Empires Of Faith

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Chapter 1: Summons to Battle

17 Jumada Al-Awwal, 1663

The desert sun was relentless in beating down heat upon the sands. Not a cloud could be seen nor any sign of refuge from the trials of travel. Wrapped in cloaks of white and turbans on their heads, two men road atop strong, bronze-colored horses through the Nubian Desert. Between them paced a healthy she-camel, carrying a small supply of food and water, along with camping materials.

As they neared their destination, the two men felt relieved. Over the horizon appeared a single mud-brick hut on the outskirts of a small town. They spurred their horses to hurry on towards it and their camel followed suit. It was only a matter of moments before the two had reached their target. Standing less than a story high, the hut was built between a pair of date palms. While the structure itself had been built of mud and stones, the roof and entrance had simply been two plain colored cloths draped over and held in place.

One of the men rode up to the entrance and pulled out his bow from off his back. He knocked it against the hard wall and called out to the hut's inhabitants, "As-Salaamu 'Alaikum.*" There was no answer. "As-Salaamu 'Alaikum!" he called once more.

"Wa ‘Alaikumus Salaam; who goes there?" came a reply from a man inside.

"Why do you not come out and face us," the man on the horse retorted. "Come and see who it is that calls you with your own eyes, ya Muhammad." There was silence in the hut. After about a minute a young man of twenty-six years emerged from the tent, gripping a large curved blade in his dark hands. He was of an average height, robust in stature. His hair was black and curled, and his beard short, though untrimmed, reaching only the length of a fist on his chin and half of that on his jaws. Despite his youthful appearance, there was a slightly intimidating air about him due in part to his more reserved stance.

His dark, black eyes held a steely gaze as he examined the two men with an intense scrutiny. The nearest of the two looked at him with a smirk on his wheat-brown face. He was of a medium build, muscular but not bulky, neither short nor tall. He had a large, black beard, two fistfuls long.

Muhammad knew immediately who that man was, and he turned to face the other rider, already having an inkling of his identity. He raised his hand above his eyes to block out the glare of the sun and took a more intent look at the second man. He was a shorter man, and his build was more bulky. His black beard was wide and bushy from his cheeks to his chin. A wide grin came over his ruddy face, nearly causing him to squint his black eyes. Noticing a small birth mark just above the man's large nose, Muhammad knew exactly who he was as well.

"Usama bin Shameem," he declared.

"Yes," the man replied, beaming at Muhammad. "And I have with me-"

"Imran ibn Ali no doubt," Muhammad continued, looking back towards the first man.

"Yes."

"Ma Shaa Allah*! I haven't seen you two since my walimah*!"

"Indeed," Imran said, putting his bow away and dismounting his horse. "It certainly has been quite a while, hasn't it?" Usama hopped down from his horse as well and the both of them shook hands with Muhammad. "You got married and you abandoned us, ya Muhammad."

"You don't care for your friends anymore now that you've got your beloved Munirah?" Usama asked, teasingly.

"Oh, Munirah, that reminds me," Muhammad said, turning back towards his hut. "Wait just a moment, my friends." He pulled back the hanging cloth and reentered his hut, being met by the sight of his curious wife, Munirah. The graceful young woman sat in the middle of the room, the dusty floor covered by a simple tanned rug. She was just two years younger than her husband, and looked as beautiful as ever. The dark brown material of her modest abayah* complimented the honey brown complexion of her hands and face, as well as the chestnut curls that reached down her back.

"Who has come to visit?" she queried.

"Two of my close friends from long ago," Muhammad answered her. "Imran and Usama."

"Ah yes, those two. Are they not the friends of yours who would tease you regarding me?"

"Indeed they are."

"Hmph. I should hope they have matured since you last encountered them then."

"Yes, I hope as well. Nonetheless, I am going to invite them in for a visit."

"Yes, of course. Let me go into the back and get covered and I will prepare something to serve our guests."

"Well enough, I will go to call them in." Muhammad exited the hut and returned to his friends. "So," he continued with the two men. "What is it that brought you two here unannounced anyhow?"

