The Battle of Muta

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What is the battle of muta?

Envoys sent by the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- to various kings and governors, irrespective of the maltreatment and abuse they at times received, in line with the age old principle that forbade ‘shooting the messenger’, were returning to Medina safe and sound. However, the return of Harith ibn Umayr -Allah be well-pleased with him-, who was sent to the Chieftain of Busra, was never to be. Upon arriving at Mutah, Harith -Allah be well-pleased with him- was intercepted by Shurahbil ibn Amr, a Ghassani chieftain, who asked the Companion where he was headed. Finding out he was the ambassador of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, Shurahbil then did the unthinkable and callously murdered and martyred the Companion.[1]

The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- became deeply upset with the manner in which Harith -Allah be well-pleased with him- was martyred. The crime was furthermore an out-an-out violation of Islam and a complete disregard of Muslims. A counter action was now imperative to save the honor of the Islamic State and to stop the event from leading to drastic consequences. The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- therefore immediately mobilized an army of three-thousand Believers.

Based on the universal will of Islam that destroyed the differences of class belonging to the Age of Ignorance, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- designated Zayd -Allah be well-pleased with him-, his free slave, as the commander of the Muslim army. He then gave the commander the following instructions:

“Should you fall martyr, then let Jafar take the command! And should Jafar, too, fall martyr then let Abdullah ibn Rawaha take the command! And if he, too, falls martyr, then let the Muslims choose a commander from among themselves!”

A Jew, in the meantime, overheard these instructions considered them to be death announcements of those mentioned. He approached Zayd -Allah be well-pleased with him-, and with the intention of casting fear into his heart, told him to “Prepare your will! For if Muhammad is really a prophet then you shall not return to him. The names the Prophets of Israel used to give prior to a battle would never return!”

This only made Zayd -Allah be well-pleased with him- happier. (Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya, IV, 238) The Jew had not the least clue that he, like the rest of the Companions, was burning with the desire for martyrdom.

Abdullah ibn Rawaha -Allah be well-pleased with him- who completed his preparations for the campaign, came and bode farewell to the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace-, whom he would dearly miss, and said, “Advise me with something, Messenger of Allah, that I can commit to my heart!”

“You will soon reach a land where little sajdah (prostration) to Allah is made. Increase your salat and sajdah there!” recommended the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-.

“Advise me some more, Messenger of Allah”, insisted Ibn Rawaha.

“Always remember Allah, for remembrance of Allah will help you attain to what you wish!” (Waqidi, II, 758)

The Prophet of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- accompanied the Muslim army as far as Saniyyat’ul-Wada and saw them off on their campaign amid abundant prayers. He commanded them to go as far as the point where Harith -Allah be well-pleased with him- had been martyred, invite the enemy there to Islam and, if they refuse, fight them, expecting aid only from Allah.[2]

Made aware of the Muslim march, backed by the Byzantines, the grim Shurahbil also prepared a force reportedly of a hundred-thousand in number, bolstered all the more with the enlistment of another hundred-thousand Christian Arabs.[3]

The Muslim army found out about the enormous size of the enemy only after crossing over into Syria. Faced with a situation they had not expected in the least, they held a discussion. As the balance of power was tremendously out of proportion and of an imbalance perhaps never before seen in history, the majority was of the opinion to inform the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- of the situation and wait for his instructions. They were moments away from reaching an unanimous decision to send the news to the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- when Abdullah ibn Rawaha  -Allah be well-pleased with him- spoke out:

“Isn’t that before which we feel hesitant now the very same thing we have set out in search for? Do we ever fight the enemy with a superiority of number or might? No! We fight with the power of religion Allah has granted us. So what are we waiting for? What awaits us is one of two beautiful ends: Either martyrdom or victory!”

The Companions thus settled on firmly marching ahead.

Zayd ibn Arqam -Allah be well-pleased with him- recounts:

“I was an orphan in the care of Abdullah ibn Rawaha. When setting out on the Mutah Campaign, he had me seated on the back of his saddle. After traveling some time in the night, I heard him murmur to himself a poem along the lines of, ‘O my camel! Just take me and my load across four stations, ahead of the well near the sands, and I will never ride you to any other campaign. You shall thereafter be free, without an owner! To my family, it looks as if I will not be able to return! To be martyred is what I hope! Muslims have come and left me in the lands of Damascus, wherein I am eager to forever be! No longer do I care for the ripe date trees, watered by rainfall and from beneath!’

After hearing him, I began to cry. Abdullah ibn Rawaha -Allah be well-pleased with him- then gently poked me with his whip and said, ‘What harm could there be, kid, for Allah to grant me martyrdom and for you to return on camelback with your load? I will then be relieved from all the troubles and grief of the world!’

Deep in the night, he got off from his camel and offered two rakahs of salat. Afterwards, he said a lengthy prayer, after which he commented, ‘This time, Allah willing, I will be granted martyrdom!’” (Ibn Hisham, III, 431-432; Waqidi, II, 759)

Once they reached the outskirts of the village of Mutah where the enemy had been stationed, without the blink of an eye, the handful of Believers led by Zayd  -Allah be well-pleased with him- launched a courageous onslaught on the enemy ranks. Those who had given their hearts to tawhid were now on the verge of giving their lives in Allah’s way. In a heated and violent moment of the Battle, Zayd -Allah be well-pleased with him-, the beloved of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- and among the first eight Muslims in Mecca, came on the receiving end of fatal enemy spears and was martyred.

Compliant with the instructions given by the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, Jafar -Allah be well-pleased with him- immediately seized the Muslim flag and assumed leadership of the army. He gallantly forced his way through the enemy ranks and in a legendary bout in which he was meted out with numerous strikes of the sword, ended up losing both of his arms and was martyred a short while later.

