The Misconception That Worldly Gains The Aim Of The Islam Conquests
A third and related accusation is that the swift Islamic conquests, which startled the known world and by which the Muslim faith was able to spread North, East and West, were primarily only for war spoils, worldly pleasures, fame and glory. Let us present some facts about the biography of the Prophet ( s) and about Islamic principles from the historical record.
The Prophet Muhammad ( s) at the beginning of his mission as the Prophet and Messenger of Allah was approached by his people in every possible way and by every possible means to back off and abandon his Call to Islam. The Prophet ( s) was asked by the Quraish leaders, “If you desire a kingdom and dominion over all the Arabian Peninsula, we will ensure this for you. If you desire women, we offer you, freely, to marry the most beautiful virgin girls in the Arabian Peninsula.” The Prophet ( s) was also offered excesses of wealth that no one ever dreamed of possessing in the Arabian Peninsula, but he rejected all these offers. Why? The Arab leaders of Quraish made all their offers with one condition - that the Prophet ( s) immediately cease calling to his religion of Islam and cease opposing their Pagan beliefs in idols and superstitions.
The Prophet’s (
s) simple, direct and honest reply to all their tempting and lucrative deals was full and
final rejection. One famous narration of the words of the Prophet (
s) is recorded as follows:
“By Allah! If they were able to place the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left hand in order to convince me to abandon the call for this mission, I would not. I will never surrender, nor accept their requests, but will continue on my mission until either this Call (of the religion of Islam) becomes predominant and widely accepted and practiced in the Arabian Peninsula, or my head is removed from my body.”
[Ibn Hisham, The Biography of Muhammad ( s) vol.1, p.170]
Another fact worthy of noting is that the letters that the Prophet ( s) sent to the prominent kings, governors and rulers of neighboring countries were very clear in allowing them to keep their positions of leadership, kingdoms, and possessions if they accepted Islam and preserved peace and justice.
For instance, the following famous letter to Heraclius, Emperor of the Byzantine Roman Empire,
reads as follows:
“In the name of Allah, the Compassionate and Merciful. From Muhammad, who is the servant of Allah and His Prophet, to Heraclius. Peace be upon him who follows the right path. I invite you to the fold of Islam. Therefore, if you desire security, accept Islam. If you accept Islam, Allah shall reward you doubly and if you refuse to do so, the responsibility for the transgression of the entire nation shall be yours.
[Allah, the Almighty, says]: ‘Say, ‘O People of the Scripture, come to a word that is equitable between us and you - that we will not worship except Allah and not associate anything with Him and not take one another as lords instead of Allah.’ But if they turn away, then say, ‘Bear witness that we are Muslims [submitting to Him].’”
(Bukhari & Muslim)
The companion Anas reported that: “Allah’s Messenger (
s) was never approached to give a reward to a person who accepted Islam, but condoned it.
Once, a man came and asked for something if he accepted Islam.
The Prophet ( s) offered him (from the Islamic treasury) a herd of sheep that was grazing in a valley between two mountains (in Madinah). As such, the man who received the reward went back to his people and told them, ‘O My people! Accept Islam, as Muhammad ( s) gives such rewards that the recipient will never fear poverty’. [All the people related to this man accepted Islam and joined the Muslims]. Anas continued in his report saying: ‘A man would accept Islam only for materialistic gains, but as soon as he would feel the sweetness of Islam, the faith would become dearer to the heart of such a person, more than the entire world and its possessions.’”
(Bukhari & Muslim)
Let’s also examine the amount of wealth that the Prophet (
s) left behind as inheritance after his death.
Amr bin al-Harith reported: “The Prophet (
s) upon his death left no silver or gold coin, slave or anything else, other than his
white mule, his weapon, and a piece of land which he had declared as a charity for Muslims.”
