THE HOLY WAR
It is natural that every head which rises above the ordinary level of mankind should be knocked down. Man never likes to see his brother standing out high. Muhammad who arose to the utmost height - I may say to the divine ideal, for Allah says in the Qur'an, "Had I not created thee I would not have created the whole universe" - has been especially attacked. It was to be expected that out of the natural jealousy, that exists between nations, races and religions as among individuals, a great many attacks should be made on him during his life, and should be continued till now. Some attacked with the sword, some with the pen, and some with bitterness of tongue.
Among many things said against Muhammad's life the first is that the Master was a hero, a warrior, which is quite different from the life of a prophet, saint or sage. This may be answered by taking as an example the development of the mind and the body. If the mind is highly developed and the body so neglected that it is turned into a skeleton by abstinence and renunciations - as the yogis did and in general a great many mystics in ancient times - what is the result ? The mind has become a commander and its army, the body, is unable to carry out the command. Religions and nations based on this principle mentally evolved and were physically ruined, so that for ages they were crushed under the heels of the strong, and later generations lost faith in their religions and at last found themselves physically too feeble to adopt the principles of the others, the materialists. Such is the case with the ancient religions based on the principles of saintliness.
Imagine for a moment that a king were to build a beautiful palace for his enjoyment and comfort without building a fortress around his capital. Any day the palace would be in the hands of a conqueror and all the king's comfort and enjoyment would be at an end. Muhammad, who was idealized by sages and who was the maker of saints, was at the same time the teacher of nations, the maker of nations. This he proved in his own life, for never in the world's history is there an account of such a vast and rapid spread of a nation on the basis of divine law. He saw that, if each individual evolves within himself, very few will be evolved and all others helpless. Now the evolution should be of many, joined hand in hand, that there may be a strong foundation and all the sources of hindrances may be annihilated. Therefore the teachings he gave are wonderful; they are adapted to the conditions of all nations and to people of different evolutions. His principles proved to be the only principles for life in the world and have been directly or indirectly adopted by all nations even in this time of modern progress, whether their religions contained it or not. And yet there has not been the like of Muhammad's taking the sword, for the world has always taken the sword to govern the world, to possess its kingdoms - he took the sword to make a path for the message of God to be spread.
The Arab race has always been a warlike race. Not a week, month or year passed without war. In order to train this race in the principles of humanity it was never possible that the weapon should be kept in its sheath. Not one word about God or truth could safely be said to them, unless they were kept at a stave's length with a couched lance.
There is not one instance of Muhammad's making an attack upon any people. His sword was his shield for selfdefence. The lands conquered were given back to their possessors. Men conquer people to govern them; he conquered to do them the service of love. This is engraved upon the heart of humanity, so that to-day the heart of almost every Muslim is melted and is moved when the name of Muhammad comes to his ears. Can this impression be created by the sword ?
The holy war for God had its principles - quite different from those of the war for the world. In the former there is the idea of love, kindness, friendly feelings, justice, and the welfare of the adversary; in the latter lies greed, jealousy, anger, hatred, and each side has the annihilation of the other at heart. The former comes from the spirit of self denial, while the latter comes from the self. Even if it is for one's family, for one's nation, or for one's race, it is egoism which culminates in patriotism.
The warriors who sacrificed their lives in the cause of God and truth deserved really more than the reward of a title or a medal. Every sacrifice for the higher purpose surely has a higher reward. To the spirit-blind person a higher reward or a higher existence is fanaticism; a star and ribbon is his prize, and an earthly gain his reward. The reward of those who seek earthly gains is created on earth. Those who sacrifice their life in the cause of truth, for God - to them, what is this earth, and what is its treasure ? They are called shahid in Islam : those who sacrifice themselves for God. Their reward awaits them in heaven.
The greater part of Hadiths and the whole Qur'an are full of explanations how dangerous is the love for the world, how transitory its existence, and how important it is to follow the path of truth. This impression has never left the Muslim's heart. In all conditions and temptations in life he has shown wonderful moral examples whenever he was tried in warfare.
War was never waged by Muhammad for power, possession, or earthly riches, but either for the spreading of the final message far and wide in the world, or for the protection of the faithful, or for the preservation of Islam. And so it was continued even by his successors. If it were not so, Arabia would have enriched itself in wealth collected from at least half the world which Islam once possessed. Every convert who once embraced this universal brotherhood was considered no less than any other Muslim, even in political, moral, or social affairs. To whichever land he went, among whatever class of people, Muhammad was welcomed by the Muslims without any feeling of strangeness. To whichever part of the world his representatives went and established the mosque, protected by the national fortress, they devoted their lives to the people of that land; they left them their wealth as well as their powers and possessions. No way but the way of bravery has ever been adopted for the spread of their nation. There is not an instance found in the world's history where Islam has sacrificed the idea of unity for a national benefit.
