It is of deep interest to study the motives that led some of the earliest converts to Islam to accept Mohammed's divine mission. The material is abundant and one has only to trace the steps in each individual case to reach a general conclusion. Nöldeke gives the list of earliest converts as Khadijah, Zaid, ‘Ali, certain slaves, Sa'ad and Abu Bekr. These were followed by Othman and others of the Quraish. It was not the Prophet's sword but his astute beneficence that was chiefly instrumental in the days when Islam was weak. Othman, for example, loved Mohammed's fair daughter Rukayyah, and when he learned she had been betrothed to another, complained to Abu Bekr. "Abu Bekr in reply asked him whether he did not think the Meccan gods stocks and stones? — a question of doubtful appropriateness, it might seem, unless their services had been called in by the lover; but a conversation followed, whence Othman inferred that if he chose to declare the Meccan gods worthy of contempt and acknowledge that Mohammed had a mission to suppress them. Mohammed's daughter might still be his. Mohammed presently passed by. Abu Bekr whispered something into his ear and the affair was arranged. Othman became a believer and Rukayyah became his wife".1

The history of other cases is given by Muir, Margoliouth and Caetani and is based on reliable Arabic sources. Margoliouth generalizes perhaps too bluntly: "The skill of both Abu Bekr and the Prophet was displayed in retaining their hold on this slowly growing company. In the case of the poor it was done by subsidies; presently, when Islam was penalized, the Prophet found he had whole families on his hands; but we need not doubt that from the first the wealth which he controlled proved useful."2

"Like most of those who have known mankind thoroughly, Mohammed held, and at times all but openly avowed, the doctrine that every man has his price, and indeed a price to be estimated in camels,"3

In the Koran itself we have a striking passage that witnesses to this method of conversion during the early centuries and which has proved therefore a crux to Modernists in Islam. It occurs in the chapter on Repentance (Surah 9:60). Palmer translates it as follows: "Alms are only for the poor and needy, and those who work for them, and those whose hearts are reconciled, and those in captivity, and those in debt, and those who are on God's path, and for the wayfarer; — an ordinance this from God, for God is knowing, wise."

The translation given of the Arabic words al muallafah qulubuhum, (indicated in the passage underscored) is not altogether accurate. Lane's Arabic dictionary (Vol. I. p. 81) defines the words, with references to the standard Arabic lexicographers, as follows: —

"Those whose hearts are made to incline, or are conciliated, by beneficence and love or affection: (S, Msb:) as used in the Kur. (ix. 60), it is applied to certain chief persons of the Arabs, whom the Prophet was commanded to attract, or allure, and to present with gifts, (T. K.) from the poor-rates, (TA,) in order that they might make those after them desirous of becoming Muslims, (T. K.) and lest care for things which they deemed sacred, or inviolable, together with the weakness of their intentions, should induce them to combine in hostility with the unbelievers against the Muslims; for which purpose, he gave them, on the day of Honeyn, eighty (in the TA two hundred) camels: (T:) they were certain men of eminence, of the Arabs, to whom the Prophet used to give gifts from the poor-rates; to some of them, to prevent their acting injuriously; and to some, from a desire of their becoming Muslims (Mgh. Msb.) and their followers also (Msb); and to some, in order that they might remain steadfast as Muslims, because of their having recently become such; but when Aboo-Bekr became appointed to the government, he forbade this practice."

In the standard Arabic dictionary by Fairozabadi he gives a definition of the two words in question and adds a list of thirty-two chiefs who received presents from Mohammed "in order that they might become Moslems and so gain over their tribes." (Vol. III. page 118.)

Such a definition lands us in the center of two questions we would consider: namely, the circumstances that led to this special revelation and its result in Moslem law and practice as regards the use of religious taxes and benevolences, the zakat and the sadaqa.

The standard commentaries Beidhawi, (Vol I page 106) Al Khazin (Vol II page 253) and Tabari give a brief account of what occurred to justify this revelation. Further details are found in Ibn Hisham, the Musnad, the Isabah, in Al Jahiz, etc. We summarize the facts as given by Sir William Muir (Mahomet, Vol IV p. 149-153), and by Professor Margoliouth (Mohammed, p. 407 ff.). There can be no question that every statement is well documented. The full references can be found also in Caetani (Annali dell' Islam Vol. II. p. 183, 184, and 427; under 8 A. H. paragraph 164 and 10 A. H. paragraph 113).

