Saturday, March 31, 2012

Main Battles Before the Conquest of Makkah

There had been many conflicts and skirmishes  between the Muslims in Madinah and their counterparts in Makkah before the Makkans finally capitulated in the year 8 AH (630 CE).  The confrontations that can be considered real battles, however, were only three.

The first was the aborted raid that turned into a full scale war, known as the Battle of Badar.  The second was the retaliatory war, known as the Battle of Uhud.  And the last one was the abortive war of annihilation, known as the Battle of Ahzab a.k.a the Battle of the Trench.

The Battle of Badar occurred in the second year After Hijrah (AH).  It was not meant to be a war.  Both sides did not plan for it.  It occurred by "chance," or more appropriately, by Providence, decided by God.

After the Muslims migrated from Makkah to Madinah, they left all their belongings in Makkah.  Many of them wanted to carry their belongings with them, but were forced to leave behind.  When they arrived in Madinah, they were practically left with nothing. 

The brotherhood between the Migrants (the Muslims who came from Makkah, or muhajirun) and the Helpers (the Muslims in Madinah, or the ansar) that the Prophet established as soon as he arrived in Madinah was not only brotherhood in faith, but also brotherhood in blood.  The Migrants could not survive without the help from their Madinan brothers.

The Helpers, on their part, had lived to the name given to them in every sense of the word.  They practically gave everything they had and regarded their new brothers as family members. 

One of them, Saad bin Rabi', a wealthy Helper who was made the brother of Abdul Rahman bin Auf, went extra mile by proposing to divorce one of his wives and gave her to Abdul Rahman.  He also proposed to divide his wealth into two portions, giving half to the latter. 

On his part, Abdul Rahman politely turned down the proposals and asked instead to be shown the market, where he started trading.  He was a wealthy trader before the migration but had to leave all his belongings in Makkah and started from the scratch.  He became well to do not long afterwards.

Whatever the Migrants condition prior to the migration, they were poor and needed to be helped when they arrived in Madinah.  Since they were forced to leave on account of their religion, and their properties confiscated, it was within their right to take these back.  Permission to fight this injustice, and to regain what had been confiscated, had been given in the Quran.  For that reason, quite a number of raids on Makkan caravans were undertaken but were mostly unsuccessful.

On the second year AH, the news had reached the Prophet and his companions that Abu Sufyan was leading large trade caravan from Syria.  The goods used for the trading were mostly those confiscated from the Muslims who left them in Makkah.  The Prophet decided to retake what had been forcibly taken.

Thus, with 312 of his companions, making altogether 313 armed men, they proceeded to raid this heavily guarded caravan.  Though it was heavily guarded, it was only a trade caravan, not an army.   The armed men guarding the goods were said to number only forty.  The number was large enough to protect the goods from the bandits, but the Prophet and his band were no bandit.  They came with large number, because they were bent on seizing what were essentially theirs.

But Abu Sufyan was a cautious leader.  His intuition told him that the caravan was exposed to the raid by the Madinans, for such attempts had been tried before.  So he sent spies and they came back telling him that a raided party had been organized by Muhammad and his companions.

Losing no time, Abu Sufyan dispatched messengers to Makkah, invoking them to save the trading caravan.  In the meantime, he changed the normal route, running away from the raiding party.  Also losing no time, Abu Jahal in Makkah quickly assembled an army of 1,000 men to save the caravan.

The news of the Makkan army approaching reached the Prophet, for he too sent spies, so they aborted the pursuit.  When Abu Sufyan came to know that the raid had been aborted, and the caravan was safe from the raiding party, he sent messengers to the Makkan army to go back.

Many in the Makkan army wanted to go back, since they did not come for war.  In fact, two clans went home, namely the Zuhrah clan, the clan of the Prophet's mother, Aminah, and the Adi clan, the clan of Umar Al Khattab.  Some section of Hashim clan, the clan of the Prophet, also went home.  Most however stayed upon the persuasion and taunting of Abu Jahal.

On his part, the Prophet himself did not want the war.  He came for different reason.  His raiding party was fully armed, but only lightly, for they did not go out of Madinah to engage in a full scale war.

In addition, the majority of the members in his raiding party was the Helpers.  It was agreed in the Madinah Constitution that the Helpers would fight and protect the Islamic society in Madinah if the city is attacked.  But this was not Madinah.  They were at a place called Badar.

The Prophet knew that the Makkans were bent on war, but he was not sure whether the Helpers would agree to it.  It was within their right to refuse to fight, for it was not part of the agreement.  So he asked what they thought of it.

One of their leaders, Sa'd Abu Ubadah, made his famous reply:  If you order us to plunge our horses into the sea, we would do so.

So it was decided that if the Makkans wanted war, then war it was.  As we know, the Muslims were victorious in this war.  Seventy of the Makkans died, and an equal number was taken captives.  On the Muslims side, there was only fourteen martyrs.

