The Warrior Prophet: Muhammad & War

The Warrior Prophet

Muhammad & War

Joel Hayward

Hardback

457 pages / Published: 2022

£30.00

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Given the Prophet Muhammad’s immense impact on history, surprisingly few books specifically analyze his understanding and employment of warfare as an economically, politically and socially transformational process, even though he was continuously at war for a decade and initiated around eighty armed missions, twenty-seven of which he led himself. Most Islamic biographies deal with this issue by using an understandable but insufficient logic: that because Muhammad, as the Messenger of Allah, was the ideal and paradigmatic human, he must have been an ideal and paradigmatic military commander. His successes flowed from his prophetic status and his moral perfection. Following this logic and wanting Muhammad’s behavior to conform to very modern ethical concepts and widespread (but not necessarily accurate) beliefs about the nature and conduct of war, the writers have inadvertently created a narrative which, in significant ways, departs from the account clearly and consistently revealed in the earliest extant Arabic sources. The writers’ narrative also removes the Prophet from his historical and cultural context and the realities of the harsh and competitive tribal society in which he lived.

Professor Joel Hayward sees this as an unhelpful explanatory tendency and believes that the modern depiction of the Prophet’s relationship with warfare -- which presents him as being rather antipathetic to war, indeed as virtually a pacifist who only fought reluctantly in self-defense -- cannot actually be sustained by an even-handed analysis of the early Islamic sources. A committed Muslim himself, Hayward agrees that Muhammad was a moral and decent man who saw peace as a highly desirable state in which humans should live and as a goal worth pursuing. Yet Hayward has approached the Prophet’s understanding and employment of warfare from a different vantage point. He has painstakingly scrutinized the earliest Arabic sources impartially according to the strict standards of historical inquiry in order to ascertain whether Muhammad’s actions, habits and methods can -- when understood within their original seventh-century stateless Arabian context -- provide any substantial and meaningful insights into the way that he understood and undertook warfare.

Hayward concludes that Muhammad was an astute, situationally aware and self-reflective man who created and communicated a believable strategic vision of a necessary and desirable future. That vision persuaded increasing numbers of people to follow him and risk everything willingly in the struggle to create the optimal conditions for their survival, security, and prosperity. In a competitive and conflictual environment with ubiquitous threats, warfare was necessary to make real the bold new world that he foresaw. Through original, meticulously researched and rigorous analysis, Hayward covers all the raids and campaigns and demonstrates that Muhammad correctly understood the necessity and utility of force and duly developed into an intuitive, effective and victorious military practitioner who developed and enforced a strict moral code so as to attain his goals whilst safeguarding the innocent. This engaging, accessible yet deeply scholarly book makes a major contribution to strategic and military analysis and to the Prophet’s biography.

Name

Joel Hayward

Country

United Kingdom

Biography

Professor Joel Hayward, ZDaF, BA, MA Hons, PhD, is a New Zealand-born British scholar and author who currently serves as Professor of Strategic Thought at the Rabdan Academy in the United Arab Emirates. The daily newspaper Al Khaleej called him “a world authority on international conflict and strategy”. Kirkus Reviews said that he “is undeniably one of academia’s most visible Islamic thinkers”. He is considered to be one of “the world’s five hundred most influential Muslims,” with his listing in the 2023 edition of The Muslim 500 noting that “he weaves together classical Islamic knowledge and methodologies and the source-critical Western historical method to make innovative yet carefully reasoned sense of complex historical issues that are still important in today’s world.” Hayward has earned ijazāt (teaching authorizations) in ʿAqīdah (Islamic theology) and Sīrah (the Prophet’s biography). He has held various academic leadership posts, including Director of the Institute for International and Civil Security at Khalifa University (UAE), Chair of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences (also at Khalifa University), Head of Air Power Studies at King’s College London, and Dean of the Royal Air Force College (both UK). He is the author or editor of eighteen books and major monographs and dozens of peer-reviewed articles, mainly in the fields of strategic studies, military history, the Islamic ethics of war and conflict, and Islamic (esp. seventh century) and western (esp. twentieth century) history. His best-selling books include a major analysis of German airpower during the Stalingrad campaign and a thematic investigation of Horatio Lord Nelson and his way of war. His recent books include Warfare in the Qurʾan (2012), War is Deceit: An Analysis of a Contentious Hadith on the Morality of Military Deception (2017), Civilian Immunity in Foundational Islamic Strategic Thought: A Historical Enquiry (2019), and The Leadership of Muhammad: A Historical Reconstruction. The latter won the prestigious prize of “Best International Non-Fiction Book” at the 2021 Sharjah International Book Awards. His newest book is The Warrior Prophet: Muhammad and War (2022). Professor Hayward has given strategic advice to political and military leaders in several countries, has given policy advice to prominent sheikhs, and was tutor to His Royal Highness Prince William, Prince of Wales. In 2011 he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and in 2012 he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. In 2016 he was named as the “Best Professor of Humanities and Social Sciences” at the Middle East Education Leadership Awards. Professor Hayward is also active in the literary arts and has published three books of fiction and four collections of Islamic poetry.

Title

The Warrior Prophet

Format(s)

Hardback

Edition

First

Pages

457

ISBN

9781800119802

Dimensions

156mm (H) x 234mm (W)

Reviews:
The Glory of Iqbal 1877-1938

"Thi is such a compelling and important book"

2023-01-28 09:39:28

I can't say this is an easy or quick book to read. It is over 460 detailed pages with a vast array of carefully built-up evidence presented on every page. But amazingly it answers major questions that I have wondered about for decades and which no other Islamic historian had managed to explain. Hayward is a professor of military strategy who has analyzed ancient, medieval, early modern, and modern warfare for thirty years and has published many important books on it. Now, following on from his fabulous book The Leadership of Muhammad, he has turned his considerable powers of analysis to the warfare of our beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. The professor is himself a devout Muslim, so we should not fear that this is another "Islam spread by the sword" type of book. It is certainly not. With meticulous research and a mastery of the classical Arabic sources, he has written a powerful and unique and entirely convincing explanation of why our beloved Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, used warfare as his method for creating (in a constantly lawless and conflict-torn tribal society) a safe, secure, and prosperous political entity capable of safeguarding and promoting the strict monotheism that he knew would save the various tribes not only from their ignorance, but also from hellfire. It is a major contribution to scholarship and I recommend it without any hesitation to both Muslims and non-Muslims. The former will learn very many things they had never known, and the latter, perhaps reading about him for the first time, will surely come to admire our Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, as a great and influential historical figure with qualities and a message that can enrich lives today.

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"Hayward's book is a trail-blazer"

2022-12-26 11:19:22

I waited a long to get this book, after seeing Professor Hayward on Paul William's YouTube podcast Blogging Theology and being amazed by the prof's really impressive knowledge of the Prophet's (saaw) life and the sources upon which our accounts are based. I finally received an advance copy through a colleague of the prof who is a bookseller in Sharjah. It was worth the wait. The prof approaches the life of the Prophet (saaw) sensitively and with deep and obvious respect, but also with unusual scholarly detachment. I say "usual" meaning that the prof is himself a devout Muslim who says that the best way for him to honour the Prophet is to be truthful, including about what the earliest sources reveal. As he writes in the introduction: "I am both a committed Muslim and a historian, which means three things: first, I believe Muhammad was the Prophet of the God in whom I believe; second, I accept the Qur'an as my book of divine guidance; and third, I believe my best likelihood of adequately and meaningfully explaining the events of Muhammad’s life is by employing the broadly agreed methodology of the discipline of history. By that, I mean critiquing and searching for meaning in the earliest extant sources for Muhammad’s life in a detached and dispassionate manner while remaining aware of the ways in which my religious beliefs have influenced my assumptions, values and biases." I knew this was Hayward's analytical approach. I had first encountered it in his prize-winning book, "The Leadership of Muhammad". It works wonders. Having read this new book, which is over 450 pages in length and took the prof eleven years to write, I am convinced that I have come closer to understanding the causes and nature of warfare in the Prophet's (saaw) life than I had ever imagined I could. Hayward reveals and explains both the similarities and differences between the accounts presented in the earliest Arabic sources, which he says are not scriptures like the Qur'an, but merely books of human origin that can be "interrogated" like any other literature. He nonetheless believes that they are capable of yielding a rather detailed account of the Prophet's (saaw) decade of warfare. With the hadiths also being judiciously used (the prof says that with "careful handling" the hadiths can provide very useful information indeed), that account is richly analytical. Hayward actually explains events that almost all writers merely describe. The big revelation for me is that the Prophet (saaw) sometimes went to war in an offensive not defensive mode, yet did so without the slightest wrongdoing. He summarizes his position, which he develops carefully and persuasively throughout his book, like this: "As this book will show, offensive warfare was not always seen as wrong — indeed, it was commonly seen in the ancient world as a glorious and praiseworthy way of achieving lofty societal goals — and Muhammad conducted numerous offensive attacks without the slightest immorality in doing so." I had never read it explained like this before. We are used to repeating a rather trite line that his campaigns were only defensive, a position we Muslims have been energetically shouting to the world to counter the damage done by terrorists and jihadist throughout recent decades. Hayward explains further: "Lest any readers still feel uncomfortable with the knowledge that Muhammad initiated many offensive missions, it is worth re-emphasizing that in both the Islamic concept of the Jihad and its western counterpart, Just War, there is no immorality automatically attached to the offensive and no goodness automatically attached to the defensive. This is merely a popular misconception. What might we think, for example, about Nazi soldiers defending themselves from outside attack in a death camp where they had been killing innocent Jews? That their defensive status made them just? What might we think of the attackers who initiated an offensive to destroy them? That their aggression made them unjust? This is an extreme case, of course, to demonstrate the point. But history reveals countless examples of military forces initiating offensive operations against opponents for manifestly just reasons, and of defenders who were ordinarily militarily passive yet involved in oppressive or cruel behaviour against their own or other people." Hayward's book is a trail-blazer. I understand from his Blogging Theology podcast that he's now at work on Muhammad and Diplomacy. He says that the Prophet (saaw) was a truly "masterful" diplomat, even better in that realm than he was at war. I can't wait to read that book too.

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