The Prophet Muhammad: The Tragedy of Ma‘una Well

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Monday, 19 April 2010

The Tragedy of Ma‘una Well

The Tragedy of Ma‘una Well:


Ma‘una Well tragedy, which was even more horrible than that of Ar-Raji‘, took place in the same month.

Abu Bara’ — ‘Amir bin Malik — nicknamed ‘Spear Player’ came to the Messenger of Allâh PBUH in Madinah. The Messenger of Allâh PBUH called him to embrace Islam but he neither agreed nor refused. He said: "O Messenger of Allâh, if you dispatch some of your Companions to the people of Najd to call them to Islam, I expect them to accept."

 "I am afraid the people of Najd will kill them." Said the Messenger. But he replied, "I will protect them." Ibn Ishaq confirms that forty men were sent to them; but As-Sahih states that they were seventy — Al-Mundhir bin ‘Amr, one of Bani Sa‘ida, nicknamed ‘Freed to die’ — commanded that group, who were the best and most learned in the Qur’ân and jurisprudence.

On their way to Najd they used to gather firewood to buy food for the people of ‘Ahl As-Suffah’ as charity by day and study, meditate on the meanings of the Qur’ân by night. They kept on doing that till they arrived at Ma‘una Well — which was a well in between Bani ‘Amir, Harrah and Bani Saleem.

They stayed there and sent the Message of the Prophet PBUH with Haram bin Milhan, the brother of Umm Sulaim to the enemy of Allâh ‘Amir bin At-Tufail. ‘Amir did not heed the Message but rather ordered a man to spear Haram in the back. When the spear penetrated Haram’s body, he saw the blood and said: "Allâhu Akbar! (i.e. Allâh is the Greatest) By Lord of Al-Ka‘bah I have won!"

Then the enemy of Allâh, promptly, called out Bani ‘Amir to fight the rest. Bani ‘Amir refused because they were under the protection of Abu Bara’. Therefore he turned to Bani Saleem for help.

 The people of ‘Usaiyah, Ri‘al and Dhakwan, who were folks of Bani Saleem, responded to his call. The Companions of the Prophet PBUH, who were encompassed by idolaters, kept on fighting till they were all killed. The only survivor was Ka‘b bin Zaid bin An-Najjar who was carried wounded from among the dead. It was in Al-Khandaq (the trench) Battle that he was killed.

‘Amr bin Omaiyah Ad-Damari and Al-Mundhir bin ‘Uqbah bin ‘Amir, who were entrusted with the Muslims’ animals far from them, saw the birds circling in the air over the battleground. Al-Mundhir rushed to share in the fight till he was killed. But ‘Amr bin Omaiyah was captured. ‘Amir set him free when he knew that he was of Mudar tribe but that was after he had cut his hair. He did that to fulfil a pledge of his mother’s to set a slave free.

Returning to the Prophet PBUH ‘Amr bin Omaiyah conveyed the news of the painful disaster, which resulted in the murder of seventy of the best believers, and recalled the tragedy of Uhud but with the difference that those of Uhud were killed in a clear war but those of Ma‘una were killed in a disgraceful treachery.

 On his way back to Qarqara, ‘Amr bin Omaiyah rested in the shade of a tree, and there two men of Bani Kilab joined him.

 When they slept, ‘Amr killed them both, thinking that by doing that he would avenge some of his killed companions. Then he found out that they had been given a pledge of protection by the Prophet PBUH. He told the Messenger of Allâh PBUH what he had done.

 The Messenger of Allâh PBUH said to ‘Amr: "You have killed two people; their blood-money shall be a debt I have to discharge." He then engaged himself collecting their blood-money from the Muslims and their allies, the Jews[]. This very act was later to trigger the invasion of Bani An-Nadeer.

The Prophet PBUH was so deeply moved by this tragedy and that of Ar-Raji‘ that he used to invoke Allâh’s wrath against those people and tribes who killed his Companions. Anas reported that for thirty days the Prophet PBUH supplicated Allâh against those who killed his Companions at Ma‘una Well. Every dawn prayer he would invoke Allâh’s wrath against Ri‘l, Dhakwan, Lihyan and ‘Usaiyah. He would say, " ‘Usaiyah disobeyed Allâh and His Messenger.

