Ramadan and Eid

About this time in late 623 CE, the Prophet proscribed the earlier adopted Jewish religious customs. The fasting of Ashor was replaced with the month-long fasting of Ramadan. This is how fasting during Ramadan became part of Islamic rituals.

On arrival in Medina, the Prophet and his disciples took six to seven months to build a house for the Prophet and his wives and a mosque adjoining it. 

Once the house was completed and Muslims firmly rooted in Medina, the Prophet now turned his attention to avenge the Meccans' rejection of his new faith. He sought to attack the Mecca trade caravans passing through nearby routes to Syria, the major trade routes for life-sustaining trades for the Mecca people. 

But his Medina converts were unwilling to support his violent acts. However, Allah quickly revealed a verse commanding them to fight even if they do not like it:

"Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not". [Quran 2.216]
With this command from God, the Prophet sent a band of Muslims to attack a Mecca caravan in February 623 for the first time, seven months after his arrival in Medina. 

After several failed attempts, the first success came during November-December, 623 at Nakhla. The Prophet sent a band of Muslim raiders under the command of Abdullah ibn Jahash to advance to Nakhla with a letter to be opened only after arriving at the destination. 

When Abdullah opened the letter upon arrival at Nakhal, it read: "Go forward to Nakhla, in the name of the Lord, and with his blessings! and when thou hast arrived at the valley of Nakhla, lie there in wait for the caravans of Mecca." [Prophet’s biography by Ibn Hisham, p423]

It was the period of Orma (lesser pilgrimage) to Ka'ba, and not to alarm the approaching caravan, the Muslim raiders shaved their head to give the impression that they were returning from the pilgrimage and could not be hostile. 

Once the caravan came with the reach, the Muslims fell upon it. One Mecca caravan attendee was killed; two were captured while another was able to flee. Muslim raiders returned to Medina with the rich caravan of booty and the prisoners.

However, it was the last day of Rajab – a sacred period in the Arabian custom on which fighting and violence were prohibited. This breach of centuries-old sacred custom, which was devoutly respected by the people of Arabia, created a great dissatisfaction amongst the citizens of Medina including the Muslim converts. 

It put the Prophet into big trouble and he initially tried to distance himself from the blood-bath. Abdullah and other co-raiders were heartbroken at this. However, Allah quickly revealed a verse to justify this bloodshed during prohibited month:

They ask thee concerning fighting in the Prohibited Month. Say: 'Fighting therein is a grave (offence); but graver is it in the sight of Allah to prevent access to the path of Allah, to deny Him, to prevent access to the Sacred Mosque, and drive out its members.' Tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter. Nor will they cease fighting you until they turn you back from your faith if they can. And if any of you Turn back from their faith and die in unbelief, their works will bear no fruit in this life and in the Hereafter; they will be companions of the Fire and will abide therein [Quran 2:217].

It should be noted of how honestly and exactly God has noted the behavior of the Mecca idolaters in this verse: "but graver is it in the sight of Allah to prevent access to the path of Allah, to deny Him, to prevent access to the Sacred Mosque, and drive out its members." 

However, with this command, the fighting, killing and the capture of booty during the traditionally forbidden month were made lawful for the Muslims. The Prophet also ordained Abdullah with the title, 'Amir-ul-Muminin' (Commander of the Faithful). This bloodbath was also very meaningful for the Islamic faith in that this was the first raid which brought them booty (wealth) of which, the Prophet kept a fifth as his share and the remainder was distributed amongst the raiders. The two prisoners were exchanged for ransoms.

Also about this time, the Prophet disbanded the fasting of Jewish Ashor and introduced Ramadan as the Fasting month for the Muslims. In January 624, during the first Fasting month of Ramadan, Mecca leader Abu Sufian was returning from Syria with another huge caravan. 

The Prophet sent two spies to gather information about the returning caravan and according to the intelligence received, the Prophet assembled an army of Muslims under his own command and set forth for attacking the caravan. 

