7.1 Jihâd

Then the Messenger of God prepared for war, following God’s command to wage jihâd against his enemies and fight his polytheist Arab neighbours. This was 13 years after God had sent him. (1:591)

With this brief introduction Ibn-Ishâq begins his narrative of Muhammad’s military campaigns. “God’s command to fight” is reflected in many Qur’ân passages, such as 2:190, 4:74-77,84,89ff, 5:35, 8:38-9, 9:13,29, 22:39-40, 47:4, 61:10ff. etc., although all these passages seem to be subsequent to the beginning of the fighting.

We will do well to understand the social pressures motivating the Muslims to fight. By and large, the Medinans welcomed Muhammad as an arbiter who provided them with internal peace. There were opponents, however, and they were sure to use any opportunity to sow discontent in the minds of the majority. Their ready opportunity, obvious to all, was the fact that the Emigrants were guests of the Medinans and for the most part had no means of support of their own. If steps were not taken to provide for their support, these guests would very quickly be looked on as unwelcome parasites.

Muhammad did encourage the Emigrants to support themselves by the means available, but these were only menial jobs and petty trading, and were insufficient for their needs. A ready-made alternative was the Arabian custom of raiding unprotected caravans. Executed with surprise and superior numbers, such raids could yield considerable booty with little or no loss of life or even fighting. This time-honoured custom was also capable of serving a long range strategy. Mecca dominated the trade between Asia and Europe which passed through Arabia. By challenging Mecca, Muhammad could take over this trade and develop it by imposing his authority on the Arabian tribes long the trade routes.

Another advantage of raiding the Meccan caravans was the coopera­tion and unity forced upon the Emigrants and the Medinans by the state of war with Mecca, even though initially only the Emigrants took part in the raids. This helped consolidate Muhammad’s power in Medina.[1]

The religious character of these raids transformed the traditional Arabian custom of raiding (ghazw) into jihâd. This meant a “striving” for the sake of God, normally by force of arms, although later Muslims also speak of a spiritual jihâd of the heart or of the tongue which is more valuable before God. The Qur’ân justifies the Muslim raids as a retaliation upon the Meccans for driving the Muslims from house and home. Even though the Muslims took the offensive, they were trying to recuperate what was rightfully theirs. Besides, the Qur’ân envisages the establishment of a society in which Islam is supreme: “Fight them (the pagans) until there is no more scandal and all religion belongs to God” (8:39). “Fight those Scripturary people who do not believe in God and the Last Day and do not forbid what God and his Messenger forbid and do not practice the true religion, until they pay the jizya-tax with their own hands in a state of humiliation” (9:29). It was natural for Muslims to understand these passages as a mandate to extend Islamic rule as far as they could beyond Arabia.

As for the beginning of hostilities, Ibn-Ishâq says, “Then he went out raiding in the month of Safar, at the beginning of the 12th month from his coming to Medina.” (1:590) In the first outing Muhammad met no caravan, but only concluded an alliance with a desert clan. A later expedition met a Meccan caravan but avoided a fight; only one Muslim shot an arrow. “It was the first arrow to be shot in Islam.” (1:591) Since Muhammad did not go out in person with this expedition, he gave its leader a flag; the same for the next expedi­tion. It became a custom in Islam to confer a flag on an ap­pointed commander of a battle. Several more expeditions resulted in no battle, but only served as training exercises for the Muslims.

7.2 The Battle of Nakhla

Muhammad then sent `Abdallâh ibn-Jahsh in the month of Rajab along with eight Emigrants, and none from the Ansâr. He wrote a letter for him and told him not to look at it until he had traveled for two days. Then he should look at it and do what he was ordered to do, but not put pressure on his companions.

After traveling for two days `Abdallâh opened the letter and read it. This is what is said: “When you have read this letter of mine keep on going until you reach Nakhla between Mecca and at-Tâ’if. There lie in wait for the Meccans and find out for us what they are doing.” Having read the letter, he said, “To hear is to obey,” and told his companions, “The Mes­senger of God has commanded me to go to Nakhla to lie in wait for the Meccans so as to bring him news of them. He has forbidden me to force any of you; so if anyone wants martyrdom let him go forward; if he does not, let him go back. As for me I am going on as the Prophet has ordered.” So he went on, as did all his companions, not one of them staying behind.. except Sa`d and `Utba who lost their camel and went to look for it.

A caravan of Meccans carrying raisins, leather and other merchandise passed by them... When the caravan saw them they were afraid of them because they had camped close by. `Ukkâ­sha, who had shaved his head, looked down on them, and when the Meccans saw him they felt safe and said, “They are pilgrims; you have nothing to fear from them.” The raiders took counsel with one another, for this was the last day of Rajab, and said, “If you leave them alone tonight they will get into the sacred area and will be safe from you; and if you kill them, you will kill them in the sacred month;” so they were hesitant and feared to attack them. Then they encour­aged each other, and decided to kill as many of them as they could and take what they had. Wâqid shot `Amr ibn-al-Hadramî with an arrow and killed him, and `Uthmân and al-Hakam surrendered. Nawfal escaped and they could not catch him. `Abdallâh and his companions then brought the caravan and the two prisoners to Medina. `Abdallâh said to his companions, “A fifth of what we have taken belongs to the Messenger of God” - He said this before God had appointed a fifth of the booty to him. — So he set apart for the Messenger of God a fifth of the caravan and divided the rest among his companions.

