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Books Section > The Golden Deeds of Islam by Maulana Muhammad Yakub Khan > Princess of Tripoli

The Princess of Tripoli:
by Muhammad Yakub Khan
Taken from: The Golden Deeds of Islam

The soldiers of Islam had filled the whole world with the fame of their feats of arms. Mighty monarchs and great generals trembled at the very name of these camel-drivers of Arabia. The kingdoms across the sea felt equally alarmed. Powers in nearby neighbourhoods were ever conspiring to undermine the kingdom of Islam.

It was during the reign of Umar the Great that Egypt was captured, and ever since, the king of the neighbouring country of Tripoli, named Gregory, made inroads into the territory of Islam in order to drive the Muslims out from the soil of Africa. When this sort of guerrilla warfare failed to harass the Muslims, several petty chieftains, under the lead of Gregory, entered into an alliance against Islam. This was not a matter that the Muslims could afford to let go unchallenged. When the news of the impending danger to the power of Islam in Egypt reached Madinah, the capital of the Empire of Islam, Usman, the then Caliph, ordered a general mobilisation. No sooner did this national call reach the ears of the people, than from far and wide all over the peninsula of Arabia they rallied to the defence of Islam. Some came mounted on camels, some on horses, some on foot. In a short time, a whole colony of tents sprang up outside the capital. Friday prayers were said on the vast camping-ground, after which the Caliph rose and addressed the expeditionary force:

"Soldiers of Islam! You are going out on an expedition in a just and righteous cause. Beware of all greed and avarice. Greed and avarice degrade a man. Before you unsheathe the sword, invite the foe to peaceful settlement. In case they refuse to stop their machinations against Islam, only then may you take up the sword, and victory shall, by God's grace, be yours.

"When you enter a town in victory, bear in mind that you neither burn houses nor destroy crops nor cut down fruit-bearing trees. These are acts that God dislikes. Don't in any way injure or insult women, old men, or the weak and the sick. This is cruelty and God never grants success to the cruel.

"Soldiers of Islam! Remember God, and beware of a split in your own camp. Stand as one man. Guard against jealousy and haughtiness. Don't strut on God's earth. God does not like the overbearing.

"Soldiers of Islam! I put Abdullah in command over you. Respect him and obey him. In case of a difference of opinion, form a council and act as the majority may decide."

Then turning to Abdullah, the Caliph continued:

"Abdullah! I put you in command. This is a sacred trust. See that you do not betray it. When you reach the enemies’ country, invite them to peace. If they respond and come to terms, they are your brothers. If not, then alone may you resort to the sword. Always hold counsel with your associates and remember God."

After a long and weary march, the soldiers of Islam reached Tripoli. Gregory's kingdom extended right up to Tangier. He had fortified his capital, Sophetule, with a strong fort. His court was unique for its splendour and magnificence. He had subjugated all the unruly neighbouring people at the point of the sword.

The soldiers of Islam encamped in front of the walls of Tripoli. They were still thinking of starting negotiations before actually unsheathing the sword when the foe fell upon them from all sides. The die was cast. The Muslims also took up the sword and hostilities broke out.

The town of Tripoli was situated on the seacoast. Most of the trade with foreign lands was done through this seaport. The news of the Muslim invasion spread like wildfire and hosts of the Allies flocked by the sea-route to the help of Tripoli. Their plan was to take the Muslims by surprise. But the Muslim commander, Abdullah, was a vigilant veteran. He had posted reconnaissance parties all around and intelligence of the enemy's movements was brought to him in time. The very night that the army landed and encamped on the soil of Tripoli, a detachment of Muslim soldiers fell upon it and scattered it. A large number was drowned in the sea and many fell in action. The following day, the Muslim army stormed the fort but could not capture it. At the same time, they got the news that the King was coming in person with a large army to deliver Tripoli from the hands of the "infidels", as the Muslims were called.

The King's help was obtained when one day, he was seated in his court and a courier presented himself before him. After paying the ceremonial respects due to royalty, the man raised his right hand, as was the custom of the times, and thus addressed the King:

"O King! The barbarians from the desert of Arabia have fallen on the country like a bolt from the blue. The town has been besieged, and if timely help is not forthcoming, not a soul will survive."

Gregory: "Where do you come from and who has sent you?"

