Issue 47 [@47:08]: Slide Projected – Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol 4, Bk 53, Hadith 386 – “Umar sent the Muslims to the great countries to fight the pagans. … When we reached the land of the enemy, the representatives of Khosrau [voice Persia] came out with forty-thousand warriors, and an interpreter got up saying, “Let one of you talk to me!” Al-Mughira replied … ‘Our Prophet, the Messenger of our Lord, has ordered to fight you till you worship Allah alone or give Jizya (tribute) and our Prophet has informed us that our Lord says: Whoever amongst us is killed (martyred), shall go to luxurious life as he has never seen, and whoever amongst us remains alive, shall become your master.’”
Rebuttal 47: As usual, the editorial staff of the documentary come up with punch lines and out of context excerpts to impute aggressive wars on early Islamic history, rather than the actuality of unavoidable state of war that was thrust upon early Muslims by the super powers of the time, namely the Byzantine and Persian Empires. It necessitates to read some background as to what led to the war of Arabia with Persia during reigns of Caliphs Abu-Bakr and Umar.
Firstly, after the death of Prophet, when Abu-Bakr was the Caliph in Medina, the tribe of Banu-Bakr (no relation to Abu-Bakr) in Bahrain revolted against the Medina government. In their revolt, they were aided and abetted by Persia, then under the rule of Yazdegerd-III. Subsequently, Persian army landed in Bahrain. Both the said tribe and Persians were defeated by a detachment from Medina. [The Early Caliphate by Muhammad Ali, p. 29]
Secondly, the revolt of pseudo-prophetess woman Sajah, who belonged to an insignificant tribe at border between north-eastern Arabia and Persia, actually raised an army by Persian help and set forth to attack Medina. She only turned back after reaching Yamamah in central Arabia. [Sajah, The impostress of Bani Taghlib]
Thirdly, the Persian frontier was a constant source of incursion and instigation by Persians. Umar, the second caliph is on the record for his famous words, refusing the permission sought by his generals for incursion deeper into Persia after defeating them at Hulwan – “I wish that between the Suwad [area between the Euphrates and the Tigris] and the Persian hills there were walls which would prevent them from getting to us, and prevent us from getting to them. The fertile Suwad is sufficient for us; and I prefer the safety of the Muslims to the spoils of war.” [as quoted in Wikipedia: Al Farooq, Umar By Muhammad Husayn Haykal. chapter no:5 page no:130]
Muhammad Ali in his book “The Early Caliphate, p 38-9” refutes the allegation against Caliphs Abu-Bakr and Umar from many angles. In one of the places he summarizes:
Trouble in Arabia was fomented by Persia and Rome
History has not preserved details of the origin of’ these wars, but there are on record events which throw light on the question. When Bahrain rose in revolt against the central authority of Islam. Persia openly sent reinforcements to help the insurgents. A Christian woman, Sajah, at the head of Christian tribes, marched from her home on the frontier of Persia against Madinah, the capital of Islam, and traversed the country right up to the central part. Towards the north, in the territory under the influence of the Christian empire of Rome. Tulaihah raised his standard of revolt. These are some clear indications that the insurrection in the several parts of the peninsula was inspired and fanned by both Persia and Rome. These parts were either immediately on the borders adjoining these two powers or under their direct influence, Again. Persia exercised a very wide influence over the Province of’ Yaman, another area affected by the general revolt. It is thus likely that over and above the open assistance which Persia and the Roman Empire rendered to the insurgents, the insurrection itself was due to their secret machinations. The Roman Empire, like some modern states, was particularly a past-master in the art of wire-pulling front behind the scenes. It seems. therefore, that these two neighbours did all they could to foment trouble in the various provinces of Arabia that were any way in contact with hem. To safeguard against a repetition of the mischief, the Muslim Government was constrained to resort to military operations on the frontiers. And when it did this, the Persian and Roman empires committed open acts of hostility under the impression that they would thus inspire awe in the hearts of the Arabs. But Islam had brought about a change over Arabia. and the two empires had to answer for the aggression.
It is from such stray events met with in the pages of history that we can trace the causes of these wars. Early historians were not particular about going into the why and wherefore of things. They were just chroniclers of events, beyond which they worried little to go. To ascertain the underlying causes, we must piece together those various events and draw our own conclusions. This is exactly how we are able to tell the causes of the various wars during the Prophet’s lifetime, the only advantage in the latter case being that these events have been recorded and handed down to us in greater detail. The period of the early Caliphate, considered comparatively far less important, is not characterised by the same profusion of narration, and most important episodes have often received but a brief reference, a fact admitted by recent historians. Nevertheless, the guiding rule as to the root causes of things is the same, viz., reading between the apparently scattered events and discovering the common thread running through all. The accuracy or otherwise of the conclusion in must obviously depend on that of the events selected as data for investigation. And with this rule in view, we can safely vouch for the accuracy of the conclusions drawn above as regards the causes of the Persian and Syrian campaigns of the Muslims. The events that we have drawn upon are all events of unimpeachable historic authenticity.
