Expedition of Abu Sufyan ibn Harb

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Expedition of Abu Sufyan ibn Harb[1] or the Demolition of al-Lat, occurred in the same year as the Battle of Tabuk[2] (which occurred in October 630 AD[3] ). Muhammad sent Abu Sufyan[4] with a group armed men to destroy the Idol al-Lat (also referred to as al-Tagiyyah) that was worshipped by the citizens of Taif.[5] The destruction of the idol was a demand by Muhammad before any reconciliation could take place with the citizens of Taif[6] who were under constant attack and suffering from a blockade by the Banu Hawazin, led by Malik, a convert to Islam who promised to continue the war against the citizens of the city which was started by Muhammad in the Siege of Taif.[7] The event is also mentioned in the Quran verse 17:73.[8]

Background[edit]

Killing of Urwah ibn Mas'ud[edit]

Bas-relief: Nemesis, Allāt and the dedicator. Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon

10 months after the Siege of Taif, the inhabitants were still practising idolotary. Urwah ibn Mas'ud, the chief of Taif was a convert to Islam, he went back to Taif to invite his people to Islam. When he arrived his people were not interested in Islam. The next day he went to his balcony and called out very loudly from the pitch of his voice, the Muslim call to prayer (Adhan)[9] .

This annoyed many people, and a group of people ran together to challenge him, and one shot an arrow that hit his arm, causing serious damage, from which he later died.[10]

Continued war against the citizens of Taif[edit]

After the Siege of Taif, Muhammad desired to get the chief of the Banu Hawazan (called Malik) on his side, and promised that his family will be released and all his property given back, if he embraced Islam. He accepted the offer and became a Muslim and engaged in a constant warfare with the citizens of Taif. Malik captured their cattle's wherever they grazed and put the civilians in a difficult situation to continue to warfare with the people of Taif, which Muhammad began.

[11] Even after the death of Urwah, Malik continued to do this and no man was safe beyond the walls of the city. They said among themselves[12]

"We have not strength to fight against the Arab tribes all around, that have plighted their faith to Muhammad and bounded themselves to fight in his cause"[13]

Ambassadors sent to submit to Muhammad[edit]

Because of the constant attacks by Malik which effectively created a blockade against the citizens, the people of Taif were ready to submit to Muhammad, and they sent a deputation to Medina consisting of 6 chiefs and 20 followers. The ambassadors said they were willing to convert to Islam and destroy Taghiyyah (also known as al-Lat), an idol that they worshipped.[14]

But they asked Muhammad to allow the Idol al-Lat to stay for another 3 years, because they did not believe they could change their way of life so quickly. Muhammad rejected the proposal, they then asked for 2 years, 1 year, and then 6 months. Muhammad rejected all of these proposals. Finally they asked to keep the idol for 1 month, again Muhammad did not accept.[15]

Muhammad made it clear that Islam and the Idol can not co-exist, and believed it must be demolished without a single days delay. They then begged Muhammad to allow them to be excused from praying the daily prayers and that someone else (not from their tribe), should destroy their Idol. Muhammad rejected their proposal to be excused from daily prayer(saying without daily prayer, religion is nothing i.e. it would not be Islam if they did not pray), but accepted their offer that someone else should destroy their Idol.[16]

Quran 17:73[edit]

According to the Muslim scholar Al-Suyuti, the Quran verse 17:73 was "revealed" about this event, after the tribe asked Muhammad to be excused from the daily prayers[17]

Demolition of shrine and Idol[edit]

Abu Sufyan and al-Mughirah ibn Shubah were both sent to destroy the Idol.[18] Wielding a pick-axe with a guard of armed men while the women were crying, al-Mughirah destroyed the idol and took the jewellery from the temple which he used to pay off the debt of Urwah ibn Masud.[19]

Islamic primary sources[edit]

Quran[edit]

The event is mentioned in the Quran (according to al-Suyuti):

And their purpose was to tempt thee away from that which We had revealed unto thee, to substitute in our name something quite different; (in that case), behold! they would certainly have made thee (their) friend! [Quran 17:73]

Al Suyuti's commentary on the verse is as follows:

The following was revealed regarding the [tribe of] Thaqīf, for they had asked him [the Prophet] (s) to declare their valley inviolable and implored him [to grant them this request]: And indeed (wa-in, [the particle in is] softened) they were about to, they nearly did, beguile you away from that which We revealed to you, so that you might invent against Us [something] other than that; and then, had you done that, they would have taken you as a friend.

