It was called after the place it happened, on the shores of the Red Sea, near Mecca.
It was in the month of Shawwal in the first year of Hijra, corresponding to April 623 A.C. It took place in the district of Raabigh, ten miles from Al-Juhfah.
Ubaydah ibn Al-Harith ibn Al-Muttalib (may Allah be pleased with him) led the campaign with about 60 riders from the Muhajareen (Immigrants from Mecca). They met Abu Sufyan, who had 200 fighters, in the middle of Raabigh. Mistah ibn Athathah (may Allah be pleased with him) was the flag-bearer for the Muslims.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) sent the Companion Ubaydah ibn Al-Harith, leading more than 60 men from the Muhajareen, to intercept a caravan belonging to Quraish. There is a difference of opinion about who was leading the caravan: Abu Sufyan, Ikrimah ibn Abi Jahl or Makaraz ibn Hafs. It represented the first skirmishes using arrows that the Islamic conflicts experienced. However, swords were not used in these skirmishes, and the two sides did not line up to fight. Saad ibn Abi Waqqas was the first from the Muslims to throw an arrow. It was the first arrow that was thrown in Islam, according to The Prophet’s Biography written in Al-Halib. And Zubayr ibn Al-Awwam (may Allah be pleased with him) wielded the first sword in Islam.
Saad (may Allah be pleased with him) gave his companions a quiver, holding 20 arrows. Every one of them wounded a person or animal. That is, whenever any one threw any arrow, he threw it sincerely for Allah and with strength. Then the two sides parted. The disbelievers realized that the Muslims had become stronger, so the disbelievers became scared and they left defeated [related by the narrator in Al-Hallab].
According to the reports of Saad, Al-Miqdad ibn Amr, who is called Ibn Al-Aswad, and Utbah ibn Ghazwan fled from the disbelievers towards the Muslims. They had left Mecca with the disbelievers in order to reach the Muslims.
Saad said to Ubaydah (may Allah be pleased with him), “If we had followed them, we would have wound them (Quraish), and so they would have left terrified.” He continued, “However, we did not follow them, and we returned to Medinah” [Reported by Ibn Abi Sabrah from Al-Muhajir ibn Masmar].
Historians differ: were the campaigns of Hamzah and Ubaydah at the same time, or did Ubaydah’s campaign happen after Hamzah’s campaign. Ibn As-haq believed that the two flags were raised at the same time, although Ubaydah left Medinah a month after Hamzah.
Faith produces terror in the hearts of the enemy, and this is what happened with the disbelievers of Quraish. The Prophet’s wisdom in testing the ablility and determination of his Companions who were close to him was clear in such campaigns. Such wisdom was reflected in his choice of who would carry the responsibility of the campaign and also who would carry the flag. This was usually shared among a number of the most prominent believing fighters, like Saad ibn Waqqas in this campaign.
Similarly, the Prophet (peace be upon him) trusted the elderly men as much as he trusted the youth. Ubaydah ibn Al-Harith (may Allah be pleased with him) was ten years older than the Prophet (peace be upon him). And a nice strategy of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was that he usually chose as the flag-bearer one who was close to the leader of the campaign. Ubaydah and Mustah ibn Athathah immigrated to Yathrib together. Therefore, the Prophet (peace be upon him) placed them together on the battlefield in this campaign too.