Military career of Muhammad

Part of a series on
  • Muhammad portal
  • Islam portal

The military career of Muhammad lasted for the final ten years of his life when he served as the leader of the ummah, the head of state at Medina.


Muhammad spent his last ten years, from 622 to 632, as the leader of Medina in a state of war with Mecca. Muhammad and his Companions had earlier migrated from Mecca to Medina in what is known as the Hijra. Through sieges and diplomacy, Muhammad and his followers allied with or subdued some of the tribes and cities of the Arabian peninsula in their struggle to overcome the powerful Banu Quraish of Mecca.

They also sent out parties against Arabic-speaking communities ruled under the Roman Empire. Muhammad was believed by the Muslims to be divinely chosen to spread Islam in the world, and Muhammad ultimately permitted warfare as one aspect of this struggle.[1] After initially refusing to accede to requests by his followers to fight the Meccans for continued persecution and provocation, he eventually proclaimed the revelations of the Quran:

"Permission to fight is given to those who are fought against because they have been wronged -truly Allah has the power to come to their support- those who were expelled from their homes without any right, merely for saying, 'Our Lord is Allah'..." (Quran, 22:39-40)"

After the first battle of Badr against the Quraysh, he is reported as having said "We have returned from the lesser Jihad to the greater Jihad (i.e. the struggle against the evil of one's soul)."[2] John Esposito writes that Muhammad's use of warfare in general was not alien, neither to Arab custom nor to that of the Hebrew prophets, as both believed that God had sanctioned battle with the enemies of the Lord.[3]

Lead up to armed conflict

Upon arrival in Medina he set about the establishment of a pact known as the Constitution of Medina, to regulate the matters of governance of the city, as well as the extent and nature of inter-community relations, and signatories to it included the Muslims, the Ansar and the various Jewish tribes of Medina.[4]

Significant clauses of the constitution included the mutual assistance of each other if one signatory were to be attacked by a third party, the resolution that the Muslims would profess their religion and the Jews theirs, as well as the appointment of Muhammad as the leader of the state.[5]

Muslims who did not migrate were subject to increased persecution.[6] And the threat to the life of both the Ansar and the Muhajireen was such that they were reported as having to sleep by their weapons all night.[7] ‘Abdullah bin Ubay bin Salul, who was the Madinan chief of the tribes ‘Aws and Khazraj and became a Muslim upon Muhammad's arrival, however the sincerity of him being a Muslim is doubted and he was labeled a hypocrite. [8]

Sa'd ibn Mua'dh, an Ansar, went to Mecca to learn how to perform the Umrah and there was accosted by Abu Jahl at the Kaaba who threatened he would kill him, had he not been in the company of Omaiya bin Khalaf. Sa‘d then challenged him to commit any such folly if he wanted to court a risk to the Meccan trading caravans.[9]

As tensions escalated the Muslims began to take defensive measures such as stationing guards around Muhammad and sending out reconnaissance patrols.[8]

Raids on Meccan caravans

The Caravan raids refer to a series of raids which Muhammad and his Companions participated in. The raids were generally offensive[10] and carried out to gather intelligence or seize the trade goods of Caravans financed by the Quraysh, (such retaliation was explained as being legitimate by saying many Muslims possessions and wealth left behind when they migrated from Mecca were stolen).[11][12] The Muslims declared that the raids were justified and that God gave them permission to defend against the Meccans' persecution of Muslims.[13][14]

Muslim alliance versus Meccan alliance

With the help of Banu Nadir, the exiled Jewish tribe from Medina, Abu Sufyan, the military leader of the Quraysh mustered a force of 10,000 men. Muhammad was able to prepare a force of about 3,000 men. He had however adopted a new form of defense, unknown in Arabia at that time: Muslims had dug trenches wherever Medina lay open to cavalry attack. The idea is credited to a Persian convert to Islam, Salman. The siege of Medina began on 31 March 627 and lasted for two weeks.[15] Abu Sufyan's troops were unprepared for the fortifications they were confronted with, and after an ineffectual siege, the coalition decided to go home.[16] The Qur'an discusses this battle in verses 9-27 of sura 33, Al-Ahzab.[17][18]