Examples as set by rulers as Akbar are not yet vouchsafed. During his reign the conquered had their arms with them, their trade was never interfered with. He considered his riches to be the riches of the nation he ruled, and the reigning minister of his empire was Birbal, the Hindu. If there has been any religion in history which has shown universal brotherhood it has been Islam. In the reign of Akbar the temples of the Hindus, the churches of Christians, the agijaris of the Parsis, the synagogues of the Jews were all maintained and visited by Akbar himself with as much respect as had the worshippers belonging to each cult. Even till now the marks of this unbiassed and tolerant principle is found in Hyderabad, the only Muslim state now existing in India, (This was written between 1917 and 1920) wherein not only the mosques but all different religions have the state's patronage.
The deeds of the Prophet cannot be compared with those of his later successors. Man after all is man, he has his virtues and faults. As the Master had foretold, the nation gradually lost the true savour of the Prophet's teaching and this became the cause of its downfall, while others who were considered unbelievers imitated it and were benefited thereby. If it were not so the nation - with the strength of righteousness and the divine power with which it was endowed in its start of building itself up - would no doubt have spread throughout the whole world.
"God never overthrows any people less they themselves cause their downfall." Qur'an
There is not one single trace in history of Muhammad's having killed anybody with his sword; there are on the contrary numberless examples of his forgiveness. He has forgiven the Arab by whose brutality his beloved daughter was killed. He has forgiven those who mocked and scoffed at him, who criticized him, and insulted him in the streets, who stoned him and made fun of the verses of the Qur'an, who killed his devoted disciples and several times wounded him. After his victory over them, he said, "How would you like me to treat you now, you who have treated me as you have done in the past?" Captured as prisoners of war they all answered, "Treat us kindly, O brother". Muhammad was moved and forgot at that same instant all they had done and said, "I forgive you, brothers, in the name of Allah, the Forgiver, and will treat you as Joseph treated his brothers".
His last and great forgiveness which will remain as a living example until the end of this world was that, with all his power by which he could most easily have avenged himself in whatever way he pleased, he forgave the woman who gave him the poison which caused his death. What a loss to his worshipping followers! None was allowed to raise a finger against her, because the harm was done to the prophet's personal self. He took it most willingly as Allah's will.
A very wellknown story in the Islamic history tells that, when 'Ali had overpowered his enemy in a hand to hand fight, the enemy unable to free himself spat in 'Ali's face. Instead of killing him, 'Ali set him free. The enemy greatly astonished asked, "Why, after an action for which you might have killed me on the spot, have you now set me free ?" 'Ali replied , "This, your unsoldierly action, made me angry for an instant and we as a rule consider the spell of anger haram, forbidden. If I had killed you during this spell it would have been a sin instead of a virtue". A brave soldier and a great mystic and saint at the same time, 'Ali continued this moral throughout his life. One day an enemy came behind him, stabbed him and ran away. 'Ali was taken home fainting. During the few moments of life that remained to him his people brought him some food. The first thing he asked was, "What became of my assassin ?" They answered, "He has been taken". "Then take this food to my assassin first, for I am sure you all are so angered against him that he will be neglected". But the assassin on receiving the food refused in his blindness to take it if it came from 'Ali saying," I am sure it must be poisoned".
Once in a battle Muhammad was thrown to the ground by a soldier. No one of his disciples was left near to help him. The soldier, holding him down, said, "Say who shall help you now when I am going to take your life?" The Master, with the voice of confidence said, "Allah". The strength of Allah came to his help, and Muhammad suddenly threw the soldier down and snatched his dagger out of his hand. "Now say, man, who is going to help thee?" The soldier replied, "You, O Muhammad. Be kind to me, now that no one of my army is here to help me". Muhammad said, "Was not this an evident phenomenon of God's help, O man, which has happened just now before thy view ? Canst thou still not have confidence in Allah that he, who just now saved me out of thy hold, might save thee also ? Take thy weapon back and learn from now on to trust in Allah, who is our help at all times". The man at once accepted the faith of Muhammad and from that day became a Muslim. Would one call this deed a saintly action, or the action of a warrior ? God was constantly before Muhammad's eyes, even in the midst of war when, in fighting, a man is likely to forget.
War is a natural thing in life, even beasts and birds wage war against each other. What a struggle has man in this life of the world - not to gain anything, but only to live ! There is the war with his own defects, man has to fight his faults. If he does not know how to fight, he still has to defend himself against attacks from without. And if he had not learned how to wage war without, how could he wage war within ?