9: Repentance (Part II — The Battle of Hunain)
Battles. They’re all over the Quran, but oddly enough, not a lot of them are called out by name. These generic references to battles can be hella confusing — one source will insist that a certain verse is talking about Battle X against the A tribe while another site will insist it’s talking about Battle Y against the B tribe. It’s enough to make a girl’s head explode. The last non-generic battle mentioned in the Quran was the Battle of Badr, which we came across in chapter 3. Chapter 9 features another non-generic battle: the Battle of Hunain.
I realize I’m giving my critics some fodder for poking fun at me here, but get this: I’d never heard of the Battle of Hunain before college. (She’s so dumb, she didn’t even know about the Battle of Hunain, blahblahblah, God’s so great, she must be a Jew, blahblah.)
I also didn’t know about the Battle of Badr. Or, hell, any other battle for that matter. They skipped over discussing any of that stuff in my Quran classes and focused on the happy-feel-good stuff instead. Even after I became an atheist, I didn’t really realize there was a warring, looting, capturing slaves side to the Mohammed story. I’d completely rejected the idea of an invisible man in the sky, but I still thought Islam was a peaceful religion. I thought the violence was just a couple of crazies who put their own special twist on the book. And I thought that whole “by the sword” stuff was just a smear campaign by the other Abrahamic religions to make Islam look bad. No joke. I actually bought into that shit — how embarrassing.
It wasn’t until I took a history of Islam college class with a super snarky professor that I learned about some of the shit that actually happened. I remember feeling kind of jipped back then. Disappointed that I’d read all of this shit in the Quran in Arabic, but nobody ever told me what any of it actually meant. I guess it’s a good thing I learned to think and question things, and finally found a little time to read the book for myself, right?
Anyway, enough about me. Lets jump right in with the verse that introduces the Battle of Hunain.
(25) Indeed God has helped you on many occasions, even during the battle of Hunain, when you were elated with joy at your numbers which did not prove of the least avail, so that the earth and its vast expanse became too narrow for you, and you turned back and retreated.
Here’s a little background: there were two Bedouin tribes called the Huzwain and the Thaqif. They found out through some spies that the Muslims were on their way to attack Mecca. The Bedouins wanted to intercept them along the way, but Mohammed learned all about their little plan through his own spies.
The sources are a little shaky on this next part, because even though Mohammed knew about the ambush plans, they were still somehow caught off guard. How does that work? According to Wikipedia, “Modern historians have been unable to fully reconstruct the course of the battle from this point onwards because the different Muslim sources describing the battle give contradictory accounts.” The Muslim sources give contradictory accounts? Shocking. Anyway, we’ll just have to chock it up to yet another one of God’s mysteries. Oooooh ahhhhh! Mysterious!
Check out this hadith about one account of Hunain. It’s super long so I only posted part of it. You can check the rest out here.
Volume 4, Book 53, Number 370:
Narrated Abu Qatada:
We set out in the company of Allah’s Apostle on the day (of the battle) of Hunain. When we faced the enemy, the Muslims retreated and I saw a pagan throwing himself over a Muslim. I turned around and came upon him from behind and hit him on the shoulder with the sword He (i.e. the pagan) came towards me and seized me so violently that I felt as if it were death itself, but death overtook him and he released me. I followed ‘Umar bin Al Khattab and asked (him), “What is wrong with the people (fleeing)?” He replied, “This is the Will of Allah,” After the people returned, the Prophet sat and said, “Anyone who has killed an enemy and has a proof of that, will posses his spoils.” I got up and said, “Who will be a witness for me?” and then sat down. The Prophet again said, “Anyone who has killed an enemy and has proof of that, will possess his spoils.”
This hadith actually supports the Quran’s account of what happened during the battle. There were a lot more Muslims than pagans, but the Muslims were caught off guard and they retreated. Mohammed says it was the will of God. Which, by the way, totally contradicts what the Quran says about those who deserted Mohammed during a different battle. It wasn’t the will of God then. It was the will of Satan. But no worries — God forgave ’em:
(3:155) All those among you who turned their backs on the day the two armies clashed (at ‘Uhud) were surely induced by Satan to fail in their duty because of their sinful deeds. But God has already forgiven them, for God is forgiving and kind.
See that little (at ‘Uhud) there? That’s Ahmed Ali’s contribution. None of the other translations I checked mention anything about the Battle of ‘Uhud at all.
