Courage Lessons: The Battle of Uhud

May 9, 2006

The Battle of Uhud

The Battle of Uhud was a great test for the young Muslim community. After the Battle of Badr (where the Muslims defeated the Pagan Arabs) the Makkans were determined to wipe off their disgrace and to destroy the Muslims. Thus, they collected a large army and marched to Madinah. The Makkan army consisted of some 3,000 fighting men under the leadership of Abu Sufyan. They were so confident of victory that they brought their womenfolk with them.

The Muslims decided to take the battle out of Madinah – thus they left Madinah and started towards the enemy. When the Muslims were close enough to the enemy that they could see one another, ‘Abdullah bin Ubai – the hypocrite – rebelled against the Muslims. One-third of the army withdrew with him – approximately 300 fighters. The remainder of the army, along with the Prophet (saw), moved towards the enemy (there was now only 700 fighters). The army went along until they climbed down the hillock of Uhud at the slope of the valley. The army camped there with their backs to the hills of Uhud mountain.

The Prophet (saw) mobilized the army. He arranged them in rows to prepare them to fight and selected 50 skilled archers to stay on the mountainside to prevent the Makkan Army from attacking from the rear. The Prophet (saw) specifically told the archers, “If you see us snatched into pieces by birds, do not leave this position of yours till I send for you. And if you see that we have defeated the enemy and trodden on them, do not desert your position till I send for you.” (Bukhari) Because of the Prophet’s wisdom and military leadership, the Muslim army was able to occupy better positions on the battlefield even though they arrived later than the Makkan army. The army of the Prophet (saw) was thus fully mobilized on Shawwal 7th, 3 A.H.

In the beginning, the battle went well for the Muslims and the enemy weakened. However, a majority of the archers on the mountainside committed a fatal mistake that turned the whole situation upside down, and was the source of heavy losses amongst the Muslims. Many of the archers became certain that victory was near and wanted to run and pile up the spoils of war. Thus, in clear disobedience of their orders from the Prophet (saw) and their leader on the hillside, forty archers deserted their posts. The other archers, including their leader, stayed on the hillside, but the hillside was now inadequately defended. The enemy took advantage of the opening left by the archers and there was severe hand-to-hand fighting. At one point during this time, someone yelled that “Muhammad (saw) has been killed” and this caused quite a bit of confusion for the Muslims. Some wanted to contact ‘Abdullah bin Ubai (the “Hypocrite”) to seek his help in attaining peace with the Makkans and others wanted to surrender. However, there were many brave Muslims that refused to stop fighting and shouted to Army messages such as:

Thabit bin Ad-Dahdah called out: “O kinfolk of Helpers, if Muhammad (saw) were killed, Allah is Everlasting and He never dies. Fight in defence of your Faith. Allah will help you and so you will be victorious.”

Anas bin An-Nadr inquired “What do you live for after Muhammad (saw)? Come on and die for what the Messenger of Allah (saw) has died for.”

With such bold and encouraging examples, the Muslims soon recovered their spirits and gave up the idea of surrender or contacting the Hypocrite ‘Abdullah bin Ubai. They took up arms and resumed the fight.

When the Makkans started to encompass the Muslim army, there were only nine persons around the Prophet (saws). In a loud voice, the Prophet (saw) called out to the Muslims: “Come on! I am the Messenger of Allah.” The idolaters heard his voice and attacked him with all their power before any of his Companions ran to his aid. A violent raging struggle broke out between the nine Muslims and the idolaters. Muslim, on the authority of Anas bin Malik narrated that the Prophet (saw) along with seven Helpers and two Emigrants, was confined to a trap when the idolaters attacked him. The Prophet (saw) said: “He who pushes back those idolaters, will be housed in Paradise.” One of the Helpers stepped forward and fought the idolaters in defense of the Prophet until he was killed. They attacked the Prophet (saw) again. The same process was repeated again and again until all the seven Helpers were killed. Then the Prophet (saw) said to his two Quraishite Companions, “We have not done justice to our Companions.” (Muslim) Killing the Prophet (saw) was the primary aim of the idolators, but the two Quraishites (Sa’d bin Abi Waqqas and Talha bin ‘Ubaidullah) showed great courage and fought so fiercely that they kept the Makkans from succeeding.

In Al-Ikleel, a book written by Hakim, it is stated that Talha sustained thirty-nine or thirty-five wounds and his fingers were paralyzed. The Prophet (saw) said about Talha “He who desires to see a martyr walking on the ground, let him look at Talha bin ‘Ubaidullah.”

Finally, the Companions of the Prophet (saw) who were busy in battle elsewhere noticed the grave situation of the Prophet (saw) and ran to his aid. As soon as they arrived, they encircled the Prophet (saw) with their bodies and weapons and prevented the enemies from reaching him. AS thirty Companions encircled him, the Prophet (saw) started drawing a planned withdrawal to the hillocks nearby. The Muslims finally retreated to the cover of Mount Uhud. Some of the idolaters tried to follow the Muslim army in retreat. However, the Prophet (saw) implored Allah, “O Allah, they should not be higher (in position or in power) than us.” Therefore, ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab and some of the Emigrants fought the idolaters until they drove them down the mountain.

This was the last attack made by the idolaters against the Prophet (saw). Almost certain of his death, the idolaters returned to their camp and started preparations to go back to Makkah. Some of them involved themselves with mutilating the killed Muslims, and so did their women.

In total, most narrations confirm there were seventy Muslims killed and most of them (sixty-five) were Ansar (Helpers). As for the Polytheists, twenty-two were killed, but some versions speak of thirty-seven. The Prophet (saw) himself was wounded in his head and face, and one of his front teeth was broken.

The Muslims showed unprecedented rare heroism and marvelous sacrifices. After the battle, the Prophet (saw) supervised the martyrs’ burial. The sight of the martyrs was extremely horrible and heart-breaking. Then they returned to Madinah. That night, the Prophet (saw) pondered over the situation. The Prophet (saw) realized that the idolaters (on their way to Makkah) would most likely regret that they didn’t achieve a true victory and would decide to invade Madinah as compensation.

The very next day when quite a large number of Muslims lay wounded and the martyrdom of the near and dear ones was being mourned in many houses, and the Holy Prophet himself was injured and sad at the martyrdom of his uncle, Hadrat Hamzah, he called out to the devoted servants of Islam to accompany him in pursuit of the pagans so as to deter them from returning and attacking Madinah again. The Holy Prophet's assessment was absolutely correct. He knew that, although the Quraish had retreated without taking any advantage of their almost complete victory, they would certainly regret their folly when they would halt and consider the whole matter coolly on the way, and would return to attack Madinah again. Therefore, he decided to go in pursuit of them, and 630 of the Muslims at once volunteered to accompany him. When they reached Hamra al-Asad on the way to Makkah and camped there for three days, the Holy Prophet came to know through a sympathetic non-Muslim that Abu Sufyan had stayed at Ar-Rauha, 36 miles short of Madinah, with an army 2,978 strong: they were regretting their error and were, in fact, planning to return and attack Madinah once again. But when they heard that the Holy Prophet was coming in pursuit of them with an army, they lost heart and gave up their plan. Thus, not only were the Quraish deterred by this action but the other enemies living around Madinah also realized that the Muslims were being led by a person who was highly well informed, wise and resolute, and that the Muslims were ever ready to lay down their lives at his command.

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