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The Caravan raids refer to a series of raids which Muhammad and his companions participated in.[1] and carried out to gather intelligence or seize the trade goods of caravans financed by the Quraysh. The raids were intended to weaken the economic and in turn the offensive capabilities of Mecca by Muhammad. However many of the early converts,who were from the Quraish saw this as means of vengeance against the persecution they endured in Mecca but more so, the Meccans had sold Muslim property (which they left behind after Hijra) and invested it on their caravans.[2] In Medina's opinion, this was against Arab custom.[3] The Muslims felt that the raids were justified and that God gave them permission to defend against the Meccans' persecution of Muslims.[4][5]


The Islamic prophet Muhammad's followers suffered from poverty after fleeing persecution in Mecca and migrating with Muhammad to Medina. Their Meccan persecutors seized their wealth and belongings left behind in Mecca.[6]

Beginning in January 623, some of the Muslims resorted to the tradition of raiding the Meccan caravans that traveled along the eastern coast of the Red Sea from Mecca to Syria.[citation needed] Communal life was essential for survival in desert conditions, as people needed support against the harsh environment and lifestyle. The tribal grouping was thus encouraged by the need to act as a unit. This unity was based on the bond of kinship by blood.[Clarification needed][7] People of Arabia were either nomadic or sedentary, the former constantly traveling from one place to another seeking water and pasture for their flocks, while the latter settled and focused on trade and agriculture. The survival of nomads (or Bedouins) was also partially dependent on raiding caravans or oases; thus they saw this as no crime.[8][9]

Earliest Quran verse about fighting

According to William Montgomery Watt, the Quran verse 22:29[6] was the earliest verse commanding Muslims to fight. However, he says there was a "disinclination" among the Muslims to follow the command to fight, but they were given an incentive, after the Muslims were told that God prefers fighters to those who sit still and remain at home, and that for fighters there is a reward in paradise (Jannah).[10]

First raid

According to Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum (The Sealed Nectar), a modern Islamic hagiography of Muhammad written by the Indian Muslim author Safi ur-Rahman Mubarakpuri, Muhammad ordered the first caravan raid led by Hamza ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib (Muhammad's uncle) seven to nine months after the Hijra. A party of thirty to forty men assembled at the seacoast near al-Is, between Mecca and Medina, where Amr ibn Hishām (Abu Jahl), the leader of the caravan was camping with three hundred Meccan riders.[11][12][13][14]

Hamza met Abu Jahl there with a view to attack the caravan, but Majdi bin Amr al-Juhani, a Quraysh who was friendly to both the parties intervened between them; so, both parties separated without fighting. Hamza returned to Medina and Abu Jahl proceeded towards Mecca. Muhmmad also entrusted the first flag of Islam to Kinaz bin Husain an Ghanawi.[11][12][13][14][15][16]

Second raid

Second Raid on Meccan Caravans: Buwat
DateApril, 623 , 1 AH
LocationBatn Rabigh[11]
Result Failed raid (Enemy too far away)[12][13]
Muslims of Medina Quraish of Mecca
Commanders and leaders
Ubaydah ibn al-Harith Abu Sufyan
60-80[13] 200
Casualties and losses
Unknown (Arrows fired) Unknown (1 arrow fired)

Ubaydah ibn al-Harith was the commander of the second raid. This raid took place nine months after the Hijra, a few weeks after the first one at al-Is.[11][12][13][14]

About a month after Hamzah's unsuccessful bid to plunder, Muhammad entrusted a party of sixty Muhajirun led by Ubaydah to conduct another operation at a Quraysh caravan that was returning from Syria and protected by two hundred armed men. The leader of this caravan was Abu Sufyan ibn Harb.

The Muslim party went as far as Thanyatul-Murra, a watering place in Hejaz. No fighting took place, as the Quraysh were quite far from the place where Muslims were in the offing to attack the caravan. Nevertheless, Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas shot an arrow at the Quraysh. This is known as the first arrow of Islam.[17] Despite this surprise attack, no fighting took place and the Muslims returned empty-handed. It is believed that Ubaydah was the first to carry the banner of Islam; others say Hamzah was the first to carry the first banner .[11][13][16]

The incident is partly referenced in the Sahih al-Bukhari hadith collection:

I heard Sad saying, "I was the first amongst the 'Arabs who shot an arrow for Allah's Cause. We used to fight along with the Prophets,...

