The night following the Battle of Uhud was one of anxiety and unease for the Muslims of Medina. A sense of insecurity still prevailed, for Quraish might even yet return, and so the chief men again kept watch at the Holy Prophet’s door. Before the dawn Prayers, the Holy Prophet received the intimation that the Quraish army had made camp at a distance of a few miles from Medina, and that a discussion was proceeding among the leaders on the desirability of attacking Medina. Some of them rebuked the others that they had neither killed Muhammad, nor enslaved Muslim women, nor plundered their homes and that they had thus missed a great opportunity that had come their way. They urged that they should go back, attack Medina and destroy the Muslims. Others argued that having established their superiority through their victory, they should be content with their triumph and should return to Mecca, lest by any further adventure they might risk their victory; for if they reverted to Medina, the Muslims would certainly fight them fiercely and would be joined by those of them who had not gone forth to Uhud. In the end, those who were eager for an attack against Medina appeared to have persuaded the rest and Quraish began to make preparations to march against Medina. When the Holy Prophet came to know of this development, he immediately directed that the Muslims should get ready to march forth against Quraish, but he laid down the condition that only those should go forth on this occasion that had been present at Uhud. Many of these had received injuries, but on hearing the command of the Holy Prophet, they all joined up cheerfully with their injuries bandaged, so that the general air appeared as if a victorious army had set forth in pursuit of a vanquished enemy. The Holy Prophet had dispatched two persons to gather intelligence about Quraish; their dead bodies were discovered at Hamral Asad, at a distance of eight miles from Medina. They had probably been slain by Quraish as spies. The Holy Prophet arranged for their burial and decided to camp for the night. He directed that fires might be lit all round, and, within a few minutes, 500 fires were kindled on adjoining heights, which gave the impression that the Holy Prophet had a large force under his command. About this time, a chief of Khuzaa, of the name of Ma’bad, called on the Holy Prophet and expressed his sympathy over those slain at Uhud. Next morning, when he arrived at Rauha, he found the Quraish army making preparations to march against Medina. He went to Abu Sufyan and told him that he had just come from Hamral Asad where he had witnessed a formidable force in camp, who were much exasperated over their defeat at Uhud and were now eager to wreak vengeance on their enemies. Abu Sufyan was much impressed by what Ma’bad told him and abandoned the design to march on Medina and started with his army for Mecca. When the Holy Prophet learnt that Quraish were headed towards Mecca, he remarked that God had overawed them. He remained in camp at Hamral Asad for two or three days and returned to Medina after an absence of five days.
At Hamral Asad the Muslims made prisoner one of the enemy, the poet Abu Uzza, who had loitered behind the rest. He had been taken prisoner at Badr, and, having five daughters dependent on him, had been released on the promise that he would not again bear arms against the Holy Prophet. He now sought for mercy, but the Holy Prophet rejected his plea, observing, ‘A believer may not be bitten twice from the same hole.’ He was executed on account of his treachery.
Another Quraish, Mu’awiya bin Mughira, had been discovered in the vicinity of Medina on the night after the battle of Uhud. He begged Uthman bin Affan to intercede for him, and Uthman procured for him a three days’ truce. Mu’awiya lingered on near Medina beyond the period of his truce, and having been discovered, was executed for having failed to observe the term of the truce.
Though the victory of Quraish in the battle of Uhud inflicted no great permanent loss on the Muslims, yet temporarily it proved awkward for them. They had lost seventy men, among them three or four leading personalities, and a very large number had received injuries; the Jews of Medina and the disaffected who had to some degree been cowed down by the victory at Badr were now revived in spirit, so much so that Abdullah bin Ubayy and his followers openly mocked at the Muslims and made fun of them; Quraish were much encouraged and felt that not only had they avenged their defeat at Badr, but that in future, whenever the occasion arose, they would be able to overcome the Muslims; Arab tribes also became more daring in their hostility towards the Muslims. All this, however, had a redeeming aspect also. The Muslims realized that they could never achieve success through acting contrary to the wishes and directions of the Holy Prophet. He had counselled them to oppose the enemy from inside Medina, but a section of them had insisted upon going forth to battle; he had issued strict instructions to the band of archers, who had been stationed in the pass at the rear of the Muslims, not to leave their post till they received directions to that effect, yet most of them had disobeyed the Holy Prophet’s instructions at a crucial moment, which default of theirs had led to disaster. The Muslims thus learnt a salutary lesson of obedience to the Holy Prophet on all occasions to the minutest degree. Through Divine grace, the prejudice which the Muslims suffered as a result of their defeat at Uhud proved temporary and soon, under the wise, spirited and inspired guidance of the Holy Prophet, they began to march forward rapidly towards their goal.
S’ad bin Rabi’ Ansari, whose death on the day of Uhud has been mentioned earlier, was a man of substance and occupied a distinguished position in his clan. He left him surviving no male issue, only his widow and two daughters. According to Arab custom, a widow and daughters received no part of the inheritance on the death of the head of the family, and in case there was no male issue, the inheritance went to his brothers or, in default of brothers, to his male collaterals. No law of inheritance had yet been established among the Muslims under divine command. Therefore on the death of S’ad his brother took possession of the whole of his property and his widow and daughters were left destitute. The widow, taking her two daughters with her, went to the Holy Prophet and explained their situation to him. He was deeply moved, but as he had so far received no divine instruction concerning inheritance, he told her to wait till some divine direction pertinent to her situation was vouchsafed. Not long after, verses 12-13 of Chapter 4 were revealed, regulating inheritance, whereby in the situation that had arisen the widow was held entitled to one-eighth of the inheritance, and the daughters to two-thirds of it, and the brother only to the small residue. Upon this, the Holy Prophet sent for S’ad’s brother and directed him to hand over their respective shares to his brother’s widow and his daughters, and to retain only his own share. He carried out the direction fully.
The Muslim law of inheritance, the greater part of which is set out in the verses cited above, was a great improvement on the Arab custom of inheritance, particularly so far as women are concerned. Altogether, in pre-Islamic Arabia, Arab custom bore hardly upon women, and Islam carried out a beneficent revolution in favour of women, into the details of which it is not necessary to enter here.
Another social reform of tremendous import was also instituted about this time. Liquor and gambling were resorted to by the Arabs on a very large scale, and they suffered from all their attendant evils. The Holy Prophet himself, peace be on him, had never indulged in any of these vices at any time, and some of his Companions had also abstained from them altogether. But as there had been so far no prohibition, many Muslims drank liquor, which sometimes led to very awkward situations. The first admonition that was revealed with regard to these two vices was: ‘They ask thee concerning liquor and gambling. Tell them: There is great harm in both, and also some benefit for people, but their harm is greater than their benefit’ (2:220). This was soon followed by: ‘O ye who believe approach not Prayer when you are not in full possession of your faculties, until you realize the true import of your supplications’ (4:44). Finally, soon after the battle of Uhud, the command was revealed: ‘O ye who believe, liquor, gambling, idols and divining arrows are but abominations and Satanic devices. So turn wholly away from each one of them so that you may prosper’ (5:91).
The Holy Prophet thereupon directed one of his Companions to proclaim the prohibition throughout Medina. Ans has related: ‘I was at that time engaged in serving liquor to Abu Talha Ansari and some other Muslims. When we heard the voice of the announcer, Abu Talha asked me to find out what he was saying. I went out and discovered that he was proclaiming that liquor had been forbidden. When I returned to the company, I told them of the proclamation and Abu Talha directed me immediately to pour out all the liquor contained in the vessels, which I did. On that day, liquor ran on the side of the streets of Medina. The Holy Prophet interpreted the divine commandment as meaning that the smallest quantity of that of which a large quantity would inebriate had been forbidden.’
The setback that the Muslims suffered in the battle of Uhud encouraged the pagan Arab tribes to embark more daringly than before upon aggression against the Muslims. Only a short time had passed after the battle, while those who had been injured in the battle had not yet completely recovered from their wounds, when suddenly the Holy Prophet received intelligence that Tulaiha bin Khuweilid, chief of Banu Asad, and his brother Salamah bin Khuweilid, were busy urging their people to prepare for a march on Medina. The Holy Prophet immediately directed 150 fast-marching Muslims to proceed quickly under the leadership of Abu Salama bin Abdul Asad to disperse Banu Asad before they were able to set forth against the Muslims. Abu Salama advanced silently but rapidly with the force under his command and came up with Banu Asad at Qutan in central Arabia. As soon as Banu Asad saw the Muslims they scattered in all directions and no fighting ensued. Abu Salama returned to Medina with his force. He had been wounded in the battle of Uhud, and his injury had apparently healed, but under the stress of the rapid march the wound opened up again and, despite all possible treatment, it began to fester and in the end Abu Salama, who was a devout Muslim and was the foster-brother of the Holy Prophet, died of it. Tulaiha, the chief of Banu Asad, subsequently embraced Islam, but became an apostate and falsely claimed to be a prophet. He raised a force in his support, and after some time was defeated and left Arabia. Some time later he returned, repented and embraced Islam a second time and fought in several battles in the cause of Islam and eventually died a Muslim.