Courier: "Your Majesty! I am a resident of Tripoli and I have been deputed by the inhabitants of that town."

Gregory: "But didn't you just say that the town is besieged? How did you escape?"

Courier: "Your Majesty! In doing so I carried my life in my hands. There is an underground sewer leading out of the town. In the dark of night, I escaped through this dirty outlet. It was very dirty and my clothes got full of dirt. But I managed to come out before dawn to a spot where I had no fear of the enemy."

Gregory: "How daring of these barbarians! From far-off Arabia to fall on Africa! Just imagine!"

A courtier: "In the fervour of their faith these people brook no danger."

Another: "Don't you believe that! It is not religious zeal that has brought them here. It is the lust of loot."

Gregory: "By the Holy Virgin! It is their doom that has dragged them to these shores. Not one of them shall see his native land again."

A Bishop: "I have lived in Egypt and Arabia for some time. Don't take them as petty robbers. They are a formidable people and you should be prepared for some very tough fighting."

Gregory: "Don't talk in this despondent manner! This very day I am going to march in person at the head of an army to teach these wild fellows a lesson. By the Virgin! this palace shall not see me back until I have driven out the last of these blood-thirsty hounds."

The grim determination of Gregory, the Christian King of Tripoli, that he would drive the Muslim invaders out of the country or perish in the attempt, gave courage to his courtiers and roused them to enthusiasm. The courier who had come from the besieged town with his tale of woe also felt much relieved. And thus proceeded the dialogue between the King and the courier:

King: "You must at least have some idea of the Muslim army."

Courier: "Of course, Your Majesty. Disguising myself as a peddler, a number of times I have been round their camp."

King: "What is your estimate, then?"

Courier: "Not more than thirty to forty thousand."

King: "Did you say thirty to forty thousand? They must be mad to invade Tripoli with that army and an irregular one at that."

Courier: "I am positive, Your Majesty, it is no more than that. Nothing like a regular army. They are more like a herd of barbarians. No uniform. They are clad in all forms of dress and equipped with all sorts of weapons."

King: "By Jove! It is some cheek to think of invading a distant land like Tripoli with such a contemptible little band!"

Bishop: "Your Majesty, I know much of these Muslims. Ill-disciplined and ill-equipped as they are, it is not wise to take them so lightly. They are a people of determination. Once they make up their mind, they know no wavering, no going back. Death, which sends a shiver through the hearts of the most daring, is a thing they actually court. According to their belief, death for a Muslim is but a doorway to paradise. It will be sheer folly not to be well on our guard against such a foe."

A courtier: "Well, just wait and see! They will soon come to their senses once they are face to face with the regular army of Tripoli."

King: "Let war drums be beaten and the brave soldiers of Tripoli get ready!"

In a few days, a huge army was in full military array. Troops rallied to the headquarters from the various cantonments, and even from the states of Berbery, contingents of warriors flocked to join hands with Gregory.

King Gregory had a daughter whose beauty was rivalled only by her reckless daring. Tales of her beauty and bravery had spread far and wide and many were the Christian knights and princes of high birth and repute who coveted her hand. She was accustomed to being by her father's side in the very thick of battle and to cheering up the soldiers with her unusual courage and tactics. But this time it was not the Berbers of Africa that Gregory had to fight. He knew he had a far more formidable foe to deal with and so he hesitated to risk the life of his lovely daughter. The Princess, however, would not listen to any such advice and insisted on taking her usual stand in the midst of the army. Thus at the head of the army, which historians put at about one hundred and fifteen thousand, and accompanied by his daughter, the King, with unprecedented pomp and splendour, marched out of the capital.

The inhabitants of the town of Tripoli got the news of Gregory's march. So far they had taken shelter within the walls of the fort and adopted defensive measures against the Muslim attacks. But the news that the King was coming in person to their rescue roused their spirits, and one day, charging through the fort gates, they stormed the soldiers of Islam in the open. A most furious fight ensued. All day long swords were ruthlessly plied. Abdullah, the commander of the Muslim army, was not prepared for such a desperate onslaught. He was adopting tactics to capture the fort that very day when intelligence was brought to him of the advancing army of King Gregory. He at once changed his tactics. He formed the soldiers of Islam into detachments and posted each one at a strategic point to intercept the progress of the King's army. At the same time, brandishing his glittering sword, he shouted to the rest of the valiant soldiers of Islam to storm the enemy ranks. It was a most desperate dash. In utter confusion the enemy hosts were on the point of retreating within the walls, when, to their unbounded joy, there came from the neighbouring hills the welcome sounds of war-drums. This signalled the approach of the King of Tripoli. A few moments more and on the peaks of the hills could be seen banners fluttering in the air. Abdullah at once ordered a retreat and the Tripolions, as soon as they got this breathing space, rushed back into the fort, awaiting the arrival of reinforcements.

