5. Jihad

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم وصلى الله على سيدنا محمد وعلى ءاله وصحبه أجمعين وسلّم

Title: Jihad

Author: Abdassamad Clarke

Publication date: 28/9/2013

Assalamu alaykum. Welcome to the Muslim History Programme of the MFAS. This is the fifth of 12 sessions which make up the Early Madina module. The lecture will last approximately 40 minutes during which time you should make a written note of any questions that may occur to you for clarification after the lecture. 


In this paper we will examine jihad and the Madinan community’s involvement in it and relationship to it over the first three generations, in the process deepening our understanding of what it is and its rulings. We will look at the jihad against renegades, people who refused the zakat, khawarij and People of the Book in the context of the time and of the Roman and Persian Empires and the great tribes of Arabia. We will also examine the movement of wealth brought about by the jihad.


We have put behind us decades of apologetics about jihad whose premise was that it was defensive and thus justifiable. There has subsequently been a dialectical swing in which a rather muscular kāfir response has picked up on certain āyats of Qur’ān, particularly those in Sūrat at-Tawba, and has painted Islam as a warlike and aggressive religion that offers people the choice between submission or death. It is perhaps time now to approach the issue in a fresh light.

Fiqh of Jihad

Here we draw on Ibn Juzayy:

First issue: on its ruling which is that it is a fard kifaya according to the majority, but Ibn al-Musayyib said that it is fard ‘ayn whereas Sahnun1 said that it became voluntary after the Opening [of Makkah to Islam]. Ad-Dawudi2 said that it is fard ‘ayn on those closest to the kuffar. 

Derivative ruling: if the extremities of the country are protected and the borders guarded, then the obligation of jihad is dropped and it remains as an optional extra act.3

Fiqh of the First Situation

In early Madina in which the very survival of Islam and the Muslims was at stake, during the expedition to Tabuk, four categories were made clear in Sūrat at-Tawba: there were first of all Mujahidun, then those with valid excuses such as poverty or illness, and then there were Munafiqun and finally, the exceptional circumstances of the three men whose īmān was not in question but who nevertheless missed the battle. At a later point, we find ‘ulamā’ and others who clearly have never engaged in jihad, such as Imām Mālik himself and many more.

The Fatra – the Interregnum Before Islam

We must put the issue in context: Islam happens after the fatra, the long period in which Judaeo-Christian culture has the fullest time to prove, redeem or damn itself. However, what we have is the great theological and philosophical sophistication and cleverness of Christianity and the learned legalism and ritualism of Judaism, both of which are barren as is amply demonstrated by these six centuries.


Therefore the new dispensation cannot build on their foundations; an utterly new beginning is required. This cannot have the theological and philosophical cleverness of Christianity nor can it have the legalistic and ritualistic rabbinical attitude of Judaism. It has to start with a clean slate. Thus, the Rasul a must repair to his ancestor Ibrāhīm e. the prophet of the fiṭra – the primordial natural condition.

Even later, when the Muslims are reluctantly forced to come up with what is apparently a theology – Ash‘ari kalam – it is written on this clean slate. It argues that there has to be an Originator since it is rationally inconceivable that things should have come into existence by themselves. The nature of the Originator follows absolutely step by step from logical principles as does the necessity for prophets and messengers and their essential characteristics. Once that is established then we can trust revelation about the nature of the Unseen and the practices of the Deen. 


However, it will not be sufficient to leave the revealed Book for subsequent generations to follow, since the People of the Book had books in abundance and surrendered them to the vagaries of their priests and scholars. To safeguard the Book, it must be demonstrated in life and in action. Thus, it must be demonstrated in the family, by and with women and with children, in the company of men, in the marketplace, in the mosque, in travel and in battle. It must be demonstrated most importantly in the face of death the ultimate criterion and distinguisher between truth and falsehood. In battle it is demonstrated both to the Companions and to their enemies who are both witness to this living demonstration of the Rasul a in the face of death. The Companions themselves partake in that for they have already taken it upon themselves and are part of that demonstration. Seen in this light, jihad is a fundamental demonstration of remembrance of Allah at the most pivotal moment in life: in the face of death. The accounts of the battles are replete with examples of this.