It was after the siege of Taif when Mohammed's army was returning to Jirrana toward the end of February 630 A.D., that the Prophet was mobbed on account of a quarrel regarding the distribution of the booty. He had already mounted his camel and was proceeding to his tent, when the people, fearing lest the spoil, as well as the prisoners, should slip from their grasp, crowded round him with loud cries: "Distribute to us the booty, the camels and the flocks!" The crowd thronged him so closely and so rudely, that he was driven to seek for refuge under a tree. While thus pressed on every side, his mantle was torn from his shoulders. "Return to me my mantle, O man!" cried Mohammed, who had now secured a more free position. "Return my mantle: for I swear by the Lord that if the sheep and the camels were as many as the trees of the Tihama in number, I would divide them all amongst you. Ye have not heretofore found me niggardly or false." Then he plucked a hair from his camel's hump, and holding it aloft said: "Even to a hair like this, I shall not keep back aught but the fifth, and that, too, I give up unto you." The people were quieted and Mohammed went his way.

Shortly after he made good his promise and by princely liberality gained over the hearts of some of the leading chiefs of Mecca and of neighboring tribes. To those of the greatest influence, he presented each one hundred camels. Among them we find Abu' Sofian, with his two sons, Yazid and Mawia; Hakim Ibn Hizam, Safwan, Suheil, Huweitab, ‘Uyeina, and several others, who but a few weeks before were the Prophet's deadly enemies. To the lesser chiefs he gave fifty camels each (Caetani gives the names of thirty recipients). So liberal was he that, in some instances where discontent was expressed with the amount, the gift was without hesitation doubled.

Muir states that Abu Sofian and each of his sons received forty ounces of silver, and Hakim, with five others, a hundred camels each; six others received fifty camels each. This was wealth indeed for nomads! But such favors lavished on doubtful adherents gave offence to the older converts, "Thus one complained that such Bedouin chieftains as Acra and Uyeina received each one hundred camels, while a faithful believer like Jueil got nothing at all. ‘And what of that?’ replied the Prophet. ‘I swear that Jueil is the best man that ever stepped on earth, were it filled never so full with Acras and Uyeinas; but I wished to gain over the hearts of these men to Islam, while Jueil hath no need of any such inducement.’"

When the discontent became general and the citizens of Medina joined in it, Mohammed called the murmurers together and addressed them: "Ye men of Medina, it hath been reported to me that you are disconcerted, because I have given unto these chiefs largesses, and have given nothing to you. Now speak unto me. Did I not come unto ye whilst you were wandering, and the Lord gave you the right direction? — needy, and He enriched you? — at enmity amongst yourselves, and He hath filled your hearts with love and unity? Why are ye disturbed in mind because of the things of this life, wherewith I have sought to incline the hearts of those men unto Islam, whereas ye are already steadfast in your faith? Are ye not satisfied that others should obtain the flocks and the camels, while ye carry back the Prophet of the Lord unto your homes? No, I will not leave you ever. If all mankind went one way; and the men of Medina another way, verily I would go the way of the men of Medina. The Lord be favorable unto them, and bless them, and their sons and their Sons' sons for ever!" At these words all wept, till the tears ran down their beards; and they called out with one voice,— "Yea, we are well satisfied, O Prophet, with our lot!"

So Mohammed himself made no attempt apparently to hide the motive which impelled these munificent gifts. The chiefs who received them are referred to in the Koran as those whose hearts have been gained over; and they retained the appellation ever after.

