There are two ways to defeat enemies. The first is what the world has always done through the centuries of human presence. The other is what Muhammadur Rasoolullahﷺ did. The first way eliminates some of the enemies for a time because nobody ever eliminated all enemies. But, strengthens enmity. The other way eliminates enmity itself. The first way is to kill enemies. The second, the way of Muhammadﷺ is to kill enmity.
His conduct when he entered Makkah as its conqueror is an example for all humanity for all time, of personal humility, a big heart and mercy. The Quraysh who had tormented him and driven him from his home; who were directly and indirectly responsible for the deaths of those he loved the most, his uncles, wife, daughter; who had caused him immense physical and emotional pain were finally at his mercy.
So, what did he do? He forgave them all. He announced a general amnesty and that there would be no revenge taking; an age-old custom among the Arab tribes who looted and killed the men and took the women and children as slaves. This was what people expected to see in Makkah also.
People were shocked, astounded. They could not believe their eyes and ears. They hid in their homes at first, fully expecting the victorious Muslim soldiers to break into their homes to loot and rampage as victorious forces are wont to do. But nothing happened. Eventually, Hind bint Utbah, the wife of Abu Sufyan; a woman who was a bitter enemy of Rasoolullahﷺ and who was responsible for the mutilation of the body of the uncle of Rasoolullahﷺ, Hamza bin Abdul Mutallib (R) in the battle of Uhud after he had been killed by Wahshi (R), an incident that caused untold suffering to Rasoolullahﷺ; left her home to see what was happening. And what did she see? She saw Rasoolullahﷺ and his companions praying around the Ka’aba and asking for Allah’s mercy and thanking Him for His help.
It is true that as the conqueror Rasoolullahﷺ could have taken revenge. But that would have opened new wounds which would have set off a new series of conflicts all resulting in delay or defeat of his real mission, the spreading of his Message. By forgiving those who had wronged him, he sent a powerful message that the mission was above all personal considerations and put those who had wronged him in his debt. Instead of fighting him or hating him they were now grateful to him and wanted to please him. At one stroke, he laid to rest all future potential conflicts among his followers without which his mission would have failed. The leader must be prepared to sacrifice his personal benefits for the sake of the goal and must be prepared to set a personal example in this respect. It is only when the followers see the behavior of the leader that they will follow suit. The result will be the success of the mission. Forgiveness is the foundation of this success.
The cause is greater than personal emotions.
Perhaps the best and most poignant incident that illustrates Rasoolullahﷺ’s commitment to the cause and his willingness to sacrifice his personal emotions for its sake was his treatment of the man who killed Sayyidina Hamza bin Abdul Muttalib (R), his beloved uncle and great supporter.
Out of the 70 Shuhada at Uhud, Al Hamza bin Abdul Muttalib (R) was given the title of Sayyidus Shuhada. Two of the Ta’abioon visited Al Wahshi (R) who was old at the time and asked him to tell them the story of how he killed Hamza (R). Wahshi said, ‘Shall I tell it to you just as I did to the Messenger of Allah when he asked me about it? I was a slave of Jubair bin Mut’aim whose uncle was Tuaima bin Udaibi who was killed in Badr. When the Quraysh went forth to Uhud, Jubair told me, ‘If you kill Hamza, Muhammadﷺ’s uncle in retaliation for my uncle, then you will be a free man.’ I am Abyssinian and like my countrymen I am good at throwing the spear and I rarely miss with it. When the armies met in battle, I went forth looking for Hamza to lie in wait for him. I found him right in the midst of the fray like an enormous camel striking out viciously at our men with his sword. Nothing could withstand him. I made use of bushes and rocks to get close to him, but Sibaa bin Abdul Uzza got to him before me. Hamza called out to him, ‘Come over here you son of a woman who does circumcisions.’ He then struck a blow so fast that it seemed to miss his head. But his head flew off and so I knew that he had not missed. I aimed my spear carefully and when sure of it threw my spear which hit him below the navel and emerged between his legs. He tried to move towards me but was overcome. I left him with the spear until he died. Then I went and retrieved my spear and went back to my camp. I had no business with anyone there except Hamza who I killed only to gain my freedom.’
Rasoolullahﷺ heard of the death of his uncle, and he was devastated by it. It was one of the saddest moments in the life of Rasoolullahﷺ. He went to see the body of his uncle. When he saw him, his stomach had been opened and his insides were pulled out. The man who took him there said, ‘This is not how I found him. He has been mutilated.’ This was because Hind bint Utbah had sworn to eat his liver and she ordered that his liver be pulled out. This appearance and violence to him after his death only added to the grief of Rasoolullahﷺ and he wept profusely.
