Between Badr and Uhud

The Effect of Badr in Madinah (January, 624 C.E)

We have just taken note of the deep effect that the Battle of Badr had upon Makkah. Above all, this effect included the will of the Quraysh to seek revenge against Muhammad and the Muslims at the first opportunity. The effect of this battle in Madinah was, however, much more obvious and more closely connected with the survival of Muhammad and his fellows. The Jews, associationists, and hypocrites felt Muslim power increase after Badr. They realized that this alien who came to them less than two years ago as an escaping emigrant from Makkah had increased his power and influence almost to the point of dominating not only the Muslims but their city as a whole. As we have had occasion to see, the Jews had begun to complain even before Badr that they had had many skirmishes with the Muslims and that were it not for the Covenant of Madinah, the explosion would have come sooner. Consequently, soon after the Muslims' victorious return, the non-Muslims of Madinah began to meet clandestinely and to encourage the composition and recitation of divisive poetry. It was as if the battlefield had moved from Makkah to Madinah and the dispute from religion to politics. It was not Muhammad's call to God that was being fought; rather, it was his political power, his worldly influence, and his success which incited these parties not only to plot against him but even to think of assassinating him. None of this, of course, was beyond Muhammad’s ken. All the happenings within his city, including the rumors, reached him in constant flow. Simmering in hatred and anger against each other, Muslims and Jews lay in wait for one another.

 

Muslims Kill Abu ‘Afk and Asma

Before the victory of Badr the Muslims used to fear the Madinese non-Muslims, for they were still too weak to return any aggression inflicted upon them. But when they returned victorious from Badr, Salim ibn ‘Umayr took upon himself the job of getting rid of Abu ‘Afk, a tribesman of Banu ‘Amr ibn ‘Awf. The latter was a poet who composed verses disparaging Muhammad and the Muslims and inciting his own tribe to rise against them. Even after Badr, Abu ‘Afk still composed and disseminated abusive verse. Salim attacked Abu ‘Afk in his sleep in his own yard and killed him. Likewise, ‘Asma’, daughter of Marwan, of the tribe of Banu Umayyah ibn Zayd, used to insult Islam and the Prophet by encouraging bad feeling against the Muslims. The Battle of Badr did not make her reconsider. One day, ‘Umayr ibn ‘Awf attacked her during the night while she was surrounded by her children, one of whom she was nursing. ‘Umayr was weak of sight and had to grope for her. After removing the child from his victim, he killed her; he then proceeded to the Prophet and informed him of what he had done. When her relatives returned from the funeral, they asked him whether he had killed her. "Indeed so," said ‘Umayr, "You may fight me if you wish. By Him Who dominates my soul, if you should deny that she composed her abusive poetry, I would fight you until either you or I fall." It was this courage of ‘Umayr that caused the Banu Khutmah, the tribe of ‘Asma’s husband, to turn to Islam. Having converted to Islam but fearing persecution at the hand of their fellow tribesmen, some of them had hidden their conversion. Henceforth, they no longer did so.

 

