What are the purposes of wars that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) fought?

It is a known fact that many reasons of these wars can be mentioned. According to our evaluations, the wars of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) took place due to the following reasons and wisdoms:

1. In order to make the enemy feel that they have enough power to fight.

Some wars of the prophet (PBUH), especially sariyyas that were perfomed before the Battle of Badr, aimed to show polytheists and Madinah Jews who had hostile feelings against Islam and its followers, and Meccan polytheists who were waiting for an opportunity to attack Muslims that Muslims were strong and to set an area of freedom for conveying the message of Islam and to protect Muslims' existence against attacks. 1

These sariyyas are struggles that are made to show the existence of Muslims and their power and with the result of overcoming obstacles in front of tabligh. The dominance of brute power of that time in the region, regarding the powerful as rightful and not giving the right of living to the weak caused the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to send platoons in order to ensure security in the area. The sariyyas of Saif al-Bahr and Rabigh along with Abwa, Buwat, Hamraul Asad and small Badr were carried out with this purpose. 2

2. Preventing the financial sources of attacks.

Some wars of the prophet (PBUH) were fought for the purpose of controlling the ways of commerce of Meccan polytheists and weaken them in terms of economy since they had started setting an army in order to fight the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and Muslims by using the goods of Muslims of which they had to leave behind during the migration from Mecca and captured by polytheists after that. The sole livelihood of Meccan polytheists was trading. The armed guardsmen of caravans that were sent to Damascus had to be pursued near Medina in order not to let them harm Muslims. For this reason, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) prepared the aforementioned ghazwas and sariyyas for the purpose of pursuing the polytheist caravans. 3

As a matter of fact, the Battle of Badr was fought for the purpose of preventing the preparation of battle which was aimed to be started by Quraysh with the profit that they had made from trading caravans. The Battle of Uhud was prepared with the income acquired from Abu Sufyan’s Damascus trading caravan in order to take revenge from the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). 4

The sariyyas of Saiful-Bahr, Rabigh, Harar, Nahla, Qarda and Is, which were made against Meccan polytheists, who were always threatening Muslims, were an effective enforcement against  major powers in preparing for a battle such as pursuing trading caravans and cutting financial sources.5

3. Defending against attacks.

While all battles of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had a defensive quality in terms of their reasons and main purposes, the number of defensive battles in terms of strategy is few in number. Some battles of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) occurred as a result of the attacks of the enemy in order to harm Muslim’s existence and their territorial integrity. In such situations, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used his right of legitimate self defense. Since permission is given by the Qur’an for battling in order to defend when there is an attack 6 and it is emphasized that battles should be fought based on legitimate reasons.7   

The period of struggle between the battles of Badr and Khandaq are attempts for defending against Meccan polytheists and Jews of Medina. 8 The vital importance of the necessary defensive measures particularly towards Jews, with whom they lived together, can be seen in the later periods. As a matter of fact, with the betrayal of Qurayzans, Muslims experienced dangerous moments during the battle when they had to defend Madina against powerful Ahzab troops, which had been formed by Meccan polytheists and Khaybar Jews. 9 During the Medina period, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was obliged to struggle with hostile attitudes of Jews towards Muslims and had to be ready against possible attacks. 10 For this reason, the battles of Badr, Uhud and Khandaq are the greatest defensive battles in terms of legitimacy and strategy that aimed to defend against attacks.

4. Gathering information about the enemy.

Some ghazwas and sariyyas of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) were carried out for the purpose of gathering information against the enemy that were watching for an opportunity to attack at any moment. Muslims had to be always on the alert against all enemies, especially polytheists. For these reasons, after ensuring the security of Madina, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) aimed to be more cautious against Meccan polytheists by making agreements with nearby tribes. The first sariyyas were carried out for the purpose of gathering information about the enemy, enquiring intelligence and controlling their political and economic situations.11

Patrols and spies were sent before battles in order to receive information. Having information about the general situation of enemy via combat patrols, intelligence and other ways was of vital importance in terms of the security of Muslims. For, Muslims who had to struggle with a limited power against the enemy until the conquest of Mecca were obliged to receive information about the fighting force of the enemy which included the manner of their fighting, place and under which conditions they would do this. 12  The sariyyas of Nahla, the first Dhu’l Qassa, Wadi’l Qura’, the second Jinab, Hunayn, Abdullah ibn Rawaha and Khaybar sariyyas were carried out in order to have information about the enemy which could launch instant attacks.

