Hamrâ’ Al-Asad Invasion
the messenger of allâh [pbuh] on his part, spent the night pondering over the situation. he feared that the idolaters might think — while they were still on their way to makkah — of reversing their way and diverting to madinah after they had realized that they had availed nothing of that victory. they might regret and decide to invade madinah as a compensation. therefore the messenger of allâh [pbuh] was determined to go out in pursuit of the makkan army.
the prophet [pbuh] called out unto people and ordered them to march to encounter the enemy of islam. that was on sunday morning — next day to uhud — the eighth of shawwal. he said: "nobody will march to the fight except those who have already participated in uhud fight." ‘abdullah bin ubai said: "i will march out with you." "no," said the prophet [pbuh].
whilst the muslims were suffering a lot from painful pains and deep anxiety, they responded to his call positively. jabir bin ‘abdullah implored the prophet [pbuh] to allow him join them in that fresh invasion on account that he always had a liking to witness all the battles that the prophet [pbuh] was involved in. he had not participated in uhud because his father asked him to stay in madinah with his sisters . and he was granted his wish.
the muslims marched out until they reached a place called hamra’ al-asad — about eight miles from madinah. he encamped there. in that place ma‘bad bin abi ma‘bad came to the messenger of allâh [pbuh] and professed islam. some people said that he remained an idolater; he simply desired to give the messenger some advice out of abidance by a covenant between khuza‘ah (his tribe) and bani hashim. he said "o muhammad [pbuh]! by allâh, we feel great sorrow for what had happened to you and to your companions. we really hope you will not suffer again." so, the messenger of allâh [pbuh] suggested that he overtake abu sufyan and discourage him from pursuing his evil intentions.
the messenger’s fears of a possible return of the idolaters proved to be absolutely true. for no sooner had the idolaters dismounted and encamped at ar-rawhâ’ — a place thirty-six miles from madinah, than they started reproaching one another. a group of them said to another one: "you did nothing. you broke down their force but you left them. there are still some distinguished men among them who will probably gather people up to fight you again. so let us go back and annihilate them and crush down their forces."
it was in fact a hasty decision taken by shallow-minded people who misjudged the potential power and morale on both parties, that is why an eminent leader of quraish, safwan bin omaiyah, tried to dissuade his people from pursuing that venture, saying: "o people. do not do such a thing! for i fear that he will gather up those who had stayed behind and did not share in uhud. go back home as winners. for i am not sure of what turn will the consequences take if you get involved in such a fight. it might be to your prejudice in the final place." notwithstanding that weighty argument, the majority of the polytheists were determined to embark on that risky undertaking.
ma‘bad bin abu ma‘bad meanwhile arrived on the scene and tried to exaggerate the danger awaiting them in order to thwart their plan, he said: "muhammad [pbuh] has marched to meet you with a large host of fighters, i have never seen something similar to it before. he has mustered all the troops who have tarried and did not share in uhud. they surely regret what they have missed and want to compensate for it now. their hearts are filled with hate and resentment." abu sufyan said: "woe to you! what do you suggest?" he said: "by allâh, i see that you would not leave till he comes and you see the heads of their horses; or till the vanguard of his army turns up to you from behind that hill."
abu sufyan said: "by allâh, we have reached a common consent to crush down the muslims and their power." the man, once more with an implied warning, advised him to stop it.
in the light of this news, the resolution and determination of the makkan army failed and panic and terror took firm hold of them. they consequently deemed it safest to complete there withdrawal back to makkah. they, however, as an alternative, started a hostile nerve propaganda aiming at dissuading the muslims army from pursuing them. a caravan belonging to ‘abd qais happened to pass by towards madinah. abu sufyan, in the context of his propaganda, asked them to communicate a message to muhammad [pbuh] to the effect that the makkans had rallied their ranks to annihilate the messenger and his companions, in return abu sufyan promised to give the people of the caravan loads of raisins at the forum of ‘ukaz the following year.
