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quoted,* gives the Prophet the extraordinary right
of attacking them, if he chose, in order to force them
to Islam. This clause must surely be a dogmatic
interpolation to mitigate the Prophet's conduct in
making an offensive and defensive alliance with idola-
tors ; for why (it might be argued) might he make
such an alliance with the Banu Damrah, and yet wage
implacable war with the Kuraish? But this argu-
ment was answered by a special revelation, f exclud-
ing the Meccans (as opposed to other idolaters) from
friendly relations. The Prophet's course, whether
morally defensible or not, was sound politically ;
experience had shown him that in order to attack
the caravans with safety he must secure the co-op-
eration of the tribes in whose territory he proposed

* Halabi, ii., 166.

f Surah lx., 7, 8.
z6



242 Mohammed

to waylay them. If it be true that the caravan
which had just slipped through his fingers was of
twenty-five hundred camels, the arguments by which
he won over the Banu Damrah can easily be repro-
duced in thought.

Fresh attempts were made by him in September
and November, both in the direction of Yanbo, and
both unsuccessful. In the second he proceeded with
his policy of making terms with the neighbouring
tribes. The course followed in this expedition
(called the "'Ushairah raid") is chronicled with
great accuracy, and was long marked by a series of
sanctuaries. This was due to the length of the
time, nearly a month, which the Prophet waited in the
hope that some booty might come in his way. He
had returned to Medinah but a short time when
the herds of Medinah were raided by a more ex-
perienced robber, and an expedition of which the
object was to recover the booty ended in another
failure.

Mohammed had failed to secure success by meth-
ods which were not, in the opinion of the Arabs of
his time, inconsistent with the character of a prophet
of God. During the raids of the first year of exile he
had not disturbed the peace of the sacred months,*
and the peace of those sacred months had been one
of the institutions which redeemed Arabia from a
state of savagery : for some weeks in the year men
could go about unarmed and yet secure. But this
security offered a chance to any one who was en-
lightened enough to have no scruples. An armed

* Wakidi places one of the raids in Dhu'l-Kadah.



The Battle of Badr 243

force attacking an unarmed caravan in the sacred
months would be certain to bring home some pris-
oners and booty. Here, then, lay a prospect of
obtaining what was becoming more and more neces-
sary, success. The month after the last failure was
the sacred month Rejeb,* and in it Mohammed re-
sorted to this expedient.

The historians are not quite agreed about the
details, but everything points to this having been
Mohammed's reasoning. Let us first hear the ac-
count of the matter ascribed to Sa'd, son of Abu
Wakkas.f

"When the Apostle of God came to Medinah, the
Juhainah came to him and said : Thou hast settled
amongst us, so give us a covenant that we may come to
thee, and make thee our leader; so he gave them a cove-
nant and they became Moslems. Then the Apostle sent
us out in Rejeb, we being less than one hundred, and
bade us attack a branch of the Kinanah that dwelt near
the Juhainah. So we did so, but they being too many
for us, we took refuge with the Juhainah, who protected
us. They said to us, Wherefore fight ye in the sacred
month ? And we said, We only fight in the sacred month
against those who drove us out of our country. Then
we consulted with one another; some said, Let us go to
the Prophet of God and tell him: others said, Let us stay
here. I, with some others, said, Rather let us attack the
caravan of the Kuraish, and cut it off. So we went
against the caravan, and the others went back to the
Prophet and told him. And he rose up, his face red with

♦Beginning Dec. 29, 623 a.d,, in the ordinary tables.
\Musnad, i., 178.



244 Mohammed

anger, and said, What! Did ye go from me in one com-
pany and come back divided ? Division it is which ruined
them which were before you. I shall set over you a
man who is not the best of you, yet is the most enduring
of hunger and thirst. So he set over us Abdallah, son
of Jahsh, who was the first Commander in Islam."