5. The breach of treaties and punishing betrayal

The breach of treaties constitutes a crime in international relations. The breach of the terms of treaties by any party was the cause of some battles at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The breach of the constitution of Madina (the charter of Madina) along with the breach of the treaty of Hudaybiyyah, which were made by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) after the Migration formed the basic cause of some of battles.

The apostle of Allah (PBUH) always conformed to treaties fully. The most striking example of this is as follows: According one clause of Hudaybiyyah treatment, “When someone becomes Muslim in Mecca and wants to take refuge in Medina, his demand will not be accepted and he will be repatriated to Mecca.” After the phase of signing, Abu Jandal, who was the son of a Meccan delegate, came to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by dragging his chains and demanded protection from him. When Suhayl ibn Amr, who signed the treaty on behalf of Meccans, rejected his demand by asserting the idea that the agreement had become valid, Abu Jandal cried out, “O Muslims! Will you give me back to these Qurayshis who want to make me apostatize?” Upon this the Prophet (PBUH) said, “O Abu Jandal, be patient! Expect your reward from Allah. Allah will show you and others like you a door. We have made an agreement with Quraysh. This is a mutual promise for the sake of Allah and we cannot break it.13

This sad event is a very important example of the Prophet's (PBUH) loyalty to the clauses of the treaty.

The period of fighting that had started after the Migration ended with the treaty of Hudaybiyyah; however, this treaty was terminated by Qurayshis' breach. For this reason, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) advanced towards Mecca in order to discipline them. 14 Just like the battles that were made against polytheists, the battles of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) which were waged against the Jewish tribes of Madina were made with legitimate issues such as violating the rules of the treaty and collaboration with enemy against the conditions of the treaty. 

6. Punishing the Raid and Plunder

The plundering of summer pasture animals that belonged to the Prophet (PBUH) and Muslims and martyring of some Muslims in the meantime formed the reason of some sariyyas. It was necessary to struggle with the people who used to attack Muslims just because of their beliefs and with tribes that organized these attacks. The defense which is made by someone with the aim of protecting his property and life in the event of raid and plunder is considered self-protection. The loss of property and life during self-protection does not require any punishment in terms of Islamic laws. The sariyyas of Harar, the second Dhu’l Qassa, Tarif, the sons of Fazara, Ukl, Uranis and Mayfaa along with ghazwas of the sons of Qurayza, Safawan / the first Badr, Sawiq and Dumatu’l Jandal happened as a result of plundering the properties of Muslims and the prophet (PBUH) and the martyring of some Muslims during the attempt of this plundering and events including similar attacks.

7. Preventing the enemy to gain supporters

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had a peaceful attitude and he was open to agreement in every phase of his life. He made an agreement with tribes of various religions that lived in Madina in a situation when he had been expelled from his homeland and forced to migrate but not left in peace even in Madina.  Within this framework, some agreements were made with some tribes before the enemy who were situated on the way of Qurayshis' commerce way in order to prevent them from joining the enemy and set a peaceful platform. 17 The ghazwas of Abwa and Dhu’l-Ushayra were carried oud in order to actualize the agreement of peace. The struggle of the Apostle of Allah (PBUH) should be considered as an effort to finalize the disagreements with peace during Medina period, when there were no hot wars yet.