"The matter of our visit is an important one," Imran spoke in a solemn tone.

"I see," Muhammad replied, running his fingers through his beard. "Well then, why don't you come inside, sit down, and have some food? We shall discuss this matter of yours."

"And where will we tie our horses and our camel?" Usama asked.

"To one of these trees, of course. Quickly now, I will head back inside to help Munirah prepare the food." Usama and Imran walked their horses and camel towards the trees as Muhammad headed back into his hut. Munirah had wrapped a large, black hijab* over her hair and bosom and was now standing in a kitchen area rolling out some previously mixed dough for bread.

"This bread will take a short while to bake," she informed him. "What else have we got to serve?"

"Is there no more cooked chicken left?"

"Yes, however only a little remains of it."

"Then we will feed them that and you and I will find something else later, In Shaa Allah*. As for now, I will spread out a maidah* for us to eat on and they should be coming inside."

Just as Muhammad had said, Usama and Imran returned to the hut moments later and were granted permission to enter. The two sat down with their legs crossed at the thin, green maidah Muhammad had spread out. Munirah had placed the dough in a clay oven and excused herself to a room in the back of the hut. Muhammad served his two guests dates and water to sustain them until the bread was done and the chicken reheated.

"So," Muhammad began to his friends as he sat down with them at the maidah. "What is this urgent business you have come for all of a sudden?"

"Well," Imran said with a firm voice. "There is yet another war approaching."

"Really?" Muhammad asked, almost unsurprised. Usama nodded in agreement with Imran.

"Yes. And it is not the petty tribal fights you left from years ago. This is a war; the Muslims across the land are under attack. I trust you haven't forgotten about Kwaade and his followers whilst out here enjoying peace?"

"How could anyone forget that evil man?" Muhammad asked with a bit of hatred burning in his heart at the memory of him. Everyone knew well enough who Kwaade was. In the beginning, he had been nothing but a soothsayer, a liar, and the leader of a small band of misguided men. Over time, however, he had come into power through his charming and deceitful ways, fooling the ignorant people and leading them into disbelief. He gained a cult following, and soon had a sizable nation behind him.

To remove any competition in his desire for power and control, Kwaade began attacking the cause of his greatest opposition, religion. At first, it had simply been through verbal means, using tragedies and disasters to confuse the people regarding their faith. And whenever anything good came to the people he claimed it was his own benefit to them from his superior intellect. After acquiring wealth, he began bribing the chiefs of small villages to outlaw religion, and bribed the priests and monks of other religions to abandon their faith so that the people would follow. Soon, the people came to live godless lives, with no morals, no virtues, and no spiritual guidance. And the ignorance spread like a wildfire, growing to eventually become the largest empire within the remaining parts of the world.

"Yes," Imran continued. "I suppose that it would be rather impossible to forget such a wicked man."

"Still, he has not only recently emerged in this world; why has this brought you to me?"

"Kwaade's influence is growing," Usama chimed in. "Even amongst some of the Muslims there is fitnah*. His plotting has gone beyond the physical combat which we have become accustomed to resisting. Now he fights us on two fronts, the physical battlefield and the battlefield of the heart and mind. In the lands neighboring the Muslims, he gives his followers a lifestyle that he calls 'free' and makes it seem beautiful. He sends the most well off of his subjects to the poorest of the Muslim groups so as to mislead them through their desires. As for the Muslims who themselves are well off, he invades their lands to plunder their resources."

"Worse now," Imran cut back in, clenching his fist in anger at the situation. "Many of the Muslims are weakening, as some of our generals and leaders have apostated and joined his side."

"Hm, may Allah punish the munafiqun*!" Muhammad angrily said, clenching his fists.

"Ameen," Imran continued. "Our business here is that we were initially travelling through this land to trade with the merchants in a village further away from here. However, on our way we discovered an army of at least five hundred heading their way. We stealthily followed them until they set up camp. We sneaked into their camp and learned of their plan to attack and destroy the villages nearby. Thereafter, we immediately mounted our horses and rode out to warn the people."

"How long ago was this?"