Most of this account cannot be reconciled with
the ordinary history, yet clearly Sa'd's memory had
been impressed with the fact of their having been
sent out in the sacred month. The commander of
the force was Mohammed's cousin, Abdallah, son
of Jahsh, under whom seven men were placed. The
little that is known of this man makes it appear that
he was a fanatic ; he is supposed to have prayed
that he might die in battle and be mutilated. He
had shared the double flight to Abyssinia, and was
now a poor Refugee at Medinah. Mohammed sent
him towards Nakhlah with sealed orders, to be opened
after two days' march ; and when he opened the
orders, he was to compel no one to accompany him
any farther. These preparations indicate that some-
thing discreditable was intended ; for service in the
sacred months was not dangerous, but, in the opinion
of the Arabs, wicked. The text of the orders, as
given by the genuine tradition,* contained definite
instructions to attack a party who were going without
escort under cover of the sacred month. No one of
Abdallah's followers took advantage of the permis-
sion to retire ; but two members of the party, Sa'd,
son of Abu Wakkas, and 'Utbah, son of Ghazwan,



* Wakidi{W.), 25 ; Wellhausen, Jbid. % 2.




en •-»



The Battle of Badr 245

contrived presently to lose their camel, and to lose
themselves in following it. The remainder came up
with a caravan escorted by four persons. Of these
one escaped, two were taken prisoners, and one was
killed. 'Arar, son of Al-Hadrami (the man of Had-
ramaut), was the first of the millions to be slaught-
ered in the name of Allah and his Prophet. Wakid,
son of Abdallah of the tribe Tamim, was the slayer.
The two prisoners and considerable booty were
brought back to Medinah. At last a success had
been gained.

This success was in a way the seed of those which
followed, and in organising it Mohammed showed
his thorough acquaintance with the character of his
subjects. Some booty was absolutely necessary,
but it was not absolutely necessary that it should be
honourably acquired. Claiming to be the Messenger
of the Almighty, he had the right to authorise any
act; and whether on this or some other occasion,
when remonstrated with by his followers for some
atrocity, he repudiated their right to criticise his con-
duct, assuring them that he knew best and was the
most God-fearing among them.* The effect of this
success was, as he rightly calculated, that the next
time he organised a raid, Helpers and Refugees alike
pressed to take part in it. Violation by Allah's
Prophet of the sacred months which the pagans re-
spected lost Mohammed no vote that was worth
retaining. The Jews indeed signalised themselves
by offensive sneers and poor epigrams on the names
of the persons concerned, Wakid " the Burner," and

* Muslim, ii., 220; Musnad, i., 45.



246 Mohammed

Hadramaut, "the presence of death." And so, too,
the Kuraish could tell their Moslem fellow-citizens*
that Mohammed had now thrown off the mask and
revealed the character which had been no secret to
them. Mohammed kept his head and satisfied each
party that he considered to merit satisfaction, with
a statesmanlike disregard for consistency.

To the timid Moslems courage and a clear con-
science were restored by the invariable expedient —
a revelation. " Fighting in a sacred month is a bad
offence : but to turn people out of Meccah a worse
one." The Moslems were to infer from this ambigu-
ous sentence either that the atrocity committed by
the Kuraish rendered an attack on them in the
sacred month permissible, or that, though no such
attack had been made, the Meccans might not com-
plain if it had been. The booty was awarded to the
brave company who had won it, all but the percent-
age (one fifth) which the Prophet claimed. The
Meccan prisoners he retained as hostages till the two
truants had come back ; for the prisoners he then
accepted a ransom. The death of the Hadramite
was of considerable consequence for the sequel.
This man and his brother were under the protection
of 'Utbah, son of Rabi'ah, a Kurashite of eminence,
whom we afterwards meet with playing a heroic
part at the battle of Badr ; the protector in such a
case was bound to avenge the death of his client.
At Badr the brother of the dead man, 'Amir, de-
manded this vengeance of his protector, who offered
payment in camels instead, but this 'Amir refused to

* Ibn Arabi Colloquies, ii., 157.



The Battle of Badr 247

take, at the instigation (it is said)* of Mohammed's
enemy, Abu Jahl. 'Utbah therefore resolved to
fight, with the result which shall be seen. The
blood-feud then which finally decided the Meccans
to fight the Medinese sprang out of the relation be-
tween client and patron which, owing to its uncertain
nature, led to many complications, but, like other
matters which are left to the conscience, produced a
group of rights and duties which the most honourable
natures were the most ready to observe.

What Mohammed had to bear from the Jews
during this series of reverses, ending with a scanda-
lous success, we do not exactly know ; as failure
succeeded failure their jeers doubtless became louder
and their sarcasms more stinging. We shall find them
many times repeating the process of triumphing pre-
maturely, of irritating without hurting. Mohammed
lost patience with them after long endurance of their
jibes. Their ordinary modes of speech appeared to
him to contain some offensive arriere-pensee, and Mos-
lems were forbidden to employ the same. Modern
ingenuity cannot discern wherein the offensiveness
lay. Probably after the affair which we have been
describing he decided definitely to break with them.
He received a sudden revelation bidding him to turn
his back when he prayed to the Jewish Kiblah (or
prayer-direction), Jerusalem, and his face to the Mec-
can temple, the Ka'bah. For the Day of Atonement
he substituted a new fast, the month Ramadan, to
be kept in the style familiar to visitors of Eastern

I* Wellhausen {Wakidi, p. 14) regards the introduction of Abu
Jahl in these cases as due to the development of a myth.



