This department was responsible for matters pertaining to reinforcements, supplies, means of transport, food for the soldiers, the type of clothes and shelter of the forces, dividing the spoils of war, medical issues and all related concerns.
The responsibility of this department was to secure the material resources and assistance to the armed forces in general. This included personal accessories and other necessities like water, tents, clothes and moving the residents away from areas where military operations were taking place1.
This comprised of groups whose work was to prepare and supply material provisions, military equipment and other needed supplies to the troops2. The most important groups that were present in the rear were the guards, those responsible for munitions and supplies, the camp of the commander, and the non-combatants (i.e. womenfolk).
They carried some amount of supplies and munitions3 with them and each one of these groups would be supervised by a commander who would oversee their work4. The Prophet (S) would emphasize on keeping the supplies and military equipment well hidden. He (S) would only specify where the rear of the army began5 and would not give importance to where it ended.
The limits of the rear of the army during encampment was defined as the last lines of the army6, and while marching also, it was the last group7. The main missions of this department was to secure the facilities and material resources needed by the army, carry out medical treatment, assist the injured and handicapped and carry them away from the battlefield, burying the martyrs and gathering the spoils of war8.
Madina was known as the main center for supplies and munitions, and reinforcement and support during battle would rarely take place from there9; because the backing and rear of the army would usually take the necessary supplies with them, and from the very beginning whatever wa needed by the army would be put at their disposal. They would go to the battle and whenever their mission was complete, they would return to their own lands10.
Despite this, in some of the battles, the army had to face severe hunger11, like what happened in the battles of Khaybar and Tabuk, but they would bear this pressure and difficulty12. This is precisely what they did in the Sariya of al-Khabt. Sometimes they would also benefit from the abundant local resources13.
The sources of food and supplies for the army in the areas where the battles were fought included: In the Battle of Badr from the hunting of deer; in the Battle of Dhāt al-Ruqā’ from cucumbers and ostrich eggs; in the Battle of Hudaybiyya from cucumbers, the meat of deer, wild donkeys and other animals whose meat is permissible to eat, and yoghurt; and in the Battle of Khaybar from a variety of different sources.
Full reinforcements from Madina only came when Sa’d ibn ‘Ubādah had the responsibility of bringing the reinforcements14 in the Battle of Hamrā al-Asad. At this time he would slaughter two to three animals (whose meat was permissible to eat) every day. In the battles of Dhi Qurā and Waddān, he brought reinforcements with dates and meat from slaughtered animals15. At times, like in the Sariya of ‘Amr ibn ‘Aās, the supplies were sent by soldiers on foot16.
As for the food for horses and camels, it was provided for from the abundant grazing grounds especially in the areas where the army was camped17. In the Battle of Uhud, the Quraysh used the grazing grounds and fields that belonged to the Ansār. In the battles of Badr and Bani al-Mustalaq, the Muslim army took benefit from the wells of Badr and Murisiyya’. Muslim soldiers would sometimes use crushed date seeds to feed their horses and camels18 while in the Battle of Khandaq, the Quraysh carried corn as fodder for their horses19.
Relief in its true and complete sense during battle was not done except through giving drinking water20. This was done by means of water bags which were carried by soldiers21, or through injured and handicapped soldiers22. The women would also at times participate in this exercise and would carry the water bags for long distances and exchange them for empty water bags. These relief operations continued even in the time when the heat of battle had subsided23 and some of the helpers would take water to the supreme commander and the troops during this time24.
These points were the very same routes that were used by the troops, and the rear wound usually not move in one position behind the main ranks of the army25; like in the battles of Badr and Tabuk. The movement from these points by the rear of the army would not take place more than once, because this would cause a split and a cessation of the relief support operations. For the soldiers, there was more than one central point for supplies but despite this, they would always use the closest point like Madina in the Battle of Hudaybiyya and from there (the route) to Fadak would be used26.
Of course the original and primary points of relief supply were Makkah and Madina which had links with the outside and were considered the main centers of relief support27. Between Makkah and outside it there were two roads to the west (coastal) and east (desert), and between Madina and outside it there was an important road that led towards the land of Shām (Syria) and there was continuous relief support conducted using different means between these two routes. Whenever these central points were cut off for any reason, the army forces would face hardships in terms of lack of sufficient relief supplies and provisions.
Similarly, in the beginning the Muslim army tried to cut off the supply routes of the Quraysh and they would be so harsh on them that at times they would be pushed to the brink of destruction28. When the point of supply from Madina was partially cut off, the supreme commander would reopen them by gaining victory of the tribes that were responsible for closing the route29.
After marching a specified distance, the Muslim army would stop for a brief period in a suitable location30. At this time, the troops would carry out repairs and maintenance on their battle equipment, and would eat and drink. Then they would refill their vessels with water and continue their march31. The army would usually stop at a place where there was a well and plentiful grass for grazing32. The places of rest for the army would be selected according to the length of their journey, the army’s size and the suitability of the area for remaining hidden and concealed33.
The time of these rest-stops would be in accordance to the mission given to the forces, the weather or time of day (and night)34. In the Battle of Dumat al-Jundal, the rest was taken at night and during the Conquest of Makkah, because of the speed required, it was only for a brief period of time. Aside from this, the period of rest would be determined by the state of the troops and the distance they had covered and would be short or long accordingly35.
