The Military Activities between Badr and Uhud
the battle of badr was the first armed encounter between the muslims and quraish. it was in fact a decisive battle that gained the muslims a historic victory acknowledged by all the arabs, and dealt a heavy blow to the religious and economic interests of the polytheists. there were also the jews who also used to regard each islamic victory as a heavy blow to their religioeconomic entity. both parties were burning with rage and fury since the muslims had achieved that great victory:
"verily, you will find the strongest among men in enmity to the believers (muslims) the jews and al-mushrikûn (polytheists, pagans, idolators and disbelievers, etc.)." [al-qur'an 5:82]
both resentful parties had their much more indignant suite in the form of hypocrites who faked islam just to save their faces; at the head of whom came ‘abdullah bin ubai and his retinue. the desert bedouins living in tents pitched in the vicinity of madinah, who depended on plundering and looting as a means of living, were totally indifferent to this axial question of belief and disbelief. their worry derived from fear of losing their perverted avenues of subsistence in case a powerful nascent muslim state should rise up and put an end to such ill-practices, hence the grudge they nursed against islam and the muslims, in general, and the person of muhammad [pbuh], in particular.
the whole cause of faith was thus at stake with four furious parties laying ambushes against the new religion, each in its style: pretension to islam embedded with conspiracy plots and provocative deeds within madinah, explicitly uncovered animosity pregnant with indignation and fire of rage on the part of the jews, and there in makkah open and persistent calls for vengeance coupled with open intentions to mobilize all potential resources available to silence the voice of islam once and for all. this was later translated into military action, uhud invasion, which left a very bad impression on the good name and esteem that the muslims were painstakingly working to merit and preserve.
the muslims were always obliged to be on the lookout for any hostile movements, and it was imperative on them to launch pre-emptive strikes in all directions in order to enjoy a reasonable degree of security in this great instability-provoking ocean of unrest. the following is a list of military activities conducted in the post-badr era:
the scouting body of madinah reported that banu saleem of ghatafan were engaged in mustering troops to invade the muslims. the prophet [pbuh] took the initiative himself and mounted a surprise attack on them in their own homeland at a watering place called al-kudr. banu saleem, on receiving the news, had fled before he arrived. he stayed there for three days, took their 500 camels as booty and distributed them to the fighters after he had set aside the usual one-fifth; each one gained two camels.
this invasion took place in shawwal in the year 2 a.h., seven days after the event of badr.[za'd al-ma'ad 2/90; ibn hisham 2/43,44; mukhtasar seerat ar-rasool p.236]
an attempt on the life of the prophet [pbuh]
the impact of defeat at badr was so great that the makkans began to burn with indignation and resentment over their horrible losses. to resolve this situation two polytheists volunteered to quench their thirst and muffle the source of that humiliation i.e. the prophet [pbuh].
‘umair bin wahab al-jumahi, a terrible polytheist, and an archenemy safwan bin omaiyah sat together privately lamenting their loss and remembering their dead and captives. ‘umair expressed a fervent desire to kill the prophet [pbuh] and release his captured son in madinah, if it was not for the yoke of debts he was under and the large family he had to support. safwan, also had his good reasons to see the prophet [pbuh] killed, so he offered to discharge ‘umair’s debts and support his family if he went on with his plan.
‘umair agreed and asked safwan to be reticent on the whole scheme. he left for madinah, having with him a sword to which he applied some kind of lethal poison. ‘umar bin al-khattab saw him at the door of the mosque and understood that he had come with evil intentions. he immediately went into the mosque and informed the prophet [pbuh]. he was let in looped by the sling of his sword and in greeting he said "good morning", to which the prophet [pbuh] replied that allâh had been gracious and taught them the greeting of the dwellers of the paradise: "peace be upon you!" to a question raised by the prophet [pbuh], about his object, ‘umair said that he had come to see that his captured son was well treated. as for the sword, which the prophet [pbuh] asked him about, he cursed it and said that it gained them nothing. on exhorting him to tell his real goal, he remained obdurate and did not divulge the secret meeting with safwan. here the prophet [pbuh] got impatient and he himself revealed to ‘umair his secret mission. ‘umair was taken by surprise, and incredible astonishment seized him, and immediately bore witness to the messengership of muhammad [pbuh]. he then began to entertain allâh’s praise for having been guided to the ‘straight path’. the prophet [pbuh] was pleased and asked his companions to teach ‘umair the principles of islam, recite to him the noble qur’ân and release his son from captivity.
