Military Platoons and Missions between the Battle of Uhud and the Battle of the Confederates
uhud’s misfortune left a bad impact on both the credibility and military reputation of the muslims. their dignity and power in people’s eyes were impaired. troubles and dangers spread everywhere in and out of madinah. the jews, hypocrites and bedouins declared publicly their enmity to the muslims and each party was keen on degrading and, in the final place, exterminating their whole existence.
two months had almost passed after this battle, when banu asad made preparations to raid madinah, ‘udal and qarah tribes conspired against
thus we see that the muslims turned into an attractive target of several potential dangers after they had lost their military credibility in the battle of uhud. muhammad [pbuh] most wisely managed to hold all those hostile currents at bay, and even redeem the lost dignity of the muslims and gain them anew fresh glory and noble standing. the first initiative he took in this process was hamra’ al-asad pursuit operation, whereby he could retain the muslim military reputation. he succeeded in recovering his followers’ dignity and awe-inspiring position in such a manner that astonished or even astounded both the jews and hypocrites, alike, then he proceeded to crown his successful attempts by despatching military errands and missions:
the first people to take up arms against the muslims in the aftermath of uhud reverse were banu asad bin khuzaimah. "the intelligence corps" of madinah reported that talhah and salamah, sons of khuwailid have mustered some volunteers to fight the messenger of allâh [pbuh]. the prophet [pbuh] immediately despatched a 150-man-platoon of helpers and emigrants headed by abu salamah. the muslim leader took bani asad bin khuzaimah by surprise in their own homeland, neutralized their attempts, dispersed them and captured their cattle. on his return, abu salamah had an inflammation of a previous wound he sustained in uhud, and caused him to die soon after. this expedition took place on muharram 1st, 4 a.h.[za'd al-ma'ad 2/108]
on the fifth day of the same month muharram, 4 a.h., it was reported that khalid bin sufyan al-hudhali was gathering some mob to raid the muslim positions. ‘abdullah bin unais, at the behest of the prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم set out to destroy the enemies.
the muslim military leader stayed away for eighteen days during which he successfully fulfilled his task, killed the head of the rebels and brought his head back to madinah on saturday, seven days before the end of muharram. the prophet [pbuh], as a reward, gave him a stick saying "this will function as a sign of recognition for you and me on the day of resurrection." on his death bed, ‘abdullah requested that the log be with him in his shroud. [za'd al-ma'ad 2/109; ibn hisham 2/619, 620]
in safar of the fourth year a.h., a delegation from the tribes of ‘udal and qarah came to madinah and asked the prophet [pbuh] to send a group of companions to instruct them in religion, claiming the existence of some muslims among them. he sent six of his companions, in another version, ten headed by murthid bin abi murthid al-ghanawi, or, according to al-bukhari, ‘asim bin thabit, the grandfather of ‘asim bin ‘umar bin al-khattab. when they reached a spot called ar-raji‘ between rabigh and jeddah, a hundred archers of banu lihyan clan surrounded the place and attacked them. the delegation of muslims took shelter on some high ground, fudfud, and the bedouins offered them a pledge that they would not be killed. ‘asim refused to come down, instead he fought them until he and six of his companions were killed. three men were left, khubaib, zaid bin ad-dathna and another one. once again, the bedouins offered them a guarantee of safety and they accepted. when they descended, the bedouins treacherously bound them. the third man rebuked them for their insincerity and resisted them so they killed him. the other two men who had killed some notables of quraish at badr were taken and sold in makkah. the first was khubaib who was detained for some time and then it was unanimously decided to crucify him. he was taken from the holy sanctuary to at-tan‘im for crucifixion. he requested a respite to offer a two-rak‘a prayer. after the final greeting, he turned to his executioners, and said: "had i not been afraid that you would think that i was afraid of death, i would have prayed for a long time." it was then that khubaib first set the tradition of praying two rak‘a before being executed. he then said:
he then recited some verses of poetry which speak eloquently of the atrocities borne by him, and testify to his faith in allâh at this hour of suffering:
abu sufyan then addressed him saying: "i adjure you by allâh, don’t you wish that muhammad [pbuh] were here in your place so that we might cut off his head, and that you were with your family?" khubaib answered, "by allâh, i do not wish that muhammad [pbuh] now were in the place i occupy or that a thorn could hurt him, and that i were sitting with my family." quraish ordered ‘uqbah bin al-harith, whose father had been killed by khubaib himself, to crucify him. they also appointed someone to guard his corpse. ‘amr bin omaiyah ad-damari played a cunning trick and carried the corpse stealthily at night to bury it somewhere. it was later reported that shortly before his crucifixion, he was seen eating a bunch of grapes although there was not even one date available in makkah at that time. [in fact, it was nothing but sustenance bestowed upon him by allâh.]
