The Root of Terrorism a la
20 Nov, 2005
- 'If terrorism is to throw terror into the heart of your enemy and the enemy of Allah then we thank Him, the most merciful, the most compassionate, for enabling us to be terrorists' - Ramzi BinalShibh
Raid on a Meccan Caravan and on B. Damrah at al-Abwa/ Waddan by Muhammad - August, 623CE
Muhammad became quite frustrated with the dismal failures of the previous three attempts to plunder the vulnerable Quraysh merchant caravans. Time was of essence, and he felt the pressure of producing results (read profit) to please his believers. With this urgency in mind, he personally, took charge of this raiding foray and led his followers, to his very personal first step in the act of bloodshed and pillage. This was the raid at al-Abwa, also known as the Ghazwah of Waddan. As said before, he himself conducted this raid, directed at Abwa, the spot where his mother lay buried. To his dismay, when he arrived at the site, the Quraysh caravan had already passed. Disappointed, he then raided the nearest tribe of B. Damra (a branch of B. Bakr) and forced them to conclude a treaty of no aggression (by B. Damra). This treaty was the first written accord of Muhammad with any foreign tribe. The agreement was of benefit to Muhammad, as it prevented the B. Damra to mobilize forces against him, nor could they assist Muhammad's enemy who were principally the Quraysh. In return, Muhammad pledged not to wage any war against this tribe. Then Muhammad went as far as Waddan in pursuit of the Quraysh caravan, but it eluded him. Although he failed in his pursuit of the Quraysh booty, he cleverly concluded this strategically important treaty of friendship with this nomadic (B. Damra) tribe. The treaty provided him with an ally in his raid on Quraysh caravans. After concluding the treaty he returned to Medina after fifteen days.
[Please note: Ghazwa means either a military force when an Apostle (Rasul) leads it or an Imam. It also means a sudden attack on a caravan or another tribe for the purpose of seizing property and women.
Sariyah or brigade means a small force commanded by one of the Imam's lieutenants.
There is an allusion in Sahih Bukhari of this very first, personal act of terrorism by Muhammad:
Volume 4, Book 52, Number 256:
Narrated As-Sab bin Jaththama:
The Prophet passed by me at a place called Al-Abwa or Waddan, and was asked whether it was permissible to attack the pagan warriors at night with the probability of exposing their women and children to danger. The Prophet replied, "They (i.e. women and children) are from them (i.e. pagans)." I also heard the Prophet saying, "The institution of Hima is invalid except for Allah and His Apostle."
This Hadith clearly says that in his terror operations Muhammad did not even want to spare the women and children of the infidels.
Raid on a Rich Meccan Caravan at Bawat by Muhammad - October, 623CE
A month after his raid at al-Abwa, Muhammad personally led two hundred men including some citizens of Medina to Bawat, a place on the caravan route of the Quraysh merchants, where a herd of fifteen hundred (1,500) to two thousand-five hundred (2,500) camels, accompanied by one hundred (100) riders, under the leadership of Umayyah ibn Khalaf, a Quraysh was proceeding. The purpose of this raid obviously, was the plunder of this exceedingly rich Quraysh caravan.
No battle took place and the raid resulted in no booty. Muhammad went up to Dhat al-Saq, in the desert of al-Khabar. He prayed there and a mosque was built at the spot.
This was the first raid where a few al-Usharayh Ansars took part. They were attracted to the raid with the prospect of striking it rich through pillage.
Raid on a Meccan Caravan at al-Ushayrah, in the district of Yanbu by Muhammad - November, 623CE
This was Muhammad's third personal raid. Between one hundred-fifty and two hundred (note the increasing number of Jihadists joining in the robbery) followers joined this terror operation. They had thirty camels that they rode upon by turns. When they arrived at al-Usharayh in the direction of Yanbo, they expected to waylay upon a rich Meccan caravan towards Syria led by Abu Sufyan. Muhammad already had the intelligence report of this caravan's departure from Mecca. He waited for a month (+) for this caravan to pass. Unfortunately, it was too late; for, when Muhammad reached the intended spot of plunder, the Meccan caravan had already passed. The readers should keep in mind of this raid, as this was the same caravan that gave rise to the famous action at Badr (Badr II) during its return journey. In this operation, Muhammad entered into an alliance with Bani Mudlij, a tribe inhabiting the vicinity of al-Usharayh. He also concluded another treaty with Bani Damra. All those treaties established good political connections for him.
