Title: Battle of Mu’tah Part 1
Study the biography of the single greatest human being that ever walked the surface of this earth, whom Allah sent as a Mercy to Mankind.
This lecture was recorded on 4th December 2013
Title: Battle of Mu’tah Part 1
Study the biography of the single greatest human being that ever walked the surface of this earth, whom Allah sent as a Mercy to Mankind.
This lecture was recorded on 4th December 2013
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What is Mu’tah? It’s the name of a small village and the land around it in an area that used to be in the Roman province. It’s currently in Jordan. It occurs between the two famous cities Amaan and Kark in Jordan. Literally in the middle – modern scholars call it ‘al mazaar’ meaning ‘village’ because the three sahaba who died being leaders are buried there. Why did Mu’tah take place? Frankly the answer to this question is not easy. We don’t seem to have precise details as to the reasons. Scholars have tried to peice together the reasons:
1. The earliest reason is given by al Waaqidi who says the reason why Mu’tah took place was revenge for the killing of Al Harith ibn Umayr, the messenger of the prophet PBUH. He had been sent to deliver a message to the Romans; and he passed by the Gasaanid tribe (the largest christian tribes). Because they were chrisitan they felt more affinity to the Romans, and the gasaanids were the Arab vasals to the Romans. If the Romans needed anything in the Roman lands they would tell the gasaanids. So what happened to Al Harith? He was captured by the gasaanids; they took him to their chieftain, Shar’ah Beil ibn Amr. And he asked Al Harith “who are you?” Al Hairth said “I am an envoy, here is my letter, you must let me go”. And Shar’ah Beil mocked him, totured him and with his own hands killed him. To this day envoys and messengers are NOT touched, they are never killed. And the fact that Shar’ah Beil did this, he crossed a red line. Worse than this is the fact that the cheifton does it himself. This is a full mockery of the prophet PBUH and Islam. He himself took the spear and thrusted it into Al Harith after he was brutally totured. You cannot get more vulgar than what he did. His perspective is “what are you going to do to me?” He was far up north, he was a cheifton and he thought he was untouchable. This is the height of insult and arrogance – it has to be responded to. Therefore as soon as peace was established in the hijaaz region, after Hudaybiyya and Khaybar, the prophet PBUH turned his attention to the gasaanids.
2. The second reason which dosen’t seem to have much evidence is that the governer of Bosra, a small region outside Damascus. To this day you still find the marketplace that over hundreds of years old. It was the centre of market and trading. The far easterners would come, the roman, the greeks, arabs etc would all come and congregate in Bosra. It’s said the governer of Bosra had threatened the muslims after the letter reached Heraclius through him.
3. Ibn Kathir mentions another reason/wisdom – it seems moreso to be an effect of the battle. He mentions this battle was preperation for the later battles against the Romans. The prophet PBUH wanted to send a message to the world and especially to the sahaba, that Islam is a global message and it must spread outside the Arabian Peninsula. So Mu’tah is a prelude, followed by Tabuk in which he did participate. Tabuk was also meant against the Romans. Now note Mu’tah wasn’t directly against the Romans – it was against the gasaanids. But the point is if you are messing with the gasaanids, you are messing with their allies i.e. the Romans. Even though the prophet PBUH did not anticipate the Romans fighting, he knows what he’s getting into. And Tabuk was clear cut for the Romans but they didn’t show up. So the point is, it’s as if the prophet PBUH is telling the sahaba “when you finish up with the Arabian Peninsula you need to go beyond” and the number one target is Syria. And this is why the very first land conquered after the death of the prophet PBUH was Syria. So Mu’tah is like the first domino, then Tabuk etc. So ibn Kathir says the wisdom of Mu’tah is the psychological foundation to take over the Romans.
4. Another wisdom was that Khalid ibn Waleed manages to witness the tactics of the Romans first hand. He participates and saves himself and the muslims. And this experiance he gains was invaluable for the future, and indeed it is Khalid ibn Waleed who leads the muslims to conquer all the lands.
