Prophet Muhammad’s adversaries have, by and large, failed to appreciate that he never believed in shedding innocent blood and waging unnecessary war against anybody, not even against those who would provoke Muslims by looting and vandalizing their merchandise and property. Most of the wars that the Prophet-peace be upon him- himself fought or the ones that he ordered were forced on them by the Quraish and their allies.
In this regard, Shibli Nomani says that during the annual pilgrimage, his enemy tribes would assemble in Makkah, before the fall of the city, and provoke the Quraish against Muslims (seeratun nabi 1, p. 235).
Muslims’ migration to Madina, offended the Quraish more, and they became jealous of the Prophet’s growing power there. “They also established secret contact with ’Abduallah bin Ubai Ibn Salul, chief of Madanese polytheists, and president designate of the tribes of ’Aws and Khazraj before the Prophet’s migration” (Saif-ur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri: The Sealed Nectar, p. 239).
Not only that, the Quraish sent [them] a note threatening to put them to death in their own homeland” (ibid. p. 240). It was clear that the pagans wanted to see that Muslims were thrown out of Madina also. The Prophet-peace be upon him- therefore took all precautionary measures including the positioning of security guards around the house of the Prophet and strategic points and put both Ansar and Muhajirin on high alert. Besides Makkans, the desert Bedouins also worried not only the Muhajirin (migrants) but also the Helpers (Ansar) who had given shelter to the Prophet and his companions. Makkans and Bedouins both continued with their aggressive and devilish plans to damage migrants and their helpers in Madina. On the other hand, the believers were waiting for Allah’s permission, which did come but with a rule that they (believers) must only fight those who fight against them: “Permission to fight is given to those (believers) against those (disbelievers) who are fighting them, and because they (believers) have been wronged, and surely Allah is able to give them (believers) victory” (Q22:39).
It is important to note that the permission was granted in Madina after the life and property of Madinese were endangered and believers were living in a constant threat of attacks from the Quraish and their allies.
Historical accounts say that before the Badr Battle, Quraish and their allies tried to invade Madina a number of times and the Prophet was forced to send his troops to put them at bay (the first encounter took place in 1AH which ended without fighting because the enemy ran away from the place on seeing the Muslim soldiers). Since in most of these invasions the enemy was defeated, the Quraish thought that Madina was becoming a power to reckon with. “They were determined to bring their fall by their own hands and with this thoughtlessness they prepared for the great battle of Badr” (Al-Mubarakpuri, p. 247).
Frequent invasions, by the enemy, had given the Prophet sufficient experience in warfare and in arranging troops to defend Madinah. Of course, he got a tremendous support from Helpers (Ansar) and those who had migrated with him to Madinah. It must be noted that in no invasion did the Muslims involve themselves in “looting property or killing people…It was, in fact, polytheists who had initiated such acts” and the believers fought only in self-defense. How could they indulge in crimes when their leader—the Prophet—would always command his soldiers to maintain the highest values of humanity even in adverse situations? Whether it was the great battles that the Prophet himself led, or the smaller ones that his companions fought under the leadership of a commander, all were instructed, among other things, not to (a) destroy orchards, (b) humiliate or kill women and (c) chase those who ran away. The Prophet was, no doubt, a warrior but a passionate one who forgave even his worst enemies when Makkah was conquered and he became an undisputed leader of the Arabian Peninsula. This is what his adversaries forget while accusing him of spreading his religion through sword.
The victory in battles/invasions encouraged Muslims but had worried the Quraish because none of their efforts to dislodge the Prophet from Madinah had met with any success. Since their pride was wounded, they decided to take on the Prophet at Badr as a final assault. This was the time when the Prophet manifested his military acumen that has stunned even his adversaries. With a handful of his companions, he was able to defeat a huge Makkan army. Richard A Gabriel as a typical westerner, who writes a lot against the Prophet in “Muhammad—the Warrior Prophet” cannot but admire the Prophet’s forte as a warrior: “…Muhammad…was a truly great general. In a span of a single decade, he fought eight major battles, led eighteen raids, and planned another thirty-eight military operations where others were in command but operating under his orders and strategic directions. Wounded twice, he also twice experienced having his position overrun by superior forces, before he managed to turn the tables on his enemies and rally his men to victory…he was also a military theorist, organisational reformer, strategic thinker, operational level combat commander, political-military leader, heroic soldier, and revolutionary…Muhammad had no military training before he commanded an army in the field” (retrieved).
The Prophet, in particular, demonstrated the best warfare skills in the battles of Badr, Uhud and Trenches and in all big or smaller invasions/raids, in general. However, the Prophet [PBUH] did not fight to conquer any land or people. His aim was to defend Madinah from aggression and onslaught of the Quraish, and establish peace there. The holy wars (jihad), as the battles came to be known, laid the foundation of fighting for the oppressed and defenseless, and against the perpetrators of injustice and cruelty. The Prophet [PBUH] was a warrior who fought in self-defense and only when it had become necessary. In any peace effort, or if the enemy retreated without fighting, he preferred to give peace all the chance.
The Treaty of Hudaibiya was, according to Umar bin Khatab, humiliating for the Muslims, but the Prophet- peace be upon him- still signed it in order to avoid unnecessary bloodshed. However, when, later on, the Quraish violated it, he had no choice but to fight against pagans and win Makkah back from them in an almost bloodless battle. Leading an army of ten thousand armed soldiers who could have destroyed the enemy, if they had so wished, the Prophet went out of way in his peace efforts and adopted a ‘forget and forgive’ policy. The Prophet [PBUH] announced general amnesty to those who (a) laid down their arms, (b) took shelter in Abu Sufyan’s house, (c) took shelter in the holy Ka'bah etc. In the Prophet [PBUH] they found the savior warrior ready to make peace. But, those who fought met with the fate that they had themselves chosen. The Prophet demonstrated that Islam was peace and those who came under its fold fought only for Allah’s sake.