" Therefore Allâh The Exalted, sent down unto His Messenger a Qur’ânic verse that we kept on reciting till it was abrogated later on: ‘Inform our folk that we have encountered our Lord and He is satisfied with us and we are satisfied with Him.’ So the Messenger of Allâh PBUH stopped his invocation.[]

Bani An-Nadeer Invasion:


We have already spoken about the disgraceful behaviour of the Jews and how they were always thirsting to shed the blood of the Muslims and undermine the cause of Islam despite all the covenants and pledges they had given to the Prophet PBUH. Their behaviour fluctuated between resignation and slackness after the Banu Qainuqa‘ event and the murder of Ka‘b bin Al-Ashraf, and rebellion coupled with treacherous clandestine contacts with Quraish and the hypocrites in order to establish an alliance against the Muslims after the battle of Uhud[].

 Being inexperienced in war tactics, they resorted to conspiracy and intrigue hatching. They first of all declared open hatred and enmity, and chose to play all sorts of tricks that might harm the Muslims, but were very careful not to initiate any sort of hostilities that might involve them in open war.

The Prophet PBUH, on his part, exercised the highest degree of patience with them but they went too far in their provocative deeds, especially after Ar-Raji‘ and Ma‘una Well events; they even made an attempt on his life.

Once the Prophet PBUH with some of his Companions set out to see Banu Nadeer and seek their help in raising the blood-money he had to pay to Bani Kalb for the two men that ‘Amr bin Omaiyah Ad-Damari had killed by mistake.

 All of that was in accordance with the clauses of the treaty that both parties had already signed. On hearing his story they said they would share in paying the blood-money and asked him and his Companions Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Ali and others to sit under a wall of their houses and wait.

The Jews held a short private meeting and conspired to kill the Prophet PBUH. The most wicked among them, ‘Amr bin Jahsh, volunteered to climb up the wall and drop a large millstone on his head. One of them, Salam bin Mashkam, cautioned them against perpetrating such a crime, predicting that Allâh would divulge their plot to him, and added that such an act would constitute a manifest violation of the pact concluded with the Muslims.

In fact, Gabriel did come down to reveal to the Prophet PBUH their wicked criminal intention, so he, with his Companions, hurried off back to Madinah. On their way, he told his Companions of the Divine Revelation.

Soon after, the Prophet PBUH delegated Muhammad bin Maslamah to communicate an ultimatum to Bani Nadeer to the effect that they should evacuate Madinah within ten days, otherwise, their heads would be cut off. The chief of the hypocrites, ‘Abdullah bin Ubai, urged the Jews not to pay heed to the Prophet PBUH’s words and to stay in their habitations, offering to run to their support with two thousands of his followers, and assuring them of help to come from Quraizah tribe and former allies Banu Ghatfan. In this regards, Allâh says:

• "If you are expelled, we (too) indeed will go out with you, and we shall never obey anyone against you, and if you are attacked (in fight), we shall indeed help you." [59:11]

The Jews regained their confidence and were determined to fight. Their chief Huyai bin Akhtab relied hopefully on what the chief of the hypocrites said. So he sent to the Messenger of Allâh PBUH saying: "We will not leave our houses. Do whatever you like to do."

Undoubtedly the situation was awkward for the Muslims. Launching a war against their opponents at this critical stage could entail terrible far reaching ramifications in the light of the unfavourable conditions they were passing through, besides the hostile environment growing in power and hatred around them, the harbinger of which assumed the form of killing the Muslim missions, as it has been already introduced.

The Jews of Bani Nadeer were also a power to count for, and the prospects of inflicting a military defeat on them was precarious; consequently forcing them into war engagement would be attended with unpredictable risks.

 On the other hand, the continual state of repeated assassinations and acts of treachery carried out against the Muslims individually and collectively brought about unbearable headache to Muhammad PBUH’s followers. Having judged all the prevalent status quo in this perspective, and in the light of the disgraceful attempt on the life of the Prophet PBUH, the Muslims made the decisive decisions of taking up arms whatever turn the consequences could assume.

When the Messenger of Allâh PBUH received the reply of Huyai bin Akhtab he said: "Allâhu Akbar, Allâhu Akbar." (Allâh is the Greatest of all) and his Companions repeated after him. Then he set out to fight them after appointing Ibn Umm Maktum to dispose the affairs of Madinah during his absence. The standard was entrusted to ‘Ali bin Abi Talib. He laid siege to their forts for six nights — in another version, fifteen.