That was the background to the Battle of Badar.  It was not meant to be a war in the first place.  It was merely a raiding party that turned into full scale war.

The Battle of Uhud, on the other hand, was meant to be a war in every sense of the word.  After their defeat at Badar, the Makkans were consumed with anger and wanted revenge.  No one wanted it more than Hind binti Utbah, the wife of Abu Sufyan, for his father, his brother, and his uncle, died in the one to one duel with the Muslims. 

Hind wanted three men killed: the Prophet, Ali and Hamzah.   If she could not have the three, then one of them, especially Hamzah, would suffice, for it was Hamzah who finished off his father and his uncle.  Ali, on the other hand, had finished off his brother, Walid bin Utbah.  As for her desire to have Muhammad killed, that's because he was the leader.

With the army of 3,000 strong, they went to Madinah and the battle took place at Uhud, the vicinity of Madinah.  The Muslims were victorious in the beginning, but due to their error in judgement, the archers had disobeyed the Prophet's prior instruction and left their position, resulting in the reverse.

As the Muslims ran helter-skelter and the Prophet himself was injured, Abu Sufyan declared the victory and went home.  They came only for revenge, not to annihilate the Muslims completely.   His wife, Hind, had also satiated her revenge by splitting open the chest of Hamzah, who was killed by her slave, Wahsy, and ate the liver.  She spat it out, though, unable to swallow it.  In any case, the job was done.

The Muslims, on their part, had regrouped and waited if there would be another battle, but there was none.  The Makkans had gone home.

When some of his companions asked Abu Sufyan to resume the battle so that the Muslims would be dealt with for good, he replied that they were ill prepared for that.  The Makkans alone could not annihilate the Muslims.  They needed the help of their allies to do that.

They set out to do just that.  For the next two years, the Makkans went out scouting for support throughout Arabia.  Every tribe hostile to the Muslims was approached.  The mission was to annihilate the Muslims in Madinah for good.  They managed to assemble an army of 10,000 strong, the largest army ever seen in Arabia.  They also managed to make a secret deal with the only remaining Jewish tribe in Madinah.

It is for this reason that the next battle is called the Battle of Ahzab, or the Battle of Confederacy.  The plan was for the Makkans and his Arabian allies to attack from the outside, and the Jews would attack from within.

The news that 10,000 army was marching to destroy them completely had alarmed the Muslims.  It was not just the number that alarmed them.  It was their intention.  What was more alarming was that the remaining Jewish tribe in the Madinah was also in the pact. 

Having decided that it would be fatal to meet this army outside of Madinah, they decided to encamp in the city, protecting themselves by digging a trench encircling Madinah.  The only place not dug was the mountainous terrain, impassable by the army.  That is why the battle is also known as the Battle of the Trench.

The Makkans with their allies had prepared everything they could to achieve their mission.  But as soon as they arrived at Madinah, they were surprised to see the trench.  They were not prepared for this, for it was unknown to the Arabs.  Of course it was unknown, for the stratagem was suggested by Salman the Persian.  Thus about all they could do was laying siege to the city.

There had been some skirmishes here and there, attempted by a few horsemen, but all were soon chased by the Madinans.  The entire army could not cross the trench, so they just shot arrows from the distance.   The Confederate were waiting for the Jewish tribe, the tribe of Qurayzah, to work their magic from within, but they had been neutralized by the magical trick played by one Nuaym bin Masud, the recent convert.  He was the leader of one of the confederate tribes who had concealed his faith.

After laying siege for 27 days, and losing hope that the Jews would make the move as planned, the desert storm hit the Confederate.  Finding themselves in dire straits, they aborted the siege and went home.  What they did not know was that the situation in the Muslims camp was worse.

The Muslims were practically starving to death for they had ran out of food supply, and they were always in fear that the Jews would suddenly attack them from behind, and in the ensuing mayhem, their protection along the trench would be compromised and thus enabled the Confederate to gallop at them from outside.  Allah decided to end the dire straits experienced by the Muslims by sending the storm that wrecked the Confederate army.

If the Battle of Badar started with the aborted raid, the Battle of the Trench was an abortive war.  The Confederate had come to annihilate the Muslims in Madinah for good, but the real battle was aborted because the Muslims had used the stratagem unknown to the Arabs at that time.

This abortive war was a good omen to the Muslims.  It signified the portent for things to come.  The fortune of the event was about to be reversed.  If others did not see it at that time, the Prophet did see it very clearly, for in his characteristic remark, he said: "From now on, they don't come to us.  We go to them."

True to his prophetic words, three years later Muhammad went with 10,000 of his army to conquer Makkah.

Three years earlier, the Makkans had brought their allies with 10,000 strong army to annihilate the Muslims for good, but instead went home empty handed.   Three years later, Muhammad brought similar number of army and conquered Makkah without bloodshed.


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