About the time when Banu Asad were preparing for the march against Medina, the Holy Prophet received the intelligence that Banu Lihyan were getting a large force ready at Ornah, a few miles from Mecca, under the incitement of their chief, Sufyan bin Khalid, for marching against Medina. The Holy Prophet, peace be on him, who was well aware of the strength and condition of the various Arab tribes, realized that Sufyan bin Khalid was at the bottom of the whole trouble, and that if he could be removed Banu Lihyan would not dare to invade Medina. He also knew that there was no other person among the tribe who could take his place and lead Banu Lihyan upon their contemplated expedition. He was apprehensive that if an armed force were dispatched against Banu Lihyan the collision might, in the then circumstances, open wide the door of bloodshed. He therefore decided to send someone who might quietly put an end to Sufyan bin Khalid, who was the source of all the mischief. He selected Abdullah bin Anees Ansari for this purpose and warned him against the wiles of Sufyan, who was a resourceful mischief-maker. When Abdullah arrived in the camp of Banu Lihyan, he discovered that their preparations for the march upon Medina were proceeding apace, and he found an opportunity of putting an end to Sufyan during the night. When this became known, Banu Lihyan instituted the pursuit of Abdullah, but he managed to escape and, returning to Medina, reported the success of his enterprise to the Holy Prophet, who bestowed his own staff upon him as a memento of the great service that he had rendered. Abdullah cherished this blessed memento throughout the rest of his life, and, at the approach of his death, directed that it should be buried along with him.
The Holy Prophet was still receiving grave intelligence from all directions, but he apprehended the greatest danger from Quraish, who had been much encouraged by their victory at Uhud and were likely to embark upon some formidable project against the Muslims. In view of the danger that threatened from Mecca, the Holy Prophet directed a party of ten Companions of his to proceed quietly in the direction of Mecca, under the leadership of Aasim bin Thabit, and gather intelligence with regard to the designs and movements of Quraish. This party had not yet started on their errand when a few persons representing the tribes of Adhal and Qarah came to the Holy Prophet and submitted that many persons of their tribes were favourably inclined towards Islam and that the Holy Prophet might send some of his people with them to instruct their people in the tenets of Islam. The Holy Prophet was pleased at this welcome piece of news and directed the party, who had been made ready for gathering intelligence about Quraish, to accompany those people. It transpired afterwards that those pretended emissaries of their tribes had been promised a large number of camels as reward by Banu Lihyan, who had recourse to this stratagem for the purpose of avenging the execution of their chief, Sufyan bin Khalid, if they would beguile a number of Muslims to come out with them from Medina so that Banu Lihyan might slay them. When these treacherous emissaries of Adhal and Qarah arrived with the party of Muslims between Asfan and Mecca, they sent intimation to Banu Lihyan that they were proceeding in the direction of Mecca with ten Muslims who could be easily overwhelmed by Banu Lihyan. On receiving this intelligence, Banu Lihyan dispatched a force of 200, half of whom were experts at shooting arrows, which overtook the party at Raji’. On seeing them, the party of Muslims climbed to the top of a dune and put themselves in a position of defence. The men of Banu Lihyan called out to them to come down from the height, assuring them that they would not be killed. Aasim replied that he could put no trust in their promise and would not get down. He raised his face towards heaven and supplicated, ‘Lord, Thou sees the situation in which we are. Do Thou inform Thy Messenger of it.’ They were overtaken by Banu Lihyan and seven of them died fighting. Banu Lihyan’s purpose had been to catch them alive and so again they offered to spare the remaining three and to put them to no trouble if they would get down with them from the height. The three survivors were Khobaib bin Adi, Zaid bin Dathnah and Abdullah bin Taraq. They accepted the offer of Banu Lihyan, but, when they descended from the height, they were tied up securely with the bowstrings of their enemies, whereupon Abdullah bin Taraq protested that this was treachery, and that he had no longer any faith in their promise and would not go with them. He was beaten up and was dragged along for a short distance and was then slain. His body was thrown away, and Khobaib and Zaid were taken to Mecca where they were sold to Quraish. Khobaib was purchased by the sons of Harith bin Aamar bin Naufal, because he had killed their father in the battle of Badr; and Zaid was purchased by Safwan bin Umayya, whose father had also been killed at Badr.
While Khobaib and Zaid were in the custody of Quraish, Khobaib, on one occasion, borrowed a razor from the daughter of Harith, and it so happened that, at the same time, her small son approached Khobaib, who placed him affectionately on his knee. When the mother of the boy perceived that Khobaib had the razor in his hand she was terrified, but Khobaib reassured her that he had no intention of doing any harm to the boy. She had been so impressed by the good behaviour of Khobaib that she always said afterwards that she had never come across any other prisoner who was so well behaved as Khobaib. She also added that on one occasion she had seen that Khobaib had a bunch of grapes in his hand, from which he picked and ate the grapes, though in those days no grapes were procurable in Mecca and Khobaib was secured in chains. She imagined that the bunch of grapes was a divine gift bestowed upon Khobaib.
