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Imam Ali (as) and the battle of Tabouk

When Islam appeared there were two great powers on this side of the earth; the Romans and the Persians.

The Roman soldiers were well experienced in the wars and at the same time, they had won the war against Iran. Syria and the eastern parts of the Mediterranean were the colonies of Rome, under the Byzantine rule. There was a fortress at the boundary between Syria and the land of Hijr named Tabouk, which the Prophet of Islam had come to conquer it.

The quick growth and the splendid conquests of the Muslims in Arabia had made the Emperor of Rome seek a remedy to stem the tide of Islam's progress. He was afraid especially of Mohammad's influence upon people. Therefore the Romans decided to harass the Muslims in order to be safe from their troubles. Such news was carried to Medina by some commercial caravans.

The Prophet sent someone to Mecca and about Medina to call every one, who had faith in God, to gather in Medina in order to be ready for the war. This invitation gained ready acceptance of the Muslims. About thirty thousand persons gathered to fight the enemy. This expedition was very difficult for the Muslims because the weather was too hot and they had to go for a long distance through a torrid zone to Tabouk where the Romans encamped. It was also the time of harvest and they would have to harvest their farms’ products.

There were some hypocrites among the Prophet's companions, who used to injure the Muslims by sabotage. They tried to discourage people with various excuses, like the hotness, the too far distance and the huge numbers of the enemy, but their attempt was in vain.

When they knew that the Prophet had decided to set out to the battlefield, they planned to rush upon his house in Medina during his absence. The Prophet (s) perceived their plan and determined to leave Ali (s) as his successor in Medina to safeguard his family. The Prophet got ready for the task of Tabouk.

The hypocrites were displeased with the stay of Ali (s) in Medina; therefore they began to spread false rumors such as that Ali was ordered to take part in this troublesome war but he refused because this war was really insupportable and that the Prophet (s) was displeased with him.

Ali (s), in order to rebut this accusation, told the Prophet (s) of what they rumored and asked him to let him go to the war.

The Prophet said to Ali (s): “O my brother, go back to Medina because nobody else is well-qualified to keep Medina safe except I and you. You are to take care of my house during my absence.” Then he added: “Are you not satisfied to be to me as Aaron was to Moses? But there will be no prophet after me.”

This Prophet's word is also one of the main arguments of the Shia in proving the immediate succession of Imam Ali after the Prophet's death.

Finally the Prophet's men, with troubles beyond endurance, arrived at Tabouk. It was a surprise to them when they saw no enemy soldiers in and about Tabouk.

They thought that that the enemy might go back or that the whole information that the Prophet was told of was false.

The Prophet (s) stopped there about twenty days and received no news about the enemy. At the same time he was in contact with the chieftains of various tribes and he made treaty with them, because they were mostly Christians and it was possible that the Romans would make use of them in the future.

The Prophet, after consulting with his companions, came back towards Medina.

Although some hypocrites resolved upon killing him on his way back by stampeding his camel in the slope of a valley, their plan was surfaced and the Prophet saved his life.

Although this expedition did not get any result but it made everyone understand that the power of Islam had got to an extent that the Muslims could fly to arms and defy the great powers like the Romans. Consequently many headstrong chiefs of the Arab tribes came near the Prophet and resigned themselves to God and believed in him.

On the other hand the Muslims proved by experience that they could resist difficulties when they would set out to conquer Syria in the future.

Adopted from the book : "Imam Ali (a.s.); Sunshine of Civilized Islam" by : "Muhammad Huseyn Tahmasebi"

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