However, news of this plan of attack reached Abu Sufian and he sent forth a messenger to Mecca for sending a reinforcement to rescue the caravan. Nearly 1000 Meccan men set off to rescue the caravan in which majority of the Mecca families had their shares. [Prophet's biography by At-Tabari, i. 1281; Ibn Hisham, p427]

Abu Sufian with other attendees of the caravan took a safer route and hastened forwards escaping the Muslims' attack. When Abu Sufian reached home safely, the Meccan rescue army had already been on the way. The news of safe return of the caravan reached the advancing army, thereupon some expressed unwillingness to go forth. Other pressed on to go forward to avenge the killing and capture of their kinsmen and the caravan just two months earlier at Nakhla. [see above]

The Prophet had arrived at Bedr not knowing that the caravan had escaped taking a safe route. About this time, the intelligence of the Mecca rescue army's advance reached the Prophet. He was delighted thinking that the caravan was approaching and took position at a vantage location occupying the water-wells. 

A tired and thirsty Meccan army arrived after a few days' journey through the desert and found all the water-wells occupied by the Muslims. The battle finally ensued on Friday, 17th of Ramadan, in which the Mecca army retreated after being heavily defeated. A Muslim army of 305 fighting men against nearly 1000-strong Mecca army, Muslims lost only 14 fighters whilst the Mecca enemies lost 49 lives and similar number were captured as prisoners. 

As the dead-bodies of the slain Koreish were being unceremoniously thrown into a mass-grave, an indignant Prophet yelled over them: "Have ye now found true that which your Lord did promise to you. What my Lord promised to me, that have I verily found to be true. Woe unto these people! Ye have rejected me, your Prophet! Ye cast me forth, and others gave me refuge; ye fought against me, and others came to my help!"

One particular incidence of bravery in the battlefield of Bedr requires special mention. In the midst of the battle of Bedr, the Prophet was loudly spelling encouragement to his soldiers that: "Allah had promised paradise to those who die fighting in His cause."

At this time, Omeir Ibn Hubab, a lad of only 16 years, was wandering around eating dates on the side of the battle. Hearing this exhortations from the Prophet's mouth, he threw away the handful of dates.

"Is it these dates," he cried, "that hold me back from paradise? Verily, I will taste no more of them until I meet my Lord (in paradise)!" Whereupon, he picked up a sword and rushed on to the enemies only to be slain. The Prophet's biographies endow glowing tribute and praise on his bravery and list him as the first martyr in Islam.

A number of prisoners were cruelly put to death immediately afterwards at the battlefield and others were carried to Medina to be exchanged for ransom. However, disputes broke out over the distribution of the booty (horses, camel, weapons and other stuffs left behind by the Mecca enemies), to which Allah from heaven quickly responded by revealing the rules for distribution of spoils of war:

"And know that out of all the booty that ye may acquire (in war), a fifth share is assigned to Allah and his Messenger, and to near relatives, orphans, the needy, and the wayfarer, -- if ye do believe in Allah and in the revelation We sent down to Our servant on the Day of Testing, -- the Day of the meeting of the two forces. For Allah hath power over all things." [Quran 8.41]

Thereupon, the booty was distributed accordingly. The Prophet, on top of his normal one-fifth share, took possession of the camel of his sworn enemy, Abu Jahl, and his famous sword, known as the "Dhu'l-Fikar" which the Prophet used in all subsequent battles. 

After the distribution of the booty, Muslims headed back to Medina. In a few days, the month of Ramadan ended and Muslims celebrated the first-ever Eid. The booty captured in Bedr must have had added to the feast and festive mood of Muslim's first-ever celebration of Eid.


Thus, the first Ramadan and the first Eid were very significant events that shaped the future of the great faith of Islam. The Muslims' success in this incredible war against a much larger opposition gave them confidence and a feeling that God was on their side to bring them success. 

Indeed, the Prophet had proclaimed on the battlefield of Bedr to prop up his fighters that "20 angels of God were fighting the enemy with each Muslim soldier."

This stunning success, confidence and the belief that God was on their side to make them victorious, did inspire the numerous incredible battles and conquests Muslims fought so much so that they made significant inroads outside Arabia within a decade. 

