As soon as the Muslims undertook the Hijra they knew that they would have to be prepared to fight.
As mentioned early on, the ghazu or raid was an accepted way of making ends meet, among the Arabs, when times were hard. Raiders would invade the territory of an enemy tribe and capture their livestock and other goods, taking care to avoid bloodshed. Madinah was ideally placed to attack the Makkan caravans, often guarded by only a few merchants. Muhammad despatched two raiding parties of Emigrants, to attack their caravans because the Quraysh had usurped the wealth they left behind when fleeing Makkah. These early raids were not entirely successful but sent a clear message to the Makkans of defiance.
The raids didn’t deter Abu Sufyan who led a great caravan towards Sham; the goods were estimated at 50,000 dinars with all the Makkan merchants having bought a share in it. The Muslims received the news of the caravan and the Prophet set out with three hundred odd men to intercept it at the well of Badr, near the Red Sea coast. Abu Sufyan caught wind of the ambush and instead of taking his usual route across the Hijaz, he turned sharply away from the coast and dispatched a local tribesman to Mecca to get help.The change of plan proved successful as he managed to elude the Muslims and take the caravan beyond their reach. He sent word that the merchandise was safe and that military help was no longer needed. But Abu Jahl would have none of this. “By God!” he cried. “We will not go back until we have been to Badr. We will spend three days there, slaughter camels, and feast and drink wine. The Arabs will hear that we have come and will respect us in the future.” But not even Abu Jahl was expecting a full fledged battle.
When news reached the Muslims that the Quraysh had come out in force, the Prophet called a council of war as the Muslim volunteers had come out to take part in a Ghazu (raid), not a pitched battle.
After Abu Bakr and Umar presented their views, Miqdad ibn Amr stood up and said:
“O Prophet of God, press forward toward that which God has shown you. We are with you. By God, we shall never say to you, as the Jews had said to Moses, ‘Go alone with your Lord and fight with Him for us, while we remain here and await your return.’ Rather, we say, ‘Go forth, you and your Lord to fight, for we fight with you’.”
Al Miqdad’s speech, on behalf of the Emigrants, was followed by silence. The Prophet said: “Speak out, O men, and give me your counsel.” He was especially anxious to hear the Ansar’s view who, on the day of Aqaba, pledged to protect him as they would their children and women but not to permit any aggression with him outside their own area. When the Ansar realized that he was waiting for them to speak, Sa’d ibn Mu’adh, their leader, rose and addressed the Prophet:
“Does it seem, O Prophet of God, that you are seeking to hear our view?” The Prophet answered, “Indeed.”
Sa’d said, “We have believed in you, and we have witnessed that what you have brought to us is the truth. We have covenanted with you to hear and to obey. Go ahead with whatever you decide, for we are with you. By Him who sent you as a Prophet, if you were to ask us to cross the sea and you plunged into it, we would plunge into it with you, and not a man would stay behind. We do not fear that you cause us to face our enemy tomorrow. We shall hold fast to our ground and stand firm or press forward toward the enemy in solid ranks. We hope that God will show you such of our deeds as you may not be disappointed therein but may be proud of. Lead us forth with God’s blessing.”
Sa’d had hardly finished when the Prophet’s face radiated with joy saying, “Proceed and be hopeful, for God had promised me one of the two: either the caravan or the Makkan army.” Ali, al Zubayr, and Sa’d were dispatched with a number of other companions to the well of Badr to seek out fresh news. The group returned with two water-carriers who revealed that Quraysh’s army stood behind the hill on the further side and that the leaders of Quraysh were all present.
The next day news reached them that the caravan had in fact passed them by on a different route and that Quraysh’s army were still in the vicinity close by. With this news, whatever hopes for booty some of them may have entertained collapsed. The Prophet discussed with his companions whether or not they should now return to Madinah and not force a showdown with Quraysh’s army. In connection with this, the following verses of the Quran were revealed: “And remember when God promised you one of the two parties (of the enemy i.e. either the army or the caravan) that it should be yours, you wished that the one not armed (the caravan) should be yours, but God willed to justify the truth by His Words and to cut off the roots of the disbelievers.”