The point is Mu’tah wasn’t something immediate in defence of an enemy attack. It was for revenge for Al Harith, or he wanted to set the ground for future conquests, or he wanted to do both. In Jamaadal Awwal, 8th year of the Hijrah, the prophet PBUH made an announcement that he wanted the muslims to go to the gasaanids. And there was no ambiguity. It would take them at least a month of travelling. So he told where they are going, and encouraged them to volunteer. And around 3000 sahaba signed up. Notice how quickly the numbers are changing. 6 years ago in Badr, the numbers was 1/10th. In 6 years, the numbers have increased 10-fold. In fact in Hudaybiyya we only have 1400. Within one year it doubles. And this is only the volunteers, in Madinah there are hundreds more. Thus Madinah and the muslim empire is becoming larger and larger. So 3000 signed up and they felt on a friday in Jamadal al Awwal in 8H. We know it’s friday as ibn Abbass narrates “I said to myself, ‘should I leave with them or pray with the prophet PBUH Juma’a first?'” So the army is leaving in the morning, so he’s debating shall I pray Juma’a and catch up to them or leave with them in the morning. Ibn Abbass decided to wait, so he prayed Juma’a and the prophet PBUH finished and asked ibn Abbass “why are you here why haven’t you left?” Ibn Abbass said “I wanted to pray with you and then catch up with them”. So the prophet PBUH said “If you were to give sadaqah of all of the money of this world, you will never get the reward of that having left early with them”. Meaning he gave up the bigger reward of leaving early for a smaller reward of Juma’a. The bigger reward is to be in the gazwa with the people.
And the prophet PBUH appointed three commanders one after the other. This was the only time he did this in his entire life. This indicates the prophet PBUH understood the severity of the battle. He understood it’s not easy and something bad might happen. He appointed first Zaid ibn Harithah as its leader, and he said “If Zaid is killed then Ja’far will be in charge, if Ja’far is killed then Abdullah ibn Rawahah shall be in charge”. This is in Bhukari, in one version in al Bayhaqee “if Abdullah ibn Rawahah is killed, let the muslims choose somebody else”. So he gave this command aswell. And this shows us the status of these three sahabi. All three was incredibly near and dear to the prophet PBUH. Especially Zaid ibn Harithah, that sahabi who has the honour of being the only sahabi whose name is in the Quran. That sahabi that Aisha RA herself said “never did the prophet PBUH send Zaid on an expidition, except that Zaid was in charge”. He was never number two in any battle. And then “if Zaid had been alive when the prophet PBUH had died, no one would have been chosen above him”. SubhanAllah. Who is Aisha? The daughter of Abu Bukr! And she herself is saying “If Zaid was alive, no-one would have been chosen above him”. Even Ja’far RA felt hurt “I am your cousin and you choose Zaid?” And the prophet PBUH sensed this, so the prophet PBUH encouraged him and said “you do not know, perhaps this is better for you”. So Zaid and Ja’far and Abdullah ibn Rawahah, and the prophet PBUH gave them a while flag. He accompanied the army all the way to the standard place where every group would bid farewell to their travellers. It’s called the ‘hill of farewell’, also known as ‘thaneeya tul wada’a’. Every single traveller that went out of Madinah would be accompanied with their family to this place. So it was the prophet PBUHs sunnah to accompany his army to this hill. And note the famous poem of thaneeya tul wada’a was said at the return from Tabuk.
So the prophet PBUH sends the army forward, gives them the banner and gives them advice not to turn back and be firm. Abdullah ibn Rawahah was seen crying, and someone asked him “why are you crying?” He said “I am not crying out of a love for this world, nor am I crying because I have an inclination for it, I am crying thinking of the verse in the Quran ‘every one of you shall pass over it (Jahanam)'”. So he began crying out of fear of crossing over the siraat (bridge) of Jahanam. And he said “what will I do in that crossing?” So we find the sahaba were emotional and one of them cries out “may Allah accompany you and allow you to return safely and soundly”. And ibn Rawahah versified in a beautiful poetry “as for me, I ask for Allahs forgiveness, and a blow that is mighty that causes my blood to gush out, so when people pass by my grave, they shall say ‘Allah guided him to be a warrior, and how rightly guided he was'”. And ibn Ishaaq mentions a famous story on the journey. Zaid ibn Arkam was an orphan who Abdullah ibn Rawahah took care off, and so Zaid grew up in his house. So Zaid ibn Arkam is riding on the camel of ibn Rawahah and he’s around 15/16 – in the middle of the night, ibn Rawahah gives poetry that “let me die oh Allah and be a shaheed”. And the poetry is so moving Zaid ibn Arkam bursts into tears. So Abdullah ibn Rawahah jokingly hits Zaid ibn Arkam and says “Oh fool” in a friendly way, “what would it matter you if I am a shaheed and Allah blesses me, and you get the camel alone on the way back?” SubhanAllah, and this is exactly what happened.