safwan, meanwhile, was still entertaining false illusions as to the approaching redemption of honour, and burying the memory of badr into oblivion. he was impatiently awaiting ‘umair’s news but to his great surprise, he was told that the man had embraced islam and changed into a devoted believer. ‘umair later came back to makkah where he started to call people unto islam and he did actually manage to convert a lot of makkans into islam.[ibn hisham 1/661-663]
invasion of bani qainuqa‘
we have already spoken about the treaty that the prophet [pbuh] signed with the jews. he was very careful to abide by it to the letter and the muslims did not show the least violation of any of its provisions. the jews, however, whose natural disposition is closely linked to treachery, betrayal and covenant-breaching, could not rid themselves of the tradition of theirs, and started a process of intrigues and troublemaking with the aim of producing schism in the growing solid muslim ranks. here is a relevant model of their behaviour: shas bin qais, an elderly jew, a terrible disbeliever and a greatly envious man of the muslims, passed by a group of muhammad [pbuh]’s followers of aws and khazraj. he perceived a prevalent spirit of reconciliation and an atmosphere of rapport and amity enveloping the whole group; an unusual scene categorically in conflict with the animosity and hatred that characterized their pre-islam behaviour. he, therefore, sent a youth of his to sit among them, remind them of bu‘ath war between them and recite some of their verses which they used to compose satirizing each other; all of this with the intention of sowing the seeds of discord and disagreement and undermining the new islamically-orientated inter-tribal relations. the youth did in fact succeed and the two parties at no time recalled the old days and pre-islam tribal fanaticism sprang to the front to bring about a state of war.
the prophet [pbuh] was reported of this account, and immediately, at the head of some emigrants, set out to see to the situation. he began to rebuke them but in the manner of the great instructor and the tolerant spirit of the understanding guide: "o, muslims! do you still advance pre-islamic arguments after i have been sent to you (as a messenger). remember that it is not rightful for you to turn backward after allâh has guided you to the straight path, delivered you from disbelief and created amity between you." the muslims readily realized that it was a satanic whim and a plot hatched by the enemies. they directly embraced each other and went back home quite satisfied and in full obedience to the messenger of allâh [pbuh].[ibn hisham 1/555, 556]
such were the practices of the jews, trouble-making, dissension-sowing, falsehood-fabrication, faking belief in the day, and practising disbelief at night. in everyday life, they used to tighten the ropes of financial dealings on the muslims. if they happened to owe a muslim something, they would shirk their obligations on grounds that he had converted into a new religion and they would allege the basis of agreement was no longer valid. if it was the other way, they would never cease to harass him day and night to pay back the debt, all of which in a desperate attempt to demolish the great edifice of the new religion that was rapidly gaining ground and speedily towering up skyward.
the qainuqa‘ jews breach the covenant
seeing that allâh sided with the believers and granted them a manifest victory and perceiving the muslims’ awesome presence in madinah, the jews could no longer contain themselves or conceal indignation. they started a series of provocative and harmful deeds publicly. the most wicked amongst them were the tribe of banu qainuqa‘, who lived in quarters within madinah named after them. as for jobs, they took up goldsmithery, blacksmithing and crafts of making household instruments, that is why war weaponry was available in large quantities in their houses. they counted 700 warriors, and were the most daring amongst the jewish community in arabia, and now the first to breach the covenant of cooperation and non-aggression which they had already countersigned with the prophet [pbuh]. their behaviour grew too impolite and unbearable. they started a process of trouble-making, jeering at the muslims, hurting those who frequented their bazaars, and even intimidating their women. such things began to aggravate the general situation, so the prophet [pbuh] gathered them in assemblage, admonished and called them to be rational, sensible and guided and cautioned against further transgression. nevertheless they remained obdurate and paid no heed to his warning, and said: "don’t be deluded on account of defeating some quraishites inexperienced in the art of war. if you were to engage us in fight, you will realize that we are genuine war experts."
