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The Byzantine Christians: Antagonists or Antagonized? Pt. 2

In this part of my discussion…antagonized-pt-1/  I am going to be addressing the claims of some Muhammadan apologists that Q. 9:29 was composed primarily because Muhammad supposedly received news that the Byzantine Christians were planning to attack the Muslims. These Islamic propagandists are hoping to convince non-Muslims that this is simply another case of Muhammad ordering his followers to attack in self-defense, waging jihad for the sole purpose of defending themselves against those who sought to kill them. The following sham piece is an example of such polemics

To begin with, let us carefully look over some of the reports that these Muhammadans cite to prove their case:

“… In those days we were afraid of one of the kings of Ghassan tribe. WE HEARD that he intended to move and attack us, so fear filled our hearts because of that. (One day) my Ansari friend unexpectedly knocked at my door, and said, ‘Open Open!’ I said, ‘Has the king of Ghassan come?’ He said, ‘No, but something worse; Allah’s Apostle has isolated himself from his wives.’…” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Hadith 435

“… During that time all the rulers of the nearby lands had surrendered to Allah’s Apostle except the king of Ghassan in Sham, and we were afraid that he MIGHT attack us. All of a sudden the Ansari came and said, ‘A great event has happened!’ I asked him, ‘What is it? Has the Ghassani (king) come?’ He said, ‘Greater than that! Allah’s Apostle has divorced his wives!…” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 72, Number 734

“… Umar added, At that time a talk was circulating among us that (the tribe of) Ghassan were preparing their horses to invade us…” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 62, Number 119

“… In those days IT WAS RUMORED that Ghassan, (a tribe living in Sham) was getting prepared their horses to invade us…” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 43, Number 648

As the readers can see, NONE of these narratives claim that the Ghassanites had actually marched out to attack the Muslims. This was nothing more than a rumor which had spread among the Muslims.

Now let’s see what these specific Muhammadans should have done according to their own Quran in cases where someone brings a report which is based on a rumor:

O you who believe! If a rebellious evil person comes to you with a news, verify it, lest you harm people in ignorance, and afterwards you become regretful to what you have done. S. 49:6 Hilali-khan

This brings me to my next point. When one carefully analyzes the Islamic sources one discovers that the Byzantine Christians had no intention of attacking the Muslims, and were not the ones responsible for starting any hostility. The fact is that it was Muhammad who antagonized these Christians by threatening to come and attack them if they did not convert or submit to his rule. Pay carefully attention to the following citations:

“Tabuk make terms. When in the year 9 AH the Prophet marched to Tabuk in Syria for the invasion of those of the Greeks, Amilah, Lakhm, Judham and others whom he learnt had assembled against him, HE MET NO RESISTANCE. So he spent a few days in Tabuk, whose inhabitants made terms with him agreeing to pay poll-tax.” (Al-Imam Abu’l Abbas Ahmad Ibn Jabir Al Baladhuri, Kitab Futuh Al-Buldan, Volume 1, p. 92; bold and capital emphasis ours)


Ibn Ishaq stated, “The Messenger of God then sent Shuja‘ b. Wahb brother of Banu Asad b. Khuzayma to al-Mundhir b. al-Harith b. Abu Shimr al-Ghassani, the governor of Damascus.”

Al-Waqidi stated, “He wrote a letter to take with him that said, ‘Peace be upon him who follows the true path and believes in Him. I invite you to believe in God alone, and without associate WHO WILL PRESERVE YOUR KINGDOM FOR YOU.’

“When Shuja’ b. Wahb arrived, he read it (to the king) who responded, ‘WHO IS IT WHO WOULD TAKE MY KINGDOM AWAY FROM ME? I will go to him.’” (Ibn Kathir, The Life of the Prophet Muhammad: Al-Sira al-Nabawiyya, translated by Professor Trevor Le Gassick, reviewed by Dr. Muneer Fareed [Garnet Publishing, Reprinted 2005], Volume III (3), pp. 363-364; bold and capital emphasis ours)

  1. Waqidi, Maghazi, III, 989-92, 1019, states that the Prophet had received the news that the Byzantines were gathering troops and threatening to attack Medina. After reaching Tabuk, the Prophet discovered that the information he had received WAS EXAGGERATEDand decided to return to Medina. Cf. Baladhuri, Ansab, I, 368. (The History of al-Tabari: The Last Years of the Prophet, translated and annotated by Ismail K. Poonawala [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany, NY 1990], Volume IX (9), p. 47; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Notice that it was Muhammad who sent a threatening letter to the Ghassanite king, thereby prompting him to react in anger. Now picture what Muhammad or even Muslims today would do if a Christian leader sent a letter threatening to come and kill them if they did not embrace his faith or submit themselves to his rule and conditions.

