Wars and Battles

Current Topics – Days of the Arabs

FEBRUARY 1985 SAYINGS OF THE HOLY PROPHET OF ISLAM 39 beseach You to grant me Your refuge. I possess not the power to enumerate Your Attributes and Excellences; You alone have the power to describe them. (Bukhari) 26. On one occasion the Holy Prophet challenged Hazrat Ayesha to run a race with him. So they ran the race and Hazrat Ayesha won. A year or two later, she was again challenged to race. This time the Holy Prophet won the race. Thn the Holy Prophet laughed and said: “Ayesha! now we have come out even in the race.” (Bukhari) A PROPHECY OF THE PROMISED MESSIAH Hearken, all ye people. This is a prophecy of Him Who had created heaven and earth. He will spread this Community of His in all countries and will make it supreme over all, through reason and arguments. The days are coming, indeed they are near, when this will be the only religion which will be held in honor. God will bestow extraordinary blessings on this religion and Movement. He will frustrate everyone who seeks to destroy it. This supremacy will last till the Judgment Day. Remember that no one will descend from heaven. All our opponents who are alive today will die and no one will see Jesus son of Mary descending from heaven. Then their next generation will pass away and no one of them will see this spectacle. Then the generation next after that will pass away without seeing the son of Mary descending from heaven. Then wise people will discard this belief. The third century after today will not have come to a close when those who hold this belief will lose all hope and will give up this belief in disgust. There will then be only one religion that will prevail in the world and only one leader. I have come only to sow the seed, which has been sown by my hand. Now it will sprout and grow and flourish and no one can arrest its growth. (Tazkaratush Shahadatain, pp. 64-65). 40 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS FEBRUARY 1985 Current Topics: DAYS OF THE ARABS by Dr. Syed Barakat Ahmad In Arab history, Ayyam al-Arab, “Days of the Arabs,” is a term applied to those combats which the Arab tribes fought amongst themselves in the pre-Islamic era. The particular days are called, for example, “Day of Buath” or “Days of al-Fijar”. Their number is considerable. Abu Ubayda (d. 825) has described 1,200 such com- bats. In those days, raiding a neighbor or plundering a peasant was considered fair game and these combats afforded ample opportunity for plundering and raiding. What was legitimate piracy outside the tribe was, however, held a crime if committed within it. These inter- tribal hostilities generally arose from disputes over cattle, pasture lands or springs. When peace was finally restored the tribe with the fewer casualties paid its adversary blood money for the surplus of dead. One of the most famous of these wars was fought between the Banu-Bakr and their kinsmen the Banu-Taghlib over a she-camel, owned by an old woman of Bakr named Basus. A Taghlib chief had wounded this she-camel. This war, called “the war of Basus”, was carried on for forty years. The war came to an end after the exhaus- tion of both the tribes. FAMOUS WAR Another famous war is the “Day of Dahis and Al-Ghabra”. The occasion was the unfair conduct of two chieftains in a race between a horse named Dahis and a mare called Ghabra. The war broke out soon after the Basus peace and continued at intervals for several decades. For nomadic Arab tribes a life spent in breeding camels and sheep in the vast emptiness of the desert was wearisome and monotonous. The principal interest of their lives was provided by these inter-tribal wars. The object of the Arab warrior was not to win the war but to gain glory. Volleys of vaunts and satires were exchanged, sheep, camels and women were carried off and many skirmishes took place. Satire was as much an element of war as the actual fighting and the poet was the propagandist of his day. The poet reviled the FEBRUARY 1985 CURRENT TOPICS 41 enemies and held them up to shame. He found many ways to enhance the reputation of his tribe, detailing their bravery, their wisdom, their generosity. In one of his odes the pre-Islamic poet An- Nabigha said: “Between them they give and take deep draughts of the wine of Doom as their hands ply the white swords, thin and keen in the smiting edge. In them no defect is found, save only that in their swords are notches a many, gained from smiting of host on host.” Islam abolished the inter-tribal wars and odes in praise of these wars. Both were consigned to Jahiliyya (time of ignorance), a term used as the opposite of the word Islam referring to the state of affairs in Arabia before the mission of the Prophet Muhammad. For more than twelve hundred years Islamic values regulated the Arab life, but Islam could not suppress their Jahiliyya character altogether. Having transmitted Islam and their language as two great gifts to the civilized world the Arab reverted to his “Days”. On the eve of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, Isaiah’s words once more became an apt description of Arabia: “The burden of the desert of the sea. As whirlwinds in the south pass through so it cometh from the desert, from a terrible land” (XXI, 1). Islam was the only force which bound them together. When British and French gold and Amir Saud’s and Sharif Hussain’s ambi- tions persuaded the Arabs to adopt the Western concept of nation- alism and the nation-state, they did not know what they were bargaining for. Nationalism presupposes a degree of social solidarity and homogeneity. The gulf between the Arab peoples and their