248 Mohammed

states ; no food (liquid or solid) may be consumed
from sunrise to sunset, but even revelry is permitted
at night. Some have connected this institution with
one of the Sabians of Harran ; this sect are said to
have fasted a whole month, and Mohammed, where
compelled to differ from both Jews and Christians,
may have gone to them.* Others f suppose the
fasting month to have been an institution of the old
Arabic religion to which Mohammed went back;
and this, considering the nature of the change in the
prayer-direction, is not impossible. Besides wound-
ing the Jews, it would serve to keep his followers in
training for the pursuit which they had been prac-
tising for many months, for bandits kept concealed
in the day and only moved at night. The feast
which follows the fasting month was to serve as a
substitute for one of the two public holidays which
the Medinese had celebrated in their pagan days, %
and on it the Prophet ordered drums to be beaten. §
With it some of the ceremonies of the old worship
of the dead got united. || With these institutions we
may further connect the adoption of the Friday as
a day for public worship. This was not indeed to
be a Sabbath ; for that institution he had no desire
to imitate, but it was to correspond with the sacred
week-day of the other communities, and since the
Christians had seized the day after the Saturday, he
had no choice but to take the day before it. The

*Winckler, Altorientalische Forschungen, ii., 348.

f Nielsen, Altar abische Mondreligion, 168.

\Musnad, iii., 105.

%Ibid., 422.

|| Goldziher, M. S., i., 240.



The Battle of Badr 249

suggestion that such a day was desirable is said to
have been made by a Medinese named Rabah or
Riyah, son of Rabi\* The change of the prayer-
direction was also not merely anti-Judaic ; he had
no sooner spilt Meccan blood than he resolved to
open the road to an agreement with the Meccans.
Their temple then was to be retained in its proud
position of central sanctuary of Arabia. Moham-
med's religion would not affect the solemnities which
had made Meccah wealthy and famous. We fancy,
too, that he had learned by some accident that the
Temple at Jerusalem was no longer standing, and he
got an idea that the rebuilding of it would mean the
ruin of Medinah.f

The Jews, it appears, were thoroughly alarmed at
this new move of Mohammed, and, it is asserted,
offered to acknowledge his mission, if he would go
back to his former praying direction. But Moham-
med had by this time resolved on their destruction,
and even if the offer had been meant earnestly, would
have done unwisely to accept it. Had the Jews not
been afraid of him, they would never have made it ;
had they any plan, any resolution, any courage, they
would have utilised this period of failure and igno-
miny to crush him. How cordial co-operation on
the part of the Jews would have affected Mohammed
at Medinah we do not know ; resolute and cour-
ageous opposition might for some time yet have
effected a good deal.

* Usd al-ghabah. Ibn Sa'd, iii., 83, states that it was instituted in
the correspondence between Mohammed and Mus'ab, son of 'Umain
f Jahiz % Bayan, i., 165.



250 Mohammed

From this time the breach widened : and whereas
Mohammed had a few months before carefully imi-
tated Jewish practices, he now forbade his followers
to do anything like the Jews.* If they fasted for
the Day of Atonement, they were to keep the fast
one day before or after the Jewish day. f Having
altered his mode of doing his hair from the pagan
style, in which it was parted, to that of the Jews,
who let it hang loose, he now reverted to the pagan
fashion, % and in his ordinances about dyeing the
hair forbade imitating the Jews. § He ruled that
the pagan as opposed to the Jewish mode of burial
should be employed by his followers, || and that
they should stand at funerals instead of sitting,
which was the Jewish practice.^" The rules concern-
ing menstruating women were altered in a manner
which implied opposition to the Jewish code. **
Consultation of the Jews on doubtful points was
forbidden, ff A long revelation, somewhat in the
style of Stephen's Apology,^ was fulminated against
them. This tirade, which constitutes most of the
second Surah, is regarded by Moslems as a marvel
of eloquence, and appears to have produced a pro-
found impression — not on the Jews themselves, but



* Musnad, i., 165.

\Ibid., 242.

\ Ibid., 246.