Who is Abdullah ibn Rawahah? Firstly he is an ansari. He participated in the treaty of Akabah – the ansaris chosen at Akabah was amongst the elite of the Ansar so he is amongst those. And he was the one whom the prophet PBUH sent back from Badr to give the good news that Badr was a success. When the munafiqoon saw Abullah ibn Rawahah on the camel of the prophet PBUH running into Madinah, overjoyed that “Abu Jahal has died, so and so has died etc”. The munafiq said “rather the prophet has died and ibn Rawahah has gone crazy”. Ibn Rawahah was another famed poet along with Hasan ibn Thabit, but he died an early death so Hasan is more known to us. Even though in his lifetime ibn Rawahah was more famous, and he was of a different level in terms of piety. There are many things mentioned about ibn Rawahah. The prophet PBUH said “what a great man Abdullah ibn Rawahah is”. Also, he was the one who once the prophet PBUH was giving a khutbah, and a delegation came to the prophet PBUH so the prophet PBUH said “sit down”. Ibn Rawahah was just entering the masjid, and he heard the prophet PBUH say “sit down” so at the door of the masjid he literally sat down then and there. And the prophet PBUH smiled and made dua for him. And in Umrah al Qadah, he was the one signing lines of poetry about the prophet PBUH against the Quraysh. And Umar RA was more strict, he said “oh ibn Rawahah how dare you sing poetry in front of the prophet PBUH, while in ihraam while in Mecca?!” And the prophet PBUH said “let him be for verily his words are more painful to the Quraysh than arrows coming from the heavens”. And of course poetry was a weapon back then. And this is Abdullah ibn Rawahah, he has a huge stellar legacy – and even in this battle, he has eloquent poetry recorded to this day.
Nonetheless, they are on their way to Jordan and march to the lands of Ma’an, but it appears the gasaanids panicked. They heard the muslims are coming, and they sent out emissaries to every one of their allies including the Romans. So they sent out emissaries to every other christian Arab tribe, such as Lukham, or Judaam etc. And they also sent an emissary to the Romans. One or two early seerah books make a mistake: that Heraclius himself responded and came down to fight. This is a clear error because Heraclius himself never fought the muslims. And even later on when the conquest of Jerusalem took place, he never participated directly against the muslims. How could he when he knew this is a true messenger of Allah. His generals, armies etc all faced the muslims, but he himself never fought. So anyway, arab christian tribes all gathered together, and the Romans sent a small contingent aswell. And all these tribes gather before the muslims enter Mu’tah; they are still a few days away so the gasaanids take precaution and thousands gather to fight the muslims. How many? The standard number mentioned is 100,000. Other books mention 150,000 – the fact is we need to be more critical. The Arab tribes in totality do not number 100,000. It’s impossible for the army to be 100,000. It’s human nature to read in larger numbers and this is a well known phenomenon. And also the Romans never even sent 100,000 against the Persians, why would they send that many against the muslims who were nothing to them. They weren’t viewed as an international threat. One modern scholar estimates maximum 10,000 people fought against the muslims. Most likely 1000 from the Romans and the rest made up of Arab christian tribes. Now that the Romans are involved however, we have records from the Romans side about this battle. Indeed the Romans are a true civilisation so we actually have this battle mentioned in the Roman books (next week). So in summary at max there were 10,000 – point is no doubt the muslims were outnumbered far more than they expected.
