Army and War Weapons in the Time of Prophet Muhammad
Professor Muhammad Hamidullah
Translation: Janet Gascoigne.
The Army in the Time of the Prophet
In the time of the Prophet Muhammad there was no regular army. They didn’t have the materials or the financial means because the state was poor and had no regular income [p. 227-228].
Joining the Army
Prophet Muhammad along with his closest companions consulted the leader of the state and general commander of the army about the number of soldiers that are required in a military campaign. During prayer time at the mosque, he had it announced, that Muslims should volunteer to join the army and to register their names in a special register (Bukhari, Jihad, 140; Muslim, Hajj, 424) [p. 228].
Election of a Commander and Giving him an Order
Nobody knew before, where the military campaign was leading to. After the necessary number of soldiers were ready, the Prophet appointed a commander. He only told the commander the necessary orders and essential military way and methods. There were some examples in which he was more careful: The Prophet gave the commander a sealed envelope and said: “Go in this direction for three days, and then open this envelope and carry out the orders contained in it.” [p. 228].
At this time the Muslim soldiers had no uniforms. The unity of the clothing amongst the unbelievers was less than the Muslims. In battles in order to differentiate between Muslims and non-muslims the Muslims shouted a password. Al-Wakidi says (al-Magazi, British Museum (London), hand written, sheet 6a), that this password was “Yâ Mansûr, amit!” (Oh The Helper and who gives victory, kill). But Ibn Kathir said (al-Bidâye v‘an-Nihâya, Cairo 1351/1932, III, p. 274) that the password “Ahad, Ahad” (Allah is one, Allah is one) was more often used, than the others [p. 70-71].
The Prophet later warned: “Oh Muslims! The angels, which Allah sent to help you have signs. Therefore you should also carry signs.” Those that could get an extension, immediately added extensions made of wool to their headwear and helmets (Tafsîru’t-Taberi, Tafsir of K. 3/125 and Kanzu’l-Ummâl, V, No. 5349, v.s.) [p. 71].
Flags and Banners
At the time of the Prophet flags (Liva) and banners (Rayah) were used. Sometimes more than one flag or banner was used. One of the Prophet’s banners was called Ukaab (Eagle), the other was called Riiba. The flags were completely white and the banners were completely black or white (For source and more information on this subject please see pages 242-250).
Green, which symbolizes the muslim community, started to be used from the time of the Abbasid Caliph al-Ma’mun (813-833). (Tarihu’l-Islam, II, 175, 186; Duha’l-Islam, III, 294-295. Was mentioned by: Sadik Cihan, Uydurma Hadislerin Dogusu ve Sosyo-Politik Olaylarla Ilgisi, Etut Publications, Samsun April 1997, p. 173, 174).
Banner with Crescent Moon
Sa’d ibn Mâlik Abu’l-Kânûdi’l-Azdi came to Madinah to announce that he had become a muslim. The Prophet appointed him as a leader of his tribe and gave him a black banner with a white crescent moon on it (Ibn Hajar, Isâba, Calcutta 1356, No. 4083; al-Kattâni, Tarâtib, Rabat 1346-1349, I, p. 320) [p. 251-252].
The Supplying of Weapons
Every volunteer brought his own weapon with him. If the volunteer didn’t have his own weapon, he would be supplied with one by the state [p. 229].
Weapons and War Equipment Used
Bow and arrow
Lance and spear
Suits of armour
Specially produced cut stones and spikey bushes, which were used against attacks at night and could be thrown into the trenches [p. 234].
The source reports that a few catapults in some forts were able to throw stones over the besieger. Al-Maqrizi said that by the conquering of the Fort Nizar at Khaybar a catapult was looted [p. 189].
Armoured wagons (Dabbâde, dabûr, arrâda) were used to approach the walls. In these wagons the soldiers were able to take refuge from the arrows, spears and stones, that were thrown from the enemy’s forts [p. 234].
In the Badr War an Arish (Look-out tower) was built on the orders of the Prophet Muhammad. This building was also used as a refuge, for protection from the burning sun rays and from unexpected arrows. (Ibn Hisham, Sîrah, Goettingen 1858, p. 439-40) [p. 72].
There are many encouraging proverbs about military training by the Prophet. He had also practised the useful schemes himself: The Prophet organized horse racing and had awards distributed, so that this was useful for the riders and their animals. The Masjid al-Sibâq (Racing Mosque) in Madinah shows the place where the Prophet sat and watched during these races [p. 235-236].
Rasulullah placed a lot of importance on throwing and targeting practise. There were some exercises narrated such as throwing stones at a target, wrestling and activities in other fields.
Propaganda was widely used. The Arabs loved poetry; therefore satirical poetry was quickly spread. This was utilised very well, therefore the Prophet acquired official poets against the opposition of Islam [p.236-237].
The Prophet Muhammad changed the verdict of the Old Testament (The Old Testament, The Book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 13/16), that the booty had to be burned. The existing practise of the Arabs, was that the troop leader received 1/4 of the share and that now he would get the same proportion as the others. He had reduced the share of 1/4 to 1/5 and ordered that the rest would be given to the state. The whole of the booty would be divided equaly between every soldier, whether he took part in the battle or waited as a substitute on the orders of the troop leader. With that it could be avoided that discipline was not violated against in order to seize more booty [s. 231].
Muhammad Hamidullah, Hz. Peygamberin Savaşları ve Savaş Meydanları (The Battles and Battlefields of the Prophet), translator: Salih Tug, Yagmur Publications, 4. edition, Istanbul 1991.