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4. At Madina --- The battles
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4. At Madina — The battles

Small detachments of the Quraish used to go out on marauding expeditions and scour the country right up to the outskirts of Madina. The situation called for vigilance on the part of the Prophet. Reconnaissance parties were sent out by him to keep an eye on enemy movements and to approach certain tribes to secure their alliance or neutrality. One such party sent out with express orders to gather information about the Quraish movements accidentally killed a member of the Quraish, Ibn Hadzrami by name. The usual practice in Arabia in such cases was to demand blood-money. But the Quraish wanted a pretext to rouse the populace against the Muslims, and Ibn Hadzram's murder furnished it. Another pretext was furnished by a Quraish caravan coming from Syria just at this time. Knowing that the Muslims were still very weak, the Quraish thought that 1,000 men would be sufficient to annihilate them, and with this army they marched on Madina in the month of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, in the second year of the Prophet's Flight.

When news of this reached Madina, the Prophet made hurried preparations to meet them, but could gather only a force of 313 Muslims. The two forces met at Badr, a distance of three days journey from Madina and ten days from Makka; on the one side being 1,000 veteran warriors with whom fighting had been a life-long profession, armed with every weapon of warfare of the time, and on the other only 313 ill-equipped men, including raw youths and men advanced in age. The Prophet saw this and in deep anxiety passed the night praying to God in a small hut:

"O Allah ! Shouldst Thou suffer this small band of believers to perish this day, no one will be left on earth to worship Thee and carry Thy message to the world. O Living One ! O Subsisting One by whom all subsist ! I cry to Thee for Thy mercy."
The unexpected happened. Almost all the Quraish chiefs, the ringleaders of the campaign against Islam, were slain in action. Seeing their chiefs fall, the rank and file were seized with confusion and took to flight. Seventy fell and an equal number were taken prisoners. There were fourteen casualties on the Muslim side.

The Quraish defeat at Badr was an ignominy which they could not leave unavenged. An army of 3,000 strong, with warriors like Khalid among them, marched on Madina next year, Shawwal, 3 A.H. The Muslims could muster no more than 700 men, and marched out of Madina to meet the enemy at the foot of Uhud, only three miles from the city. The Muslims fought desperately and seven of the enemy's flagbearers fell one after another. Utter confusion seized the Quraish. They took to flight and the Muslims pursued them, but just at this time Khalid saw that the Muslim archers had left their rear undefended by vacating a certain position to join in the pursuit, and wheeling round at the head of his 200 cavalry attacked the Muslims from behind. Seeing this, the fleeing Quraish army also turned back, and the handful of Muslims, in disorder on account of the pursuit, were thus pressed on both sides.

The position was so precarious that the whole Muslim army was now in danger of being annihilated. The Prophet, braving the danger of himself becoming the target of the enemy's attack, called out aloud to his men to rally round him:

"To me, O servants of Allah ! I am the Messenger; of Allah."
This was a signal to the enemy to direct their attack to this particular point. The Muslims saw this and, cutting their way through the enemy ranks, mustered strongly round the Prophet. But in this attempt they sustained serious losses, and Musab ibn Umair, who resembled the Prophet, being killed, the news spread like wildfire that the Prophet had been killed. Still the Muslims did not lose heart."Let us fight on for the cause for which the Prophet fought," said one of them. By this time, the Prophet had sustained serious wounds and had fallen down, but the position had become secure both for the army and for the Prophet himself who was surrounded on all sides by devoted friends. Here closing their ranks on elevated ground with the mountain protecting their retreat, they again made the enemy feel their strength. The Quraish retired from the field and took their way back to Makka. When some one entreated the Prophet to pray for the destruction of his enemies, he raised his hands, saying:
"O Allah ! Forgive my-people: for they do not know."
Though they had this time inflicted severe losses on the Muslims, the Quraish knew that even this attack on Madina had proved abortive. Therefore after returning from Uhud, they tried to raise the Jews and the Bedouin tribes against the Muslims, and in this they were successful. The Jews, the Bedouins and the Quraish all combined to deal a crushing blow to Islam. A large army of 10,000 was gathered in the fifth year of the Flight. The Muslims, unable to meet these hosts in the open field, fortified themselves in Madina by digging a ditch on the side which was unprotected. The Prophet himself participated in digging the ditch like an ordinary labourer. Covered with dust and with the fear of annihilation lurking in their minds, they yet sang in happy chorus:
O Allah ! Had it not been for Thy mercy, we would not have been guided aright; Nor would we have given alms, nor would we have prayed to Thee. Send down tranquillity upon us and establish our steps in battle, For they are risen against us and they wish to pervert us by force But we refuse, but we refuse.
The huge force at last reached Madina. It was an hour of consternation for the Muslims. The Holy Quran thus depicts the anguish and perplexity of the moment:
When they came upon you from above you and from below you, and when the eyes turned dull and the hearts rose up to the throats, and some of you began to entertain diverse thoughts about Allah. There the believers were sorely tried and shaken with a severe shaking." [33:10]
Amid this seeming scene of dread and terror, the hearts of the Muslims were full of faith:
And when the believers saw the Allies, they said: This is what Allah and His Messenger promised us, and Allah and His Messenger spoke the truth; and it only increased them in faith and submission. [33:32]
During a full month of siege the Muslims stood firm. Arrows and stones came in terrible showers but they could not break through the defence. Attacks were made and repulsed in quick succession. The siege became wearisome to the besieging army, which also began to run short of provisions. The elements of nature ultimately came to the help of the brave Muslim defence. A storm raged one night which blew down the tents of the besiegers. There was confusion among the Allies and they took to flight during the night, to the great joy and thanksgiving of the Muslims.

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