The Noble Prophet (S) was the commander in many battles1 and he sent forth numerous Sariyah missions. As far as good leadership, which necessitates certain conditions and characteristics such as good etiquette and lofty morals that are obviously required to be found in the individual, it is undisputable that the Holy Prophet (S) had the greatest morals, such that he was praised by Allah thus: And indeed you possess a great character2. His having such a character made him a successful commander who was able to attain the goals and gain momentous victories in many of his battles.
His most praiseworthy traits were:
He was kind to everyone3 and was courteous with the soldiers and his people in all circumstances4. He was trustworthy and truthful5, loyal to his covenants and pacts6. When he got angry, he would swallow his anger and when he had the power (to exact revenge), he would turn a blind eye7. A prime example from the instances when this can be witnessed was the conquest of Makkah8 - when there was an opportunity to take revenge against those who persecuted him and his followers, he forgave them all.
He was sincere in the actions he performed for God and in the service of the people. He brought peace between the people and established friendship between the opposing factions of the Aus and Khazraj, and even the Muhājirs and Ansārs. He removed malice, enmity, hatred and sedition from them and gave everyone their rightful position9.
He would enjoin people to do good and forbid them from evil through struggle and the expounding of its importance, [and through] patience in hardships, tribulations, hopelessness and persecution of the people [the disbelievers]10. Indeed these lofty characteristics were a sign of his greatness as a leader.
Patience became the cornerstone of his leadership by which he would persevere against the enemies. Kindness and courtesy were the ornaments of his command and his respect, veneration, love and humility among the troops brought about a sense of brotherhood and love among them and gave them a feeling of closeness to their leader. His other qualities were forbearance and forgiveness. All these qualities of the Prophet (S) presented him as the light of guidance for all those who would be given the responsibility for leadership.
When the Noble Prophet (S) was sent, the people were immersed in superstition, idol worship, magic and sorcery. Their values were materialistic and their thoughts were lowly. They would say: There is nothing but the life of this world; we live and we die11. The Prophet forced them to apply their intellects in thought and contemplation, invited them to worship One God and purified them of the vileness of idol worship and depravity and got rid of it12.
He then took them towards greatness and glory. The Almighty chose the Prophet (S) so that he could be a messenger and a teacher to them. Whenever the Creator of the Universe chooses someone to bring His message, He selects the person who has the greatest intellect of all people13. Allah knows best where to place His Message14. Therefore there is no doubt that the Prophet (S) had a perfect intellect by which he was able to lead an entire nation and take them to the highest level of religious and worldly achievement.
By thinking and pondering about the situation of his community, we come to the conclusion that the Holy Prophet (S) was the wisest person in the world. This is because he was able to reform a community that was accustomed to harshness and violence and had ingrained [in themselves] the qualities of vainglory and callousness. He trained them and took their affairs in hand and led them out of ignorance into knowledge and guidance; in such a way that despite their past, they became his fervent supporters. They carried on his message and spread it throughout the world and stood up to fight by his side15.
The Noble Prophet (S), by his own acumen, devised new methods in the ‘art of warfare’, ‘government’, ‘administration’, ‘politics’, ‘economics’, ‘social order’ etc. On this basis, in the Battle of Badr16, he initiated battle formations. In the Battle of Ahzāb17 he dug a trench around the city. In the expedition of Hudaybiyyah18 he negotiated with the Quraysh and made a pact with them, the great benefits of which were only seen later. In the same way, he would use new strategies in the battlefields that assisted him in gaining victory over the enemies and they were stunned and perplexed by the [new] tactics.
The greatest and most important intellectual traits of the Holy Prophet (S) were: reflection, contemplation and far-sightedness. These attributes were deduced from his many feats in the battles, the most important of which was his choice and selection of the first soldiers from among the Quraysh and the Muhājirin without the participation of the Ansār. The wisdom behind this was that the Ansār has made a vow in the Second Pledge of ‘Aqabah19 that they would help and support the Prophet in Madina and for this reason it was evident that the Muhājirs would have to play the main role in battles and wars.
However, after some time, without making any reference to the pledge, the Holy Prophet (S) informed the Ansār and made it clear to them that their participation and assistance in the battles was required. From the other instances where the wisdom and prudence of the Prophet we can cite the treaties that he would make with neighboring tribes20; because through this he would gain access to various desert routes that were frequented by the caravans of the Quraysh on their way to Syria21.
In the Battle of Uhud he ordered a group of archers to position themselves on the mountain side22 and to remain there until they were allowed by him to leave their post and it was seen how those archers disobeyed the order of the Holy Prophet (S). When they thought that victory had been gained, they abandoned their post in order to take their share of the booty, thereby granting the enemy easy access and enabling them to overturn the outcome of the battle.
The Holy Prophet (S) wanted the archers to remain in their positions on the mountain so that after the victory is achieved in this fight, the forces could increase in their strength through peaceful means and the awe and glory of the Muslim army may be elevated both within and outside the borders. About this Zuhri says: ‘There was no bigger victory that was gained in Islām before this.’
The Noble Prophet (S) would deal cautiously23 with the Jews and hypocrites who lived in the neighboring areas.
A good commander also needs a creative and an innovative mind with superior intelligence and the Prophet (S) was distinguished with these very attributes. He manifested this in certain instances, the most important of which were:
The creation and establishment of a state24 and the selection of warriors who would be harsh against their enemies and merciful and kind with their friends25. With these principles, the Holy Prophet (S) would fight battles against the Quraysh, the Jews and the hypocrites26. He planned the stages of battle and begin studying the strategies of war with the Quraysh and the possibility of gaining control of Madina and its surrounding areas. He was the one who envisioned the war with the Romans27 which was later realized by the army of Islām and this was another prime example of his far-sightedness and vision.