At the foot of the mountain range of Tripoli, as far as the eye could see, a whole colony of tents sprang up. This was the army of King Gregory that formed a semicircle around the camp of the soldiers of Islam. At the rear of the Muslim army stood the fort, so that the Muslims were practically surrounded. The regal canopy of Gregory was perched high up on the peak of the hill from which the cross proudly fluttered. Two whole days passed and the two armies were thus encamped, yet in spite of his large numbers Gregory hesitated to advance. When Abdullah, the Muslim General, saw that the Allies were not prepared for action, he deputed three handpicked men, versed in the teachings of Islam, to convey the message of Islam to the Christian King.

When Gregory came to know of the visit of the Muslim envoys, he tried to impress them with the pomp and splendour of a regal reception. The pathway from the foot of the mountain right up to the top where the royal tent stood was lined on either side with officers clad in steel. The regular army was ordered to fall in, in full uniform. On their arrival at Gregory's camp, an officer received Abdullah’s envoys. They told him that they had come with peace terms so he conducted them to the royal tent, taking them through the ranks of the army. The King's tent was guarded by soldiers of stout built from the various parts of Africa, attired in their respective uniforms.

After a short wait, the Muslim envoys were ushered in. Gregory had donned a most gorgeous costume and occupied a golden chair in the midst of his courtiers and officers. According to the custom, the usher announced the envoys and made them stand at a respectful distance. The envoys offered due salutations as was the custom of Islam and a slight nod of the head was the only acknowledgement they got from the Christian King. The Bishop, who knew Arabic, stood by their side to act as interpreter. Gregory transfixed them with a furious stare for a while and then thundered:

"Who are you and how dare you come into my territory?"

Among the envoys there was one who knew the Qur’an by heart. He was also the head of the deputation. He replied to the King's query thus:

"O King! We are the inhabitants of Arabia. We came to know of your designs against Islam and this is what brings us here. Now, before hostilities break out, we offer you the truth of Islam."

King: "Who sent you?"

Muslim envoy: "We have come under the orders of the mighty Caliph of Islam."

King: "What do you mean by such an offer?"

Muslim envoy: "O King! God has blessed you with power and wealth. He has entrusted his creatures to your care. Accept Him as One without a son or a partner. Accept also His chosen Prophet, Muhammad. Follow the teachings of the Qur’an and embrace Islam!"

King: "What if we refuse to accept your God and Apostle?"

Muslim envoy: "That is your concern. It is only for us to show you the path of Truth. It is for you to accept or reject it. Should you accept it, we are brethren in faith and our hostilities come to an end. This is one way of securing friendly relations. In case this fails to appeal to you, there is yet another way to avoid unnecessary bloodshed. You must pay jizya (protection-tax)."

King: "And should we refuse both, what then?"

Muslim envoy (unsheathing his sword): "This then, will be the arbiter between you and us."

King: "You impudent upstart! Shut up or I will have you flayed alive."

Muslim envoy: "What is written is written, and not a blade of grass can move against Divine writ."

King: "Well, your God has no business here. I am the lord of this place and your lives are at my mercy."

Muslim envoy: "God is Omnipresent and Omnipotent and our lives are in His keeping."

King: "Your God is far off but my hand is very strong. You are just trifling with life. You would be more sensible when you feel the executioner's sword on your neck."

Muslim envoy: "Your Majesty is mistaken. To a Muslim, death is only a doorway to Paradise, especially when met in the path of God."

King (after a pause): "Go away! I will not stain my hands with the blood of envoys or by now your skin would not be on your body. Get away and tell your chief to immediately quit along with his herd or, by the Holy Virgin, the soil of Tripoli will become red with your blood."

