Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"Expel them from the Arabian peninsula..."

‏"‏ أَخْرِجُوا الْمُشْرِكِينَ مِنْ جَزِيرَةِ الْعَرَبِ، وَأَجِيزُوا الْوَفْدَ بِنَحْوِ مَا كُنْتُ أُجِيزُهُمْ ‏"‏‏
The Prophet said to expel the non-muslims from the arabian peninsula.
The statements of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) concerned are as follows:
Expel the pagans from the Arabian Peninsula (Ar. Jazîrat Al-'Arab), respect and give gifts to the foreign delegates as you have seen me dealing with them. (Sahîh Bukhârî)

I will expel the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula (Ar. Jazîrat Al-'Arab) and will not leave any but Muslims. (Sahîh Muslim)

Two religions shall not coexist in the Arab lands (Ar. Ard Al-'Arab). (Muwatta Mâlik)
First let us discuss the meaning of Jazîrat Al-'Arab and Ard Al-'Arab. We shall examine how these terms are geographically defined in connection to their context in the aforementioned Ahâdîth.

When the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) gave commands to his companions he spoke using the terminology and the language that they were familiar with. Thus, the regions mentioned were defined according to the cultural and geopolitical setting in Arabia. If we look at how the Prophet's comnpanions understood and implemented his directives, we are able to develop a better understanding of what the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) intended.

The prominent companion of the Prophet, 'Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, relocated the Jewish tribes of Khaybar and Fadak, sending them to other regions in Arabia such as Taymâ and Arîhâ. Scholars have used this, amongst other narrations, as evidence when interpreting the saying of the Prophet Muhammad on the arabian peninsula. Shaykh Sâmî Al-Mâjid writes in his discussion of these Prophetic sayings:
Furthermore, many scholars understand the hadîth to refer only to the Hijâz region surrounding Makkah and Madînah. The proof for this is that `Umar expelled the Jews from Khaybar and Fadak, but did not expel the inhabitants of Taymâ, though it is also located on the Arabian peninsula. (IslamToday Fatwâ)
Commenting on this action of 'Umar, Imâm Abu Zakariyyah An-Nawawî (d. 1300CE) writes:
`Umar sent them to Taymâ and Arîhâ. This is proof that the Prophet (peace be upon him) intended that the Jews and Christians should be evicted from only part of the Arabian Peninsula, specifically the region of Hijâz. This is because Taymâ is part of the Arabian Peninsula but outside of Hijâz. (Sharh Sahîh Muslim 10/212-213)
He also says:
Al-Shâfi`î understood the ruling to apply to part of the Arabian Peninsula, namely the Hijâz region. For him this is Makkah, Madînah, al-Yamâmah and their environs. It does not include Yemen and other areas of the Arabian Peninsula.(Sharh Sahîh Muslim 11/93-94)
Likewise, the Hanbalî scholar Imâm Ibn Qudâmah Al-Maqdisî (d. 1223CE) mentions Imâm Ahmad b. Hanbal's (d. 855CE) opinion that the Arabian Peninsula refers to Madinah and its environs. He then goes on to say:
This means that what is forbidden is for unbelievers to settle in "Madinah and its environs" which includes Makkah, al-Yamâmah, Khaybar, al-Yanbu`, Fadak and their outlying areas. This is the opinion of al-Shâfi`î. It is as if the Arabian Peninsula referred to in those hadîth is intended to mean the Hijâz region. The only reason this reason is named Hijâz, a word implying a boundary or division, is because it divides between the regions of Tihâmah and Najd. It is not forbidden for them to live in the borderlands of Hijâz, like Taymâ and Fayd, since `Umar did not prohibit this.(al-Mughnî 13/242-244)
This is again repeated by Imâm Ibn Hajar Al-'Asqalânî (d. 1449CE):
The pagans are not allowed to settle specifically in the Hijâz region, meaning Makkah, Madînah, al-Yamâmah, and their environs. It does not apply to other regions that are considered part of the Arabian Peninsula. This is because everyone is agreed that they may live in Yemen, though it is part of the Arabian Peninsula. This is the opinion of the majority of scholars.(Fath al-Bârî 6/198)
The conclusion of these quotations is that the Prophet's directive concerning the removal of Non-Muslim groups referred specifically to the Hijâz region (the surroundings of Makkah and Madînah) and not the entire 'Arabian peninsula'.

Having understood the geographical aspect of the directive, the legal aspect may be examined. What is the conclusion of the removal of Non-Muslims from the Hijâz region? The scholars have explained that this removal implies only the prohibition of permanent non-muslim settlements in the region. It does not preclude the presence of all non-muslim activities, so long as permanent settlements are not taken up. As Shaykh Sâmî Al-Mâjid writes:
There are some things that need to be understood about this hadîth. It does not prohibit non-Muslims from residing in the Arabian Peninsula without the intention of permanent settlement. They may live within it for purposes of business, study, or work. There is no prohibition against it. (IslamToday Fatwâ)
Therefore the hadîth of the Prophet (peace be upon him) prohibited the presence of Non-Muslim settlements, in the Hijâz region.

It may be asked as to why the Prophet (peace be upon him) gave such a directive. A number of reasons can be offered. Makkah and Madînah became established as the heart of the Muslim world. The presence of non-muslim settlements in the surrounding region posed a threat if these settlements would grow, gain control and dominate the area, allowing their unislamic customs and beliefs to prevail in the nucleus of the Islamic empire. Even worse, they may turn against the Muslims in the area and eradicate them. Such a fear was quite valid as the Muslims were no foreigners to hostility and agression from non-muslim tribes who sought to wipe them out. Thus, it was crucial that Islam remained the sole power and influence in these lands to ensure the stability of the Islamic nation. The companions implemented the Prophetic commands without violence. There was no destruction of homes or property involved; the Muslims fought only those who initiated the agression against them. They retained peaceful ties with many non-muslim tribes and groups. There were many Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian groups who continued to live peacefully under the Islamic state undisturbed.

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