Chapter 30: Battle of Ideals
14 Shawwal, 1663
Gabriel stood, fastening a leather guard around his forearm. Today was the day. It was time to march out in what would be the first united effort to take on the Kwaadi in history. The Christians and the Muslims, enemies in the lands, united in the cause of God; to protect the rights and freedoms of believers to worship and liberate the lands from the tyranny of Kwaade.
Gabriel had personally been at the forefront of this alliance and believed in it with full conviction. Despite its initial lack of popularity among the people, both poor and nobles, the union was able to gain support with the backing of the Cross. If this strategy proved effective it could open the way for further alliances and perhaps someday the thing most everyone wanted: peace.
Gabriel placed his ax in its holster and strode out to his wife and children. He looked to his wife and she gave a reassuring nod of approval before embracing him in a hug along with their children. Gabriel kissed the cheeks of each of his children, even kneeling to kiss his pregnant wife's stomach where their unborn child remained. He stood and gave his wife one final peck on the lips before turning towards the door. It was time to set out.
Gabriel exited his home and headed towards the stables where his canine companion greeted him affectionately. He petted the dog's head and rubbed behind its ears. "Take care of mi familia," he spoke. He stood and walked over to his horse. Once he had it saddled up and ready to go, he left the stables and rode out into the streets. He looked to his home one last time, seeing Perito wagging his tail standing at the door to watch him leave. His wife, Ramona, made her way to the door to see him off as well. She gave a weak smile and a wave. Gabriel gave a salute as his horse turned and slowly trotted off. Under his breath, he whispered words of prayer to God to protect his family and let him return safely, and successful, to them.
Arriving early to the meeting room, Gabriel dismounted his horse and tied its reigns. He walked into the meeting room to see the familiar faces of many men he'd fought beside before, as well as those of men he hadn't met. It was an assembly of men so that every troop could gather under their assigned leaders and for all of the men to be reminded of the battle strategy before setting out.
Gabriel scanned the room for Ishaq; he hadn't seen or heard from the young man since his departure to the eastern islands. When his eyes fell on the lean body, dressed in his familiar brown rags, turban wrapped over his face and all, he smiled. Beside him stood five other men, all dressed in a similar style save for the armor plates on their chests and arms. Gabriel gave a look to Ishaq and earned a small nod back. He looked around the room further and was met with a smile from General White and his two Cross companions. He walked over to greet them and shake their hands.
"How are you feeling this day?" General White asked him.
"Soy bien*," Gabriel replied. "I am grateful that God has allowed me to be a part of all of this and am anxious to see what we can do."
"Ah, you are not alone in that. It seems your fox friend has made some new friends and they seem rather eager to fight as well. I rather like them personally. In fact, it seems that everyone seems to have put aside their differences and past issues for the sake of this cause much easier than expected. Were I not witnessing it myself, I would not believe it; it's too good to be true."
"Sí. And that's why we cannot fail here. God is giving us a chance on peace, we must be victorious at all costs."
"Your faith in God and firm conviction for that is what seems to be driving all of this, O Lion. You may not be the governor of this land, but I think you would make a far superior leader than Juan."
"Speaking of that man, where is he? I've yet to see him and have heard no word of his return."
"Ah, Juan, troublesome fellow he is. He sent a messenger saying there was a delay in his journey back, but insists that we make ready for war and that he and his army from the other cities will join us for the glorious conquest."
"Hm." Gabriel shrugged.
"Nonetheless, we ought to get things set now."
"Yes, General." General White smiled and Gabriel stood aside. It was time for the meeting to be called to order. Time for the revisiting of the strategy and time for a bit of inspiration to awaken the warrior spirit among the soldiers.
"Friends, brothers, soldiers," White addressed the room. Everyone stood silently, respectfully turning their attention to the general in the front of the room. "You are all well aware of our purpose here, and certainly you know what is at stake here. I needn't remind you of why we fight, or who the enemy is. But I call on you to look to your companions and see brothers in humanity. To see the men striving beside you, aiding you in your cause and fighting for the same peace as you and I. Christian or Muslim, God has brought us here together; He's joined our paths together, and brought us to fight together. All for His sake and to free the people from a great oppression under our great enemy Kwaade. Let our hearts and minds be united and our swords all rise up under this ideal. Together we shall succeed!"
There was a moment of silence before a few murmurs came from the crowds. Then an exited cheer could be heard from among one of the clusters of Muslim soldiers as Imran shouted out loud and proud, "ALLAHU AKBAR!"
"Allahu Akbar!" A few other voices joined in, sprinkled across the room. Their voices were raised as they shouted it twice more. "ALLAHU AKBAR! ALLAHU AKBAR!"
"Gloria a Dios*!" Gabriel shouted, glorifying God in a familiar language to most of the gathering. A few murmurs repeated the saying back, with a little more enthusiasm each time. He turned to General White and smiled. So long as everyone was fighting for the sake of God and under His glory, there would be no troubles in this cause.
"Alhamdulillah," Imran said, emerging from the lodge with a smile. Beside him stood Muhammad, Ishaq, Usama, and Farhan. "I'm eager to get into the battlefield now."
"You're always eager for that," Usama laughed.
"Yeah but my bow finger is especially itching this time. Not to mention I want to put this new sword to the test."
"May your sword serve you well," Farhan said.
"And may Allah allow you to be slain in His cause as well."
"Hey whoa man, if you don't want me to marry your sister, that's fine; but you don't have to make du’ah for my death," Imran laughed.
