The Claim of Abrogation of the Narrations Obligating Calling the Disbelievers to Islam Before Fighting Them[1]

by 

Bayaan al-Islam Team

(Original article in Arabic located here)

Translated by:

Abu Nadm al-Zahiri

Translation Revised by:

Bassam Zawadi

 

 

The Gist of this Doubt:

 

Some people have claimed that the narrations obligating that Muslims call disbelievers to Islam before fighting them are abrogated. From amongst these narrations is that of Buraida who:

Narrated on the authority of his father on the authority of 'A’ishah (RAA), “Whenever Allah’s Messenger appointed a commander over an army or a Sariyah (company of soldiers), he would instruct him to fear Allah in his own behavior,” and later said: “When you meet your enemy, or the polytheists, invite them to three courses of action, and accept whichever of them they are willing to agree to, and withhold from doing anything else: Call them to Islam, and if they agree accept it from them. Then invite them to migrate from their land to the land of the Emigrants (i.e. al-Madinah), if they refuse, then tell them they will be like the Muslim desert Arabs, thus they will have no right in the Ghanimah or Fai’ unless they participate in Jihad with the Muslims. If they refuse (to accept Islam) order them to pay the Jizyah and if they agree, accept it from them. If they refuse, seek Allah, the Most High’s help against them and fight them.

And his (peace be upon him) statement to Ali during the expedition of Khaybar:

Go to them patiently and calmly till you enter the land. Then, invite them to Islam, and inform them what is enjoined upon them.

And the statement of Ibn Abbas:

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) never fought any group of people except that he called them to Islam.

Those who claim abrogation attempt to prove their point by appealing to the report of Ibn Awn:

I wrote to Nafi' inquiring from him whether it was necessary to extend (to the disbelievers) an invitation to accept (Islam) before meeting them in battle. He wrote (in reply) to me that it was necessary in the early days of Islam. The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) made a raid upon the tribe of Al-Mustaliq while they were unaware.

And what is reported by al-Barra bin Azib:

Allah's Messenger sent a group of the Ansar to Abu Rafi`. `Abdullah bin Atik entered his house at night and killed him while he was sleeping.

 

The Angle from which this Doubt is Refuted:

 

The narrations in regard to calling the disbelievers to Islam before fighting them are all authentically traced back to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and are not abrogated by narrations which, upon first glance, appear to allow raiding without first calling the enemy to Islam. This is because there isn’t any contradiction between the two sets of narrations. The scholars have reconciled between the two sets of narrations by ruling that calling the disbelievers to Islam is obligatory before fighting them if the message of Islam has not previously reached them. As for those who have already been called to Islam previously, then calling them again before fighting them is not their right, though it is preferable. This is the position of the majority of the people of knowledge, and the proofs rest upon the fact that the tribe of Al-Mustaliq and Abu Rafi’ all had prior knowledge of the message of Islam. In fact, it is well established that both the tribe and Abu Rafi’ had already determined to wipe out the message and the people of Islam.

A Detailed Response:

 

The narrations which prove that the Muslims would call the disbelievers to Islam before fighting them are all authentic. From them is what Muslim narrated in his Sahih from Buraida:[2]

Whenever Allah’s Messenger appointed a commander over an army or a Sariyah, he would instruct him to fear Allah in his own behavior and consider the welfare of the Muslims who were with him. He then used to say “Go out for Jihad in Allah’s name, in the Cause of Allah, and fight those who disbelieve in Allah. Go out for Jihad and do not indulge in Ghulul, or be treacherous or mutilate (dead bodies) or kill a child. When you meet your enemy, or the polytheists, invite them to three courses of action, and accept whichever of them they are willing to agree to, and withhold from doing anything else: Call them to Islam, and if they agree accept it from them. Then invite them to migrate from their land to the land of the Emigrants (i.e. al-Madinah), if they refuse, then tell them they will be like the Muslim desert Arabs, thus they will have no right in the Ghanimah or Fai’ unless they participate in Jihad with the Muslims. If they refuse (to accept Islam) order them to pay the Jizyah and if they agree, accept it from them. If they refuse, seek Allah, the Most High’s help against them and fight them.

The narration is authentic. In addition to Muslim, it has also been narrated by Abu Dawud[3] and Ibn Majah[4] in their Sunans, Ahmad in his Musnad[5], Ibn Hibban in his Sahih[6], ad-Darimi in his Sunan[7] and others besides them from Buraida with an authentic chain.

