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The Unlettered Prophet (26)
Khalid Masud
(Tr. by:Nikhat Sattar)


Measures to protect Madinah 

It is generally believed, and also correct, that before migration, believers were not allowed to kill anyone. When Muslims, tired of constant persecution and torment from the idolaters, asked for permission to use arms, they were told to be patient, persevere, show restraint, remember God frequently and trust in Him. The instruction to kill came at the time of migration, and, as stated above, it was to remain in effect until Islam had gained supremacy over all religions in the entire country. After migration of the Prophet (sws) and the believers, the Quraysh were satisfied that they had rid themselves of the Muslims and began to plan ways and means whereby the power of Muslims could be completely destroyed. To counter these actions, the Prophet (sws) too, took steps which could address these schemes. We now consider these steps taken by the Prophet (sws), keeping in view the dangers posed by the Quraysh.


Preventive Measures 

1. The Prophet (sws) regularly sent informers around Madinah. If news came from any quarter of a potential attack by the enemy, he would keep awake throughout the night and arrange for a close vigil to ensure that the enemy did not attack them while they were unaware. Despite this, one year after migration, Makkah’s Kurz ibn Jabir Fihri attacked a pasture which was three miles from the city and which belonged to the people of Madinah and stole several animals. The Prophet (sws) followed him but could not find him.

2. The Prophet (sws) signed a covenant called the Covenant of Madinah with all citizens of Madinah, including the tribes of Aws and Khazrj and the Jews. This included the following conditions in particular:

a) No one shall give protection to the Quraysh or their allies

b) If Madinah was attacked, Muslims and Jews would defend it together

c) If Muslims made peace with any group, the Jews would be liable to follow this agreement and if the Jews made any such agreement, Muslims were bound to follow it. However, there would be no responsibility on any signatory to cooperate in a religious war of the other group.

d) If any group was required to leave Madinah for purposes of war, it would have rights of defense and peace and this would be also applicable to those who remained in Madinah. No one would be persecuted and no one was to break his promise.

Deliberation on these conditions shows that the Prophet (sws) was concerned about hostility from the Quraysh and the danger of an attack as a consequence. Hence, he had penned the Covenant of Madinah as a counter step.

3. The Prophet (sws) also signed agreements with the Jewish tribes of Banu Naḍir, Banu Qurayẓah and Banu Qaynuqa‘, who were settled around Madinah, that they would remain neutral and not cause any harm while living in the Muslim centre, by becoming a tool in the hands of the Quraysh. The tribes of Aws and Khazrj already had agreements of cooperation and support with those tribes, so the Prophet (sws) too, did not have any difficulty in making similar agreements.

4. The Prophet (sws) penned cooperation agreements with tribes who were settled along the route to Makkah. Those tribes included Juhaynah, Banu D~amrah and Banu Mudlaj. They were allies of Aws and Khazraj earlier. The advent of Islam in Madinah paved the way with those tribes for agreements that covered the following clauses:

a) The life and property of members of the tribes would be safe and sacrosanct.

b) If any one were to oppress or attack them, they would be helped in their defence.

c) If any oppression was internally related to their own people or their religion, it would not be necessary to provide support to them.

These agreements were signed with the above mentioned three tribes during the first year of migration, several months before the Battle of Badr. The Prophet (sws) had gone to visit them to finalize the agreements along with 150 companions. Some narrators say that the Ansar were not involved in any of the Prophet (sws)’s missions before the Battle of Badr, but the number of the missions and the nature of relations of Aws and Khazraj with those tribes indicate that the Ansar must have been with the Prophet (sws) in these missions. Biographers have named these missions Ghazwah (battle) and they are called Ghazwah Bawat, Ghazwah Abwa and Ghazwah Dhu al-‘Ashirah, although no preparations necessary for a battle were made, nor did the Prophet (sws) take any step that may have been considered a war like action. When he reached Bawat, a trade caravan of the Quraysh, led by Umayyah ibn Khalaf was passing through. Similarly, when he reached Dhu al-‘Ashirah, he was informed that a caravan of the Quraysh with Abu Sufyan in charge had just gone by. Orientalists claim that Muslims had taken up highway robbery after migration. Had this been the case, why did the Prophet (sws) not take advantage of these two opportunities, when a large number of supporters ready to lay down their lives were with him and could have easily attacked the caravans? Meeting the trade convoys and not harming them seems to prove that these events had taken place just to reject the accusations of the Orientalists. The fact is that all three journeys were political in nature and their purpose was to sign cooperation agreements with the tribes that had their settlements along the routes in case Madinah was attacked by the Quraysh. If one presupposes that the Prophet (sws) was informed of the movements of trade convoys of the Quraysh, the maximum that could be said about the choice of timing is that the Prophet (sws) wished to make the Quraysh aware that he was watching and to create a sense of awe among them of the power exercised by the Muslims. Another reason for taking such large numbers of companions on these journeys could have been to familiarize them with the region and train them for future journeys which may need to be taken during battles. This is the same objective for which battle exercises are carried out in current times.