During the Battle of the Trench, the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza who were located at the south of Medina were charged with treachery. After the retreat of the coalition, Muslims besieged Banu Qurayza, the remaining major Jewish tribe in Medina. The Banu Qurayza surrendered and all the men, apart from a few who converted to Islam, while all the women and children were enslaved.[19][20] In dealing with Muhammad's treatment of the Jews of Medina, aside from political explanations, western historians and biographers have explained it as "the punishment of the Medina Jews, who were invited to convert and refused, perfectly exemplify the Quran's tales of what happened to those who rejected the prophets of old."[21] F. Peters adds that Muhammad was possibly emboldened by his military successes and also wanted to push his advantage. Economical motivations according to Peters also existed since the poorness of the Meccan migrants was a source of concern for Muhammad.[22] Peters argues that Muhammad's treatment of the Jews of Medina was "quite extraordinary" and is "quite at odds with Muhammad's treatment of the Jews he encountered outside Medina."[23] According to Welch, Muhammad's treatment of the three major Jewish tribes brought Muhammad closer to his goal of organizing a community strictly on a religious basis.[24]


By old custom, during the months of pilgrimage, tribal hostilities stopped and all were free to visit Mecca. In March 628, Muhammad put on the garb of a pilgrim and taking a force and camels for sacrifice, set out for Mecca.[25] According to the early chronicler Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad took 700 men (Guillaume 1955, p. 500). According to Watt, Muhammad took 1400 to 1600 men (Watt 1957, p. 46).

The Meccans did not accept the Muslim professions of peaceful intent and sent out an armed party against them. The Muslims evaded them by taking a side route through the hills around Mecca, and then camped outside Mecca, at Hudaybiya. Ibn Ishaq describes a tense period of embassies and counter-embassies, including a bold foray by Uthman ibn Affan into the city of Mecca, where he was temporarily held as a hostage. The Meccans told the Muslims that Uthman had been killed and open warfare seemed imminent.

Then the situation shifted radically. Uthman was revealed to be alive, and the Meccans expressed their willingness to negotiate a truce. Some elements wanted a confrontation, but Muhammad held out for a peaceful resolution.

The treaty of Hudaybiyyah committed both sides to a ten-year truce. The Muslims were to be allowed to return the next year, to perform the pilgrimage.

Muslim alliance expands

Free of the Meccan threat, the Muslims expanded their activities against other oases and tribes. They conquered the rich oasis of Khaybar (see Battle of Khaybar) and sent raiding parties against the Ghatafan, Murrah, Sulaym, and Hawaizin (Watt 1957 pp. 52–53).

Muslims conquer Makkah

Less than two years after the truce of Hudaybiyyah, the truce was broken by a squabble between tribes allied to the Makkans (Meccans) and Medinans. There had long been bad blood between the Khuza'ah and the Banu Bakr bin Abd Manat, and the two groups lined up on opposite sides, the Khuza'ah with the Muslims and the Banu Bakr with the Makkans . Watt (p. 62) says that some of the Quraysh helped the Banu Bakr ambush the Khuza'ah.

Shortly afterwards, a Muslim force of 10,000 men headed for Makkah.They camped outside Makkah and the usual round of emissaries and negotiations began. Apparently Abu Sufyan had negotiated, then or earlier, a promise that he and those under him would not be attacked if they surrendered peacefully. A few Makkans from the Makhzum faction, prepared to resist. The Muslims conquered Makkah successfully

On or near January 11, 630, Muhammad sent four columns of troops into Makkah. Only one column met any resistance. Twenty-eight Makkans were killed and the rest of those opposing the Muslim entry fled. The remaining Makkans surrendered to Muhammad. Some of the Makkans, even those who had been notable for their opposition to Islam, were spared. [26] Ten people were ordered to be killed: Ikrimah ibn Abi-Jahl, Abdullah ibn Saad ibn Abi Sarh, Habbar bin Aswad, Miqyas Subabah Laythi, Huwairath bin Nuqayd, Abdullah Hilal and four women who had been guilty of murder or other offences or had sparked off the war and disrupted the peace.

The Kaaba was cleansed of all the idols of Arabian gods, such as Hubal, which were placed in it and the area was established as a Muslim sanctuary.[27] While destroying each idol, Muhammad recited Quran 17:81 which says "Truth has arrived and falsehood has perished for falsehood is by its nature bound to perish".[28][29] However he ordered an icon of Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus which was in the Ka'aba not to be destroyed.{} According to Islamic tradition, the Kaaba was built by Adam as a place of worship, and then later reconstructed by Abraham and Ishmael.



The sum total of all casualties on all sides in all the battles of Muhammad might be more or less 1,000. A contemporary Islamic scholar, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, says that "during the 23-years in which this revolution was completed, 80 military expeditions took place. The Prophet, however, only participated in some 27 of them, and an even smaller number of expeditions actually involved any fighting. 259 Muslims and 759 non-Muslims died in these battles – a total of 1018 dead."[30]


His efforts led to the unification of the Arabian peninsula.