"What? I only meant that I pray for you, and all of us, to be granted martyrdom. I didn't mean-"
"I know," Imran laughed, patting Farhan on the shoulder and slowly taking him aside. "I was only picking at your wording for fun. But speaking of me marrying your sister..."
As Imran and Farhan sped ahead of the group, Muhammad, Ishaq, and Usama remained behind. After being bedridden with sickness for a while, Muhammad was glad to be on his feet and back in action. His black cape and turban almost floated in the wind behind him as he walked between Ishaq and Usama. "I've written one final letter to Munirah," he said, striking up conversation. I asked Jannah to send it off for me if I don't return within two months. I just hope that Munirah doesn't get too worried with me not returning within the planned timeframe. I don't want her to assume that I've been killed and-"
"Your wife will be fine," Usama assured him. "She'll be at home, waiting for you patiently, In Shaa Allah. Don't worry, akhi. Put your trust in Allah."
"Yeah, you're right. I need some patience too. But you know who's really got some patience and reliance in Allah? That Gabriel man. I heard that not only does he have three kids, but his wife is pregnant with a fourth. Subhaan Allah, I can't imagine leaving my wife behind knowing that she's pregnant with my baby. Not being there to help her through the pregnancy, I would die from guilt before I reached the battlefield."
"Yeah that's pretty tough," Usama agreed. "May Allah guide him to Islam and reward him fully for his efforts in the way of Allah."
"Ameen," Ishaq muttered under his turban. Muhammad turned to the silent warrior and eyed him carefully. He'd offered Ishaq pieces of his armor numerous times, urging him to guard himself better and even offering to purchase separate armor for him. Ishaq had refused, stating that he would rather he spent the money on more armor for himself or supplies for the journey.
Muhammad turned away, looking up ahead. They were all supposed to be heading towards different regions where the different groups would set out in their paths. It was about mid-noon by now. Being that they were to be fighting amongst one of the Muslim groups, as expected, they would likely be praying before setting out. He knew for certain this would be a prayer to make a multitude of du’ah in.
"Hola, Ishaq El-Zorro," a gruff voice spoke from behind. Muhammad and the others turned to see the large, sturdy frame of Gabriel Guerrero approaching. He his simple brown clothes were covered with plated armor on his forearms, shoulders, chest, and shins. His heavy ax was at his side, its sharp edges gleaming in the sunlight. A wooden cross hung from his neck, swaying side to side as he hurriedly walked over. "We've come this far," he spoke as he came nearer. "From fighting that first night and now off to fight together. Praise God, for the Lord is good, no?"
"Indeed," Ishaq replied.
"Now it's time to see how far we can go. I just wanted to wish you and your companions well and see you off. I'm praying for the best, and hoping we still get our chance to have that rematch someday."
"In Shaa Allah."
"Well, I must be setting off now, I have been elected to leadership, as you know, and must meet with my troops. Peace be with you."
"Wa Alaikumus Salaam," Ishaq replied. Gabriel took his leave and the trio continued on towards their destination. Peace, Muhammad thought to himself, searching the expression in Ishaq's eyes. Can we really attain it?
The midday sun was sweltering. The soldiers had gathered at the assigned meeting points and were preparing to set out. One troop, under the command of the Maghrebi King, had already set out. Another troop was preparing to be deployed up north and it just so happened that Muhammad, Ishaq, and the others were all among them. Their general had just given an inspirational speech to excite the men to battle. The devoted hearts and adrenaline fueled bodies were all ready to get a move on. And so came the command, "Let's move out!"
Marching in units, twenty men across and fifty in length, the troops set out through the town. There were flag bearers on horseback stationed at all four corners of every unit. The ground nearly shook as the army marched through the roads. The cities had been cleared, with all citizens ordered inside for the day for the armies to assemble and move out. From windows high and low the people peeked out to watch the soldiers proceeded through town.
With a row of houses and buildings dividing them, another group of troops marched along with the Muslims. Led by none other than Gabriel Guerrero, El Leon De España himself, the Christian soldiers marched in unison, with the folks on their end of town smiling and waving them off. Gabriel rode on his horse up front, slowly trotting along with a stern face. Smiles and waves would be saved for a victorious return. For now, things were far too serious to be smiling and cheering.
The row of buildings ended and soon it became that the two armies met, journeying into battle side by side. About the gloomy, gray sky a flicker of light shone from the sun piercing the clouds. A flicker of hope that assured the people that the alliance of theirs was going to work, that everything was going to be okay. A flicker of hope that would soon be extinguished.
From the opposite end of town marched a third, larger army, outnumbering both combined forces. Thousands upon thousands of men all marched with a heavy rhythm. At the head of the army was a man in a dark cloak, riding a strong brown horse. He led the army through the town until their footsteps could be heard over the marching of the other armies. It wasn't long before their presence was felt throughout the entire town.
It was Gabriel who'd first caught sight of the approaching army. At first, he'd only seen the waving flags rising over the brick walls in the town. The brown flags with their standard yellow cross plastered right down the center blew freely in the wind as the army approached the former. A friendly sight, save for one small detail that could only be noticed upon closer inspection. The sun was hidden behind the clouds once more as the mysterious third army drew nearer.
Gabriel gazed upon them, seeing an endless sea of warriors clad in strong metal armor unfamiliar to the people of this land. Still, their flags clearly indicated a domestic army. He was more than baffled by the unusual sight. The Muslim general, a man by the name of Saeed Aslam, gave a glance toward Gabriel and nodded questioningly towards the incoming army. Gabriel raised a halting hand and Saeed ordered his army as so.
