the path of the muslim army
the prophet, may god's blessing be upon him, had started off from madinah with his companions on the eighth day of ramadan in the second year a.h. he had appointed `amr ibn maktum to lead the prayer in madinah, and abu lubabah, whom he called back from al rawha', to govern madinah in his place during his absence. the muslim force was preceded by two black flags, and their camels counted seventy. since three or four men were assigned to one camel, each one rode for only a brief while. muhammad's share in riding was like that of his companions. he, `ali ibn abu talib, and marthad ibn marthad al ghanawi had one camel assigned to them. abu bakr, `umar, and `abd al rahman ibn `awf shared another. the total number of men on this expedition amounted to three hundred and five. eighty-three of them were muhajirun, sixty-one belonged to al aws, and the rest to al khazraj. their pace was swift because they feared abu sufyan would pass them by if they tarried. they arrived to a place called `iraq al zubiah where they found a bedouin whom they asked concerning the caravan but could not learn anything from him. they continued on their march until they arrived at a valley called dhafiran where they encamped. it was at this moment that the news reached them that the quraysh had come out in force to meet them and protect the caravan. this news radically changed the situation. it was no more a question of intercepting- abu sufyan, his caravan, and the thirty or forty escorts who were no match for muhammad and his companions. the whole of makkah, led by its, nobles and elders, was out to protect its trade. if the muslims were to catch up with abu sufyan, overcome his men and take away his camels and all they carried, would the quraysh not follow and catch up with them, stirred up by this new attack of the muslims and encouraged by their great numbers and armaments? would they not catch up with the muslims and fight them to the finish? on the other hand, if muhammad were to return without victory, would not both the quraysh and the jews of madinah realize his weakness and seek to take advantage of it? would he then not have to compromise and, perhaps, suffer a jewish tyranny in madinah such as the quraysh tyranny he had suffered in makkah? in such eventuality, how could the revelation of truth and the religion of god ever become successful or achieve victory?
muhammad consulted the members of his expedition concerning the news just received. after abu bakr and `umar presented their views, al miqdad ibn `amr stood up and said: "0 prophet of god, press forward toward that which cod has shown you. we are with you. by god, we shall never say to you, as the jews had said to moses, `go alone with your lord and fight with him for us, while we remain here and await your return.' rather, we say, `go forth, you and your lord to fight, for we are fighting with you.'" a1 miqdad's speech was followed by silence. the prophet said: "speak out, 0 men, and give me your counsel." he was especially anxious to hear al ansar's view who, on the day of al `aqabah, pledged to protect him as they would their children and women but not to permit any aggression with him outside their own area. when al ansar realized that he was waiting for them to speak, sa'd ibn mu'adh, their leader, rose and addressed muhammad: "does it seem, 0 prophet of god, that you are seeking to hear our view?" the prophet answered, "indeed." sa'd said, "we have believed in you, and we have witnessed that what you have brought to us is the truth. we have covenanted with you to hear and to obey. go ahead with whatever you decide, for we are with you. by him who sent you as a prophet, if you lead us toward the sea, we shall enter into it with you and not one of us will stay behind. we do not fear that you cause us to face our enemy tomorrow. we shall hold fast to our ground and stand firm or press forward toward the enemy in solid ranks. we hope that god will show you such of our deeds as you may not be disappointed therein but may be proud of. lead us forth with god's blessing." sa'd had hardly finished his words when muhammad 's face radiated with joy and his eyes shone with energy. he said: "go forward and be optimistic; for god had premised me one of the twoeither the caravan or the makkan army. by god, it is as though i see the enemy lying prostrate in the field." when the force arrived at dhafiran, muhammad advanced on his camel alone and, reaching an old bedouin settler in the area who did not know him, asked about quraysh, as well as about muhammad and his companions, and learned that the caravan of quraysh was indeed close by.