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Saif Al-Bahr campaign…Divine permission to raise the word of truth

Saif Al-Bahr campaign…Divine permission to raise the word of truth

The reason it was called Saif Al-Bahr campaign

The campaign is associated with the location on the shore of the Red Sea where a large Quraishi caravan was travelling towards Mecca, and where there was a battle between the Muslims and disbelievers.

Where and when was the campaign of Seif Al-Bahr?

Seif Al-Bahr is on the sea shore near Juhaynah in the Arabian peninsula. The campaign was launched on the 3rd of Ramadan in the first year after Hijra, corresponding to 623 AC.

Reasons for the Seif Al-Bahr campaign

It was the practical response to the divine permission to fight to stop the oppression of the disbelieving enemies, make the word of Allah uppermost through these campaigns, and to ensure the call will be able to spread. It also aimed at restoring the rights of the Muslims that the Quraish oppressively took from them in Mecca, and show strength and power after the stage of weakness. The Qur’anic ayah in which fighting was made permissible is, {Permission (to fight) has been granted to those against whom war has been waged because they have been treated unjustly, and Allah is certainly able to help them} [Surah Al-Hajj: 39].

Who was the leader and the flag-bearer in the Seif Al-Bahr campaign?

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) assigned his uncle Hamzah ibn AbdulMuttalib (may Allah be pleased with him) as the leader of this campaign, and made Abu Murthad Kanaz ibn Hasayn Al-Ghanawi (may Allah be pleased with him) the flag-bearer. It was the first flag in Islam, and the phrase “There is no god but Allah” was written on it.

How many people participated in the Seif Al-Bahr campaign?

hTe Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) sent 30 men from the Muhajareen to intercept the Quraishi caravan (of camels and mules carrying food and other goods) coming from Ash-Sham. Abu Jahl was among the caravan, along with a group of 130 men, and it has been said 300 men.

The events of the Seif Al-Bahr campaign

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) sent his uncle Hamza with a number of Companions from the Muhajareen. The Ansar did not go out to fight before the major battle of Badr. The Muhajareen stood up to fight during the Seif Al-Bahr campaign, but they did not proceed as they saw Majdi ibn Amr Al-Juhani, who had entered a treaty with both sides, on the battlefield. They agreed to follow his call to respect the treaty, and left. As a result, no fighting occurred.  

When Hamza returned to the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and told him what had happened, the Messenger of Allah praised what Majdi had done, saying, <He is blessed>, and he gave gifts of clothes to those who came with him (Majdi), as a form of respect to him [The Prophet’s Biography from Al-Hallab].  

During this time, Quraish did not stop trying to ambush the Muslims, and they threatened the leader of the Ansar, Ibn Abu Salul, that if he continued to harbor the Muslims, they would take their women and enter Medinah to kill the men. Ibn Abu Salul would have complied with the wishes of Quraish were it not for the prudence of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) who reminded the Ibn Abu Salul’s followers of the brotherhood between them. Therefore, they turned away from their leader. But the threats of Quraish continued. One example of such oppression is when Umayah ibn Khalif caught the Companion Saad ibn Muadth (may Allah be pleased with him) when he left Medinah to perform Umrah in Mecca.

Then Quraish sent a message to the Muslims, saying, “Do not think that you have escaped us by going to Yathrib. We will come to you, kill you, and destroy the green crops in your city.”

This made the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) sure of Quraish’s plots and evil plans. For this reason, he used to stay awake at night, or only sleep if a guard was protecting him. One of his guards was Saad ibn Abi Waqqas (may Allah be pleased with him). This was the usual state of the Muslims, according to the books on the Prophet’s biography; they used to sleep with their weapons beside them, for fear of the evil plans of Quraish.

It was a wise move for the Muslims to control Quraish’s trade route from Mecca to Ash-Sham. They chose two techniques to enable this control—as mentioned in The Sealed Nectar. The first was to make treaties of alliance and non-agression with neighbouring tribes, such as Juhaynah, and also treaties with the Jews, and the second step was to send campaigns that took the form of reconnaissance patrols. This was for the disbelievers and Jews in Medinah as well as the Arab Bedouins living nearby to understand that the Muslims were strong, following Allah’s saying, {…whereby you may strike terror into the enemies of Allah and your enemies as well, and others besides them} [Surah Al-Anfal: 60]. And according to Sheikh Muhammed Ghazaly in his book, The Wisdom of Events in the Prophet’s Biography, this was for the hypocrites who haboured hatred of Islam and the Muslims in their hearts, and the highway robbers in the desert who wanted to attack Medinah.

Fighting to make the word of Allah uppermost… and the ethics of fighting

It is unfortunate that the orientalists portrayed these campaigns as a kind of banditry, which is contrary to the truth. This is because the Muslims patiently withstood harm for 14 years at the beginning of the call. This period was a stage of preparing the Muslims before they entered any battle in order for them to be steadfast on the battlefield. Allah says, {Bear with them and say, "Peace to you!" Soon they shall know} [Surah Az-Zukhruf: 89].

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) reminded the Companion Khabbab ibn Al-Arat (may Allah be pleased with him), when he complained about the severity of the torture he suffered from Quraish in Mecca, of the believers before them who patiently withstood the harm that was inflicted on them. A saw was even placed on the head of a man which was then used to cut him into two, but he did not abandon his faith. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) also gave him glad tidings of victory from Allah; a rider would travel among the different Muslim countries in total safety, not fearing anyone but Allah after He had established His slaves there.

