The Battle of Badr

The Battle of Badr

The First Decisive Battle in the History of Islam

Reason of the Battle

We have already spoken about Al-‘Ushairah Invasion when a caravan belonging to Quraish had escaped an imminent military encounter with the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and his men. When their return from Syria approached, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) despatched Talhah bin ‘Ubaidullâh and Sa‘id bin Zaid northward to scout around for any movements of this sort. The two scouts stayed at Al-Hawra’ for some days until Abu Sufyan, the leader of the caravan, passed by them. The two men hurried back to Madinah and reported to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) their findings. Great wealth amounting to 50 thousand gold Dinars guarded by 40 men moving relatively close to Madinah constituted a tempting target for the Muslim military, and provided a potentially heavy economic, political and military strike that was bound to shake the entire structure of the Makkan polytheists.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) immediately exhorted the Muslims to rush out and waylay the caravan to make up for their property and wealth they were forced to give up in Makkah. He did not give orders binding to everyone, but rather gave them full liberty to go out or stay back, thinking that it would be just an errand on a small scale.

The Muslim army was made up of 300-317 men, 82-86 Emigrants, 61 from Aws and 170 from Khazraj. They were not well-equipped nor adequately prepared. They had only two horses belonging to Az-Zubair bin Al-‘Awwam and Al-Miqdad bin Al-Aswad Al-Kindi, 70 camels, one for two or three men to ride alternatively. The Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) himself, ‘Ali and Murthid bin Abi Murthid Al-Ghanawi had only one camel. Disposition of the affairs of Madinah was entrusted to Ibn Umm Maktum but later to Abu Lubabah bin ‘Abdul Mundhir. The general leadership was given to Mus‘ab bin ‘Umair Al-Qurashi Al-‘Abdari, and their standard was white in colour. The little army was divided into two battalions, the Emigrants with a standard raised by ‘Ali bin Abi Talib, and the Helpers whose standard was in the hand of Sa‘d bin Mu‘adh. Az-Zubair bin Al-‘Awwam was appointed to the leadership of the right flank, Al-Miqdad bin ‘Amr to lead the left flank, and the rear of the army was at the command of Qais bin Abi Sa‘sa‘ah. The General Commander-in-Chief was the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), of course.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), at the head of his army, marched out along the main road leading to Makkah. He then turned left towards Badr and when he reached As-Safrâ’, he despatched two men to scout about for the camels of Quraish.

Abu Sufyan, on the other hand, was on the utmost alert. He had already been aware that the route he was following was attended with dangers. He was also anxious to know about the movements of Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace). His scouting men submitted to him reports to the effect that the Muslims were lying in ambush for his caravan. To be on the safe side, he hired Damdam bin ‘Amr Al-Ghifari to communicate a message asking for help from the Quraishites. The messenger rode fast and reached Makkah in frenzy. Felling himself from his camel, he stood dramatically before Al-Ka‘bah, cut off the nose and the ears of the camel, turned its saddle upside down, tore off his own shirt from front and behind, and cried: "O Quraish! Your merchandise! It is with Abu Sufyan. The caravan is being intercepted by Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) and his companions. I cannot say what would have happened to them. Help! Help!"

The effect of this hue and cry was instantaneous and the news stunned Quraish and they immediately remembered their pride that was wounded when the Muslims had intercepted Al-Hadrami caravan. They therefore swiftly mustered almost all of their forces and none stayed behind except Abu Lahab, who delegated someone who owed him some money. They also mobilized some Arab tribes to contribute to the war against the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). All the clans of Quraish gave their consent except Banu ‘Adi. Soon an excited throng of 1300 soldiers including 100 horsemen and 600 mailed soldiers with a large number of camels, was clamouring to proceed to fight the Muslims. For food supplies, they used to slaughter an alternate number of camels of ten and nine every day. They were however afraid that Banu Bakr, on account of old long deep-seated animosity, would attack their rear. At that critical moment, Iblis (Satan) appeared to them in the guise of Suraqa bin Malik bin Ju‘sham Al-Mudlaji — chief of Bani Kinana — saying to them: "I guarantee that no harm will happen from behind."

They set out burning with indignation, motivated by a horrible desire for revenge and exterminating anyone that might jeopardize the routes of their caravans:

"…boastfully and to be seen of men, and hinder (men) from the path of Allâh. " [Al-Qur'an 8:47]

Or as the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:

"O Allâh these are the haughty and conceited; they have come defying Allâh and defying His Messenger."

They moved swiftly northward to Badr. On the way they received another message from Abu Sufyan asking them to go back home because the caravan had escaped the Muslims. Incidentally, Abu Sufyan, on learning the intention of the Muslims, led his caravan off the main route, and inclined it towards the Red Sea. By this manoeuvre, he was able to slip past the Madinese ambush and was out of their reach.

