45 – The Captives

The captives arrived in Medina with their guards a day after the arrival of the Prophet. Sawdah, who had gone once more to visit ‘Afra’, was astonished on her return to see her cousin and brother-in-law Suhayl, the chief of her clan, sitting in a corner of the room with his hands tied to his neck. The sight aroused long-forgotten sentiments and made her forget for the moment all that had replaced them. “O Abu Yazid,” she expostulated, “all too readily didst thou surrender. Thou shouldst have died a noble death.” “Sawdah!” exclaimed the Prophet, whose presence she had not noticed. The reproof in his voice immediately brought her back, not without a sense of shame, from her pre-Islamic past to her Islamic present. There were still hopes that Suhayl would enter Islam, and surely the impact of the now flourishing and already powerful theocracy could not fail to impress him and the other captives. But the Prophet relied on his followers to put Islamic and not pagan ideas into their heads. Again he turned to the now repentant Sawdah: “Wouldst thou foment trouble against God and His Messenger?”

The emimence of Suhayl, like that of Abu Sufyan, had been greatly enhanced by the deaths of so many leaders. His influence could have been expected to bring many waverers to Islam from his own clan and also from others; but his stay in Medina was cut short, for the Bani ‘Amir quickly sent one of their clan to ransom him, and the man consented to remain as hostage while his chief went back to Mecca to arrange the payment of the sum agreed upon.

Each of the captives had been shared between three or more of the combatants, and the group of Helpers who owned ‘Abbas now brought him to the Prophet and said: “O Messenger of God, allow us to forgo the ransom due to us for our sister’s son.” By ‘sister’ they meant the captive’s grandmother, Salma. But the Prophet said: “Ye shall not remit a single dirham.” Then he turned to his uncle, saying: “Ransom thyself ‘Abbas and thy two nephews, ‘Aqil and Nawfal, and thine ally ‘Utbah for thou art a rich man.” ‘Abbas protested: “I was already a Muslim, but the people made me march out with them.” The Prophet answered: “As to thine Islam, God knowest best. If what thou sayest is true, He will reward thee. But outwardly thou hast been against us, so pay us thy ransom.” ‘Abbas replied that he had no money, but the Prophet said: “Where then is the money thou didst leave with Umm al-Fadl? Ye two were alone when thou didst say to her: ‘If I should be slain, so much is for Fadl, for ‘Abd Allah, for Qitham and for ‘Ubayd Allah.'” It was then only that faith truly entered the heart of ‘Abbas. “By Him who sent thee with the truth,” he said, “none knew of this but she and I. Now I know that thou art the Messenger of God.”[1] And he agreed to ransom his two nephews and his confederate as well as himself.

One of the prisoners who was quartered with the Prophet was his son-in-law Abu l-‘As, whose brother ‘Amr came from Mecca with a sum of money sent by Zaynab to ransom him; and with the money she sent a necklace of onyx which her mother had given her on her wedding day. When the Prophet saw the necklace he turned pale, recognizing it at once as Khadijah’s. Deeply moved, he said to those who had a share in the prisoner: “If ye should see fit to release her captive husband and return to her the ransom, it is for you to do so.” They at once agreed, and both the money and the necklace were returned together with Abu l-‘As himself. It had been hoped that he would enter Islam while he was in Medina, but he did not, and when he left for Mecca the Prophet told him that on his return he should send Zaynab to Medina, and this he sadly promised to do. The Revelation had made it clear that a Muslim woman could not be the wife of a pagan man.