This victorious journey of Islam about the time of the first Ramadan and Eid now commands a stunning 1.5 billion faithful under its banner. 

The Muslim Ummah has not forgotten the blessing of the eventful and glorious first Ramadan and Eid and the success that it gave the glorious religion of Islam; and they observe and celebrate these great religious events as steadfastly today as ever before.


[1] Quoted in Tor Andrae, Mohammed; The Man and His Faith (trs. Theophil Menzal), harper & Brother; NY (1960) p116

[2] Willium Muir, Life of Mahomet, Voice of India (1992), p63

[3] Glubb Jogn Bagot (Glubb Pasha) The Life and Times of Mohammad (1979), Hodder & Stoughton, London, p98.

[4] Baihaki quoted in Andrae [1], p125-126.

[5] Prophet’s Biography by Ibn Sa’ad, p152ff; Ibn Hisam, p317ff; At-Tabari, i.1225ff

This is a list of battles fought during Ramadan by Muslim.
  • 624 - Battle of Badr. On 17 Ramadan, Makkan idolaters attacked the young islamic state of Madina. Muhammad led his forces in Arabia to victory over Makkan idolaters. "The great battle of Badr" , was the first battle between Muslims and infidels.
  • 627 - The Battle of the Ditch. Muslims trained for this battle during Ramadan, though it occurred in the following month of Shawal.
  • 630 - Battle of Tabouk (also called the Battle of Tabuk). The soldiers of Islam, under the leadership of Muhammad, established a training and fighting camp in Tabouk during the month of fasting, the Byzantine army shown no aggression so the Muslims returned peacefully without fighting.
  • 653 - Conquest of Rhodes. Muslims plundered the Colossus of Rhodes, melted it and turned it into arms for the soldiers.
  • 710 - Muslims led by Tarek bin Ziyad, invaded Spanish southern frontier cities on the Andalusian coast defeating King Roderick. They stayed for eight hundred years, disseminating Islam. From there, Islam spreads out through Europe.
  • 1099 - Battle of Ascalon. Took place on 22 Ramadan (August 12), the newfound crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem defeated Fatimid Egypt.
  • 1187 - Battle of Hattin. Took place at dawn—after the Night of Power (Lailat ul-Qadr); a night during the last ten days of Ramadan when tradition says that the angel Gabriel descended and God called Muhammad to be His messenger. (It is sometimes translated as the Night of Destiny.) Sultan Saladin (Salah Al-Din Al-Ayubi) wiped out the Frankish army and went on to reclaimJerusalem for Islam. The battle took place on July 4.
  • 1260 - Battle of Ain JalutQutuz defeated the Mongols in Palestine.
  • 1962 to 1970 - Yemeni Civil War. Fighting continued through nine Ramadans.
  • 1973 - Ramadan War (Elsewhere known as the Yom Kippur War). Egypt and Syria launched an attack on Israel called Operation Badr, and foot soldiers were given religious slogans. The Yom Kippur War is also known as the 6th of October war of 1973 and the 10th of Ramadan War.
  • 1975 to 1990 - Lebanon's civil war. Fighting took place over the course of seventeen Ramadans.
  • 1981 - Iran rejected Iraqi offers for a Ramadan cease-fire.
  • 1982 - Iran launched an attack on Iraq that they explicitly called "Operation Ramadan."
  • 1986 - Christian forces called for a Ramadan cease-fire, which lasted two weeks.
  • 1987 - Iran again rejected Iraqi offers for a Ramadan cease-fire.
  • 1987 to 1993 - The first Palestinian Intifada was waged over six Ramadans.
  • 1990s - There were at least 20 examples of Ramadan violence by Muslims during the Algerian civil war.
  • 2000 - Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee stated that India would initiate a unilateral cease-fire in observance of the holy month of Ramadan as a step towards peace in Kashmir. Nonetheless, widespread fighting continued between Indian forces and the guerrillas in Jammu-Kashmir.
  • 2003 to 2007 - Iraq War. Fighting took place over the course of four Ramadans.
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