Also, from these narrations is what the two Imams - al-Bukhari and Muslim - reported in their Sahihs from Sahl bin Sa’d that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said to Ali on the day of Khaybar:[8]

Go to them patiently and calmly till you enter the land. Then, invite them to Islam, and inform them of what is enjoined upon them.

Also from them is what Ahmad reported in his Musnad with an authentic chain leading up to Ibn Abbas:[9]

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) never fought any group of people except that he called them to Islam.

Abu Ya’la also narrated this report in his own Musnad back to Ibn Abbas, but with a slightly different wording:[10]

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) never fought any group of people without calling them to Islam.

All of these narrations are authentically linked back to the Prophet (peace be upon him), and they are not abrogated by the other narrations regarding the raids on enemies of Islam without calling them to Islam first. One example of the latter is the report of Ibn Awn:[11]

I wrote to Nafi' inquiring from him whether it was necessary to extend (to the disbelievers) an invitation to accept (Islam) before meeting them in fight. He wrote (in reply) to me that it was necessary in the early days of Islam. The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) made a raid upon the tribe of Al-Mustaliq while they were unaware.

Another is the narration of al-Bukhari in his Sahih on the authority of al-Barra bin Azib:[12]

Allah's Messenger sent a group of the Ansar to Abu Rafi`. `Abdullah bin Atik entered his house at night and killed him while he was sleeping.

Abrogation is not sound here due to the possibility of reconciling the two sets of narrations together, and abrogation is only resorted to when reconciliation is unfeasible, as the scholars of the principles and foundations of jurisprudence have explained. Thus, the majority of the scholars have agreed that the call to Islam is obligatory upon Muslims before fighting non-Muslims who have not heard the message. If the non-Muslims in question have already heard the message, then calling them to Islam again before fighting them is merely preferred, rather than being outright mandatory.

An-Nawawi recalled the majority view and said:[13]

It’s mandatory – meaning the call to Islam – in the case of those who have not heard it previously, and it isn’t mandatory if they have heard the call, though it is still preferred. This is the correct position as it was held by Nafi’ freedman of Ibn Umar, al-Hasan al-Basri, ath-Thawri, al-Laith, ash-Shafi’i, Abu Thawr, Ibn al-Mundhir and the majority. Ibn al-Mundhir said that it is the majority opinion and that the authentic narrations point to this opinion and from them is the narration of Ibn Awn and the report of the killing of Ka’b bin al-Ashraf and the killing of Abu al-Huqayq (also known as Abu Rafi’ Abdullah or Sallam bin Abi al-Huqayq).

Ash-Shawkani also accepted this opinion, stating in his Nayl al-Awtar:[14]

And in this matter there is reconciliation between what appears to be a dispute at first glance.

So the majority of scholars have reconciled between the two sets of narrations by stating that the order for calling the enemy to Islam before fighting them is obligatory if the message did not yet reach them. As for the cases where the disbelievers were fought without prior warning, then this only occurred when they had already been called to Islam before, and this is the most accurate of all views on the subject.[15]

Dr. Wahbah az-Zuhayli said:[16]

The majority also said that we resort to reconciling and synthesizing between differing narrations, because abrogation is only resorted to when this reconciling and synthesis is unfeasible, and as for the claim of specification of the narration then it is baseless. So whoever has not previously been called to Islam must be called, and if he has already been called then calling him is preferred.

Ibn al-Uthaymeen said:[17]

Fighting before calling the enemy to Islam is not allowed, because fighting is only the last resort. As for what has been reported authentically regarding the Prophet (peace be upon him) raiding the tribe of Al-Mustaliq, then I answer that the tribe had already received the message of Islam, and calling the enemy who has already been called to Islam before fighting them is recommended, but not required. The determining factor in this is weighed by a cost-benefit analysis.

The reality is that the tribe of Al-Mustaliq had already received the message of Islam, and their reaction was to unite upon a declaration of war against the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), and they had already determined to march towards him for an assault. Thus, the position of the Messenger (peace be upon him) from the tribe was one of abruptness; hence, making the war with the tribe of Al-Mustaliq a defensive one in nature. It was the Bani Al-Mustaliq who initiated the agitations. As for calling the enemy to Islam before a war, then this is for an enemy who did not initiate fighting the Muslims or make the first attempt at aggression.[18]

From the proofs of the tribe of Al-Mustaliq’s awareness of the call to Islam and readiness and preparation for engaging in a war with the Prophet (peace be upon him) is the narration of Ibn Sa’d in his Tabaqat. He said:[19]

The tribe of Al-Mustaliq is from Khuza’ah, who are the allies of the tribe of Madlaj. They used to congregate at a water well they owned called Marisi’. Between the well and a tributary was about a day’s travel, and between the tributary and Medina were about three nights. Their leader and patron was al-Harith bin Abi Darar. He used to walk among his people and call whoever he found to fight in a war against the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him). So his people answered and they began to march. This news reached the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and he dispatched Buraidah bin al-Husaib al-Aslami who was aware of the situation. Buraidah met al-Harith bin Abi Darar and spoke to him. Buraidah returned to the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and informed him of what was learned. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) lamented at the news and sped up his march and prepared the horses.