And if there was a serious need to reach the enemy (as quick as possible), the rest-stops would be shortened. If this was not done, like in the Sariya of Muhammad ibn Maslamah against the Bani Bakr, the duration would be prolonged. In some of the Sariya missions, the army would rest the whole day and would march at night in order to carry out a surprise attack.
The modes of transport were mainly camels and then followed by donkeys. Camels would be used to traverse long distances of up to eight hundred kilometers, like in the Battle of Dumat al-Jundal36 which was located at a distance of ‘ten stations of Madina’ and ‘seven stations of the Damascus’, or the Battle of Muta37 near the province of Dir’ā from the land of Balqā’ in Shām38, or the Battle of Tabuk39 which was at a distance of twelve stations from Madina and was close to Shām. The same was the case of the Battle of Abnā40 in the land of al-Sarrāh near Balqā’ which was a village in Muta between Palestine and Shām.
The camel is known for its ability to bear thirst and hunger and carry heavy loads in the dry and hard desert41. However, donkeys were mostly used for non-military purposes42 to cover short distances in and around Madina. A number of troops would bring camels to the battlefield43. They would carry their battle gear and rations and also the special fodder for camels on the camels’ backs.
Women would also sit in howdahs on these animals at the rear of the army and would be taken along44. The army would be divided into sections depending on the number of soldiers and camels that were used for transport. Each section had two to four soldiers45 who would put the equipment that could be carried on the backs of camels like one big caravan46. The length of these sections when marching depended on the number of camels and soldiers in it47.
The most important foodstuffs that were used by the Muslim forces in battle included: dates48, locusts49, meat50 (mostly from animals that were halāl51), wheat52, raisins, bread53, barley flour54 and some of the foods that were prepared from wheat55, flour56, cucumbers57 and milk58. Among these, dates were the staple food that the soldiers would be provided with when attacking or defending, travelling or remaining back, and they would always have with them a little under three kilos (one Sā’)59 of dates and if something (from the dates produced) would remain, they would store it in their house and would use it throughout the year.
From the troops60, locals and residents of the area61, and some of the wealthy soldiers – who were sometimes responsible for providing the food – and also through other means62 of securing it63. Rations in the Muslim army were such that each person would eat one portion per day before marching or prior to the start of battle or when he felt hungry64.
Most of the times, these rations i.e. a few dates65 or a slaughtered animal whose meat was shared among a hundred men, would not be sufficient66 and it was common for the forces to remain hungry due to lack of sufficient food; that is why in some of the battles it was necessary for them to economize and forbear67. So much so that in some situations the troops were left with no option but to eat some of the grass, leaves68, the remainder of the food eaten by others69 and at times they would slaughter the animals that were used for transport70 and use the meat; meaning they would eat the meat of horses, wild and tame donkeys, deer etc71.
At times a day or two would pass before they ate anything72 and the Holy Prophet (S) was forced to take a loan from the rich73 and divide it among the soldiers in order for them to buy food, until things improved and the financial situation became better, then he would repay the loan.
The most important of all things that were considered in the battles were: drinking water74, washing the injured75 and treating some of the sick76. War between the two opposing sides would take place in a place that had plenty of water77. Each of the two sides would try to take advantage of the well and gain the upper hand over the other, preventing him from coming near it78. For this reason, gaining access to water was considered an important factor in victory or surrender and defeat79.
In all the battles, the Holy Prophet (S) would choose a land that had abundance of life-giving water and would take control over it while keeping the enemy at bay80; just as he had eventually blocked it from the fortresses of Khaybar etc81. in order to speed up the surrender of the inhabitants of those fortresses82. He (S) would forbid the drinking of unhygienic water83. In the end, there were many hardships faced in securing water while marching through the dry, harsh, scorching deserts84 especially in the long routes.
The most important sources of nourishment were foods the animals, edible plants and the drinking water that were found in the fields in the area where the military operations were conducted. The most important animals included: fawns85, wild donkeys86, rabbits87, deer88, cows and camels89, sheep90, birds (that were permissible to eat)91, cucumbers92, fruits of the Miswāk tree93 and other types of edibles94.
The above-mentioned foods made up a large portion of the supplies that were required during battle and through this the Muslim army was saved from starvation and severe thirst and gave them the ability to carry out their mission effectively. In the Battle of Khaybar, the Muslim soldiers suffered a lot of hunger95 and in the Battle of Tabuk, the soldiers were about to collapse out of severe hunger96.
In Madina there were many tents but in the battles, tents would rarely be used97. Mattresses and beddings as we see today never existed98. In those days, tents were made of skin or fur99, or both together100. As for the clothing, it remained the same as it was before the advent of Islām101.
The portion of food that was extra would be stored inside storehouses and homes to such as extent that it would suffice for the soldiers for some time102. The storing of food by the Muslim army was done differently to the way the Jewish army or other armies did it, as it was done based on the material resources, military mission, type of enemy and other factors103. The Muslim army did not have many resources. When the army would prepare for war, they would come under pressure out of the insufficiency and lack of resources; that is why this army was an offensive army and did not have much need for storing foodstuffs. Aside from this, donation and generosity and not hoarding and storing are matters that were emphasized by the new religion (Islām), and this was also considered one of the factors.
