Muhammad’s Jihad to Smash Idols and Freedom of Belief

Defensive Jihad?

The Quran says in 9:29

“Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture – [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.”

There’s a particular argument that some Muslims bring up that Muhammad was only doing defensive battles. That he was only protecting himself from the “evil” Makkans who wanted to harm him. That this verse and others are for defending the faith but not for attacking others. That Islam didn’t spread by the sword.

If we go back to the beginning, Muhammad and his followers were persecuted for their beliefs. But what is obvious is that according to the seerah, the problem is not that he wanted to worship Allah, but because he didn’t want them to worship their idols.

A deal with the Makkans?

Ibn Kathir tells us that the Makkans would have tolerated him in the Tafsir of Surah Kafiroon. The Makkans offered a deal to Muhammad that they would worship their idols for a year, and he would then worship his god for a year. But he rejected this deal. He didn’t want to have a partnership or agreement of any sort. It was his way or the highway.

Meaning, Muhammad wanted to force his beliefs onto others.

There is the famous incident of the conquest of Makkah, where Muhammad “cleansed the house of idolatry” and broke all the 360 idols at the kaabah.

But was that it? He just wanted to clean up his town and be done with it? The Makkans could now live in peace doing their thing while he did his?

The intolerance of monotheism

You see, monotheism can be intolerant. As Karen Armstrong wrote in ‘A History of God’:

“Today we have become so familiar with the intolerance that has unfortunately been a characteristic of monotheism.. Paganism was an essentially tolerant faith: provided that old cults were not threatened by the arrival of a new deity, there was always room for another god alongside the traditional pantheon… We have seen that in Hinduism and Buddhism people were encouraged to go beyond the gods rather than to turn upon them with loathing. Yet the prophets of Israel were unable to take this calmer view of the deities they saw as Yahweh’s rivals.”

The Yahweh of the Bible was a jealous god. And as we see, Allah was a jealous god who wouldn’t tolerate other religions.

“It is He who has sent His Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth to manifest it over all religion, although they who associate others with Allah dislike it.” (9:33)

“Get rid of the disbelievers from Arabia”

Muhammad wasn’t about settling with others. He wanted to get rid of all the disbelievers from Arabia

In the book of Jihad in Sahih Muslim it states that Muhammad said:

“I will expel the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula and will not leave any but Muslim.”

This is also repeated in Jami At-Tirmidhi, Muwatta of Malik. And in Sahih Bukhari it said that Muhammad’s dying wish was to expel the pagans from the Arabian Peninsula.

The Prophet (ﷺ) on his death-bed, gave three orders saying, “Expel the pagans from the Arabian Peninsula…”

So Muhammad wanted to kick all the non-Muslims out of Arabia. This was his DYING wish. He’s already dying. What’s the point? So much for peace and harmony! So much for ‘lakum deenukum waliya deen’ (to you your religion and to me mine). So much for ‘la ikraha fi deen’ (no compulsion in religion)

But what else did he do? Surely this is bad enough already?

Three choices

Whenever he appointed a man to lead a military detachment, he told them to give the enemy three options.

1) Invite them to accept Islam

2) If they refuse to enter Islam, then ask them to pay the jizyah in humiliation

3) But if they refuse, then seek the help of Allah against them and fight them.

These are the three options. What a peaceful religion. Convert people or make them pay a heavy tax, or fight. How is this defensive? It’s not. It’s all about money and power. The entire process of jihad is to grow the Muslim empire. Either with new converts who will fight for you, or with taxes, or by fighting and capturing booty and slaves. No surprise Islam grew as quickly as it did. And to top it off you can’t leave Islam or they would punish you with death as a murtad.

Destroy the idols of neighbouring towns

But we’re not done yet. What else did Muhammad do? He couldn’t leave well enough alone. He sent an army to destroy each of the idols that the each city worshipped.

An-Nasa’i recorded that Abu At-Tufayl said, “When the Messenger of Allah conquered Makkah, he sent Khalid bin Al-Walid to the area of Nakhlah where the idol of Al-`Uzza was erected on three trees of a forest. Khalid cut the three trees and approached the house built around it and destroyed it. When he went back to the Prophet and informed him of the story, the Prophet said to him, (Go back and finish your mission, for you have not finished it.) Khalid went back. When he approached it, he found a naked woman whose hair was untidy and who was throwing sand on her head. Khalid killed her with the sword and went back to the Messenger of Allah, who said to him: That was Al-`Uzza “

What a strange story. So he didn’t just send his general to break the idol, but also to kill the custodian who was a harmless naked woman throwing sand on her hair.

Muhammad bin Ishaq narrated, “Al-Lat belonged to the tribe of Thaqif in the area of Ta’if. The Prophet sent Al-Mughirah and Abu Sufyan to destroy Al-Lat.

The Messenger of Allah sent Jarir bin `Abdullah Al-Bajali to Dhul-Khalasah and he destroyed it.

Ibn Ishaq said that Fals was the idol of Tay’ and the neighboring tribes. Ibn Hisham said that Muhammad sent Ali to Fals and he destroyed it. It even says that he found two swords in its treasure that he of course took back to Muhammad and was given the swords as war booty.

So Muhammad sent out armies to destroy idols in towns that were bothering nobody. Notice the purpose for sending his generals? It was to destroy the idols. What was the point of risking people’s lives to destroy idols? The Muslims already had their state, Makkah was “cleansed” of idols, so why bother?

In conclusion

Why was it so important for Muhammad to expel Christians, Jews, and the Polytheists (everyone except his followers) from the Arabian Peninsula?

Because he was fiercely intolerant and oppressive towards everyone. There is so much horrible precedent set by Muhammad in these actions. He has left a horrible example for his community to follow. And today we have not just Non-Muslims being attacked, but even Muslim minorities like Shia who get accused of being idolators and their mosques bombed for it. I wonder where they got that idea….

This is the problem with religion. It packages together wonderful things like feeding the poor and sponsoring orphans with terrible things like jihad against the unbelievers and killing apostates. All of them are placed on the same level.

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