[Excerpts, with occasional modest edits, from The Real Muḥammad: In the Eyes of Ibn Isḥāq, copyright 2013, TEI Publishing House. All quotations from the Sīrat Rasūl Allāh (“Life of the Messenger of Allāh”) are from the translation by Alfred Guillaume (Oxford University Press), copyright 1955. These stories are faithfully passed along from the most ancient, extant and authoritative biography of Muḥammad. All Muslims are called to imitate Muḥammad in their daily lives, and Muslim scholars know that Ibn Isḥāq is the best source for the historical Muḥammad, despite concern for various hon-historical material. The question is this: Can Muḥammad satisfy the Muslim thirst for freedom? How many people, of their own volition, would follow Muḥammad if they were free to choose otherwise? The same question is freely received by Muslims who would question Christians who follow Jesus as the Son of God]
Gifts for Submission to Islām
John C. Rankin
“Then a deputation from Hawāzin came to him in al-Ji‘rāna where he held 6,000 women and children, and sheep and camels innumerable which had been captured from them.”
“The apostle said, ‘Which are dearest to you? Your sons and your wives or your cattle?’ They replied, ‘Do you give us the choice between our cattle and our honour? Nay, give us back our wives and our sons, for that is what we most desire.’ ”
Various other terms for specific division of the spoils, or return of the same, are made, and in his advance of Islām, Muḥammad now begins to strategically purchase people’s submission:
“The apostle asked the Hawāzin deputation about Mālik b. ‘Auf and they said that he was in al-Ṭā’if with Thaqīf. The apostle told them to tell Mālik that if he came to him as a Muslim[,] he would return his family and property and give him a hundred camels. On hearing this Mālik came out from al-Ṭā’if. He had been afraid that Thaqīf would get to know what the apostle had said and imprison him, so he ordered that his camel should be got ready for him and that a horse should be brought to him in al-Ṭā’if. He came out by night, mounted his horse, and rode hard until he got to the place where his camel was tethered, and rode off to join the apostle, overtaking him in al-Ji‘rāna or Mecca. He [Muḥammad] gave him back his family and property and gave him a hundred camels. He [Mālik] became an excellent Muslim, and at the time he said:
“I have never seen or heard of a man like Muhammad in the whole world; faithful to his word and generous when asked for a gift, and when you wish he will tell you of the future.
“When the squadron shows its strength with spears and swords that strike, in the dust of war he is like a lion guarding its cubs in its den.”
The apostle put him in command of those of his people who had accepted Islam … He began to fight Thaqīf with them.
All means are acceptable to Muḥammad in the advance of his religion, and here a leader is bribed, with the loss of his family otherwise, gains massive property as a result, and a command where he immediately turns on his former tribe in war. As well, as Mālik says in his poem, Muḥammad is “generous when asked for a gift,” so perhaps Mālik has initiated some bargaining on his own to begin with. Muḥammad’s strategy is to co-opt the power levers of his enemies, and thus: “The apostle gave gifts to those whose hearts were to be won over, notably the chiefs of the army, to win them and through their people.” Thus, Muḥammad gives 100 camels each to eleven named chiefs, “less than 100 camels” to two named chiefs “and others,” and finally, 50 camels to two other chiefs.
“He gave ‘Abbās b. Mirdās some camels, and he was dissatisfied with them and blamed the apostle” in some verse; Muḥammad adds enough camels to satisfy him. Another companion complains that Ju‘ayl b. Surāqa al-Ḍamrī is given no camels when, as a Muslim already, he is superior to some who did receive them, to which Muḥammad replies: “I have treated them generously so that they may become Muslims, and I have entrusted Ju‘ayl to his Islam.”
A man of Tamīm called Dhū’l-Khuwayṣīra complains that Muḥammad is not being just in the process. “The prophet was angry and said, ‘If justice is not to be found with me then where will you find it?’ ” ‘Umar asks to be allowed to kill him, but Muḥammad says no. Thus, anger again surfaces in Muḥammad’s person when challenged, he declares himself to be the very definition of justice, Rex, Lex, regardless of what people think, and ‘Umar is ready to murder a man, a fellow Muslim, for asking a hard question.
The Anṣār, now a Muslim tribe, supplying many troops for Muḥammad, are also disturbed by property being given to polytheists to make them accept Islām, as they believe they too deserve such consideration. Muḥammad answers: “Do you think ill of me in your hearts? Did I not come to you when you were erring and God [Allāh] guided you; poor and God [Allāh] made you rich; enemies and God [Allāh] softened your hearts? … Are you disturbed in mind because of the good things of this life by which I win over a people that they may became Muslims while I entrust you to your Islam? Are you not satisfied that men should take away flocks and herds while you take back with you the apostle of God [Allāh]? … The people wept until the tears ran down their beards as they said: ‘We are satisfied with the apostle of God [Allāh] as our lot and portion.’ Then the apostle went off and they dispersed.” Thus, Muḥammad has arbitrary power as the prophet to disperse what he chooses to disperse, again, as the definition of justice (Rex, Lex); and his appeal to the Anṣār that their spiritual lot is equally as just, is accepted.