When they came to the Messenger of God, he said, “I did not order you to fight in the sacred month.” He kept the caravan and the two prisoners under arrest, but did not take anything from them. When the Messenger of God said that, his men lost courage and thought they were doomed. Their Muslim brothers reproached them for what they had done, and the Meccans said, “Muhammad and his compan­ions have violated the sacred month, shed blood during it, taken booty and captured men.” The Muslims in Mecca, however, replied that they had done it in Sha`bân. The Jews turned this raid into an omen against the Messenger of God...

When people had made the matter into a big case, God revealed this verse (Q 2:217): “They ask you about fighting in the sacred month. Tell them, ‘Fighting during it is serious, but prevent­ing people from the way of God, disbelieving in him and in the sacred mosque and driving its people from it is a more serious sin before God. And turning people from Islam is more serious than killing. They will keep on fighting you until they turn you from your religion if they can.”

When God had revealed this verse and relieved the Muslims of their anxiety about this matter, the Messenger of God took posses­sion of the caravan and the two prisoners. The Meccans sent a ransom for them, and the Messenger of God said, “I will not let them go until Sa`d and `Utba return, because we are afraid of what you will do to them. If you kill them, we will kill your companions.” When Sa`d and `Utba came, he released the prisoners for the ransom. One of them, al-Hakam, became a good Muslim and stayed with the Messenger of God, dying as a martyr at the battle of Bi’r Ma`űna; the other, `Uthmân `Abdallâh, went back to Mecca and died as an unbeliever.

When `Abdallâh ibn-Jhash and his compan­ions found their anxiety relieved by a Qur’ânic revelation, they were eager for a reward and asked, “Messenger of God, can we expect to be given the reward of combatants in a raid?” God then revealed this verse (2:218): “Those who believe and emigrate and fight for the sake of God can hope for the mercy of God, for God is forgiving and merciful.” So God gave them the greatest hope... At the same time God legitimized the division of booty and assigned four fifths to those he allowed to take it and one fifth to God and his Messenger (Q 8:41). That was in accordance with what `Abdallâh ibn-Jahsh had done with that caravan. (1:601-3)

7.3 The Battle of Badr

The Battle of Badr is of the highest significance for Muslims, and is to them what the Exodus is for the Jews, a sign of God’s deliverance, victory and approval of their religion and community. We can turn to the main passages of Ibn-Ishâq’s description of this event:

The Messenger of God heard that Abű-Sufyân was coming from Syria with a large caravan belonging to Mecca, containing money and merchan­dise, accompanied by 30 or 40 men... So he called together the Muslims and said, “Here is a wealthy Quraysh cara­van. Go out to meet it; maybe God will let you take it.” The people volunteered, some readily, others reluctantly, because they did not think that the Messenger of God would wage war.

When Abű-Sufyân came near the Hijâz, he anxiously asked every rider he met for news about the situation. At last he heard that Muhammad had sent his companions against him and his caravan. Alarmed, he hired Hamam ibn-`Amr to go to Mecca and bring out the Quraysh people to defend their property, since Muhammad and his companions were going after it... (1:606-7)

The Meccans prepared quickly and said, “Do Muhammad and his companions think that this is like the caravan of Ibn-al-Hadramî? Never! He will find out something else.” Everyone either went out himself or sent someone out on his behalf. Of the nobles only Abű-Lahab stayed behind and sent in his place al-`Âsî ibn-Hishâm, who owed him 4,000 dirhams which he could not pay. So he hired him on condition that he should be cleared of his debt.

Umayya ibn-Khalaf decided to stay back. He was an honourable old man, fat and heavy. `Uqba ibn-abî-Musay came to him while he was sitting in the mosque with his companions and placed a censer burning with scented wood before him saying, “Scent yourself, for you belong to the women.” The man replied, “God curse you and what you brought,” and got ready and went out with the rest.

When they finished their preparations and decided to start, they remembered the battle they had with the tribe of Bakr ibn-`Abdumanât ibn-Kinâna and were afraid these would attack them from the rear... But Iblîs appeared to them in the form of Surâqa ibn-Mâlik, one of the nobles of the Kinâna tribe, and said to them, “I guaran­tee that the Kinâna will not attack you from the rear.” So they quickly moved off.

The Messenger of God set off in the month of Ramaân and gave the flag to Musab ibn-`Umayr. Two other black flags were carried before the Messenger of God, one by `Alî ibn-abî-Tâlib, and the other with the Ansâr. His compan­ions had seventy camels which they rode in turns... (1:609-13)

As Muhammad’s party of about 300 men moved on, he learned that the Meccans had organized an army to protect their caravan. This news presented Muhammad with a situation he had not anticipated. His followers were not expecting a fight but only a lightning raid on a caravan. Many of the Muslims must have been poor men hoping to get a good share of booty. About a third of them were Emigrants, and the rest Medinans. Muhammad saw this as a good occasion to involve the Medinans in active fighting, but first he had to sound out their attitudes by asking the advice of both groups.

Abű-Bakr got up and spoke well. So did `Umar ibn-al-Khattâb. Then al-Miqdâd ibn- `Amr spoke: “Messenger of God, do what God commanded you to do, for we are with you. By God, we will not tell you, as the Israelites did to Moses, ‘God yourself with your Lord and the two of you fight, but we are sitting here.’ But go yourself with your Lord and fight; we are fighting with you. By the One who sent you, if you brought us to Bark al-Ghamâd we would fight with you until you took it.” The Mes­senger of God thanked and blessed him for this.