in this regard, the words of allâh were revealed saying:
the answer of banu qainuqa‘ amounted, as seen, to war declaration. the prophet [pbuh] suppressed his anger and advised the muslims to be patient and forbearing and wait for what time might reveal.
the jews, went too far in their transgression, presumptuous behaviour and licentious practices. one day a jewish goldsmith provoked a muslim woman whose genitals become uncovered when he had tied the edge of the garment to her back. a muslim man happened to be there and killed the man; the jews retaliated by killing that muslim. the man’s family called the muslims for help and war started.[ibn hisham 2/47,48]
on saturday, shawwal 15th, 2 a.h., the prophet [pbuh] marched out with his soldiers, hamzah bin ‘abdul muttalib, carrying the standard of the muslims and laid siege to the jews’ forts for 15 days. allâh cast fear into their hearts, and they were obliged to defer to the messenger[pbuh]’s judgement on their lives, wealth, women and children; their hands were tied behind their backs.
at this point, ‘abdullah bin ubai bin salul started his hypocritical role and began to intercede for them persistently on grounds of former alliance between those jews and his tribe khazraj. muhammad [pbuh] dealt with this man as being a muslim -- he had faked conversion into islam for only one month, by that time -- and so he granted him his request; for islam accepts people at their face value. banu qainuqa‘ handed over all materials, wealth and war equipage to the prophet [pbuh], who set aside one fifth and distributed the rest to his men. after that they were banished out of all arabia to azru‘a in syria where they stayed for a while and soon perished away.
two-pronged hostile activities were being independently conducted against the prophet [pbuh]; plots and intrigues being hatched by safwan bin omaiyah, the hypocrites and jews on the one hand, going on and on parallel lines with military hostilities being prepared by abu sufyan aiming at saving the face of his people and impressing on the other arabs that quraish was still a military power to be counted for. in the aftermath of badr, abu sufyan was burning for revenge and took a solemn vow he would never bathe off impurity unless he had avenged himself on muhammad [pbuh] and his followers. he set out at the head of 200 men towards madinah but was not brave enough to attack it in broad daylight. he, instead resorted to acts of piracy that are performed in the dark. he infiltrated into the prophet [pbuh]’s town and went to see an old ally huyai bin akhtab, who was too cowardly to let him in, so he left for salam bin mashkam, chief of bani nadeer, a tribe of jews. the jew entertained and gave him a full account of the situation therein. late at night he despatched a group of his men to raid al-‘uraid, a suburb of madinah. there, the men felled and burnt the palm trees, killed two muslims and then took swiftly to their heels.
on hearing the news, the prophet [pbuh] gathered his men and set out at their heels, but could not catch them. the muslims brought back the provisions (sawiq, a kind of barley porridge) which the polytheists had thrown aside in order to lighten their loads and hasten their escape; hence this campaign was called as-sawiq invasion. it took place in dhul-hijjah 2 a.h., two months after the event of badr.[za'd al-ma'ad 2/90,91; ibn hisham 2/44,45]
dhi amr invasion, muharram, 3 a.h
the prophet [pbuh]’s intelligence personnel reported that banu tha‘labah and banu muhârib were mustering troops with the aim of raiding the outskirts of madinah. the prophet [pbuh] at the head of 450 horsemen and footmen set out to handle this new situation. ‘uthman bin ‘affan was asked to dispose the affairs of the muslims in madinah. on their way, they captured a man who embraced islam and acted as a guide for the army. when the enemies heard of the approach of the muslims, they hurriedly dispersed in the mountains and disappeared. the muslims encamped at a watering place called "dhi amr" for the whole of safar 3 a.h. the prophet [pbuh] aimed to impress upon the desert bedouins in the area, that the muslims were then powerful enough to cast fear and awe into the hearts of their enemies.[za'd al-ma'ad 2/91; ibn hisham 2/46]
ka‘b bin al-ashraf, killed
ka‘b bin al-ashraf was the most resentful jew at islam and the muslims, the keenest on inflicting harm on the messenger of allâh [pbuh] and the most zealous advocate of waging war against him. he belonged to tai’ tribe but his mother to banu nadeer. he was a wealthy man known for his handsomeness, and a poet living in luxury in his fort south east of madinah at the rear of banu nadeer’s habitations.