Muhammad al-BukhariSahih al-Bukhari[15][17]

Third raid

Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas was ordered to lead the third raid. His group consisted of about twenty Muhajirs. This raid was done about a month after the previous. Sa'd, with his soldiers, set up an ambush in the valley of Kharrar on the road to Mecca and waited to raid a returning Meccan caravan from Syria. But the caravan had already passed and the Muslims returned to Medina without a fight.[11][12][13][14][15]

Invasion of Waddan

The fourth raid, known as the invasion of Waddan, was the first offensive in which Muhammad took part personally with 70, mostly Muhajir,troops.[11] It is said that twelve months after moving to Medina, Muhammad himself led a caravan raid to Waddan (Al-Abwa). The aim was to intercept the caravans of the Quraysh. The raid party did not meet any Quraysh during the raid.[13][14]

But the caravan of the Banu Damrah was raided.[citation needed] Negotiations began and the two leaders signed a treaty of non-aggression. Banu Damrah pledged to not attack Muslims or side with the Quraysh; and Muhammad pledged to not attack the caravans of Banu Damrah or seize their goods.[11]

According to Muslim scholar Muhammad al-Zurqani, the provisions of the pact/treaty go as follows:

This document is from Muhammad, the messenger of Allah, concerning the Banu Darmah. In which he (Muhammad) established them safety and security in their wealth and lives. They can expect support from the Muslims, unless they oppose the religion of Allah. They are also expected to respond positively if the prophet sought their help.[15][16][18]

Buwat caravan raid (fifth raid)

The fifth raid, known as the invasion of Buwat, was also commanded by Muhammad.[13] A month after the raid at al-Abwa, he personally led 200 men including Muhajirs and Ansars to Bawat, a place on the caravan route of the Quraysh merchants. A herd of 1,500 camels, accompanied by 100 riders under the leadership of Umayyah ibn Khalaf, a Quraysh. The purpose of the raid was to plunder this rich Quraysh caravan.

No battle took place and the raid resulted in no booty. This was due the caravan taking an untrodden unknown route. Muhammad then went up to Dhat al-Saq, in the desert of al-Khabar. He prayed there and a mosque was built at the spot.[citation needed] This was the first raid where a few Ansars took part.[14][16][19] The caravan was led by 100 Quraysh and 2,500 camels were with them.[20]

Sixth raid

Two or three months after Muhammad's return from Buwat, he appointed Abu Salamah Ibn Abd al-Assad to take his place in Medina while he was away commanding another raid. Between 150 and 200 followers joined this operation to al-Ushayra, Yanbu in either the month of Jumada al-awwal or Jumada al-Thani.[13][14][20][21]

They had 30 camels that they rode upon by turns. When they arrived at al-Usharayh, they expected to raid a rich Meccan caravan heading towards Syria led by Abu Sufyan. Muhammad already had the knowledge of this caravan’s departure from Mecca and waited for about a month for this caravan to pass. But the Meccan caravan had already passed.

In this operation, Muhammad entered into an alliance with Banu Madlaj, a tribe inhabiting the vicinity of al-Ushayra. He also concluded another treaty that was made with Banu Damrah previously.[21] All those treaties established good political connections for him.[16]

Nakhla raid

Raid on Meccan Caravans, Nakhla
DateDecember 623, 2 AH
LocationNakhladisambiguation needed
  • Successful raid
  • Booty (war treasure) captured and prisoners captured
  • Muhammad condemns attack on civilians in "forbidden month" and does not accept booty
  • New Quran verse revealed, Muhammad allowed to fight in forbidden month, justifying the killing
  • Muhammad accepts booty
  • Muhammad releases prisoners for ransom[21]
Muslims of Medina Quraysh of Mecca
Commanders and leaders
Abdallah Jahsh Amr al-Hadrami(killed)
8-12 4
Casualties and losses
0 1 killed
(2 Captured)

The Nakhla raid was the seventh caravan raid and the first successful raid against the Meccans. Abd-Allah ibn Jahsh was the commander.[20][22][23]

It took place in the month of Rajab, 2 A.H. (December 623) Muhammad despatched Abd-Allah ibn Jahsh to Nakhlah at the head of 12 emigrants with six camels.[14][16][20][24]

After his return from the first Badr encounter (invasion of Safwan), Muhammad sent Abd-Allah ibn Jahsh in Rajab with 8 or 12 on a fact-finding operation.

Abd-Allah ibn Jahsh was a maternal cousin of Muhammad. He took along with him Abu Hudhayfa ibn 'Utba, Ukkash ibn Mihsan, Utba b. Ghazwan, Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas, Amir ibn Rabia, Waqid ibn Abdullah and Khalid ibn al-Bukayr.