The supreme commander and his soldiers took to storing the excess foodstuffs in times when the supplies were abundantly available. This took place especially after the Battle of Bani Nadhir and after gaining access to a lot of necessary resources104. However, in the earlier period and during the start of the first wars there was no thought given to this type of action105.
The Holy Prophet (S) would keep some barley and dates - to the extent that would suffice for a number of days - in his house106. We have no other report that suggests that storing foodstuffs was considered a priority for the Muslim army. Even in the Battle of Khandaq, when they dug the trench by which Madina was saved, they did not make any efforts with regards to storing supplies107.
The enemy, however, went to great lengths to store foodstuffs, especially the Jews who store provisions and water inside their fortresses – to the extent that would suffice them for the duration of a long war108. The Muslim army had no choice but to completely cut off the enemy’s relief supplies109, besiege them from all sides110, attack their front-line111, conduct psychological warfare112, and all those actions that would force the Jews to surrender quickly, before their stores were empty113.
Another one of the responsibilities of the ‘department of supplies (and relief support)’ was clearing the following from the battlefield:
All the people who would cause the military operations to be delayed, like the womenfolk, the children, the old and those who were unable to fight114
Those considered enemies and those who were not from their side115
The equipment and weapons that were broken or needed repair for use in the next battle
The first group was transferred to a suitable place where the ‘living conditions’ were better116. The second group was also taken to far off places that were outside the domain and control of the Muslim army117. As for the equipment, it was carried to the appropriate place where it could undergo repair and maintenance after which it would be distributed to the soldiers, and sometime a group would carry out repairs on the weapons right there on the battlefield.
After the military missions were completed, the Holy Prophet (S) would give permission to the soldiers to embark on trade. He (S) had tolerated their exchange of goods in Badr al-Aākhar118, and the forces returned back to Madina after having made a handsome profit119. In this way, aside from battle operations, the army would engage in trade also. The Ansār would also pursue their own agricultural work120.
After achieving victory in battle, the army would send the glad tidings and news of their return to Madina121. All the people of Madina, men, women and children, would come out to welcome the victorious soldiers122. The supreme commander had also come out with a group of tribesmen to welcome the army that was returning from Muta123. In his caliphate, Abu Bakr also came out to welcome the army of Usāma124.
Joining the army was something done voluntarily125 and was not done as it is today i.e. joining the armed forces (for training) becomes mandatory at a certain age. The Holy Prophet (S) had laid down some conditions for those wishing to join the army. The volunteers had to be at least fifteen or sixteen years old126, strong and of sound body, and capable of fighting in battle127.
For this reason, the young boys who had stepped forward for the Battle of Uhud, like ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar128, Barrā’ ibn ‘Aāzib and others, were not accepted while ‘Umayr ibn Abi Waqqās got permission to join the army in the Battle of Badr when he was sixteen years old129. Ibn ‘Umar himself said: The Holy Prophet (S) turned me back on the day of Uhud when I was fourteen years old and later accepted me in the Battle of Khandaq when I was fifteen130.
Today, the minimum age for recruitment differs from country to country and most countries have kept the minimum age at eighteen years and have stipulated that the person should be healthy.
The Holy Prophet (S) gave importance to teaching and education131 and emphasized on its promotion. Due to this emphasis, he instructed Mundhir ibn ‘Amr al-Sā’idi to go with seventy teachers and educate the Bani ‘Aāmir132. He (S) also sent Ibn Abi Murthid133 with ten ‘reciters’ in order to teach the tribes of Adhal and al-Qārrah134. The Prophet (S) would also employ those prisoners who were not able to pay the ransom to secure their freedom to teach others135.
For securing relief support in this type of battle which was conducted against the enemy, the Holy Prophet (S) was not in need of a strong ‘rear’136 in the army as this would act as a burden and would hold back the army preventing them from swift movement and battle maneuvers; rather he would only take the rear when a large army was required137. Single units and small contingents did not usually have a rear138 and would carry the necessary provisions like dates, some foodstuffs and water, along with them139 or would depend on the locally available resources140. This type of securing of supplies needed quick transport, but because this was not fully and abundantly available (in the Muslim army), a clever soldier could make up for this deficiency141 by carrying whatever supplies he needed himself.
The enemy forces would usually take refuge in forts and would store provisions that would last for a long time142 . In the same way, supply centers were divided along the line of defense.143In these situations, more than three supply centers were set up with the needed supplies144 The Muslim army would not fight between the fortresses, rather they would attack the forts from the front and from different sides145 and besiege it for long periods of time.146During this time, they would take advantage of the resources available in the area147 or that which was possessed by the enemy148
The Muslim army faced numerous difficulties when trying to secure supplies. These included: Lack of adequate means of transport149, even camels that were used by a number of soldiers150 to carry provisions and water. Food rations were also not enough151. Many of the soldiers faced severe hunger especially during the final days of the battles152 and had to eat hunted prey153 and some of the plants and herbs154.
