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A General Evaluation of the Expeditions

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Prophet Muhammad as Commander

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Until the Battle of Badr, which took place two years after the Emigration, God's Messenger arranged around twenty military expeditions. By these expeditions he seized control of the desert and paralyzed the morale of the Makkan polytheists. Second, most of the desert tribes began to acknowledge the power of Islam and take the side of God's Messenger. In none of the expeditions, except one, did the Muslim warriors shed blood, nor did they wound anyone. They neither plundered the caravans nor usurped something from desert peoples. They showed in practice that Islam is the guarantee of security.

God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, formed an intelligence network and was informed of everything happening in the desert and in Makka itself. So sophisticated a system did he establish that probably none of his Companions in Madina even knew that, for example, his uncle, 'Abbas, was left in Makka as a member of his intelligence service. When he set out on a military campaign, no one knew, up to a certain point, his real intention and where they were going. (1) Besides, he used couriers in communication with his soldiers fighting at the front. A courier carried the news to some certain point, where he trusted it to another one waiting to carry it to the other station. With this system, he got the news of his expeditions in the shortest time possible.

All the expeditions he dispatched until the Battle of Badr consisted of the Emigrants exclusively. For first of all, the Quraysh were at war with the Emigrants. They did not want them to be sheltered in Madina. Besides, those who were driven from their homes with everything they had left behind were the Emigrants. Second, the Helpers had sworn allegiance to God's Messenger so that it was expected that the Helpers should perceive by themselves the necessity of taking part in any military action in the way of God.

The military genius of God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, showed itself also in his choice of commanders of the expeditions. His uncle, Hamza, was appointed the commander of the first military expedition. Besides his courage and strength, Hamza was a man of sound judgement, good opinion and high administrative ability. In addition, until the whole of his community appropriated his ideas and adopted his opinions, God's Messenger chose to practise them in the persons of his relatives. Since the military dimension of his mission showed itself for the first time in Madina, God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was to put his own relatives on the front line until everyone was wholly accustomed to it. It should, however, also be noted that all of the commanders he chose were able and eminent generals and highly qualified for the job. They were, in addition, very upright persons wholly devoted to the cause of Islam.

Hamza was martyred in Uhud after having killed more than twenty soldiers of the enemy. 'Ubayda ibn Harith was martyred because of the wounds he received in the Battle of Badr. Before his martyrdom, he asked God's Messenger: "O God's Messenger, I did not die in fighting at the front. Am I regarded then as having died a martyr?" (2)

Hamza was the uncle of the Prophet; 'Ubayda his cousin. The commander of the expedition he sent to Nakhla, 'Abd Allah ibn Jakhsh, was the son of his paternal aunt. In the second stage of the Battle of Uhud, he fought heroically. He came across Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas and told him: 'Come; you pray and I'll invoke 'Amen' for your prayer. Let me pray, and you invoke 'Amen' for my prayer.' Sa'd prayed: 'O God, make me encounter one of the strongest soldiers of the enemy, and let me overcome him!' Ibn Jakhsh invoked 'Amen' for this prayer, and then himself prayed: 'O God, let me encounter one of the strongest soldiers of the enemy. After I wounded him severely, let him kill me, and cut my ears and nose and lips so that I shall come to Your Presence bleeding profusely. You ask me, "Abd Allah, where are your ears, nose and lips?" and I'll answer You: "O God, I was ashamed to come to Your Presence with my members with which I had sinned, and I sacrificed them while fighting in the way of Your Beloved One." When the battle ended, 'Abd Allah was found lying with his ears, nose and lips cut off and his abdomen lanced. (3)

Lastly, by sending military expeditions one after the other, God's Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, agitated the Quraysh to an unpremeditated action, and, as will be explained below, on the pretext of securing the return of their trade caravan, they formed an army of one thousand and left Makka for Badr some ninety miles to the south of Madina.

1. I. Hissam, Sirah, 4.39-42; I. Kathir, al-Bidayah, 4.332-5.
2. Hakim, Mustadrak, 3.188; I. Kathir, al-Bidayah, 3.334.
3. I. Hajar, al-Isabah, 1.286–7.