Then the Messenger of God said, “Give me advice, men.” He meant the Ansâr, since they were the majority and when they pledged allegiance to him at al-`Aqaba they had said, “Messenger of God, we are not responsible for protecting you until you reach our territory. When you come there we must protect you as we protect our children and our wives.” So the Messenger of God was afraid that the Anar would help him only against an enemy assault in Medina, and that they felt no obligation to fight an enemy outside their territory. So when he asked their advice, Sa`d ibn-Mu`âdh said, “By God, you must mean us?”. He said, “Yes.” He answered, “We believe in you and testify that you came speaking the truth. For this reason we agreed and covenanted to obey as we hear. So, Messenger of God, do what you want; we are with you. By Him who sent you, if you asked us to go across this sea with you and you jumped in, we would jump in with you; no one would stay behind. We are not against meeting our enemy tomorrow. We are used to war and trustworthy in combat. May God make you happy at our performance. Lead us with God’s blessing.”

The Messenger of God was happy and encouraged by Sa`d’s words; so he said, “March with joy, for God has promised me one of the two parties (the caravan or the army), and by God, even now I can almost see the enemy lying prostrate. (1:614-15)

Muhammad sent spies ahead to the well at Badr to discover the movements of both the Meccan army and the caravan. The Muslims captured some slaves the Meccans had sent to bring water and brought them back to Muhammad.

The Messenger of God asked them, “How many are they?” They answered, “Many.” He asked, “What is their number?” They answered, “We do not know.” He asked, “How many animals do they slaughter each day?” They said, “Nine or ten.” The Messenger of God concluded, “They are between 900 and 1,000 men.” (1:617)

The spies also heard that the caravan was expected the next day at the Badr well.

The Meccan caravan leaders were just as anxious to know the movements of the Muslims, and a little later made their own inquiries at the well:

Abű-Sufyân went in front of the caravan out of caution until he came to the water, and asked Majdî ibn-`Amr, “Did you noticed anyone?” He said, “No one hostile, only two riders who came to the hill and filled their skins with water and went off.” So Abű-Sufyân went to that hill and exam­ined the camel dung. There were date stones in it, and he said, “This is from the feed of Medina. So he hurried back to his companions and changed the direction of the caravan to the coast, leaving Badr on his left and moving as fast as he could...

When Abű-Sufyân saw that he had put his cara­van out of danger, he sent a message to the Qu­raysh army, “You came out to defend your caravan, men and wealth. God has saved them; so now go back.” But Abű-Jahl said, “By God, we will not go back before stopping at Badr.” Now Badr was the site of an Arab trade fair where a market was held once a year. “We will spend three days there, slaughter camels, feast and drink wine and the girls will entertain us. The nomads will hear that we came and gathered, and will respect us forever. So let’s go.” (1:618-19)

Abű-Jahl saw this as an opportunity to make a name for himself and outshine his rival Abű-Sufyân. Many of the Meccans, however, did not listen to his advice and went back. The strength of the army, which was originally about 950, was reduced to maybe 600 or 700. This army, without Abű-Sufyân’s caravan, went on to Badr.

The Messenger of God hurried his men to the water and camped when he came to the first well.. Al-Hubâb ibn-al-Mundhir said, “Messenger of God,... this is not the place to stop. Let us go to the well nearest the enemy and camp there, and fill in the wells behind us. We can build a pool for our own water and then face the enemy while they are deprived of water.” The Messenger of God said, “You have given good advice. So he and his men went forward and camped at the well nearest the enemy, filling in those behind and building a pool for their own water from which they filled their vessels. (1:620)

7.4 The battle

The Meccans were now forced to fight, and from a position of disadvantage. The Muslims kept Muhammad safely behind in a booth, explaining:

“We will meet the enemy and if God gives us victory that is what we want. But if not, then you can ride off to our people who are left behind. Prophet of God, they love you just as much as we...”

The Meccans had started off at daybreak and now appeared. When the Messenger of God saw them coming from the `Ananqal hill to the valley, he said, “Here come the Quraysh people with their ostentation and pride, challenging you and calling your messen­ger a liar. God, help us as you promised and destroy them this morning.” (1:620-1)

The battle began with some single combats between champions, as was the Arab custom:

Al-Aswad ibn-`Abdalasad, who was a quarrelsome ill-natured man, stepped forth and said, “I swear to God that I will drink from their pool or destroy it or die before reaching it.” When he came forward, Hamza went out to meet him and, when they met, struck him and slashed off his leg at the thigh before he reached the pool. He fell on his back with his leg pouring out blood towards his companions. But he crawled up to the pool and threw himself in so has to fulfil his oath. But Hamza followed him and killed him in the pool.

After him `Utba ibn-Rabî`a.. came out with his brother Shayba and his son al-Walîd and called for challengers. Three of the Anâr came out to meet them and the Meccans said, “Who are you?” They answered, “We are from the Anâr.” They said, “We do not want to see you. Muhammad, send us some of our equals from our own people.” So the Messen­ger of God said, “Get up, `Ubayda, Hamza and `Alî.” When these went out, the Meccans asked who they were... and said, “Yes, these are noble and our peers.”.. Very soon Hamza killed Shayba and `Alî killed al-Walîd. But `Ubayda and `Utba continued in an equal struggle until Hamza and `Alî turned on `Utba with their swords and killed him, then carried `Ubayda back to their companions. (1:624-5. T, 2:445 = 1218 adds:) His leg was cut off and the marrow oozing out. When they brought him to the Messen­ger of God, he said, “Messenger of God, am I not a martyr?” He said, “Yes.”

