Answered by Ustadha Shazia Ahamd
I’d like to ask you about a historical event that happened in the life of Prophet Muhammad which shocked me and caused doubts in my heart. It’s about the expedition of Khaled bin Walid in 630 to Dawmat Al Jandal to capture their prince Ukaydir who was a Christian and bring him back to the Prophet. Khaled did that (and killed the prince’s brother).
The Prophet offered him to pay the Jizya to avoid being killed, and he accepted. Why did he do that? Doesn’t Islam only allow fighting in self-defense? I feel like doubts are arising in me slowly and they are torturing me!
Below is the story that you are referring to.
The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) sent Khalid ibn al-Walid to Ukaydir of Dumah. He was seized, and they brought him to him (i.e., the Prophet). He spared his life and made peace with him on condition that he should pay jizya. [Abu Dawud]
This story is true, but you should not let it cause doubts or misgiving in your heart. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was sent as a mercy to the world and he fulfilled his mission as he was obliged to by Allah and fulfilled it the most perfect way.
Purpose of the Mission
Part of his mission was spreading Islam, and different methods were required for this, especially during his era. At times, he would appeal to people’s intellect and understanding, at other times, he would march with an army, and at times, he would call to Allah in secret or in public, depending on circumstance.
Note that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) was ordered to fight at certain times in order to establish the religion of Allah, and because this obligation was continued after him, you will find the Middle East is a majority of Muslims today.
Allah says, “Fight them until there is no more persecution, and worship is devoted to Allah. If they cease hostilities, there can be no [further] hostility, except towards aggressors.” [Quran, 2:193]
The Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “I have been commanded to fight the people until they say ‘La ilaha ill-Allah’, and whoever says it, his life and his wealth are safe from me, except for a right that is due, and his reckoning will be with Allah.“ [Nasai]
Muslim Leader and His Conduct With Non-Muslims
See this example of what a Muslim army leader would proclaim when he met the non-Muslims. Jubayr ibn Hayyah said, “Umar sent people to all the regions to fight the idolators… so ‘Umar recruited us and appointed al-Nu’maan ibn Muqarrin to lead us. When we were in the land of the enemy, the representative of Chosroes came out to us with forty thousand troops. An interpreter stood up and said: “Let one of you speak to me.” Al-Mugheerah said: “Ask whatever you want.” He asked, “Who are you?” He (al-Mugheerah) said: “We are some people from among the Arabs. We used to lead a harsh and miserable life, sucking on animal skins and date stones because of hunger, wearing clothes made of camel and goat hair, worshipping trees, and rocks. While we were in this state, the Lord of the heavens and the earth, exalted be His name and glorified be His greatness, sent to us a Prophet from amongst ourselves, whose father and mother we know. Our Prophet, the Messenger of our Lord, (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), commanded us to fight you until you worship Allaah alone or pay the jizyah. Our Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) told us the message from our Lord, that whoever among us is killed will go to Paradise to enjoy delights such as no one has ever seen, and whoever among us is left will become your master.” [Bukhari]
The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) had the option of killing Ukaydir because a Muslim leader may have a non-Muslim leader killed for fear of him inciting his subjects to kill Muslims. He, however, had given the Christian prince a choice to become Muslim or remain a Christian and pay the jizya (poll tax).
This is the noblest choice any leader of any army has ever given another leader of a kingdom. This is Islam. Ukaydir could have converted and commanded his subjects to convert, or he could have remained as he was and paid the poll tax. He chose to pay, so the Prophet spared his life. Naturally, if he were to rebel and deny both choices, the Prophet would have to do what is right for Allah and kill him. Only then could Islam be spread and their ultimate salvation achieved.
This type of battle warfare was common, widely accepted, and understood at the time. In our era, people tend to go to war with Twitter or other social media, or they are so cocooned that they don’t realize wars are being waged on groups, territories, and countries all the time. Islam gave warfare a noble cause, suitable purpose, dignity, integrity, respect for the dead, and everlasting reward.
Fighting for Establishing And Defending Truth
Consider this hadith. Salamah bin Nufail Al-Kindi said, “I was sitting with the Messenger of Allah when a man said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! The people have lost interest in horses and put down their weapons, and they say there is no Jihad, and that war has ended.’ The Messenger of Allah turned to face him and said, ‘They are lying, now the fighting is to come. There will always be a group among my Ummah who will fight for the truth, for whom Allah will cause some people to deviate, and grant them provision from them, until the Hour begins and until the promise of Allah comes. Goodness is tied to the forelocks of horses until the Day of Resurrection. It has been revealed to me that I am going to die and will not stay long, and you will follow me, group, after group, striking one another’s necks. And the place of safety for the believers is Ash-Sham.‘“ [Nasai]
May Allah make us of those who strive with jihad against ourselves, this world, the Shaytan, and our caprice, for nothing can be accomplished without these.
[Ustadha] Shazia Ahmad
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadha Shazia Ahmad lived in Damascus, Syria for two years where she studied aqida, fiqh, tajweed, tafsir, and Arabic. She then attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she completed her Masters in Arabic. Afterward, she moved to Amman, Jordan where she studied fiqh, Arabic, and other sciences. She later moved back to Mississauga, Canada, where she lives with her family.