Muslim envoy: "Your Majesty! I will convey your message to my chief, but bear in mind that God Almighty does not like such haughtiness. Hundreds of proud potentates like you have met an ignominious fall."

King: "Hold your tongue!" (Turning to one of his officers): "Let these fellows have a safe conduct to their camp and let the war drums beat!"

The morning broke clear and bright. The rays of the sun threw lurid light over the hills and dales. There was a stir in the Allies' camp, some girding their loins, some saddling their horses, others putting on their armour. In full array the two armies were slowly advancing towards each other, accompanied here and there by war drums and military windpipes.

At a stone's throw from the fortress, the soldiers of Islam, drawn up in regular lines, were awaiting the approach of the foe. Every now and then the shout of Allah-o-Akbar! went up to the skies, reverberating far and wide in the long-drawn chain of hills and filling the whole valley with awe. The banner of Islam with its glittering crescent rose over forty thousand heads, all impatient to strike a blow in defence of the honour of Islam. In front, the whole field looked one vast sea of humanity. This was the locust army of the Allies.

Abdullah, the commander of the army of Muslims, riding on his best steed, galloped from rank to rank, drawing up his men in fighting array. The infantry was to take the centre, to be flanked on the right and left by the cavalry. A battalion of horsemen was also put in the rear, with instructions to intercept any attack from inside the fort. This was the stirring message from the lips of the Muslim commander that went from rank to rank:

"Soldiers of Islam! In your hands today lies the honour of Islam. It is up to you to maintain that honour and fill the hearts of the unbelievers with the awe of Islam. By Allah! You are a most lucky lot. Those of you who survive today shall win the laurels of victory. Those who fall in action shall win martyrdom. Has the Prophet not said that anyone who meets death in a just cause goes to Heaven straightaway? Soldiers of Islam! It is seldom that an opportunity like this comes one's way. Here lies the shortcut to Heaven at your doorstep."

While Abdullah was rushing from rank to rank, the Allies' war drums began to sound. There was a commotion in the army. To this, the Muslims responded with three lusty shouts of Allah-o-Akbar! A volley of arrows followed this from both sides. From Gregory's camp, a whole cloud of arrows came pouring down the ranks of the Muslims. Simultaneously with this shower of arrows from the air, the ironclad warriors of Gregory stormed the centre of the army of Muslims. The King, himself, with his beautiful princess at his side, led this blitz at the heart of Islam. It was a critical juncture. The soldiers of Islam were attacked on three sides, but they did not waver. With marvellous firmness they stuck to their posts and repulsed every onslaught. A fierce fight ensued taking a heavy toll of human life. More than half of Gregory's soldiers were weltering in their blood. The sun was already lowering on the western horizon but the battle stood undecided. The scale of fortune went first one way, then the other.

In order to end the battle, Abdullah was contemplating a general attack when cries of Allah-o-Akbar! from the side of the fort caught his attention. At the same moment, a Muslim soldier came rushing along with news that the fort had fallen and the Muslims were already in possession of it. The Allies' army was fast beating a retreat towards its camp. The soldiers of Islam were impatient to give them chase but their commander, skilled as he was in the art of warfare, stopped them. He was aware of the enemy's numerical superiority. It would have been a blunder to risk a chase. The sun was already concealed behind the lofty towers of the fort over which the crescent now proudly fluttered. The soldiers of Islam, exhausted after a hard day's fight, let themselves down on the ground wherever they were and before nightfall the dead were laid to eternal rest in their graves and the wounded were removed to the camp which had by now shifted to the fort.

The following day, immediately after the morning prayers, the soldiers of Islam were duly at their posts on the field. They waited in vain for the enemy to advance. The sun was already high up above the horizon but there was not a stir in the enemy camp. This was causing much surprise when a couple of Gregory's ironclad warriors, who had been taken prisoners that very morning by a Muslim reconnaissance party, were brought before Abdullah. According to the teachings of Islam and the example of the Holy Prophet, these prisoners were so well treated that in addition to their bodies they surrendered even their hearts to Islam and embraced this great faith of human fellowship. From these new converts to Islam it was learned that Gregory would not come out that day. He wanted to rest his army.

Commander: "But does he not apprehend an attack from our side either?"

Convert: "He is too proud of the numerical strength of his army. Besides, it is not advisable for you to advance on such a large army."

