on the authority of at-tabari, the messenger of allâh [pbuh] asked ‘aishah [r], his spouse three days prior to receiving news relating to breaching of covenant, to make preparations peculiar to marching out for war. abu bakr, meanwhile, came in and asked ‘aishah [r] what the matter was, showing surprise at the preparations being made as it was not, as he said, the usual time for war. she replied that she had no idea. on the morning of the third day ‘amr bin sâlim al-khuza‘i arrived in the company of forty horsemen to brief the prophet [pbuh] on the plight of his people and seeking the muslims’ help for retaliation. people of madinah then got to know that quraish had breached the covenant. budail followed ‘amr, and then abu sufyan and the news was unequivocally confirmed.
with view of securing a complete news black-out concerning his military intentions, the prophet [pbuh] despatched an eight-men platoon under the leadership of qatadah bin rab‘i in the direction of edam, a short distance from madinah, in ramadan 8 a.h., in order to divert the attention of people and screen off the main target with which he was preoccupied.
there was so much dread and fear everywhere that hatib, one of the most trusted followers of the prophet [pbuh] secretly despatched a female messenger with a letter to makkah containing intimation of the intended attack. the prophet [pbuh] received news from the heaven of hatib’s action and sent ‘ali and al-miqdad with instructions to go after her. they overtook the messenger, and after a long search discovered the letter carefully hidden in her locks. the prophet [pbuh] summoned hatib and asked him what had induced him to this act. he replied, "o messenger of allâh [pbuh]! i have no affinity of blood with quraish; there is only a kind of friendly relationship between them and myself. my family is at makkah and there is no one to look after it or to offer protection to it. my position stands in striking contrast to that of the refugees whose families are secure due to their blood ties with quraish. i felt that since i am not related to them, i should, for the safety of my children, earn their gratitude by doing good to them. i swear by allâh that i have not done this act as an apostate, forsaking islam. i was prompted only by the considerations i have just explained."
‘umar wanted to cut his head off as a hypocrite, but the prophet [pbuh] accepted his excuse and granted him pardon, then addressed ‘umar saying: "hatib is one of those who fought in the battle of badr. how do you know that he is a hypocrite? allâh is likely to look favourably on those who participated in that battle. turning then, to hatib, he said: "do as you please, for i have forgiven you."
after making full preparation, the prophet [pbuh] proceeded to makkah at the head of ten thousand soldiers on the 10th of ramadan, 8 a.h. he mandated abu ruhm al-ghifari to dispose the affairs of madinah during his absence. when they reached al-juhfa, al-‘abbas bin ‘abdul muttalib and his family came to join the prophet [pbuh]. at al-abwa’, the muslims came across abu sufyan bin al-harith and ‘abdullah bin omaiyah, the prophet’s cousins, but, on account of the harm they had inflicted, and their satiric language, on the believers, they were not welcomed. ‘ali addressed abu sufyan to go and beseech the prophet [pbuh] for pardon and confess his ill-behaviour in a manner similar to that of yusuf’s (the prophet joseph) brothers:
"they said: ‘by allâh! indeed allâh has preferred you above us, and we certainly have been sinners.’" [al-qur'an 12:91]
abu sufyan observed ‘ali’s counsel, to which the prophet quoted allâh’s words:
"he said: ‘no reproach on you this day, may allâh forgive you, and he is the most merciful of those who show mercy!’" [al-qur'an 12:92]
abu sufyan recited some verses paying a generous tribute to the prophet [pbuh] and professing islam as his only religion.
the muslims then marched on in a state of fasting until they reached a place called al-qadeed where water was available. there they broke fast [sahih al-bukhari 2/613] and resumed their movement towards mar az-zahran. the quraishites were quite unaware of the development of affairs, but the prophet [pbuh] did not like to take them by surprise. he, therefore, ordered his men to kindle fire on all sides for cooking purposes. the idea behind this was that quraish should be afforded full opportunity to assess the situation in which they were pitchforked correctly, and should not endanger their lives by leaping blindly in the battlefield. ‘umar bin al-khattab was entrusted with the guard duty. in the meanwhile, abu sufyan along with hakim bin hizam and budail bin warqua’, two terrible polytheists, went out to reconnoiter. before they got near the camp, they met ‘abbas, the prophet’s uncle. he apprised abu sufyan of the situation and advised him to accept islam and persuade his people to surrender before muhammad [pbuh]; otherwise, his head would be struck off.