Then the armies advanced on one another. The Messenger of God had ordered his companions not to attack until he gave the word, and if the enemy should surround them they should keep them off with arrows. He stayed with Abű-Bakr in the booth.. Thiswas on Friday morning, the 17th of Ramadân... (1:620-1)

The first Muslim to be killed was Mihja`, a client of `Umar ibn-al-Khattâb. Then Hâritha ibn-Surâqa was shot in the throat and killed by an arrow while drinking from the pool.

The Messenger of God went out and incited the men saying, “By God in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, if any of you fight courageously today, advancing and not retreating, and is killed, God will bring him into Paradise.” (Cf. Q 47:4-6) `Umayr ibn-al-Humâm, who was eating dates, said, “Very well! Is being killed by these people all that is required to enter Paradise?” Then he threw away the dates, took his sword and fought until he was killed...

`Awf ibn-al-Hârith said, “Messenger of God, what makes the Lord happy with his servants?” He answered, “Plunging into the midst of the enemy without armour.” So `Awf took off his mail-coat, threw it away, took his sword and fought the enemy until he was killed...

Then the Messenger of God took some pebbles and faced the Meccans saying, “Your faces be deformed,” and threw the pebbles at them. Then he ordered his companions to attack. The enemy was defeated. God killed many of their chiefs and made captive many of their nobles. While the men were taking prisoners the Messenger of God was in his booth and Sa`d ibn-Mu`âdh was at the door of the booth with a group of the Ansâr holding his sword and guard­ing the Messenger of God from any possible attack. The Messenger of God observed that Sa`d looked unhappy with what the men were doing and asked him if that was true. He answered, “Yes. By God, Messenger of God, this is the first battle with the polytheists. I would rather see them slaughtered than taken alive.”

The Prophet said to his companions that day, “I know that some Hâshim men and others were brought into the battle unwillingly and did not want to fight us. If any of you meet a Hâshimite, do not kill him. The same for Abű-l­Bakhtarî and `Abbâs ibn-`Abdal­muttalib, my uncle. Don’t kill them, because they were brought out against their will. Abű-Hudhayfa said, “Are we to kill our fathers, sons, brothers and clansmen but leave al-`Abbâs? By God, if I meet him I will stick my sword into him.” When the Messen­ger of God heard this, he said to `Umar ibn-al-Khat­tâb,.. “Should the face of the uncle of the Messenger of God be struck with a sword?” Umar answered, “Messenger of God, permit me and I will cut off the head of the man who says so. By God he is a hypocrite.” After that Abű-Hudhayfa said, “I never felt safe after what I said that day. I am afraid that only martyrdom can atone for it.” He died a martyr in the battle of al-Yamâma.

The reason why the Messenger of God forbade killing Abű-l-Bakhtarî was that while he was in Mecca he had protected the Messenger of God against the mob and never insulted him or did anything offensive. He was among those who saw to the annulment of the Meccan boycott decreed against the Hâshim and al-Muttalib clans. Now al-Mujadhdhar came upon him and told him, “The Messenger of God has forbidden us to kill you.” But he had a companion from Mecca named Junâda, and Abű-l-Bakhtarî asked, “What about my companion?” Al-Mujadhdhar replied, “No, by God’ We are not sparing him. The Messenger of God gave us a command only about you. He said, “No, by God’ We must then die together. I cannot face the women of Mecca saying that I abandoned my companion because I desired to live.”... He insisted on fighting, and al-Mujadhdhar killed him... Then al-Mujadhdhar went and told the Messenger of God, “By Him who sent you with the truth, I tried my best to take him a prisoner, but he insisted on fighting; so I fought and killed him.” (1:626-30)

7.5 Disposition of prisoners and spoil

`Abdarrahmân ibn-`Awf told how he came across an old friend of his, Umayya ibn-Khalaf, among the defeated Meccans:

I passed by him and he was standing with his son `Alî, holding him by the hand. I was carry­ing coats of mail which I had looted. When he saw me he said,.. “You have spoil, but am I not more valuable to you than these coats of mail?” I said, “Yes, by God.” So I threw away the coats of mail and took him and his son by the hand as he said, “I never saw a day like this.”.. As I was leading them away, Bilâl saw me with Umayya. Now Umayya was the one who used to torture Bilâl in Mecca to make him abandon Islam, bring­ing him out to the scorching heat of this sun, laying him on his back, putting a large stone on his chest and telling him that he could stay there until he gave up the religion of Muhammad, and Bilâl kept saying “One! One!” So when Bilâl saw him he said, “The arch-infidel Umay­ya ibn-Khalaf’ May I not live if he lives.” I said, “Bilâl, do you mean to kill my prisoner?” He said, “May I not live if he lives’” I said, “Listen, son of a black woman’” He said, “May I not live if he lives’” Then he cried at the top of his voice, “O Ansâr, see the arch-infidel Umayya. May I not live if he lives’” The Ansâr surrounded us while I was protecting him from Bilâl. Then a man drew his sword and cut off the foot of Umayya’s son. Umay­ya shouted like I have never heard, and I said, “Save yourself, even though you have no chance, because, by God, I cannot protect you.” The men then hacked the two to pieces with their swords until they finished them off. `Abdarrah­mân used to say, “May God have mercy on Bilâl. He deprived me of my coats of mail and of my prisoners.” (1:631-2)