Commander: "Surely you must be in the know. Couldn't you tell us approximately what the strength of Gregory's army must be?"

Convert: "At this moment, Gregory has one hundred and twenty thousand men under his banner."

Commander: "Allah be praised! Notwithstanding such a large army, he quit the field yesterday."

Convert: "They have sustained heavy losses in yesterday's action. A good many chiefs of great fame fell in the field. This morning Gregory held a council-of-war meeting at which he announced that whoever should bring the head of the Muslim commander would be rewarded with the hand of his princess together with vast lands."

A Muslim: "The hand of the Princess! By Allah, a goodly prize! Ah! Now I remember. Yesterday, among the ironclad warriors and right in the thick of the battle there was a youthful girl of bewitching beauty, plying her sword with reckless dash and daring. It must have been the Princess."

Convert: "There you are! It was she, the sole heiress to the throne of her father. As a rule, there is no action but you can see her by the side of her father, bravely facing the brunt of the battle. Christian princes of fame and fortune have in vain been seeking her hand. She is too proud to choose just anyone for her spouse."

Commander: "What can these promises and prizes avail? All depends on Allah's will and what is written is written."

A Sheikh: "At any rate, a prize so coveted will serve as a spur to the daring of soldiers and everyone will be prepared to lay down his life to win it."

Convert: "There is not the least doubt about that. Immediately this order of the day was announced to the rank and file, there was frantic enthusiasm. The soldiers were impatient to jump into the fray and begged to be permitted to rush into the field and try their luck. But Gregory would not listen. He has ordered the attack for tomorrow before daybreak. We must be on our guard. The ironclad warriors will rush upon the section of our army where our commander may happen to be."

Commander: "It comes to this then, that victory and defeat hang on my life and death."

At this, the Muslim chiefs who were present counselled the commander not to personally participate in the coming fight.

Commander: "Do you mean to deprive me of the honour of falling for a righteous cause?"

A Chief: "That is the dictate of prudence. You must not join tomorrow's action. Yours is the responsibility to see that the Muslims come to no harm. You have heard that you will be the enemy's chief target tomorrow. Should you fall, the loss of Muslims would be irreparable."

A lengthy discussion ensued and it was finally decided that Abdullah should take no part in the battle. At this, the Commander retired to his tent.

The soldiers of Islam offered their mid-day and afternoon prayers on the field of battle. A little while before sunset they all retired to their respective tents. In order to guard against a night attack, Abdullah posted small detachments to mount guard turn by turn.

Early the next morning, the enemy army advanced and occupied the whole front. Abdullah drew up his army in battle array, putting each division under a veteran. Fighting commenced at every point and before the sun had reached the meridian, the whole field was drenched with human blood. Gregory, with his eagle eye, watched the whole thing, and wherever he saw the battle was at its hottest, there he darted along with his warriors. His daughter out-did her father in her reckless daring. The field was strewn with the dead and the wounded. The Allies were proud of their superior numbers and therefore put up a most steady fight. As to the Muslims, they were actually sandwiched between the enemy hordes, yet with roaring shouts of Allah-o-Akbar! they made dash after dash on them. The fortune of the day was thus hanging in the balance with a slight inclination in favour of the Allies when, all of a sudden, a tremendous shout of Allah-o-Akbar!, which filled the whole field with awe, proclaimed an unexpected turn of tide.

The shout was evoked by the sudden appearance of the famous Muslim General, Zubair, at the head of his detachment. Zubair was a veteran of uncommon skill, having fought shoulder to shoulder with the Prophet on many a battlefield. He had stayed behind to arrange provisions for the army. His appearance was hailed as God-sent by the Muslim army that was hard-pressed at several points. Zubair dashed straightway to the defence of Islam where he expected to meet the commander, and as soon as the shout of greeting was over, he enquired where the commander was.

A soldier: "The commander is in his tent."

Zubair: "What makes him stay in his tent? I hope there is nothing wrong with him."

Soldier: "As counselled by his officers, he has not joined the battle today, but is directing it from his own tent."

Zubair: "But what on earth keeps him in his tent?"

Soldier: "Gregory has set a very high price on his head. He has a daughter of matchless beauty and fascinating charms. He has had it proclaimed to his army that whoever should take the head of our commander would be awarded the hand of that paragon of beauty. This naturally would have made our commander the main target of the enemy attack. It was therefore considered prudent that he should not take part in today’s engagement."