8. The Military Interventions performed upon receiving the news of Attack.

An important part of ghazwas and sariyyas of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) were carried out as a result of receiving the news of attack sometimes by a single tribe and sometimes a communion of tribes that were planned against the Prophet and Muslims just for their belief. Not reacting after receiving the news of attacking plan would mean to surrender in the face of enemy attack. The prophet Muhammad (PBUH) moved in order not to get the first blow of the attack which had certainly been planned by the enemy. While the assault of the enemy is a legitimate reason for war, the reaction is considered a legitimate cause against the preparation of a certain attack received by the intelligence. 18 The following ghazwas and the military expedition of Tabuk were carried out as a result of receiving the attacking plan of the enemy; The first Dhul-Qassa, Qarqaratu’l- Kudr, Bahran, Dumatu’l Jandal, Muraysi, Wadi’l-Qura, Turaba, Najid / Hawazins, Mayfaa, Jinab, Dhatu’s-Thalathil, the sons of Bakr, Abdullah ibn Rawaha, Khaybar, Ghaba, the sariyyas of Qutba ibn Amir along with Ghatafan, Qatan, Dhatu’r-Riqa, Hunayn, Taif, Khaybar and the ghazwas of Fadak. When the large number of ghazwas and sariyyas is considered, it is seen that they were carried as a result of receiving the news of attack.

9. Helping Muslims that are persecuted.

Some of the wars were fought in order to end the pressure on the freedom of religion and belief applied by the tribes and states that oppressed and tortured Muslims. The tribes and states that were full of the feeling of enmity against Muslims displayed their enmity whenever they had an opportunity. This enmity was shown in the form of oppressing and torturing the Muslims who lived in other states as a minority.

The Muslim individuals and communities that are oppressed and whose freedom of belief and worshipping is prevented and who are prevented from practicing their religion are held responsible if they do not try to end this oppression. 19

And why should ye not fight in the cause of Allah and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)?― men, women, and children, whose cry is: "Our Lord! rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from Thee one who will protect; and raise for us from Thee one who will help!" 20

The verse above can be used as a basis for fighting to help people who are exposed to oppression. The fact that the Prophet (pbuh) helped the tribe of Khuzaa after their demand for help during the period of Hudaybiyyah Peace 21 can be interpreted as fulfilling the command of this verse. 22 The sariyya of Bi'r al-Mauna and the ghazwa of Dumatul-Jandal were the military interventions that the Prophet (pbuh) carried out in order to help the Muslims who were exposed to oppression.

10. Eliminating the barriers that prevent tabligh (conveying the message of Islam)

Since tabligh is the primary duty of the Prophet (pbuh), the aim is to make Allah known all over the world in the medium of peace. The duty of tabligh was not ignored even in the situations when the enemy forced Muslims to fight. 23 As a necessity of this responsibility, the Prophet (pbuh) sent delegates of tabligh to the tribes and states around Madinah. When the reasons behind the ghazwas and sariyyas that were claimed to have been carried out due to tabligh are examined, it will be seen that they took place because the delegates had to defend themselves when they were attacked. In other words, wars were fought not because the addressees did not accept Islam but because they attacked Muslims. Therefore, the Prophet (pbuh) fought in order to eliminate the barriers that prevented tabligh not to make people accept Islam by force.

Among the sariyyas that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) sent with the intention of calling to Islam are Dhat al-Atlah under the leadership of Ka'b b. Umayr 24, Dhat ath-Thalathil led by Amr b. As 25, Dumatul-Jandal led byAbdurrahman b. Awf, Jazima led by Khalid b. Walid 26. The sariyya led by Ibn Abi'l Awja went to Sons of Sulaym to invite them to Islam but they said, "We do not need your call." Then, they attacked Muslims by shooting their arrows and martyred all of the Muslims except Ibn Abi'l Awja. 27

The Prophet (pbuh) sometimes sent delegates to some tribes and states when he was asked and he sometimes sent delegates with the intention of conveying the message of Islam without being asked. Some of these delegates whose aim was nothing but to convey the message of Islam were ambushed and betrayed; they were martyred. The following sariyyas were attacked and the Muslims that participated in them were martyred: the sariyyas of Raji', Bi'r al-Mauna, Sons of Sulaym, Dhat al-Atlah, Dhat ath-Thalathil, Sons of Jazima, Uman, Bahrayn and Dumatul-Jandal.    

