The Battle of Badr – Part 1
وَبَرَكَاتُهُ اللهِ وَرَحْمَةُ عَلَيْكُمْ السَّلاَمُ
One of the expeditions that the prophet went on before the Battle of Badr would have major consequences that would in fact end up leading to the Battle of Badr. And this was the Ghazwat Al-Ushairah.
This took place in Jumada Al-Ula of the second year of the Hijra, and what happened was that the prophet decided to target the Quraish’s biggest caravan – the annual trading caravan to the north (Rihlat As-Saif) – and as we already know this would bring the Quraish’s economy to a halt as literally every household of Mecca had some investment in that caravan, and this was the main way that they made money. And so he set out with around 150 sahaba to raid this caravan, however they did not manage to cross paths with it and so there was no actual fighting. And this was because one of the members of the caravan had gone a little astray and saw the Muslims, after which he rushed back and told Abu Sufyan (RA) who was the leader of the caravan and so they took another route.
When this happened, Abu Sufyan went on high alert because now he knew that the Muslims were interested in his caravan. Meanwhile the prophet did not even know that Abu Sufyan knew that they were targeting the Rihlat As-Saif, and so when the caravan was supposed to make its return journey back to Mecca, the prophet began sending out spies to see where it had reached. And one of the things that they reported back was the fact that the caravan consisted of only almost 1000 camels, and the amount of wealth this was cannot be understated. The Quraish had never had such a large caravan in their recent history, and this caravan was worth about 50 000 dinars which is equivalent to tens of millions of pounds. And so this would literally have made up the entire treasury of the Muslims had they managed to get their hands on it.
As soon as this report came to the prophet he gathered his sahaba and told them, ‘We have a mission to undertake, and so whoever has his animal ready should come with me.’ And even if some of the sahaba said that their animal wasn’t ready and was in another part of Medina the prophet still would not wait for them as he wanted to leave immediately. Now in this narration in Sahih Muslim we can see that the prophet did not initially tell the sahaba what the mission was, however in another narration in Ibn Ishaaq it is reported that he said, ‘This is the caravan of the Quraish coming back to you, and it has in it the money of the Quraish so let us go out to meet it. Perhaps Allah will give it to you.’ We reconcile this by saying that when the prophet was gathering his sahaba in his mosque he did not tell what the mission was in order to keep secrecy and make sure no spies found out. And then when they left Medina and were on their way, the prophet then told the sahaba what the mission consisted of.
Abu Sufyan’s caravan only had 40 armed guards to protect its entirety. And so for this reason the prophet knew he did not need many warriors, and they did not even need to be fully armed to the teeth. And thus there were only around 315 sahaba – 83 from the Muhaajiroon and the rest from the Ansar – and they were not even completely armed and there were only two riding horses and less than 100 camels in the entire Muslim line. And this would have been enough had it just been a confiscation of the caravan where speed and secrecy were the key, however as we will find out this is not what ended up happening.
When the prophet reached his first encampment and surveyed exactly who had come with him, he noticed that there were two people who were too young to participate in the coming expedition. And these were Al-Bara ibn Azib and Abdullah ibn Umar (RA) who were both younger than 14, which was the minimum age that the prophet allowed people to participate in military expeditions as this was considered manhood in those times.
Now since there were less than 100 camels, 3 people had to share a camel and take turns to ride on it. And the prophet was assigned a camel with Ali and a sahabi called Abu Lubaba ibn Abd Al-Mundhir (RA). Now of course, both Ali and Abu Lubaba said to Muhammad ﷺ that he should take the camel for the entire time while they would just walk, but the prophet replied with the most eloquent of replies, ‘The two of you are not any stronger than I am, and I am not in any less a need of the reward than the two of you.’ And this shows the fairness and humility of the prophet, that even though no one would have complained had he decided to ride the camel the whole time – he was both the general of the army and the messenger of Allah – and yet despite his exulted status he shared the burden of walking with his companions and did it with the sweetest of replies.
As mentioned, Abu Sufyan was on high alert on his way back to Mecca since he knew that the Muslims were after his caravan. And so he himself actually sent out spy delegations himself in order to find out if the caravan was being tracked or if the Muslims were coming. Now at some point some Bedouins mentioned to Abu Sufyan that they say two men spying on the caravan, and so Abu Sufyan requested to be shown where they camped. And he then examined their camp, and he came across camel dung. And he cracked open the camel dung and found the date seeds of Medina, and so realised that his caravan was being spied on by the Muslims and so he panicked. And he changed the route of the caravan and sent a fast rider to rush to Mecca and call for reinforcements.