The cloaked man led his army closer until it became clear that they had no intentions on joining the ranks of the others. Gabriel halted his army as he stared down the approaching troops. Now he'd come to notice the flame pattern traced around the cross. An alarming sight indeed. But only when his eyes fell upon the cloaked man did the true weight of the matter fall upon him.
"¡Ese perro traicionero!*" Gabriel spat under his breath, gripping the reigns of his horse tightly. He gave a signal for his troops to remain put and whipped his horse into a faster paced trotting.
Saeed watched perplexedly as the strong warrior rode up to face the army alone. The cloaked man raised a hand to signal his army to stop. There were a few murmurs amongst the men as Gabriel approached. Some faces went pale while others became defiant. The cloaked man removed his hood and faced Gabriel with a smug grin.
"Juan, you treacherous dog," Gabriel spoke through a clenched jaw. "¡¿Que es esta?!*"
"Revenge," Juan retorted, holding back a smirk.
"Revenge against who? What is the meaning of this?!"
"It is revenge against the desert dwellers whom you've so foolishly allied yourself with. The Muslim scum who attacked our stronghold and perpetrate numerous injustices against our people. The people whose hatred for the Cross is well known and who have barred us from the Holy lands. Those filthy savages whom our Christian brethren have been at war with for centuries upon centuries!"
"Have you gone mad?! These people are our allies! Our brothers in belief! Fellow servants of God seeking to defend against the wicked tyrant you seem to have allied yourself with."
"Do not lecture me, you cowardly Leon! You may have opened your heart to them but I know my enemy!"
"Then why have you allied yourself with him? Or have you forgotten the countless atrocities the Kwaadi have committed against our people in the name of bringing a higher intelligence? Have you forgotten that Kwaade's ultimate desire is a world without religion, including our own! Why have you allied yourself with such a man?!"
"I did what I must! A temporary alliance with an enemy who has only harmed us in recent times is far better than joining with those whom we've been at war with since their beginning!"
"I cannot allow you to proceed, Juan. Turn back, you and all of your army or face us both, united and strong, the Cross and the crescent!"
"And what would the people say of the Leon who attacks his own? Need I remind you a fraction of my army are from the very citizens you have sworn to protect? Men from the rest of España who refuse to submit to an alliance with their greatest enemies. Those who ruled over us once before in this land shall not come to do so again; rather we will slay them all unless they agree to our terms and flee to their homes. You have no right to oppose us, for you would then betray your very people. Even if you managed to defeat us, how could you live among the people, calling yourself their hero, when you have shed their blood, made widows of their wives and orphans of their children? Despised and dejected, a pitiful Leon you would be! What say you to that?"
Gabriel paused, lost for words. He'd sworn himself to the protection of Spain and its Christian folk all those years ago. His life's ambition was earning God's pleasure through this. But would God love someone who betrayed trusts? How could he betray the people he'd personally forged an alliance with? And yet, how could he betray the people he'd sworn to protect, by attacking them? His brow was furrowed as his mind was deep in thought. He spared a glance towards General Saeed and the Muslims, all strong and determined. He turned his head towards his own army, loyal and devoted. What was he to do?
It was at that moment that General Saeed came riding up on his mighty steed. "What is this?" he asked, his voice strong and commanding. Gabriel glanced up towards Juan and spoke firmly.
"Neither will I betray my people," he spoke solemnly. "Nor will I fight against my allies!"
"You have my sincerest apologies," Gabriel said, turning to Saeed. Without a word further he turned his horse around and rode back to his army. General Saeed watched in confusion as Gabriel faced his army, his voice barely audible over the distance as he commanded them something in Spanish. His confusion became astonishment and disappointment all at once upon seeing the troops turn on their heels and begin a reluctant march back into town.
"Do you see it now?" Juan hissed at Saeed. "There is no one to aid you this day, you scum."
"What is the meaning of this?" Saeed asked, his voice stern and his face red with anger. "Who are you and why has that man retreated?"
"I am Juan Gutierrez, governor of Madrid. This is my land, these are my people, and you have no place here."
"You dare betray the alliance?!"
"I never agreed to that alliance! Neither did I sign any treaty, nor did I speak in support of it. Never would I support you desert scum coming to my precious city. Never again will you people rule over us."
"You ignorant fool! We have come from our homes to aid you in your defense against the Kwaadi. We are not your enemy in this; we are your allies in combat to defeat a greater foe! Our goals lie beyond this land."
"You will never reach them; I will not permit you to pass."
"What you see now is merely a fraction of the army I have supporting me. We have come with only one purpose: to erase the presence of you people from this land. We will purge España of all its impurities and revive our Christian nation as pure in God's name."
"How can you purge this nation when even from among your own there are people like me? There are Muslims not only from among the immigrants, but from your very own Spaniards. Would you have them uprooted as well?"
"Indeed I will. When I am done, not single shred of Islam will remain in my nation."
"We will stop you."
"I welcome you to try that. You will be defeated. You and your army have been closed off in enemy territory. Even as we speak, thousands more of my troops march through the city from where you do not see. Within two hours they will have you surrounded. Your people cannot reach you. There are none among this nation, nor from the Cross, who would turn on their Christian brethren in your defense. You will find no supporters nor any aid this day. You face only death or surrender and acceptance of my conditions."
General Saeed gritted his teeth. How was this possible? And did this mean they'd defeated the king and his men up north? There were reports of a small troop of men from the Amir's own sending coming to oversee the alliance on his behalf. Would they be apprehended or slain if his army did not surrender? What was he to do? He'd come with full intention and a devoted heart to lead his men into battle. Was that still an option considering the overwhelming circumstances? Would it be wise to turn his men, confused and unaware, into a battle they were unprepared for and would likely be defeated in? He sighed.