Quraysh asked themselves the same question. However, Abu Jahl insisted that the fight should go ahead so that Muhammad can be routed and destroyed. There was some hesitation in the camp of Quraysh with one tribe returning to Makkah, but the rest followed Abu Jahl and set up camp behind a sand dune. The Muslims hurried to the springs of Badr. When they reached the first water well, Muhammad dismounted with the intention of camping there. Recognising the area, Al Hubab ibn al Mundhir approached the Prophet and suggested that the Muslims reach the well closest to the enemy. There they would bring a trough to it, to fill with water and then fill the well with sand. Thus in the engagement the Muslims would fight the enemy having possession of all of the water. The Prophet immediately agreed and rose to go forward with his force.
On realising that the Muslims were moving into position, Quraysh arranged and readied themselves for battle. A shower of rain hardened the ground and made it easier for the Muslims to move but more difficult for the Makkans, who had to toil uphill. Some of the men of Quraysh, although acknowledging that the Muslims numbered a mere 300, feared for the heads of Quraysh as they had all joined the battle. ‚ ‘Utbah bin Rabi’ah advised his peers to return to their homes and leave Muhammad alone amongst the tribes. But when Abu Jahl heard these words of ‚ ‘Utbah, he raged in anger, inciting Quraysh to drive towards the Muslims.
As always in Arabia, the battle of Badr began with single combats. Al Aswad sprang out of the ranks of Quraysh toward the Muslims seeking to destroy the trough and drink from the well of Badr but Hamzah stood ready striking him with his sword, cutting off his legs and killing him.
As soon as Al Aswad fell, other members of Quraysh sprang forth challenging the Muslims to duel wanting to fight their own tribesmen. At this, Hamzah, ‚ ‘Ali, and ‘Ubaydah ibn al Harith advanced forth and slew their opponents. No sooner had they charged were all three men of Quraysh lying dead on the ground. ‘Ubaydah received a lethal blow to his leg, severing it. As the marrow oozed from it’s stump he had only one thought. “Am I not a martyr, O Messenger of God?” he said as the Prophet came to his aid. “Indeed you are,” he answered. When the Quraishite army saw this, they advanced and the two armies collided.
The Prophet prayed to his Lord ceaselessly and persistently to come to their help and when the engagement grew fierce he again began to supplicate his Lord saying, “O God! Should this group of Muslims be defeated today, You will no longer be worshipped.”
When the believers were ordered to charge, they did not charge alone, for the Prophet had been promised through the Quran: “When you sought aid from your Lord, so He answered you: I will assist you with a thousand of the angels following one another.” The presence of the Angels was felt by all, but that presence was only visible or audible to a few, and in varying degrees.
During the course of battle, Bilal killed Umayyah ibn Khalaf, his previous master who would torture him by placing a large rock on his chest and letting him burn under the scorching sun in order to force him to renounce Islam. Mu’adh ibn ‘Amr killed Abu Jahl. Hamzah, Ali and other Muslim heroes penetrated deeply into enemy lines, forgetting themselves, their small numbers, and their being surrounded by the enemies. Muslims hurled themselves into the encounter chanting, “God is one! God is one!” By midday Quraysh, who had expected to have to make a show of force, panicked and fled in disarray, leaving about fifty of their leading men, including Abu Jahl himself, dead on the field. When the dust begun the settle and the unbelievers had fled the battle field, the Muslims collected the dead of Quraysh and buried them on the spot. The Prophet and his companions spent that night on the battlefield burying their dead, collecting the booty and keeping watch of the captives. The outcome of the battle was a humiliating defeat for the polytheists. They sustained heavy casualties, seventy were killed and a like number taken prisoners. Many of the principal men of Makkah, and some of the Prophet’s bitterest opponents were among the slain.
Fourteen Muslims were killed, of who six were from the Emigrants, Muhajirun, and eight from the Helpers, Al Ansar.
The question as to what to do with the captives troubled the Prophet and he submitted the matter to the Muslims and sought their advice. Abu Bakr appealed to The Prophet’s gentleness and stirred his compassion. He pleaded,
“O Prophet of God, you are dearer than my father and my mother. Your captives consist of men who are parents, sons, cousins, uncles and brothers of your own people. The most removed of them is still a member of your clan and a blood relative. Be good to them and forgive them. God will forgive you and be good to you. Otherwise allow them to be ransomed and take from them that which would increase the Muslims in power. Perhaps, by such action, God will soften their hearts toward Islam.”