At this, Zubair hastened towards the tent of Abdullah, and on entering it greeted the commander with the Islamic salutation of Assalam-o-‘Alaikum.

Abdullah: "Walaikum As-salam! You have come in good time. You must have heard that in the last engagement we captured the fort."

Zubair: "I must warmly congratulate you on that but I can't understand you lounging here in your tent on a day like this when the soldiers of Islam are shedding their blood for the honour and glory of Islam."

Abdullah: "But do you know the reason why I am here? By Allah, nothing is so boring to me as this compulsory idleness, while right in front of me there is so much opportunity for gaining glory and advancement."

Zubair: "Yes, I know, but that need not keep you to your tent. Come, it is time for mid-day prayer. Conduct the prayer and announce to the soldiers of Islam that whoever should fetch the head of King Gregory would win the charming Princess of Tripoli for a prize."

Upon this, Abdullah ordered his steed to be saddled and rushed to the battlefield along with Zubair. The sight of their chief filled the soldiers of Islam with renewed enthusiasm. It was prayer time and Muslims would not miss prayers, even though engaged in deadly combat. The call to prayer was sounded and, as was the custom of the soldiers of Islam, half of the total strength of the Muslim army formed themselves into prayer rows, the other half keeping the enemy engaged in battle. Abdullah led the prayers, for in those days, the Imam's function was considered too exalted to be entrusted to a paid mullah. The highest among the Muslims acted as imam. After the other half of the army had, in like manner, said the mid-day prayer, Abdullah announced that whoever should fetch the head of Gregory would be awarded the King’s warrior-princess as a prize. Criers rushed forth from rank to rank proclaiming the prize to the soldiers of Islam. This raised enthusiasm to a still higher pitch and fierce was the fight that ensued. Brave deeds were performed on both sides. Abdullah and Zubair fell on the section of the Allies' army under the direct command of King Gregory. The Muslim cry of Allah-o-Akbar! reverberated all over the battlefield. It was a most sanguinary fight. Abdullah and Zubair were soon cut off from one another. Zubair made repeated onslaughts at the heart of the Allies' army where King Gregory and his princess, surrounded by the best of their warriors, roused the spirits of their ironclad warriors. The Muslim soldiers under the daring lead of Zubair made a desperate dash to cut their way through enemy ranks. Renowned warriors advanced to stem their progress but it was no easy task to withstand the cuts and thrusts of these seasoned warriors of Islam. They made short work of those who stood in their way. Gregory and his daughter watched Zubair's feats of arms in astonishment.

The King was mounted on a snow-white steed, clad in full steel armour, with a glittering helmet on his head. A big diamond was suspended from his neck. Zubair's eagle eye saw at a glance that it must be the King, and piercing his way through the king’s bodyguard, was in a moment face to face with this imposing figure.

Zubair: "Is it His Majesty that I have the honour of meeting?"

A Bishop (who was standing nearby): "Yes, it is His Majesty. What do you want - life or death?"

Zubair: "Neither is within your power. Life and death rest in the hand of God. To a Muslim, death in the path of Allah is more welcome than life itself. So you need not threaten me with death."

"You wretched infidel!" shouted Gregory. " How dare you stand up to the King of Tripoli?" And with the full fury of wounded dignity he fell upon Zubair. Zubair remained on the defensive, parrying the King's cuts and thrusts but not assuming the offensive. So hot was this clashing of swords that in a short while Gregory found his weapon rendered quite useless. This he flung away, and clutching at the heavy club fastened to his waist, he raised it to deal a smashing blow to his adversary. With the agility of lightning, however, Zubair rushed forward and snatched the weapon from his hand, and with a single blow, knocked Gregory to the ground. The proud King of Tripoli was no more.

A tremendous shout of Allah-o-Akbar! by the comrades of Zubair went up to the skies. As to the knot of soldiers who formed a ring around Gregory, as soon as they saw their King fall, they ran away helter-skelter. And when the news of Gregory's death spread, the whole army was seized with consternation and took to flight. The Muslims gave them a long chase, and for miles the ground was drenched with the enemy's blood. Heaps were the spoils of war that fell into the hands of the victors. Large was the number of prisoners taken, but what was by far the greatest trophy of the war, viz., the princess, also fell into the hands of the Muslims.

