The Stated Motivations for the Early Islamic Expansion (622–641)

A Critical Revision of Muslims’ Traditional Portrayal of the Arab Raids and Conquests

by Ayman S. Ibrahim (Author)
©2018 Monographs XXIV, 242 Pages


What motivated the early Islamic conquests? Did the Arabs fight for Allah, or for wealth and dominance? Were the conquerors principally Arabs, or specifically Muslims? Were the Muslim believers motivated by religious zeal to proclaim Islam to the non-Muslims? Consequently, was Islam spread by the sword? This is a question that has crucial implications today.
The Stated Motivations for the Early Islamic Expansion (622–641) extensively analyzes the earliest Arabic Muslim sources to answer these and other questions. It relies on over 400 works, including primary sources written by more than 90 medieval Muslim authors, Sunni, Shiite, Sufi, and Mu’tazilite. It explores how medieval Muslim writers represented the early Arab leaders, and how much we can trust their reports. It concludes with an examination of the Qur’ān’s commands regarding fighting and armed jihad, and questions what later commentators suggest about fighting the non-Muslims, specifically how radical Muslim interpretations match or violate Islam’s sacred scripture.
This is the first scholarly analysis to focus on the stated motivations for the early Islamic expansion in the first two decades of Islam. It is a valuable resource for courses on Muslim history, introduction to Islam, Islamic origins and texts, classical and modern Islamic thought, Muhammad’s biography, Islamic Caliphates, Muslim-Christian relations, Jews in the Muslim world, Middle Eastern history, and world history. In the age of ISIS, Qaeda, and Boko Haram, this book reflects on how historiographical accounts can inform today’s multi-cultural and multi-religious societies on complex relations, mutual respect, and religious coexistence.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • Advance Praise for The Stated Motivations for the Early Islamic Expansion (622–641)
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • System of Transliteration
  • Notes on the Text
  • Definitions of Terms
  • Primary Source Authors in Chronological Order
  • Modern and Contemporary Muslim Authors That Appear in the Study
  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter One: Introduction
  • Traditional Muslim Approach to Maghāzī and Futūḥ: Essential Background
  • Research Rationale
  • The Research Problem
  • Central Phrase of the Research: Religious Motivation
  • Demarcations of the Research
  • Research Plan, Structure, and Outline
  • Sources and Source Problems: The Crisis of Islamic Studies
  • Research Methodology
  • The Qur’ān
  • The Historical Accounts
  • Notes
  • Works Cited
  • Primary Islamic Sources
  • Arabic Secondary Studies
  • Secondary Studies: Muslim and Non-Muslim
  • Online Resources
  • Chapter Two: Review of Precedent Literature
  • Muslim and Non-Muslim Approaches to the Muslim Sources
  • The Qur’ān
  • Historical Writings: Rise and Development Among the Muslims
  • Source Problems in the Historical Writings: The Crisis of Islamic Studies
  • Arabic Primary Sources Used in This Study: A Survey
  • Muhammad’s Life and Raids: Sīra and Maghāzī
  • Early Muslim Conquests: Futūḥ Literature
  • Early Muslim Histories: Ta’rīkh Literature
  • More Early Muslim Sources
  • Motivations for the Conquests in the Secondary Literature
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Works Cited
  • Primary Islamic Sources
  • Arabic Secondary Studies
  • Secondary Studies: Muslim and Non-Muslim
  • Online Resources
  • Chapter Three: Muhammad’s Maghāzī and Their Stated Motivations: A Critical Revision of Sīrat Rasūl Allāh
  • Traditional Muslim Approach to Muhammad’s Maghāzī
  • Muhammad’s Raids After the Hijra and Before Badr
  • The Battle of Badr
  • The Battle of Uḥud
  • The Conquest of Mecca
  • Political Situation Between Uḥud and fatḥ Mecca
  • Banū al-Naḍīr
  • The Battle of the Trench
  • Banū Qurayẓa
  • The Raid to Khaybar and Fadak
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Works Cited
  • Primary Islamic Sources
  • Arabic Secondary Studies
  • Secondary Studies: Muslim and Non-Muslim
  • Chapter Four: The Stated Motivations for the Early Futūḥ: From Maghāzī to Futūḥ Through the Ridda Wars: A Critical Revision
  • Precursors of the Early Arab Conquests
  • The Appointment of Abū Bakr at the Saqīfa of Banū Sācida
  • The Ridda Wars
  • Usāma’s Expedition to Syria
  • Khālid’s Expedition to Iraq
  • The Conquest of Syria
  • Al-Azdī al-Baṣrī (d. ca. 165/781)
  • Al-Wāqidī (d. ca. 207/823)
  • Al-Balādhurī (d. ca. 279/892)
  • Al-Yaᶜqūbī (d. 248/897) and al-Ṭabarī (d. 310/923)
  • Critical Observations on the Motivations for Futūḥ al-Shām
  • The Stated Motivation of Abū Bakr
  • The Possible Violation of the Qur’ān
  • The Reported Deeds of Some Commanders
  • The Three Options Given to the Conquered People
  • The Apparent Conspiracy Behind Abū Bakr’s Death and Burial
  • The Conquest of Egypt
  • Ibn ᶜAbd al-Ḥakam (d. 257/871)
  • Al-Balādhurī (d. ca. 279/892)
  • Al-Yaᶜqūbī (d. 248/897)
  • Al-Ṭabarī (d. 310/923)
  • Critical Observations on the Motivations for Fatḥ Miṣr
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Works Cited
  • Primary Islamic Sources
  • Non-Islamic Sources
  • Arabic Secondary Studies
  • Secondary Studies: Muslim and Non-Muslim
  • Online Resources
  • Chapter Five: Jihad and Qitāl as the Qur’ān Sees Them: Exegeting Islam’s Scripture
  • Exegeting Islam’s Scripture: Jihad and Qitāl in the Qur’ān
  • The Qur’ān on Confrontation with Non-Muslims
  • Jihad and Qitāl in the Qur’ān
  • Kāfirūn and Kuffār
  • Ahl al-kitāb
  • Alladhīn ūtū al-kitāb
  • Fī sabīl Allāh
  • Exegeting the Qur’ān: How Does It All Fit Together?
  • Muslim Mufassirūn on Jihad and Qitāl in the Qur’ān: An Analysis
  • Six Muslim Mufassirūn
  • Fight in Self-Defense and Do Not Attack: Is the Qur’ān Sufficient?
  • No Compulsion in Religion: Yes, but When and How?
  • Fight Them Until There Is No Opposition
  • Fight the People of the Book
  • No Fighting: You Have Your Religion, and I Have Mine
  • Conclusion: The Conflict Between the Qur’ān and Its Commentators
  • Notes
  • Works Cited
  • Primary Islamic Sources
  • Arabic Secondary Studies
  • Secondary Studies: Muslim and Non-Muslim
  • Online Resources
  • Chapter Six: Conclusion
  • Series index

