Story of Mohammed - Edith Holland

The Taking of Meccah

When the Prophet summoned the nations of the earth to join the Faith of Islam, one of his letters was addressed to the Governor of Ghassan, a dependency of the Roman Empire on the borders of Syria. The messenger carrying this letter was murdered at a place called Mutah. To avenge his death Mohammed sent an army of three thousand men under the command of Zaid. You will remember the history of this Zaid, who had once been the Prophet's slave, but had afterwards been freed and adopted as a son.

The Moslems little knew what they were undertaking; when they reached the Syrian border they were confronted by an army such as they had never dreamed of, and for the first time had to face the Roman phalanx. The two armies met at Mutah, the very place where the messenger had been murdered. Accustomed to the warfare of desert tribes, it was impossible for the Moslem army to contend with any chance of success against the trained legions of the Roman Empire. Nevertheless Zaid led his troops against this overwhelming force. He was soon struck down by the enemy's spears, and the command was taken by Ali's brother Jafar. Though many times wounded Jafar fought valiantly until he was stabbed by a Roman soldier. A third leader took his place, but he too fell, and the day was lost. The enemy broke through the ranks of the Moslems, who would have been utterly destroyed had not another brave leader succeeded in rallying the scattered remnants of the army and making an orderly retreat. It was Khalid, fighting for the first time on the Moslem side, who thus saved the day from being yet more disastrous. Many a time after this was Khalid to lead the Moslems to battle, winning for himself the title of the "Sword of God." Fierce and relentless, he was often reproved by the Prophet for his harsh acts, yet no man ever possessed a more generous nature than this fiery son of the desert. For Mohammed he had the deepest reverence, and when in battle, always wore a lock of the Prophet's hair fastened to his helmet.

There was sorrow and wailing in Medinah on the return of the ill-fated expedition. Mohammed was deeply grieved at the loss of his two friends; entering the house of his cousin Jafar, he tenderly embraced the fatherless children, and their mother guessed the news he brought. He ordered food to be sent to Jafar's house. "No food will be prepared there to-day," he said, "for all are overwhelmed with grief for the loss of their master." The Prophet next went to Zaid's house, where he was met by Zaid's little daughter, who threw herself weeping into his arms, and Mohammed wept until he sobbed aloud, for her father had been his beloved friend for many years. Though the Prophet could be stern and pitiless to his enemies, he had a very tender heart, and it is said that he always won the affection of children and animals.

After the battle of Mutah there was great unrest among the Arab tribes on the Syrian border, who even threatened to attack Medinah. A second army was sent to wipe out the defeat of Mutah; though no great battle was fought, the expedition met with success, and Amr, who was in command, received the allegiance of several of the border tribes.

When the Treaty of Peace was made at Hudaibiyah, it was agreed that for the space of ten years war should cease between the Meccans and the Moslems. For two years the agreement had not been broken, when the Banu Bakr, a tribe allied to the Meccans, attacked the men of a Moslem tribe, and killed several of them. Some of the chief men of the Kuraysh had disguised themselves and assisted their allies. Thereupon forty men of the tribe who had been thus wrongfully attacked mounted their camels and rode in haste to Medinah. They complained to the Prophet of the breaking of the Treaty, and besought him to punish the offenders. Mohammed promised that he would see the injured men righted, and avenge the murders.

Abu Sufyan, alarmed at the possible consequences of having broken faith with Mohammed, went himself to Medinah to try to make peace. The Prophet would make no promises, and Abu Sufyan begged Omar to intercede for him, but he indignantly refused. Ali and Fatimah were then asked to persuade the Prophet to renew the terms of peace, but all to no purpose. Some time before this Mohammed had married a widowed daughter of Abu Sufyan. On his arrival in Medinah Abu Sufyan paid a visit to his daughter, and was about to seat himself on a mat when she hastily drew it away, saying that no idolater should touch the Prophet's carpet. The chief of the Kuraysh does not seem to have had a very cordial reception in Medinah! Unable to come to any terms with Mohammed, he departed, ill-satisfied with the results of his mission.

Soon after these events great preparations for some warlike undertaking were going on in Medinah. All was bustle and stir, arms were sharpened and armour put in order, but as yet no one had been told against whom he was to fight! Even Abu Bakr, Mohammed's closest friend and adviser, was kept in ignorance, and Ayesha, as she prepared the Prophet's armour, had still no idea in what direction the army was to march. None knew until the last moment that the Prophet had planned an attack upon Meccah!

So well was the secret guarded that the Meccans had no warning of the vast army that was marching down upon them until they saw ten thousand watch-fires blazing from the mountain tops. The Prophet had ordered every man to kindle a fire, in the hope that the Meccans, overawed by the great display, would at once realize the uselessness of resisting so mighty a force, for Mohammed was anxious to avoid shedding the blood of his countrymen.

Terror and dismay spread through Meccah on this unlooked-for alarm. The day had closed peacefully over the doomed city, and now in the darkness of night the inhabitants were suddenly aware of a mighty army, encamped on the heights overlooking the town.

Abu Sufyan, with a few companions, hurried out on to the Medinah road; the night was very dark, and the mountain tops seemed on fire with the brilliant blaze. Suddenly a voice was heard in the darkness, calling Abu Sufyan by name: "Mohammed is encamped with an army of ten thousand strong! Make thy peace with him and throw in thy lot with Islam." The speaker was Abbas, the Prophet's uncle. Though always on friendly terms with his nephew, he could never make up his mind to acknowledge him as a Prophet until he saw that there was no withstanding him. Now, late in the day, he had joined the winning side, and he begged Abu Sufyan to accompany him to the Moslem camp.