Similarly, the lack of wells155 and sufficient water especially in the hot months, would cause the soldiers to be overcome156 by thirst157. Lack of weapons and battle equipment158, which was difficult to buy or procure due to poor resources and also the suitable clothes for fighting against the enemy in the desert were not easy to come by159. Many of the soldiers came to face the enemy without any armor160 while some did not even have anything to cover themselves161.
These harsh weather conditions in the heart of the dry, scorching desert with frequent strong sandstorms162 effected the strength and ability of the forces to fight in battle. The rays of the midday sun would be like arrows attacking the soldiers and the sand would cover their possessions in dust163. This army, especially in the battles against the Jews when the duration of the siege was prolonged, faced difficulties with supplies164.
During this time the food supplies that were consumed by the soldiers depleted very quickly and put the army under threat of starvation. In the Battle of Khaybar, the field of operations had become polluted with disease and cholera165, to such an extent that it was not possible to remain in that place for a long period of time and it would cause the forces to be afflicted by other sicknesses166.
In the same way, the Muslim army was always faced with great economic pressures that had been put against the Muslims by the Jews167; because they had numerous economic centers and interests in the Arabian peninsula. Another of the hardships related to supplies that the army faced was the distance between the battlefields and the city of Madina (which was a center for procurement of supplies)168 especially in the battles of Dumat al-Jundal, Abnā and Tabuk which were towards the north of the Arabian peninsula and also those that took place in Yemen169.
Military training would be conducted in the actual battles and wars. The army would travel long distances170 in the desert until they would reach the enemy, and along the way, the army would undergo training in the following: bearing hunger171 and thirst172 on the way173, the harsh conditions of the desert, including its heat, winds and dryness174, staying in prolonged military expeditions175, sleeping in open spaces176, economizing on food rations177 and being satisfied with small portions of it, being generous with provisions despite the hard times178, helping other soldiers179, how to take advantage of locally available resources180, digging trenches and pits181, hunting animals182, how to deal with prisoners183, arrangements that needed to be made when the army stopped at any place184, gathering the war booty and accepting the system of its distribution185, finding clean water186, and in the end, how to bury those who had been killed187.
These matters gave the Muslim army a special zeal for battle and made them capable, strong and ready for fighting the enemy.
This was the department that was answerable for collecting the booty, arranging it and distributing it. All the wealth of the enemy forces that was taken by overpowering them or winning the battle was considered as war booty188. The first war booty that was obtained by the Muslims was in the second year after Hijra which was the year when the fighting was first ordained. During this time, the Holy Prophet (S) sent ‘Abdullah ibn Jahash, accompanied by seventy men, for a mission. He gave a letter to the commander of the Sariya and ordered him to open it after he had travelled for two days and then follow the path directed therein. This was done in order to protect military secrets. The commander of the Sariya did as he was instructed and when he opened the letter he found the order to raid the caravan of the Quraysh at Nakhlah. He did just that and took the wealth of the caravan as booty189.
Once the appropriation of the war booty was completed, there would be no delay in taking advantage of it especially with regards to the foodstuffs, drinks, fodder for animals, firewood and all the other requirements; whether those who used it were rich or poor, because even the rich would have to bear the difficulty of carrying foodstuffs and fodder from Madina to the battlefield190.
The Noble Prophet (S) organized the booty and ordered that it be gathered up in a suitable place191. He appointed certain people to count and distribute it and would specify the people who would use it192, forbidding anyone to take anything (from it) before its distribution193 while being very strict with those people who infringed on these instructions194.
The booty would be divided into five parts and was distributed as follows195:
The first part would be given to the following: orphans, needy, those who were travelers but had no more money (Ibn al-Sabil), and for basic requirements like buying battle equipment and things that were needed by the army including foodstuffs, weapons, battle gear, clothes etc.
The four remaining parts would be distributed to the soldiers and every Muslim who participated in the battle, meaning one who was part of the army and entered the battlefield with the intention of fighting, whether he fought or not, would get a share; because frightening the enemy is akin to participating in the battle.
As for the gauge of merit by which it each person got what they deserved, it was relative. For example, for the soldiers who were on horseback three portions were allotted (two portions for the horse and one for the soldier) while the one who was on foot got one portion. The reason for this was that a horse had to be specially treated and readied for battle and this incurred an extra expense. It is obvious that the expense incurred by a soldier on horseback was more than one who was on foot. As for the women and young children who were present in the battle, they would not get a full share, because they were not considered part of the forces. Rather, they got a small share i.e. smaller than one full portion, depending on what the supreme commander decided based on their contribution and participation during the battle.
Division of the booty took place in a secure location or after it had been carried back to the Muslim lands. The supreme commander could transfer the army along with the booty to another area if the current location was not deemed to be safe196. The division would either be done personally by the commander or by someone who was appointed by him to carry out this task197.
One of the important sources for acquiring booty were the Jews198 and the Muslim army had taken possession of a lot of weapons, wealth and farming lands from them as war booty199. As for the (enemy) Arab tribes, they took sheep, camels and some horses from them. This booty was used to cater for the material needs of the army.
