– Muslims Fought Alongside non-Muslims in Battle.

(© Zubair Qamar 2013)

There is usually a simplistic and incorrect understanding that “Muslim” armies consisted only of Muslims who waged war against non-Muslims. Even worse, ignoramuses claim that it is the aim of Islam and Muslims to annihilate all non-Muslim. The Constitution of Medina accepted Jews alongside Muslims and both were considered as part of the same army.  Christians also participated alongside Muslims in jihad. Dadake says that:

…traditional Islamic histories give accounts of Christians taking part in some of the early battles alongside the Muslim armies. This is discussed by Fred Donner in his book The Early Islamic Conquests. He notes that, according to Muslim historical sources, in the very early period of jihad, Christian Arabs from tribes such as the Banu Tayyi of Najd, the Banu al-Namir ibn Qasit of the upper Euphrates river valley, and the Banu Lakhm participated in the jihad with the Muslim armies.[1]

Other examples include, “a treaty signed during the reign of the caliph `Umar by Suraqah ibn `Amr in 22 A.H./642 C.E.” Dadke asserts that “Suraqah was a commander of Muslim forces in Armenia, which was predominantly Christian” and that Christians had joined the Muslim army as an alternative to paying the poll tax.[2] This example contradicts Islamophobes and others who claim that refusal by Christians and Jews to accept Islam and pay the poll tax would result in wholesale war against them. Rather, the Christians in this example were not targeted, but rather fought alongside the Muslim army, and this is not the only example.

Dakake gives more examples of Christians joining the Muslim jihad. “Such is the case of Jarajimah, a Christian people from the town of Jurjumah.[3] This town had been under the control of the patrician and governor of Antioch but surrendered to the Muslim armies, commanded by Habib ibn Maslamah al-Fihri, when they attacked the town.” Dadake quotes Baladhuri:

“Terms were made providing that al-Jarajimah would act as helpers to the Moslems, and as spies and frontier garrison in Mount al-Lukam. On the other hand it was stipulated that they pay no tax, and that they keep for themselves the booty they take from the enemy in case they fight with the Moslems.”[4]

A similar agreement with Al-Jarajimah was made in the reign of the Ummayad Caliph al-Walid ibn `Abd al-Malik (86-96 A.H. / 705-715 C.E.).[5]

The above illustrates that early Muslims did not hesitate to have non-Muslims join their armies. It was not necessarily and exclusively a Muslim versus non-Muslim affair. As stated, non-Muslims would also help Muslims as “spies” and “frontier garrison”!  Moreover, non-Muslims were given alternative options other than to convert and pay the poll-tax. They kept their religion, their houses of worship, and were still permitted to join the Muslim army. Al-Qa’eda and other militants would never think for a second to imitate the way of the early Muslims in battle. Rather, they would take all Christians and Jews hostage, use them as bargaining chips, and often behead them.

[1] Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition (Revised and Expanded). Page.22. Dakake cites: Fred M. Donner, The Early Islamic Conquests (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981), p.200.

[2] Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition (Revised and Expanded). Page.22.

[3] Dakake states that “Jurjumah was located in the border region between modern-day Syria and Turkey.” (footnote #80, Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition (Revised and Expanded), pg. 37.

[4] Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition (Revised and Expanded). Page.23. Dadake cities: Baladhuri, Origins, vol.1, p.246.