Perhaps Abu Sufyan felt that further resistance was useless, and acknowledged himself defeated in the long struggle with his opponent; perhaps he was convinced that the God who had helped Mohammed to overcome his enemies in the face of so much opposition was, indeed, the True God; whatever may have been his thoughts, he followed Abbas to the tent of the Prophet.

The next morning the proud Abu Sufyan, chief of the Kuraysh, made his profession of the Faith of Islam, acknowledging the once despised exile to be the Apostle of God. Mohammed received the submission of his enemy graciously, and bade him return to Meccah and tell the people that none should be harmed who offered no resistance and took refuge in their houses or in the Holy Temple. The army was about to march as Abu Sufyan took his leave. He was amazed at the order and discipline of that great host. "Truly," he said to Abbas as he watched the troops of the desert file by, "thy nephew is ruler of a great kingdom!" "He is more than a king," replied Abbas, "for he is a mighty Prophet:" Abu Sufyan hastened back to Meccah to deliver Mohammed's message.

The army marched in four divisions. Each was to enter the city by a different road, and the commanders were given strict orders not to fight unless first attacked. The road followed by the Prophet passed close to the cemetery where Khadijah and Abu Talib lay buried. No army came out to oppose the Moslems as they approached the city, and Mohammed offered up a prayer of thankfulness, for his heart yearned to be at peace with his countrymen.

The only column which met with any opposition was that led by Khalid. Some of the Prophet's bitterest enemies, refusing to be reconciled to him, had posted themselves on a mountain ridge above the town, where they intended to make a last stand. They assailed Khalid and his Bedouins with a shower of arrows, but, after a short skirmish, were put to flight; a few were killed on both sides. The Prophet was much grieved that any bloodshed should have taken place, but, with the exception of this encounter, Meccah surrendered peaceably, acknowledging the supremacy of Mohammed.

On entering the Holy City Mohammed went to the Kaabah, making the seven circuits of the sacred building. And now followed one of the supreme moments of the Prophet's life. The time had come for the downfall of the idols of Meccah! Mohammed, who had once suffered persecution and exile for condemning the worship of these same idols, now ordered their destruction, and on this, his day of victory, the Meccans dared not raise a finger to save the gods of their fathers. "Truth is come," exclaimed the Prophet, "and falsehood is fled away: verily falsehood is a fleeting thing."

Pointing with his staff to the giant figure of Hubal, he ordered it to be destroyed; it was hewn in pieces and fell with a crash to the ground. One by one these guardian gods of the city were singled out for destruction, until, of the three hundred and sixty, not one remained standing. On the walls of the Kaabah were pictures of Abraham and the angels; these were effaced by Omar, who rubbed them out with a cloth, for the Moslems consider pictures, as well as images, symbols of idolatry. "Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, nor the likeness of anything that is in heaven above or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth." This commandment is obeyed literally by the followers of the Prophet.

Thus was idolatry rooted out of Meccah, and henceforth the national shrine of Arabia was to be the Temple of the True God.

From that great day of Mohammed's final victory to the present time the Moslem call to prayer has daily been heard from the Kaabah of Meccah, and public prayer has been performed in the same words as those used by the Prophet.

After the destruction of the idols Mohammed preached to the assembled people. "Sons of the Kuraysh, how think you that I should deal with you?" he asked, when he had finished his discourse. "With kindness and mercy, gracious brother," they replied. The Prophet, deeply moved, said he would act towards his kinsmen even as Joseph had acted towards his brethren. "I shall not reproach you," he said; "God will forgive, He is merciful and compassionate."

Mohammed won the hearts of his countrymen by the generosity he showed the vanquished city. Meccah, which had cast him forth an exile and an outlaw, was now at his mercy, but all thoughts of revenge were laid aside, and Mohammed freely forgave his enemies except a few persons who were guilty of various crimes, and of these only two were condemned to death.

So great a love did the Prophet cherish for his native city that he declared it to be the fairest spot on earth, and the men of Medinah feared he would desert them and make Meccah his home. But he assured the Helpers that he would never forsake them, for had they not given him a home in his exile, and made him welcome when all the rest of the world was against him! "Where ye live I shall live," he said, "and there too shall I die."

Mohammed in Kaabah


In the evening, when the Prophet had retired to his tent, Abu Bakr brought his father to see him. Abu Kuhafah, blind and bowed with age, with hair "white as the flower of the mountain grass," was led into the Prophet's presence. Mohammed received the old man kindly and bade him sit down beside him. "Thy father should have stayed in his own house," he said to Abu Bakr, "and I would have gone to see him there." Abu Kuhafah was easily persuaded to join the Faith of which his son was such a devoted follower. He lived to be ninety-seven, and to see Abu Bakr elected Khalif, or successor of the Prophet.

During the days following Mohammed's entry into Meccah great numbers of the inhabitants came to him to take the oath of allegiance, and make their profession of the Faith of Islam. On these occasions every man placed his hand on that of the Prophet, in token of his oath, repeating the words of the Second or Great Pledge of Al-Akabah. The women stepped forward and pledged themselves in the words of the "Women's Pledge" (or "First Pledge of Al Akabah ") to worship none but the True God, to lead pure and virtuous lives, and obey the Prophet in all that was right. Mohammed would then say, "Go, for you have pledged yourselves"—he did not take the women by the hand.

You must not suppose that all the inhabitants of Meccah were converted at once; none were urged to pledge themselves until they had studied the new religion. There were no doubt some who joined because they wished to be on the winning side, but the doctrines of Islam had been slowly gaining ground during the eight years since the Flight, and many were prepared to receive them. The great aim of the Prophet's life had been accomplished, idolatry was overthrown, and the standard of the Faith had been planted in the Holy City.