Sayyid Qutb writes in his book “Milestones” that according to Ibn Qayyim (rh)’s Sa’ad-al-Ma’adh, the people of Arabia were divided into three categories after the revelation of the initial verses of Surah At-Taubah. They are:
The polytheist who breached the treaty with the prophet (pbuh);
The polytheists who were true to the treaty with the Prophet (pbuh);
The Jews, Christians and the hypocrites who fought against the Prophet (pbuh).
Then a period of four months were given for all the people to either accept Islam or live under the protection of Islam as a dhimmi by paying Jizya. But all the polytheist embraced Islam before this time. According to Qutb’s explanation, even the polytheist can live under the Islamic rule by paying Jizya. Furthermore he writes that the initial war waged by Prophet (pbuh) and Companions (ra) were primarily to remove the rulers so that the people living under such rulers have free choice to either to accept or reject Islam. Hence the war was primarily to restore the rights for the people to accept or reject Islam and secondarily to establish the God’s law on earth.
My questions follow,
Could you provide evidences that all the polytheists were given a choice either to accept Islam or face death by the Prophet (pbuh) and later by the companions of the Prophet (pbuh)?
What is the exact time that the punishment phase according to the God’s law relating to messengers began? Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have demolished the idols in Ka’abah much before the revelation of Surah At-Taubah (1 to 24)?
In letters to Persian rulers who are polytheists, Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have asked them either to accept Islam or to pay Jizya. Does this not indicate that the Qutb’s explanation is more agreeable?
My answers to your questions follow:
The Qur’an had clearly warned even at the beginning of the Prophet’s ministry that the rejecters of the call of the Prophet (pbuh) from among the polytheists shall be subjected to the same punishment of death and annihilation which was the fate of the rejecters of the messengers (Rasu’l) before Muhammad (pbuh)1. In my opinion, therefore, the polytheists of Arabia had rendered themselves deserving of the death penalty, according to the Divine law relating to the messengers, after they had rejected to accept the call of the messenger. As I have clarified in my earlier response, as per the clear directive of the Qur’an, this law had to be implemented upon all the rejecting polytheists. The only difference in the case of the polytheists who were a party to the violation of the treaty and those who were not, was the timing of the implementation of the punishment. Upon the former, the Surah had directed to implement the punishment as per the time frame given in its opening verses, while upon the latter, the Muslims were bound to allow them respite till the expiry of the time of the treaty. Nevertheless, because the polytheists, in general, accepted Islam, therefore, the punishment was not needed to be implemented upon them;
As stated earlier, the referred punishment was implemented according to the status of the particular group of polytheists with reference to its honoring the treaty; and
According to historical narratives, the Prophet (pbuh) implemented the punishment of Jizya upon the Majoos. Thus, the Persians, who were generally Majoos, were also subjected to the punishment of Jizya.
I hope this helps.
July 19, 2002
- 9For instance, see Surah Al-Qamar. [↩]