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Progress and a Setback 289

by treaty the country which lay between Medinah
and Meccah towards the coast had been won to the
Prophet's side : and a Prophet who went in for cattle-
stealing probably seemed to most of the tribesmen
a very worthy character. The growing wealth of
Medinah also attracted marauders, but these had no
chance against the Prophet's disciplined forces.

The Meccans had therefore to bethink them of a
new road for their caravans, unless they were to be
starved out ; and it was discovered that it was pos-
sible in winter to work eastwards to the Euphrates
Valley, the want of water which renders the
Nefud impassable in summer being at that season
less of an obstacle. A guide was engaged and a
heavily laden caravan despatched in December.
News of it was brought to Medinah by a Meccan
who went to a feast given by one of the Nadirites,
and who became communicative in his cups. A
follower of the Prophet who was present immedi-
ately told his master, who sent an expedition to
catch the convoy : the Prophet's adopted son, Zaid
Ibn Harithah, was made captain. He was com-
pletely successful, and came near capturing Abu
Sufyan himself. The property seized is said to have
been of the value of 100,000 dirhems.

This accession of wealth enabled the Prophet to

add to his harem, which now began to assume

princely dimensions. He further gave Othman his

daughter Umm Kulthum, as a substitute for Rukay-

yah, who died during the battle of Badr. About the

same time occurred another domestic event, which

culminated the Prophet's joy — the birth of his

290 Mohammecc

grandson Hasan, son of Ali and Fatimah. On the
seventh day he was named and circumcised, his head
shorn, and a ram sacrificed for him. Al-Hasan, " the
beautiful," is said to have been then first used as a
proper name : in giving it his grandson the Pro-
phet fancied he was translating the name of a son of

Thus after little more than two years at Medinah,
Mohammed and his followers found themselves in
possession of wealth, power, and domestic happi-
ness. The Prophet could begin to entertain projects
of conquest on a great scale : the horizon began de-
finitely to expand. There were, however, to be still
some setbacks.

Rather more than a year after the victory of Badr,
while Mohammed and his family were in the midst
of their domestic joys, the news arrived at Medinah
that a well-equipped force, thrice the size of that
which had been defeated at Badr, was on its way to
retrieve that misfortune. Abu Sufyan had, it would
appear, risen to the occasion ; he had persuaded his
fellow-townsmen to devote to preparation the whole
of the profit which he had brought safely home at the
time of Badr ; he had some allies in the coast-tribes
and the Kinanah ; and he had pressed into the serv-
ice such poetical talent as was at Meccah. He had
been joined by an influential man from Medinah,
Abu 'Amir, " the monk," the Ausite who before
Mohammed's arrival had manifested a disposition

* He is sometimes called by his Syriac name — Mez, Baghdader
Siltenbild, 5. Mez regards the connection with Aaron as Shi'ite in-

From Mayeux's Bedouins.

Progress and a Setback 291

towards reformed religion, but whom a little of
Mohammed had convinced of the superiority of
paganism ; he is said to have brought fifty fol-
lowers with him.** Abu Sufyan appears to have
done his best ; and, as a substitute for military
music, caused or permitted the army to be followed
by a company of ladies, who, by threatening and
promising, reciting verses, and beating drums, were
to keep the courage of the troops to its proper level ;
for nothing did the refugee from the battle-field
dread more than the reproaches of his women-folk.f
Besides, they could tend the wounded, and stitch the
water-skins."]: In Beckwourth's wars the women were
in charge of the horses that were not being ridden,
and brought fresh ones to the warriors when re-
quested^ The Kurashite ladies may have had some
similar duty, and some certainly did curious serv-
ice. The wife of Abu Sufyan made the suggestion
that the body of Mohammed's mother should be ex-
humed and kept as a hostage ; but the Kuraish re-
jected this suggestion (of which the practicability was
surely doubtful) for fear of reprisals. One of them,
\Amrah, wife of Ghurab, raised up the Kurashite
standard when it had fallen, and enabled the Ku-
raish to rally to it. Others, it is said, helped the
actual carnage, and were spared by chivalrous Mos-
lems, who would not dishonour their swords by strik-
ing women. Before the rout, stationed behind the

* Wakidi, 205.

f Wellhaustn, Ehe, 451.

% Ibid., Wakidi, 283.

§ Autobiography, 158, etc.

292 Mohammed

troops, they encouraged acts of valour, and launched
reproaches against those who showed any disposition
to, flee.