And here is al-Waqidi in his own words:

“They said: The Saqita–they were Nabateans– arrived in Medina with flour [Page 990] and oil in Jahiliyya and after Islam arrived. Indeed there was news of al-Sham with the Muslims every day. Many of those who came to them were from Nabatea. A group arrived which mentioned that the Byzantines had gathered many groups in al-Sham, and that Heraclius had provisioned his companions for a year. The Lakhmids, Judham, Ghassan and Amila had gathered to him. They marched and their leaders led them to al-Balqa’ where they camped. Heraclius stayed behind in Hims. THAT WAS NOT A FACT, but rather something that was said to them that they repeated. There was not an enemy more fearful to the Muslims than them. That was because of what they saw of them, when they used to arrive as merchants, of preparedness, and numbers, and sheep.” (The Life of Muhammad: Al-Waqidi’s Kitab al-Maghazi, edited by Rizwi Faizer, translated by Rizwi Faizer, Amal Ismail and AbdulKader Tayob [Routledge Studies in Classical Islam, First edition 2011], p. 485; bold and capital emphasis ours)


“He said: Heraclius had sent a man from the Ghassan to observe the Prophet, his ways, his characteristics, the redness of his eyes, and the seal of prophecy between his shoulders. He asked if he (the Prophet) accepts sadaqa, and he learned something of the situation of the Prophet. [Page 1019] Then he returned to Heraclius and he mentioned that to him. He invited the people to believe in the Messenger of God, but they refused, until he feared they would go against his authority. He stayed where he was, AND DID NOT MOVE OR GO FORWARD. News that had reached the Prophet, about Heraclius sending his companions and getting close to the South of al-Sham, WAS FALSE. HE DID NOT DESIRE THAT, NOR DID HE INTEND IT. The Messenger of God consulted about proceeding. Umar b. al-Khattab said, ‘If you are commanded to march, march!’ The Messenger of God said, ‘If I was commanded about it I would not consult you!’ He said, ‘O Messenger of God, the Byzantines have many groups, but there is not one of Muslims. You are close to them as you see, and your closeness FRIGHTENS THEM. So return this year until you come to a decision, or God establishes for you in that affair.’” (Ibid., 499; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Could the Muslim sources by any clearer that the Romans had absolutely no intention to marching out against the Muslims?

Noted Muslim scholar and commentator Ibn Kathir provides further confirmation that the Byzantines had no plans to attack Muhammad and his band of jihadists. Rather, as Ibn Kathir shows, it was actually Muhammad who was the antagonist since he wanted to attack the Byzantines solely because they happened to be Christians who did not believe in Islam. Ibn Kathir further indicates that the other reason why Muhammad wanted to attack the Byzantines is because he wanted to get them to pay jizya in order to compensate the Meccans for the loss of revenue that resulted from Muhammad forbidding unbelievers from ever coming to the Kabah again:

The Battle of Tabuk

According to the scholars of Syirah [sic], this battle took place in Rajab, in the 9th year of Hijra.

Occasion of the Battle

When Allah, Most High, ordered the believers to prohibit the disbelievers form [sic] entering or coming near the sacred Mosque. On that, Quraish thought that this would reduce their profit from trade. THEREFORE, Allah, Most High, COMPENSATED THEM and ordered them to fight the people of the Book UNTIL THEY EMBRACE ISLAM OR PAY THE JIZYAH. Allah says… (At-Tawbah: 28-29)

Therefore, the Messenger of Allah decided to fight the Romans IN ORDER TO CALL THEM TO ISLAM… (Ibn Kathir, The Battles of the Prophet, translated by Wa’il ‘Abdul Mut’aal Shihab [Dar Al-Manarah/El-Mansoura, Egypt, Second edition 2001], pp. 183-184; capital emphasis ours)

And this is what Ibn Kathir wrote in his biography on Muhammad in respect to Q. 9:28-29:

It is related from Ibn ‘Abbas, Mujahid, Sa’id b. Jubayr, Qatada, al-Dahahak and others that when God Almighty decreed that the polytheists should be prevented from approaching the Sacred Mosque, whether in the pilgrimage or at other times, the Quraysh said they would be deprived of the commercial activity that took place during the pilgrimage, and that they would therefore suffer financial loss. And so God compensated them for that by ordering them to battle the people of the scriptures so that they either accepted Islam or paid the jizya tax ‘an yadin, “being in a state of submission”.