Ibn Abī Zayd al-Qayrawani said:

The Prophet, peace be upon him, wrote a letter after the Opening [of Makka to Islam] to the tribes among whom Islam had not spread inviting them [to Islam] and he wrote to those among whom Islam had spread [calling them] to join an expedition against the Romans and he made an appointment to meet them at Tabuk. 

In other words, to become a Muslim was to join the battle. Islam was necessarily embattled and threatened with extinction at its origin, so for those generations being a Muslim man meant to go to war, except for those with valid excuses such as penury or illness. Ibn Abī Zayd continues.

He set off at the beginning of Rajab.4 He put ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib in charge of Madinah.5 Then he reached Tabuk a [where he spent around twenty days]. Malik said, “The expedition to Tabuk took place in extreme heat.” They say that a delegation from the Byzantine Emperor came to Tabuk and that he sent them back with a reply to their king, and then afterwards sent out many small raiding parties.

The Messenger of Allah a returned in Shawwal. (Ibn Abī Zayd al-Qayrawni, Kitab al-Jami‘)

Other sources say that the Muslims were away for 50 days including 20 spent at Tabuk itself. At-Tabari says that the Messenger of Allah a told the Muslims to prepare for the expedition in Rajab and that he returned to Madina in Ramadan and this would make the figure of 50 days more likely. Most sources say that the army was 30,000 strong in order to take on a Roman army of 40,000, many of whom were Arab tribes affiliated to Constantinople. Thus the Muslim army of the Madinans was swollen greatly by other Arab tribes newly come into Islam since the Fath of Makka.

Apart from the main themes of the Expedition to Tabuk, that it was in the heat of the summer, that it was after the great success of the Fath of Makka, and that it was a test for the community so that not only did the munāfiqūn stay away pleading pressing circumstances but even three genuinely committed sahaba, two things really stand out: first, that it took so long and second, that so little happened. There was an expedition to Tabuk but there was no battle. And yet the Prophet a set out in Rajab and returned in Ramadan, and thus he and the army were away for part of Rajab, all of Sha’ban and a part of Ramadan. Men were away from their wives and children, away from their professions and away from their agriculture. 

What do men do when they go out out on an expedition against the greatest empire on Earth but there is no battle and only a few raiding parties and a diplomatic mission from the Romans? 

With last week’s lecture of Dr. Amjad Hussain on Tarbiya in mind and his careful exposition of tarbiya, ta‘leem and ta’deeb and the difference between them, we would say that much of all three activities would take place in such a gathering with great emphasis on the former since, in the words of the Messenger of Allah a:

إِنَّمَا بُعِثْتُ لِأُتَمِّمَ مَكَارِمَ الْأَخْلَاقِ

“I was only sent to perfect the noble qualities of character.”6

Nevertheless, we have still not touched the essence of the matter. We find that in the hadith of ‘Ā’ishah j that:

حدّثنا أَبُو كُرَيْبٍ مُحمّدُ بْنُ الْعَلاَءِ وَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ بْنُ مُوْسَىَ. قالاَ: حَدّثَنَا ابْنُ أَبِي زَائِدَةَ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، عَنْ خَالِدِ بْنِ سَلَمَة، عَنِ الْبهِيّ، عَنْ عُرْوَةَ، عَنْ عَائِشَةَ قَالَتْ: كَانَ النّبِيّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَذْكُرُ الله عَلَى كُلّ أَحْيَانِهِ. (صحيح مسلم)

It is narrated that ‘Ā’ishah said: “The Prophet a used to remember Allah at all times.”