•Where the history of a defeat is told by the de-
feated, so many are interested in misrepresenting
what occurred that it is difficult to disentangle the
truth. Mohammed was defeated at Uhud — of that
there is no question. Since a Prophet could do no
wrong, the blame for that defeat could not be his;
hence at two stages of the story the Prophet's fol-
lowers are said to have disobeyed him, and so brought
on the disaster.

It is said that the Kurashite army appeared on
the west of Medinah, on a mountain called 'Ainain,
" the two wells," and proceeded to send their cattle
to feed in the fields of some Medinese, at a place
called 'Uraid. Mohammed summoned his followers
to attack, promising them the aid of five thousand
angels, a promise, he had afterwards to explain, in-
tended as an encouragement, not to be literally ful-
filled. Abdallah Ibn Ubayy, always cautious, advised
the Medinese to stay in the city, and wait till the
Meccans thought fit to go away ; believing that an
assault on Medinah would either not be attempted,
or, if attempted, could easily be repelled. Moham-
med had not yet the experience which would
have shown him the wisdom of this counsel ; he
doubtless expected a second Badr, and determined
to save the crops. He called to arms, and of those
who assembled about one thousand were passed.

At a later time Mohammed was represented as
advising the Moslems to stay in Medinah, but

Progress a?id a Setback 293

afterward suffering his hands to be forced by the
more eager and ardent of his followers. He also had
revealed to him in a dream exactly what was about to
occur — even to such details as the death of his uncle.
The leading article on the battle of Uhud — Surah iii.
— proves this statement to be unhistorical ; and in
the description of the fight which is professedly by
the court poet, Ka'b Ibn Malik,* the Prophet is re-
presented as from the first urging his followers to
fight. From the same authentic source we are able
to modify the account of another incident which was
supposed to alleviate the shame of defeat — the sup-
posed desertion of Abdallah Ibn Ubayy. When the
Moslem army got half-way between Medinah and
Uhud, the biographers tells us, Abdallah Ibn Ubayy
deserted with three hundred followers, thus reducing
the force by a third. But the Koran says two par-
ties (supposed to be the tribes Banu Salamah f and
Banu Harithah), whose fields had been wasted by the
invaders, \ meditated cowardice; implying that the
courageous language of the Prophet braced them up ;
and, indeed, many members of those tribes were
known to have fought at Uhud ; and from the text §
we may justly infer that Abdallah, son of Ubayy,
simply stayed at home — did not desert after the
expedition had started. Hence the incident of Ab-
dallah's desertion was magnified at a later time ; nor,

* Iskak, 614.
t Wakidi, 207.

% They had at one time begged leave to change their residence and
come near the Mosque. Musnad, iii., 371.
§ Verses 162-167.

294 Mohammed

from what we read, does he appear to have enjoyed
sufficient influence to have effected such a desertion.

Uhud, the mountain which gives its name to the
battle, lies to the north-west of Medinah, " forming
part of the great chain, whence it breaks off into
the plain in such a way that it is almost isolated "*;
its whole length from west to east is about four
miles.f Its distance from Medinah is variously
given as two thirds or three quarters of an hour; but
this refers to a time when a broad road led from Me-
dinah to Uhud, which is visited by every pilgrim,
and by pious Medinese on Thursdays. In Moham-
med's time there was no such road, and even for that
short distance a guide was required ; the Prophet's
purpose being to secure the shelter of Mount Uhud
for his rear, and to reach this position without being
seen and surrounded by the Kuraish. He took
great pains to make the troops fall into line, remem-
bering how effective this precaution had been at

He wound up the courage of his followers by an
oration, recorded or imagined by Wakidi, in which
he utilised the ordinary topics which provide material
for harangues on such occasions, adding a little more
than a commonplace general can urge, of his con-
sciousness of being the channel through which
God's commands and prohibitions were conveyed
to mankind, and of having explained to them ex-

* Burckhardt, ii., 104.
f Ibid., ii., 107.

\ The date of the battle of Uhud is given as Saturday, 7 Shawwal,
a.h. 3 = March 24, a.d. 625.