Now three days before the rider reached Mecca, certain events took place in the city foreshadowing his arrival. And this was the dream of Aatika binti Abdul Muttalib, the prophet’s full aunt. She awoke flustered, and called on her brother Abbas (RA) to whom she was the closest to. And she told him, ‘In my dream I saw that in three days a crier will come to Mecca racing on his camel. And he first goes to the masjid, and he cries out in the masjid, “O traitors, meet your death in three days!” And then the crier is on top of the Ka’bah and he says the same thing. Then he is on top of the mountain of Abu Qubais and he says the same thing. This crier picks up a large rock from the mountain of Abu Qubais and he topples it from the mountain. And I see the rock go down all the way from the mountain until when it gets to the base it shatters, and then it continues rolling until every house in Mecca gets hit by one of the rocks.’
The interpretation is quite straightforward, which is that when the Quraish would go for the Battle of Badr these traitors – and that’s referencing the people who oppressed the Muslims by not letting them visit the haram – would die, and the rocks hitting each house symbolises that someone from each house of the Quraish would be killed. And this is indeed what happened, as not a single household of Mecca was spared from deaths in the Battle of Badr.
Now on hearing this Abbas told Aatika that she should keep this dream to herself, as it was extremely dangerous and would get her into trouble. And yet despite this Abbas could not keep to his own advice, and he went and told his best friend Al-Walid ibn Utbah. And then Al-Walid went and told his father, and very soon the entirety of Mecca knew of this.
And so the next day all of the people of Mecca were gossiping about this dream, but Abbas still didn’t know that everyone knew. And so after asr time – as was the custom of the Arabs – Abbas went to go do tawaf around the Ka’bah as he normally did, when he saw Abu Jahal surrounded by his congregation. And Abu Jahal said to him, ‘O Abbas, when you’re done come here.’ Abbas didn’t know what was going on, but he did tawaf and then went to where Abu Jahal had called him. And Abu Jahal interrogated, ‘O Banu Abdul Muttalib, since when did you get a female prophetess as well?’
Abbas asked, ‘What do you mean?
‘O Banu Abdul Muttalib, are you not satisfied enough that you have men who claim to be prophets, but you now want women to be predicting the future as well? If it is true that a crier will come after three days, then it will happen. But if it does not happen then by Allah, we will write a sign and we will place it on the door of the Ka’bah that the Banu Abdul Muttalib are the most lying of the Arabs known to man!’
Abbas was so caught off by this accusation that he just simply denied everything, but the news of this humiliation by Abu Jahal quickly spread around Mecca. And before Abbas even returned to his house the women had heard of what had took place, and they were fuming. And they begin lashing out at Abbas, challenging his manhood and asking why he could not defend the Banu Hashim. And so Abbas knew he had to return to Abu Jahal and say something to regain his honour, and so the next day as soon as he woke up he went straight to the Ka’bah to find Abu Jahal. And he saw him in the distance, however as soon as Abu Jahal noticed him he turned pale and walked away from Abbas. And so Abbas was wondering why Abu Jahal was not facing him, and he went to go confront him when he found out what had caused Abu Jahal to go so pale. It was the third day, and the crier had arrived. And so Abu Jahal was so embarrassed that he could not show his face to Abbas after the public declaration he had made the day before.
Now the crier knew he needed to convince the Quraish to come help the caravan against the Muslims, and so to create even more urgency he had actually mutilated his camel by cutting its nose off and then smeared the blood all over the animal. And he had also torn his clothes up and made himself look bedraggled as if he had just come out of a fight, and he came into Mecca riding his camel backwards. And he began to cry out, ‘O Quraish, your caravan! O Quraish, your caravan! Your property and money with Abu Sufyan, it is being attacked by Muhammad and his companions right now and you will not be able to defend it unless you act immediately!’ Now obviously the Muslims hadn’t actually attacked the caravan yet, but so in order to create more urgency and to get the Quraish to act immediately the crier claimed that they had. And so the Quraish began preparing to fight.
Dr.Yasir Qadhi’s Seerah of The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) 035
Dr.Yasir Qadhi’s Seerah of The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) 036