The Prophet, with his vision and insight, foresaw that the Jews of Khaybar would soon rebel against the Muslim army just as the Jews of Bani Nadhir and Bani Quraydha has done, so he made all the necessary preparations for such an occurrence. In the meantime, he forbade the tribe of Bani Asad from helping the Jews of Kahybar28 in any way and prevented the pact of unity that was about to be made between them. As a result, he made it possible to weaken the Jewish forces and then send an army the likes of which they had never faced to fight them.
During the Expedition of Bani Mustalaq29, he married Juwayrah the daughter of Hārith. Not long thereafter, the tribe of Bani Mustalaq accepted Islām group by group. At the same time, the mission carried out by Usāma bin Zayd30 was also successful and resulted in a great victory.
Even though many of the commanders of the Muslim army lacked the vision and far-sightedness of their great leader, the Holy Prophet (S), they would nonetheless turn to themselves and accept these obvious and evident truths. The greatest reflections of the Prophet (S) and his superiority of intellect were manifested in the following matters:
Planning and organization are considered two of the primary elements in the establishment of a state, a society, an army and all affairs related to these31. Before the Prophet created an army and groups and delegations turned to him, he formulated a plan to set up a new state in Madina. One of the manifestations of this planning was that he met with some people from Madina during the period of Hajj and made a ‘quasi-military’32 pact with them and presented a new religion for them to accept and accepted the responsibility of ending the conflict between their two tribes of the Aus and Khazraj.
He advised them to be the representatives for the propagation of Islām in Yathrib. The next year, before the commencement of the Hajj rituals, a group that was bigger than the first group, came to meet with the Prophet (S) and pledge allegiance to him, and this was the first official pledge of allegiance of the people of Madina33. After the pact, the Prophet (S) send Mus’ab ibn ‘Umayr34 to teach the people of this newly ‘converted’ city. He should therefore be considered the first emissary of the newly founded Islāmic state.
Thirteen years after the appointment of the Prophet, a group comprised of 73 men and women from the chiefs and nobles of the Aus and Khazraj came for Hajj and make a pact with the Holy Prophet (S) in which they vowed to defend him just as they would defend their honor and their children. This pact became known as the ‘Second Pledge of ‘Aqaba’35. From the outcomes and consequences of this planning was the spread of the Islāmic faith and the securing of the basic material and security needs of the Muslims in Madina and support for them against the persecution [of the enemies] and the formation of an army to face the threat of the Quraysh and their allies.
The Prophet (S) organized an army comprising of the Muhājirin and the Ansār. The Ansārs were made up of the Aus and Khazraj while the Muhājirs consisted of all the different tribes and were considered among the foremost experts of warfare in the army. The Holy Prophet (S) appointed a commander for each tribe and also appointed one general commander over them all.
In every battle36, he would organize them according to the needs, natural resources, enmity, friendship and terrain. His soldiers were arranged and divided into the front-line, the rear, the right flank, the left flank and the heart of the army. The Prophet gave a lot of importance to military intelligence and information [about the enemy]37. In the same way, he would send some soldiers in martyrdom-seeking Sariya missions, like the Sariya of Muhammad ibn Maslamah that was given the mission of assassinating Ka’b ibn Ashraf38 because of his insolence and malice against Islām, the leadership [of the Prophet] and all the Muslims. Or like the Sariya of ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Ateek39 who was given the mission of killing Salām ibn Abi al-Huqayq, and other similar missions that were sent.
The Prophet (S) never used to issue firm and clear orders except after he had got the complete information about the conditions of the battle and was able to make decisive judgments and issue the best orders accordingly while remaining steadfast in the face of the changing situations of battle40. The most important qualities that distinguished the commands of the Holy Prophet (S) were:
a) Studying the different aspects before making a decision and consequently issuing the command41.
b) Not reverting or turning back after the command has been issued42.
c) Changing the commands in accordance with the changing circumstances of the battle43.
d) Maintaining the ability of making intellectual decisions and offer continuous guidance and leadership even during the most difficult times in the battlefield44.
e) He would decide on the realization of victory.
With certainty, the sagacity an intellectual brilliance of the Holy Prophet (S) in commanding and controlling the army during war was clearly manifested45. He would test people and then select the strongest and most capable person to give the command to. For example, he chose Hamza ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib as the commander of one of the first Sariya missions46. He appointed ‘Abdullah ibn Jahash47 to lead a Sariya mission to gather intelligence about the Quraysh48. He made Abā Dujāna49 the head of the sword-fighters and selected Usama bin Zayd as the commander of an army that comprised of some of the great companions.50
He put some of the Ansār and Muhājirin under the command of ‘Amr bin ‘Aās and send them to fight the tribe of Bani Qudhā’ah51. All these examples show that all these people who were given the responsibility of leadership in important missions were more capable and skilled than others and had the vision and insight required to overcome the enemies they had to face52.
Another example of the intellectual brilliance of the Prophet (S) in times of war was his focus, at the start of battle, on the points which would secure victory and attain the desired goal. For instance, in the battles of ‘Dhi Amr’ and ‘Bani Salim’53 he put the focus on the right flank54 and in all the other battles like Uhud, would identify the weaknesses in the enemy army and focus on it55.
Transferring and moving the command post during battle was necessary in order to maintain a control over the forces and urge them to remain strong and move forward. In order to protect the forces and organize them in specific formations, the Holy Prophet (S)56 would shift his command post depending on the changing circumstances during battle.
In the Battle of Uhud, the Prophet (S) chose a juncture and a means of shifting57 the command post to a new location. In the Battle of Khaybar, he set up four command posts58. He positioned the central command post at the uppermost corner of the fortress al-Natāh and stationed the furthermost post in Rajee’59 and later ordered that the central command post should be moved to a new location that was better suited strategically.
