The Battle of Uhud | 3AH


Ever since the victory at Badr, the Prophet knew full well that the Quraysh would have to avenge the humiliation if they were to survive as a great Arab power. The Muslim community had now phased into a new era of the struggle-jihad. But the Prophet still desired that the Quraysh be guided and eventually enter into the fold of Islam.

It was now nearing the anniversary of Badr and in the last days of Ramadan the Prophet received a sealed letter from a horseman who had ridden from Makkah to Madinah in three days. It was from his uncle ‘Abbas, warning him that an army of three thousand men was on the point of marching out towards Madinah.By the time the letter had arrived the Quraysh had already set out. Abu Sufyan, the commander-in-chief, took with him his wife Hind and also a second wife, as did other notables. They also brought along an expert at throwing javelin, Wahshi, the Abyssinian slave who had seldom been known to miss his mark. His mission was to assassinate Hamza.

Quraysh and their allies began their march against Muhammad equipped with great amounts of armour, two hundred horses, and three thousand camels. The Emigrants and Helpers were extremely apprehensive, and the next morning the Prophet called a counsel of war. Through mutual consultation it became evident that the majority were not in favour of fighting from within the city walls, and so the Prophet decided to attack. At noon they assembled for the Friday prayer, and the theme of his sermon was Jihad and all that it demands of earnestness and effort; thereafter he said that victory would be theirs if they remained steadfast and commanded them to make preparations for war; in the name of God.

The Prophet set out with his army in the direction of Uhud in search of an advantage point for his army and when they were half-way the sun began to set. The Prophet gave instructions that the army should be ready to move off shortly before dawn. But, ‘Abdullah ibn Ubayy, had been in consultation with some of his nearest followers during the night, and when it was time to raise camp he turned back to Madinah with three hundred of the hypocrites and doubters without even speaking to the Prophet. Reduced now to seven hundred against the three thousand Makkan fighters the believers marched on.

When the Muslim force reached Uhud the Prophet ordered his companions in rows and placed fifty of his best archers on the side of the mountain, in case of a surprise attack from the rear. He explicitly ordered the archers to protect that side under all circumstances and never to leave it until he commanded them otherwise. Thus the two parties were poised for battle. Hamzah gave the war cry, “Die! Die!” and charged into the ranks of the Quraysh. Ali engaged Talhah, carrier of the Makkan flag, and killed him with a single stroke. The Prophet’s archers shot a volley of arrows into Khalid ibn Walid’s cavalry.

Quraysh’s forces advanced fiercely and the disproportionately numbered sides began their engagement. Hamzah, who was unmistakable for his unusually powerful stature was recognised by Wahshi, who had found him out. He threw his javelin aiming for a tiny chink in his armour and fatally pierced Hamza’s abdomen. The great warrior staggered a few paces forward and fell to the ground in the throes of death.

But the Muslims continued in valour, and upon killing all the flag bearers who rose to hold the banner of the allies, the enemy realised defeat was imminent and began to flee. However, defeat is followed by booty and the archers whom the Prophet had commanded to remain behind on the hill now sought to join their comrades and gain their share. Abdullah ibn Jubayr appealed to them to remain on the hill but they descended to the plain with only ten men keeping their ground. This provided Khalid, commander of the Makkan cavalry, the prime opportunity to attack and seize the mountainside where the archers were. By doing so, he managed to flank the believers and take them by surprise. After he occupied the mountainside, Khalid signalled to Quraysh to attack again as he advanced upon the Muslims from the rear. The defeated Makkans rallied to his call, and the Muslims soon found themselves in trouble; disunited on the battle field. With the believers being attacked from every direction, all sense of strategy started to crumble, and with the cry that Muhammad was killed, chaos reigned supreme and the Muslims began to flee.

However, those with steadfast faith stood close to the Prophet drawing a close circle around him for his protection. The Prophet had been hit with a stone thrown by Utbah ibn Abu Waqqas which caused him to fall to the ground with a wounded face and a broken tooth.  It’s sheer force pushed two links of the Prophet’s helmet into his wound and Abu Ubaydah broke his own front teeth trying to force the links out of the Prophet’s cheek. He and his companions then began to retreat toward the mountain of Uhud while fighting their pursuing enemies.