One of Abd-Allah ibn Jahsh’s men, Ukkash ibn Mihsan, was shaven in head to hide the real purpose of their journey and to give the Quraysh the impression of lesser Hajj (Umrah); for it was the month (Rajab) when hostilities were forbidden.

Nevertheless, after much deliberation, the group did not want this rich caravan to escape. So they decided to take a large booty.

While they (the Quraysh) were busy preparing food, the Muslims attacked. At last they agreed to engage with them in fighting. In the short battle that ensued, Waqid ibn Abdullah killed Amr ibn Hadrami, the leader of the Quraysh caravan, with an arrow. Nawfal ibn Abdullah escaped. The Muslims took Uthman ibn Abdullah and al-Hakam ibn Kaysan as prisoners. Abd-Allah ibn Jahsh returned to Medina with the booty and with the two captured Quraysh men. The followers planned to give one-fifth of the booty to Muhammad.

The Quraysh also spread the news of the raid and the killing by the Muslims in the sacred month. Because of the timing, and because the attack was carried out without his sanction, Muhammad was furious about what had happened. He rebuked them (the Muslims) for fighting in the sacred month, saying:

I did not instruct you to fight in the sacred month[20][24]

Muhammad initially disapproved of that act and suspended any action as regards the camels and the two captives on account of the prohibited months. The Quraysh, on their part, exploited this golden opportunity to castigate the Muslims and accuse them of violating what is divinely inviolable. This idle talk brought about a painful headache to Muhammad's Companions, until at last they were relieved when Muhammad had a verse revealed to him regarding fighting in the sacred months:[20]

They ask thee concerning fighting in the Prohibited Month. Say: "Fighting therein is a grave (offence); but graver is it in the sight of Allah to prevent access to the path of Allah, to deny Him, to prevent access to the Sacred Mosque, and drive out its members." Tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter. Nor will they cease fighting you until they turn you back from your faith if they can. And if any of you Turn back from their faith and die in unbelief, their works will bear no fruit in this life and in the Hereafter; they will be companions of the Fire and will abide therein.

—Quran, sura 2 (Al-Baqara), ayah 217[25]

According to Saifur Rahman al-Mubarakpuri, who describes the implications of this verse:

The Words of Allâh were quite clear and said that the tumult created by the polytheists was groundless. The sacred inviolable sanctities had been repeatedly violated in the long process of fighting Islam and persecuting its adherents(Here he refers to Persecuting Muslims in Mecca on these months) . The wealth of the Muslims as well as their homes had already been violated and their Prophet [pbuh] had been the target of repeated attempts on his life. In short,that sort of propaganda could deservedly be described as impudence and prostitution. This has been a resume of pre-Badr platoons and invasions. None of them witnessed any sort of looting property or killing people except when the polytheists had committed such crimes under the leadership of Karz bin Jabir Al-Fahri. It was, in fact, the polytheists who had initiated such acts. No wonder, for such ill-behavior is immanent in their natural disposition."[26]

Since this took place during a sacred month, Muhammad was furious about what had happened and refused to take his share from the raid. He freed the prisoners upon ransom and paid blood money for the killed man. Muslims in Medina also reproached the raiders.[20][21] The Quraysh spread the news of the raid and the killing by the Muslims in the sacred month. Later, Muhammad said that God revealed the Quranic verse: "Tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter.",[25] giving the Muslims permission to retaliate regardless of months if there was aggression against them or they or their allies were being oppressed.

Soon after his release, al-Hakam bin Kaysan, one of the two prisoners captured, became a Muslim.[16][19][27] Mubarakpuri mentions that the Quran verse 47:20[28] was also sent down, disparaging the hypocrites and cowards who are scared of fighting, and exhorted Muslims to fight.[29]

Nejd caravan raid (8th raid)

The Nejd Caravan Raid took place in Jumad at Thaniya, in the year 3 A.H. The Meccan polytheists lived on trade and as summer approached, it was time for the Meccans to leave for Syria for their seasonal trade business.