A. J. Arberry:(155) Those of you who turned away the day the two hosts encountered — Satan made them slip for somewhat they had earned; but God has pardoned them; God is All-forgiving, All-clement.Pickthall:(155) Lo! those of you who turned back on the day when the two hosts met, Satan alone it was who caused them to backslide, because of some of that which they have earned. Now Allah hath forgiven them. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Clement.Yusuf Ali:
(155) Those of you who turned back on the day the two hosts Met,-it was Satan who caused them to fail, because of some (evil) they had done. But Allah Has blotted out (their fault): For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Forbearing.
Where did Ahmed Ali pull that one out from? Who knows — he makes shit up all the time. Anyway, here’s what happened to the guys who ran away during the Battle of Badr:
(8:16) For any one who turns his back on that day, except to manoeuvre or rally to his side, will bring the wrath of God on himself, and have Hell as abode; and what an evil destination!
They suffered the wrath of God and got banished to hell. That sounds like God, alright! So in one case it was the will of God, in another it was the will of Satan, and in the third, God doesn’t really give a shit whose will it was and he just banishes all the deserters to hell. I guess if you’re a Muslim soldier and you go AWOL during battle, your fate pretty much depends on what kind of day God is having.
Moving right along.
A couple of weeks after the ambush, the Muslims took down the Meccans. And then they came after the Huzwain and the Thaqif to whoop some ass. There were 12,000 Muslims verses 4,000 Huwazin and Thaqif. Oh, and some angels, too:
(26) Then God sent down a sense of tranquility on His Apostle and the faithful; and sent down troops invisible to punish the infidels. This is the recompense of those who do not believe.
Just like Badr, God fixes the outcome of the battle by sending down an army of angels. That’s fair! The Muslims already had the pagans outnumbered 3 to 1, so I’m not really sure why God felt the need to send in invisible reinforcements. It doesn’t really show a lot of confidence in the Muslims’ abilities. Maybe he thought the Muslims were a bunch of fuck-ups for retreating during all those other battles, so he took matters into his own hands. If you want something done right, better do it yourself.
Only 12 Muslims died in the battle, and nobody’s really sure how many Huwazin and Thaqif died. The Muslims scored big: they took roughly 6,000 women and 24,000 camels as booty. That would have been 1,200 women and 4,800 camels for Mohammed if they went with the 1/5 law, but Mohammed God changed up the laws for this battle.
(58 ) There are some among them who blame you (of partiality) in distributing the offerings made in the name of God. In case they receive some of these they are pleased, if not, they are incensed.
(59) They should rather have been pleased with what God and His Prophet had given them, and said: “God is sufficient for us; He will give us of His largesse as will His Apostle. We supplicate no one but God.”
According to the hadith I quoted earlier, Mohammed only gave a share of the booty to men who fought and killed the enemy. And even then only if they could prove they’d killed the enemy. And according to these two verses, some people thought Mohammed was being a dick for not splitting up the booty among all the troops. His excuse? God told me to do it. Convenient!
Sounds to me like Mohammed was pissed off at all the pantywaists who got scared and ran away, and he thought he’d teach them a lesson by cutting them out of the booty-share. But when people called him out on his crap, he suddenly had a revelation from God, relieving him of the blame. Cui bono? Yup. I don’t think I need to spell that one out.
As I read this chapter, it seemed more and more obvious to me that Mohammed felt betrayed by the soldiers who ran off on him. And I can’t really blame the guy. If my friends ran away and left me standing there with my (hypothetical) dick flapping in the breeze, I’d be pretty pissed. Some of Mo’s friends also ditched out on him before the Muslims even set out into battle. They decided they’d rather stay home. Needless to say, Mohammed was not pleased:
(19) Do you think that giving a drink of water to the pilgrims and going on a visit to the Sacred Mosque, is the same as believing in God and the Last Day, and striving in the cause of God? In the eyes of God it is not the same; and God does not show the unrighteous the way.
(20) Those who accepted the faith and left their homes and fought in the way of God, wealth and soul, have a greater reward with God, and will be successful.
So your good deeds will only get you so far with God. If you want to earn those extra brownie points, you have to fight in the way of God. Something tells me that one’s really popular with the fundies. And this one, too:
(23) O you who believe, do not hold your fathers and brothers as friends if they hold disbelief more dear than faith; and those of you who do so are iniquitous.
