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Prophet Muhammad (8)

Those Muslims who were forced to immigrate to Madeenah had left all their belongings behind in Makkah. These had been seized by their enemies - the pagan Quraysh.

Expeditions and the Battle of Badr

The Quraysh felt defeated in the wake of the Prophet's safe departure to Madeenah. They were filled with an acute sense of shameful defeat and were thirsty for death and destruction to the Prophet and his companions. The rage of revenge had taken them by storm. They put aside their petty differences and discord and rose to the occasion as one body-their single purpose was to punish the followers of Islam.

There lay a distance of about 450 km between Makkah and Madeenah. The Quraysh began to prepare carefully to attack Madeenah. Allah's Messenger was aware of the situation. He knew well that a state of war existed between Makkah and Madeenah. The idol-worshippers of Makkah wanted to destroy the newly-established Islamic state. Permission for defensive war had already come. The Quraysh levied a tax on all Makkans and invested the money collected in trade and so it had grown into a large sum to fund the fighting.

It was the mission of the Prophet to spread the message of Islam. The Prophet and his companions felt that if the Quraysh wanted the freedom to trade in safety, travel to Syria and return to Makkah through trade routes passing through Madeenah, then the Muslims also must have the freedom to believe in Allah, to follow His Messenger and spread His message.

It was, therefore, thought that the best and the only way to get the Quraysh understand this was to attack what was most important to them: their trade caravans--their lifeline.

The Prophet developed a disciplined and an elegant intelligence service. He had men bringing him prompt and accurate reports of the movements and plans of the Quraysh and the Bedouin Arabs around Madeenah.

The Prophet's Intelligence Service

Shortly after his arrival in Madeenah, the Prophet began sending out expeditions (organized journeys with a particular aim) and forays (sudden attacks) against the enemies. Their real objective was not to gain booty. They were partially at least, for military surveys, in particular, about the Quraysh and the Bedouins around Madeenah. The Prophet's strategy was not only to assess the enemy, but also to assess his own fighting force.

Expeditions and Forays

He attached great importance to the use of intelligence and preparation in warfare. Practically speaking, these expeditions were movements through which Muslims learnt a great deal about their enemies.

At the same time, these military efforts enhanced Muslims' fighting capabilities and enriched their knowledge about the surrounding areas. It appears that most of these campaigns were meant to give the Quraysh a hard time and so to compel them to give open battle.

It was in a way an attempt to force the snake to come out of its hole and kill it. The Prophet understood that the position of the Muslim community in Madeenah could never become secure unless the Quraysh were made to realize, by means of a crushing defeat, that an entirely new period had begun in the history of their country.

1. The first expedition took place barely six months after the Prophet's arrival in Madeenah. It was the expedition of Sayf-ul-Bahr, a place on the seacoast. It took place in Ramadhaan 1 AH.

The sequence of the expeditions up to the Battle of Bad was as follows:

Expeditions and Forays before the Battle of Badr

Thirty Emigrants (muhajiroon) took part in it. Hamzah ibn "Abd al-Muttalib was the commander. The objective was a large Makkan caravan, led by Abu Jahl. It was accompanied by 300 men, on its way home to Makkah from Syria. Before Muslims were able to attack the caravan, Made in "Amr intervened between the two hostile groups and prevented them from fighting. Majdee ibn 'Amr was the chief of the Juhaynah tribe. He had friendly relations with both Muslims and the Quraysh.

2. The expedition led by 'Ubaydah ibn al-Haarith in Shawwal, 1 A.H. Sixty Muhaajiroon took part in it. They surprised a body of 200 Makkans under the command of Abu Sufyaan. No actual fighting took place; only a few arrow-shots were exchanged.

3. The expedition of Sa'd in Abee Waqqaas to Kharraar, which took place in Dhul Qadah, 1 AH. Kharraar was a place of wells between al-Juhfah and Makkah. A Makkan caravan was due to pass there, and it was the intention of the Muslims to intercept it. Sa'd and his men went on foot, travelling by night and hiding during the day. But when Sa'd reached Kharraar at the head of his twenty men, the caravan had already passed the place. As Sa'd had been ordered by the Prophet not to go further than Kharraar, he could do nothing but return to Madeenah.

4. The expedition of Abwaa' or Waddaan. This was the first expedition which the Prophet led in person. He left Madeenah in Safar, 2 AH, at the head of seventy men, mostly Muhajiroon. They intended to surprise a caravan of Quraysh between Abwaa' and Waddaan, about three days south of Madeenah on the way to Makkah. There he encountered the hostile tribe of Banu Dhamrah and concluded a treaty with them. According to this treaty, the Banu Dhamrah undertook never again to help any enemy of the Muslims. Again, no fighting between the Muslims and the Quraysh took place this time. The Prophet returned to Madeenah after an absence of fifteen days.