I comment that the Messenger of God THEREFORE DECIDED TO BATTLE THE BYZANTINES. This was BECAUSE THEY WERE THE PEOPLE NEAREST TO HIM and most appropriate to invite to the truth because of their proximity to Islam and to those who believed in it. God Almighty had stated, “O you who believe, FIGHT THOSE UNBELIEVERS WHO ARE NEAR YOU. LET THEM FIND SEVERITY IN YOU; and know that God is with those who are pious” (surat al-Tawba (or al-Bara’a); IX, v.123). (Ibn Kathir, The Life of the Prophet Muhammad: Al-Sira al-Nabawiyya, translated by Professor Trevor Le Gassick, reviewed by Dr. Muneer Fareed [Garnet Publishing, 2000], Volume IV (4), p. 1; bold and capital emphasis ours)


Imam Ahmad stated that it was related to him by Ishaq b. ‘Isa, quoting Yahya b. Salim, from ‘Abd Allah b. Uthman b. Khuthaym, from Sa’id b. Abu Rashid, who said, “In Hims I met al-Tanukhi, the envoy of Heraclius to the Messenger of God; he was a neighbor of mine and a very old man who had reached 90 or so. “I asked, ‘Won’t you tell me about the message of Heraclius to the Messenger of God and of his message to Heraclius?’ ‘Certainly,’ he replied.

“(He narrated) The Messenger of God reached Tabuk and sent Dihya al-Kalbi to Heraclius. When the message of the Messenger of God reached him, Heraclius summoned the priests and patriarchs of Rome AND LOCKED HIMSELF AND THEM INSIDE A BULDING. He told them, ‘This man is encamped where you are aware, AND HE HAS SENT ME OFFERING ME THREE ALTERNATIVES. He invites me to follow him in his religion, OR THAT WE GIVE HIM WHAT WE HAVE ON THIS OUR LAND, THIS LAND REMAINING OURS, OR THAT WE GO TO WAR WITH HIM. By God, you well know from what you read in the books that he will definitely take our land, SO LET US EITHER FOLLOW HIM IN HIS FAITH OR GIVE HOM WHAT WE HAVE ON OUR LAND.’

“They snorted in disgust as one man so hard as almost to burst from their hooded gowns, saying, ‘You are inviting us to abandon Christianity or have us be slaves to a Bedouin from Hijaz?’

“When he realized that when they left him they would turn the Byzantines against him, he made peace with them immediately, saying, I only said that to find out bow dedicated you are.’

“He then summoned an Arab of Tajib who had power over the Christian Arabs and said, ‘Find me some man who can well remember speech and whose native tongue is Arabic whom I can send to this man WITH A REPLY TO HIS MESSAGE.

“He brought me to him and Heraclius gave me a letter, saying, ‘Take this letter of mine to this man. Commit to memory what he says and note three specifics: take note of any comment he makes about the letter he wrote me; observe whether he reads my letter and whether he makes mention of “night”. and [sic] observe whether there is anything you find curious about his back.’

“So I set off with his letter and reached Tabuk where I found him seated among his men, his legs drawn up and wrapped in his garment, over near the spring. I asked, ‘Where is your leader?’ ‘This is he,’ I was told.

“I went over and sat down before him, handed him my letter which he placed on his lap. He then asked, ‘From whom have you come?’ ‘I am a brother of Tanukh,’ I answered. He asked, ‘Would you like to join Islam, the hanafi faith of your father Abraham?’ I replied, ‘I am the messenger of my people and belong to the faith of my people; I cannot turn from it before I return to them!’ He laughed and said, ‘You cannot lead aright whomever you wish; but God leads aright whomever He wishes; He knows best those who will be led aright’ (surat al-Qasa, XXVIII, v.56). Brother of Tanukh, I wrote a message to Chosroe (and he tore it up) and God will tear him up and tear up his realm. I wrote a letter to Negus and he burned it; and God will burn him up along with his realm. I wrote a letter to your leader and he kept it; the people will experience courage from him so long as there remains goodness in life.’…

“When he had finished reading my letter, he said, ‘You are right; you are indeed a messenger. If I had some reward, I would give it to you. We are travelers out of supplies.’ One of the group of men then called out to him. ‘I will give him a reward.’ And he opened his pack and brought me a gold-threaded garment which he placed in my lap. I asked who was the donor of the reward, and I was told it was ‘Uthman.

“The Messenger of God then asked, ‘which of you will accommodate this man?’ One of the young ansar said, ‘I will.’ The ansar got up and I arose with him. When I had left the group of men, the Messenger of God called out to me, ‘Come here, brother of Tanukh!’ I hurried over to where I had been sitting in front of him and he lifted off the shirt from his back and said, ‘Over here; carry on and do as you were ordered.’ I looked over at his back and saw a seal in the place of the fold of his shoulder blades, like a large mole.”

