upon accomplishing the equipment of the army, the messenger of allâh [pbuh] ordained that muhammad bin maslamah al-ansari should be appointed over madinah — in another version siba‘ bin ‘arftah. to ‘ali bin abu talib he entrusted his family’s safety and affairs and ordered him to stay with them. this move made the hypocrites undervalue ‘ali, so he followed the messenger of allâh [pbuh] and caught up with him. but the prophet made ‘ali turn back to madinah after saying: "would it not suffice you to be my successor in the way that aaron (harun) was to moses’?" then he proceeded saying: "but no prophet succeeds me."
on thursday, the messenger of allâh [pbuh] marched northwards to tabuk. the army that numbered thirty thousand fighters was a great one, when compared with the previous armies of islam. muslims had never marched with such a great number before.
despite all the gifts of wealth and mounts the army was not perfectly equipped. the shortage of provisions and mounts was so serious that eighteen men mounted one camel alternatively. as for provisions, members of the army at times had to eat the leaves of trees till their lips got swollen. some others had to slaughter camels — though they were so dear — so that they could drink the water of their stomach; that is why that army was called "the army of distress".
on their way to tabuk, the army of islam passed by al-hijr — which was the native land of thamud who cut out (huge) rocks in the valley; that is "al-qura valley" of today. they watered from its well but later the messenger of allâh [pbuh] told them not to drink of that water, nor perform the ablution with it. the dough they made, he asked them to feed their camels with. he forbade them to eat anything whatsoever of it. as an alternative he told them to water from that well which prophet salih’s she-camel used to water from.
on the authority of ibn ‘umar: "upon passing by al-hijr the prophet [pbuh] said:
"do not enter the houses of those who erred themselves lest what had happened to them would afflict you, but if you had to do such a thing let it be associated with weeping."
then he raised his head up and accelerated his strides till he passed the valley out." [sahih al-bukhari 2/637]
shortage of water and the army’s need to it made them complain to the messenger of allâh [pbuh] about that. so he supplicated allâh, who sent a rainful cloud. it rained and so all people drank and supplied themselves with their need of water.
when they drew near tabuk, the prophet said: "if allâh will, tomorrow you will arrive at tabuk spring. you will not get there before daytime. so whoever reaches it should not touch its water; but wait till i come." mu‘adh said: "when we reached the spring it used to gush forth some water. we found that two men had already preceded us to it. the messenger of allâh [pbuh] asked them: ‘have you touched its water?’ they replied: ‘yes’. he said what allâh inspired him to say, then he scooped up little water of that spring, thin stream which gathered together, he washed his face and hand with it and poured it back into it; consequently plenty of water spouted out of it so people watered. ‘mu‘adh’, said the messenger of allâh, ‘if you were doomed to live long life you will see in here fields full of vegetation.’" [sahih muslim 2/246]
on the way to tabuk, or as soon as they reached tabuk, the messenger of allâh [pbuh] said: ‘severe wind will blow tonight, so none of you should stand up. whoever has a camel should tie it up.’ later on when the strong wind blew, one of the men stood up and the wind carried him away to tai’ mountain. [ibid. sahih muslim 2/246]
all the way long the messenger of allâh [pbuh] was intent on the performance of the combined prayer of noon and the afternoon; and so did he with sunset and evening prayers. his prayers for both were either pre-time or post-time prayers.