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Rulership and Princeship among the Arabs

When  talking  about  the  Arabs  before Islam,we  deem  it  necessary  to  draw  a  mini-picture  of  the  history of  rulership,  princeship,  sectarianism  and  the religious  dominations  of  the  Arabs,  so  as  to  facilitate  the understanding  of  emergent  circumstances  when  Islam  appeared. 

When  the  sun  of  Islam  rose,  rulers  of  Arabia  were  of  two  kinds:  crowned  kings,  who  were  in  fact  not independent;  and  heads  of  tribes  and  clans,  who  enjoyed  the  same  authorities  and  privileges  possessed by  crowned  kings  and  were  mostly  independent,  though  some  of  whom  could  have  shown  some kind  of submission  to  a  crowned  king.  The  crowned  kings  were  only  those  of  Yemen,  Heerah  and  Ghassan.  All other rulers  of  Arabia  were  non-crowned. 


The  folks  of  Sheba  were  one  of  the  oldest  nations  of  the  pure  Arabs,  who  lived in  Yemen.  Excavations  at “Or”  brought  to  light  their existence  twenty five  centuries  B.C.  Their  civilization  flourished,  and  their domain  spread eleven  centuries  B.C. 

It  is  possible  to  divide  their  ages  according  to  the  following  estimation:

1. The  centuries  before  650  B.C.,  during  which  their  kings  were  called  “Makrib  Sheba”.  Their  capital was  “Sarwah”,  also  known  as  “Khriba”,  whose  ruins  lie  in  a  spot,  a  day’s  walk from  the  western side  of  “Ma’rib”.  During  this  period,  they  started  building  the  “Dam  of  Ma’rib”  which  had  great importance  in  the  history  of  Yemen.  Sheba  was  also  said  to  have  had  so  great  a  domain  that they  had  colonies  inside  and  outside  Arabia. 

2. From  650  B.C.  until  115  B.C.  During  this  era,  they  gave  up  the  name  “Makrib”  and  assumed  the designation  of  “Kings  of  Sheba”.  They  also  made  Ma’rib  their  capital instead  of  Sarwah.  The ruins of  Ma’rib  lie  at  a  distance  of  sixty  miles  east  of  San‘a. 

3. From  115  B.C.  until  300  A.D.  During  this  period,  the  tribe  of  Himyar  conquered  the kingdom  of Sheba  and  took  Redan  for  capital  instead  of  Ma’rib.  Later  on,  Redan  was  called  “Zifar”.  Its  ruins still  lie  on  Mudawwar  Mountain  near  the  town  of  “Yarim”.  During  this  period,  they  began  to decline  and  fall.  Their  trade  failed  to  a  very  great  extent,  firstly,  because  of  the  Nabetean  domain over  the  north  of  Hijaz;  secondly,  because  of  the  Roman  superiority  over  the  naval  trade  routes after  the  Roman  conquest  of  Egypt,  Syria  and  the  north  of  Hijaz;  and  thirdly,  because  of  the inter-tribal  warfare.  Thanks  to  the  three  above-mentioned  factors,  families  of Qahtan  were disunited  and  scatteredout. 

4. From  300  A.D.  until  Islam  dawned  on  Yemen.  This  period  witnessed  a  lot  of  disorder  and  turmoil. The  great  many  and  civil  wars  rendered  the  people  of  Yemen  liable  to  foreign  subjection  and hence  loss  of  independence.  During  this  era,  the  Romans  conquered ‘Adn  and  even  helped  the Abyssinians  (Ethiopians)  to  occupy  Yemen  for  the  first  time  in  340  A.D.,  making  use  of  the constant  intra-tribal  conflict  of  Hamdan  and  Himyar.  The  Abyssinian  (Ethiopian)  occupation  of Yemen  lasted  until  378  A.D.,  whereafter  Yemen  regained  its  independence.  Later  on,  cracks began  to  show  in  Ma’rib  Dam  which  led  to  the  Great  Flood (450  or  451  A.D.) mentioned  in  the Noble  Qur’ân.  This  was  a  great  event  which  caused  the  fall  of  the  entire  Yemeni  civilization  and the  dispersal  of  the  nations  living  therein. 

In  523,  Dhu  Nawas,  a  Jew,  despatched  a  great  campaign  against  the  Christians  of  Najran  in  order  to force  them  to  convert  into  Judaism.  Having refused  to  do  so,  they  were  thrown  alive  into  a  big  ditch where  a  great  fire  had  been  set.  The  Qur’ân  referred  to  this  event: 

“Cursed  were  the  people  of  the  ditch.” [Qur’an 85:4

This  aroused  great  wrath  among  the  Christians,  and  especially  the  Roman  emperors,  who  not  only instigated  the  Abyssinians  (Ethiopians)  against  Arabs  but  also  assembled  a  large fleet  which  helped  the Abyssinian  (Ethiopian)  army,  of  seventy  thousand  warriors,  to  effect  a  second  conquest  of  Yemen  in
525  A.D.,  under  the  leadership  of  Eriat,  who  was  granted  rulership  over  Yemen,  a  position  he  held  until he  was  assassinated by  one  of  his  army leaders,  Abraha,  who,  after reconciliation  with  the  king  of Abyssinia,  took rulership  over  Yemen  and,  later  on,  deployed  his  soldiers  to  demolish  Al-Ka‘bah,  and  , hence,  he  and  his  soldiers  came  to  be  known  as  the  “Men  of  the  Elephant”. 

