The First Muslim The Story of Muhammad by Lesley Hazleton

The First Muslim The Story of Muhammad by Lesley Hazleton

Author:Lesley Hazleton
Language: eng
Format: azw3, epub, mobi
Tags: General, Religion, Middle East, Biography & Autobiography, Islam, Religious, History
ISBN: 9781594487286
Publisher: Penguin Group US
Published: 2013-01-24T00:00:00+00:00



s any reasonably astute political observer can testify, political leaders under pressure domestically can always bolster their popularity with an aggressive foreign policy. It’s a strategy that’s been played out throughout history, and Muhammad now made

good use of it. Even as he continued to weaken opposition inside Medina, he increased the harassment of the Meccan trade caravans, forcing the Quraysh to abandon their usual north–south route for the long and expensive detour through the barren steppelands of the Najd and up through southern Iraq. Even then they were vulnerable. One raid led by the newly divorced Zayd, Muhammad’s adopted son, struck deep into the Najd, capturing a whole caravan as its merchants and guards fled for their lives.

The poet Hassan ibn-Thabit celebrated the event, taunting the Meccans with their loss of trade. “Say farewell to the streams of Damascus,” he gloated, “for the road is barred by battle.” He was kept far busier than any poet laureate today, not least because he also had to glorify the ongoing assassinations of Muhammad’s critics, many of whom were rival poets. The task was sometimes challenging. One band of believers infiltrated the northern oasis of Khaybar and managed to kill their victim as he slept, only to create a ruckus when one of the more short-sighted among them missed his footing and fell down a flight of stone steps, thus rousing the whole neighborhood. The attackers were forced to take refuge in a drainage ditch, stinking and shivering for hours until they could make good their escape—not exactly the heroic figures lauded by ibn-Thabit as “traveling by night with nimble swords, bold as lions in a jungle lair, setting at naught every calamity.”

Such exploits, especially in their hyped-up versions, may have been good for the depleted morale of the believers after the near rout at Uhud, but they only helped solidify opposition to Muhammad. The Meccan leader abu-Sufyan now formed a coalition army in which his most prominent allies were the Ghatafan Beduin from the Najd and the Jewish tribes of Khaybar, where the expelled Nadir were itching to reclaim the lands and property confiscated after their expulsion from Medina. Early in the year 627, abu-Sufyan gave the order to converge on Medina, and this time he had no intention of stopping on the outskirts. The aim was invasion, and a forced end to Muhammad’s rising power.

But with thousands of armed men moving through the desert, the grapevine buzzed, and Muhammad had ample time to prepare. First he ordered the early spring crops in the fields around Medina to be harvested, thus depriving the approaching enemy of fodder for their horses and camels. Then he set about digging in. The rough lava fields to the west, south, and east of the oasis were impassable for horses, but the main approach route from the north was the kind of open ground that all but invited a mass charge by abu-Sufyan’s powerful cavalry. To thwart this possibility, everyone in the oasis, women and children as


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