Muhammad (sa): The Great Exemplar
Friday Sermon delivered at Masjid Mubarak, Islamabad, Tilford, UK
‘Life of the Holy Prophet(sa): Early Expeditions’
After reciting Tashahhud, Ta‘awwuz and Surah al-Fatihah, His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad(aba) said that in the previous sermon, the various circumstances after the Holy Prophet’s (sa) migration, the circumstances leading to the Battle of Badr and the efforts in defence against the disbelievers were mentioned. His Holiness(aba) said that today he would mention some of the expeditions that took place before the Battle of Badr, as well as the preparations that the Muslims made for battle against the disbelieving people of Makkah.
The Expedition of Sif al-Bahr
His Holiness(aba) said that Sariyyah Hazrat Hamzah, or Sariyyah Seef al-Bahr was the first expedition that took place. The Holy Prophet(sa) sent this envoy of 30 riders in Ramadan 1 AH under the leadership of Hazrat Hamzah(ra). This envoy travelled to Ees, which was about 240 kilometres from Madinah. Trade caravans would often pass through here, and when the Muslim envoy reached there, it so happened that a Makkan caravan was passing through. They came close to battling; however, it was avoided.
The Expedition of Ubaidah bin Harith
His Holiness(aba) said that the next expedition was Sariyyah Ubaidah bin Harith, which took place in Shawwal 1 AH. 60 Muslims were sent to Sani’ah al-Mar’ah under the leadership of Hazrat Ubaidah bin Harith(ra). There, the Muslims encountered a group of Makkans. Though there was no battle, there was an exchange of arrows. As this never happened before, it was Hazrat Sa’d bin Abi Waqqas(ra) who had the honour of casting the first arrow in Islam.
The Expedition of Sa’d bin Abi Waqqas
His Holiness(aba) said that then there was the Sariyyah Sa’d bin Abi Waqqas. According to some, this took place in 1 AH, while others say it was in 2 AH. Twenty Muslims were sent under the leadership of Hazrat Sa’d bin Abi Waqqas(ra) with the instruction not to cross past the Kharar Valley. Their purpose was to stop a trade caravan of the Quraish, however, upon arrival, they realised that they had just missed the caravan by a day.
The First Expedition in Which the Holy Prophet(sa) Participated
His Holiness(aba) said that another expedition was Ghazwah Waddan which took place in Safar 2 AH. Historians say that this was the first expedition in which the Holy Prophet(sa) himself took part. The Holy Prophet(sa) appointed Hazrat Sa’d bin Ubadah(ra) as leader of Madinah in his stead. The purpose of this expedition was to stop a trade caravan of the Quraish, however, the Muslims missed it. However, during this trip, the Holy Prophet(sa) made a peace treaty with the Banu Damrah. This entire expedition lasted 15 days. Waddan is a place between Makkah and Madinah and about 100 km from Juhfa and is where the Holy Prophet’s (sa) mother has been buried.
His Holiness(aba) commented that he provides the details of the various places where these events took place so that those visiting various sites whilst having gone for Umrah and also wish to visit these places can become acquainted with the history.
The Patrol of Buwat
His Holiness(aba) said that another expedition was the Ghazwah Buwat which took place in Rabi’ al-Awwal 2 AH. The Holy Prophet(sa) also went on this expedition, appointed Hazrat Sa’d bin Mu’adh(ra) as leader of Madinah in his stead. The Holy Prophet(sa) set out with two Companions in order to stop a trade caravan on the Quraish comprising 100 Quraish and 500 camels. Upon arriving in Buwat, they realised that they had missed the caravan and thus returned to Madinah. Buwat is located about 100km away from Madinah.
The Patrol of Dhu al-Ushairah
His Holiness(aba) then mentioned Ghazwah Ushairah. The Holy Prophet(sa) learned that a trade caravan of the Quraish had left Makkah in which the Makkans had invested all their wealth. Their intentions were to use the profits of this trade caravan to equip themselves in opposition to the Muslims. Hence, in 2 AH, the Holy Prophet(sa) set out for Ushairah along with 150-200 Muslims, however, they were unable to encounter the trade caravan.