After  the  “Elephant”  incident,  the  people  of  Yemen,  under  the  leadership  of  Ma‘dikarib  bin  Saif  Dhu Yazin  Al-Himyari,  and  through  Persian  assistance,  revolted  against  the  Abyssinian  (Ethiopian)  invaders, restored  independence  and  appointed  Ma‘dikarib  as  their king.  However,  Ma‘dikarib  was  assassinated by  an  Abyssinian  (Ethiopian)  he  used  to  have  him  around for  service  and  protection.  The family  of  Dhu Yazin  was  thus  deprived  of royalty  forever.  Kisra,  the  Persian  king,  appointed  a  Persian  ruler  over  San‘a and  thus  made  Yemen  a  Persian  colony.  Persian  rulers  maintained  rulership  of  Yemen  until  Badhan,  the last  of  them,  embraced  Islam  in  638  A.D.,  thus  terminating  the  Persian  domain  over  Yemen. 


Ever  since  Korosh  the  Great  (557-529  B.C.)  united  the  Persians,  they  ruled  Iraq  and  its  neighbourhood. Nobody  could  shake  off  their  authority  until  Alexander  the  Great  vanquished  their king  Dara  I  and  thus subdued  the  Persians  in  326  B.C.  Persian  lands  were  thenceforth  divided  and  ruled  by  kings  known  as “the  Kings  of  Sects”,  an  era  which  lasted  until  230  A.D.  Meanwhile,  the  Qahtanians  occupied  some  Iraqi territories,  and  were  later followed  by  some  ‘Adnanians  who  managed  to  share  some  parts  of Mesopotamia  with  them. 

The  Persians,  under  the  leadership  of  Ardashir,  who  had  established  the  Sasanian  state  in  226  A.D, regained  enough  unity  and  power  to  subdue  the  Arabs  living in  the  vicinity  of  their kingdom,  and force Quda‘a  to  leave  for  Syria  ,  leaving  the  people  of  Heerah  and  Anbar  under  the  Persian  domain. 

During  the  time  of  Ardashir,  Juzaima  Alwaddah  exercised  rulership  over  Heerah,  Rabi‘a  and  Mudar,  and Mesopotamia.  Ardashir  had reckoned  that  it  was  impossible  for  him  to  rule  the  Arabs  directly  and prevent  them  from  attacking  his  borders  unless  he  appointed  as  king  one  of  them  who  enjoyed  support and  power  of  his  tribe.  He  had  also  seen  that  he  could  make  use  of  them  against  the  Byzantine  kings who  always  used  to  harass  him.  At  the  same  time,  the  Arabs  of  Iraq  could  face  the  Arabs  of  Syria  who were in  the  hold  of  Byzantine  kings.  However,  he  deemed  it  fit  to  keep  a  Persian  battalion  under command  of  the  king  of  Heerah  to  be  used  against  those  Arabs  who  might  rebel  against  him. 

After  the  death  of  Juzaima  around  268  A.D.,  ‘Amr bin  ‘Adi  bin  Nasr  Al-Lakhmi  was  appointed  as  king  by the  Persian  King  Sabour  bin  Ardashir.  ‘Amr  was  the  first  of  the  Lakhmi kings  who  ruled  Heerah  until  the Persians  appointed  Qabaz  bin  Fairuz  in  whose  reign  appeared  someone  called  Mazdak,  who  called  for dissoluteness  in  social  life.  Qabaz,  and  many  of  his  subjects,  embraced  Mazdak’s  religion  and  even called  upon  the  king  of  Heerah,  Al-Munzir bin  Ma’  As-Sama’,  to  follow  after.  When  the latter,  because  of his  pride  and  self-respect,  rejected  their  orders,  Qabaz  discharged  him  and  nominated  Harith  bin  ‘Amr bin  Hajar  Al-Kindi,  who  had  accepted  the  Mazdaki  doctrine. 

No  sooner did  Kisra  Anu  Shairwan  succeed  Qabaz  than  he,  due  to  hatred  of  Mazdak’s  philosophy,  killed Mazdak  and  many  of  his  followers,  restored  Munzir  to  the  throne  of  Heerah  and gave  orders  to  summon under  arrest  Harith  who  sought  refuge  with  Al-Kalb  tribe  where  he  spent  the rest  of  his  life. 