| xi →

System of Transliteration

The transliteration system followed in this project is for the most part the one used by the International Journal of Middle East Studies (IJMES) transliteration guide. See their website http://web.gc.cuny.edu/ijmes/pages/transliteration.html for the complete guidelines. I use the English terms known for various Arabic words without transliteration (e.g., jihad, Prophet Muhammad, etc.). I do not use Anglicized plurals, but rather the fully transliterated words (aādīth instead of adīths). The initial hamza is always dropped, and the Arabic definite article (al-) is lowercase everywhere unless it is the first word in a sentence. The Arabic tā’ marbūa is rendered “a” not “ah” (arabiyya instead of arabiyyah), which also refers to the way of rendering the nisba ending. Proper Arabic names are transliterated but not italicized. The short vowels are (a for fata, i for kasra, and u for amma). The long vowels are (ā for alif, ū for wāw, and ī for yā’). The diphthongs are (ay and aw).

| xiii →

Notes on the Text

Definitions of Terms

Ahl al-kitāb and alladhīn ūtū al-kitāb: Two Qur’ānic terms refer to the People of the Book or Scripture People, probably Christians and Jews.

Anār: The term refers to the locals of Medina known as the supporters of Muhammad. They believed his message, and helped him and his followers after their emigration from Mecca. Cf. muhājirūn and hijra.

Asbāb al-nuzūl: The term is related to the Qur’ān and means occasions or reasons for the revelations. These are exegetical reports developed by Medieval Muslim writers explaining the context, location, and time of the revelation of a specific Qur’ānic verse or passage. The literary genre began to flourish by the 5th/11th century.

Believers: The term, throughout this study, refers to the early followers of the Prophet Muhammad. It better describes them as members of his community, in contrasts with “Muslims.”

Futū: These are the military conquests conducted by the Arab commanders after Muhammad’s death during the Caliphate period. The term also refers to the written traditions (futū literature) that deal with the military expeditions. This Arabic term describes the conquests as act of “opening” and liberating the conquered lands.