When the Messenger of God had finished with the enemy he ordered his men to look for Abű-Jahl among the dead... `Abdallâh ibn-Mas`űd said, “I recognized him while he was breathing his last and put my foot on his neck, since he had once clawed at me and punched me in Mecca, and said to him, “Has God put you to shame, enemy of God?” He said, How has he shamed me? Am I anything more than a man you have killed? Tell me who won the battle.” I said, “God and his Messenger.”.. Then I cut off his head and brought it to the Messenger of God and said, “Messenger of God, this is the head of the enemy of God, Abű-Jahl.” He said, “By the one and only God, is it?” I said, “Yes, by the one and only God,” and threw the head at his feet, and he praised God. (1:635-6)

When the Messenger of God ordered the dead to be thrown into a pit, all were thrown in except Umayya ibn-Khalaf whose body had swollen inside his armour. When they tried to move him his body disintegrated; so they heaped earth and stones on it on the spot. As they threw the bodies into the pit, the Messenger of God stood by and said, “People of the pit, have you found true what your Lord threatened you with? For I have found what my Lord promised me is true.” His companions said to him, “Messenger of God, are you talking to dead people?” He said, “They know that what their Lord had threatened them with was true.” (1:638-9)

As `Utba was being dragged to the pit, the Messenger of God looked at the face of his son Abű-Hudhayfa; he was sad and his colour had changed. He said to him, “Abű-Hudhayfa, are you affected by what happened to your father?” He answered, “No, by God, O Messenger of God! I have no doubts because of my father or his death, but since I knew him to be wise, cultured and virtuous I was hoping that this would lead him to Islam. But when I saw what happened to him and remembered how he died an infidel in spite of my hopes, that made me sad.” The Messenger of God prayed for him and spoke kindly to him.

Regarding those killed at Badr there is the following Qur’ân verse (Q 4:97): “They asked those who did wrong to themselves and were taken from this life by angels, ‘What were you doing?’ They answered, “We were oppressed on earth.’ They said, ‘Was not God’s earth wide enough for you to emigrate?’ But their residence is now in Hell and what an evil place to go!” These were al-Hârith ibn-Zama`a, Abű-Qays ibn-al-Fâkih, Abű-Qays ibn-al-Walîd, `Alî ibn-Umayya and al-`Âs ibn-Munabbih. These had been Muslims while the Messenger of God was in Mecca, but when he emigrated to Medina, their parents and relatives in Mecca imprisoned them and turned them from Islam. They let themselves be turned and then marched with their people to Badr where they were killed.

Then the Messenger of God ordered everything that had been collected in the camp to be brought together. The Muslims quarreled about this. Those who collected it said, “It is ours,” while those who fought and pursued the enemy said, “If it were not for us you would have got nothing,” and those who were guarding the Messenger of God against any enemy attack said, “You have no more right to it than we. If God permitted us we would have fought the enemy and gathered spoil when there was a chance, but we were afraid for the Messenger of God and did not want to expose him to an enemy charge”... The sűra called al-Anfâl has a verse (8:41) concerning those who took part in the battle of Badr when they quarreled about the booty and showed their evil nature. God took it out of their hands and gave it to his Messenger, who divided it equally among the Muslims. (1:640-2)

7.6 Ruqayya dies

The Messenger of God then sent `Abdalfath to tell the news of the victory to the people of upper Medina, and Zayd ibn-Hâritha to the people of lower Medina. Usâma ibn-Zayd said, “This news came to us as we were burying Ruqayya, the daughter of the Messenger of God, who had been married to `Uthmân ibn-`Affân. The Messenger of God had left me behind with `Uthmân to look after her.” (1:642-3)

Then the Messenger of God began his return journey to Medina with the polytheist prisoners, including `Utba ibn-abî-Musay and an-Narh ibn-al-Hârith. He also carried the booty that had been taken form the polytheists and put `Abdallâh ibn-Ka`b in charge of it... When he came out of the pass of as-Safrâ’.. he divided the booty which God had granted to the Muslims equally. Then he marched to ar-Rűhâ’ where the Muslims met him and congratulat­ed him for the victory God had given them. (1:643)

7.7 Two poets killed

When the Messenger of God was in as-Safrâ’ `Alî ibn-abî-Tâlib killed an-Nadr ibn-al-Hâritha.

Then he continued as far as `Irq az-Zabya, where `Uqba ibn-abî-Musay was killed. He was a prisoner of `Abdallâh ibn-Salima. When the Messenger of God ordered him to be killed, he said, “Muhammad, who will look after my chil­dren?” He answered, “The Fire.”

These two men, we must remember, were propagandists who tried to discredit Muhammad’s claim to prophecy. Intellectual or literary opposition such as theirs Muhammad could never tolerate or pardon. The story of the division of prisoners continues:

The Messenger of God arrived in Medina a day before the prisoners... He divided the prisoners among his companions and said, “Treat them well.” Now Abű-`Azîz ibn-`Umayr was among the prisoners and he said, “My brother Mus`ab passed by me while one of the Ansâr was binding me and said, “Bind him well, because his mother is wealthy. Maybe she will redeem him from you”...