‘Abd Allah ibn Jahsh had a share in Walid, the youngest son of the now dead Walid, the former chief of Makhzum. The youth’s two brothers Khalid and Hisham came to ransom him. ‘Abd Allah would take no less than four thousand dirhams, and Khalid, the captive’s half-brother, was unwilling to give so much, but the full brother Hisham reproached him saying: “True, he is not thy mother’s son,” whereupon Khalid consented. The Prophet, however, was against the transaction and told ‘Abd Allah that he should ask them for nothing less than their father’s famous arms and armor. Khalid once more refused, but again Hisham won him over; and when they had brought the heirloom to Medina they set off with their brother again for Mecca. But at one of the first halts he slipped away from them and returned to Medina, where he went to the Prophet and made his formal entry into Islam, pledging allegiance to him. His brothers followed hard after him, and, when they saw what had happened, the outraged Khalid said to him: “Why was this not done before thou wert ransomed, and before our father’s treasured legacy had left our hands? Why didst thou not become a follower of Muhammad then, if that was thy purpose?” Walid answered that he was not the man to let Quraysh say of him: “He did but follow Muhammad to escape from having to pay ransom.” Then he went back with his brothers to Mecca to fetch some of his possessions, not suspecting that they would do anything against him. But once there they imprisoned him with ‘Ayyash and Salamah, the two Muslims half brothers of Abu Jahl, whom ‘Ikrimah the son of Abu Jahl still kept under guard after his father’s death. The Prophet used often to pray for the escape of all three of them and of Hisham of Sahm and others who were forcibly detained in Mecca.

Jubayr the son of Mut’im came to ransom his cousin and two of their confederates, and the Prophet received him graciously. He told him that if Mut’im had been alive and had come to him on behalf of the prisoners he would have surrendered them to him free of ransom. Jubayr was impressed by everything he saw in Medina; and one evening, at sunset, he stayed outside the Mosque and listened to the prayer. The Prophet recited the Surah named at-Tur, The Mount, which warns of the Judgment and of Hell, and then speaks of the wonders of Paradise. It ends with the words: Wait patiently for the fulfillment of thy Lord’s decree, for verily thou art in our Sight; and glorify thy Lord with praise when thou uprisest, and glorify Him in the night, and at the dimming of the stars.[2]

“It was then,” said Jubayr, “that faith took root in my heart.”[3] But he would not yet listen to its promptings for he was too engrossed with thoughts of his beloved uncle’s recent death at Badr. Tu’aymah, Mut’im’s brother, was one of those whom Hamzah had killed, and Jubayr felt bound in honor to avenge his death; and fearing lest he should weaken in his purpose, he left for Mecca as soon as he had reached an agreement about the ransoms.

Most of the ransomers were at least courteous to the Prophet. An exception was Ubayy of Jumah, the brother of Umayyah and bosom friend of ‘Uqbah, both of whom had been killed after the battle. As he was leaving with his ransomed son he said: “O Muhammad, I have a horse named ‘Awd that I feed every day on many measures of corn. I Shall slay thee when I am riding him.” “Nay,” said the Prophet, “it is I who shall slay thee, if God will.”[4]

Meantime in Mecca Ubayy’s two nephews, Safwan amd ‘Umayr, were speaking with savage bitterness about the irretrievable loss caused to Quraysh by the death of those leaders who had been thrown into the pit at Badr. Safwan was the son of Umayyah and likely to become chief of Jumah now that his father was dead. His cousin ‘Umayr was the man who had ridden round the Muslim army at Badr and estimated its strength. “By God, there is no good in life, now that they are gone,” said Safwan. ‘Umayr agreed, and he was nearer to sincerity than the other. His son was one of the captives, but he was too heavily in debt to ransom him, and he felt so oppressed with his life that he was prepared to sacrifice it to the common cause. “But for a debt I cannot pay,” he said, “and a family I fear to leave destitute, I would ride out to Muhammad and kill him.” “On me be thy debt,” said Safwa, “and thy family be as mine! I will care for them as long as they live. They shall not want for aught that is mine to give them.” ‘Umayr immediately accepted his offer, and they swore to keep it a secret between the two of them until their end had been achieved. Then he sharpened his sword, smeared it with poison, and set off for Yathrib on the pretext of ransoming his son.