So when the news reached the muslim camp, they began to wonder “what should we do?” And they in fact camped for two days “what should we do?” Back and forth discussion that the plan was to just fight the gasaanids who numbered max 5000. But now they have double the quantity, and on top of this the Romans are involved. Why are they so worried? Because the Romans are a totally different fighting bread. Superior armory, better trained, better horses, better weapons. They are a different class of fighters. And the sahaba know this. So one group said “let us camp here and send a messenger back to the prophet PBUH and get his command: either he’ll send more people, or tell us to retreat, or tell us to go and we’ll do whatever he wants”. Note they are already in Jordan. For them to send a messenger all the way down and then all the way back up, this will take at least two weeks. Another group said “let us return we didn’t come for this because we have come to this land, shown our force, stepped in their territory, frighten them so mission accomplished”. And Zaid ibn Harithah asked Abdullah ibn Rawahah “what is your opinion?” This shows us at times of difficulty you must turn to the senior members with wisdom, not the novices. And ibn Rawahah stood up and gave a moving speech. And there’s no doubt Zaid knows what he will say. Zaid wants to convince the rest of the sahaba, but ibn Rawahah has a better tongue than him. And throughout the journey ibn Rawahah has said “I’m going to die shaheed khalas that’s it”. So he stands up, the most eloquent of the group, and says “Oh my people, what you’re scared off is exactly what you’re after. So you are scared of your goal because of your goal.” SubhanAllah – he is saying “you are scared of dying but isn’t that why we are here? To die shaheed? Isn’t that the ultimate goal?” And he says “what is the matter with us? Allah will bless us with one of two things: victory or shahada. And we know Allah dosen’t help us with quantity or weapons, rather through our Islam that He has blessed us with. Rather let us go forth and face one of the two inevitable realities”.
So after this everyone decided to go forth and face the Romans and the Arab christians. They continued moving onwards and they passed by a village who knew what was happening, and this village showered the back of the muslim army with arrows, and it so happened a number of sahaba were injured and one of the died. So they went forward and told Zaid “let us go back and fight the village”. And for sure they could have defeated the village. But Zaid said “no – for the enemy is in front of us, and I don’t want to be sidetracked that will wound, tire out and seperate us from the big enemy”. So he refused and moved onwards north. And eventually it was the muslims who decided on the land, and it was Mu’tah. We have to guess why this land was chosen. Again because the prophet PBUH himself is not involved in this battle we have considerably less hadiths and narrations regarding it. The whole battle is just recorded in a page or two of narrations. They most likely chose Mu’tah for logistical reasons. Definately they chose Mu’tah for ease of access of water since there was a river near Mu’tah. Also, probably there was a line of retreat that they could depend on and take advantage off if needed. And indeed this is exactly what happened with Khalid ibn Waleed. Was this a reason Zaid chose Mu’tah? We don’t know, but ultimately the land did have such a retreating path. So the muslims chose the area.
As always they divided themselves into three groups. Middle, right and left. Abu Hurrairah was apart of the battle, and it’s his first battle. And even though he’s a narrator of hadith, he also fought in battles. So his eyes opened up wide when he saw the army in front. And one of the sahaba said “what is the matter with you oh Abu Hurrairah? Are you shocked at how large the army is?” So he said “yes”. The sahabi said “but you were not with us at Badr. And let me tell you we did not win because of the size of the army”. SubhanAllah. Look at their imaan and their confidence they will win. They are not walking into a suicide. They aren’t thinking “because we’re 3000 and they are 10,000 we will lose”. No – they believe they will win. And this is the attitude of a muslim. He dosen’t walk into a suicide attack. Walahi the seerah does not demostrate this at all. Here is Mu’tah which is one of the most difficult battles, yet the view of the sahaba is “we will win”. And note wanting shahada is not the same as suicide. Ibn Rawahah wants shahada, but he fights a vicious battle. There are two different things. And the sahabi is saying again “they were 3x our size at Badr, they are 3x our size now so we’ll win”.