Prisoners were enemy combatants and those who were considered part of the enemy’s army that were captured alive200. Generally, prisoners would either be killed201, or secure their release through the payment of ransom or by being exchanged for Muslim prisoners202, or they would be forgiven and freed203; and this was decided according to what was in the best interests (of the Muslims). The Holy Prophet (S) had ordered the killing of ‘Aqabah ibn Abi Mu’eet and Nadhr bin Hārith in the Battle of Badr204, ‘Amr ibn al-Jamhā, the poet of the Age of Ignorance, in the Battle of Uhud205 and also the Bani Quraydha after the siege206. A number of prisoners of Badr were freed by ransom207. Some of them who did not have wealth had to teach ten youths of Madian (in order to secure their freedom)208 and two prisoners from the Sariya of Abdullah ibn Jahash were also freed by ransom209.
The exchange of prisoners with the Quraysh began after the Treaty of Hudaybiyya210. A woman from the Bani Kilāb was given as a ransom to secure the freedom of a prisoner from the Muslims who had been captured by the Quraysh211. This woman had been taken prisoner in the Sariya of Abu Bakr against the Bani Kilāb. Abi ‘Uzza al-Jamhā was freed as an act of kindness because of his poverty212. The same was done with Abi al-‘Aās ibn Rabee’213 and other prisoners of Badr214, prisoners of Bani al-Mustalaq215, Tamāmah ibn Athāl al-Hanafi after his imprisonment in the Sariya of Muhammad ibn Maslamah against the Bani Bakr216, and also a man from Bani Tha’labah who had become a Muslim217 after his imprisonment in the Sariya of Abi ‘Ubaydah ibn Jarrāh for the revenge against the Bani Tha’labah.
Similarly, a woman who had divulged sensitive information to the enemy in the Sariya of Zayd ibn Hāritha against the Bani Saleem and was taken prisoner, was forgiven and set free218.
The Holy Prophet (S) would deal mercifully and humanely with the prisoners219 and would urge that they be treated well220 and forgiven when victory had been gained over them221. Whenever he (S) would hear the cries of any of them he would open their tied hands222. The result of this kind treatment to the prisoners was that they would become believers in Islām223 and out of their own free will, accept this new religion. Usually the prisoners would be tied up and not left free, and they would be kept in a place where hygiene224 was good. They would be imprisoned in the Masjid225 or in the house of the soldiers to whom they had been given226 or were imprisoned all together in the house of one of the soldiers227. This would be done to prevent any of them from fleeing. These houses were not built as prisons and if they were not tied, the prisoners could escape at any time.
The Glorious Qur’ān has encouraged the feeding of prisoners228 and the Holy Prophet (S) would also recommend it229. The troops would also give precedence to the prisoners when it came to food and would sacrifice their own food for them230.
Like ‘Aziz ibn ‘Umayr who used to eat bread and good foods. The food of the prisoners was dates231. When the supreme commander was requested for some food by a prisoner, he replied with kindness and generosity232 and asked the companions to prepare some food for him233. They immediately gave him milk and delicious food.
At the same time, the prisoners were covered with proper clothes. For instance, the supreme commander gave a shirt to ‘Abbās ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib234 and while giving some clothes as a gift to Safānah bint Hātim Tā’i, the Prophet (S) favored her by setting her free235.
He (S) would never force any prisoner to divulge secret military information236, however, if he tried to deceive the Muslim army by giving them false information, he would be pressurized and would even be beaten237. If a prisoner did not give up secret information about the enemy, he would never be beaten or abused. However, if he did give up any vital information, he would be set free238.
The goal of this department was the preservation of the health of soldiers. To this end, offering medical assistance to the injured and taking them from the battlefield to the medical camps for treatment were the functions that this department was responsible for. Other functions included taking preventative measures to stop the spread of different diseases and epidemics and taking care of the hygiene in the places where the troops and commanders camped and ensuring the cleanliness and soundness of these places.239
The supreme commander would also participate in giving medical assistance240, for instance when Qatāda ibn Nu’mān was injured in the Battle of Uhud and the news reached him, he (S) wrapped Qatāda in his cloak and gave him treatment, such that he regained his health and returned to his previous state241. In the same way, he (S) treated the injury of Sa’d ibn Ma’ādh, who was injured in the Sariya of Muhammad ibn Maslamah (that was undertaken) to assassinate Ka’b ibn Ashraf242. The Prophet (S) put his own saliva on the eyes of ‘Ali (‘a), who was suffering from an ailment in his eyes, and he was cured and could continue fighting the battle243.
The support forces would always provide the required medicines to those who were sick or injured244. General medical services in the Muslim army were based on the individual245, collective246 and the women247. When the supreme commander was attacked and became injured, Abi ‘Ubaydah ibn Jarrāh would pull out the chains of his helmet from his cheeks248 and Fātima (‘a) also would put a heated mat with palm leaves on his wounds249. The injured would come as outpatients and would get their wounds dressed and this would happen after they had returned to Madina250. Some of the wounds would be given basic treatment and dressing during the battle.
