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Establishment of Muslim Military Forces

Establishment of Muslim Military Forces

Establishment of Muslim Military Forces

Formation of the Islamic Army

During his stay in Mecca and propagation of Islam, the Holy Prophet acted only as a Divinely commissioned leader. His activities were restricted to guiding people and struggling against the idolaters. However, after he settled in Yathrib, his function included both religious and political leadership, because the social conditions had drastically changed in Medina and the Holy Prophet was taking great steps in founding a new society based on Islamic instructions. For this reason, he could clearly envisage the probable hardships and obstacles. As a farsighted political figure, he was constantly searching for proper political solutions. His convention of a brotherly treaty between two groups of Muslims; the initiation and completion of a general treaty; and the convening of a nonaggression pact with the Jews—all these were within his precautionary activities.

The Qur'¡nic texts carrying political and social orders that were revealed in Medina were all appropriate guidelines for the Holy Prophet's proceedings. Then, he was ordered to prepare for war and defense.[1] Consequently, he decided to form a defense force. The establishment of such a force was significant because the Meccan unbelievers, who could no longer torture Muslims after the Holy Prophet's Hegira, might probably plot a military strike at the very center of Islam (i.e. Medina). For this reason, the Holy Prophet planned initial stages for the formation of an Islamic army so as to encounter any such probabilities. This army was initially very limited in human sources and military equipment. However, within a short time, it developed in both aspects. At the beginning of this army’s formation, garrisons dispatched for military operations or surveillance did not exceed sixty; and this number did not exceed two hundred at most.[2] In the second year and the Battle of Badr, the number was a little more than three hundred. However, in the eighth year and during the Meccan siege, the number of the Islam's soldiers was nearly ten thousand well-equipped soldiers.

Thus, the trend of events showed that the Holy Prophet's predictions came true. Beginning with the second year, there were numerous conflicts and confrontations between the believers and the unbelievers. If Muslims had lacked the required military forces, they would have been completely wiped out by their enemies.[3]

Military Maneuvers

With the small number of the armed forces which the Holy Prophet had at his disposal, he prepared for a series of military operations which could not be considered full-fledged wars. In none of these maneuvers did any military confrontation occur. Examples of such expeditions were the following:

The 30-man strong expedition called °amzah ibn `Abd al-Mu§§alib in the eighth month of Hegira chased the caravan of Quraysh on their return to Mecca.

The 60-man strong expedition called `Ubaydah ibn al-°¡rith in the eighth month of Hegira prosecuted Ab£-Sufy¡n.

The 20-man strong expedition called Sa`d Ibn Ab¢-Waqq¡¥ in the ninth month of Hegira prosecuted the caravan of Quraysh but did not reach it.[4] In the eleventh month of Hegira, the Holy Prophet, accompanied by a group of Muslims, chased the caravan of Quraysh up to the land of Abw¡ but no confrontation took place. During this expedition, he convened a treaty with the tribe of Ban£-®amrah according to which they promised to remain impartial and not to cooperate with the enemies of Islam. In Rab¢` al-Awwal (the twelfth month), the Holy Prophet chased Kurz ibn J¡bir al-Fahr¢, who had plundered a Medinan flock, up to the land of Badr but missed him. In the month of Jum¡d¡ al-ªkhir, the Holy Prophet, accompanied by one hundred and fifty (or two hundred) troops, chased the trade caravan of Quraysh, headed by Ab£-Sufy¡n on his journey to Damascus, but this time, he could not reach the caravan. However, during this time, he convened a treaty with the tribe Ban£-Mudlij and returned to Medina.[5] These kinds of small military operations could be called military maneuvers and strength show, but not real wars.

The Prophet's Objectives of Military Maneuvers

According to several documents and pieces of evidence, the Holy Prophet's purpose behind these wars was neither plundering the enemies nor creating wars and conflicts, because, as we have already seen, the number of the Islamic troops was small if compared with the enemies. In some of these wars, An¥¡r took part although they had promised, in the course of the treaty of the second `Aqabah, to protect the Holy Prophet at Medina and not to be involved in wars outside it.

Furthermore, the citizens of Medina were farmers and gardeners; they were not in the habit of plundering as the nomad tribes were. The conflicts between Aws and Khazraj were local conflicts and it was the Jews who ignited the fire of difference between these two tribes. They had never plundered any tribe. Furthermore, when confronted by enemies, Muslims never showed any inclination to war. °amzah, for example, avoided engaging himself in war when an impartial person acted as an intermediary to stop it.[6] Considering all these factors, the Holy Prophet carried out all those military maneuvers for specific objectives. The following were among his aims:

(1) The Holy Prophet aimed at threatening the trade route from Quraysh to Damascus. The Meccan trade caravans used to move between Medina and the shores of the Red Sea as they could not go more than 130 kilometers away from the city.[7] Through his maneuvers, the Holy Prophet wished to let Quraysh know that if they wanted to hinder the Muslims' free actions in Medina, their trade routes would be endangered and their goods could be confiscated by Muslims.[8] This threat was definitely a warning for the Meccan unbelievers for whom trade was of vital significance. This treaty forced them to review their strategies against Muslims.

