Al-Riddah and the Muslim Conquest of Arabia

By Elias S. Shoufani

© 1973

The wars that the new state of Medina wages against tribes in the Arabian Peninsula, after the death of Muhammad, have been known traditionally as Hurub al-Riddah to denote an apostasy from Islam and forcible reconversion. The application of the term Riddah by the classical Muslim historians implied that Arabia was unified and completely converted to Islam before the Prophet's death. Because this legend has been contested by modern scholarship in its re-evaluation of Muhammad's political achievements, a thorough examination of the whole question of the Riddah -- as it is treated in the first sources -- has been rendered inevitable.

Dr. Shoufani's conclusions are the outcome of careful comparative study of the traditional sources in the light of modern criticism of these sources. Dr. Shoufani concludes that only some tribes of Najd deserve this unflattering epithet "Ahl al-Riddah," or apostates. Contrary to what Muslim historians have claimed of it, the Riddah was not a religious movement directed against Islam, the Muslims, or their beliefs: it was the Najdi trides' repudiation of their fiscal obligations to Medina, which they had unwillingly agreed to pay yearly in taxes. In fact, Arabia was far from being unified at the time of the Prophet's death. The appellation Riddah was carelessly extended by early story-tellers to cover all movements in Arabia which were antagonistic to Medina. Later, Muslim jurists adapted the facts to fit their legal discourse, thus giving their accounts a religious turn: and, after that, historians embraced the early jurists' interpretations.

Dr. Shoufani further holds -- contrary to current opinions that the Muslim armies fought the Wars of Apostasy first, then made their thrust into Syria -- that al-Riddah and the Arab Conquest Movement were one and the same operation. The Muslim armies were fighting on several fronts; this was made possible by recruiting the defeated tribes into the Muslim army and, with their help, furthering the conquest movement.

In a detailed analysis of the political forces then at work, Dr. Shoufani shows the tremendous influence of the Meccan aristocracy on the policies of Muhammad in his last two years, on his adoption of the northern strategy aimed at invading Syria, and later, on the election of Abu Bakr. Dr. Shoufani contents that there is a remarkable continuity in the motivational thrust behind the events in the early 7th century of Middle Eastern history.

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Product Details

  • Series: Heritage
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 188 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5in x 1.0in x 8.5in
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SKU# SP006027

  • PUBLISHED DEC 1973

    From: $17.96

    Regular Price: $23.95

    ISBN 9781487580995
  • PUBLISHED DEC 1973

    From: $17.96

    Regular Price: $23.95

Quick Overview

In a detailed analysis of the political forces then at work, Dr. Shoufani shows the tremendous influence of the Meccan aristocracy on the policies of Muhammad in his last two years, on his adoption of the northern strategy aimed at invading Syria, and later, on the election of Abu Bakr.

Al-Riddah and the Muslim Conquest of Arabia

By Elias S. Shoufani

© 1973

The wars that the new state of Medina wages against tribes in the Arabian Peninsula, after the death of Muhammad, have been known traditionally as Hurub al-Riddah to denote an apostasy from Islam and forcible reconversion. The application of the term Riddah by the classical Muslim historians implied that Arabia was unified and completely converted to Islam before the Prophet's death. Because this legend has been contested by modern scholarship in its re-evaluation of Muhammad's political achievements, a thorough examination of the whole question of the Riddah -- as it is treated in the first sources -- has been rendered inevitable.

Dr. Shoufani's conclusions are the outcome of careful comparative study of the traditional sources in the light of modern criticism of these sources. Dr. Shoufani concludes that only some tribes of Najd deserve this unflattering epithet "Ahl al-Riddah," or apostates. Contrary to what Muslim historians have claimed of it, the Riddah was not a religious movement directed against Islam, the Muslims, or their beliefs: it was the Najdi trides' repudiation of their fiscal obligations to Medina, which they had unwillingly agreed to pay yearly in taxes. In fact, Arabia was far from being unified at the time of the Prophet's death. The appellation Riddah was carelessly extended by early story-tellers to cover all movements in Arabia which were antagonistic to Medina. Later, Muslim jurists adapted the facts to fit their legal discourse, thus giving their accounts a religious turn: and, after that, historians embraced the early jurists' interpretations.

Dr. Shoufani further holds -- contrary to current opinions that the Muslim armies fought the Wars of Apostasy first, then made their thrust into Syria -- that al-Riddah and the Arab Conquest Movement were one and the same operation. The Muslim armies were fighting on several fronts; this was made possible by recruiting the defeated tribes into the Muslim army and, with their help, furthering the conquest movement.

In a detailed analysis of the political forces then at work, Dr. Shoufani shows the tremendous influence of the Meccan aristocracy on the policies of Muhammad in his last two years, on his adoption of the northern strategy aimed at invading Syria, and later, on the election of Abu Bakr. Dr. Shoufani contents that there is a remarkable continuity in the motivational thrust behind the events in the early 7th century of Middle Eastern history.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Series: Heritage
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 188 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5in x 1.0in x 8.5in
  • Author Information

    Dr. Elias S. Shoufani, who was born in Palestine, graduated from The Hebrew Univeristy in Jerusalem and obtained his Ph.D. in Oriental Studies from Princeton University. He is now teaching Middle Eastern History and Islamic Civilization at the University of Maryland at College Park.