having subdued two powerful sides of the confederates coalition, the prophet [pbuh] started preparations to discipline the third party, i.e. the desert bedouins, who took najd for habitation, and continued in their usual practices of looting and plundering. unlike the jews of khaibar and people of makkah, they had a liking for living in the wilderness dispersed in scattered spots, hence the difficulty of bringing them under control, and the futility of carrying out deterrent campaigns against them. however, the prophet [pbuh] was determined to put an end to this unacceptable situation and called the muslims around him to get ready to launch a decisive campaign against those harassing rebels. meanwhile it was reported to him that bani muharib and banu tha‘lbah of the ghatfan tribe were gathering army in order to encounter the muslims. the prophet [pbuh] proceeded towards najd at the head of 400 or 700 men, after he had mandated abu dhar - in another version, ‘uthman bin ‘affan - to dispose the affairs of madinah during his absence. the muslim fighters penetrated deep into their land until they reached a spot called nakhlah where they came across some bedouins of ghatfan, but no fighting took place because the latter had agreed to go into reconciliation with the muslims. the prophet [pbuh] led his followers that day in a prayer of fear.
al-bukhari, on the authority of abu musa al-ash‘ari, narrated that they set out on an expedition with the messenger of allâh [pbuh]. "we were six in number and had (with us) only one camel which we rode turn by turn. our feet were injured. my feet were so badly injured that my nails came off. we, therefore, bandaged our feet with rags, so this expedition was called dhat-ur-riqa‘ (i.e. the expedition of rags.)" [sahih al-bukhari 2/592; sahih muslim 2/118]
jabir narrated: in the course of dhat-ur-riqa‘ expedition, we came to a leafy tree where the prophet [pbuh] sat shading himself off the burning sun. the others dispersed here and there seeking shelter from heat. the prophet [pbuh] had a short nap after he had hung his sword on the tree. a polytheist, meanwhile came, seized the sword and unsheathed it.
the prophet [pbuh] woke up to find his sword drawn in the man’s hand. the bedouin here asked the prophet (unarmed then): "who would hold me back from killing you now?" the prophet [pbuh] then answered: "it is allâh." in another version, it was reported that the prophet [pbuh] took the sword when it had fallen down and the man said: "you (the prophet) are the best one to hold a sword." the prophet [pbuh] asked the man if he would testify to the oneness of allâh and the messengership of muhammad. the arabian answered that he would never engage in a fight against him, nor would he ally people fighting the muslims. the prophet [pbuh] set the man free and let him go to his people to say to them that he had seen the best one among all people. [mukhtasar seerat ar-rasool p.264; fath al-bari 7/416]
a woman from the arabians was taken prisoner in the context of this battle. her husband, on hearing the news, swore he would never stop until he had shed the blood of a muslim. secretly at night, he approached the camp of the muslims when he saw two sentries stationed there to alert the muslims against any emergency. he shot the first one, abbad bin bishr, who was observing prayer, with an arrow but he did not stop prayer, he simply pulled it out. then he was shot by three other arrows but would not interrupt his prayer. after he had done the closing salutations, he awakened his companion ‘ammar bin yasir, who remonstrated that he should have alerted him to which the latter replied that he was half way through a chapter and did not like to interrupt it. [za'd al-ma'ad 2/112; ibn hisham 2/203-209]
the victory at the expedition of dhat-ur-riqa‘ had a tremendous impact on all the arabians. it cast fear into their hearts and rendered them too powerless to antagonize the muslim society in madinah. they began to acquiesce in the prevailing situation and resigned themselves to new geo-political conditions working in favour of the new religion. some of them even embraced islam and took an active part in the conquest of makkah and the battle of hunain, and received their due shares of the war booty.
from that time onward, the anti-islam tripartite coalition had been subdued, and peace and security prevailed. the muslims, then started to redress any political imbalance and fill in the small gaps that still triggered unrest here and there in the face of the great drive of islamization that enveloped the whole area. we could in this context mention some of these incidental skirmishes which pointed markedly to the ever-growing power of the muslim society.
- a platoon headed by ghalib bin ‘abdullah al-laithi in safar or in rabi‘ al-awwal 7 a.h. was despatched to muffle the provocative behaviour of bani al-muluh. the muslims managed to kill a large number of the enemy soldiers and captured a great deal of booty. a large army of polytheists rushed in their heel but floods hindered the pursuit, and the muslims managed to withdraw in safety.
- ‘umar bin al-khattab, at the head of a 30-soldier group, set out to a spot called turbah in sha‘ban 7 a.h. to discipline the people of hawazin. he no longer arrived at their habitation that they fled for their lives.
- thirty men with basheer bin sa‘d al-ansari headed for bani murrah in sha‘ban 7 a.h. in fadak area. he killed a large number of the enemy and seized a lot of their camels and cattle. on his way back, the enemy gathered up forces and overtook the muslims at night. they showered basheer and his men with arrows, and killed all the muslims except basheer, who took refuge in fadak and stayed with the jews there until his wounds healed.
- ghalib bin ‘abdullah al-laithi at the head of a platoon of 130 men launched an attack against bani ‘awâl and bani ‘abd bin tha‘lbah in ramadan 7 a.h. they killed some of the enemy’s men and captured their cattle and camels. ‘usama bin zaid killed mardas bin nahik, a polytheist, but after he had pronounced the testimony of allâh’s oneness to which incident the prophet [pbuh] commented addressing his companions: "would you rip open his heart to discern whether he is truthful or a liar?"
- a thirty-horseman group headed by ‘abdullah bin rawaha marched towards khaibar on reports that aseer (or basheer bin razam) was rallying the ranks of bani ghatfan to attack the muslims: they managed to persuade that jew to follow them to madinah encouraging him that the prophet [pbuh] would institute him as a ruler of khaibar. on their way back there occurred a sort of misunderstanding that gave rise to fierce fighting between the two parties resulting in the death of aseer and the thirty men with him.
- in shawwal 7 a.h., basheer bin sa‘d al-ansari marched towards yemen and jabar at the head of 300 muslim fighters to subdue a large mob of polytheists who gathered to raid the outskirts of madinah. basheer and his men used to march at night and lurk during the day until they reached their destination. having heard about the advent of the muslims, the polytheists fled away leaving behind them a large booty and two men who later embraced islam on arrival in madinah.
- in the year 7 a.h., shortly before the compensatory ‘umrah (lesser pilgrimage), a man called jashm bin mu‘awiyah came to a spot called ghabah where he wanted to gather the people of qais and entice them into fighting the muslims. the prophet [pbuh], on hearing these reports, despatched abu hadrad with two men to see to the situation. abu hadrad, through a clever strategy, managed to rout the enemy and capture a lot of their cattle. [za'd al-ma'ad 2/149, 150; rahmat-ul-lil'alameen 2/229, 230; mukhtasar seerat ar-rasool p.322-324]