On receiving Abu Sufyan’s message, the Makkan army showed a desire to return home. The tyrant Abu Jahl, however haughtily and arrogantly insisted that they proceed to Badr, stay three nights there for making festivities. Now they wanted to punish the Muslims and prevent them from intercepting their caravans, and impress on the Arabs that Quraish still had the upper hand and enjoyed supremacy in that area.

Abu Jahl’s threats and insistence notwithstanding, Banu Zahrah, acting on the advice of Al-Akhnas bin Shuraiq, broke away and returned to Makkah. Thenceforth Al-Akhnas remained ‘the well-rubbed palm tree’ for Bani Zahrah and was blindly obeyed in all relevant matters.

Banu Hashim were also inclined to break away, but Abu Jahl’s threats made them desist from that idea.

The rest of the army, now 1000 soldiers, approached Badr and encamped themselves beyond a sand dune at Al-‘Udwat Al-Quswa.

‘The intelligence corps’ of the Madinese army reported to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) that a bloody encounter with the Makkans was inescapable, and that a daring step in this context had to be taken, or else the forces of evil would violate the inviolable and would consequently manage to undermine the noble cause of the Islam and tread upon its faithful adherents. The Muslims were afraid that the pagan Makkans would march on and start the war activities within the headquarters of Islam, Madinah. A move of such nature would certainly damage and produce an infamous impact on the dignity and stance of the Muslims.

On account of the new grave developments, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) held an advisory military emergency meeting to review the ongoing situation and exchange viewpoints with the army leaders. Admittedly, some Muslims feared the horrible encounter and their courage began to waver; in this regard, Allâh says:

"As your Lord caused you (O Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace)) to go out from your home with the Truth, and verily, a party among the believers disliked it, disputing with you concerning the Truth after it was made manifest, as if they were being driven to death while they were looking (at it)." [Al-Qur'an 8:5, 6]

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) apprised his men of the gravity of the situation and asked for their advice. Abu Bakr was the first who spoke on the occasion and assured the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) of the unreserved obedience to his command. ‘Umar was the next to stand up and supported the views expressed by his noble friend. Then Al-Miqdad bin ‘Amr got up and said: "O Messenger of Allâh! Proceed where Allâh directs you to, for we are with you. We will not say as the Children of Israel said to Moses (peace be upon him):

"Go you and your Lord and fight and we will stay here;"

Rather we shall say:

"Go you and your Lord and fight and we will fight along with you."

By Allâh! If you were to take us to Bark Al-Ghimad, we will still fight resolutely with you against its defenders until you gained it."

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) thanked him and blessed him.

The three leaders who spoke were from the Emigrants, who only constituted a minor section of the army. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) wanted, and for the more reason, to hear the Helpers’ view because they were the majority of the soldiers and were expected to shoulder the brunt of the war activities. Moreover, the clauses of Al-‘Aqabah Pledge did not commit them to fighting beyond their territories.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) then said:

"Advise me my men!"

by which he meant the Helpers, in particular. Upon this Sa‘d bin Mu‘adh stood up and said: "By Allâh, I feel you want us (the Helpers) to speak." The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) directly said: "Oh, yes!" Sa‘d said: "O Prophet of Allâh! We believe in you and we bear witness to what you have vouchsafed to us and we declare in unequivocal terms that what you have brought is the Truth. We give you our firm pledge of obedience and sacrifice. We will obey you most willingly in whatever you command us, and by Allâh, Who has sent you with the Truth, if you were to ask us to plunge into the sea, we will do that most readily and not a man of us will stay behind. We do not grudge the idea of encounter with the enemy. We are experienced in war and we are trustworthy in combat. We hope that Allâh will show you through our hands those deeds of valour which will please your eyes. Kindly lead us to the battlefield in the Name of Allâh."

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was impressed with the fidelity and the spirit of sacrifice which his companions showed at this critical juncture. Then he said to them: "Forward and be of cheer, for Allâh has promised me one of the two (the lucrative course through capturing the booty or strife in the cause of Allâh against the polytheists), and by Allâh it is as if I now saw the enemy lying prostrate."

In the immediate vicinity of Badr, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and his cavemate Abu Bakr conducted a scouting operation during which they managed to locate the camp of Quraish. They came across an old bedouin nearby whom they manipulated and managed to extract from him the exact location of the army of the polytheists. In the evening of the same day, he despatched three Emigrant leaders, ‘Ali bin Abi Talib, Az-Zubair bin Al-‘Awwam and Sa‘d bin Abi Waqqas to scout about for news about the enemy. They saw two men drawing water for the Makkan army. On interrogation, they admitted that they were water carriers working for Quraish. But that answer did not please some Muslims and they beat the two boys severely in order to exact from them an answer, even if it isn’t true, alluding to the caravan laden with wealth. The two boys thus lied, and so they were released. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was angry with those men and censured them saying: "On telling the truth, you beat them, and on telling a lie, you released them!" He then addressed the two boys and after a little conversation with them he learned a lot about the enemy: number of soldiers, their exact location and names of some of their notables.