Another responsibility of this department was evacuating the injured to a specific location for treatment in Madina. When Sa’d ibn Mu’ādh was injured in the Battle of Khandaq, he was transferred to a tent in Masjid al-Nabi (S)251. In the same way, when Muhammad ibn Maslamah252 was injured in battle against the Bani Tha’labah and ‘Awāl, he was taken to Madina (for treatment). The medications and medical equipment that were used to treat and cure the injured were very basic and the most important among these included: water, (heated) mats, fabrics253 that were used by men in their trousers or the turbans254 that they wore on their heads – and this would be used to dress the wounds and cuts. Honey255, oil256, a special type of dates257, milk, camel urine258, salt with water259 and other remedies (were used)260.
The Holy Prophet (S) would take it upon himself to find out about the situation of hygiene in the army. He (S) would send some troops to check this and give him news about the situation261 and to select (hygienic and) sound locations262. He would choose such (clean and hygienic) locations for the army to set up camp. He would select clean and suitable water for drinking263 and would only permit the using of water that had not changed in smell or color for washing hands and cleaning wounds264.
Losses in the battlefield would be suffered because of a number of reasons, the most important among which were:
Their resources and conditions of warfare and those of the enemy
The type of battle (offensive, defensive, siege etc.)
The types of weapons used
Preparation for war and the type of terrain
The time of day (whether day or night)
The zeal and morale of the soldiers
Ability and precaution265
In the battle of Badr, the resources were equally accessible to both the sides. The type of war was defensive in Khandaq and offensive in the Conquest of Makkah. Entering the fortresses, the conditions of terrain and time of the battle (during the last hours of the night) in Khaybar, the type of weapons used in the Battle of Tā’if, the preparation in the Battle of Bani Quraydha and the great care and precaution taken in the Battle of Dhāt al-Ruqā’ were all important factors. The losses faced by the Muslim army in the first defensive battles were greater. In the Battle of Badr fourteen people266, in Uhud eighty267 and in Khandaq six people268 were martyred. But in the offensive battles, the numbers were relatively less. In the Battle of Muta nine people269, in the Conquest of Makkah two people270, in Hunayn fourteen people271, in conquering the fortresses of Khaybar fifteen people272 and in Tā’if twelve people273 were martyred. When conquering the fortresses of Bani Qaynuqā’, Bani Nadhir and Bani Quraydha, the Muslim army suffered no losses at all274.
As for the losses faced in the Sariya missions, they included: ten people275 were martyred in the Sariya of Muhammad ibn Maslamah against the Bani Tha’labah, three people276 in the Sariya of Bashir ibn Sa’d al-Ansāri against the Bani Murrah, five people277 in the Sariya of Abi al-‘Awjā al-Sulami against the Bani Saleem and fifteen people278 in the Sariya of Kalā’i’b ibn ‘Umayr al-Ghaffāri against the Bani Qudhā’ah. In missions where the enemy ambushed the Muslims, many losses were suffered. Like the event of Bi’r Ma’unah where seventy people279 and Rajee’ where ten people were martyred280.
By studying these numbers one can see that the losses in defensive war were greater than those in offensive war, and this was because after the Battle of Khandaq, the Muslim army had gained experience and were better trained281. The losses in some of the Sariya missions282 were higher due to the commanders not having taken all the necessary precautions, a stronger enemy army, the element of surprise was not there in their attack, the secretive nature of the military operation and the inability to assist the injured because of which they would die.
The percentage of those who were martyred were as follows: Badr283 – 5% of the forces, Uhud284 – 10%, Khandaq285 – 0.002%, Khaybar286 – 1%, Muta287 – 2.5%; Conquest of Makkah288 – 0.002%, Hunayn289 – 0.003%, Tā’if290 – 0.02% and in the Sariya and other missions put together291 - 10%. The highest number of martyrs was in the Battle of Uhud (70) and the lowest was in the Conquest of Makkah (2).
The Holy Prophet (S) gave the order that the martyrs should be buried in the battlefield292, just as is done in some of the battles of our time. He (S) would not give permission to take their bodies back to Madina and it has been said that some of the heirs had taken the corpses of their dead back to Madina, but the Prophet (S) ordered that they be taken back. The announcer of the supreme commander would call out: ‘Return those who have been killed to their place of rest (i.e. the place where they fell in battle)293.
The reason for this was that transferring the dead to another place would put their families under financial strain and other difficulties and it was possible that the change in weather conditions could affect the corpses and cause them to be cut into pieces. Aside from this, the means of transport were not abundant and could not even cater for all the soldiers. Most important of all, burying the fallen soldiers in the battlefield was a secret for keeping their memory alive, heightening emotions about them and expressing the meaning of courage by their example.
The Holy Prophet (S) would honor the martyrs294, put them on the pedestal of respect and glory in this world and the hereafter295 and would give the glad tidings about this to the family and relatives of the martyred296; so their hearts would be filled with happiness. The Prophet (S) would bury one, two or three martyrs in a single grave297 depending on their closeness with each other or their relationship (to each other) or the amount of Qur’ān they had memorized in their lifetimes.