5. Before the Battle of Badr, the Prophet (sws) sent small battalions of the companions in various directions from time to time. These missions are called sariyyah.

In the seventh month of migration, the Prophet (sws) sent a group of 30, led by his uncle, Hamzah (rta) to the coastal region occupied by the tribe of Juhaynah. There, they came across 300 soldiers from the Quraysh. The two groups were close to coming to swords but a battle was prevented by the timely intervention of Majdi ibn ‘Amr, the leader of Jehjinah. When the Prophet (sws) was informed, he praised the efforts of Majdi ibn ‘Amr. At that event, the intentions of 300 soldiers of the Quraysh could only have been military or political, not trade. If the objective of the sariyyah was to tease the Quraysh, the Prophet (sws) would not have praised the peacemaking efforts made by Majdi.

In Shawwal of the first year of migration, the Prophet (sws) sent a group of 60 people led by his cousin, ‘Ubaydah ibn al-Harith (rta) to Juhfah, which is a place between Makkah and Badr. There they came across an army of 200 from the Quraysh, but matters did not reach the point of war. The large number of soldiers of the Quraysh indicates that they were not travelling for purposes of trade otherwise there would not have been such a large party. Trade convoys usually had more animals to carry goods and the men were normally 40-50 in number.

During Dhu al-Qa‘dah of the first year hijrah, 20 people led by Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqas (rta) came to Kharar, close to Juhfah and then returned to Madinah.

If the objective of these missions was to rob trade convoys, as accused by historians, at least one such event should have taken place. What sort of highway robbers were the companions, that they undertook such long journeys and when faced with the Quraysh, did not harm them in any way? The fact was that none of these missions were carried out for the purpose of robbery. They were meant to assess what tricks the Quraysh were up to and to keep a watchful eye on their activities. Additionally, they were meant to warn the Quraysh that the Muslims were not unaware of the need for their own defense.


The sariyyah of ‘Abdullah ibn Jahash (rta) 

The first sariyyah in which bloodshed took place was in Rajab, second hijrah. The Prophet (sws) had put his cousin, ‘Abdullah ibn Jahash (rta) in charge of this sariyyah, and it had eight Muhajirin. They were ordered to put up their camp at Nakhlah, a place in the north east outside the boundaries of Makkah, and gather information about the Quraysh. It so happened that a small trade convoy of the Quraysh set up camp very close to them in the dark of the night. Fighting ensued and both sides used arms, as a result of which the leader of the Quraysh convoy, ‘Amr ibn al-Haḍrami, who was also the son of ‘Abdullah al-Hadrami, an ally of Harb ibn Umayyah, a leader of Makkah, was killed. Two young men, ‘Uthman ibn ‘Abdullah ibn al-Mughirah (the cousin of Khalid ibn Walid) and Al al-Hakam ibn Kaysan were taken prisoners. Usman’s brother Nawfal ran to Makkah and informed the Quraysh of this incident. ‘Abdullah ibn Jahash broke up his camp immediately for fear of being caught and returned to Madi#nah. The Prophet (sws) was saddened to know of this activity as it had exceeded the boundaries of the parameters of the assignment.

The incidents of this sariyyah provide an opportunity to Orientalists to loosen their tongues in sarcasm because they find in this the only argument to accuse the companions of robbery and prove that the greed to loot wealth became the reason for the Battle of Badr later. In our view, the Prophet (sws) himself had set the purpose of this sariyyah, which was to stay in concealment and unearth information about the Quraysh. No Muslim, as long as he lived, could have disobeyed the Prophet’s clear instructions. It is also worth considering that only a few Muslims, more than 12 destinations away from their centre and so close to that of their enemy could not have endangered themselves in order to rob the convoy. One should also keep in mind the fact that the people in the Muslim group were relatives of the Makkans. Their faces were not unknown to the idolaters, nor was there any misunderstanding about their religious beliefs and thoughts. It is more likely that the idolaters had started the fight in their arrogance of being more powerful and close to Makkah, and faced losses as a consequence. Or, the Muslims may have sensed the danger of Makkah being informed and may have attacked the convoy to prevent the information reaching the Quraysh. Whatever the reason for this skirmish, it became important due to its consequences.

This skirmish with the Makkans took place during the last day of Rajab.  According to research by Ibn Kathir, the instruction to take custody of the Qiblah was also given during Rajab. The Muslims were warned in this instruction that their difficulties would increase after this announcement. Circumstances would demand major sacrifices from them and wars would be imminent in order to take control of the House of God from the idolaters. It is possible that the Prophet (sws) may have sent the members of the sariyyah of ‘Abdullah ibn Jahash (rta) to go so close to Makkah in order to find out the reactions of the Quraysh to the situation that arose after this announcement. They may have been making arrangements for this when the convoy of the Quraysh came upon them and the situation may have evolved into the incidents that have been stated above.


(Translated by Nikhat Sattar)




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