This weighty testimony from a wife who sees her husband in circumstances that no other person witnesses must not be restricted to those domestic circumstances. The statement is absolutely true: he a remembered Allah at all times and in all circumstances, in wealth and in poverty, in success and failure, in victory and in defeat, in the middle of battle and in the middle of his family. This is borne out by evidence after evidence from his life. This is his khuluq ‘aẓīm. The transmission of such qualities of character can certainly not be done by command: be patient, be generous, be kind, and be brave! They can only be demonstrated in action and grasped by people in action. All the words and values had been devalued. It was time for the revaluation of values and that could only take place with demonstration. These occasions were prime times for learning all the difficult lessons of character and taking on the noble qualities, all of the lessons sharpened by the very palpable possibility of death and by the lack of the distraction of family.

So what is its core? It is being in the presence of one who sits in the Divine presence – and that is neither the presence of One Remote above the heavens, as in the deviation of the Jews, nor is it the presence of one others claim to be the embodiment of the Divine, as in the deviation of the Christians. That being in the presence pertains to both his Companions who accompany him and his enemies who fight him. Both experience the reality of that, but one group affirms it and believes it and the other, for the moment, deny it. Yet most of his enemies come to love him and to follow him.

The people who loved him, his Companions, were being trained also to sit in the Divine presence, in anger and in sadness, in victory and in defeat, in wealth and in poverty, in sadness and in happiness, in the market, in the home and in the marital bed.. And they would take this story and presence on, and on to the next generation.


The expedition is referred to throughout Sura at-Tawba whose first āyats were revealed about the subsequent first Hajj of Islam led by Abū Bakr aṣ-Ṣiddīq at the end of that year in which the mushrikun were given four months in which to make up their minds about Islam or else face the might of the armies. Fierce as these āyats are and much abused as they are by certain people who cite them as evidence of the brutal nature of Islam, as is remarked in the tafsīr literature they were not put into effect and the great majority of the Arabs accepted Islam peaceably at this point.

The groups in Madina at the time of the Messenger of Allah a were the Muhajirun, the Ansar, the Jews and the Munafiqun. They were initially bound together by the treaty drawn up by the Prophet a. The Munafiqun were a thorn in the side but they were never confronted directly as such but only according to their outward behaviour and then according to the sharī‘ah. Outwardly they were Muslims and citizens of Madina. With the expansion of Islam throughout Arabia, nifaq could manifest itself with political and military power and thus was confronted on that basis. These were the first wars of the khilāfah.

Ahl al-Kitab – People of the Book

However, the sura is also known for the āyats that declare jihad in perpetuity against the People of the Book.

قَٰتِلُوا۟ ٱلَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِٱللَّهِ وَلَا بِٱلْيَوْمِ ٱلْءَاخِرِ وَلَا يُحَرِّمُونَ مَا حَرَّمَ ٱللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُۥ وَلَا يَدِينُونَ دِينَ ٱلْحَقِّ مِنَ ٱلَّذِينَ أُوتُوا۟ ٱلْكِتَٰبَ حَتَّىٰ يُعْطُوا۟ ٱلْجِزْيَةَ عَن يَدٍۢ وَهُمْ صَٰغِرُونَ

Fight those of the people who were given the Book who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day and who do not make haram what Allah and His Messenger have made haram and do not take as their deen the deen of Truth, until they pay the jizya with their own hands in a state of complete abasement. (9:29)

It would be a misunderstanding to consider this text as a declaration of war against Christians and Jews per se since the group in question are qualified as ‘not believing in God or the Last Day’ – and among the evidences of not believing in the Last Day is all the behaviour that shows that men and women do not expect to be taken to account for their deeds and thus they act with impunity – and not ‘making haram what Allah and His Messenger make haram’ – and among those haram issues we can enumerate theft, murder, expropriation of property through taxes and other means and through the usury which at their hands has reduced the earth and its peoples to penury –  and not ‘taking as their deen the deen of Truth’. Rather they took as their deen the deen of a Church, a dogma laid down by their priests and rabbis for which they burnt alive or excommunicated or exiled those who dared point out its absurdity. 