on hearing the news of badr, he got terribly exasperated and swore that he would prefer death to life if the news was true. when this was confirmed he wrote poems satirizing muhammad [pbuh], eulogizing quraish and enticing them against the prophet [pbuh]. he then rode to makkah where he started to trigger the fire of war, and kindle rancour against the muslims in madinah. when abu sufyan asked him which religion he was more inclined to, the religion of the makkans or that of muhammad [pbuh] and his companions, he replied that the pagans were better guided. with respect to this situation, allâh revealed his words:
he then returned to madinah to start a fresh campaign of slanderous propaganda that took the form of obscene songs and amatory sonnets with a view to defaming the muslim women.
at this stage, the situation became unbearable and could no longer be put up with. the prophet [pbuh] gathered his men and said: "who will kill ka‘b bin al-ashraf? he had maligned allâh, and his messenger." thereupon, muhammad bin maslamah, ‘abbad bin bishr, al-harith bin aws, abu ‘abs bin hibr and salkan bin salamah, ka‘b’s foster brother, volunteered to do the job.
muhammad bin maslamah said: "o messenger of allâh, do you wish that i should kill him?" he said: "yes." he said: "permit me to talk (to him in the way i deem fit)." he said: "talk (as you like)." so, muhammad bin maslamah came to ka‘b and talked to him, saying: "this man (i.e. the prophet [pbuh]) has made up his mind to collect charity (from us) and this has put us to a great hardship." when he heard this, ka‘b said: "by allâh you will be put to more trouble by him." muhammad bin maslamah answered: "no doubt, now we have become his followers and we do not like to forsake him until we see what turn his affairs will take. i want that you should give me a loan." he said: "what will you mortgage?" muhammad answered: "what do you want?" the immoral and heartless jew demanded women and children as articles of security against the debt. muhammad said: "should we pledge our women whereas you are the most handsome of the arabs; and the son of one of us may be abused by saying that he was pledged for two wasq (measurement unit of weight) of dates but we can pledge you (our) weapons." ka‘b agreed. salkan bin salamah, abu na’ilah, at another time, went to see ka‘b for the same purpose and there were more or less the same subjects, only that abu na’ilah would bring him some companions. the plan was successful and provided for the presence of both men and weapons. on rabi‘ al-awwal 14th, at night, the year 3 a.h. the people said good bye to the prophet [pbuh] and set out in the name of allâh to implement the carefully drawn plan. the prophet [pbuh] stayed back praying for them and supplicating allâh to render them success. the men went and called upon him at night. he came down although his wife warned him not to meet them alleging that: "i hear a voice which sounds like the voice of murder." he said: "it is only muhammad bin maslamah and my foster brother abu na’ilah. when a gentleman is called at night even if he be pierced with a spear, he should respond to the call." abu na’ilah said to his companions: "as he comes down, i will extend my hand towards his head to smell and when i hold him fast, you should do your job." so when he came down, they talked together for about an hour. they then invited him to go out and spend a nice time in the moonlight. on the way out, abu na’ilah remarked: "i smell the nicest perfume from you." ka‘b said: "yes, i have with me a mistress who is the most scented of the women of arabia." abu na’ilah again said: "allow me to smell (the scent on your head)". he said: "yes, you may smell." so he caught it and smelt. then he said: "allow me to do so(once again)." he then held his head fast and said to his companions: "do your job." and they killed him. the group of men came back after fulfilling their mission. one of them al-harith bin aws was wounded by mistake with the swords of his men, and was bleeding badly. when they reached baqee‘ al-gharqad, they shouted, "allâh is great". the prophet [pbuh] heard them and realized that they had killed the enemy of allâh. as they saw him, he said: "cheerful faces are yours." in reply, they said: "and yours o messenger of allâh." they handed the head of the tyrant over to him. he entertained allâh’s praise for their success. he then applied his saliva to al-harith’s wound and it healed on the spot.[ibn hisham 1/51-57; sahih al-bukhari 1/341, 425, 2/577; za'd al-ma'ad 2/91' and sunan abu da'ud with 'aun-ul-ma'bood 2/42,43]
when the jews learned about the death of their tyrant, ka‘b bin al-ashraf, they were scared and even their stonelike hearts were in the grip of inexpressible panic. they realized that the messenger of allâh [pbuh] would thenceforth never hesitate to use force when good words and admonition failed. they remained silent and resigned, and faked adherence to covenants.