Ghazwah Badr al-Ula
His Holiness(aba) said that there was also Ghazwah Badr al-Ula. After returning from Ushairah, someone attacked a grazing field in Madinah. Along with some Companions, the Holy Prophet(sa) set out after him, but they were unable to reach him. Regarding this, His Holiness(aba) quoted Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad(ra), who writes:
‘This raid of Kurz bin Jabir was not a minor Beduin act of plunder, rather, it is definite that he had set out against the Muslims on behalf of the Quraish, with a particular motive. As a matter of fact, it is very likely that he had specifically come with the intention of inflicting injury upon the very person of the Holy Prophet(sa), but upon finding the Muslims vigilant, settled upon the robbery of their camels and ran off. This also demonstrates that the Quraish of Makkah had planned to raid Madinah so as to utterly destroy the Muslims. It should also be remembered that the Muslims had already been given permission for Jihad by the sword prior to this, and in a sense of self-defence they had begun to employ an initial plan of action in this regard as well. However, until now, they had not practically suffered any loss in terms of wealth or lives. However, the raid of Kurz bin Jabir was one which practically inflicted harm upon the Muslims. In other words, even after the acceptance of the challenge of the Quraish, it was the disbelievers who practically initiated battle.’ (The Life & Character of the Seal of Prophets – Vol. II p. 102)
The Expedition of Nakhlah
His Holiness(aba) said that then there was the Sariyyah of Abdullah bin Jahsh. The Holy Prophet(sa) sent Hazrat Abdullah bin Jahsh(ra) along with 8 migrants towards Nakhlah. The Holy Prophet(sa) gave Hazrat Abdullah(ra) a letter and told him to open it only after having travelled for two days. Upon opening it, Hazrat Abduallah(ra) read that the Holy Prophet(sa) had instructed them to travel to Nakhlah and obtain intelligence about the Quraish’s movements. Hazrat Abdullah(ra) then informed those accompanying him about the orders he had received. He also informed them that before departing, the Holy Prophet(sa) told him not to force anyone to accompany him on his mission. However, even when given the option, no one decided to leave, and they all moved forward. Upon arriving in Nakhlah, they passed by a caravan of the Quraish. Upon seeing the Muslims, they became fearful, however upon seeing that one of the Muslim’s heads was shaven, they thought that they were simply on a journey for Umrah and left them alone. The group of Muslims decided after consultation to attack the Quraish, as a result of which one of the Quraish died, two were captured, and one got away. Upon returning to Madinah and meeting the Holy Prophet(sa), the Holy Prophet(sa) told Hazrat Abdullah(ra) that he had not instructed them to fight and thus did not accept anything that they had brought back to him. The Quraish also complained that this attack had taken place during a forbidden month and thus also began preparations to attack the Muslims. The Battle of Badr was, in large part, the result of these preparations.
His Holiness(aba) said that after this incident, the following verse of the Holy Qur’an was revealed:
‘They ask thee about fighting in the Sacred Month. Say: ‘Fighting therein is a great transgression, but to hinder men from the way of Allah, and to be ungrateful to Him and the Sacred Mosque, and to turn out its people therefrom, is a greater sin with Allah; and persecution is worse than killing.’ And they will not cease fighting you until they turn you back from your faith, if they can.’ (The Holy Qur’an 2:218)
His Holiness(aba) said that God knew the state of the enemy constantly trying to attack the Muslims, and so He did not express any displeasure at this incident. He also knew that the opponents continued their efforts of attacking Muslims even during the forbidden months. Hence, the revelation of this verse was a source of relief for the Muslims.
