The Tribes' Fear of the Muslims

the battle of badr struck fear into the hearts of these tribes. their leaders considered whether or not to strike against madinah now, before the situation got utterly out of hand. soon enough, it came to the ear of muhammad that an army of ghatafan and sulaym tribesmen were marching in the direction of madinah; in turn, he led an expedition of muslim fighters to qarqarat al kudr to meet them. when the muslim force arrived, they found camel traces but no men. muhammad sent a number of his companions to reconnoiter the upper levels of the valley. while waiting for them to return, he met a young boy by the name of yasar and asked him about the whereabouts of the enemy. the boy answered that they had gone to the spring at the higher extremity of the valley. the muslims seized the camels they found in the area without battle and divided the booty as the qur'an demanded, one-fifth going to muhammad. it was reported that their booty amounted to five hundred camels of which the prophet took one-fifth and distributed the rest equally among his companions, each one getting two camels. later on, it reached the ear of muhammad that tha'labah and muharib tribesmen had gathered at dhu amarr with aggressive designs. the prophet immediately led an expedition of four hundred and fifty fighters to search out the enemy in their own grounds but without meeting them. he did, however, come across a man from tha'labah whom he questioned regarding the whereabouts of the enemy. this man warned the prophet that, should they hear of his advance, they would run away to the mountain heights; and he offered his services as a guide. the enemy soon heard of muhammad's approach and retreated to the mountains. later learning that a great force of banu sulaym tribesmen from bahran were advancing on madinah, the prophet went out in haste with a muslim force of three hundred to meet them. a day's distance from bahran, the muslims came across a man from banu sulaym who reported, upon questioning by the prophet, that the tribesmen had dispersed and returned home. all these tribesmen were stricken with panic and fear for their future. they plotted against the muslims and oft went out in force to fight them. but no sooner did they hear of muhammad's sortie with his companions to meet them, than they would lose heart and run away.


the jews' fear of muhammad

it was during these times that ka'b ibn al ashraf was killed. this event instilled in the jews such fear that none of them dared leave his house. muhammad's blockade and expulsion of banu qaynuqa` intensified these fears.

they then came to muhammad pleading their cause and accusing the muslims of having killed ka'b deliberately, in spite of his personal innocence. muhammad answered, "the man whom you claim to be innocent has indeed harmed us deeply and composed libelous poetry against us. had he remained quiet like his coreligionists, nothing would have befallen him." after long discussion of the matter, muhammad invited the jews to enter with him into a new covenant agreeable to both and which both would henceforth respect. but this covenant did not allay fears. their plotting against muhammad continued as later events were to make evident.


the `iraq route to al sham

how was quraysh to conduct her trade now that muhammad had cut off its route? makkah, it must be remembered, lived on trade. without trade, its whole economy was bound to founder. by cutting her trade route as he did, muhammad had practically imposed a blockade on her which would soon destroy her place and influence in arabia. it is reported that safwan ibn umayyah advised the quraysh at this stage that 'muhammad and his companions have spoiled our trade. what shall we do with him and his companions if they do not remove themselves from the coastal area? the muslims befriended the tribes who inhabited the coastal regions and most of these have even joined their party. what shall we do with ourselves? to live in makkah devoid of trade is tantamount to eating up our capital funds and then starving. our whole life in the city, therefore, depends upon our summer trade with al sham and our winter trade with abyssinia." to this al aswad ibn `abd al muttalib replied that the makkans ought to abandon the coastal route to al sham and henceforth take the eastern route passing through al `iraq. to help satisfy this requirement, al aswad suggested to safwan that he should appoint furat ibn hayyan, a tribesman of banu bakr ibn wail, to show him the new route he should take. furat explained to them that the eastern route was safe because none of muhammad's companions ever approached it, but that it was an empty, waterless desert. the desert did not frighten safwan because the season was winter and the need for water relatively small. he gathered merchandise amounting to one hundred thousand dirhams and prepared to start off toward al sham. nu'aym ibn mas'ud al ashjaƋ, who was in makkah at the time, learned of the preparation of this caravan. upon returning to madinah he reported this news to muhammad. the prophet sent zayd ibn harithah with a hundred riders to intercept the caravan at the oasis of al qardah in the center of najd. the makkans ran away at the encounter, leaving behind the caravan which the muslims took away as booty. upon zayd's return to madinah, muhammad took one-fifth of the booty and divided the rest among his men. furat ibn hayyan, the guide of the caravan, accepted islam and thereby saved himself

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