Progress and a Setback 295

haustively everything that God either required or

A way was found through the " Harrah of the
Banu Harithah," amid date plantations, the blind
owner of which is said to have played the part of
Shimei, and pelted the Moslems with mud. The
Prophet's force, however, succeeded in reaching
Uhud before the Kurashites had perceived their
tactics. To the east the mountain 'Ainain over-
looks the path by which the Moslem position could
be turned; there Mohammed placed a detachment
of fifty archers, it was said (perhaps after the event),
under strict orders to remain there till they were
told to come down. The Kurashites were stationed
in the low ground of the Wadi called Kanat (or the
channel), which separates Medinah from Uhud. The
ground has been greatly altered since the Prophet's
time by flood and earthquake,* whence the descrip-
tions of modern visitors are of only partial help for
understanding the situation. What is clear is that
the Prophet secured a strong position, but in doing
so had placed the Kurashites between his army and
Medinah. He assumed that the enemy would not
attack the city, and the event showed that he had
calculated rightly. He assumed that the disaster of
Badr would have taught the Kuraish nothing ; and
that the valour of Hamzah, Ali, and a few others
would produce a panic as before. On the other hand
he was not aware that the ground had, at the instance
of Abu 'Amir, " the monk," been dug so as to injure
the Moslems.

* Samhudi, 20.

296 Mohammed

The fight began, it is said, by this Medinese exile,
Abu 'Amir, presenting himself to his relatives the
Aus, with the expectation that they would troop
over to him at once. How many an exile has
similarly mistaken his value ! His brethren an-
swered his advances with reproaches and contempt.

It appears, too, that at the commencement events
were going as the Prophet had imagined. The
champions of Badr, Ali and Hamzah, dealt out
death as unsparingly as before ; the heroism of the
Kuraish compelled them to meet these champions in
a series of single combats, in which their own cham-
pions were killed, and their overthrow spread discom-
fiture and panic. Wakidi gives a list of the persons
who successively took the Kurashite standard : it
passed through the hands of seven men of the
family Abd al-dar, each of whom was in turn slain
by a Moslem : no one attempted to co-operate with
the standard-bearer, who was simply left to his fate ;
in one case the brave comrades, who had done
nothing to protect his life, succeeded in saving the
spoils. As we picture the scene, the standard-bearer
probably was in advance of the line, and, his hands
being incommoded by the standard, furnished an
easy victim to any champion who chose to rush on
him from the enemy's side. The Moslem standard
was not allowed to court destruction in the same
way. Hamzah, however, was killed by an Abys-
sinian slave, who had practised throwing the lance;
and who, having done his side this very considerable
service, resolved to take no further part in the fray,
lest he should never enjoy the liberty which had

Progress and a Setback 297

been promised him as the reward of success. After
the death of a few standard-bearers and champions
the Meccan army turned to fly, leaving their camp
to the enemy, who proceeded to pillage it in disorder.
The women dropped their drums and rushed towards
the hill : many who were less agile yielded them-
selves captive to the Moslems.* Abu Sufyan him-
self narrowly escaped death. The archers who had
been posted to protect the Moslem rear came down
to join in the plunder; and this gave Khalid, son of
Al-Walid, afterwards a doughty captain of Islam,
the chance of a descent with his cavalry on Mo-
hammed's rear ; this diversion checked the rout, and
the Moslems found themselves caught between two
fires. Discipline could not be restored, nor was
it easy to distinguish friend from foe. Some of
the riders saw that the important matter was to
kill Mohammed, and a whole series of martyrs
threw themselves in front of him till a rescue
party came ; though even so they could not pre-
vent his suffering some slight wounds about the
face and head: treatment which naturally seemed
shocking in the last degree to the man who had
already shed no little blood for his ideal. The
Prophet also appears to have done what he did on
no other occasion — take to weapons and fight for
himself (even to the extent of killing a man), besides
letting men and women fight for him, and, indeed,
offering a place beside himself in Paradise to any
one who kept the enemy off his person.f The

\Musnad, iii., 286.