The war was over. King Gregory was slain and his fair princess taken prisoner. Abdullah, the commander of the Muslims, retired to his tent. Soldiers of Islam, besmeared with the blood of the enemy, came in batches and offered congratulations to their chief. In front were lined up the prisoners of war, including the princess. Directions were issued to distribute the spoils of war among the Muslim soldiers. Under the express orders of the commander, the princess was treated with special respect and honour in keeping with the dignity of her position. As had been announced, she was to go to the man who had slain her father, the King. In order that the promise might be fulfilled and the prize duly awarded, Abdullah enquired who was that brave man. There was a deep silence. Curious eyes turned from one man to another, but none of the sons of Islam came forward with such a claim. Over and over again the commander repeated the question but still there was no reply.

As regards Zubair, no sooner was the Allies' army routed than he addressed himself to the burial of the dead and the care of the dying and the wounded. This took him some time and he was therefore late in offering his congratulations to the commander. The moment he appeared on the scene, the Princess got up and began to shriek and rave in her own language. All were amazed to behold this and turned their eyes towards the princess. One of the captives who knew Arabic informed the commander that she was cursing the slayer of her father. Abdullah bade the interpreter ask the princess to point out the man who had slain her father. On the interpreter's question, she pointed to Zubair as the man who had done it.

Abdullah (turning to Zubair): "Is it really you who did it?"

Zubair: "It was God's wrath that sent Gregory to his doom. I was just an instrument to carry out that Divine decree. Gregory wanted to crush Islam and this is the price he has paid for his arrogance."

Abdullah: "Why then did you tarry so long? According to the proclamation, the princess is yours. Please accept her. She comes of noble stock. Take her in marriage. Of course, she is to enjoy perfect freedom of conscience. You may give her the message of Islam. If she accepts it, so much the better."

Zubair: "Pardon, Sir! I did not kill her father out of any selfish motive to win her hand. God knows that when we were busy raining deadly blows at one another, her father and myself, not once did the thought of your proclamation enter my mind. My sole intention was that he was an enemy of Islam, out to destroy Islam, and it was my duty to kill him. I only did my duty."

Abdullah: "To you goes the whole glory of this triumph of Islam, for the enemy's defeat is the direct outcome of the death of Gregory. The soldiers of Islam cannot be too proud of you. No one is either worthier or more entitled to the hand of Gregory's daughter. God knows how long we have yet to sojourn in this country. You had better take her immediately in marriage. Besides, it may have political value. Matrimonial union with the daughter of the King of Tripoli may be of help in maintaining order in the conquered territory. The Caliph may moreover appoint you as Governor of this province of the empire of Islam."

Zubair: "It is kind of you indeed! But I covet neither power nor riches nor the hand of the most charming princess under the sun. Duty alone is enough reward for a true son of Islam and I thank God I have done mine. I have just one wish, and if it pleases you, pray grant me that."

Abdullah: "By all means, provided it is in my power to grant it."

Zubair: "Pray confer on me the privilege of being the first to carry the happy news of victory to Madinah and allow me to leave immediately."

Abdullah: "With the greatest pleasure! The heart of every soldier of Islam will go out with you. It is to men of your integrity that Islam owes its glory - men who know their duty, and knowing it, respond to its call with a devotion unadulterated by any sordid motives. It is such a high sense of duty that has made Islam what it is. In sacrificing such a well-earned prize at the altar of duty you have added to the history of Islam a chapter that will shine for all time to come. Your name will go down in history, and the posterity of Islam, generation after generation, will derive inspiration from your sublime example of single-minded devotion to duty. Adieu! "

Refusing to have anything to do with the prize of victory, the princess of bewitching beauty whose hand was coveted by illustrious princes and warriors, Zubair obtained the commander's permission to start forthwith for Madinah. Duty for its own sake. That, he said, must be the motto of a true follower of that greatest of men, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), who, while the temporal and spiritual overlord of a whole nation, slept on a bare matting, swept his own house, stitched his own shoes and patched his own clothes. Sons of Islam knew but two laws, he went on, the law of duty and the law of honour, and even the fairest princess under the sun was nothing compared to the joy of duty done and the call of honour manfully met. Thus asserting his high sense of manhood that he had imbibed at the feet of the Prophet, this illustrious son of Islam quietly left the scene of his heroic exploits, and spurning both fame and fortune, he made his way to Madinah. As regards the princess, she was given to a Bedouin chief, her rightful winner having preferred the nook of obscurity to the charms of the loveliest beauty of Tripoli.

