Medina, Life and War – In the Footsteps of the Prophet

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

In this chapter, the Meccans react to the Prophet’s settlement, the battle of Badr occurs and Banu Qaynuqa, a Jewish tribe in Medina, commit treason.

The Prophet’s settlement in Medina affected the reputation of Quraysh. The Qurayshians decided to step up their game. They violated the honor code respected by the clans of the peninsula and stole the belongings and properties of the Muslim emigrants. Therefore, to take back their rights, the Muslim Muhajiroun started interrupting Qurayshian caravans passing near Medina and taking the equivalent of what was stolen. No killing or fighting took place. The Prophet also sent missions to gather intelligence about the intentions of Qurayshians and any possible planning for war. The Prophet also has been setting up packs with neighboring tribes on a route generally taken by Mecca caravans traveling north.

What ignited the clash between Mecca and Medina was a mission gone bad. Although it was the last week of Rajab, Abdallah ibn Jahsh and his group, sent to Nakhlah valley to seek intelligence about Qurayshian plans, decided to attack the Meccans. They killed one and took two as prisoners. The Prophet was very angry.

During those times, the Prophet received revelations regarding the permission/order to fight (qital) as a type of resistance (jihad). Here, the author notes that paradoxically, war is sometimes the way to establish peace. This is expressed in 2:251; Good people fight bad people to establish peace.

Thus, jihad and qital are the ways that, by resisting the dark temptations of the inner self as well as human beings proclivity for war, will make it possible to reach peace, the fruit of an ever-renewed effort to overcome temptations as well as oppressors.

Then happened the change of Qibla, which set the differentiation between Jewish and Christian, and Muslim faiths. This edged up the Jews and the Meccans, for different reasons each. Both, together, were up to no good.

The Prophet heard of a caravan led by Abu Sufian returning from Syria with lots of goods. He decided to interrupt this caravan: to take back the equivalent of what they have lost in Mecca and to show their power to Meccans and neighboring Arabs. He set off with 309 or 313 companions including Ansar and Muhajiroun. They took with them substantial weapons considering the importance of the caravan they wanted to intercede; they were, however, not fit for war. Abu Sufian heard about this from his spies, and called about thee Qurayshians Mecca for backup. Abu Jahl took off from Mecca with a big army, triple the size of the Prophet’s group. Abu Sufian changed his route and sent an envoy stating that he was safe and in no need of help anymore. Abu Jahl, however, insisted to move forward and fight.

The Prophet was either to go back to Medina or try to catch up with the caravan and risk clashing with the Qurayshian army. He consulted his companions, and this is were we see the importance of consultation. We also see how the Prophet tried to always trigger their critical thinking. He sometimes asked them questions, heard their answers then gave the right answer. Sometimes, he stated seemingly contradictory statements so that they question them, and then he explains it to them. The companions, both Ansar and Muhajiroun said that if he decided to follow the caravan, they will go with him no doubt.

The Muslim group traveled on and then camped in Badr near the first wells they found. One of the companions, Hubab ibn al-Mundhir, asked, “Was this place were we have stopped revealed to you by God, so that we must not move either forward or backward from it, or is it an opinion and strategy of yours, linked to war expedients?” Learning that it was just the Prophet’s idea, he suggested moving towards the biggest well, to block the Meccans’ path towards the water. The Prophet liked the idea and they did so. Here we see the beauty of the companions faith.

… the Companions made the distinction between Revelations the Prophet received, which they obeyed without a second thought, and the opinions of Muhammad the man, which could be debated, improved on, or even rejected outright.

The Prophet sent Umar ibn al-Khattab to the Qurayshian army to discourage the confrontation. Some of the leaders, including Utbah, didn’t want to fight either, but other insisted. The Prophet had inspirations and dreams that promise victory for the Muslims and he kept praying to God. The battle was to happen in Ramadan but the Prophet encouraged breaking the fast since they were traveling so they had permission.

The battle took place. 14 Muslims died, 70 Qurayshians died, including Abo Jahl, and another 70 were taken prisoners, including Abbas the prophet’s uncle. In Mecca, a slave who had been hiding his Islam couldn’t hide his joy when hearing about the Muslim’s victory. Abu Lahab sprang at him and beat him savagely. Um al-Fadl, Abbas’s wife, who has also hiding her Islam, hit Abu Lahab with a tent post. His wound got infected and he died a few weeks after.

Regarding the prisoner’s, 2 were sentenced to death since they were especially cruel to Muslims back in Mecca. Some were freed by paying by paying a ransom (their family members paid that is), others without, and the poorest were dealt with according to individual circumstances. For example, those who knew how to read and write had to teach ten Medina youth in exchange for their freedom.

Regarding the spoils, the companions were quarreling over how to divide them. The Prophet had to remind the companions of their intentions. They fought for the sake of Allah, not for the spoils. Revelation was sent that the spoils are for God and his Messenger. Therefore, the Prophet distributed the wealth equitably according to Quranic injunctions and the disputes were ended.

Back in Medina, Banu Qaynuqa were the only Jewish tribe actually living inside the city. The Prophet heard of plans for treason and to avoid letting them think they can do as they please, he paid them a visit to ask them about how they feel about the Muslim’s victory. They exclaimed that if it had been them against the Muslims, they would have surely won. A few days later, the “woman at the market” incident happened. A Muslims and a Jew died and instead of the Jews turning to the Prophet so that he’d judge the situation justly according to the covenant, they tried to ally themselves with the hypocrite Ibn Ubayy. The Prophet upon hearing this, gathered an army and besieged them for two weeks until they surrendered. Instead of killing the men and banishing the women and children, as was the usual practice after war victory, he confiscated their belongings and ordered them to move out of the city. They took refugee with other tribes and colonies nearby. They grew more hostile towards the Muslims though.

Favorite Quote:

They remained human beings, with their weaknesses and temptations; they needed reminders, spiritual education, and patience, as does everyone, whether near the Prophet or at any other point in human history.