Critics of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) often bring up his caravan raids against the Makkans as a means to attack him; they argue that these caravan raids made the Prophet Muhammad a ‘bandit’ and a ‘thief’ amongst many other accusations.
The caravan raids by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) need to be put in their proper context, which as usual, the critics have not done. The critics as usual have only decided to concentrate on the act, the act of the caravan raids, while completely detaching the raids from their proper and appropriate context.
So in this article we shall give the context behind the caravan raids, once doing so, the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) actions will be seen as quite appropriate and fair.
Now anyone who studies Islamic history will learn that the early Muslim community that began in the city of Makkah, was heavily persecuted and oppressed by the Pagan Makkans. Muslims in Makkah were verbally abused, physically beaten, tortured, as well as killed. The situation for the Muslim minority in Makkah got so bad at the hands of pagan persecution that many of the Muslims eventually left Makkah, and emigrated elsewhere. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) also eventually emigrated and left Makkah alongside his companion Abu Bakr, making way for the city of Madinah, where the Muslim community were settling.
Now when many of these Muslims emigrated from Makkah, the Makkans had taken their properties and the belongings they left behind, and sold what the Muslims had left behind. The properties and belongings obviously didn’t belong to the Makkan pagans, yet they took it anyway, and decided to financially benefit from it. Not only did the pagans unlawfully take what was not theirs, some of the Muslims who emigrated, such as the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his companions such as Abu Bakr, Umar, and others. Were also successful merchants and traders involved in the caravan trade industry. And when they emigrated, they had to leave their successful businesses behind, and all of this was down to the persecution of the pagan Makkans.
So the Muslims were financially hit by the Makkans, it was the Makkans who had originally hurt the finances of the Muslims. Now when the Muslim community were settled in Madinah, and for the first time in a long time, were able to defend themselves and fight back, decided to do so. And just like the pagans had hit the finances of Muslims, the Muslims began to do the same to the pagans. Muslims weren’t only hitting the pagans at their finances, but the Muslims were taking back what they lost, and what they deserved. They were taking what was unlawfully taken away from them, at the hands of the pagan Makkans.
Furthermore, The Muslims were defending their community against the Makkan pagans who had oppressed them for several years, and in a conflict, one will often go after their enemies finances, hit them where it hurts the most. If the Muslims were able to financially hurt the Makkans, this would have a very negative affect on them, and would hurt them in their efforts to fight and oppress the Muslim community.
It is very important to mention that the Muslims did not instigate the fight, the caravan raids was the response of the Muslims towards the pagan persecution against them, and this is what the critics always like to ignore. The critics like to pretend that it was the Muslims who began hostilities with the act of the caravan raids, when this is not at all the case. As we had earlier mentioned, the Muslim community in Makkah were heavily oppressed by the pagans, they were beaten, verbally abused, tortured and killed. The oppression got so bad Muslims had to emigrate away from their homes to be safe from persecution, and in the process of this emigration, they had left their properties and belongings behind, including their own successful business’ in the caravan-trade industry.
So the caravan raids was to financially hurt the pagans just as they had done to the Muslims, and to also take back what was taken from the Muslim community. It also served the strategic purpose of financially weakening the pagan opposition as the two sides were now in open war, and when you’re in open war with an enemy, you seek to hurt your enemy’s finances. Modern civilized and democratic countries do this all the time when they’re in war or conflict with another nation or entity, hurting their enemies finances and assets, yet the critics of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) who love to praise how civilized and great the west is, like to condemn the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) for engaging in a similar act!
So a critic of the caravan raids, like Robert Spencer, has no problem when America seizes the assets of other politicians or people deemed to be extremists or terrorists, this is all fair and good, Spencer will not speak a word against it, and you can bet he will praise and support it. And this only highlights the double standards and inconsistency of the critics of Islam; they have one standard for themselves, and another standard for everybody else.