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Expedition of Tabook and the March towards the Romans

At this time, the Messenger (s.a.w.) was informed that the Romans were mobilizing troops to invade the northern parts of the Arabian peninsula which formed the northern territory of the Islamic state.

The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) decided to take the field himself and gave his orders to mobilize Muslims in Madinah and the neighbouring areas. No Muslim failed to join the army, except, of course, veteran hypocrites and those who professed Islam out of their fear of the Muslims' might, after the liberation of Mecca. They started making up their excuses so that they would not fight the Romans.

The most repeated two reasons they brought forth to justify remaining behind were the sweltering heat and the great distance between Madinah and the Roman territories. The Qur'an condemned and attacked them in the following verse:

... and do not go forth in the heat. Say: The fire of hell is much severer in heat. Would that they understand (it).

Holy Qur'an (9:81)

The hypocrites, however, did not stop at this but went on urging the people to stay out of the army and made one of their houses as their meeting-place. The Messenger (s.a.w.) heard about their treachery and set fire to the house during one of their meetings. They took to their heels and it proved to be a good lesson for them.

The Muslim army marched forward under the command of the Prophet (s.a.w.). It was 30,000 - strong. It was called the army of hardships due to the excessive heat, the great distance between the starting-point and the destination and the scarcity of provisions. But it was a necessary way of putting men through trials to toughen and harden them, and examine the depth of their faith.

Imam Ali (a.s.) was picked by the Messenger (s.a.w.) to remain in Madinah as his deputy during his absence. He told him to administer the affairs of the town. Imam Ali (a.s.) wanted eagerly to take part in the expedition but the Prophet (s.a.w.) ordered him to stay behind. He said to him:

Are you not satisfied with being my brother and holding in respect to me the rank of Haroon to Musa? But there is no prophet after me. 102

The army of the Prophet of Allah (s.a.w.) marched until it reached Tabook, a place located on the borders between the Arabian Peninsula and the Roman Empire. Yet many days before the arrival of the Muslim army, the Romans had fled into their own territories because of their overpowering fear of the Muslims.

Seeing this, the Messenger (s.a.w.) decided not to go far into Roman territories and returned to his blessed town. At this point the surah of al-Tawbah was revealed. It exposed the true colours of the hypocrites and their accomplices, uncovered their vile plans and scolded those who did not join the Muslim army out of fear and dolence.

The Messenger (s.a.w.) chose to burn down the mosque of Dhirar which was built by the hypocrites. They had made it a base for hypocrisy and the hostile group which worked to enfeeble the Islamic state.

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102. Masnad Ahmad bin Hanbal, p.330; Khas'is al-Nisa'i p.14; Tabaqat Ibn a'd, vol. 3, p.14; Hilyat al-Awliya', vol. 7 p.195; Tarikh Baghdad, vol. 7 p.452; Kanz al-Ummal, vol. 3, p.154; Al-Irshad, Sheikh al-Mufid, expedition of Tabook, and many other references.

Adapted from the book: "Muhammad; The Messenger of Allah"