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 Sirat Rasoul Allah

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12 First Caravan 

Shortly after this expedition to Badr the apostle sent Abdullah b. Jahsh and eight Emigrants on a journey. He gave a letter to Abdullah, but ordered him not to read it till the end of a two days' march; he also told him to avoid giving offence to any of his companions.

After Abdullah had marched two days' journey, he opened the letter, and found it contained the following instructions: 'Go on to Nakhla, between Mecca and Al‑Taif, and keep watch over the Quraysh there and bring back news of their business.' Abdullah said, 'I read and obey!' Then he told his companions about the letter, and added, 'He has also prohibited me from forcing any one of you to do anything against his will. If, therefore, any of you wishes to earn martyrdom, let him come with me; but if not, let him go back.' All his companions went with him, and none remained behind, but at Bahran two of the travellers lost the camel which they had been riding in turns and they fell behind to look for it. Abdullah marched on with the rest of his companions to Nakhla, where they came upon a Quraysh caravan laden with raisins, tanned hides, and various other goods., and accompanied by four men.

When the caravan saw Abdullah and his companions they were afraid because they had alighted so near to them, but when Ukkasha – whose head was shaved like that of a pilgrim – approached them, they recovered their confidence and said, “These are pilgrims, and we need have no fear of them.’

This took place on the last day of the sacred month Rajab [October]. Abdullah and his companions conferred among themselves: ‘If we allow these people to continue and reach sacred territory tonight, they will be safe from us; but if we attack them now, we profane the sacred month.’ And they vacillated and hesitated to attack, but at last mustered up their courage and agreed to slay as many of the Quraysh as they could, and take possession of what they had with them. So Waqid shot an arrow and killed one of the Quraysh, two others were made prisoner, and the fourth fled.

Then Abdullah, with his companions, the caravan, and the prisoners, returned to Medina , saying, One fifth part of our plunder belongs to the apostle of Allah.’ This was before Allah had made it encument on Believers to give up a fiftyh part of any booty to Him. One fifth of the caravan was set aside for the apostle of Allah, and Abdullah distributed the rest anong his companions.

When they arrived at Medina , however, the apostle said, 'I did not command you to fight in the holy month, and he walked away from the caravan and the prisoners, and refused to take anything from them. The captors were crestfallen and decided they were doomed, and their Muslim brethren too, reproved them for their deed. In Mecca , the Quraysh were saying: “Muhammad and his companions have violated the sacred month; they have shed blood in it, and taken booty, and captured prisoners.’ The Jews interpreted  the event as a bad omen for the apostle.

When speculation on the subject became widespread Allah revealed these words to His apostle: 'They will ask thee about the sacred month and the fighting. Say "To fight in the sacred month is a matter of grave import, but to obstruct the worship of Allah and not to believe in Him, to prevent men from entering the holy mosque or to drive them out of it, these are of even graver import." '

So the apostle of Allah took possession of the caravan and the prisoners. The Quraysh sent men to negotiate for the ransom of the prisoners, but the apostle replied that he could not release them until the two Emigrants who had fallen behind Abdullah to look for their camel returned, because he feared the Quraysh might have met and harmed them. 'If you have killed them, we shall kill our prisoners,' he said. But the two wanderers returned and the apostle released the prisoners, one of them making profession of Islam and remaining in Medina with Muhammad.

When Allah made plunder permissible He allowed four parts to those who had won it, and one part to Himself and to His apostle, exactly as Abdullah had done with the captured caravan.

This was the occasion when the first booty was taken by the Muslims, when the first prisoners were taken by the Muslims and when the first man was slain by the Muslims. It was eighteen months since the Emigrants had arrived in Medina .

Soon the apostle of Allah heard that Abu Sufyan ‑ whom he had missed at al‑Ushayra ‑ was returning from Syria with a large caravan of merchandise, accompanied by thirty or forty men. Then he addressed the Believers, saying: 'Go forth against this caravan; it may be that Allah will grant you plunder.' The people soon assembled, though some were fearful and others hesitated because they had not thought the apostle would really go to war.

Meanwhile, Abu Sufyan was approaching the Hijaz, gather­ing information and questioning every rider he met, lest he expose his people to danger. At last he heard: 'Muhammad has gathered his companions to attack you and your caravan.' Greatly alarmed, he sent off a messenger named Damdam to Mecca to call out the Quraysh to protect their goods and to warn them of the threat of Muhammad and his companions.

When Damdam arrived in Mecca he cut off the nose of his camel, turned its saddle back to front, and rent his own shirt, all to indicate the alarming news he brought. He shouted, '0, ye Quraysh! Your prized caravan is in danger from Muhammad. You may be too late to save it. Help! Go now!' The people hastened to prepare, exclaiming, 'Does Muhammad believe this will be as easy a victory as at Nakhla? No, this time we shall teach him otherwise!' Thus the Quraysh assembled, and not a well‑born man among them remained behind save Abu Lahab, who sent in his place a man who owed him money and who could not pay.

The apostle himself left Medina with his companions early in the month of Ramadan [December], leaving Abu Lubaba in control of affairs at Medina .

The white banner of the apostle was carried by Musab, and one black banner (The Eagle) by Ali, and another by the Helpers. There were seventy camels, which the men rode in turn. When the party arrived in al‑Safra, a village between two mountains, the apostle asked the names of the village tribes and was told they were called Banu al‑Nar [sons of fire] and Banu Huraq [sons of burning]. The apostle was uneasy and read an evil omen in the names, so he by‑passed the village and the moun­tains and travelled through a valley known as Dhafiran. Halting here, he received news that the Quraysh were on the march from Mecca to protect their caravan. He asked his people what they thought should be done and al‑Miqdad said, 'Go where Allah leads! We are with thee, and we shall not say to thee what the children of Israel said to Moses, "Thou and thy Lord may go and fight; we shall remain here!" Instead we say "Go thou and thy Lord and fight; we shall fight with you!" ' The apostle thanked him for this declaration and blessed him, and said, 'Advise me also, you men of the Helpers.' He feared the Helpers might aid him only by defending him against attack in Medina , and that they would not think it incumbent upon them to fight for him outside their own territory. But Sad answered, 'We believe in thee, and have testified that the revelation thou hast brought is true. Therefore we have made a covenant! We hear and obey thee! Go where thou wilt, we are with thee; we shall be steady in battle and true in combat. And perhaps Allah will show thee something of us which will rejoice the eye, and pro­cure the blessing of Allah.'  

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