Rafed English

Conducts and Strategies of Battle

The Prophet used to consult his companions in battle and meeting the enemy and the choice of positions. One of the companions related: 'I have not seen anyone who consults his companions more than the Messenger of God.' He used to stay in the rear guard when marching to urge on the weak ones and to seat behind him those who became detached from the main force. He was most attentive to his companions during marching.

If he wished to make an excursion he would keep it a secret and make a diversion so that the killing would be kept to a minimum. He would send out reconnaissance and advance parties and post sentries.

Whenever he faced the enemy he would stop to pray to God and ask for His succour. He and his companions would invoke the name of God much and lower their voices.

When the blows intensified the others would take him as a shield. As mentioned in nahj al-balaghah, Imam Ali says: 'In the heat of the battle we would shield ourselves with the Messenger of God for no-one was closer to the enemy then he was.'

He was always the closest of his men to the enemy. The Commander of the Faithful Imam Ali is quoted as having said: 'The Apostle of God forbade the use of poison against the Polytheists.' 130

On the way to a sortie the Messenger of God and his companions passed near by the lands of Ashja' and the Damrah tribe. There was already a state of truce between him and the Damrah.

The companions said to the Messenger of God: 'O Messenger of God, the Damrah are near to us and we fear that they will cross us on the way to Medina or assist the Quraysh against us, so we should attack them.'

The Messenger of God said: 'Not at all, they are the most respectful of the Arabs to their parents and the best in maintaining the bonds of kinship and most honest in fulfilling their promises.'

If he sent out a troop he would enjoin upon them fear of God and say: 'Go in the name of God and fight those who deny God. Do not mutilate and do not betray and do not kill children, women, and old men.'

He would also say: 'Go in the name of God and in the way of God and upon the religion of the Apostle of God. Do not plunder and do not mutilate and do not be treacherous and do not kill old men or children or women. Do not cut down trees except when forced to do so. And if any man of the Muslims be he of low or high rank gives respite to any of the Polytheists then he has sanctuary so that he may hear the word of God. If he then follows you then he is your brother in faith and if he refuses then send him away in safety, and seek the aid of God.' 131 During battle he would give his men special code words and signals so that they would be known when they spoke.

He used to order the commanders of his troops to invite the enemy to Islam and migration 132, or Islam only so that they would be like the Bedouins who did not have a share in the spoils of war, or to ask them to pay the Jizyah tax. If they agreed this would be accepted from them. If not, then he should seek help from God and fight them.

If he won the day he would send out a herald and gather all the booty. He would begin with the things that had been pillaged and would return them to their rightful owners. Then he would take out a fifth (khums) of what was left and would use it for the benefit of the Muslims as instructed by the Almighty. Then he would use some of the rest for those who did not have a normal share like the women and the children and the servants. Then he would distribute the remaining bulk equally amongst the army: a horseman would get three shares, one for himself and two for his horse and the foot soldier would get one share. He would treat the strong and the weak alike in the share of the spoils except in the share of public estates.


130. bihar al-anwar, vol. 19, p. 177, 9ad:th 23

131. bihar al-anwar; vol.19, p.177, 9ad:th 21.

132. i.e. to migrate to Muslim land with centres of excellence to learn more about Islam.

Adopted from the book : "The Prophet Muhammad; a Mercy to the World" by : "Ayatullah Muhammad Sadiq al-Shirazi"

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