The first to come to Mecca with the news of the disaster was al-Haysumân ibn-`Abdallâh. They asked him, “What happened back there?” He enumerated for them all the Quraysh chiefs who had been killed. (1:644-6)

7.8 Attribution of the victory to angels, and summary

The story of Abű-Lahab is told by Abű-Râfi`, one of the secret Muslims in Mecca:

Abű-Lahab had stayed behind from the Badr expedition and sent al-`Âsî ibn-Hishâm in his place, as did others who did not go personally. When he heard the news of the disaster God put him to shame while we found ourselves in a position of power and strength. I was a weak man and used to make arrows, sharpening them in the Zamzam tent. As I was sitting there with Umm-al-Fadl sharpening my arrows, glad at the news we heard, up came Abű-La­hab dragging his feet in ill temper and sat at the end of the tent with his back to me. While he was sitting there, people said, “Abű-Sufyân has just arrived.” Abű-Lahab said, “Come here, since you must have news.” So he came and sat with him while the people stood around, and when he asked Abű-Suf­yân for the news he said, “By God, as soon as we met them we turned out backs and they took prisoners as they liked. By God, I do not blame the men for that, since we met men in white on spotted horses between heaven and earth. By God, they spared nothing and nothing could withstand them.

At this I lifted the rope of the tent and said, “Those, by God, were the angels.” Abű-La­hab then slapped me in the face very hard. I jumped him, but he grabbed and threw me down, knelt on me and kept beating me, since I am a weak man. Umm-al-Fadl then took one of the supports of the tent and struck him over the head with it, leaving him with a bad wound saying, “You thought you can make little of him because his master is away.” He got up and went away humiliated and, by God, lived only seven days before God struck him with boils and killed him.

The story that angels fought at Badr is told in several other versions, such as the following: “The angels did not fight in any battle but Badr. In other battles they were on hand as reinforcements but did not fight.” (1:634) The story comes up again in Qur’ân 8:9, where 1,000 angels are said to have fought on the side of the Muslims.

Altogether the Meccans lost from 45 to 70 men at Badr, although there may have been some exaggeration in the counting, and 68 or 69 prisoners are listed. This is opposed to the Muslims’ loss of 14 men. Some reasons for the Muslims’ success is their generally younger age, their higher morale, and their tactical advantage of having deprived the enemy of water.

The best leaders of Mecca lost their lives at Badr, and now Abű-Sufyân was the leading survivor. The Muslims’ success did not overthrow the political balance of Arabia or give Medina supremacy, but it did call the political situation into question and preluded a neces­sary further struggle to settle decisively who would command the Hijâz region of Arabia.

7.9 Prisoner exchange

In the meantime the Meccans began arranging to ransom the prisoners held in Medina. Arabian custom did not accord any rights to prisoners, but the hope of gaining ransom usually motivated their captors to treat them well. In the case of Badr the Muslims stood to gain very much in ransom because many of their prisoners came from wealthy families.

This concluding story shows some of the human complications of the prisoner exchange:

Among the prisoners was Abű-l-`Âs ibn-ar­Rabî`, son-in-law of the Messenger of God, married to his daughter Zaynab. Abű-l-`Âs was one of the impor­tant men of Mecca in wealth, position and merchan­dise. His mother was Hâla bint-Khuwaylid, and Khadîja his aunt. Khadîja had asked the Messenger of God to find him a wife. Now the Messenger of God never opposed her - this was before he re­ceived any revelation — so he married him to his daughter. Khadîja used to regard him as her son. When God honoured his Messenger with prophecy, Khadîja and his daughters be­lieved in him, testified that his message was the truth and followed his religion, but Abű-l-`Âs persisted in polytheism.

Now the Messenger of God had given `Utba ibn-abî-Lahab his daughter Ruqayya or Umm-Kul­thűm as wife. But when he began to preach the command of God publicly and showed them hostili­ty, they said to one another, “You have relieved Muhammad of his care for his daughters.” So they returned them and left them for him to take care of. They also went to Abű-l-`Âs and said, “Divorce your wife and will give you any Quraysh woman you like.” He said, “No, by God. I will not divorce her. I do not want a Quraysh woman in exchange for her.” The Messen­ger of God used to praise his son-in-law for this.

Then they went to `Utba with the same request and he said, “If you give me the daughter of Abân ibn-Sa`îd or the daughter of Sa`îd ibn-al-`Âs I will divorce her.” So they gave him as wife the daughter of Sa`îd and he divorced Muhammad’s daughter, not having consummated the marriage. Thus God took her from his hand to her honour and his shame, and `Uthmân ibn­`Affân married her next.

In Mecca the Messenger of God had no power of declaring anything permitted or forbidden, being in limited circumstances. Islam had made a division between Zaynab and her husband, but the Messenger of God had no power to sepa­rate them; so she stayed with him, she a Muslim and he a polytheist, until the Messenger of God emigrated. Abű-l-`Âs joined the expedition to Badr and was captured among the prisoners and was now in Medina with the Messenger of God.

When the Meccans sent ransom for their prisoners, Zaynab, daughter of the Messenger of God, sent a ransom for Abű-l-`Âs, including a necklace given to her by Khadîja as a wedding present. When the Messenger of God saw that, he was greatly moved and said, “If you would like to let her have her captive husband back and return the ransom to her, do so.” The people said, “Yes, Messenger of God.” So they let him go and returned the ransom. (1:651-3)

7.10 Zaynab’s hijra and her husband’s conversion

The story continues that in releasing Abű-l-`Âs, Muhammad sent for Zaynab to join him in Medina. Leaving her husband, in the company of her brother-in-law she set out in broad daylight for Medina.

