In pursuance of the command given by Allah, the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him started sending out small expeditions to discourage hostile tribes. These expeditions were not meant to launch out any attack against the enemy but simply to frighten people hostile to Islam by way of a show of force.
We shall mention here one of the earliest expeditions, led by ‘Abdullah b. Jahsh, for it embodied a revelation sent down by Allah which shows that Islam does not countenance the least excesses or highhandedness even from its own followers. Islam is always fair and impartial,
without any regard to persons or parties, in bringing up its verdict on every affair.
The Prophet peace be and blessings upon him sent ‘Abdullah bin. Jahsh on an expedition with eight emigrants during the month of Rajab 2 A.H. He gave him a letter with the instruction that he was not to read it until he had journeyed for two days, and then act according to the directions contained therein by leaving his companions the decision to remain with him or turn back of their own choice.
So, Abdullah b. Jahsh read the letter after having traveled for two days. The instruction contained in it was, “When you have read this letter, proceed to the oasis of Nakhlah between Makkah and Ta’if. Install your tents there to find out the movements of the Quraysh and send
the information to us.”
Having gone through the letter ‘Abdullah b. Jahsh said.
“We hear, and we obey;” and then he said to his ompanions. “The Prophet peace be and blessings upon him of Allah has ordered me to lie in waiting at the oasis on the road between Makkah and Ta’if and watch the movements of the Quraysh so as to deliver news for him, but he has also asked me not to compel anyone of you to follow me. If anyone wishes martyrdom, he may come with me, and whoever wishes against it may go back, for I have abide by the instructions of the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him.” Then he went ahead, and so did all of his comrades, with none of them falling out.
The party moved on to the particular oasis where they camped. In a short while, a caravan of the Quraysh that included Amir B. Al‐Hadrami passed by them. When the Qurayshites saw the party encamped near them they got frightened but after seeing ‘Ukkasha whose head was
shaved, their suspicions vanished for they regarded theparty as pilgrims. They said: “Nothing to fear from them, they are pilgrims.” That was the last day of Rajab.
The Muslim party on the other hand deliberated among themselves and decided that if they left the Qurayshites alone that night, they would get into the sacred area and obstruct their entry there; but if they fight them, they would be devaluing the sacred month by instituting a bloody confrontation. At first they felt hesitant as well as dismayed but ultimately made up their mind to kill as many of the Quraysh as possible and plunder as much of their goods as they could. Waqid b. ‘Abdullah at‐Tamimi shot the first arrow killing ‘Amr b. al‐Hadrami while his companions captured two of the Qurayshites. ‘Abdullah b. Jahsh and his companions returned to Madina with their captives.
When ‘Abdullah b. Jahsh and his companions reported the incident to the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him, he said: “I did not ask you to fight in the sacred month, nor seize the caravans and take captives.” The Prophet peace be and blessings upon him refused to accept the spoils brought to him by the transgressing group.
The campaigners were worried and fearfully apprehensive of being doomed. Besides, the other Muslims also harshly reproached them for what they had done. At the same time, Quraysh laid a charge, saying,
“Lo! Muhammed has allowed war and bloodshed in the sacred months!”
It was on this occasion that Allah sent down the revelation to the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him.
“They question thee (O Muhammed) with regard to warfare in the sacred month. Say: warfare therein is a great (transgression), but turn (men) from a way of Allah, and to expel the people thence, is greater (sin) with Allah; for persecution is worse than killing.”
Ibn Qayyim writes about the meaning of this verse in Zad al‐Ma’ad: “Allah has given a fair deal to His friends as well as foes, for He has not commended the sin of fighting in the sacred month that was committed by His pious and devout servants. Allah has held it to be a serious act of transgression. At the same time, He reminds the idolaters that they have been guilty of even greater sins through their acts of persecution in the sacred city of Makkah, and thus they still deserve more condemnation and punishment. Since, however, the believing servants of Allah had been guilty of indiscretion or that they had committed a mistake, Allah has lent them a hope.
He had given them hope that they might be forgiven on account of their faith in the Unity of Allah, submission to Him, migration with the Prophet peace be and blessings upon him and their sacrifices towards His way.” (Zad al‐Ma’ad, Vol. I, p. 341)