the encompassment of the muslims revealed three categories of people: the first group were those who were only interested in themselves and they went so mad that they fled. they left the battlefield and did not know what happened to the others. some of this group fled as far as madinah. some others went up the mountain.
the second muslim group were those who returned to the battle, but mixed with the idolaters in such a way that they could not recognize one another. consequently some of them were killed by mistake. on the authority of al-bukhari, he states that ‘aishah [r] said: "when it was uhud battle, the idolaters were utterly defeated. satan then called out: ‘o slaves of allâh. beware the rear (i.e. the enemy is approaching from behind)’. so those who were at the front turned back and fought the ones who were behind."
then hudhaifah caught sight of his father ‘al-yaman’ about to be killed by other muslims. so he said: "o servants of allâh! beware! this is my father. this is my father." ‘aishah [r] said: "but they did not part with him till he was killed." hudhaifah then said: "may allâh forgive you." and ‘urwa said: "by allâh, from that time on hudhaifah has always been blessed and wealthy till he died."[sahih al-bukhari 1/539, 2/581; fath al-bari 7/351, 362, 363] that was because he forgave them and refused to take any blood-money for his father’s murder but recommended that it be spent in charity.
this muslim group suffered from great bewilderment, and disorder prevailed among them. a lot of them got lost and did not know where to go. at this awkward time they heard someone calling: "muhammad is killed." this news made them even more bewildered and almost out of sense. their morale broke down, or almost did in a great number of individuals. some of them stopped fighting, slackened, and cast down their weapons. others thought of getting in touch with ‘abdullah bin ubai — the head of the hypocrites — and seeking his assistance to fetch them a security pledge from abu sufyan.
anas bin an-nadr passed by those people who were shuddering of fear and panic, and inquired: "what are you waiting for?" they said: "the messenger of allâh [pbuh] has been killed." "what do you live for after muhammad [pbuh]? come on and die for what the messenger of allâh [pbuh] has died for." then he said: "o allâh i apologize for what these people (i.e. the muslims) have done; and i swear disavowal of what the idolaters have perpetrated." then he moved on till he was encountered by sa‘d bin mu‘adh who asked him: "where to, abu ‘umar?" anas replied: "ah, how fine the scent of the paradise is! i smell it here in uhud." he went on and fought against the idolaters till he was killed. nobody but his sister could recognize his dead body. it had been cut and stabbed by over eighty swords, arrows or spears. it was by the tip of his finger that she — after the battle — recognized him.[za'd al ma'ad 2/93, 96; sahih al-bukhari 2/579]
thabit bin ad-dahdah called unto his people saying:
"o kinfolk of helpers, if muhammad [pbuh] were killed, allâh is everlasting and he never dies. fight in defence of your faith. allâh will help you and so you will be victorious." a group of helpers joined him and all set out and attacked a battalion of khalid’s horsemen. he kept on fighting till he and his friends were killed.[ibn hisham 2/81]
an emigrant passed by a helper who was besmeared by blood. he said: "o fellow! have you heard of muhammad [pbuh]’s murder?" the helper answered: "if muhammad [pbuh] were killed, then he must have completed the delivery of the message. so fight in defence of your religion!"[za'd al ma'ad 2/96]
with such boldness and encouragement, the muslims soon recovered their spirits, came round to senses and desisted the idea of surrender or contacting the hypocrite ‘abdullah bin ubai. they took up arms and resumed the fight attempting to make way to the headquarters, particularly after the news of the prophet [pbuh]’s death had been falsified. the glad tidings nerved them, and helped them to manage quite successfully the break of the military blockade, and concentrate their forces in an immune place to resume a relentless and fierce fight against the polytheists.
the third group of muslims were those who cared for nothing except the prophet [pbuh]. at the head of them were notable companions like abu bakr, ‘umar bin al-khattab, ‘ali bin abi talib and others رضى الله عنهم, who hastened to protect the prophet [pbuh] through unrivalled devotion.