One of the most important traits and strategic acumen of a commander is the ability to face new scenarios that may be encountered in battle. He needs to be creative and resourceful and should be well aware of the realities that would enable him to reach the road of liberation [from the enemy’s grasp] and victory. It is in this way that experiential knowledge in examination is a way which follows the intellect in order to arrive at correct decisions60. The Noble Prophet (S), with his far-sightedness, vision, skill and intellectual brilliance, understood this and applied it to solve all the problems and execute all the missions that the commander was responsible for.
Sagacity and perspicacity actually refer to deep insight and discernment that are able to clear up ambiguities and discover the reality of hidden secrets and a means of reaching it61. It is evident that from the people, those who are distinguished for their perspicacity are the ones who have insight and ingenuity. Ostensibly, sagacity depends upon observing, listening, moving or all of these combined. The Noble Prophet (S) would take guidance from the Glorious Qur’ān62 that was revealed to him, or from the intellectual ability and sagacity that God had bestowed upon him.63 He has even spoken about the cleverness of a believer64.
As for his perspicacity in matter of warfare, [this is seen in] the fact that he invited Suhayl ibn ‘Amr65, the spokesperson for the Quraysh, to accept Islām. He did great service to the community and foresaw the fall of the Roman and Persian empires66 and the spread of Islām throughout the Arabian Peninsula67. After the killing of Mundhir bin ‘Amr al-Sā’idi’s68 forces in the Sariya that was sent to Bi’r al-Ma’unah69, the Prophet (S) also hid his concern from the inhabitants of Najd70 and only after the Battle of Khandaq did the he announce that the Muslim army would change to an attacking army71. The sagacity of the Holy Prophet (S) was also witnessed in the Treaty of Hudaybiyya72 which turned out to be a great victory for the Muslims.
In the Battle of Muta, he informed of the impending martyrdom of three commanders in his speech73. In the Expedition to Tabuk, he dismantled the borders of the Byzantine Empire74 in order to open the way for the Muslim army to enter their lands75. All these decisions were made by the far-sightedness and perspicacity that the Prophet (S) had in politics, economics, sociology, matters pertaining to warfare and his ability to gauge individuals and groups both within and without in issues of this world and the hereafter.
The principles of warfare that were instituted by the Noble Prophet (S) were the foundational principles [that were necessary] for ‘attaining victory’. Therefore his call was clear76 and his war was based on the following principles:
(i) recruiting forces77
(ii) deploy them sparingly78
(iii) using surprise attacks79 at the appropriate time and place80
(iv) relying on speed81 that would enable battle strikes
(v) continued pressure82 during continuous and consecutive battles against the enemies that take place without any break
(vi) implementing maneuvers83 using the resources and forces that were at hand
(vii) giving importance to maintaining security for the forces84
(viii) reliance on acquisition of intelligence and information
(ix) organizing the forces85
(x) Establishing a form of synchronization and a co-operation between the various fighters of the cavalry, infantry and all the other ranks as well as between the right and left flanks and the center of the army
(xi) Not dispersing the forces86 because it was not appropriate to do so given the weapons and resources that were available, and this is [also] a practice of the new form of warfare
(xii) Strengthening the morale of his own soldiers87 in such a way that they would not fear death
(xiii) Creating an atmosphere of security in all the various battlefields; and all of these were from the great principles of warfare of the Holy Prophet (S).
Just as the Noble Prophet (S) was aware of the principles of war, he was also skilled in the use of both defensive and offensive warfare. He would use defensive warfare when constrained and execute attacks when necessary. When the threat was averted, he would have no need for either.
It is for certain that when the Prophet (S) had weak forces and few resources, he would take up defense88. For this reason, in the beginning of his mission89, his defensive stance was evident, because at this time he was prey to the persecution and harassment and was forced to migrate; an affair that brought nothing but good for him. In Madina, his intention and goal, except in a few cases when he had no choice but to take up defense90, was to attack91. When he had a strong and complete army, he turned to offensive warfare92. This method is one of the more advanced styles of war – which he used when sending the Sariya missions and laying the groundwork for battle93 before the great Battle of Badr, which was an offensive battle. The methods and means by which this offensive warfare would be carried out were:
1. Killing94 the people who were in the way of the Islāmic revolution.
2. Swift reprisal95 for those who were always ready to oppress and tyrannize.
3. Making pacts of unity96 with the neighboring tribes.
4. Focusing the [army’s] strength97 on some of the more important fights against the enemies.
When the Battle of Uhud took place, he was forced to temporarily take up a defensive position, but this defensive war was again changed back into an offensive war in the Battle of Hamrā al-Asad98 and the Muslim army was able to retake the victory from the enemy with its attacking forces and overturn the outcome.99 The Prophet (S) continued to face the enemy and conduct pre-emptive strikes100 until the Battle of Khandaq took place in which he also came out victorious. After the Battle of Khandaq, he used offensive warfare continuously and endlessly. He would say: Now it is we that must take the initiative to fight the enemy while they cannot fight us, and we should take the initiative to go towards them.101
The Noble Prophet (S) founded the basis of pre-emptive warfare102, which required fewer fighters and resources as was seen in the first Sariya mission which comprised of thirty fighters, but this number was increased to 313 plus two on horseback in the Battle of Badr. The Holy Prophet (S) would always attack the enemy before they could rise up [and launch an attack on the Muslims.103
The most important principles of this type of war that the Prophet (S) relied upon were: swiftness, stealth, surprise attacks, moving the war to the enemy’s area at the right time and place, acquiring of precise information, increasing the morale of the attacking fighters, deploying the forces sparingly and minimizing loses. With these principles, he opened up the way of attaining greater victory over the enemy.
