If Nakhlu had been an achievement worthy of God’s emissary, the victory which followed it was an irrefutable argument in favour of Mahomet’s divinely ordained rulership of the Arabian peoples. It appeared to the Muslim, and even to contemporary hostile tribes, nothing less than a stupendous proof of their championship by God. Muslim poets and historians are never weary of expatiating upon the glories achieved by their tiny community with little but abiding zeal and supreme faith with which to confound their foes. No military event in the life of the Prophet called forth such rejoicings from his own lips as the triumph at Bedr:
“O ye Meccans, if ye desired a decision, now hath the decision come to you. It will be better for you if ye give over the struggle. If ye return to it, we will return, and your forces, though they be many, shall never avail you aught, for God is with the Faithful.”
Through the whole of Sura viii the strain of exultation runs, the presentment in dull words of fierce and splendid courage wrought out into victory in the midst of the storms and lightnings of Heaven.
Such an earth-shaking event, the effects of which reached far beyond its immediate environment, received fitting treatment at the hands of all Arabian chronicles, so that we are enabled to reconstruct the events preceding the battle itself, its action and result, with a vivid completeness that is often denied us in the lesser events.
The caravan under Abu Sofian, about thirty or forty strong, which had eluded Mahomet and reached Syria, was now due to return to Mecca with its bartered merchandise. Mahomet was determined that this time it should not escape, and that he would exact from it full penalty of the vengeance he owed the Meccans for his insults and final expulsion from their city. As soon as the time for its approach drew nigh, Mahomet sent two scouts to Hama, north of Medina, who were to bring tidings to him the moment they caught sight of its advancing dust. But Abu Sofian had been warned of Mahomet’s activity and turned off swiftly to the coast, keeping the seaward route, while he sent a messenger to Mecca with the news that an attack by the Muslim was meditated.
Dhamdham, sent by his anxious leader, arrived in the city after three days’ journey in desperate haste across the desert, and flung himself from his camel before the Kaaba. There he beat the camel to its knees, cut off its ears and nose, and put the saddle hind foremost. Then, rending his garments, he cried with a loud voice:
“Help, O Kureisch, your caravan is pursued by Mahomet!”
With one accord the Meccan warriors, angered by the news that spread wildly among the populace, assembled before their holy place and swore a great oath that they would uphold their dignity and avenge their loss upon the upstart followers of a demented leader. Every man who could bear arms prepared in haste for the expedition, and those who could not fight found young men as their representatives. In the midst of all the tumult and eager resolutions to exterminate the Muslim, so runs the tale, there were few who would listen to Atikah, the daughter of Abd-al-Muttalib.