He then turned to the Muslims and said: "Hearken, Quraish has sent you their most precious lives."

The same night it rained on both sides. For the polytheists it obstructed further progress, whereas it was a blessing for the Muslims. It cleaned them and removed from them the stain of Satan. Allâh sent rain to strengthen their hearts and to plant their feet firmly therewith. They marched a little forward and encamped at the farther bank of the valley. Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) stopped at the nearest spring of Badr. Al-Hubab bin Mundhir asked him, "Has Allâh inspired you to choose this very spot or is it stratagem of war and the product of consultation?" The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) replied "It is stratagem of war and consultation." Al-Hubab said: "This place is no good; let us go and encamp on the nearest water well and make a basin or reservoir full of water, then destroy all the other wells so that they will be deprived of the water." The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) approved of his plan and agreed to carry it out, which they actually did at midnight.

Sa‘d bin Mu‘adh suggested that a trellis be built for the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) to function as headquarters for the Muslim army and a place providing reasonable protection for the leader. Sa‘d began to justify his proposal and said that if they had been victorious, then everything would be satisfactory. In case of defeat, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) would not be harmed and he could go back to Madinah where there were more people who loved him and who would have come for help if they had known that he was in that difficult situation, so that he would resume his job, hold counsel with them and they would strive in the cause of Allâh with him again and again.

A squad of guards was also chosen from amongst the Helpers under the leadership of the same man, Sa‘d bin Mu‘adh, in order to defend the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) in his headquarters.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) spent the whole night preceding the day of the battle in prayer and supplication. The Muslim army, wearied with their long march, enjoyed sound and refreshing sleep, a mark of the Divine favour and of the state of their undisturbed minds.

"(Remember) when He covered you with a slumber as a security from Him, and He caused rain to descend on you from the sky, to clean you thereby and to remove from you the Rijz (whispering, evil suggestions, etc.) of Satan, and to strengthen your hearts, and make your feet firm thereby." [Al-Qur'an 8:11]

That was Friday night, Ramadan 17th., the year 2 A.H.

In the morning, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) called his men to offer the prayers and then urged them to fight in the way of Allâh. As the sun rose over the desert, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) drew up his little army, and pointing with an arrow which he held in his hand, arranged the ranks.

Quraish, on the other hand, positioned their forces in Al-‘Udwat Al-Quswa opposite the Muslim lines. A few of them approached, in a provocative deed, to draw water from the wells of Badr, but were all shot dead except one, Hakeem bin Hizam, who later became a devoted Muslim. ‘Umair bin Wahab Al-Jumahi, in an attempt to reconnoiter the power of the Muslims, made a scouting errand and submitted a report saying that the Muslim army numbered as many as 300 men keen on fighting to the last man. On another reconnaissance mission he came to the conclusion that neither reinforcements were coming nor ambushes laid. He understood that they were too brave to surrender and too intent on carrying out their military duties to withdraw without slaying the largest number possible of the polytheists. This report as well as kindred relations binding the two belligerent parties together, slackened the desire to fight among some of the Quraishites. To counteract this reason-based opposition advocated by a rival of his, ‘Utbah bin Rabi‘a and others, Abu Jahl started an anti-campaign seeking vengeance on Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace)’s followers for the Quraishites killed at Nakhlah. In this way, he managed to thwart the opposite orientation, and manipulated the people to see his evil views only.

When the two parties approached closer and were visible to each other, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) began supplicating Allâh "O Allâh! The conceited and haughty Quraishites are already here defying You and belying Your Messenger. O Allâh! I am waiting for Your victory which You have promised me. I beseech You Allâh to defeat them (the enemies)." He also gave strict orders that his men would not start fighting until he gave them his final word. He recommended that they use their arrows sparingly [Sahih Al-Bukhari 2/568] and never resort to sword unless the enemies came too close. [Abu Da'ud 2/13]

Abu Jahl also prayed for victory, saying: "Our Lord, whichever of the two parties was less kind to his relatives, and brought us what we do not know, then destroy him tomorrow.". They were confident that their superior number, equipment and experience would be decisive. The Noble Qur’ân, with a play on the word, told them that the decision had come, and the victory — but not in the sense they had hoped for:

"(O disbelievers) if you ask for a judgement, now has the judgement come unto you and if you cease (to do wrong), it will be better for you, and if you return (to the attack), so shall we return, and your forces will be of no avail to you, however numerous it be, and verily, Allâh is with the believers." [Al-Qur'an 8:19]

The first disbeliever to trigger the fire of the battle and be its first victim was Al-Aswad bin ‘Abdul Asad Al-Makhzumi, a fierce bad-tempered idolater. He stepped out swearing he would drink from the water basin of the Muslims, otherwise, destroy it or die for it. He engaged with Hamzah bin ‘Abdul Muttalib, who struck his leg with his sword and dealt him another blow that finished him off inside the basin.