The Prophet started pre-emptive war in the Battle of Bani Saleem104. He marched his forces towards the tribes of Ghatfān and Saleem who had gathered at the waters of Qarqarat al-Kadar105. He carried out a surprise attack on them which lead to a greater victory over them. This was the same strategy applied in the Battle of Dhi Amr against the Bani Tha’labah, Ghatfān and Muhārib tribes to overpower them.106 In this case, he obtained information107 and then carried out a perfect Sariya mission108 wherein he did not utilize all the forces he had, rather he only deployed those whom he needed in every battle, in accordance with the forces of the allies and enemies, and in this way, he put the principle of ‘deploying the forces sparingly’ into practice.
In the aforementioned battle (of Dhi Amr), the number of soldiers were four hundred and fifty109 whereas in the next battle (the Battle of Bahrān) the number was reduced to three hundred110. The Prophet (S) appointed Salamah bin ‘Abd al-Asad al-Makhzumi111 as the leader of the mission and ordered him to march quickly112, day and night, so that he can reach the Bani Asad before they could recruit their forces113. In order to carry out the surprise attack, the commander would move stealthily, march by night114 and use routes that were not common. He would take advantage of the time and place when the enemy is most vulnerable, just as was done in the Battle of Bani Mustalaq115 where an attack was carried out while they were busy watering their animals116 at a place known as al-Marisee’ near the shore117.
The Holy Prophet (S) would order the carrying out of lightning strikes and blitzes and for this he would rely on the following: (i) the psychological effect it would have on the enemy118 (ii) swiftness119 in movement and maneuvering (iii) training in advanced archery skills120 (iv) competition (v) resistance (vi) carrying out surprise attacks121 (vii) establishing the morale of attack122 in his own army123 (viii) Keeping the preparations for a surprise attack secret (ix) reducing the load of munitions and equipment that is carried by the troops.
Here we can mention the battles of Badr and Uhud under defensive and the Conquest of Makkah, Hunayn and Tabuk under offensive battles. In each case the speed of the troops was in accordance to what was appropriate [for the type of battle]124. Lightning strikes and blitzes needed dominance and superiority125 and could be changed in relation to defense and offence126. It also reduced human and material losses; because it terrified the enemy and made him continuously come under intense hardships and tribulations. In this state, in the face of lightning attacks, they would be forced to hesitate and end up surrendering without putting up any resistance. As a result, the number of martyrs and wounded [in this type of warfare] would be reduced.
In offensive battles, the Holy Prophet (S) would always try to have a greater number of forces [than the enemy]. In the Battle of Bani Quraydha, the number of forces in the Muslim army was three thousand compared to seven hundred and fifty from the Bani Quraydha. In the Battle of Khaybar 1,500 fighters were sent to face one thousand Jews of Kahybar, and in the Conquest of Makkah, ten thousand men faced the entire city of Makkah; and similarly this superiority was seen in most of the Sariya missions that were sent127...
In battles where it was not possible to gain superiority as far as the number of forces was concerned, like in the Battle of Hunayn128, he implemented lightning strikes. In this battle, the number of soldiers in the Muslim army was twelve thousand against the twenty thousand from the Hawāzin, the Watheeq and other tribes. This attack was commanded by people who were distinguished for caution, resistance129, utilizing the time and place130, swiftness that was greater131 than the speed of the enemy132, changing and adapting quickly in the face of changing circumstances and making choices133 based on them, focusing the attention on the enemy and obtaining strong intelligence134 about them. All this factors made the Muslim army superior and enabled them to gain victory.
Chasing the enemy and pursuing him after carrying out a successful attack is known as ‘al-Mutāradah’ and the aim behind it is to annihilate and destroy the defeated forces of the enemy135. The Holy Prophet (S) never allowed this in any of the battles he fought and was victorious. He would [after gaining victory] set the enemy captives free and allow them to go wherever they wished. He also instructed the commanders of Sariya missions not to pursue the fleeing enemy because this was not helpful in realizing any of the military and political goals.
When we look carefully at the Battle of Dhāt al-Suwayq136 we find that the Prophet (S) was not keen to pursue Abu Sufyān, because if he would have reached the Quraysh in Makkah while the Muslim army was pursuing him, the polytheists would quickly prepare and gather for war, and thus this would end in an outcome that was not favorable for the pursuing forces137.
In the Battle of Dhāt al-Ruqā’138, after the Noble Prophet (S) gained victory over the Bani Mahārib, the Bani Tha’labah and the Ghatfān, he never pursued their fleeing fighters, because it was possible for them to regroup with the Ghatfān and recruit more forces and in such a case it would be difficult to gain the upper hand over them. In the Battle of al-Ghābah139 also, the Muslim army caught up with the fleeing enemy army at Dhi Qirad140 but was forced to return back from the same route. After this, the Prophet (S) sent out many missions141 to fight against the enemy, but he would always command them not to pursue the enemy if they were victorious.
When he sent Abi Salamah ibn ‘Abd al-Asad al-Makhzumi to fight the Bani Asad, he instructed him: Go towards the land of the Bani Asad and carry out an attack on them before they can gather together against you142. Similarly, in the other missions like the Sariya of Usāmah ibn Zayd143 that was sent to (fight) the Abnā, there was no effort to pursue the defeated and fleeing soldiers.
The Prophet (S) was fully aware of this tactic, because it has been narrated that he would use offence and attacks whenever the situation called for it144 in such a way that if it is used [in the present], by an elite commander – meaning someone who is courageous, brave, sound, intelligent and with a great personality who can execute attacks successfully – it would not match up to the way it was done at the time of the Prophet (S).
The attacks and onslaughts that were carried out by the Prophet (S) had the following distinguishing features:
a) Camouflage and Stealth: Like what took place in the Battle of Bahrān145 against the tribe of Bani Saleem.
b) Silence and Quietness: This was seen in all the offensive missions and battles, especially the Battle of Bani Saleem, Bani al-Mustalaq and Badr, as well as other battles146.
c) ‘Surprise’ was a constituent of all the offensive battles and military missions, especially Badr, and was part of the foray. Just as seen in the Battle of Bani Quraydha, Khaybar, the Sariya of ‘Ali ibn Abi Tālib (‘a) against the Banu Sa’d and the Sariya of Usāma bin Zayd.147
e) Deception in Time and Place: this was another distinguishing feature of the military operations conducted by the Muslim army that was used in the Battles of Khandaq and Khaybar150.