Both sides regrouped and a stalemate began to form. Before his army moved off, Abu Sufyan heard the disappointing news that Muhammad had not been killed after all. The struggle with Madinah was not over. ‘Next year at Badr!’ he cried, as a final challenge, and on behalf of Muhammad one the companions cried-‘Yes, it is an appointment between us!’

Lessons & Wisdoms:

Preparations for Uhud had begun straight after Badr with plans being accelerated by the raiding of caravans by the Muslims. The Quraysh had lined up an an irresistible attack on Madinah and a letter of their intentions arrived to the Prophet shortly after the anniversary of Badr; leaving the Muslims with just over a week for preparations! The battle saw the Companions being tried with a plethora of emotions and physical endurance. And though they suffered their first defeat at the hands of the Qurashites, many lessons, morals, and wisdoms were learnt from this battle:

1) The demise of the Muslims on the battlefield made them realize the serious nature of disobeying the leader or general. The disobedience of the archers was in fact a sin which resulted in much harm afflicting the entire Muslim army. This illustrates the ugly nature of sin in that it’s consequences can affect an entire community, though it was carried out by only a portion from amongst them.

2) God decreed a defeat befall the Muslims after a victory and not the other way around. A wisdom in this is to firstly encourage the Muslims to continue their struggle with good stead and not to become disheartened from the outset but a following defeat would help intensify humility to God and prevent feelings of pride and self-sufficiency from God. Through this defeat the disciples learnt great lessons and never again made the same mistakes; in the end the ultimate victory was theirs.

3) Through this epic battle the hypocrites became known to the rest of the community as a great many of them broke off from the army to return back home just before the onset of battle. Before the battle this body of vociferous individuals had operated covertly managing to sow seeds of discontent amongst the Muslim ranks. It is said that God makes apparent that which resides in the heart and then judges based on that, for that is the justice of God.

4) Amidst the thick of the battle a rumor spread of the Prophet’s death, leaving many disciples deeply distressed to the point of shock. However, for others it brought about the realization of the real goal behind the struggle which was subservience to God with or without the Prophet. It also prepared them for the actual and inevitable passing away of the Prophet.

5) Despite the heavy losses the believers had sustained, the Prophet would not let them part the battlefield without a show of defiance and strong will. For three days, they followed the Meccan army and at night he ordered them to spread out and light fires, to create the illusion of a vast army taking camp there. The spectacle deterred those of the Quraysh who wanted to return to Madinah for further combat.

6) It is said that God prepares in paradise lofty stations of bliss for certain individuals which they will only ever attain through trials and tribulations and likewise God has prepared horrifying stations of punishment in Hell that an evil person may only reach by putting such believers to trial. And thus does God exact His decree.

Edicts & Rulings:

The great scholar Ibnul Qayyim said that an entire portion of the Quranic chapter aal-‘Imran was revealed concerning the battle of Uhud. The narrative-like theme begins from verse 137 to verse 179 and contains messages of counsel, comfort and admonition for the Companions of the Prophet. Moreover, the verses revealed to us the thoughts and deepest feelings of those participating in the battle, making the narrative very unique. The following verses illustrate the above:

Verse of console:

Do not give up and do not be downhearted. You shall be uppermost if you are true believers

Verse explaining the wisdoms behind the outcome:

If you have received a wound, they have already received a similar wound. We deal out such days to people turn by turn, so that God will know those who have faith and can gather martyrs from among you; God does not love wrongdoers

Verse of admonition:

Remember when you were scrambling up the slope, refusing to turn back for anyone, and the Messenger was calling to you from the rear. There did God give you one distress after another by way of requital to teach you not to grieve for that which had escapes you, nor for that which has befallen you. And God is aware of what you do.

Surely, those of you who turned back on the day when the two troops faced each other, Satan had but made them slip for some of their deeds. Of course, God has forgiven them. Certainly, God is Most-Forgiving, Very-Forbearing

The fourth pillar of Islam, alms giving [zakah], was comprehensively obliged. Before this, a general obligation of charity to be given to the poor was set in Makkah.

In this year the Prophet married Zainab bint Khuzaimah


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