Sons  of  Al-Munzir bin  Ma’  As-Sama’ maintained  kingship  a  long  time  until  An-Nu‘man  bin  Al-Munzir  took over.  Because  of  a  calumny borne  by  Zaid  bin  ‘Adi  Al-‘Abbadi,  the  Persian  king  got  angry  with  AnNu‘man  and  summoned  him  to  his  palace.  An-Nu‘man  went  secretly  to  Hani  bin  Mas‘ud,  chief  of Shaiban  tribe,  and  left  his  wealth  and  family  under  the  latter’s  protection,  and  then  presented  himself before  the  Persian  king,  who  immediately  threw  him  into  prison  where  he  perished.  Kisra,  then, appointed  Eyas  bin  Qubaisa  At-Ta’i  as  king  of  Heerah.  Eyas  was  ordered  to  tell  Hani bin  Mas‘ud  to deliver  An-Nu‘man’s  charge  up  to  Kisra.  No  sooner  than  had  the  Persian  king received  the  fanatically motivated rejection  on  the  part  of  the  Arab  chief,  he  declared  war  against  the  tribe  of  Shaiban  and mobilized  his  troops  and  warriors  under  the  leadership  of  King  Eyas  to  a  place  called  Dhee  Qar  which witnessed  a  most  furious  battle  wherein  the  Persians  were  severely routed  by  the  Arabs  for  the  first time  in  history.  That  was  very  soon  after  the birth  of  Prophet  Muhammad  ﻢﻠﺳو  ﻪﯿﻠﻋ  ﷲا  ﻰﻠﺻ  eight  months after  Eyas  bin  Qubaisah’s  rise  to  power  over  Heerah. 

After  Eyas,  a  Persian  ruler  was  appointed  over  Heerah,  but  in  632  A.D.  the  authority  there returned  to the  family  of  Lukhm  when  Al-Munzir  Al-Ma‘rur  took  over.  Hardly  had  the  latter’s  reign  lasted for  eight months  when  Khalid  bin  Al-Waleed (radhiyallahu anhu) fell  upon  him  with  Muslim  soldiers.


In  the  process  of  the  tribal emigrations,  some  septs  of  Quda‘a  reached  the  borders  of  Syria  where  they settled down.  They belonged  to  the  family  of  Sulaih  bin  Halwan,  of  whose  offspring  were  the  sons  of Duj‘am  bin  Sulaih  known  as  Ad-Duja‘ima.  Such  septs  of  Quda‘a  were  used  by  the  Byzantines  in  the defence  of  the  Byzantine  borders  against  both  Arab  Bedouin  raiders  and  the  Persians,  and  enjoyed autonomy  for  a  considerable  phase  of  time  which  is  said  to  have  lasted  for  the  whole  second  century A.D.  One  of  their most  famous  kings  was  Zyiad  bin  Al-Habula.  Their  authority  however  came  to  an  end upon  defeat  by  the  Ghassanides  who  were  consequently  granted  the  proxy  rulership  over  the  Arabs  of Syria  and  had  Dumat  Al-Jandal  as  their  headquarters,  which  lasted  until  the  battle  of  Yarmuk  in  the year  13  A.H.  Their  last  king  Jabala  bin  Al-Aihum  embraced  Islam  during  the reign  of  the Chief  of Believers,  ‘Umar bin  Al-Khattab (May  Allah  be  pleased  with  him). 


Isma’eel (alaihissalaam) (Biblical Ishmael) administered  authority  over  Makkah  as  well  as  custodianship  of  the  Holy Sanctuary  throughout  his  lifetime.  Upon  his  death,  at  the  age  of  137,  two  of  his  sons,  Nabet  and  Qidar, succeeded  him.  Later  on,  their  maternal  grandfather,  Mudad  bin  ‘Amr  Al-Jurhumi  took  over,  thus transferring rulership  over  Makkah  to  the  tribe  of Jurhum,  preserving  a  venerable  position,  though  very little  authority  for  Ishmael’s  sons  due  to  their  father’s  exploits  in  building  the  Holy  Sanctuary,  a  position they  held  until  the  decline  of  the  tribe  of Jurhum  shortly  before  the  rise  of  Bukhtanassar. 

The  political role  of  the  ‘Adnanides  had  begun  to  gain  firmer grounds  in  Makkah,  which  could  be  clearly attested by  the  fact  that  upon  Bukhtanassar’s  first  invasion  of  the  Arabs  in  ‘Dhati  ‘Irq’,  the  leader  of  the Arabs  was  not  from  Jurhum. 

Upon  Bukhtanassar’s  second  invasion  in  587  B.C.,  however,  the  ‘Adnanides  were  frightened  out  to Yemen,  while  Burmia  An-Nabi  fled  to  Syria  with  Ma‘ad,  but  when  Bukhtanassar’s  pressure  lessened, Ma‘ad  returned  to  Makkah  to  find  none  of  the  tribe  of Jurhum  except  Jursham  bin  Jalhamah,  whose daughter,  Mu‘ana,  was  given  to  Ma‘ad  as  wife  who,  later,  had  a  son  by  him  named  Nizar. 

On  account  of  difficult  living  conditions  and  destitution  prevalent  in  Makkah,  the  tribe  of Jurhum  began to  ill-treat  visitors  of  the  Holy  Sanctuary  and extort  its  funds,  which  aroused  resentment  and  hatred  of the  ‘Adnanides  (sons  of  Bakr bin  ‘Abd  Munaf bin  Kinana)  who,  with  the  help  of  the  tribe  of  Khuza‘a  that had  come  to  settle  in  a  neighbouring  area  called  Marr  Az-Zahran,  invaded  Jurhum  and frightened  them out  of  Makkah  leaving  rulership  to  Quda‘a  in  the  middle  of  the  second  century  A.D. 