The Roman and Persian Empires

Since fighting can only be against polities, the most obvious candidate are the Roman and Persian polities. The Roman polity indeed had perverted the Christian revelation and aptly fits the description of the āyats. And far from being a war against a meek Christian ‘turn the other cheek’ polity, this was the state that as a part of its quotidian reality saw to the total extermination of its enemies when that suited it.

East and West

The world had been divided into East and West from the time of the Greco-Persian wars (499 – 449 BC), continuing under Alexander the Great’s (356 – 323 BC) conquests in the east, until the Roman-Persian Wars that began in 92 BC and endured until the appearance of Islam. With the Muslims’ expansion East and West a global division was arguably healed. However, with the resilience of the Romans of Constantinople and the fateful decision of the Abbasids to build Baghdad their capital in the East, Europe and the West came to regard Islam as oriental, ignoring the entire Andalusian and North and West African culture, and the later Osmanlı presence in eastern Europe.

Jihad in the First Century

With this we turn to the proper subject of our lecture, Jihad in the first century of Islam in Madina. I will assume an understanding of the topic during the epoch of the sira and also an understanding of the key points of jihad during the epoch of al-Khulafā ar-Rāshidūn outlined in lectures 1&2 of the History of the Khalifas module. 

Ibn Juzayy said: 

“First case concerning those who are to be fought. They are three categories: kuffar, rebels and brigands.”

The first jihad in their epoch was against the renegades among the Arabs and those who refused the zakāh who were rebels against authority and against the deen. These comprised great Arab tribes many from the Najd such as Tamim and Bani Hanifa, some of whom claimed to be Muslims but that they would no longer pay zakat to the representatives of the khalifa, some of whom reneged on their Islam and some of whom were votaries of their own false prophets, three of whom appeared at that time. But this connection to great Najdi tribes is pivotal and will appear again.

With the great fight against Musaylima and the famous battle of Yamama in whose Garden of Death huge numbers of men died, including large numbers of Companions, we enter a different type of contest from those of the sira.

Then the khulafa took up the campaign against kuffār, the Romans who were People of the Book and the Persians who were Majus, who were treated partly as People of the Book and partly not because they are permitted to live under Islamic governance and to pay the jizya, but their meat is not halal and it is not permissible to marry their women just as it is not permissible to marry Hindu or mushrikun women.

A Watershed – Qadisiyya (13th Sha‘ban 15AH/636)

This battle, which took place during the khilāfah of ‘Umar, was another in which two great armies confronted each other and enormous numbers of men on both sides died. Apart from its decisive importance in the struggle against the Persians, it had another significance: it is intimately connected with the foundation of the city of Kufa which was established for the fighters, initially around 24,000 men with a clear majority of around 12,000 Yemenis, a lesser number of 8,000 northern Arabs, and a contingent of 4,000 Daylamite Persians who came over to the Muslims. Among them were 370 Companions. Kufa was a great experiment in trying to found a city on a different principle than the tribal. It would later come to be the seat of the khilafa briefly, would remain the great jumping-off point for expeditions to the east, would be a melting point that would be the centre of schisms from out of which Abū Ḥanīfa and his companions would rescue a fiqh of the Sunna.

The First Fitna

The history of that epoch ends with a new factor and new actors. With the fitna during the khilafa of ‘Uthmān g, there is a legacy of battle between Muslims, whose outlines we have also traced in the History of the Khalifas module, leading to ongoing contests between Muslims for leadership throughout subsequent history. 

The Fourfold Division

There we delineated a four-fold division: two sides contending for power, a third side who sit out the struggle and refuse to fight other Muslims and a fourth sinister group: the khawārij, who go out of the community and wage war on everyone, a group some of whom we have already partly met, those from the tribes of Tamim and from Bani Hanifa, some of the tribes that had reneged.