When he reached Lower Medina, the Prophet was sitting in the Mosque. On seeing ‘Umayr girt with his sword, ‘Umar stopped him from entering, but the Prophet called to him to let the Jumahite approach. So ‘Umar said to some Helpers who were with him: “Go ye in unto the Messenger of God and sit with him and be on your guard for him against this villain, for he is in no wise to be trusted.” ‘Umayr wished them good day -a salutation of paganism- and the Prophet said: “God hath given us a better greeting than thine, O ‘Umayr. It is Peace, the greeting of the people of Paradise.” Then he asked him why he had come, and ‘Umayr mentioned his son as the reason. “Why then that sword?” said the Prophet. “God damn swords!” said ‘Umayr. “Have they done us any good service?” “Tell me the truth,” said the Prophet. “To what end hast thou come?” And when ‘Umayr reiterated the pretext of his son, the Prophet repeated to him word for word the conversation he had had in the Hijr with Safwan. “So Safwan took upon himself thy debt and thy family,” he concluded, “that thou shouldst slay me; but God hath come between thee and that.” “Who told thee this,” cried ‘Umayr, “for by God there was no third man with us?” “Gabriel told me,” said the Prophet. “We called thee liar,” said ‘Umayr, “when thou didst brings us tidings from Heaven. But praise be to God who hath guided me unto Islam. I testify that there is no god but God, and that Muhammad is the messenger of God.” The Prophet turned to some of those who were present and said: “Instruct your brother in his religion, and recite unto him the Qur’an; and release for him his captive son.”[5]

‘Umayr was eager to return to Mecca that he might try to bring others to Islam, Safwan amongst them. The Prophet gave him permission to go and he made many converts; but Safwan considered him to be a traitor, and resolutely refused to speak to him or have anything to do with him. After some months ‘Umayr returned to Medina as an Emigrant.

When Abu l-‘As returned to Mecca, he told Zaynab that he had promised her father that he would send her to Medina. They agreed that their little daughter Umamah should go with her. Their son ‘Ali had died in infancy, and Zaynab was now expecting a third child. When all the preparations had been made for the journey, Abu l-‘As sent with them his brother Kinanah as escort. They had kept their plans secret, but they none the less set off in daylight, and there was much talk about it in Mecca, until finally some of Quraysh decided to follow them and to bring Zaynab back into the bosom of the clan of ‘Abdu Shams to which she belonged by marriage. When they were close upon them, a man of Fihr, Habbar by name, galloped on ahead and circled closely round them, brandishing his spear at Zaynab as she set in her howdah with Umamah, and then rejoining the others who were now close upon them. Kinanah dismounted, took his bow, knelt facing them, and emptied his quiver onto the sand in front of him. “Let one of you come near me,” he said, “and by God I will put an arrow into him.” The men drew back as he bent his bow. Then, after a brief consultation, his chief, Abu Sufyan, and one or two others dismounted and walked forward, asking him to unbend his bow and discuss the matter with them. Kinanah agreed, and Abu Sufyan said to him: “It was a grave mistake to bring the woman out publicly over the heads of the people, when thou knowest the disaster that hath befallen us, and all that Muhammad hath done against us. It will be taken as a sign that we have been humbled, and men will say that it is nothing but impotence on our part. By my life, it is not that we want to keep her from her father, nor would that serve us for revenge. But take the woman back to Mecca, and when tongues have stopped wagging about our meekness, and when the news hath spread that we went out after her and brought her back, then steal her out secretly to join her father.” Kinanah accepted this proposal, and they all returned to Mecca together. Shortly afterwards Zaynab had a miscarriage which was attributed to the fright caused her by Habbar. When she had recovered, and when time enough had elapsed, Kinanah took her out with Umamah under cover of the night, and escorted them as far as the valley of Yajaj, some eight miles from Mecca. There they were met by Zayd, as had previously been arranged, and he brought them safely to Medina.


[1] Tab. 1344
[2] Qur’an 52 : 48 – 49
[3] B. 52, 25
[4] W. 251
[5] I.S. 4, 147; I.I. 472 – 473

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