under the prevailing compelling circumstances, abu sufyan went in the company of ‘abbas seeking the prophet’s [pbuh] audience. the muslims were furious to see abu sufyan and wanted to kill him on the spot. but the two men managed, not without difficulties, to see the messenger of allâh [pbuh] who advised that they see him the following day. the prophet [pbuh] addressed abu sufyan saying: "woe to you! isn’t it time for you to bear witness to the oneness of allâh and prophethood of muhammad?" here, the archenemy of islam began to beseech the prophet [pbuh] in the most earnest words that testify to the prophet’s generosity and mild temper begging for pardon and forgiveness, and professing wholeheartedly the new faith.
on request by ‘abbas, the prophet [pbuh], in the context of the general amnesty he proclaimed, gave abu sufyan, who had a liking for bragging, a special privilege, saying: "he who takes refuge in abu sufyan’s house is safe; whosoever confines himself to his house, the inmates thereof shall be in safety, and he who enters the sacred mosque is safe."
on the morning of tuesday, 17th. ramadan, 8 a.h., the prophet [pbuh] left mar az-zahran. he ordered al-‘abbas to detain abu sufyan at a commanding gorge that could afford a full view of the muslim army parading on its way towards makkah, and hence give him the chance to see the great and powerful soldiers of allâh. the different tribes successively passed with their banners flown up, until at last the battalion of the emigrants and helpers with the prophet [pbuh] at their head heavily armed marched by. abu sufyan began to wonder who those people were, to which al-‘abbas told him that they were muhammad [pbuh] and his companions. abu sufyan said that no army however powerful could resist those people and addressing al-‘abbas, he said: "i swear by allâh that the sovereignty of your brother’s son has become too powerful to withstand." al-‘abbas answered, "it is rather the power of prophethood," to which the former agreed.
sa‘d bin ‘ubadah carried the flag of the helpers. when he passed by abu sufyan, he said "today will witness the great fight, you cannot seek sanctuary at al-ka‘bah. today will witness the humiliation of quraish." abu sufyan complained about this to the prophet [pbuh] who got angry and said "nay, today al-ka‘bah will be sanctified, and quraish honoured," and quickly ordered that sa‘d should be stripped off the flag, and that it should be entrusted to his son qais, in another version, to az-zubair.
al-‘abbas urged abu sufyan to hasten into makkah and warn the quraishites against any aggressive behaviour towards the muslims. there in makkah, he shouted at the top of his voice and warned against any hostilities advising them to seek safety in his house. his wife got indignant and tugged at his moustache cursing him and abusing his cowardly stance. the people within makkah mocked abu sufyan and dispersed in different directions, some into their houses, others into the holy sanctuary while some undisciplined reckless ruffians led by ‘ikrimah bin abi jahl, safwan bin omaiyah and suhail bin ‘amr encamped themselves in a place called khandamah, with a murderous intent in their minds.
the prophet [pbuh], on his part, was quite modestly and calmly drawing the final touches for the military breakthrough awaiting the muslims, by allâh’s will. he appointed khalid bin al-waleed as a leader of the right flank of the army with aslam, sulaim, ghifar, muzainah and juhainah tribes under his command to enter makkah through its lower avenues. az-zubair bin ‘awwam was to lead the left flank and would storm makkah from the upper side holding up the messenger’s banner. abu ‘ubaidah took command of the infantry and was to penetrate into the city via a side valley. they were given full and decisive orders not to kill unless in self defence and in that case they would exterminate any aggressive elements and quell any opposition.