Ruthlessness and trust in the sword were his only chances of success. If he relaxed his vigilance or allowed any humane feelings to prevent the execution of severe measures upon any of his enemies, his very existence would be menaced. From now he may be said to pass under the tyranny of war, and its remorseless urging was never slackened until he had his own native city within his power. The god of battles exacted his pitiless toll from his devotee, compelling him to work out his destiny by the sword’s rough means. The thinker has become irrevocably the man of action; prayer has been supplemented by the command, “Fight, and yet again fight, that God may conquer and retain.” Reverses show the temper of heroes, and Mahomet is never more fully revealed than in the first gloomy days after Ohod, when he steadfastly set himself to retrieve what was lost, refusing to acknowledge that his position was impaired, impervious to the whispers that spoke of failure, supreme in his mighty asset of an impregnable faith.
THE TYRANNY OF WAR
“And we have sent down Iron. Dire evil resideth in it, as well as advantage to mankind.”—The Kuran.
After the battle of Ohod, two months passed quietly for Mahomet. He was unable to undertake any aggressive expeditions, and both the Jews at Medina and the exterior desert tribes were lulled into tranquillity by the knowledge that his power was for the time considerably weakened. But the Prophet knew that this security could not continue for long, and for the character of his future wars he was fully prepared—sufficient proof, if one were still necessary, of his skill as soldier and leader.
He knew the Kureisch had instituted a policy of alliance with the surrounding tribes, and that now their plan would be to crush him by a ceaseless pressure from the east, united to the inevitable disaffection within the city as its inhabitants witnessed the decline of their leader’s power. Watchfulness and severity were the only means of holding his position, and these two qualities he used with a tenacity which alone secured his ultimate success.
The first threatenings came from the Beni Asad, a powerful tribe inhabiting the country directly east of Medina. Under their chief Tuleiha, they planned a raid against Mahomet. But his excellent system of espionage stood him, now as always, in good stead, so that he heard of their scheme before it was ripe, and despatched 150 men to frustrate it. The Beni Asad were wise enough to give up the attempt after Mahomet’s men had found and plundered their camp. They dispersed for the time being, and the danger of an attack was averted. But scarcely had the expedition returned when news came of another gathering at Orna, between Mecca and Taif. Again Mahomet lost no time, but sent a force large enough to disperse them in a skirmish, in which the chief of the Lahyan tribe was killed.