A Critical Exposition of the Popular 'Jihád'/Chapter 7

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VII.—The Ninth Chapter or Sura Barát.

[Sidenote 40. The opening portion of the IXth Sura of the Koran only relates to the Koreish who had violated the truce.]

[Sidenote: The injunctions contained in it were not carried out owing to the compromise.]

Sir William Muir, while relating the publication of some verses of the ninth chapter of the Koran on the occasion of the great pilgrimage A.H. 9, and referring to the opening verses of the Sura (from 1st to 7th inclusive) writes: "The passages just quoted completed the system of Mahomet so far as its relations with idolatrous tribes and races were concerned. The few cases of truce excepted, uncompromising warfare was declared against them all."[1] This is not correct. The mistake, he as well as others who follow him commit, lies in their taking the incipient verses of Chapter IX, as originally published at the end of the ninth year of the Hegira, after the conquest of Mecca, in order to set aside every obligation or league with the idolators to wage war with them, either within or without the sacred territory, and "they were to be killed, besieged, and laid in wait for wheresoever found."[2] In fact it has no such bearing of generally setting aside the treaties, and declaring uncompromising warfare, and was not published for the first time on the occasion stated above. The opening verses of the ninth Sura of the Koran, which I have quoted in full together with necessary notes in para. 17 (pp. 22-25), revealed for the first time, were before the conquest of Mecca, when the idolators thereof had broken the truce of Hodeibia. Their violation of the treaty is expressly mentioned in verses 4, 8, 10 and 13, and the same verses also enjoin to respect and fulfil the treaties of those idolators who had not broken theirs. Therefore only those aggressors who had been guilty of a breach of faith, and instigated others to take up arms against the Moslems in the attack of Bani Bakr, on Khozáa, were to be waged war against, besieged, and taken captives after the expiration of four months from the date of the publication of the verses in question. But fortunately Abu Sofian compromised before the commencement of the sacred months, and before the period of the four months had elapsed. The people of Mecca submitted without bloodshed, and hence it is obvious that the injunctions contained in the commencement of the ninth chapter of the Koran were never carried out. They remained as dead letter, and will, I think, so remain perpetually. Almost all European writers, as far as I know, labour under the delusion that at the end of the ninth year Mohammad published the opening verses of the ninth Sura, commonly designated Súra Barát. But the fact is that it was published in the eighth year of the Hegira before the commencement of the sacred months, probably in the month of Shabán, while Mohammad marched in Ramzán against Mecca, not with the intention of prosecuting war, for it was to take place after the lapse of Zikad, Zelhaj and Moharram, but of taking Mecca by compromise and preconcerted understanding between himself and Abu Sofian. If it be admitted that the preliminary verses of Sura IX of the Koran were revealed or published for the first time in the last month of the ninth year of the Hegira, then they—the verses—become aimless, without being pregnant of any object in view. They contain injunctions for carrying hostile operations against those who had broken certain treaties, had helped others against the Moslems, and themselves had also attacked them. They proclaimed war against certain tribes, whose people did not regard ties of blood and good faith, and had been the first aggressors against the Moslems. Not many such persons were in the whole of Arabia at and after the time alleged for the promulgation of these verses, i.e., at the last month of the ninth and the whole tenth year. By this time, almost all Arabia had tendered voluntary submission to the authority of Mohammad.

Deputations from each tribe of the Arabs continued to reach Medina during the whole of this period, and were pledged protection and friendship by the founder of the Islamic faith. From Medina the sound of drums and the bray of clarions had now died away. Hereupon we are able to speak with certainty that these verses could not be, and were not, revealed at the end of the ninth year as it has been asserted by several writers, both Mohammadan and European. And for the above reasons the most suitable occasion for the revelation of these verses is the breach of the truce of Hodeibia by the Koreish and their allies during the eighth year of the Hegira which caused the reduction of Mecca by compromise. Several Mohammadan commentators are unanimous in their opinion as to this point. Consequently the verses, ordaining the manifestation of arms against the treaty-breakers and aggressors, as well as putting them to the sword wherever they were to be found, i.e., within or without the harem, or the precincts of the Sacred Mosque, were not complied with owing to the compromise by the Koreish.


Footnotes[edit]

  1. The Life of Mahomet, Vol. IV, p. 211
  2. "Islam and its Founder," by J.W.H. Stobart, B.A., p. 179. London, 1878.