This is a hadith that is gharib, unilateral; its line of authority IS NOT BAD. Imam Ahmad is alone in giving it. (Ibid., pp. 18-20; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Heraclius’ reaction to Muhammad’s threatening letter soundly refutes the oft-repeated Muhammadan assertion that the emperor was intending to march out against the Muslims in order to kill them. The above quotes from both al-Waqidi and Ibn Kathir prove that it was Muhammad who went on the offensive, encouraging his men to attack and subjugate the Byzantines solely because they were Christians who did not believe in Islam

In fact, the Muslim sources testify that Heraclius tried to do everything he could to get his nation to agree to Muhammad’s demands, showing that he had absolutely no intention of starting a war with the Muslims. These same Islamic traditions also confirm that Heraclius returned back to Constantinople once he realized that he couldn’t convince his people to accept Muhammad’s conditions:

Al-Tabarani related, through Yahya b. Salama b. Kuhayl, from his father, from ‘Abd Allah b. Shaddad, from Dihya al-Kalbi, who said, “The Messenger of God sent me with a letter to Caesar, leader of the Byzantines.”

(The account continues) “Caesar was informed that there was a man at his gate claiming to be an envoy from the messenger of God. Caesar WAS DISTURBED AT THIS and ordered that the man be brought in. This was done; he had his bishops present with him.”…

“The letter was read to its end and Caesar ordered everyone out and sent for me. I went in and h asked me questions to which I answered. He then sent for his bishop, their most prominent figure, a man whose opinion and statements were influential, and when he read the letter, he said, ‘By God, he is the prophet Moses and Caesar foresaw and whom we have awaited!’ ‘What do you advise me?’ Caesar asked. The bishop replied, ‘As for myself, I believe and follow him.’ ‘I too know’, Caesar commented, ‘that he is genuine, but I can do nothing. If I did, my kingdom would be lost and the Byzantines would kill me.’”

On this subject, Muhammad b. Ishaq quoted Khalid b. Yasar as related that a Syrian elder said, “From what news he had heard of the Prophet, and having decided to leave Syria for Constantinople, Heraclius assembled the Byzantines and addressed them as follows, ‘Byzantines, I have certain issues I wish to present to you. Tell me what are your wishes regarding them.’

“They asked what they were and he went on, ‘You will know, by God, that this man is certainly a prophet who has been sent. We find him to have those qualities by which he has been described to us (before); let us proceed and follow him and thus find peace in this world and the next.’

“They replied, ‘But then we would be under the control of the Arabs; and we are more numerous, powerful and have a more extensive domain than they do!’

“He continued, ‘LET US PAY HIM THE jizya, THE POLL-TAX, EVERY YEAR. That will relieve PRESSURE ON ME FROM HIM and by what I give him I WILL BE SPARED POSSIBLE WARFARE.’

“They responded, ‘Why should we give to the despised and powerless Arabs tax money they would take from us, when we are the more numerous, have a powerful nation and a larger domain? No, by God, we’ll absolutely never do that!’

“‘Well then,’ Caesar suggested, ‘LET’S MAKE PEACE WITH HIM BY MY GIVING HIM SURIYYA while he leaves me the land of al-Sham.’ He explained that Suriyya consisted of Palestine, Jordan, Damascus and Hims, up to al-darb, while the lands beyond al-darb constituted al-Sham.

“They objected, ‘Why should we give him Syria when you know well that it is the very navel of al-Sham! We’ll never do that!’

“When they refused, he asked them, Do you think, by God, that you’ll have defeated him IF YOU DEFEND YOURSELVES FROM HIM in your towns?’

“He then rode away on his mule, eventually looking down upon al-darb and approaching the land of al-Sham. He then said, ‘Peace be upon you, land of Suriyya; this is my farewell greeting.’ He then hurriedly returned to Constantinople. But God knows best.” (Ibn Kathir, The Life of the Prophet Muhammad: Al-Sira al-Nabawiyya [Garnet Publishing, Reprinted 2005], Volume III (3), pp. 362-363; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Notice how the foregoing Islamic reference depicts Heraclius doing everything he possibly could to avoid going to war with Muhammad. Also note carefully Heraclius’ supposed words to the people about defending themselves against Muhammad, since all of this proves that Muhammad was the aggressor who had threatened to attack the Byzantines.

It is therefore a boldfaced lie when Muhammadan propagandists claim that the reason why Muhammad mustered his troops to fight against the Byzantines at Tabuk is because the Byzantine army was planning to attack the Muslims. This is nothing more than a shameless attempt of whitewashing Islamic history in order to paint Muhammad as a saint who only raided and murdered people in self-defense.

We are not through just yet since we have more to say in the next segment

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