"About one week ago. We came to one village and we tried to warn them, but the citizens kicked us out, fearing that we meant only to stir up trouble. The following day, we witnessed their demise. We knew that the army would continue through the lands to other cities, so we pressed on to warn them in the hopes that they could prepare an army to fight the invading forces."

"So then you have warned the people of the city nearby here?" Muhammad became concerned.

"Yes, and they are gathering a group of men willing to fight In Shaa Allah."

"Good, Alhamdulillah*. I learned that they were once a proud warrior people. I should hope they have retained some of their warrior ways so that they can be ready."

"Yes of course."

"So why then have you come to this home of ours?" Munirah entered with a concerned voice. "Have you come to recruit my husband towards death?"

"Munirah," Muhammad spoke softly. He stood to face her and noticed the tears running down her cheeks already. She knew what was coming. "Habibti*," he said taking her hands gently in his.

"I- I know," she stuttered. "I know you must, but, it's just," she fell into his arms and sobbed into his shoulder. He squeezed her tightly in his arms, trying his best to comfort her. Imran and Usama stood and excused themselves from the hut to give Muhammad and Munirah privacy. For what seemed like an eternity Muhammad and Munirah just stood holding each other...


18 Jumada Al-Awwal, 1663

Muhammad roused from slumber and noticed a dim light coming from the front of the hut. He slowly sat up on the soft, fur mat and noticed Munirah was not beside him. He got up and walked to the front. There, standing in the candlelit room, Munirah stood praying and weeping. A warm smile came to his face as he watched his wife praying to her Lord.

He stood for fifteen minutes until she appeared to take a break. Muhammad walked over to her side and took her into his arms. She embraced him with a smile but said nothing to him. She began to make du’ah* beneath her breath with him in her arms.

As the night faded into dawn, the time for Fajr had arrived. Outside the hut, Imran and Usama had set up two small tents of where they'd spent the night. Imran emerged from his tent to call the athan*. Muhammad released Munirah with a kiss on her forehead and left to make *wudhu and get ready for salah*. Munirah returned to making her du’ah.

Later, the recitation of Quran* reverberated through the brisk morning air as Muhammad led his wife and his guests in prayer. He recited Surah Al-Inshirah*, and could almost feel Munirah holding back tears as he recited the verses "With every hardship there is ease, Verily with every hardship there is ease.(94:5-6).

After finishing the salah, Muhammad made his du’ah and athkaar and then turned to the others. "I think you all understand well that I intend to join the fight to defend against the invaders," he began. "This is a duty that I cannot avoid. This Kwaade is a devil amongst men, and his oppression must be ended. We cannot allow him to take the lives of innocents nor move to exterminate our Deen.* I know that I would be questioned by Allah on the Day of Judgment if I chose to allow that to happen. Allah has blessed me with much in this life, and I must fight to defend that, as well as the lives of others. So Munirah, I know it pains you to imagine what might become of me out in the battlefield because of your love for me, but your love for Allah and this Deen should be greater. So for Allah's sake, remain patient and you will In Shaa Allah be rewarded in the akhirah*. And if Allah Wills that I am not to return from the battle, then In Shaa Allah we will be united in Jannah*. So again, remain patient. As Allah said, 'Verily, with every hardship comes ease.' So no more tears Munirah, this is just a test of our faith. I just ask that you pray for the victory of this Deen over those who oppose it."

Sitting in the back behind the men, Munirah looked on at Muhammad, wiping tears from her eyes. "Day and night," she promised with a smile of admiration. "And in any other way that I can, I will support you."

"Alhamdulillah."

Imran and Usama both looked to Muhammad and smiled. "Ma Shaa Allah," Imran said, nodding his head appreciatively at what he'd witnessed. Muhammad smiled and nodded back. Now that there was agreement, some plans could be made and preparations set for action.


19 Jumada Al-Awwal, 1663

Imran and Usama had met with the leaders of the village to discuss the strategy for dealing with the enemy which drew near. "We currently have one hundred and thirteen men ready to fight," the chief, Hamza ibn Abdullah, spoke. "These are the men of our village. From the young to the old, we have all of our capable men here volunteering to fight for their Lord."