now the prophet [pbuh] was free to collect his thoughts and give himself up to resolving foreign affairs, and facing dangers that could be carried with hostile wind blowing again from makkah.
the invasion of buhran
in rabi‘ ath-thani, the year 3 a.h. the prophet [pbuh] led a campaign comprising 300 warriors to buhran in the area of al-furu‘. he stayed there till jumada al-ula, 3 a.h. no fighting took place in the process of this patrolling invasion.[ibn hisham 2/50,51; za'd al-ma'ad 2/91]
zaid bin harithah leads a campaign on the trade routes of quraish
this was the most successful campaign prior to uhud battle. it took place in jumada ath-thaniyah, the year 3 a.h.
summer approached and it was high time for the makkan trade caravans to leave for syria. the people of quraish whose lives depended mainly on a mercantile economy consisting of summer caravans to syria and winter caravans to abyssinia (ethiopia), were now at a loss as to what route they would have to follow in order to avoid the backbreaking military strikes that the muslims successfully inflicted on the polytheists.
they held a meeting to discuss the chances of escaping the economic blockade and decided to go along a trade route across najd to iraq. furat bin haiyan was appointed as a guide for the caravan. safwan bin omaiyah led the caravan along the new route. news of the meeting leaked out through na‘im bin mas‘ud al-ashja‘i under the effect of wine, and it flew fast to madinah by sulit bin an-nu‘man. the prophet [pbuh] immediately mustered 100 horsemen under the leadership of zaid bin harithah al-kalbi and despatched them to intercept and capture the caravan. they caught up with the camels at a place called al-qardah. they took the polytheists by surprise and arrested their guide and two other men. safwan and his guards fled away without showing the least resistance. the caravan was carrying silver and wares whose value amounted to 100 thousand dirhams. the booty was distributed among the muslim warriors after one-fifth had been set aside for the prophet [pbuh]. furat bin haiyan embraced islam out of his own sweet free will.[ibn hisham 1/50,51; fiqh as-seerah p.190; rahmat-ul-lil'alameen 2/219]
as a result of this episode, the muslims foiled quraish’s plans to find a new trade route. the economic siege laid to makkah was thus consolidated and had a great impact on the mercantile economy of makkah. the makkans were terribly anxious and worried about their prospects of life now at stake with no hope whatsoever for any possible rehabilitation of commercial life or redemption of former prestige at the socio-political level except through two avenues categorically contrasting: relinquishing all symbols of arrogance and all attitudes of haughtiness through reconciliation with the new status quo, and peaceableness with the muslims; or launching a decisive overwhelming war with the aim of crushing down the military forces of madinah. it was apparent through the process of events that quraish had opted for the second alternative. loud cries were being heard everywhere in makkah demanding immediate vengeance and quick retaliatory action. these movements on all levels constituted the direct preliminaries to the battle of uhud.