This is the first article of a series of articles about the battle of Badr
By Adil Salahi Researcher and writer – UK
This account has now reached the second year of the Prophet’s settlement in Yathrib, which has come to be permanently associated with Islam.
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No decree or order of any sort was issued to change its name, but from now on it has become Madinat al-Rasul, or ‘the city of Allah’s Messenger’, Madinah or The City, for short.
Events were moving fast there. The clash which took place between the expedition led by Abdullah ibn Jahsh and a Quraysh trade caravan took place at the end of Rajab (the seventh month of the lunar calendar) of that year. The change of direction in prayer took place two or three weeks later, in the month of Sha’ban.
The following month, which was Ramadan, was to witness a great event which marked a turning point in the history of Islam.
Intelligence was brought to the Prophet (peace be upon him) that a large trade caravan, in which almost every household in Quraysh had a share, returned to Makkah after completing a successful business trip to Syria.
The caravan was led by Abu Sufyan, a prominent figure in Makkah and the chief of the Umayyah clan. It should be remembered that when the Makkan Muslims emigrated to Madinah they left almost all their belongings behind, and Quraysh lost no time in confiscating their property.
The caravan, therefore, seemed to offer a good opportunity for getting some compensation for the Muslims’ losses. The Prophet suggested to his companions:
“Here is a caravan of the Quraysh, with much of their wealth. If you intercept it, God may reward you with it.”
It is clear that the Prophet did not order the Muslims to mobilize for the mission at hand, otherwise everyone would have taken part. In the event, a force of 313 men marched with the Prophet.
Moreover, they were not fully equipped for a major clash with the enemy. The Prophet had in mind another aim in addition to the compensation of former losses.
He wanted to demonstrate Qurah’s inability to protect its own trade routes. This would shake Quraysh and weaken their reputation as the master tribe in Arabia.
Abu Sufyan, the leader of the caravan, was a shrewd man. He was aware of the danger posed by the Muslims in Madinah. He, therefore, sought intelligence of the Prophet’s movements. Learning that a Muslim force had marched to intercept his caravan, he took two steps at the same time. He hired a messenger called Damdam ibn Amr of Ghifar to go with a message to Makkah asking the Quraysh to provide him with protection.
He also took extreme care to evade the Prophet and his intercepting force. When he was at Badr, he realized that the Muslims were very close to him.
He moved fast and changed his route, taking the coastal way, in the hope of avoiding the Muslims.
A Dream Warning of Immediate Danger
Three days before the arrival of Damdam in Makkah, Atikah bint Abd Al-Muttalib, the Prophet’s paternal aunt who still lived in Makkah, had a significant dream.
She sent for her brother Al-Abbas and told him that in her dream she saw a man riding a camel coming to a place in Makkah called Al-Abtah, where he stood and shouted:
“Rise, you people, and move to your deaths in three days’ time.”
People gathered round him and followed him as he moved towards the Ka’bah, where he repeated his warning.
He then moved hastily towards a nearby mountain called Abu Qubays, where he repeated his warning for the third time. He then picked up a large stone and threw it down.
As it reached the bottom of the mountain, it split up into small pieces, each going into one of the houses in Makkah, leaving no house without a piece of the stone in it.
Al-Abbas told his sister that her dream was certainly significant but he advised her to keep it to herself. However, he related it to his friend Al-Walid ibn Utbah who in turn narrated it to his father.
In no time everybody knew the story. The following day Al-Abbas went to the Ka’bah to do his tawaf and he was seen by Abu Jahl, who asked him to come over and have a word with him when he had finished.
Upon joining Abu Jahl and his group, Al-Abbas was asked by Abu Jahl:
“When did this female prophet appear among you?”
Al-Abbas said: “What are you talking about?”
Abu Jahl indicated that he was referring to Atikah’s dream, but Al-Abbas pretended that he had no knowledge of the matter.
Abu Jahl then said: “You, the Abd al-Muttalib clan, are not satisfied to claim a man prophet. You are now claiming a woman prophet. Atikah alleges that the man in her dream said, ‘Rise in three days’. Well, we will wait these three days, and if nothing happens to confirm her dream, we will write a formal assertion that you are the biggest liar in the whole of Arabia.”
Al-Abbas did not say much to him apart from denying that Atikah had dreamt anything. In the evening, all the women of the Abd Al-Muttalib clan came to Al-Abbas and remonstrated with him for not answering Abu Jahl firmly. Al-Abbas apologized and promised to rectify his mistake.
On the third day, Al-Abbas went to the House (the Ka’bah) hoping to provoke Abu Jahl so that he may have a chance to answer him back.
However, he saw him moving towards the door as he heard Damdam shouting. Damdam stood on his camel, having cut the camel’s nose and torn his own shirt to indicate the gravity of the message he was delivering. He shouted as loudly as he could:
“A tragedy! A disaster! Your property with Abu Sufyan is being intercepted by Muhammad and his companions. I doubt whether you can save the caravan. Help! Help!”
A general feeling of anger spread among the people of Quraysh when they heard Damdam was delivering Abu Sufyan’s message in this dramatic manner. It was soon overtaken by a determination to put an end to the threat posed to their trade caravans by the Muslims in Madinah.
Everyone was saying:
“Does Muhammad think that this caravan is an easy prey, like the caravan of Ibn Al-Hadrami? He will be proved wrong.”
The Quraysh, therefore, mobilized a large army, 1,000 strong men. It was raised in a very short period of time. All men of distinction joined in. Those who could not go with the army in person sent other men in their place.
The example of Umayyah ibn Khalaf of the Jumah clan gives a clear idea of the pressures and motives for everyone who enjoyed any degree of honor among the Quraysh to join the army.
He was on friendly terms with Saad ibn Muadh of the Ansar. Saad had visited Makkah sometime before all these events took place, where he was a guest of Umayyah.
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He informed Umayyah that the Prophet mentioned that the latter could be killed soon. Now when Quraysh mobilized, remembering that conversation, Umayyah decided to stay behind. Learning of his intention, a friend of his called Uqbah ibn Abu Muayt who came to him carrying a small pan with burning incense. He said to Umayyah:
“You had better smell this, because you are a woman.”
“Confound you and what you have done!”
He then got ready and joined the army. Abu Lahab, the Prophet’s uncle who strongly opposed him, decided to stay behind. He sent Al-As ibn Hisham in his place.
The latter had gone bankrupt, owing Abu Lahab 4000 dirhams. Abu Lahab asked him to deputize for him in the army, then he would write off his debt.
To be continued…