rulers, peasants and landlords, tribesmen and townsmen and diverse ethnic, linguistic and sectarian groups such as the Kurds, Druzes, Christians, Copts and Shi’ites precluded that degree of unity and stability which any state must have to exercise its autonomous func- tions. The ecumenical context of the Ottoman empire in which these conflicting groups had been loosely welded together was the religious commune to which they gave allegiance. But today the nation-state and militant nationalism threaten the ancient values and demand whole-hearted allegiance to a concept which these groups do not understand. CRISIS OF IDENTITY Since the breakup of the Ottoman empire, the Arab world has been going through a crisis of identity. The 1967 defeat by Israel has 42 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS FEBRUARY 1985 accentuated that crisis. The Arab intellectual, Fouad Ajmi, has con- vincingly demonstrated that the psychological and cultural disorder in the Arab world is the result of contradictions between the search for Arab-Islamic identity and the realities of dependence on foreigners, not only for oil money, but also for technology and arms. The Muslim Heads of state wearing the ill-fitting garb of Islamic traditionalism are trying to find an answer in Muslim-Arab authenticity. But what is the definition of a Muslim and who is an Arab? If the dead bodies of Muslims belonging to two different sects can- not peacefully lie in the same graveyard, what is the value of the Islamic claim for universal validity? In fact the Muslim Schism has reached the limits of fanatic lunacy. While the Iranians are waging “jihad” against the “non-Muslim” Government of Iraq, the Islamic Council of Pakistan is recommending that Pakistani law should be amended so as to prohibit “non-Muslims” from adopting the Muslim mode of living, i.e., praying, reciting the Qur’an, building mosques etc. Though such an amendment would provide an instru- ment for the persecution of Ahmadies, there is no guarantee that other Muslim sects would not also be prohibited from practising Islam. LACK OF COHESIVENESS The inherent lack of cohesiveness in the Arab character has deeply influenced the non-Arab Muslims. Disunity, internecine wars and mutual ex-communication of dissenting groups—a totally un-Islamic act—have unfortunately become the hallmark of modern “Islam”. Islam the religion guaranteeing freedom of thought with the univer- sal message of “no compulsion in religion” (Qur’an, 2:236) now stands for intolerance. Jewish scholar Amos Perimutter writing in the Middle East Studies Association Bulletin (July 1983) has made an unfortunate but incontrovertible observation. He says: “Islamic intolerance ex- tends not just to the foreigners in the greater world, but to the “others” within its borders, the schismatic other that abides uncom- fortably close to its soul This is not mere resistance or mere defensiveness, but plain intolerance”. In a letter to the “Journal of Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs”, Mr. Christian Much of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, Jeddah, said: ‘ ‘The Christian churches and the Jewish faith have been granted, upon FEBRUARY 19S5 CURRENT TOPICS 43 their application and on the basis of an agreement between State and Church, the special status as corporate bodies under public law. It is true that Islam has not yet acceded to this status, the main reason be- ing that various Islamic groups and associations claim to be the ‘true’ representatives of Islam. At least seven of these associations have applied for recognition as corporate body…the State prefers not to interfere in the process of clarification that is supposed to take place among the different Islamic associations.” While the mulla will remain unmoved with the accusations of in- tolerance within the Ummah right-thinking Muslims must be hang- ing their heads with shame. Questioning the authenticity of “Islamic resurgence” Fouad Ajmi says that the Arab-Muslim world is not claiming the universal validi- ty of Islam, but rather wants to profess political confidence in Islam. The Arabs, argues Ajmi, cannot make their past the future. But an idealized past is a mirror for the present. Having adopted na- tionalism as their creed, it was but natural that the Arabs should return not to Islam but to the memories of “Days of the Arabs” and lapse into pie-Islamic jahiliyyah. The civil war in Lebanon and the Iran-Iraq war have destroyed three countries to the core, not only land and resources have been destroyed but a whole generation is in the process of elimination. The Lebanese fought three civil wars in 1841, 1845 and 1860. Maronites who are neither Muslims nor consider themselves as Arabs have always regarded the Muslims with contempt. Though towards the early twentieth century some Christians and some Muslims co-operated under secular auspices for mutual benefit, secularism was opposed by their religious leadership. Rivalries in Lebanon have a long history and the experiment of creating an arti- ficial state by joining Syrian and Lebanese districts of the Ottoman administration under a dubious national level was doomed. OBLIGATION OF REVENGE In the summer of 637, twenty thousand Iranians were decisively defeated by a far smaller Arab force at Qadisiya. The Arabs follow- ed up their victory by capturing the Iranian capital of Ctesiphon, a few miles distance from Baghdad, and occupied the whole of Iraq, then a province of Iran. Iranians accepted Islam but not the Arab conquest. Imam Khomeini—himself an Iranian of Arab descent—is reviving the tradition of Jahiliyya revenge. This obligation of