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The First Raids

2789 2008/10/05 2024/05/30

this general hypothesis of the historians is supposedly proved by events which took place eight months after the hijrah of muhammad. the prophet then sent his uncle hamzah ibn `abd al muttalib with forty riders from the muhajirun, rather than the ansar, to the seacoast near al `is where abu jahl ibn hisham was camping with three hundred makkan riders. hamzah was just about to enter into battle with the quraysh force when majdiy ibn `amr al juhani, who was in peaceful relation with both parties, interfered to separate them before the battle had begun. at the same time, muhammad sent `ubaydah ibn al harith with sixty riders from the muhajirun to go to a well in the valley of rabigh in hijaz where they met more than two hundred riders led by abu sufyan. the muslim forces withdrew without engaging the enemy, except for the report that sa'd ibn abu waqqas shot one single arrow, later to be called, `the first arrow shot in the cause of islam.' it is also reported that muhammad had sent sa'd ibn abu waqqas to lead a number of muhajirun riders (eight according to one version and twenty according to another) into the hijaz, but he returned without engaging the enemy.


raids led by the prophet

as further evidence to all the foregoing it is said that the prophet himself had undertaken the leadership of the raids on al abwa' twelve months after the hijrah and appointed sa`d ibn `ubadah as his vice-regent in madinah during his absence. in their search for the quraysh as well as the banu damrah, the muslims reached waddan. they did not meet any man from quraysh on that expedition, but they did succeed in winning banu damrah as allies. a month later, muhammad led a force of two hundred riders from both the muhajirun and ansar camps with buwat as their objective, where a caravan of 1,500 camels accompanied by one hundred riders under the leadership of umayyah ibn khalaf was reported to be passing. no engagement took place because the caravan had taken an untrodden, unknown route. two or three months after muhammad's return from buwat by way of radwa, he appointed abu salamah ibn `abd al asad to take his place in madinah while he and more than two hundred muslim riders went on an expedition to `ushayrah in the district of yanbu`. there he spent the whole month of first jumada and a few days of second jumada of the second year .a.h. (october 623 c.e) waiting for a quraysh caravan headed by abu sufyan to pass, without success, for it had already gone earlier. during his stay in the area, he concluded a pact of friendship with the tribe of banu mudlaj and their allies from banu damrah. he had hardly spent ten days in madinah after his return when kurz ibn jabir al fihri, an ally of quraysh, raided the camels and cattle of madinah. the prophet immediately led a force after him, appointing zayd ibn harithah as his representative during his absence. the force marched until it reached a valley called safawan in the district of badr and again missed their objective, the said kurz ibn jabir al fihri. it is to this raid that biographers refer as the first raid of badr.


the historians' view of the first raid

does not all this constitute evidence that the muhajirun as well as muhammad sought first of all to avenge themselves on the quraysh and to open hostilities against them? there is full evidence, according to these historians, that for these expeditions and raids the muslims had two objectives: first to seize the caravans of the quraysh, on their way to or from al sham during the summer, in order to take possession of the goods which they carried; second to cut off the quraysh caravan routes to al sham. this latter goal was to be achieved by concluding covenants and pacts with the various tribes settled along these routes. thus, it would be all the easier and safer for the muhajirun to attack these caravans without fear of detection or attack from the local inhabitants, and the caravans themselves would then be at the total mercy of the muslims. the raids which the prophet sent out under the leadership of hamzah, `ubaydah ibn al harith, and sa'd ibn abu waqqas, as well as the pacts of friendship and peace which he concluded with banu damrah, banu mudlaj, and others, confirmed this second objective and proved that the muslims had definitely aimed at cutting the road to al sham for the quraysh and makkah.


our view of these raids

that by means of these raids, begun six months after their settlement in madinah and undertaken by the muhajirun alone, the muslims sought to wage war against quraysh and to attack its caravans is an opinion which cannot be accepted without hesitation and scrutiny. the expedition of hamzah did not consist of more than thirty men, that of `ubaydah, sixty, that of sa'd eight, according to one version, and twenty according to another. the number of fighters assigned by the quraysh to the protection of their caravan was in each case many times the number of riders the muslims had sent out. moreover, ever since muhammad emigrated to madinah and began to forge a chain of alliances around the city, the quraysh multiplied the number of escorts for their caravans and improved their weapons. whatever the personal courage of hamzah, `ubaydah, and sa'd among the leaders of those expeditionary forces of the muhajirun, their military equipment was not such as would encourage them to make war. they were satisfied with threatening the quraysh rather than engaging them in battle. the only exception to this was the single arrow shot by sa'd, as reported above.


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