Wahshi then said, ‘I went back to Makkah and stayed there until Rasoolullahﷺ opened Makkah. Then I fled to Ta’aif and stayed there until the delegation left to go to Rasoolullahﷺ to accept Islam. Now I didn’t know where to go. I told people that I would go to Syria or Yemen or some other country. Then someone said to me, ‘He will not kill anyone who testifies to his religion. He will forgive you.’ So, I went to Madina and surprised him and testified to the truth of Islam before him. Then he asked me, ‘Are you Wahshi?’ I said, ‘Yes Ya Rasoolullahﷺ.’ He said, ‘Sit down and tell me how you killed my uncle Hamza.’ So, I related this story as I related to you. When I finished, he said, ‘Wahshi please don’t come in front of me because seeing your face, I am reminded of my uncle and my grief is renewed. Now go and fight in the path of Allah as you fought against Allah .’ So, I used to avoid Rasoolullahﷺ wherever he may be so that he would not see me and then Allah took him to Himself.’
Wahshi (R) then joined the army that went to fight Musailima Al Kazzab (Musailima the Liar), the imposter who had declared Prophethood during the life of Rasoolullahﷺ. Rasoolullahﷺ met Musailima and advised him against this, but he refused to accept the advice and raised an army to attack Madina. Rasoolullahﷺ sent an army against him which was victorious and Musailima Al Kazzab was killed. Wahshi (R) described his role in this battle and said, ‘I took my spear with which I had killed Hamza (R) and I saw Musailima standing with his sword. I aimed my spear at him and when I was sure of my aim, I threw it. At the same time another Muslim attacked him from the other side with his sword. My spear struck him first then the other Muslim struck him.’ That man was Abu Dujaana (R) who had been given the sword of Rasoolullahﷺ. Wahshi (R) said, ‘If it was I who killed him, then with this spear I killed the best of men and the worst of men.’
There is a huge emphasis on forgiveness in Islam, both seeking it and forgiving others. Islam teaches us to be forgiving and if someone sincerely asks for forgiveness, the wronged person should forgive him. Rasoolullahﷺ said, “Whoever suffers an injury and forgives (the person responsible), Allah will raise his status to a higher degree and remove one of his sins.”
وَجَزَٰٓؤُا۟ سَيِّئَةٍ سَيِّئَةٌ مِّثْلُهَا فَمَنْ عَفَا وَأَصْلَحَ فَأَجْرُهُۥ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ إِنَّهُۥ لَا يُحِبُّ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ
Ash-Shura 42: 40 The recompense for an evil is an evil like thereof, but whoever forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah. Verily, He likes not the Zalimun (oppressors).
Abdullah Ibn Amr (R) reported that, Rasoolullahﷺ said, “Be merciful to others and you will receive mercy. Forgive others and Allah will forgive you.” [Musnad Imam Ahmad]
Abu Abdullah Al-Khadali (R) reported that, I asked Aisha (RA) about the character of Rasoolullahﷺ. Our mother Aisha (RA) said, “The Prophet was not indecent, he was not obscene, he would not shout in the markets, and he would not respond to an evil deed with an evil deed, but rather he would pardon and overlook.” [Sunan At-Tirmidhi]
“It is not permissible for a man to forsake his Muslim brother for more than three days, each of them turning away from the other when they meet. The better of them is the one who gives the greeting of salaam first.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
Forgiveness is so important in Islam that even in criminal law, Islam gives the victim or his heirs, the option of forgiving the one who committed the crime against them. This is unique in the world. For example, in all other legal systems, if a murderer is found guilty of murder, then he is sentenced to the punishment for murder. In the much-maligned Islamic Shari’ah, the judge has three options. He can levy the punishment which in Islam is execution. Or the heirs of the victim can accept blood money, i.e., monetary compensation in lieu of life. Or they can choose to simply forgive the murderer and he walks free. This is because even in case of murder, forgiveness is more laudable and praiseworthy than revenge.
It is clear from this that the cause must supercede personal likes and dislikes of the leader. Despite his own personal emotions and immense grief at the death of his beloved uncle and anger at his killer, Rasoolullahﷺ wanted Wahshi to be on the right path and forgave him and accepted his Islam. Therefore, it is essential for the leader not to allow his own likes/dislike to harm the Deen or the common benefit of humanity. Even when we have strong feelings about someone or something, these should not bind us to the past to the extent that we forget to see the greater good. It is almost as if these tests come to open doors. When we pass the test, then the doors to the hearts of people open and people admire the leader for his ability to put his own interest aside for the benefit of the cause. The test comes to ask, ‘How much do you truly want your cause to triumph?’ Our actions must answer.
This is easier said than done and is perhaps one of the strongest and clearest indicators of the commitment of the leader to his cause. To be able to be completely committed to the cause yet keep the boundary between personal and the cause is the balance that the leader must create. It is the emotional commitment of the leader which overshadows every other difficulty and enables him to continue to work for the cause in the face of every discouragement and setback. However, these very emotions must sometimes be sacrificed so that the interest of the cause can be furthered. That is a very great sacrifice and perhaps it is for this reason that Rasoolullahﷺ is reported to have said once, ‘Every prophet is tortured and troubled by his people and I have been tortured the most.’ However, he proved true to his covenant and worthy of the Divine message that he was charged with, and his patience eventually won even his worst enemies over to his cause.