!adīth: This is a report of a saying, teaching, or deed attributed to a religious figure, particularly the Prophet Muhammad. Its plural form is aādīth, which are compiled in sets by various Muslim compilers. ← xiii | xiv →

Hijra: This refers to the emigration of Muhammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina. It took place in the year 622 in the Julian calendar, which was later adopted by the second Caliph Umar as the starting year of the Muslim lunar calendar known as Hijri dating.

Kāfirūn: This is a plural form of kāfir, which means an infidel, faithless, or unbeliever. Other plural forms are kuffār and kafara.

Maghāzī: This term refers to the raids, incursions, or expeditions organized, led, or commissioned by Muhammad after he emigrated from Mecca to Medina. It also refers to Muhammad’s life generally. This term was later developed to sīra (biography). The noun maghāzī is plural of ghazwa. Its verbal form is ghazā, which means to invade.

Mufassirūn (sg. Mufassir): This refers to Muslim exegetes of the Qur’ān.

Muaddithūn (sg. muaddith): The transmitters or scholars of adīth; experts in traditions, and thus traditionists.

Muhājirūn: These are the Meccan emigrant Believers, who were the earliest to believe in Muhammad’s message. Under the hostile persecution of the pagan Meccans, they were forced to leave their homes and emigrate with Muhammad to Medina, in the event called the hijra.

Munāfiqūn (sg. Munāfiq): The term refers to “lukewarm Believers” or “uncommitted Muslims,” yet commonly translated “hypocrites.”

Mushrikūn (sg. Mushrik): The term is best translated as associaters, those associating partners with Allah. It is commonly understood as polytheists.

Sīra: This means biography, especially when linked to Muhammad. Linguistically, the word refers to behavior, deeds, and conduct.

abaqāt (sg. abaqa): Classes or generations of the Believers.

Tafsīr: The word means “explanation,” and refers to a commentary on the Qur’ān, or more generally the branch of Qur’ānic commentary within the Islamic sciences.

Ta’rīkh: The term refers to historiography, which is writing about the past. It is the literary genre that represents what Muslims believe to have happened in their tārīkh (past).

Traditionalists: The term throughout this study usually refers to Muslims adopting a traditional and mostly conservative approach towards Islamic origins. When used in relation to non-Muslim authors, it similarly refers to those who are more likely to view the sources as authentic.

Umma: The term refers to the community of Muhammad’s followers, signifying their unity through the ideological bond of their faith.

Primary Source Authors in Chronological Order

Sulaym Ibn Qays (d. 76/695)

Mujāhid ibn Jabr (d. ca. 104/722)

Ibn Shihāb al-Zuhrī (d. 124/741)

Mūsā ibn Uqba (d. 141/758)

Abū amza al-Thumālī al-Shīī (d. 148/767)

Ibn Isāq (d. 150/767) ← xiv | xv →

Muqātil ibn Sulaymān (d. 150/767)

Sufyān al-Thawrī (d. 161/778)

Azdī al-Barī (d. ca. 165/781)

Sayf Ibn Umar (d. ca. 180/796)

Abdullah ibn al-Mubārak (d. 181/797)

Ibn al-asan al-Shaybānī (d. ca. 184/805)

Abū Isāq al-Fazārī (d. after 185/802)

Yayā ibn Ādam al-Qurashī (d. 203/818)

Ibn al-Kalbī (d. 204/819)

Abū Abdullāh al-Shāfiī (d. 204/820)

Muammad ibn Umar al-Wāqidī (d. ca. 207/823)

Abd al-Razzāq al-anānī (d. 211/744)

Abd al-Malik ibn Hishām (d. ca. 218/833)

Abā Ubayd al-Qāsim ibn Sallām (d. 224/837)

Muammad ibn Sad (d. 230/844)

Muammad ibn Sallām al-Jumaī (d. 231/845)

Muab ibn Abdullāh al-Zubayrī (d. 236/851)

Khalīfa ibn Khayyā (d. 240/854)

ārith al-Muāsibī (d. 243/857)

Ibn abīb al-Baghdādī (d. 245/860)

amīd ibn Zanjawayh (d. 251/865)

Muammad ibn Ismāīl al-Bukhārī (d. 256/870)

Ibn Abd al-akam (d. 257/871)

Muammad al-Fal ibn Shādhān (d. 260/874)

Imām Muslim (d. 261/874)

Umar ibn Shabba (d. 262/875)