Al-Waqidi narrated something similar in his Maghazi, saying:[20]

The tribe of Al-Mustaliq was from Khuza’ah and was from the allies of Mudlaj, and they were scattered up and down the tributary. Their leader was al-Harith bin Abi Darar, and he used to walk among his people and whoever from the Arabs he could reach and call them to engage in a war against the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him). They bought horses and weapons and began their march toward the Messenger (peace be upon him).

So the cavalrymen proceeded along the tributary and made their advance known, and word reached the Prophet (peace be upon him). Buraidah bin al-Husaib al-Aslami, who was aware of what was happening, sought permission from the Prophet (peace be upon him) to speak to them. That permission was granted, and Buraidah traveled until he found a huge group of haughty people coming together in large numbers. The people asked Buraidah who he is, and he answered: A man from you; I came here because of what I heard about your mobilization against this man (meaning the Prophet), and I walk among my people as our hand is one so that we may wipe him out. Al-Harith bin Abi Darar said (to Buraidah): That’s what we’re aiming for as well.

Ibrahim ibn Ibrahim Quraibi said in his book Marwiyat Ghazwat Bani Al-Mustaliq:[21]

The purpose of this excursion was that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) learned that al-Harith bin Abi Darar, the leader and representative of the tribe of Al-Mustaliq, was gathering a large number of people to engage in a war on Medina. After the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) made sure of what he had heard via one of his emissaries, and he realized the bad intentions of this tribe toward the Muslims, he engaged in a raid on the tribe’s own turf.

The situation is the same in the killing of Abu Rafi’ bin Abi al-Huqayq during his sleep, as it is known that the call to Islam had reached him and that he was aware of it, thus it was deemed necessary to rid of his evil.

Shamsuddeen Adh-Dhahabi said in Tarikh al-Islam:[22]

Abu Rafi’ harmed the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and cursed him.

Ibn Hajar noted the following benefits derived from the narration about Abu Rafi’:[23]

The permissibility of assassinating people from the polytheists who cause great harm. Abu Rafi’ used to show hostility toward the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and rally the people against him, and so we also understand from this that it is permissible to kill the polytheist without calling him to Islam if it is established that he was already called to Islam before that. As for killing him during his sleep, then this is because it was known that he was insistent and unwavering upon his disbelief and that there was no possibility of him ever coming to Islam. That can only be known either by way of revelation or by strong evidence indicating as such.

Thus the killing of Abu Rafi’ was neither an act of war nor treachery, because he had already heard the call of Islam and he declared his own war upon it after knowing of it. Additionally, the position regarding Abu Rafi’ was not that of engaging in battle with a soldier; he was merely a criminal and the Islamic state ruled for execution by any means possible. There is a difference between a criminal who knows the call to Islam and is fighting against it and attacking people in their homes whehn they did not know about Islam to begin with.

So the goal of a military expedition is to convey the message and ensure that the enemy can know about Islam, as opposed to the situation of the tribe of Al-Mustaliq, the Quraish during the year of the Conquest of Mecca and Abu Rafi’ because all of these people were known to be aware of Islam and persisted in their hostility towards it. Thus, fighting them was merely done in self-defense, as the Quraish had attacked the allies of the Prophet (peace be upon him), the tribe of Al-Mustaliq’s sudden advance on the Muslims and Abu Rafi’s enmity against Islam and its Prophet (peace be upon him).

Thus, the narration of calling before fighting has its context, and as for the Quraish, the tribe of Al-Mustaliq and Abu Rafi’ then their situations fall under a different ruling due to the two situations (knowing the call and not knowing it) diverging from a number of angles. Thus, an issue which leads to two different rulings isn’t a case for abrogation because the two different rulings stand on their own, but in the case of abrogation the two rulings cannot coexist without contradiction.[24]

Thus to call to Islam first wasn’t obligatory upon the Muslims in the case of the tribe of Al-Mustaliq or Abu Rafi’ due to their knowledge of the call of Islam, and due to this reconciliation between the two sets of narrations is possible. When reconciliation is possible, then no other possible resolution is sought because ruling by all available narrations takes precedence over rejecting some of them.