The Battle of Badr
His Holiness(aba) said that then there was Ghazwah Badr al-Kubra, which in the Holy Qur’an, has also been called the Day of Distinction. The Holy Prophet(sa) had learned that Abu Sufyan was returning from Syria with a trade caravan of the Quraish comprising 1,000 camels. This was the same caravan which the Holy Prophet(sa) had set out towards Ushairah to intercept but had been unable to. Some who do not have knowledge allege that the Muslims were only interested in looting the trade caravans of the Quraish. However, this allegation is only raised by those who are unaware of the conditions at the time. In response to this, His Holiness(aba) quoted Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad(ra), who writes:
‘To set out in order to intercept the caravan is not at all objectionable. The reason being that firstly, this particular caravan which the Muslims had set out to pursue was not an ordinary caravan. Every man and woman from among the Quraish held shares in it. This demonstrates that with regards to this caravan, the intention of the chieftains of the Quraish was that this profit would be used in order to wage war against the Muslims; history proves that this very profit was used to prepare for the Battle of Uḥud. As such, the interception of this caravan was a necessary part of the tactics of war. Secondly, it was also necessary in general to intercept these caravans of the Quraish because they were armed and would pass by very close to Madinah. The Muslims remained in constant danger of them and it was necessary to put an end to this. Thirdly, wherever these caravans would travel, they would heavily incite the tribes of Arabia against the Muslims, due to which the state of the Muslims was becoming more and more vulnerable; as such, blocking their passage was a part of their protection and self-defence program. Fourthly, the Quraish’s livelihood primarily depended on trade, and for this reason, the interception of these caravans was an excellent means by which to bring the Quraish to their senses, stop them from their acts of war, and to press them towards reconciliation and the establishment of peace.’ (The Life & Character of the Seal of Prophets – Vol. II pp. 120-121)
His Holiness(aba) said that the Holy Prophet(sa) had sent two Companions to gather intelligence about this caravan. When they returned to Madinah with information, they learned that the Holy Prophet(sa) had already departed and met him only when he was returning from the Battle of Badr, however, they were included in the distribution of spoils.
His Holiness(aba) said that when Abu Sufyan learned that the Holy Prophet(sa) had set out to intercept the caravan, he became very fearful and sent a message to Makkah inciting the Quraish. In the meantime, Abu Sufyan was doing his best to avoid the Muslims. He took an alternate path and continued on swiftly.
His Holiness(aba) said that three nights before Abu Sufyan’s message reached Makkah, the Holy Prophet’s (sa) paternal aunt Atiqah bint Abdil Muttalib saw a dream which made her fear the downfall of the Makkans. She saw that a man was riding a camel and stopped between Makkah and Mina while crying out that everyone should gather at the place of their death in three days. People gathered around him, and then she saw that his camel was atop the Ka’bah, and he called out saying the same thing. She then saw him atop a well-known mountain calling out the same thing. She then saw him throwing a rock down from the mountain, which broke into pieces, and there was not a single home in Makkah in which a piece of that stone did not land. Eventually, word of this dream spread among the Makkans. When Abu Jahl heard of this and began chastising the family of Abdul Muttalib, Hazrat Abbas(ra) felt compelled to deny that such a dream had been seen. He felt great regret at doing so, and three days after the dream he decided to go to Abu Jahl and set the record straight. When he went, he saw Abu Jahl running towards the Ka’bah. This was as a result of Abu Sufyan’s messenger having arrived and informing the Makkans of the Holy Prophet’s (sa) interception of their trade caravan.
His Holiness(aba) said that upon hearing this news, Abu Jahl began preparing the Makkans for war. Hence, preparations began, and either they set out for war themselves, or sponsored someone else to go out to fight the Muslims. Although the messenger had announced for the Makkans to go and help their caravan, they instead went after a few days, having made preparations for battle. In fact, some Makkans had drawn lots as to whether they should go out for battle, the result of which they concluded was advising them against going. However, it was upon the insistence of Abu Jahl that they were compelled to go.
His Holiness(aba) said that he would continue narrating these incidents in the future.
Summary prepared by The Review of Religions