Raid on Muhammad's Milch Camels at Badr (Badr I) by Kurz ibn Jabir al-Fihri - December, 623CE
After those six unprovoked and hostile attacks on the Quraysh caravans, the Quraysh had had enough. It was now time for them to retaliate and send a strong message to Muhammad that his highway robbery cannot go unpunished forever. With this end in view, Kurz ibn Jabir al-Fihri, allay of the Quarysh raided the vicinity of Medina where Muhammad's milch camels were pasturing. This was conducted ten days after Muhammad returned to Medina from his unsuccessful plundering attempt at the Quraysh caravan at al-Usharayh. Having heard of this attack, Muhammad swiftly went out looking for Kurz until he reached the Safwa valley, close to Badr. This was the first raid at Badr or Badr I. Kurz escaped the capture; Muhammad returned to Medina and stayed there for the next three months. It is said that later, Muhammad caught Kurz and he (Kurz) converted to Islam.
Raid on Meccan Caravan at Nakhla by Abd Allah ibn Jahsh, the First Successful Plunder - December, 623CE
After his return from the first Badr encounter, Muhammad sent Abd Allah b. Jahsh in Rajab with eight emigrants and without any Ansar for another terror operation. Abd Allah b. Jahsh was a maternal cousin of Muhammad. The participants in this plunder were: 1. Abu Haudhayfa 2. Abd Allah b Jahsh 3. Ukkash b. Mihsan 4. Utba b. Ghazwan 5. Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas 6. Amir b.Rabia 7. Waqid b. Abd Allah and 8. Khalid b. al-Bukayr. Some historians say that there were between seven to twelve partakers in this raiding/plundering party of the Muslims. It will be useful to remember the names of these very first Islam's terrorists, as we shall witness, later, that their names crop up in many other terror operations.
Muhammad gave Abd Allah b. Jahsh a letter, but not to be read until he had travelled for two days and then to do what he was instructed to do in the letter without putting pressure on his companions. Abd Allah proceeded for two days, then he opened the letter; it told him to proceed until he reached at Nakhla, between Mecca and Taif; lie in wait for the Quraysh and observe what they were doing. Abd Allah b. Jahsh told his companions that whoever chose martyrdom (read terrorism) was free to join him and whoever did not could go back. All the companions agreed to follow him (a few biographers write that two Muslims decided not to be martyrs and chose to return to Medina). Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas and Utbah b. Ghazwan lost a camel that they were taking turns to ride. The camel strayed and went to Buhran. So, they went out looking for the runaway camel to Buhran and fell behind the raiding party.
As instructed by the Prophet, Abd Allah and the rest of the party then proceeded, and soon they arrived at Nakhla. Nakhla was a valley to the east of Mecca, about halfway to Taif. It was the usual route to Syria for the Meccan caravans. Muhammad had the secret information that a rich Meccan caravan, lightly guarded, laden with dry raisin, wine leather and other goods was soon to pass by the route.
Four Quraysh men guarded this donkey caravan. They were:
Amr b. al-Hadrami. He was the leader of the caravan.
Uthman b. Abd Allah b. al-Mughirah.
Nawfal b. Abd Allah b. al-Mughirah, Uthman's brother.
Al-Hakam b. Kaysan, the freed slave (Mawla)of Hisham b. al-Mughirah.
Soon, the Meccan caravan arrived at Nakhla guarded by the four Quraysh men. When they saw the Muslims, they were afraid of them. One of Abd Allah b. Jahsh's men, Ukkash b Mihsan, was shaven in head to hide the real purpose of their journey and to give the Quraysh the impression of lesser Hajj (Umra); for, it was the month (Rajab) when hostilities were forbidden. When the Quraysh saw the shaven head of Ukkash, they thought that the Muslims were on their way for pilgrimage and they felt relieved and safe and started to prepare food for themselves. That was how the first band of Muslim Jihadists deceived their prey.