The battle had actually started. Protected by armour and shields, ‘Utbah bin Rabi‘a stepped forth between his brother Shaibah and his son Al-Waleed bin ‘Utbah from the lines of Quraish and hurled maledictions at the Muslims. Three young men of the Helpers came out against them: ‘Awf and Mu‘wwadh — the sons of Harith, and ‘Abdullah bin Rawaha. But the Makkans yelled that they had nothing to do with them. They wanted the heads of their cousins. Upon this the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) asked ‘Ubaidah bin Al-Harith, Hamzah — his uncle, and his cousin ‘Ali [R] to go forward for the combat. The three duels were rapid. Hamzah killed Shaibah, while ‘Ali killed Al-Waleed. [Mishkat 2/343] ‘Ubaidah was seriously wounded but, before he fell, Hamzah fell upon ‘Utbah and with a sweep of his sword, cut off his head. ‘Ali and Hamzah carried ‘Ubaidah back with his leg cut off. He died four or five days later of a disease in the bile duct.

‘Ali was possessed of a deep conviction that Allâh’s Words were revealed:

"These two opponents (believers and disbelievers) dispute with each other about their Lord." [Al-Qur'an 22:19]

These verses were revealed in connection with men of Faith who confess their Lord and seek to carry out His Will (i.e. Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace)’s followers at Badr Battle), and men who deny their Lord and defy Him (the people of Quraish).

The duel was followed by a few more duels but the Makkans suffered terrible defeats in all the combats and lost some of their most precious lives. They were too much exasperated and enraged and fell upon the Muslims to exterminate them once and for all. The Muslims, however, after supplicating their Lord, calling upon Him for assistance, were made to hold to their position and conduct a defensive war plan that was successful enough to inflict heavy losses on the attackers. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to pray to his Lord ceaselessly persistently and day and night to come to their succour. When the fierce engagement grew too hot he again began to supplicate his Lord saying:

"O Allâh! Should this group (of Muslims) be defeated today, You will no longer be worshipped."

He continued to call out to his Lord, stretching forth his hands and facing Al-Qiblah, until his cloak fell off his shoulders. Then Abu Bakr came, picked up the cloak, and put it back on his shoulders and said: "O Prophet of Allâh, you have cried out enough to your Lord. He will surely fulfill what He has promised you."

Immediate was the response from Allâh, Who sent down angels from the heavens for the help and assistance of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and his companions. The Noble Qur’ân observes:

"Verily, I am with you, so keep firm those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who have disbelieved." [Al-Qur'an 8:12]

Allâh, the All-Mighty, also inspired another message to His Messenger, saying:

"I will help you with a thousand of the angels each behind the other (following one another) in succession." [Al-Qur'an 8:9]

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), in his trellis, dozed off a little and then raised his head joyfully crying:

"O Abu Bakr, glad tidings are there for you: Allâh’s victory has approached, by Allâh, I can see Gabriel on his mare in the thick of a sandstorm."

He then jumped out crying:

"Their multitude will be put to flight, and they will show their backs." [Al-Qur'an 54:45]

At the instance of Gabriel, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) took a handful of gravel, cast it at the enemy and said: "Confusion seize their faces!" As he flung the dust, a violent sandstorm blew like furnace blast into the eyes of the enemies. With respect to this, Allâh says:

"And you (i.e. Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace)) threw not when you did throw but Allâh threw." [Al-Qur'an 8:17]

Only then did he give clear orders to launch a counter-attack. He was commanding the army, inspiring confidence among his men and exhorting them to fight manfully for the sake of their Lord, reciting the Words of Allâh:

"And be quick for forgiveness from your Lord, and for Paradise as wide as are the heavens and the earth." [Al-Qur'an 3:133]

The spirit he infused into his men was clearly witnessed by the valour of ‘Umair, a lad of sixteen, who flung away some dates he was eating crying out: "These (the dates) are holding me back from Paradise." So saying he plunged into the thick of the battle and died fighting bravely. Unique deeds of valour, deep devotion and full obedience to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) were exhibited in the process of the battle. The army of the faithfuls was borne forward by the power of enthusiasm which the half-hearted warriors of Makkah miserably lacked. A large number of the polytheists were killed and the others began to waver. No wonder! The standard-bearers of Truth were given immediate help, and supernatural agencies (the angels), were sent to their assistance by their Lord to help them defeat the forces of evil.

The records of Hadith speak eloquently of the fact that the angels did appear on that day and fought on the side of the Muslims. Ibn ‘Abbas said: "While on that day a Muslim was chasing a disbeliever and he heard over him the swashing of a whip and the voice of the rider saying: ‘Go ahead Haizum’. He glanced at the polytheist who had (now) fallen down on his back. The Helper came to the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) and related that event to him. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) replied: ‘You have told the truth. This was the help from the third heaven." [Sahih Muslim 2/93]

One of the Helpers captured ‘Abbas bin ‘Abdul Muttalib, who said: "O Messenger of Allâh, by Allâh this man did not capture me. I was captured by a man who was bald and had the most handsome face, and who was riding a piebald horse, I cannot see him here among the people." The Helper interrupted: "I captured him, O Messenger of Allâh." The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) replied:

"Be quiet, Allâh the All-Mighty strengthened you with the help of a noble angel."