%Ibn Sctd, iii., 157, 27.

I Musnad, iv. , 363.

\Ibid., 85.

** Ibid., 132.

\\ Ibid., 338.

X\ Preserved Smith, p. 84, makes this comparison.



The Battle of Badr 2 5 1

in stirring up the feelings of the people of Medinah
against them. It was followed by others. To these
repeated philippics we may, in part, ascribe the cir.
cumstance that in the severe measures which he
proceeded to take against the Jews he met with
little or no opposition on the part of their former
allies.

Meanwhile the luck had turned. The violation of
the sacred month had shocked some followers, but
it had caused no apostasies : the net was still further
spread over the consciences of those who by assent-
ing had compromised themselves therein. To the
revelations which now served so many purposes the
old argument of Abu Bakr was applied by an ever-
increasing circle. Having believed so much, why
should they not believe more ? Having overridden
so many scruples, why be delayed by any from
following the Prophet's career ?

Between the people of Meccah and the Prophet
there was now a blood-feud. 'Amr, son of the Ha-
dramite, had been killed, and under specially dis-
graceful circumstances. Vengeance was due for him ?
which might be exacted not only from Moham-
med and his co-Refugees, but also from the Helpers
-who had undertaken their protection. The next
scene, therefore, represents a very considerable ad-
vance. The Meccans are not all bent on avoid-
ing a conflict with their robber-kinsman ; some of
them are no less anxious for it than he. And the
natives of Medinah follow the Prophet to the battle-
field as well as the Refugees.

The caravan which had escaped Mohammed the



252 Mohammed

previous November was on its way home in March,
It was under the command of Abu Sufyan, whose
descendants afterwards reigned over Islam, forming
what is known as the Umayyad dynasty. They had
done good business in Syria and were bringing home
goods of the value (it is said) of five hundred thou-
sand francs. The prize was worthy of an effort and
Mohammed resolved to make it.

How news travels in the East is to this day a
wonder. Probably the carrier-pigeon does more
work than is ordinarily credited to it ; speculators
of different kinds have agents who thus keep them
informed of various events, primarily for commercial
purposes ; but the information can also be used for
other objects. There are other organised modes of
signalling of which the secret is rarely revealed.
Moreover, members of the Khuza'ah (in Meccah)
were already in league with Mohammed, assisting
him against the Kuraish.* Mohammed on this oc-
casion sent spies to a point in the road some time
before the caravan actually passed : but these were
outwitted by the chieftain in whose territory they
waited ; yet the news reached Mohammed none the
less, according to one account, through one Busai-
sah.f On receiving the information he called to
arms; and the memory of the spoils which had at
last reached Medinah acted like the display of nug-
gets brought as specimens from a gold-mine : every
one wished to share in the plunder. Of the multitude
who answered the appeal some 60 Helpers and 240

* Musnad % iv., 325.
\IHd. t iii., 136.




= 2



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The Battle of Badr 253

Refugees were selected* (perhaps with the view
of reproducing the numbers employed by " Talut,"
i. e. t Gideon -Saul in the battle recorded in the
Koran f). Two horses and 70 camels were all the
beasts that could be got together, many of the latter
being taken from agricultural operations. The own-
ers of the camels were requested by the Prophet
each of them to permit two or three of their un-
mounted comrades to ride by turns with themselves ;
which they did. % Probably the men took with them
small stores of dates § by way of commissariat. On
some expeditions the soldiers trusted to locusts | ;
whereas the dried strips of cooked meat used by the
pilgrims at other times furnished them with food. If
When the Moslems had become richer, camels were
sent by wealthy members of the community to
be slaughtered at the rate of one camel for a hundred
soldiers**: the Meccan commissariat was similar, the
soldiers also carrying with them supplies of meat.
One Abu Lubabah was sent to govern Medinah dur-
ing the absence of the army; and a governor was
also sent to keep Kuba quiet, where there seemed
danger of disturbance. ft Abu Sufyan, however, got



* Different estimates of the Moslems who fought at Badr : Ishak,
314 (83 Refugees, 61 Aus, 170 Khazraj) ; Abu Ma'shar, 313; Ibn
'Ukbah, 316. Ibn Scfd, //., ii., 134.

\ Musnad, iv., 291.

\IHd. % in., 358.

§Cf. Musnad, iii., 446.

I Musnad, iv., 353.

^Ibid. % iii., 85.

** IVakidi ( W\ 231.

\\IbnSa % d, //.,ii., 36.