So Zaid gave the command to charge, and he was holding the flag because the prophet PBUH gave him the flag personally. It’s a matter of honour, so Zaid took the flag and he was attacked from every side until he was surrounded by the enemy. And he met his death surrounded by a whole flank of non muslims. When he was killed, Ja’far took the flag, and he fought one of the most vicious fights ever recorded. The bravery of Ja’far at Mu’tah is almost unparalleled with any sahabi in any battle. He charged in with his horse, fought valiently until someone cut his horses legs off. So the horse fell and he rolled forward. Then he stood up and he is surrounded by non muslims. And while holding onto the flag, he is single handedly fighting the people around him. There are people stabbing and putting in every wound but he is fighting back. Until finally out of nowhere someone suprises him and cuts off his entire right hand which had the flag in it. Before the flag can hit the floor, the left hand comes in, swoops down and catches it. Now he is just standing there with one hand in the flag. As a matter of pride, the other groups chops off his left hand. This time the flag does fall to the ground, but he bends down, takes the two stumps and puts it on his chest to raise the flag again unil finally a Roman soilder literally cuts him in half from behind. Ibn Umar said “I participated in Mu’tah, and after we hunted for the body of Ja’far. And we counted over 90 stabs and wounds and cuts across his entire body. 50 in the front and 40 at the back”. This means literally ibn Umar is counting the wounds of Ja’fars body. And why? To show the bravery and honour of Ja’far. And both of his hands were cut off, and it’s recorded in Bhukari that whenevre ibn Umar passed by the children of Ja’far he would say “asalaam u alaikum oh sons of the ones with two wings”. And there are many hadith put together become hasan, that the prophet PBUH said “I saw Ja’far in Jannah, and Allah has given him two wings instead of his hands. And he’s flying around anywhere he wants”. Thus Ja’far ibn Abi Talib is the one with two wings.
When Ja’far dies, ibn Rawahah takes the flags. And before he plunges in he hesitates and paused. And subhanAllah on the battlefield with the pressure he versifies poetry. And note he’s been waiting for death this whole journey, yet when he sees it he pauses. So he says “I swear oh my soul you shall proceed or I will force you to proceed”. Meaning his soul is battling with him. And he’s telling his soul “the people have gathered, the clamour has risen. What is the matter with you that you don’t want Jannah? Surely what you’ve desired has alluded you for too long. What are you? Except a drop of despised fluid put in a bag”. He’s telling his soul “what’s the matter why are you scared? Jannah is around the corner!” And he then jumped into the ranks and died a shaheed. And this shows us something so human and beautiful. This is what makes the sahaba the sahaba. When the shahada is right in front of him, he hesitates. What is bravery? It’s to conquer your fear. It’s not to not feel fear. Walahi to us this is not fear, this is ultimate bravery. It shows us the humanity, that ibn Rawahah is so close to death but he hesitates, until finally his imaan overcomes and he dies a shaheed.
Thabit ibn Arkam, when the flag falls, he jumps in, gets the flag and takes refuge in a small area. Note it’s allowed to turn your back if you want to regroup as Allah says in Anfal. So he turns his back because he wants to get the flag to safety. So the battle is taking place, but he shouts out “Oh muslims come quickly”. He’s not Zaid, Ja’far or ibn Rawahah so it’s clear they are all dead. And when a group come around him, he says “quickly choose a leader amongst you”. And someone says “YOU be the leader”. And he says “no way not me”. So they look around and their eyes settle on the one who is the newest of them to Islam, barely a month or two has gone by, and he’s someone whose caused them the most damage in Badr, Uhud, Hudaybiyya, Khaybar – so many have lose their lives because of him, but Islam forgives everything, so all eyes turn to Khalid ibn Waleed. And he says “how can I? I am who I am”. We think of Khalid as the sword of Allah, but at THIS stage his is the newest muslim, fresh into Islam, he has a history of killing muslims, and his father Al Waleed has countless verses in the Quran against him. But they insist and Khalid takes the flag. We will discuss this next week.