The Prophet (S) forbade the disfigurement and cutting off of parts of the enemy corpses298 and gave the order that once they were identified, they were to be buried without taking any revenge on their dead bodies by burning, drowning or decapitating them299. The supreme commander would also instruct the commanders and leaders of Sariya missions not to disfigure the corpses of the enemy300 and preserve the respect of their dead301. This was despite the fact that the Quraysh had disfigured the body of Hamza and others in the Battle of Uhud, and Hind bint ‘Aqabah, the wife of the commander of the enemy’s army i.e. Abu Sufyān, had chewed the liver of this martyr (Hamza)302. Despite all this, if the enemies were keen to take their corpses, the Prophet (S) would allow them to do so303.
Women had an important role in (securing) supplies and relief support of the Muslim army. They would prepare food for the soldiers304, give water to the thirsty305, carry water-bags on their shoulders and take them to the troops in the battlefield306, treat the injured by burning medicinal herbs and teas307 and putting them on heated mats which would be placed on the injuries308, and assist in evacuating the injured to specific areas such as Masjids. There role in lifting the morale and encouraging the soldiers before battle was important309.
They would force those fleeing from battle to return310, repair clothes and coverings and stitch water-bags311 and assist in medical evacuations312. The women would share their advice with the supreme commander313 and would, in times of desperation, fight314 and would guard and protect the weapons and military equipment315.
By allowing the women to participate in battle, the Prophet (S) raised their status. In the Battle of Hudaybiyya, he took their advice when leaving for ‘Umrah316 and they had told him to go ahead and do whatever he saw fit as the Muslims would all follow him. In the Conquest of Makkah, the women pledged allegiance to him just as the men did317 and when making the Treaty of Hudaybiyya with the Quraysh, even though the men did not agree to the conditions318 and protested them, the women did not do so319. It was at this point that the verses of the Qur’ān320 were revealed that elevated their status.
The place of the women in the battles321 while marching or camping, was in the rear of the army and in Madina and the fortresses322 during defense323, it was behind the men and they would give the necessary assistance and support to the soldiers324. Whenever they participated in the battle, they would be behind the male soldiers325.
A study of all the battles that were fought by the Muslim army in all the front-lines establishes the fact that possessing greater forces and resources was not sufficient for achieving victory. Rather, the organization of resources and proper utilization of the same at the right place and right time326, even if these resources were few327 or even lacking328, was considered the most evident cause of victory. It is because of this that the Muslim army was able to attain victory over the Jews who were stronger in terms of resources329, the Romans who had a variety of different types of resources330 and even the enemy tribes who possessed thousands of sheep, mules and horses331.
After gaining victory over the enemy, the Muslims added the acquired resources to what little they had and began organizing it332. The Prophet (S) would never face the enemy altogether, rather he would face them separately attacking one after the other333. This was the strategy that made the forces develop gradually in different fields, to such a degree that in time, they were able to overcome larger enemy forces334. In the beginning the army fought against the Bani Qaynuqā’ and took over the few material resources that they had335. The Prophet (S) fought against the Bani Qaynuqā’ at a time when the resources of the Muslim army were incomparable336 to those that were used in the Battle of Khaybar that took place a few years later, in which they overcame the enemy, and in this way each battle would increase the resources and capability of the Muslim army.
In his battles, the Holy Prophet (S) would use methods that required fewer material resources, like the pre-emptive battles337, surprise attacks338, full scale and revolutionary attacks339, because these methods created a high morale340, swiftness in attack341, strong faith and steadfastness342, complete general readiness343 and fear in the enemy344.
The organization and Islāmic government developed gradually after the migration of the Holy Prophet (S) to Madina. At this time the Prophet (S) made this city the capital of the Islāmic government, managed and supervised the affairs of the Muslims, planned and created a program for spreading the call of Islām and took steps which put him, in the short term, in situations of grave hardship. These steps were always taken with complete wisdom and awareness, and became a stepping stone and a basis for the expansion of the management and the great foundation of human reform.
The measures he (S) took made Madina a homeland for its residents and not a place of continuous disputes between its tribes. It became a peaceful home for those who upheld its sanctity. Madina welcomed the Muhājirs, from whatever tribe and group they may have been. Actually, this was the first time that a homeland in which the people lived as equals got its true meaning, and in which the people would take up responsibilities without looking at lineage of status.
The Holy Prophet (S) was successful in making leadership dignified and honored so that all the people could benefit from his guidance and leadership and would be ready to submit to and obey him after having been freed from the yoke of other tyrant rulers345. With the ingenuity and intelligence that he had been granted, the Prophet (S) understood that the head and guide who would be responsible for organizing affairs initially in Madina and later throughout the world cannot succeed without the strength of the divine call and guardianship of the Islāmic system, and this strength was found in the arms of the believers who decided to migrate with him to Madina and were the first group to form a Muslim army, which the Ansār also joined later.
The role of the Holy Prophet (S) in nurturing the military forces started when Jihād was made obligatory. During this time, he embarked on organizing, recruiting and training the army following the battles and Sariya missions that were aimed at attaining political and military goals; because in order to establish the government and expand the call to Islām, there was no other choice. He would give hope to the fighters and mobilize them to come together under the leadership of the unit commanders and would strive to increase the awe and eminence of the Muslims among the enemy.
The supreme commander would always try to prepare the army and train them in the different arts of warfare, until they were fully prepared and well trained so that they could show the superiority of their skills when they came face to face with the enemy in battle.