Murder of Ka’b ibn al Ashraf

It is sufficient to add to these two examples the murder of Ka’b ibn al Ashraf. When learning of the fall of the noblemen of Makkah, he exclaimed, "Those were the nobles of Arabia, the kings of mankind. By God, if Muhammad has vanquished these people, the interior of the earth is a better dwelling than the top of it." Having assured himself of the news of defeat, he traveled to Makkah to incite its people against Muhammad, to recite war poetry, and to mourn the victims. Furthermore, it was he who falsely accused the Muslim women upon return to Madinah. The reader is perhaps aware of Arab custom and ethic in this regard, and can appreciate the Muslims' anxiety over such false accusations directed against their women's honor. Indeed, they were so incensed and irritated by him that, after unanimously agreeing to kill him, they authorized Abu Na'ilah to seek his company and win his confidence. Abu Na'ilah said to Ka'b, "The advent of Muhammad was a misfortune to all of us. The tribes have become our enemies and fought against us; our roads are cut off, our families separated and dispersed, and our lives exhausted." With this and similar remarks, Abu Na'ilah won Ka'b's confidence and asked him to lend some money to himself and his friends, pledging to pawn his and their armor. Ka'b agreed and asked the Muslims to return. They came to his house in the outskirts of Madinah after dark. Abu Na'ilah Called out to him. Despite his wife's warning, Ka'b went out to meet his new friend. The two men walked in the night and were later joined by the companions of Abu Na'ilah, whom Ka'b never suspected. Together they walked for a whole hour and covered a long distance, conversing and complaining about the hardships Muhammad had brought upon their community, thus reassuring Ka'b of their sincerity. From time to time Abu Nd'ilah would touch the hair of Ka'b and exclaim, "I have never smelled such perfume in my life!" Then, after gaining Ka'b's complete trust, Abu Na'ilah seized him by the hair, pulled him down to the ground, and said to his companions, "Kill the enemy of God!" They struck him with their swords.

 

Jewish Fears and Aggression

The murder of Ka'b increased the fears of the Jews to the point that not one of them felt secure. Nonetheless, they continued to attack Muhammad and the Muslims and incite the people to war. A desert woman came one day to the Jews' market in the quarter of Banu Qaynuqa` seeking to remodel some jewelry at one of their shops. They persistently asked her to remove her veil, but the woman refused. Passing behind her without her knowledge, one of them tacked her robe with a pin to the wall. When the woman got up to leave, the robe was pulled down and her nakedness exposed. The Jews laughed and the woman cried. Seeing what happened, a Muslim passerby jumped upon the shopkeeper and killed him on the spot. The Jews gathered around the Muslim and likewise killed him. The Muslims' relatives called for help against the Jews and a general fight between them and the Banu Qaynuqa` erupted. Muhammad first asked the Jews to stop their attacks and keep the covenant of mutual peace and security or suffer the kind of treatment meted out to the Quraysh. They ridiculed his request saying: "O Muhammad! Fall not under the illusion that you are invincible. The people with whom you have fought were inexperienced. By God, if you were to turn your arm against us, you will find us adept in the arts of war." After this, little option was left to the Muslims but to fight the Jews. Otherwise, Islam would suffer political deterioration, and the Muslims would become the ridicule of Quraysh when they had just succeeded in making the Quraysh the ridicule of Arabia.

 

Blockade of Banu Qaynuqa`

For fifteen consecutive days, the Muslims blockaded Banu Qaynuqa` within their quarters, preventing any exit or entry. The Jews had no alternative but to surrender and yield themselves to Muhammad's judgment. After consulting the Muslim leaders, Muhammad decided to kill his captives. `Abdullah ibn Ubayy ibn Salul, allied to both Jews and Muslims, asked Muhammad to be merciful toward his allies. When the Prophet declined, `Abdullah repeated his request, and the Prophet declined again. `Abdullah then seized the Prophet by his shield and would not let him go. At this, the Prophet seemed rather angry and said with a loud voice, "Leave me; hands off !" Ibn Ubayy replied, "No, by God, I shall not let you go until you give mercy to my proteges. Three hundred armed and four hundred unarmed men have so far protected me against every sort of people. Would you kill them all at once? By God, I will never agree to such a judgment, for I fear the turns of fortune." `Abdulla was still a man of great power, having command of the associationists of the Aws and Khazraj tribes, although this power had largely waned with the growth of Muslim power. His insistence caused the Prophet to regain his good temper and patience, especially since `Ubadah~ ibn al Samit had joined ibn Ubayy in making the same plea. He therefore decided to stretch his hand to `Abdullah, to all his proteges, whether associationists or Jews, and to grant them all his mercy and benevolence. He decreed only that the Banu Qaynuqa' should evacuate Madinah in punishment for their misdeeds. Once more, ibn Ubayy tried to plead with Muhammad on behalf of his proteges that they be allowed to remain in Madinah. One of the Muslims, however, prevented ibn Ubayy from reaching the Prophet and forced him to remove himself. The tribesmen of Banu Qaynuqa' then announced that "By God, we shall not remain in a city where ibn Ubayy is pushed by force and we are unable to protect him." 'Ubadah subsequently led them in the surrender of their arms and jewel-making machinery and in the exodus from Madinah. They went to Wad! al Qura where they tarried a while and then proceeded northward until they reached Adhri'at near the frontier of al Sham, where they settled. Perhaps they went there because they wanted to be nearer the Land of Promise that attracted the Jews then as it still does today.

