Pre-Badr – Part 2
وَبَرَكَاتُهُ اللهِ وَرَحْمَةُ عَلَيْكُمْ السَّلاَمُ
The first expedition that the prophet went on was called the Expedition of Al-Abwa which took place on the 12th of Safar in the 2nd year of the Hijra. The prophet heard that a caravan of the Quraish was on its way, and so he decided to pursue it with the Muhaajiroon in order to try and take the loot for themselves. As well as boosting the treasury of the Muslims, this would also have the effect of cutting off the lifeline of the Quraish, as trading was the main way that they made money. However the Muslims did not manage to reach the caravan in time and so no actual fighting took place. Instead, the first of many military alliances was formed with the local tribes around the area, and thus the Islamic State expanded.
The second sareeya that took place was the first time that an arrow was shot for the cause of Allah, and it was shot by Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas (RA). The expedition was called the Expedition of Ubaydah ibn Harith, however once again there was no actual fighting but instead a standoff between the Muhaajiroon and a party of the Quraish developed and a few arrows were shot back and forth, until an intermediary party came and caused a ceasefire. The Quraish then dispersed and the same intermediary party allied with the Muslims, and so once again the Islamic State was expanded.
Another small expedition that took place was one called Ghazwat Al-Badr Sughra, meaning small Battle of Badr, and it is not to be confused with Ghazwat Al-Badr Kubra which was the main Battle of Badr that we all know about. Instead, it was a small expedition that took place on the plains of Badr against a tribe that was allied with the Quraish. A few people from this tribe raided Medina in the middle of the night and killed one or two camel herders before stealing some camels. And as soon as the prophet found out he gathered 70 of the Muhaajiroon and set off after them, however there were only three or four raiders and so they were much faster and managed to flee before the prophet could reach them. However, as a consequence to this incident the prophet began to send out reconnaissance missions in order to monitor the Quraish and their allies.
And this led to the Sareeyat Al-Nakhla, which was a top-secret reconnaissance mission to spy on the Quraish’s major annual caravan to Yemen (Rihlat As-Shitaa'). Now as we know, Medina was to the north of Mecca, and Yemen is on the southernmost side of Arabia and so the Rihlat As-Shitaa' was actually on the opposite side of Mecca to Medina. And so had the prophet attacked this caravan, it would have completely taken the Quraish by surprise as they would never have expected the Muslims to go all the way around Mecca in order to ambush it, and as well as that the Muslims would have achieved a major victory as that was one of the two major yearly trading caravans and so to capture this would cause the economy and lifeline of Mecca to come to a screeching halt. And it must be stressed that Mecca’s primary income was trade from this caravan, and that every household would invest some of their wealth to this caravan and that was the main way they made money. And so for the Muslims to capture it would have been a major blow to the Quraish, however in the end attack did not take actually place.
This intelligence expedition took place in Rajab of the second year of the Hijra. The prophet handpicked eight of the Muhaajiroon and set as their leader his own cousin Abdullah ibn Jahsh (RA). And note: the prophet always gave the most dangerous roles to his own family members, to show that he wasn’t picking favourites and to lead the Muslims by example. And he gave Abdullah a letter and told him to go northeast, and he instructed him,’ Travel for two days, and on the morning of the second day open my letter and read it.’
And so the party left Medina going completely away from Mecca, and on the morning of the second day Abdullah opened the letter and read it. And it told him that from where he was he should proceed to Nakhla – which was a small area past the eastern side of Mecca – and then watch the actions of the Quraish and inform the prophet of them. And as well as this, the prophet declared in his letter that anyone who did not want to undertake this expedition could come back to Medina.
And in this we see the meticulous preparation of the prophet, as he kept this operation so secret that not even the people who were going knew where they were going. And this was also a tactic to deceive the Quraish, as he sent the party north east away from Mecca so that they did not look suspicious, before they would double back southwards towards Nakhla. However the prophet did not force the sahaba to go, and allowed them to return if they wanted to as this was an extremely dangerous mission – they were literally walking into enemy territory. And when Abdullah narrated this letter back to his companions he declared, ‘Whoever wants martyrdom and is eager to meet Allah let him come with me. And whoever doesn’t may go back to Medina. But as for me I am going to proceed on to Mecca.’ And this shows us how dangerous Abdullah considered this mission, such that he did not expect that he would make it back alive. And yet despite this dire warning all of the companions agreed to go.
In total there were four camels and eight men, so two men per camel. And so one morning when they woke up and one of the camels was missing, both Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas and Utbah ibn Ghazwan (RA) no longer had a mount to travel on. And so they insisted that the rest of the sahaba continue onwards, while the two of them would remain to try to find their camel or somehow make their way. And so the rest of them continued and made it to Nakhla.