His goal in these battles was self-defense346, safeguarding the call to Islām and defending it against those people who would act as hindrances in its way. As we study the progress of the battles that were commanded by the Holy Prophet (S) – that we have mentioned in detail, we find the most evident factors that led to victory included:
First: the usage of certain methods of warfare by the Prophet (S) that the enemy did not have any knowledge of, such as ‘siege’, ‘acquiring intelligence’, ‘specifying the goals and objectives’, ‘mobilizing the forces for the primary objective’, ‘surprise attacks’, ‘secret (Sariya) missions’, ‘swiftness’, ‘maneuvers’ and ‘spiritual force and securing all the military resources’ which are all principles of present-day warfare347.
The types of warfare that were employed by the Holy Prophet (S) in his battles had a huge impact in victory over the enemy. For instance, psychological warfare348 was an important means of reducing and weakening the morale of the enemy and in most of the battles, just by the enemy hearing the thunderous sounds of the Muslim army, it was enough to gain them victory.
The same was the case of revolutionary and collective war where all the military and non-military groups were involved where he (S) used special methods to mobilize all of them together in a spirit of revolution. The result of this type of leadership was that the forces, having seen his just attitude and superior goal, accepted all that he gave them and believed in it. Similarly, the innovations in warfare that the Prophet (S) had brought led to the perplexity and reduced grandeur of the enemy and in the end led to their downfall.
More than anything else, the ingenuity of the supreme commander and the qualities that distinguished him as a leader, and also his uniqueness and superiority in politics, military management and a complete awareness of the principles and etiquettes of war both at the tactical and strategic levels, deserves praise.
Second: Islāmic training and nurturing – the Holy Prophet (S) gave full attention and importance to this. He (S) created a new force among the Muslim army which had never been witnessed by the Arabs before, and that was the force of spirituality that Islām put in their hearts and made them willing to sacrifice their lives and wealth in the way of spreading the true religion and made them volunteer for death. This was something that guaranteed their felicity and reward in this world and the hereafter.
The Muslim army was distinguished for its united leadership, sincerity and total obedience to them. The fact that Miqdād ibn ‘Amr turned to the Holy Prophet (S) in the Battle of Badr and said: “If you march towards Bark al-‘Imād (a remote place in Yemen), we will follow you with strength until we reach there!” and Sa’d ibn Mu’ādh said: “If you give us the order to enter this sea, we will enter it with you and none of us will disobey you in this matter!” proves this point.
The invitation of the Holy Prophet (S) to Islām was a call based on reformation and peace, and war was not considered except when the hardheartedness and harsh treatment of the enemy upon the Muslims increased. In reality it was a defensive response of force against force. In this way, his battles were based on steadfastness from the very beginning and the Muslim army was never negligent of this. They would invite the people to the new religion, enact peace treaties with them, take Jizya tax or conquer their lands and fight against those who expressed enmity towards him.
The most important feature of the time of the Prophet (S) was his many battle and Sariya missions. Despite the fact the Jihād was ordained after migration to Madina, but in the span of seven years, the number of battles had reached 27, starting from the Battle of Waddān and ending with the Battle of Tabuk. The Holy Prophet (S) was present in nine of the battles. During this time, he (S) organized 47 Sariya missions where some of them were just to invite others to Islām or come face to face with those who posed a threat to the security of the Muslims.
A point worth noting here is that this military training and the battles that have been mentioned gave the Islāmic government eminence and put it in the category of the largest empires in human history, without this being the real goal. Accepting the notion that the primary goal of the Holy Prophet (S) was to establish an Islāmic empire would be contrary to the ‘historical truth’ because actually this matter was only part of the overall means of attaining the primary objective which was to destroy polytheism and spread Islām through peaceful and friendly means.
The way in which this government dealt with its enemies and other governments opened up a new door, because its principle of encounter and relationship were based on the rules and principles of justice and humanity, both in times of peace and war. The fact that after the supreme commander passed away the Muslim army continued its conquests and were able to capture the lands of Syria, Egypt and ‘Iraq, and were able to bring the two largest empires of the time, i.e. the Romans and Persians, to submission, this was only because they gave importance and special significance to the fact that the Holy Prophet (S) was the first conqueror of these lands. Because during his time, he (S) laid the groundwork for them through his battles and wars and had given the army glad tidings about the expansion of their domain, and this was the reason for the increase in their morale and guarantee of gaining victory.
In reality, the Islāmic conquests during the reign of the Caliphs were the fruits of the seeds that were sowed by the Holy Prophet (S) in the battles that he led. There were always two factors that enabled the Muslim army to close the scrolls of the kings and overthrow them and overcome all the hardships and these were:
1) The love for Islāmic government and obedience to its leader.
2) Considering death to be insignificant.
It was because of these reasons that the domain of Islām reached China in the east and Andalusia in the west.
The Islāmic government will never achieve its past glory again unless the organization of its armies are once again based on the principles that the Holy Prophet (S) laid down, the most important of which were: Love for the (Islāmic) government, unity, sacrificing of lives and souls in the quest of achieving security and peace throughout the lands.