By: Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah
Quba, the first mosque of Islam, was originally built by the Prophet Mohammad and his fellow emigrants from Makkah on their arrival in Madinah in 622. That year marks the beginning of both the Muslim era and the Muslim calendar.
For thirteen years in his birthplace of Makkah, the Prophet Muhammad called people to the worship of the One True God, to do good and renounce all that was false. But the powers with interests to protect remained implacably hostile and made life intolerable for those who had submitted to the truth.
In constant search for fertile soil to plant the message of truth, the noble Prophet eventually migrated - not fled - northwards to Yathrib. The green oasis became known as the Madinah or the City of the Prophet and was to become the territorial base from which he won the hearts of multitudes and consolidated Islam's place in the landscape of the peninsula.
The leaders of Makkah and a large part of its citizenry remained stubbornly hostile and sought - through wars, siege and alliances - to destabilise the fledgling community. The Prophet, who desired security and peace for people, negotiated a truce with the pagan Makkans on terms that many of his followers were deeply unhappy about. This was in the fifth year after the hijrah or migration to Madinah.
The truce turned out to be beneficial to the whole peninsula but the Makkans eventually broke it by mounting a bloody aggression against an ally of the state of Medinah. The Prophet could not overlook this breach and in the eighth year after the hijrah, he mobilised an impressive force and moved on Makkah. Ten thousand converged on the city, reaching there in the month of Ramadan, the month of fasting. The Quraysh realised that there was no hope of resisting, let alone of defeating, the Muslim forces. What was to be their fate - they who had harried and persecuted the believers, tortured and boycotted them, driven them out of their hearths and homes, stirred up others against them, made war on them, and killed many?
They were now completely at the mercy of the Prophet.
Revenge was easy. He could have laid waste the city and wiped out its inhabitants. But revenge was not his object. He did not lead his confident army into Makkah like any tyrant, full of arrogance, forgetting the Almighty, the Cause of all causes, and intoxicated with self-conceit.
Far from it. In the words of an early biographer, he entered with great humility and gratitude, prostrating himself repeatedly on the back of the camel he was riding, before the One God, thankful to Him for all He had provided, declaring an all-embracing amnesty and peace, in place of any thought of avenging past material or mental afflictions, and in fact demonstrating what God wills of Godly men: "... enter the gate prostrating and say 'Amnesty'." (The Quran, 2:58; 7:160).
He ordered Bilal, the Ethiopian, to go on the rooftop of the Ka'bah to call the adhan. The noble Prophet led the congregational prayer and then addressed the assembled citizens in the compound around the Ka'bah. He reminded them of what they had done to him and the Muslims, and said, "The arrogance and racial pride of the heathen days has been wiped out by God today. All human beings are descended from Adam, and Adam was made of clay."
He recited the following verse of the Quran:
"0 human beings! We have indeed created you of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another. Surely the most honorable of you with God is the one among you who is most deeply conscious of Him. Surely, God is Knowing, Aware. (The Quran, 49:13)
He then asked them in a voice full of compassion and tenderness:
'0 people of Quraysh! What do you think I will do with you?'
One of them, Suhayl ibn Amr, who had fought against the Prophet, replied on behalf of the Makkans:
'We think (you will treat us) well, noble brother, son of a noble brother.'
A radiant smile flashed across the face of the beloved Prophet of God and, in a spirit of magnanimity and tolerance, he said:
"I shall speak to you as Yusuf [Joseph] spoke unto his brothers: 'There is no reproach against you today; God will forgive. He is the most Merciful and the most Compassionate.' " (Quran,12:92)
And he added:
'No more responsibility burdens you today.'Idhhabuu... wa antum at-tulaqaa - Go, for you are free.'
Instantaneously Makkah was transformed, and overnight practically the entire population was won over to Islam. Nothing else could have won them over so profoundly and sincerely. They were not the inhabitants of a defeated and occupied country, but equals with the victors in rights as well as obligations. When a Messenger of God is the liberator of a town, nothing less exalted could be expected.
Without leaving a single companion of his to garrison the city, the Prophet soon returned to Madinah, leaving Makkah to be governed by a Makkan just converted. He never had to regret this later. This is how human hearts are won. In the entire episode, thirteen lives were lost.
'I am the Prophet of Battle; I am the Prophet of Mercy,' he is reported to have said. But it was destined for Muhammad to demonstrate that even in battle, he was the "Prophet of Mercy".
The above account has been partly compiled from the book, Battlefields of the Prophet, by the renowned scholar Muhammad Hamidullah. This book lists the number of people killed in battle on both sides in all the engagements led by the Prophet. This number is given as less than 500 (see box). It is clear neither revenge nor hatred, greed nor domination was ever the driving passion in the wars that the noble Prophet engaged or were forced into. His purpose was primarily to win over people to the truth. He did not see his enemies as irredeemable infidels, but as potential forces for the good, for their own selves and for others. And he gave them the opportunity and the space to transform themselves.