The Meccans discussed the affair and went out in pursuit and overtook them at Dhű-Tuwâ. The first to come up to her was Habbâr ibn-al-Aswad, and he threatened her with his lance as she sat in the hawdaj. She was pregnant, and the fright made her have a miscarriage. Her brother-in-law Kinâna knelt and emptied his quiver and said, “By God, any man who comes near me I will fill him with arrows. So the men fell back. Then Abű­-Sufyân came up with some Quraysh leaders and said, “Man, unbend your bow so that we can talk to you.” He did so, and Abű-Sufyân came up, stood before him and said, “You have not acted rightly. You went out publicly with the woman over the heads of everyone when you are aware of the disaster and misfortune that Muhammad brought upon us. The people will think, if you take his daughter away publicly over the heads of everyone, that this is the result of our humili­ation from the disaster that has occurred and that this is a demonstration of our weakness. By my life, we do not want to keep her from her father and that is not how we take revenge. But bring the woman back and when the talk dies down and people say that we have brought her back, then take her away secretly to her father.” That is what he did, and one night took her off and delivered her to Zayd ibn-Hâritha and his companion who took her to the Messenger of God.

Muhammad was furious at the treatment of his daughter and the loss of his grandchild, as Abű-Hurayra is reported to have said:

The Messenger of God organized a raid in which I took part. He told us, “if you get hold of Habbâr ibn-al-Aswad or the other man who came up to Zaynab, burn them with fire.” The next day he sent word to us saying, “I commanded you to burn these two men if you catch them. Then I reflected that no one should punish anyone with fire except God. So if you catch them just kill them.” (1:657)

The conclusion of the story came six years later:

When Islam divided them, Abű-l-`Âs stayed in Mecca and Zaynab stayed with the Messenger of God in Medina. Shortly before the conquest of Mecca, Abű-l-Âs went to Syria trading with his own money and that entrusted to him by other Meccans, since he was trustworthy. When he finished his business and was riding back, a raiding party belonging to the Messenger of God met him and took everything he had, while he fled and escaped.

After the raiding party brought the loot back, Abű-l-`Âs came to Medina by night looking for his property, and went to Zaynab and asked for a warrant of protection. She gave it and when the Messenger of God went out for morning salât and said “Allâhu akbar”, followed by all present, Zaynab cried out from the row of the women, “Men, I have given a warrant of protec­tion to Abű-l-`Âs ibn-ar-­Rabî.” When the Messen­ger of God said the final “As-salâmu alaykum”, he asked the people, “Men, have you heard what I heard?” They said, “Yes.” He said, “By the One in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, I knew nothing of this until I heard what you heard. The meanest Muslim can give a warrant of protection on behalf of the community.” Then he instructed Zaynab: “My daughter, honour your guest, but do not let him approach you, because you are not lawful to him.”

The Messenger of God then sent a message to the raiding party which had taken the goods of Abű-l-`Âs saying, “This man is one of us as you know, and you have taken his goods. So if you are so good as to return him his goods we will be grateful. But if you refuse, since it is booty that God permitted you to take, you have greater right to it.” They answered, “Messenger of God, certainly we will return it to him.” They did so, to the extent that one man brought an old skin, another a little leather bottle and even a piece of wood, until they had restored his goods in their entirety, withholding nothing.

Then Abű-l-`Âs went to Mecca and paid everyone what was due or had been entrusted to him and then asked, “Men of Quraysh, “Do I owe anyone anything else which he has not taken?” They said, “No. May God repay your goodness, since we find you faithful and generous.” Then he said, “As for me, I testify that there is no deity but Allâh and that Muhammad is his servant and Messenger. By God, the only thing that prevented me from becoming a Muslim while I was with him was my fear that you would think that I only wanted to chop your money. Now that God has restored it to you and I am clear of it, I make myself a Muslim.” Then he left and joined the Messenger of God. The Messenger of God restored Zaynab to him according to the first marriage after a six year break without any further ceremony. (1:657-9)

The preceding story is the case basis for the Islamic law not only forbidding marriage with non-Muslim women (Q 2:221), except Jews or Christians (Q 5:5), but also dissolving the marriage of two non-Muslims if one of them becomes Muslim, unless the wife is a Jew or a Christian. The instruction “not to let him approach her, because you are not lawful to him” may be an interpola­tion of later Muslim legal practice.

7.11 Conversion of `Umayr ibn-Wahb

`Umayr ibn-Wahb was one of the Satans of Quraysh who used to molest the Messenger of God and his companions and caused them distress while he was in Mecca. His son Wahb was among the prisoners of Badr. He recalled those who were buried in the pit and their misfortune, and afwân said, “By God, there is no good in life after they have gone.” `Umayr replied, “You are right, by God. But, by God, if I did not have a debt to pay and a family I cannot leave unprovided, I would ride after Muhammad and kill him, since I have reason enough, with my son being a prisoner in their hands.” Safwân took up his excuse and said, “I will repay your debt and will take care of your family with my own as long as they live. They will lack nothing as long as I have something. `Umayr replied, “Keep our deal quiet,” and he said, “Go ahead.”

