Wednesday, March 08, 2006

War Against the Whole World 

I'm sure the Arab News reports this with a sense of ironic detachment, merely noting it as an interesting historical context about the pledge converts must take before joining Islam, which appears today to be only the shahada.

They first give a little background on the basics of what is required:

When anyone accepts Islam as a faith, that person makes a pledge to God to lead a life compatible with Islamic teachings and moral values. We mentioned last week the pledge, or bay'ah, that was required of all Muslims, men and women, at the beginning of the Islamic message. They pledged "never to associate any partner with God, and never to steal, commit adultery, kill their children, fabricate any falsehood with regard to the identity of their children's parents, nor disobey God's Messenger in anything reasonable." This remains the pledge required to be given by Muslim women. However, Muslim men are required to defend Islam against any outside aggression. This was clearly outlined by the Prophet (peace be upon him) when he met a large delegation of the new Muslims in Madinah who asked him to move over to their city where he could continue to deliver his message and explain it to people in peace and security.
This defense-against-all-outside-aggression clause is no shock to modern non-Muslims who are now thoroughly versed in the importance of Jihad as a spiritual quest, aware that it merely refers to self-purification and the attainment of the highest ethical standards, or something like that. The report then goes on with more details of the conversion pledge of that early delegation. Before taking the pledge, they wanted clarification of whether they would still be protected after their conversion threatened their previously cordial relationship with certain neighbors.

They answered him: "We have truly understood what you have said." They then turned to the Prophet and invited him to lay down his conditions.

The Prophet began his short speech by reading a passage from the Qur'an. He then explained the message of Islam and its profound influence on the lives of its followers. He concluded with this very brief statement of the conditions of the pledge he wanted from them: "You pledge to me that you will protect me as you protect your own womenfolk and your own children."

Al-Bara' ibn Maaroor, a leading figure among those present, said: "By Him who has given you the message of the truth, we will defend you as we defend our women. Take up our pledges, for we are the children of war and the best people with arms."

The distinguished figure of Abu Al-Haitham ibn Al-Tayyihan intervened here: "We have relations with the Jews which are now bound to be severed. If we live up to our pledges and God grants you victory, would you, Messenger of God, leave us then to return to your people?"

Smiling, the Prophet assured him that he would not do that. He said: "I belong to you as you belong to me. I fight your enemy and make peace with your friend." Ibn Al-Tayyihan then addressed his people telling them to be sure of their commitment as they gave the Prophet their pledges. They told him that they have already done so and asked him to move over so that they could make their pledges, but he insisted to be the first to do so.

As they queued to make their personal pledges, a man called Al-Abbas ibn Ubadah stopped them, saying: "Do you know what you are pledging to this man? You are committing yourselves to go to war against the whole world. If there is any doubt in your minds or if you feel that if your wealth is looted and your honored leaders are killed you will give him up, it is more honorable for you to leave him alone now. Giving him up in such an eventuality will dishonor you in both this life and the life to come. If, on the other hand, you feel you will honor your commitments come what may, then go ahead, because this will increase your honor in both this world and the next."

They all said, without hesitation: "We are committed, come what may." The question they were naturally keen to put to the Prophet was: "What will our reward be if we honor our commitments?" The Prophet's answer came in a single word: "Paradise."
One rarely finds such intense and all-encompassing commitment described in the English language.

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: