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

9781800110045

Dimensions

156mm (H) x 234mm (W)

Reviews:
The Glory of Iqbal 1877-1938

"An engaging masterpiece"

2024-05-02 04:48:42

What a book! A new kind of work that sheds light on the Prophet's engagement in war (as that was the context of his time and place), something many, for one reason or another, have avoided talking about. Just like his previous books, this is definitely an engaging and thought-provoking work by Dr. Hayward. I sure recommend it.

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" The importance of evidence-based history"

2024-05-02 04:48:02

I never thought that someone could persuade me that war is not by definition a bad thing and that it can even be necessary. Well, Professor Joel Hayward has achieved this mind shift with his pragmatic and considered presentation of the nature of war in 7th-century Arabia in his book The Warrior Prophet.
I will admit the idea of the pacifist Prophet is appealing to me but as we will discover through the comprehensive investigation and references to Islamic sources by Professor Hayward the Prophet was not this and he was one of the most strategic warriors of his time, perhaps even of all time. What was particularly challenging from the usual narratives we are used to hearing of the Prophet when entering what was then Yathrib, was how he did so without too much trouble and going on relatively smoothly to build the new Medina. Wrong! What was glaringly obvious throughout the book was the monumental nature of what the Prophet faced in the re-named Medina in asserting his leadership, authority and attempts to create cohesion between the diverse tribes embedded in their individuality and ever ready to start a conflict. What was a particularly difficult read was that he would continue to use some of the strategies of war that might seem abhorrent to us today but were the norm in those days, the taking of women and children as slaves being one of them. I did find this difficult and really had to step back from my personal biases, prejudices and over simplistic view of this time in order to really understand what was behind all of the Prophet’s actions. He had to be taken seriously within the codes of his time as a leader, a tribal chief and a warrior capable of being the victor and therefore to be taken seriously – who would willingly want to be in his shoes?
I mean, where does even a divinely guided Prophet start when facing such an enormous task? One thing is clear, it is not good enough to be satisfied with saying that the Prophet had God on his side because he himself would frequently say that he was a Prophet, but he was also human and a phrase he often used was "But I am (only) human". Reading about the very real challenges he faced and how he grew in both his defensive and offensive strategies is a masterclass in showing the depth of understanding the Prophet had. This included the very complex nature of the Arabian tribal system, the sensitive nature of honour and pride, rules of engagement, alliances, ideas of reward and punishment and most importantly the actual nature of conflict and war in his time. As Professor Hayward explains in 7th-century Arabia to be at war was the default position unless there was an agreement in place between tribes. But he was on a mission and had both God on his side and his own personal intelligence, integrity and wisdom?
What is also clear and something that I found interesting was that the Prophet as the leader of a new governance that required him to be taken seriously did not overturn the old system but introduced into it new elements with a focus on monotheism and obedience. Concepts such as bay’a and shura were highly esteemed pre-Islamic Arabia and the Prophet didn’t discard these values but integrated them into the new system he was building shifting the context to reference God and not human self-interest. The way the Prophet engaged in shura really affected my heart and I was mesmerised by his humility when listening to others, validating their knowledge, taking on board their wisdom sometimes contrary to his own views and he didn’t make any major decisions without referring to the wider group. Having myself had so many negative experiences of engaging in attempts of ‘shura’ with Muslims I could feel my adrenaline flow with an appreciation of how it is done the right way!
The Warrior Prophet is primarily a book that investigates the nature of the wars the Prophet engaged in differentiating between the custom of raids and full-on conflict – an extremely interesting difference which is excellently explained. But while I found all of this very interesting, I was much more interested in the insight this book gave into the times of the Prophet, the psychology of how the tribal system worked, the intense depth of understanding, foresightedness and the enormity of what the Prophet faced – in fact I was elevated, saddened, tormented and overwhelmed while reading the extreme difficulties of what was involved. As Professor Hayward makes clear that the focus of this book is war and the Prophet as a strategic warrior within it but it is much more than this.
The question that some may be wondering is what about the issue of women in all of this? I did consider this while reading the book as the only real reference to women as spoils of war and becoming enslaved. But I had to keep reminding myself of what Professor Hayward said very clearly in his introduction that the focus of this book was about the warrior Prophet. In order to do this, it was necessary for him not to go off on tangents to explain things that would distract the reader and which needs other arenas for discussion. But as someone very much interested in the issue of women at the time of the Prophet this book gave me an important insight into the patriarchal and even misogynistic nature of the times in which the Prophet lived. Only by understanding this much better can we really try and consider issues of where the Quran and the Prophetic sunnah refer specifically and only to address the times in 7th century Arabia and what are the universal values that we can try to understand to apply to all times. This is definitely not an easy task and what I have become very clear about is that recreating 7th century Arabia is not what is being asked of us by either the Quran or the Sunnah.
I really recommend this book if you want to understand the many challenges the Prophet faced as a leader and a warrior, but it will give you much more than this as it also very meticulously gives the reader an in-depth understanding of the nature of historical sources – I certainly learnt a lot from this and it clarified many things that I previously struggled with though it also left many questions for me to continue to try and understand further.

