Despite the treaty, some of the men of Bakr were still determined to prolong their feud with Khuza’ah; and not long after the campaign of ‘Amr to Syria, a clan of Bakr made a night raid against Khuza’ah, one of whom was killed. In the fighting which ensued, some of which took place inside the sacred territory, Quraysh helped their allies with weapons; and one or two men of Quraysh took part in the fighting under cover of darkness. The Bani Ka’b of Khuza’ah immediately sent a deputation to Medina to inform the Prophet of what had happened and to ask for his help. He told them they could rely on him and sent them back to their territory. When they had gone, he went to ‘A’ishah, who could see from his face that he was in great anger. He asked for some water to perform his ablution, and she heard him say as he poured it over himself: “May I not be helped if I help not the sons of Ka’b.”
Meantime the Meccans were exceedingly troubled as to the possible consequences of what had happened, and they sent Abu Sufyan to pacify the Prophet if need be. On his way, he met the men of Khuza’ah returning home and he feared he was too late. His fears were increased by the inscrutable demeanor of the Prophet. “O Muhammad,” he said, “I was absent at the time of the truce of Hudaybiyah, so let us now strengthen the pact and prolong its duration.” The Prophet parried his request with the query: “Hath aught befell to break it on your side?” “God forbid!” said Abu Sufyan uneasily. “We likewise,” said the Prophet, “are keeping to the truce for the period agreed upon at Hudaybiyah. We will not modify it, neither will we accept another in its place.”
He was clearly not prepared to say more, so Abu Sufyan went to see his daughter, Umm Habibah, hoping she might agree to intervene on his behalf. They had not met for fifteen years. The best place to sit was the Prophet’s rug, but as he was about to take his seat she hastily folded it up from beneath him. “Little daughter,” he said, “is this rug too good for me, thinkest thou, or am I too good for it?” “It is the Prophet’s rug,” she said, “and thou art an idolater, a man unpurified.” Then she added: “My father, thou art lord of Quraysh and their chief. How is it that thou hast failed to enter Islam, and that thou worshippest stones which neither hear nor see?” “Wonder of wonders,” he said, “am I to forsake what my fathers worshipped to follow the religion of Muhammad?” And, feeling that no help was to be expected from her, he went to Abu Bakr and others of the Companions to ask them to intercede on his behalf for a renewal of the pact, for he was now sure, although the Prophet had not said so, that he considered the pact to have been abrogated by the recent fighting. But it would serve the same purpose as a renewal of the pact, that is, it would prevent bloodshed if some man of influence would grant general protection between man and man. Abu Sufyan suggested this alternative to Abu Bakr but he merely answered: “I grant protection only within the scope of protection granted by the Messenger of God.”
Others replied much the same, and finally, Abu Sufyan went to the house of ‘All, making much of their kinship, for they were both great-grandsons of the two brothers Hashim and ‘Abdu Shams. But ‘Ali said: “Alas for thee, Abu Sufyan! The Messenger of God hath resolved not to grant thy request, and none can speak to him in favor of a thing when he is averse to it.” For the Companions knew well that the Revelation had said to the Prophet: Consult them about affairs; and when thou art resolved, then trust in God;’ and they had come to know by experience that when the Prophet had reached the degree of resolution he had clearly reached on this occasion it was useless to seek to deter him. Abu Sufyan now turned to Fatimah, who was present, with Hasan sitting on the floor in front of her. “O daughter of Muhammad,” he said, “bid thy little son grant protection between man and man, that he may become forever the lord of the Arabs.” But Fatimah replied that boys do not grant protection, and Abu Sufyan turned again to ‘Ali in desperation and begged him to suggest some course of action. “I see nothing for it”, said ‘All, “but that thou thyself shouldst rise and grant protection between man and man. Thou art lord of Kinanah.” “Would that avail me aught?” said Abu Sufyan. “By God, I think not so,” said ‘All, “but I find naught else for thee to do.” So Abu Sufyan went to the Mosque and said in a loud voice: “Behold, I grant protection between man and man, and I do not think that Muhammad will fail to uphold me.” Then he went to the Prophet and said: “O Muhammad, I do not think thou wilt disavow my protection.” But the Prophet merely answered: “That is what thou thinkest, O Abu Sufyan;” and the Umayyad chief returned to Mecca with great misgivings.
