The autumn of 628 saw Mahomet fully established in Medina. He had made his worth known by his energy and organising power, by his devotion to Allah and his zeal for the faith he had founded. The Medinans regarded him already as their natural leader, and he had definitely adopted their city as his headquarters. Through his skill as a statesman and his loyalty to an idea he wrought out, the foundations of his future state, and if the latter months of 623 saw him not yet strong enough to overcome the Meccans, at least he was so firmly established that he could afford to dispense with any overtures to the increasingly hostile Jews, and he had gained sufficient adherents to allow him to contemplate with equanimity the prospect of a sharp and prolonged struggle with the Kureisch.
THE SECESSION OF THE JEWS
"Even though thou shouldst bring every kind of sign to those who have received the Scriptures, yet Thy Kibla they will not adopt; nor shalt thou adopt their Kibla; nor will one part of them adopt the Kibla of the other.”—The Kuran.
Mahomet realised the position of affairs at Medina too acutely to allow of his undertaking in person any predatory expeditions against the Kureisch during the autumn and winter of 623. The Jews were chafing under his tacit assumption of State control, and although their murmurings had not reached the recklessness of strife, still both their leaders and the Muslim perceived that their disaffection was inevitable. Insecurity at home, however, did not prevent him from sending out an expedition in Rajab (October) of that year under Abdallah. Rajab is a sacred month in the Mohamedan calendar, one in which war is forbidden. Strictly, therefore, in sending out an expedition at all just then Mahomet was transgressing against the laws of that religion which, purged of its idolatries, he claimed as his own. But it was a favourable opportunity to attack the Kureischite caravan on its way to Taif, and therefore Mahomet recked nothing of the prohibition.
Taif was a very distant objective for an expeditionary band from Medina, and that Mahomet contemplated attack upon his enemy by a company so far removed from its base is convincing proof, should any be needed, of his confidence in his followers’ prowess and his conciliation of the tribes lying between the two hostile cities.
Sealed orders were given to Abdallah, with instructions not to open the parchment until he was two days south of Medina. At sunset on the second day he came with his eight followers to a well in the midst of the desert. There under the few date palms, which gave them rough shelter, he broke the seal and read:
“When thou readest this writing depart unto Nakhla, between Taif and Mecca; there lie in wait for the Kureisch, and bring thy comrades news concerning them.”
As Abdallah read his mind alternated between apprehension and daring, and turning to his companions he took counsel of them.