We have the following additional information regarding the division of the spoils in Margoliouth's "Mohammed" (p. 407): "With regard to the property of the Hawazin, about the division of which there was to be no question, the Prophet took a hint from the willingness of the Medinese to sacrifice their worldly advantages. To them he gave nothing: instead he bestowed enormous gratuities on his former enemies, the chieftains of the Kuraish, such as Abu Sufyan and his sons, and the Banu Sulaim who had won the battle for him. While persons who had no faith were given one hundred camels apiece, others who were acknowledged to be the salt of the earth were told to find in faith its own reward (Isabah, i., 688). Nay, even the leader of the Hawazin, Malik, son of ‘Auf, was offered one hundred camels if he would turn Moslem: and the brave warrior was persuaded and joined the fold. The Prophet confessed with naive frankness that these presents were meant to confirm the new converts in their faith; as we have often seen, he never troubled himself about the motives which produced conviction. The motives which dictated this strange policy are hard to fathom: ill-gotten gains are consumed too quickly for us to suppose that he hoped to win the permanent gratitude of his former enemies by such bribes: perhaps the sour faces with which the Qurashites met the members of the Prophet's family made him devise a plan for saving his relatives from annoyance (Musnad, i., 207); perhaps he thought it all important to impress the Meccans with the magnificence of his gifts, as he had impressed them before with his regal state: and this, he knew, could safely be done at the expense of the Medinese — as indeed some professed to be convinced of his divine mission by his lavish munificence, which exceeded all human performance (Jahiz, Misers, 170); and casual visitors to Medinah were treated so handsomely that they could promise their tribesmen independence for life if they became Moslems. (Musnad, iii., 108.)"

It is on the verse in the Koran that was revealed under such circumstances that the law of zakat and sadaqa is based. Arabic authors use the latter word in two senses; sometimes as synonymous with zakat i.e., the legal poor-rate which is compulsory and fixed, sometimes, and more properly, in the sense of voluntary alms-giving. In Bukhari the two words are used indiscriminately (cf. article Sadaqa, Encyclop. of Islam by T. H. Weir). If there were any doubt as to the identity of the two terms it would be removed by the fact that in fiqh the six or seven classes of persons (some say eight) who are entitled to benefit by them are the same in each case. These classes are given as follows: the poor and needy, those engaged in the work of collecting and distributing the zakat, Moslem captives in enemies' hands, debtors, those engaged in holy war (jihad), travellers and, the class now under consideration, muallafah qulubuhum.

Al Ghazali (Ihya, Vol. I. p. 160) enumerates eight classes who may receive the legal-alms and describes his class four, muallafah qulubuhum as follows: "Those whose hearts are inclined towards Islam, that is the noble families who became Moslems from among their people and by the gift of zakat were firmly established in Islam (taqrirahum) and also to inspire others like them, or their followers with a desire for Islam (targhib)." Beidhawi plainly states that the portion given to a muallaf at that time, and later, was in order to increase the Moslem community. "When God had strengthened Islam and its numbers were increased there was no need for this provision and it was abrogated" (Vol. I. p. 106).

In Charles Hamilton's translation of El Hedaya (London, 1791, Vol. I. p. 53) it is stated that the law of giving money to those whose hearts incline to Islam "has ceased to operate, since the time of the Prophet, because he used to bestow zakat upon them as a bribe or gratuity to prevent them from molesting Mussulmans, and also to secure their occasional assistance; but when God gave strength to the faith, and to its followers, and rendered the Mussulmans independent of such assistance, the occasion of bestowing this gratuity upon them no longer remained; and all the doctors of law unite in this opinion."

But, on the contrary, it is evident that this custom of winning over converts to Islam by gift of money or property continued for many centuries.4 In the standard work on fiqh by Ibn Rushd Al Qartabi, who died 595 A.H., we read: "Finally the question arises whether those whose hearts are to be won over retained this right to our day or not, namely, that of receiving presents. Malik says this class no longer exists, but Al Shafi'i and Abu Hanifa, on the contrary, assert that the right of this class remains until now, if the Imam so advises and they are such men as the Imam is to try to win over to Islam."

"The reason for disagreement was on the question whether this custom was peculiar to the Prophet or a universal custom, both for him and for his people; and if it is a universal custom, whether it is permitted for the Imam to do this under all circumstances or in some circumstances only; that is, in case Islam is weak and not when Islam is strong. It is for this reason that Malik said: ‘There is no need to win them over now because Islam has grown strong.’ And this opinion as we have stated, was given for the general good. (Bidayet-al-Mujtahid.' Vol. I. p. 251)."