Muslim View

Javed Ahmed Ghamidi writes in Mizan that there are certain directives of the Qur’an pertaining to war which were specific only to Muhammad against Divinely specified peoples of his times (the polytheists and the Israelites and Nazarites of Arabia and some other Jews, Christians, et al.) as a form of Divine punishment—for they had persistently denied the truth of Muhammad's mission even after it had been made conclusively evident to them by Allah through Muhammad, and asked the polytheists of Arabia for submission to Islam as a condition for exoneration and the others for jizya and submission to the political authority of the Muslims for military protection as the dhimmis of the Muslims. Therefore, after Muhammad and his companions, there is no concept in Islam obliging Muslims to wage war for propagation or implementation of Islam, hence now, the only valid reason for war is to end oppression when all other measures have failed. (jihad)[1][31]

See also


  1. 1 2 Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, Mizan, Chapter:The Islamic Law of Jihad, Dar ul-Ishraq, 2001. OCLC: 52901690
  2. BBC Article - Religion & Ethics Islam, last accessed 23 September 2006. The authenticity of this quote is the focus of some argument, however it is quite widely reported and of significant influence among Sufi's.
  3. John Esposito(2005), Islam: The Straight Path, p.15
  4. Ibn Hisham, as-Seerat an-Nabawiyyah, Vol. I p. 501.
  5. al-Mubarakpuri (2002) p.230
  6. al-Mubarakpuri (2002)
  7. "When the Holy Prophet and his Companions came to Madina, and the helpers gave them shelter, all the Arabs combined to fight them. The Companions had to sleep by their weapons, till the morning" (Hakim and Darimi, quoted in Shibli's Sirat an-Nabi, p. 308)
  8. 1 2 al-Mubarakpuri
  9. Sahih Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari, 5:59:286
  10. Montgomery Watt, William (21 January 2010). Muhammad: prophet and statesman. Oxford University Press, 1974. p. 105. ISBN 978-0-19-881078-0.
  11. Mubarakpuri, When the Moon Split, p. 146.
  12. Gabriel, Richard A. (2008), Muhammad, Islam's first general, University of Oklahoma Press, p. 73, ISBN 978-0-8061-3860-2
  13. Welch, Muhammad, Encyclopedia of Islam
  14. See:
    • Watt (1964) p. 76;
    • Peters (1999) p. 172
    • Michael Cook, Muhammad. In Founders of Faith, Oxford University Press, 1986, page 309.
  15. Watt (1956), p. 36, 37
  16. Rodinson (2002), pp. 209–211.
  17. Quran 33:9–27
  18. Uri Rubin, Quraysh, Encyclopaedia of the Qur'an
  19. Peterson, Muhammad: the prophet of God, p. 126
  20. Tariq Ramadan, In the Footsteps of the Prophet, Oxford University Press, p. 141
  21. Francis Edward Peters (2003), p. 77
  22. F.E.Peters (2003), pp. 76–8.
  23. Francis Edward Peters (2003), p. 194.
  24. Alford Welch, Muhammad, Encyclopedia of Islam
  26. The Message by Ayatullah Ja'far Subhani, chapter 48 referencing Sirah by Ibn Hisham, vol. II, page 409.
  27. Karen Armstrong (2000,2002). Islam: A Short History. p. 11. ISBN 0-8129-6618-X. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  28. Islam, iconography and the Taliban Archived 2008-03-02 at the Wayback Machine.
  29. Conquest of Makkah Archived 2009-02-01 at the Wayback Machine. - USC MSA
  30. Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, Muhammad: A Prophet for All Humanity, goodword (2000), p. 132
  31. Misplaced Directives, Renaissance Archived 2006-08-13 at the Wayback Machine., Al-Mawrid Institute, Vol. 12, No. 3, March 2002."Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-11-15. Retrieved 2006-10-05.


  • Donner, Fred, The Early Islamic Conquests, Princeton University Press, 1981
  • Guillaume, A., The Life of Muhammad, Oxford University Press, 1955
  • Rodgers, Russ. The Generalship of Muhammad: Battles and Campaigns of the Prophet of Allah (University Press of Florida; 2012) 317 pages
  • Watt, Montgomery, Muhammad at Medina, Oxford University Press, 1957
  • al-Mubarakpuri, Saif-ur-Rahman (2002). al-Raheeq al-Makhtoom, "The Sealed Nectar". Islamic University of Medina. Riyadh: Darussalam publishers. ISBN 1-59144-071-8
  • Al-Quran Alkareem.

Further reading

  • Gabriel, Richard A. (2007). Muhammad: Islam's First Great General. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0806138602. 
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.