Civil Strife

Madina then figures in another pivotal event, the Battle of al-Harra (26 Dhu al-Hijjah 63 H/26 August 683 CE), in which the armies of the khalīfa sacked Madina and killed many people. It was a moment during which ‘Abdullāh ibn az-Zubayr g contended with Yazīd ibn Mu‘awiya for the khilāfa and, after some reluctance, many of the people of Madina withdrew their allegiance to Yazīd and supported Ibn az-Zubayr, leading to a battle, the defeat of the Madinans and the sack of the city.

Mālik said: “The imam of the people with us, after Zayd ibn Thabit, was ‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Umar. He remained for sixty years giving fatwas to the people.”

Al-Harra was the context of narration of a famous hadith of Ibn ‘Umar:

Nafi‘ said: ‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Umar came to ‘Abdullāh ibn Muṭī‘ when that which happened at al-Harra happened, at the time of Yazīd ibn Mu‘awiya and he [Ibn Muṭī‘] said, “Throw a cushion for Abū ‘Abd ar-Rahman.” So he said, “I did not come to you to sit. I came to you to narrate a hadith which I heard the Messenger of Allah a saying. I heard the Messenger of Allah a saying, ‘Whoever takes his hand away from obedience will meet Allah on the Day of Rising with no argument. Whoever dies having no pledge of allegiance on his neck will have died a death of jahiliyya.’” (Muslim)7

Ibn Juzayy says in a later epoch with the clarity that was achieved about issues that were still hot and contentious for the first generations.

Fourth issue, its obligations are six: intention, obedience to the imam [meaning the leader of the Muslims], not misappropriating the spoils, fulfilling one's treaties and safe conduct, remaining firm at the encounter of the two hosts, avoiding working corruption, and there is no harm in waging jihad along with tyrannical unjust rulers.

Of course, Ibn Juzayy did not mean by this last contentious point that one obeys the unjust ruler up to the point of disobeying Allah since as is well known, “No obedience is owed to the creature that entails disobedience to the Creator.”

Returning to the first two groups of our fourfold analysis, we see a theme that would endure down to our own day: the best man thesis versus the most able man thesis, and again I must refer you to that module for details. The best man thesis would solidify and rigidify and during a huge historical complexification it become the shi’ism we know today.

However, in these early days, shi’ism had quite a different nature and sometimes the fight was undertaken on behalf of genuinely good, knowledgeable and capable men of the Ahl al-Bayt. Indeed, we close our period in Madina with an episode that would mark a terminus in many ways, the revolt of Muhammad an-Nafs az-Zakiyya:

In 147AH, the governor of Madīnah, Ja’far ibn Sulaymān ibn ‘Alī al-‘Abbāsī a cousin of the caliph al-Manṣūr, forbade Imām Mālik to narrate a certain hadith on the invalidity of divorce pronounced under compulsion, which the Imām nevertheless insisted on narrating, leading the governor to have Mālik arrested, stripped, shaved, lashed 70 times, mounted facing backwards on a donkey and paraded around Madīnah. But that did not stop Mālik. Rather he raised his voice and called out: “Whoever knows me, knows me. Whoever does not know me, then I am Mālik ibn Anas and I declare that divorce pronounced under compulsion is nothing.” The governor recognised Mālik’s unconquerable spirit and ordered him released. After this event, Mālik’s reputation in Madīnah grew and people were in awe of him.

The significance of the date is that it is just two years after the unsuccessful uprising of Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullāh ibn al-Ḥasan an-Nafs az-Zakiyyah to claim the khilāfah in 145AH in Madīnah. It is often alleged that both Mālik and Abū Ḥanīfah had supported him in his claim, and that Imām Abū Ḥanīfah’s imprisonment in 146AH and death in prison in 148AH were because of his stance in this matter. 