Abū Dāwūd al-Sijistānī (d. 275/889)

Ibn Qutayba al-Dīnawarī (d. 276/889)

Yaqūb ibn Sufyān al-Fasawī (d. 277/890)

Abū Īsā al-Tirmidhī (d. 279/892)

Amad ibn Yayā al-Balādhurī (d. ca. 279/892)

Abū Zura al-Dimashqī (d. 281/894)

Abū anīfa Dīnawarī (d. ca. 282/895)

Ibn Hilāl al-Thaqafī al-Shīī (d. 283/896)

Sahl al-Tustarī al-ūfī (d. ca. 283/896)

Ibn Wāi al-Yaqūbī (d. 284/897)

Ibn Abī Āim (d. 287/900)

Nuaym ibn ammād al-Marūzī (d. 288/901)

Abū Abdullāh Ibn al-arīs (d. 294/906)

Abdullāh ibn al-Mutaz (d. 296/908)

Ibn Khuradādhbih (d. ca. 299/912)

Abū al-asan al-Qummī (d. after 307/919)

Abū Jafar al-abarī (d. 310/923)

Abū Isāq al-Zajjāj (d. 311/924) ← xv | xvi →

Ibn Atham al-Kūfī (d. ca. 314/926)

Abū Bakr al-Rāzī (d. ca. 311/925)

Abū Jafar al-Kulaynī (d. ca. 328/939)

Ibn Abd Rabbih (d. 328/940)

Abū Muammad ibn Yaqūb al-Hamdānī (d. 334/945)

Al-Shaykh al-ūlī (d. 335/947)

Abū al-asan al-Masūdī (d. 345/956)

Ibn al-Faqīh (d. 4th/10th century)

Abū Isāq al-Iakhrī al-Balkhī (d. 350/961)

Ibn ibbān (d. 354/965)

Abū al-Shaykh al-Abahānī (d. 369/979)

Ibn al-Nadīm (d. ca. 385/995)

Abū al-asan al-Sharīf al-Raī (d. ca. 406/1015)

Abd al-Malik Abū Sad al-Kharkūshī (d. 407/1016)

Al-Shaykh al-Mufīd (d. 413/1022)

Abd al-Jabbār al-Hamadhānī al-Mutazilī (d. 415/1025)

Ibn Ibrāhīm al-Thalabī (d. 427/1035)

Abū Nuaym al-Ifahānī (d. 430/1038)

Abū al-Abbās al-Najāshī (d. 450/1058)

Abū Bakr al-Bayhaqī (d. 458/1066)

Muammad al-ūsī (d. 460/ 1068)

Ibn Abd al-Barr (d. 463/1071)

Abū al-Qāsim al-Qushayrī (d. 465/1072)

Abū al-asan al-Wāidī (d. 468/1076)

Amad al-Sarakhasī (d. 490/1097)

Abū āmid al-Ghazālī (d. 505/1111)

Abū al-Qāsim al-Zamakhsharī (d. 538/1144)

Ibn al-asan al-abarsī (d. 548/1153)

Abd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī (d. 561/1166)

Abd al-Ramān al-Suhaylī (d. 581/1185)

Ibn Qudāma al-Maqdisī (d. 620/1223)

Yāqūt al-amawī (d. 627/1229)

Abū al-asan Ibn al-Athīr (d. 630/1233)

Sulaymān ibn Mūsā al-Kalāī (d. 634/1237)

Abū Abdullāh al-Qurubī (d. 671/1273)

Abdullāh al-Bayāwī (d. 685/1286)

Ibn al-Muahhar al-illī (d. 726/1325)

Ibn Taymiyya (d. 728/1328)

Shams al-Dīn al-Dhahabī (d. 748/1348)

alā al-Dīn al-afadī (d. 764/1363)

Ibn Kathīr (d. 774/1373)

Ibn Khaldūn (d. 808/1406)

Majd al-Dīn al-Fīrūzābādī (d. 818/1415) ← xvi | xvii →

Taqī al-Dīn al-Maqrīzī (d. 845/1442)

Ibn ajar al-Asqalānī (d. 852/1448)

Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūī (d. 911/1505)