"What are your conditions?" he asked, narrowing his eyes. At this Juan grinned widely.
"That you and all of your men turn over any weapons, armor, and goods you have on you. That you and all of your men, as well as any resident submitting to Islam leave this land within three days or be put to death. Should you agree to flee, we will not harm you, we will not pursue you, and you will be free of us so long as you vow to never set foot on our shores again. Anyone who fails to comply with these demands will face the penalty of death."
"And how do you expect the people to pack away and leave within three days?! Are you mad?"
"They have nothing to pack; their belongings are a possession of the government henceforth, a ransoming for their lives."
"Never would we agree to this inhuman humiliation and injustice; rather we would prefer death in fighting you!"
"I would hope not, for should you and your men choose to bring yourselves to a miserable slaughter by attempting a battle, not only will we face you here and wipe you out, but I am prepared to give the command that every Muslim home within this nation be burned to the ground. Have you forgotten that I have my men stationed throughout the country? I can have every house burned and ever Muslim man, woman, and child beheaded within twenty-four hours. You may be willing to sacrifice your own life, but what about theirs?"
"You cowardly snake!"
"Words of a defeated man if ever I did hear them," Juan scoffed at Saeed.
"Face me in a duel and see who would be the defeated man," Saeed challenged him.
"I am not obliged to comply with your requests, nor have I any interest in doing so. Now, you have until the rising of the sun to make your decision or I will execute the latter of my plans. Should you choose to flee unannounced or to seek the aid of anyone, you will similarly be fought against. You will have no aid, nor any helpers this day, Muslim."
"And you've no honor this day, Coward." Saeed spat towards the feet of Juan's horse and turned his back, riding on back towards his own troops. Juan watched with a smug grin. It seemed that despite their reluctance, he'd earned a submission from Gabriel and his Muslim allies all in one day. His secret alliance with the Kwaadi was certainly a great decision in this battle of ideals....
"General Saeed," a soldier spoke, peeking his head through the tent of his commander. He peered inside to the see the commander sitting up from sujood; his mind deep in prayer. The soldier stood patiently and waited for the general to finish. When after a moment's passing the general had finished his prayer, the solider approached him.
"Speak," Saeed said. He reluctantly turned to face the soldier to give him his full attention, even though his mind longed to continue his prayers. He was lost in uncertainty and worry, still unsure on what move to make. Having set up temporary camp while contemplating his decisions, General Saeed took to praying to his Lord for an answer. The last of his worries was some petty report from one of the soldiers. Still, as the general, it was his duty to listen and command accordingly.
"Sir, there is word of the arrival of Captain Roshan and his delegation from the Amir."
"What?" General Saeed asked, a bit of happiness and hope entering his sullen heart. "Have they made it through alright? Have they been captured by Juan and his men?"
"No, Alhamdulillah. By the Will of Allah, they arrived shortly before his men surrounded the shores."
"Alhamdulillah! Alhamdulillah! Alhamdulillah, Allahu Akbar! Where are they now?"
"They have escaped capture and are now safe among our ranks. Shall I send for them?"
"Yes. Call for Captain Roshan at once."
The soldier left the tent posthaste, searching out the captain among the crowds. With the help of a few others, he soon found the fair skinned, brown bearded man standing among a diverse little group of men. They were not in standard armor and uniforms like the other official soldiers, thus it was clear that they were volunteers who'd come from other lands.
Among the volunteers was a dark skinned man in black pants, a green thobe, black leather braces on his forearms and a black metal chest plate. A long black cape flowed down his back, baring a three-lettered word in Arabic which was covered partially by the tail of the black turban he wore on his head. Beside him was man of similar height, though his olive brown skin was slightly lighter and his large, black beard outsized the more narrow beard of the former. He was dressed in a white thobe over a red izar, and black armor on his arms and chest. He too wore a black turban and he had dark lines of kohl in his eyes. A shorter man, of a reddish complexion with a large nose and a wide black beard stood to his left, his arms crossed over his reddish-brown thobe and his brown leather armor on his chest. Across his waist was a belt holding his two long, curved blades. A white turban rested atop the helmet on his head. Roshan stood in the center of the three.
"Captain Roshan," the soldier called out. The four men all turned around simultaneously and Roshan gave a smile to the approaching soldier. "As-Salaamu Alaikum."
"Wa Alaikumus Salaam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh," Roshan replied, his voice almost cheerful.
"Captain Roshan, the General has summoned you."
"Ah, I was just wondering when I would have his company," Roshan mused, his voice serious and yet, optimistic. "Perhaps we can resolve this situation we have here In Shaa Allah."
"In Shaa Allah. Come with me."
"Yes, of course. As-Salaamu Alaikum to you fellows, In Shaa Allah I will see you again."
"Wa Alaikumus Salaam," the three men replied. As the soldier led Roshan away, the trio turned to themselves.
"What do you suppose they may consider as our course of action?" Muhammad asked, his cape blowing slightly in a light breeze.
"Allahu Alam," Usama said, uncrossing his arms to give a shrug.
"There is only one course of action to take," Imran replied. "We ought to fight them."
"But then they will kill all of the other Muslims," Usama argued.
"As if they don't intend just that anyways. Do you trust that evil man's word? Haven't we learned already not to trust kuffar* like that? He's a filthy, lying, treacherous coward. He betrayed us already; why should we give him another chance to?"
