as 'ali and his companions came back from badr with the two youths and some information about quraysh, two other muslims went in a slightly different direction to seek news of the caravan. they came to a sandhill not too far from the springs of badr. there they took a jug and went down to the spring to get some water. while they were there they overheard two maid servants involved in an argument in which the one was asking the other to pay back her debt to her; the latter answered that either on the next day or the day after the caravan would come for whom she would work, and she would earn enough to pay her back. the two men returned to muhammad and reported what they heard. as the caravan approached the area, abu sufyan marched ahead reconnoitering the territory, apparently fearful that muhammad might have preceded him to the place. when he arrived at the spring, he met majdi ibn `amr, whom he asked whether anyone had been seen in the vicinity. majdi answered that he had not seen anyone except two idlers who stopped at the nearby sand dune, and pointed to the spot where the two muslims stopped in order to get the water. abu sufyan came to the spot and found some refuse of their two camels. as he examined it, he found it contained grains which he recognized as coming from crops known to be grown and used in madinah. he returned quickly to his caravan and altered its course. by leading it toward the sea coast with great speed, he managed to escape.
the morrow arrived while the muslims were still awaiting the arrival of the caravan. the news now reached them that the caravan had passed them by on a different route and that the quraysh army were still in the vicinity close by. with this news, whatever hope for booty some of them may have entertained collapsed. the prophet discussed with his companions whether or not they should now return to madinah and not force a showdown with the quraysh army. in this connection, the following verses of the qur'an were revealed: "now that god has promised that one of `the two' shall fall to you, you wish that it would be the one devoid of strength or resistance. but, rather than easy booty, god wishes that the truth become supreme, that justice be done, and that the unbelievers be scattered."[qur'an, 8:7]
prospects of battle
for their part, the quraysh asked themselves the same question. what need do they have to fight now that their caravan had escaped? was it not better for them to return to their homes and to let the muslims return to theirs empty handed? these were the thoughts of abu sufyan, who sent word to the quraysh to this effect. he told them, "you have prepared for war and come out in strength in order to protect your caravan, your men, and your goods. god has saved all these. return, then, home." some men agreed. abu jahl thought otherwise. to abu sufyan's message, he responded, "by god, we shall not return home until we have come to badr, spent three nights in eating good food, drinking wine, and reveling, that all arabs may hear of our sortie, our strength, and continue to fear us." the locality of badr was the center of a seasonal gathering in that part of arabia. for the quraysh to withdraw soon after the escape of their caravan might be interpreted as fear of muhammad and his companions. this event would increase muhammad's power and encourage the spread of his cause. such would especially be the case as the expedition of `abdullah ibn jahsh, the killing of ibn al hadrami, the capture of two qurayshis, and quraysh's loss of the caravan were all common knowledge throughout the desert.