 

Political Unity in Madinah

Jewish power in Madinah was considerably reduced after the expulsion of Banu Qaynuqa', for most of the Jews who called themselves Madinese lived far from Madinah, in Khaybar and Umm al Qura. It was this political objective at which Muhammad had aimed, and it reveals most clearly his political wisdom and foresight. It was the first of a number of political consequences of Muhammad's strategy. Nothing could be more harmful to the unity of a state than internal division. And if internal strife is inevitable, it is equally inevitable that one faction will finally establish its authority and dominion over all the others. Some historians have criticized the conduct of the Muslims toward the Jews. They claim that the incident of the Muslim woman at the jeweler's shop was relatively easy to settle as long as each party had already paid with the loss of one of its members. In answer to this claim, we may say that the victimization of the Jew and the Muslim did not efface the insult which the Muslims suffered at the hands of the Jews in the person of that woman. We may also argue that among the Arabs, more than among any other people, such an insult produces far greater commotion and, according to custom, would have easily caused continual war between two tribes for many long years. Examples of such incidents and the wars which followed them are legion in Arab history. Besides this consideration, however, there is yet a stronger one. The incident at the jeweler's shop was to the blockade of Banu Qaynuqa` and their expulsion from Madinah as the murder of the Austrian heir-apparent in Serajevo in 1914 was to World War I, which enveloped the whole of Europe. The incident was only the spark which inflamed Muslims and Jews and caused them to explode. The fact was that the presence of Muslims, Jews, associationists and munafiqun in one city with all their disparate ideals and customs made that city a political volcano replete with explosive power. The blockade of Banu Qaynuqa` and their expulsion were a prologue to the coming explosion.

 

The Campaign of Al Sawiq

After the expulsion of Banu Qaynuqa`, the non-Muslims of Madinah naturally withdrew from public life and the city appeared peaceful and quiet. The peace lasted one whole month and would have lasted longer were it not for Abu Sufyan who, unable to bear the memory of Makkan defeat at Badr, resolved to venture again outside of Makkah. He sought to reimpress the Arabs of the Peninsula with the notion that Quraysh was still strong, dominant and capable of attack and war. He mobilized two hundred Makkans (forty according to other versions) and led them out in secret in the direction of Madinah. Upon arrival in the vicinity of Madinah, they attacked at night a locality called al `Urayd. Only one Madinese and his client were in the locality at the time. They were killed and their house and orchard destroyed. Abu Sufyan thought his vow to attack Muhammad had now been fulfilled, and he and his associates therefore left the scene quickly, fearing pursuit by the Prophet or his men. The Muslims did in fact pursue Abu Sufyan as far as Qarqarat al Kudr. In order to hasten their flight, Abu Sufyan and his party every now and then threw away some of their provisions of wheat and barley flour. While the Muslims followed their trail, they picked up these provisions; they soon realized, however, that the Makkans had escaped, and they decided to return home. By this raid Abu Sufyan had sought to console Quraysh after its defeat at Badr and to recapture its lost pride. In fact, his scheme turned against him and his flight in face of his pursuers brought further shame to Quraysh. Because of al sawiq (i.e., the flour), which the men of Quraysh dropped on their path, this expedition was given the name "Al Sawiq Campaign."