"It's not about taking his word or him being a disbeliever. We're trying to consider the lives of our fellow believers."
"True enough, but-"
"Bickering among ourselves isn't going to help the general with any decisions," Muhammad interrupted the two. "If we want to help the people, right now the best thing is to pray for them. And if you distrust the offer given, then you should consider that either way within twenty-four hours you may be slain. Thusly, you should seek to do as many deeds to please Allah as you can before then. So pray. Needless bickering will benefit neither side."
"Well look who's matured," a voice spoke up from behind the trio. They turned to see a skinny, short man, just over Usama's height, approaching along with a tall and lanky companion. While the shorter man had a black beard whose three ends pointed outward, the taller man had a fuller beard of a dark brown color. They waited until they got closer to continue speaking. "As-Salaamu Alaikum," the shorter man spoke, shaking hands with Muhammad and Usama before embracing Imran in a hug.
"Wa Alaikumus Salaam, Nizaam," Muhammad replied. The other man similarly came close and shook hands with the three men.
"Ma Shaa Allah, Imran," Usama spoke with a light smile. "If we do die, at least you will have seen your brother once more before then."
"As will you," Nizaam spoke with a grin.
"What do you mea-"
"As-Salaamu Alaikum, Usama," a young voice spoke up. Usama turned pale as he looked on at two teenage boys, his younger brothers, approaching through the crowd of soldiers.
"Nizaam you brought my brothers to the warzone?!"
"Absolutely," Nizaam replied, a smile on his face. "Though it wasn't quite a warzone when we'd set sail. That all happened after we got here."
"How could you bring Obada and Sumama with you anywhere?! It's dangerous man!"
"Calm down, Usama; they'll be fine. They were fine the entire journey and they'll be fine In Shaa Allah with their big brother. If not, Ma Shaa Allah, whether they stayed home or came out Allah decreed something and no one can escape the decree of Allah."
"Nizaam, they're kids!"
"Usama, they're nearly grown men; you have to stop treating them like kids. From what I hear, you already have someone their age among you anyhow. I hear he's done well among you, why not them?"
"He grew up in the harsh life and faced trials of manhood while still a boy; of course he can handle himself! These are my kid brothers!"
"Then let them face manhood so they can learn to be men; they're ready for it. You were out on journeys alone when you were Sumama's age; how can you hold him back when he's among a group of trained and skilled men."
"Because he's not trained and skilled himself! Nor is his younger brother!"
"I taught myself to shoot a bow while you were gone since you wouldn't," Obada, the youngest brother spoke. He was but sixteen, still holding some boyish features. He had hardly had any facial hair growing and had youthful smile whenever he spoke. He held out his rosy palms to show that he'd developed callouses from practicing archery hours on end. "I made almost a perfect round of shots the last time I tried, I missed a few that was because of the wind blowing. I thi-"
"You will not be shooting anything now," Usama spoke. "I don't know how you managed to get permission from Ammi to go with Nizaam but I do not approve. And you left her and our sisters without protection? Being a man doesn't mean just going out and using weapons and such. You want to be men? You have responsibilities. How you could you leave them without protection?"
"But uncle is looking after them," Obada replied.
"They're not his responsibility," Usama sighed, said, trying to keep his composure before everyone. He wrapped his arms around the shoulders of Obada and Sumama to lead them aside while he continued to lecture them. "It's not safe out here for you two and it's not safe back there for them without any men in the house; you were supposed to take care of them."
As Usama continued to chide his younger brothers, Imran, his older brother, and two friends all stood aside. "Why did you bring them along?" Muhammad asked, a lighthearted smirk on his lips but a considerate tone in his voice. "You knew Usama would fuss over it."
"Yeah," Nizaam said, twittling his beard. "But it's time for him to let them grow up; he's always sheltering them."
"True, but they're his younger brothers. You have your own you can worry about. This one here still isn't married; why don't you help him complete half his Deen and not get those two into trouble?"
"Nothing comes before it is time, not even marriage. Isn't that what you used to say when we asked you when you'd marry Munirah."
"Then they will be men when it is time. You can't bring them out on dangerous adventures like this."
"It's okay, ya Muhammad. You're becoming Usama now. They're fine. We made our journey here safely on board a ship from the Amir. We didn't run into any enemies; we had no trouble on the sea. And even here where you and Usama are so worried, they have been safe."
"No one is safe now; one of the Christian governors betrayed the alliance and is threatening a war with us."
"We're already at war with the Christians."
"That may be so, but that's not an excuse to bring someone else's brothers into danger."
"Well, what's done is done now, Ma Shaa Allah. If something happens we're not going down without a fight, and no matter what we can't lose. Even if we're killed, we are martyrs, our souls will be in the bodies of green birds flying in Jannah. Where are these losers going to go if they die? Jahannam where they would burn forever. Everything will be khair* In Shaa Allah."
Muhammad sighed, not wishing to argue any further. Ultimately, everything had to be fine. Still, he couldn't help but worry about the here and now. The future might become good and well, but the present still held many worries and stresses. How would the Muslims in Spain fair being uprooted from their homes or being brutally slaughtered? Could Juan be trusted not to commit further transgressions, especially considering the very king of a neighboring land down south was away in combat. How would the Muslims fair there? With this dark alliance between Juan and the Kwaadi, could things become even more disastrous for the Muslims down south? Would they too lose their homes or be put to slaughter? What about… "Munirah," Muhammad said under his breath as he turned around to think to himself. With a deeper worry sinking in now, he had to remind himself to have faith that everything would ultimately be good. "Khair, In Shaa Allah, khair. She will be fine... But will we?"