Upon  leaving  Makkah,  Jurhum  filled  up  the  well  of  Zam-zam,  levelled  its  place  and  buried  a  great  many things  in  it.  ‘Amr bin  Al-Harith  bin  Mudad  Al-Jurhumi  was  reported  by  Ibn  Ishaq,  the  well-known historian,  to  have  buried  the  two  gold  deer  together  with  the  Black  Stone  as  well  as  a  lot  of  jewelry  and swords  in  Zamzam,  prior  to  their  sorrowful  escape  to  Yemen. 

Ishmael’s (Qur’anic Isma’eel) epoch  is  estimated  to  have  lasted  for  twenty  centuries  B.C.,  which  means  that  Jurhum  stayed in  Makkah  for  twenty-one  centuries  and  held  rulership  there  for  about  twenty  centuries. 

Upon  defeat  of  Jurhum,  the  tribe  of  Khuza‘a  monopolized rulership  over  Makkah.  Mudar  tribes, however,  enjoyed  three  privileges:

The  First:  Leading  pilgrims  from ‘Arafat  to  Muzdalifah  and  then  from  Mina  to  the  ‘Aqabah  Stoning Pillar.  This  was  the  authority  of  the family  of  Al-Ghawth  bin  Murra,  one  of  the  septs  of  Elias  bin Mudar,  who  were  called  ‘Sofa’.  This  privilege  meant  that  the pilgrims  were  not  allowed  to  throw stones  at  Al-‘Aqabah  until  one  of  the  ‘Sofa’ men  did  that.  When  they  had finished  stoning  and wanted  to  leave  the  valley  of  Mina,  ‘Sofa’ men  stood  on  the  two  sides  of  Al-‘Aqabah  and  nobody would  pass  that  position  until  the  men  of ‘Sofa’  passed  and  cleared  the  way  for  the  pilgrims. When  Sofa  perished,  the  family  of  Sa‘d bin  Zaid  Manat  from  Tamim  tribe  took  over.

The  Second:  Al-Ifadah  (leaving  for Mina  after  Muzdalifah)  on  sacrifice  morning,  and  this  was  the responsibility  of  the  family  of  Adwan. 

The  Third:  Deferment  of  the  sacred  months,  and  this  was  the  responsibility  of  the  family  of Tamim  bin  ‘Adi  from  Bani  Kinana. 

Khuza‘a’s  reign  in  Makkah  lasted for  three  hundred years,  during  which,  the  ‘Adnanides  spread  all  over Najd  and  the  sides  of  Bahrain  and  Iraq,  while  small  septs  of  Quraish  remained  on  the  sides  of  Makkah; they  were  Haloul,  Harum  and  some families  of  Kinana.  They  enjoyed  no  privileges  in  Makkah  or  in  the Sacred  House  until  the  appearance  of  Qusai  bin  Kilab,  whose father is  said  to  have  died  when  he  was still  a  baby,  and  whose  mother  was  subsequently  married  to  Rabi‘a  bin  Haram,  from  the  tribe  of  Bani ‘Udhra.  Rabi‘a  took  his  wife  and  her  baby  to  his  homeland  on  the  borders  of  Syria.  When  Qusai  became a  young  man,  he  returned  to  Makkah,  which  was  ruled  by  Halil  bin  Habsha  from  Khuza‘a,  who  gave Qusai  his  daughter,  Hobba,  as  wife.  After  Halil’s  death,  a  war between  Khuza‘a  and  Quraish  broke  out and resulted  in  Qusai’s  taking  hold  of  Makkah  and  the  Sacred  House. 


The  First:  Having  noticed  the  spread  of  his  offspring,  increase  of  his  property  and  exalt  of  his honour  after  Halil’s  death,  Qusai  found  himself  more  entitled  to  shoulder responsibility  of rulership  over  Makkah  and  custodianship  of  the  Sacred  House  than  the  tribes  of  Khuza‘a  and  Bani Bakr.  He  also  advocated  that  Quraish  were  the  chiefs  of  Ishmael’s  descendants.  Therefore  he consulted  some  men  from  Quraish  and  Kinana  concerning  his  desire  to  evacuate  Khuza‘a  and Bani  Bakr  from  Makkah.  They  took  a  liking  to  his  opinion  and  supported  him.

The  Second:  Khuza‘a  claimed  that  Halil  requested  Qusai  to  hold  custodianship  of  Al-Ka‘bah  and rulership  over  Makkah  after  his  death. 

The  Third:  Halil  gave  the  right  of  Al-Ka‘bah  service  to  his  daughter  Hobba  and  appointed  Abu Ghabshan  Al-Khuza‘i  to  function  as  her  agent  whereof.  Upon  Halil’s  death,  Qusai  bought  this  right for  a  leather  bag  of  wine,  which  aroused  dissatisfaction  among  the  men  of  Khuza‘a  and  they  tried to  keep  the  custodianship  of  the  Sacred  House  away  from  Qusai.  The  latter,  however,  with  the help  of  Quraish  and  Kinana,  managed  to  take  over  and  even  to  expel  Khuza‘a  completely  from Makkah.