298 Mohammed

Prophet is said to have owed his life to his resem-
blance to Mus'ab, son of 'Umair, whom Ibn 'Kami'ah
mistook for him * ; Ibn Kami'ah, having slain
Mus'ab, fancied that he had achieved a stroke which
would have ended the war. The cry that the Pro-
phet had been killed was soon heard, and if, as was
said, Satan uttered it, his object must have been to
save Islam rather than ruin it ; for while it dis-
couraged many of Mohammed's followers, it roused
to desperate valour many others who were too deeply
committed to Islam to care for life after a crushing
defeat ; while the conquerors, who bore no sort of
ill-will to Mohammed's followers, supposing their
chief business had been accomplished, cared less to
proceed. Hence it is probable that the cry, " Mo-
hammed is slain," saved Mohammed and his cause ;
and indeed the Prophet, who asserts that he tried to
stop the flight, was shrewd enough, amid his wounds,
to perceive the advantage of the false rumour being
circulated. The doughty Ali with other brave men
finding him, huddled him into a ravine, where he
could be tended while the supposition that he was
killed might be left to do its work. He even changed
armour with one of his followers that he might es-
cape recognition if found in his hiding-place.f Ibn
Kami'ah assured Abu Sufyan that Mohammed had
fallen by his hand, and this assertion was accepted by
the commander, till having time to search the battle-
field with Abu 'Amir he found the story unconfirmed.
Had the Kurashite army preserved their original

* Diyarbekri, i., 483.
f IVakidi, 233.

Progress and a Setback 299

position between Medinah and the Moslems, the lat-
ter must have been destroyed to a man, when the rout
began ; but the first part of the battle had cleared
away those who had their backs to Medinah, and
thither, as well as in other directions, therefore the
defeated Moslems could escape. The names of the
fugitives are not all preserved : among them, however,
figures Sa'd, son of Mu'adh,* destined erelong to
wash out this stain with Jewish blood ; Anas, son of
Nadir, tried to make him return to the field, but
vainly. Another against whom the charge of flight
from the battle-field was afterwards brought was the
Prophet's son-in-law Othman, son of 'Affan, who had
also the year before found in his wife's illness an ex-
cuse for absenting himself from Badr. The first of
the runaways brought to Medinah the news of the
Prophet's death, which, however, seems to have
gained little credence; and fresh arrivals from the
battle-field soon contradicted it.

Flight was doubtless facilitated by nightfall, when
pursuit on the part of the enemy would have
been dangerous. But while the Prophet was in
hiding considerable carnage continued, and though
fine tales were afterwards invented of the courage
displayed on this occasion by faithful followers of
the Prophet, others describe them as having become
wholly disorganised. Of all the plunder secured in
the assault on the Kurashite camp only two men re-
tained any ; two purses of gold secreted by two men
of Medinah were the sole relic of this initial victory.
Of the persons who fell in the slaughter, some plainly

* Musnad, iii., 253.

300 Mohammed

declared that they were not righting for Islam, but for
Medinah ; while others, it is said, had come out to
battle in the hope that they might win martyrdom,
and had received the Prophet's blessing on their
purpose. One Moslem at least seems to have made
use of the confusion to wreak on a fellow-Moslem
vengeance dating from a pre-Islamic blood-feud ; for
which he was afterwards executed by Mohammed.*
The deaths on the side of the Kurashites amounted
to twenty-two ; those of the Moslems to seventy —
exactly the number of the victims of Badr; to these
one account, which is likely to be correct, adds seventy
wounded, f among whom Abu Bakr, Omar, and Ali
figured ; and indeed we cannot suppose that these
champions escaped scot free, or that the number of
wounded was not proportioned to that of slain. De-
tailed accounts, true or imaginary, are preserved of
most of the contests in which the Kurashites perished;
the slaughter of a Moslem came presently to be an
inglorious souvenir, and the acts of prowess which
ended thus were allowed to fall into obscurity. The
Kuraish appear to have made no prisoners. We need
scarcely doubt that the discovery of seventy corpses
on the field was what moved the Kurashite general to
mistake his victory for a conquest, and depart without
delay.J For each victim at Badr the equivalent life
had been paid ; the people of Meccah and Medinah
were now quits ; and presently one (ordinarily ener-

* Wakidi ( W.\ 140.
f Diyarbekri, i., 482.

% So in Ibn Sad II, ii., 78, a Kurashite declares himself satisfied,
having killed an equal number of the foe.