Stage by stage, Zubair undertook his journey till he arrived at Madinah, the metropolis of the empire of Islam. The news of his arrival spread like wildfire and batch after batch of inquiring folk came flocking to the mosque, known as the Prophet's Mosque, where he had betaken himself immediately on his arrival. On hearing the joyous tidings of victory, the people raised shouts of Allah-o-Akbar! for, according to the teachings of Islam, a Muslim must attribute every achievement to the grace of God Almighty. So rather than indulge in any spirit of vainglory, these crowds of Muslims assembled in and around the Prophet's Mosque glorified the Lord for the victory which He had vouchsafed to the arms of Islam. There was great excitement. Anxious mothers came to enquire after their sons who had accompanied the flag of Islam to those distant lands. Wives were anxious to know about their beloved husbands. Zubair gave them a graphic account of the many deeds of daring and devotion done by the soldiers of Islam, how every one of them gloried in striking a blow to uphold the honour of Islam, even if that should cost him the last drop of his blood. "Allah-o-Akbar!" the shout went up each time as he narrated some soul-stirring feat of valour or self-sacrifice. The one thing, however, that Zubair did not utter a word about was the part he, himself, played in the achievement of this glorious victory.

Time went by and for about three months the soldiers of Islam went on consolidating their position in Tripoli. As ill luck would have it, however, that country was infected with a terrible epidemic and it became necessary to recall this army from occupation of Tripoli. On their return to their homeland, the soldiers of Islam, with great relish, recounted the wondrous tales of Zubair's daring, devotion to duty and self-renunciation. Those who had seen him measuring swords with Gregory related the prodigious feats of his swordsmanship and courage. The news at last reached the ears of the Caliph, Usman. So touched was he with the unassuming greatness of Zubair's character that after the Friday prayers, in the presence of the whole Muslim community of the capital, he warmly embraced him and addressed him thus:

"The laurels of the victory of Tripoli go entirely to you. How is it that while you were the first to bring us the news of this great achievement, you kept back from us this important news of the expedition? Victory or defeat, each ultimately rests with Allah but He chooses men as His instruments to fulfil His purpose. In this fierce struggle, the slaughter of King Gregory was the determining factor and for this brave deed Allah's choice fell on you. How strange to keep the Muslims in the dark about an achievement of which any man may well feel proud!"

Zubair: "O Amir-ul-Muminin (Leader of the Faithful)! Gregory was indeed slain at my hand but it is not for a Muslim to boast over his achievements. I killed the King neither for his daughter nor for his crown. He was an enemy of Islam and I considered it my duty to unsheathe the sword against him. Though it was not my lot to win the honour of martyrdom, thank God I did my duty."

Seeing such self-abnegation in a man so sublime, many were the eyes that moistened with tears. The Amir-ul-Muminin was also much moved and after a pause thus addressed the assembly:

"O Believers; God does not like those who boast over their achievements. He likes those who are humble in spirit. If you do anything good or great, don't boast it about. God likes those who are lowly in spirit and don't strut about on His earth. A true son of Islam must be above popular applause. He must do his duty even if that should cost him his life. And when he has done his duty, that should be enough of pride for him. He must not seek any other reward for it. Fight in the cause of Truth! Spend your money in the cause of Truth! Look after the orphans and the indigent! Give shelter to the wayfarer! Be hospitable! Relieve the aggrieved! Be upright in your dealings! Shun jealousy, falsehood, backbiting and cowardice! A true Muslim, the Prophet has said, is one from whose hand and tongue his fellow-men are safe. Bear it always in mind that you hurt no fellow-man. Then will you be men in the true sense of the word. Then will you be of those to whom God has promised a life of honour and felicity here as well as in the Hereafter."

This page was printed from the 'Official Website of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha'at-e-Islam Lahore (Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement for the Propagation of Islam)'
located at
http://aaiil.org or http://www.aaiil.org

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