After a few days Khobaib was taken out for execution. He asked permission for performing two raka’as of Prayer, and, permission being granted, he performed the Prayer in deep concentration and devotion, and when he finished he said, ‘I was in a mood to continue for some time, but then I apprehended lest you should think that I was prolonging my Prayer in order to postpone the moment of my death.’ He then bent forward, reciting the verses:
‘As I am being slain while I am a Muslim,
I care not in which direction my body might fall;
All this is in the cause of Allah, and if He so wills,
He will be pleased to send down His blessings on my mutilated body.’
He had just finished when Uqba bin Harith cut him down.
Safwan bin Umayya took his prisoner, Zaid bin Dathnah, beyond the limits of the sanctuary, in the company of a number of leading personages of Quraish, and directed his slave, Nastas, to execute Zaid. Nastas advanced towards Zaid with his sword drawn and at that moment Abu Sufyan, who was among the spectators, went up to Zaid and asked him, ‘Tell me truly, do you not wish that in your place Muhammad had been our prisoner and we should have executed him and you would thus have been saved to spend your days happily in the bosom of your family?’ Zaid was outraged and retorted indignantly, ‘What is it that you have said, Abu Sufyan? I call God to witness that I would not wish that I might be rescued in return for a thorn pricking the foot of the Messenger of Allah.’ Abu Sufyan exclaimed involuntarily, ‘By God, I have never seen anyone who is loved so devotedly as Muhammad is loved by his followers.’ Nastas swiftly cut down Zaid.
It is related that when Quraish learnt that Aasim bin Thabit was among those who had been killed by Banu Lihyan at Raji’, they, recalling that Aasim had, in the battle of Badr, killed a leading Quraish personage, sent chosen messengers to Raji’, instructing them to bring back Aasim’s head or a limb of his, so that their spirit of vengeance might be assuaged. It is also related that the mother of the one whom Aasim had killed had made a vow that she would drink wine in the skull of her son’s killer. When the emissaries of Quraish arrived at Raji’ they found that Aasim’s corpse was completely covered by swarms of hornets and bees who could not be made to fly off despite their utmost efforts. In the end they returned to Mecca frustrated. Soon thereafter there was a storm, which brought heavy rain, and Aasim’s corpse was swept away by the fierce flood. It is written that when Aasim embraced Islam he had determined that he would abstain altogether from everything that was related to paganism, so that he would not even touch a pagan. When Umar learnt of his martyrdom and the safeguarding of his corpse by swarms of hornets and bees, he observed, ‘God Almighty has regard even for the sentiments of His righteous servants.’ In Aasim’s case God safeguarded even his corpse from being touched by the pagans.
About the same time another tragic event took place on a larger scale. It has been mentioned that Banu Sulaim and Banu Ghatafan were settled in Nejd, which was a plateau in central Arabia, and were in league with Quraish against the Muslims. Through their mischievous activities and incitements, the whole of Nejd was being poisoned with enmity towards Islam. About the time when the tragedy of Raji’ was enacted, Abu Braa Aamiri, who was a chief of Banu Aamir of central Arabia, came to see the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, who treated him with courtesy and kindness and expounded the teachings of Islam to him. He listened eagerly, and, though he did not embrace Islam, he requested the Holy Prophet to send a few Muslims with him who should expound Islam to the people of Nejd. He expressed the hope that the tribes of Nejd would not reject his message. The Holy Prophet expressed his distrust of the people of Nejd. Abu Braa assured him that there was no ground for apprehension and that he stood guarantee for the safety of his emissaries. The Holy Prophet believed his word and sent a company of seventy of his Companions to Nejd to carry the message of Islam to the Nejd tribes. It appears that at the time when Abu Braa visited the Holy Prophet, a few persons belonging to the tribes Ra’l and Zakwan, clans of Banu Sulaim, who had also presented themselves before the Holy Prophet, reinforced the request of Abu Braa. The party selected by the Holy Prophet for this mission was mostly Ansar and were well versed in the Holy Quran. They were poor people, who made their livelihood out of wood that they collected during the day in the forest and sold in Medina. They spent the greater part of the night in worship. When this party arrived at a well which was known as Be’r Ma’oona, one of them, Haram bin Milhan, maternal uncle of Ans bin Malik, went forward as an emissary of the Holy Prophet with the message of Islam to Aamir bin Tufail, nephew of Abu Braa, chief of the tribe Aamir. He was welcomed by Aamir bin Tufail and his companions, but when he sat down and felt at ease, and began to expound the teachings of Islam to those present, someone approached him from the back and killed him instantly with his spear. At the sudden attack, Haram bin Milhan cried out, ‘God is Great. By the Lord of the Ka’aba, I have achieved my purpose.’ Then Aamir bin Tufail urged Banu Aamir to attack the party of Muslims and kill them. But they refused to act in contravention of the guarantee of Abu Braa. He then took a party of Banu Ra’l and Banu Zakwan with him and advanced against the Muslims, who, when they saw them, said that they had no quarrel with them. They had only arrived to carry out the Holy Prophet’s directions, and had not come for the purpose of fighting. But their enemies paid no heed to what they said and proceeded, to massacre them. Out of the Muslims who were then present on the spot, only one, Kaab bin Zaid, who was attacked and had been left for dead but who had not actually died, escaped with his life.
Two of the Muslims, Amr bin Umayya Dhamri and Mundhar bin Muhammad, had taken their camels for pasture and were not killed with the rest. When they returned, they apprehended from a distance what had happened, and consulted with each other what course they should adopt. Amr felt that they should escape and, returning to Medina, should inform the Holy Prophet of what had happened; but Mundhar did not agree with him and said that he would not run away from the place where their leader, Mundhar bin Amr, had become a martyr. He went to the spot and was killed fighting. Amr was taken prisoner and would have been executed, but when Aamir bin Tufail found that he was a Dhamri, he let him go, observing that his mother had made a vow to free a slave belonging to his tribe and that he would release him in fulfilment of his mother’s vow. Thus, out of the seventy Muslims, only two, Amr bin Umayya Dhamri and Kaab bin Zaid, escaped with their lives.
Among the Muslims who were massacred at Be’r Ma’oona was the devoted freedman of Abu Bakr, Aamir bin Fuhairah, who was killed by Jabbar bin Salma, who later embraced Islam. He used to mention that he had been attracted to Islam by the last words of Aamir bin Fuhairah, which were ‘By Allah, I have achieved my purpose’. Whenever Jabbar recalled this incident he wondered why Aamir, with his last breath, had uttered these words, and then he learnt that the Muslims considered laying down their lives in the cause of Allah as the greatest achievement. He was so deeply affected by this that, eventually, he embraced Islam in appreciation of this spirit of sacrifice.
The Holy Prophet learnt of the tragedies of Raji’ and Be’r Ma’oona about the same time and was deeply grieved over them. The sudden tragic loss of about eighty devoted Companions of his, many of whom had committed the Holy Quran to memory, and all of whom were poor, humble and pious people, was a deeply distressing event. However, all he said was, ‘To Allah we belong, and to Him shall we return’; to which he added, ‘All this has come about in consequence of the suggestion of Abu Braa which had not appealed to me as I was mistrustful of the people of Nejd.’ For a whole month, however, every morning during the dawn Prayer he supplicated in great agony for God’s mercy, and that He might restrain the Banu Ra’l, Banu Zakwan, Banu ‘Asabiyah and Banu Lihyan from continuing to shed the blood of innocent Muslims mercilessly and cruelly.
While Amr bin Umayya Dhamri was returning to Medina, he encountered two men of Banu Aamir who were returning from Medina after having made a pledge with the Holy Prophet. As Amr was not aware of this, he killed both of them in revenge for the tragedy of Be’r Ma’oona for which, in his view, Aamir bin Tufail, chief of Banu Aamir, had been responsible, though in fact, Banu Aamir had not participated in the tragedy. When Amr bin Umayya arrived in Medina, he narrated all the details of the tragedy of Be’r Ma’oona to the Holy Prophet and also mentioned the execution by him of the two men of Banu Aamir. The Holy Prophet rebuked him severely over what he had done and immediately arranged to send the blood money for them to their heirs. As Banu Aamir were confederates of Banu Nadhir, and the latter were confederates of the Muslims, they were responsible for a proportionate share of the blood money that had been paid by the Holy Prophet. Accordingly, the Holy Prophet went with some Companions to the settlement of Banu Nadhir and, putting the whole matter before them, demanded from them their share of the blood money. The Banu Nadhir welcomed the Holy Prophet and requested him to wait so that they might collect the amount and pay it to him. The Holy Prophet and his Companions sat down in the shade of a wall, and the leaders of Banu Nadhir withdrew to one side, pretending that they would arrange to collect the amount, which had to be paid to the Holy Prophet. Instead, however, they began to conspire that they should take advantage of this welcome opportunity and kill the Holy Prophet by someone mounting to the roof of the house against the wall of which the Holy Prophet was then sitting, and dropping a heavy stone on top of him. One of the Jews, Salam bin Mashkim, opposed this whole project and condemned it as treachery and a breach of their treaty with the Holy Prophet. But they did not listen to him, and, eventually, Amr bin Hajjash who was one of them carried a heavy stone to the top of the house, intending to drop it over the Holy Prophet. When he was about to carry out his foul design the Holy Prophet stood up suddenly and moved away, as if he had recalled something urgent that needed to be attended to immediately.