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"Great read. Highly recommended"

2024-05-02 04:47:26

I would recommend this read to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It’s very insightful and thought provoking, especially in this period in time, and Joel clearly shows his expertise in the fields of history and war.

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" One of the best books I have read"

2024-05-02 04:47:06

I saw this book recommended on the blogging theology and the nature and premise of the book immediately caught my attention. And. Alhamdulliah it did this is one of the best books I have read. A must read for every Muslim.

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"Original, analytical and informative"

2023-08-05 16:35:50

Certainly a great book with very important insights based on many years of careful research in the Classical Arabic sources. I was so impressed I also bought extra copies for my father and an uncle. They loved it too.

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"Delivery"

2023-07-10 12:21:59

Can it be delivered to India?

"Very important book full of evidence-based insights"

2023-05-29 04:28:18

It took me over a month to read this very comprehensive book of nearly 500 pages, but the effort rewarded me with a great amount of knowledge about Rasoolullah (saaw) that I did not previously have and I now have answers to some of the questions that had long confused me. Clarity has replaced my confusion and I now understand why Rasoolullah (saaw) resorted to military force and how he did so without every becoming unjust. Prof Hayward shows that we have allowed twentieth century values (and now 21st century values) to distort the way we see the past. We project our current values and worldviews back onto the past, and we assume that society is essentially the same. Seventh-century Arabia was actually extremely different to today. Prof Hayward makes this point in his YouTube podcasts too. By understanding the constantly competitive tribal nature of seventh-century Arabia, we can understand the ubiquitous role that warfare played. If Rasoolullah (saaw) had not fought, with a passionate desire for success (and skills to match), Islam could not have survived in that cutthroat and competitive environment in which warfare was the default setting, rather than peace being the norm as it is now. I really loved this brilliantly researched book, and will doubtless dip into it time and time again in coming years. I am sure that this very important book will become essential reading for anyone who loves the seerah.

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"A very insightful book "