But before the group that had made it to Nakhla could even set up camp, they saw in the distance a caravan arriving. And this was a smaller business caravan of the Quraish returning early, and it was completely loaded with goods and wealth and had absolutely no military protection. And this was a fortune including the camels, and so the group began discussing what to do. Now the prophet had not told them to attack any caravans – he had only told them to get information – but the wealth was enormous and so this would have been a huge asset for the Islamic State. No, the real problem was the fact that it was the 30th of Rajab, and Rajab was the Sacred Month which meant that no fighting could take place. However it was the very last day of the month, and on top of that there were only one or two more hours left for maghrib after which it would have been the next day and so no longer the Sacred Month. But in that time the caravan would have gone past, and so the sahaba were troubled on what action to take.
In the end they decided to attack the caravan, and one of the camel drivers was killed and the other two were taken as prisoners of war. And then immediately the caravan was taken to Medina. When they returned and the prophet was told of what happened, he realised that this would create a very negative image of the Muslims. And he told the sahaba, ‘I didn’t command you to fight,’ and he refused to accept any of the booty. And when the Quraish found out they immediately jumped on this and began spreading this story and their criticism of the Muslims across the entirety of Arabia. And the prophet felt great stress about this as the criticism was valid, until Allah revealed in the Quran in Surah Baqarah verse 217:
يَسْـَٔلُونَكَ عَنِ ٱلشَّهْرِ ٱلْحَرَامِ قِتَالٍ فِيهِۖ قُلْ قِتَالٌ فِيهِ كَبِيرٌۖ وَصَدٌّ عَن سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ وَكُفْرٌۢ بِهِۦ وَٱلْمَسْجِدِ ٱلْحَرَامِ وَإِخْرَاجُ أَهْلِهِۦ مِنْهُ أَكْبَرُ عِندَ ٱللَّهِۚ وَٱلْفِتْنَةُ أَكْبَرُ مِنَ ٱلْقَتْلِۗ وَلَا يَزَالُونَ يُقَٰتِلُونَكُمْ حَتَّىٰ يَرُدُّوكُمْ عَن دِينِكُمْ إِنِ ٱسْتَطَٰعُواْۚ وَمَن يَرْتَدِدْ مِنكُمْ عَن دِينِهِۦ فَيَمُتْ وَهُوَ كَافِرٌ فَأُوْلَٰٓئِكَ حَبِطَتْ أَعْمَٰلُهُمْ فِى ٱلدُّنْيَا وَٱلْءَاخِرَةِۖ وَأُوْلَٰٓئِكَ أَصْحَٰبُ ٱلنَّارِۖ هُمْ فِيهَا خَٰلِدُونَ
They ask thee concerning fighting in the Prohibited Month. Say: "Fighting therein is a great [sin]; but to prevent access to the path of Allah, to reject Him, to prevent access to the Sacred Mosque and to expel its people is graver in the sight of Allah." This fitna is worse than slaughter. And they will not cease fighting you until they turn you back from your faith if they can. And if any of you turn back from your faith and die in unbelief, their deeds will bear no fruit in this life and in the Hereafter; and those will be companions of the Fire and will abide therein.
Now this verse is the pinnacle of eloquence. Note: Allah did not say that fighting in the Sacred Month was allowed – rather he criticised it as a great sin. However, He then went on to criticize the Quraish for all that they had done in rejecting Allah’s message and preventing the Muslims from entering Masjid Al-Haram, and then told them that this was a much greater sin and so who did the Quraish think they were to criticize the Muslims? And so when this verse came down the prophet then accepted the bounty brought by the sahaba and the two prisoners of war, and a message for ransom was sent to the Quraish. On top of this, the prophet made the demand that he would not release these two prisoners until the two companions who were left behind – Sa’ad and Utbah – returned to Medina safely, as there had been no news from them and the prophet was worried that they may have been captured by the Quraish. However it turned out that they were not found by the Quraish and instead ended up finding their camels, and within a week or two they actually returned to Medina and the two prisoners of war were released. One of the prisoners – Al-Hakim ibn Qaysaan (RA) – actually converted, and so he waited for the ransom to be paid before actually returning to Medina and living as a Muslim.
To conclude, we can see from the incident of the Sareeyat Al-Nakhla the infinite justice of Allah. How else could this situation have been judged? On one hand the criticism was certainly valid, however surely it was for a justified cause and could be overlooked regarding the context? And yet Allah did not pardon this sin, but instead turned to the Quraish and asked them who they thought they were to criticise the Muslims when they had committed far greater crimes. And as well as this we can see in general from all of these expeditions and battles one key thing, and that is that not even the prophet of Allah was just handed victory on a silver platter. Once again – and this is a recurring theme throughout the life of the prophet – hard work first had to be put in before Allah granted victory, and this shows us that if not even the prophets of Allah were given success without work then how can we expect to just make du’a and not do anything, and then achieve whatever we desire?
Dr.Yasir Qadhi’s Seerah of The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) 035