safwan bin omaiyah purchased the second man, zaid bin ad-dathna, and killed him as an act of vengeance for his father’s murder.
quraish, whom ‘asim had killed one of their notables, sent someone to fetch a portion of his body, but to their disappointment, his corpse was inaccessible because a large swarm of hornets had been shielding him against any malicious tampering. ‘asim had already given his lord a pledge to remain immune against any polytheist tampering with respect to his body, and also stay detached from any contact with the enemies of allâh. ‘umar bin al-khattab, when hearing this piece of news exclaimed, "allâh verily protects his believing slave after death just as he does during his lifespan." [ibn hisham 2/169-179; za'd al-ma'ad 2/109; sahih al-bukhari 2/568,569,585]
ma‘una well tragedy, which was even more horrible than that of ar-raji‘, took place in the same month.
abu bara’ — ‘amir bin malik — nicknamed ‘spear player’ came to the messenger of allâh [pbuh] in madinah. the messenger of allâh [pbuh] called him to embrace islam but he neither agreed nor refused. he said: "o messenger of allâh, if you dispatch some of your companions to the people of najd to call them to islam, i expect them to accept." "i am afraid the people of najd will kill them." said the messenger. but he replied, "i will protect them." ibn ishaq confirms that forty men were sent to them; but as-sahih states that they were seventy — al-mundhir bin ‘amr, one of bani sa‘ida, nicknamed ‘freed to die’ — commanded that group, who were the best and most learned in the qur’ân and jurisprudence.
on their way to najd they used to gather firewood to buy food for the people of ‘ahl as-suffah’ as charity by day and study, meditate on the meanings of the qur’ân by night. they kept on doing that till they arrived at ma‘una well — which was a well in between bani ‘amir, harrah and bani saleem. they stayed there and sent the message of the prophet [pbuh] with haram bin milhan, the brother of umm sulaim to the enemy of allâh ‘amir bin at-tufail. ‘amir did not heed the message but rather ordered a man to spear haram in the back. when the spear penetrated haram’s body, he saw the blood and said: "allâhu akbar! (i.e. allâh is the greatest) by lord of al-ka‘bah i have won!"
then the enemy of allâh, promptly, called out bani ‘amir to fight the rest. bani ‘amir refused because they were under the protection of abu bara’. therefore he turned to bani saleem for help. the people of ‘usaiyah, ri‘al and dhakwan, who were folks of bani saleem, responded to his call. the companions of the prophet [pbuh], who were encompassed by idolaters, kept on fighting till they were all killed. the only survivor was ka‘b bin zaid bin an-najjar who was carried wounded from among the dead. it was in al-khandaq (the trench) battle that he was killed.
‘amr bin omaiyah ad-damari and al-mundhir bin ‘uqbah bin ‘amir, who were entrusted with the muslims’ animals far from them, saw the birds circling in the air over the battleground. al-mundhir rushed to share in the fight till he was killed. but ‘amr bin omaiyah was captured. ‘amir set him free when he knew that he was of mudar tribe but that was after he had cut his hair. he did that to fulfil a pledge of his mother’s to set a slave free.
returning to the prophet [pbuh] ‘amr bin omaiyah conveyed the news of the painful disaster, which resulted in the murder of seventy of the best believers, and recalled the tragedy of uhud but with the difference that those of uhud were killed in a clear war but those of ma‘una were killed in a disgraceful treachery. on his way back to qarqara, ‘amr bin omaiyah rested in the shade of a tree, and there two men of bani kilab joined him. when they slept, ‘amr killed them both, thinking that by doing that he would avenge some of his killed companions. then he found out that they had been given a pledge of protection by the prophet [pbuh]. he told the messenger of allâh [pbuh] what he had done. the messenger of allâh [pbuh] said to ‘amr: "you have killed two people; their blood-money shall be a debt i have to discharge." he then engaged himself collecting their blood-money from the muslims and their allies, the jews [ibn hisham 2/183-188; za'd al-ma'ad 2/109-110; sahih al-bukhari 2/584-586]. this very act was later to trigger the invasion of bani an-nadeer.
