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October 2004
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Back To The Past

The Victory at Badr
By Shibli Numani
It was on the 17th of Ramadan that the Muslim army crushed the enemies of Allah, the Quraish in the Battle of Badr

Badr is a village where a fair is held every year. Nearly 80 miles from Madinah, it lies close to the spot where the Syria-Madinah route winds its way through difficult valleys.

The Quraish had started preparations for an attack on Madinah immediately after the Prophet (Pbuh) had left Makkah. They had written to Abdullah Ibn Ubayy to kill the Prophet (Pbuh), else they would fall upon him. The first thing necessary for an attack was enough money to bear the expenses of the expedition. Consequently, the trade caravan that left Makkah that spring was liberally financed, each Makkan investing whatever he had in cash.

The caravan had not yet left Syria for homeward journey, when Hadrami was accidentally slain. For the angry Quraish, it had the effect of adding fuel to the fire. In the meantime, a baseless rumour went around in Makkah that the Muslims were coming out to plunder the caravan.

When the Prophet (Pbuh) came to know of it, he called Muslims together and informed them of the situation. Abu Bakr (RA) and others expressed their readiness to lay down their lives, but the Prophet’s (Pbuh) glance was turned towards the Ansar (Madinite Muslims). The Ansar, when they had first pledged their support had promised to unsheathe their swords only when the enemy fell upon Madinah. Sa’d Ibn Ubada, head of the tribe of Khazraj, rose to his feet and said to the Prophet (Pbuh), “ Is it we you mean? Then order us, and by Allah we will jump into the sea.” So on the 12th of Ramadan, on the second year of Hijira, the Prophet (Pbuh) marched out of the city with 300 followers. They had gone about a mile when they reviewed the Muslim army. Those who were young were sent back as situations like these were fraught with dangers and not meant for youngsters. Umair Ibn Abi Waqqas, a child of tender age, was likewise told to return. He burst into tears and thus got the Prophet’s (Pbuh) permission. His brother, Sa’d Ibn Abi Waqqas himself hung a sword round his neck. Now the total number was 313 out of which 60 were Muhajirs and the rest Ansars.

After making arrangements, the Prophet (Pbuh) proceeded towards Badr, the side from which the Makkans were reported to be coming. Two reporters-Basbasah and Adi had been sent in advance to bring news of the movements of the enemy. Passing by Rauha, Munsarif, Dhat-Ajdhal, Ma’alat and Athil, the Muslim army came to Badr on the 17th of Ramadan. The reporters brought the news that the Quraish had reached the other end of the valley.

The Quraish had set out from Makkah in full splendour of military equipment. They were a thousand strong besides a 100 cavalry men. All the grandees of the Quraish were present except Abu Lahab who had been compelled to absent himself by an unavoidable circumstance.

On reaching Badr, the Quraish learnt that the caravan under Abu Sufyan had passed and was then out of danger. The men from the tribes of Zahra and Adi suggested that it was then needless to resort to fighting. But Abu Jahl would not agree. Then Zahra and Bani Adi turned back and the rest of the army moved on. Having reached earlier, the Quraish occupied a favourable site. On the other hand, the Muslims encampment had not even a well or spring and the place was so sandy that the feet of the camels sank deep into it. Hubab Ibn Mundhir asked the Prophet whether the choice of camp had been made in obedience to a divine directive or in view of military exigency. The Prophet (Pbuh) told him that it was not because of a command from God. Then Hubab suggested that it would be far better to move forward and take possession of the spring and render the surrounding wells useless for the enemy. The Prophet liked this suggestion and acted accordingly. By the grace of Allah, they were lucky enough to have a good rain, which caused the dust to settle down. Rain water was also collected in tanks at various places, so as to be serviceable for ablution and bath. It is to this favour of God that the Quran refers when it says: “ And when He sent down upon you water from the cloud that He might thereby purify you.”

The Quraish were thirsting for battle. Nonetheless, there were a few tender hearts who shuddered at the idea of blood-shed. One of them, Hakim Ibn Hizam, who later on embraced Islam, went upto Utba, the Commander-in-Chief of the Quraish army, and said to him that eternal reputation could be his that day if he liked. Utba asked how it was possible. Hakim replied that the main grievance of the Quraish was the murder of Hadrami, and as Hadrami was his ally, he had better pay off his blood money. Utba, a good-natured man agreed. But Abu Jahl’s approval had to be taken. Hakim took Utba’s message to Abu Jahl, who was laying out arrows from out of the quiver. “ I see,” said he, as the message was delivered to him, “ Utba’s courage has failed him.” Hudhaifa, son of Utba had turned a Muslim and had come with the Prophet. Abu Jahl suspected that Utba shrank from battle so that no harm should come to his son.

Abu Jahl called Hadrami’s brother and said, “ Do you see? The only chance to claim penalty for your brother’s murder is slipping a way from under your very nose.” Utba was furious at the taunt of Abu Jahl and retorted that the field of battle would tell which of them would come off with the blot of cowardice.