(24) You tell them: “If your fathers and sons, your brothers and wives and families and wealth, or the business you fear may fail, and the mansions that you love, are dearer to you than God, His Apostle, and struggling in His cause, then wait until God’s command arrives, for God does not show transgressors the way.”
If you really care about God, you’d better be willing to cut off ties with your family and fork over your money for God’s cause. Hell-oh cult! Anyway, check out the bitterness in this next verse:
(38) What has happened to you, O believers, that when you are asked to set out in the cause of God your feet begin to drag? Do you find the life of the world so pleasing that you forget the life to come? Yet the profit of the life of this world is but meagre as compared to the life to come.
Yeah, who cares about cash money when you can have a garden with couches and grapes and running streams of water??
(39) Unless you go out (to strive), God will inflict grievous punishment on you, and bring other people in your place, and you will not be able to harm Him in the least, for God has the power over all things.
There goes God with his abrogations again: if you don’t go out and fight for me, I’ll wipe you out and get all new people. Um. Do it, then. Wouldn’t it be easier than constantly looming that threat over their heads while doing a whole lot of nothing about it? Oh, and nice touch with the “you will not be able to harm him in the least” bit. Sticks and stones won’t break God’s bones, because God doesn’t fucking exist.
Here’s a verse that talks about how some people made excuses to opt out of the battle:
(42) (O Prophet), had the gain been close at hand, and easy the journey, they would surely have followed you; but hard was the journey and long the going. Even then they swear by God (and say): “If we had the strength we would surely have gone out with you.” They are only ruining themselves, for God is aware they lie.
God is aware of their lies, but guess what? God isn’t aware of what the fuck Mohammed was thinking:
(43) May God forgive you. Why did you allow them (to stay behind) without ascertaining who spoke the truth and who were liars?
I like how God is praying to himself for Mohammed to be forgiven. Plus, shouldn’t he already know the answer to that question, considering he’s all-knowing God? Or maybe he just likes making Mohammed look like a tool in front of all the Muslims. God is a jerk like that.
(44) Those who believe in God and the Last Day, do not ask your leave to be excused from fighting wealth and soul (in the cause of God), for God knows the pious and devout.
(45) Only they ask (for leave) who do not believe in God and the Last Day, whose hearts are full of doubt; and doubting they waver (between gain and loss).
OK, so if you’re a good little Muslim, you’ll physically fight in God’s army. Or you’ll at least give your money to support God’s army. And if you’re a bad little Muslim, you won’t. But it doesn’t matter, because God doesn’t want you in his army anyway:
(46) If they had intended to go out (to fight) they would surely have made preparations. But God did not like their setting forth, and they were held back and told: “Stay at home with those who stay behind.”
(47) Had they gone out with you, they would only have been a hindrance and let loose confusion among you to create discord; for there are some in your midst who spy for them. But God knows who are the wicked.
So God actually prevented some people from going into battle because they would have just fucked things up for the Muslims. So instead of smiting them, God just tells them to stay at home. Where they’ll be safe and won’t be hurt or killed in battle. That makes perfect sense.
Here’s something I didn’t expect to see in the Quran. Men and women being treated equally!
(67) The hypocrites (are the same) whether men or women, the one of them being of the other. They encourage what is bad and dissuade from the good, and tighten their purses (when it comes to spending in the way of God). Of God they are oblivious; so He is oblivious of them. The hypocrites are indeed transgressors.
Yup! For once in the Quran, men and woman are equal. Too bad it’s only in the context of Mohammed trying to squeeze money out of them. If they don’t cough up the money to fund his battles, God is pissed at them. Equally. And they’ll be punished. Equally. God is most fair, right?
Check out my favorite excuse that the Muslims used to stay out of battle:
(81) Those who were left behind rejoiced that they stayed at home against the wishes of God’s Apostle, being averse to fighting in the way of God with their wealth and lives, and said: “Do not go in this heat.” Tell them: “The heat of Hell is far more intense.” If only they had cared to instruct themselves!
I died laughing. But not as much as when I read these next verses:
(83) If you come back to them by (the grace of) God, and they seek your permission to go (to fight), you should tell them: “You will never go out nor fight the enemy with me any more. You preferred to stay back on the first occasion, so stay at home with those who stay behind.”