the prophet [pbuh] was so deeply moved by this tragedy and that of ar-raji‘ that he used to invoke allâh’s wrath against those people and tribes who killed his companions. anas reported that for thirty days the prophet [pbuh] supplicated allâh against those who killed his companions at ma‘una well. every dawn prayer he would invoke allâh’s wrath against ri‘l, dhakwan, lihyan and ‘usaiyah. he would say, " ‘usaiyah disobeyed allâh and his messenger." therefore allâh عز وجل, sent down unto his messenger a qur’ânic verse that we kept on reciting till it was abrogated later on: ‘inform our folk that we have encountered our lord and he is satisfied with us and we are satisfied with him.’ so the messenger of allâh [pbuh] stopped his invocation. [sahih al-bukhari 2/586-588]
we have already spoken about the disgraceful behaviour of the jews and how they were always thirsting to shed the blood of the muslims and undermine the cause of islam despite all the covenants and pledges they had given to the prophet [pbuh]. their behaviour fluctuated between resignation and slackness after the banu qainuqa‘ event and the murder of ka‘b bin al-ashraf, and rebellion coupled with treacherous clandestine contacts with quraish and the hypocrites in order to establish an alliance against the muslims after the battle of uhud ['aunul ma'bood 3/116-117]. being inexperienced in war tactics, they resorted to conspiracy and intrigue hatching. they first of all declared open hatred and enmity, and chose to play all sorts of tricks that might harm the muslims, but were very careful not to initiate any sort of hostilities that might involve them in open war.
the prophet [pbuh], on his part, exercised the highest degree of patience with them but they went too far in their provocative deeds, especially after ar-raji‘ and ma‘una well events; they even made an attempt on his life.
once the prophet [pbuh] with some of his companions set out to see banu nadeer and seek their help in raising the blood-money he had to pay to bani kalb for the two men that ‘amr bin omaiyah ad-damari had killed by mistake. all of that was in accordance with the clauses of the treaty that both parties had already signed. on hearing his story they said they would share in paying the blood-money and asked him and his companions abu bakr, ‘umar, ‘ali and others to sit under a wall of their houses and wait. the jews held a short private meeting and conspired to kill the prophet [pbuh]. the most wicked among them, ‘amr bin jahsh, volunteered to climb up the wall and drop a large millstone on his head. one of them, salam bin mashkam, cautioned them against perpetrating such a crime, predicting that allâh would divulge their plot to him, and added that such an act would constitute a manifest violation of the pact concluded with the muslims.
in fact, gabriel did come down to reveal to the prophet [pbuh] their wicked criminal intention, so he, with his companions, hurried off back to madinah. on their way, he told his companions of the divine revelation.
soon after, the prophet [pbuh] delegated muhammad bin maslamah to communicate an ultimatum to bani nadeer to the effect that they should evacuate madinah within ten days, otherwise, their heads would be cut off. the chief of the hypocrites, ‘abdullah bin ubai, urged the jews not to pay heed to the prophet [pbuh]’s words and to stay in their habitations, offering to run to their support with two thousands of his followers, and assuring them of help to come from quraizah tribe and former allies banu ghatfan. in this regards, allâh says:
the jews regained their confidence and were determined to fight. their chief huyai bin akhtab relied hopefully on what the chief of the hypocrites said. so he sent to the messenger of allâh [pbuh] saying: "we will not leave our houses. do whatever you like to do."
undoubtedly the situation was awkward for the muslims. launching a war against their opponents at this critical stage could entail terrible far reaching ramifications in the light of the unfavourable conditions they were passing through, besides the hostile environment growing in power and hatred around them, the harbinger of which assumed the form of killing the muslim missions, as it has been already introduced.
the jews of bani nadeer were also a power to count for, and the prospects of inflicting a military defeat on them was precarious; consequently forcing them into war engagement would be attended with unpredictable risks. on the other hand, the continual state of repeated assassinations and acts of treachery carried out against the muslims individually and collectively brought about unbearable headache to muhammad [pbuh]’s followers. having judged all the prevalent status quo in this perspective, and in the light of the disgraceful attempt on the life of the prophet [pbuh], the muslims made the decisive decisions of taking up arms whatever turn the consequences could assume.