Iblîs, the archsatan, in the guise of Suraqah bin Malik bin Ju‘sham Al-Mudlaji, on seeing angels working in favour of the Muslims, and Quraish rapidly losing ground on the battlefield, made a quick retreat despite the polytheists’ pleas to stay on. He ran off and plunged into the sea.

The ranks of Quraish began to give way and their numbers added nothing but confusion. The Muslims followed eagerly their retreating steps, slaying or taking captive all that fell within their reach. Retreat soon turned into ignominious rout; and they flied in haste, casting away their armour, abandoned beasts of burden, camp and equipage.

The great tyrant Abu Jahl, however, on seeing the adverse course of the battle, tried to stop the tidal wave of the Islamic victory by nerving the polytheists and encouraging them by all means available and adjuring them by Al-Lat and ‘Uzza and all symbols of paganism to stand firm in place and retaliate against the Muslims, but to no avail. Their morale had already been drastically reduced to zero, and their lines broken down. He then began to realize the reality of his arrogance and haughtiness. None remained around him except a gang of doomed polytheists whose resistance was also quelled by an Islamic irresistible storm of true devotion-based valour and Islam-orientated pursuit of martyrdom. Abu Jahl was deserted and left by himself on his horse waiting for death at the hand of two courageous lads of the Helpers.

‘Abdur-Rahman bin ‘Awf related the following interesting story in this regard: I was in the thick of the battle when two youths, still seemingly inexperienced in the art of fighting, one on the right and the second on the left. One of them spoke in a secret voice asking me to show him Abu Jahl. I asked about his intention, to which he replied, that he had a strong desire to engage with him in a combat until either of them was killed. It was something incredible to me. I turned left and the other said something to the same effect and showed a similar desire. I acceded to their earnest pleas and pointed directly at their target. They both rushed swiftly towards the spot, and without a moment’s hesitation struck him simultaneously with their swords and finished him off. They went back to the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace), each claiming that he had killed Abu Jahl to the exclusion of the other. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) asked if they had wiped the blood off their swords and they answered that they had not. He then examined both swords and assured them that they both had killed him. When the battle concluded, Abu Jahl’s spoils were given to Mu‘adh bin ‘Amr bin Al-Jumuh, because the other Mu‘awwadh bin Al-‘Afrâ’ [Sahih Al-Bukhari 1/444,2/568; Mishkat 2/352] was later killed in the course of the same battle. At the termination of the battle, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) wanted to look for this archenemy of Islam, Abu Jahl. ‘Abdullah bin Mas‘ud found him on the verge of death breathing his last. He stepped on his neck addressing him: "Have you seen how Allâh has disgraced you?" The enemy of Islam still defiantly answered: "I am not disgraced. I am no more than a man killed by his own people on the battlefield." And then inquired "Who has won the battle?" Ibn Mas‘ud replied "Allâh and His Messenger." Abu Jahl then said with a heart full of grudge "You have followed difficult ways, you shepherd!" Ibn Mas‘ud used to be a shepherd working for the Makkan aristocrats.

Ibn Mas‘ud then cut off his head and took it to the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) who, on seeing it, began to entertain Allâh’s praise:

"Allâh is Great, praise is to Allâh, Who has fulfilled His Promise, assisted His servant and defeated the confederates alone."

He then set out to have a look at the corpse. There he said:

"This is the Pharaoh of this nation."

Some Significant Instances of Devotion

  1. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) advised his companions to preserve the lives of Banu Hashim who had gone out to Badr with the polytheists unwillingly because they had feared the censure of their people. Among them, he named Al-‘Abbas bin ‘Abdul Muttalib and Abu Bukhtari bin Hisham. He ordered the Muslims to capture, but not to kill them. Abu Hudhaifah bin ‘Utbah showed great surprise and commented saying: "We kill our fathers, children, brothers and members of our clan, and then come to spare Al-‘Abbas? By Allâh! If I see him I will surely strike him with my sword." On hearing these words, the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace), addressing ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab, said "Is it fair that the face of the Messenger’s uncle be struck with sword?" ‘Umar got indignant and threatened to kill Abu Hudhaifah; the latter later said that extreme fear had taken firm grip of him and felt that nothing except martyrdom could expiate for his mistake. He was actually killed later on during Al-Yamamah events.
  2. Abu Al-Bukhtari bin Hisham had already done his best to restrain his people, the Makkans, from committing any act of folly against the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) while the latter was still in Makkah. He also neither hurt nor was reported to have uttered anything repugnant with regard to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). He had as well been among the people who tried to invalidate the boycott alliance taken against Banu Hashim and Banu ‘Abdul Muttalib.

    Here, however, in the battle of Badr he insisted on fighting unless his compatriot was spared. Al-Mujdhir bin Ziyad Al-Balwi, with whom he was engaged in combat, replied that the other was not included in the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace)’s recommendation. The combat went on to end in Al-Bukhtari’s death.

  3. ‘Abdur-Rahman bin ‘Awf and Omaiyah bin Khalaf had been close friends during the pre-Islamic era. When the battle of Badr ended, ‘Abdur-Rahman saw Omaiyah and his son among the captives. He threw away the armour he had as spoils, and walked with them both. Bilal, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace)’s caller for prayer, saw Omaiyah and soon all the torture he had been put to at the hand of this man dawned upon him, and swore he would have revenge on Omaiyah. ‘Abdur-Rahman tried to ease the tension and address embarrassing situation amicably but with no success. The Muslims gathered around and struck Omaiyah’s son with swords. At this point, ‘Abdur-Rahman called upon his old friend to run for his life but he was put to swords from different people and lay down dead. ‘Abdur-Rahman, completely helpless and resigned said: May Allâh have mercy on Bilal, for he deprived me of the spoils, and I have been stricken by the death of my two captives.
  4. On the moral level, the battle of Badr was an inescapable conflict between the forces of good and those of evil. In this context, ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab did not spare the life of any polytheist even his uncle on the maternal side Al-‘As bin Hisham bin Al-Mugheerah.
  5. Abu Bakr shouted at his son ‘Abdur-Rahman, still a polytheist and fighting with them, "Where is my wealth, you wicked boy?" The son answered that it was gone with the wind.
  6. When the battle ended, the Muslims began to hold some polytheists in captivity. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) looked into the face of Sa‘d bin Mu‘adh, the Head of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace)’s guards, and understood that he was hateful to taking the enemy elements as prisoners. Sa‘d agreed to what the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said and added that it was the first victory for the Muslims over the forces of polytheism, and he had more liking for slaying them than sparing their lives.
  7. On the day of Badr, the sword of ‘Ukashah bin Mihsan Al-Asdi broke down so the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) gave him a log of wood which he shook and it immediately turned into a long strong white sword. ‘Ukashah went on using that same sword in most of the Islamic conquests until he died in the process of the apostasy wars.
  8. When the war activities had been concluded, Mus‘ab bin ‘Umair Al-‘Abdari saw his brother, still a polytheist, being handcuffed by a Ansari. Mus‘ab recommended that the Helper tighten the knot for the prisoner’s mother was wealthy enough to ransom her son. ‘Abu ‘Aziz, Mus‘ab’s brother, tried to appeal to his brother through the family ties, but the latter firmly replied that the Helper was more eligible for brotherhood than him.
  9. When the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) ordered that the corpses of the polytheists be dropped into an empty well, Abu Hudhaifah bin ‘Utbah looked sadly at his dead father, who fought on the side of the polytheists. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) noticed that and asked him about it. Hudhaifah said that he had never held the least doubt that his father met his fate deservedly, but added that he wished he had been guided to the path of Islam, and that is why he felt sad. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) whispered in his ears some comforting words.

The outcome of the battle was as aforementioned an ignominious rout for the polytheists and a manifest victory for the Muslims. Fourteen Muslims were killed, of whom six were from the Emigrants and eight from the Helpers. The polytheists sustained heavy casualties, seventy were killed and a like number taken prisoners. Many of the principal men of Makkah, and some of Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace)’s bitterest opponents, were among the slain. Chief of these was Abu Jahl.

On the third day, the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) went out to look at the slain polytheists, and said:

"What an evil tribe you were as regards your Prophet, you belied me but the others have believed; you let me down while the others have supported me; you expelled me, whereas the others have sheltered me."

He stood over the bodies of twenty-four leaders of Quraish who had been thrown into one of the wells, and started to call them by name and by the names of their fathers, saying: "Would it not have been much better for you if you had obeyed Allâh and His Messenger? Behold, we have found that our Lord’s promise do come true; did you (also) find that the promises of your Lord came true?" Thereupon, ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab said: "O Messenger of Allâh! Why you speak to bodies that have no souls in them?" The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) answered: "By Him in Whose hand is Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace)’s soul! You do not hear better what I am saying than they do."

Reaction in Makkah

The polytheists having received a large dose of disciplining and heavy defeat, fled away in great disorder in the vales and hillocks heading for Makkah panicked and too ashamed to see their people.

Ibn Ishaq related that the first herald of bad tidings was Al-Haisaman bin ‘Abdullah Al-Khuza‘i. He narrated to them how their notables were killed. People there did not believe him at first and thought that he had gone mad, but soon the news was confirmed and a state of incredible bewilderment overwhelmed the whole Makkan scene. Abu Sufyan bin Al-Harith gave Abu Lahab a full account of the massacre and the disgraceful rout they sustained, with emphasis on the role that the angels played in bringing about their tragic end. Abu Lahab could not contain himself and gave vent to his feelings of resentment in beating, abusing and slapping Abu Rafi‘, a Muslim, but reticent on his conversion, for reiterating the role of the angels. Umm Al-Fadl, another Muslim woman, greatly exasperated by Abu Lahab’s thoughtless behaviour, struck him with a log and cracked his head. Seven days later, he died of an ominous ulcer and was left for three days unburied. His sons, however, for fear of shameful rumours, drove him to a pit and keeping their distance, hurled stones and dust at him.

The defeat was a matter of great shame and grief for the Makkans. In almost every house there were silent tears for the dead and the captives. They were burning with humiliation and were thirsting for revenge. Wailing, lamenting and crying however were decreed strictly forbidden lest the Muslims should rejoice at their affliction.

Madinah receives the News of Victory

Two heralds, ‘Abdullah bin Rawahah and Zaid bin Harithah were despatched to Madinah, to convey the glad tidings of victory to the Muslims there.

The multi-ethnic and ideological structure of Madinah featured different respective reactions. Rumour-mongers amongst the Jews and hypocrites spread news to the effect that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) had been killed, and tried to impress their false assumption on the fact that Zaid bin Harithah was riding Al-Qaswâ’, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace)’s she-camel. Having reached, the two messengers imparted to the Muslims the happy news of victory, and furnished accurate information about the course of events in order to establish the sense of reassurance deep in the hearts of the anxious, but now, joyous Muslims. They immediately started acclaiming Allâh’s Name and entertaining His praise at the top of their voices. Their chiefs went out of the city to wait and receive the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) on the road leading to Badr.

Usamah bin Zaid related that they received the news of the manifest victory shortly after Ruqaiyah, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace)’s daughter, and the wife of ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan had been committed to earth. She had been terminally ill and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) had asked ‘Uthman to stay in Madinah and look after her.

Before leaving the scene of the battle, dispute concerning the spoils of war arose among the Muslim warriors, as the rule relating to their distribution had not yet been legislated. When the difference grew wider, the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) suspended any solution whereof until the Revelation was sent down.

‘Ubadah bin As-Samit said: "We went out with the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) and I witnessed Badr with him. The battle started and Allâh, the Exalted, defeated the enemy. Some of the Muslims sought and pursued the enemy, some were intent on collecting the spoils from the enemy camp, and others were guarding the Messenger of Allâh (Allah bless him and give him peace) and were on the alert for any emergency or surprise attack. When night came and the Muslims gathered together, those who had collected the booty said: "We collected it, so no one else has any right to it." Those who had pursued the enemy said: "You do not have more right to it than we do; we held the enemy at bay and then defeated them." As for the men who had been guarding the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), they also made similar claims to the spoils.

At that very time, a Qur’ânic verse was revealed saying:

"They ask you (O Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace)) about the spoils of war. Say: ‘The spoils are for Allâh and the Messenger.’ So fear Allâh and adjust all matters of difference among you, and obey Allâh and His Messenger (Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace)), if you are believers." [Al-Qur'an 8:1]

On their way back to Madinah, at a large sand hill, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) divided the spoils equally among the fighters after he had taken Al-Khums (one-fifth). When they reached As-Safra’, he ordered that two of the prisoners should be killed. They were An-Nadr bin Al-Harith and ‘Uqbah bin Abi Muait, because they had persecuted the Muslims in Makkah, and harboured deep hatred towards Allâh and His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace). In a nutshell, they were criminals of war in modern terminology, and their execution was an awesome lesson to oppressors. ‘Uqbah forgot his pride and cried out, "Who will look after my children O Messenger of Allâh?" The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) answered, "The fire (of Hell). [Sunan Abu Da'ud with 'Aun-ul-Ma'bood 3/12]" Did ‘Uqbah not remember the day when he had thrown the entrails of a sheep onto the head of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) while he was prostrating himself in prayer, and Fatimah had come and washed it off him? He had also strangled the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) with his cloak if it had not been for Abu Bakr to intervene and release the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). The heads of both criminals were struck off by ‘Ali bin Abi Talib.

At Ar-Rawhâ’, a suburb of Madinah, the Muslim army was received by the joyous Madinese who had come to congratulate the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) on the manifest victory that Allâh had granted him. Usaid bin Hudair, acting as a mouthpiece of the other true believers, after entertaining Allâh’s praise, he excused himself for not having joined them on grounds that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace)’s intention was presumably, an errand aiming to intercept a caravan of camels only, he added that if it had occurred to him that it would be real war, he would have never tarried. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) assured Usaid that he had believed him.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) now entered Madinah as a man to be counted for in a new dimension — the military field. In consequence, a large number of the people of Madinah embraced Islam, which added a lot to the strength, power and moral standing of the true religion.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) exhorted the Muslims to treat the prisoners so well to such an extent that the captors used to give the captives their bread (the more valued part of the meal) and keep the dates for themselves.