15 Shawwal, 1663
The sun had set on the eventful, and rather stressful, day. All in the Muslim camp had made their Mahgrib prayer and the soldiers awaited the news from the general in regards to his decision about retreating or fighting. Muhammad, Ishaq, Farhan, and Imran sat within their tent along with Usama, Obada, Sumama, Nizaam, and Asghar. They were all patiently awaiting Roshan's return, as he would certainly be well informed of the general's decision being that he was among the men whose counsel was sought in the matter.
When the brown-bearded captain finally peeped into the silent tent he held a solemn look of dismay. Everyone turned towards him, ready to bombard him with a slew of questions but instead he walked past them into a corner and began to pray. Confused, the men all sat patiently as Roshan prayed two of the longest rak’at they'd ever witnessed him pray. When he finished, he turned towards them, putting on a silent smile despite it being more transparent than the wing of a mosquito. He stroked his beard repeatedly, trying to think up the words to speak. He raised a finger and his lips parted, but the words would not come out.
Everyone looked perplexedly until a there was a clamor heard outside. There was chatter among the disgruntled soldiers outside, as though they'd just witnessed some horrific scene or suffered a terrible tragedy. The curiosity within the tent grew until Muhammad became impatient. He stood to go outside and ask what all the commotion was about, but at last Roshan found his voice. "Please sit," he requested. Though he was not under the command of this particular captain, he knew Roshan on a personal level and respected his authority to an extent. He sat back down and looked at Roshan questioningly. He received a wide smile and a sigh. "We are retreating in the morrow," Roshan spoke.
Silence. A decision had been reached by the general and his council. A decision no one could question nor blame him for. A decision made in the best interest of all the people. The right decision. But then, why did it seem so wrong? Why was it such a mortifying decision that it left some men speechless and drove others mad?
As the initial shock began to wear down, finally someone from among the group asked the question on all of their minds. "What?!"
"After Fajr tomorrow, General Saeed intends to go and announce his acceptance of Juan's terms and surrender in full."
"He can't do that," Muhammad spoke, almost questioningly.
"He's the gener-"
"Of what army? There can't be an army if there are no fighters; and there are no fighters if we surrender our weapons and dignity."
"This isn't about our dignity," Roshan spoke.
"It most certainly is," Imran spoke up. "The general is playing right into Juan's wicked hands to humiliate the Muslim army. If we back down rather than fight, how cowardly are we? Where is the honor of the Muslims then? The strength and bravery of our soldiers?"
"Ya Imran," Nizaam spoke to his younger brother. "You know well enough that none among us are here are cowards and we are not wary of a fight. This, however, is not about you and I, or any of us individuals; not even the general. This is not about our pride or our strength and such. This is about protecting the best interest of the people. The primary objective of a good soldier is not about fighting, it's about protecting. And this is the means by which we have to protect our people: surrendering."
"No," Muhammad spoke. "Imran is right. How can we call ourselves warriors and defenders of truth and justice and then turn our backs to the evils of this man like so? How can we call ourselves men and protectors when we can't defend even ourselves, let alone our families and our people? How can we call ourselves soldiers of Allah and then turn our backs to the enemies of Allah like this? If we turn tail now, relinquishing all of our weapons, who's to say that Juan will not pursue us and further humiliate us? With no weapons and no soldiers to fight in our defense, he may very will continue on with his evil intentions towards the Muslims here. What will we do when we see him cutting at the heads of our men? Stealing the honor and dignity of our women? Making orphans of our children? Will we then submit further and hope that he is pleased enough and cease his wickedness? This is a man who has allied himself with the Kwaadi, even against his own people! If he would not honor the authority of the Cross over him, why would he honor a word between himself and those whom he has nothing to fear from as we would be weak and without any defense? If we surrender, we are submitting ourselves to his evil will."
"Then what are we to do?" Roshan challenged. "Do you think that no one else brought this to the council? You must know that myself and several others argued vehemently for a different strategy. Ultimately, the decision rested with the general and this is what he has decided. Even as a captain, I am under his command, as the Amir ordered that I submit to the authority of whichever general I find myself under upon arrival. We all have our own ideals and thoughts about how to go about this, but we cannot oppose him; he is our commander."
"He is YOUR commander," Muhammad said standing up. "Imran, Usama, and I are here of our own free will. We were neither assembled with the army, nor sent on orders by the Amir. And Ishaq is a wanderer with authority over himself. If you lot refuse to do anything, fine, obey your orders; but I cannot sit by idly as our own ruination is brought about through a foolish decision, good intentions or not."
"If something bad happens, it is only by the Will of Allah," Nizaam spoke. "To Allah we belong and to Him is our return. Don't worry so much about what might happen, worry about what is happening. You're speaking of defiance and disobedience to a commanding officer. When Allah gives authority to someone over you, you are in no position to defy their orders."
"As I said, he is your commander, not mine. You do what you must, and I will do what my conscience tells me. May Allah guide us all aright."
"And what is it that your conscience tells you?" Roshan asked, trying to maintain calmness. "You have a plan of some sort?"
"No, but we could think something up; we have to do something."
"Then here's something: why don't you think up a plan, and you bring it before the general before he rests and see his opinion. If he agrees, then we are all for it."
"Can't you tell him? You are a captain; you'll have a better chance of being heard."
"But it's not my idea. Besides, a good general knows all of his men and is equal in his treatment of them."
"I'm not even a soldier in this army; before today I wasn't even assigned to fight among them. How could he know me?"