The New Islam, especially as represented by the Ahmadiya Movement, has its own rationalistic interpretation of the passage. Mohammed Ali, in his commentary on the Koran, published at Woking (page 411) gives this note in explanation of the text: "Muallafah qulubuhum" literally means those whose hearts are made to incline or conciliated. With, respect to preaching of religion, there is always, a class which is ready to listen. Expenses in connection with the arrangements to convey the truth to them are recognized here as a part of the necessary expenditure of the poor-rate. Ibn Abbas' suggestion that some Arab chiefs are meant is rejected by Razi."

The Shiah teaching on the subject is practically the same as that of the Sunnis. A. Querry (Droit Musulman, Recueil de lois concernant les musulmans schyites, Vol I. p. 157, l'Imprimerie Nationale, Paris, 1871), in speaking of zakat, and after enumerating the various classes says: "Les auxiliaires infidêles qui, en cas de guerre, combattent pour la cause musulmane, el molefet, composent la troisième categorie d'ayants droit au produde la taxe des pauvres. Tous les autres auxiliaires son exclus de toute participation a ce produit."

Juynboll (Handbuch des Islamischen Gesetzes, x 106) gives the eight classes of people to whom zakat may be paid according to the Shafi'i school and describes the fourth class as follows: "Those whose heart is inclined or whose hearts may be inclined; the Koran intends by them as we have indicated, the important people of Mecca. In law, the words are understood to mean people who have already been converted to Islam, but whose zeal for this religion is still weak; further important people whose conversion would have great influence upon others toward Islam and who must therefore be won over by gifts."

In a foot-note, Juynboll adds that owing to the use of the word in this passage (Surah 9:60), muallaf in Islam has become the common word for convert.

It is so used in Egypt of Copts or Jews who have turned Moslem. Their number is considerable every year. The practice of winning over converts by present (from the zakat) did not cease with Mohammed, but continued in the later history of Islam.6

The status of the tolerated cults was such in Egypt and all the Near East that "any member of the tolerated cults could at any moment join the dominant community by pronouncing the Moslem Creed" (Margoliouth's "Early Development of Islam" p. 99). In other words; they could pass from the tribute-paying to the zakat-receiving class — at least until their faith was firm. "The Chronicles of Islam record numerous cases of men who had obtained some promotion in the service of the state by their talents yielding to persuasion on the part of the sovereign to accept Islam in order to win their way to get higher honors" (Margoliouth's "Early Development of Islam' p. 132).

We can understand the present-day Moslem mentality better when we bear such facts in mind. Nor will we judge too harshly an enquirer who expects similar favors from Christians since he now belongs to the class of muallafah qulubuhum toward Christianity.

In conclusion we call attention to the context of this passage. From verse 58-64 the Prophet justifies his conduct by a direct appeal to God. Nowhere else in the Koran does Mohammed put himself on so high a level as the channel of inspiration. "They who injure the Apostle of God shall suffer grievous punishment do they not know that he who opposeth God and His Apostle shall without doubt be punished with the fire of hell and shall remain therein forever" (vs. 62-64). The eternal torment of hell for those who found fault with such a use of the public alms as we have pointed out!

As Dr. E. M. Wherry in his commentary (Vol. II. p. 298) remarks: "A Moslem sees nothing in this passage derogatory to Mohammed's character, because he believes that he was truly a prophet of God, and therefore judges that to oppose the Prophet is to oppose God. How our Christian apologists for Mohammed can exonerate their hero here we cannot imagine. Was he a prophet? Did he originate the language of this passage in his own mind, or did he receive it, as he pretended, directly from God, so that he was merely the mouth-piece of God? We are not aware that any of these admirers of Mohammed hold opinions consistent with such a claim. But if he be the author of the Koran, and if he be not a prophet, how can he be exonerated from blasphemy and imposture in the use of such language as this?"



1 Margoliouth's Mohammed p. 97.

2 Idem p. 113.

3 Idem. 113.

4 Cf. The story of the entrance of Islam into Tibet given by Dr. Francke in this number of our Quarterly.

The Muslim World, vol. 22: 1932, pp. 43-48.

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