Progress and a Setback 301

getic) Meccan discouraged following up the victory
on the ground that last year the Moslems had not
followed up theirs.* So little did these Meccans
understand what warfare meant. Savage cruelty
was wreaked on some of the corpses by the women,
whose desire for vengeance was a deep-seated passion
rather than respect for tribal usage; but it seems
clear that the Meccans were absolutely innocent of
what is now called imperialism, and, having satisfied
the demands of honour, were anxious to resume the
occupations of peace. The Medinese, when their
retreat had been effected, fully expected an attack
on their city, and steps were taken to guard the
house whither the wounded Prophet had been carried;
but Abu Sufyan contemplated no such measure, and
his forces, mounting their camels and leading their
horses, were shortly seen to be departing. Omar is
said, at the Prophet's request, to have answered the
Kurashite thanksgiving to Hobal with an ascription
of praise to Allah ; and having assured Abu Sufyan
of the survival and safety of Mohammed, to have
made an appointment (in the style of the Fijar wars)
for a renewal of hostilities the following year at

At nightfall then, it would appear, the army of
Abu Sufyan commenced its departure from the
battle-field ; and by the next morning news reached
the Prophet that there was no prospect of Medinah
being attacked. Notwithstanding his wounds the
Prophet succeeded in mounting his horse, and even
persuaded his followers, in spite of the effects of the

* Wakidi ( W.), 138

302 Mohammed

previous day's disaster, to accompany him in a demon-
stration as far as Hamra al-Usd, about twelve miles
from Medinah, in the direction which the Meccans had
taken. Meanwhile the Meccans had reached Rauha
and are there said to have become awake to the folly
of leaving their work unfinished, and to have begun
to consider the advisability of returning to attack
Medinah. They were deterred from this by the coun-
sel of Safwan, son of Umayyah, whose father had
perished at Badr, who warned them of the danger of
bringing the heroes of that fight to bay. And the
chief of one of the local tribes is said to have done
Mohammed the service of conveying to the Kuraish
an exaggerated account of the army of reserves still
at Mohammed's disposal, which Mohammed arti-
ficially confirmed by causing camp-fires to be lit at
night over an immense area. The operations of this
day resulted in the capture of two men on either
side. Mohammed remained in the field five days, on
the chance of the Meccans changing their plans, and
returned to Medinah on the Friday. To the courage
of the soldiers, who, in spite of wounds and defeat
on the Saturday, were ready to take the field on the
Sunday, a just compliment was paid when the Pro-
phet delivered the revelation which dealt with these

In dealing with an ordinary enemy, probably Abu
Sufyan's procedure would have been justified : he
had severely punished the attack on his own people,
and could have counted on this punishment intim-
idating the enemy, and preventing a renewal of such
attacks. But with such an enemy as Mohammed

Progress and a Setback 303

he should have known that a defeat could have no
such effect : his energy would not be quieted this
side of the grave. The Allies however who sent
Napoleon to Elba appear to have understood human
nature no better : and perhaps Abu Sufyan indulged
in the hope that so decisive a victory over Moham-
med would break the spell which enchanted the
Moslems, who now had ocular demonstration that
Mohammed had no allies of a supernatural order,
and that even his sacred person was not proof against
material weapons. The experience of a later inva-
sion of Medinah also shows that Abu Sufyan had
not the least notion of the way in which a city could
be stormed or even attacked : and having narrowly
escaped death in the battle on the Saturday he may
have been unwilling to risk his life again on the Sun-
day. What views on the subject were held by the
able lieutenants who had secured the victory, we
know not : but after a little more of Abu Sufyan's
leadership we find them desert his cause for that of
the energetic and daring commander over whom
they had scored a victory.

It was however, after the conversion of Meccah,
difficult for the victors of Uhud to explain the mo-
tives by which their conduct was guided on that
day: and inquisitive archaeologists were put off with
ambiguous answers.

Like every other event which had happened since
Mohammed's arrival at Medinah the battle of Uhud
tended to accentuate the hostility between Moslems
and Jews. In spite of its being fought on a Sabbath
some Jewish troops were prepared, it is said, to follow

304 Mohammed

Abdallah, son of Ubayy: but Mohammed refused
their assistance, though one individual named Mu-
chairik late in the day joined in the fray, and, dying
a hero's death, won from the Prophet the title Best
of the Tews. As on other occasions individuals ap-
pear to have taken the opportunity of taunting the
non-fighting Moslems with the Prophet's difficul-
ties : we hear of no effort on the part of the enemies
inside Medinah to take serious advantage of the
humiliating return of the Prophet : the numbedness
and stupidity with which he taunts the unbe-
lievers seem indeed to have beset them so often
as they had a chance of doing their own side any

The " leading article " on the battle of Uhud
is one of the longest continuous passages in the
Koran, and was doubtless composed and delivered
after the first unfavourable impression caused by the

Online LibraryD. S. (David Samuel) MargoliouthMohammed and the rise of Islam → online text (page 20 of 32)