Whatever  the  truth  might  have  been,  the  whole  affair resulted  in  the  deprivation  of  Sofa  of  their privileges,  previously  mentioned,  evacuation  of  Khuza‘a  and  Bakr  from  Makkah  and  transfer  of rulership  over  Makkah  and  custodianship  of  the  Holy  Sanctuary  to  Qusai,  after fierce  wars between  Qusai  and  Khuza‘a  inflicting  heavy  casualties  on  both  sides,  reconciliation  and  then arbitration  of  Ya‘mur bin  ‘Awf,  from  the  tribe  of  Bakr,  whose  judgement  entailed eligibility  of Qusai’s  rulership  over  Makkah  and  custodianship  of  the  Sacred  House,  Qusai’s  irresponsibility  for Khuza‘a’s  blood  shed,  and  imposition  of blood  money  on  Khuza‘a.  Qusai’s  reign  over  Makkah  and the  Sacred  House  began  in  440  A.D.  and  allowed  him,  and  Quraish  afterwards,  absolute rulership over  Makkah  and  undisputed  custodianship  of  the  Sacred  House  to  which  Arabs  from  all  over Arabia  came  to  pay  homage. 

Qusai  brought  his  kinspeople  to  Makkah  and  allocated  it  to  them,  allowing  Quraish  some  dwellings there.  An-Nus’a,  the  families  of  Safwan,  Adwan,  Murra  bin  ‘Awf  preserved  the  same  rights  they  used  to enjoy  before  his  arrival. 

A  significant  achievement  credited  to  Qusai  was  the  establishment  of  An-Nadwa  House  (an  assembly house)  on  the  northern  side  of  Al-Ka‘bah  Mosque,  to  serve  as  a  meeting  place  for  Quraish.  This  very house  had  benefited  Quraish  a  lot  because  it  secured  unity  of  opinions  amongst  them  and  cordial solution  to  their  problem.


1.Presiding  over  An-Nadwa  House  meetings  where  consultations  relating  to  serious  issues  were conducted,  and  marriage  contracts  were  announced. 

2.The  Standard:  He  monopolized  in  his  hand issues  relevant  to  war launching.

 3.Doorkeeping  of  Al-Ka‘bah:  He  was  the  only  one  eligible  to  open  its  gate,  and  was  responsible for its  service  and  protection. 

4.Providing  water for  the  Pilgrims: This  means  that  he  used  to  fill basins  sweetened  by  dates  and raisins  for  the  pilgrims  to  drink. 

5.Feeding  Pilgrims: This  means  making food  for  pilgrims  who  could  not  afford it. 

Qusai  even imposed  on  Quraish  annual  land  tax,  paid  at  the  season  of pilgrimage,  for  food.  It  is  noteworthy  however  that  Qusai  singled  out  ‘Abd  Manaf,  a  son  of  his,  for  honour  and  prestige though  he  was  not  his  elder  son  (‘Abd  Ad-Dar  was),  and  entrusted  him  with  such  responsibilities  as chairing  of  An-Nadwa  House,  the  standard,  the  doorkeeping  of  Al-Ka‘bah,  providing  water  and  food for pilgrims.  Due  to  the  fact  that  Qusai’s  deeds  were  regarded  as  unquestionable  and  his  orders  inviolable, his  death  gave  no  rise  to  conflicts  among  his  sons,  but  it  later did  among  his  grand  children,  for  no sooner  than  ‘Abd  Munaf  had  died,  his  sons  began  to  have  rows  with  their  cousins  —sons  of  ‘Abd  AdDar,  which  would  have  given  rise  to  dissension  and fighting  among  the  whole  tribe  of  Quraish,  had it not  been  for  a  peace  treaty  whereby  posts  were reallocated  so  as  to  preserve feeding  and  providing water for  pilgrims  for  the  sons  of ‘Abd  Munaf;  while  An-Nadwa  House,  the flag  and  the  doorkeeping  of Al-Ka‘bah  were  maintained for  the  sons  of  ‘Abd  Ad-Dar.  The  sons  of  ‘Abd  Munaf,  however,  cast  the lot for  their  charge,  and  consequently  left  the  charge  of food  and  water giving  to  Hashim  bin  ‘Abd  Munaf, upon  whose  death,  the  charge  was  taken  over by  a  brother  of  his  called  Al-Muttalib  bin  ‘Abd  Manaf  and afterwards  by ‘Abd  Al-Muttalib  bin  Hashim,  the  Prophet’s  grandfather,  whose  sons  assumed  this position  until  the rise  of  Islam,  during  which  ‘Abbas  bin  ‘Abdul-Muttalib  was  in  charge. 

Many  other  posts  were  distriamong  people  of  Quraish  for establishing  the  pillars  of  a  new  democratic petite  state  with  government  offices  and  councils  similar  to  those  of  today.  Enlisted  as  follows  are  some of  these  posts. 