Prisoners of war constituted a problem awaiting resolution because it was a new phenomenon in the history of Islam. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) consulted Abu Bakr and ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab as to what he should do with the prisoners. Abu Bakr suggested that he should ransom them, explaining this by saying: "They are after all our relatives, and this money would give us strength against the disbelievers, moreover, Allâh could guide them to Islam." ‘Umar advised killing them, saying, "They are the leaders of Kufr (disbelief)." The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) preferred Abu Bakr’s suggestion to that of ‘Umar’s. The following day, ‘Umar called on the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and Abu Bakr to see them weeping. He showed extreme astonishment and inquired about the situation so that he might weep if it was worth weeping for, or else he would feign weeping.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said that a Qur’ânic verse had been revealed rebuking them for taking ransom from the captives rather than slaying them:

"It is not for a Prophet that he should have prisoners of war (and free them with ransom) until he had made a great slaughter (among his enemies) in the land. You desire the good of this world (i.e. the money of ransom for freeing the captives), but Allâh desires (for you) the Hereafter. And Allâh is All-Mighty, All-Wise. Were it not a previous ordainment from Allâh, a severe torment would have touched you for what you took." [Al-Qur'an 8:67,68]

The previous Divine ordainment went as follows,

"Thereafter (is the time) either for generosity (i.e. free them without ransom) or ransom." [Al-Qur'an 47:4]

Which included an area providing permission to take ransom, that is why no penalty was imposed. They were rebuked only for taking prisoners before subduing all the land of disbelief. Apart from this, the polytheists taken to Madinah were not only prisoners of war but rather archcriminals of war whom modern war penal law brings to justice to receive their due sentence of death or prison for life.

The ransom for the prisoners ranged between 4000 and 1000 Dirhams in accordance with the captive’s financial situation. Another form of ransom assumed an educational dimension; most of the Makkans, unlike the Madinese, were literate and so each prisoner who could not afford the ransom was entrusted with ten children to teach them the art of writing and reading. Once the child had been proficient enough, the instructor would be set free. Another clan of prisoners were released unransomed on grounds of being hard up. Zainab, the daughter of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), paid the ransom of her husband Abul-‘As with a necklace. The Muslims released her prisoner and returned the necklace in deference to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) but on condition that Abul-‘As allow Zainab to migrate to Madinah, which he actually did.

In captivity, there was also an eloquent orator called Suhail bin ‘Amr. ‘Umar suggested that they pull out his front teeth to disable him from speaking, but the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) turned down his suggestion for fear Quraish should retaliate in the same manner on one hand, and on the other for fear of Allâh’s wrath on the Day of Resurrection.

Sa‘d bin An-Nu‘man, a lesser pilgrim detained in Makkah, was released in return for setting Abu Sufyan’s son, a captive, free.

The Battle of Badr in its Qur’ânic Context

The Chapter of Al-Anfal (spoils of war) was revealed on the occasion of the battle of Badr, Ramadan 17th 2 A.H. It constituted a unique Divine commentary on this battle.

Allâh, the All-High, in the context of this Chapter draws on major issues relating to the whole process of Islamization. Allâh, here draws the attention of the Muslims to the still lingering moral shortcomings in their character. He wants them to build an integrated, purified society. He speaks about the invisible assistance he sent down to His obedient servants to enable them to accomplish their noble objectives. He wants the Muslims to rid themselves of any trait of haughtiness or arrogance that might sneak in. He wants them to turn to Him for help, obey Him and His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace).

After that He delineated the noble objectives for which the Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) launched that bloody battle, and directed them to the merits and qualities that brought about the great victory.

The polytheists, hypocrites, the Jews and prisoners of war were also mentioned, being admonished to surrender to the Truth and adhere to it only.

The question of the spoils of war was resolved and the principles and basics relevant to this issue were clearly defined.

The laws and rules pertinent to war and peace were legalized and codified, especially at this advanced stage of the Islamic action. Allâh wanted the Muslims to follow war ethics dissimilar to those of pre-Islamic practices. The Muslims are deemed to outdo the others in ethics, values and fine ideals. He wants to impress on the world that Islam is not merely a theoretical code of life, it is rather mind cultivation-orientated practical principles. In this context, He established inter and intra-state relations.

The fast of Ramadan was established as an obligatory observance in the year 2 A.H., appended by the duty imposed upon Muslims of paying Zakat (alms tax, poor-due) in order to alleviate the burden of the needy Emigrants.

A wonderful and striking coincidence was the establishment of Shawwal ‘Eid (the Festival of the Fast-Breaking) directly after the manifest victory of Badr. It was actually the finest spectacle ever witnessed of Muslims leaving their houses praying, acclaiming Allâh’s Name and entertaining His praise at the top of their voices in recognition of His favour and grace, and last but not least, the support He rendered them and through which the forces of the Truth overpowered those of evil.

"And remember when you were few and were reckoned weak in the land, and were afraid that men might kidnap you, but He provided a safe place for you, strengthened you with His help, and provided you with good things so that you might be grateful." [Al-Qur'an 8:26]