Islamic identity of Rûm (Rome) and Romans

Some Hadiths of the Prophet (ﷺ) mention that the Muslims will make peace with the Romans and jointly fight another common enemy of both. Such Hadiths have never raised any controversy in the past but some mischief makers today misuse them and change the true identity of Romans. Let us take a look at the Hadiths and how they are misused:

اعْدُدْ سِتًّا بَيْنَ يَدَىِ السَّاعَةِ، مَوْتِي، ثُمَّ فَتْحُ بَيْتِ الْمَقْدِسِ، ثُمَّ مُوتَانٌ يَأْخُذُ فِيكُمْ كَقُعَاصِ الْغَنَمِ، ثُمَّ اسْتِفَاضَةُ الْمَالِ حَتَّى يُعْطَى الرَّجُلُ مِائَةَ دِينَارٍ فَيَظَلُّ سَاخِطًا، ثُمَّ فِتْنَةٌ لاَ يَبْقَى بَيْتٌ مِنَ الْعَرَبِ إِلاَّ دَخَلَتْهُ، ثُمَّ هُدْنَةٌ تَكُونُ بَيْنَكُمْ وَبَيْنَ بَنِي الأَصْفَرِ فَيَغْدِرُونَ، فَيَأْتُونَكُمْ تَحْتَ ثَمَانِينَ غَايَةً، تَحْتَ كُلِّ غَايَةٍ اثْنَا عَشَرَ أَلْفًا

Count six signs that indicate the approach of the Hour: my death, the conquest of Jerusalem, a plague that will afflict you (and kill you in great numbers) as the plague that afflicts sheep, the increase of wealth to such an extent that even if one is given one hundred Dinars, he will not be satisfied; then an affliction which no Arab house will escape, and then a truce between you and Bani Al-Asfar (Offspring of yellow i.e. the Romans/Byzantines) who will betray you and attack you under eighty flags. Under each flag will be twelve thousand soldiers. [Sahih al-Bukhari 3176]

تَكُونُ بَيْنَكُمْ وَبَيْنَ بَنِي الأَصْفَرِ هُدْنَةٌ فَيَغْدِرُونَ بِكُمْ فَيَسِيرُونَ إِلَيْكُمْ فِي ثَمَانِينَ غَايَةً تَحْتَ كُلِّ غَايَةٍ اثْنَا عَشَرَ أَلْفًا

There will be a treaty between you and Banu Asfar (The Romans), but they will betray you and will march against you with eighty banners, under each of which there will be twelve thousand troops. [Sunan Ibn Majah 4095]

سَتُصَالِحُونَ الرُّومَ صُلْحًا آمِنًا فَتَغْزُونَ أَنْتُمْ وَهُمْ عَدُوًّا مِنْ وَرَائِكُمْ فَتُنْصَرُونَ وَتَغْنَمُونَ وَتَسْلَمُونَ ثُمَّ تَرْجِعُونَ حَتَّى تَنْزِلُوا بِمَرْجٍ ذِي تُلُولٍ فَيَرْفَعُ رَجُلٌ مِنْ أَهْلِ النَّصْرَانِيَّةِ الصَّلِيبَ فَيَقُولُ غَلَبَ الصَّلِيبُ فَيَغْضَبُ رَجُلٌ مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ فَيَدُقُّهُ فَعِنْدَ ذَلِكَ تَغْدِرُ الرُّومُ وَتَجْمَعُ لِلْمَلْحَمَةِ

You will make a secure peace with the Romans, then you and they will fight an enemy behind you, and you will be victorious, take booty, and be safe. You will then return and alight in a meadow with mounds and one of the Christians will raise the cross and say: The cross has conquered. One of the Muslims will become angry and smash it, and the Romans will act treacherously and prepare for the battle. [Sunan Abi Dawud 4292]

It has been made to show that the Byzantines were and are different to the Romans and that they are two separate groups of people ethnically, racially, physically, and geographically. Although a simple Google search should be sufficient to refute this blunder (or deliberate trickery), we shall look at this claim in some detail. It is claimed by mischievous people that Russians of today are the Romans mentioned in the Hadith and that Muslims must make peace with them. It is pertinent to note that those who do appeal to make peace with Russia quote this Hadith half-way where they portray the Russians, supposedly Romans, as friends of Muslims and the part that there would be a battle of Muslims with them after the peace treaty is altogether ignored and not narrated to the naive listeners. They are simply in awe at a day like a year, a day like a month, a day like a week narration mistreated and misapplied. The West is called Gog and Magog and an enemy with which there should never be any peace and that anyone who tries to make peace with them goes against Q.5:51 and whoever does it either becomes one a disbeliever or goes closer to disbelief.[1][2]

To make it very brief, Romans during the time of the Prophet (ﷺ) and the Sahaba were what we call now Europeans and from today’s standards, the entire group of Romans would include Europeans, North Americans, Australians, and New Zealanders. In short, what one now calls the West. This identity of Romans is elaborated further below.

The Muslims and Romans would jointly fight an enemy behind and hence we learn that there would be a common enemy of both.

The Hadiths also mention that afterwards one of the Christians will raise the cross and say: The cross has conquered after which the Romans will come with close to a million people. Forget that in today’s time, overzealous Christians are mainly found in the West as opposed to Russia and also forget that the West can easily raise an army of close to a million while Russia may not be able to do so, further forget that 80 flags may refer to numerous states of Europe and North America, we shall look at the identity of these groups in further detail.[3]

أي المدينتين تفتح أولا قسطنطينية أو رومية؟ فقال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم لا بل مدينة هرقل أولا ـ يعني القسطنطينية.