The commander who was given the task of carrying out an attack was someone who was physically strong, had good hearing, strong sight and was free from any ailment or malady that could impede him during the operation. Similarly, the Prophet (S) would take into consideration the goal and the time [together] - like in the Battle of Khaybar151, the place - as in the Battle of Khandaq152, and all three i.e. time, place and the objective – as in the Sariya of Usāma bin Zayd to Abnā153, so that the enemy could be attacked when they were least prepared for battle.
The Noble Prophet (S) prevented the fighters from raising their voices or shouting and screaming, and in the Battle of Badr he ordered that the bells of the camels should be removed from their necks154. He would always encourage his troops to use new ways and methods for carrying out attacks.
Some of the military tactics that are necessary and important in the battlefield are deception and trickery. Deception is the art of hiding and concealing the truth and involves doing things that would mislead the mind of the enemy away from the fight, while at the same time being alert about the resources and operations [of one’s own army]155. The Holy Prophet (S) knew about the importance of deception and trickery in war and would plan it and then execute it perfectly. He counted deception as part of warfare and would say: War is deception156. In the first battle that was fought against the enemy at Badr, he replied to the question of Habāb bin Mundhir about this tactic and reaffirmed that indeed, war is deception, cunning and trickery157.
The Prophet (S) also gave Muhammad bin Maslamah158, who had taken the responsibility of killing Ka’b ibn Ashraf, the permission to deceive the enemy159 and say anything that will enable him to carry out his mission. Similarly, after his accepting Islām, Na’eem bin Mas’ud was ordered to trick the enemy in the battle of Khandaq in the same way. So he was told: You are from the tribe of Ghatfān. When you go to them, if you are forced to display hatred for us then do so for this will be more beneficial for us than if you openly help us. So go forward, for war is deception and cunning160. In this mission, he successfully dispersed the enemy and this resulted in a victory for the Muslims.
In the war of Bani Lahyān, the supreme commander portrayed the type of battle, the time and the route taken in a different way [to what he actually intended]161. In the Battle of Khaybar, he used trickery and deception against the Ghatfān162 and they were not able to join with the forces at Khaybar and thus returned to their homeland. In the Conquest of Makkah163, the Prophet (S) misled the Quraysh by sending Abi Qatāda ibn Rabi’ towards the direction of Najd, thus misdirecting and distracting them from his real target (which was Makkah), and by equivocation164 and trickery, he cut off all the routes in and out of Makkah165. In the Battle of Muta also, Khālid bin Walid used this tactic166. And in this way, by increasing the movements of the army, the enemy was tricked into believing that a large number of reinforcements had come to the aid of the Muslim army, so they became frightened and turned back.
The Prophet (S) would always be careful about superiority over the enemy in battle, so he would gather all the needed forces and resources for the important battles. He sent Sariya missions towards the coastal regions and also to face the Quraysh, like the Sariya of Hamza and the later missions, or the battles like Waddān, Bawāt and al-‘Asheera; and also towards the eastern regions after the battle of Badr167. The Prophet (S) gained an upper hand in the following ways:
Inventing new ways of warfare: like in the Battle of Badr, the battle of the fortresses and the lightning strikes168...
Focusing the forces at the appropriate time and place169, as in the Battle of Uhud and Hunayn.
Being swift as was required by the conditions of battle170, like in many of the battles and Sariya missions.
Destruction of most of the enemy forces171, like in the Battle of Badr, Hunayn and Bani Quraydha.
Restricting the freedom of the enemy, like in the battles of Badr, Quraydha and Khaybar172.
Putting the enemy forces in hardship and difficulty173, just like cutting off any reinforcements from the Bani Quraydha and besieging them.
Burning down the date palms of Bani Nadhir and the gardens of Tā’if174.
Gaining access to the backup forces of the enemy and restricting or destroying them175, such that the Prophet (S) would make his forces reach the enemy and take their horses as booty.
The Holy Prophet (S) did not always seek to have a larger army than the enemy176. For instance, in the Sariya of Hamza, the number of soldiers was thirty as opposed to the three hundred Makkans. In the Battle of Badr, 313 [Muslim] fighters went up against one thousand polytheists. In the Battle of Uhud, seven hundred came to face three thousand polytheists, and in the Battle of Ahzāb, three thousand faced ten thousand infidels. However, he mostly sought to gain superiority as far as the excellence of the forces were concerned177 just as in the battles of Hamrā al-Asad, Badr al-Aākhar and Bani al-Mustalaq.
In some of the battles, despite the greater number of enemy forces and weapons178, he would gain decisive victories over them for which the battles of Badr and Hunayn are perfect examples. Nonetheless, he would change the number of forces sent in every different situation. In the Battle of Bani Quraydha, there was a relatively large number of forces as compared to the enemy179 as was also the case in the War of Bani Lahyān180.
The Prophet (S) would not attack one tribe or one group in a single strike181. Rather, he would divide the enemy in order to gain complete victory and dominance of them materially and spiritually. For example, he divided the Jewish forces into the following: Bani Qaynuqā, Bani Nadhir, Bani Quraydha and [the Jews of] Khaybar. He attacked each of these groups separately. For instance, in the Battle of Ahzāb, he attacked the Jews separately from the Quraysh182 and the Bani Ghatfān separately from them both183 and in the Battle of Hunayn, he also divided the enemy i.e. he separated the front-line from the soldiers who were behind and then launched an attack on them.