Although he is not so well known today, Muḥammad an-Nafs az-Zakiyyah had been an exceptional figure in his own time. During the turmoil at the end of the khilāfah of Bani Umayyah, when Bani al-‘Abbās and others fostered the anticipation that a figure would step forward from the House of Muḥammad a to claim the khilāfah, a great deal of that anticipations appears to have centred on him, somewhat amplified by the fact of his name corresponding to the name foretold of the Mahdi: Muḥammad ibn ‘Abdullāh. Both he and his brother died in the uprising and a third brother, Idris, fled to the West and was to be the founder of Islam in the Maghrib as well as the dynasty named after him that has flourished in various manifestations there until today.

The governor of Madīnah, Ja’far ibn Sulaymān, whom adh-Dhahabi speaks about with great respect, had taken over the governorship of Madīnah the following year in 146AH. He took the pledge of allegiance from the Madinans on behalf of the khalīfah under the threat of death and extracted it with the condition that if they broke their pledge, their wives would be divorced.

It was then that Mālik took his stand, not any longer supporting the lost cause of an-Nafs az-Zakiyyah but the principle of bay’a. Mālik instantly forgave the governor because of his being of the family of the Prophet a, Bani Hāshim.8


As we saw in Lecture No. 3 of this course, Aisha Bewley’s history of Pre-Madhhab Fiqh, when Abū Hurayrah brought 500,000 dirhams jizya and kharaj from Bahrayn, a previously unheard of sum, ‘Umar accepted the counsel of one of the Companions and instituted diwan-registers of the Muslims and set up stipends for them. This was the beginning of the opening of the floodgates of income whose midpoint was the transformation of as-Sawād of Iraq into a gigantic waqf for the Muslims.

فبلغ خراج السواد والجبل على عهد عمر رحمه الله مائة ألف ألف وعشرين ألف ألف واف والواف درهم ودانقان ونصف.

“The kharaj of as-Sawad and al-Jabal at the time of ‘Umar, may Allah be merciful to him, amounted to 120 million waf9 and the waf is one dirham10 and two and a half daniqs11.”12

 The furthest point at this stage was reached in the history of the khilāfah of ‘Uthmān when, as as-Suyūṭī wrote in Tarikh al-Khulafa:

In the year 30 AH, Jur was opened and many provinces of the land of Khurasan; Naysabur was opened by treaty, and it has been said, by force. Tus and Sarkhas were both opened by treaty, and similarly Marw and Bayhaq. When these extensive provinces were taken, ‘Uthman’s revenues became abundant, and wealth came to him from every direction, until he established treasuries and made provisions to flow abundantly. He would order for a man one hundred thousand purses in each of which there were four thousand uqiyas (of silver).13

Allowing for the possibility of exaggeration as is sometimes the case, it is certainly true that the Muslims inherited extreme amounts of wealth, and it is probably no accident that at this zenith of prosperity in 30AH a political nadir was reached with the assassination of ‘Uthmān g in 35AH. And yet the flood of wealth would continue and indeed increase right into the heyday of the Abbasids, a strong feature of whose twilight years would be the turning of the tide and the dwindling income as provinces seceded from the empire taking their substantial tax revenues with them.


Yet a significant transition had been made: people received a stipend from the burgeoning wealth so that they did not necessarily have to engage in economic activity merely from fear of poverty or out of necessity. The fighting men also received this stipend, and thus if there had been any element of fighting for the sake of the spoils, something that had caused the defeat of Uhud when anxiety for the division of the spoils had brought the archers to leave their post, then this need was removed.

We have to note this distinction because it is easy enough to blur the distinction and to consider the stipend a salary for work done and thus to have a professionalised fighting force whose career is based on their military prowess. With the widespread use of stipends, a base of security was established which meant that people did not have to approach livelihoods with the attitude that we have today.