1.Casting  the lots  for  the  idols  was  allocated  to  Bani  Jumah.

 2.Noting  of  offers  and  sacrifices,  settlement  of disputes  and  relevant  issues  were  to  lie  in  the  hands of  Bani  Sahm. 

3.Consultation  was  to  go  to  Bani  Asad. 

4.Organization  of blood-money  and  fines  was  with  Bani Tayim. 
5.Bearing  the  national  banner  was  with  Bani  Omaiyah. 

6.The  military institute,  footmen  and  cavalry  would  be  Bani  Makhzum’s  responsibility. 

7.Bani  ‘Adi  would  function  as  foreign  mediators.

We have previously mentioned the  Qahtanide  and  ‘Adnanide  emigrations,  and  division  of  Arabia between  these  two  tribes.  Those  tribes  dwelling  near  Heerah  were  subordinate  to  the  Arabian  king  of Heerah,  while  those  dwelling  in  the  Syrian  semi-desert  were  under domain  of  the  Arabian  Ghassanide king,  a  sort  of dependency  that  was  in  reality formal  rather  than  actual.  However,  those  living  in  the hinder  deserts  enjoyed  full  autonomy.

 These  tribes  in  fact  had  heads  chosen  by  the  whole  tribe  which  was  a  demi-government  based  on  tribal solidarity  and  collective interests  in  defence  of land  and  property. 

Heads  of  tribes  enjoyed dictatorial  privileges  similar  to  those  of  kings,  and  were  rendered full  obedience and  subordination  in  both  war  and  peace.  Rivalry  among  cousins  for rulership,  however,  often  drove them  to  outdo  one  another  in  entertaining  guests,  affecting  generosity,  wisdom  and  chivalry for  the  sole purpose  of  outranking  their  rivals,  and  gaining  fame  among  people  especially  poets  who  were  the official  spokesmen  at  the  time. 

Heads  of  tribes  and  masters  had  special  claims  to  spoils  of  war  such  as  the  quarter  of  the  spoils, whatever  he  chose  for  himself,  or  found  on  his  way  back  or even  the  remaining  indivisible  spoils. 


The  three  Arab  regions  adjacent  to  foreigners  suffered  great  weakness  and  inferiority.  The  people  there were either masters  or  slaves,  rulers  or  subordinates.  Masters,  especially  the foreigners,  had  claim  to every  advantage;  slaves  had  nothing  but  responsibilities  to  shoulder.  In  other  words,  arbitrary autocratic  rulership  brought  about  encroachment  on  the rights  of  subordinates,  ignorance,  oppression, iniquity,  injustice  and  hardship,  and  turning  them  into  people  groping  in  darkness  and  ignorance,  viz., fertile  land  which  rendered  its  fruits  to  the rulers  and  men  of  power  to  extravagantly  dissipate  on  their pleasures  and enjoyments,  whims  and  desires,  tyranny  and  aggression.  The  tribes  living  near  these regions  were fluctuating  between  Syria  and  Iraq,  whereas  those  living  inside  Arabia  were disunited  and governed  by  tribal  conflicts  and  racial  and  religious  disputes. 

They  had  neither  a  king  to  sustain  their independence  nor  a  supporter  to  seek  advice  from,  or depend upon,  in  hardships. 

The  rulers  of  Hijaz,  however,  were  greatly  esteemed  and respected  by  the  Arabs,  and  were  considered as  rulers  and  servants  of  the  religious  centre.  Rulership  of  Hijaz  was,  in  fact,  a  mixture  of  secular  and official  precedence  as  well  as  religious  leadership.  They ruled  among  the  Arabs  in  the  name  of religious leadership  and  always  monopolized  the  custodianship  of  the  Holy  Sanctuary  and  its  neighbourhood. They looked  after  the  interests  of  Al-Ka‘bah  visitors  and  were  in  charge  of  putting  Abraham’s  code  into effect.  They  even  had  such  offices  and  departments  like  those  of  the  parliaments  of  today.  However, they  were  too  weak  to  carry  the  heavy burden,  as  this  evidently  came  to  light  during  the  Abyssinian (Ethiopian) invasion.

Continue reading further: Religion of the Pre-Islamic Arabs

Did Islam Spread by Sword??

[By brother Firas Alkhateeb]

It’s a common accusation made against Muslims and Islam in general: “The only reason Islam is a world religion is because it spread by the sword.” It’s a favorite remark of Islamophobes who parade as analysts and historians fear-mongering about the threat Islam supposedly poses to the Western World. With it being such a hot topic that causes so much debate, it is appropriate to analyze and study this topic to better understand whether it is valid or not.

Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Persia – The First Conquests

After the life of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallaahu alaihi wasallam), Islamic expansion truly began in the early 630s, AD. Campaigns against the Byzantine and Sassanid (Persian) Empires were initiated which pitted this new religion of Islam, with its desert Arabian warriors against the established and ancient empires centered in Constantinople and Ctesiphon.