when the messenger of allâh [pbuh] received the reply of huyai bin akhtab he said: "allâhu akbar, allâhu akbar." (allâh is the greatest of all) and his companions repeated after him. then he set out to fight them after appointing ibn umm maktum to dispose the affairs of madinah during his absence. the standard was entrusted to ‘ali bin abi talib. he laid siege to their forts for six nights — in another version, fifteen.
banu nadeer resorted to their castles, mounted them and started shooting arrows and pelting stones at the muslims enjoying the strategic advantage that their thick fields of palm trees provided. the muslims were therefore ordered to fell and burn those trees. in this respect, allâh, the all-mighty, states in the qur’ân:
quraizah tribe remained neutral, and the hypocrite ‘abdullah bin ubai as well as ghatfan failed to keep their promises of support. in this regard allâh says:
the siege did not last long for allâh, the all-mighty, cast horror into the hearts of the jews, and they willingly offered to comply with the prophet [pbuh]’s order and leave madinah. the prophet [pbuh] accepted their request and allowed them to carry as much luggage as their camels could lift, arms were excepted. of course, they had no choice but to carry out the orders, so they took with them everything they could carry even the pegs and beams of ceilings. their caravan counted 600 loaded camels including their chiefs, huyai bin akhtab and salam bin abi al-huqaiq, who left for khaibar whereas another party shifted to syria. two of them embraced islam, yameen bin ‘amr and abu sa‘d bin wahab, and so they retained their personal wealth.
the messenger of allâh [pbuh] seized their weapons, land, houses, and wealth. amongst the other booty he managed to capture, there were 50 armours, 50 helmets, and 340 swords.
this booty was exclusively the prophet [pbuh]’s because no fighting was involved in capturing it. he divided the booty at his own discretion among the early emigrants and two poor helpers, abu dujana and suhail bin haneef. anyway the messenger of allâh [pbuh] spent a portion of this wealth on his family to sustain their living the year around. the rest was expended to provide the muslim army with equipment for further wars in the way of allâh.
the invasion of bani an-nadeer took place in rabi‘ al-awwal, 4 a.h. i.e. in august 625 a.d. almost all the verses of sûrah al-hashr (chapter 59 - the gathering) describe the banishment of the jews and reveal the disgraceful manners of the hypocrites. the verses manifest the rules relevant to the booty. in this chapter, allâh, the all-mighty, praises the emigrants and helpers. this chapter also shows the legitimacy of cutting down and burning the enemy’s land and trees for military purposes. such acts cannot be regarded as phenomena of corruption so long that they are in the way of allâh.
in this very chapter, allâh recommends the believers to be pious and prepare themselves for the world to come and he ends it with a compliment upon himself and a manifestation of his holy names and attributes.
as this chapter concentrates on bani an-nadeer and their banishment, ibn ‘abbas used to describe it as ‘an-nadeer chapter’. [ibn hisham 2/190-192; za'd al-ma'ad 2/71; sahih al-bukhari 2/574-575]
with the peaceful victory that the muslims achieved at bani an-nadeer invasion, their control over madinah was undisputedly established, and the hypocrites receded to a state of silence and stopped their artful machinations publicly. consequently the prophet [pbuh] had ample time to direct all his energies and human resources towards suppressing the desert bedouins and curbing their harmful provocations and wicked malicious practices of killing his missionaries and even contemplating an invasion of madinah itself. [fiqh as-seerah p.214] meanwhile, the muslim scouting groups reported building up of bedouin troops of bani muharib and tha‘labah of ghatfan around madinah. the prophet [pbuh], with the muslims, hurriedly set out to discipline those new outlaws, cast fear into their hearts and deter them from perpetrating further wicked practices. these deterring operations were carried out repeatedly and did produce effective results. the rebellious hard-hearted desert bedouins were terrorized into the mountains, and madinah remained completely immune against their raids.
in the context of these invasions, it is interesting to draw some prominence to a significant one ¾ dhat ar-riqa‘ (rags) campaign ¾ which some scholars claim, took place in najd ( a large area of tableland in the arabian peninsula) in rabi‘ ath-thani or jumada al-ula, 4 a.h. they substantiate their claim by saying that it was strategically necessary to carry out this campaign in order to quell the rebellious bedouins in order to meet the exigencies of the agreed upon encounter with the polytheists, i.e. minor badr battle in sha‘ban, 4 a.h. the most authentic opinion, however, is that dhat ar-riqa‘ campaign took place after the fall of khaibar. this is supported by the fact that abu hurairah and abu musa al-ash‘ari [r] witnessed the battle. abu hurairah embraced islam only some days before khaibar, and abu musa al-ash‘ari came back from abyssinia (ethiopia) and joined the prophet [pbuh] at khaibar. the rules relating to the prayer of fear which the prophet [pbuh] observed at dhat ar-riqa‘ campaign, were revealed at ‘asfan invasion and this beyond a shadow of doubt took place after al-khandaq (the trench) battle in late 5 a.h.