the people of the caravan conveyed the message to the messenger of allâh [pbuh] at hamrâ’ al-asad, but to no effect, on the contrary, abu sufyan’s words augmented them in faith. allâh says:
after the arrival of the caravan on sunday, the messenger of allâh [pbuh] stayed at hamrâ’ al-asad for three days — monday, tuesday and wednesday — 9-11 shawwal, 3 a.h. and then returned to madinah. before his return, he took abu ‘azza al-jumahi as a prisoner of war. incidentally, this man had also been captured at badr but on account of his poverty, and the large family he supported, the prophet [pbuh] had been gracious enough to release him on condition that he would not involve himself in war against the muslims again. abu ‘azza did not keep his promise and took part in uhud hostilities on the side of the polytheists. here again he implored muhammad [pbuh] for pardon but the latter told him that a believer wouldn’t be taken twice in the same snare. he then deservedly merited the sentence of death which was executed by az-zubair or, in another version, by ‘asim bin thabit.
a makkan spy, called mu‘awiyah bin al-mugheerah bin abi al-‘as, was sentenced to death too. this spy was the grandfather of ‘abdul malik bin marwan on his mother side. when the idolaters went back after uhud, mu‘awiyah came to his paternal cousin ‘uthman bin ‘affan رضى الله عنه. ‘uthman gave him shelter — after securing the prophet [pbuh]’s permission — on condition that if he was caught there after three days, he would be killed. but he did not comply with it, so when the muslim army left madinah, he stayed there for more than three days during which he was spying for quraish. so when the army returned, mu‘awiyah fled out of madinah. the messenger of allâh [pbuh], on this account, ordered zaid bin harithah and ‘ammar bin yasir to pursue him and kill him. so he was killed. [ibn hisham 2/60-129; za'd al-ma'ad 2/91-108; fath al-bari 7/345-377; mukhtasar seerat ar-rasool p.242-275]
undoubtedly, the invasion of hamrâ’ al-asad is not a separate invasion, but rather a part, or more specifically, a sequel to uhud.
that was uhud invasion with all its stages and details. it has for long been discussed by scholars and men of research. was it a defeat or not? doubtlessly, the military superiority in the second phase of the battle was in favour of the polytheists who could successfully direct the steering mechanism of hostilities and inflict heavy losses in lives on the muslims. admittedly, a part of the believers were clearly defeated, but this could never be considered a makkan victory.
the makkan army failed to occupy the camp of the muslims. the greater bulk of the madinese army, chaos and confusion notwithstanding, did not take to escape, on the contrary they showed matchless and heroic resistance and managed to gather themselves again around their headquarters fighting bravely and courageously. they, moreover, did not allow the makkans to run after them in pursuit. neither muslim captives were taken nor spoils were gained by the makkans. the enemies of islam were also too cowardly to conduct the third phase of war, and impress their superiority on the battlefield, on the contrary, they were in hot haste to evacuate the field even before the muslims did. madinah itself, the capital of the muslims, was only a stone’s throw from the lines of the enemy, and vulnerably exposed, yet the polytheists were not bold enough to storm it to plunder its wealth or capture the muslim women therein.
these suggestive details in fact support our argument that the event of uhud was just a precious occasion on which the makkans managed only to inflict heavy losses on the muslims but failed to achieve their ultimate goals of annihilating the muslim army in the process of their encompassment operation. after all, it is not unusual for conquerors to sustain such casualties and losses, but these could under no circumstances be regarded as victory for the hostile party.
the incident of hamrâ’ al-asad is interesting in this regard. it is a curious sight indeed of a victorious army in retreat for fear of disgrace and defeat, and the crestfallen and crippled group of muslims in pursuit.
uhud battle in the final judgement was just one phase of military activities in the whole process of war between two hostile parties each of whom earned their legitimate portion of both success and failure and then desisted further engagement but without cowardly escape or resigned surrender. in this sense, this battle could be rightly regarded as an inseparable war.
in this context, allâh says:
the verse explicitly identifies both attitudes as regards losses and hardships as identical. both parties concluded the war operations and went back neither victorious nor vanquished.