The Noble Prophet (S) was steadfast about the importance of speed in battle, because this tactic made it possible for him to carry out surprise attacks. The number of fallen soldiers would not be known [when the attacks were swift] and this would weaken the resolve of the enemy while strengthening the morale of the attacking army such that the enemy was unable to launch a counter attack184. In order to achieve the desired swiftness, the Prophet embarked on training the forces185 and made them practice it in all the consecutive battles186 and missions187 that would be carried out to face the enemy. In this way, the soldiers became accustomed188 to move swiftly and fight in the battles without making mistakes.
The modes of transport used by the Prophet played an important role in attaining the desired speed. These consisted mainly of horses and camels. The Muslim army also relied on being quick in getting ready for war189 and in order to instantaneously face the enemy and recruit forces, they needed material resources and manpower.
In order to achieve this, the Prophet (S) used the following methods:
Swiftness in defense and attack190: In defense, like in the battles of Uhud and Khandaq and in attack, like in the battles and Sariya missions of Bani Saleem, Dhi Amr, Bahrān, Dhāt al-Ruqā’, Dumat al-Jundal, the Sariya of Abi ‘Ubayda ibn al-Jarrāh, Abi Salama and al-Khabt, this was clearly seen191.
Speed in besieging192: Like in the battles of Bani Qaynuqā, Bani Quraydha and Khaybar.
Quickness in marching forward: In the battles and missions like Badr, when the enemies were heading towards al-Udwat al-Dunyā, they overtook them and also in the battles of Bani Saleem, Dhāt al-Ruqā’, Bani Quraydha, Bani Lahyān, the Sariya of Muhammad ibn Maslamah to kill Ka’b ibn Ashraf, the Sariya of Zayd bin Hāritha to attack the caravan of the Quraysh and the Sariya of Abi Salamah where he journeyed by day and night in order to reach the enemy.
Speed in acquiring information and intelligence: Like in the battles of Badr, Dhāt al-Ruqā’, Bani al-Mustalaq, Khaybar, the Conquest of Makkah and the Sariya of Muhammad bin Maslamah to destroy the Bani Bakr, (the Sariya of) ‘Akāsha bin Mahsan against the Bani Asad and Ghālib bin ‘Abdillah al-Laythi against the Bani Murrah193.
Swiftness in counter attacks: Like in the Battle of Uhud194 and in lightning strikes195 like in the Battle of Hunayn.
Speed in [carrying out] other missions196: Including in the Sariya missions of ‘Umayr ibn ‘Uday to kill ‘Asmā’, of Sālim bin ‘Umayr to kill Ibn Abi ‘Ifk, of Muhammad bin Maslamah to kill Ka’b ibn Ashraf, Of ‘Abdullah bin Anees to kill Sufyān ibn Khālid al-Hadhali and of ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Ateek in order to kill Abi Rāfi’.
Swiftness in attack197: In battles and Sariya missions like Dumat al-Jundal, Bani al-Mustalaq, Ibn Quraydha, Bani Lahyānm the Sariya of ‘Ali ibn Abi Tālib (‘a) [who was sent] towards the Bani Sa’d, Bashir ibn Sa’d Ansāri who was sent to the Bani Murrah and Usāma bin Zayd towards the Abnā.
Speed in preventive war: Like in the battles and Sariya missions of Dhi Amr, Bahrān, Dhāt al-Ruqā’, Dumat al-Jundal, Bani al-Mustalaq, the Sariya of Abi Salamah, Abi ‘Ubaydah ibn Jarrāh for revenge from the Bani Tha’labah, and al-Khabat198.
Swiftness in Lightning Strikes199: Like in the battles of Dhāt al-Ruqā’, Bani Quraydha, Dhi Qirad and the Sariya of Zayd ibn Hāritha against the tribe of Judhām.
Quickness in raids200: In the battle of Dhāt al-Ruqā’ and other Sariya missions.
This type war was based on rising up against injustice and tyrannical forces with all the might and resources available and it relied on the power of the people who have been inspired and are driven by the force of spiritual, political or religious motivations, and is actually a first step in destroying the might and awe of the enemy and gaining victory over him201.
In ‘revolutionary and all-inclusive war’, the Holy Prophet (S) would spiritually and mentally prepare the forces and the inhabitants of the city202. In turn, they would be ready to sacrifice all their lives and property203 for the cause, because they believed and trusted in the fairness, the instruction, the authority, the love and the command of the Prophet (S)204. It is undeniable that the spiritual aspect205 played an important role in strengthening the resolve of the revolutionary forces and weakening the enemy, and as such it was employed in all the battles and was also accompanied by material means206 in order to strengthen it. The Holy Prophet (S) used this to the utmost in the weak points of the enemy so that he could make them internally and externally weakened and perplexed207.
That which distinguished the Islāmic revolution of the Noble Prophet (S) and gave the Prophet (S) a special status as a knowledgeable and spiritual leader included:
a) Selecting appropriate agents208.
b) The people were content with his fairness and justice209...
c) Preparing all the people completely210.
d) Establishing of affinity and affection between them211.
e) Guiding both armed and unarmed forces towards a common goal212.
f) Acquiring new friends and allies213.
g) Humiliating the tyrants and despots214.
h) Demonstrating how the Islāmic system is superior to polytheism and other systems215.
i) Teaching and propagating the new ideology216.
j) Making others love faith and hate disbelief217.
k) Being the best role model as a leader218.
This is a collection of actions that are undertaken to influence the enemy or the rival219 with the aim of weakening the enemy’s determination, resolve and material and spiritual power. Psychological warfare was considered the most important type of war in the strategy and planning of the Noble Prophet (S) and he made it the focal point in his battle against the enemy. He would leave them stunned and gain control over their spirits and minds, and as a result, he would take away their ability to fight back and resist. The Prophet (S) has himself said about this: I have been assisted by creating a fear in the hearts of the enemy220.