In fact, the Prophet’s personal armor was bonded to a Jew as collateral against a measurement of barley for his family’s food at the time of his death. How could any sensible person, then, accuse a man like the Prophet Muhammad ( s) of being infatuated with materialistic gains and possessions, ephemeral status and glory? Emperors, nationalistic leaders, their generals and warriors seek after glory, land and booty. Yet, the facts above prove that the aim of the Messenger of Allah ( s) was to spread the religion of Islam to mankind by peaceful means for their benefit, and to leave them alone in earning their livelihood and fulfilling their material needs as they pleased within the boundaries of Islam.
The companions of the Prophet ( s) and the followers in truth, show by example of their righteous, upright and ascetic way of life, that they were not after worldly possessions and the fleeting pleasures of this life.
During the Battle of Uhud, the Prophet (
“Get up to gain Paradise which is as spacious as all the heavens and earth put together!” A man
named Omair bin al-Hemam heard the Prophet's (
s) statement. As such, this man raised the question to Allah's Messenger (
s), “O Prophet of Allah! Did you say the reward is Paradise, which is as wide as the
heavens and earth put together?” The Prophet (
s) answered positively. The Companion said, “Blessed be it! Blessed be it!” The Prophet,
peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, asked the man, “What urged you to say what you
said?” The man replied, “O Prophet of Allah! The only hope I entertain is to be one of the
dwellers of this Paradise!” The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said,
“Surely, you are one of the dwellers of this Paradise.” Upon hearing such a word from the
s), the man took a few dates out of his bag to eat before the fight began. But, the man
threw the dates in the air saying, “By Allah! If I lived to finish eating these dates it
would be a very long life! He rushed into battle until he was martyred.”
A man called Shaddad bin al-Hadi reported that a Bedouin came to Allah's Messenger (
s) and expressed interest in Islam. The Bedouin soon embraced Islam. The Bedouin expressed
his interest to Allah's Messenger (
s) to immigrate with him to Madinah. As such, Allah's Messenger (
s) asked the Muslims to take care of the Bedouin, which they did.
The Muslims fought a battle against the pagans and as a result, they won some war spoils. Allah's Messenger ( s) distributed the booty among his Companions. The Bedouin was given a share of the booty due to his participation in the fight.
The Bedouin asked, “What is this for?”
Allah's Messenger ( s) stated, “This is a share of the spoils for your participation in the fight.”
The Bedouin replied, “I did not give you my pledge of allegiance for worldly gains. In fact, I followed you and embraced Islam hoping that an arrow of the enemy would hit my throat, then I would die, then I would be rewarded with Paradise.”
Allah’s Messenger ( s) commented on the statement of the Bedouin, “If you are truthful with Allah, surely Allah would fulfill your desire.”
Later on, a battle was fought, and the Bedouin was found dead with an arrow in his throat. He was carried forward and brought before the Prophet ( s). Allah's Messenger ( s) inquired, “Isn't he the same Bedouin?” The people answered affirmatively.
The Messenger of Allah ( s) said: “Verily this man was truthful with Allah. Therefore, Allah Most Exalted is Truthful with him.”
Allah’s Messenger ( s) gave his cloak to be used as a shroud for the martyred Bedouin. The funeral was brought forward and they offered a funeral prayer for his soul, using the following supplication for the soul of the martyr: “O Allah! This is Your slave-servant, who immigrated for Your cause. He was killed as a martyr. I am a witness for that.”
The incident is a testimony for this man and his likes who refused to accept his entitled share of the war booty seeking complete sincerity in his desire for the reward from Allah alone.
Omar bin Al-Khattab, the famous rightly-guided Caliph and Companion of the Prophet (
s), whose conquests reached into vast areas in the known world including the Roman and Persian
empires, heard his stomach growl due to lack of a proper diet. Upon hearing the growl of his
own stomach, Omar exclaimed, “O My dear stomach, growl or be still! By Allah! You will not get
properly filled until all the Muslims have enough to eat.”
(Baihaqi in al-Sunan, 9/42)
The spoils of warfare the early Muslims gained by their conquests were sufficient to let them lead a prosperous and gracious life, but the real motive behind the conquests was to call other peoples to the Word of Allah and the religion of Islam. This was proven by the fact that the conquered peoples were given the freedom of choice to accept Islam as a religion and way of life, and if they did, they would be entitled to all the rights of the other Muslims. This equalitarian and universal approach was unknown in the world at that time; a world built upon racial and national empires where some were privileged nobles and the rest were second-class citizens, at best, and more probably servants, slaves and feudal serfs.
