THE PILGRIMAGE TO HODEIBIA
“And He it was who held their hands
from you and your hands
from them in the valley of Mecca, after that He had given you the
victory over them; for God saw what ye did.”—The Kuran.
Mahomet, now secure from immediate attack, counted himself permanently rid of the Meccan menace and devoted his care to the strengthening of his position among the surrounding desert tribes. The year 627-628 is filled with minor expeditions to chastise or conquer his numerous enemies in the interior. His ceaseless vigilance, made effectual through his elaborate spy system, enabled him to keep the Bedouin hordes in check, though he was by no means uniformly successful in his attacks upon them. The period is characterised by the absence of pitched battles, and by the employment of very small raiding parties, who go out simply to plunder and to disperse the hostile forces.
His first expedition after the Koreitza massacre in June 627 was directed against the Beni Lahyan, in revenge for their slaughter of the Faithful at Radji. He took the north-west road to Syria as a feint, then swiftly turning, marched along the sea-shore route to Mecca, and the Beni Lahyan fled before him. Mahomet was anxious to give battle, but as he found his foe was moving hastily towards the hostile city with intent to draw him on to his doom, he gave up the chase and contented himself with breaking up their encampments, plundering their wealth and women, and so returned to Medina.
He had been there only a few nights when he learnt that Oyeina, chief of the Fazara tribe, in concert with the Beni Ghatafan, had made a raid upon his milch camels at Ghaba, killing their keeper and torturing his wife. Mahomet pursued, but the raiders were too quick for him and got away with the spoil. Mahomet did not follow them up, as nothing was to be gained from such a fruitless quest.
In August of the same year another raid on his camels was attempted by the famished tribes of Nejd, and Mahomet sent an expedition under Maslama to chastise them, but the Muslim were overpowered by a superior force and most of their company slain. The Prophet vowed vengeance upon the perpetrators of this defeat when he should have the power to carry it out. And now the Meccan caravan, venturing once more to take the seaward road, so long barred to them, was plundered by Zeid at Al Is, thereby confirming Mahomet’s hostile intentions towards the Kureisch, and ensuring their continued enmity. But reprisals on their part were impossible after the failure before Medina, and they suffered the outrage in silence.