We talked earlier about the political ramifications Muhammed’s (pbuh) emergence in Medina caused and about the various tribes, such as the Aws and Al-Kahzraj—and the Jews—who all focussed their attention on Muhammed (pbuh) for different reasons, of course.
We spoke about the raids that were being led on Qureish’s caravans and the effect this had on the clansmen of Mecca. And, we also looked at the Muhajireen (those Arabs who had been forced to leave Mecca) and their aspirations of waging war against Qureish, in order to reclaim their possessions.
However, for us to continue and to discuss what happened regarding these raids, as well as the “Great Battle of Badr,” we have to sit back and take stock of what happened thus far.
Many historians, and many biographers, as well as Orientalists, have given different views as to why Muhammed (pbuh) encouraged these raids on Qureish’s caravans and why he made no secret of his intentions of attacking them. Some say he did so as a show of force to the enemies of Islam, while others believed he merely sought to plunder these caravans and to enrich himself in the process.
Whatever the views anyone holds as to these incursions, and why Muhammed (pbuh) not only sent his most senior warriors to attack these caravans, but led some of these raids himself, it certainly cannot be ascribed to his wanting to enrich himself by such devious means.
Many of his followers, especially amongst the Ansars, were well-to-do people. Many of the Jews who had genuinely accepted Islam were rich businessmen. All Muhammed (pbuh) had to do was to ask them for money (for whatever cause he needed it) and they were only too happy to give him any amount he wanted, no questions asked! In fact, so obsessed were they with the Prophet (pbuh) and his teachings that they believed it to be a part of their religious duties to cater to his every need.
Besides, as history itself proves beyond any doubt whatsoever: No no human being, be it king or queen, statesman or otherwise, no matter how powerful or influential or even forceful he/she may be, can sway the minds of people and their affiliations for very long, that is if that individual harbors any ulterior motives. History has innumerable examples of dictators and false prophets who came to their ignominious ends after trying to enslave people to their ideals.
Nonetheless, as we have discussed previously, Muhammed (pbuh) and a strong following of about 305 men from amongst the Muhajireen as well as the Ansars—together with some of the other groups, such as the Jews, Aws and Al-Khazraj, and even a few non-Muslims (some reports says 313 men in total)—all rode out to
attack the heavily laden caravan of Qureish, led by Abu Sufyan.
This caravan was returning from the northern province of Al-Sham and, as we said earlier on, consisted of approximately 2,000 camels- carrying some 50,000 dinars worth of goods! (1 dinar = 1 gold coin).
Strangely enough though, Abu Suyan had only about 30 to 40 men guarding this enormous caravan and, as history reports, he knew exactly what was waiting for him on his return from Al-Sham!
The Muslims, led by the Prophet (pbuh), had in the meantime reached a place called Iraq-al-Zubiah where they tried to gather information about Abu Sufyan’s movements from a Bedouin they met there. The man could not tell them much, except that everyone was talking about this massive caravan that was passing through the desert.
The Muslims then went to to a place called Dhafiran where they set up camp and it was there that the news reached them that Abu Sufyan had somehow managed to summon most if not all of Mecca’s fighting force to escort the caravan safely to the “Holy City.”
Abu Sufyan knew that practically all of Mecca’s upper-class, as well as ordinary citizens, had a stake in what he was carrying, and he used this to incite all and sundry to come out in full force to guard their would-be wealth with their lives.
So intense was the Qureishi force (counting some 1,100 heavily armed warriors) that many of those Muslims (whatever their intentions were) had second thoughts of attacking the caravan. Many wanted to turn back, and the Prophet (pbuh) hastily called a council with his trusted advisors, i.e. Abu Bakr, Umar ibn Al Khattab, and others.
After his senior advisors had given their views, one, Al Miqdad ibn Amr, stood up and said; “O, Prophet of Allah…Press forward to that which Allah has shown you. We know that you would not have brought us here if it had not been a Command from Allah most High. So go forth and we shall follow you willingly.”
Meanwhile, Abu Sufyan, albeit having the backing of the entire Qureish army, was not taking any chances. He cut a path away from the mainland, and, away from Medina. Then he swung back to the mainland (after some two days), leaving the Qureishi force between him and the Muslims, thus securing the safety of the caravan and its goods.
The Prophet (pbuh), on the other hand, found himself in a rather awkward situation when he learnt of the caravan’s escape. Here, they were camped out in the desert, braving the hot sun and the occasional sandstorm, and now that the prospect of hitting Qureish (where it would have hurt severely) was fast becoming an unreality, the tempers of the men were not good at all.
Occasional flare-ups occurred at the slightest of misunderstandings and provocations, and Muhammed (pbuh) found himself of two minds as to whether to return home to Medina or do battle with Qureish.
Once more he called his senior advisors, as well as some of the Ansar and Muhajireen warriors, to council, and put it to them that now that the caravan had escaped, the prospect of fighting the Qureish army with only 300-odd men did not make much sense at all. Besides Qureish had much more equipment than the Muslims had and many of their soldiers were seasoned warriors.
It was then that Allah revealed unto Muhammed (pbuh) the following verses of Al-Quran: “And when Allah promised you that one of the Two should fall to you (either the Qureish army or their caravan)… Do you then wish it to be the one less troublesome? Know that Victory can only come with Allah’s help and Guidance. For rather than easy booty, Allah wishes that the Truth become Supreme, And that Justice be done, And the Unbelievers be scattered…”
For their part, Qureish also asked themselves the same question: Now that their caravan was safe, was there any need to pursue their objectives of engaging the Muslims in any kind of armed conflict, per se? Besides, wouldn’t it be a greater triumph in itself to let the Muslims return home empty handed and let them face the scorn of their other enemies at home?
These were the sentiments of Abu Sufyan, who could practically smell the food pots of Mecca by now, and who earnestly relayed this message to the army. He couldn’t wait to get back to the “Holy City.”
Abu Jahl, one of the leaders of Qureish, would hear nothing of it. His response was that they had come this far and now that the caravan was safe, what had they to lose in advancing towards Badr—which was a central place for all travelers and passersby—camp out there for a few days, drink wine and make merry, and in the process let it be known that they had dealt a crushing blow to the resistance of the Muslims? Abu Jahl could already see the Prophet (pbuh) trooping back to Medina, his head hanging low and his and his men’s morale utterly shattered!
What he didn’t know was that the Muslims, now that they had lost the opportunity of attacking the caravan, decided to stand firm and also advanced on Badr.
The scene was set for one of the greatest confrontations of all time.