Previously we discussed Muhammed’s (pbuh) intention of attacking the caravan of Qureish, which consisted of approximately 2,000 camels and an estimated 50,000 dirhams worth of goods! We discussed how Abu Sufyan, the leader of the caravan, managed to rally almost the whole of the Meccan force, to come out in support of his precious cargo and to guard it against the Muslims whom he knew would be waiting for him on his return from the city of Al-Sham.
We also discussed how Abu Sufyan managed to escape the Muslims by taking an unexpected route, away from Medina, strategically placing the Qureish army between himself and Muhammed (pbuh) and his followers, thus ensuring the safety of the caravan, which subsequently became almost impossible for the Muslims to attack.
And, as we have mentioned earlier, Abu Sufyan, now that the danger of an imminent attack had been averted and the caravan was happily plodding towards Mecca, was not only relieved but generally optimistic. He felt that there was no need for anyone to confront the Muslims, and that it would be best for everyone, including the army, to return home to Mecca.
“Let Muhammed (pbuh) return home empty-handed!” he had relayed to Abu Jahl, one of the leaders of the Qureish force and someone who was infamously known as an avowed enemy of Muhammed (pbuh). “Let him return home to his people and face his enemies amongst them!” Abu Sufyan could almost smell the food pots of Mecca, and the trauma of traversing through hostile territory had made him very impatient.
Abu Jahl, on the other hand, would hear nothing of it. “The Arabs will hear how we marched forth and of our mighty gathering, and they will stand in awe of us forever!” were his words in response to Abu Sufyan’s request.
But let us procrastinate for a moment and study the events that led to the Great Battle of Badr.
We know, as has been amply recorded by historians and Orientalists, that Muhammed (pbuh) and his followers never set out to make war on Qureish initially. They had never gone to Badr (a place some 150 kilometers from Medina and more commonly known today as Saudi Arabia) to engage Qureish and to measure their own strength against a force that was far superior, not only in manpower (1,100 seasoned warriors) but in armament as well.
The Muslims consisted of only approximately 313 men, made up of Muhajireen (immigrant Arabs from Mecca), Ansars (local Arabs from Medina), some Jews, and some Arabs from the Aws and Al-Khazraj tribes.
According to the “Covenant of Medina” (the “Pact” instituted by Muhammed (pbuh), whereby all those who had accepted Islam had to swear fealty to him, the Ansars were not compelled to go into battle alongside any other Muslim. In fact, their arrangement with the Prophet (pbuh) was that they would fight to protect their own families as well as any person or group directly under attack in Medina and do whatever was necessary – but not outside the borders of the City!
One can thus imagine what concern this must have caused the Prophet (pbuh) and in what state of mind he must have been in trying to decide what to do concerning the army of Qureish and the consequences of whatever he decided. And, as we have discussed previously, now that the prospect of great booty was gone (with the escape of the caravan) and all that was left was a fight to the finish with Qureish, some of the Muslims were not so keen on continuing their campaign any further.