Then came the stage when it was permissible to fight, without an obligation to do so and only in self-defense. Therefore the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) started to send campaigns and went out to the battle. The first campaigns left during Ramadan, Shawwal and Dhul Qadah. After these, battles started to be waged in the second year of Hijra. The battles were the battle of Waddan and the battle of Al-Asheerah. After that, fighting became an obligation on the Muslims when they were attacked or were not allowed to spread the call. Allah (Glory be to Him) says, {And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight against you but do not commit aggression, because Allah does not like aggressors} [Surah Al-Baqarah: 190].

The prince of poets, Ahmed Shawki, said:

They say that the Messenger of Allah entered battles…. but Messengers were not sent to kill and shed blood

Ignorance, misguided minds and false argumentative speech... He liberated with the sword after (years of) “conquering” (by persuasion) with the mouth

In reality: the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) issued an ethical covenant of war, better than any international laws and legislation that have been laid down in this respect. Whenever he assigned anyone as a leader of the army, he used to advise him to fear Allah and deal well with the Muslims who were with him. Then he would say, <‘Fight in the Name of Allah, in the path of Allah. Fight those who do not believe in Allah. Fight, but do not steal (from the war booty), do not be treacherous, do not mutilate the dead bodies, and do not kill children. When you meet your disbelieving enemy, call him towards three options. And accept any one of the three which they choose.…> until the end of the hadith. This advice entailed calling the enemy to Islam, their being like the Bedouin Muslims (if they refuse to immigrate after entering Islam) who do not take booty unless they fight along with the Muslims, or paying the jizyah to become protected people under the care of the Islamic state.

Islam did not spread by the sword, as the orientalists claim. In fact, the following ayah (verse) of the Quran is clear, {There is no compulsion and coercion in regard to religion. The right has been made distinct from the wrong} [Surah Al-Baqarah: 256]. The aim of the wars was to liberate man and give him the right to choose the belief that he is satisfied with. The saying of the international intellect, Thomas Carlyle, in his book, The Heroes, confirms this. He stated, “Whoever believed in Muhammed were attacked before they had the means to fight. Moreover they believed because they wanted to obediently follow truth.  The French historian, Gustav Le Bon, also pointed to this fact when he was talking about the spread of Islam in India and China, as none of the Muslim armies waged any battle there.

Islam also made war the last choice to solve disputes, if necessity dictated this. Allah (Glory be to Him)  says, {And if the enemies incline to peace, you should also incline to it and put your trust in Allah} [Surah Al-Anfal: 60], and He also says, {Allah does not forbid you to treat kindly and act equitably towards those who have not fought you in the matter of religion} [Surah Al-Mumtahanah: 8]. This point is also clear from the truces that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) made between the Muslims and their enemies for set periods of time, and the treaties with the tribes, for example, Banu Damurah in the second year of Hijra. Further proof is how the Messenger of Allah kept his earlier promises even to the disbelievers, such as the promise to Uthman ibn Talha to whom the Messenger of Allah returned the key of the Kaaba, saying to him <Today is a day of righteousness and fulfilling promises. Take it (the key), it is yours forever. No one will take it from you but an oppressor.>

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) set aside specific groups of people that should not be attacked during war, due to them being weak. These groups are the monks, the elderly, official messengers and ambassadors, and all those who were not participating in the fighting on the battlefield from among the workers, peasants and others.

The normal habit during the era of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was to forgive the captives and accept ransoms for them. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) never killed any of the captives except the war criminals. And he did not physically torture or mutilate such criminals. He also prohibited people from extracting information from them by force.

What lessons can we learn from Saif Al-Bahr campaign?

The events of the campaign led by Hamzah ibn AbdulMuttalib (may Allah be pleased with him) put fear into the hearts of the people of Quraish. It was a dangerous threat on their leadership and trade, due to the strength of the enthusiasm of the Muslims and their bravely attacking their enemies. Jubayr ibn Mut’im (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that Abu Jahl remarked, when he entered Mecca defeated by the campaign, “Oh Quraish, Muhammed has gone to Yathrib, and has started to send campaigns, He wants to harm you, so be wary of following a route that goes near him, as he is like a fierce lion.” When the news of what had happened reached the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), he said, <By the One in Whose hands is my soul, we will fight them and crucify them to be able to deliver this Message (to the people), much as they may dislike this. Allah sent me as a mercy, and I will not die until Allah has made His religion triumphant. I have five names: I am Muhammad, I am Ahmad, I am Al-Mahi through whom Allah obliterates unbelief, and I am Hashir (the gatherer) after whom all people will be gathered, and I am ‘Aqib (with no one (Prophet) after him)>

The campaign of Hamza ibn AbdulMuttalib made clear how the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) obeyed the orders of his Lord (Glory be to Him)  at the time of the call when he (peace be upon him) was ordered to be patient, and also the time of fighting after the Quranic ayah was revealed allowing fighting against the attackers. It also made clear the Messenger of Allah’s vigilance as a leader of an army, sending many campaigns, one after each other, and his great eagerness which affected all the Muslims, and his tendency to accommodate others, even non-Muslims, if it resulted in a benefit for the Islamic nation. He started this by writing treaties with peaceful tribes and non-Muslims living under his jurisdiction.

Moreover, the campaign showed the Messenger of Allah’s wisdom, as he did not use the Ansar (Helpers from Medinah) in these intial campaigns, since they were busy with their Muslim guests, and to give them time to accept this new situation. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) used to choose the best and closest Companions for the dangerous circumstances, and not the others. Furthermore, he used to participate himself, with the bravery of a warrior and the wisdom of a Prophet, in the important conflicts, fighting Allah’s enemies.hhhsent