One who is frightened begins imagining things that are far from reality. For example, in the Battle of Khaybar, the tribe of Ghatfān imagined that their lands were under attack by the Muslim army, so they turned back and returned out of fear221 but when they reached their land they found nothing of what they had imagined. The same thing that happened to the Ghatfān happened to the Jews of Khaybar also and this made them ready to surrender and seek peace and conciliation222. An army that becomes frightened and scared is unable to benefit from their weapons and fight in battle, and even if they fight, they would be very weak and disorganized in battle and this would result in nothing but [loss or] surrender to their enemy.
Because of being overcome by fear, the commander of the army of the inhabitants of Khaybar was unable to shoot the arrows from his bow even after readying them for firing, and his forces had become weary and weak.223
The level of fear can be clearly seen in the words of one Jewish person who was granted amnesty by the Prophet (S): The inhabitants of this place have been destroyed out of fear of you224.
From the first time that the Holy Prophet (S) sent a Sariya mission225 to fight against the enemy, he relied on psychological warfare. After the first battle, all this changed226 and he began to use it against the Quraysh and ended it against the Romans. Through this practice, a number of enemies would flee before coming face to face with the Muslim army227 just like what happened in the Battle of Bani Saleem and in other battles.
Some of the enemies like the inhabitants of Akeedar, Jurbā’ and Yuhannā would seek [to make] peace pacts228. Many groups from Arab tribes would frequently come to him to sign peace treaties while others would fight with fear and weakness229, like the tribes of Hawāzin and Thaqeef in the Battle of Hunayn and the people of Makkah during the Conquest of Makkah. Other groups would also be on the watch for this [Muslim] army and would be frightened of it, like the fear of the Romans in the battles of Dumat al-Jundal and Tabuk230.
The Prophet (S) was able to put fear in the heart of the enemy even in the smallest of battles, from a single mission to a large contingent, in such a way that they would fear even coming face to face with him and would become unable to face any army, small or big. The Jews of Bani Nadheer, because of the fear that had entered their hearts, destroyed their houses by their own hands and the hands of the Muslim army231, and the Banu Lahyān232 chose to flee and disperse when the army of the Prophet (S) approached them.
However, the Sariya mission would create fear in the enemy as well. Just as the Sariya of ‘Ali ibn Abi Tālib (‘a)233 with the Bani Sa’d had done - to such an extent that they loaded their belongings on their camels234 and fled along with their leader who said: The army of Muhammad is coming towards us and we are incapable of facing them235.
A psychological war was also fought with the tribes of Ghatfān through the Sariya of Sa’eed ibn Sa’d al-Ansāri236, and ‘Uyayna ibn Mihsan237 and his companions were routed in this battle. When Hārith ibn ‘Auf al-Muriy, who had an allegiance with them called them to stand up and fight, he heard nothing but this response: How strong are the companions of Muhammad who are on our trail! Harith ibn ‘Auf says: I went on the side of the route followed by the army of Muhammad (S) so that I could see them from a distance while they would not see me. I stayed from evening until late in the night but I saw nobody, it was as if nothing was following my allies but fear238.
Similarly, the Quraysh got scared and took to their heels when they just came face to face with ‘Utbah ibn Aseed (Abu Baseer) al-Thaqafi239. Even the kings and emperors to whom the Prophet (S) sent emissaries240 were fearful of the messengers and emissaries.
The most important tools of psychological war that were used by the Prophet of God (S) were intelligence agents and spies whom he would send towards the enemy. These spies would spread rumours that would enervate the enemy and force them to flee. The Prophet (S) sent Ma’bad al-Khuzā’i towards the Quraysh in the Battle of Hamrā’ al-Asad241. He began talking to them about the huge number of forces in the Muslim army and their intense urge for revenge and thirst for blood, thereby influencing the minds of the Quraysh and paralyzing them.
In the Battle of Khandaq, he (S) send Na’im ibn Mas’ud242 so that he could divide and disperse the confederates and weaken the enemy forces. The Holy Prophet (S) would send Sariya missions in order to fulfill the objectives of psychological war243 and would at times, like in the expedition to Tabuk, send the entire army for this purpose244 and at other times he sent only a section of the army245 like in the Battle of Bani Lahyān where he sent Abu Bakr with a section of the army and ordered him to march towards the Quraysh.
The Prophet (S) arranged all this in order to attain the goals of psychological war and would also in turn seek to destroy the information and intelligence of the enemy. He would achieve this through complete sagacity246 and by arresting the enemy spies247, like the shepherd who was arrested on the way to the Battle of Bani Saleem, or the arresting and imprisoning of a spy until the end of the Battle of Bahrān, as well as killing the spy of the Bani Mustalaq because of his not giving up the intelligence, and the interrogation of the spies of Khaybar where the Prophet (S) himself asked them questions.
As for the second instrument [for attaining the objectives of psychological warfare], it was displaying the might of the forces that were under the command of the Prophet (S). The features of these forces included:
a) Being invisible: Meaning the divine power that put fear into the hearts of the enemy like the battle of the angels [who participated] in the Battle of Badr248 and the blowing of storms and [falling] hailstones in the battle of Khandaq249, until even the commanders of the army of polytheists and their council of chiefs pointed to the invisible force and would say: The God of Muhammad will soon take revenge. And so they turned back.
b) Being undefeatable: As the enemy themselves emphasized this saying: Standing up against him yields no results250. This transpired with ‘Uyayna ibn Mihsan who had tried numerous times to rise up with his people against the Muslim army. After this happened, he became a Muslim and even led a Sariya mission against the Bani Tamim. In the same way, the Arab tribes who realized that there was nothing to be gained by their enmity with the Muslims saw it prudent to surrender and submit themselves to the Holy Prophet (S) and would thus come to him. As such, the Bani Qaynuqā’, Bani Nadheer, Bani Quraydha and the Jews of Khaybar, all gave a suggestion of peace when they lost hope in their rebellion.
c) They had the spirit [and zeal] of attack251.
d) They would invent new ways and methods of warfare252.
