After a month another essay was made upon a northward-bound caravan by Sa’d, again without success, for he had miscalculated dates and missed his quarry by some days. Each leader on his return to Medina was received with honour by Mahomet as one who had shown his prowess in the cause of Isalm and presented with a white banner.
So far the prophet himself had not taken the field; now, however, in the summer and autumn of 623, in spite of signs that all was not well with the Jewish alliance at home, Mahomet took the field in person and conducted three larger but still unsuccessful expeditions; the last attacking levy of October 623 consisted of 200 men, but even then Mahomet was able to effect nothing against the Kureischite escort. The attempted raid had nevertheless an important outcome, for by this exhibition of strength Mahomet succeeded in convincing a neighboring desert tribe, hitherto friendly to Mecca, of the advisability of seeking alliance with the Muslim.
The treaty between Mahomet and the Bedouin tribe marks the beginning of a significant development in his foreign polity. Like the Romans, and all military nations, he knew the worth of making advantageous alliances, while he was clear-sighted enough to realise that the struggle with Mecca was inevitable. During the months preceding the battle of Bedr he concluded several treaties with desert tribes, and it is to this policy he owes in part his power to maintain his aggressive attitude towards the Kureisch, for with the alliance of the tribes around the caravan routes Mahomet could be sure of hampering the Meccan trade.
While the Prophet was in the field he left representatives to care for the affairs of his city. These representatives were designated by him, and were always members of his personal following. Ali and Abu Bekr were most often chosen until All proved his worth as a warrior, and so usually accompanied or commanded the expeditionary force. The representatives held their authority direct from Mahomet, and had in all matters the identical power of the Prophet during his absence. It speaks well for the loyalty and acumen of these ministers that Mahomet was enabled to leave the city so often and so confidently, and that the government continued as if under his personal supervision.
Whether the Jews were overbold because of Mahomet’s frequent absences, or whether they now became conscious of the trend of Mahomet’s policy towards the absorption of the Jewish element within the city into Islam, will never be made clear, beyond the fact that the Jewish tribes were not enthusiastic in their union with the Muslim, and that their national character precluded them from accepting an alliance that threatened the autonomy of their religion. It is, however, certain that the discontent of the Jews voiced itself more and more loudly as the year advanced. The suras of the period are full of revilings and threats against them, and form a greater contrast coming after the later Meccan suras wherein Israel was honoured and its heroes held up as examples. A few Jews had been won over to his cause, but the mass showed themselves either hostile or indifferent to the federal idea. As yet no definite sundering of relationships had occurred, but everything pointed to a speedy dissolution of the treaty unless one side or the other moderated its views.