A Chronological Introduction And Description Of The Most Important Sources

Despite the fact that the wars of the Prophet (S) were fought over a relatively short period (10 years), his method and style of command and military leadership lasted for a long time; because Muslims and others, within the military and without, have discussed, studied and analyzed this subject from the beginning of the first century A.H. up to this day and have not neglected it.

The Glorious Qur’ān is the most important source that speaks of these wars and battles, and we find a lot about this subject in its commentaries. The most important of these commentaries are: Tabari’s Commentary, Nayshāburi’s Asbāb al-Nuzul, Qurtubi’s al-Jāmi li Ahkām al-Qur’ān, Baydhāwi’s Anwār al-Tanzil wa Asrār al-Ta’wil and Suyuti’s al-Itqān fi ‘Ulum al-Qur’ān. Among these, Tabari’s commentary, which describes the details of what takes place in the battles and also Nayshāburi’s commentary, which records the occasion of revelation of specific verses in relation to the battles, are especially important.

Material about these issues can [also] be found in various books of history and biography, the most important among which include: Ibn Shihāb al-Zuhri’s al-Maghāzi al-Nabawiyya, Ibn Is’hāq’s al-Siyar wa al-Maghāzi, al-Wāqidi’s al-Maghāzi al-Nabawiyya, Ibn Hazm al-Andalusi’s Jawāmi’ al-Sirah, al-Kalā’i’s al-Ihtifā’ and Ibn Sayyid al-Nās’ Uyun al-Athar. Wāqidi was more precise in his historical recordings of all the wars than the others, and by describing the affairs of war and its management, he has been able to tackle the subject better. We cannot find complete references to the organization of the military except in his treatise. After him, Ibn Sa’d continues his work in the book al-Tabaqāt al-Kubrā and presents a picture of that which Wāqidi had not recorded.

However, the most important books of history about this subject are:
Tārikh Ibn Khayyāt, Bukhāri’s Tārikh al-Kabir, Tārikh Tabari, Tārikh Ibn ‘Asākir, Ibn Atheer’s al-Kāmil fi al-Tārikh, Ibn Katheer’s al-Bidāya wa al-Nihāya, and also some biographical commentaries like Suhayli’s Rawdh al-Unf have also set out to give details of such issues.

Books of Hadith and Jurisprudence have also devoted specific chapters and sections for these matters. The primary ones among these are: Sahih Bukhāri (Chapter 9 – The Book of Battles), Sahih Muslim (Chapter 3 – The Book of Jihād and Expeditions), Sunan al-Tirmidhi (Chapter 2 – The Book of Jihād), Sunan Ibn Dāwud (Chapter 2 – The Book of Jihād and Expeditions), Sunan al-Nasā’i (Chapter 6 – The Book of Jihād), Sunan al-Dārimi (Chapter 2 – The Book of Jihād and Expeditions), Sunan al-Dārqutni (The Book of Expeditions), Musannaf San’āni (Chapter 5), Ibn Hanifa’s al-Maghāzi wa al-Musnad (The book of Jihād and Expeditions), Shāfi’i’s al-Umm (Chapter 6 – The Book of Willful Injury), Humaidi’s al-Musnad (The Book of Battles and Jihād), Abi Sulaymān al-Khitābi’s Ma’ālim al-Sunan and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawzi’s al-Tahdhib.

In this context, Sahih Bukhāri is important both historically and militarily as the author has narrated the accounts chronologically and recounts the battles in the order in which they took place, starting from the Battle of al-‘Ashirah to the Battle of Tabuk. Similarly, when he explains the battles, he takes all the angles into account, mentioning numerous narratives about it, such that the reader is able to come to a complete and correct understanding of these battles.

Aside from the books that discuss this subject separately, there are various books of history and annals of nations that have also been beneficial in this research. The most important among these are: Arzaqi’s Akhbāru Makkah, Qutb al-Din’s Tārikh Makkah al-Musharrafah, Fāsi’s al-‘Aqd al-Tamin, Bakri’s Mu’jam Mastu’jam and Yāqut al-Hamawi’s Mu’jam al-Buldān.

The most important feature of these histories and chronicles is that they mention the economic situation [at the time], military resources and battle expeditions and similarly give a clear representation of the economic life, which in this age was considered one of the more important issues, and for every discussion on the military it is a necessary factor that needs to be taken into account.

Books about the character of the Prophet (S) also consist of many points about his ‘military management’ and ‘qualities of leadership’ the most important among which include: Ibn Sa’d’s Tabaqāt al-Kubrā (vol. 1 Chapter 2), Tirmidhi’s Shamāil, Faryabi’s Dalā’il al-Nubuwwah, Abu ‘Ali Ansāri’s Sifāt al-Nabi (S), Qādhi ‘Ayyādh’s Shifā, Suyuti’s al-Khasā’is al-Kubrā, Ibn Hajar ‘Asqalāni’s al-Mawāhib al-Daniyya, al-Dhahabi’s Tārikh al-Islām (vol. 1), Ibn Qayyim al-Jawzi’s Zād al-Ma’ād fi Hudā Khayril ‘Ibād (vol. 1 & 2) and his Furusiyyat al-Muhammadiyyah.