when the muslims destroyed the power of the arab-desert tribes and guarded themselves against their evils, they started preparations to encounter their great enemy. a year elapsed since they fought quraish at uhud. so it was due time to meet them and start war again in order to determine which of the two parties was worthy of survival. [fiqh as-seerah p.315]
in sha‘ban 4 a.h., january 626 a.d., the messenger of allâh [pbuh] set out to badr accompanied by one thousand and five hundred fighters and ten mounted horsemen, and with ‘ali bin abi talib as standard bearer. ‘abdullah bin rawahah was given authority over madinah during the prophet [pbuh]’s absence. reaching badr, the muslims stayed there waiting for the idolaters to come.
abu sufyan’s forces comprised two thousand footmen and fifty horsemen. they reached mar az-zahran, some distance form makkah, and camped at a water place called mijannah. being reluctant, discouraged and extremely terrified of the consequences of the approaching fight, abu sufyan turned to his people and began to introduce cowardice-based flimsy pretexts in order to dissuade his men from going to war, saying: "o tribe of quraish! nothing will improve the condition you are in but a fruitful year — a year during which your animals feed on plants and bushes and give you milk to drink. and i see that this is a rainless year, therefore i am returning now and i recommend you to return with me."
it seems that his army were also possessed of the same fears and apprehensions, for they readily obeyed him without the least hesitation.
the muslims, who were then at badr, stayed for eight days waiting for their enemy. they took advantage of their stay by selling goods and earning double as much the price out of it. when the idolaters declined to fight, the balance of powers shifted to rest in favour of the muslims, who thus regained their military reputation, their dignity and managed to impose their awe-inspiring presence over the whole of arabia. in brief, they mastered and controlled the whole situation.
this invasion had many a name. it is called ‘badr the appointment’, ‘badr, the second’, ‘badr, the latter’, and ‘badr minor’. [ibn hisham 2/209-210; za'd al-ma'ad 2/112]
with the messenger [pbuh]’s return from badr, peace and security prevailed the whole area; and the islamic headquarters, madinah, enjoyed full security. the prophet [pbuh] then deemed it fit and appropriate to head for the most distant areas of arabia in order to subdue all hostile elements in order to force undisputed recognition out of friend and enemy alike.
after a six-month lull of military activities, the prophet [pbuh] was reported that some tribes, in the vicinity of doumat al-jandal, on the borders of syria, were involved in highway robbery and plundering, and were on their way to muster troops and raid madinah itself. he immediately appointed siba‘ bin ‘arfatah al-ghifari to dispose the affairs of madinah during his absence, and set out at the head of 1000 muslims in late rabi‘ al-awwal, 5 a.h. taking with him a man, named madhkur, from bani ‘udhrah, as a guide.
on their way to doumat al-jandal, they used to march by night and hide by day, so that they might take the enemy by surprise. when they drew near their destination, the muslims discovered that the highway men had moved to another place, so they captured their cattle and shepherds. the inhabitants of doumat al-jandal had also fled in all directions for their lives and evacuated their habitations. the prophet [pbuh] stayed there for 5 days during which he despatched expeditionary forces to hunt for the enemy personnel but they detected none. he then returned to madinah but en route he entered into a peace treaty with ‘uyainah bin hisn. doumat al-jandal is located at about a distance of fifteen days march from madinah and five from damascus.
with this decisive and steady progress and wise strict plans, the prophet [pbuh] managed to spread security, control the situation and make peace prevail the whole area. he also succeeded in shifting the course of events for the welfare of the muslims by reducing the incessant internal and external troubles. the hypocrites were silenced, a tribe of the jews evacuated while the other continued to fake good neighbourliness and seemingly faithful adherence to the covenants, the desert bedouins subdued and finally the archenemy quraish no longer keen on attacking the muslims. this secure strategic attitude created optimum circumstances for the muslims to resume their logical course in propagating islam and communicating the messages of the lord to all worlds.