The Quraishites, mortified at the escape of the Prophet [pbuh] along with his devoted companions, and jealous of his growing power in Madinah, kept a stringent watch over the Muslims left behind and persecuted them in every possible way. They also initiated clandestine contacts with ‘Abdullah bin Uabi bin Salul, chief of Madinese polytheists, and president designate of the tribes ‘Aws and Khazraj before the Prophet’s emigration. They sent him a strongly-worded ultimatum ordering him to fight or expel the Prophet, otherwise they would launch a widespread military campaign that would exterminate his people and proscribe his women. [Narrated by Abu Da'ud]
His pride wounded and kingship no longer his, ‘Abdullah bin Uabi bin Salul, a priori responded positively to his Quraishite co-polytheists. He mobilized his supporters to counteract the Muslims. The Prophet [pbuh] on hearing about this unholy alliance, summoned ‘Abdullah and admonished him to be more sensible and thoughtful and cautioned his men against being snared in malicious tricks. [Narrated by Abu Da'ud] The men, on grounds of cowardice, or reason, gave up the idea. Their chief, however, seemingly complied, but at heart, he remained a wicked unpredictable accomplice with Quraish and the envious Jews. Skirmishes and provocations started to pave the way for a major confrontation between the Muslims and polytheists. Sa‘d bin Mu‘adh, an outstanding Helper, announced his intention to observe ‘Umrah (lesser pilgrimage) and headed for Makkah. There Omaiya bin Khalaf provided tutelage for him to observe the ritual circumambulation. Abu Jahl, an archenemy of Islam saw him in the Sacred Sanctuary and threatened he would have killed him if he had not been in the company of Omaiya. Sa‘d, fearlessly and defiantly, challenged him to committing any folly at the risk of cutting their caravans off. [Bukhari 2/563]
Provocative actions continued and Quraish sent the Muslims a note threatening to put them to death in their own homeland. Those were not mere words, for the Prophet [pbuh] received information from reliable sources attesting to real intrigues and plots being hatched by the enemies of Islam. Precautionary measures were taken and a state of alertness was called for, including the positioning of security guards around the house of the Prophet [pbuh] and strategic junctures. ‘Aishah [R] reported that Allâh’s Messenger [pbuh] lay down on bed during one night on his arrival in Madinah and said: Were there a pious person from amongst my Companions who should keep a watch for me during the night? She (‘Aishah [R]) said: We were in this state when we heard the clanging noise of arms. He (the Prophet [pbuh]) said: Who is it? He said: This is Sa‘d bin Abi Waqqas. Allâh’s Messenger [pbuh] said to him: What brings you here? Thereupon he said: I harboured fear (lest any harm should come to) Allâh’s Messenger [pbuh], so I came to serve as your sentinel. Allâh’s Messenger [pbuh] invoked blessings upon him and then he slept. [Muslim 2/280; Bukhari 1/404]
This state of close vigilance continued ceaselessly until the Words of Allâh were revealed saying:
Here, the Prophet [pbuh] peeped from the dome of his house asking his people to go away, and making it clear that Allâh would take the charge of protecting him. [At-Tirmidhi 2/130]
The Prophet’s life was not the only target of the wicked schemes, but rather the lives and the whole entity of the Muslims. When the Madinese provided the Prophet [pbuh] and his Companions with safe refuge, the desert bedouins began to look at them all in the same perspective, and outlawed all the Muslims.
At this precarious juncture with Quraish, intent on pursuing their aggressive and devilish plans, Allâh, the All-High, gave the Muslims the permission to take arms against the disbelievers:
This verse was revealed in a larger context of Divine instructions to eradicate all aspects of falsehood, and hold in honour the symbols and rites of Allâh:
Doubtlessly, the permission to fight was revealed in Madinah after emigration, not in Makkah, still the exact date where of is in doubt.
The permission to fight was already there, but in the light of the status quo, it was wise for the Muslims to bring the commercial routes leading to Makkah under their control. To realize this strategic objective, the Prophet [pbuh] had to choose either of two options: