with a view to implementing these plans, the muslims commenced real military activities, which at first took the form of reconnaissance patrols delegated to explore the geopolitical features of the roads surrounding madinah and others leading to makkah, and building alliances with the tribes nearby. the prophet wanted to impress upon the polytheists and jews of madinah as well as the bedouins in its vicinity, that the muslims had smashed their old fears, and had been too strong to be attacked with impunity. he also wanted to display the power of his followers in order to deter quraish from committing any military folly against him which might jeopardize their economic life and means of living, and to stop them from persecuting the helpless muslims detained in makkah, consequently he would avail himself of this opportunity and resume his job of propagating the divine call freely.
the following is a resume of these missions and errands:
- saif al-bahr platoon sent in ramadan 1 a.h., i.e. 623 a.d. led by hamzah bin ‘abdul muttalib and comprising 30 emigrants with a definite task of intercepting a caravan belonging to quraish. it was a caravan of 300 people including abu jahl bin hisham. the two parties encountered each other and aligned in preparation for fighting. majdi bin ‘amr, on good terms with both sides, happened to be there and managed to prevent an imminent clash.
on that occasion, the prophet [pbuh] accredited the first flag in the history of muslims. it was white in colour and was entrusted to kinaz bin husain al-ghanawi, to carry.
- in shawwal, 1 a.h., i.e. april 623 a.d. the messenger of allâh [pbuh] despatched ‘ubaidah bin al-harith bin al-muttalib at the head of 60 horsemen of emigrants to a spot called batn rabegh where they encountered abu sufyan at the head of a caravan of 200 men. there was arrow shooting but no actual fighting.
it is interesting to note that two muslims, al-miqdad bin ‘amr al-bahrani and ‘utbah bin ghazwan al-mazini, defected from the caravan of quraish and joined the ranks of ‘ubaidah. the muslims had a white flag carried by mistah bin athatha bin al-muttalib bin ‘abd munaf.
- in dhul qa‘dah 1 a.h., i.e. may 623 a.d. the prophet [pbuh] despatched sa‘d bin abi waqqas at the head of 20 horsemen, and instructed them not to go beyond al-kharrar. after a five-day march they reached the spot to discover that the camels of quraish had left the day before; their flag, as usual, was white and carried by al-miqdad bin ‘amr.
- ghazwa al-abwa’ or waddan. it was in safar 2 a.h., i.e. 623 a.d. the messenger of allâh [pbuh] set out himself at the head of 70 men, mostly emigrants, to intercept a camel caravan belonging to quraish, leaving behind sa‘d bin ‘ubadah to dispose the affairs in madinah. when he reached waddan, a place between makkah and madinah, he found none.
in the process of this campaign, he contracted a non-aggression pact with ‘amr bin makhshi ad-damari. the provisions of the pact go as follows:
"this is a document from muhammad, the messenger of allâh concerning bani damrah in which he established them safe and secure in their wealth and lives. they can expect support from the muslims unless they oppose the religion of allâh. they are also expected to respond positively in case the prophet sought their help."
this was the first invasion under the leadership of the messenger of allâh. it took fifteen days, with a white flag carried by hamzah bin ‘abdul muttalib.
- buwat invasion. it took place in rabi‘ al-awwal 2 a.h., i.e. 623 a.d. the prophet [pbuh], at the head of 200 companions, marched for buwat to intercept a caravan belonging to quraish comprising 100 quraishites, omaiya bin khalaf among them, and 2500 camels. when he reached buwat, the caravan had left. before leaving madinah, he mandated sa‘d bin mu‘adh to dispose the affairs until his return.
- safwan invasion. in rabi‘ al-awwal 2 a.h., i.e. 623 a.d. karz bin jabir at the head of a small group of polytheists raided the pastures of madinah and looted some animals. the prophet [pbuh] at the head of 70 men left madinah to fight the aggressors. he went in their pursuit till he reached a place called safwan near badr but could not catch up with them. this invasion came to be known as the preliminary badr invasion. during his absence, the prophet [pbuh] entrusted zaid bin harithah with the disposition of the affairs in madinah. the standard was white in colour and entrusted to ‘ali bin abi talib to carry.
- dhil ‘ushairah invasion. it was in jumada-al-ula and jumada-al-akhirah the first or second 2 a.h., i.e. november-december 623 a.d. the prophet [pbuh] at the head of 150-200 muslim volunteers, with 30 camels which they rode turn by turn, set out to intercept a quraishite caravan. he reached dhil ‘ushairah but the camels had left some days before. these camels were the same that he went out to intercept on their return from syria, and were the direct reason for the break out of the battle of badr. in the process of this campaign, the prophet [pbuh] contracted a non-aggression pact with bani madlij and their allies bani dhumrah. abu salama bin ‘abd al-asad al-makhzumi was mandated to rule madinah in his absence.
- the platoon of nakhlah. it took place in rajab 2 a.h., i.e. january 624 a.h. the messenger of allâh [pbuh] despatched ‘abdullah bin jahsh asadi to nakhlah at the head of 12 emigrants with six camels. ‘abdullah was given a letter by the prophet [pbuh] but was instructed to read it only after two days. he followed the instructions and discovered that he was asked to go on to a place called nakhlah standing between makkah and at-ta’if, intercept a caravan for quraish and collect news about their intentions. he disclosed the contents of the letters to his fellows who blindly obeyed the orders. at nakhlah, the caravan passed carrying loads of raisins (dried grapes), food stuff and other commodities. notable polytheists were also there such as ‘amr bin al-hadrami, ‘uthman and naufal, sons of ‘abdullah bin al-mugheerah and others... the muslims held consultations among themselves with respect to fighting them taking into account rajab which was a sacred month (during which, along with dhul hijja, dhul qa‘da and muharram, war activities were suspended as was the custom in arabia then). at last they agreed to engage with them in fighting. ‘amr bin al-hadrami was shot dead by an arrow, ‘uthman and al-hakam were captured whereas naufal escaped. they came back with the booty and the two prisoners. they set aside one-fifth of the booty assigned to allâh and his messenger, and took the rest. the messenger disapproved of that act and suspended any action as regards the camels and the two captives on account of the prohibited months already mentioned. the polytheists, on their part, exploited this golden opportunity to calumniate the muslims and accuse them of violating what is divinely inviolable. this idle talk brought about a painful headache to muhammad’s companions, until at last they were relieved when the revelation came down giving a decisive answer and stating quite explicitly that the behaviour of the polytheists in the whole process was much more heinous and far more serious than the act of the muslims:
"they ask you concerning fighting in the sacred months (i.e. 1st, 7th, 11th and 12th months of the islamic calendar). say, ‘fighting therein is a great (transgression) but a greater (transgression) with allâh is to prevent mankind from following the way of allâh, to disbelieve in him, to prevent access to al-masjid-al-harâm (at makkah), and to drive out its inhabitants, and al-fitnah is worse than killing." [al-qur'an 2:217]
the words of allâh were quite clear and said that the tumult created by the polytheists was groundless. the sacred inviolable sanctities had been repeatedly violated in the long process of fighting islam and persecuting its adherents. the wealth of the muslims as well as their homes had already been violated and their prophet [pbuh] had been the target of repeated attempts on his life. in short, that sort of propaganda could deservedly be described as impudence and prostitution. this has been a resume of pre-badr platoons and invasions. none of them witnessed any sort of looting property or killing people except when the polytheists had committed such crimes under the leadership of karz bin jabir al-fahri. it was, in fact, the polytheists who had initiated such acts. no wonder, for such ill-behaviour is immanent in their natural disposition.
shortly afterwards, the two captives were released and blood money was given to the killed man’s father.[for details see za'd al-ma'ad 2/83-85; ibn hisham 1/605; rahmat-ul-lil'alameen 1/115, 2/468]
after this event, quraish began to realize the real danger that madinah could present with. they came to know that madinah had always been on the alert, watching closely their commercial caravans. it was then common knowledge to them that the muslims in their new abode could span and extend their military activities over an area of 300 miles. and bring it under full control. however, the new situation borne in mind, the makkans could not be deterred and were too obstinate to come to terms with the new rising power of islam. they were determined to bring their fall by their own hands and with this recklessness they precipitated the great battle of badr.
the muslims, on the other hand, and at the behest of their lord, were ordered to go to war in sha‘ban 2 a.h:
"and fight, in the way of allâh those who fight you; but transgress not the limits. truly, allâh likes not the transgressors. and kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. and al-fitnah (polytheism or calamity) is worse than killing. and fight not with them at al-masjid-al-harâm (the sanctuary at makkah), unless they (first) fight you there. but if they attack you, then kill them. such is the recompense of the disbelievers. but if they cease, then allâh is oft-forgiving, most merciful. and fight them until there is no more fitnah (disbelief and worshipping of others along with allâh) and (all and every kind of ) worship is for allâh (alone). but if they cease, let there be no transgression except against az-zalimûn (polytheists, and wrong-doers, etc.)" [al-qur'an 2:190-193]
before long, allâh again sent the muslims a different sort of verses whereby teaching them ways of fighting, urging them to go to war and demonstrating relevant rules:
"so, when you meet (in fight - jihâd in allâh’s cause), those who disbelieve smite at their necks till when you have killed and wounded many of them, then bind a bond firmly (on them, i.e. take them as captives). thereafter (is the time) either for generosity (i.e. free them without ransom), or ransom (according to what benefits islam), until the war lays down its burden. thus [you are ordered by allâh to continue in carrying out jihâd against the disbelievers till they embrace islam (i.e. are saved from the punishment in the hell-fire) or at least come under your protection], but if it had been allâh’s will, he himself could certainly have punished them (without you). but (he lets you fight), in order to test you, some with others. but those who are killed in the way of allâh, he will never let their deeds be lost. he will guide them and set right their state. and admit them to paradise which he has made known to them (i.e. they will know their places in paradise more than they used to know their houses in the world). o you who believe! if you help (in the cause of) allâh, he will help you, and make your foothold firm." [al-qur'an 47:4-7][tafheem-ul-qur'an 5/11]
shortly afterwards, allâh began to dispraise the hypocrites, the weak at heart and cowardly elements:
"but when a decisive sûrah (explaining and ordering things) is sent down, and fighting (jihâd — the holy fighting) is mentioned (i.e. ordained) therein, you will see those in whose hearts is a disease (of hypocrisy) looking at you with a look of one fainting to death. " [al-qur'an 47:20]
the prevalent exigencies required as a top priority exhorting the muslims to fight. any leader with a deep insight would order his soldiers to get ready for any sort of emergency, let alone the all-knowing exalted lord, who is at all times omniscient of the minutest details of affairs. the event of that skirmish with the polytheists dealt a heavy blow to the pride of quraish and created a sort of horrible restlessness amongst them.
the aforementioned qur’ânic verses, enjoining the muslims to strive in the cause of allâh, betrayed the proximity of blood clashes that would be crowned by a decisive victory for the muslims, and final expulsion of polytheists out of the sacred city, makkah. they referred to rules pertinent to the treatment of captives and slaughtering the pagan soldiers till the war ended and laid down its burdens. all of these could act as clues to a final triumph that would envelop the strife of the muslims towards their noble objectives.
another event of great significance featured the same month sha‘ban 2 a.h., i.e. february 624 a.d., which was a divine injunction ordering that al-qiblah be changed from jerusalem to the sacred mosque in makkah. that was of a great advantage to the muslims at two levels. first, it brought about a kind of social sifting, so to speak, in terms of the hypocrites of the jews and others weak at heart, and revealed their true nature and inclinations; the ranks of the muslims were thereby purged from those discord-prone elements. second, facing a new qiblah, the sacred mosque in makkah, refers gently to a new role awaiting the muslims to take up, and would start only after the repatriation of the muslims to their sacred city, makkah for it is not logical for the muslims to leave their qiblah at the mercy of non-muslims.
the muslims, therefore, at the behest of allâh and on account of those divine clues, augmented their activities and their tendency towards striving in the cause of allâh and encountering his enemies in a decisive battle were greatly intensified.