After receiving intelligence, Zayd ibn Harithah went after the caravan (after receiving orders from Muhammad), and they successfully raided it and captured 100,000 Dirham's worth of booty. Safan (the caravan leader) and his guards fled away. As a result, the Muslims foiled the Quraysh plan to find another trade route.[14][30]

Expedition of Zaid ibn Haritha in Al-Is (9th raid)

Expedition of Zaid ibn Haritha (Al-Is)
DateSeptember 627AD, 5th month 6AH
Commanders and leaders
Zaid ibn Haritha Abu al As
170 horsemen Unknown
Casualties and losses
0 [31] Unknown number captured

The expedition of Zaid ibn Haritha in al-Is took place in September, 627 AD, 5th month of 6 AH of the Islamic calendar.[14]

Zaid bin Haritha, at the head of a 170 horsemen, set out to a place called Al-‘Ais, intercepted a caravan of Quraish led by Abu al-Aas ibn al-Rabee, Muhammad's son-in-law (Zainab bint Muhammad's husband) and captured their camels as booty.[31][32]

Abu al-Aas was released at the insistence of Muhammad's daughter Zainab bint Muhammad.[31][32] The whole caravan, including a large store of silver was captured and some of those who guarded it, taken prisoners.[33]

Expedition of Abu Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah (10th raid)

Thye expedition of Abu Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah,[34] also known as the "Expedition of Fish"[35] and "Invasion of al-Khabt",[36] took place in October 629 AD, 8 AH, 7th month, of the Islamic calendar,[34] or according to some scholars in 7 AH, 4th month.[14][37]

Muhammad sent Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah along with 300 men to attack and chastise the tribe of Juhaynah at al-Khabat, on the seacoast, five nights journey from Medina. He was sent to observe a Quraysh caravan. There was no fighting as the enemy fled after they heard of the arrival.[36]

This expedition is famous because the Muslims were short of supplies and food was running out, and they were fighting for survival, they suffered from famine. In the end, the Muslims found a sperm whale that came ashore and ate it for twenty days. Ibn Hisham mentions the incident in detail. This is why its also known as the 'expedition of fish.' They brought some of the stale meat to Muhammad and he ate it too.[37][38]

Expedition of Abu Qatadah ibn Rab'i al-Ansari, Batn Edam (11th raid)

The expedition of Abu Qatadah ibn Rab'i al-Ansari,[39] to Batn Edam (also spelt Idam) took place in November 629 AD, 8 AH, 8th month, of the Islamic calendar[14]

Muhammad was planning on attacking Mecca, with view of securing a complete news black-out concerning his military intentions, then Muhammad despatched an 8 man platoon under the leadership of Abu Qatadah bin Rab‘i in the direction of Edam, a short distance from Medina, in Ramadan 8 A.H., in order to divert the attention of people from his main target of attacking Mecca, with which he was pre-occupied.[40]

According to Ibn Sa'd, Ibn Hisham, and many Sunni hadith collections,[41] a Bedouin caravan passed by and they greeted the Muslims with Assalamu Alaikum. But Abu Qatadah attacked the caravan anyway and killed the people. They returned to Muhammad with the flock they captured and told him the story.

Muhammad then had revealed to him the verse 4:94.[42][43] Ibn Kathir interprets this as, God asking Muslims to be more careful when killing Muslims accidentally.[42]

Permission to fight

Up to this point the Muhammad told people to endure insults and abuse.[Clarification needed] Because of being persecuted and economically-uprooted by their Meccan persecutors, Muhammad claimed that God gave him permission to fight the Meccans.

The permission to fight was given in many stages during Muhammad's prophetic mission:

  • At first, the Muslims were only allowed to fight the Meccan Quraysh, because they were the first to oppress the Muslims in Mecca. Muslims were allowed to seize their goods, but not those tribes which the Muhammad made a treaty with.
  • Then Muhammad and the Muslims were allowed to fight pagan tribes that allied with the Quraysh.
  • Then Muhammad and the Muslims were allowed to fight the Jewish tribes of Medina, when these tribes violated the Constitution of Medina and their pact with the Muslims.
  • Subsequently, Muhammad and the Muslims were allowed to fight the "People of the Book" (Christian and Jews). If the People of the Book paid a poll tax (jizya), then the Muslims were forbidden to fight them.
  • Muslims were required to make peace with any polytheist, Jews or Christians who embraced Islam, and were required to embrace them as fellow Muslims.[44]