Time had now come for Abdullah ibn Rawaha -Allah be well-pleased with him- to assume leadership of the forces. With like zeal, he grabbed the Muslim flag and waved in amid the streaming enemy ranks.

“Bear witness”, he declared to those around, “that I am leaving all of what I have in Medina to the Treasury!”

He then put up a heroic fight until his body could bear no more of the sword and spear wounds. Following the martyrdom of Abdullah ibn Rawaha -Allah be well-pleased with him-, it was Khalid ibn Walid -Allah be well-pleased with him- to take the Muslim flag and continue leading the Believers’ epic onslaught. A handful of Companions were putting up a colossal resistance against an enemy as numerous as a swarm of grasshoppers.

The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- was meanwhile reporting the Battle, moment by moment, to his Companions from the pulpit of the Masjid in Medina. It was as if the battlefield was right in front of their eyes. The Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- was depicting the martyrings taking place one after another at Mutah, in a sorrowful tone:

“Zayd ibn Harithah has taken the flag. Shaytan has quickly come next to him to make life and the world look dear to him and death, ugly and despicable. But Zayd says, ‘You are trying to endear the world to me at a moment that ought to reinforce the iman in Muslim hearts!’ He has advanced and has been martyred. Pray Allah for his forgiveness and mercy!”

The Noble Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- then continued:

“He is now running around in Paradise. Jafar has now taken the flag. Shaytan has quickly come next to him, wanting to make life and the world look dear to him and death ugly and despicable. But Jafar responds, ‘Now is the time that ought to reinforce iman in Muslim hearts!’ and advances, where he fights and until being martyred. I testify that he was martyred.”[4]

“Ask forgiveness and mercy from Allah on your brother’s behalf”, he then added. “He has now entered Paradise as a martyr, flying to wherever his heart pleases with two wings of ruby.”

“Abdullah ibn Rawaha has grabbed the flag after Jafar”, explained the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- before falling into an abrupt silence. The Ansari faces grew pale, thinking Ibn Rawaha had done something the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- was not pleased with. In the meantime, in the field of Mutah, while steering his horse towards the enemy, Abdullah ibn Rawaha -Allah be well-pleased with him- was at the same time battling to bring his own self to its knees:

“I have sworn to crush you into submission” he was calling out to his self. “You either comply of your own accord or I will force you into compliance! I see that you do not like Paradise all that much! But what are you apart from a drop of water in the bottle that is the body? O self! Will you be able to evade death if you survive today? If you chose to follow the two before you and opt for martyrdom, you will have made a right move! But if you are late, you will live to lament!”

Receiving a nasty wound on his finger, which was hanging by a thread to his hand, Ibn Rawahah dismounted from his horce, and placing his wounded finger under his foot, said:

“What are you but a mere finger bleeding in the path of the Almighty?” he said in a poetic tone, before swiftly pulling his hand from under his foot, removing his dangling finger. He then continued to fight. Engaging in a minor jihad against the enemy, he was at the same time caught up in a major jihad against his own self:

“If your worry stems from being separated from your wife, then know that I hereby divorce her! If being deprived of the aid of your slaves is what holds you back, then know that I have set them free! Or if your garden is what you cannot leave behind then take note that I hereby leave them to the disposal of Allah and His Messenger!”

The Prophet of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- continued keeping the Companions updated with scenes from the Battle:

“Abdullah ibn Rawahah has gathered his courage, has fought the enemy with the flag in his hand and is now martyred. He has entered Paradise with a misgiving. Ask forgiveness and mercy from Allah on your his behalf, too!”

“What was his misgiving, Messenger of Allah?” asked the Ansar, who took it to heart the manner in which Abdullah had entered Paradise.

“He hesitated to fight the enemy after he became wounded. He then condemned himself, gathered his courage and was martyred! He entered Paradise. They have been shown to me, in Paradise, seated on golden thrones. Abdullah’s throne was below those of his friends and crooked. When I asked the reason, I was told, ‘Abdullah had carried some doubts with him prior to fighting!’”

That Abdullah was martyred and was now a dweller of Paradise gave the Ansar a reason for joy.

Still reporting from the battlefield, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- grew in sorrow and pearl like tears began to drop, one after another, from his eyes. He then said, “The flag has now been taken by a sword from among the swords of Allah…and Allah has as a result granted victory to the mujahidun.” (Bukhari, Maghazi, 44; Ahmad, V, 299; III, 113; Ibn Hisham, III, 433-436; Waqidi, II, 762; Ibn Saad , III, 46, 530; Ibn Athir, Usd’ul-Ghabah, III, 237)

Then with teary eyes, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- raised his hands aloft to the gates of Divine Mercy, and prayed, “Allah…Khalid is a sword from among your swords. Grant him your aid!” (Ahmad, V, 299)

[1] Waqidi, II, 755; Ibn Qayyim, III, 381.[2] Ibn Saad, II, 128.[3] Ibn Hisham, III, 429.[4] Ibn Omar -Allah be well-pleased with him- states, “We searched for Jafar and found him among the martyrs. We counted around ninety sword and arrow wounds on the front part of his body. None of these wounds were on his back.” (Bukhari, Maghazi, 44) Jafar -Allah be well-pleased with him- was thirty-three when he was martyred. (Ibn Hisham, III, 434) That means he was merely a seventeen year old teenager when he migrated to Abyssinia and addressed the Negus with such marvelous knowledge, wisdom and courage.

Source: Osman Nuri Topbaş, The Prophet Muhammed Mustafa the Elect II, Erkam Publications

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