254 Mohammed

early information — at Zarka* — of the fact that Mo-
hammed planned an attack in great force, and while
hurrying to Meccah by routes known to few besides
himself, and by forced marches, he also sent a scout
to call the Meccans to help. The scout, according to
custom, disfigured his camel and rode it backwards.
Hearing his message, the Meccans resolved on a gen-
eral rally in which all men either joined or sent sub-
stitutes. It had been Mohammed's plan to infest the
route where it passed near Medinah. Thither the
Meccans* army, some thousand strong, f after three
days' preparation, hastened.

Owing to the importance of the battle of Badr such
a number of conflicting legends grew round it that
each statement about it must be received with some
distrust, there being so many grounds for falsification.

It is stated that when the Meccan force, having
started, learnt by messenger of the safety of the cara-
van, several persons were of opinion that the wisest
course would be to return to Meccah without fighting,
and one or two tribes actually did so (notably the
Zuhrites, to whom Mohammed's mother belonged,
and the Banu 'Adi). This counsel is assigned by the
tradition to 'Utbah, son of Rabi'ah, whereas the deter-
mination to proceed is ascribed to Abu Jahl, the old
opponent of Mohammed. One ground for the pro-
posed retirement was the fact that the Meccans were
at feud with another tribe, the Bakr Ibn Kinanah,
who might be expected to attack the city when its



* Wakidi, 21.

f Nine hundred and fifty men, seven hundred camels, one hundred
horses. — Wakidi ( IV.), 44.



The Battle of Badr 255

defenders were away. It was also remembered that
the Refugees, though enemies, were their own kin ;
albeit, on the other hand, the blood which Moham-
med had spilled cried for vengeance. To us, en-
deavouring to recall the situation, with, it is true,
imperfect knowledge of the facts, it is difficult to say
which course would have savoured most of true
wisdom. If the caravan had been in danger, there
would have been no question : but it had reached
safety well before the battle, and if Mohammed had
been suffered to return to Medinah having gained
nothing, bankruptcy and failure combined might
have injured him as much as a lost battle. On the
other hand, an important factor in the situation,
Mohammed's military ability, was unknown to them,
as indeed it was to his friends : they were enorm-
ously superior in numbers, and, in some respects,
in equipment. Retreat might bring them into con-
tempt, when there was blood to be avenged. Mo-
hammed's raids occasioned some inconvenience,
though till then no serious damage ; and a chance
of getting rid of him should not be neglected.
It is probable that to most of those who had a voice
in the matter the arguments in favour of advancing
seemed weightier than those on the other side.
Their resolution turned out to be disastrous: we do
not know whether the opposite course would have
proved more beneficial.

The scene of the famous battle, Badr, lies at the
end of a westerly ramification of the great chain of
mountains which follows the Arabian coast-line. It
is said to have been the locality of an annual fair,



256 Mohammed

held on the first eight days of the month preceding
the pilgrim month. It lay near the point at which
the Syrian road to Meccah leaves the coast to wind
through difficult passes. From the number which
Mohammed took with him it would seem that he
hoped to overwhelm opposition.

The route followed by Mohammed is recorded
in detail*; of the names which meet us in it the
most familiar is Safra, a village about a day's jour-
ney from Badr, visited by Burckhardt. The ordin-
ary route from Safra to Badr passes through a very
narrow and difficult valley : Mohammed is said to
have avoided it, because some of the names wounded
his sense of delicacy : and to have chosen a pass
through a valley called " Sweet-smelling " instead.
The motives by which this remarkable man was
swayed were so numerous that this story need not
be rejected. It is not probable that this fancy lost
the precious time in which the caravan could have
been caught ; but doubtless it lost some.

The day before the battle (Ram. 18) f the parties
were separated by one sand hill. A couple of men
from the Meccan army, trying to find water, found
their way to the Prophet's camp, and one of them %
being captured brought the news that the caravan
had escaped, but that the Meccan army was at hand.
This statement occasioned the bitterest disappoint-
ment ; the Moslems tried hard to discredit it by tortur-
ing the messenger till he retracted ; but Mohammed



*Ishak y 433.

f March 16, 624 A.D., according to the ordinary Tables.

X Memoirs of AH.



The Battle of Badr 257

appears to have satisfied himself that the statement
was true. He had, therefore, the same problem be-
fore him as the Meccans had faced when the news of



Online LibraryD. S. (David Samuel) MargoliouthMohammed and the rise of Islam → online text (page 17 of 32)