Ghazwah (Battle) of Za’tur Riqa
By: Ayatullah Ja'far Subhani
In the Arabic language Riqa' means a 'Patch'. This sacred jihad is called Zatur Riqa' for the reason that at this front the Muslims came across a chain of high and low places which appeared like patches. According to another version it is called Za'tur Riqa' for the reason that to alleviate the hardship of walking the soldiers had wrapped their feet with rags.
In any case this battle was not a primary campaign so that the army of Islam should have fallen upon a community on the plea of their being polytheists. In fact their aim was to extinguish a spark which was about to flare up i.e. to suppress the enthusiasm which was being displayed by two families of Ghatfan (Bani Maharib and Bani Sa'labah) against Islam.
It was customary for the Prophet to depute wise and intelligent persons to different areas so that they might inform him about their general conditions. Suddenly a report was received that the above-mentioned two families were gathering arms and men to conquer Madina. The Prophet proceeded to Najd with special columns and encamped near the territory of the enemy. The brilliant past record of the army of Islam and their self-sacrifice and valour which had astonished the Arabian Peninsula made the enemy retreat and take refuge in mountains and high regions without fighting.
However, as the Prophet offered the obligatory prayers in this battle, along with the soldiers of Islam, as Salat-i Khawf (offering prayers during the time of danger) and taught the Muslims the method of offering it by means of 103rd verse of Surah al-Nisa, it may be conjectured that the enemy's forces were well-equipped and that the fighting had assumed a very delicate shape, but eventually Muslims were victorious.
Although in this battle the army of Islam returned from the headquarters of the enemy to Madina without fighting, they acquired a small booty. On their way back they stayed at night in an extensive valley to take rest. Here the Prophet appointed two brave soldiers to undertake guarding the mouth of the valley. These two soldiers named 'Abbad and 'Ammar divided the hours of the night between themselves and it was agreed that 'Abbad should guard the mouth of the valley during the first half of the night.
A man belonging to the tribe of Ghatfan was pursuing the Muslims so that he might do them some harm and then return immediately. This man took advantage of the darkness of the night and shot an arrow at the person guarding the valley while the latter was offering prayers. The sentry was so much absorbed in invocations that he did not much feel the prickly sensation caused by the arrow. He pulled out the arrow from his foot and continued his prayers. However, the attack was repeated thrice. The last arrow of the enemy struck his foot so severely that he could not continue his invocations as he wished. He, therefore finished his prayers immediately and then awakened 'Ammar.
The tragic condition of 'Abbad moved 'Ammar very much and he said by way of protest "Why did you not awaken me at the very outset?" The wounded sentry replied "I was praying and was reciting a surah of the Holy Qur'an when suddenly the first arrow hit me. The enjoyment of invocations and the deliciousness of attention towards the Almighty Allah kept me from breaking my prayers. If the Prophet had not made me responsible for guarding this point I would not at all have broken my prayers and the surah which I was reciting and would have surrendered my very life making invocations to Allah before I intended to break my prayers.[Seerah-i Ibn Hisham, vol. II, pp. 208-209].