2023-04-10 11:20:02

I never thought that someone could persuade me that war is not by definition a bad thing and that it can even be necessary. Well, Professor Joel Hayward has achieved this mind shift with his pragmatic and considered presentation of the nature of war especially in the times before modern weaponry.
From the first time I watched Professor Hayward on Blogging Theology, I was intrigued by his insightfulness, in-depth research and presentation of 7th-century Arabia. Listening to his interviews and then going on to read his books pushed me to want to investigate further. Perhaps most importantly what he has done for me is to make me question my personal biases and partiality in regard to the context and challenges the Prophet faced. I will admit the idea of the pacifist Prophet is appealing but as we will discover through the writings of Professor Hayward that he was not this and he was one of the most strategic warriors of his time, perhaps even of all time.
I think reading Professor Hayward’s book ‘The Leadership of the Prophet’ is an important pre-requisite to ‘The Warrior Prophet’. In this book the character and personality of the Prophet and how he shaped his leadership to manage the diverse and disparate followers he was guiding gives depth to the warrior and tribal leader he was to become. And yes, he was exactly this, a leader of a new governance that required him to be taken seriously and work with the old system while also implementing something new. This is definitely something I had not considered previously.
Professor Hayward, as a professor of strategic thinking, is best placed to investigate and offer his perspectives on the Prophet as a strategic warrior which he does brilliantly through The Warrior Prophet. I think what I have learnt by reading this book is that the Prophet saw war as a necessary evil and contrary to popular explanations he did not just engage in defensive wars. He did in fact engage in both offensive and defensive wars and even condoned certain practices such as raiding which was a norm of tribal cultures. Something else I had not considered before.
There are so many facets to the Prophet’s character, life and most importantly the roles he needed to play and we cannot, therefore, dismiss the importance of his role as a ‘warrior Prophet’ because it doesn’t appeal to our modern sensitivities. So, thank you Professor Hayward for your courageousness in addressing this controversial subject matter and one that is particularly important in our modern times where too often the idea and justification of war is so inappropriately exploited using both the Quran and the Sunnah.

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"A powerful analysis of the Prophet's mastery of warfare that emphasizes his devotion to Allah, his passion for social justice, and his gift for what we now call politics"

2023-04-10 02:44:50

I've been on a quest to learn more about Islam and read all major new works, especially those dealing with the origins of the religions. Karen Armstrong's biography of the Prophet sits at the forefront of popular books on how Muhammad created what soon came to be known as Islam. But even she was not able to explain how and why Muhammad used warfare, both raiding and pitched battles, as his method of protecting the religion in its infancy and creating a safe space for it to grow. Joel Hayward answers that question in a very detailed and carefully researched book that shows that Muhammad drew upon the norms of seventh century Arabia to create a tightly cohesive society and meet its material needs at a time when impoverishment and warfare seemed ubiquitous. Hayward’s Muhammad was not a cruel or violent man, but a moral and humane leader who nonetheless had to fight to create and preserve his new monotheistic community at a time of endless competition and warring between tribes, none of which were initially allies and many of which were hell-bent on getting rid of him and his radically different ideas.

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"A thought-provoking masterpiece! "

2023-04-09 15:42:54

What a book! A new kind of work that sheds light on the Prophet's engagement in war (as that was the context of his time and place), something many, for one reason or another, have avoided to talk about. Just like his previous books, this is definitely an engaging and thought-provoking work by Dr. Hayward. I sure recommend it.

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"A must-read. Highly recommended. "

2023-04-09 14:23:54

This is truly a wonderful book based on very detailed research in the earliest Arabic sources as well as incorporating the very best modern scholarship. The insights and new ideas really impress me and I can’t wait to read the author’s next book. I give this book five stars out of five and recommend it without any hesitation.

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"A genuine disappointment "

2023-04-07 19:07:30

Abundant with grammatical and numerical errors. Difficult to read Arabic text. Definitely needed a bit more time in the oven.

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"Breathtaking in its scope, research, quality, and originality"

2023-02-04 06:58:40

This book is like no other book of Sirah I have read, except perhaps for the author’s previous book on the leadership of Muhammad pbuh. The research is extremely thorough, detailed and accurate, which explains why it took over a decade to complete. The arguments are unmistakably original, logical and persuasive, and explained so carefully and systematically that even readers with closed minds (of which there are many in our ummah) will have to concede that, even when they disagree with him, he has made points that rest on a judicious reading of the evidence and can’t be ignored. I had watched Professor Hayward explain his case on youtube, which helped me to understand his aims and motivation, but even if I had not done so the book itself makes clear that Hayward is a both a very committed and active Muslim who respects his Prophet immensely, and a detached and critical reader of the Arabic sources whose respect comes from an objective and reasoned approach to them. This is a once-in-a-generation book. It is now the definitive book on the subject, and I already know that I will refer back to it time and time again.

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"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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