16.1 Permission to Fight Back
For thirteen years, the messenger had struggled in Mecca to eradicate idolatry and corruption, and for thirteen years the Muslims had been severely persecuted by the Meccans. On more than one occasion they had asked permission to fight back, but the Messenger had replied that they had not been ordered to do so. Aggression breeds aggression, and had the Muslims fought back while they were in Mecca, life in the holy city would have turned into a nightmare of violence, and the Muslims to whom the Messenger was trying to teach forgiveness, tolerance and mercy would have had to resort to force to resist Quraysh who far outnumbered them. In such a war both sides would have been the losers. Allah in His mercy had planned something much better for them. All those who were destined to believe by peaceful means were given the opportunity to believe and all those who had the power to emigrate to Medina were given the opportunity to emigrate. Two years after the emigration of the Messenger to Medina the only Muslims who remained among the polytheists of Mecca were those who were too weak or too dependent to carve out a new life for themselves. The Messenger and the Muslims thought of these poor Muslims under the yoke of Quraysh, and also of their aged parents who could not emigrate, the young children for whom the new life was too rough, and for the homes, possessions, and businesses they had left behind. Quraysh continued to torture or kill any of the Muslims they could lay hands on.
Islam is a religion that seeks goodness and justice, not passively, but actively. It is not enough to be good-to be truly good one has to stand against wrong. In many verses the Koran describes the believers as those who
"command the right and forbid the wrong."
In order to forbid corruption or command justice one has to be in a position to do so. One has to have the material strength and the power to fight for what one believes in, and until this juncture the Muslims had not been given permission to fight those who attacked them. At last, after fifteen years of patient endurance they were given permission to fight back in the following words:
Permission is given to those who were attacked, for they were wronged,
and Allah is able to give them victory,
those who were driven out of their homes unfairly,
only because they said, “Our Lord is Allah.” (22:39, 40)
The above verses give permission only to those who were wronged. Islam is based upon justice and mercy and it abhors aggression. The holy verses say:
Fight for Allah's sake those who fight you,
but do not be the aggressors.
Allah does not like aggressors. (2:190)
While Islam abhors aggression, it equally abhors weakness and submissiveness. Muslims should fight for the rights Allah has given them, should struggle to uphold justice and an equable peace, and should gather all the power they can to do so.
Throughout his life Mohamed was patient and forbearing. He avoided battles and engaged in them only after other means had failed. When the use of arms was necessary, however, he was the first to face the enemy with a dauntless courage and an untiring perseverance. He did his very best, and then trusted completely in Allah. When in battle we notice that he fought with restraint, in accordance with the decrees of the Koran. He never went beyond the necessary and showed great mercy to his enemies when they fell into his hands.
On the new soil of Medina, the Muslims were in a much better position to oppose Quraysh, as they had been greatly strengthened by the Supporters and in Medina they had a stronghold from which they could go out to make treaties or fight. Had they been given permission to fight in Mecca, they would have had to despoil their own city, the city of Allah; they would have had to injure women and children, which is against the decrees of Islam. Allah in His infinite wisdom spared them all these miseries. Now if they fought Quraysh, they would fight only men and only those who came to fight them.
The Muslims had only half the numbers of Quraysh and they did not possess the military equipment or the wealth that war demanded, for most of their possessions were in the hands of Quraysh. But the holy verses say:
Allah will support those who support Him.
Allah is the Almighty, the Invincible. (22:40)
They were willing to stand and fight for Allah's sake, even though they were fully aware of the might of Quraysh and of their own weakness. Once the Holy verses had given permission to them to fight, it was their duty to do so. Muslims should always be ready to struggle for what they believe in, for faith is not a matter of words but of deeds.
The holy verses above give a promise of victory. This promise proved true throughout the history of Islam. Every time the Muslims have fought for Allah's sake, for the sake of justice and righteousness, they have been granted victory even when material circumstances have been against them. The moment they begin to fight for worldly considerations, victory is withheld, even when material circumstances are in their favor. The reader will notice this in every battle the Muslims fight.