Due to the prevalence of a sacred month, either at the beginning of Rajab or at the end of it (the opinion among the historians vary), Rajab being one of the four sacred months when there was a total ban on warfare and bloodshed in the Arabian Peninsula, Abd Allah b. Jahsh was, at first, hesitant to attack the caravan. Nevertheless, after much deliberation, the Muslims did not want this rich caravan to escape their hand. So, they decided to kill as many Quraysh as they could and take a large booty. They attacked the Quraysh while they (the Quraysh) were busy preparing their food. In the short battle that ensued, Waqid b. Abd Allah killed Amr b. Hadrami, the leader of the Quraysh caravan. Nawfal b.Abd Allah escaped. The Muslims took Uthman b. Abd Allah and al-Hakam b. Kaysan as prisoners.
Abd Allah b. Jahsh returned to Medina with the booty and with the two captured Quraysh men. He had already decided to give one-fifth of the booty to Muhammad, and divide the rest among them. The prevailing share of the leader of a plundering party at that time was one quarter of the booty. It is not clear why Abd Allah b. Jahsh decided on one-fifth booty, as Allah did not yet decide the provision of 'Khums' (gang leader's commission on booty of plunder/theft) for Muhammad in verse 8:41. This verse was released after the Badr war, which took place after the plunder at Nakhla.
And know that out of all the booty that ye may acquire (in war), a fifth share is assigned to Allah,- and to the 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.
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.
- Then Abd Allah b. Jahsh divided the booty, one-fifth going to Muhammad. He also decided to make more money by asking ransom for the two captives. However, Muhammad refused to accept the ransoms from the Quraysh until the two of his men, Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas and Utbah b. Ghazwan returned from searching the straying camel. He was afraid that the Quraysh might kill them if they found them. When Sa'd and Utbah returned unharmed, Muhammad released the two Quraysh prisoners on payment of their ransom of one thousand six hundred (1,600) Dirhams (one Dirham = 1/10 Dinar; one Dinar 4.235 gm of gold) per head. It is reported that, soon after his release, Hakam b. Kaysan became a Muslim, probably after witnessing the profitability in terrorism a la Islamic style. Later, he was killed at the battle of Bir Mauna. The other prisoner, Uthman b. Abd Allah returned to Mecca and died as an unbeliever.
The Islamic name of this first successful plunder is 'Nakhla Raid.' It was also the first raid on which the Muslims seized the first captive, and the first life they took. Rightfully, Abd Allah was called the Amir al-Mominun, that is, the commander of the faithful.
After the success of Nakhla raid, Muhammad felt militarily strong and promulgated the rule on the justification of transaction and distribution of spoils of plunder. He actually legalized and legitimized plunder.
This successful raid on the Quraysh caravans fully alarmed the Meccans, because their prosperity completely depended upon the regular and uninterrupted trade to Syria. The trading with Abyssinia and Yemen was of lesser importance. Even the trading caravan towards Abyssinia and Yemen did not look safe from the marauding army of Muhammad. The Nakhla attack also greatly unnerved the Meccans. They now believed that Muhammad had very little respect for life and absolutely no concern for the sanctity of the sacred months. So, the Meccans resolved to avenge the bloodshed. However, the Quraysh restrained their hostility. Muhammad still had a few of his followers residing at Mecca, including his own daughter, Zaynab. The Quraysh did not take any revenge on the remaining followers of Muhammad (including Muhammad's daughter) at Mecca neither did they make any attempt to harass his beloved daughter, Zaynab.
Muhammad, on the other hand, after the success at Nakhla, contemplated a more severe and mortal attack on the Quraysh. Allah now gave him the permission to fight the unbelievers in verses 22:39-42, 2:190-194. As well, the raid at Nakhla was justified by the 'expulsion' of the believers from Mecca. However, the true reason was "until the religion became God's alone". That meant, until all the Meccans (or the world) accepted Islam.
To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight), because they are wronged;- and verily, Allah is most powerful for their aid;-
(They are) those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right,- (for no cause) except that they say, "our Lord is Allah". Did not Allah check one set of people by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure. Allah will certainly aid those who aid his (cause);- for verily Allah is full of Strength, Exalted in Might, (able to enforce His Will).
(They are) those who, if We establish them in the land, establish regular prayer and give regular charity, enjoin the right and forbid wrong: with Allah rests the end (and decision) of (all) affairs.
If they treat thy (mission) as false, so did the peoples before them (with their Prophets),- the People of Noah, and 'Ad and Thamud;002.190
Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors.
And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have Turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith.
But if they cease, Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.
And fight them on until there is no more Tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah; but if they cease, Let there be no hostility except to those who practise oppression.
The prohibited month for the prohibited month,- and so for all things prohibited,- there is the law of equality. If then any one transgresses the prohibition against you, Transgress ye likewise against him. But fear Allah, and know that Allah is with those who restrain themselves.
Those who believe say, "Why is not a sura sent down (for us)?" But when a sura of basic or categorical meaning is revealed, and fighting is mentioned therein, thou wilt see those in whose hearts is a disease looking at thee with a look of one in swoon at the approach of death. But more fitting for them-
Were it to obey and say what is just, and when a matter is resolved on, it were best for them if they were true to Allah.
This because those who reject Allah follow vanities, while those who believe follow the Truth from their Lord: Thus does Allah set forth for men their lessons by similitudes.
Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers (in fight), smite at their necks; At length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly (on them): thereafter (is the time for) either generosity or ransom: Until the war lays down its burdens. Thus (are ye commanded): but if it had been Allah's Will, He could certainly have exacted retribution from them (Himself); but (He lets you fight) in order to test you, some with others. But those who are slain in the Way of Allah,- He will never let their deeds be lost.
If We had ordered them to sacrifice their lives or to leave their homes, very few of them would have done it: But if they had done what they were (actually) told, it would have been best for them, and would have gone farthest to strengthen their (faith);
And We should then have given them from our presence a great reward;009.088
But the Messenger, and those who believe with him, strive and fight with their wealth and their persons: for them are (all) good things: and it is they who will prosper.
Allah hath purchased of the believers their persons and their goods; for theirs (in return) is the garden (of Paradise): they fight in His cause, and slay and are slain: a promise binding on Him in truth, through the Law, the Gospel, and the Qur'an: and who is more faithful to his covenant than Allah? then rejoice in the bargain which ye have concluded: that is the achievement supreme.
Let those fight in the cause of Allah Who sell the life of this world for the hereafter. To him who fighteth in the cause of Allah,- whether he is slain or gets victory - Soon shall We give him a reward of great (value).
Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) and receive no hurt, and those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah with their goods and their persons. Allah hath granted a grade higher to those who strive and fight with their goods and persons than to those who sit (at home). Unto all (in Faith) Hath Allah promised good: But those who strive and fight Hath He distinguished above those who sit (at home) by a special reward,-009.073
O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the Hypocrites, and be firm against them. Their abode is Hell,- an evil refuge indeed.
O ye who believe! fight the unbelievers who gird you about, and let them find firmness in you: and know that Allah is with those who fear Him.008.060
Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know. Whatever ye shall spend in the cause of Allah, shall be repaid unto you, and ye shall not be treated unjustly.
- These messages were promulgated within two or three years after Muhammad's arrival at Medina. This promulgation was not only for the refugees (Muhajirs) but also to all the men of Medina.
(Note: From now on, to conserve space, only the verse numbers will be quoted omitting the full texts of the verses).
Abul Kasem is an Bengali ex-Muslim and academic. He has contributed in Leaving Islam - Apostates Speak Out and Beyond Jihad - Critical Voices from Inside and Why We Left Islam.. He has also written extensively on Islam in various websites and is the author of five e-Books: A Complete Guide to Allah, Root of Terrorism ala Islamic Style, Sex and Sexuality in Islam, Who Authored the Quran? and Women in Islam. Mr. Kasem leaves in Sydney, Australia. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.