It is undisputable that this [military] management took on a new form in the Battle of Hamrā al-Asad. During this battle, the Prophet (S) took the wounded and handicapped along with his army253 and ordered that many fires be lighted254 so that the enemy would think that the Muslim army was large and powerful255. In the Battle of Hudaybiyya, he pulled his cloak and his garment to one side and left his right arm openly visible and ordered the Muslims to do the same, saying: May Allah bless the one who displays the strength of his arm256.
From the most evident spiritual traits of the Holy Prophet (S) was that he was never overcome by pride from his victories257. This was clearly seen when he returned from the Battle of Badr and the Conquest of Makkah. He also never became disheartened by loss258, just as the loss in the Battle of Uhud did not affect him, rather he quickly prepared for the Battle of Hamrā’ al-Asad soon after. The breach of the treaty by the Bani Quraydha, who joined with the confederates [in the Battle of Ahzāb] also did not affect the Prophet (S) in the least, rather it strengthened his resolve and made him steadfast.
Another one of his traits was ‘precaution and restraint’, and he would assess the enemy in this way and would begin preparing and readying the resources and weaponry required to face them. Even during the time of prayer he would not leave precaution, rather he was careful and cautious. Another trait of his was ‘softness accompanied with firmness’ which would be seen in the different circumstances of battle and because of the quickly changing conditions, he would issue new commands and orders.
‘Speed in (issuing) command(S)’259 was considered important by him in order to tackle the new circumstances [that came up in battle] and was a necessary condition for the ‘centralization of command’260 which the Prophet (S) stressed upon and of which he was the protector in its essence and foundation. This was considered one of the loftiest personal traits of his command; because all of the struggles and military resources that were spent for attaining the goal would be recruited and organized by himself and in this way his renown as a commander spread both internally and externally and this was sufficient to cause the enemies to flee before having to march towards them.
In modern science it has been proven that parts of the body of an individual have specific features which show their ‘strength and courage’, ‘beauty and appeal’, ‘ethics and intentions’ and ‘habits’. For example, a round face261 shows wisdom and dignity; a wide mouth262 shows strength; big black eyes263 show beauty, intelligence, eloquence, humility, forbearance and dignity; arched and separated eyebrows264 indicate awe, courage and might; and plenty of hair265 on the body, chest, chin and head indicate might and intensity in combat. When we do a detailed and complete study we find that the Holy Prophet’s body had all these features that spoke of his ability and genius in leadership, and all this also agrees with what has been mentioned by the scholars of modern science266.
As the extent of the scope of a person’s kindness gets larger and encompasses all human beings equally, it makes him a leader who is close to the hearts of the people and gives him greater control of different aspects of leadership and makes him more powerful as a commander.
The life of the Holy Prophet (S) had a completely humanitarian face and approach267. He (S) grew up as an orphan268 and faced poverty and deprivation269, and had to bear patiently with the persecution and harassment of some of his relatives and community members270. The Prophet (S) addressed all the people and called them towards right guidance and urged them towards the advancement of humanity271. In this task, he began with his near relatives272 and then gave the message to others273 and finally addressed it to the entire world274.
He bestowed honor on the Children of Adam275 and his dealings with his friends and community members was based on affinity276 and reconciliation between them277. He strengthened the bond of trust and harmony among them278 and inculcated the feeling of mercy for all human beings in their hearts279. He would be merciful to the young280 and would show respect to the elderly281. He would take away some of their burdens and hardships282 and forbade their killing in wars283. He would please the orphans and grant them refuge. He would show kindness to the poor and needy284 and instructed the people to be good to their servants285. He even showed mercy to animals286 and forbade the people from harming them287.
The attention and consideration of the Noble Prophet (S) would also include (inanimate) things such that he named his sword ‘Dhul Fiqār’, his shield ‘Dhāt al-Fudhul’288, his spear ‘Mathwā’289, his bow ‘al-Katum’290, and his quiver ‘Kāfur’291.
One of the most important examples of his humanity was that when the Holy Prophet (S) sent forces to battle or for Sariya missions against the enemy, he would advise them to be friendly with the people292 and not to carry out raids or night assaults on them. He always preferred to come to a compromise with the enemy instead of killing their menfolk and leave their women and children [without guardians]293. He (S) always instructed that the elderly, the children and the women294 were not to be tortured and the bodies of the dead295 must not be disfigured296.
From his greatest humanitarian traits in war was that when the Quraysh had sought refuge with him, he ended the ‘economic blockade’297 against them and accepted their request for importing grain from Yemen298. Despite what they had done to him, he freed the women and children prisoners of Bani Tamim299. The Noble Prophet (S) called for universal peace300 in the world and avoided war except in cases where there was no other option301. The letters that he sent to the neighboring kings and rulers were adorned and embellished with calls for peace and conciliation302. And this is what he instituted as the start of conversation between the Children of Adam303.
The Holy Prophet (S) gave a new and specific meaning to leadership304. In some of the battles he appointed more than one commander305. He outlined the criteria for a befitting commander of the army and its strengthening and he established a bond between the principles of politics and the military306. He made obedience the secret of discipline, submission and compliance307. He laid the foundation of new planning, exemplary organization and better leadership308. He made the soldiers steadfast in [the quest for] good morals and knowledge309 and put in their hearts the love for death and disinclination towards the life of this world310.
He (S) would select the commanders and leaders based on their merit and ability311. He brought the army and the people together equally under his leadership312 and would grant them as much of the resources as were available313. In these matters, he included the young and old, the strong and weak, the men and women. He invited them to [follow his] leadership and the ideology of equality and made these two complementary counterparts to each other314. He always tried to elaborate these ideas and transform them so that he could arrive at his desired goal315.