Banu Nadeer resorted to their castles, mounted them and started shooting arrows and pelting stones at the Muslims enjoying the strategic advantage that their thick fields of palm trees provided. The Muslims were therefore ordered to fell and burn those trees. In this respect, Allâh, the All-Mighty, states in the Qur’ân:

• "What you (O Muslims) cut down of the palm-trees (of the enemy), or you left them standing on their stems, it was by leave of Allâh." [59:5]

Quraizah tribe remained neutral, and the hypocrite ‘Abdullah bin Ubai as well as Ghatfan failed to keep their promises of support. In this regard Allâh says:

• "(Their allies deceived them) like Satan, when he says to man: ‘Disbelieve in Allâh.’ But when (man) disbelieves in Allâh, Satan says: ‘I am free of you.’" [59:16]

The siege did not last long for Allâh, the All-Mighty, cast horror into the hearts of the Jews, and they willingly offered to comply with the Prophet PBUH’s order and leave Madinah. The Prophet PBUH accepted their request and allowed them to carry as much luggage as their camels could lift, arms were excepted.

 Of course, they had no choice but to carry out the orders, so they took with them everything they could carry even the pegs and beams of ceilings. Their caravan counted 600 loaded camels including their chiefs, Huyai bin Akhtab and Salam bin Abi Al-Huqaiq, who left for Khaibar whereas another party shifted to Syria. Two of them embraced Islam, Yameen bin ‘Amr and Abu Sa‘d bin Wahab, and so they retained their personal wealth.

The Messenger of Allâh PBUH seized their weapons, land, houses, and wealth. Amongst the other booty he managed to capture, there were 50 armours, 50 helmets, and 340 swords.

This booty was exclusively the Prophet PBUH’s because no fighting was involved in capturing it. He divided the booty at his own discretion among the early Emigrants and two poor Helpers, Abu Dujana and Suhail bin Haneef. Anyway the Messenger of Allâh PBUH spent a portion of this wealth on his family to sustain their living the year around. The rest was expended to provide the Muslim army with equipment for further wars in the way of Allâh.

The invasion of Bani An-Nadeer took place in Rabi‘ Al-Awwal, 4 A.H. i.e. in August 625 A.D. Almost all the verses of Sûrah Al-Hashr (Chapter 59 - The Gathering) describe the banishment of the Jews and reveal the disgraceful manners of the hypocrites. The verses manifest the rules relevant to the booty. In this Chapter, Allâh, the All-Mighty, praises the Emigrants and Helpers. This Chapter also shows the legitimacy of cutting down and burning the enemy’s land and trees for military purposes. Such acts cannot be regarded as phenomena of corruption so long that they are in the way of Allâh.

In this very Chapter, Allâh recommends the believers to be pious and prepare themselves for the world to come and He ends it with a compliment upon Himself and a manifestation of His Holy Names and Attributes.

As this Chapter concentrates on Bani An-Nadeer and their banishment, Ibn ‘Abbas used to describe it as ‘An-Nadeer Chapter’.[]

The Invasion of Najd:


With the peaceful victory that the Muslims achieved at Bani An-Nadeer invasion, their control over Madinah was undisputedly established, and the hypocrites receded to a state of silence and stopped their artful machinations publicly. Consequently the Prophet PBUH had ample time to direct all his energies and human resources towards suppressing the desert bedouins and curbing their harmful provocations and wicked malicious practices of killing his missionaries and even contemplating an invasion of Madinah itself.[]

 Meanwhile, the Muslim scouting groups reported building up of bedouin troops of Bani Muharib and Tha‘labah of Ghatfan around Madinah. The Prophet PBUH, with the Muslims, hurriedly set out to discipline those new outlaws, cast fear into their hearts and deter them from perpetrating further wicked practices. These deterring operations were carried out repeatedly and did produce effective results. The rebellious hard-hearted desert bedouins were terrorized into the mountains, and Madinah remained completely immune against their raids.

In the context of these invasions, it is interesting to draw some prominence to a significant one ¾ Dhat Ar-Riqa‘ (rags) campaign ¾ which some scholars claim, took place in Najd ( a large area of tableland in the Arabian Peninsula) in Rabi‘ Ath-Thani or Jumada Al-Ula, 4 A.H. They substantiate their claim by saying that it was strategically necessary to carry out this campaign in order to quell the rebellious bedouins in order to meet the exigencies of the agreed upon encounter with the polytheists, i.e. minor Badr Battle in Sha‘ban, 4 A.H. The most authentic opinion, however, is that Dhat Ar-Riqa‘ campaign took place after the fall of Khaibar.