Some tribes demanded delegates of tabligh stating that they tended to be Muslims and promised that they would protect the delegates of tabligh; however, they ambushed and martyred the delegates; these attacks caused the formation of some sariyyas and ghazwas. The delegates that aimed nothing but to inform people about the religion that would bring salvation to humanity were attacked treasonously and ambushed. The Prophet (pbuh) struggled against those people who attacked Islam in order to defend Islam. The ghazwa of Dhat ar-Riqa' and the sariyyas of Jamum, Mayfaa, Sons of Amir, the Second Sayf al-Bahr and Khaybar asked were performed in order to counteract the attacks against the peaceful delegates.

11. Punishing those who mistreated and killed the envoys

The Messenger of Allah sent envoys to the rulers of the countries in the region after the Treaty of Hudaybiyya with the intention of calling them to Islam. Some of those rulers replied the call positively; however, others replied the call negatively and insulted the envoys and the Prophet (pbuh). 28 Some of these envoys who were sent to the leaders and rulers of the tribes and countries to fulfill the duty of tabligh were insulted, killed or attacked. However, envoys and messengers have had security of life in international law. 29 Insulting, attacking and killing envoys who had security of life was a major crime. The sariyyas of Himsa, Sons of Qurayt and Qurata and the expedition of Muta were performed because of this.

 12. Answering the declaration of war by the enemy

Declaration of war by the enemy is one of the reasons of fighting by the Prophet (pbuh). Not to answer a tribe or state that wages war against you will encourage the enemy and make them attack you more strongly and bravely; therefore, it is necessary to answer the declaration of war by the enemy. In that case, to answer the declaration of war is regarded as self defense because the enemy shows that they are determined when they declare war. When the Prophet (pbuh) was faced with this determination and the risk of being attacked, he answered the declaration of war. The only example of this kind of war is the Ghazwa of the Little Badr.

When the Prophet was defeated by Meccan polytheists in a sense during the Battle of Uhud, he accepted the offer of Abu Sufyan, who challenged him based on the pride of victory, to fight again near Badr the next year. 30 As a necessity of answering the declaration and threat of war by Quraysh, the Prophet prepared an army and went on an expedition 31; however, when he went there, there was nobody there. Abu Sufyan, who set out from Mecca with an army of two thousand people, decided to return before he arrived at Badr due to the excuse of famine. 32 It is clearly understood that this expedition was performed due to the declaration of war by Abu Sufyan.  


It is understood from this study, in which the causes and reasons of the Prophet (pbuh) are examined, that his battles and wars are based on various causes and reasons. Accordingly, all wars are based on legitimate reasons; therefore, it can be concluded that no battle, war or intervention of the Prophet (pbuh) is unjust. When all of the causes and reasons are taken into consideration, it is clearly seen that the Prophet (pbuh) did not attack any tribe or state unjustly.

When the principles of Islam, which are based on the Quran and the Sunnah, are taken into consideration, it is seen that the relationships among individuals and states are based on the principle of peace. War is an unwanted obligation that is temporary; it can take place as a struggle of existence.

To express it in a way that is related to today, it will be seen that the reasons and causes of the Prophet's (pbuh) wars are legitimate when they are examined under the criteria that are used to determine the legitimacy of war in the past and today.     