The Prophet (Pbuh) being averse to seeing his hands stained with blood, the companions raised at one end of the field a shed of stones for him to stay there. Sa’d Ibn Mu’adh stood at the entrance with a naked sword that none might dare to enter it. Help and victory had been promised by Allah, the very elements were at work to aid the Muslims, the angels themselves were arrayed on their side, yet acting humanely, the Prophet (Pbuh) had to think of arranging his forces in order of battle. Mu’sab Ibn Umair was appointed the flag bearer of the Muhajirs (the Makkan Muslims), Hubab Ibn Mundhir of Khazraj tribe and the standard of the Aus tribe was given to Sa’d Ibn Mu’adh.

Early in the morning, the Prophet (Pbuh) was putting his forces in battle array. With an arrow in his hand, he said to the faithful to draw up in lines so that none should be out of place even by an inch. Noise is a common feature of battlefields, but they were all forbidden to utter a single cry. Now there were two forces face to face, truth against untruth, light against darkness, Islam against infidelity. The Quran says: “ Indeed there was a sign for you in the two hosts which met together in encounter, one party fighting in the way of Allah and the other unbelieving.” The two authentic books of Hadith report that the Prophet (Pbuh) in earnest devotion and with his hand outstretched was praying to Allah. By this time, the forces of the Quraish had drawn nearer, but the Prophet ordered his companions not to move forward, but to check the advancing enemy with their arrows when they got near enough. This battle brought to view a unique scene of sacrifice and reckless valour. When the two armies met, warriors saw their own dear and near ones under the flash of their steel. Abu Bakr (RA), stepped forward, a naked sword in hand, to engage his own son who had not come over to Islam upto that time. When Utba came out, his Muslim son Hudhaifa advanced to meet him and the sword of Umar (RA) was red with the blood of his maternal uncle. Utba, the chief- in- command had been stung to the quick by the taunt of Abu Jahl. He came out of the line with his brother and son and called for an adversary. It was customary with men of repute among the Arabs to go out to the battlefield with a special mark of distinction. Utba had a feather of an ostrich stuck on his chest. ‘Auf Muadh and Abdullah Ibn Rawaha came out to meet the Quraish notables. Utba asked them their names and on learning that they were all Ansaris, he said he had nothing to do with them. Abd al Rahman Ibn Auf, one of the companions of the Prophet (Pbuh) reported that he was at his post when all of a sudden he saw the two young men coming up, one on his right and the other on his left. One of them whispered in his ear,”where is Abu Jahl?” “My god nephew,” said Abd Al-Rahman, “what business you have with Abu Jahl?” I have vowed to God,” said the young man, “that whenever I happen to meet him, I will kill him or be killed myself.” Before Abdl al-Rehman could make a reply, the other youth waswhispering to him the same words. Abd al Rehman pointed to the place where Abu Jahl stood. That very instant, the two swooped down on him like falcons and Abu Jahl was groveling in the dust. On the death of Utba and Abu Jahl, the Quraish were shaken in their resolve and the army lost heart. The arch-enemy of the Prophet, Umayya Ibn Khalaf had also joined the Quraish army. Sometime back, Abd al Rehman Ibn Auf had promised him safety if he came to Madinah. The battle should have been a nice opportunity for the Muslims to be revenged upon this enemy of Allah. Abd al-Rehman did his best to let Umayya make good his escape. He took him to a hill, but was detected by Bilal who let the Ansar know of it. In an instant, some Muslims fell upon him. Abd al-Rehman asked him to lie down and when he had done so, Abd al-Rehman bent down over him to protect him against attack. But the assailants reached out their hands from under the legs of Abd al-Rehman and despatched him. Abd al-Rehman himself was severely wounded in the leg which remained scarred for a long time.

After the death of Abu Jahl, Utba and others, the Quraish laid down their arms. The Muslims now began taking them prisoners. Abbas, Aqil (brother of Ali) Naufal, Aswad Ibn Amir, Abdullah Ibn Zama and a host of other leading persons were captured. The Prophet (Pbuh) asked the Muslims to bring news how Abu Jahl had fared. Abdullah Ibn Masaud searched for him among the dead and found him struggling with death. “Is it you Abu Jahl?” asked Abdullah. “Is it” he retorted, a “matter for pride?”

With all odds against them, the Muslims found at the end of the battle that they had lost only 14, six Muhajirs and eight Ansaris. On the other hand, the Quraish were crushed to the backbone and almost all the dignitaries who had led the tribes and had been reputed warriors were wiped off.

Each prisoner of war was charged 4,000 Dirhams. Those who were poor to pay were set free without any ransom and those who knew how to write were asked to teach it to 10 Muslim children in lieu of their ransom. Zaid Ibn Thabit learnt writing under this arrangement. The news of the rout at Badr reached Makkah and there was wailing and weeping in every house. Touched with shame, the Quraish had it announced that no lamentations would be permitted. Aswad had lost three sons, but the sense of national honour did not allow him to shed a single tear.

(Shibli Numani (RA) is well known as the author of the widely read biography of the life of the holy Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) under the title of “ Sirat al Nabi.”)