Before we address the maliciously excerpted punch lines in the current issue, lets review the background context of what the documentary is hiding from the audience but brought to light in “The Conquest of Iraq, Southwestern Persia, and Egypt” By Ṭabarī, G. H. A. Juynboll, p. 140-1:
According to al-Sari—Shu’ayb—Sayf—Mubammad, Talhah and Amr—a1-Shatbi…and Sayf) [footnote: The text reads as if al-Shabi, as well as a certain Sufyan (whom Dc Goeje identified in the index as al-Thawrij, had both been pupils of al-Hasan. But that solution results in a chronological anomaly. This is clearly a case of an isnad ending in two different strains, one with al-Sha'bi and one with al-Hasan al-Basri as oldest authority.] —Sufyan (b. Husayn b. al-Hasan al-Wasiti)—al-Hasan (al-Basri): ‘Umar said to the delegation (from al-Basrah), “Have the Muslims perhaps done harm to the people living under their protection? Or have they perhaps done things to them that caused them to commence hostilities against you?” “No,” they answered, “we only know that we acted in good faith and with decency.” ‘Umar asked, “Then how did their revolt come about?” But after questioning them, he did not receive any answer from anyone that took away his doubt or through which he gained insight into the situation they described. Only what al-Ahnaf (told him helped ‘Umar to form a clear picture, for he) said:
“Commander of the Faithful, I shall enlighten you. You forbade us to spread out farther into Persian territory, and you ordered us to stay within the borders of the region that we have under our control. However, the king of the Persians is still alive among them, and they will therefore not cease to contend with us for control of the region, as long as their king is among them. Two kings can never govern simultaneously and agree; the one will inevitably oust the other. I have come to realize that we made one conquest after another solely because of their continuous revolts. It is their king who incites them, and this will always be his line of action until you give us permission to venture out into their land so that we separate him from his subjects and expel him from his kingdom by divesting him of his might and authority [footnote: For the way in which religious and secular authority were combined in Sasanian kingship, see Morony, Iraq, 28-31. ]. Only then will the hope of the Persians be crushed and will they capitulate.”
“By God, you have given me a believable picture, and you have explained the situation to me as it is in reality,” ‘Umar said. Then he looked into what they were in need of and sent them forth. Next a letter came to ‘Umar informing him of the assembling of the Persians at Nihawand and of how the people of Mihrijàn Qadhaq and those of the districts of al-Ahwaz gravitated toward the point of view and the erstwhile ambitions of al-Hurmuzan. That was what prompted Umar to give the Muslims permission to venture out into Persian territory.
In the above passage it is quite obvious that Persians were constantly stirring revolts along their border with Arabia and the persistent reluctance of Caliph Umar to attack Persia despite the recommendations of his commanders. The only course left for Muslims to avoid an inevitable war was if Persia assured peace by paying taxes or if they accepted the faith, else the war was the only choice left. Without these conditions there was no guarantee that Persians will stop their years of constant instigation and revolts. Finally, the events crossed a threshold that a full scale war broke out with Persia in which none but Persians are to be blamed.
It becomes pertinent to know al-Hurmuzan. He was the Persian general who finally faced Muslims in the battle of Tustar. While under his command, the city was besieged by the Muslim army and there were eighty sorties by Persians to break the siege. After the numerous skirmishes, the Muslims were able to penetrate the city via its water outlet, threw open the city gates and al-Hurmuzan sought refuge in the citadel. Below is what happened thereafter – “The conquest of Iraq, Southwestern Persia, and Egypt” By Ṭabarī, G. H. A. Juynboll, p. 135-6:
Those who had entered the city through the water outlet encircled him in the citadel and when they spotted him and advanced upon him, he said to them, “What do you want? Perhaps you realize that you and I cannot escape one another [footnote:Literally, the text reads “perhaps you see the straits I and you are in.”]. But I still have a quiver with one hundred arrows and, by God, you will not lay a hand on me as long as I have still one arrow left. No arrow of mine will fail to find its target. What benefit is there in taking me prisoner, when I kill or wound one hundred of you first?” “What is it you want then?” they asked. He replied,”I would like to place my hand in yours [footnote:That is, “I want to surrender.”], leaving the decision with ‘Umar to do with me as he wants.” “We agree,” they answered, whereupon he threw down his bow and surrendered to them. Next they bound him securely…During the night, may people of Muslims forces were killed. Among those whom al-Hurmazan killed personally were Majzah’ah b. Thawr and al-Bara b. Malik.
Once al-Hurmuzan is brought before Caliph Umar as prisoner in Medina, the following transpires – “The Conquest of Iraq, Southwestern Persia, and Egypt” By Ṭabarī, G. H. A. Juynboll, p. 139-40:
“You only succeeded in defeating us in the days before Islam because you were united, whereas we were divided. But,” ‘Umar continued, “what is your excuse or what arguments can you adduce in your defense for going to war against us time after time?”
