Feint is a French term that entered English via the discipline of swordsmanship and fencing. Feints are maneuvers designed to distract or mislead, done by giving the impression that a certain maneuver will take place, while in fact another, or even none, will. In military tactics and many types of combat, there are two types of feints: feint attacks and feint retreats.
A feint attack is designed to draw defensive action towards the point under assault. It is usually used as a diversion to force the enemy to concentrate more manpower in a given area, to weaken the opposing force in another area. Unlike a related diversionary maneuver, the demonstration, a feint involves actual contact with the enemy.
A feint retreat is performed by briefly engaging the enemy, then retreating. It is intended to draw the enemy pursuit into a prepared ambush, or to cause disarray. For example, the Battle of Hastings was lost when Saxons pursued the Norman cavalry. This forfeited the advantage of height and the line was broken, providing the opportunity to fight in single handed combat on a neutral vantage point, a battle for which the Saxons were not ready. The Parthian shot is another example of a feint retreat, where mounted Parthian archers would retreat from a battle and then, while still riding, turn their bodies back to shoot at the pursuing enemy.
The Islamic Prophet Muhammad made extensive use of feints. One of the earliest examples was during the Invasion of Banu Lahyan. Muhammad set out in Rabi‘ Al-Awwal or Jumada Al-Ula in the year six Hijri (July 627 A.D) with 200 Muslim fighters and made a feint of heading for Syria, then soon changed route towards Batn Gharran, the scene of where 10 Muslims were killed in the Expedition of Al Raji. Bani Lahyan were on Alert and got the news of his march, the tribe then immediately fled to the mountain tops nearby and thus remained out of his reach. On his way back, Muhammad despatched a group of ten horsemen to a place called Kura‘ Al-Ghamim, in the vicinity of the habitation of Quraish in order to indirectly confirm his growing military power. All these skirmishes took 14 days, after which he left back for home.