While both parties waited for him he returned to Medina, and after a short while his Companions who had been left behind became curious over his sudden departure and set out in search of him and, eventually, arrived in Medina. The Holy Prophet informed his Companions of the dangerous conspiracy that had been hatched by Banu Nadhir against his life, and sent for Muhammad bin Maslamah, of Aus, and directed him to go to Banu Nadhir and speak to them about the matter and tell them that as their mischief and their treachery had reached the extreme limit, it was not safe to permit them to continue in Medina and that it would be better for them to leave Medina and to settle elsewhere. He was to allow them ten days for their withdrawal from Medina. When Muhammad bin Maslamah went and spoke to the leaders of Banu Nadhir, they told him arrogantly to tell his master that they were not prepared to leave Medina and that he was free to do whatever he wished. When their reply was communicated to the Holy Prophet he observed involuntarily, ‘God is Great; the Jews appear to be bent on fighting.’ He thereupon asked the Muslims to get ready, and with a company of his followers he marched against Banu Nadhir.
An alternative version narrated by some of the historians is that, sometime after the battle of Badr, though it is not specifically stated how long after the battle, the chiefs of Quraish had sent a letter to Banu Nadhir that they should expel Muhammad and his followers from Medina, by force if necessary, else Quraish would take the field against Banu Nadhir. Upon receipt of this letter Banu Nadhir held a consultation and decided that the best way out of the situation would be to kill Muhammad through some device, whereby he could be persuaded to visit them and they could take advantage of the opportunity to kill him. In pursuance of their device, they sent a message to the Holy Prophet that they desired to arrange an exchange of views between him and their divines and that if in consequence of the exchange, his truth was established, they would believe in him. They suggested that he should go to them accompanied by thirty followers and that there would be thirty divines on their side to take part in the exchange of views. In the meantime they arranged that when the Holy Prophet should arrive the pseudo-divines, who would have daggers hidden under their clothes, should find a suitable opportunity to kill him. But a woman of Banu Nadhir sent word of this design to an Ansari to whom she was related, and being informed of it, the Holy Prophet, who was about to set out from his house, cancelled his projected visit and told his followers to get ready, and marched with a company of them against Banu Nadhir and besieged their settlement. He sent a message to their leader that, in view of the development that had taken place, he could not let them continue on in Medina unless they made a new treaty with him assuring him that, in future, they would not embark upon any treacherous design. But they rejected his offer and thus a confrontation came about. Banu Nadhir retired arrogantly behind their fortifications and a siege began. The next day the Holy Prophet received intimation that Banu Quraidhah were also bent upon mischief, upon which he marched at the head of some of his Companions to the settlement of Banu Quraidhah and set siege to it. Banu Quraidhah, finding that their design had been discovered, were frightened, and offered to renew their treaty with the Holy Prophet. He agreed and raised the siege, where after he reverted to Banu Nadhir, who persisted in their hostility, and a situation of confrontation arose. At this stage Abdullah bin Ubayy bin Salul sent a message to Banu Nadhir that they should not give way to the Muslims, and that he and his followers would lend them their active support and would fight on their behalf. But when fighting began Banu Nadhir looked in vain for support from Abdullah bin Ubayy and his followers. Banu Quraidhah also, though in sympathy with Banu Nadhir, did not come out openly in their support. Banu Nadhir had great confidence in the strength of their fortifications and were certain that the Muslims would not be able to do them any serious harm and would eventually get tired and lift the siege.
The confidence of Banu Nadhir appeared to be justified and though the siege continued for several days, it produced no change in their attitude. At last the Holy Prophet directed that some of the date trees of Banu Nadhir, which were outside their fortifications, may be cut down. These trees were of an inferior kind, the fruit of which was generally fed to animals and was not used for human consumption. The purpose of the Holy Prophet’s direction was that Banu Nadhir, apprehending a large-scale destruction of their fruit trees, might become inclined to make terms, and thus a large number of human lives might be saved and peace and order might be restored at the sacrifice of a few inferior type of fruit trees. This served its purpose and by the time six date trees had been cut down Banu Nadhir, fearing large-scale damage, offered, after a siege lasting a fortnight, to open their gates on condition that they should be permitted to depart together with all their movables. This was what the Holy Prophet had himself offered them in the beginning, and as his sole purpose was the restoration of peace and security he accepted the offer, subject only to the condition that Banu Nadhir would not be permitted to take away their arms. This was agreed to, and the Holy Prophet appointed Muhammad bin Maslamah to supervise the departure of Banu Nadhir from Medina. Accordingly they departed with great pomp and show, with music playing and their camels loaded with all their movables. They had demolished their houses and carried away with them even the doors and lintels, which were made of wood. Their arms and immovable properties, land and gardens, fell into the hands of Muslims, but as there had been little or no fighting these were not treated as spoils and the greater part of them were distributed among the poorer section of Emigrants who had hitherto been supported by their brethren of Ansar and thus, indirectly, Ansar also shared in these properties.