Abu Bakr (radhiyallahu anhu), the first caliph of Islam, gave these armies rules which would seem very constricting by today’s standards of warfare:

“Stop, O people, that I may give you ten rules for your guidance in the battlefield. Do not commit treachery or deviate from the right path. You must not mutilate dead bodies. Neither kill a child, nor a woman, nor an aged man. Bring no harm to the trees, nor burn them with fire, especially those which are fruitful. Slay not any of the enemy’s flock, save for your food. You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their lives to monastic services; leave them alone.”¹

These rules were very unique and innovative for the time. Just before this Muslim expansion, the Persians and Byzantines had fought a decades-long war that left lands from Syria to Iraq in ruins. Abu Bakr (radhiyallahu anhu) made it clear that Muslim armies do not operate by the same principles and restrict their fights to the armies and governments of the enemy, not the general populace. Islamic Shari’ah law, based on the example of Abu Bakr (radhiyallahu anhu), clearly forbids the use of force against anyone except in legitimate cases of war against a clearly defined enemy.*

The purpose of this article is not to delve into the tactics and individual battles of this conquest of Egypt, Syria and Iraq. It is enough for our purposes here to state that Syria was under Muslim control by 638, Egypt by 642, and Iraq/Persia by 644. The Byzantine Empire, having lost its religious base in Syria, as well as its commercial base in Egypt was greatly weakened. The Sassanid Empire, on the other hand, completely ceased to exist after the Muslim conquest. Politically, it was a disaster for these two giant empires. But, going back to the main idea of this article, how did Islam as a religion spread in the conquered areas??

Unequivocally, the general populace was not forced or induced to convert to Islam. If anything, they were encouraged to continue living their lives as they had for centuries before. In the example of the conquest of Jerusalem , the caliph at the time, Umar ibn al-Khattab (radhiyallahu anhu), wrote in the surrender treaty with the patriarchs of city:

He [Umar] has given them an assurance of safety for themselves, for their property, their churches, their crosses, the sick and healthy of the city…Their churches will not be inhabited by Muslims and will not be destroyed… They will not be forcibly converted.²


The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, which Umar promised to protect when the city came under Muslim control

No other empire or state at the time had such ideas about religious tolerance. Umar (radhiyallahu anhu), being a companion of the Prophet, sets a precedent in this treaty about the treatment of conquered peoples in Islamic law. The rest of the conquered lands, in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Persia had similar treaties. Whether the citizens of the conquered lands were Christian, Jew, Sabians, or Zoroastrians, they were allowed to keep their religious traditions. There exists not one example of forced conversion in these early conquests.

Proof of the lack of forced conversion in these areas is the remaining Christian communities in these countries. For the first few centuries after the Muslim conquest, the majority of the population of these areas remained Christian. Slowly, they began to take on Islam as their religion and Arabic as their language. Today, large percentages of Christians remain in Egypt (9%), Syria (10%), Lebanon (39%), and Iraq (3%). If those early Muslim conquests (or even later Muslim rulers) forced conversion on anyone, there would be no Christian communities in those countries. Their existence is proof of Islam not spreading by the sword in these areas.

North Africa and Spain

The soldiers and leaders of these early conquests in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Persia were from the first generation of Muslims. Many of them were even companions of the Prophet. What would happen as Muslim expansion continued in later generations, as Muslim armies fought the Byzantines further West, in North Africa and later, in Spain??

The majority of the population of the North African coast in the 600s were Berbers. While the Byzantine Empire controlled most of the coast from Egypt to Algeria, the people of those areas were generally not loyal to the Byzantines who had great trouble trying to subdue the region. Political and social upheaval in the century before Islam led to a devastated region, which was probably just a shell of its former glory as a Roman province.

The first Umayyad caliph, Muawiya (radhiyallahu anhu), appointed a general, Uqba bin Nafi (radhiyallahu anhu), to conquer the North African coast from the Byzantines in the 660s.

Again, without getting into the details of the tactics and battles, within the course of a few decades, Muslim control over North Africa was solidified.

The same pattern we saw in Southwest Asia continued in North Africa. Conversions were not forced on any of the local populations. No accounts, by either Muslim or non-Muslim sources, mention forced conversion of the Berbers. Indeed, many Berbers did convert to Islam quite quickly. That strengthened the Muslim armies, as huge numbers of newly-converted Berbers would join the armies sweeping across the continent. Had these Berbers been forced to convert, they certainly would not have had the zeal and enthusiasm for Islam that would cause them to join the armies and spread Islamic political control even further against the Byzantines.

After the Muslim conquest of North Africa, came a proposal that would prove to change world history forever. In the early 700s, the Iberian Peninsula (present-day Spain and Portugal) was under the control of the Visigothic King Roderic. A nobleman from Iberia sent to the Muslim governor of North Africa, complaining about the oppressive and tyranical rule of Roderic. The nobleman promised to support a Muslim invasion against Roderic with his own troops if they intervened.