"Alhamdulillah," Imran began. "This is good, but are there truly no more men to fight?"

"We are a small village, akhi*, our tribe consists mostly of women and children, and we will not send them out to fight. But our ancestors were brave warriors, unrivaled amongst the tribes of this desert. And In Shaa Allah this characteristic will remain throughout our people. If we remain steadfast and strive for Allah's sake, we can and will be victorious over the enemies of Allah."

"Indeed you are right," Usama interrupted. "Many times in the past the few have easily overcome the many. Bearing that in mind, we should begin preparing your men for battle and let them know that it is not quantity but quality that wins the fight."

"Certainly," Hamza replied. "You two know the ways of this enemy better than the rest of us, as you have witnessed their invasion firsthand. Therefore, I hereby nominate you to lead us into battle. We have not had a fight for generations, and certainly we have not known this enemy."

"Then In Shaa Allah we will do our best to lead you to victory," Imran said. "Gather your army within the hour and arm them with whatever weapons and armor you can provide for them. Usama and I will consult with another companion of ours to go over our strategy for battle and meet back with you soon, In Shaa Allah."


Muhammad stood, wrapping the black cloth of his turban around his head. Munirah was saddling his horse for him when she turned to him with a smile. "I always felt that you were meant to do something great," she said. "And I've always admired you for what I thought you would become, for the man you have become. If you can inspire those people the way you inspire me, you can lead them to victory, I believe."

"Thank you, Munirah," Muhammad replied. "In Shaa Allah you are right. As for you, I worry for your safety in my absence, but I shall put my trust in Allah."

"I'm not going to do anything reckless, if that is your concern."

"Good. All my training would be for nothing if I were to see you in danger. I would lose focus and do everything that I could possibly think of just to be defending you; and that would not benefit the mission."

"True. I am glad to know that you care so much, but if anything should happen, know that it is the will of Allah, and know that He is with those who remain patient. So do not worry so much."

"It is difficult, but I will try."

"Good," Munirah said gently placing her hand on his cheek. "Allah will take care of us, as He does every day for us both."

Muhammad placed his hand atop Munirah's hand. "I love you."

"I love you too," she replied and gently kissed him before handing him his spear.

"Are you sure you won't keep this around to protect yourself just in case? I can take my sword and leave this if need be," Muhammad said.

"Muhammad," she said with a certain firmness.

"Of course."

"Now go, go out and be the man that I've always admired, a hero and a warrior in the path of Allah." Muhammad mounted his horse and looked toward the village. "Go," Munirah said with tears in her eyes but a smile on her face. Muhammad spurred the horse into motion as he gave Salaams to Munirah one last time. The horse took off with speed as Muhammad bravely headed to the city. "Go and be the hero that we will remember with fondness and admiration," Munirah said, holding her stomach. "We love you."


GLOSSARY/TRANSLATIONS:

As-Salaamu 'Alaikum: An Islamic greeting meaning peace be upon you.

Ma Shaa Allah: a phrase often used to express joy at the will of God. literally "what God has Willed" but in speech it is often used as an exclamatory statement in times of excitement upon receiving or pleasing news or something.

Walimah: a wedding feast held by the groom usually after the consumation of a marriage in Islamic tradition.

Abayah: loose garment worn by Muslim women to cover their body, sort of like a long dress that goes from the neck to the ankles.

Hijab: head scarf worn by Muslim women-

In Shaa Allah: God Willing

Maidah: tablespread

Fitnah: civil strife, trial, conflict, etc

Munafiqun: hypocrites

Alhamdulillah: All praises are due to God

Habibti: My love (said to a female)

Du’ah: Invocation, supplication, etc

Fajr: The first of the 5 daily prayers for Muslims, performed at the break of dawn

Athan: The Islamic call to prayer

Wudhu: Ablution

Salat: Prayer

Quran: The Last Revelation from God. The Final Message to mankind given to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of God be upon him).

Surah (chapter) Inshirah: The 94th chapter of the Noble Quran

Athkaar: plural of dhikr, remembrance of God; usually consists of phrases Glorifying, Praising, and Thanking God.


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