The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 11: The Gathering Storm

 Part II: The Campaign of the Apostasy


Page: 3

Azad waited until the sentry had turned the corner of the corridor, then rushed into the room. She saw Fairoz standing beside the bed, waiting for a chance to strike again, while the impostor writhed in his bed, waving his arms about. The two now worked together. The woman hastened to the head of the bed, caught the hair of Aswad in both her hands and held his head down. Fairoz drew his dagger and with a few deft strokes severed the black head from the enormous body. Thus ended the career of the false prophet, Abhala bin Kab, alias the Black one, alias the Donkey-Walah, alias the Drunk. His mischief lasted three months and ended with his death, six days before Prophet Muhammad passed away.

With Aswad's death his movement collapsed. The Muslim resistance organised by Qais in San'a turned in violent vengeance against the followers of Aswad, many of whom were killed. But many escaped to create trouble for Muslim rulers at a later stage. Many became Muslims again, and of these some again apostatised. Fairoz was appointed governor of San'a.

The messenger who carried the good news to Madinah arrived there shortly after the death of the Holy Prophet. The report of the destruction of the mischief of Aswad Al Ansi brought some solace to the heart-broken Muslims.

Madinah was now going through a crisis which was at once emotional, spiritual and political. The loss of the beloved Muhammad had left the Muslims devastated. For the past 10 years the Prophet had been everything to them-commander, ruler, judge, teacher, guide, friend. There was no aspect of life in which he had not participated. They had taken all their problems to him, and he had settled, decided, directed, comforted. In the warm light of his presence they had felt safe from trouble and misfortune. Now that light had gone out. The Muslims felt alone and frightened-in the words of the chroniclers: "like sheep on a cold, rainy night." 1

The crisis deepened as reports of the revolt spreading over Arabia began to arrive. All the tribes of Arabia, with the exception of those in Makkah and Madinah and the Thaqeef in Taif, revolted against the political and religious authority of Madinah and broke their oaths of allegiance. False prophets arose in the land and claimed a share in Muhammad's prophethood. These impostors, having seen the affection and reverence in which the Holy Prophet was held, and unmindful of the trials and sufferings which he had experienced before his efforts bore fruit, decided that prophethood was a good thing and that they too should get the benefit of it. Apart from Aswad, there were two impostors (possibly three) and one impostress. There were others-chieftains and elders, who did not claim prophethood, but united with the false prophets in their perfidious designs to extinguish the flame of Islam and return to the tribal independence of the Ignorance. The flames of the apostasy raced like wild fire across all Arabia, threatening to engulf Makkah and Madinah-the spiritual and political centres of the infant state of Islam.

The chief cause of the apostasy was lack of true faith. Most of the tribes, converted in the ninth and tenth years of the Hijra, had taken to Islam for political reasons. They had found it expedient. They saw Muhammad as a powerful political boss rather than a prophet with a new message. The true Muslims were the Muslims of Makkah and Madinah, especially the latter who had been in contact with the Holy Prophet for many years and had drunk deep at the fountain of truth which the Prophet had revealed. The outlying tribes had not enjoyed this spiritual experience. In many cases, when a chief became a Muslim the tribe followed his example out of tribal loyalty rather than religious conviction. With the death of the Prophet the tribes felt free to renounce their allegiance, which, as they saw it, had been made to a person and not to Madinah or to Islam. Muhammad was dead; and now they could throw off the yoke of discipline which the new faith had imposed in limiting the number of wives a man could marry, in collecting taxes for the benefit of the community, in enforcing prayers and fasting. The strong leaders who led the revolt preferred to be free to exploit the weak to their own advantage, unhampered by the restrictions which Islam placed upon them.

The fears of the Muslims deepened when Abu Bakr became caliph-the first caliph in Islam. Abu Bakr had never been known for any great quality of leadership, let alone the ability to steer the ship of state through the storm that gathered on every side and threatened the very existence of Islam. What was needed at this critical juncture was a strong, robust and capable leader. And what was the image of Abu Bakr? A small, slender, pale man, he had deep-set eyes under thin, delicate eyebrows. By now he had a pronounced stoop which heightened the impression of age and senility, in spite of the fact that he dyed his beard. A mild, gentle and tender-hearted individual, he was easily moved to tears.

1. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 461.