When Banu Nadhir were about to set out from Medina, some Ansar sought to detain those Ansar children, now grown up, who, in fulfilment of the vows of their parents, had been committed to the guardianship of members of Banu Nadhir and had been brought up in the Jewish faith. Banu Nadhir desired to take these young men with them. The Holy Prophet rejected the demand of Ansar as being opposed to the Divine command: ‘There shall be no compulsion in matters of faith’ (2:257). Two of Banu Nadhir, however, embraced Islam voluntarily and stayed on in Medina.
It had been understood that Banu Nadhir would depart from Medina and settle somewhere in the north beyond the boundaries of Arabia. Yet some of their leaders like Salam bin Abi Huqaiq, Kananah bin Rabi’, Huyay bin Akhtab, and others, together with some of their followers, settled in the well known Jewish town, Khaibar, in the north of Hedjaz, where they were eagerly welcomed, and where they started conspiring against the Muslims, with dire results, as will be set out later.
It has been mentioned that, departing from Uhud, Abu Sufyan had challenged the Muslims to a trial of arms a year later at Badr and the Holy Prophet had announced acceptance of the challenge. When the time arrived, Abu Sufyan, while preparing to march to Badr, sent an emissary named Naeem, who belonged to a neutral tribe, to Medina, instructing him to try, by whatever means might be possible, to persuade the Muslims not to go forth to Badr. He went to Medina and spread exaggerated tales of the strength and preparations of Quraish and their eagerness for a trial of arms with the Muslims. His propaganda created a certain degree of restlessness among the weaker sections of the Muslims, who began to fear the prospect ahead. The Holy Prophet announced that he had accepted the challenge of Quraish and had promised to meet them at Badr, and would not fail to keep his promise, even though he may have to go forth alone and oppose the enemy with no support. This created a great stir among the Muslims who came forward in large numbers to go forth to Badr to meet Abu Sufyan’s challenge. The Holy Prophet, peace be on him, set out from Medina at the head of 1,500 followers. On the other side Abu Sufyan marched out from Mecca with 2,000 followers. The Muslims arrived at Badr by the agreed date, but when Abu Sufyan learnt of the failure of the mission of his emissary, Naeem, he gave out that, as there was a severe famine and conditions were not propitious for a fight, they would return to Mecca and would prepare to invade Medina at a more suitable opportunity. As there was an annual fair at Badr at the time, the Muslims stopped for eight days at Badr and many of them took advantage of the fair to trade their goods on very favourable terms. At the end of the fair, as there was still no sign of Quraish, the Holy Prophet returned to Medina.
As the correspondence of the Holy Prophet was now expanding, he felt the need of a secretary who should be familiar with Hebrew, so that correspondence with the Jews might be facilitated, and no difficulty might be encountered with regard to the accurate phrasing of agreements, covenants and treaties. He therefore directed his young secretary, Zaid bin Thabet Ansari, who had acquired literacy in Arabic under the tuition of the prisoners taken in the battle of Badr, to learn Hebrew also. Zaid possessed a very keen intelligence and, with diligent efforts, he acquired literacy in Hebrew within a fortnight. Later, in the time of Abu Bakr, under his instructions, Zaid bin Thabet compiled the Holy Quran in the form of a book.
By virtue of the covenant, which had been drawn up between the different sections of the people of Medina shortly after the arrival of the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, he had, in effect, become the chief executive and judicial authority in Medina. He decided such cases as were submitted to him according to the law or the custom that regulated the affairs of each section of the population. For instance, it is related that towards the end of the fourth year of the Hijra, a case was submitted to him in which a Jewish woman and a Jewish man were charged with adultery. When the Holy Prophet determined that the charge had been duly established, he inquired from the Jewish divines what was the penalty for the offence under Mosaic law. They submitted to him, falsely, hoping to mislead him and hold him up to ridicule, that the penalty for adultery under Mosaic law was that the faces of the persons guilty of the offence should be blackened and they should be taken through the streets of the town riding a mount facing backwards. It so happened that at that time Abdullah bin Salam, a Jewish divine who had embraced Islam, was present, and he submitted that the Holy Prophet was being falsely advised and that the penalty for adultery, according to the Torah, was stoning to death. Thereupon the Holy Prophet called for the Torah, and though the Jewish divines still persisted in seeking to mislead him, Abdullah bin Salam clearly demonstrated from the Torah that the penalty for adultery was as he had advised the Holy Prophet, who determined accordingly.