 

Threat to the Shore Route of al Sham

The news of this event spread throughout the Arabian Peninsula. The distant tribes remained safe in their distance and concerned themselves but little with the affairs of those Muslims who, until the recent Battle of Badr, were nothing more than a weakly group of refugees in Madinah. Even though the Muslims had resisted Quraysh successfully, expelled Banu Qaynuqa` from Madinah, humbled `Abdullah ibn Ubayy, frightened Abu Sufyan away, and broke the traditional pattern of power distribution in the desert, it was only the tribes close to Madinah which realized what threat this whole movement of Muhammad posed. Only they were aware of the serious consequences of the contest for power between the Quraysh of Makkah and the Muslims of Madinah. The shore route to al Sham was Makkah's well trodden path of trade that brought significant economic advantages to these tribes. Muhammad had entered into threatening alliances with a number of tribes flanking the shore route and thereby exposed Makkah's commerce to serious danger. The tribes which lived on this commerce feared that Quraysh might now choose another route. Before the Hijrah of Muhammad and his companions to Yathrib, indeed before Muslim victory at Badr, these tribes had felt relatively safe and secure. Now they pondered the future and the threat to their prosperity. If Makkan trade were to take another route, how would they sustain themselves in their arid and barren lands?

 

 

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 Ashja'5, 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.

 

Muhammad's Marriage to Hafsah

Did all these successes convince Muhammad that his position was really secure? Did his present victories delude him about the dangers of the future? Did the fear of Makkah and the various booty he had seized from Quraysh persuade him that the word of God and His Prophet was really safe and secure? Did his faith in God's timely help and providence cause him to let things take care of themselves on the grounds that divine government is supreme? Certainly not. Although time and space belong to God, yet the world runs according to unalterable laws innate to human nature and everywhere the same. Quraysh, for instance, enjoyed mastery over Arabia. It was not possible to expect her to give it up without a fight. Therefore, the fate of the caravan of Safwan ibn Umayyah succeeded only in increasing their eagerness to avenge themselves and to double their preparation for the day of vindication. Neither could this escape Muhammad's vision, foresight, or wise planning. It was necessary therefore, in anticipation of hostilities, for him to seek to strengthen his relationship with his fellow Muslims. However closely Islam had knitted the wills of its adherents and however strong the resultant social fabric, Muhammad must have deemed further consolidation and unity desirable. For him to link himself to them in familial bonds was regarded by Muhammad as well as by his companions as meeting this noble objective. Thus he married Hafsah, daughter of `Umar ibn al Khattab, just as formerly he had married `A'ishah, daughter of Abu Bakr. The former was the widow of Khunays, an early convert to Islam, who died seven months previously. The Prophet's marriage to Hafsah increased ibn al Khattab's attachment to him. In the same spirit, Muhammad gave his daughter Fatimah in marriage to 'All, his cousin, though the latter had loved Muhammad perhaps more than anyone else and had remained loyal to him ever since he was a child. When the Prophet's daughter, Ruqayyah, passed away, Muhammad gave `Uthman ibn `Affan, her bereaved husband, his other daughter, Umm Kulthum. Thus he united in a bond of family and blood Abu Bakr, `Umar, `Uthman, and `All, the four strongest personalities of his community. By this and similar action, Muhammad guaranteed the solidarity of Muslim ranks. He assured them that the booty they seized in their conquests would be theirs. He encouraged them to go to war by combining in a single objective service to God and fighting for His sake with the desire to make up their lost possessions in Makkah with captured Makkan booty. Muhammad, by following the news of Quraysh very closely throughout this period, always kept himself abreast of her preparations for war. It was common knowledge that Quraysh was preparing for her day of revenge and for the reopening of the coastal trade route to al Sham. She was preparing for a war to preserve her commercial and religious position without which it was impossible for her to exist.