If the conquered people rejected Islam, and remained upon their previous religion and did not wage war against the Muslims, they were required to pay the Jizyah (“Head Tax”). This was a symbolic amount of tax in exchange for the protection of their lives, properties and wealth guaranteed and secured by the Muslim government. Additionally, payers of the head tax would enjoy all public facilities offered and maintained by the Islamic government and were not required to pay any additional taxes, whereas Muslims, on the other hand, were required to pay the Zakah (obligatory charity on accumulated wealth, the sum of 2.5% of their annually accumulated funds or a specified amount of agricultural and husbandry produce). Zakah is often much more than what the amount of the head tax is annually. Thus, people actually had to pay more tax upon becoming Muslim, yet they still converted in large numbers.
If the non-Muslims in a conquered land refuse to accept either option, and choose to remain belligerent, war would be waged against them in order to remove the impediment to the delivery of the Message of Islam. Thus, a potential reason for waging a war against other non-Muslims is the fact that, some inhabitants of such non-Islamic countries may, embrace Islam, had they known its principles and mission. For this essential and noble objective, and Allah Knows best, Islam imposes on Muslims to wage wars in order to allow for the unimpeded delivery of the Message of Allah to the non-Muslims
Khalid bin al-Waleed, the most famous and successful general of the early Muslims, died while he owned only a horse, a sword, and a servant. Where could any one find a trace of materialistic life in the inheritance of such a great Muslim general and warrior?
The books of Islamic history are replete with numerous narratives of men of this high caliber that
confirm that worldly gains were not the objective of the early Muslims. Rather, they hoped for
the reward from Allah, the Most Generous and Bountiful, for their sincerity in calling to Islam,
the divine religion of guidance from Allah. As was revealed and promised by the Prophet (
s) when he said:
“If a single soul, male or female, is guided through you to Islam, it is better for you than
the choice red camels (i.e. the most prized possessions on earth).”
(Muslim & others)
There are many reliable accounts of early Muslims willingly giving up their entire wealth and life savings as charity upon their conversion to Islam. The early members of the Quraish tribe were noteworthy in this regard. Others were deprived of their wealth because their families boycotted them in anger for their embracement of Islam. Others had all their possessions confiscated upon immigration to Medina. Others were extremely involved in the work of Islamic propagation and gave their time and wealth to this activity.
To “cite” one example, in the major and decisive battle of Nahāvand, a companion of the Prophet ( s) named an-Nu'man bin Muqrin al-Mozani offered the following supplication, “O Allah! Honor and Glorify Your Divine religion, and make those victorious who believe in You. O Allah! Let me be the first to be martyred in the battle. O Allah! Grant my eyes the true pleasure to see the best conquest that grants honor and dignity to Islam. O people! Put faith in Allah, He will certainly shower you with His Mercy”. Do you see any materialistic greed and desire for personal glory in this supplication? The main objective is surely to seek the pleasure of Allah and the sincere wish to call others to accept Islam for their own benefit.
The Ruler of Egypt, the Muqawqis, sent his messenger to the Muslim General, Amr bin al-Aas who conquered Egypt. The Muslim General was holding the Babylon fortress in siege. The Egyptian Ruler asked his spies to report on what they observed. There was general consensus on their observation. They said, “We have noticed that they prefer death over life. They prefer to be modest and humble, rather than proud and arrogant. We have noticed that they have no interest among them in worldly gains and possessions. They sit on the floor, and their leader sits like one of them. No one could differentiate between the leader and the led, the master and the slave. They are all almost alike, irrespective of their ranks.”
These, and many more, examples show that accumulation of the spoils of war and selfaggrandizement were not the objectives of early Muslims. Rather the zeal of the mission of Islam to guide mankind propelled them from their native homeland to the surrounding areas, carrying with them the universal message of Islam.