See also


  1. Montgomery Watt, William (21 Jan 2010). Muhammad: prophet and statesman. Oxford University Press, 1974. p. 105. ISBN 978-0-19-881078-0. 
  2. Gabriel, Richard A. (2008). "Muhammad, Islam's first great general". University of Oklahoma Press. p. 73. ISBN 978-0-8061-3860-2. 
  3. Quran 22:39–40.
    "To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight), because they are wronged;- and verily, Allah is most powerful for their aid;-
    (They are) those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right,- (for no cause) except that they say, "our Lord is Allah". Did not Allah check one set of people by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure. Allah will certainly aid those who aid his (cause);- for verily Allah is full of Strength, Exalted in Might, (able to enforce His Will)." and also in sura Quran 2:190
    "Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors."
  4. Welch, Muhammad, Encyclopedia of Islam
  5. See:
    • Watt (1964) p. 76;
    • Peters (1999) p. 172
    • Michael Cook, Muhammad. In Founders of Faith, Oxford University Press, 1986, page 309.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Quran 22:29
  7. Watt (1953), pp. 16-18
  8. Loyal Rue, Religion Is Not about God: How Spiritual Traditions Nurture Our Biological,2005, p.224
  9. John Esposito, Islam, Expanded edition, Oxford University Press, p.4-5
  10. Watt, W. Montgomery (1956). Muhammad at Medina. Oxford University Press. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-19-577307-1. "What appears to be the earliest passage implies that the Emigrants wanted to fight, since it speaks of God permitting them to do so....disinclination to obey this command, for there are several references to the un-willingness of many to fight. 1 A fresh incentive is therefore given; the Muslims are told that God prefers fighters to those who sit still, that is, remain inactive at home; for the fighters there is a 'mighty hire', a reward in Paradise."  (free online)
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 11.7 Mubarakpuri, The Sealed Nectar (Free Version), p. 127.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Mubarakpuri, When the Moon Split, p. 147.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 13.6 13.7 13.8 13.9 Haykal, Husayn (1976). "The Life of Muhammad". Islamic Book Trust. pp. 217–218. ISBN 978-983-9154-17-7. 
  14. 14.00 14.01 14.02 14.03 14.04 14.05 14.06 14.07 14.08 14.09 14.10 14.11 14.12 Hawarey, Dr. Mosab (2010) (in Arabic). The Journey of Prophecy; Days of Peace and War. Islamic Book Trust.  Book contains a list of battles of Muhammad in Arabic. English version here
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Muḥammad Ibn ʻAbd al-Wahhāb, Mukhtaṣar zād al-maʻād, p. 345.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 16.6 Witness Pioneer "Pre-Badr Missions and Invasions"
  17. 17.0 17.1 Sahih al-Bukhari, 5:57:74
  18. Mubarakpuri, The Sealed Nectar: Biography of the Noble Prophet, p.244. (see footnote)
  19. 19.0 19.1 Muḥammad Ibn ʻAbd al-Wahhāb, Mukhtaṣar zād al-maʻād, p. 346.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 20.5 20.6 Mubarakpuri, The Sealed Nectar (Free Version), p. 128
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 Mubarakpuri, When the Moon Split, p. 148.
  22. Haykal, Husayn (1976). "The Life of Muhammad". Islamic Book Trust. p. 218. ISBN 978-983-9154-17-7. 
  23. "Nakhla Raid". 2008. 
  24. 24.0 24.1 "Nakhla Raid Quran Verse". 2008. 
  25. 25.0 25.1 Quran 2:217
  26. Mubarakpuri, The Sealed Nectar, p.129
  27. Tafsir ibn Kathir, on 2:217, free online text version
  28. Quran 47:20
  29. Mubarakpuri, The Sealed Nectar (Free Version), p. 130
  30. Mubarakpuri, The Sealed Nectar (Free Version), p. 153
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 31.3 "Zaid bin Haritha, in Jumada Al-Ula 6 Hijri",
  32. 32.0 32.1 32.2 Mubarakpuri, The Sealed Nectar (Free Version), p. 205
  33. Muir, The life of Mahomet and history of Islam to the era of the Hegira, Volume 4, p. 6.
  34. 34.0 34.1 Abu Khalil, Atlas of the Prophet's biography: places, nations, landmarks, p. 218.
  35. Muir, The life of Mahomet and history of Islam to the era of the Hegira, Volume 4, p. 104.
  36. 36.0 36.1 "The invasion of Al-Khabt",
  37. 37.0 37.1 Mubarakpuri, The Sealed Nectar (Free Version), p. 206
  38. Muir, The life of Mahomet and history of Islam to the era of the Hegira, Volume 4, p. 106.
  39. Abu Khalil, Atlas of the Prophet’s biography: places, nations, landmarks, p. 218.
  40. "Preparations for the Attack on Makkah",
  41. Sahih Muslim, 43:7176
  42. 42.0 42.1 Tafsir ibn Kathir Juz, Pg 94, By Ibn Kathir, Translation by Muhammad Saed Abdul-Rahman
  43. Say not to anyone who greets you: "You are not a believer;, Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Text Version
  44. Mubarakpuri, When the Moon Split, p. 145.

Notes (main sources used)

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