A Milestone in Muslim History
17 RAMADHAN 2 HIJRA
The Day Both Leadership and Mission of Prophet Muhammad SAW Got Established Once for All, Prof. Muhammad Aslam.
Blessed are those who found Ramadhan, the month of fasting, and fulfilled Allah’s commandments in letter and spirit! Unfortunate are the ones who did not harvest the fruit of fasting and the mercy that Allah has put in every moment, every day and every week of this month. This is the month when the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet SAW and through him to the entire mankind as guidance. For the believers, this is the month that teaches them lessons of perseverance, steadfastness, patience, fellow-feeling, self-confidence, self-control, cleanliness, God-fearing etc. And, in this month came a day when both leadership and mission of Prophet Muhammad SAW got established once for all.
This day is the 17th of Ramadhan of the 2nd year of the Prophet’s migration to Madina - March/April 624AD. This day was fought the Battle of Badr about which all scholars agree that had the pagan forces won this battle, Islam could have come to an end. This is corroborated by this saying of the Prophet, “O Lord, forget not Thy promise of assistance, for if this little band were to perish; there will be none to offer thee worship.” The emigrants from Makkah, muhajireen, and their brethren from Madina, ansaar (Helpers) were put to a serious test in spite of the fact that they had yet to develop and establish themselves fully, especially militarily, so that they could fight any battle of this great significance, though skirmishes between pagans and the faithful were not uncommon. The Battle of Badr was destined to happen but the results obtained had far reaching consequences in the entire Arab peninsula. Not only did the faith of Islam become extra-ordinarily strong but also the Makkan pagans who boasted of their might and brave men got an unforgettable crushing defeat. How did it happen?
There is no denying the fact that the divine intervention turned the tables in favour of the faithful which stunned the huge pagan army. Think of a strong pagan army of 1000 strong men with seven hundred camels and 100 horses against a small group of 313 followers of the Prophet! Who could have imagined that these three hundred odd men, militarily ill-equipped, could defeat an army fully loaded with all necessary equipments! The Prophet took a handful of gravel during the battle and threw it at the faces of the pagans saying, “May your faces be disfigured. God, terrify their hearts and invalidate their feet.” This had the exact effect: the pagans ran away without looking at each other’s face. Badr is mentioned explicitly once in the Quran (3:123), but there are allusions to it in at least 32 other verses.
However, what has been the most remarkable and widely acknowledged aspect of this battle is the leadership qualities that the Prophet SAW manifested during the entire episode. Wikipedia puts it in this way, “The battle has been passed down in Islamic history as a decisive victory attributable to divine intervention, or by secular sources to the genius of Muhammad.” Consider the timing of the battle. It was winter and emigrants from Makkah were dependant on the ‘Helpers”, ansaar. Their number was too small to fight any war. Moreover, under the agreement, the ansaar could refuse to go to the war. The Prophet convened a meeing of the war council and informed them about his plan of fighting the enemy outside Madina. He told the ansaar that they could keep away if they so wished, but, according to a hadith, they pledged to fight as well, with Sa’d-bin-’Ubada declaring, “If you (Muhammad) order us to plunge our horses into the sea, we would do so.” So, the decision was taken and preparations made to confront the pagans. The Muslim army camped at Badr wells which were located on the slope of the eastern side of Yalyal valley. Initially, the Muslim army arriving from the east chose to camp at the first well, but later on at the advice of Hubab-bin-Muhdir, the Prophet camped at the well closest to the Qureshi army and blocked off the other ones as is shown in the picture. It is intersting to note here that Hubab contradicted the Prophet’s decision only after ensuring that this was not a divine revelation. Once the Prophet told him that it was his own decision, Hubab gave a good suggestion which was accepted immeidately. This shows that the Prophet valued the opinion of his followers and like a true democrat would go by their good viewpoints.
For any good commander, it is important to arrange the army in such a manner that the war yields good results without causing any great damage. The Battle of Badr was not a modern war where you can used bombs, missiles, machine guns, air strikes etc to finish up your enemy. It was a battle to be fought with swords and with those who were known for their bravery and war techniques. Against this, the Prophet’s army was still in infancy and with very limited resources. Faith they had, but resources were not many. One can imagine the feelings of the Muslims when they encoutered a huge army led by the sworn enemy of the Prophet, Abu Jehl. But, they knew that under their supreme commander, they would be able to defeat the enemy. The youthful Ali, carrying the Banner of the Prophet SAW, had already shown his valour by killing two pagans on his way to Badr. What you needed was a proper planning to fight against the pagans. This is what the Prophet did. By camping at the Badr well and at the slopes, the Muslim army got a vantage point. When the Quresh send Umayer-bin-Wahb to report about the Muslim army, he told them that the army was small and there was no possibility of further reinforcement. However, looking at the army’s location, he predicted that the Quresh could suffer heavily if they attacked the Muslims. This demoralised the Quresh who had already got disheartened because of the rain which had made their movement with camels and horses difficult. It is said that in order to dispel dissent among the pagans, Amr-bin-Hisham appealed to their sense of honour and demanded that they fulfil their blood vengeance and fight against the Muslims.
The Quresh with their false pride and haughtiness would not fight with the ansaar who were in the beginning sent out to fight against the Qureshi men. They wanted only the Qureshi Muslims to fight against. So, the youthful Ali, Ubaydah and Hamza were sent out who fought against the Makkan soldiers and killed them, though Ubaydah was seriously wounded. In order to yield good results, the Prophet had, before the battle started, ordered his men to enagage the Quresh with melee weapons only. However, once the battle raged, he ordered them to change tactics. He asked them to throw a hanadful of pebbles while yelling “Defaced be those faces”. So, the Muslim army attacked and rushed into the Qureshi army lines yelling the slogan. The pagans who were already disinterested and unethusiastic about fighting, could not withstand this pressure and broke and ran away. This was a wonderful tactics that the Prophet SAW as the army commander had adopted which met with 100% success. Then, there was no end to the sufferings of the Qureshi army. Badr turned into slaughter house for the pagans. They lost the battle within a few hours and in the afternoon, the Muslims were collecting war spoils and getting prisoners. The Quresh lost seventy men and an equal number was captured. The Muslims lost fourteen only.
The Battle of Badr had several implications on the future history of the Arab Peninsula. Besides, socio-political ramifications, it established once for all, the leadership of the Prophet SAW and allowed him to consolidate his position in Madina itself. About the outcome of the Battle of Badr, Paul K. Davis says, “Muhammad’s [SAW] victory confirmed his authority as leader of Islam; by impressing local tribes that joined him, the expansion of Islam began.” The pagans had got so terrified and humiliated that until another battle at Uhud, they continued to talk about Badr and would look for an opportunity to avenge for their losses. Day in and day out, the pagans and their women would wail for their dead ones and instigate the living to avenge for this defeat. They got the opportunity of fighting once again a great battle at Uhud in which Muslim suffered, but the Quresh could not win back the status and position which they had lost at Badr. Later on, with the conquering of Makkah, their political power was sealed for ages to come.
Lastupdate on : Mon, 7 Sep 2009 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 7 Sep 2009 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 8 Sep 2009 00:00:00 IST
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