5. In Rabee' al-Awwal, 2 AH, the Prophet personally led an expedition to Buwaat in the country of the tribe of Juhaynah. The target was a Makkan caravan which was led by Umayyah ibn Khalaf. The caravan consisted of 2500 camels and was accompanied by 100 armed men. But the caravan escaped from the Muslims, and so the Prophet returned to Madeenah without fighting.

6. In Rabee' al-Awwal, 2 AH, the Prophet led an expedition against the Bedouin chief Karz ibn Jaabir al-Fihree who raided the grazing grounds on the outskirts of Madeenah and robbed some cattle belonging to the Muslims. The Prophet pursued him at the head of seventy men as far as Safwaan, a valley near Badr. But Karz ibn Jaabir managed to escape. Historians call this chase the first Bad expedition. Shortly afterwards, however, Karz embraced Islam and distinguished himself in several expeditions.

7. The expedition of Dhul-'Ushayrah. This took place in Jumadad al-Aakhirah, 2 AH. The Prophet himself was in command. He intended to intercept the great caravan under Abu Sufyaan on its way to Syria, but when they reached the place called 'Ushayrah, they were informed that the Quraysh had already passed a few days before. It was the same caravan which became about three months later, on its return journey, the cause of the Battle of Badr.

8. In Rajab, 2 AH, the Prophet sent twelve of the Muhaajiroon under the command of "Abdullaah ibn Jahsh al-Asadee to Nakhlah. The Prophet gave him a letter with the instructions that he was not to read it until he had journeyed for two days, and then to act according to the instructions contained in it but not to force his companions to follow his orders. They had the order to report the movements of the Quraysh and gather information about their plans, but not to engage in fighting.

On their way they came across a trade caravan belonging to the Quraysh and made a surprise attack on it. They killed one person and captured the rest along with their belongings to Madeenah. They did this at a time when the month of Rajab was approaching its end and Sha'baan was about to begin. It was, therefore, unsure whether the attack was actually carried out in one of the sacred months', that is Rajab, or not.

They pointed out the contradiction between the claims of the Muslims to true religion on the one hand, and their not hesitating to shed blood in a sacred month, on the other.

But the Quraysh and the Jews who were secretly in league with them, as well as the hypocrites made great play of this incident and used it as a weapon in their propaganda campaign against the muslims.

Verse 217 of Surat al-Baqarah was revealed to the Prophet in response to these baseless objections. The essence of what is said in this verse is that fighting during the sacred months is without doubt an evil act. It points out that those people who had continually subjected their kith and kin to untold wrong for thirteen years merely because they believed in Allah had no right whatsoever to make such objections. In fact, it was the disbelievers who had declared war against the Muslims, and not the other way around.

They obstructed the spread of Islam, spared no effort to turn people away from the worship of Allah the Almighty, resorted to persecution and oppression and refused to believe in Allah or respect the Sacred Mosque. With this record of mischief and misconduct, it was not for them to raise such an outcry at a minor ambush, and especially the incident had taken place without the approval of the Prophet . The whole incident was the result of an irresponsible act on the part of some members of the Muslim community. The verse clearly stated that the behaviour of the polytheists in the whole process was in fact much more heinous and far serious than the act carried out by some Muslims.

Upon their return to Madeena with booty and the prisoners, these people went to visit the Prophet , and he expressly pointed out to them that he had not permitted them to fight. He refused to take anything of what they had seized. Muslims, in general, also severely scolded the people responsible for this incident and in fact nobody in Madeenah applauded what they had done. After the revelation of verse 217 of Surat al-Baqarah, the Prophet took possession of the caravan and the two prisoners. Later he released them and paid the blood-money to the guardian of the person who was unintentionally killed.

The smear campaign launched by the Quraysh against the Prophet and his companions, making use of the fighting that took place in one of the four sacred months, soon died down after the Quran had put the whole issue in its proper light!

A. Complete the following.

1. The Prophet's intelligence service brought him news about the plans of and 2. The four sacred months are , and 3. Opression and transgression are worse and more serious in Allah's sight than

B. Answer the following questions.


What was the Prophet's purpose behind attacking the Quraysh trade caravans?

What was the first Badr expedition?

Fighting in the sacred months is forbidden. What is the exception?

How did the Quraysh collect funds for the war?

What happened to the belongings Muslims had left behind in Makkah when they immigrated to Madeenah?

What was the outcome of the expedition of 'Sayf-ul-Bahr'?