Umar, coming after Abu Bakr, sat in his place and pleaded: “O Prophet of God, these are the enemies of God. They have belied you, fought you, and banished you. Strike their necks. They are the leaders of idolatry and misguidance. By this course God will consolidate Islam and bring low the idolaters.” The Prophet then decided to ransom the captives, to which God revealed,
“It does not behove a Prophet to hold captives; nor to tyrannise in the world. You seek the advantages of this world whereas God wishes you to seek the advantages of the other. God is almighty and all-wise.”
Lessons & Wisdoms:
After more than fourteen years of struggling without permission to retaliate physically, God then revealed to the Prophet to take up arms against the enemy. This legislation of physical struggle contained many wisdoms; of them we find,
1) A means of protecting the right of freedom of belief in & practice of Islam, and to facilitate the betterment of the call to Islam.
2) A means of overcoming injustice and corruption on the Earth
3) A means of distinguishing the believers from the hypocrites
4) A means of increasing the communities faith and subservience to God as well as facilitating the path to martyrdom
What we learn from the Battle of Badr
When the revelation was revealed there could be no question of anything but raids and though information about caravans was seldom precise, there had come news of a rich Meccan caravan that was returning from Syria laden with goods, under the command Abu Sufyan. The Prophet set out with three hundred odd men in earnest but an informant from within had already sent word to Abu Sufyan who in response called on his fellow Qurashites to muster up as much help as they could. What followed was the epic battle of Badr and it brought with it many lessons and morals. Of the most important ones are,
1) The Prophet sought the advise and counsel of his companions when forming his military strategy thus showing us the importance of the islamic concept of consultation. In fact, the Prophet cultured the companions to feel confident in expressing their views; it was upon the advice of one of the companions that the Muslims were able to gain the upper hand by blocking off the water supply to the enemy.
2) The event of Badar shows us the power of Divine Decree in that neither the Prophet nor the Qurashites had actually intended for war, but rather God had ordained the battle take place and through it make His religion victorious. God even made the number of Qurashite fighters seem few in number to the Prophet and his disciples and likewise made the Muslims seem few in number to the Qurashites. This illusion only served the purpose of making each party more enthusiastic to fight.
3) It was because of the Prophet and his disciples’ detailed preparation and reliance upon God that God bestowed upon them the help of angels to increase them in morale and faith on the battlefield.
4) The intimate form of guidance the Prophet received from God prevented him from erring in matters of religion. In the incident of the prisoners of war, God revealed to the Prophet, by way of a Quranic verse, the more correct choice he should have made and so the Prophet corrected himself accordingly.
Edicts & Rulings:
The first Quranic verse of Jihad was revealed in chapter al-Hajj, verses 39-40:
Permission to fight is given to those who are fought against because they have been wronged, truly God has the power to come to their support, those who were expelled from their homes without any right, merely for saying, ‘Our Lord is God’
The Quranic chapter al-Anfal (Spoils of War) was revealed after the incident of Badr, in Ramadan of 2 AH. It constituted a unique divine commentary on this battle.
When Ubaydah Amir ibn Jarrah took the life of his own father in the battle of Badr, God revealed the following verse of the chapter Mujadalah:
You will not find people who have faith in God and the Last Day having love for anyone who opposes God and His Messenger, though they be their fathers, their sons, their brothers or their clan. God has inscribed faith upon such people’s hearts and will reinforce them with a spirit from Him and admit them into Gardens with rivers flowing under them, remaining in them timelessly, for ever. God is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him. Such people are the party of God. Truly it is the party of God who are successful.
In the month of Sha’ban during this second year of the Islamic calendar, fasting the month of Ramadan was obliged through the following Quranic verse of chapter al-Baqara, verse 184:
You who have faith! fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you will attain piety & God consciousness
After praying towards Jerusalem for around sixteen months revelation came down about a change in prayer direction, found in the chapter of al-Baqara, verse 144:
So turn your face in the direction of al-Masjid al-Haraam (at Makkah). And wheresoever you people are, turn your faces (in prayer) in that direction
The following injunctions were decreed through the Prophetic tradition:
i. It is Sunnah to stay at the place of victory for three days in order to ward off a counter attack, bury the martyrs, and apportion the spoils of war.
ii. The martyr is buried at his place of death without the Funeral Prayer or ritual bathing.
iii. The call to prayer [athaan] had begun to be observed in the Muslim community.
iv. A form of obligatory charity known as zakah al-fitr which was to be paid at the end of Ramadan was obliged.
v. It is said that the Muslim community celebrated their first ever Eid in Shawwal (Eidul Fitr) this year.