Among the wealth, of course, there were the huge numbers of the mawali – slaves, male and female, with their attendant circumstances. They, along with the converts from the non-Arabs who were absorbed into the tribal system through the tradition of becoming mawla (pl. mawali), the same term as used for the freed slave, would be both the glory and the bane of the second phase. From the mawali would come the next generation of leading ‘ulamā’ and ṣāliḥūn, for example, Imām Malik’s main hadith teacher Nafi‘ was the freed slave of Ibn ‘Umar, and one of Ibn ‘Abbās’s main students was his freed Amazigh slave ‘Ikrimah, Abū Ḥanīfah was from a family of Persian mawali – they differ as to whether his ancestor had been a freed slave or a client of an Arab tribe (mawla ḥilf), and Imām Mālik was a client (mawla ḥilf) of Bani Taym of Quraysh. But there would also be some resentment from some of them for their second-class standing with respect to the Arabs. This appears to have been a particularly sore point among Persians.

Of the women slaves and the sexual rights their owners have over them we have this snippet:

Ibn Abi’z-Zinād said, “The people of Madīnah used to disapprove of taking slave women as mothers of their children until the noble chiefs grew up among them: ‘Alī  [Zayn al-‘Abideen] ibn al-Ḥusayn, al-Qāsim ibn Muḥammad and Sālim ibn ‘Abdullāh, who excelled the people of Madīnah in knowledge, taqwā, worship and scrupulousness, at which point people had a great desire for concubines.” (Siyar a‘lām an-nubalā’ – ash-Dhahabī. No. 176)

Thus, it was not an issue of mere sexual license but the much more serious one of family, progeny and new generations of Muslims.

The Capital

With the murder of ‘Uthmān g, and the civil strife between ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib g and Mu‘awiya ibn Abī Sufyān g, the exigencies of the military situation forced ‘Alī g to move the seat of the khilāfah to Kufa in Iraq, unintentionally thus placing it in the east as opposed to the west, the Damascus of Bani Umayya. Kufa was not yet fully eastern but was simply the east of Arabia and the garrison from which troops went out to fight the Persians. But for the purpose of our story, the main result was that Madina ceased to be the capital of Islam.

Madina – The Political Backwater and Capital City of Knowledge

Yaḥyā related to me from Mālik from Hishām ibn ‘Urwa from his father from ‘Abdullāh  ibn az-Zubayr that Sufyān ibn Abī Zuhayr said, "I heard the Messenger of Allah a say, 'Yemen will be conquered and people will be attracted to it, taking their families and whoever obeys them. Madina would have been better for them had they but known. Syria will be conquered and people will be attracted to it, taking their families and whoever obeys them. Madina would have been better for them had they but known. Iraq will be conquered and people will be attracted to it, taking their families and whoever obeys them. Madina would have been better for them had they but known.’”14

So as the capital of Islam had long since left Madina and the frontiers grown increasingly remote and the inter-dynastic struggles increasingly counter-productive, the people of knowledge among the people of Madina turned to digesting the material of which they were the unique heirs and transmitting it to the provinces and to the later generations. But that is the subject for other lectures.

That brings us to the end of today’s lecture. Recommended reading includes The Men of Madina and the other volumes from Ibn Sa’d’s Tabaqat, and lectures 2-6 from MFAS module The History of the Khalifas. The subject of our next lecture is Architecture and urban planning by Mahmud Manning. Thank you for your attention. Assalamu alaykum.

1 Sahnun ibn Sa'id ibn Habib at-Tanukhi (c. 160/776-7 - 240/854-5) was the compiler of the Mudawwana from ‘Abd ar-Rahman ibn al-Qasim, Imam Malik’s main pupil, as well as Ibn Wahb, Ashhab, Ibn ‘Abd al-Hakam and a number of Malik’s other main students in Egypt. It is the main source for the actual practice and fiqh of Imām Mālik. 

2 Abū Ja‘far Ahmad ibn Nasr ad-Dawudi (d.402 AH/1011 CE) was a great North African Maliki most famous for his Kitab al-Amwal.