1. Khattab, Mahmud Shit, Komutan Peygamber Hz. Peygamber’in Askerî Dehası, translated by Ağırakça, Ahmed, İst., 1988, p. 56.
2. For detailed information on ghazwas and sariyyas, see Nargül, Veysel, Kur’an ve Hz. Peygamber’in Uygulamaları Işığında Cihad, (Unpublished doctoral thesis), Erzurum, 2005, p. 111-217.
3. Ibn Hisham, Abu Muhammad Abdulmalik b. Hisham, as-Siratu’n-Nabawiyya, published with critiques by Mustafa Saka and friends, by., nd., II, 241-242, 245; Muslim, Sayd 17.
4. Ibn Sa’d, Muhammad, at-Tabaqatu’l-Kubra, Beirut, 1985, II, 37; Samhudi, Nuruddin Ali b. Ahmad, wafau’l-Wafa, Beirut, nd., I, 281. See also Ibnu’l-Athir, Abu’l-Hasan Ali b. Muhammad, al-Kamil fi’t-Tarikh, Beirut, 1965, II, 113, 116; Bukhari, Manaqib, 251, Maghazi, 2.
5. See Hamidullah, Muhammad, İslam Peygamberi, trnsl by Salih Tuğ, Ankara, 2003, II, 1036-1037.
6. al-Hajj, 22/38; al-Baqara, 2/190; ash-Shura, 42/41.
7. al-Baqara, 2/194.
8. Khattab, Komutan Peygamber, p. 13.
9. Waqidi, Muhammad b. Umar, Kitabu’l-Maghazi, Oxford University, 1966, II, 459-460; Ibn Qayyim, Abu Abdillah Muhammad b. Abi Bakr, Zadu’l-Maad fi Hady-i Khayri’l-Ibad, Cairo, nd., III, 129-130.
10. al-Baqara, 2/91; Aal-i Imran, 3/183; Qasas, 28/48-50.
11. Ibn Hisham, I-II, 601, ff.; Hamidullah, İslam Peygamberi, I, 139.
12. See Balazuri, Abu’l-Abbas Ahmad b. Yahya b. Jabir, Ansabu’l-Ashraf, Beirut, 1996, I, 383-384; Kattani, Abdulhay, at-Taratibu’l-Idariyya, Beirut, nd., I, 363.
13. Ibn Hisham, III-IV, 318; Bayhaqi, Ahmad b. Ali b. Husayn, as-Sunanu’l-Kubra, Hyderabad, 1344, Sunan, IX, 219-220.
14. Ibn Qayyim, Zadu’l-Maad, III, 290, 394.
15. See Ibn Hisham, I-II, 501-504.
16. Ibn Sa’d, II, 28-29, 57-59, 74-78; Ibnu’l-Athir, II, 137-139; Suhayli, Abdurrahman b. Abdillah b. Ahmad, ar-Rawdu’l-Unf fi Tafsiri’s-Sirati’n-Nabawiyya li Ibn Hisham, Cairo, nd., II, 296; Samhudi, I, 277-278, 298.
17. al-Anfal, 8/58; at-Tawba, 9/12-13; Güner, Osman, Resûlullah’ın Ehl-i Kitap’la Münasebetleri, Ankara, 1997, p. 299.
18. al-Anfal, 8/58; at-Tawba, 9/12-13; Aal-i Imran, 3/146-147, 200.
19. al-Hajj, 22/39-40.
20. an-Nisa, 4/75.
21. Abu Yusuf, Yaqub b. Ibrahim, Kitabu’l-Haraj, Cairo, 1396, p. 230; Balazuri, Futuhu’l-Buldan, published with critiques by Abdullah Anis at-Tabbaa’, Beirut, 1987, p. 41.
22. Yaman, Ahmet, İslam Devletler Hukukunda Savaş, İstanbul, 1998, p. 86-87.
23. Darimi, Siyar, 8.
24. Ibn Sa’d, II, 127-128.
25. Ibnu’l-Athir, II, 232.
26. Ibn Hisham, IV, 280-281.
27. Ibn Sa’d, II, 123.
28. Ibn Kathir, Ibn Kathir, Imaduddin Abu’l-Fida Ismail, al-Bidaya wa’n-Nihaya, Beirut, 1966, IV, 268 ff.
29. Shaybani, Muhammad b. Hasan, Sharhu Siyari’l-Kabir, (with the explanation of Sarakhsi), Beirut, 1997, II, 72; Turnagil, Ahmet Reşid, İslamiyet ve Milletler Hukuku, İstanbul, 1972, p. 92-96.
30. Ibn Hisham, III, 100; Balazuri, Ansab, I, 417.
31. Tabari, Abu Jafar Muhammad b. Jarir, Tarikhu’t-Tabari Tarikhu’l-Umam wa’l-Muluk, Beirut, nd., III, 42; Ibn Hazm, Abu Muhammad Ali b. Ahmad, Jawamiu’s-Sira, trnsl by M. Salih Arı, İstanbul, 2004, p. 180-181.
32. Ibn Hisham, III, 220; Ibn Sa’d, II, 59-60.

(Dr. Veysel Nargül)

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