 This is supported by the fact that Abu Hurairah and Abu Musa Al-Ash‘ari - may Allah be pleased with him - witnessed the battle. Abu Hurairah embraced Islam only some days before Khaibar, and Abu Musa Al-Ash‘ari came back from Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and joined the Prophet PBUH at Khaibar. The rules relating to the prayer of fear which the Prophet PBUH observed at Dhat Ar-Riqa‘ campaign, were revealed at ‘Asfan Invasion and this beyond a shadow of doubt took place after Al-Khandaq (the trench) Battle in late 5 A.H.

The Invasion of Badr, the Second:


When the Muslims destroyed the power of the Arab-desert tribes and guarded themselves against their evils, they started preparations to encounter their great enemy. A year elapsed since they fought Quraish at Uhud. So it was due time to meet them and start war again in order to determine which of the two parties was worthy of survival.[]

In Sha‘ban 4 A.H., January 626 A.D., the Messenger of Allâh PBUH set out to Badr accompanied by one thousand and five hundred fighters and ten mounted horsemen, and with ‘Ali bin Abi Talib as standard bearer. ‘Abdullah bin Rawahah was given authority over Madinah during the Prophet PBUH’s absence. Reaching Badr, the Muslims stayed there waiting for the idolaters to come.

Abu Sufyan’s forces comprised two thousand footmen and fifty horsemen. They reached Mar Az-Zahran, some distance form Makkah, and camped at a water place called Mijannah. Being reluctant, discouraged and extremely terrified of the consequences of the approaching fight, Abu Sufyan turned to his people and began to introduce cowardice-based flimsy pretexts in order to dissuade his men from going to war, saying:

 "O tribe of Quraish! Nothing will improve the condition you are in but a fruitful year — a year during which your animals feed on plants and bushes and give you milk to drink. And I see that this is a rainless year, therefore I am returning now and I recommend you to return with me."

It seems that his army were also possessed of the same fears and apprehensions, for they readily obeyed him without the least hesitation.

The Muslims, who were then at Badr, stayed for eight days waiting for their enemy. They took advantage of their stay by selling goods and earning double as much the price out of it.

When the idolaters declined to fight, the balance of powers shifted to rest in favour of the Muslims, who thus regained their military reputation, their dignity and managed to impose their awe-inspiring presence over the whole of Arabia. In brief, they mastered and controlled the whole situation.

This invasion had many a name. It is called ‘Badr the Appointment’, ‘Badr, the Second’, ‘Badr, the Latter’, and ‘Badr Minor’.[]

The Invasion of Doumat Al-Jandal:


With the Messenger PBUH’s return from Badr, peace and security prevailed the whole area; and the Islamic headquarters, Madinah, enjoyed full security. The Prophet PBUH then deemed it fit and appropriate to head for the most distant areas of Arabia in order to subdue all hostile elements in order to force undisputed recognition out of friend and enemy alike.

After a six-month lull of military activities, the Prophet PBUH was reported that some tribes, in the vicinity of Doumat Al-Jandal, on the borders of Syria, were involved in highway robbery and plundering, and were on their way to muster troops and raid Madinah itself. He immediately appointed Siba‘ bin ‘Arfatah Al-Ghifari to dispose the affairs of Madinah during his absence, and set out at the head of 1000 Muslims in late Rabi‘ Al-Awwal, 5 A.H. taking with him a man, named Madhkur, from Bani ‘Udhrah, as a guide.

On their way to Doumat Al-Jandal, they used to march by night and hide by day, so that they might take the enemy by surprise. When they drew near their destination, the Muslims discovered that the highway men had moved to another place, so they captured their cattle and shepherds. The inhabitants of Doumat Al-Jandal had also fled in all directions for their lives and evacuated their habitations. The Prophet PBUH stayed there for 5 days during which he despatched expeditionary forces to hunt for the enemy personnel but they detected none. He then returned to Madinah but en route he entered into a peace treaty with ‘Uyainah bin Hisn. Doumat Al-Jandal is located at about a distance of fifteen days march from Madinah and five from Damascus.

With this decisive and steady progress and wise strict plans, the Prophet PBUH managed to spread security, control the situation and make peace prevail the whole area.

He also succeeded in shifting the course of events for the welfare of the Muslims by reducing the incessant internal and external troubles. The hypocrites were silenced, a tribe of the Jews evacuated while the other continued to fake good neighbourliness and seemingly faithful adherence to the covenants, the desert bedouins subdued and finally the archenemy Quraish no longer keen on attacking the Muslims. This secure strategic attitude created optimum circumstances for the Muslims to resume their logical course in propagating Islam and communicating the Messages of the Lord to all worlds.

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