"Ya Muhammad, you are a brother in Islam, no? Then he will hear you out if you are speaking of good things. Don't be shy or worried."
"In Shaa Allah. Now I just need to come up with a plan before I go to see him. Something more...ideal."
The brisk, evening air blew on through the tent, threatening to put out the candle flames of the inhabitants within. It had been a few hours after the Isha prayer, and most of the soldiers who were to sleep the night had already gone to rest. There was an uneasy silence within the camp. The unfortunate tension created by the impossible decision the general had been forced to make was felt all too well.
Even the enemy knew of the dissension. Though there remained Christian/Kwaadi guards stationed throughout the town, a large portion of the army who first confronted the Muslims had retired to their homes and various cots. Some had given to early celebrations indulging in secret sins even they themselves were sworn to abstain from. Having committed a few of his own within the hour, Juan lie in a bed well pleased with himself. He felt powerful. He felt accomplished. He felt victorious.
In a large fortress with several floors and numerous guards stationed outside, he felt safe. There were gates and walls around the governor's quarters with large, strong wooden doors and metal locks to keep out any unwelcome visitors. Lying in bed with his sin beside him, Juan smiled to himself. I have defeated el Leon, he boasted to himself. I have defeated the Muslim king and his generals. When I have purged this land of its unfortunate blemishes, I will lead my Christian nation to the greatest victory over Kwaade and his masses. This power is mine, El Dios has favored me well...
Sitting out in the night, beneath the cloudy sky, Ishaq, The Wandering Fox, pondered over everything that had transpired as of late. When he'd entered this land months before, he intended only to pass through it like all of the others. He did not anticipate being sucked into a war between the peoples, nor meeting the man whose legends he'd heard of miles away. He did not imagine that such a man, alongside himself, would strive so hard for peace, to reach an alliance and set out on a journey with a goal beyond the seas, only to be turned back by the manipulation of a sniveling coward like Juan.
As he contemplated all of the different things he could have done to change things, Ishaq felt the presence of someone else approaching. Even before Muhammad was within sight, Ishaq knew just who it was and where he was headed.
"I've finally reached a decision," Muhammad spoke to him casually. "I'm going to see the general now. Would you like to join me? I asked the others but they said I'll be fine on my own. I need someone to come to show him that this isn't just one man thinking frustrated thoughts of desperation. It should be shown as a group thinking, with support from the people."
"I will accompany you as you had accompanied me," Ishaq spoke, rising to his feet. Muhammad gave an appreciative smile before the seriousness in his face returned. The two set off towards the general's tent as directed by Roshan. Muhammad silently made du’ah to Allah to help him in this cause and grant victory to the believers. From the corner of his eyes Ishaq watched him speak and silently muttered Ameen, knowing precisely what his prayers were.
When they reached the tent, they were greeted by two guards. They made their way inside with no hassle and found the general rehearsing some ayat of Quran. When he noticed their presence, he finished his recitation and turned to give them his full attention. "As-Salaamu Alaikum," he said, motioning for them to sit.
"Wa Alaikumus Salaam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh," Muhammad and Ishaq replied.
"Sit, sit. What issue have you come to speak about?"
"We've come to speak about your plan to retreat," Muhammad said, sitting on the floor with his legs crossed.
"And how might you know about that?" the general questioned, stroking his beard. "You two do not look like any soldiers I've seen, nor do you seem to be among the trained volunteers from this land. Are you from the party of Captain Roshan?"
"No. I have traveled from the deserts far south and my companion is a wanderer. We have joined in this war recently as volunteers before it took this rather unfortunate turn."
"Yes. And, with all due respect, may Allah reward you for your good intentions and such, but we think it is rather ill-advised to go through with a surrender. We have heard the arguments for it, and we are in agreement with the reasoning. However, we think that the risks entailed are far too great and as such the plan should not be seen through."
"Ya akhi, men have said similar before. Had you come earlier there would be pairs of you saying the same. The question is: what else do you suggest we do? Fight? Not only do the enemy outnumber us several times over, but we would also be bringing death to all of the Muslims in the land besides ourselves."
"Well first off, we may have the element of surprise on our side. In their eyes, they've won. We are too few in size to take them all on and they have forced us to the point of surrender. But what if we don't? What if we make them surrender?"
"I don't understand."
"Well, as I said, in their eyes they've already won. So they've slackened their guard and have left themselves vulnerable to a surprise attack this night. I have devised a plan, and I am thinki-"
"I'm sorry, but I do not think it would be wise for my army to fight on the plan of one man without proper consultation sought among my captains as we would be the ones leading them."
"But sir, I've draw it out and run through it several times. I've prayed on it and-"
"Ah, prayer. Perhaps instead of plans what we need is more prayer, akhi. Sometimes, du’ah is the strongest weapon of the believer."
"And what is du’ah without action? One cannot ask Allah to provide sustenance, then sit back and not seek food. One cannot ask Allah to provide shelter, and then not attempt to build a home. Similarly, we cannot ask Allah to give us protection, and then lay down our arms. He gave us the bodies and the tools to fight our enemies; we have to supply the will along with our du’ah. I've prayed Istikharah and this is the decision I've reached. If you disagree-"
"I do not disagree. But I cannot jeopardize the plan of the army and the safety of the citizens."
"Then let it be an act by someone unassociated. Besides myself and this man here, there are 7 others who are not official soldiers, and there is a captain who journeyed here from the Amir but was not originally under your command. They have all agreed to this should you give us permission to act on it."