Modern and Contemporary Muslim Authors That Appear in the Study

Muammad ibn Abd al-Wahhāb (1703–1792), Saudi

Rashīd Riā (1865–1935), Lebanese

Muammad ussayn Haykal (1888–1956), Egyptian

Abbās Mamūd al-Aqqād (1889–1964), Egyptian

āhā usayn (1889–1973), Egyptian

Mamūd Abū Rayya (1889–1970), Egyptian

Khayr al-Dīn al-Ziriklī (1893–1976), Lebanese

Muammad Abd al-Laīf Ibn al-Khaīb (1900–1981), Egyptian

Muammad usayn al-abāabā’ī (1904–1981), Iranian

Sayyid Abū al-Alā Mawdūdī (1903–1979), Indian

Umar Riā Kaāla (1905–1987), Syrian

Sayyid Qub (1906–1966), Egyptian

Jawwād Alī (1907–1987), Iraqi

usayn Mu’nis (1911–1996), Egyptian

Muammad Mitwallī al-Sharāwī (1911–1998), Egyptian

Muammad Yūsuf al-Kāndahlawī (1917–1965), Indian

Abd al-Azīz al-Dūrī (1919–2010), Iraqi

Amad Ibrāhīm al-Sharīf (1926–), Egyptian

Yūsuf al-Qaraāwī (1926–), Egyptian

Muammad Arkūn (1928–2010), Algerian French

Khalīl Abd al-Karīm (1930–2002), Egyptian

Ilyās Shūfānī (1932–2013), Palestinian

Hādī al-Alawī (1933–1998), Iraqi

Zaghloul el-Naggar (1933–), Egyptian

Hichem Djait (1935–), Tunisian

Muammad Ābid al-Jābrī (1936–2010), Moroccan

Abdallāh ibn Amad al-Qādirī (1937–), Yemeni

Abd al-Hādī Abd al-Ramān (1930s–)

Muammad Khayr Haykal (1941–), Syrian

afī al-Ramān al-Mubārakpūrī (1943–2006), Indian

Nar āmid Abū Zayd (1943–2010), Egyptian

Alī al-Kūrānī al-Āmilī (1944–), Lebanese

Jafar Murtaā al-Āmilī (1945–), Lebanese

Azīz al-Azmeh (1947–), Syrian ← xvii | xviii →

Sayyid Mamūd al-Qimany (1947–), Egyptian

Sheikh Alī Juma (1951–), Egyptian

Samī ibn Abdullāh al-Maghlūth (1963–), Saudi

Rāghib al-Sirjānī (1964–), Egyptian

| xix →


I never thought I would work on a Ph.D., nor write a dissertation—let alone that it would investigate Islamic Studies, or precisely Islamic History. Just consider the obvious: my bachelor degree is in electrical engineering, with an emphasis on electronics and telecommunications. Looking back on my career and how I came thus far, now working on a second Ph.D. focusing on Islamic History (again), I am grateful for the family, friends, teachers, and others who have generously helped, supported, and encouraged me. Getting a Ph.D. and writing a dissertation can hardly be done alone. This is why I sit down and write with joy about those who sacrificially loved and supported me. I fear that I have unintentionally overlooked some who have helped me, but I am truly thankful and indebted to you.

I was born in a majority-Muslim country, Egypt, and have many Muslim friends. My journey toward a Ph.D. began in 2008 at the suggestion of three professors who noticed my love for teaching: Keith Eitel (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary), Martin Accad (Institute of Middle East Studies), and Elie Haddad (Arab Baptist Theological Seminary). Their suggestion was the triggering signal for me to consider pursuing this painstaking degree. My parents’ loving support propelled me forward, even though this undertaking meant I would need to remain in the United States instead of with them in Egypt. Although my dad did not live to see me hold my Ph.D. diploma, I am certain he would have been proud ← xix | xx → of his son. I imagine him telling his repeated jokes about how crazy I was to turn down his business career as an artistic carpenter to follow my piles of books.


XXIV, 242
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (January)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2018. XXIV, 242 pp.

Biographical notes

Ayman S. Ibrahim (Author)

Ayman S. Ibrahim, Ph.D., was born and raised in Egypt. He has taught in various countries within the Muslim world, and in the West at undergraduate and graduate levels. He is currently working on his second Ph.D. in the Department of Middle Eastern History at the University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, and is examining conversion to Islam in the earliest Muslim period. In addition, he is Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at Southern Seminary and Director of the Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam. His articles on Islam and Christian-Muslim relations have appeared in the Washington Post, Religion News Services, Colorado Springs Gazette, Louisville Courier-Journal, First Things, Faith Street, Charisma News, Evangelical Interfaith Dialogue Journal, Ethics Daily, among others.


Title: The Stated Motivations for the Early Islamic Expansion (622–641)
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