3 Ibn Juzayy al-Qawanin al-Fiqhiyya.

4 Other sources say that he a told people at the beginning of Rajab to make their preparations for the expedition.

5 He left ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib in charge of his family and deputised 

6 Mālik narrates it in the Muwaṭṭa’ with the words: It has reached me that the Messenger of Allah a said…


حدّثنا عُبَيْدُ اللّهِ بْنُ مُعَاذٍ الْعَنْبَرِيّ. حَدّثَنَا أَبِي. حَدّثَنَا عَاصِمٌ (وَهُوَ ابْنُ مُحَمّدِ بْنِ زَيْدٍ) عَنْ زَيْدِ بْنِ مُحَمّدٍ، عَنْ نَافِعٍ قَالَ: جَاءَ عَبْدُ اللّهِ بْنُ عُمَرَ إلَىَ عَبْدِ اللّهِ بْنِ مُطِيعٍ، حِينَ كَانَ مِنْ أَمْرِ الْحَرّةِ مَا كَانَ، زَمَنَ يَزِيدَ بْنِ مُعَاوِيَةَ. فَقَالَ: اطْرَحُوا لأَبِي عَبْدِ الرّحْمَنِ وِسَادَةً. فَقَالَ: إنّي لَمْ آتِكَ لأَجْلِسَ. أَتَيْتُكَ لأُحَدّثَكَ حَدِيثاً سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُهُ. سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ: "مَنْ خَلَعَ يَداً مِنْ طَاعَةٍ، لَقِيَ اللّهِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ، لاَ حُجّةَ لَهُ. وَمَنْ مَاتَ وَلَيْسَ فِي عُنُقِهِ بَيْعَةٌ، مَاتَ مِيتَةً جَاهِلِيّةً".

8 Abdassamad Clarke, “Imām Mālik in the Face of Power”, a lecture delivered at the Cageprisoners conference: The Four Imams in the Face of Oppression. London 27th July 2013.

9 The weight of ten dirhams is equal to the weight of seven dinars. A waf (full) dirham has the same weight – a mithqal – as a dinar.

10 The dinar weighs 2.975g and its value is $7.00 USD, €5.50 EUR or £4.34 GBP (27/9/2013).

11 The daniq is a sixth of a dirham. So the waf is 1.416 dirhams. The kharaj was thus 169,960,000 dirhams worth £737,626,400 just under a £1 billion. Bear in mind that silver is grossly undervalued for a variety of reasons so that this sum only represents a fraction of the real value of the kharaj.

12 Ibn Sa‘d, at-Tabaqat al-Kubra.

13 400,000,000 uqiyas of silver. The uqiya is 40 dirhams. The gift was thus £69,440,000,000, i.e. £69.44 billion.


2618 - وَحَدَّثَنِي مَالِكٌ، عَنْ هِشَامِ بْنِ عُرْوَةَ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ الزُّبَيْرِ، عَنْ سُفْيَانَ بْنِ أبِي زُهَيْرٍ، أَنَّهُ قَالَ:  سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ _ يَقُولُ :  تُفْتَحُ الْيَمَنُ فَيَأْتِي قَوْمٌ يَبِسُّونَ فَيَتَحَمَّلُونَ بِأَهْلِيهِمْ وَمَنْ أَطَاعَهُمْ، وَالْمَدِينَةُ خَيْرٌ لَهُمْ لَوْ كَانُوا يَعْلَمُونَ، وَتُفْتَحُ الشَّامُ فَيَأْتِي قَوْمٌ يَبِسُّونَ فَيَتَحَمَّلُونَ بِأَهْلِيهِمْ وَمَنْ أَطَاعَهُمْ، وَالْمَدِينَةُ خَيْرٌ لَهُمْ لَوْ كَانُوا يَعْلَمُونَ، وَتُفْتَحُ الْعِرَاقُ فَيَأْتِي قَوْمٌ يَبِسُّونَ فَيَتَحَمَّلُونَ بِأَهْلِيهِمْ وَمَنْ أَطَاعَهُمْ، وَالْمَدِينَةُ خَيْرٌ لَهُمْ لَوْ كَانُوا يَعْلَمُونَ (428).