"Nine men? You will be easily killed!"
"If that be the case, so be it. We are all willing to die for Allah's sake and we urge you to allow us this chance to make an effort. If things go awry, we neither have your uniforms nor the residents' appearance; the enemy would think it random attacking. In Shaa Allah, you would be safe and still be able to carry out your plan."
"You are really determined on this, aren't you?"
"And if I refused to give you permission, what would you do then?"
"I would have no one to support me in this striving, save for Allah, and that would be sufficient for me to do it on my own."
"Hm. I don't think I could completely cut off aid from anyone with such determination and faith in Allah. You men have my permission, do as you please and may Allah be with you."
"Jazakallahu Khairun," Muhammad said excitedly, almost springing to his feet.
"Barakallahufik. Before you go, akhi, what are your names?"
"I am Muhammad, and this is Ishaq."
"As-Salaamu Alaikum Muhammad, Assalamu Alaikum Ishaq. Fi amanillah."
"Wa Alaikumus Salaam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh," the two replied together. They exited the tent and headed back to their own where they were greeted by a group of men eager to hear the news. Usama had even agreed to allow his brothers to participate in the battle if the general granted his permission to Muhammad's plan. If the permission was denied, he made it clear that they would be returning home with the troops. Among all of the men in the tent, Obada seemed most excited as Muhammad and Ishaq stepped inside to tell them of what happened.
After a few moments of silence, Muhammad couldn't keep a straight face. A smile played on his lips until he was beaming wide. "He has agreed," he spoke.
"Alhamdulillah," Usama spoke.
"Allahu Akbar," Imran and Farhan nearly shouted.
"However," Muhammad continued. "He has not agreed to give us supporting with his troops. He has agreed that we will be acting on our own. Roshan, he has given you and the others permission to join us as well though. The plan will take a little reconfiguring, but I've already been considering that on the walk."
"And what have you decided?" Nizaam questioned, scooting closer.
"Well first, I need Ishaq to go and do a quick surveillance run. I will tell you the plan thereafter." Muhammad turned to Ishaq who was already preparing to leave out. "Be safe, akhi."
"Shouldn't someone go with him?" Roshan asked.
"No. He excels in stealth and a companion may only cause trouble for him. Besides, less numbers seems less intimidating. The enemy will not suspect anything if they even see him. Furthermore, I need to speak with you all regarding this plan of ours."
"Speak," Roshan said with a smile. "For tonight you are our commander."
After an appreciative nod, Muhammad cleared his throat to address everyone clearly. The others gathered around him and his heart began beating rapidly as the reality of everything fell upon him. He took a moment of silence to reflect and choose his words wisely, then opened his mouth to speak.
"Tonight, we're marching out as few, but we carry the responsibility of many," he began. "We are putting our lives on the line so that the Muslims of this land, and countless others, can live theirs freely. We are few, and it may appear that we have no supporters while they have many. Woe to them, for our support is Greater and Mightier than all that they have and more. 'He is the One who sent His Messenger with the guidance and the religion of Truth to make it victorious over all other religions, even though the disbelievers dislike it.' We are followers of that Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and on that religion of Truth, so it is we who shall be triumphant this night."
"Allahu Akbar!" Imran shouted, getting excited now. The excitement was echoed slightly through the room as the others proclaimed the same. Muhammad smiled and carried on speaking in a different tone.
"This man, this Juan, he has allied himself with the Kwaadi; and undoubtedly that means there is a dark, sinister plot underlying all of this. We have to act now. We must strike hard and fast to end all of this. We must give everything we have and more. But, I remind you all of one thing. Juan has deviated from the Cross and taken himself out from the alliance, however, we still have a peace treaty with the Christians of this land. As such, their blood is forbidden for you. Let there be no casualties amongst the women and the children and the noncombatant men. Leave all citizens be, for the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, 'whoever kills a mu‘aahid* will not smell the fragrance of Paradise, although its fragrance may be detected from a distance of forty years.' So be careful of that. And even though you may hate or despise them, remember, that that is not why we fight. We fight not because of our hatred of the enemy, but rather because of our love of Allah. Because we love Allah, and His religion, and those who follow it until the end of time, we will fight to defend this, and we will not stand to let the people be driven from their homes despised and humiliated, nor will we allow their unlawful slaughter. Tonight, my brothers, we are soldiers of Allah. So let us fight, and let us fight bravely!”
"Allahu Akbar," the men all exclaimed cheerfully and with brave hearts full of determination. "ALLAHU AKBAR!"
Muhammad smiled to himself, having inspired the others. They all rose up to make ready for combat, even before he could fully tell them of his plan. This made him grin wider at their eagerness. He couldn't help but silently praise Allah and supplicate to Him. He'd been granted a victory in this battle of ideals; now he needed help in the battle of actions...
Soy Bien: I am well.
Gloria a Dios: Glory be to God
Ese perro traicionero: That treacherous dog
¿Que es esta?: What is this?
Mu‘aahid: A non-Muslim who is either living under Muslim rule or has a peace treaty with the Muslims.
The hadith referenced is as follows:
It was narrated from ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever kills a mu‘aahid (a non-Muslim living under Muslim rule) will not smell the fragrance of Paradise, although its fragrance may be detected from a distance of forty years.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 2995
And the ayah Muhammad quoted is:
“He it is Who has sent His Messenger [Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)] with guidance and the religion of truth (Islamic Monotheism) to make it victorious over all (other) religions even though the Mushrikun (polytheists, pagans, idolaters, and disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah and in His Messenger Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)] hate (it)." [61:9]