Now, as all this is enfolding in Mu’tah, the prophet PBUH is vividly describing every single detail of the battle simultaneously. Full on live updates. All the sahaba have gathered, and he is telling them in graphic detail exactly what is happening. And this hadith is in Bhukari and Muslim so it’s fully authentic. That Anas ibn Malik says “the prophet PBUH told us about the deaths of Zaid, Ja’far and ibn Rawahah before the news reached us”. Meaning before the messengers came from the battle. And he said “the prophet PBUH told us ‘Zaid took the flag and he was killed. Ja’far took it and he was killed. And ibn Rawahaha took it, and he was killed’. And his eyes were crying until he said ‘a sword from the swords of Allah took it and Allah gave him victory'”. Aisha RA narrates “when the news of the death of Zaid, Ja’far and ibn Rawahah came, the prophet PBUH sat down and grief was clearly visible from him”. SubhanAllah he’s so emotionally hurt he has to physically sit down. Can you imagine the stress and pain? Zaid ibn Harithah, the one who when his own father and uncle came to free him, Zaid is shocked and said “what did you tell them?!” And the prophet PBUH said “I left the matter to you”. And Zaid tells his father “in that case I will never choose anyone over this man”. And his father said “oh my son you’ll remain a slave with a stranger rather than be a free man?” And Zaid says “oh my father the love this man has shown me, no one else can show me”. And when he said this, that was when the prophet PBUH took Zaid as Zaid ibn Muhammad, and he is the only sahaba mentioned in the Quran by name. Abu Bukr is mentioned only by a pronoun. So Zaid has just died. Someone who the prophet PBUH raised up for 30 years in his own household. Then Ja’far – the prophet PBUH stood up and kissed Ja’far when he came back. The prophet PBUH said “I don’t why I am happy – the conquest of Khaybar (worth millions) or seeing Ja’far”. And he was raised with Ja’far as a child, but he has just been killed. And Abdullah ibn Rawahah has also just died.
And Aisha is seeing all this and says “I was looking at him from the corner of my house, and a man came to him and said ‘the women of Ja’far are crying’. So the prophet PBUH told him ‘go back and tell them to stop’. So he went, but came back and said ‘I told them but they didn’t listen’. So the prophet PBUH again commanded the same. But again he returned and said ‘the women have overpowered us’. And so the prophet PBUH said ‘then go throw dust into their mouths’.” Then the messenger goes back but Aisha gets so irritated she says “rather may Allah throw dust on your nose, for neither have you done this nor have you relieved the suffering of the prophet PBUH”. The point here is the prophet PBUH is so grieved and in pain, he literally sits down and is crying. He is in shock and news spread so the wives of Ja’far begin mourning i.e. crying out loud and wailing. And wailing is “how will we live?” etc. But this is haraam and a major sin. The women know this, but they have not been tested yet. So for the first time a man dies and the woman revert to their practices and begin wailing. So a man comes, who we don’t know, and he says ‘the woman are crying what do I do’? And notice Aisha dosen’t narrate the women are ‘wailing’ but they most definately were. Rather Aisha tones it down so as not to embarras the women. So the prophet PBUH tells them to stop, but for three times back and forth they didn’t stop. What can the prophet PBUH do? So the third time the prophet PBUH got irritated. And this hadith is so beautiful because it shows us the humanity of the sahaba. Its haraam to wail and he tells them three times ‘stop wailing’. But they didn’t stop. Now what can you do? The man is saying ‘the women has overcome us’. So the prophet PBUH is saying “what can I do?! They aren’t doing it, you’re not stopping them, what can I do? Go throw dust in their mouths”. The prophet PBUH is fustrated and in pain, yet this man is coming with such a concern. It’s not wise. It’s not something you need to come three times for. This is what she says “neither are you able to control your women, nor are you sparing the prophet PBUH from pain and suffering”. So she lashes out. And walahi the whole incident – you are crying for all parties. All of them have their own tragedy taking place. Overall the point is the battle of Mu’tah caused immense grief for the prophet PBUH. He lost the most beloved to him, Zaid. Ibn Abbass says “I never knew Zaid ibn Muhammad was Zaid ibn Harithah until Allah revealed the verse about him”. For all sense and purposes, he was a real son of the prophet PBUH. And now he’s died. Ja’far has died. Ibn Rawahah has died.