Dividing the spoils

Sirat p. 307
Muhammad ordered that everything that had been collected in the camp should be brought together, and the Muslims quarrelled over it. Quarrels over booty is a recurring event among the early Muslims. Nothing surprising here. Allah took it out of their hands and gave it to Muhammad, and he divided it equally among the Muslims. At this time, equal distribution was the norm. Later the owners of horses and camels would get two extra shares, and even later the newly-converted Muslims would get the lions share of the booty to reward their conversion. Sura 8 (aptly named “The Spoils of War”) was revealed as a response to the quarrels. While we will not include the entire Sura here, nor comment on it, it is recommended reading in connection with the battle of Badr. We note that Allah, as always, is on the side of Muhammad when problems arise. Abu Usayd al-Saidi said: “I got a sword belonging to B. Aidh the Makhzumites which was called al-Marzuban, and when the messenger ordered everyone to turn in what they had taken, I came and threw it into the heap of spoils. Now the messenger never held back anything he was asked for, and al-Arqam knew this and asked him for it, and the messenger gave it to him.” It’s tricky to divy up the spoils. Abu Usayd was a good Muslim and threw in his new-found sword, only to see it given to the first person asking for it. Incidentically, we see in other places that Muhammad was perfectly capable of rejecting requests for particular pieces of booty. But that was later, when there were more Muslims and relatively less booty.

The homecoming

Sirat p. 308
Muhammad marched until he reached Rauha, when the Muslims met him congratulating him and the Muslims on the victory Allah had given him. Salama b. Salama said: “What are you congratulating us about? By Allah, we only met some bald old women like the sacrificial camels who are hobbled, and we slaughtered them!” While calling the Meccan men ‘women’ is demeaning, Salama has a point. The people they had killed were family men, merchants and caravan runners. Head of their clans and families, hardly fighters. It was an easy victory. Muhammad smiled and said: “But, nephew, those were the chiefs.” Muhammad knew the significance of this victory. By taking out the most experienced and respected leaders of the Meccan families, he had dealt them a significant blow, weakening their future prospects.


Sirat p. 308
Uqba had been captured by Abdulla b. Salima. When Muhammad ordered him to be killed, Uqba said: “But who will look after my children, Oh Muhammad?” “Hell”, he said, and Asim b. Thabit killed him according to what Abu Ubayda told me. No comment needed.

Wailing and veils

Sirat p. 309
The first to come to Mecca with news of the disaster was al-Haysuman, and, when they asked for news, he enumerated all the Quraysh chiefs who had been killed. Safwan, who was sittingin the hijr said: “This fellow is out of his mind. Ask him about me.” So they said: “What happened to Safwan b. Umayya?” He answered: “There he is sitting in the hirj, and by Allah, I saw his father and his brother when they were killed.” There is no way around it. The disaster is real, in all its blood-soaked detail. The prisoners were brought in when Sauda d. Zama’a, a wife of Muhammad, was with the family of Afra when they were bewailing Auf and Muawwidh, Afra’s sons, this being before the veil was imposed on them. Apart from the wailing over the dead, the comment on the veil is interesting. It has been debated wether the Islamic veil is voluntary or mandatory. This hadith indicates that it was percieved as being mandatory, and that it was a significant shift from the previous Arab tradition.

Sorrow and prisoners

Sirat p. 311
As the two prophetic dreams by the Quraysh had come true in the worst imaginable way, there was much sorrow after the battle of Badr. Several pages are dedicated to the aftermath, including the ransom of prisoners. Being businessmen to their fingertips, wailing is banned and sending messengers to the Muslims suspended, in order that Muhammad and his companions should not demand too excessive ransoms. A woman is heard wailing over her lost camel, which prompts al-Aswads to bring out this poetry: Does she weep because she has lost a camel? And does this keep her awake all night? Weep not over a young camel But over Badr where hopes were dashed to the ground. Over Badr the finest of the sons of Husays And Makhzum and the clan of Abul-Walid. Weep if you must over Aqil Weep for Harith the lion of lions, Weep unweariedly for them all, For Abu Hakima had no peer. Now they are dead, men bear rule Who but for Badr would be of little account The Quraysh, like Muhammad, were aware that the real loss was that the best of their leader were now all gone, and the second-rate persons would have to step up. Much more exchange and redeeming of prisoners follows. Muhammad and the Muslims may not have capture the caravan, but the capture of noblemen at Badr filled up their coffers instead. While he was held prisoner in Medina, Sad b. al-Numan went forth on pilgrimage accompanied by a young wife of his. He was an old man and a Muslim who had sheep in al-Naqi. An interesting piece. Sad was a Muslim, yet went on pilgrimage to the Ka’aba, which was in the hands of the non-Muslim Quraysh. Yet, it does make sense. Both Muslims and non-Muslims were worshipping Allah. Apparently, the real difference was of accepting Muhammad as the messenger of Allah or not. He left that place on pilgrimage without fear of any untoward events, never thinking that he would be detained in Mecca, as he came as a pilgrim, for he knew that the Quraysh did not usually interfere with pilgrims, but treated them well. Confusing prisoner/not prisoner details aside, this is interesting, too. We know that Muhammad condemned the Quraysh for keeping people from the sacred mosque (the Ka’aba). Yet, here we see a Muslim going on pilgrimage (a ritual shared between Muslims and non-Muslims), fully expecting to be admitted and treated well. For that was how the Quraysh were percieved. Apparently, the Quraysh were opposing Muhammad in particular, not people in general.


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