The Prophet began to prepare for a campaign, and Abu Bakr asked if he also should make ready. The Prophet said he should and told him that they were going out against Quraysh. “Must we not wait for the time of the truce to run out?” said Abu Bakr. “They have betrayed us and broken the pact,” said the Prophet, “and I shall attack them. But keep secret what I have told thee. Let one thinker think that God’s Messenger is for Syria, and let another think he is for Thaqif, and another for Hawazin, O God, take from Quraysh all sight of us, and all tidings of us, what we are about, that we may come suddenly upon them in their land.” In answer to this prayer, word came to him from Heaven that one of the Emigrants, Hatib by name, had somehow learned the secret and had sent a letter to Quraysh to warn them of the impending attack. He had given it to a woman of Muzaynah who was traveling to Mecca, and she had hidden it in her hair. The Prophet sent ‘Ali and Zubayr after her, and having failed to find the letter in her baggage they threatened to search her if she did not produce it. So she gave them the letter and they took it to the Prophet, who sent for the writer of it. “What made thee do this, O Hatib?” he said. “O Messenger of God,” he answered, “I am indeed a believer in God and His Messenger. I have not changed my belief, and naught else hath taken its place. But I am a man without standing amongst the people of Mecca, without kinsmen of influence; and for the sake of my son and my family who are there in their midst I sought to win their favor.”
“O Messenger of God,” said ‘Umar, “let me strike off his head. The man is a hypocrite.” But the Prophet said to him: “How knowest thou, O ‘Umar, that God hath not looked upon the men of Badr and said: ‘Do what ye will, for I have forgiven you?’ ” The Prophet now sent messengers to those of the tribes whom he felt he could now rely on for help, with a general summons to be present in Medina at the beginning of the next month, which was Ramadan, The Bedouin faithfully responded; and when the appointed day came the army was the largest that had ever set out from Medina. No able-bodied Muslim stayed behind. The Emigrants were seven hundred, with three hundred horse; the Helpers were four thousand, with five hundred horse; and the tribes, including those who joined them on the way, brought the total numbers up to nearly ten thousand men. The cavalry rode on camelback, leading their horses; and except for a few of the closest Companions, none of them knew who the enemy was. When they were about halfway they were met by ‘Abbas and Umm al-Fadl and their sons. ‘Abbas had decided that it was now time for them to leave Mecca and to live in Medina. The Prophet invited them to join his expedition, which they did, to the joy of Maymunah, who had come with the Prophet.
Umm Salamah was also with the Prophet, and at one of the next halts, she was told that two men of Quraysh were in the camp and wished to speak with her. One of them was her half-brother ‘Abd Allah, the son of her father and the Prophet’s aunt ‘Atikah; the other was a son of the Prophet’s eldest uncle Harith, the poet Abu Sufyan, a one-time nurseling of Halimah, He had with him his small son Ja’far. Both men had been close to the Prophet until the Revelation came when they turned against him. Now they had come to seek his forgiveness, and to ask Umm Salamah to intercede for them. She went to the Prophet and said: “Thy wife’s brother, son of thine aunt, is here, and thine uncle’s son who is thy foster-brother.” But he said: “I have no call to see them. As to my brother – he meant her brother ‘Abd Allah – he said unto me what he said in Mecca;’ and as to mine uncle’s son, he hath brought dishonor upon me.” Abu Sufyan had satirized him in his poems. She pleaded for them, but to no effect, and when she told them this, Abu Sufyan said: “Either he shall see me or I will take my son by the hand and go out into the desert until we die of thirst and hunger. And thou” – he meant the Prophet – “art the most long-suffering of men, even apart from my kinship with thee.” When she repeated this to the Prophet he relented’ and agreed to receive them in his tent, where they both uttered their professions of faith; and both made good their Islam.
During the march on one of these days, the Prophet saw a bitch lying by the side of the road with a litter of recently born pups which she was feeding, and he was afraid that she might be molested by one or another of the men. So he told ju’ayl of Damrah to stand on guard beside her until every contingent had passed.’ The name ju’ayl still clung to him, despite the new name of ‘Amr which the Prophet had given him. In Qudayd the army was joined by the Bani Sulaym, a troop of cavalry nine hundred strong. “O Messenger of God,” said one of their spokesmen, “thou thinkest we are dissemblers, and yet we are thy maternal uncles” he was referring to Hashim’s mother, ‘Atikah, who was a woman of their tribe – “so we have come unto thee that thou mayest put us to the test. We are steadfast in war, gallant at the encounter, horsemen firm in the saddle.”
Like those who had come with the main force from Medina, they had brought their standards and their pennants unmounted and furled. They now asked the Prophet to mount them and to give them to men of his own choice from amongst them, but the time had not yet come for the flying of flags. Nor did he yet tell them where they were going. At the outset, the Prophet had sent a man through the army to proclaim: “He that would keep his fast, let him keep it, and he that would break his fast, let him break it.” In the case of travel in Ramadan, it was permissible to break the fast, provided that the full number of days missed fasted later. The Prophet himself and many others fasted until they were within a certain distance of the sacred territory; then he gave orders to break the fast, and when they had encamped at Marr az-Zahran he let it be known that the reason for breaking the fast had been to gather up their strength for meeting the enemy. This aroused the curiosity of some of the men to breaking-point. From Marr az-Zahran, Mecca could be reached in one long day’s march, and easily in two. But in view of the truce, it was unlikely that they had come out against Quraysh. Their camp was also on the way to the territory of the hostile tribes of Hawazin. Or could it be that having gained possession of the northern garden of the Hijaz, the Prophet was now bent on capturing its southern garden, the hitherto impregnable Ta’if, the center of the worship of al-Lat?
