That callers to Islam can freely convey
the message to people, and people can then choose whether or not to embrace
Islam is an uncompromisable matter.
People must be given a fair chance to understand what Islam is inviting
them to. But to have the callers to Islam beheaded and thick walls erected
against them is what Islam will resist by force.
Let the different creeds express themselves, to either attract
people or they turn away. This request of Islam was given an armed reply.
Al-Harith bin ‘Umair Al-Azdi t was sent with a
letter from the Messenger r
to the ruler of Busra. On his way to the village of Mu’tah
he was intercepted by Sharhabil bin ‘Amr Al-Ghassani, the governor of Al-Balqa’
under Heraclius. Al-Harith was tied up and beheaded.
Killing envoys and messengers was regarded as one of the most
heinous crimes, tantamount to a declaration of war. The Prophet r, greatly distressed by
the news, prepared a large Muslim army of three thousand men, never before mobilized
on such a scale except in the Battle
of Al-Ahzab (Confederates).
Heraclius, on the other hand, mobilized one hundred thousand
Roman warriors, who were reinforced by another one hundred thousand men who
joined the Roman troops from Lakham, Judham, Balqain, Bahra’, and Bala.
The Messenger of Allah r
appointed Zaid bin Harith t in command of the
army, saying: “If Zaid is killed, then Ja‘far (should take over). If Ja‘far
is killed, then ‘Abdullah bin Rawaha.”1
The Messenger of Allah r
commanded them to go to Mu’tah, where Al-Harith bin ‘Umair t was killed. They should first invite the people
there to Islam. If they responded, they should accept that from them and should
refrain from fighting them; but if they refused, they should seek the Help of
Allah and fight them. He r said to them, “Fight
in the Name of Allah and in the Cause of Allah, those who disbelieve in Allah,
but do not betray, do not embezzle (booty), do not kill a child, or a woman, or
a decrepit old man, or a recluse in a hermitage. Do not cut down a palm or a tree. And do not destroy a
At Mu’tah the two parties encountered one another and the hard
battle started. Three thousand men facing the attacks of two hundred thousand
warriors, far better equipped than them. It was certainly one of the most
amazing battles ever witnessed; but believers are never granted victory because
of number, force, or military supplies… only by their power of faith and the
righteousness of their cause.
This was how Allah U willed
the battle to run its course: A large disbelieving party against a small
believing one, to teach the
difference between two views and assessments of the causes of victory and
over numbers, equipment, and munitions in order for people to understand that
victory is granted through the power of true faith, not arms and supplies. The
holders of true faith must strive and go into the battle without waiting to be
equal in material visible forces, for at their side stands a superior power
that far outweighs any numbers.2
Twelve Muslim men were martyred on that day. The casualties
among the Romans were unknown; details of the battle point to a large number.
The Muslim army returned with insignificant losses.
Mu’tah won Muslims a great reputation and had a great impact on
the Arabs all over Arabia, who were struck
with amazement. The Romans were the largest and mightiest power on the face of
the earth; for this small Muslim army to face this huge force and return with
minimal loss was nothing less than a miracle. It ascertained for the Arabs that
the Muslims were backed and supported by Allah U,
and their Companion was truly the Messenger of Allah r.
After this battle hostile tribes like
Sulaim, Ashja‘, Ghatfan, Dhubian, and others that had kept revolting against
Muslims, embraced Islam. It also ushered in the downfall of the Roman Empire,
the most powerful military force that occupied Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and other
lands and kept a tight grip over the Arab people for centuries. 3
1 Sahih Al-Bukhary, Book of Al-Magazi, Hadith
no. 3928; similar versions of the Hadith are also reported by Al-Bukhary (3927)
and Ahmad (1659, 2203, 21509, 21523).
2 Sayyid Qutb, In the Shade of the Qur’an, interpretation of Surat Al-Anfal [8: 8].
3 Details of Mu’tah: Safi-ur-Rahman
Mubarakpuri, Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum, The Battle of Mu’tah; Muhammad Al-Ghazali, Fiqh