“which of the two cities will be conquered first – Constantinople or Rome?” and the Prophet (ﷺ) replied: “The city of Heraclius (Constantinople) will be conquered first”.[4]

Read these pieces for further relations of Constantinople to Rome (behind it) [*][*][*]. Read further from ‘Series of events’ here.

More on identity of Romans

Hugh N. Kennedy, in ‘The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live In’, states on pg. 7-8:

Historians are accustomed to talking about the Byzantine Empire to describe the Eastern Roman Empire. It is a convenient term to designate the Christian, Greek-speaking and –writing empire of the seventh and eighth centuries. It is also completely out of touch with the language of the people at the time. No one at that or any other time ever described themselves in normal life as ‘Byzantines’. They themselves knew that they were Romans and they called themselves as such, though they used the Greek term Romaioi to do so. Their Muslim opponents also knew them as Rum, or Romans, and this term was often extended to include the Latin Christian inhabitants of North Africa and Spain. Despite the violence it does to the language of the sources, I have, with some reluctance, accepted the general scholarly usage and refer to Byzantines and the Byzantine Empire throughout.

In ‘Who are the Romans? The Definition of Bilad al-Rum (Land of the Romans) in Medieval Islamic Geographies’ by Koray Durak, we find the following on pg. 286:

The region in question (i.e. Rome) is the territory that lay to the north and west of the Islamic Near East and North Africa; it corresponds roughly to today’s Europe and Turkey.[5]

Conclusion

Although such a piece should never have been written in the first place as the claim that ‘Russians are Romans’ cannot be worth taking more than a joke, it still had to be addressed due to some television, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter preachers in today’s time using Hadiths to portray misapplied political analysis as divine guidance.

From the above, we can safely conclude the following:

  • Romans today are Europeans and their descendants. Their descendants today include North Americans (USA and Canada) along with the Australian continent (Australia and New Zealand). In other words, to narrow it to lesser words, we can say that Rome, in Islamic terminology, refers to what we know today as the West.
  • Personal friendship or even coequal or necessary alliance with the West is not frowned upon in Islam. What Islam discourages is taking others as protectors and encourages the Muslims to be their own protectors while relying upon the Lord.
  • Muslims and the West, as we know today, will (or may already) have a peace treaty (or treaties) and will jointly fight their enemies who, from our times, can safely be called Russia.
  • Anyone who says that Muslims must ally with Russia or that alliance with the West is disbelief is on a mission to mislead the Muslims and nothing else.
  • Qur’an, Hadith, history, and all other facts certify to this.

Indeed, Allah knows best.

References and footnotes:

[1] To say that Israel or the West are the Gog and Magog is a blatant lie on Islamic text. Read clarifications regarding Yajuj and Majuj here. Q.21:97 has been misused by a lot of people who have come up with weird theories. ‘And there is prohibition upon [the people of] a city which We have destroyed‘. People destroyed are those who have perished and these perished, killed, dead people will not return back to life ‘Until when Gog and Magog have been opened‘. This could mean one of two things 1) Dead people would come back to life when Yajuj and Majuj appear, or 2) Dead people would come back to life after the Day of Judgment which would occur immediately after the emergence and attack of Yajuj and Majuj. Hadiths, statements of Sahaba, Tafaseer, and even logic and common sense dictate that option two is the right option. Allah knows best.

As for Q.5:51, the verse tells the believers to not take Jews and Christians as protecting allies. Protecting ally is one where the Muslim relies solely on them for protection. Allying with them for a cause without taking them as protectors is not what the verse forbids. Moreover, if anyone does make such alliance or friendship with them, even then to say that this act is disbelief and such a person disbeliever would be incorrect to do so.

[2] There are some who say the joint war of Muslims and Romans against a common enemy has already happened i.e. Afghan war against the Soviets but the Hadith mentions other signs and hence that war is not the one mentioned by the Hadith. Also, Russians, in general, are not religious people at all whereas Romans (US/Europe) still have religious Christians in them. To say that communist Russia are the Christian Romans is nothing less than pure ignorance of history, general knowledge and Hadiths. If one relates these Hadiths to modern times, why would Russia fight over religion?

[3] There is a weak narration which mentions: ‘Indeed, you will fight the children of the yellow (ones) i.e. Romans, and those who will come after you will fight them (crusades) until the best of Islam’s adherents… will go out to them (end time wars)…‘. During the crusades, the biggest group of Romans included the British, French and Germans. All evidences, both authentic and weak, prove the correct identity of the Romans.

[4] Al-Hakim, Al-Mustadrak, (4/598) no. 8662. Also, see Musnad Ahmad (2/176) no. 6645,  Sunan Darimi (1/430) no. 503, and As-Silsilah as-Sahihah, vol. 1

[5] In Rome, New Rome, Baghdad: Pathways of Late Antiquity, Aziz al-Azmeh states that Rome according to Muslims was generally confined to geographical Europe. Rome’s internal evolution, had shifted to the East, and specifically to the Fertile Crescent and beyond. He further states: Even Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, was an Easterner, and wrote in Greek, which had been the original liturgical language of the Church in Rome until it was slowly, and in the fullness of time, replaced by Latin.

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2 thoughts on “Islamic identity of Rûm (Rome) and Romans

  1. Very insightful. Hadith like this used to confuse me because I thought the Roman/Byzantine empires were gone and thus rendered the prophecies questionable. JZKAllah Khair!!!!

  2. Pingback: Is there any prophecy of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad? | Qur'anic misconceptions addressed

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