Seeing that the question “Who is the enemy?” was being passed from man to man throughout the host, Ka’b ibn Malik volunteered to go to the Prophet and ask him. He did not however venture to put the question directly, but going to where the Prophet was seated outside his tent he knelt in front of him and recited four melodious verses he had just composed for the occasion. The gist of these was that the men had reached the point of drawing their swords and interrogating them as to what enemy their edges were destined for and that if the swords could have spoken they too would have put the same question. But the Prophet’s only answer was a smile, and Ka’b had to return to the men with nothing achieved. Their desire to know their own destination was no more than idle curiosity as compared with the eagerness of Quraysh and Hawazin to know the answer to the same question. The great tribe of Hawazin was spread mainly over the slopes of the hill country which dominated the southern extremity of the plain of Najd. Ta’if was on one of these slopes, and it was Thaqif, the inhabitants of Ta’if and guardians of its temple, who took the initiative of sending an urgent message to all their fellow clans of Hawazin that an army of ten thousand was on its way south from Yathrib, and that they must be prepared for the worst. Most of the clans immediately responded, and troops began to assemble at a point of vantage to the north of Ta’if.
As to Quraysh, although they would have liked to think that Ta’if was in danger rather than Mecca, they were conscious of having broken the pact. This, together with the Prophet’s refusal to renew it, made them apprehensive almost to the point of despair. The Prophet was aware of this, and in order to increase their fears he ordered his men to spread out and each man to light a fire after dark. From the outskirts of the sacred territory, ten thousand campfires could now be seen burning, and the news was quickly brought to Mecca that Muhammad’s army was far larger than they had feared. After a hurried consultation, Quraysh accepted the offer of Abu Sufyan to go out and speak to the Prophet again. With him went Hakim, Khadijah’s nephew, who had done his best to stop the battle of Badr, and Budayl of Khuza’ah, who had helped the Prophet at Hudaybiyah and who had recently accompanied some of his clansmen to Medina in connection with the rupture of the pact.
As they approached the camp, already within earshot of the grumbling of the camels, they saw a man on a white mule coming apparently to meet them. It was ‘Abbas, who had slipped out of the camp, hoping to find someone on his way to the city who could take a message for him to Quraysh. It was imperative, he thought, that they should send a deputation to the Prophet before it was too late. When they had recognized and greeted each other, ‘Abbas took them to the tent of the Prophet, and Abu Sufyan said: “O Muhammad, thou hast come with a strange assortment of men – some known and some unknown – against thy kindred.” But the Prophet cut him short. “It is thou who art the transgressor,” he said. “Ye broke the pact of Hudaybiyah, and abetted the attack on the Bani Ka’b, thereby sinfully violating the holy precinct of God and His Sanctuary.
Abu Sufyan sought to change the subject somewhat. “Alas,” he said, “hadst thou but turned thine anger and thy strategy against Hawazin! For they are further from thee in kinship and fiercer in enmity against thee.” “I hope”, said the Prophet, “that my Lord will grant me all of that – by victory over Mecca, by the triumph therein of Islam, and by the rout of Hawazin – and that He will enrich me with their goods as plunder and their families as captives.” Then he said to the three men: “Bear witness that there is no god but God, and that I am the Messenger of God.” Hakim and Budayl thereupon made their professions of faith, but Abu Sufyan testified “there is no god but God” and then was silent. When told to pronounce the second testification he said: “O Muhammad, there is still in my soul a scruple about this; give her a respite.” So the Prophet told his uncle to take them to his tent for the night. At dawn, the call to prayer was made throughout the camp, and Abu Sufyan was greatly shaken by the sound of it. “What are they about?” he said. “The prayer,” said ‘Abbas. “And how often do they pray each day and night?” said Abu Sufyan, and when told that the prayers were five he said: “By God, it is too much!” Then he saw the men eagerly crowding and jostling each other that they might be splashed with water from the Prophet’s ablution, or have some drops of what was left from it, and he said: “O Abu l-Fadl, I have never seen such sovereignty as this.” “Out upon thee!” said ‘Abbas.
“Believe!” “Take me to him,” said Abu Sufyan, and after the prayer ‘Abbas took him again to the Prophet and he testified to his prophethood, that he was indeed the Messenger of God. ‘Abbas took the Prophet aside and said: “O Messenger of God, well knowest thou the love of Abu Sufyan for honor and glory. Grant him, therefore, some favor.” “I will,” said the Prophet, and going to the Umayyad chief he told him to return to Quraysh and say to them: “Whoso entereth the house of Abu Sufyan shall be safe, and whoso locketh upon himself his door shall be safe, and whoso entereth the Mosque shall be safe.”