“I fear that you will kill me before I have told you,” al-Hurmuzãn answered. “No, do not be afraid,” ‘Umar assured him. Then, when al-Hurmuzan had asked for something to drink, he was brought water in a primitive cup. “Even if I were to die of thirst, I could not possibly drink from a cup like this,” he cried. So he was brought some water in a vessel he approved of. But then his hand began to tremble and he said, “I am afraid that I will be killed while I am drinking.” “No harm will come to you,” Umar said, “until you have drunk it.” Hereupon al-Hurmuzan spilled the water by turning the vessel upside down. “Give him some more,” ‘Umar ordered, “so that he will not be bothered by thirst when the time of his execution has come” [footnote: Literally, this sentence reads "Give him some more and do not heap death and thirst upon him together."].
Then al-Hurmuzãn spoke, “I do not need water; what I want is to ask that you grant me immunity.” “I shall certainly kill you,” shouted ‘Umar, but al-Hurmuzãn cut him short and said, “But you have already granted me immunity.” “You lie,” roared ‘Umar, but Anas (b. Mãlik) intervened and said, “He is right, Commander of the Faithful, you have indeed granted him safety.” “Woe unto you, Anas,” said ‘Umar to him, “should I grant immunity to the killer of Majza’ah and al-Bara’? By God, think of a subterfuge or I shall surely chastise you!”
But Anas maintained, “You did tell him that no harm would come to him before he had told you what you asked him and you also told him that no harm would come to him until he had drunk the water.” Then all those who were standing around ‘Umar joined in, telling him the same thing. ‘Umar approached al-Hurmuzàn and said, “You have made a fool of me and, by God, I shall not be hoodwinked by anyone who is not a Muslim.” [footnote: Contrary to the general rule, we find here a verb VII with the passive meaning "to be cheated," followed by what seems to be the agent introduced by the preposition Ii. This phenomenon is attested also in W. Fischer, Grammatik des klassischen arabisch, Wiesbaden, 1972, 98, 138] So al-Hurmuzán embraced Islam and ‘Umar assigned him a stipend of two thousand (dirhams) and permitted him to settle in Medina.
With this environment of war in mind where Persian empire was a constant source of revolts and attacks on Arabia, now read the following full text that was excerpted out of context in the current issue. In it Caliph Umar is advised by the same al-Hurmuzan, the Persian general for the war strategy. Reader must keep in mind that even though subsequently Persia was conquered, there were no forced conversions therein. The only control from Medina was appointment of its governor and treasurer, else every office of Persia was held by a local.
Sahih-Bukhari – Volume 4, Book 53, Number 386:
Narrated Jubair bin Haiya:
‘Umar sent the Muslims to the great countries to fight the pagans. When Al-Hurmuzan embraced Islam, ‘Umar said to him. “I would like to consult you regarding these countries which I intend to invade.” Al-Hurmuzan said, “Yes, the example of these countries and their inhabitants who are the enemies of the Muslims, is like a bird with a head, two wings and two legs; If one of its wings got broken, it would get up over its two legs, with one wing and the head; and if the other wing got broken, it would get up with two legs and a head, but if its head got destroyed, then the two legs, two wings and the head would become useless. The head stands for Khosrau, and one wing stands for Caesar and the other wing stands for Faris. So, order the Muslims to go towards Khosrau.” So, ‘Umar sent us (to Khosrau) appointing An-Numan bin Muqrin as our commander. When we reached the land of the enemy, the representative of Khosrau came out with forty-thousand warriors, and an interpreter got up saying, “Let one of you talk to me!” Al-Mughira replied, “Ask whatever you wish.” The other asked, “Who are you?” Al-Mughira replied, “We are some people from the Arabs; we led a hard, miserable, disastrous life: we used to suck the hides and the date stones from hunger; we used to wear clothes made up of fur of camels and hair of goats, and to worship trees and stones. While we were in this state, the Lord of the Heavens and the Earths, Elevated is His Remembrance and Majestic is His Highness, sent to us from among ourselves a Prophet whose father and mother are known to us. Our Prophet, the Messenger of our Lord, has ordered us to fight you till you worship Allah Alone or give Jizya (i.e. tribute); and our Prophet has informed us that our Lord says:– “Whoever amongst us is killed (i.e. martyred), shall go to Paradise to lead such a luxurious life as he has never seen, and whoever amongst us remain alive, shall become your master.” (Al-Mughira, then blamed An-Numan for delaying the attack and) An-Nu’ man said to Al-Mughira, “If you had participated in a similar battle, in the company of Allah’s Apostle he would not have blamed you for waiting, nor would he have disgraced you. But I accompanied Allah’s Apostle in many battles and it was his custom that if he did not fight early by daytime, he would wait till the wind had started blowing and the time for the prayer was due (i.e. after midday).”
The Early Caliphate – Muhammad Ali.
The History of al-Tabari – Vol. VIII, The Conquest of Iraq,southwestern Persia and Egypt – Translated by Gauthier H. A. Juynboll.
Sahih-Bukhari – Volume 4, Book 53 – Translator – M. Muhsin Khan.