The Rock of Gibraltar, where Tariq ibn Ziyad’s army landed in their pursuit of Roderic, with a modern mosque in the foreground

After a few preliminary raids to gauge the local populations’ support for such an intervention, the Muslim general Tariq ibn Ziyad (rahimahullah) (who may possibly have been Berber himself), ferried an army across from Morocco to Iberia in 711. Within months, Tariq’s army had defeated King Roderic and opened up the country to Muslim control. Within 3 years, the entire Iberian Peninsula was under Muslim control. Many cities, hearing of the justice of Muslim rule, voluntarily opened their doors and welcomed Muslim armies, who ended what they saw as the oppressive rule of the Visigoths.

More documentary evidence survives from this conquest proving that the conquest did not mean forced conversion. In April 713, a Muslim governor in the region negotiated a treaty with a Visigothic noble, which included the provision that the local people “will not be killed or taken prisoner. Nor will they be separated from their women and children. They will not be coerced in matters of religion, their churches will not be burned.”³

We see again in the example of Muslim Spain (which would later be called al-Andalus) that the locals (mostly Christians, although a sizable Jewish population also existed) were not forced to convert to Islam. In fact, in later centuries, an almost utopian society of religious tolerance existed in al-Andalus, in which Muslims, Jews, and Christians all experienced a golden age of knowledge, culture, and philosophy. This enlightened land of religious tolerance would end centuries later with the Christian Reconquista which effectively ethnically cleansed Muslims and Jews from the entire peninsula.

The Indian Subcontinent

Today, two of the most populous Muslim countries in the world, Pakistan (2rd most Muslims), and India (3rd most Muslims), occupy the Indian subcontinent. Islam has had an incredible and lasting impact on the region in all aspects of life. However, even through centuries of Muslim rule by different empires and dynasties, Hinduism and other religions remain as important aspects of the subcontinent.

The reasons for Muslim invasion into the subcontinent were justified by the time period’s rules of warfare. A ship filled with daughters of Muslim traders who were trading in Sri Lanka was attacked by pirates from Sindh (what is now Pakistan) who captured and enslaved the women. Seeking to liberate the women and punish the pirates, an expedition was sent out in 710, led by Muhammad bin Qasim, an Arab from the city of Ta’if.

Bin Qasim’s military expedition into this distant and remote land was made successful by very important social issues in India.

The caste system, which originated from Hindu belief, divided society up into very strictly controlled social classes. Those on top led wealthy, comfortable lives, while those on the bottom (particularly untouchables) were seen as the scourge of society. Added to this were the Buddhists, who were generally oppressed by the Hindu princes throughout the country.

With the entrance of Muslim armies, which carried with them the promise of an equal society, many Buddhists and lower castes welcomed the Muslim armies. In fact, the first Muslims of Indian origin were probably from the lower castes, as Islam offered them an escape from the oppressive social system they were accustomed to.

With the conquest of Sindh, Muhammad bin Qasim showed that Islamic law’s protection of religious minorities was not just for Christians and Jews.

Buddhists and Hindus in the subcontinent were given religious freedom and were not forced to convert. In one case, a Buddhist community complained to bin Qasim of their fear that the Muslim armies would force Islam upon them and they would have to leave the practices of their ancestors. Bin Qasim held a meeting with the Buddhist and Hindu leaders of the town, and promised them religious freedom and asked them to continue leading their lives as they had previously.


We now come back to the question posed at the beginning of the article: did Islam spread by the sword? While numerous people with political and religious agendas make their case otherwise, it is seen as a clear and indisputable fact that the religion of Islam was not spread through violence, coercion, fear, or bloodshed. There exist no accounts of people being forced to convert to Islam under any circumstances. While the political and military control of Muslim leaders did in fact spread through defensive warfare, Muslim leaders and generals in fact went out of their way to protect the rights of other religious groups. The warfare was always carried out only against the governments and armies that the Muslims were at war with. The local citizens were left alone. Although this article only gives specific examples of a few regions, this trend continued throughout Islamic history, following the precedent of the early Muslims.

It is important to note that these are some of the first examples in history of religious tolerance. While religious tolerance and freedom are first seen in “Western” civilization in the Enlightenment of the 1600s and 1700s, Muslims have practiced religious freedom since the 600s AD. The arguments made by some political and historical “pundits” about Islamic belief spreading violently and through warfare clearly have no historical basis. In fact, Muslim religious toleration has influenced the historical tradition of such ideas in lands as diverse as Europe, the Americans and India.


* By extension, modern day terrorism clearly goes against Islamic law.

1-  Aboul-Enein, H. Yousuf and Zuhur, Sherifa, Islamic Rulings on Warfare , p. 22, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, Diane Publishing Co., Darby PA

2- Kennedy, H. (2007). The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live In. Philadelphia: Da Capo Press. pg.91

3- Kennedy, H. (2007). The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live In.  Philadelphia: Da Capo Press. pg.315


Aboul-Enein, H. Yousuf and Zuhur, Sherifa, Islamic Rulings on Warfare , p. 22, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, Diane Publishing Co., Darby PA

CIA World Factbook

Kennedy, H. (2007). The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live In.  Philadelphia: Da Capo Press.

Ochsenwald, W., & Fisher, S. (2003). The Middle East: A History . (6th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.