(84) Do not invoke blessings on any of them who die, nor stand to pray at their graves, for they disbelieved in God and His Prophet, and died transgressors.
(85) And let not their wealth and children astonish you. God wishes to punish them through these in the world, and their souls will depart in a state of disbelief.
(86) Whenever a Surah is revealed (which says): “Believe in God and fight along with His Prophet,” the well-to-do among them ask for leave to stay at home, and say: “Leave us with those who are left behind.”
(87) They prefer to be with women who (are allowed to) stay at home during war, and their hearts are sealed; so they fail to understand.
(88) But the Prophet and those who have embraced the faith with him, and have fought wealth and soul (in the way of God), are blessed and will be successful.
Bitter much? These people were rich and they had the audacity to choose not fund Mohammed’s battles. Can’t say I blame them. I think the war on Iraq is a bunch of bullshit, and it pisses me off that my tax dollars are funding it. But unlike those rich Arabs, I don’t really have control over where my money is going. They did. And they chose not to give it to Mohammed.
Mohammed, however, didn’t really think they should have a choice in the matter. His point of view was this: if you were a Muslim convert and you had money, it damn well better be going towards the battles. So again, very conveniently, God reveals a bunch of verses about how anyone who doesn’t fight in or fund Mohammed’s battles is not a real Muslim. And when that person dies, it’s forbidden to go pray at their grave or say nice things about them. I guess compassion, mercy and forgiveness get tossed out the window when money is involved. Ain’t religion grand??
That’s all I have on Hunain. Coming up next: jizyah, the tax that non-Muslims have to pay for the privilege of living among Muslims. Stay tuned!
Some other stuff worth discussing, but not worth dedicating an entire post to:
- (30) The Jews say: “Ezra is the son of God;” the Christians say: “Christ is the son of God.” That is what they say with their tongues following assertions made by unbelievers before them. May they be damned by God: How perverse are they!
The fuck?? When did the Jews ever say that Ezra is the son of God? Someone care to ‘splain that one to me?
- (31) They consider their rabbis and monks and the Christ, son of Mary, to be gods apart from God, even though they had been enjoined to worship only one God, for there is no god but He. Too holy is He for what they ascribe to Him!He got 1 out of 3 right: Christians do believe that Jesus was the son of God and also, somehow simultaneously, God himself. It makes my head hurt trying to get the logic in that one, and it also kind of reminds me of the “I Am My Own Grandpaw” song. But I digress. Um, since when do Jews and Christians consider rabbis and monks to be gods apart from God? Mohammed must have reached really far up his own ass to pull that one out.
- (34) O believers, many rabbis and priests devour the possessions of others wrongfully, and keep men away from the path of God. To those who accumulate gold and silver, and do not spend in the way of God, announce the news of painful punishment.
(35) On the day We shall heat up (their gold) on the fire of Hell and brand their foreheads, sides and backs (and say to them): “It is this you stored up for yourselves; so now taste of what you had stored!”
More hell-talk, now with gory details! And again, the only mention of heaven is this:
(89) God has provision for them of gardens with Streams of running water, where they will abide for ever. This will be the supreme triumph.
Streams of running water? Check.
No fucking imagination whatsoever? Check.
- (115) God never leads men astray after guiding them, until He makes quite clear to them what they should avoid, for God indeed knows each and everything.Bullshit. Doesn’t this verse absolutely contradict all those other verses we’ve come across about how God puts a covering over the hearts of people and that he doesn’t want them to believe? And that he’ll go out of his way to throw them off the straight path? Here’s just one of the many verses that say that same thing:(6:25) There are some among them who listen to you; but We have put a covering on their hearts so that they fail to understand it, and a deafness appears in their ears. Even if they saw all the signs they would not believe in them; and even when they come to you to dispute with you, the unbelievers say: “This is nothing but fables of antiquity.”How the hell do you explain that? Oh I know — since it’s in one of the last chapters revealed, this one verse obviously abrogates all those other verses about how God leads men astray on purpose. So God really didn’t put a covering over anyone’s hearts. He was just lying through all those other verses to scare people into believing. Yeah. Gimmie a fucking break. You can try to use the abrogation clause to explain away everything, but that doesn’t automatically make it make sense. Come up with something new, Muslims — this horse is dead and I’m getting bored of flogging it.