Then `Umayr called for his sword and it was sharpened for him and poison put on it and he went off to Medina. In the meantime `Umar ibn-al-Khattâb was talking with a group of Mus­lims about the battle of Badr and how God hon­oured them with victory over their enemies on that occasion, when he saw `Umayr stop at the door of the mosque wearing a sword. He said, “This dog is the enemy of God, `Umayr ibn-Wahb. By God, he has only come for evil. He is the one who troubled us and counted our numbers for the enemy at Badr.

Then `Umar went to the Messenger of God and said, “Prophet of God, the enemy of God, `Umayr ibn-Wahb has come wearing a sword.” He said, “Bring him in.” So `Umar went up and took the strap holding `Umayr’s sword and gripped him by the neck with it, saying to the Ansâr around him, “Go in with him to the Messenger of God and sit him down with him. But be careful that this worthless man does no harm to him, for he cannot be trusted. So they went in.

When the Messenger of God saw him, and `Umar holding him with a sword strap around his neck, he told him to release him and come near. The two came up and `Umayr said, “Good morning,” which was the greeting of paganism. The Messenger of God said, “God has honoured us with a better greeting than that, `Umayr. It is ‘as-salâm’, the greeting of the people of heaven.” `Umar answered, “By God, Muhammad, I am not used to that.” He said, “What did you come for, `Umayr?” He said, “I came for this prisoner that you are holding. Please release him.” “Then why is a sword hanging from around your neck?” He said, “God damn swords. Have they ever done us any good?” “Tell me the truth. Why have you come?” “I have only come for that purpose.” But you and Safwân made a deal at the hijr of the Ka`ba and recalled the Meccans who were buried in the pit. Then you said, ‘If I did not have a debt and a family to care for, I would go and kill Muhammad. Then Safwân took responsibility for your debt and your family so that you could kill me for him. But God intervened.” `Umayr said, “I testify that you are the Messenger of God. We used to call you a liar and reject the messages you brought from heaven and the revelation made to you. This is a matter at which no one was present but myself and Safwân. By God, I am sure that only God told you of it. Praise be to God who guided me to Islam and lead me this way.” Then he professed the shahâda and the Messenger of God said to the others, “Instruct your brother in his religion, recite the Qur’ân to him and release his prisoner for him.” And they did so.

Then `Umayr said, “Messenger of God, I formerly was active in putting out the light of God and severely persecuted those who followed the religion of God. Please give me permission to go to Mecca and call them to God and his Messenger and to Islam. Maybe God will guide them. Otherwise I will persecute them in their religion just as I used to persecute your companions in their religion.” So the Messenger of God gave him permission and he went to Mecca.

When `Umayr had left, Safwân was saying, “In a few days you will have good news which will make you forget the battle of Badr.” He kept asking the riders for news until one came and told him that `Umayr had become a Muslim. He swore that he would never speak to him or help him again. And when `Umayr came to Mecca he began calling people to Islam and treated very harshly any who opposed him, so that through him many became Muslims. (1:661-3)

7.12 The Qur’ân on division of booty

The Battle of Badr was a great success and encour­agement for the Muslim community. It also raised in their consciousness a sense of divine destiny, as is reflected in Sűrat al-Anfâl (Q 8). This sűra, said to have been occasioned by the victory at Badr, encourag­es Muslims to fight, even against heavy odds, since unseen angels are fighting on their side. One matter of concern after the victory was the division of spoils. Ibn-Ishâq comments on verses of Sűrat al-Anfâl con­cerning this question:

Regarding their quarrel about the division of spoils at Badr the following verse was revealed (Q 8:1): “They ask you about the spoils. Say, ‘The spoils belong to God and to the Messenger; so fear God and be at peace with one another. Obey God and his Messenger if you are believers.’”.. (1:666)

Then he taught them how to divide the spoil and his judgement about it when he made it lawful for them (Q 8:41): “Know that a fifth of whatever you take as booty belongs to God and his Messenger and to those near to him, the poor and travelers, if you believe in God and what he has revealed to his servant on the day of deci­sion, the day the two armies met...” (1:672)

The question of booty and prisoners comes up again in verses 67ff., and Ibn-Ishâq comments:

Then God reproached him about the prisoners and the taking of booty, since no prophet before him had taken booty for himself from his enemy.. The Messenger of God said, “I was given five privileges that no prophet before me had: 1) I was helped by fear, 2) The earth was made a clean place of prayer for me, 3) I was given the ability to speak about every­thing, 4) Booty was made lawful for me, 5) I was given the power to intercede.”

God said (Q 8:67-69), “It is not for any prophet to take prisoners until he has made slaughter on the earth,” that is, until he eliminates his enemies from the earth. “You desire the lure of this world,” that is, its goods, the ransom of the captives, “but God desires the next world”, that is, killing them to manifest the religion which he wishes to manifest and by which the next world may be attained. “Had you not had a previous revelation from God, you would have faced a terrible punishment for what you took.” That is, had I not said that I would punish only what I had forbidden, and I did not forbid taking prisoners, I would have punished you for what you did. Then he made it lawful to him and to them as a mercy from Him and a gift from the Compassionate and Merciful: “So enjoy what you have taken as spoil; it is lawful and good. Fear God, since he is forgiving and merci­ful.” (1:676-7)

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[1]For further discussion of the social pressures on the Muslims to fight, see W.M. Watt, Muhammad, prophet and statesman, ch. 5.