About the same time, the aged mother of Ali, Fatima bint Asad, died in Medina. This revered lady had been in the place of a mother to the Holy Prophet, and had brought him up as one of her own children. She had been very fond of him and he was deeply grieved at her death. He gave his own shirt to serve as her shroud and himself made all arrangements for her burial. He stood in the grave and lowered her body into it while supplicating, ‘May Allah reward thee for having been a very good mother to me.’ Of Abu Talib’s children she was the mother of four sons, Talib, Aqeel, Ja’far and Ali, and one daughter, Um Hani.
So far all military operations undertaken by the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, had been, directly or indirectly, of a defensive character. The expeditions undertaken for the establishment of peaceful relations with some of the Arab tribes fell into the same category. Also, all these operations had been confined to the Hedjaz and Nejd, that is to say to Central Arabia. In the fifth year of Hijra the scope of these operations began to be widened. The Holy Prophet received intimation that a large group of people, based on Dumatul Jandal, occupied themselves with robbing and looting travellers and caravans, and that there was some possibility that they might extend the scope of their disorderly marauding activities and might become a source of apprehension for the Muslims. There was, at the time, no serious danger apprehended from that quarter, but as one of the major purposes of the Holy Prophet’s policy was the establishment of peace and security he urged his Companions that the state of affairs prevailing at and around Dumatul Jandal should be put an end to, and law and order should be restored in that part of the country. He set out at the head of 1,000 of his Companions, and arrived near Dumatul Jandal after a long and strenuous journey extending over a fortnight, but found that on learning about the approach of the Muslims, the mischievous elements had scattered, and though small parties were sent in search of them, no trace of them could be found. One of their shepherds was captured and he became a Muslim. After a stay of some days, the Holy Prophet returned to Medina with his Companions. This expedition put an end to the predatory activities of the local inhabitants of that region, and travellers and caravans proceeding through their territory were delivered from the peril to which they had hitherto been exposed. Also Islam, of which only the name had been known in those parts, was brought to the notice of the local inhabitants, who conceived some idea of the ways and habits of the Muslims. There were Christian settlements in the neighbourhood of Dumatul Jandal, but there is nothing to indicate that this expedition was directed against any of them.
During the Holy Prophet’s absence from Medina the mother of S’ad bin Ubadah, chief of Khazraj, had died. On his return he went and prayed for her at her grave. S’ad submitted that before her death his mother had intended to give away something in charity but that she had not been able to carry her design into effect; and he inquired whether he could carry out her wish on her behalf. The Holy Prophet indicated that he could, and on S’ad’s inquiry what would be the proper object of the charity, the Holy Prophet suggested that he might endow something of general benefit, like a well, or an orchard. S’ad complied with the Holy Prophet’s suggestion.
In the same year, an eclipse of the moon was observed at Medina, and the Holy Prophet directed the Muslims to gather together for a prayer service which he led and which continued till the eclipse had ended. While the Muslims were so engaged, the Jews created an uproar by beating on their vessels, etc., under the mistaken notion that the moon had been bewitched by someone and that the noise they were making would dispel the witchery. It is a characteristic of Islam that it has not only wiped out all superstition, but on every superstitious occasion, it has enjoined worship and supplication which direct the attention of the Muslims to God Almighty as the Source of all power and every phenomenon and thus weed out all pagan notions. Prayer on the occasion of an eclipse serves to impress on the minds of the Muslims the verity that the true source of all light, whatever the instrument which is its apparent source, is God Almighty, and that on the occasion of any obstruction in the way of light, even though such obstruction takes place in the normal course of the working out of Divine law, they should turn their attention to God and contemplate His attributes. In this manner Islam has instituted the remembrance of God on every possible occasion in a Muslim’s life, so that a Muslim should not, at any time, be neglectful of his Maker.
Mention has been made of the famine with which the people of Mecca were afflicted at the time when Abu Sufyan had marched from Mecca in pursuance of his challenge to meet the Muslims at Badr for a trial of arms. This famine occasioned great suffering, particularly to the poorer section of the inhabitants of Mecca. When the Holy Prophet learnt of the distress of Quraish, on account of the famine, he sent some silver, which might be used for providing relief for the indigent of Mecca. On another occasion of famine, it appears that Abu Sufyan had gone to the Holy Prophet and had requested him, on the basis of kinship, to pray that Meccans might be delivered from the affliction of famine. These incidents show that the attitude of Quraish towards the Holy Prophet was somewhat mixed. They were conscious of his innate goodness, piety and purity, but were inveterate enemies of his teachings, which they apprehended, spelled the ruin of their pagan beliefs and of their way of life.