In summary, the narrations regarding the call to Islam before engaging in combat are all authentically linked back to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and are not abrogated by the narrations which at first glance seem to indicate the permissibility of raids upon the enemy without calling them to Islam first. There is no contradiction here. The scholars have agreed that calling to Islam before fighting is obligatory in the case of an enemy who had not yet heard about Islam; as for the enemy who has already been called to Islam previously, then calling him again isn’t obligatory, but it is preferred. This rests on the knowledge which the tribe of Al-Mustaliq and Abu Rafi’ had about Islam previously and their determination to stamp it out. If reconciling between narrations is ever possible, then resorting to abrogation is never allowed.

The Bottom Line:

 

The narrations regarding the obligation of calling the enemy to Islam before fighting them are all authentically attributed to the Prophet (peace be upon him). From amongst them is the narration of Buraidah found in the recorded will of the Messenger (peace be upon him) to the commanders of the armies as narrated by Muslim in his Sahih. This was also narrated by Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah in their respective Sunans, in addition to Ahmad in his Musnad, Ibn Hibban in his Sahih and ad-Darimi in his Sunan – all with authentic chains. Also, from amongst them is the narration of Sahl bin Sa’d (may Allah be pleased with him) as recorded by the two Sheikhs in their respective Sahihs and the narration of Ibn Abbas (peace be upon him) narrated by Ahmad in his Musnad and others with an authentic chain of transmission.

The narrations of calling the enemy to Islam before fighting them are still authentic narrations and have not been abrogated by the other narrations which refer to raids on the enemy without calling them first. From these narrations is that of Ibn Awn (may Allah be pleased with him) regarding the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) raid on the tribe of Al-Mustaliq when they didn’t expect it, and the narration of the killing of Abdullah bin Atik Abu Rafi’ (Abdullah – or Sallam – bin Abi al-Huqayq) while he was sleeping.

There is no contradiction between the set of narrations about raiding the enemy without calling them to Islam first and the set of narrations about not fighting the enemy until they have been called to Islam. The scholars have agreed that calling to Islam first is obligatory in the case of an enemy who has not previously heard about Islam. As for those who have already received the message of Islam previously, then calling them to Islam again isn’t obligatory, though it is recommended. It has also been noticed that in regard to those who were attacked before being called to Islam first, we know for sure they had already been called to Islam previously and they were aware of Islam.

It has been established that the tribe of Al-Mustaliq already knew about the call to Islam before the incident, as well as their preparations to attack the Muslims and eliminate them, and that they had already begun to organize and mobilize an army in order to wipe out Islam and its message. Thus, calling them to Islam again was not obligatory; rather, for the sake of the greater good they were attacked preemptively due to their strength and the threat they posed.

It has been established that Abu Rafi’ had antagonized the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions and attempted to rally the people against them. Thus, the danger and even harm he inflicted upon the Messenger (peace be upon him) and the Muslims was ever increasing. Consequently, Abu Rafi’ advanced to the status of a war criminal posing an extreme threat and an end to his evil was necessary.

It is affirmed in the principles of jurisprudence that abrogation is not resorted to except when reconciliation becomes unfeasible. Reconciliation in this case is possible and straightforward. Hence, there is no abrogation in either set of narrations and using all of them still stands.

 

[1] This argument is taken from “La Naskh fi as-Sunnah” of Dr. Abdul-Muta’al Muhammad al-Jabri, Cairo: Maktabat Wahbah, 1415 A.H./1995. 1st. ed.

[2] “Sahih Muslim” (Explanation of an-Nawawi), The Book of Jihad and Expeditions, Chapter: Ruler appointing leaders of expeditions, 5/2700-2701, no. 4441.

[3] “Sunan Abi Dawud” (Explanation of ‘Awn al-Ma’bood), The Book of Jihad, Chapter: Calling the Idolaters (To Accept Islam), 7/194, no. 2609. Al-Albani also authenticated it in his edition of Sunan Abi Dawud, no. 2612.

[4] “Sunan Ibn Majah,” The Book of Jihad, Chapter: The Commandments of the Imam, 2/953, no. 2858. Al-Albani also authenticated it in his edition of Sunan Ibn Majah, no. 2858.

[5] “Musnad Ahmad,” Section on remaining narrations from the Ansar, narration of Buraidah al-Aslami (may Allah be pleased with him), no. 23080. Shu’aib al-Arna`ut commented that the narration is authentic according to the conditions of Muslim.