[Tafsir al Jalayn on 17:73][20]

Early Muslim sources[edit]

The event is mentioned by the Muslim jurist Tabari (he refers to al-Lat as Tagiyyah, which is an alternate name). He wrote:

When they left the messenger of God turned down their homeland, the Messenger of God dispatched Abu Sufyan b. Harb and al- Mughirah b. Shu'bah to demolish al-Taghiyyah. The two traveled with the deputation until they approached al-Ta'if, at which point al-Mughirah asked Abu Sufyan to precede him. Abu Sufyan refused, saying "Go to your kinsfolk yourself," and stayed at his estate in Dhu al-Harm. When al-Mughirah b. Shubah entered [al Taif] he mounted the idol and struck it with a pickaxe while his folk, the Banu Mu'attib stood by him, fearing that he might be shot at or struck as 'Urwah had been. The women of Thaqif came out with their heads uncovered and said, lamenting the [loss of the] idol [ie, the goddess]

"Oh, shed tears for the protector! Ignoble ones have forsaken her, those not competent in wielding swords"

He said: While al-Mughirah was striking the idol with the axe, Abu Sufyan was saying, "Alas for you, alas! " When al- Mughirah had demolished it, he took its treasure and ornamentation and sent [it] to Abu Sufyan. Its ornamentation was made up of various items, while its treasure consisted of gold and onyx.

The Messenger of God had previously instructed Abu Sufyan to pay the debts of 'Urwah and al-Aswad, the sons of Mas'ud, from the property of al-Lat, so he discharged their debts. [Tabari, Volume 9, The last Years of the Prophet 45-46][21]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ George Sale (1850), The Koran, commonly called the Alcoran of Mohammed: translated into English immediately from the original Arabic, with explanatory notes taken from the most approved commentators, to which is prefixed a preliminary discourse, William Teg, p. 13 . This book describes it as an Expedition, see footnote 1
  2. ^ Tabari, Al (25 Sep 1990), The last years of the Prophet (translated by Isma'il Qurban Husayn), State University of New York Press, p. 46, ISBN 978-0-88706-691-7 
  3. ^ Hawarey, Dr. Mosab (2010). The Journey of Prophecy; Days of Peace and War (Arabic). Islamic Book Trust. Note: Book contains a list of battles of Muhammad in Arabic, English translation available here, and archive of page here
  4. ^ Rahman al-Mubharakpuri, Saifur (2003). Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Volume 9). Dar-us-Salam. p. 321. ISBN 978-9960-892-80-1.  See also Tafsir Ibn Kathir,53:19- Text Version
  5. ^ Muir, William (August 1878), The life of Mahomet (Full free digitized version), Kessinger Publishing Co, p. 207 
  6. ^ George Sale (1850), The Koran, commonly called the Alcoran of Mohammed: translated into English immediately from the original Arabic, with explanatory notes taken from the most approved commentators, to which is prefixed a preliminary discourse, William Teg, p. 13 
  7. ^ Muir, William (August 1878), The life of Mahomet (Full free digitized version), Kessinger Publishing Co, p. 205 
  8. ^ Suyuti, Al, Tafsir al Jalayn, on 17:73  Archive of page available here
  9. ^ Muir, William (August 1878), The life of Mahomet (Full free digitized version), Kessinger Publishing Co, p. 203 
  10. ^ Muir, William (August 1878), The life of Mahomet (Full free digitized version), Kessinger Publishing Co, p. 203 
  11. ^ Muir, William (August 1878), The life of Mahomet (Full free digitized version), Kessinger Publishing Co, p. 155 
  12. ^ Muir, William (August 1878), The life of Mahomet (Full free digitized version), Kessinger Publishing Co, p. 204 
  13. ^ Muir, William (August 1878), The life of Mahomet (Full free digitized version), Kessinger Publishing Co, p. 205 
  14. ^ Muir, William (August 1878), The life of Mahomet (Full free digitized version), Kessinger Publishing Co, p. 205 
  15. ^ Muir, William (August 1878), The life of Mahomet (Full free digitized version), Kessinger Publishing Co, p. 205 
  16. ^ Muir, William (August 1878), The life of Mahomet (Full free digitized version), Kessinger Publishing Co, p. 206 
  17. ^ Suyuti, Al, Tafsir al Jalayn, on 17:73  Archive of page available here
  18. ^ Muir, William (August 1878), The life of Mahomet (Full free digitized version), Kessinger Publishing Co, p. 206 
  19. ^ Muir, William (August 1878), The life of Mahomet (Full free digitized version), Kessinger Publishing Co, p. 207 
  20. ^ Suyuti, Al, Tafsir al Jalayn, on 17:73  Archive of page available here
  21. ^ Tabari, Al (25 Sep 1990), The last years of the Prophet (translated by Isma'il Qurban Husayn), State University of New York Press, p. 46, ISBN 978-0-88706-691-7