No doubt, Muslims were right in confiscating the Meccan goods and properties since they had forced Muh¡jir£n out of their homes in Mecca and had confiscated their belongings.[9] It should be noted that the conflicts were not personal anymore; rather, these conflicts had turned into conflicts between two powers each of which did its best to weaken the other. Later on, this threat became real and Quraysh, having been worried about the cutting off of the trade route to Damascus, tried to find another route.

From Muslims' point of view, the economic damage to the enemy and the creation of worry and anxiety to them seemed more significant than the booties they could collect. This could be seen in Muslims' not receiving any wealth from the unbelievers at the expeditions of `Abdull¡h Ibn Ja¦sh and Badr.

(2) These maneuvers were a show of Muslims' military force and a warning to the Meccan unbelievers not to think of military expeditions against them. It was also aimed at showing the unbelievers that Muslims were strong enough to defend themselves. While the Holy Prophet was in Mecca and the number of Muslims was small, chiefs of Quraysh could easily envisage their economic fall. Now that the city of Medina had turned into a stronghold for Islam, how could the money- minded Meccan people ever feel safe? For this reason, Muslims had to be prompt so that they could discourage the unbelievers from planning anything hostile against this city.

(3) Most probably, these military actions were meant to warn the Jews of Medina as well, who had revealed their enmity, so that they might stop their conspiracies and military operations



[1] Permission to fight is given to those upon whom war is made because they are oppressed, and most surely Allah is well able to assist them; those who have been expelled from their homes without a just cause. (Qur'¡n, 22:39-40)

See al-M¢z¡n 14:383; T¡r¢kh Ya`q£b¢ 2:36.

[2] Ibn al-Ath¢r, Al-K¡mil f¢’l-T¡r¢kh 2:112.

[3] The number of the wars in which the Holy Prophet took part is said to be twenty-six, while expeditions were thirty-six. See Ibn Shahr¡sh£b, Man¡qib 1:186; ±abars¢, I`l¡m al-War¡, pp. 72.

Some historians have considered the number of such expeditions to be more than this number. See Mas`£d¢, Mur£j al-Dhahab 2:282.

Bukh¡r¢ recognizes this number to be nineteen. See ¯a¦¢¦ al-Bukh¡r¢ 6:327.

[4] al-W¡qid¢, al-Magh¡z¢ 1:9-11; al-±abar¢, T¡r¢kh al-Umam wa’l-Mul£k 2:259; Ibn Hush¡m, al-S¢rah al-Nabawiyyah 2:245, 251. Ibn Is¦¡q states that these expeditions took place in the second year of Hegira. (±abar¢: op cit). If we accept this, we have to set the date of the formation of the Islamic army at the second year of Hegira. This too, would not take away anything of the significance of the Holy Prophet's preventative procedures.

[5] al-W¡qid¢, op cit, pp. 11-13; ±abar¢, op cit, pp. 259-261.

[6] al-W¡qid¢, op cit, pp. 9.

[7] Montgomery, Mu¦ammad at Medina, pp. 5.

[8] Later on, this threat was implemented. As a consequence, Quraysh tried to find another route for trade because they worried about the cut off of the trade route to Damascus.

[9] After the Holy Prophet's emigration, `Aq¢l confiscated his residential area in Mecca as well as the houses of Ban£-H¡shim's emigrants. When the Holy Prophet conquered Mecca, he established a tent at °aj£n outside Mecca. He was asked why he had not gone to his pervious house. He answered, “Has `Aq¢l left any house for us?” See al-W¡qid¢, al-Magh¡z¢ 3:828; Ibn Sa`d, Al-±abaq¡t al-Kubr¡ 2:136; Qas§al¡n, al-Maw¡hib al-Ludaniyyah 1:318.

`Aq¢l's heirs sold that house to al-°ajj¡j ibn Y£suf’s brother with one hundred thousand D¢n¡rs! See °alab¢, al-S¢rah al-Nabawiyyah 1:101-102.

After the emigration of Ban£-Ja¦sh ibn Ri'¡b, their houses were empty. Under the pretext that his daughter was the wife of one of those, Ab£-Sufy¡n confiscated their houses. Ibn Hush¡m, al-S¢rah al-Nabawiyyah 2:145.

Besides, when ¯uhayb emigrated to Medina, The unbelievers started to chase him and took away from him his money but he escaped to safety (Ibn Hush¡m, op cit, 2:121).

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