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Arab Archery

A Book on the Excellence of
the Bow and Arrow
and the Description thereof

I. In the Name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate

THERE is no way unto God but through Him, God alone. May the blessing of God be upon our Lord Muhammad and upon His Family and Companions. Thanks be to God whose bounties upon His creatures are perfect and complete, and whose wisdom is evident in His creation throughout the world, who has made all without any previous pattern, and endued His work with utility; faultless and precious. He has made marksmanship the undoing of the enemy in war and, in raids, the means of victory over the foe; and has promised a high rank in Paradise to him who shoots an arrow in His cause, regardless of whether the archer fells an enemy or misses the mark.

I thank God for granting me mastery over the minute details of archery, and for giving me skill in its difficult technique; for its secrets which He has revealed unto me, and its mysteries which, through His grace, He unveiled to me. With His praise every matter of importance is commenced. And may the blessing of God be upon our Lord, Muhammad, His prophet, for through invoking God's blessing upon him is every deed deduced and every statement formulated. I also thank God for His benefits and bounties which He grants unto us, even before we beseech His grace. Furthermore I testify that there is no god but God, He alone, no associates has He, and that Muhammad is His servant and apostle: a testimony of one aware of its necessity and cognizant of its obligation.

Holy War is one of the best forms of worship, and is obligatory upon every believer individually, though it has now become incumbent on the whole community collectively. Furthermore, the Holy Koran and the tradition have dwelt upon its excellence, thereby urging every Moslem to seek, through it, the martyr's crown. The Apostle of God said: "By him who holds in His palm Muhammad's life, it is my desire to meet my end on the battleground of God, and be brought back to life, and die again, and again, and yet again." According to another version: "Would that I were given to die on the battleground of God, and be brought back to life, only to die again, and yet again, fighting His battles." Abu-Hurayrah was wont to say: "Of every single year, three months belong to God and His cause." The Prophet also said: "Of all the godly men who desire to be brought back to life, only the martyrs are granted their request." God also has enjoined us to prepare force against the polytheists in order to strike terror in their hearts, and pointed to us the excellence of the bow and arrow as implements of war. Thus He said: "Make ready against them what force ye can, and strong squadrons whereby ye may strike terror into the enemy of God and your enemy." In urging that force be made ready against the enemy, God has indicated the importance of drilling and training in the use of all implements of war, in order to acquire skill, gain proficiency, obtain adroitness, and develop facility in their use. Furthermore, the Apostle pointed out that of all the instruments of war, the bow and arrow are the most effective and the greatest.

The Prophet also said: "The hand of man has wielded no weapon which was not excelled by the bow." Is there anything more excellent than a man who has mastered marksmanship, who picks up his bow and showers the polytheists with his arrows? The crowds fear him, and the brave knights stand in awe before him. Many a weak city has been defended by a single archer, and many an army has been disbanded and scattered with a single arrow. During the battle of Uhud, the Apostle addressed Sa'd ibn-abi-Waqqāṣ, abu-Ṭalḥah, and Qatādah ibn-al-Nu’-mān, who stood by him defending him with their bows and arrows, while most of his Companions fled away "Stand firm; victory shall remain ours so long as ye stand firm." Indeed this is a great tribute to the bow and arrow and a compliment for their service. He that wields them will most certainly be victorious. How then could a sane Moslem place his confidence in any other weapon, or dare face his adversary with any other instrument of war?

     The poet said:
       Bows, with the strings of which victory is bound;
       In praise of their excellence the Scriptures resound.

     Said another:
       If glory be to slay the foe,
       'Tis best to use the fastest throw,
       And loose the arrow from the bow.

Furthermore, the bow and the arrow are the most effective and devastating of the instruments of war despite the fact that they are the least cumbersome to carry and use. Unfortunately, however, there are very few contemporaries who can use the Arab bow and fewer still who know anything about its methods and technique. For this reason I decided to write a book on marksmanship and the use of the Arab bow. Such a book I had, in fact, written and entitled it Kifāyat al-Muqtaṣid al-Baṣīr fi al-Ramy ‘an al-Qaws al-‘Arabīyah bi-al-Sahm al-Ṭawil w-al-Qaṣīr [The Sufficiency of the Discerning Student: on Shooting with the Arab Bow with the Long Arrow and the Short]. It was, however, too brief, and the need for a detailed and comprehensive work on the subject was still felt. Consequently, I set out to fulfil this need. This book is the result. Verily God is my refuge and my trust.