[6] “Sahih Ibn Hibban,” The book of Expeditions, Chapter: Embarking for Jihad and How Jihad is Performed, 11/42, no. 4739. Shu’aib al-Arna`ut commented that the narration is authentic according to the conditions of Muslim.

[7] “Sunan ad-Darimi,” The Book of Expeditions, Chapter: Inviting to Islam Before Fighting, 2/285, no. 2442. Hussein Saleem Asad also authenticated this chain of narration in his annotation on ad-Darimi’s collection.

[8] “Sahih al-Bukhari” (Explanation of Ibn Hajar), The Book of Merits of the Companions, Chapter: The Virtues of Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him), 7/87, no. 3701; “Sahih Muslim” (Explanation of an-Nawawi), The Book of the Merits of the Companions, Chapter: The Merits of Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him), 8/3540, no. 6106.

[9] “Musnad Ahmad,” narrations of Banu Hashim, narration of Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them), 3/354, no. 2105. Shu’aib al-Arna`ut commented that the narration is authentic according to the conditions of Muslim.

[10] “Musnad Abi Ya’la,” beginning of the narrations of Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them), 4/462, no. 2591. Hussein Saleem Asad also authenticated this chain of narration in his commentary on Abu Ya’la’s collection.

[11] “Sahih al-Bukhari” (Explanation of Ibn Hajar), The Book of Manumission of Slaves, Chapter: Whoever possessed Arab slaves, 5/202, no. 2541. “Sahih Muslim” (Explanation of an-Nawawi), The Book of Jihad and Expeditions, Chapter: Permissibility of raiding the Kuffar, who have been reached with the call of Islam, 6/2696, no. 4439.

[12] “Sahih al-Bukhari” (Explanation of Ibn Hajar), The Book of Fighting for the Cause of Allah (Jihaad), Chapter: Killing a Sleeping Idolater, 6/180, no. 3023.

[13] “Sharh Sahih Muslim” of an-Nawawi, Mecca: Maktabah Nazzar Mustafa al-Bazzar, 1422 A.H./2001, 2nd ed. with the annotation of Adel Abdul-Maujood and Ali Mu’awwadh, 6/2699-2700.

[14] “Nayl al-Awtar Sharh Muntaqa al-Akhbar” of ash-Shawkani, Riyadh: Maktabah Nazzar Mustafa al-Bazzar, 1421 A.H./2001, 1st ed. with the annotation of Abdul-Mun’im Ibrahim, 8/3740.

[15] “Tamam al-Minnah fi Fiqh al-Kitab wa Sahih as-Sunnah” of Adel ibn Yusuf al-‘Azzazi, Egypt: Dar al-‘Aqidah, 1430 A.H./2009, 4/402.

[16] “Al-Fiqh al-Islami wa Adillatuhu” of Dr. Wahbah az-Zuhaili, Damascus: Dar al-Fikr, 1409 A.H./1989, 3rd ed., 6/421.

[17] “Majmu’ Fatawa wa Rasa`il Ibn ‘Uthaimin” of Muhammad ibn Salih al-‘Uthaimin, 10/360.

[18] “La Naskh fi as-Sunnah” of Dr. Abd al-Muta’al Muhammad al-Jabri, Cairo: Maktabah Wahbah, 1415 A.H./1995. 1st ed., page 497.

[19] “At-Tabaqat al-Kabir” of Ibn Sa’d, Cairo: al-Hai`ah al-Misriyyah al-‘Ammah lil-Kitab, 2002, with annotation of Dr. Ali Muhammad ‘Umar, 2/59-60.

[20] “Maghazi” of Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn ‘Umar al-Waqidi, 1/405.

[21] “Marwiyat Ghazwat Bani Al-Mustaliq” of Ibrahim ibn Ibrahim Quraibi, Ghazwah al-Marisi’, 1/12.

[22] “Tarikh al-Islam wa Wafayat al-Mashahir wa al-A’lam” of adh-Dhahabi, Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al-‘Arabi, 1407 A.H./1987, 1st ed. with the annotation of Dr. ‘Umar ‘Abdus-Salam Tadmuri, 2/343.

[23]  “Fath al-Bari bi-Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari” of Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, Cairo: Dar al-Rayyan lil- Turath, 1407 A.H./1987, 1st ed. with the authentication of Muhibb ad-Deen al-Khateeb et al., 6/180.

[24] “La Naskh fi as-Sunnah” of Dr. Abd al-Muta’al Muhammad al-Jabri, Cairo: Maktabah Wahbah, 1415 A.H./1995. 1st ed., summarized from page 499.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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