Al `Abbas's Message to the Prophet

the man from ghifar, carrying the letter of al `abbas ibn `abd al muttalib, arrived at madinah and found that muhammad was at quba'. there he proceeded; and, upon meeting muhammad at the door of the mosque when he was just about to leave, handed over the letter to him. the message was read for muhammad by ubayy ibn ka'b who was then asked to keep its contents secret. muhammad proceeded to madinah and called upon sa'd ibn al rabi` at his home, told him the content of the message, and asked him to keep it secret. sa`d's wife, however, who was at home at the time overheard the conversation and the matter could no longer remain secret. muhammad then sent anas and mu'nis, the two sons of fadalah, to reconnoiter the movements of quraysh. they found out that the army had approached madinah and let its horses and camels loose to graze in the plantations surrounding the city. muhammad then sent another scout, al hubab ibn al mundhir ibn al jamuh. when enough information had reached him to confirm the news his uncle had sent, muhammad became gravely concerned and perplexed. salamah ibn salamah reported thereafter that the quraysh cavalry was coming closer and closer to madinah and that they were about to enter the city. he rushed to his people and warned them of the imminent danger. all the inhabitants of madinah were apprehensive due to the descriptions of the might and equipment of the enemy. their muslim leaders even saw fit to guard the person of the prophet with their own swords throughout the night. sentries were posted at all corners of the city. when morning came, the prophet called upon all muslims, whether sincere or insincere[the qur'an called the insincere muslims "munafiqun" or pretenders. -tr.], for a public consultation on the fate of the city and the means by which they should meet the enemy.

varying opinions on madinah's defense

the prophet-may god's blessing be upon him!-suggested that the muslims should hold fast to madinah, reinforce themselves therein, and keep out the quraysh. should the enemy decide to attack, the muslims would fight from within and, knowing their own ground, should be better able to repulse the enemy. `abdullah ibn ubayy ibn salul agreed with the prophet and added: "prophet of god, in the past we always fought our enemies in madinah by placing our women and children safely in the upper stories of the houses and building walls connecting one house with another on the perimeter of the city, thus making the town a single fortress. when the enemy advanced on us, the women and children would hit them with stones with which they had been amply provided while we would meet them with our swords in the streets. our city, o prophet of god, has never been violated by an enemy because none has ever entered it without meeting defeat. on the other hand, we have never met an enemy outside our city without loss to ourselves. please listen to me in this matter and follow this wise plan which i inherited from the greatest leaders and wise men of madinah who have gone before."

the prophet as well as the prominent among the prophet's companions, whether muhajirun or ansar, agreed with this view. however, the young muslims who had not participated in badr, as well as others who had witnessed badr but became thereafter convinced that muslim power was invincible, desired to go out of madinah and meet the enemy wherever he might be. they were disturbed by the idea that unless they spoke to this effect, they might be suspected of cowardice. they argued that since the enemy was not too far from madinah, the muslims would be stronger than at badr when they fought many miles away from their people and land. an advocate of this view said

"i hate to see the quraysh return to makkah saying that they have locked up muhammad in the houses and buildings of yathrib and have prevented him and his companions from going out. such talk would undoubtedly incite the quraysh to further acts of aggression. now that they have entered our very orchards and plantations, shown off their numbers and strength, and incited the arab tribes and abyssinian clients to follow them, how could we allow them to blockade us in our own homes and let them return without injury? should we do that, they would surely return to raid our frontiers, to blockade us again, and to cut off our roads to the outside world." a number of other speakers spoke in favor of going out to meet the enemy, arguing that in case god gave them victory they would have met their objective. this would be a substantiation of the promise which god made to his prophet. on the other hand, should they be defeated and die, they would have fallen as martyrs and would have won paradise.

call to bravery and martyrdom

this bold talk about bravery and martyrdom moved every muslim heart and incited the community as a whole to spring to its feet in enthusiasm over a prospect of fighting in god's cause. with their eyes on muhammad, their hearts filled with faith in god, in his prophet, book, and judgment, the image of their victory over this aggressive force standing out to attack them dissipated every other idea. they began to imagine themselves marching deep within enemy ranks, cutting them down with their swords and seizing their booty. the picture of paradise hovering before their eyes as martyrs in god's cause was just as the qur'an had described it. it was a garden replete with everything desirable and beautiful where they would be reunited with the martyrs of badr who preceded them, therein to dwell eternally, and "where there is neither gossip nor accusation and where every conversation is a talk of peace�[qur'an, 56:25-26]. at this juncture, khaythamah abu sa'd ibn khaythamah said: "perhaps, god will give us victory over them, or our turn will be one of martyrdom. despite my great desire to be at badr, it was not my fortune to go, but my son's. god was pleased to grant him his martyrdom. last night, i saw him in a dream calling to me, `hurry up, father, and join us in paradise, for here i have truly found everything that god had promised me.' by god, prophet, of god, i now long to join my son in paradise. i am advanced in years and my hair has turned gray. surely do i yearn to meet my lord." overwhelmed by this and similar speeches, the muslims present inclined toward going out to meet the enemy. muhammad nonetheless advised against it, as if apprehensive of what it was to bring. but everybody insisted, and he had to agree with them. community consensus and decision had always been his system of worldly government, and he departed from it only in case of a direct revelation to the contrary.

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