Books of biography are also not empty of material on this subject, rather, in many instances provide detailed accounts about the commanders of battles and wars and about the companions who had the responsibility of commanding the armies. Some of these (books) are: Ibn Habib’s al-Muhbir, Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr’s al-Isti’āb fi Ma’rifat al-Ashāb, Ibn Atheer al-Jazari’s Usd al-Ghāba fi Ma’rifat al-Sahābah and Ibn Hajar ‘Asqalāni’s al-Isāba fi Tamyiz al-Sahābah.

The Islāmic conquests at the time of the Prophet (S) and the companions were studied by those who came later and the various aspects and details were presented in a well organized fashion by them. Books of geography and history expound on the conquests within and without the Arabian subcontinent and also talk of the events after the spread of Islām from Madina al-Munawwarah to Damascus, Baghdād, Madā’in, and on the east to India and to Alexandria, Constantinople, Tarablus and Tunis. It could be said that the most important of these works are Ibn Khardāba’s al-Masālik wal-Mamālik [vols. 3,4,5 and 6], Ibn Rusta’s al-A’lāq al-Nafsiyya [Chapter 8] which talks about Madina, Makkah, Haramayn and the southern lands of Arabia.

Ibn Faqih’s al-Buldān [Chapter 10 and 11] talks of Makkah and Alexandria while Ya’qubi’s al-Buldān [Chapter 17 and 18] mentions the Maghreb, Baghdad and their historical importance. Balkhi’s Suwar al-Aqāleem is the first book on geography written in Islām and Istakhri’s al-Masālik wal-Mamālik is also the first book that describes the ‘Islāmic World’.

In Ibn Hawqal’s al-Masālik wal-Mamālik [Chapter 3, 4 and 24] the maps of Egypt, Syria, Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula have been drawn and the economical and social situation of Libya has also been portrayed. Muqaddasi has also given a description of Palestine and Syria in his Ahsanu al-Taqāseem fi Ma’rifatil Aqāleem [Chapter 32 and 34].

Mas’udi’s al-Tanbih wal-Ashrāf [Chapter 37] speaks of the life of the Prophet (S), battles and expeditions in which he was the commander, military units, horses and mounts, and all that is related to the military transport. Mas’udi’s recording of the ‘Historical Geography of Battles’, is considered an original source whose narrations can be relied upon, however, unfortunately most of his writings are lost.

Another source is Qazwini’s Athār al-Bilād wa Akhbār al-‘Ibād which discusses geographical history and related issues including the situations and conditions of different lands and their inhabitants. After this, we must mention the Muqaddima of Ibn Khaldun and Qalashqandi’s Subh al-A’shā. These two books record geographical and historical information about different kingdoms, especially Egypt and Syria.

It is noteworthy that more recently books and research works, in both Arabic and English, have been written about the life of the Prophet (S) and his battles with the disbelievers. The most important works in Arabic include: al-Rasul al-Qā’id (S. Khattāb), al-Rasul al-‘Arabi wa Fann al-Harb (General Mustafa Talās), al-‘Abqariyya al-Askariyya fi Ghazawāt al-Rasul, ‘Ali Hāmish al-Sirah (Tāhā Hussain), Hayātu Muhammad (Muhammad Hasanain Haykal), al-‘Abqariyyāt al-Islāmiyya (‘Aqqād) and al-Anwār al-Muhammadiyya (Nabhāni).

The foreign books that have been translated into Arabic and discuss the same subject, we can mention: Muhammad in Makkah and Madina (Montgomery Watt), Muhammad, the Prophet of Allah (Dianna), The Heroes (Thomas Carlayle), The First Hundred (Michael Hart) and others.

Many of these works are only limited to military, institutional or ethical issues that form part of the seerah. Because ‘military management’ encompasses all these issues, it is necessary that we discuss all these matters together, taking into consideration their correlation with each other. It is through this that the importance of this subject and its role in revealing the secret of the success of the Holy Prophet (S) and those whom he chose as army commanders, becomes evident.

Now we will take a look at the most important authors and researchers in history who have written on this subject and have left behind important works on the battles and expeditions, and since their importance in relation to this subject varies, we will first study the oldest writings that are relevant and have practical implications and thereafter we will mention others according to their chronology and relevance; in this order: Wāqidi, Ibn Is’hāq, Ibn Shihāb al-Zuhri, Kalā’i and Ibn Sayyid al-Nās.